In many parts of Europe, the withdrawal of the Roman legions towards the end of the empire was accompanied by a rapid decline. This can be seen from the shards in the ground. In Roman times, something always broke, so broken remains can be found. Then the conquerors come and you find a high density of shards – the proverbial elephant raged in the china shop. Then the shards suddenly stop being discovered because these goods are no longer being manufactured again.

But in addition to the regions in which the empire ended so abruptly, there are areas in which Roman culture persisted even after the end of Rome’s rule – only to slowly come to an end. A fifth-century mosaic has now been found in Gloucestershire, England, which adorned a Roman villa there. The special thing is that around 400 the Romans had actually given up the British Isles.

After the Rhine border fell in 406 and Gaul was lost, the island was cut off. Roman Britain was in decline. The change came abruptly, around 350 there were still signs of great prosperity, only 50 years later the Roman troops fled the island, 400 years after the conquest by Vespasian. After 407 there are hardly any Roman coins left. It almost seems as if the Romans took everything valuable with them. Historians thought that the early Britons abandoned the Roman villas and population centers after the collapse of the imperial administrative system. This begins a period that became known as the Dark Ages.

“It was thought that most of the population turned to subsistence farming to sustain themselves,” says Martin Papworth, an archaeologist with Britain’s National Trust. “The exciting thing about the dating of this mosaic at Chedworth is that it is evidence of gradual decline. The creation of a new space and the laying of a new floor suggest prosperity and a mosaic industry that continued 50 years later than thought. “

The mosaic was discovered in 2017, but has only now been definitively dated. There is a decline in quality when compared to fourth-century mosaics found in the same villa and elsewhere in Britain. The skills of the craftsmen declined significantly. The end of Roman rule also meant the end of the monetary economy in England. Work and services were no longer paid for in one currency. This also ended the empire’s highly division of labor economy.

But despite some flaws, the mosaic is a complex work of art. An outer border of circles is filled with flowers and knots.

Papworth said this find shows a relatively slower decline in the way of life of the wealthy elite in southwest England. Compared to the north and east, where the rich country estates were quickly looted and destroyed during raids, a summer dining room was still built here in the middle of the fifth century.

The villa was built shortly after the Roman conquest in 120 and was continually expanded over 300 years. It is a very fertile region. The remains of 50 Roman country estates can be found in the area. It can be assumed that the conquerors secured the fertile area and introduced the Roman form of agriculture there.

For most people, living in a villa means not a meal in the mosaic-adorned rooms, but slavery. The villa system was based on this.

After 300 years, the owners did not want to give up the villa and the associated estate. Especially since there were fewer and fewer “safe” zones in the Empire. Escape would only have made sense if the same family also owned large properties in the shrinking territory.