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N the preceding Book I spoke of the beginning of the seven kingdoms and of the endings six of them encountered, i. e., the Kentishmen, South Saxons, East Angles, East Saxons, Mercians and Northumbrians, and also of the wars between their petty kings and their seditions. Now I must explain the growth of the West Saxon kingdom, tell ing when the other kingdoms were adjoined to it, doing so in a way that the order of kings can at all times square with chronology. Egbert, a youth of great hope and consummate virtue, was by all men hailed as the seventeenth king of the West Saxons from Cerdric, as has been shown above, assumed the power and began with the best of omens. For he was most skilled at fighting since he had applied himself to the martial art with diligence during his French exile. Therefore at the very beginning of his rule he subdued the Britons (i. e., the Welsh). For they, desirous of liberty, would seize even the least of opportunities to revolt from the English, and attacked them every day, so that those who had been conquered in every possible way refused to be conquered. Having accomplished this business well and quickly, now his authority and name had great power because of the reputation of this accomplishment and he was a source of fear for his neighboring petty kings, for they perceived he was such in the art of warfare that they could imagine him threatening their own fortunes. This particularly stung the mind of King Bertulph of the Mercians, a very vigorous man. He knew full well that it would be dangerous to fight against such a brave and skilled man, nevertheless he was also well aware that this would make his achievement all the more glorious if it turned out well, he decided to fight with Egbert. He therefore quickly assembled an army and declared war on him. The West Saxon king did not refuse a battle, and soon marched out his army. They joined battle, which was hard fought but indecisive. In the end the Mercians, who had been wearied by their journey and by the long contest, gradually began to flee. Seeing this, the West Saxons fought with greater vigor and, pursuing their fleeing enemy, they inflicted a great slaughter. Egbert, having won this victory, became so hopeful that he now persuaded himself it would be easy for him to overcome his neighboring peoples, since he saw their kingdoms were manifestly headed for a downfall, and he decided to invade King Ethelwoph of Kent first of all, who was held in low esteem by the Kentishmen as a man of little esteem. Therefore he with his entire army invaded Kent, and for a long time no man was found to resist him. He devastated the region in all parts, giving the hamlets to his soldiers for the burning and pillaging. Ethelvolph, who had little faith in his powers, was terrified by this sudden development, and was so far from daring to fight, as some writers tell us, that he even took to his heels and spent the rest of his life in exile. Nonetheless others, which whom I agree, who wrote that he collected a band of fighters as quickly as he could, manfully fought his enemy, and was taken prisoner while fighting nobly. But, however the matter was conducted, the result was that Egbert prevailed and gained the kingdom of Kent. In this way the power of the West Saxons grew wonderfully and they became more formidable to their neighbors, so that everyone readily obeyed Egbert. And so, that he might also break the power of the Mercians, he urged the East Anglians to ready an army and invade the Mercians, for a little earlier he had renewed their pact and joined the East Anglians to himself in friendship and alliance. They did so, partly to satisfy the king, but partly to avenge injuries received at the hands of the Mercians, who a few days before had ruined their land with incursions, and so in no way did they begrudge this action. In that fight, although it was a hurly-burly, Bernulph the Mercian king fell in the first clash. Then anger and hatred urged them on, and they came together again. In this fight Ludicen, the successor of Bernulph, was killed. Thus the Mercians were weakened, and in open warfare Egbert attacked Uthlac, who had succdeded Ludicen, captured him, and sent him under the yoke. In the face of such a great success the Northumbrians, as they say, were knocked off their perch, since they preferred to surrender themselves rather than suffer hostile aggression. Furthermore, with their kings banished or killed, their Danish yoke thrown off, they were afflicted by seditions at home and barbarian incursions, and so they sent ambassadors to Egbert entrusted to him their towns, citizens, fields, and all their townsmen’s fortunes, public and private, so he would take them under his protection. King Egbert gladly accepted this surrender and bid them be of good cheer, promising them they would suffer no more harm from the barbarians.
