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THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, BOOK VIII
T about the same time that the Scots and Picts staked their claim on Britain, having taken it away from the Romans, the Vandals, Goths, Huns, and Franks were ranging through Spain, Africa, Italy, Germany, and Gaul with much slaughter (so that the decline of the Roman empire was manifest), various kingdoms arose throughout the world to the detriment of the Roman republic, such being the vicissitudes of human affairs. For the Franks (authors do not agree about their origins) crossed over the Rhine and, having passed through a great part of Gaul and conquered the regions of Paris and Orleans, settled at length alongside the Seine, where they elected Pharamund as their king and laid the foundations for the right noble kingdom of France. The power of that nation’s nation grew throughout Gaul, and eventually all the land between the Rhine and the Pyrenees, and between the Alps and the Atlantic Ocean, fell under French power. And Genseric founded a Vandal kingdom in Africa, the first man in his nation to gain the title of a king. But, just as it had an impious beginning in the ravaging of innocent peoples, so it was attacked, not so much by foreign wars, as by turning its own cruelty against itself, and suffered a wretched, but not deserved, downfall. Likewise, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths began to rule in Italy and Spain, nations born for the destruction of the Roman empire, and at the same time Pannonia became the homeland of the Huns, where they too founded a kingdom, which can be seen to have taken its modern name of Hungary from the Huns and the Gari, who are said to have fought alongside each other.
2. Innumerable other barbarian rag-tags wandered throughout the world at the same time, everywhere visiting devastation on Roman rule. And so it came to pass that whoever called himself a friend and ally, or even an enemy, of the Roman people was risking his life. For if anybody were asked and called himself an enemy of the Romans, he was regarded as an enemy by his inquisitor, stripped of his fortune, and given a sound thrashing. But if he told is interrogator that he was a friend, he would find the man who would kill him for his talk about Romans. This brought it about that the Gauls avoided any intercourse with both Franks and Romans, as much as the times would allow. The Britons who had founded a kingdom in Armorica a little earlier kept all men of foreign blood far from their borders, since they had no idea at all who was a friend and who a flow. But the inhabitants of the greater Britain, worn down by fighting, maintained a gloomy silence for a number of years, since they saw no nation in the world which could offer them relief from war’s damage: although they grumbled and groaned, they paid their promised tribute to the kings of the Scots and the Picts.
3. Ten years passed by before the Britons attempted any uprising against the Picts or the Scots. When these had passed, disturbances broke out in Kent. The man responsible for this new revolt was Conan, the son of the earlier Conan discussed above, a man born of the race of Octavius in Britain. To keep the business secret, by furtive messages he summoned the British elders to a lodge in the midst of a forest, where he frequently lived in the summer for the sake of the hunting. When they had come there, he asked for their permission to speak privately about a matter concerning their common welfare. Given leave, he said, “You see how this nation of ours, once distinguished in war and an object of respect to the world’s other peoples and nations, is now kept in subjugation and obliged to pay yearly tribute to the most remote of nations. You see with what woes, and with how much disgrace, it is afflicted during these unhappy days. Woe’s me, what can be the reason why we are beset with such calamities, unless that we are sluggish with laziness and are failing ourselves? The most slothful of all men, we are neglecting to cast off the yoke which was made for us by the perfidy of the tyrant Maximianus, when we were broken in war and deprived of our strength. Hence all men can easily see how much we have degenerated from the virtue of our ancestors, who were accustomed to debar the those most barbarous nations, the Scots and the Picts, from their homes and drive them far from Albion, as often as they cared to do so. I admit that we suffered a great reversal in that earlier unhappy battle we fought against the Scots and Picts ten years ago, when we lost nearly all our nobility and horsemen, and when, having carefully considered our condition, we were compelled to enter into a treaty more necessary than honorable. But our strength, consumed by Maximianus’ tyranny and afterwards by war that followed, has renewed itself. For in Briton there is a fine young generation, most fit for war and for undergoing any hardship, and if we allow it to lie idle, we are inflicting a greater harm on ourselves than has ever been inflicted by even our most savage enemies. We abound in the wealth against which the Roman procurator was once in the habit of raging. We do not lack the strength or the wealth to cast off this yoke, we only require the courage. Therefore, mindful of your pristine virtue, dismiss this slothfulness, arm yourselves with self-confidence and enthusiasm, and (most important for accomplishing any task) with virtue. In this way you will be more fitly and properly able to imitate your ancestors’ virtue, so that not only our enemies, but also the rest of mankind can readily comprehend that there is more virtue than fear in you and in general population of the British nation, always most desirous of glory.”
8. After he had delivered this oration, the British nobility present were of sharply divided opinion. The minds of some were wonderfully won over, so that with great eagerness they clamored for war. Others, and these the noblest of the nation, feared lest their children, being held hostage by the enemy, would be miserably subjected to torture, were very averse to a war against the Scots and the Picts, and repeatedly averred that their oath of trust should for no reason be violated. After they had continued this contentious debate late into the night without coming to a conclusion, all who were present broke up the conference, its business unfinished, and they went home. When the confederated kings discovered the Britons’ counsels (for there some among the British nobles who reported all their doings to the kings), they decided to subject their hostages to dire torments and wage an immediate war against the oath-breakers, should they attempt a rebellion. But, before warring against a nation thinking of rebellion, they decided to send ambassadors to the leading men of Britain who, under the pretext of an embassy, could spy out the thinking of the nobles and the peasantry about launching a fresh commotion, as well as other things. When the ambassadors had departed and come to the Britons, saying they had been sent by the victorious kings of the Scots and Picts, to warn them they should stand by their friendship and the treaty that had been made, placing no faith in those men who were urging them to break their sworn word for frivolous and silly causes, lest they work more to achieve their own ruination than any advantage for which they might hope. It was for this purpose that they had brought certain mandates, and if the Britons rejected them, they should know that an atrocious war, such as their ancestors had never experienced, would immediately be set in motion against them.
9. These were the commands of the confederated kings to the Britons: henceforth they should hold no public meetings of either nobles or peasants without prior consultation with the victorious kings; they should observe their ancient manner of administering the law; no Gaul or Roman should be admitted into Britain, even for the purpose of conducting trade; and they should take back their old hostages and provide double the number specified by their earlier treaty. At these words, many Britons grumbled and urged that they give no agreeable answer to the ambassadors nor obey such insulting commands; everything ought to be entrusted to the fortune of war rather than have a free nation subject to such humiliating conditions. A great popular uprising would have ensued, had not the nation’s elders, having discussed matters and yielding to the necessities of the time, employed sweet words in soothing somewhat the angry minds of the grumblers. So they gave the ambassadors the answer they wished, although many Britons disapproved of what was being transacted and complained of their leaders’ cowardice, saying that, now that the public safety was exposed to enemy wrongdoing, it would be afflicted all the more. A little while after the ambassadors had been sent home, the Britons began a great quarrel amongst themselves, to the detriment of the general public, for it was destined to cause trouble for each and every one of them. For the common folk took up arms against the nation’s nobility and entered into a conspiracy with the intention of destroying each and every one of them. Their contention was was that that they were subject to barbarian rule and the basest of servitude thanks to their great sloth, because they had degenerated from their ancestors’ virtue.
10. The matter was finally settled by the sword. For the commoners entered into a fight with the nobles, and when they failed to keep their ranks nor did anything in a military way, they were conquered, scattered, easily put to rout, and killed in great numbers by their pursuers. And yet the ferocious peasantry was not tamed by that reversal. Rather, a little later they repaired their forces and fought against the nobles once more, almost to the point of obliteration but with no better luck than before. The result was that the strength of the masses was so weakened that they abandoned their villages and fields, their wives and children, and confined themselves either to steep mountains or to caves and forests, in order to avoid the victors’ wrath, and from there they made frequent forays against the nobles’ herds and flocks, when they had the opportunity. But when matters came to extremities, necessity brought about peace. For the nobility could not continue to exist without the support of the peasantry, nor were the commoners suffice for themselves without the counsel and authority of the nobles. And so they struck a peace and forgave each others’ wrongdoings, but only after the strength of both sides had been ruined. As historians of Albion have recorded, this servile uprising inflicted no less damage than the tyranny of Maximianus, when he all but denuded Britain of its good soldiers and inhabitants. There followed a three years’ famine in Britain, which killed many, and it was followed by bumper crops such as no previous age could remember, from which arose an unwonted love of luxury and all manner of wrongdoings among Britons devoted to dainties and gluttony, and neglecting their ancestors’ virtue. This likewise engendered cruelty, hatred of the truth, love of falsehood, and countless other vices unworthy of men, which flourished to the point that, if a man conducted himself mildly or seemed devoted to the truth, all men’s hatred and barbs were directed at him as if he were attempting to subvert ancestral custom.
11. It was not only the common folk who were infected by this plague. The Venerable Bede tells us that the nobility was as well, and in those days even Christ’s priests and the shepherds of His flock were transformed in dicers, and, casting off Christ’s easy yoke, bent their necks to drunkenness, litigation, contentiousness, backbiting, and other similar vices. This bane, more cruel than the sword had ever been, was the downfall of the British nation, once powerful for its wealth, virtue, and martial glory. Another evil was added to these. For, to use Bede’s words, “In the meantime, on a sudden, a grievous plague fell upon that corrupt generation, which soon destroyed such numbers of them that the living scarcely availed to bury the dead.” And yet neither the tragedy of those who died, nor the fear of death, was able to dissuade the survivors from their spiritual death, so greatly was that corrupt people addicted to its evildoing. These were the reasons why that nation was soon conquered by the Saxons’ arms as God’s punishment, why it lost its kingdom and was stripped of its royal majesty, and never regained its old glory.
12. While Britain was suffering these woes, the kings of the Scots and Picts were enjoying peace and quiet, and fixed their attention on nothing else than reforming their nations with honorable and pious institutions, so that they might shine with their wealth and sanctity after such great and protracted wars. They rejoiced that their affairs enjoyed such great divine favor that, while they themselves and their nations were living in undisturbed piece, their enemies were afflicted by no single kind of disadvantage, and were reduced to such a miserable condition that they lacked the power either to invade foreign lands or to take up arms in self-defense. This state of affairs among the Britons was very welcome to the Scots and Picts, for they were persuaded that whatever part of Albion lay between the river Humber and the Deucalidonian Sea was destined to be in their possession forever, and that kingdom of the Britons would never be restored to its erstwhile glory. And so King Eugenius, finished with war and lacking any enemy at home or abroad, raised the kingdom of the Scots to such a degree of prosperity by his very just government that the writers of our national histories recall nothing similar in previous ages. While this peace was flourishing and Eugenius enjoying such good fortune, he yielded to human fatal necessity, having ruled for thirty years. He died in the about the fourth year of the reign of Leo, who had seized the throne at at Constantinople. And at this time, Eugenius having died childless, his brother Dongard gained rule over the Scots, with the support and vote of all men, in the year of Christian salvation 462.
13. He took the example set by his brother as his reign’s starting-point and persuaded everybody that he would be the kind of ruler he indeed proved to be. Dongard had a moderate character and was a lover peace although he did not shrink from war, if necessity should bring one. And so, since he had no fear of foreign arms and no domestic disturbance presented itself, he furnished each district with judges who would weigh justice in fair balances for those who sought it. He himself devoted all his diligence to repairing old fortresses and building new ones in suitable places, so as to have everything ready both for peace and for war, should one impend. He was not unaware that, in accordance with the laws of Fortune, no kingdom or nation can long be at peace. For peace begets wealth, wealth begets wrongs, and wrongs are eventually wont to beget war. And so, while everybody else was living in carefree leisure, since they saw all things full of peace and prosperity and feared nothing less than imminent war, he himself, always suspicious of Fortune’s smiles, expended all diligence in fortifying the castles and strongholds nearest to Britain with garrisons and arms, and in manufacturing the things required by war, just as if a war were at hand. These civil acts made Dongard very distinguished, and the pious and holy things he subsequently did made him all the more venerable to all men. For in various places of his kingdom he bestowed estates, fields, and the other necessities of life on Christ’s innocently-living priesthood, and particularly on St. Palladius. It was his will that everywhere they be held in much reverence by all men, and on them he conferred immunity from military service. He also made every place consecrated to Christ throughout all the districts of Scotland asylums, decreeing by public edict that those who fled to them, be they servants, fugitives, guilty men, or convicted of any crime whatsoever, could not be judged by public authority as long as they remained there. And he bestowed not just these privileges, but almost countless others as well, on Christ’s initiates, so that their churches, abbeys, and other holy places would be regarded as more august, and actually be such.
14. At the time these things were transpiring in Scotland, the Britons were deploring their lot, worse than that of any slave: for they were subject to the most far-flung of nations and tributaries to them, and they neither dared nor could bring in foreigners, as did their ancestors, by which their strength could be enhanced. And they had also been ruined by famine and internal strife, the dire plague, and God’s manifest anger for their sinfulness. Both publicly and privately they prayed to God Almighty that He restore their nation, afflicted by such great calamities, repentant of its previous manner of life, and returned to its ancestral piety, to its ancient liberty. In order to appease this divine wrath supplications were held throughout Britain with such unanimous agreement that in that nation it was a rare man who did not vow to put off his old sinful ways and henceforth be a true adherent of Christian piety, if someday He would remove this very base yoke of servitude. Conan (not very far above, I have told about his great authority among the British) thought the time was ripe for inducing the Britons to strive to regain their liberty and change their form of government, and is said to have convened an assembly and addressed his nation’s elders as follows:
15. “If in any way, gentlemen of Britain, the speech I made to you in a public meeting several years ago had inspired you to undertake a war against our deadly enemies, it would have been superfluous for me to address you from this place today, since long ago you would have joined me in dwelling in our homes free from all harm, with our enemy defeated and ejected from our territories, our liberty restored and Britain’s borders returned to their old places, and with us having a king of British blood. But now we are broken by many ills, by famine, internal sedition, and a deadly pestilence. As I suppose, you have learned to your own cost how much evil is brought to mortals by addiction to luxury, by the failure to fear God, and by the failure to defend one’s rights. Then, as the event has gone to show, your minds were insufficiently aware of the value of a restoration of liberty and the very noble kingdom you formerly possessed by land and see. Your courage, which formerly was failing you, has returned, as I can tell by many signs, and your minds are more sensible. Now you are moved by nostalgia for your erstwhile liberty and dignity. And whatever things are worthy for a free man are moving you to test the fortune of war on behalf of the public welfare. For, if we consider the situation more closely, we will recognize that our enemy daily grows and conspires against our liberty all the more. And so I don’t see what less befits us than to live any longer in this constant torpor, to the disgrace of us all. For we have indulged in gluttony and the delights of the belly, the source of all plagues, more than is fit to mention. Let us summon up our courage, worshiping our ever-living God, thanks to Whose wrath kingdoms fall, never to be restored, and by Whose favor they endure. Let us hope that finally, after we have paid the dire penalties He has manifestly exacted for our sins, He will be appeased, have mercy on us, and change everything for the better. The time promises us everything will be prosperous enough, if only we have appeased God Almighty with the piety of true worship, for He drives away no man who takes refuge with Himself. And who fights the pious fight with God on his side has ever suffered ill fortune, if not by his own fault? So let us go, therefore, if we are men, if we are true sons of the men who so often routed the Scots and the Picts, let us seek to recover our forefathers’ homes, and indeed our liberty from our unjust enemy, for there is nothing of greater importance to a man. Let us piously take up arms, promising ourselves assured victory over those who have worn us down with many slaughters over many years, either because we may justifiably trust that our fortune has changed along with our hearts, while our enemy have long been torpid in their idleness, or because (and this is far more important) because we will be fighting a just war against an unjust enemy.”
