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THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, BOOK IX
AVING gained the throne of Scotland, as his first action in office Conranus (some call him Goranus) ensured that Congallus’ three sons, Eugenius, Convallus, and Kynnatillus, who were still in their minority, would be raised to maturity steeped in their forefathers’ manners and discipline. He feared lest the peace and leisure that prevailed because of the absence of foreign wars would beget some uprising in a people zealous for change. Therefore, so that there would no opportunity for a disturbance, he made a progress through the districts of Scotland, and visited dire punishments on the guilty and those who insolently lorded it over others, making no distinction of social station. In the course of this inspection he saw peasants being harmed by the arrogance of noblemen, but not daring to lodge complaints with his royal magistrates, with that result that, of necessity, the public administrator of justice was often of little help to the weaker and those with slender means. He therefore was the first of all our kings to ordain that every year the names of those who had committed offences against the public or private welfare should be written down in lists, together with an itemization of their offences, by spies chosen for the purpose, so that, if they were ever accused before royal ministers and convicted, they might pay just forfeits for their offense. This tradition of maintaining such lists has endured in our nation down to this very day. This has sometimes had the beneficial effect of preventing many men from hurting their neighbors. Some write that when courts were in session Conranus was in the habit either of being presence, so that his judges might create a sense of awe and reverence, in the people, or to be close at hand, hunting game in a nearby forest. And during his reign, they say, something memorable occurred. In Athol, not far from the Grampian Hills, a stag was run to earth by hounds. Taken and killed, it discharged from its belly a large number of snakes. Men were astonished by such an unusual thing, all the more so because they observed that the stag’s horns could heal snakebite and drive away poisonous creatures. Since its like had not been seen before, this miracle was taken for a prodigy.
2. While Scottish affairs lay in this condition, King Aurelius Ambrosius of the Britons fell victim to a protracted malady, a so-called hectic fever. Long tormented by this (his physicians could do nothing to help him, although they did not fail to do their best) and reduced to a state of emaciation, he went to bed at London. But he did not long stay there: he was carried to the countryside so he might breathe more wholesome air. The fever advanced to the point that he was given no surcease from his suffering, and he himself expected to die any day. At the news of this Occa and Passentius, Hengist’s sons in Germany, were aroused as if by a new bugle call, thinking that, were King Ambrose removed, they could easily regain their kingdom in Albion. They crossed over into Britain (which they themselves called Hengistiland, or England) with a great martial equipment, since neighboring German kings furnished their aid. At this same time Ambrosius’ brother Uther was in Wales, suffering from a serious fever and the flux, so that the British people were all but deprived of a military commander to obey. They held a deliberation about the management of this impending war against their old enemies, the Saxons, but were divided in their opinions, which had the effect of endangering the public safety. Ambrosius heard of this evil, and, lest there be no man to supervise what needed to be done, he ignored his diseased body and undertook the Saxon war himself. Riding in a litter hung between two tall horses, so that his body would not be subject to shaking, he ordered them to march against the Saxons, who had already had a taste of British martial virtue.
3. He sent ambassadors requesting the Scots and Picts, his friends and allies, to join him in this business. But the Saxons’ bloodthirsty endeavors pressed him so hard, as their strength daily increased, that Ambrosius thought it necessary to counter his enemies with a battle, without awaiting his friends. And so he performed a good general’s duty, employing all his martial art to fire his men’s spirits, and joined battle with the enemy. At the first clash, the Britons gave ground a little, and it seemed like a great slaughter was imminent. Then Aurelius exhorted his men (he was sitting in his litter amidst his soldiers, for he regarded nothing as more honorable than to die in the company of such sturdy young men, should the Fates so decide). Raising his hands skyward, he urged them to persist in the fight, remembering that they were fighting on behalf of their nation, liberty, and the true religion of Christians, and that brave men should consider it glorious to spend their lives for these things. The soldiers were emboldened by their commander’s words, forgot their wounds and effort, and returned to the fray in order to erase this blot. The surprised Saxons first held their ground. Then, as the Britons pressed them more sharply, they began to flee. Since night was about to fall and he could not keep his men in good order if they pursued their enemy, he had a bugler sound the retreat and forbade a longer chase. For the following night the Britons confined themselves to the battlefield. When the next day dawned, after the slain had been despoiled and the booty shared out among his soldiers in the usual military way, Aurelius reviewed his forces and discovered that they had suffered far more causalities than they had inflicted on the enemy. Fearing lest, if he threw the dice of Fortune again with his forces thus damaged, things would not go his way, as they had before, he entered into a four months’ truce with the Saxons, dismissed his army, and hurried off to Gwynton. A few days later, by his ambassadors he obtained that, in accordance with their treaty, after four months the Scottish and Pictish kings would come to the help of the Britons with a choice band of young men and good officers.
4. Occa, not unaware of these developments, immediately sent his brother Passentius to Germany, to fetch greater forces. Some write that Passentius, while sailing to Germany, was borne to Ireland by an adverse wind, where he hired a great band of mercenaries and speedily returned to his brother Occa in Britain. But, from whatever place they were recruited, from Germany, Ireland, or France, it its agreed that Passentius’ return with a large number of soldiers had the effect of increasing Saxon strength in Britain. Nevertheless, even though he commanded a fine army, Occa was afraid that, as long as Aurelius was alive, he might suffer a similar reversal if he had to fight another battle, so he decided to remove Aurelius by deceit. He therefore suborned a man to murder King Aurelius, a pagan Saxon who is said to have had the name of Copa. He assumed a false nationality and religion, pretended to be a pious British monk, both a devotee of the Christian religion and a skilled healer. He went to Gwynton and, since Ambrosius was gripped with longing for better health, easily gained an audience. Saying a great deal about the power of the disease, he promised to bring it about that after a few days it would be cured by his potions. He was therefore commanded to prepare the medicine. In order to gain the king’s trust, Copa first took several days in compounding a tasty syrup of sugar, aromatic herbs, and rosewater. Then this canny impostor took the opportunity of mixing in some poison with the proper soporifics, brought it to the king, and bade him drink, saying with a straight face that nothing was more healthful. Gullibly and with no suspicion of poison, Ambrosius trustfully drained the cup. Soon, at Copa’s bidding, he lay down, so that the power of the medicine might suffuse his entire body as he slept, and the gentlemen of his bedchamber were removed, with only two commanded to remain. Copa busied himself with his strong-odored concoctions, happy and pretending to be in high hopes that Ambrosius would regain his health, as he boldly promised the courtiers, pointing to the king’s deep sleep and quiet repose. When king’s kinsmen came a-running to ask if he were at rest, all the others bade them keep their silence. Meanwhile Copa slipped through the midst of the royal bodyguards and fled to a nearby forest, where he was met by men party to his scheme, set on a fast horse, and escaped the danger of pursuers, if such there were.
5. As the poison spread through his veins and the life gradually left his body, Aurelius gave only a single groan before breathing his last. Thereafter the gentlemen of the bedchamber heard no more sound and, imagining that he was sleeping deeply after all his insomnia., took great care lest any noise be made that might disturb their king’s repose. The silence lasted well into the day, as they waited for the hour when the king would awaken. After waiting much longer than anticipated, which greatly surprised them, one or two of them approached him. Not perceiving any breathing and seeing that the body was lifeless and stained with traces of poison, they loudly complained that the king had been poisoned by the trickery of that most deceitful Saxon. Nor were the lamentations of such great sorrow confined within the walls of a single town: rather, when they quickly spread far and wide through their cities and districts, they advertised to the Saxons that Aurelius was at long last dead. Occa was overjoyed by this welcome news. Since Uther was suffering from a grave malady in Wales, dragging out his life with only moderate hope of survival, and since he was sure that there was no other surviving general for the Britons to obey, so that he might overwhelm that hated nation before they had any opportunity to assemble, he raged against them far more savagely than ever. The Britons fled: seeing no place free of Saxon bestiality, some went off to Pithland, others to heir haunts in Wales, and many remained among the Saxons, submitting to punishment or slavery, as their enemy saw fit.
6. Meanwhile a strong army of Scots and Picts, marching towards Ambrosius with all the equipment of war to expel the enemies of the Christian faith from Albion, had covered a good part of its journey. But their great ranks of armed men and their wholesome intentions were checked by news of the death of King Aurelius Ambrosius. For the leaders of their forces were unsure whether he might have died by treachery or civil dissent, or whether the Britons were united in their desire to wage war, and so they thought it unsafe to lead their forces into a situation where they had no idea who was a friend and who a foe. So, taking counsel for their common welfare, they turned around and, leaving Britain, went home, keeping the same order with which they had come. Ambrosius Aurelius had ruled Britain for about seven years. He was given royal burial in the abbey at Stenthend, where he had erected a noble monument for some noblemen whom Hengist had once killed in an ambush. At the time when Ambrosius departed this life, some prodigies were reported to the noblemen at Gwynton, and the more the common folk believed these (thanks to Merlin’s interpretations), the more were observed. For many nights, a comet was seen in the sky, and also a long dragon that wore a crown. At London green trees suddenly broke forth in flame, and old wood, cut down long ago, put forth flowers and leaves. The river Thames was seen to run red with blood. At Eboracum a fountain in the middle of a market-place shot forth such a blood-red jet that the city streets seemed to flow with blood. In Kent a fetus was heard laughing in its mother’s womb. As interpreted by Merlin, these apparitions inspired the Britons to take up arms against the Saxons, but with an unhappy result. For they say that Merlin interpreted the comet to signify Ambrosius Aurelius, and the crowned dragon King Uther; the blood portended his blood-stained hand raised against the Saxons, and the fire their extermination. Uther is supposed to have gullibly believed this soothsayer, which is why in his expeditions he used a banner consisting of a gold crowned dragon on a background of sky-blue color, which they call azure, which is why he is known to posterity as Uther Pendragon.
7. The nobles of Britain, having performed the king’s funeral rights with due Christian piety, quickly left Gwynton and hurried to Uther in Wales. There, scarcely recovered from his disease, he was declared king by the votes of them all, and immediately ordained that a levy immediately be held and an army and all its equipment be readied against the Saxons. When King Uther had enlisted the kingdom’s youth for military service, he placed a certain Nathaliodus in supreme command of the war. This was a man of obscure birth, and the king was inspired to do this more by his long friendship with the fellow than because of his martial virtue. The British nobility was annoyed that a man not their equal in wealth or birth should be given preference in dignity, and they exchanged whispered complaints that, at a time he was new on the throne and his reign was not yet placed on a secure footing, their king had honored a lowborn man with such fine dignity, in disregard of the British nobility. They imagine that, if he achieved peace and ended his wars (if they could ever be ended), when it came to distributing honors and dignities, he would continue to prefer base-born men to the nobles of his nation. At the advice of prudent men, they silently stifled these complains, so as not to harm Britain when it was beset by such danger. Even though Nathaliodus was fully aware of how the British nobility was disposed to himself, nevertheless eagerly took up his command and, by order of the king, led the army he had enlisted against the enemy.
8. Aware of these developments (there were those in King Uther’s retinue who passed on the Britons’ counsels, by means of intermediates), and informed that British forces had left Wales and were being led against himself, Occa did not stop marching day or night in his haste to confront them. A battle was fought, not successfully for the youth of Briton. For at the first encounter Gothlois, a man of particular nobility among the Britons, took the forces entrusted to himself and departed for hills nearby, in disregard of Nathaliodus’ command, and exposing the rest of the British army to enemy harm. Those Britons fighting in the van, seeing themselves denuded of their comrades and themselves to be attacked on all sides by enemy arms, lost confidence in their strength. When the Saxons pressed them harder, they began to flee. Occa, thinking that Gothlois’ desertion was a trick, loudly forbade his men to pursue the fleeing Britons, and used a trumpet to recall them to their fighting-standards. During the night Gothlois left the battlefield to avoid falling prey to the enemy, and, taking his men, quickly disappeared to safety. When the morning dawned, Occa saw the fields entirely bare of soldiers, and, considering himself the victor and the Britons the vanquished, and estimating that he had nothing to fear in Britain, sent a herald commanding King Uther to take his entire British nation and depart once more into Wales, leaving England to the Saxons as the spoils of war. Otherwise he had nothing to expect other than all Britons, without respect to sex or age, would be cruelly slain by Saxon arms.
9. Uther pondered how terrible and uncertain a battle would be, should he have to fight the Saxons again, what evil it invited constantly to compete with hatred and violence, and how easily the enemy might bring about his downfall, should he persist in the war. Human affairs flourish in peace, but go to ruin conflict. Therefore by a herald he replied that he was willing to set aside his hatred and sue for peace, not because Saxon martial virtue was a source of fear for the Britons, but because, as a lover of friendship and alliance, and having regard for his nation’s tranquility, he quite loathed quarrelling. He greatly desired that this war between the Saxons and the British, begun, if not for trifling causes, at least ones which could have been resolved, to be ended while matters were still nearly intact. Whatever thing which had started this terrible quarrel between their people still remained unresolved could be settled by a commission composed of four men from either nation, chosen for their especial good faith and authority, who might investigate and resolve it. They should abide by the sentence of these men, so that the harmony of the two strongest nations possessing homes in Albion might convince the world’s other nations not to harm the inhabitants of that island, or (as is more frequently wont to happen) at least discourage them. Wearing a neutral expression on his face, the Saxon accepted his proffered condition, believing that its cause was weakness of mind, not greatness, and rejoiced that the kingdom had been ceded to himself freely, something he never could have achieved without the sword and much bloodshed (and there was no sure guarantee, were he to go to war, whose blood would do the flowing). And so, partially by an exchange of letters and partly by means of ambassadors, four Saxon men and a like number of Britons were selected for their singular prudence, for the purpose of resolving their persistent dispute. By their authority, a treaty was made between these peoples, chiefly on condition that those districts of Britain watered by the German Sea would henceforth be called Hengistiland, by which I mean England, should fall to the Saxons, and whatever remained of their old kingdom should remain for the Britons.
10. Peace followed upon their pact, and, with both peoples at rest and suffering no harm at the hands of the other, prosperity followed upon peace. The Saxons exercised their pagan impiety by sacrificing to evil demons in shrines built for their idols, and the Britons piously adoring Christ in their churches. But some of these were corrupted by the Pelagian madness and strayed from the true religion. Others despised that error and imitated the true champions of Christ’s teaching in their manner of life and faith. Meanwhile Uther, otherwise a man of well-tried virtue, fell into the foul sin of lust. For the excessive peace and wantonness in which nearly all Britons were at that time immersed were the reason why the man committed not only adultery, but also murder, which subsequently engendered bloody wars for the Britons. For, as it is told, when he chanced to be celebrating Christmas at London in the company of the British nobility and their wives, he chanced to cast his eyes on a comely woman. She was the wife of Gothlois, Prince of Cornwall. He became desperately infatuated with her for her beauty and decided to use his chamberlain to entice her to his bedchamber at night by gifts and promises. Gothlois became aware that this womanizer was scheming to insult his family honor, and, lest his wife’s chastity be tampered with (and she too was very averse to the king’s embraces), he secretly departed London, and, together with his wife, hastened to Cornwall. King Uther, abandoning all sense of shame and probity, raped the woman (for Gothlois had fled to Cornwall’s strongest fortification to avoid the royal wrath), and soon made her pregnant.
11. From this union, after the requisite number of months, she gave birth to a son, Arthur, who ruled in Britain after his father, as my subsequent narrative will show. After he had captured Gothlois, exhausted by a lengthy siege, he commanded his execution, on the pretext that he had, to the detriment of the British commonwealth, violated his royal command and deserted Nathaliodus in the battle against the Saxons. Some write that by help of Merlin Uther was transformed into a counterfeit Gothlois and enjoyed his wife’s embrace thanks to this trick. But, however the matter occurred, all our national historians and those of the Britons agree that King Uther fathered Arthur on another man’s wife, and, since he had no legitimate sons, after the boy had grown to maturity, he summoned the British nobles to a parliament and instructed them that Arthur was to be proclaimed king after his death, and compelled them all to lay hands on Christ’s Gospels and swear a solemn oath not to allow anyone but Arthur to reign in Britain after himself. This provoked the Picts’ anger against Uther. For King Lothus of the Picts was deeply offended that he should ignore his wife and his own children, the legitimate heirs of Britain, and show preference to Arthur in the royal succession. By many communications, therefore, he attempted to dissuade King Uther from such an unjust intention. Failing in this, he allowed himself to be persuaded by his fiends to pass over this matter in silence and await a proper opportunity, since he and his sons had no chance of invading Britain as long as King Uther remained alive.
12. Meanwhile certain Britons were induced by their frequent dealings with Saxons to renounce true piety and foully contaminated themselves with pagan errors and the nastiness of idol-worship. Others, adherents of Pelagian teaching, by their teachings and deeds attempted to lead their fellow-countrymen astray in their manner of life and doctrine. This dire plague grew to such a point that some forbade baptism. Others accept these ill-meditated errors as precepts and laws for living, and stubbornly denied what the holy Church affirmed. Meanwhile Christ’s priests lamented among themselves that some in their congregations had weakened in their faith to the point that they had become open enemies of Christ’s Name. So once more they used many entreaties to beg the blessed Bishop Germanus to undertake the protection of that which he had once defended. Germanus did not refuse their pious piety, but rather (if I may use Bede’s words), “taking with him Severus, a man of singular sanctity who was disciple to the most holy father, Lupus, bishop of Troyes, and afterwards, as bishop of Treves, preached the word of God in the adjacent parts of Germany, put to sea, and was calmly wafted over into Britain.” There he displayed such great diligence in filling the multitude with wholesome doctrine that he daily preached the Word of God, not just in churches, but at street corners, on avenues, and in the countryside. And miracles were added to his words. For the son of Elabius, a man of great renown among the Britons, had long been a paralytic, was healed by Germanus’ touch alone. The withered limbs of some men took back their humor, so that their muscles performed their proper offices. Confirming his holy teaching by these and many other miracles, the British people repented their hypocrisy, abjured and condemned the accursed rites of silly paganism and also the madness of the Pelagian heresy, and most eagerly embraced the true religion. Thanks to the integrity of his life, and his miracles, King Occa, although averse to Christian piety, was moved by the man’s integrity of life, learning, and miracles, and gave him permission to preach Christ’s teachings among the Saxons with impunity, with the penalty of death proclaimed for the man who would harm Germanus or Severus even to the slightest degree.
13. While these things were transpiring in Britain, two men distinguished for their nobility, Terdix and Kenric, together with their forces, crossed over from Germany to England. Befriending them, Occa made the one of them his Earl of Kent and the other Earl of Wessex. Kenric was a bitter opponent of Christ’s worshippers. Not many days after his arrival, he was subjected to many injuries and cruelly put to death by a crowd of peasants for having made Saint Germanus and his companions, who were spreading Christ’s doctrine with their pious sermons, sleep outdoors all night in bad weather. The coming of these captains into England, in violation of the terms of their treaty, made Uther deeply suspicious that Occa had now wearied of peace, and was seeking a reason, or at least some specious pretext, for declaring war. So he sent a herald to him, urging that he continue in the friendship he had happily entered into with the Britons some years previously, and refrain from the things which might provide the occasion for reviving the old quarrel between their peoples. He should send Terdix, Kenric and their followers back to Germany, because he had admitted them contrary to the terms of their treaty. For their armed band, newly crossed over into Albion, could not help but be justly regarded with suspicion by all men. Otherwise, Uther would not govern his Britons in peace, nor Occa his Saxons. Many men were muttering that they would soon war against each other, unless their kings abided by their commitments. For it would be ill done, if the treaty was made between their peoples were so soon broken. Occa was of the opinion that it was arrogant of Uther to desire to play the umpire to himself and his nation, since a little earlier he had entered into a treaty with the conquered Britons, whom he could have destroyed, and to attempt to frighten him off from admitting more of his friends into England, where his writ did not run. So he response was to this effect: he had no sentiment about abiding by the treaty than what Uther could reasonably wish, and, after the peace had been made, he had done no harm to the Britons of which they could justly complain. It was not he, but rather King Uther, who was seeking grounds for a quarrel between their peoples, because he was attempting for forbid him to receive a friend of the Saxon people and his companions with his wonted kindness, just as if he had gained power over the entire world, and has commanded the Saxons to eject those they have hospitably received, not without insult. His close kinsmen Terdix and Kenric had neither come to him by command of the Britons, nor were they going to leave him by command of the same. Uther and his British nobility should take care lest, while issuing such commands to their masters, they not suffer shipwreck as the result of their sauciness, nor desire too eagerly that which would bring down ruin on themselves and their kingdom. If they wished war, as they seemed to be proclaiming by their imperious embassy and the harm done the Saxon peasantry by the Britons’ constant robberies, he would undertake one with eagerness, and do so to the utter destruction of the other people, since they were so eager for a fight.
