An appeal by the Romano-British for assistance from Rome in their struggle against the Anglo-Saxon invaders.
Known as the Lamentations or Groans of the Britons, from the Latin gemitus Britannorum; the phrase used by Gildas in his De Excidio Britanniae,
To Agidus, thrice consul: the lamentations of the Britons...The barbarians push us back to the sea, the sea pushes us back to the barbarians; between these two kinds of death, we are either drowned or slaughtered
refers to "Agidus"
, this has been interpreted, first by Bede
and then by everyone else, as being an appeal directed to Aetius
, magister militum
of the Western Roman Empire
Generally speaking the reference to Aetius as "thrice consul" is used to date this appeal sometime between 446 AD (when as Aetius was appointed consul for the third time) and 454 AD the year of Aetius's death.
Others argue that he reference to Aetius as "thrice consul" cannot be taken literally. Gildas was not quoting from the actual communication itself, the words are merely a literary device, and therefore could have been made at any time in the period 425 to 454 AD when Aetius had the command in Gaul.
However, if one accepts the view that Vortigern was following a policy of independance from Rome then it is unlikely that such appeal would have been made when he was in charge. Therefore dating to the appeal to sometime in the period after 441 AD is the most likely, during the time when Ambrosius Aurelianus was organising the Romano-British resistance to the Anglo-Saxon invaders.
A date after 441 AD in any event is consistent with the evidence of the Gallic Chronicles. Taking the two pieces of evidence together we can conjecture that in 446 AD or therabouts, the Anglo-Saxons were rampaging across the former Roman provinces of Britain and threatening to establish their dominion over the whole.
Part of the Sub-Roman Britain project, where sources are detailed.