How old is English?
A split Empire
The Roman Empire was split into east and west. The eastern part is not on this map. Its capital was Constantinople.
The western Empire was further split into the Gaul Praefectura (beige) and Italian Praefectura (blue). Britain belonged to the Gaul Praefectura. Both praefecturas had in theory an emperor, but the Italian emperor was considered higher in rank.
The two praefecturas were merely an administrative measure: most often it was the emperor in Rome who ruled both.
We have coins of every emperor, even every usurper. Why? Because the easiest way to let people know that there is a new master, was to mint new coins. The people could then literally touch and feel the new regime. The mint was the proof.
 Gildas wrote:
"A legion is forthwith prepared, with no remembrance of past evil [= Maximus Magnus, the usurper], and fully equipped. Having crossed over the sea in ships to Britain, it came into close engagement with the oppressive enemies; it killed a great number of them and drove all over the borders, and freed the humiliated inhabitants from so fierce a violence and threatening bondage."
Saxon was at the time a generic name for all continental northeners.
The events before the 5th century
The Roman Empire in AD 395
Constantine the Great was proclaimed emperor in York in AD 305. He managed to re-unite the whole Empire. His brilliant career must have inspired the British upper class. During the reign of their emperor the British economy enjoyed a strong revival. At his death, the two sections of the western half of the Empire went to two of his three sons. One section included Hispania, Gaul, Belgium and Britain, was ruled by Constantinus II in AD 337 and his brother Constans was made emperor of Italy and North-Africa (see antique map). The third son obtained the eastern Empire with Byzantium as its capital.
In AD 383 Maximus Clemens Magnus, a Spaniard related to a Welsh family, was proclaimed emperor by his troops over the Gaul Preafectura, while serving with the army in Britain. Later legend made him King of the Britons; he handed the 'throne' over to Caradocus when he went to Gaul to pursue his imperial ambitions.
After the demise of Maximus, Roman rule slowly returned in Britain. The east of Britain was upset by the waste of money Maximus’ wars had cost. Rome sent some legions. However, the legions could not stay and urged the British to defend themselves (Gildas). In other words: find the necessary money and create a local militia. Britain had to organize a local defense system.
Gildas mentions that the British built a
local defense force, and that it had some success. But instead of
pursuing, the money was wasted on luxury instead of defence.