14. Related to King Uther and the British elders, these things greatly troubled them all, and so they sent a second delegation to Occa, using many gifts and promises to avert the king’s mind from war. In accordance with the opinion of his nobles, King Occa took the gifts and gave a grudging hearing to the promises. Because his nobles cried out that some deceit hid behind these things, he treated the ambassador with great rudeness and sent him packing without an answer. Stung by this insult, since the Saxons could be restrained by no treaty and they could not secure a peace, the Britons bent their effort to readying the necessities of wafare. War between the Saxons and the Britons was declared a few days thereafter, and the Picts, not failing to notice this quarrel between the two peoples, volunteered themselves to King Occa as allies in his campaign. Their King Lothus explained the reason: King Uther was employing violence to deprive his sons of the British crown to which they were the lawful heirs. Occa gladly accepted the Picts’ alliance. The Picts sent ambassadors to the Scots inviting them to join in the war, but they flatly refused since they thought that the treaty they had solemnly sworn with the Britons was not to be violated, and because they thought it ill accorded with their religion to help enemies of Christ’s Name against adherents of true piety. Learning of this, the Britons cursed Saxon and Pictish perfidy because they had decided to harm them with a war, and directed their complaints to Bishops Germanus and Severus, complaining of these pagan insults. The bishops bade them assemble an army immediately, telling them that they would undoubtedly gain victory over their enemies, if only they wholeheartedly turned to Christ. At King Uther’s urging, the Britons obeyed the bishops’ command, formed themselves into an army and, even if very many men had great fear of their enemies’ force, marched off to war.
15. The right holy bishops were encamped with King Uther at Eastertide, which was then upon them, when many men of British blood, some adherents of the Pelagian heresy and others who had been deluded by foolish paganism, abandoned these hallucinations and were baptized at the holy font. When all men had been advised by the words and examples of those bishops that they should celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with greater reverence and fervor, it was reported that the army of the Saxons and Picts was at hand, spoiling for a fight. At this news, by Uther’s command they all took up arms and hastened to battle, that part of it still wet from baptism leading the way. Germanus declared he would lead their van. They all advanced to battle, quickly moving against their enemy. They were armed by their great trust in Christ, and their priests marched in the forefront, as if determined to receive the first shock of battle. The enemies studied the appearance of their array, and, as if concluding that victory over an unarmed throng was assured, they hastened to the encounter. Germanus, bearing in his hands the standard, instructed his men all in a loud voice to repeat his words, and when the enemy advancing securely, as thinking to take them by surprise, the priests three times cried Hallelujah. A universal shout of the same word followed, and the air and the cavernous hills resounding the echo on all sides, the enemy was struck with dread, fearing, that not only the neighboring rocks, but even the very skies were falling upon them and such was their terror, that their feet were not swift enough to deliver them from it. They fled in disorder, casting away their arms, and well satisfied if, with their naked bodies, they could escape the danger; many of them, in their precipitate and hasty flight, were swallowed up by the river which they were passing. Thus the Christians gained a bloodless victory, picked up the spoils, and triumphed thanks to the merits of their holy bishops. The details of this battle are recorded by the Venerable Bede, whose words I have used in this description, with little deviation from such a great author, save that I have followed Vairement (as in many other things) in saying that this victory was not gained during his first victory to Britain, but rather during his second.
16. Whatever its time may have been, after this battle the Britons grew over-proud because of its happy success, scorning Saxon arms and neglecting their own. After fair weather and a calm sea had returned Germanus and Severus to their homes, they became so addicted to stuffing their bellies and swilling wine, that, as Bede tells us, their military companies would sometimes indulge in three-day bouts of eating and drinking, with the result that they were transformed from sturdy fellows into the most low-down of gluttons. The British bishops and the priests who educated their fellow-citizens were deeply troubled by the people’s infamous love of luxury, and in their sermons they frequently predicted that, if this national plague were not eradicated, it would come to pass that the kingdom of Britain, so often exposed to utmost peril and so often restored to its former glory by God’s goodness, would suffer its final downfall. Nor were they wrong in this opinion: for a few years later Occa once more attacked the Britons, infamous for their wrongdoing. Nor was this difficult to accomplish, for battle had barely been joined when the Britons were defeated and scattered, having lost Nataliodus, their best commander next to the king, and fifteen thousand men. But the victorious Saxon forces lost their King Occa, rendered over-bold by his success and rashly straying away from his soldiers while riding towards the enemy, together with five hundred of his cavalry and a small number of infantry. The result was that, having won this victory, the Saxons did not dare trouble the Britons with their arms any further, although they had been visited with such great slaughter. So as not to be leaderless, they chose as their king Occa, the nephew of the earlier Occa by his brother Oistus, who turned all the force of his war-making against the Picts, claiming that captives had informed them that King Lothus had broken his pact with them and given aid to the Britons in the recent battle. In order to wage this war against the Picts, Occa, a bestial young man by nature and made more so by gaining a kingship, fetched from Germany Colgern, a man of great prestige among the Saxons, promising him the land beyond the Humber possessed by the Picts, if he would expel that hateful nation, notorious for its treachery, by force of arms. Golgern soon made his appearance and threw all things in Northumbria into confusion with his murder, arson, and plundering.
17. This bloody bane aroused a great number of the Picts and Scots who possessed some of those places at this time. King Occa and his band of Saxons arrived to increase the slaughter being worked by Colgern. For when he heard that Colgern had arrived in Northumbria, he made a year-long true ciwth Uther and, together with his army, hastened to him. The panic of refugees coming to Lothus and Conranus in Pithland and Galloway spurred both kings to take up arms against the Saxons by common consent and counsel, and so the Picts and Scots, furious over the damage they had suffered, marched against the Saxons. When their forces stood beneath their standards, swords drawn and ready for battle, many of the confederates began to feel dread, terrified at the idea of coming to blows against such a huge army of Germans. This panic began among the Britons, of whom many had come to the Scots and Picts as auxiliaries because of their hatred of the Saxons, saying much about the martial virtue of the Germans, their physical strength, and the great size of their limbs: their might in battle was so great that they sometimes routed the enemy merely by their facial expressions and glances. This terror then spread though the greater part of their forces, and would have inspired very many to desert the battlefield, had not their sense of shame held them bed. The confederated kings perceived this evil, and summoned the head men of both armies to a conference, and, at their bidding, a certain man said:
18. “Our rulers, my good fellow-soldiers, cannot help being surprised that your minds have become so downcast that many men in this most well-equipped army, protected by all the equipment of war, have been stricken by sudden terror at the sight of the enemy companies, and are more fearful than it behooves a man to be, with the result that, before confronting any danger, they have quite lost their faith in their own virtue and the diligence of their captains. For the Saxons are not endowed with such great martial virtue that no man dares fight against them, as we have learned from our frequent experience in Albion, to our extreme glory and great triumph. For under the leadership of King Vortimer they were defeated and routed by British arms. Then they were overcome in a full battle by Aurelius Ambrosius, a man whom they murdered by unspeakable treachery when they did not dare fight against him any longer, so that their perfidy would be manifest to all men. And a number of years ago the Britons, many of whom are now fighting for the Saxons, fell back before your arms and became (if I may put it this way) your prey, so that for a long time they have paid tribute to you. So do you need to fear these men, my stout-hearted fellows, whom the Britons, so often bested at your hands, have often overcome? Then too, this present war is being waged against you impiously: the Saxons are seeking to work harm against you, and you to ward them off, and what devotee of the true religion may not legitimately hope what, where the blame lies, there the slaughter will fall, in accordance with God’s just judgment? And so, my stout-hearted fellows, there is nothing you properly need to fear concerning the happy waging of war, or its successful conclusion. If any of you should happen to be frightened when he compares the German’s great limbs and the massive hugeness of their bodies, he is a very silly and wrongheaded judge. For nobody who knows our nations is ignorant that the Scots and Picts have handsome and sound bodies, of no less a size than the Germans’. And if the Germans are in high spirits while yours are more downcast, who would not attribute this to your cowardice, since you are forgetting, or rather wholly holding in contempt, the fact that you have been born with bodies of elegant comeliness, capable of enduring hard effort, and also are forgetting the virtues, those ornaments of the mind, for which nature, that mother of all things, has created you, and with which she very eagerly wants to fill you. Let none of you criticize the way in which nature has formed your bodies, as long as your minds remain safe and sound. For, since your bodies are of a decent size, and created so as to undergo all toils with ready promptitude, your duty is to expel degenerate, ignoble fear from your minds, and to adorn them with a proper sense of duty towards your nation, so that, as your enemy stands in your view, ready for a fight, you will know for a certainty that nothing more shameful or costly could befall you than to hand him the victory without a fight, to betray your nation, and thus lose your wives, your children, and your very lives, to your extreme disgrace. And as far as your commanders’ task goes, you need expect nothing else from them than that they are determined to join battle with the Saxons, and that, when the worst peril is it at hand, they will find out whether shame and dutifulness or fear counts for more with the Scottish and Pictish nobility.”
19. At these words, a wonderful desire to fight, not without great eagerness, arose in them all. In order to please their kings, the soldiers stationed in the forefront swore a public oath never to fear, nor to think any differently about the war’s conduct than did their commanders. The kings praised their soldiers’ declaration and commanded them to march against the enemy. The Saxons stoutly received their onrush, and the fighting was hot, with many men slain on both sides. But the confederates’ flight, when they could no longer withstand their enemies’ onslaught, was a signal that that the Saxons had gained the victory. Night compelled them to end their pursuit. On the following day, one of the kings went off to Galloway with the remnants of his army, and the other to Pithland. Since the Saxon elders were urging the young man, Occa took cruel advantage of his victory, foully torturing and putting to death whatever Picts he found between the Tyne and the Tweed. Availing himself of their wealth and their lands, he put strong garrisons in their fortifications and, bringing in new settlers of his own race, immediately appointed Colgern Earl of Northumbria, the second man in the kingdom after himself. He himself undertook a war against the Britons, breaking his treaty, because rumor had it that they had helped the Scots and Picts in the recent battle. This went as he wished: King Uther was defeated, a notable rout was inflicted on this forces, all men of British blood were driven out of England and banished to Wales for a third time. The citizens of London were terrified by report of an impending siege, and so surrendered themselves and their city. Hence Occa regained all the territories once possessed by Hengist, the first Saxon to rule in Albion.
20. Amidst such happy successes, the Saxons did not trust Fortune, which does not always breathe upon mortals with the same favor, so they elected not to engage in any more full-scale fighting against their enemy until they had established their kingdom with excellent protection against future reversals. So they bent their efforts to repairing old fortifications and building new ones throughout England, and staged daily raids against the Britons, Scots, and Picts, so that their enemies would appreciate they were involved in a war. Amidst all this confusion, King Uther was in Wales. Parched by a fever, he took a drink of clear water from a nearby fountain, which had been poisoned by a suborned Saxon, and died, after beginning the eighteenth year of his reign, in the year of Christ our Savior 521. At this time, or nearly so, there flourished men who excelled in learning and sanctity: Marlanius Bishop of Rennes, an Armorican Bretagne, a champion of paupers and the faithful; Albinus and Victor, Frenchmen both, notable for their learning and sanctity; St. Boethius, deeply erudite in theology, philosophy, mathematics, and the Humanities, whose dignity in writing and speaking was greatly respected in that age. He wrote an excellent work on the Trinity, and so learnedly and copiously about dialectics, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy that he is justly regarded by posterity as a principal professor of those disciplines. While King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths, an Arrian, was raging against his innocent nation, which clung to the true piety, he joined Pope John and Symmachus, two great adherents of holy religion, in opposing Arrius’ delusion. Hence he was closely imprisoned at Ravenna, and died along with that pope and Symmachus. With the help of no mortal intervention, piety avenged itself and those most holy men, for Theodoric only survived for a few more days, and a few years thereafter the kingdom of the Goths was obliterated, and these aforesaid martyrs of Christ were numbered among the saints.
21. At about this time also lived Benedict, a most holy man, born at Nursia, who founded at Subiaco, a city in Italy, an order of monks which St. Basil had previously begun in the east. Since throngs of men visited him there, he was obliged to leave in order to shun glory. So he removed to the town of Cassino, where there was a temple of Apollo which had been re-dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and there he built a monastery, and taught his companions to live according to a rule of his own devising. They grew with such felicity that afterwards they sent out various colonies which adhered to their rules and wore the same habits. This order produced twenty-four popes, more than 480 princes of the Church commonly called cardinals, and others men possessed of sanctity and learning, who cannot easily be numbered. Among our own countrymen we have a number of well-populated abbeys of that order, thus far inhabited by men most noble for their piety, who would, perhaps, be more possessed of distinguished virtue and would enjoy more veneration among mankind, if they did not have such fat bellies as the result of their idleness and luxurious living, funded by royal munificence. Benedict deceased at Cassino in the year of Christian salvation 518, where he was buried together with his sister Scholastica, also a woman of notable sanctity, during the reign of the elder Justin. Among our own countrymen was St. Brigid, a very holy virgin. When she was scarcely fourteen years ago, she fled to the Bishop of Sodor on the island of Mona (his name, like those of many other men, has been forgotten because of the passage of time), scorning her father’s wealth, and begged him with her entreaties, not without tears, to grant his episcopal authority to her vow of perpetual virginity. The bishop received her with wonderful kindness, and consecrated the virgin to God, giving her a white gown to wear, girt with a leather belt, and a head-covering of foursquare white linen reaching down to her shoulders. This virgin’s conspicuous piety made her so renowned to posterity that the Scots, Picts, Irish, and their English neighbors venerate her as the chiefest of women the Church counts among its saints, second only to the Virgin Mother of God. Sure proof of this is the number of churches consecrated to Brigid’s name, which can be scarcely be matched by those of any other saint. She finally departed this life after having having performed many works of wonderful sanctity, and they say her body was taken from the Hebrides to Kildare in Ireland, where it is buried in the same place with Patrick, the apostle to the Irish. Our countryman, staking their claim on this same honor, stubbornly maintain that St. Brigid was buried at Abernethy in a very elegant church dedicated to her name, and outfitted with canons and presbyters to perform its sacred offices.
22. At a time not very different from this lived our fellow-countryman Gibirinus, a man of notable piety, who, in the company of his brothers and sisters inspired by the same love of Christ, crossed over to France to avoid the hurtfulness of pagans in Albion. There he ennobled the city of Rheims with the sanctity of his life and his miracles. At this same time, by command of Bishop Mamertus of Vienne, the supplications performed over the three days before the Ascension of Christ were begun in France, and were adopted with great veneration by the clergy of Scotland at the urging of Convallanus, an excellent preacher of Christ’s teaching. This Convallanus was the abbot of the monks who piously campaigned for Christ on the island of Iona, a man of well-proven life and notable for his learning. Our annals report that this man made many prophecies about the downfall of the kingdoms of the Picts and Britons, about the succession of the kings of Scotland, and about the coming conversion of the English nation to Christian piety. He also exposed the secret sins of many noblemen, and informed them of the great peril of their salvation in which they lived if they did not repent. As a result, a large number grew weary of iniquity and heeded his holy admonitions, and devoted themselves to the works of true piety.
23. Convallanus lived in the days of Arthur, whom the Britons declared king in Wales after the death of Uther. A little before this happened, King Lothus of the Picts sent ambassadors to the British elders, demanding that the throne of Britain be given to himself. His claim was that there existed a time-hallowed rule in Albion, sanctioned by tradition, that when a man married a virgin, he should be the first recipient of her inheritance, should she have any, and then the sons born of his marriage to her. Therefore his lawful wife Anna, the legitimate sister of Kings Aurelius and Uther, was heir to the throne, since Uther had died without issue. By her he had fathered as his male children Modredus and Valuanus (called Galuanus by some), not yet fit for public government because of their age. Therefore, if the law was to be heeded, it was his responsibility to preserve the security of the realm until its legitimate heirs came of age. The Britons gave the Pictish ambassadors an unfavorable hearing and with many insults jeered them out of the public meeting, saying that not only Lothus, but also the sons of Anna, were wholly to be rejected, being men of foreign blood and therefore unsuitable to govern the Britons. Therefore the Pictish ambassadors were rudely sent packing and went home. Soon, since it appeared that the Picts would ally themselves with the Saxons, the British elders, in violation not only of British law but also of international law, charged King Arthur with recruiting an army from all their districts and auxiliaries fetched from Britanny, and to march against the Saxons before the Saxons could be joined by the Picts and those Germans who lived in Northumbria. Their first battle was fought ten miles away from London, where the Saxons were broken in a pair of battles and commanded to pay great tribute, and to accept burdensome laws and magistrates as dictated by King Arthur. For some months, Arthur kept himself in that city, after taking it with little trouble, for the purpose of consulting with the fathers of Britain about matters of state.
24. After his forces were enhanced with much warlike equipment, he decided to move quickly against the Saxon nation living beyond the Humber. For by his spies he had learned that a choice band of Picts had joined with them as a result of a new pact made between Lothus and Colgern, with reparations having been made on both sides. When the British companies came into Yorkshire, they encamped not far from the Saxons and Picts, who had come their first with their armed band. The next day, all his preparations for battle having been made, Arthur stationed Hoelus, the captain of the Bretagnes, and a part of his forces opposite the Picts. He himself decided to fight against Colgern with his light-armed forces. A twofold fight ensured: where more strength was stationed, there the fighting was hottest. The battle hung in the balance, with none of the battle-lines driven backwards. At length the victory inclined to the British, when the Picts were put to flight and routed, with many of them put to the sword. After the Saxons had stubbornly held their places for a long time, hearing of the slaughter, but even more seeing the Picts’ flight with their own eyes, they ran towards York at breakneck speed. Being victorious in this double battle, Arthur immediately strove might and main to besiege and storm the city. For their part, the Saxons did a fine job of manning their walls, sometimes resorting to sallies, where they saw that the enemy strength was less. This siege continued until the third month, at which time the Saxons began to consider surrendering the city, for their provisions were failing. A new army scraped together from the Picts and Saxons diverted them from this intention, for it was purpose was to be led against Arthur with such ardor and mass that its men would be thought to have been reduced to utmost despair and willing to decide the matter with the sword. At this juncture, the arrival of King Occa (who, having fought unsuccessfully against Arthur, had slipped away to Germany as a means of avoiding capture by his enemies) with new forces at the Humber removed their fear and restored their spirits, for they were convinced that if the Britons persisted in their siege, they could be surrounded by the battalions of their enemies. Arthur, aware he was going to be attacked from all sides, broke off the siege before his enemies made their appearance, lest his Britons, wearied by their continual service, encounter fresh companies of Saxons and Picts and be placed in the utmost peril. Marching day and night, he went off to Wales, where he sent off his ordinary soldiers and the Bretagnes to winter camp, and the rest to their homes.
25. Then he took some select fighting-bands of Britons and went to London during the winter, ready to put down a rising of the Saxons living in Kent and adjacent parts, should one occur. There he played the part of a right liberal prince, well aware that this was the best way to gain popular favor, and he did this to the extent that, as they say, he spent so much on his soldiers that he lacked the wherewithal for his domestic use. After the winter had passed and at great expense he had readied what he had estimated to be the necessities for a spring campaign, with great effort and care he led an expedition against Colgern and Occa, who at that time had left Northumbria and were murderously ravaging British lands. He met them in battle twice, and proved victorious. Then he continued and for three days besieged York. Within the city was a certain Briton who had lived there so long that everybody thought him to be a Saxon. He was a man of clever wit, and possessed of no small authority among them. By means of a trusty intermediary, he showed a choice band of Britons a secret route, and in the silence of the night admitted them to the city. They broke down the gate nearest their camp, and Arthur’s forces were let in, drawn up in battle order. Killing the watchmen and garrison, they occupied the walls. At dawn a slaughter was started, but Arthur prohibited it, lest he appear to have abandoned his clemency and expended his rage against surrendered men.
