The Ruin and Conquest of Britain as told by the Early Sources
The Ruin and Conquest of Britain 400 A.D. -- 600 A.D.
As told by the Early Sources
Last Modified: 19th February 2013.
This page is the first, and largest, part of my "Ruin and Conquest of
Britain" site. It is an attempt to tell the history of 5th and 6th
century Britain (south of Hadrian's wall) using only the early (almost all pre-Norman) sources. That is to say, I have attempted
to arrange excerpts from various sources (more than 40 in number) in a
rough chronological order. The result is a surprisingly coherent story.
In doing this I have almost always maintained the implied ordering of
in the original sources (something which is often not respected) and
almost always the original dates (if they are given). However, I have
sometimes omitted material
which is in contradiction with material from other sources. Dealing
such contradictions is of course a matter for judgement, and is one
for the diversity of views on the outline of British history in this
In some important cases I have discussed my reasoning in footnotes.
Some of the sources I use are available elsewhere on the web. However
many are not, and in any case they have not, to my knowledge, been
in this way so as to tell a story. Of course the material in the
is of variable quality. That of Gildas, mentioned above, is presumably
quite reliable for his time, but becomes less reliable for events
before his birth. Other authors wrote many centuries after the events
describe. Such sources are much less reliable. The most famously
unreliable "history" of this time is the 12th century "History of the
Kings of Britain" by Geoffrey of Monmouth, which made Arthur and Merlin
into famous figures. I have not used it at all, nor later works which
obviously rely upon it. Where I have included
very dubious elements (e.g. from the Mabinogion), this is only to give
a tradition which grew from an event which is otherwise recorded in
reliable histories, and which may conceivably have some basis in fact.
To supplement the excerpts from the sources I have occasionally
brief comments, clarifications or corrections which are implied or
by the same or other sources but which are not worth quoting in
Such additions are indicated in small type.
the extra information is uncertain, this has been indicated in an
manner. As well as these additions, I have added a large number of
As mentioned above, these contains some of the reasoning behind my
and also links together passages in different places to help the reader
keep track of people and lineages. It is also worth noting that I have
used British (Welsh) and English
sources with equal weight, giving, I think, a more balanced portrait
than is sometimes found. Finally, I have covered some events in 5th
and 6th century Gaul in greater detail than might be expected. This is
they either have direct relevance to the history of Britain, or act as
models for the military and social conditions there.
In short, I have taken considerable care in compiling this
But is it history or story? I would say that it is history, but history
of the old-fashioned "synthesizing and reconciling" kind as practised
by the less inventive of the Anglo-Norman historiographers of the 12th
and 13th centuries. To quote Nick Higham (King Arthur: Myth Making and
Routledge, 2002) on the short-comings of this methodology:
This practice involved
involves) different texts being ransacked for individual facts and
dates, all of which could then be combined in a new narrative without
explicit notice of the ultimate purposes of these snippets of
information within the narratives from which they derived.
The reader should thus take my chronology with a large grain of salt.
is certainly a possible history, but equally certainly not the history of 5th
and 6th century
Britain. The latter, a trustworthy and detailed chronology of these two
centuries, is impossible to construct from the available sources. I
discuss the severe limits of our knowledge on another page in this
site, The Facts: how
much do we really
know. I also give a more trustworthy, and less detailed, chronology
based on the most reliable primary sources in my "Best
To supplement the narrative history told below, I have also produced
the following resources:
in the form of a time-line.
of sources, lifetimes, and
of Britannia in 400, 530, 585,
660, and 945 A.D.
in 469 A.D.
-- from various sources, some in black and white and some in colour.
In 400 A.D. the Diocese of Britain (the part of the Island south of
wall) had been part of the Roman Empire for over three centuries, and
free-born Britons had been Roman citizens for almost two centuries
212). Christianity was well established and the cities remained
if somewhat less prosperous than in the past. In the preceding half
there had been a number of worrying raids by barbarians: the Picts from
north of the Antonine wall, the Scots from Ireland and the Saxons (a
term used in the Roman world for Angles, Jutes and Frisians as well as
Saxons) from Germany and Denmark. The Roman general Magnus Maximus had
largely countered the Pictish threat by enlisting the British tribes
the Hadrianic and Antonine walls as federate allies of the Empire.
he subsequently withdrew many of the Roman troops in his failed bid to
usurp the Imperium from 383 to 388. Around 398 the Empire was forced to
despatch an expedition to restore order and peace to the diocese, lead
by the general Stilicho. Part of his rescue may have included arranging
the migration of one of the British tribes north of Hadrian's wall to
to expel the Scots who had captured large parts of Western Britain at
When I (Britain personified)
too was about to
succumb to the attack of neighbouring peoples -- for the Scots had
all Ireland against me, and the sea foamed under hostile oars -- you,
fortified me (c.398). This
was to such
that I no longer fear the weapons of the Scots, nor tremble at the
nor along my shore do I look for the approaching Saxon on each
The Kindred of Eight came from Ireland and
there with all their race in Britain until today (c.830).
Istoreth son of Istorinus held Dal Riada (in
his people. Bolg with his people held the Isle of Man [Emap
and other islands about.
The sons of Liathan prevailed in the country of the Demetians (Dyfed),
and in other countries ... until they were expelled by Cunedda, and by
his sons ....
Cunedda, with his sons, to the number of eight, had come from
the north, from the country called Manaw Gododdin [map
(1)], 146 years before Maelgwn
reigned, and expelled the Scots from these countries (Gwynedd),
with immense slaughter, so that they never returned to inhabit them.
Here are the names of the sons
of Cunedda who number nine: i. Typiaun the first born who
region called Manaw Gododdin and who did not come with his father and
his aforesaid brothers. His son Meriaun shared in the division of the
with his (Typiaun's)
brothers: ii Osmail,
Rumaun, iiii Dunaut, v Ceretic, vi Abloyc, vii Enniaun
girt, viii Docmail, ix Etern. This is the boundary of their
from the river Dee [map
(2)] up to the river Teifi [map
(3)]; and they hold many regions in western Britain.
To confront the Visigoths in Italy,
such love they have for their general Stilicho,
together from every side. First hasten up the neighbouring troops ...;
next the legion deployed in furthest Britain, that kept the fierce
in check, whose men had seen the strange devices tattooed on the bodies
of the dying Picts. ... The Visigoths
I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, ... had for my father
the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest of the
of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken
I was at that time about sixteen year of age. ... I was taken into
in Ireland with many thousands of people.
Stilicho was finally forced to withdraw
the frontier in Gaul in order to guard Italy against attack.
The Vandals, in conjunction with the Suevi and Alani crossed the Alps
and plundered the provinces beyond them in
wrought such slaughter and became so formidable even to the armies in
that they compelled them, under fear of attack, to elect usurpers,
Marcus, Gratian and then Constantine.
There was no doubt discontent (in Britain),
the rule of the Vandal Stilicho, and with lack of attention his
paid to the defence of Britain against the Picts. ... Indeed, in the
of Britain before the seventh consulship of Honorius (407),
they had stirred the army there to revolt, and proclaimed a certain
as supreme ruler.
The island of Britain revolted from the Romans, and the soldiers there
chose as their leader Constantius, a man of no mean station. And he
gathered a fleet of ships and a formidable army and invaded both Spain
and Gaul with a great force, thinking to control these countries.
It was in Honorius'
seventh consulship and
second (407), that the
in Britain mutinied and enthroned Marcus, obeying him as emperor there,
but when he would not accede to their demands, they killed him and
forth Gratian, to whom they gave a purple robe, a crown and a
just like an emperor. Becoming displeased with him also,
months they deposed and killed him, and made Constantine his successor.
After appointing Justinianus and Nebiogastes as Magistri Militum in
he (Constantine) left Britain
and crossed to the
Arriving at Bononia (Boulogne)
in lower Germany [Emap
the first city after
the channel, he stayed there a few days and won over all the armies
to the Alps [Emap
which divide Gaul from
Previously, ... the Romans were victorious in sharp conflict with them
(the Vandals, Suevi and Alani)
and killed most
them, but by not pursuing those who fled (in which case they would have
annihilated them), they allowed them to recover from their defeat,
a multitude of barbarians, and make ready for battle again. For these
then, Constantine established garrisons here in
to prevent them free passage
into Gaul; he also
the Rhine [Emap
which had been neglected
since the time of the emperor Julian (361-363),
After these arrangements in Gaul, he bestowed the Caesar's
eldest son, Constans, and sent him to Spain. He was anxious to gain
of all of the provinces here in order both to extend his own authority
and to destroy the power of the relatives of Honorius (the
legitimate emperor in Italy) for fear they might muster an
from the soldiers there and attack him over the Pyrenees [Emap
... Constans therefore
into Spain with the Magister (commander)
... and secured Spain.
After these successes in Spain, Constans returned to his father
.... He left behind the Magister Gerontius with the Gallic troops to
the pass from Gaul into Spain. But the Spanish troops asked that they
entrusted with this duty as usual and also that the safety of their
not be given to strangers to maintain. Constans was sent back to Spain
again by his father with Justus as Magister. Angered at this, Gerontius
won over his soldiers and incited the barbarians in Gaul to revolt
Constantine. The latter was not able to oppose them because most of his
army was in Spain, which allowed the barbarians over the Rhine to make
Prosper of Aquitaine for 410
The multitude of the enemy so prevailed that the strength of the Romans
was extremely diminished. Britain was devastated by an incursion of the
The Vandals and Alans wasted parts of Gaul; Constantine the usurper
a hold on the remainder. ... Finally, the very Rome [Emap
the head of the world,
horribly exposed to the depredation of the Goths.
Chronicles of Anjou
Around about the time
Alaric, king of the Goths, took Rome ... Ivomadus, a young man from
Britain with 1000 men (possibly part of Constantine's
... obtained Blois
... by deceipt.
From Britain envoys set
out with their
their clothes (it is said) torn, their heads covered in dust, to beg
from the Romans. ... The Romans ... informed our country that they
not go on being bothered with such troublesome expeditions; that Roman
standards, that great and splendid army, could not be worn out by land
and sea for the sake of wandering thieves who had no taste for war.
the Britons should stand alone, get used to arms, fight bravely, and
with all their powers their land, property, wives, children, and, more
importantly, their life and liberty. Their enemies were no stronger
they, unless Britain chose to relax in laziness and torpor; they should
not hold out to them for the chaining hands that held no arms, but
equipped with shields, swords and lances, ready for the kill. This was
the Romans' advice.
When Alaric (the leader of the Visigoths)
gained peace on the terms he proposed nor received any hostages, he
attacked Rome ... and finally captured it. ... Honorius sent letters to
the cities of Britain, urging them to fend for themselves.
the year 409 (actually 410),
Rome was taken
by the Goths, and from that time Roman rule came to an end in Britain,
except for some, who were born there, and who reigned for a short time.
Alaric died of disease, and the army of the Visigoths ... marched into
Gaul, and Constantine, defeated in battle by
died with his sons. However the Romans never succeeded in recovering
but it remained from that time on under tyrants.
They (the barbarians) reduced
of Britain and some parts of Gaul to such straits that they revolted
the Roman Empire, no longer submitted to Roman law, but reverted to
native customs. The Britons, therefore, armed themselves and ran many
to ensure their own safety and free their cities from the attacking
The whole of Armorica,
and other Gallic
in imitation of the Britons, freed themselves in the same way, by
the Roman magistrates and establishing the government they wanted. The
revolt of the provinces of Britain and Gaul occurred during
tyranny because the barbarians took advantage of his careless
Fastidius -- letter to a widow in Britain
We see before us many instances of wicked men, the sum of their sins
complete, who are being judged at the present moment, and denied this
present life no less than the
to come. This is not hard to understand, for in changing times we
the deaths of magistrates who have lived criminally, for the greater
power, the bolder their sins. ... Those who have freely shed the blood
of others are now forced to shed their own. ... Some lie unburied, food
for the beasts and birds of the air. Others have been individually torn
limb from limb. Their judgements killed many husbands, widowed many
orphaned many children, leaving them bare and beggared ... for they
the property of the men they killed. But now it is their wives who are
widowed, their sons who are orphaned, begging their daily bread from
Exuperantius now (c.
teaches the inhabitants of the Armorican coastal regions to love the
restoration of peace; he re-establishes laws, restores freedom, and
prevents the masters from being slaves to their own servants.
The Visigoths, probably having helped
put down the
rebellion of the Armoricans, were allowed to settle as federates of
the Empire in Aquitaine (South-West Gaul). [Emap
ASC for 418
The Romans (perhaps Romano-Briton
collected all the hoards of gold that were in Britain; and some they
in the earth [Illustration],
so that no man afterwards may find them, and some they carried away
them into Gaul.
As the Romans went back home, there emerged from the coracles that
had carried them across the sea-valleys the foul hordes of Scots and
... They were to some extent different in their customs, but they were
in perfect accord in their greed for bloodshed: and they were readier
cover their villainous faces with hair than their private parts and
regions with clothes. They were more confident than usual now that they
had learnt of the departure of the Romans
denial of any prospect of their return. So they seized the whole north
of the island from its inhabitants, right up to the wall (presumably
(4)]. A force was stationed on the high towers to oppose
it was too lazy to fight, and too unwieldy to flee; the men were
and frightened, and they sat about day and night, rotting away in their
Meanwhile there was no respite from the barbed spears flung
naked opponents, which tore our wretched countrymen from the walls and
dashed them to the ground. Premature death was in fact an advantage to
those who were thus snatched away; for their quick end saved them from
the miserable fate that awaited their brothers and children. I need say
no more. Our citizens abandoned the towns and the high wall. Once again
they had to flee; once again they were scattered, more irretrievably
usual; once again there were enemy assaults and massacres more cruel.
pitiable citizens were torn apart by their foe like lambs by the
their life became like that of the beasts of the field. For they
to looting each other, there being only a tiny amount of food to give
sustenance to the wretched people; and the disasters from abroad were
by internal disorders, for as a result of constant devastations of this
kind the whole region came to lack the staff of food, apart from such
as the art of the huntsman could procure them.
became the Magister
(military commander) in Gaul.
So the miserable remnants sent off a letter again, this time to the
Roman commander Agitius, in the following terms: `To Agitius,
thrice consul: the groans of the British.' Further on came this
`The barbarians push us back to the sea, the sea pushes us back to the
barbarians; between these two we are either drowned or slaughtered.'
they got no help in return. [Illustration]
Meanwhile, as the British feebly wandered, a dreadful and notorious
famine gripped them, forcing many of them to give in without delay to
plunderers, merely to get a scrap of food to revive them. Not so
they kept fighting back, basing themselves on the mountains, caves,
and thorny thickets. Their enemies had been plundering the land for
years; now for the first time they inflicted a massacre on them,
not in man but in God. The enemy retreated from the people.
