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romans, saxons and christians

May 23, 2013

day 2 of reflecting on St Cuthberts way and I found myself thinking about why the vast resources of the Roman empire could not conquer the hearts and minds of the britons who lived here until 400ad, while a simple monk sent from a monastery just off the coast could establish a whole string of abbeys along the river tweed which are still in existence today?

It is all down to tactics. The Roman army was all but invincible, they used strategies previously unknown, they were able to work together – locking shields to form a `tortoise` that practically ensured that they would win. It is self evident that they could win the wars – but they could not keep the peace. They overcame by strength, but did not win hearts and minds.

It is unlikely that they would have ever been warmly welcomed, as they were the bringers of order, rule, change: everything – from roads to cities was remodelled to shape the Roman way of doing things…

The monks on the other hand came with something that was fluid. I don’t mean that they compromised what they believed about God, or about the need to repent and convert to Christianity – but they were able to accommodate local customs and practices that were not at odds with the new faith. They were of the people and so kept an affinity with the locals.

To win the heart, or to change the structures – the more effective way in the long haul is to win hearts and minds.

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