2. Thus the noble kingdom of the Northumbrians was in the end occupied by the West Saxons. Some, however, relate the downfall of this kingdom differently, stating that the West Saxon king had attacked Ethelbert or Adlred, the last Northumbrian king, and that both he and his kingdom came into his enemy’s power. I would not doubt the truth of this tradition, if chronology would allow it. For. as I showed in the preceding Book, it is agreed that thirty or more years intervened between the expulsion of the kings and the time Egbert conquered the Northumbrians. Also, at the same time Egbert deprived King Juthred of the East Saxons of his realm, conquering him with little trouble. In this way the state of the West Saxons grew until the day that it had absorbed the three wealthiest kingdoms, and part of the island which remained (Scotland always excepted), i. e., the kingdoms of the Mercians and East Anglians, counted for nothing, for it was helpless and destined soon to fall into the power of the West Saxons, as afterwards occurred. This was not otherwise than Egbert hoped for and expected, for now he had all but received supreme power in his hands, and partly so that the British name might be abolished and the memory of his race might be perpetuated in the island, and partly so that all its people might enjoy a single law and a single name, he was the first to call Britain England and all its people Englishmen, and he ordained by edict that this should endure forever. After this, this wise prince, in no wise elated by such great success, which usually deludes men’s minds, and dealt with all men with the same kindness, graciousness and generosity. His greatest zeal was for the peace and piety when, behold, the Dacians disturbed this honorable leisure (thus human affairs are at any moment exposed to countless misfortunes). These men prepared a fleet and, sailing the sea like so many pirates, came to the shore of the German sea and fell upon the land, beginning their plundering. As soon as this was reported the king, assembling a few forces, as is wont to occur in a sudden emergency, went to meet the enemies and fell on them as they were roaming about in no order, unawares. At first the fight went against the English, but the king urged his soldiers on, both by fighting bravely himself and by reminding them how shameful it would be to be bested by pirates and thieves. The Dacians for their part, when they perceived that the English were having difficulty resisting and were exhausted, redoubled there effort, killed many Englishmen, and surrounded Egbert. Now night was falling and the king, despairing of his safety, escaped with great difficulty along with only a very few men. And the Dacians, although they knew they were strong, were nevertheless fearful lest in a hostile land they fall into a trap, and so broke off their pursuit. The West Saxon king, on that very night which had protected him from death, was in no wise broken by this reversal, with great effort gathered and restored his army, since various men of his had escaped whole from the fight and were scattered. Meanwhile a rumor of this defeat had spread, and many armed men hastened to join the their king. When, therefore, a sufficient army had been gathered, he led all his forces against the enemy, and when he joined battle again he scattered them with no trouble, since they were wearied by their fight against foreigners. Part of the Dacians were cut down on the spot, part escaped to their ships and immediately set sail. After this victory Egbert, praised to the skies for his victor’s glory, since he had inherited a very small kingdom and by his industry made it by far the largest, now worn out by old age, departed this life in the thirty-seventh year of his life, the year of human salvation 836. He left behind a young son named Ethelwolph, who succeeded him. His father, being well aware that a king to wishes to earn praise must be brave, just, severe, grave, magnanimous, liberal, and kind, thus trained him from boyhood that at every moment he was worthy of royal praise. In the beginning he was bound by a religious obligation, having been ordained a sub-deacon. But by the authority of Pope Leo he was freed of this obligation and wed Osburga, a very choice girl.
3. But before I write anything about him, I have thought it timely to speak about the origin of the Dacians, who were also called the Davi by the ancients. For these men, leaving their homes, ranged as far as England, sometimes despoiling fields and homes like robbers, sometimes fighting by the rules of war after they had gained a kingdom in the island. But these things will be told below at the appropriate place, now let me discuss the origin of this fierce race. The Goths, a very ferocious German or Scythian race (for writers do not agree on this point), were called both Getae and Dacians by the writers of antiquity. In Book VII of his Geography Strabo writes that the Getae had their own homes, separate and distinct from those of the Dacians, since the Dacians dwelt in inland regions towards Germany and nearer to the sources of the Danube, and that they were once called the davi, but the Getae dwelt in the east, nearer to the Black Sea. Therefore the Getae and the Dacians appear to have been a single race, and only distinguished by their homes, since by the testimony of this writer they employed the same language. Peace was granted them by Augustus, and they were forbidden to cross the boundary of the Danube. They soon violated this injunction, and killed two Roman who had been sent with all their forces to punish them for this injury, first Oppius Sabinus, and then Cornelius Fuscius, during the reign of Domitian. Subsequently Trajan drove them from Roman territory and had sorely afflicted them once they were driven back to their own homes. Afterwards Antoninus (the one called Caracalla), leading his army against the Parthians, thought that the Dacians would not remain peaceable and therefore unexpectedly attacked and subdued them. Then Gordian II readily repressed them when