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THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, BOOK VII
OW that he had obtained peace and quiet and tumults had been suppressed everywhere, so that he had no enemy to fear in Albion or elsewhere, the legate Maximus put on a display of being moderate and lenient in his dealings, so that he might enjoy a reputation for probity (a quality he wished to be thought to have more than actually to possess), and prevented no man from speaking with himself. He kept a bevy of British elders around himself. He was good-natured towards everybody, and by his reputation and glory he won the friendship and favor of many men. And when he had leisure from pubic duties, he would go to the gymnasium and indulge in exercise with noble Britons and others. He was remarkably generous both to them and to his Roman soldiers, giving out in a single day nearly as much as Britain paid as its annual tribute to Caesar. The soldiers became attached to him thanks to this huge sum of money, so they all looked to him as their supreme commander, freely swore an oath of allegiance to him, and promised to march wherever he commanded.
2. Trusting in his largesse to win over the Britons, Maximus held a public parliament at Eboracum, where, after sharing out the Scots’ former districts between the Britons and Picts and stationing garrisons in forts and strongholds throughout Albion, he held conversations with certain of the partners in his enterprises and those whom he had made privy to his designs, concerning setting himself up as tyrant. When they had grasped his purpose and gradually communicated it to their fellow soldiers so that it eventually became common knowledge, either because they knew that he came from an imperial family (he was a descendant of Constantine the Great) or because of his martial skill and unimaginable liberality (the best thing for winning over men’s minds), they dressed him in purple and declared him emperor. I am not unaware that certain authors of proven worth record that Maximus was created emperor by the army in Britain against his will, but, as long as this does not violate historical fidelity, I prefer to follow our own writers rather than foreign ones.
3. When Valentianus, the current Roman emperor, discovered that Britain had been seized by Maximus’ usurpation, he waged war against him by means of his prefects in Gaul, with varying degrees of success. But when Maximus proved invincible, having bested Valentinus and some other Roman generals, he easily gained peace from Caesar and held Britain for the next seventeen years. Since the island had first been inhabited, he was the first to govern it in its entirety. He wonderfully won over his Pictish allies, so much so that he either enlisted the stoutest of them in his army or used them to garrison his strongest forts. And when he visited Pithland he exchanged his Roman dress for a Pictish costume, and was seen in their currently fashionable mantle embroidered with branches and flowers of gold and silk. He freely allowed Heirgustus to rule, with a only a moderate tribute imposed in the name of the empire, levied from his northernmost territories as a token that the entire island was finally subservient to the Roman emperor. Imagining themselves henceforth to be free of fear of their enemy, the happy Britons and Picts adored their emperor Maximus to a wonderful degree. They likewise rejoiced that the Scots, a nation which had always been a rival both to the Britons and the Picts, had been banished from Albion and reduced almost to the point of extinction. But when Maximus had ruled over Albion for a number of years in an upright and earnest manner, which all men regarded as worthy of an Augustus, inasmuch as we mortals have an innate greed, he grew restless and craved the rule the world. So he left Britain under the protection of strong garrisons and crossed over to Gaul, where he was received with great good will by Gratianus’ legions, which were disgruntled because that man valued barbarians more than Romans. Then he made a sudden foray at his soldiers’ urging and, deceiving him by his wiles, killed the terrified Gratianus when he was intending to cross over to Italy. Paul the Deacon records that Maximus next rampaged his way through Germany and Italy, everywhere extracting tribute by the mere terror of his name, but that at Aquila Theodosius Augustus surrounded him with his army, captured him, and put him to death. When his death became known, the soldiers in Gaul with whom he had left his young son Victor, already hailed as an emperor, killed the lad.
4. While the Roman rulers were suffering from these mutual quarrels, Octavius, the son of the previous King Octavius of the Britons, who I have described as going to the island of Mona and joining Eugenius and Ethodius as his way of avoiding the tyranny of the Roman legate Maximus, returned to Britain from Gaul, where he had gone after Albion had been conquered by Maximus’ arms. He demanded this kingless kingdom as his rightful heritage, because he was born of a long and noble line of kings, was of British blood was of the royal dynasty, and was the eldest of his brothers. He averred that Britain did not belong to the Roman empire, the majesty of which (as was plain to see) was in decline. Indeed, if they were willing to adopt his opinion, henceforth nobody not of Roman blood would henceforth hold power among them. Roman government was arrogant and hateful. He then reminded of them of the kindnesses and efforts bestowed on them by British kings, the wounds they had suffered and the blood they had shed to maintain the safety of Britons. He urged them to reclaim for the last time their ancient liberty, so often taken away and so often recovered, and shake off the yoke of servitude: beyond doubt the opportune time for doing this thing successfully was now at hand. The Britons, weary of long Roman rule and always eager for liberty, did not spurn Octavius’ demands, for, in addition to his British origin and the splendor of his royal blood, his proven virtue recommended him to them. So they made him their king. The Romans who had been left behind in garrisons put up a resistance, and the matter was heading towards a grave conflict, since very many Britons were very forcibly striving to uphold Octavius’ side, and the Roman soldiers, with the support of no small portion of the Britons, were attempting to hand over the island to Theodosius Augustus, who was master of Roman affairs at that time.
5. This affair provided Caesar with the excuse to send a new Roman army to Britain in order to subjugate it once more. But after King Octavius had been attacked by Roman arms repeatedly, and after fruitless battles had been fought against him by men most skilled in military affairs, in the end he made his peace with the man, but only on condition that he remain a loyal friend of the Roman people. Strongholds, castles and forts were to be held by Roman garrisons. Legal cases were to be heard by judges who the emperor Theodosius’ appointees. The same yearly taxes previously paid to the pretender Maximus were to be paid to Caesar. Thenceforth, with Maximus removed and Roman rule restored, Britain remained loyal to Caesar for several years. When the emperor Theodosius was apprised of this, he sent two legates to Albion to retain it in its loyalty. One of these, Victorinus, was based at Eboracum, and the other, named Martius, at London, to do Caesar’s work in the province. The administration that ensued was not well liked by all the men of Albion. For the Pictish elders followed their own laws and did not place much importance on Roman ones, so Victorinus summoned them and rebuked them because they insulted the Roman name by holding in contempt his chosen judges in their province and their axes and fasces, and persisted in using barbarian law, as if they had no dealings with Caesar and the Roman people. He warned them that henceforth they must refrain from pronouncing law in accordance with their ancestral customs, but rather employ Roman legalists, laws and judges, for it was his will that henceforth these judges would have power over life and death, They should not either ask for or employ any other means of passing judgment than that allowed by Roman law, on pain of death for non-compliance.
6. Learning of the decree of the Roman legate Victorinus, King Heirgustus of the Picts, now burdened by old age and constant ill health, foresaw that he was destined to drag out his old age in shameful servitude, lest he live on as a mockery and troubled in mind that the war had been undertaken against the Scots by his doing, something which he realized was going to bring down intolerable hardship on his nation and its posterity, removed all bystanders as if he were doing to transact something in secret. Then he went into his apartment, locked his door, and committed suicide. After the unhappy end of King Heirgustus, Victorinus published an edict forbidding the Picts to choose any magistrates or conduct any public business, or any man from pronouncing justice save for him appointed by authority of Caesar. This was done in accordance with a stipulation on the treaty entered into with King Heirgustus by the legate Maximus, acting in the name of the Roman people, when he waged war against the Scots on behalf of the welfare of the kingdom of the Picts, and so now the kingdom of the Picts, like that of the Britons before it, was to be reduced to the form of a province, its ancestral laws abrogated. It was to be reformed along Roman lines, with its barbarous customs abolished, and Victorinus threatened those who would not abide by this edict with death. Some Picts, regarding the legate’s edict as silly, refused to comply, taking it very much amiss that the royal family was to be debarred from succession to the throne. In a parliament called for that purpose, they Durstus II, the son of Heirgustus, their king.
7. Victorinus was enraged and, lest this rebellious conspiracy gather strength from any other source, he thought it should be suppressed immediately. So he swiftly led an army into Pithland. The Picts at Camelodunum, who were taking their pleasure in their king’s company, were disturbed by a commotion which spread from the countryside into the city at receipt of this news. Since the enemy were pressing with their sudden inroads and there was no place for escape, they fortified the city as best as the short time allowed, but were surrounded by the Romans more quickly than anyone thought possible, and subjected to a very tight siege. This went on for a little while, and then the city was taken by storm and its inhabitants’ fortunes were plundered and shared out among those in the army in accordance with military custom. The king and the leaders of the rebellion were taken prisoner and brought to London, and then sent to Rome to be judged by Caesar and the senate. The rest of the nobles who had resisted the legate’s edict and stirred up the trouble were scourged in the market-place of Camelodunum, and then sentenced to death. And so this uprising was quickly put down and its ringleaders killed. Then the legate issued an edict proclaiming that the Picts must pay an annual tribute of one quarter of their cattle and grain to his procurator, and that it would be a capital crime for any man to resist this. The reason he gave was that, after the Scots had been from the island, the Pictish nation had become so insolent that, were they not restrained by Roman authority, they would be bound to create a great conflagration in Albion, to the destruction of many men. In addition to these burdens, he imposed many conditions of base servitude: that they be sent to Britain or wherever else the legate might command to dig ore in mines, hew stones in quarries, or make as many bricks as they were bidden. Another woe was added to these, devised for the ruination of the Pictish nation and race. For not long after these things had been enacted, the Picts were compelled to vacate Ordolucia, Deira, Galdia, Pithland, and large part of Caledonia and Vicomagia, so that they might be settled by Britons. They were also required to build a wall, with a very deep ditch running alongside it, from Abircorne, through the region of Glasgow, to Dunbritton, a defense stretching from the mouth of the Clyde to that of the Leven, between the eastern ocean and the Irish sea, which would henceforth separate the kingdom of the Picts from the Britons. It would be treasonable for any Pict to cross this wall without permission of a magistrate. Thus, in addition to all their other insufferable woes, Victorinus the legate showed there children would be reduced to base slavery.
8. Great sorrow gripped the Picts’ minds. They lamented the fact that by their own fault they had brought down this harsh lot on themselves, lifting up their eyes to heaven and humbly praying that it would free this people, which obeyed Christ’s teaching and was now paying the just price of its perfidy, from the most haughty Roman rule. Meanwhile, while the Picts in Albion were being visited with these troubles and subjected to dire servitude at the hands of the Roman legates, the exiled and homeless Scots were living far from their homeland, in strange kingdoms and in the company of foreign wives and children, earning their daily bread by manual labor, while others were employed as mercenaries, serving under excellent captains in various parts of the world. Ethodius, the brother of Eugenius, who, as I have said, have retired to Denmark by command of the legate Maximus, was received with great kindness by the Danish king. After the king had bestowed on him the administration of a certain region, he remained there for several years and sired a name son named Erthus on his wife, who had followed him from Albion. And he, after his father’s death, married Rocha, daughter of Rorich, the most important man in Denmark next to the king, and begot Fergus II, who (as will be told in the proper place) restored the kingdom of Scotland. When he in was early adolescence, a great levy was held throughout Scythia, Sarmatia and German for the destruction of the Roman empire, since the Fates were bringing it to its downfall and it was at that time an object of great hatred to all mortals, and at the urging of the Danish king, and in the company of a choice band of Danes and men of his nation who lived in exile in those parts, he enlisted in the the service of King Alaric of the Goths, who was unanimously elected to command that expedition. For he burned with the worst kind of hatred against the Romans, because they had either killed his ancestors together with the entire Scottish nation, or banished them from their ancestral homes and compelled to live on foreign soil.