26. With the Britons holding York and the Saxons the countryside and fortifications of Northumbia, the remainder of the summer was spent in skirmishing. During the following winter that well-populated city contained the British nobility and the ordinary soldiers billeted indoors. They were given over to their pleasures: to sleep, drunkenness, feasting, whoring, and they relied on their past virtue rather than their present strength. For a long time, Christmastide has been profaned in Albion with an elaborate tradition of feasting, continued for twelve days both by the English and ourselves, and we punctually observe it.. Every year people consume entire days in stuffing themselves, regarding this as a supreme and very happy freedom, when in fact it is the basest form of slavery. It is said that this custom began in these days, and that Arthur started it. But, whatever its source and whoever is responsible for this very foul gluttony, it has corrupted the characters of both the English and the Scots to the extent that you could conclude that during these days of Christmastide we worship, not Christ the Lord, but rather the larder; not virtue, but rather voracity. You could say that in these unhappy days a religious feast, formerly celebrated with such great piety by our ancient forefathers in Albion, has been transformed into a Bacchanalia, a Floralia, and a Priapalia. And so, when the winter had passed, when Arthur commanded his men to march against the enemy encamped along the bank of the Humber, they had been ruined by softness, as if they had never been accustomed to hard work. Their bodies and their spirits both failed them: they complained about being obliged to take to the road, thinking more about their dinners than their honorable expedition against the enemy. The reason why for, for several years thereafter, they failed to do any damage to the Saxons, even if Arthur always did a fine job of performing a good general’s duties, was that from the beginning the Saxons had been accustomed to living in tents.
27. They had no hope of overcoming the Saxons in Northumbria, until Arthur entered into a treaty with King Lothus of the Picts. The terms of this pact were that Arthur would rule in Britain until the end of his life; after his death, the throne of Britain would devolve upon Modredus and then upon his issue, should any such exist. When summoned, the Picts would join the Britons in fighting the Saxons. They would continue in their ancient pact with the Scots. As much land beyond the Humber could be won from the Saxons would be given to the Picts. Modredus would marry the daughter of Gwalanus, the most noble man among the Britons next to the king, and whatever children might be born from that marriage would be raised by the care and supervision of their grandfather. Modredus’ father-in-law was to be granted estates and a stipend by Arthur, and to be counted among the king’s friends both at home and in the field. Other conditions were likewise stipulated. After the treaty went into effect, Arthur took advantage of the opportunity it offered, being eager for nothing more than cleansing the island of Albion of the enemies of Christianity. So by his ambassadors he urged the kings of the Scots and Picts to appear at the mouth of the Tyne, on a day of their choosing, for the purpose of fighting the pagan Saxon race. And, since they were of one mind and one heart when it came to championing the Christian religion in Albion, they did not turn a deaf ear to Arthur’s pious requests. So, after a few days had passed, a noble army of Britons, Scots, and Picts was led against the Saxons. They learned by their spies that a great host of fighting men had been assembled, and under Occa’s leadership they marched to the place where they had heard the enemy would come. When both battle-lines stood under their banners, Colgern, the leader of the Northumbrian Saxons, riding on a noble swift horse, rode close to the Pictish line. He insultingly railed at Lothus and the Pictish elders because they were so fickle in their counsel and eager for change that he had taken into their friendship, with no reparations given, the men that they had regarded as enemies just the other day, having suffered many catastrophes at their hands, and had taken up arms against their old friends, with whom they had a treaty and whom had undertaken to defend. If the gods were favorable, they, so eager on that day to help the Britons, would undoubtedly find out whether their treachery or Saxon good faith, which up to that very day had never been violated in their dealings with the Picts, would gain the victory.
28. Unmoved by these words, the Pictish king ordered his standards to be advanced against the enemy. When they drew nearer to the Saxons, the Picts began to worry their enemies with great energy. Arthur was busied with arranging his battle-line and employing all his martial skill in firing his soldiers’ spirits for the fight, but when he observed that the Picts had begun to fight, he gave the signal and commanded his men to join in with a will. A sharp battle ensued. The Scots, who were stationed on the right wing, pushed back their enemy, and quickly routed them, killing Chelric, the Saxon second-in-command. Colgern, who was opposite the Picts, fighting on the left wing, caught sight of Lothus, conducting himself with vigor, and, urged on by his desire for glory, spurred his horse against him with such might that he unhorsed him at their first collision. Two Pictish horsemen, angered by their king’s fall, thrust their lances at Colgern from opposite sides , quickly ran him through, and stretched him out on the ground, dying. Thanks to his breastplate, Lothus was unharmed and, with the help of men standing nearby, was safely returned to his comrades. Colgern’s body was with difficulty carried off from the midst of the enemy ranks, a sad sight for those present, and a sight that set the Saxons to running. Meanwhile the Saxon van, stripped of its wings, fell back a little before Arthur. The Britons pressed them hard and gave them no surcease. When King Occa could not restrain them from fleeing, being seriously wounded, he was barely rescued from his enemies’ weapons and, in the company of some horsemen, sought safety in flight. Not long thereafter he was carried to the sea (which was not far distant from the battlefield), and transported to Germany in a ship.
29. With the battle thus fought, the strength of the Saxons was broken. Since they had lost their captains and suffered much damage at the hands of the enemy, so that they had no hope of repairing their army, they cast aside their weapons and, with bare feet and bare heads, they prostrated themselves before Arthur and begged for mercy. His royal clemency spared the suppliants, on condition that they submit to baptism and become Christians, and that henceforth they never take up arms against the men of Albion. If they did not like this, they might depart the island, stripped of their fortunes and weaponry. The appointed day for their departure was two weeks hence, with the penalty of death established for those who after that day were discovered performing pagan ritual or wearing pagan dress. Those Saxons who could afford the passage to Germany departed. The sight of their wretchedness, when they had been set ashore nearly naked and half-dead from hunger, filled the locals with a burning desire to avenge such great wrongs, should they ever have the chance. Other Saxons feigned adherence to Christianity and awaited better times in Albion. Some who stubbornly clung to their pagan error were put to death: these were men who had been unable to quit Albion because of their poverty. Precious few embraced true piety. With British affairs pacified in Northumbria, the Saxons either obliterated or reduced to dire slavery, Arthur spent the rest of the year in rebuilding Christ’s churches despoiled by Saxon injury, particularly at York (for pagan bestiality had mostly raged against the holy places in that city, their congregations either driven off or put to the sword). A bishop was elected by the clergy in order to consecrate priests, restore divine rights, and instruct all the people by his pious examples and admonitions, as he preached the teachings of Christ.
30. In the following year, word was brought to Arthur that the Saxons holding the Isle of Wight had combined with those of Kent, and were inflicting great slaughter on the British. So he took his army and went to London, with the intention of utterly destroying the men of Essex and Middlesex (for so they had begun to call themselves), since he could not pacify Britain in any other way. To wage this war, in accordance with their treaty ten thousand Picts and the like number of Scots came forth, hired by Arthur at a great wage. The Scots were under the command of Eugenius, King Conranus’ nephew by his brother, a young man outstanding for his martial glory, and the Picts were led by Modredus, Lothus’ son by Anna, a young man possessed (as all men believed at that time) of a keen temperament, well suited to undertaking pubic responsibilities in both peace and war. Knowing how much it cost his soldiers to live amidst the luxuries of city life, kept his army under canvas and, bypassing London, encamped not far from the river Thames. He himself, in the company of his nobler comrades, entered the city and commanded a three days’ supplication to be performed for his success. On the fourth day, the rites performed, he delivered a public speech in the market-place, in which he commended the safety of himself and his entire army to Christ and the Blessed Virgin, whose image he henceforth bore on his shield as his personal insignia. Leaving the city, he ordered his soldiers to march against the enemy with the eagerness which befits a Christian athlete. His column was led by Modredus and his father-in-law Gwallanus, with five hundred horse. And when he was no more than five miles distant from the Saxons (for they too, having heard the news that an expedition was being prepared against themselves, had gathered their strength from all quarters), enemy ambassadors came to him begging him to march no further, as long as it were allowed by his good leave that all Saxons might depart Albion, their fortunes safe and sound, and suffering no more harm at British hands. When the ambassadors could not obtain this, they asked for a three days’ truce. Arthur did not consent to this either, thinking (as was in fact the truth) that some trickery lurked within their requests.
31. He nevertheless promised not to march more than two miles farther that day with his army, and granted permission for the ambassadors to return, if they wished, to hear the decision of his army’s elders concerning this mater. While the Britons were intent on these embassies and fearing nothing less than trickery, the Saxons picked up their step and very quickly launched a grave attack on Modredus’ forces. Seeing he was outmatched by the Saxons, and that he could not escape without risk both to honor and life, he ordered his soldiers to dismount, so that, if die they must by Saxon deceit, with their handiwork they might avenge their death. The soldiers quickly obeyed their captain’s command, and at the beginning of the battle many were killed. The rest ran away, and did not cease their running until they came into sight of the main army. Modredus and Gwallanus were set on horses by their soldiers and borne to the army in safety. Hearing of this business, Arthur commanded the Saxon ambassadors (who had not yet departed his camp) to stay with him until the morrow. On the following day, having discussed this matter with Modredus, Galuanus, Gwallanus, Eugenius, and the elders of the army, he summoned the Saxon representatives to the meeting: henceforth he refused to give them a hearing, and would accept no conditions of any kind from their nation, for, while initiating peace-discussions by embassies, they had joined battle against his men. He was now sufficiently familiar with Saxon perfidy, and he had no need to make further trial of it. Therefore they should go and announce that, as long as he lived, they should expect nothing else from Arthur than bloody war. When the council had not yet broken up, forty Saxon nobles came to King Arthur to lay the blame for yesterday’s conflict on a few men who were unaware of their leaders’ decision, and hence had hotheadedly joined battle with the Britons. They attempted to prove that the Saxon nobility had no hand in this crime. But Arthur, convinced that this new delegation was involved in some new trickery, commanded them, and also the previous ambassadors, to be kept under guard in his camp.
32. During the second watch of the night, he himself led all his forces out of the camp, arranged in a battle-line three deep, and marched against the enemy. He quickly covered the three miles and arrived at the Saxon camp, killing some of its watchmen and putting the rest to flight, before they could clearly determine where his throng had come from. Then, understanding that it was Arthur who had suddenly arrived but uncertain what their embassy had managed to obtain from him, their soldiers were thrown into confusion and panic spread throughout their camp, together with shouting and chaotic movement, a sure indication of fear in doubtful circumstance. These signs invited Modredus, mindful of yesterdays’ defeat, to take the camp by storm. When the British soldiers burst into the enemy camp at Modredus’ command, those Saxons who were able quickly to snatch up weapons made a brief resistance, fighting amidst their wagons and baggage. The rest, who, because of the swiftness of the British onset, were unable to take up arms and station themselves in battle array, made their escape by breaking down the camp wall. The cavalry sent by Arthur to run down the fugitives inflicted great slaughter and so vehemently terrorized the Saxons that many of them, to as not to die a cruel death by the sword, elected to hurl themselves into a nearby river and drown. On that day the victor’s wrath gave no quarter to those who chose to surrender. The piteous groans of the dying were heard everywhere, the fields were filled with bodies, the rivers ran red with blood and on them floated the severed limbs of the dying: everything downed the savagery of the victors against the vanquished. That bloody day consumed such a huge number of Saxons that it seemed that never again would they have the strength to resist the Britons in Albion. After that happy battle Arthur gave the Saxons he had retained in the British camp permission to return to Germany, and commanded that nation’s helpless common folk pay a great tribute.They were reduced to harsh serfdom because they were incapable of fighting, but he permitted them to remain in Albion on condition that they acknowledge Christ’s teachings. And after they had remained a while at London for the sake of celebrating their common joy and for recreation, he sent home the Scots and Picts, laden down with presents given them out of his royal bounty. During this expedition they had suffered no calamity.
33. At the time when these things were successfully accomplished by British arms during the reign of Arthur, the Scottish kingdom too was being administered with wonderful dexterity. At length some of the nobility entered into an association against King Conranus, since his body was so consumed by old age that he was no longer fit for labor, and those who governed the commonwealth in his stead were plundering everything, to the public detriment, and for this reason the people’s minds were annoyed. A lowborn man named Toncetus, the supreme officer of the law (nowadays called the justiciary), was in Moray, and there was nothing wanting in him when it came to exercising extreme severity, condemning men and mulcting them of their money in order to curry favor with his sovereign. For Conranus (as is often true of sovereigns) counted as his best-beloved of friends the men whom he had appointed to supervise his fisc. Acting with great violence, this Toncredus haled certain wealthy merchants of Forfar (a town of Moray) into court, and put them to death on a most trifling of charges, as if they were great villains, as a means of gaining their fortunes. The nobles of Moray, and particularly those of Forfar (who were kinsmen of the merchants) were outraged by this wrong. First they hurled reproaches at Toncetus, and then, as he was pronouncing justice in the middle of the market-place, they stabbed him to death. The authors of this murder were sought for punishment. Having no hope of pardon and despairing, they retreated to some steep mountains, thinking that there sole remaining hope for safety was to pile another crime on top of the one they had already committed. They therefore decided to kill King Conranus, for it was his fault that they were being troubled by his agents: by doing this, they would gain the favor of the great men of the kingdom, whom they knew to be already ill-disposed towards the king.
34. A little while later, Donald, the governor of Athol, a man of great trust and authority with the king, who was not altogether unaware of the conspirators’ intentions, dealt with them by secret intermediaries: they should join him at Inverlochty, where the king chanced to be staying. He took a great oath to provide his help for their party. At this message, the members of the association secretly came to him at Inverlochty, as they had been bidden. In the dark of night Donald admitted them to the king’s bedchamber, while himself going elsewhere, as if unaware of all these things. King Conranus, perceiving that a plot against himself was afoot and that his assassins were at hand, sprang forth from his couch and fell on the ground, begging them to spare an old man who had never done them any harm, and telling them that they should maintain their loyalty and good-will towards their king. They, fearing nothing more than that Conranus might escape their clutches, put him to death on the spot. He died, meeting such an end after having ruled more than thirty years, in the sixteenth year of the reign of King Arthur, which was the twentieth of the Roman emperor Justinian, and the year after the Virgin Birth 535. King Conranus’ body was borne to Iona with the estate customary in those days, and was buried in the sacred tomb of Scotland’s kings. Since he happens to be mentioned, Justinian was no whit inferior to any Roman emperor when it came to the glory of his accomplishments. For he took care that Roman law be reduced to a digest, which was done with such logical force and elegance of style that there is no nation so uncouth, or so far removed from humanity, which has not admired them. He pacified the Persians after they had penetrated the borders of the Roman empire. He freed Africa from the Vandals, Italy from the Goths, and Dalmatia from some tyrant named Mundus, by means of Bellisarius, the noblest general of the age. By the agency of this same Bellisarius, he recovered Rome from King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths, who had possessed it along with all of Italy for several years. This Bellisarius fought many cruel battles with King Totila of the Goths, and protected the city of Rome from the arms of his nation. But the city that had conquered the world was eventually taken when Bellisarius fell victim to a grave disease. Its walls and fortifications were pulled down, and its public and private buildings on the Capitoline, Aventine, Quirinal, Caelian, and the rest of the city’s hills were burned, and its citizens killed to the last man, as it was brought to its final downfall. This served as a warning to all men in all ages of the world how little trust can be placed in human felicity. Rome suffered this wretched tragedy in the year of Christian salvation 550, having in its early years been taken, sacked, and burned by the Senonian Gauls. It had been possessed for several years by the Goths under the leadership of Alaric, and then of his successor Ataulf, and next by the Vandals under the leadership Genseric, who handled it little less brutally than once the Romans had Carthage. Soon Odoacer, likewise a leader of the Vandals, ruled there. After his murder, King Theodoric of the Goths ruled it for many years. It was then retaken by Bellisarius, and restored to a shadow of its erstwhile glory, but after it has been twice besieged, King Totila of the Goths took it by force and subjected it to its final ruination. This city, famed for the deeds of so many very brave men, celebrated by the praises of so many of the learned, the mistress of the human race, was often captured within the space of a few short years, and, made a plaything for the barbarians for over one hundred and thirty-eight years, and went to show that the works of mortals, for whom nothing is lasting, ought to be deemed mortal.
35. But let my discourse return to the point whence it digressed. After the death of Conranus, Congallus’ son Eugenius (who, as I have said, joined Arthur in his campaign against the Saxons) was elected king in a parliament of Scottish elders, and, sitting on the Stone of Destiny in Argyll, where it was then kept, he was crowned, while the people prayed for his prosperity. Some of Conranus’ friends urged the new king to exact vengeance for his uncle’s unjust killing, and use the punishment of the authors of this atrocious deed to serve as a warning to posterity that they should not hotheadedly befoul their hands with royal blood. Unmoved by these words, Eugenius did not only fail to punish Donald of Athol and the other assassins for their dire crime, but, as if he were pleased by his uncle’s death, he even made them his privy counselors. In result, very many men suspected that Eugenius had been the secret moving force behind the conspiracy against Conranus. The whispers about this thing circulating among the people moved Conranus’ wife, fearful lest they were marked down someday to die by the same treachery that had destroyed their father, to take her sons Reginanus and Aidanus and make an escape to Ireland. There she lived for a number of years, and then died together with her son Reginanus, but Aidanus was most honorably protected by the local king. At the beginning of this reign, to make himself popular with one and all, Eugenius exercised wonderful clemency towards his subjects, doing nothing that did not exhibit mildness. He frequently participated in public trials, and he would grant those he suspected of having been unjustly condemned the right to a second trial. At public expense, he aided poor folk who lacked the wherewithal to defend their cases. He forbade wards to be put on trial before attaining maturity, nor any widow to be haled off to judgment at a place more than a mile away than her house. With dire torture, he came down hard on thieves, robbers, and receivers of stolen goods. He took particular care to keep his word regarding his pacts with the Picts and Britons.
36. Some writers claim that in those days King Arthur conquered Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, the Orkneys, Denmark, Sweden, Livonia, Lithuania, Prussia, Pomerania, Zealand, Jutland, Holland, the other Zealand, Brabant, Flanders, Picardy, Normandy, Britanny, and all of France, and subordinated them to his rule, making these nations and their sovereigns his tributaries. Next, he fought battles against the kings of Greece, Persia, the Medes, the Arabs, Egypt, Africa, Spain, and finally against the Roman emperor Lucius, and likewise proved victorious. But let those who write such stuff believe it. It is sufficiently well established that Arthur lived and died while Justinian was ruling the Roman world at a time when the Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, Franks, and sundry other of the world’s peoples were sorely vexing its empire. It is naive to write that so many nations and peoples, so many different kings, quarreling among themselves, could be so unanimous in their sentiments that they could be combined in a fight against Arthur. Then too, at this time very bloody wars were being fought between the Franks and the Goths at this time, in France and Italy, and the historians who write of these make no mention of Arthur. Furthermore, at this time the kingdom of the Normans had not yet been begun. But, however the matter may stand (and I do not say this to detract from anyone else’s glory), the glory and greatness Arthur gained from his achievements were no less than those of any of the British kings who had reigned before him, so that during his reign the wealth and strength of the Britons greatly increased. They also write that Arthur delighted in boxing, and kept about him as his favorite athletes adept in that fighting skill, and that, when it was time to eat or consult about some military matter, he would bid them sit in a circle, so that no man appear to be given precedence. The place for these sessions was called Arthur’s Round Table by the Britons, ourselves, and other nations as well. But, although Arthur deserves to have his memory kept bright by posterity, not just this item about the boxers, but Arthur’s entire reputation, appears to have been sullied by these old wives’ tales in circulation about him, retailed by authors that will remain nameless.
37. But after the Britons had grown wanton as a result of their protracted peace and quiet, they came to regret the treaty into which they had entered with King Lothus, thinking it was dishonorable or unsafe for a man of Pictish blood to govern them. So they begged Arthur to designate the man whom he wished to reign after himself. Arthur found this request unobjectionable, and so he bade them elect some young man ennobled by the ancient blood of their kings, in which the signs of future probity had already begun to be evident, and offer him the crown to rule after himself, since they disliked the rule of a foreigner. The people effusively thanked their most generous king, and after their nobles had discussed this thorny matter for a while, they settled on Constantine, the son of Prince Cadorus of Cornwall. He was a fine young man, strong of body, flourishing in his youth, and they could attest that his singular virtue qualified him to succeed Arthur. They brought him to the public meeting with happy acclamation. Arthur did not spurn this suggestion, and, by vote of the multitude, he declared Constantine Prince of Britain. At the time, this election as prince, not royal dignity, but a title achieved either by right of inheritance or the vote of electors, served as the stepping-stone to the crown. Eventually this title came to be customarily conferred on the eldest sons of kings, so that even in our day we call the heirs of kings princes. When Constantine had thus been shown to the people as the man who would reign after Arthur, he displayed many and various signs of moral uprightness to one and all, by which he won a fine, distinguished name among the Britons, not without a reputation for excellent virtue.
