With the decline of the Roman Empire garrisons were withdrawn in about 410 CE. Intermarriage with the Britons was practiced, and many soldiers remained in the British Isles.
Britain was occupied by Roman garrisons for about 400 years, from c. 45 CE to 410 CE, when it became the westernmost extension of the world’s most extensive and sophisticated culture. The occupation left on Britain an indelible imprint of the classical world. Though the Roman Empire would fall, to be followed by a Medieval period lasting about 1,000 years, it would be the Roman cultural and administrative traditions that would be emulated by Britain as it established, in the 18th and 19th centuries, its own more far-reaching Empire and colonies, including Australia.
With the influx of Romans, Britain suddenly experienced a culture with a sophisticated and complex social organization. This degree of social complexity would not be attained again in Europe until the 18th and 19th centuries: a highly disciplined and well-equipped army; a modern bureaucracy; trade, commerce, and manufacturing on a vast scale; metal coinage; technology, architecture, art, literature, law, and government to a level of sophistication that had never been seen before. Towns were carefully planned and constructed with shopping precincts, basilicas, baths and buildings with painted frescoes and mosaics to cope with armies, merchants and a Roman bureaucracy as mobility of people and resources rapidly increased along the carefully planned and constructed sea routes and network of roads across Europe. Intermarriage and the new trade would have challenged former tribal affiliations. Even so, Latin did not replace the Celtic language as it had done in Gaul although it was the language of the ruling class.
British conquest did not mean total land appropriation as sympathisers and retired soldiers would be given land grants. Landowners were known and recorded. Tribute to Rome expected in the early days as labour or military service, and later as money.
At least four methods were employed to run farms: family ownership; tenant farming (sharecropping) in which the farmer and a tenant share the farm profits; an estate run by an aristocratic landlord with slaves and Roman overseers; leasing by land owner to tenants who would run the farm . These larger highly managed estates were pejoratively termed latifundia by Cato.
Whatever ideas and garden practices and ideas the Romans absorbed from other cultures it is from their culture that Europeans and the British we have built our underlying assumptions about garden structure and function. From the British these basic ideas have been passed on to the Neo-Europes, with only minor adjustments although it would seem that for Romans the garden was just one facet of a broader activity, agriculture, and a wider space, the farm or villa estate – which for Cato consisted of nine elements: vineyard, garden, osier-bed, olive grove, meadow, grain field, wood lot, orchard, and nut grove. Of course this is an interpretation of the garden from the point of view of the wealthy land owner. We know little of the urban garden (although town houses also had gardens) but its influences lay in these grander gardens.
Much of the framework of the English countryside was already laid out in prehistoric times with Roman structures, like the famous Roman villas, superimposed on former farmsteads.
In 410 CE the Romans left a well-populated nation with cultivated fields, towns, roads, villages, farmsteads, sophisticated water supplies (aqueducts) to the larger towns, and a planned system of land tenure.
For the British the arrival of Roman garrisons marks the boundary between prehistory and history as it was the Romans who initiated Britain’s written historical record. To the Iron Age island Occupying forces brought a form of governmental, bureaucratic, economic and legal system that was directed from across Europe in Rome. Troops had burst onto the east coast with a formidable navy and military machine. There was engineering on a scale never seen before in Britain (hard-surfaced roads, monumental buildings, viaducts, monumental architecture and sculpture), not to mention medicine, and trade with the Mediterranean that included luxury goods and new medicinal and economic plants. With London as the communication hub four great highways fanned out to the north, northwest, west and southwest.
Rome took full advantages of Britain’s resources which included coal, iron, jet (lignite), lead, salt, gold, silver and the Cornish tin that was so useful in the production of bronze armour. Britons gained much from Roman technical and social know-how but paid a despised poll tax (per capita) tributum capitis, a sales tax, and a 5% inheritance tax.
From the third century, as Rome declined, larger towns, like London, were walled and, as the last troops were withdrawn in 410 to shore up weak defences in Europe, many Britons would have preferred them to stay.
In the plant world the Roman presence in Britain was marked by new practices and technology for agriculture and horticulture – and permanent landscape change.
This Roman period was an important social transition marked by the advent of four social consumer groups based on their access to new plant foods and new methods of food husbandry: the military (about 10% of the population at first); townsfolk, especially around London; a group from rural SE England; and, lastly, those of rural SW England, northern, Wales, and Scotland. Of these four groups the first three had access to the new ‘Roman cuisine’.
Imperial Rome bequeathed to European society the model of a sophisticated economy employing resources from its subjugated provinces.
Britain was a Roman source of gold, silver, and tin while in Dorset wheat and oats were accumulated in storage pits. Land owners were a social elite with political power in the city and the possession of land was a mark of honour, grants of land being given, for example, by leaders to soldiers who distinguished themselves in combat.