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VOL. I. 











THE text and notes of this Edition have been care- 
fully revised, and as many of the Author's later 
corrections and additions as appeared to have been 
intended and prepared by him for publication have 
been introduced. 

London, January, 1852. 

A 2 



IN this edition the general catalogue of the affinities 
of the Anglo-Saxon language has been enlarged ; and 
lists are added of those which the Author has ob- 
served between many of its words and the corre- 
sponding terms in the ARABIC, the HEBREW, the 
TURKISH, the Susoo, the ANGOLA, the TONGA, and the 
LAPLAND tongues. The analogies which he has 
traced with the PERSIAN, ZEND, and PEHLVI, are not 
inserted with the above in this Volume, because they 
were sent to the Eoyal Society of Literature, and 
may be printed in the next publication of its Trans- 

The Vindication of the antient Welsh Bards, and 
the Essay on the Antiquity of Eime, were printed 
with the fourth edition of this work, and are also 
added at the end of the present; as they are both 
connected with that portion of the British History 
which this work comprises. 

32. Red Lion Square, 
October 1. 1827. 

A 3 




THE first edition of this work was published, in suc- 
cessive parts, between the years 1799 and 1805. 
When the first volume appeared, the subject of the 
Anglo-Saxon antiquities had been nearly forgotten 
by the British public ; although a large part of what 
we most love and venerate in our customs, laws, and 
institutions, originated among our Anglo-Saxon an- 
cestors. A few scholars in a former century had 
cultivated the study, and left grammars, dictionaries, 
and catalogues for our use; but their labours had 
been little heeded, and no one had added to the in- 
formation which they had communicated. The Anglo- 
Saxon MSS. lay still unexamined, and neither their 
contents, nor the important facts which the ancient 
writers and records of other nations had preserved of 
the transactions and fortunes of our ancestors, had 
been ever made a part of our general history. The 
Quida, or death- song, of Ragnar Lodbrog first led 
the present author to perceive the deficiency, and 
excited his wish to supply it. A series of careful 

A 4 


researches into every original document that he had 
the opportunity of examining was immediately begun, 
and steadily pursued, till all that was most worth 
preserving was collected from the Anglo-Saxon MSS. 
and other ancient books. The valuable information 
thus obtained the author endeavoured to give to the 
public, in a readable form, in this work, of which 
two-thirds have not appeared in English history 
before. His favourite desire has been fulfilled a 
taste for the history and remains of our Great An- 
cestors has revived, and is visibly increasing. 

Many writers have since followed in the same 
path. Their publications have spread the useful 
taste, and contributed to obtain for our venerable 
forefathers the attention of their enlightened pos- 
terity. To gratify more fully this patriotic curiosity, 
some additional portions of original matter, from the 
Anglo-Saxon remains, have been inserted in the pre- 
sent edition. The most important of these consist of 
the following additions : 

On reading our Alfred's Anglo-Saxon translation 
of Boetius, the author observed passages which were 
not in the original. Struck with this curious fact, 
he compared the king's work carefully with the Latin 
of Boetius, and found that Alfred had frequently 
taken occasion to insert his own thoughts and reason- 
ings in various parts, forming so many little essays, 
dialogues, and imitated tales, of our venerable sove- 
reign's own composition. Some of the most im- 
portant of these have been selected and translated, 
and inserted in the second volume of the present 

Since the author called the attention of the public, 


in 1805, to the neglected, and indeed unknown Saxon 
heroic poem on Beowulf, Dr. Thorkelin has printed 
it at Copenhagen in 1815. This valuable publication 
has assisted the author in giving a fuller analysis of 
this curious composition in the third volume. 

On the composition of the Anglo-Saxon parlia- 
ment, or witena-gemot, many have desired more 
satisfactory information than the author had incor- 
porated in the preceding editions. He has inserted, 
in the present, all the facts that he found, which 
seemed to have an actual relation to this interesting 
subject, and has added such remarks as they have 
suggested to a mind wishing to be correct and im- 

The author has added a statement of the great 
principles of the Anglo-Saxon Constitution and laws, 
as far as an attentive consideration of our most ancient 
documents has enabled him to discriminate them. 

He has been long since requested to give some 
detail of the Anglo-Saxon population. The Con- 
queror's Record of Domesday afforded good materials 
for this subject. It has been examined, with this 
object in view ; and the reader will find, in the third 
volume, an enumeration of the different classes and 
numbers of people whom it records to have been 
living in England about the time of the Norman 

Some pains have been taken to make the work, in 
its other parts, as improved and as complete as a 
careful diligence could secure, and, at the same time, 
to comprise the whole within the compass of three 
octavo volumes. This object has been attained with- 
out the sacrifice of any material information, al~ 


though, to accomplish it, some parts have been neces- 
sarily printed in a smaller type, and others as 
appendices. But the convenience to the public of 
compressing this history into three volumes seemed 
to outbalance the disadvantage of a partial alteration 
of the printed letter. As it now stands, it presents 
the reader with the History of England from the 
earliest known period to the time of the Norman 

It would have been desirable, for the gratification 
of the curious student, that the original Anglo-Saxon 
of the various passages that are cited and given in 
English should have been added ; but this would 
have extended the work into a fourth volume, and 
have made it more expensive than the author de- 
sired. The public may rely on his assurance, that 
he has endeavoured to make the translations literally 
faithful, in order that the style, as well as the sense, 
of the Anglo-Saxon writer may be perceived. 

London, March, 1820. 





The early Division of Mankind into the civilised and 
Nomadic Nations. The most ancient Population of 
BRITAIN proceeded from the Nomadic. 


Population of Europe disputed - 1 

The Keltic distinguished from the Gothic tribes - 2 

Dr. Percy's table of their different languages - - ib. 

Three great streams of population in Europe - 3 

All population the result of emigration from one race - 4 

Its slow progress, and from the East - 6 

Mankind always in two great classes - 7 

General description of the civilised class 11 

Nomadic, or Barbaric class - ib. 

The first civilised nations - 20 

Our ancestors from the Nomadic class - 21 


That the KIMMERIAN and KELTIC Nations were the 
earliest Inhabitants of the West of Europe. A brief Out- 
line of their Migrations and Expeditions. Settlement 
of their Colonies in BRITAIN. WELSH Traditions on 
this Subject. 

Three genera of languages in Europe - 23 

The Kimmerian, or Keltic - 24 



The Gothic, Scythian, or Teutonic - 24 

The Sarmatian, or Slavonic - ib. 

Kimmerians the earliest inhabitants of Europe - - ib. 

Their movements when attacked by the Scythians - 26 

Their progress to the German Ocean - - 27 

The Cimbri were Kimmerians - 28 

Kimmerians and Cymry in Britain - 30 

Hw Cadarn - 32 

Manners of the Kimmerians and Cimbri - 33 

The Kelts sprang from the Kimmerians - 36 

The Kelts in the west of Europe Their movements - 37 

The Kelts enter Britain - - - 42 



Phenicians in Spain and Britain - 45 

The Cassiterides - - ib. 

These islands, the Scilly Isles, and Cornwall - - 46 

Welsh traditions - 48 

Carthaginians acquainted with Britain - 49 


On the Knowlege which the GREEKS had of the BRITISH 
Islands ; and on the Tradition of the TROJAN Colony. 

The Grecian knowlege of Europe gradual - - 51 

Britain known to the Greeks - - - - 52 

Voyage of Pytheas - - - ib. 

Traditions of Grecian intercourse - 55 

Story of Brutus and his Trojans - - - ib. 


The Manners of the ancient BRITONS. The Druids. 

Forty-five tribes in Britain - - '' . 5$ 

State of the country ,,. - . - 59 

Persons and dress of the Britons - - - 60 



Their houses and customs - 61 

Their war-chariots - - 62 

Their religion - ib. 

Their Druids ------ 64 


Invasion of BRITAIN by JULIUS CESAR. Its final Con- 
quest by the ROMANS. 

Caesar's great projects - - 67 

His first expedition to Britain - ;''- 68 

His second - - 69 

Successes of the emperor Claudius - 71 

Vespasian and Titus in Britain - - 72 

Boadicea's struggle for independence - 73 

Agricola's conquest and improvements - - - ib. 

The walls built by the Romans - - 75 



The Origin of the SAXONS. 


141. Saxons first mentioned by Ptolemy - 78 

not noticed by Tacitus - - .. 79 

Other tribes omitted by Tacitus T - 80 

The Scythian, or Gothic, population of Europe - 81 

The Anglo-Saxons a branch of this - 82 
Existing works in the ancient languages from the 

Gothic stock - - 83 

Scythians in Asia - 84 

6700. Scythians enter Europe - 85 
The Sakai-suna probably the Saxons - -87 

Their country now the province of Karabaugh - ib. 

Ancient Scythian language - 89 

And deities .... ft. 

The Sclavonians, or Sarmatic branch - 90 

Their chronological succession - 91 

Antiquarian theories on the origin of the Saxons 93 



Description of the Country inhabited by the SAXONS near 
the ELBE, before they occupied BRITAIN. 

A. C. Pa s e 

The three Saxon islands - 96 

Northstrandt - - ib. 

Busen - - 97 

Heilig-island, the most celebrated - ib. 

Continental territory of the Saxons - 101 

Ditmarsia - 102 

Stormaria - ib. 

Holsatia - - - - - - 103 


Circumstances favourable to the increase of the SAXON 
Power on the Continent. 

Progress of the Eomans to the Elbe - 105 

Caesar's invasion of Germany - 106 

Augustus subdues its districts to the Rhine - 107 

His operations towards the Danube - ib. 

Progress of Drusus to the Elbe - 109 

Patriotic exertions of Arminius - - 110 

Sanguinary victories of Germanicus - 113 

His recall - 114 

17. Repulse of the Romans to the Rhine - - 115 
Growth of the nations between the Rhine and the 

Elbe - - 116 

235 240. Maximin's invasion of Germany - 119 

Origin of the Francs . ib. 

Their use to the Saxons - - . - - 120 


The Application of the SAXONS to Maritime Expeditions. 

Naval exertions of the nations between the Rhine 

and Elbe - - . 122 

Voyage of Francs from the Euxine - 124 

Its effects on the Saxons - - - ib. 


A. C. Page 

Usurpation of Carausius ,:*) ....jfo [Tr 125 

287. He teaches the Saxons the naval art - 126 

Magnentius allies with them n- 127 


The League of the SAXONS with other States ; and their 
Continental Aggrandizement. 

Their league with the nations between the Rhine 

and Elbe - 128 

The Jutes - 130^] 

The Angles .- . - , 131 -J 


Sequel of their History to the Period of the ANGLO- 
SAXON invasion. 

368. The Saxons attack Britain - 132 

Are defeated by Theodosius - ib. 

370. Defeated by the Romans on the Continent - 1 33 

Their diffusion on the Continent - - 134 

Their colonies in Hungary and Transilvania 135 


The History of BRITAIN elucidated, from the Death of 

MAXIMUS, in 388, to the final Departure of the 

Bede's chronology of this period erroneous - 138 

383 388. Rise and fall of Maximus - -'''..' * ib. 

Rise and actions of Alaric - - 142 

Progress of the Goths *; / - 143 

Progress of Alaric - 144 

Gildasj3pmpared with the imperial writers r 

Movements of the legions in Britain - 148 

Germans excited by Stilicho to invade Gaul - 152 
406. Revolt of the troops in Britain : Constantino 

chosen their emperor '*;"' - 153 

He leaves Britain ' * - - :.! ib. 


A.C. Page 

His officer, Gerontius, confounded by Jeffrey 
with Vortigern ' 1 5 

409. The Barbaric nations attack Britain - ib. 

Britons assert their independence 
Merobaudes on the Consulship of JEtius - 


The History of BRITAIN between the Departure of the 
ROMANS and the Invasion of the SAXONS. 

410. British independence continues - - 159 

Discontented state of the Roman provinces - 161 

They favour the Gothic invaders - - 162 

TheBagaudse - - 163 

The Civitates of Britain - - 165 

Civil discord in the island - 168 

Many kings in Britain - - 169 

Roman improvements in the country - 17CT 

Gildas's picture of their moral state Ji U?_ 




Character and persons of the most ancient Saxons 177 


Their government and laws - i; ,- 181 


Religion of the Saxons in their Pagan state - 185 

Their idols - 187 

Their rites - 192 

Their Irminsula - - - - 193 

Principles of their ancient paganism - 196 

Their traditions on the end of the world - - 197 






On the Menology and Literature of the Pagan SAXONS. 

The Saxon months - 201 

On their alphabetical characters - - - 202 

The Voluspa translated - > - ''- 207 



The Arrival of HENGIST. His Transactions and Wars 
with the BRITONS, and final Settlement in KENT. 

449. Arrival of Hengist 

Saxons make peace with the Picts 
Hengist's battles with Guortimer 
His conquest of Kent 

- 219 

- 225 

- ib. 

- 228 J 


ELLA arrives in SUSSEX, and founds a Kingdom there. 
CERDIC invades the South Part of the Island, and esta- 
blishes the Kingdom of WESSEX. Battles of his Succes- 
sors with the BRITONS. 

477. Arrival of Ella - 
495. Invasion of Cerdic 

Establishes himself in Wessex 
534. His son Cynric - 
560. Ceawlin's great successes 

Genealogies of the Anglo-Saxon kings 

- 231 

- 232 

- 234 

- 235 

- 236 

- 238 


Ancient BRITISH Accounts of the Battles with the WEST 
SAXOXS : and the authentic History of ARTHUR. 

530. Battle of Llongborth 

on the Llawen 

of Bath - 

VOL. I. 

- 243 

- 244 

- ib. 


A. C. Page 

Probable history of ARTHUR - 245 

His birth r- 246 

His actions - - ib. 

How mentioned in the Welsh bards - 249 

542. His death - 251 

His death concealed - 252 

His family - ib. 

1189. His remains discovered - - 253 

And enshrined ----- 254 


Establishment of the ANGLO-SAXONS in EAST ANGLIA, 

MERCIA, and ESSEX. Arrival of IDA in NORTHUM- 
BERLAND. Battles with the BRITONS. Kingdoms of 

527. First arrivals in East Anglia - - 256 

530. Kingdom of ESSEX founded - ib. 

547. Ida arrives in Bernicia - - 257 

State of the north of Britain - ib. 

Urien of Reged - 259 

Battle of Argoed Llyfain - 260 

Gwenystrad - - 261 

Llywarch Hen's elegy on Urien - - 262 

Owen, the son of Urien - - 263 

Battle of Cattraeth - 264 

The Gododin of Aneurin - 265 

Slow progress of the Angles - 270 

559. Ida's death - 271 

Frisians in England 373 

Strandfrisii - ib. 

^ Settlements of the Jutes and Anglo-Saxons - 274 


History of the ANGLO-SAXON Octarchy, and its further 
Successes against the BRITONS, to the beginning of the 
Seventh Century. 

560. An octarchy established - - 276 

Restoration of the Britons predicted by their 
bards - - - - - - 278 


A. C. Page 

560. Anglo-Saxons war with each other - 281 

568. Ethelbert invades Ceawlin - ib. 

591. Ceawlin's death - - 282 

603. Successes of Ethelfrith - - 283 

607. Bangor destroyed - 285 

610. Tewdric defeats Ceolwulph - - - ib. 

Distress of the Welsh - - 286 

614. Cynegil's victory over the Britons - - 287 


The Introduction of CHRISTIANITY among the ANGLO- 

Pope Gregory's desire to convert the Anglo- 
Saxons - 290 

596. He sends Augustin on the mission . 291 

597. Augustin addresses Ethelbert - - 293 
The king becomes a Christian - 294 

604. Christianity introduced into Essex - 295 


Expedition of the EAST ANGLIANS to the RHINE. ED- 
WIN'S Asylum in EAST ANGLIA. REDWALD'S defeat 
and the Introduction of CHRISTIANITY into that Province. 

534547. East Anglians land on the Rhine - - 298 

617. Ethelfrith expels Edwin from Northumbria - 300 

Redwald of East Anglia protects Edwin - - ib. 
defeats Ethelfrith - ib. 

Edwin's reign in Northumbria - - 301 

625. His meditations on Christianity - - 305 

Discussions on it in his witena-gemot - - 306 

628. Edwin and his nobility baptized - - 309 

633. His death - 312 

Cadwallon's victories and defeat - - - 313 

a 2 



The Reign, Actions, and Death of PENDA. History oj 
the ANGLO-SAXON Octarchy to the Accession of ALFRED 


A. C. Page 

627 684. RiseofPenda - 315 

634. Oswald's reign in North umbria, and death - 316 

643. Penda attacks Wessex and East Anglia - - 318 

655. His fall - - 320 

Penda introduces Christianity into Mercia - 321 

His assassination - 323 

650. Sigeberht restores Christianity in Essex - - 324 

670. Oswy's death - - 326 

674. Ecgfrid in Northumbria - - 328 

684. slain against the Picts - - 330 


Reign of ALFRED of NORTHUMBRIA and his Successors. 
History of WESSEX to the Death of INA. 

684728. Alfred the Wise in Northumbria - - 332 

Encourages literature - - 334, 

Ceadwalla in Wessex - - 336 

Mollo's catastrophe - 337 

Ceadwalla's death - _ 333 

688. Ina's accession and reign - - ib. 

721. He abdicates, and goes to Rome - 344 

731. Anglo-Saxon kings at this period - - ib. 


The History of the Octarchy from the Death of INA to the 

Accession of EGBERT in the Year 800. 

728. Ethelheard in Wessex - - _ . 345 

Ethelbald in Mercia - - - ib. 

Defeats the Welsh - 347 

752. His war with Cuthred - - - 348 

And death . 349 


A. C. Page 

755. Revolutions of Northurabria - 350 

774. Offa reigns in Mercia - - 353 

His correspondence with Charlemagne - - 355 

784. Cynewulf of Wessex assassinated - 358 

Vices of queen Eadburga - 360 

Her miserable end - - - - 361 

The Reigns of EGBERT and ETHELWULF. 

800. Egbert accedes - - 363 

819. Rivalry of Wessex and Mercia - - 365 

823. Egbert subdues Kent and Wessex - 367 

Conquers Mercia - 368 

827. Invades Northumbria - - 369 

832. Attacked by the Danes - - ib. 

836. His death - 370 

Doubts as to his being crowned king of England ib. 

Dates and successions of the different kings of 

the octarchy - - 371 



The Political State of NORWAY, SWEDEN, and DENMARK, 
in the Eighth Century. 

State of Norway - 374 

Of Sweden - 376 

Of Denmark - 379 


The SEA-KINGS and Vikingr of the North* 

The sea-kings - - 383 

Northern piracy - - 384 

The vikingr - 387 

The berserkir - - - - - 388 



Comparison between the Histories 0/*SAXO-GRAMMATicus 
and SNORRE. The first Aggression of the NORTHMEN 
on the ANGLO-SAXONS. The Rise, Actions, and Death 

A.C. Page 

Saxo-Grammaticus - 392 

The Icelandic writers - - 393 

Snorre's history - 395 

On the unprovided population of the North - 397 

Ragnar Lodbrog's actions - 401 

His Quida, or death song - 410 


The Reign of ETHEL WULPH. Invasion of the NORTH- 
MEN. Birth of ALFRED the Great His Travels. 
ETHELWULPH'S Deposition. 

836 856. Ethelwulph's reign - - - 414 

849. Birth of Alfred the Great . - 416 

Northmen's invasions - - - -417 

853. Alfred sent to Rome - . 420 

Ethelwulph's charter on the tithes - - 421 

His presents to the pope - 422 

856. Marriage with Judith the French princess - 423 

Deposition j - 424 



856. Ethelbald's accession - . ^26 

Judith's third marriage _ _ 427 

860. Ethelbert succeeds . . ib< 

Alfred's youth and education - - _ 423 




The Accession of ETHELRED, the third Son of ETHEL- 
WULPH. The Arrival of the Sons of RAGNAR LOB- 
IS ROG in ENGLAND. Their Revenge on ELLA. 
Conquests and Depredations. ETIIELBED'S Death. 

A. C. Page 

866. Arrival of the Northern Confederacy - - 437 
The Northmen defeat Ella at York - 439 

867. Alfred's marriage - 440 

868. The Northmen advance to Croyland - 4-41 
870. Invade East Anglia - 449 

Death of Edmund - 453 

Wessex attacked - - 454 

Ethelred dies - - - > - - 457 


The Reign o/*ALFRED t /rom his Accession to his Retirement. 

871. Alfred accedes - ... 458 

His defeat and first peace - 459 

874. Northmen conquer Mercia - 460 

And Bernicia - - - - - 461 

876. They attack Alfred his second peace - - 462 

877. Alfred's naval successes - 463 


ALFRED becomes a Fugitive. Misconduct imputed to him. 

878. Northmen enter Wilts - - 465 
Alfred's flight - - ib. 
Its cause investigated - - 467 
Misconduct imputed to him - 469 
The probable cause - - 473 
Alfred deserted by his subjects - - 474 


His Conduct during his Seclusion. 

His retreat in the cottage described - 477 

His munificence to the peasant - - 481 


A. C. Page 

Ubba's attack in Devonshire - - 483 
Exertions of Alfred before he discovered himself 

to his people - - 484 

His charity - 486 

The Battle which produced ALFRED 's Restoration. 

He visits the Danish camp - 488 

Battle at Ethandune - 490 

Its success - 491 


Review of the Causes and Consequences of the NORTHMAN 
Invasion The Actions of HASTINGS, and his Invasion 

Alfred's treaty with Godrun - 495 

Another attempt of the Northmen - 496 

893. Invasions of Hastings - - 498 

897. Alfred improves his ships - 514 

Hastings finally expelled - - 515 

900. Alfred's death - - - - - 517 







The early Division of Mankind into the Civilised and Nomadic 
Nations. The most ancient Population of Britain proceeded 
from the Nomadic. 

No subject has been more disputed by antiquarian 
writers than the origin of the population of Europe ; 
and no discussions have been more fanciful, more ill- 
tempered, or more contradictory. As vehement and 
pertinacious have been the controversies on the peo- 
pling of Great Britain. Few topics would seern to 
be more remote from the usual currents of human 
passions, than the inquiry from what nations our 
primeval ancestors descended : and yet the works of 
our historical polemics, on investigations so little con- 
nected with any present interest or feeling, abound 
with all the abusive anger which irritability can fur- 
nish ; as well as with all the dogmatism, confusion, 
dreams, and contradictions, that egotism could gene- 
rate, or wranglers and adversaries pursue. 

It is not intended in this work to renew disputa- 

VOL. I. B 


BOOK tions so interminable and so useless. But in order 
. to present the reader with a complete view of the 
History of England, from the earliest period to the 
Norman Conquest, when the Anglo-Saxon dynasty 
ceased, the first division of this history will be de- 
voted to collect, from an impartial consideration of 
the original and ancient writers, that series of facts 
and those reasoned inferences, which most deserve 
the attention and belief of an enlightened age. The 
authentic will be distinguished from the conjectural ; 
and the nearest approach to unbiassed judgment and 
to historical truth, that can be effected on periods 
which are now so obscure, because so remote, will be 
dispassionately attempted. 

After a succession of disputes, which have only 
increased the labyrinths of controversial investigation, 
and made the doubtful more uncertain, Dr. Percy, in 
1770, struck out a clear and certain path, by distin- 
guishing the Keltic from the Gothic tribes ; and by 
arranging the principal languages of Europe, under 
these two distinct genera, with specimens of the Lord's 
prayer in each. l 

1 Dr. Percy's genealogical table was thus composed : 



Old Saxon 

Lowland Scotch 







Old Icelandic. 
























Preface to Mallet's Northern Antiquities, vol. i. p. xxiv. 


He did not pursue his subject farther. But this 
clear separation of the Gothic from the Keltic tribes, 
whom most reasoners on the origin of the European 
nations have confounded, and whom many on the 
continent still confound, laid the foundation for the 
true history of ancient Europe, to those minds whose 
freedom from former prepossessions enabled them to 
feel the justice of this valuable discrimination. 

Mr. Pinkerton, in his dissertation on the Scythians 
and Goths, endeavoured to verify the idea of the 
Bishop of Dromore, by quotations from ancient au- 
thorities ; but he disfigured his work by an abuse of 
the Keltic nations ; by attempting to add unautho- 
rised chronologies ; by some wrong citations ; and by 
several untenable opinions and digressions, with which 
he embarrassed Dr. Percy's simple and judicious ob- 

But to the two genera of languages pointed out by 
Dr. Percy, a third must be added, which prevails in 
the eastern regions of Europe ; the Slavonian or Sar- 
matian. These genera present us with those three 
great sources, from which the nations of the western 
regions of Europe have chiefly derived their various 

Corresponding with this distinction of these lan- 
guages, the most authentic facts that can be now 
gleaned from ancient history, and the most probable 
traditions that have been preserved in Europe, con- 
cur to prove, that it has been peopled by three great 
streams of population from the East, which have fol- 
lowed each other, at intervals so distinct, as to possess 
languages clearly separable from each other. The 
earliest of these, we shall find to have comprised the 
Kimmerian and Keltic race. The second consisted 
Df the Scythian, Gothic, and German tribes ; from 
whom most of the modern nations of continental 
Europe have descended. The third, and most recent, 

B 2 


BOOK comprehends the Slavonian and Sarmatian nations, 
T ' who were bordering on the second race, as they spread 
over Germany ; and who have now established them- 
selves in Poland, Bohemia, Russia, and their vicinities. 
It is from the two first genera of the European popu- 
lation that the ancient inhabitants of England suc- 
cessively descended. 

On the general origin of mankind, two fanciful, 
but unscientific opinions have, at different times, been 
started. One, that men have sprung fortuitously 
from the earth : the other, that there have been 
several aboriginal races. The first was a vulgar error 
of antiquity, arising from its ignorance of natural 
history, which philosophy has long since exploded, 
both from the animal and vegetable kingdoms. The 
other misconception, which has now been stretched, 
with that fertility of error which usually follows the 
desertion of the simple truth, into no fewer than 
seventeen primeval races by some Parisian dreamers, 
is also yielding to our increasing knowledge of phy- 
siology and geography. The doubts on this subject 
have arisen partly from imperfect information, partly, 
from mistaking specific for generical differences, anc 
partly from a discreditable avidity to prefer any sup- 
position to the invaluable, though brief account o: 
the earliest and greatest historiographer of the Jewish 

That population has been, everywhere, the resul 
of emigration from some primeval residence, is th< 
belief of the most intelligent and impartial inquirers 
We can trace, from historical documents, the colo- 
nisation of many parts of the world ; and the tra- 
ditions of other nations sufficiently assure us, tha| 
they have been effusions from more ancient sources 
Where history and tradition fail, we discern the sam 
kind of origin, from the impressive attestations o; 
analogous manners and languages. The unnecessarj 


fables of various original races, as well as spontaneous 
animal vegetation, may therefore now be dismissed 
with equal discredit. Nations have branched off 
from preceding nations, sometimes by intentional 
emigration, and sometimes by accidental separation. 
War, commerce, want, caprice, turbulence, and pride, 
have, in various regions, contributed to disperse the 
human race into new settlements ; and among those 
tribes which have frequented the sea, the casualties 
of the weather have often compelled undesigned 

That there has been some catastrophe, like an uni- 
versal deluge, to which all authentic history must be 
posterior, is now becoming the belief of the most 
discerning geologists. The petrifactions of .animal 
and vegetable substances, which are to be found in 
every part of the globe, and on its hills and moun- 
tains, far distant from the ocean, and of which many 
species are extinct ; and the gigantic animals which 
they prove to have existed, of whom history has left 
no notices, concur with the earliest traditions of al- 
most all countries, and especially of those of whose 
ancient literature and transactions any fragments 
have reached us, to satisfy our reason of the certainty 
of this momentous event. 

But the only ancient record, which connects a 
rational chronology with this awful revolution in 
physical nature the Genesis of Moses has autho- 
rised our best chronologers to place it about 2348 
years before the Christian era. This period is, there- 
fore, the historical limit of all credible antiquity ; and 
precedes, by a long interval, every document which 
has survived to us. But if the human race were at 
this time renewed, it is to a much later date, that we 
must look for the beginnings of the British population. 

The safe rule of Sir Isaac Newton, to admit no 
more causes of natural things, than are sufficient to 


BOOK account for their phenomena, may be efficaciously 
I applied to determine the question, whether the human 
race has originated from one, or many primeval 
stocks ; because the most judicious physiologists now 
agree, that there are no more varieties of form or 
manners among the numerous tribes of mankind, than 
such as the descendants of one pair may have ex- 
hibited, under the varying influences of different 
climates and countries ; and of dissimilar food, cus- 
toms, diseases, and occupations. As we may there- 
fore believe, without credulity, the account of the 
most ancient and venerated history which we possess, 
that all nations have sprung from one original race ; 
it is to its primitive parents in the first source, and 
in the second, to one or more of their three descend- 
ants, who survived that catastrophe, in which the first 
diffusion of human population disappeared, that we 
must refer the various colonies of Britain whom we 
are about to enumerate. 

That the re-peopling of a globe which is nearly 
twenty-four thousand miles in circumference, should 
have been immediately effected no reflecting mind 
will suppose ; and the slow progress which popula- 
tion must have made over so large a surface, could 
not but be more gradual from the mountains, deserts, 
lakes, woods, and rivers, which divide its various 
regions, and obstruct human access. 

The impenetrable forests, ever increasing from the 
vegetative agencies of nature, till checked by human 
labour l ; and the continual and deleterious marshes, 
which rain and rivers are, every year, producing and 
enlarging in all uninhabited countries, must have 
long kept mankind from spreading rapidly, or nume- 
rously, beyond their first settlements. These seem 

1 Mr. Erdmann so recently as 1826, found that in Permia, immense forests 
were then covering nine-tenths of the soil. He entered Siberia by a forest of 



generally to have been made along the inland rivers, 
or on the maritime shores of the earth. Almost 
every where the high mountains are uninhabited, 
while the vallies and the plains abound with towns 
and villages. 

No ancient history exhibits mankind as first in- 
habiting Europe. Although this is now the most 
important part of our globe ; it was once to Asia, 
what the Americas were, until the last three centu- 
ries, to us an unknown, and unexplored world. 
All the records of human transactions in the earliest 
times of our knowlege agree with the Mosaic, and 
with the researches of modern science and antiqua- 
rian curiosity, to place the commencement of popula- 
tion, art, and knowledge, in the eastern portions of 
the earth. Here men first appeared and multiplied ; 
and from hence progressively spread into those wilder 
and ruder districts, where nature was living in all 
her unmolested, but dreary, vacant, and barbarous 

In the plains of warm and prolific climates, which 
the human race first cultivated, ease, abundance, 
leisure, and enjoyment, produced an early civilisation, 
with all its advantages and evils. As the experience 
of the latter has, in subsequent times, and in our 
own, driven many from their native soil and patriotic 
comforts, to pursue the shadows of their hopes in 
new and uncultivated regions ; so it appears to have 
actuated several to similar emigrations, in the earliest 
periods of society. In all ages, mankind have grown 
up into two great classes, which have diverged into 
a marked distinction from each other. It has been 
usual to call one of these, in its connected ramifi- 
cations, the civilised states of antiquity ; and to 
consider the other, with much complacent contumely, 
as savage and barbarous tribes. 

B 4 


BOOK That the primeval tribes of mankind were savage 
f brutes, is a theory which, although it has been 
adorned by the poetry of Lucretius and Horace, may 
be now deemed as credible as the diverging systems 
of two modern speculators, who have respectively 
deduced us from fishes and monkeys. The sober 
truth may rather be considered to be, [that the sur- 
vivors of the antediluvian race, and their immediate 
descendants, must have been a cultivated people; 
that improvement preceded barbarism ; and that the 
wilder tribes were deviations from the more civilised. 
Hence we may reasonably contemplate both these 
descriptions of society as the, same people, of whom 
the Nomadic, or Wandering, radiated, like the modern 
settlers on the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Missouri, 
and the Oronooko, from civilised communities, into 
new circumstances of life and residence ; into deso- 
late solitudes, often grand and picturesque ; but for a 
long time comfortless and appalling: where nature 
reigned in a state of magnificence, as to her vegetable 
and animal subjects, but diffused for some time 
terror, penury, and disease, to all that was intellectual 
and human. It was impossible for any portion of 
the civilised population of the world, to wander from 
their domestic localities, and to penetrate far into 
these unpeopled regions, without changing the 
character and habits of their minds; or without 
being followed by a progeny, still more dissimilar to 
every thing which they had quitted. In some, the 
alteration was a deteriorating process, declining suc- 
cessively into absolute barbarism. But in the far 
greater number it became rather peculiarity than 
perversion, and a peculiarity not without beneficial 
operation on the ulterior advances of human society, 
for it is manifest to the impartial eye, as it calmly 
contemplates most of the less civilised populations 
which have come within the scope of our knowledge, 


.hat original forms of character, and many new and 
admirable habits and institutions, often grew up, in 
these abodes of want, exertion, independence, and 
vicissitudes. The loss of some of the improvements 
of happier society, was compensated by energies and 
principles, which that must necessarily sacrifice, or 
cannot obtain : and it will be nearer the actual 
truth, to consider the barbarous and civilised states 
of antiquity, as possessed of advantages distinct from 
each other ; and perhaps not capable of continuous 
union, although often becoming intermingled, for a 
time, with mutual improvement. 

In our late age of the world, the term barbarian is 
often correctly applicable to many countries which 
we have visited ; but it will be unjust to the ancestors 
of all modern Europe, not to consider, that the appel- 
lation had not anciently a meaning so directly appro- 
priate. The Greeks denominated all nations as barbaroi 
but their own ; although Egypt, Phoenicia, Babylon, 
and Carthage had preceded them in civilisation. 

The rise of the two ancient grand divisions of 
mankind may be dated from their dispersion at the 
confusion of human language. When their unity was 
by this event broken up, and they had separated from 
each other to form independent tribes in new and 
wilder districts, the differences of their manners and 
social life must have soon afterwards begun. The 
choice of northern or southern regions the effects 
of colder or warmer climate the preference of in- 
dolent pasturage to laborious agriculture, and of 
changeable abode to the fixed mansions of a monoto- 
nous city, must have caused their posterities to 
become very dissimilar to each other. To many 
active spirits, it was then more gratifying to hunt 
the eatable animals in their woods, than to cut down 
the trees, grub up their roots, erect log-houses, or 
drain bogs : while some would submit to these 


BOOK patience-needing and slowly-rewarding toils. Hence 
. L . the hunter state, the shepherd state, the rude first- 
clearers' state, and the industrious tillage state, would 
be arising in many places simultaneously with each 
other, and with the more stationary and self-indulgent 
accumulation of city populations in those warmer and 
longer cultivated localities, where the arts, industry, 
and enjoyments of regular life under kings, hier- 
archies, and aristocracies, first appear to the re- 
searches of an investigating curiosity. All these 
conditions of society have been always found too 
coincident to have been originally converted into each 
other ; and when we consider mankind to have early 
branched off into unconnected ramifications, sepa- 
rating for ever from their parent root, we shall per- 
ceive that their coincidence involves no inconsistency. 
We even now, at this late age of the world, see the 
Esquimaux, the wild Indian, the Back-settler, and 
the cultivated Philadelphian, existing at the same 
time in North America ; so did the Egyptian, the 
Scythian, and the Greek ; so did high polish and rude 
barbarism at all times appear in disparted but coeval 
existence, whenever the ancient traveller or historian 
sufficiently extended his geographical inquiries. But 
all the early great divisions of mankind were not, at 
once, as strongly unlike, as the New Hollander, or 
Caffre, is to a modern European. They were at first 
to each other, what the Dorians were to the Athe- 
nians in Greece ; the one a settled population, the 
other migratory and restless. And though we may 
retain the expression of civilisation, as the character 
of the settled races, it will less mislead our imagina- 
tions, if we call the other portion of mankind the 
Nomadic race. These had improvements and civili- 
sation of their own, though of a sterner and more 
hardy nature. They differed in attainments from 
their more polished relatives ; but were not in all 


things their inferiors. It is unjust to degrade those 
with the appellation of barbarians, in the present 
meaning of the term, from whose minds, institutions, 
and manners, all that we now possess in civilisation, 
superior to the most cultivated states of antiquity, 
has been principally derived. Our ancestors sprung 
from the great barbaric or Nomadic stock ; and it 
may divest us of some of our unreasonable prejudices 
and false theories about them, if we make a rapid 
survey of the circumstances by which the two great 
classes of mankind have been principally distin- 

Of these, THE CIVILISED were those nations who, 
from their first appearance in history, have been 
found numerously and durably associated together; 
building fixed habitations ; cultivating continuously 
the same soil ; and fond of connecting their dwellings 
with each other into cities and towns, which, as 
external dangers pressed, they surrounded with walls. 
They multiplied inventions in the mechanic and 
manufacturing arts ; allowed an individual property 
in ground and produce, to be acquired and trans- 
mitted ; and guarded and perpetuated the appropria- 
tion, with all the terrors of law and civil power. 

They became studious of quiet life, political order, 
social courtesy, pleasurable amusements, and domestic 
employments. They exercised mind in frequent and 
refined thought ; pursued intellectual arts and studies ; 
perpetuated their conceptions and reasonings by 
sculptured imagery, w r ritten language, and an im- 
proving literature ; and valued those who excelled 
in mental studies. They promoted and preserved 
the welfare of their societies by well-arranged govern- 
ments, which every citizen was desirous to uphold ; 
by a vigilant policy, which they contentedly obeyed ; 
and by laws, wise in their origin and general tenor, 
but often pursuing human actions with inquisitorial 


BOOK severity; with vindictive jealousy ; with sanguinary 
J^; punishments, and with a minuteness and subtlety, 
which destroyed individual freedom, and bounded 
public improvement. They have usually loved reli- 
gion ; though they have made it a slavery, whose 
established superstitions it was treasonable to resist. 
They erected temples, oracles, and altars ; they 
divided the energies and attributes of the Supreme 
Being, into distinct personalities, which they adored 
as divinities ; made images and mythologies of each ; 
devised and established a ceremonial worship, and 
permanent priesthood, which has usually been in- 
timately connected with their political government ; 
and made the sanctioned teachers of the belief, morals 
and main opinions of their people. 

But these civilised nations, notwithstanding all 
their improvements, and from the operation of some, 
have degenerated into sensuality, into the debasing 
vices, and to effeminate frivolities. The love of 
money, and a rapaciousness for its acquisition, and 
the necessities and false emulation which continual 
luxuries create, have dissolved their social morality, 
and substituted a refined, but persevering and ever- 
calculating selfishness, for that mutual benevolence 
which reason desires, which Christianity now enjoins, 
and which our best sympathies suggest. Super- 
stition, irreligion, and despotism increase, as the 
moral attachments to probity and order lessen ; and 
yet, by their increase, assist to undermine both 
loyalty and patriotism, as well as public happiness. 

Factious violences on the one hand ; legal oppres- 
sions and persecutions on the other ; and an aug- 
menting soldiery, every day becoming dangerous to 
the authorities that need them, from a practical sense 
of their own importance and power, and every day 
enfeebled by inefficient chiefs, because the promotion 
of talent is dangerous to its employers, and is ira- 


peded by the claims of the interested and powerful ; 
have often increased the evils of a voluptuary civili- 
sation, till states have subsided from secret and selfish 
disaffection into feeble and disunited masses ; which 
enemies have shaken, and powerful invaders at last 
subdued. Their mental progress, from all these 
causes, has been usually checked into that limited 
and stationary knowledge, soon becoming comparative 
ignorance, into which even the cultivation and social 
comforts of civilisation have hitherto invariably 
sunk ; and from which the irruptions, spirit, and 
agencies of the Nomadic tribes, or the newer king- 
doms which they have founded, have repeatedly 
rescued the human race. Perhaps another marking 
feature may be mentioned of the political state of the 
ancient civilised nations and this was the want of 
an ennobled and landed Aristocracy. A civic class 
of this sort, like all human inventions, has its own 
peculiar evils: but it is more connected with the 
public emancipation from either regal or sacerdotal 
despotism than is usually imagined and accord- 
ingly it has chiefly prevailed among the Nomadic or 
barbaric nations, and perhaps originated among 
them. From them it has manifestly descended to 
modern Europe and to ourselves. 

The other important part of the ancient population 
that from which we have sprung which the 
civilised world always contemplated with disdain, and 
frequently with horror, comprised those who, under 
various names, of which the Kimrnerians, Kelts, 
Scythians, Goths, and Germans are the most in- 
teresting to us, long preferred a wilder, roaming, and 
more independent life. 

By these, the forests and the hills ; the unbounded 
range of nature ; the solitude of her retreats ; the 
hardy penury of her heaths ; the protection of her 
morasses; and the unrestricted freedom of personal 


BOOK exertion and individual humour (though with all the 
L , privations, dangers, wars, and necessities that attend 
self-dependence, and even human vicinity, unasso- 
ciated by effective government and vigilant laws) 
have yet been preferred to crowded cities and con- 
fused habitations; to petty occupations and con- 
tented submission; to unrelaxing self-government 
and general tranquillity. 

This Nomadic class of mankind was composed of 
distinct families, that multiplied into separate tribes, 
living insulated from each other, and rarely coalescing 
into nations, though sometimes confederating for the 
purposes of war and depredation. Their primeval 
state was, in some, that of the shepherd, and in 
others, of the hunter. Or if any migratory clans 
paused awhile for agriculture, they quitted the soil 
after they had reaped the harvest, and sought out 
new plains to consume and to abandon ; new woods 
to range, and new game to chase. Too fond of in- 
dividual liberty probably the first stimulus to 
many in their separation from civilised society in the 
ages that followed its first great fracture, and too 
moveable and too jealous of restricting laws, to have 
a regular government, they became fierce, proud, 
and irascible; easily excited, rugged in manners, 
boisterous in temper, and implacable in resentments. 
Looking on the kingdoms and cities of refined life 
with contempt for its effeminate habits, and with the 
eye of rapacity for its tempting abundance, all their 
intercourse with it was war, depredation, and cap- 
tivity. Sometimes, multiplying too rapidly for the 
produce of their locality, they moved in large bodies 
to regions unoccupied, or incapable of resisting them; 
and, with their wives, families, and humble property, 
transported themselves forcibly from one country to 
another, to be often again, by some more numerous 
or warlike tribe, dispossessed of their new soil, or to 


be destroyed in wars which were usually extermi- CHAP. 
nations. Revolting as these habits are to our better ^ -^ 
and happier feelings, yet they served at that period 
to penetrate the wild earth, to subdue the exuberance 
of excessive vegetation, and to begin the first pro- 
cesses of preparing the unpeopled world for the cul- 
tivation and settlements of an improved posterity. 
They levelled some forests, and made roads through 
others ; they found out the fords of rivers, the passes 
of the mountains, and the permeable parts of the 
insalubrious marshes. Their wars and depredations, 
their ravages and restless dispositions, were per- 
petually clearing new ground for human cultivation, 
and making new channels for human intercourse 
through unknown countries. Their vicissitudes, 
though perpetuating their ferocity, yet kept them 
under particular excitement, and nourished hardy 
and active bodies. 

Building their rude huts in the woods for easier 
defence, every invader that dislodged them, and pro- 
claimed his triumph by his conflagrations, only drove 
them to explore and people more inaccessible soli- 
tudes, and rendered the district they quitted unfit 
for barbaric occupation, but more adapted to become 
the residence of peaceful colonists. By their desul- 
tory movements, the domesticated animals, most 
useful to mankind, were diffusely scattered ; the 
savage beasts destroyed ; and new germs of future 
tribes were every where deposited, till some branches 
or other of the Nomadic tribes had moved, from the 
Asiatic Bosphorus, to the farthest shores of the 
European continent. Of these, the Kimmerians were 
the most advanced in the north-west ; and the Kelts 
towards the west and south. 

In this state a new description of society became 
perpetuated and diffused, in which the greatest de- * 
gree of individual liberty was exerted and allowed 


BOOK that could be made compatible with any social com- 
. bination. 

Liberty was the spring and principle of their 
political associations, and pervaded the few civil in- 
stitutions which their habits required, and their 
humours permitted. Neither chief nor priest was 
suffered to have much power. Influence, not autho- 
rity, was the characteristic of the shadowy govern- 
ment which they respected; nobility arose among 
them from successful war; and petty conquests of 
an hostile soil laid the foundation of a territorial 
aristocracy. The power and property of these for- 
tunate adventurers being held, as they had been 
acquired, by the sword, they were governable only 
so far as they chose to assent ; and the free man who 
lived in society with them, being neither less warlike, 
less irritable, nor more submitting, it was the sacred 
custom of almost all their tribes, that a national 
council should be an inseparable portion of the sove- 
reignty or civil government of each ; in which all 
legislation should originate ; by which the executive 
power of the chosen ruler should be continually con- 
trolled ; in which all general measures of the state 
should be considered and determined, and all taxes 
imposed ; and to which every freeman that was ag- 
grieved might appeal for redress. We have direct 
historical evidence of this fact among all the German 
and Gothic tribes, and sufficient intimation that it 
had once prevailed among the Kimmerians and 
Kelts. Hence, while a political submission became 
the mark and practice of the civilised, individual 
independence and political liberty became the cha- 
racteristic of the Nomadic. A fierce and jealous 
spirit of control never left them. As each man chose 
to be principally his own avenger, instead of leaving, 
like the civilised, the punishment of wrong to the 
magistrate and the laws, their feuds were unceasing 


and inveterate. A martial temper and habit became 
necessary to their existence ; and the penury which 
attended their aversion to peaceful drudgery, their 
mutual desolations, and their wandering life, com- 
pelled them to seek both their food and comforts 
from war and rapine. 

Yet amid these habits, a fearless and enterprising 
spirit, and a personal dignity and highminded tem- 
per were nourished ; and the hardy and manly vir- 
tues became pleasing habits. In this life of constant 
activity, want, privation, courage, vigilance, en- 
durance, and exertion, the female virtues were called 
perpetually into action ; arid their uses were felt to 
be so important, that the fair sex obtained among all 
the tribes of ancient Germany a rank, an estimation, 
and an attachment which were unknown in all the 
civilised world of antiquity, and which the spirit of 
Christianity has since matured and completed. 

Most of our improvements are, for a time, incom- 
patible with each other ; and must be separately 
pursued and successively attained. Hence, the divi- 
sion of mankind into the Nomadic and the civilised 
conditions of society has been instrumental to a 
greater progress, and productive of more blessings, 
than an uniform and simultaneous civilisation of all 
would have occasioned. 

The subjected temper and patient habits of civilised 
life acquire merits, which the fierce and enterprising 
spirit of the wilder state cannot attain ; but this pos- 
sesses an originality, an activity, a strength, and a 
vigorous virtue, which gives civilisation new ener- 
gies, dissipates its corruptions, and breaks its enslaving 
bonds. All nations have been most improved by 
due mixtures of these two great classes. The earlier 
civilised have been repeatedly disciplined, and, in the 
end, benefited by the invasions and conquests of the 

VOL. i. c 


BOOK Nomadic. Many debasing vices" have been checked : 
. * . many injurious governments and institutions dis- 
solved; and many pertinacious errors destroyed. 
And of those ruder nations, from which the British 
population has been formed, it will be obvious to 
every inquirer, that some of their peculiar habits and 
institutions, which were well adapted to their freer 
life, and which originated from their peculiar neces- 
sities and circumstances, have become the source of 
our greatest improvements in legislation, society, 
knowledge, and general comfort. The Nomadic 
mind is a mind of great energy and sagacity, in the 
pursuits and necessities peculiar to that state ; and 
has devised many laws, principles of government, 
customs, and institutions, which have been superior 
to others that the earlier civilised have established. 

The Saxons, Franks, Burgundians, Goths, and 
Northmen have been distinguished by these charac- 

That these nations were ignorant of Grecian and 
Koman literature, and of the sciences of Egypt, was ; 
the consequence of their early separation from the 
civilised communities, before these intellectual bless- 
ings had been attained, or much diffused ; and of 
their subsequent loss of intercourse with those 
nations, when more generally enlightened. 

A state of ignorance must, in all countries, and in 
every individual, precede that of knowledge ; because 
knowledge cannot be intuitive, though the power to 
receive and to apprehend it be innate. In whatever 
world the mind exists, it must acquire the knowledge 
of what that world contains, after its birth ; after its 
senses have begun to act, and to be acted on by the, 
objects and events which it may contain. Hence,- 
every nation must pass gradually from its times of 
ignorance, to its period of intellectual eminence, and 
general information. 


But although our Nomadic ancestors were long 
without the cultivation of knowledge and literature, 
they were not therefore mentally inert. 

There is an education of mind, distinct from the 
literary, which is gradually imparted by the contin- 
gencies of active life. In this, which is always the 
education of the largest portion of mankind, our an- 
cestors were never deficient. 

The operation of this practical, but powerful intel- 
lect, may be traced in the wisdom and energy of their 
great political mechanisms arid municipal institutions. 
It pervades their ancient laws ; and is displayed in 
full dimensions, as to our Saxon and Norman ances- 
tors, in that collection of our native jurisprudence, 
which Bracton has transmitted to us. The system 
*of our common law, there exhibited, was admirably 
adapted to their wants and benefit ; and has mainly 
contributed to form those national bulwarks, and that 
individual character, by which England has been so 
long enriched and so vigorously upheld. 

It is well known, that, of the two states which we 
have been considering, literary and scientific know- 
ledge has been the earliest acquired by the civilised ; 
and has always continued to be, with some partial 
fluctuations, their peculiar property; continually, 
though often tardily increasing, till they reached at 
length that line of limitation, which their manners 
and institutions finally create. 

But the natural capacity and the intellectual ac- 
tivity, though with a different application, have been 
equal in both classes. Influenced by dissimilar cir- 
cumstances, and directed to distinct subjects, the 
mental power of each may have appeared to be dis- 
proportionate, when it was only diversified ; but its 
exertion among those called barbarians, in their 
forest-habitations, in their predatory expeditions, in 
their rude councils and national wars, was unceasing ; 

c 2 


BOOK and so finally effective, that the genius of civilised 
... L , Rome, repeatedly endangered by their hostilities, was 
at last subdued by their superior energies. 

These two states seem to have been in all ages so 
contemporaneous, and to have pervaded the world 
so equally together, and in such constant vicinity, 
that history has recorded no era, since the separation 
of mankind at Babel, in which either has been ex- 
tinct. On the contrary, the settler and the wan- 
derer; the restless and the tranquil; the hunter 
Indian ; the pastoral Tartar ; the Arab plunderer, 
and the polished lover of city habits and of peaceful 
life, have, under different denominations of tribes 
and nations, at all times co-existed. As far as his- 
tory ascends, the world has been agitated and bene- 
fited by the perpetual diversity. This fact of their* 
unceasing co-existence confirms the idea, that the 
Nomadic were originally but branches of the civilised, 
as the migratory settlers on the Ohio and Missouri 
in our days are the effusions of other states, more 
advanced and improved: and, but that such men 
cannot now go, where civilisation from its command- 
ing extent, and with its transforming effects, will 
not soon pursue them, their posterity would become 
the Scythians and Goths of modern times ; and! 
exhibit an example of the formation of new barbaric 

The nations that appeared the earliest in the civil- 
ised state, were the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, 
/ Chinese, and Babylonians ; and these have never been 
/ known in the Nomadic or barbaric state. In a later 
& age, partly offsets from these, or from a kindred seed, 
the Carthaginians, Greeks, Persians, Hindoos, and 
Romans emerged; of whom the Greeks and Romans 
began, at first, to act in their uncivilised condition. 

Some of these nations both of the earlier and the 
later improved the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and 


Greeks, either visited Britain, or were acquainted 
with it ; and the Romans ultimately conquered and 
occupied it. But the great masses of the popula- 
tions, which have successively planted themselves in 
the British islands, have sprung from the Nomadic 
classes. The earliest of these that reached the north- 
ern and western confines of Europe, the Kimmerians 
and Kelts, may be regarded as our first ancestors ; 
and from the German or Gothic nations who formed, 
with the Scythians, the second great flood of popula- 
tion into Europe, our Anglo-Saxon and Norman 
ancestors proceeded. The Sarmatic, or third Nomadic 
race, have never effected any settlements among us ; 
nor reached those states of the continent from which 
they could have troubled us. England has seen them 
only as visitors and friends. 

The migrations by land precede those by sea. The 
facilities of movement are greater : while the ocean 
is a scene of danger, that repels adventure, as long 
as other avenues of hope, or safety, are as accessible. 
But the chronology of these transplantations cannot 
now be determined. It is most probable, that popu- 
lation advanced contemporaneously, though not with 
an equal ratio, from both land and sea. The sea- 
coasts, nearest to the first civilised states, were gra- 
dually visited and peopled, as Greece from Egypt 
and Tyre ; and the islands of the Archipelago and 
the Mediterranean, as well as Africa and Spain, were 
colonised by the Phoenicians. But the greatest waves 
of population have rolled inland from the east. Tribe 
after tribe moved over the Bosphorus into Europe, 
until at length the human race penetrated its forests 
and morasses to the frozen regions in the north, and 
to the farthest shores of the ocean on the west. Our 
islands derived their population chiefly from branches 
of the inland hordes of Europe, though the habitual 
visits of the maritime nations of antiquity, the Phos- 

c 3 


BOOK nicians and Carthaginians, and their Spanish settle- 

. L , ments, were not likely to have occurred without 

leaving some colonial and permanent results. 3 

3 It is highly interesting to an Englishman, who has sprung from the uncivilised 
races of antiquity, to contemplate the deities and sculptures of Egypt in the court- 
yard and entrance hall of the British Museum. He there sees the venerated pro- 
ductions of the earliest civilised nation reposing in the metropolis of the descendants 
of one of the earth's most distant Nomadic tribes. When Egypt was in her splen- 
dour, England was barbaric and unknown, and scarcely suspected to be existing at 
the supposed end of the habitable world. England has now reached one of the 
highest summits of human civilisation ; and Egypt has sunk into our ancestors' 
darkest state, without their free and hardy virtues. Osiris and Isis transported 
from the worshipping Nile to the Thames, to be but the gaze and criticism of 
public curiosity ! The awing head of Memnon in London ! ! There is a melan- 
choly sublimity in this revolution of human greatness, yet soon changing into a 
feeling of triumph in the recollection, that were Egypt now in her proudest state, 
she would not be, in any thing, our superior. Indeed she would rather be in the 
comparison no less inferior to us in the present state of our arts, sciences, manu- 
factures, commerce, cultivated mind, and national greatness, than our barbaric 
ancestors would have been deemed by her in the period of her Rhameses, Sesostris, 
and Amenoph, and of the other great monarchs with whom their gigantic temples 
and deciphered inscriptions have lately brought us acquainted. 



The Kimmerian and Keltic Nations were the earliest Inhabitants 
of the West of Europe. A brief Outline of their Migrations 
and Expeditions. Settlement of their Colonies in Britain. 
Welsh Traditions on this Subject. 

FKOM the languages already remarked to have pre- 
vailed in Europe, we have clear indications of the 
three distinct and successive streams of population, 
to which we have alluded, because we find two 
separate families of languages to have pervaded the 
northern and western regions: with a third, on its 
eastern frontier, each family being peculiar to certain 
states. These three languages may be classed under 
the general names of the Keltic, the Gothic, and the 
Slavonic ; and from the localities in which we find 
them, and from the names of the ancient nations 
who are first recorded to have inhabited those local 
ities, they may be also called the Kimmerian, the 
Scythian, and the Sarmatian. Of these, the Welsh, 
the Gaelic, the Irish, the Cornish, the Armoric, the 
Manks, and the ancient Gaulish tongue, are the re- 
lated languages which have proceeded from the KIM- 
MERIAN or KELTIC source. The Anglo-Saxon, the 
Franco-theotisc, the Mseso-gothic, and the Islandic of 
former times ; and the present German, Suabian, 
Swiss, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Ork- 
neyan, English, and Lowland Scotch, are ramifica- 
tions of the great GOTHIC or SCYTHIAN stock. The 
third genus of European languages, the ancient Sar- 
matian, or modern Slavonic, appears in the present 
Polish and Russian, and in their adjacent dialects. 
The languages classed under each of the above 


BOOK heads are so visibly related together, as to make so 
. * , many distinct families, issuing from the same parent 
stocks ; but each stem is so dissimilar to the others, 
as to mark a different source and chronology of 
origin. The local positions in Europe of the dif- 
ferent nations using these tongues, are also evidence 
of their successive chronology. The Keltic or Kim- 
inerian is in the farthest part of the west, in the 
British islands, and on the western shores of France. 
The Scythian or Gothic languages occupy the great 
body of the European continent, from the ocean to 
the Vistula, and have spread into England. In the 
eastern parts of Europe, most contiguous to Asia, 
and also extending into Asia, the Sarmatian or 
Slavonic tongues are diffused. So that we perceive 
at once, that the Kimmerian or Keltic nations, to 
have reached the westerly position, must have first 
inhabited Europe ; that the Scythian or Gothic tribes 
must have followed next, and have principally peo- 
pled it ; and that the Sarmatian or Slavonic people 
have been the latest colonists. Other nations have 
entered it at more recent periods, as the Huns and 
the Eomans ; and some others have established par- 
tial settlements, as the Lydians in Tuscany ; the 
Greeks at Marseilles, and in Italy; the Phrenicians 
and Carthaginians in Spain. But the three stocks, 
already noticed, are clearly the main sources of the 
ancient population of the European continent, in its 
northern and western portions. 

The most authentic accounts of ancient history 
confirm the preceding statement. 

That the Kimmerians were in Europe before the 
Scythian tribes, we learn from the information of 
Herodotus, the father of Grecian history. He states, 
apparently from the information of the Scythians 
themselves, that the Kimmerians anciently possessed 
those regions in Europe which the Scythians were 


occupying in his time. 1 And these Scythians were CHAP. 
then spread from the Danube towards the Baltic and ,, ^ 
the north. 

It cannot now be ascertained, when the Kimme- 
rians first passed out of Asia over the Bosphorus, 
which they named ; but that they were in Europe, in 
the days of Homer, is obvious, because he mentions 
them in his Odyssey 2 ; and he appears to have lived, 
at least eight hundred years before the Christian sera. 
That he was acquainted with the position of the 
Kimmerians, in the north-eastern parts of Europe, is 
three times asserted by Strabo. 3 

That the Kimmerians were inhabiting these places, 
above seven hundred years before our Saviour's ad- 
vent, we have direct historical evidence ; because it 
was about this period, if not before, that they were at- 
tacked by the Scythians in these settlements. 4 Over- 
powered by this invasion, the Kimmerians of these 
districts moved from Europe into Asia Minor; and 
afflicted its maritime regions with calamities, from 
their warfare, which Ionia remembered with such 
horror, as to believe that they sprang from the infer- 
nal regions ; to the neighbourhood of which even 
Homer consigns them. 5 

The part of the Kimmerian population, which the 

1 Herod. Melpom. s. 11. I have adopted the Greek orthography of the K, 
K.i/j./j.epioi, because it expresses the proper pronunciation of the word. 

, Od. A. v. 14. He places them on the Pontus, at the extre- 
mities of the ocean ; and describes them as covered with those mists and clouds, 
which popular belief has attached to the northern regions of the Euxine. The 
Turkish name Karah Deksi, the Greek Maupo aAa<r<ra, and our Black Sea, imply 
the same opinion. Bayer says, that he has had it from eye-witnesses, that all 
the Pontus and its shores are infested by dense and dark fog. Comm. Acad. 
Petrop. t. ii. p. 421. 

3 Strabo, Geog. p. 12. 38. 222. 

4 Herodotus states this invasion to have occurred in the reign of Ardyes, the 
son of Gyges, lib. i. s. 15. Ardyes reigned from 680 to 631 years before Christ. 
Strabo places the same event in Homer's time or before, on the authority of some 
other historians, p. 38. 222. We can scarcely reduce any of the facts of ancient 
classical history, before the Persian war, to exact chronology. 

5 " As Homer knew that the Kimmerians were in the north and west regions on 
the Bosphorus, he made them to be near Hades ; and perhaps according to the 
common opinions of the lonians concerning that race." Strabo, Geog. p. 222. 


BOOK Scythians thus disturbed, was then occupying the 
. L . peninsula, which from them obtained the name of the 
Kimmerian Chersonesus; and its vicinity. Their 
name was also retained, after their departure, in the 
adjoining Bosphorus, in a mountain, and in a city on 
the peninsula, where the isthmus was protected by a 
ditch and a rampart. In these parts of Europe they 
had possessed great power, before the Scythians at- 
tacked them 6 ; and Herodotus says, that in his time, 
several Kimmerian walls and ports were to be seen 
there. 7 The Turks are now the masters of this 
country, but their dominion begins to decline. 

The retreat of the Kimmerians, who fled before the 
Scythians, has given rise to the assertion, that they 
conquered Asia, because what the Komans called Asia 
Minor, was by the more ancient Greeks usually de- 
nominated Asia ; but it is clear that their irruption 
was along the sea-coast, and did not extend beyond 
the maritime districts. 8 One of their chiefs who 
conducted it was called Lygdamis ; he penetrated into 
Lydia and Ionia, took Sardis, and died in Cilicia. 
This destructive incursion, which succeeded probably 
because it was unexpected, has been mentioned by 
some Greek poets 9 , as well as by Herodotus 10 , Callis- 
thenes 11 , and Strabo. 12 They were at length expelled 
from Asia Minor by the father of Croesus. 13 

When the Scythians first attacked them on the 
European side of their Bosphorus, their endangered 
tribes held a council; the chiefs and their friends 
wished to resist the invaders, but the others preferred 
a voluntary emigration. Their difference of opinion 
produced a battle, and the survivors abandoned their 

6 Strabo, lib. xi. p. 766. 475. Ed. Amst. 1707. 

7 Herod. Melpom. s. 12. 

8 Herod. Clio, s. 15. 

9 By Callinus in his poems, who calls them the "impetuous Kimmerians." 
Strab. lib. xiv. p. 958., and by Callimachus, Hym. in Dian. 252. 

10 Herod. Clio, s. 6. Ibid. Melpom. > A p. Strab. p. 930. 
18 Strab. Geog. lib. i. p. 106. et al. Herod. Clio, s. 16. 


country to the Scythians. u But while one portion CHAP. 
went under Lygdamis to Asia, the more warlike and 

larger part of the Kimmerian nations, according to 
the geographers cursorily mentioned by- Plutarch 15 , 
receded westward from the Scythians, and proceeded 
to inhabit the remoter regions of Europe, extending 
to the German Ocean. " Here," he adds, "it is said 
that they live in a dark woody country, where the 
sun is seldom seen, from their many lofty and spread- 
ing trees, which reach into the interior as far as the 
Hercynian forest." But whether their progress to 
these parts was the consequence of the Scythian at- 
tack, or had preceded it, is of little importance to us 
to ascertain. The fact is unquestionable, that the 
Kimmerians anciently diffused themselves towards 
the German Ocean. 

The history of the Kimmerians, from their leaving 
the eastern Bosphorus to their reaching the Cimbric 
Chersonesus on the Baltic, has not been perpetuated. 
The traditions of Italy, and even an ancient historian 
intimate, that Kimmerians were in those regions 
near Naples, where the ancient mythologists place the 
country of the dead. 16 Their early occupation of 
Europe and extensive dispersion divest this circum- 
stance of any improbability. They who wandered 
across Europe from the Thracian Bosphorus into 
Jutland, may have also migrated southward into 
Italy, like the Goths and Lombards of a future age. 
But as nations, in the Nomadic state, have little other 
literature than funeral inscriptions, the brief and 
vague songs of their bards, wild incantations, or rude 
expressions of martial trophies, divested of all circum- 

14 Herod. Melpom. s. 11. ls Plutarch in Mario. 

18 Straho says, " And they deem this place Plutonian, and say that the Kimme- 
rians are there ; and they who sail thither, first sacrifice to propitiate the sub- 
terraneous demons, which the priests exhort them to do, on account of the profit 
which they derive from the offering. There is a fountain of river water, but all ab- 
stain from this, as they think it the water of the Styx. Geog. p. 171. Ephorus 
applying this place to the Kimmerians," &c. Ib. p. 375. 


BOOK stance or chronology, it is not till they assail the 
. T ' , welfare of the civilised, and become a part of their 
national history, that we have any notice of their 
transactions ; and often not till this period, any indi- 
cation of their existence. But two intimations have 
been preserved to us of the Kimmerians, which pro- 
bably express the general outline of their history. 
They are stated to have often made plundering incur- 
sions 17 , and they were considered by Posidonius, to 
whose geographical works Strabo was often indebted, 
as a predatory and wandering nation. 18 
imbri j n ^ e cen tury before Caesar they became known 


to the Eomans by the harsher pronunciation of 
Kimbri 19 , in that formidable irruption from which 
Marius rescued the Roman state. At this period a 
great body of them quitted their settlements on the 
Baltic, and, in conjunction with other tribes, entered 
the great Hercyniari forest, which covered the largest 
part of ancient Germany. Repulsed by the Boioi, 
they descended on the Danube. Penetrating into 
Noricum and Illyricum, they defeated the Roman 
consul Narbo; arid a few years afterwards, having 
by their ambassadors to Rome solicited in vain the 
senate, to assign them lands for their habitation, for 
which they offered to assist the Romans in their 
wars, they defeated four other consuls in as many 
successive battles, and entered Gaul. Having ravaged 
all the country between the Rhone and the Pyrenees, 

17 Strabo, p. 106. This habit no doubt occasioned the word Cimbri to signify 
robbers among the Germans, as Plutarch remarks in his life of Marius. 

18 Posid. ap. Strab. p. 450. 

19 That the K^epiot of the Greeks were the Kimbroi of the Greeks, and Cimbri 
(Kimbri) of the Latin writers, was not only the opinion of Posidonius, whom 
Strabo quotes, lib. vii. p. 293., but of the Greeks generally: "quum Greed Cimbros 
Cimmeriorum nomine afficiant," ib. Diodorus Siculus expressly says, that to those 
who were called Ki/x^eptots, the appellation of Ki^pcav was applied in process of 
time, and by the corruption of language, lib. v. p. 309. Plutarch, in his life of 
Marius, also identifies the Kimbri with the Kimmerioi. He says, " From these 
regions, when they came into Italy, they began their march, being anciently called 
Kimmerioi, and in process of time Kimbroi. " 


they spread into Spain, with the same spirit of CHAP. 
desolation. Repulsed there by the Celtiberi, they ^ 
returned to France ; and joining with the Teutones, 
who had also wandered from the Baltic, they burst 
into Italy with a force, that had accumulated in 
every region which they had traversed. Rome was 
thrown into consternation by their progress ; and it 
required all the talents and experience of Marius, 
Sylla, and the best Roman officers to overthrow 
them. 20 

The great mass of the Kimbric population perished 
in these conflicts. The Romans are stated to have 
destroyed, from two to three hundred thousand, in 
two battles. It is impossible to read of human 
slaughter without lamenting it, or without feeling 
some abhorrence of those, however famed as heroes, 
by whom it has been effected. But in this war, the 
Kimbri provoked the destruction, by their desolating 
aggressions : and considering the spirit and customs 
of barbaric ferocity, which they maintained, and 
their national restlessness, their disappearance was 
advantageous to the progress of civilisation, and to 
the interests of humanity. Marius did not, like 
Caesar, go into Gaul in search of a sanguinary war- 
fare. He obeyed the call of his country to rescue it 
from a calamitous invasion. His successes filled 
Rome with peculiar joy, and were sung by the poet 
Archias, whom Cicero's eloquence has made illus- 
trious. 21 

The rest of the Kimmerian nation on the Continent 
remained in a feeble and scattered state. They are 
noticed by Strabo, as existing in his time on the 

80 Liv. Epit. 63 67. Floras, lib. iii. c. 3. Oros. lib. v. c. 16. Strabo, lib. v. 
Plut. Vit. Mar. We have the names of three of their kings from Livy, Plutarch, 
and Floras : these are Bolus, Bojorisc, and Teutobochus. 

21 Even the illiterate Marius was pleased with this Parnassian effusion. " Ipsi 
illi C. Mario, qui durior ad haec studia videbatur, jucundus fuit." Cicer. Or pro 
Arch. c. 9. 


BOOK Baltic 22 ; and are more briefly alluded to by Pliny. 23 
. * .__, Both these writers represent them on the north- 
western shores of Europe, or on those coasts of the 
German Ocean, from which the Saxons and Danes 
made afterwards expeditions into Britain. 

In the days of Tacitus, this ancient nation had 
almost ceased to exist on the continent of Europe ; 
but his expressions imply their former power and 
celebrity. When he mentions the Kimbri who, in 
his time, remained in the peninsula of Jutland, he 
says, " A small state now, but great in glory ; the 
marks of their ancient fame yet remain, far and wide, 
about the Elbe ; by whose extent you may measure 
the power and greatness of this people, and accredit 
the reported numbers of their army." They were 
existing, or their fame continued in those parts, in 
the days of Claudian. 24 

Thus far we have proceeded upon the authentic 

authorities, which remain to us in the classical writers, 

of the primeval population of Europe. From these 

it is manifest that the earliest inhabitants of the 

north of Europe were the Kimmerians or Kimbri ; 

and that they spread over it from the Kimmerian 

Bosphorus, to the Kimbric Chersonesus ; that is from 

Thrace and its vicinity, to Jutland and the German 

Ocean; to that ocean from which the passage is 

direct to Britain ; the regular voyage in our times 

from Hamburgh to England or Scotland. 

Kimme- The habit of moveable nations in the uncivilised 

cymry in \ nomadic state, would lead us to infer, as these 

Edwin. Kimmerii or Kimbri are characterised as a wandering 

82 He remarks that, in his time, Kimbri continued to inhabit their former settle- 
ments on the Baltic, and had sent a present of one of their sacred cauldrons to 
Augustus. Lib.vii. p. 449. 

83 Nat. Hist. lib. iv. c. 27. and 28. The latter passage intimates Inland Cimbri ' 
near the Rhine, as well as the Cimbri in the peninsula. In lib. vi. c. 14. he men- 
tions Cimmerii in Asia, near the Caspian. 

Tacitus de Morib. Germ. Claudian calls the Northern Ocean by their name, 
" Cimbnca Thetis." Cons. Hon. lib. iv. 


nation, and are shown by all that remains of their CHAP. 
history to have been so, that at some early period, . 

after they reached the shores of the German ocean, 
they crossed it in their rude vessels to Great Britain. 
This reasonable supposition, analogous to all that we 
know of the customs of such nations, and of the 
colonisation of other parts of the world, has a re- 
markable support in the name and traditions of the 
Welsh, and their ancient British literature. It is 
agreed by the British antiquaries, that the most 
ancient inhabitants of our island were called Cymry 
(pronounced Kumri) : they are so named in all that 
remains of the ancient British literature. The Welsh, 
who are their descendants, have always called them- 
selves Cymry ; and have given the same appellation 
to the earliest colonists of our island; and as the 
authorities already referred to, prove, that the K//*,- 
pepioi or Kimbri were the ancient possessors of the 
northern coasts of the Germanic Ocean, and attempted 
foreign enterprises, it seems to be a safe and reason- 
able inference, that the Cyrnry of Britain originated 
from the continental Kirnmerians. 25 That a district, 
in the northern part of England, was inhabited by a 
part of the ancient British nation, and called Cum- 
bria, whence the present Cumberland, is a fact favour- 
able to this presumption. 

The Danish traditions of expeditions and conquests 
in Britain, from Jutland and its vicinity, long before 
our Saviour's birth, which Saxo Grammaticus has 
incorporated into his history, may here be noticed. 
He is an authority too vague to be trusted alone ; 
but he is evidence of the traditions of his countrymen, 
arid these may claim that attention, when they coin- 

85 Tacitus mentions a circumstance favourable to this deduction. He says of 
the (Estii on the Baltic, that their language resembled the British, " lingua Britan- 
nicre proprior." De Mor. Germ. If the opinion maintained in the text be true, 
the (Estii must have been a Kimmerian tribe. 


BOOK cide with those of the ancient British, which they 
. L , would not otherwise deserve. They add something 
to the probability of early migrations, or expeditions 
from these regions into our islands, although they 
must not be confounded with historical facts. 
HU ca- The historical triads of the Welsh connect them- 

darn - selves with these suppositions in a very striking 
manner. 26 They state that the Cymry were the first 
inhabitants of Britain, before whose arrival it was 
occupied by bears, wolves, beavers, and oxen with 
large protuberances. 27 They add, that Hu Cadarn, 
or Hu the Strong, or Mighty, led the nation of the 
Kymry through the Hazy, or German Ocean, into 
Britain, and to Llydaw, or Armorica, in France ; and 
that the Kymry came from the eastern parts of 
Europe, or the regions where Constantinople now 
stands. 28 Though we would not convert Welsh 
traditions into history, where they stand alone, it 
cannot be unreasonable to remember them, when they 
coincide with the classical authorities. In the pre- 
sent case the agreement is striking. The Kimmerians, 
according to the authorities already stated, proceeded 
from the vicinity of the Kimmerian Bosphorus to the 

86 The Welsh have several collections of historical triads ; which are three events 
coupled together, that were thought by the collector to have some mutual analogy. 
It is the strange form into which their bards, or ancient writers, chose to arrange 
the early circumstances of their history. One of the most complete series of their 
triads has been printed in the Archaiology of Wales, vol. ii. p. 57 75. It was 
printed from a MS. dated 1601, and the writer of it states that he had taken them 
out of the books of Caradoc of Llancarvan, and of John Breckfa. Caradoc lived in 
the twelfth century. Breckfa was much later. 

i7 It may not be uninteresting to translate the whole triad. " Three names have 
been given to the isle of Britain since the beginning. Before it was inhabited, it 
was called Clas Merddin (literally the country with sea cliffs), and afterwards Fel 
Ynis (the island of honey). When government had been imposed upon it by Pry- 
dain, the son of Aedd the Great, it was called Ynys Prydain (the island of Prydain); 
and there was no tribute to any but to the race of the Kymry, because they first 
obtained it ; and before them, there were no more men alive in it, nor any thing 
else but bears, wolves, beavers, and the oxen with the high prominence." Triad 1. 
Arch. v. ii. p. 57. 

28 " The three pillars of the nation of the isle of Britain. First, Hu Gadarn, 
who led the nation of the Cymry first to the isle of Britain ; and from the country 
of Summer, which is called Deffrobani, they came ; this is where Constantinople 
is : and through the hazy ocean they came to the island of Britain, and to Llydaw, 
where they have remained." Triad 4. p. 57. 


German Ocean ; and the Welsh deduce their ancestors, CHAP. 
the Cymry, from the regions south of the Bosphorus. v_^ > 
The Welsh indeed add the name of their chieftain, 
and that a division of the same people settled in 
Arrnorica. But if the memory of Lygdamis, who 
led the Kimmerian emigration to Asia, and of 
Brennus, who marched with the Kelts against Greece, 
were preserved in the countries which they overran ; 
so might the name of Hu Cadarn, who conducted 
some part of the western emigrations, be remembered 
in the island which he colonised. 29 That Armorica, 
or Bretagne, was peopled by a race of men similar 
to those who inhabited Britain, is verified by the 
close resemblance of the languages of the two coun- 

As we have traced the probable identity of the Manners 
Kymry with the Kirnmerii, and the actual identity 
pf these with the Kimbri ; it will be right to add the 
few circumstances, as to the manners of these ancient 
people, which the classical writers have transmitted. 
They appear to have been such as might be expected 
from the earliest emigrants of the civilised stock, 
rwho diverged the farthest from their primitive seats 
of civilisation. But as no Tacitus took the trouble 
to study their internal customs, we know nothing of 
their polity or national institutions. The repulsive 
features that most struck the attention of their 
enemies are nearly all that is recorded about them. 
They were too much dreaded or hated, to be carefully 
inspected or favourably delineated. 

Ephorus said of the Kimmerians, that they dwelt 
in subterraneous habitations, which they called ar- 
gillas, communicating by trenches. 30 It is certainly 
a curious analogy of language, that argel, in the 

29 Pausanias has preserved the names of many of the kings of the Kelts who in- 
vaded Greece. So, Livy has transmitted to us those of the Keltic leaders, who 
attacked Italy in the time of the first Tarquin. 

80 Ap. Strabo, Geo. lib. v. p. 375. 

VOL. I. D 


BOOK language of the Cymry, or British, means a covert, 
. L . a place covered over. 31 This mode of habitation seems 
to have been the primitive state of barbaric life. 
The Troglodytes of Asia are said to have lived in 
caves ; and Tacitus describes some of the ruder 
German tribes as dwelling under ground. The prac- 
tice of several animals which burrow in the earth 
may have suggested the custom ; and it suits that 
savage state into which even the emigrants from 
civilised society may lapse, among woods and marshes, 
want and warfare, if they lose the knowledge of the; 
mechanic arts, or the tools which these require. Eplio- 
rus added, that they had an oracle deep under ground. 
The Kimbri swore by a brazen bull, which they 
carried with them. In battle they appeared with 
helmets representing fierce beasts gaping, or some 
strange figures; and added a high floating crest to 
make them look taller. They used white shining 
shields, and iron mail, and either the battle-axe, or 
long and heavy swords. They thought it base to die 
of a disease, and exulted in a military death, as a 
glorious and happy end. 32 

Callimachus applies to these people the epithet 
horse-milkers. 33 This incident corresponds with the* 
preceding accounts. The attachment to mare's milk 
has been common to most nations in their uncivilised 
state. Most rude and poor nations drink the milk of: 
the animals they ride : as the Arabs of the desert use] 

31 The word occurs in the ancient Welsh poetry, as in the Afallenau of 

a dyf yn argel yn argoedydd, 
will come in the covert in the lofty woods. 

1 W. Archaiol. p. 152. 

It is also used in the Englynion Beddaw of Taliessin : 
Bet Llia Gwitel in argel ardudwy 
dan y guellt ac guevel. 

The grave of Llia the Gwyddelian in the covert of Ardudwy, under the grass and. 
withered leaves. 1 Archaiol. p. 80. 

92 Pint, in Mario, Val. Max. 1. ii. c. 6. Callim. Hym. in Dian, v. 252. 


that of their camels. This habit suits their move- 
ability, scanty property, small supply of food, and a 
sterile or uncultivated country. 

The religious rites of the Kimmerians included 
occasionally human sacrifices ; one of the most ancient 
and universal superstitions, which affected and dis- 
graced mankind in the first stages of their idolatrous 
and polytheistic worship. Strabo, after remarking 
of the Kirnbri, that their wives accompanied them in 
war, says that many hoary priestesses of their oracle 
followed, clothed in white linen garments bound with 
a brazen girdle, and with naked feet. These women, 
with swords in their hands, sought the captives 
through the army, and threw them into a brass 
vessel of the size of twenty amphoroe. Then one of 
the prophetesses, ascending an elevation, stabbed 
them singly, as suspended above the cauldron ; and 
made her divinations from the manner in which the 
blood flowed into it. The other assistants of the 
horrible superstition opened the bodies, and predicted 
victory from the inspection of the bowels. In their 
conflicts, they used a species of immense drum ; for 
they struck upon skins stretched over their war 
chariots, which emitted a very powerful sound. 34 
Plutarch describes the women to have been placed 
on their waggons in the conflict with Marius ; and 
when the men gave way in the battle, to have killed 
those who fled, whether parents or brothers. They 
strangled their infants at the same time, and threw 
them under the wheels, while fighting the Romans, 
and at last destroyed themselves rather than survive 
the calamity. These descriptions lead us to recollect 
some analogous passages of Tacitus concerning the 
Britons at the period of the Roman invasion. He 
describes women, with firebrands in their hands, 

34 Strabo, lib. vii. p. 451. 
D 2 




The Kelts 

from Kim- 

running like furies among the army of the Britons in 
Anglesey; and adds, that they stained their altars 
with the blood of their captives ; and consulted their 
gods by the fibres of men. He mentions also, that 
before their destruction of the colony at Camelodu- 
num, " Women, agitated with the prophetic fury, 
sang its approaching ruin." 35 

But upon investigating the remains of antiquity, 
we find another ancient people, placed in some of the 
western regions of Europe, at the time when Greek 
history begins. They were called KS^TOJ, and after* 
wards FaXara/ ; and Ca3sar says of them, that they 
called themselves Celta3 or Keltse, though the Romans 
gave them the appellation of Galli. 36 

The Keltoi, to follow the Greek orthography of 
the word, appear to have been one of the branches 
of the Kimmerian stock. The term Kimmerian, like 
German, or Gaul, was a generic appellation. The 
people to whom it extended had also specific de- 
nominations. Thus, part of the Kimmerians who 
invaded Asia, under Lygdamis, were likewise called 
Trerones, or Treres. 37 That the Keltse were Kim* 
merians is expressly affirmed by Arrian in two pas- 
sages 38 ; and with equal clearness and decision by 
Diodorus 39 , and is implied by Plutarch. 40 

As the Kimmerians traversed the north of Europe, 

15 Tacitus Annal. lib. xiv. Stabat pro litore diversa acies, densa armis virisque, 
intercursantibus feminis. In modum furiarurn, veste ferali, crinibus dejectis, faces 
preferebant Nam cruore eaptivo adolere aras; et hominum fibris consulere deos 
fas habebant Et feminae in furore turbatae, adesse exitium canebant. 

36 Caesar. Comment, de Bell. Gal. lib. i. s. 1. Pausanias says of these people* 
They have but lately called themselves ya\arai. They anciently called them- 
selves /ceAroi, and so did others," p. 6. And that 7aAarai was but another appella- 
tion of the KATo<, see Diod. Sic. lib. v. p. 308. ed. Hanov. 1604. So Origen calls 
the Druids of Gaul, rovs TaXaruv SpvaSas, adv. Cels. Galatai seems to be a more 
euphonous pronunciation of Keltoi ; and Galli is probably but the abbreviation of 
Galatai. Strabo also says, all this nation whom they now call Gallikon or Galati- 
koiij p. 298. 

"Strabo, lib. i. p. 106. In another place he says, Magnetus was utterly destroyed 
by the Treres, a Kimmerian nation, lib. xiv. p. 958. 

38 Appian in Illyr. p. 1196 , and de Bell. Civ. lib. i. p. 625 
Diod - Sic ' lib ' v ' P. 309. Plut ' in 


from east to west, the Kelts seem to have proceeded CHAP. 
more to the south and south-west. Some geographers, 

before Plutarch, extended the country of the Kelts as 
far as the sea of Azoph. 41 Ephorus was probably 
one of these ; for he is not only mentioned to have 
made Keltica of vast magnitude, and including much 
of Spain 42 ; but he likewise divided the world into 
four parts, and made the Kelts to inhabit one of 
the four towards the west. 43 This statement leads 
us to infer, that the Kelts had been considered to be 
an extensive people 44 ; which indeed the various no- 
tices about them, scattered in the writings of the an- 
cients, sufficiently testify. All the classical authors, 
who mention the Kelts, exhibit them as seated in 
the western regions of Europe. While the Kim- 
merians pervaded Europe from its eastern extremity, 
to its farthest peninsula in the north-west, their 
Keltic branch spread down to the south-western 
coasts. When their most ancient transactions are 
mentioned by the Greek and Roman writers, we find 
them placed in France, and Spain, and emerging into 

In the time of Herodotus, the Kelts were on the The Kelts 
western coasts of Europe. He says, that they in- 
habited the remotest parts of Europe to the west 45 ; 
and in another part, he states them to live beyond 
the pillars of Hercules, and about Pyrene ; and he 
places among them the origin of the Danube. 46 

41 Pint, in Mario. 42 Strabo, lib. iv. p. 304. 

43 Strabo, lib. i. p. 59. Ephorus, in his fourth book, which was entitled Europe, 
Strabo, p. 463., divided the world into four parts, ibid. p. 59. : in the East he 
placed the Indians ; in the South, the Ethiopians ; in the West, the Keltse ; and 
in the North, the Scythians. 

44 Ephorus was a disciple of Isocrates, who desired him to write a history (Pho- 
tius, 1455), which he composed from the return of the Heraclidse into the Pelo- 
ponnesus to the twentieth year of Philip of Macedon. It obtained him a distin- 
guished reputation. His geography is often mentioned, and sometimes criticised 
by Strabo. But he is extolled for his knowledge by Polybius, Diodorus, and Diony- 
sius Halicarnassus. * 

45 Herod. Mel pom. c. 49 . 

46 Herod. Euterpe, c. 33. So Arrian. Herodotus places a people, whom he calls 
Cunosioi, beyond the Kelts. 

D 3 


BOOK Aristotle frequently mentions the Kelts. In one 
. L ... place, he notices them as neither dreading earthquakes, 
nor inundations 47 ; in another, as rushing armed into 
the waves 48 ; and in another, as plunging their new- 
born infants in cold water, or clothing them in scanty 
garments. 49 In other works attributed to him, he 
speaks of the British island as lying above the Kelts 50 J 
he mentions Pyrene as a mountain towards the west 
in Keltica, from which the Danube and the Tartessus 
flow; the latter north of the columns of Hercules ; 
the former passing through Europe into the Euxine. 51 
He elsewhere speaks of Keltica, and the Iberians. 52 
He places the Kelts above Iberia ; and remarks that 
their country was too cold for the ass, which our 
present experience contradicts ; or, perhaps, we should 
rather say, that the temperature of France has been 
softened by the demolition of its forests, the dis-' 
appearance of its marshes, and the cultivation of its 
soil. Hipparchus also mentioned Keltica, but seems 
to have extended it into the arctic circle; for he 
placed Keltae at the distance of six thousand stadia 
from Marseilles, and said that the sun shone all 
night in Keltica during the summer, and was not 
raised above the horizon more than nine cubits in| 
winter. 53 

The opinions may be fanciful, but they show this 
great astronomer's notion of the extent of the Keltic 

47 Arist. -nOtKuv NiKofj.. lib. iii. c. 10. Arist. yOiK. Ev5r)/j., lib. iii. c. 1. 

49 Arist. TloXiT. lib. vii. c. 1 7. *> De Mundo, c. iii. p. 552. 

51 Meteor, lib. i. c. 12. This passage makes it probable, that by Pyrene the an- 
cients meant the Pyrenees, though Herodotus calls it a city, and places it inaccu- 
rately as to the sources of the Danube. 

52 De Mirab. Auscult. 1157. de Gen. An. lib. ii. c. 8. Strabo also calls their 
country Keltica, and Livy, Kelticum. Timagetes placed the springs of the Danube 
in the Keltic mountains. Schol. Appoll. 

53 Strabo cites Hipparchus, p. 128. ; but adds his own belief, that the Britons 
were more north than Keltica, by 1500 stadia. In the time of Strabo the Kelts 
were not more north than France. Hipparchus lived ] 50 years before Strabo, and 
Keltica had become much limited, when the Roman wrote, by the successful pro- 
gress to the Rhine of the German nations. The Belga; had then passed this river, 
and even entered Gaul. 


population. The Boii who named Bohemia, and the CHAP. 
Helvetians, are both admitted to be Keltic. 54 ' r . 

The tendency of the notices of the Kelts, by 
Herodotus, Aristotle, and Ephorus, is to show, that 
in their times, this people lived in the western parts 
of Europe, about Gaul and Spain. They are spoken 
of as being in the same places by later writers. 55 But 
the evidence of Caesar is particularly interesting on 
this subject. In his time the German or Scythic 
hordes had spread themselves over Europe, and had 
incorporated, or driven before them, the more ancient 
races, whom we have been describing. But he found 
the Kelts possessing, at the period of his entrance 
into Gaul, the most considerable, and the best mari- 
time part of it. He mentions that the Seine and the 
Marne separated them from the Belgae, and the 
Garonne from the Aquitani. 56 But if the Kelts occu- 
pied the sea-coast of France, from the Seine to the 
Garonne, and had been driven to the Seine by the 
invasions of northern assailants, they were in a position 
extremely favourable for passing overinto Britain ; 
and the same circumstances would impel them to it, 
as afterwards drove the Britons to seek refuge on a 
part of their coast, when the Saxons pressed upon 

The Kelts had certainly been much spread upon 
the Continent, in the times anterior to Caesar, and 
had shaken both Greece and Koine by perilous in- 
vasions. From the earliest of their predatory mi- 
grations which has been recorded by the classical 
writers, we find, that they were in the occupation of 
France about 600 years before the Christian aera. 
At that period, their population in this country was 
so abundant, that their chiefs recommended two of 

51 See Tac. Mor. Germ. Strabo, lib. vii. Caesar, de Bell. Gall. 

55 As Pausanias, p. 62. Diod. Sic p. 308. ; and Strabo in many places ; also by 

56 Caesar. Comment, de Bell. Gall. lib. i. c. 1 . 

D 4 


their princes to lead a numerous body over the Alps 
into Italy. One large multitude passed them near 
Turin, defeated the Tuscans, and founded Milan; 
another party settled about Brixia and Verona, while 
succeeding adventurers spread themselves over other 
districts. The reign of Tarquinius Priscus at Rome 
marks the chronology of these expeditions. 57 

The next great movement of the Kelts, in the 
Italian States, that has been transmitted to us, oc- 
curred about 180 years after the preceding migra- 
tion, when Brennus led them to that attack upon 
Eome itself, in which they became masters of the 
city, killed its senate, and had nearly taken its capitol, 
when Camillus rescued the perishing republic from 
its barbaric conquerors. 68 

One hundred and ten years afterwards, Greece 
suffered from the irruptions of this prolific people, 
under another Brennus. 59 The Kelts burst from 
Illyria, into Macedonia and Thrace, poured thence 
into Thessaly, passed the strait of Thermopylaa, as 
Xerxes had done, and proceeded to attack Delphi, 
when they were affected and destroyed by that panic 
which the reputation of the place, arid the con- 
trivances of its priesthood produced, and which pre- 
served Greece from their further desolations. 60 These 

57 We derive our information of this important event and its date from Livy. 
He states, that when Tarquinius Priscus reigned, the chief sovereignty of the 
Keltse was with the Bituriges (the inhabitants of that part of France where Bourges 
is now situated), and that these gave a king to Kelticum. His name at that time 
was Ambigatus. The princes whom he sent out at the head of these expeditions 
were Bellovesus and Sigovesus, his sister's sons. The party under Sigovesus took 
the direction of the Hercynian forest. But Bellovesus commanded the invasion of 
Italy. Livy, Hist. lib. v. c. 34. The elder Tarquin died 578 years before the 
Christian sera. 

58 Dionysius Halicar. places this Keltic irruption, e^oSos ice\Twv, in the first year 
of the ninety-eighth Olympiad, or 120 years after Junius Brutus and Collatinus. 
Lib. i. p. 60. 

59 That the leader of the Keltse in the attack of Rome, and their chief a century 
after in their invasion of Greece, should both be named Brennus, induces one to 
believe that this word is rather a descriptive than a personal appellation, and 
therefore to recollect that Brennin means a king in the Welsh and ancient British 

50 The fullest account of this expedition of the Kelts into Greece, occurs in Pau- 
sanias, Attic, lib. i. p. 68., and Phoc. lib. x. p. 643 655. 


events occurred about 280 years before our Saviour's CHAP. 
birth. The Kelts are noticed afterwards as attempt- 

ing Asia Minor, and as serving in the armies of 
Ptolemy and also of Antigonus 61 , and they had fre- 
quent battles with the Romans, but usually ex- 
perienced ruinous defeats 62 ; especially in that tremend- 
ous conflict with Quintus Fabius Maximus, of which 
Ca3sar reminded the Gauls of his day 63 , when they 
were about to war with him, and in which Strabo 
states, that 200,000 Keltse were cut off. 64 

Strabo remarks of the Kelta?, that it was common 
to them and the Iberians to lie on the ground 65 ; that 
they used waxen vessels 66 ; that they were addicted 
to human sacrifices, from which the Romans re- 
claimed them 67 ; and that they were accustomed to 
bring home the heads of their enemies and fix them 
on the gates of their towns. 68 That the Keltae, or 
Gauls, were easier conquered than the Spaniards, he 
ascribes to their fighting more in masses. 69 In the 
time of Alexander, there were Kelts on the Adriatic 
who offered him their friendship with language which 
he thought arrogant. 70 The expeditions and positions 
above noticed of the Kelts, prove that they were in 
the habit of spreading themselves from France into 
other countries ; and considering the spirit of enter- 

61 Pausan. lib. i. p. 23. m Liv. Hist. 

63 Casar de Bell. Gall. 

64 Strabo places the scene of this battle where the Isar and the Rhone flow, near 
the Kemminon mountains. The conqueror erected a trophy of white stone, and 
built two temples, one to Mars, and one to Hercules, p. 283. 

65 Strabo, p. 249. * Ib. p. 233. 
67 Ib. p. 303. 

69 He says, that Posidonius declares he saw several of their heads, p. 303. ; a 
custom which Strabo thought barbarian ; but which reminds us of our own legal 
practice with executed traitors. 

69 Tb. p. 299. 

70 Strabo, lib. vii. p. 462. Arrian, lib. i. p. 8. The account, related on the 
authority of Ptolemy Lagus, his general and king of Egypt, is, that the king re- 
ceived the ambassadors with great civility, and asked them at his banquet what 
they most dreaded, expecting a complimentary answer as to himself. But they 
said they feared nothing, unless that the sky should fall and overwhelm them, 
though they highly valued his friendship. Alexander admitted them to his alliance, 
but called them arrogant. 



BOOK prise, the abundant population, and power of the 
. L , Kelt in France, and the vicinity and fertility of 
Britain, we cannot avoid believing, that they crossed 
the sea to colonise it. Ca3sar expressly mentions, 
that one of the Keltic kings in Gaul, Divitiacus, 
who governed there the Suessiones, and was the 
most powerful prince in that country, had subjected 
also part of Britain to his power. 71 From him also 
we learn, that the Kelts of Armorica called upon 
some of the British tribes to aid them against his 
hostilities 72 ; and one of his reasons for attacking 
Britain was that it had assisted the Keltic Gauls to 
resist him. 73 He speaks also of its being visited by 
the Keltic merchants; and before his invasion of 
Britain, he sent one of the Keltic princes of Gaul, 
whom he had made a king, into our island to per- 
suade the Britons to be friendly to the Roman state, 
because the authority of this chieftain was great in 
Britain. Thus Caesar affords sufficient evidence of 
the military and commercial intercourse between the 
two nations in his time, a fact favourable to the 
opinion of the affinity, between some parts of their 
respective populations. 

The Kelts That colonies of Keltic race entered the British 
Britain. islands from Gaul, has always appeared to our anti- 
quaries so probable, that there is scarcely any cir- 
cumstance on which they have so cordially agreed. 
The Welsh tradition may be therefore read without 
incredulity, which deduces two colonies from Gaul, 
not Kymry or Kimmerians, but of Kimmerian origin ; 
the one from Armorica, and the other from Gascony. 74 

71 Lib. ii. c. 4. 72 Lib. iii. c. 9. ra C. 18. 

74 The fifth triad is this : " The three peaceful people of the isle of Britain. The 
first were the nation of the Kymry, who came with Hu Cadarn to the island of 
Britain. He obtained not the country, nor the lands, by slaughter or contest, but 
with justice and peace. The other was the race of the Lloegrwys, who came from 
the land of Gwasgwyn ; and they were of the first race of the Kymry. The third 
were the Brython, and from the land of Llydaw they came ; and they were of the 
first race of the Kymry. And these were called the three peaceful nations, because 


The distinction taken as to their origin suits the CHAP. 
situation of the Kelts, who, to use the expression of .. 
the triad, were of the first race of the Kymry. The 
Arinorican emigration was of the tribe called Bry- 
thon 75 , a name which recals to our recollection, that 
Pliny found a people called Britanni remaining in 
Gaul in his time. 76 The colony from Gascony was 
the Lloegrwys, whose name became attached to that 
part of the island which they occupied ; for the 
largest part of England has been always named 
Lloegr by the Welsh poets 77 and chroniclers, 78 Tacitus 
expresses his belief, that the Gauls peopled Britain 79 , 
and Bede derives its inhabitants from Arrnorica. 80 
The position of the Kelts on the maritime regions of 
the west of Europe, bringing them more within the 
reach of intercourse with the civilised nations of 
antiquity, who frequented the ocean, they had begun 
to feel the influence of the superior progress of the 
improved part of the world. The Grecian settlement 
of the Phocians, at Marseilles, about 540 years before 
the Christian aera, flourished afterwards into great 

they came one to the other with peace and tranquillity ; and these three nations 
were of the first race of the Kymry, and they were of the same language." Trioedd 
ynys Prydain. 2 Archaiol. p. 58. 

75 The Brython are frequently mentioned hy the old Welsh poets : by Aneurin, 
in his Gododin, 1 Archaiol. p. 10., and by Taliessin, p. 31. 50. 66, 67. 73. He 
once mentions the Morini Brython, in his Prif Gyfarch, or Primary Gratulation, 
p. 33. 

76 Pliny Hist. Nat. lib. iv. c. 31. ; and Dionysius. 

77 Aneurin speaks of Lloegr, p. 7., and calls its inhabitants Lloegrwys, p. 4. 9. 
and 1 1. Taliessin has Lloegr, p. 64. and 59., and Lloergrwys, p. 51. 55. Llywarch 
Hen and Myrddhin also use both words, as 108. 117. 153., &c. 

78 Besides the fabulous Brut Tysilio, and the Brut ab Arthur, 2 Archaiol. p. 116, 
117., their historical chronicles Brut y Saeson, and the Brut y Tywysogion, p. 469. 
471., &c. speak of England under this name. 

79 Tacitus Vit. Agric. In Camden's Britannia numerous analogies of manners 
and language between the Britons and Gauls are collected, to prove their identity 
of origin. Some of these are worth our consideration. 

80 Bede Hist. Eccl. lib. i. c. 1. We have two collateral proofs from the analogy 
of language of the affinity between the inhabitants of Britain and the ancient Kelts. 
Pausanias, mentioning that every Keltic horseman was followed to battle by two 
attendants, says that the Kelts called this custom, in their native language, Triinar- 
kisian, because the name of a horse among the Kelts is Markan, Phoc. lib. x. p. 545. 
Mark is also a horse, tri is three, and trimarkwys is literally three horsemen, in the 
ancient British, and present Welsh. Caesar states, that the Keltic people, who 
bordered upon the ocean, were in his time called Armoricse, lib. v. c. 44. In the 
ancient British, and in the Welsh, armor-uch literally mean upon the sea-heights. 


BOOK wealth and consequence. These colonists subdued 
. * . some of the Keltic regions around them, founded 
cities, built a splendid temple to the Ephesian Diana, 
raised large fleets, pursued extensive navigations, 
of which the voyage of Pytheas towards Iceland is an 
instance, and became distinguished for the elegance 
of their manners, their love of literature, and spirit 
of philosophy. They made their city so attractive 
for its intellectual resources, that some of the noblest 
of the Komans lived at Marseilles, in preference to 
Athens ; and they diffused such a taste for Grecian 
customs around them, that the Gauls used Greek 
letters, and wrote their contracts in Greek. 81 The 
Keltic invaders of Greece must have also introduced 
many beneficial improvements into their native 
country ; for Strabo mentions, that treasures taken 
from Delphi, in the expedition under Brennus, were 
found by the Romans at Toulouse. 82 It was re- 
marked by Ephorus, that the Keltse were fond of the 
Greeks 83 ; and their diffusion into Spain, which he 
also notices 84 , brought them into immediate contact 
with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians ; and their 
Druids are certainly evidence that a part of the 
population had made some intellectual advance. The 
preceding facts, connected with the analogy of the 
language, as at first remarked, satisfactorily prove 
that our earliest population came from the Kiinmerian 
and Keltic stock. 

81 Strabo, p. 272, 273. Justin. L. 43. c. 3. 

82 Strabo, p. 286. Ib. p. 304. 

84 Ephorus stated, that they occupied the largest part of Spain, up to Cadiz. 
Strabo, p. 304. And Strabo mentions, that before the Carthaginians possessed 
Spain, the Keltoi and the Tyrians held it, p. 238. Mr. Garnett in his commu- 
nications to the Philological Society remarks, that " the Irish or Gaelic resembles 
the Welsh language in many points of grammatical structure, in a considerable 
proportion of its vocabulary, and in that remarkable system of initial mutation of 
consonants which distinguishes the Celtic from all other languages in Europe. 
An intelligent contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine (September, 1843), re- 
ferring to this statement, gives a list of seventy or eighty words in C only, which 
are nearly identical, and adds, " the conclusion I have come to is, that Welsh must 
have been the Aboriginal language of Ireland, as it forms the basis of the Irish 
language." Gent. Mag. Sept. 1843, p. 265. 



Phoenicians and Carthaginians in Britain. 

BUT though the Kimmerii, and their kindred the CHAP. 
Kelts, may have peopled Britain, a more celebrated 
people are also stated to have visited it. The Phoeni- 
cians, in their extensive commercial navigations, 
colonised many of the islands, and some of the coasts tain - 
of the --ZEgean and Mediterranean Seas. Inscriptions 
in their language have been found in Malta. They 
occupied Spain, and founded Cadiz ; and it was pro- 
bably in pursuit of them, that Nebuchadnezzar, the 
celebrated King of Babylon, became the conqueror of 
Spain. They had also an established intercourse 
with islands, which the Greeks called " the Islands 
of Tin," or Cassiterides. This, being a descriptive Th ? Cassi - 
name, was probably the translation of the Phoenician 
appellation. 1 As Herodotus intimates, that the Cas- 
siterides were, with respect to Greece, in the farthest 
parts of Europe 2 ; as Aristotle talks of Keltic tin 3 ; 
and Strabo describes both these islands and Britain, 
to be opposite to the Artabri, or Gallicia in Spain, 
but northward, and places them within the British 
climate 4 ; as in another passage he states them to be 
as to Rome, without, or on our side of, the columns 

1 Kacra-iTfpov is the word used by the Greeks for tin. Bochart has founded an 
ingenious etymology of the "Britannic islands" on the Hebrew *pfc$Tn2, 
Baratanac, which, he says, means the Land of Tin. He says Strabo calls Britain, 
BptTTaviKrj. Boch. Canaan, lib. i. c. 39. p. 720. He also intimates, what is more 
probable, that the word Ka<r<riTpov may have been of Phoenician origin. The 
Chaldean Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, certainly call tin kastira and kistara, 
as the Arabs name it kasdar. See Numbers, xxxi. 22. 

2 Herod. Thalia, c. 115. 

3 Aristot. lib. Mirabilium ; Mela places the Cassiterides in Celticis, or among 
the Keltae, lib. iii. c. 6. p. 262. 

1 Strabo Geog. lib. ii. p. 181. 


BOOK of Hercules 5 ; as he mentions them to be productive 
. Tt , of tin, obviously connecting them at the same time 
with the British islands 6 ; and in another part, as 
being in the open sea, north from the port of the 
Artabri 7 , or Gallicia : the most learned, both at 
home and abroad, have believed the Cassiterides to 
have been some of the British islands. This opinion 
is warranted by there being no other islands famous 
for tin near the parts designated by Strabo ; and by 
the fact, that British tin was so celebrated in an- 
tiquity, that Polybius intended to write on the 
British islands, and the preparation of tin. 8 

It has been suggested, that the Scilly islands and 
Cornwall were more peculiarly meant by the Cassite- 
rides. When Cornwall was first discovered from the 
south of Europe, it may have been thought an island, 
before greater familiarity with the coast taught the 
navigators that it was only a projecting part of a 
larger country ; and even then, when the whole 
country connected with it was found to be an island, 
there was no reason to change its insular appellation. 
In our navigations to the Pacific, new-discovered 
places have been at first marked as islands, which 
were afterwards traced to be parts of a continent ; 
arid others have been deemed continental, which have 
been discovered to be insular. 9 

5 Strabo Geog. lib. ii. p. 191 . He joins them with the British islands, /cat Karn- 

KCU jSpeTTawKai. 

6 Ib. lib. iii. p. 219. Here he says, that tin is produced among the barbarians 
above Lusitania, and in the islands Cassiterides, and from Britain is brought to 

7 Ib. lib. iii. p. 265. In this passage Strabo says likewise, they are ten in number, 
adjoining each other. 

8 Polyb. Hist. lib. iii. c. 5. Festus Avienus describes islands under the name of 
JEstrymnides, which are thought to be the same with Strabo's Cassiterides. He 
says they were frequented by the merchants of Tartessus and Carthage, and were 
rich in tin and lead. De oris Marit. 

9 The reasons for supposing the Cassiterides to be the Scilly islands are thus 
stated in Camden's Britannia. They are opposite to the Artabri in Spain ; they 
bend directly to the north from them ; they lie in the same clime with Britain ; 
they look towards Celtiberia ; the sea is much broader between them and Spain 
than between them and Britain ; they lie just upon the Iberian sea ; there are only 


Much of the false description with which the posi- CHAP. 
tion of the Cassiterides has been confused, may have , ,J , 
been designedly circulated by the Phoenicians them- 
selves. We know from Strabo, that they were anxious 
to deprive the rest of the world of any acquaintance 
with these islands. He has told us a very striking 
incident of this monopolising solicitude, which must 
have been the parent of many misrepresentations about 
Britain, till the Romans subdued and examined it. 
He says, " anciently the Phoenicians alone, from Cadiz, 
engrossed this market ; hiding the navigation from 
all others. When the Eomans followed the course of 
a vessel, that they might discover the situation, the 
jealous pilot wilfully stranded his ship ; misleading 
those, who were tracing him, to the same destruction. 
Escaping from the shipwreck, he was indemnified for 
his losses out of the public treasury." 10 When Caesar 
invaded Britain, we know from his Commentaries, 
that he was unacquainted with its magnitude, its 
harbours, or its people. It was even doubted whether 
it was a continent or an island. n Of course the 
Romans at that time could have known nothing of 
the connection and continuance of coast between 
Cornwall and Dover. This ignorance of other nations, 
and the designed misinformation given by the Pheni- 
cians, may have occasioned the distinction to have 
been taken between the Cassiterides and Britain, and 
a supposition, favoured by Strabo, that some sea in- 
tervened. 12 The Cassiterides had become imperfectly 
known to the Romans in the time of Strabo, by the 
attempt of 13 Publius Crassus to discover them. He 

ten of them of any note, and they have veins of tin which no other isle has in this 
.tract. Camd. Brit. p. 1112., ed. 1695. All these circumstances have been men- 
tioned of the Cassiterides. 

10 Strabo, lib. iii. p. 265. 

11 Dio Cass. lib. xxxix. p. 127. Csesar Comm. de Bell. Gall. lib. iv. s. 18. 

12 Solinus says, that a turbid sea divided the Scilly isle (Siluram) from Britain, 
Polyhist c. 22. p. 31. The distance is near forty miles. Whit. Manch. ii. 
p. 172. 8. 

13 Strabo, lib. iii. p. 265. Huet thinks this was not the Crassus who perished 


BOOK seems to have landed at one of them ; but the short 
^ * ._> account given of his voyage does not incline us to 
believe that he completely explored them. u 

If we once presume that the Phoenicians reached 
the Scilly islands, and extracted tin from them, we 
shall do great injustice to their memory to suppose 
that they, who could sail from Tyre to the Scilly 
islands, would not have adventured across the small 
sea between them and the Land's End. Indeed, the 
voyage of Himilco shows that the Carthaginians, the 
offspring of Tyre, pursued voyages even more north- 
ward than Britain. 15 We may therefore admit, without 
much chance of error, that the Cassiterides visited by 
the Phoenicians were the British islands, though the 
Eomans understood by the name the islands of Scilly, 
with perhaps part of the co#st of Cornwall. 16 
weish tra- Having thus stated the most authentic circum- 
ditions. stances that can be now collected, of the peopling of 
Britain by the Kimmerians, the Keltoi, and the Phoe- 
nicians ; it may not be improper to state, in one view, 
all that the Welsh traditions deliver of the ancient 
inhabitants of the island. As traditions of an ancient 
people committed to writing, they deserve to be 
preserved from absolute oblivion. 

According to the Welsh triads, while it was unin- 
habited by human colonies, and was full of bears, 
wolves, beavers, and a peculiar kind of wild cattle, it 
had the name of Clas Merddhin. 17 In this state, Hu 

against the Parthians, though he had fought in Portugal and triumphed in Spain ; 
but his son, who was Caesar's lieutenant in his Gallic wars, and who subdued the 
people of Vannes and its vicinity. He may have undertaken the voyage from 
curiosity, as Volusenus, by Cssar's orders, examined part of the sea coasts of our 
island for military purposes. Hist, de Com. des Anciens, c. 38. p. 183., ed. Par. 

14 Whittaker's description of the present state of the Scilly islands is worth reading. 
Hist. Manch. ii. p. 169. Though the same chapter in other parts discovers a fancy 
painting far beyond the facts in its authorities. 

15 Pliny, lib. ii. c. 67. 

16 Pliny has preserved the name of the Phoenician navigator who first procured 
lead from the Cassiterides. He says, Plumbum ex Cassiteride insula primus appor- 
tavit Midacritus. Hist. Nat. lib. vii. c. 57. 

17 Trioedd 1. 


Cadarn led the first colony of the Cymry to it, of CHAP. 
whom some went to Bretagne. 18 It then acquired . m ' . 
the name of the Honey Island. 19 In the course of 
time, Prydain, the son of Aedd the Great, reigned in 
it, and from him it was called Ynys Prydain, the Isle 
of Prydain 20 ; which is its present denomination in 
Welsh, and which the Greeks and Komans may have 
extended into Britannia. It was afterwards visited 
by two foreign tribes of Kimmerian origin, the 
Lloegrwys, from Gwasgwyn, or Gascony ; and the 
Bry thon, from Llydaw, or Bretagne. 21 Both of these 
were peaceable colonists. The Lloegrwys impressed 
their name upon a large portion of the island. At 
subsequent periods, other people came with more or 
less violence. The Eomans 22 ; the Gwyddyl Fficti 
(the Picts) to Alban or Scotland, on the part which 
lies nearest the Baltic 23 ; the Celyddon (Caledonians) 
to the north parts of the island; the Gwyddyl to 
other parts of Scotland 24 ; the Corraniaid from Pwyll 
(perhaps Poland) to the Humber 25 ; the men of Gale- 
din, or Flanders, to Wyth ; the Saxons 26 ; and the 
Llychlynians, or Northmen. 27 

As the prosperity of the Phoenicians declined under carthagi- 
the hostilities of the ancient conquerors, who emerged quanted" 
from Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, their descendants, wi . th Bri - 
the Carthaginians, succeeded to the possession of 
their European settlements ; and in some places, as 
in Spain and Scilly, greatly extended their territorial 
power. The Carthaginian occupation of Spain is 
fully attested to us by the Koman historians, and was 
distinguished by the wars in that country of the 
celebrated Carthaginian generals Asdrubal and Han- 
nibal. It was natural that when possessed of Spain, 

18 Trioedd 4. and 5. 19 Ib. 1. 

20 Trioedd 1. Isidorus says, that Britain derived its name from a word of its 

21 Trioedd 5. Ib. 8. Ib. 7. 24 Ib. 6. 
25 Ib. 7. M Ib. 6. 27 Ib. 8. 

VOL. I. E 


BOOK they should also acquire the more distant colonies of 
. *' , the Phenicians, and continue their commercial inter- 
course with the British islands, and the neighbouring 
shores. Hence, there is no reason to disbelieve the 
opinion, that the Carthaginians had the same inter- 
course with the British islands which the Phenicians 
established. The voyage of Himilco warrants the 
supposition. This Carthaginian officer sailed from 
Spain, on a voyage of discovery of the northern coasts 
of Europe, at the same time that Hanno was directed 
to circumnavigate Africa. 28 

28 Plin. Nat Hist. lib. ii. c. 67. On Bochart's derivation of Brettanike from 
Baratanac, the Land of Tin, mentioned in note 1 of this chapter, p. 45., it may be 
remarked that these terms are rather conjectural as to the Hebrew : though barat, 
as he intimates, signifies a field in Syriac, and is twice used in that sense in the 
Chaldee of Daniel. But I have since found the two component words actually 
existing in the Arabic tongue, and placed as such in the Arabic Lexicon ; for there 
I find bahrat ' to mean ' a country,' and anvk ' to signify ' tin and lead.' So 
that in Arabic bahrat-anuk literally express the Country of Tin,' which is the 
meaning of the Greek Kassiterides : and it is not more improbable that England 
should have been anciently called by its trading visitors, the ' Tin Country,' than 
that Molucca and the adjacent isles should be termed by our navigators ' the Spice 
Islands, 1 or that a part of Africa should be entitled, the Gold Coast,' and another 
part ' the Slave Coast ; ' seamen and merchants not unnaturally naming the distant 
land from the article for which they frequent it. 



On the "knowledge which the Greeks had of the British Islands. 
And on the Tradition of the Trojan Colony. 

THE Grecian knowledge of Europe was gradually ob- CHAP. 
tained. The calamities experienced at sea, by the . ' 
conquerors of Troy on their return, are said to have 
dispersed them into many parts of the maritime 
regions of Europe. l The subsequent settlements of 
several Grecian colonies in Italy, as well as that al- 
ready noticed at Marseilles, from which they pursued 
distant navigations ; and the visits of Grecian travellers 
and philosophers to the Phoenician cities in Spain 2 , led 
them to some knowledge of its western and northern 
seas, shores, and islands. The attack of Darius, the 
Persian, on the Scythians in Europe, revealed more 
about these people than former ages had acquired 3 ; 
and the expeditions of Alexander, before his eastern 
adventure, disclosed to the Greeks all the north of 
Europe, up to the Danube. In the same manner, the 
restless enterprises of Mithridates made known to 
both Greeks and Eomans the various tribes that in- 
habited the sea of Azoph and its vicinity. 4 Hence 
the Grecians had much information of the ancient 
chorography of Europe, though they were unac- 

1 Strabo, p. 223. 236. Plutarch in Nic. p, 238. 

2 Of which we have an instance in Posidonius. See Strabo, 264. 
8 Herodotus. 

4 Strabo, p. 26. Several of the Greeks wrote on the ancient geography of 
Europe, whose works we have lost, as Dicaearchus, Messenius, Eratosthenes, and 
Posidonius, whom Strabo mentions, p. 163., and whom he seems too fond of cen- 
suring, which is one of the faults of Strabo. It was a favourite point with him to 
attack all former geographers. He comes within the remark of " bearing no brother 
near the throne." 



BOOK quainted, as Poly bins intimates, with many of its 

. L . inland regions. 5 

Britain But that Britain and Ireland were known to the 

'Greeks, at least by name, is an unquestionable fact. 
The ancient Argonautica, ascribed to Orpheus, but 
of much later origin 6 , describes the voyage of the 
Argonauts, on their return to Greece. In this curious 
work, they are made to sail round the north of Europe, 
from the Kimmerian Bosphorus. In coming south- 
ward, the author says " they passed by the island 
lernida." 7 Whether the next island they noticed, 
which is described as full of pine-trees, was any part 
of Britain, cannot be ascertained. As this work, if, 
not written in the time of Pisistratus, which many 
assert it to have been, is at least of great antiquity 8 ; 
it is an evidence that Ireland was known to the 
ancient Greeks. 