16. Conan’s oration fired the multitude, and they would have run to arms on the spot, had not a number of the British elders shown by clear proofs that the Britons did not yet have the strength, nor, since they had long been unaccustomed to war and grown excessively used to a finicky way of life, did they possess the the skill at fighting. Firthermore, they hade been subject to repeated massacres, and, in the absence of a commander and auxiliary forces, they did not have the power to overcome the Scots and Picts. They therefore urged that ambassadors be sent to Androenus, King of the Bretagnes in France, the fourth in the line of that nation’s first king, Conan, bearing the king and the elders of his nation the complaints of the men of greater Briton concerning the intolerable injuries inflicted on them by the Scota and Picts. They should beg for help in regaining their ancestral homes, unlawfully taken away by the barbarians, and in restoring the kingdom of Briton to its old boundaries in Albion. Since this suggestion won the approval of the assembled multitude, the discussion to turned to the question of who best to be chosen to transact this busness, and the votes of them all fell on Bishop Guitelinus of London and Conan. When these men, possessed of great authority among the Britions, were crossing over to Armorica, Conan was overcome by the bad weather and sea-sickness and fellin a fever, and death soon ensued. Bishop Guitelinus took that noble man’s death very much amiss, and as soon as he had landed at Armorica he presided over the dead man’s funeral rites with sad ceremony and great expense. Then, with a large escort, he was brought before King Androenus and, granted leave to address the elders of the kingdom, he is said to have spoken in this wise:
17. “If I were not conscious (most indomitable of kings) that you are well aware who I am, and for what reason I have come here from the nation of Britain, the mother of this people of yours, I should have been obliged to make a different beginning of my address, and speak with greater precision in order to gain your favor for our afflicted affairs. But since, as I am given to understand from this retinue of this nation’s nobles which has received me by your command, you know these things full well, I shall briefly touch on the gist of this embassy to a most friendly king, and not play the orator. When the Scots and the Picts, the wildest of all nations on earth, employed chaos and murder to occupy all the land as far south as the Tyne, at a time when the Romans had left Britain unprotected and almost denuded of its own soldiery, they used their arms either to compel whatever men of British blood they found there to go elsewhere after having been stripped of their fortunes, or else to die. Nor was our enemies’ truculence sated by these evils and woes inflicted on our nation. For a little later they demolished Hadrian’s Wall and burst into all the land beyond the Humber with fire and sword, with such violence that it was readily apparent that soon the entire island would fall into barbarian hands, with the Britons either driven out or exterminated. And this would indeed have happened, had our enemies the sufficient numbers to settle Albion and defend it from enemy harm. Our men, worn down by so many and so insufferable woes, after they had vainly petitioned for Roman help by various embassies, decided to brave all extremities rather than drag out a shameful life, exposed to such great barbarism. So they gathered their forces and marched against their enemy like brave and noble men who should either live with honor or die an honorable death. And, joining battle with them, after experiencing various turns of fortune during the fight, the lost their bravest men and the best of our nation. After this defeat, our enemy, thirsting not so much for rule over Britain as for blood, ravaged their way through the island, at that time exposed to every form of evildoing, committing much killing, until, our strength shattered and stripped of our fortunes, we entered into a peace with them, according to a necessary but scarcely honorable treaty dictated by our raging enemy (woe is me!), having handed over the children of British nobles as hostages.
18. “After a brief delay many of our citizens began to regret what they had done, late in the day though it was. And so with their mute reproaches our commoners accused our nobility of having violated British liberty, and the quarreling that arose brought about a servile uprising, which was at length quelled, but not without great harm to ourselves. Famine and a great dearth of all things followed upon that evil, and then prosperity, that mother of insolence, followed upon the famine, no less hurtful than the famine itself for both our moral fiber and for our government. The plagued engendered by these things consumed more lives among the British people such as no writers tell us have been destroyed in the past. And yet these savage wounds have not vexed us as much as the constant cruelty of the barbarians. Every day they invent new punishments, they require new hostages, new taxes; they rage against our fortunes, against our persons, nothing is safe when enemy savagery is free to work its harm, for with enemies of this kind there is no form of law or equity. It is reasonable to suppose (most invincible king) that when you hear these things you filled with sadness and indignation no less than ourselves. By these intolerable sufferings we have at length learned that God exists, and that these calamities have been fallen us as the result of His just vengeance, and so we have returned to a more wholesome mind and decided to make amends for our sins, as much as is in our human power, against God and and our neighbors, by which I mean to appease heaven with pious worship, for if it is propitious to us, then it is reasonable to hope that everything will go better. We have adopted a plan for reclaiming that single part of Britain which our enemy most unjustly possesses, by your help, most noble king, and of casting off the yoke of servitude, which we have disgracefully borne longer than befits a free nation, restoring the British kingdom, and returning to the happy condition of our ancient people. Since we cannot achieve this by our own resources, broken by fighting war over so many years (for, even if we have the courage to act nobly on behalf of our honor, we are scarcely unaware that we lack the strength to fight our enemy, thanks to whose savagery our affairs are in such a weak condition), we have taken refuge with you as suppliants, begging that you will take pity on the misfortune of British nation, once the mother of your own people, so that, afflicted and placed in complete jeopardy,, and now (if I may so say) prostrate, we may be supported against such savage enemies, pray send auxiliaries from this most warlike nation of yours: relying on them, we undoubtedly will erase the mark of disgrace we have acquired by our own doing. For, other than yourself, nobody at all will be found who will set himself in opposition to the bestiality of the Scots and Picts on our behalf. You would not be defending other men’s wealth, but your own and that of your royal house. For the British kingdom is destined to be yours. Britain, formerly a single kingdom, is now divided in two: thus let it exist under the government of a single ruler, inasmuch as, other than yourself and your children, no man of the royal blood survives, so that of necessity these kingdoms must combine. Therefore you should not reject this opportunity offered you, consult for your advantage as well as our own, so that you will rule and command in both Britains, and happy govern everything in accordance with your will, guidance, and counsel.”
19. King Androenus responded to these words by saying that he was sorely grieved about the present misfortune of the Britons, from whom he derived his origins, nor did it seem any less baleful for himself than for those on whom the harm had been inflicted. But such is the alteration in human affairs that not infrequently mortals are cast down from the highest good fortune into the greatest calamities, and again, from their calamities are sometimes restored to their erstwhile prosperity. Furthermore, nature has created mankind with the condition that whatever they possess is mortal, and that they sometimes experience a favorable fortune, and sometimes an adverse one. Therefore he deservedly praised the British nation for maintaining no less courage when surrounded by adversities than they had when their fortune was untroubled, and for having hope of casting off the barbarians’ yoke and regaining their former liberty. But as far as his crossing over to Albion went, this could not be fitly done, because he was consumed by old age and scarcely possessed the strength to govern Albion. But he had a son named Constantine, flourishing in his age, powers, and counsel, and he would send this man, together with a choice band of soldiers, to the island in order to restore the British kingdom, drive the Scots and Picts from their lands. For the sake of returning Britain to the condition it was in before being conquered by Roman arms, he would generously supply arms, ships, money, grain, and all the other things needful for this expedition.
20. After the the ambassador had thanked the king for making these promises, the Armorican king immediately received him most respectfully, and in a friendly way urged him to be of good cheer: he would gain what he had asked for, and a good deal more besides. It was therefore decided that the ambassador Guitelenus would live at Rennes (a very populous city of the Bretagnes) until the soldiers, ships, and necessities for the expedition were assembled, held in no less respect than the king himself. After this, Androenus commanded that all ships possessed by Armorica foregather in Soliacanum, the modern bay of Saint-Malo. And there, laden down with soldiers, sailors, and all manner of warlike equipment, they set sail for Albion under the command of Constantine, and enjoyed a happy crossing. Upon the arrival of such a great fleet and its auxiliaries, the Britons were affected with unusual excitement and went a-running to the shore to have a look at the army and its general Constantine. Then Bishop Guitelinus gave a brief speech to the elders of Britain (for a large number of them had gathered there) in which he described the great friendliness with which he had been received by King Androenus in Armorica, the respect in which he had been held, how kindly a response the king had made to his requests, and how strong a company of soldiers he had sent, together with a great number of ships for their aid, under the command of his son Constantine, a worthy man of proven martial virtue. And he pointed to Constantine, standing on a high place, the most welcome sight he had ever beheld. Seeing the man, they were all greatly heartened. First they whispered among themselves, and then openly cried out that it would be under the leadership of Constantine and nobody else that their ancient liberty could be reclaimed. Mixed in this was the statement of a few men (not said without Guitelinus’ authorization) that they should choose Constantine as their king. This was immediately greeted with public applause, and by their joyous acclamation Constantine was bidden to rule the Britons in Albion.
21. And so Constantine unexpectedly gained the royal title. As all men prayed prosperous success for him, in the company of Bishop Guitelinus he went to the camp so that, in the presence of the elders, he could take a mighty oath, vowing that he would fight to the death for British prosperity, employing might and arms to erase the shame that had been contracted, by returning the realm to its liberty. With the elders voting their support, he issued an edict that forty days henceforth all men of the British nation fit to fight should be present in arms on the bank of the Humber, and be ready to obey their captains’ commands. And so the people were dismissed home, and obeyed King Constantine’s commands with a ready will. While the Britons were industriously making their war-preparations, there was no man capable of bearing arms who desired immunity from service, such was their singleness of purpose for restoring their nation to its erstwhile glory. The Scots and Picts learned of the Britons’ intentions, and put to death each and every one of the hostages in their possession by various methods of torture. The Britons, outraged by this brutality and at Constantine’s urging, hastened forward their planned expedition against their enemy. And on the appointed day Constantine reviewed their assembled host, and from a place chosen for the purpose, instead of an encouraging harangue, spoke his praises for their fine forces, equipped with the armament and eagerness, not just for fighting against the Scots and Picts, but also for their wholesale extermination, should the need arise. Then he commanded them to march against the enemy. Meanwhile the Scots and Picts, in no respect more slothful than the Britons, had gathered the necessities for warfare and held a levy throughout all their districts, and brought a great army into the territory of Eboracum. Here they encamped, deciding to await the return of the scouts they had sent before them into Britain. On the following day, learning that the Britons were no more than four miles away, with abnormal haste they moved forward and were soon within sight of their enemy, intent on making no delay. King Constantine gained control of some hills not far distant from the Humber, and so the confederated kings refrained from fighting and postponed giving the signal for battle until the following day.
22. On the following dawn, before the British forces descended to the plain, Dongard King of Scots addressed his men, while standing on a high place: “It should surprise no man that the Britons abandoned suitable fighting-ground and fled to the hills. They are rash by nature, and endowed with the kind of character that, even if at first they make boasts worthy of the bravest men, as soon as they catch sight of their enemy, whom they cannot help but fear even before coming to blows, they quite lose heart. Experience has taught you how easily provoked the Britons are to new adventures, how windy, how full of promises, but how soft they are when it comes to completing their undertakings after they have caught sight of their adversary. As I have learned from reliable sources, yesterday they were marching along, calling for a fight as if prepared to come to grips on the spot. Their soldier’s were frequently heard to ask,‘When will an enemy be given us? Where’s he fled? Where’s he hiding?’ But today they have forgotten that great ardor, having had a look at you, and have run off to high hills to avoid a conflict. If matters come to a fight, today you will be fighting against timid ingrates, whom your mercy has often spared after they have been conquered, so you cannot help but hope for a happy outcome. Our enemy’s notorious treachery gives you much extra hope for victory, since they are bound by no treaties and have gone to war, in violation of their sworn oath, before it has been declared. I admit that our enemies strength has been enhanced by the addition of new forces, but, trust me, their courage is no better than ever. Do you suppose that Constantine, fetched from a foreign kingdom and appointed the Britons’ commander, will be able to restore their courage, which gluttony, constant drinking-bouts, and constant wickedness have taken away from this nation of rabbits? They are devoid of martial virtue, and hence are rightly deprived of heaven’s favor. They are in the habit of being conquered before battle is joined, and they are fighting against your army, which they have often experienced as the victors. Do you imagine that this new, foreign-born commander will give this army of women, composed of unreliable runaways who dread your name, the courage to conduct themselves bravely against their conquerors? Trust me, my brave fellow soldiers, never has a hound inspired more fear in a hare, or a ravening wolf in a pious sheep, than the sight of yourselves is now inflicting on all the Britons’ spirits. Nor should you be terrified, my bravest of all men, at the sight of the great number and variety of bows, arrows, catapults, axes, and other weaponry possessed by the enemy. These are going to do you little damage in the absence of firmness of spirit and skill of hand, which you very plainly see to be lacking in our enemy — if they do not quickly throw them away when they take to their heels. But don’t just consider your enemies’ condition, think of your own as well. If fight we must, do not deviate from military discipline as you march to war. If we are obliged to pursue them as they run away, great care must be taken that this be done in good order, lest we confusedly dash about and happen to fall prey to the fugitives, to our great disgrace. So go in prosperity, seeing whether the Britons are willing to make trial of the sword. Go, I say, being men who lack neither strength, nor courage, nor counsel, and understand that I am the kind of general who rewards the brave and the steadfast with deserved prizes, but impose shameful punishments on cowards and deserters.”