38. Troubled by rumor of these things, King Modredus of the Picts (for a little earlier Lothus had succumbed to the Fates’ necessity, bequeathing posterity with a new name for Pithland, Lothian, because of his excellent probity), and he sent ambassadors to Arthur and the nobles of Britain, saying that ill behooved sovereign kings rashly to violate treaties for no good reason. A treaty existed between Kings Arthur and Modredus, confirmed by their solemn oaths, that no man save for the sons of Anna and Lothus and their issue would ascend the British throne after the death of Arthur. It had now been drawn to the attention of the Pictish nation that, in disregard of their treaty, Constantine of Cornwall had in a public assembly been declared prince of the realm of Britain and Arthur’s designated heir. Therefore they peacefully advised Arthur not to disregard all laws both divine and human by giving his consent to the people’s flattering suasions, for they were not accustomed to decide anything in a pious and holy way. Rather, he should in good faith abide by this holy and pious treaty, and employ his royal dignity to preserve that which had been publicly agreed upon, lest the British people, having impiously transgressed the terms of the treaty, soon experience the wrath of God, that Defender of sworn pacts, to their great detriment. To these words, speaking as instructed by the British nobility, Arthur gave his reply: the treaty between King Arthur and Lothus had been made with the stipulation that, at the death of one of them, it would not be binding on the other. Therefore, since Lothus had deceased, he had displayed to the people Constantine, a right noble man, in whom shone forth the bright seeds of all the virtues, and in promoting him to rule after himself he had not sinned against the terms of the treaty For it was the duty of rulers to strive might and main to ensure that that their realms not fall under the power of a foreigner. Constantine was a British-born man of outstanding uprightness, whereas Modredus was a Pict, and the Picts were a race of men whom the British could not help but fear, if ever they fell under Modredus’ power, for they had ever been antagonistic to British security. It would be difficult for two nations, which for so many centuries had savaged each other with plundering, murder, and suchlike wrongdoings, to unite into a single people under a ruler belonging to either nationality, inasmuch as they had been habituated to prefer a sovereign of their own nation to all other mortals. Therefore, if they were well advised (or rather, because they were well advised), they should rest content with their own borders and not chase after foreign kingdoms. For, should they attempt this and continue bothering their neighbors in their traditional way, any day now they would discover how much trouble their temerity would bring down on themselves, since they could not otherwise be pacified.
39. When the ambassadors brought back these words, many of the Picts shouted aloud, cursing British perfidy, because they were bound by no oath and felt no shame about breaking their treaties, and railed against their own folly in joining them in taking up arms against the Saxons. Such insult was not to be shamefully swallowed. Rather, war must immediately be declared against their treacherous enemy, and all enemies of British perfidy must persist in that war until their power was broken and they were brought back to that former servitude from which they had been freed by Pictish help. All the Picts present agreed, but thought that, before embarking on such a serious business, they should sound out the sentiments of the Scots and Saxons, and discover whether they were willing to play a part in a war against the Britons. When they had determined their sentiments, they would know whether to manage this matter by peace or war. By means of a delegation, Modredus invited the King Eugenius of Scots to take up arms against Arthur, since the perfidy of the British nation in impiously breaking their pact and in appointing Constantine as prince of the realm, and their fraudulent wrongdoing now stood revealed. Eugenius was already annoyed at the Britons because they given a hospitable reception to certain Scotsmen condemned to exile, and helped themselves to horses and money by making raids against their Scottish neighbors. And he agreed all the more readily because, as common report had it, Arthur had made the British kingdom a very secure asylum for enemies of the Scottish commonwealth. After war had been declared, Arthur made his seaboard places secure against the Saxons by his garrisons, and, with a great host of men, marched as quickly as possible against the Scots and Picts. But, before Arthur could arrive there, a great number of Scots and Picts stood beneath their banners along the bank of the Humber. For the confederates had chosen this for their battlefield (as often happened), as if it were the place they were destined to conquer the Britons.
40. When the armies were standing in sight of each other, some of the holy bishops of the three nations, well advised about the public safety, and foreseeing in their minds how terrible and bloody a fight it would be, should they persist in their war, began to negotiate with their captains about a peace. Going to the confederated kings, they showed by many arguments that they should desist from a war that threatened unavoidable evil for all men of Albion who took up such hateful and hurtful arms. Nature had placed them on this same island so that they might jointly defend their security against the mischiefmaking of other nations. The Saxons, always the opponents of their prosperity, could take pleasure from no other spectacle so much as from the pernicious collision of their armies, for this would provide them with the free opportunity to overthrow everything in Albion. Modredus and Eugenius were persuaded by the bishops’ timely words, and decided to lay down their arms, if the Britons would abide by the things they had solemnly sworn when entering into their treaty with King Lothus. Next the bishops went to Arthur and produced many arguments designed to dissuade him from the war. The king’s mind was now inclining towards peace, but Prince Constantine’s kinsmen (who enjoyed no small influence with him) hurled insults at the very pious bishops, saying that the confederate kings had declared war against Arthur before he had against them. Unless their ever-invincible king undertook this war, who could be the defender and champion of British glory? Therefore those men who were urging peace on Arthur were acting foolishly, while the opposing battle-lines were summoning him to war, and while the bugles were blowing, unless they perhaps wanted to betray the army with their peace negotiations.
41. They had scarcely finished speaking when a shout arose on both sides, and immediately they fell to fighting with a will. Although they fought most fiercely, the Britons were hampered by the nature of the terrain. No few of them were prevented by the marshy ground from wielding their axes with their full physical strength, and they were compelled to fight their enemies with less than their usual martial virtue. The battle dragged on for several hours, and consumed such a number of men that the river Humber, flowing alongside the battlefield, ran red with blood and carried many bodies along with itself as it flowed into the sea. In the middle of the battle some very loud-voiced man, suborned for the purpose, cried out in the British language, as if he had a concern for the common safety of the Britons, that Arthur and all the noblest of the British nation were killed, so that they could not rely on their own handicraft: their sole means of safety was flight. This statement overjoyed the Scots and Picts, but filled the Britons with such panic that many of them threw away their arms and took to their heels. Neither their captains’ orders nor their buglers’ calls could restrain them. Others persevered, thinking (as was indeed the case) that this was an enemy trick, and fought to the end. Finally the confederates emerged the victors, routing their enemies’ forces and inflicting such a slaughter such as none involved in the fighting could remember occurring in the past. For in that deadly battle more than twenty thousand Scots and Picts, together with King Modredus and a great host of the nobles of both nations. About thirty thousand of the Britons and their Bretagne auxiliaries died, including King Arthur and Modredus’ brother Gawanus, who was so loyal to Artthur that he fought against his brother that day. Furthermore, there died Caimus, Gwalinus, and nearly the entire British nobility. Many were taken prisoner. For the Humber prevented nearly all who quit the fighting from fleeing any farther, and they, as well as the noblemen, died by the sword down to the last man.
42. On the following day, the British camp was ransacked. In it were discovered Arthur’s consort Queen Guanora, and no few men and women of noble blood. Furthermore, ample spoils were collected and shared out among the victors in the traditional way. The Scots were allotted wagons decorated with precious British ornamentation, horses of noble appearance and speed, arms, and the captive nobles, while Queen Guanora, illustrious men and women, and the rest fell to the Picts. These were led to the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar, which was then a very stoutly fortified stronghold (in our days, the name of the place endures, although nothing of the fort save some traces). There they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude. As proof of this account, there remain plenty of traces of those captives, as anybody can see. At Meigle (a village of Angus, the former Horestia, about ten miles from the town of Dundee) are some tombs of the dead, not without their fame. The most ornate of these is that of Queen Guanora, as we are advised by its inscription. There is a superstition in that district that women who tread on that tomb henceforth remain as barren as was Guanora. Let the experts decide the truth of this. But this I would venture to affirm, that women avoid that tomb as if it were a place of the plague, and hate it so much that they will not even gladly look upon it, and teach the same to their daughters. It does not escape me that the British historian Geoffrey of Monmouth does not locate the battle between Modredus and Arthur along the bankside of the Humber, but rather in the vicinity of the city of Camlann, that Arthur survived the battle, and that Guanora, her reputation destroyed, took the sacred veil and founded a convent, and so greatly deviates from what I am writing about this war. But regarding these things, and others as well, I follow Vairement, Tergotus, and other reliable writers of our national history, because they record things more truthfully, without the tales of itinerant minstrels.
43. But, wherever that bloody battle may have been fought, it is clear enough to everyone that the powers of those three nations were so diminished by it that for several centuries the Scots and Picts could not recover their former glory. A little later, the Britons were attacked again by Saxon arms and their strength was utterly destroyed. When report of this defeat spread throughout Britain, the Britons immediately declared Constantine their king, as they had previously decided, and, lest someone think of seizing the throne, the foully slew the sons of Modredus, who were being raised by Guallanus, while they clung to their mother’s bosom, begging for his help and support, and by their destruction the family of Modredus was entirely extinguished. The year in which the Britons and the other men of Albion were stricken by such a deadly catastrophe was the year of Christ’s Incarnation 542. In this same year, a little before the fatal conflict, many prodigies were reported in Albion. In Yorkshire blood-stained grass was seen to persist for many days; a two-headed calf was born not far from Camelodunum; a male lamb was also a female; the sun shone blood-red at midday; the sky was filled with shooting stars for two days; in Wales, a huge number of owls and jackdaws, and crows fought a battle against an only slightly lower number of rooks, which resulted in a slaughter such as no prior age had ever heard about.
44. When Eugenius returned home and reviewed the remnants of his army, as a kindly sovereign he bestowed generous gifts on the survivors who had done their duty, in proportion to their merits. He liberally gave lands and estates to the sons or nearest kinsmen of those who had died fighting bravely, for assuredly it was his desire that they henceforth display these tokens of virtue so that they would survive and attest to posterity that, the more their ancestors had been loyal to their sovereign and fought for their commonwealth, the more they had been honored by royal generosity. By this kindliness the king procured himself a good reputation among our people and was held in affection, and henceforth he governed his realm more by mercy than by rigor of the law. Meanwhile when the Saxons learned of Arthur’s death in that unhappy battle, they arrived at Albion in various kinds of small boats jam-packed with fighting men, and they defeated the Britons with next to no trouble, drove them into Wales with their King Constantine, and restored their English kingdom. Some write that this Constantine, having ruled Wales for a number of years and having outlived his wife and children, grew weary of his earthly realm. So he furtively stole away from his subjects and went to Ireland, and there, out of his love for Christ, he worked some time in a mill, unrecognized. Then, when he revealed his identity to a monk, at the monk’s urging he shaved his pate and lived in a monastery among a pious college devoted to the service of Christ, and set a model of virtue for his brothers’ imitation. Finally, he was sent to the Scots by the local bishop to instruct the people in Christ’s teachings, and suffered martyrdom at the hands of impious men. A number of years later he was added to the roster of saints, and some churches consecrated to him by episcopal authority can still be seen in our country.
45. At the time when Constantine was driven into Wales, as Bede writes, the English were ruled by Jurminric, their fifth king after Hengist. Although this Jurminric was averse to true piety, he nevertheless did not forbid the preaching of Christ’s teachings among the English, and, being very punctual about keeping his word, entered into a pact with the Scots and Picts which remained inviolate to the end of his life. For the rest of his life, King Eugenius enjoyed peace, and was confronted by no foreign war or domestic sedition. He died in the thirty-forth year of his reign, which was the year of Christian salvation 568, and the sixth year of the principate of the Roman emperor Tiberius II. During his reign King Alboin of the Lombards settled that nation, which had previously had various homes in Europe, in Italy, where it still exists). After Eugenius’ body had been borne to Iona in royal style, his brother Convallus, a man noteworthy for his piety and justice, gained the throne by universal vote. Wonderful things are recorded about this king’s holiness, for he decorated the tops of his castles and towns with the sign of the saving Cross, by which men might be reminded to worship Christ more often. Wherever he went, he had carried before him a silver crucifix, as if it were the truest banner of a Christian sovereign, and before he mounted his horse he would habitually kiss and adore it in the presence of the multitude. A placard was affixed to the pole of the crucifix, upon which was inscribed in gold letters THE GLORY OF CHRISTIANS. He forbade the sign of the Cross to be painted or inscribed on church floors, lest the symbol of salvation be irreverently trodden underfoot. He never addressed a priest without showing great reverence, and he never appeared in church with his head covered. He also proclaimed by edict that a tithe of everything growing out of the earth should be brought to the barns of priests, and likewise that whoever was excommunicated by the clergy was to be shunned and spoken to by no man: justice was to be refused him, should he demand it, no credit was to be placed on his testimony, and he was to be debarred from public meetings. He decorated Christ’s churches with his gifts, and supplied livings for their ministers. So that the shepherds of their flocks (called vicars and rectors) might be free to go about their sacred business, he bestowed on them estates nearby their churches, where they each one could live in seclusion, removed from his congregation, and ready to perform his duties for those who needed them.
46. And so, during the reign of Convallus the religion of Christ flourished wonderfully among the Scots, for all men imitated the habits of their king, which were of the best. The report of such sanctity in the king attracted the very holy man Columba and a company of the pious from Ireland, where he had governed no few monasteries. Quickly this man’s sanctity became so famous among the Scots and Picts that men came a-flocking from every direction, thinking themselves blessed if they were given the chance to behold such a great model of virtue. He gathered together the monks, who had until that time lived in a scattered and solitary condition, and distributed them into abbeys which had been built by Convallus’ piety, where they lived with good morals and a life of uncommon observance. Moving on to Lothian, he cleansed their King Brude (who was the nephew of the previously-mentioned King Lothus by his brother, who was advanced to the throne of the Picts after he died and his line had become extinct), and also his people of their Pelagian madness and instituting true religion, by piously teaching and preaching about the particulars of Christian faith. This was a plague the Picts had brought home as the result of their protracted association with the Britons. With him came into Albion twelve men notable for being instilled with Christ’s teachings, and even more for their very holy manners: Bathenus and Cominus, who presided over the Scottish abbeys after the death of Columbus and conferred no small glory on Christ’s Church; Domitius, Ruthius, and Pethuo, all ennobled by their high birth, but far more so by their sanctity; Scandalus, Eoglodius, Totaneus, Mogteferus, and Gallanus. After Columba had returned to Ireland, these men, establishing their headquarters on the island of Iona, traveled through the districts of the Scots and Picts, and by their efforts in teaching, preaching, and writing, instilled excellent morals and religion in both peoples.
46. Contemporary with Columba lived the excellent Bishop Kentigern, a man born of royal stock, for he was the son of St. Thametes (some call her St. Themis), the daughter of King Lothus. He was born after she had been raped by some young nobleman (some claim he was the aforesaid King Eugenius). He governed the see of Glasgow (although I could imagine it had another name in those days), the most holy Abbot Columbia conversed with him, and he piously and learnedly preached much about the particulars of the Christian religion in the presence of King Brude. A while later Kentigern accompanied Columba to Dunkeld, to the abbey recently built there by Convallus at Columba’s behest. Men from Athol, Caledonia, Horestia, and nearby regions came to him daily in large numbers, to hear them preach Christ’s teachings, and by their instruction, advice, and exhortations they fired them to the observation of true piety. In the place formerly occupied by Dunkeld, celebrated by so many writers, there is now a noble cathedral (as one can see) built of dressed and polished stone and dedicated to the name of St. Columbia, where there exists an episcopal see, generously endowed by the kings of Scotland with estates and revenues for the support of the bishop and his canons. Departing Dunkeld six months later, and shedding pious tears, they bid each other adieu. Kentigern returned to his usual see of Glasgow, and Columbia departed, first, to the Hebrides, and then to Ireland. When he was at Armathwaite, where he first went, he was asked by the nobles and pious folk who had gathered to get a glimpse of him, what miracles he had witnessed in Albion, and whether he had been given a good reception by its kings and people, he replied that the Scots and Picts had received him hospitably, and had eagerly given a hearing to what he had to say about religion. But the miracle he had seen in Albion, which far surpassed any he had ever seen, was King Convallus living amidst luxury, surrounded by more enticements to evil than to good, nevertheless debating with priests, monks, and venerable bishops about sanctimonious living. His proven virtue was held in such reverence by his nation that they would not dare harm others, nor even whisper an unkind word about their king. The result was that their king’s well-tried virtue did more to restrain that fierce people from their usual felonies and domestic seditions, to which they were prone by nature, than did his royal authority.
47. In the following year, at the command of King Convallus, Columba came back to Albion, escorting Aidanus, the son of King Conranus, whom I have described as retiring into Ireland with his mother, to avoid the machinations of Eugenius, so that he might govern his ancestral realm. Columba had scarcely set foot on the shore of Albion when it was reported to him that Convallus had died in the tenth year of his reign, which was the year 578 after the birth of Christ, and that his body was being conveyed in mournful procession to Iona for burial in the royal tomb, to universal sorrow. Hearing this news, Columba immediately crossed over to Iona, so that he might attend the funeral of his royal friend. While he was joined with the clergy in performing the king’s last rites, at a parliament in Argyll Convallus’ brother Kinnatillus was elected king. Undisturbed by this, Columbia went his intended way. Contrary to all men’s expectations, Kinnatillus gave this newcomer to Albion a wonderfully warm reception. He also calmly embraced Aedanus, to everybody’s astonishment, and bid him be of good cheer, saying (it is uncertain in what spirit) that he would soon gain his ancestral kingdom, and that from him would be born kings who would rescue the Scottish nation from many a hardship. For, admitting that he was in extremely ill health, Kinatillus said he was minded to abdicate the kingship and restore it to Aidanus. But his intention was forestalled by his ailment, for on the twentieth day after ascending the throne he was seized by bronchitis and angina.
48. And so he was obliged to leave the government of the kingdom to Aidanus and retire to his bedchamber. After fourteen months the fever that ensued, and the putrescent phlegm that resulted from his long idleness, killed the king. St. Columba attended on Kinatillus while he labored in his extremity, piously begging that he show himself a true Christian in death, just as he had in life, and that he reject the mad delights of this world and aspire to the celestial ones he undoubtedly soon would be gaining. Inasmuch as his ailment allowed, the king complied and, bequeathing his realm to Aidanus, he breathed his blessed last while reclining on Columba’s breast. When Kinatillus was subsequently carried to Iona in accordance with his ancestral tradition, Columba and his pious company did much to confer honor on his funeral. After the king’s burial, a parliament of all the Scottish nation was held in Argyll, and, at the behest of the elders, Columba set the crown on Aidanus’ head as he sat on the Stone of Destiny. Soon a hush fell over them and Columba is said to have set his right hand on the king’s head while holding his staff in his left (this staff with its crook, encased in silver, is still preserved in our days at Dunkeld Cathedral), and to have addressed the people as follows:
49. “I do not imagine (brave sirs) that you have any great need to have your attention drawn to religion, which, as I believe I see, is of a greater concern to you at this time than I understand it to have been in the past. I rather think you should be admonished concerning the unanimous consensus and duty you owe to Aidanus, elected king by the will of God. For I have come to this very crowded meeting and set this royal crown on Aidanus, not in response to your invitation, but rather by divine commandment, and thus you have a king ordained to rule, not just by human choice, but by divine will as well. It will be his part to administer with a fair set of scales this government given him by the goodness of God, insofar as he is able, and to keep it at peace, to refrain from harming all men, but to ward off harm might and main when it is inflicted. And your task is to abide in good-will and harmony, to be content with your own fortunes and seize no one else’s, being mindful of the great benefits God Almighty has conferred on you this day, instructing you in His sacred teaching, so that you will be His dear and special people. And He has given you a king not just elected by one and all, but also one who must rightfully be loved and revered by one and all for his singular virtue. For if do your part properly, never being averse to the worship of true piety, but always heeding those who advise you aright, and if King Aidanus himself always labors for the public welfare, as I am sure he will, and if he attributes the honorable things he does in his government to divine providence, then you can have high hopes that our heavenly God will always be present and propitious to this kingdom, and protect it, illuminated by its faith and religion with His heavenly favor, so that henceforth you will have no enemy, at home or abroad, who you need justly fear. But (and my God Almighty avert this omen) it you deviate from this Christian religion piously given you and from your forefathers’ customs, and do not observe justice and those who administer it, but rather go astray into every manner of crime, or if King Aidanus himself grows forgetful of divine goodness and governs unjustly, then this kingdom of Scotland will undoubtedly suffer sundry buffets, stricken by internal dissension and the hand of your enemy. Then, if you do not quickly repent and appease divine anger, you will learn that it is destined to suffer a dire end. So, therefore, I earnestly urge you to take care (and pray let me convince of you of this) not someday to grow insolent because of your prosperity, provoke divine anger, and expose your private and public safety to the utmost danger.”