In the book de Mundo, which is ascribed to Aris-. 
totle, the British islands are mentioned, with their 
specific names, Albion and lerne. 

The voyage of Pytheas, which was in existence in 
the fifth century 9 , must have transmitted much in- 
formation to the Greeks concerning our islands. He- 
seems to have lived about the time of Aristotle. 10 He 

5 Polybius, lib. iii. remarks this of the tract between Narbonne and the Tanais. 

6 Suidas says, the Argonautica was written by an Orpheus of Crotona, whom 
Asclepiades, in the sixth book of his Grammaticse, declared to be the friend of Pisis- 
tratus, vol. ii. p. 339. Some other works, published under the name of Orpheus, 
he attributes to Onomacritus, ib. 338. 

7 ApyovavTiKa, v 1179. p. 156. ed. Lips. 1764. Strabo, lib. iv. p. 307. calls 
Ireland Iepvj, and Diodorus Siculus gives it a name that approaches very near 
its native appellation. Its name in the Gaelic is Erin ; in Diodorus it is Iptv, 
lib. v. p. 309. 

8 The antiquity of the Apyovaimica. has been ably indicated by D. Ruhnkenius. 
He shows that it was quoted by two ancient grammarians, Orus and Draco Stratoni- 
censis. He gives his own critical judgment of its antiquity in strong terms : " Is, 
qui Argonautica et Hymnos Orpheo subjecit, sive Onomacritus fuerit, ut plures 
traducit, sive alius, scriptor certe meo judicio vetustissimus est ; in quo quamvia 
animum diligenter attenderim ne levissimum quidem recentioris aetatis vestigium 
reperi; contra, pvoba omnia et antiquitatem redolentia." Epist. Crit. 2. p. 128. 
ed. 1782. 

8 He is quoted by Stephanius, Voc. OXTTIWVCS, who lived at this period. 
10 See M. Bougainville's very able Memoir on his Life and Voyages, Mem. Ac. des 
Inscript. v. xxx. p. 285. 


sailed from Marseilles, where he made an observation CHAP. 


to determine its latitude, which enabled Eratosthenes . 

and Hipparchus to calculate it w^ith a precision which 
modern astronomers have found exact. 11 He coasted 
Spain, Portugal, and France, into the British Channel. 
He passed along the eastern shore of Britain, to the 
north, till he reached the island which he has called 
Thule. He is the first navigator that penetrated so 
far into the Northern Ocean. After this, he made a 
voyage to the German Ocean ; passed the Sound into 
the Baltic Sea, and sailed on to a river, which he 
thought the Tanais, the boundary of Europe. 12 In all 
his course, he made many observations on the climate, 
the people, and the productions of the countries he 
visited, of which only a very few fragments have 
descended to us; and it is evident, from what has 
been transmitted to us of his opinions, that Britain 
was a principal object of his examination. 13 

In the third book of his history, Polybius has 
intimated that the British islands, and the manner of 
making tin, would be one of his subjects for a future 
composition. 14 His friend, the great Scipio, made 
inquiries concerning Britain 15 , of the merchants of 
Narbonne and Marseilles; but though he could obtain, 
from their ignorance or their jealousy, nothing 
worthy of memory, yet, as Polybius mentions that 
many authors before him had treated fully, though, 
variously, on this and the other subjects which ho 

11 Bougainville, p. 289. Pytheas referred the cause of the tides to the agency of 
the moon. Plut. de placit. Phil. His description of the stars in the north was 
cited with approbation by Hipparchus, in his Commentary on Aratus. 

12 Bougainville has collected the passages from Pytheas' voyage, in Strabo and 
Pliny, which express these circumstances ; and has vindicated him from the angry 
invectives of Strabo, who, though occasionally erring himself, is very unsparing in 
his censure of Pytheas. 

13 See Pliny, lib. ii. c. 77., and c. 99. ; lib. iv. c.27., and a, 30. ; and Strabo, p.. 
163. and 175. Pytheas has had a singular fortune: he has been attacked by 
Strabo and Polybius ; and followed by Eratosthenes and Hipparchus. 

14 Hist. lib. iii. c. 5. 15 Strabo, lib. iv. p. 289. 

E 3 


BOOK postpones ; and as he himself had travelled through 

. L , Spain and Gaul, and had sailed over the ocean which 

bounds them 16 ; the remarks of an author, so in- 
quisitive and judicious, would have been an invaluable 
present to our curiosity. If they were ever written 17 , 
time has deprived us of them. We have equally lost 
the works of Timaeus, Isidorus, Artemidorus, Mes- 
senius, Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, and Posidonius, 
who are all mentioned to have noticed the British 
islands. 18 

Indeed it is evident that the Grecian geographers 
directed their attention to the northern and western 
parts of Europe. Caesar mentions that the great 
Hercynian forest of Germany was known to Eratos- 
thenes, and some other Grecians, who called it 
Orcynia. 19 But that Grecian colonies were in Britain, 
cannot be believed on the vague intimation of St. 
Jerome. 20 That Hiero, king of Sicily, had the main- 
mast of his ship from England, rests on a passage in 
Athenaeus 21 , which has been thought corrupted, be- 
cause a sentence of Polybius, if it had not been 

16 Polybius, lib. iii. c. 5. 

17 In speaking of the British islands, Polybius rather expresses a treatise which 
he had it in his contemplation to compose, than one which he had made. From 
this passage, it is not certain, whether he fulfilled his intentions ; and yet some 
allusions of Strabo seem to have been taken from such a work. 

18 Pliny, lib.iv. c. 30. Strabo, lib. ii. p. 163. ; lib. iv. p. 304. ; lib. i. p. 111. 
We find from Tacitus, Vit. Agr. , that Livy and Fabius Rusticus, " eloquentissimi 
auctores," had also treated of Britain before him. 

19 Caesar, lib. vi. c. 22. 

20 St. Jerome, in his questions on Genesis, referring to Varro, Sisinius Capito, and 
Phlegon, but without giving their precise words, says, that the Greeks possessed 
all the sea coasts from the mountains Amanus and Taurus to the British Ocean. 
But these writers most probably meant no more than the Grecian colony at Mar- 

21 Athenaeus describes at length the celebrated ship which Archimedes made for 
Hiero, because he had just read very carefully the book which Moschion had 
written upon it. After giving a full detail of its various parts, he comes to its 
masts. He says, the second and third were easily found, but the first was obtained 
with difficulty. It was found by a herdsman, tv TOIS opecriv TTJS Epfrravias, and 
Phileas the Tauromenian, the mechanist, brought it down to the sea. Deip. lib. v. 
p. 208. Camden suggests that this may be a corruption for BpcTTiavns, or the 
Brutii in Italy. 


corrected, would have made Hannibal to have fought CHAP. 
in Britain. 22 Later Greek stories are mere random ^^J , 
fictions. 23 But that Britain was at least in the re- 
collection of the Romans before Caesar, is obvious 
from the passage of Lucretius which alludes to it. 24 
The remarks of Dion Cassius and of Diodorus, express 
the real state of the question as to the actual inter- 
course of the Grecians and Romans with Britain. 25 

It is well known, that Jeffrey^of Monmouth, who 
diffused in the twelfth century that history of Britain 
which in former times so much occupied the public 
mind, deduces the first colonisation of Britain from a 
Trojan source ; from Brutus, the son of ^Eneas, who, 
after wandering through the sea, and landing in Gaul, 
finally settled in this island. The same story is in 
the Welsh Chronicles, which are ascribed to Tyssilio, 
and supposed, though too gratuitously, to have been 
Jeffrey's originals. 

Not a line of history can be written from a work 
so obviously fabulous as the composition, or, as he 
describes it, the translation from Breton manuscripts, 
of Jeffrey. But the curious student may fairly ask, 
did this Trojan story originate with Jeffrey, or had 

22 The corrupt passage of Polybius occurs in the eclogue of the llth book. The 
corruption here is manifest, as Camden has remarked. The passage applies wholly 
to Italy. 

23 There have been some absurd fancies about the earlier intercourse of the 
Greeks and Romans with Britain. That Alexander the Great came from Cadiz to 
Britain, or that British kings made presents to Cato the Elder, in approbation of 
his virtue, as Cedrenus and J. Tzetzes mention, are circumstances which show 
that the introduction of romance into history did not originate merely from our 

24 " Nam quid Britannium coalum differre putamus 

Et quod in ^gypto est, qua mundi claudicat axis." Luc. 

25 Dion says, " Its existence was not known to the earliest Greeks and Romans, 
and to the more recent it was a doubt whether it was a continent or an island. 
But though several maintained each opinion, they had no actual knowledge about 
It, as they neither saw the island themselves nor conversed with its natives. '* 
lib. xxxix. p. 127. Diodorus remarks. "Anciently it remained untouched by 
foreign powers ; for we have not heard that either Bacchus or Hercules, or any 
of the other heroes, reigned in it," lib. iv. p. 30O. Mela's opinion is, that 
Caesar subdued it in tribes, not only unconquered before, but even unknown, lib. iii. 
p. 263. 

E 4 


it an earlier origin ? A few observations will be suffi- 
cient on the subject. 

It appears from Nennius, wlio wrote in the ninth 
century, that the opinion of this descent was in 
Britain in his time ; for he mentions an outline of 
that story 26 , which Jeffrey has so much amplified and 

Taliesin, in his poems, frequently mentions Troy, 
and seems to allude to the tradition of such a descent. 27 
All this is too vague for history. But it is remark- 
able, that there should have been in Europe several 
traditions connected both with the conquerors and 
the conquered, in that celebrated warfare which 
Homer has immortalised. 28 

It was the ambition of Caesar, who delighted to 
accomplish what no man before him had achieved, 
that led him, after the conquest of the Keltic nation 
in Gaul, and "its German invaders, to attempt the 
discovery and subjugation of Britain. He knew not 
whether it was a vast continent or a confined island. 
But the doubt and obscurity were but additional 

26 Nennius professes to derive his account from the annals of the Romans. It is 
chiefly this : Brutus was the grandson of Ascanius, the son of ^Eneas. Driven 
from Italy and the Tyrrhenian Sea, he went to Gaul, and founded Tours, and 
thence came to this island, gave it his name, and peopled it about the time that 
Eli was the judge in Israel, c. 33. 

27 See Welsh Archaiology, vol. i. 

28 Thus Tacitus mentions the opinion of the Germans, that Ulysses was driven 
into the Northern Ocean, and built there Asciburgum ; and that an altar dedicated 
to Ulysses, with the name of Laertes his father, had been found there, De Mor, 
Germ. s. 3. Solinus notices a tradition of Ulysses having reached a bay in Cale- 
donia ; " which," he adds, " an altar with a Greek inscription shows," c. 22. A 
Trojan colony is stated to have founded Trapano in Italy, Dion. Hal. p. 41, 42. 
Virgil intimates, JEn. 1. 1. v. 242., that Antenor founded Padua, and led his 
Trojan followers into Ulyria and Liburnia, and to the springs of the Timavus, or 
into Sclavonia, Croatia, and Friuli. Pliny, 1. 3. c, 2. stations Dardani in Mresia, 
which he extends from the Pontus to the Danube, and Strabo, 1. 7. enumerates 
the Dardanidae among the Illyrians ; while Pindar ascribes the settlement of Cyrene 
in Africa also to Antenor. Pyth. Od. 5. Another tradition connects Ulysses with 
Lisbon. Livy describes the same Trojan chief as likewise founding the Venetian 
population. Hist. 1. 1. But the tradition more immediately connecting itself with 
the intimations of Nennius, is that noticed by Ammianus Marcellinus, that some 
Trojans, flying from the Greeks, and dispersed all around, occupied regions in Gaul 
then uninhabited, lib. xv. c. 9. 


temptations to his aspiring genius. To great minds, CHAP. 
the unknown is as attractive as the wonderful, and 
untried danger is but a mysterious incentive to explore 
it. He prepared a small fleet to examine its coasts, 
and resolved with the force which he could then 
venture to take from Gaul, to attempt to penetrate a 
country, which none of the conquerors of the civilised 
world appeared to have even seen. 



The Memoirs of the Ancient Britons. The Druids. 

BOOK WHEN Britain was invaded by the Romans, it ex- 
L J hibited the state of a country which had been peopled 
from several shoots of the barbaric or nomadic stocks, 
at different periods, with some grafts or improvements 
from more civilised nations. Its inhabitants were 
divided into many tribes, of which about forty -five 
have been enumerated with distinct appellations. 1 

1 I. From Kent to Cornwall were the 

Cantii Belgae 

Regni Durotriges 

Bibroces Haedui 

Attrebates Carnabii 

" Segontiaci Damnonii. 

These were afterwards comprised in the Roman district called Britannia Prima. 

II. In the Peninsula of Wales were the Silures, Ordovices, and Dimetae, whose 
country formed the Britannia Seeunda of the Romans. 

III. Between the Thames, the Severn, the Mersey, the Humber, and the ocean, 
the district afterwards named Flavia Caesariensis, comprised the 

Trinobantes Dobuni 

Iceni Huiccii 

Coritani Ancalites 

Cassii Carnabii. 

IV. In the Maxima Csesariensis of the Romans, or in our present Lancashire, 
Westmoreland, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Durham, and part of Northumberland, 
were the 

Setantii or Sistuntii 

Volantii or Voluntii 


V. The five nations, who occupied the districts of the Roman province of 
Valentia, which, comprising chief part of Northumberland, extended from the 
Wall of Hadrian, into Scotland, as far as the Wall of Antoninus, were the 

Ottadini Novantes 

Gadeni Damnii. 


VI. Beyond these, in North Britain, were the tribes included in the Roman 
province of Vespasiani. 

Horestii Vacouiagi 

Vecturones Albani 

Taixali Attacotti. 

VII. In the rest of Scotland, were the 

Caledonii Mertse 

Cautae Carnonancae 

Logi Cerones 

Carnabii Creones 

Catini Epidii. 


Of these, the Belgas, whom Caesar particularises to CHAP. 
have passed over from Belgic Gaul, and to have been . 
established in the island by their victories, occupied 
part of the coast of the British Channel. He dis- 
tinguishes the Cantii, or people of Kent, as more 
advanced than the rest in the habits of civilised life, 
and as not differing much from the people of Gaul. 
The Belgae pursued agriculture. But most of the 
interior tribes lived on milk and flesh, or in that 
state which has been called the pastoral, and clothed 
themselves with skins. 2 

All the Britons stained themselves of a blue colour 
with woad, which gave them a more horrible ap- 
pearance in battle. 3 They wore long hair on their 
heads, but shaved it from the other parts of the body 
excepting the upper lip. Their population appeared 
numerous to the Romans. 4 

The aspect of the country, as it first struck their 
view, presented a succession of forests, lakes, and 
great rivers: and Mela remarks of it, what must 
have been true of most parts of Europe, where agri- 
culture was little practised, that it was more adapted 
to the kindly nourishment of cattle than of men. 
He also represents the people in general as not only 
uncivilised, but as much behind the nations on the 
continent in their social culture. Their cattle and 
fields were their general wealth, and they seem to 
have been acquainted with no other. 5 

2 Caesar. Comment, lib. v. c. 10. Herodian speaks of those in the northern 
districts, with whom Severus fought, as usually naked, with an iron ring round 
their neck or stomach, lib. iii. p. 83. 

8 Csesar. ib. Mela, lib. iii. c. 6. This seems to have been done from infancy, 
as Pliny says the British wives and nurses did it, lib. xxii. c. 2. Hence Martial's 
epithet " Caeruleis Britannis," lib. xi. c. 32. Herodian remarks, of the Britons 
who resisted Severus, that they painted the figures of all kinds of animals on their 
bodies, lib. iii. p. 83. ; and as Claudian mentions " the fading figures on the dying 
Pict," it seems to have pervaded the island, and to have been continued by the 
less civilised to his time. Claud, de Bell. Get. 

4 Caesar. 

5 Mela, lib. iii. c. 6. Cicero gives us the impression of his day on this subject. 
In a letter to Atticus he says, " It is known that there is not a scruple of money 


BOOK Like all barbaric tribes, who have reached their 
*;.__. stations at successive periods, or have grown up in 
separate and independent states, and whose active 
spirits are not occupied by the pursuits of civilised 
life, they were perpetually at war with each other 6 ; 
and it is probable that the present state and people 
of New Zealand exhibit more nearly than any other, 
the condition of Britain when the Romans entered it. 
The Britons were taller than the Gauls, but not so 
strong. The young Britons whom Strabo saw at 
Rome, were higher by half a foot than the tallest 
man there, but their lower limbs were not straight, 
nor did the general outline of their make display the 
symmetry of beauty. Their hair was less yellow 
than that of the Gauls. 7 The Silures are mentioned 
with ruddy cheeks and curled hair, and the in- 
habitants of Caledonia with red hair. 8 As the Belga? 
in Gaul wore loose breeches and a waistcoat with 
sleeves, instead of a tunic; and a sagum or upper 
garment 9 , we may suppose that their settlers in 
Britain used the same dress. Bonduca's royal costume 
when she addressed the Britons, was long yellow 
hair, with a large golden torques; and a XITWV or 
tunic swelling round her bosom in various colours, 
with a thick cloak thrown over it. 10 The Britons had 
gold rings on their middle finger. 11 

in the island ; nor any hope of booty, but in slaves," lib. iv. ep. 1 7. It is curious 
to read this remark now, when Britain is the wealthiest country of Europe. 

6 Mela, lib. iii. c. 6. Herodian speaks of the Britons as " a most warlike nation, 
eager for slaughter," lib. iii. p. 83. As already hinted, I consider the British History 
of Jeffrey of Monmouth a tissue of fiction, though it may have preserved some real 
names, traditions, and circumstances ; but it is impossible to separate in it the true 
from the invented. 

7 Strabo, lib. iv. p. 305. 

8 Tacitus, Agric. Vit. Rutilatae Comae, Livy notices of the Gauls, lib. xxxviii. 
c. 17. 

9 Strabo, 300. 10 xiph. epit. Dio. p. 169. 

11 Pliny, lib. xxxiii. c. 6. This author remarks that the person, who first put 
rings on the fingers, introduced one of the worst crimes of life, ibid. c. 4. The 
proximum scelus was coining money from gold, ibid. c. 13. The use of rings as a 
personal distinction for men has so greatly declined, that even Pliny would not 
have thought them to have a very wicked tendency. They are worn now but as a> 
petty ornament, not as in his time for fastidious pomp. 


Their houses, chiefly formed of reeds or wood, 
were very numerous, like those of the Gauls, and 
were usually seated in the midst of woods, perhaps 
for better defence, as those of the New Zealanders 
are, for the same reason, placed on fortified hills. 
The wars of fierce and rude men, unacquainted with 
military discipline, or disdaining to submit to it, 
usually consist of attempts to surprise and ravage; 
and therefore precautions against sudden aggressions 
are the most essential parts of their defensive skill. 
The Britons seem to have cleared a space in the 
wood, on which they built their huts and folded their 
cattle ; and they fenced the avenues by ditches and 
barriers of trees. Such a collection of houses formed 
one of their towns. 12 

They had great quantities of cattle. 13 Some of the 
British tribes are said not to have had the art of 
making cheese, though they had abundance of milk ; 
others knew nothing of either agriculture or garden- 
ing. 14 They housed their corn in the ear, in sub- 
terraneous places, and threshed out no more than 
served them for the day. 15 The little money which 
they had, was of the Spartan kind ; it was either copper 
or iron rings, of a definite weight. 16 

They thought it a crime to eat hares, geese, or 
hens, though they bred them for pleasure. One of 
their most extraordinary and pernicious customs was, 
that community of women among ten or twelve men, 
who chose to form such an association, which reminds 
us of the Arreoys of Otaheite. The British Arreoys, 

12 Strabo, lib. iv. p. 306. Caesar, lib. v. c. 17. Diod. Sic. lib. v. p. 301. 

13 Cjesar, lib.v. c. 10. 

14 Strabo, lib. iv. p. 305. 

15 Diod. lib. v. p. 301. Pliny notices that they used a species of lime as a manure, 
which he calls white chalk, lib. xvii. c. 4. 

16 Caesar, lib. v. c. 10. It is supposed that Cunobelin, the successor of Cassi- 
vellaun, first coined money in Britain. " About fifty of his coins, with his own 
name, have come down to the present age. Some of them exhibit a plane surface, 
but most a small convexity." Whit. Manch. book i. c. 9. One of them represents 
a bard with his harp, ibid. c. 7. sect. 5. 


BOOK however, seem not to have destroyed their children ; 

. * . as these were agreed to be considered as the offspring 
of the man who had married the mother. 17 

In battle their chief strength was in their infantry. 18 
But they fought also on horses, and more especially 
in chariots, with scythes at the axles. 19 In these they 
rode, throwing darts on every side; and, by the 
dread of the horses, and the noise of the wheels, they 
often disordered their opponents. When they had 
broken in among the horse, they leaped from the 
cars, and fought on foot. The drivers retired a little 
out of the battle, but so stationed themselves, as to 
be ready to receive the combatants if pressed by the 
enemy. Thus, to the activity of cavalry, they united 
the steadiness of infantry. By daily use and practice 
they were so expert that they could stop their horses 
at full speed down a declivity, could guide and turn 
them, run along the beam, stand on the yoke, and 
from thence, with rapidity, dart into their chariots. 20 
Diodorus, in mentioning the British war-chariots, 
recalls to our mind, that the heroes of the Trojan 
war used them likewise ; there was, however, this 
difference, that among the Britons the driver was the 
superior person. 21 

The honourable testimony of Diodorus to their 
superiority to the Romans in some of those moral 
virtues, in which the nomadic nations excelled the 
civilised, must not be omitted. " There is a sim- 
plicity in their manners, which is very different from 
that craft and wickedness which mankind now ex- 
hibit. They are satisfied with a frugal sustenance, 
and avoid the luxuries of wealth." 22 

Their re. The religion of the Britons was of a fierce and 
sanguinary nature. It resembled that of the Gauls, 

17 Caesar, lib. v. c. 10. Tacitus. 

19 Mela, lib. iii. c. 6. 20 Ca>sar. lib. iv. c. 29. 

21 Diod. lib. v. p. 301. Honestior auriga ; clientes propugnant, Tacit. Vit. Agr. 

22 Diod. p. 301. 


which is thus described. They who were afflicted 
with severe disease, or involved in dangers or battles, 
sacrificed men for victims, or vowed that they would 
do so. The Druids administered at these gloomy 
rites. They thought that the life of a man was to 
be redeemed by a man's life; and that there was 
no other mode of conciliating their gods. Some 
made images of wicker work of an immense size, and 
filled them with living men, whom they burned alive. 
Thieves and robbers, or other criminals, were usually 
made the victims ; but if there were a deficiency of 
these, the guiltless were sacrificed. 23 At some of 
their sacred rites the British women went naked, 
but stained dark, like Ethiopians, by a vegetable 24 
juice. That they consulted their gods on futurity, 
by inspecting the quivering flesh of their human 
victims, and that they had prophetic women, has 
been already mentioned. 25 

Their superstitious fancies deemed the misseltoe 
sacred, if it vegetated from the oak. They selected 
groves of oaks, and thought everything sent from 
heaven which grew on this tree. On the sixth day 
of the moon, which was the beginning of their 
months and years, and of their period of thirty years, 
they came to the oak on which they observed any 
of the parasitical plant (which they called all-healing), 
prepared a sacrifice and a feast under this venerated 
tree, and brought thither two white bulls, whose 
horns were then first tied. The oificiating Druid, in 
a white garment, climbed the tree, and, with a golden 
knife, pruned off the misseltoe, which was received 
in a white woollen cloth below. They then sacrificed 
the victims, and addressed their gods to make the 
misseltoe prosperous to those to whom it was given ; 

23 C*sar. lib.\i. c. 15. * Pliny, lib. xxii. c. 2. 

35 See before, p. 35. That the Kelts sacrificed human victims to a deity, whom 
the Greeks called Kronos, and the Latins Saturn, we learn from Dionysius Halic. 
lib. i. p. 30. 


BOOK for they believed that it caused fecundity, and was 
. * , an amulet against poison. They performed no cere- 
monies without the leaves of the oak. 26 

The ancient world, including the most enlightened 
nations, even Greece and Kome, were universally im- 
pressed with a belief of the powers of magic. But 
the expressions of Pliny induce us to imagine, that 
this mischievous imposture was peculiarly cultivated 
by the British Druids. He says, " Britain now cele- 
brates it so astonishingly, xand with so many cere- 
monies, that she might even be thought to have given 
it to the Persians." 27 The Druids were indeed so 
superior in knowledge and intellect to the rest of the 
nation, that their magical frauds must have been 
easily invented and securely practised. 

The The Druidical system began in Britain, and from 

thence was introduced into Gaul. In Caesar's time, they 
who wished to know it more diligently, for the most 
part visited Britain, for the sake of learning it. The 
Druids were present at all religious rites ; they ad- 
ministered at public and private sacrifices ; and they 
interpreted divinations. They were so honoured, that 
they decided almost all public and private contro- 
versies, and all causes, whether of homicide, inhe- 
ritance, or boundaries. They appointed the remu- 
nerations, and the punishments. Whoever disobeyed 
their decree, was interdicted from their sacrifices, 
which with them was the severest punishment. An 
interdicted person was deemed both impious and 
wicked ; all fled from him, and avoided his presence 
and conversation, lest they should be contaminated by 

2e Pliny, lib. xvl c. 95. As derw is British for an oak, and derwydd is the terra 
for a Druid in the same language, it is probable that this class of persons was named 
trom the tree they venerated. Maximus Tyrius calls the oak, the Keltic image of 
the Deity. Dissert. 

? PHny ; ^ XXX - C * 4> The Welsh term for right-hand, seems to have some 

terence to the ancient superstitions of the Britons. It is deheulaw, or the south- 

an expression which can only be true, when we look at the east. The 

solstice t0nehenge appear to have a reference to the rising of the sun at the 


the intercourse. He was allowed no legal rights. 
He participated in no honours. 

The Druids obeyed one chief, who had supreme 
authority over them. At his death, he was succeeded 
by the next in dignity. If others had equal pre- 
tences, the suffrages of the Druids decided it ; and 
sometimes arms determined the competition. 28 

The Druids had great privileges. They neither 
paid taxes, nor engaged in war. They were allowed 
exemption from warfare and all other offices. Excited 
by such advantages, many voluntarily submitted to the 
discipline, and others were sent by their friends and 
relations. They were said to learn a great number 
of verses there ; so that some remained twenty years 
under the education. They conceived it not lawful 
to commit their knowledge to writing, though in all 
other things they used Greek characters. Caesar adds, 
that a great number of youth resorted to them for 

They taught that souls never perished ; but passed 
at death into other bodies ; and as this opinion re- 
moved the fear of death, they thought that it excited 
strongly to what they called virtue, of which valour 
was the most conspicuous quality. They discussed 
and taught also many things concerning the stars, 
and their motion ; the size of the world, and its coun- 
tries ; the nature of things ; and the force and power 
of the immortal gods. 29 Such subjects of contem- 
plation and tuition as these, show a knowledge and an 
exerted intellect, that could not have been the natural 
growth of a people so rude as the Britons and Gauls. 
They must have derived both the information and 
the habit from more civilised regions. The Druidi- 
cal order consisted of three sorts of men ; Druids, 

28 Caesar. 

29 Caesar, lib. vi. c. 13. Mela, lib. iii. c. 20.; and see Lucan's celebrated verses 
on their theory of transmigration. 

VOL. I. F 


BOOK Bards, and Ouates. The Bards were the poets and 
L . musicians, of whom some were satirists, and some 
encomiasts. The Ouates sacrificed, divined, and con- 
templated the nature of things. The Druids culti- 
vated physiology and moral philosophy ; or, as Dio- 
dorus says, were their philosophers and theologians. 30 
Of the Druidical superstitions, we have no monu- 
ments remaining, unless the circles of stones, which 
are to be seen in some parts of the island, are deemed 
their temples. Of all the suppositions concerning 
Stonehenge and Avebury, it seems the most rational 
to ascribe them to the Druidical order ; and of this 
system we may remark, that if it was the creature of 
a more civilised people, none of the colonisers of 
Britain are so likely to have been its parents, as the 
Phoenicians and Carthaginians. 31 The fact so expli- 
citly asserted by Caesar, that the Druidical system 
began in Britain, and was thence introduced into 
Gaul, increases our tendency to refer it in these na- 
tions. The state of Britain was inferior in civilisa- 
tion to that of Gaul, and therefore it seems more rea- 
sonable to refer the intellectual parts of Druidism to 
the foreign visitors, who are known to have culti- 
vated such subjects, than to suppose them to have 
originated from the rude unassisted natives. 

30 Died. Sicul. lib. v. p. 308. Strabo, lib. iv. p. 302. 

31 Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine abound with many solid rocks and stony 
mountains cut into shapes, and excavated into chambers, and with erections of 
stones for the purposes of superstition. Mr. Watts 1 Views in Syria and Palestine, 
from the drawings in Sir Robert Ainslie's collection, exhibit some curious remains 
of this sort. Dr. Stukely in his letters to Mr. Gale, in 1743, states that he had 
found a Druidical Temple at Shap, in Westmoreland. He says, I have got a drawing 
and admeasurement of the stones at Shap. I find it to be another huge serpentine 
temple like that of Avebury. The measure of what are left extends to a mile 

and a half, but a great deal has been demolished." Reliq. Gal. p. 387. A writer 

in the Gentleman's Magazine for February 1833, thinks Dr. Stukely right in 
calling the whole collection of stones a temple. " It is not a Danish monument." 
It is a remarkable feature of Westmoreland and Cumberland that their uncultivated 
hills and plains are scattered all over with Druidical remains, while in Northumber- 
land and Durham, which adjoin them on the East, scarcely anything of the kind 
exists. A Dolman, or Druid's Cave, near Saumur, in France, is described in " Six 
AVeeks on the Loire." 



Invasion of Britain by Julius Ccesar. Its final Conquest by 
the Romans. 

SUCH were the Britons whom Csesar invaded. After CHAP. 
his conquest in Gaul, and an expedition into Ger- . VI !^ 
many, he resolved to visit Britain. We need not 
ascribe this invasion to the British pearls alluded to 
by Suetonius. The ambition of Caesar, like that of 
all men of great minds, who have accomplished vast 
attempts, expanded with his successes. Accustomed 
to grand conceptions, and feeling from their expe- 
rience of their own talents, and the abundance of 
their means, a facility of prosecuting the most capa- 
cious plans ; it has been usual with conquerors who 
have united sovereignty with their military triumphs, 
instead of enjoying their fame in peaceful repose, to 
dare new enterprises of danger and difficulty, and of 
mighty issue. Caesar appears to have amused him- 
self in forming great projects. He not only purposed 
to build a temple to Mars, whose magnitude was to 
surpass whatever the world had seen of religious 
architecture ; to drain the Pontine marshes ; to make 
a highway through the Apennines, from the Adriatic 
to the Tiber; and to cut through the isthmus of 
Corinth l : but he had also a dream of subduing the 
Parthians on the Euphrates ; of marching along the 
Caspian, and Mount Caucasus to the Euxine ; of in- 
vading Scythia ; and from thence of penetrating and 
conquering Germany ; and from that country, of 
returning through Gaul, into Italy and Koine. 2 That 

1 Suet. Vit. Cses. s. 44. * Plut. Vit. CSBS. 

F 2 


BOOK a mind, delighting to contemplate schemes so vast 
t L . and extravagant, should not have reached the shores 
of Gaul, and surveyed the British island, then pos- 
sessing the fame of being a new world, little known 
even to its Keltic neighbours as to its interior, with- 
out feeling the desire to explore it, was a natural 
event. Caesar, under this impulse, collected the mer- 
chants of Gaul, who had been accustomed to visit the 
island ; and inquired of them its size, what and how 
many nations inhabited it, their mode of warfare, 
their customs, and their harbours. Obtaining from 
those whom he questioned but scanty information, he 
sent one of his officers, in a vessel, to explore the 
coast, and collected all the ships, within his command, 
to make the exploring enterprise. 

Some of the British states, hearing of his intentions 
from the Keltic merchants, sent envoys of peace. 

His first expedition into Britain was to reconnoitre ; 
not to subdue. He was compelled to fight upon his 
landing, in the vicinity of Dover, because the Kentish 
Britons immediately opposed him conflicting even 
amidst the waves, with signal courage ; and although 
Caesar, observing his troops to be dispirited by the 
British attacks, ordered up the vessels with his artil- 
lery, and poured from their sides stones, arrows, and 
other missiles, yet the natives stood the unusual dis- 
charges with intrepidity, and he made no impression. 
It was the rushing forward, alone, of the bearer of 
the eagle of the tenth legion, exclaiming, "Follow 
me, unless you mean to betray your standard to your 
enemies," that roused the Roman legions to that 
desperate and closer battle, which at length forced 
back the Britons, and secured a landing. The Britons 
retired ; and Caasar did not pursue. The natives of 
the locality sent a message of peace ; but four days 
afterwards, a tempest dispersing his fleet, they as- 
saulted the Romans with new attacks. Caesar re- 


pulsed them ; but after this success he thought it CHAP. 
expedient, without advancing, to quit the island sud- i^J > 
denly at midnight. He ascribes his departure to the 
approach of the autumnal equinox ; but he knew of 
this event before his landing. The truth seems to be 
that he found his present force, though sufficient to 
repel the Britons, yet incompetent to subdue them. 3 

His next invasion, in the ensuing summer, was 
more formidable. It was made with five well ap- 
pointed legions, and two thousand cavalry a force 
of thirty thousand of the best disciplined troops then 
known, under the ablest commander. As the Britons 
did not contest the landing, it was easily effected. 
On this visit he quitted the coasts, and marched 
twelve miles into the island. There he repulsed an 
attack. A storm again shattering his fleet, he stopped 
his advance, and returned to the coast, to provide 
for the safety of his ships. Ten days afterwards he 
resumed his former position, and was immediately 
assaulted by some of the British tribes, who had 
confederated under the temporary command of Cas- 
sivellaun. They were repelled. They attempted 
hostilities again on the succeeding day, but were 
again defeated. On these failures, the auxiliary 
bodies left Cassivellaun ; and Caesar, being informed 
of their desertion, ventured to advance to the Thames, 
and to the borders of the state of the British prince. 
The ford had been fortified by sharp stakes, under 
the water, and on the banks. The Romans passed 
it up to their necks in water, in the presence of the 
natives collected in arms on the other side, who, dis- 
mayed at the courage of the enemy, hastily retired. 

Cassivellaun, keeping only four thousand war 

3 Caesar, lib. iv. c. 18 33. On this expedition Dio's observation seems a fair 
one. " He obtained from it nothing, either for himself or for his country, but 
the glory of having fought in it : and as he stated this very strongly, the people of 
Rome wondered, and extolled him." Lib. xxxix. p. 128. 

r 3 


BOOK chariots with him, confined his efforts to harassing 
. the invaders. 

The civil dissensions of the island then began to 
give Caesar the advantage of his enterprises. The 
Trinobantes, of whose territories London was the 
metropolis, desired his aid for their chief Mandu- 
bratius, or Androgorus, against Cassivellaun ; and 
five other tribes also sent in their submission. Caasar 
was afterwards attacked by four kings of Kent, Gin- 
getorix, Carnilius, Taximagulus, and Segonax, but 
without success; and Cassivellaun now sending an 
embassy for peace 4 , Caasar immediately granted it, 
demanded hostages, appointed a tribute, retired with 
his army to the sea coast, and relanded it in Gaul. 5 
The Romans appeared no more in Britain, nor at- 
tempted to molest it, for several years. 

Augustus afterwards talked of an expedition to 
Britain, and entered France, as if beginning it. But 
the Britons met him there with peaceful embassies, 
and custom-duties were imposed on the commodities 
that were objects of trade between Gaul and Britain ; 
as ivory, bridles, amber, and glass vessels. Strabo 
well remarks, that to have raised a tribute from the 
island, he must have established a military force 
there, but the expense of these troops would have 

4 Csesar. lib. v. c. 7 19. Dio remarks, that it would have been dangerous to 
him to have wintered in the island, lib. xl. p. 137. Polyaenus has preserved a story 
that Caesar's success in battle against the Britons was obtained by placing an armed 
elephant with a tower of soldiers in his front, whose appearance threw the natives 
into a panic. But Caesar's force, skill, and discipline, were sufficient to have ob- 
tained his victories without this stratagem. 

5 From Caesar's own account, as thus abstracted, we perceive the propriety of 
Horace applying the epithet of intactus to Britain, as also of the invictus of Pro- 
pertius. Tacitus has justly given the amount of his successes, when he states, that 
he did not subdue the island, but only showed it to the Romans. This correct 
intimation keeps clear of Lucan's extreme, that he showed his affrighted back to 
the Britons ; and of that of Paterculus, that he twiced passed through the island. 
His successes however astonished and delighted his countrymen. He offered to 
Venus, whom he once stated to be the ancestor of one of his aunts (Suet. c. 6.), a 
breast-plate of British pearls. Pliny. The victories over the Britons were painted 
on purple hangings ; and some of the natives were given to the theatre. See Yirgil, 
Georg. 3., and Servius on the passage, p. 126. 


consumed the contribution; and when violent courses CHAP. 
are pursued, he adds, danger begins. 6 \ , > 

Tiberius was content to leave Britain unmolested. 
Caligula was flattered in Gaul, by one of the British 
princes seeking an asylum in his court ; and drawing 
up his army on the sea shore, he sounded a charge 
and commanded them to gather cockle-shells, as in- 
dications of a conquest. With this bloodless tri- 
umph, and the erection of a watch-tower to com- 
memorate it, his ambition was satisfied. He left 
Britain to the continuation of those internal wars 

(which all uncivilised nations pursue, and which at 
last occasioned some to sacrifice their patriotism to 
their revenge, and to incite Claudius, his successor, 
to order Aulus Plautus to lead an army into the 
island. 7 This general landed with a powerful force, 
comprising German auxiliaries and some elephants; 
and with Yespasian for one of his officers. He had 
the usual successes of the Roman discipline and 
skill. The emperor Claudius came himself to par- 
take the triumph. He took Camalodunum or Mai- 
den, the capital of Cunobellin's dominion ; and, after 
a residence of sixteen days in the island, returned to 
Rome, leaving Plautus to govern Britain. 8 Games, 
triumphal arches, dramatic representations, horse- 
races, bear-combats, pyrrhic dances, gladiators, re- 
wards to his officers, and a splendid triumph to him- 
self, with the surname of Britannicus, attested his 

8 Horace. Strabo. In the following year Augustus resumed his project of an 
invasion, because the natives broke their treaty ; but the insurrection of the Can- 
tabri in Spain pi-evented it. The " adjectis Britannis imperio," of Horace, is there- 
fore rather a poetical figure, than an achieved fact. 

7 Dio mentions Bericus as one of this description, lib. Ix. p. 779. His remark 
on the political state of the Britons is, " that they were not O.VTOVO/J.OI, but were 
subject to several kings," ibid. Of these Plautus first defeated Kataratakos, and 
afterwards Togodoumnos, the two sons of Kunobellin. Ibid. 

8 Dio, lib. Ix. p. 781, 782. Tacitus's account of this invasion has perished in his 
last books. That elephants were used by the Romans in England, appears from 
the bones of an elephant having been found, on digging for gravel, in a field near 
Battle Bridge. 1 Lei. Collect, p. Ixiv. 

r 4 


own and the national exultations at his successes in 

Vespasian distinguished himself in Britain at this 
period. He fought thirty battles with the natives, 
took twenty towns, and subdued the Isle of Wight 9 ; 
exertions which imply corresponding efforts and in- 
trepidity on the part of the Britons. The great 
Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem, fought here also, 
as military tribune under his father, with much 
reputation both for his modesty and courage. 10 It is 
interesting to read of this celebrated man, that when 
Vespasian was surrounded by the Britons, and in 
extreme danger, Titus rushed upon the assailing 
enemies, and at last extricated his revered parent. 11 
We may consider this great instrument of Providence 
as training himself, unconsciously, in Britain, for the 
awful task he was to accomplish. 

The island, although thus penetrated to a certain 
extent, and the southern parts occupied by the Ro- 
mans, was as yet neither conquered nor tranquil. 
Seven years afterwards, we find Ostorius withstand- 
ing the British assaults, and establishing a line of 
posts between the Nen and the Severn. The Britons 
on the east and north, and afterwards those of Wales, 
renewed the conflicts. The defeat and capture of 
Caradawg or Caractacus, whose appearance at Rome, 
as a prisoner, excited peculiar exultation, and for 
whom an impressive speech has been composed by 
Tacitus, of which the rude Briton could only re- 
cognise the manly feeling it displays 12 , secured the 
Roman conquests. 

Sueton. Vesp. c. 4. 10 Suet m c 4 

Dio. Cass. lib. Ix. p. 788. Josephus mentions the extraordinary strength and 
activity of Titus, and gives instances of his rescuing his soldiers from the Jews by 
his personal exertions. Few pieces of history are more interesting, than Josephus's 
account of the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem. 

See it in Tacitus, Ann. lib. xii. c. 37. Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, 
whom Caractacus had married, was afterwards subdued, ibid. c. 40. The allusions 
to these victories in Britain, in the Roman poets of the day, show the joy of the 


About ten years afterwards, the Britons rushed to CHAP. 
a new effort to regain their independence, under . ^ 
Boadicea, which they began, like Mithridates in 
Asia, by an inhuman massacre of all the Romans 
within their reach. This new struggle has been de- 
scribed by Tacitus with all his energy. The Roman 
governor Suetonius happened to be a man of talent, 
equal to the emergency, and finally triumphed over 
all the fury and forces of the Britons. Boadicea 
poisoned herself; and the island was again subdued 
into terror and peace 13 , though much remained un- 

Vespasian had the recollection of his personal ex- 
ploits to excite his military attention to Britain, 
after he had obtained the empire. He sent powerful 
armies to extend the Roman conquests. The con- 
flicts continued with varying success, but the Britons 
were resolute and undaunted by failure. 14 

Seventeen years after the revolt of Boadicea Agri- 
cola was appointed to command the Roman forces in 
Britain, and by him the conquest of the island was 
completed. The pen and affection of Tacitus have 
amply, and interestingly, detailed his political and 
military conduct ; and has made Galgacus or Gallwg, 
on the Grampian Hills, as interesting as Caractacus. 15 
It is needless to detail battles that so much resemble 
each other, and always pain humanity both to read 
and to narrate. It is more pleasing to contemplate 
the wisdom of his liberal mind, which directed its 

public feeling on the occasion. See them collected in Camden's Introduction to 
the Britannia. It is amusing to read that our island was deemed a new world, an 
impervious region of frost and snow, where stars never set, and placed beyond the 
limits of the earth, &c. 

13 Tacit. Ann. lib. xiv. c. 29 39., and more concisely in his life of Agricola, 
c. 1416. 

14 These events are briefly noticed by Tacitus in his Agricola, c. 16, 17. One 
of the able governors here was Frontinus, the author of the book on the stratagems 
of war. 

15 His animated, and no doubt much amplified and polished speech is in Vit. 
Agric. s. 30. 


BOOK powers to civilise and improve the fierce natives. 

. * . He assisted them to build temples, forums, and more 
convenient habitations. He inspired them with a 
love of education ; he applauded their talents ; flat- 
tered them as possessing a genius superior to the 
Gauls ; and he persuaded the sons of the chiefs to 
study letters. The Roman dress, language, and lite- 
rature gradually spread among the natives. All this 
was improvement; but human advantages are mingled 
with imperfections. The civilisation of Rome also 
introduced its luxury; and baths, porticoes, arid 
sensual banquets became as palatable to the new 
subjects as to their corrupted masters. 16 Four legions 
were kept in the island. Their labours pervaded it 
with four great military roads, that became the chief 
Saxon highways ; and, in the military stations, upon 
and near them, laid the foundations of our principal 
towns and cities. The Roman laws and magistracies 
were everywhere established, and the British lawyers, 
as well as the British ladies 17 , have obtained the pane- 
gyrics of the Roman classics. It is beautifully said 
by Rutilius, that Rome filled the world with her 
legislative triumphs, and caused all to live under one 
common pact; that she blended discordant nations 
into one country; and, by imparting to those she 
conquered a companionship in her rights and laws, 
made the earth one great united city. 18 

A.C. 121. Britain, nearly half a century after Agricola, was 

16 Tac. Ag. s. 21. 

17 The stern Juvenal has 

Gallia causidicos docuit facunda Britannos. Sat. 

And Martial has an epigram on the decus formje of a British lady, whom he calls 
Claudia Rufina. The epithet of blue-eyed, which he applies to the Britons, was 
also given to them by Seneca. All the northern nations of Europe exhibit in their 
physiognomy, this contrast with the black eyes and darker skins of Italy. 
Legiferis mundum complexa triumphis 

Faedere communi vivere cuncta facit 

Fecisti patriam diversis gentibus unum 

Dumque offers victis proprii consortia j uris 

Urbem fecisti quod prius orbis erat. liutil. Itin. 


visited by the Emperor Hadrian, who ordered the CHAP. 
construction of a military work, from the mouth of ^ > 
the Tyne to the Solway Firth, as the boundary of the 
Koman provinces in Britain. In the next reign, of 
Antoninus Pius, the Romans penetrated again to the 
isthmus between the firths of Forth and Clyde, and 
built another military rampart, for the farthest 
boundary of their empire in Britain. 19 In 170 the 
Romans are said to have deserted all the country 
which lay to the north of the wall of Antoninus. 20 

After this period, the Roman legions in Britain 
began to support their commanders in their compe- 
titions for the empire. During these disputes, two 
unsubdued nations in the northern parts of Britain, 
the Caledonians and Meatae, broke through the ram- 
part between the firths, and harassed the province. 
The emperor Severus came to Britain to repress 
them. 21 His wars in Scotland cost him much toil, A.C. 207. 
and many men ; but he subdued his wild opponents, 
and, instead of the weak barrier of Hadrian, he 
erected an immense wall of stone, twelve feet high, 
and eight feet thick, strengthened with towers, 
castles, and stations at proper distances, and de- 
fended by a ditch and military way. This great 
work (the vestiges of which are still visible in several 
places) was built nearly parallel to that of Hadrian, 
at the distance of a few paces further to the north, 
and from the east coast, near Tinmouth, to the Sol- 
way Firth at Boulness, on the west coast. 22 Severus 

19 " Betwixt them Agricola had formerly erected a line of forts. These had not 
been destroyed, and Lollius joined them together by a long rampart. " Whit. Manch. 
vol. ii. p. 86. 8vo. 

io Ibid. 

81 Herodian, lib. Hi. p. 83. Xiphelin in Sever, p. 339. 

22 Eutropius, lib. viii. ; and see Henry's History of England, vol. ii. App. No. 9., 
and Horsley Britannia Romana. We derive some curious information on the 
Roman stations and residence in Britain, from the compilation of Richard of Circn- 
cester, first printed in 1757 from a MS. of the fourteenth century. It presents us 
with eighteen Itinera, which, he says, he collected from the remains of records 
which a Roman general had caused to be made. Mr. Whittaker's remarks upon it, 




died at York. As it was soon after this period that 
the Saxons began to molest Britain, we shall proceed 
to narrate the history of the invasion and occupation 
of Britain by the Saxons and Angles, after first 
stating all that can be collected of their authentic 
history before they left the continent. 

a little tinged with his sanguine feelings, are in his Hist. Manch. vol. ii. p. 83 91. 
Dr. Gouch's edition of Camden's Britannia, Mr. Lyson's works, the Archseologia of the 
Society of Antiquaries, will supply the inquirer with many notices of Roman re- 
mains found in this country. Even in the last year 1 835, and the present 1 836, new 
discoveries of these and of their coins, have occurred in various counties, some 
even in London on digging below the present surface for the foundations of new 
buildings. A quantity of Roman coins chiefly of Vespasian and Domitian, were 
lately found in improving the road from Shap to Kendal, nineteen gold, and five 
hundred and eighty silver. Gent. Mag., Feb. 1833. Roman coffins with inscrip- 
tions were recently discovered in York Castle Yard, a dozen feet below the surface. 
Some Roman tiles also in St. Cuthbert's church-yard with the inscription Leg. IX. 
Hisp. In the mint yard there, in the spring of 1 833, a stone was found with the 
inscription that one Hieronyms of the 6th legion had raised there a temple to Serapis 
the Egyptian god. " Deo Sancto Serapi Templum a solo fecit." York Papers. 



The origin of the SAXONS. 

THE Anglo-Saxons were the people who transported 
themselves from the Cimbric peninsula, and its vici- 
nity, in the fifth and sixth centuries, into England. 
They were branches of the great Saxon confederation, 
which, from the Elbe, extended itself at last to the 
Ehine. The hostilities of this formidable people had 
long distressed the western regions of Europe ; and 
when the Gothic nations overran the most valu- 
able provinces of Rome, the Anglo-Saxons invaded 
Britain soon after the Romans quitted it. The 
ancient inhabitants, and the progeny of the Roman 
settlers, disappeared as the new conquerors advanced, 
or accepted their yoke ; and Saxon laws, Saxon lan- 
guage, Saxon manners, government, and institutions, 
overspread the land. 

This revolution, than which history presents to us 
none more complete, has made the fortunes of the 
Saxons, during every period, interesting to us. 
Though other invaders have appeared in the island, 
yet the effects of the Anglo-Saxon settlements have 
prevailed beyond every other. Our language, our 
government, and our laws, display our Gothic an- 
cestors in every part : they live, not merely in our 
annals and traditions, but in our civil institutions 
and perpetual discourse. The parent-tree is indeed 
greatly amplified, by branches engrafted on it from 
other regions, and by the new shoots, which the 


BOOK accidents of time, and the improvements of society, 

. n - . have produced ; but it discovers yet its Saxon origin, 

and retains its Saxon properties, though more than 

thirteen centuries have rolled over, with all their 

tempests and vicissitudes. 

Although the Saxon name became, on the continent, 
the appellation of a confederacy of nations, yet, at 
first, it denoted a single state. The Romans began 
to remark it, during the second century of the Chris- 
tian era ; until that period, it had escaped the notice 
of the conquerors of the world, and the happy 
obscurity was rewarded by the absence of that de- 
solation which their ambition poured profusely on 

Saxons first Ptolemy, the Alexandrian, was the first writer 
by e pYoiemy. whom we know to have mentioned the Saxons. By 
the passage in his Geography, and by the concurrence 
of all their future history, it is ascertained, that, be- 
fore the year 141 after Christ 1 , there was a people 
called Saxones, who inhabited a territory at the north 
side of the Elbe, on the neck of the Cimbric Cherso- 
nesus, and three small islands, at the mouth of this 
river. From the same author it is also clear, that the 
Saxons were of no great importance at this period ; 
for in this peninsula, which is now divided into Jut- 
land, Sleswick, and Holstein, no fewer than six other 
nations were stationed, besides the Saxones and the 
remnant of the Cimbri. 2 

But it is not probable, that the Saxons should have 

1 Ptolemy lived in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, according to Suidas, vol. ii. 
p. 646. ; but he testifies himself, in the 7th book, Mag. Synt. p. 167., that he made 
astronomical observations at Alexandria in the 2d year of Ant. Pius, or ann. Christ, 
139. 3 Fab. Bibl. Grsec. p. 412. He speaks also of an eclipse of the moon in the 
9th of Adrian, or ann. Chr. 125. La Lande's Astron. i. p. 312. He mentions no 
observation beyond 141. Ib. 117. 

2 Cl. Ptolemseus Georg. lib. ii. c. 11. Marcianus of Heraclea, somewhat later 
than Ptolemy, gives the Saxons the same position on the neck of the Chersonesus. 
Pont. ib. 651. The geographical Lexicographer of Byzantium, usually named 
Stephanas, briefly says, " dwelling in the Cimbric Chersonesus." Steph. Byz. voc. 


started suddenly into existence, in the days of Ptole- 
my. The question of their previous history has been 
therefore much agitated ; and an equal quantity of 
learning and of absurdity has been brought forward 
upon the subject. 

It has been observed, that to explain the origin of 
the Saxons, the most wild and inconsistent fictions 
have been framed. 3 But it is not this nation only, 
which has been thus distinguished by the perverseness 
of the human mind, labouring to explore inscrutable 
antiquity; every people may recount similar puer- 

To claim an extravagant duration, has been the 
folly of every state which has risen to any eminence. 
We have heard, in our childhood, of the dreams of 
the Babylonians, Egyptians, Indians, and Chinese ; 
and we know, that even Athenians could wear a golden 
grasshopper 4 , as an emblem, that they sprung fortuit- 
ously from the earth they cultivated, in ages far be- 
yond the reach of human history : we may therefore 
pardon and forget the fables of the Saxon patriots. 

It has caused much surprise, that Tacitus, who Not noticed 
wrote a particular description of Germany, many byT 
years before Ptolemy, should have omitted to name 
the Saxons. 5 Every author has been unwilling to 
suppose, that they came to the Elbe in the short in- 
terval between these authors; and therefore it has 
been very generally imagined, that the nation to whom 
Tacitus gave the denomination of Fosi 6 , were the 

3 Krantz remarked this : " Ita puerilibus fabulis et anilibus deliramentis omnia 
scatent, ut nihil in his sibi constet, nihil quadret. Saxonia, pi. Yet the ab- 
surdity of others did not preserve him from an imitation. 

4 Potter's Antiq. of Greece, vol. i. p. 2. So the Arcadians boasted they were 
irpoff\T)t>oi, or before the moon. Ib. p. 1. 

5 Conringius thinks, that by some unexplained accident, time has effaced from 
the text of Tacitus a passage about the Saxons. Schilter's Thes. Ant. Teut. iii. 
p. 704. 

6 Cellarius Geog. Ant. i. p 303., and Cluverius, iii. Germ. Ant. 87., and many 
others assert this. Spener with diffidence defends it. Notit. Germ. Ant. 363. With 
a manly but rare impartiality he states forcibly the objections to the opinion he 
adopts, 37 1. Leibnitz places the Fosi on the Fusa, a river which falls into the Alien 
near Zell. Ibid. 372. 


BOOK warriors, who acquired afterwards so much celebrity, 

. n> , under the name of Saxons. 

Before such violent suppositions are admitted, it 
seems necessary to ask, if Ptolemy mentions any other 
people, in his geography of Germany, whom Tacitus 
has not noticed ? If he does, the omission of Tacitus 
is not, in the present instance, singular; if he does 
not, the conjecture that the Fosi were the Saxons, 
comes to us with authority. 

other tribes Upon comparing the Cimbric Chersonesus of Taci- 
tus, with the delineation of the same place by Ptolemy, 
the question above stated is decided. Ptolemy does 
not mention the Saxones only, as being there ; on the 
contrary, he names, separately, six other nations be- 
fore he comes to the Cimbri. Tacitus, after mention- 
ing the Frisii, Chauci, and Cherusci, speaks of the 
Fosi, and closes his account of this part of Germany 
with the Cimbri. Tacitus has not merely neglected 
to name the Saxons, but also the Sigulones, the Saba- 
lingii, the Cobandi, the Chali, the Phundusii, and the 
Charudes. 7 If either of these tribes had risen to 
eminence, the one, so successful, would have been 
thought the Fosi. The Saxons became renowned, 
and their celebrity, rather than their situation, has 
made some persons desirous to find them in Tacitus. 
The name of Fosi cannot be strictly applied to the 
Saxons, with more justice than to the others. 8 

But it cannot be inferred from the silence of 
Tacitus, that the Saxons were not above the Elbe in 
his days. In this part of his map of Germany, he 
does not seem to have intended to give that minute 

7 Cluverius thus stations these tribes. The Sigulones northward from the 
Saxons, as far as Tunderen and Appenrade ; Sabalingii, above these, to the 
Nipsa and Tobesket, on which are Ripen and Kolding ; Cobandi, thence to Holm 
and Horsens ; Chali, beyond these to Hensburg and Hald ; the Phundusii and 
Charudes on the west and east, northward to the Lymfort ; and the Cimbri in 
Wensussel. Ant. Ger. iii. p. 94. See also on this Chorographia Pontani, p. 649. 
Strabo, Tacitus, and Ptolemy, exhibit a very natural progression of information 
on the German geography. Tacitus gives a more accurate detail than Strabo, and 
Ptolemy, writing later, is still more minute 


detail of information, which Ptolemy, fortunately for 
our subject, has delivered. Tacitus directed his 
philosophical eye on German states, who differed in 
manners, as well as in name. He seldom presents a 
mere nomenclature ; he seems to enumerate those the 
most carefully, whose wars, customs, fame, vicissi- 
tudes, and power, had distinguished them from the 
rest. As the Saxons, and their neighbours, were not 
remarkable in either of these circumstances, he knew 
them not, or he passed them over ; but Ptolemy pur- 
sues the plan of a plain and accurate chorographer ; 
he is solicitous to mark positions, latitudes, distances, 
and names, leaving narrations of history and manners 
almost out of his consideration. It was therefore a 
part of his plan to notice the Saxons, as it was con- 
sistent in Tacitus to have omitted them. 

The only inferences which can be safely drawn The scy- 
from the silence of Tacitus, and the preceding geo- f^uon of 
graph ers, are, that the Saxons were then an obscure Europe. 
and inconsiderable people, and had neither molested 
the nations of greater notoriety, nor incurred the 
enmity of the Koman government. 

It will be unnecessary to employ our time, in 
enumerating the many fallacious theories which have 
been framed, on the origin of our Anglo-Saxon 
ancestors. It will be more useful to select those 
few facts which may be gleaned from the writers of 
antiquity on this subject, and to state to the reader, 
rather what he may believe, than what he must 

The early occupation of Europe, by the Kimmerian 
and Keltic races, has been already displayed. The 
next stream of barbaric tribes, whose progress formed 
the second great influx of population into Europe, 
were the Scythian, German, and Gothic tribes. They 
also entered it out of Asia. It is of importance to 
recollect the fact of their primeval locality, because 

VOL. i. G 


BOOK it corresponds with this circumstance, that Herodotus, 
. n ' . besides the main Scythia, which he places in Europe, 
mentions also an Eastern or Asiatic Scythia, beyond 
the Caspian and laxartes. 9 As these new corners 
pressed on the Kimmerians and Kelts, their pre- 
decessors, those nations retired towards the western 
and southern extremities of Europe, pursued still by 
the Scythian invaders. This new wave of population 
gradually spread over the mountains, and into the 
vast forests and marshes of Europe, until, under the 
name of Germans, an appellation which Tacitus calls 
a recent name 10 , they had not only reached the 
Rhine, but had also crossed it into France. Here 
Cassar found one great body firmly settled, descended 
from them, whom he calls Belgaa; though its com- 
ponent states had their peculiar denominations 11 , 
besides a very large force of recent German invaders, 
under the command of Ariovistus. 

This second stock of the European population is 
peculiarly interesting to us, because from its branches 
not only our own immediate ancestors, but also those 
of the most celebrated nations of modern Europe, 
have unquestionably descended. The Anglo-Saxons, 
Lowland Scotch, Normans, Danes, Norwegians, 
Swedes, Germans, Dutch, Belgians, Lombards, and 
Franks, have all sprung from that great fountain of 

9 This Asiatic Scythia suits Mr. Abel Remusat's inference, in his Memoir lately 
read before the Academic des Inscriptions, that the Goths originally issued from 
Tartary, because near Mount Altai inscriptions have been found in Runic cha- 
racters like those of Scandinavia. On this point we must always recollect, that 
the northern traditions about Odin, the common ancestor of the Scandinavians, 
Saxons, and Goths, bring him at the head of the Asse, from the Asiatic regions. 

10 De Mor. Germ. 

11 De Bell. Gall. The fact that nations of the same origin had yet different 
local or provincial names as the Germans who passed the Rhine becoming Tungri, 
and part of the Belgse, Bellovaci, &c must be remembered, when we consider the 
derivation of nations ; as the omission of this recollection has occasioned many 
antiquaries to consider those people as distinct in origin, who were really related. 
Tacitus remarks, that the Trevisi and Nervii were ambitious of a German origin, 
though residing in and near Gaul. Indeed his whole book, on the Germans, proves 
that each tribe went by very distinct appellations, though all were Germans. This 
may lessen the scruples of those who doubt whether the Get and Goths were 
Scythian nations. 


the human race, which we have distinguished by the 
terms Scythian, German, or Gothic. 12 

The ancient languages of these nations prove their 
ancient affinity, the contiguous chronology of their 
first origin, and their common derivation, and afford 
evidences of these truths, from which every one may 
satisfy his doubts or his curiosity. We have works 
still existing in the ancient Gothic 13 , and Saxon 14 , as 
well as in the Frankish 15 and Icelandic 16 , in which 
the philologist will easily perceive their mutual re- 
lationship. The comparison of these with the 
modern German, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, and Flemish, 
will equally demonstrate the kinship between the 
ancient parents and their existing descendants. 17 

12 Mr. Archdeacon Coxe, in his " Vindication of the Celts," has rebuked many 
of Mr. Pinkerton's erroneous opinions? unfounded declamations wrong quotations, 
and misconstructions and misapplications of several ancient authorities. But amid 
these faults I have no doubt of the correctness of Mr. Pinkerton's general notion, 
that the German, Scythian, and Gothic nations were of the same generic family. 
This is all that I can praise in his Dissertation on the Goths ; for the chronology 
which he attempts to build up, and many of his details, are not only unwarranted, 
but inconsistent with true history. Mr. Pinkerton and Mr. Whitaker, alike in their 
angry temperament of mind, and mode of reading arid stating ancient authorities, 
are in two extremes as to their inferences. The latter strives to make every thing 
Keltic, the former Scythian. Both are too apt to make their authorities speak rather 
what they wish, than what they find : they are equally intolerant of any contrary 
opinion ; and though the one abhors and the other accredits Ossian, almost the 
only point in which they agree is to abuse Mr. Macpherson. Both, however, were 
men of vigorous minds and extensive reading ; and deserve much praise for having 
devoted so much attention to these uninviting studies. The fire of genius at 
times burnt with great energy in Mr. Whitaker, and makes us lament that he did 
not direct it to more congenial themes. 

13 The fragment of the Gospels, in the celebrated Silver MSS. of the Meso- 
Gothic, printed by Marshall with the Saxon Gospels in 1 665, and recently with 
more splendour and accuracy, preserves a most interesting specimen of the ancient 
Gothic tongue. 

14 The present work will contain many specimens of this language. "Wotton's 
Conspectus contains a copious catalogue of the Anglo-Saxon MSS. that exist. 

13 The Franco- Theotisc versified harmony of the four evangelists, by Otfrid, and 
several other specimens of this language of the ancient Franks, are published with 
a glossary valuable to a certain extent, but which is capable of much improvement, 
in Schilter's Thesaurus. 

18 Many of the Icelandic sagas have been published by the northern literati, with 
Latin translations. I have accustomed myself to rely on the accuracy of these 
versions, but some passages of Mr. Thorkelin's late translation of Beowulf, lead me 
to recommend to the student an acquaintance with the original language. Perings- 
kiold's catalogue of the sagas is printed in the pars altera of Hickes' Thesaurus. 

17 The continental writers have not so clearly distinguished the Keltic and 
Gothic nations as our own authors have done, but most frequently confuse the two 
races with each other, and sometimes with the Sarmatian nations. 

Q 2 


BOOK The first appearance of the Scythian tribes in 
._ IL , Europe may be placed, according to Strabo and 
Scythians Homer, about the eighth, or, according to Herodotus, 
in the seventh century before the Christian era. 18 
Herodotus likewise states, that the Scythians declared 
their nations to be more recent than any other, and 
that they reckoned only one thousand years between 
Targitaos, their first king, and the aggression of 
Darius. The first scenes of their civil existence, and 
of their progressive power, were in Asia, to the east 
of the Araxes. Here they multiplied and extended 
their territorial limits, for some centuries, unknown 
to Europe. Their general appellation among them- 
selves was Scoloti, but the Greeks called them Scy- 
thians 19 , Scuthoi or Nomades. 

To this judicious and probable account of Hero- 
dotus, we add the information collected by Diodorus. 
He says, that the Scythians, formerly inconsiderable 
and few, possessed a narrow region on the Araxes : 
but, by degrees, they became more powerful in num- 
bers and in courage. They extended their boundaries 
on all sides : till at last they raised their nation to 
great empire and glory. 20 

One of their kings becoming valiant and skilful in 
the art of war, they added to their territory the 
mountainous regions about Caucasus, and also the 
plains towards the ocean, and the Palus Maeotis, with 
the other regions near the Tanais. In the course of 
time they subdued many nations between the Cas- 

18 See before, p. 24, 25. 

19 Herod. Help. s. 5. 7. 6. 11. The wars of the Scythians before this period 
must have been with their Asiatic neighbours ; but I think there is no credit to be 
given to the system of an ancient great or universal Scythic empire. The passage 
in Justin, which seems to warrant it, and for which I have no great respect, does 
not appear to me to be a sufficient foundation for it. His period of 1500 years I 
believe to be fabulous : and am much inclined to the supposition that xv has been 
corrupted in the MS. of Justin into xv<= ; and that, in consequence, fifteen hundred 
has been read instead of fifteen. The supposition of one great and early Scythian 
empire seems to me to have no foundation. See Vindic. of the Celts n 14 

80 Diod. Siculus, p. 127. 


plan and the Maeotis, and beyond the Tanais. Thus, CHAP. 
according to Diodorus, the nation increased, and had . 
kings worthy of remembrance. The Sakai, the Mas- 
sagetai, and the Arimaspoi drew their origin from 
them. 21 

The Massagetai seem to have been the most eastern 
branch of the Scythian nation. Wars arising between 
them and the other Scythic tribes, an emigration 
from the latter took place, according to the account 
which Herodotus selects as in his opinion the most 
authentic 22 , which occasioned their entrance into 
Europe. Such feuds and wars have contributed 
more than any other cause, to disperse through the 
world its uncivilised inhabitants. 

The emigrating Scythians crossed the Araxes, Scythians 
passed out of Asia, and invading the Kirnmerians, rope* 
suddenly appeared in Europe, in the seventh century ^J~^ 
before the Christian era. Part of the Kimmerians 
flying into Asia Minor, some of the Scythian hordes 
pursued them ; but, turning in a direction different 
from that which the Kimmerians traversed, they 
missed their intended prey, and fell unintentionally 
upon the Medes. They defeated the Medes, pressed 
on towards Egypt, and governed those parts of Asia 
for twenty-eight years, till Cyaxares, the king of 
Media, at last expelled them. 23 

The Scythian tribes, however, continued to flock 
into Europe ; and, in the reign of Darius, their 
European colonies were sufficiently numerous and 
celebrated to excite the ambition of the Persian 
monarch, after his capture of Babylon, but all his 
efforts against them failed. 24 In the time of Hero- 
dotus they had gained an important footing in Eu- 

21 Diod. Siculus, p. 127. * Herod. Melpom. s. 11. 

23 Herod. Clio, s. 15. 103 106. It was at this period that Idanthyrsus the 
Scythian king overran Asia as far as Egypt. Strabo, 1 007. At this time also oc- 
curred the expedition of Maduos their king. Strabo, 106. 

M Herod. Melpom. 

G 3 


BOOK rope. They seem to have spread into it from the 
1L , Tanais to the Danube 25 , and to have then taken a 
westerly direction; but their kindred colonies, in 
Thrace, had extended also to the south. Their most 
northward ramification in Europe was the tribe of 
the Kcxolani, who dwelt above the Borysthenes, the 
modern Dnieper. 26 

It would be impertinent to the great subject of 
this history to engage in a minuter discussion of the 
Scythian tribes. They have become better known to 
us, in recent periods, under the name of Getas and 
Goths 27 , the most celebrated of their branches. 

As they spread over Europe, the Kimmerian and 
Keltic population retired towards the west and south. 
In the days of Caasar, the most advanced tribes of the 
Scythian, or Gothic, race were known to the Romans 
under the name of Germans. They occupied all the 
continent but the Cimbric peninsula, and had reached 
and even passed the Ehine. One of their divisions, 
the Belgae, had for some time established themselves 
in Flanders and part of France : and another body, 
under Ariovistus, were attempting a similar settle- 
ment near the centre of Gaul, which Caesar pre- 
vented. 28 It is most probable that the Belgaa in 

* s Herod. Melp. s. 47 57. 

86 Strabo says, " Above the Borysthenes dwell the last of the known Scuthose, 
the Roxolani. The parts beyond them are uninhabitable from the cold." 175. 
He repeats this again. If any live above the Roxolani we know not. They are 
the most northern, and inhabit the places between the Tanais (the Don), and the 
Borysthenes." p. 470. 

27 That the Getae were Goths cannot be doubted. The Getse were the same as 
the Daci, or, as they were more anciently called, Davi. Hence the Greek terms 
for slaves in their comedies, which Terence has borrowed, Geta and Davus. 
Strabo, lib. vii. 467. The Getse used the same language with the Thracians, and 
the Greeks called them a Thracian nation : so does Menander. Strabo, p. 453 
455. Ovid, who was banished to Tome, a town of Mysia, on the Euxine, frequently 
talks of his Getic and Scythic locality in his Epistles and Tristia. As he was so 
near the borders of the Sarmatians, it is a natural circumstance that their name is 
also mentioned in his verses ; but this is no identification of nations whose origin 
was so distinct. 

* These two facts are fully asserted by Caesar. He expressly distinguishes the 
,*U* from the Belgians in Gaul, as differing in language, laws, and customs, and 
ascribes to the Belgians a German origin. 


Britain were descendants of colonists or invaders CHAP. 
from the Belgae in Flanders and Gaul. . L . 

The names Scythians and Scoloti were, like Galli 
and Kimmerians, not so much local as generic appel- 
lations. The different tribes of the Scythians, like 
those of the Kimmerians and Gauls, had their peculiar 
distinctive denominations. 

The Saxons were a German or Teutonic, that is, a The 
Gothic or Scythian tribe ; and of the various Scythian babfyT 
nations which have been recorded, the Sakai, or Sax ns. 
Sacae, are the people from whom the descent of the 
Saxons may be inferred with the least violation of 
probability. Sakai-suna, or the sons of the Sakai, 
abbreviated into Saksun, which is the same sound as 
Saxon, seems a reasonable etymology of the word 
Saxon. The Sakai, who in Latin are called Saca3, 
were an important branch of the Scythian nation. 
They were so celebrated, that the Persians called all 
the Scythians by the name of Saca3 ; and Pliny, who 
mentions this, speaks of them as among the most dis- 
tinguished people of Scythia. 29 Strabo places them 
eastward of the Caspian, and states them to have 
made many incursions on the Kimmerians and 
Treres, both far and near. They seized Bactriana, 
and the most fertile part of Armenia, which, from 
them, derived the name^ Sakasina ; they defeated 
Cyrus; and they reached the Cappadoces on the 
Euxine. 30 This important fact of a part of Armenia 
having been named Sakasina, is mentioned by Stfabo 
in another place 31 , and seems to give a geographical 
locality to our primeval ancestors, and to account for 
the Persian words that Occur in the Saxon language, 
as they must have come into Armenia from the 
northern regions of Persia. 

89 Pliny, c. 19. E0 Strabo, lib. xi. p. 776. 778. 

81 Strab. p. 124. Mr. Keppel, in his late travels, calls this "the beautiful pro- 
vince of Karabaugh." In a letter to the Royal Literary Society, I have traced 262 
words in the Persian, Zend, and Pehlvi languages, like as many in the Anglo- 

G 4 


BOOK That some of the divisions of this people were 
. n ' . really called Saka-suna, is obvious from Pliny; for 
he says, that the Sakai, who settled in Armenia, were 
named Sacassani 32 , which is but Saka-suna spelt by 
a person unacquainted with the meaning of the com- 
bined words. And the name Sacasena 33 , which they 
gave to the part of Armenia they occupied, is nearly 
the same sound as Saxonia. It is also important to 
remark, that Ptolemy mentions a Scythian people, 
sprung from the Sakai, by the name of Saxones. If 
the Sakai who reached Armenia were called Sacas- 
sani, they may have traversed Europe with the same 
appellation ; which being pronounced by the Romans 
from them, and then reduced to writing from their 
pronunciation, may have been spelt with the x in- 
stead of the ks, and thus Saxones would not be a 
greater variation from Sacassani or Saksuna than we 
find between French, Fra^ois, Franci, and their 
Greek name, <&payyi- or between Spain, Espagne, 
and Hispania. 

It is not at all improbable, but that some of these 
marauding Sakai, or Sacassani, were gradually pro- 
pelled to the western coasts of Europe, on which they 
were found by Ptolemy, and from which they mo- 
lested the Roman Empire, in the third century of 
our era. There was a people called Saxoi, on the 
Euxine, according to Stephanus. 34 We may consider 
these, also, as a nation of the same parentage ; who, 
in the wanderings of the Sakai from Asia to the 
German Ocean, were left on the Euxine, as others 
had chosen to occupy Armenia. We may here re- 
collect the traditional descent of Odin preserved by 
Snorre in the Edda and his history. This great 
ancestor of the Saxon and Scandinavian chieftains is 
represented to have migrated from a city, on the east 

c' lib ' Vh C ' 1 L * Strabo, lib. xi. p. 776, 778. 

84 Stephanus de tlrb. et Pop. p. 657. 


of the Tanais, called Asgard, and a country called CHAP. 
Asaland, which imply the city and land of the Asae < v ' / 
or Asians. The cause of this movement was the 
progress of the Eomans. 35 Odin is stated to have 
moved first into Russia, and thence into Saxony. 
This is not improbable. The wars between the 
Romans and Mithridates involved and shook most 
of the barbaric nations in these parts, and may have 
excited the desire, and imposed the necessity, of a 
westerly or European emigration. 

Of the ancient Scythian language, the probable Ancient 
parent of all the Gothic tongues, we have a few language, 
words preserved to us : 

Exampaios sacred ways. 

Arima one. 

Spou an eye. 

Oior a man. 

Pata to kill. 

Groucasum white with snow. 36 

Of their gods, we learn that they had seven; whose and deities, 
character and attributes were thought, by Hero- 
dotus, to be like some of the most distinguished in 
the Grecian mythology : as, 

Tahiti, their principal deity, 

resembled the Greek Vesta. 

Papaios Jupiter. 

Oitosuros Apollo. 

Artimpasa, or Arippasa Venus. 

Tharnimasadas Neptune. 

Apia, wife of Papaios Earth. 

They had also a warlike deity, like Mars, whose 
name has not been given to us ; and to whom only 
they raised altars, images, and temples 37 , and to whom 

34 Snorre Ynglinga Saga, c. 2. and 5. 

* Herod. Melpom. s. 52. 28. 110. Pliny, lib. vi. c. 19. 

17 Herod. Melp. s. 59. Lucian tells us that they adored a sword, Jup. Trag., 


BOOK they sacrificed annually horses and sheep, and a por- 
. IL t tion of their prisoners. Their bows were proverbial. 38 
In battle they drank the blood of the first enemy 
whom they mastered. They scalped their opponents, 
and offered their heads to their king ; and they made 
drinking vessels of the skulls of their greatest enemies 
or conquered friends. They had many diviners, who 
used rods of willow for their predictions. 39 In these 
customs our Gothic ancestors resembled them. They 
had the moral virtues of Nomadic nations. ^Eschylus 
mentions them with an epithet that implies their 
habits of social justice. Homer declares that no 
nation was more just than theirs ; and Strabo asks 
where is the wonder of this, as they cared little for 
money or commerce, which he considers to be the 
fountains of civilised dishonesty. 40 

The nations who entered Europe, after the Scythic 
or Gothic or Teutonic tribes, have been called Scla- 
vonian or Sarmatian, forming a third great race 
who have appeared on the vast Germanic continent. 
The Sarmatian or Sclavonic branches have occupied 
Russia, Poland, Eastern Prussia, Moravia, Bohemia 
and their vicinity. As our ancient history is not 
connected with this race, it will be sufficient to 
remark, that they had reached the neighbourhood o: 

\vhich Herodotus mentions as their emblem of Mars. Lucian also says that despising 
the Grecian worship as unworthy of the deity, they sacrificed men to their Diana, 
who delighted in human blood. 

38 Like a Scythic bow." Strabo, 187. 

89 Her. Help. s. 64, 65. 67. Strabo remarks, that they used skulls for their cups 
lib. vii. p. 458. In the days of Herodotus their customs were sufficiently ferocious 
but by the time that their branches the Germans and Saxons had pervaded Europe 
and attracted the attention of Tacitus, they had attained the improvements whose 
benefits we feel. How superior both they and the Kelts of Gaul were to the more 
savage and uncivilised tribes of America we may perceive, by contrasting Tacitus' 
account of the Germans, with Brainerd's the Indian missionary's description of the 
North American Indians. Of these he says, * they are in general wholly un 
acquainted with civil laws and proceedings ; nor have any kind of notion of civi 
judicatures ; of persons being arraigned, tried, judged, condemned or acquitted 
They have little or no ambition or resolution. Not one in a thousand of them has 
the spirit of a man. They are unspeakably indolent and slothful. They discover 
little gratitude or even manhood, amidst all the kindnesses they receive. They 
seem to have no sentiments of generosity, benevolence, or goodness. " See Brainerd's 
Life by President Edwards. He died 1747. 

40 Strabo, 460, 461. 454, 


the Tanais, on the borders of Europe, in the time of 
Herodotus, who calls them Sauromatse. 41 This fact 
gives one solid basis for their just chronology. 
Herodotus lived 450 years before our era; and thus 
he gives evidence of the existence and approach to 
Europe of the Sarmatian race at that period. 

The Sclavonic is a genus of languages which every The scia- 
examiner would separate from the Keltic and Gothic. 
The present Russian is thought to be the most faith- 
ful specimen of the original Sclavonic. The Poles, 
the Bohemians, the Dalmatians, the Croatians, the 
Bulgarians, Carinthians, Moravians, and some other 
tribes adjacent, formerly used its various dialects. 42 
It prevailed in those parts of Europe where the 
ancients placed the Sarmatae. 43 The numerous tribes 
who spoke the Sclavonic preserved their ancient name 
of Yenedi, long after their invasion of Germany, in 
the fifth or sixth century, though they were also 
called Slavi. Their successes enabled them to reach 
the Saxons and the Francs, but their conquests were 
terminated by the opposition of Charlemagne, and 
their incessant civil feuds. 

The incontrovertible fact, of the existence in an- Their chro- 
cient Europe of at least three genera of languages, "uccessTon. 
strongly distinguished from each other, conducts us 
safely to the conclusion, that the collections of nations 
who spoke them, must have also differed in the 
chronology of their origin. As the Keltic tribes 
were found in the most western extremities of 
Europe, it is reasonable to infer that they visited it 

41 He says the regions beyond the Tanais are no part of Scythia. The first por- 
tion belongs to the Sauromatse. c. 21. 

48 The extent of the nationes Slavorum, and of their language, is stated by Hel- 
moldus, Chron. Slav. p. 3. ; by Krantz in his \Vandalia, p. 2. ; by Chrytaeus, Wan- 
dalia, p. 3. ; by Munster, 1 Schard. Hist. Germ. 486. ; and by Faber, Rer. Muse. 132. 
On the Slavi, see Spener's Notitia, ii. p. 384. Sunt a Germanis plane diversi generis. 
Pontanus, Chor. Dan. 710. 

43 Dubravii Hist. Bohem. 44. Helmoldus, p. 3., says, that the Hungarians nee 
habitu nee lingua discrepant. But Krantz disputes his authority, and affirms, 
that all acknowledge the Hungarian and Sclavonic to be dissimilar languages. 
Wandalia, 36. 


BOOK earlier than the others : so the Sclavonic peoples, 
. 1L . being found to reside about its eastern boundaries, 
may be fairly considered as the latest settlers. The 
Gothic or Teutonic states, from their position, claim 
justly an intermediate date. As they advanced west- 
wards, the Keltoi retired before them. As the rami- 
fications of the Scythians, Saxons, and Goths spread 
toward the Germanic Ocean, the Sclavonic hordes 
flowed after them from Asia. The Saxon was one of 
the Gothic or Teutonic states, and it was as far west 
as the Elbe in the days of Ptolemy. The Saxons 
were therefore, in all likelihood, as ancient visitors of 
Europe as any other Gothic tribe. Their situation 
seems to indicate that they moved among the fore- 
most columns of the second great emigration into 
Europe ; but the particular date of their arrival on 
the Elbe, or a more particular derivation, it is im- 
possible to prove, and therefore unprofitable to 
discuss. 44 The Poles became the most distinguished 
of the Sclavonian nations in the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries, but the Russian branch has since 
attained a pre-eminence, which, for power, influence, 
and extent of empire, transcends now, beyond all 
competition, every other people of the Sarmatian 
descent. 45 

44 The most ancient nations of Italy and Greece, and those on the coasts of the 
Mediterranean, the JEgean Sea, and the Adriatic, appear to me to have sprung 
partly from Phoenician and Egyptian colonisations, and partly from the migrations 
of the Kimmerian and Keltic races. From this ancient population, secondary 
colonisations took place, like those which peopled Magna Graecia, and the north 
coast of the Euxine, and which settled at Marseilles. In their later population, the 
Gothic or Scythian tribes, as well as the Carthaginians, must have had some share. 
The most remarkable fact of the Latin language is, that although visibly of the 
same family with the Greek, yet it contains many striking resemblances, especially 
in its terminations, to the ancient Sanscrit. Meric Casaubon has taken some pains 
to show that the Saxon language has great affinity with the Greek. De Ling. 
Sax. 234376. 

13 The old Russian chronicler, Nestor, has preserved to us the names of the seven 
chief Sclavonian deities, in those idols which Vladimir set up at Kiow, and de- 
stroyed as soon as he embraced Christianity. They were Peroun, Veless, Stribog, 
Zimtserla, Khorss, Dajbog, and Makochd. Rousef 's Idoles de Kief. A poem of 
the 12th century, entitled Song on the exploits of Igor," mentions three of these, - 
is Viley, Streb, and Dajbog. This poem speaks of the latter as the Mother of the 


Gods and Men. Ib. The greatest part of the ancient Russian MSS. were destroyed 
in the civil commotions of Bati and the false Demetrius ; but it has been calculated 
that above 10,000 yet remain of those of the middle ages. 

In the first edition of this history some of the fanciful derivations of the Saxons 
were noticed, which the learned of former times had patronised ; and as the curious 
reader may wish to know the speculations which have been framed on this subject, 
the passage is reprinted here. 

The Saxon antiquaries, like those of the other European states, formerly coveted 
a duration almost coeval with creation. To have appeared on the world but so 
recently as the second century of our era was once thought such a national disgrace, 
that a succession of ancestors from the very deluge itself was ostentatiously sought 
for in a vainglorious emulation of the rest of mankind. The exact parent was not 
indeed determined, because the taste of our heralds has disagreed. Some preferred 
Magog a , the grandson of Noah ; many his grandson Gomer b , and others were more 
partial to his great grandson Askenaz. c With more ardent patriotism some ascended 
a little higher, in order to assert an origin which could not be surpassed. Hence 
Shem d , the eldest of Noah's offspring, and Japhet 6 , the youngest, have been also 
selected. But as the human mind delights in contradiction, the antediluvian 
sons of the antediluvian patriarch, however unexceptionable for their antiquity, 
were not honoured with an unanimous choice. It is the privilege immemorially 
assumed by an antiquary to exhibit his learning, and to indulge his caprice. Some 
of our annalists have felt this impulse, and the claims of Shem and Japhet were, in 
their minds, superseded by the merits of their brother Strefius. f It is true that this 
Strefius is a venerable person with whom Moses was unacquainted ; but our more 
learned countrymen discovered that he was born in the floating ark. We must 
excel each other in the length of our national as well as individual genealogy, or 
our spirit of competition will not be gratified, nor our envy appeased. 

When the Saxon pedigree had been sufficiently guarded, a brilliant history was 
yet wanting to their glory. Some friendly pens supplied this defect. The defenders 
of Troy are immortal amongst mankind, and their fame led the erudition of some 
to perceive that the Saxons marched with the battalions of Priam, e But to be the 
children of vanquished fugitives was less palatable to others, and a destiny more 
glorious has been claimed for those whose posterity have filled Germany and Britain 
with their colonies. The triumphant Alexander was the general alone worthy to 
have led the ancient Saxons to the field of martial honour : they are stated to have 
followed him to the stream of victory, and on his death, to elude the envy excited 
by their exploits, to have exchanged the slothful plains of the East for the hardier 

8 Wern. Rolevinck de Westphal. ant. Situ, p. 13, &c. 

b Langhorn, who, to begin ab ovo, opens his Elenchus with an acceunt of Adam 
and Eve, settles Gomer in Bactriana at first ; but conveys him afterwards to Scythia 
Sacana, from which his posterity, spreading through Scythia intra Imaum, became 
divided into the Sasones and other tribes. Antiquit. Albion, xi. 326. 

c This derivation is among those mentioned by Krantz, p. 4. ; but Lazius de 
Gent. al. Migrat. p. 19., makes the Askenazians the people who were ejected by the 
Trojan Saxons. 

d Asser Menev. p. 4., leads the pedigree of Alfred up to Shem, and to Adam. 
So others. 

e Hist. Erphest. de 1 Her. Germ. Pistori, 908. and others. 

f William Malmsbury, 41. Strefius filius Nose. Sim. Dun. adds, in archa natus. 
Pra;f. x. Script. Twysd. Langhorn Ant. Alb. 334, saw one MSS. genealogy, which 
derives Strefius from Japhet. The Lanfedgatal, an Icelandic composition, interposes 
several generations between Strefius, when it names Seskef and Noah. 1 Langb. 
Scrip. Dan. p. 3. 

Trithemius, in the name of Wasthald de Orig. Franc, p. 3. 64. exhibits the 
Saxons as a progeny of Trojans. Lazius also makes them part " of the fatal relics 
of the Trojan war," deGent. Migrat. 19. 


ROOK soil of the Germanic continent. The Thuringians did not receive the heroes with 
TT the confidence they exacted, but fraud and violence soon extorted a country ! ! h 

, , i n the sixteenth century, as true learning spread, these details were found to be 

warranted by no evidence, and fell into discredit ; but as these disappeared, other 
suppositions, not less gratuitous, took their place. They were admitted to be neither 
Trojans nor Macedonians ; they were Germans, indigenous Germans ', polluted by 
no foreign race, and they were asserted to have been flourishing in arms and 
commerce above a thousand years before the Christian era ! ! No claim of vanity 
could be bolder than this. They were active on the Elbe, the Weser, and the 
Ems k before, perhaps, these rivers had been at all disturbed by human oars ! 

The effect of evidence on the mind is as various as the perceptions and associa- 
tions of individuals. The authorities which were decisive in the estimation of one 
scholar, were light as chaff in the judgment of another. When once the origin of 
the Saxons was submitted to investigation, conjecture began to unfold its plumes, 
and soared in devious flights through the dark expanse of historical erudition. 

No principle of judgment governed its exertions : men were only solicitous to be 
' singular ; and if the opinion were but novel, its extravagance was overlooked. 
Hence the Cimbri 1 , the Chauci m , and the Suevi n , or, as other advocates prevailed, 
the Boii , the Suardones P, and the Catti 1, were declared to be identical with the 
Saxon nation. The proofs of the affinity of either were indeed invisible, as the 
whimsical selection and the casual belief of the writers were the only authorities by 
which they were supported. It was the same sort of authentication, combined 
with the grossest ignorance of the transactions of nations, which induced two authors, 
who from their proximity both in time and place to the Saxon emigration, ought 
to have supplied the most authentic information, to derive this people from the very 
island which they invaded. r Others seduced by the vicinity of situation, have dis- 

h This derivation was at one time the most popular. It is found in Wittichind 
Gest. Sax. p. 2., and was firmly believed by Gotfred. Viterb. 2 Pist. 361. 
Saxo, velut credo, patria fuit ante Macedo, 
Regis Alexandri miles ubique fuit. 

The authors who have adopted this idea are very numerous. It is one of the facts 
on which the celebrated Agrippa founds his Philippic against History. De Van. 
Sclent, p. 25. 

1 Many continental writers affirm this. Among these is Bebelius, a man of 
merit ; but whose learning and eloquence were too partially pressed into the service 
of his patriotism. He discovers his ancient Germans not only to have been valiant, 
but perpetually victorious ; not only to have possessed mind, strength, beauty, and 
integrity, but superior mind and strength, beauty, and integrity, unparalleled in the 
world. See his tract, in 1 Schard. Hist. Germ. 256 286. 

k Krantz (Saxonia, p. 5.) was betrayed into this mistake by accrediting the 
reveries of Saxo Grammaticus, of which Chrytaeus says truly, " poetica magis quam 
historica fide scripta temporum etiam, "ut totaipsius historia, distinctione accurate 
carent." Saxonia Proemium. 

1 Aventinus Ann. Boiorum, p. 388., and Sheringham de Orig. Angl. 45., one of 
the most learned and intelligent of our antiquaries. 

m See Glareanus and Althamerus in 1 Schard. Hist. Ger. 187. 48. 

n Bebelius, 1 Schard. 241. 

Eneas Sylvius (Pope Pius II.), in his Historia Bohemica, c. 1. p. 3., says, the 
Saczania is one of the rivers which the Multavia receives. The episode annexed to 
this was, that such of the Galli Boii as were driven over the Saczania were deno- 
minated Saxons. Krantz Sax. p. 3. 

P Langhorn's Antiq. Alb. 333. intimates the Suardones of Tacitus to be the 
Saxon name distorted by negligent transcribers ; because Saxones might easily 
slip into Sardones, and that into Suardones. 

1 This is the favourite idea of Krantz (Saxon, p. 4.), which Reineccius deno- 
minates foedum errorem. Prarf. to Wittichind. Chrytaus admits that it seemed 
durior et alienior aliis eruditis. Proem. 

' Meginhard delivers it with an ut tradit antiquitas. Vita S. Alexandri, 
2 Langb. Scrip. Dan. 39. He wrote about 870. Adam of Bremen, in the 
eleventh century, repeated the derivation on his authority, and quotes him, p. 4., 


cerned their parents in the Danes and Northmen ; and an author, even of our own 
period, has thought the Vandals of Scandinavia 8 to have justcr claims to this honour 
than all the rest. 

But those antiquarians, whose narrow views looked only into Europe for the 
cradle of our ancestors, may be despised as indolent hy the adventurous spirits 
who have made Asia and Africa the regions of their research. So indefatigable has 
been the activity of some, that the Pontic Chersonesus has been visited *, the classic 
Euxine navigated", Armenia traversed', and Mount Imaus approached. w When- 
ever the chorographical polemic has turned his eye, this fairy people have appeared. 
Distance has been no difficulty ; impossibility no impediment ; but the bleak deserts 
of Scythia x , and the sands of Africa y, have alike been .presented to us as the birth- 
place of that tribe, which in the days of Ptolemy just darkened the neck of the 
peninsula of Jutland, and three inconsiderable islands in its neighbourhood. 

A contemporary of our own, whose talents and industry deserve more applause 
than his judgment, has taken a flight on this subject which is peculiarly eccentric. 
His genius, disdaining the prudence which would dictate hesitation amid obscurity 
so impenetrable, has set both chronology and geography at defiance. He finds the 
Saxons in almost all parts of Europe, and in almost all ages ; at one time marauding 
in Europe as Celto-Scythae, intimidating the Romans as Ambrones from Liguria, 
afterwards peeping out to Lucan in the name of Axones, then settling in Gaul in 
the character of Suessiones, and at last haunting the natives of the British isles 
in the terrific shape of the Lochlynach ; it was in vain that the Celtic Protei shifted 
their disguises ; the historian of Manchester detected them in all. z An illustrious 
instance that imagination may be as active in the dullest and darkest as in its most 
bright and congenial themes. 

under the name of Eginhard. Until lately he has been confounded with the 
biographer of Charlemagne. His work was thought lost. Fabr. Bibl. Medii ^Evi, 
1. 5. p. 264. It was fancied to have been a curious history of the Saxons. It has 
been found to be but the life of a saint, containing no more about the Saxons than 
what Adam has extracted into his Hist. Eccl. 

The chronicle of Conrad, which Melanchthon published with commendations, 
repeats the story. Abb. Usper. Chron. p. 145. 

8 Macpherson's Introduction to the History of Great Britain, p. 291. 12 ed. The 
Danish origin had been started before by Wittichind. See this ancient author, p. 2. 
Leibnitz inclined to it. 

* M. Casaubon de Ling. Sax. 393. The modesty of Casaubon entitles him to 
respect : " In hac tanta et ipsarum rerum obscuritate et opinionum varietate, non 
meum neque fortasse cujusquam vel diligentissimi quicquam certe statuere." 

u Capnio and others supposed the Axones on the Euxine to have been the Saxons. 
Cisner.'s preface to Krantz Sax. and M. Casaub. 392. Capnio contends the Saxones 
of Ptolemy should be read Amoves. 

v The Chronicon Holsatia* says, that Alexander found in Armenia a hardy race 
of men, who partook of all his expeditions, and whose name, from their valour, he 
changed into Saxones, from saxum, a rock. Leibnitz Access. Histor. 12. 

w Beyond the Jaxartes, according to Strabo, and opposite to the Sogdiani, ac- 
cording to Eratosthenes, and half enclosed by the mountains of Ascatanea and Imaus, 
according to Ptolemy, were the Saca?. It was the opinion formerly of almost all 
the learned, that from these the Saxons descended. Cisner Praef. Camden favours 
it. This position is that which we have before mentioned as the most probable seat 
of our ancestors in Asia, if they have really sprung from the Sacae. 

* North of the Sacse, and near the Syebian and Tapurian mountains, Ptolemy 
has placed another people, the Sasones. These have been selected as our ancestors. 
Krantz Saxonia, 2. This opinion has been united with the former. Sasones, 
Sacaesons, Sacsones, Saxones. Cisner Praef. 

y Verstegan quotes Occa Scarlensis for this derivation. Suffridus Petri has 
courageously undertaken the defence of Occa's veracity, Apol. pro Ant. Fris. Hist, 
p. 180. I wonder no one has thought of the Saxoi, near the Pontus, according to 
Stephanus, or the Saxinae, who were some troglodytes in Ethiopia, according to 
Pliny. Ortelius Thesaur. Geograph. in voc. 

a Hist. Manch. i. p. 427. 



Description of the Country inhabited by the SAXONS near the 
ELBE, before they occupied BRITAIN. 

BOOK THE infant state of the Saxon people, when the 
. IL , Romans first observed them, exhibited nothing from 
which human sagacity would have predicted great- 
ness. A territory, on the neck of the Cimbric Cher- 
sonesus, and three small islands, contained those 
whose descendants occupy the circle of Westphalia, 
the electorate of Saxony, the British islands, the 
United States of North America, and the British 
colonies in the two Indies. Such is the course of 
Providence, that empires the most extended, and the 
most formidable, are found to vanish as the morning 
mist ; while tribes scarce visible, or contemptuously 
overlooked, like the springs of a mighty river, often 
glide on gradually to greatness and veneration, 
saxon The three islands which the Saxons in the days of 

Ptolemy inhabited, were those which we now denomi- 
nate North Strandt, Busen, and Heiligland. 1 
North North Strandt, formerly torn from South Jutland 

strandt. ky ^ yi o i ence o f fa Q waveSj i s situated opposite to 

Hesum, and above Eiderstede, from both which it is 
separated by intervals of sea. The Hever, a bay 
which flows below it, and washes the northern shore 
of the Eiderstede, is favourable to commercial navi- 
gations. This island was formerly about twenty 
miles long, and in most parts seven miles broad. It 

1 Cluver. Ant Ger. iii. p. 97. Pontanus Chorog. 737. Du Bos Histoire 
Critique, i. p. 148. The Geographer of Ravenna places Eustrachia among the 
Saxon isles, lib. v. c. 30. This may mean the neighbouring peninsula, Eyderstadt, 
which was almost an island. 


once contained twenty- two parishes, and was noted CHAP. 
for its agricultural produce, as well as its fish. 2 ^_^J > 
The raging of the sea has materially damaged it 
since the time of the Saxons. Four calamitous in- 
undations are recorded to have happened, in 1300, 
1483, 1532, and 1615; but a more destructive one 
than all began in the night of the llth October, 1634; 
the island was entirely overflowed ; 6408 persons, 
1332 houses, arid 50,000 head of cattle were washed 
away into the sea. 3 Such devastations have almost 
annihilated the place. There is now remaining of 
Nord-strand only the small parish of Pelworm, which 
derives its safety from the height of its situation. 

Busen lies north of the mouth of the Elbe, to the 
westward of Ditmarsia, and looks towards Meldorp ; 
in breadth it is above two miles, in length near three. 
It is situated close upon the main land, of which it 
is suspected to have once formed a part. Being 
one even plain, the stormy ocean around makes the 
island a perilous habitation ; it has therefore been 
surrounded by a strong dyke. It contains three or 
four parishes, with about as many villages ; and 
though boasting no pre-eminence of soil, it commonly 
yields its produce with moderate fertility. 4 

But the most celebrated and the most frequented 
of the Saxon islands was HEILIGISLAND. The words 
literally mean the sacred island. 5 In the eighth 
century, and in the eleventh, it had two other names; 

2 Chry tarns, p. 65. Pontanus, p. 741. Ubbo Emmius, p. 30. 158. 

3 The destruction extended to other parts of Jutland. In the Eyderstede, 664 
houses, 2107 persons, and 12,000 cattle and sheep were swept off. Busching's 

4 Ubbo Emmius, Her. Fris. p. 31. Pontanus, Chorog. 737, 738. and 741. He 
derives its name from Buysen, or Busch, a wood. His vernacular names of the 
fishes, with their Latin names of that day, are in p. 741. 

5 Some derive the name from Hilgo, a bishop of the place ; others, and in the 
opinion of Pontanus, verius, from some holy virgins who inhabited it. Their 
sacred steps the respectful grass never covered, as all the credulous natives will 
attest and show ! ! Pontanus, Chorog. 739. But as an idol much revered, called 
Foseti, was in it, the epithet perhaps arose from the Pagan superstition. 

VOL. I. H 


BOOK Fossetis-land 6 , and Farria, which have been written 
. n - , with various orthography. 

This ancient seat of our forefathers has now be- 
come united to the British dominions. 7 As it was 
the principal station of their naval excursions, it is 
peculiarly interesting to us, and an important object 
of our national history. But its condition has greatly 
varied: we will therefore subjoin its earliest, as well 
as its subsequent and latest descriptions, to give the 
reader the fullest information of its successive states 
that can now be obtained. 

In the eighth century it is noticed by a writer as 
the place where the idol Fosete was adored. 8 In the 
eleventh century, it is thus described by Adam of 
Bremen, under the name of Farria. " It lies in a 
long recess at the mouth of the Elbe. It is the first 
island that occurs in the ocean. It has a monastery 
and is inhabited. It is very fruitful : rich in corn, 
and a nurse of cattle and birds. It has one hill and 
no trees : it is surrounded with the steepest rocks, 
with , only a single entrance, where there is fresh 
water. It is a place venerated by all sailors, and 
especially by pirates. Hence it is called Heilige- 
land." 9 

Its state about 1630, we take from Pontanus. " It 
had formerly seven parishes, and from its inhabitants 
and incidents, we learn that it was once much larger 
than it is at present. For in our times the sea re- 
ceding, the soil has been worn down and carried off 
on all sides by the violence of the waves. It is eight 
German miles from Eyderstadt, and about nine from 
the Elbe. On the west, opposite England, it is 46 

6 Altf. vita St. Lieudg. ap. Bouquet, t. V. p. 449. This ancient name of the 
island and its Idol seems to connect them with the Fosi of Tacitus. 

On the 26th August, 1814, the King of Denmark signed an official act, an- 
nouncing his cession of this island to the crown of Great Britain. It had been 
annexed to Denmark in 1714. It was formerly possessed by the dukes of Holstein. 
Gottorf. Busching. 

8 See note 6. 9 Ad> Brem Higt c 2 io. p. 64. ed. Linden. 


ells high, and towards the Elbe 30. They who CHAP. 
have examined its shores, report that solid bodies < ^ > 
formed of stone, and that shells, oysters, and human 
hands, have been found there, and even books and 
candles. Its banner is a ship in full sail." 10 He 
adds another description from its governor, which is 
translated in the note. 11 

The occupations of its inhabitants have generally 
been those of the fisherman and the pilot. Perpe- 
tually at sea, like their Saxon ancestors, they dis- 
regard the terrors of the ocean. Their food consists 
of their oats, and the produce of their nets. But 
though sacred in human estimation, the elements 
have not respected this island. In the year 800, a 
furious tempest from the north-west occasioned the 
greater portion to be swallowed up by the waves. 
In 1300 and 1500 it suffered materially from the 
same cause; but the inundation of 1649 was so de- 
structive, that but a small part of the island survived 

10 Pontan. Chorog. 

11 " The island consists of two rocks, one red, the other white. The first, con- 
taining the fortress and garrison of the place, can be ascended by only one path. 
Like a red mulberry it emerges straight up from the sea like Segeburg in Holsatia, 
406 ells high, with a rich and fertile soil upon it, from two ells and a half to one 
ell deep. It bears pease, beans, and English barley, of such peculiar goodness, that 
two bushels of it excel three of Eyderstadt. It has lettuces, radishes, and spinage, 
and is free from serpents, toads, and every venomous animal. It has fine cattle 
and horses, but their motions must be restricted or they fall into the sea. The air 
is pure and salubrious. It has a church, 50 families, and about 300 inhabitants, 
an industrious and healthy race, skilled in navigation, and rich, and advancing 
themselves in other regions to wealth and dignities. The rock abounds with birds, 
of whom incredible numbers fly hither in crowds every autumn, especially cranes, 
swans, geese, ducks, thrushes, larks, and others, which supply the inhabitants with 
many banquets. They detain and use rainwater. It has a safe and capacious 
port, very deep and open to the south. This sometimes holds above 100 ships of 
burthen, and defends them from the north and west winds. Larger ships may 
find a shelter in it. The other white rock is sandy, and has springs of fresh 
water. It has rabbits : it affords no pasture, but it grows hemp. It has towards 
the north and east a metal like gold, which they call mummergoldt, from which 
gold may be extracted, and sulphur enough to pay the expense of the smelting. 
Petrified almonds and wax-candles are found in its veins in abundance, and snails 
and shells converted into the metallic gold. There are small metallic branches, as 
of trees, so fine that no artificer could make such of gold. The island was formerly 
famous for the capture of herrings, and now abounds with fish, especially oysters." 
Pont. Chorog. p. 739, 740. As gold is seldom found united with sulphur, auri- 
ferous pyrites are very rare, though some have been found in Peru, Siberia, Sweden, 

~ Hungary. 

H 2 


it. 12 If another attack should wash away the sandy 
downs, scarce one-sixth of the present population 

could subsist. 

Situated near nations highly civilised, this island 
exists for the benefit of all who navigate the Elbe, 
which, from its dangerous coast, could not be entered 
without it. A sea-mark by day, a lighthouse by 
night, Heiligland points out the path of safety to the 
anxious mariner, and abounds with skilful pilots, 
who possess the local knowledge which he needs. 
They conduct vessels to the Elbe, the Weser, the 
Eider, or the Hever. But though now so useful to 
the navigator, it was anciently an object of terror. 
Its safe harbour, so contiguous to many marts of 
wealth and industry, long invited to it the adven- 
turous pirate. From the age of the Saxons almost 
to our own, it has been thronged with maritime 
depredators. 13 It is a subject of geographical con- 
test, whether it be the Actania of Pliny, and the 
island of the Castuin Nemus of Tacitus. 14 

The latest account of this curious island which has 
appeared, is that of an intelligent traveller who visited 
it in 1805, from which it appears, that its population 
has increased. 15 Connected now with the trade and 

12 Busching's Geog. vol. i. 

13 It has been often the seat of a royal residence. Radbodus, king of Frisia, had 
his last sovereignty upon it. See Ubbo Emmius, p. 52. The Sea-kings also fre- 
quented it. But this island has been often confounded with Helgoland, a populous 
district of Norway, which is mentioned in Ohther's voyage, Alfred's Orosius, 24.; 
and in Sir Hugh Willoughby's voyage, Hackluyt, p. 268. ; and of which the kings 
of Helgoland, mentioned in the Norwegian Chronicle, were kings. Pont. 

14 See Pontanus, 665. 737 Cluverius gives Heiligland as Actania ; and Rugen, 

from its wood and lake, as the island designated by Tacitus, Ant. Germ. 1 07. 97. 
Heiligland has no woods. Pontanus, while he hints the pretensions of Zealand, 
seems to prefer Heiligland, because it is near the Elbe, and is almost a translation 
of castum nemus. 

15 Dr. Adam Neale, in his travels, states, " The present inhabitants amount to 
about two thousand souls. The men gain their subsistence by fishing and pilot- 
age, while the women tend the flocks of sheep and cows, and cultivate the soil, 
which produces little more than barley and oats. The communication between 
the cliff and the downs is carried on by means of a broad wooden staircase fixed in 
the rock, which is red breccia. There are three wells of fresh water, but scarcely 
a shrub or tree of any kind in the island ; and turf, wood, fruit, and garden vege- 
tables are brought from Cuxhaven and Hamburg, in exchange for the fish with 
which the hardy Heligolanders supply these towns." 


interests of Great Britain, its prosperity will augment CHAP. 
with our commerce, and from its local utility as a . 

safe point of intercourse between England and the 
continent, its importance can no longer be under- 
valued. The island of Nieuwerk, at the very inouth 
of the Elbe, is a mere sand, with a beacon to guide 
the course of the approaching mariner. 

The territory which the original Saxons occupied Their con- 
on the Continent, was situated on the western side of territory, 
the Cirnbric peninsula, between the Elbe and the 
Eyder. This latter river is the boundary of Den- 
mark, and has always been understood to mark the 
termination of the German states. 16 It rises from a 
district which was anciently a forest ; and from , 
Borsholm, passing Keil and Rensberg, it continues 
its course into the British Ocean below Eiderstadt. 

The region between the Eyder and the Elbe, was 
denominated Nordalbingia, and its inhabitants Nor- 
dalbingi, in the earliest records we possess of these 
parts. 17 North of the Eyder, extended Sleswick, in 
South Jutland ; and, beyond that, the district of 
North Jutland was continued into Wendila, and 
ended in Skawen, from which in a clear atmosphere 
the rocks of Scandinavia are visible. 

Three districts, in ancient times, divided this 
country of Nordalbingia or Eald Saexen. 18 These 
unequal portions, which have preserved their names 
to recent times, are Ditmarsia, Stormaria, and Hol- 
satia. The progress of the Slavi occasioned a fourth 
division in the province of Wagria. As the early 
state of all distinguished nations is a curious subject 
of contemplation, it may not be uninteresting to add 

1J Saxo Gram. Preface, p. 2. Svaningius, in Steph. Comm. in Sax. p. 16. 

17 Ad Brcm. p. 63. The Privilegia, Eccl. Hammb. 146, 147. Helmoldus 
Chron. Sla/. 40. Some name the people Transalbini. 

18 So Alfred, in his Orosius, p. 20, 21., and his kinsman Ethelwerd, 833., entitle 
this region. The three divisions exist in Ad. Brem. 22., and Helmoldus Slav. 40. 
Subsequent geographers acknowledge it. 

ii 3 






a short account of the provinces which our ancestors, 
when first noticed, occupied on the Continent. 

Ditmarsia 19 is separated on the north from Sleswick 
by the Eyder, and from Stormaria on the south by 
the Stoer. It fronts the isles of Heiligland and 
Busen, and extends in length thirty-seven miles, and 
in breadth twenty-three. Its general aspect is a 
soil low and marshy, and strong mounds are neces- 
sary to keep the ocean to its natural limits. The 
land on the coast is favourable to corn and cattle ; 
but in the interior appear sterile sands, or unculti- 
vated marshes. Its inhabitants, like those of all 
unfruitful regions, have been tenacious of the right 
of enjoying their poverty in independence, and the 
nature of the country has favoured their military 
exertions. Their habits of warfare and scanty liveli- 
hood produced a harshness of disposition, which often 
amounted to ferocity. 20 

Below Ditmarsia, and reaching to the Elbe, was 
STORMARIA. 21 The Stoer, which named the province, 
confined it on the north. The Suala, Trave, and 
Billa, determined the rest of its extent. It was 
almost one slimy marsh. The wet and low situation 
of Stormaria and Ditmarsia exactly corresponds with 
the Roman account of the Saxons living in inacces- 
sible marshes. 22 The Stoer is friendly to navigation 
and fishing. Stormaria is somewhat quadrangular, 
and its sides may be estimated at thirty-three miles. 23 

19 It is called Thiat mares-galio in S. Anscharius, who lived in 840, and in 
whose work the name is first met with. 1 Langb. Script. 347. Thiatmaresca, in 
a diploma of 1059, ib.; and Thiatmarsgoi, in Ad. Brem. 22. Teutomarsia, Chry- 
teus Proem. Also Dythmersi, Dytmerschi. Suhm has investigated the etymology 
in his Nordfolk, Oprin. 263. 

20 Pontanus, ch. 667. Cilicius Belli Ditmars. 427., annexed to Krantz. 
Their banner was an armed soldier on a white horse. 

21 Ad. Brem. p. 22. derives the name from Storm, a metaphor expressive of the 
seditions of the inhabitants ; but Stoer, the river, and Marsi, the residents in 
marshes, seem to compose a juster etymology. Chrytcus Sax. 66 Pont. 664. 

22 Saxones, gentem in oceani littoribus et paludibus inviis sitam. Orosius, 
7. 32. 

23 Pontanus, 666. Ad. Brem. 22. distinguishes the Sturmarii with the epithet 
nobiliores. Their banner was a white swan with a golden collar. Hammaburg 


Divided from Sleswick by the Levesou on the CHAP. 

north, bounded by Wagria on the east, and by the , ,_, 

Trave on the south 24 , HOLSATIA stretches its nurner- H()lsatia - 
ous woods to Ditmarsia. The local appellation of 
the region thus confined has been, by a sort of 
geographical catachresis, applied to denominate all 
that country which is contained within the Eyder, 
the Elbe, and the Trave. In the age approaching 
the period of the continental residence of our ances- 
tors, the Holtzeti were nominally as well as territo- 
rially distinguished from the other states which we 
have considered. 25 Their country received from the 
bounty of nature one peculiar characteristic. As the 
western and southern coasts of Eald Saexen were 
repetitions of quagmires, the loftier Holsatia presented 
a continued succession of forests, and of plains which 
admitted cultivation. 

Strength and courage were qualities which grew 
up with the Holsatian, in common with his neigh- 
bours: he has been proverbed for his fidelity; his 
generosity has been also extolled; but an ancient 
writer diminishes the value of this rare virtue, by 
the companions which he associates to it. " They 
are emulous in hospitality, because to plunder and 
to lavish is the glory of an Holsatian ; not to be 
versed in the science of depredation is, in his opinion, 
to be stupid and base." 26 

(Hamburg) was their metropolis, which, before the eleventh century, had been 
viris et armis potens : but in Adam's time, was in solitudinem redacta. Ib. 

24 Holsatia was 42 miles from "Wilster to Kiel, and about 33 from Hanrahuw to 
New Munster. Pontan. 665. 

25 Their etymology has been variously stated ; 1. from the woods they inhabited ; 
Holt, a wood ; saten, to be seated. Ad. Brem. and Pontan. 2. From their 
country having been called Olt Saxen, Old Saxony. Sharing, De Gent. Angl. 28. 
It certainly was so named by Ravenna, Geog. lib. v. s. 31. So in Bede, lib. i. c. 15. 
and lib. v. c. 11. Chron. Sax. p. 13. By Gregory, Ep. Bib. Mag. v. 16. p. 101., 
and Boniface, ib. p. 55., who lived in the seventh century. Nennius, 3 Gale 
Script. Angl. 115. 3. See another derivation in Verstegan, 91. Eginhard, in 
the ninth century, names it Holdunstetch. The derivation of Adam of Bremen 
has prevailed. 

6 Helmoldus, Chron. Slav. 40. He adds, that the three people of Nordalbingia 
differed little either in dress or language. They had the jura Saxonum. 

H 4 




Such were the countries in which our Saxon an- 
cestors were residing when the Roman geographer 
first noticed them ; and from these, when the atten- 
tion of their population became directed to maritime 
depredations, they made those incursions on the 
Roman empire, which its authors mention with so 
much dismay. But the Saxons were one of the 
obscure tribes whom Providence selected and trained 
to form the nobler nations of France, Germany, and 
England, and they have accomplished their distin- 
guished destiny. 



ircumstanccs favourable to the Increase of the SAXON Power on 
the Continent. 

ABOVE a century elapsed after Ptolemy, before the CHAP. 
Saxons were mentioned again by any author who has IIL 
survived to us. Eutropius is the second writer we 
have, who noticed them. In accounting for the re- 
bellion of Carausius, and his assumption of the 
purple, he states the Saxons to have united with 
the Francs, and to have become formidable to the 
Eomans for their piratical enterprises. In the cen- 
tury which elapsed between Ptolemy and Carausius, 
the Saxons had greatly advanced in power and repu- 
tation, and they were beginning their system of 
foreign depredations when that emperor encouraged 
them to pursue it. Their prosperity during this 
interval seems to have arisen from the repulse of the 
Komans from the Elbe to the Rhine ; from the rise 
of the Francs ; and from their own application to 
maritime expeditions. 

The descendants of the first Scythian population Progress of 
of Europe had acquired the name of Germans in the 
time of Ca3sar. That it was a recent appellation, we 
learn from Tacitus. 1 They were first invited into 
Gaul, to assist one of its contending factions, and the 
fertility of the country was so tempting, that their 
15,000 auxiliaries gradually swelled into 120,000 
conquerors 2 , who established themselves in the 

1 Tacitus, Mor. Germ. c. 2. 

2 So one of the Keltic princes told Caesar, lib. i. c. 23. In combating these 
Germans, the Eduari of Gaul, a Keltic race, had lost almost all their nobility, senate, 
and cavalry. 


BOOK northern provinces. Caesar defeated them with great 
. IL , destruction; but he admits that France, from the 
Rhine to the Seine and Marne, was peopled by 
German tribes, differing from the Kelts in language, 
laws, and customs, little civilised, averse from trade, 
but excelling in bravery. 3 

The same insuppressible love of distinction and ad- 
venture which led Caasar into Britain, actuated him 
to an invasion of Germany. He resolved to pass the 
Rhine, that he might show them that the Romans 
could both dare and accomplish the attempt. 4 He 
was offered ships ; but he chose to construct a bridge, 
as better suited to the dignity of the Roman nation. 5 
He crossed the Rhine, burnt the towns and villages of 
one tribe, alarmed others ; and after staying eighteen 
days in the country, returned to France 6 , and made 
his first incursion into Britain. In a subsequent year, 
he entered Germany again by a temporary bridge ; 
but the natives retiring to their woods, he thought it 
dangerous to pursue them, and left a garrison on the 
Rhine. 7 He used some German auxiliaries against 
the Gauls ; and was materially benefited by a charge 
of German horse, in his great battle at Pharsalia. 8 
His vast project of entering and subduing Germany 
from the Euxine has been already noticed. 