they revolted. Greater movements by this people ensued. For during the reign of Philip (the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity) a number of uncivilized nations violated the borders of the Roman Empire and afflicted Thrace and Lycia in particular. At this time or not much later, when the fates were dragging the glory of the Roman name towards its downfall, this same kind of human dregs erupted in all parts of the world. For the Goths invaded Asia, having first ruined Bithynia, Macedonia, and a goodly part of Thrace. The emperor Claudius II practically exterminated this nomadic barbarian scum, killing or capturing more than 300,000. But they did not long remain peaceable, and when they took up arms once more they were conquered by Aurelianus beyond the Danube. And so at length the Goths, again and again undone by so many defeats, long abstained from arms, until at the last, when Valens had obtained possession of the Eastern Empire, they were also bested and routed by the Huns. These men, even if at first they were called Goths, were subsequently called by the ancients Getae and Dacians, and it is well known that among those savage peoples who, under the leadership of the Goths, violated the borders of the Empire during the reign of Philip were the Getae and Dacians. And so it is said that these Dacians or Getae, afflicted by so many reversals, driven from their homes, migrated to the extreme northern part of Germany and called it Dacia after themselves. This part stretches into the sea as an arm-like peninsula. And lest the Getic or Dacian name be separated from the Gothic, they are said also to have named an island not far north of Dacia, which they occupied at that time or later, Gothia. And this, together with the peninsula itself, is possessed by the same nation, and, the ancient name of this place having been forgotten, thanks to their domination is called Dacia. Once Cimbri, once defeated by Caius Marius, possessed this land, but never did a single nation inhabit it. This is the reason, I think, that its ancient name has disappeared. And ancient Dacia, which was a neighbor to the Pannonians, is today called Walachia because after the Dacians were expelled and were seeing other homes, a Roman colony was sent there, and in their language Walach means an Italian. There were two factions of the Walachs, the Dragulae and the Danes. But in my lifetime the Dragulae, being unequal to the Danes, invited the Turks into that land, and they nearly exterminated the Danes although John Huniades, the father of King Matthew of the Pannonians, restored them and rescued them for themselves and the Christian name. Hence we need to understand that at present these are Dcians or Danes, and that we should not call the inhabitants of the Cimbrian peninsula Danes, since even today these live in Walachia, but rather Dacians. For they, ejected from their ancestral homes, finally betook themselves to this peninsula. And the truth of this is shown by the fact that the lord of that region calls himself King of the Dacians, not King of the Danes, as is clear from his charters. So it is beyond doubt that historians are wrong who in their works described the inhabitants of that sea Danes instead of Dacians. One of the most conspicuous to fall into this error is Saxo Grammaticus, the recent historian of that nation, if the printed text is not erroneous. Ans so, lest I fall into the same error, I have preferred not to follow such authors in this point. But let us return to our subject. And so this savage race, which now inhabits the German ocean, and which once had its home beyond the Danube, since it was oppressed by a large and daily-increasing population, at length harried the English (for England is not far across the sea from Dacia), until it had brought it into subjection. So much, in summary form, of the origin of the Dacians.
4. Now I return to Ethelwolph. Nothing was more important for this man, richly endowed in all respects, who can justly be compared with his father, whom Nature had beyond doubt produced for kindness and justice, than to deserve well of his people at all times, and always to place the most fair men in charge of his affairs. This was especially done at the behest of Sts. Swithen and Adelstan, famed in those days for their holiness and prudence, who the king had among his most intimate advisors. And so peace and justice flourished everywhere, when a great band of Dacians arrived from their homeland. and in their greed for plunder again ranged the island, causing much suffering for the islanders. And the king, of necessity taking up the arms which his nature would have gladly abjured, often harried them with vigor. And yet this impious race, racing about hither and thither like so many beasts and cruelly exercising their savagery against all men, devastated various places in the realm, and most especially Kent. But now the islanders finally expelled them from the island, loaded down with booty. Freed from this trouble, the King soon thereafter went to Rome to fulfill a vow, where he received a kind reception from Pope Leo IV. In imitation of Inas (as I have previously recorded), he made the rest of the island which his father Egbert had annexed to the kingdom tributary to the Papacy. And he passed a law that any man who earned thirty pence per year on his possessions, or who had more than that at home, should pay one penny a year to the Pope on the day of the Feast of Peter and Paul, or at the very least on Lammas Day, which law some men wrongly attribute to Alured his son. This was the year of human salvation 746. This king is also said to have restored a school at Rome first founded by King Offa of the Mercians, which had burned down a little before his arrival at Rome. And I am of the opinion that this school, where Englishmen devote themselves to the goodly arts as long as they remain in Rome, was in that place where afterwards was built the hostelry dedicated to St. Thomas, where Englishmen have their lodging. King Ethelwolph lingered at Rome the better part