long respite for the Cumbrian Britons. We learn from the
"Welsh Annals" that it was fought in the year 516, or
four years later by some accounts : here, we are told, "fell
Colgrim and Radulf the leaders of the Angles": and some
of the poems name " Ossa with the knife" as another of
the opponents of King Arthur. The battle stands twelfth
and last in the series of Arthur's victories, and the fables
in " Nennius " shows how early it formed the subject of
romance : the Son of Uther fights at the head of all the
British kings, " though many were nobler than he," and
352 Origins of English History.
storms the Mount in person : '' and in that day fell nine
hundred and sixty men by one charge of Arthur, and no
man laid them low save he alone, and he was the victor in
all the wars."^
In repeating the story from the English side we shall
follow as far as possible the actual words of the Chronicles,
seeking only to distinguish the fragments of ballads and
romances on which the history was based from the addi-
tions by which those time-worn records were woven into
an easy narrative. We know how the history of the
Frankish kings was compiled from " barbarous and most
ancient songs," and that the Germans of an earlier age
had nothing but such verses to help them in remembering
the past. It was a minstrel's task to blend the exploits
of the warriors with the legends of the gods, as the
harper mingled Beowulf's praises with the dragon-fight of
Sigmund the Wanderer, or as Thiodolf sang the " Yngling-
tale " for the kings who reigned in Upsala and traced their
propitious descent from the beings who brought wealth
and sunshine. '' Thus with their lays," said Widsith,
" over many lands the glee-men rove, and ever in the
South or the North find they one, learned in song and
^ Nennius, Hist. Brit. ^6. The account given by Henry of Huntingdon
appears to have been taken from some version of Nennius which has now-
been lost 5 the words for "shield" and "shoulder," which are similar in
Welsh, have been confused in his account of one of the earlier battles
where Arthur was said to have borne the image of the Virgin. Hist.
Angl. ii. 1 8. The " Moi^s Badoniciis" was at one time taken for the hill
above Bath, owing to an error of an early scribe : Dr. Guest, in his Essay
on the Early English Settlements, favoured the theory that the battle was
fought at Badbury Rings in Dorsetshire, Archceologia (Salisbury, 1849) ^2¬ї
6s. Mr. Skene, with more probability, selects as its site the Bouden Hill
not far from Linlithgow. Four Ancient Books of Wales, 57, 58.
Origins of English History. 353
free in his gifts, longing before the nobles his greatness to
raise and his lordship to show."^
We are shown how the Britons bethought themselves of
the pirates who held the coasts betw^een the Rhine and
the Danish Islands, how they sent for assistance to the
Lords of the Angles, " and saw not that they were pre-
paring for themselves a perpetual slavery," and how a
great multitude came from Germany and drove the Britons
from their lands with a mighty slaughter, and ever re-
mained masters of the field, " so that Britain became
England because it took the name of its conquerors.""^
The entries in the Chronicle confirm the truth of the com-
plaints of Gildas. " Now came the English to this land,
called by Vortigern to help in overcoming his foes : they
sailed here with three warships : their leaders were
Hengist and Horsa : and first they slew or drove away
the foe, and then they turned against the king and against
the Britons, and destroyed them with fire and the edge of
the sword." The first engagement was at Stamford, if we
may trust the old tradition: "The Picts fought with darts
and spears, and the Saxons with broad-swords and axes,
but the Picts could not bear the burden, and sought for
safety in flight, and the Saxons took the victory and the
triumph and spoil of the battle."^
1 "Traveller's Song," 269, 281. See Tac. Germ. 2; Beowulf, 871, 87 j.
Eginhard in the 9th century describes the old Prankish songs, " barbara
et antiquissima carmina, quibus veterum regum actus et bella cane-
bantur." Vita Karoli, c. 29. Compare the poems in the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, and the use of songs and "tags of Saxon verse" by Henry of
Huntingdon, and William of Malmesbury's ballads worn down by time,
" cantilenis per successionem temporum detritis," Gesta, ii. 138.
^ Ethelwerd, Chron. i. i.
^ Henr. Hunt. ii. i. Bede uses the expression " sumpsere victoriam,"
354 Origins of English History.
The invaders belonged to three closely-connected
nations of the Low-Dutch stock. Their territories, it is
clear, are now included in the modern Schleswig-Holstein
and a district in Southern Jutland ; but it is extremely
difhcult to ascertain the precise places which they occupied
about the time of their migration.