Yet Caesar had but shown Germany to the Romans, 
as he had led them to the knowledge of Britain. It 
was the succeeding reign of Augustus, which was the 
actual era of the establishment of the Roman power 
in Germany, as that of Claudius afterwards introduced 
it into our island. The reign of Augustus was, there- 
fore, as important in its consequences to the Barbaric 
as it was to the Roman mind. It spread an intellectual 
cultivation through the outer circle of his civilised 

3 Ccesar, lib. ii. c. 1. lib. i. c. 1. 4 Csesar> lib iy c , 3 

Ibt c - 13 - 6 Ib. c. 16. c. 17. 7 Ccesar, lib. vi. c. 27. ' 

8 Florus. 


empire, superior to that which its varying provinces CHAP. 
had before enjoyed ; and it began the improvement > 

of the German intellect and society, by adding to the 
principles, customs, and spirit of the Barbaric con- 
tinent, whatever its uncivilised tribes could succes- 
sively imbibe, of the literature and arts of the Roman 
world. The Germans had much which the wild 
savages of the New World have been found without, 
and in which even the Romans were deficient, for they 
had some of the noblest principles of social polity 
and morals ; but they had scarcely any literature, few 
arts, few luxuries, and no refinement. When these 
became united to their own nobility of spirit and poli- 
tical principles, kingdoms arose in many parts of 
Europe, whose peoples have far transcended those of 
the Grecian states, and of the Roman empire. 

Under Augustus, Gaul or France was completely 
reduced to Roman provinces ; and most of its na- 
tives adopted the Roman appearance, language, and 
modes of life, and polity. Many colonies of the Ro- 
mans were planted both in France and Spain, each a 
little image of Rome 9 ; and the natives assisted him 
to subdue the Germans. 

The country between Gaul and the Rhine was also 
subdued into Roman provinces, and roads were con- 
structed in every part. Eight of these were made in 
Belgium, diverging from a single town. All these 
parts were formed into two grand divisions, called 
Germania Prima, and Germania Secunda. 

9 Thus Thoulouse became famous both for its great temple to Pallas, which Strabo 
mentions, 1. 4., and also Martial, 1. 9. ep. 10., and for its rhetorical schools, where 
Sidonius remarks that Theodoric was educated. Budams, p. 39. 41. This city 
became afterwards celebrated for its floral games of eloquence and poetry. Tacitus 
praises the liberal studies at Autun, whose schools in Diocletian's time were destroyed 
by the Bagaudse, but restored by Constantius. Apollo was worshipped there, ib. 
p. 25. Narbonne became also distinguished. The inscription which has been 
found there is a complete instance of the Roman deification and adoration of their 
emperor. It orders sacrifices to Augustus, and appoints the days of the worship, ib. 
p. 34. Bourdeaux was repeatedly the theme of the panegyric of Ausonius. Sido- 
nius praises the schools at Auvergne and Lyons. Others are noticed, as Triers and 


BOOK Castles and forts were built all along the Rhine, 
. IL . nearly fifty, and chiefly on its left bank, over which 
several bridges were thrown. A whole nation, the 
Ubii, was transplanted from beyond the Rhine to live 
along its left side : a Roman colony was placed among 
them, which increased afterwards into the city of 
Cologne. Other towns, as Mentz, Bonn, Worms, and 
Spires, arose from Roman stations. Eight legions 
were divided and placed in the most commanding 
spots to watch and overawe the Germans ; and Au- 
gustus expressed and cultivated so strong an attach- 
ment to this people, that he had a body of Germans 
for his guard. 

Thus the reign of Augustus completely reduced 
all the regions up to the Rhine into the condition of 
Roman provinces : all within that boundary were de- 
bilitated into a state of subjection, of peaceful life, and 
of beginning civilisation. 10 

The natives immediately beyond the Rhine stretch- 
ing to the ancient country of our ancestors, were the 
Batavi, in the present Holland ; the Frisii, in Fries- 
land ; the Bructeri, towards the Ems ; the Catti, and 
the Cherusci, who extended to the Weser; and the 
Chauci, who inhabited the shores from the Weser to 
the Elbe ; while the Suevi spread from the Main to 
the Danube. The German nations nearest to the 
Rhine frequently passed it in the reign of Augustus, 
to attack the stations of the Romans ; and these as 
willingly crossed the same river to defeat, plunder, 
and ravage, as far as they could penetrate. 

10 It was most probably from the new policy adopted by Augustus, and from its 
effects, and with a complimentary reference to it, that Virgil penned the celebrated 
lines, which, conceding to Greece the superiority in arts and eloquence, called thus 
upon Rome to subdue the world to a state of social tranquillity. 
Tu regere imperio populos, Romane ! memento. 
Hae tibi erunt artes : pacisque imponere morem : 
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos. JEn. L. 6. 851. 

Augustus fulfilled this admonition of Anchises. He fought to pacify, and ruled 
to civilise. Every Roman before him had warred for power, fame, and destruction 
disturbing, not harmonising, the world. 


Augustus often visited these parts of Germany ; CHAP. 
but operated more decisively on its southern regions. .. ^J > 
From the progress of his legions, the southern part, 
from the Alps to the Danube, became a Koman pro- 
vince, under the name of Noricum ; and two other 
contiguous provinces, called Khetia and Vindelicia, 
were also established from the Alps to the Rhine, the 
Inn, and the Adige. n The capital of Vindelicia was 
the present Augsburg, which Tacitus then called a 
most splendid colony. The Roman dominion being 
thus established in the southern district of Germany, 
the Emperor's son-in-law, Drusus, felt and cherished 
the same spirit of ambitious but unjust enterprise 
which had incited Caesar ; projected the conquest of the 
whole Continent, and actually began it. A passage in 
Tacitus displays the insatiable thirst of distinction 
with which the active-minded youths of Rome were 
urged upon expeditions incompatible with the com- 
forts of the rest of mankind. Drusus crossed the Rhine 
from Holland, and ravaged around to the Main, while 
a fleet navigated along the coast into the Zuyderzee, 
and the Ems. In the ensuing spring he penetrated 
to the Weser, and in another year to the Elbe ; laying 
the country waste, and building forts on the Maes, 
the Rhine, the Weser, and the Elbe ; but before he 
passed that river, he suddenly received, from natural 
causes, the fate which he was unsparingly dealing to 
others. Tiberius succeeded to the station, though 
not to the abilities, of Drusus. He moved several 
times into Germany. In one year he passed the 
Weser; and in another, attacking the Chauci and 
Langobardi, he waived the imperial standards over 
the Elbe. His fleet triumphantly sailed up the river : 
he contemplated the collected warriors who lined its 
northern bank ; but hazarded no attack. 12 Two of the 

11 Tacitus. 

l - Dion. Cassius, p. 622 628., and the authors in Mascou's learned history of 


BOOK princes of the Cherusci served in the Roman army ; 
. IL , of whom one became the celebrated Arminius, and 
another, a Roman priest. 

Tiberius was called by other wars to the Danube ; 
and while he was there conflicting with the Marco- 
manni and their allies, the avarice of Quintilius 
Yarus, combined with his precipitate attempt to 
civilise them, provoked the Germans of the Rhine to 
rebel. Arminius stood forward as the champion of 
Germany ; and by his skill and exertions, the Roman 
general and his army were destroyed. This misfor- 
tune struck Rome with consternation, and the horrors 
of an invasion like that of the Cimbri and Teutones 
were anticipated ; but Arminius was contented to 
have merited the title of the deliverer of his country. 13 
He had either not the means or the desire to pursue 
schemes of offensive conquest or of vengeful devasta- 
tion beyond the precincts of Germany. He drove 
back the Roman empire from the Weser to the Rhine. 
He restored to his countrymen the possession of their 
native soil up to the latter river ; destroyed all the 
Roman forts on the Ems, the Weser, and the Saal ; 
and when Tiberius hastened to relieve the capitol 
from its dismay, the imperial general could gain no 
decisive laurels from the cautious patriot. 14 Thus 

the Germans, i. p. 7885. He has selected and arranged the most important 
passages of the classical authors concerning the transactions and movements of the 
German nations before the dissolution of the Roman empire. The authorities for 
most of the events alluded to in this chapter will be found in his work. 

13 Tacitus gives him this title, Ann. lib. ii. c. 88. Kenler calls him the leader 
of the Saxons. 1 Schard. H. G. 501. ; but he was of the Cherusci. Spen. Not. 297. 
His character in Paterculus is interesting ; " Juvenis genere nobilis, manu fortis, 
sensu celer, ultra promptus ingenio, ardorem animi vultu oculisque prseferens." He 
had served in the Roman armies, and obtained the equestrian dignity. The pen 
of Tacitus has completed his fame. For the disaster of Varus, see Dion. Cass. 667., 
Paterc. ii. c. 1 1 7. ; and Tac. Ann. lib. i. 

14 There is a history of Arminius by Kenler, 1 Schard. p. 501518. In the 
dialogue on his military merit by Hutt, ib. 426., the German prince says to Han- 
nibal, with some truth. "Nam eorum qui res preclaras gesserunt, nemo majoribus 

lifficultatibus enisus, aut gravioribus circa impediments eluctatus est. In 
summa rerum aut hominum inopia, misera egestate, desertus ab omnibus, impeditus 
undique,tamen ad recuperandam libertatem, viam mihi communivi; citraque omnem 
extra opem, omne adjumentum, hoc solo prseditus et suffultus animo, a me ipso 


Arminius raised Germany into a new military and CHAP. 
political position. Having learned himself all the . ll *' . 
Roman discipline, he diffused among his countrymen 
as much of it as they could be persuaded to adopt, 
and prepared them to receive more; and from this 
period the wars of these fierce people became every 
year more formidable to the Roman empire, and more 
instructive to themselves. Nearly twenty years had 
elapsed between the time that Tiberius had marched 
to the Weser and the period in which Arminius ef- 
fected his revolt. During all this space, the Germans 
had all the Roman habits and peculiar civilisation in 
their immediate contemplation : and continuous in- 
tercourse occurred, from so large a portion of the 
country, between the Rhine and the Weser, being 
made Roman provinces ; from the serving of their 
chiefs and countrymen in the Roman armies, and their 
acting with them as allies ; and from their perpetual 
communications with the numerous Roman forts and 
stations. Germany was thus constantly advancing 
to improvement from the time that Augustus es- 
tablished the Roman armies on its continent; and 
the successes of Arminius kept it from being too Ro- 
manised. By driving back the Romans to the Rhine, 
he preserved to his countrymen and their neighbours 
the power of continuing, not merely in independence, 
but of preserving their native manners and customs, 
with only so much addition of the Roman civilisation 
as would naturally and beneficially harmonise with 
these. Many new ideas, feelings, reasonings, and 
habits, must have resulted from this mixture ; and the 
peculiar minds and views of the Germans must have 
been both excited and enlarged. The result of this 
union of Roman and German improvement, was the 

rerum initia petivi et bellum extreme periculosum, non antea coeptum sed ab 
omnibus desperatum prosequutus sum." He details his exertions, and contrasts 
them, with more patriotism than critical judgment, with the exploits of Scipio and 



BOOK gradual formation of that new species of our human 
. n> .. character and society which has descended with in- 
creasing melioration to all the modern states of 


Germany was not at this time very populous. 
The Hercynian forest, sixty days' journey in length, 
overspread a large portion of its surface. It was the 
destructive policy of each state to make a little desert 
around its territories for their easier defence; and 
the Suevi who were in Suabia and Franconia, used 
this desolating protection so abundantly, that they 
kept the country for 500 miles around them in a 
devastated condition. The population of Germany 
was, therefore, but scanty, and dwelt chiefly near 
the rivers, at their mouths, and on the sea-coasts. 
The Roman invasions repeatedly thinned the numbers 
of their tribes, by the slaughter of their battles and 
subsequent cruelties ; and when new populations 
multiplied, as these existed under new circumstances, 
and amid many alterations of native manners around 
them, every succeeding generation differed from its 
predecessors : but, happily, this difference, from the 
continual intercourse with the only civilised empire 
which then existed, was that of progressive improve- 
ment producing progressive power, until Rome became 
their conquest, and its provinces their spoil and the 
sites of their new kingdoms. 

Germanicus renewed the victories of his father 
Drusus, and endangered for a while the independence 
of the barbaric continent. His warfare, though his 
name lives in the panegyric of Tacitus, can be only 
compared with that which we have witnessed in our 
days in St. Domingo. His first expedition was under- 
taken for the express purpose of human slaughter. 
One part of his legions having destroyed their mu- 
tinous comrades, desired to attack the enemy, to 
appease, in a strange medley o compunction and 


ferocity, by the blood of the Germans, the manes of CHAP. 
their rebellious fellow-soldiers. They accordingly v_^ 
rushed to the massacre of the Marsi. Their com- 
mander was as unfeeling, and as irrational as them- 
selves ; for, " Germanicus, to spread the slaughter as 
wide as possible, divided his men into four battalions. 
The country fifty miles round was laid waste with 
fire and sword: neither sex nor age excited pity; 
nor any places, holy or profane ; their sacred temple, 
the Tanfanae, was destroyed. This slaughter was 
perpetrated without their receiving a wound, because 
the enemies they attacked were sunk in sleep, or 
unarmed and dispersed." 15 

The surprise of the Catti, against whom Germa- 
nicus sent Coccina, was one of their next exploits. 
" His arrival was so little expected by the Catti, that 
their women and children were either immediately 
taken prisoners or put to the sword: Mattium, the 
-capital, was destroyed by fire, and the open plains 
were laid waste." 16 In subsequent battles we usually 
find the addition, that " no quarter was given to the 
barbarians;" and in the progress of the Eomans, 
the country was always desolated. In one battle we 
have this ferocious plan of warfare even commanded 
by the applauded hero of the historian : " Germa- 
nicus rushing among the ranks, besought his men to 
give no quarter ; he told them they had no need of 
prisoners, and that the extirpation of the barbarians 
would alone end the war ! " 17 

Trained amid their soldiery to such sanguinary 
habits, it is not surprising that the Roman emperors 
ghould have carried to the throne the cruelties of the 
camp, and have exhibited there the merciless cha- 

15 Tacit. Ann lib. i. 16 Ibid. 

1T Tacit. Ann. lib. ii. Yet Germanicus is one of the few favourites of Tacitus. 
Such were the moral reasonings and sensibilities of one of Rome's most applauded 
historians, and who was one of the least tolerant of imperial and patrician misconduct 
in political transactions. 

VOL. I. I 


BOOK racter which, in such campaigns as these, they must 
IL , have acquired. But to destroy the uncultivated 
nations of Europe, however unoffending, was no 
crime in the popular estimation at Rome. A sur- 
name from a country subdued was a charm which 
made its chieftains deaf to all the groans of humanity 
and the clamours of violated right. They pursued 
this trade of sanguinary ambition, though Greece 
had taught the Romans to philosophise on morality ; 
and the orators of the capitol, in order to destroy an 
obnoxious governor, could sometimes declaim as if 
they had felt themselves the advocates of mankind ! 

After these massacres of the Marsi and the Catti, 
Germanicus sailed up the Ems, and marched his 
army to the Weser. At this juncture Arminius 18 
was not wanting to his countrymen ; but the superior 
knowledge of his competitor, and the discipline of 
the invading troops, were rapidly annihilating the 
rude liberty of Germany. Its bravest tribes fell 
fruitlessly in its defence ; the survivors trembled for 
the awful issue ; when the jealous policy of Tiberius 
who had succeeded to the empire, rescued them from 
absolute conquest. He called back Germanicus from 
his victorious progress ; although he asked to con- 
tinue in his command but one year more, and woulc 
have extended the Roman empire to the Elbe. 19 

The conquests of Germanicus were, in truth, so 
many depopulations. The Germans always fought 
till they had not men enough for further battles 
and every war was the destruction of the largest 
portion of the generation that waged it. But new 
races sprang up rapidly in the vacancy thus made 
and under circumstances that were continually 

18 Many have thought that the famous Irmensul was a monument of Arminius 
whose heroic actions the Germans long celebrated in their songs j but there is no 
reason to believe that Arminius was ever venerated as a deity. 

19 Tacit. Ann. lib. ii. s. 26. It is painful to read that Arminius fell a victim to 
the treachery and ingratitude of some of his countrymen ; or to his love of power 
and their love of liberty, 


coming more promotive of their improvement, espe- CHAP. 
daily in war, and in all the mental qualities which . m ' . 
were connected with it, and which could be excited 
by a struggle with an enemy so renowned and so 
successful. War became their necessity, as well as 
the theatre of their glory ; and from the reign of 
Tiberius until the fall of the Roman empire under 
their swords, the German nations beyond the Rhine 
on the west, and beyond the Danube on the east, 
were, under various denominations, of Marcomanni, 
Alemanni, Franks, Saxons, Burgundians, Lombards, 
and Goths, every year training and educating them- 
selves in those military habits, laws, and exercises, 
and in the corresponding policy and institutions, 
which new events and experience discovered to be 
most effective for their own welfare and for the an- 
noyance of their enemy. They were in every gene- 
ration becoming more and more the Spartans of 
modern Europe. Their martial systems increased 
progressively in wisdom and vigour. The whole 
frame of their society was made subservient to their 
warlike objects ; and it became impossible for Rome, 
in the degeneracy of its confined civilisation, to with- 
stand the unremitted onsets of a people daily attain- 
ing superiority in force of mind, loftiness of spirit, 
ardent feeling, and moral fortitude and probity, as 
well as in technical discipline and manual activity. 

The recall of Germanicus ended the progress of the A c 17 

Romans in the north of Germany. They had many Repulse of 

ii 1 the Ro ' 

contacts and some successes ; but they never reached mans to the 

the Elbe again. They retreated gradually to the Rhine ' 
south, though not with perpetual retrogression. 
Sometimes the interior tribes of the country were af- 
flicted by their victorious invasions, and as often were 
consoled by their expulsion. At one period Hadrian 
made a rampart for sixty leagues, from Neustadt on 
the Danube to Wimpfen on the Neckar, which lasted 

I 2 


BOOK till Aurelian: the natives then pulled it down. 
, " . Probus replaced it with stone ; but it soon became 
an ineffective barrier. At length, after various con- 
flicts, the Rhine near the modern Leyden, separated 
the Romans and their allies from the free nations of 
the north. 20 It was not, indeed, an impassable boun- 
dary, but the Romans generally kept within it : and 
thus the nations beyond, and more especially the 
Saxons, who were among the most remote, had full 
leisure to increase their population, and to improve 
the propitious circumstances which attended their 
peculiar situation. 

The jealousy of Tiberius having stopped Germa- 
nicus from annihilating Arminius, and from destroy- 
ing the nations beyond the Weser sufficiently for the 
extension of the Roman empire to the Elbe, all the 
German tribes from the Rhine to the Baltic were left 
to act, fight, and improve, with the new arts and 
knowledge which they had learnt from the Romans, 
and which they afterwards more fully imbibed from 
their future intercourse with the empire. 

Their continuation in this independent state, was 
favoured by the fall of Arminius. His talents and 
ambition might have subdued the north-western coast 
of Germany into a single dominion, but he being 
killed, and his Cherusci weakened, no similar hero, 
and no great kingdom, which such a character usu- 
ally founds, arose in those parts. Hence every state 
from the Rhine to the Elbe, and amongst these the 
Saxons, grew up in the free exercise of its energies 
and means of power. Warlike activity was neces- 
sarily their predominating principle, not only in order 
to repel the Romans, but also to protect themselves 

20 Bebelius too eagerly denies that any part of Germany beyond the Rhine was 
conquered, though the emperors arrogated the surname Germanicus. Orat. vet 
Ger. ] Schard. 257. Mascou fairly states the fact, i. p. 131. The Tabula Peuting. 
(on which some excellent remarks of M. Freret are in Mem. vii. p. 292. ) confirms 
this boundary. 


from each other. It was indeed an essential indi- CHAP. 
vidual quality. The life of each depended on his . IIL 
martial efficiency ; for their wars, whether public or 
private, were always those of desolation and death. 

The Romans continued to be the military educators 
of the population in these parts, without intending 
an effect so dangerous to their own domination. But 
their new principle or necessity, of forming part of 
their armies of German troops, led to this momen- 
tous result. They frequently felt its evil without 
changing their system. So early as the year 28, the 
Frisii, the neighbours of the Saxons, and some of 
whose nobles had served in the Roman armies, re- 
volted, and for a long time remained 21 independent. 
Fifteen years afterwards, Batavi were serving in the 
Roman armies in Britain. 22 

From the Batavian marshes, in A.D. 47, Gennascus 
became the leader of the Chauci, and began that 
system of operations which the Saxons in an after 
age so eagerly pursued. He plundered Gaul with 
light ships. He became strong enough to invade 
lower Germany. 23 Yet in A.D, 69, the Emperor 
Yitellius became so fond of his German auxiliaries, 
as to take them to Rome, in their dresses of skins 
and long spears, and to consult their superstitions. 24 
After him Givilis essayed and demonstrated the mi- 
litary efficiency which the tribes of these regions had 
acquired from Roman tuition. He had served among 
the Batavian cavalry that was employed in Britain, 
and he visited Rome. He found the sailors in the 
Roman fleet on the Rhine to be chiefly Batavi. 
With talents which Tacitus compares with those of 
Hannibal and Sertorius, he roused his countrymen 
to arms against the Romans. The whole Batavian 
nation, Bructeri, Tencteri, and their neighbours, al- 

21 Tacit. Ann. lib. iv. * Dio Cass. lib. Ix. 

23 Tac. Ann. lib. xi. c. 18. u Tacit. Hist. lib. ii. Suet, in Vit. 

I 3 




lied with him. He defeated the imperial armies, and 
was joined by the auxiliary forces whom the Komans 
had trained. The Gauls submitted to him. One 
division of his navy sunk or took the Roman fleet ; 
and he equipped another to intercept their supplies 
from Gaul. Defeated at one time, he maintained a 
doubtful battle at another, and at last obtained a 
creditable peace ; and the Romans again took Bata- 
vians into their service in Britain. 25 These events 
deserve our contemplation, because they show that 
great improvements flowed from the Romans, to- 
wards the regions where our Saxon ancestors were 
stationed, and thus assisted to educate them to a 
fitness for the great destination to which they were 
finally impelled. 

From the time of Civilis to the beginning of the 
third century, the emperors left the nations beyond 
the Rhine to the natural course of their own means 
of continuing the progress which the preceding events 
had excited. In Caracalla's reign the tribes that 
dwelt on the Elbe near the North Sea, a position 
that includes the Saxons, felt so highly their own 
importance, as to send an embassy to Rome offering 
peace, but requiring money for observing it. The 
emperor gave the demanded payment; and so greatly 
favoured them, as to form a German body-guard, 
like Augustus, and to wear himself a German dress. 26 

But the savage Maximin soon changed this flat- 
tering scene. After the assassination of Alexander 
235-240. Severus, the ferocious Thracian assumed the con- 
taminated purple, and announced his accession to 

29 Tacit. -Hist. lib. iii. iv. Civilis had maintained a personal friendship with 

Cum privatus esset amici vocabamur." Lib. v. c. 26. Mascou, to 

his summary of the actions of Civilis, adds that his memory continued dear to the 

ollanders : that in the Great Hall of the States General there were twelve pic- 
S S w- J ^ e ? p l oits ' ^ Otto Veenius ; and that the Dutch were fond of comparing 

iTd." VOL? rsr* prince f range> " the f untain f 

26 Herodian, lib. iv. c. 7. 

Kise of the 


the north of Germany in a series of victorious slaugh- CHAP. 
ter and unrelenting devastation. So irresistible was . > 
the tempest, that unless (says the historian) the 
Germans had escaped by their rivers, marshes, and 
woods, he would have reduced all Germany into sub- 
jection. His furious valour once betrayed him into a 
situation of so much danger in a marsh, that he was 
saved with difficulty, while his horse was drowning. 
His haughty letters to the senate display the exulta- 
tion and the ferocity of his mind. " We cannot relate 
to you how much we have done. For the space of 
four hundred miles we have burnt the German towns; 
we have brought away their flocks, enslaved their 
inhabitants, and slain the armed. We should have 
assailed their woods, if the depths of the marshes had 
permitted us to pass." 27 

This destructive invasion, like many other evils, 
generated, by the greatness of the necessity, a pro- 
portionate benefit. By a conjecture more probable 
in itself, and more consistent with contemporaneous 
facts, than any other which has been mentioned, a 
modern writer has very happily ascribed to it the 
formation of that important confederation which, 
under the name of Francs, withstood the Roman 
arms, and preserved the liberties of Germany. 28 

It is the prevailing opinion of the learned, that Their true 
about the year 240 a new confederation was formed, ongm ' 
under the name of Francs, by the old inhabitants of 
the Lower Rhine and Weser. 29 As the incursion of 
Maxirnin took place about the year 235, the additional 
supposition of Spener is very happy, that this con- 

27 Jul. Capitol. Maxim, c. 12. Herodian, lib. vii. p. 146. ed. Steph, The his- 
tory of Maximin is related by Mr. Gibbon with elegance and accuracy, i. p. 173 
190. 4to. 

28 Spener in his Notit. Germ. lib. iv. p. 338. " Non valde vereor adfirmare, 
Maximini crudelem in Germaniam incursionem foedus inferioris Rhcni accolis 
Germanis suasisse." 

29 Gibbon, 1. p. 259. Foncemagne, Mem. Ac. xv. p/268., and Freret, Hist. Ac. 
Insc. ix. p. 88., and Mem. xxxiii. p. 134., unite in the opinion. Mascou, who 
dislikes it, p. 196., has evidently not weighed all the circumstances. 

I 4 


.BOOK federation arose from a general desire of security and 

. * L . revenge. 

The horizon of Eome was at this juncture dark- 
ening : civil wars were consuming the strength of 
the empire; and its Germanic enemies, who had 
many losses of liberty, life, and property to avenge, 
were learning the dangerous secret of the benefit of 
union. The Alemanni 30 had alarmed Marcus Aure- 
lius with its first exhibition. The advantage of this 
confederation generated others, until the Koman em- 
pire was overwhelmed by the accumulating torrent ; 
and her western provinces were parcelled out among 
those warlike spoilers whose improved posterity now 
govern Europe. 

This sagacious union of strength in a common 
cause was consecrated on the Rhine by the general 
name of Francs, in which the peculiar denominations 
Their use of the tribes were absorbed. 31 Their valour achieved 
Saxons. ^ s en( ^ 5 anc ^ their existence and general conduct 
were peculiarly useful to the Saxon nation. 32 The 
safety and success of our ancestors may have flowed 
from this timely confederation. The Saxon exploits 
on the ocean inflicted such wounds on the Roman 
colonies and commerce, that a peculiar fleet was ap- 
pointed to counteract them ; the southern coast of 
Britain was put under an officer called Comes Littoris 
Saxonici; and every historian mentions them with 
dread and hatred. It does not seem visionary to 
state, that it would have been one of the first employ- 
ments of the Roman indignation to have exterminated 

80 For the nations who assumed this name, see Spener, 175. 179. 

31 The states who united in the league are particularised by Spener, p. 341. ; 
and by Chrytaeus, Sax. Proem. 

32 The ancient writers give us some curious traits of the Francs of this period : 
" Francis familiare est ridendo fidem frangere." Vopiscus Proc. c. xiii. p. 237. Ed. 
Bip. " Gens Francorum infidelis est. Si perjeret Francus quid novi faciet, qui 
perjuriam ipsum sermonis genus putat esse non criminis. " Salvian de Gub. Dei, 
lib. iv. p. 82. Mag. Bib. Pat. 5. Again, lib. vii. p. 116. " Franci mendaces, 
sed hospitales."_This union of laughter and crime, of deceit and politeness, has 
not been entirely unknown to France in many periods since the fifth century. 



them by an expedition like those of Drusus, Ger- 
manicus, and Maximin, if the confederation of the 
Francs had not interposed a formidable barrier that 
was never destroyed, and which kept the imperial 
armies employed on the south banks of the Rhine. 33 
We may add, that the furious desolations of Maximin 
were favourable to the growth of the Saxon power ; 
for they depopulated the contiguous states, and left 
the Saxons without any strong neighbours to coerce 
or endanger them. 

Another cause peculiarly promotive of the pros- 
perity of the Saxons, and directly tending to facilitate 
their future conquests in Britain, was their applica- 
tion to maritime expeditions ; and it is interesting to 
the philosophical student of history to remark by 
what incidents they were led to this peculiar applica- 
tion of their courage and activity. 


33 Pontanus Origin Franc. Spener, 333 360., and his 2 vol.421 429., 
and Schilter's Glossary, 316 322., furnish much information on the Frankish 



The Application of the SAXONS to Maritime Expeditions. 

BOOK THE situation of the Saxons on the sea-coast of that 
. **' . part of Europe which was in the neighbourhood of 
some fertile provinces of the Roman empire, and yet 
remote enough to elude their vengeful pursuit, and 
the possession of an island with a harbour so ample, 
and yet so guarded against hostile assaults, as Helig- 
land afforded, were circumstances propitious to a 
system of piracy. 

The tribes on the sea-coasts, from the mouths of 
the Rhine to the Baltic, had from the days of Cassar 
been gradually forming themselves to maritime ex- 
ertions. The Romans themselves, inattentive to the 
consequences, contributed to their progress in this 
new path of war. Drusus equipped a fleet on the 
Rhine to waft his army to the Ems: he cut a 
channel for its passage into the Zuyder Zee ; and we 
find in his time, that the Bructeri, who lived on the 
left of the Ems, were able to fight a battle with him 
on the seas. 1 In the reign of Tiberius, Germanicus 
built a thousand vessels on the Rhine, Maes, and 
Scheld 2 , teaching the attentive natives the use of 
ships, and the manner of their constructing them, 
and employing them in their navigation. 

Within thirty years afterwards, Gennascus, at the 
head of the Chauci, evinced the maritime improve- 
ments of the tribes in these parts: for with light 
ships, armed for plunder, he made the descent al- 
ready noticed on the contiguous shores, and par- 
ticularly on the Roman provinces in France, knowing 

1 Mascou, Hist. vol. i. p. 80. * Tacit. Ann. lib. ii. c. 6. 


that they were rich, and perceiving that they were CHAP. 

weak against such attacks. 3 His enterprises were in ^ > 

fact the precursors of .those with which the Francs 
and Saxons afterwards annoyed the Roman empire. 
The naval exertions of Civilis have been stated be- 

As the population between the Rhine and Ems be- 
came thus accustomed to excursions on the seas, the 
Saxons began to multiply near them, and to spread 
into the islands we have described. But an active 
system of naval enterprise is not naturally chosen by 
any nation ; and, still less, distant voyages, which 
are fatal to land warriors from their ignorance, and 
still more formidable from their superstitions. Hence 
the Saxons might have lived amid their rocks and 
marshes, conflicting with their neighbours, or sailing 
about them in petty vessels for petty warfare, till 
they had mouldered away in the vicissitudes in which 
so many tribes perished ; if one remarkable incident, 
not originating from themselves, but from a Roman 
emperor, who intended no such result, had not ex- 
cited their peculiar attention to maritime expeditions 
on a larger scale, with grander prospects, and to 
countries far remote. 

This event, which tinged with new and lasting 
colours the destiny of Europe, by determining the 
Saxons to piratical enterprises, was the daring 
achievements of the Francs; whom Probus, during 
his brief sovereignty, had transported to the Pontus. 
To break the strength of the barbaric myriads, who 
were every year assaulting the Roman state with 
increasing force, this emperor had recourse to the 
policy, not unfrequent under the imperial govern- 
ment, of settling colonies of their warriors in places 
very distant from the region of their nativity. 

Among others, a numerous body of Francs, or voyage of 

3 Tacit Ann. lib. xi. c. 18. the Francs 


BOOK rather of the contiguous tribes united under that 
IL . name, was transplanted to the Euxine. The attach- 
from the men t o f mankind to the scenes of their childhood ; and 
their ardent longing, when in foreign lands, for the 
country which their relatives inhabit ; where their 
most pleasing associations have been formed ; where 
their individual characters have been acquired, and 
customs like their own exist ; are feelings so natural 
to every bosom, and so common to every age, that 
it is not surprising that the Frankish exiles, when 
removed to the Euxine, regretted their native wilds. 4 
We read, therefore, with general sympathy, that 
they soon afterwards seized the earliest opportunity 
of abandoning their foreign settlement. They pos- 
sessed themselves of many ships, probably the ves- 
sels in which they had been carried from the Ger- 
man Ocean to the Euxine, and formed the daring 
plan of sailing back to the Rhine. Its novelty and 
improbability procured its success ; and the neces- 
sities which attended it, led them to great exploits. 
Compelled to land wherever they could for supplies, 
safety, and information, they ravaged the coasts of 
Asia and Greece. Reaching at length Sicily, they 
attacked and ravaged Syracuse with great slaughter. 
Beaten about by the winds, often ignorant where 
they were, seeking subsistence, pillaging to obtain it, 
and excited to new plunder by the successful depre- 
dations they had already made, they carried their tri- 
umphant hostility to several districts of Africa. They 
were driven off that continent by a force sent from 
Carthage ; but this repulse turning them towards 
Europe, and finding no where a home, they con- 
cluded at last their remarkable voyage by reaching 
in safety their native shores. 5 

4 So strong was this feeling in Germany, that some of the German chiefs whom 
Augustus forced from their country killed themselves. 1 Mascou, 85. 

5 The original authorities are Zosimus, end of book i. j Eumen. Paneg. iv. c. 18. ; 
and Vopiscus in Probo, c. 18. 


In this singular enterprise, a system to endure for 
ages received its unpremeditated birth. It discovered 
to these adventurers and to their neighbours ; to all 
who heard and could imitate, that, from the Roman 
colonies, a rich harvest of spoil might be gleaned by 
those who would seek for it at sea. It likewise 
removed the veil of terror that hung over distant 
oceans and foreign expeditions. These Francs had 
desolated every province almost with impunity ; they 
had plunder to display, which must have fired the 
avarice of every needy spectator ; they had acquired 
skill, which those who joined them might soon in- 
herit ; and perhaps the same men, embarking again 
with new followers, evinced by fresh booty the prac- 
ticability of similar attempts. On land, the Roman 
tactics and discipline were generally invincible ; but, 
at sea, they who most frequent it are usually the 
most expert and successful. The Saxons perceived 
this consequence : their situation on the ocean tempted 
them to make the trial ; they soon afterwards began 
their depredations, and by this new habit evinced the 
inciting and instructive effects of the Frankish ad- 

The piracies of the Francs and Saxons are not usurpation 
mentioned in the imperial writers anterior to this 
navigation ; but they seem to have become frequent 
after it; for within a few years subsequent, the 
Francs and Saxons so infested the coasts of Belgium, 
Gaul, and Britain, that the Roman government was 
compelled to station a powerful fleet at Boulogne, on 
purpose to confront them. The command was in- 
trusted to Carausius, a Menapian, of the meanest 
origin ; but a skilful pilot and valiant soldier. It was 
observed, that this commander attacked the pirates 
only after they had accomplished their ravages, and 
never restored the capture to the suffering provin- 
cials. This excited a suspicion, that by wilful re- 


missness he permitted the enemy to make the incur- 
sions, that he might obtain the booty on their return. 
Such conduct was fatal to the design of suppressing 
the piracies of the Francs and Saxons. It permitted 
the habit of such enterprises to become established ; 
and the success of those who eluded his avarice, on 
their return, kept alive the eagerness for maritime 
depredations. 6 

Another incident occurred to establish their pro- 
pensity and power. The emperor, informed of the 
treasons of Carausius, ordered his punishment. Ap- 
prised of his impending fate, he took refuge in aug- 
mented guilt and desperate temerity; he boldly 
assumed the purple, and was acknowledged emperor 
by the legions in Britain. The perplexities in which 
the Koman state was at that time involved favoured 
his usurpation ; and, to maintain it, he had recourse 
to one of those important expedients which, originally 
intended for a temporary exigency, lead ultimately to 
great revolutions. 

He teaches As it was only by active warfare that his sove- 

the A.D. ns ' reignty could be maintained, he made alliances with 

287, the Germans, and particularly with the Saxons and 

the naval -^ , -. x , J , . . , . 

art. Jbrancs, whose dress and manners he imitated in 

order to increase their friendship. To make them 
of all the use he projected, he encouraged their ap- 
plication to maritime affairs ; he gave them ships and 
experienced officers, who taught them navigation and 
the art of naval combat. 7 No circumstance could 
have tended more to promote their future successes 
and celebrity. They had sufficient inclination to 
this new path of action. They only wanted the 
tuition and encouragement. Fostered by this im- 
perial alliance, and supplied with those essential re- 
quisites, without which they could not have become 

6 1 Gibhon, 362. 1 Mascou, 243. ] Mascou, 244. 1 Gibbon, 364. 


permanently formidable, they renewed their predatory CHAP. 
attacks with licensed severity. Every coast which had . 

not received Carausius as its lord was open to their 
incursions. They perfected themselves in their dan- 
gerous art, and by the plunder which they were al- 
ways gaining, they increased their means as well as 
their avidity for its prosecution, and nurtured their 
population in the perilous but attractive warfare. 
The usurpation of Carausius, and this education of 
the Saxons to the empire of the ocean, lasted seven 

Sixty years afterwards, a similar occurrence ad- 
vanced the Saxon prosperity. Magnentius, another 
usurper of the bloody and restless sceptre of Rome, 
having murdered Constans, endeavoured to preserve 
the perilous dignity by an alliance of fraternisation 
with the Francs and Saxons, whom in return he pro- 
tected and encouraged. 8 This was again one of those 
auspicious incidents, which enhanced the consequence 
and power of those tribes who had been invisible to 
Tacitus, and who had been merely known by name 
to Ptolemy. But as Providence had destined them 
to be the stock of a nation whose colonies, commerce, 
arts, knowledge and fame were to become far superior 
to those of Rome, and to pervade every part of the 
world ; it cherished them by a succession of those 
propitious circumstances which gradually formed and 
led them to that great enterprise for which they were 
principally destined, the conquest and colonisation of 
Romanised Britain ; and to be the founders of the 
great body of the English population ; for, although 
Britons, Danes, Scoti, and Normans have contributed 
to enlarge its numbers, the far largest proportion of 
the inhabitants of England has arisen from Anglo- 
Saxon progenitors. 

8 Julian Grat. cited 1 Mascou, 280. 



The League of the SAXONS with other States, and their Conti- 
nental Aggrandisement. 

BOOK BUT in the beginning of the fourth century, the 
IL Saxons were not alone on the ocean ; other States, 
both to the south and north of their own locality, 
were moving in concert with them, whose nominal 
distinctions were lost in the Saxon name. This ad- 
dition of strength multiplied the Saxon fleets, gave 
new terror to their hostility, and recruited their losses 
with perpetual population. The league extended. 
Their depredations increased their population, afflu- 
ence, and celebrity ; and these results extended their 
power. What emulation, policy, or rapacity may 
have first prompted, success and fear made more 
universal. They who would not have been tempted 
to unite, dreaded the wrath of those whose proffered 
alliance they refused : and at length most of the 
nations north of the Rhine assumed the name, 
strengthened the association, and fought to augment 
the predominance, of the Saxons. Towards the\ 
south, between the Elbe and the Rhine, the Chauci 
seem to have led the way. The Frisii, urged by| 
kindred passion and a convenient position, willingly 
followed. The precise date of the accession of others j 
is not so clear ; but in some period of their power 
the Chamavi, and at last the Batavi, the Toxandri, 
and Morini were in their alliance. North of their 
territorial position the Cimbri, the Jutes, the Angles, 
and others not so discernible, added their numbers to 


the formidable league ; which lasted until their expe- 
dition to Britain 1 , and then began to dissolve. 

Without detaining the reader by a detail of the 
modern chorography answering to the position of these 
tribes 2 , it may be sufficient to state concisely, that 
the progress and leagues of the Saxon states enlarged 
gradually from the Elbe to the Weser ; from the 
Weser they reached to the Ems ; and still augment- 
ing, they diffused themselves to the Rhine with vary- 
ing latitude, as the Francs, many of whose allies they 
seduced, quitting that region, and abandoning their 
exploits on the ocean, marched upon Gaul. The ex- 
tension of this new confederation was favoured by 
the change of policy and position adopted by the 
Francs. As this people stood foremost to the Roman 
vengeance, they experienced its effects. They had 
many distressing wars to maintain, which in time 
compelled them to abandon maritime expeditions, 
and to consolidate their strength for their continental 
conflicts. Their ultimate successes made this warfare 
the most popular among them. Hence, the nearer we 
approach the period of the invasion of England, we 
find the Francs less and less united with the Saxons 
on the ocean, and even wars begin to be frequent be- 
tween the rival friends. As the former moved on- 
ward, to the conquests of Belgium and Gaul, the 
Saxons appear to have been the only nation under 
whose name the vessels of piracy were navigated. 
Saxons were the enemies every where execrated, 
though under this title several nations fought. Some 
of the tribes on the maritime coast who had composed 

1 Spener's Notitia, 363 370. That the Saxons of the fifth century were an 
association of peoples, was remarked by Stillingfleet, Orig. Brit. 305. ; and Lang- 
horn, Elench. Ant. Alb. 342. See also Freret, Mem. Ac. Inscr. xxxiii. p. 134. ; and 
2 Gibbon, 523. 

2 This may be seen as to the Chauci, Spener, 302 3J3. Cluverius, lib. iii. 
p. 72. Cellarius, Ant. Geog. i. p. 298. As to the Frisii, Spener, 314332. 

Cluv. p. 55. Cell. 295 As to the Chamavi, Sp. 260, &c. The same authors 

treat of the others. 

VOL. I. K 


BOOK the league of the Francs, abandoned it, r to share the 
. IL . easier warfare and ampler booty of the Saxons. At 
last this successful people diffused themselves into 
the interior of Germany so victoriously, that the vast 
tracts of country embraced by the Elbe, the Sala, and 
the Rhine, became subjected to their power 3 , in ad- 
dition to their ancient territory from the Elbe to the 
Eyder. 4 An old Belgic chronicle in rhyme, makes 
Neder Sassen, Lower Saxony, to have been confined 
by the Scheld and the Meuse 5 ; but this is a larger 
extent than others admit. 

The jutes^'^But those allies of the Saxons with whom the his- 
tory of Britain is most connected, were the Jutes and 
Angles. The Jutes inhabited Jutland, or rather that 
part of it which was formerly called South Jutland 6 , 
but which is now known as the duchy of Sleswick. 
The little band first introduced into England by Hen- 
gist and Horsa were Jutes. Their name has been 
v written with all the caprices of orthography. 7 

3 That continental Saxony at last extended to the Rhine is affirmed by Adam of 
Bremen, p. 3. ; and see the later writers. Chrytscus, 72. ; et Proem. Krantz 
Saxon, p. 5. Spener Notit. 2 vol. 400 413. Eginhart, the secretary of Charle- 
magne, says, p. 7., that in his time, Saxony Germanise pars non modica est. 

4 The Saxon poet commemoratesjhe Saxons to have retained this region in the 
time of Charlemagne : 

Saxonum populus quidam quos claudit ah austro 
Albia sejunctum positos Aquilonis ad axem, 
Hos Northalbingos patrio sermone vocamus. 

Ap. Du Chesne, Hist. Fran. Script. 2. p. 160. 

Oude bocken hoor ick gewagen, 

Dat all t'larid beneden Nyemagen, 

Wilen neder Sassen hiet, 

Alsoo als die stroom verschiet 

Van der Maze ende van den Rhyn, 

Die Schelt was dat westende syn. 

Schilt. Thes. 706. 

I have heard that old books say, 

That all the land beneath Nyemagen 

Whilom was called Nether Saxony, 

Also that the stream 

Of the Maes and the Rhine confined it : 

The Scheld was its western end. 

6 Chrytseus, Saxon. 65. Pont. Chor. Dann. 655. 

7 As Geatum, Giotse, Jutse, Gutae, Geatani, Jotuni, Jete, Juitze, Vitse, &c. The 
Vetus Chronicon Holsatise, p. 54., says the Danes and Jutes are Jews of the 
tribe of Dan ! and Munster as wisely calls the Helvetii, Hill-vitEe, or Jutes of the 
hills ! 


The Angles have been derived from different parts! CHAP. 
of the north of Germany. Engern, in Westphalia, |, 
was a favourite position, because it seemed to suit 
geography of Tacitus. Angloen, in Pomerania, had 
good pretensions, from the similarity of its name; 
and part of the duchies of Mecklenburgh and Lunen- 
burg was chosen out of respect to Ptolemy ; but the 
assertion of Bede and Alfred, which Camden has 
adopted, has, from its truth, prevailed over all. In 
the days of Tacitus and Ptolemy, the Angli may have 
been in Westphalia or Mecklenburg, or elsewhere ; but 
at the era of the Saxon invasion they were resident in 
the district of Anglen, in the duchy of Sleswick. 8 

The duchy of Sleswick extends from the river 
Levesou, north of Kiel, to the Tobesket, on which 
stands Colding ; but that particular position, which 
an ancient Saxon author calls Old England, extends 
from the city of Sleswick to Flensberg. Sleswick was 
the capital of Anglen, and was distinguished, in the 
eleventh century, for its population and wealth. 9 

8 Bede's words are : " De ilia patria, quse Angulus dicitur et ab eo tempore usque 
hodie, manere desertus inter provincias Jutarum et Saxonum perhibetur," lib. i. 
c. 1 5. His royal translator's expressions are similar : " Is tha land betwyh Geatum 
and Seaxum. Is saed of thsere tide the hi thanon gewiton oth to dscge tha hit west 
wunige," p. 483. Alfred, in his Orosius, alluding to the Danish countries on the 
Baltic, says, "on thsem landum eardodon Engle ser hi hider on land coman." 
Camden, in his introduction, attributes to the Angles the German cities Engelheim, 
where Charlemagne was born, Ingolstad, Engleburg, Engelrute ; and Angleria, in 

9 Pontanus, Geographia, 655, 656. It is our Ethelwerd who gives us the ancient 
site of the Angles most exactly. Anglia vetus sita est inter Saxones et Giotos, 
habens oppidum capitale quod sermone Saxonico Sleswic nuncupatur, secundum 
vero Danos, Haithabay, p. 833. Some, who admit this situation, will not allow 
that the Angli were German emigrants. Schilter's Glos. p. 49 Wormius de- 
rives them from the Jutes. Literat. Runica, p. 29. This is a mere supposition. 
As Tacitus notices Angli in Germany, but does not specifically mention Jutes, a 
speculative reasoner might with greater probability, make the Angli the parents of 
the Jutes. That they were kindred nations is clear from the identity of their 
language. Our Kentish Jutes have always talked as good English as our Mercian, 
and Norfolk, and Yorkshire Angles. Jutes, Angles, and Saxons seem to have been 
coeval twigs of the same Teutonic branch of the great Scythian or Gothic tree. 
Some dialectic differences of pronunciation may be traced, but no real diversity of 

K 2 



Sequel of their History to the Period of the ANGLO-SAXON 

BOOK WHILE the Saxons were in this state of progressive 
. "' . greatness, in the fourth century, the prosperity and 
contiguity of Britain invited their frequent visits; 
and their attacks were favoured by the incursions of 
other enemies, who are called by the historians Picti, 
Scoti, and Attacotti. 

A.D. In a similar combination of hostilities, Nectaridus, 

The 3 s!' x . tne commander of the Saxon shore, was slain, and 
ons attack the general of the island, Fullo-faudes, perished in 
m; an ambush. Several officers were sent by the Roman 
emperors to succeed them ; but their exertions being 
inadequate to the necessity, Theodosius, an expe- 
rienced and successful leader, was appointed by 
Valentinian in their room. The Picts and the co- 
operating tribes attacked from the north, while the 
Saxons and their allies assaulted the maritime coasts. 
Theodosius, from Eichborough, marched towards 
London, and dividing his army into battalions, cor- 
respondent to the positions of the enemies, he attacked 
the robbers incumbered with their plunder. The 
bands that were carrying away the manacled inha- 
bitants and their cattle, he destroyed, and regained 
the spoil ; of this he distributed a small share among 
are defeated his wearied soldiers ; the residue he restored to its 
6his Th< " owners, and entered the city, wondering at its sudden 
deliverance, with the glories of an ovation. 

Lessoned by experience, and instructed by the 
confessions of the captives and deserters, he combated 


this mixture of enemies, with well-combined artifice CHAP. 
and unexpected attacks. To recall those who in the <.. ^. 
confusion, from fear or from cowardice, had aban- 
doned their ranks or their allegiance, he proclaimed 
an amnesty l ; and to complete the benefit he had 
begun, he prosecuted the war with vigour in the 
north of Britain. He prevented by judicious move- 
ments the meditated attack ; and hence the Orkneys 
became the scene of his triumphs. The Saxons, 
strong in their numbers and intrepidity, sustained 
several naval encounters before they yielded to his 
genius. 2 They ceased at last to molest, the tran- 
quillity of Britain, and the addition of a deserved 
surname, Saxonicus, proclaimed the services of Theo- 
dosius. 3 He added the province of Yalentia to 
Roman Britain, restored the deserted garrisons, and 
coerced the unruly borderers by judicious stations 
and a vigilant defence. 4 

The Saxon confederation might be defeated, but 370. 
was not subdued. Such was its power, that they bytiVRo- 
were now bold enough to defy the Roman armies by man f on * he 

.S 5 r . J continent. 

land, and invaded the regions on the Rhine with a 
formidable force. The imperial general was unable 
to repulse them ; a reinforcement encouraged him. 
The Saxons declined a battle, and sued for an ami- 
cable accommodation. It was granted. A number 
of the youth fit for war was given to the Romans to 
augment their armies ; the rest were to retire unmo- 
lested. The Romans were not ashamed to confess 
their dread of the invaders by a perfidious violation 

1 Am. Marcel, lib. xxvii. c. 8. p. 283. 

2 Claud. 4 Cons. Hon. 31. "Maduerunt Saxone fuso Orcades." Saxo con- 
sumptus bellis navalibus, Pacatus Paneg. Theod. p. 97. 

3 Pacat. 98. "Quum ipse Saxonicus." The British government have wisely 
done equal justice to the defenders of their country. We have Earl St. Vincent, 
Lord Viscount Duncan Baron of Camperdown, and Baron Nelson of the Nile, and 
Earl of Trafalgar. 

4 Am. Marc. p. 406. Claudian, de 3 Consul. Hon. states his successes against 
the Picts and Scots, p. 44. 



BOOK of the treaty. They attacked the retreating Saxons 
IL , from an ambush ; and, after a brave resistance, the 
unguarded barbarians were slain or made prisoners. 5 
It is to the disgrace of literature, that the national 
historian of the day has presumed, while he records, 
to apologise for the ignominious fraud. 

Such an action might dishonourably gain a tem- 
porary advantage, but it could only exasperate the 
Saxon nation. The loss was soon repaired in the 
natural progress of population, and before many 
years elapsed, they renewed their depredations, and 
defeated Maximus. 6 At the close of the fourth cen- 
tury they exercised the activity and resources of 
Stilicho. The unequal struggle is commemorated 
by the encomiastical poet, whose genius gilds, with 
a departing ray, the darkening hemisphere of Kome. 7 
After his death the Saxons commenced new 8 erup- 
tions. They supported the Armorici in their 9 rebel- 
lion, awed Gothic Euric, began to war with the 
Francs 10 , and, extending the theatre of their spoil, 
made Belgium, Gaul, Italy, and Germany tremble 
at their presence. At length, Charlemagne, having 
prosecuted against them one of the most obstinate 
and destructive wars which history has recorded, 
their predominance was abased, and their spirit of 
aggression n destroyed. The celebrity and power of 
the Saxons on the continent then ceased. They 
dwindled to a secondary rank, and have ever since 
acted a secondary part in the events of German his- 

5 Am. Mar. 416 Orosius, vii. c. 12. and Cassiodorus, 2 vol. 636. also mention 

the incident. 

6 S. Ambrose, quoted 1 Mascou, 371. 

7 Claudian. de Laud. Stil. lib. ii. p. 140. Elz. edit. 

8 Jerom. in Mascou, 410. 

9 Sid. Apoll. Paneg. Avit. v. 369. 

10 2 Mascou, 39. Gregory of Tours, lib. ii. c. 19., mentions the capture of the 
Saxon islands by the Francs ; and lib. iv. c. 10. what he calls their rebellion ; and 
Chlotarius' successes against them, ib. et c. 14. ; and their ravages in France, c. 37. 
p. 35. 

11 See this war in Eginhart's Vita Carol. Magn. and in the Poeta Saxon. Antiq. 
Annal. de gestis Caroli M. ap. Duchesne, ii. p. 136. 


tory. But they have never been obscure. In the CHAP. 
tenth, and eleventh, and twelfth centuries, colonies < / .; 
of their population settled themselves in 12 Hungary 
and Transilvania 13 ; and allied themselves by mar- 
riages with the ruder chieftains of those regions. 
Saxon dukes became emperors of Germany soon 
after the separation of this dignity from the crown 
of France. Branches from their stem have formed 
the most illustrious princes in the north of Germany, 
and Saxony has the honour of having given birth to 
the great Reformer of Christianity in the fifteenth 
century, and her chieftains of successfully supporting 
this intellectual emancipation and improvement, till 
it became impossible for power or craft to suppress 
it. A king of Saxony still exists, though with dis- 
membered dominions, and the country yet presents 
a people of the most cultivated mind of all the German 
continent. The rise of the Saxon nation has been, 
therefore, singularly propitious to human improve- 
ment. It created a new formation of mind and 
manners, and polity in the world, whose beneficial 
results the state and history of England expressively 
display. No events tended more to civilise Germany 
from the third century to the eleventh, than the 
activity, leagues, colonies, conquests, and transactions 
of this people. All the improvements of Germany, 
beyond what Rome imparted, have arisen from the 
Saxon and the Frankish mind. They kept from it 
the more barbarous population of the Slavonians and 
the Huns, and the rude heroes of Scandinavia and 
the Baltic. The imperial reigns of the house of 
Saxony, notwithstanding the faults of .some of its 
princes, principally contributed to establish the 

12 See the Chronicles of Hungary, of Thwrocz, pars ii. e. 11. c. 22. 

13 See the authorities collected by Eder on this point, in his De initiis, juribusque 
primsevis Saxonura Transilvanorum. Comment, p. 17. and 63 78. Flemings, 
Hollanders, and others also went there, ibid. Ed. Vienn. 1792. 

K 4 


BOOK German independence, civilisation, and prosperity 
. IL , during the middle ages. But the beneficial agencies 
of this race on the continent having diminished, other 
nations, whom they assisted to form and educate, 
are now obtaining a political, and will probably gain 
a mental, preponderance ; unless Saxony, in her 
adversity, shall regain a moral one the great foun- 
dation of all intellectual superiority. 



The History of BRITAIN elucidated from the Death of MAXIMUS 
in 388, to the final Departure of the ROMANS. 

SOON after the termination of the fourth century, the 
Saxon invasion of England occurred. It will be, 
therefore, useful to consider the state of the island at 
that time. A just perception of the events which 
occurred in Britain previous to their arrival, will 
illustrate the causes of their success, and remove 
some of the difficulties with which this portion of 
our history, from a want of careful criticism, has 
been peculiarly embarrassed. 

It is true that the transactions of the natives of 
Britain from the fall of Maximus to the Saxon in- 
vasion are almost lost to us, from the want of ac- 
curate historiographers of this period. But the 
more defective our information, the greater should 
be our care and diligence to profit by the notices 
which can be gleaned and combined from the con- 
temporary documents. These indeed are few. The 
crude declamation of Gildas, Bede's extracts from 
him, the abrupt intimations of Nennius, and Jeffry's 
historical romance, or rather amplification of Nennius, 
with many additions from unknown sources, or from 
LIS own invention, and a few lines in some other 
Latin authors, are all the original documents which 
either Britons or Saxons have left us on this curious 
and important interval. 

The querulous and vague invectives of Gildas have 
been reduced to some chronology by Bede ; and the 
broken narrations of Nennius have been dramatised 
by Jeffry : but the labours of Bede have not lessened 




of this pe- 
riod erro- 

Rise and 
Fall of 

the original obscurity of Gildas: and all that the 
imagination of Jeffry has effected has been to people 
the gloom with fantastic shapes, which, in our search 
for authentic history, only make us welcome the 
darkness that they vainly attempt to remove. 1 

The chronology into which Bede has distorted the 
rhetoric of Gildas, was erroneously framed and chosen 
by our venerable and valuable historian. 2 His au- 
thority, which his learning would in any age make 
respectable, has been peculiarly impressive, because, 
without his ecclesiastical history, we should have 
lost almost all knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons for 
three centuries after their establishment in this island. 
With unsuspicious deference, our historians have 
rather studied Gildas as he has been transcribed by 
Bede, than in his own composition ; and thus they 
have governed the chronology of this interesting 
interval by the authority of Bede, without examining 
if Bede has not been himself mistaken. 

It will much assist our inquiry to take a general 
survey of the history of the Roman empire at this 

While Gratian governed the western empire, and 
Theodosius the eastern, the legions of Britain, which 
had so often been conspicuous for their turbulence, 

1 In the Archaiology of Wales are two copies of Jeffry's History in Welsh ; but 
they are not entitled to more historical respect than his Latin work. The Welsh 
triads have some curious notices concerning the ancient history of the Britons ; but 
these are very unlike the fables of Jeffry ; and this dissimilarity, while it makes 
the most ancient triads more respectable, increases our disrespect for his work, 
Whether in Welsh or Latin. Some of the triads, indeed, which have a more modern 
aspect, seem to be taken from Jeffry's history. But I cannot believe that this 
history, whether first written by Tyssilio, Caradoc of Lancarvan, or Jeffry, was in 
existence, in its present details, before the eleventh century. Some of its incidents 
may have been earlier traditional stories ; but their present arrangement, chrono- 
logy, and details, and the amplifications and additions with which they are accom- 
panied, appear to me to be fictitious, and unauthorised ; fully as much so as those 
baxo Grammaticus. The true cannot now be separated from the invented. We 
arettierefore compelled to discredit the whole. 

/ 2 Bede p 0stpones the invasions of the Picts and Scots, and the coming of the 
>ns, ur til after Constantine. I have considered attentively the reasonings of his 

[ingenious editor in his behalf, but I cannot coincide in his opinion. See Smith's 

v. jsaae, App. p. 672. 


seceded from their allegiance to Gratian ; and, in CHAP. 
concert with the Britons, appointed Maximus, a . vn ' . 
Spaniard by birth, but then in the Eoman service in 
Britain, to be their emperor in his 3 stead. He was a 
man of great merit. He accepted the dangerous 
honour, and prepared to support it. Perhaps, if he 
had been contented to have reigned in Britain, his 
throne might have been perpetuated, and then a new 
destiny would have changed the fortune of England 
and the western world. The Saxons would in that 
case not have obtained Britain ; and a Eoman British 
kingdom might have stemmed the barbaric torrent 
that afterwards overwhelmed the empire. But either 
from the desire of extending his dominion into his 
native country, or because the dignity and life of the 
new sovereign were insecure until victory had con- 
firmed the usurpation, he collected a gi*eat body of 
British youth, and with these he passed into Gaul. 
Many wonders have been fabled of his levies, and of 
the fatal effects of their absence from the island. 
Many legends of the most ridiculous nature have been 
appended, which grave historians have believed. 4 
That he raised all the force from Britain which he 
could collect is probable, because he had a great 

3 Zos. lib. iv. p. 247. Socrates, lib. iv. c. 11. Sulpicius gives him a high cha- 
racter. Vir omni vitse merito etiam predicandus, if he had refused the offered 
diadem. Dial. ii. c. 7. 

4 See Usher, 617 636. Ib. 200. This affair, as stated by Jeffry, lib. v. c. 14., 
is, that Maximus ordered 100,000 common people and 30,000 soldiers out of Britain, 
to colonise Armorica; c. 15. he desired wives for them; and c. 16. the king of 
Cornwall sent Ursula, his beauteous daughter, with 11,000 noble ladies, and 60,000 
meaner women, who embarked at London. Great storms drowned part, and 
Guanius king of the Huns, and Melga king of the Picts, murdered the others, who 
resolved to be virtuous. Johan Major will have Ursula to be the daughter of the 
Scottish king, that Scotland may have the credit of her story. A lady settles the 
point by averring that Verena, one of the virgins, assured her, in an express reve- 
lation, that the blessed Ursula was a Scotswoman ; her convenient visions also 
authenticated their relics ! ! Vision Elizabeth, lib. iv. c. 2. Usher Primord. 618 
624. Baronius, who with others countenances the emigration, mentions, that 
the Martyrologies devoted the llth October to the memory of Ursula and the 
71,000 ; a day still religiously observed at Cologne for this superstitious incident. 
Some affirm, that no person can be buried at Cologne in the place where they were 
said to have lain, because the ground throws up other corpses, which some deny ! ! 
Usher, 202. and 993. 


BOOK stake to contend for, and the power of an ancient 
. IL . empire to withstand. But we need not extend this 
to the depopulation of our island, or to the total de- 
struction of its military strength. His officer assas- 
sinated Gratian, after he had reigned fifteen years, 
and Valentinian admitted Maximus into a participa- 
tion of the empire, who retained it until he failed to 
conciliate Theodosius, or ventured to contend with 
him for the dominion of the whole. 

The superior forces or ability of the emperor of 
the East avenged the death of his unfortunate patron. 
Maximus perished at Aquileia. 5 The British soldiers 
did not long survive the leader they had befriended ; 
but that they wandered into Armorica, and new- 
named it, seems to be unfounded. 6 

In 391 the generous Theodosius delivered the 
sceptre of the western empire to Valentinian, who 
marched into Gaul against the Francs. He renewed 
the ancient leagues with them, but perished by the 
weapon of a murderer in 392. A new adventurer 
for empire, Eugenius, assumed his dignity, made 
fresh treaties with the Francs and Alemanni, col- 
lected troops from all parts to maintain the exalted 
station he had ventured to seize, and advanced to 
defy the genius of Theodosius. In 394 he sustained 
a destructive combat near Aquileia, which terminated 
his ambition and his life. 

395. The next year was marked by the death of Theo- 
dosius himself; and when he expired, the Koman 
glory began to set. His two sons lived only to dis- 
grace him. The western hemisphere was possessed 
by Honorius, the youngest son of Theodosius, who, 

5 Socrates, p. 270273. 

6 This point has been much controverted, but I cannot avoid agreeing with Du 
Bos, that Quant au tems ou la peuplade des Bretons insulaires s'est etablie dans les 

3aules, it was not before the year 513. Hist. Crit. ii. 470. The chronicle of the 
abbey of Mont S. Michel, in Bretagne, gives this year as the epoch of their arrival. 
Anno 513, venerunt transmarini Britanni in Armoricam, id est minorem Britan, 
mam Ib. 472. The ancient Saxon poet, ap. Duchesne Hist. Fran. Script, ii. 
p. 148. also peoples Bretagne after the Saxon conquest. 


in January 395, at the age of eleven, became master CHAP. 
of an empire almost besieged by enemies ; Italy, 

Africa, Gaul, Spain, and Britain looked up to him 
for protection 7 , and in turns demanded it: while 
Arcadius, his brother, filled the throne of the East. 
A minister able to have upheld a falling state di- 
rected the young mind of Honorius. Stilicho, his 
appointed guardian, passed the Alps soon after the 
new accession, reviewed the garrisons on the Khine, 
and negotiated with the Germans. During the pro- 
gress of the same year he marched the legions of the 
empire along the coast of the Adriatic, to punish the 
guilty favourite, who was diffusing misery through 
the East. In November the fate of Rufinus de- 
livered Stilicho from a competitor, and the world 
from a subordinate tyrant, who converted a trust of 
power into an instrument of base oppression. 8 

But the enemy that was destined to shake the 
Roman empire to its foundation, and to give the 
signal of successful onset to the barbarians who were 
crowding to encompass it, began now to appear. 
Superior genius frequently produces great revolutions 
on the theatre of the world, when it is placed in the 
sphere of command. Empires rise to grandeur by 
the potent springs which that only can set in action ; 
but when these have spent their force, and a new 
potentate appears, gifted with the same creative 

7 3 Gibb. 104. Aurelius Victor has drawn a very exalted and interesting character 
' Theodosius. 

8 Gibbon, 117 120. Claudian has punished the vices of Rufinus by a fine 
effusion of heroic satire. His description of the council of the calamities of mankind 
is a living picture : 

" Nutrix Discordia belli, 
Imperiosa Fames, Leto vicina Senectus, 
Impatiensque sui Morbus, Livorque secundis 
Anxius, et. scisso mcerens velamine Luctus, 
Et Timor et caeco preceps Audacia vultu, 
Et Luxus populator opum, quern semper adhaerens 
Infelix humili gressu comitatur Egestas, 
Foedaque Avaritiae complex* pectora matris 
Insomnes longo veniunt examine Curae." 

In Ruf. lib. i. p. 21. Elz. ed. 


.BOOK powers, the scenes of greatness change, the descend- 
u - , ants of the illustrious are destroyed, and new edifices 
of sovereignty are erected, to tower, to menace, and 
to fall, like those on whose ruins they exist. Such 
was Alaric, who, at the close of the fourth century, 
united under his sovereignty the strength of the 
Gothic nation. 

Rise of The Gothic nation had slowly but steadily ad- 

Aiaric. vanced to consequence and power. Augustus had 
extended the Roman empire, in the eastern part of 
Germany, up to the Danube. Before he died Mara- 
boduus, a German who had been educated by serving 
in the Roman armies, and by fighting against them, 
led the nation of the Marcomanni, with others of the 
Suevian race, into Bohemia, and founded there a new 
barbaric kingdom, which became peculiarly formid- 
able to the Romans. His movements excited most 
of the nations between his new position and Italy to 
take up arms; and Tiberius was three years em- 
ployed, with fifteen legions and an equal proportion 
of auxiliary troops, before he could subdue what was 
called Illyricum, or the countries that lay between 
the Danube and the Adriatic. The civil dissensions 
of the Marcomanni enabled the Romans to establish 
themselves beyond the Danube. Of the subsequent 
Roman emperors, Nerva, Trajan, and Antoninus had 
successful wars with these people and their neigh- 
bours, the Dacians, Quadi, and others ; but about the 
year 167, from a confederation of all these nations, 
Marcus Aurelius had to sustain a war the most 
dangerous and destructive that the Romans had ex- 
perienced. Almost all the nations from Illyricum to 
Gaul appeared in arms. Aurelius made proportionate 
exertions. To his regular armies he added slaves 
and gladiators, robbers whom he pardoned, and Ger- 
mans whom he could trust. He sold by auction, at 
Rome, all his personal property, to augment his pe- 


cuniary funds, and, after the military efforts of many CHAP. 
years, at last subdued them; but the succeeding ... - 
emperors were unable to retain any province beyond 
the Danube; and as they retreated, the nations to 
the north became more prosperous and daring. 

Of these the Goths were the most adventurous Progress of 
and successful. They begin to appear in the im- 
perial history about the time that the Francs are 
mentioned. They invaded Dacia. One Koman em- 
peror, Alexander, used the ruinous policy of paying 
them an annual subsidy, and their history afterwards 
is that of continual progression. Many barbaric 
nations joined them; and, assuming their name, en- 
larged both their power and celebrity, as other tribes 
had thus contributed to the importance of the Francs 
and Saxons. Under Decius, about the year 250, the 
Gothic king passed the Danube at the head of 70,000 
men, and ravaged Thrace and Macedonia: others 
afterwards invaded Asia, and with fleets assailed the 
Pontus. In 267 the Goths, Heruli, and Scythae 
plundered the Archipelago, and devastated Greece. 
All the talents of Aurelian were insufficient to pre- 
serve the provinces beyond the Danube. He there- 
fore abandoned Dacia to the warlike nations who 
were threatening it, and transplanted the friendly 
population to the right bank of the Danube. Pro- 
bus, pursuing this policy, caused 100,000 Bastarnae 
to cross the Danube, and to settle in the southern 
xrovinces, which had been depopulated in these con- 
tests. To the same districts he also transplanted the 
Francs and Saxons. But all these measures were 
ineffective to resist the perpetual advance of the 
enterprising Goths, becoming in every campaign 
better disciplined by their unceasing contests with 
the Koman armies, and by the education of their 
chieftains in the Roman service, during the intervals 
of peace. The ambition and spirit of the Gothic 




Progress of 


nation increased with their improvements and power; 
and when Alaric appeared to lead them, they dis- 
covered themselves to be as superior to the Komans 
in their military qualities as they were in their po- 
litical institutions, and in some of the moral virtues. 

In this year the western world had been alarmed 
by the irruption of the Huns. 9 After swelling their 
army by the nations they conquered, they had rushed 
on the Gothic tribes. Unable to repulse the ferocious 
invaders, the Goths had precipitated themselves over 
the Danube. Stationed by the emperor Yalens in 
Lower Moesia, the Goths revolted, penetrated into 
Thrace, defeated and killed their imperial benefactor, 
in 378, at Adrianople ; and, from this disastrous day, 
never abandoned the Eoman territory. 10 At length 
Theodosius made an accommodation with them ; a 
large portion of their warriors were taken into the 
imperial service, and a successful attempt was made 
to convert them to the Christian faith. 

Among the Goths who were allied to the Roman 
armies, Alaric passed his youth. Born in the island 
of Peuce n , on the Euxine, of one of the principal 
families of the Goths 12 , he had early abandoned the 
confined limits of his native soil, for the civilised 

9 The history of these Huns is ably abridged by Mr. Gibbon, vol. ii. p. 561. ; he 
traces their unsuccessful contests with the Chinese, their divisions and emigrations, 
their conquests, the union of the Alani, and their wars upon the Goths. One of 
their ancient historians, Jornandes, c. 24., gives their execranda origine, that is, 
veneficarum cum immundis spiritibus congressu. M. de Guignes leads the way on 
their history. It was on the extensive steppe between the Dniester and the Bog, 
that Dr. Henderson, in 1 821, saw those large male and female images hewn in stone, 
which these Mongolian Huns seem to have erected in this emigration ; when they 
were driven over the Volga by the Sien-Pi in 374. " They are executed with con- 
siderable taste ; the features, limbs, and ornaments being all distinctly marked. 
Some of them are erect ; others in a sitting posture. They hold with both hands 
in front of their body a small box or pot ; and are generally raised to some height 
above the stone that forms the pedestal by which they are supported. They were 
found on the tumuli." Hend. Biblical Researches, p. 267, 8. 

10 Gibbon, ii. p. 591617. Ib. 640. 

11 Claud, de 6 Consul. Hon. p. 174. Peuce is an island at the mouth of the 
Danube, formed by two of its discharging torrents. Strabo, p. 211. Dionys. 
Periegetes, v. 301. 

12 Jornandes says of Alaric, " Secunda nobilitas Baltharum quse ex genere origo 
ttiirifica," &c. 


regions of Europe, where he cultivated his mind with CHAP. 
their improvements. He solicited an appointment 

in the Roman armies, and he was only intrusted 
with the command of barbarian battalions. Though 
by birth a barbarian himself, he felt the superiority 
of his assuming mind, and was disgusted by the de- 
gradation. In Thrace, in Macedon, and in Thessaly, 395. 
he showed the terrors of his discontent ; he obtained 
the passage of the immortalised Thermopylae, over^ 
run Boeotia, Attica, and the Peloponnesus ; and 
though his superstition protected Athens from his 
fury, the other famed cities in Greece, Corinth, Argos, 
and Sparta, now enfeebled and degenerated, were 
conquered by his valour, his fortune, or his name. 13 
When Stilicho advanced with the imperial troops, to 
chastise the daring invader, Alaric, by a great exer- 
tion of skill, escaped to Epirus, and extorted, from 
the timid ministers of the Byzantine court, the title 
and authority of governor of the Eastern Illyricum. 
He was soon after recognised king of the Visigoths. 14 

With these recollections of the Roman history, we 
may proceed to contrast the loose phrases of Gildas 
with the circumstances we can glean from the Greek 
and Latin writers, which seem applicable to the 
British history. 

Immediately after mentioning the death of Max- 
imus, Gildas states 15 , that Britain, despoiled of her 
soldiery and military apparatus, and her youth, who 
followed the usurper to return no more ; and, being 

13 Zosimus, lib. v. p. 292 295. Yet let not the historian's apology for Sparta 
be forgotten. " Nee armis amplius nee idoneis ad pugnam viris munita, propter 
Romanorum avaritiam." 

14 The history of Alaric is narrated by Gibbon, v. iii. p. 134. 

15 Gildas, s. xi. p. 4. Gale's xv Scriptores. Richard, entitled of Cirencester by 
some, by others Monk of Westminster, places this invasion in the year after the 
death of Maximus, lib. ii. c. 1. See his de Situ Britannise in the Antiquitates Celto- 
Uormannicse, p. 120. Ado. Viennensis, an author of the ninth century, gives a 
similar chronology. Chron. ^Etas Sexta, 353. Bib. Mag. Patrum, v. 7. Bede, 
without any authority, and contrary to the literal meaning of Gildas, postpones it 
for above twenty years, lib. i. c. 12. and thus lays a foundation for his subsequent 

VOL. I. L 


utterly ignorant of war, groaned for many years 
under the incursions of the Scots from the north- 
west 16 , and of the Picts from the north. 
Giidas This 'account, though obviously the language of 

wtthth? exaggeration, is somewhat countenanced by the 
imperial wr iters of the imperial history. It is stated by So- 

writers. .. _, . -MT 

zomen, that Maximus collected a numerous army 
from Britain, Gaul, and Germany, and went to 
Italy. 17 We learn from others, that the Francs took 
advantage of his absence to invade Gaul, and that 
the Saxons also moved in successful hostility against 
him. 18 During the reign of his prosperity, in the 
second year of his empire, the Picts and Scots had 
vigorously defied him. 19 It becomes, therefore, 
highly probable, that these Irish and Caledonian 
wanderers would be alert to profit by the opportu- 
nity of his absence, as well as the Francs and Saxons. 
On this occasion we shall accredit Gildas, and as 
Maximus was killed at Aquileia, in 388 20 , we may 
consider that as the year in which the incursions 

The next account of Gildas is, that the British 
nation, unable to endure these ravages, sent an em- 
bassy to Rome, desiring a military force, and pro- 
mising a faithful obedience to the imperial sceptre. 21 
That a province suffering under a hostile invasion 

16 The Circius, which is the expression of Gildas, is mentioned by Pliny, ii, 46. 
as a wind famous in the province of Narbonne, and inferior in vehemence to none. 
Harduin interprets it, nord-west-nord. 

17 " Collecto ex Britannia et vicinis Galliis, et ex Germanis ac finitimis gentibus 
numeroso exercitu, in Italiam profectus est." Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. lib. vii. c. 13. 
p. 721. Ed. Vales. 

18 The valuable fragment of Sulpitius Alexander, preserved by Gregory of Tours, 
lib. c. c.9. p. 34. mentions the Francic incursion: and St. Ambrose, ep. 17., inti- 
mates, though with no particulars, the Saxon success. " Hie statim a Francis, a 
Saxonum gente in Sicilia Siciee et Petavione ubique denique terrarum victus est.' 
1 Mascou, 371. 

19 Prosper in his Chronicon says, incursantes Pictos et Scotos, Maximus strenue 

20 Gibbon, iii. 40. The British history miscalls him Maximian, and kills him at 
Rome, lib. v. c. 16. 

21 Gildas, s. 12. 


should solicit succour from the fountain of power, CHAP. 
and that, to obtain it, they should lavish assurances > 

of fidelity, to expiate the imputation of treason which 
the elevation of Maximus would produce, are circum- 
stances which bear the marks of truth in their natural 

He adds, that a legion came by sea, well appointed 
with every requisite for service ; that, engaging with 
the enemy, they destroyed a great multitude, drove 
them from the borders, and liberated the subjected 
natives from their rapacity and tyranny. 22 

If we inquire of the imperial writers by whom 
this service was performed, we shall find that for 
three years after the fate of Maximus, both divisions 
of the Roman empire were governed by Theodosius 23 , 
who, by his edict, made void all the usurper's exer- 
tions of the prerogative, that every thing might 
resume its pristine situation. 24 It was a necessary 
consequence of these orders, that the civil powers of 
the revolted provinces should be immediately re- 
placed : we accordingly find that a Yicarius, named 
Chrysanthus, was sent to Britain by Theodosius, 
whose good conduct was admired. 25 No other period 
seems to have been more suitable to his administraT 
tion. 26 

But from the time of Constantine the policy of the 
emperors had completely separated the civil and 
military powers. 27 This regulation could not allow 

82 Gildas, s. 12. a Gibbon, iii. p. 55. Cod. Theod. lib. xv. tit. 14, 

25 Socrates, Hist. Eccles. lib. vii. c. 12. This temperate expression of Socrates, 
36av/ji.d<Tdr), was construed by Carte to imply the attainment of such a height of 
glory, that he must have stopped the Scottish depredations, p. 169. Our Henry 
also amplifies it so far as to say, that Chrysanthus was sent on purpose to check 
them, that he executed his commission with great ability and success, expelled the 
enemies, and restored the tranquillity of the province. He refers to Socrates as his 
authority, who only mentions what the text expresses. 

1 The remark of Carte is just, that in no other juncture could Theodosius have 
intermeddled in the affairs of the western empire, p. 169. 

27 Gibbon, ii. 43. Du Bos, Hist. Crit. i. 69. Le prefet du pre"toire, et les 
officiers qui lui etoient subordonnes, ne command erent plus les troupes. The 
vicarius of Britain was under the prsefectus praetorius of the Gauls, Notitia, s. 36., 
and was a civil officer. 

L 2 



BOOK Chrysanthus to have been the deliverer of Britain. 
The military arm was wielded by an arrangement of 
officers, jealously distinguished from the civil autho- 
rity. 28 Chrysanthus may have governed Britain as 
Vicarius, to diffuse internal quiet over a revolted 
province, as far as the civil magistracy was able to 
operate, but could have no forces to coerce the me- 
nacing barbarians. 

During the latter period of the reign of Theodo- 
sius, and for many years in that of his successor, the 
military force of the western empire was under the 
command of Stilicho, the master-general of the ca- 
valry and infantry of the west. 29 It must have been 
under him that every military aid was despatched 
into Britain. 

The indistinct intimations of the Monk of Bangor 
are confirmed by Claudian ; his mellifluous muse de- 
voted herself to pursue the triumphs, and to proclaim 
the glory of Stilicho ; and in Claudian's historic pic- 
ture of his fame, the victorious battles of this superior 
man with the Picts and Scots, form one of those 
groups, which, for this part of his life, have insured 
to Stilicho an honourable celebrity. 30 

But the desired euphony and imagery of poetry 
are unfriendly to geographical and chronological de- 
tail. We must not, therefore, expect from Claudian 
the exact year of the Christian era in which Stilicho 
or his officers approached Ireland and Caledonia. 
We must endeavour to trace the chronology from 
other sources. 

Britain, according to Gildas, mourned these devas- 
tations many years, A probable interval seems to 

28 Even Julian, when sent to command the army in Gaul, though he, en qualite 
de Cesar, ou d'heritier presomptif de 1'empire, put pretendre a une autorite plus 
etendue que celle qu'un generalissime ordinaire auroit exercee en vertu de sa com- 
mission, cependant Julien n'osoit rien decider concernant la levee des subsides et la 
subsistence des troupes, Du Bos, 61. 

29 Gibbon, iii. lie. * Claudian de Laud. Stil. lib. ii. p. 140. Elz. edit. 


arise from the situation of the empire. Though CHAP. 

Maximus was conquered in 388, yet the Francs and 

Saxons continued in hostility. When Valentinian, 

who was sent against them into Gaul, was murdered, 

the usurpation of Eugenius harassed the empire for 

two years. Soon after he had perished, Theodosius 


The death of Rufinus left Stilicho at leisure, in the 
year 396. The African war was not prosecuted till 

398, in which Gildo fell 31 ; therefore we may con- 
sider either the preceding year, or the subsequent, 

399, as the era in which Britain was rescued from 
the spoilers. 32 This last will allow eleven years for 
the multos annos which Gildas notes to have inter- 
vened between the invasion after Maximus and its 

The querulous narration adds, that the Romans 
ordered the natives to build a wall between the two 
seas, in the north of Britain, to deter the invaders, 
and to protect the natives ; that the irrational vulgar, 
having no director, constructed it of turf instead of 
stone. 33 

This narration has the appearance of being an ig- 
norant account of the construction of one of those 
famous walls, which have so deservedly attracted the 
curiosity of antiquaries. 

Gildas states, that this legion having returned 
home, the plunderers came again. 34 A passage in 

31 Gibbon, iii. p. 128. 

32 Richard places it eleven years before the capture of Rome by Alaric, or 399, 
lib. ii. c. i. p. 121. Antiq. Celto-Nor, The criticism of Mascou, p. 394., on Pagius, 
who dates a similar passage in 402, confirms our Richard's chronology, as it 
makes 399 the year in which Honorius was preparing the expeditions alluded to in 
the lines : 

Domito quod Saxone Tethys 
Mitior, aut fracto secura Britannia Picto 
Ante pedes humili Franco, &c. 

In Eutrop. p. 196. 

83 Gildas, s. 12. 

84 Gildas, s. 13. The peculiarity of style in which he indulges himself is remark- 

L 3 


BOOK Claudian verifies the fact, that the legion quitted the 
n - . wa ll soon after the successes of Stilicho, and diffuses 
a ray of light, which determines the chronology of 
the incident. 

We have mentioned the pacification which Alaric 
extorted from the eastern government : it might seem 
to them a release from anxiety ; it was made by Alaric 
an interval of earnest preparation for more fortu- 
nate warfare. He surveyed the state of the world 
with the eyes of prophetic penetration, and discerned 
the vulnerable part in which the genius of Koine 
might be fatally assailed. About the year 400, he 
suddenly marched from his eastern settlements to the 
Julian Alps, and poured his forces into Italy. The 
emperor of the West fled at his approach, when 
Stilicho again interposed the shield of superior talents. 
To meet the destructive Goths with a competent 
force, he summoned the Koman troops out of Ger- 
many and Gaul into Italy : even the legion which had 
been stationed to guard the wall of Britain against 
the Caledonians was hastily recalled, and attended 
the imperial general at Milan. 36 In the battle of Pol- 
lentia Alaric discovered the inferiority of his troops, 
and made a bold but ruinous retreat. 36 

The battle of Pollentia was fought in March, 403. 
We must allow time for the troops to have travelled 
from the north of Britain to Milan, and may date this 
departure of the Roman legion in the year 402. No 
one can disbelieve that in their absence the habitual 
depredators would return. 

Gildas proceeds to inform us that embassadors went 

able -. Rabid robber wolves, with profound hunger and dry jaws, leaping into the 
sheep-fold," are the invaders who are brought over by " the wings of oars, and the 
arms of rowers, and sails swelling in the wind." 

35 Claudian, in his poem de Bello Getico, p. 169. : 

Venit et extremis legio prsetenta Britannis, 
Qua? Scoto dat frsena truci, ferroque notatas 
Perlegit exangues Picto moriente figuras, 
88 Gibbon, iii. 147155. 


to Rome with rent garments, and with ashes on their CHAP. 
heads, to implore further aid. 37 However we may be 

inclined to ascribe the costume of the embassy to the 
imagination of the author, we cannot dispute the pro- 
bable fact, that the province solicited and obtained 
the protection of its sovereign. 

We have no direct evidence from the imperial 
writers that Stilicho sent back the legion, after the 
battle of Pollentia, into Britain, but it must have been 
there before 406, because we read of soldiers then 
choosing and deposing emperors in the island. Their 
presence must have been attended with its usual effect 
on the Picts and Scots. 38 

Before we state the next sentence of Gildas, it will 
be proper to narrate the incidents, which, as he does 
not notice, though of principal importance, we may 
presume he never knew : they occurred between this 
last defeat of the Picts and Scots, and the final depar- 
ture of the Romans. 

The unwearied genius of Claudian has resounded 
the praise of Stilicho in poetry, which, though some- 
times defective in taste, yet has too much energy and 
felicity to perish. The acts which the general achieved, 
justify his bard, and raise the minister above his de- 
generate countrymen. But it may be said of human 
virtue, as Solon pronounced to Croesus of human hap- 
piness, that we should wait until the life is closed, 
before we pronounce decisively upon it. Stilicho for 
a while was the saviour of the Roman empire ; he 
ended his career its most destructive scourge. He ex- 
cited invasions, which he wished to have the merit of 
repressing ; he introduced the barbarian hordes into 
the provinces, who quitted them no more ; he occa- 
sioned rebellions which completed the debility of the 

37 Gildas, s. 14. 

38 For the origin and history of these two nations, the reader may usefully con- 
sult Mr. Pinkerton's Inquiry into the early history of Scotland. 





of Gaul. 

imperial government; and paved the way for the 
extinction of the western empire. 

When Alaric menaced Italy, Stilicho drove off the 
tempest; but he wanted to have his son invested with 
the imperial dignity, and he hoped to extort the con- 
cession from the trembling Honorius, by the terror 
of impending evils. To effect this, he excited the 
German nations to invade Gaul. 39 Fatal contrivance of 
unprincipled ambition ! 40 A most formidable irrup- 
tion of the tribes between the Khine and Danube, 
Alani, Suevi, Vandali^and many others, burst over 
the mountains, and deluged the western world. A 
portion of these, under Radagaisus, perished before 
Stilicho in Italy 41 , and furnished him with the laurels 
he coveted. The remainder crossed the Rhine, which, 
if the charge of treason be true, was purposely divested 
of its protecting troops, and overwhelmed Gaul and 
its vicinity. " The consuming flames of war spread 

39 Orosius, lib. vii. c. 38. and c. 40. ; and from him Isidorus, Wandal. Grotius, 
p. 732. expressly affirm the treason. Jerom. Ep. ad Ager. exclaims against the 
semi-barbarian traitor, who armed, against his adopted country, its worst enemies. 
Prosper says, that saluti imperatoris tendebat insidias, p. 50. Marcellinus more 
explicitly says of him, " Spreto Honorio, regnumque ejus inhians, Alanorum, Sue- 
vorum, Wandalorumque gentes donis pecuniisque illectas contra regnum Honorii 
excitavit, Eucherium filium suum paganum, et adversum Christianos insidias 
molientem, cupiens Caesarem ordinare." Chron. p. 37. added to Scaliger's Euseb. 
If these authors are not sufficient to make the imputation credible, the point seems 
to be decided by the evidence of a contemporary, who, being a pagan, gives more 
weight to an opinion, in which he and the Christians coincide ; I mean Rutilius, 
whom Gibbon does not mention ; he says, 

Quo magis est facinus diri Stilichonis acerbum, 

Prodi tor arcani quod fuit imperil. 

Romano generi dum nititur esse superstes, 

Crudelis summis miscuit ima furor : 

Dumque timet, quidquid se fecerat ipse timeri, 

Immisit Latise barbara tela neci. 

Visceribus nudis armatum condidit hostem, 

Illataj cladis liberiore dolo. 

Ipsa satellitibus pellitis Roma patebat, 

Et captiva prius, quam caperetur, erat. 

Itinerarium, lib. ii. v. 41 50. 

40 Gibbon attempts to defend Stilicho, but the weight of evidence must prevail. 
Du Bos, p. 190., accredits his guilt. How fatal the scheme was to Rome, we may 
judge, when we recollect, that " le dernier Decembre, 406, fut la journee funeste ou 
les barbares entrerent dans les Gaules, pour n'en plus sortir." Du Bos, 194. 

41 For the expedition of Radagaisus, see Gibbon, iii. 163173., and Mascou. 
404 411. 


from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of CHAP. 
the seventeen provinces of Gaul ; that rich and exten- ' 

sive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps, and the 
Pyrenees, was delivered to the barbarians, who drove 
before them in a promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the 
senator, and the virgin, laden with the spoils of their 
houses and altars." 42 

This disaster spread consternation through Britain. 406. 
Inflamed with their success, the invaders menaced ^Ttroops 
this island. It is expressly asserted by Zosimus, that in Britain. 

,, . ! , . -. r / ,, T> VL A Constantino 

their devastations alarmed the army in Britain. Ap- chosen, 
prehensive of their further progress, and to exert an 
energy adequate to the crisis, the troops created an 
emperor for themselves. One Marcus was their first 
choice : finding his counsels or his conduct insufficient 
for the exigency, they destroyed him, and elected 
Gratian, who is mentioned with the title of Municeps, 
in his room. Within four months afterwards he was 
murdered, and, induced by the flattering name, the 
British soldiery selected one Constantine from the 
ranks, and decorated him with the imperial garments. 43 

Constantine seems not to have been unworthy of constant 
his station 44 ; he passed out of Britain into Gaul, Brttain. 
stayed a short time at Boulogne, conciliated to his 406 ' 
interest the soldiers scattered upon the continent, 
and defeated the terrible barbarians. 45 

The authority of Constantine was acknowledged in 4oe 411. 
Gaul, and he reduced Spain. His son Constans laid 
aside the cowl of a monk, which, previous to his 
father's elevation, he had assumed 46 , and was created 
Caesar. Honorius, to whom Constantine had respect- 
fully stated, that his dignity had been forced upon 

42 Gibbon, iii. 171. 

43 Zosimus, lib. vi. p. 373. and 371. Orosius, vii. 40. 

44 Zosimus, ibid. 

45 Marcellin. Com. p. 38. Orosius. vii. 40. Jornandes, c. 32. 

46 Yet Frigeridus, cited by Gregory of Tours, characterises him as gula? et ventri 
deditus, lib. i. c. 9. p. 35. 


BOOK him, appeared to acquiesce in his retaining it, and 
. "' . sent him the imperial robes. 47 The barbarians ob- 
tained reinforcements, but Constantine adopted the 
precautionary measure of placing troops to guard the 
passages into Gaul. 48 

During this division of the imperial power, Alaric 
again assembled a willing army, and appeared on the 
Eoman frontier. The guilt of Stilicho had been 
detected and punished, and his death removed the 
last bulwark of the empire. The court of Honorius 
could furnish no other mind competent to. confront 
the Gothic conqueror. In 408, he overwhelmed re- 
sistance, and besieged Kome. A ransom obtained a 
short security, but determined his superiority. In 
the next year he assailed it again, and condescended 
to accept from an emperor of his own nomination the 
Aug. 24. title of master-general. Every doubt was now re- 
moved ; he saw his irresistible power, and the suc- 
ceeding summer was marked by the dismal catas- 
trophe of a third siege and successful assault 49 , whose 
ferocious cruelties we might notice with abhorrence, 
but that the generals of civilised ages choose yet to 
perpetrate such deeds in violation of all moral prin- 
ciple or social benevolence, and in wilful contempt 
of the inevitable opinion of posterity ! 

Among the officers attached to the interest of 
Constantine was Gerontius, who had proceeded from 
Britain. The valour and services of this person on 
former occasions are stated by the historians; but, 
offended that Constaris returned to Spain, on his 
second visit, with another as his general, the slighted 
Gerontius abandoned the interests of the emperor he 
had supported, and elevated a friend to dethrone 
him. 50 He pursued his new purpose with a fatal 

47 Zosim. lib. v. p. 359. ** Zosim> p< 374> 

49 Gibbon, iii. 241244. Zosinii 37i. 3 73_ 3 75. 


alacrity, besieged and slew Constans at Vienne 51 , and CHAP. 
menaced the father with deposition. The troops of . 

the legal emperor, Honorius, profited by the quarrel, 
and destroyed the competition. Constantine was 411. 
taken at Aries, and Gerontius was pursued to the 
confines of Spain ; his house was besieged, and the 
assailants set it on fire. His friend and wife received 
from his hands the death they implored, and he joined 
them in the tomb. 52 

Amid this complexity of rebellion and sub-rebellion, The barba- 
the western provinces of the Koman state were sacri- Sin ttack 
ficed to the revenge of the military competitors. The 4 9 - 
crime which degraded all the merit of Stilicho was, 
from the same motives of selfishness, repeated by 
Gerontius. He also, to diminish the danger of his 
revolt, by his incitements and advice influenced into 
hostile invasion the barbarians who hovered near the 
Celtic regions. 53 This desperate act of ambition was 
unfortunate for Koine. Constantine could not repel 
the torrent, because the flower of his army was in 
Spain. 54 Britain and Gaul experienced all its fury. 

51 Orosius, lib. vii. Olyrapiodorus ap. Photium, 183. Marcellin. Chron. 38. 
Eusebius Chronicon, 412. 

52 See the detail in Gibbon, iii. p. 259. I am tempted to imagine, that in draw- 
ing his Vortigern, Jeffry has copied and distorted the Gerontius of the imperialists. 
Some particulars are alike in both. He makes Constans a monk, and Vortigern a 
British consul, who rebelled against, and caused Constans to be destroyed. Vor- 
tigern being afterwards besieged in the place to which he fled, and his pursuers 
finding they could not get an entrance, it was set on fire, lib. vi. and lib. viii. 
The facts from the Roman historians are, that Gerontius proceeded from Britain, 
and was a comes or count ; that he revolted from Constans, who had been in a 
monastery and caused his death ; that he fled for refuge afterwards, and prevented 
his pursuers from entering his house, who therefore applied flames. These coinci- 
dences would induce me to strike Vortigern entirely out of true history, but that I 
find a Gurthrigernus mentioned in Gildas, and a Gwrtheyrn in the Welsh remains. 
Their authority inclines me to believe, that Jeffry has confounded Gerontius, who 
died in Spain, with Gwrtheyrn, in England, and in his Vortigern has given us a 
fictitious medley of the history of both. 

53 Zosimus, lib. vi. p. 375. There was a severe imperial law in existence, made 
A. D. 323, which was applicable to these crimes of Gerontius and Stilicho : " Si 
quis barbaris scelerata factione facultatem depredationis in Romanos dederit, vel si 
quo alio modo factam deviserit, vivus amburatur. " Cod. Theod. lib. vii. tit. i. It 
was perhaps in execution of this law that the flames were applied to the retreat of 

51 Zosimus, lib. vi. p. 375. 


BOOK The cities even of England were invaded. To what- 
n - _, ever quarter they applied for help, the application 
was vain. Honorius was trembling before Alaric, 
and Constantine could not even save Gaul. 

In this extremity the Britons displayed a magnani- 
mous character ; they remembered the ancient in- 
dependence of the island, and their brave ancestors, 
who still lived ennobled in the verses of their bards : 
they armed themselves, threw off the foreign yoke, 
deposed the imperial magistrates, proclaimed their 
insular independence, and, with the successful valour 
of youthful liberty and endangered existence, they 
drove the fierce invaders from their cities. 55 The 
sacred flame of national independence passed swiftly 
over the channel, and electrified Armorica. This 
maritime state, and its immediate neighbours, in the 
same crisis and from the same necessity, disclaimed 
the authority of a foreign emperor, and by their own 
exertions achieved their own deliverance. 
4 9- Thus the authentic history from 407, is, that the 

barbarians, excited by Gerontius, assailed both Gaul 
and Britain; that Constantine could give no help, 
because his troops were in Spain; that Honorius 
could send none, because Alaric was overpowering 
Italy ; that the Britons, thus abandoned, armed them- 
selves, declared their country independent, and drove 
the barbaric invaders from their cities ; that Honorius 
sent letters to the British states, exhorting them to 
protect themselves 56 ; and that the Romans never 
again recovered the possession of the island. 57 

55 Zosimus, p. 376. ; and see Nennius, s. 25 27. 

50 Zosimus, lib, vi. p. 381. <f>uAaTT<r0c. The silver ingot discovered in 1777, 
n digging among the old foundations of the Ordnance office of the Tower, marked 
" ex officio Honorii," implies that the authority of Honorius was at first respected 
in the island. 

57 The Abbe Du Bos, Hist. Crit. 211., and Mr. Gibbon, iii. 275., agree in placing 
the defection and independence of Britain in 409. The words of Procopius are 
express, that the Romans never recovered Britain, lib. i. p. 9. Grot. Prosper, in 
his Chronicon, intimates as much. In the year before the fall of Constantine, he 
says, Hac tempestate, prae valetudine Romanorum, vires funditus attenuate Britan- 


To these facts, which we know to be authentic, it CHAP. ; 
is with much distrust that we endeavour to adapt , ' > 
the vague lamentations of Gildas, which Bede has 
abridged. The account which he has left us of men 
sitting on the wall to be pulled down ; of the British 
nation cut up by the Picts and Scots, like sheep by 
butchers ; of the country becoming but the residence 
of wild animals ; of the antithetical letter to ^Etius 
in Gaul, " the barbarians drive us to the sea, and the 
sea drives us back to the barbarians ; so that between 
the two we must be either slaughtered or drowned ; " 
of part of the natives enslaving themselves to the 
barbarians, to get victuals; and of the remainder 
turning robbers on mountains, caves, and woods, 
can only awake our suspicion that querulous de- 
clamation has usurped the place of history, in his 
verbose yet obscure composition, or has converted 
local incidents into a national catastrophe. He who 
has stated these things has also declared that the 
Britons, whom the Romans for near four centuries 
had civilised, could not build a wall, nor make arms 
without patterns 58 ; has mentioned nothing of the 
emperors,' or transactions after Maximus ; and has 
ascribed the walls of Hadrian and Severus to the 
fifth century, and the castles of the Saxon shore, so 
long before constructed, to a legion quitting Britain 
for ever. As far as Gildas can be supported and 
made intelligible by others, he is an acceptable com- 
panion ; but he contains so much ignorant and ex- 
aggerated narration, and uses so many rhetorical 
generalities, that he cannot be trusted alone. 59 If 

niae, p. 50. Seal. Euseb. Bede, though he afterwards copies Gildas with mistaken 
chronology, yet, lib. i. c. 11. after mentioning the capture of Rome by Alaric, adds, 
ex quo tempore Romani in Britannia regnare cessarunt, after having reigned in it 
470 years since Caesar. Now in c. 2. he says, Caesar came 60 ant. Chr. ; therefore 
according to Bede, in this passage, the Romans lost the government of Britain by 
the year 410. 

58 Gildas, s. 12. and s. 14. 

59 Gildas. Bede, lib. i. c. 12. and 13. The errors of Gildas are not to be 


BOOK any application was made to Mtius from Britain, it 
. IL , m ust be referred to the period when the civil con- 
tests that pervaded it, invited the attacks of the 
northern invaders, and facilitated their progress, as 
we shall afterwards notice; and it may have been 
sent on behalf of particular districts only. 60 

charged upon Bede ; he has only adopted them because he had no other Latin 
document to use. The Roman account of British transactions ceased when the 
imperial troops finally quitted England. Native literature only could supply mate- 
rials afterwards for future history ; but the Saxons of Bede's age did not under- 
stand the British tongue. Hence Bede had no authority but Gildas for this part of 
his history. Nennius had certainly other materials before him ; for, with some 
fables, he has added many original circumstances which are entitled to attention. 

60 M. Niebuhr in 1 824 has published at Bonn the Panegyric of Merobaudes on 
the consulate of ^tius in Latin verse. It contains about 200 lines, and gives us a 
contemporary's laudatory account of the actions of this Roman general. 



The History of BRITAIN, between the Departure of the ROMANS 
and the Invasion of the SAXONS. 

WHEN Zosimus mentions Britain, for the last time, 
in his history, he leaves the natives in a state of 
independence on Rome, so generally armed as to 
have achieved the exploits of Roman soldiers, and to 
have driven the invaders from their cities. This 
appears to be authentic history. We may assume 
the governing powers of the island, at that period, to 
have been the civitates or the territorial districts, 
because the emperor would of course have written to 
the predominant authority. This was the state of 
the island in or after the year 410, and to this we A.D. 
may add from others, that the Romans never regained 4la 
the possession of it. 1 There is evidence that they 
assailed the liberties of Armorica 2 , but none that 

1 Mr. Camden makes Britain return to the subjection of Honorius, and to be 
happy for a while under Yictorinus, who governed the province, and put a stop to 
the inroads of the Picts and Scots. Introd. 85. Henry, lib. i. c. i. p. 1 1 9. 8vo. 
enlarges still more ; he states, that after the death of Constantine, Britain returned 
to the obedience of Honorius, who sent Victorinus with some troops for its recovery 
and defence ; and that this general struck terror into all his enemies in this island ; 
but the increasing distresses of the empire obliged Honorius to recall Victorinus, 
and all his troops, from the island. There is no authority for this circumstantial 
detail. Rutilius, in his journey in Italy about 416, merely takes occasion to com- 
pliment Victorinus on his former honours. In this friendly digression he says, 
that the ferox Britannus knew his virtues, whom he had governed so as to excite 
their attachment. Itiner. 499. p. 14. ed. Amst. Whether he governed it under 
Theodosius or Honorius is not said. That he could have no command of troops 
is certain, because the vicarius or governor was a civil officer. The act of his go- 
vernment, according to Rutilius, was not then a recent thing, but at some distance, 
because he adds another event, -which, he says, lately happened, "illustris nuper 
sacrae comes additus aulse : " marking this honour as a recent event in 416, implies 
that the others were not recent j hence there is no reason to place him in Britain 
after 409. 

2 Du Bos, Hist. Crit. p. 213., thinks, that the revolt of Armorica contributed 
more than any other event to establish la monarchic Fran9oise in Gaul. Armorica 
comprehended five of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. On its struggles for liberty, 


BOOK they contested with the Britons the enjoyment of 
. "' . their independence. 

The Britons, who had been strong enough to re- 
pulse from their island the barbarians who had 
overrun Gaul, or who had taken advantage of that 
calamity to molest them, could not have been sub- 
dued without a serious invasion. Even the ex- 
posed and inferior Armorica maintained a vigorous 
resistance. But the dismal aspect of the Roman 
state, during the fifth century, coincides with the 
absolute silence of authors to prove that the Romans 
forbore to invade the British independence. 

The majesty of the capitol had departed ; the 
world no longer crouched in submission before it; 
and even its own subjects are said to have rejoiced 
over its ruin. The Goths conquered Spain ; a rebel 
arose from the tomb of Honorius; another general 
repeated the treason of Stilicho; and the terrible 
Genseric embarked with his Yandals against Africa : 
even ^Etius was a subject of dubious fidelity. At the 
head of 60,000 barbarians he extorted the honours 
he enjoyed, maintained his connection with the Huns 
and Alaric, and had to withstand the Francs and 
Suevi. The son of Alaric besieged Narbonne, the 
Belgic provinces were invaded by the Burgundians, 
and the desolating Attila at last burst upon Gaul. 3 

But whatever was the cause which induced Hono- 
rius to permit, or withheld his successors from mo- 
lesting, the independence of Britain, it was an event 
which was likely to be beneficial to every class of 
its inhabitants. The Romans had, in the begin- 
ning of their conquests in Britain, from motives of 
self-preservation, endeavoured to civilise it. When 

see Du Bos, and 1 Mascou, 453. 476.; also Gibbon, iii. 275. It had afterwards many 
unfavourable conflicts with the Francs. Greg. Tours, lib. iv. and v. Freculphus, 
lib. ii. c. 22. 

8 See Gibbon, iii. p. 262271. and 327432. 


by their incentives, the national mind had been CHAP. 
diverted from habits of warfare, to the enjoyments of . V * IL . 
luxury and the pursuits of commerce, the natives 
shared in the prosperity and vices, as well as the insti- 
tutions of the governing empire. At the end of the 
fourth century, the evils of corrupted civilisation, 
and of its invariable attendant, a weak, tyrannical, 
and oppressive government, were dissolving in every 
part the decaying fabric of the Koman dominion. 
Its state at this period has been described to us by a 
contemporary, who, though he writes with the an- 
tithesis without the genius of Seneca, yet was a 
man of sense and piety, and saw clearly and felt 
strongly the mischiefs which he laments, and the 
ruin to which they tended. 4 He, after detailing the 
social vices of the Roman world at that time its 
general selfishness, rivalry, envy, profligacy, avarice, 
sensuality, and malignant competitions, expatiates 
on one important fact, which deserves our peculiar 
notice, from its destructive hostility to the stability 
of the empire, as well as to the welfare of every in- 
dividual. This was not merely the weight and repe- 
tition of the taxations imposed by the government, 
but still more, the permitted and overwhelming op- 
pressions of the authorised tax-gatherers, exceeding 
their authority, and converting their office into the 
means of the most arbitrary and ruinous oppressions. 

He says, " In all the cities, municipia, and villages, state of the 
there are as many tyrants as there are officers of the 
government ; they devour the bowels of the citizens, 
and their widows and orphans ; public burthens are 
made the means of private plunder ; the collection of 
the national revenue is made the instrument of indi- 
vidual peculation ; none are safe from the devastations 
of these depopulating robbers. The public taxation 

4 This was Salvian, an ecclesiastic of Marseilles. It occurs in his treatise Do 
Gubernatione Dei, which is published in the Magna Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. v. 

VOL. I. M 


BOOK is a continual destruction : the burthens, though 
. IL , severe, would be more tolerable, if borne by all 
equally and in common ; but they are partially im- 
posed and ^arbitrarily levied: hence many desert their 
farms and dwellings to escape the violence of the 
exactors ; they seek exile to avoid punishment. Such 
an overwhelming and unceasing proscription hangs 
over them, that they desert their habitations, that 
they may not be tormented in them." 5 

Such were the evils under which the people of the 
Eoman empire were groaning, from the conduct of 
the officers of the public revenue, who seem to have 
resembled Turkish Pashas. The disastrous conse- 
quences to the empire itself are as forcibly delineated. 

" From these oppressions many, and those not of 
obscure birth but of liberal education, fly to our 
national enemies (that is, the barbaric nations pressing 
on the Koman empire) ; that .they may not perish 
under the afflictions of legal prosecutions. And 
although the people to whom they retire differ in 
religion, language, and ruder manners, yet they 
prefer to suffer the inconveniences of dissimilar 
customs among barbarians, than ruinous injustice 
among Romans. They emigrate to the Goths, to the 
Bagaudae, and other ruling barbarians, and do not 
repent the change." 6 

This preference given by the Roman people to the 
protection of the barbaric government over that under 
which they had been brought up, explains impressively 
the facility with which the German nations, at this 
period, overwhelmed the Roman empire. He mentions 
it repeatedly and emphatically. 

" Thus the name of Roman citizen, once so valued 
and bought so dearly, is now spontaneously re- 
pudiated and shunned : it is esteemed not only useless 

5 Salv. p. 89. 91. e Salv. p. 90. 


but abominable. What can be a greater evidence of CHAP. 


the iniquity of the Roman administration, than that 

so many both rfoble and honourable families, and to T a he d Ba " 
whom the Roman state ought to be the means of the 
highest honour and splendour, are driven to this 
extremity, that they will be no longer Romans." 7 

His next assertion is, that, if they did not emigrate 
to the barbaric nations, they became part of those 
affiliated robbers who were called Bagaudae. 8 

" They who do not fly to the barbarians become The Ba. 
themselves barbarians. In this state is a large portion 8 
of Spain, and no small part of Gaul. Roman op- 
pression makes all men no longer Romans. The 
Bagaudae are those who, plundered and maltreated 
by base and bloody judges after they had been de- 
prived of the right of Roman liberty, choose to lose 
the honours of the Roman name. We call them 
rebels and traitors, but we have compelled them to 
become criminal. By what other causes are they 
made Bagaudae but by our iniquities; by the dis- 
honesty of our judges ; by the proscriptions and 
rapine of those who convert the public exactions into 
emoluments for themselves ; who make their appointed 
taxations the means of their own plunder; they fly 
to the public foe to avoid the tax-gatherer." 9 

He declares these feelings to have been universal. 

" Hence there is but one wish among all the 
Romans, that they did not live subject to the Roman 
laws. There is one consenting prayer among the 
Roman population, that they might dwell under the 
barbarian government. Thus our brethren not only 
refuse to leave these nations for their own, but they 

7 Salv. p. 90. 

8 To Scaliger's note on the Bagaudae, Aniraad. Euseb. 243., we may add that 
Bagat, in the Armoric, is a troop or crew. Lhuyd Archaiol. 196. Bagach, in 
Irish, is warlike. Bagach, in Erse, is fighting. Bagad, in Welsh, is multitude. 
Du Cange mentions Sayeveiv, vagare, and Boguedim, Hebrew for rebellis. Glos. 
Med. Lat. i. p. 432. See their history in Du Cange, ib. and Du Bos, p. 204. 

9 Salv. p. 90, 91. 

H 2 


BOOK fly from us to them. Can we then wonder that the 
. IL . Goths are not conquered by us, when the people 
would rather become Goths with them than Romans 
with us." 10 

These political evils, thus oppressively affecting 
the general population of the Roman empire, may 
satisfy us, that the Britons, once become independent, 
armed, and victorious over their barbaric invaders, 
would not court the return of the Roman yoke. 
Therefore every narration which states, that after their 
independence they offered unconditional submission 
to the Roman empire, cannot but excite our suspicion 
or disbelief. 

When we proceed to inquire into the events which 
followed the emancipation of Britain, the first ques- 
tion which naturally occurs to us is, what was the 

10 Salv. 92. I cannot dismiss this author without noticing the intimation he 
gives us of the moral benefit which the irruptions of the German barbaric tribes 
produced at that period. The Vandals furnish an instance, who, it is well known, 
invaded Spain, and from thence passed victoriously into Africa, where they esta- 
blished a kingdom : they were one of the weakest of the barbaric nations, yet they 
were led onwards to successes that surprised the dismayed Romans. Though fierce 
and rude, they were remarkable for the chastity of their manners, at the very time 
when voluptuous profligacy was prevailing in the Roman empire, and especially in 
its provinces in Africa, Salvian mentions the African depravity from his own 
observations in the strongest terms of reprehension. The abominations were gene- 
ral and incurable. He describes, as a specimen, Carthage, the Rome of Africa, 
which had its schools, philosophers, gymnasia, churches, nobles, magistrates, and 
every establishment and advantage that distinguished a Roman great city. But he 
says he saw it full of the most dissolute luxury, and the foulest vices and debauchery 
in all its inhabitants, as well as of the most selfish tyranny and rapacity in the great 
and rich. It was even the fashion for the men to dress themselves as women, and 
to pass for such. In this state of evil, the Vandals, like a torrent, over-ran the 
north of Africa, and settled themselves in Carthage, and the other towns : their 
speedy corruption was anticipated in a country so abandoned ; but, to the astonish- 
ment of the empire, instead of degenerating into the universal depravity, they be- 
came its moral reformers. The luxuries and vices that surrounded them, excited 
their disgust and abhorrence. Their own native customs were so modest, that 
instead of imitating they despised, and punished, with all their fierce severity, the 
impurities they witnessed. They compelled all the prostitutes to marry. They 
made adultery a capital crime, and so sternly punished personal debauchery, that 
a great moral change took place in all the provinces they conquered. He details 
these circumstances in his seventh book. He gives our Saxon ancestors the same 
character, " feri sed casti," fierce but chaste, and it seems to be manifest, that the 
superiority of the ladies of modern Europe in virtue, mind, and general character 
has arisen from the barbaric tribes of ancient Germany, and from the revolution 
of manners, as well as of government, which they produced by their conquest of 
the Roman empire. 




government which the natives substituted for the im- 
perial institutions. 

Britain, under the Romans, contained two munici- 
pia, nine colonia3, ten civitates possessing the Jus La- 
tium, twelve stipendaria?, besides many other towns. 11 
It was usual with the Romans to partition their con- 
quests into districts, called civitates. In Gaul, during 
the fifth century, there were one hundred and fifteen 
civitates ; each of these had its capital city, in which 
resided a senate, whose jurisdiction extended over all 
the pagi which composed the territory of the ci vitas. 12 
Now if the seventeen provinces of Gaul had one 
hundred and fifteen civitates, the five provinces of 
Britain, which were as flourishing, might reasonably 
have had thirty-three, which is the number of the 
great towns enumerated by Richard. 

We are, therefore, to consider Britain, in the latter civitates of 
periods of the Roman residence, divided into thirty- 
three civitates, of which thirty were in England and 
Wales. The chief towns were 13 


Municipia : 

Colonies : 
Isca Secunda, 
Deva Getica, 

Latiojure donates: 

Stipendarice : 
Venta Silurum, 
Venta Belgarum, 
Venta Iceriorum, 


in Scotland, 

11 Richard, p. 111. Antiq. Celto-Scand. K Du Bos, i. p. 2. 

13 Richard, ubi sup. For the modern names, see Mr. Whitaker's Manchester, 
vol. ii. p. 330379. 

M 3 


BOOK In each of these principal towns, the offices of 
. IL . power and dignity belonging to each civitas were 
made residentiary ; the duumviri, senates, decurions, 
curia3, and aadiles. These civitates were arranged 
under five provinces, two of which were governed by 
consulares, and three by presides. Above these 
provincial magistrates a vicarius extended his over- 
ruling authority, subordinate only to a prsetorian 
prefect, with whom the emperor preserved an imme- 
diate communication. 14 

The vicarius and the provincial magistrates, or the 
consulares and presides, were foreigners. With such 
a jealous hand did Rome maintain her empire, that 
no native was suffered to enjoy, in any case, the pro- 
vincial administration ; nor could the provincial 
officers, or their children, marry with a native, or 
purchase territorial property, slaves, or houses. 15 On 
the other hand, the municipal officers of the civitates 
seem to have been natives. 

It was a point carefully guarded by law, that the 
officers of one civitas should not interfere with any 
other ; hence the edict, that no duumviri should with 
impunity extend the power of their fasces beyond 
the bounds of their own civitas. 16 The decurions 
served for the civitas of their nativity ; and it was 
ordered, if to avoid the office any withdrew to an- 
other civitas, that he should be made to serve in 
both. 17 

We may, therefore, conceive England and Wales, 
in the fifth century, divided into thirty independent 
civitates, governed by native officers originating from 
each civitas. The imperial magistrates, whom Zo- 
simus mentions that they deposed, were most likely 
the vicarius, the consulares, and the presides ; and on 

14 Gibbon, ii. 3238. Notitia, s. 49. is Gibbon, ii. 39. 

16 Cod. Theod. lib. xii. tit. i. s. 174. " Ibid. s. 12. 


their deposition, the island, as far as it was possessed CHAP. 
by the Britons, would naturally divide into thirty 

independent republics : or, into as many separate 
republics as there were civitates. That this event 
did happen we have a sort of evidence in the circum- 
stance, that Honorius addressed his letters to the 
civitates of Britain. 