9. And after many battles had been fought against the Romans with varying success, and after slaughters has been suffered by both sides, and when the Scythian Radagasus, accounted among the finest captains of the Goths and Scythians, had been killed along with a great host of his people, Rome’s power was finally exhausted and shattered by all manner of evils and Rome itself began to be besieged by the Goths, to whom fortune had inclined, under the command of Alaric. Although almost finished by their enemies’ arms and their own lack of sustenance, the Romans endured this siege for a while. It suffered from such dearth of all things that this wretched city did not refrain from the eating of human flesh and even of nastier food. St. Jerome said, “My voice sticks in my throat, sobbing prevents me from speaking. The city which had captured the whole world was itself taken captive. Indeed it perished by famine before the sword, and few indeed were found to be captured. The madness of the starving compelled them to eat unspeakable food. They rent at each other’s limbs, while the mother did not spare her babe and took back into her belly what she had recently produced from it.” Rome was taken by Gothic arms on the first day of April in the year 1164 after Romulus first founded it, and in the year of human salvation 412. When the city had been taken, by edict of King Alaric the Goths universally refrained from killing, and especially from defiling the churches of the apostles, so that many men taking refuge in churches were rescued by their majesty. But Rome, the former mistress of nations, was pillaged by the wild Goths, and from her were taken spoils acquired from every land, and where shared out, not equally, but according to every man’s merits in the Gothic way. They say that, in addition to certain sacred vessels and much precious moveable property, in accordance with this military custom Fergus was alotted a certain chest filled full of books, and (it is not known by what manner of divine inspiration) preserved them. Many years thereafter, when he had finished his many labors with the Goths in Italy, he carried this chest through Germany and brought it with himself to the Hebrides, and finally stored up its books, together with some histories of his nation’s fine accomplishments on the island of Iona in a building he carefully constructed for these remains, which he regarded as noble, and appointed scribes to produce enduring copies of them.
10. Some men assert, as I have often heard, that Aeneas Sylvius, a many most devoted to learning who was subsequently elected Pope and assumed the name of Pius II, when he was in Scotland performing an embassy to James I at the behest of Pope Eugene IV, was inspired by report of these things to plan a crossing over to Iona in the Hebrides, to see if he could find any of Livy’ Decades destroyed in Italy by wars and human savagery (for wars have more power to obliterate valuable things than does the passage of time). But because of our king’s death and the disturbed condition of Scottish affairs — he could not pass through those riotous districts without a large escort — he is said to have abandoned his project. But I took upon myself the responsibility of finding out what these famous books on Iona actually are, and what subjects they are written about, and with the great help of that noble and learned gentleman John Campbell, Treasurer to the King, after prodding the pious college of that place three times, I managed to have five ancient codices written in Roman letters brought to me at Aberdeen by a reliable messenger. And so in the year of Christ 1520 certain very ancient codices, together with a few scraps, of which scarcely any was larger than the palm of my hand, written with wonderful art and diligence on hard and almost unbendably stiff parchment (as was readily evident from the letters with which they were written), but so damaged by time, or more likely the negligence of their custodians, that barely one word in ten was legible. Whether those fragmentary books were written in Albion or brought there from foreign parts (which I cannot ascertain), all men who have seen them agree that they are written about Roman things in a Roman way, and are thought to be in a style more characteristic of Sallust than Livy. In the same shipment I also received a book written by Vairement, a sometime archdeacon of St. Andrews, which, written with a certain antique uncouthness, abundantly record history of our nation from the beginning of the Scottish nation down to the reign of King Malcolm Canmore. In this work, of whatever quality it may be, I have striven to follow in the footsteps of Bishop William Elphinstone, who also very faithfully adhered to Vairement in writing of our history, in relying on this work insofar as he appears to be in agreement with the best-approved sources in his narrative.
11. But I must return to the story I began to tell. Erthus’ son Fergus joined King Alaric in leaving Rome three days after the Goths captured it, and participated in the plundering of Campania, Lucania, and Calabria. And, at Alaric’s command, he attempted to transport his soldiers over to Sicily, but lost some of ships while crossing the strait, and was blown back to Italy by a storm, barely escaping the danger. There he discovered that Alaric had died and Ataulf had been elected his successor by the Goths. He stayed at his side and became a favorite. When the Goths had scoured all Italy, Fergus was dismissed by Ataulf and, wealthy with his plunder, he hastened back to Denmark with some select soldier. At this time, or certainly not a greatly different one, there lived men renowned for their intellect: the poet Claudian, an Egyptian by birth, who wrote about many noteworthy things in his verses, including some of the fine deeds of our nation; Apollinaris of Laodice, a very keen critic of heretics, especially those infected by Porphyrius’ plague; Martin of Tours, a bishop of Gaul but a Pannonian by birth, a man of famous repute for his piety; Brixius, likewise a Bishop of Tours; and a number of others who professed the true piety. And among our fellow countrymen, there was Ninianus, a bishop most famous for his sanctity and miracles, and the founder of the episcopal see at Whithorn in Galdia, where he also established a church sacred St. Martin, his uncle. He was a teacher of the Scots, Picts, and Britons, and an uncommonly good schoolmaster, and for that reason is held in great veneration by all the inhabitants of Albion, even in our own time.
12. But the greatest men, the most famous for their outstanding sanctity, were Ambrose Bishop of Milan and his godson Aurelius Augustinus. The former founded the order of canons we nowadays call the Canons Regular. This order quickly acquired a large population and acquired many noble monasteries (which they call abbeys) throughout the world, generously built and endowed by kings and princes. In addition to nearly countless men distinguished for their piety and conspicuous for their learning, and a number of excellent bishops, this order has supplied thirty Popes, something no other order can boast. The rules of this order also followed by the Hermits, who take there name from the desert, from where they were called by St. Augustine, which is now an order of holy and learned men second to none other in its reputation and numbers. It is wonderful how we are informed by trustworthy writers that at this time they have 3300 monasteries in Europe, and furthermore it is agreed that there are more in in Africa, where they had their origin, and in Ethiopia (which is above Egypt). But it is not just for these religious foundations, but even more for profound immersion in almost every branch of learning, in which he was instructed from boyhood, that Augustine is regarded as the eagle among the Church Fathers. When he was scarcely twenty years old he was a professor of rhetoric at Carthage, and was self-taught in mathematics and philosophy. First he did his teaching at Rome, and then at Milan. And there, he was led by Ambrose, the bishop of the place, to reject the Manichaean heresy with which he had originally been tainted, and, baptized, devoted himself to the true piety. In this, by an effort that surpassed normal human ability, he did great good for the Christian faith, so that (as Posidonius tells us) he refuted more than a hundred heresies. He wrote and read books in a number that seemed to require more than a single human lifetime for their writing and reading. And the theological writings he bequeathed to posterity are held in such veneration, and thought to have such great authority, that the theologians well-versed in scholastic philosophy bend all their efforts to understanding his opinions and singing his praises. He joined the company of the Saints at aged seventy, in the fortieth year after he was installed as Bishop of Hippo. which was the seventh year of the reign of Theodosius II.
13. At about the same time there lived (although they were a little older in years) Basil Bishop of Caesarea, the founder of a religious order. He left behind him many learned and pious writings, very conducive to the glory and enhancement of the Christian religion. And also Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, who, having been sorely vexed by the Arrians, finally emerged the victor and died a death most worthy of a very pious man. Also the presbyter Jerome, a prelate of the Church’s highest order, who wrote much for use of the Christian faith. He translate the Bible from Hebrew into Latin, and produced Latin versions of various religious works written in the languages of the Chaldees and Greeks. Pope Damasus took his writings, published them, and attributed great authority to them, and ordained that they should be read in churches with piety and reverence.
14. But I must return to my account of Scottish history, from which, perhaps, I have unduly strayed for the sake of St. Augustine and St. Jerome. When the Picts, who (as I started to say) was daily plunged into greater slavery, realized that all their affairs were tending towards the worst. Wearied by their lengthy and intolerable servitude, they began to negotiate by secret messages with the Scots living in exile in the Hebrides, Norway, and other parts of the world far removed from their homeland, concerning their return to Albion and the restoration of their kingdom, and about taking revenge for the injuries done by the Romans. They promised on their oath that either the kingdom of Scotland would be restored with their help, or they would die to the last man fighting a war against the Romans and Britons. Fergusius received this message in Denmark, and having discussed the business with the king of that place, immediately sent to Norway, and to the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and Ireland, to test the minds of the exiles in those places. When he was assured that they were all of a mind regarding the restoration of the Scottish kingdom in Albion, and inflicting retribution for damages suffered at Roman hands on both the Britons and the Romans, he assembled a great host of soldiers and ships, paid for partly out of his own pocket, and partly by the King of Denmark and even by his grandfather, the wealthiest man of that realm, for the purpose of going to Albion and recovering his ancestral throne.
15. Meanwhile Gratianus, a man of British blood, with the support of the Roman legate Martius, acting in violation of his sworn loyalty, established a tyranny in Britain. But their rebellion was quickly snuffed out, when they quarreled and each slew the other. Then the Roman soldiers, aggrieved by this unhappy affair, set up Constantine in Martius’ place without awaiting the emperor Honorius’ permission, so they would not be leaderless. This was a man distinguished neither by breeding nor martial prowess, and they seemed to be following him for no other reason than his name. Clad in the purple, with his army he crossed over into Gaul, which was open to invasion after suffering harm at the hands of the Vandals and the Swedes. His intention was to gain control of the province, if he could. There he was overwhelmed and put to death by Constantius, a noble and energetic man and a very loyal follower of the emperor Honorius. After the deaths of the tyrants Martius and Constantine, Victorinus, the other legate in Britain, quit Eboracum for London. He greatly strove to retain Britain’s loyalty to Honorius, since it was virtually denuded of Roman garrisons (for a little earlier the army had crossed over to Gaul with Constantine), lest it be harmed by the violence of barbarians, who were at that time inflicting damage the Roman empire nearly everywhere. This made the Picts hope for a better fortune. For, seeing that even by Victorinus’ utmost exertion and diligence the Britons could barely be kept loyal, they were convinced that, with the extra support of Scottish strength, they could easily reclaim their liberty. And so by frequent embassies they informed Fergus of the situation in Britain: how the legate Martius had paid the forfeit for his treachery by dying in a quarrel; of how Constantine, Martius’ base-born replacement, had put on the same purple and crossed over to Gaul with a strong force taken from the British garrison; how he had been put down by Constantius while trying to establish a tyranny; and how Victorinus had quit Eboracum and gone off to London with a large part of the army, and there was barely managing to hold the Britons to their loyalty. Therefore it was an opportune time to set about recovering the Scottish kingdom, which could be accomplished with no great trouble. Therefore they begged him to cross over to Albion as soon as possible, where, they solemnly swore, he might avail himself of their strengh against his enemy. For the Picts would fight on behalf of the Scots’ welfare, if need should be, even to the death.
