The Ruin and Conquest of Britain 400 A.D. -- 600 A.D.
As told by the Early Sources Last Modified: 27th December 2017.
Preface 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 events 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 with such contradictions is of course a matter for judgement, and is one reason for the diversity of views on the outline of British history in this period. In some important cases I have discussed my reasoning in footnotes.
Most, perhaps all, of the sources I use are available elsewhere on the web. However they were not when I first put this up (1997) and in any case they have not, to my knowledge, been arranged in this way so as to tell a story. Of course the material in the sources is of variable quality. That of Gildas, mentioned above, is presumably quite reliable for his time, but becomes less reliable for events occurring before his birth. Other authors wrote many centuries after the events they 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 more reliable histories, and which may conceivably have some basis in fact.
To supplement the excerpts from the sources I have occasionally inserted brief comments, clarifications or corrections which are implied or suggested by the same or other sources but which are not worth quoting in themselves. Such additions are indicated in small type. Where the extra information is uncertain, this has been indicated in an obvious manner. As well as these additions, I have added a large number of footnotes. As mentioned above, these contains some of the reasoning behind my reconstruction, 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 because 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 incomplete history. But can it even be called a history? It is, for sure, not history as understood by modern historians. But it is similar to the old-fashioned "synthesizing and reconciling" history 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 History, Routledge, 2002) on the short-comings of this methodology:
This practice involved (and still 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. It 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 estimate" reconstruction.
To supplement the narrative history told below, I have also produced the following resources:
- Summary in the form of a time-line.
- Tables of sources, lifetimes, and army sizes.
- Maps of Britannia in 400, 530, 585, 660, and 942 A.D.
- Map of Europe in 469 A.D.
- Illustrations -- from various sources, some in black and white and some in colour.
Prologue In 400 A.D. the Diocese of Britain (the part of the Island south of Hadrian's wall) had been part of the Roman Empire for over three centuries, and all free-born Britons had been Roman citizens for almost two centuries (since 212). Christianity was well established and the cities remained populated, if somewhat less prosperous than in the past. In the preceding half century 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 generic 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 between the Hadrianic and Antonine walls as federate allies of the Empire. However, 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 Wales, to expel the Scots who had captured large parts of Western Britain at that time.
When I (Britain personified) too was about to succumb to the attack of neighbouring peoples -- for the Scots had raised all Ireland against me, and the sea foamed under hostile oars -- you, Stilicho, fortified me (c.398). This was to such effect that I no longer fear the weapons of the Scots, nor tremble at the Pict, nor along my shore do I look for the approaching Saxon on each uncertain wind. Nennius
The Kindred of Eight came from Ireland and lived there with all their race in Britain until today (c.830). Istoreth son of Istorinus held Dal Riada (in Western Scotland) [Emap (1)] with his people. Bolg with his people held the Isle of Man [Emap (2)], 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. ... Welsh Genealogies
Here are the names of the sons of Cunedda who number nine: i. Typiaun the first born who died in the region called Manaw Gododdin and who did not come with his father and with his aforesaid brothers. His son Meriaun shared in the division of the land with his (Typiaun's) brothers: ii Osmail, iii Rumaun, iiii Dunaut, v Ceretic, vi Abloyc, vii Enniaun girt, viii Docmail, ix Etern. This is the boundary of their territory: 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, the legions, such love they have for their general Stilicho, hastened together from every side. First hasten up the neighbouring troops ...; next the legion deployed in furthest Britain, that kept the fierce Scots in check, whose men had seen the strange devices tattooed on the bodies of the dying Picts. ... The Visigoths were soundly defeated.
I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, ... had for my father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen year of age. ... I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people.
Stilicho was finally forced to withdraw the troops from the frontier in Gaul in order to guard Italy against attack. Zosimus
The Vandals, in conjunction with the Suevi and Alani crossed the Alps and plundered the provinces beyond them in Gaul. They wrought such slaughter and became so formidable even to the armies in Britain that they compelled them, under fear of attack, to elect usurpers, namely Marcus, Gratian and then Constantine. Olympiodorus
There was no doubt discontent (in Britain), with the rule of the Vandal Stilicho, and with lack of attention his government paid to the defence of Britain against the Picts. ... Indeed, in the provinces of Britain before the seventh consulship of Honorius (407), they had stirred the army there to revolt, and proclaimed a certain Marcus 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 straightaway gathered a fleet of ships and a formidable army and invaded both Spain and Gaul with a great force, thinking to control these countries. Zosimus
It was in Honorius' seventh consulship and Theodosius' second (407), that the troops in Britain mutinied and enthroned Marcus, obeying him as emperor there, but when he would not accede to their demands, they killed him and bought forth Gratian, to whom they gave a purple robe, a crown and a body-guard, just like an emperor. Becoming displeased with him also, after four months they deposed and killed him, and made Constantine his successor. After appointing Justinianus and Nebiogastes as Magistri Militum in Gaul, he (Constantine) left Britain and crossed to the continent. Arriving at Bononia (Boulogne) in lower Germany [Emap], the first city after crossing the channel, he stayed there a few days and won over all the armies down to the Alps [Emap] which divide Gaul from Italy.
Previously, ... the Romans were victorious in sharp conflict with them (the Vandals, Suevi and Alani) and killed most of them, but by not pursuing those who fled (in which case they would have annihilated them), they allowed them to recover from their defeat, muster a multitude of barbarians, and make ready for battle again. For these reasons, then, Constantine established garrisons here in the Alps to prevent them free passage into Gaul; he also made the Rhine [Emap], which had been neglected since the time of the emperor Julian (361-363), completely secure.
After these arrangements in Gaul, he bestowed the Caesar's robe on his eldest son, Constans, and sent him to Spain. He was anxious to gain control 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 army from the soldiers there and attack him over the Pyrenees [Emap (6)]. ... Constans therefore crossed into Spain with the Magister (commander) Gerontius ... and secured Spain
After these successes in Spain, Constans returned to his father Constantine .... He left behind the Magister Gerontius with the Gallic troops to guard the pass from Gaul into Spain. But the Spanish troops asked that they be entrusted with this duty as usual and also that the safety of their country 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 against 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 unrestricted incursions.
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 Saxons [Illustration]. The Vandals and Alans wasted parts of Gaul; Constantine the usurper kept a hold on the remainder. ... Finally, the very Rome [Emap (8)], the head of the world, was 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 army)
... obtained Blois [Emap (16)]
... by deceipt.
From Britain envoys set out with their complaints, their clothes (it is said) torn, their heads covered in dust, to beg help from the Romans. ... The Romans ... informed our country that they could 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. Rather, the Britons should stand alone, get used to arms, fight bravely, and defend with all their powers their land, property, wives, children, and, more importantly, their life and liberty. Their enemies were no stronger than 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 hands equipped with shields, swords and lances, ready for the kill. This was the Romans' advice. Zosimus
When Alaric (the leader of the Visigoths) neither gained peace on the terms he proposed nor received any hostages, he again attacked Rome ... and finally captured it. ... Honorius sent letters to the cities of Britain, urging them to fend for themselves. Bern Codex
In 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 Honorius, died with his sons. However the Romans never succeeded in recovering Britain, but it remained from that time on under tyrants. Zosimus
They (the barbarians) reduced the inhabitants of Britain and some parts of Gaul to such straits that they revolted from the Roman Empire, no longer submitted to Roman law, but reverted to their native customs. The Britons, therefore, armed themselves and ran many risks to ensure their own safety and free their cities from the attacking barbarians. The whole of Armorica, [Emap (7)] and other Gallic provinces, in imitation of the Britons, freed themselves in the same way, by expelling the Roman magistrates and establishing the government they wanted. The revolt of the provinces of Britain and Gaul occurred during Constantine's tyranny because the barbarians took advantage of his careless government. ... 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 life to come. This is not hard to understand, for in changing times we expect the deaths of magistrates who have lived criminally, for the greater their 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 women, orphaned many children, leaving them bare and beggared ... for they plundered 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 strangers.
Exuperantius now (c. 418) 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 (9)]
ASC for 418
The Romans (perhaps Romano-Briton aristocracy) collected all the hoards of gold that were in Britain; and some they hid in the earth [Illustration], so that no man afterwards may find them, and some they carried away with them into Gaul. Gildas
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 Picts. ... They were to some extent different in their customs, but they were in perfect accord in their greed for bloodshed: and they were readier to cover their villainous faces with hair than their private parts and neighbouring regions with clothes. They were more confident than usual now that they had learnt of the departure of the Romans and the 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 Hadrian's) [map (4)]. A force was stationed on the high towers to oppose them, but it was too lazy to fight, and too unwieldy to flee; the men were foolish and frightened, and they sat about day and night, rotting away in their folly.
Meanwhile there was no respite from the barbed spears flung by their 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 than usual; once again there were enemy assaults and massacres more cruel. The pitiable citizens were torn apart by their foe like lambs by the butcher; their life became like that of the beasts of the field. For they resorted to looting each other, there being only a tiny amount of food to give brief sustenance to the wretched people; and the disasters from abroad were increased 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 comfort as the art of the huntsman could procure them.