But in addition to these civil powers, the influence 
of the ecclesiastical must be taken into consideration. 
In Gaul, and therefore most probably in Britain, every 
civitas had a bishop 18 , and every province had a 
superior bishop, answerable to our metropolitans, 
though not distinguished with the title of archbishop. 
The bishops had some power, and from this enjoyed 
much consideration and credit in every district. The 
people in general were in two divisions, the free and 
the servile. 

Thus far the few facts left to us fairly extend. 
Independent Britain, after the year 410, contained 
many independent republics or civitates; each of 
which was governed by chief magistrates or duumviri, 
a senate, subordinate officers called decurions, an 
inferior senate called curise, with other necessary 
officers. The ecclesiastical concerns were regulated 
by a bishop in each, whose power sometimes extended 
into lay concerns. 

But it is probable that these thirty independent 
civitates did not long continue in peace with each 
other. The degenerated civilisation, bad financial 
system, and oppressive government of the Romans 
must have left evil habits and tendencies in the 
British population. Nor can we suppose that the 
natives of each civitas would always be contented 
with the legal power of the offices to which they were 
called ; quietly lay down the fasces at the end of the 

18 Du Bos, i. p. 14. 
M 4 


BOOK year, if duumviri ; or if senators, seek no more au- 
. "' . thority than belonged to their official acts; or if 
inferiors, aspire not unduly to an elevation of con- 
dition. The accidents of human life would not fail 
to involve disputes of jurisdiction between one ci vitas 
and others : and mankind are generally eager to de- 
termine their differences by force. Hence it was 
likely that no long interval would ensue, before civil 
discord pervaded the island, and that this would 
terminate in the predominance of military tyrants ; 
because in that most dreadful of all evils, civil strife, 
it is the sword which eventually prevails, 
civil dis- The lamentations of Gildas concur with the obscure 
1 intimations of Nennius to prove, that a considerable 
part of the interval between the emancipation of the 
island and the arrival of the Saxons, was occupied 
in the contests of ambitious partisans. 

" The country," says Gildas, " though weak against 
its foreign enemies, was brave and unconquerable in 
civil warfare. Kings were appointed, but not by 
God; they who were more cruel than the rest, 
attained to the high dignity." 

With as little right or expediency as they derived 
their power, they lost it. " They were killed, not 
from any examination of justice, and men more 
ferocious still were elected in their place. If any 
happened to be more virtuous or mild than the rest, 
every degree of hatred and enmity was heaped upon 
them." 19 The clergy partook of the contentions of 
the day. 

He renews this picture in his address to the British 
kings who had survived the Saxon invasion ; and al- 
though his expressions are not elucidated by any 
historical detail, yet they are supported by the ex- 
pression of St. Jerome, " Britain, a province, fertile 

19 Gildas, s. 19. 


in tyrants," and by the assertion of Procopius, that it CHAP. 
remained a long time under its tyrants. 20 . 

Here that agreement between Gildas and other 
writers occurs, which entitles him to belief: and if 
his other loose declamations about the devastations of 
the barbarians in Britain, and the application of the 
natives to ^Etius for succour, have any foundation, 
they must be referred to the period of those civil 
wars which succeeded the Koman departure. We 
can conceive, that when the strength of the country 
was not directed to its protection, but was wasted 
in mutual conflicts, the hostilities of the Picts and 
Scots may have met with much success. Not op- 
posed by the force of the whole island, but by the 
local power of the particular civitas or district in- 
vaded, the enemies may, in many parts, especially of 
the northern districts, have defeated the opposition, 
and desolated the land of the northern borders and 
the adjacent coasts. With equal success, from the 
same cause, the western shores may have been plun- 
dered by the Scots, and the southern by the Saxons. 
Some of the maritime states, abandoned by their 
more powerful countrymen, may have sought the aid 
of JEtius, as they afterwards accepted that of the 
Saxons; but either the account of Gildas is rhetorical 
exaggeration, or is applicable only to particular dis- 
tricts, and not to the whole island. 

These contests seem at last to have produced a Many tings 
great cluster of regal chiefs within the island. We mBntain - 
hear of kings of Devonshire, Cornwall, Kent, and 
Glastonbury ; several kings of Cumbria, the kings of 
Deira and Bernicia, several contemporary kings of 
Wales, and others in the north and west of England, 
about the time of the Saxons. 21 We find Malgocune^ 

20 Procop. Hist. Vandal, lib. i. sed mansit ab eo tempore sub rvppavois. 2 Jerom 
ad Ctes. Britannia provincia fertilis tyrannorum. Gib. iii. 277. Masc. i. 516. 

21 See Gildas, Ep. p. 10. Nennius, p. 105 107. 117. Taliesin, passim. Cara- 
doc Llanc. ap. Usher, 469. Llyward hen ; Aneurin. 


styled by Gildas, the dethroner of many tyrants ; and_ 
Nennius mentions the Saxons to have fought, and 
Arthur to have marched, with the kings of the 
Britons. 22 But this succession of tyrants is only 
known to us by casual intimation, and by the denun- 
ciations of Gildas. They appear in their rest of ob- 
scurity like the distant wood touched by the last re- 
fractions of the departed sun : we behold only a dark 
mass of gloom, in which we can trace no shapes, and 
distinguish no individuals. 

I^jthis_period of the independence and civil_war- 
fare of Britain, one tyrant ia^raid''Ton5ave predomi- 
nated over the rest, or atjeasF m_tlie^amithernjgarti 
of the island, whom Gildas calls Gurthrigernus, and 
whom the Welsh triads and poets Dameljwrtheyrn.. 23 "' 

But Britain was not now in the state in which the 
Komans had found it. Its towns were no longer 
barricadoed forests 24 , nor its houses wood cabins 
covered with straw 25 , nor its inhabitants naked sa- 
vages with painted bodies 26 , or clothed with skins. 27 
It had been for above three centuries the seat of 
Koman civilisation and luxury. Koman emperors 
had been born 28 , and others had reigned in it. 29 The 
natives had been ambitious to obtain, and hence had 
not only built houses, temples, courts, and market 
places, in their towns, but had adorned them with 

22 Gildas, 12. Nennius, 114. 

23 IFhas been already remarked, p. 155., that the Vortigern of Jeffry seems to be 
a mixture of Gerontius and Gwrtheyrn. Nennius has added some idle fables to 
his name ; yet gives him a genealogy. Mac Guortheneu, M c Guitaul, M c Guitolin, 
M c ap Glou, p. 112. The Saxon Ethelwerd, p. 833., calls him Wrtheyrn, which 
corresponds with the name in the Welsh remains. 

24 Caesar, lib. v. c. 14. Tac. Vit. Agr. Strabo, lib. iv. 

25 Diod. Sic. lib. v. c. 8. 

26 Caesar, lib. v. Mela, lib. iii. c. 6. Pliny, Hist. lib. xxii. c. 1. 

27 Caesar, lib. v. c. 14. 

28 As Constantine the Great ; for such I consider to be the fair meaning of the 
orator's words addressed to him, speaking of Britannias, or the British Isles, " Tu 
etiam nobiles, ILLIC ORIENDO fecisti." Mr. Gibbon thinks this may refer to his 
accession ; but the other opinion is the most natural construction ; and so the 
foreign editor thought when he added the marginal note, " Nam in Britannia Con- 
stantinus natus fuit." 

29 Carausius, Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine, and others. 


porticoes, galleries, baths, and saloons 30 , and with 
mosaic pavements, and emulated every Koman im- 
provement. They had distinguished themselves as 
legal advocates and orators 31 , and for their study of 
the Eoman poets. 32 Their cities had been made 
images of Rome itself, and the natives had become 
Romans. 33 The description of Caerleon in Wales is 
applicable to many others in Britain. 34 The ruins of 
Verulam, near St. Albans, exhibited analogous signs 
of splendour and luxury 35 ; and the numerous re- 
mains of habitations or towns built in the Roman 
fashion, which casual excavations are even yet every 
year, and sometimes every month, disclosing to our 
view, show that Britain, at the time of the Saxon 
invasion, had become a wealthy, civilised, and luxu- 
rious country. 36 These epithets, however, whenever 
used, are but comparative phrases, and their precise 
meaning varies in every age, from the dawn of Egyp- 
tian civilization to our own bright day. Britain did 

30 Tacit. Vit. Ag. c. 21. 

31 Hence Juvenal's " Gallia causidicos docuit facunda Britannos," Sat. 15. Gaul 
being their place of study. 

32 So Martial intimates, " Dicitur et nostros cantare Britannia versus." Ep. 

83 Hence Gildas says, " Ita, ut non Britannia, sed Romania insula censeretur," 
c. v. p. 3. He adds, that all their coins were stamped with the image of the 
emperor, ibid. 

34 Giraldus has left this account of its remains in the twelfth century. " It was 
elegantly built by the Romans with brick walls. Many vestiges of its ancient 
splendour still remain, and stately palaces, which formerly, with the gilt tiles, dis- 
played the Roman grandeur. It was first built by the Roman nobility, and adorned 
with sumptuous edifices, with a lofty tower, curious hot baths, temples now in 
ruins, and theatres encompassed with stately walls, in part yet standing. The walls 
are three miles in circumference, and within these, as well as without, subterra- 
neous buildings are frequently met with ; as aqueducts, vaults, hypocausts, stoves," 
&c. Giral. Camb. Itin. Camb. p. 836. 

35 One abbot of St. Albans, before the conquest, found great subterraneous pas- 
sages of the ancient city, Verulam, solidly arched and passing under the river, and 
tiles and stones, which he set apart for the building of a church. Mat. Par. Vit. 
Ab. p. 40. The next abbot, exploring farther, met with the foundation of a great 
palace, and remains of many buildings, with some manuscripts. He discovered 
several stone floors, with tiles and columns fit for the intended church ; and pitchers 
and vessels made of earth, and neatly shaped as with a wheel ; and also vessels of 
glass, containing the ashes of the dead. He also met with several dilapidated tem- 
ples, subverted altars, idols, and various coins. Mat. Par. ibid. p. 41. 

36 It is mentioned by the orator Eumenius, that when the father of Constantino 
the Great rebuilt Autun, he was chiefly furnished with workmen from Britain, 
" which abounded with the best builders." Eum. Pan. 8. 


BOOK not in the fifth century possess our present affluence 
. IL . and refinement, but those of a Roman province at 
that epoch. It had not our mind, or knowledge, or 
improvements, but it shared in all that Rome then 
possessed or valued. Gildas has been_emphatically^ 
querulous dn painting the~3esolations which it ha3T 
endured before his ".time the sixth century from 
the Picts, the Irish, and the Saxons, and from its 
own civil discord ; and yet, after all these evils had 
occurred, he describes it as containing twenty-eight 
cities, and some well-fortified castles, and speaks of 
the country with metaphors that seem intended to 
express both cultivation and abundance. 37 Bede, 
who liwrl two centuries after Gildas, does not sub- 
tract from his description ; but on the contrary adds 
" nobilisshme " to his cities, and " innumera " to his 
castles 38 , which Nennius above a century later^re^ 
peats. 39 

If our knowledge of the moral state of Britain at 
this period be taken from the vehement censures 
of Gildas, no country could be more worthless in 
its legal chieftains and religious directors, or in its 
general population. He says it had become a pro- 
verb, that the Britons were neither brave in war nor 
faithful in peace; that adverse to peace and truth, 
they were bold in crimes and falsehood ; that evil 
was preferred to good, and impiety to religion. That 
those who were most cruel were, though not right- 
fully, anointed kings ; and were soon unjustly de- 
stroyed by others, fiercer than themselves. If any 
one discovered gentler manners or superior virtues, 

87 Gildas, c. 1. The fecundity of the harvests of Britain, and the innumerable 
multitudes of its cattle and sheep, had been extolled by the Roman encomiast of 
Oonstantine. Paneg. Const. And we .read in Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xviii. 
c. 2., and Zosimus, lib. iii., of corn being carried to Germany from Britain, by the 
Roman armies, as if from their granary. Permission had been granted by Probus 
to plant vines and make wine in Britain. Scrip. Aug. p. 942. ; and see Henry's 
History, vol. ii. p. 106 112. 

38 Hist. Eccl. c. 1. p. 41. a> Nenn. 3 Gall. p. 98. 


he became the more unpopular. Actions, pleasing or CHAP. 
displeasing to the Deity, were held in equal estima- 

tion. It was not the laity only who were of this 
character; the clergy, he adds, who ought to have 
been an example to all, were addicted to intoxication, 
animosities, and quarrels. 40 He aggravates the features 
of this revolting picture, in his subsequent addresses 
to the British kings, whom he names, and for whom 
no epithet seems, in his opinion, to have been too 
severe : and to the clergy, on whom his vituperative 
powers of rhetoric and scripture-memory are exerted 
with unceremonious profusion ; accusing them, besides 
their folly and impudence, of deceit, robbery, avarice, 
profligacy, gluttony, and almost every other vice : 
" even," he adds, " that I may speak the truth, of 
infidelity." 41 He is angry enough with the Saxons, 
whom he calls Ambrones, Furciferi, and Lupi, " rob- 
bers, villains, and wolves;" but these are forbearing 
metaphors, compared with the flow of Latin abuse 
which he pours first on all the British kings generally, 
and then specially on Constantine, " the tyrannical 
cub of the lioness of Devonshire ;" on the other 
" lion's whelp," Aurelius Conan, " like the pard in 
colour and morals, though with a hoary head;" on 
Vortiper, " the stupid tyrant of South Wales, the 
bear-driver," and what his words seem to imply, 
" the bear-baiter ; " on Cuneglas, whose name, he is 
pleased with recollecting, implies the " yellow bull- 
dog ; " and on Maglocune, " the dragon of the 
island," the most powerful and " the worst" of all. 42 

40 See his first tract de excidio Brit. 

41 See his last declamation against the ecclesiastical order of Britain, of which he 
yet says, before he dies, he sometimes wishes to be a member, " Ante mortem esse 
aliquandiu participem opto." 

42 It is his epistola in which these expressions occur, with copious commentaries 
of the same tendency. I am rather inclined to think, that one of the passages 
against Maglocune alludes to his having aided Mordred against the celebrated 
Arthur. " Nonne in primis adolesccntise tuae annis, AVUNCULUM REGEM cumfor- 
tis.rimis prope modum militibus, quorum vultus, non catulorum leonis in acie mag- 
nopere dispares, visebantur, acerrime, cnse, hasta, igni oppressisti." The chronology 


BOOK But the very excess and coarseness of the invectives 
IL of Gildas, display such a cynicism of mind and atra- 
bilious feeling in himself, as not only to show that he 
partook of the dispositions he reprehends, but also 
that he has so much exaggerated the actual truth, 
that we cannot disencumber it from his spleen, his 
malice, or his hyperboles. Bede has condescended 
to adopt a few sentences from his inculpations ; but 
Nennius has not copied them ; nor has Mark the 
hermit, one of the last-known revisers of Nennius, 
inserted them. 43 Yet so many features of moral 
depravity in the Roman empire at this period are 
described 'by Salvian, who witnessed and detailed 
them, that however unwilling we are to adopt the 

suits Arthur, and the king with his brave milites, whose countenances in battle 
were not much unlike lion's whelps, will sound like remarkable expressions, to 
those who cherish the romances on Arthur and his knights. 

43 Of the small history of the Britons usually ascribed to Nennius, the Rev. W. 
Gunn has recently (1819) published an edition from a MS. in the Vatican, that 
seems to be of the age of the tenth century, where it bears the name of Mark the 
Anchorite. " Incipit Historia Brittonum edita ab anachoreta Marco ejusdem gentis 
scto Epo. p. 46. The original is on parchment, fairly written in double columns, 
and fills ten pages of a miscellaneous volume of the folio size." Gunn's Pref. It 
once belonged to Christina, the celebrated queen of Sweden. The two MSS. of this 
work in the British Museum, Vitel. A. 13. and Vespas. D. 21., have the name of 
Nennius as the author. So has the MS. of the Hengwrt library. The Bodleian 
MS. No. 2016., now No. 163., makes Gildas its author: " A Gilda sapiente com- 
posita." Of the new MS. Mr. Gunn justly says, " It varies not as to general im- 
port from the copies already known. It differs from those edited by Gale and 
Bertram in certain transpositions of the subject; in the omission of two introduc- 
tory prefaces ; in not acknowledging the assistance of Samuel Bewly, the reputed 
master of Nennius ; and in detaching the life of St. Patrick from the body of the 
work, and placing it at the end." Pref. xxiv. It is in fact the former work dis- 
located and curtailed. I think these alterations quite sufficient to account for Mark 
having put his own name to the transcript he so varied. This MS. makes one of 
its latest computation of dates in 946, and the fifth year of Edmund the Anglo- 
Saxon king, p. 45. But this year is afterwards protracted to 994, pp. 62. and 80. 
The dates of all the copies are inconsistent. Mark by his date has varied that of 
Nennius, which in the MSS. used by Gale was 800, and in the Hengwrt MS. 796, 
and in c. xi. is made 876. This would imply that the chronicle had both earlier 
authors and revisals than Mark. Jeffry quotes Gildas frequently as a writer of 
some history which we have not ; and as this history of Nennius has had the name 
of Gildas prefixed to it, and bears so many marks of dislocated passages and changes 
of its dates, I am tempted to think that it is an old chronicle revised and altered 
by several hands. Gildas may have made the first sketch of part of it. His work, 
Nennius in the ninth century may have abridged and carried on, and Mark in the 
next age have added his revisal. It is clear that the history of Nennius is not the 
whole work of Gildas to which Jeffry alludes, because it does not contain the 
incident to which he refers. It is therefore either an extract or a different work. 



violent abuse and repulsive rhetoric of Gildas, there 
is too much reason to fear, that many of the deformi- 
ties which his coarse daubing has distorted almost 
into incredibility, degraded the character and acce- 
lerated the downfall of our ancient British prede- 
cessors. 44 


See Salv. de Gub. 







The Character and Persons of the most ancient SAXONS. 

CHAP. "WE may now pause to consider the most prominent features 
* of the Saxons before they established themselves in Britain. 

The Anglo-Saxons came to England from the Germanic 
continent ; and above a century had elapsed from their first 
settlements before they received those improvements and 
changes which followed the introduction of the Christian 
system. These circumstances make it necessary to exhibit 
them as they were in their continental and pagan state, 
before they are delineated with the features, and in the dress 
of Christianity. 

It would be extremely desirable to give a complete portrait 
of our ancestors in their uncivilised state ; but this is an 
epocha in the history of the human mind which in former 
times seldom interested any one, and has not been faithfully 
detailed. Hence on this subject curiosity must submit to be 
disappointed. The converted Anglo-Saxon remembered the 
practices of his idolatrous ancestors with too much abhorrence, 
to record them for the notice of future ages ; and as we have 
no Runic spells to call the pagan warrior from his grave, we 
can only see him in those imperfect sketches which patient 
industry may collect from the passages scattered in the 
works which time has spared. 

TO BOOK II. 177 

The character of the ancient Saxons displayed the qualities 
of fearless, active, and successful pirates. It is not merely 
the Spanish churchman Orosius *, who speaks of them as 
dreadful for their courage and agility, but the emperor Julian, 
who had lived among barbarians, and who had fought with 
some Saxon tribes, denotes them as distinguished amongst 
their neighbours for vehemence and valour. 2 Zosimus, their 
contemporary, expresses the general feeling of his age, when 
he ranks them as superior to others in energy, strength, and 
warlike fortitude. 3 

Their ferocious 4 qualities were nourished by the habit of 
indiscriminate depredation. It was from the cruelty and 
destructiveness, as well as from the suddenness of their in- 
cursions, that they were dreaded more than any other people. 
Like the Danes and Norwegians, their successors and assail- 
ants, they desolated where they plundered with the sword 
and flame. 5 

It was consistency in such men to be inattentive to danger. 
They launched their predatory vessels, and suffered the 
wind to blow them to any foreign coast, indifferent whether 
the result was a depredation unresisted, or the deathful 
conflict. Such was their cupidity, or their brutal hardihood, 
that they often preferred embarking in the tempest which 
might shipwreck them, because at such a season their victims 
would be more unguarded. Their warfare did not originate 
from the more generous, or the more pardonable of man's 
evil passions. It was the offspring of the basest. Their 
swords were not unsheathed by ambition or resentment. The 
love of plunder and of cruelty was their favourite habit ; and 
hence they attacked, indifferently, every coast which they 
could reach. 6 

Inland provinces were not protected from their invasion. 
From ignorance, necessity, or policy, they traversed the 
ocean in boats framed of osiers, and covered with skins sewed 
together ; and such was their skill or their prodigality of life, 

1 Orosius, lib. vii. c. 32. 

2 Julian Imp. Orat. de laud. Const, p. 116. 

3 Zosimus, lib. iii. p. 147. ed. Ox. 

4 Salvian says, gens Saxonum fera est, de Gub. Dei, lib. iv. V. Fortunatus calls 
them " aspera gens, vivens quasi more ferino," Bib. Mag. Pat. viii. 787. ; and Si- 
donius has the strong expression of " omni hosti truculentior," lib. viii. c. 7. Even 
in the eighth century the Saxons on the continent are described by Eginhard as 
" natura feroces," p. 4. 

5 Amm. Marcell. lib. xxviii. c. 3. 

6 Amm. Marcell. lib. xxviii. c. 3., xxvii. c. 8. Sid. Apoll. 
VOL. I. N 


that in these they sported in the tempests of the German 
Ocean. 7 

It is possible that men who had seen the vessels in which 
the Francs had escaped from the Pontus, and who had been 
twice instructed by imperial usurpers in the naval art, might 
have constructed more important war ships if their judgment 
had approved. Although their isles, and their maritime 
provinces of Ditmarsia and Stormaria, were barren of wood, 
yet Holsatia abounded with it ; and if their defective land- 
carriage prevented the frequency of this supply, the Elbe 
was at hand to float down inexhaustible stores from the 
immense forests of Germany. 

They may have preferred their light skiffs 8 , from an ex- 
perience of their superior utility. When their fatal in- 
cursions had incited the Romans to fortify and to garrison 
the frontier of Britain and Gaul, the Saxons directed their 
enmity against the inland regions. For their peculiar vessels 
no coast was too shallow, no river too small ; they dared to 
ascend the streams for eighty or an hundred miles ; and if 
other plunder invited, or danger pressed, they carried their 
vessels from one river to another, and thus escaped with 
facility from the most superior foe. 9 

Of the Saxons, an author of the fifth century says to a 
friend who was opposed to them, " You see as many piratical 
leaders as you behold rowers, for they all command, obey, 
teach, and learn the art of pillage. Hence, after your 
greatest caution, still greater care is requisite. This enemy 
is fiercer than any other ; if you be unguarded, they attack ; 
if prepared, they elude you. They despise the opposing, and 
destroy the unwary ; if they pursue, they overtake ; if they 
fly, they escape. Shipwrecks discipline them, not deter; 
they do not merely know, they are familiar with, all the 
dangers of the sea; a tempest gives them security and 
success, for it divests the meditated land of the apprehension 
of a descent. In the midst of waves and threatening rocks 
they rejoice at their peril, because they hope to surprise." 10 

As their naval expeditions, though often wildly daring, 

7 That this ocean was anciently dangerous from its tempests, Boniface, the self- 
devoted missionary of Germany, often states : periculosum est navigantibus, p. 52. 
Germanici tempestatibus rnaris undique quassantibus fatigati senis miserere, p. 59. 
vol. xvi. Bib. Mag. Patrum. 

8 On the vessels of the Saxons, see Du Bos, Hist. Crit. de la Mon. de France, i. 

p. 150 Mioparo quasi minimus paro ; idem et carabus. Est parva scapha ex 

vimine facta qua? contexta crudo corio genus navigii prabet Isidorus Orig. lib. xix. 

9 See Du Bos, 149. Gibbon, ii. 524. 10 Sid. Apoll. Epist. lib. 8. 

TO BOOK II. 179 

were much governed by the policy of surprise, so their land 
incursions were sometimes conducted with all the craft of 
robbers. " Dispersed into many bodies," says Zosimus, of 
some of their confederates, " they plundered by night, and 
when day appeared, they concealed themselves in the woods, 
feasting on the booty they had gained." 11 They are, how- 
ever, seldom mentioned by the historians of the fourth and 
fifth centuries without some epithets which express a su- 
periority over other men in their achievements or their 

The ferocity of the Saxon character would seem to suit f 
better the dark and melancholy physiognomies of Asia and 4 
Africa, than the fair, pleasing, and blue-eyed countenances 
by which our ancestors are described. 12 But though nature 
had supplied them with the germs of those amiable qualities 
which have become the national character of their descendants, 
their direful customs, their acquired passions, and barbarous 
education perverted every good propensity. So ductile is 
the human capacity, that there is no colour, climate, or con- 
stitution which governs the moral character so permanently 
as the good or evil habits and discipline to which it is sub- 
jected. An incident mentioned by Symmachus shows that 
they had a pride of mind which could not endure disgrace. 
He says that twenty-nine Saxons strangled themselves to 
avoid being brought into a theatre for a gladiatorial show. 13 

Their persons were of the largest size. On the continent 
they were so proud of their forms and their descent, and so 
anxious to perpetuate them, that they were averse to 
marriages with other nations. 14 Hence the colour of the 
hair of their males is mentioned as uniform. In the fourth 
century they cut their hair so close to the skin, that the 
appearance of the head was diminished and the face enlarged. 15 
In the following ages, their hair behind is mentioned as 

11 Zosimus, lib. iii. p. 149. This tribe, whom he calls Quadi, Marcellinus, lib. xvii. 
c. 8., more correctly names Chamavi. These robbers were destroyed by one Chariette, 
a Franc, who organised some corps on the same plan. 

12 Sidon. Apoll. lib. viii. ep. 9. Bede, lib. ii. c. 1. The expressions applied by 
Tacitus to all the German nations are " truces, et cerulei oculi." 

13 Ep. xlvi. lib. 2. p. 90. 

14 Meginh. ib. ap. Lang. Script. Dan. torn. ii. p. 39. Wittichind. p. 5. Tacitus 
had expressed the same of all the German tribes. 

15 Cujus vertices extimas per oras 
Non contenta suos tenere morsus 
Arctat lamina marginem comarum 
Et sic crinibus ad cutem recisis 
Decrescit caput, additurque vultus. 

Sid. Ap. 

N 2 




diffused upon their shoulders l6 ; and an ancient Saxon law 
punished the man who seized another by the hair. 17 

In their dress, their loose linen vests were adorned with 
trimming, woven in different colours. 18 Their external gar- 
ment was the sagum, or cloak l9 , and they had shoes. Their 
females had gowns, and several ornaments for the arms, 
hands, and neck. 20 

The Saxons who invaded Thuringia in the sixth century, 
are described by Wittichind as leaning on small shields, 
with long lances, and with great knives, or crooked swords, 
by their sides. 21 Fabricius, an author of the sixteenth 
century, saw, in an ancient picture of a Saxon, a sword bent 
into a semilunar shape. 22 He adds, that their shields were 
suspended by chains, that their horsemen used long iron 
sledge hammers 23 , and that their armour was heavy. I have 
not met with the documents from which he took these cir- 

16 Wittichind, p. 5. 17 1 Linden. Codex Legum, p. 474. 

18 Paul. Warnefrid de Gest. Langob. lib. iv. c. 23. p. 838. ed. Grot. The vest 
is mentioned in the old Saxon law, p. 474., and their idol, Crodus, had one. 
Fabric. Hist. Sax. torn. i. p. 61. 

19 Wittichind, p. 5. ; and see Lindenbrog Glossary, Voc. Sagum, and Weiss. 
The curious may see a description of the dress of a Franc in the Monk of St. Gall's 
life of Charlemagne, and of a Longobard in P. Warnefridus, lib. iv. c. 23. 

20 One is called in the old Anglian law the Rhedo, to the stealing of which the 
same penalty was attached as to stealing six sows with pig. The mother, in the 
same law, might at her death leave to her son, land, slaves, and money ; to her 
daughter, the ornaments of the neck ; id est, muraenas (necklaces), nuscas, monilia 
(collars), inaures (ear-rings), vestes, armillas (bracelets), vel quicquid ornament! 
proprii videbatur habuisse. 1 Lindenb. p. 484. 

21 Wittichind, 5. As Tacitus remarks that the Germans seldom had swords, and 
more generally javelins, there is some plausibility in the derivation of the Saxon 
name from their sachs, or peculiar swords. The Cimbri, on the contrary, had great 
and long swords, according to Plutarch, in his life of Marius. 

22 Fabric, i. p. 66. 

& The favourite weapon j>f Thor, according to the Northern Eddas, was a mallet. 

TO BOOK II. 181 


The Government and Laws of the more ancient SAXONS. 

IT is said by Aristotle, that whoever lives voluntarily out of CHAP. 

civil society must have a vicious disposition, or be an exist- ( 

ence superior to man. 1 But nature has endeavoured to pre- 
serve her noblest offspring from this dismal and flagitious 
independence. She has given us faculties which can be only 
used, and wants which can be only provided for, in society. 
She has made the social union inseparable from our safety, 
our virtue, our pride, and our felicity. 

Government and laws must have been coeval with society, 
for they are essentially necessary to its continuance. A 
spacious edifice might as well be expected to last without 
cement or foundation, as a society to subsist without some 
regulations of individual will, and some acknowledged autho- 
rity to enforce their observance. 

The Athenian philosopher has correctly traced the pro- 
gress of our species towards political institutions. The con- 
nubial union is one of the most imperious and most acceptable 
laws of our frame. From this arose families and relationships. 
Families enlarged into villages and towns, and an aggregation 
of these gave being to a state. 2 

A family is naturally governed by its parents, and its 
ramifications by the aged. The father, says Homer, is the 
legislator to his wife and children. 3 Among most barbarous 
tribes, the aged ancestors have prescribed to the community 
the rules of mutual behaviour, and have adjudged disputes. 
As population has multiplied, civilisation advanced, and the 
sphere of human activity has been enlarged, more precise 
regulations, more decided subordination, and more compli- 
cated governments became necessary, and have been esta- 

That the Saxon societies, in their early stages, were 
governed by the aged, is very strikingly shown in the fact, 

1 Aristotle's Politic, lib. i. c. 2. p. 380. ed. 1606. 

2 Aristot. lib. i. c. 3. p. 381. This is one of Aristotle's most valuable works, and 
will repay with great profit a careful attention. 

3 Cited by Aristot. ibid. p. 379. 

N 3 


that the words of their language which denote authority, also 
express age. When it states that Joseph was appointed 
ruler over Egypt, the words are, " refce into ealbne oven 
^5yP ta l an k'" 4 -For Caesar, the emperor, we have " Ca- 
repar tha beoth cymnga ylbert" 5 Here eldest is used as 
synonymous to greatest. A British general is called an 
"ealbojiman." 6 The Latin term satrapa, by which Bede 
expressed the ruling Saxon chief of a district on the conti- 
nent, is rendered by his royal translator, " ealbonman." 7 The 
phrase of " a certain ruler," in St. Luke, is, in the Saxon 
Gospel, " rum ealboji." 8 The contest between the disciples 
of Christ which should be the greatest, is expressed in the 
Saxon, which should be the ylbert. 9 The aged were the 
primitive chiefs and governors, among the Saxons, and there- 
fore the terms expressing age were used to denote dignity so 
habitually that they were retained in common phrase, even 
after the custom of connecting power with seniority had 
become obsolete. 

The most ancient account of the Saxon government on the 
continent exists in this short but expressive passage of Bede : 
" The ancient Saxons have no king, but many chiefs set over 
their people, who, when war presses, draw lots equally ; and 
whomsoever the chance points out, they all follow as leader, 
and obey during the war. The war concluded, all the chiefs 
become again of equal power." 10 

That the continental Saxons in the eighth and preceding 
centuries were under an aristocracy of chieftains, and had 
no kings but in war ; and that the war-kings who were then 
chosen laid aside their power when peace was re-established, 
is attested by other ancient authorities. 11 More recent his- 

4 Genesis, xlv. v. 8., in Thwaite's Saxon Heptateuch. 

5 So the pontifex is called ylberta bij*ceop, Orosius, lib. v. c. 4. 

6 Sax. Chron. 7 Smith's edition of Bede, p. 624. 

8 Luke, xviii. v. 18. So the highest seats in the synagogue are called tha 
ylbej-Can retl, Luke, xx. 46. The Saxons had ylbejr pyphta for the chief work- 
man, ylbert; picins for the chief of pirates, on rcype ylbort for a pilot, ylebert on 
tham yr-elan plocce for prince of that evil flock. So Bede's " he who by the pri- 
ority of seat seemed to he their chief," lib. v. c. 13., is rendered by Alfred re per 
retler ylbert et me thuhce tha he heojia ealboji beon rceolbe, p. 633. 

9 Luke, xxii. v. 24. 

10 Bede, Hist. Eccles. lib. v. c. 10. p. 192. 

11 The ancient Saxon poet says, 

Qua? nee rege fuit saltern sociata sub uno 

Ut se militise pariter defenderet usu : 

Sed variis divisa modis plebs omnis habebat, 

Quot pagos, tot pene duces. Du Chesne. 

Si autem universale bellum ingrueret, sorte eligitur cui omnes obedire oporteat 
ad administrandum imminens bellum. Quo peracto, eequo jure ac lege propria 
contentus potestate unusquisque vivebat Wittichind, lib. i. p. 7. So the Vetus 

TO BOOK II. 183 

torians have repeated the assertion. 12 Caesar gives an account CHAP. 
nearly similar of the German magistracy in his time. 13 We 
may, therefore, safely infer, that when the Anglo-Saxons 
visited England, they came under war-kings. The reigns of 
Hengist, and of the founders of the dynasties of the Octarchy, 
were so many periods of continued warfare, and their imme- 
diate posterity were assailed with hostility from the natives 
almost perpetual. The Anglo-Saxons were under a necessity 
of continuing their war-kings, until at length a permanent, 
though a limited, monarchy was established. Their chiefs, 
or witena, continued in their influence arid power. They 
elected the king, though they chose him from the family of 
the deceased sovereign ; and their consent in their gemot 
continued to be necessary to the more important acts of his 

There were four orders of men among the ancient Saxons : 
the Etheling or noble, the free man, the freed man, and the 
servile. The nobles were jealous of their race and rank. 
Nobles married nobles only, and the severest penalties pro- 
hibited intrusions of one rank into the others. 14 

Of their laws, in their Pagan state, very little can be 
detailed from authority sufficiently ancient. From the uni- 
formity of their principles of legislation in continental Saxony 
and in England in a subsequent period, we may infer, that 
pecuniary compensation was their general mode of redressing 
personal injuries, and of punishing criminal offences. This 
feature certainly announces that the spirit of legislation 
began to be understood, and that the sword of punishment 
had been wrested, by the government, out of the hand of the 
vindictive individual. It also displays a state of society in 
which property was accumulating. It is, however, a form 
of punishment which is adapted to the first epochas of civili- 

Theotisce Chronicon on the year 810. Twelff Edelinge der Sassen dereden over 
dat lant tho Sassen. Und Wannere dat se krich in dat lant, tho Sassen hadden so 
koren se von den twelffen einen, de was ore Koning de wile de krich warde. Und 
wan de krich bericht wart, so weren de twelffe gelick, so was des einen koniges 
state uth, und was den anderon gelick. Lindenb. Gloss. 1347. This is, " Twelve 
Ethelings governed over the land of the Saxons ; and whenever war arose in that 
land, the Saxons chose one of the twelve to be king while the war lasted : when 
the war was finished the twelve became alike." 

12 Krantz Metropol. lib. i. c. 1., and Belli Dithmar. p. 431. Fabricius, Hist. Sax. 
I. p. 69. Sagittarius, Hist. Bard. 60. 

13 Quura bellum civitas aut illatum defendit aut infert, magistratus qui eo bello 
prsesint, ut vitse necisque habeant potestatem, deliguntur. In pace nullus est coin- 
munis magistratus, sed principes regionum atque pagorum inter suos jus dicunt 
controversiasque minuunt. De Bell. Gall. lib. vi. c. 21. 

11 Meginhard, 2 Lang. p. 40. Nithardus, lib. iv. Hucbald Vita B. Lebuini, Act. 
Sanct. vol. vi. p. 282., and Wittichind. 

N 4 


sation only ; because as wealth is more generally possessed, 
pecuniary mulcts become legal impunity. 

Their severity against adultery was personal and san- 
guinary. If a woman became unchaste, she was compelled 
to hang herself, her body was burnt, and over her ashes the 
adulterer was executed. Or else a company of females 
whipped her from district to district, and, dividing her gar- 
ments to the girdle, they pierced her body with their knives. 
They drove her, thus bleeding, from their habitations ; and 
wheresoever she went, new collections of women renewed the 
cruel punishment, till she expired. 15 This dreadful custom 
shows that the savage character of the nation was not con- 
fined to the males. Female chastity is indeed a virtue as 
indispensable as it is attractive : but its proper guardians are 
the maternal example and tuition, the constitutional delicacy 
of the female mind, its native love of honour, and the uncor- 
rupted voice and feeling of society. If it can be only main- 
tained by the horrors of a Saxon punishment, the nation is 
too barbarous, or too contaminated, to be benefited by the 

In their marriages they allowed a son to wed his father's 
widow, and a brother his sister-in-law. 16 

From one of the laws of their confederates, the Frisians, 
who were among the tribes that settle in England, we learn 
that their religious establishment was protected by penalties 
as terrible as those which guarded their chastity. " Who- 
ever breaks into a temple, and takes away any of the sacred 
things, let him be led to the sea, and in the sand which the 
tide usually covers, let his ears be cut off, let him be cas- 
trated, and immolated to the gods whose temples he has 
violated." l7 

15 Boniface describes this custom in his letter to Ethelbald, the king of Mercia, 
in Mag. Bibl. Patrum, torn. xvi. p. 55. 

16 Sax. Chron. Bede, i. c. 27. p. 64. 

17 Lex Fris. ap. 1. Lindenb. p. 508. 

TO BOOK II. 185 


The Religion of the SAXONS in their Pagan State. 

AT this happy period of the world, we cannot reflect on the CHAP. 
idolatry of ancient times, without some astonishment at the v _ 
infatuation which has so inveterately, in various regions, 
clouded the human mind. We feel, indeed, that it is im- 
possible to contemplate the grand canopy of the universe ; 
to descry the planets moving in governed order; to find 
comets darting from system to system in an orbit of which 
a space almost incalculable is the diameter ; to discover con- 
stellations beyond constellations in endless multiplicity, and 
to have indications of the light of others whose full beam of 
splendour has not yet reached us ; we feel it impossible to 
meditate on these innumerable theatres of existence, without 
feeling with awe, that this amazing magnificence of nature 
announces an Author tremendously great. But it is very 
difficult to conceive how the lessons of the skies should have 
taught that localising idolatry, which their transcendent 
grandeur, and almost infinite extent, seem expressly calcu- 
lated to destroy. 

The most ancient religions of the world appear to have 
been pure theism, with neither idols nor temples. These 
essential agents in the political mechanism of idolatry were 
unknown to the ancient Pelasgians, from whom the Grecians 
chiefly sprung, and to the early Egyptians and Romans. 
The Jewish patriarchs had them not, and even our German 
ancestors, according to Tacitus, were without them. 

In every nation but the Jewish a more gross system of 
superstition was gradually established. The Deity was de- 
throned by the symbols which human folly selected as his 
representatives ; the most ancient of these were the heavenly 
bodies, the most pardonable objects of erring adoration. But 
when it was found possible to make superstition a profitable 
craft, then departed heroes and kings were exalted into gods. 
Delirious fancy soon added others so profusely, that the air, 
the sea, the rivers, the woods, and the earth became so 
stocked with divinities, that it was easier, as an ancient sage 
remarked, to find a deity than a man. 


But if we meditate more profoundly on the subject, we 
may infer that polytheism and idolatry were in part the 
effects of human pride throwing off all superior tuition ; and 
in part the natural progress of the human mind towards 
knowledge, and in reasoning. They were erroneous deduc- 
tions, but they were, in some of their authors, mistaken efforts 
at improvement. As the intellect became more exercised, and 
the sensibilities awakened ; and as vice began to spread, the 
idea arose in some that the adored Supreme was so great, and 
man so unworthy, that human beings, or concerns, could not 
be objects of his divine attention. In others a desire began 
to withdraw from the sovereignty of a Being so perfect and 
so holy, that the pleasures of the body might be indulged 
with less restriction and remorse. Hence every supposition 
was encouraged that favoured the wish of mankind to have 
deities more resembling their own imperfections ; and the 
theory of our world being consigned to inferior divinities 
more like our feeble selves, was a welcomed suggestion, be- 
cause it attempted to reconcile the perception of the exalted 
majesty of the Deity with the feeling of the daily misconduct 
and follies of the human race. Mankind would neither deny 
his existence, nor disbelieve his providence, nor could they 
live in comfort without believing both ; and polytheism was 
therefore patronised by the refining and self-indulging reli- 
gious intellect, as a supposition calculated to unite both these 
truths, and to satisfy the doubts of the scrupulous and in- 
quisitive. At first the new fancies were venerated as the 
ministers and delegates of the Supreme. But as new dis- 
tinctions and caprices succeeded, and especially after the 
custom of allegorising natural phenomena prevailed, the in- 
vented deities were multiplied, and connected with all the 
departments and agencies of nature. Hero-worship emerged 
from their belief of the soul's immortality, and was in time 
added to that excess of posthumous gratitude and veneration 
to which mankind are always prone. These follies seem to 
have been a natural consequence of man's deserting the Divine 
guidance, as we cannot have any authentic knowledge of the 
creation, providence, and will of an Almighty Ruler but from 
his own revelations of these awful mysteries. The human 
race had no choice but to believe and to preserve faithfully 
all that he had communicated to them, and to be governed 
by its tuition. But when once the taste and habit had be- 
come popular, of turning from His grand and simple truths 
to create and prefer the speculations of Man's own ignorance 
and conjecture, error and falsehood were the inevitable results 

TO BOOK II. 187 

of such unfortunate misconduct ; the mind became blinded CHAP. 
and 'debased by its own theories, and the world was filled 
with superstition and absurdity. 

The use of idols was an attempt to solace the mind, to 
excite the memory, interest the feelings, and fix the attention 
by a visible image of the invisible Omnipresence. In all re- 
ligious countries they have been found to be efficacious for 
these purposes, especially with the less intellectual. But in 
all, both polytheism and idolatry tend at last to fix the mind 
almost exclusively on their own false imaginations, to deprave 
the reasoning faculty, to supersede the adoration of the uni- 
versal Parent, and to occasion the most deplorable supersti- 
tions and tyrannical persecutions. The continuing advance 
of the human mind then led to the abolition of both these 
fictitious systems as steadily as it originally suggested them. 
When our Saxon ancestors had settled themselves in Eng- 
land they used both. They had many gods, and they vene- 
rated their images ; but that the progress of their manly 
intellect was fast operating to shake the attachment to the 
national superstitions, we may infer from the candour with 
which they listened to the first Christian missionaries, and 
from the rapidity with which they adopted the Christian 

There is a beauty in the name appropriated by the Saxon 
and German nations to the Deity which is not equalled by 
any other, except his most venerated Hebrew appellation. 
The Saxons call him GOD, which is literally THE GOOD ; 
the same word signifying both the Deity and his most 
endearing quality. 

The peculiar system of the Anglo-Saxons is too imper- 
fectly known to us for its stages to be discriminated, or its 
progress detailed. It appears to have been of a very mixed 
nature, and to have been so long in existence as to have 
attained a regular establishment and much ceremonial pomp. 

That when they settled in Britain they had idols, altars, 
temples, and priests ; that their temples were surrounded with 
inclosures ; that they were profaned if lances were thrown 
into them ; and that it was not lawful for a priest to bear 
arms, or to ride but on a mare ; we learn from the unques- 
tionable authority of our venerable Bede. l 

1 Bede, lib. ii. c. 13. et 9.; lib. ii. c. 6. Pope Gregory mentions, that if their 
pagan temples were well built, they might be used for Christian churches, lib. i. 
c. 30. Their name for idol was plS, and for altar pigbeb, the table or bed of the 
idol. The word PIS also signifies w ar, and this may imply either that the idol was 
a warrior or the god of war. 


Some of the subjects of their adoration we find in their 
names for the days of the week. 

Sunday, or Sunnan bsej, is the Sun's day. 

Monday, or GQonan baeg, is Moon's day. 

Tuesday, or Tiper baej, is Tiw's day. 

Wednesday, or UUobnef baeg, is Woden's day. 

Thursday, or Thunpef bsej, is Thunre's day. 

Friday, or Fngebsej, is Friga's day. 

Saturday, or Setepnej* baej, is Seterne's day. 2 

Of the sun and moon we can only state, that their sun was 
a female deity, and their moon was of the male sex 3 ; of 
their Tiw, we know nothing but his name. Woden was the 

freat ancestor from whom they deduced their genealogies, 
t will be hereafter shown that the calculations from the 
Saxon pedigrees place Woden in the third century. 4 Of the 
Saxon Woden, his wife Friga, and of Thunr, or Thor, we 
know very little, and it would not be very profitable to detail 
all the reveries which have been published about them. The 
Odin, Frigg, or Friga, and Thor, of the Northmen, were 
obviously the same characters ; though we may hesitate to 
ascribe to the Saxon deities the apparatus and mythology 
which the Northern scalds of subsequent ages have transmitted 
to us from Denmark, Iceland, and Norway. Woden was 
the predominant idol of the Saxon adoration, but we can 

2 I take the Saxon names of the days of the week from the Cotton MS. Tiberius 
A. 3. They may be also found in the Saxon Gospels, p. 24 S. 72 M. 55 T. 48 W. 

49 Th. 28 F. 52 S. As Thoji means also a mountain, his name may have some 
connection with the ancient Eastern custom of worshipping on mountains and hills. 
He was called the god of thunder ; hence is named Thunne. The word Thop 
seems to imply the mountain' deity. 

3 The same peculiarity of genders prevailed in the ancient Northern language. 
Edda Semundi, p. 14. It is curious, that in the passage of the Arabian poet, cited 
by Pocock, in not. ad Carmen Tograi, p. 13., we meet with a female sun and 
masculine moon. The distich is, 

Nee nomen femininum soli dedecus, 
Nee masculinum lunae gloria. 

50 the Caribbees think the moon a man, and therefore make it masculine, and call 
it Noneim. Breton's Gram. Carabb. p. 20. So the Hindu Chandra, or moon, is 
a male deity. 2 A. R. 127. The priests of Ceres called the moon Apis, and also 
Taurus. Porph. deAnt. Reg. 119. Caesar mentions, that the Germans worshipped 
the sun and moon, lib. vi. c. 19. In the Saxon treatise on the vernal equinox we 
have their peculiar genders of these bodies displayed. When the sun goeth at 
evening under this earth, then is the earth's breadth between us and the sun ; so 
that we have not her light till she rises up at the other end." Of the moon it says, 
" always he turns his ridge to the sun."" The moon hath no light but of the sun, 
and he is of all stars the lowest." Cotton MS. Tib. A. iii. p. 63. 

Perhaps hleoihop, the Saxon for oracle, may have some reference to Thoji. 
Dleo means a shady place, or an asylum. Dleothoji is literally the retirement of 
Thon. Dleothon cpybe means the saying of an oracle, Dleothojijtebe the place of 
an oracle. 

TO BOOK II. 189 

state no more of him but so far as we describe the Odin of CHAP. 
the Danes and Norwegians. 5 IIL 

The names of two of the Anglo-Saxon goddesses have been 
transmitted to us by Bede. He mentions RHEDA, to whom 
they sacrificed in March, which, from her rites, received the 
appellation of Rheb-monath ; and EOSTKE, whose festivities 
were celebrated in April, which thence obtained the name of 
Gortpe-monath. 6 Her name is still retained to express the 
season of our great paschal solemnity : and thus the memory 
of one of the idols of our ancestors will be perpetuated as 
long as our language and country continue. Their name for 
a goddess was jybena ; and as the word is applied as a proper 
name instead of Vesta 7 , it is not unlikely that they had a 
peculiar divinity so called. 

The idol adored in Heiligland, one of the islands originally 
occupied by the Saxons, was FOSETE, who was so celebrated 
that the place became known by his name ; it was called 
Foreterlanb. Temples were there built to him, and the 
country was deemed so sacred, that none dared to touch any 
animal which fed on it, nor to draw water from a fountain 
which flowed there, unless in awful silence. In the eighth 
century, Willebrord, a converted Anglo-Saxon, born in Nor- 

5 Without imitating those who have lately fancied that there never was an Odin, 
and that he is merely a mythological personage, the name of a deity, we may re- 
mark, that the date of Odin's appearance in the North cannot be accurately ascer- 
tained. This difficulty has arisen partly from the confusion in which, from their 
want of chronology, all the incidents of the North, anterior to the eighth century, 
are involved, and partly from the wild and discordant fictions of the scalds, who 
have clouded the history of Odin by their fantastic mythology. The same obscurity 
attends the heroes of all countries who have been deified after death, and upon 
whose memory the poets have taken the trouble to scatter the weeds as well as the 
flowers of their fancy. The human existence of Odin appears to me to be satis- 
factorily proved by two facts : 1st. The founders of the Anglo-Saxon Octarchy de- 
duced their descent from Odin by genealogies in which the ancestors are distinctly 
mentioned up to him. These genealogies have the appearance of greater authen- 
ticity by not being the servile copies of each other ; they exhibit to us different 
individuals in the successive stages of the ancestry of each, and they claim different 
children of Odin as the founders of the lines. These genealogies are also purely 
Anglo-Saxon. 2d, The other circumstance is, that the Northern chroniclers and 
scalds derive their heroes also from Odin by his different children. Snorre, in his 
Ynglinga Saga, gives a detailed history of Sweden regularly from him ; and though 
the Northerns cannot be suspected of having borrowed their genealogies from the 
Anglo-Saxons, yet they agree in some of the children ascribed to Odin. This 
coincidence between the genealogies preserved in their new country of men who 
left the North in the fifth and sixth centuries, and the genealogies of the most 
celebrated heroes who acted in the North during the subsequent ages, could not 
have arisen if there never had been an Odin who left such children. I have already 
expressed my opinion, that the Anglo-Saxon genealogies lead us to the most pro- 
bable date of Odin's arrival in the North. 

6 Bede, de Temporum Ratione, in his works, vol. ii. p. 81. 
T See Saxon Dictionary, voc. Dybena. 


CHAP, thumbria, who, under the auspices of his uncle Boniface, went 
IIL missionary to Friesland, endeavoured to destroy the super- 
' ' stition, though Kadbod, the fierce king of the island, devoted 
to a cruel death all who violated it. Willebrord, fearless of 
the consequences, baptized three men in the fountain, in- 
voking the Trinity, and caused some cattle who were feeding 
there to be killed for the food of his companions. The sur- 
rounding pagans expected them to have been struck dead or 
insane. 8 

That the Angles had a goddess whom they called Hertha, 
or mother Earth, we learn from Tacitus. He says, that in 
an island in the ocean there was a grove, within which was 
a vehicle covered with a garment, which it was permitted to 
the priest alone to touch. The goddess was presumed to be 
within it, and was carried, by cows, with great veneration. 
Joy, festivity, and hospitality were then universal. Wars 
and weapons were forgotten, and peace and quiet reigned, 
then only known, then only loved, until the priest returned 
the goddess to her temple, satiated with mortal converse. 
The vehicle, the garment, and the goddess herself were 
. washed in a secret lake. Slaves ministered, who were after- 
wards drowned. 9 

The Saxons dreaded an evil being, whom they named 
Faul 10 ; some kind of female power they called an elf, who 
is very frequently used as a complimentary simile to their 
ladies. Thus Judith is said to be elp rcinu, shining as an 
elf. 11 They also venerated stones, groves, and fountains. 12 
The continental Saxons respected the lady Hera, a fancied 
being, who was believed to fly about in the air in the week 
after their Jule, or between our Christmas and Epiphany. 
Abundance was thought to follow her visit. 13 We may add 

8 Alcuini vita S. Willebrord in his works, p. 1438., or in Sanct. Hist. Col. vol. 
vi. p. 130. Charles Martel conquered Radbod, and added the island to his domin- 
ions, ibid. Saint Liudger, who died in 809, destroyed the temples of Fosete. See 
his life by Altfridus, who was alive in 848, in Act. Sanct. Bolland. March, torn, 
iii. p. 646. 

9 Tacit, de Mor. German. 

10 That Faul might not hurt, was part of one of their exorcisms. See Sax. Diet, 
voce Faul. 

11 So Judith, p. 21. 

12 See Meginhard. Conrad Usperg. Wilkins, 83. Linden. Gloss. 1473. 
Gobelin Ap. Meibom. Irminsula, p. 12. We may add that Bede, in his com- 
mentary on Luke, mentions demons appearing to men as females, and to women 
as men, whom, he says, the Gauls call Dusii, the presumed origin of our word deuce. 
Hincmar, in Bib. Mag. Pat. xvi. 561. But he does not say that these demons were 

t of the Saxon paganism. There were two personages feared in the North, 

m we may mention here, as words from their names have become familiar to 

ourselves ; one was Ochus Bochus, a magician and demon, the other was Neccus, 

TO BOOK II. 191 

that Hilde, one of their terms for battle, seems to allude to a CHAP. 
war-goddess of that name. { , 

That the Saxons had many idols appears from several 
authors. Gregory, in the eighth century, addressing the old 
Saxons, exhorts them to abandon their idols, whether of gold, 
silver, brass, stone, or any other kind. 14 Hama, Flinnus, 
Siba, and Zernebogus, or the black, malevolent, ill-omened 
deity, are said to have occupied part of their superstitions, 
but we cannot be answerable for more than their names. 15 
A Saxon Venus has been also mentioned ; she is exhibited as 
standing naked in a car, with myrtle round her head, a lighted 
torch in her breast, and the figure of the world in her right 
hand. But this description implies too much refinement in 
its allusions, and the authority is not decisive. 16 

The account of Crodus has stronger marks of authenticity ; 
it seems to have been preserved in the Brunswick Chronicle, 
from which more recent historians have taken their descrip- 
tions. The figure of Crodus was that of an old man clothed 
in a white tunic, with a linen girdle, with floating ends. His 
head was uncovered : his right hand held a vessel, full of 
roses and other flowers, swimming in water; his left hand 
supported the wheel of a car ; his naked feet stood on a rough 
scaly fish like a perch. 17 It was raised on a pedestal. It was 
found on the Mount Hercinius, in the fortress of Harsbourg, 
which was anciently called Satur-bourg 18 , or the fortified hill 
of Satur. Hence this was probably the idol of Satur, from 
whom our Saturday is named. 19 

That the Saxons had the dismal custom of human sacrifices 
on some occasions, cannot be doubted. Tacitus mentions it 

a malign deity who frequented the waters. If any perished in whirlpools, or by 
cramp, or bad swimming, he was thought to be seized by Neccus. Steel was sup- 
posed to expel him, and therefore all who bathed threw some little pieces of steel 
in the water for that purpose. Verel. Suio-Goth. p. 13. It is probable that we 
here see the origin of hocus pocus, and Old Nick. 

14 Bib. Mag. Pat. xvi. 101. 

15 Fabricius, Hist. Sax. p. 62. Verstigan describes the idol Flynt as the image 
of death in a. sheet, holding a torch, and placed on a great flint-stone. He was also 
represented as a man in a great cloak, with a lion on his head and shoulders, and 
carrying a torch. His figure was sometimes more deformed with monstrous feet. 
It had a crown on its head. Montf. Ant. Exp. c. 10. 

16 Gyraldus says he read of this idol in the Saxon histories. Worm. Mon. p. 19. 

17 Albinus, Nov. Sax. Hist. p. 70. and Fabricius, p. 61. 

18 Montfaucon, Ant. Exp. c. 10. He says, that at the entrance of this fortress 
the place was, in his time, shown where this image stood. 

19 The descriptions of Prono, of the three-headed Trigla, oflporevith with five 
heads, and Svanto with four, of Radegast with a bull's head in his breast, and an 

?le on his head, mentioned by Montfaucon from Grosser's History of Lusatia, 
to be more Oriental than Teutonic, and may have come into Germany from 
the latter Sarmatian tribes. 


CHAP, as a feature of all the Germans, that on certain days they 
HI. ' offered human victims to their chief deity. Sidonius attests, 

' ' ' that on their return from a depredation the Saxons immolated 

one tenth of their captives, selected by lot. 20 We have 
already mentioned, that for sacrilege the offender was sacri- 
ficed to the god whose temple he had violated ; and Ennodius 
states of the Saxons, Heruli, and Francs, that they were 
believed to appease their deities with human blood. 21 But 
whether human sacrifices were an established part of their 
superstitious ritual, or whether they were but an occasional 
immolation of captives or criminals, cannot be decided. Nor 
is the distinction material. 22 

Of the rites of the Anglo-Saxons we cannot learn many 
particulars. In the month of February they offered cakes to 
their deities, which occasioned the month to be called Sol 
monath. September, from its religious ceremonies, was 
denominated Halig monath, the holy month. November 
was marked, as the month of sacrifices, Blot monath, because 
at this period they devoted to their gods the cattle that they 
slew. 23 As it was their custom to use during the winter 
salted or dried meat, perhaps November, or Slot monath, 
was the period when the winter provision was prepared and 

Their celebrated festival of Zxeol, Jule, or Yule, which 
occurred at the period of our Christmas, was a combination 
of religion and conviviality. December was called enjia 
Zreola, or before the Lreol. January was eptejia Zreola, or 
after it. As one of the Saxon names for Christmas day was 
Ireola, or Eeohol bej, it is likely that this was the time when 
the festival commenced. This day was the first of their 
year ; and as Bede derives it from the turning of the sun, 

Tac. de Moribus Germ. Sid. Apoll. ep. vi. lib. 8. Herodotus says of the 
Scythians, the presumed ancestors of the Saxons, that they sacrificed to Mars every 
hundredth man of their prisoners. Melp. 

21 Ennodius in Mag. Bib. Pol. 15. p. 306. 

22 Of the human sacrifices of the Northmen we have more express testimony. 
Dithmar apud Steph. 92. says, that in Seland, in January, they slew ninety-nine 
men, and as many horses, dogs, and cocks, to appease their deities. Snorre men- 
tions a king of Sweden who immolated nine of his sons to Odin, to obtain an ex- 
tension of life, i. p. 34. He also states that the Swedes sacrificed one of their 
sovereigns to Odin, to obtain plenty, ib. p. 56. When the famine began, oxen were 
offered up ; in the following autumn, they proceeded to human victims, and at last 
destroyed their king. Dudo Quint, says, they slew cattle and men in honour of 
Thor. For other instances of human sacrifices in the North, see Herv. Saga, 97. ; 
Ara Frode, 63. 145. ; Kristni Saga, 93. 

23 Bede, de Temporum Ratione, p. 81. See a good description of a Danish 
sacrifice in Snorre, Saga Hak. God. c. 16. 



and the days beginning then to lengthen 24 ; as it was also CHAP. 
called mother night, and as their sun was worshipped as a . IIL 
female, I suspect that this was a festival dedicated to the sun. 

But the Saxon idol, whose celebrity on the continent was 
the most eminent, was the IRMINSULA. 25 

The name of this venerated idol has been spelt with vary- 
ing orthography. The Saxon Chronicle, published at Mentz 
in 1492, calls it Armensula, which accords with the pronun- 
ciation of modern Saxony. The appellation adhered to by 
Meibomius, the most elaborate investigator of this curious 
object of Saxon idolatry, is Irminsula, 26 

It stood at Eresberg, on the Dimele. 27 This place the 
Saxon Chronicle above mentioned calls Marsburg. The 
Rhyming Chronicle of the thirteenth century writes it Mers- 
berg, which is the modern name. 28 

Its temple was spacious, elaborate, and magnificent. The 
image was raised upon a marble column. 29 

The predominant figure was an armed warrior. Its right 
hand held a banner, in which a red rose was conspicuous ; its 
left presented a balance. The crest of its helmet was a cock ; 
on its breast was engraven a bear, and the shield depending 
from its shoulders exhibited a lion in a field full of flowers. 30 
The expressions of Adam of Bremen seem to intimate that it 
was of wood, and that the place where it stood had no roof. 
It was the largest idol of all Saxony, and according to Rol- 
winck, a writer of the fifteenth century, whose authorities 
are not known to us, though the warlike image was the 
principal figure, three others were about it. 31 From the 
chronicle called the Vernacular Chronicle, we learn that the 
other Saxon temples had pictures of the Irminsula. 32 

Priests of both sexes attended the temple. The women 
applied themselves to divination and fortune-telling; the 
men sacrificed, and often intermeddled with political affairs, 
as their sanction was thought to insure success. 

24 Bede, de Temporum Ratione. I see that syl runne once occurs in a hymn, 
"Let the sun shine." See Diet voc. Gyl. They who desire to see the opinions 
which have been given of the derivation of the keol will be assisted by Hickes, 
Dissert. Ep. p. 212, &c. 

25 The most complete account of this idol is in the Irminsula Saxonica, by Henry 
Meibomius. It is in the third volume of his Rerum German. Hist, published by 
the two Meibomii. 

26 Meibom. p. 6. It has been called Irminsulus, Irminsul, Irmindsul, Erminsul, 
Hermansaul, Hormensul, Hermesuel, Hermensul, and Adurmensul, ibid. 

27 Ibid. c. ii. p. 6. a Ibid . p> 7. 
29 Ibid. c. iii. p. 8. 

80 Ibid. p. 9. The particular descriptions of this idol are all taken from the 
Saxon Chronicle printed at Mentz. 

31 Meibom. c. iii. p. 9. Ibid. 

VOL. I. 



The priests of the Irminsula at Eresberg appointed the 
gow graven, the governors of the districts of continental 
Saxony. They also named the judges, who annually decided 
the provincial disputes. There were sixteen of thesejudges : 
the eldest, and therefore the chief, was called Gravius ; the 
youngest, Frono, or attendant ; the rest were Freyerichter, 
or free judges. They had jurisdiction over seventy-two 
families. Twice a year, in April and October, the Gravius 
and the Frono went to Eresberg, and there made a placa- 
tory offering of two wax lights and nine pieces of money. 
If any of the judges died in the year, the event was notified 
to the priests, who, out of the seventy-two families, chose a 
substitute. In the open air, before the door of the person 
appointed, his election was seven times announced to the 
people in a loud voice, and this was his inauguration. 

In the hour of battle, the priests took their favourite image 
from its column, and carried it to the field. After the con- 
flict, captives and the cowardly of their own army were 
immolated to the idol. 33 Meibomius quotes two stanzas of 
an ancient song, in which the son of a Saxon king, who had 
lost a battle, complains that he was delivered to the priest 
to be sacrificed. 34 He adds, that, according to some writers, 
the ancient Saxons, and chiefly their military, on certain 
solemn days, clothed in armour, and brandishing iron cestus's, 
rode round the idol, and, sometimes dismounting to kneel 
before it, bowed down and murmured out their prayers for 
help and victory. 35 

To whom this great image was erected, is a question full 
of uncertainty. Because ~E,f>w$ approached the sound of 
Irminsul, and Apy$ that of Eresberg, it has been referred to 
Mars and Mercury. 36 Some considered it a memorial of 
the celebrated Arminius 37 ; and one has laboured to prove 

33 Meib. c. iii. p. 10. Tacitus mentions generally of the Germans, that they 
detached their idols and banners from their sacred groves, and carried them to the 
field of battle. Germ. s. 7. 

34 The verses are : 

Sol ich nun in Gottes fronen hende 
In meinen aller besten tagen 
Geben werden, und sterben so elende 
Das musz ich wol hochlich klagen. 

Wen mir das glucke fuget hette 
Des streites einen guten ende, 
Dorffte ich nicht leisten diese \vette 
Netzen mit blut die hire wende. 

Meibom. p. 10, 

35 Meibom. p. 11. se j^^ c v> p> jj, 
37 The names to this supposition are very respectable. 

TO BOOK II. 195 

that it was an hieroglyphical effigy, intended for no deity in CHAP. 
particular. 38 . HL . 

In 772, this venerated object of Saxon superstition was 
thrown down and broken, and its fane destroyed by Charle- 
magne. For three days the work of demolition was carried 
on by one part of the army, while the other remained under 
arms. Its immense wealth and precious vessels were dis- 
tributed to the conquerors, or devoted to pious uses. 39 

The fate of the column of the image after its eversion may 
be noticed. 40 It was thrown into a waggon, and buried on 
the Weser, in a place where Corbey afterwards stood. It 
was found again in the reign after Charlemagne, and was 
transported beyond the Weser. The Saxons attempting to 
rescue it, a battle ensued on the spot, which was afterwards 
called Armensula, from the incident. The Saxons were 
repulsed, and, to prevent further chances, the column was 
hastily thrown into the Inner. A church being afterwards 
built in the vicinity, at Hillesheim, it was conveyed into it 
after much religious lustration, and placed in the choir, where 
it long served to hold their lights at their festivals. 41 For 
many ages it remained neglected and forgotten, till at length 
Meibomius saw it, and a canon of the church, friendly to his 
studies, had its rust and discoloration taken off. 42 

Idolatrous nations are eminently superstitious. The prone- 
ness of mankind to search into futurity attempts its gratifica- 

38 Joannes Goropius Beccanius is the person whose reveries are given at length 
in Meibomius, 13 17. We may suggest as a new opinion, that Hermansul lite- 
rally expresses " The Pillar of the Lord the Moon, or of the Lord Man," whom the 
Germans, according to Tacitus, revered. As the moon was a male deity, Mannus 
and the moon may have been the same person. From the inscription mentioned 
below, it was clearly their war god. The similarity between Irmin and E^UTJS may 
have led Tacitus to mention that the Germans chiefly worshipped Mercury, s. 9. 

39 Meibom. p. 1 8. The image is said to have been long preserved in the monas- 
tery at Corbey. It then bore this inscription : " Formerly I was the leader and 
god of the Saxons. The people of war adored me. The nation who worshipped 
me governed the field of battle." Ibid. I have been favoured by an intelligent 
correspondent with some reasons founded on this Inscription and other grounds 
for considering the Hermansul to " have been connected with the worship of Odin, 
as the God of Battles, and the founder of the Saxons' political and religious estab- 
lishments." The opinion is well worthy of consideration. 

40 It was about eleven feet long, and the circumference of the base was about 
twelve cubits. The base was of rude stone, or of gravel- stone. The column was 
marble, of a light red colour. Its belts were of orichalchus ; the upper and lower 
gilt, and also the one between these and the crown, which is also gilt, as is the 
upper circle incumbent on it, which has three heroic verses. The whole work was 
surrounded with iron rails, dentated to preserve it from injury. Meibom. p. 31. 
He has given a plate of it. 

41 Meibom. p. 19. and p. 31. 

42 Ibid. p. 19. Our ancient Irmin-street has been lately conjectured to have 
been derived from the name of this idol. If so, the inference would be reasonable 
that it was worshipped also in England. 


tion, in the eras of ignorance, by the fallacious use of 
auguries, lots, and omens. 

All the German nations were addicted to these absurdities ; 
and the account which Tacitus relates of them generally is 
applied by Meginhard to the ancient Saxons. They were 
infatuated to believe that the voices and flights of birds were 
interpreters of the Divine will. Horses were supposed to 
neigh from celestial inspiration, and they decided their public 
deliberations by the wisdom of lots. LJhey cut a small branch 
of a fruit-tree into twigs, marked them, and scattered them 
at random on a white vest. The priest, if it were a public 
council, or the father, at a private consultation, prayed, 
gazed at heaven, drew each three times, and interpreted 
according to the mark previously impressed. If the omen 
were adverse, the council was deferred?] 13 

To explore the fate of an impending battle, they selected 
a captive of the nation opposing, and appointed a chosen 
Saxon to fight with him. They judged of their future victory 
or defeat by the issue of this duel. 44 

The notion which from Chaldea pervaded both East and 
West, that the celestial luminaries influenced the fortunes of 
mankind, operated powerfully on the Saxon mind. Affairs 
were thought to be undertaken with better chance on peculiar 
days, and the full or new moon was the indication of the 
auspicious season. 45 

Magic, the favourite delusion of ignorant man, the inven- 
tion of his pride or malignity, or the resort of his imbecility, 
prevailed among the Anglo-Saxons. Even one of their kings 
chose to meet the Christian missionaries in the open air, 
because he fancied that magical arts had peculiar power 
within a house. 46 

Of the speculative principles of the Anglo-Saxon Paganism 
we have no written evidence. But of the religion of the 
Northmen, which prevailed in or near the parts which the 
Angles and Saxons inhabited about the Elbe, and was the 
religion of the Northmen colonies of England, we have suffi- 
cient documents remaining. In these we probably contem- 
plate the substance of the faith of our rude forefathers. In 
some respects the polytheism of the north was one of the 

43 Tacit de morib. Germ, and Meginhard, p. 39.; and see Bede, p. 144. 147. 
In the law of the Frisians there is a curious order of determining by lot, with 
twigs, who was guilty of a homicide, when it occurred in a popular tumult. See 
it in Lindenb. i. p. 496. Alfred, in his version of Eede, says, they hluton nub 
fcanum, they cast lots with twigs, p. 624. 

14 Meginhard, p. 39. Ibid> 

46 Bede, i. c. 25. p. 61. 


TO BOOK II. 197 

most rational forms of its erroneous theory ; and, though CHAP. 
inferior in taste and imagination, displays on the whole a 
vigour and an improvement of mind beyond the classical 
mythology. The Edda, though wilder, has better theology 
than much of Ovid's Metamorphoses. 

It is remarkable, that the Northmen venerated three prin- 
cipal supreme deities connected with each other by relation- 
ship. Odin, whom they called All-father, or the Universal 
Parent ; Freya, his wife ; and their son Thor. Idols of these 
three were placed in their celebrated temple at Upsal. 47 Of 
these the Danes, like the Anglo-Saxons, paid the highest 
honours to Odin ; the Norwegians and Icelanders to Thor ; 
and the Swedes to Freya. 48 

In the system of the Northmen's religion, we see the 

3at principles of the ancient theism, mingled with the 
Iditions of allegory, polytheism, and idolatry. Odin's first 
name is the All-father, though many others were subjoined 
to this in the process of time. He is described in the Edda 
as the First of the Gods; " He lives for ever : he governs all 
his kingdom, both the small parts and the great : he made 
heaven, and the earth, and the air : he made man, and gave 
him a spirit which shall live even after the body shall have 
vanished. Then the just and the well-deserving shall dwell 
with him in a place called Gimle; but bad men shall go 
to Hela." 49 In other parts it adds: " When the All-Father 
sits on his supreme throne, he surveys with his eyes all 
the world and the manners of all men." 50 "Odin is the 
first and the most ancient : he governs all things ; and 
though the rest of the gods are powerful, yet they serve 
him as children their father. He is called All-father, be- 
cause he is the father of all the gods." 51 Thor is represented 
as the son of Odin and Freya, and the Earth is called Odin's 
daughter. 5a 

They had some remarkable traditions preserved in their 
ancient Voluspa. One, that the earth and heavens were 
preceded by a state of non-entity. 53 Another, that at a 

47 Ad Brem. 

48 Mallet, Nort. Antiq. vol. i. p. 97. So in the Edda Gangler Is represented as 
beholding three thrones, each above the other. The lowest was called the lofty 
one ; the second his equal ; the highest was named " the third." Suppl. Nor. Ant. 
vol. ii. p. 282. 

49 Edda, Hist. Prim. p. 283. See the twelve names given to Odin, p. 285. and 
forty-six in p. 305. 

50 Edda, Hist. Sext. p. 292. 5I Edda, Hist. Duod. p. 305. 

52 Edda, p. 292. 

53 The words of the Voluspa are : " At the beginning of time there was nothing : 
*"uther land, nor sea, nor foundations below. The earth was nowhere to be found ; 


CHAP, destined period the earth and all the universe would be 
IIL destroyed by fire. This catastrophe was connected with a 

' ' ' being, that was to direct it, whom they called Surtur, or the 

black one. 54 Till this day Loke, their principle of evil, was 
to remain in the cave and in chains of iron to which he was 
consigned. 55 A new world is to emerge at this period ; the 
goodwill be happy. 56 The gods will sit in Judgment, and 
the wicked will be condemned to a dreary habitation. 57 The 
Edda ends with a description of this final period, which 
presents it to us in a more detailed shape : 

" Snow will rush from all the quarters of the world. Three 
winters without a summer will be followed by three others, and 
then wars will pervade the whole world. Brother, father, son, 
will perish by each other's hands. The wolf will devour the sun ; 
another, the moon. The stars will fall from heaven. The earth 
trembles. Mountains and trees are torn up. The sea rushes over 
the earth. Midgard the great serpent hastens over it. The ship 
made of the nails of dead men floats. The giant Hrymer is its 
pilot. The wolf Fenris opens his enormous mouth ; the lower jaw 
touching the earth ; the upper, the heavens. The serpent breathes 
poison over heaven, and the sons of Muspell ride forward : Surtur 
leads them. Before him, behind him, a glowing fire spreads. 
His sword radiates like the sun. From their course the bridge of 
heaven is broken. They move towards a plain, and Fenris and 
Midgard follow. There Loke and Hrymer meet them with all the 
infernal genii. The hosts of the sons of Muspell glitter round. 
Heimdal sounds vehemently his tremendous trumpet to awaken 
the gods. Odin consults. The ash Ygdrasil trembles. Every 
thing in heaven and earth is in fear. The gods and heroes arm. 
Odin, with his golden helmet, moves against Fenris. Thor assails 
Midgard. Frey falls beaten down by Surtur. The dog Garmer 
attacks Tyr, and both perish. Thor kills the serpent, but dies 
also. And the wolf devours Odin. Vidar seizes the monster's 
jaws, and at last renders them asunder. Loke and Heimdal slay 
each other. Surtur then darts his flames over all the earth, and 
the whole universe is consumed." 58 

These traditions correspond with the idea mentioned in the 

nor the heaven above. There was an infinite abyss, and grass nowhere." Edda, 
Hist. Prim. p. 284. 

54 The Edda thus describes him : " First of all was Muspells-heim. It is lucid, 
glowing, and impervious to strangers. There Surtur rules, and sits in the ex- 
tremity of the earth. He holds a flaming sword, and will come at the end of the 
world and conquer all the gods and burn the unwise." Edda, p. 286. The most 
ancient and oracular Voluspa speaks of this period. See it annexed to the Appendix. 
Its latter part alludes to these incidents. 

55 Edda, p. 347. M See the Voluspa in the last stanza. 

" The same events are mentioned in the Vafthrudnismal, Edd. Sem, p. 28 33. 
53 Edda, last chapter, p. 347 350. It then proceeds to describe the new world. 

TO BOOK II. 199 

beginning of this work, that the barbaric nations of Europe CHAP. 
have sprung from the branches of more civilised states. 

Allegory, disturbed imagination, mysticism, and perverted ' 
reasoning, have added to these traditions many wild and 
absurd tales, whose meaning we cannot penetrate. The 
formation of Nifl-heim, or hell, from whose rivers came frozen 
vapours ; and Muspeil-heim, or the world of fire, from which 
lightning and flames issued. The gelid vapours melting from 
the heat into drops : one of these becoming the giant Ymer 59 , 
and another, the cow .ZEdumla, to nourish him ; who by 
licking off the rocks their salt and hoar frost, became a beauti- 
ful being from whose son Bore, their Odin, and the gods 
proceeded 60 ; while from the feet of the wicked Ymer sprang 
the Giants of the Frost. The sons of Bore slaying Ymer, 
and so much blood issuing from his wounds as to drown ajl 
the families of the Giants of the Frost, excepting one who 
was preserved in his bark. 61 The recreation of the earth 
from the flesh of Ymer ; his perspiration becoming the seas ; 
his bones the mountains ; his hair the vegetable races ; his 
brains the clouds ; and his head the heavens. 62 All these 
display that mixture of reasoning to account for the origin of 
things ; of violent allegory to express its deductions ; of con- 
fused tradition, and distorting fancy, which the mythologies 
of all nations have retained. 

We have already remarked, that the general term used by 
the Anglo-Saxons to express the deity in the abstract was 
God, which also implied the Good. This identity of phrase 
carries the imagination to those primeval times, when the 
Divine Being was best known to his creatures by his gracious 
attributes, was the object of their love, and was adored for 
his beneficence. But when they departed from the pure 
belief of the first eras, and bent their religion to suit their 
habits, new reasonings, and their wishes ; then systems arose, 
attempting to account for the production of things, with- 
out his preceding eternity or even agency, and to describe 
his own origination and destruction. Hence the Northmen 
cosmogonists taught the rising of the world of frost from the 
north, and of the world of fire from the south ; a formation 
by their united agency of a race of evil beings through 
Ymer, and of deities through the cow -ZEdumla ; a warfare 
between the divine and the wicked race ; the death of Ymer ; 
the fabrication of the earth and heaven out of his body ; and 

59 Edda, Hist. Tert. p. 288. Edda, Hist. Quart, p. 289. 

61 Edda, Hist. Quin. p. 290. He was called Bergelraer. 

62 The ancient verse, quoted in Edda, p. 291. 

o 4 


the final coming of the powers of the world of fire to 
destroy all things, and even the deities themselves. The 
mixture of materialism, atheism, and superstition visible in 
these notions, shows the divergency of the human mind 
from its first great truths, and its struggles to substitute 
its own phantoms and perverted reasonings instead. All 
polytheism and mythology seem to be an attempted com- 
promise between scepticism and superstition: the natural 
process of the mind beginning to know, resolved to question, 
unattending to its ignorance, and solving its doubts by its 
fancies, or concealing them by its allegories ; and shaping its 
faith to suit its inclinations. 

The most formidable feature of the ancient religion of the 
/& I Anglo-Saxons, as of all the Teutonic nations, was its separa- 
tion from the pure and benevolent virtues of life, and its in- 
dissoluble union with war and violence. It condemned the 
faithless and the perjured ; but it represented their Supreme 
Deity as the father of combats and slaughter, because those 
were his favourite children who fell in the field of battle. 
To them he assigned the heavenly Yalhall and Vingolfa, and 
promised to salute them after their death as his heroes. 63 
This tenet sanctified all the horrors of war, and connected 
all the hopes, energies, and passions of humanity with its 
continual prosecution. 

As the nation advanced in its active intellect, it began to 
be dissatisfied with its mythology. Many indications exist 
of this spreading alienation 64 , which prepared the Northern 
mind for the reception of the nobler truths of Christianity, 
though at first averse from them. 

63 Edda, Hist. Duod. p. 304. 

64 Bartholin has collected some instances which are worth the attention of those 
who study the history of human nature. One warrior says, that he trusted more 
to his strength and his arms than to Thor and Odin. Another exclaims :" I be- 
lieve not in images and daemons. I have travelled over many places, and have met 
giants and monsters, but they never conquered me. Therefore I have hitherto 
trusted to my own strength and courage." To a Christian who interrogated him, 
one of these fighters boasted, that he knew no religion, but relied on his own powers. 
For the same reason a father and his sons refused to sacrifice to the idols. When 
the king of Norway asked Gaukathor of what religion he was, he answered, I am 
neither Christian nor heathen ; neither I nor my companions have any other re- 
ligion than to trust to ourselves and our good fortune, which seem to be quite 
sufficient for us." Many others are recorded to have given similar answers ; de- 
spising their idols, yet not favouring Christianity. Another is mentioned as taking 
rather a middle path. I do not wish to revile the gods ; but Freya seems to me 
to be of no importance. Neither she nor Odin are any thing to us. " See Bartholin 
de Caus. p. 79 81. 




On the Menology and Literature of the PAGAN SAXONS. 

their computation of time, our ancestors reckoned by 
nights instead of days, and by winters instead of years. 
Their months were governed by the revolution of the moon. 
They began their year from the day which we celebrate as 
hristmas-day 1 , and that night they called Moedrenech, or 
lother night, from the worship or ceremonies, as Bede 
imagines, in which, unsleeping, they spent it. In the com- 
lon years, they appropriated three lunar months to each of 
four seasons. When their year of thirteen months oc- 
jurred, they added the superfluous month to their summer 
iason, and by that circumstance had then three months of 
name of Liba, which occasioned these years of thirteen 
lonths to be called Tju-Libi. The names of their months 
r ere these : 

Emit, or sejrtepa Eeola, answering to our January. 

8ol monath February. 

Rehb monath March. 

6oj*tup monach April. 

Tpi-milchi May. 

Liba June. 

Liba July. 

UUeipb, or UUenben monath August, 

pahj monath September. 

IDyntyp f$llech October. 

Bloch monach November, 

dull, or aeppa Ereola (before Zreol) December. 

They divided the year into two principal parts, summer and 
winter. The six months of the longer days were applied to 
the summer portion, the remainder to winter. Their winter 
season began at their month pyntyji pylleth, or October. 
The full moon in this month was the era or the commence- 
ment of this season, and the words pyntyp pylleth W ere meant 
to express the winter full moon. 

1 The Francs began the year in the autumnal season ; for Alcuin writes to 
Charlemagne : " I wonder why your youths begin the legitimate year from the 

month of September." Oper. p. 1496. 



CHAP. The reason of the names of their month of Sol monath, 
IV - Rehb monath, Gortun moiiath, Hahj monath, and Bloth 

' ' ' monath, we have already explained. Bede thus accounts 

for the others : 

Tni-milchi expressed that their cattle were then milked 
three times a day. Liba, signifies mild or navigable, be- 
cause in these months the serenity of the air is peculiarly 
favourable to navigation. Wenben monath implies that the 
month was usually tempestuous. The months of Ireola 
was so called because of the turning of the sun on this day, 
and the diminution of the length of the night. 2 One of 
the months preceded this change, the other followed it. 

It has been much doubted whether the Anglo-Saxons had 
the use of letters when they possessed themselves of England. 
It is certain that no specimen of any Saxon writing, anterior 
to their conversion to Christianity, can be produced. It can- 
not, therefore, be proved that they had letters by any direct 
evidence, and yet some reasons may be stated which make it 
not altogether safe to assert too positively, that our ancestors 
were ignorant of the art of writing in their pagan state. 

1st. Alphabetical characters were used by the Northern 
nations on the Baltic before they received Christianity 3 , 
and the origin of these is ascribed to Odin, who heads the 
genealogies of the ancient Saxon chieftains as well as those 
of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark; and who is stated to 
have settled in Saxony before he advanced to the North. 4 
Either the pagan Saxons were acquainted with the Runic 
characters, or they were introduced in the North after the 
fifth century, when the Saxons came to Britain, and before 
the middle of the sixth, when they are mentioned by For- 
tunatus, which is contrary to the history and traditions of 
the Scandinavian nations, and to probability. We may re- 
mark, that Run is used in Anglo-Saxon 5 , as Runar in the 

2 This valuable account of the Saxon year is in Bede, de Temporum Ratione, in 
the second volume of his works, in the edition of Cologne, p. 81. Other Saxon 
raenologies may be seen in Wanley, 185. and 109. ; and a comparative one of the 
Anglo-Saxons, Francs, Icelanders, Danes, and Swedes, is in Hickes's Gram. Anglo- 
Sax, p. 214. 

3 I would not attribute to the Runic letters an extravagant antiquity, but the 
inscriptions on rocks, &c. copied by Wormius in his Literaturse Runicse, and by 
Stephanius, in his notes on Saxo, proved that the Northerns used them before they 
received Christianity. 

4 Snorre, Ynglinga Saxa. 

5 So Cedmon uses the word, pun bith gepecenob, p. 73. ; hpaet reo pun bube, 
p. 86. ; that he to him the letters should read and explain, hpaet reo pun bube, 
p. 90. ; he had before said, hi his account of Daniel and Belshazzar, that the angel 
of the Lord ppat tha in page popba sepynu barpe bocrCapar, p. 90. 



Icelandic, to express letters or characters. 6 It is true that CHAP. 
Odin used the runae for the purpose of magic, and that in . IV> 
Saxon jiun-cpaer-tij, or skilled in runse, signifies a magician 7 ; 
but the magical application of characters is no argument 
against their alphabetical nature, because many of the foolish 
charms which our ancestors and other nations have respected, 
have consisted, not merely of alphabetical characters, but 
even of words. 8 

2d. The passage of Venantius Fortunatus, written in the 
middle of the sixth*century, attests that the Runic was used 
for the purpose of writing in his time. He says, 

The barbarous Runas is painted on ashen tablets, 
And what the papyrus says a smooth rod effects. 9 

Now, as the Anglo-Saxons were not inferior in civilisation 
to any of the barbarous nations of the North, it cannot be 
easily supposed that they were ignorant of Runic characters 10 , 
if their neighbours used them. 

3d. Though it cannot be doubted that the letters of our 
Saxon MSS. written after their conversion are of Roman 
origin, except only two, the th and the w, p, p, the thorn 
and the wen, yet these two characters are allowed by the 
best critics to be of Runic n parentage ; and if this be true, 
it would show that the Anglo-Saxons were acquainted with 
Runic as well as with Roman characters when they com- 
menced the handwriting that prevails in their MSS. 

4th. If the Saxons had derived the use of letters from 
the Roman ecclesiastics, it is probable that they would have 

6 Schilter's Thesaurus, vol. iii. p. 693. 

I Thus Cedmon says, the pun-cpaeptiSe men could not read the handwriting till 
Daniel came, p. 90. 

8 One passage in a Saxon MS. confirms this idea : " Then asked the ealbopman 
the hepchns, whether through bpycpert, or through jiynrfcar-ep, he had broken 
his bonds; and he answered that he knew nothing of this craft." Vesp. D. 14. 
p. 132. Now pynrcaper means literally ryn letters. We may remark, that the 
Welsh word for alphabet is coel bren, which literally means the tree or wood of 
Omen; and see the Saxon description of the northern Runs;, in Hickes's Gram. 
Ang. Sax. p. 135. 

9 Ven. Fortun. lib. vi. p. 1814. Ed. Mag. Bib. torn. viii. 

10 There are various alphabets of the Runse, but their differences are not very 
great. I consider those characters to be most interesting which have been taken 
from the ancient inscriptions remaining in the North. Wormius gives these, Lit. 
Run. p. 58. Hickes, in his Gram. Anglo-Isl. c. 1. gives several Runic alphabets. 

II The Saxons used three characters for th, D, *5, and J>. Of these the two first 
seem to be Roman capitals, with a small hyphen. Astle, in his History of Writing, 
p. 7. and 8. gives these d's. The other, j>, is the Runic d. See Wormius, p. 58. 
The Runic d, in some dialects, was pronounced th : so dus, a giant, or spectre of 
the woods, as given by Wormius, p. 94., is by other writers written thus. I con- 
sider the P to be taken from the j>. 


taken from the Latin language the words they used to ex- 
press them. Other nations so indebted, have done this. To 
instance from the Erse language : 

For book, they have leabhar, from liber. 
letter, liter 12 , litera. 

f scriobham, scribere. 
to write, | grafam5 ' 7pafu 

writing, sgriobhadh, scriptura. 


But nations who had known letters before they became ac- 
quainted with Roman literature would have indigenous terms 
to express them. 

The Saxons have such terms. The most common word 
by which the Anglo-Saxons denoted alphabetical letters was 
rtraer. ; plural, rtsep a. Elfric, in his Saxon Grammar, so uses 
it. 13 The copy of the Saxon coronation oath begins with, 
" This writing is written, ytsep be rtaepe (letter by letter), 
from that writing which Dunstan, archbishop, gave to our 
lord at Kingston." 14 In the same sense the word is used in 
Alfred's translation of Bede 15 , and in the Saxon Gospels. 16 
It is curious to find the same word so applied in the Runic 
mythology. In the Vafthrudis-mal, one of the odes of the 
ancient edda of Semund, it occurs in the speech of Odin, 
who says " fornum stavfom" in the ancient letters. 17 

The numerous compound words derived from ftaej:, a 
letter, show it to have been a radical term in the language, 
and of general application. 

Sca?j>cpej:t, the art of letters. 

Sca^en-pop, the alphabet. 

Staep-sefej, a syllable. 

Scaeplic, learned. 

Scaepman, to teach letters. 

Scaep-plega, a game at letters. 

Staep-pij-e, wise in letters. 

Scseper-heapob, the head of the letters. 

Scaejra-nama, the names of the letters. 

12 In the Erse Testament, Greek letters are expressed by litrichibh Greigis. Luke, 
xxiii. 38. 

13 Cotton. Lib. Julius, A. 2. u Cotton. Lib. Cleop. B. 13. 

1 Bede, 615. 633. M John, vii. 15. Luke, xxiii. 38. 

Edda Semund, p. 3. In the Icelandic Gospels, for Latin and Hebrew letters 
we have Latiniskum and Ebreskum bokstefum. Luke, xxiii. 38. The Franco- 
theotisc, for letters, has a similar compound word, bok-staven. 

TO BOOK II. 205 

The same word is also used like the Latin litera, to signify CHAP. 
an epistle. 18 IV - 

The art of using letters, or writing, is also expressed in 
Saxon by a verb not of Roman origin. The Saxon term 
for the verb to write, is not, like the Erse expression, from 
the Latin scribere, but is " apjutan," or e( jepnitan." This 
verb is formed from a similar noun of the same meaning as 
rtaer.. The noun is preserved in the Masso- Gothic, where 
writs signifies " a letter." 

In like manner the Saxons did not derive their word for 
book from the Latin liber ; they expressed it by their own 
term, " boc," as the Northerns called it " bog." 

I do not mean to assert indiscriminately, that whenever a 
word indigenous in a language is used to express writing, it 
is therefore to be inferred, that the people using that lan- 
guage have also letters ; because it may so happen that the 
word may not have been an indigenous term for letters, but 
for something else ; and may have been applied to express 
letters only allegorically or metaphorically. To give an in- 
stance : the Indians of New England expressed letters, or 
writing, by the terms wussukwhonk, or wussukwheg, 19 But 
the Indians had no letters nor writing among them ; whence 
then had they these words ? The answer is, that they were 
in the habit of painting their faces and their garments, and 
when we made them acquainted with writing, they applied 
to it their word for painting. 20 But though they could 
figuratively apply their term for painting to express writing, 
they had nothing to signify a book, and therefore it was 
necessary to ingraft our English word " book " into their 
language for that purpose. 21 

18 When a letter or authoritative document is mentioned in Saxon, the expres- 
sions applied to it are not borrowed from the Latin, as scriptum, mandatum, epis- 
tola, and such like ; but it is said, " Honorius sent the Scot a se-ppic," Sax. Ch. 
39. ; desired the Pope with his ge-ppic to confirm it, ib. 38. So Alfred, trans- 
lating Bede, says, " the Pope sent to Augustin pallium and se-ppt," i. c. 29. ; here 
borrowing from the Latin the pallium, a thing known to them from the Romans, 
but using a native Saxon term to express the word epistle. 

19 Thus in the Indian Bible, " and this writing was written," Dan. v. 24. is ren- 
dered, kah yeh wassukwheg unussukkuh whosu ; " and this is the writing that was 
written," kah yeh wussukwhonk ne adt tannus-sukuh whosik, ib. v. 25. " Darius 
signed the writing," Darius sealham wussuk whosuonk, vi. 9. " And the writing 
was, 1 ' wussuk whonk no, John, xix. 19. 

20 Thus wussukhosu was a painted coat. William's Key to the Language of 
America, p. 184. ed. 1643, and see his remark, p; 61. The Malays, who have 
borrowed their letters from other nations, have used the same analogy. Their 
word " to write " is toolis, which also signifies to paint. See Howison's Malay 

21 Hence the translator was obliged to express, " this is the book of the genera- 
tion " by uppometuongane book, Matt. i. 1 . So, " I have found the book of the 


CHAP. On the whole, I am induced to believe that the Anglo- 
1V - Saxons were not unacquainted with alphabetical characters 

' *"~ when they came into England. However this may be, it 

is certain that if they had ancient letters, they ceased to use 
them after their conversion, with ^the exception of their p 
and p. It was the invariable policy of the Roman eccle- 
siastics to discourage the use of the Runic characters, because 
they were of pagan origin, and had been much connected 
with idolatrous superstitions. 22 Hence, as soon as the 
Christian clergy acquired influence in the Saxon octarchy, 
all that appeared in their literature was in the character 
which they had formed from the Romans. 

We know nothing of the compositions of the Anglo-Saxons 
in their pagan state. Tacitus mentions generally of the 
Germans, that they had ancient songs 23 , and therefore we 
may believe that the Anglo-Saxons were not without them. 
Indeed, Dunstan is said to have learned the vain songs of 
his countrymen in their pagan state ; and we may suppose, 
that if such compositions had not been in existence at that 
period, Edgar would not have forbidden men, on festivals, 
to sing Heathen songs. 24 But none of these have survived 
to us. If they were ever committed to writing, it was on 
wood, or stones ; indeed, their word for book (boc) expresses 
a beech-tree, and seems to allude to the matter of which 
their earliest books were made. 25 The poets of barbarous 
ages usually confide the little effusions of their genius to the 
care of tradition. They are seldom preserved in writing till 
literature becomes a serious study; and therefore we may 
easily believe, that if the Anglo-Saxons had alphabetical 
characters, they were much more used for divinations, charms, 
and funeral inscriptions, than for literary compositions. 

law," nunnamteoh naumatue book, 2 Kings, xxii. 8. " Hilkiah gave the book," 
Hilkiah aninnumauau boot, Ibid. v. 9. 

22 The Swedes were persuaded by the Pope, in 1001, to lay aside the Runic 
letters, and to adopt the Roman in their stead. They were gradually abolished in 
Denmark, and afterwards in Iceland. 

23 De Moribus German. 24 Wilk. Leg. Anglo- Sax. p. 83. 

25 Wormius infers, that pieces of wood cut from the beech-tree were the ancient 
northern books, Lit. Run. p. 6. Saxo Grammaticus mentions, that Fengo's am- 
bassadors took with them literas ligno insculptas, " because," adds Saxo, " that was 
formerly a celebrated kind of material to write upon," lib. iii. p. 52. Besides the 
passage formerly cited from Fortunatus, we may notice another, in which he speaks 
of the bark as used to contain characters. See Worm. p. 9. who says, that no wood 
more abounds in Denmark than the beech, nor is any more adapted to receive im- 
pressions, ib. p. 7. In Welsh, gwydd, a tree, or wood, is used to denote a book. 
Thus Gwilym Tew talks of reading the gwydd. Owen's Diet. voc. Gwydd. 

TO BOOK II. 207 

THIS Poem is frequently quoted in the Edda of Snorre, as 
a competent authority, and is therefore much more ancient. 
It is thought to have been compiled from preceding traditions 
by Saemund, who lived about a hundred years before Snorre. 
As it has never appeared in English before, and is very little 
known in Europe, and is the most ancient record of the tra- 
ditions of the Northmen which has yet been found, a transla- 
tion of it will be added here. It is obscure and difficult, 
and the meaning is not always indisputable. I have made 
the version as literally as possible, and as well as I can un- 
derstand it, but in some parts all the interpretations of it 
differ. Bartholin has sometimes rather paraphrased than 
translated his extracts. Its best commentary is Snorre's 
Edda. The name VOLUSPA implies the oracle or prophecy 
of Vola. This Sibyl of the North expresses in it, though 
with rapid conciseness, the great outlines of the most ancient 
Northern Mythology. The Yoluspa and the Edda are two 
great repositories of the oldest and most venerated traditions 
of Pagan Scandinavia. The Voluspa opens abruptly, and 
most probably, represents many of the ancient Saxon tra- 
ditions or imaginations. 

BE silent, I pray, all holy creatures ! 
Greater or small ! sons of Heimdallar ! 
I will tell of the devices of Valfodur ; 
The ancient discourses of men : the earliest I know. 

I know the giants ; the early born ; 
They who formerly instructed me. 
I know there are nine worlds, and nine supports, 
And the great centre under the earth. 

In the era of the ages where Ymer was dwelling, 
There was no sand nor sea, 
Nor winds on a vast ocean. 
Earth yet was not ; nor the heaven above. 
Only the abyss of chaos ; and no grass. 

Before Bur had raised up the meadows, 
And had enlarged Midgard, 
The sun shone round the south, 
And the ground produced its green fruits. 

The sun from his noon, threw out the moon 
With his right hand, over the steeds of heaven. 




CHAP. The sun knew not where should be his palaces : 

IV. ' The moon knew not where should be her home : 

* ~ * ' The stars knew not where would be their station. 

Then all the Deities moved to their royal stools : 
The stupendously-holy Gods considered these things : 
They gave names to the night and to the twilight, 
They called the morning and mid-day so ; 
And bade the rise and the course of the year to begin. 

The Asse met on the fields of Ida, 
And framed their images and temples. 
They placed the furnaces. They created money. 
They made tongs and iron tools. 

They played at dice. They were merry. 
No vicious desire of gold arose among them. 
Till three of the Thursa Virgins come, 
Two very powerful from Jotun-heim. 

The Gods then went to their divine stools, 
Inquiring of the Holy Deities, this, 
Who ought to be the Lord of the Duerga, (the dwarfs,) 
Or to create them 
From Bruner's blood, and the legs of Blavis ? 

There Motsogner obtained the pre-eminence 
Of all the Duerga. Durin, the next. 
They made many images of men, 
Dwarfs on the earth, as Durin said. 

Nor and Nidi ; the northern ; the southern ; 
The east ; the west ; the hidden Althiofi, 
Bivor and Bavor ; Bumbur ; Nori, 
An, and Anar ; Ae ; the mead of knowledge. 
Veigur and Gandalfur ; Vindalfur ; Thraim ; 
Theckur ; Thorinn ; Thror ; Litur and Yitur ; x 
Nar and Nyradur. Now I have the dwarfs, 
The violent and the placid, rightly enumerated. 

Fill ; Kili ; Fundinn ; Nali ; 
Heiti ; Vili ; Hanar ; Svior ; 
Frar : Hornbore ; Flogur ; Lone ; 
Aurvangur, and Eikinskialldi. 

It is time that the dwarfs 
From the family of Daulin 

Should be reckoned by the kindreds of the people, 
For an auspicious year ; 
They go out from the rocks above ground, 
To the seats of the husbandmen ; 
The sea of the ploughs. 

TO BOOK II. 209 

There was Draupner and Dolgkrasir : CHAP. 

Har ; Haugspere ; Hlevangur ; Gloe ; IV - 

Skryver ; Virvir ; Skafidur ; Ai ; t """~ v 

Alfur ; Ingve of Eikinskialldr ; 
Falur ; Frosti ; Fidur ; Sinnar ; 
Dore ; Ore ; Dufar ; Andvere ; 
Heph ; Fill ; Haar ; Sviar ; 
This will be manifest while people live ; 
The number of their descendants will value it. 

Until three came from this troop. 
The powerful and rich Asae, to their home, 
They found in the land weak and unwarlike ones, 
ASK and EMBLA, without a destiny. 

These had then no soul ; they had then no reason ; 
No blood ; no senses ; no good colour. 
Odin gave them a soul. Hsenir gave reason ; 
Lodur gave them blood and a good complexion. 

I know that an ash existed called Ygdrasil : 
Its lofty size covered with white clay. 
Then comes the rain that falls in the valleys ; 
It stands always green over Ordar-brunne. 26 

Then came the much-knowing virgins ; 
Three, from that sea 
Which extends over the oak : 
One is called Urd (necessity) ; 
Another Verdande (the possible) ; 
The third Skulld. 27 
They engrave on the shield ; 
They appoint laws, they choose laws 
For the sons of the ages ; 
The fates of mankind. 

This one knew the first slaughter 
Of the people in the world ; 
When they supported Gullvelg with weapons ; 
And burnt her in the hall of Har. 

Three times they burnt her ; 
Three times re-born : 
Often again yet she lived. 
They called her Heid, 
Whatever house they came to. 

Vola of good omen 
Dishonoured the divine mysteries. 
She knew magic arts. 

26 These words mean " The Fountain of Necessity." 

27 The Edda calls these " the Past, the Present, and the Future.'" 

VOL. I. P 


CHAP. She could use enchantments, 

IV. Always troubling like an evil woman. 

Then the Deities 

Went each to their judicial stools. 
Considering whether mischiefs from bad counsel 
Would occur from the Asae ; 
Or whether all the Gods 
Should reserve their banquets to themselves. 

Odin hastened, 

And sent his darts into the crowd. 
This was the first slaughter of men in the world. 
The wall of the city of Asae was broken. 
Vaner made the fields to be trampled by war. 

Then all the gods 
Went to their judicial stools : 
The Holy Deities : to consider 
Who would mingle the aether and the sea ; 
Or give the Virgin Odi 
To the race of the Jotna (the giants). 

Thor was one there ; turgid with bile : 
He rarely sat, 

When he perceived such things. 
Oath and compacts were cut thro', 
And all the controversies which intervened. 

She knew ; 

Heimdallur had the secret song ; 
Under the same sacred zone 
She beheld the river 
Flowing with its dark torrent. 
From the compact of Valfodur. 
Know you more ? It is this. 

She sat alone in the air, 
When the old man came, 
Yggiongur of the Asae, 
And looked her in the face. 
" What do you seek from me ?" 
" Why do you tempt me ?" 
I know all. Odin ! 
Where have you hidden the eye ? 
In the greater fountain of Mimur. 
Mimur every morning drinks mead 
From the pledge of Valfodur. 
Know you more ? What is it ? 

Herfodur delivered to him 
The rings and the bracelets. 
The spell of riches ; wisdom ; 

TO BOOK II. 211 

And the staffs of prophecy. CHAP. 

He saw these well and widely IV. 

Over all the earth. * ' 
Know you more ? What is it ? 

He saw the Valkyriar 
Immediately coming ? 
Adorned on steeds, they went to Gothiod. 
Skulid held the shield : 
Scogul was the other. 
Ginnur ; Helldur ; 
Gondull and Gierskialld. 
Now the maidens of Odin are told : 
The Valkyrear : instructed to ride over the ground. 

I saw 

The secret destinies on Balder. 
The bleeding warrior : the son of Odin. 
The slender and polished weapon 
That killed him 
Stood in the field growing upwards. 

It was made from that tree 
Which appeared to me 
A mournful calamity 
When Hodur darted it : 
The killer of Balder, born before day. 
Before one night the new born 
Struck the son of Odin. 

Then he would not raise his hands 
Nor comb his head 
Before he should carry 
The foe of Balder to the pile. 
Frigga grieved in her Fensola, 
The keeper of Vahalla. 
Know you more ? Is it this ? 

She saw the bound one 
Lying under the grove of the Huns. 
The perfidious funeral. 
One like Lok, 
There sat as Sigynia. 
Never dear to her husband. 
Know you more ? What is it ? 

A river flows from the east 
Over poisoned vales, 
Carrying mud and turf. 
It is called Slidur. 

There stands towards the north, 
In Nidafiollum, 

p 2 


CHAP. A golden palace named Sindra ; 

IV. But another exists in Okolni. 

' ' The ale cellars of the Jotun 

Which is called Brimir. 

She saw a palace stand far from the sun 
In Nastrondum. 

It looks at the doors of the north. 
The building is twisted from the spines of serpents 
Poisoned torrents 
Flow thro' its windows. 

There she saw amid the dreadful streams 
The perjured and the murderers : 
And those who pull the ears 
Of another's wife. 
Their Nidhoggur 
Tore the flesh from their corpses. 
The fierce Wolf devoured the men. 
Know you more ? It is this. 

There sat an old man 
Towards the east in a wood of iron. 
Where he nourished the sons of Fenris. 
Every one of these grew prodigious ; 
A giant form ; 
The persecutor of the moon. 

He was saturated 
With the lives of dying men. 
He sprinkled the host of the Deities with blood. 
He darken'd the light of the sun in the summer. 
All the winds were malignant. 
Know you more ? It is this. 

He sat on a mound, and struck the harp. 
Gygas the herdsman. 
The glad Egder (the eagle) 
Sang before him on the boughs of the tree, 
The purple cock surnamed Fialer. 

The golden-haired bird 
Sang with the Asae. 
He roused the heroes with Herfadur. 
But another crowed below the earth, 
The yellow cock in the palace of Hela. 

Garmur barked horribly 
Before the cave of Gnipa. 
The chains will be broken : 
Freco will rush out, 
Wise, she knows many things. 
But I see beyond, 


From the twilight of the Deities, 
The fierce Sigtiva. 

Brethren will fight and slay each other ; 
Kindred will spurn their consanguinity : 
Hard will be the world : 
Many the adulteries. 
A bearded age : an age of swords : 
Shields will be cloven. 
An age of winds ; an age of wolves. 
Till the world shall perish 
There will not be one that will spare another. 

The sons of Mimur will sport ; 
But the bosom of the earth will burn ; 
Hear the sound of the Mystic horn, 
Heimdallur will blow on high 
The elevated horn. 
Odin will speak by the head of Mimer. 

The ancient tree will sound ominously. 
The Jotun will be dissolved. 
The ash Yggdrasil erected 
Will become terrible. 
Garmur will bark 
Before Gniper's cave. 
The chains will be shattered : 
And Freco will run forth. 

Hrymer will drive his car from the east. 
Jornumgandus will revolve round 
With the rage of the Jotun (giants), 
The serpent will move the seas ; 
But the eagle flies 
Through the seas of the people : 
And Lok will hold his club. 

All the sons of Fiflo lead Freco. 
The brother of Bilvifs accompanies them. 

What is there among the Asae ? 
What among the Elfi ? 
All the house of the Jotun trembles : 
The Dvergi (the dwarfs) groan 
Before the doors of the rocks : 
Their stony asylum. 
Know you more ? What is it ? 

Surtur comes from the south 
With Swiga lesi 

The sword of Valtivi radiates like the sun : 
The stony rocks glide away : 
The Deities are enraged : 



CHAP. Men tread the wa/of Hela : 

IV. But the heaven is cleft in twain. 

Then Hlinar, the other grief, goes forth. 
When Odin goes to battle the Wolf. 
The striker of Beli shining 
Opposes Surtur. 
Then the husband of Frigga falls. 

Then will come Sigfodr 
The greater son of Odin : 
Vida ; to fight with the fatal animal, 
Who with her broad hand, 
In the middle of her jaws, 
Pierces his heart with a sword. 
Thus avenging the death of her father. 

Then comes 

The beautiful son Hlodynia. 
The son of Odin combated the Wolf. 
He slew in wrath the serpent Midgard. 
Men state the prop of the world. 

The offspring of Fiorgunar 
Stepped nine steps. 

Weakened by the black and hungry snake, 
The sun darkens ; 
The earth is immerged in the sea ; 
The serene stars are withdrawn from heaven 
Fire rages in the ancient world : 
The lofty colour reaches to heaven itself. 

Garmur barks before the cave of Gnipa ; 
The chains are broken : 
Freco rushes out. 

She sees at last emerge from the ocean, 
An earth in every part flourishing. 
The cataracts flow down ; 
The eagle flies aloft ; 
And hunt the fishes in the mountains. 

The Asae met in Ida Valle, 
And talked of the world's great calamities : 
And of the ancient runae of Fimbultyr. 

These things done, the wonderful dice 
Are found gilt in the grass, 
Which those of the former days possessed. 

There were fields without sowing ; 
All adverse things became prosperous. 
Baldur will come again. 

TO BOOK II. 215 

Haudur and Baldur : CHAP. 

Hroptr and Sigroptr : IV. 

The Asae will dwell without evils. ' 

Do you yet understand ? 

Then Heinir shares the power of choosing Vidar, 
And the sons of the two brothers 
Inhabit the vast mansion of the winds. 
Do you know more ? 

A hall stands brighter than the sun ; 
Covered with gold in Gimle. 
There virtuous people will dwell : 
And for ages will enjoy every good. 

There will come the obscene dragon flying, 
The serpent from Nidar-fiolli. 
He carries the corpses in his wings : 
He flies over the ground : 
The infernal serpent, Nidhoggur : 
Now the earth gapes for him. 

r 4 




The Arrival of HENGIST. His Transactions and Wars with 
the BRITONS, and final Settlement in KENT. 

BOOK HITHERTO England had been inhabited by branches 
" L . of the Kimmerian and Keltic races, apparently visited 
by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and afterwards 
occupied by the Roman military and colonists. From 
these successive populations, it had obtained all the 
benefits which each could impart. But in the fifth 
century the period had arrived when both England 
and the south of Europe were to be possessed and 
commanded by a new description of people, who had 
been gradually formed amid the wars and vicissitudes 
of the Germanic continent ; and to be led to manners, 
laws, and institutions peculiarly their own, and 
adapted, as the great result has shown, to produce 
national and social improvements superior to those 
which either Greece or Rome had attained. The 
Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain must therefore not 
be contemplated as a barbarisation of the country. 
Our Saxon ancestors brought with them a superior 
domestic and moral character, and the rudiments of 
new political, juridical, and intellectual blessings. 
An interval of slaughter and desolation unavoidably 
occurred before they established themselves and their 
new systems in the island. But when they had com- 
pleted their conquest, they laid the foundations of 
that national constitution, of that internal polity, of 
those peculiar customs, of that female modesty, and 


of that vigour and direction of mind, to which Great 
Britain owes the social progress which it has so 
eminently acquired. Some parts of the civilisation 
which they found in the island assisted to produce 
this great result. Their desolations removed much 
of the .moral degeneracy we have before alluded to. 

Although in the fictions of romance kingdoms fall 
almost at the will of the assailant, yet in real life no 
great revolutions of states occur without the pre- 
paratory and concurring operation of many political 
causes. The Saxons had for nearly two centuries 
been attacking Britain, with no greater successes than 
the half-naked Scoti from Ireland had obtained. They 
plundered where they arrived unexpectedly. They 
were defeated when they encountered a military or 
naval resistance. Hengist and Ella would not have 
been more fortunate than their depredatory country- 
men who had preceded them, if the events of the 
day had not by their agencies conducted them and 
their successors, from exile and piracy, tt> the pro- 
prietorship of the kingdoms of the English octarchy. 

Amid the sovereignties into which the island was 
divided, and the civil distractions which this division 
of power produced, it appears that one ruler was 
made the supreme monarch, with the addition of a 
council of the other chiefs. The council is mentioned 
by all the ancient writers who treat of this period 1 , 
and Gwrthycrn is named by each as the predominat- 
ing sovereign. 2 

Gwrtheyrn is mentioned as a proud and cruel 
tyrant ; but with these features Gildas describes the 

1 As by Gildas, s. 22, 23. Nennius, c. 38, &c. Bede, p. 52. Flor. Wig. 194. 

2 Thus W. Malmsb. p. 9. " Omnes reguli insulae Vortigerni substernebantur 
monarchic." The traditions of the Welsh that have been committed to writing 
notice the same plan of government. The seventh historical triad exhibits Arthur 
as the pen-teyrn, literally the head-king ; and Maelgwn, the king of Gwynedd, as 
the pen-hynain, or chief elder. Welsh Archaeol. vol. ii. p. 3. According to this 
British appellation, Gwrtheyrn was the pen-teyrn, whose supreme power was called 
unbenaeth, literally, the one head-ship or monarchy. 


BOOK general body of the Britons, both clergy and laity. 3 
i , ' Their supreme king seems to have acted only with 
the selfish spirit of his contemporaries, and he was 
surrounded with many political difficulties that would 
have embarrassed a wiser and a better man. His 
authority was disputed 4 by a chieftain of Roman 
parentage, whose parents had perished in the posses- 
sion of the imperial purple, and to whom Gildas gives 
the name of Ambrosius 5 Aurelianus. The Scoti and 
Picts were harassing the island wherever they could 
penetrate 6 , and a mortal distemper was raging among 
the people 7 , which appears to have spread over a 
large part of the world. 8 But the greatest affliction 
of Britain was the numerous petty sovereignties into 
which, after the departure of the Romans, it had be- 
come divided. 9 Gwrtheyrn had to encounter each 
of these evils, and all nearly at the same time. The 
country became dissatisfied at its sufferings, and its 
discontent increased the civil factions of the period. 
Royalty has no safety when the sovereign is un- 
popular. When the fuel of rebellion abounds in every 
part,' the restlessness of the disturbed society seldom 

3 See Gildas's epistola annexed to his history, p. 10 39. 

4 Nennius, c. 28. 

5 Gildas, s. 25. Nennius, c. 44. The Welsh triads call him Emrys Wledig, or 
king Emrys, which is the name disfigured, in the MSS. or printed copy of Nennius, 
into Embreis gleutic, c. 44. He is frequently mentioned in the triads. His de- 
scendants were alive in the time of Gildas, but much degenerated. 

6 Gildas, c. 20. Bede, lib. i. c. 16. The Vita S. Carentoci names the leaders 
of the Scoti, " In istis temporibus Scotti superaverunt Britanniam ; nomina ducum 
quorum Briscus, Thuibaius, Machleius, Anpacus." MSS. Vesp. A. xiv. p. 90. 

7 Gildas, c. 21. 

8 Gildas, c. 21. Marcellinus mentions a great pestilence following a famine at 
Constantinople, when JEtius III. and Symmachus were consuls, ann. 446, p. 41. 
Seal. Euseb. Evagrius, lib. ii. c. 6., extends it over Asia and the world rt]v y-qv, 
p. 298. ed. Vales. Corporibus tumescentibus oculos amittebant : simulque tussi 
vexati tertio die moriebantur. No remedy could be found for it. 

9 The custom of gavel-kind, which prevailed among the Britons, increased this 
evil. In the Lives of the Welsh Saints in the Cottonian library, Vesp. A. 14. and 
Titus, D. 22., MSS. seemingly of the twelfth century, two striking instances of 
this custom are given. The Vita Cadoci, after mentioning a king who left ten 
sons, says of them, " paternum regnum inter se secundum eorum numerum uni- 
cuique suam provinciam diviserunt." So the Vita S. Carentoci, speaking of the 
son of Cunedda, states that " divisit possessions patris sui inter fratres suos." 


fails to produce events or characters which begin the CHAP. 
fatal conflagration. - 

In this state of the country, three Saxon chiules, o"F\ ^^ 
vessels, arrived from Germany on or near the British AD. 449. 
coast ; whose leaders were named Hengist and Horsa, 
two brothers, and descendants from Woden. As 
their numbers were too few for conquest, their visit 
must have been either a matter of accident or for 
the purpose of a transient depredation. 
says, they were exiles. i(r 

If we estimate the number of these Saxons from 
the size of the Danish vessels in a subsequent age, 
they could not have exceeded three hundred men u ; 
and there is no reason to believe that the Saxon 
ships, as they are mentioned by Sidonius, were larger. 
They may have been some of the Saxons who were 
at this time supporting the Armorici, and hovering 
on the coast of France. 

They arrived at Ebbs-fleet 12 , in the Isle of Thanet, 
near Richborough. The king and British chiefs were 
at that time holding a public council on the best 
means to repel their Irish and Scottish enemies, and 
it was agreed to employ these Saxon adventurers as,, 
subsidiary soldiers. 13 They were accordingly retained 

10 Nennius, c. 28. Many authorities mention that the Saxons were invited, and 
many that they came accidentally. It is most likely that the first arrival off the 
island was casual, but that their landing and, subsequent increase were the result 
of invitation. 