Prosper of Aquitaine for 429
Agricola, a Pelagian, the son of the Pelagian bishop Severianus,
the British churches by the insinuation of his doctrine. But ... Pope
sent Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, as his representative, and having
the heretics, directed the British to the catholic faith.
About this time a deputation from Britain came to tell the bishops
of Gaul that the heresy of Pelagius had taken hold of the people over a
great part of the country and help ought to be brought to the Catholic
faith as soon as possible. A large number of bishops gathered in synod
to consider the matter and all turned in help to the two who in
judgement were the leading lights of religion, namely Germanus and
And it was not long before these apostolic priests had
the first and largest of the islands, with their fame, their preaching
and their miracles; and, since it was a daily occurrence for them to be
hemmed in by crowds, the word of God was preached, not only in the
but at the cross-roads, in the fields and in the lanes. Everywhere
Catholics were strengthened in their faith and the lapsed learnt the
back to the truth. ...
The teachers of perverse doctrines lay low for a time,
wicked spirits do, when nations escape from their clutches and are lost
to them. In the end, after prolonged consideration, they ventured upon
a contest. They came forth flaunting
wealth, in dazzling robes, surrounded by a crowd of
preferred the risk of exposure to a silence that would put them to
in the eyes of the people they had deceived, who would regard them as
condemned themselves if they had nothing to say.
And indeed there was assembled at the meeting place a crowd
proportions, wives and children among them, drawn by the occasion. The
people were present both as spectators and jury men. ... The holy
gave the privilege of opening the debate to their opponents, who took
the time with empty words drawn out to great length but to little
Then the revered prelates themselves poured out the floods of their
mingling them with the thunders of the Apostle and the Gospels ...
arguments were refuted, dishonest pleas were exposed; and their
as each point was made against them, confessed themselves in the wrong
by their inability to reply. The jury of the people could hardly keep
hands off them and were not to be stopped from giving their verdicts by
Suddenly a man of the rank
accompanied by his wife, stepped into the middle and put his
daughter, who was blind, into the arms of the bishops. They told him to
take her to their opponents. But the latter, stung by conscience and
alarmed, joined the parents in begging the bishops to cure the little
The bishops, seeing that the people were expectant and their opponents
in a humbler frame of mind, offered a short prayer, after which
filled with the holy spirit and in the name of the trinity, took from
neck the reliquary that always hung at his side and in full view of
put it to the eyes of the child. Immediately it expelled their darkness
and filled them with light and truth. The parents were filled with joy
at the miracle and the onlookers with awe. ...
When this damnable heresy had been thus stamped out ... the
visited the shrine of the blessed martyr Alban (probably
in St. Albans) [map
(5)], to give thanks to God through him. As they were
an accident ... caused Germanus to fall and injure his foot. The Bishop
was detained by his injury in one place for a considerable period, in
course of which a fire accidentally broke out close to where he was
It had burnt several
houses, which in those parts are roofed with reeds, and was
by the wind to the one in which he was himself lying. Everybody rushed
to the prelate to carry him from danger. But he rebuked them, and
in his faith, refused to be moved. The crows in desperation ran to meet
the flames. But ... everything the crowd tried to save was burnt and
the injured man on his bed guarded was preserved. Shrinking from the
in which he was a guest, the flames leaped over it, and, although they
raged on either side of it, there glittered unharmed amid the furnaces
a tabernacle intact, preserved by the occupant within.
Meanwhile the Saxons
and Picts had joined forces to make war upon the Britons. The
had been compelled to withdraw their forces within their camp and,
their forces to be totally unequal to the contest, asked the help of
prelates. The latter sent back a promise to come, and hastened to
it. Their coming brought such a sense of security that you might have
that a great army had arrived. ... It was the season of Lent ... and
numbers of this pious army sought the grace of baptism. ... The
paraded still wet from baptism, faith was fervid, the aid of weapons
little thought of, and all looked for help from heaven.
Meanwhile the enemy had learnt of the practices and
camp. They promised themselves an easy victory over practically
troops and pressed on in haste. But their approach was discovered by
and ... the army ... began to take up their weapons and prepare for
and Germanus announced that he would be their general. He chose some
troops and made a tour of the outworks. In the direction from which the
enemy were expected he saw a valley
steep mountains. Here he stationed an army on a new model,
By now the savage host of the enemy was close at hand and
circulated an order that all should repeat in unison the call he would
give as a battle-cry. Then, while the enemy were still secure in their
belief that their approach was unexpected, the bishops three times
the Alleluia. All, as one man, repeated it and the shout they raised
through the air and echoed many times in the confined space between the
The enemy were panic-stricken, thinking that the surrounding rocks and
the very sky itself were falling on them. Such was their terror that no
effort of their feet seemed enough to save them. They fled in every
throwing away their weapons and thankful if they could at least save
skins. Many threw themselves into a river which they had just crossed
ease, and were drowned in it. Thus the British army looked on at its
without striking a blow, idle spectators of the victory they achieved.
The booty strewn everywhere was collected; the pious soldiery obtained
the spoils of a victory from heaven. The bishops were elated at the
of the enemy without bloodshed and a victory gained by faith and not by
Thus this most wealthy island, with the defeat of both its
and its human foes, was rended secure in every sense. And now, to the
of the whole country, those who had won the victories over both
and Saxons made preparations for their return.
So the impudent Irish pirates returned home (though they were shortly
to return) and for the first time the Picts in the far end of the
kept quiet from now on, though they occasionally carried out
raids of plunder. So in this period of truce the desolate people found
their cruel scars healing over. But a new and more virulent famine was
quietly sprouting. In the respite from devastation, the island was so
with abundance of goods that no previous age had known the like of it.
Alongside there grew luxury. ...
And it was not only this vice that flourished, but all those
befall human nature -- and especially the one that is the downfall of
good condition nowadays too, the hatred of truth and its champions and
the love of falsehood and its contrivers. ... Kings were anointed not
God's name, but as being crueller than the rest; before long they would
be killed, with no inquiry into the truth, by those who anointed them,
and others still crueller chosen to replace them. Any king who seemed
and rather more inclined to the truth was regarded as the downfall of
everyone directed their hatred and their weapons at him, with no
Irish Annals for 432
Saint Patrick landed in
Irish Annals for 434
Vortigern ruled in Britain, and during his rule he was under pressure,
from fear of the Picts and Irish, and of a Roman
invasion, and not least, from dread of Ambrosius.
God, meanwhile, wished to purge his family, and cleanse it from such
an infection of evil by the mere news of trouble. The feathered flight
of a not unfamiliar rumour penetrated the pricked ears of the whole
--- the imminent approach of the old enemy, bent on total destruction
(as was their wont) on settlement from one end of the country to the
But they took no profit from the news.
ASC for 443
The Britons sent overseas to Rome, and begged assistance against the
Picts; but they had none, for the Romans were at war with Atilla, king
of the Huns. Then sent they to the Angles, and requested the same from
the nobles of that nation.
Gallic Chronicle for c.441 or c.445
The British provinces, which up to this time have suffered various
catastrophes and misfortune, yielded to the power of the Saxons (read
In the fourth year of Vortigern's
came to Britain.
In the year 582, Maurice, the fifty-fourth from Augustus, ascended
the throne .... the fourteenth year of this
about the one
and fiftieth after the coming of the Angles into Britain (445)
was the son of
Yffe, son of
Uscfrea, son of Wilgils, son of
Westeralcna, son of Soemil, son of Seafugul, son of
Saebald begot Saefugl, begot Soemil.
He first separated Deira from Bernicia (read
Soemil begot Swaerta (read Westerfalca)
Wilgsil begot Wycsfrea
begot Yffe begot Aelle.
came from Britain that a few promoters of the Pelagian heresy
once more spreading it; and again all the bishops joined in urging the
man of blessings (St. Germanus)
to defend the
of God for which he had previously won such a victory. ... So, taking
him Severus, a bishop of perfected sanctity, he embarked ....
Meanwhile ... one of the leading men in the country, Elafius
came hurrying to meet the holy men .... He brought with him his son who
had been crippled in early youth by a most grievous malady. His sinews
had withered and the tendons of the knee had contracted and his
leg made it impossible for him to stand on his feet.
The whole Province came along with Elafius. The bishops
the crowds came upon them unexpectedly. ... Germanus could see that the
people as a whole had persevered in the faith in which he had left them
and the bishops realized that the fallings-away had been the work of
a few. These were identified and formally condemned.
At this point Elafius approached to make obeisance to the
presented them his son, whose youth and helplessness made his need
without words. ... The blessed Germanus at once made the boy sit down,
then felt the knee and ran his healing touch over all the diseased body
... and before the eyes of all, the son got back a sound body and the
got back a son.
The crowds were overwhelmed by the miracle and the Catholic
in them was strengthened in all of them, There followed sermons to the
people to confute the heresy, the preachers of which were by common
banished from the island. They were brought to the bishops to be
to the continent, so that the country might be purged of them and their
errors. The effect of all this was so salutary that even now (c.480)
the faith is persisting in those parts. And so, with everything
the blessed bishops made a prosperous return back to their own country
became consul for the third time.
He (Germanus) had hardly got
home after his
expedition when a deputation from Armorica
came with a petition to
weary prelate. For Aetius the magnificent, who then governed the state,
had been enraged by the insolence of that proud region and, to punish
for daring to rebel, had given Gochar, the savage king of the Alans,
to subdue it; and Gochar, with a barbarian's greed, was thirsting for
So one old man was matched against a most warlike people and
king, but, under the protection of Christ, he proved greater and
than them all. He lost no time in setting out, for all the preparations
for the invasions had been made. The movement of the tribes had already
begun and their iron-armed cavalry were filling all roads. Nevertheless
the Bishop road out towards them until he reached his meeting place
the King, who arrived soon after him.
Laying aside his arrogance the King dismounted and entered
which ended by satisfying not the desires of the King, but the requests
of the Bishop. The King and his army camped peacefully where they were
and he gave the most solemn assurances of peace on condition that the
that he himself (Germanus)
had thus granted to
Armoricans was asked also of the Emperor or Aetius. Meanwhile the
of the Bishop, and his holiness, had restrained a king, recalled an
and delivered a Province from devastation.
A plague throughout the Roman world
`The stubborn servant', says Solomon, `is not corrected with words'.
For a deadly plague swooped brutally on the stupid people, and in a
period laid low so many people, with no sword, that the living could
bury the dead. But not even this taught them their lesson.
And they convened a council to decide the best and soundest way to
counter the brutal and repeated invasions and plunderings by the
I have mentioned. Then all the members of the council, together with
proud tyrant, were struck blind; the guard -- or rather the method of
--- they devised for our land was that the ferocious Saxons (name not
be spoken!), hated by man and God, should be let into the island like
into the fold, to beat back the peoples of the North. Nothing more
nothing more bitter has ever befallen the land. How utter the blindness
of their minds! How desperate and crass the stupidity! Of their own
will they invited under the same roof a people whom
they feared worse than death even in their absence.
The British consulted what
was to be done and
where they should seek assistance to prevent or repel the cruel and
incursions of the northern nations. They all agreed with their king
to call over to their aid, from the parts beyond the sea, the Saxon
... The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa.
... the Saxons were received by Vortigern 347 (read
years after the Passion (read Nativity)
(i.e. 448 A.D.).
ASC for 449
Martian and Valentinian assumed the Roman
(actually in 450) and reigned
seven winters. In
days Hengest and Horsa, invited by Vortigern, king of the Britons to
assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet;
first to help the Britons, but later they fought against them.
After ... the end of the Roman Empire in Britain (?410),
the British went in fear for 40 years. ... Then came three keels,
into exile from Germany. In them were the brothers Horsa and Hengest
Vortigern welcomed them [Illustration],
and handed over to them the island that in
language is called Thanet,
in British Ruoihm [map
Then a pack of cubs burst forth from the lair of the barbarian lioness,
coming in three keels, as they call warships in their language. The
were favourable; favourable too the omens and auguries, which
according to a sure potent among them, that they would live for three
years in the land towards which their prows were directed, and that for
half that time, a hundred and fifty years, they would repeatedly lay it
waste. On the orders of the ill-fated tyrant, they first fixed their
claws on the east side of the island, ostensibly to fight for our
in fact to fight against it.
Geographer of Ravenna
The race of the Saxons, coming from Old Saxony, under their prince
Anschis (presumably an oral transmission
of the name
settled the island of Britain some time back (from
The mother lioness learnt that her first contingent had prospered,
and she sent a second and larger troop of satellite dogs. It arrived by
ship and joined up with the false units. Hence the sprig of our
the root of our bitterness, the virulent plant that our merits so well
deserved, sprouted in our soil with savage shoots and tendrils. The
who had been admitted to the island asked to be given supplies, falsely
representing themselves as soldiers ready to undergo extreme danger for
their excellent hosts. The supplies were granted and for a long time
the dog's mouth'. Then they again complained that their monthly
was insufficient, purposely giving a false colour to individual
and swore that they would break their agreement and plunder
the whole island unless more lavish payments were heaped on
And it came to pass, after the English were encamped in the aforesaid
island of Thanet, the aforesaid king promised to supply them with food
and clothing without fail; and they agreed and promised to fight
against his enemies. But the barbarians multiplied their numbers, and
British could not feed them. When they demanded the promised food and
the British said "We cannot give you food and clothing, for your
are grown. Go away, for we do not need your help." So they took counsel
with their elders, to break the peace.
But Hengest was an experienced man, shrewd and skilful. Sizing up the
king's incompetence, and the military weakness of his people, he held a
council, and said to the British king "We are a few; if you wish, we
send home and invite warriors from the fighting men of our country,
the number that fight for you and your people may be larger." The king
ordered it be done, and envoys were sent across the sea, and came back
with sixteen keels, with picked warriors in them. In one of the keels
Hengest's daughter, a beautiful and very handsome girl. When the keels
had arrived, Hengest held a banquet for Vortigern, and his men and his
interpreter, whose name was Ceretic, and told the girl to serve their
and spirits. They all got exceedingly drunk. When they were drinking
entered Vortigern's heart and made him love the girl. Through his
he asked her father for her hand, saying "Ask of me what you will, even
to the half of my kingdom".
Hengest took council with the elders of England, to decide
should ask of the king for the girl, and they all agreed that they all
agreed to ask for the country that in their language is called
in ours Kent. So he granted it to them, although Gwyrangon was ruling
Kent, and he did not know that his kingdom was being handed over to the
heathens, and that he was himself given secretly into their power.
The second of the
unfortunate counsels of the
Island of Britain was to
allow Horsa and
Rhonwen (his daughter) into
From (?the beginning of?)
Vortigern's reign to
the strife between Ambrosius
are 12 years, that is Wallop [map
(9)], the battle of Wallop.
So the girl was given in marriage to Vortigern, and he slept with her
and loved her deeply. Hengest said to Vortigern "I am your father, and
will be your adviser. Never ignore my advice, and you will never fear
by any man or any people, for my people are strong. I will invite my
and his cousin to fight against the Irish, for they are fine warriors.