16. Excited by these Pictish embassies, but much more so by his ardor for recovering his ancestral kingdom, Fergus, who was scarcely unaware that the Picts had now paid a just penalty to a wrathful heaven for their perfidy, gathered everything needful for his soldiers and sailors, and set sail from Denmark. On eighth day, having enjoyed a fair voyage, he landed in the estuary of Moray and set all his forces ashore. The report of his arrival in Albion caused all Scotsmen in Ireland, the Hebrides, and the Orkneys to come a-running together with their wives and children, as if their enemy had already been defeated and expelled and they could endure forever with security in the land of their birth. And at their arrival the nation of the Picts was also bright with hope. And so the Pictish elders assembled there, thronging Fergus with their congratulations because his patriotism had induced him to cross over to Albion in the winter, although his most experienced shipmasters had tried to discourage him, scorning the dangers of the sea in order to restore his kingdom and drive their most bitter enemies out of it. They humbly prayed that he would forget old injuries and make an end to all strife between their peoples, something he could easily achieve with their help. He should enter into a new league with the Picts, who would cheerfully accept whatever peace-conditions he might require, and do whatever he commanded. He should blame their forefathers, but not themselves, for the war previously waged by Hiergustus against King Eugenius. For they had had no experience of Roman perfidy, nor how much evil an impious war with their friends would invite, if they broke their sacred treaty, seduced by the flatteries of the Romans and Britons, whose fraud they could have readily perceived, had the Fates allowed. While they imagined they were fighting on behalf of the Picts’ public welfare, they procured hard slavery for themselves, and had now paid the due forfeits for their impiety, so that they regarded any form of death as preferable to haughty Roman rule: subjected to this, their slavery increased day by day, as they were oppressed by newly-invented punishments.
17. To these things, in accordance with the consensus of his elders, Fergus responded that he had weighed them and agreed to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps and enter into a pact with the Pictish nation, on the same conditions by which they had formerly been bound. He was willing to enter into war against the Romans and Britons, their ancient constant enemies, for the sake of avenging the wrongs they had received, but only if the Picts agreed take all their fortunes, children and wives, and voluntarily depart from the lands they had appropriated from the Scots by their extreme deceit and faithlessness. As far as the old wrong was concerned, by now the Picts had paid sufficient penalties to the wrath of God, that most just Avenger of perfidy, since they had been despoiled of their territories and, like base slaves, deported to perform the nastiest of tasks in foreign kingdoms, being obliged to submit to every manner of servitude. These terms were highly agreeable to the Picts. And so, before very much time had elapsed, in response to report of Fergus’ arrival in Albion, a new king of the Picts was created and met with Fergus on friendly terms. With both parties taking great oaths, a new pact was made between their peoples on the old terms. When these things had been transacted, as was specified in the treaty the territories from which the Scots had been ejected by Roman arms were handed back to them, and Fergus was led by a large escort to Argathelia, and there, sitting on the Stone of Destiny, his ancestral throne, he was saluted as king by one and all with the traditional ceremony. This was the forty-fourth year after the Romans had expelled the Scots from Albion (although some state it was the forty-fifth), the year after the virgin birth 422, which was the year after the establishment of the kingdom of Scotland 755, and the twenty-second year of the principate of the emperor Honorius. Fortified places in Scottish regions held by the Picts were handed back, while those garrisoned by Romans were stoutly defended. But in the end the Roman soldiers were broken by protracted starvation, the great force of arms brought to bear against them, and all the woes of war, and were compelled to surrender. But when those fortifications had been recovered, King Fergus did not abuse the men of their garrisons, but rather allowed them the freedom to depart.
18. The legate Victorinus was very disturbed by the news of these things. He collected his forces and hastened to Eboracum. When he had arrived there, and by means of a herald had vainly sought to separate the Picts from their alliance with the Scots, offering many gifts and promises. So he cursed the Picts as traitors, liars, and unworthy of all human society, and began to employ naked force against both nations. So, with his army, he burst into enemy territory. They say that at that time he had forty thousand men under his standards. He ranged through the territory surrounding Eboracum, Candalia, Ordolucia, Deira, and Pithland, and then encamped not far from Camelodunum. When Fergus learned of the Romans’ arrival in Pithland (for he too, together with the Pictish king, had assembled a great number of men), crossed the river Forth, and moved towards the enemy camp by night march, with the intention of attacking them in the uncertain light. But his intentions did not escape Victorinus’ attention, and the Romans placed themselves in battle array during the third watch of the night. Their armies clashed in a place hard by the river Carron, and they fought with intense hatred more than with physical strength, omitting nothing you could say pertained to atrocity. This was a bloody battle from its outset, and such a great number of men were consumed and thrown in the Carron that for a long stretch the river seemed to flow red, with an admixture of dead bodies. In the end the slaughter was such that our ancestors had scarce seen its like. Thus far the victory hung in the balance, when a sudden downpour of rain and hail threw both battle-lines into such confusion that the soldiers could barely identify the men on their own side, and the two sides separated, more exhausted than satiated by the fighting. This battle was so deadly to the men engaged in it that for several years there was a cessation of arms. On the following day, when it came time to put his army in fighting order, the Roman commander was sufficiently aware of its bad condition that he led it back to Camp, leaving garrisons in Pithland as a protection against his enemies.
19. The allied kings of the Scots and the Picts sent their surviving soldier home and were intensely occupied with renewing the war. When after lengthy thought they were unable to discover any means they could defeat the Romans, so diminished were their number of men and so exhausted their recourses. So they concentrated their attention on defending the territories already in their possession. Reserving all else for better times and abandoned their project of waging war, they began to think about protecting their national liberty, avoiding injuries by the enemy, and habituating their peoples to military ways. And for this purpose they convened parliaments in Otolina and Argathelia. Since the nation of the Picts was far more populous than could be contained in Horestia, Otolinia, Vicomagia, Stermondia, the Vale of Hern, and the lower part of Caledonia (for their remaining districts had been stolen by Roman arms), it was permitted that they might dwell in Athol and its adjoining territories beyond the Grampian Hills, until the Fates grew more favorable and they could recover the regions impiously taken from them. Soon the Pictish population in Athol grew miraculously, doing much to enhance the region and its surrounding land with forts, strongholds, and castles. Many think that these are the people who Bede, Vairement and other authors call the Ultramontane Picts, even though there are some who define them as those who once had their homes beyond the hills of Pithland. Meanwhile Victorinus commanded the Britons to finish off the long wall he had started, which reached from Dunbritton to the mouth of the Clyde, with stakes along its top, so that it would serve as a protection for the Briton and Romans against Scottish and Pictish inroads. Craftsmen were fetched from all qiuarters for this work, with soldiers appointed to protect them from enemy harm. But they were attacked by squadrons composed of an assortment of Scotsmen and Picts under the command of that noble man Graime, the father-in-law of King Fergus, and were killed in large number, together with the garrisons themselves, and a great deal of plunder, consisting both of men and cattle, was driven to Scottish and Pictish territories from the adjoining British provinces.
20. This Graime, as Vairement tells us, was born of the race of Algo, a distinguished family. He was born of a Scottish father and Danish noblewoman at a time when no small number of Scottish nobles were living in exile there. He himself married a well-born maiden of the same blood, who presented him with a daughter. At the urging of the king of Denmark, to whom she was some kind of kinswoman, Fergus married her. A little before his arrival in Albion, three sons were born to Fergus, Eugenius, Dongar and Constantius, of whom I shall tell in the proper place. Others maintain that Graime was a man of British blood, and that, in order to avoid Roman treachery, he first went into voluntary exile among the Scots, and then quit Albion for Denmark, since, as he said, those Romans ruled with avarice and arrogance. But whatever his origin, it is sufficiently agreed by our writers that he was a great-hearted man, outstanding both in peace and in war, and always ill-disposed towards the Romans and the Britons. Some maintain that that among our fellow countrymen the family of Graham, not ignoble even in our times, takes its origin from him. Having been wretchedly subject to slaughter by Scottish and Pictish arms, for a number of years the Britons were scarce able to protect their work and did not dare return to it. In the interim, many Scotsmen flocked to Fergus in Albion, coming from Spain, Gaul, Germany and Italy, who had served as mercenaries under an assortment of captains during the long time of exile, moved by patriotism and a zeal for restoring their erstwhile liberty. For they had perceived that the time for achieving this was at land, when so many tyrants, so many nations and peoples were weakening the Roman empire. With their help, King Fergus burst into Siluria, bent on ravaging. A Roman army quickly appeared, and when they fought it, the Scots lost no fewer than they killed. Thus they were compelled to abandon Siluria and, lest they experience worse at the ends of a Roman army that had been repaired and enlarged, Fergus dismissed his army and, retiring through Lelgonia into Argathelia, wintered there.
21. Some urged that in the following summer he should join battle with Victorinus, whom they had now heard had entered Galdia: better to put their ultimate fortune to the test in war rather than allow their enemies constantly constantly to vex them with so many and such great injuries. Others were of the opinion that they should not rashly come to blows with the Romans, with whom they had already fought two unsuccessful battles, but rather that they should delay and employ the pause in strengthening their battle-damaged forces, lest, defeated in a third encounter, they could not help but be exposed to harm. If you weighed Roman affairs in a more careful balance, you would see that Victorinus could not possibly remain in Britain. The majesty of the Roman empire was in decline, so that he would be obliged to take his Roman forces and garrisons and depart like a fugitive, and the Scots and Picts could regain the territories stolen from them, and without any great danger could restore their affairs to their erstwhile dignity. The Fates were now assuredly promising such successes, not just to the men of Albion, but to the world’s other nations and peoples subject to Roman rule. This view was adopted, and accordingly our countrymen made daily raids against the Romans and the Britons loyal to them, but refrained from open conflict. And a little later, by the whispers of his enemies, Victorinius was accused of capital crimes before the Roman emperor Honorius, as if he had were undertaking a revolution and set his mind on a tyranny, so that many people entertained the suspicion that the imperial army in Britain was going to set him up as an emperor. The rumor of this thing led Victorinus first to entertain private thoughts of making a secret escape from Britain and joining enemies of the Roman republic. But at the prompting of his soldiers, with whom he had gained great popularity by his largesse, he scorned Caesar’s power and, in violation of his solemn oath, he became a tyrant, although this had scarcely been his intention. Dressed in the purple, he was hailed as an emperor and enjoyed the incredible favor of his soldiers. Some Britons joined in this uprising against Honorius Augustus, and cheerfully obeyed Victorinus, as if he were supreme emperor. Others declined to join that throng, but rather entered into a secret conspiracy with Dionethus, son of King Octavius of the Britons, of whom I have already spoken, and who had departed this human life some years before these events transpired, for seizing power in Britain and ejecting the Romans. At length the affair went so far that the Britons openly refused to fight alongside the Romans.