Aëtius became the Magister Militum (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 complaint: `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.' But 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 their plunderers, merely to get a scrap of food to revive them. Not so others: they kept fighting back, basing themselves on the mountains, caves, heaths and thorny thickets. Their enemies had been plundering the land for many years; now for the first time they inflicted a massacre on them, trusting 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, corrupted the British churches by the insinuation of his doctrine. But ... Pope Celestine sent Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, as his representative, and having rejected the heretics, directed the British to the catholic faith. Constantius
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 everybody's judgement were the leading lights of religion, namely Germanus and Lupus. ...
And it was not long before these apostolic priests had filled all Britain, 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 churches, but at the cross-roads, in the fields and in the lanes. Everywhere faithful Catholics were strengthened in their faith and the lapsed learnt the way back to the truth. ...
The teachers of perverse doctrines lay low for a time, lamenting as 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 their wealth, in dazzling robes, surrounded by a crowd of flatterers. They preferred the risk of exposure to a silence that would put them to shame in the eyes of the people they had deceived, who would regard them as having condemned themselves if they had nothing to say.
And indeed there was assembled at the meeting place a crowd of vast proportions, wives and children among them, drawn by the occasion. The people were present both as spectators and jury men. ... The holy bishops gave the privilege of opening the debate to their opponents, who took up the time with empty words drawn out to great length but to little purpose. Then the revered prelates themselves poured out the floods of their eloquence, mingling them with the thunders of the Apostle and the Gospels ... Empty arguments were refuted, dishonest pleas were exposed; and their authors, 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 their hands off them and were not to be stopped from giving their verdicts by their shouts.
Suddenly a man of the rank of tribune, accompanied by his wife, stepped into the middle and put his ten-year-old 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 much alarmed, joined the parents in begging the bishops to cure the little girl. The bishops, seeing that the people were expectant and their opponents in a humbler frame of mind, offered a short prayer, after which Germanus, filled with the holy spirit and in the name of the trinity, took from his neck the reliquary that always hung at his side and in full view of everybody 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 bishops visited the shrine of the blessed martyr Alban (probably in St. Albans) [map (5)], to give thanks to God through him. As they were returning ... 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 the course of which a fire accidentally broke out close to where he was staying. It had burnt several houses, which in those parts are roofed with reeds, and was being carried 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 strong 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 what the injured man on his bed guarded was preserved. Shrinking from the house 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 latter had been compelled to withdraw their forces within their camp and, judging their forces to be totally unequal to the contest, asked the help of holy prelates. The latter sent back a promise to come, and hastened to follow it. Their coming brought such a sense of security that you might have thought that a great army had arrived. ... It was the season of Lent ... and great numbers of this pious army sought the grace of baptism. ... The soldiers paraded still wet from baptism, faith was fervid, the aid of weapons was little thought of, and all looked for help from heaven.
Meanwhile the enemy had learnt of the practices and appearance of the camp. They promised themselves an easy victory over practically disarmed troops and pressed on in haste. But their approach was discovered by scouts, and ... the army ... began to take up their weapons and prepare for battle and Germanus announced that he would be their general. He chose some light-armed troops and made a tour of the outworks. In the direction from which the enemy were expected he saw a valley enclosed by steep mountains. Here he stationed an army on a new model, under his own command.
By now the savage host of the enemy was close at hand and Germanus rapidly 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 chanted the Alleluia. All, as one man, repeated it and the shout they raised rang through the air and echoed many times in the confined space between the mountains. [Illustration] 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 direction, throwing away their weapons and thankful if they could at least save their skins. Many threw themselves into a river which they had just crossed with ease, and were drowned in it. Thus the British army looked on at its revenge 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 rout of the enemy without bloodshed and a victory gained by faith and not by force.
Thus this most wealthy island, with the defeat of both its spiritual and its human foes, was rendered secure in every sense. And now, to the grief of the whole country, those who had won the victories over both Pelagians 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 island kept quiet from now on, though they occasionally carried out devastating 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 flooded 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 that generally befall human nature -- and especially the one that is the downfall of every good condition nowadays too, the hatred of truth and its champions and the love of falsehood and its contrivers. ... Kings were anointed not in 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 gentler and rather more inclined to the truth was regarded as the downfall of Britain: everyone directed their hatred and their weapons at him, with no respect.
Irish Annals for 432
Saint Patrick landed in Ireland.
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. Gildas
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 people --- the imminent approach of the old enemy, bent on total destruction and (as was their wont) on settlement from one end of the country to the other. 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 Angles). AC preface
In the fourth year of Vortigern's reign, the English came to Britain. Bede
In the year 582, Maurice, the fifty-fourth from Augustus, ascended the throne .... the fourteenth year of this emperor (595) was about the one hundred and fiftieth after the coming of the Angles into Britain (445) .... Anglian Genealogies
Aelle was the son of Yffe, son of Uscfrea, son of Wilgils, son of Westeralcna, son of Soemil, son of Seafugul, son of Saebald ... Nennius
Saebald begot Saefugl, begot Soemil. He first separated Deira from Bernicia (read Britain). Soemil begot Swaerta (read Westerfalca) begot Wilgsil begot Wycsfrea begot Yffe begot Aelle.
Meanwhile news came from Britain that a few promoters of the Pelagian heresy were once more spreading it; and again all the bishops joined in urging the man of blessings (St. Germanus) to defend the cause of God for which he had previously won such a victory. ... So, taking with him Severus, a bishop of perfected sanctity, he embarked ....
Meanwhile ... one of the leading men in the country, Elafius be name, 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 withered leg made it impossible for him to stand on his feet.
The whole Province came along with Elafius. The bishops arrived and 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 only a few. These were identified and formally condemned.
At this point Elafius approached to make obeisance to the bishops and presented them his son, whose youth and helplessness made his need clear 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 father got back a son.
The crowds were overwhelmed by the miracle and the Catholic faith implanted 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 consent banished from the island. They were brought to the bishops to be conducted 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 settled, the blessed bishops made a prosperous return back to their own country (Gaul).
Aëtius became consul for the third time. Constantius
He (Germanus) had hardly got home after his overseas expedition when a deputation from Armorica [Emap (7)] came with a petition to the weary prelate. For Aëtius the magnificent, who then governed the state, had been enraged by the insolence of that proud region and, to punish it for daring to rebel, had given Gochar, the savage king of the Alans, permission to subdue it; and Gochar, with a barbarian's greed, was thirsting for wealth.
So one old man was matched against a most warlike people and an idolatrous king, but, under the protection of Christ, he proved greater and stronger 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 with the King, who arrived soon after him.
Laying aside his arrogance the King dismounted and entered upon negotiations 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 pardon that he himself (Germanus) had thus granted to the Armoricans was asked also of the Emperor or Aëtius. Meanwhile the mediation of the Bishop, and his holiness, had restrained a king, recalled an army, and delivered a Province from devastation.
A plague throughout the Roman world probably reached Britain. Gildas
`The stubborn servant', says Solomon, `is not corrected with words'. For a deadly plague swooped brutally on the stupid people, and in a short period laid low so many people, with no sword, that the living could not 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 peoples I have mentioned. Then all the members of the council, together with the proud tyrant, were struck blind; the guard -- or rather the method of destruction --- they devised for our land was that the ferocious Saxons (name not to be spoken!), hated by man and God, should be let into the island like wolves into the fold, to beat back the peoples of the North. Nothing more destructive, nothing more bitter has ever befallen the land. How utter the blindness of their minds! How desperate and crass the stupidity! Of their own free will they invited under the same roof a people whom they feared worse than death even in their absence. Bede
The British consulted what was to be done and where they should seek assistance to prevent or repel the cruel and frequent incursions of the northern nations. They all agreed with their king Vortigern to call over to their aid, from the parts beyond the sea, the Saxon nation. ... The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa. Nennius
... the Saxons were received by Vortigern 347 (read 447) years after the Passion (read Nativity) of Christ (i.e. 448 A.D.).
ASC for 449
Martian and Valentinian assumed the Roman empire (actually in 450) and reigned seven winters. In their days Hengest and Horsa, invited by Vortigern, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet; at first to help the Britons, but later they fought against them. Nennius
After ... the end of the Roman Empire in Britain (?410), the British went in fear for 40 years. ... Then came three keels, driven 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 their language is called Thanet, in British Ruoihm [map (8)]. Gildas
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 winds were favourable; favourable too the omens and auguries, which prophesied, according to a sure potent among them, that they would live for three hundred 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 dreadful claws on the east side of the island, ostensibly to fight for our country, 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 Hengist) settled the island of Britain some time back (from c.700).
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 iniquity, the root of our bitterness, the virulent plant that our merits so well deserved, sprouted in our soil with savage shoots and tendrils. The barbarians 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 `shut the dog's mouth'. Then they again complained that their monthly allowance was insufficient, purposely giving a false colour to individual incidents, and swore that they would break their agreement and plunder the whole island unless more lavish payments were heaped on them. Nennius.