Give them land in the North about the Wall of
is called Guaul." So he told him to invite them, and he invited Octha
Ebissa, with forty keels. They sailed around the Picts and wasted the
and came and occupied many districts beyond the Frenessican Sea [Emap
as far as the borders
ASC for 449
In this way Hengest gradually brought over more and more
they left the islands whence they came uninhabited; and as his people
in strength and numbers, they came to the aforesaid land of the
The king Vortigern directed
them to fight
the Picts; and they did so; and obtained victory wherever they went.
sent to the Angles, and desired them to send more assistance. They
the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the lands. They
them greater support.
was murdered at the order of the Emperor Valentinian.
St. Patrick's conflict with Coroticus,
king of Ail (Al Clud, that is
(11)]: ... News came to him of the quite iniquitous action of
British king called Coroticus, an ill-starred and cruel tyrant. He was
a very great persecutor and murderer of Christians. Now Patrick tried
recall him to the way of the truth by means of a letter; but he scoffed
at its salutary writings.
Patrick's letter to Coroticus
With my own hands I have written and composed these words to be ...
sent to the soldiers of Coroticus. I do not say my fellow citizens nor
of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons,
their evil actions. Like the enemy they live in death as allies of the heathen Irish
and Picts and apostates. These blood thirsty men are bloody with the
of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten for God in countless
and have confirmed in Christ!
On the day after the neophytes, clothed in white, had
(its fragrance on their brows as they were butchered and put to the
by those I have mentioned), I sent a letter with a holy priest whom I
taught from early childhood ... the letter requested that they should
us some of the booty and the baptized prisoners that they had captured;
they roared with laughter at them. ...
What should I do, Lord? I am very much despised. See, Your
torn to pieces around me and are carried off, and by the raiders I have
mentioned, on the aggressive orders of Coroticus. Far from God's love
the man who delivers Christians into the hands of Irish and Picts....
... the church mourns and weeps for its sons and daughters
have not been put to the sword, but have been carried off and
to distant lands ...; and there freeborn men have been sold, Christians
reduced to slavery -- and what is more as slaves of the utterly
evil and apostate Picts. ...
... Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one
have one God as Father. It is an affront to them that we are Irish. ...
I earnestly beg that ... this letter ... may not be
on any account by anyone, but rather be read out in front of all the
and in the presence of Coroticus himself.
William of Malmesbury
At Vortimer's suggestion,
the truce was broken
seven years after their arrival (taken to
Vortigern's son Vortimer fought vigorously against
and Horsa and their people. ... Vortimer fought four
keen battles against them. The first battle was on the river
(the Derwent in Kent).
ASC for 456 or 457
Hengest ... fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Crayford
(on the confluence of the Cray and the
there slew four thousand men. The Britons then forsook Kent and in
consternation fled to London [map
was appointed Magister Militum in Gaul.
battle was at the ford called Episford in their language,
in ours, and there fell Horsa and also Vortigern's son Cateyrn.
ASC for 455
Hengest and Horsa fought with Vortigern (read
the king on the spot that is called Aylesford (in
His brother Horsa being there slain, Hengest afterwards took the
Horsa, being slain in battle by the Britons, was buried in the Eastern
parts of Kent, where a monument bearing his name (more
a Roman military monument bearing the word "COHORS") is
730) in existence.
Irish Annals for 461
Saint Patrick went to the Lord.
The third battle was fought in the open country by the Inscribed Stone
on the shore of the Gallic sea (probably
The barbarians were beaten and he was victorious. They fled to their
and were drowned as they clambered aboard them like women.
ASC for 461 or 465
Hengest ... fought with the Britons, near Wippedfleet; and there slew
twelve leaders, all Britons. On his side a thane was there slain, whose
name was Wipped.
Vortimer expelled them as
far as the aforesaid
Thanet, and there three times shut them up and besieged them,
threatening and terrifying them.
Gloss on Nennius (c.1200)
died. His son Syagrius became Rex Romanorum (King of the Romans) in
The Roman Senate finally accepted
Empire's nominee, as the Western Emperor.
Now Eurich, king of the Visigoths, perceived the frequent change of
Roman Emperors and strove to hold Gaul by his own right. The Emperor
heard of it and asked the Britons for aid. Their king Riotimus
came with twelve thousand men into the state of the Bituriges (Bourges,
in central Gaul) [Emap
by way of the Ocean, and
was received as he disembarked from his ships.
Sidonius -- To his friend Riothamus (c.468)
Here is a letter in my usual style, for I combine complaint with
not with the express intention of making my pen respectful in its
but harsh in the letter itself, but because things are always happening
about which it is obviously impossible for a man of my rank and cloth (Bishop
of Clermont-Ferrand) [Emap
to speak without
unpleasantness or to be silent without incurring guilt. However I am a
direct witness of the conscientiousness which weighs on you so heavily,
and which has always been of such delicacy as to make you blush for the
wrongdoing of others.
The bearer of this letter, who is humble and obscure, and so
that he might even be taxed with harmless indolence, complains that his
slaves have been enticed from him by underhand persuasion of certain
I cannot say whether his complaint is just: but if you bring the
face to face and impartially unravel their contentions, I fancy that
poor fellow is likely to make good his plaint; that is, if amid a crowd
of noisy, armed, and disorderly men who are emboldened at once by their
courage, their numbers and their comradeship, there is any possibility
for a solitary unarmed man, a humble rustic, a stranger of small means,
to gain a fair and equitable hearing. Farewell.
Sidonius -- To his friend Vincentius (c.469)
I am distressed by the fall of Arvandus the
prefect of Gaul. ... He was arrested and brought in bonds
... Amongst other pleas ... the provincials ... were bringing against
an intercepted letter which Arvandus' secretary (who had been arrested)
admitted to have written at his master's dictation. It appeared to be a
message addressed to the king of the Visigoths,
him from peace with the "Greek Emperor" Anthemius,
insisting that the Britons stationed beyond the Loire should be
and declaring that Gaul ought according to the law of nations to be
up with the Burgundians, and a great deal more mad stuff in the same
fit to rouse a war-like king to fury and a peaceful one to shame. The
of the lawyers was that this letter was red-hot treason.
Jordanes -- History of the Goths
Eurich, king of the Visigoths, came against them with an innumerable
army, and after a long fight he routed Riothamus,
king of the Britons, before the Romans could join him. So when he had
a great part of his army, he fled with all the men he could gather
and came to the Burgundians, a neighbouring tribe then allied to the
Gregory of Tours
The Britons were driven from Bourges by the Goths, and many were slain
at the village of Deols [Emap
Count Paul with the
(presumably those Riothamus was expecting)
Franks made war on the Goths and took booty.
But Vortimer soon after
died. Before he died
he told his followers to set his tomb by the coast, in the port from
they had departed, saying "I entrust it to you. Wherever else they (the
hold a British port or may
settled, they will not live again in this land." But they ignored his
and did not bury him where he had told them, for he is buried in
Henry of Huntingdon
... when Leo was Emperor, who reigned seventeen years (457-474),
Vortimer, the flower of the youth of Britain, fell sick and died.
But the barbarians returned in force, for Vortigern was their friend,
because of his wife, and none was resolute to drive them out.
Irish Annals for 471
Second Saxon raid on Ireland (conceivably
Sidonius -- To his dear Ecdicius
Now (in 474), if ever, you
are wanted by my
(citizens of Clermont-Ferrand)
for manifold reasons.
... I make no mention of the congregation of learning assembled from
parts of the world for the benefit of your youthful years, and that at
one time it was due to you personally that the leading families, in
efforts to throw off the scurf of Celtic speech, were initiated into
style and now again into the measures of the Muses. What chiefly
the devotion of the whole community to you is that after first
them to become Latins, you next (in 471)
them from becoming barbarians.
Never can the image slip from the hearts of the citizens who
men and women of every age and rank, on our half-tottered walls to
you cross the level space between us and the enemy. In mid-day, through
the midst of the foe, you rode with your band of scarcely eighteen
across some thousands of Goths -- a deed that posterity will find it
to believe. At the sound of your name, at the sight of you in person, a
stupor overwhelmed those battle-scarred battalions. Their chiefs could
not tell in bewilderment how numerous they were, how few you were.
whole line was withdrawn headlong to the top of a sharp hill; they, who
had been the besiegers, were unable with you in view to move into
You cut down some of their best men, whom rashness not laziness had put
in the rear. With not one man lost in the important clash, you remained
master of a quite exposed plain with fewer henchmen at your side than
usually have guests at your table.
My vows can better conjure up than my words depict the crowd
to meet you on your casual way citywards, the salutes, the applause,
tears of joy. We beheld the most auspicious ovation of your mobbed
the courts of your spacious house thronged, some welcomers kissing off
your battle-dust, others removing the bridles slippery with foam and
others turning up and ranging the sweat-drenched saddles, undoing the
of the helmet you longed to take off, or unlacing your greaves (leggings).
We saw folk counting the nicks on swords blunted with many deaths or
with trembling, pale fingers the holes broken in cuirasses by cut or
Finally, I remark nothing of your services in raising from
resources -- with very little aid from our magnates -- what amounted to
a public force, with which you have held up the inroads of the
and chastised their devastations. I remark nothing of surprise attacks
wiping out whole squadrons with the loss of only two or three men. To
enemy these unforeseen onslaughts proved disastrous.
When Eurich beheld these changes (another
the Romans and the death of Anthemius) he seized the city
where the Roman
was at that time in command. He was a senator of most renown family and
the son of Avitus, a recent Emperor who had usurped the reign for a few
days. Ecdicius strove for a long time against the Visigoths, but he had
not the power to prevail. So he left the country and (what was more
the city of Arverna to the enemy and betook himself to safer regions.
So it came to pass after the death of Vortimer, son of king Vortigern,
and after the return of Hengest and his hosts, they instigated a
plan to trick Vortigern and his army. They sent envoys to ask for peace
and make a permanent treaty. Vortigern called a council of his elders
examine what they should do. Ultimately one opinion prevailed with all,
that they should make peace. The envoys went back, and a conference was
convened, where the two sides, British and English, should meet,
to confirm the treaty. But Hengest told his followers to hide their
under their feet in their shoes, saying "When I call out to you and say
`Nimmeth oure saxas' (`draw your knives'),
daggers from your shoes and fall upon them, and stand firm against
But do not kill the king; keep him alive, for my daughter's sake, whom
I wedded to him, for it is better for us that he be ransomed from us."
So the conference assembled, and the English, friendly in
wolfish in heart and deed, sat down, like allies, man beside man.
cried out as he had said, and all three hundred Seniors of king
were murdered [Illustration],
and the king alone was taken and held prisoner. To save his life, he
several districts, namely Essex and Sussex.
Then the king (Vortigern)
him, and asked them what was to be done. They said `Go to the farthest
borders of your kingdom, and find a fortified stronghold to defend
for the nation whom you have received into your kingdom has turned
you, and will seek to slay you treacherously, and will occupy all the
you love, and all your people, after your death. Then the king came
his wizards to seek the stronghold, and encompassed many countries and
many provinces, and did not find it, and at last they came to the
called Gwynedd; and when he was exploring the mountains of Eryri (Snowdon)
he at length reached a place in one of the mountains that was suitable
for building a stronghold. So his wizards said to him `Make a
in this place, for it will be for ever safest against the barbarian
So he assembled his workmen, that is the masons, and assembled the
and stones, and when he had assembled all the material, it disappeared
in one night. Three times he ordered it to be assembled, and it was
to be seen. So he summoned his wizards and interrogated them about the
cause of the evil, and how it came about. They answered `Unless you
a child without a father, and he is killed, and the stronghold is
with his blood, it will never be built at all.'
The boy answered `This mystery is revealed to me and I will
plain to you. ... the people who have seized many people and countries
in Britain ... will reach almost from sea to sea; but later our people
will arise and will valiantly throw the English people across the sea.
But you go forth from this fortress, for you cannot build it, and I
stay here.' Then the king asked the lad `What is your name?' He replied
`I am called Ambrosius',
that is, he was shown to be lord Emrys. The king asked `What family do
you come from?' and he answered `My father is one of the consuls of the
Roman people.' So the king gave him the fortress, with all of the
of the western part of Britain, and he went himself with his wizards to
the northern part, and came to the region called `Gwynessi', and there
he built a city that is called by his name, Caer Gwrtheyrn (that
is, the fortress of Vortigern).
ASC for 473
This year Hengest ... fought with the Britons and took immense booty.
And the Britons fled from the English as if from fire.
In just punishment for the crimes that had gone before, a
fire heaped up and nurtured by the hands of the impious
spread from sea to sea. It devastated town and country round about,
once it was alight, it did not die down until it had burned almost the
whole surface of the island and was licking the western ocean with its
fierce red tongue. All the major towns were laid low by the repeated
of enemy rams; laid low too the inhabitants -- church leaders, priests
and people alike, as the swords glinted all around and the flames
It was a sad sight. In the middle of the squares the foundation stones
of high walls and towers that had been torn from their lofty base, holy
alters, fragments of corpses, covered with a purple crust of congealed
blood, looked as though they had been mixed up in some dreadful
There was no burial to be had save in the bellies of beasts and birds.
So a number of the wretched survivors were caught in the mountains
and butchered wholesale. Others, their spirit broken by hunger, went to
surrender to the enemy; they were fated to be slaves forever, if
indeed they were not killed straight away, the highest
made for lands beyond the sea; beneath the swelling sails they loudly
singing a psalm that took the place of a shanty: "You have given us
sheep for eating and scattered us among the heathen". Others held out,
though not without fear, in their own land, trusting their lives with
foreboding to the high hills, steep, menacing and fortified, to the
forest and to the cliffs of the sea coast.
Sidonius -- To his friend Namatius (c.480)
... the saxons give the impression that every member of the crew in
their high-prowed ships is the captain, so accustomed are all of them
to issue and to obey orders, to teach and to learn piracy. ... As an
they are unsurpassed in brutality. They attack without warning, but
sighted, slip away. They despise those who bar their way and destroy
those they catch unaware;
they are invariably successful in pursuit and in escaping. Shipwreck,
from terrifying them, is an exercise in seamanship. ... They gladly
the danger of a rock-bound coast if it enables them to achieve
Moreover, when ready to unfurl their sails for the voyage home from the
continent to set sail for home, it is their custom on the evening of
departure to sacrifice one in ten of their prisoners by drowning or
performing a rite which is all the more tragic for being due to
and distributing to the collected band of doomed men the iniquity of
by the equity of lot. Such is the nature of their religion.
Sidonius -- To Lampridius
... the blue eyed saxon is
afraid of the land,
accustomed as he is to the sea; along the extreme edges of his pate the
razor, refusing to restrain its bite, pushes back the frontier of the
and, with the growth thus clipped to the skin, his head is reduced and
his face enlarged.