22. The British situation was now tending towards a pernicious civil war, when the emperor Honorius sent Heraclianus, a man of consular rank, to Britain with a strong fleet, for the purpose of combating these disturbances in Britain. At his arrival, those men who had made Victorinus an emperor, together with the few people in the Roman army who were his adherents, pretended to feel sudden repentance. In order to ingratiate themselves with Honorius and Heraclianus, they stripped Victorinus of the purple and brought him captive to Heraclianus. Others were brought along with him for having been enthusiastic supporters of the tyrant. Thus Heraclianus took back the Roman army in Britain and kept the island loyal to Honorius. He did not linger in Britain: he was recalled by Honorius so that, as commander of his forces, he might lead an army and cross over to Africa to suppress the rising of the tyrant Athalus. Placidus was left behind in Britain to command the army and protect the province. He was a dull-witted, illiberal fellow, and an incompetent governor. Fergus, taking the measure of the man and appreciating how unsuited he was by nature for dealing with important matters, thought that the time was right for recovering the territories which were being forcibly held by Roman arms. In accordance with their treaty, with the help of King Durstus III of the Picts, he assembled a great army and led his forces into Siluria. Pictish war-bands came to fight alongside the Scots, and the confederate peoples ranged through Siluria, and then Galdia, and inflicted a foul slaughter on whoever they could find who was loyal to the Roman government. Striking fear everywhere by these things, they turned back and conquered the region of Pithland, together with Deira and Ordolucia, and with great force expelled the Romans and Britons.
23. Prodded by reports of these things, the legate Placidus marched from Britain into Pithland with numerous forces. Nor did the Scots and Picts seek to avoid engaging him on his arrival. Rather they joined battle with ferocity, first shooting missiles at their enemies, and then very vigorously attempted to defend their cause with swords, lances, and axes. The Roman cavalry was scattered and soon the legions, unprotected by their horsemen and all but overwhelmed by arrows, broke and ran, presenting their enemies with a happy victory. Dire slaughter was inflicted on the runaways. Placidus, barely saving his skin by flight, got to Eboracum with some infantry detachments charged with his protection. The Scots and Picts, now allied peoples, were swollen-headed with their success, and thought of marching into Britain and setting siege to Eboracum. But their broken strength and the disorganized condition of their army dissuaded them from this enterprise. Placidus, troubled not so much by this unhappy battle as by the many and other serious reversals inflicted on Roman rule by barbarian arms in Germany, Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Africa, and fearing that, should some rebellion break out in Britain, it might be entirely lost and he and his Roman soldiers might become laughingstocks and be subjected to the worst of fates, began to treat for peace and friendship with the confederated Scottish and Pictish kings. Not long thereafter a treaty of peace was made between the Scots, Picts, and Romans, on stated conditions: that the Scots and Picts should recover and possess their ancient homes; that they should not invade those of others, nor make further inroads into Roman provinces; the Romans should rest content with their British lands and should make an end to waging war against the Scots and Picts. Then the Scots and Picts, having taken back their ancient territories with the Britons being given free leave to depart, obtained rest and their ancient liberty, so that their people might be governed by their ancestral customs. The conditions of servitude by which the Picts had been oppressed, after having become subjected to the Romans by their own doing, were abolished. This treaty was observed by one and all with precise diligence. Fergus gave estates and districts to those Scots who had returned to their nation, and also to the auxiliary soldiers and mercenaries who had accompanied them and wished to settle, so that they merge into a single nation with his own subjects, and dismissed the others.
24. At this time names began to be changed. Those which had been assigned by Fergus I King of Scots, taken from ancient leaders of his people, where abolished and in time new ones introduced by the common people, taken from modern peoples or leaders, or from a distinctive loch, promontory, river, valley, or for some other reason. Thus Cornana, a district at the northernmost extremity of Scotland, lost its old identity and was renamed after Cathus, a famous leader of his people, and after the promontory of Ness, and was called Caithness. Soldiers of Ross, fetched from Ireland as auxiliaries for the recovery of the kingdom of Scotland (a certain population in Ireland is called by this same name even in our own day) gave their name to the district of Lugia, of which the greater part of its inhabitants had been consumed by the recent catastrophe in the Roman war, and down to our days it retains that name. The maritime part of Thezalia, abounding in sheep, was named Buthquhan after the annual tribute paid by its inhabitants to the royal tax-collectors, for in the old Scottish language quhain means “tax” and buth “a flock of sheep.” I understand that the other portion of Thezalia, fertile in grain and grass for foddering cattle, is called Buchan from the river Bog flowing through its midst, and locals named Lochhaber after the loch into which the Abar river discharges, remarkable for its stock, of salmon. For similar reasons an alteration of names occurred in many places, not all of which I understand. Others have suffered a slight change since they were given, such as our age accepts, for example Argyll for Argathelia, Galloway for Galdia, and Marr for Marthea.
25. Fergus also rebuilt churches that had been destroyed or lay in neglect because of depopulation, and gave them priests to perform holy offices. He embraced with wonderful affection the monks who had been exiled and now came back, building some cloisters in the traditional may, so that they might instill his people with piety, and he bestowed estates on them for their support. On Iona (an island about which I have spoken at length above) he founded an abbey, and it was his will that henceforth it serve as the burial-place for the kings of Scotland, and he instituted certain funeral rites to be performed at royal funerals, to be funded by revenue from neighboring fields and islands. Desiring to be remembered by posterity for his secular achievements as well as his religious ones, he painstakingly rebuilt forts and strongholds with tumbledown walls caused either by time’s passage or enemy violence, sparing no expense, and in these he placed discharged veterans to serve as their garrisons, permitted to live out their lives there at public expense. And while King Fergus was expending great efforts on restoring the dignity of his kingdom and nation, tossed about by so many adverse turns of Fortune, the emperor Honorius died. Theodosius, the son of the emperor Arcadius appointed Valentianus III, the son of Constantius and Honorius’ sister Placida, to replace his uncle as vice-Augustus and sent him to Italy to restore the republic, now tottering in many ways. At about the same time Placidus, the Roman legate in Britain died. This provided the Scots and Picts with an opportunity to attack the Britons for the sake of recovering Westmorland and Cumbria, regions impiously stolen from them by Roman arms. Their justification was that the treaty they had entered into with the Roman legate was abrogated by his death, and they were no longer bound by it.
26. And so they entered Westmorland and did much damage to the Britons’ property and exercised great violence and slaughter on those who attempted to defend themselves. They raped young widows and virgins, administered foul beatings to men and women enfeebled by old age, and, to put it in a word, omitted no form of cruelty against the provincials. At the news of these events, some Britons fled to Castius, who had been elected commander by the Roman army after the death of Placidus. Castius feared (and events proved him right) that Dionethus, the son of King Octavius of the Britons, was aspiring to the throne of Britain, and out of love for his sister (for at the beginning of the war he had married King Fergus’ sister) would side with the Scots and Picts. Being a lover of peace more than war, he sent a herald to Fergus commanding him to refrain from doing harm, if he desired peace, and, resting content with the boundaries set by the old truce, not to invade foreign territory. If he and his subjects preferred war, they should know for a certainty that they would be confronting the same enemies who had banished the defeated and scattered Scots from Albion, since they could not tame that wild people in any other way, at a time when the Picts where consigned to dire servitude as the reward of their own perfidy. When the Roman herald had recited these worlds, all those present fiercely exclaimed that they wished to have nothing to do with peace before Westmorland and Cumbria had been freely ceded to themselves, with the Britons and their Roman protectors withdrawn. Nor did the legate’s herald, who made the same demands on the Picts, receive any more friendly answer from King Durstus. Castius was outraged by these replies, so he assembled a military force and went against his enemies. He passed through the Roman provinces, and when he was not far from Westmorland he learned from the locals that Dionethus had recruited forces in Cambria and Icenia and had marched to the aid of the Scots and Picts.
27. This news did no little to dismay the Britons, who were no strange to the old-time martial virtue of the Cambrians. But they were heartened by their captains’ exhortations, and, unanimously clamoring for a battle, marched against their enemy. On the third day the Romans came in sight of their enemies. Dionethus, the leader of the Cambrians was there, having joined forces with the Scots and the Picts, prepared to assist his brother-in-law King Fergus with all his might. Both armies came to a halt and readied themselves for a battle. The confederated kings took into their van, where Dionethus was to fight, the most outstanding of the Cambrians, together with Scotsmen and Picts to stoutly ply their axes and lances, and their army’s flanks were shored up by archers and the rest of their host. Then they did bloody work with those axes and lances, until the lightly-armored soldiers on their flanks managed to work their way around the enemy army. Then a great panic fell on the Romans, and it was increased by the death of Castius, the Roman general. A flight soon broke out in their van, as its men ran their uncertain way across the fields. Then the rest of their army took the opportunity to flee. Some Cambrians gave chase to the Romans. The Scots and the Picts became scattered and disorganized, as happens in a victory, and they suffered far more damage from the enemy than they managed to inflict. But others remained in the battle line and did not run about pursuing the enemy. They did no small work of killing.