23. He had scarce made an end of his speaking when watchmen observed fighting-bands of Britons coming down from their hills to the flatland, and the Picts’ army marching into battle in good order. Then, with a radiant face expressing wonderful eagerness, Dongard instructed his men with what order and equipment, and at what a pace they should go into battle, and gave the order to move father, saying that before the end of the battle no Briton should be spared, even if he had yielded himself, nor should his own men allow themselves to be taken alive. A terrible battle then ensued. In the end, both British wings fell back before the Picts and Scots. Their van continued to resist, in the place where Constantine, the fiercest of them all, urged on the battle and dragged out the contest. Wherever he went, King Donald kept pace, rallying his opposing van. Surrounded by some ordinary soldiers, with great ferocity he sailed into the middle of the British wedge, very eager to kill Constantine. The Armorican Britons countered his onrush, and when he was surrounded by a host of fighting men but refused to surrender himself, they cut down his ordinary soldiers and cast him to the ground. When he propped himself up with a spear, trying to rise, they laid him low again with their axes, and then, piercing him with many missiles, they killed him. Many Scotsmen, shocked by their king’s sudden fall, started to flee. Others were inspired by their anger to fight with all the greater ardor. Nor did the Picts lose heart for continuing the fight most fiercely. And so they fought until almost noon with the victory hanging in the balance, at which time the Britons, assaulted by the might of the Scots and Picts, were obliged to fall back a little. The fearful flight that followed was proof that the victory had gone to their enemy. That fatal day consumed about sixteen thousand Britons, and about fourteen thousand Picts and Scots, together with King Dongard. On the day following the battle, since Constantine could not quickly repair his damaged army, he abandoned the territory of Eboracum and went back to Kent with the remnants of tis forces. The Scots bore King Dongard’s body to the island of Iona, in the royal way.
24. Dongard perished in the fifth year of his reign, which was the first of King Constantine of the Britons, and about the eighth of the emperor Leo and the year 465 since the beginning of the Christian religion. In his place was unanimously elected Constantine, the brother of the earlier Eugenius, since the sons of the dead king were too young to rule. Although he appeared to show signs of probity, this was a man of very different character than his brother, being born for pleasure rather than government, a rapist of virgins, a debaucher of matrons, and a great one for egging on scoffers. He was never seen to display any sign of pleasure in the company of the nobility, with whom he rarely met, always looking downcast. He was an ebullient and pleasant sovereign when in the company of unclean stage-actors and low-down fellows, but among upright men abounding in virtue and authority he showed himself to be gloomy, feeble, downcast, and servile. And so it came about that, although he shared the same name with King Constantine of the Britons, he was extremely different from him in his manner of living. For the other one did much to ornament the kingdom of Britain, mostly restored by his own doing, with his urbane and pious conduct. But our Constantine, regarded as ignoble and disliked by one and all, did nothing illustrious, nothing worthy of a king.
25. At the beginning of his reign, when a throng of Scottish nobles met with him and urged him to avenge the damage done by the Britons and erasing the disgrace of King Dongard’s death, he opposed the sentiments of them all, saying that he was sufficiently well advised what best to do in his public administration, and had no need of other men’s advice, For he had the kind of nature that does everything according to its own opinion, and nothing in accordance with other men’s suggestions. Soon thereafter certain of his actions, done without consulting the elders of the realm, sufficiently served to show that this was a king who rashly trusted his own mind. For he granted peace to the Britons unasked, forgave them their tribute, and secretly returned to them certain forts alongside the river Humber. In everyone’s judgment, he was destined to do many things to the detriment of the kingdom of Scotland, had not the elders quickly countered his unwise undertakings. For they were very sorely troubled by the king’s corrupt ways, and the unjust manner of his government, injurious to public safety. When things had gone so far that they were tending to a revolution, Dougal of Galloway, a man of great authority in everybody’s eyes, used strong arguments to point out in a great parliament of nobles and commoners how dangerous a civil war would be, should one break out at this time. The newly-restored kingdom of Britain, burning with deadly hatred against the Scots, was daily growing in strength and, being a young man, its new king was desirous of glory: after he had placed his rule on a sound footing, he would doubtless seize an opportunity of declaring war against the Scots and Picts. The Britons only abided by treaties when they feared their enemies’ power. The Picts, always a nation of uncertain loyalty, often leaned towards the nation they expected to prove the victor. The king of Scotland was the kind of man who loved devotees of the belly rather than of courage, being a glutton, womanish, unfit for either public or private responsibilities. Therefore hot-headed anger should be suppressed, for it is never wont to accomplish anything; a more suitable time must be awaited, reason must be heeded. Great thought must be devoted to avoiding these impending ills, if avoided they could be. If they wished the best for their commonwealth, the things visited on them by necessity must be endured with patience.
26. The multitude took Dougal’s advice, even if some noblemen were of a different opinion, and for several years, although sick at heart, tolerated that hateful government. The Pictish elders imagined that this sluggard of a King of Scots, in whom no signs of virtue were evident, was going to live out his reign amidst bevies of harlots. Lest Britain, rendered more warlike by the restoration of its kingdom, remember the damage they had inflicted and create some trouble for themselves and their realm, since they dared not fight against the Britons in open battle, they suborned certain men to murder King Constantine of Britain. Falsifying their true nationality, these men first took their places among his servants, and then among his courtiers, and were taken for Britons. Gradually their flattery, that domestic plague of princes, gained them such friendship with the king that he trusted their word even in weighty matters. And so, as was their custom, they went in to the king, as if about to tell him something with nobody else present, and cut him down. When the wound was dealt, his guards heard his groaning and pursued his assassins. They were caught and, bound and and foot, thrown on a bonfire and burned to death. The criminal murder of King Constantine of Britain fell in the fifteenth year of the reign of Constantine King of Scots. Nor did he himself long survive: he was strangled at night by a man of Hebridian blood for having raped his daughter, after he had reigned for seventeen inglorious years. In accordance with a popular vote and the elders’ authority he was replaced by his nephew Congallus, the son of his brother Dongard, who was hailed as king. This was a man of a twofold mind, being equally ready for peace and for war.
27. At the beginning of his reign, when he considered the condition of Scottish affairs, which had lately been neglected under a lazybones of a king, he showed himself as being more desirous of peace than of war. Men were not lacking to urge him to take up the sword and inflict punishment the wrongs that had gone unavenged because of King Constantine’s slackness, now that he was dead and King Constantine of Britain murdered. But this new sovereign put that off to a more suitable time, and first applied his mind to restoring Scotland’s weakened government, which had gone astray under the administration of criminal men, by appointing men of particular wisdom as his magistrates and putting them to work. Everywhere these men exercised their great power in settling lawsuits and punishing the guilty, and quickly reduced everything to such a condition that, under Congallus’ rule, the people lived in harmonious peace and secure rest, appreciating that it was not subject so much to royal power as to justice, good faith, and good-will. While Congallus devoted his attention to these matters, Vortigern, a man of great authority among the Britons, and a man possessed of wonderful cunning and a sly nature, was greedy to become all-powerful. After the death of King Constantine of the Britons, he forcibly dragged out of his monastery his elder son Constantius, whom his father, recognizing that he was wholly unfit to govern, had made a monk, and saw to it that the boy was set in his father’s place by vote of the British elders. It was later agreed that Vortigern had done this with clever artfulness so that, while an entirely naive monk was occupying the throne, he himself might govern the realm as he saw fit and, first, increase his personal power, and then, after the royal family of Constantine had been removed, himself come to the throne as a tyrant. So as to conceal this scheme from all men, he pretended to be an upright friend of peace and the public welfare, striking a new pact with the Scots and Picts. By means of liberal gifts and promises of much more, he managed to import one hundred men of Pictish blood and the same number of Scotsmen and appointed them bodyguards to King Constantius. Some years thereafter, when he was now a wealthy man, he thought the time was ripe for gaining the throne, and secretly armed them for the king’s death, promising them much if they would do the deed. Although he did this with his cunning mind, the men entrusted with the king’s protection, being gullible and blinded by their greed, treacherously attacked him during the night and most foully butchered him.
28. After hearing that the king had been murdered (for he was not far away, awaiting the outcome of the thing), like a madman Vortigern burst into the private apartment where Constantius lay, bloodsoaked and dead. The king’s assassasins had been arrested and, less they betray him as the man responsible for the scheme, he commanded that they be strangled, saying over and over in the presence of the nobles who chanced to be present that nothing troubled more than the murder of Constantius, that very modest ruler. For, because of this, a great danger threatned the safety of Britain. He then rounded up the remaining Scots and Picts, who were ignorant of the crime just committed, from various parts of the city and had them thrown in chains, and, in accordance with contemporary British custom) joined with a large part of the nobility in keeping vigil for the dead king. At dayn he immediately came forth in a London market-place with his supporters (for by his largesse he had accumulated a great number of them), and delivered a lengthy speech before the multitude complaining about the perfidy of the Scots and Picts. For they had murdered a modest king entrusted to their care, doing their best to deprive Britain of a ruler. Their intention, as was reasonable to believe, was either to split Britain into two factions, or, by removing its lawful king, to expose all regions subject to British government to enemy harm. Unless such impudent boldness were chastized, it would come about that they would commit far greater felonies (if such were possible) to the detriment of the British commonwealth. Therefore public punishment must be inflicted on these traitors. The guilt fell on all the royal bodyguards: although those who committed the unspeakable deed had paid their forfeits to his anger, the rest remained to be dragged off to immediate death.
29. At these words the British youth roared vehemently, and Vortigern completed the rest in the manner he had started. The Scots and Picts were herded out of the public prison and immediately hoisted on very high gallows, to everyone’s approval. This business made Vortigern popular to everybody, and they revered him as the single father of the nation and looked forward to his rule alone. Then he, exercising his shrewd wit so as not to appear to be ambitious for the crown, asked the people whether they would prefer Ambrose, King Constantine’s son,, still in hi s inority, to rule, asserting that he was the legitimate heir to the throne. But when with a great outcry the people refused to allow their newly-restored government to be offered to an immature lad, he bade them choose the king they desired. Then a loud shout went up, started by his supporters by prearrangement, and Vortigern was bidden to rule. He fortified the Tower of London with his very strong garrisons, and conferred estates, land, and public offices on the members of his retinue, because this criminal man distrusted everybody else, and he sought opportunities to proscribe them. Others were stripped of their fortunes and he snatched them off to their executions. Rumor of these crimes induced their friends to arrange that Constantine’s sons Aurelian, Ambrose, and Uther (who were minors, being kept in Cambria under the protection of preceptors and tutors) be taken by ship to their uncle, the current king in Armorican Britanny, to avoid Vortigern’s snares.
30. Meanwhile the Scottish and Pictish kings heard the news of how their fellow-tribesmen had died a shameful death at London, thanks to Vortigern’s deceit. Disliking such an insult, they infested the Britons’ nearby territories with forays and plundering raids, not refraining from arson. The inhabitants of those British regions, beset by such great evils, being unable to resist their enemy nor hoping for any help from their king in fending them off, retired into the interior of Britain to save their lives. Report of such devastations and killing moved Vortigern speedily to assemble a great British army, over which he set Guitelus, the Prince of Cambria, a man of distinguished nobility, charged with leading it against the enemy. Knowing how unpopular he was with the British nobility for having schemed against Constantine’s sons, Vortigern preferred to wage this necessary war by means of other commanders rather than show himself to be seen by the host, not without risk to his life, and so at this time he kept himself at London. Guitelus feared the destruction of the British kingdom unless the enemies’ violence be repelled by force, and was moved by his sense of duty to his nation, so he left home and, with his forces, made straight for the enemy. Led by his scouts, he entered those parts of Britain where the Scots and Picts were freely ranging, cut off about five hundred of them, quickly condemned them for robbery ,and hanged them. The flight of their comrades back to their own people after having sorrowfully witnessed their comrades suffering such punishments served as the announcement of this event.
31. Aroused by these things, the confederated kings assembled the things needful for a campaign and marched to meet Guitelus. On the eighth day, Guitelus tried to calm the great fears of his Britons, produced by the first sight of the Scots and the Picts, telling them that their confederated armies were more accustomed to plundering the countryside and killing old men, old women, and weaklings, than to fighting battles, and in the habit of gaining the victory when they encountered an enemy who did not resist, but rather was timid and thinking of running away. Therefore only steadfastness in battle was necessary to triumph over robbers, and they must abandon all hope of flight. This was the only way to fight enemies who were more cruel than brave and noble, this was the way to uphold the Britons’ commonwealth, all but collapsing because of its ruler’s negligence. The Britons were somewhat enlivened, and Guitelus ordered them to encamp hard by the camp of their enemies. Then, with both sides’ minds enflamed for a fight, they joined battle with their full forces. From the outset. the fighting was savage, and for a while it hung in the balance. In the middle of the van, where Congallus was fighting, the Scots did not stoutly resist the Britons in the hot encounter. Galanus, the king of the Picts, who was in charge of the right wing, observed this and commanded those who were with him to defend the place with vigorously. He himself took flying wedges of select soldiers, circled around the battle-line, and attacked the British companies opposed to Congallus from the rear with all the force he could muster. This unexpected development unhinged the minds of the British fighters. Soon the Scots, who had been all but driven back and overwhelmed, returned to the fight, quickly killed a great number of enemies fighting in the van, and compelled both British wings to take to their heels. At this, when their king saw that the enemy were scattered, he ordered some of his stronger-bodied Picts to run ahead and occupy the enemy camp, so it would not serve as a refuge for British runaways. The result was that Britons fleeing the battle were killed everywhere, both those who attempted to return to the camp and those who fled elsewhere.
