Dux Britanniarum: Raiding a Church?

I confess I have a habit of overthinking things.  Sometimes this can lead to a catharsis which in turn stagnates my hobby.  Other times it's caused by a thought triggering something in my mind.  These often lead to positive results for my hobby.

I think this is definitely one of the latter occasions.

As you may know, I've had the wonderful Dux Britanniarum rules for a while now.  I haven't played it because I don't own enough figures for it.  But with the imminent release of a plastic set of Romano British troops from Gripping Beast, it looks as if I can afford to bring this system up the batting order.  Which of course means I need to be thinking about scenery.  Which in turn made me open the rulebook.  I looked at the various raid encounters, but my mind started going into overdrive when I read about the first one.  Raid on a Church.  Here's why.

There's a conflict in the evidence to support the early development of Christianity in the British Isles. As far as the archaeologist is concerned, there is very little in the way of evidence for monuments or other remains of Christianity in the British Isles in the last century of Roman Britian.  What the archaeologist has found is instead ample evidence for a flourishing pagan Celtic tradition.

The written record however, offers a different picture.  There is no evidence in the Life of St Germanus that he had to combat paganism.  In the following century Gildas writes his attacks on the failings of a mature church where decadence had taken a hold.  The church he describes is indeed a far cry from that of a young evangelizing body.

There are reliable documents that testify of the British martyrs Alban of Verulamium and Julian and Aaron of Caerleon.  These prove that there were Christian communities in Britain before the conversion of Constantine in 313AD.  Incidentally, immediately after that conversion, we know that three British Bishops attended the council of Arles in 314.  We also know that british Bishops were present in three of the four provinces into which Britain was divided at that time.  This incorporation of the ecclesiastical hierarchy within the national framework of Roman Britain would be easy to achieve where there were civitas.  What remains more uncertain is the way in which this clearly Mediterranean and Romanised organisation would adhere itself to the less Romanised regions of the west and north where cities and towns were unknown.  This in itself may explain in some way how a monastic Christianity might develop in such regions in contrast to the diocesan system in the south and east.
The presence of bishops is well attested in the west in the sixth century both by Gildas and his contemporaries.  However, in the east, the areas of Anglo Saxon settlement, the picture is very obscure.  It is significant that there is no evidence for British Christianity surviving, or influencing the Anglo-Saxons in the south and east.  It's not only Bede's statement that the Britons never preached the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxons that this theory is based on.  It appears that there were no remaining congregations of British Christians to welcome either the Augustinian or Celtic missions.  There is evidence of churches being restored in the late sixth and seventh centuries. But there is only a dubious hint that worship may have continued in Canterbury without interruption from the fourth to the seventh century.

And yet much of the evidence supports the view that the English settlement was a relatively peaceful process.  How then do we reconcile these different views?  Well, it may well be that it was the very character of the ecclesiastical organisation itself which caused Christianity to vanish from fifth century England.  The Church was centred on the civitas and thus found its strength in the cities and towns.  As a result, the Church had done little to evangelize the rest of the countryside.  It's worth noting that the word pagani meant 'countrymen' long before it came to mean 'heathens'.  We may therefore conclude that Christianity remained an urban religion.  If we understand that the cities of Roman Britain did not survive the fifth century, it would be inevitable to assume that Christianity would also disappear from Britain.

All well and good, you might say.  But what has this to do with a raid on a Church in Dux Britanniarum?  Quite a lot, to be honest.  The raid is clearly based in a rural setting.  And if the experts are anything to go by, the establishment of Roman-Celtic rural temples in Britain peaked in the fourth century.  So the likelihood of a church in a rural setting in the time of our games in Dux Britanniarum is indeed most unlikely.
But I'm not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I intend to make a model based on the fourth century temple at Maiden Castle in Dorset.  That'll be closer to the truth.  See?  Sometimes my over-thinking can be helpful!

Of course, if our campaign ever demands an attack on a town, then I'll just have to go ahead and make a Roman Church.  But until then, a Roman Celtic temple will do just fine!


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