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Carausius

British Usurper A. D. 286 - 293

During the late Third Century, the Roman province of Britain became increasingly the target of attacks by Saxon pirates and raiders. These fierce sea rovers would come in their square-rigged long ships and strike coastal villages, burning, raping, and carrying off anything valuable. The citizens of the settled communities of Roman Britain lived in fear of these marauders who seemingly struck from out of nowhere and then vanished into the North Sea mists when they were finished with their foul deeds of slaughter and destruction. These were the same Saxons who would invade the island and make it their home some three centuries later and would in turn become victims of these same kinds of swift raids at the hands of the Viking Norsemen during the Ninth and Tenth Centuries.

In response to the impassioned pleas of the beleaguered British citizens, the Roman government improved the state of readiness amongst the British Fleet. Carausius, a Menapian, was assigned the command of the British fleet and the job of wiping out the pirates.

For a while, it looked as if the problems with marauding bandits from the sea had been solved. After some time, though, it seemed that Carausius' fleet was catching up with the pirates only after they had attacked a town and were escaping with the booty. Carausius captured the pirates and recovered the stolen property, but it somehow never got back into the hands of its rightful owners, even if they had survived the raid. Finally, Diocletian summoned Carausius to explain the circumstances but rather than obey the summons, Carausius chose to rebel instead. With his strong fleet to back him up, Carausius was able to rule Britain unmolested for six years until he was murdered by Allectus, one of his own lieutenants. To hide his embarrassment at not being able to do anything about Carausius' rebellion, Diocletian recognized him as Caesar. Carausius even controlled parts of Gaul for a short period until the territories were retaken by Constantius Chlorus. Carausius did make one contribution to geographic knowledge despite his status as a renegade. He sailed the British Fleet all the way around Britain. This circumnavigation of what had been thought before to have been a peninsula demonstrated that Britain was in fact an island and could not be attacked by land. This bit of knowledge was to play a great part in the defense of Britain throughout the next seventeen centuries.


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