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 bravely against his enemies. But the barbarians multiplied their numbers, and the British could not feed them. When they demanded the promised food and clothing, the British said "We cannot give you food and clothing, for your numbers 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 can send home and invite warriors from the fighting men of our country, that 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 came 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 wine and spirits. They all got exceedingly drunk. When they were drinking Satan entered Vortigern's heart and made him love the girl. Through his interpreter he asked her father for her hand, saying "Ask of me what you will, even to the half of my kingdom". The Triads
Hengest took council with the elders of England, to decide what they 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 Canturguoralen, in ours Kent. So he granted it to them, although Gwyrangon was ruling in 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 Hengest and Rhonwen (his daughter) into this Island. AC preface
From (?the beginning of?) Vortigern's reign to the strife between Ambrosius and Vitalinus 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 conquest by any man or any people, for my people are strong. I will invite my son and his cousin to fight against the Irish, for they are fine warriors. Give them land in the North about the Wall of Hadrian that is called Guaul." So he told him to invite them, and he invited Octha and Ebissa, with forty keels. They sailed around the Picts and wasted the Orkney Islands [Emap (10)], and came and occupied many districts beyond the Frenessican Sea [Emap (11)], as far as the borders of the Picts. ASC for 449
In this way Hengest gradually brought over more and more keels until they left the islands whence they came uninhabited; and as his people grew in strength and numbers, they came to the aforesaid land of the Kentishmen.
The king Vortigern directed them to fight against the Picts; and they did so; and obtained victory wherever they went. They sent to the Angles, and desired them to send more assistance. They described the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the lands. They sent them greater support.
Aëtius was murdered at the order of the Emperor Valentinian.
St. Patrick's conflict with Coroticus, king of Ail (Al Clud, that is Strathclyde) [map (11)]: ... News came to him of the quite iniquitous action of a certain British king called Coroticus, an ill-starred and cruel tyrant. He was a very great persecutor and murderer of Christians. Now Patrick tried to 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 to fellow-citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of 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 blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten for God in countless numbers and have confirmed in Christ!
On the day after the neophytes, clothed in white, had received the chrism (its fragrance on their brows as they were butchered and put to the sword by those I have mentioned), I sent a letter with a holy priest whom I had taught from early childhood ... the letter requested that they should grant 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 sheep are 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 is the man who delivers Christians into the hands of Irish and Picts....
... the church mourns and weeps for its sons and daughters who so far have not been put to the sword, but have been carried off and transported to distant lands ...; and there freeborn men have been sold, Christians reduced to slavery -- and what is more as slaves of the utterly iniquitous, evil and apostate Picts. ...
... Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one baptism or have one God as Father. It is an affront to them that we are Irish. ...
I earnestly beg that ... this letter ... may not be suppressed or hidden on any account by anyone, but rather be read out in front of all the people 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 be 449). Nennius
Vortigern's son Vortimer fought vigorously against Hengest and Horsa and their people. ... Vortimer fought four keen battles against them. The first battle was on the river Darenth (the Derwent in Kent). ASC for 456 or 457
Hengest ... fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Crayford [map (12)] (on the confluence of the Cray and the Derwent), and there slew four thousand men. The Britons then forsook Kent and in great consternation fled to London [map (13)].
Aegidius was appointed Magister Militum in Gaul.
The second battle was at the ford called Episford in their language, Rhyd yr afael in ours, and there fell Horsa and also Vortigern's son Cateyrn. ASC for 455
Hengest and Horsa fought with Vortigern (read Vortimer) the king on the spot that is called Aylesford (in Kent) [map (14)]. His brother Horsa being there slain, Hengest afterwards took the kingdom .... Bede
Horsa, being slain in battle by the Britons, was buried in the Eastern parts of Kent, where a monument bearing his name (more likely a Roman military monument bearing the word "COHORS") is still (in 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 Richborough in Kent) [map (15)]. The barbarians were beaten and he was victorious. They fled to their keels 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, attacking, threatening and terrifying them.
Gloss on Nennius (c.1200)
Aegidius died. His son Syagrius became Rex Romanorum (King of the Romans) in North-West Gaul.
The Roman Senate finally accepted Anthemius, the Eastern 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 Anthemius 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 (12)] 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 greeting, not with the express intention of making my pen respectful in its superscription 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 (13)] to speak without incurring 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 unassertive that he might even be taxed with harmless indolence, complains that his slaves have been enticed from him by underhand persuasion of certain Britons. I cannot say whether his complaint is just: but if you bring the opponents face to face and impartially unravel their contentions, I fancy that this 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 Imperial prefect of Gaul. ... He was arrested and brought in bonds to Rome. ... Amongst other pleas ... the provincials ... were bringing against him 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, dissuading him from peace with the "Greek Emperor" Anthemius, insisting that the Britons stationed beyond the Loire should be attacked, and declaring that Gaul ought according to the law of nations to be divided up with the Burgundians, and a great deal more mad stuff in the same vein, fit to rouse a war-like king to fury and a peaceful one to shame. The opinion 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 lost a great part of his army, he fled with all the men he could gather together, and came to the Burgundians, a neighbouring tribe then allied to the Romans. Gregory of Tours
The Britons were driven from Bourges by the Goths, and many were slain at the village of Deols [Emap (14)]. Count Paul with the Romans (presumably those Riothamus was expecting) and the Franks made war on the Goths and took booty. Nennius
But Vortimer soon after died. Before he died he told his followers to set his tomb by the coast, in the port from which they had departed, saying "I entrust it to you. Wherever else they (the English) may hold a British port or may have settled, they will not live again in this land." But they ignored his command and did not bury him where he had told them, for he is buried in Lincoln [map (16)]. 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 at Vortigern's direction).
Sidonius -- To his dear Ecdicius (c.474)
Now (in 474), if ever, you are wanted by my Arvernians (citizens of Clermont-Ferrand) [Emap (13)]... for manifold reasons. ... I make no mention of the congregation of learning assembled from all 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 their efforts to throw off the scurf of Celtic speech, were initiated into oratorical style and now again into the measures of the Muses. What chiefly kindles the devotion of the whole community to you is that after first requiring them to become Latins, you next (in c.471) prevented them from becoming barbarians.
Never can the image slip from the hearts of the citizens who crowded, men and women of every age and rank, on our half-tottered walls to watch 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 horsemen across some thousands of Goths -- a deed that posterity will find it hard 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. Their 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 battle-order. 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 you usually have guests at your table.
My vows can better conjure up than my words depict the crowd streaming to meet you on your casual way citywards, the salutes, the applause, the tears of joy. We beheld the most auspicious ovation of your mobbed return, the courts of your spacious house thronged, some welcomers kissing off your battle-dust, others removing the bridles slippery with foam and blood, others turning up and ranging the sweat-drenched saddles, undoing the cheek-pieces 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 measuring with trembling, pale fingers the holes broken in cuirasses by cut or thrust. ...
Finally, I remark nothing of your services in raising from your private resources -- with very little aid from our magnates -- what amounted to a public force, with which you have held up the inroads of the barbarians and chastised their devastations. I remark nothing of surprise attacks wiping out whole squadrons with the loss of only two or three men. To the enemy these unforeseen onslaughts proved disastrous.
When Eurich beheld these changes (another civil war amongst the Romans and the death of Anthemius) he seized the city of Arverna [Emap (13)], where the Roman general Ecdicius 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 important) 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 treacherous 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 to 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, unarmed, to confirm the treaty. But Hengest told his followers to hide their daggers under their feet in their shoes, saying "When I call out to you and say `Nimmeth oure saxas' (`draw your knives'), take your daggers from your shoes and fall upon them, and stand firm against them. 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 words but wolfish in heart and deed, sat down, like allies, man beside man. Hengest cried out as he had said, and all three hundred Seniors of king Vortigern were murdered [Illustration], and the king alone was taken and held prisoner. To save his life, he ceded several districts, namely Essex and Sussex.
Then the king (Vortigern) invited his wizards to 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 yourself, for the nation whom you have received into your kingdom has turned against you, and will seek to slay you treacherously, and will occupy all the countries you love, and all your people, after your death. Then the king came with 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 country called Gwynedd; and when he was exploring the mountains of Eryri (Snowdon) [map (17)], 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 stronghold in this place, for it will be for ever safest against the barbarian peoples.' So he assembled his workmen, that is the masons, and assembled the timber 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 nowhere 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 find a child without a father, and he is killed, and the stronghold is sprinkled with his blood, it will never be built at all.'
The boy answered `This mystery is revealed to me and I will make it 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 will 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 kingdoms 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. Gildas
In just punishment for the crimes that had gone before, a fire heaped up and nurtured by the hands of the impious easterners spread from sea to sea. It devastated town and country round about, and, 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 battering of enemy rams; laid low too the inhabitants -- church leaders, priests and people alike, as the swords glinted all around and the flames crackled. 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 wine-press. 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 boon. Others made for lands beyond the sea; beneath the swelling sails they loudly wailed, singing a psalm that took the place of a shanty: "You have given us like sheep for eating and scattered us among the heathen". Others held out, though not without fear, in their own land, trusting their lives with constant foreboding to the high hills, steep, menacing and fortified, to the densest 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 both to issue and to obey orders, to teach and to learn piracy. ... As an enemy they are unsurpassed in brutality. They attack without warning, but when 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, far from terrifying them, is an exercise in seamanship. ... They gladly endure the danger of a rock-bound coast if it enables them to achieve surprise. 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 their departure to sacrifice one in ten of their prisoners by drowning or crucifixion, performing a rite which is all the more tragic for being due to superstition, and distributing to the collected band of doomed men the iniquity of death 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 hair 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 (7)]. Nennius
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 and layman, poor and great, Vortigern wandered from place 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 barbarians, as I have described above; the second Cateyrn; the third Pascent, who ruled 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 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 Vortigern the Thin, son of Vitalis son of Vitalinus ... of Gloiu (Gloucester) [map (1)].