11 Gildas, Bede, Flor. Wigorn., Malmsbury, H. Huntingd., and others mention 
the ships, but not the number of men. Verstegan and his authority, p. 126., and 
Speed, Hist. 291., outrage probability so far as to crowd 9000 into these three 
ships. The Danish ships of a subsequent age had 1 00 men in each. Herv. Sag. 
p. 25. Lazamon gives the probable number, " Threo scipen gode comen mid than 
flode, threo hundred cnihten," MSS. Cott. Calig. A. 9. p. 79. 

12 Or Ypwines fleot, Sax. Chronicle, 12. It was near the sestuary of the Wan- 
stum, which divides Thanet from the main land of Kent. The Wanstum was 
once navigable for ships of large burthen. See Batteley, Ant. Rutup. 13. In Bede's 
time it was three stadia broad, and fordable only in two places, lib. i. c. 25. It is 
now, at Reculver, one of its entrances, a brook which may be stepped over, and in, 
its centre, towards the Sarr road, is not six feet broad. Ebbsfleet is now an inland 
spot at some distance from the sea Sarr was a naval station formerly, and some 
old drawings still exist which represent a man with a ferry-boat at this place. 

13 Gildas, s. 22. Nen. c. 28. The British poem of Golyddan indignantly al- 
ludes to this council. Welsh. Arch. v. i. p. 156. 


BOOK to serve against the northern invaders, the Pihtas, 
Scoti, and other foes ; they were promised food and 
449 ' clothing, and were stationed in Thanet. 14 Their first 
exertions are stated to have been directed against the 
Irish and Picts, in just performance of their engage- 
ment, and with immediate success. 15 But it was notl v 
enough to repress one incursion of these activeJ 
enemies. It was their habit to attack, plunder, 
retire, and return ; and if one quarter was too well 
guarded, to attempt another. All pirates in every 
age use this policy, and exhibit this perseverance.^ 
Hence it was not enough to have repelled the first 
assailants ; and to do more, larger forces were requi- 
site. But as the numbers which had come with 
Hengist were few, it was natural that he should re- 
commend the invitation of more of his -countrymen, 
if they were to be used for the purpose of continued-^ 
military 16 defence. The king assented ; and they 
sent to their native land for further supplies. 17 

But we must not resort to Wittichind for the speech 
of the ambassadors. Though a Saxon himself, he 
appears to have been completely ignorant of the 
Saxon antiquities. 18 We can conceive the application! 
to have been an address to the courage and spirit of 
adventure of the youth of Jutland, from whichj 

14 Gildas, s. 13. Nennius, s. 28. 35. The ancient British name of Thanet was 
Ruithina. Nen. c. 28. 

15 Bede, lib. i. c. 15. p. 52. Sax. Ch. p. 12. Ethelwerd, lib. i. p. 833. 

16 Nennius, s. 37. 

17 I would place at this period, as well as at their first arrival, that invitation 
which Bede, lib. i. c. 15., Ethelwerd, 833., Sax. Chron. 12., and others affirm. 

18 He was the biographer of his contemporary, Otho, who died 972. Sigebert, 
1196. Germ. Quat. Celeb. Chron. He addresses his Saxon history to Matilda, 
Otho's maiden daughter. He knows nothing of the Saxons prior to their entering 
Thuringia. He was so ignorant of them as to say, that the Saxons in England 
were called Angli-Saxones, because the island was in a sort of angle of the sea. 
P. 3. he says, when he was a boy, he heard of the Macedonian extraction of the 
Saxons. If the Saxons sprang from the Sacasenae, who lived near Persia, which is 
the most probable account of their origin, traditions connected with the battles of 
Alexander might have remained with them, as with the nations in the East ; but 
this is a subject too illusory to deserve any attention. If it be worth recollecting 
-at all, it is merely as another tradition pointing to their Eastern origin. 


^Hengist had sailed. 19 Hengist may have added, as a 
lure, the probability of greater aggrandisement ; but 
the lofty projects of ambition are not the first con- 449 - 
ceptions of humbler fortunes : auspicious events 
gradually teach hope to be more aspiring. One un- 
expected success occasions a further elevation to be 
attempted, until a greatness, at one time the most 
improbable, is attained with a facility which surprises 
the adventurer. But in the beginning of his employ- 
ment, it is not probable that Hengist, with his scanty 
means, could have projected the conquest of a country 
so well peopled as Britain. It was the civil feuds, 
divided sovereignties, and warring interests of the 
unhappy island, and events not before anticipated, 
usually arising in disturbed periods of society, which 
led him to perceive that permanent settlements were 
attainable, and to desire their acquisition. Hence 
we need not fancy that his primary invitations held 
out magnificent hopes, or that his first friendly allies 
came in search of thrones. The sword of the Saxon 
was ready for every enterprise ; war and booty were 
his high-prized pleasures ; and it is probable, that, at 
the first call of Hengist, many thronged who knew 
only that they were to fight and to be rewarded. 

The Saxons at that time had, as we have already 
described, spread from the Elbe to the Rhine ; and 
the old Saxon Chronicler describes them to have 
then been active in depredation on all the sea-coast 
from Holland to Denmark. 20 

The subsequent actions of Hengist are not satis- 
factorily detailed in our oldest writers : their great 
result, the occupation of Britain by the Anglo-Saxon 
nations, and the consequent defeats and sufferings of 
the Britons, are strongly but generally expressed. 

19 Bede, p. 52. 

20 Ethelwerd, p. 833. His Chronicle ends with Edgar, about whose time he lived. 
He derives himself from Ethelred, the brother of Alfred, p. 831. It is a rude but 
valuable Chronicle. 


BOOK Few of the accompanying circumstances are noticed, 

. nL ,. and these, it is not easy to arrange under any de- 

449. finite chronology. All that criticism can do is to 

select the incidents that seem indisputable, and to add 

the remarks which they naturally suggest. 

It was not until the seventh year after his arrival 
in England that Hengist is stated to have begun his 
kingdom in Kent. 21 Thus a period of six years in- 
tervened between his entrance and his establishment ; 
and this interval was occupied by three classes of 
events, which are all mentioned, though not circum- 
stantially narrated. These were his conflicts with 
the Picts and Irish, his alliance and friendship with 
Gwrtheyrn and the Britons, and his subsequent 
hostilities against them, and final conquest of Kent 
into a kingdom, which he transmitted to his posterity. 
These events followed in the order thus stated ; but 
the time which each occupied cannot now be dis- 

The consequences of admitting and employing 
Hengist and his followers became so calamitous to the 
Britons, that the original policy of the measure has 
been generally reprobated. But this was not the 
Dingle act of Gwrtheyrn. It was the unanimous re- 
solution of the national council of kings and chiefs 
who decided for its adoption. It appeared to them 
to be an expedient means of protecting the coasts 
of the island from the maritime desolations of the 
Irish and Picts, that one set of barbarians should be 
hired to combat the others ; for in the eyes of the 
Romanised Britons all these piratical invaders were 
Ldeemed barbarians, and are so mentioned. The pur- 

21 The Saxon Chronicle expressly states, that after the battle in 455, in which 
Horsa fell, Hengist acquired his little kingdom ; after tham Hengest feng to rice, 
p. 13. The more ancient Ethel werd has the same date, with et Hengest cepit 
regnum, p. 834. Henry of Huntingdon dates his acquisition one year later, p. 31 1. ; 
and Florence of Worcester one year earlier, p. 204. Nennius, without specifying 
the exact year, indicates a similar interval. 



posed utility of the measure was immediately attained. 
Hengist defeated the depredators, with a slaughter 
which at last ended their incursions. 22 To have fore- 
seen at the outset, that the employment of a few 
hundred Saxons for this purpose would have in- 
duced the whole nation of the Angli, and a large 
portion of the continental Saxons and Jutes, to ex- 
patriate themselves from their domestic hearths into 
Britain, required a power of prophetic vision which 
it was no disgrace to the Britons to have wanted. 
No such event had at that time occurred to the 
island. The Saxons were not, like the Eomans, a 
mighty and civilised empire, whose ambition had 
been rapaciously progressive. They had been but 
petty and partial depredators ; active, bold, and per- 
severing, but whom moderate exertions of military 
vigilance had always repelled. Hence Gwrtheyrn 
and the British council had no reason to anticipate 
the new spirit of permanent dominion and territorial 
conquest with which so large a portion of the Saxon 
confederation became afterwards inspired ; and still 
less, their power of effectuating such ambitious reso- 

The censure to which the Britons are more justly 
liable is, that when these intentions began to appear, 
no vigorous system of union and patriotic resistance 
was adopted to frustrate their completion. On this 
point the evils of their political system, and the bad 
passions of Gwrtheyrn, operated to destroy the in- 
dependence of the country. The chiefs pursued their 
conflicts with each other, which the people supported ; 
and Gwrtheyrn projected to use the aid of Hengist 
against those who were jealous of his power, or had 
become his competitors. 

When Hengist obtained permission to increase his 

22 W. Malm. lib. i. p. 9. 


BOOK forces, as the island was accessible on so many points 
. of attack, by enemies who came by sea, and chose 

449 - their own places of operation ; this augmentation was 
necessary to the country while it continued the policy 
of using foreign auxiliaries. Seventeen more chiules 
came with his daughter Rowena 23 ; and afterwards 
forty more, with his son and kinsman, which plundered 
the Orkneys and Scotland in their way, and were sta- 
tioned off the Scottish coast, near the wall. 24 

For these services an interval of cordiality oc- 
curred between Hengist and the Britons. 25 That 
Hengist invited Gwrtheyrn to a feast, at which the 
fair and blue-eyed Rowena officiated as the cup- 
bearer, till the British king became intoxicated both 
with wine and love, and at last obtained her for his 
wife, we must believe, if at all, on the credit of 
Nennius. 26 But the burden of their remuneration 
diminished the gratitude of the Britons; and the 
martial vigour, 'which had produced the successes of 
the Saxons, alarmed those whom they had benefited. 
The object for which they had been engaged having! 
been attained, the natives wished their departure j 
but military adventurers have no proper homes; 
having abandoned peaceful life and its comforts for 
the fame and advantages of daring warfare in other 
countries, their new habits and gratifications are in- 
consistent with the quiet and content of agricultural 
obscurity. The Saxon-Jutes refused to leave their"! 
station in Thanet : they demanded larger supplies ; 
and stated that they must plunder for their sub-J 
sistence if these were refused. 27 The Britons had 

23 Nenn. c. 36. Malmsbury, p. 9., mentions her with an " ut accepimus : " and 
H. Huntingdon with a " dicitur a quibusdam," p. 310. The Welsh Triads, c. 38., 
call her Ronwen, and some of the later Welsh poems allude to her ; but there seems 
no historical authority for her existence, except the brief passages of Nennius, which 
Jeffry of Monmouth, and from him Wace and Layamon have so copiously expanded, 
and to which Malmsbury and Huntingdon seem to allude. 

24 Nen. c. 37. a Ethel w. 833. 

20 Nen. c. 36. 27 Bede, lib. i. c. 15. p. 53. 


the spirit to resent their requisition, but not the CHAP. 
wisdom to combine to expel them ; and the third <_J 
class of incidents, to which we have alluded, began. 465> 

The Saxons made peace with the Picts, collected^"] 
their forces, and, imitating those whom they had been / 
employed to repress, ravaged the nearest cities and I 
countries, from the east sea to the west. 28 The de--* 
solations that followed are strongly painted. Public 
and private edifices destroyed, priests slain at the 
altars, and chieftains with their people : some part , 
of the population flying to monasteries, others to 
forests and mountains, and many to foreign parts, 
imply the successful ravages, which the first assaults 
of Hengist and his Jutes effected, against the un- 
prepared and astonished natives. 29 

But these victorious depredations could not long 
continue. These evils aroused the Britons to wiser 
policy and to a courageous resistance. Self-love pro- 
duced the conduct which no patriotism had suggested. 
A vigorous system of defence was resolved upon, and 
Guortemir, a son of Gwrtheyrn, was appointed to 
conduct it. A series of battles occurred between him 
and Hengist and Horsa, in which victory was alter- 
nate. It is expressly stated by Nennius, that Guor- 
temir three times defeated and besieged Hengist and 
his Jutes, and at last expelled them from Thanet 
and from England. He adds, that for five years 
they were kept out of the island, till Guortemir's 
death. 30 As Gildas asserts that the invaders at one 
time returned home 31 ; and Bede, though a Saxon, 
admits the fact by inserting it in his history 32 ; as 
Hengist did not begin his reign in Kent till six years 
after his arrival in the island 33 ; and as there are 
some foreign traditions of his having founded Leyden, 

28 Bede, lib. i. c. 15. p. 53. ffl Ibid. 

30 Nenn. c. 45. 81 Gildas, c. 25. 

32 Bede, lib. i. c. 16. p. 53. See before, note 21. p. 222. 

VOL. I. Q 


BOOK during his absence from England 34 , his temporary 
. II T 1 ' . expulsion, and the successful exertions of the Britons 
455 - at this period, seem entitled to our belief. 

The Britons who combined against Hengist were 
headed by two sons of Gwrtheyrn, who are named 
Guortemir and Categirn. On the Derwent the first 
struggle occurred 35 ; the next at a place called the 
Ford of the Eagles, now Aylesford in Kent, was dis- 
tinguished by the death of Horsa on the part of the 
Saxons, and of Categirn among the Britons 36 ; a third 
battle was fought at Stonar, on the sea shore fronting 
France, from which the Saxons fled to their chiules. 37 
Guortemir was the British chieftain who commanded 
in all these conflicts. But fable has obscured his 
title to celebrity. We may concede to him all the 
praise that Cambrian affection can demand, without 
believing that he pulled up a tree by the roots, and 
with the vegetating club killed Horsa, and defeated 
the Saxons. 38 Courage has been always the charac- 
teristic of the Cymry, and they may disclaim, without 
injury to their glory, every impossible achievement. 

Guortemir dying, Hengist is stated to have re- 
turned with an augmentation of his forces, which 
proved ultimately irresistible 39 ; but he is described 
as having first regained a footing in the island by 
the treacherous massacre of the British chieftains at 

84 Usher, in his Primordia Eccl. Anglic, p. 420., extracts a passage to this effect 
from the Chronicon of Gerbrandus, who died 1504. I do not know his authorities. 
Kempius, in his Rer. Frisic. lib. ii. c. 1. affirms the same. Usher adds, that 
" Dousa, Meursius, Hegeiiitius, &c. Vulgata Hollandice chronica sequuti," also 
report it, p. 420. 

85 Nennius, c. 46. 

38 Sax. Chron. 13. Ethelw. 834. Nennius gives the British name of the place 
as Sathenegabail, p. 110.; but his British names of places and persons have been 
badly transcribed. On Horsa's monument, see Gough's Camden, vol. L p. 231. 

37 Nenn. a 46, 47. Batteley thinks that the site of this battle was Stone-end, 
in the south corner of Kent. Ant. Rutup. p. 19. There still remains a great 
quantity of human bones under the church at Hythe, which imply that some great 
battle has been fought in its vicinity. Nennius calls the stone, from which the field 
was named, " The Stone of the Title." Unless this means the boundary of the 
kingdom or county of Kent, the subject of the allusion is lost. 

38 Nenn. c. 45. Nenn. c. 46, 47. 


a banquet. The account of Nennius represents him CHAP. 
not only as soliciting a treaty of peace, which was . L . 
closed by the invitation of the Britons to a friendly 435 - 
feast ; but also as commanding his Saxons to come 
with their short swords under their garments, and 
on his exclaiming, " Nimed eure saxes," " Unsheath 
your swords," to slay all but Gwrtheyrn. The meet- 
ing was held, and the cruel perfidy was accom- 
plished. 40 It cannot now be determined how much, 
or if any part, of this is true ; or whether the fatal 
issue, if it occurred, is to be attributed to premeditated 
villany. One Welsh bard, two centuries afterwards, 
alludes to a catastrophe like this, but with no dis- 
tinctness of historical detail. 41 

As Nennius adds to the history of Gwrtheyrn in- 
cidents undeniably fictitious 42 , and inserts fables as 
decided about St. Germain, in circumstances which 
the true chronology of the bishop disproves 43 , he may 
have equally invented, or at least have exaggerated, 
this event. A feast, inebriation, an unpremeditated 
quarrel, and a conflict may have taken place ; and 
the battle may have ended in the destruction of the 
Britons. But this is all that is credible of this cele- 

40 Nenn. c. 48. 

41 The passage in Golyddan is : 

When they bargained for Thanet, with such scanty discretion, 

With Hors and Hengys in their violent career, 

Their aggrandisement was to us disgraceful, 

After the consuming secret with the slaves at the confluent stream. 

Conceive the intoxication at the great banquet of Mead ; 

Conceive the deaths in the great hour of necessity : 

Conceive the fierce wounds : the tears of the women : 

The grief that was excited by the weak chief : 

Conceive the sadness that will be revolving to us, 

When the brawlers of Thanet shall be our princes. 

Gol. Arym. 2. W. Arch. 156. 

The only words here that imply any premeditated treachery are, " rhin dilain," 
the consuming or destroying secret, which in the Cambrian Register for 1796 are 
translated too freely, " The plot of death." 

42 See his Stories, from c. 38. to c. 34. 

43 Nennius, c. 29, 30, &c. St. Germain was bishop of Auxerre, from 418 to 448. 
Fabricius, Bibl. Med. lib. vii. p. 139. He lived thirty years and five days after 
St. Amator, according to his ancient biographer Constantius. Amator died in 418, 
Stillingfleet, Orig. Brit. p. 209. Bede also errs in placing the visit of St. Germain 
into Britain, to oppose their Pelagian opinions, after the arrival of the Saxons. 

Q 2 


BOOK brated catastrophe ; and even this statement is rather 
. m ' , a concession to an ancient tradition, than the ad- 
435 - mission of an historical fact. 

57. The great battle which, according to the Saxon 

chroniclers, completed the establishment of Hengist 
in Kent, was fought at Crayford, in 457. The 
Britons, defeated in this with great slaughter, aban- 
doned Kent, and fled in terror to London. 44 Eight 
years after, the Britons attacked Hengist again, but 
it was with ruin to themselves. And in 473, they 
attempted another battle with him, but with such a 
calamitous issue, that they are declared to have fled 
from the Saxons as from fire. 45 

The name of Hengist has been surrounded with 
terror, and all his steps with victory. From Kent, 
he is affirmed to have carried devastation into the 
remotest corners of the island ; to have spared neither 
age, sex, nor condition; to have slaughtered the 
priests on the altars ; to have butchered in heaps the 
people who fled to the mountains and deserts 46 ; and 
to have finally established his dominion in Kent, 
Essex, Middlesex, and Sussex. But when from these" 
hyperboles of conquest, we turn to the simple and 
authentic facts, that all the battles of Hengist, par- 
ticularised by the Saxons, were fought in Kent ; that 
one of the last contests was even in Thanet, in the 
extremity of his little kingdom 47 , and that no good 
evidence is extant of his having penetrated, except 
in his first depredations, beyond the region which he 
transmitted 48 to his posterity ; and, above all, that at 

44 Sax. Chron. "And tha Bryttas tha forleton Centlond," p. 313. It is from 
this victory that Huntingdon dates the kingdom of Hengist, p. 311. 

45 Sax. Chron. p. 14. Flo. Wig. 200, 201. 

46 This statement is seriously given by Hume, p. 20., and by our venerable Milton. 
1 Kennett's Collection of Histor. 37. Langhorn, p. 33., follows Jeffry, and adds 
York, Lincoln, London, and Winchester to his conquests. 

47 Wippeds Fleot. 

48 Mr. Carte has observed, that he never extended his territories beyond Kent. 
Hist. England, p, 198, Mr. Whitaker is of a similar opinion* Manchest. ii. 4to. 
p. 28. 



this very period the Britons were so warlike that twelve CHAP. 
thousand went to Gaul, on the solicitations of the , ; > 
emperor, to assist the natives against the Visigoths 49 , 437 - 
we must perceive that exaggeration has been as busy 
with Hengist as with Arthur; and that modern 
historians have suffered their criticism to slumber, 
while they were perusing the confused declamations 
of Gildas and. his copyist Bede. What Gildas related 
as the general consequences of all the Saxon invasions 
has been too hastily applied to the single instance of 
Hengist. From this error the misconception of his 
real history has arisen. The truth seems to be, that 
the fame of Hengist depends more on the circum- 
stance of his having first conceived and executed the 
project of a hostile settlement in Britain, than on\ 
the magnitude of his conquests, or the extent of his j 

For twelve years after the battle at Wippeds Fleot, 
he remained alone exposed to the vengeance of all the 
Britons in the island, except those in Kent, whom 
he had subdued. The ease with which he seems to 
have maintained his extorted dominion announces 
the continuance of the discord between the contend- 
ing native chieftains, which was wasting the British 
strength 50 , and which Gildas seems to protract to the 
times of Arthur. At length another adventurer ap- 455. 
peared on the island. The success of Hengist made a 
new species of enterprise familiar to the Saxon states. 

49 The expedition of Riothamus, mentioned in Sidon. Apollon. lib. iii. ep. 9., and 
Jornandes, c. 45. This incident was early noticed by Freculphus, Chron. t. ii. 
c. 17. Sigebert Gembl. in mentioning it gives a gentle lash to Jeffry ; Quis au- 
tem fuerit iste, historia Britonum minime dicit, quse regum suorum nomina et 
gesta per ordinem pandit. 1 Pist. 504. Either this Riothamus was Arthur, or it 
was from his expedition that Jeffry, or the Breton bards, took the idea of Arthur's 
battles in Gaul. 

50 Gildas in his last section, and in his epistle, and Bede, c. 22. An abrupt but 
valuable passage of Nennius, p. 118., also intimates that Ambrosius was connected 
with the civil fury at this period : " A regno Guorthrigerni usque ad discordiam 
Guitolini et Ambrosii anni sunt duodecim." Huntingdon declares, " Non cessa- 
bant civilia bella," p. 311. And see the Lives of the Welsh Saints, MSS. Vesp. 
A. 14. 

Q 3 


BOOK To combine to obtain riches, cultivated lands, and 
, IIL . slaves to tend them, was more inviting than to risk 
465 - the tempest for uncertain plunder. Hence it is not 
wonderful, that while some were diffusing themselves 
over Germany, the success of Hengist attracted the 
maritime part of the Saxon confederation ; and as- 
sisted to convert it from naval piracy to views of 
regular conquest in Britain. 

Hengist was succeeded in Kent by his son -/Esc, 
who reigned twenty-four years. No subsequent event 
of importance is recorded of this little kingdom, till 
the reign of Ethelbyrhte, who acceded in 560 51 , and 
enjoyed the sceptre for above half a century. 52 

51 Sax. Ch. p. 20. 

52 Flor. Wig. dates his accession 561, and gives fifty-six years as the duration of 
his reign, p. 221. The names by which Alfred translates the title of duces, which 
Bede gives to Hengist and Horsa, are Latteowas and Heretogan, p. 483. The 
British king, whom Jeffry calls Vortigernus, and the Welsh writings Gwrtheyrn, 
Alfred names Wyrtgeorn, p. 482. 



ELLA arrives in SUSSEX, and founds a Kingdom there. CERDIC 
invades the South Part of the Island, and establishes the King- 
dom O/*WESSEX. Battles of his Successors with the BRITONS. 

ELLA was the next Saxon chieftain, or king, who, CHAP. 

twenty-eight years after the first arrival of Hengist, , 

invaded Britain. He landed with three sons in 477. 
Sussex 1 ; and drove the Britons into the great wood Eila! 1 
which stretched from the south of Kent into Sussex 
and Hampshire. 2 Although they came with but three 
ships, they succeeded in gaining a settlement. Hence 
we may infer, that they were resisted only by the 
petty British sovereign of the district. By slow de- 
grees they enlarged their conquests on the coast. In 
the eighth year of their arrival they attempted to 
penetrate into the interior ; a dubious but wasteful 
battle on the river Mercread checked their progress. 
Recruited by new arrivals from the Continent, they 490. 
ventured to besiege Andredes Ceaster, a city strongly 
fortified according to the usages of the age. The 
Britons defended this with some skill. Taking ad- 
vantage of the adjoining forest, while the Saxons 
attempted to scale the walls, a division of the Britons 
attacked them from the woods behind ; to repel them 
the Saxons were compelled to desist from their assault 
on the city. The Britons retired from the pressure 
of their attack into the woods, sallying out again when 
the Saxons again advanced to the city. This plan was 

' * Saxon Chron. 14. Flor. Wigorn. 203. Ethelwerd, 834. 

8 The weald of Kent was anciently 120 miles long towards the west, and 30 
broad from north to south. On the edge of the wood, in Sussex, stood Andedres 
Ceaster. Lambard's Perambulation of Kent, 167, 168. This vast wood was a 
wilderness, not inhabited by men, but by deer and hogs. 

Q 4 


BOOK successfully repeated with great loss to the assailants, 
. IIL ; till Ella conceived the idea of dividing his Saxons 
49 - into two bodies ; one to storm, the other to cover the 
attack. 3 This measure succeeded, and the Saxons 
burst into the city ; but, irritated by their loss, dis- 
graced their conquest by one of those barbarous ac- 
tions which history ought never to mention without 
horror, and which no events or reasons can justify : 
the inhabitants were put to the sword. 4 This was a 
conquest not far distant from the shore ; so that this 
Saxon kingdom was rather permitted by the Britons 
to exist than extorted from their national opposition. 
Ella's settlement was probably considered as a colonis- 
ation that would have no important consequences to 
the British people. It became the kingdom of Sussex. 
As this state was never formidable to the others, 
nor is much mentioned afterward, there is no reason 
to imagine that Ella made any great progress ; but 
Ella is commemorated as the preponderant Saxon 
chief 5 at that time in England: his conquests were 
therefore superior to those of Hengist and his son, 
who were his contemporaries. This is another cir- 
cumstance, which shows the mistake of attributing 
such extensive desolation and triumphs to Hengist. 
Both he and Ella appear to have been satisfied with 
the possession of the provinces they invaded. It 
was the next warrior who spread consternation 
through Britain, resisted the genius of Ambrosius 
and Arthur, and by his successes ensured safety to 
the intruders in Kent and Sussex. 

495. Eighteen years after Ella, another powerful colony 

c*rdic! n ( of Saxons arrived in the island, under the auspices of 

3 Hen. Hunt. p. 312. He adds, that the city was never rebuilt, but remained 
apparently in his times in a state of ruin, which showed to the passenger how 
noble a place it had been. 

4 Sax. Chron. 15. " Ne wearth thser forthon an Bryt to lafe." Our ancient 
chroniclers make often small differences in their chronologies. Thus the Sax. 
Chron. dates this event in 490, Flor Wig. 491, and Ethelwerd, 492. 

3 Sax. Chron. "]. Bede, lib. ii. c. 5. 


Cerdic, who also derived his genealogy from Woden. 6 CHAP. 
The first essay was made with five ships ; but the - 

battles and conquests of its leaders display either 495 - 
abilities of the most superior kind, or an accumulation 
of force far beyond that which had assailed the other 
parts of the island. The place of his primary descent 
is by no means clear. The modern name, which 
would correspond with the ancient appellation of Cer- 
dices Ora, has not been preserved. 7 Both Yarmouth 
and Southampton 8 have had their advocates ; but 
a remarkable passage in the Saxon Chronicle, which 
indicates that he attacked West Saexnaland six years 
after his arrival 9 , induces a belief that his first at- 
tempt was on some other part of the island. 

In the same year that Cerdic assaulted the district soi. 
afterwards denominated Wessex, a band of his allies, 
under Porta, effected a landing with the companies of 
two ships at Portsmouth, and defeated the Britons. 10 
Others came, thirteen years afterwards, under Stuf 
and Wihtgar. 

It was in the battles with Cerdic that the strength 
of the Britons and Saxons seems to have been first op- 
posed to each other with a national magnitude, and 
for many years with varying success. It was not till 
twenty-four years after his arrival that Cerdic and his 

6 Sax. Chron. 15. Flor. Wig. 205. Cerdic was the ninth descendant from 
Woden by his son Boeldseg, and his great grandson Freothogar. Allowing thirty 
years for a generation, this would place the existence of Odin about 225, which is 
near the time when the Francs accomplished the voyage from the Euxine. 

7 Yet Higden, in his Polychronicon, makes Cerdicesore that quaa nunc dicitur 
Gernemouth, p. 224., which (if we could rely upon it) would decide that Yar- 
mouth was the spot. Camden mentions a striking fact in favour of the claims of 
Yarmouth, "The place is called by the inhabitants at this day, Cerdicksand. " 
Britain, 390. Gib. 

8 This position is thought to be warranted by comparing the Saxon Chron. 
p. 18., which mentions the arrival of the nepotes of Cerdic at Cerdicesora, in 514, 
and Matt. West., who states their arrival in occidentali parte Britannia;, p. 1 84. ; 
but this is not conclusive evidence. Mr. Whitaker thinks, that all Cerdic's opera- 
tions were confined to Hampshire, vol. ii. p. 61. 

9 Sax. Chron. p. 15. So Ethelwerd, 834. Sexto etiam anno adventus eorum 
occidentalem circumierunt Britannia partem quse Westsexe nuncupatur. 

10 Sax. Chron. p. 17. Flor. Wig. 205. Ethelw. 834. 


BOOK son are noticed to have established the kingdom of 
. * Wessex. 11 Of the conflicts which he had with the 

501 - Britons during these twenty-four years, the Saxons 
have left scarcely any notice. As Cerdic did not 
arrive in any part of England till forty- six years after 
Hengist, he found a new generation of Britons, with 
different kings and chiefs from those who had em- 
ployed and fought with the conqueror of Kent. 
Gwrtheyrn, Guortemir, and Ambrosius had long been 
dead. The Britons were in possession of all the island 
but Kent and Sussex ; and when Cerdic attacked 
them, they were at liberty to have employed all their 
forces against him, as Ida had not yet arrived, nor 
had the Angles expatriated themselves. 

The only British king whom the Saxons mention 
to the battles that preceded the establishment of this 
West Saxon kingdom was Natanleod, and he appears 
but in one great battle, in which he fell in 508. 12 

508. This was something like a national conflict between 
the two contesting races. Cerdic increased his own 
strength by auxiliary forces from the Saxons in Kent 
and Sussex, and Natanleod assembled the greatest 
army of Britons that had yet met the Saxons to- 
gether. He directed his main attack on their right 
wing, where Cerdic commanded, and drove it from 
the field ; but, too eager in pursuit, he allowed this 
chieftain's son to move on him in the rear, and the 
victory was wrenched from his grasp. 13 He fell with 
5000 Britons ; and such was the extent of his dis- 
aster, that all the region near the scene of conflict 
became afterwards called by his name. 14 This victory 

11 Thus the Sax. Chron. 519. "Her Cerdic and Cynric West-Saexna rice 
onfengun," p. 18. Flor. Wig. " regnare cceperunt," p. 208. Ethelwerd, "in ipso 
anno facietenus cceperunt regnare," p. 834. So Huntingdon to the same date 
" Regnum West-Sexe incipit," p. 313. 

12 Sax. Chron. p. 18. Flor. Wig. 206. Ethelwerd, 834. 

13 H. Hunt, 312. " Sax. Chron. 


gave Cerdic a firm position in the island, though it CHAP. 
did not enable him yet to found a kingdom. . 

The subsequent battles of Cerdic and his friends 508 - 
with the Britons, which the Saxon writers have re* 
corded, are but few. In 514 his kinsmen, Stuf and 
Wihtgar, made their incursion on Cerdicesore. In 
519, Cerdic and his son Cynric obtained a victory at 
Cerdices-ford, which appears to have first laid the 
actual foundation of the West- Saxon kingdom, as 
from this time the Saxon Chronicle dates the reign 
of the West-Saxon kings. 15 The struggle lasted the 
whole day with varying success, but in the evening 
the Saxons conquered. 16 In 528, another conflict is 
mentioned at Cerdices-leah, but its issue is not stated : 
and, in 530, Cerdic and his son took the Isle of 
Wight with great slaughter. In 534, Cerdic died. 17 
He does not appear to have done more than to have 
maintained himself in the district where he landed ; 
but his posterity enlarged his settlement into a 
kingdom so powerful as to absorb every other in 
the island. 

His son Cynric defeated the Britons at Searobyrig ; 552 . 
and four years afterwards at Beranbirig. 18 In this 555. 
last battle the Britons made peculiar exertions to 
overcome their invaders. They collected a large 
army ; and, taught by former defeat the evil of dis- 
orderly combats, their leaders attempted an imitation 
of better discipline. They were formed into nine 
divisions ; three in front, three in the centre, and 
three in the rear, apparently to act as a reserve ; 

is jj er Cerdic and Cynric West Seaxna rice onfengun : " after mentioning 
the battle, it adds, "siththan ricsadon West Seaxa cynebearn of tham dasge." 
Sax. Chron. p. 18. 

16 lien. Hunt. 313. Camden places the battle at a ford of the Avon, at the 
place now called Charford in Hampshire. 

17 Sax. Chron. 20. Flor. Wig. 219. I think Somner goes too far from the line 
of Cerdic's operations, when he guesses this to be Chardsley in Buckinghamshire. 

18 Sax. Chron. 20. Flor. Wig. 220. This is placed at Banbury in Oxfordshire ; 
the other at Salisbury. 


BOOK their archers and horse were arranged like the 
. Eomans. The Saxons, observing the array, condensed 

656 - themselves into one compact body, and made an at- 
tack in this mass which proved irresistible. 19 

It was Cealwin, the third king of Wessex, who 
acceded in 560, that obtained the greatest successes 
against the natives, and took from them more of their 
country than his predecessors had been able to sub- 
due. His brother defeated the Britons at Bedford, 

67 ' and dispossessed them of four towns 20 ; and six 
years afterwards Cealwin himself obtained a great 
victory at Deorham, against three British kings, who 
fell in the battle ; Conmail, Condidan, and Farinmail. 
The number of these kings shows that the former 
ruinous division of the British strength continued in 
the island, though its rulers had at times sufficient 
policy to combine their efforts. This appears to 
have been a conflict of some magnitude, as well from 
the union of the three kings, as from the important 
results of the victory ; for three of the great cities of 
the Britons, Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath, sub- 
mitted after it to the conqueror. 21 Seven years after- 
wards, in 584, the Britons again tried the fortune of 
war with him at Fethanleagh : a son of Cealwin fell 
in the struggle, and the Saxons retreated in disorder ; 
but their king succeeded in rallying them, and at 
last acquired a hard-earned and long-contested tri- 
umph. He obtained much booty and many towns; 
but as the Saxon chronicler remarks that he after- 
wards retired into his own district 22 , the Britons 

19 H. Hunt, p. 314. This ancient author, from sources now lost, has preserved 
the particular circumstances of several of these Saxon battles. He seems to have 
had a military tact which led him to notice them. He had certainly other chro- 
nicles before him than those which have survived to us. 

20 Lygeanburgh ; JEgeles-burh, Benningtun, and Egonesham. Chron. Sax. 
p. 22. These are supposed by Gibson to be Leighton in Bedfordshire ; Aylesbury 
in Buckinghamshire ; Bensington and Ensham in Oxfordshire. 

21 Chron. Sax. p. 22. F. Wig. 223. Ethelw. 835. Durham in Gloucestershire 
is believed to have been the site of this battle. 

22 Gehwearf thonan to his agenum, Chron. Sax. p. 22. 


were still powerful enough to prevent or discourage CHAP. 
his advance. . IL . 

Such is the Saxon statement of the battles which 571. 
attended the establishment and progress of the for- 
midable kingdom of Wessex ; by which we find that 
eighty-two years elapsed after the arrival of Cerdic, 
before it was extended to include Gloucester, Ciren- 
cester, and Bath. Its first acquisition was Hampshire 
by Cerdic. It was enlarged into Wiltshire, Oxford- 
shire, and Buckinghamshire, by his son ; and by his 
grandson into Gloucestershire and part of Somerset- 
shire. But after these successes, it was still flanked 
on the west by British kingdoms in Cornwall, Devon- 
shire, and part of Somersetshire ; arid on the north- 
west by the British princes in Wales ; and by British 
states or kingdoms on the north, from Gloucestershire 
to Scotland. On the south at the sea-coast it was 
supported by the Saxon kingdoms of Sussex and 
Kent. But if the nation of the Angles had not suc- 
cessively arrived after Cerdic's death, to overrun the 
east, the centre, and the country beyond the Humber, 
the Saxon occupation of Britain would have been a 
precarious tenure, or have remained, like Normandy 
in France, but a Saxon colonisation of our southern 
shores. It was the emigration of the Angles from 
Sleswick that ultimately wrested the island from the 
ancient Britons, and converted it into England. But 
before we narrate this great incident, which has so 
peculiarly affected our national fortunes and cha- 
racter, we will pause to consider the ancient British 
accounts of their conflicts with the West-Saxon in- 





As some of the Saxon poetry and MSS. allude to persons whose 
names do not appear in the chronicles which have come down to 
us, but which are mentioned among the ancestors of the Anglo- 
Saxon kings, it may be useful to insert some of their most authen- 
tic genealogies. These are also important for indicating Woden 
to have been a real personage, and for assisting us to annex a rea- 
sonable chronology to his historical existence. They furnish us 
also with five of Woden's ancestors. 






Horsa, p. 13. 


IDA, p. 19. 






WODEN, p. 19. 










CERDIC, p. 15.20. 


















ELLA, p. 20. 












PENDA, p. 28. 

Of these ancestors of Penda, the very ancient Sveno Aggo 
notices with some detail of incidents, Wcermund and Offa. Langb. 
Script, p. 1. D. 1. p. 45. 





Filii Dei 









HENGIST and HORSA, p. 311, 

Erchenwin, 1st king, p. 313. 












IDA, p. 314. 

ELLA, p. 314. 



Wyrhtelsi, p. 833. 













WODEN, p. 1, 




Wihtgils, p. 836 












CERDU, p. 








BOOK Freothwulf 

Hi. Freothlas 

* ' WODEN, p. 1, 





















PENDA. 3 Gall. p. 

IDA, p. 1. 










Guechan. He first reigned 

in Britain over the East 








Soemil. He first conquered 

Deira and Bernicia 
Iffi, Ulli, or ELLA. 

On these genealogies we may remark that they mention four 
sons of Woden, and deduce distinct descendants from each ; that 
they give also Woden's ancestry ; and as the different kings must 
have preserved their own pedigrees, the tendency of the whole is 
to make Woden a real personage. 

If we take 30 years as the average life of each of the descendants, 
these genealogies place the chronology of Woden between 200 and 
300 years after the Christian era. Thus Cerdic's nine ancestors 
from 496, the date of his invasion, would on this computation 
place Woden 225 years after Christ ; Ida's nine from 547, in 277 ; 
Ella's eleven from 560, in 230 ; Penda's eleven from 626, in 296. 

The four from Hengist would make him one generation later, 
but this looks like an imperfect genealogy. 

One of the most ancient ICELANDIC documents that now exist 
is the LANGFEDGATAL. It was used both by Ara Erode and by 
Snorre. It calls Odin the king of the Tyrkia, who are supposed 
to be Turks, and gives him the following ancestry, deducing him 
from THOR. 








Saturnus of Krit 







Priam, King of Troy 

Minon, or Memnon, who mar- 
ried Priam's daughter 

Their son was Tror whom we 
call THOR, the father of 







Seskef, or Sescef 











VODEN, whom we call ODEN. 



" From him descended most of the kingly races in the north 
part of the world. He was king of the Tyrkia. He fled from the 
Romans to the north." 

It then deduces, through two lines of descendants from him, by 
two other sons than those who head the Anglo-Saxon dynasties, 
the kings of Norway and Denmark. 

The Norway line is, 
Niordr in Noatunum, 

was near Sigtun 
Yngui Frseyr 

Agni, the husband of Skialfr 
Aun, the aged 
Egill Slayer of Tunna 
Ottarr Vendilkraka 
Athils of Upsal 

VOL. I. 

The Danish line is, 


which Skioldr 
Havarr-Handrami, or strong 


Varmundr Vitri, or the wise 
Olafr Litillate, or the mild 
Danr Mikillate, or the proud 
Frode Fridsami, or the quiet 
Frode Frsekne 
Ingialdr, the foster of Stark- 


Halfdan, his brother 
Helgi and Hroar 
Rolfr Kraki 

Hraerekr Slaungvan baugi 


BOOK Ingialldr, the cunning Haralldr Hillditaunn 

IIL Olafr Tre-telgia, or the wood- Sigurdr Hring, son of Rand 

' cutter ver 

Haldan Hvit-bein, or white feet RAGNAR LODBROG 

Eysteinn Sigurdr Orm 

Halfdan, the meek Haurda Knutr. 
Grudrodr, the magnanimous 
Halfdar Svarti, or the black 

Langbek Scrip. Dan. 1. p. 1 6. 

This Icelandic document inserts twenty-nine kings between 
Oden and Harald Harfagre, who acceded in 873. But twenty of 
these sovereigns perished violently, and therefore thirty years 
would be too large an average for every one. If we allow twenty 
years each for those who died by violence, and thirty for the other 
nine, this would station Oden about 203 years after the Christian 

The same northern authority puts twenty-three kings between 
Oden and Ragnar Lodbrog, who acceded about 812. As in these 
turbulent parts few Baltic kings died naturally, we cannot take a 
higher average for all than twenty-five years, and this computation 
would place Oden about 237 years after Christ. 

Therefore, on the whole, we may consider Woden, or Odin, to 
have really lived and reigned in the north, and may place his real 
chronology as not earlier than 200, nor later than 300, years of the 
Christian era. 



Ancient BRITISH Accounts of the Battles with the WEST SAXONS, 
and the authentic History of ARTHUR. 

SOME of the battles mentioned by the ancient Welsh CHAP. 
poets are those between Cerdic and the Britons ; one 
of these is the battle at Llongborth. In this conflict 
Arthur was the commander-in-chief 1 ; and Geraint 
ab Erbin was a prince of Devonshire, united with bortb> 
him, against the Saxons. Llywarch Hen, in his 
elegy on his friend, describes the progress of the 
battle. The shout of onset, and the fearful obscurity 
which followed the shock, are succeeded by the ter- 
rible incidents which alarm humanity into abhorrence 
of war. The edges of the blades in contact, the 
gushing of blood, the weapons of the heroes with 
gore fast dropping, men surrounded with terror, the 
crimson gash upon the chieftain's brow, biers with 
the dead and reddened men, a tumultuous running 
together, the combatants striving in blood to the 
knees, and ravens feasting on human prey, compose 
the dismal picture which this ancient bard has trans- 
mitted to us of a battle in which he was personally 
engaged. 2 

The valiant Geraint was slain ; " slaughtering his 
foes he fell." 3 The issue of the conflict is not pre- 
cisely stated, but some ambiguous expressions concur, 
with the absence of all triumphant language, to indi- 
cate that the Britons did not prevail. As Llongborth 

1 Llywarch Hen's Elegies, p. 9. 2 Ib. p. 3 7. 

3 Llywarch Hen's Elegies, p. 7. The 20th triad names him as one of the 
Llynghessawg, the naval commanders of Britain. The Welsh genealogies make 
him the son of Constantine of Cornwall, from Gwen the daughter of Gyngar. 
They give him a son named Seliff. Bodedd y Saint, Welsh Arch. vol. ii. p. 33. 

R 2 


BOOK literally implies the haven of ships, and was some 

. T * L , harbour on the southern coast, we may consider this 

63 - poem as describing the conflict at Portsmouth when 

Porta landed. The Saxon Chronicle says, that a 

very noble British youth fell on that occasion, but 

does not mention his name. 4 

Battle on Llywarch mentions another battle on the Llawen, 
theLiawen. n W j 1 j c j 1 Arthur was engaged. Gwen, the poet's 
favourite son, exerted himself in the struggle. The 
battle was at the ford of Morlas. The bard describes 
his son as watching the preceding night, with his 
shield on his shoulder. He compares his impetuosity 
to the assault of the eagle ; and laments him as the 
bravest of his children. "As he was my son, he did 
not retreat." Of the event of the battle, he only 
says, that Arthur did not recede. 5 

Of the other contests which ensued before Wessex 
was colonised by Saxons, we have no further in- 
formation from the British writers, except of the 
battle at Bath. 

Battle of Gildas intimates, that until the battle of Bath the 
Saxons and the Britons alternately conquered ; and 
that this was almost the last, but not the least, 
slaughter of the invaders. Nennius makes it the 
twelfth of Arthur's battles. 6 The position of this 
battle has been disputed, but it seems to have oc- 
curred near Bath. 7 Its chronology is not clear. 8 

4 Sax. Chron. 17. Fl. Wig. 206. 

5 Llywarch Hen's Elegy on Old Age, p. 131 135. 

6 Gildas, s. 26. Nennius, s. 23. 

7 Mr. Carte describes the Mount of Badon, in Berkshire, p. 205. Usher places 
the battle at Bath, p. 477. Camden also thinks that Badon Hill is the Bannes- 
downe, or that which overhangs the little village Bathstone, and exhibits still its 
bulwarks and a rampire. Gibson, ed. p. 470. 

8 Gildas, in a passage of difficult construction, says, as we interpret, that it took 
place forty-four years before he wrote, annum obsessionis Badonici montis, qui 
que quadragessimus quartus ut novi oritur annus, raense jam primo emenso qui 
jam et mea? nativitatis est, s. 26. Bede construed it to mean the forty- fourth 
year after the Saxon invasion, lib. i. c. 16., but the words of Gildas do not 
support him. Matt. West., p. 186., places it in 520. Langhorn, p. 62., prefers 


The Welsh MSS. in the red book of Hergest, say, CHAP. 
that 128 years intervened from the age of Gwrtheyrn , ^J , 
to the battle of Badon, in which Arthur and the 63 - 
elders conquered the Saxons. 9 

Arthur was the British chieftain who so long re- 
sisted the progress of Cerdic. The unparalleled 
celebrity which this Briton has attained, in his own 
country and elsewhere, both in history and romance, 
might be allowed to exalt our estimation of the Saxon 
chief, who maintained his invasion, though an Arthur 
opposed him, if the British hero had not himself been 
unduly magnified into an incredible and inconsistent 

The authentic actions of Arthur have been so dis- The pro- 
figured by the additions of the minstrels, and of toVof 18 " 
Jeffry, that many writers have denied that he ever Arthur - 
lived 10 : but this is an extreme, as objectionable as 
the romances which occasioned it. The tales that all 
human perfection was collected in Arthur 11 , that 
giants and kings who never existed, and nations 
which he never saw, were subdued by him, that he 
went to Jerusalem for the sacred cross 12 , or that he 
not only excelled the experienced past, but also the 
possible future 13 , we may, if we please, recollect only 

9 See this published in the Cambrian Register, p. 3 1 3. Pryse, in his Defensio, 
p. 120., quotes a passage of Taliesen on this battle, which I have not observed 
among his printed poems. 

10 His existence was doubted very early. Genebrard said, it might be inferred 
from Bede, Arcturum magnum nunquam extitisse. Chron. lib. iii. ap. Usher, 
522. Sigebert, who wrote in the twelfth century, complained that, except in the 
then newly-published British history, nullam de eo mentionem invenimus. 1 Pis- 
tori Rer. German. 504. Our Milton is also sceptical about him. Many others 
are as unfriendly to his fame. 

11 And, in short, God has not made, since Adam was, the man more perfect than 
Arthur. Brut G ab Arthur. 2 W. Archaiol. p. 299. 

12 Nennius, or his interpolator, Samuel, pledges himself that the fragments of 
the cross brought by Arthur were kept in Wedale, six miles from Mailros. 3 Gale, 
p. 114. Langhorn, whose neat Latin Chronicle of the Saxon kingdoms I wish to 
praise for its general precision, adduces Jerom and others to prove that Britons 
used to visit Jerusalem, p. 47. 

13 Joseph of Exeter, in his elegant Antiocheis, after contrasting the inferior 
achievements of Alexander, Ceesar, and Hercules, with those of his flos regum 
Arthur us, adds, 

R 3 


BOOK to despise ; but when all such fictions are removed, 
<_,J < and those incidents only are retained which the 
53o. sober criticism of history sanctions with its approba- 
tion ; a fame ample enough to interest the judicious, 
and to perpetuate his honourable memory, will still 
continue to claim our belief and applause. 

The most authentic circumstances concerning Ar- 
thur, appear to be these : 

ms birth. He was a chieftain in some part of Britain near its 
southern coasts. As a Mouric, king of Glamorgan- 
shire, had a son named Arthur at this period 14 , and 
many of Arthur's actions are placed about that dis- 
trict, it has been thought probable that the celebrated 
Arthur was the son of Mouric: but this seems to 
have been too petty a personage, and too obscure for 
his greater namesake, who is represented by all the 
traditions and history that exist concerning him to 
have been the son of Uther. 

His actions. He is represented, in the Lives of the Welsh Saints, 
with incidents that suit the real manners of the age. 
Meeting a prince in Glamorganshire, who was flying 
from his enemies, Arthur was, at first, desirous of 
taking by force the wife of the fugitive. His military 
friends, Cei and Bedguir, persuaded him to refrain 
from the injustice ; and to assist the prince to regain 
his lands. 15 

A British chief having killed some of his warriors, 
Arthur pursues him with all the avidity of revenge. 
At the request of St. Cadoc, Arthur submits his com- 
plaint to the chiefs and clergy of Britain, who award 
Arthur a compensation. 16 

Sed nee pinetum coryli, nee sidera solem 
JEquant ; annales Latios, Graiosque revolve ; 
Prisca parem nescit, sequalera postera nullum 
Exhibitura dies. Reges supereminet omnes 
Solus ; prateritis melior, majorque futuris. 

A p. Usher, p. 519. 

11 Reg. Llandav. 

15 Vita S. Cadoei, Cott. MSS. Vcsp. A. 14. 1G Ibid. 


At another time, Arthur is stated to have plun- CHAP. 
dered St. Paternus, and to have destroyed a monastery . ni ' . 
in Wales. 17 These incidents suit the short character 53 - 
which Nennius gives of him, that he was cruel from 
his childhood. 18 

It is stated, by Caradoc of Llancarvan, that Melva, 
the king of Somersetshire, carried off Arthur's wife, 
by force, to Glastonbury. Arthur, with his friends, 
whom he collected from Cornwall and Devonshire, 
assaulted the ravisher. The ecclesiastics interposed, 
and persuaded Melva to return her peaceably. Arthur 
received her, and both the kings rewarded the monks 
for their useful interference. 19 

Arthur also maintained a war against the Britons, 
in the north of the island ; and killed Huel, their king. 
He was greatly rejoiced at this success ; because, says 
Caradoc, he had killed his most powerful enemy. 20 
Thus Arthur, by his wars with his own countrymen, 
as much assisted the progress of the Saxons, as he 
afterwards endeavoured to check it, by his struggles 
with Cerdic. 

He may have fought the twelve battles mentioned 
by Nennius 21 ; but it is obvious, from the preceding 
paragraphs, that they were not all directed against 
the Anglo-Saxons. He is represented by Nennius, as 
fighting them in conjunction with the kings of the 

17 Vita S. Cadoci, Cott. MSS. Vesp. A. 14. Vita S. Paterni MS. Cei is men* 
tioned as his companion in a poem of Taliesin's. 

18 Nenn. c. 62. 

19 Carad. Vit. Gild. MSS. King's Lib. Malmsbury mentions, in his History of 
Glastonbury, p. 307., one circumstance of Arthur sending Ider, the son of King 
Nuth, on an adventure, after having knighted him ; but it is too romantically 
narrated to be classed among the authentic facts. Giants have no right to admis- 
sion into ordinary history. 

20 Carad. 

81 Nenn. c. 62, 63. He thus enumerates them : 1st, at the mouth of the river 
called Glen ; 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th, on another river called Douglas, in the region 
of Linius ; 6th, on the river called Bassas ; the 7th, in the wood of Caledon ; the 
8th, in Castle Gunnion, where he adds that Arthur had the image of the cross and 
of Mary on his shoulders ; the ninth, at Caerleon ; the 10th, on the banks of the 
Rebroit; the llth, on the mount called Agned Cathrcgonion ; the 12th on the 
Badon Hills. 

R 4 


BOOK Britons. It is clear, from many authorities, that there 
- were several kings at this time in different parts of 
530. Britain. 22 But there appears, as the preceding pages 
have intimated, to have been a paramount sovereign ; 
a Pen-dragon, or Penteyrn ; who, in nominal dignity 
at least, was superior to every other. Arthur is ex- 
hibited in this character 23 ; and his father Uther had 
the same appellation. 24 

Four of the battles ascribed to him by Nennius 
have been ably illustrated by Mr. Whitaker. Mr. 
Camden and others had remarked, that the Douglas, 
on which Nennius had placed them, was a river in 
Lancashire. The historian of Manchester, whom I 
am happy to praise for his genius and energy, has 
commented on the positions of these conflicts with 
great local knowledge. His fancy, though often too 
prolific, and even on this portion of our history pecu- 
liarly active, yet describes these with so much pro- 
bability, that we may adopt his sketches as history. 25 
The battle of Badon Hills, or near Bath, has been 
celebrated as Arthur's greatest and most useful 
achievement ; a long interval of repose to the Britons 
has been announced as its consequence 26 ; yet it is 
curious to remark, that this victory only checked the 
progress of Cerdic ; and does not appear to have pro- 
duced any further success. We hear not of the 
vindictive pursuit of Arthur, of the invasion of Hamp- 

22 The Cott. MSS. Vesp. A. 14., in the Lives of the Welsh Saints, mention 
several in Wales. 
28 Trioedd 7. p. 3. 

24 There is an elegy on Uthyr's death among the ancient British bards. See 
Welsh Arch. vol. i. 

25 Hist. Manch. vol. ii. p. 43 45. 4to, ed. An ingenious critic in the Gentle- 
man's Magazines for May and June 1 842, has endeavoured to show that Arthur's 
earlier battles were fought against a Saxon colony, probably founded about 450, in 
Bernicia, and that the places mentioned by Nennius are to be recognised in the 
Glen (a stream which falls into the Till), the Dunglass, in South Lothian, the 
channel separating the Bass Rock from the mainland, near North Berwick, &c. 
The planting of this supposed Saxon colony at so early a date, requires, however, 
to be established. 

26 This seems to be the battle mentioned by Gildas and Bede, which occurred 
when Gildas was forty-four years old. 


shire, or the danger of Cerdic. The Saxon was CHAP. 
penetrating onwards even towards Wales or Mercia ; . ^ > 
he was defeated, and did not advance. 27 No other 
conflicts ensued. Arthur was content to repulse. 
This must have been because he wanted power to 
pursue. Arthur was, therefore, not the warrior of 
irresistible strength ; he permitted Cerdic to retain 
his settlements in Wessex ; and such an acquiescence 
accords with the Chronicle, which asserts, that after 
many fierce conflicts, he conceded to the Saxon the 
counties of Southampton and Somerset. 28 The latter 
was however still contested. 

This state of moderate greatness suits the character HOW men- 
in which the Welsh bards exhibit Arthur. They 
commemorate him ; but it is not with that excelling bards, 
glory with which he has been surrounded by sub- 
sequent traditions. On the contrary, Urien of Keged 
seems to have employed the harp more than Arthur. 
Llywarch the aged, who lived through the whole 
period of slaughter, and had been one of the guests 
and counsellors of Arthur 29 , never displays him in 
transcendant majesty. In the battle of Llongborth, 
which Arthur directed, it was the valour of Geraint 
that arrested the bard's notice ; and his elegy, though 
long, scarcely mentions the commander, whose merit, 
in the frenzy of later fables, clouds every other. As 
an effusion of real feeling, this poem may be supposed 
to possess less of flattery and more of truth in its 
panegyric. It speaks of Arthur with respect, but not 
with wonder. Arthur is simply mentioned as the 

2T Bede's expressions taken from Gildas express the general truth of these con- 
flicts. " Now the natives, now their enemies, conquered, until the siege of the 
Hills of Bath, when they (the Britons) did not give the least slaughter to their 
enemies," c. 16. p. 53. 

28 Rad., quoted by Polychronica, says, in quibusdam chronicis legitur, quod 
tandem Arthurus extsediatus, post 26 annum adventus Cerdici fidelitate sibi jurata 
dedit ei Hamptershiram et Somersetham, p. 224. The Chronicle of Ricardi Di- 
visionensis, in MSS. at Cambridge, affirms the same. It is quoted by Langhorn, 
Chron. Rer. Anglorum, p. 70. 

29 Triocdd 116. p. 74. 


BOOK commander and the conductor of the toil of war ; but 
* Geraint is profusely celebrated with dignified peri- 
53 - phrasis. 30 

In the same manner Arthur appears in the Afal- 
lenau of Myrddin ; and in Taliesin he is mentioned 
as a character well known and reverenced 31 , but not 
idolised ; yet he was then dead, and all the actions 
of his patriotism and valour had been performed. 
Not a single epithet is added, from which we can 
discern him to have been that whirlwind of war 
which swept away in its course all the skill and 
armies of Europe. That he was a courageous war- 
rior is unquestionable ; but that he was the miracu- 
lous Mars of the British history, from whom kings 
and nations sunk in panic, is completely disproved 
by the temperate encomiums of his contemporary 

One fact is sufficient to refute all the hyperboles of 
Jeffry, whose work has made him so extravagantly 
great. Though Arthur lived and fought, yet the 
Anglo-Saxons were not driven from the island, but 
gradually advanced their conquest, with progressive 
dominion, whether he was alive or whether he 
was dead. Reflecting on this unquestionable fact, 
we may hesitate to believe that Arthur was victorious 
in all his battles 32 , because, if he wielded the whole 
force of Britain, and only fought to conquer, what 
rescued Cerdic, Ella, the son of Hengist, and the 
invaders of Essex and East-Anglia from absolute 
destruction ? 

30 As "the glory of Britain the terrifier of the foe the molester of the 
enemy the great son of Erbin the strenuous warrior of Dyvnaint." Llywarch, 
p. 37. 

31 Myrddin styles him modur tyrfa, king of a multitude. Afall. ]. W. A. 153. 

32 Nennius, c. 62., says, this "in omnibus bellis victor extitit." But the author 
quoted by Higden, p. 224., says more probably of Cerdic, who often fought with 
Arthur, " si semel vinceretur, alia vice acrior surrexit ad pugnam." Gildas, s. 26., 
implies an alternation of victory previous to the battle of Bath. The MS. Chron. 
Divis., cited by Langhorn, 70., affirms it. 


The Welsh triads notice many of Arthur's friends CHAP. 
and warriors ; and mention one stanza as his com- _ t ' 
position. But this must be mere* tradition. 530 -j 

Sef ynt fy nhri chadfarchawg, 
Mael hir, a Llyr Lluddawg ; 
A cholofn Cymru Caradawg. 33 

To me there are three heroes in battle ; 
Mael the tall, and Llyr with his army, 
And Caradawg the pillar of the Cymry. 

Arthur perished at last ingloriously, in a civil feud ins death, 
with Medrawd his nephew, who is said to have en- 
grossed the affections of Gwenhyfar, his wife. But 
as the blow of Arthur on Medraivd is mentioned as 
one of the most mischievous blows in Britain 34 , this 
may have been the immediate cause of Medrawd's 

The character of Medrawd has been branded with 
much reproach by the Welsh, because their favourite 
Arthur perished in the war which he excited. But 
there is a triad which records his gentleness, good 
nature, and engaging conversation ; and declares that 
it was difficult to deny him any request. 35 He must 
have been powerfully supported, to have raised an 
army capable of confronting Arthur in the field. 
Maelgwn, who reigned in Gwynedd, seems to have 
been one of Medrawd's allies ; for Gildas inculpates 
him for having destroyed the king his uncle, with 
his bravest soldiers. 36 

The conflict took place at Camlan, where both 542. 
Arthur and Medrawd fell 37 : Arthur, mortally wounded, 
was carried out of the field. From the coast of Corn- 
wall he was conveyed into Somersetshire. Sailing 
along the shore they reached the Uzella, which they 

33 Trioedd 29. p. 62. S1 Trioedd 51. p. 13. 

35 Trioedd 83. p. 18. Gildas, p. 12. 

87 This battle is placed in 542, by the Annals in Wliarton's Anglia Sacra, vol. ii. 
p. 648. ; by many authors cited by Usher, Ant. p. 521. ; and by Jeffry and the 
Welsh Brut ab Arthur. 






His death 

His family. 

ascended, and the king was committed to the care of 
his friends in Glastonbury 38 , but their skill could not 
avert the fatal hour. 

The death of Arthur was long concealed, and a 
wild tale was diffused among the populace, that he 
had withdrawn from the world into some magical 
region ; from which at a future crisis he was to 
re-appear, and to lead the Cymry in triumph through 
the island. Why this fiction was invented, we may 
now in vain inquire. It could not repress the ambi- 
tion of the Saxons, because the temporary absence of 
Arthur was sufficient to favour their wishes ; and if 
his living authority could not prevent British insur- 
rection, was it probable that his residence in another 
region would avail ? Yet Taliesin industriously sang 
that Morgana promised, if he remained a long time 
with her, to heal his wounds ; and it is notorious that 
the return of Arthur was a fond hope of the people 
for many ages. Perhaps it was an illusion devised 
to avert the popular vengeance from those who, by 
aiding Medrawd, had contributed to produce the 
lamented event 39 ; or perhaps some, affecting to reign 
in trust for Arthur, conciliated the public prejudice 
in favour of their government, by thus representing 
that they governed only for him. 

Of the family of Arthur we know little. We hear 
of Noe in Caermarthenshire, reputed to be his son ; 
another son, Llechau, is celebrated as an accomplished 
warrior. 40 His sister Anna married Llew, brother of 
the famous Urien, and son of Cynvarch ; Medrawd 
was her son. 41 The marriage of Anna united the 

38 See Jeffry's curious poem, his best work, MSS. Cott. Lib. Vesp. E. 4. See, 
also, Giraldus Spec. Eccles. dist. ii. c. 9., cited apud Usher, p. 523. 

39 Matth. Westm., p. 192., declares that the king voluntarily concealed himself 
while dying, that his enemies might not triumph, nor his friends be molested. 

40 MSS. Vesp. A. 14. p. 57. Trioedd 10. p. 3. 

41 See the genealogy in Mr. Owen's Life of Lly warch. 


kings of the Northern Britons in consanguinity with CHAP. 
Arthur. J 

But though the friends of Arthur concealed the 

His re- 

place of his interment, a future age discovered it. mains 
In the year 1189, when romance had begun to 
magnify his fame, his body was diligently sought for 
in the abbey of Glastonbury. The circumstances 
attending this search give us the first clear arid 
historical certainty about this celebrated man, and 
are therefore worth detailing. They have been trans- 
mitted to us by Giraldus Cambrensis, who saw both 
the bones and the inscription, as well as by a monk 
of the abbey ; and the same facts are alluded to by 
William of Malmsbury, a contemporary, and by 

The substance of the account of Giraldus is this. 42 
Henry the Second, who twice visited Wales, had 
heard, from an ancient British bard, that Arthur was 
interred at Glastonbury, and that some pyramids 
marked the place. The king communicated this to 
the abbot and monks of the monastery, with the ad- 
ditional information, that the body had been buried 
very deep to keep it from the Saxons ; and that it 
would be found not in a stone tomb, but in a hollowed 
oak. There were two pyramids or pillars at that 
time standing in the cemetery of the abbey. They 
dug between these till they came to a leaden cross 
lying under a stone, which had this inscription, and 
which Giraldus says he saw and handled "Hie 
jacet sepultus inclytus Eex Arthurus in insula Aval- 
Ionia." 43 Below this, at the depth of sixteen feet 

42 This account of Giraldus corresponds with that of the monk of Glastonbury, 
which Leland has extracted in his Assert. Art. p. 60. ; and Usher in his Antiq. 
p. 117. Malmsbury more briefly alludes to it, De Ant. Glast. 

43 A fac-simile of this inscription is given in Gibson's Camden, p. 66. ; and in 
Whitaker's Manchester, part ii. Dr. Whitaker was told that the cross had then 
lately been in the possession of Mr. Chancellor Hughes, at Wells. The form of 
the letters suits the age of Arthur. 


BOOK from the surface, a coffin of hollowed oak was found, 

. m ' , containing bones of an unusual size. The leg-bone 

542 - was three fingers (probably in their breadth) longer 

than that of the tallest man then present. This man 

was pointed out to Giraldus. The skull was large, 

and showed the marks of ten wounds. Nine of these 

had concreted into the bony mass, but one had a cleft 

in it, and the opening still remained ; apparently the 

mortal blow. 44 

Giraldus says, in another place, that the bones of 
one of Arthur's wives were found there with his, but 
distinct, at the lower end. Her yellow hair lay ap- 
parently perfect in substance and colour, but on a 
monk's eagerly grasping and raising it up, it fell to 
dust. 45 

The bones were removed into the great church at 
Glastonbury, and deposited in a magnificent shrine, 
which was afterwards placed, in obedience to the order 
of Edward I., before the high altar. He visited Glas- 
tonbury with his queen, in 1276, and had the shrine 
of Arthur opened to contemplate his remains. They 
were both so interested by the sight, that the king 
folded the bones of Arthur in a rich shroud, and the 
queen those of his wife ; and replaced them reveren- 
tially in their tornb. 46 

The circumstances of Arthur's funeral could be 
known only from Welsh traditions. Giraldus has left 
us one of these : " Morgan, a noble lady, proprietor of 
this district, and patroness of the Abbey, and related 
to Arthur, had the king carried, after the battle of 
Camlan, to the island called Glastonbury, to heal his 

44 Matthew Paris notices the discovery of the bones, but says that it was occa- 
sioned by their digging the grave of a monk, who had an earnest desire to be 
buried in that spot. It is not improbable that this may have been a further in- 
ducement with the convent to have the spot dug. 

45 Girald. Institutio Principis. ap. Lei. 47. This work still remains in MS. in 
the British Museum. 

46 Mon. Glast. Lei. 55. 


wounds." 47 The same facts are alluded to by Jeffry, CHAP. 
in his elegant poem, which entitles him to more <_^ 
literary respect than his history, and which contains 542 * 
more of real British traditions. 48 

The pyramids or obelisks that are stated to have 
marked the place of Arthur's interment, long remained 
at Glastonbury. They had images and inscriptions, 
which have not yet been understood, but which do 
not seem to relate to Arthur. 49 A sword, fancied to 
have been his caliburno, was presented by Richard 
the First, as a valuable gift, to the king of Sicily. 50 

47 Gir. in Speculo Ecclesiastico, MSS. Brit. Mus. ; and ap. Lei. 44. 

48 It is among the MSS. in the British Museum. Since it was noticed in this 
work, Mr. Ellis has given an account of it, with extracts, in his History of the 
Early English Romances. 

49 On one of the sides of the pyramid that was twenty-six feet high, with five 
sides, was a figure in a pontifical dress : on the second side was a royal personage, 
with the letters Her, Sexi, Blisyer : on the third, Wemerest, Bantomp, Winewegn : 
the other sides had also inscriptions. The smaller pyramid was eighteen feet high, 
and had four sides with inscriptions. W. Malms, de Antiq. Glast. Gale, iii. 
p. 306., as collated in my copy by Hearne. 

50 Usher, p. 121. These are the only circumstances which we can present to 
the reader as Arthur's authentic history. The romances about him contain 
several names of real persons, and seem occasionally to allude to a few real facts. 
But their great substance and main story are so completely fabulous, that what- 
ever part of them was once true, is overwhelmed and lost in their fictions, and 
manifest falsifications both of manners and history. 



Establishment of the ANGLO-SAXONS in EAST ANGLIA, MERCIA, 
and ESSEX. Arrival of IDA in NORTHUMBERLAND. Battles 
with the BRITONS. Kingdoms of BERNICIA and DEIRA. 

BOOK WHILE Cerdic and his son were conflicting with 
t " L . Arthur, and the other British kings and chiefs who 
oppposed them in Hampshire and the adjoining re- 
gions, several adventurers from the nation of the 
Angles in Sleswick arrived on the eastern coast of the 
island. The chronology of their invasions cannot be 
more definitely stated than by the date which an old 
chronnicler has affixed to them, and which accords so 
well with the other facts on this subject, that it may 
First am- be considered as entitled to our attention. Another, 
Angiia. East more ancient, has mentioned that many petty chiefs 
527. arrived in East Anglia and Mercia in the reign of 
Cerdic, and fought many battles with the natives; 
but as they formed no kingdom and were numerous, 
their names had not been preserved. 1 The year in 
which these invasions began to occur is placed by the 
other annalist in 527. 2 

Kingdom Contemporary with these assailants, a body of 

founded. Saxons planted themselves in Essex, and, protected on 

53 - the south by the kingdom of the Jutes in Kent, and 

on the north by the adventurers in East Anglia, they 

succeeded in founding a little kingdom, about 530 3 , 

which has little else to attract our notice, than that it 

gradually stretched itself into Middlesex, and obtained 

the command of London, then but a flourishing town 

of trade, though destined in a subsequent age to be- 

1 H. Huntingd. p. 313. 2 Matt. Westm. p. 188. 

3 The first king was Erkenwin, who died 587. Matt. Westm. p. 200. 


come the metropolis of all the Jute, Saxon, and Angli CHAP. 
kingdoms of the island. <L > 

In this state of the contest between the British 53 - 
nation and their Saxon invaders, while the Britons, 
yet masters of all the island, from the Avon to the 
Cornish promontory on the west, and to the Firth of 
Forth on the north, were resisting and arresting the 
progress of the son of Cerdic on the one hand, and 
the unrecorded adventurers in Norfolk and Suffolk on 
the other, the most formidable invasion which the 
natives had yet been called upon to oppose, occurred 
on the coast above the Hurnber. In 547, Ida led or Ha arrives 
accompanied, to the region between the Tweed and the 547. 
Firth of Forth, a fleet of forty vessels of warriors, all 
of the nation of the Angles. 4 Twelve sons were with 
him. 5 The chieftains associated with him, or who 
afterwards joined in his enterprise, appointed him 
their king. 6 Ida, like Hengist, Cerdic, and Ella, 
traced his pedigree to Woden, the great ancestor of 
the Anglo-Saxon chieftains, as well as those of Nor- 
way, Sweden, and Denmark. 

That part of Britain, between the Humber and the state of the 
Clyde, was occupied by Britons ; but they were 
divided into many states. The part nearest the Hum- 
ber was called Deifyr by the ancient natives, which, 
after the Saxon conquest was named Deira; and 
north of Deifyr was Bryneich, which became Latin- 
ised into Bernicia. Deifyr and Bryneich had three 
sovereigns, whose names have descended to us : Gall, 
Dyvedel, and Ysgwnell. 

In some part of the district between the Humber 
and the Clyde, was a state called Keged, which Urien, 

4 Flor. Wig. " In provincia Berniciorum," p. 218. So Nennius calls him the 
first king of Bernicia, p. 114. 

5 We may record their names as specimens of their family appellations : Adda, 
Belric, Theodric, Ethelric, Theodhere, Osmer from his queens, and Occa, Ailric, 
Ecca, Oswold, Sogor, and Sogether. Most of these are significant words, or com- 
binations of words, in the Saxon language. 

6 So Huntingdon states, p. 314. 

VOL. I. S 


BOOK the patron of Taliesin, governed. In the parts nearest 
. IIL . the Clyde, there were three other sovereigns, Rhyd- 
547 - derc the Generous, Gwallog the son of Lleenog, and 
Morgant. Llywarch Hen also enjoyed a little prin- 
cipality in Argoed. Aneurin, the bard, was the chief 
of a district, called Gododin. And Mynnyddawr 
ruled in a part near the friths at Eiddyn, which has 
been conjectured to be the origin of Edinburgh, or 
the burgh of Edin. Cunedda was also a wledig, or 
sovereign, in some of these northern regions, who 
emigrated into North Wales ; and Cau was another. 
All these, and some others, are mentioned in the 
Welsh remains ; which prove that the north of 
Britain, like the south, was divided into many sove- 
reignties : some of them of very inconsiderable size. 
This state of the country, at the time of the Anglo- 
Saxon invasion, must be always recollected, when the 
facility and permanency of the Saxon conquests are 
adverted to. 7 From the Kymry, or Britons, having 
retained possession of much of this country, for some 
time after the Saxon invasions, a large portion of it 
was called Cumbria ; which is the Latin name by 
which their states or kingdoms in these parts have been 
usually expressed. As the Saxon conquests spread, 
the extent of British Cumbria was diminished, and 
the most noted of the British race, who had any Cum- 
brian kingdom in these parts, were the Ystradclwyd, 
who maintained what has been called the Strath Clyde 
kingdom. The word, Y-strad-clyde, literally imports 
the valley of the Clyde ; and the region they occu- 
pied was therefore about the Clyde. After enduring 
wars, with various fortune, with the Britons, the 
Dalriads, and the Piks, their little kingdom was de- 
stroyed, in the close of the tenth century. Alclyde, 

7 See for these facts Nennius Caradoc's Life of Gildas The Welsh Triads 
Aneurin's Gododin Taliesin's Poems Cotton. MSS. Vesp. A. 14. Llywarch 
Hen's Poems Bodedd y Saint. W. Arch. ii. 


which means the height of the Clyde, was the princi- CHAP. 
pal town of the Y-strad-clyde, and was in all likeli- . 

hood the present Dumbarton. This circumstance 547 - 
increases the probability, that the Eiddyn, another 
town in these parts, which Mynnyddawr governed 
at this period, was the town on the Forth, almost 
parallel with Alclyde, and which has long become 
illustrious under the name of Edinburgh. Another 
British state between the Y-strad-clyde, and the 
Saxons, seems to have existed so late as the tenth 
century ; as Eugenius, or Owen, king of the Cumbri, 
is then mentioned. 8 

The defence of the Britons, according to the poems 
which remain in the manuscripts of their ancient 
poets, appears to have been peculiarly vigorous in 
these districts : and their warriors have received a 
liberal meed of praise from the bards whom they 

Of these, Urien, the chief of Keged, has been most urien of 
extolled. He was the son of Cynvarc the Aged. 9 Reged * 
Taliesin has addressed to him several poems with 
warm panegyric ; and alludes to him in others. In 
these he calls him the head of the people ; the shield 
of warriors ; the most generous of men ; bounteous 
as the sea ; the thunderbolt of the Cymry. He com- 
pares his onset to the rushing of the waves ; and to 
the fiery meteors moving across the heavens. 10 But 
though he notices him as engaged in many battles n , 
he has only distinctly described the battle of Argoed 
Llwyfain, and the battle of Gwenystrad. 

As Ida was the war-king, who led the Angles 

8 Mr. Pinkerton distinguishes the kingdom of Stratclyde from the kingdom of 
Cumbria, Inq. Hist. Scot. i. p. 60 99. But a we must add to this opinion, the 
recollection that there were many British states at the time of Ida's invasion. 

9 Several triads mention him and his family, as also Llywarch Hen, and 

10 See the Yspeil Taliesin, p. 57. Canu Urien Reged, p. 55. ; and his other 
poems addressed to Urien. 

11 As in his Canu i Urien, p. 57. 

s 2 


BOOK against the Britons in these parts, it was with his forces 
- that Urien and his sons and friends so fiercely com- 
547 - bated. Ida is not named in the Welsh poetry : 
because they have chosen to stigmatise the invader 
by a reproachful epithet. They call him Flamd- 
dwyn 12 , the flame-bearer, or destroyer ; a term which 
implies the devastations that accompanied his pro- 
gress. As the elegy of Llywarch Hen, on Urien, 
expresses that he conquered in the land of Bryneich, 
or Bernicia 13 , we must infer that he was frequently 
successful against Ida ; and two of his most fortunal 
battles appear to be those which Taliesin has selecte< 
for his praise. 

Battle of The bard states, that on a Saturday, the invaders, 

under " the destroyer," hastened with four divisions 
to surround Goddeu and Keged, the seat of Urien'j 
government. They spread from Argoed to Arfyn- 
nydd, and demanded submission and hostages. 

Owen, the son of Urien, and his friend Cenau, in- 
dignantly rejected the proposal. Urien then indul^ 
their ardour. He exclaimed, 

Being assembled for our country, 
Let us elevate our banners above the mountains ; 
And push forward our forces over the borders : 
And lift our spears above the warriors' heads ; 
And rush upon the Destroyer in his army ; 
And slay both him and his followers ! 

Impressed with his patron's valour, Taliesin de- 
clares, that when he was declining with age, h< 
should be unable to meet death with smiles, unless 
he was praising Urien. 14 

18 Flamddwyn is also mentioned in the triads ; but it is for a misfortune whk 
some ladies will not permit either the brave or the good to escape. His wife, Bi 
is classed among the British women who were notorious for unchastity. Trioedc 
p. 56. It would seem from this tradition that he had married a British lady. 

13 Llywarch Hen, Welsh Arch. p. 104. Mr. Owen (now Dr. Owen Pughe) 
published a translation of this ancient bard, which, though wanting some revisal, 
entitles him to the thanks of all the friends of British literature. 

11 Taliesin, p. 53. 


Another conflict with Ida was at the mound of 
Gwenystrad, literally, " the pleasant valley." The 
Britons of Cattraeth assembled round Urien, " the 
king of victorious battle." Taliesin, who was present 
in the struggle, thus describes it : 

Neither the fields, nor the woods, gave safety to the foe, 

When the shout of the Britons came 

Like a wave raging against the shore 

I saw the brave warriors in array ; 

And after the morning, how mangled ! 

I saw the tumult of the perishing hosts ; 

The blood springing forward and moistening the ground. 

Gwenystrad was defended by a rampart : 

Wearied, on the earth, no longer verdant, 

I saw, at the pass of the ford, 

The blood-stained men dropping their arms ; 

Pale with terror ! 

I admired the brave chief of Reged ; 

I saw his reddened brow, 

When he rushed on his enemies at Llec gwen Calystan : 

Like the bird of rage was his sword on their bucklers : 

It was wielded with deadly fate. 

Taliesin renews his wish not to die pleasantly, 
unless he was praising Urien. 15 

Besides the patriotic valour of Urien, which he 
lavishly praises with all the artifice, and sometimes 
with the exaggerations of poetry 16 ; Taliesin extols 
highly his liberality. This is the theme of several 
poems. 17 

15 Taliesin, p. 52. 

16 One specimen may be added : 

What noise is that ? Does the earth shake ? 

Or is it the swelling sea that roars ? 

If there be a sigh in the dingle ; 

Is it not Urien who thrusts ? 

If there be a sigh on the mountains ; 

Is it not Urien who conquers ? 

If there be a sigh on the slope of the hills ; 

Is it not Urien who wounds ? 

If there be a sigh of dismay ; 

Is it not from the assault of Urien ? 

There is no refuge from him ; 

Nor will there be from famine, 

To those who seek plunder near him ! 

His wrath is death ! 

Can. Urien, p. 56. 

17 See the Dadolwch Urien, which is translated in the Vindication of the ancient 

s 3 



Urien was also commemorated by his bardic friend, 
Llywarch Hen, who has left an elegy upon him. 
After bravely resisting the Saxons, it was the mis- 
fortune of Urien to be involved in one of those civil 
contests which were at this period the disgrace and 
ruin of the Britons. As he was besieging one of the 
descendants and successors of Ida, in Holy Island, he 
was slain by Llovan Lawdeffro, or Llovan with the 
detested hand, an emissary of Morgant, one of the 
chiefs of the Northern Britons. 18 Llywarch's elegy 
celebrates the British king with much earnest sym- 
pathy, but in rude and warlike strains. 19 

British Poems, now annexed to this work. See also the Songs to Urien in 
Welsh Arch. i. p. 55. 

18 Nenn. Gen. p. 117. Trioedd 38. p. 9. 

19 Marwnad Lly. Hen. W. A. p. 103107. As Llywarch Hen is one of the 
British bards of the sixth century, the genuineness of whose poems is strongly 
marked, I will translate some extracts from his Elegy on Urien of Reged. He 
begins with an abrupt address to his spear. 

Let me rush forward, thou ashen piercer ! 
Fierce thine aspect in the conflict ! 
*Tis better to kill than to parley. 

Let me rush forward, thou ashen piercer ! 
Bitter and sullen as the laugh of the sea 
Was the bursting tumult of the battle, 
Of Urien of Reged the vehement and stubborn. 

An eagle to his foe in his thrust, brave as generous. 
In the angry warfare, certain of victory 
Was Urien, ardent in his grasp. 

I bear by my side a head ; 

The head of Urien ! 
The courteous leader of his army ; 
But on his white bosom the raven is feeding. 

He was a shield to his country ; 

His course was a wheel in battle. 

Better to me would be his life than his mead : 

He was a city to old age ; 

The head, the noblest pillar of Britain. 

I bear a head that supported me ! 

Is there any known but he welcomed ? 

Woe to my hand ! 

Where is he that feasted me ? 

I bear a head from the mountain 
The lips foaming with blood. 
Woe to Reged from this day. 


Owen, one of the sons of Urien, was also dis- CHAP. 
tinguished for his brave resistance to the Angles . ^ / 


My arm lias not shrunk, His son 

But my breast is greatly troubled. Owen. 

My heart ! is it not broken ? 
The head I bear supported me. 

The slender white body will be interred to day, 

Under earth and stones. 

Woe to my hand ! 

The father of Owen is slain. 

Eurddyl will be joyless to-night. 
Since the leader of armies is no more, 
In Aber Lieu Urien fell. 

Dissevered is my lord : 

Yet. from his manly youth 

The warriors loved not his resentment. 

Many chiefs has he consumed. 

The fiery breath of Urien has ceas'd. 

I am wretched. 

There is commotion in every district, 

In search of Llovan with the detested hand. 

Silent is the gale, 
But long wilt thou be heard. 
Scarcely any deserve praise, 
Since Urien is no more. 

Many a dog for the hunt and ethereal hawk 
Have been trained on this floor, 
Before Erlleon was shaken into ruins. 

This hearth ; no shout of heroes now adheres to it : 

More usual on its floor 

Was the mead ; and the inebriated warriors. 

This hearth ! will not nettles now cover it ? 

While its defender lived, 

More frequent was the tread of the petitioner. 

The green sod will cover it now ; 
But when Owen and Elphin lived 
Its cauldron seethed the prey. 

This hearth ! the mouldy fungus will hide it now. 

More usual about its meals 

Was the striking of the sword of the fierce warrior. 

Thorns will now cover it. 

More usual once was the mixture 

Of Owen's friends in social harmony. 

Ants will soon overrun it 

More frequent were the bright torches 

And honest festivities. 

Swine will henceforward dig the ground, 
Where once the gladness of heroes 
And the horn of the banquet went round : 
It was the solace of the army and the path of melody. 
s 4 





Battle of 

under Ida. Taliesin praises his liberality and valour; 
and says he chased his enemy, as a herd of wolves 
pursuing sheep. 20 In his song to the Winds, the bard 
records Owen's successful defence of the flocks and 
cattle of his province ; and also mentions his battles 
at the ford of Alclud, and other places. The poet's 
imagery is wild and dismal, like his subject. He 
describes the swords whirled round the faces of the 
combatants, and the blood staining their temples. 
" There was joy," he exclaims, " that day to the 
ravens, when men clamoured with the frowning 
countenance of battle. But the shield of Owen never 
receded." 21 The elegy states, that by the sword of 
this warrior Flamddwyn perished. 22 Taliesin occa- 
sionally commemorates other British heroes ; but as it 
would be useless to revive a catalogue of names, long 
since forgotten, they need not be enumerated here. 

That conflict between the Saxons and Britons, 
which occupies the largest space in the ancient British 
poetry, is the battle or destruction of Cattraeth. It 
forms the subject of the Gododin of Aneurin 23 , a 
poem much alluded to and venerated by the poets of 
Wales, and which has procured for him, among them, 
the title of the king of the bards. He was a chieftain 
in the northern part of the island, in the sixth cen- 
tury ; and perished at last from the blow of an axe, 
inflicted by one Eiddyn, who has been therefore 
classed as one of the three foul assassins of Britain. 24 

20 Marwnad Owain ap Urien Reged, Tal. W. A. i. p. 59. 

21 Can y Gwynt, p. 38, 39. 

22 Marwnad Owain, p. 59. Both the Saxon Chronicles, Flor. Wig. p/218., 
and Nennius, p. 116., mention Ida to have reigned only twelve years. Yet Hun- 
tingdon calls him at his accession " juvenem nobilissimum," p. 314. The com- 
parison of these authorities places Ida's death in the flower of his manhood ; and 
this gives a countenance to the Welsh bard's assertion, that he perished in his 
conflicts with Owen of Reged. 

23 It is the first poem printed in the Archaiology of Wales. I printed a trans- 
lation of the first seventy-three lines, in the " Vindication of the ancient British 

24 Tair anfad gyflafan ynys Prydain. Eiddyn mab Einygan a laddwys Aneurin 
Gwawdrydd mydeyrn beird." Triad 47. Welsh Arch. ii. p. 65., and see p. 9. 


As it contains no regular narration of incident, CHAP. 
and no introductory annunciation of its subject, but . 

consists chiefly of stanzas but little connected, on the 54 /- 
feats and praises of the chieftains whom it comme- dodin of 
morates ; and as it records places and British heroes, Aneunm 
whose names, however notorious in their day, are not 
preserved elsewhere, it is difficult to say to what pre- 
cise event or locality it actually applies. That the 
warriors mentioned were the contemporaries of Aneu- 
rin is clear from its contents 25 , but this is all that we 
can with certainty infer. 

It has been usually supposed to record a battle, 
between the collected Britons of the north, under 
Mynyddawr of Eiddyn, which has been assumed to 
be Edinburgh, and the Saxons of Ida, or his successor. 
The issue was calamitous to the Britons ; for out of 
above 360, who wore the golden torques, the mark of 
their nobility, only three escaped, of whom the bard 
was one. 26 This unfortunate result is undeniably 
stated ; and it is as manifestly imputed to the Britons' 
having previously indulged in an excess of mead. 

A recent writer on Cambrian mythology, whose The new 
imagination has been as active as such an illusive ^ eoryup011 
subject could excite it to be, has strenuously urged, 

25 Thus he says he saw what he describes : 

" I saw the scene from the high land of Adoen. 
I saw the men in complete order at dawn at Adoen. 
And the head of Dyfnwal ravens were consuming." 

Gweleis y dull o ben tir Adoen. 

Gweleis y wyr tyll vawr gan u aur Adoen. 

Aphen Dyvynaul vrych brein ae cnoyn. 

God. W. A. p. 13. 

26 A stanza of the Gododin thus states the result : 

" The warriors went to Cattraeth. They were famous. 
Wine and mead, fronf gold, had been their liquors 
Three heroes, and three score, and three hundred, 
"With the golden torques. 
Of those who hastened after the jovial excess, 
There escaped only three from the power of the swords, 
The two war-dogs, Aeron and Cynon Dayarawd, 
And I from the flowing blood, 
The reward of my blessed muse." 

Godod. p. 4. 


BOOK that the Gododin records the famous massacre of the 

' ^ > British nobles by Hengist. 27 That it neither men- 

547> tions Hengist nor Gwrtheyrn, has not appeared to 

him to be an objection. 28 He supports his opinion by 

an unusually free translation, and by a sanguine 


This translation contains so much fancy, and is in 
parts so forcibly adapted to the conjecture, and the 
whole is removed so much from the plain literal 
sense, that it seems most reasonable to dismiss the 
new hypothesis, as the illusion of a warm imagination. 
If the poem has any relation to the incident, which 
has become the subject of the tradition alluded to, 
that incident cannot be attached to Hengist, and did 
not occur in the manner hinted by Nennius, and de- 
tailed by Jeffry. 29 

The prevailing subject of the poem, continually re- 
peated in every second or third stanza, is the intoxi- 
cation of the Britons, from some great feast of mead 
previous to the battle. 30 So far the poem and the 

27 See Mythology and Rites of the British Druids, p. 318 384. Of its author, 
the Rev. Edward Davies, I wish to speak with more than mere respect, because his 
remarks on the ancient Welsh literature, in this work and in his Celtic researches, 
though displaying the same creative imagination, which pervades and injures Mr. 
Whitaker's historical investigations, have yet in many parts thrown great light on 
the venerable remains of the British bards, and contributed to gain for them more 
attention than they have been accustomed to receive. 

28 Mr. Davies thinks that he traces various allusions to them and to Ambrosius ; 
but the same latitude of construction in this respect would almost make any poem 
mean any thing. 

29 The difference of opinion between Mr. Davies and all former readers of the 
Gododin, cannot be better stated than in his own words ; " I also perceived, that 
the great catastrophe which the bard deplores, was not, as it has been generally 
represented, the fall of 360 nobles in the field of battle, to which they had rushed 
forth in a state of intoxication ; but, the massacre of 360 unarmed British nobles, 
in time of peace, and at a feast, where they had been arranged promiscuously with 
armed Saxons," p. 321. On this I will only remark, that the former opinion is 
the manifest literal import of the poet's words. The new conjecture requires the 
ingenious author's commentary, as well as an adapted translation to make it at all 

30 They went to Cattraeth : 
Loquacious were their hosts. 

Pale mead had been their feast, and was their poison, 

God. p. 2. 
So many other passages : 

Gwyr a aeth Gattraeth vedvaeth vedwn. Ibid. 


tradition correspond ; and all the British nobles CHAP. 
perished but three, another coincidence. But as . 

Aneurin, according to the unvarying statement of the Its ^ n ' tof 
Welsh literature, lived in the early part of the sixth 31 foundation, 
century, and was contemporary with Taliesin, who 
mentions him 32 ; and as the bard was himself one of 
the survivors of the conflict, and a captive from it 33 , 
it cannot have occurred till some time after Hengist 
had died. 34 To this decisive evidence, from its chrono- 
logy, may be added a remark, that although to the 

Med yvynt melyn melys maglawr. God. p. 2. 

Cyt yven vedd gloew wrth liw babir, 
Cyt vei da ei vlas y gas bu hir. Ibid. 

So the bard says he partook of the wine and mead there ; 

Yveis y win a med y Mordai. God. p. 4. 

31 So Mr. Davies acknowledges, p. 317. ; and adds, "Edward LI wyd refers the 
era of the Gododin to the year 510, and this probably upon the authority of the 
ancient MS. which he quotes in the same passage," p. 321. 

32 In his Anrec Urien, p. 51. In like manner Aneurin speaks of Taliesin : 

I Aneurin will do 

What is known to Taliesin, 

The partaker of my mind. God. p. 7. 

33 Aneurin thus mentions his captivity : 

In the earthy abode, 

With the iron chain 

About the top of my two knees ; 

From the mead, 

From the festive horns, 

From the host at Cattraeth. God. p. 7. 

34 Mr. Davies escapes the difficulties of chronology by three large suppositions. 
First, he supposes, that though Hengist came in 449, yet that the reputed massacre 
did not occur till 472. But though Hengist was then alive, the Saxon Chronicle 
states, that he obtained his kingdom after a battle in 455 ; and that in 457, after 
another battle, the Britons abandoned Kent. Another battle, in which twelve 
British leaders fell, occurred in 465. After such transactions as these, such a con- 
fiding banquet was not likely to have occurred on the part of the Britons, iior was 
such a massacre wanted to give Hengist that kingdom, which he had both acquired 
and maintained. His second and third will best speak for themselves : " There is 
no improbability in Aneurin's having attended the feast, as a young bard, in 472, 
and his having bewailed the friends of his youth, thirty-eight years afterwards, when 
he had fallen into the hands of the foe, and was confined in a dreary dungeon," 
p. 322. Yet according to Aneurin's own expressions in the preceding note, the 
captivity seems to me to be clearly referred to the destruction at Cattraeth. His 
words are : 

Yn y ty deyerin 
Catuyn heyernin 
Am benn vy deulin 
O ved o vuelin 
O Gattraeth wnin. 
Then follows the passage, in note 32., on himself and Taliesin. 



BOOK praise of his several heroes, or of their exploits, he an- 
. nexes, almost invariably, a lamentation of their festive 
547 * indulgence ; yet this is not accompanied with any spe- 
cific charge of treachery on the part of the Saxons. 35 
If it related to the reported massacre, the natural pro- 
cess of the poet's mind would have been to have in- 
veighed against the Saxons for their perfidy ; instead 
of so continuously censuring the Britons for their 
inebriety. If Hengist had invited them to a banquet 
of peace and friendship, it was not merely natural, 
but it was even laudable, according to the customs of 
that age, that the festivity should advance to intoxi- 
cation. As it is not likely that the bards ever wit- 
nessed a public banquet without this termination, it 
could not justly form, nor would have been made a 
subject of inculpation. 

That the Gododin should commemorate so many 
British chiefs, Ceawg 36 , Cynon, Madawg, Tulvwlch, 
Mynnydawg, Cyvwlch, Caradawg, Owen, Eidiol, 
Pereddur, and Aeddan ; and yet not actually name 
either Gwrthyrn, Guortemir, or Ambrosius, cannot 
but strengthen the inference, that it has no concern 
with the latter ; for why should some be mentioned 
directly and plainly, and others, the most important 
in rank and power, he never named, but implied, as 
he thinks, by some periphrasis ? 

The locality of the incident alluded to in the 
poem, seems also, as far it can be ascertained, to be 
inconsistent with the massacre imputed to Hengist. 
It fixes the scene at Cattraeth, and it implies that the 

35 Mr. Davies believes he discerns such charges. But the supposed allusions are 
not direct, and do not seem to me to be the natural construction of the passages 
so applied. 

86 This hero, whose name begins four of the stanzas of the poem, and whose 
praise seems to be their import, has been converted by Mr. Davies, contrary to all 
former translations, into an epithet. But by the same mode of interpretation, 
when we meet with the names Hengist, Cicero, and Naso, we may, if we please, 
turn our Saxon ancestor into a war-horse ; the Roman orator into a bean ; and the 
poet of tbe metamorphoses into a nose. 


people of Deira and Bernicia were in the conflict. 37 CHAP. 
Cattraeth has been always placed in the northern dis- *. . ' 
tricts. So has Eiddyn, from which Mynnydawg 547 - 
came, whose courteousness is repeatedly praised in 
the poem, and whom in its natural construction it 
mentions as the commander of the British force. His 
host is also mentioned in the conflict, not as if he 
was feasting with a small retinue, but as his warlike 
tribe 38 ; and it is correspondent with this view that 
the Triads mention his host at the battle of Cattraeth, 
as one of the three gallant hosts of Britain, because 
th^y followed their chiefs at their own charge. 39 

The natural import of the poem is, that the Britons 
had fought hastily on one of their festive days. And 
this leads us to infer, that they might have been sur- 
prised by an unexpected advance of the Saxon forces. 
That 360 nobles, intoxicated at a previous banquet, 
should have perished in this battle, and that 360 
should be the number said to have been massacred by 
Hengist at his feast, are coincidences that lead the 
mind to believe there may be some connection be- 
tween the two incidents. But every other circum- 
stance is so unlike, that we may more reasonably 
suppose, that the actual event occurred in a battle, as 
Aneurin has exhibited it ; and upon a surprise, as we 
have suggested, and that tradition has erroneously 

Of the men of Dewyr and Bryneich : 

The dreadful ones ! 

Twenty hundred perished in an hour. 

O wyr Dewyr a Bryneich dychrawr 

Ugeincant eu divant yn un awr. God. p. 2. 

38 The Gorgordd Mynnydawc mwyn vawr : " the host of Mynnydawg the 
Courteous," is mentioned in several passages : as 

Rac Gorgordd Mynydawc mwyn vawr. Twice in p. 2. 
He is also noticed in p. 10. and 11. The last is 

Of the host of Mynnydawg there escaped 
But one weapon. 

Mr. Davies transforms this proper name into an epithet, implying mountain chief; 
and then supposes it to mean Vortigern, because North Wales is a mountainous 
region, and Vortigern was the lord of it, p. 322. 

39 See Triad, 79. ; Welsh Arch. ii. p. 69. ; and Triad, 36. p. 8. 


BOOK attached it to the first Saxon invader, and feigned 
. the banquet and its calamitous consequences to be the 
547 result of a premeditated treachery on a festive invit- 
ation ; or that they are what they have been always 
thought to be, really distinct transactions. 

The same conflict is alluded to in other poems ; 
but its disastrous issue and the inebriety, not the 
Saxon perfidy, is the usual topic. 40 Even Golyddan, 
who mentions the massacre of Hengist, has no allu- 
sion to Cattraeth or Mynnydawg, nor gives any 
intimation that it relates to the subject of the Go- 
dodin. 41 

siow pro- The progress of the Angles in the north was slow 
and difficult. The Britons appear to have fought 

40 It is so mentioned in a poem printed in the Welsh Archaiology, as a part of 
Taliesin's Dyhuddiant Elphin, though it obviously begins as that ends. Mr. Davies 
found it to be in one MS. appended to Aneurin's Gododin, Celt. Res. 574. The 
passage may be thus translated : 

A year of sorrow 

For the men of Cattraeth ! 

They nourished me. 

Their steel blades ; 

Their mead ; 

Their violence ; 

And their fetters. W. Arch. i. p. 21. 

In the Gorchan Cynvelyn, the incantation of Cynbelyn, it is thus mentioned, as if 
by Aneurin himself : 

Three warriors, and three score, and three hundred, 

Went to the tumult at Cattraeth. 

Of those that hastened 

To the bearers of the mead, 

Except three, none returned. 

Cynon and Cattraeth 

With songs they preserve, 

And me for my blood they bewailed me 

The son of the omen fire, 

They made a ransom, 

Of pure gold, and steel, and silver. Ibid. p. 61. 

41 The golden torques mentioned by Aneurin was then worn in Britain. " In 
1692, an ancient golden torques was dug up near the castle of Harlech, in Merio- 
nethshire. It is a wreathed bar of gold, or perhaps three or four rods jointly 
twisted, about four feet long, flexile, but naturally bending only one way in form 
of a hat-band ; it is hooked at both ends ; it is of a round form, about an inch in 
circumference, and weighs eight ounces." Gibson's Additions to Camden, p. 658. 
ed. 1695. Bonduca wore one, Xiphilin. Epit. Dionis, p. 169. ed. H. S. 1591 ; 
and the Gauls used them, Livy, lib. xxxvi. c. 40. Gibson quotes a passage of 
Virgil, 2Eneid, lib. v. 559., which implies that the Trojan youth wore them. 
Llywarch, p. 135., says, that his twenty- four sons were eudorchawg, or wearers of 
the golden torques, which, from the above description, we perceive was not a chain. 


more obstinately in these parts than in any other. CHAP. 
Three of their kings, besides Urien and his son, are , ,_, 
named, Kyderthen, Guallawc, and Morcant 42 , as 547 - 
maintaining the struggle against the sons of Ida, 
and with alternate success. Sometimes the Britons, 
sometimes the Angles conquered. After one battle, 
the latter were driven into an adjoining island, and 
were for three days besieged there 43 , till Urien, their 
pursuer, was assassinated, by an agent of Morcant, 
one of the British kings that had joined him in the 
attack on the invaders. The motive to this atrocious 
action was the military fame which Urien was ac- 
quiring. 44 The short reigns of Ida's six immediate 
successors, induce us to suppose them to have been 
shortened by the violent deaths of destructive warfare. 45 

The death of Ida, in 559, produced a division of Ida's death. 
his associates. His son Adda succeeded ; but one of 
his allied chieftains, also a descendant of Woden, 
quitted Bernicia, and sought with those who followed 
him a new fortune, by attacking the British kingdom 
of Deifyr, between the Tweed and the Humber. This 
chieftain was named Ella, and he succeeded in con- 
quering this district, in which he raised the Angle 
kingdom of Deira, and reigned in it for thirty years. 46 
Yet though able to force an establishment in this 
country, many years elapsed before it was completely 
subdued ; for Elmet, which is a part of Yorkshire, 
was not conquered till the reign of his son, who ex- 
pelled from it Gertie, its British king. 47 

One Jute, three Saxon, and three Angle kingdoms 
were thus established in Britain by the year 560 : in 

42 Nennius, Geneal. p. 117. ^ Nennius, p. 117. 

44 Nenn. p. 117. The Welsh Triads mention this murder in noticing the three 
foul assassins of Britain. " Llofan Llawddino, who killed Urien, the son of Cyn- 
farch." Trioedd38. W. A. ii. p. 9. 

45 Thus his son Adda, his eldest son, reigned but seven years ; Clappa, five ; 
Theodulf, one ; Freothulf, seven ; Theodoric, seven ; and Ethelric, two. Flor. Wig. 

46 Flor. Wig. 221. Sax. ch. 20. 47 Nenn. Geneal. p. 117. 


BOOK Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, Bernicia, 
. IIL . and Deira. Another Angle kingdom was, about 

559. twenty-six years afterwards, added in Mercia, which 
became in time more powerful and celebrated than 
any other, except that of the West Saxons, who at 
last conquered it. This kingdom of Mercia made the 
eighth which these bold adventurers succeeded in 
founding. It was formed the latest of all. The first 
enterprises of the Angles against the district in 
which it was raised, were those of inferior chief- 
tains, whose names have not survived their day ; and 
it seems to have been at first considered as a part of 
Deira, or an appendage to it. Its foundation is dated 
in 586. 48 But although Crida is named as its first 
sovereign, yet it was his grandson, Penda, who is 
represented as having first separated it from the 

560. dominion of the northern Angles. 49 

When we contemplate the slow progress of the 
Saxon conquests, and the insulated settlements of 
the first adventurers, we can hardly repress our sur- 
prise, that any invader should have effected a perma- 
nent establishment. Hengist was engaged in hostility 
for almost all his life ; the safety of Ella, in Sussex, 
was little less precarious. The forces of either were 
so incommensurable with the numbers and bravery 
of the people they attacked, that nothing seems to 
have saved them from expulsion or annihilation, 
but the civil dissensions of the natives. Fallen into 
a number of petty states 50 , in actual warfare with 
each other, or separated by jealousy, Britain met 
the successive invaders with a local, not with a 
national force, and rarely with any combination. 

48 Crida was the first Mercian sovereign, and grandfather to Penda ; he began 
to reign, 586. Gale Scriptores, iii. 229. H. Hunt. 315. Leland's Collectanea, ii. 
56., ib. i. 258. Leland, ib. i. 211., from an old chronicle, observes, that the Trent 
divided Mercia into two kingdoms, the north and south. 

49 Nenn. Geneal. 117. 

50 Tota insula, diversis regibus divisa, subjacuit. Joannes Tinmuth ap Usher, 


The selfish policy of its chiefs, often viewing with CHAP. 
satisfaction the misfortunes of each other, facilitated > 

the successes of the Saxon aggressors. 36 - 

Although the people, who invaded Britain, were 
principally Saxons, Angles, and Jutes, yet as the 
Saxon confederation extended from the Baltic to the 
Khine, if not to the Scheldt, we can easily accredit 
the intimations, which we occasionally meet with, 
that Frisians 51 , and their neighbours, were mixed 
with the Saxons. The Britons maintained a long, 
though a disorderly and ill-conducted struggle, and 
many fleets of victims must have been sacrificed, by 
their patriotic vengeance, before the several king- 
doms were established. In such a succession of 
conflicts, the invading chiefs would gladly enlist 
every band of rovers who offered ; and, as in a future 
day, every coast of Scandinavia and the Baltic poured 
their warriors on England, so is it likely that, in the 
present period, adventurers crowded from every 
neighbouring district. 52 

In this part of our subject we are walking over 
the country of the departed, whose memory has not 
been perpetuated by the commemorating heralds of 
their day. A barbarous age is unfriendly to human 
fame. When the clods of his hillock are scattered, 
or his funeral stones are thrown down, the glory of 
a savage perishes for ever. In after-ages, fancy 
labours to supply the loss ; but her incongruities are 
visible, and gain no lasting belief. 

Opposite to the island of Northstrand, on the 
western shore of Sleswick, a small tract of land, 
dangerous from its vicinity to a turbulent sea, was 

51 Bede, lib. v. c. 10. Procop. lib. iv. p. 467. Colinus, ap Canneg. de Britten, 
p. 68. ; and Ubb. Emm. p. 41. ; and Spener, 361. 

42 So Mascou also thinks, p. 527. Some of the Icelandic writings mention 
northern kings, who had dominions in Britain, in the sixth and seventh centuries. 
If they be not entirely fabulous, they may relate to some of these expeditions. On 
this period we may also recollect the life of the first Offa. See Matt. Paris, Vit. 

VOL. I. T 





The settle- 
ments of 
the Jutes 

in ancient times occupied by a colony of Frisians. 
They extended north from Husum for several miles 
along the sea-coast. In the middle of the district 
was the town Brested, surrounded by a rich soil, 
though sands extended beyond. It terminated about 
Langhorn. The people who dwelt on it were called 
Strandfrisii, and the tract was denominated Frisia 
Minor. The marshy soil was colonised by the natives 
of Friesland, in an age which has not been ascer- 
tained. Saxo speaks of Canute the Fifth's journey 
to it, and then describes it as rich in corn and 
cattle, and protected from the ocean by artificial 
mounds. It was a complete flat; the waters some- 
times were terrible to it ; fields were often buried, 
and carried off to another spot, leaving to their 
owner a watery lake. Fertility followed the inun- 
dation. The people were fierce, active, disdaining 
heavy armour, and expert with their missile weapons. 53 

It is an opinion of Usher 54 , that these Frisians 
accompanied Hengist into England. To convert 
Hengist's Jutes into the Strandfrisii Jutes is an ex- 
ertion of mere conjecture. These Frisii, as well as 
others from Friesland, may have joined in some of 
the expeditions, and this probability is all that can be 

The various parts of Britain, into which the Saxons 
and their confederates spread themselves, may be 
s ^ a * e d from the Irish primate's commentary on Bede's 
brief description, which forms the basis of all our 
reasonings on the subject. 55 

53 Pontanus Chorograph. 657. Saxo Grammaticus, lib. xiv. p. 260. Ed. Steph. 
and his Prefatio, p. 3. Frisia Major was not unlike it, as a low marshy soil, much 
exposed to the fury of the ocean. Saxo, lib. viii. p. 167. ; and Steph. notes, 16. 

54 Usher, Primord. 397. 

55 Bede has thus placed them. The Jutes in Kent and the Isle of Wight ; the 
Saxons in Essex, Sussex, and Wessex ; the Angles, whose native country remained 
in his time a desert, in East Anglia, Midland Anglia, Mercia, and all Northumbria, 
p. 52. Alfred, in his translation of the passage, makes no addition to this informa- 
tion. The people of Wessex were called Ge-wisi, in Bede's time and before, lib. iii. 
c. 7. 


The Jutes possessed Kent, the Isle of Wight, and CHAP. 
that part of the coast of Hampshire which fronts it. < ^ > 

The Saxons were distinguished, from their situa- 
tion, into 

South Saxons, who peopled Sussex ; 
East Saxons, who were in Essex, Middlesex, and 
the south part of Hertfordshire ; 

West Saxons, in Surrey, Hampshire (the site of 
the Jutes excepted), Berks, Wilts, Dorset, 
Somerset, Devon, and that part of Cornwall 
which the Britons were unable to retain. 

The Angles were divided into 

East Angles, in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, 
the Isle of Ely, and (it should seem) part of 
Bedfordshire ; 

Middle Angles, in Leicestershire, which apper- 
tained to Mercia. 

The Mercians, divided by the Trent into 

South Mercians, in the counties of Lincoln, 
Northampton, Rutland, Huntingdon, the 
north parts of Bedfordshire and Hertford- 
shire, Bucks, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, 
Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Hereford- 
shire, Staffordshire, Shropshire ; and into 

North Mercians, in the counties of Chester, 
Derby, and Nottingham. 

The Northumbrians, who were 

The Deiri, in Lancaster, York, Westmoreland, 
Cumberland, Durham ; 

The Bernicians, in Northumberland, and the 
south of Scotland, between the Tweed and 
the Firth of Forth. 56 

58 Usher, Primord. c. 12. p. 394. With this, Camden's idea may be compared ; 
and, for the sentiments of an ingenious modern on the Anglo-Saxon geography, see 
Dr. \Vhitaker's Hist. Manchester, lib. ii. c. 4. p. 88. 

T 2 



The History of the ANGLO-SAXON Octarchy, and its further 
Successes against the BUTTONS, to the beginning of the Seventh 

BOOK THE exertions of the British against their invaders 
1IL . having thus failed, eight Anglo-Saxon governments 
560. were established in the island. This state of Britain 


has been improperly denominated the Saxon hep- 
tarchy. 1 When all the kingdoms were settled, they 
formed an octarchy. Ella, supporting his invasion 
in Sussex, like Hengist in Kent, made a Saxon 
duarchy before the year 500. When Cerdic erected 
the state of Wessex in 519, a triarchy appeared ; 
East Anglia made it a tetrarchy ; Essex a pentarchy. 
The success of Ida, after 547, having established a 
sovereignty of Angles in Bernicia, the island beheld 
a hexarchy. When the northern Ella penetrated, in 
560, southward of the Tees, his kingdom of Deira 
produced a heptarchy. In 586, the Angles branching 
from Deira into the regions south of the Hurnber, 
the state of Mercia completed an Anglo-Saxon octar- 
chy. As the Anglo-Saxons warred with each other, 
sometimes one state was for a time absorbed by 
another; sometimes, after an interval, it emerged 

1 Although most of our ancient annalists and modern historians have retained 
the word heptarchy, yet one old chronicler, I perceive, has more critically sa 
" Provincia Britonum, quae modo Anglia nominatur, Saxonum temporibus in octo 
regna divisa fuerit." Th. Rudborne's Hist. Major. Winton. Anglia Sacra, i. 187. 
Matth. Westm. 198., as correctly states the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to have been 
eight. He names the eight kings who reigned in 586, p. 200. 

The word heptarchy came to be used from the habit of mentioning the two 
kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia under the appellation of Northumbria. But 
though they were at times united under one sovereign, yet, as they became con- 
solidated, Essex, Kent, or Sussex ceased to be separate and independent kingdoms ; 
so that the term was still improper. 


again. If that term ought to be used which ex- CHAP. 
presses the complete establishment of the Anglo- , 

Saxons, it should be octarchy ; if not, then the 66 - 
denomination must vary as the tide of conquest 
fluctuated. If the collective governments are to be 
denominated from the nations who peopled them, as 
these were three, the general term should . be tri- 
archy ; but it is obvious, that octarchy is the appella- 
tion that best suits the historical truth. 

It was in the slow progression which has been 
stated, that the Anglo-Saxons possessed themselves 
of the different districts of the island. The Britons, 
with all the faults of their mode of defence, yielded 
no part till it had been dearly purchased ; and almost 
a century and a half passed away from the first 
arrival of Hengist to the full establishment of the 
octarchy. We cannot state in what year each British 
principality was destroyed, or each county subdued ; 
but we have seen that, from the sea coasts where 
they landed, the invaders had always to fight their 
way with pertinacity and difficulty to the inland 

But the Anglo-Saxons, as they advanced, did not, 
as some have fancied, exterminate the Britons ; though 
many devastations must have accompanied their 
progress. The fierce warriors of Germany wanted 
husbandmen, artisans, and menials for domestic pur- 
poses. There can be no doubt that the majority of 
the British population was preserved to be useful to 
their conquerors. But the latter imposed their own 
names on every district, place, and boundary ; and 
spread exclusively their own language in the parts 
which they occupied. It is however true, that some 
Britons disdained the Saxon yoke, and emigrated to 
other countries. Armorica, or Bretagne, was the 
refuge to many. From others, Cornwall and Wales 



received a large accession of population ; and some 
are even said to have visited Holland. 2 

The most indignant of the Cymry retired into 
Wales. There, the bards, fugitives like the rest, 
consoled the expatriated Britons with the hope that 
the day would afterwards arrive when they should 
have their full revenge, by driving out the Saxon 
hordes. Not only Taliesin sung this animating pre- 
diction 3 ; Myrddin also promised the Britons that 
they should again be led by their majestic chief, and 
be again victorious. He boldly announced, that in 
this happy day should be restored to every one his 
own ; that then the horns of gladness should proclaim 
the song of peace, the serene days of Cambrian hap- 
piness. 4 The anticipation of this blissful era gave 

2 H. Cannegieter, in his Dissertation de Brittenburgo, Hag. Co. 1734, has par- 
ticularly examined this point. His decision is that Brittenberg was named from 
the Britons, but was built by the Romans. He prefers, to the assertion of Ger- 
brandus, that the Britons fled from the Saxons to Holland and built Catwych on 
the Rhine, the opinion of Colinus, the ancient monastical poet, who admits that 
they visited and ravaged it, but affirms that they did not settle. 

3 A serpent with chains, 

Towering and plundering, 
With armed wings 

From Germania; 

This will overrun 
All Loegria and Brydon, 
From the land of the Lochlin sea. 
To the Severn. 

After mentioning that the Britons will be exiles and prisoners to Saxony, he 

Their lord they shall praise, 
Their language preserve, 
Their country lose, 

Except wild Wales, 

Till the destined period of their triumph revolves, 
Then the Britons will obtain 
The crown of their land, 
And the strange people 

Will vanish away. 

He concludes with declaring that Michael had predicted the future happiness of 
Britain. Taliesin, p. 94. 

Gildas, p. 8 , states, that the Saxons had a prophecy that they should ravage 
Britain 150 years, and enjoy it 150. The limitation has rather a Cambrian aspect. 

4 Myrddin's Afallenau, p. 153. Golyddan, in his Arymes Prydein vawr, endea- 
vours to inspire his countrymen by a similar prediction. The first part is a review 
of the transactions between Hengist and the Britons. It is in the Welsh Archai- 
ology vol. i. p. 156 159. 


rapture to the Cymry, even in their stony paradise CHAP. 
of Wales. 5 The proud invaders mocked the vaunting <_ v ! 
prophecy, and, to render it nugatory, unpeopled some 
of their native coasts on the Baltic 6 , and filled Britain 
with an active and hardy race, whose augmenting 
population and persevering valour at length carried 
the hated Saxon sceptre even to the remotest corners 
of venerated Anglesey. But up to the reign of 
Alfred, and even afterwards, the Britons still main- 
tained their own kingdoms in Cornwall and part of 
Devonshire, and in that portion of the north which 
composed the Strathclyde district. It was not till 
Athelstan's reign that they finally lost Exeter. 