William of Leon
In those days, many holy men gave themselves up to martyrdom; others,
in conformity to the Gospel, left the greater Britain which is now (1017)
the Saxon's homeland, and sailed across to the lesser
Britain (Brittany) [Emap
When he was hated for his sin, because he received the English people,
by all men of his own nation, mighty and humble, slave and free, monk
layman, poor and great, Vortigern
to place until at last his heart broke, and he died without honour. He
had three sons, whose names are Vortimer, who fought against the
as I have described above; the second Cateyrn; the third Pascent, who
in two countries called Builth and Gwerthrynion (Powys?)
after his father's death by permission of Ambrosius
the great king among all the kings of the British nation.
Welsh Genealogies (amalgamated) for Powys
Selyf is son of Cynan
son of Brochmail
son of Cincen son of
son of Pascent son (read brother)
of Catel durnluc /
Vortigern the thin.
Nennius' Genealogy of Builth, and Welsh Genealogies (amalgamated)
Tewdwr is king of the country of Builth, the son of Pascent, son of
Gwyddgant, son of Moriud, son of Eldat, son of Elaeth, son of Paul, son
of Meuric, son of Idnerth, son of Briacat, son of Pascent, son of
the Thin, son of Vitalis son of Vitalinus
... of Gloiu (Gloucester) [map
After a time, when the cruel plunderers had gone home, God gave
to the survivors. Wretched people fled to them from all directions, as
eagerly as bees to a beehive when a storm threatens, and begged
... that they should not be altogether destroyed. Their leader
Aurelianus, a gentleman who, perhaps alone of the Romans, had
the shock of this notable storm. Certainly his parents, who had worn
purple, were slain in it. His descendants in our
day have become greatly inferior to their grandfather's
Under him our people regained their strength, and challenged the
to battle. The Lord assented, and the battle went their way. From
victory went now to our countrymen, now to the enemy.
Bede -- Chronica Majora
In the reign of Zeno (474-491)
... The Britons, under the leadership of Ambrosius Aurelianus (a
who, alone of the Romans, had survived the disaster of the Saxons in
his parents, who had worn the purple, had been killed), challenged the
victors to battle and defeated them.
At that time the English increased their numbers and grew in Britain.
On Hengest's death his son Octha came down from the North of Britain to
the kingdom of the Kentishmen. ... They sent envoys overseas to Germany
to summon keels with vast numbers of fighting men. And afterwards they
used to fight against the kings of our nation, sometimes victoriously
their frontiers, sometimes being defeated and expelled.
Those who came over were of the three most powerful nations of Germany:
the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the
men of Kent, and the men of the Isle of Wight, and also those
opposite the Isle of Wight, that part of the kingdom of
men still (in 730) call the
nation of the Jutes.
the Old Saxons came the people of Essex and Sussex and Wessex. From
the land between the kingdoms of the Jutes and the Saxons, came the
Angles, the Middle Angles, the Mercians, and all of those north of the
Humber. Anglia is said to have remained deserted from that day to this.
Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman
emperor in the
was deposed by his Germanic Magister Militum, Odavacer.
ASC for 477
Aelle came to Britain with his three sons (?read
Cymen (?read father of?)
father of?) Cissa,
in three keels at the place called Cymensore [map
(2)] and there they slew many Britons [Illustration]
and drove some to flight in the wood that is called Andredsley (in
the north of Sussex).
William of Malmesbury
The kingdom of the East Angles arose before the West Saxons (c.500),
though after the kingdom of Kent (c.453).
The descent of ... a certain man of distinguished Mercian stock ..
was traced in set order through the most noble names of famous kings,
to Icel in whom it began in days of old.
the son of Cynewald,
Cynewald of Cnebba,
ASC for 485
Aelle fought the Britons near Mercreds-Burnsted.
Gregory of Tours
In the fifth year of his (Clovis, king of
reign, Syagrius, king of the Romans, son of Aegidius, had his
in Soissons [Emap
.... And Clovis came
him with Ragnachar, his kinsman, because he used to possess the
and demanded that they make ready a battle-field. And Syagrius did not
delay nor was he afraid to resist. And so they fought against each
and Syagrius, seeing his army crushed, turned his back and fled swiftly
to king Alaric (of the Visigoths)
... but Alaric
surrendered him in chains to Clovis' envoys. This
as the only Diocese of the Western Roman Empire not under Germanic rule.
ASC for 488
Esc succeeded to the kingdom, and he was king of the men of Kent
was the son of Oermenric, whose father was Octha, whose father was
surnamed Oesc, from whom the Kings of Kent are wont to be called
ASC for 491
Aelle ... besieged Anderida (The Roman
fort of Pevensey)
slew all that were therein; not one Briton there was left.
Chronicle of Anjou for 491
King of the
captured Blois [Emap
from the Britons.
ASC for 495
... came to
with five ships, at a place that is called Cerdicsore. And they fought
with the Britons the same day.
Arthur fought against them in those days, together with the
the Britons; but he was their leader in battle. The first battle was at
the mouth of the river Glein (probably the
(4)]. The second, third, fourth and fifth were on another
the Douglas, which is in the country of Lindsey (north
William of Malmesbury
Ambrosius ... overpowered the presumptuous barbarians with the
service of the warlike Arthur. This is the Arthur about whom the
of the Britons rave even now (1125),
not to be dreamed of in false myths, but proclaimed in truthful
--- indeed, who long sustained his faltering nation, and roused the
spirits of his countrymen to war.
ASC for 501
The sixth battle of
was on the river called Bassas (unlocatable
The seventh battle was in the Caledonian forest (north
], that is the Cat Coit Celidon [Illustration
The eighth battle was in Guinnion fort (unlocatable
and in it Arthur carried the image of the holy Mary, the everlasting
and the heathen were put to flight on that day,
was great slaughter upon them.
John of Glastonbury
The kingdom of Wessex began about the year of grace 495 .... In the
eleventh year of Cerdic, ... Arthur ... began to reign over the
ASC for 508
Cerdic ... slew a British king, whose name was Natanleod, and five
thousand men with him. After this the land was named Natanley [map
(8)] as far as Cerdicsford [map
The ninth battle was fought in Caerleon
The tenth battle was fought on the bank of the river called Tryfrwyd (unlocatable).
The eleventh battle was on the hill called Agned (unlocatable).
After a long campaign Cadwallon Longhand expelled the Scots from Mon
(the Island of Anglesey) [map
Maelgwn was the son
Cuneglasus was the son
White-tooth, son of Enniaun
Vortipor was the son
of Aercol ... the Tribune
first king of Dyfed with a British rather than Irish name).
Gregory of Tours in c.592
Procopius in c.554
Along the coast of the ocean which lies opposite the island of Britain
there are numerous villages. These are inhabited by men who fish with
or till the soil or carry on a sea-trade with the island, being in
respects subject to the Franks, but never making them any tribute ....
The twelfth battle was on Badon hill [map
(12)] and in it nine hundred and sixty men fell in one day,
single charge of Arthur's, and he alone laid them low; and he
in all his campaigns.
Gloss on Nennius
The third wonder of Britain is
the hot lake
the baths of Badon (evidently Aquae Sulis,
that is now
are, in the country of the Hwicce (in the
surrounded by a wall, made of brick and stone, and men may go to bathe
at any time, and every man can have the kind of bath he likes. If he
it will be a cold bath; if wants a hot bath, it will be hot.
AC for 518
Battle of Badon in which Arthur carried the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights and the Britons
were the victors.
From then on, victory
went now to our countrymen, now to the enemy ... right up
the year of the siege of Badon
Hill, pretty well the last defeat of the villains and certainly not the
least, which has begun the forty-fourth year [since
victory], as I have learnt, with one
already passed, and which is also that of my birth.
The first ... of the English kings that had the sovereignty of all
the southern provinces that are divided from the northern by the river
... was Aelle, king of the South Saxons. ...
Henry of Huntingdon
About six years after they had landed (495),
overran the kingdom of the West Saxons ... And Cerdic held the kingdom
for sixteen years (i.e. until c.517).
was the son of Cerdic.
At the very south end of the church of South Cadbury [map
(14)] stands Camalat,
once a famous town or castle, upon a tor or hill wonderfully
by nature. ... The people there can tell nothing but that they have
it said that Arthur much resorted to Camalat.
Popular legend of the Durotriges who inhabit the foot of the
Camalat, proclaims ... the name of Arthur, the one-time inhabitant of a
fort, which was formerly situated, most magnificent, most strongly
and on a most lofty eminence, where the hill rises up.
... in the country of Ercyng (Archenfield
... there is a tomb by a spring, called Licat Anir; the name of the man
who is buried in the tomb is Anir. He was the son of the
soldier Arthur and he killed him there and buried him.
ASC for 530
William of Leon
The pride of the Saxons
was checked for
a while by through the great
Arthur, king of the Britons. They were largely cleared from the island
and reduced to subjection.
Adam of Bremen, based on the Annales Fuldenses
The Saxon people ... leaving the Angles of Britain, urged on by the
need and desire to find new homes, sailed to Hatheloe [Emap
on the German coast,
king Theudoric (511-34) of
the Franks was at war
(in 531) with
the Thuringian leader Hermenfred.... Theodoric sent envoys to these
whose leader was called Hadugat ... and promised them homes for
in return for victory. [And he gave them
homes north of
Unstrut, in the lands that he conquered, where their descendents are
the Saxons who still (c.860) live there.]
The island of Britain is (probably in the 530s)
three very populous nations, each
having one king
over it. And the names of these nations are
the Frisians and the Britons, the last being named from the island
And so great appears to be the populations of these nations that every
year they emigrate thence in large companies and go to the land of the
Franks. And the Franks allow them to settle in the part of their land
appears to be more deserted, and by this means they say that they are
over the island. Thus it actually happened that not long ago the king
the Franks (Theudoric
?), in sending some of
on an embassy to the
Justinian in Byzantium, sent with them some of the Angles, thus seeking
to establish his claim that this island
was ruled by him
William of Leon
... This same Arthur won
victories ... gloriously in Britain and in
Life of Saint Dalmas of Rodez (an episode dated 534x541)
was hastening to that most
devoted one [King
Theudobert of the Franks
] with zeal in the region beyond
Loire (perhaps near Orleans [Emap(20)]
in a place where
nearby was stationed some sort of
legion of Britons, it is said that he received hospitality for one
At about this time war and fighting sprang
up between the nation of the Varni and the soldiers who live on the
called Britain; and it came about from the following cause. The Varni
beyond the Danube river [Emap
and extend as far as
Northern Ocean along the River Rhine [Emap
which separates them from
the Franks and other nations who dwell in that region. Now among all
nations which in ancient times dwelt on both sides of the Rhine river
people had its own particular name, but the whole group was called in
Germans. The Island of Britain lies in this part of the ocean not far
the coast, being about two hundred stades (37km,
the width of the English channel at its narrowest) off,
opposite the mouth of the Rhine [Emap
The Varni, not long ago, were ruled by a man named
being eager to strengthen his kingdom, had made the sister of
ruler of the Franks (534-48),
his wedded wife.
his previous wife had died recently, having been the mother of one
Radigis by name, whom she left to his father; and he sought a marriage
for this child with a maiden born in Britain, whose brother was then
of the nation of the Angles (perhaps
had given her a large sum of money because of his wooing. Now this man
(Hermegisculus), while riding
with the most
of the Varni in a certain place, ... told those with him that he would
die forty days hence. ... "Now I," he said, "making provision that you
should live most securely and at your ease, have related myself to the
Franks by taking from their country the wife who is now my consort, and
I have bestowed Britain upon my son by betrothal. But now, since I
to die very shortly, and, as far as my wife is concerned I am without
male or female, and my son furthermore is still unwed and without his
come now, let me communicate my thought to you, and, if it should seem
to you not without some profit, do you, as soon as I reach the term of
my life, put upon it the seal of your approval and execute it. I think,
then, that it will be more to the advantage of the Varni to make the
by marriage with the Franks than with the islanders. For the men of
on the one hand, are not even able to join forces with you except after
a long and difficult journey, while the Varni and Franks, on the other
hand, have only yonder water of the Rhine between them, so that they,
very close neighbours to you and having achieved an enormous power,
the means ready at hand both to help you and to harm you whenever they
wish; and they will undoubtedly harm you if the said marriage alliance
shall not prevent them. For men naturally find a neighbouring state's
when it surpasses their own, grievous and a most ready cause of
for a powerful neighbour may with comparative ease secure causes of war
against his neighbours who are doing no wrong. Since, then, the facts
these, let the island girl who has been wooed for this boy be given up
by you, and all the money which she has received from us for this
let her retain as remuneration for the indignity, as the common law of
mankind has it; but let my son Radigis be married to his own stepmother
thenceforth, just as our ancestral law permits us."
So he spoke, and on the fortieth day from the pronouncement
sick and fulfilled his destiny. Then the son of Hermegisculus, after
over the kingdom of the Varni, by the will of the notable men among
barbarians, carried out the counsel of the dead king, and straightaway
renouncing his marriage with his betrothed, became wedded to his
But when the betrothed of Radigis learned this, she could not bear the
indignity of her position and undertook to secure revenge upon him for
his insult to her. For so highly is virtue regarded among those
that when merely the name of marriage has been mentioned among them,
the fact has not been accomplished, the woman is considered to have
her maidenhood. First, then, she sent an embassy to him of some of her
kinsmen and enquired for what reason he had insulted her, though she
neither been unfaithful nor done him any other wrong. But since she was
unable to accomplish anything by this means, she took up the duties of
a man and proceeded to deeds of war. She accordingly collected four
ships immediately and put on board them an army of not fewer than one
thousand fighting men, and she in person led forth this expedition
the Varni. And she also took with her one of her brothers who was to
her in settling the situation, not the one
the kingship ....
Now these islanders are valiant beyond any of the barbarians
know, and they
enter battle on foot. ... And whenever it happens
them on an embassy or some other mission make a visit among the Romans
or the Franks or any other nation which has horses, and they are
to ride upon horseback, they are altogether unable to leap upon their
but other men lift them in the air and thus mount them upon their horse
and when they wish to get off, they are again lifted and placed upon
ground. Nor, in fact, are the Varni horsemen either, but they too all
on foot. Such, then, are these barbarians. And there were no
in this fleet, for all the men rowed with their own hands. Nor do these
islanders have sails, as it happens, but they always navigate by rowing
When they came to land on the continent, the maiden who
having established a stockade close by the mouth of the Rhine river,
there with a small number, but commanded her brother to lead forward
the rest of the army against the enemy. Now the Varni at that time were
encamped not far from the shore of the ocean and the mouth of the
So when the Angles reached that place, marching swiftly, the two armies
engaged in conflict with one another, and the Varni were defeated
And many of them fell in the struggle, while the entire number of those
remaining, together with their king, turned to retreat, and the Angles,
after keeping up the pursuit for only a short distance, as is customary
for infantry, retired to their camp. But the maiden rebuked them when
returned to her and inveighed most vehemently against her brother,
that nothing worthy of mention had been achieved by the army, because
had not brought her Radigis alive.