50. Moved by these or similar words delivered in Columba’s speech, the entire people voluntarily swore an oath henceforth to be obedient to King Aidanus and the holy admonitions of the priesthood. The meeting broke up, and the king went to Galloway, where he had learned that some British freebooters were doing their ravaging, St. Columba to the Hebrides, and the rest of the multitude who were present at the ceremony went home, save for fighting-bands chosen for the king’s expedition. When the king arrived at Galloway, he found and executed a few robbers, for the rest had heard of his coming and fled. With little trouble he pacified the district, damaged by the ravagers. Then Aidanus, concerned with improving the condition of the Scottish nation, he ordained that there should be annual conventions of nobles in three districts of his realm, Galloway, Lochaber, and Caithness, for the sake of discussing matters of state and administering the law. And he requested Columba to attend these, so he might supervise the observation of religion. The entire nation obeyed their pious king all the more readily, because they were told by St. Columba that this was pleasing in God’s sight. Therefore for a number of years of Aidanus’ reign the Scottish kingdom held law and equity in the greatest reverence.
51. But, human affairs being what they are, it is scarcely granted to any people to exercise wisdom for a long time amidst prosperity. For some Scottish nobles, grown restive in their good fortune, began to quarrel at a hunt, and committed a foul murder. The men responsible were sought for their punishment, and they administered a foul thrashing to the king’s agents, and then, thinking it unsafe to remain in Scottish territory, fled in voluntary exile to King Brude of the Picts in Lothian. King Aidanus, as was usual, requested that Brude hand over the exiles, that he might execute the law on men obviously guilty both of murder and of treason. King Brude was very moved by sympathy for these proscribed young men, and sent frequent embassies seeking to justify this hateful thing in Aidanus’ eyes. By so doing, he transformed other men’s injuries into his own war. For Aidanus became annoyed that Brude was vehemently attempting to forestall the young men’s punishment and, when asked for them by a herald so they might stand their trial, did not return them, so he commanded that plunder be driven off from Horestia in revenge for this insult. So many Scotsmen came a-running (such is mankind’s way, being more prone to the evil than the good) and drove great plunder out of Horestia, killing those Picts who sought to hold on to their fortunes. The Pictish elders took amiss this wrongdoing and, as they saw it, this insult, and they themselves diverted some plunder from Galloway, not without the death of locals. This affray between their peoples was ultimately decided with the sword. With the forces they had managed to collect the Scots and Picts met at Vicomagia, not far from Caledonia, and, after a great number had lost their lives, the victory attended on the Scots, with part of the Picts’ army killed, and part rescued by protracted flight. In that fight died Aidanus’ eldest son Arthurnus, set in charge of the army by Aidanus, a thing which filled the Scots with sorrow more than they were gladdened by the victory. St. Columba, troubled by the report of these things, came to King Aidanus and sharply rebuked him because he had forgotten his divine mandate: he had waged a bloody war against an allied nation for nearly no reason at all, or at least for one that could have easily been rectified, and it was by his fault that so many innocent men had died and so many had been despoiled of their fortunes and reduced to extreme poverty. He prophesied that, if this harm were not soon put right, the king and his entire household would soon suffer a great loss thanks to divine vengeance.
52. Aidanus was terrified by these words of Columba and, understanding that he had no room for making excuses, begged the very holy man to teach him the way in which he might expiate this sin by atonement. When the man of God was departing as if irate, the king humbly attempted to hold him back, and begged him not to abandon the man who he had crowned by God’s authority, and to leave him devoid of counsel and dumbfounded by the anticipation of evil. He confessed that he had sins but, amidst his sighs, he said that he vehemently regretted his crime and would gladly submit to any manner of expiation Columba would care to name. In the face of so great and such pious tears Columba felt a surge of pity, and with great weeping allowed himself to be persuaded. He went to the king of the Picts and discussed the matter with him, how rashly that war had been undertaken, and with what loss it had been continued, and by his pious urgings he turned the king’s mind ot peace. Shuttling back and forth several times, he made himself their referee and, settling their quarrel, he returned them to their former alliance and harmony. Thus leaving behind him Scottish and Pictish affairs in Albion in a pacified condition, he crossed back to his usual home in the Hebrides to instruct God’s servants with his holy admonitions and examples, and soon he fell ill from a superabundance of phlegm, which troubled him until the end of his life.
52. Meanwhile the Saxons inflicted greater harm on the Britons, now driven to Wales, day by day. Lest they have any opportunity to return to their former homes, as Bede writes, they divided the lands they had taken in Albion by force of arms into seven portions and set up seven kingdoms. Northumbria (the kingdom adjoining the Picts) was ruled by Aethelfrith, a man who deeply loathed the British race and, out of his remarkable greed, was very eager to extend his rule. He urged King Brude of the Picts to wage war on the Scots once more, claiming that they had not received due reparations for damage received in the previous war. He promised his help for this fight, both because he was born of the Agathyrsi, from whence the Picts derived their origin, and because he Aethelfrith found the Scots always to be ill-disposed towards the Saxon nation. Aethelfrith did not urge this out of any love for the Picts; rather, he hoped that, when their strength had been broken, he could conquer them by force. At first Brude was averse to Aethelfrith’s suggestion, but he was overcome by the urgings of some of his elders bribed by Aethelfrith, who alleged spurious justifications, and undertook this war against an allied nation. He used the pretext that stolen property had not been returned in accordance with their treaty, and that the Picts dwelling hard by the Scots were daily harassed by Scottish robbery. King Aidanus perceived both the Saxon scheme and the Pictish perfidy, and, so as to make himself their equal in strength, he entered into an agreement with the Britons that, if the Picts and Saxons first broke into British territory, the Scots would come and fight alongside them, but if they first invaded Scotland, the Britons would immediately aid them in fending off harm.
53. Learning of this agreement and its conditions, the Saxons adopted the strategy of luring the Scots outside their own borders, then dragging out the time, so the Scots would be reduced to helplessness by lack of provisions. So, in conjunction with the Picts, they invaded the Britons’ territory. In accordance with the pact, Aidanus immediately appeared with his army to aid the Britons. In describing this war, Bede calls this king Aidanides. For a number of days, Aethelfrith and Brude avoided joining battle, both awaiting greater forces and for the sake of exhausting the Scottish army by depriving it of sleep and food (for it was far away from its home). Finally, on the day they chose for battle, King Cenlinus of Wessex appeared with another contingent of soldiers, far greater than the first one. The Scots and Britons were terrified by their sight, and now dreaded to fight them. But, seeing no hope for safety save in their good right hands, they attacked Cenlinus before he could join forces with Aethelfrith. At the first collision, Cenlinus’ son Cutha was killed, his standards scattered, and their enemies drove the Saxons to flight by a great deal of bloodletting. Although his soldiers were eager to give pursuit, Aidanus did not allow them to leave the battlefield and had his bugler sound the recall, so that he could ascertain what Aethelfrith was undertaking. Then you could hear many eager voices in the victorious army, and soldiers’ cheering together with signs of great rejoicing: singing, dancing, and the sweet sounds of what musical instruments they used in those days. But when they caught sight of their enemy advancing in battle order, since they had gathered their wits after the defeat and rout of Cenlinus’ men, they all suddenly fell silent. Within the army there was not a single word about the victory they had gained, nor of how they might ward off their oncoming enemies.
54. Aidanus gathered that this was not the silence of men chewing on their anger, but rather of downcast minds, had himself lifted up on his soldiers’ shoulders so that he could better be seen, and said, “Where, my fellow soldiers, is that warlike vigor of yours? Where is your indomitable spirit? Have you lost your usual eagerness even before coming to blows? Are you conquered by the mere sight of the enemy, although just now you routed a far larger one? God forbid that you fail yourselves and hand over such a great army to your enemies! God forbid that your enemy rejoice because, thanks to fault, he has gained an enduring bloodless victory over you! Rather, returned to your old high spirits, you should understand that you have a pious reason for fighting, but your enemy an impious one. You should know that the treacherous Aethelfrith is the man who stirred up this war and is its firebrand. Take revenge for this insult. Turn back on him the storm of war and its force, since he brewed it up. You will undoubtedly gain all the rewards for this effort I am able to promise, if you gain the victory. And this now lies in your hands.” The enemies’ attack was the end of his speech. At the beginning of the battle, the Saxons stationed in the front ranks fought very well and gradually obliged the opposing battle-line to back off. Brude and the captains of his nation, commanding a right wing made up of Picts, afflicted a sire slaughter on our men. Soon the Britons, who fought in the van, saw our men being hard-pressed and began to flee themselves. In that encounter, on the Scottish side Brennus, the governor of the island of Mona, was killed. Aidanus’ third son Dongar rescued his father by an exercise of pious dutifulness, for he saw he was in utmost danger and exposed himself to be killed in his place. Then he was cut down by axes, together with no small part of band of young men fighting alongside Aidanus. Flight rescued Aidanus himself, saved from peril by his son and carried away from the battlefield on a swift horse. Among the Saxons, Aethelfrith’s brother Theobald, Cutha, son of King Cenlinus of Wessex, and a numerous host of soldiers were killed, King Aethelfrith lost an eye. Brude was wounded in the thing and carried off the field with the help of his courtiers, and this caused much Pictish loss of life.
55. Aethelfrith did not rest content with this victory gained at Deglaston (the name of the place in Britain near whichthe battle was fought), and in the next summer, having made a levy of the Saxons, he marched into Galloway in the company of Brude and the Pictish forces, for the purpose of laying waste to that district and its environs, so he could gain control at least over them. Understanding what the Saxon and Pictish kings had in mind and their strategy, Aidanus hastened to Galloway together with Britons, summoned in accordance with their treaty by heralds. Upon his arrival he killed no few enemies scattered about bent on plunder, and forced the rest to retreat to their camp. On the following night, he bypassed that camp and joined forces with the British bands (who at this time had arrived in Annandale). The leaders of the Picts and Saxons chose what they imagined to be a battleground favorable for the utter destruction of the enemy forces and occupied the narrow entranceway to Annandale. There remained a single route for an army issuing from the valley, which required a march over quicksand and crossing a river with very few fords. The Scots and Britons appreciated they were shut in the valley, and as quickly as possible fortified their camp with towers, which they manned with lookouts and guards as if they intended to remain. Aidanus himself went about among his guards and lookouts, and, vying with his soldiers in enduring hardships and vigilance, encouraged the men under his standards to exert themselves more by setting an example and putting them to shame than by his voice. When his enemy was least suspecting it, under cover of night he lit great bonfires in his camp and crossed the river by various fords, and quickly they all departed over the sand into Cumbria, and then into Northumbria, with men familiar with the locality serving as their guides. And there they wasted everything with fire and sword. News of these things summoned Aethelfrith and Brude to Northumbria so they might counter their enemies’ endeavors. There soldiers had no rest night or day, until they came in sight of the Scots and Britons.
56. On the following day, when soldiers on both sides were shouting for battle and the trumpets were braying, they came together in a bloody engagement. Many Saxons brought down death on themselves by their boldness, because, shrinking from no kind of weaponry, they rashly hurled themselves into the thick of their enemy with an excessive contempt of death, with fresh men continually coming up to replace their fallen wounded, as their captains kept sending up reinforcements for that part of their army most involved in the action. The battle went on this way for a little while, with fortune favoring neither side. Besides Aidanus, the army had four captains, Constantius and Alecrinus, both Britons, and Callan and Mordoc, men of Scottish blood. They divided the forces between themselves and were railing against their men for their timidity and reproaching them for their cowardice, because the enemy were dying by their own fault and they were not embracing the victory already within their grasp. Over and over, they asked whether their men were waiting until the victory inclined to their enemy and they themselves would resort to shameful flight, and in so doing gain lasting disgrace and the downfall of their noble kingdom. And so the Scots and Britons, infuriated by their captains’ words, fought like madman and vied in exposing themselves to extreme danger. They made the Saxons and Picts break ranks and turn tail. The Scottish soldiers killed the runaways from behind with such great hatred that they did almost more killing during in the flight than in the battle. Our national historians report that, before this battle was fought, St. Columba foresaw these things by divine inspiration and, joined by his band of pious followers in the holy abbey of Colmekill (as he called his monastery on the island of Iona) piously prayed to God for the safety of King Aidanus and the Scots. And afterwards there was no doubt that King Aidanus and his men were fortified by the pious prayers of such a great man. This was all the more clear since at the very moment in which the Saxons fled, he proclaimed in the presence of his brotherhood that Aidanus was victorious and his enemies defeated, and commanded them all to express their great gratitude to God.
57. After this happy battle, when his men were recalled to their standards by the call of his bugle, Aidanus earnestly thanked them for having conducted themselves so vigorously in the fight, undeterred by the number of their enemy or their warlike apparatus, even if they were far from their homeland. And, wearing a generous look, in recognition of such martial virtue he promised them, not the reward they had earned, but such as he could afford to bestow. A great number of men are said to have died in that encounter. The deaths of King Cenlinus of Wessex, together with Cialine and Whitline, both excellent Saxon captains, made the slaughter all the more lamentable. On the following day the victorious army gained opulent booty, and all that the enemies had stolen from the Scots in Galloway and nearby parts was returned by royal command. A tithe of the remainder, together with valuable moveable property, was bestowed on priests of churches for their enrichment. The rest fell to soldiers. King Aidanus sent the Saxon and Pictish banners, together with expensive gifts, to St. Columba on Iona, so that they would remain there in perpetuity as proofs to posterity of that noble victory. Our annals record that in the following year Columba, most beloved throughout his life both to God and Man, who was now the victim both of old age and disease, passed away, as if going to sleep, in the embrace of those disciples he had trained with his pious discipline. Bede says that he died on the island of Hoy, and Irish historians record that he is buried in their town of Down, and that his monument exists there, held in great veneration, with this inscription:
Sanct Colme, Sanct Patrik, and Brigitta pure,
Thir thre in Dune lyis in ane sepulture.
58. King Aidanus did not long survive him. For when he heard of the passing of St. Columba, he was seized by sorrow more than sickness, soon died, after having reigned more than twenty-seven years. His reign fell during the principate of the Roman emperor Maurice, and in the year of Christ the All-Powerful 606. During Aidanus’ reign, the kind of public supplication commonly called a litany, something that for a long time the Romans had been unable to use, was performed as a means of ending a plague caused at Rome by the flooding of the Tiber, and afterwards by authority of Pope Gregory the Great these litanies were made an annual feature of the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, at a time when all men, albeit divided into different social orders, might appeal for divine mercy. The rest of the Christian world adopted this custom, celebrating this feast yearly, when all the people devoted themselves to holy supplications and fasting. And at a time not far different from this, men of notable piety, including Augustine and Mellitus where sent to Albion by Pope Gregory, so they might duly introduce the English people, for the most part averse to true piety down to that very day, to Christ’s teachings. By their preaching and exhortation, Ethelbert, king of the Saxons who dwelt in Kent, together with this entire nation accepted the orthodox faith and was baptized. Most Saxons (henceforth called the English) were more inspired by hatred of the British priests then inhabiting Wales, although they professed the truth, more than by Christian doctrine, about which they had heard many fine things.
59. The English dwelling in the east and south of Albion followed their example, rejected impiety, and enthusiastically submitted to Christian baptism. Aethelfrith was troubled by news of these things and threatened upon his oath that henceforth he would be the enemy of the southern English no less than of the Britons and Scots, for having abandoned their ancestral customs and desecrated the religion of his gods. At this time as these holy men I have mention, lived as their near-contemporaries St. Baldred, a Scotsman and the teacher of Picts. When he had spent his pious sweat on establishing the Picts in the proper faith, he died in the Basse (the name of a castle in Lothian, the one with the best natural defenses of them all, being set on a crag more than two miles offshore and surrounded by the sea). When the men of three parishes, Aldham, Tinningham, and Preston vied to be his burial-place, all of them competing to be honored by such a holy monument, and were on the verge of coming to blows, they all decided to spend the following night keeping vigil with their pious prayers. On the following day they told the local bishop (who had chanced to come, to join in their supplications) that they would set aside their quarrel and do as he instructed regarding the matter. When the night had passed, three coffins containing three corpses, dressed decently in holy garments, and no different from each other in size, color, or any other particular, were discovered by the priests in the doubtful light of dawn. At the bishop’s behest, they were carried to the three neighboring churches with the pious and happy acclamations of their congregations, where, by divine intervention, they were buried with great estate in honorable tombs in these three places, and even in our times are honored by the religious folk with their pious prayers.
60. The remains of King Aidanus’s uncle Drostan, who turned his back on the allurements of this world, and, content with the monastic life, distinguished for his great sanctity, and also of Convallus, a disciple of St. Kentigern, are buried in a famous tomb at Inchinnin, not far from the city of Glasgow, and are still held in great reverence by the people. The former was present at King Aidanus’ funeral, while the was borne from Kilsthorain in Cantyre to the island of Iona. He was also present at little later at the public meeting convened at Argyll by the elders for the election of a new king in place of the deceased one, where Kenneth Cerr, the son of the former King Convallus was elected to replace him. Because he did not live long in the public eye — four months after gaining the crown, he died suddenly of a burst artery in this throat — and had no chance to show what kind of ruler he would have been, or whether he was capable of achieving anything worhty of a king. Just before dying, he bequeathed the kingship to Aidanus’ son Eugenius, with the approval of the nobles. They say that, when his father asked who would gain the throne of Scotland after himself, the holy Columba had prophesied that this Eugenius (some call him Brutus), in preference to his brothers.
61. And so Eugenius came to the throne, the fourth in the line of Scottish kings to have this name. Not unmindful of St. Columba’s teachings, having been steeped in them in his early adolescence, he piously strove to protect what was his own rather than gain possession of what belonged to others. His government was very acceptable in the sight of Christ’s priests, the commoners, rustics, and those nobles who were devoted to equity, but unwelcome to ravagers who were accustomed to supporting themselves by the other men’s toil. Those whom he found to be idlers thanks to the diligent scrutiny of his magistrates, mimes, stage-players, dullards, parasites, and others of that ilk, he either banished from their nation or compelled to earn a living by some handicraft. He regarded theft as the worst of crimes, visiting that crime with far harsher punishment than rape or homicide. He came down on nobody harder than on a nobleman who plundered or did injury to any man, nor did he give honors to anbody more than an upright noble. His method of government made him acceptable and welcome to the upright, but most terrible to the wicked. He was no friend of the Picts and Northumbrian Saxons, becaue the latter persisted in their Saxon impiety, whereas the former supported pagans. Nevertheless, he lived under a truce with both nations, so that neither side hurt the other. In the tenth year of Eugenius’ reign, King Cynegelis of Wessex and King Aethelfrith of Northumbria, helped by Pictish auxiliaries, defeated King Cadwallon of the Britons and drive him into Scotland. He did not stay their long, but crossed over into Britanny. Soon thereafter, with the help of Salamon, the king of the place, he crossed back to Wales, and, having conquered his enemies and killed many thousands of Saxons, he was restored to his kingdom.