28. In this battle the Romans (as they themselves saw it) were overwhelmend more by the enemies’ numbers than their martial virtue. Then they gathered up the remnants of their army and departed for Kent, for they had left their provinces unguarded and exposed to harm. Then, as his forces cried out that this be happy and blessed, Dionethus assumed the purple emblem of rule and pronounced himself King of the Britons. Afterward Britain was greatly harassed by the powers of the Cambrians, Scots and Picts. The evil daily increased, and the boldness of these wild nations grew greater than was safe for the Romans, and it appeared that soon the whole island would be wrenched from the Roman empire unless such endeavors were quickly countered. At the time there was an extremely small garrison in Britain. Aetius, the most noble of Roman captains of that time, who by order of Valentinianus Caesar was in command of Roman forces in Gaul, was afraid of this and also moved by the pleas of the loyalist Britons. He sent Maximianus, a noble kinsman of Valentianus, together with an army scraped together from Romans and auxiliaries, from Gaul over to the island of Albion. Upon his rival the British elders who remained loyal to Rome came to meet him with a large military equipage, to congratulate him on his safe arrival with his army and ships, and prayed for his happy success fighting Rome’s enemies in Britain. They informed him about the island’s condition and the enterprises of Dionesthus, who was pretending to be King of the Britons, and promised they would go to whatever he place he commanded as he marched against the Roman’s enemies, having the same courage which they had bested the Scots and Picts, those nations which hated the Romans from the very outset, in the previous war fought by the Roman legate Victorinus. Maximianus thanked those who had come to hi. He was of the opinion that Roman affairs more endangered by Dionethus’ rebellion than the other uprisings, because this man was of the British royal blood and because he knew full well that the islanders were eager for a revolution. And so he thought he should make no delay, but hasten against the enemy. So he held a levy and quickly passed through Britain to Eboracum. Then, when those who he had commanded to follow him had assembled, he marched to Wesmorland. A little before these things had happened, the report of Maximian’s arrival in Albion had provoked the Scots and Picts to take up arms and energetically go to the place where they imagined the Romans would come. King Dionethus and his company of Cambri and Iceni (the only Britons who supported his cause) joined them and gthey marched against the Romans, so that, if they could, they might forcibly keep the Romans out of their territory. During the night before the battle, the two armies led into Westmorland came within each other’s sight. At dawn Fergus is said to have thus addressed his forces, drawn up for battle:
29. “I would hope, my fellow clansmen, that you conduct yourselves with distinction in today’s battle, which we are about to fight against our deadliest foe, with great eagerness and high spirits. For, if you think about it closely, your minds, which have for a long time been diverted from peace and leisure and become accustomed to continual fighting, cannot fail to be in great hope of a most fair victory, especially when you catch sight of enemies you have often defeated. Beyond doubt, brave men should always hope for the best, but if some unexpected reversal should occur, this they must bear with bravery and distinction. Any fine, keen fellow will be convinced of this by his steadfastness of mind, a virtue rightly to be counted among the most honorable, since his nature moves him thus to think. And this shines forth much more in defending against harm than in inflicting it. For he who has been impiously mistreated hopes for better and becomes self-confident, being furnished strength and prudence by his sense of justice. On the other hand, he who works harm harms himself, and can take no hope from his awareness of being honorable. Once upon a time the Roman legate Maximus, a man of an ever-sly nature, made a pact with the Picts, with whom our ancestors were waging war against the Romans not so much to ruin the Scots by his deceit as the Pictish nation itself. He killed my grandfather King Eugenius in battle, together with many of your forefathers, and expelled his nation from Albion at a time it was beset by many woes, and gained government over the entire island. Not content with that prosperous success, being the most faithless of all men, he treated the Picts, the confederated allies and friends of the Roman people, with unspeakable injuries and, in violation of his oath, reduced them to the basest servitude.
30. “That evil taught us how much woe we bring down on ourselves when we turn our backs on our friends and enter into bargains with that treacherous nation. When the Picts had paid sufficient penalties for the damage they had inflicted on our people they, like the Trojans, became wise too late, and, cursing their own treachery, with many entreaties and tears they invited us back to our kingdom. We came, and with the Pict’s support, by little effort we compelled the conquered Romans to pay their forfeits. Now the conquered are returning to come to blows against us under the command of Maximianus (for Castius was very justly killed in a recent battle), as if a new commander has restored the courage of which their fear had robbed them. While we were lawfully seeking to regain Westmorland and Cumbria, they sent us a herald warning us that we must cease from our enterprise, as if we were still subject to their command. I think we should not only refuse to obey them, but should also with far keener spirits and greater attempts pursue our rights to the very end. And so, my brave men, join with the Picts and our British friends who are present and ply your arms with all the higher spirits. There’s no need for force to drive off this great enemy army. Rather, they can easily be overwhelmed, they who recently retreated from our arms so shamefully. Let us go forward, mindful of our ancient freedom, our old injuries, and our recent victory. Let us achieve glory over this hateful nation, so that we may set an example to teach our children how to fight bravely for their nation.”
31. Having said these words with the agreement and support of them all, he ordered his soldiers to join battle with the enemy at the signal he was about to give. Nor did the other captains use lesser exhortations in filling their men with great hope of victory. A little later both sides came together very energetically, and at the first collision the Romans fighting in the van were almost obliterated by the missiles, machine-shot arrows, and other darts shot by the enemy, which fell from the sky like rain. Observing this, Maximianus sent up a legion thus far held in reserve as a support for his men so greatly endangered, so that a very bloody fight was begun. The enemy pressed on the Roman wings with great violence, so that the battle was more equal in spirit than in numbers. For a while the Picts and Scots, together with those who had come there with Dionethus, resisted, until the soldiers fighting at the extremities of the Roman wings cut their way through their enemy with great slaughter and inflicted great terror and confusion on them from behind. Even though the confederates were stricken with this new panic and surrounded on all sides by the Romans, they formed a circle and stood unbudged. And so, since both sides were fighting in a circle, our men were tightly engaged with their enemy. Desiring to avenge their deaths, since they could not otherwise make their escape, they attempted to burst through the Romans with a great effort and died to the last man, not without great losses on the enemy side. While the Romans came running up from all sides to prevent their encirclement from being broken, in a number of other places our men easily passed through the enemy facing them and made there escape. The pursuing Romans caught some and put them to the sword. Others who stood their ground on the battlefield were cut down, and the battle did not stop until night took away their ability to see.
32. In this battle died King Fergus of Scots and Durstus III, King of the Picts, together with nearly all the nobles of both nations. Dionethus was gravely wounded in the midst of the fray, and his followers carried him from the battlefield to the sea, which was not far away. In a ship, he crossed over to Cambria with a few companions. After this battle, such great terror through the lands of the Scots and Picts that it was believed that both nations were on the verge of being exterminated by the strength of their most deadly enemies. And, since they understood that there was no further hope or help remaining, since they had lost their bravest in the battle, all men were thinking of flight to foreign kingdoms. Maximianus kept saying that this stroke of good fortune should be used, and took advantage of his victory to burst into Galloway, not without cruelty. Roaming the district, he committed every manner of savagery, and then moved on to Annandale, Deira and Pithland, putting everything to fire and the sword, and no sex or age was a protection against him handling them all with the same savagery. In many places, those who had sought asylum in churches were forcibly dragged out and brutally killed. Camelodunum was besieged, taken, and foully sacked, and likewise other notable places belonging to the Scots and the Picts. This bane raged on for many days, and did stop until all the vanquished spared from the victor’s wrath were removed, to their great disgrace, beyond the wall between Abircorne and Dunbritton, begun some years previously to ward off enemy violence from the Roman provincials, having taken an oath nevermore to return to the districts this side of the wall which once had belonged to the Picts and Scots. There were those who advised Maximianus that the Picts and Scots were such treacherous peoples that they could never be bound by any treaties or oaths to live in continual peace with neighboring peoples: since their strength was so entirely shattered, he should either wholly exterminate them or banish them far from Albion, for in this way and no other could Roman interests in Albion be protected. Maximianus rejected this suggestion, explaining that winter was nearly at hand, when the soldiers needed to be sent into winter camp; there was no food in the Scottish or Pictish fields to feed an army; and it was so cold in the steep mountains to which the enemy had fled that no device could serve to protect his soldiers from it. He must therefore await the summer, and then do that which was best for the Roman empire. He added that the Cambri, enemies closer at hand (for these too had started a rising against the Romans) must first be brought under control lest he leave behind him an unpacified province for the benefit of his enemies, and by chasing after barbarians they create more trouble for Roman government in Britain than do useful things in the territories of the Scots and the Picts. So Maximianus withdrew his army to Eboracum, brought in grain from all his provinces for the use of his soldiers, and joined them in camp for the winter.
33. In the following spring he marched against Cambria to suppress the rising of Dionethus, whom the Britons living alongside the Irish Sea called their king. While he was conducting a levy throughout Britain to pursue this, he learned from friends’ letters that Africa had been detached from the Roman empire by the activity of a certain tyrant named Bonifacius. Valentian Augustus’ generals Mavortius and Gallio together with their Roman forces had been killed. The Franks, a people of Germany, had crossed the Rhine and invaded Gaul far more fiercely than ever before, and had seized the territories of Orleans and Paris and, settling there, had created a national king for themselves. Gaul was daily more hostile to the tyranny of Roman generals and it was evident that it would break off from the empire and transfer its loyalty to the Franks. Understanding that so many pretenders were springing up throughout the world, since the Fates were unfriendly, Maximianus decided to set himself up as a tyrant too, something of which he had been thinking for some time. Therefore, as a first step towards gaining control of rule over Britain he married Dionethus’ elder daughter (for he had fathered twin daughters by Fergus’ sister, Tortilla and Ursula, but no sons), for he thought that the kingship descended through her, something of which all the British elders approved. To deprive Ursula of any hope of producing a child, he consigned her to a nunnery so she would be obliged to live in perpetual virginity. For among the Britons it was deemed an honorable thing for highborn girls to be taken into the service of God Almighty, and sinful for initiates to desire marriage. This kinship had the effect of making King Dionethus and the entire nation of Cambri and Iceni very well-disposed towards Maximianus, so that Dionethus was permitted to have a role in the government of Britain second only to him.
34. While these things were transpiring in Britain, a little after Fergus had departed this human life (he had governed the kingdom of Scotland for sixteen years) the Scottish elders brought his son Eugenius to Argyll with a escorting throng, and on the Stone of Destiny they elected him king by their common vote and with their happy acclaim prayed that his reign would be happy and prosperous. The year in which Eugenius gained the crown of Scotland was the year of Christian salvation 430, the year since the beginning of the kingdom of Scotland 760 or more, and the fourth of the principate of the Roman emperor Valentinian III. Having been hailed as king, so that he might begin his reign with a display of piety, Eugenius had his father’s remains exhumed from the place where they had been buried, since Roman arms had been pressing, and had them taken to the island of Iona, as Fergus had commanded during his life, where they were given a Christian burial in the appointed place. After performing the rites of mourning for several days, since the income of the monastery or (to use the more common word, the abbey) of men devoted to piety in that place was very small, he bestowed on them estates and various forms of revenue from neighboring islands for their support. Fergus was the first of all the kings of Scotland to be buried on Iona, and henceforth that island remained the sacred royal burial ground down to the times of Malcom III, who was nicknamed Canmore or “Bighead“ for the size of his head. At the urging of St. Margaret he built the abbey of Dunfermline (“Hill of the Infirm”) and endowed with many estates (as will be narrated at a more suitable place), and by public edict decreed that henceforth royal burials would be conducted there.