After a time, when the cruel plunderers had gone home, God gave strength to the survivors. Wretched people fled to them from all directions, as eagerly as bees to a beehive when a storm threatens, and begged whole-heartedly ... that they should not be altogether destroyed. Their leader was Ambrosius Aurelianus, a gentleman who, perhaps alone of the Romans, had survived the shock of this notable storm. Certainly his parents, who had worn the purple, were slain in it. His descendants in our day have become greatly inferior to their grandfather's excellence. Under him our people regained their strength, and challenged the victors to battle. The Lord assented, and the battle went their way. From then on, 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 gentleman who, alone of the Romans, had survived the disaster of the Saxons in which his parents, who had worn the purple, had been killed), challenged the victors to battle and defeated them. Nennius
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 advancing their frontiers, sometimes being defeated and expelled. Bede
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 Wessex that men still (in 730) call the nation of the Jutes. From the Old Saxons came the people of Essex and Sussex and Wessex. From Anglia, the land between the kingdoms of the Jutes and the Saxons, came the East 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 West, was deposed by his Germanic Magister Militum, Odavacer.
ASC for 477
Aelle came to Britain with his three sons (?read son) Cymen (?read father of?) Wlenking (?read 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). Felix
The descent of ... a certain man of distinguished Mercian stock .. was traced in set order through the most noble names of famous kings, back to Icel in whom it began in days of old. ASC
Creoda was the son of Cynewald, Cynewald of Cnebba, Cnebba of Icel.
ASC for 485
Aelle fought the Britons near Mercreds-Burnsted.
Gregory of Tours
In the fifth year of his (Clovis, king of the Franks) reign, Syagrius, king of the Romans, son of Aegidius, had his seat in Soissons [Emap (15)] .... And Clovis came against him with Rangachar, his kinsman, because he used to possess the kingdom, 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 other and Syagrius, seeing his army crushed, turned his back and fled swiftly to king Alaric (of the Visigoths) at Toulouse ... but Alaric surrendered him in chains to Clovis' envoys. This left Britain 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 twenty-four winters. Bede
Aethelbert was the son of Oermenric, whose father was Octha, whose father was Orric, surnamed Oesc, from whom the Kings of Kent are wont to be called Oescingas.
ASC for 491
Aelle ... besieged Anderida (The Roman fort of Pevensey) [map (3)] and slew all that were therein; not one Briton there was left.
Chronicle of Anjou
In the tenth year of Clovis' reign, Britons from the
the fortified town of Blois [Emap (16)] had overun the banks of the Loire between Tours and Orleans, and, hiding in the forests, were killing the travellers. Clovis
descended there with haste, killing the Britons or putting them to flight, and destroying Blois.
ASC for 495
Cerdic ... came to Britain with five ships, at a place that is called Cerdicsore. And they fought with the Britons the same day.
Then Arthur fought against them in those days, together with the kings of the Britons; but he was their leader in battle. The first battle was at the mouth of the river Glein (probably the one entering the Wash) [map (4)]. The second, third, fourth and fifth were on another river, called the Douglas, which is in the country of Lindsey (north Lincolnshire) [map (5)]. William of Malmesbury
Ambrosius ... overpowered the presumptuous barbarians with the distinguished service of the warlike Arthur. This is the Arthur about whom the trifles of the Britons rave even now (1125), one certainly not to be dreamed of in false myths, but proclaimed in truthful histories --- indeed, who long sustained his faltering nation, and roused the broken spirits of his countrymen to war.
ASC for 501
The sixth battle of Arthur's
was on the river called Bassas (unlocatable
). The seventh battle was in the Caledonian forest (north of Hadrian's wall
) [map (7)
], 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 Virgin, on his shoulders
and the heathen were put to flight on that day, and there 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 Britons.
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 (9)].
The ninth battle was fought in Caerleon [map (10)]. The tenth battle was fought on the bank of the river called Tryfrwyd (unlocatable). The eleventh battle was on the hill called Agned (unlocatable). Welsh Genealogies
After a long campaign Cadwallon Longhand expelled the Scots from Mon (the Island of Anglesey) [map (11)].
Maelgwn was the son of Cadwallon Longhand, son of Enniaun Girt
Cuneglasus was the son of Eugein White-tooth, son of Enniaun Girt
Vortipor was the son of Aercol ... the Tribune (the 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 nets or till the soil or carry on a sea-trade with the island, being in other respects subject to the Franks, but never making them any tribute ....
Gloss on Nennius (c.1200)
The third wonder of Britain is the hot lake where the baths of Badon (evidently Aquae Sulis, that is now Bath) are, in the country of the Hwicce (in the 12th century?). It is 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 wants, 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. Gildas
From then on, victory went now to our countrymen, now to the enemy ... right up until 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 Ambrosius' victory], as I have learnt, with one month having already passed, and which is also that of my birth. Bede
The first ... of the English kings that had the sovereignty of all the southern provinces that are divided from the northern by the river Humber [map (13)] ... was Aelle, king of the South Saxons. ... Henry of Huntingdon ASC preface
About six years after they had landed (495), they overran the kingdom of the West Saxons ... And Cerdic held the kingdom for sixteen years (i.e. until c.517). ... Creoda 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 strengthened by nature. ... The people there can tell nothing but that they have heard it said that Arthur much resorted to Camalat. Nennius
Popular legend of the Durotriges who inhabit the foot of the hill of Camalat, proclaims ... the name of Arthur, the one-time inhabitant of a fort, which was formerly situated, most magnificent, most strongly fortified, and on a most lofty eminence, where the hill rises up.
... in the country of Ercyng (Archenfield in Herefordshire) [map (15)] ... 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 (17)] on the German coast, where king Theudoric (511-34) of the Franks was at war (in 531) with the Thuringian leader Hermenfred.... Theodoric sent envoys to these Saxons, whose leader was called Hadugat ... and promised them homes for settlement in return for victory. [And he gave them homes north of the river Unstrut, in the lands that he conquered, where their descendents are the Saxons who still (c.860) live there.] Procopius
The island of Britain is (maybe in the 530s
) inhabited by three very populous nations, each having one king over it
. And the names of these nations are the Angles, the Frisians and the Britons, the last being named from the island itself. 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 which appears to be more deserted, and by this means they say that they are winning over the island. Thus it actually happened that not long ago the king of the Franks (Theudoric
?), in sending some of his intimates on an embassy to the Emperor 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
many victories ... gloriously in Britain and in Gaul.
Life of Saint Dalmas of Rodez (an episode dated 534x540)
was hastening to that most devoted one [King Theudobert of the Franks
] with zeal in the region beyond the Loire [Emap (20)
], in a place where nearby was stationed some sort of legion of Britons, it is said that he received hospitality for one evening.
At about this time war and fighting sprang up between the nation of the Varni and the soldiers who live on the island called Britain; and it came about from the following cause. The Varni dwell beyond the Danube river [Emap (18)], and extend as far as the Northern Ocean along the River Rhine [Emap (5)] which separates them from the Franks and other nations who dwell in that region. Now among all these nations which in ancient times dwelt on both sides of the Rhine river each people had its own particular name, but the whole group was called in common Germans. The Island of Britain lies in this part of the ocean not far from the coast, being about two hundred stades (37km, roughly the width of the English channel at its narrowest) off, and approximately opposite the mouth of the Rhine [Emap (19)] ....
The Varni, not long ago, were ruled by a man named Hermegisculus. He, being eager to strengthen his kingdom, had made the sister of Theudibert, ruler of the Franks (534-48), his wedded wife. For his previous wife had died recently, having been the mother of one child, 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 king of the nation of the Angles (perhaps Cynewald), and had given her a large sum of money because of his wooing. Now this man (Hermegisculus), while riding with the most notable 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 expect to die very shortly, and, as far as my wife is concerned I am without issue male or female, and my son furthermore is still unwed and without his bride, 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 alliance by marriage with the Franks than with the islanders. For the men of Britain, 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, being very close neighbours to you and having achieved an enormous power, have 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 power, when it surpasses their own, grievous and a most ready cause of injustice, for a powerful neighbour may with comparative ease secure causes of war against his neighbours who are doing no wrong. Since, then, the facts are 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 purpose, 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 he fell sick and fulfilled his destiny. Then the son of Hermegisculus, after taking over the kingdom of the Varni, by the will of the notable men among these barbarians, carried out the counsel of the dead king, and straightaway renouncing his marriage with his betrothed, became wedded to his step-mother. 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 barbarians, that when merely the name of marriage has been mentioned among them, though the fact has not been accomplished, the woman is considered to have lost 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 had 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 hundred ships immediately and put on board them an army of not fewer than one hundred thousand fighting men, and she in person led forth this expedition against the Varni. And she also took with her one of her brothers who was to assist her in settling the situation, not the one holding the kingship ....
Now these islanders are valiant beyond any of the barbarians we Romans know, and they enter battle on foot. ... And whenever it happens that some of 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 constrained to ride upon horseback, they are altogether unable to leap upon their backs, 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 the ground. Nor, in fact, are the Varni horsemen either, but they too all march on foot. Such, then, are these barbarians. And there were no supernumeraries 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 alone.