32. Since no safe place was available and all the conquered were confronted with the very sure prospect of death, the Britons broke off their light and, since they could save their lives in no other way, threw away their weapons and meekly surrendered to their enemy. The confederated kings freely shared out the captives and other spoils to their soldiers, for having conducted themselves with excellence on that day. Then they took their victorious army and continued their destructive work against British towns and fortifications. Besides Guitelus and the nobles who fought alongside him, that day consumed more than twenty thousand men of the British nation, but barely four thousand Scotsmen and Picts. The Britons afflicted by that fresh disaster gathered at London, where King Vortigern was, to consult with the king and the elders of the nation. the ways and means whereby the deadly war against most brutal enemies that confronted them might best be waged and the public safety maintained. After various opinions had been expressed, but nothing definite about rescuing the nation from its utmost danger had been suggested, Vortigern, aware of his crimes and devoid of counsel, and knowing full well that he was being threatened by deadly enemies both at home and abroad, entertain thoughts of abandoning Britain and going elsewhere. But when he discussed this idea with his friends, most of them discouraged him from taking a voluntary fall from such a lofty degree of dignity without having tried his fortune against his enemy, and offering himself as a spectacle for the mockery of one and all. Over and over, they told him that he should rather take the ultimate risk and it was far more honorable to fall while defending oneself against harm than prevail by wrongdoing. Nor should he lose confidence in his strength, having lost only a single army. In Britain there was sufficient wealth to hiring French and German mercenaries, and if they were to fight on behalf of the Britons (assuming the British nation were weary of war), they could conquer the inhuman Scots and Picts, and finally, God willing, inflict great slaughter on them and drive them out entirely out of Albion. The Britons could see no fairer sight, could not receive a surer cure for the public welfare, protecting them from foreign harm, than to see on one side those monstrous German Saxons, always a wild folk, and on the other the Scots and Picts with their innate truculence, dealing out and receiving mutual wounds on behalf of British liberty. In this way and no other such bestial, such bloody enemies could be tamed.
33. Vortigern took this advice, approved by all who were present, and sent ambassadors into Germany with a great weight of gold, to fetch back to Britain mercenaries to defend their nation against the Scots and Picts. At this time, among the Saxons (thus, according to Bede, they called every nation of Germany living along the seaboard) there were tow brothers ennobled by their royal lineage, Hengist and Orsus, most skilled in military affairs, and desirous of nothing so much as martial praise and glory. They heard the ambassadors’ requests and accepted their terms, and in oar-driven ships with great prows (Bede only speaks of three longboats) they crossed over to Britain with ten thousand men. Vortigern met them with all the more grateful a mind because he imagined the danger to have come closer to his kingdom and his person, and, having bestowed on them money and various kinds of moveable property, persuade them that their common soldiers should keep to their camp and the nobler sort reside in his cities until they could refresh their bodies after their hard sea-crossing and regain their former strength. A little later two armies were formed, one composed of Saxons and the other of Britons, and, marching against the Scots and Picts with much martial equipment, they covered the ground so quickly that they had almost crossed the Humber before the Scots realized the Saxons had come to Britain, since they had devoted themselves to self-indulgence, to the neglect of military discipline. The Scot and Picts settling in British territory were thrown into consternation by this sudden development, and, since they dared not fight against such great forces of their enemy, those who put their trust in their bodies’ vigor ran off, and the rest came into the hands of their enemies. In order to make a beginning of their bloodletting and murder, thing that in this way everything else would prove mores successful, put to the sword whoever they could find, having no regard for age or sex.
34. A great massacre was perpetrated in the countryside, villages, and country estates, but a somewhat greater one during the flight. For the Saxons were not content with filling the entire region around the river Tyne with dead bodies, and sharing out all the booty of moveable property and cattle among their soldiers. Rather, they hastened into Deira and its adjoining dales, and marched towards Pithland so that, having put the Picts’ property to fire and the sword, they might all the easier receive the surrender of the Scottish districts or storm then and give them over to their soldiers for the sacking. Alarmed by the news of these things, the Picts sent an ambassador to Congallus King of Scots asking that he immediately come to Pithland with his forces in order to ward of their common danger. There was need of haste, because an enemy was at hand, not consisting of feeble British youth, but rather a force composed of terrible German strength, notorious for its blood-stained hands. This must either be confronted with haste, or they, together with their wives and children, would be obliged to submit to death, or to something yet more cruel, if such there were, at the whim of those wild men. Scarcely had this delegation been sent to the Scots when scouts reported that the Britons and Saxons were drawn up in battle array scarce forty miles away from Pithland, laying low everything with fire and steel. At this news, the Pictish king collected what forces he could, not awaiting the Scots, to defend his own from the pressing peril, and marched forth to meet the enemy in battle. Hengist (who had been placed in command of the entire expedition by Vortigern) divided his forces so as to attack the Picts in three different places simultaneously. Battle was joined: the Saxons fought very well, as their commander ferociously urged them on in the fight, but the Britons conducted themselves timidly, and some did not keep the places assigned them by their captains. Nevertheless, the Pictish cause was finally overthrown by their enemies’ numbers. That day furnished great glory for the Saxons, but little if any for the Britons. While his men were hotly engaged, Hengist marked how the Britons were far more hesitant in engaging their enemy than befitted men. This is when he is thought to have first silently formed his plan of keeping the Scots and Picts away from the Britons by force of arms, and then, when the opportunity arose, of defeating the British nation.
35. Sorely beset by a reversal of this kind, the Pictish nation sent a second delegation to Congallus King of Scots, to deplore in his presence the slaughter they suffered in the recent battle,. They informed him of how heartless a nation the Saxons were, being strangers to religion and true piety who always hated Christ’s teachings, and what evil they were planning to commit against the confederated kings and their realms. The embassy begged him that, if he were moved by the misfortune of an allied nation and had a care for his own danger, which without doubt was close at hand, he should furnish aid against those truculent enemies as speedily as possible. The members of the embassy, after having said more than a few words about the havoc wreaked by the Saxons on the Picts in the recent battle and previously, about their character, their wildness, and about the common peril now impending, humbly prayed the king and the Scottish elders who were present not to allow their old friends, having been overwhelmed by their enemies’ arms, to be rent apart like sheep by the fury of those wild men. They should have a more careful consideration lest, if they were behindhand in confronting this growing evil and had no care for an allied nation that shared the same land with them, they themselves might soon catch fire from the conflagration in which the Picts was destined to burn. Timely action was important in all human affairs, but particularly in time of war. It would doubtless be the case that, were they not prevented by force, the Saxons would pass over the estuaries of the Tweed, Forth, and Tay, and use fire and steel to lay waste the lands the Scots peacefully occupied. Thus spoke the Pictish ambassadors. Congallus was troubled by the danger confronting an allied nation and also threatening his own kingdom, were it not forcibly checked. He instructed the delegation to tell the Pictish king to remain stout of heart, and to employ small forays to protect the districts subject to Pictish rule, pending his own arrival. For he and a company of Scotsmen would quickly be present and, God willing, all the anxiety and fear would soon felt by the enemy.
36. The Pictish ambassadors were sent away with these words, and by a public edict Congallus commanded that all Scotsmen able to bear arms should be present twenty days hence, bring two months’ provisions, at a field south of the Caledonian Forest, and that it would be a capital offense to ignore the edict. Forty thousand men of fighting age were raised from the villages, castles, towns, and other fortified places, and came to their king on the appointed day. On the following moprning at sunrise, having reviewed his forces, Congallus ordered them to march towards the Picts (who had themselves assembled an army at the same time, in Deira). Five days later the two kings met, and after mutual congratulations and having heard Mass for a happy outcome to the war, they made for the enemy, who had encamped less than ten miles away. Some confederated soldiers, catching sight of the enemy (who were of a number such they had never before seen), were terrified and fled into thick forests, and others sought refuge from the imminent peril in deep caves or other hiding-places. Seeing the panic of their soldiers, the confederated kings sent men to catch the runaways and hang them, as an example to the others that they should not even consider fleeing. By these punishments a general flight was stopped, and in many men fear changed into anger. When the Britons and Saxons saw that there enemy were at hand, at Hengist’s command they joined forces.
37. Then Hengist told his host that, as a special gift of the gods, they had the opportunity to take revenge on their enemies for the injuries they had inflicted on the Britons and Saxons, because, as they could see, the nobles and commoners had delivered themselves and their wealth into their power. Nor need they fear that all would not go well, since they were about to fight justly and piously against unjust enemies, ravagers of foreign lands, thieves and robbers. As far as victory went, if long and arduous experience had given him any ability to predict outcomes in war, he had no doubt that when the enemy had had a first taste of Saxon and British might, they would turn tail, and victory would be theirs, as the gods had already decreed. this announcement had the effect of spurring the Saxons, a naturally warlike race, to attack the enemy immediately, and the Britons appeared to be imitating their example and clamoring for war. Seeing his enemies’ warlike apparatus, King Congallus applied all the diligence he could muster to o raising his Scotsmen’s spirits with timely exhortations, nor was King Galenus of the Picts behindhand during such an onrush of events, omitting nothing which pertained to firing his soldiers’ courage. They used catapults and other missile-shooting weaponry against the approaching army and threw it into a small amount of confusion. Then the armies came together and, when neither side fell back before the other, the Britons, stationed on the right wing, came to grips with the Scots with great savagery, but could not long endure in the fighting line before, overpowered by the enemy, they ran away.
38. Meanwhile a great downpour fell out of the black clouds, with an admixture of hail, and threw both armies into confusion. The ensuing darkness took away nearly all their ability to see, and filled the soldiers with such confusion that nobody knew whether to pursue the runaways or stand firm in the battle-line. As was their wont in dangerous situations, the Saxons banded together and clustered around their leader’s standard. As the weather improved a little, the Scots and Picts, thinking that the opposing battle-line of Britons was inclined to run away, broke ranks and devoted themselves to chasing down their enemy, taking many captives, but killing far more. A little thereafter the weather became wonderfully clear and tranquil, and revealed to the Saxons (who thus far had played almost no part in the battle) the defeated Britons and disorderly companies of the enemy maintaining their pursuit of the fugitives. So Hengist commanded his men to attack the confederated soldiers while they were scattered about collecting booty, and to kill whomever they caught, down to the last man. Hearing his command, with great shouting the Saxons attacked the enemy, and wherever they found them they overcame them without difficulty and cruelly butchered them. Those who escaped the clutches of their attackers slipped away and did not rest until they reached somewhere outside the range of the fighting. That was a deadly day for the Scots and Picts, and also an unhappy one for the enemy, since the greater part of the Britons’ army was lost.
39. Having gained the victory, Hengist refrained from inflicting any further harm on the confederates, so that the Britons would not lack an enemy to fear. For he thought this would be of no small advantage for his project of gaining power over the kingdom of Britain. He therefore left the region between the Tyne and the Tweed to the Scots and Picts, and returned to Eboracum with his victorious army. Since winter was approaching, he dismissed his soldiers to their camp, and returned to King Vortigern at London. There, in a parliament of elders, he delivered a lengthy speech about the great dangers he had braved in conquering the Scots and Picts, thus far the oppressors of Britain. He urged that, lest such wild nations, which (as he knew for sure) would not rest until they had extracted vengeance for the damage done them, could renew their forces and invade British territory more cruelly than ever, fighting bands recruited from British territories should take turns keeping watch along the bank of the Tyne for the following winter, to fend off enemy attacks from the helpless common folk. He vowed to fetch new forces from Germany, so that at the beginning of summer, their strength increased by these newcomers, the Saxons and British might advance their standards against both those nations and either destroy them utterly (but only if that would enhance the Britons’ glory) or forcibly eject them from Albion. Some of the British nobles privately disliked his offer, regarding the Saxons’ arrival in Britain with suspicion, thinking some deceit lay concealed behind Hengist’s fair words, and feared (as indeed did come to pass) that he would eventually bring such a host of Saxons into Albion that true piety would be eradicated and he could seize control of the kingdom, having driven the Britons out of their ancestral homes by force of arms. But they did not dare mention this thing openly, lest they suffer something harsh by authority of Hengist, whom everybody now obeyed. They held their silence, quietly awaiting the outcome of this business.
40. The rest were in high hopes of gaining a better fortune and liked Hengist’s proposal, but nobody so much as Vortigern. He rejoiced to himself, and began to thank Hengist for having started this war with a successful battle, to the great damage of the enemy. When the man had been thanked in the presence of the assembly, and been given fine gifts, Vortigern conferred on him command over his forces and supreme control over the the war’s management, granting him permission to acquire whatever was necessary to win the war at public expense, both in Germany and in Britain, without counting the cost. Hengist was familiar with the character of princes, how they are quickly driven one way or another by the whisperings of their courtiers. Lest Vortigern perhaps change his mind at the elders’ urging, Hengist acquired the habit of remaining by his side, as if to be able conveniently to consult with him about matters of great importance and the conduct of the war. Meanwhile about five thousand Britons were sent by royal command to protect the borders of the kingdom against the enemy. But during the winter nearly all of these were killed in various battles, when the Scots and Picts invaded those borders with a great expedition. More men were sent in redoubled numbers, who were supposed to inflict slaughter on the enemy and take revenge for the one they had suffered. Hengist had arranged this so that Britain’s strength would be daily eroded and an opportunity would be opened for his seizure of the kingdom. These men fought the enemy with no more success than had their predecessors: some were killed in skirmishes and others were handed over to the enemy by the deceit of the locals, who greatly disliked them. In the end, the rest grew troubled by the perils suffered by their comrades, and, since the enemy was pressing them and they regarded their fellow soldiers as anything but reliable, they abandoned the borders of the kingdom and retired to the interior of the country.
41. At the time that these events were unfolding along the borders of the British kingdom, five thousand Saxons, together with their wives and children, were imported from Germany to Britain on eighteen longboats, by invitation of Hengist. Among these were Hengist’s wife and his daughter Roxiena, a maiden of incredible beauty, and ten noblemen of his nation. Their arrival put Vortigern in high hopes of henceforth ruling his kingdom in piece and quiet, since he was convinced that he could both defeat his foreign enemies with Saxon help and retain all the Britons’ loyalty. But the opinion of certain noblemen of British blood was far different, for they could not help but suspect that such a huge number of Saxons introduced into Albion threatened the end of the British kingdom. Hearing of the arrival of his wife and children, Hengist hastened to them. Not spending a long time in their company, he returned to Vortigern and requested that some estates and land be given him, where his wife and her children could live until the war’s conclusion, saying that it was unseemly for women to live among soldiers during the confusion of war, and it was not to his liking to have them come along on expeditions and join the men in fighting: the Britons were averse to this Saxon style of family life, although they so had so greatly desired them to fight alongside themselves for the sake of the public safety. Vortigern did not deny Hengist’s requests, either because he did not want to offer even the slightest offence to a man who was his very dear friend, or because he did not dare do so. He therefore bestowed on him the freehold of a great part of Londa (a part of modern Yorkshire), together with a stronghold very well protected both by the nature of its location and human art, which was later called Thongcaster. Some write that when Hengist had obtained from King Vortigern as much land as an ox-hide could cover, he cut an immense hide into a long string and craftily used it to enclose a virtually impregnable hilltop, thus deceitfully obtaining a place useful for his intended project, so that the fortification was called Thongcaster, which they claim gives credibility to the tale because in the Saxon language this signifies “The Castle of the String.” But in whatever means he gained possession of this fortification, and whatever it was called, all our writers record that here he gained his first home in Britain.