35. King Eugenius was desirous of recovering the districts stolen by the Romans and Britons, and on a village-by-village basis listed all men between sixteen and sixty capable to taking the field. And yet, ealizing that his nation lacked the strength for such a great undertaking, he deferred the business for a more fit time, and abstained from raids on the Romans’ provincials. But because the Scots’ and Picts’ strength was broken, Maximianus took the lead in granting them peace, although they did not ask for it, as a means of relieving the Britons of further harm at their hands. And when he perceived that the Roman empire was so exposed to all manner of injury that every man possessed of the strength could help himself to as much of it as he desired, he made up his mind to stake his own claim to a portion of it, since he was of the imperial blood. Therefore he recruited the cream of the forces in Britain, assumed the purple, and with the support of his soldiers was hailed as an Augustus. With a fleet prepared for the purpose, he crossed over to Gaul, leaving King Dionethus to govern Britain with a single Roman legion to defend the island. Quickly, without any risk to his followers, Maximianus plundered the most noble province of Armorica, and with his ravaging he visited on it every manner of damage conceivable. Since the inhabitants of Armorica could hope for no help from Valentinianus Caesar, to whom they had previously remained loyal, or from their neighboring Gauls, vexed by wars on every side, and since they could not turn aside Maximianus’ very hard-handed enterprises, they lost confidence in their own powers and surrendered to their enemy. Maximianus occupied some coastal towns and others not far inland. Then he and his army attacked the Redones, a very populous tribe of that province (it was under the protection of Valentinianus’ captain Sulpicius). Their city was very stoutly defended and he failed to take it, so he turned to plundering the surrounding countryside and villages and indulged in conduct that resembled robbery more than war. The Armoricans were persuaded by the promises of the Roman legate Aetius, who at that time governed Gaul, which was very much involved in the war against the Burgundians, killed Maximianus’ garrisons and took back the towns and strongholds he had occupied.
36. Maximianus was annoyed by these insults, so he stormed the city of the Rhedones and sacked the other towns of Armorica, sharing out their spoils among his soldiers, and whatever Armoricans he could find he either killed or banished far from their homes, sparing neither the their women or children, such was the hatred against them with which Maximianus burned because of their defection. Meanwhile, with the Burgundians overrunning Gaul, the legate was compelled to recall the Roman soldiers stationed in Britain, and they shifted their allegiance from Maximianus to Valentinianus, leaving Britain without any military protection. So the Scots and Picts quickly seized the opportunity of attacking the Britons who remained loyal to Maximianus. And Maximianus, lest Armorica, conquered by his arms and emptied of its previous inhabitants, be seized as prey by the neighboring Gauls, fetched from Britain the men who dwelt in that province, and and been protecting it from enemy harm. Some writers say that one hundred thousand of Britain’s settlers came over to Armorica at his command. And when they had set up housekeeping there, Maximianus set up Conan, a noble Briton and a kinsman of King Dionethus as their king, and renamed the province Brittany after its new inhabitants, and so the Armoricans lost their name as well as their province. He himself was summoned by the Burgundians to finish off their war against Aetius and went off to join them with the Roman soldiers who had come with him from Britain to Gaul. Lest his freshly-founded kingdom perish after a single generation, King Conan took the advice of the elders of his new nation and sought women from Britain, from which they had come, for they had no hope of children without wives. Ambassadors sent to make this arrangement obtained from the British elders — for King Dionethus had died during the course of these events — that for the sake of settling Armorica their daughters, sisters, wives and nieces would be sent to the men who had crossed over with Maximianus, together with King Dionethus’ daughter Ursula, whom Conan desired as his wife. Ursula, then a nun venerated by one and all for her piety, was dragged from the convent where, freely devoting herself to perpetual virginity, she was attending to her religious duties, and was forcibly put aboard ship, so she would be married to the man and the line of King Dionethus would not fail (for Othilia, Dionethus’ other daughter and the consort of Maximilianus, had already died).
37. Although the ensuing voyage was unpleasant for the Britons, it was welcome for Ursula and the many virgins sailing with her. For they were blown off course, and all those in the fleet were carried by an unfavorable wind to the mouth of the Rhine, not without risk to their lives. There the women were set ashore, and since they could not tolerate the sea’s savagery, they set out for Armorica overland, or else to Rome (for some write that Ursula and many of her virgin companions, shunning marriage for religion’s sake, avoided the journey to Armorica). At Cologne they sought to defend their chastity from the Huns, while they were preparing to invade Gaul in a terrible assault under their general Attila, and were killed to the last one and became blessed brides of Christ. After a few years the reputation of these very holy virgins became so famous worldwide that every year Christians celebrate their memory with solemn rites. At word of these events King Eugenius, as if awakened by a bugle call, discovered that Britain had been left unprotected by the Romans and was bereft of its own national soldiery, and so he met in conference with King Durstus of the Picts. After a lengthy discussion of the present state of affairs, they elected to wage war against the Britons with such speed that they would not realize they were at war before their enemies were at hand. They told themselves that the treaty that they had made with Maximianus was not binding, since he had left Albion. Therefore the Scots and Picts were commanded to appear on a stated day with forty days’ provisions, and many men met on that day at the Caledonian Forest. There the confederated kings, perceiving the host, spoke with great forcefulness, employing many exhortations to stimulate their soldiers for a fight. Eugenius spoke in this wise:
38. “These is not a one of you (my brave fellows) who, when he takes a careful look at our situation and that of our enemies, can fail to appreciate that we have no further need for hesitation. You all see with how many woes our affairs have been afflicted and vexed within these past few years thanks to Roman tyranny: besides nearly countless other evils, my father, the very brave restorer of this kingdom, has been killed. Galloway, Carrick, Kyle and Cunninghame, together with no so small number of our other districts, have been made our enemies’ prey. That conflict which we fought against the Romans and Britons when Maximianus commanded them, I confess, was not prosperous for us, but not without bloodshed for our enemy. But, as I know from sure signs, that adverse battle did not deprive you of your spirits or deter you from war, but rather made you all the more keen for it. But no matter how much our powers have been blighted by Roman arms during these past few years, their own strength has been no less weakened by the common hatred and very hostile arms of nearly all nations, as Fortune is bringing the Roman empire to its destruction. For Roman provinces everywhere are falling prey to their enemies. The Vandals possess Africa, the Visigoths Spain, and the Franks and Burgundians are claiming for themselves a large portion of Gaul. Pannonia, Mysia, Thrace, Macedon, and Illyricum have fallen to the Huns, and the provinces of the east have either fallen under enemy control or have cast off the yoke of servitude and procured liberty for themselves. The city of Rome itself, once the world’s capital, has in the recent past twice been taken by the Goths, twice sacked and burned. And so, to put it in a nutshell, Roman affairs have come to such a sad past that nothing is left of their empire outside of Italy save for Britain alone, and that one is nearly empty of its inhabitants and supported by no protections, by Maximianus’ doing. No Roman general is present to hold a levy, or has the ability to do so in a province all but drained of its strength. There is no general to fight against or threaten our destruction. Britain sit sadly, plundered of her strength and protection, mistrustful of her own resources, destined to be our prize rather than an obstacle to our invasion.
39. “And so (my brave fellows) I do not think I need waste more words on saying what we must do nor, I think, do you need to be exhorted to wage this war with bravery, since your spirits are not lacking, but rather are abundant. For great plunder is being offered you, such as never before has Fortune offered our ancestors. Opportunity, that mother of accomplishment, is offering herself to you freely, urging that all delays to war be abandoned, urging you to follow her, lest, if once she is rebuffed by your sloth, you will chase after her in vain thereafter. Nor should you be deterred from this very fine deed by the treaty we entered into with Maximianus. For after having made this treaty, the Romans and their British provincials have done much damage to our districts. And so, if that pact did not deter our enemies from being troublesome to us, it cannot restrain us from repaying them tit for tat. So gird yourselves (my brave fellows), arm yourselves for a most honorable expedition, imitate the martial virtue displayed by our ancestors, taking particular care not to drag your heels, for we have the greatest need for haste. Just show yourselves the brave men you are, and we have conquered.” Fired by these words, the soldiers vowed they would submit to all manner of dangers for the sake of avenging themselves on the Britons for their old injury. Even without putting this to the test, what Eugenius had said about the blighting of Roman power made it easy to believe his words. So with great enthusiasm they all cried out that it was time to go forth and do battle.
40. There was no more delay. Fired by great ferocity by their king’s harangue, the Picts showed themselves ready to undergo everything with vigor. And so both peoples, each relying on the support of the other, riotously invaded the Britons, and wherever they went there was a no small loss of all things. Ranging through Pithland, Deira, Ordolucia, Vicomagia, Carrick, and Galloway, they expelled the Britons, killing many. Passing through Cumbria, Westmorland and Candalia, they finally came to the territory of Eboracum. The cities and fortifications of these regions and provinces quickly fell prey to their enemies, since they were unprotected by any garrison. Everywhere cities were sacked, and those citizens not rescued by flight were put the sword. Crops were burned, cattle and sheep driven off, and nearly all other fortunes ruined, and it seemed as if all of Britain would be devastated, if some means of restraining the Scots’ and Picts’ savagery was not found. The Britons, not bearing such wild incursions with equanimity, sent ambassadors to Rome who demanded help against these brutal enemies, in exchange for a promise of perpetual subservience. Lest the troubled island be taken from the Romans in such a cruel war, as an aid to the islanders the emperor Valentianus sent his legion stationed at Paris. Aetius left behind a garrison and sent this legion together with plenty of auxiliaries, under the command of Gallio Revennas, a very noble man. Learning of their arrival in Albion the Scots and Picts, having left the provinces they recently ravaged devoid of their inhabitants and fortunes, pulled down their fortifications, fired their villages and towns, and, avoiding the conflict they had begun, went home. They either did not wish or did not dare come to blows with the Romans, with whose martial virtue they were familiar, to their great loss.
41. The Romans pursued these fugitives, or at least men who greatly resembled fugitives. Using some Britons familiar with the roads as their guides, they gave chase up to the Firth of Forth, where no small number of Scots and Picts were killed in confused fighting. Since tyrants were troubling Gaul in all quarters, the Roman commander Gallio could not stay in Albion much longer. And so he commanded that the wall from Abircorne to the mouth of the Clyde, which I have said to have been begun before this, be completed at public and private expense, summoning workmen from all over to complete it, so that it would serve as a protection against the enemy. The wall was built, not so much of stone as of turf cut from the ground. It was eight cubits wide and twelve high, with sharp stakes planted atop it. Lookouts were stationed along it to stand watches and use bonfires at night, or material that was difficult to burn and produced plenty of smoke during the day, to warn the loyalist inhabitants to take up arms if they saw any hostile Scottish or Pictish movement. It was a capital crime for men to see the fire or smoke and not appear in arms to keep them away from the wall. Therefore, with the situation in Britain pacified to Gallio’s satisfaction and the barbarians driven far away, the Roman army, which had been recalled by Aetius, was brought back to Gaul by this same Gallio.