The Britons long after Arthur's death maintained 571. 
their patriotic struggle against the kingdom of Wes- 
sex. They fought, though unsuccessfully, at Bedford, 
against the brother of Cealwin, as we have noticed 
before. The Anglo-Saxon, in marching back to Wes- 
sex, through the districts yet, in the hands of the 
natives, took Lygeanburh, Aylesbury, Bensington, 
and Ensham. 7 Six years afterwards, the Britons 
again resisted the progressive ambition of the Saxons. 
An important battle occurred between them at Der- 
hain, in Gloucestershire, in which some of the kings 
of Wales appear to have confederated against the in- 
vaders ; for three British sovereigns, Conmail, Con- 
didan, and Farinmail, fell in the conflict 8 : two of 
these seem to be the princes lamented by Llywarch 
Hen in one of his elegies 9 : the last was king of Mon- 

5 These epithets are Welsh. Stony Wales is a phrase of Taliesin, and Llywarch 
denominates Powys " the paradise of the Cymry," p. 119. 

6 Bede affirms the complete emigration of the Angles ; he says, their country 
" ab eo tempore usque hodie manet desertus," lib. i. c. 15. To the like purpose 
Nennius, " ita ut insulas de quibus venerant absque habitatore relinquerunt," c. 37. 

7 Sax. Ch. 22. Fl. Wig. 222. Ethelw. 834. 

8 Sax. Ch. 22. Fl. Wig. 223. Ethelw. 835. 

9 His Marwnad Cynddylan, the son of Cyndrwyn. It begins energetically : 

Stand out, ye virgins, 

And behold the habitation of Cynddylan. 

The palace of Pengwern : 

T 4 


BOOK mouthshire. 10 The capture of three cities, then of 

TFT ' 

. considerable note among the Britons, as they are now 
57 L to us, Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath, were the 
fruits of the Saxon victory. 11 

Seven years afterwards, we read of Cealwin pursu- 
ing hostilities against the Britons on the Severn. A 
bloody contest occurred at Frithern. The Britons 
fought with earnest resolution, and for some time 
with unusual success. The brother of the West 
Saxon king was slain, and his forces gave way. But 
Cealwin rallied his countrymen, and, after great 
slaughter, obtained the victory. The issue was as 
decisive as it had been long doubtful; and many 
towns were added to Wessex, and a vast booty di- 
vided among the conquerors. 12 The Britons, with 

Is it not iu flames ? 

Woe to the young who wish for social bonds. 

One tree with the woodbine round it 

Perhaps may escape. 

What God wills ; be it done. 

Cynddylan ! 

Thy heart is like the wintry ice. 

Twrch pierced thee through the head. 

Thou gavest the ale of Tren. W. Arch. p. 107. 

The venerable bard proceeds with his panegyrical apostrophes to his deceased friend, 
calling him the bright pillar of his country ; the sagacious in thought ; with the 
heart of a hawk, of a greyhound, of a wild boar ; and daring as a wolf tracing the 
fallen carcase. See it translated by Dr. Owen Pugh, p. 71 105. 
He also commemorates Caranmael, apparently the Saxon Conmail. 

I heard from the meadow the clattering of shields. 

The city confines not the mighty. 

The best of men was Caranmael. W. A. p. 1 1 2. 

He also laments the fall of Freuer. 

Is it not the death of Freuer, 

That separates me this night ? 

Fatal end of social comfort 1 

It breaks my sleep. I weep at the dawn. W. A. p. 110. 

10 I do not know that the Freuer of Llywarch means the same person as Farin- 
mail ; but it is likely that this was the Fernvail who was then reigning in Gwent 
or Monmouthshire. See Regis. Landew, quoted by Langhorn in his useful ehroni- 
cle, p. 115. 

11 See before, p. 275. Ethelwerd calls these cities, urbes eorum clariores, p. 835. 
Huntingdon's epithet is excellentissimas, p. 315. 

12 Flor. 224. Hunt. 315. M. Westm. omits the ultimate success of Cealwin, 
and states it as a British victory, p. 198. Soon after this contest, Langhorn quotes 
lo. Salisb. Polyc. v. c. 1 7. to say, that " paulo post Anglorum introitum impositum 


undismayed perseverance, fought again, seven years CHAP. 
afterwards, at Wanborough, and appear to have ob- . 

tained a complete victory. 13 There were probably 5GO - 
many efforts of minor importance made by the Britons 
which the Saxon chroniclers have not noticed. 14 

But as soon as the Anglo-Saxon kings had so far The 
subdued the Britons, as to be in no general danger from 
their hostility ; and began to feel their own strength other - 
in the growing population of their provinces, and in 
the habitual submission of the natives, their propen- 
sity to war, and their avarice of power, excited them 
to turn their arms upon each other. 

It was the impatience of a young mind to distin- 568 - 
guish itself, which thus began a new series of wars invades 
that lasted till Egbert, The attacks and successes of Cealwiru 
the West Saxons and the South Saxons had turned 
off from Kent the direction of British hostility. Left 
at leisure for the indulgence of youthful turbulence, 
Ethelbert, the fourth successor of Hengist, at the age 
of sixteen, presumed to invade Cealwin, the king 
of Wessex. This action seems to have been in- 
temperate. Cealwin had displayed both talent and 
resources for war, and Kent never attained the terri- 
torial extent or power of Wessex. But it is probable, 
that the Anglo-Saxons knew nothing as yet of the 
geography or comparative strength of their respective 
kingdoms. The issue of thi$ contest taught Kent to 

fuisse Anglise nomen." Langhorn has here departed from his usual accuracy. 
The passage of our elegant monk is lib. vi. c. 17. p. 197., and merely mentions that 
" ab inventu Saxonum in insulam appellatur Anglia." These words determine no 
chronology like paulo post. They express only one of the consequences of the 
Saxon invasion, without marking the precise time of the change of name. 

13 The brief intimation of the Saxon Chronicle, p. 22., is more fully expressed 
in Hunt. 315. ; and Ethelwerd ascribes to this battle the expulsion of Cealwin from 
his throne, p. 835. 

11 Thus Meigant, the British bard of the seventh century, mentions an expedi- 
tion of the British chief Morial : 

Pacing to combat, a great booty 

Before Caer Lwydgoed, has not Morial taken 

Fifteen hundred cattle and the head of Gwrial ? 

W. A. i. p. 160. 




v ' 




understand better its true position in the political 
scale of the octarchy. Cealwin collected his troops, de- 
feated Ethelbert at Wimbledon, and threatened the 
Kentish Jutes with the subjection which they had 
armed to impose. 15 This is remarked to have been the 
first battle that occurred between the Anglo-Saxon 
sovereigns. 16 

Cealwin soon imitated, but with more success from 
his superior means, the ambition of Ethelbert. On 
the death of its sovereign, Cissa, he obtained the 
kingdom of Sussex. By annexing it to West Saxony, 
he changed the Saxon octarchy into a temporary 

Dreaded for his power and ambition, Cealwin now 
preponderated over the other Saxon monarchs 17 ; but 
his prosperity changed before his death. His nephew, 
Ceolric, allied with the Cymry and the Scoti against 
him ; and all the valour and conduct of Cealwin 
could not rescue him from a defeat, in the thirty-third 
year of his reign, at Wodnesburg, in Wilts, the 
mound of Woden already alluded to. 18 His death 
soon followed, and the unnatural kinsman succeeded 

15 Sax. Chron. p. 21. Flor. Wigorn. 222. Malmsbury attributes the aggres- 
sion to Ethelbert's desire of engrossing prse antiquitate familise primas partes sibi, 
P. 12. 

16 Hunt. 315. About this time, in 573, the Saxons obtained a settlement in 
France. They were placed in the Armorican region after their irruption, in 
flnibus Bajocassium et Namnetensiifhi. Bouquet's Recueil des Historiens des 
Gaules, vol. ii. p. 250. Hence Gregory of Tours calls them Saxones Bajocassos, 
lib. v. c. 10. It is curious that they were sent against the British settlers in 
Gaul, who defeated them. Gregory, lib. v. c. 27. Their dialect, Charles the 
Bald, in his Laws apud Silvacum, calls Linguam Saxonicam. Bouquet, p. 250. 

17 Bede, lib. ii. c. 5. He was the second Saxon prince so distinguished. 
Matt. West, says generally, " magnificatum est nomen ejus vehementer," p. 197. 
Langhorn fancied that he was the Gormund, whom the Britons mention with 
horror. Chron. Reg. Anglise, 123. This Gormund, by some styled king of the 
Africans, by others a pirate of Norway or Ireland, is fabled to have invaded the 
Britons with 166,000 Africans. Rad. die. 559., Gale, iii., and Jeffry, 12. 2. Alan us 
de Insulis, lib. i. p. 25., gives him 360,000. 

18 Sax. Chron. 22. Ceola, as Flor. Wig., 225., names him, was son of Cuthulf. 
Ethelwerd, 835. This village stands upon the remarkable ditch called Wansdike, 
which Camden thought a Saxon work to divide Mercia from Wessex, and which 
others have supposed to have been a defence against the incursions of the Britons. 


to the crown he had usurped. He enjoyed it during CHAP. 
a short reign of five years, and Ceolwulf acceded. . 

The disaster of Cealwin gave safety to Kent. Ethel- 59L 
bert preserved his authority in that kingdom, and 
at length succeeded to that insular predominance 
among the Anglo-Saxon kings which they called the 
Bretwalda, or the ruler of Britain. 19 Whether this 
was a mere title assumed by Hengist, and afterwards 
by Ella, and continued by the most successful Anglo- 
Saxon prince of his day, or conceded in any national 
council of all the Anglo- Saxons ; or ambitiously as- 
sumed by the Saxon king that most felt and pressed 
his temporary power ; or whether it was an imitation 
of the British unbennaeth, or a continuation of the 
Saxon custom of electing a war cyning, cannot now 
be ascertained. 

While Ceolwulf was. governing Wessex, Ethel- 
frith, the grandson of Ida, reigned in Bernicia, and 
attacked the Britons with vehemence and persever- frith * 
ance. None peopled more districts of the ancient 
Cymry with Angles, or more enslaved them with tri- 
butary services. 20 It is probable that he extended his 
conquests to the Trent. Alarmed by his progress, 
Aidan advanced with a great army of Britons, either 
from Scotland, or those who in the Cumbrian or 
Strathclyde kingdoms, and their vicinity, still pre- 
served their independence, to repress him. The 
Angles met him at Degsastan ; a furious battle 
ensued, which the determination of the combatants 

19 Bede, lib. ii. c. 5., names him as the third qui imperavit all the provinces 
south of the Humber. Malmsbtiry amplifies this into " omnes nationes Anglorum 
praeter Northanhimbros continuis victoriis domitas sub jugum traxit," p. 10. 
The Saxon Chron. calls him one of the seven bretwaldas who preceded Egbert. 
The proper force of this word bretwalda cannot imply conquest, because Ella the 
First is not said to have conquered Hengist or Cerdic ; nor did the other bret- 
waldas conquer the other Saxon kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxon sovereigns, to whom 
Bede gives this title in succession, are Ella, of Sussex ; Cealwin, of Wessex ; Ethel- 
bert, of Kent ; Redwald, of East Anglia ; Edwin, Oswald, and Oswy, of Northum- 
bria ; and see Hunt. 314. 

20 Hunt. 315. 







BOOK made very deadly. The Britons fought both with 
,-1 > conduct and courage, and the brother of Ethelfrith 
perished, with all his followers. At length the Scot- 
tish Britons gave way, and were destroyed with such 
slaughter, that the king, with but few attendants, 
escaped. 21 They had not, up to the time of Bede, 
ventured to molest the Angles again. 

The colonists of Sussex, endeavouring to throw off 
the yoke of Ceolwulf, this West Saxon king, who is 
mentioned as always engaged in quarrels with the 
Angles, Britons, Picts, or Scots, ventured on a con- 
flict with him, which, disastrous to both armies, was 
most fatal to the assertors of their independence. 22 

The Bernician conqueror, Ethelfrith, renewed his 
war with the Cymry. He reached Chester, through 
a course of victory. Apart from the forces of the 
Welsh, assembled under Brognail, king of Powys, he 
perceived the monks of Bangor, twelve hundred in 
number, offering prayers for the success of their 
countrymen : "If they are praying against us," he 
exclaimed, " they are fighting against us;" and he 
ordered them to be first attacked: they were de- 
stroyed 23 ; and, appalled by their fate, the courage of 
Brocmail wavered, and he fled from the field in dis- 
may. 24 Thus abandoned by their leader, his army 
gave way, and Ethelfrith obtained a decisive con- 

21 Bede, lib. i. c. 34. Sax. Chron. 24. The position of this, as of most of the 
Saxon battles, is disputed. Dalston, near Carlisle, and Dawston, near Jed burgh, 
has each its advocate. 

22 H. Hunt. 316. Sax. Chron. p. 25. 

23 The chronology of this battle is disputed. The Saxon Chronicle dates it in 
607, p. 25. ; Flor. Wig., 603 ; the Annals of Ulster in 6 1 2 ; Matt. West, in 603, 
p. 204. The ancient Welsh chronologer, in the Cambrian Reg. for 1796, places 
it in 602, and fourteen years before the battle of Meigen, p. 313. Bede says, that 
Austin had been jam multo ante tempore ad ccelestia regna sublatus, lib. ii. c. 2. ; 
but Austin died in 605. 

24 Brocmail was one of the patrons of Taliesin, who commemorates this struggle. 

I saw the oppression of the tumult ; the wrath and tribulation ; 
The blades gleaming on the bright helmets ; 
The battle against the Lord of Fame in the dales of Hafren ; 
Against Brocvail of Powys, who loved my muse. 

Taliesin, p. 66. 


quest. Ancient Bangor itself soon fell into his hands, CHAP. 
and was demolished 25 ; the noble monastery was . v ' . 
levelled to the earth ; its library, which is mentioned -eio. 
as a large one, the collection of ages, the repository 
of the most precious monuments of the ancient Bri- 
tons, was consumed 26 ; half ruined walls, gates, and 
rubbish were all that remained of the magnificent 
edifice. 27 We may presume that the addition of 
Cheshire to Bernicia was the consequence of the 

But amidst their misfortunes, the Cymry some- 
times triumphed. Ceolwulph from Wessex advanced 
upon them, not merely to the Severn, but crossed it 
into the province of Glamorgan. Affrighted at his 
force, the inhabitants hastened to Tewdric their former 
king, who had quitted his dignity in behalf of his son 
Mowrick, to lead a solitary life among the beautiful 
rocks and woodlands of Tintern. They solicited him 
to reassume the military command, in which he had 
never known disgrace, if he sympathised in the wel- 
fare of his countrymen or his son. The royal hermit 
beheld the dreaded Saxons on the Wye, but the re- 
membrance of his own achievements inspired him 
with hope. He put on his forsaken armour, con- 
ducted the tumult of battle with his former skill, and 
drove the invaders over the Severn. A mortal wound 
in the head arrested him in the full enjoyment of his 

25 Ancient Bangor was about eight miles distant from Chester. Caius de Antiq. 
Cantab, lib. i. ap. Usher, 133. Leland says, " the cumpace of the abbay was as of 
a waullid toune, and yet remaineth the name of a gate caullid Forth Hogan by 
north, and the name of another, port Clays by south. Dee syns chaunging the 
bottom rennith now thoroug the mydle betwyxt thes two gates, one being a mile 
dim from the other." Itiner. vol. v. p. 26. 

26 Humph. Lhuyd asserts this. Comm. Frag. Brit. Descript. 58., and Giraldus 
Cambrensis declares that Chester also was destroyed. De illaud. Walliae, c. 7. And 
it is not likely that a rude Anglo-Saxon warrior would take any care to preserve 
British MSS. This destruction was an irreparable loss to the ancient British 

27 Malmsbury, 19 In the Triads Bangor is paralleled with the isle of Avallon, 

and Caer Caradog, for possessing 2400 religious. The Bangor of modern note is a 
city built by Maelgo on the Meneath, near Anglesea, Joh. Rossius, ap. Usher, 133. 






Distress of 
the Welsh. 

success, and he breathed his last wishes for his people's 
safety at the confluence of the Severn and the Wye. 
The local appellation Mathern, the abbreviation of 
Merthyr Teudric 28 , pointed out his remains to the 
sympathy of posterity ; in the sixteenth century his 
body was found unconsumed, and the fatal blow on 
his head was visible. 29 

The condition of the Britons at this juncture was 
becoming more distressful and degrading. Driven 
out of their ancient country, they had retired to those 
parts of the island which, by mountains, woods, 
marshes, and rivers, were most secluded from the 
rest ; yet in this retreat they lived, with their hands 
against every man, and every man's hand against 
them 30 ; they were the common butt of enterprise to 
the Angles of Bernicia, and Deira, and Mercia ; to 
the Saxons of Wessex, and to the Gwiddelians of 
Ireland ; and they were always as eager to assail 
as to defend. The wild prophecies of enthusiasts, 
who mistook hope for inspiration, having promised to 
them, in no long period, the enjoyment of the soil 
from which they had been exiled, produced a per- 
petual appetite for war. Their independent sove- 
reignties fed, by their hostile ambition, the flames of 

28 The martyr Tewdric. Usher quotes the Register of Landaff for this conflict, 
p. 562. Langhorn. Chron. p. 148. 

29 Godwin pracsul. ap. Usher, 563. In the chancel of Mathern church an epi- 
taph mentions that he lies there entombed. Williams's Monmouthshire, App. 
No. 17. An incident somewhat like this occurred in the commencement of the 
English settlements in North America. General Whalley, one of the judges of 
Charles I., fled with his son-in-law General Gough from England to Boston a few 
days before the Restoration. Pursued by proclamations offering large rewards for 
their apprehension, their hiding-place, at first, was a cave on the top of a rock, a 
few miles from Newhaven, from which, in two or three years, they moved to 
Hadley, where they lived, concealed and unknown, for fifteen summers. A war 
ensuing between the English colonists and the Indian chief of Pokanoket, the 
Indians surprised Hadley in the time of public worship : the townspeople had their 
arms with them, but were panic-struck and confounded ; and would have been all 
destroyed, if an old and venerable man, in a dress unlike that of any other, had 
not suddenly appeared among them. He rallied them, put himself at their head, 
gave orders like one accustomed to battle, charged and routed the enemy, and 
saved the town ; but, when the victory was complete, was no longer to be seen. 
It was General Gough. Holme's Annals of America. 

30 Matt. West, paints this forcibly, p. 198, and 199. 





domestic quarrels, and accelerated the ruin of their CHAP. 
independence. But yet, under all these disadvan- . 
tages, they maintained the unequal conflict against 
the Anglo-Saxons with wonderful bravery, and did 
not lose the sovereignty of their country until the 
improvements of their conquerors made the conquest 
a blessing. 

Cynegils, with the West Saxons, again assailed some 
branches of the Britons. If Bampton in Devonshire victory.* 
be the place which the Saxon annalist denominates 
Beamdune, the princes of Cornwall were the objects 
of attack. When the armies met, Cynegils surprised 
the Britons by drawing up his forces into an arrange- 
ment which was not common to that age. This dis- 
play and the sight of the battle-axes, which the 
Saxons were brandishing, affected them with a sudden 
panic, and they quitted the field early, with the loss 
of above two thousand men. 31 

31 Hunt. 316. Sax. Chron. 25. Camden supposes the place to have been 
Bindon in Dorsetshire, i. 44. Gough's ed. The editor mentions favourably the 
opinion of Gibson, which is in the text, ib. p. 50. 



The Introduction of Christianity among the ANGLO-SAXONS in 

BOOK THE history of the Anglo-Saxons has, thus far, been 
. the history of fierce, barbaric tribes; full of high 
courage, excited spirit, persevering resolution, great 
' activity, and some military skill ; but with minds 
which, although abounding with talent and love of 
enterprise, and inventive of political institutions 
well adapted to their position and necessities, were 
void of all lettered cultivation ; unused to the social 
sympathies, and averse from the intellectual refine- 
ments, of which they were naturally capable. These 
great blessings of human life were introduced among 
them with that peculiar form of Christianity, which 
the benevolent feelings and religious enthusiasm of 
Pope Gregory (deservedly, with all his imperfections, 
surnamed the Great) conveyed into England by his 
missionary Augustin. This great mental, moral, and, 
we may add from some of its results, political revo- 
lution was suggested and accomplished by a train of 
coincidences, which deserve to be recollected. 1 

1 While we give the missionaries of Gregory the honour of thus introducing 
Christianity amongst the conquering Saxons, we must not forget that it was already 
existing, and long survived independently, among the conquered Britons. Many 
facts show that the British church, in the fourth and fifth century, held an influ- 
ential position, and took an active part in the ecclesiastical proceedings of the age. 
The Christian population, however, retired under the pressure of the Saxon in- 
vasion into Wales, and the south-western parts of England, and partly from the 
divisions in relation to the opinions of Pelagius ; partly from the deep hostility 
between the British and Saxon populations, and partly from the active support 
which Rome gave to the Saxon hierarchy as in more direct dependence upon her- 
self, the more ancient British hierarchy lost ground, and became gradually 
absorbed into the Roman church. In 770 the Roman reckoning of Easter- tide 
was accepted ; and, by the end of the eleventh century, all remains of indepen- 
dence even in Wales had disappeared. 


The Roman papacy had felt the advantage, to CHAP. 
itself, of the conversion of the Gothic nations ; and v__^ . 
Gregory, in succeeding to that dignity, would have 
imbibed a disposition to promote the same religious 
policy, if his own earnest belief in Christianity had 
not led him to befriend it. But the Anglo-Saxons 
were not the only nation of Europe that were then 
pagans. All Germany, and all the nations from the 
Rhine to the Frozen Ocean, and all the Slavonian 
tribes, were of this description. England, which 
Rome had long before amused itself with describing, 
as cut off from the whole world, and as approach- 
ing the frozen and half-fabled Thule, was so remote, 
and had been so separated by its Saxon conquerors, 
from any connection with the civilised regions, that 
it seemed to be the country least adapted to interest 
him. But a circumstance, which does credit to his 
heart, had turned the current of Gregory's feelings 
towards our island, before he had reached the papacy. 

It was then the practice of Europe to make use of 
slaves, and to buy and sell them ; and this traffic 
was carried on, even in the western capital of the 
Christian church. As he was passing one day 
through the market at Rome, the white skins, the 
flowing locks, and beautiful countenances of some 
youths who were standing there for sale, interested 
Gregory's sensibility. 2 

To his inquiries from what country they had been 
brought, the answer was, from Britain, whose inhabit- 
ants were all of that fair complexion. Were they 
Pagans or Christians ? was his next question : a 

2 The chronicler of St. Augustin's monastery at Canterbury, W. Thorn, men. 
tions that these were three boys : * Videt in foro Romano tres pueros Anglicos," 
Decem. Script, p. 1757. In the Anglo-Saxon homily on Gregory's birth-day, 
published by Mrs. Elstob, it is stated that English merchants had carried them to 
Rome, and that the practice was continuing. "Tha selamp hec aec rumum raele 
rpa rpa syc pop ore beeh, ChaeC Cnslirce cychmen bpohcon heopa pajie Co Romana 
bypiS. "J Jrpesopmr eobe be thaepe rcpaee co Cham enshrcum maniium heopa 
Chins rceapjsenbe. Tha Sereah he beCpuxC Cham papum cypecmchCar gerecce. 
Tha peepon hpiCer lichaiuan } Faegper *j phcan man T aechehce gereaxobe," p. H. 

VOL. I. U 


BOOK proof not only of his ignorance of the state of 
. IIL . England, but also, that, up to that time, it had occu- 
pied no part of his attention. But thus brought as 
it were to a personal knowledge of it, by these few 
representatives of its inhabitants, he exclaimed, on 
hearing that they were still idolaters, with a deep 
sigh : " What a pity, that such a beauteous frontis- 
piece should possess a mind so void of internal 
graces ! " The name of their nation being mentioned 
to him to be Angles, his ear caught the verbal coin- 
cidence. The benevolent wish for their improvement 
darted into his mind, and he expressed his own 
feelings, and excited those of his auditors by re- 
marking : "It suits them well : they have angel 
faces, and ought to be the co-heirs of the angels in 
heaven." A purer philanthropy perhaps never 
breathed from the human heart, than in these sudden 
effusions of Gregory's. That their provincial country 
Deira, should resemble the words De ira, seemed to 
his simple mind to imply, that they ought to be 
plucked from the wrath of God ; and when he heard 
that their king's name was called Ella, the conso- 
nancy of its sound with the idea then floating in 
his mind, completed the impression of the whole 
scene. His full enthusiasm burst out. " Hallelujah ! 
the praise of the creating Deity must be sung in 
these regions." 3 This succession of verbal coin- 
cidences affected his mind with a permanent impres- 
sion of the most benevolent nature. He went to the 
then pope, and prayed him to send some missionaries 
to convert the English nation, and offered himself for 
the service. His petition was refused, but the pro- 
ject never left his mind, till he was himself enabled 

3 Bede, Hist. lib. ii. c. 1. p. 78. This incident was probably in Gregory's mind, 
when he wrote this passage in his moral exposition of Job. " Ecce lingua Bri- 
tannise, qua? nil aliud noverat, quam barbarum frendere ; jamdudum in divinis 
laudibus Hebraum cepit, Halleluia, resonare," lib. xxvi. c. 6. p. 688. ed Paris. 


to accomplish it. As Ella died in 589, this incident CHAP. 
must have occurred before this year. , ^ < 

In 592, Gregory became pope, and four years 592. 
afterwards he attempted to execute his purpose. He 
selected a monk named Augustin, as the fittest for 
the chief of the mission, and added some other monks 
of congenial feelings to assist it. They set out on 
their journey, but the dread of encountering a nation 
so ferocious as the Saxons had the character of 
being, and ignorance of their language, overcame 
both their resolution and their zeal. They stopped, 
began their return to Rome, and sent Augustin back 
to solicit Gregory not to insist on their pursuing an 
enterprise so dangerous and so little likely to be 
availing. 4 

Gregory prevailed on Augustin to resume the mis- 
sion, and answered the entreaties of the rest by a 
short but impressive letter. He remarked to them 
that it was more disgraceful to abandon an under- 
taking once begun, than to have at first declined it. 
That as the work was good, and would receive the 
Divine aid, they ought to pursue it. He reminded them 
of the glory that would recompense their sufferings 
in another world, and he appointed Augustin their 
abbot, and commanded their obedience to his direc- 
tions, that the little community might have an effec- 
tive governor. 5 He wrote also to the bishop of Aries, 590. 
recommending this band of religious adventurers to 
his friendship and assistance. He addressed letters 
to other prelates in France to the same purport. He 
requested the patronage of the Frankish kings to 
their undertaking ; and also endeavoured to interest 
Brunechilda, one of their queens, to befriend it. The 
missionaries were forty in number. 6 

4 Bede, lib. i. c. 23. p. 59. 5 Bede, lib. i. c. 23. p. 59. 

8 These letters of Gregory are printed amid his very multifarious correspond- 
ence, which are classed in twelve books, and occupy the fourth volume of his works. 

u 2 


BOOK But to which part of the octarchy should they first 
. apply ? a natural circumstance led them to Kent. 

596 - Ethelbert, who had begun his reign with the in- 

auspicious attack on Wessex, had been afterwards so 
harassed by others of the Saxon kings, that it was with 
difficulty he preserved his own dominions from sub- 
jection. 7 Adversity and danger had made him wiser. 
His future measures were more prosperous, and he 
became the Bretwalda of the Saxon octarchy, and 
predominated over it as far north as the Humber. 

The circumstance auspicious to Augustin's mission, 
was Ethelbert's marriage with Bertha, a Frankish 
princess. She had been educated to be a Christian, 
and she had stipulated for the right of pursuing her 
own religion after her marriage. 8 To Kent and to 
this queen Augustin proceeded with his companions, 
with interpreters whom the king of the Francs had 

Augustin sent one of these to Ethelbert, to an- 
nounce that he came from Rome, and had brought 
with him a messenger, who promised to those that 
obeyed him everlasting joys in heaven, and a king- 
dom that should never end. The king, whom the 
conduct of his queen had dispossessed of all virulence 
against Christianity, ordered them to remain in 
Thanet, where they had landed, supplied with every 
necessary, till he had determined what he should do 
with them. 

697. Interested by their arrival, the queen was not likely 

to be inactive. But the freedom of all the Anglo-Saxon 
tribes, and the power of their witenagemots, as well 
as the opposing influence of the Saxon priests, caused 
Ethelbert to pause. After a few days' deliberation, he 
went into the island and appointed a conference. He 

Dr. Smith has selected those which concern this mission, in the appendix to his 
Bede, No. 6. ; and Mrs. Elstob has translated them in her appendix, p. 7, &c. 
7 Malmsb. p. 10. 8 Bede, lib. i. c. 25. Hunting. 321. 


sat in the open air, fearful lest, if he received them in CHAP. 
a house, he should be exposed to the power of their ... Y i 1 ' . 
magic if they used any. They came with a simple 597 - 
but impressive ceremony. They advanced in a pro- 
cession, preceded by a silver cross, as their standard, 
and carrying also a painted portrait of our Saviour, 
and chanting their litany as they approached. The 
king commanded them to sit down, and to him and 
his earls, who accompanied them, they disclosed their 
mission. 9 Ethelbert answered with a steady and not 
unfriendly judgment. " Your words and promises 
are fair, but they are new and uncertain. I cannot 
therefore abandon the rites, which, in common with 
all the nations of the Angles, I have hitherto observed. 
But as you have come so far to communicate to us 
what you believe to be true, and the most excellent, 
we will not molest you. We will receive you hospit- 
ably, and supply you with what you need. Nor do 
we forbid any one to join your society whom you can 
persuade to prefer it." He gave them a mansion in 
Canterbury, his metropolis, for their residence, and 
allowed them to preach as they pleased. 10 

They entered the city singing the litanies, which 
they had found to be interesting to the populace. 
They distinguished themselves by prayers, vigils, and 
fastings, which excited the admiration of those who 
visited them ; and their discourses pleased many. On 
the east side of the city, a church had been built, 

9 Bede, lib. i. c. 25. p. 61. The homily briefly states the substance of the ad- 
dress of Augustin : Hu re milbheopCa haelenb mib hir asenpe chpopanse Chirne 
j-cylbisan mibbaneapbe alyrbe ) Seleappullum inannum heopena picef inpaep seo- 
ponobe," p. 34. The substance of the sermon is given at length by Joscelin, 
Angl. Sac. vol. ii. p. 59. ; and a translation of it in Elstob, p. 33. 

10 The text is from Bede, p. 61. But Alfred's Saxon of this speech perhaps 
exhibits most exactly the actual words of Ethelbert ; Faesepe wopb chir rynb an b 
SehaC Che sebpohcon T ur raecsath. Ac popchon hi mpe rynbon anb uncuchr, 
ne mason pe nu syc Cha sechapisean rha pe poplaeCan cha piran the pe langepe 
Cibe mib ealle Ansel cheobe heolban. Ac popChon Che ge peoppan hibep aelcheo- 
bise coman anb chaer Che me sechuhc anb serapen ir cha Chins cha Che roch 
anb becrc selypbon, cha se eac rpylce pyllabon ur Cha senaaenpiman, ne pyllaCh 
pe popbhon eop hepise beon : Ac pe pillach eop ppemrumlice on saerfctoh^rT 6 
onpon anb eop anblypne ryllan anb eoppe cheappe popsipan. Ne pe eop bepe- 
piach Cha se ealle cha Che RC mason Chuph eoppe lape Co eopper seleapan 
aepercnyrre secheobe anb secyppe," p. 487. 

u 3 


BOOK during the residence of the Romans, dedicated to 
. HL . St. Martin, which the queen had used as her oratory. 
697 - Here they sang, prayed, performed their mass, and 
preached till they made several converts, whom they 
baptized. The impression spread, till at length the 
king was affected, and became himself a Christian. u 
In no part of the world has Christianity been intro- 
duced in a manner more suitable to its benevolent 

The peculiar form of this religion, which Gregory 
and Augustin thus introduced, was of course that 
system which Rome then professed. It was the best 
system which had been recognised at Rome ; and it 
could not be better than that age or the preceding 
times were capable of receiving or framing. It was a 
compound of doctrines, ritual, discipline, and polity, 
derived partly from the Scriptures, partly from tradi- 
tion, partly from the decisions and orders of former 
councils and popes, and partly from popular customs 
and superstitions, which had been permitted to inter- 
mix themselves. But such as it was, it was the most 
impressive form that either its teachers or the then 
intellect of the world could furnish. Nor is it clear 
that its new converts would have relished or under- 
stood any purer system. The papal clergy were then 
the most enlightened portion of the western world ; 
and the system which they preferred must have been 
superior to any that the barbaric judgment could have 

The pope continued his attentions to his infant 
church. He sent Augustin the pall, the little addi- 
tion to his dress which marked the dignity of ail 
archbishop, with a letter of instructions on the form- 
ation of the English hierarchy : also several MSS. of 
books 12 , ecclesiastical vessels, vestments, and orna- 

11 Bede, c. 26. 

12 Bede, c. 29. p. 70. Wanley has given a catalogue of the books sent by Gre- 


ments 1S , and some religious persons to assist him, CHAP. 

who were afterwards active in the conversion of the < ^ > 

rest of the island. Augustin restored from its ruins 597> 
another British church at Canterbury, which had been 
built in the Roman times, and began the erection of a 
monastery. M The king sanctioned and assisted him 
in all that he did; and afterwards became distin- 
guished as the author of the first written Saxon laws, 
which have descended to us, or which are known to 
have been established ; an important national bene- 
fit, for which he may have been indebted to his 
Christian teachers, as there is no evidence that the 
Saxons wrote any compositions before. Gregory 
sent into the island " many manuscripts," and thus 
began its intellectual as well as religious education. 15 

Seven years after Augustin's successful exertions 604. 
in Kent, he appointed two of the persons that arrived 
last from Rome, Mellitus and Justus, to the episcopal 
dignity, and sent them to the kingdom of Essex. 
Sabert, the son of Ethelbert's sister, was then reigning. 
The new religion was favourably received ; and Ethel- 
bert, to whose superior power the little state was 
subject, began to erect St. Paul's church at London, 
its metropolis. 16 

Augustin did not long live to contemplate the great 

gory. These were, 1st, A Bible, adorned with some leaves of a purple and rose 
colour, in two volumes, which was extant in the time of James the First : 2d, The 
Psalter of St. Augustin, with the Creed, Pater Noster, and several Latin hymns : 
3d, Two copies of the Gospels, with the ten Canons of Eusebius prefixed ; one of 
which Elstob believed to be in the Bodleian library, and the other at Cambridge, 
p. 42. : 4th, Another Psalter with hymns : 5th, A volume containing legends on 
the sufferings of the apostles, with a picture of our Saviour in silver, in a posture 
of blessing: 6th, Another volume on the martyrs, which had on the outside a 
glory, silver gilt, set round with crystals and beryls : 7th, An exposition of the 
Epistles and Gospels, which had on the cover a large beryl surrounded with crys- 
tals. Augustin also brought Gregory's Pastoral Care, which Alfred translated. See 
Elstob, p. 39 43., and Wanley, 172., whose description is taken from Thomas de 
Elmham, a monk of Augustin's abbey, in the time of Henry V. See also Cave, 
Hist. Lit. p. 431. 

13 A list of the vestments, vessels, relics, &c., sent by Gregory, is added to Elstob, 
from "Wanley's communication, App. 34 40. 

14 Bede, lib. i. c. 33. 15 Bede, lib. i. c. 29. 
16 Bede, lib ii. c. 3. 

u 4 


BOOK advantages which he had introduced into England. He 
died the year of his mission into Essex. Ethelbert 
604 - survived him eleven years. This King's son Eadbald 
restored the Saxon paganism in Kent, and drove out 
the Christian ecclesiastics. The three sons of Sabert 
imitated him in Essex. But this persecution was of 
a short duration. A simple contrivance of Laurence, 
the successor of Augustin, affected the mind of Ead- 
bald with alarm. He appeared before the king bleed- 
ing from severe stripes ; and boldly declared that he 
had received them in the night from St. Peter, be- 
cause he was meditating his departure from the 
island. The idea was exactly level with the king's 
intellect and superstition. A strong sensation of fear 
that the same discipline might be inflicted, by the 
same invisible hand, on himself, changed his feelings, 
and he became a zealous friend to the new faith. The 
exiled bishops were recalled, and the old Saxon rites 
were abolished for ever in Kent and Essex. 17 

Laurence enjoyed his triumph but two years; and, 
on his death, Mellitus, who had converted Essex, 
received his dignity : a man of noble family, and of 
such an active spirit, that the gout, with which he 
was severely afflicted, was no impediment to his un- 
abated exertions for the mental and moral improve- 
ment of the Saxon nation. All these early prelates 
enjoyed their rank but for a brief period. In five 
years Mellitus died, and Justus, his friend and com- 
panion from Rome, was made his successor. 18 As 

17 Bede, lib. ii. c. 5, & 

18 Bede, lib. ii. c. 7, 8. Gregoi*y has also a claim to our grateful remembrance 
for his improvement in church music ; he reformed the chant of St. Ambrose, and 
enlarged its plan by introducing four new modes or tones into the canto fermo ; 
he formed the Roman Gregorian chant which his missioned monks introduced into 
England. On particular occasions it is still used in the Roman Catholic church, 
especially during Lent, and it is felt to have a dignity, a breadth, and a simplicity 
which render it acceptable even to modern composers. He first separated the 
chanters from the regular clergy and led the way to our present system of notation 
by substituting the first seven letters of the Roman alphabet for the notes of the 
octave in place of the more complicated Greek notes. Choron. Hist, of Music, and 
see Hogarth's Musical History. 


Gregory had chosen the men best adapted to accom- CHAP. 
plish his purpose, it is probable that those he selected 

were advanced in life. 19 604 * 

19 Gregory appears from his works and extensive correspondence, to have been 
a man of no common energies acting in the sincerest spirit of Christianity. He, 
like Alfred the Great, is an instance of how much an active minded man may do 
amid great bodily infirmities. For this indefatigable Pope was seldom in comfort- 
able health. In one letter from Rome he writes " I am so oppressed with gout 
that life is a heavy punishment. I faint daily through pain, and breathe after 
death as my remedy. Among the clergy and people of the city scarce a freeman 
or slave are exempt from fevers." L. 7. Ep. 127. To Eulogius of Alexandria, he 
mentioned in the following year "I have been near two years confined to my 
bed in constant pain ; often have I been forced to return to my bed when I had 
scarcely left it Thus I am dying daily, and yet I am alive." In another letter 
he speaks of a distressing headache, and in another of a grievous burning heat 
which spread over all his body, and deprived him of his spirits and comfort. In 
his preface to Job and elsewhere, he mentions other illnesses as severely and almost 
continually afflicting him. 




Expedition of the EAST ANGLIANS to the RHINE. EDWIN'S 
EDWIN'S Reign in NORTHUMBRIA, and the Introduction of 
Christianity into that Province. 

BOOK THE kingdom of East Anglia becomes remarkable by 

. an incident which Procopius has preserved, and which 

Expedition occurred in the sixth century. It exhibits the ad- 

of the East . ,...-, in 

Angiians to venturing spirit ot our early baxon princes. 
n h e e nt c . nti " Between the Rhine and the Northern Ocean, the 
534547. Varni had settled. 1 Their king solicited a princess 
of East Anglia for his son, and the hand of the lady 
was promised. On his death-bed it occurred to him, 
that an alliance with the Francs, his neighbours, 
would be more profitable to his people than the 
friendship of the Angles, who were separated from 
the Yarni by the sea. In obedience to the political 
expediency, Radiger, the prince, married his father's 
widow, his step-mother, because she was sister of 
Theodebert the Franc. The rejected East Anglian 
would not brook the indignity; she demanded re- 
venge for the slight, because in the estimation of her 
countrymen the purity of female chastity was sullied 
if the maiden once, wooed was not wedded. Her 
brother and the East Anglian warriors thought her 
quarrel just ; a large fleet sailed from England under 
her auspices, and landed on the Rhine. A part of 
the army encamped round her ; the rest, with one of 

1 The editor of the great collection des Historiens des Gaules, Paris, 1741, re- 
marks (referring to Valesius), that Procopius erred when he placed the Varni on 
the right bank of the Rhine, and that he is more credible when he places them 
nearer the Danes, vol. ii. p. 42. 


her brothers, defeated the Varni, and penetrated the 
country. Eadiger fled. The Angles returned to the 
lady, glorying in their victory. She received them 547 - 
with disdain. They had done nothing, as they had 
not brought Radiger to her feet. Again her selected 
champions sallied forth, and Radiger at last was 
taken in a wood. The captive entered her tent, to 
receive his doom. But the heart of the East Anglian 
was still his own. He pleaded his father's commands, 
and the solicitations of his chiefs. The conquering 
beauty smiled forgiveness. To accept her hand, and 
to dismiss her rival, was the only punishment she 
awarded. Joyfully the prince obeyed, and the sister 
of Theodebert was repudiated. 2 

This event is the only one in the history of East 617. 
Anglia which can interest our notice until the reign 
of Redwald. Before this prince it had arrogated no 
dominating precedence in England. The intemperate 
ambition of Ethelfrith propelled it into consequence. 
This king of the Northumbrian Angles, dissatisfied ^* frith 
with his inherited Bernicia, and his trophies in Scot- Dei, 
land and Wales, invaded Deira, to which Edwin the 
son of Ella, at the age of three years, had succeeded ; 
and by expelling the little infant, converted the Saxon 
states in England into an hexarchy. Edwin was 
carried into North Wales, and was generously edu- 
cated by Cadvan. 3 

As Edwin grew up, he was compelled to leave 
Wales ; and for many years wandered about in 
secret, through various provinces, to escape the un- 
ceasing pursuit of Ethelfrith. Reaching East Anglia, Edwin in 
he went to the court of Redwald, and, avowing him- ^ An ~ 
self, besought his hospitable protection. Redwald 

2 Procopius, Goth. Hist. lib. iv. p. 468471. Gibbon places this incident be- 
tween 534 and 547, which were the extreme terms of the reign of Theodebert, 
vol. iii. c. 38. p. 627. 

3 Alured Beverl. lib. vi. p. 90. Redwald was son of Titel, and grandson of Uffa, 
Fl. Wig. 233. 





him, and 

received him kindly, and promised what he asked. 
Impatient that Edwin should be alive, Ethelfrith 
sent repeated messengers, with presents to the East 
Anglian sovereign, requiring him to surrender the 
youth, and adding menaces if he refused. Redwald 
remembered the unvarying successes of Ethelfrith, 
and fearful of encountering his hostility, promised 
either the death or the surrender of Edwin. A friend 
to the young exile discovered his intentions, and 
counselled him to fly. But Edwin, weary of living 
like a fugitive, replied, " I cannot do this. I have 
made a compact with Redwald, and I will not be the 
first to break it, while he has done me no evil, nor 
has yet discovered any enmity. If I am to perish, 
he that betrays or destroys me will be disgraced, not 
myself. And whither should I fly, who have been 
wandering already so long, through so many pro- 
vinces of Britain, without a shelter ? How can I 
escape elsewhere the toils of my persecutor ? " His 
friend left him. Edwin remained sitting before the 
palace, reflecting on his misfortunes and darkening 
projects. In this anxious state night approached, 
and he believed he saw an unknown person advance 
to him, who promised him present deliverance and 
great future prosperity, if he should listen to what 
would be afterwards taught him. The vision laid 
his hand on his head, and, adjuring him to remember 
this interview, disappeared 4 ; or else Edwin waked. 
But he had a more substantial friend than the appa- 
rition of a dream. 

The queen of Redwald secretly pleaded for the 
youthful exile, and with noble sentiments : " A king 
should not sell a distressed friend, nor violate his 
faith for gold ; no ornament is so ennobling as good 
faith." Interested by her intercession, and inspired 

4 Bede, lib. ii. c, 12. 


with her fortitude, Redwald resolved to keep sacred CHAP. 
the duties of hospitality ; and Edwin was informed , ' ' 
by his watchful, though unknown, friend of the 617t 
generous determination. 

The preparations of Ethelfrith, disappointed of his 
prey, compelled him to arm; Redwald acted with 
judicious vigour ; and he attacked Ethelfrith, before 
he had collected all his troops, on the east bank of 
the Idel in Nottinghamshire. 5 The Northumbrian 
king, by his experienced valour and veteran soldiers, 
supplied the disparity of his troops, and balanced 
the contest. The East Anglians advanced in three 
divisions ; one of these, Rainer, the son of Redwald, 
led. The ancient fortune of Ethelfrith befriended 
him ; he attacked this wing, and the prince and his 
warriors were destroyed. This disaster only stimu- 
lated Redwald to more determined exertions ; he 
still outnumbered his opponent, and his other divi- 
sions were firm. Ethelfrith, unused to such resist- 
ance, and impatient for the event, rushed on the East 
Anglians with a dangerous impetuosity. His friends Ethelfrith 
did not follow his injudicious courage; he was sepa- falls * 
rated from them, and perished among the swords of 
the surrounding East Anglians. 6 Edwin also sig- 
nalised himself. Redwald not only re-instated him in Edwin 
Deira, but enabled him to subject Bernicia to his r 
power. Thus the hexarchy continued. The sons of 
the slain usurper fled into Scotland, where they im- 
bibed Christianity. 7 Redwald ascended to the national 
pre-eminence which Ella, Cealwin, and Ethelbert had 
possessed under the title of the Bretwalda ; and, on 
his death, it was assumed by Edwin. 8 

The three brothers who governed Essex perished 623. 
in a conflict with the West Saxons. 9 Redwald was 

5 Bede, lib. ii. c. 12. 

6 Hunting, lib. ii. p. 316. Sax. Chron. 27. 

7 Sax. Chron. 27. Bede, lib. iii. c. 1. Polychron. Gale, iii. 229. 

8 Bede, lib. ii. c. 5. 9 Ibid. Flor. Wig. 231. 


succeeded in East Anglia by Eorpwald. Redwald, 
during a visit to Ethelbert in Kent, had adopted 

623> Christianity for his religion ; but returning to his 
own country, his wife and the East Anglian priests 
opposing his impressions, he attempted to unite it 
with the Saxon idolatry. He built an altar to Christ 
in the same temple where the sacrifices to Odin were 
performed. 10 But even this strange combination of 
worship had the effect of drawing the attention of 
his East Anglians to the Christian faith. 

The vicissitudes of Edwin's life had endued his 
mind with a contemplative temper, which made him 
more intellectual than any of the Anglo-Saxon kings 
that had preceded him, and which fitted him for the 
reception of Christianity. His progress towards this 
revolution of mind was gradual, and the steps have 
been clearly narrated by his countrymen Bede. 

He solicited in marriage Tata Edilberga, the 
daughter of Ethelbert in Kent. Her brother, who 
had abandoned his idolatry, objected to her alliance 
with a worshipper of Odin. Edwin promised that he 
would not interfere with her religion, but would allow 
the free exercise of it both to herself and her friends. 
He also intimated that if, on the examination of it 
by his wise men, it was found to be more holy and 
worthier of God than his native faith, he might him- 
self adopt it. The Saxon princess became his wife, 
and Paulinus, one of those whom Gregory had last 
selected to assist Augustin, went with her as her priest 
and bishop. 11 

eas. The first care of Paulinus was to prevent the queen 

and the noble persons in her train from relapsing 
into their idolatry. His next, to convert some of the 

10 Bede, lib. ii. c. 15. This altar, Bede says, lasted to the time of Aldulf, the king 
of East Anglia, his contemporary, who mentioned that he had seen it when a boy. 

11 Bede, lib. ii. c. 9. 


natives ; but they were impenetrable to his exertions. 
Odin continued still to be their favourite. 

At this period the life of Edwin was attacked by 625 - 
an assassin. Cwichhelm, the pagan king of Wessex, 
commissioned one of his subjects to visit Edwin's 
court, and watch his opportunity to stab him with a 
poisoned dagger. The wretch reached the royal re- 
sidence on the Derwerit, and introduced himself as a 
messenger from his king. Edwin was then about to 
be made a father by his queen. The name of Cwich- 
helrn procured an immediate admission for the in- 
tended assassin, who had abilities and firmness suf- 
ficient to begin the delivery of a fictitious message, 
when suddenly starting up, he clenched his weapon 
and rushed upon the king. The attack was so sudden 
that Edwin was off his guard and defenceless ; but a 
thegn to whom he was greatly attached, Lilla, was 
near him : he saw the rising dagger and Edwin's 
danger ; he had no shield ; but with the impulse of a 
generous heart he threw himself before his king, and 
received in his own body the blow, which it was im- 
possible to avert. So vehement was the stroke that 
it went through Lilla and slightly wounded the king. 
The swords of the attendants were instantly drawn 
upon the murderer ; but he stood on his defence, and 
was not hewn down till he had stabbed another 
knight with the weapon which he had withdrawn 
from his first victim's body. 12 

On this same night the queen was delivered of her 
daughter Eanfleda. The king thanked his idols for 
her birth ; and when Paulinus directed his attention 
to the Christian Saviour, Edwin, like Clovis, who had 
established in France the kingdom of the Francs, 
promised that he would adopt the faith of the Bishop, 
if heaven should give victory to his arms against the 

12 Bede, lib. ii. c. 9. Fl. Wig. 232. 


BOOK king, who had sent the assassin to destroy him. As 
r m ' . a pledge of his own determination to fulfil this en- 
625. gagement, he consented to the baptism of the new- 
born babe. Eleven others of the household at the 
same time received the Christian rite. 13 

introduc- Edwin assembled his forces and advanced against 
tion of Cwichhelm. His expedition was successful. But on 

Christianity . r . . 

into Nor- his return from his victory into JNorthumbria , he 
thumbrm. ^ e | a y e j to embrace the new religion. He had become 
dissatisfied with his idols, but he was of that class of 
mind, which requires the conviction of its reason 
before it decides on its belief. He conferred long and 
anxiously with Paulinus on the subject, and with his 
wisest nobles. He was seen frequently sitting alone, 
discussing with himself what he ought to do, and to 
which religion he should adhere. 15 In these deliber- 
ations a letter reached him from Pope Boniface, ex- 
horting him to abandon useless and insensible idols, 
who of themselves could not even change their locality; 
but if not moved by others, must, like a stone remain 
for ever where they were. The pontiff told him he 
had a living spirit within him, of which they were 
destitute, which would survive the dissolution of his 
body ; and added, " Come then to the knowledge of 
Him who has created you ; who has breathed into 
you this spirit of life ; and who has sent his Son to 
redeem you from sin and every evil power ; and to 
reward you with all the blessings of his heavenly 
world." 16 

Boniface at the same time sent an epistle to his 
queen, reminding her of the duty of interesting her 

13 Bede, lib. ii. c. 9. Fl. Wig. 232. Sax. Chron. 27. 

14 Sax. Chron. 28. 

15 Bede, lib. ii. c. 9. The feelings which a respectable Hindoo of Delhi expressed 
in 1826 to the Christian missionary there, may perhaps illustrate the state of 
Edwin's mind, at this period, on this momentous subject. " I say truly, that I have 
a love for the things contained in your books ; but I have little faith yet : when I 
have more faith, I will say more to you." Miss. Reg. Feb. 1827, p. 82. 

19 Bede, lib. ii. c. 10. 


husband with Christianity ; and urging her to soften CHAP. 
his prepossessions against it, and to impress upon his ,, y ' > 
senses the excellence of the faith she had adopted, 625 - 
and the admirable nature of its future rewards. 17 

These letters were received and considered ; but 
Paulinus found that the loftiness of the king's mind, 
and the natural pride of the Anglo-Saxon nation, 
could not be easily brought to stoop to the humility 
and gentleness of the Christian precepts. 18 In this 
juncture he appears to have come to the knowledge 
of the king's dream at the court of Redwald, and he 
made an ingenious use of it. 

The vision at its departure was said to have laid 
its right hand on the king's head, and to have ex- 
claimed : " When this sign is repeated, remember this 
conference, and perform your promise of obeying 
what will then be disclosed to you." 

Paulinus, without appearing to have had any pre- 
vious knowledge of this dream, one day entered the 
king's apartment as he was pursuing his meditations 
on the opposing religions ; and advancing with a 
solemn air, imitated the action of the imaginary 
figure, and placed his right hand on his sovereign's 
head, at the same time asking him if he remembered 
that sign. 

The king's sensibility was instantly affected. His 
dream and promise rushed upon his mind. He did 
not pause to consider that Paulinus might, from his 
queen or his intimate friends, have become acquainted 
with his own account of his believed vision. All 
seemed supernatural, and Paulinus to be the actual 
vision that had addressed him. He threw himself at 
the bishop's feet, who, pursuing the impression which 
he had excited, raised him, and exhorted him to lose 

17 Bede, lib. ii. c. 11. 18 Ibid. c. 12. 

VOL. I. X 


BOOK no time in fulfilling his thrice-repeated engagement ; 
< and reminded him that this alone would deliver him 
625. from the eternal evils of disobedience. 19 

The king, now seriously affected by the important 
question, summoned his witena-gemot, that, if they 
participated in his feelings, all might be baptized 
together. When they met, he proposed the new wor- 
ship for the subject of their deliberations, and required 
each to express his feelings without reserve. 

Coifi, the high priest of their idols, as the first in 
rank, spoke first ; and unless the coarseness of his 
mind was that of the country, must have surprised 
the king. His speech, from the singularity of the 
criterion by which he governed the faint moral feel- 
ing he possessed, deserves a literal translation. " You 
see, king ! what is now preached to us. I declare 
to you most truly what I have most certainly expe- 
rienced, that the religion which we have hitherto 
professed contains no virtue at all, and as little utility. 
No one of all your court has been more attentive 
than I have been to the worship of our gods ; and yet 
many have received far richer benefits, far greater 
honours, and have prospered more in all that men 
transact or pursue, than I have. But if these gods 
had been of any real worth, would they not in pre- 
ference have assisted me who have never neglected 
them? 20 If then, on due inquiry, you shall perceive 
that these new things which are preached to us will 
be better and more efficacious, let us hasten to adopt 
them without any delay." 

This effusion of self-interest would lead one to sus- 
pect that the effects of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of 

19 Bede, lib.ii. c. 12. 

20 This seems a natural strain of reason with the priests of idols -when they choose 
to express their opinions ; and, perhaps also, of many others ; for at Benares, as 
Mr. Smith wrote to England, " I asked a Brahmin why they took no notice of 
some stone gods lying under a wall ? " " We worshipped them several years," 
answered the Brahmin, " but not deriving any benefit, we laid them aside, knowing 
they are but stones, and are not able to do good or evil." Miss. Reg. p. 78. 


Romanised and Christianised Britain, and of the CHAP. 
civilisation, luxuries, and mental cultivation which it . vn ' . 
had, to a certain extent, exhibited to the Saxon eye, 625 - 
had already shaken their attachment to the rude 
superstitions of their ancestors ; or the high priest of 
their national deities would not have, so feelingly, 
expatiated on his comparative neglect. This circum- 
stance will contribute to account for the ease with 
which Christianity was re-established in the island. 

The next speaker discovered a mind unusually en- 
larged for a people hitherto so unaccustomed to intel- 
lectual investigations. 

" The present life of man, king ! seems to me, if 
compared with that after-period which is so uncertain 
to us, to resemble a scene at one of your wintry 
feasts. As you are sitting with your ealdormen and 
thegns about you, the fire blazing in the centre, and 
the whole hall cheered by its warmth ; and while 
storms of rain and snow are raging without, a little 
sparrow flies in at one door, roams around our festive 
meeting, and passes out at some other entrance. 
While it is among us, it feels not the wintry tempest. 
It enjoys the short comfort and serenity of its tran- 
sient stay ; but then, plunging into the winter from 
which it had flown, it disappears from our eyes. 
Such is here the life of man, It acts and thinks be- 
fore us ; but, as of what preceded its appearance 
among us we are ignorant, so are we of all that is 
destined to come afterwards. If, then, on this mo- 
mentous future, this new doctrine reveals any thing 
more certain or more reasonable, it is in my opinion 
entitled to our acquiescence." 21 

21 Bede, lib. iii. c. 13. Alfred's translation of this interesting speech presents it 
to us as near to its original form as we can now obtain it. " Thyrlic me ir serepen, 
Cynms ! thif anbpapbe lip manna on eopthan, to pithmetenyrre thaefe tibe 
the ur uncuth i)', rpa gelic, rpa thu aet rpaerenbum ritte mib ttnnum ealbop- 
mannum -) thesnum on pmtep tibe -j ry pyp onaek'b, *J "Sin heall sepypmeb. 


hit pine -) rmpe rtypine ute. Cume ftonne an Speappa *j hpaeblice i> hu 
Fleo "j cume ftuph oppe dupu in; tSuph oppe ut sepicev J}pet he on $a tib 
he nine bib ne bip hpmeb mib py jtopme tSa-r pintper\ ac " bip an eagan bphytm 

x 2 


The other witena and the royal counsellors ex- 
hibited similar dispositions. Coifi desired to hear from 
Paulinas an exposition of the Deity. The bishop 
obeyed, and the Angle priest exclaimed, " Formerly 
I understood nothing that I worshipped. The more 
I contemplated our idolatry, the less truth I found in 
it. But this new system I adopt without hesitation ; 
for truth shines around it, and presents to us the 
gifts of eternal life and blessedness. Let us then, 
king ! immediately anathematise and burn the temples 
and altars which we have so uselessly venerated." 
On this bold exhortation, he was asked who would 
be the first to profane the idols and their altars, and 
the inclosures with which they were surrounded. 
The zealous convert answered, " I will : as I have led 
the way in adoring them through my folly, I will 
give the example of destroying them in obedience to 
that wisdom which I have now received from the 
true God." He requested of the king weapons and a 
war-horse. It was a maxim of their ancient religion, 
that no priest should carry arms, or ride on any 
horse but a mare ; an interesting rule to separate 
the ministers of their religion from the ferocity of 
war. The priest girded on a sword, and, brandishing 
a spear, mounted the king's horse, and rode to the - 
idol temple. The people, without, thought him mad. 
He hurled his spear against the temple to profane it, 
and then commanded his companions to destroy all 
the building and its surrounding inclosures. The 
scene of this event was a little to the east of York, 
beyond the river Derwent, at a place, in Bede's time, 
called Godmunddingaham. 22 

T laejte paeS. ac he rona or pmtpa m pinfcep ert cymepv Spa tSonne "Sir monna 
lip to mebmyclum j-aece taet/ypeh, hpaee ftaep popesanse. oppe hpaefc "Sdep aep- 
tetryhse pe ne cunnonv Foppon S'F peop nipe laep opiht cuplicpe ~] gepirenlicpe 
bpmse. heo ftaer pypthe ij* ^ pe tSaspe ryliSeanv" p. 516. 

22 Bede, c. 13. It is still called Godmundham, or the home of the mund, or 
protection of the gods. The effect of these sudden acts of desecrating the great 
scenes or objects of idolatrous veneration has been recently witnessed in Owhyhee. 


Edwin and his nobility were soon afterwards bap- CHAP. 
tized, in the eleventh year of his reign. In 632, he . , ' > 
persuaded Eorpwald of East Anglia, the son of Red- 628 - 
wald, to imitate his example. Sigebert, the brother 
and successor of Eorpwald, not only increased the 
diffusion of Christianity in East Anglia, but applied 
so closely to the study of it as to be called by the 
Chronicler, " Most Learned." 2a 

Edwin reached the summit of human prosperity: 
a considerable part of Wales submitted to his power, 
and the Menavian islands ; and he was the first of 
the Angles that subdued or defeated all the Anglo- 
Saxon kingdoms but Kent. 24 The internal police 

This island, containing 4000 square miles^ is one complete mass of lava, and has 
the largest volcanic crater we know of, being eight miles round. The goddess of 
fire, Peli, and her subordinate fire gods, are supposed to preside over it, and when 
offended, to visit mankind with thunder, earthquake, and streams of liquid fire. 
Fifty cones, of which above twenty continually emitted pyramids of flame and 
burning matter, riveted the terrified people to the worship of the supposed fiery 
deities, till Kapiolani, a female chief, having embraced Christianity, resolved to de- 
scend into the flaming crater, and to convince the inhabitants of the nullity of the * 
gods they feared, by braving them in their volcanic homes. " If I do not return 
safe," said the heroic woman, " then continue to worship Peli : but if I come back 
unhurt, adore the God who created her." Eapiolani went down the steep and 
difficult side of the crater, and arriving at the bottom, pushed a stick into the liquid 
lava and stirred the ashes of the burning lake. The charm of superstition was at 
that moment broken. It was expected that the goddess, armed with flame and 
sulphureous smoke, would have burst forth and destroyed the impious intruder. 
But seeing the fire roll as harmlessly as if no one were present, the people " ac- 
knowledged the greatness of the God of Kapiolani, and from that time few have 
been the offerings and little the reverence offered to the fires of Peli." Lord 
Byron's Voyage to the Sandwich Islands, 1827, p. 188. The missionaries had made 
no general impression, nor could the king and chiefs subdue the worship, till the 
rod of Kapiolani thus dissolved the spell. 

23 Doctissimus. Flor. Wig. 233, 234. Analogous to Edwin's conduct in this 
overthrow of the Saxon superstitions, was that of Riho Kiho, king of the Sandwich 
Islands, in May, 1819, which maybe here noticed as illustrating the Northum- 
brian revolution, and confirming its historical probability, and thereby our Bede's 
veracity. After several conferences with his nobles on the absurdities of their re- 
ligion, which the visits of Captain Cook and others, and some American mission- 
aries, had led his father's mind and his own to perceive, he declared his resolution, 
if the chiefs consented, to desecrate their sacred morais, and to destroy their idols. 
His mother inquired, " What harm their gods had done ? " " Nay," answered the 
nobles, " what good ? Are not the offerings we are required to make, burdensome ? 
Are not the human sacrifices demanded by the priests, cruel and useless ? Do not 
the foreigners laugh at our supposing these ill -shaped logs of wood can protect us ? " 
The maternal queen replied, " Do as you will ; " and on the same day their con- 
secrated places and images were destroyed, and Christianity was soon after intro- 
duced into these interesting islands. See Ellis's Narrative, and Lord Byron's Voyage, 
for the fuller details. 

24 Flor. Wig. 233. Sax. Chron. 27. Bede, ii. c. 9. and 16. The Menavian 

x 3 


BOOK which prevailed through his dominions was so vigi- 
T '_J lant, that it became an aphorism to say, that a 
628 - woman, with her new-born infant, might walk from 
sea to sea without fear of insult. As in those days 
travelling was difficult and tedious, and no places 
existed for the entertainment of guests, it was an 
important and kind convenience to his people, that 
he caused stakes to be fixed in the highways where 
he had seen a clear spring, with brazen dishes chained 
to them, to refresh the weary sojourner, whose fa- 
tigues Edwin had himself experienced. In another 
reign these would have been placed only to have been 
taken away ; but such was the dread of his inquiring 
justice, or such the general affection for his virtues, 
that no man misused them. It is remarked by Bede, 
as an instance of his dignity and power, that his 
banner was borne before him whenever he rode out, 
either in peace or war. When he walked abroad, the 
tufa preceded him. 25 

ms pros- For seventeen years he reigned, victorious over his 
u7dfange. enemies, and making his subjects happy. But Edwin, 
- with all his merit, was an imperfect character. He 
had admitted Christianity to his belief, but he was 
forty-three years old before he had adopted it. His 
mind and temper had therefore been formed into 
other habits before he allowed the new faith to affect 
him. He was still the Saxon warrior, and partook of 
the fate which so many experienced from their mar- 
tial character. Five years had not elapsed after his 
conversion before his reign was ended violently ; and 

islands were Eubonia and Mona, or Man and Anglesey. Bede, c. 9., states that 
Anglesey contained 960 hydes or families, and Man 300. The fertility of Angle- 
sey occasioned the proverb, Mon mam Cymry ; Mona the mother of Wales. Pryse's 
Pref. to Wynne's Caradoc. The king of Gwynedd had his royal seat in it at 
Aberfraw, which is now a small village. Camp. Reg. 1796, p. 402. 

25 We know, from a passage of Vegetius, corrected by Lipsius, that the tufa was 
one of the Roman ensigns ; and we are informed by Isidorus, that Augustus in- 
troduced a globe upon a spear among his signa, to denote a subjected world. Lip- 
sius is of opinion that this was the tufa alluded to by Bede. -De Militia Romana, 
lib. iv. c. 5. p. 169. ed. Antwerp, 1598. 


the disaster resulted from his ambition. The tender CHAP. 
years of his life had been cherished by the father of 
Cadwallon, the sovereign of North Wales; but when 
Edwin had obtained the sceptre of Ethelfrith, he duetto 
waged furious war with the son of his host. We and Wales, 
know neither what had caused him, when young, to 
leave his asylum in Wales, nor what occasioned now 
the hostility between him and Cadwallon. But as 
the Welsh king invaded Edwin, we may presume 
him to have been the aggressor. Edwin defeated 
Cadwallon, who had penetrated to Widdrington, 
about eight miles north of Morpeth. 26 It is with 
regret we read that he was not satisfied with de- 
fensive war, and did not forbear to use the rights of 
victory against his early friend and protector. He 
obeyed his resentment or his ambition in prefer- 
ence to his gratitude. He pursued Cadwallon into 
Wales, and chased him into Ireland. 27 So severely 
did he exercise his advantages, that the British Triads 
characterise him as one of the three plagues which 
befell the Isle of Anglesey. 28 

For a few years his authority continued over ess. 
Gwynedd. But this apparent triumph only flattered 
him into ruin. Cadwallon besought the aid of Penda, unite - 
the Mercian king, who armed in his cause with all 
the activity of youth. The confederated kings met 
Edwin in Hatfield Chase in Yorkshire, on the 12th 
of October. As Mercia until that time had been ob- 

' Jeffry's account of the quarrel is, that Edwin wished to wear his crown inde- 
pendently of the Welsh prince, who was advised to insist on his subjection, and 
threatened to cut off his head if he dared to crown it. Lib. xii. c. 2, 3. 

27 The 34th Triad states, that Cadwalton and his family lived seven years in 
Ireland, p. 7. Jeffry annexes a pretty nurse tale to Cadwallon's exile. Sailing to 
Armorica, he was driven by a tempest on the island of Garnereia ; the loss of his 
companions affected him to sickness ; for three days he refused food, on the fourth 
he asked for venison ; a day's search discovered none. To save his king, Brian cut 
an ample piece out of his own thigh, roasted it on a spit, and presented it to the 
king as genuine venison. It was greedily devoured. The wind changed, they got 
safe to Armorica, and Brian afterwards killed the second-sighted magician of Edwin. 
Lib. xii. c. 4. and 7. 

28 Matt. West. 224., in his De combustis Urbibus et Coloniis destructis, explains 
the direful scourge. 

x 4 


BOOK scure and tranquil, and an appendage to his kingdom 
. 1IL . of Deira, Edwin had no reason to apprehend any 
633 - danger from this union. But the end of all battles 
is uncertain : the death of a commander ; the mistake 
of a movement ; a sudden unforeseen attack on some 
part ; a skilful, even at times an accidental, evolution, 
has frequently made both talent and numbers un- 
availing. The detail of this conflict has not been 
transmitted, but its issue was calamitous to Edwin. 
Edwin's He fell in his forty -eighth year, with one of his 


children ; and most of his army perished. 



The victors ravaged Northumbria ; the hoary Penda 
exercised peculiar cruelty on the Christian inha- 
bitants. Consternation overspread the country. The 
royal widow fled in terror, under the protection of 
Paulinus and a valiant soldier, with some of her 
children, to her kinsman in Kent. 30 

cadwaiion's On Edwin's death, the ancient divisions of North- 
umbria again prevailed, and a heptarchy re-appeared. 
His cousin Osric, the grandson of Ella, succeeded to 
Deira ; and Eanfrid, the long exiled son of Ethelfrith, 
to Bernicia : both restored paganism, though Osric 
had been baptized. The Welsh king Cadwallon, full 
of projects of revenge against the nation of the Angles, 
continued his war. Osric rashly ventured to besiege 

29 Osfrid fell before his father. Bede, lib. ii. c. 20. Sax. Chron. 29. Gibson 
and Carte place the battle in Hatfield Chase. Langhorn prefers Hethfield in Derby- 
shire, near Cheshire, 176. ; others, more absurdly, have glanced on Hatfield in 
Herts. Near the Yorkshire town many intrenchments are to be seen. I will not 
aver that rats shun the town, or that the sparrows are displeased with Lindham in 
the moors below it. Gibson's Add. to Camden, 725. The men of Powys so dis- 
tinguished themselves in this battle, that they obtained from Cadwallon a boon of 
fourteen privileges. The Welsh call the scene of conflict Meigin. Cynddelw, cited 
in Owen's Llywarch, p. 117. 

30 Eadbald received them honourably, and made Paulinus bishop of Rochester. 
Bede, lib. ii. c. 20. Sax. Chron. 29. He gave her the villam maximam Lininge 
(Liming) cum omnibus adjacentibus, in which she built a monastery. Hugo. 
Candid. Csenob. Burg. Hist. p. 37. ed Sparke. She exhibited a novelty to the 
English, which produced serious consequences. She took the veil. Smith's Notes 
on Bede, 101. The hospitality of Eadbald seems not to have been unchequered ; 
her apprehension of him and Oswald induced her to send her children to France, 
to Dagobert, their relation. Bede, c. 20. 


him in a strong town 31 , but an unexpected sally of CHAP. 

Cadwallon destroyed the king of Deira. For a year , ^ 

the victor desolated Northurnbria : his success struck 633 * 
Eanfrid with terror, and his panic hurried him to his 
fate. He went with twelve soldiers to sue peace of 
the Welshman. Notwithstanding the sacred purpose 
of his visit, he was put to death. 

The swords of Cadwallon and his army seemed the 
agents destined to fulfil their cherished prophecy. 
The fate of the Anglo-Saxons was now about to 
arrive ; three of their kings had been already offered 
up to the shades of the injured Cymry ; an Arthur 
had revived in Cadwallon. But the lying prophecies 
of hope, and human augury, have been the experience 
and the complaint of ages, and are never more fal- 
lacious than in ambition and war. 

Triumphant with the fame of fourteen great battles 634. 
and sixty skirmishes 32 , Cadwallon despised Oswald, 
the brother and successor of Eanfrid, who rallied the 
Bernician forces, and attempted to become the de- 
liverer of his country. "With humble confidence the 
royal youth committed his cause to the arbitration of 
Providence 33 , and calmly awaited the decision on the 
banks of the Denise. 34 There, Cadwallon and the Oswald de- 
flower of his army were destroyed. 35 The return of feats hinu 

31 Bede, lib. iii. c. 1. The town was a municipium, and was therefore in all 
probability York. Smith's Notes on Bede, 103. 

32 Llywarch Hen, p. 111. 

33 The piety of Oswald previous to the battle is expressed by Bede. To his 
arrayed army he loudly exclaimed : " Let us kneel to the Omnipotent Lord, the 
existing and the true, and unite to implore his protection against a fierce and arro- 
gant enemy. He knows that we have undertaken a just war for the safety of our 
people." The army obeyed the royal mandate. Lib. iii. c. 2. 

34 Camden places this battle at Dilston, formerly Devilston, on a small brook 
which empties into the Tyne, 854., Gib. ed. Smith, with greater probability, 
marks Erringburn as the rivulet on which Cadwallon perished, and the fields either 
of Cockley, Hallington, or Bingfield, as the scene of conflict. App. to Bede, 721. 
The Angles called it Ilefenfield, which name, according to tradition, Bingfield bore. 

35 Although Jeffry admits Oswald to have conquered at Havenfield, yet he has 
sent Penda to be the person defeated there ; and instead of suffering his Cadwallon 
to perish, inflames him with rage at the disaster, and despatches him like lightning 
in chase of Oswald, whom he permits Penda to kill ; Cadwallon then became pos- 
sessed of all Britain. Lib. xii. c. 10, 11. Such is the veracity of Jeffry 's history 1 


BOOK the Cymry to their ancient country never became 
. m> . probable again. 36 


36 The ancient bard Llywarch Hen composed in his old age an elegy on Cad- 
wallon, whose death he lived to witness ; and thus speaks of his friend : 

Fourteen great battles he fought 
For Britain, the most beautiful ; 
And sixty skirmishes. 

Of Lloegyr (England) 
The scourge and the oppressor, 
His hand was open ; 
Honour flowed from it. 

Cadwallon encamped on the Yddon, 

The fierce affliction of his foes. 

The lion, prosperous against the Saxons. 

fcadwallon in his fame encamped 

On the top of Mount Digoll : 

Seven months, and seven skirmishes daily. 

He led the hand of slaughter in the breach ; 
Eagerly he pursued the conflict ; 
Stubborn in a hundred battles, 
A hundred castles he threw down. 

He made the eagles full ; 

Violent his wrath in the gash ; 

As the water flows from the fountain, 

So will our SOITOW through the lingering day, 

For Cadwallon ! 

Welsh Arch. i. p. 121.; arid Owen's Llywarch, p. 111117. 



The Reign, Actions, and Death of PENDA. History of the 
ANGLO-SAXON Octarchy to the Accession of ALFRED of NOR- 


ABOUT this time the kingdom of Mercia was not only CHAP. 
distinctly formed, but, by the extraordinary ability of . VIIL 
one man, was at the same time raised to a greater A - D - 

,io 1 ./I f*-j. 627634. 

eminence in the baxon octarchy than any of its pre- Ri se of 
ceding kings, even those who had become Bretwaldas, Penda - 
had actually obtained. This man was Penda, who, 
though not classed among the Bretwaldas, would, if 
victory over the other Anglo-Saxon states had given 
the dignity, have possessed it more rightfully than 
any other. It has been mentioned that several petty 
adventurers of the Angles had successively penetrated 
into the inland districts, which became comprised in 
the kingdom of Mercia, and established settlements 
among* the Britons in these regions. In 586, one of 
them, named Crida, also a descendant of Woden, 
began to attain a regal pre-eminence l ; but as we 
may infer from an intimation of Nennius, that Penda 
first separated Mercia from the kingdom of the 
northern Angles, Crida must have been in subor- 
dination to the kingdom of Deira, which formed its 
northern frontier. 2 In 627, Penda, the grandson of 
Crida, succeeded to the crown at that age, when 

1 Crida is the first Mercian chief that is mentioned in the documents which 
remain to us, with the title of king. He began to reign in 586. Gale, Script, iii. 
p. 229. Hunt. 315. Lei. Collect, ii. p. 56. Ibid. i. p. 258. Leland from an old 
chronicle observes, vol. i. p. 211., that the Trent divided Mercia into two kingdoms, 
the north and the south. 

2 Nennius, p. 117. " Penda primus separavit regnum Merciorum a regno Nor- 
dorum. " Ceorl acceded between Crida and Penda. Rad. Polych. p. 229. It was 
Ceorl's daughter Quenburga that Edwin married in his exile. Bede, lib. ii. c. 14. 


BOOK men are usually more disposed to ease than activity. 
. m> . He was fifty years old before he became the king of 
634. Mercia, and he reigned thirty years 3 ; but it was to 
the terror and destruction of several of the other 
Anglo-Saxon kings. Mercia had neither displayed 
power nor ability before his accession ; but Penda's 
military talents and uncommon vigour speedily raised 
it to a decided and overwhelming preponderance. In 
the year after he attained the crown, we find him in 
a battle with Cynegils, and his son Cwichelm, in 
Wessex, at Cirencester. The conflict was undecided 
during the whole day, and in the ensuing morning 
the war was ended by a treaty. 4 Five years after- 
wards, at the age of sixty, he joined Cadwallon, and 
defeated Edwin of Northumbria, in that battle in 
which this prince was slain. 5 

Oswald The piety of Oswald was sincere, and influenced 

Northum- his conduct ; he obtained a bishop from Icolm-kill to 
instruct his rude subjects ; and he earnestly laboured 
to advance their moral tuition. His own example 
strengthened his recommendations on that essential 
duty, without which all human talents, and all hu- 
man aggrandisement, are unavailing decorations. In 
the festival of Easter a silver dish was laid before 
him, full of dainties. While the blessing was about 
to be pronounced, the servant appointed to relieve 
the poor, informed the king that the street was 
crowded with the needy, soliciting alms. Struck by 
the contrast, that while he was feasting with luxury, 
many of his subjects, beings of feelings, desires, and 
necessities like his own, were struggling with poverty; 
remembering the benevolent precepts of Christianity, 
and obeying the impulse of a kind temper, he or- 

3 Flor. Wig. dates his accession in 627, p. 232. Penda was the eleventh de- 
scendant from Woden, by his son Wihtlaeg, ibid, and Hunt. 316. 

4 Hunt. 316. Sax. Chron. 29. The pacification is mentioned by Flor. Wig. 
233.; and Matt. West 217. 

5 See before, p. 350. 


dered the food, untouched, to be given to the sup- CHAP. 
plicants, and the silver dish to be divided among . . 

them. 6 The beggar for one instant participated in 634 - 
the enjoyments of a king, and rank was admonished, 
in that fierce arid proud day, to look with compassion 
on the misery which surrounds it. 

Oswald had the satisfaction of perceiving the bless- 
ings of Christianity diffused into Wessex. A spirit 
so lowly and so charitable as his own, must have 
powerfully felt the beauties of its benign morality. 
He stood sponsor for Cynegils, who received baptism. 
The nation follo\ved the example of the king. 7 

While Oswald was benefiting his age by a display 642. 
of those gentle virtues which above all others are f^ia* 
fitted to meliorate the human character, the Mercian 
king was preparing to attack him. His invasion of 
Northumbria was fatal to the less warlike Oswald, 
who fell at Oswestry in Shropshire, in the thirty- 
eighth year of his age, and the ninth of his reign. 
Oswald breathed his last sigh in prayer for his friends. 8 

As ferocious as he was daring and restless, Penda 
caused the head and limbs of Oswald to be severed 
from his body, and exposed on stakes. 9 He pro- 
ceeded through Northumbria with devastations, and 
finding himself unable to carry the royal city of 
Bebbanburh by storm, he resolved to destroy it by Pendaat- 
fire. He demolished all the villages in its vicinity, 
and encompassing the place with a great quantity of 
the wood and thatch of the ruins, he surrounded the 
city with flames. But the wind, which was raising 
the fiery shower above the city walls, suddenly shifted. 
The element of destruction, most fatal to man, was 

6 Bede, lib. iii. c. 6. Oswald was Nepos Edwini regis ex sorore Acha, ibid. 
As he united Deira and Bernicia, the Saxon states formed, during his reign, an 

7 Bede, lib. iii. c. 7. 8 Ibid. c. 9. 

9 Ibid. lib. ii. c. 12. Oswy, his successor, removed and interred them, ibid. 
But the Saxon Chronicler mentions that his hands were at Bebbanburh in his time, 
p. 31. They were kept as relics. 


BOOK driven back from its expected prey on those who had 
. IIL . let it loose, and the sanguinary besiegers, in panic or 
642j in prudence, abandoned the place. 10 The North- 
umbrians afterwards made Oswy, the brother of 
Oswald, their king. 

643. Penda's next warfare was against Wessex. Cen- 

walh, the son of Cynegils, had offended him by re- 
pudiating his sister. He invaded and expelled him ; 
and Cenwalh was an exile from Wessex for three 
years before he could regain his crown. 11 
Destroys In the year after Oswald's death, the victorious 

ofEast gS Penda turned his arms against East Anglia, then in 
a state of unambitious and inoffensive tranquillity. 
But this disposition only tempted the ambition of 
the Mercian. In this country, Sigebert had succeeded 
the son of Kedwald, whom at one time fearing, he 
had fled into France for safety, and there became a 
Christian, and attached himself to study. Attaining 
the crown of East Anglia, he founded that school in 
his dominions, which has not only the distinction of 
being the first, after that at Canterbury, which the 
Anglo-Saxons established to teach reading and the 
literature to which it leads, but also of being supposed 
to have formed the original germ of the university of 
Cambridge. 12 Sigebert built also a monastery ; and 
preferring devotion, letters, and tranquillity to state, 
he resigned his crown to his kinsman Ecgric, who 

10 Bede, lib. iii. c. 16. 

11 Ibid. lib. iii. c. 7. Flor. Wig. 237. Sax. Chron. 32. 

12 Bede's account is, that desiring to imitate what he had seen well arranged in 
Gaul, he instituted, with the help of Felix from Kent, a school in which youth 
should be instructed in letters. Felix gave him teachers and masters from Kent, 
lib. iii. c. 1 8. Dr. Smith has given a copious essay on the question, whether this 
was the foundation of the university at Cambridge, and preceded that of Oxford in 
antiquity. He considers himself to have shown " feliciter " that the school of Sige- 
bert was planted at Cambridge ; but admits that the posterior account, which Peter 
Blessensis has left of Joffrid's teaching near Cambridge, after the Norman conquest, 
is an " objectio validissima," which can hardly be answered. On the whole, he 
thinks, that if he has not identified the Cambridge university with the school of 
Sigebert, he has at least shown, that the fables about Alfred's founding Oxford are 
to be entirely rejected. App. No. 14. p. 721 740. 


was reigning in a part of East Anglia, assumed the CHAP. 
tonsure, and retired into the monastery which he had . vm ' > 
founded. On Penda's invasion, the East Anglians, 643 - 
fearful lest their reigning monarch should be unequal 
to repel his superior numbers, drew Sigebert by force 
from his monastery, and compelled him to head their 
army, from a belief that it would prosper under the 
guidance of so good a man. He led them to the 
shock, but, disclaiming all weapons of destruction, he 
used only a wand of command. His skill was ex- 
celled by the veteran ability of Penda. Both the 
East-Anglian princes fell, and their army was dis- 
persed. 13 

The ambition and the success of Penda were not 634 - 
yet terminated. In 654, he marched into East 
Anglia, against Anna, the successor of Sigebert and 
Ecgric, and destroyed him. 14 His crime was un- 
pardonable in the eyes of Penda. He had hospitably 
received Cenwalh. 15 

In that warlike age, when every man was a soldier, oswy. 
no conquest was permanent, no victor secure. Penda 
lived to exhibit an instance of this truth. When 
Oswy assumed the government of Bernicia on the 
death of Oswald, he placed Os win, son of Osric, the 
kinsman of the applauded Edwin, over Deira. Oswin, 
of a tall and graceful stature, distinguished himself 
for his humanity and generosity, but could not allay 
the jealousy of Oswy, who soon became eager to 
destroy the image he had set up. Oswin shrunk 
from a martial conflict, and concealed himself, with 
one faithful soldier, Tondhere, his foster-brother, in 
the house of Earl Hunwald, his assured friend. This 

13 Bede, lib. iii. c. 18. 

14 Flor. Wig. 240. Sax. Chron. 23. Anna was the son of Eni, of royal descent. 
His brother Adelhere acceded on Anna's fall ; but in his second year was slain by 
the army of Oswy. The third brother, Edewold, a pious prince, succeeded. On 
his death, Adulph, the son of Anna, was crowned. Hist. Elien. MSS. Cott. Lib. 
Nero. A. 15. ; and 1 Dugdale, 88. 

15 Bede, lib. iii. cap. 18. and c. 7. 


BOOK man betrayed him to Oswy, and suffered him to be 

. / . murdered. 16 Os win had given to his betrayer the 

swhJ 4 ' possessions he enjoyed. The soldiers of Oswy, whom 

killed. he guided, entered the house in the night. Tondhere 

offered himself to their fury, to save his lord and 

friend ; but had only the consolation to perish with 

him. 17 

655. Oswy was, however, destined to free the Anglo- 

Saxon octarchy from Penda. When this aged tyrant 
was preparing to invade his dominions, he sued long 
and earnestly for peace in vain. At the age of eighty, 
the pagan chief, encouraged by his preceding successes, 
still courted the chances and the tumult of battle. 
Kejecting the negotiations repeatedly offered, he 
hastened with the veterans whom he had long trained, 
to add Oswy to the five monarchs whose funeral 
honours recorded him as their destroyer. With 
trembling anxiety Oswy met him, with his son Alfred, 
and a much inferior force; but the battle is not 
always given to the strong, nor the race to the swift. 
Penda had filled up the measure of his iniquities, and 
Providence released the country from a ruler, whose 
appetite for destruction age could not diminish. 
He rushed into the battle with Oswy confident of 
victory, but the issue was unexpectedly disastrous to 
Penda's him. Penda, with thirty commanders, perished before 
the enemy, whose greatest strength they had subdued, 
and whose present feebleness they despised. The 
plains of Yorkshire witnessed the emancipation of 
England. 18 Oidilwaid, the son of Oswald, was with 
the forces of Penda, but not desirous to assist him. 
When the battle began, he withdrew from the con- 
flict, and waited calmly for the event in a distant 

position. This secession may have produced a panic 

16 Bede, lib. iii. c. 14. 17 Dugd. Mon. i. 333. 

18 Sax. Chron. 33. Bede, lib. iii. c. 24. Winwidfield, near Leeds, was the theatre 
of the conflict. Camden, Gib. 711. Bede does not explicitly assert that Penda 
had three times the number of forces, but that it was so reported. 


among the troops of Penda, or by occupying the CHAP. 
jealous attention of part of them, diminished the < , ' , 
number which acted against Oswy. The principal 655 - 
leaders of the Mercians fell in defending Penda, and 
the country happening to be overflowed, more perished 
by the waters than by the sword. 

By the death of Oswin the hexarchy returned ; 
by the death of Penda, a pentarchy appeared ; for 
the kingdom of Mercia was so weakened by the result 
of this battle, that it fell immediately into the power 
of Oswy, who conquered also part of Scotland. 

Penda, during his life, had appointed one of his 
sons, Peada, a youth of royal demeanour and great 
merit, to be king of that part of his dominions and 
conquests which were called Middle Angles ; Peada Peada in- 
had visited Oswy in Northumbria, and solicited his 
daughter. Alchfleda, in marriage. To renounce his into 


idols and embrace Christianity, was made the con- 
dition of her hand. As his father was such a deter- 
mined supporter of the ancient Saxon superstition, 
and was of a character so stern, the princess must 
have inspired her suitor with an ardent affection to 
have made him balance on the subject. Peada sub- 
mitted to hear the Christian preachers; and their 
three great topics, the resurrection, the hope of 
future immortality, and the promise of a heavenly 
kingdom, inclined him to adopt the religion which 
revealed them. The persuasions of Alfred, the eldest 
and intelligent brother of the princess, who had 
married his sister Cyneburga, completed the im- 
pression. He decided to embrace Christianity, even 
though Alchfleda should be refused to him. He was 
baptized with all his earls and knights, who had 
attended him, and with their families, and took four 
priests home with him to instruct his people. 19 The 

19 Bede, lib. iii. c. 21. The names of the four priests were, Cidd, Adda, Betti, 
and Diuraa. The three first were Angles, the last an Irishman, ibid, 

VOL. I. Y 


BOOK Saxon mind appears to have then reached that state 
. of activity and judgment which had become dis- 
655 - satisfied with its irrational idolatry, and was thus 
become fitted to receive the belief of Christianity, as 
soon as it could be influenced to attend steadily to 
this interesting and enlightening religion. The ex- 
ertions of the ecclesiastics were successful. Every 
day, many Mercians, both nobles and laity, were con- 

.The mind of Penda himself had seemed at last to 
lessen its aversion to the new faith before his fall. 
He allowed it to be preached in his own dominions 
to those who chose to hear it; and he took a fair 
distinction on the subject. He permitted them to 
believe, if they practised what they were taught. He 
is stated to have hated and despised those who 
adopted Christianity, but did not perform its in- 
junctions ; exclaiming that those miserable creatures 
were worthy only of contempt, who would not obey 
the God in whom they believed. This important 
revolution of opinions occurred to Mercia about two 
years before Penda's death. 20 His character was 
violent and ambitious, but his mind was strong, 
decided, and of a superior energy. If literature and 
Christianity had improved it, his talents would have 
placed him high among the most applauded of the 
Anglo-Saxon kings. 

Penda's death led to the complete conversion of 
Mercia. Oswy, after his victory, reigned three years 
over it, and gave to his son-in-law Peada the sove- 
reignty of the Southern Mercians, whom the Trent 
divided from the Northern. To read that Mercia 
beyond the Trent contained but seven thousand 
families, and in its other part only five thousand 21 , 
leads us to the opinion, that its successes under 

20 Bede, lib. iii. c. 21. 21 Ibid. c. 24. 


Penda had not arisen from the numbers of its popu- CHAP. 


lation, but rather from his great military abilities and ,. v ' > 
powerful capacity. From his reign it advanced with 655 - 
a steady and rapid progress. Christianity spread 
through it with great celerity after Penda's death. 
Its two first bishops were Irishmen ; and the third, 
though born an Angle, was educated in Ireland. 

In the spring after his father's death, Peada was His 

assassinated at his Easter festival : the report pre- 
served by the chroniclers is, that it was the result 
of the treachery of his queen. 22 Another tradition, 
but of slender authority, ascribes it to the arts of 
her mother, who was still a pagan. 23 It may have 
arisen from the resentments of those who lamented 
the fall of the ancient idolatry, which Peada had 
first subverted in Mercia. He had laid the founda- 
tion of the celebrated monastery at Peterborough 
before he fell, which his brother completed. 24 

The chieftains of Mercia had submitted to the 
Northumbrian king with an impatient reluctance. 
They concealed Wulf here, another of Penda's children, 
among themselves, till a fit occasion arose of using 
his name and rights : and after Peada's death, three 
of them placed Wulfhere at their head, assembled 
in arms, disclaimed the authority of Oswy, expelled 
his officers, and made their young leader their king. 

22 So Bede, c. 24. ; Sax. Chron. 33.; and Malmsb. p. 27. It is not uninterest- 
ing to read how characteristically an ancient monk expresses the incident. " The 
enemy of the human race instigated against him that nature by which he deprived 
us of the joys of Paradise ; to wit, his wife Alfleda, who betrayed and slew him." 
Hug. Cand. p. 4. The Norman Rhimed Chronicle also ascribes the crime to the 
queen : 

Alfled la reine engine taunt doluersment, 
Ke ele sun barun tuat par graunt traisement. 

Ed. Sparke, 243. 

23 Speed quotes Rob. Swapham to this effect, but I have not met with the pas- 
sage. The register of Peterborough, Ap. Dugd. i. p. 63., uses the phrase, indigna 
et immatura morte, without designating the person, whom Ingulf also omits. 
Huntingdon has merely, ipso occiso, p. 317. 

24 Chron. Petrib. p. 1. It was called Medeshamstede, because there was a well 
there named Medes-wel. Sax. Chron. 33. 



nity re- 
stored in 

They succeeded in establishing the independence of 
their country. 25 

Wessex now began to emerge into activity and 
power. Her king, Cenwalch, defeated the Britons, 
who had imagined, that, after his defeat by Penda, 
he would prove an easy conquest. 26 Pen in Somer- 
setshire was the place of their conflict : the Britons 
attacked with an impetuosity that was at first suc- 
cessful, but at length were defeated, and chased, 
with a slaughter from which they never recovered, 
to Pedridan on the Parrett. 27 This locality would 
seem to intimate, that it was the Britons of Cornwall 
and Devonshire who had principally invaded. Ani- 
mated by this success, Cenwalch sought to revenge 
on Mercia and Wulfhere the disgrace which he had 
suffered from his father. A struggle ensued, in 
which, after some reverses, the Mercians prevailed, 
and part of Wessex was subjected to the authority 
of the Mercian king. 28 

Christianity was restored about this period in Essex, 
through the instrumentality of Oswy. Sigeberht its 
king came frequently into Northumbria, and Oswy 
used to reason with him, that those things could not 
be gods which the hands of men had made; that 
wood and stone could not be the materials of which 
Deity subsisted : these were destroyed by the axe 

25 Bede, lib. iii. c. 24. 

26 Huntingdon, lib. ii. p. 317., et facta est super progeniem Bruti plaga insana- 
bilis in die ilia. Ib. 

27 " Et persecuti sunt eos usque ad locum qui Pederydan nuncupatur." Ethel- 

werd, p. 836. So the Saxon Chronicle, hy geflymde oth Pedridan, p. 39 There 

is a place on the Parret, in Somersetshire, the entrance of which was called Pedri- 
dan muth, perhaps the Aber Peryddon of Golyddan. 

28 Matt. West. 216. The issue of this battle has been differently stated. Ethel- 
werd, 837., makes Cenwalch take Wulfhere prisoner at vEscesdun, or Aston, near 
Wallingford, in Berks. The Saxon Chronicle, 39., and Flor. Wigorn. 241., as far 
as they express themselves, imply the contrary. Malmsb. says, the Mercian was 
at first graviter afflictus by the loss, but afterwards avenged himself, p. 27. The 
expressions of Bede, that Wulfhere gave the Isle of Wight and a province in West 
Saxony to the king of Sussex in one part of his life, lib. iv. c. 13., and that Cen- 
walch, during Wulfhere's life, was gravissimis regni sui damnis saepissime ab hosti- 
bus adflictus, lib. iii. c. 7., fully countenance the idea, that if Cenwalch at first 
prevailed, the ultimate triumphs were enjoyed by Wulfhere. 


and by fire, or were often subjected to the vilest CHAP. 
occasions. As Sigeberht admitted these obvious *. ,_j 
truths, Oswy described the real object of human 659 - 
worship to be that Eternal and Almighty Being, to 
us invisible, and in majesty incomprehensible; yet 
who had deigned to create the heavens, and the earth, 
and the human race ; who governs what he framed, 
and will judge the world with parental equity. His 
everlasting seat was not in perishing metals, but in 
the heavens ; in those regions where he had pro- 
mised to give endless recompense to those who would 
study and do the will of their Lord and Maker. The 
frequent discussion of these topics at length con- 
quered the resisting minds of Sigeberht and his 
friends. After consulting together, they abandoned 
their idolatry ; and the king adopted the Christian 
faith as the religion of Essex. 29 

Sussex had embraced the opportunity of Cenwalch's 
exile to terminate its subordination to Wessex. In 
645 Penda had expelled Cenwalch from "Wessex ; and 
in 648 we find Edilwalch commencing his reign as 
king of Sussex. 30 He submitted to the predominance 
and courted the friendship of Wulf here ; and in 661 
received the Isle of Wight, and the Meanwara dis- 
trict in Hampshire, part of the spoils of Wessex, from 
the bounty of his conqueror. Sussex at this period 
contained seven thousand families, but remained 
attached to its idol worship. But Wulfhere per- 
suaded Edilwaid to be baptized ; and by the exertions 
of Wilfrid, the bishop most distinguished in his day, 
the little kingdom, about A. D. 688, exchanged its 
paganism for Christianity. 31 Essex also submitted 

29 Bede, lib. iii. c. 22. This was in 653, 

30 Matt. West., p. 224., mentions the expulsion of Cenwalch. So Floren. Wig. 

p. 237. In 648 the exiled monarch returned. Flor. Wig. 238 In 661, Matt. 

West, places the 1 3th year of ^Ethelwald's reign in Sussex, p. 232. 

31 Bede, lib. iv. c. 13. Sax. Chron. p. 39. The annotator on Bede remarks, 
that the memorial of this province remains still in the names of the hundreds of 
Meansborough, Eastmean, Westmean, and Mansbridge, Smith's Bede, p. 155. 

T 3 


afterwards to Wulfhere 32 , who became now the most 
important of the Anglo-Saxon sovereigns, though he 
is not mentioned with the title of Bretwalda, which 
seems to have been discontinued after this period. 
Perhaps the conjecture on this dignity which would 
come nearest the truth, would be, that it was the 
walda or ruler of the Saxon kingdoms against the 
Britons, while the latter maintained the struggle for 
the possession of the country : a species of Agamem- 
non against the general enemy, not a title of dignity 
or power against each other. If so, it would be but 
the war-king of the Saxons in Britain, against its 
native chiefs. 

67o. Oswy is ranked by Bede, the seventh, as Oswald 

na< i been the sixth, of the kings who preponderated 
in the Anglo-Saxon octarchy. 33 He died in this 
year. 34 His greatest action was the deliverance of 
the Anglo-Saxons from the oppressions of Pen da ; he 
also subdued the Picts and Scots ; but the fate of 
the amiable Oswin, whom he destroyed, shades his 
memory with a cloud. 35 Alfred, his eldest son, who 
had assisted to gain the laurels of his fame in the 
field of Winwid, was rejected from the succession, 
for his illegitimacy, and the younger, Ecgfrid, was 
placed over the united kingdoms of Northumbria. 36 

672. On the death of Cenwalch, his widow, Saxburga, 


32 Bede, lib. iii. c. 30. Hugo Candidus names Sigher as the king of Sussex sub- 
dued by Wulfhere. Coenob. Burg. Hist. p. 7. and 8. This is a misnomer. Sigher 
reigned with Sebbi in Essex at this period. That Surrey was also in subjection to 
Wulfhere, appears from a charter in the register of Chertsey Abbey, in which Frith- 
wald, the founder, styles himself " Provinciae Surrianorum subregulus regis Wlfarii 
Mercianorum." This was in 666. MSS. Cotton. Lib. Vitel. A. 13. This Frith- 
wald is called King. 

33 Bede, lib. ii. c. 5. Sax. Chron. p. 7. 

34 Sax. Chron. 40. Chron. Abb. Petri de Burgo, p. 2. 

35 If Oswin's character has not been too favourably drawn, his death was a great 
loss to his contemporaries. His tall and handsome person was adorned by a dis- 
position unfrequent in his age ; affatu jucundus, moribus civilis, omnibus manu 
largus, regum humilimus, amabilis omnibus. Flor. Wig. 237. To the same purport 
Bede, lib. iii. c. 14., and Matt. West. 224. 

36 Reprobate notho factione optimatum quamquam seniore. Malms. 20, 2 1. 
Ecgfrid had resided as a hostage with the Mercian queen at the time of Penda's fall. 
Bede, lib. iii. c. 24. 


assumed the sceptre of Wessex. She wielded it with CHAP. 


courage and intelligence; she augmented her army . 

with new levies, and encouraged her veterans. The 672 - 
submissive were rewarded by her clemency ; to the 
enemy a firm countenance was displayed 37 ; but the 
proud barbarians of Wessex disdained even a govern- 
ment of wisdom in the form of a woman 38 ; and for 
ten years the nobles shared the government. In the 674. 
first part of this interval, J^scuin, son of Cenfusus, " Escum - 
a prevailing noble, descended from Cerdic, is men- 
tioned to have ruled. 39 He led a powerful force 
against Wulfhere, the king of Mercia ; a battle, in 
which there was great mutual destruction, but whose 
issue was doubtful, ensued at Bedwin in Wilts. " It is 
worth, our while," says the moralising historian, " to 
observe how contemptible are the glorious wars and 
noble achievements of the great. Both these con- 
tending kings, whose vanity and pomp hurled thou- 
sands of their fellow-creatures to their graves, scarcely 
survived the battle a year." 40 Within a few months 
Wulfhere died of a natural disease ; and in 676 
-^Escuin followed. Kentwin is denominated his sue- Kentwin. 
cessor 41 ; and Ethelred, the surviving son of Penda, 
acceded to the crown of Mercia, and ravaged Kent. 42 

37 Malms. 14. She reigned for one year. Sax. Chron. 41. 

38 " Indignantibus regni magnatibus expulsa est a regno, nolentibus sub sexu 
foemineo militare." Matt. West. 236. 

39 There is a seeming contradiction on this point between Bede and the Saxon 
Chronicle. Bede, lib. iii. c. 12., says, that after Cenwalch's death, acceperunt sub- 
reguli regnum gentis, et divisum inter se tenuerunt annis circiter decem. Flor. 
Wig., 246., mentions this passage, but mentions also the opposite account of the 
Anglica Chronica. The Saxon Chronicle, after Saxburga's year, places ^Escuin in 
674, and Kentwin in 676, both within the ten years of Bede, p. 41. 44. I cannot 
reject the evidence of Bede, who was born at this time. Perhaps ^Escuin and 
Kentwin were the most powerful of the nobles, and, being of the race of Cerdic, 
enjoyed the supremacy. Ina's Charter authenticates Kentwin's reign. See it In 
Malmsb. de Ant. Glast. Gale, iii. 311. Alfred, in his Chronological Fragment, in- 
serted in his Bede, mentions both jEscuin and Kentwin. Walker's Elfred. Mag. 
App. p. 199. 

40 H. Hunting, p. 318. Sax. Chron. 45. 

41 Sax. Chron. 44. Ethelwerd, 837. 

42 Sax. Chron. 44. The Chronicon of Peterborough dates the invasion of Kent 
in 677, p. 3. 

Y 4 





' , 


Ecgfrid of 

A pesti- 


Ecgfrid, who was governing in Northumbria, had 
repulsed with great slaughter an invasion of the 
Picts. Their general, Bernhaeth, fell, and the corpses 
of his followers stopped the current of the river 
which flowed near the scene of ruin, 43 In 679 Ecgfrid 
invaded Mercia, though Ethelred had married his 
sister, The Mercians met him on the Trent, and, in 
the first battle, his brother ^Elfuin fell. More calami- 
tous warfare impended from the exasperation of the 
combatants, when the aged Theodore interposed. His 
function of archbishop derived new weight from his 
character, and he established a pacification between 
the related combatants. A pecuniary mulct com- 
pensated for the fate of JElfuin, and the retaliation 
in human blood was prevented. ** 

A destructive pestilence began to spread through 
Britain, from its southern provinces to the northern 
regions, and equally afflicted Ireland, in 664. 45 The 
calamity extended to Wales, and many of the natives 
emigrated to Bretagne. Cadwaladyr, the son of Cad- 
wallon, accompanied them. He was kindly received 
by one of the Breton kings, and partook of his hospi- 
tality, till devotion or an aversion to the military 
vicissitudes of the day, induced him to abandon his 
royal dignity in Wales, and to visit Eome. He was 
the last of the Cymry who pretended to the sove- 
reignty of the island. 4 ^ 

48 Malmsb. Gest. Pontiff, lib. iii. p. 261. Eddius fills two riwrs with tbe bodies, 
over which the victors passed " siccis pedibus." Vit. Wilf. c. 19. p. 61. ed Gale. 

44 Bede, lib. iv. c. 21. Malmsb. 20. 28. Sax. Chron. 44. Ecgfrid had con- 
quered Lincolnshire from Wulfhere before Ethelred 's accession, Bede, lib. ii. c. 12. 

45 Bede, lib. iii. c. 27. 

46 Jeffry, Brit. Hist, lib, xii. c. 17, 18. This work and the Brut. Tysilio and 
Brut. G. ab Arthur end here. The death of Cadwaladyr is the termination of those 
British Chronicles which contain the fabled history of Arthur and his predecessors ; 
and they close analogously to their general character ; for the voice of an angel is 
made use of to deter Cadwaladyr from returning to Britain. The reason added for 
the celestial interference is, because the Deity did not choose that the Britons should 
reign in the island before the time predicted by Merlin. The same voice ordered 
him to Rome, and promised that his countrymen should, from the merit of their 
faith, again recover the island, when the time foretold was arrived ! ! Jeffry, lib. 
xii. c. 17. Brut. Tys. and Brut. Arth. p. 386. 


When Cadwaladyr settled at Rome, Alan, the king CHAP. 
of Bretagne, sent his son Ivor, and his nephew Inyr, . 
with a powerful fleet, to regain the crown which 688 - 
Cadwaladyr had abandoned or lost. Ivor was at 
first so successful, that he defeated the Saxons, and 
took Cornwall, Devonshire, and Somersetshire. But 69i. 
Ken twin met him with the West Saxon power, and 
chasing him to the sea, again disappointed the hopes 
of the Cymry. 47 Rodri Maelwynawc assumed the 6 98. 
pennaduriaeth, or sovereignty of the Cymry, on 
Ivor's departure for Rome. 48 

The restless Ecgfrid soon turned his arms upon 684. 
Ireland. This nation, although some of its tribes were J^"^ 
occasionally at variance with the Welsh, had always Ireland. 
continued in strict amity with the English 49 ; but 
this peaceful forbearance was no protection from the 
avarice of power. Their country was miserably ra- 
vaged by Beorht, the Northumbrian general ; the 
lands of Bregh were plundered, and many churches 
and monasteries were destroyed. The islanders de- 
fended their domestic lares with valour, and the 
Angles retreated. 

It is at this period that Ireland appears to have 

47 Brut, y Saeson and the Brut, y Tywysoglon, p. 468 470. Sax. Chron. 45. 
Wynne's History of Wales is not a translation of Caradoc. It is composed from his 
work, with many additions badly put together. 

48 Brut, y Tywys, p. 471. Dr. Pughe's biographical notice of Cadwaladyr may 
be read as a good summary of the chief incidents that concern this celebrated 
Welsh prince. Cadwaladyr, son of Cadwallon ab Cadwan, succeeded to the nominal 
sovereignty of Britain, in the year 660. Disheartened at the progress of the 
Saxons, he went to Rome in 686, and died in 703. With him the title of king of 
the Britons ceased, and such parts as were not conquered by the Saxons were 
governed by different chiefs, as Strathclyde, Cornwall, and Wales. In the Triads 
he is styled one of the three princes who wore the golden bands, being emblems of 
supreme authority, which were worn round the neck, arms, and knees. He was 
also called one of the three blessed kings, on account of the protection and support 
afforded by him to the fugitive Christians who were dispossessed by the Saxons. 
There is a church dedicated to him in Mona, and another in Denbighshire. Camb. 
Biog. p. 34. 

49 Bede characterises the Irish as a people innoxiam et nation! Anglorum semper 
amicissimam, lib. iv. c. 26. Malmsbury describes them as a " genus hominum 
innocens, genuina simplicitate, nil unquam mali moliens," p. 20. 


BOOK been conspicuous for the literature of some of her 
' monastic seminaries. Bede states, that many of the 
684 - noble and middle classes of the English left their 
country, and went to Ireland, either to study the 
Scriptures or to pass a more virtuous life. Some 
connected themselves with the monasteries, and pre- 
ferred passing from the abode of one master to that 
of another, applying themselves to reading. The 
Irish received them all most hospitably, supplied 
them with food without any recompense, and gave 
them books to read, and gratuitous tuition. 50 

In the next year, Ecgfrid invaded the Picts with 

the same purpose of depredation ; but a feigned flight 

of the natives seduced him into a defile. At Drum- 

nechtan the fierce assault of patriotism was made, 

siain by and Ecgfrid perished with most of his troops. 61 The 

the picts. ^dy of ^gfrid was taken to Icolmkill, the celebrated 

isle of St. Columba, and buried there. 52 

This disastrous expedition humbled the power of 
Northumbria. 53 The Irish and Scotch immediately 
disclaimed its predominance, and some of the Welsh 
princes obtained their independence. This kingdom, 
which, in the hands of Ethelfrid, Edwin, and Oswy, 
had menaced the others with subjection, was formid- 
able to its contemporaries no more. The kings of 
Wessex and Mercia obscured it by their superior 

80 Bede, lib. iii. c. 27. He mentions two of these monasteries by name, Paeg- 
nalaech and Rathmelsigi. The studies pursued in Ireland about this time are im- 
plied rather than expressed, in the tumid and not easily comprehensible epistle of 
Aldhelm, to be the geometrical and grammatical arts, logic, rhetoric, and the Scrip- 
tures. I can hardly guess what he means by his " bis ternasque omissas physicae 
artis machinas." Ush. Syll. p. 39. 

51 Bede, lib. iv. c. 26. The annals of Ulster thus mention his death : " Battle 
of Drumnechtan, on the 20th May, where Ecgfred M'Offa was killed with a vast 
number of his men. He burnt Tula-aman Duinolla." Ant. Celt. Nor. p. 59. 

52 Sun. Dun., p. 5., calls the place of battle Nechtonesmere, which corresponds 
with the Drumnechtan of the Irish Chronicle. 

63 Thirteen years afterwards, Beorht, endeavouring to revenge the calamity by 
another invasion, also perished, Bede, lib. v. p. 24. Ann. Ulst. 59. Sax. Chron. 
49. Hunting. 337. 


power, and it precipitated its own fall by incessant CHAP. 
usurpations and civil wars. 54 . 


54 Bede remarks the fines angustiores of Northumbria after Ecgfrid, lib. iv. c. 26. 
It is about this time that the authentic chronicles of the Welsh begin. Four of 
them are printed in the Welsh Archaiology, vol. ii. The Brut y Tywysogion begins 
\vith the year 680, and ends about 1280, p. 390 467. This is printed from the 
Ked Book of Hergest. The Brut y Saeson, which is in the Cotton Library, begins, 
after a short introduction, in 683, and ends in 1197. Another copy of the Brut 
y Tywysogion, printed from MSS. in Wales, begins 660, and ends 1196. Some 
extracts are also printed from another Chronicle, called, from the name of a former 
transcriber, Brut Jeuan Brechfa, beginning 686. These last three Chronicles oc- 
cupy from p. 468. to p. 582. These Chronicles refer to Caradoc of Llancarvan, 
who lived in the twelfth century, as their author. As they contain facts and dates 
not always the same in all, it is not probable that Caradoc wrote them all. Their 
variations seem to have arisen from the imitations or additions of the ancient tran- 
scribers, who have brought them down below the times of Caradoc. Their general 
character is that of plain simple chronicles, in an humble, artless style, but seldom 
correct in their chronology. They scarcely ever agree with the Saxon dates. 




Alfred of 


Reign of ALFRED of NORTHUMBRIA and his Successors. History 
of WESSEX to the Death of INA. 

THE important improvements which always occur to 
a nation, when its sovereign is attached to literature, 
give peculiar consequence to the reign of Alfred, who 
succeeded his brother Ecgfrid in Northumbria. He 
was the eldest, but not the legitimate, son of Oswy, 
and was, therefore, prevented by the nobles of his 
country from ascending the throne, to which they 
elected his younger brother. This exclusion kept 
him several years from the royal dignity, but was 
beneficial both to his understanding and his heart. 
His name alone would interest us, as the precursor 
of the greater sovereign, his namesake ; but the 
similarity of his intellectual taste and temper with 
the pursuits and sentiments of the celebrated Alfred 
of Wessex, makes his character still more interesting. 
We cannot avoid remembering the lives and pursuits 
of those eminent men whose names we may happen 
to hear ; and as Alfred of Northumbria appears in 
Bede as the first literary king among the Anglo- 
Saxons, we may reasonably suppose, that his example 
and reputation had no small influence in suggesting 
the love of study, and arousing the emulation of the 
distinguished son of Ethelwulf. 

Alfred, of Northumbria, whom Eddius distin- 
guishes by the epithet of the most wise, had been 
educated by the celebrated Wilfrid. 1 He had go- 

1 Bede, lib. iii. c. 25. He remunerated bis preceptor by a bishopric, in the 
second year of his reign. Ibid. lib. v. c. 19. Eddius, Vit. Wilf. c. 43. The 
Saxon MS. in the Cotton. Library, Vesp. D. 14. p. 132., spells the name Alfred. 
Bede calls him Alfridus. 





verned Deira, under his father Oswy, and had contri- CHAP. 
buted to the defeat of Penda. He had cultivated a 
friendship with Peada and had married his sister; 
and, by inspiring Peada with a favourable impression 
of Christianity, had occasioned its establishment in 
Mercia. 2 

Kejected by the great from the crown of his father, 
he did not attempt to raise the sword of military 
competition against his brother : he submitted to the 
decision of the Northumbrian Witena, and retired 
contentedly to a private life. Learned ecclesiastics 
from Ireland had given to his father and country 
what intellectual information they had acquired. The 
larger tuition of Wilfrid, who had visited Rome, and 
studied in France 3 , had inspired him with a fondness 
for knowledge which now became his happiness. He 
devoted himself to piety and literature, and volun- 
tarily retired into Ireland, that he might pursue his 
unambitious studies. 4 For fifteen years he enjoyed a 
life of philosophic tranquillity and progressive im- 
provement. The books revered by the Christians 
engrossed so much of his attention, that one of the 
epithets applied to him was, "most learned in the' 
Scriptures." 5 

He exhibited to the world this example of contented 
privacy till the death of Ecgfrid raised him to the 
throne without a crime. The catastrophe of his 
brother had taught most impressively the folly of 

2 Bede, lib. iii. c. 21. c. 24. He reigned under his father. Eddius, c. 7. c. 10. 
So Bede implies, c. 25. 

3 Bede, lib. iii. c. 25. 

4 "In insulis Scotorura ob studium literarura exulabat in regionibus Scot- 
orum lectioni operam dabat ipse ob amorem sapientiae spontaneum passus 
exilium." Bede, Vita S. Cudbercti, c. 24. ' In Hyberniam seu vi seu indigna- 
tione secessai-at, ibi et ab odio germani tutus, et magno otio literis imbutus, omni 
philosophia composuerat animum." Malmsbury, 21. Viro undecumque doctis- 
simo. Bede, Hist. lib. v. c. 12. Rex sapientissimus. Eddius, Vit. Wilf. c. 43. 
The wise king of the Saxons. Annals Ulster, p. 60. 

5 Bede, Hist. Abbot. Wiremuth. p. 300. Alcuin describes him thus: Qui 
sacris fuerat studiis imbutus ab annis setatis primae, valido sermone sophista acer et 
ingenio, idem rex simul atque magister. De Pont. 718. 


BOOK military ambition, and the national as well as personal 

> comfort of the peaceful and intellectual virtues. He 

684. governed the kingdom, to which he was now invited, 

with the same virtue with which he had resigned it ; 

he derived his happiness from the quiet and enjoy- 

Encourages ments of his people 6 ; he encouraged literature, re- 

literature. ce j ve( j w ith kindness the Asiatic travels of Arcuulfus, 

who had visited Greece, Syria, and Egypt, and which 

had been written by Adamnan, liberally rewarded 

the author, and by his bounty caused the composition 

to be imparted to others. 7 

The love of Alfred for knowledge became known 
beyond the precincts of Northumbria, and attracted 
the attention of the celebrated Aldhelm. The sub- 
jects chosen by the West- Saxon scholar, for the enter- 
tainment of the king, show the extent of the royal 
attainments. " On the number seven ; collections 
from the flowers of the Bible, and the tenets of philo- 
sophers ; on the nature of insensible things ; and on 
prosody and the metre of poetry." 8 

Yet, though attached to the studies of the clergy, 
he was not their indiscrirninating instrument. He 
iiad made his early instructor, Wilfrid, a bishop ; but 
when, in his opinion, that prelate was unduly pressing 
points, however conscientiously, which he disapproved 
of, he remained immovable in what he thought was 
right, and Wilfrid quitted his dominions ? 9 We can- 
not now fairly judge of the subjects of their difference. 
They were on ecclesiastical privileges ; but as Wilfrid, 

6 " Per decem et novem annos summa pace et gaudio provincial praefuit : nihil 
unquam praeter in persecutione magni Wilfridi quod livor edax digne carpere posset 
admittens." Malms. 21. Alcuin, p. 722. 

7 Bede, lib. v. c. 15. Bede calls the book De Locis Sanctis multis utillimum. 
Arcuulfus surveyed Jerusalem, Palestine, Damascus, Constantinople, Alexandria, 
and the Archipelago. Returning home, he was driven by a tempest on Britain ; 
Adamnan received him, listened eagerly to his conversations, and immediately 
committed them to writing. Bede, ibid. This work of Adamnan is apud Mabillon, 
Act. Ben. Saec. iii. part ii. p. 502. There is a tract of Bede, De Locis Sanctis, 
taken from this of Adamnan, printed p. 315. of Smith's edition. 