42. After he had duly settled is affairs in Londa, at the first signs of summer Hengist led his men out of camp and divided them into divisions, setting a captain over each one who would pass on their supreme commander’s orders whenever it was time to join battle. Then he slowly moved towards the enemy, giving the British forces plenty of time to catch up with him. For Vortigern had amassed a great number of men from the districts of Britain, and placed his son Vortimer, a man of great fortitude, in command of them, with the injunction that he obey Hengist’s commands in his martial conduct. Three days later, when the armies had joined, Hengist led them by a long and difficult route across the Humber and the Tyne, to a place where they enemies were thought to be staying. But the Scottish and Pictish kings had learned from some captive Britons of the preparations Hengist was making at such great expense, and, taking sixty thousand men and a large store of provisions, marched to meet the enemy. But before they arrived at the Tyne, the enemy forces had crossed the river and occupied some close-by places with military encampments. This presented the confederated forces with no little difficulty in carrying out their intentions, and was the reason why they frequently challenged their enemy to battle. But Hengist was well aware of the character of the Scots and Picts, that they were hot for battle at the outset, but were cooled off by hesitation and delay, and so he deliberately refused to fight.
43. The armies were separated by valley, having within it some marshlands, and this posed no small difficulty for the confederates to burst upon their enemy in full force and preserving good military order. As a speedy remedy for this problem, the confederate kings ordered their men not to be dispirited by the delay, and to cut turf from the ground and use it to make bridges over the marshland. On the following night those assigned to this task industriously carried out, and on the following day, in the doubtful light of dawn, the confederates left their encampment, spoiling for a fight. Thinking it unsafe to attack the enemy camp, they crossed the valley and climbed some hills overhanging that camp. Some of them gained the the flat hilltops, from which they could shower down missiles on their enemies’ flying wedges. The nature of the terrain emboldened our men, for they thought that it was very useful for throwing the enemy ranks into a turmoil. Since they saw no sign that the Britons and Saxons were coming out of their camp or were ready for a fight, they invented a device for terrifying them during the night. They uprooted a great amount of heather and carried it up to the hilltop overlooking the enemy camp. Heather, as Columella tells us, is a bush, not planted but growing spontaneously, the flower of which is a favorite of all manner of grazing livestock. It is always possessed of a dry nature, and so easily catches fire, and it abounds in those parts. During the following night they made up a great number of bundles of the stuff and, since there was a sufficiently stiff breeze blowing, set them afire and rolled them down from the hill onto the enemy camp. The multitude of blazing torches that appeared to be falling out of the sky while they were asleep terrified Hengist’s men. The panic was increased when the great supply of twigs and straw that Hengist’s soldiers had been using as ground cover upon which to sleep caught fire from the spreading flames. Scorched, they set up a loud howl. Some scurried to defend the camp’s ramparts, fearing an enemy trick, and others turned to fighting the growing fire. But when new bundles kept tumbling down the hill and feeding the fire, and there was a great commotion of men and cattle (for there were a large number of these in the camp), and there seemed no hope of quelling the panic, the men thought it was better to try the fortune of a battle, if enemy forces chanced to be present, than to be burned in the general confusion, they broke down the camp walls and sprang forth into a nearby field, with weapons at the ready.
44. Hengist himself, having repeatedly tried and failed to keep his men in camp amidst this common danger, climbed a nearby hillock while surrounded by a strong band of Saxons, and gave his soldiers the signal for rejoining their standards. They quickly obeyed his command and formed a battle line with all the speed they could, so he brought them back to order. And so they awaited the coming of day, without any great fear of the enemy. The Scots and Picts, imagining their enemy to have suffered a serious injury, so that they had an opportunity of acting with success, quit their hills during the night and came down to the flatland, where they drew themselves up for battle and prepared to attack the enemy camp. When they drew nearer and saw Hengist’s forces drawn up in good order, they abandoned their plan of a night-attack against such a great army, and awaited the day in battle order. At dawn King Congallus encouraged his men with a brief harangue: they should remember their ancestors’ martial virtue and how much glory their victories had gained them, a glory they should not besmirch by any misconduct. They should preserve the excellent reputation that their forefathers had gained together with their prosperous commonwealth. They should think it shameful to earn themselves the yoke of servitude by retreating in the face of the enemy. Their ancestral tradition was that it was most honorable either to strike the enemy in a victorious battle, or to die fighting bravely. And the Pictish king employed similar exhortations in encouraging his men for the fight. Nor did Hengist refrain from delivering a keen oration urging his men to fight: that they join battle with vigor, and cut down the enemy. For, were he destroyed, it appeared that nothing else hostile would exist in Britain.
45. While Hengist was saying such things, the Scots and Picts suddenly came a-flying against their enemy in full force. The Britons and Saxons tried to repel them, but brought down such slaughter on themselves that they were all but defeated at the first collision, and would have taken to their heels, had not Hengist used a trumpet blast to call forth three thousand men from a nearby woods, where, a little before the dawn, he had artfully placed them in ambush, so that they would be ready to receive his commands. With a loud shout, they fell on the Scotsmen from behind while they were engaged in the fight. They, having enemies before and behind themselves, had no idea which posed the greater danger, and this threw the Scots army into disarray. The confusion was all the greater because, when a soldier turned to confront an enemy striking from behind, he hindered the man next to him from plying his weapon. Thus, at such a crisis, they had various degrees of good fortune. On that day the Picts were engaged with the Britons, and when they had defeated the battle-line opposite themselves, dealing out great slaughter, they quickly drove them to flight, and chased the fugitives to a nearby river, whether they either stuck fast in the mud and were put to the sword or swam across, not without risking their lives. After a long and bloody fight, the Scots, fiercely attacked by Saxons from front and rear, could not endure their force any longer, and, wearied and all but exhausted, fell back from their enemy. Some of them died in the fight, others surrendered, and the rest got away and joined the Picts.
46. Wounded, King Congallus was rescued from danger by the intervention of his courtiers, and carried to a nearby hilltop. After this happy fight, when the Scottish fighting-bands had been scattered, the Saxons decided to launch an attack against the Picts, who were weary from the fight and their pursuit of the enemies, but were prevented by nightfall and put that business off for the following day. The king of the Picts learned of their intention from captive Britons, and thought it unsafe to try his fortune once more against the Saxons, rendered fiercer than ever by their recent victory. Content with his good fortune, during the night he set a huge pile of carts, wagons, baggage-containers, and wood in front of his solders, and in the darkness he set them afire, so that the flames would conceal his companies from enemy sight. When this had been done, the Picts and the Scots who were with them tiptoed away from the fire and got away to safety without enemy knowledge. When this battle had been fought with varying degrees of fortune, as I have described, and he could see no enemy, Hengist counted his soldiers, and when he discovered he had lost more than four thousand, he sent the rest of his victorious host to Eboracum to spend the winter, so that, if the Picts or Scots indulged in any further troublemaking against the Britons, they would be near at hand and could immediately put a stop to their impudence. He himself returned to Vortigern at London, to bring news of this great value, and to consult with the elders about waging the rest of the war. When he arrived, Vortigern received him with wonderful friendliness, calling him his nation’s liberator from evildoing by their most savage enemies, and bade him use British cities, villages, fields, and wealth as he best saw fit. It was decreed that games and holy supplications be performed throughout Britain, so that thanksgiving could be offered up to God Almighty with public jollification. Over the considerable opposition of the bishops and congregations of the pious, it was permitted Hengist and those who had come with him to worship idols in their pagan way.
47. It was meanwhile reported to Vortigern that the Armorican Bretagnes, joined by a considerable number of Frenchmen, were up in arms. Any day now, they were going to cross over to Albion under the command of the former King Constantine’s sons Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther (whom a little earlier I have said to have gone to Armorica to escape Vortigern’s wiles), so that they might claim their father’s kingdom. At first the king was thrown into consternation by this news, for he had once heard a soothsayer foretell that he was destined to die at Ambrosius’ hands. Then he stifled his panic, sent for Hengist, and asked by what strategy and exercise of power he could keep the Armorican army out of his kingdom. Hengist, in his usual way, consoled the king with smooth talk. He took all responsibility for defeating the might of the Armoricans, should it threaten, upon himself and his Saxon nation, on the condition that his Saxons be fetched from Eboracum and allowed to settle along the coast facing France (for everybody suspected this was where the enemy would come), with cities, fortifications, funding, and provisions provided for every man of them. Easily obtaining this from the king, Hengist summoned the Saxons from Eboracum, appointed his brother Orsus their general, and sent them off to occupy the British coastline facing France, as authorized by King Vortigern. And Hengist, desiring nothing more in his greedy mind than that he might abolish the kingdom and rule of the Britons and procure homes in Albion for his nation, and a throne for himself suborned a German man to claim to be a Briton newly returned from Pithland, and to say that there industrious war-preparations were industriously being made against the Britons, with craftsmen being fetched from various places to manufacture a great amount of equipment for this war. Everything there was ringing with the noise of arms being forged, and they were planning to work extreme ill against their neighboring nations. When this suborned man, at the secret prompting of Hengist, spread such lies at London, he was haled before King Vortigern in the presence of Hengist (who did a fine job of dissimulation) and the British nobles, and questioned about the condition of the Scots and Picts, whether they were weary of war or preparing a new one. After he had said many grossly exaggerated things about the confederates’ preparations, about the renewal of their army and a new levy, at the end of his tale he added this:
48. “And I know for sure, Hengist, that a hundred young men in the flower of their youth, who have no concern for wounds or death, have sworn an oath to kill you alone, as being the main support of this war. You need have no fear of any army or battle, you have to deal with each of these, and I have no doubt some of them are already living at London. You will have to deal with an enemy at your doorstep when you least suspect him. Each one will be here, as chance may have it, fearlessly waiting to attack you when Fortune offers you for the killing. For not a single one of the confederates is not convinced that this war, so carefully waged against them, will collapse the moment you are removed, for you are its principal architect.” Vortigern believed this lie and asked Hengist his opinion about this matter. When he spoke in a roundabout way and said nothing definite, one of the Saxon bystanders spoke up by prearrangement and said, as instructed by Hengist a little while before, “There is nothing you rightly have fear, Vortigern, once the French, a nation that abounds in fickleness and softness, and the Scots and Picts, always notable for their robbery rather than for martial virtue, have spent all their strength against the British nation. You have this Saxon band, who will easily stifle the futile struggles and vain endeavors of nations of this kind. Nor could the confederated Scots and Picts, who have already thrown the unlucky dice of war twice, do anything more foolish to their own destruction than if they should provoke your nation to a fight by further mischiefmaking. If a host of Frenchmen, which is expected to come from the east, or the constant hard-handed campaigning of the northern confederates, or even the domestic conspiracy which many people whisper is being stirred up by Ambrosius, should cause trouble for our royal friends, Hengist’s son Occa, a mature young fellow who has had excellent military experience ever since he came to manhood, can make a quick appearance with a third band of Saxons. While he does fine work protecting British territories beyond the Humber from enemy harm, and while Orsus and his forces fend off French might from this island by residing, as we have already agreed, along your coastline, Hengist and a company of choice young nobles can protect your person wherever you chance to be, and you can have the leisure to govern with great dexterity, free from fear of your enemies.”
49. Vortigern did not reject this suggestion. Since many men of British blood loathed him, he prefered to have the war waged by someone other than himself. So he loaded Hengist down with many gifts, but even more promises, and urged him to fetch his son Occa from Germany with his forces, to protect that part of Britain beyond the Humber from enemy invasions. Hengist, dissimulating his intention and doing everything with guile, opposed the king’s demands, saiyng that it was unsafe for both himself and his son Occa to be so far away from his estates and lands in Germany, over which he he had set Occa while he was away in foreign parts. But, pressed by the king and those Britons more interested in flattery than their public safety, at length he agreed to his demands. A little later, at Hengist’s invitation. Occa crossed over to that part of Briton that law between the kingdom of the Picts and the Humber with fifty longboats and the same number of smaller ceraft, bearing ten thousand fighting men together with their wives and children. There he and his people settled, for the purpose of suppressing all enemy troublemaking. They say that this was when that region first acquired the name of Northumbria, called such by Occa, having previously had various names for its different parts. Vortigern was overjoyed by this accession of new forces from Germany, but the best men of the British nation always regarded this, not just as suspicious, but as risky for the public welfare. Hengist earnestly entreated Vortigern to condescend to allow him to visit Thongcaster, to which he had heard that his son Occa was soon coming to see his mother, so that he could see his children as often as he wished and pay his respects. He added that it would confer no little prestige on himself, if the king would do him the honor of his presence in the sight of those nobles who had recently crossed over from Saxony to Britain.
50. He obtained Vortigern’s consent with no difficulty, and on the twentieth day thereafter the king made a progress from the city of London to Thongcaster in the company of Hengist and accompanied by a large guard, principally composed of Saxons. When he entered the castle he was entertained by Hengist’s wife and children with much feasting and many choice delicacies. Hengist ensured that the king, his appetite whetted by much heated wine, kept dining late into the night. Then, as instructed by her father, his daughter Roxiena bore a chalice filled with the wine to the king, who was far in his cups, saying “A toast for you, noble king.“ Vortigern took the vessel and drank his fill. Then embraced the maiden and bade her sit beside him at the banquet. Then he had much conversation with her. Seized by love’s blind fire, he finally burst forth into the foul sin of lust, which was not only the reason why he committed adultery, but also why a little later he lost his kingdom. His mind was driven mad by venery, and, since neither the thought of his previous lawful marriage, nor his reverence for religion, nor any shame felt for the deed nor any fear of its consequences could restrain him, he married Roxiena, with Hengist giving the bride away. And later his royal house caught fire from these wedding-torches. He was spellbound by love, and, so that he might gratify his new father-in law acquired by this wife (or rather this whore who had replaced his true wife) with new enticements and constant flattery, he bestowed on him the freehold of Kent, the most choice region of Britain, and handed over to the Saxons its towns, fortifications, and villages. Immediately Saxons immigrated from all quarters, together with their wives, children, and fortunes, either ejected the old inhabitants or enslaved them, and set up housekeeping there. Furthermore, after this accursed marriage Vortigern merrily went to London with his father-in-law, where, divorcing his lawful wife, he called Roxiena the Queen of the Britons.