42. Learning of the Romans’ crossing to Gaul, the Scots and Picts decided to attack the Britons with greater ferocity than ever, and in an speech King Eugenius at one time fired his men with anger against the enemy, and at another urged them on with hope of rewards and spoils, promising them the plunder of the province and whatever fortunes the Britons had brought into Westmorland, Candalia, Pithland and the other recently-ravaged provinces while Gallio was in command. Nor did the Pictish king refrain from exhorting his men. He published an edict stating that the first man to climb the wall would be made mayor of Camelodunum, a worshipful position among the Picts at the time, and an office only bestowed on the most outstanding men of the nation. The Britons understood what the Scots and Picts were attempting, armed themselves, and came a-running to defend the wall, as they had been instructed. They set a great number of men along its ramparts. After some companies of Scots and Picts commanded by Graeme (for the kings were stationed somewhat distant from the wall with their forces) employed missiles, machine-shot arrows, and catapults to clear the walls of its defenders, many men, acting in accordance with their instructions, used picks, axes, and crowbars to demolish the structure. This was not an especially difficult thing to do, because it was not held together with mortar, but consisted of earthworks filled with stones. So it would collapse as soon as they pitched in, and fighting-bands entered into Pithland through the gaps they opened. The Britons confronted their enemies’ strength, and stood their ground in battle even to the death, although some with previous experience of defeat fell back as their enemies pressed them, placing their hope in nothing other than flight.
43. At the same time other Scottish and Pictish captains made their appearance. As their kings had instructed, they sailed from Otholinia to Pithland with another band of soldiers belonging to both nations, and burst upon the Britons in a far more riotous way than the kings themselves did, making very bloodthirsty incursions. They joined with the royal armies and filled everything with their plundering and killing. Country villas, villages, and no small number of recently-rebuilt castles and abandoned towns were burned. Albeit the inhabitants who had abandoned other provinces and newly come there at Gallio’s urging were strong in their power, they were nevertheless terrified by the enemy. Lest they experience their savagery, they left behind their weak members together with all their fortunes and took refuge on the other side of the river Tyne. The kings then issued an edict giving permission to their soldiers to plunder whatever lay between the rivers Tweed and Tyne. The result was that they set many examples of anger, hatred, and greed. There ensued all the uproar the soldiers’ anger could create, stretching from the German Sea all the way to the Irish See. While the Scots and Picts were consuming many days on this pillaging and killing, the Britons devoted immense toil to restoring the stone wall built by the Roman emperor Hadrian for similar purposes (as I have explained fully enough in the proper place), and defended it with many soldiers and great strenth. But the Scots and Picts refrained from besieging Hadrian’s Wall, since winter was impending, when, in accordance with ancestral custom, the army would be broken up. By public decree, the soldiers were commanded to fetch their wives and children from home so that, their government now extending as far as the Tyne, they might divide up the lands gained by the rights of war and settle there.
44. Having accomplished these things, the confederate peoples, enlivened by their recent good fortune, were occupied over the following winter with protecting the area hard by Hadrian’s Wall with strong garrisons, and refrained from battle. Since Britons were afraid (and events justified their fear) lest at the beginning of summer their enemy would cross into Britain bent on plundering, and rage against the inhabitants with their usual ferocity, they sent ambassadors to Aetius, the Roman commander in Gaul, begging for his support and help. Aetius made no promise of sending forces to Britain to confront their wild enemies: it is uncertain whether he made this decision because he was ill-disposed towards Velentinianus because he was already thinking of setting himself up as a tyrant, or because he was preoccupied with the harsh war he was currently fighting against the Franks. The ambassadors returned to Britain and were brought into a council which happened to be have been convened at London by authority of the elders, for the purpose of deliberating for the public safety. After they had reported Aetius’ response, various opinions were offered about the best way they might avoid harm from their wild enemies. Some urged that war be waged against the Scots and Picts by land and sea: the liberty which they could easily gain now, being freed of Roman arms, must be defended to the last. Not only men, but also women of an age, physical condition and spirit fit for fighting should be conscripted, to fight a war energetically undertaken on behalf their common safety, and they should march to Hadrian’s Wall, there to attack their mortal enemies as soon as possible: better to suffer the last than be worn down by constant pilling and polling and in the end be obliged to make peace with your enemy on dishonorable conditions.
45. Then up spoke Conan, a Cambrian born of Octavius’ royal British family and a man who enjoyed no small authority among the Britons, saying “It is most necessary that those who wish to gain a government, or preserve the one they have gained, must consider their strength and the condition of the times. I admit that, as long as we had the strength to protect this realm against our very savage enemies, and while we could hope for any help from the Romans for keeping barbarian might far from our borders, there was never any talk about making peace with those treacherous nations, the Scots and the Picts. But now (woe is me!) our condition requires something very different. For, thanks to the damage done us by that most proud tyrant Maximianus, who harmed us far more than did our enemy when he impiously sought to rule the world and exposed this kingdom of ours to the utmost danger, we are so drained of strength that we have within our grasp no hope for future battles, should we be obliged to fight any against our enemy. Henceforth neither our own arms nor those of the Romans (inasmuch as we can hope for no more aid from them) will suffice do defend us. For our enemy is wild, cruel, brutal, and unbroken by harsh military service, lack of victuals, nor the burden of his exertions. Rather, most desirous of taking vengeance for old wrongs, he has no fear of God nor Man, not of wounds nor even of death, as long as he gains revenge on us and the Romans for the abuses he has so long suffered. He makes no distinction of sex or age while he rampages with his innate ferocity. He is completely ignorant of clemency, he regards madness as fortitude. Being bloody-minded, he delights in plunging his gore-smeared sword or spear in to the body of helpless women, old men, and little boys. Nor do they consider it a disgrace to drink the human blood for which they constantly thirst, when they strike an enemy. And, to say much in a few words, they glory in nothing so much as banditry, blood, and butchery. Therefore we are obliged either to make peace with our very savage enemies, since our fortune has brought us to this pass, or we must bear every harsh, bitter, and insufferable burden at their whim. I am scarcely unaware how shameful, how full of reproach this will be for ourselves and our nation. But I am of the opinion we must tolerate this rather than wholly to lose our homes, our government, and our liberty with all the shame attached, with all hope of restoring our kingdom removed.What I have said, my lords, has been said for the sake of the public welfare and nothing else. My unspoiled loyalty towards yourselves and my patriotism has compelled me to speak. Whether I have said false things or true, whether what I recommend is conducive to the public welfare or not, you must determine.”
46. When the multitude of bystanders heard him speak, they were enraged (for all Britons thought the Scots’ and Picts’ friendship to be repugnant), just as he had not spoken for the benefit of Britain: they kept saying they were not unaware of the trickery he had decided to use in order to stake a claim on the crown of Britain. But the leading men held their silence for a while, sadly deploring their misfortune among themselves. For they were not unaware how human affairs are prone to totter and collapse, and do not grow as easily as they slide backwards. They were nevertheless overcome by the importunity of the multitude, which readily chooses the worst and scorns the man who urges better things, so they gave the call to arms: a levy should be held everywhere, with no distinction of sex to be made (as long as the women were of sound body and fit for fighting). They appointed a day upon which to meet, and a place from which an energetic march against the enemy should begin. Conan groaned when he heard this pronouncement, and as he left the meeting he said, “I call our immortal God to witness that it is out of my love for the public safety that I wholeheartedly detest your decision and the madness of this war. I cannot say without great sorrow that there is nothing of which I am more convinced that in our own lifetime the Fates are dragging this ancient and once-venerable kingdom of the Britons to its destruction.“ Some Britons heard Conan saying this and, growing vehemently angry against the man, began to bawl, “You have little if any authority to keep this war from being fought.” Then they stabbed him many times with their daggers and cruelly put him to death. A commotion followed upon this crime, and the entire people split into two factions. Many men on both sides were killed as the rioting continued for many hours. In the end, it was with difficulty settled by the authority of the magistrates, but only when many men had suffered ill.
47. At this same time, the news of a fresh foray of the Scots and Picts into Britain reached London, and panic and trepidation filled the entire city. For Graime, of whom I have spoken above, had been placed in command of a large portion of the army by the joint decision of the confederated kings in recognition of his excellent martial discipline. While the Britons marked time in deliberations and sending embassies, he took select forces and wholly utterly destroyed the wall between Arbircorne and the mouth of the Clyde, which had been penetrated in many places, to the extent that in our days nothing remains to posterity but a few traces remain as evidence of that once-great work. Hence it came about that this wall is commonly called Gramesdyke, that is “The Wall of Graime,” in honor of its destroyer. Then he and his forces ravaged their way down to Hadrian’s Wall, extending from the Irish Sea to the German Sea, for the frenzy of their ravagers during the previous year had left its towers and battlements intact. Therefore, to deprive the Britons of any hope of returning, he pulled it down, burned it, and leveled it to the ground. Meanwhile the confederated kings and their forces attacked Hadrian’s Wall, and for its destruction brought up every kind of siege-instrument that the art of their time had managed to devise. They thought this would be easily accomplished, because it was newly rebuilt with fresh mortar, partially mixed with mud, which had not had time to harden. The face of the wall was hardly cut into when it collapsed, and in many placed provided an passageway for the invading enemy. When the British guards fought to ward off the might of their enemy, they were quickly overcome and died. The locals came running up to help them, but, since all quarters resounded with cries of the stricken and dying, they had no idea where to lend there support first. And so, having sight of their enemies’ ferocity, they abandoned the fight and sought safety in flight.