She then selected the most warlike men among them and sent
straightaway, instructing them to bring the man captive without fail.
by way of carrying out her mission, these men went about searching the
whole country thoroughly, until they found Radigis hiding in a dense
then they bound him and took him back to the girl. So he stood before
eyes trembling and expecting to die instantly by the most cruel death;
she, however, contrary to expectations, neither killed him nor
any harm upon him, but by way of reproaching him for his insult to her,
enquired of the fellow why in the world he had made light of the
and allied himself to another woman, and had done that even though his
betrothed had not been unfaithful. And he, seeking to defend himself
the charge, brought forward the commands of his father and the zeal of
his subjects, and he uttered words of supplication and mingled many
with his defence, excusing his action by the stress of necessity. And
it was her will that they should be married he promised that what he
done unjustly in the past would be repaired by his subsequent conduct.
Now when this was approved by the girl, and Radigis had been released
his bonds and recieved kind treatment in all matters, he straightaway
the sister of Theudibert and wedded the girl from Britain. Thus did
events take place.
ASC for 534
Cerdic (read Creoda)
died .... Cynric his son succeeded to the government and reigned for
Cynric was the son of Creoda.
AC for 539
The strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut perished.
The third of the
unfortunate counsels of the
of Britain was the
three-fold dividing by
his men with Medrawd at Camlann.
The Dream of Rhonanbwy
I am Iddawc the son of Mynyo, yet not by my name, but by my nickname
am I best known ... it is Iddawc the Churn of Britain. I was one of the
messengers between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew, at the battle of
and I was then a reckless youth, and through my desire for battle, I
strife between them, and stirred up wrath, when I was sent by Arthur
Emperor to reason with Medrawd, and to show him, that he was his
and his uncle, and to seek for peace, lest the sons of the Kings of the
Island of Britain; and of the nobles, should be slain. And whereas
charged me with the fairest sayings he could think of, I uttered unto
the harshest I could devise. And therefore am I called Iddawc the Churn
of Britain, for from this did the battle of Camlan ensue.
And he (Justinian)
never ceased pouring out
gifts of money to all the barbarians ... as far as the inhabitants of
island of Britain.
[Negotiations in 537 between the Envoy of the
King of the
Ostrogoths and Justinian's general Belisarius in Italy:]
are willing to
surrender the rich island of Sicily, which is so important to you for
the security of Africa.
Belisarius. We thank you. And we on our part
are prepared to
surrender to you the whole island of Britain, which
belongs to us from
of old and is far larger than Sicily. We cannot accept such a
without giving an equivalent.
Monument in Penmachno, Gwynedd
[Erected in] the time of the Consul Justin (1st
539 to 31st August 540)
In this letter I shall deplore rather than denounce; my style may be
worthless, but by intentions are kindly. What I have to deplore with
complaint is a general loss of good, a heaping up of bad. But no-one
think that anything I say is said out of scorn for humanity or from a
that I am superior to all men. No, I sympathize with my country's
and rejoice in remedies to relieve them. I had decided to speak of the
dangers run not
by brave soldiers in the stress of war but by the lazy. And
I confess, with unmeasured grief at heart that I kept silent as the
of ten years or more passed by. Then, as now, my inexperience and my
restrained me from writing any warning, however modest. "What, you
I say to myself, "Have you, like some important and eminent teacher,
given the task of standing up ... against the rope of congenital sin
has been stretched so far and wide for so many years together? Look
what is committed to your trust, and keep silent. ... Britain
has her governors, she has her watchmen. Why should you
your ineptitudes?" Yes she has them, I answer: if not more than she
at least not fewer. But they are bowed under the pressure of their
burdens, and have no time to take breath. ...
The final victory of our country ... has been granted
times by the will of God. ... But the cities of our land are
now as they once were; right to the present they are deserted, in ruins
and unkempt. Foreign wars may have stopped, but not civil ones. For the
remembrance of so desperate a blow to the island and of such unlooked
recovery stuck in the mind of those who witnessed both wonders. That
why kings, public and private persons, priests and churchmen, kept to
own stations. But they died; and an age succeeded them that is ignorant
of that storm and has experienced only the calm of the present. All the
controls of truth and justice have been shaken and overthrown, leaving
no trace, not even a memory among the orders I have mentioned: with the
exception of a few, a very few. ...
God ... lit for us the brilliant lamps of holy martyrs.
Their graves and the places where they suffered would now have the
effect in instilling the blaze of divine charity in the minds of
were it not that our citizens, thanks to their sins, have been deprived
of many of them by the unhappy partition with the barbarians. I refer
St. Albans of Verulamium, Aaron and Julius, citizens of the city of the
legion and the others of both sexes who, in different places, displayed
the highest spirit in the battle-line of Christ. ...
are tyrants; she has judges, but they are wicked. They often plunder
terrorize -- the innocent; they defend and protect -- the guilty and
thieving; they have many wives -- whores and adulteresses; they
swear -- false oaths; they make vows -- but almost at once tell lies.
wage wars -- civil and unjust; they chase thieves energetically all
the country -- but love and reward the thieves that sit at their table;
they distribute alms profusely -- but pile up an immense mountain of
for all to see; they take their seats as judges -- but rarely seek out
the rules of right judgement; they despise the harmless and the humble,
but exalt to the stars, so far as they can, their military companions,
bloody, proud and murderous men, adulterers and enemies of God ....
hang around the altars swearing oaths -- then shortly afterwards scorn
them as though they were dirty stones.
unspeakable sin is not unknown to
despot Constantinus, whelp of the filthy lioness of Dumnonia. This very
year he bound himself by a dreadful oath not to work his wiles on our
...; then, in the bosom of the two mothers he should have respected --
the church and their mother in the flesh -- and in the habit of a holy
abbot, he most cruelly tore at the tender sides and the vitals of two
youths and their two guardians. ... so that the place of divine
was touched by the purple cloaks (as it were) of their drying blood.
Nor did this deed follow upon any commendable actions. For
before, overcome by the stench of frequent and successive adulteries,
put away his lawful wife against the ban of Christ . ... I know full
that you are still alive, and I charge you as though you were present:
come, executioner of your own soul, why are you stupefied? ...
(2) What are you
doing, Aurelius Caninus,
... ? Are you not engulfed by the same slime as the man I just talked
if not a more deadly one, made up of parricides, fornications,
...? Do you not hate peace in our country as though it were some
snake? In your unjust thirst for civil
war and constant plunder, are you not shutting the gates of
peace and consolation to your soul? ... Remember, I pray you, the empty
outward show of your fathers and brothers, their youthful and untimely
(3) Why are you
senseless and stiff, like
in your behaviour, and spotted with wickedness? Your head is already
as you sit upon a throne that is full of guiles and stained from top to
bottom with diverse murders and adulteries, bad son of a good king (Agricola): Vortiporius,
despot of the Demetians (Dyfed).
The end of your
is gradually drawing near; why can you not be satisfied by such violent
urges of sin, which you suck down like vintage wine ...? Why, to crown
your crimes, do you weigh down your wretched soul with a burden you
shrug off, the rape of a shameless daughter after the removal and
death of your own wife? ...
(4) Why have you
been rolling in the filth
past wickedness ever since your youth, you bear, rider of many and
of the chariot of the Bear's Stronghold (Probably
in eastern Gwynedd) [map
(17)], despiser of God and oppressor of his lot, Cuneglasus
(son of Eugein
Why do you wage such a war against men and God? -- against men, that is
our countrymen, with arms special to yourself, against God with
sins. Why, aside from countless other lapses, have you rejected your
wife and now ... do you cast your eyes, with all the reverence (or
dullness) of your mind, on her villainous sister, although she has
to God perpetually chaste widowhood ...? ...
(5) What of you,
dragon of the island, you
have removed many of these tyrants from their country and even their
You are last on my list, but first in evil, mightier than almost all in
both power and malice, more profuse in giving, more extravagant in sin,
strong in arms but stronger still in what destroys a soul, Maglocunus
(son of Cadwallon
... The King of all kings has made you higher
than almost all the generals of Britain, in your kingdom as
physique: why do you not show yourself to him better than the others in
character, instead of worse?
Did you not, in the first years of your youth, use sword and
flame in the cruel dispatch of the king your uncle (possibly
White-tooth) and nearly his bravest soldiers
...? Little did
you heed the words of the prophet: "Men of blood and craft will not
out half their days". What retribution would you expect for this alone
from the just judge, even if it had not been followed by the sort of
that did follow: for again he said through his prophet: "Woe to you who
plunder -- will not yourself be plundered? and to you who kill -- will
you not be killed? And when you have ceased to plunder, then you will
After your dream of rule by force had gone according to
not seized by the desire to return to the right road? Perhaps
in the knowledge of your sins, you first pondered a great deal at that
time, day and night, on the godly like and the Rule of the monks; then,
publishing it to the knowledge of the public breeze, you vowed to be a
monk for ever, with (as you said) no thought of going back on your
.... you came swiftly and in safety to the caves and consolation of the
saints that you can trust so well.
In fact, your conversion to good fruit brought as much joy
in heaven and earth then as your wicked return (like some sick hound)
your disgusting vomit has brought grief and weeping now. ... Your
ears hear not the praises of God from the sweet voices of the tuneful
of Christ, not the melodious music of the Church, but empty
praises of yourself from the mouths of criminals who grate on
like raving hucksters -- mouths stuffed with lies and liable to spatter
bystanders with their foaming phlegm.
Your mind is dulled by a heap of folly: yet it finds such
blocks of evil no obstacle. Like a lively foal to whom everything
seems attractive, it is whirled by an uncontrollable fury over wide
of crime, piling new sins on old. Your presumptive first marriage,
your vow to be a monk had come to nothing, was illegal -- but at least
it was your own wife. You spurned it and sought another, not with some
widow, but with the beloved wife of a living man, no stranger either,
your brother's son. ... to crown your sacrilege, you ventured on two
the killing of this man and of your wife, after you had enjoyed her for
some little time. Next you married the woman with whose collusion and
you lately entered on such masses of sin. The wedding was public, and,
as the lying tongues of your parasites cry (but from their lips only,
from the depths of their hearts), legitimate: for she was a widow. But
I call it most scandalous.
Yet surely you have no lack of warnings: for you have had as
the refined master (probably St. Illtud)
all Britain. ... Do not, I beseech you, reject the unspeakable mercy of
God ... You may hear this with deaf ears, spurning the prophets,
me, worthless as I am, as of no importance; though it is with sincere
of mind that I obey the pronouncement of the prophet.
Here, or even earlier, I should have finished this tearful
this complaint on the evils of the age, so that my lips would not any
have to speak of the actions of men. But ... I want to give a summary
the threats uttered by the oracles of the prophets against these five
and debauched horses from the retinue of Pharaoh .... These oracles
form a reliable and beautiful covering for the endeavour of my little
to protect it from the rain showers of the hostile that will compete to
beat upon it. ...
[Then follows the words of the
What will our ill-starred commanders do now, then? The few
found the narrow path (true Christianity)
the broad behind are prevented by God from pouring forth prayers on
behalf, as you persevere in evil and so grievously provoke him. On the
other hand, if you had gone back to God genuinely ... they
could not have brought punishment on you.
William of Leon
When ... Arthur was
summoned from human
activity, the way was open for the
to go again into the island.
When they were defeated in all their campaigns, the English sought
help from Germany, and continually and considerably increased their
and they brought over their kings from Germany to rule over them in
This continued down to the time of Ida who was the first king in
that is, in Berneich.
Ida, son of Eobba, held the countries in the north of
is, north of the Humber sea, and reigned twelve years, and joined Deira
to Bernicia. At that time Outigern fought bravely against the English
Then Talhaern `father of the muse' was famed in poetry; and Aneirin and
Taliesin and Bluchbard and Cian, who is called `wheat of song',
at the same time were renowned in British poetry (a
King Maelgwn the Great was reigning among the British, in
grandfather, Cunedda, with his sons, to the number of eight,
from the north, from the country called Manaw Gododdin, 146
years before ... .
ASC for 547
Bern Codex for 547
Ida began his reign in
, from whom
arose the royal kindred of Northumbria. Ida reigned twelve years. He
Bamburgh Castle [map
], which was surrounded by a hedge and afterwards a wall.
Ida was the son of Eoppa the son of Eosa. It was Eosa who first came to
During these times (542-)
there was a pestilence
plague), by which the whole human race came near to being
... For it seemed to move by fixed arrangement, and to tarry
a specified time in each country, casting its blight slightingly upon
but spreading in either direction right out to the ends of the world,
if fearing lest some corner of the earth might escape it. For it left
island nor cave nor mountain ridge which had human inhabitants; and if
it had passed by any land, either not affecting the men there or
them in indifferent fashion, still at a later time it came back. And
disease always took its start from the coast, and from there went up to
the interior. ... Such was the course of the pestilence in the Roman
at large as well as in Constantinople. And it fell also upon the land
the Persians and visited all the other barbarians besides.
AC for 549
A great mortality in which
king of Gwynedd.
ASC for 552
Cynric fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Sarum (near
(19)], and put them to flight. In this year Aethelbert
the son of Oermenric was born, who on the thirty second year of his
received the rite of Baptism, the first of all the English
kings in Britain.
ASC for 556
Cynric and Ceawlin fought with the Britons at Beranbury [map
Laws of Hywel
privileges of Arvon: Here (in
Arvon, in Gwynedd)
Elidyr the courteous, a man from the North (Rheged),
was slain, and after his death, the men of the North came here to
him. The chiefs, their leaders, were Clydno of
(Edinburgh); Nedd the
generous, son of Senyllt,
the generous, son of Servari; and Rhydderch the generous (of
Strathclyde), son of Tudwal Tudglyd; and they came to
(21)]; and because Elidyr was slain at Aber Mewdyus in Arvon,
burned Arvon as a further revenge. And then Rhun, son of Maelgwn, and
men of Gwynedd, assembled in arms and proceeded to the banks of the
(perhaps the river Wear near Durham)
(22)] in the North ... And thereupon the men of Arvon
van, and were valorous there: and Taliesin sang "Behold! from the
of their blades, With Rhun the reddener of armies, The men of Arvon
their ruddy lances." And then on account of the length of time they
in arms, their wives slept with their bond servants: and on that
Rhun granted them fourteen privileges. ...
hen was the son of
Tutagual, son of Clinoch,
Dumgual hen, son of Cinuit, son of Ceretic
Clinog eitin was the son
of Cinbelin, son
LLywarch hen was the
son of Elidyr the
son of Merchiaun, son of Gurgust, son of Keneu, son of Coel
ASC for 560
Ceawlin took the government of the West Saxons; and Ella,
on the death of Ida, that of the Northumbrians (actually
just the Deirans), each of whom reigned about
Adda, son of Ida, reigned eight years in
AC for 564
Saint Columba went to
Taliesin --- In
Praise of Cynan
bulwark, poured on me prizes ...