51. At about this time Vodinus, the Bishop of London and in everyone’s opinion a man of particular sanctity, was prompted by Vortimer (who was, as I have said, Vortigern’s son) to meet with the king in a friendly fashion. He took him aside and, gently chastising him, admonished that he had acted contrary to religion by rejecting his own wife and marrying a pagan woman, the daughter of a Saxon commander who was openly working against the welfare of Britain. It scarcely befitted a Christian sovereign to mingle his blood and pedigree with an enemy of Christ’s Name. He should therefore have a care lest his pleasure-seeking alone work corruption on many good things, and go far towards extinguishing the true piety in Britain, and soon transfer to another nation this right noble kingdom, which had endured down to this very time under so many kings, with its true inhabitants either driven out or reduced to slavery. The king’s reply was that “I sinned and was quite mad when I first brought these Saxons, who are now conspiring against my person and my kingship, out of Germany to Britain as auxiliaries against our enemies. This was the beginning of my folly. But a far worse followed, when I went quite insane and love for Roxiena, that pestilential fury, seized my mind. I have no idea what outcome awaits me, but an unhappy one is most reasonably to be feared, unless this insult against God is quickly expiated.” Then he burst into tears and vowed to apply what remedy he could to the present wound, since he could not do all he would wish. His groans could be heard by many people, and they fetched Hengist, who had not been far away, into his private apartment. There he harshly rebuked Vortigern for having transformed the common rejoicing over his daughter’s wedding into grief, thanks to the pretended virtue of a man who was actually quite profane. Then he arrested the pious Bishop Vodinus and the priests with him, bound they with the tightest of knots, and dragged them outdoors into an open space, where he had them tortured to death. Armed Saxons hunted for Vortimer so as to subject him to a similar punishment, but he escaped them by making a hasty escape.
52. After these things, Hengist sent a secret command to his son Occa that he should refrain from doing any harm to the Scots and Picts, and grant them free possession of the lands, towns, villages, and fortifications beyond the Tyne. He cleverly placed Saxon garrisons in what strongholds the British nation still possessed between the Tyne and the Humber, from the German Sea to the Irish Sea, removing the Britons on whatever trumped-up pretexts he could find. Having no thought for the Britons, he labored might and mind to consult for the advantage of his Saxons: as long as each man placed his part, all Britain would soon come under the Saxon’s power. Learning his father’s intentions from this message, the young man first occupied Eboracum. Then he took control of a number of fortifications, some stormed, and some freely surrendered. He killed the leading men of Eboracum and its vicinity, by leveling open accusations against some and secretly murdering others, when he could invent no specious reason for their condemnation. When he was accused before Vortigern for his troublemaking against those Britons, to the detriment of their entire nation, he offered an excuse manufactured by his father, that he knew by sure proofs that those who dwelt beyond the Humber, thinking that the king esteemed the Saxons more than the Britons, had been plotting a great uprising among themselves, and, if he had not put a stop to this sudden peril, they had undoubtedly been intending to hand over Eboracum and its nearby fortifications to the Scots and Picts, whose open supporters they now were. Hence he would have done a poor job of carrying out the responsibility entrusted to himself, and of looking out for the welfare of the district under his care, if he had not cleansed it of those enemies of the public security. In doing away with them, he had been acting with prudence on behalf of Vortigern’s realm and his royal person.
53. This steady accumulation of Saxon insults against the Britons made Vortigern very anxious of mind, since he daily saw new evidence that this hostile nation was thinking of seizing the British kingdom, and that he could apply no sure remedy against this impending danger. For a long time he kept a glum silence, quietly deploring his misfortune to himself. There was no lack of people who urged the King to quell the Saxons’ audacity, unquestionably hateful to one and all, while he still had the ability, lest matters come to such a pass that the Britons, broken by their mischief, lacked the strength either to fight their enemies or to defend their nation. The king, who trusted the loyalty of his Britons no more than that of the Saxons (for he knew he was liked by neither), delayed several days before attempting such a great thing, so that it soon came about that the Britons, exhausted by these insufferable evils, were more sorely afflicted by the Saxons’ harm than ever they had been by any enemy. There is scarcely an place in Northumbria not stained by British blood. The chastity of their matrons, their virgins, and even their nuns was not spared. Rather, all things both sacred and secular were befouled by the Saxons’ pagan hand.
green 54. Added to this was another deadly evil. For Hengist left Vortigern behind and, going off to Kent, styled himself King of Kent, and commanded his neighboring Britons to abandon their lands to himself and his nation, and go elsewhere to live. In that upheaval nothing belonging to the Christian religion was safe: in Kent and its vicinity churches and places both sacred and profane were promiscuously befouled by pagan bestiality. Christian priests of sound body were taken and set to servile work. Virgins who by bishops’ authority had dedicated themselves to Christ were dragged out of nunneries and compelled either to marry Saxons or suffer constant torment. The elders of Britain were vehemently aroused by the indignity of these things and met with King Vortigern at London. After sternly rebuking him because he had furtively imported into Britain this pagan nation, which had been only brought in to fight and not to undertake public responsibilities, and had admitted them to his privitae counsels and bestowed on them supreme magistracies and the finest land in Britain, and had managed British government in accordance with their guidance and opinion. He had divorced his lawful wife in despite of the holy sanctions of the Christian religion, and married a pagan woman. By these and countless other unspeakable sins he had manifestly brought down God’s wrath on himself and the entire Brirtish nation, exposed their commonwealth to the utmost danger, and, as all men thought, had disdained true piety. They deposed him and carried him off to Cambria in a cart, bound with chains, and there he spent several years in the public prison.
55. So that Britain would not be exposed to danger for want of a king, in his place was set his son Vortimer, with the great approval of all men. So as to begin his reign with some fine deed, he decided to wage war against the Saxons, those enemies of true piety. To accomplish this, he needed the support of foreign powers, and so he sent ambassadors to the confederated kings of the Scots and Picts, whom he knew to harbor a deadly hatred of the Saxons. The delegation was to say that the Picts had not been harmed in the recent war by the counsel of the British nobles, but by that of Vortigern alone, and it was by authority of the same Vortigern that that treacherous race, the Saxons, had been brought in from Germany as auxiliaries, given a friendly reception, and honored with various gifts. But they had experienced a change of heart and were now hostile rather than helpers, and were hounding to death the entire British nobility, thinking of nothing more than gaining the kingdom and exterminating true piety in Britain. With this same truculence that nation was freely ravaging its way throughout Britain debauching matrons, raping virgins, killing off the male population without any distinction of age, wasting the monasteries of holy fathers and burning them down, leveling Christ’s churches, dragging off their priests and consecrated bishops to their punishments, forbidding the worship of Christ, and commanding that their pagan gods be publicly worshiped after their national fashion. And furthermore, almost countless other evils were being committed in Britain, to the affront of God Almighty. In order to pay the due atonement for his impiety, Vortigern had been deposed, enchained and imprisoned, for it was by his fault that such unspeakable sins had become commonplace. In his place, Vortimer had been created king by the vote of all men, and under his leadership war was now being prepared, henceforth to debar that nation from the island, lest they rage against the men of Albion with further fury. For this purpose, they were to pray that the confederated kings, forgetting former injuries, to join them in taking up arms, devoting their minds to averting such imminent peril, one that undoubtedly threatened not just the Britons but also the other folk of Albion. If they would defend the cause, not only of Christian piety (of which they were devout adherents), but also of humanity, if only they would bear aid to the British nation, placed in such great danger, they might henceforth enjoy the untroubled possession of all the lands north of the Humber once owned by their ancestors.
56. King Congallus (who chanced to be in Galloway, so that the ambassadors first came to him ), after hearing the Britons’ request, at the advice of his nation’s elders replied that he was not ignorant how endangered Britain was by the Saxons’ perfidy, and that he had grieved to hear this from many sources. And because he was not unaware that this pagan nation was hostile to Christianity, he did not think he only had to lament Britain’s troubles. Rather, if this impious rashness was not checked as soon as possible, the worship of the Christian religion, something all men should embrace with piety and dutifulness, would soon be abolished in Britain. For that reason, even if in earlier years the Britons had not been well disposed towards himself, so that his zeal for the safety of the ancient British nation might be manifest to one and all, and to as to consult for the security of Christians, he was willing to take up arms against pagans and fight to the bitter end against the enemy on behalf of the islanders’ freedom and for the protection of Christian liberty, but only if the wars throughout Albion were settled and peace affirmed by a new treaty. He also carefully stipulated that, in accordance with the delegation’s offer, the Britons should never thereafter seek to regain the lands beyond the Humber held by the Scots and Picts. The delegation was subsequently sent home with a similar reply from the Picts, to whom they went after the Scots. They reported to Vortimer and the British nobility what the confederates had told them, and were heard with great satisfaction. Everyone approved the stipulations they brought back, and they soon gave King Congallus the reply he desired, and soon delegations met to swear a league between the Scots, Picts, and Britons, with new conditions added to their ancient ones and reparations given for damages inflicted by both sides. It appeared that their quarrels were at an end, and everywhere they were arming themselves against the Saxons.
57. Inspired by their hatred of paganism, the Scots and Picts brought together a force in numbers such as they had never previously assembled against any enemy, and their first movement was against those Saxons who had expelled the original inhabitants and set up housekeeping between the Humber and the Tyne. After having devoted all their energy and attention to killing their foe and demolishing his newly-built fortifications in Northumbria by fire and steel, they were confronted by their enemy Occa, animated by a ferocity equal to theirs. Quickly both sides began to prepare their battle-lines. When Occa examined the army opposite itself, and it struck him as far too large for him to fight it with safety, he hesitated for a little while. But when he reflected that he could not put off the battle, lest a pause in the action would give his men, now spoiling for a fight, the opportunity to study the size of the enemy forces, which might cause them to lose heart, he allowed them to fight. In the first clash, the victory hung in the balance, but as the battle progressed the Saxons could not withstand the onrush of the confederates, because of their numbers and their enthusiasm, and so they fell back in good order. Then, as the enemy pressed them more sharply, they were pushed back from their stations, broke ranks, and turned tail, forgetful of glory. Occa stood in the path of the fugitives, now threats and appeals to their honor to bid them return. But fear which has more power over panic-stricken men than any captain’s command, made their flight more general. Since Occa could not save his life in any other way, he slipped away among some nobles and headed straight for the mouth of the Humber. There he found a longboat and, in the company of a few comrades, sailed to the river Thames with great difficulty. The Scots and Picts took cruel advantage of their victory, killing to the last man those Saxons who stubbornly stood and fought. Then they immediately moved against those who were departing. They encouraged each other pick up their pace, and not allow such a pagan affront to God and Man to go unavenged any longer. Hence many Saxons died in battle, but far more were caught during the rout and put to the sword.
58. At the same time, King Vortimer attacked Hengist in Kent, inflicting great slaughter on the Saxons who possessed that district. For as a means of strengthening his forces, the British king, very eager to the kingship he possessed to its former majesty, used a crucifix for his banner, and had his loudest-voiced heralds proclaim that all lovers of true religion should follow that standard. The king was immediately joined by eighty thousand, composed of priests and members of congregations of the pious, who made their appearance to defend both the local peasantry and true piety. In combination with Vortimer’s soldiers, they won a fine victory over the Saxons, killing ten thousand in a battle. Kent returned into British possession, and some districts beyond the Humber were transferred to the Scots and the Picts, as provided by their treaty. Hengist was rescued by flight, and together with his son Occa (who had joined his father a little before the battle) and the remnants of his army hastened to Northumbria, intending to linger there until he could rebuild his forces by the arrival of new men. But he was driven from their by the Scots and Picts, at the cost of much loss of Saxon life, and to avoid capture by his enemies he went to the mouth of the Humber. There he found some ships and, together with the nobler members of his Saxon nation who survived the catastrophe and his son Occa, he crossed back to Saxony, leaving the remainder of his fellow countrymen where they chanced to be, dispersed throughout British territory.
59. Being mild-mannered, King Vortimer made no cruel use of the aforementioned victory he had gained in Kent. He disarmed his Saxon captives and gave them free leave to return to their homeland. Those of their peasantry who had settled in Kent were subordinated to the Britons’ service, and allowed to remain there with their wives and children. It was his will that Hengist’s daughter Roxiena, the so-called Queen of the Britons thanks to Vortigern’s doing, suffer no harm, for she was with child. She was kept close-guarded in the Tower of London, living in almost royal style. He devoted himself single-mindedly to restoring Christ’s churches and His religion, damaged by pagan cruelty. For when Saxon bestiality was abroad in the land, some men of the British nation had abandoned the true piety and were worshiping demons in the pagan way. Many more had turned their back on that worship but had embraced once more the Pelagian heresy they had formerly abjured. So that Britain might be cleansed of both errors, King Vortimer fetched from France Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Triers, bishops famous for their piety and learning, and they expended much pious effort on this work. Vortimer launched his first attack against the worshipers of idols, and compelled them either to depart Britain quickly, on pain of death. Then, at Germanus’ urging, he convened a council of bishops at London. Several days were consumed by a debate between the Pelagians and the champions of orthodoxy, and when the Pelagians could not uphold their side, all present judged them to have failed, with the result that those of them who contumaciously scorned to mend their ways were consigned to the fire by local magistrates. By authority of the bishops, the others were penalized, and then received back into grace.
