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You might look at the map and think of Norfolk as vulnerable hence those forts. But Adrian is having none of it. "Apart from the aftermath of Boudica's revolt, we just don't have a strong military presence in Norfolk until the third century. One argument which I think is quite compelling is that the Saxon Shore forts were there to protect the fleets which carried grain from Britain to the Rhine Valley."

"Apart from one dodgy burial from the fourth century outside Venta a body flung into a hole there was no evidence that it was anything to do with the Saxons.

It's around this time that people started burying their wealth, trusting more to the 'Bank of Hiding' than risk having it grabbed by rapacious tax officials or unpaid troops on the look out for easy cash. That has given us such amazing finds as the Mildenhall, Nike Shoes On Sale Amazon

"We know that grain was being shipped in the 350s and it may have been shipped for some time. This casts into quite stark light that it wasn't gold the raiders were after it was food."

So just think: Boudica 'our' Boudica might have actually been German.

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Roman walls at Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund near Norwich.; Photo: Bill Smith edp 8/5/02

The grain was probably grown in the West country and around the fertile soils of the Fens. There was an Imperial estate based at Stonea, near March, which shows how important (and lucrative) the grain trade was.

"It would possibly account for people coming over later: they were linked by family connections that went back hundreds of years," Dr Marsden continued.

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It seems the people simply moved outside the town and carried on living there, abandoning Roman style buildings for simpler (and cheaper to build and maintain) wooden houses.

And Dr Marsden, a coin expert with the Identification and Recording Service based at Norwich Castle Museum, thinks we should forget Nike Shoes Just Do It Strap about Norfolk and the rest of Britannia as being weak and isolated.

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For a start, there is growing evidence that the Saxons didn't 'invade' at all: they were already here, employed to defend the very empire history says they were gathering to overthrow.

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´╗┐As Roman exhibition comes to an end we look at Norfolk's role in the fall of the Empire

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Thetford and Hoxne Treasures.

Roman expert Dr Adrian Marsden laughs. "It's absurd! This picture of these guys in plumed helmets arriving in AD43 and then packing their bags and sailing away."

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With falling demand for luxury goods and trade routes collapsing, everything started to unravel. And with no markets, what use towns?

A 'long way' is actually hundreds of years. "There is a strong possibility that the legends on Iron Age coinage [coins from before the Romans invaded] are actually in a Germanic language and not a Celtic one. Which means that the Iceni or their ruling classes came from Frisia or that area."

Which brings us to the question of what happen at our biggest Roman town Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmund).

Part of the hoard of rare Roman glass found at Hockwold cum Wilton

It's very significant, Dr Marsden believes, that the metal finds we find on very early Anglo Saxon sites have strong army influences. "All early Saxon metalwork in Norfolk is clearly derived from military patterns. It all looks distinctively 'official'."

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is strong evidence that this settlement continued 'after a fashion' for hundreds of years.

of the hoard of rare Roman glass found at Hockwold cum Wilton

The story of what may have happened begins with the famous Saxon Shore forts such as Brancaster and Burgh Castle. The key issue is what 'Saxon Shore' meant. "There are three theories," Dr Marsden explained. "That it comes from the coast the Saxons attacked, or that they garrisoned the forts, or from the 'Saxon Sea'.

This old Victorian idea is still a powerful one, but Dr Marsden believes the true story is much more complicated and fascinating that that, and may have some powerful insights into our sense of our own Norfolk identity today.

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We all know the tale from our schooldays, one of the most poignant stories in history.

"We don't think Venta was ever abandoned. From the Dunston Field outside the walls we recovered more than 1,000 Roman coins, overwhelmingly fourth century." There Nike Shoes High Cut For Girls

Trying to stop these opportunistic raiders were the Roman troops, many of which were Saxon mercenaries, recruited into an army increasingly manned by foreign soldiers. "The late Roman army was very heavily 'barbarianised'. The classic legion that we associate with the Romans had simply ceased to exist."

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With Gaul (Roman France) constantly ravaged by warbands, the tribes looked to fertile Britain as an easy source of supply. Sounds familiar? U boat tactics 1,500 years ahead of their time.

"I suspect the garrison theory is most likely, especially given the fact that Norfolk links with the mouth of the Rhine go back a long way."

As the last decades of the fourth century wore on, the once mighty empire began to buckle, then crack, under a whole series of factors political, military, economic and many more.

With the Roman economy unravelling, first one industry then another faded away. Coins became valueless, trade routes faltered. "Here in Norfolk we had the glass industry around Hockwold which imported glass 'ingots' from Egypt. When that route stopped, so did the industry. We see a similar thing with the Nene Valley and Brampton pottery industries."

Sometime around the turn of the 400s, the Roman emperor orders the legions to leave Britannia, leaving the Britons to wave a sad goodbye and quiver defenceless in our towns and villages as we eye the uncouth Saxons gathering on the horizon, sharpening their axes.

The fact is, these islands were so fertile and such a good power base that they produce a string of would be emperors over the centuries. "There was still a large standing army [in Britannia]. Even though it was smaller than at the start of the province it was still something to be reckoned with."

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