When they came to land on the continent, the maiden who commanded them, having established a stockade close by the mouth of the Rhine river, remained there with a small number, but commanded her brother to lead forward all 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 Rhine. So when the Angles reached that place, marching swiftly, the two armies engaged in conflict with one another, and the Varni were defeated decisively. 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 they returned to her and inveighed most vehemently against her brother, declaring that nothing worthy of mention had been achieved by the army, because they had not brought her Radigis alive.
She then selected the most warlike men among them and sent them off straightaway, instructing them to bring the man captive without fail. Then, by way of carrying out her mission, these men went about searching the whole country thoroughly, until they found Radigis hiding in a dense wood; then they bound him and took him back to the girl. So he stood before her eyes trembling and expecting to die instantly by the most cruel death; she, however, contrary to expectations, neither killed him nor inflicted 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 agreement and allied himself to another woman, and had done that even though his betrothed had not been unfaithful. And he, seeking to defend himself against the charge, brought forward the commands of his father and the zeal of his subjects, and he uttered words of supplication and mingled many prayers with his defence, excusing his action by the stress of necessity. And if it was her will that they should be married he promised that what he had 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 from his bonds and recieved kind treatment in all matters, he straightaway dismissed the sister of Theudibert and wedded the girl from Britain. Thus did these events take place.
ASC for 534
Cerdic (read Creoda) died .... Cynric his son succeeded to the government and reigned for twenty six winters. ASC preface
Cynric was the son of Creoda.
AC for 539
The strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut perished. The Triads
The third of the unfortunate counsels of the Island of Britain was the three-fold dividing by Arthur of 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 Camlan; and I was then a reckless youth, and through my desire for battle, I kindled strife between them, and stirred up wrath, when I was sent by Arthur the Emperor to reason with Medrawd, and to show him, that he was his foster-father 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 Arthur charged me with the fairest sayings he could think of, I uttered unto Medrawd the harshest I could devise. And therefore am I called Iddawc the Churn of Britain, for from this did the battle of Camlan ensue. Procopius
And he (Justinian) never ceased pouring out great gifts of money to all the barbarians ... as far as the inhabitants of the island of Britain.
[Negotiations in 537 between the Envoy of the King of the Ostrogoths and Justinian's general Belisarius in Italy:]
Envoy. ... We 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 favour without giving an equivalent.
Monument in Penmachno, Gwynedd
[Erected in] the time of the Consul Justin (1st September 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 mournful complaint is a general loss of good, a heaping up of bad. But no-one should think that anything I say is said out of scorn for humanity or from a conviction that I am superior to all men. No, I sympathize with my country's difficulties, 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 it was, I confess, with unmeasured grief at heart that I kept silent as the space of ten years or more passed by. Then, as now, my inexperience and my worthlessness restrained me from writing any warning, however modest. "What, you wretch?" I say to myself, "Have you, like some important and eminent teacher, been given the task of standing up ... against the rope of congenital sin that has been stretched so far and wide for so many years together? Look after what is committed to your trust, and keep silent. ... Britain has her governors, she has her watchmen. Why should you stutter out your ineptitudes?" Yes she has them, I answer: if not more than she needs, at least not fewer. But they are bowed under the pressure of their great burdens, and have no time to take breath. ...
The final victory of our country ... has been granted to our times by the will of God. ... But the cities of our land are not populated 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 for recovery stuck in the mind of those who witnessed both wonders. That was why kings, public and private persons, priests and churchmen, kept to their 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 greatest effect in instilling the blaze of divine charity in the minds of beholders, 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 to 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. ...
Britain has kings, but they are tyrants; she has judges, but they are wicked. They often plunder and terrorize -- the innocent; they defend and protect -- the guilty and the thieving; they have many wives -- whores and adulteresses; they constantly swear -- false oaths; they make vows -- but almost at once tell lies. they wage wars -- civil and unjust; they chase thieves energetically all over the country -- but love and reward the thieves that sit at their table; they distribute alms profusely -- but pile up an immense mountain of crime 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 .... They hang around the altars swearing oaths -- then shortly afterwards scorn them as though they were dirty stones.
(1) This unspeakable sin is not unknown to the 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 countrymen ...; 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 royal youths and their two guardians. ... so that the place of divine sacrifice was touched by the purple cloaks (as it were) of their drying blood.
Nor did this deed follow upon any commendable actions. For many years before, overcome by the stench of frequent and successive adulteries, he put away his lawful wife against the ban of Christ . ... I know full well 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, lion-whelp ... ? Are you not engulfed by the same slime as the man I just talked of, if not a more deadly one, made up of parricides, fornications, adulteries ...? Do you not hate peace in our country as though it were some noxious snake? In your unjust thirst for civil war and constant plunder, are you not shutting the gates of heavenly peace and consolation to your soul? ... Remember, I pray you, the empty outward show of your fathers and brothers, their youthful and untimely deaths. ...
(3) Why are you senseless and stiff, like a leopard in your behaviour, and spotted with wickedness? Your head is already whitening, 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 life 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 cannot shrug off, the rape of a shameless daughter after the removal and honourable death of your own wife? ...
(4) Why have you been rolling in the filth of your past wickedness ever since your youth, you bear, rider of many and driver of the chariot of the Bear's Stronghold (Probably Dun Arth in eastern Gwynedd) [map (17)], despiser of God and oppressor of his lot, Cuneglasus (son of Eugein White-tooth).... 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 infinite sins. Why, aside from countless other lapses, have you rejected your own wife and now ... do you cast your eyes, with all the reverence (or rather dullness) of your mind, on her villainous sister, although she has promised to God perpetually chaste widowhood ...? ...
(5) What of you, dragon of the island, you who have removed many of these tyrants from their country and even their life? 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 Longhand). ... The King of all kings has made you higher than almost all the generals of Britain, in your kingdom as in your 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 spear and flame in the cruel dispatch of the king your uncle (possibly Eugein White-tooth) and nearly his bravest soldiers ...? Little did you heed the words of the prophet: "Men of blood and craft will not live 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 thing 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 fall".
After your dream of rule by force had gone according to plan, were you not seized by the desire to return to the right road? Perhaps remorseful 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 promise .... 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 and sweetness in heaven and earth then as your wicked return (like some sick hound) to your disgusting vomit has brought grief and weeping now. ... Your excited ears hear not the praises of God from the sweet voices of the tuneful recruits of Christ, not the melodious music of the Church, but empty praises of yourself from the mouths of criminals who grate on the hearing 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 stumbling blocks of evil no obstacle. Like a lively foal to whom everything unknown seems attractive, it is whirled by an uncontrollable fury over wide plains of crime, piling new sins on old. Your presumptive first marriage, after 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, but your brother's son. ... to crown your sacrilege, you ventured on two murders, 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 encouragement 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, not 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 your teacher the refined master (probably St. Illtud) of almost all Britain. ... Do not, I beseech you, reject the unspeakable mercy of God ... You may hear this with deaf ears, spurning the prophets, regarding me, worthless as I am, as of no importance; though it is with sincere piety of mind that I obey the pronouncement of the prophet.
Here, or even earlier, I should have finished this tearful history, this complaint on the evils of the age, so that my lips would not any longer have to speak of the actions of men. But ... I want to give a summary of the threats uttered by the oracles of the prophets against these five mad and debauched horses from the retinue of Pharaoh .... These oracles will form a reliable and beautiful covering for the endeavour of my little work, to protect it from the rain showers of the hostile that will compete to beat upon it. ...
[Then follows the words of the prophets]
What will our ill-starred commanders do now, then? The few who have found the narrow path (true Christianity) and left the broad behind are prevented by God from pouring forth prayers on your 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 Saxons 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 numbers, and they brought over their kings from Germany to rule over them in Britain. This continued down to the time of Ida who was the first king in Bernicia, that is, in Berneich.
Ida, son of Eobba, held the countries in the north of Britain, that is, north of the Humber sea, and reigned twelve years, and joined Deira to Bernicia. At that time Outigern fought bravely against the English nation. Then Talhaern `father of the muse' was famed in poetry; and Aneirin and Taliesin and Bluchbard and Cian, who is called `wheat of song', together at the same time were renowned in British poetry (a few decades later).
King Maelgwn the Great was reigning among the British, in Gwynedd. For his great-great-great grandfather, Cunedda, with his sons, to the number of eight, had come from the north, from the country called Manaw Gododdin, 146 years before ... .
ASC for 547
Bern Codex for 547
Ida began his reign in Bernicia
, from whom first arose the royal kindred of Northumbria. Ida reigned twelve years. He built Bamburgh Castle [map (18)
], 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 Britain.
During these times (542-) there was a pestilence (bubonic plague), by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated. ... For it seemed to move by fixed arrangement, and to tarry for a specified time in each country, casting its blight slightingly upon none, but spreading in either direction right out to the ends of the world, as if fearing lest some corner of the earth might escape it. For it left neither 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 touching them in indifferent fashion, still at a later time it came back. And this 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 empire at large as well as in Constantinople. And it fell also upon the land of the Persians and visited all the other barbarians besides.
AC for 549
A great mortality in which died Maelgwn king of Gwynedd.