The Saxons, who founded the kingdoms to which their
name was given, besides several states in the western parts
of Mercia, seem to have come from the marsh-lands
beyond the Elbe. They were the peoples whom Ptolemy
placed on the neck of the adjoining peninsula and in "three
Saxon islands," which have been identified with Harde,
Eiderstedt, and Nordstrand as it may have been before
the great inundation of 1634. The Ravenna Geographer
was quite accurate in saying that their country " touched
upon Denmark."^ But it must also be remembered that
the Saxons were always pushing westwards along the
coast into the territories of the Chauci and the Frisians,
occupying the various districts which were successively
abandoned by the Franks, so that the "Old Saxony,"
which Bede described as the home of his forefathers,
extended across the Low Countries to the immediate
neighbourhood of the Rhine.
The Jutes came from the peninsula which bears their
name, where they held the country as far south as the
Sley, a river that runs into the sea not far from Schleswig.
In England they afterwards occupied the regions which
were united in the Kingdom of Kent, a separate kingdom
a paraphrase of the vernacular idiom showing that he copied from some
Anghan original. Hist. Eccl. i. 15 ; Guest, Early Engl. Sett. 47.
^ Ravennas, iv. 17; Bede, Hist. Eccl. v. 11 ; Lappenberg, Hist. Engl,
i. c. 5.
Origins of English History. '\^^
established in the Isle of Wight, and a tract called the
"country of the Meon-waras," now the Hundreds of East
and West Meon in Hampshire, on each side of the Hamble
River to the east of the Southampton Water.^
"Old Anglia " is usually identified with a small district
" about as large as Middlesex," bounded on one side by
the road from Schleswig to Flensborg and on other sides
by the river and an arm of the sea. This is the " Nook "
or ^''Angulns^' which in Bede's time lay waste as a march-
land between the Jutes and the Saxons, but was occupied
soon afterwards by the Danes from the neighbouring
islands. That this region was once held by the Angles
is certain from many ancient testimonies. " Old Anglia,"
said the Chronicler Ethelwerd, "is situated between the
Saxons and Jutes, and has in it a capital town, which
in Saxon is called Sleswic, and in Danish Haithaby."
Another description is found in the extracts from "Othere's
Voyage " which King Alfred inserted into his edition of
Orosius. The merchant Othere, who dwelt "northmost
of all the Northmen," told the King that he had been on
a voyage southward from " Skiringshael," which is now
called the Bay of Christiania. For three days they sailed
with Denmark on the right hand and an open sea to star-
board : then for two days afterwards they had Zealand
and other islands to the starboard, and before thev reached
Haithabv there were numbers of islands on both sides ;
"and in that country," added King Alfred, "the English
dwelt before they came to England."^
^ Bede, Hist. Eccl. i. 15, iv. 13, \6. Florence of Worcester in the
appendix to his Chronicle describes the New Forest as lying " in the
Province of the Jutes."
^ See Alfred's Orosius, c. 20, and the "Voyage of Othere out of his.
356 Origins of English History.
We are not obliged to suppose that the Angles were
confined to the small district round Schleswig. There is an
Island of Anglen and another district on the mainland of
the same name now inhabited by a Frisian population.
There are other indications showing that the Angles were
at one time settled on the Elbe, about the northern parts
of Hanover. Both Tacitus and Ptolemy placed them in
this neighbourhood, ''fenced in by the river and the forest,"
and always in proximity to the " Sueves," a nation of the
High-German stock with whom the Angles were often
associated. But Tacitus gives them also a share in the
ownership of the Holy Island situate in the Outer Ocean,
where the "Mother Earth" was worshipped in a sacred
forest. Her ritual is only appropriate to one of the larger
islands. She was borne in her shrine on a waggon drawn
by a yoke of kine. "The days," said Tacitus, "are merry
and the places gay where the goddess comes as a guest :
no man will go to war or seize a weapon, and every
sword is locked away : then, and then only, are peace and
quiet enjoyed, until the priest restores to her temple the
goddess weary of her converse with mankind : then the
car and its draperies, and the goddess herself, if one
cared to believe it, are purified in a lonely lake, and the
slaves who do the work are straightway drowned in its
The "Traveller's Song," though of no historical authority,
may be regarded as a collection of ancient traditions : it
contains a legend of Offa, the mythical ancestor of the
Countrey of Halgoland," in Hakluyt's Collection. The description in
Ethehverd's Chronicle dates from about the end of the loth century.
