Litoris Saxonici – Saxon Shore Forts & Luxurious Villas

Portus Adurni & Anderida

During the 4th Century AD barbarians began to seriously raid the atlantic and north sea coasts of Britannia and Gaul. One of the Roman responses was to build a series of forts along the coasts to base defensive reaction forces as well as provide protected anchorages for anti-pirate vessels belonging to the Classis Britannia and other fleets.

After the Romans pulled out the last ‘regular’ forces from Britannia some time in the last part of the 4th century it is not quite certain exactly what happened to these forts (or the ones in Britain, at least) but there is evidence of some ongoing settlement, possibly continuous and it is possible that these ‘settlers’ were late Roman Laeti – barbarian farmer-militia who received land grants to support themselves and were only paid a small amount of ‘pocket money’ to supplement this … as well as being provided with arms and, possibly, armour (certainly shields and helmets).

Whether these were Angles or Saxons, by the 9th-10th centuries some of these forts were important Anglo-Saxon settlements with the walls somewhat repaired … and when the Normans defeated Harold and took over England they took over these settlements and, in the case of Portchester (Portus Adurni – probably) and Anderida (Pevensey) they built Castles into them incorporating part of the remaining Roman walls.

They remained royal fortresses for many centuries and played an important role in the wars against the French but, as those wound down, they were sold off to local landowners (and later leased back to use as POW camps during the later wars against the French, especially the extended Napoleonic Wars).

They are all more or less ruinous today … Portchester is probably the best preserved, and Pevensey is less so. The others tend to be in even worse condition.

The Keep of the Norman Castle built into Portus Adurni from the outside. Only the lower courses of stone are remnant original Roman work.
The Roman Wall and a Roman era Tower/Bastion where it abuts the Castle. You can see where cruder medieval work has been done to repair the existing Roman work.
The side of the Castle facing the estuary … again, you can see the cruder medieval repairs. This was one massive fortress back in the day!
Anderida – the walls are in pretty bad shape compared to Portchester. Again, the lower courses are Roman and the upper are Roman with medieval repairs
The Castle built into Anderida – it’s pretty much a wreck, more so than the one at Portchester, and it was undergoing major conservation and stabilisation work when I visited.

Fishbourne Roman Palace

The largest Roman era Palace north of the Alps – and it’s in this obscure (in Roman times) part of Britannia!

Discovered completely by accident and saved from developers (or part of the site is … about half or more is under the existing Village and roads) it is not known who it was created for.

When I was there in 1988 the theory was that it was a British client King, Cogidubnus, or an early Roman governor … but the guide who was on duty when I was there claimed that he thought it might have belonged to Vespasian, who was known to have a liking for Britannia and had just become Emperor around the time it was built. His working theory was that it was really only equalled by the Imperial Palaces on the Palatine or Nero’s ‘Golden House’ and, therefore, must have been Imperial.

Nice theory. Might even be correct. Unfortunately absolutely NO evidence of a conclusive nature has been found to support any of the theories. There may be some … buried under the village. Or there may be none.

Anyway, it’s interesting because of the elaborate mosaic floors which sort of mostly sort of survived and because the traces of the formal gardens were found and it has been possible for the curatorial staff to plant hedges and other plants to give an idea of what they may actually have looked like ‘back in the day.’

The Dolphin mosaic’s centrepiece
The Dolphin Mosaic – this is a masterwork of polychrome mosaic art!

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