62. At this same time Redwald and Ethelbert, kings of East Anglia and Sussex, in order to avenge the damage done their allies the Mercians by Aethelfrith’s impious treachery (for not long before Aethelfrith had done great damage to the Mercians, neighbors of the Northumbrians to the south, because they had embraced Christ’s religion), took up arms against the Northumbrians. In a flat place adjacent to the Humber, not far from Wintringham, an atrocious fight took place. Aethelfrith was defeated, having lost the greater part of his army, and killed in the midst of the fray. They say that, after he was run through by a spear, cast to the ground, and was about to be crushed to death by a rock, he said “I die as I lived, a protector of our gods’ religion and an enemy to the Christians,” and, uttering such blasphemous words, gave up his ghost unto eternal torments. Redwald and Ethelbert, right Christian kings, set up Edwin, a devotee of Christ, in his place. While these things were transpiring, Aethelfrith’s seven sons Aethelfrith, Oswald, Oslaf, Oswin, Ossa, Oswiu and Olsic, took the Picts’ treachery sorely amiss, for they had declined to come to the aid of their father Aethelfrith in his time of urgent peril, as required by their treaty. Fearing Edwin, they had resort to King Eugenius. Aethelfrith’s only daughter Ebba was taken prisoner, but by divine aid eluded her captors, found a small boat, and was carried down the Humber without human aid, and fetched up in the Firth of Forth on that promontory which is called Ebba by us. Landing, she accepted the veil from the local bishop, and was numbered among the holy nuns living there. She finally became the abbess of her order and established herself as a model for imitation for them all, and blessedly continued in her upright morals and holy manner of living to the end of her life. And, although Aethelfrith had worked much harm on the Scottish, when his sons took refuge with Eugenius, he gave them a hospitable reception, as befitted the sons of royalty, at his court. Soon, thanks to the pious sermonizing of bishops and monks (for in those days bishops did such work), the young men turned their backs on pagan impiety and were baptized.
63. Eugenius rebuilt the churches in Galloway and nearby parts which impious Saxon bestiality had destroyed. And he rebuilt its fortresses and placed strong garrisons in them, so they would be protected against any eventuality. After a protracted time of peace, he departed this life in Galloway, famous for his fine deeds, in the fifteenth year after the kingship of Scotland was conferred him. He was buried on Iona, among the sacred tombs of his ancestors. At a time not much different, there came Boniface Curitan, a venerable bishop come from Italy, who landed in the Tay estuary. He first stepped ashore near the mouth of the little stream which now divides the district of Gowrie from Angus. Some say that he had been elected to replace the deceased Pope Gregory the Great, but soon resigned his office and sailed to Albion in order to confirm the Scots, that people at the end of the earth, in sacred doctrine. He is not, however, remembered by those Roman writers who describe the Popes, their acts in this life, and their deaths, because he voluntarily abdicated this most holy office before doing anything worth recording for posterity while he possessed the see of Peter. But, whoever he may have been, whether Boniface III the successor of Sabinian, who served as Bishop of Rome for barely nine months, as some suggest, or whether he had been sent as that pope’s legate and so was imagined to be the pope himself by the ignorant people, many evidences have come down to us that he was a man of noteworthy piety and particularly learned in Scripture. At the place he had landed, he founded a church dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle of Christ. From there he want, for the purpose of preaching, to Tulline, a village three miles from Dundee, where founded a second church dedicated to the name of the same apostle, and he built a third at Restenneth, now an Augustinian priory. After he had spent several years therewith his frequent sermons confirming the people in holy doctrine who came a-flocking to him. Then he traveled through the remainder of Angus, Merne, Mar, Buchan, Boyne and Moray, instructing their people in Christ’s teachings, building no few churches in various places of those districts, all consecrated to the honor of the Apostle Peter. At length he came to Ross, where stayed until the end of his life, expending great pious effort on behalf of the worship of true piety. Notable for his sanctity and learning, he gave up his blessed soul to heaven and left his body to be buried at Rosemarkie.
64. In his travels through Scotland he was accompanied by St. Moluag, a fine bishop of advanced years, who in his youth had learned theology from the venerable Abbot Brandanus. In Argyll and Mar, his favorite haunts, he admonished many men about their personal salvation railed against their vices. Then, becoming Boniface’s companion on the road, together with a great band of the pious, he went to Ross, where he died in the ninety-fourth year of his life, and was buried in the same church as Boniface. The men of Argyll (for they hold him in equal honor) stoutly maintain that his remains abide with themselves in the church at Lismore which is dedicated to him. Whether he was buried at the one place or the other, he is everywhere held in veneration by the pious people. During the reign of this same Eugenius, Guillermus and Columbanus, born of ancient noble Scottish stock, were devotees of true religion held in great reverence by the French. And at about this same time, by the permission of the emperor Phocas, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon, that ancient work of Marcus Agrippa, to the Blessed Virgin and all the saints, banishing the worship of evil demons, for a large number of their statues were still there, and exorcising the place. He ordained that annual services in honor of Christ the Lord, his Mother, and all the saints should be performed with all religions ceremony on November 1.
65. Eugenius was succeeded by his son Ferquhard. Eugenius had three male sons, Ferquhard, Fiacrius, and Donevald. These had been entrusted to the very holy Bishop Conan of Sodor for education in morals in letters, but did not heed their tutor’s precepts in each and every respect. Ferquhard and Donevald were happy enough to give the bishop’s lessons a hearing, but, prideful over their royal pedigree, they thought these would be of little use for rulers, and so did not take them to heart. Fiacrius zealously adopted the bishop as his very wholesome model for self-control and thriftiness, and made up his mind to abandon all human ambition and betake himself somewhere far from human company, where he could wage war against himself and constantly campaign for Christ in this sacred struggle. And so he dressed himself in humble clothing so he would not be recognized, secretly quit his homeland, and when he came to France he asked St. Faro, Bishop of Meaux for some solitary place, and was granted the chapel in which he is now worshiped. There is a constant rumor that it is forbidden for a woman to enter the chapel of that most holy man; if one does, she either goes blind or is driven mad.
66. During the reign of Ferquhard (who, as I have just said, followed his father to the throne) there were no foreign wars, but the Scottish suffered from internal strife, not without the loss of many lives. The king, caught up in every manner of wrongdoing as we was, was of the opinion that, as long as these factions persisted there would be no rebellion against himself, and so he was negligent in resolving these. Before long, the districts of Scotland were so full of murders and plundering that no place could protect a man from suffering harm at the hands of his enemy, and there was no man who could not attest that this had come about because of their criminal king’s negligence, and this created fatal hatred against him. The thing finally went so far that Ferquhard, neither fearing God nor protecting the public safety, and fearful of everyone, was feared by nobody. The nobility of the nation rejected his discreditable manner of government to the point that they appointed umpires for the establishment of peace, and resolved every factional quarrel, with reparations being paid, without consulting the king. At this time, as many men saw it, Ferquhard was wholly given over to his infamies with no sense of shame, and was on the verge of straying into the Pelagian madness, something that happened to no previous Scottish king. The credibility of this report was enhanced by the fact that he constantly consorted with the priests of Britain, who had been infected with that plague for a long time. He sometimes had been observed to mock the baptism of infants and the sacrament of auricular Confession. The elders of Scotland, provoked by the rumor of these things, sent a herald summoning Ferquhard to a parliament, to determine if those popular reports were true or false. He refused the herald’s summons, so they stormed the fortified place in which he was residing, arrested and imprisoned him, and set guards over him so that he could have no human contact.
67. A parliament was then convened about the governance of the kingdom and about Ferquhard: it was variously debated whether he should be deposed, or kept in perpetual public custody. Likewise it was voted that a delegation be sent to France to retrieve Fiacrius so he might govern his father’s kingdom. If they could obtain this by no persuasions, since he was perhaps so excessively addicted to the monastic life that he scorned all human rank, they should go to King Clothar, who then ruled France, and request that he exert his authority in sending back Fiacrius, the heir to their kingdom, to his nation, since, for want of a ruler, it was afloat in a sea of troubles. For they knew by report how much Clothar loved God, how he revered the priesthood, what a diligent a devote he was of equity and religion, and what a friend to kings who properly ruled their republics. The ambassadors followed their instructions and, after a long journey, came to the district of Meaux, where Fiacrius was serving God. Informed of his whereabouts, they were quickly led to him by the locals, because they had a respectable appearance. Heaven advised Fiacrius of the embassy’s arrival in a dream, and with pious tears he prayed our heavenly Father that he in no wise be cheated out of the delights of his solitary life, granted him by God’s goodness. The Almighty heard his prayer, and made him look to the arriving ambassadors as if he were a leper. Therefore the ambassadors came to Fiacrius and, since it seemed as if he were suffering from the most foul disease of them all, they coldly inquired if he wished to return to his own land where, perhaps, by nature’s help his native diet would do more to cure him of this wasting disease than a foreign one: they had been sent by the elders of Scotland for this purpose, that, if he would comply with their requests, they would liberally stand his expenses for anything he desired.
68. Hating all public office no less than the foul plague, Fiacrius’ response was, “I imagine you perceive that I have freely chosen to go off and lead a solitary life rather than indulge in human contact, and this disease you see in me strikes me more as an incitement to change my ways and learn humility than any fault of nature. For you see that my cell, this garment, and this pot made with my own hands are sufficient for me. My condition being what it is, I am content with these things, and there is nothing in human rank I should want beyond them. So go and tell my brothers and the elders of our nation that, above all, they need to revere God and devote themselves to religion, and defend themselves with virtue and piety in observing righteousness, things which no enemy force will ever overcome. As you see, I have no need of expense. Thanks to God’s kindness, things have come to the point that private affairs will henceforth suit my manner of life better than public ones.” Fiacrius had a sister, the most holy virgin Syra. Hearing of her brother’ sanctity, she came to him in the district of Meaux while he was living the life of an anchorite, together with a small bevy of holy virgins. When she and her companions had been encouraged by him in their holy intention, she betook herself to the French countryside, and there she left behind a noble memory of herself, because of the sanctity in which she lived her entire life and her evident signs of sainthood. The aforesaid delegation returned to Scotland, and when in a public meeting they reported the condition in which they had discovered Fiacrius, the terrible disease from which he was suffering, and how foul he was to the human eye, the elders hit on the plan of governing the realm by four men of distinguished virtue, whom that age of the world called custodians, until they could give closer consideration to this very thorny matter.
green 69. Meanwhile Ferquhard, vexed by many different diseases, was kept in public custody. Lest he live on after such great catastrophes to his own disgrace, he committed suicide. He who in life took impious delight in the seditions and murders of his subjects, did not spare himself at his life’s ending. Ferquhard’s death fell in the year of Christ our Savor 632, which was the thirteenth of his reign. After his unhappy demise, a parliament of the entire Scottish nation was convened in Argyll for the purpose of electing a king, and on the appointed day King Eugenius’ third son Donevald, in the company of Bishop Conan, was fetched from the island of Mona and was acclaimed king by the popular vote and authority of the fathers. Having ascended the throne, Donevald modeled his manners after those of his father. Whatever things both religious and secular had fallen into disrepair because of Ferquhard’s sloth, he restored to their erstwhile glory, and because of this he endeared himself to the people at the beginning of his reign. Meanwhile King Cadwallo of the Britons and King Penda of Mercia formed an alliance and made an expedition against King Edwin of Northumbria, depriving him at one stroke of life and kingdom. Then they raged their way through Northumbria, Deira, and the territory of the Picts, not without great slaughter of its inhabitants, and took a great part of them away from Brude by force of arms. Since the Picts could not withstand such great force, and had asked help in vain from Donevald King of Scots, who refused them because of their previous perfidy, they were compelled to suffer the harm with sick hearts. When Donevald heard of Edwin’s death, by means of his ambassadors he urged Cadwallo to allow Eanfrith, the son of King Aethelfrith, despoiled of his kinship by Edwin. When he achieved this with no trouble Aethelfrith left his brothers behind in Scotland and went to Northumbria, and by the doing of Cadwallo and Penda he was given the kingship of Bernicia. For at this time they had divided Northumbria into two kingdoms and named one of them Bernicia. Over one of these they set up Eanfrith as king, and over the other Osric, an evil man possessed of a treacherous character.
70. A kinship between them ensued, but only several years afterwards. For the marriage of Osric’s daughter to Eanfrith brought about that they conspired in a great sin and turned their back on the true piety (which they had embraced a little while earlier, by the doing of Bishops Conan and Paulinus), filling Bernicia and Deira with pagan customs, after having driven out Christ’s priests. This plague spread further abroad and infected many Picts. But these were given into the hands of holy bishops and paid the deserved penalties for having abandoned the truth. King Cadwallo took very ill the madness of Osric and Eanfrith, whom he had raised to the pinnacle of royalty a little earlier, because, like dogs returning to their own vomit, they desired both to seem and to actually be devotees of evil demons rather than of the true religion they had just adopted. At first he attempted to recall their mad minds from impiety to Christ’s wholesome teachings by the pious intervention of priests. But his representatives were rudely driven off by those apostates and came back to Cadwallo a little later, their business unaccomplished. When menacing letters were sent them from the Christian sovereigns in Albion, reproaching Osric and Eanfrith, they unjustly mistreated their bearers: some they killed, and when others fled to churches for refuge, they burned them together with the sacred buildings. The slaughter was increased when pagans furiously raged against Christ’s devotees in the districts ruled by Osric and Eanfrith to such an extent that, had flight not rescued some, scarcely any of the pious would have escaped the sword. In the face of such great an outrage against Christ committed by those treacherous kings, the princes of Albion formed the design of wholly exterminating the Northumbrians for having dared such an unspeakable crime against God and Man.
71. The management of this business was by unanimous consent entrusted to Cadwallo and King Penda of the Mercians. These commanders were joined by many Britons, Picts, and Saxons inspired by the cause of defending piety. Relying on this ardent host and loathing nothing more than pagan impiety, Penda and Cadwallo burst into Northumbria. Osric and Eanfrith confronted them and were defeated and captured when their army was scattered, and then they were placed in public custody where, a few days later, out of fear of rougher punishment they killed each other, dying an unhappy death. Although he was Eanfrith’s brother, on that day no man was seen to be harsher towards the pagans, nor took a larger part in urging the soldiers to conduct themselves bravely, than Oswald. Hence, after Osric and Eanfrith were dead, by unanimous consent the government was awarded to Oswald, so that he might succeed to his father’s throne. In his government he showed himself a true adherent of Christian piety, and, to make a religious beginning, he sent ambassadors to Donevald, at whose court he had lived for nearly eighteen years as an exile, requesting that someone of proven learning and virtue be sent who would restore the Northumbrians in true piety, after they had been turned away from the Christian religion by Osric and Eanfrith, and he promised generously to stand the expenses, and supply the needful things, for this man. Donevald complied with his very pious request, remembering how piously disposed towards God and Man he had been when he had been at his court and received baptism. Therefore Corman, a man of a grave life and outstanding for his learning, was sent to give the men of Northumbria instruction in Christ’s true teachings. When he had consumed a year traveling through the length and breadth of Northumbria, frequently sermonizing in many places, and possibly was offering up the inner details and finer points of theology in an ostentatious spate of words that even a well-read man could barely comprehend, more to show off his reading than to instruct Christ’s sheep, he was so far from making any progress in his teaching and exhortation that nothing seemed less effective for taming the minds and improving the morals of his intended audience.
72. In the following year, Corman returned to his own nation, and at a convention of bishops he launched into a lengthy discourse about how his teachings had made no headway with the Northumbrians: that was a deaf, intractable nation, scarcely capable of being instruction, which not only was heedless of admonitions, but actually opposed the things told them in sermons, as if they were inconvenient to their way of life. And so neither he or anyone else should toil any more in such barren soil. Hearing what Corman had to say, the fathers offered various opinions. Some were of the opinion that Corman and other men of outstanding learning and probity should be sent back to the pious King Oswald in Northumbria, that heed should be taken for the salvation of a Christian flock, and that no effort should be spared: it would soon come to pass that what Cormanus had failed to achieve among this rebellious people would be gained by constant effort, as long as everything was done with sincere love for human salvation. Others disapproved this opinion, thinking that, if the Northumbrians would not give a hearing to Corman, a grave man particularly learned in Scripture, when he preached Christ’s teachings, they would pay attention to nobody. Therefore, since the Northumbrians refused to heed the holy admonitions of such a great man, proven by the evidence of so many erudite men, they would not obey any man’s teachings.
73. The rest had been waiting to hear the view of the right reverend Bishop Aidanus. He said, “Noble fathers, when it comes to weaning men away from impiety and instructing them in true religion, I think a teacher’s great task is to make it clear that whatever he has to say concerning the salvation of his audience is said out of his sincere love for God. When he has induced them to be open to instruction and gained their good-will, it is his duty to teach the ABCs of the Christian faith, redolent with their piety, but without adding any spate of words, and wholly avoiding points that hare difficult to understand or surpass the capacity of an unschooled mind. For, just as human nature is not immediately weaned of its bad habits, so it is to be instructed in any noble art in a step-by-step manner, beginning with those things which are readily comprehended. I imagine that, if you proceed by this method, your precepts can be understood more quickly and more eagerly, and sill stick in men’s minds with greater tenacity and accuracy. If the reverend bishop Corman had taken this or a similar approach, and in instructing this unlettered people, corrupted by pagan errors, had abstained from touching on the fine points of our religion, in the end he would have rendered them obedient to his wholesome precepts. Therefore the fact that things have not gone as Oswald’s pious prayers would have wished, since very few of his nation have abandoned their impiety and embraced Christ’s Name, has not been the fault of that people, but rather of the teacher himself, for teaching lofty things rather than commonplace ones, things which have flown very high above those men’s heads. And so (as long as you gentlemen agree) I urge that we have come to the point that a new man must be sent to the Northumbrians, some teacher of outstanding piety and learning, who in his explanation of Christ’s teachings will first fill their untrained hearts with milk, and then with more solid food, by urging, exhorting, and advising them with great gentleness. My opinion is that it is by this way, and no other, that this people, accustomed to so many hallucinations, will be converted to Christian piety.”
74. The bishops were not unfamiliar with Corman’s style of preaching, and so they gave their approval to Aidanus’ suggestion, and at the same time they all urged him to undertake this pious responsibility and satisfy King Oswald’s holy desire. So as not to seem to be shirking a task he himself had recommended, undertook the burden of going to Northumbria, with the happy support of them all. When he arrived there, he always devoted himself to delivering speeches or preaching with a sweet manner of address. Many Northumbrians came to hear this pious preacher, in such great numbers that they could be contained by no church, so that he was obliged to address them in open-air meetings. But Aidanus was greatly hindered in his sacred work by his ignorance of the Saxon language, so that he was not understood by the people. In order to supply a fitting remedy for this difficulty, the most pious King Oswald stood at a second pulpit, immediately repeating what Aidanus had just said in his native language in the Saxon tongue, serving as the congregation’s pious translator. For the excellent king understood Scottish just as well as Saxon, since he had learned the one at home and the other while living as an exile among the Scots. Therefore the people were moved to embrace Christ’s piety, not just by the holy and constant preaching of Bishop Aidanus, but also by King Oswald’s pious and ardent effort in instructing the multitude. Both of them were held in such great veneration by one and all that the multitude cheerfully went wherever they commanded, with the result that Aidanus baptized more than fifteen thousand within a single week, and some of these developed contempt for the things of fortune and this life, became addicts of sacred learning and preaching, and took up the solitary life. By these things Aidanus came to preside over religious affairs in that region and was remembered by posterity as the Bishop of Northumbria. Like a good shepherd, he taught his pious congregation both by his sacred admonitions and the example of his own life, and nobly protected them from pagan assault, by God’s virtue performing no few miracles. At Oswald’s invitation, Scottish monks and priests came a-flocking to Aidanus, to serve as the very holy man’s helpers in instructing the people. By their teachings they were instructed in Christ’s must wholesome teachings, and nobles and peasants alike, together with their children, pitched into the task of church-building, erecting magnificent churches in Northumbria, some dedicated to Christ our Savior and others to the blessed Virgin. Piety in Northumbria soon grew to the point that it was second to no other English district in its secular or sacred works.