48. And so, with Hadrian’s wall demolished and their soldiers ranging the province more widely, the confederated kings issued a command that only men of fighting age should be killed, and that their soldiers should spare the rest, together with the women. But this edict was not universally obeyed, since, when it came to killing, their angery and memory of old injuries recognized no distinction of sex or age. Then for many days the Scots and Picts ranged a large part of Britain inflicting their great slaughter. Those Britons living between the Tyne and the Humber were reduced to such a necessity that they either died by foul butchery or drowned in the nearest estuary, unless they could swim the river or cross it in some other way suggested by the haste that pressed upon them, and could retire to different provinces, panic-stricken by fear of their enemy, to avoid their wrath. Report of these developments drove the British elders, who were still remaining at London, to devise new remedies against their enemies’ depredations. And so a little later, when the leading men had debated various opinions in a public meeting, they voted to send two embassies, one to the Scottish and Pictish kings, promising them all the territory beyond the Humber, together with a great sum of money, if they would not continue their invasion and refrain from killing the helpless. A scond embassy was sent to Aetius, the Roman legate in Gaul, to bring him this letter deploring the Britons’ woes:
49. “To Aetius, thrice-consul, the groans of the Britons. When our forefathers first came under Roman power, they were convinced by honorable proofs and fine examples that the senate was the safest refuge and harbor for all that took refuge with it. But, thanks to the legate Maximianus’ pernicious operations against out welfare, we their posterity have been deprived of our strength and resources, and for this reason, now that our very cruel enemies are pressing upon us, are placed in the ultimate danger of losing our kingdom and our lives. When we implore the Roman empire for its protection, we are neglected, or rather spurned, and handed over as prey to these most truculent barbarians. And this we cannot help regarding as proof either that the Romans’ best traditions have changed for the worse, or that, thanks to divine wrath, its great empire has been given to the other nations to be rent asunder. And, if this time of doom so ordains, there is no government in the world to which we are more averse than that of the Scots and the Picts. For we have already experienced their brutality, and are reduced to the point that, having lost our fortunes, we have no idea what is the best way in which to consult for our wretched lives. For the wall and ditch which protected us from their bestiality have been pulled down and filled in. They employ no single method of cruelty in bursting into the Roman province, wasting its fields and country estates, firing its villages and towns, leveling its forts to the ground, subjecting its little babes, helpless women, and decrepit old men to foul murder, in addition to the deadly slaughter they inflict on our men everywhere. They drive those of us who survive this massacre, defeated and scattered, to the sea, and from the sea we are driven back to them because we cannot cross it. Hence two forms of extermination are created for us, for we are either drowned or cut down by the barbarians’ butchery. And so, if the reputation of the Roman people counts for anything in your eyes, if our faith and zeal for Roman rule, continued over so many years, matters to you, we beg and beseech you not to allow us to lie prostrate any longer before the cruelty of these most bestial enemies, but rather to send us help as quickly as you can, lest we be more cruelly desertred by the Romans than destroyed by barbarians, and lest we be serve as a noteworthy sign to posterity that henceforth no man should pin his hopes on their government or friendship.”
50. This letter is mentioned by Paul the Deacon, the Venerable Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote of British history, Vairement, and more recent authors of no mean authority. Aetius’ reply was that he grieved for the Britons’ woes, and all the more so because, at a time when the Roman empire was in the utmost peril, he could scarcely defend Gaul, or even Italy itself, from barbarian invasions. Thus he was distracted by concern for a far more atrocious war and could not send auxiliary legions to Britain without inflicting harm on the public security. He therefore urged them to employ all possible force to defend themselves against their enemies and look forward to happier times, when the Roman empire would be restored and the barbarians would pay their just penalties. At just about the same time that these words were being brought to the British elders at London, their ambassadors returned from the Scots and the Picts bearing their response: the confederated kings agreed to none of the Britons’ requests, and would not refrain from their killing and devastation until they had either conquered Britain or received their unconditional surrender. At first this declaration so unsettled the great men of the Britons that no man could maintain a single color or expression on his face. Then they gathered their wits and issued a call to arms. For they condemned their own sloth, which emboldened the enemy and paved the way for their victory by yielding place to them. The kings of the Scots and the Picts were apprised of the Britons’ intentions by their spies, and also of the rebuff they had received from Aetius, so they collected their forces more quickly than anyone would have thought possible and moved against their enemy’s land arranged in great order.
51. In the vanguard marched the men of Galloway, the inhabitants of Annandale, and those Picts whom that age of the world had begun to call Berwicians, for some reason I do not know. They were followed by numerous bands from Argyll, Athol, and those Picts who had settled around Caledonia and Camelodonum, together with the men of Otolinia and Horestia. In the midst of these forces came along the confederated kings and their choice soldiers, preceded by standard-bearers. Behind them followed the baggage train of the entire army. The remaining noblemen of both nations came after, in distinct bands composed of their courtiers and most expert fighters. After this came the throng of ordinary soldiers, bringing up the rear (as was the national tradition). When the Britons coming to confront them learned from their scouts that such large forces were advancing in good order, and that their own strength was inadequate to win the war they had undertaken, they reconsidered the counsel of those who had urged this ruinous enterprise, and, lest they contrive their own destruction, by common consent they decided to sue for peace. But soon, when ambassadors sent to the confederated kings failed to obtain peace on any other conditions that the Britons surrender themselves, their children and their fortunes to the enemy, and when it became known throughout the army that their elders had received this response, anger and despair worked on their minds, and with altered intentions every man demanded battle.
52. The battle that followed was the most atrocious of them all. For the Britons, determined to die for their nation and at the same time to gain vengeance for their death, first assaulted the enemy with unexpected ferocity and laid many low. Then others coming up to bring help fought so stubbornly that they appeared to be unafraid to die. The men of Galloway and Picts fighting in the front were cut down, and now the men of Argyll, Athol, and the forces surrounding the kings and their standards were exposed to harm. Seeing those fighting in the foremost to be so hard-pressed by the enemy, Graime (who, at the kings’ command, was in charge of no small part of their army) ordered a company of Hebridians whom he had stationed to guard the baggage a little earlier to abandon the baggage and immediately go to the aid of the Gallovidians. They quickly obeyed, and joined themselves to the foremost fighters, who were in no little jeopardy. At their arrival the situation was so transformed that a great number of wounded Gallovidians propped themselves up with their spears and axes and renewed the fight, and those who had begun to flee regained their spirits and fought, thus erasing their disgrace by a show of virtue. As the confederated peoples came into fray on all sides, the Britons were all but overwhelmed by their enemies’ numbers, and when they could not stand and fight any more they abandoned hope of victory and strove to rescue themselves by taking refuge in marshlands not far distant from the battlefield. At that point the confederates’ camp-followers caught sight of the fugitives, abandoned the baggage, and, although they were unarmed, they snatched up clubs and began to inflict cruel death on those armed men, who became mired own in the marsh. That battle consumed about four thousand Scots and Picts, but more than fifteen thousand Britons, of whom no small number, mired down in the marshland, exhausted and dispirited, provided easy killing for their enemy.
53. After this battle, in which the nobility of the British nation was almost entirely obliterated, the survivors, seeing that nothing prevented the victors from gaining power over Albion and no safety for the vanquished, by unanimous consent sent ambassadors to the victorious kings humbly suing for peace, and vowing to accept whatever terms their enemy saw fit to dictate. The Scottish and Pictish kings, moved by their own misfortunes as well as the Britons’ (for in the battle they had lost no few of the bravest of both their nations) consented that they might enjoy peace, according to a definite treaty. These were the conditions of the peace: that the Britons henceforth receive no Roman legate nor army in Britain, nor permit the Romans, Gauls, Saxons, or any other enemies of the Scots or Picts to pass through their territories, but rather regard those who sought to do so as their own enemies and take up arms against them. They should not enter into a treaty with any nation or people, or wage war, unless so commanded by the Scottish and Pictish kings. When summoned by the same, they must march to war against their enemies. The Britons should take their wives, children, and fortunes and vacate all Albion north of the Humber, ceding it to the Scots and Picts. They must give sixty thousand pieces of gold, to be divided between the confederated soldiers, and pay twenty thousand to the victors annually. They must give one hundred hostages, to be chosen by the kings, not younger than eighteen years of age nor older than thirty. These conditions were related to the elders of Britain in the presence of a multitude assembled for that purpose. Although many preferred to reject them as being iniquitous, others persuaded the multitude to adopt them on the grounds that, although unseemly, they were nevertheless necessary, if you weighed the Britons’ situation in a just balance. And so a peace was made between these peoples on those stated conditions, and the condition of the island of Albion became a trifle more peaceful than it had previously been.
54. And so in this way the Scots and Picts took Britain from their Romans and made it their own vassal state. This was in the 496th year after Julius Caesar had first entered Britain and made it a tributary of the Romans, and the year after the virgin birth 436. This same year was the seventh of the reign of Eugene, and the year 1603 since the foundation of the Britons’ kingdom in Albion by its first king Brutus. From this time forward, the strength of the British began to grow ever-worse. I am aware that what I have recorded in this Book about the Roman legates Maximus and Maximianus, the British kings Octavius and Dionethus, and likewise what I am presently going to tell about the Saxons’ arrival in Albion and their achievements, differ to no small degree from the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth. No reader should be greatly surprised by this, because, as anyone can see, the authors whom I follow, Eutropius, Paul the Deacon, Bede, Vairement, and more recent writers of polished learning do not agree with that writer either in their narrative of events or in their calculation of dates. And so, since I am of the opinion that no harm will be done, and the truth will far better be served, the truth on which many authors of well-proven worth agree, if I continue as I have begun, basing my history (as best as my small talent allows) on our ancient annals, which in nearly no way at all differ from Roman authors, rather than what Geoffrey alone writes without adducing any evidence, always paying careful attention to the calculation of dates.
55. These are accounted the men notable for their learning and piety who lived in the times of Fergus and Eugenius: Eusebius of Cremona and Philip, students of St. Jerome, and Hilary of Arles, all noble for their erudition and piety. Among our own countrymen there was Bishop Palladius, sent by Pope Celestinus to defend Scottish Christians from the Pelagian heresy, which had already infected a large part of Britain, and lead back the people to true piety, from which it had somewhat strayed because of the constant atrocity of the wars. Palladius was the first Scottish priest to be appointed bishop by the Pope, since bishops had previously been selected by popular vote from among the monks and Culdees. In his useful and holy sermons he purged the Scots and Picts of some traces of superstition and pagan rites which had not yet been eradicated in those people after they turned away from idolatry. For these reasons posterity has called him the apostle to the Scots. After many pious labors and religious works in spreading Christ’s gospel for human salvation, the Fates granted him a blessed departure from this life at Fordoun, a town in Merne. His relics are held in great honor there and even in our day are displayed for the many men of those parts who gather to venerate them. William Shews, a former Bishop of St. Andrews and a man learned in all respects, had these exhumed and given honorable burial, with pious prayers and solemn ceremony, in a silver container, in the year of the Incarnation 1494. Palladius consecrated Servanus a bishop and sent him to the Orkneys to instruct the ignorant people in Christian piety. And he made Tervanus, whom he himself had baptized as an infant, Archbishop of the Picts. At about this same time Patrick, that most holy bishop, was sent to Ireland, already converted to Christianity, to protect it from the Pelagian impiety by his holy admonitions and examples. Thanks to their precise and holy diligence, Christian worship as represented by the rites and doctrines of the Church of Rome was piously affirmed, and old rites discarded.
56. Prior to the battle between the Britons and the Scots and Picts just described, many prodigies were observed at a number of places in Albion. The full moon broke into quarters and it rained blood at Eboracum. At many places trees were stricken by lightning and their leaves and branches withered. The earth yawned open at a London market-place, and no few buildings were swallowed up. When word of these things spread abroad, they terrified many men, but when the priests explained they portended evil for Britain, their fear was somewhat abated. Some people refer to these times the legend of Finn MacCoul, who is said to have been a Scottish giant seventeen cubits tall, famous as a huntsman, and a source of fear to one and all because of his huge frame, and likewise the stories we love to read about King Arthur of the Britons, which are also based on popular tales more than the evidence of learned writers. I shall therefore deliberately avoid relating the wonderful deeds of this man, which everybody agrees to have little to do with historical truth, and continue relating the deeds of King Eugenius.