Descendant of Cadell,
war on the Wye, spears without number: He slew men of Gwent with a
In Mon (Anglesey),
crossing the Menai (Anglesey strait):
War at Crug Dyfed, Aergol
on the run,
any before seen heading his heard.
son, broad-realmed, bent
dominions, menaces Cornwall,
on its fate, brings on its distress till it pleads for peace.
My patron, Cynan, first into battle, with bright flames
soaring fires, was in Brychan's land (Brycheiniog):
Hill-fort, a mole-hill! Pathetic princes, cringe before Cynan!
ASC for 560 or 565
This year Aethelbert came to the kingdom of the Kentishmen and held
it fifty-three winters.
Roger of Wendover
In 527, Justinian governed the Roman empire thirty-eight years till
565. ... pagans
came from Germany and occupied East Anglia, that is, the
the East Angles; and some of them invaded Mercia, and waged war against
the British. But since the leaders were many, their names have been
In this year was founded the kingdom of the East Saxons, which is now
Essex. It was first held, it is said, by Erkenwine.
AC for 567
The voyage of Gildas to Ireland.
Gildas -- Letters
Abstinence from bodily foods without charity is useless. The truly
good are those who fast without ostentation ... not those who think
superior because they refuse to eat meat ... or to ride on a horse
a carriage. For death enters into them by the windows of
ASC for 568
Ceawlin and his brother Cutha,
fought with Aethelbert, and pushed him into Kent, and killed two
Oslaf and Cnebba, at Wibbandum (probably
Aethelric, son of Ida, reigned four years in
About this time was born Arthur,
son of Petr, son of Cincar, son of Vortipor
AC for 571
The `Synod of Victory' was held between the Britons.
Gildas' Penitentials of the Synod of the Grove of Victory
... They who afford guidance to the barbarians shall
do penance for thirteen years, provided there be no
Christians or effusion of blood or dire captivity. If, however, such
do take place the offenders shall perform penance, laying down their
for the rest of life. But if one planned to conduct the barbarians to
Christians, and did so according to his will, he shall do penance for
remainder of his life.
ASC for 571
Henry of Huntingdon
The founder of the kingdom of East-Anglia, which includes Norfolk and
Suffolk, was Uffa, from whom the kings of the East Anglia were called
Roger of Wendover
In the year 571 ... Uffa reigns in East Anglia.
Theodoric, son of Ida, reigned seven years in
to 579. ... Theodoric fought vigorously against Urien
(of Rheged) and his sons.
AC for 572
Gildas, wisest of the Britons, died.
AC for 575
The battle of Arfderydd [map
(6)] between the sons of Elifer (of
York) and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio (of
in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Myrddin (Gwenddolau's
The third of the Faithful
War-Bands of the
of Britain was the War-Band
of Gwenddolau son
at Arfderydd, who continued the battle for a fortnight and a month
their lord was slain. The number of the War-Band ... was twenty-one
ASC for 577
Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought with the Britons, and slew three kings,
Commail, Condida and Farinmail, on the spot that is called Deorham [map
(7)], and took from them three
cities, Gloucester [map
(8)], Cirencester [map
(9)] and Bath [map
ASC for 688
... Cuthwin was the son of
Snapped rooftrees, towers fallen; the work of the Giants, the
Came days of pestilence, on all sides men fell dead, death
the flower of the people;
Where they stood to fight, waste places; and on the
Henry of Huntingdon
East Anglia was afterwards
held by Uffa's
brother Titilus, the bravest of the East-Anglian kings.
Roger of Wendover
In the year 578 ... Uffa, king of the East-Angles, from whom the kings
of that province are called "Uffingas", was succeeded by Titilus his
(read brother), who was the
father of Redwald.
Taliesin -- The Battle of Argoed Llwyfain
There was a great battle Saturday morning From when the sun rose until
it grew dark. The fourfold hosts of Fflamddwyn (= flame-bearer,
perhaps Theodoric) invaded, Goddau (an
and Rheged (Urien's kingdom centred around
gathered in arms, Summoned from Argoed (by
as far as Arfnydd (by the mountain)
-- They may
delay by so much as a day.
With a great blustering din, Fflamddwyn shouted "Have these
come? Are they ready?" To him then Owain, scourge of the eastlands,
not come, no! They're not, nor shall they be ready. And a whelp
would indeed be afflicted Did he have to give any man as a hostage!"
And Urien, lord of Yrechwydd (?Lake
(11)], shouted "If they would meet us now for a treaty, High
let's raise our ramparts, Carry our faces over the shield rims, Raise
our spears, men, over our heads, And set upon Fflamddwyn in the midst
his hosts And slaughter him, aye, and all that go with him!"
There was many a corpse beside Argoed Llwyfain (forest
of Elmwood); From warriors ravens grew red. And with their
a host attacked. For a whole year I shall sing to their triumph.
Frithwald reigned six years in Bernicia
Taliesin -- Death song of Owain
The soul of Owein, son of Urein, may the Lord consider its need.
The chieftan of Rheged that the dense green grass
It is not frivolous to praise him in verse; the grave of the
renowned in song,
vastly praised, whose whetted spears were like the rays of the dawn
for no equal can be found to the lord of LLwyfenydd (unlocatable),
the reaper of enemies; strong of grip; one kind with his fathers.
When Owain slew Fflamddwyn it was no more than sleeping.
Taliesin -- Urien of Yrechwydd (?Lake
Sleeps now the wide host of England with the light upon their eyes
and those that had not fled were braver than were wise.
Owain dealt them doom as the wolves devour sheep;
Splendid he was, in his many-coloured armour. Horses he gave to all
Gathering wealth like a miser freely he shared it for his soul's sake.
God, consider the soul's need of Owain son of Urien.
Urien of Yrechwydd, most liberal of all Christians. Much do you give
to the people of your land.
As you gather so you dispense. Happy the Christian bards while you
More is the gaiety and more is the glory that Urien and his heirs are
for riches renowned.
And he is the sovereign supreme, ruler all highest. The stranger's
refuge, first of fighters found.
This the English know when they tell their tales. Death have they
and many a shame.
Burnt are their homesteads, bare are their bodies. And many a loss
and many a blame,
But never a respite from Urien of Rheged. Rheged's defender, famed
lord, your land's anchor,
All that is told of you has my acclaim.
Intense is your spear-play when you hear ploy of battle,
when to battle you come 'tis a killing you can,
Fire in their houses each day in the lord of Yrechwydd's way.
Yrechwydd the beautiful and its generous clan.
The Angles are succorless. Around the fierce king are his fierce
Of those dead (Owain?) and
Of those yet to come, you head the column. ...
Gold king of the Northland and of kings king.
AC for 582
Gwrgi and Peredur, sons of Elifer (of York),
The second faithless war-band of the Island of Britain was the war-band
of Gwrgi and Peredur, who abandoned their lords at Caer Greu, when they
had an appointment to fight the next day with Eda Big-knee (probably
a Deiran leader); and there they were both slain.
The third passive chieftain of the Island of Britain was Gwgon Gwron
son of Peredur son of Elifer of the Great Retinue. And this is why
were called "Passive Chieftains": because they would not seek to regain
their rightful dominion.
Welsh Genealogies (amalgamated)
Peredur was the son of
Elifer, son of Gurgust
letlum, son of Ceneu, son of Coel
ASC for 584
Ceawlin and his brother
Cutha fought with the
on the spot that is called Fethanleag (probably
which used to be called Fenley) [map
(12)]. There Cutha was slain. And Ceawlin took many towns, as
as immense booty and wealth. And he returned to his own people in
Life of Maedoc
The English raised a great army and came to Britain (Wales)
... The British assembled quickly against them, and sent to Saint David,
to ask him to send them Maedoc ... Maedoc came ... and, since the
were engaging in batlle ill prepared, Maedoc .. prayed to God for the
against the English; the English were forthwith put to flight, and the
British pursuit lasted for seven days, with great slaughter.
The second... of the English kings that had the sovereignty of all
the southern provinces that are divided from the northern by the river
Humber ... was Ceawlin, king of the West Saxons.
Roger of Wendover
In the year 585 began the kingdom of the Mercians, whose first king
was Credda. At this
time then, all
the kingdoms of the Angles or Saxons were completed, to the
eight; that is to say, the kingdom of Kent, whose capital is Canterbury
the kingdom of the South Saxons, or Sussex, whose capital is
the kingdom of the East Saxons, or Essex, whose capital city is London
the kingdom of the East-Angles, or East Anglia, whose capital city is
the kingdom of the West Saxons, whose capital city is Winchester [map
(15)]; the kingdom of Mercia, or Middle-Anglia, whose capital
is Dorchester; the kingdom of Northumbria, whose capital city is York [map
(16)]. The last kingdom was divided into two (Bernicia
At this time there reigned in the island eight kings, whose
as follow: Aethelbert in Kent, Cissa in Sussex, Ceawlin in Wessex,
in Mercia, Erkenwine in Essex, Titilus in East-Anglia, Ella in Deira,
Affrid (?for one year only?)
Taliesin -- The battle of Gwen Ystrad
Catraeth's (Catterick's) men
are up at daybreak
For a conquering prince, cattle-raider. Urien is he, far-famed
He bridles monarchs and hews them, Strong in war, true lord of
Pictland's men deadly war-bands; Gwen Ystrad your post, battle-honer:
field nor forest was spared, Land's bulwark, by the force that came.
Like waves roaring harsh onto shore I saw savage men in
morning's fray, torn flesh. I saw border-crossing forces dead, Strong
angry the clamour one heard. Defending Gwen Ystrad one saw a thin
and lone weary men.
At the ford I saw men stained with blood Downing arms before
lord: They wished for peace, for they found the way barred, Hands
on the strand, cheeks pallid. Their lords wondered at Idon's rich wine
(river running red with blood?);
tails of their horses.
I saw pillaging men blunted And blood spattering their
quick close-grouping for battle: Of battle's cloak, not of flight, was
his thought, Rheged's lord, I marvel, when challenged. I saw noble men
about Urien When he cut down his foes in Llech Wen. Routing foes in
gave him joy, Men's bucklers were borne where needed: Lust for battle
Hussa reigned seven years in Bernicia to
Four kings fought against him, Urien (of
Hen (of Strathclyde), and
of Elmet) and Morcant (probably
of Gododdin). ... During that time, sometimes the
sometimes the Cymry (the citizens i.e.
victorious, and Urien blockaded them for three days and nights in the
of Medcaud (Lindisfarne, offshore from
(17)]. But during this campaign, Urien was assassinated on
of Morcant, from jealousy, because his military skill and generalship
that of all other kings.
Roger de Hoveden
Fridubuld (read Affrid?) ...
having reigned one
year, was succeeded by Hussus (i.e. Hussa),
a reign of seven years, lost his kingdom and his life.
The second of the
Battle-Leaders of the Island
of Britain was Urien son of
The third of the
unfortunate assassinations of
the Island of Britain was by
Llofan Severing Hand who slew Urien son of Cynfarch.
Welsh Genealogies (amalgamated)
the son of Cynfarch, son of Merchianum, son of Gurgust
of Ceneu, son of Coel Hen.
Guallauc was the son of
Laenauc, son of
clop, son of Gurgust letlum, son of Ceneu, son of Coel Hen.
Morcant bulc was the son
of Cincar braut,
Bran hen, son of Dumgual moilmut, son of Garbani aun, son of Coel Hen.
Roger of Wendover
In the year 587 ... died Erkenwine,
king of the East Saxons, and was succeeded by his son Sledda
who reigned ten years.
ASC for 588
King Ella died; and Aethelric (?his
reigned after him five years in Deira.
Roger of Wendover
In the year 589, Sledda, king of the East Saxons, begat by his wife
(the daughter of Oermenric, king of Kent), Sebert, who reigned after
Roger of Wendover
In the year 590, on the death of Cissa,
king of the South Saxons, that kingdom devolved on Ceawlin, king of the
ASC for 591
There was great slaughter of Britons at Wanborough [map
(18)]; Ceawlin was driven from his kingdom, and Ceolric
ASC for 593
Ceawlin died, and Cwichelm, and Cryda (probably
king of the Mercians); and Aethelfirth succeeded to the
of the Northumbrians. He was the son of Aethelric, Aethelric of Ida.
Aethelfirth the artful ... reigned 24 years in the two kingdoms (Bernicia
Roger of Wendover
In the year 588 (correctly not earlier
Aethelfirth, king of the Bernicians, married Acca, daughter of Ella,
of Deira, and in the process of time had by her seven sons, Eanfrid,
Oswin, Oslac, Oswy, Osa and Offa. In this year died Credda, king of the
Mercians, and was succeeded by his son Wibba.
Among other most wicked actions, not to be expressed, which their own
historian, Gildas, mournfully takes notice of, they (the
Britons) added this; that they never preached the faith to
or English, who dwelt amongst them; however, the goodness of God did
forsake his people whom He foreknew, but sent to the aforesaid nation
more worthy preachers, to bring it to the faith.
ASC for 596
Pope Gregory sent Augustine to Britain with very many monks, to preach
the word of God to the English people.
ASC for 597
Ceolwulf began to reign over the West Saxons; and he constantly fought
and conquered, either the Angles, or the British, or the Picts, or the
Scots. He was the son of Cutha,
Cutha of Cynric .... This year Augustine and his companions came to
AC for 597
Augustine and Miletus converted the English to Christ [Illustration].
Aethelfirth, a most worthy king, and ambitious of glory, governed the
kingdom of the Northumbrians, and ravaged the Britons more than all the
great men of the English .... He conquered more territories from the
either making them tributary, or driving the inhabitants clean out, and
planting English in their places, than any other king or tribune.
AC for 597
The death of king Dunod (perhaps of Dent
in the central
Pennines, including Catterick) son of Pabo, pillar of
Dunaut was the son of Pabo,
pillar of Britain,
son of Arthwys, son of Mar, son of Ceneu son of Coel
Irish Annals for 598
Cathratha in Druad (battle of Catterick?)
The first of the Noble
Retinues of the Island
of Britain was the retinue
of Mynyddawg of
Aneirin -- Y Gododdin (not in order)
Men went to Gododdin (the British kingdom
laughter-loving, bitter in battle, each blade in line. A brief year
were quiet, in peace (preparing for battle).
In the great hall I (Aneirin)
Many were his (Mynyddawg's)
spears. In the clash
men he fashioned a feast (of carrion)
... Since I drank, I crossed the border, sad fate.
Men went to Catraeth (Catterick),
Wine and mead from gold cups was their drink, a year in noble
three hundred, three score and three gold-torqued men.