75. Meanwhile King Penda of Mercia, to whom other men’s virtue and all the praise it engendered were hateful, took Oswald’s happy success very greatly amiss, and, envious of that king’s innocence and piety, began to harbor thoughts of seizing the kingdom of Northumbria. His consequent hatred drove him to waging war against Oswald, and he eventually defeated him, put his forces to rout, and killed him. King Oswald’s life was subsequently (but only after the passage of some years) deemed so noble for its sanctity and miracles, that by the holy bishops’ authority he was numbered among the saints. Oswald’s death fell in the twelfth year of Donevald’s reign, and fifteen years after his coming to the Scottish throne, when he chanced to be refreshing himself by carelessly fishing on Loch Tay in the company of his courtiers, he died when his boat capsized, and a few days later his body was retrieved from the water by grapples, carried to Iona, and buried amidst the royal tombs, in the year after the Virgin Birth 645. While Donevald was ruling Scotland, that source of all the world’s evils, Mohamed, died. He was born during the reign of Ferquhard: his father was a devotee of evil demons and it is uncertain whether he was an Arab or a Persian, but his mother is known to have been an Ishmaelite. From boyhood, that Mohamed was reared in the religions of his parents, but, liking neither, for a long time he consorted with Christians, and invented his plague on humanity based those two sources. For, after having first sought to gain his livelihood as a thief in his youth, and was going about his trade, he recruited a gang of robbers. Gaining a reputation by a couple of exploits, he married a widow woman and thus acquired a great amount of money and some castles, which inspired him to far greater things. Thanks to various successes, he came to the point where he was a judge and lawgiver to the Arabs. In his duties he was especially assisted by the monk Sergius, a man of the Nestorian heresy. At the urging of this Sergius, he devised a religion, and to make it more popular, he concocted it taking something from all the sects in the world. He joined devotees of the true Christ in giving his approval to baptism, and confessed the truth of the Virgin Birth. He praised the Psalms and Gospels, but in the form misrepresented in his Koran. He joined the Jews in affirming circumcision. Together with the Sabellians he denied the Trinity. Like Eunomius, he denied the equality of the Father and the Son; like Macedonius, he said that the Holy Ghost was a created being, and, like the Nicolaites, he gave his strong approval to polygamy. Human nature being what is, more prone to lapse than steadfast for the good, this worst of religions enjoyed a luxurious growth and infected countless nations throughout Asia, Africa, and (as we can see nowadays) part of Europe. This pestilence started in about the year of our Lord 635.
76. It is recorded in our annals that at this time the brothers Furseus, Stoilanus and Ulcanus were famous in France for the great sanctity of their lives, born to King Philtanus of Ireland and his consort Galgheta, descended from the kings of Scotland. They founded many monasteries there and lived a very religious life. And in Scotland there lived Conan, Columbanus, Chroniacus, Dimaeus, Bigantus, and Damian, bishops ennobled by their fine piety and sanctity of life. Letters were written to them by the Archbishop Hilary, serving as the Pope at that time, and likewise by John, the chancellor of his see, and John the head of the College of Cardinals, as the Venerable Bede advises posterity. This same author is the source of nearly all I have written about King Aidanus, St. Columba, St. Aidanus, and the other right holy bishops. At the urging of the pope, these men corrected an error they had been following regarding the celebration of Easter. These things were transacted during the reign of Donevald.
77. When that king had succumbed to fatal necessity, his nephew Ferquhard, the son of his brother Ferquhard, succeeded him, a man of keen intellect but possessed of a character that tended towards evil after he had gained the thrown, so much so that it was commonly said that he had been transformed from a liberal man and the kindest of them all into an insatiable, bloodthirsty beast. For as a private citizen he exceeded his means in showing himself generous to all. If any man were to ask for money to redeem his farm or give away his daughter in marriage, he would confer a lavish sum. He frequently conferred benefices on priests and pious devotees of God, particularly the poor who had fallen from riches into poverty, preferring (as many were convinced) that he himself seem destitute than any of his fellow-clansmen. But after gaining the kingdom he did not show himself to be, as before, liberal, God-fearing, a good judge, a corrector of error, or abstemious and sober, but rather he revealed himself to one and all to be an extortionist of good men, an enemy of religion, a bloodthirsty butcher, and a sordid and insatiable all-consuming maelstrom. If he had given any nobleman a free gift while a private citizen, he now demanded back as if it had been a loan, and if the man offered even the slightest demurral, he stripped him of his fortune, and sometimes imprisoned him, or sometimes inflicted the ultimate punishment. Those of Christ’s clergy reported to have any money were put to the question, and he did not desist from their torture until they had acknowledged all the money they owned (if they had any), and paid it into his wallet, and some of the faithful, unable to bear the torment, perished. Rebuked by the bishops for his monstrous crimes, because with his stiff neck he did not heed the advice of Colman and Finnan (they were held in particular veneration by the Scots and that time), he was excommunicated. So, out of contempt for religion, he went out on the hunt while everybody else was at church. A number who liked that way of life accompanied him, so prone are mortals for every kind of license. Contrary to our ancestral custom, he treated himself to sumptuous banquets, delighting in nothing more than stuffing his belly, and at any time and place he was most greedy for wine and any other kind of inebriating drink. With his lengthy dinners and varied stock of dainties, he dragged out his banqueting late into the night, falling asleep at table, and he was accustomed to emptying his stomach with copious, foul regurgitation. No bird in the sky was safe from his gluttony, no fish in the sea, both teemed in that monstrous king’s gullet.
78. Because of these things, he was an object of hatred to one and all. The holy bishops hounded him with their curses for holding Christ’s Church in disdain. Ignoring their authority, he indulged in greater sins and debauched his own daughters. Because his wife objected to this crime, he strangled her with his own hands. When this tyrant’s madness had continued for several years, certain men began to imagine his death. This intention was discussed, not without the awareness of the elders, but Colman forbade it, for he had been informed by the Holy Spirit that King Ferquhard would soon deeply regret what he had done, and was destined soon to pay his deserved forfeits to an avenging God. Nor was his pronouncement found to be an idle one. For scarcely a month later Ferquhard was hunting down a wolf and the beast was being harried by his hounds, in a rage it savagely bit the king in the side. Whether because of the wolf’s bite or for some other reason, the king fell into the most foul of diseases. A virulent humor ate away at his limbs with its slow heat, and his disease tormented him more inwardly than it did without. He also suffered from an inexplicable craving for food, and this dire hunger fed a horrendous evil. His legs, feet and groin seeped a yellow pus, not without an intolerable stench. His belly was swollen and hard, like that of a victim of hydropsy, and his rotten privy parts teemed with worms. When he had been afflicted with these evils for two continual years, and his torment was increasing day by day, so that he was an object of loathing to everybody, he came to himself and dissolved in tears, saying “Colman, Colman, if I had heeded your warnings, I would not be seen to be hateful to all men and myself as well, a victim of such a disgusting disease, henceforth unknown in our nation. My living flesh is turning into worms, and I have justly been stricken by divine vengeance. These strange afflictions, these torments I suffer, and the fact that I am destitute of all help human and divine, unless the Lord should have mercy on me, teach me that I have most gravely sinned against both God and Man. Woe’s me for not heeding this good advice when I could! I shall die, my flesh eaten by worms born within it, those far worst and nastiest of all living things!”
79. After these words, which were followed by loud howls, his servants ran and asked him if he desired the services of a priest. The king stifled his sobs and said, “I ask the help of Colman.“ Therefore Bishop Colman was summoned (he was more than twenty miles away from that place) and released the penitent from his sentence of excommunicated. When Ferquhard had confessed his sins, he kindly consoled him and urged him to be of good cheer and look forward to eternal salvation, and understand that, no matter what sins he may have committed, God’s mercy would not fail him. This was guaranteed by Christ’s law, by all divine and human law? This had been promised by the mouth of God almighty, so that all would believe, when he called on mortals to repent, saying Look unto me, and be ye saved. These words encouraged Ferquhard to hope for forgiveness. With great weeping he implored God’s mercy and, falling to his knees at Colman’s bidding, reverently received Christ’s Communion. Dressed in sackcloth, in his extremity he was borne to a nearby field by his servants, while Colman did all the duty of an excellent priest at his passing. He looked up heavenward and breathed his last, in the eighteenth year of his reign, which was the year of our Lord Christ 664. While Ferquhard was still alive, the holy Aidanus, Bishop of the Northumbrians, died, and St. Finnan, a man of no less learning than Aidanus, was summoned from Scotland by the entreaties of the local folk to take his place as governor of the Church at holy Lindisfarne (as the see of the Bishops of Northumbria was then called). He departed this life after Ferquhard, and both in life and death was famed for his miracles. After his death, Bishop Colman was translated to Lindisfarne, where by his holy admonitions, and above all by the innocence of life, he attracted a great number of Saxons to the worship of true piety, including Penda, the son of the previous Penda. Some say that the the elder Penda was baptized by Finnan. By these things and others, Colman gained a venerable reputation among the Saxons, for he traveled through nearly all of their kingdoms in Albion broadcasting Christ’s teachings, and many men responded to his call. His translation to the see of Lindisfarne occurred in the days of Maldwin, who succeeded Ferquhard on the throne of Scotland. My next narrative will be about him.
80. After Ferquhard had died and been buried on the island of Iona, Maldwin son of Donevald succeeded him in the kingship. He doggedly cultivated peace with the neighboring Picts, Saxons, and Britons, and also Christ’s religion, setting a model for minitation by commoners and noblemen alike. He was likewise diligent in governing, exercising due care in punishing transgressors and keeping his quiet people safe from all harm, so at the beginning of his reign all went well. Then a quarrel arising between the men of Lennox and Argyll somewhat disturbed the state of affairs. For what began as an exchange of insults between shepherds provoked their nobility to take up bloody arms. The men of Argyll were joined by the Hebridians, and the Lennox men by those of Galloway, and this would have posed a serious threat, had not Maldwin taken a fine army and hastened to use his authority and armament to put an end to their boldness and raids. He did not hunt for the people who followed their leaders, but only for the principal authors of this sedition and they, making a virtue out of necessity, reconciled with each other and crossed over to the Hebrides to avoid Maldwin’s arms. But the islands refused to harbor these fugitives, lest they incur the king’s wrath even more than they had already done, and handed them over to his soldiers for punishment when they came looking. Thus the principal faction-leaders were taken captive and thrown in chains; then, taken to the places of their origin, where they died, strung up on gallows. This uprising, rashly begun and quickly put down, made Maldwin’s name such an object of fear to all men that henceforth during his reign the nobility refrained from killing each other.
81. Then the king crossed over to the island of Iona to inspect the tombs of his ancestors. There he saw an ancient tumbledown church, and, having collected the things needful for the construction of a new one, ordered it pulled down. A chapel was quickly begun at royal expense, and was finished before he departed this life, dedicated to Christ and Columba, and outfitted with uncommonly generous donations. At about this same time a great part of the world for a plague that continued for three years, killing more mortalis than it passed over. Nor was the world freed of this pestilence until God’s wrath had been appeased by supplications, fasts, and other such exercise. Our countrymen, not just at that time but also for centuries thereafter, were free of nearly every form of acute fever, and also of plagues of this kind. For deadly pestilences did not rage among the Scots before they abandoned the ancient and wholesome parsimony of their forefathers and, falling into all manner of gluttony, exposed themselves to harm from every disease. Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne observed that a great part of the Saxon nation was perishing from this hateful plague and, by permission of the local king, took his disciples and returned to his native country, so that they would not be consumed by the violence of this atrocious pestilence. He then retired to the Hebrides and founded a monstery, in which he joined his brothers in devoting his life to campaigning for holy religion. After Colman’s departure, the Nothumbrians, with the help of Pictish arms, began greatly to infest Scottish territory with their robberies. Maldwin took his revenge, inflicting even greater damage on the Northumbrians, thereby filling the Picts and the Saxons with very deadly hatred against himself. After a number of forays had been made back forth, and the Saxons and Picts were on the verge of declaring war on the Scots, Maldwin departed this mortal life, strangled in the night, suspecting him of adultery. Nor did this murderess long go avenge. On the day following the king’s murder, she was arrested with er accomplishes, set up a high place, and burned alive. The year of Maldwin’s death was the year of Man’s Salvation 684, and the twentieth year of his reign.
82. In that year Eugenius V, Maldwin’s nephew by his brother Dongardus, unanimously gained the crown of Scotland. Taking the throne, he sent ambassadors to Alchfrith, then the King of Northumbria, to sue for peace by any means they could. Having given them a hearing, Alchfrith pretended to be a lover of peace, although he was thinking of nothing more than war, and, to give himself more time to assemble the things needful for a war, granted the Scots an eleven months’ truce on these conditions: that the Scots pay reparations for all wrongs committed against the Saxons and Picts, and restore what they had stolen; they should receive back what the Saxons and Picts had taken from them; during the truce, the Scots should refrain from raids, thefts, robberies, devastations, or any form of wrongdoing; if they acted contrary to the terms of the truce in any respect, then the Northumbrians and their allies would be free to take up arms against them. Eugenius, well aware of Alchfrith’s intentions, himself devoted all his energies to preparing for a war. But, lest he might rightfully be accused of deceit, he proclaimed by edict that for the period of the truce no man should harm the Northumbrians and Picts, and stationed garrisons along the borders of his lands to prevent any Scottish inroad against their neighbors. In the tenth month, when Alchfrith had finished his war-preparations, he sent his Saxons into Scottish territory for the purpose of disturbing the peace. These men killed a few peasants and drove back to Northumbria a great amount of cattle. Ambassadors were immediately sent to Alchfrith by the king of Scots seeking to retrieve this property, and after a few days were grudgingly granted an audience. Given permission to speak, they fearlessly announced the object of their visit: they were seeking return of stolen property, and, in accordance with their ancient treaty, they demanded that the murderers of helpless folk be handed over for punishment. King Alchfrith’s reply ways, “Tell your king that the Saxons have acted unjustly in this one thing alone, that they inflicted no greater harm on the Scots, a people bound by no oath of faith or treaty, who with their thefts and robberies have deceitfully inflicted fresh damage on their neighboring peoples.” And so they should henceforth expect no more friendship from. himself. War was declared eight days later.
83. King Eugenius heard Alchfrith’s reply and, complaining that the peace had impiously been violated, prayed God Almighty, the Avenger of perfidy, to turn the slaughter back on the head and kingdom of the man who had impiously declared this war, or offered a pretext for its declaration. He assembled a host of armed men and headed for Galloway, because he had learned from his spies that there was where the Saxons and Picts intended to move first. Before the Scots’ entry into that district, a great band of Saxons and Picts had been occupying Galloway, besieging Dunskey, the region’s strongest fortification in those days. While the outcome of this siege was still in doubt, Alchfrith was obliged to break it off and march against the Scots. Alongside the river Lewis, swollen and rapid because of frequent rain, they came together in a terrible battle, because the Scots had sworn mutual oaths not to retreat from their enemy as long as they remained alive. At first the victory hung in the balance, as Alchfrith urged his men to remember their ancient martial virtue and drive back the enemy with their usual force. Nor did King Eugenius hold his silence. He circulated among his men and urged them to keep up their indomitable spirits: Fortune would favor the brave. Advised of this and fearing lest the Picts treacherously attack them from the rear, they grew crestfallen and gradually retired. Alchfrith, seeing his soldiers falling back somewhat, issued a great promise of rewards and urged the Saxons to press their enemy more sharply, as his means of forestalling a flight. While he was standing in the forefront, shouting loudly to inspire his men to fight, he fell, mortally wounded by an arrow shot into his face, which he had left unexposed to do his work of exhortation. The Saxon fighting-line, which had been giving way in that place, was broken and put to rout.
84. There was no more fighting, only a slaughter of the fugitives. For the Saxons, seeking safety in any way they could, disdained all perils in comparison to their enemies. Some plunged into the river Lewis while weighed down by their armor and perished, overcome by its speed and depth. A few stripped off their armor and swam across naked, and reached the farther bank safe and sound. Some who fled by an overland route were ignorant of the terrain and cut off by marshland, winding roads, and steep places, and were put to death by their pursuers. Others, but few in comparison with the slain, ran away to safety at breakneck speed, all but naked. This battle consumed about twenty thousand Saxons, together with Alchfrith, and a little more than six thousand Scotsmen, although a large portion of their remaining army had suffered wounds. Not only the Northumbrians suffered this slaughter, but also the other Saxon nations, which had furnished Alchfrith with a large number of auxiliaries for that battle. King Brude of the Picts, a sincere friend of neither the Scots nor the Saxons, saw both of these nations damaged by the arms of the other, but the Saxons far more so, having lost King Alchfrith, so he turned his forces against Northumbria, weakened by the recent battle, and inflicted great slaughter on its inhabitants. He would doubtless have subjugated or destroyed it, had not St. Cuthbert (the current Bishop of Lindisfarne) defended its helpless people, not with arms, but with pious prayers. For before war had been declared, he had used much reason in attempting to discourage King Alchfrith from undertaking it, for he was not unaware that the entire Northumbrian nation would join their king in paying dire forfeits for his impiety, if he persevered in waging war on the innocent Scottish nation. This Pictish rampage through Northumbria continued until they fell out over the division of the spoils, turned against themselves, and worked great slaughter. This was the reason why they were content with gaining the districts of Deira and Ordolucia, previously occupied by the Saxons then called Bernicia in the English language, and banishing their inhabitants, but refrained from further wrongdoing against the Northumbrians.
85. At a time when the Picts were up in arms and intent on ravaging Northumbria, Eugenius’ Saxon expedition was finished, so he took his victorious army and went home, having gained great plunder. Henceforth Saxon power in Northumbria went into a decline. Not many years thereafter (as Bede and Vairement agree in their reports) they regained their former glory. This great victory was King Eugenius’ final achievement in this mortal life, for he died in the fourth year of his reign and the year of Christ’s Incarnation 688. Well-approved historians write that it was not far from this time that the Saracens set sail from Egypt and occupied Sicily, and then Africa, to the great loss of Christianity. Likewise Illyricum, the present Bosnia, was stormed by the Bulgarians, at that time an impious nation then dwelling alongside the Sea of Azov. Thus was Christianity exposed to the pagans’ harm at that time, thanks to the sloth and criminality of the Roman emperors.
86. After the death of King Eugenius V, there came to the Scottish throne Eugenius VI, the son of Ferquhard, who had been trained in good morals by the guidance and tutelage of the reverend Bishop Adannus and was an excellent adherent of the true religion. At the urging of Cuthbert and Adannus, he made a treaty with the Northumbrians. But by no means could he be induced to enter into a similar one with the Picts, he so detested that nation’s perfidy both for so impiously having shown themselves to be hostile to the Scots, and because they had not stood by their faith to the Northumbrians in the war fought against the Scots. He nevertheless accepted annual truces with that nation. At length, because they were frequently violated, not without injury to the Scots, he dissolved these and by means of a herald declared war on the Picts. Cuthbert and Adannus strove to return these nations, once so closely conjoined, to concord, but, after sending a delegation back and forth and realizing they had undertaken this task in vain, they had resort to divine aid, and held supplications at various places in Albion, at which they themselves were present, on behalf of harmony between all kings. They say that these very holy bishops obtained from God Almighty, to Whose will all empires and human minds are subject both at home and in the field, that, as long as this war continued, the Scots and Picts would never come together in all their strength. Therefore this war was continued by light skirmishes, with varying success on both sides but no great loss of life, until Eugenius’ death, which fell in the year after Christ’s saving Birth 697, the tenth of his reign. His body was taken to Iona, where it lies in a common grave with that of his predecessor Eugenius. It is recorded by our annals that many strange prodigies were seen in Albion that year. The specter of ships fully outfitted for war was seen by many mortals on the river Humber, but quickly vanished. Arms clashed in a church at Camelodunum. At the northernmost point of the island it rained blood. In some Pictish regions milk turned into blood, and cheese into clots. The autumn harvest had a blood-red look. The visions, seen by some and then reported to others, were a great source of terror for many.
87. After King Eugenius had departed this life, Amberkeleth, the nephew of King Eugenius V (some say he was his son, and this seems nearer to the truth) was promoted to the kingship. When he had gained it, he underwent a change of mind and manners. For before gaining the throne he was an earnest man and a fierce protector of the helpless common folk and of priests, and made such a great showing of his virtue that men said he was destined to serve as a model of complete honor to posterity. But, having gained the throne, he became notorious for his gluttony, lust, and remarkable greed, and then he was overwhelmed by the full range of the vices, and, contrary to everyone’s expectation, degenerated into a filthy, infamous wastrel. Since he attempted nothing worthy of a man, and it appeared that the condition of this reign was going to go to ruin because of his misdeeds and dullness. King Garnardus of the Picts, thinking he had gained an opportunity to take revenge on the Scots for old injuries, assembled a strong band of men and, leading them into Scottish territory, afflicted the locals with a dire slaughter. At length King Amberkeleth, reproached because his great softness had exposed his realm to enemy harm, gathered his forces. Then, surrounded by his nobles because he scarce dared show his criminal self to anyone, for he feared everything, he marched against his enemies nonetheless. Encamped alongside the bank of the Tyne, after dinner he went out in the dusk to answer a call of nature, in the company of only two servants, and died by an arrow shot by an unknown hand. Having ruled only two years, he was buried on Iona, after the custom of his ancestors.