8 Malmsb. Pontif. p. 342. 9 See Eddius, Vit. Wilf. c. 4446. 



though an able man, was of an ambitious character, 
inclining to turbulence, and fond of domination, it 
is probable that Alfred was not unduly maintaining 
the fair liberty of his own judgment. The value of 
perseverance in any opinion depends upon its wisdom ; 
but the principle, in men of his character, is always 
that of well-meaning rectitude. 

The pope, John VII., afterwards interfered, by a 
letter to Alfred, rather dictatorial. 10 And Wilfrid, 
from the Mercian court, to which he had retired, sent 
an abbot and another with the pope's letters and his 
own further expostulations. Alfred at first received 
them austerely. His manner was afterwards softened, 
but his purpose continued firm. His final answer 
was courteous, but decisive. 

" My venerable brothers : Ask of me whatever 
things are necessary to your own comfort, and I will 
grant them, as proofs of my great respect for you ; 
but from this day make no solicitations in behalf of 
Wilfrid your lord. What my royal predecessors, and 
the archbishop sent formerly from Rome, with almost 
all the prelates of Britain, thought fit to order, I will 
never change, while I live; whatever writings you 
may bring me from the apostolic seat, as you choose 
to call it." 11 

Alfred adhered with temperate firmness to his de- 
termination. The urgencies of the pope and Wilfrid 
could not shake it. He reigned over the province 
which his knowledge enlightened, and his virtues 
cherished, for nineteen years. Sickness then fell upon 
him. In his last hours he was disturbed by the appre- 
hension that he might have acted wrong in resisting 
the applications of the pope and prelate ; but his 
speech failed him for several days before his death. 
When he expired, one Eadwulf assumed the sceptre, 




10 Eddius, c. 81. It was addressed to Ethelred of Mercia. 

11 Eddius, c. 61. 


BOOK to whom Wilfrid began a journey with hopes of a 

. m . friendly reception ; but Eadwulf sent him this message : 

684 - "I swear, by my salvation, that unless he depart 

in six days from my kingdom, both he and all that I 

find with him shall perish." Wilfrid stopped his 

progress ; but he had with him the effective means 

of retorting the menace. Osred, the son of Alfred, 

had joined him, and in two months was established in 

Northumbria, and Eadwulf expelled. 12 

The effect of Alfred's reign and habits in this pro- 
vince became visible in Ceolwulf, who soon succeeded 
to his throne. This prince, who acceded in 731, was 
the patron to whom Bede addressed his ecclesiastical 
history of the English nation. In the dedication, the 
venerable father of the Anglo-Saxon learning says, 
that it was this king's delight not only to hear the 
Scriptures read, but to be well acquainted with the 
deeds and sayings of his illustrious predecessors. 
From this feeling he had desired Bede to compose his 
history. But the flame, which Alfred had kindled 
in his dominions, was soon afterwards quenched there 
by the sanguinary civil contests that succeeded. It 
burnt, however, with a cheering influence in the other 
provinces of the octarchy. Bede and Alcuin may be 
considered as two of the valuable minds which it had 

ceadwaiia. In the year of Ecgfrid's destruction, Cead walla 
began to contend for the throne of Wessex : he was 
descended from Cerdic, through Cealwin and his son 
Cutha. 13 His youth was of great promise, and he 
suffered no opportunity of exerting his warlike talents 
to occur unimproved. Banished from his country by 
the factious chiefs who governed it, he was assiduous 

12 Eddius, c. 57. 

13 Sax. Chron. 45. Malmsbury, in his Life of Aldhelm, p. 11. Wharton's Ang. 
Sac. 2., or 3 Gale, 346., says that Kentwin, morbo et senio gravis, appointed Cad- 
walla his successor ; but as Kentwin only reigned nine years, the addition of senio 
gravis can hardly be correct. 


to assemble from it a military force, and he succeeded CHAP. 
in drawing the youth of Wessex to his standard. u ~ 

In Selsey he obtained money and horses from Wilfrid, 684 - 
the bishop 16 , and directed his first onset on the king 
of Sussex, whom he surprised and destroyed, and 
whose kingdom he desolated. The royal generals, 
who had been warring in Kent, returned, and expelled 
the invader 16 , who profited by his expulsion to secure 
to himself the crown of Wessex. This accession of 
strength he wielded triumphantly against Sussex, 
which lost its defenders, and yielded to the fortune 
of his arms. 17 Ceadwalla also captured the Isle of 
Wight; but stained his prosperity with cruelty. 18 

For two years, Ceadwalla and his brother Mollo 686. 
plundered Kent, which had been harassed by Sussex, 
and weakened by incapable rulers. 19 The natives 
viewed the spoilers for some time with fruitless in- 
dignation. Town after town was ravaged. Rousing 
themselves at last, the men of Kent collected into a 
competent body, and attacked them with auspicious 
valour. Mollo, with twelve soldiers, was surprised in Moiio's ca- 
a cottage. The invaded people brutally surrounded tastrophe - 
them with flames, and they were reduced to ashes. 20 

In obeying the impulse of a headlong wrath, the 
Kentish men forgot that cruelty makes even the in- 
jured odious, and justifies punishment ; it much oftener 
stimulates revenge than deters it. The brother of 
Mollo was on the throne of Wessex, and in the follow- 

14 Malmsbury, p. 14. K Malmsb. De Gest. Pontif. lib. iii. p. 265. 

16 Bede, lib. iv. c. 15. Flor. Wig. p. 255. 

17 Bede, ib. Flor. Wig. 255. Langhorn Chron. 241, 242. Sussex is said by 
Bede to have contained the land of 7000 families, lib. iv. c. 13. 

18 During this conquest he formed the inhuman project of destroying its inha- 
bitants, and of repeopling it from his own province. Bede, lib. iv. c. 15. 

19 Hunting, lib. iv. p. 335. Malmsbury mentions the civil wars, which also 
afflicted Kent, lib. i. p. 11. In the preceding year, pestilentia depopulata est 
Britannia. Chron, Petri de Burgo, p. 4. 

20 Malmsbury, p. 11. Sax. Chron. p. 46. Huntingdon, p. 336. W. Thorn, 
in his Chronica, places the catastrophe at Canterbury, p. 1770. x Script. 

VOL. I. Z 


BOOK ing year spread a torrent of vindictive calamities 
. through Kent, which it mourned in all its districts. 21 
ese. 'j'he Roman missionaries, and the ecclesiastics whom 

they educated, had not only succeeded in establishing 
Christianity in England, but they raised so strong a 
feeling of piety in some of its Anglo-Saxon sove- 
reigns, as to lead them to renounce the world. It was 
not only the widowed queen of Edwin, who gave the 
first precedent of an Anglo-Saxon lady of that rank 
taking the veil 22 ; nor Oswy, who devoted his daughter 
Elfleda to a convent 23 , that exhibited this religious 
zeal ; but several of the sovereigns themselves, from 

ceadwaiia's its impulse, abandoned their thrones. Thus, in 688, 
Ceadwalla travelled to Rome as on a pilgrimage of 
piety, where he was baptized by the pope, and died, 
before he was thirty, in the following week. 24 Thus 
also some years afterwards, in 709, two other Anglo- 
Saxon kings, Cenred of Mercia, and Offa of Essex, 
probably affected by the example of Ceadwalla, quitted 
that dignity which so many myriads covet, went to 
Rome, and became monks there. 25 And thus, also, at 
no long interval, a greater sovereign than either, Ina 
of Wessex, obeyed the same impression, took the same 
journey, and found his grave in the same venerated 
city. Offa is described as a most amiable youth, who 
was induced to abdicate his power from the purest 
motives of devotion. It is remarked by an old chro- 
nicler, that the examples of these two kings produced 
a thousand imitations. 26 
ess. Ina succeeded Ceadwalla in Wessex. He was the 

cession!" son f Cenred, who was the nephew of Cynegils. 27 
His father was living at the period of his accession. 

21 Sax. Chron. 46. Hunting. 336. B Smiths Bede, p. 101. note. 

23 Bede, lib. iii. c. 29. 

24 Sax. Chron. 46. Bede,' lib. v. c. 7. Sergius gave him the name of Peter. 
An epitaph in Latin verse was inscribed on his tomb, which Bede quotes. 

25 Bede, lib. v. c. 19. * Hunt. 337. 
8T Sax. Chron. 47. Bede, lib. v. e. 7. 


The Saxon octarchy, amidst all its vicissitudes, CHAP. 
presented in one province or the other an uninter- , ^ , 
r up ted succession of great men. From Hengist to 
Egbert, talents were never wanting on some of the 
Anglo-Saxon thrones. The direction of the royal 
capacity varied ; in some kings valour, in others 
military conduct ; in some piety, in some learning, in 
some legislative wisdom, predominated. The result 
was, that the Anglo-Saxons, though fluctuating in the 
prosperity of their several districts, yet, considered as 
a nation, went on rapidly improving in civilisation 
and power. 

Much of the fame of Ina has been gained by his m* laws, 
legislation. He published a collection of laws which 
yet remains 28 , and he deserves the gratitude of man- 
kind in common with every other lawgiver. Whoever 
applies himself to mark the useful limits of human 
action, to set boundaries to individual selfishness, to 
establish the provisions of justice in defence of the 
weak or injured, and to rescue the criminal from 
punishments of caprice or favour, is a character en- 
titled to the veneration of mankind. A declamation 
against laws is a satire upon wisdom the most bene- 
volent. Laws must partake of the ignorance and 
spirit of the age which gave them birth. An Ina 
must legislate as an Ina, and for the people of an Ina. 
If the subsequent improvements of mankind discover 
that prior regulations have been defective, succeeding 
legislators will correct those provisions, which the 
progress of society has made obsolete or improper. 
"What they may devise, their posterity, who will have 
changed into new beings, may mould into a fitter 
correspondence with their own necessities; but to 
abolish all laws, because laws are not all perfect, 

28 Wilkins's Leges Saxonica?, p. 14 27. The first paragraph of these an- 
nounces his father Cenred as one of the counsellors by whose advice he promulgated 

z 2 


BOOK would be to unchain the tiger passions of mankind, 
" L and to convert society into an African desert, or a 
Cytherean brothel. 

The wrath of the West Saxons for the fate of Mollo 
had not relented. With inhumanity, as great as 
that which they professed to chastise, they continued 
to desolate Kent. At length, their hostilities were 
appeased by the homicidal mulct of thirty thousand 
marks of gold. 29 Wihtred, from the line of Ethel- 
bert, had obtained the crown of Kent, and terminated 
the miseries which the people had suffered from the 
invasion and a turbulent inter-regnum. 30 
697. The Mercian nobility displayed the ferocity of the 

a g e > in destroying Ostrida, the wife of Ethelred, 
their queen, their reigning king. 31 The cause of her fate is not 
known. The reason adduced by Langhorn 32 , that 
her sister had murdered Peada, is unlikely, because 
this event had occurred near forty years before. 
Ethelred exhibited another instance of the spirit of 
704. religion among the Anglo-Saxon kings. He volun- 
tarily descended from the throne, to become monk 
and abbot of Bardney 33 : he was succeeded by his 
nephew, Cenred. 34 

Osred, the son of Alfred, and but eight years old 
at his father's death, had been besieged by the 
usurper Eadwulf already noticed, with his guardian 
Berthfrid, in Bebbanburh, the metropolis of this 
northern kingdom. 35 After their deliverance, and 

29 Sax. Chron. 47, 48. Malmsbury, 14. Others make the payment smaller; 
as Polychronicon, p. 243., 3000 pounds ; Flor. Wig. p. 260., 3750 pounds. Wihtred, 
unable to resist Ina, proposed the expiatory fine. Huntingd. 337. 

30 Sax. Chron. 48. Huntingd. 337. 

31 Bede,'Hb. v. c. ult. Sax. Chron. 49. Flor. Wig. 260. Matt. West. 250. She 
was sister to Ecgfrid, and daughter of Oswy. I observe her name signed to a 
charter of Peterborough monastery in 680. 1 Dugd. Monast. 67. Ego Ostrich 
regina Ethelredi. 

82 Chron. Reg. Angl. p. 256. 

83 In this capacity he died in 716. Chron. Petri de Burgo, 6. 

34 Malmsbury, 28. 

35 Malmsb. de Pontif. lib. iii. p, 268. Eddius Vit. Wilf. c. 57. p. 85. Hoveden 
describes Bebbanburh to have been a city munitissima rion admodum magna, sed 


the dethronement of the usurping competitor, Berth- CHAP. 
frid, the protecting praefect of Northumbria, defeated . 

the Picts between Haefe and Caere, in the field of 709 - 
Manan. Finguin M'Delaroith perished in the battle. 36 
It is not stated who commanded the Picts, but 
Nectan, or Naiton, was king of this people at this 
period. 37 

Ina continued to reign prosperously. He waged no. 
war with Geraint, the British king of Cornwall, ^atot, 
Amid the first charges, Higbald, a Saxon leader, fell; 
but at last the Britons fled. 38 Ina also prosecuted 
a war with Ceolred, who had succeeded his cousin 
Cenred in Mercia. At Wodnesbury they met; the 7 15. 
slaughter of the battle was great; the event was no JJJ^ 
advantage to either. 39 

Ceolred, king of Mercia 40 , was succeeded by Ethel- 7ie. 
bald, who possessed the crown for forty-one years. 
In this year Osred of Northumbria, the eldest son of 
Alfred, was destroyed at the lake of Windermere by 
his revolting kinsmen 41 , one of whom, Cenred, the 

quasi duorum vel trium agrorum spatium, habens unum introitum cavatum, et 
gradibus miro modo exaltatum. On the top of the mountain was the church 
Annal. pars prior, 403. The city was built by Ida. 

36 Sax. Chron. 50. Flor. Wig. 264. Bede, lib. v. c. 24., dates it 711. Gib- 
son, in his Appendix to the Chronicle, conjectures that Ksefe and Caere were 
Ileefeld and Carehouse, a little beyond the wall, p. 18. "710. Slaughter of the 
Picts in the field of Manan, among the Saxons, where Finguin M'Delaroith pe- 
rished." Annals of Ulster, p. 60. 

37 Nectan, in the Annals of Ulster, p. 60. In 716 he drove the family of lona 
beyond Drum-albin, ibid. p. 60. In 725 he was put in chains by king Drust, ibid, 
p. 61. Bede, lib. v. c. 21., calls him Naiton, and mentions his changing the 
time of Easter to the Roman period, which the Annals of Ulster place in 715, 
p. 60. 

38 Sax. Chron. 50. Hunting. 337. Flor. Wig. 264. This Geraint was the 
third of that name in Cornwall. Owen's Llywarch, p. 3. Aldhelm addressed to 
him a letter on the British celebration of Easter, which is among the epistles of 
Boniface. Biblioth. Magna Pat. v. 16. p. 65. ep. 44. In this he writes to Geraint 
as domino gloriosissimo occidentalis regni sceptra gubernanti, Geruntio regi. 

39 Sax. Chron. 50. Hunt. 338. 

40 Unless we interpret the account, given by Boniface, of Ceolred's dying con- 
versation with the devil, who came for him in the middle of a feast (Malmsb. 28.), 
as a sudden incidence of insanity, the missionary of Germany is at variance with 
Huntingdon, who says of Ceolred, that patrise et avitae virtutis hseres clarissime 
rexit, p. 337. 

41 Malmsb. 21. Huntingd. 338. Bede, lib. v. c. 24. Sax. Chron. 51. Osred 
has received the lash of Boniface. Malmsb. 28. Malmsbury complains of him, 
p. 21. 

Z 3 






of Egbert, 


ina builds 

son of Cuthwin, succeeded 42 ; but he fell from the 
agitated throne two years afterwards, and Osric, 
another son of the learned Alfred, took his place. 43 
In 718. Inigils, the brother of Ina, died. Though 

, . ' . i i A i 

no achievement of greatness is attached to his name 
in history, yet the events of the future time have 
given it importance. He was the ancestor from whom 
Egbert and Alfred, and the following Saxon monarchs 
of England, deduced their descent. 44 

I na rebuilt the abbey of Glastonbury at the request 
^ Aldhelm. It had been utterly destroyed, but he 
erected it with magnificence, and it lasted until the 
Danish ravages. 45 The insurrection of pretenders 
disturbed the close of Ina's reign: but he attacked 
and destroyed Cynewulf ^Etheling ; and in the next 
year his queen besieged another, Ealdbryht, in 
Taunton, a castle which the king had built to defend 
that part of his dominions, and in which the rebel 
had taken his post of enmity. She levelled it to the 
ground, and Ealdbryht withdrew into Sussex. Ina 
directed his forces against this province, and three 
years afterwards slew his competitor. 46 

HIS queen After a fortunate reign of thirty-seven years, the 
abdication, king imitated the custom which had become so re- 
markable among the Anglo-Saxon kings, and laid 
down his dignity. His queen had long exhorted 
him, as his age advanced, to retire from the concerns 
of the world ; but the charms of habitual power for 
some time defeated her eloquence. One day, as she 
travelled with the king to one of his rural mansions, 

42 Bede, lib. v. c. 22. Flor. Wig. 266. 

43 Ibid. c. 23. Simeon Dunel. p. 7. The expressions of Malmsbury imply 
that Osric assisted to procure his brother Osred's death : he says of Kenred and 
Osric, domini sui occisi sanguinem luentes fcedo exitu auras polluere, p. 21. 

44 Sax. Chron. 51. Asser. p. 3. Abb. Rieval, 350. 

45 Bromton, p. 758. He founded the great church of Glastonbury pro anima 
propinqui ejus Mollonis. See his charters to it. 1 Dugdale, Monast. 12, 13. 
Malmsb. de Ant Glast. Gale, iii. 309. 311. His other gifts to it were mag- 

46 Sax. Chron. 52. Hunt. 338. Flor. Wig. 268. 


where a splendid feast was prepared with all the CHAP. 
pomp and bustle of royal luxury, she seized the ^J . 
occasion of converting it to a moral lecture on her 72K 
favourite theme. They left the place after the repast, 
and a rustic by her orders, in their absence, scattered 
the festive hall with filth and rubbish, and placed 
a swinish litter on the couch where he had reposed. 
Before they had advanced two miles on their road, 
she desired to return, and Ina courteously complied 
with her request ; but when he entered the hall of his 
festivity, and saw the disgusting change, he con- 
templated it with silent astonishment and displeasure, 
till informed that the queen had directed it : he de- 
manded from her an explanation of the strange 
mystery. She smiled and answered : " My lord and 
husband! this is not indeed the noisy hilarity of 
yesterday : here are no brilliant hangings, no flattery, 
and no parasites : here are no tables weighed down 
with silver vessels : no exquisite delicacies to delight 
the palate : all these are gone like the smoke and 
wind. Have they not already passed away into 
nothingness ? And should we not feel alarmed who 
covet them so much ? for we shall be as transient. 
Are not all such things ? are not we ourselves like a 
river, hurrying heedless and headlong to the dark 
ocean of illimitable time ? Unhappy must we be if 
we let them absorb our minds. Think, I entreat you, 
how disgusting those things become of which we have 
been so enamoured. See to what filthy objects we 
are attached. In these loathsome relics we may see 
what our pampered bodies will at last be. Ah ! let 
us reflect, that the greater we have been, and the 
more powerful we are now, the more alarmed ought 
to be our solicitude; for the greater will be the 
punishment of our misconduct." 47 

47 Malmsbury, p. 15. 
z 4 





Ina goes to 


The Anglo- 


The singularity of the incident had its full im- 
pression on the mind of Ina : he resigned his crown 
to his kinsman, and, imitating what all ranks were 
then emulous to do, he travelled to Rome. 48 He 
founded there a Saxon school for the instruction of 
such of his countrymen as chose to be educated at 
Rome, and he added a church for their use, and for 
the convenience of their burial. To support this, and 
to provide a subsistence for the English who should 
dwell there, he imposed the payment of a penny on 
every family, which was denominated Romescot. It 
was sent to the papal see. 49 Ina studiously avoided 
all pomp in his voluntary humiliation. He cut off 
his hair, put on a plebeian dress, and lived with his 
queen a private and retired life, even seeking support 
by the labour of his hands, till he died thsre. 60 This 
conduct was evidence that his religious feelings were 
genuine impulses of sincerity. 

The mutations of the octarchy for the last century 
had been generally from a heptarchy to a hexarchy ; 
at the period of Ina's death it was a hexarchy, 
because Wessex had absorbed Sussex, and Deira and 
Bernicia were amalgamated into North umbria. This 
restless province was then governed by Osric, who 
"^ ^ e kingdom to Ceolwulf, the brother of Cenred, 
whom he had destroyed, and the friend and patron 
of Bede. 51 In Mercia. Ethelbald, a descendant of 

48 Bede, lib. v. c. 7. Sax. Chron. 52. Flor. Wig. 269. M. West. 265. Bede 
says of Ina's journey, that it was what in these times plures de gente Anglorum, 
nobiles, ignobiles, laici, clerici, viri ac feminse, certatim facere consuerunt. 

48 Matt. West. 265. 

50 Dug. Monast. i. p. 14. 32. Malm. Pont. 313. Alcuin mentions him by the 
name of In : 

" Quern clamant IN, incerto cognomine, gentes." 

Oper. p. 1676. 

51 Flor. Wig. 269. Malmsb. 21. Ceolwulf submitted to the tonsure in 737, 
and Eadbert succeeded. Smith's Bede, p. 224. Ceolwulf was descended from 
Ocga, one of the sons of Ida. Sim. Dun. p. 7. Bede in one line expresses the 
vicissitudes of Ceolwulf, and the state of the country, captus et adtonsus et remissus 
in regnum, lib. v. c. ult. 


Wybba, reigned. 52 In Essex, which was becoming CHAP. 
fast the satellite of Mercia, Suebricht had governed . 

alone since his brother Offa went to Rome. 53 In 731 - 
Kent, Eadbert had ascended the throne of Wihtred, 
whose laws remain to us. M In East Anglia, Aldul- 725. 
phus was succeeded by Selred ; on his death, Alphuald, 
for a short time, inherited the sceptre. 55 747. 

52 Sax. Chron. 51. 59. Bede, lib. v. c. 24. He was the son of Alwion. 
Ing. 33. 

53 By mistake, Langhorn, 281., and Rapin, place Selred on the throne of Essex. 
Malmsb. 35. ; Flor. Wig. 273. ; and Al. Beverl. 85., led them into the error. 
We learn from Huntingdon, that Selred was king of East Anglia, p. 339., whom 
the Chronicle of Mailros supports. Suebricht or Sueabred was king of Essex, and 
died 738. Mailros, p. 136. Sim. Dunelm. 100. A charter of his, dated 704, is 
in Smith's Appendix to Bede, p. 749. In another he signs with Sebbi and Sig- 
hear, ib. p. 748. Swithred reigned in Essex 758, Sim. Dun. 275. 

51 After a reign of thirty-four years and a half, Wihtred died in 725, and left 
Edilberct, Eadbert, and Alric his heirs. Bede, lib. v. c. 23. Eadbert reigned until 
748. Sax. Chron. 56. or 749. Mailros, p. 137. Ethelbert until 760. Sax. 
Chron. 60., when the surviving brother, Alric, succeeded. Malmsbury, p. 11. After 
this period we find three kings again in Kent signing charters contemporaneously ; 

as in 762 Sigiraed and Eadbert appear, in one charter, as kings of Kent ; and in 
another, Eardulf; and in 765 Egebert signs a charter with the same title. 
Thorpe, Reg. Roffens. p. 16. So many kings, in so small a province as Kent, 
strikingly illustrate the gavel-kind tenure of lands which still prevails there. 

55 In the synod at Hatfield in 680, Adulph was present. This was the seven- 
teenth year of his reign. Bede, lib. iv. c. 17., and the Ely History, MSS. Cott. 
Nero. A. 15., state Aldulph to have been reigning in 679. The Chronicle of 
Mailros accurately places Selred after him, who died 747. Gale, Script, i. 137. 
Alphuald, the successor of Selred, died 749. ibid. Humbean and Albert divided 
the kingdom afterwards, ibid. Sim. Dun. 103. M. West names them Beorna 
and Ethelbert, p. 273. Bromton, p. 749. Flor. Wig. places Beorn in 758, 
p. 275. I hope these few last notes correctly state a very troublesome chronology. 



in Mercia. 


The History of the Octarchy ', from the Death of INA to the 
Accession of EGBERT, in the Year 800. 

-ZETHELHEARD, the kinsman of Ina, and a descendant 
of Cerdic, obtained the crown of West Saxony. 1 
Oswald, also sprung from the founder of Wessex, at 
first opposed his pretensions, but discovering the in- 
feriority of his forces, abandoned the contest. 2 The 
king invaded Devonshire, and was extending the 
ravages into Cornwall, when the Britons, under 
Eodri Malwynawc, vanquished him at Heilyn, in 
Cornwall. At Garth Maelawch, in North Wales, and 
at Pencoet, in Glamorganshire, the Cymry also 
triumphed. 3 On ^Ethelheard's death, Cuthred, his 
kinsman, succeeded him. 4 

The king of Mercia at this period, Ethelbald, was 
a man of elegant stature, a powerful frame, a warlike 
and imperious spirit. Persecuted in his youth by 
the king he had succeeded, and to whom he had 

1 Sax. Chron. 52. Flor. Wig. 269. Ran. Higd. Chron. Petri de Burgo, p. 6., 
gives this date, which Ethelwerd, p. 837., also sanctions. Matt. West. p. 266. has 
727 ; yet the expressions of Bede, a contemporary, imply the year 725. Smith's 
ed. p. 188., note. A passage of Malmsbury, in his Antiq. Glast. Eccles. p. 312. 
promises to reconcile the contradictions. It states that Ina went twice to Rome. 
" Eodem anno quo idem rex Romam personaliter adiit, privilegium apostolico sig- 
naculo corroboratum in redeundo Glastoniam apportavit. Et postea iterum cum 
Ethelburga regina sua, instinctu ejusdem, Romam abiit." Bede may have dated 
his first peregrination ; the others his last. 

2 Huntingd. 338. In the charter of Ina, transcribed by Malmsbury, Antiq. 
Glast. p. 312., Ethelheard signs frater reginae. Oswald was the son of Ethel- 
bald, of the race of Cerdic, through Cealwin and Cuthwin. Flor. Wig. 269. Sax. 
Chron. 53. The plural expression of Bede, taken in its natural force, seems to 
express that Ina left his crown to Oswald, as well as Ethelheard, " ipse relicto 
regno ac juvenioribus commendato," lib. v. c. 7. 

8 Brut y Saeson, and Brut y Tywysogion, 471, 472. 

4 Sax. Chron. 55. The Chronicle of Mailros, a document valuable for its 
general accuracy, countenances Bede's date of JEthelheard's reign ; it says, that in 
740, after a reign of fourteen years, he died. Gale's Rer. Angl. Script, i. p. 136. 


been dangerous, he owed his safety to the secresy of CHAP. 
his retreat. Here the pious Guthlac endeavoured to <_,! 
moralise his mind, and, in gratitude to the friend of 
his adversity, Ethelbald constructed the monastery 
of Croyland over his tomb. 5 The military abilities 
of this Mercian king, procured him the same pre- 
dominance over the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms 
which Egbert afterwards acquired. He subdued 
them all up to the H umber ; and afterwards, in 737, 
invaded and conquered Northumbria. 6 The Welsh 
next attracted his ambition ; and, to annex the 
pleasant region between the Severn and the Wye to 
his Mercian territories, he entered Wales with a 
powerful army. At Carno, a mountain in Mon- 728. 
mouthshire, the Britons checked his progress in a the'wlish. 
severe battle, and drove him over the Wye with great 
loss. 7 But he afterwards marched another army 
against the Britons, in conjunction with Cuthred, 
who had succeeded ^Ethelheard in Wessex. The 743. 
great superiority of the Saxon forces obtained a de- 
cisive victory at Ddefawdan. After much plunder, 
the victors retired. 8 

The friendship between Ethelbald and Cuthred was 
not lasting. Cuthred wished to emancipate himself 
from the power of the Mercian, who, to keep Wessex 
in subjection, fomented its civil distractions. The 
son of Cuthred gave him this advantage. This im- 
petuous youth attempted to depose his father, but 

5 Ingulf, p. 2 4. To sustain the stony mass, an immense quantity of wooden 
piles was driven into the marsh ; and hard earth was brought in boats nine miles, 
to assist in making the foundation. There is a MS. life of Guthlac, in the Cotton 
Library, Vesp. D. 21., in Saxon, by a monk named Alfric, and addressed to Alf- 
wold, king of East Anglia. His beginning will show the respectful style used by 
the clergy to the sovereigns at that time. Upum pealbenbe pihc selypenbum, 
a populb minum tham leopertan hlapopbe, opeji ealle ochpe men eopblice 
Kymnsar, Alppolb Barr Ansla Kymns, iiiib jiibte ec mib se-jnrenum jiice 
healbenb." MSS. ibid. 

8 Hunt. lib. iv. p. 339, 340. Sax. Chron. 54. 

7 Brut y Tywysogion, p. 472. 

8 Ibid. Flor. Wig. 272. Sax. Chron. 55, Mailros, p. 136., and Matt, West. 
271., date the event in 744. 



War be- 
tween Cu- 
thred and 

BOOK perished in the guilty struggle. 9 Two years after, 

. Cuthred suppressed a dangerous rebellion of Edelhun, 

748 - one of his chieftains, whose extraordinary valour 

Suppresses 7 . J , 

a rebellion, would have conquered the superior numbers ot the 
king, if in the hour of victory a wound had not dis- 
abled him. 10 

Cuthred, now presuming his power to be equal to 
the effort, disclaimed the intolerable exactions of 
Ethelbald, and resolved to procure the independence 
of Wessex, .or to perish in the contest. At Burford, 
in Oxfordshire, the rival princes met. Cuthred was 
assisted by the brave Edelhun, who had now become 
a loyal subject; Ethelbald displayed the forces of 
Kent, East Anglia, and Essex, in joint array with 
his Mercians. Edelhun, advancing beyond his line, 
pierced the golden dragon n , the splendid banner of 
Mercia, and, animated by his intrepidity, the West 
Saxons uttered the shout of battle, and rushed to 
the charge. The chronicler describes with unusual 
warmth a conflict terrible to both armies. Ambition 
inflamed the friends of Mercia. The horrors of sub- 
jection made Wessex desperate. Slaughter followed 
the sword of Edelhun, and Ethelbald raged like a 
resistless fire. Their mutual fury brought the general 
and the king into personal collision; each collected 
his full vigour, and struck at the other with a power 
and determination that menaced destruction in every 
blow : but the king of Mercia at last discerned the 
superiority of his antagonist, and, preferring safety to 
glory, he gave to his yet struggling army the first 
example of a hasty flight. 12 

9 Sax. Chron. 55. Mailros, 137. Huntingdon, 341. His expression, that 
Ethelbald afflixit eum nunc seditionibus nunc bellis, implies that the insurrection 
was fostered by Mercia. 

10 Hunt. 341. Sax. Chron. 56. Flor. Wig. 273. 

11 The ancient Wittichind describes the Saxon standard on the continent, as a 
representation of a lion and a dragon with an eagle flying above ; intended to be 
symbols of their bravery, prudence, and rapidity, Hist. Sax. p. 6. 

12 Huntingdon has preserved the circumstances of the battle, p. 341. It is also 


The event of this conflict rescued Wessex from 
the yoke of Mercia, and established the foundation of 
that predominance which was afterwards improved 
into the conquest of the island. Cuthred again 
successfully invaded the country of the Welsh. 13 

In 754, Cuthred died, leaving Wessex in a state of 
progress towards that superiority which, under the 
reign of Egbert, it finally attained. Sigebyrht suc- 
ceeded 14 ; his reign was short, arrogant, and tyran- 
nical; he perverted the laws to his convenience, or 
presumptuously violated them. When Cuinbra, the 
noblest of his earls, obeyed the solicitations of the 
people, and intimated their complaints to the king, he 
was arbitrarily put to death, and the grievances 
were multiplied. The nobles and the people as- 
sembled ; after a careful deliberation, Sigebyrht was is deposed, 
deposed from his authority by an unanimous decision, ^ d lf Cyne ~ 
and Cynewulf, a youth of the royal blood, was elected chosen. 
in his place. Deserted by all, the deposed king fled 
into the wood of Anderida : a swineherd of the 
murdered Cumbra discovered him in his hiding-place, 
and immediately slew him. 15 

The long reign of Ethelbald, at one period so 755. 
successful, terminated in calamity. His defeat by 
Wessex was never retrieved, and he perished at last 
by civil insurrection ; by the same means of evil with 
which he had endeavoured to oppress Cuthred. At 
Seggeswold the fatal battle ensued, for which he was 
not prepared, and Ethelbald fell, either by assassina- 
tion or in the general slaughter. Bernred, who 

mentioned in Sax. Chron. 56. Flor. Wig. p. 273. The Chron. of Mailros dates it, 
as the other events of this period, a year later, p. 137. A stone coffin was found 
near Burford, in December, 1814. 

13 Sax. Chron. 56. Mailros, 137. The British Chronicles mention a battle 
at Henford in South Wales, about this time, where the Cymry triumphed. Brut 
y Tywys. 473. 

14 Flor. Wig. 273. Sax. Chron. 56. Cant-wara-burh, Canterbury, was burnt 
this year. 

15 Hunt. 341, 342. Malmsb. 15. Mailros, 137. Ethelwerd names the place 
of his death Pryfetesfleodan, p. 838. 





Offa made 


The revo- 
lutions of 



headed the rebellion, attempted to invest himself 
with the robes of royalty; but the nomination of 
Ethelbald was supported by the nobles of Mercia, 
and the young prince, Offa, who has acquired such 
celebrity, and who was descended from Eoppa, the 
brother of Penda, was placed upon the throne. 16 
Bernred did not survive the year. 17 

We may pause a moment to cast a rapid glance on 
Northumbria. Ceolwulf, the friend of Bede, had 
acceded to the united kingdoms ; but so perilous was 
the regal dignity in this perturbed kingdom, that he 
voluntarily abandoned the disquieting crown, and 
sought the tranquillity of the cloister. 18 

Eadbert succeeded. His kingdom, left unprotected 
by his march against the Picts, suffered from an 
invasion of the Mercian Ethelbald ; but he afterwards 
enlarged his dominions 19 , and had the ability to 
maintain himself in his crown for twenty-one years ; 
but religious impressions then came upon him, and 
he assumed the religious life. 20 He was the eighth 
Anglo-Saxon king who had exchanged the crown for 

16 Ingulf, p. 5. Mailtos, 137. Matt. West. p. 274. apparently misconceiving a 
passage of Huntingdon, p. 341., erroneously makes Ethelbald to have fallen against 
Cuthred, whom he represents to have survived him. The monk of Croyland 
enables us to rectify the mistake, and is supported by Malmsb. 28. and by the 
Sax. Chron. p. 56. and Flor. Wig. p. 273., who place the decease of Cuthred a 
year before Ethelbald's. Bede implies, that Ethelbald perished by assassination, 
lib. v. c. ult. 

1T That Bernred died this year has been disputed. Malmsb. p. 28. ; Alur. 
Beverl. 87. ; Ingulf, 5. The biographer of Offa, p. 11. ; Flor. Wig. 274. ; Ethel- 
ward, 839., affirm or imply it. On the other hand, Matt. West p. 274. ; Sax. 
Chron. 59. ; Bromton, 776. ; and some others, state Bernred's expulsion only j 
and Matt. West. 277. makes him to perish by fire in the year 769, after having 
burnt the town of Catterick. But the Chronicle of Mailros, which, p. 137., men- 
tions the attempt on the Mercian crown, by Beornred, calls the person, who caused 
and perished in the fire of Catterick, Earnredus, p. 138. Hence it is not certain 
that they were the same persons, and if not, the aufugavit of the one side is not 
sufficiently explicit to disprove the death stated on the other. 

18 Huntingdon, p. 340., paints strongly the apprehensions of Ceolwulf: " Ipse 
horribilibus curis necis, et proditionis, et multimodse calamitatis, intus cruciebatur, 
et animo et corpore decoquebatur." Bede remarks that an excessive drought de- 
stroyed the fertility of this year, lib. v. c. ult. 

19 Hunt. p. 340. Sax. Chron. p. 54. Bede, lib. v. c. ult. Sim. Dun. 11. 

20 Hunt. 342. Sax. Chron. 59. Chron. Petrib. 8. Huntingdon ascribes 
Eadbert's retreat to the impression made upon his mind by the violent deaths of 
Ethelbald and Sigebert, contrasted with the peaceful exit of Ceolwulf. 


the cowl. But on his abdication all the fruits of the CHAP. 
wise example and useful reign of Alfred seemed to ,_1^ , 
vanish in the turbulent activity of the excited mind 757 - 
of the countrv taking now a mischievous direction : 
the turbulence of civil murder again broke loose. 
His son Osulf, in the first year of his accession, 
perished from domestic treachery, and Moll Edel- 
wold ventured to accept the crown. 21 In his third 
year his life and honours were fiercely assaulted by 
one of his leaders, Oswin, whom he slew at Edwines- 
cliiFe. At no long interval afterwards the tomb re- 
ceived him, and Aired, of the race of Ida 22 , was 
elevated to the crown. After a few years he was 765. 
driven out, and Ethelred, the son of Moll, was chosen 
in his stead. 23 In his third year, this king fraudu- 774 . 
lently procured the death of two of his generals by 
the instrumentality of two others. In the very next 
year, these men rebelled against himself, destroyed 
in two successive attacks others of his commanders, 
and expelled him from his kingdom. 24 Alfwold ob- 779. 
tained it; but such was the spirit of the country, 
that in the following year two chieftains raised an 
army, seized the king's earldorman, Beorn, and his 
justiciary, and burnt them to ashes, because, in the 
estimation of the rebels, their administration of 
justice had been too severe. 25 Alfwold, to whom a 788. 
chronicle applies the epithet, " King of the innocent," 
was treacherously killed by his patrician, Sigan ; and 
Osred, his kinsman, son of Aired, acceded. In the 

21 Bede says he was a sua plebe electus ; and adds, that in his second year a 
great mortality took place, and lasted for two years. The dysentery was the prin- 
cipal malady, lib. v. c. ult 

22 By his son Edric, Sim. Dun. 1 1 . Two letters of Aired to Lullus, a French 
bishop, are extant, Mag. Bibl. Pat. 16. 88. and apud Du Chesne, Hist. Franc, vol. ii. 
p. 854. In the one he desires the bishop's assistance in establishing an amity 
with Charlemagne ; the other is a letter of civility from Aired and his queen 
Osegeotha, to Lullus, congratulating him on his arrival from a long journey. 

23 Chr. Mailros, 137, 138. Hunt. 342. Sax. Chron. 60, 61. Matt. West, 
276. 278. 

24 Mailros, 138. Mailros, 139. Hunt, 343. Sax. Chron. 62. 


BOOK next year he was betrayed and driven out, and 
. /' * Ethelred, the son of Moll, was recalled. 26 But as 

788> adversity, though it corrects many dispositions into 
virtue, yet sometimes only exasperates the stubborn, 
so it appears to have rather increased than diminished 

792. the obduracy of Ethelred. In the year of his re- 
storation, he left Eardulf weltering in his blood at 
the gate of a monastery ; and in the following year 
he dragged Elf and Elwin, the children of Alfwold, 
from York, and slew them. Osred, who had been 
deposed, attempted to recover the crown ; his army 
deserted him, he fell into the hands of Ethelred, and 
perished. This prince now endeavoured, by a mar- 
riage with the daughter of Offa, to secure his au- 
thority, and for this purpose he repudiated his 
previous wife. But his policy and his murders were 
equally vain. Whoever, by an example of cruelty, 
lessens the public horror at deeds of blood, diminishes 
his own safety, and gives popularity to his own 
assassination. In the fourth year of Ethelred's 
restoration, his subjects, whom he had assisted to 
brutalise, destroyed him, and set up Osbald. After a 
reign of twenty-seven days, they deposed Osbald, and 
he obtained security in the cloister. 27 Eardulf, who 
had been recovered from his assassination by the 
charity of the monks, who found him apparently life- 
less near their cloister, had fled to Charlemagne, 
and visited Rome. The emperor of the West, in 
conjunction with the papal legate, assisted him in his 
efforts to regain his kingdom : and he was crowned 
in 794. Before four years elapsed, they who had 

26 Mailros, 139, Hunt. 343. Chron. Pet. 10. Rich. Hag. 298. Saxon Chron. 
64. Osred took refuge in the Isle of Man, Sim. Dun. 12. Alcuin addressed to 
Ethelred, or, as he spells the name, Edelred, a letter of strong moral exhortation, 
which is still in existence. He reminds him how many of his predecessors had 
perished, propter injustitias et rapinas et immunditias vitae. He entreats his 
people to he at peace between themselves, and to be faithful to their lord, that, by 
their concord, the kingdom might be extended, quod ssepe per discordiam minui 
solebat Alcuini opera, p. 1537. ed. Paris, 1617. 

27 Mailros, 139. 


murdered Ethelred, revolted from Eardulf; and, CHAP. 
under their leader, Wada, endeavoured to destroy . 

him. The sword of the king prevailed, and the 792 - 
rebels fled. 28 Here for a while we will quit this 
region of civil discord. Happy is the country in 
which the regal office is not elective, nor the right of 
succession permitted to be questionable ! An here- 
ditary monarchy, though, like all human institutions, 
it has its inconveniences, has not been the contriv- 
ance of childish thinkers or half-taught politicians ; 
it was the benevolent invention of human wisdom, 
profiting from the most disastrous experience. No 
contests have been more baneful to human life and 
happiness, than those which have sprung from the 
uncertain right of accession, and from the practica- 
bility of attaining power by violence. It was a noble 
effort of advancing civilisation, which strove to anni- 
hilate the evil, by accustoming mankind to revere 
as sacred the laws of hereditary succession. 

Offa, who had obtained with violence the throne Traditions 
of Mercia 29 , displayed talents, and enjoyed a pros- 
perity, which have made his name illustrious. His his 
youth has been fabulously represented as distinguished 
by a wonderful transformation from a miserable 
child, afflicted with imperfections in his speech and 
the most important senses of the intellect, the sight 
and hearing, into an elegant frame, adorned with 
every human accomplishment. 30 His monastic pane- 

28 Ann. Franc, ap. Du Chesne, vol. ii. p. 45. Mailros, 140. Huntingdon 
might well say, " Gens Anglorum naturaliter dura est et superba, et ideo bellis 
intestinis incessanter attrita." Alcuin displays the angry feelings of Charlemagne 
at this repetition of ferocity at Northumbria ; he styled them a nation perfidam et 
perversam, pejorem paganis. Malmsb. 26. 

29 Bede's expression, concerning the accession of Offa, is, that having driven out 
.Bernred, he sought the kingdom with a blood-stained sword, lib. v. c. ult. An 
epithet so marking, as sanguinolento, from a contemporary, implies that Offa's 
reign commenced with human slaughter. 

30 Vita Offae secundi, added to Watts's edition of Matthew Paris, p. 10. The 
author of it was some monk of St. Albari's; he makes Offa's real name Pineredus. 
The name Offa was derived from a king whom he calls Offa primus, the son of 
Warmund, who had similar defects, and a cure as miraculous. His editor believes 

VOL. I. A A 





gyrist has also bequeathed to his queen, Drida, or 
Cynedrida, a series of adventures scarcely probable, 
and which have the aspect of having been invented, 
in order to impute to her, more plausibly, the crime 
which has stained the memory of Offa for ever. 31 
When he had enjoyed his throne many years, he 
offa'swars. began to covet an augmentation of dominion. Some 
of his attacks were against the Northumbrians 32 , and 
774. the Hestingi. 33 He invaded Kent, and a great 
slaughter ensued at Otford, in which Offa triumphed, 
and Kent submitted to the power of Mercia. 34 After- 
wards he measured his strength with the king of 
"Wessex, at Bensington, and established his great 
power by defeating Cynewulf, and subjecting part of 
his dominions. 35 

The conquests of Offa have not been transmitted 
to us in accurate detail ; but the celebrity which he 
attained, and the blood which his contemporary, 
Alcuin, attests him to have shed, imply many war- 
like and not rightful exertions. 36 The prerogatives 

that this Offa primus never existed but in his page. I have however discovered 
him in Saxo-Grammaticus. Saxo says, Warmund, the 17th king of Denmark, 
had in his age a son named Uffo, who excelled his coevals in his person, but who 
was thought weak in mind, and never spoke till the king of Saxony endangered his 
father, &c. 5965. 

31 The account is, that the lady was allied to the French king, but for some 
crime was adjudged to die. Respect for majesty saved her from the ordeals of iron 
and fire. She was committed to the chances of the sea in an open boat, with 
little food ; the stormy ocean threw her on the coast of Wales, and she was con- 
ducted to Offa. A plaintive story interested his compassion, and he recommended 
her to the protection of his mother. Her charms or her wiles animated his pity 
into love, and she became his wife. Vita Offse, p. 12. 

82 Bromton, x Script, p. 776., puts the Northumbri first ; but Huntingdon, 343., 
places this after his other conquests. So Matt. West. 275., and Hoveden, 409. 

33 Mailros, p. 138. Hoveden, 403. Sim. Dun. 107 The situation of these 

people is contested. Mr. Watts thinks them of Hastings, one of the Cinque Ports. 
Langhorn, p. 29., believes the word to have meant east men, and to have alluded 
to the east part of Northumbria. Alford, in his annals, settles the question. 
A charter in Dublet fixes them in Sussex. Offa by this confirms a grant of land, 
in the neighbourhood of Hastings, to the abbey of St. Denis ; and styles Bertwald 
the proprietor of Hastings and Pevensey, his fidelis. 

34 Mailros, 138. Sax. Chron. 61. Vit Offae, p. 15. 

35 Sax. Chron. 61. Matt. West. 279. 

36 Alcuin, the preceptor of Charlemagne, speaking of the immature fate of Offa's 
son, mentions, that pater suus pro confirmatione regni ejus multum sanguinem 
effudit. Ap. Malmsb. de Gest. p. 33. 


which he exercised confirm the traditions of his CHAP. 
power. He founded the abbey at St. Alban's, and .. / . 
the abbey of Bath ; and made gifts of land to Can- 777 - 
terbury, and other places, far beyond the limits of 
his inherited domains. 37 

Offa is distinguished above the other Anglo-Saxon 
kings who had preceded him in the octarchy, by 
commencing an intercourse with the continent. He ma e ne - 
had a correspondence with Charlemagne, which does 
credit to the Frankish sovereign and to himself. In 
one letter, Charlemagne communicates to him with 
perceptible exultation his success in procuring the 
continental Saxons to adopt Christianity. In another 
the Frankish emperor promises security to all pil- 
grims, and his especial protection and legal inter- 
ference to all commercial adventurers, on their paying 
the requisite duties. He greets Offa with expressions 
of friendship, and sends him a belt, an Hungarian 
sword, and two silken cloaks. 38 

37 Matt. West. 284. Dugdale Monasticon, i. p. 19. 62. 177. 184. Matt. 
West, p. 288. enumerates, twenty-three counties which Offa governed. Amongst 
these, the districts of East Anglia, Essex, and part of Wessex and Northumbria, 
are recited. 

38 Du Chesne Scrip. Fr. vol. ii. p. 620. Malmsb. 32. In the second volume of 
Du Chesne's Hist. Franc. Scriptores, p. 666., is another letter from Charlemagne to 
Offa. The king states the guilty conduct of a Presbyter et Scottus, who had eaten 
meat in Lent. The king mentions that the clergy in France, for want of full 
evidence, had declined to pass sentence upon him : and adds,. that, as he could not 
remain where he was, from the infamy of the thing ; and lest the sacerdotal 
honour should be thought by the ignorant vulgar to be tarnished, and lest others 
should be induced to violate the sacred fast, Charlemagne thought it fittest to send 
him to abide the judgment of his bishop. 

Another monument of their intercourse exists in a letter from Charlemagne to 
the Archbishop Athilhard, whom Alcuin styles the primate of Canterbury. In 
this letter the humanity of Charlemagne is nobly distinguished. It is in behalf of 
some exiles, for whom he entreats the prelate to intercede with Offa, that they 
may have leave to return to their country in peace, and secured from the oppres- 
sion of injustice. He says, their lord, Vinhringstan, was dead, who he thinks 
would have proved faithful to his lord, if he might have remained in his country. 
" To escape the peril of death, he fled to us, but was always ready to purge himself 
from all infidelity. We kept him with us not from enmity, but with the hope of 
producing a reconciliation. As to these his followers, if you can obtain their peace, 
let them remain in the country. But," adds this humane king, " if my brother 
answers harshly about them, send them to us uninjured. It is better to travel 
than to perish ; it is better to serve in another country than to die at home. But 
I trust to the goodness of my brother, if you strongly intercede for them, that he 
may receive them kindly for love of us, or rather for the love of Christ." 

The delicacy of this application is peculiar. He does not write to Offa, because 

A A 2 





Offa's wars 
with the 

A discord of some moment interrupted this amity. 
All intercourse between the two countries was reci- 
procally interdicted 39 ; but the quarrel is not stated 
to have lasted long. Offa had also a quarrel with 
the pope. 

The wars of Offa with the Britons were at first to 
his disadvantage. Some branches of the Cymry pe- 
netrated in an incursion into Mercia. Their united 
attack drove the English from the Severn; they fre- 
quently repeated their devastations. Offa collected 
in great number the forces of the Anglo-Saxons, and 
marched into Wales. The Britons, unable to with- 
stand him, quitted the open country between the 
Severn and the Wye, and withdrew to their moun- 
tains. Impregnable among these natural fortresses, 
they awaited the return of the invaders, and then 
sallied out in new aggressions. To terminate these 
wasteful incursions, Offa annexed the eastern regions 
of Wales, as far as the Wye, to Mercia, planted them 
with Anglo-Saxons, and separated them from the 
HIS Dyke. Britons by a large trench and rampart, extending 
from the asstuary of the Dee to the mouth of the 
Wye. 40 It was carried through marshes, and over 
mountains and rivers for a hundred miles, and was 
long celebrated under the name of Claudh Offa, or 
Offa's Dyke. 41 Its remains and direction are yet 
visible. 42 It was used for ages afterwards, as the 

he will not compromise his own dignity by subjecting it to a refusal, nor appear to 
dictate to another prince ; he employs an honoured minister of peace ; he applies 
to Offa the tender epithet of my brother ; and he makes a denial almost impos- 
sible, by the disinterested humanity which he intends to show them, if Offa should 
be inexorable. Du Chesne, ii. p. 678. 

39 Alcuin ap. Malmsb. 32. 

40 Brut y Tywys. p. 473. Brut y Saeson, p. 474. Asser, de Gestis Elfredi, 
10. Sim. Dunelm. p. 118. After these events the princes of Powys moved their 
royal seat from Pengwern, or Shrewsbury, to Mathraval in Montgomeryshire. 
Where the royal castle of Mathraval stood, a small farm-house is the only building 
visible now. 

41 Lhwyd Comment. Brit. Descript. 42. Almost all the cities and towns on 
its eastern side " in ton vel ham finientia habent." Ibid. 

42 See Gibson's Camden, p. 587. 


boundary which determined the confines of England CHAP. 
and Wales; a boundary jealously guarded with the * 

most rigorous penalties. 43 777 - 

Offa's desire of reading is mentioned by Alcuin. 44 
The basest action of OfFa was the murder of Ethel- 
bert, king of East Anglia. 

At the close of Offa's reign, Ethelbert possessed 
the crown of East Anglia, a peaceful and intelligent 
prince, in the bloom of youth and beauty, interesting 
in his manners, and virtuous in his disposition. In- 
vited or welcomed by Offa 45 , he went to Mercia, for 
the purpose of receiving the hand of Etheldritha, the 
daughter of the Mercian king. He travelled with a 
splendid retinue. Offa received him with that dis- 
tinction which was due to the allotted husband of his 
daughter. But before the marriage was completed, 
Ethelbert was assassinated, and the father of his be- 
loved commanded the murder. Though Offa had 
pledged his protection r had received the king of 
East Anglia as his guest, had introduced him to his 
daughter as her approved husband, and the nuptial 
feast had begun, Offa is represented as having pro- 
cured his assassination. 46 The favourable moment of 
annexing East Anglia to Mercia was a temptation 
which overpowered the feelings of the father and the 
man. The friends of Ethelbert fled in consternation. 

43 Jo. Sarisb. Polycrat. , in his De nugis curialium, lib. vi. p. 1 84. 

44 Alcuin in a letter to him says, " It greatly pleases me that you have such an 
intention to read ; that the light of wisdom may shine in your kingdom which is 
now extinguished in many places." He adds some good moral advice. Ale. Op. 
p. 1554. 

45 The welcome is affirmed by all. The invitation by Malmsbury, 29., and the 
author of the life of OfFa, p. 23., and Hen. Silgrave, MSS. Cott. Cleop. A. 12. 

46 That OfFa commanded the murder is expressly asserted by Ethelwerd, 840. ; 
Hoveden, 410. ; Huntingdon, 344. ; Sax. Chron. 65. ; Flor. Wig. 281. ; Malmsb; 
de Pont. 287.; Bromton, 749,; Higden, 251.; Rad. Dicet. 446.; and Assert 
Annal. 154. Their uniting evidence does away the attempt of Matt. West. p. 283., 
and the fabulous monk of St. Alban's, in Vita Offge, p. 23., who want to fix it 
solely on the queen. Both these apologists admit that OfFa immediately seized 
East Anglia ; and such an action, after such a catastrophe, is among the most 
forcible evidences of his guilt and its motive., 

A A 3 





of Offa's 


of Wessex 

Offa invaded his dominions, and East Anglia was 
added to his conquests. 

Did such a complication of crimes benefit the per- 
petrator ? Before two years elapsed, he sank from 
his empire to his grave. Remorse embittered all the 
interval. His widowed daughter abandoned his court, 
fled into the marshes of Croyland, and pined away 
her life in mourning solitude 47 ; his queen, the evil 
counsellor of his ambition, perished miserably 48 ; the 
husband of another of his daughters was cut off in 
the same year with himself 49 ; the other, who mar- 
ried Brihtric, died a martyr to vice and penury the 
most extreme, scorned and abhorred 50 ; his son 
Ecgfrid, who succeeded him, was permitted to exist 
only 141 days 51 ; and thus the race of Offa disap- 
peared for ever. 

During the reign of Offa, the sceptre of Wessex 
had been swayed, since 755, by Cynewulf. He warredf 
with the Britons successfully 52 , and met* Offa in the 
disastrous conflict at Bensington. After a reign of 
many years, he fell a victim to revenge and despera- 
tion. He endeavoured to expel Cyneheard, the bro- 
ther of the deposed Sigebyrht ; a suspicion that he 

47 Ingulf. 7. Bromton, 752. Vit. Offse, p. 24. * Vit. Off*, p. 25. 

49 Ethelred, the son of Moll. ' M See further, note 58. 

51 Bromton, 754. Hunt. 344. Ingulf. 6. Offa went to Rome before his 
death, and extended to his own dominions the liberality of Ina, called Romescot. 
It was with strict truth that the friend of the great Alfred mentions Offa with the 
epithet " universis circa se regibus et regionibus finitimis formidolosus rex." Asser 
de Reb. Gest. Elfredi, p. 10. I find the following curious circumstance in the 
public papers : *' In digging a vault in the churchyard of Kernel Hampstead (in 
Hertfordshire), the sexton struck against a large stone about four feet below the 
surface ; it was found to be the lid of a coffin. The coffin was taken up in a 
perfect condition ; the bones within, on being exposed to the air, crumbled into 
dust. On the lid of the coffin is an inscription, partly effaced by time, yet 
sufficiently legible to prove that it contained the ashes of the celebrated Offa, king 
of the Mercians. The coffin is very curiously carved, and altogether unique of its 
kind. The church was built in the seventh century." Standard, August 18th, 

52 Flor. Wig. 274. Sax. Chron. 57. Of Cornwall, I presume ; for in his 
charter to the monastery at Wells, dated 766, he adduces among his motives to 
the donation pro aliqua vexatione inimicorum nostrorum Cornubiorum gentis. 
See it ap. Dugd. i. 186. 


was mediating retaliation, occasioned the attempt. 53 
Cyneheard determined to prevent the blow ; he 
watched the unguarded moment when the king with 784 - 
a few attendants visited a lady at Merton in Surrey ; 
he collected about eighty desperadoes, hastened to 
the place, and surrounded the chamber to which the 
king had retired, before his friends were aware of 
his danger. The king quitted the apartment, and 
vigorously defended himself; he beheld Cyneheard, 
and, rushing forward, severely wounded him ; but no" 
courage could prevail against such numbers. Cyne- 
wulf was slain. Roused by the clamour of the 
struggle, his thanes hurried to the conflict. Safety 
and wealth were offered to them by the assassi 
but no Bribes" could repressTheTr^Toyal indignation ; 
and tEeyTfelTlrobly by thejr master's side ; onejBritlsF 
hostage~~6~niy ^escaped, desperately^waundedT Loathe 
morning, the dismal tidings had circulated ; and the 
great officers of the royal household, Osric, the friend, 
and Weverth, the faithful minister of Cynewulf, 
with their attendants, rode to the town. Cyneheard 
lavished both promises and presents, if they would 
assist hmPto obtain thfr (grown. The disinterested 
thanes disdained the favours of a murderer, forced 
an entrance with their battle-axes, and a deadly con- 
test ensued, in which the guilty perished. 54 

This melancholy catastrophe led to the elevation 
of Brihtric. He was of the race of Cerdic 55 , and 
married Eadburga. the daughter of Offa. The year Danes firs t 

r, i . . -,. . . , -, , . X. , land in 

of his accession was distinguished as that in which England. 
the Danes are recorded by the Anglo-Saxon writers 
to have first landed on the English shore. The 
gerefa of the place went out to see the strangers, who 
had arrived with three vessels, and was instantly 

53 Matt. West. 280. This author states, that Cyneheard had been banished. 

54 Sax. Chron. 59. 63. Flor. Wig. 278. Hunt. 343. 

55 Sax. Chron. 63. 

A A 4 


BOOK killed. 56 Their incursion was repeated on other parts 

... m ' . of the island. 
787. The wife of Brihtric, or Beorhtric, is expressed by 

Queen Asser to have imitated the tyranny of her father, 

Eadburga. Qj(f a . to have hated all to whom her husband was 
attached, and to have done whatever was odious to 
mankind. She became familiar with crimes which 
the gentleness of female nature never perpetrates till 
its moral sentiments have been erased. She accused 
to the king whomsoever her caprice disliked, and 
thus deprived them of life or power. When he re- 
fused the gratification to her malice, she used the 
secret poison. 

To one youth the king was so attached, that her 
arts were fruitlessly exerted to procure his disgrace. 

Brfhtric S nS *^ e mingled for him a poisoned cup. It was the 
destiny of Brihtric, that, by accident, he should drink 
the contents. Thus punished for his unjust com- 
pliances with the malignancy of Eadburga, he ex- 
pired as well as the youth, and was succeeded by 
Egbert. 57 

she escapes Driven out of Wessex, the wretched woman sailed 
lce * with great treasures to France, and presented herself 
to Charlemagne. With splendid presents she stood 
before the throne : " Choose, Eadburga," said the 
king, " which you prefer, me or my son." " Your 
son," was her answer, " because he is youngest." 
The monarch tauntingly assured her, that if she had 
selected him, he should have transferred her to his 
son ; but that as her election had been otherwise, she 
should have neither. He gave her what he thought 
better suited her immorality, the habit and discipline 

56 Sax. Chron. 64. ; Flor. Wig. 280. ; and see Ethelwerd. 

57 Asser relates these incidents from the communications of his illustrious 
master : " Quod a domino meo JElfredo Angul-saxonum rege veredico, etiam ssepe 
mihi referente audivi : " p. 10. The Saxon chronicle mentions Worr as the eal- 
dorman who died with Brihtric, p. 68. Brihtric was buried in Tewksbury. 
Chron. de Tewksb. MSS. Cott. Cleop. c. 3. 


of a cloister; but even in this retreat she indulged CHAP. 
her depravity, and was turned out of the society. In 

poverty and miserable vice she dragged on a loathed __ 78 ?- 

. J . Her miser- 

existence, and, at last, accompanied by a little girl, able end. 

she begged her daily bread at Pavia ; and closed an 
abandoned life by a deplorable death. 58 

58 Asser says he had this fact from many who had seen her, p. 12. In 798, 
London was burnt, with many of its inhabitants. Chron. Pet. 10. 



The Reigns of EGBERT and ETHELWULF. 

BOOK EGBERT, the most distinguished and successful king 
. HL , of all the Anglo-Saxon race before Alfred, was the 
Egbert's son of Alcmund, or Ethelinund, the great grandson 
of Inigils, the brother of Ina. Alcmund was left 
early in his mother's care, and his sisters were sent 
into Saxony for their education, where they became 
religious. 1 Egbert received the instruction of the 
times, and his talents gave splendour to his youth. 
When Brihtric became king of Wessex, the popularity 
of Egbert excited his mistrust, and he projected his 
destruction. To avert the danger, Egbert fled to 
Offa. The messengers of Brihtric followed him ; 
and, to debar the young exile from the friendship of 
Mercia, they solicited for their master the daughter 
of Offa. Eadburga was betrothed to Brihtric, and 
Egbert sailed to the coast of France, where he greatly 
improved his mind. 2 

787. It was after 787, that he left Offa for the court 

f Charlemagne. This indefatigable monarch, whom 
Europe every year beheld in a new part of its varied 
climate, pouring his disciplined warriors on the power- 
ful savage tribes, which swarmed between the German 
Ocean and the mouth of the Danube, in the year 788 
marched against the Sclavonians on the Baltic. Scarce 

1 Wallingford, Gale, iii. 63L See Thorn. 2.; Scrip, x. 2211. ; and Lei. iiS. 55. 
The Saxon Chronicle makes the father of Egbert king of Kent, p. 63. ; and Higden 
entitles him sub reguli, p. 252. So Rudborne. The eldest sons of the kings of 
Wessex seem, at this period, to have been always appointed kings of Kent, until the 
reign of Alfred. 

2 .Malms, lib. ii. c. 1. p. 36. Hen Silgrave, Cott. MSS. p. 12, 





had they submitted, but the Huns were invading him, CHAP, 
and he was also summoned towards Naples by the 
hostilities of the eastern empire. He subdued the 
Avarians and the Huns, the modern Austrians and 
Hungarians. When Saxony revolted, he determined 
to extirpate the most hostile of its confederation. 
The fate of 30,000 men evinced the dreadful execu- 
tion of his determination. 

On his return from this expedition, he passed his 
winter at Aix-la-Chapelle, a place with which he was 
much delighted. In the subsequent years we find 
him at Paderborn, afterwards traversing the French 
coasts, visiting the diet at Mentz, and, in the year 
800, inarching into Italy through Suabia and Friuli. 
We may reasonably suppose that Egbert attended 
him in some of these expeditions, and that great 
activity, enlargement, and information of mind were 
acquired by the Anglo-Saxon prince during his 
asylum with the Frankish sovereign. Thus Egbert's 
exile and adversity became beneficial both to himself 
and to the country which he was soon called to 

It was in the year 800 that Egbert was summoned 
out of the French empire to the throne of England, tarns to 
As he was the only descendant of Cerdic that was n s land - 
in existence 3 , his accession was highly popular in 

At the period of his accession, the island, though state of 
nominally under an hexarchy, was fast verging into 
a triarchy. The petty powers of Kent, Essex, and 
East Anglia had already become the satellites of 
Mercia ; Northumbria, occupied in producing and 
destroying a succession of usurpers and turbulent 
nobles, had ceased to molest her neighbours ; Wessex 
had enlarged herself by the incorporation of Sussex ; 


3 Malmsbury, lib. i. c. 2. p. 16. 


BOOK its population and wealth multiplied under the peace- 
able administration of Brihtric, and a series of able 
80 - sovereigns had reduced the nobles of the land to an 
useful subordination. The force of Wessex was 
therefore a well-organised concentration of various 
powers, ready to operate with all their energies for 
any great purpose to which they should be sum- 

At this crisis Egbert acceded. The friendship of 
Charlemagne had educated him to the arts of empire ; 
and the studies cultivated at the Frankish court had 
excited his mind, and polished his manners. 4 From 
the example of the French emperor he learnt the 
difficult policy of governing, with vigour and pru- 
dence, the discordant members of a great body politic. 
The character of Charlemagne was a mixture of cul- 
tivated intellect and barbarism, which was likely to 
have interested and improved the mind of Egbert; 
and in the wars of the Francs he must have im- 
bibed a military knowledge superior to that of every 
Anglo-Saxon competitor. 

His mild government completed the attachment of 
his subjects, and the tranquillity of the first years of 
his reign fostered his growing strength. 

Kenwuif in For the first nineteen years of Egbert's reign, Ken- 
wulf continued to sit on the throne of Mercia. He 
had subdued Kent, and ruled Mercia and its ap- 
pendages with an ability which suspended the ambi- 
tion of the West- Saxon king. Kenwuif is mentioned 
with applause for his peacefulness, piety, and justice. 5 
His ability was known to his contemporaries, and 
secured his repose. 

4 Malmsbury says of the Francs, " This nation, from the activity of its powers 
and the urbanity of its manners, was decidedly the prince of all the western states ; " 
he mentions that Egbert regnandi disciplinam a Francis acciperit, and that with 
them aciem mentis expediret et mores longe a gentilicia barbaric alienos indueret. 
Lib.ii. c. 1. p. 36. 

5 Ingulf. Hist. p. 6. rex justissimus. Chron. Pet. 10. 


It was on the inferior Britons of the West, that CHAP. 
Egbert first tried the efficacy of his military strength. , ^ , 
He penetrated successfully into Devonshire arid Corn- E b ^ e 
wall ; resistance was in vain ; and he ravaged, un- feats the 
checked, from the East to the West. 6 Br^ns? 

The path to his greatness was laid open to Egbert si 9. 
by the death of Kenwulf. 7 The wisdom of this king 
had completed the efforts of Offa for the power of 
Mercia; and if his successors had been of equal 
energy, Wessex might not at this period have become 
its superior. 

But to such a degree of strength had these rival Rivalry of 
states respectively attained, that it was obvious a & 

serious competition must soon arise for one to be 
sovereign of the whole. The humiliation of the other 
powers increased the rivalry of these. Two neigh- 
bouring co-equals in power cannot long exist in amity 
together, because man is too much a being of hope 
and envy, and too little appreciates tranquillity and 
content. By its political power, Mercia promised to 
win in the approaching race of supremacy ; but 
Wessex was rising so fast into importance, that 
nothing less than a continuation of able government 
in Mercia could suppress its competition. Both had 
reached that point of power, at which the state that 
was first disquieted by the evils of a weak administra- 
tion would inevitably fall under the pressure of the 

Egbert and Kenwulf governed their several king- 
doms with such steady capacity, that, during their 
co-existence, the balance was not determined. If 
Kenwulf had been the survivor, and minors or in- 
capable men, harassed by factious chiefs, had suc- 
ceeded to the throne of Egbert, then Mercia would 

6 Sax. Chron. 69. Flor. Wig. 285. Malmsb. 36. Ethelw. 840. In the year 
816, the English school at Rome was burnt Flor. Wig. 285. 

7 Ingulf. 7. 




-' Y 


The son of 




a weak 


makes war 
on Egbert. 

have acquired the monarchy of England; but the 
coveted distinction was allotted to Wessex, and the 
causes powerful enough to reduce a nation were suf- 
fered to operate in Mercia. 

Kenwulf left his son, Kinelm, a child of seven years 
of age, the heir to his crown, under the tutelage of 
his marriageable daughters. The eldest of these, 
Windreda, hopeful of acquiring a permanent autho- 
rity, resolved on her brother's death. He was car- 
ried by his foster-father under pretence of hunting, 
into a wood, and there murdered. Her crime failed 
to profit her. Her uncle, Ceolwulf, took the crown ; 
in his second year he was driven out by Beornwulf. 8 

These distractions checked Mercia in her career 
of dignity. Beornwulf became by his usurpation 
rather the king of his party than sovereign of the 
united population of his territory. He had acquired 
his throne by violence ; yet if his skill had been equal 
to the crisis, he might have consolidated his power ; 
but he is characterised as a fool, rich and powerful, 
though of no regal ancestry. 9 With giddy precipi- 
tancy he plunged into a personal competition with 
Egbert, and linked the fate of Mercia in his own. 10 

It was in 823 that Beornwulf rushed to that col- 
lision which the wary Egbert seems to have been 
reluctant to hazard. The twenty-three years' for- 
bearance of the West- Saxon prince indicates no inor- 
dinate ambition ; but the hostilities of Beornwulf 
roused him into activity. At Wilton the competition 

8 Ingulf. 7. Flor. Wig. 286. 

9 Ingulf. 7. A Bernulpho quodam fatuoso et divitiis ac potentia pollenti, in 
nulloque lineam regalem contigente expulsus est. 

10 In 823, a battle occurred at Gafelford, or Camelford, in Cornwall. Sax. Chron. 
70. Flor. Wig. 287. The men of Devonshire are particularised as the combatants 
who conflicted with the Cornish Britons. The pieces of armour, rings, and brass- 
furniture for horses, dug up here, and the local tradition of a bloody battle, may 
be collateral evidences of this struggle ; but they are also claimed by Leland as the 
attestations of the celebrated fight of Camlan, which he places on this spot. Whether 
Egbert or his generals commanded against the Britons, is not decisively ascertained. 


between the two states was decided. 11 The superior 
strength of the forces of Mercia was balanced by the , 
skill of Egbert. A furious battle ensued, which the 
rival armies maintained with great obstinacy ; but at Egbert's 
length Egbert conquered with great slaughter, and v 
Beornwulf 's forces fled in irremediable confusion. 

Egbert derived from his victory all the conse- | u ^ du a e ^ d 
quences of which it was so fruitful: he beheld the Essex. 
favourable moment for breaking the power of Mercia 
for ever, and he seized it with avidity. He despatched 
his son, Ethelwulf, and the warlike bishop and able 
statesman, Ealstan, with a competent army, into 
Kent, who drove the petty sovereign that had ruled 
there, the dependent of Mercia, over the Thames 12 ; 
and then Kent, and its neighbour, Essex, became for 
ever united to the crown of Wessex. 

Egbert pursued his scheme of aggrandisement with incites the 
careful policy. He forbore to invade Mercia; for 
though it had been defeated, it abounded yet with 
courageous soldiery ; and Egbert seems to have been 
cautious of putting too much into hazard. Instead 
of attacking Beornwulf in Mercia, Egbert fomented 
the discontent with which the East Anglians endured 
the Mercian yoke; by promise of support he excited 
East Anglia to revolt, and thus engaged his rival in 
a new warfare. 13 

Beornwulf went in anger to chastise the East An- 825. 
glians. His incapacity again disgraced him with a disasters. 
defeat : he fell in the contest 14 ; and was succeeded 
by Ludecan, who again led the forces of Mercia 
against East Anglia ; but he was as unfortunate as 
his predecessor, and found -a grave where he had 

11 Sax. Chron. 70. Flor. Wig. 287. Hunt. 344. 

12 Sax. Chron. 70. Wallingf. 534. Hunt. 345. Flor. Wig. 287. The year 824 
is remarked by continental annalists to have had a winter so extremely severe, that 
not only animals, but many of the human race, perished in the excessive cold. See 
Annal. Fuldenses. Bouquet's Recueil, vi. p. 208. The annals add a description of 
a huge stone which fell from the air ! 

13 Ingulf. 7. M Ibid. Chron. Petr. 12. 






Egbert in- 
vades Mer- 

hoped for empire. Wiglaf, the governor or prince of 
Worcestershire, succeeded. 15 

The views of Egbert were now accomplished. An 
important passage of Ingulf us pours light on the 
policy of Egbert. He says that the two usurpers, 
Beornwulf and Ludecan, by their imprudence, de- 
stroyed all the military strength of Mercia, which had 
been most numerous and victorious. 16 For this event 
Egbert seems to have waited ; and, as soon as he 
found that Mercia had exhausted herself against 
others, his caution was thrown aside, and his officers 
marched his army immediately into Mercia. Wiglaf, 
attacked before he could recruit his forces, fled from 
his new dominion, and concealed himself from the 
eager searches of Egbert in the monastery of Croy* 
land. That interesting character, Ethelburga, wi- 
dowed in the hour of the marriage-feast by her father 
Offa's crime, sheltered the fugitive prince in her re- 
spected cell. 17 How painfully must she have moral- 
ised on the deed which had not only destroyed her 
happiness, but had contributed in its consequences to 
the ruin of Mercia ! 

The negotiations of the venerable abbot of Croy- 
mitstohim ^ an( ^ preserved Wiglaf, but completed the inevitable 
degradation of Mercia. Egbert agreed to the king's 
continuing on the throne as the tributary vassal of 
Wessex. The expressions of Wiglaf, in the charter 
of Croyland, six years after this pacification, are, " I 
have procured it to be confirmed by my lord, Egbert, 
king of Wessex, and his son." " In the presence of 
my lords Egbert and Athelwulf." 18 The payment 



15 Ingulf. 7. Chron. Petr. 12. 

16 Regno vehementer oppresso, to tarn militiam ejus, quae quondam plurima ex- 
titerat, et victoriosissima, sua imprudentia perdiderat. Ing. 7. 

17 Ing. 7. 

18 Per dominum meum Egbertum regem West Saxonias et Athelwlphum filium 
ejus illud obtinui confirmari. Ing. 9. In presentia dominorum meorum Egberti 
regis West Saxonia et Athelwlphi filii ejus. Ing. 10. 


of the tribute is attested by Ingulf. 19 The submis- CHAP. 


sion of East Anglia was consequent on the humilia- t_^ , 

tion of Mercia. 827 - 

Northumbria had not yet felt his power. Eardulf, Egbert in- 
whom we left reigning at the beginning of this the 
ninth century, had assumed a hostile posture against 
Kenwulf of Mercia ; but the clergy interposed, and 
procured a reconciliation. 20 In 806, Eardulf was 
driven out, and the province continued without a king 
for a long time. 21 Alfwold is mentioned afterwards, 
as a fleeting monarch of two years ; and Eanred, the 
son of Eardulf, then succeeded for thirty-three years, 
and transmitted it to his son. 22 It was against Eanred 
that Egbert inarched, after the conquest of Mercia. 
The Northumbrian prince was too prudent to engage 
his turbulent and exhausted kingdom in a war with 
Egbert: he felt the imperious necessity, and obeyed 
it. At Dore, beyond the Humber, he met the 
West- Saxon prince, and amicably acknowledged his its sub- 
superiority. 23 

The Anglo-Saxon octarchy thus subdued, he turned 828. 
the tide of conquest towards Wales. With a numerous overrun. 
army he penetrated to Snowdon, the Parnassus of 
the Cambrian bards. The same successes attended 
his arms in North Wales, and he penetrated to Den- 
bighshire, and from thence to Anglesey. 24 He ap- 
pointed his son Ethelwulf king of Kent. 25 

The only enemy that baffled the genius of Egbert 832 - 

xu r\ i ,. ^ ^ - ^ i Thc Dancs 

was the Danes, who continued their depredations ; invade 
and probably under the command of that celebrated Eebert 
sea-king Ragnar Lodbrog, whose actions will be more 

19 Promissa tributi annualis pensione. Ing. 8. 

20 Sim. Dunelm. de Gestis Reg. Angl. 117. 21 Chron. Mailros, 141. 

22 Sim. Dunelm. de Dunel. Eccles. 13. 

23 Sax. Chron. 71. Flor. Wig. 288. 

24 Brut y Saeson, 475. Brut y Tywysog. 392. Sax. Chron. 72. Ethelwerd, 

25 So he says in a charter at Rochester, dated " Ethelwulph, quern regem con- 
stituemus in Cantia." Thorpe, Reg. Reff. p. 22. 

VOL. I. B B 




- v- 



distinctly considered. 26 They ravaged the Isle of 
Sheppey, and in the next year defeated Egbert at 
Charrnouth, in Dorsetshire. 27 This disaster, perhaps, 
occasioned that council which Wiglaf, in his charter 
to Croyland, mentions to have met this year at Lon- 
don, for the purpose of deliberating on the Danish 
depredations. 28 The efficacy of the measures adopted 
by the council appeared at Hengston Hill, in Corn- 
wall. The Danes landed in this part of the island, 
and the Cornish Britons, from fear or voluntary 
policy, entered into offensive alliance with them 
against Egbert. The king of Wessex defeated their 
combined forces with great slaughter. 29 

After a reign of prosperity seldom rivalled, Egbert 
died full of glory. 30 He had made all the Anglo- 
Saxon kingdoms subordinate to his own ; but the 
tale, that he assembled the Anglo-Saxon states, and, 
abolishing the distinction of Saxons and Angles, and 
all provincial appellations, commanded the island 
to be called England, and procured himself to be 
crowned and denominated king of England, seems not 
to be entitled to our belief. 31 

26 See the next book, ch. 3. 27 Sax. Chron. 72. 

28 Ingulf. 10. (Ubi omnes congregati fuimus pro concilio capiendo contra 
Danicos piratas littora Angliae assidue infestantes. ) 

29 Sax. Chron. 72. 

30 Sax. Chron. 73. Flor. Wig. 291. Higden, 253. Chron. Petri de Burgo, 13. 
The Chronicle of Mailros says in 838, p. 142. The Asserii Annales, 839, p. 155. 
Wallingford, 837, p. 531. On the 26th January, in the year 839, an unusual in- 
undation of the sea devastated all Frisia, so that it was almost on a level with the 
copious masses of sands called there Dunos (Downs). Animals, men, and houses, 
were destroyed by the waters. The number of the inhabitants known to have 
perished in the deluge, was 2437. Annal. Bertiniani. Bouquet's Recueil, vi. 

31 I was induced, as early as I began this work, to doubt this popular tale, by 
observing these circumstances : 1. That, although if such an act had taken place, 
the legal title of Egbert and his successors would have been rex Anglorum ; yet that 
neither he nor his successors, till after Alfred, generally used it. In his charters, 
Ethelwulf always signs king of the West Saxons ; so do his three sons ; so Alfred ; 
and in his will he says, I, Alfred, of the West Saxons, king. Asser, the friend of 
this king, styles Ethelwulf and his three sons always kings of the West Saxons, 
p. 6 21. It is with Alfred that he begins to use a different title ; he names him 
Angul Saxonum rex. 2. Egbert did not establish the monarchy of England : he 
asserted the predominance of Wessex over the others, whom he defeated or made 
tributary, but he did not incorporate East Anglia, Mercia, or Northumbria. It was 
the Danish sword which destroyed these kingdoms, and thereby made Alfred the 


As the new enemies from the Baltic who had begun 
to appear in England, for the first time, at the end of 
the eighth and in the ninth centuries, were not duly 836 
noticed by our historians before the publication of 
this work, it will be necessary, for the more perfect 
understanding of the events which they caused, to 
take a review of the political state of Scandinavia, 
and of its customs at this period. 


It may gratify the wishes of some readers to have the succes- 
sions of the kings of the Anglo-Saxon octarchy enumerated in 
their chronological order. I take the chronology from the Saxon 
chronicle, when it occurs there. My other authorities are, Alured 
of Beverley, and Henry of Huntingdon, for the successions, and 
the latter, sometimes, for the duration of the reigns. Every 
notice in our old writers cannot be minutely reconciled on the 
length of each reign. I have selected what I thought to be, on 
the whole, the most probable. 


449 Hengist lands. 512 Octa 

488 Esca, or .ZEric succeeds 542 Eormenric 

monarcha of the Saxons : accordingly, Alfred is called primus monarcha by some ; 
but, in strict truth, the monarchy of England must not even be attributed to him, 
because Danish sovereigns divided the island with him, and occupied all the parts 
which the Angles had peopled, except Mercia, It was Athelstan, who destroyed 
the Danish sovereignty, that may, with the greatest propriety, be entitled primus 
monarcha Anglorum ; and accordingly Alured of Beverly so speaks of him, p. 93. 

Totius Anglise monarchiam primus Anglo-Saxonum obtinuit Edelstanus 3. The 

important incidents of the coronation, and change of name, are not mentioned by 
the best writers. The Saxon Chronicle, Florence of Worcester, Asser, Ethelwerd, 
Ingulf, Huntingdon, Hoveden, Bromton, Malmsbury, the Chronicle of Mailros, of 
Peterborough, and Matthew of Westminster say nothing about it. 4. Why should 
Egbert, a Saxon, have given the Angles a preference in the royal title ? The fact 
seems to be, that the people of the provinces colonised by the Angles had been long 
called Angli. Bede and Boniface, in the century before Egbert, so call them. 
There is, however, one charter that makes an exception. In one of those at Ro- 
chester, Egbert is called rex Anglorum. Thorpe, p. 22. Yet his son Ethelwulf 
does not continue the title, but uses that of occidentalium Saxonum, p. 23. ; which 
proves, that if the other charter with the Anglorum be a genuine one, yet that this 
word could not have arisen from any legal change of title, or his son would have 
continued it So far as such a phrase was applied to Egbert from his victories, it 
was a just compliment ; but it is no evidence of his assumption of it as his legal 

B B 2 



BOOK 560 JEthelbyrht 

in. 616 Eadbald 

' ' 640 Ercenberht 

664 Ecbyrht 

673 Lother 

685 Edric. Al. B. 81. 

694 Wihtred 

725 Eadberht 
748 JEthelbyrht 
760 Edbert Pren 

Cuthred. Al. B.81. 

784 Ealhmund 
794 Eadbryht 

477 Ella lands 


Caeteros oblivio mersit. 
Al. Bev. 82. 


495 Cerdic lands, reigned 

from 519 
534 Cynric 
560 Cealwin 
591 Ceol, or Ceolric 
597 Ceolwulf 
611 Cynegils 
643 Cenwalh 
672 Sexburh 
674 JEscwine 

676 Centwine 
685 Ceadwalla 
688 Ina 

728 ^Ethelheard 
741 Cuthred 

754 Sigebert 

755 Cynewulf 
784 Brihric 

800 ECGBRIGHT, or Egbert. 
S. C. 15. 


Bernicia. Deira. 

547 Ida 560 JElla. 

560 Adda 
567 Clappa 

572 Heodwulf 

573 Freodwulf 
580 Theodric 
588 JEthelric 
593 JEthelfrith 
617 Eadwin 

634 Eanfrith 634 Osric 

634 Oswald 644 Oswin 

642 Oswiu 

670 Ecverth, or Ecgferth 

685 Aldfreth, or Alfred 

705 Osred 

716 Conred 


731 Ceolwulf 
738 Edberht 
757 Osulf 

659 Moll ^thelwold 
765 Alhred 

A. B. 78. 

590 Edwin, expelled by Ethelric. 


774 jEthelred CHAP, 

778 Alfwold XL 

789 Osred ' ' 

790 ^Ethelred 

795 Eardwulf 

Osbert Ella 


586 Creoda, or Crida 794 Egverth 

Pibba 794 Cenwulf, or Kenulf 

626 Penda Kenelm 

655 Peada 819 Ceolwulf 

656 Wulfhere 821 Beornwulf 
675 ^Ethelred Ludican 
704 Cenred 828 Wiglaf 
709 Ceolred Beornwulf 
716 ^thelbald Buthred. S. C. 

755 Beornred Ceolwulf. Al. Bev. 88. 
755 Offa 


Uffa Aldulf 

Titilus Beorna 

Redwald Edelred 

Eorpwald Egelbrict 

Sigebert Edmund 

Egric Guthric 

Anna Eohric 

Edelhere EADMUND, slain by Inguar 



Eswyn Sebbi and Sighere 

Sledda Offa 

Sabert Selred 

Sexred and Seward Swictred 

Sigbert Parvus Sigeric 

Sigebert Sigered 

Suithelin Guthrum. Al. Bev. 85. 

B B 3 





The Political State of NORWAY, SWEDEN, and DENMARK, in the 
Eighth Century. 

BOOK ALTHOUGH popular language, seldom accurate, has 
t I J' . given the denomination of Danes to the invaders of 
England, they were composed of the nations who 
lived in the regions now known by the general appel- 
lations of Sweden and Norway, as well as of the inhabi- ' 
tants of Zealand and Jutland. Of these, the Swedes < 
were the earliest civilised, and seem to have first ! 
abandoned the system of maritime piracy. The Nor- 
wegians continued their aggressions, though at long 
intervals, to the year wherein this history ends. The 
Danes, who headed the most terrible of the invasions, 
were also the most successful. Under Sweyn, Canute, 
and his children, they obtained the government of 

The general aspect of the north, in the eighth cen- 
tury, was remarkable for two peculiarities, which 
were fitted to produce an age of piracy. These were, 
the numerous petty kings who ruled in its various 
regions, and the sea-kings who swarmed upon the 

state of Norway, whose broken coast stretches along a 

tumultuous ocean, from the rocks of the Baltic into 
the arctic circle, was the most sterile of all the regions 
of the north. Its rugged mountains, and intolerable 
cold, were unfriendly to agricultural cultivation ; but 
they nurtured a hardy and vigorous race, who, pos- 


sessing no luxuries, feared no invasion, but poured 
their fleets on other coasts, to seize the superfluities 
which happier climates produced. 1 The navigator 
whom Alfred consulted and employed, describes this 
region, which he calls Northmanna land, as very long 
and very small. " All that man may use for pasture 
or plough lieth against the sea ; and even this in some 
places very rocky. Wild moors lie against the east, 
and along the inhabited lands. In these moors the 
iinnas dwell. The cultivated land is broadest towards 
the east, but becomes continually smaller as it stretches 
towards the north." 2 Ohthere added, that the " moors 
were in some places so broad, that a man would be 
two weeks in travelling over them ; in others but six 
days." 3 

From these descriptions we may remark, that the 
natural state of the country favoured maritime depre- 
dations. The population was along the sea. The 
natives were hardy, and their subsistence scanty. 
Compelled by their penury, they roamed largely 
abroad, and returned, when plunder had enriched 
them. 4 

Norway, in the eighth century, was divided among 
numerous sovereignties, called fylki, which an Ice- 
landic Saga defines to have been a province which 
could furnish twelve ships, containing each sixty or 
seventy well-armed men. 5 Sometimes every fylki 
had an independent king. Sometimes more than one 
were under the same ruler. 6 The chorographical 

1 Adam Bremen. Historia Ecclesiastica, lib. iv. c. 96. p. 71. ed. Lindenbrog. 
Franc. 1630. 

2 See Ohthere's narration, inserted by Alfred in his Saxon translation of Orosius, 
p. 24. ed. Lond. 1773. The land subjected to human culture, he describes as 
about 60 miles broad in the eastward, about 30 in the middle ; and northward, 
where smallest, it might be three miles to the moors. Ibid. 

3 Ohthere, ibid. * Adam Brem. p. 71. 

5 Olaf Tryggva-son's Saga, c. 41. Stephanius says, that the ancient Danes used 
the word fylki to signify a province now called Lren ; but so populous as to fur- 
nish an army. In each of these a sovereign governed. Note in Saxon. Gram. p. 
'118. ed. Hafn. 1644. 
Olaf 's Saga, p. 97. 

u B 4 



BOOK description of Norway enumerates twenty-two of these 
. fylki, besides the district of Trondheim, which con- 
tained eight more. 7 The number of sovereignties pro- 
bably varied according to the ambition and success of 
the several chiefs. The Hervarar Saga mentions, that 
at one period there were twelve kingdoms in Norway. 8 
In the ninth century they were very numerous. 
Snorre, the very ancient and most valuable historio- 
grapher of Norway 9 , brings all the fylki kings to our 
view, in his history of Harald Harfragre, the descend- 
ant of a petty prince in the southern parts of Scandi- 
navia, who acceded in 862. 10 Harald swore to subdue 
all these little sovereigns, as Gormo had already con- 
quered those of Denmark, and Eric those of Sweden. 
He accomplished his vow. By his first efforts he 
destroyed the kings who governed in the eight fylki 
of Trondheim, and reduced these fylki under his 
dominion. u The rest of his life was chiefly occupied 
by his wars with the other. The struggle ended in 
his uniting them all under one monarchy. 12 
state of Skirted by the Alps of Norway, Sweden was dis- 

sweden. tinguished for its fertility, wealth, and commerce. 13 
Its population was numerous, warlike, and hospita- 

7 Stephanius recapitulates them, p. 118. 

8 C. 18. p. 221. This Saga, whose author is unknown, is a kind of Icelandic 
Epopea. The original was published, with a vernacular translation and Latin notes, 
by Verelius, in 1672. The last edition is valuable for its Latin version; but it 
has omitted, I think, with a diminution of its utility, and with injustice to Vere- 
lius, his learned notes. Some might have been retrenched, but the great body of 
them ought not to have been characterised as " non momentosae." 

9 Snorre Sturleson was born at Hvam, in West Iceland, 1178. In 1213 he was 
made supreme judge of Iceland. He was a poet as well as an historian. His moral 
character was not so distinguished as his genius. He was killed at Reickholt, in 
his sixty-third year. See his Life, prefixed to Schoning's edition of his Heimsk- 
ringla, or Historia Regum Norvegicorum. Havn. 1777. 

10 Annales Islandici vetustissimi, Langbeck's Script. Dan. ii. p. 186. 

11 Snorre, Haralld's Saga, c. 8. p. 81. 

12 See Snorre, Haralld's Saga, p. 83 112. The last chapters of the Ynglinga 
Saga are on the immediate ancestors of Harald, who sprang from the Ynlingi of 

13 Adam Brem. 68. Rembert, who obtained the archbishopric of Hamburg in 
865, has left us some valuable expressions about Birca, which he calls the port of 
Sweden. He says, Ibi multi essent negotiatores divites et abundantia totius boni 
atque pecunia thesaurorum multa. Vita Anfgar. Langb. i. 459. 


ble. 14 The name of Sweden, though now applied to 
the whole region governed by the Swedish monarch, 
was in ancient times restricted to the territory about 
Upsal. 15 Before the eighth century, it contained many 
provincial sovereigns, called Herads Konungr, of whom 
the king of Upsal was the chief. As cultivation spread, 
and deserts where converted into fields, new kingdoms 
rose. 16 Ninteen of these puny kingdoms are enume- 
rated. 17 The king of Upsal, subjecting these inferior 
rulers, received the denomination of Thiod Kongr. 18 
Ingialld, who perished in the invasion of IvarVidfadme, 
destroyed by treachery twelve of the petty kings. 19 
The king of Upsal received tribute from the rest, who 
were thence denominated Skatte Kongar, tributary 
kings. 20 But these subordinate rulers sometimes 
amassed so much wealth by piracy, as to be more 
powerful than the superior lord. 21 Sweden had not 
a very extensive population till after the beginning 
of the eighth century : in the preceding age it was so 
full of woods and deserts, that it required many days' 
journey to pass over them. The father of Ingialld 
exerted himself to convert many forests and heaths 
into arable land. 22 He made roads through parts 
which no human foot had explored, and by his wise 
industry, great extents of country were adorned for 

14 Adam Brem. p. 68. He says, the Swedes not only thought it a disgrace to 
refuse hospitality to the traveller, but they contended for the honour of entertain- 
ing him. Ibid. The Swedes had as many wives as they could maintain. Ibid. 

15 Snorre calls this part Swithiod. He places here the Ynglingi, whose succes- 
sion Ivar Vidfadme disturbed. Adam Brem. also distinguishes Suedia from the 
adjoining provinces of Gothland, p. 68. 

16 Snorre, Ynglinga Saga, c. 40. p. 48. 

17 In Messenii Scond. Illust. i. p. 7. 

18 Verelius in Got. et Rol. p. 87. I observe in Snorre, that the ancient title of 
the kings of Sweden was Drottnar (lord). Dyggvi was first saluted Konungur 
(king), c. 20. p. 24. His mother was the daughter of Dan the Magnificent, a quo 
Danise ortum est nomen, ibid. Snorre says, the Swedes call him their drottinn, 
who takes the Skattgiafr, the tribute, from them, c. 11. p. 15. 

19 Snorre, Yngl. c. 43. p. 53. 

20 Peringskiold Monum. TJpl. 10. He calls the kings of Upsal Enwalds, or Ofwer 
Konungar. The arms of Upland were a golden apple, or globe, surrounded with a 
belt, in allusion to the monarchy. Ibid. 

21 Verelius Got. et Rolf. 75. 

22 Snorre, Ynglinga Saga, c. 37. p 45. 


BOOK the first time by the cottages, corn, and people of a 
. ^ , nourishing cultivation. 23 This continent was, how- 
ever, still so little peopled, thatOlaf, the son of Ingialld, 
flying from Ivar, in the eighth century, found the 
country from the west of the kingdom of Upsal, to 
the Yener lake, an uninhabited forest. By the axe 
and by fire, he cleared the regions about the river, 
which runs into the lake ; and the province and king- 
dom of Vermaland, under his auspices, arose. 24 It 
was not until the ninth century, that Jamtia and 
Helsingia, the two northern provinces of Sweden, 
received a permanent colony. Men, flying from the 
tyranny of the preponderant sovereign, levelled the 
woods, and spread themselves over the district. 25 
It seems to have been general throughout the north, 
that the interior parts of every country were wild 
solitudes. The sea-coasts were peopled ; but, as the 
natives undervalued agriculture, the adventurous 
spirits plunged into piracy, and the rest, addicted to 
hunting and pasturage, made few efforts to remove 
the frightful forests and extensive marshes which 
every where forbad their occupation. 26 Sweden was 
for a long time a favourite prey to the pirates of 
Denmark and the Baltic. 27 In the eighth century, 
the Upsal kingdom was conquered by Ivar Vidfame, 
the little potentate of Scania, whose father was one 
of the chiefs destroyed by Ingialld. 28 Upsal after- 
wards continued to increase in its power and pre- 

23 Snorre, p. 45. Loccenius, with truer chronology than others, places Aunund 
immediately before the father of Ragnar Lodbrog. Hist. Suec. p. 41. 

24 Snorre, Yng. c. 46. p. 55. 

25 Snorre gives the history of these colonisations in his Saga Hakonar Goda, 
c. 14. p. 137. Verelius cites the Olaf Saga on the same fact, in Goth, et Rolf, 
p. 15. 

26 Verelius, Goth, et Rolf. 13. Hence the Suerris-Saga says, that travelling was 
very difficult, because on the melting of the ice and snows upon the rivers and 
lakes, the road must then be taken through pools, marshes, and trackless woods. 
Verel. ib. p. 14. 

27 Snorre, p. 43, 44. 28 Ibid. p. 53. 


The country of the Danes was composed of islands, 
which an unquiet ocean separated, and of the penin- 
sula Jutland, which is almost insulated by its nume- 
rous bays. Of the Danish islands, Fionia was 
remarkable for its Odinsee, the place in Denmark to 
which Odin went out of Saxony, after his reputed 
emigration from the Tanais. 29 It became a great 
city. The island was very fertile, but its coasts were 
full of pirates. 30 

Zealand was distinguished amidst the other isles 
for its magnitude, and its ancient metropolis, Lethra, 
whose sovereign was superior to the other kings who 
governed in the various provinces of the Danes. 31 
Jutland, which extended from the Angles to the 
Sound, constituted a principal part of the Danish 
strength. Its soil was sterile, but the country upon 
the rivers was cultivated ; and the most frequented 
cities were on the arms of the sea, which ran into it. 
The rest was made up of vast solitudes and briny 
marshes, like all the north in this savage and calami- 
tous period. It -abounded with uninhabited forests, 

29 Snorre, p. 9. Odins-ey means Odin's island. Odin afterwards moved into 
Sweden, built a temple, and founded a city at Sigtun. Ibid. He is usually placed 
before the Christian era ; but the Saxon Genealogies make him above 200 or 300 
years more recent. These are entitled to much notice, because the Saxon annals 
are far more accurate and precise than the Northern. They were also committed 
much earlier to writing. These make Cerdic, in 495, the ninth descendant from 
Odin (Sax. Chron. 15.), Ida, in 547, the tenth (Ibid. 19.), Ella, in 560, the ele- 
venth (p. 20.). If we reckon each generation at twenty-five years, as a fair average, 
then, according to Cerdic's genealogy, Odin will be placed 270 after Christ ; ac- 
cording to Ida's, 290 A. c. ; according to Ella's, 285 A. c. This position of Odin, 
by the Saxon chroniclers, has sometimes suggested to me the probability, that Odin's 
famous emigration from the Euxine, was no other than the daring voyage of the 
Francs from the Euxine, which occurred between 270 and 280 A. c., and which is 
stated before, p. 124. It is a coincidence, that Snorre places his first conquests in 
Saxony ; for the Francs landed about Frisia, and immediately after that, the sea 
was covered with Frankish and Saxon pirates. Odin is also said by the Northern 
traditions to have fled from the Romans ; but no other flight than the Frankish 
voyage is noticed by the Latin writers. The Saxon piracies show, that the Frankish 
voyage gave a new impulse to society in the north. 

30 Adam Brem. 64. 

31 On Lethra and its topography, see Stephanius in Sax. p. 74. It was in the 
middle of the island, not far from Roschild. Sveno, who lived in 1 186, says, that 
this famous city had in his time so declined, that inter abjectissima ferme vix 
colitur. Hist. Reg. Dan. Langb. i. 45. Roschild became afterwards the metropolis. 


BOOK which concurred with the fens to keep the interior 
*J' , unpeopled. Hence the maritime coasts, though full 
of incessant danger, from the pirates, were the parts 
frequented. 32 

The Danes also occupied Scania, on the Scandina- 
vian continent. It was their richest province. 33 
This peninsula was almost an island ; a tract of land, 
composed of deep forests and rugged mountains, 
divided it from Gothland. 34 It produced Ivar, the 
king whose invasion destroyed the dynasty of the 
Ynglingi at Upsal, and who occupied part of Eng- 
land. 35 Saxo mentions Hallandia and Blekirigia as 
Danish possessions. 36 

Wulfstan, a navigator with whom Alfred conversed 
about the north-eastern countries of the Baltic, enu- 
merated the isles of Langoland, Leland, Falster, and 
Sconey, as belonging at that period to Deiiemearca. 37 
The German chronicles at this time generally mean 
Jutland when they speak of Denmark, but the isles 
seem to have always formed an important part of 
the Danish population. 38 

Denmark was anciently possessed by many con- 
temporary kings. The Knytlinga Saga, after enu- 
merating the districts which Denmark contained in 
the time of Canute, adds, that although then under 
one sovereign, they had been formerly divided into 
many kingdoms. 39 According to this document, 

32 Adam Brem. 63. Jutland was anciently called Reidgotaland. Torfaeus, Series 
Reff. Dan. 86, 87. The rest of Denmark was called Ey-gotaland, the insular Goth- 
land. Ibid. 83. 87. 

33 Knytlinga Saga. Worm. Mon. Dan. App, p. 35. 

34 Adam, 64. In his time it had become very opulent. 

35 Snorre, p. 53, 54. 

36 In his preface he mentions the rock in Blekingia, so famous for its surprising 
inscriptions. He says, lib. vii. p. 138., Harald Hyldetand, as a monument to his 
father, caused his actions to be described on it. Wormius relates what remains of 
it. Monum. Dan. p. 221. 

37 Alfred's Orosius, p. 25. 

38 They were anciently called Witahedh, or Vitaslett. Verelius, Hist. Suio-Goth. 
1 6. Peter Olaus says, that the name Dania primo et principaliter comprehended 
the islands. Chron. Langb. i. 83. 

39 Knytlinga Saga. Wormius, App. 36. 


Jutland contained five of these Konga-ryki, at Sles- 
wick, Ripen, Arhusan, Wiburg, and Hording. 40 The 
islands, and the continental provinces of Scania and 
Hallandia, had also their respective sovereigns, among 
whom the king of Lethra appears the most ancient 
and the most powerful. 41 These petty kings were 
styled Fylki Kongr, people, or provincial kings. 42 
Ambition, before the eighth century, had diminished 
the number of the rival thrones. Two monopolised 
Jutland; Fionia, Seeland, and Scania had each an- 
other. 43 This number also lessened ; and at the period 
of their first aggression on England, the Danish 
royalty was confined to a king in Jutland, and one 
over the isles. Soon afterwards one monarcha com- 
manded the whole. Gormo Grandaevus, who lived in 
the end of the ninth century, is stated to have de- 
stroyed the other reguli. 44 

In speaking of kings and kingdoms, we use words 
of swelling sound, and magnificent import. Splen- 
dour, extensive dominion, pomp, power, and venerated 
dignity are the majestic images which arise in our 
minds when we hear of thrones. But we must dis- 
miss from our thoughts the fascinating appendages 
to modern royalty, when we contemplate the petty 
sovereigns of the North. Some of their kingdoms 
may have equalled an English county in extent, but 
many would have been rivalled by our hundreds. 

40 In Canute's time the proportionate importance of these provinces may be in- 
ferred from the war-ships they furnished to the king. Heida bay, containing 350 
kyrckna, or parishes, provided 130 ships. Ripen, 324 parishes, 110 or 120 ships. 
Arhusen, 210 parishes, 90 ships. Wiburg, 250 parishes, 100 ships. Hording, 160 
parishes, 50 ships. Fionia, 300 parishes, 100 ships. Zealand, 309 churches, 120 
ships. Scania, 353 churches, 150 ships. Worm. p. 34, 35. 

41 Snorre generally calls the Danish kings, kings of Hleidra, as p. 9. 17. 41. 43, 
&c. Stephanius says, ab hac Lethra Danise reges in antiquissimis monumentis 
semper nominantur Kongar aff Ledru, p. 74. 

42 Stephan. p. 103. Verelius informs us, that fylking is an embodied army, fylke 
a province furnishing afylking, and fylke king its sovereign. In Got. et Rol. p. 27. 

43 Anon. Roskild. Chron. Langb. i. 374. To the same purpose Stephanius, 
p. 103. 

44 Torfaeus Hist Norv. i. p. 410. Snorre intimates as much. Harald's Saga, 
c. 3. p. 78. 


BOOK Seated in their rural halls, with a small band of fol- 


_.. / lowers scattered about, these northern fylki kings 
were often victims to pirates who assailed them. 
They had neither castles, cities, nor defensive fortifi- 
cations. 45 Even the Thiod-Kongr, the preponderant 
ruler, sometimes fell before one of his inferiors whom 
plunder had enriched. 46 

The more settled kings of Denmark became known 
more distinctly to us in the time of Charlemagne. 
During his life, Godfrid reigned in Jutland, who had 
subdued the Frisians, and also the Obotriti and a 
part of the Slavi. He threatened Charlemagne with 
war. He was succeeded by Hemming, his cousin, 
who made peace with the Frankish monarch, and the 
Eyder was established as their common boundary. 
On Hemming's death, the Danish sovereignty was 
contested between Sigefrid and Ring, in whose war- 
fare 11,000 men, with both the competitors, perished. 

45 We have a remarkable instance of this in Birca, the port and chief commer- 
cial emporium of Sweden. Rembert, who lived about 865, states this Birca to have 
been so defenceless, that on the approach of the Danes, the people fled from it to a 
neighbouring civitatem. This civitas was also non multum firma. They offered 
1 20 pounds of silver to save Birca. Ansch. vita, p. 460. Langb. i. 

46 Verelius in Hervarar Saga, 142. 



The Sea-Kings and Vikingr of the North. 

WHEN we review these kings and sub-kings of the CHAP. 
North, we behold only a part of its political situation. . IL 
There were also sovereigns who possessed neither The sea- 
country nor regular subjects, and yet filled the 
regions adjacent with blood and misery. The sea- 
kings of the North were a race of beings whom 
Europe beheld with horror. Without a yard of ter- 
ritorial property, without any towns, or visible 
nation 1 , with no wealth but their ships, no force but 
their crews, and no hope but from their swords, the 
sea-kings swarmed on the boisterous ocean, and 
plundered in every district they could approach. 
Never to sleep under a smoky roof, nor to indulge in 
the cheerful cup over a hearth 2 , were the boasts of 
these watery sovereigns, who not only flourished in 
the plunder of the sea and its shores, but who some- 
times amassed so much booty, and enlisted so many 
followers, as to be able to assault provinces for per- 
manent conquest. Thus Haki and Hagbard were 
sea-kings ; their reputation induced many bands of 
rovers to join their fortunes. They attacked the 
king of Upsal, whom Haki defeated and succeeded. 3 
Some years afterwards, the sons of Yngvi, who had 
become sea-kings, and lived wholly in their war-ships, 

1 Multi enim reges hinc fuere maritimi (SaD-konungar) qui maximis quidem 
copiis sed nulli prseerant regioni. Snorre, Yngl. Saga, c. 34. p. 43. Multi insuper 
qui nee ditiones riec subditos habebant sed piratica tan turn et latrociniis opes quae- 
rebant, Wiik-kungar et Naak-kungar, i. e. reges maritimi dicebantur. Verelius, 
Hist. Suio-Gott. p. 6. 

2 Snorre, p. 43. 3 Snorre, Yngling. c. 25. p. 30, 31. 


BOOK roamed the ocean in search of adventures. They en- 
< ^ countered the king of Haley-ia, and hanged him. 
They also assaulted Haki, and overpowered him. 4 
Solvi was a sea-king, and infested the eastern regions 
of the Baltic with his depredations. He suddenly 
landed in Sweden in the night, surrounded the house 
where the king of Upsal was sleeping, and, applying 
firebrands, reduced all who were in it to ashes. 5 
Such was the generous warfare of these royal pirates. 
It is declared to have been a law or custom in the 
North, that one of the male children should be 
selected to remain at home, to inherit the govern- 
ment. The rest were exiled to the ocean, to wield 
their sceptres amid the turbulent waters. 6 The con- 
sent of the northern societies entitled all men of 
royal descent, who assumed piracy as a profession, 
to enjoy the name of kings, though they possessed 
no territory. 7 Hence the sea-kings were the kins- 
men of the land-sovereigns. While the eldest son 
ascended the paternal throne, the rest of the family 
hastened, like petty Nepturies, to establish their 
kingdoms in the waves 8 ; and, if any of the fylki- 
kongr, or thiod-kongr, were expelled their inherit- 
ance by others, they also sought a continuance of 
their dignity upon the ocean. 9 When the younger 
branches of a reigning dynasty were about to become 
sea-kings, the ships and their requisite equipments 

4 Snorre, p. 31, 32. The practice of hanging the chief they overpowered, seems 
to have furnished their scalds with some gloomy wit. One of them calls the tree 
from which the king was suspended, the horse of Sigar. Ibid. 31. 

5 Snorre, p. 43. 

6 Maessenius Scond. i. p. 4. ; and see Wallingford, 533. 

7 Olaf Trygg. Saga ap. Bartholin. Antiq. Dan. 446. Snorre has given a par- 
ticular instance of this. Saga af Olafl, Hinom. Helga, c. 4. Wormius recognises 
the same custom. Mon. Dan. 269. 

8 See Verelius, Hist. Suio-G. p. 6. Pontanus, Hist. Dan. p. 87. Stephanius in 
Sax. p. 152. Thus, a grandson of the famous Ragnar Lodbrog was a sea-king, 
while his brother succeeded to the crown of Sweden. Filii Biornis jamsidae fuere 
Eirikus et Refillus. hie erat Herkongr oc Saekongr. Hervarar Saga, 225. 

9 Thus Gudrum : ab eo regno pulsus piratico more vixit, Langb. i. 480. Thus 
also Biorn, ii. 1.10. 89. 


were furnished as a patrimonial right, and perhaps as CHAP. 
a political convenience. - / . 

When we recollect the numerous potentates of 
Scandinavia, and their general fecundity, we may 
expect that the ocean swarmed with sea-kings. Such 
was their number, that one Danish sovereign is 
mentioned by Saxo to have destroyed seventy of the 
honourable but direful race. 10 Their rank and 
successes always secured to them abundant crews, 
and the mischief they perpetrated must have been 
immense. 11 These sea-kings were also called Her- 

The sea-kings had the name of honour, but they 
were only a portion of those pirates, or vikingr, who 
in the ninth century were covering the ocean. Not 
only the children of the kings, but every man of 
importance, equipped ships, and roamed the seas to 
acquire property by force. 12 At the age of twelve, 
the sons of the great were in action under military 
tutors. 13 Piracy was not only the most honourable 
occupation, and the best harvest of wealth, it was 
not only consecrated to public emulation by the 
illustrious who pursued it 14 , but no one was esteemed 

10 Saxo Gram. lib. vii. p. 142. 

11 Snorre has recorded the sufferings of Sweden in his Ynglinga Saga ; and the 
famous inscription on the lapis Tirstedensis, given by Wormius, Monum. 267., and 
commented on by Bartholin, 438., records the memory of Frotho, a vikingr 
terrible to the Swedes, 443. The ancient Sveno Aggonis mentions the extensive 
depredations of Helghi, a rex maris,' Hist. Dan. Langb. i. 44. And the Norna- 
gesti Historia in one instance exhibits a volume of such incidents. " Hi regulos 
permultos subjugaverant, pugnatores fortissimos interfecerant, urbesque incendio 
deleverant ac in Hispania et Gallia immensam stragem ediderant," Ap, Torfajus, 
Series Reg. Dan. 384. 

12 Snorre, Saga, Olafi Ilelga, c. 192. p. 315. 

13 Snorre furnishes us with a fact of this kind : " quo tempore primum navem 
bellicam adscendit Olafus Haraldi films xn annos natus erat." His mother ap- 
pointed Ranius, who had been his foster-father, and had been often in warlike ex- 
peditions, the commander of the forces, atque Olafi curatorem. Saga, af Olafi Helga, 
c. 2. p. 3. 

14 The northern writers attest the glory which accompanied piracy. See Bar- 
tholin, 437. Verelius in Hervarar Saga, 47. Wormius, Mon. Dan. 269. Bar- 
tholin quotes the Vatzdaela, which says, Mos erat magnorum virorum regum vel 
comitum, scqualium nostrorum, ut piraticae incumberent, opes ac gloriam sibi ac- 
quircntes, p. 438. 

VOL. I. C C 


BOOK noble, no one was respected, who did not return in 
. the winter to his home with ships laden with booty. 10 
The spoil consisted of every necessary of life, clothes, 
domestic utensils, cattle, which they killed and pre- 
pared on the shores they ravaged, slaves, and other 
property. 16 It is not surprising that, while this spirit 
prevailed, every country abounded in deserts. 

So reputable was the pursuit, that parents were 
even anxious to compel their children into the danger- 
ous and malevolent occupation. It is asserted in an 
Icelandic Saga, that parents would not suffer the 
wealth they had gained by it to be inherited by their 
offspring. It is mentioned to have been their prac- 
tice to command their gold, silver, and other property 
to be buried with them, that their offspring might be 
driven by necessity to engage in the conflicts, and 
to participate the glory of maritime piracy. 17 In- 
herited property was despised. That affluence only 
was esteemed which danger had endeared. 18 It was 
therefore well said of the Northmen by one of their 
contemporaries, that they sought their food by their 
sails, and inhabited the seas. 19 

Even the regular land-kings addicted themselves 
to piracy. 20 It was the general amusement of their 
summer months : hence almost every king commemo- 
rated by Snorre is displayed as assaulting other 
provinces, or as suffering invasions in his own. 21 
With strange infatuation, the population of the day 

15 Stephanius in Sax. p. 69. 

16 Thus Eystein, king of Upsal, pirated in Vaurnia, praedas ibi agit vestes, alias- 
que res pretiosas nee non colonorum utensilia rapiens, pecoraque in litore mactans, 
quo facto domum reversi sunt. Snorre, Yngling. Saga, c. 51. p. 58. So Adils 
plundered in Saxland, and got many captives. Ibid. c. 32. p. 40. 

17 Vatzdaela ap. Earth. 438. * Ibid. 

19 Nigellus, who lived about 826, has left a poem on the baptism of Harald, in 
which he says, 

" Ipse quidem populus late pernotus habetur, 
Lintre dapes quaerit, incolitatque mare." Langb. i. 400. 

20 Verel. in Got. et Rol. p. 75. 

21 Yngl. c. 26. pp. 31, 32. 40. Hence Snorre marks the autumn as the season, 
of their return. 


welcomed the successful vikingr with the loudest CHAP. 
acclamations ; although, from the prevalence of the . 
practice, domestic misery became the general lot. 
The victors of one day were the victims in the next ; 
and he who was consigning without pity the women 
and children of other families to the grave or to 
famine, must have often found on his return but the 
ashes of his paternal habitation, and the corpses of 
those he loved. 

The name by which the pirates were at first dis- 
tinguished was Yikingr, which perhaps originally 
meant kings of the bays. 22 It was in bays that they 
ambushed, to dart upon the passing voyager. The 
recesses of the shores afforded them a station of 
safety as to the perils of the ocean, and of advantage 
as to their pursuit. Our bolder navigation, which 
selects in preference the middle of the ocean, was 
then unusual. The ancient merchants coasted 
wherever they could, and therefore naturally fre- 
quented bays in the progress of their voyage. In 
hopes of prey, the bays were also full of pirates, 
ever ready to dart upon their object. 23 

These fierce Jbands of robbers appear to have been 
kept in amity with each other by studied equality. 
It was a law, that the drinking-vessel should pass 
round the whole crew, as they sat, with undistin- 
guished regularity. 24 Their method of fighting was 
the offspring of their fearless courage; they lashed 
their ships together, and from the prows rushed to 
mutual battle. 25 

22 Wormius says, viig means a bay. Mon. Dan. 269. ; and Bartholin favours 
the derivation, 446.. 

23 Wormius, 269. And see the Dissertation annexed to the Gunnlaugi Saga, 

84 Snorre, Yngl. Saga, c. 41. p. 50. This custom is stated to have prevailed 
among the predatory Britons ; " circa medium cerevisiae ordinatim in modum cir- 
culi, illud circumdando discubuerunt." Vita Cadoci, MSS. Cotton Library, Vesp. 
A. 14. 

25 Snorre, Harald's Saga, c. 11. p. 85. 

cc 2 


BOOK The ferocity and useless cruelty of this race of 
. *y* , beings almost transcend belief. The piracy of the 
vikingr, who were also called hernadi 26 , was an ex- 
hibition of every species of barbarity. Besides the 
savage food of raw flesh and blood 27 , which, how- 
ever, the Greenlanders of our times are stated to 
have used, as also the Abyssinians 28 , to tear the 
infant from the mother's breast, and to toss it on their 
lances from one to another 29 , is stated in several 
books to have been the custom of many of these 
pirates, from which, though at a late period, their 
civilising chiefs at last alienated them. It was a 
consistency of character in such men to despise tears 
and mourning so much, that they would never weep 
for their deceased relations. 30 

One branch of the vikingr is said to have culti- 
vated paroxysms of brutal insanity, and they who 
experienced them were revered. These were the 
berserkir 31 , whom many authors describe. These 

26 These words were at first promiscuously used. The Brandkvossa thetti, and 
the Svarfdalensium historia, cited by the editors of the Gunnlaugi Saga, p. 305., 
evince that they had some difference of meaning, but I do not think we understand 
the distinction. They who are curious may read the dissertation above quoted, 
p. 305. 