Men went to Catraeth at dawn: all their fears had been put
Three hundred clashed with ten thousand. They stained their spears
with blood. He held firm, bravest in battle, before the men of
Warriors went to Catraeth , their host was swift, fresh mead
feast and it was bitter, three hundred fighting under command, and
the cry of jubilation there was silence. ...
Though the men of Gwynedd and Gogledd (the
came, through the planning of the sons of Ysgyrran there would be
shields. ... Wearing
a brooch, in the forefront, armed in the fight, before his
mighty warrior in combat, a princely leader charging before armies,
fifties fell before his blades. Of the men of Deira and Bernicia there
fell a hundred score into oblivion in one hour. ... While song lasts,
Hir will be praised.
In might a man, a youth in years, of boisterous valour;
steeds under the thigh of a handsome youth; A light broad shield on a
fleet horse's crupper ; Bright blue swords, fringes of worked gold. ...
A beloved friend was Ywain, it is wrong that he is beneath a cairn. ...
There was none who so completely from the fortress of Eidyn
the enemy. Tudfwlch Hir from his lands and homesteads drove out the
without ceasing. ...
Amid scattered weapons, broken ranks, standing steadfast,
destruction, the champion overthrew the host of the men of England, he
cast lances in the forefront of battle in the spear fight, he laid men
low and made women widows before his death, Graid son of Hoywgi formed
a battle-pen against the spears. ...
It was true as Cadlew spoke, no one's horses overtook
spears in battle from a bounding, wide-tracked charger. ...
Warriors charged, leaping forward together, short-lived,
the clarified mead, the retinue of Mynyddawg, renown in battle, they
for their mead feast with their lives. ...
Warriors went to Catraeth, embattled, with a cry, a host of
in dark blue armour, with shields, spear-shafts held aloft with sharp
and shining mail shirts and swords. ...
He attacked in battle before the cattle herds of the
with lowered shields arose. With shattered shield before the cattle,
vociferous Beli, a lord above the bloodshed, speedy defender of the
a grey-haired warrior, a gold-torqued ox, sustained us on his leading
spirited and erect. ...
The warriors arose, they assembled, together with one accord
Short were their lives, long their kinsmen's grief for them, they slew
seven times their number of the English. ...
When trusted men came from the regions of Dineidyn (Dunedin,
that is, Edinburgh), the chosen warriors of every prudent
in strife with the mixed host of England, nine score to one, around
mail-clad man, a multitude of horses and armour and silken clothing,
defended his rights through combat. ...
He charged before three hundred of the finest, he cut down
and wing, he excelled in the forefront of the noblest host, he gave
of horses from the herd in winter. Gwawrddur made his strength a
the front line's bulwark. He glutted black ravens on the rampart of a
but he was not Arthur.
For Arthur was long dead, and none who followed him could effectively
the military resources of the British kingdoms against the English. The
battle of Catterick was almost the last time the British attempted to
the power of the English in the North. With the annihilation of the
host of Gododdin, the English secured control of a continuous block of
territory in the east of Britain, from north of Hadrian's wall to the
channel. By 600 A.D. the Roman diocese of Britain was a dim memory, and
the future of the Island clearly lay with the realms of the English,
were just beginning the process of conversion into Medieval Christian
The list of Cunedda's sons cannot be taken at face value. In the first
case, having nine adult sons is an unlikely occurrence. In the second,
one "son" Enniaun Girt, appears in the genealogies as Maelgwn's
(see 510s), yet Maelgwn is supposed to be Cunedda's great-great-great
(see 547). The latter relationship seems more likely since Cunnedda is
dated 146 years before Maelgwn. It is likley that Cunedda's "sons"
his real sons' descendants and maybe also companions unrelated to him.
Return to: 401,510,547
The province of Armorica (northwestern Gaul) had close links with
Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries. It
facto independence from the Empire at the same time (411).
Although the Empire restored control by 418, it had evidently lost it
again by about 446, and it is doubtful that the
Empire had the means at any later time to take back the renegade
But the fact that such a punitive Imperial-sponsored expedition almost
took place in about 446 lends credence to Nennius' statement that
feared a Roman invasion of Britain too (see 440-). A great many Britons
emigrated to Armorica following the Saxon revolt (see 474) so that the
province became known as Brittany (little Britain). But it extended far
further than modern Brittany, including parts of Normandy and
apparently extending at times as far as Blois on the Loire. Blois was
lost around 491 (although see 533) and by the second half of the 6th
century Britanny was reduced to the peninsula with which it is now
identified. The whole area supposedly
came under the rule of the Franks about 511, but this was only a
rule and Brittany was not fully incorporated into France until the late
Middle ages, roughly contemporaneously with Wales' inorporation into
Both nations (Brittany and Wales) maintain their Celtic tongue.
Return to: 411,440,446,474,491,511
It is generally accepted that Gildas' "Agitius thrice consul" must
be Aetius the Magister Militum, because the dates are roughly
and because Aetius was the only Roman (apart from the Emperors) who was
three times a consul in the fifth century. Furthermore, some have taken
this form of address to date the "groans of the Britons" to 446-454,
years in which Aetius had been three times a consul. However, this
is based on the assumption that Gildas really is quoting a letter
rather than fabricating it for rhetorical purposes. There are a number
of reasons to think that the latter is the case. First, Gildas says
he is using "not so much literary remains from this country (which,
as they were, are not now available, having been burnt by enemies or
by our countrymen when they went into exile) as foreign tradition; and
that has frequent gaps to blur it." Second, his mis-spelling of Aetius
as Agitius, perhaps influenced by the name of Aegidius (457-464) points
to oral tradition: it is highly unlikely that the Britons (anytime from
425 to 455) could not spell the name of the most powerful Roman
in the West. Third, the wording of the letter also does not sound
it is too casual. Thus we can conclude that Gildas knew of a letter to
Aetius (but wrongly spelled his name), that he knew of its intent, and
that he knew that Aetius had been thrice consul. The date assigned to
letter here (c.427) gives a much better fit with the other evidence
Gildas' narrative) than a date of c.450.
Return to: 427,446,454,457,464
The traditional site of the Alleluia victory is the Clwyd range near
, in North Wales. This is is supported by Constantius' description
of a valley enclosed by steep mountains. It might be thought that this
makes the Saxons unlikely enemies, especially as Gildas does not
Saxon raiders at all. However, there is no reason that Saxons could not
have been operating in Wales as a few years later (434) they are
raiding even further afield in Ireland (perhaps because resistance in
had stiffened following Germanus' victory). All in all, it seems likely
that Gildas is unreliable and there was considerable Saxon raiding, and
perhaps even some settlement, in Britain at this time. That Gildas
earlier Saxon raiding is backed up by the fact that Gildas describes
Saxons when they do arrive (449) as being "feared worse than death".
surely would only be if the Britons had had prior experience of the
Return to: 429,434,449
This house burning in the vicinity of St. Germanus' dwelling indicates
that urban life certainly survived in some form in Britain until 429.
roofs were evidently thatched, rather than tiled, but how significant
is it is hard to judge. The reference in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle for
577 to the capture of the three cities of Gloucester, Cirencester and
Bath suggests (but does not imply) that urban life continued for much
in the celtic west. Archaeology supports a limited survival of urban
in some towns (e.g. Verlumamium, that is St. Albans, and Viroconium,
is Wroxeter) into the 6th century. In fact a large two-story timber
at Viroconium [map
(7)] has been called the last classically inspired building
until modern times. Other evidence for the continuity of civilised, if
not urban, life, is Gildas' mention of clerics riding in carriages (see
567). Germanus' biography also attents the continued presence in 429 of
Roman military titles (tribune) and of the ostentatious wealth of
Return to 429,567,577
The Ambrosius Aurelianus who fought the Saxons in the 470s and perhaps
beyond is probably not the Ambrosius who was Vortigern's rival in the
and who fought Vitalinus in ?453. Ambrosius Aurelianus had parents who,
according to Gildas, had worn the purple (indicating a high position in
British society) and who were slain in the "storm" of ?473. If
Aurelianus was politically active in the 440s it is unlikely that his
would be still alive in the 470s. More likely the earlier Ambrosius was
the father of Ambrosius Aurelianus, and died in ?473. It is only on
authority that Ambrosius Aurelianus was the high-king of Britain.
Return to: 440,453,472,474,475
power of the Saxons
The arrival of Angles (Saxons to Roman authors) in Britain as federates
is largely ignored by insular sources. In particular, Gildas makes no
of it, putting all of his emphasis on the arrival of the three keels in
450. Either he did not know of this earlier migration, or chose to
it (which is understandable as he was writing for rhetorical effect
than for posterity). Archaeological evidence indicates that the "wide
handed over constituted East Anglia (including Cambridgeshire),
Deira (East of York), and the upper Thames valley. All but the last
areas probably subject to Pictish raids. The upper Thames valley
may have been intended as reserves, or for deployment against the Scots
anywhere in the west. They may even have been settled there from an
time, as Roman auxilliaries. In any case, the "handing over" of a wide
area cannot have meant the violent conquest of the country by invading
Anglo-Saxons, if we believe Constantius that
"news from Britain" which brought St. Germanus to the country for a
time in 445 was of heresies, not of war. St. Germanus would hardly have
travelled to Britain in the middle of a widespread war to counter a few
Return to: 443,445
The settling of Hengest's mercenaries on the isle of Thanet (now joined
to the mainland and forming the Easternmost part of Kent) was obviously
seen as a pivotal event by the early authors. This is probably because
it was these soldiers who apparently instigated the revolt against the
Britons while the earlier federates were still living peacefully with
hosts. Their placement in the east of Kent indicates that their chief
was to support Vortigern's power against fellow Britons and against
rather than to fight the Picts (although it does not disprove the
to the north).
Return to: 450
The Vitalinus who fought Ambrosius was probably a member of Vortigern's
family, since, according to Nennius, Vortigern's grandfather was called
Vitalinus (see 474). From the fact that Vortigern feared both Ambrosius
and a Roman invasion we might see in the conflict between Ambrosius and
Vitalinus evidence of a pro-Imperial and anti-Imperial faction in
respectively. The gift of Kent to Hengest may have been the cause of
outbreak of hostilities between the two camps. If this interpretation
correct, then Ambrosius failed to overthrow Vortigern. The location of
the battle, Wallop, may be the one in Shropshire (near the border with
modern Powys) or the one in Hampshire. The former would have been in or
near an area (Powys) ruled by Vortigern. The latter may have been in or
near an area ruled by Ambrosius, as it is only 12km from Amesbury [map
(10)] in Wiltshire, the name of which is derived from the
Ambres' burg (Ambrosius' fort).
Return to: 453,474
of the holy Romans
St. Patrick's statements carry significant information regarding
century British society. Firstly, he refers to Ceretic's soldiers
rather than warriors. This suggests that some degree of Roman military
organization continued. Secondly, from his statement that he would not
call Ceretic's soldiers "fellow-citizens of the holy Romans" we can
that he would be expected to address them as such. This implies that
the Britons to the North of Hadrian's wall continued to identify with
or at least her church. Thirdly, his request that his letter be read
in front of Coroticus and all his people inidcates that he must have
them to be able to understand latin, the language in which the letter
written. Finally, Patrick's letter gives no hint of paganism among
men, even though the nearby Picts and Scots clearly are seen as
This points to the strength of the church among the Britons even North
of Hadrian's wall. There can be little doubt that that South of the
the Christian church had no real rival (except among the Anglo-Saxons
Return to: 455
This is the one instance where I have altered the ordering of the
in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. Clearly the two battles referred to by
and the ASC are identical, as both mention the death of Horsa. But
who is the earlier source, states that it is the second battle. At this
early stage the dates in the ASC are only approximate. An error of
years is no cause for concern.
Return to: 458
The identity of the fourth battle of Vortimer is a subject of some
debate, as the following text numbers only three. Here I have taken the
fourth battle to be the expulsion of Hengest and his followers from
This is actually mentioned earlier than the three numbered battles, but
is in a section which is a summary of what is to come. The besieging
final expulsion of Hengest would obviously fit better at the end of the
war, rather than at the beginning. Also, the absence of Hengest from
would seem to be a necessary condition for the expedition of a British
army to Gaul in c.468.
Return to: 456,465
The high-king of the Britons named Riothamus is otherwise unknown,
and has been identified with Ambrosius and even with Arthur. Here I
the alternative hypothesis that he is identical to Vortimer. This is
by the following facts. First, according to the chronology I am
Vortimer would have been the high king at (or at least immediately
the time that Riothamus was campaigning. Second, according to this
Vortimer would have died around the same time as Riothamus' defeat.
Riothamus comes from the British ri-tamo = king-high and Vortimer from
vor-tamo-ri = over-high-king. Perhaps after his victory over Hengest
modified his name or title to Riothamus to distance himself from his
title Vortigern = over-lord.
Return to: 469
The exploits of Ecdicius have little or no influence on the history
of Britain. However they do shed light on it in two ways. First,
account shows that Celtic rather than Latin was still spoken by the
families in Gaul in the mid 5th century. Therefore it would probably
been even more entrenched in Britain at that time. Secondly, his
over the Visigoths outside Arverna shows the effectiveness of even
numbers of heavy cavalry against disordered barbarian infantry. This is
a model for the victories of Ambrosius and Arthur, and suggests that
account of Arthur's charge at Badon (c.518) is not as unrealistic as
be assumed. The Angles' lack of familiarity with horses is stressed by
Procopius (see 533). The other near contemporary model for
is that of the mounted host of the Gododdin in 598. Arthur is
in time to Ecdicius, but Badon is closer in space to
Return to: 471,472,518,533
In Gildas' narrative, between the Saxon's threat to "plunder the whole
island" (which I have placed in 452) and the "fire which spread from
to sea" (placed in 473) there is only the sentence "There was no
The battles between Vortimer and Hengest, the latter's expulsion, the
death, and the latter's return are all ignored or unknown to Gildas.
Nennius is trustworthy here, it is not unlikely that Gildas did
ignore Vortimer; for some political, religious or rhetorical reason
wishes to praise only one warrior, that is Ambrosius. He even fails to
mention St. Germanus' role in the conflict with the Picts (429), and it
is hard to believe that he did not know of and approve of this saint.
must simply be accepted that Gildas was very selective in the events he
recorded. See also below.
In my reconstruction
of events, the great raid by Hengest may have been in response to
he met in trying to make good his claim to Essex and Sussex extorted
Vortigern. Certainly it appears that Sussex was not conquered by
but by Saxons under Aelle from 477 onwards.
Return to: 452,
The royal line of the West-Saxons is anomolous in a number of ways.