60. With true piety thus restored in Britain, Vortimer lived for a number of years, in all men’s opinion dear to God and acceptable in the sight of Man. Attacked by no enemy, he prosperously administered his realm. He was admired by one and all for his accomplishments both sacred and secular, when he was poisoned by Roxiena and some British nobles privy to her plot. The British elders were thrown into confusion by his sudden death. In their grief, they were uncertain in what way the interest of public government could best be consulted for, and so they convened a parliament of the nobility at London. For several days it was debated whether Vortigern, who had been kept in public custody until that very day, ought to be restored to supreme power, or whether Constantine’s sons should be recalled from France to inherit their father’s kingship. There were those who said that Vortigern sorely repented his prior deed, which had brought down ruin on the public, and had learned how much harm his maladministration had wrought. This leader of his people had been seduced by the wiles of a madwoman, and now hated nothing so much as Saxon treachery. He was a man possessed of a sound body, not ruined by old age or overwork. He was prudent, not lacking with familiarity with governing, a man of the kind for which Britain had great need, since it was anticipating war with both the French and the Germans. Therefore this man ought to be restored to the throne, having first sworn an oath that he would never import men of foreign blood for military service in Britain, and that he would to the best of his ability persecute the Saxon race with fire and steel, should they ever attempt a return to Albion. As far as recalling Constantine’s sons from France to claim their father’s crown went, this struck them as of little use, because they were scarcely mature and ignorant of warfare, and so were not fit to be entrusted with a kingdom which (as was reasonable to believe) was about to be attacked by so many and such great enemies. Furthermore the Frankish race were very eager to expand the kingdom they had recently established in Gaul. There were a great number of them with Constantine’s sons in Armorica, and were awaiting an excuse to cross over to Britain, for, rightly or wrongly, they hoped to gain a kingdom in this island no less than did the Saxons. Therefore, unless the Britons were willing to be complicit in their own downfall, they would weigh things as they existed at present, and strive to prevent their entry into Britain, just as they did the Saxons. Others thought it unsafe to restore to the throne noblemen whom they had deposed and imprisoned: were this to be done, it would happen that those who had protected the public safety by siding with Vortimer would either be banished far from their homeland or obliged to suffer capital punishment. But the former opinion prevailed, as nearly all present shouted that Vortigern was a modest man and forgetful of wrongs, who would choose to punish his own malfeasance rather than those of others. He was not unaware about how well those men had cared for the republic when they had advanced his son Vortimer to supreme power and dethroned him for his crimes against the kingdom, for Vortimer was a man most fit for all public responsibilities.
61. After this debate, Vortigern was brought forth from public custody to universal applause, and restored to supreme piety. He set aside all the resentment, indignation, and anger he may have harbored against those who had deprived him of the crown, and henceforth permitted no man to harm them. He treated his people’s elders with wonderful kindness, honoring them with gifts. He was very liberal in his expenditures for hiring soldiers for pay and keeping them in good order, so that they serve in garrisons or camps, ready for any emergency. He kept his companies and fighting-bands intact, just as if he were obliged to fight his enemy right then. These things made him so popular with both the commoners and the British nobility that each man gave careful to consideration to what gifts and new honors he might show his favorable disposition towards Vortigern. By his ambassadors he persuaded the Scots and Picts to enter into a new treaty confirming the peace they had made with King Vortimer, urging them to persist in the same zeal and dutifulness towards himself that they had shown his son. While Vortigern was intent on these things, it was announced that Hengist, together with a numerous fleet of ships, his son Occa and his two brothers, and an incredible host of Germans, had landed on Thanet, an island in the mouth of the Thames, but had not mistreated the locals, and had left intact all its men, crops, and cattle. Vortigern was aroused by such an evident evil, and commanded the elders of Briton to assemble as large forces as possible and join him very quickly in Kent. There was need for this, for their deadly enemy Hengist was at hand with many thousands of armed man, with the intent (as was reasonable to believe) either of ravaging Britain or of despoiling its inhabitants of their liberty and subjugating it to his power. Unless his most cruel endeavors were checked by great and diligent force, henceforth the Britons woul have no place to live, and no security.
62. Hearing this news, the nobles of Briton quickly came to King Vortigern with a levy recruited from all their districts. Hengist knew from various signs that the Britons were vehemently ill-disposed towards himself, and that there was no man in that assembled host who did not loath Saxon rule. He thought it unsafe to come to blows with a nation so aroused and willing to fight to the death on behalf of their religion and their homeland, since he could not gain the victory wi9thout an immense loss of his men’s lives. Therefore he attempted to do by deceit what he could not achieve by arms, save at great cost. So he sent Vortigern a cunning message by his ambassadors, telling him that Hengist had not come to Britain to despoil his son-in-law, whom he had always sincerely loved and who had suffered such woes in prison, of his kingdom. Nor was he intent on depriving his little grandson, whom he was obliged to protect with all his energy and dutifulness (for Roxiena had presented Vortigern with a male son), of his crown, or to work harm against any man of British blood. Rather, he had come to help Vortigern punish those who had poisoned Vortimer, the finest man of his generation, and to serve as his grandson’s protector, lest he be made an object of the kind of conspiracy which had been aimed against Vortimer. And, since he had learned that Vortigern had been reduced to such ill health by the squalor of his lengthy imprisonment that nature would not allow him to live even one more year, he had come to preserve the kingdom of Britain for his son by Roxiena until the boy reached maturity. If this was agreeable, he was prepared to remain with a few men of the Saxon nation in whatever place Vortigern saw fit to appoint. The remaining Saxons would return to Germany or wherever else the British elders commanded, as long as this would be useful for Britain. They would to seek to recover the strongholds, lands, and towns that had previously been bestowed on them, but only the moveable property and fortunes which they had left behind in Kent when they quit Britain. Hengist desired to discuss these matters with Vortigern and his nobles, and also certain other things which pertained to the lasting good-will and friendship between their peoples. He therefore greatly desired that the British nobles would choose some time and day for a conference by both sides, and there Hengist would make his appearance with as large an escort as they specified, armed or unarmed.
63. After the ambassadors’ requests had been heard at an assembly of the Britons, the fathers debated for several days whether Hengist’s requests were agreeable, or whether some scheme lay concealed in them, so that they should be rejected. Some had had frequent experience of Hengist’s treachery, and were not lacking in the suspicion that some fraud lay behind his sweet words. Others feared the Saxons’ martial virtue in war, and were concerned lest British power, so often shattered, would once more suffer from foreign arms. They thought that, by a similar device, Hengist’s sweet words ought to be matched by sweet ones of their own: although the Saxons’ specious words and promises were hardly to be trusted, they should strive insofar as they could to have the Saxons leave Britain on friendly terms, and the Britons should spare no effort or expense in accomplishing this. Hengist should be called a friend and honored with gifts, as long as he agreed to return to Germany. If this could not be achieved, he should be attacked with arms, and they should fight with all possible force to the bitter end. The young men of Britain must always be kept under arms ready for any eventuality, until some chance occasion, or perhaps the outcome of the thing itself, revealed Hengist’s intentions, if he had it in mind to do anything to the detriment of the British. His conference with Vortigern, when he said what he was going to discuss great matters, appeared honorable, as as long as they met, unarmed and with an equal number of companions, far from their armies. The majority of the crowd supported this view, imagining that, when Hengist had gotten back the property he had left behind in Kent (as long as he was driven out of the place) and been honored by royal gifts, he would leave his friends with feelings of charity towards his son-in-law and grandson, having done no damage to the Britons. Others had suspicions that the Saxons were nursing something monstrous, and that it was not for no purpose that they had come to Britain with such a great fleet, filled with so many and so mighty warriors.
64. While the commoners squabbled among themselves with these or similar contentions, the nobles fixed a day for the conference, which was to be the tenth day succeeding, with each side swearing a great oath that the two leaders would meet with three hundred noble followers apiece (some writers add another hundred to this number), at a place designated for their meeting. This was a plain not far from Saris (the modern Salisbury), and a reasonably high hill therein called Hambry, and there, as had been agreed, Vortigern and Hengist meet for their conference. Before coming there, Hengist had suborned his followers to murder the British nobility, commanding that each Saxon carry a dagger concealed in his right sleeve, with which, when the signal was given, he could stab the Briton next to himself. His men obeyed, and, when the signal was given by Hengist in the middle of the conference, nearly all the British nobles present died by Saxon deceit. Very few escaped the massacre, the most important of whom was Heldolus, a man of great repute among the British. He snatched a dagger away from a Saxon and flew against the enemies. After suffering a number of wounds, but none which were lethal, he rescued himself from the danger. King Vortigern was taken prisoner and, bound in chains, was ignominiously brought to the Saxon camp. Hengist was relieved of fear by this treacherous slaughter of the British nobles, and led his forces to Kent. The Britons’ fighting-bands were thrown into a panic by the sad news, they were so amazed at the deceitful murder of such great brave men. But after they had spent a little time in mourning, their tears turned into anger, and they were determined to avenge the Saxons’ perfidy. But since they had no man to command them in war, or anyone skilled in the martial life, since their bravest nobles had been done in by treachery, so that their anger would have been pointless in the absence of officers for their army, they roundly cursed Hengist and his nation, broke up their forces, and went home, not without indignation.
65. Vortigern lived in imminent peril of death, with the Saxons daily issuing most savage threats against him. So as to free himself from danger, he handed over to Hengist all Britain’s towns, fortifications and strongholds, together with all its gold and silver, both public and private. He was then released from his bondage and, together with the nobility which had escaped the recent catastrophe and a greater part of the peasantry, along with their wives, children, and whatever part of their fortunes that Saxon inhumanity allowed them, but with their arms taken away, he departed in glum silence for Cambria, the modern Wales. There nearly all of those of the British race who had ruled in Albion henceforth possessed their home, ceding the other districts of Britain to the Saxon nation for a dwelling-place. How the district of Cambria came to be called Wales, or when this occurred, is insufficiently clear from the authors who write British history, who retail various invented stories. But I know as a certainty from our own writers that the region took its new name, its old one discarded, at a time not very different from this one. When Hengist’s fine accomplishments were reported at home, this called forth a much larger multitude of Germans to Albion, together with their serfs for farming, their wives and children. Hengist’s strength was so greatly enhanced by their addition that, in comparison with Saxon power in Britain, that of the Britons struck everybody as nearly nonexistent.
66.With Vortigern stripped of his crown in the manner I have described, and when he had been expelled from his homeland and driven to Wales, in order to establish his realm in Britain, Hengist convened a great meating of the elders of the Saxon nation at Londin, and, having been declared king by his people’s hapy acclamations, ordained, with the support of one and all, that henceforth the name Albion was to be abolished in Albion, and the kingdom once belonging to the Britons, but now to the Saxons, was to be called Hengistsland and one of its inhabitants a Hengistman. These words have come down to us, but by a slight alteration we say England instead of Hengistland, and Englishman instead of Hengistman, words sanctioned by long usage. In the same decree it was forbidden for any man of British blood to be seen anywhere outside the borders of Wales after a grace period of twenty days, and for anyone to preach Christ’s teaching or perform Christian rites, and a penalty of death was set for those who disobeyed the edict. When the twentieth day had passed, the Saxons exercised a cruel penelaty against rebels, and a massacre of Britons of both sexes and every age began to be inflicted on recusants in those districts which had fallen under Saxon power. They expended great fury on Christ’s priests, churches, and monasteries. To use Bede’s words (for he records this tragedy), “public as well as private structures were overturned; the priests were everywhere slain before the altars; the prelates and the people, without any respect of persons, were destroyed with fire and sword; nor was there any to bury those who had been thus cruelly slaughtered. Some of the miserable remainder, being taken in the mountains, were butchered in heaps; others, spent with hunger, came forth and submitted themselves to the enemy for food, being destined to undergo perpetual servitude, if they were not killed even upon the spot some, with sorrowful hearts, fled beyond the seas. Others, continuing in their own country, led a miserable life among the woods, rocks, and mountains.”
67. So in this manner the Saxons conquered England, and fortified its towns and strongholds with their garrisons. Abhorring true piety, they diligently cling to the idolatry and filthy sacrifices in which they had been trained. With their images of gods and foul blood-sacrifices, after their silly pagan way they befouled Christ’s former churches, once held in pious reverence by holy bishops, out of their contempt for true religion. Lest they suffer some sudden enemy attack, they protected the borders of their newly-gained territory. And every day they invited new peoples from Germany, in order to evict by force of arms the Scots and Picts from the British lands they possessed. While the Saxons were intent on these things, Vortigern, despoiled of his throne, threatened by enemies both domestic and foreign — for the Britons hated him no less than the Saxons and French, because he had lost their kingdom — , and, the victim of a guilty conscious, imagining that he would be shown no favor from heaven or earth, was terrorized into seeking to regain his crown. As men often do when placed in the utmost jeopardy and despair, he turned his attention to fortune-telling and sent for the soothsayer Merlin, who had once predicted he would lose both his life and his throne. There was a persistent rumor that Merlin was the product of sexual intercourse between a noblewoman and an incubus, who was able to conjure up evil demons by his magical spells, converse with them, and learn the future. So he was brought to Vortigern and, among other things, was asked about the war’s outcome, about the restoration of the British kingdom, and who was destined to rule in Britain, and whether it would suffer damage at he hands of the French. So as to give him an example of his prophetic art, Marlin boldly replied that Vortigern would soon be defeated by Aurelius Ambrosius and burned together with all his treasure, and thus his dynasty would come to an end along with his life.
69. The story’s sequel showed that Merlin’s prophecy was not wrong. For not much later Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther, the sons of the former British king Constantine (whom I have frequently mentioned above) came to Wales to fight against Vortigern accompanied by very flourishing forces from Armorica, where they were reared in royal style as they avoided Vortigern’s scheming. They hated him deeply for having murdered their uncle Constantius, and were bent on moving against him faster than anyone would have thought possible. Disbelieving Merlin’s oracle, Vortigern quickly assembled his forces and leaving behind his son and a great mass of gold in the strongest of his fortresses, joined battle, thinking that, if die he must, it was more honorable to die in battle than anywhere else. When the battle began, as a means of ingratiating themselves with Aurelius, those of Vortigern’s soldiers to whom his van had been entrusted turned against their commander, whom they had always secretly loathed. A terrible slaughter ensued, and by this means Ambrosius easily gained the victory. On that day, Vortigern sought with incredible singlemindedness to get the best of his fated doom. He stripped off his royal insignia and mixed himself in with ordinary soldiers, so as to die alongside them. But his friends intervened and forcibly removed him from the battlefield, and he was carried to his fortress, so as quickly to be rescued from danger. Learning that Vortigern had fled and discovering where he was hidden, the victorious Ambrosius ordered his men immediately to march after him and throw a very tight siege around the fortress. After wasting two or three days in attempts take it by storm, so as not to endanger his victorious army by any further delay he had wood cut from the nearby forests and quickly filled in the fortress’ ditches, heaped great bundles wood on top of these, set them afire, and burned down the fortress, together with Vortigern, his children, and his fortune, just as Merlin had forecast.