ASC for 552
Cynric fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Sarum (near Amesbury) [map (19)], and put them to flight. In this year Aethelbert the son of Oermenric was born, who on the thirty second year of his reign 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 (20)].
Laws of Hywel
The privileges of Arvon: Here (in Arvon, in Gwynedd) Elidyr the courteous, a man from the North, was slain, and after his death, the men of the North came here to avenge him. The chiefs, their leaders, were Clydno of Eydin (Edinburgh); Nedd the generous, son of Senyllt, Mordav the generous, son of Servari; and Rhydderch the generous (of Strathclyde), son of Tudwal Tudglyd; and they came to Arvon [map (21)]; and because Elidyr was slain at Aber Mewdyus in Arvon, they burned Arvon as a further revenge. And then Rhun, son of Maelgwn, and the men of Gwynedd, assembled in arms and proceeded to the banks of the Gweryd (perhaps the river Wear near Durham) [map (22)] in the North ... And thereupon the men of Arvon advanced in the van, and were valorous there: and Taliesin sang "Behold! from the ardency of their blades, With Rhun the reddener of armies, The men of Arvon with their ruddy lances." And then on account of the length of time they remained in arms, their wives slept with their bond servants: and on that account Rhun granted them fourteen privileges. ... Welsh Genealogies
Rhydderch hen was the son of Tutagual, son of Clinoch, son of Dumgual hen, son of Cinuit, son of Ceretic guletic
Clinog eitin was the son of Cinbelin, son of Dumgual hen.
LLywarch hen was the son of Elidyr the courteous, son of Merchiaun, son of Gurgust, son of Keneu, son of Coel hen.
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 thirty years. Nennius
Adda, son of Ida, reigned eight years in Bernicia to 568.
AC for 564
Saint Columba went to Britain (Scotland).
Taliesin --- In Praise of Cynan
Cynan, war's bulwark, poured on me prizes ...
Descendant of Cadell, steadfast in battle, made war on the Wye, spears without number: He slew men of Gwent with a blood-stained blade.
In Mon (Anglesey), mighty battle, superlative praise, crossing the Menai (Anglesey strait): quite easy, the rest!
War at Crug Dyfed, Aergol on the run, never any before seen heading his heard.
Brochfael's son, broad-realmed, bent on dominions, menaces Cornwall, casts doubt on its fate, brings on its distress till it pleads for peace.
My patron, Cynan, first into battle, with bright flames far-spread setting 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 country of 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 lost. In this year was founded the kingdom of the East Saxons, which is now called 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 themselves superior because they refuse to eat meat ... or to ride on a horse or in a carriage. For death enters into them by the windows of pride.
ASC for 568
Ceawlin and his brother Cutha, fought with Aethelbert, and pushed him into Kent, and killed two ealdormen, Oslaf and Cnebba, at Wibbandum (probably Wimbledon, Surrey) [map (23)]. Nennius
Aethelric, son of Ida, reigned four years in Bernicia to 572.
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 slaughter of Christians or effusion of blood or dire captivity. If, however, such things do take place the offenders shall perform penance, laying down their arms for the rest of life. But if one planned to conduct the barbarians to the Christians, and did so according to his will, he shall do penance for the 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 Uffingas. Roger of Wendover
In the year 571 ... Uffa reigns in East Anglia.
Theodoric, son of Ida, reigned seven years in Bernicia 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 Eborac, that is, York) and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio (of Car Luel), in which battle Gwenddolau fell. The Triads
The third of the Faithful War-Bands of the Island of Britain was the War-Band of Gwenddolau son of Ceidiaw at Arfderydd, who continued the battle for a fortnight and a month after their lord was slain. The number of the War-Band ... was twenty-one hundred men.
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 (10)]. ASC for 688
... Cuthwin was the son of Ceawlin ... The Ruin
Snapped rooftrees, towers fallen; the work of the Giants, the Stonesmiths Mouldereth ...
Came days of pestilence, on all sides men fell dead, death fetched off the flower of the people;
Where they stood to fight, waste places; and on the acropolis ruin.
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 son (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 unknown region) and Rheged (Urien's kingdom centred around Cumbria) gathered in arms, Summoned from Argoed (by the wood) as far as Arfnydd (by the mountain) -- They may not delay by so much as a day. Nennius
With a great blustering din, Fflamddwyn shouted "Have these hostages come? Are they ready?" To him then Owain, scourge of the eastlands, "They've not come, no! They're not, nor shall they be ready. And a whelp of Coel would indeed be afflicted Did he have to give any man as a hostage!"
And Urien, lord of Yrechwydd (?Lake district) [map (11)], shouted "If they would meet us now for a treaty, High on a hilltop let's raise our ramparts, Carry our faces over the shield rims, Raise up our spears, men, over our heads, And set upon Fflamddwyn in the midst of 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 leader a host attacked. For a whole year I shall sing to their triumph.
Frithwald reigned six years in Bernicia to 585.
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 conceals:
It is not frivolous to praise him in verse; the grave of the hero 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 district)
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 who asked.
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 stand.
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 suffered 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 offspring.
Of those dead (Owain?) and those living
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), died. The Triads
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 those 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 Hen.
ASC for 584
Ceawlin and his brother Cutha fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Fethanleag (probably Hereford, which used to be called Fenley) [map (12)]. There Cutha was slain. And Ceawlin took many towns, as well as immense booty and wealth. And he returned to his own people in anger. 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 British were engaging in batlle ill prepared, Maedoc .. prayed to God for the British against the English; the English were forthwith put to flight, and the British pursuit lasted for seven days, with great slaughter. Bede
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 number eight; that is to say, the kingdom of Kent, whose capital is Canterbury [map (13)]; the kingdom of the South Saxons, or Sussex, whose capital is Chichester; the kingdom of the East Saxons, or Essex, whose capital city is London [map (14)]; the kingdom of the East-Angles, or East Anglia, whose capital city is Norwich; the kingdom of the West Saxons, whose capital city is Winchester [map (15)]; the kingdom of Mercia, or Middle-Anglia, whose capital city is Dorchester; the kingdom of Northumbria, whose capital city is York [map (16)]. The last kingdom was divided into two (Bernicia and Deira).
At this time there reigned in the island eight kings, whose names are as follow: Aethelbert in Kent, Cissa in Sussex, Ceawlin in Wessex, Credda in Mercia, Erkenwine in Essex, Titilus in East-Anglia, Ella in Deira, and Affrid (?for one year only?) in Bernicia.
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 chieftain, He bridles monarchs and hews them, Strong in war, true lord of Christians. Pictland's men deadly war-bands; Gwen Ystrad your post, battle-honer: Neither field nor forest was spared, Land's bulwark, by the force that came.
Like waves roaring harsh onto shore I saw savage men in war-bands: After morning's fray, torn flesh. I saw border-crossing forces dead, Strong and angry the clamour one heard. Defending Gwen Ystrad one saw a thin rampart and lone weary men.
At the ford I saw men stained with blood Downing arms before a grey-haired lord: They wished for peace, for they found the way barred, Hands crossed, on the strand, cheeks pallid. Their lords wondered at Idon's rich wine (river running red with blood?); Waves washed the tails of their horses.
I saw pillaging men blunted And blood spattering their garments, And 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 wrath gave him joy, Men's bucklers were borne where needed: Lust for battle never leaves Urien.
Hussa reigned seven years in Bernicia to 593. Four kings fought against him, Urien (of Rheged), and Rhydderch Hen (of Strathclyde), and Gwallawg (of Elmet) and Morcant (probably of Gododdin). ... During that time, sometimes the enemy, sometimes the Cymry (i.e. Britons) were victorious, and Urien blockaded them for three days and nights in the island of Medcaud (Lindisfarne, offshore from Bamburgh) [map (17)]. But during this campaign, Urien was assassinated on the instigation of Morcant, from jealousy, because his military skill and generalship surpassed that of all other kings. Roger de Hoveden
Fridubuld (read Affrid?) ... having reigned one year, was succeeded by Hussus (i.e. Hussa), who after a reign of seven years, lost his kingdom and his life. The Triads
The second of the Battle-Leaders of the Island of Britain was Urien son of Cynfarch.
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)
Urien was the son of Cynfarch, son of Merchianum, son of Gurgust letlum, son of Ceneu, son of Coel Hen.
Guallauc was the son of Laenauc, son of Masguic clop, son of Gurgust letlum, son of Ceneu, son of Coel Hen.
Morcant bulc was the son of Cincar braut, son of 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 brother?) 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 his father.
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 West Saxons.
ASC for 591
There was great slaughter of Britons at Wanborough [map (18)]; Ceawlin was driven from his kingdom, and Ceolric reigned six years.
ASC for 593
Ceawlin died, and Cwichelm, and Cryda (probably Credda, king of the Mercians); and Aethelfirth succeeded to the kingdom of the Northumbrians. He was the son of Aethelric, Aethelric of Ida. Nennius
Aethelfirth the artful ... reigned 24 years in the two kingdoms (Bernicia and Deira). Roger of Wendover
In the year 588 (correctly not earlier than 593) Aethelfirth, king of the Bernicians, married Acca, daughter of Ella, king of Deira, and in the process of time had by her seven sons, Eanfrid, Oswald, 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 the Saxons, or English, who dwelt amongst them; however, the goodness of God did not forsake his people whom He foreknew, but sent to the aforesaid nation much 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 England. 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 Britons, 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 Britain. Welsh Genealogies
Dunaut was the son of Pabo, pillar of Britain, son of Arthwys, son of Mar, son of Ceneu son of Coel hen.
