The Roman North : The Fourth Century

Last century of rule : AD 306 – 410

The Barbarian Conspiracy of AD 367 seemed to be a portent of things to come. The so-called Barbarian tribes were overrunning the Roman Wall in that year. Similar Barbarian attacks in the eastern parts of the Empire would eventually force the withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain paving the way for new invaders. Here the timeline follows the last century of Roman rule in the north.

Sycamore Gap
Sycamore Gap is a well-known landmark on Hadrian’s Wall © David Simpson

👈 3rd century | TimelineAnglian era 👉

July 25, 306 – Constantine the Great

Constantius Chlorus the Roman Emperor has died at York. His son Constantine the Great has been proclaimed Emperor at York. One of Constantine’s first actions is to drive back an attack from the Picts in Caledonia.

Constantine the Great
Sculpture of Constantine the Great by Philip Jackson (1998) outside York Minster © David Simpson

314 – York HQ for General

The Dux, or commander of the Roman army in Britain, is now based at York.

314 – Bishop at York

Christianity is now widely accepted in Roman Britain and a Christian Bishop is now based at York.

320 – Iraq boatmen work the Tyne

A unit of Tigris bargemen (from what is now Iraq) are employed by the Romans at South Shields fort (Arbeia) on the Tyne.

Roman gatehouse and fort at Arbeia
Roman gatehouse and fort at Arbeia. Notice the white tower of the ‘new high light at North Shields in the distance © David Simpson

343 – Trouble on Hadrian’s Wall

Trouble breaks out on the Roman wall involving Roman scouts. Roman forts in North Tynedale have been burnt down.

367 – The Barbarian Conspiracy

Tribes have overrun Hadrian’s Wall in a Barbarian Conspiracy. Picts, Irish and Scots, assisted by Saxon pirates from northern Europe, seem to have colluded. This is the biggest revolt against the Romans to date.

Hadrian's Wall, Walltown
Hadrian’s Wall, Walltown Crags © David Simpson

369 – Defences at Saltburn and Scarborough

Watch towers are being constructed along the northern coast to defend against Germanic invaders. Towers are located at Filey, Scarborough, Goldsborough and Huntcliff near Saltburn. The towers communicate to each other and to Roman soldiers stationed at York and Malton using beacons of flame.

369 – Wall under repair

Hadrian’s Wall has been extensively restored following the Barbarian Conspiracy. Troops are no longer stationed north of the wall.

The very end of Hadrian’s Wall which led down to the Tyne.
The very end of Hadrian’s Wall which led down to the Tyne at Wallsend © David Simpson.

383 – Maximus claims to be Emperor

While the Goths are attacking Rome, Magnus Maximus a Roman governor, has taken advantage of the turmoil and made himself an Emperor. It is a false claim but he is unlikely to be challenged. Magnus has taken many Roman troops from Britain in an attempt to seize Gaul and Spain. The northern frontier is now exposed to Pictish raids.

388 – Romans defeated by native tribes

Hadrian’s Wall is undergoing heavy onslaught from native tribes and the Romans have suffered great defeats in battle.

397 – Whithorn Monastery

The ‘Casa Candida’ monastery is founded by St Ninian at Whithorn in what is now south west Scotland.

399 – Romans evacuating Britain

The Romans have started to evacuate troops from Britain. Reinforcements are desperately needed on the continent to protect Rome and the eastern parts of the empire.

401 – Coast abandoned

The fortified Roman watch towers along the Yorkshire coast have been abandoned by this time.

408 – The North revolts

The depletion of the Roman army in Britain has left the northern frontier exposed. Revolts against the Romans in North Britain are gaining momentum.

410 – The Romans have departed

Nearly all Roman troops have left Britain to defend against the Visigoths who are sacking Rome. Britain has now virtually ceased to be part of the Roman Empire.

👈 3rd centuryAnglian era 👉


Hadrian’s Wall


North East England History and Culture