First, their followers are first referred to as Gewisse, a Saxon word
may mean allies or federates. Second, the coast where the invasion
took place was already occupied by Jutes, as recorded by Bede (see
Third, the first ruler (Cerdic) has a British name (Caradoc) rather
a Saxon name. Fourth, the arrival of two more ships in 501 has no
relation to Cerdic; Porta is obviously a name invented to explain
while one of his sons (Maegla) again has a British name (Bieda is a
name, the same as that of the Venerable Bede). Even in the 7th century,
the obviously British-named Cadwalla turns up as king of Wessex. It
that the politics of the 5th century were not as clear-cut as the ASC
have us believe. It is quite likely that Cerdic was of British origin,
but employed Saxons as federates. Alternatively, he may have
of mixed parentage, and had both British and Saxon followers. In this
case, it is interesting that his lifespan is not incompatible with his
being the son of Rowena and Vortigern.
Return to: 475,495,501
It is often suggested that the phrase "on his shoulder" should read
"on his shield" because of the similarity of the two Welsh words
and "ysguidd". However Nennius wrote in Latin, not ancient Welsh. Also,
there are references in Y Gododdin (c. 598) to warriors "wearing a
which suggests that icons worn on the shoulders may not have been
On these grounds it seems best not to amend the text.
Return to: 500,598
As one of the few Arthurian battle sites which can be identified,
in South Wales is a surprising location for a British battle leader
enemy was the Saxons. But there is other evidence that the British
Aircol in Dyfed and Cadwallon Longhand in Gwynedd were fighting the
(Irish) at that time, so it is more likely that they were Arthur's
here. Around the same time (498) Fergus the great is supposed to have
in Scotland, indicating a resurgence of Irish interest in colonizing
Alternatively, this battle (and some of the other recorded battles) may
have been fought against other Britons. Certainly civil strife is
both before (see 453), during (see 539), and after (see 545, 560, 565,
575) Arthur's time.
Return to: 498,510
whom all the Saxons acknowledged
The identification of Aelle, king of the South Saxons, as the first
overlord of the English kings in the South, is surprising. His recorded
campaigns are confined to Sussex, and his kingdom was the least
of the seven or eight traditional founding kingdoms of the English. The
most likely explanation is that he led a combined force of a number of
English kingdoms in a campaign against the British in the early 6th
The fact that his death is recorded in the period 514-519, suggests
that the campaign ended in the
defeat at Badon recorded under 518 in the AC. Cerdic's death is also
recorded around the same time, so
he may have participated as well. Aelle's primary position may have
been due to
Return to: 518
It is often argued that Arthur's historicity is in doubt because he
is not mentioned by Gildas in his account of Badon. This is hardly
given that Gildas does not name any Briton between Magnus Maximus and
own time -- Ambrosius is explicitly called a Roman, not a Briton (see above).
as quoted in the text for 545, Gildas specifically says that he "had
to speak ... not of brave
soldiers in the
war". The fact that Ambrosius is the last mentioned commander before
battle of Badon in no way implies that he was the leader there. In fact
the forty three year gap between Ambrosius' first battle and the battle
of Badon makes this unlikely.
Return to: 518,545
Creoda is a very shadowy figure, mentioned only in the preface of the
ASC. In the body of the ASC Cerdic continues to fight the Britons in a
series of battles after 508 and before 530. However, most of these are
obvious duplications of the battles up to 508, separated by a
of 19 years (one Easter cycle). The true history of the family of
will never be known, but the contemporary evidence of Gildas for the
that followed Badon makes an uneventful (and subsequently almost
reign by Creoda quite plausible.
Return to: 518,530,534
The name Camelot is an invention of French Romance (perhaps inspired
by the Roman Camulodonum, that is Colchester). But Leland's
of the hill fort by South Cadbury as Arthur's chief place of residence
may have a firmer footing. Archaeological digs by L. Alcock in the late
1960s showed that the hill was re-fortified within twenty years of 500
--- exactly the time we would expect if it really was a fort used by
The entire top of the hill was surrounded by four ramparts of earth,
innermost (stretching more than 1 km) being topped with a 5 metre thick
wall of stone and timber. The enclosed area of several hectares is one
of the largest dark age hill forts in Britain.
Inside are the remains of a number of timber buildings including a
(200 square metre) hall, plus large amounts of pottery from the
The site was evidently the base for a war-lord or king of considerable
power. It may have been used by the Dumnonians or Durotrigans until the
area was lost to the West Saxons in the 7th century.
Return to: 520
having one king
There is no reason to think Procopius particularly reliable here, but
if there is any truth in saying that the Britons, Angles and Fresians
one king each, these rulers may have been Arthur, Cynewald (grandson of
Icel), and Eormenric (king of Kent, which was settled mainly by
and Jutes). The West Saxons and South Saxons were perhaps so limited
in power following the battle of Badon that they did not rate a
Neither do the Scots or the Picts, but it is unlikely that Procopius
have any knowledge about the northern half of the Island. The facts
that the Saxons in particular were said to have migrated back to the
Continent also suggests that the Saxon kingdoms had suffered the most
severe reverse in Britain. Even if Arthur was seen from afar as king of
the Britons, it seems unlikely that he was recognized as such by the
rulers of Britain, as the earliest Brittonic text to refer to him as a
king is the 11th century (or possibly later) Life of St. Goeznovius by
William of Leon.
Return to: 531
The statement in the preface of the Legend of St. Goeznovius (see 533)
only reference to Arthur's campaigning in Gaul prior to the publication
in 1135 of Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-history. For this reason it
has been questioned whether the preface, with a claimed date of 1017,
was not actually composed after 1135. Assuming that the 1017
is trustworthy, it is conceivable that it preserves a genuine tradition
that Arthur campaigned in Gaul. This
hardly have been astonishing: two generations earlier the Briton leader
Riothamus had done likewise; moreover in Arthur's time Armorica was
by expatriate Britons. The Life of St. Dalmas may also be evidence for
an army from Britain
(or at least Brittany) active north of the Loire in 534x541, probably
deep inside the realms of the Franks. And around this time,
probably in the reign of Theudebert, we also have Procopius' story of
an army of Angles forcibly preventing an alliance (by
marriage) between the Franks and the Varni, on the opposite (eastern)
flank of the Franks. The Franks in the 530s were agressively
attacking the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Thuringians (who
included the Varni) and the Romans (i.e. Byzantines) in Italy. The
Britons in Armorica may have been similarly threatened by the Franks,
and the claims of the Frankish ambassador
to Constantinople (see 531) indicate that the Franks had designs on the
island of Britain as well. In this context, it is intriguing
find that Procopius tells us that the Roman Empire was financing
inhabitants of Britain, and also that the Empire had not given up its
claim to own Britain (see 539). Just possibly Arthur's downfall was not
of a purely insular quarrel (of which the Wansdyke, separating
from Dobunnia, might be a piece of evidence), but was a (small) part of
the process that saw the birth of a new hegenomy in the West, a
Return to: 531,533,539
Gildas' text contains a few intriguing hints about the political
of the Britons. He appears to make a distinction between Britain's
who bear great burdens, and her kings, who are tyrants. Conceivably
governers could have been subordinates to her kings, but a more natural
reading would be that some Britons were ruled by governers (as in Roman
times) and some by kings. If a large part of Britain was still ruled by
governers, there was probably some figure of authority over the
someone mightier than any of the kings of Britain. Gildas provides
evidence for this idea. First, he says of Maeglwn "[God] has made you
than almost all the generals of Britain", but the higher general is
not one of Gildas' other kings, or he would have mentioned that fact
castigating them. Second, he says that some of Britain's commanders
found the narrow (Christian) path, and of the others (the tyrants) "If
you had gone back to God genuinely ... they (the good commanders) could
not have brought punishment on you." The implication is that the good
presumably from the part of Britain under governers, had sufficient
to have punished the tyrants in the near past. The most likely part of
Britain to have still had governers is the "lowland" area shown in pink
in the map for 545.
Return to: 545
It has been commonly stated that Gildas here, when he talks of martyrs
and the unhappy partition, implies that Verulamium and Carleon held
which were deprived to the Britons because of English occupation. A
careful reading of this passage shows that he implies no such thing.
he says "I refer to St Alban ..., Aaron and Julius ... and the others
he is clearly referring to martyrs (the history of
discussing before being briefly side-tracked into the state of Britain
at his time). If he had been referring to their "graves or places where
they suffered", he would have said "I refer to Verulamium ..., Carleon,
... and other places". Thus the passage simply implies that there was a
partition with the English, and that they evidently held large parts of
the country, but it contains no specific geographical information on
Return to: 545
war and constant plunder
The second of Gildas' tyrants, whom he names Aurelius Caninus, has
always been the most hard to locate. It has been suggested before that
Caninus (dog) is Gildas' pun on the Welsh name Cynan. In this case
map Brochfael, king of Powys, would seem an obvious candidate, as that
would make Gildas' 5 tyrants correspond to the 4 most powerful British
kingdoms in the South: Dumnonia (Constantine), Powys (Cynan), Dyfed
and Gwynedd (split between Cuneglasus in the East and Maglocunus in the
West). This hypothesis is supported by Gildas castigation of Aurelius
in c.545 for "civil war and constant plunder", which is matched by
praise of Cynan Garwyn for exactly the same behaviour, perhaps 20 years
later. Durotrigia (if it was distinct from Dumnonia at this stage) may
also have been a major kingdom, but there is textual evidence (see N.
Britain and the Anglo-Saxons) that Gildas himself was living
which would explain why its ruler was not criticised.
Return to: 545,565
The earliest extant literature in Welsh (or indeed in any living
European language) is the song of praise to Cynan by his bard Taliesin,
possibly as early as the 560s. However, Gildas' testimony on the empty
praises of Maelgwn's "parasites" shows that the practice was at least a
generation older. It may very well trace back to the pre-Roman Celtic
Nennius list of Arthur's twelve battles is also likely to come from a
of praise to Arthur, perhaps even composed during Arthur's lifetime
no mention is made of Camlann.
Return to: 545,565
The story told in this section of the laws of Hywel makes sense in
the following context. Rhun, the son of Maelgwn and presumably king of
Gwynedd, was, according to some genealogies, an illegitimate son by
concubine Gwalltwen. Elidyr, perhaps king of Breint (see map for 585)
husband of Eurgain, the daughter of Maelgwn, may therefore have been
to usurp the throne of Gwynedd. The men of the North who came to avenge
Elidyr were presumably allies of his kingdom. The counterattack by Rhun
shows the power of Gwynedd and why Maelgwn was regarded as a great king
by Gildas and Nennius.
Return to: 560
That Cynan, whose base was probably Powys, was able to menace Cornwall
(that is, Dumnonia) shows that a powerful British king could, in the
project his power across half the country. In the following century,
kings of Powys and Mercia campaigned against the Northumbrians as far
as Stirling in what is now Scotland. In the preceding century, the high
king of the Britons (Riothamus) campaigned in Gaul. These facts show
warfare in the fifth and sixth centuries could be highly mobile. There
is thus no reason to reject Nennius' list of Arthur's battles simply
of their apparently wide geographical spread, especially since Arthur
described, not as a king of some localized realm, but as the leader in
battle for all of the British kings. This is further supported by
giving Arthur simply the title "soldier", rather than "king" (see 520).
Moreover the fact that many of the twelve are not locatable at all
their authenticity. If the list had been fabricated, familiar names
have been chosen.
Return to: 495,520,565
The text by Roger of Wendover implies that Mercia and Essex were
in 527, the beginning of Justinian's reign rather than the end of it,
implied here. The reasons for the emendation are: first, Gildas'
statement that foreign wars had ceased in his lifetime; second,
the reported first ruler of Essex, is supposed to have died in 587
is very unlikely if he founded a kingdom in 527.
Return to: 565,587
Arthur map Petr of Dyfed is one of a number of princes Christened with
this name in Britain around 570. Before this time, it is recorded only
for Arthur, the battle-leader of the Britons. This suggests that the
was already revered around this time, a generation or so after the
of the original Arthur, when the Angles and Saxons were again on the
threatening to undo all of Arthur's achievements. This, along with the
reference by Aneirin in The Gododdin (598) to Arthur, apparently as a
warrior to be emulated, constitutes the earliest references to Arthur's
name and fame. Slightly later, the Death-song of Cynddylan
mid 7th century) calls the warriors of Powys
"the heirs of great Arthur,
As to the name itself, it may derive from the Latin name Artorius
although rare, is attested in Britain as in Lucius Artorius
a 2nd-century prefect (3rd in command) of the legion VI Victrix at York. However, when
was relatinized in the early chronicles, it was usually as Arturus,
than Artorius. Interestingly, all of the recorded 6th century Arthurs have some
with Ireland or Irish settlements in Britain suggests that it is an
name, and indeed that "the Arthur" did too.
Return to: 570,598
fought with the Britons
All of the places named in this 571 entry in the ASC probably lay
the British-named kingdom of Calchvynydd, the "chalk hills" (presumably
the Chilterns [map
(24)]). This kingdom is only attested in late Welsh
it was stated to lie between the Thames and the Trent [map
(25)], and to include the towns of Dunstable [map
(26)] and Northampton [map
(27)] (according to Morris). Like the kingdom of the
have had a mixed British-English population. Certainly there is
evidence for English (probably Saxon) cemeteries, concentrated about
four towns Cuthwulf is said to have captured. The statement that
"Cuthwulf fought with the Britons" is thus almost certainly an
over-simplification. The identity of Cuthwulf himself is also a
mystery. The similarity of his name to that of Ceawlin's brother
(Cutha) and son (Cuthwin) suggest he may be a member of that dynasty.
But the location of the battle at Bedford suggests that he may have
come from East Anglia. Since the area he conquered seems to have come
under Ceawlin's rule, perhaps the latter is responsible for Cuthwulf's
death in that same year.
Return to: 571
him to send them Maedoc
The death of Saint David's is traditionally placed in 589, and Maedoc
was his pupil late in his life (according to Morris). Thus the
an English host in Western Britain through the prayers of Maedoc may
refer to the campaign by Ceawlin in which his was slain and he returned
Return to: 584,589
The statement that all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were in place by 585
should be understood to mean that all of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which
were later prominent were then in existence. The eight kingdoms named
the traditional heptarchy, with Northumbria being explicitly divided
Bernicia and Deira. In fact, there were almost certainly several other
kingdoms in existence then, such as the kingdom of Lindsey, later
Mercia. The listed capitals of the kingdoms are mostly anachronisms
except for Canterbury, York, London, and Winchester, which were
urban centres even in 585.
Return to: 585
Coel Hen (Coel the old, remembered in the nursery rhyme Old King Cole)
was, according to the genealogies, the
of Owain map Urien. He is also claimed as the ancestor of many other
kings, including Gwrgi and Peredur of York, Morcant, Gwallawg of Elmet,
and Dunod. In legend, his daughter "Guaul" (i.e. "Wall") is named as
wife. All of these suggest that he may have been the last dux
commander of the legion VI Victrix at York and the troops of Hadrian's
wall, around the start of the 5th century.
Return to: 401,560,572,582,586,597
Return to The Ruin and
Conquest of Britain main