Irish Annals for 598
Cathratha in Druad (battle of Catterick?) [map (19)]. The Triads
The first of the Noble Retinues of the Island of Britain was the retinue of Mynyddawg of Eiddyn (Edinburgh) [map (20)] Aneirin -- Y Gododdin (not in order)
Men went to Gododdin (the British kingdom around Edinburgh), laughter-loving, bitter in battle, each blade in line. A brief year they were quiet, in peace (preparing for battle). ...
In the great hall I (Aneirin) drank wine and mead. Many were his (Mynyddawg's) spears. In the clash of men he fashioned a feast (of carrion) for eagles. ... Since I drank, I crossed the border, sad fate.
Men went to Catraeth (Catterick), they were renowned. Wine and mead from gold cups was their drink, a year in noble ceremonial, three hundred, three score and three gold-torqued men.
Men went to Catraeth at dawn: all their fears had been put to flight. Three hundred clashed with ten thousand. They stained their spears ruddy with blood. He held firm, bravest in battle, before the men of Mynyddawg the wealthy.
Warriors went to Catraeth , their host was swift, fresh mead was their feast and it was bitter, three hundred fighting under command, and after the cry of jubilation there was silence. ...
Though the men of Gwynedd and Gogledd (the North) came, through the planning of the sons of Ysgyrran there would be shattered shields. ... Wearing a brooch, in the forefront, armed in the fight, before his death a mighty warrior in combat, a princely leader charging before armies, five 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, Hyfaidd Hir will be praised.
In might a man, a youth in years, of boisterous valour; Swift long-maned steeds under the thigh of a handsome youth; A light broad shield on a slender 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 scattered the enemy. Tudfwlch Hir from his lands and homesteads drove out the English without ceasing. ...
Amid scattered weapons, broken ranks, standing steadfast, with great 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 Marchlew. He cast spears in battle from a bounding, wide-tracked charger. ...
Warriors charged, leaping forward together, short-lived, drunk over the clarified mead, the retinue of Mynyddawg, renown in battle, they paid for their mead feast with their lives. ...
Warriors went to Catraeth, embattled, with a cry, a host of horsemen in dark blue armour, with shields, spear-shafts held aloft with sharp points, and shining mail shirts and swords. ...
He attacked in battle before the cattle herds of the Eastlands, a host with lowered shields arose. With shattered shield before the cattle, the vociferous Beli, a lord above the bloodshed, speedy defender of the border, a grey-haired warrior, a gold-torqued ox, sustained us on his leading horse, spirited and erect. ...
The warriors arose, they assembled, together with one accord they attacked. 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 land, in strife with the mixed host of England, nine score to one, around each mail-clad man, a multitude of horses and armour and silken clothing, Gwaednerth defended his rights through combat. ...
He charged before three hundred of the finest, he cut down both centre and wing, he excelled in the forefront of the noblest host, he gave gifts of horses from the herd in winter. Gwawrddur made his strength a refuge, the front line's bulwark. He glutted black ravens on the rampart of a fortress, but he was not Arthur. ...
Epilogue For Arthur was long dead, and none who followed him could effectively mobilize the military resources of the British kingdoms against the English. The battle of Catterick was almost the last time the British attempted to overthrow the power of the English in the North. With the annihilation of the mounted 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 Bristol 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, which were just beginning the process of conversion into Medieval Christian kingdoms.
Notes Sons of Cunedda
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 grandfather (see 510s), yet Maelgwn is supposed to be Cunedda's great-great-great grandson (see 547). The latter relationship seems more likely since Cunnedda is dated 146 years before Maelgwn. It is likley that Cunedda's "sons" include 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 achieved de 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 province. But the fact that such a punitive Imperial-sponsored expedition almost took place in about 446 lends credence to Nennius' statement that Vortigern 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 Brittany 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 nominal rule and Brittany was not fully incorporated into France until the late Middle ages, roughly contemporaneously with Wales' incorporation into England. 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 Aëtius the Magister Militum, because the dates are roughly commensurate and because Aëtius 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, the years in which Aëtius had been three times a consul. However, this conclusion is based on the assumption that Gildas really is quoting a letter verbatim, rather than fabricating it for rhetorical purposes. There are a number of reasons to think that the latter is the case. First, Gildas says that he is using "not so much literary remains from this country (which, such as they were, are not now available, having been burnt by enemies or removed by our countrymen when they went into exile) as foreign tradition; and that has frequent gaps to blur it." Second, his mis-spelling of Aëtius as Agitius points to oral tradition (these forms would have been pronounced similarly in late Antique latin),
perhaps influenced by the name of Aegidius (457-464). It is highly unlikely that the Britons (anytime from 425 to 455) would mis-spell the name of the most powerful Roman commander in the West when addressing him. Third, the wording of the letter seems rather casual for such an appeal. Thus we can conclude that Gildas knew of a letter to Aëtius (but wrongly spelled his name), that he knew of its intent, and that he knew that Aëtius had been thrice consul. The date assigned to the letter here (c.427) gives a much better fit with the other evidence (including Gildas' narrative) than a date of c.450.
Return to: 427, 446, 454, 457, 464
Saxons and Picts
The traditional site of the Alleluia victory is the Clwyd range near Mold [map (6)] , 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 mention 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 reported raiding even further afield in Ireland (perhaps because resistance in Britain 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 ignores earlier Saxon raiding is backed up by the fact that Gildas describes the Saxons when they do arrive (449) as being "feared worse than death". This surely would only be if the Britons had had prior experience of the Saxons as enemies.
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. The roofs were evidently thatched, rather than tiled, but how significant this 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 longer in the celtic west. Archaeology supports a limited survival of urban life in some towns (e.g. Verlumamium, that is St. Albans, and Viroconium, that is Wroxeter) into the 6th century. In fact a large two-story timber building at Viroconium [map (7)] has been called the last classically inspired building in Britain 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 attests the continued presence in 429 of Roman military titles (tribune) and of the ostentatious wealth of certain citizens.
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 440s 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 Ambrosius Aurelianus was politically active in the 440s it is unlikely that his parents 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 Nennius' authority that Ambrosius Aurelianus was the high-king of Britain.
Return to: 440, 453, 472, 474, 475
The 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 mention 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 ignore it (which is understandable as he was writing for rhetorical effect rather than for posterity). Archaeological evidence indicates that the "wide area" handed over constituted East Anglia (including Cambridgeshire), Lindsey, Deira (East of York), and the upper Thames valley. All but the last were areas probably subject to Pictish raids. The upper Thames valley mercenaries 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 earlier time, as Roman auxiliaries. 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 the "news from Britain" which brought St. Germanus to the country for a second 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 heretics.
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 their hosts. Their placement in the east of Kent indicates that their chief purpose was to support Vortigern's power against fellow Britons and against Rome, rather than to fight the Picts (although it does not disprove the expedition 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 Britain respectively. The gift of Kent to Hengest may have been the cause of the outbreak of hostilities between the two camps. If this interpretation is 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 mediaeval Ambres' burg (Ambrosius' fort).
Return to: 453, 474
Fellow-citizens of the holy Romans
St. Patrick's statements carry significant information regarding mid-5th century British society. Firstly, he refers to Ceretic's soldiers (milites), 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 infer that he would be expected to address them as such. This implies that even the Britons to the North of Hadrian's wall continued to identify with Rome, or at least her church. Thirdly, his request that his letter be read out in front of Coroticus and all his people indicates that he must have expected them to be able to understand latin, the language in which the letter was written. Finally, Patrick's letter gives no hint of paganism among Ceretic's men, even though the nearby Picts and Scots clearly are seen as heathen. 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 wall the Christian church had no real rival (except among the Anglo-Saxons of course).
Return to: 455
This is the one instance where I have altered the ordering of the events in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. Clearly the two battles referred to by Nennius and the ASC are identical, as both mention the death of Horsa. But Nennius, 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 three years is no cause for concern.
Return to: 458
Four keen battles
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 Thanet. 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 and 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 Britain 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 favour the alternative hypothesis that he is identical to Vortimer. This is suggested by the following facts. First, according to the chronology I am proposing, Vortimer would have been the high king at (or at least immediately before) the time that Riothamus was campaigning. Second, according to this chronology Vortimer would have died around the same time as Riothamus' defeat. Third, Riothamus comes from the British ri-tamo = king-high and Vortimer from vor-tamo-ri = over-high-king. Perhaps after his victory over Hengest Vortimer modified his name or title to Riothamus to distance himself from his father's 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, Sidonius' account shows that Celtic rather than Latin was still spoken by the leading families in Gaul in the mid 5th century. Therefore it would probably have been even more entrenched in Britain at that time. Secondly, his victory over the Visigoths outside Clermmont shows the effectiveness of even small numbers of heavy cavalry against disordered barbarian infantry. This is a model for the victories of Ambrosius and Arthur, and suggests that Nennius' account of Arthur's charge at Badon (c.518) is not as unrealistic as might be assumed. The Angles' lack of familiarity with horses is stressed by Procopius (see 533). The other near contemporary model for Arthur' campaigns is that of the mounted host of the Gododdin in 598. Arthur is closer in time to Ecdicius, but Badon is closer in space to Catterick.