27 See the Saga Gothrici et Rolfi, and also the Helgaquida of Ssemund, in Bar- 
thol. 455. One of the laws of Hialmar mentioned in the Orvar Oddz Sagu, was, 
ne crudam carnem comederent. Ibid. 

28 That the Greenlanders eat raw flesh, and drink the rein-deer's hot blood, see 
Crantz, ii. 28. And as to Abyssinia, see Bruce's Life, p. 107. 2d edition. 

29 This is stated by the English annalists, as Osborn, in his life of Elphegus, 
Langb. ii. p. 444. Matt. Westm. p. 388., and Henry of Huntingdon, lib. v. p. 347. 
After citing these, Bartholin records from the Landnama the name of the man who 
abolished the horrid custom. The Landnama says, " Olverus Barnakall Celebris 
incola Norvegiae, validus fuit pirata, ille infantes ab unius hasta? mucrone in aliam 
projici, passus non est, quod piratus tune familiare erat ; ideoque Barnakall (infan- 
tum prsesidlum vel multos habens infantes) cognominatus est." Bartholin, p. 457. 

30 Adam Brem. states this fact of the Danes, p. 64. 

31 The berserkir were at first honoured. The Hervarar Saga applies the name 
to the sons of Arngrim as a matter of reputation. Omnes magni berserkir fuere, 
p 15. Snorre, in mentioning one who fought with Harald Harfragre, calls him a 
berserkir mikill, a mighty berserkir. Harald's Saga, c. 19. p. 94. The scalld 
Hornklofi says, fremuere berserki bellum eis erat circa praecordia, p. 95. In an* 
other place, Snorre says, Haralld filled his ship with his attendants and bersevkir ; 
he says the station of the berserkir was near the prow, ibid. p. 82. ; he mentions 
them also, 69. It was in allusion to their ferocity, that the Harbarz lioth of Sa> 
mund applies the name berserkir to signify giants. Edda Sa>mundar, p. 107. 


men, when a conflict impended, or a great under- CHAP. 
taking was to be commenced, abandoned all ration- ^ 

ality upon system ; they studied to resemble wolves 
or maddening dogs ; they bit their shields ; they 
howled like tremendous beasts 32 ; they threw off 
covering ; they excited themselves to a strength 
which has been compared to that of bears, and then 
rushed to every crime and horror which the most 
frantic enthusiasm could perpetrate. 33 This fury 
was an artifice of battle, like the Indian war-whoop. 
Its object was to intimidate the enemy. It is attested 
that the unnatural excitation was, as might be ex- 
pected, always followed by a complete debility. 34 It 
was originally practised by Odin. 35 They who used 
it often joined in companies. 36 The furor Berserki- 
cus, as mind and morals improved, was at length 
felt to be horrible. It changed from a distinction to 
a reproach 37 , and was prohibited by penal laws. 38 
The name at last became execrable. 

When we consider the calamities, which the course 
of nature every where mixes with the happiness of 
man, we should, from theory, expect a general union 
of sentiment and wisdom to mitigate the evils which 
none can avoid. Experience however shows our 
species to have been engaged at all times in exas- 
perating every natural affliction, by the addition of 

32 Hervar. Saga, p. 35. Saxo describes the berserk ir fury minutely twice in his 
seventh book, p. 123, 124. Torfseus also, in Hrolfli kraka, p. 49., mentions them. 

33 Annotatio de Berserkir added to Kristni Saga, p. 142. See the Eyrbyggia 
Saga, ibid. p. 143. So the Egills Saga ap. Bartholin, p. 346. 

84 Hervarar Saga, p. 27. So the Egills Saga ap. Bartholin, p. 346. 

35 Snorre, Ynglinga, c. vi. p. 11. In the Havamal of Saemund, Odin boasts of 
it as a magical trick. See the ode in Barthol. 347. 

36 So they appear in the Hervarar Saga. 

37 Thus the Vatzdsela. Thorus furore Berserkico nonnunquam corripiebatur, 
quod in tali viro probrum ducebatur, neque enim illud ipsi gloriosum erat. Bar- 
thol. 345. This man is made to say of himself, that it disgraced him, and he asks 
advice how to overcome it. Ibid. 346. 

38 The code of Icelandic law says, " furore berserkico si quis grassetur, relega- 
tione puniatur." Ann. Kristni Saga, p. 142. So the Grettis Saga mentions of 
Eric the earl of Norway, omnes Berserkos Norvegia exulare jussit, ibid. 142. 

cc 3 


BOOK those which human agency can create. Mankind 
appear from history to have been always attacking 
each other, without the provocation of personal in- 
jury. If civilisation, science, and Christianity have 
not allayed the spirit of political ambition, nor sub- 
dued the love of warlike glory, we cannot be surprised 
that the untaught Northmen delighted in the de- 
predations to which they were educated, from which 
they derived honour and fame, and by which they 
subsisted. Pity and benevolence are the children of 
our disciplined reason and augmented felicity. They 
are little known to our species in those ages, when 
general misery licenses and produces the most tyran- 
nical selfishness. Hence the berserkir, the vikingr, 
or the sea-king, felt no remorse at the sight of human 
wretchedness. Familiar with misery from their 
infancy, taught to value peaceful society but as a 
rich harvest easier to be pillaged, knowing no glory 
but from the destruction of their fellow- creatures, 
all their habits, all their feelings, all their reasonings 
were ferocious ; they sailed from country to country, 
to desolate its agriculture, and not merely to plunder, 
but to murder or enslave its inhabitants. Thus they 
landed in Gothia. The natives endeavoured to escape. 
The invaders pursued with the flame and sword. 39 
So in Sweden, part of the inhabitants they massacre, 
and part they make captive; but the fields were 
ravaged far and wide with fire. 40 The same miseries 
proclaimed their triumphs in Wendila. The flame 
and sword were unsparing assailants, and villages 
were converted into uninhabited deserts. 41 Thus at 
Paris they impaled 111 of their captives, crucified 
many others on houses and trees, and slew numbers 

39 Snorre, Tnglinga Saga, c. xxi. p. 24. 

40 Snorre, c. xxxi. p. 39. 41 Ibid. 


in the villages and fields. 42 In war they seemed to CHAP. 
have reckoned cruelty a circumstance of triumph ; * K ' .. 
for the sea-king and the vikingr even hung the chiefs 
of their own order on their defeat. 43 And yet from 
the descendants of these men some of the noblest 
people in Europe have originated. 

42 Du Chesne, Hist. Francorum Script, vol. ii. p. 655. The annals which he 
edited abound with such incidents. 

43 There are many instances of this in Snorre, pp. 31, 33. 44, &c. also in the 
Hervarar Saga, and others. 

C C 4 



Comparison between the Histories of SAXO-GRAMMATICUS and 
SNORRE. The first Aggression of the Northmen on the 
ANGLO-SAXONS. And the Rise, Actions, and Death of RAGNAR 

BOOK SUCH was the dismal state of society in the North. 
*y* . For a long time the miseries of this system were 
limited to the Baltic. After the colonisation of Eng- 
land had freed the Germanic and British ocean from 
Saxon piracy, Europe was blessed with almost three 
centuries of tranquillity. One Danish rover is stated 
to have wandered to the Maes 1 in the beginning of 
the sixth century ; but the enterprise was unfortu- 
nate. Other Danes are mentioned as acting with 
the Saxons against the Francs. But after this cen- 
tury 2 we hear no more of Danes for above two 
hundred years. 

But some of the historians of the North pretend 
that the Danes visited England and Europe in a 
much earlier period. Are these entitled to our be- 

Saxo-Grammaticus, who died 1204 3 , has left us a 
history which has delighted both taste and learning 4 , 

1 Gregory of Tours, who lived in 573, the oldest author extant who mentions 
the Danes, narrates this expedition, lib. iii. c. 3. p. 53. Corpus Franc. Hist. ed. 
Hanov. 1613. 

2 Venantius Fortunatus, who lived 565, mentions them as defeated by the kings 
of the Francs, lib. viii. c. 1. p. 822. and in his lines to the Dux Lupus (lib. vi.) he 
implies that the Danes and Saxons had invaded the country near Bordeaux. This 
was probably some ebullition of the Anglo-Saxon expeditions against Britain. 

8 Stephan. Prolog, p. 22. 

4 Erasmus has honoured Saxo with a panegyric which every historian must 
covet ; " qui suse gentis historiam splendide magnificeque contexuit. Probo vivi- 
dum et ardens ingenium, orationem nusquam remissam aut dormitantem ; tarn 
miram verborum copiam, sententias crebras, et figurarum admirabilem varietatem, 
ut satis admirari nequeam, unde ilia setate, homini Dano, tanta vis eloquendi sup- 


by its elegance and vigour; and which, considering CHAP. 
his age and country, is surprising for its power of . 

composition. He conducts the Danes into Britain 
long before the Christian era. According to his 
narration, Frotho the first, his ninth king of Den- 
mark 5 , Amleth, whose memory our Shakspeare has 
preserved 6 , Fridlevus, the twenty-third king of Saxo 7 , 
and Frotho, the next sovereign 8 , fought, and with 
one exception obtained splendid yictories in Britain, 
previous to the appearance of the Christian legislator. 
Twelve reigns afterwards, he states that Harald 
Hyldetand invaded England, and conquered the king 
of Northurnbria. 9 

Some documents for his history Saxo may have 
derived from poems of the ancient scallds, from in- 
scriptions on stones and rocks, from an inspection 
(yet how imperfect!) of the Icelandic authors, and 
from the narrations of his friend. 10 "We may even 
grant to him, that such men as he enumerates, such 
actions as he so eloquently describes, and such poems 
as he so diffusely translates 11 , once appeared; but the 
chronology and succession into which he arranges 
them are unquestionably false. The boasted foun- 

petiverit." Dial. Ciceron. ap. Stephan. p. 33. And yet a more correct taste would 
suggest that his work is rather an oration than a history. Though some parts are 
happy, it is in general either tumid and exaggerated, or the specific fact is darkened 
or lost in declamatory generalities. It wants that exact taste for truth, as well as 
for patient comparison of antiquarian documents, which the history of such a 
period peculiarly required. 

5 Hist. Dan. lib. ii. p. 25. 

6 Ibid. lib. iii. p. 56, 57. The speech of Amleth to the people, after destroy- 
ing Fengo, is an exertion of eloquence very creditable to the genius of Saxo, p. 54, 

7 Ibid. 67. 

8 Ibid. 95. Saxo places the birth of Christ immediately after. Ibid. 

9 Ibid. 137. 

10 Saxo mentions these authorities in his preface, p. 2. ; and the curious will be 
pleased to read Stephanius's notes upon it. 

11 We have a striking proof how much Saxo has amplified the barren songs of 
the scallds, and therefore how little to be relied on for precision, in his poetical and 
elegant dialogue between Hialto and his friend Biarco, whom he roused to the de- 
fence of his endangered king. Forgetful of the emergency, Saxo prolongs it to six 
folio pages. Stephanius has cited part of the concise and energetic original, p. 82., 
which discovers the historian's exuberance. 


BOOK tains of the history of the ancient Scandinavians 12 , 
i ,J > their memorial stones, and funeral runae 13 , the in- 
scribed rings of their shields, the woven figures of 
their tapestry, their storied walls, their lettered seats 
and beds, their narrative wood, their recollected 
poetry, and their inherited traditions, may have given 
to history the names of many warriors, and have 
transmitted to posterity the fame of many battles ; 
but no dates accompanied the memorials; even the 
geography of the incidents was very rarely noted. 
Hence, however numerous may have been the pre- 
served memoranda, their arrangement and appropria- 
tion were left to the mercy of literary fancy or of 
national conceit. 

Saxo unfortunately emulated the fame of Livy, in- 
stead of becoming the Pausanias of Scandinavia ; and 
instead of patiently compiling and recording his ma- 
terials in the humble style or form in which he found 
them, which would have been an invaluable present 
to us, has shaped them into a most confused, unwar- 
ranted, and fabulous chronology. The whole of his 
first eight books, all his history anteceding Ragnar 
Lodbrog, can as little claim the attention of the his- 
torian, as the British history of Jeifry, or the Swedish 
history of Johannes Magnus. Tt is indeed superfluous, 
if we recollect the Roman history, to argue against a 
work which pretends to give to Denmark a throned 
existence, a regular government, and a tissue of or- 
derly and splendid history for twenty-four royal ac- 
cessions before the birth of Christ. Saxo, on whose 
history many others were formerly built, refers to 
the Icelandic writers u ; but this only increases our 

12 Torfams mentions these in the prolegomena to his History of Norway, and in 
his Series Regum Dan. 50 53. They are also remarked by Bartholin, lib. i. c. 9. 

13 Wormius has given us the inscriptions found in Denmark in his Monumenta 
Danica ; and Peringskiold copies many out of Sweden in his Monumenta Ullera- 
karensia, 321 349., and in his Monumentum Sveo-Goth. 177 306. See also 
Verelius's Manuductio, and others. 

14 Though he applauds them in his preface, and even says, " quorum thesauros 


depreciation of his narratives, for they are at irrecon- CHAP. 
cilable variance with all his history before the ninth . ^ , 
century. 15 

The Icelandic writers, Torfaeus, their able cham- 
pion, divides into four kinds : the allegorical, the 
fabulous, the mixed, and the authentic. 1G 

Of the authentic, the only one extant who attempts 
a history much earlier 17 than the times of Harald 
Harfragre, is Snorre, the son of Sturla, who has given 
us as faithful a compilation of northern history as his 
means and age permitted. Beginning with Odin, the 
common ancestor of the Scandinavian, Danish, and 
Saxon nations, as Hercules was of the Grecian royal 
dynasties, he first gives the history of the Yriglingi 
kings at Upsal, and the life of Halfdan Svarte, the 
father of Harald. He then continues the history of 
Norway to his own time. 

Snorre incidentally mentions the Danish kings of 
Lethra 18 , and he clashes irreconcilably with Saxo, 
always in the chronology and successions, and some- 
times in the incidents. 19 As far as the internal cha- 
racters of authenticity can decide the competition 
between him and Saxo, he has every superiority, and 
no rational antiquary will now dispute it. His nar- 

historicarum rerum pignoribus refertos curiosius consulens, baud parvam prsesentis 
operis partem ex eorum relationis imitations contexui ; nee arbitros habere con- 
tempsi, quos tanta vettistatis peritia callere cognovi ; " notwithstanding this, it may 
be fairly doubted if he knew much of them. 

15 Torfseus says justly of Saxo, that he has placed some kings before Christ, who 
flourished long after him ; that he has made other kings of Denmark, who belonged 
to other regions, and has raised some to the supreme throne of Denmark, who were 
but tributary reguli. Series Regum Dan. p. 219. 

16 See his discriminated catalogue of the Icelandic writings in his Series Regum 
Dan. p. 3 12. 

17 There are Icelandic writers extant more ancient than Snorre, as Ara Frode, 
born 1068; his contemporary, Semund, the author of the ancient Edda ; Eiric, 
who about 1161 wrote on the sons of Harald Gillius; Charles, an abbot, in 1169, 
whose history of king Swerrer remains ; and Oddus, author of the Saga of Olave 
Tryggvason ; but these are on later subjects. Torfaeus, Prolegomena Hist. Norv. 

18 Pp. 24. 34. 37. 39. 41. 43. 54. 69, 70. 77. 

19 To give only one instance ; Saxo places Helghi and his son Rolf Krake eleven 
reigns before Christ. Snorre says, Rolf fell in the reign of Eystein, p. 43., the 
third king before Ingialld, who lived iu the seventh century of the Christian era. 


BOOK ratives, though sprinkled with a few fables 20 , are 
very short, consistent, and unadorned ; they display 
the genuine costume of the time : the quotations 
from the scallds are given literally, no chronology is 
marked, and his arrangement does not carry up his 
actors to any extravagant antiquity. 21 It is in his 
work, if in any of the northern ancient documents, 
we shall find some true information of the earliest 
attacks of the Northmen on Britain. 

The first king whom Snorre mentions to have had 
dominion in England, is Ivar Vidfadme, a king of 
Scania, who conquered Upsal. His words, are, u Ivar 
Vidfadme subjected to him all Sweden, all Denmark, 
great part of Saxony, all Austurrikia, and the fifth 
part of England. " 22 But no English chronicler notices 
such a person or such an event. Our ancient annalists 
expressly mark the year 787 as the date of the first 
aggressions of the Northmen on England 23 , which is 
subsequent to the reign of Ivar. If, therefore, he 
conquered or plundered any where in Britain, it 
must have been in Scotland, of whose early history 

20 As in pp. 9, 10. 24. and 34. 

21 He gives thirty-two reigns between Odin and Ilarald Harfragre. Almost all 
the kings perished violently ; therefore the average of their reigns cannot exceed 
twenty years. This computation would place Odin about 220 years after Christ. 
Nothing can show more strongly what little support the songs of the scallds can 
give to the remote periods of northern antiquity, than the fact that the scalld 
Thiodolfr, on whom Snorre bases his history before Ilarald Harfragre, and whom 
he therefore quotes twenty-six times, lived in the days of Harald, or about the year 
900. We find him, p. 115., singing in the last days of Harald, who died 936. 
Excepting Brage Gamle, who is once quoted on Odin, p. 9., and Eywindr, who lived 
after Thiodolfr. and who is adduced twice, p. 13. 31., no other scalld is referred to. 
The poems of the scallds may be good authority for incidents near their own times, 
but can be only deemed mere popular traditions as to the earlier history of a bar- 
barous people. Snorre's other authorities are genealogies and individual narratives. 
See his preface. But the Icelandic genealogies are often contradictory. Their 
most veracious writers are rather the faithful recorders of traditions, usually true 
in substance, but as usually inaccurate, than the selecting or critical compilers of 
authentic history. 

22 Snorre Yngl. Saga, c. xlv. p. 54. This part of England the Hcrverar Saga 
marks to be Northumbria ; and gives the same dominion to his grandson Haralld 
Hyldetand, c. xix. p. 223. 

23 Sax. Chron. 64. ; Fl. Wig. 280. ; Ethelw. 839. ; Malmsb. 16.; Hunt. 343.; 
Matt. West. 282., and several others. The annals of Ulster do not mention their 
attacks on Ireland earlier ; but from this period incessantly. 


we have no correct information 24 , and whose coasts CHAP. 
were most likely to be the first attacked. > 

But from the state and habits of the natives of 
Scandinavia and the Baltic, which have been de- 
scribed, we might have expected the result to have 
been, that this mutual destruction and desolation 
would in time have consumed themselves, and un- 
peopled the north. Europe had then no reason to 
apprehend any mischief from such men, because 
Charlemagne had just raised a formidable Frankish 
empire ; Egbert had consolidated the Anglo-Saxon 
power, and it was the interest of the new monarchies 
that were absorbing their own little sovereignties to 
extinguish such a restless race. But such are the 
unexpected directions which the course of human 
agency frequently takes, that at this very period 
those dreadful hurricanes of war and desolation began 
to arise in the north, which afflicted all the maritime 
regions of Europe with a succession of calamities for 
above a century. As it exhibits a curious picture of 
human nature in its more savage energies, and is 
immediately connected with the romantic, and yet 
authentic, history of one man, whose transactions 
have not before been introduced into our annals, 
Kagnar Lodbrog, it is important to take an enlarged 
but calm review of the causes that produced this 
direction, and gave such an effect to his peculiar 
position and singular propensities. 

In every country whose inhabitants have passed from 
their nomadic or wandering condition into a settled 


state, the cultivated lands become gradually the pro- 

24 The northern literati place Ivar at the end of the sixth century. If this were 
just chronology, he might have been one of the adventurers that came among the 
Angles into North umbria or Mercia. 

As the Angles and Jutes came from the Danish provinces of Sleswick and Jut- 
land, their ancient memorials might have, not unfairly, pretended to conquests in 
Britain. But from a critical comparison of some of the most authentic of the 
ancient Icelandic authorities, I am satisfied that Ivar Vidfadme has been placed 
above a century too early. 


BOOK perty of a portion only of the community. Their 
- first occupiers or partitioners transmit them to their 
descendants ; while the rest of society, as it mul- 
tiplies, must, until commerce and the arts open new 
sources of employment and acquisitions, either serve 
the proprietary body as vassals and retainers, more 
or less dignified by office, title, or birth; or as la- 
bourers more or less servile ; or they must float 
loosely in life without an adequate provision for their 
desires or necessities. This unprovided class soon 
arises as population increases, and augments with its 
increase. When the subdivisions of trade and ma- 
nufactures occur, large portions of the unprovided 
are absorbed by them ; but still many remain, in 
every age and country, from the rudest to the most 
civilised, who form a body of men disposed to be 
restless, migratory, enterprising, and ready for every 
new adventure, or impression, which the flowing ac- 
cidents of time, or the rise of bold and active original 
characters can present to them. This class pursues 
the progress of society in all its stages, feeds or occa- 
sions all its wars, seditions, colonies, and migrations, 
and has repeatedly shaken the happiness of the more 
civilised nations. 

It seems not to be the want of actual food on the 
earth which creates this unprovided body ; for there 
is not sufficient evidence that nature has, in any 
period, produced less food than the existing popula- 
tion needed. The more population tends to press 
upon the quantity of subsistence in any country, the 
more it also tends to increase it. As the pressure 
begins, the activity and ingenuity of mankind are 
roused to provide for it. The powers of nature have 
hitherto answered to their call, and rewarded their 
exertions with the requisite supply. Hence increased 
productibility has always accompanied increased po- 
pulation, and still attends it : nor have we yet 


approached, nor probably shall we ever reach the CHAP. 
period when the fertility of the earth and the in- ^ 

genuity of man shall fail to be equal to the subsist- 
ence that is needed. New means have always hitherto 
unfolded to meet new exigencies. In the case of the 
Northmen, it is remarkable, that although every act 
of plunder was also an act of ravage, and more of the 
necessaries and conveniences of life were destroyed 
by their depredations than were either carried off or 
consumed; yet the numbers of both the plunderers 
and plundered increased till they formed well-peopled 
and prosperous communities., 

This unprovided class arises from the impossibility 
of having any system of property without it. These 
systems have increased population, civilisation, ge- 
neral prosperity, and individual comfort ; but they 
are always multiplying the number of those, who 
either form no part of the proprietary body, or whose 
individual portions are inferior to the demands of 
their habits, their passions, or their necessities. To 
equalise all property, would not destroy the evil, un- 
less wisdom and virtue could be made equally com- 
mon. Society at this moment presents us, in every 
part of Europe, with a large unprovided population. 
A similar class existed, though under different habits, 
in the ninth century, all round the Baltic and North 
Sea ; and it was from this body of men that the sea- 
kings and vikingr principally emerged. 

This unprovided population consisted and consists, 
not of the poor only, but also of many from the 
wealthier classes of every state. In every age, some 
portions of the families of all the rich and great have 
been as unable to continue the state and enjoyment 
of their relations, and of their own earlier days, as 
the meaner conditions of life to attain them. The 
one become the leaders of the other, and both alike 
desire adventures and employments, by which they 


BOOK can attain the property, the luxuries, or the distinc- 
. tions which they covet. 

In the fifth and sixth centuries, the Anglo-Saxons 
of this class poured themselves on Britain, and the 
numerous petty sovereignties in Norway, Sweden, 
and tjie Danish isles, seem to have arisen from the 
same source. Adventurers, seeking their fortune, 
appear to have landed from time to time on various 
parts of the uninhabited regions and islands of Scan- 
dinavia, with little bands of inferior companies ; and 
as their posterity multiplied, levelled the forests, 
drained the marshes, and cultivated the earth : then 
humble kingdoms, j arils, and nobility appeared. But 
the same result, in time, pursued them here which 
had driven them hither. All the lands they could 
subject to human culture became appropriated; claims 
of individual property became fastened on the parts 
which were left untilled ; and unprovided population 
increased in each, who had to look elsewhere for the 
rank and comforts which the rest inherited. 

At the close of the eighth and beginning of the 
ninth century, the unprovided population of the north 
was in full activity among their little kingdoms and 
jarlldoms in every part of the Baltic. The acquisi- 
tion of property by violence was their object, the sea 
their road to it, the sword their instrument, and all 
the settled habitations which they could reach, master, 
or surprise, were the theatres of their enterprise. 
The invention of the term sea-king satisfied the am- 
bition of their highest-born chieftains; and the spoil 
obtained by their depredations, and the energies 
necessary to be exerted to make the expeditions sue* 
cessful, gratified their associates. 

But the vicinity of their domestic homes for a long 
time circumscribed the sphere of their exertions. 
There is not sufficient evidence that they had ad- 
vanced beyond the Baltic, till that individual to whom 
we have already alluded, Ragnar Lodbrog, had been 


expelled by Harald from his insular kingdom ; and CHAP. 
becoming himself a sea-king, led his fleet of depreda- . m> . 
tors successively to Friesland, Flanders, the British 
islands, and to France. 

We do not know enough of the incidents of his 
youth to delineate the gradual formation of Ragnar's 
peculiar character ; but we can trace some of the 
circumstances that favoured the new habit which he 
either began or the most powerfully promoted. His 
father, Sigurd, was a Norwegian, who had married 
the Danish princess, daughter of the king of the chief 
Danish island. 25 His spirit of adventure had there- 
fore an encouraging example in his father's elevation. 
But that father had been opposed by the king of Jut- 
land in a battle in which nearly eleven thousand men 
and both the chieftains perished. 26 On this fatal 
result the contending partisans compromised their 
quarrel by raising the sons of their several leaders to 
their fathers' thrones. Ragnar was made king of the 
isles, and Harald of the Danish territory in Jutland. 
But this arrangement was too pacific to last long in 
such a turbulent age ; and the friends of Harald were 
found to be numerous enough to enable him to expel 
Ragnar from his sea-girt kingdom. This warrior, in 
all the pride and activity of his youth, was driven 
with all his followers to seek that provision and dis- 
tinction on the ocean, and by their swords, which they 
were not allowed to retain on their domestic territory. 

If Ragnar had been a common-minded man he 
would have been but a common plunderer, and have 
soon fallen in the usual violent deaths of battle or 
punishment which most pirates at last undergo. But 
Denmark was, from its contiguity to the Frankish 
kingdom and to the improving continental Saxons, 

25 So Snorre states. 

28 Ad. Brem. Alb. Stad. and Aimonius. 

VOL. I. D D 


BOOK the most civilised country of the barbaric north. Its 
^ i monarchy was also beginning to arise. Its small 
697> kingdoms having been subdued or absorbed into two, 
and these, from their increasing power and dignity, 
being more cultivated than formerly, Ragnar Lod- 
brog, before he became a sea-king, had obtained the 
greatest advantages of education which the Baltic at 
that time afforded. Son of an enterprising Norwegian 
and of a Danish princess, he thus united in himself all 
the improvements which Norway and Denmark could, 
then confer. His great natural talents thus assisted, 
he entered upon his new profession with a distinction 
which led to great exploits. The actual enjoyment 
of a previous kingdom fixed large objects of ambition 
in his mind ; gave him at his outset an impressive 
and dignified character, and connected him with more 
numerous and powerful friends and followers than 
any ordinary vikingr could influence or command. 
The insular nature of the territory over which he had 
reigned favoured his enterprises, and he soon became 
formidable enough to compel his land-rival to implore 
the succours of the Frankish empire. 

But this event became only another impulse to the 
new direction which Ragnar was insensibly giving to 
all the population about him. That the Franks should 
presume to interfere in behalf of his enemy, was an 
affront that fixed in his heart an indignant reso- 
lution to avenge himself on them. This vindictive 
feeling led him out of the Baltic to France itself; 
and though he could not dethrone his competitor at 
home, he had followers enough to penetrate to the 
walls of Paris, and to afflict France, in its then dis- 
tracted state, with the most calamitous depredations. 
The personal fame which he gained by these distant 
expeditions was an impressive appeal to the vanity 
and emulation of all the northern youth ; and his 


booty tempted the most selfish to join his fleets or to 
imitate his adventures. 

About the same period a king of Norway, Harald 
Harfagre, unintentionally contributed to give the 
unprovided population and ambitious youth of that 
country the same external direction and a new im- 
pulse to pursue it. He also began the system of sub- 
duing in Norway all its petty sovereignties, and of 
extirpating piracy within his dominions. Nothing 
then remained in Norway for those who had not 
lands or property, but to seek them elsewhere. Bands 
of adventurers now arose from hence, who were re- 
solved to obtain subsistence, plunder, fame, or settle- 
ment in other countries by their swords. And one 
of these, under the command of Hrolfr or Rollo, 
after harassing France with desolation, extorted from 
its sovereign the province of Normandy. 

From the operation of these circumstances as they 
successively occurred, distant expeditions for tem- 
porary plunder, vindictive retaliations, or military 
colonisation, became, from the end of the eighth cen- 
tury, the regular habits of the active population of 
the North. We have mentioned that in 787 the fierce 
visitors first appeared in England. By the year 800, 
they had begun to molest the Franks 27 ; and before 
the death of Charlemagne, w r hich occurred in 814, 
they had even reached the Mediterranean. 

He was at dinner in the city of Narbonne when 
their ships came in sight. By the construction of the 
vessels and the agility of their mariners, he knew 
they were not merchants. He rose from the table, 
and went to the eastern window of the mansion to 
contemplate them. His tears fell as he gazed : " I 
fear not," he exclaimed, " that they can injure rne ; 
but I weep that they should dare, in my life-time, to 

. 27 So the ancient Saxon Latin versifier states. Hist. Franc. Du Chesne, ii. p. 

D 2 


BOOK approach my coasts. I foresee the misery they will 
. / . bring on my descendants." 28 * 

To protect his empire from their assaults, he caused 
ships to be built against them on the rivers which, 
from Gaul and Germany, disembogue their waters 
into the Northern Ocean. 29 In every harbour, and 
at the mouth of every stream which it was possible 
for them to ascend, he established stations and gar- 
risons to protect the endangered country. Kept off 
by his active genius, they seldom molested the peace 
of his dominions. 

His son Louis attempted the policy of converting 
the North ; he invited all such vikingr as approached 
his coast to accept of the sacred baptism. As he was 
careful that the initiated should leave his court laden 
with presents, it is not surprising that they came in 
haste to be baptized. A surly exclamation of a con- 
verted chieftain ^revealed the sincerity of the new 
Christians and the utility of the project. At one 
paschal solemnity, the pretended penitents were so 
numerous, that white dresses could not be procured 
for all the pagans ; some linen of the clergy was cut 
up and sewed together, and a garment thus made 
was given to a northern leader. The son of Odin 
frowned with disdain. " This is the twentieth time 
that I have come to be washed, and I have hitherto 
always received the best white dresses ; this vile ap- 
parel is fit only for a herdsman ; if I can have noj 
better garment, I disclaim your Christianity." 30 

The civil wars of the children of Louis favoured 
the subsequent aggressions of the vikingr. 31 The 

28 The monk of St. Gall has transmitted to us this incident in his work, de Reb. 
Car. Magn. ii. p. 130. 

29 Eginhard, p. 8. Meyer, in his Annals of Flanders, mentions that the emperor 
stayed some time at Ghent, on account of the ships which he had ordered to be J 
built there against the Northmen. 

80 Sax. Gall. p. 134. 

31 See Chron. Fontanell. and the Ann. Bertinin. and Frag. Hist. Brit, in Bou- 
quet's Recueil, v. 7. 


Prankish princes sent an embassy, in 847, to the king CHAP. 
of the Northmen, to desire peace, and to announce 

their union. 32 But such an embassy was as useless 
as it would have been to have petitioned any single 
wind not to blow. Every habitable district was a 
nursery of pirates ; and to obtain the forbearance of 
one leader, was to ensure a rich harvest for the rest. 
This effect seems to have been experienced ; for in 
this same year we read of their attacks on Brittany, 
Aquitaine, and Bordeaux, as well as on Dorestadt 
and the Batavian island. In Aquitaine they ravaged 
successfully ; " because," says Ademar,. " the chiefs 
were destroying each other in their warfare, and be- 
cause the people had no fleet to protect their coasts." 
The list of districts which they afflicted is very co- 
pious. 33 They also attacked Spain near Cadiz, fought 
three battles with the Moors, and, when Abderrah- 
man provided a fleet to oppose them, they left the 
country, full of plunder. 34 

Of all the sea-kings and vikingr who roamed the 
ocean in the ninth century, the man whose life and 
death had the most disastrous effects on England was 
Eagnar Lodbrog, whose quida, or death-song, has been 
long venerated for its antiquity, and celebrated for its 
genius. 35 The learned of the North have usually 
quoted it as his own composition 36 , although one would 
ascribe it to his wife, who was also a famous scalld 

32 Miroi ap. Deplom. vol. i. p. 23. 

33 See Langb. i. 534. 34 Mariana. 

35 The most complete edition for the use of the English reader of the Lodbrokar 
Quida is that edited by Johnstone in 1782. But as his English translation is not 
a literal one, a more exact version is attempted of the passages quoted in the text. 
Mr. C. C. Rafn has, in 1826, published an elegant edition of it at Copenhagen, 
with a Danish and a French translation, with many notes and remarks; but has 
secluded them from general use out of Denmark, by expressing them in its ver- 
nacular language. He calls it " Krakas Mai : " or, the Song of Kraka. Some MSS. 
so entitle it. He suggests that although Ragnar and his companions may have 
sung the twenty-three first stanzas, Kraka, his queen and widow, may have added 
the six last. Skule Thorlacius wishes to take the composition of it from both 
Ragnar and Kraka ; and to give it to Bragi the son of Boddi. Antiq. Boreal, p. 70. 

36 As Wormius, Bartholin, Stephanius, and others. It was not uncommon in 
the North for their kings to celebrate their own actions* 

D D 3 


BOOK or poetess. 37 It is one of tbe most ancient pieces of 
. J y* . northern literature ; expresses exactly the manners 
of those times ; and, compared with the other his- 
tories and traditions that have been preserved con- 
cerning him, will be found to contain the most simple, 
probable, and consistent incidents. As his death, the 
approach of which it ends with intimating, was the 
cause of that disastrous invasion which shook Alfred 
from his throne, it merits the consideration of the 
English reader, in those parts which concern the 
British islands. 

Ragnar is not mentioned by name by the Saxon 
annalists ; because, while they commemorate the in-l 
vasions of the Northmen during his life, they seldom 
notice the commander. But the Frankish chronicles 
expressly mention him in that aggression in 845, in 
which he even penetrated as far up the Seine as* 
Paris. He began by ravaging the isles of the sea ;j 
thence proceeded to Rouen, and finding no effective '{ 
resistance, he left his ships, and his warriors spread 
over the country. Invited onward by the general 
consternation, they advanced to Paris on Easter-Eve. ' 
The next day they entered the city, and found it] 
deserted by its inhabitants. They destroyed the 
monastery of St. Germains, when a present from the 
king of seven thousand pounds induced them to 
desist from their ravages. 38 The attacks of his sonj 
Biorn, in 843, are also recorded. 39 His name ofj 
Lothbroe occurs in our chroniclers at his death ; but! 
they were ignorant of his true history, which is stated? 
in none of our old documents, except in the ancient! 
Anglo-Norman poem of Denis Pyramis. 40 His death,! 

37 So Torfseus intimates. 

38 Chron. Fontanel. ; Bouq. vii. p. 41.; Chron. Vezel. p. 271. ; Mirac, Racher. 
p. 361. ; and Aimonius, p. 350. Pet. Glaus, Langb. i. 109. See also Ann. Bertin. 
and Amra. Mirac, S. Germ. 

39 Frag. Hist. Brit. Bouq. vii. p. 46. The chronicles which mention Biorn's 
expeditions are very numerous. See Pontop. Gest. Dan. 

40 It is so extraordinary to find this in an Anglo-Norman rhymer's work, that I 


as justly stated in the Icelandic remains, happened CHAP. 
in Northumbria. In opposition to his wife Aslauga's . t ' > 
counsel he built two ships of a size which the North 
had never beheld before ; he filled them with soldiers, 
and sailed along the Scottish coast to England, which 
he selected to be the theatre of his exertions. 41 The 
triumphs of these royal pirates had been obtained by 
the celerity of their retreats, as well as the -vigour of 
their attacks. It was not their competency to over- 
come the force which any country could embody 
against them, that made them so successful; but 
their ability of attacking in their light ships before 
it could be collected, or of eluding it when too formid- 
able. These spacious ships tended to deprive Ragnar 
of this advantage and thereby produced his fate. 

Too large for the ignorant navigation of that period, 
these vessels were soon wrecked on the English shore. 
Thrown on the coast of enemies, without means of 
return, Ragnar had no choice but to dare his fortune, 
which his pride also counselled. He moved forward 
as soon as he got to the shore, to plunder and ravage, 
either disdaining to recollect that his small band 

quote the passage in the original, as it has never been observed or printed before. 
He is here called Lothbroc, and his three sons, Yngar, Hulbe, and Berin, for In- 
guar, Ubba, and Beorn. 

Oil Lothebroc e ses treis fiz 

Furent de tute gent haiz ; 

Kar uthlages furent en mer ; 

Unques ne fuierent de rober. 

Tuz jurs vesquirent de rapine ; 

Tere ne cuntree veisine 

N'est pres d'els ou il a larun, 

N'ensentfeit envasiun. 

De ceo furent si en rich ez, 

Amuntez et amanantez. 

Qu'il aveient grant annee 

De gent ; e mult grant assemble ; 

Qu'il aveient en lur companye 

Kant erronent oth lur navye. 

Destrut en aveient meint pais ; 

Meint po3ple destrut et occis : 

Nule contree lez la mer 

Ne se put d'els ja garden 

Den. Pyr. MSS. Domit. xi. p. 12. 
41 Langb. ii. 227. Torfaeus, Hist. Norv. 

D D 4 


BOOK would soon be confronted by superior strength, or 
. 1V ' . .hoping to deter any hostility by the boldness of his 

Ella, at that time, was king of Deira, and with 
the force of his kingdom marched against the fearless 
vikingr ; a fierce, though unequal conflict ensued. 
Ragnar, clothed in the garments which he had re- 
ceived from his beloved Aslauga at their parting, 
four times pierced the ranks of Ella, but his friends 
fell one by one around him, and he at last was taken 
prisoner alive. 

Ella obeyed the impulse of barbarian resentment, 
and doomed his illustrious prisoner to perish with 
lingering pain in a dungeon, stung by venomous 
snakes. 42 

The Quida celebrates the depredations of Ragnar 
on various countries, from the Baltic to England, and 
on Flanders. It presents to us a view of one of the 
dreadful states of society in which our species have 
lived. Every incident is triumphantly described with 
the imagery of death, and the revolting circumstances 
attending human slaughter are recollected with ex- 
ultation. Such were the people for whom the author 
composed this death-song, that, not content with 
equalling the pleasures of war to social festivity, and 
with remembering, without remorse, its destruction 
of youthful happiness 43 ; he even extols it as rivalling 

42 Langb. ii. 277. Saxo has been thought to place Ella in Ireland, but whoever 
reads the pages 176, 177. carefully, will see that he speaks of England. The Ice- 
landic authors unanimously station him in Northumbria. This fact ascertains the 
time of Ragnar's death ; for Ella usurped the Northumbrian crown in 862, and 
perished 867 ; therefore between these years Ragnar must have expired. The 
English chroniclers acknowledge that Lodbrog was killed in England ; but so im- 
perfectly was the Northumbrian history known to them, that for the true history 
of Ragnar's fate, they substitute two contradictory tales. See Matt. West. 314 
316. and Bromton, 802. 

43 " Delightful was the work at Sky, as when the damsels bring the wine." St. 
18. " Pleasant was it at Ila's Straits, as when the winebearing Nioruns hand the 
warm streams." 

" In the morning I saw struck down 
The fair-hair'd wooer of the maiden, 
And him whose converse was so sweet to the widow." St. 19. 


one of the sweetest hours of life ; " Was it not like CHAP. 
that hour when I seated my bright bride by me on . " L . 
the couch ? " 44 What must have been the character 
and the transactions of that nation, in which the 
conversation and sympathy of love were felt to be 
but as charming as a battle ! 

We may concede to the historical traditions of 
the North, and to the chroniclers of other nations, 
that Ragnar Lodbrog depredated with success on 
various parts of Europe, on the British islands, on 
Sweden, Norway, and the coasts round the Baltic. 45 
We may admit that he was one of those men whose 
lives become models to their contemporaries ; and 
that his activity and genius were fitted to give cele- 
brity to bloodshed, and dignity to plunder. " Fifty 
and one times," as his Quida asserts, " his messenger, 
the spear, may have announced the distant enter- 
prise." But it would be an extravagant aggrandise- 
ment of his fame, to attribute to him all the horrors, 
which Northern piracy poured upon Europe in the 
first part of the ninth century. It is indeed a 
coincidence with his life, that till he lived, few and 
rare were the aggressions of the sea-king and the 
vikingr, beyond the northern Hellespont. 46 But 
though he gave to the storm of depredation a new 
direction ; yet when he had once burst beyond the 
precincts of the Baltic ; when he had once crossed 
new oceans, and thrown the beam of glory round his 
course, we may believe that adventurers swarmed 
from every coast, eager to track his way. It is 
certain that after his life, new heroes appeared every 

44 Stanza 13, and see Stanza 24. 

45 We may refer to Saxo, 1. ix. p. 169. 177. with Stephanius's note; to the Ice- 
landic fragment, in Langb. ii. 270. 280.; to the Ragnar Saga; and to Torfams, 
in his Series Dan. and his Hist. Norveg. for the northern account of the particular 
transactions of Ragnar. Johannes Magnus, and Loccenius, also mention his history. 

46 The Baltic is called by some the Hellespont ; as by Hevelius, in the Dedic. to 
his Selenographia. The use of this word has, I think, sometimes misled Northern 
authors to carry some of their heroes towards the Euxine, and the Hellespont of 


year, and the seas were burdened with ever-succeed- 
ing fleets of such greedy and ruthless savages. 

It was the lot of Ragnar to have a numerous 
posterity 47 , and all his passions were infused into his 
children, whom he educated to be sea-kings like 
himself. But as our history is concerned with his 
English exploits only, we will state them from his 
Quida, in its own language, and in the succession 
in which they are there placed. 

The Quida begins with Ragnar' s attempt on Goth- 
land, by which he obtained his wife Thora. This 
expedition, and others in Eyra-sound, or the Baltic ; 
at the mouth of the Dwina ; at Helsingia, in the bay 
of Finland ; and against Herrauthr, his wife's father ; 
at Scarpey, in Norway ; at Uller Akri, near Upsal ; 
at the Indoro Isles, in the bay of Drontheim ; and on 
the island of Bornholm, occupy the first nine stanzas. 
After these exploits the sea-king comes nearer to the 
British shores, and begins his southern ravages with 
an attack on Flanders. This is followed by a bold 
invasion of England, in which he boasts of the death 
of the Anglo-Saxon Walthiofr. 

We hewed with our swords 

Hundreds, I declare lay- 
Round the horses of the Island-rocks, 
At the English promontory. 
We sailed to the battle 
Six days before the hosts fell. 
We chanted the mass of the spears 
With the uprising sun. 
Destiny was with our swords : 
Walthiofr fell in the tumult. 48 

Conflicts at Perth, and on the Orkneys, are then 
exultingly sung : another occurs afterwards in Eng- 

47 According to Saxo, he had ten sons by his three wives, p. 169, 170. 172. 
The Ragnar Saga, ap. Torfaeus, 346, 347., gives their mothers differently from Saxo. 

48 Lod. Quid. St. 11. John. p. 14. 


Hard came the storm on the shield 

Till they fell prone to the earth 

On Northumbria's land. 

On that morning was there 

Any need for men to stimulate 

The sport of Hillda, where the sharp 

Lightnings bit the helmed skull ? 

Was it not as when the young widow 

On my seat of pre-eminence I saluted. 49 

Exploits at the Hebrides ; in Ireland, at another 
coast, where " the thorn of the sheath glided to the 
heart of Agnar," his son ; at the Isle of Sky ; and in 
the bay of Ila, on the Scottish coast, are triumphantly 
narrated. Another stanza follows, which seems to 
make Lindisfarne the locality of the battle : 

We had the music of swords in the morning 

For our sport at Lindis-eyri 

With three kingly heroes. 

Many fell into the jaws of the wolf; 

The hawk plucked the flesh with the wild beasts ; 

Few ought therefore to rejoice 

That they came safe from the battle. 

Ira's blood into the sea 

Profusely fell ; into the clear wave. 50 

He next records his expedition on the British isle 
of Anglesey : 

The swords bit the shields ; 

Red with gold resounded 

The steel on the clothes of Hillda. 

They shall see on Aungol's Eyri, 

In the ages hereafter, 

How we to the appointed play 

Of heroes advanced. 

Red were on the distant cape 

The flying dragons of the river that gave wounds. 61 

After two stanzas of eulogy on battles, he begins 
to commemorate his disastrous change of fortunes, 
and avows that it was unexpected to him : 

It seems to me, from experience, 
That we follow the dercees of the fates. 

49 St. 15. p. 18. * St. 20. p. 24/ 

81 St. 21. p. 24. 


BOOK Few escape the statutes of the natal goddesses. 

IV. Never did I believe that from Ella 

1 ' The end of my life would come, 

When I strewed the bloody slaughter, 
And urged my planks on the lakes. 
Largely we feasted the beasts of prey 
Along the bays of Scotland. 52 

But he consoles himself with his belief in his pagan 
mythology : 

It delights me continually 
That the seats of Baldor's father 
I know are strewed for guests. 
We shall drink ale immediately 
From the large hollowed skulls. 
Youths grieve not at death 
In the mansions of dread Fiolner. 
I come not with the words of fear 
Into the hall of Vithris. 53 

He animates his spirit as the adders sting him, 
with the remembrance of his children, as if he an- 
ticipated their fierce revenge for his sufferings : 

Here would for me 

All the sons of Aslauga 54 , 

The bright brands of Hillda awake 

If they knew but the danger 

Of our encounter. 

What a number of snakes 

Full of venom strike me ? 

I gained a true mother for my children, 

That they might have brave hearts. 55 

His strength decreases as he sings : he feels ad- 
vancing death, yet seems to catch a gleam of pleasure 
from the hopes of the vengeance which his children 
will inflict : 

52 St. 24. p. 28. St. 25. p. 28. 

St We have a specimen of the traditions of the Norwegian's concerning this lady, 
in Torfseus. He says that in Spangareid, an isthmus in Norway, the greatest part 
of her history remains uncorrupted. The people of this region relate from the 
accounts of their ancestors, that a golden harp came on shore in a small bay near 
them, on which was found a little girl. She was brought up ; afterwards kept 
sheep ; became famed for her beauty ; married a Danish king, and was called Ot- 
lauga. They show a hill, called Otlauga's hill. The bay is named Gull-Siken, or 
golden bay ; and the stream near this is called Kraakabecker, or the rivulet of 
Kraaka. Torf. ser. Reg. p. 35. Kraka was one of this lady's prior names. 

55 St. 26. p. 30. 



It flows to my inheritance ; 

Grim dangers surround me from the adder ; 

Vipers dwell in the palace of my heart 

We hope that soon the staff 

Of Vitbris will stand in Ella's breast. 

My sons must swell 

That their father has been thus conquered. 

Must not the valiant youths 

Forsake their repose for us ? 56 

The recollection of his own exploits gives a mo- 
mentary impulse of new vigour, and the number 
announces the ferocious activity of his sea-king life : 

Fifty and one times have I 

Call'd the people to the appointed battles 

By the warning-spear-messenger. 

Little do I believe that of men 

There will be any 

King, more famous than ourself. 

When young I grasped and reddened my spear. 

The -ZEsir must invite us ; 

I will die without a groan. 57 

As the fatal instant presses on, he rouses himself 
to expire with those marks of exultation which it 
was the boast of this fierce race to exhibit : 

We desire this end. 

The Disir goddesses invite me home ; 

As if from the hall of him rejoicing in spoils, 

From Odin, sent to me. 

Glad shall I with the Asse 

Drink ale in my lofty seat. 

The hours of my life glide away, 

But laughing I will die. 58 

The sovereign that arose with sufficient ability to 
meet and change the crisis which these new habits of 
the Scandinavian nations were bringing on Europe, 
was Alfred the Great, the son of Ethelwulph, and 
grandson of Egbert. 

68 St. 27. p. 30. St. 28. p. 32. 

58 St. 29. p. 32. Torfseus supposes two other Lodbrogs. I am not sure that he 
is not dividing the same person into three parts. But it is clear that the Ragnar 
Lodbrog, the subject of the Quida, is the person whom Ella of Northumbria de- 
stroyed between 862 and 867, and whose children, in revenge, executed that in- 
vasion which destroyed the octarchy of England, and dethroned Alfred for a time. 






The Reign of ETHELWULPH. Invasion of the Northmen. Birth 
of ALFRED the Great. His Travels. ETHEL WULPH'S De- 

THE death of Egbert, in 836, checked for a while 
the ascendancy of the West Saxon power, because 
his sceptre descended to an inferior hand in his son 
Ethelwulph. This prince, who from the failure of 
other issue became his successor, was then a monk. 
Educated in the earlier part of his life by Helmstan 
the bishop of Winchester, he had shared at first in 
his father's warlike toils. In 823, he had marched 
with Alstan into Kent after the defeat of Mercia, and 
was appointed by his father king of that country 1 , 
but the passive timidity of his disposition alienated 
him from an ambitious life, and he returned to his 
preceptor, who recommended him to the care of 
Swithin, a prior of the monastery at Winchester. 
From Swithin the prince received not only instruc- 
tion, but also the monastic habit, and by his first 
master was appointed a sub-deacon. 2 

The quiet seclusion which Ethelwulph's slow capa- 
city and meek temper coveted, was not refused to 
him by Egbert, because another son promised to 
perpetuate his lineage. 3 But life is a mysterious gift, 

1 There Is a charter of Egbert, dated 823, in which he says of Ethelwulph, 
" quern regem constituimus in Cantia." Thorpe, Reg. Roff. p. 22. 

2 Rudborne, Hist. Mag. Winton. lib. iii. c. 1. p. 199., published in Wharton's 
Anglia Sacra, vol. i. Malmsbury Pontiff, p. 242. Wallingf. 532. No good docu- 
ment authorises us to say that he was made a bishop. 

3 The expressions of the chroniclers are in general mere negatives, implying 
that Egbert left no other heir ; but the extract which Leland has translated, ex 
Chronico quodam Vilodunensi Anglicis rithmis scripto, explicitly says, Atwulphus 
rex Egbert! films secundus. Collectanea, voi. iii. p. 219. 


which vanishes at the will of other agencies, whose CHAP. 
operations we cannot trace, whose power we cannot L / , 
limit. The destined heir of Egbert's dignity was in 
the tomb before his father, and this catastrophe in- 
vested Ethel wulph with an importance which his 
natural character could never have obtained. He 
became what Egbert had been, the only existing 
descendant of Cerdic, the revered ancestor of the 
West Saxon princes. This casualty made the acces- 
sion of Ethel wulph an object of popular desire ; but 
though sovereigns had often at will descended from 
the throne to the cloister, it was less easy to quit the 
cloister for the throne. The papal dispensation was 
first wanted to release Ethelwulph from his sacer- 
dotal engagement ; on its arrival he assumed the 
crown of Egbert. 4 

His indolent, mild, and weak mind 5 was not ade- 
quate to the exigencies of the time, but he enjoyed 
the great advantage which was capable of counter- 
acting the ill effects of his inability, a wise and vigo- 
rous minister. Alstan, the bishop of Sherborne, had 
possessed the favour of Egbert, and on his death 
became the political and military tutor of Ethelwulph : 
he was powerful, warlike, and intelligent. He had 
the good and rare fortune to enjoy his preferments 
for fifty years. He endeavoured to rouse the king 
to those exertions which his dignity made a duty. 
He provided supplies for his exchequer, and he la- 
boured to organise a military force. His wise mea- 
sures, though sometimes baffled by an incompetent 
execution, and by the suddenness of aggressions, 
which no vigilance could prevent, had the general 

4 Wallingford, 532. The name of this king has been disfigured by that variety 
of orthography which prevailed at this time, and often confuses history. Ethel- 
wulphus, Ethulfus, Athulfus, Adulfus, Aithulfus, Adhelwlfus, Athelwlfus, Atwulfus. 

5 Malmsbury s expressions are, natura lenis et qui sub quiete degere quam multis 
provinciis imperitare mallet crassioris et hebetis ingenii, p. 37. mansuetoris 
ingenii segnem, p. 247. 


BOOK success of punishing many insults, and of preserving 
. the country from a permanent conquest. 6 

Nothing is more curious nor more interesting in 
history than to remark that when great political 
exigencies occur, which threaten to shake the foun- 
dations of civil society, they are usually as much 
distinguished by the rise of sublime characters, with 
genius and ability sufficient to check the progress of 
the evil, and even to convert its disasters to benevo- 
lent issues. One of these extraordinary persons was 
Alfred the Great, and considered with regard to the 
time of his appearance, the great ends which he 
achieved, and the difficulties under which he formed 
himself, no historical character can more justly claim 
our attention and admiration than our venerated 

Ethelwulph had married Osberga, the daughter of 
Oslac, a man mentioned with an epithet of celebrity, 
and the king's cup-bearer. Oslac had sprung from 
*the chieftain, who, in the time of Cerdic, had obtained 
Alfred's ^ ne ^ s ^ e ^ Wight. 7 After three elder sons, Osberga 
birth. was delivered of Alfred, at Wantage, in Berkshire. 8 
She is highly extolled for her piety and understand- 
ing ; but the education of Alfred must have lost the 
benefit of her talents, because his father married 
another lady before the sixth year of his childhood 
had expired. She is said to have given him to 
Swithin, the preceptor of his father, to be taught. 9 

6 Though Alstan had stripped his monastery of some of its advantages, our 
William, in his history, p. 37., and his Gest. Pont. 247., commemorates him with 
an encomium which is liberal and strongly marked. 

7 Asser de rebus gestis JElfredi, p. 4. ed. Ox. 1722. Oslac was alive at his 
grandson's birth ; for, as the ambassador of Ethelwulph, he signed a charter which 
the king of Mercia gave to Croyland in 851. Ingulf, p. 15. 

8 Asser, p. 3., adds, that the country was called Berroc scire a berroc silva ubi 
buxus abundantissime nascitur. 

9 Rudborne Hist. mag. p. 207. There is a beautiful MS. on St. Swithin, written 
by Lantfredus in the tenth century, in the British Museum. Bib. Reg. xv. c. 7. 
But it contains an account of his miracles only, to justify his canonisation in the 
reign of Edgar. One part is a curious Latin alphabetical or acrostic hymn. 


The bishop may have nurtured or infused that habi- CHAP. 

tual piety for which Alfred was remarkable ; but , ^ , 

was unquestionably unfit for the office of literary 849 - 
tutor, as Alfred passed his childhood without know- 
ing how to read. 

Their successes in France having enlarged the 
horizon of the Northmen's ambition, every new ag- 
gression on England became more formidable than 
the preceding. In 851, they first ventured to winter 
in the Isle of Thanet. 10 This was a new era in their 
habits. Their ancient custom had been to pirate 
abroad in the summer, but to return with the au- 
tumn. But Ragnar's success in France had increased 
their daring, and enlarged their views. They had 
now formed the daring project of remaining in the 
countries which they insulted. 

In the spring they attempted against the Anglo- 852. 
Saxons the most serious invasion which England had 
yet experienced. Their numbers, perhaps the result 
of a confederation, were superior to any preceding 
attack. They entered the Thames with 350 ships, 
plundered Canterbury and London, and marched into 
Mercia. The names of all their chieftains are not 
mentioned ; but as Ragnar Lodbrog was now in full 
activity, he may have led or aided the invaders. 

Mercia had been governed by Withtlaf till 838. 
His son and wife reached the tomb before him, and 
he buried them by the side of Etheldritha, the 
daughter of Offa. She had sheltered him from the 
pursuit of Egbert, and his grateful feelings were so 
ardent, that when he heard of her death, his grief 
confined him to his bed, and it was with difficulty 
afterwards that he was withdrawn from her grave. 
His brother Bertulph succeeded, and signalised his 

10 Sax. Chron. 74. Asser, p. 5., places the winter residence in Shepey Isle ; 
but the printed Chronicle dates their first wintering in Shepey in 854. The MS. 
Sax. Chron. Tib. B. 4. has 855. 

VOL. I. E E 


BOOK reign by favouring the assassination of his brother's 

, I y* . grandson; his own son was the murderer; love of 

852 - power was the cause. Bertulph was king of Mercia, 

when the northern warriors entered his dominions n ; 

he endeavoured to repel them, but was defeated. 12 

The Northmen after this victory turned southward 
and entered Surrey. The West- Saxons collected under 
Ethelwulph and his son Ethalbald, and at Aclea, a 
field of oaks, the two nations met, and a battle en- 
sued, which the desperate courage of both armies 
made long and very deadly. It was not until the 
greatest part of the invaders had perished, that they 
lost their ground. The English at last triumphed : 
the battle was so destructive, that Asser, who lived 
in the period when the Northmen maintained the most 
furious contests, yet attests that so great a slaughter 
of the invaders had never been known before that 
day, or during his experience, since. 13 

The Earl of Devonshire had already defeated them 
at Wenbury in that county, and JEthelstan, the sub- 
ordinate king of Kent, with the earl Ealhere, had 
enjoyed a similar success at Sandwich, where nine of 
their ships were taken. 14 

11 Ingulf, 11. Sax. Chron. 74. Mr. Hume erroneously says that Brichtric 
governed Mercia at this period, p. 71. 

12 Sax. Chron. 74. Flor. Wig. 295. 

13 Asser, p. 6. Voltaire has strangely confounded this invasion with that against 
Ethelred, above a century later. He says, " On pretend qu'en 852, ils remon- 
t&rent la Tamise avec trois cens voiles. Les Anglais ne se defe.nderent mieux que 
les Francs. Ils payerent comme eux leurs vainqueurs. Un roi nomme Ethelbert 
suivit le malheureux exemple de Charles le chauve. II donna de V argent" Essai 
sur les Moeurs. OEuvres completes, t. 16. p. 472. ed. 1785. In his previous para- 
graphs, he confounds the Britons with the English. " Les Anglais, ils n'etaient 
echappes du joug des Romains que pour tomber sous celui de ces Saxons." Ibid. 

14 Asser, p. 6. Sax. Chron. 74. There is some confusion about Ethelstan ; by 
three authors (Huntingd. 345., Mailros, 142., and Hoveden, 412.), he is styled the 
brother of Ethelwulph. But Flor. Wig. 291., Ethel werd, 841., Malmsbury, 37., and 
the printed Saxon Chronicle, make him the son. The MS. Saxon Chronicle, in 
the Cotton Library, Tib. B. 4., diffei's from the printed one, for it calls him the 
son of Egbert. It says, "pens Gchelpulp lur runu to Weft Seaxna pice; anb 
ethelrtan hir othep runu, pens to Cant|?apa pice, anb to Suthpisean, anb to 
Suthpeaxno pice," P' 30. Matt. West. 301., and Rudborne, 201., make him Ethel- 
wulph 's illegitimate son. Asser's testimony, p. 6., would decide that he was the 
son of Ethelwulph ; but that these descriptive words are wanting in the Cotton 
MSS. of his book. Bromton says, Ethelwulph had a son, Athelstan ; but that 
he died in annis adolescentise suae, 802. Malmsbury states, that Ethelwulph gave 


The Mercian succession of sovereigns was now CHAP. 
drawing to its close. Beortulf was succeeded in 852 \ ^. > 
by Burrhed, the last king of Mercia, who in the next 
year requested the assistance of Ethelwulph against 
the Britons of Wales. 15 Burrhed had already fought 
a battle, in which Merfyn Frych the British king 
fell, and was succeeded by Koderic, who has obtained 
in Welsh history the epithet of Mawr, or the Great. 16 
But an epithet like this rather expresses the feelings 
of his countrymen, than the merit of his character. 
It may be just in provincial history as long as that 
exists in its local seclusion ; but the force of the 
expression vanishes when the person it accompanies 
is brought forward into more general history in an 
enlightened age. He who was great in his little 
circle or ruder times, becomes then diminutive and 
obscure ; and it is almost ludicrous to apply one of 
the most splendid symbols of recorded merit, to 
actions so inconsiderable, and to characters so ambi- 
guous as a petty Welsh prince. The grand epithets 
of history should be reserved for those who can abide 
a comparison with the illustrious of every age, like 
the lofty mountains of nature, which, whether exist- 
ing in Italy, in Tartary, or Chili, are admired for 
their sublimity by every spectator, and in every 

Eoderic endured the invasion of Ethelwulph and ess. 
Burrhed, who penetrated with victorious ravages to 
Anglesey. 17 Ethelwulph gave his daughter Ethels- 
witha in marriage to the Mercian, and the nuptial 
solemnities were celebrated royally at Chippenham. 18 

to him the provinces which Eghert had conquered, 37. Ethelstan is mentioned 
by Fordun to have perished in a battle against the Picts, lib. iv. c. 14. p. 666. 
In 850 he signed a charter as king of Kent. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. p. 23. Dr. Whit- 
aker supposes him to have been St. Neot, but this is rather a hazarded than an au- 
thorised conjecture. 

15 Asser, 6. 16 Wynne's Hist. p. 27. 

17 Wynne, 27. Asser, 7. Sax. Chron. 75. 

18 Asser, 7. Matt. West. 305. Burrhed therefore became Alfred's brother-in- 
law. Voltaire calls him inaccurately his uncle. Comme Burred son oncle> p. 473. 

E E 2 





Alfred sent 
to Rome. 

At Rome 
again in 

The vikingr appeared again in Thanet. Ealhere, 
with the armed men of Kent, and Huda, with those 
of Surrey, overwhelmed the invaders with the first 
fury of their battle ; but the conflict was obstinately 
renewed, the English chiefs fell, and after many of 
both armies had been slain or drowned, the pirates 
obtained the victory. 19 

In the fifth year of Alfred's age, his father, al- 
though he had three elder sons, seerns to have formed 
an idea of making him his successor. This intention 
is inferred from the facts that Ethelwulph sent him 
at this time to Rome, with a great train of nobility 
and others ; and that the pope anointed him king, at 
the request of his father. 20 

It is expressly affirmed, that the king loved Alfred 
better than his other sons. 21 When the king went 
to Eome himself two years afterwards, he took Alfred 
with him, because he loved him with superior affec- 
tion. 22 The presumption that he intended to make 
Alfred his successor, therefore, agrees with the fact 
of his paternal partiality. It is warranted by the 
declaration of Matthew of Westminster, that one of 
the causes of the rebellion which followed against 
Ethelwulph was, that he had caused Alfred to be 
crowned, thereby, as it were, excluding his other 
children from the chance of succession. 23 

In Alfred's journey through France, he was very 
hospitably treated by Bertinus and Grimbald. 24 When 

19 Asser, 7. Ragnar's Quida mentions one of his exploits at an English pro- 
montory, where the English noble Walthiofr fell. See before, note 48. 

20 So Florence, 296. ; Sim. Dun. 139. ; Rad. diceto. 450. ; Chron. Mailros, 142.; 
Matt. West. 307.; and Chron. Joan. Taxton, MSS. Cotton. Lib. Julius, A. 1., affirm. 
As St. Neot the son or brother of Ethelwulph went, about this period, seven times 
to Rome, his journeys or his advice may have had some connection with this project. 

21 Cum communi et ingenti patris sui et matris amore supra omnes fratres suos. 
Asser," 15., Matt. West. 307., Sim. Dun. 141., Flor. Wig. 297., express the same 

22 Filium suum JElfredum iterum in eandem viam sec urn ducens eo quod, ilium 
plus ceteris flliis suis diligebat. Asser, p. 8. 

23 Causa autem bifaria erat, una quod fllium juniorem JElfredum quasi aliis a 
sorte regni exclusis, in regem Romae fecerat coronari. Matt. West. p. 308. 

24 Vita Grimbaldi. Lei. Collect, i. p. 18. 


Alfred arrived in the course of nature at the royal CHAP. 
dignity, he remembered Grimbald's services and __^J 
talents, requited them by a steady friendship, and 865 - 
obtained from them an important intellectual benefit. 
In 855, Ethel wulph, with the sanction of his witena 
gemot, made that donation to the church which is 
usually construed to be the grant of its tithes. But the tenths 
on reading carefully the obscure words of the three 
copies of this charter, which three succeeding chro- 
niclers have left us, it will appear that it cannot 
have been the original grant of the tithes of all 
England. These words imply either that it was a 
liberation of the land which the clergy had before 
been in possession of, from all the services and pay- 
ments to which the Anglo-Saxon lands were gene- 
rally liable 25 , or that it was an additional gift of land, 
not of tithes, either of the king's private patrimony, 
or of some other which is not explained. The reason 
for the gift which is added in the charter strengthens 
the first supposition 2G ; but the terms used to express 

25 Ingulf, Malmsbury, and Matt. West, profess to give copies of the charter. 
The king (in Ingulfs copy), after reciting the depredations of the Northmen, adds, 
with some confusion of grammar and style, " Wherefore I, Ethelwulph, king of the 
West Saxons, with the advice of my bishops and princes, affirming a salutary counsel, 
and uniform remedy, we have consented that I have adjudged some hereditary por- 
tion of land to all degrees before possessing it, whether male or female servants of 
God, serving him, or poor laymen ; always the tenth mansion : where that may 
be the least, then the tenth part of all goods should be given in perpetual freedom 
to the church, so that it may be safe and protected from all secular services and 
royal contributions greater or smaller, or taxations which we call wynterden ; and 
that it may be free from all things ; and without, the military expedition, building 
of bridges, arid constructions of fortresses." Ing. Hist. p. 17. Malmsbury's copy 
corresponds with this ; but for " then the tenth part of all goods," it has " yet the 
tenth part," omitting the words, " of all goods," and changing " turn " into " tamen." 
p. 41. Matt. West., p. 306., gives it a different aspect: he makes it like an abso- 
lute hereditary gift, but converts the general term " land," used by the others, into 
" my land." Thus, " I grant some portion of my land to be possessed in perpetual 
right, to wit, the tenth part of my land, that it may be free from all offices, and 
secular services, and royal tributes," &c., adding the same reason as above. The 
natural force of Matthew's words limit the lands given, to the king's own lands, 
which were only a small part of the kingdom, but gives a proprietary right more 
expressly than the others. I think there is no reason to believe that tithes were 
then first granted, but that this charter was meant to have the operation mentioned 
in the text. 

26 " That they may more diligently pour forth their prayers to God for us with- 
out ceasing ; as we have alleviated their servitude in some part, ' eorum servitutem 

13 E 3 


BOOK the persons to whom the benefit was granted seem 

< <L ' to confine it to monastical persons. 27 But whatever 

855 * was its original meaning, the clergy in after-ages 

interpreted it to mean a distinct and formal grant of 

the tithes of the whole kingdom. 28 

He went afterwards to Kome himself with great 
magnificence, accompanied by Alfred 29 , who was 
entering his seventh year. As the expeditions of the 
great to Rome were, in those days, usually by land, 
Ethelwulph went first into France, where Charles, 
the French king, received him with honour and royal 
liberality, and caused him to be conducted through 
his dominions with every respectful attention. 30 
ins presents The presents which the West- Saxon king carried 

to the pope. , ,. , . ,., . - 

to the pope were peculiarly splendid. A crown of 
pure gold, weighing four pounds, two golden vessels 
called Baucas, a sword adorned with pure gold, two 
golden images, four Saxon dishes of silver gilt, besides 
valuable dresses, are enumerated by his contemporary 
Anastasius. The king also gave a donative of gold 

in aliqua parte levigamus.'" Ing. p. 17. Malmsb. 41. An alleviation of services 
is not a grant of tithes. 

27 The words in Ingulf are, " famulis et famulabus Dei, Deo servientibus sive 
laicis miseris." In Malmsbury the same, omitting the epithet " miseris. " Famu- 
labus cannot apply to rectors or curates ; famulis et famulabus Dei, mean usually 
monks and nuns. The copy of Matthew of Westminster, for these words, substi- 
tutes " Deo et beate Marise, et omnibus sanctis." But Matthew wrote in the latter 
end of the thirteenth century. Ingulfs copy is above two centuries more ancient 
than his. 

28 So Ingulf, and Malmsbury, and others state it ; but all classes of men who 
have obtained a grant by deed, try to extend its meaning as far for their own benefit 
as the construction of the words can be carried. The law itself looks only at the 
sense of the words used. Asser's opinion of its import would be very valuable if it 
was clearly given : because, as a contemporary, we should gain from him the mean- 
ing given to it at its first publication. If his first sentence stood alone, it would 
confirm our first construction ; but his rhetorical after-phrase adds something, 
which, if it means anything more, I do not understand it. The passage stands 
thus : ' He liberated the tenth part of all his kingdom from every royal service 
and contribution, and in an everlasting instrument in the cross of Christ for the 
redemption of his soul, and of his predecessors, he immolated to the triune Deity." 
I do not see that these latter words increase the meaning of the first, which express 
only a liberation from burdens. They seem to add that he offered this liberation 
as a sacrifice to the Deity. 

29 Asser, 9. 

30 Annales Bertiniani in Bouquet's Recueil, torn. vii. p. 71. 


to all the Roman clergy and nobles, and silver to the CHAP. 
people. 31 .__ IV * . 

Ethelwulph continued a year at Rome, and rebuilt 855 - 
the Saxon school which Ina had founded. 32 By the 
carelessness of its English inhabitants, it had been set 
on fire the preceding year and was burnt to ashes. 33 
One act which he did at Rome evinces his patriotism 
and influence, and entitles him to honourable remem- 
brance. He saw that the public penitents and exiles 
were bound with iron, and he obtained an order from 
the pope that no Englishman out of his country, 
should be put into bonds for penance. 34 

In his way through France, he discovered that sse. 

V.L f i T T i i His mar- 

senility gave no exemption from love. In July he riagewitn 
sued for an alliance with Judith the daughter of Charles, Judith - 
and in October was married to her by Hincmar. He 
admitted her to share in the royal dignity, and the 
diadem was placed on her head. Presents worthy of 
the high personages concerned were mutually given, 
and Ethelwulph took shipping for England. 35 

Few marriages of our sovereigns have been more 
important in their consequences to the reputation 
and happiness of England than this, which at the time 
might have appeared censurable from the disparity 
of the ages of the parties, and from our aversion to 
see the hoary head imitating the youthful bride- 
groom. It was this lady who began the education of 
Alfred; and to her therefore may be traced all his 
literary acquisitions. 

But the connubial felicity of Ethelwulph was in- The revolt 
terrupted by intelligence of a successful conspiracy 

81 Anastasius Bibliothecarius de vitis Pontif. vol. i. p. 403. ed. Rome, 1718. 

32 Rudborne, 202. 'Anastasius describes it as an habitation ; quae in eorum 
lingua burgus discitur, p. 317. The place where it was situated, was called the 
Saxon-street, Saxonum vicum. Anast. 363. This school was much attended to 
by the Anglo-Saxon nobles and sovereigns. 

33 Anastasius, p. 317. ** Rudborne, 202. 

35 Annales Bertiniani, p. 72. Asser, 8. The ceremony used at the coronation 
of Judith yet exists, and may be seen in Du Chesne's Hist. Franc, vol. ii. p. 423. 

JR E 4 


BOOK against his power, which menaced him with deposi- 
< ^ tion and exile. It was conducted by Alstan, the 
856. bishop, to whom he owed all his prosperity ; and 
Ethelbald, the eldest of the legitimate princes, was 
placed at the head. The earl of Somerset participated 
in the rebellion. The principal object was to defeat 
the plans of Ethelwulph in favour of Alfred, and to 
invest Ethelbald with the crown. 36 The popular 
reason was, the elevation of his new wife to the 
dignity of queen. The crimes of Eadburga had in- 
cited the Anglo-Saxon nation to forbid the wife of 
any other of their kings to be crowned. 37 Ethel- 
wulph's visit to Rome without having resigned his 
crown may have begun the discontent. Two of the 
preceding sovereigns of Wessex who had taken this 
step, Ceadwalla and Ina, had first abdicated the 
throne, though Offa retained it during his journey. 
But Ethelwulph had been in the church, and had not 
the warlike character of Offa to impress or satisfy his 
thanes and eorls. For him therefore to pursue the 
steps that were so like a re-assumption of his early 
ecclesiastical character may have dissatisfied the 
fierce Anglo-Saxons, who thought little of religion 
until some event roused them to renounce the world 

HIS depo- In Selwood Forest the revolters first assembled in 
strength. The king's absence favoured the scheme ; 
and as his devotion to the Eoman see, combined with 
the prospect of a stripling's succession, to the preju- 
dice of brothers, who to priority of birth added 
maturity of age, may have diminished the general 
loyalty; so the circumstances of his marriage con- 
curred, fortunately for the conspirators, to complete 

86 Matt. West. 308. Rudborne also states, that some write, quod filii insurrexe- 
runt contra patrem propter invidiam quod frater minimus, viz. Alfredus, ante omnes 
inunctus erat in regem jussione paterna, p. 201. 

37 Asser, 10, 11. See before, p. 360. This degradation of their sovereign's 
queen was contrary, says Asser, to the custom of all the German nations. 


his unpopularity. When Ethelwulph returned, he CHAP. 
found the combination too powerful to be resisted ; . lv ' . 
but the nobles of all Wessex would not permit him 856 - 
to be absolutely dethroned ; they promoted an ac- 
commodation between the two parties, on the plan, 
that Ethelbald should be put in possession of West 
Saxony, the best portion of the monarchy 38 , and that 
Ethelwulph should be contented with the eastern dis- 
tricts which Ethelstan had enjoyed. The king, 
averse to war, and perhaps intimidated by the strength 
of his opponents, submitted to the proposition. 39 

38 Asser, 9. He remarks that occidentalis pars Saxonise semper oriental! princi- 
palior est, ibid. 

39 There is a complimentary letter of Lupus, a French abbot, to Ethelwulph, still 
existing, soliciting him to be at the expense of covering the church of his monastery 
with lead. In this he speaks of the good opinion which had spread of Ethelwulph 's 
government, and of the reputation he had acquired by his exertions against the 
enemies of Christianity, alluding to his victories over the Northmen. Epist. Lupi 
Bib. Mag. Pat, vol. iii. p. 625. 




BOOK BY wresting the sceptre of Wessex from the hand of 
- his father, Ethelbald gained a very short interval 
856860. O f re g a i pomp. The old king survived the disappoint- 
ment of his hope and the diminution of his power 
but two years, and Ethelbald outlived him scarcely 
three more. Ethelwulph, by his will, left landed pos- 
sessions to three of his sons ; and it is a proof of his 
placable disposition, that Ethelbald was one ; the 
others were Ethelred and Alfred ; the survivor of the 
three was to inherit the bequest. 1 His other son, his 
daughter, and kinsmen, and also his nobles, partook 
of his testamentary liberality. His will displayed 
both the equity and the piety of his mind. 2 

Soon after Ethel wulph's decease, Ethelbald married 
his widow, Judith, in defiance of religious institutions 
and the customs of every Christian state. 3 On the 
exhortations of S within, he is represented to have 
dismissed her, and to have passed the remainder of 
his short life in reputation and justice. 4 He died in 

1 See Alfred's will, published by Mr. Astle, which recites this devise. 

2 He ordered throughout all his lands, that in every ten manors one poor person, 
either a native or a foreigner, should be maintained in food and clothing, as long as 
the country contained men and cattle. He left the pope a hundred mancusses, and 
two hundred to illuminate St. Peter's and St. Paul's churches at Rome on Easter 
eve and the ensuing dawn. < Asser, 13. 

8 Asser, 23. But this author, and they who follow him, are wrong in stating 
that this was against the custom of the pagans ; for Eadbald, king of Kent, had 
done the same in 616; and the Saxon Chronicle, in mentioning that event, says, 
he lived " on hethenum theape spa, that he haepbe lnj* paeben lape t* pive," p. 26. 

4 Matt. West. 310. Rudborne, 204. 


Some time after the death of Ethelbald, Judith CHAP. 
sold her possessions in England, and returning to her . 

father, lived at Senlis with regal dignity. Here she Judith ' s 

& ? A third mar- 

was seen by Baldwin, surnamed the Arm of Iron, mge. 
whom she married. He was descended from the 
count who had cultivated and occupied Flanders. 5 
The pope reconciled him with the king of France, 
her father 6 , who gave to Baldwin all the region 
between the Scheld, the Sambre, and the sea, and 
created him count of the empire, that he might be the 
bulwark of the French kingdom against the North- 
men. 7 

Baldwin built Bruges in 856, as a fortress to coerce 
them, and died in 880, having enjoyed his honours 
with peculiar celebrity. 8 

On the death of Ethelbald, the kingdom of Wessex seo. 
became the possession of Ethelbert, his brother, who 
had been already reigning in Kent, Surrey, and 

In his days, the tranquillity of England was again 
endangered ; a large fleet of the northern vikingr 
suddenly appeared near Winchester, and ravaged it ; 
but as they were retiring with their plunder, they 
were overtaken and chased to their ships by the earls 
of Hampshire and Berkshire. 

Their commander led them from England to France ; 
with above 300 ships they ascended the Seine, and 

5 Annales Bertiniani Bouquet, torn. vii. p. 77. The Genealogia comitum Flan- 
drise scripta seculo 12, says, A. 792, Lidricus Harlebecensis comes videns Flandriam 
vacuam et incultam et nemorosam occupavit earn. Ibid. p. 81., he was the great 
grandfather of Baldwin. Previous to Baldwin, Flanders was in the hands of 
foresters, Espinoy's Recherches, p. 5. 

6 The pope's letters to Charles, and his queen, Hermentrudes, are in Mirsei opera 
diplomatica, i. p. 132. Hincmar's letter to the pope, stating what he had done in 
obedience to his order, is in the same work, p. 25. The pope hints to Charles, that 
if his anger lasted, Baldwin might join the Northmen. 

7 Meyer Annales Flandriae, 13. For the same purpose, Theodore was made the 
first count of Holland at this time, ibid. 

8 The author of the Life of St. Winnoc, written in the eleventh century, says, 
Flanders never had a man his superior in talent and warlike ability, Bouquet, vii. 
p. 379. 


BOOK Charles averted their hostilities from his own domains 
< ^ by money. The winter forbidding them to navigate 
the sea, they dispersed themselves along the Seine 
and the adjacent shores in different bands. 9 Such 
incursions induced the Flemings to build castles and 
fortified places. 10 

In 864, they wintered in Thanet. While the 
Kentish men were offering money, to be spared from 
their ravages, they broke from their camp at night, 
and ravaged all the east of the country. Ethelbert 
was, like his brother, taken off prematurely, after a 
His 866 th * s ^ or ^ but honourable reign of six years, and was 
buried in Shireburn. 11 He left some children 12 , but 
Ethelred, his brother, acceded in their stead. 
Alfred's During the reigns of his brethren, Alfred was 

quietly advancing into youth and manhood. When 
an illustrious character excites our attention, it is 
natural to inquire whether any unusual circumstances 
distinguished his early years. This curiosity arises, 
not from the expectation of beholding an extraordi- 
nary being, acting so as to astonish us in the features 
and dress of infancy, because it is probable, that in 
the beginning of life no indications of future great- 
ness appear. Healthy children are in general sprightly ; 
and the man destined to interest ages by his mature 
intellect, cannot be distinguished amid the universal 
animation and activity of his delighted play-fellows. 
But as the evolution of genius, and its luxuriant 
fertility, depend much upon the accidents of its ex- 
perience, it becomes important to notice those events 

9 Anuales Bertiniani. One expression of these annals is curious : it says, that 
the Northmen divided themselves, secundum suas sodalitates, as if they had been 
an union of different companies associated for the expedition. 

10 Ob tarn furibundas septentrionalium barbarorum incursiones Flandri in suis 
pagis castellisque munitiones facere ceperunt. Meyer. Ann. Fland. ] 2. 

11 Asser, 14. 

12 They are mentioned in Alfred's will. About this time, Ruric, a prince of the 
Waregi, obtained the empire of Russia, and fixing his seat at Novogardia (Novgo- 
rod), which he adorned with buildings, occasioned all Russia to have that name. 
Chronicon Theod. Kiow, cited by Langb. i. p. 554. 


which have occurred to an illustrious individual, CHAP. 
during the first periods of life, that we may trace 

their influence in producing or determining the ten- 866 - 
dencies of his manly character, and in shaping his 
future fortunes. The minds of all men, in every 
portion of their lives, are composed of the impres- 
sions received, and the ideas retained, from their pre- 
ceding experience. As the events of childhood affect 
its future youth, those of its youth influence its man- 
hood, and that also impresses its subsequent age. 
Hence they who wish to study the formation of great 
characters must attentively consider the successive 
circumstances of their previous stages of life. 

The first years of Alfred's life were marked by 
incidents unusual to youth. When he was but four 
years old, he was sent by his father to travel by land 
through France, and over the Alps to Rome, accom- 
panied with a large retinue. He was brought back 
in safety from this journey ; and in his seventh year 
he attended his father in a similar expedition, and 
resided with him a year in that distinguished city. 
Although Alfred at these periods was but a child, 
yet the varied succession of scenes and incidents, and 
the new habits, privations, alarms, and vicissitudes 
with which such dangerous and toilsome journeys 
must have abounded, could not occur to his per- 
ception without powerfully exciting and instructing 
his young intellect. His residence twice at Rome, 
in which so many monuments of ancient art were 
then visible to rouse the enthusiasm and interest the 
curiosity of the observer, must have left impressions 
on his mind, not likely to have forsaken it, of the 
superiority and civilisation of the people whose cele- 
brity was every where resounded, and whose noble 
works he was contemplating. 13 The survey of the 

13 Besides the remains of ancient taste, Alfred must have seen there the most 
perfect productions of the time, as the pope was perpetually receiving a great variety 


BOOK ruins of the capitol has excited some to the arduous 
. T J' , toil of literary composition 14 , and their remembrance 
866 - may have produced in the mind of Alfred that eager- 
ness for knowledge which so usefully distinguished 
his maturer years. 

In his eighth year he received a new train of asso- 
ciations from his residence in the court of France, 
during his father's courtship and marriage with 
Judith. An urbanity of manners, and a cultivation 
of knowledge, vigorous because recent, distinguished 
the Francs at that time from the other Gothic nations. 
Alfred seems to have been inspired by them with 
some desire of improvement, though the occupations 
and contrary tastes of his father confined his wishes 
to a latent sentiment. 

From his eighth year to his twelfth, his biography 
is less certain. If it be true, as some chronicles 
intimate, that infirm health occasioned his father, in 
obedience to the superstition of the day, to send him 
to Modwenna, a religious lady in Ireland, celebrated 
for sanctity 15 , such an expedition must, by its new 
and contrasting scenes, have kept his curiosity alive, 
and have amplified his information. The disposition 
to improve may also have been increased, if not pro- 
duced, within him, by the reputation of his name- 
sake, Alfred of Northumbria. 

But though Alfred's mind may have abounded 
with excited capability, eager to know, and emulous 
of distinction 16 , it had received none of that fruitful 
cultivation which is gained in literary education, 

of rich presents from Constantinople, and every other Christian country. See many 
of these mentioned in Anastasius. 

14 Mr. Gibbon mentions that he conceived the first idea of writing his history 
while sitting on the ruins of the Capitol. 

15 Hist, aurea Johan. Tinmuth, MSS. in Bib. Bodl. cited by Dugdale, Monast. 
i. p. 197. Higden also mentions it, p. 256. 

18 Asser says of him, cui ab incunabulis ante omnia et cum omnibus presentis 
vibe studiis, sapientia? desiderium cum nobilitate generis, nobilis mentis ingenium 
supplevit, p. 16. 


from the transmitted wisdom of other times ; from CHAP. 
the unobtrusive eloquence of books. Alfred had been . v * . 
a favourite ; and of such children, indulgences and 866. 
ignorance are too often the lot. Happily, his father's 
misfortunes and new connection rescued him from 
that ruin of temper and mind which sometimes dis- 
appoints the fairest promises of nature. 

Alfred's intellect first displayed itself in a fondness 
for the only mental object which then existed to at- 
tract it. This was the Anglo-Saxon poetry. It was 
in a rude and simple state, and barren of all that we 
now admire in the productions of the muses. But it 
was stately and heroical. It tended to confer fame, 
and was therefore adapted to rouse the mind to seek 
it. Hence to Alfred the Saxon poems, being the best 
which were then accessible to him, were impressive 
and delightful. By day and by night, he was an 
assiduous auditor, whenever they were recited. 17 As 
he listened, the first aspirings of a soaring mind seem 
to have arisen within him ; and they prepared him to 
desire larger draughts of that intellectual fountain, 
whose scantiest waters were so sweet. He became at 
last a versifier himself. The great cause, however, 
of the dearth of intellectual cultivation at that period 
was, that few would learn to read. Alfred had 
passed eleven years without having acquired this 
easy though inestimable accomplishment. A prince, 
son of a father who had been educated for the 
church ; who had twice visited Rome, and resided at 
Paris after Charlemagne had improved his people, 
was yet passing into youth without the simplest of 
all tuition, which the poorest infant is now invited 
and urged to attain. That he received it at last was 
owing to his step-mother, Judith. When Alfred was 
twelve years old, she was sitting one day, surrounded 

17 Asser, p. 16. 


BOOK by her family, with a manuscript of Saxon poetry in 
. her hands. As Aldhelm and Cedmon had written 
866 - poems of great popularity, it may have contained 
some of theirs. That she was able to read is not 
surprising, because she was a Franc, and the Francs 
had received from the Anglo-Saxons a taste for 
literary pursuits, and were cultivating them with su- 
perior ardour. With a happy judgment she proposed 
it as a gift to him who would the soonest learn to 
read it. The whole incident may have been chance 
play, but it was fruitful of consequences. The elder 
princes, one then a king, the others in mature youth 
or manhood, thought the reward inadequate to the 
task, and were silent. But the mind of Alfred, cap- 
tivated by the prospect of information, and pleased 
with the beautiful decoration of the first letter of the 
writing, inquired if she actually intended to give it to 
that one of her step-children as would the soonest learn 
to understand and repeat it. The queen repeating the 
promise with a smile of joy at the question, he took 
the book, found out an instructor, and learnt to read 
it. When his industry had crowned his wishes with 
success, he recited it to her. 18 To this important, 
though seemingly trivial, incident we owe all the 
intellectual cultivation, and all the literary works, of 
Alfred ; and all the benefit which by these he im- 
parted to his countrymen. If this family conversa- 
tion had not occurred, Alfred would probably have 
lived and died as ignorant, as unimportant, and as 
little known as his three brothers. For the mo- 
mentous benefit thus begun to Alfred, the memory 
of Judith deserves our gratitude. His brothers had 
reached manhood without having been taught letters 
by their father, who, though he had received an eccle- 
siastical education, had left both them and Alfred 

18 Asser, p. 16. 


illiterate. Nine years old at his father's death, and CHAP. 
yet wholly uninstructed ; with one brother on the , ^ 
throne, and two more so near it as ultimately to sue- 866 - 
ceed to it equally uneducated; and surrounded by 
nobles as ignorant, and with no lettered clergy about 
the throne, whence could Alfred have received this 
necessary introduction to all his improvement, if the 
more intelligent Judith, the granddaughter of Charle- 
magne, had not been transplanted by Ethelwulph, from 
Paris to England, and even detained there by Ethel- 
bald ? This French princess was the kind Minerva 
from whom arose the first shoots of that intellectual 
character which we admire in Alfred. To such re- 

, mote and apparently unconnected causes do we often 
owe our greatest blessings. 

But in learning to read Saxon, Alfred had only 

! entered a dark and scanty anteroom of knowledge. 
The Saxon language was not at that day the reposi- 

i tory of literature. The learned of the Anglo-Saxons, 
Bede, Alcuin, and others, had written their useful 
works in Latin, and translations of the classics had 
not then been thought of. Alfred's first acquisition 
was therefore of a nature which rather augmented 
his own conviction of his ignorance, than supplied 
him with the treasures which he coveted. He had 
yet to master the language of ancient Rome, before 
he could become acquainted with the compositions 
which contained the main facts of history, the ele- 
gance of poetry, and the disquisitions of philosophy. 
He knew where these invaluable riches lay, but he 
was unable to appropriate them to his improvement. 
We are told that it was one of his greatest lamenta- 
tions, and, as he conceived, among his severest mis- 
fortunes, and which he often mentioned with deep 
sighs, that when he had youth and leisure, and per- 
mission to learn, he could not find teachers. No 
good masters, capable of initiating him in that lan- 

VOL. I. F F 


BOOK guage in which the minds he afterwards studied had 
. conversed and written, were at that time to be found 
866 - in all the kingdom of Wessex. 19 

His love for knowledge made him neither effemi- 
nate nor slothful. The robust labours of the chase' 
engrossed a large portion of his leisure; and he i& 
panegyrised for his incomparable skill and felicity in: 
this rural art. 20 To Alfred, whose life was indis-: 
pensably a life of great warlike exertion, the exercise: 
of hunting may have been salutary and even needful. 
Perhaps his commercial and polished posterity may 
wisely permit amusements more philanthropic to. 
diminish their attachment to this dubious pursuit. 

He followed the labours of the chase as far as Corn- 
wall. His fondness for this practice is a striking 
proof of his activity of disposition, because he appears 
to have been afflicted with a disease which would 
have sanctioned indolence in a person less alert. This 
malady assumed the appearance of a slow fever, of 
an unusual kind, with symptoms that made some call 
it the piles. It pursued him from his infancy. But 
his life and actions show, that, though this debili- 
tating disease was succeeded by another that haunted 
him incessantly with tormenting agony, nothing could 
suppress his unwearied and inextinguishable genius.: 
Though environed with difficulties which would have- 
shipwrecked any other man, his energetic spirit con-J 
verted them into active instruments to advance him 
to virtue and to fame. 

His religious impressions led him from his child- 
hood to be a frequent visitor at sacred places, for the- 

19 Asser, p. 17. 

20 Asser, p. 1 6. Though men fond of literature have not often excelled in the 
robust exercises, yet some remarkable characters have been distinguished for cor- 
poral agility. Thus the great Pythagoras was a successful boxer in the Olympic 
games ; the first who boxed according to art. Cleanthes, the Stoic, was a similar 
adept. His scholar, Chrysippus, the acutest of the Stoics, was at first a racer ; and 
even Plato himself was a wrestler at the Isthmian and Pythian games. Bentley on 
Phalaris, 51 54. 


! purposes of giving alms, and offering prayer. It was CHAP. 
from this practice, that as he was hunting in Cornwall, 

; near Liskeard, and observing a village church near, 866 - 

i he dismounted, and went into it. A Cornish man of 
religion, called St. Gueryr, had been buried there. 
The name implied that he had possessed medical 
powers or reputation ; and with a sudden hope of 
obtaining relief from his distressing malady, Alfred 
prostrated himself there in silent prayer to God, and 
remained a long time mentally petitioning that his 

I sufferings might be alleviated. He solicited any 
change of the divine visitations that would not make 
him useless in body or contemptible in his personal 
appearance ; for he was afraid of leprosy or blind- 

I ness, but he implored relief. His devotions ended, 
he quitted the tomb of the saint, and resumed his 
journey. No immediate effect followed. He had 
often prayed before for relief in vain : but now, in 

1 no long space afterwards, his constitution experienced 
a beneficial alteration, and this complaint entirely 
ceased, though after his marriage it was succeeded 

| by another and a worse, which lasted till his death. 21 
For a while we must leave Alfred aspiring to 
Decome the student, to describe that storm of desola- 
tion and ferocious war which was proceeding from 
the North to intercept the progress, and disturb the 
happiness of the future king ; and to lay waste the 
whole island, with havoc the most sanguinary, and 
ruin the most permanent. 

21 Asser, 40. Flor. Wig. 309. Guerir, in Cornish, signifies to heal or cure, 
Camden places the church near Liskeard. St. Neot lived here after Guerir, and it 
acquired the name from him of Neotstoke. 'Whit. Neot. 109. 

TF 2 



The Accession of ETHELRED, the third Son of ETHELWULPH. i 
The Arrival of the Sons of KAGNAR LODBROG in ENGLAND. 
Their Revenge on ELLA. Conquests and Depredations. 

BOOK As the life of Ragnar Lodbrog had disturbed the 
. *y* . peace of many regions of Europe, his death became 
866871. the source of peculiar evil to England. When his 
sons heard of his fate in the prison in Northumbria, 
they determined on revenge. Their transient hos-sj 
tilities as sea-kings were laid aside for the gratifica- 
tion of this passion ; and as their father's fame wa 
the conversation and pride of the North, they found 
that wherever they spread news of his catastrophe, 
and their own resolutions to avenge it, their feelings 
were applauded, and auxiliaries procured to join 
them, from every part. Bands of warriors confede- 
rated from every region for this vindictive object- 
Jutes, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Russians, and" 
others ; all the fury and all the valour of the North 
assembled for the expedition \ while none of the 
Anglo-Saxon kings even suspected the preparations. 

Eight kings and twenty earls, the children, rela- 
tives, and associates of Ragnar, were its leaders. 2 
Their armament assembled without molestation, and 
when it had become numerous enough to promise 
success to their adventure, Halfden, Ing war, an(J 
Ubbo, three of Ragnar's sons, assumed the com- 

1 Langb. ii. 278. Saxo, 176. Al Beverl. 92. Hunt. 347. M. West. 316. 
Bromton, 803. Sim. Dun. 13. Al. Kiev. 353. 

2 The kings were Bacseg, Halfden, Ingwar, Ubbo, Guthrums, Oskitel, Amund, 
and Eowls. Al. Bev. 93. Simeon adds to the kings, Sidroc, with a jarl of that 
name, Frena and Harald, p. 14. 


mand, sailed out of the Baltic, and conducted it safely CHAP. 
to the English coasts. By some error in the pilot- * 

age, or accident of weather, or actual policy, it passed 866 87 1 - 
Northumbria, and anchored off the shores of East 

Ethelred was scarcely seated on his brother's 
throne, before the great confederacy began to ^arrive. 
It found the country in a state auspicious to an inva- 
sion. Four distinct governments divided its natural 
force, whose narrow policy saw nothing but triumph 
and safety in the destruction of each other. One of 
these, the peculiar object of the hostility of the North, 
was plunged in a civil warfare. 

Of the Anglo-Saxon governments, the kingdom of 
Northumbria had been always the most perturbed. 
Usurper murdering usurper, is the pervading inci- 
dent. A crowd of ghastly monarchs pass swiftly 
along the page of history as we gaze ; and scarcely 
was the sword of the assassin sheathed before it was 
drawn against its master, and he was carried to the 
sepulchre which he had just closed upon another. In 
this manner, during the last century and a half, no 
fewer than seventeen sceptred chiefs hurled each other 
from their joyless throne 3 , and the deaths of the 
greatest number were accompanied by hecatombs of 
their friends. 

When the Northern fleet suddenly appeared off 
East Anglia, such sanguinary events were still dis- 
turbing Northumbria. Osbert had been four years 
previously expelled by Ella from the throne which 
he had usurped from another, and at this juncture 
was formidable enough to dare his rival again to the 
ambitious field. 

The Danish chieftains who first landed did not at 

3 Ella is called by Huntingdon degenerem, 349. Asser describes him as tyran- 
num quendam Ella nomine non de regali prosapia progenitum super regni apicem 
constituerant, p. 18. 

F F 3 


BOOK once rush to their destined prey. Whether accident 
- or policy had occasioned them to disembark in East 

sec. Anglia, they made it a beneficial event. Awing the 
country by^a force which the winds had never wafted 
from Denmark before 4 , they quietly passed the winter 
in their camp, collecting provisions and uniting their 
friends. They demanded a supply of horses from 
the king, who complied with their request, and 
mounted the greatest part of their army. 5 He at- 
tempted no enmity ; he suffered them to enjoy their 
wintry feasts unmolested ; no alliance with the other 
Saxon kingdoms was made during the interval ; each 
state looked on with hope, that the collected tempest 
was to burst upon another ; and as the menaced 
government was a rival, nothing but advantage was 
foreseen from its destruction. 

The Northern kings must have contemplated this 
behaviour with all the satisfaction and contempt of 
meditative mischief and conscious superiority. The 
Northumbrian usurpers at last sheathed, though 
tardily, the swords of contending ambition ; and, on 
the advice of their nobles, united for their mutual 
defence and the general safety. 6 

The invaders, although in many bands, like the 
Grecian host before Troy, yet submitted to the pre- 
dominance of Ingwar and Ubbo, two of the sons of 
Ragnar. Of these two, Ingwar was distinguished for 
a commanding genius, and Ubbo for his fortitude; 
both were highly courageous, and inordinately cruel. 7 

8 67. In the next spring, the invaders roused from their 

4 Al. Bev. 93. 

5 Asser, 15. The Icelanders intimate that the Northmen on their first arrival 
found Ella too powerful ; and that Ingwar negotiated with him, and cultivated 
treasonable intercourse with his subjects, till the complete arrival of the invaders 
enabled him to prosecute his revenge. Langb. ii. 278. 

6 Hunt. 349. Asser, 18. So Sim. Dun. 14. 

7 Hunt. 348. Ubbo is called chief of the Frisians by Sim. Dun. 70. Adam of 
Bremen describes Ingwar as the most cruel of all, and as destroying Christiana 
everywhere in torments, p. 14. He is also called Ivar. 


useful repose, and marched into . Yorkshire. The CHAP. 
metropolis of the county was their first object; and, . 7*'.. 
on the first of March, it yielded to their attack. De- 867 - 
vastation followed their footsteps; they extended 
their divisions to the Tyne, but, without passing it, 
returned to York. 8 

Osbert and Ella, having completed their pacifica- 
tion, moved forwards, accompanied with eight of 
their earls, and, on the 12th of April, assaulted the 
Northmen near York. The Danes, surprised by the 
attack, fled into the city. The English pursued with 
the eagerness of anticipated victory, broke down the 
slight walls 9 , and entered, conflicting promiscuously 
with their enemies ; but, having abandoned the great 
advantage of their superior discipline, the English 
rushed only to destruction. No nation could hope 
to excel the Northmen in personal intrepidity or 
manual dexterity ; from their childhood they were 
exercised in single combat and disorderly warfare ; 
the disunited Northumbrians were therefore cut down 
with irremediable slaughter. Osbert and Ella, their 
chiefs, and most of their army, perished. 10 The sons 
of Kagnar inflicted a cruel and inhuman retaliation 
on Ella, for their father's sufferings. They divided 
his back, spread his ribs into the figure of an eagle, 
and agonised his lacerated flesh by the addition of 
the saline stimulant. 11 

After this battle, decisive of the fate of North- 
umbria, it appeared no more as an Anglo-Saxon 
kingdom. The people beyond the Tyne appointed 

8 Sim. Dun. 14. In this year Ealstan died, the celebrated bishop and statesman. 
Asser, 18. 

9 Asser remarks, that York had not at this period walls so firm and stable as in 
the latter part of Alfred's reign, 1 8. 

10 Asser, 18. Sim. Dun. 14. The place where they fell was in Bromton's time 
called Ellescroft. Bromt. 803. 

" Frag. Isl. Lang. ii. 279. Ragnar Saga, ib. The Scalld Sigvatr. ib. Saxq 
Gram. 177. This punishment was often inflicted by these savage conquerors on 
their enemies. See some instances in Stephanius, 193. 

F F 4 


BOOK Egbert as their sovereign, but in a few years he was 

. lv ' . expelled, and one Eicseg took the shadowy diadem. 

867 - In 876 he died with grief at the distresses of his 

country, and another Egbert obtained the nominal 

honours. 12 But Ingwar was the Danish chief, who, 

profiting by his victory, assumed the sceptre of 

Northumbria from the Humber to the Tyne. 13 

A dismal sacrifice had been offered up to the manes 
of Ragnar, yet the invaders did not depart. It was 
soon evident that their object was to conquer, in 
order to occupy ; desolation followed their victories, 
because Northmen could not move to battle without 
it ; but while plunder was the concomitant of their 
march, dominion became the passion of their chiefs. 
Alfred's The country was affected by a great dearth this 

marriage, year, which the presence of such enemies must have 
enhanced. Alfred had now reached his nineteenth 
year ; he was raised by his brother to an inferior 
participation of the regal dignity, and he married 
Ealswitha, the daughter of a Mercian nobleman. 14 
The earnestness with which Alfred in his Boetius 
speaks of conjugal affection implies that this union 
contributed greatly to his felicity. 

The Northmen having resolved on their plans of 
occupation and conquest, began to separate into 
divisions. One body rebuilt York, cultivated the 
country round it, and continued to colonise it. 15 It 
may be presumed that Ingwar headed these. Other 
bands devoted^ themselves to promote the ambition 

12 Sim. Dun. 14. Matt. West. 326, 327, 328. Leland's Collect, ii. p. 373. 

13 The language of the Northern writers is, that Ivar obtained that part of Eng- 
land which his ancestors had possessed. Ragnar Saga, in Torfaeus Series Dan. 
Olaff Tryggv. Saga, ib. 375. This adds that he reigned a long while, and died 
without issue, 376. So Frag. Isl. Lang. ii. 279. 

11 Ethelred, surnamed the Large. The mother of Alfred's queen was Eadburh, 
of the family of the Mercian kings. Asser frequently saw her before her death, 
and calls her a venerable woman. Her daughter's merit as a wife leads us to infer 
the excellence and careful nurture of the mother, 19. 

15 Sim. Dun. Vita St. Cuthberti, 71. 


of those chieftains who also aspired to royal settle- CHAP. 
merits. . VL . 

This army passed the Humber into Mercia, and 868 - 
established themselves at Nottingham 16 , where they 
wintered. Alarmed by their approach, Burrhed, the 
king, and his nobles, sent an urgent embassy to West 
Saxony for assistance. Ethelred, with judicious 
policy, hastened to his wishes. He joined the Mercian 
with Alfred and the whole force of his dominions ; 
and their united armies inarched towards the frontier 
through which the invaders had penetrated. 

They found the Northmen in possession of Notting- 
ham ; the Danes discerned the great superiority of the 
allied armies, and remained within the strong walls 
and castle of the town. 17 The Anglo-Saxons were 
incapable of breaking through these fortifications, 
and their mutual respect, after an ineffectual struggle, 
occasioned a pacification, advantageous only to the 
Danes. The invaders were to retreat to York, and 
the kings of Wessex, satisfied with having delivered 
Mercia, and not discerning the danger of suffering 
the Northmen to remain in any part of the island, 
returned home. 18 

The Northmen retired to York with great booty. 19 
In this year two of the most terrible calamities to 
mankind occurred, a great famine, and its inevitable 
attendant, a mortality of cattle, and of the human 
race. 20 The general misery presented no temptations 

18 Its British name was Tiguo Cobauc, the house of caves, Asser, 19. Ty, is a 
house in Welsh now ; and cwb, a concavity. In the charter of 868, it is called 
Snothryngham, the house of Snothryng ; which in the days of Ingulf had become 
changed to Nothingham, p. 18, 19. 

17 Pagani munitione fortissimorum murorum et areis validissimae confidentes. 
Ingulf, 20. Burrhed, in a charter to Croyland, dated Aug. 1. 868, states himself 
to have made it at Snothryngham before his brother's friends, and all his people 
assembled to besiege the pagans. 

18 Asser, 20., mentions no conflict ; the Saxon Chronicle asserts, that an attack 
was made on the entrenchments, but disgraces the Anglo-Saxons, by adding, that 
it was not severe, p. 79. The monk of Croyland praises the young earl Algar, for 
his prowess in the affair, p. 18. 

19 Ingulf, 1820. ." Asser, 20. 


BOOK to the rapacity of the Northmen, and they remained 

> a year in their Yorkshire stations. 21 

87o. When spring arrived, they threw off all disguise, 

and signalised this fourth year of their residence in 
England by a series of hostilities the most fatal, and 
of ravages the most cruel. They embarked on the 
Humber, and sailing to Lincolnshire, landed at Hum- 
berstan in Lindesey. 22 From this period, language 
cannot describe their devastations. It can only re- 
peat the words plunder, murder, rape, famine, and 
distress. It can only enumerate towns, villages, 
churches and monasteries, harvests and libraries, 
ransacked and burnt. But by the incessant repeti- 
tion, the horrors are diminished ; and we read, with- 
out emotion, the narration of deeds which rent the 
hearts of thousands with anguish, and inflicted 
wounds on human happiness and human improve- 
ment, which ages with difficulty healed. Instead, 
therefore, of general statements, which glide as un- 
impressively over the mind as the arrow upon ice, it 
may be preferable to select a few incidents, to imply 
those scenes of desolation, which, when stated in the 
aggregate, only confuse and overwhelm the sensibility 
of our perception. 

After destroying the monastery, and slaying all 
the monks of the then much admired abbey of 
Bardeney, they employed the summer in desolating 
the country around with sword and fire. 23 About 
Michaelmas they passed the Witham, and entered 
the district of Kesteven with 24 the same dismal 
ministers of fate. The sovereign of the country 
made no effort of defence ; but a patriotic few at- 

21 Sax. Chron. 80. Asser, 20. 

22 Lindesey was the largest of the three parts into which the county of Lincoln 
was anciently divided. 

23 Ingulf, 20. 

24 Kesteven was another of the three districts into which Lincolnshire was 
anciently divided. 


tempted to procure for themselves and the rest, that CHAP. 
protection which their government did not impart. . VL . 

The brave earl Algar, in September, drew out all 87 - 
the youth of Hoiland 25 ; his two seneschals, Wibert 
and Leofric, whose names the aged rustics that sur- 
vived attached, with grateful memory, to their pos- 
sessions, which they called Wiberton and Lefrink- 
ton, assembled from Deeping, Langtoft, and Boston, 
300 valiant and well appointed men ; 200 more joined 
him from the Croyland monastery. They were com- 
posed chiefly of fugitives, and were led by Tolius, 
who had assumed the cowl ; but who, previous to his 
entering the sacred profession, had been celebrated 
for his military character. Morcard, lord of Brunne, 
added his family, who were undaunted and numerous. 
Osgot, the sheriff of Lincoln, a courageous and for- 
midable veteran, collected 500 more from the inha- 
bitants of the county. These generous patriots united 
in Kesteven, with the daring hope of checking, by 
their valour, the progress of the ferocious invaders. 

On the feast of St. Maurice, they attacked the ad- 
vanced bands of the Northmen with such auspicious 
bravery, that they slew three of their kings, and 
many of the soldiers. They chased the rest to the 
gates of their entrenchments, and, notwithstanding a 
fierce resistance, they assailed these, till the advance 
of night compelled the valiant earl to call off his 
noble army. 26 

With an unpropitious celerity, the other kings of 
the Northmen, who had spread themselves over the 
country to plunder it, Godrun, Bacseg, Oskitul, Half- 

25 Holland or Holland ; the southern division of Lincolnshire, which extended 
from the Witham to the Nine. Like the Batavian Holland, it was so moist, that 
the surface shook if stamped upon, and the print of the feet remained on it. It 
was composed of two parts, the lower and the upper. The lower was full of im- 
passable marshes ; huge banks preserved it from the ocean. Camd. 459. 

26 Ingulf, 20. Chron. St. Petri de Burgo, 16. The place where these three 
kings fell obtained the name of Trekyngham, or the three kings' home. It was 
before named Lacundon. Ing. 21. 


BOOK den, and Amond, together with Frena, Ingwar, Ubbo, 

. IV ' . and the two Sidrocs, hastened, during the night, to 

87 - re-unite their bands in the camp. An immense booty, 

and a numerous multitude of women and children, 

their spoil, accompanied them. 

The news of their unfortunate arrival reached the 
English stations, and produced a lamentable effect; 
for a large part of the small army, affrighted by the 
vast disproportion of numbers which in the ensuing 
morn they must encounter, fled during the darkness 
of the night. This desertion might have inspired and 
justified a general flight; but the rest, as though 
they had felt that their post was the Thermopylae of 
England, with generous magnanimity and religious 
solemnity, prepared themselves to perish for their 
country and their faith. 

The brave Algar managed his diminished force 
with the wisest economy, and with soldierly judg- 
ment. He selected the valiant Tolius, and 500 in- 
trepid followers, for the post of the greatest danger, 
and therefore placed them on his right. Morcard, 
the lord of Brunne, and his companions in arms, he 
stationed with them. On the left of his array, Osgot, 
the illustrious sheriff, with his 500 soldiers, took his 
allotted post with Harding of Rehale, and the young 
and impetuous citizens of Stamford. Algar himself, 
with his seneschals, chose the centre, that they might 
be ready to aid either division as exigency required. 

The Northmen, in the first dawn of light, buried 
their three kings in the spot thence called Trekyng- 
ham, and leaving two other of their royal leaders, 
with four jarls to guard their camp and captives, 
they moved forwards with four kings and eight jarls, 
burning with fury for the disgrace of their friends 
on the preceding day. 

The English, from their small number, contracted 
themselves into a wedge ; against the impetus of the 


Northern darts, they presented an impenetrable arch CHAP. 
of shields, and they repelled the violence of the horse . VL . 
by a dense arrangement of their spears. Lessoned 87 - 
by their intelligent commanders, they maintained 
their station immovable the whole day. 

Evening advanced, and their unconquered valour 
had kept off enemies, whose numbers had menaced 
them with inevitable ruin. The Northmen had spent 
their darts in vain. Their horsemen were wearied 
with the ineffectual toil of the day ; and their whole 
army, despairing of success, in feigned confusion 
withdrew. Elated at the sight of the retreating foe, 
the English, quitting their array, sprang forwards to 
complete their conquest. In vain their hoary leaders 
expostulated, in vain proclaimed ruin if they sepa- 
rated. Intoxicated with the prospect of unhoped 
success, they forgot that it was the skill of their 
commanders which, more than their own bravery, 
had protected them. They forgot the fewness of 
their numbers, and the yet immense superiority of 
their foes. They saw flight, and they thought only 
of victory. Dispersed in their eager pursuit, they 
displayed to the Northern chiefs a certain means of 
conquest. Suddenly the pagans rallied in every 
part, and rushing upon the scattered English, sur- 
rounded them on every side. It was then they saw 
what fatal rashness had involved in equal ruin their 
country and themselves. They had almost rescued 
England from destruction by their valour and con- 
duct ; and now, by a moment's folly, all their advan- 
tages were lost. For a while, Algar, the undaunted 
earl, and the self-devoting Tolius, with the other chiefs, 
discreet even in the midst of approaching ruin, by 
gaining a little eminence, protracted their fate. But 
as the dispersed English could not be re-united, as 
the dissolved arrangement could not be re-composed, 
the valour and skill of the magnanimous leaders, 


BOOK however exalted and unexcelled, could only serve to 
v < multiply the victims of the day. The possibility of 
87 - victory had vanished. The six chiefs beheld their 
followers falling fast around ; death approached them- 
selves. Mounting upon the bodies of their friends, 
they returned blow for blow, till, fainting under 
innumerable wounds, they expired upon the corpses 
of their too impetuous companions. 27 

A few youths of Sutton and Gedeney threw their 
arms into the neighbouring wood, and, escaping with 
difficulty in the following night, they communicated 
the fatal catastrophe to the monastery of Croyland 28 , 
while its abbot and the society were performing 
matins. The dismal tidings threw terror into every 
breast ; all foreboded that the next stroke of calamity 
would fall on them. The abbot, retaining with him 
the aged monks and a few infants, sent away the 
youthful and the strong, with their relics, jewels, and 
charters, to hide themselves in the nearest marshes, 
till the demons of slaughter had passed by. With 
anxious haste they loaded a boat with their treasures. 
They threw their domestic property into the waters, 
tut as part of the table of the great altar, plated with 
gold, rose above the waves, they drew it out, and re- 
placed it in the abbey. 

The flames of the villages in Kesteven now gra- 
dually spread towards them, and the clamours of 
the fierce pagans drew nearer. Alarmed, they re- 
sumed their boat, and reached the wood of Ancarig 
near the south of the island. 29 Here, with Toretus, 

27 This interesting narrative is in Ingulf, 20, 21. 

28 Croyland was one of the islands lying in that tract of the Eastern waters, 
which, rising from the middle of the country, and spreading above 100 miles, pre- 
cipitated themselves into the sea with many great rivers. Malm. Gest. Pont. 292. 

29 Or Thorn-ey, the island of Thorns. There was a monastery here. Malms- 
bury exhibits it as the picture of a paradise ; amidst the marshes abounding in 
trees, was a fine green plain, as smooth and level as a stream ; every part was cul- 
tivated ; here apple-trees arose, there vines crept along the fields, or twined round 
poles. Yet he adds one trait so expressive of lonesomeness, as to throw a gloom 
over the charms of nature : " When a man comes he is applauded like an angeL" 
De Gest. Pont. 294. 


the anchorite, and his fraternity, they remained four CHAP. 
days. > 

The abbot, and they who were too young or too 
old to fly, put on their sacred vestments, and as- 
sembled in the choir, performing their mass and 
singing all the Psalter, with the faint hope, that un- 
resisting age and harmless childhood would disarm 
ferocity of its cruelty. Soon a furious torrent of 
howling barbarians poured in, exulting to iind 
Christian priests to massacre. The venerable abbot 
was hewed down at the altar by the cruel skit ul, 
and the attendant ministers were beheaded after him. 
The old men and children, who ran affrighted from 
the choir, were seized and tortured, to discover the 
treasure of the place. The prior suffered in the 
vestry, the subprior in the refectory; every part of 
the sacred edifice was stained with blood. One child 
only, of ten years of age, whose beautiful counte- 
nance happened to interest the younger Sidroc 30 , was 
permitted to survive. The spoilers broke down all 
the tombs and monuments, with the avaricious hope 
of discovering treasures ; and, on the third day, they 
committed the superb edifice to the flames. 

With a great plunder of cattle, the insatiate bar- 
barians marched the next day to Peterborough. 31 
There stood a monastery, the glory of the archi- 
tecture of the age, and whose library was a large 
repository of books, which the anxious labours of 
two centuries had collected. But arts and science 

30 One of the Sidrocs had already distinguished himself for his aggressions on 
France. In 853, and 855, he entered the Seine with much successful depredation. 
Chron. Fontanel. Bouquet, 7. p. 40 43. 

31 This also stands in the land of the Girvii or Fenmen, who occupied those 
immense marshes, containing millions of acres, where the counties of Lincoln, 
Cambridge, Huntingdon, and Northampton meet. Camd. 408. The marshes are 
described by Hugo Candidus as furnishi