^ Tac. Germ. 40. His "Anglii" are described as belonging to the
Semnones, the chief of the Suevic nations. They are called " Suevi Angili "
OrigtJis of English History. 357
Mercian kings, which implies a beHef that the Angles had
gained a western outlet for their fleets before they under-
took their migration. The glee-man is enumerating the
tribes about the mouth of the Eider, which he calls "the
monsters' gate," from some forgotten story of the sea.
"Offa in boyhood won the greatest of kingdoms, and none
of such age ever gained in battle a greater dominion with
his single sword: his marches he widened towards the
Myrgings by Fifel-dor : and there in the land as OfFa had
won it thenceforth continued the Angles and Sueves."^
An old historian has told us that " many and frequent
were the expeditions from Germany, and many were the
lords who strove against each other in the regions of East
Anglia and Mercia : and thereby arose unnumbered wars,
but the names of the chieftains remain unknown by reason
of their very multitude."" It has been thought that some
of these invading bands may have belonged to races
unconnected with the three great kindreds to whom the
conquest is generally assigned. A share in the enterprise
is claimed for every nation between the Rhine and the
Vistula, for the Franks and Lombards, the Frisians and
Danes, the Wends from Rugen, and the Heruli of the
Eastern forests. "7b/ tantiqiie petunt simiil gigantesT
To this cause it has even been proposed to ascribe the
weakness of the later Angles "when, fleeing before the
invading Northmen, the sons yielded the dominion of the
land which their valiant forefathers had conquered."''^
There is nothing unreasonable in supposing that isolated
^ Traveller's Song, 84, 98. "Fifel-dor" means the gate of monsters.
The word " Eider " itself is said to be contracted from " Egi-dor," the gate
" Henr. Hunt. Hist. ii. 17, " Lappenberg, Hist. Engl. i. c. 6.
358 Origins of English History.
bands of adventurers from many countries may have
occupied portions of our coast, and may even have founded
communities independent for a time of the Anglian or
Saxon states in their neighbourhood. There is reason,
for example, to believe that there were villages of the
Frisians in Holderness and settlements of the same people
in the southern parts of Scotland; and one would have
expected to find traces of far more extensive colonies,
considering the closeness of the kinship between Saxon
and Frisian, their similar language, and their almost iden-
tical laws and customs.^ But there is in fact no evidence
to which weight can be attached that any considerable
numbers of Frisians were ever established, in this country,
and it will be found that the claims of this kind which the
Frisian writers have put forward are founded either on
vague allusions by English missionaries to their kinship
with the Continental Germans," or on a passage in the
already cited description of the "Island of Brittia" by
The recurrence of patronymic names in many parts of
England, and in most of the northern countries, has been
often regarded as a proof that our villages were colonies
or offshoots of a multitude of tribes. Such a name as
"Swaffham," for instance, is taken to imply the presence
of Sueves, as " Thorrington " of the Thuringians, and
^ See Skene's "Early Frisian Settlements," Proc. Soc. Antiqu. iv. 169;
Lappenberg, Hist. Engl. i. c. 6. A comparison of the "Asega-buch " with
the Kentish Laws of Ethelbert and his successors will show that the customs
of the two nations in the 7th century must have been nearly identical.
"" Bede, Hist. Eccl. v. 9. Compare the Life of Suibert, cited by Lappen-
berg : " Egbertus sitiens salutem Frisonum et Saxonum eo quod Angli ab
eis propagati sunt."
^ Procopius. Bell. Get. iv. ci 20, Ante, 81, 82.
Origins of English History. 359
" Wendling " of the Wends. But the wideness and ease
of the theory are warnings of the danger of accepting it.
It has, in fact, been used to prove the real existence in
England of all the personages who figure in the German
mythology or are paraded in the "Traveller's Song."
The gods of the North are degraded into petty chieftains,
the conquerors of a manor or a farm ; Beowulf is found at
Bowlby, and the all-ruling " Geat " at Gatton : the Wise
Weland works in a real smithy, and Hilda, the cold war-
goddess, lies buried at Hilda's-Lowe. It is simpler to
suppose that these local names are derived from those of
families named after a living founder, as the "^scings"
from Eric the Ash, or after some god or hero from the
common mythological stock. The names of the tribal
form seem to denote the settlements of the nobles. We
need not suppose that all who traced their descent to
the same divine being were kinsmen of the same blood,
or offshoots from the same community : nor are we bound
to assign a common origin to all the kings who called
themselves Children of Woden, or of those more shadowy
beings from whom Woden, as they thought, was descended.
We can trace the influence of such myths in the story
of the Conquest of Kent, to which we shall now proceed.