88. The elders of the nation were untroubled by the death of such a great monster. Lest their army be in any way endangered for want of a commander, they immediately set Eugenius VII, the brother of the deceased king, in his place, a man of remarkable tallness who did not shrink from honorable enterprises. Having been hailed as king, he held a review of the army and found that it was unfit to confront an enemy, he agreed to a peace with King Garnardus of the Picts, with both sides giving sides as a guarantee that they would make good the injuries they had inflicted. After this, when the Picts departed, he dissolved his army and, so that in accordance with ancestral custom he might assume the crown while seated on the Stone of Destiny, in the company of the Scottish nobility he went to Argyll. An ensuing kinship cemented the pact in which the kings had joined. King Garnardus’ daughter Spontana was married to Eugenius. When she came to be with child the following year she was at murdered in Eugenius’ place (he happened to be away) by two brothers of Athol who were angered by their father’s execution and conspired against the king’s life. Eugenius was accused of this unspeakable crime by men’s murmurs, and was foully placed in peril. For, to the great disgrace and indignity of the royal personage he represented, he was compelled to stand his trial for murder in a public parliament of the realm so revered had Queen Spontana been to one and all. He was found to be innocent of the accusation (for during the time of the trial the authors of the crime were arrested and brought to the fathers in chains), and absolved with general congratulations. Those convicted of this unspeakable crime were hung up by their feet from gallows, naked, so that they might be torn apart alive by swift large dogs. After he had been pronounced innocent, Eugenius was minded to put to death those who had slandered him, but, in obedience to the holy admonitions of Bishop Adannus, he refrained from harming them.
89. Afterwards, turning to religious and secular matters, he took diligent care that the deeds of the kings who had lived before him be preserved in the monuments of historians, so that posterity might read of them in its ardent study of virtue. He ordained that such sacred records be preserved in perpetuity on the island of Iona, in that splendid place once built for them in the monastery, but then in a shabby condition, which he repaired. And he added learned writers honorably maintained at the public expense, to write not just of Scottish affairs, but foreign ones as well. He assumed responsibility for churches and their worship, and treated his holy bishops with wonderful veneration and liberality. So that church livings (which until that time had been meager) might be able to satisfy the honorable requirements of the clergy, he enriched them with a generous donative of estates and land. He made a treaty with the Picts and Saxons, and abided by it throughout his life. Beloved to nobility and commons alike, he died at Abernethy after having reigned seventeen years, of which the last was the year of Christian Salvation 716. During the lifetime of Eugenius VII the sanctity of Donevald, a man of Scottish blood, did much to move men to piety. Conspicuous for his religiosity, he lived among the Picts in isolation at Ogilvy, about six miles from Dundee. He had nine daughters, the eldest of which was named Mazota, the second was named Fincana, and those of the others are lost in the mists of time. These lead a very humble life: barley-bread was their food, water their drink, and they enjoyed only a single meager meal each day, devoting themselves either to near-perpetual prayer or to agriculture, by which they supported their modest life. They tell the story that once Mazota (who was reckoned first in virtue, just as she was in age) confronted a flock of wild geese that which were wont to haunt their farm, because they would consume the larger part of her father’s crops. She forbade them to return, and the birds complied with the holy virgin’s threats. This story gains credit because down to our fathers’ times no such birds were henceforth seen in that district. After the death of their father (for their mother had died a long time ago), they did not think its safe to live alone without a guardian for their chastity. So they went to King Garnardus of the Picts and requested some place where they might more freely worship Christ, to whom they had consecrated their virginity at a tender young age, without the company of men. The king agreed to their pious request, and freely bestowed on them a house at Abernethy, together with a chapel and revenues from the nearby fields for their support. Having lived a religious life there, a one most pleasing to God, they died a blessed death and were buried at the root of an immense oak tree. This place is shown even in our age, and it is held in great reverence by the Christian folk who come a-flocking there, moved by their piety.
90. At that time Abernethy was a Pictish town, the most populous of Otholinia, and it was honored to be the see of the primate of that nation. But later it was torn down and burned, save for the churches of the saints and the homes of its Scottish clergy, at the time when they made an end to the Pictish nation with fire and steel, a thing they did so effectively that at has never returned to its erstwhile splendor and glory. Our best writers state that the aforesaid virgins did not live in that town with St. Brigid during the reign of Conranus, as is commonly believed, but in the time of Eugenius VII. They also say that during the reign of Garnardus (with whom he enjoyed a treaty and alliance throughout his life) this same Eugenius visited this convent of virgins and bestowed rich donatives on it, and that it was that this same place that, a little before he died, he handed over the kingdom of the Scots to his successor Mordach, with the approval of the nobles who were there with him. Having gained the kingdom in this way, Mordach, who was the nephew of Eugenius VII by his brother Amberkeleth, after sitting on the Stone of Destiny in Argyll and being acclaimed king by all men in accordance with custom, throughout his life showed himself to be as gently and liberally disposed to all men as he was before coming to the throne. This excellent king greatly exerted himself to ensure that the nations supported by the island of Albion would be bound by a single consensus, and he cemented peace with the Britons, Picts, and all the English kingdoms by a new treaty. During his reign, as the Venerable Bede records, four nations lived in peace and quiet in Albion (although he follows the Roman custom and calls the entire island Britain), although they greatly differed among themselves regarding their customs, languages, and laws, the Saxons (called by Bede the English, Britons, Scots, and Picts. At this place, I have thought it worthwhile to insert his words about these things, because they very much correspond to my own:
91. “The Picts also at this time are at peace with the English nation, and rejoice in being united in peace and truth with the whole Catholic Church. The Scots that inhabit Britain, satisfied with their own territories, meditate no hostilities against the nation of the English. The Britons, though they, for the most part, through innate hatred, are adverse to the English nation, and wrongfully, and from wicked custom, oppose the appointed Easter of the whole Catholic Church; yet, from both the Divine and human power withstanding them, can in no way prevail as they desire; for though in part they are their own masters yet elsewhere they are also brought under subjection to the English. Such being the peaceable and calm disposition of the times, many of the Northumbrians, as well of the nobility as private persons, laying aside their weapons, rather incline to dedicate both themselves and their children to the tonsure and monastic vows, than to study martial discipline. What will be the end hereof, the next age will show.” With those words, Bede ends his history, finishing at the year of Grace 731. In that year, Mordach succumbed to fatal necessity, after ruling Scotland for sixteen years. Before dying, however, at great expense he restored some pious places destroyed by war’s tumult but not yet repaired by his predecessors. Among these was Whithorn, where the blessed Bishop Ninian shone for his daily miracles, of a number such as we never hear of being performed in Albion before or since. Bede calls this place Pictinimia, and the bishop who presided over the see of Whithorn Acta, the first man to preside over that see after St. Ninian. If this was the case, it is necessary to say to say that henceforth the see of Whithorn lapsled into desuetude, since our annals say that down to the time of Malcolm III those who lived in the Hebrides, Galloway, and nearby parts were subject in religious matters to the bishop of Sodor, who had his see on the island of Mona, and that the see of Whithorn was revived rather than originally founded by that king. Our historian report that after the completion of his history of the English race Bede did not long survive, being worn out by old age, and that he lived very piously disposed towards God and Man, and died a happy death in the arms of his disciples at Durham (a town in Northumbria, now an episcopal see), in the year of human Salvation 734.
92. Italy vies with Albion in claiming to be Bede’s place of birth, for the Italians claim that he was a Genoa-born man, that it was there that he paid his final debt to nature, and that in that city his tomb is venerated by one and all down to this very day. But, wherever he traced his origin and wherever he died, it is agreed by his own writings and those of others that he passed his youth in Italy, but that at an advanced age he spent a great deal of time living among the pious monks of Melrose in Northumbria (this is the name of an abbey in Scottish territory, ever-famous for its most pious men and religious devotees), and died when Ethfinus was ruling Scotland. This Ethfinus was the son of King Eugenius VII, who came to the throne after his cousin Mordach. He was a man born for the observation of peace and justice, and did not swerve from the treaties with the Britons, English, and Picts that Eugenius and Mordach had observed before him. Throughout his life he earnestly sought to purge his kingdom of malefactors, protect the helpless common folk, and promote holy religion. Therefore during his reign Scottish prosperity was enhanced by peace, quiet, and religious observation. By his doing, ravagers and those who sought to stir up quarrels between the nobility and peasantry, or made nuisances of themselves in any other way, were eliminated. Everybody held their king in such reverence for his well-known virtue, and in such fear for his just administration of the realm, that there was nobody who dared even whisper an adverse remark against him, or who who could do so with justice. Or at least this was true as long as he governed the realm by himself. But when he fell victim to extreme old age, four men were appointed by decree of the elders, Dowald, the Treasurer of Argyll, Colan and Mordach, governors of Athol and Galloway, and Conrath Thane of Moray, to be regents of the realm, and Scottish affairs did not go as well as before. Since these dictators did not administer the law punctually for all men, but industriously favored their kinsmen, allowing the nobility to revert to their erstwhile arrogance and granting excessive license to the young, the Scottish state paid a great price. For Donald of the Islands, a very tall man possessed of a character averse to virtue, placed himself at the head of some ravagers and roamed his way through villages and the countryside, stealing things of human use from anyone he chose. Since nobody came forth to defend them, the peasantry of Galloway was reduced to a condition worse than servitude.
93. Nor did Mordach, the man responsible for Galloway next to the king, restrain Donald’s great sauciness, so pernicious to that people, either because they were joined by some kinship, or more likely because he was a partner in his crime and received his share of the booty. The common folk were reduced to extreme poverty by this constant pilling and polling, and when they addressed their complaints to Mordach they often received a rebuff. While their king was suffering from extreme ill health, there was no man to apply a remedy to those evils. Raising their hands heavenward, they deplored their woes among themselves. But the more they complained, the more they were always oppressed by Donald’s savagery, and this afflicted race had no glimmer of hope for a more quiet life until Ethfinus died in the thirtieth year of his reign and King Mordach’s son Eugenius VIII came to the throne, in about the year of Christ 762. All men judged that Eugenius’ reign had a happy beginning, because, after Ethfinus’ body had been borne to Iona and he had assumed the royal insignia in Argyll in accordance with ancient custom, at a parliament convened for the purpose, he did not rest night or day until he had taken Donald captive, not without bloodshed, and showed him to the people suffering the penalty of his crimes together with his accomplices. Nor was the king’s wrath satisfied by his punishment: Mordach too was put to the question and confessed he had played a part in those crimes, so his fortune was confiscated, his lands divided up between the citizens of Galloway in proportion to their rank, and he was beheaded. Dowald, Colan and Contrath were accused of treason for having allowed Donald to rifle the fortunes of the helpless common folk, They strove to defend themselves, saying that during Ethfinus’ illness the administration of Galloway had been entrusted to Mordach, not themselves. But they were adjudged to be not entirely free of guilt, and were heavily fined.
94. The pacification of Galloway by punishments of this kind had the effect of making the king’s name a source of dread to all men, so much so that for the remainder of his reign neither internal quarrels or the traditional theft of peasants’ fortunes by the soldiery appeared likely to regain any strength. The people therefore greatly rejoiced to have acquired a king who appeared to value the public safety more than his own life, who cleaved to peace, who loved religion, and who imitated his predecessors in abiding in his sworn treaty with the English, Britons, and Picts. But, human nature being what it is, and license being ever prone to evil, while ruling in peace and quiet, Eugenius lapsed into very foul crimes: he abounded in superhuman wantonness, being a destroyer of the chastity of virgins and noble matrons, and taking delight in gluttons, tosspots, and those who invented novel pleasures and monstrous forms of sexual congress, kinds of fellows he confessed to be his particular favorites, and he was a friend to them all. And, as always happens, when plunged in these vices he daily indulged in worse crimes. He indulged in avarice, and in murder (so that he could acquire the fortunes of rich men with all the more freedom), and contempt of religion. He raged against the wealth of the clergy and holy bishops, so that he might satisfy his bevy of felons, those insatiable monsters of vice. Such great crimes did not long go unpunished. For the fathers came to realized that the king could not be restrained, either by the holy admonitions of his bishops or reverence for God and His saints, from such foul and pernicious malfeasances, and saw him twisting the laws in the courtroom so as to be able to execute some innocent wealthy citizen and criminally appropriate his fortune. Therefore some nobles entered into an association and stabbed him to death with their daggers by prearrangement. That criminal crew that had been accustomed to accompany their king wherever he went were arrested and hanged on gallows, presenting a welcome spectacle to the people. Such was the death of Eugene VIII, after he had governed Scotland for three years. Although many were of the opinion that his body should be stuffed down a sewer or cast into a field as food for wild beasts, lest his ancestors’ glory be diminished or tarnished by such an outrage, by authority of the magistrates, it was taken to Iona and buried among the royal tombs.
95. After Eugenius, the government devolved on Fergus III, the son of King Ethfinus. His character was not markedly different from that of Eugenius Having gained his royal title while set on the Stone of Destiny in Argyll, he impudently displayed all the vices which he had kept concealed until that time, and seemed to be striving to surpass Eugenius in his infamies. Transformed from an abstemious man into a drunkard and a glutton, from a chaste man into (in everyone’s opinion) more than a womanizer, neglecting government, a a boon companion of plate-lickers and face-stuffers. Everybody else hated him. He kept a crew of whores at home, and forced his lawful wife to serve as their handmaiden, to her disgrace, and perform the nastiest of service for them. The woman took this very sorely amiss and piously warned her husband that, if he desired to be a serious ruler, he should abstain from such great crimes. She told him that if he sullied his marriage-bed with the infamy of a brothel so often, and persisted in such hateful wrongs, he would pay his due forfeits when he least feared it, to the disgrace of his royal family. Fergus was more irritated than altered by rebukes of this kind, and, when his felonies daily increased, the woman burned with wage, both because she was cheated out of her conjugal fidelity and because the public hatred of against him because of his evil live, she preferred to forfeit her lawful marriage than suffer all those whores’ insults, and so, deciding to do away with Fergus rather than be preserved for greater mistreatment, at night she strangled him. On the following the king’s body was carried into the courtroom so that inquest might be held into the identity of his murder (although exceedingly few men were troubled by Fergus’ death). The king’s friends were in attendance, plunged in gloomy silence, and some of them petitioned the nobles to prosecute those responsible for the crime with all diligence. Many of the king’s familiars were arrested (nobody at all even silently accused the queen of the king’s murder, because she before now had always been regarded as modest). But when nobody confessed to the crime even when put to torture, the queen felt conscious-stricken, not as much for the crime she had committed as at seeing all those innocents being tortured. So she quickly came to the place, and, standing on a platform, addressed the people as follows:
96. “I have no idea, my people, I have no idea what god is driving me, or what divine vengeance is afflicting me with various thoughts, that today and last night I have had no rest at all, either of mind or body. For when I heard that innocents are being tortured with such inhumanity, unless what little modesty remains in me, and I confess it is very small, had restrained my anger a little, I would have killed myself, the worst of all evils. The king has been killed by my doing. My conscience compels me to ignore my own safety, lest harmless men wrongly die, and admit that the crime is my own. Therefore rest assured that nobody whom you have put to the question has any share of the guilt. By the gods of truth, I am the woman who last night with these criminal hands of mine strangled Ferguson, whose murder I see you to be debating. I was moved by the two most bitter provocations a woman can experience, impatience with his lust and anger. Fergus cheated me out of my marriage-rights with his immoderate use of whores. And so, when I had lost hope of achieving a reconciliation with my husband by my frequent suasions, a great anger flamed up and drove me to such a monstrous crime. I preferred to do away with that adulterer than, deprived of a husband and cheated of my royal honor, be prostituted to the constant insults of his whores. So you must let go all those men accused of murdering the king. And there will be no need for you to inflict on me the punishment prescribed by the laws. In your sight I myself, who dared such an unspeakable crime, will now punish myself. You may determine what honor is due the dead.” Saying these words, she produced a knife she had hidden in her clothing and plunged it into her heart, and, falling on the wound, she collapsed in death. Many were amazed at the woman’s great audacity, and admired to her for confessing the crime so as to free innocent men from their extreme peril, and for doing violence to herself so she would not live on as a laughing-stock or be compelled to explain the reason for the murder, to her great shame. Others condemned her on both scores, as if it were contrary to the law either to allow any person to reveal either his own crime or that of anybody else, or to kill oneself as a punishment for crime before the court had handed down a verdict.
97.While the crowd was divided in its opinions, at the magistrates’ bidding Fergus’ body was carried to Iona, in the third year of his reign, which was the year of mankind’s Savior 767. The queen was denied Christian burial, because she was a suicide. In Fergus’ place was set Solvathius, the son of Eugenius VIII, a man born for great things, had the Fates allowed it. For in the third year of his reign, while at the hunt he caught a chill and became afflicted with gout and arthritis, and these served as no small impediment to his performing his duties in the manner of an excellent leader, either at home or in the field. While the king was suffering from this handicap, a certain upheaval overtook him, which had its beginning in the Hebrides. Banus MacDonald had been appointed governor of Tiree (the name of an island) as a royal favor. Hot for innovation and supported by the criminally-disposed young men of the Hebrides, he treacherously gained control of the king’s fortification and styled himself King of the Hebrides, placing all the islands under his government, some taken by force, and others freely surrendered. Not content with these, he sailed to the mainland with many longboats, where he wrought much havoc in Cantyre and Lorne. Against his tyranny the king sent Duthquhalus and Culan, his governors of Athol and Argyll, together with a choice band of soldiers. At the first encounter they defeated Banus, put him to rout, and drove him into very unfavorable terrain, together with his scattered army. In Lorne there is is a broad and grassy plain, ringed round by a chain of steep mountain ridges with a deep river flowing beneath them, a river with rocky and all but insurmountable banks. A single road leads into the plain, and there is no other exit. Banus, unfamiliar with that countryside, was driven into this. When he tried to retrace his steps, having no other avenue of escape, he discovered that the gateway in the mountains was blocked by his enemies. Then the Hebridians came to a halt, looking at each other and debating how they could get away. After they had consumed the day exchanging various ideas, sometimes contradictory ones, night fell on them in their uncertainty. While their unfed guards stood their watch, they asked each other what remained for them to steal, and were able to offer each other no consolation.
98. For the next two days a hangdog silence prevailed among the islanders. Then on the following day, at the urging of their extreme hunger, they sent a herald to Duthquhalus and Cullan humbly prayed that the Hebridians be allowed to lay down their weapons, accept whatever terms they cared to dictate, and depart for their islands, retaining only their lives. This was not granted, and after many vain attempts to escape their very unpleasant position through various places in the mountains, in the end they took up their arms in the dubious light of dawn, made a sally against their enemies, and where killed to the last man. This was done by command of Duthquhalus, so that the Hebridians’ calamity would serve as a warning to others what a risky thing it is to rebel against one’s sovereign. Next, these captains took their victorious army and went to the Hebrides, where they pacified everything. Another rising followed, this one in Galloway, where Gillequham, the son of the Donald whom a little earlier I described as running rampant under King Eugenius VIII, and then being defeated and hanged, gathered a host of robbers and threw everything into confusion. But, with its author and his confederates defeated with small trouble and with its ringleaders put to death, this disturbance was easily settled by the same men who had put down the Hebridians’ rising. At the same time the Saxons in England and the Britons in Wales were troubled by internal seditions, created the number of their kings, their differences in religious customs, and by protracted peace and its attendant prosperity. Nor were the Picts lacking in their concealed grudges. The peoples of Albion were so troubled by these internal dissensions that for a number of years no war was waged against a foreign nation. This is the reason why the reign of Solvathius was a peaceful one. Thanks to the efforts of his nobility, all the districts of Scotland were steadfast in their loyalty, just as if the king had been conducting annual progresses through them. With robbery abolished, the kingdom was administered properly. Solvathius’ government lasted for twenty years, and when these had passed he departed this life, venerated and respected by one and all, in the year after our Savior’s birth 787. During the reign of Solvathius, there were men among our fellow countrymen regarded as outstanding for their learning and the innocence of their lives: Bishop Macarius, to whom is dedicated the cathedral at Aberdeen; the archdeacon Devinicus, the abbot Conganus, and Dunstan, himself an abbot who acted as father to a number of monks. These and the great number that followed them as their disciples excelled as preachers of Christian law, and served, as it were, as bright torches bringing pious and wholesome illumination to our countrymen. I am well aware that there are those who assign these right holy men to different times. But I remain unswerving from my original plan of following Vairement and John Campbell in their reckoning of dates, and will continue my work, of whatever quality it may be, as I have begun it.