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 sea to sea" (placed in 473) there is only the sentence "There was no delay". The battles between Vortimer and Hengest, the latter's expulsion, the former's death, and the latter's return are all ignored or unknown to Gildas. Assuming Nennius is trustworthy here, it is not unlikely that Gildas did deliberately ignore Vortimer; for some political, religious or rhetorical reason Gildas 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. It 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 resistance he met in trying to make good his claim to Essex and Sussex extorted from Vortigern. Certainly it appears that Sussex was not conquered by Hengest, but by Saxons under Aelle from 477 onwards.
Return to: 452, 473
The royal line of the West-Saxons is anomalous in a number of ways. First, their followers are first referred to as Gewisse, a Saxon word which may mean allies or federates. Second, the coast where the invasion supposedly took place was already occupied by Jutes, as recorded by Bede (see 475). Third, the first ruler (Cerdic) has a British name (Caradoc) rather than a Saxon name. Fourth, the arrival of two more ships in 501 has no apparent relation to Cerdic; Porta is obviously a name invented to explain Portsmouth, while one of his sons (Maegla) again has a British name (Bieda is a Saxon 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 seems that the politics of the 5th century were not as clear-cut as the ASC would have us believe. It is quite likely that Cerdic was of British origin, but employed Saxons as federates. Alternatively, he may have been of mixed parentage, and had both British and Saxon followers. In this second case, it is interesting that his lifespan is not incompatible with his being the son of Rowena and Vortigern.
Return to: 475, 495, 501
On his shoulder
It is often suggested that the phrase "on his shoulder" should read "on his shield" because of the similarity of the two Welsh words "ysguid" and "ysguidd". However Nennius wrote in Latin, not ancient Welsh. Also, there are references in Y Gododdin (c. 598) to warriors "wearing a brooch" which suggests that icons worn on the shoulders may not have been unusual. 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, Carleon in South Wales is a surprising location for a British battle leader whose enemy was the Saxons. But there is other evidence that the British kings Aircol in Dyfed and Cadwallon Longhand in Gwynedd were fighting the Scots (Irish) at that time, so it is more likely that they were Arthur's enemy here. Around the same time (498) Fergus the great is supposed to have landed in Scotland, indicating a resurgence of Irish interest in colonizing Britain. Alternatively, this battle (and some of the other recorded battles) may have been fought against other Britons. Certainly civil strife is recorded both before (see 453), during (see 539), and after (see 545, 560, 565, 575) Arthur's time.
Return to: 498, 510
Aelle, 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 important 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 century. The fact that his death is recorded in the period 514-519, suggests that the campaign ended in the massive 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 his seniority.
Return to: 518
Not by brave soldiers
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 reasonable, given that Gildas does not name any Briton between Magnus Maximus and his own time -- Ambrosius is explicitly called a Roman, not a Briton (see above). Furthermore, as quoted in the text for 545, Gildas specifically says that he "had decided to speak ... not of brave soldiers in the stress of war". The fact that Ambrosius is the last mentioned commander before the 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 difference of 19 years (one Easter cycle). The true history of the family of Cerdic will never be known, but the contemporary evidence of Gildas for the peace that followed Badon makes an uneventful (and subsequently almost forgotten) reign by Creoda quite plausible.
Return to: 518, 530, 534
The name Camelot is an invention of French Romance (perhaps inspired by the Roman Camulodunum, that is Colchester). But Leland's identification 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 Arthur. The entire top of the hill was surrounded by four ramparts of earth, the 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 large (200 square metre) hall, plus large amounts of pottery from the Mediterranean. 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
Each 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 Frisians had one king each, these rulers may have been Arthur, Cynewald (grandson of Icel), and Eormenric (king of Kent, which was settled mainly by Frisians 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 mention. Neither do the Scots or the Picts, but it is unlikely that Procopius would 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) is the 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 date is trustworthy, it is conceivable that it preserves a genuine tradition that Arthur campaigned in Gaul. This would hardly have been astonishing: two generations earlier the Briton leader Riothamus had done likewise; moreover in Arthur's time Armorica was ruled 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 534x540, 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 aggressively expansionist, 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 to 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 the result of a purely insular quarrel (of which the Wansdyke, separating Durotrigia from Dobunnia, might be a piece of evidence), but was a (small) part of the process that saw the birth of a new hegemony in the West, a Frankish-Byzantine one.
Return to: 531, 533, 539,
Britain has her governers
Gildas' text contains a few intriguing hints about the political organisation of the Britons. He appears to make a distinction between Britain's governers who bear great burdens, and her kings, who are tyrants. Conceivably Britain's 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 governers, someone mightier than any of the kings of Britain. Gildas provides supporting evidence for this idea. First, he says of Maeglwn "[God] has made you higher than almost all the generals of Britain", but the higher general is presumably not one of Gildas' other kings, or he would have mentioned that fact when castigating them. Second, he says that some of Britain's commanders have 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 commanders, presumably from the part of Britain under governers, had sufficient power 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 shrines which were deprived to the Britons because of English occupation. A more careful reading of this passage shows that he implies no such thing. When he says "I refer to St Alban ..., Aaron and Julius ... and the others ...", he is clearly referring to martyrs (the history of which he was 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 which parts.
Return to: 545
Civil 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 Cynan 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 (Vortipor) and Gwynedd (split between Cuneglasus in the East and Maglocunus in the West). This hypothesis is supported by Gildas castigation of Aurelius Cynan in c.545 for "civil war and constant plunder", which is matched by Taliesin's 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. Higham: Rome, Britain and the Anglo-Saxons) that Gildas himself was living in Durotrigia, which would explain why its ruler was not criticised.
Return to: 545, 565
The earliest extant literature in Welsh (or indeed in any living Western 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 bards. Nennius list of Arthur's twelve battles is also likely to come from a poem of praise to Arthur, perhaps even composed during Arthur's lifetime since no mention is made of Camlann.
Return to: 545, 565
The privileges of Arvon
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 Maelgwn's concubine Gwalltwen. Elidyr, perhaps king of Breint (see map for 585) and husband of Eurgain, the daughter of Maelgwn, may therefore have been attempting 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 560s, project his power across half the country. In the following century, the kings of Powys and Mercia campaigned against the Northumbrians as far north as Stirling in what is now Scotland. In the preceding century, the high king of the Britons (Riothamus) campaigned in Gaul. These facts show that 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 because of their apparently wide geographical spread, especially since Arthur is 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 Nennius' giving Arthur simply the title "soldier", rather than "king" (see 520). Moreover the fact that many of the twelve are not locatable at all suggests their authenticity. If the list had been fabricated, familiar names would have been chosen.
Return to: 495, 520, 565
The text by Roger of Wendover implies that Mercia and Essex were founded in 527, the beginning of Justinian's reign rather than the end of it, as implied here. The reasons for the emendation are: first, Gildas' contemporary statement that foreign wars had ceased in his lifetime; second, Erkenwine, the reported first ruler of Essex, is supposed to have died in 587 which 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 name was already revered around this time, a generation or so after the death of the original Arthur, when the Angles and Saxons were again on the move, 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 (possibly mid 7th century) calls the warriors of Powys
"the heirs of great Arthur, the mighty defender." As to the name itself, it may derive from the Latin name Artorius which, although rare, is attested in Britain as in Lucius Artorius Castus, a 2nd-century prefect (3rd in command) of the legion VI Victrix at York. However, when "Arthur" was relatinized in the early chronicles, it was usually as Arturus, rather than Artorius. Interestingly, all of the recorded 6th century Arthurs have some association with Ireland or Irish settlements in Britain suggests that it is an Irish name, and indeed that "the Arthur" did too.
Return to: 570, 598
Cuthwulf fought with the Britons
All of the places named in this 571 entry in the ASC probably lay within the British-named kingdom of Calchvynydd, the "chalk hills" (presumably the Chilterns [map (24)]). This kingdom is only attested in late Welsh tradition, where 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 Gewissae, it may have had a mixed British-English population. Certainly there is archaeological evidence for English (probably Saxon) cemeteries, concentrated about the 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 was responsible for Cuthwulf's death in that same year.
Return to: 571
David, to ask 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 defeat of an English host in Western Britain through the prayers of Maedoc may well refer to the campaign by Ceawlin in which his was slain and he returned in anger.
Return to: 584, 589
All the kingdoms
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 form the traditional heptarchy, with Northumbria being explicitly divided into Bernicia and Deira. In fact, there were almost certainly several other kingdoms in existence then, such as the kingdom of Lindsey, later absorbed Mercia. The listed capitals of the kingdoms are mostly anachronisms too, except for Canterbury, York, London, and Winchester, which were probably urban centres even in 585.
Return to: 585
Coel Hen (Coel the old, perhaps remembered in the nursery rhyme Old King Cole) was, according to the genealogies, the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Owain map Urien. He is also claimed as the ancestor of many other Northern kings, including Gwrgi and Peredur of York, Morcant, Gwallawg of Elmet, and Dunod. In legend, his daughter "Guaul" (i.e. "Wall") is named as Cunedda's wife. All of these suggest that he may have been the last dux Britanniarum, 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 page