The pedigrees of Hengist and Eric must have been
preserved in such ballads as are mentioned in Beowulf's
Lay, when " the harp was touched and the tale was told
of Hengist the Child of the Jutes," how he pined in
Friesland through the winter, till King Finn gave to him
" Hunlafing, a war-flame and best of axes," and how the
king and his castle were destroyed by fire and the edge of
the sword.^ The glee-man sang the victories of Hengist
^ Beowulf, 1083, 1096, 1 1 27.
360 Origins of English History.
and his son, and of their forefathers back to " Witta who
ruled the Siieves," and Woden the bestower of valour and
wisdom, and beyond him to Freyr the Summer-god and
Finn to whom the Frisians prayed, to Geat the father of
the Goths and "Scyld" who defended the Danes, to the
swift Hermoder, and "Scef " the first of the mystical line,
whose lonely voyage w^as in Christian times confused with
the story of the Deluge. " This Scef," says the Chronicle,
"came in his bark to Scania, a little lad clad all in mail,
unknown to the people of that land : and they guarded
him as their own, and afterwards chose him for king : and
it was from him that our Ethelwulf traced his pedigree." ^
We shall now return to the entries in the Chronicles,
beginning with the year 449, in which the Conquest of
Kent, according to their reckoning, commenced. The
leaders, having landed at " Ypw4ne's-Fleet," at first gave
aid to the British king : "but after six years they fought with
him at a place called '^gil's-Threp,' and there Horsa was
slain, and Hengist and his son 'Ash' took the kingdom;
and after two years they fought against the Britons at a
place called 'Crecgan-Ford' and there slew four thousand
men; and the Britons then forsook Kent-land and in mighty
^ For the complete pedigrees, in which the name of Woden appears
half-way down, see the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the years 547, 560, 855,
the genealogies inserted in " Nennius," the Chronicle of Florence of
Worcester, and Asser's Life of King Alfred : and see the subject discussed
in Kemble's Saxons in England, i, c. 7. The names of " Frithuwulf,
Frealaf, and Frithuwald " are taken to be synonymes of Frea, the Scandi-
navian Freyr, the giver of peace and fertility. Grimm, Deutsch. Mythol. 193.
"Beowa " or " Beowulf " was a deity with similar attributes. " Heremod"
answers to "the swift Hermoder" of the Norse mythology. "Geat"
seems to be the same as "Gapt" who is placed by Jornandes at the head of
the Gothic genealogies.
Origuis of English History. 361
terror fled to London-Burgh."^ The last battle is de-
scribed by Henry of Huntingdon in language which seems
to have been taken from some heroic poem of which the
original no longer exists. " When the Britons went into
the w^ar-play they could not bear up against the unwonted
numbers of the Saxons, for more of them had lately come
over, and these were chosen men, and they horribly gashed
the bodies of the Britons with axes and broadswords."^
" And about eight years afterwards Hengist and ' Ash '
lought against the Welsh near Wipped's-Fleet : and there
they slew twelve princes: and one of their own thanes was
slain, whose name was Wipped, And after eight years
were fulfilled, Hengist and ' Ash ' fought again with the
Welsh and took unnumbered spoil : and the Welsh fled
from the English as from fire. And after fifteen years
' Ash ' came to the kingdom, and for twenty-four years he
was king of the Kentish men."^
The outlines of a British account of the war were pre-
served in the story of Prince Vortimer. " In those days,"
so the legend of Nennius runs,^ " Vortimer fought fiercely
^ A. S. Chron. ann. 449, 455,457; Ethelwerd, Chron. i. i. The ex-
pression used in the Chronicles "feng to rice" impHes that the chieftains
" took to being kings " or "took to the king-ship." The entry appears to
refer to the foundation of the two Kingdoms of East and West Kent, of
which the hmits corresponded with the sees of Canterbury and Rochester.
Eric the Ash was the head of the family of "Ashings": " Oeric cogno-
mento Oisc a quo reges Cantuariorum solent Oiscingas cognominare."
Bede, Hist. Eccl. i. 5. The surname is said to have meant "the warrior "
or "the spear": but in the Frisian legends it appears as " Hoeisch,"
meaning " soft " or " mild." " Orich cognomento Hoeisch quod Frisonico
idiomate proprie sonat mitis et lenis." Kemp. Orig. Fris. ii. 22 ; Hamcon.
"^ Henr. Hunt. ii. 4. ^ A. S. Chron. ann. 465, 473.
* Nennius, Hist. Brit. 43, 44.