70. It is none of my business to determine who was this prophet born of an evil demon (as the tale went), or to form a pious opinion whether this kind of sinful birth is possible. But, since the subject of the unspeakable intercourse of evil demons with women has been raised, so as not entirely to pass over this subject in silence, I think it worthwhile very briefly to relate something that happened in my nation a few years before this writing. In the year of Christian salvation 1486 some men were sailing from the Firth of Forth to Flanders to conduct their commerce, when such a great wind arose that their sails, mast and tackle were destroyed and their ship terribly storm-tossed in the heaving sea, and all aboard expected that their death was assured. The captain, astonished at such great and unusual bad weather (for it was at about the time of the summer solstice), and was loudly shouting that this was being caused, not by the weather but rather the influence of evil demons, who always hate mankind. A voice was heard from deep within the ship, the voice of a woman wretchedly accusing herself because for many years she had been having intercourse with an incubus in human form. She begged them to cast herself in the sea, since if she, the cause of all this imminent peril, were killed, by God’s goodness the rest of them might survive in safety. At the captain’s bidding, a priest approached the weeping woman for the sake of her salvation and that of all the rest. Since she now was freely confessing her sin, abhorring her crime, and since her deep groans showed that she repented her died, he piously exhorted her not to fail herself, for he knew for sure that God’s favor was at hand; her sins would be washed away by her tears and repentant mind; our merciful God’s clemency towards mortals is such that He often received back in to a grace far greater than they had previously enjoyed those who have fallen even into an abyss of evils, when they have reformed. In the midst of the holy priest’s exhortations, while with many sighs the afflicted woman was deploring her sins, they all say a black cloud arise from the ship’s bilge, and with a great noise, stench, and puff of smoke, cast itself into the sea. The weather then calmed, the sea grew still, and the traders sailed on to their intended harbor, with all their cargo undamaged.
71. Not many years after these things had happened, in a village of the district of Gareoth barely fourteen miles from Aberdeen, a most handsome young man made open confession to the Bishop of Aberdeen that many months previously he had been visited by a so-called succubus, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She came into his bedroom at night, even though his door was locked, and seduced him into her embrace. At night she had silently vanished, and, although he had tried many things, in no way could he free himself from such a disgraceful infatuation. The good bishop immediately commanded the lad to betake himself elsewhere, and, by means of praiseworthy fasting and prayer, to do more to devote his mind to the Christian religion: it would come to pass that, if he were wholly intent on such pious works, this devil would be defeated and show him his heels. What befell the young man a few days later, after he had carefully followed this wholesome advice, was just as the venerable prelate had predicted. And another similar miracle occurred at about the same time that I cannot forebear to relate, when an evil demon was deceiving men in the district of Mar, as I have learned from those who witnessed this dire event. A well-born girl of outstanding comeliness rejected the marriage-offers of a number of noblemen and devoted herself to unspeakable familiarity with a demon. When she became pregnant and was compelled by her stern parents to name her seducer, she said that a wonderfully handsome young man had frequently lain with her at night, and sometimes during the day. She had no idea whence he came or whither he went. Although the parents scarcely believed their daughter, they looked into the matter more closely in an effort to discover who had ruined this ignorant girl’s chastity. Three days later, they were informed by her handmade that the seducer was present. They threw open her door, set a large number of torches ablaze, and entered her bedchamber, and there they discovered a horrendous monster of a size that baffled the human imagination, lying in their daughter’s arms. Many men came a-running, invited to see the spectacle. Among these was a priest of well-tried virtuous life, not ignorant of theology. While the rest either ran away or cast on the ground by their terror, and when he began to recite the first words of the Gospel of St. John, and had come to the words and the Word was made flesh, the evil demon gave a horrendous shriek and departed, carrying off the roof of the bedchamber and having set all its furniture afire. Three days later the rescued girl gave birth to a monster entirely foul to behold, such as had never been seen in our nation (or so they say). So that this would not be preserved to the disgrace of her family, the midwives quickly built a fire and burned it to ashes. I have chosen to include a few words about the incubi of our times in this history (and I have heard that similar things have occurred in previous centuries, to the great wonderment of many men), so that my readers may learn that what is said about the intercourse of evil demons with mortals is no fiction.
73. Let the professors of theology decide whether the prophecies of Merlin are to be read or destroyed (although many of them seem to have been fulfilled in our days). I myself shall be seen to have done my part if I form no rash opinion about such matters and, being submissive to the preachers and resting content with sober fare, I narrate the deeds of brave men as related by our ancestors, while taking no side in the controversy. So, to the best of my ability, I shall faithfully continue with the task I have undertaken, proceeding in the manner I have adopted from the outset. After Vortigern had been defeated and put to death, a great number of Britons came a-flocking to Aurelius Ambrosius. Since his strength was growing daily and his friends were urging him to reclaim his father’s throne, he decided to take a choice fighting-band of soldiers and march against Hengist and his Saxon race, both to restore Christianity in Britain and regain the crown of his father by force of arms. But so as not to be pressed by several enemies at once, since he was unsure whether the Sots and Picts were ill-disposed towards himself, by his ambassadors he requested their friendship and alliance. The delegation he sent readily convinced King Congallus to enter into a treaty between their nations such as their forefathers had enjoyed, and to enroll an army to help Aurelius against the Saxons. For this expedition, Conranus, who reigned after Congallus, was placed in charge of the army , For at this time King Congallus was a victim of arthritis, which he had contracted because of the cold and his many campaigns against the Saxons in Britain. Had this not been a serious impediment to the pious king, he himself would have joined his forces to those of Aurelius and gone to war in defense of religion. Then Aurelius’ ambassadors went on to Lothus (who ruled the Picts’ commonwealth at that time), an elegant young man of tall stature, and most eager for glory, and were received with great kindness, and obtained what they asked, with the great support of all men.
74. While the Scots and Picts were giving these delegations the answer Aurelius desired, the Britons who had fled to Scottish and Pictish territories or elsewhere to avoid Saxon harm speedily came to Aurelius, as if he were their long-desired ruler. Seeing such a number coming to himself, all of a mind to recover their ancient kingdom in Albion, Aurelius climbed up to a high place, surrounded by a circle of men, to greet his people. In a long speech, he complained to the multitude about Vortigern’s great crimes against the royal house of Constantine and against the British nation and commonwealth, and then about the atrocious affront to God and Man done by Hengist and his Saxons, and fired them to take up arms speedily for the sake of avenging his forebears’ murder and restoring true piety. With high spirits, all men present agreed on a war against the Saxons, and in order have a commander, they all bade Ambrosius reign. And so Aurelius Ambrosius came to the throne in the year of Christ our Savior 498, after Vortigern and his son Vortimer had reigned over Britain for seventeen years. The Venerable Bede says he was a man of Roman blood, either because he was born of a Roman mother, or because he was admired by all men for having virtue like that of an ancient Roman.
75. Therefore, having ascended the throne, Aurelius combined the French and Armoricans who come with him from France together with the Britons recruited for the campaign into a single army. And, as he learned while being employed in various French expeditions, he divided them into divisions, companies, and fighting-bands, and gave each of them an officer to obey. A little later a day was fixed for their departure, Mass was said, the standards were raised, their ranks were duly put in order, and Aurelius moved against his enemy. On the sixth day thereafter, King Lothus of the Picts and the Scottish commander Conranus joined them on the march with their great forces. With wonderful friendliness Aurelius embraces these commanders and vowed that, should the opportunity ever be given them, he and his British nation would requite them for their great good-will. Hearing from their scouts that Hengist and his forces had arrived, these three strong armies assembled from three nations marched on Mahesbel, the name of the place where the battle against the Saxons subsequently was fought. And so the two sides encamped next to each other. At first, a few horsemen burst forth onto the level ground and challenged their enemy to fight, then more came forth, and soon raids were made back and forth. Finally the army were provoked by such irritations and all poured forth with fighting zeal, and the battle was joined, with atrocious and doubtful results, as they fought a while, not so much with strength as with hatred. With their unfamiliar way of fighting, the Armorican Bretagnes broke into the Saxon fighting-wedge and threw it into great confusion. And now the Scots and Picts had done such damage to both Saxon wings that the three battle-standards of the Scots, Picts, and Britons seemed about to come together, as the soldiers cut their way through the enemy. This had the effect of throwing the Scots into a panic and routing them, as they sought a dishonorable safety by taking to their heels.
76. At that point, Hengist made a vain attempt to renew the battle, by hurling insults at the runaways, men whom neither his mention of their former virtue nor their sense of shame could call back. When he saw that there was no place of safety remaining, and sijnce up to this time he had done everything which could be done by a supreme commander and a vigorous soldier, he was the last of them all to save himself from danger, fleeing in the company of some horsemen. Seeing him depart, Aurelius was so moved by his hatred of the Saxons that he spurred his horse against him, with such vigor and hostility that at their first collision he ran him through with his lance and unhorsed him. The Saxon cavalrymen present were terrified more than angered by his downfall, and left behind Hengist’s body to be a laughing-stock for his enemies. Taking the gravely wounded Occa with them, they hastily rode off to some nearby hills. After this successful battle, Ambrosius moved with his forces to London, the former capital of Britain, so as to overwhelm the place all the easier while all things were in a fearful condition thanks to the news of their defeat. The men in the Saxon garrison at London, learning of Hengist’s death, how badly their fellow-countrymen had fought, and what a massive slaughter they had suffered, sent up a wail, and in their fear they abandoned the walls and left the gates wide open, as they all sought to win favor with the victor. Aurelius stationed guards at the city gates, so that nobody could leave until it was decided by common consultation what was to be done with the surrendered man. Then he took some select young men and hastened straight for the Tower, which was very strong. As he approached, some Saxon nobles left behind by Hengist to guard the place fell to their knees and said, “The gods, Fortune, and your ever-indomitable martial virtue have granted you the power to take every manner of revenge on us. But if it is permitted for wretched surrendered men, who have been plunged into the worst of evils by the just wrath of the gods, to say a word of supplication, if it is permissible for them to beg for mercy and pardon, then by your conquering hand, and by this happy victory which has attended on you, the most just of all mortals, in in your fine battle against your very unjust enemy, by your royal title, by which you lawfully hold sway in Albion, a name which Fortune has rightly taken away from our nation, grant us, the most wretched of men, your leave freely to depart from here, stripped of all our fortunes and our clothing, and (if you see fit) subject to a whilpping, disgrace, and any punishment you desire short of death. If you should do this, you would set a lasting example to foreign nations and to your own posterity, not only of victory over so many and so savage enemies, but also of your clemency.”
77. Ambrosius was moved by these words, or ones not unlike them. Having taken the Tower, he did no harm to them, but rather gave them the power freely to depart with all their fortunes. Then, by edict of Ambrosius, there was a general emigration of all men of fighting age from Britain to Germany, with the rest made tributaries and permitted to remain in Albion, subject to the condition that they accept the teaching of Christ. Not much later Britons came in from foreign parts, where they had long ago fled to avoid Saxon arms, and settled their ancestral homes as the Saxons departed. By Ambrosius’ pious exertions Christ’s churches were restored, bishops and priests were recalled to their sees, and true religion was everywhere observed, with the statues of pagan gods shattered and whatever pagan priests were found in Britain subjected to dire punishments. Holy supplications were held at London for several days, the churches were opened up, the streets smelled sweet with incense, the walls of public and private buildings were covered with hangings and tapestries, music’s sweet harmony could be heard everywhere, and all things displayed joy after their own fashion. While his people were spending happy days in rejoicing, King Ambrosius, in order to show his gratitude towards his faithful friends and kinsmen King Lothus of the Picts and Conranus, the Scottish general (for they had left their forces encamped not far from London, and entered the city with the king), heaped them with ample gifts and supreme honors, and ordered by edict, with his elders’ consent, that it should be proclaimed through all the cities and districts of Britain, among other praises of Lothus and Conranus, that it was largely by their effort that the Saxons’ power had been broken, their nation restored to the Britons, together with their laws, the ancient majesty of their forefathers, and (most desireable for Christian men) their religion, now that pagan nastiness had been driven out. Additionally, they unanimously entered into a league between their kings and peoples on the old conditions: the lands beyond the Humber were to be ceded to the Scots and Picts, the Saxons were henceforth to be deemed their common enemies, and they would fight together when the enemy oppressed them. This was strongly cemented by an ensuing family connection: Aurelius had two comely sisters, Anna and Ada, both virgins. He married the elder of them, Anna, to Lothus, and the other to Conranus, with the idea of keeping the kings of Albion in enduring concord. Anna, brought to Scotland with her husband and a large escort, did not live two years, and when she died childbirth that spelled the end of his kinship with Ambrosius. The other presented Lothus with sons, but only after a few years, Modredus, Valvanus, and Thametes, about whom I shall speak at their proper place.
78. For several years thereafter, the Britons, Scots, and Picts flourished in enduring and festive peace, with no enemy threatening imminent harm to those three nations. Some of the Saxons who remained in Britain by Ambrosius’ permission feigned Christianity while secretly worshipping idols. When this was found out, their priests were arrested, scourged, and mercilessly burned alive to the last man. As these things were transpiring Congallus King of Scots, succumbed to a protracted illness, having ruled Scotland for twenty years, not without great glory. His body was taken to Iona, where his funeral was celebrated in royal style, and he was buried in the common tomb of the kings. His brother Conranus was declared king in his place, to great and unanimous applause, in the year of the Virgin Birth 501, which was the fourth year of Ambrosius’ reign, and the twelfth of the emperor Anastasius. At this time, or assuredly a time not much different, there existed men powerful for their holiness and learning: Remigius Bishop of Rheims, who baptized Clovis, King of France. That king, having been bathed in holy water and anointed as heaven’s gift, built what was then a suburban church at Paris dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul, where he was afterwards entombed. It is now sacred to Genevieve, the patron saint of the city of Paris, which since that time has been the citadel and capital of the kingdom of France. Maxentius the abbot, Leodegar, and Arnulph, notable for their learning and counted among the saints. Theodorus Bishop of Syria, who wrote books against heretics within the church, in imitation of Eusebius of Caesarea. Among our own countryman Colman, Priscus, Medan, Modan, and Euchinus, Christ’s bishops who piously preached Christ’s doctrine throughout the lands of the Scots and Picts. In those days, as British historians relate, many bishops and priests steadfastly suffered martyrdom as victims of Saxon bestiality in Albion, for the sake of their profession of Christ’s Name. Others fled elsewhere, preserving themselves for more favorable times. Among these was Bishop Patricianus, a man distinguished for his life and erudition, who stayed at the court of King Congallus, by whom he was granted estates and land on the island of Mona. This man spent a life worthy of Christ in teaching and exhorting men to better things. He died a most blessed death, setting a bright example for all men, and departing a life which had always been acceptable in the sight of God Almighty. This occurred in the reign of Conranus, the subject of my following narrative.