362 Origins of English History.
with Hengist and Horsa and drove them out as far as
Thanet : and there three thues he shut them in, and terri-
fied and smote and slew. But they sent messengers to
Germany to call for ships and soldiers, and afterwards
they fought with our kings, and sometimes they prevailed
and enlarged their bounds, and sometimes they were
beaten and driven away. And Vortimer four times waged
on them fierce wars : the first as was told above, and the
second at the stream of Derwent, and the third at a
ferry which the Saxons call Epis-Ford, where Horsa and
Catigern fell. The fourth war he waged in the plain by
the Written Stone, on the shore of the Gaulish Sea, and
there he gained a victory, and the barbarians were beaten,
and they turned and fled, and went like women into their
The commentators have sought in vain to harmonise
these conflicting legends. Ebbsfleet in Thanet is usually
identified with the landing-place, and the sites of the two
principle battles are placed at Aylesford and Crayford on
the Medwav. But the matter abounds in difficulties, and
it is probable that too much stress has been laid on a
slight resemblance of names, and on the statement of
Bede's informant, that a monument marked with Horsa's
name was in that day standing " in the eastern parts of
We may suppose that Horsa's name was inscribed on
some pillar, or " standing-stone," in those Runic signs
which had long since been imitated or borrowed from the
1 " Duces fuisse perhibentur eorum primi duo fratres Hengist et Horsa ;
e quibus Horsa, postea occisus in bello a Brittonibus, hactenus in orien-
talibus Cantiae partibus monumentum habet suo nomine insigne." Bede,
Hist. Eccl. i. ift.
Origins of English History. 363
Roman alphabet.^ But if there were such a memorial, its
locality seems to have been unknown as early as the time
of King Alfred, the passage in which it was described by
Bede having been omitted from the English version of his
history. Its site was fixed at Horsted near Aylesford,
after many conjectures by the antiquaries, chiefly it would
seem because the great cromlech in that neighbourhood
had already been assigned to Prince Catigern. The ruins
of another Stone-Age tumiihis were found at a little dis-
tance to the southward, consisting of " stones partly
upright with a large one lying across them": and it was
supposed that the chieftain might have been carried up
from the battle-field two miles away to lie near his enemy's
tomb. When certain antiquaries visited the place in 1763,
the villagers showed them a heap of flints in the wood,
which had all the appearance of being refuse stones
thrown up by a farmer, and this has since that time been
accepted as the site of the ancient monument. One point
being fixed, it became easy to identify the rest : and hence
the apparent certainty with which localities have been
settled for almost all the events in the legend of Hengist
It is still, however, a subject of debate if these cham-
pions existed at all, and we are permitted to doubt whether
" Dan Hengist " landed in Lindsey and fought to the
^ " Runic monuments may be said to have been found in all countries
inhabited by nations of Teutonic descent, but the oldest of those monu-
ments cannot be regarded as dating before 200 a.d." The Runes them-
selves are mostly the capitals of the Roman alphabet, " borrowed from the
Romans during the Empire not long after the date of Julius Caesar." Rhys,
Welsh Philology, 321.
- Camden, Brit. 25:5 Lambarde, Perambul. Kent, 409 j Philipot, Vill.
Cantian. 48; Hasted, Hist. Kent^ ii. 177 : Archceologla, ii. 107.
364 Origins of English History.
death with Ambrosms, or if Duke Horsa fell at Ayles-
ford beneath a giant's blow, ^^ XeXaa-fjuivo^ cTrTroawdcov." We
are told that the evidence for their actual existence is
*' at least as strong as the suspicion of their mythical
character."^ But it is urged on the other hand that the
names of " Horse and Mare " are on the face of them
symbolical, and should be taken as referring to some
banner of the host, some crest or emblem of the tribe, or
perhaps to some reverence for the sacred white horses
which the Germans supposed to be " aware of the designs
of heaven."" Kemble thought that we must connect the
chieftains, with pagan deities, seeing beneath the myth
*' Woden in the form of a horse," or some such god-
like or " half-godlike" form."^ There seems however to be
no reason why a popular captain should not be called
"the Horse," since we read of others who were nick-
named after the Crow, the Wolf, and the Boar:* nor is
it easy to see how the cult of the pure white horses, or a
belief in the omens obtained from their movements, could
ever be transmuted into the story of Hengist the Jute.
But there is a stronger objection to the Chronicler's
statements in the fact that Hengist is the hero of such
numerous and such divergent traditions. The crafty and
valiant prince, an Odysseus of the Northern Seas, has left
a legend on every coast between Jutland and the Cornish
Promontory.^ All the old stories are fastened on his
^ Freeman, Norm. Conquest, i. 10.