of a year. Afterwards returning home, he showed himself not only a merciful prince, but also the best of fathers to all his subjects, being a man who referred everything to the pursuit of honesty and modesty. By his wife Osburga he fathered Ethelbald, Ethelbert, Ethelred, and Alfred or Alured, young men of excellent character and beauty, whom he took great pains to have instructed in the goodly arts. But he had no greater care than that they turn out liberal and generous. For this wisest of fathers knew that a prince can suffer from no greater vice than avarice, which comes wrapped up in all manner of wrongdoing, since if he rules many, then it is necessary that this evil should affect many fortunes. And so these sons, raised in good morality by their father, reigned in turn after his death. While Ethelwolph was living in this modesty of manners and life, he was touched by a light disease and gave up the ghost in the twentieth year of his reign. His body was taken to Winchester and there given honorable burial. At this same time there flourished in sanctity of life the virgins Modevena among the Irish, and Achea and Ositha among the English. The first was killed by the Dacians, but the others were pierced by no darts of misfortune. Therefore Ositha the martyr and the virgins Modevena and Achea were afterwards added to the roster of saints. Next Ethelbald became king, the nineteenth after Cerdic, who only reigned for five months. For he fell into a sudden fever and died thereof. Ethelbert followed him after he died so young, a man very worthy for his age, father, and ancestry. But immediately at the start of his reign a great band of Dacians burst into the island, and ranged the fields of Kent, causing great woes for its inhabitants. The king encountered them and did not break off his pursuit until he inflicted a great slaughter and drove them all out of the island. Then afterwards, having done this thing well, the king devised more things daily for increasing the tranquility of the realm, but died before completing the fifth year of his reign. then Ethelbert’s brother Ethelred, the twenty-second after Cerdic, was made king, a man who was peaceable and kindly at home, who by his reputation and grace allured all men to amity and benevolence, but he was not the same in his foreign dealings. For, being skilled in martial discipline, there was nothing that he did not to with severity, and thus he was famed both in peace and war, although it was denied him long to enjoy life or peace. For he only lived six years, and in nearly the whole space of htat time he was troubled by continual floods of wars.
5. For the Dacians, who had already learned of the fertility of the island, often carried off great plunder, and both by deceit and by open war they strove thus to weaken the English that at length they could gain government over the island, and so they fought daily battles and threw it into commotion. Etheldred often joined battle and fought with them. For this reason the Dacians, conceiving victory in their minds, when they saw they accomplish nothing more by behaving like freebooters, decided to invade the island with a proper army. Therefore not long afterwards their king Ivar appeared with a great fleet and sailed into the mouth of the Humber. Eager to fight for supreme power, he invaded the territory. Meanwhile the king, who was no more behindhand, hastened near as soon as he heard that the enemy had arrived. When he came in sight of them, he drew up his men into a battle line, arranging them as follows. He stationed part of his horsemen on the left wing with all his auxiliaries, and over them he placed his younger brother Alured, a man of singular virtue, and he wished the officers to obey Aludred’s command. But on the right he placed the rest of his horsemen with a large number of archers and the flower of his footmen, where he himself was stationed. While the English army thus readied itself for the fight, the Dacians, who had no less high spirits and zeal for accomplishing this thing, approached in readied ranks. When at the same moment the sign was given on either side, they came together at an eager rush and fought with varying success. But the English, seeing the enemy run at them with their spears as violently as they could, and when they appreciated they could not encounter them on an equal footing, then (as being skilled by experience and practiced in previous battles) they gradually retired and halted in a middle space to that they would not approach the enemy with their strength exhausted, and so that in the meanwhile their enemy’s fury might cool off a little. And so, after a small pause and with their onrush resumed, they hastened towards the enemy at full speed. Nor were the Dacians unequal to this, for they both withstood the English assault and maintained their ranks. Then they all drew their swords and ran forward and their archers shot a full volley. The English could not withstand their violence and retreated a little. Now they were thinking of flight. When their king saw this, he directed all his horsemen to receive this assault. The Dacians did not budge from their place, but somewhat halted in their advance. With night coming on, the English did the same, and this was most welcome to both sides. For they had fought from dawn to dusk, and night broke up the skirmishing on the left wing, where many men had resorted when exhausted by their effort. And the bodies of the slain lay everywhere, impeding the battle. Therefore the signal for retreat was readily given by both sides, and this was highly opportune for the English, who had been resisting with such difficulty that a rumor of their defeat had already spread, to the point that the Northumbrians came extremely close to deserting at the behest of the Mercians. That night the Dacians were greatly troubled, knowing full well that they must either die or conquer in this hostile land. They attended to their bodies with food, they collected their corpses and at the same attended to their wounded, and lay down to sleep. But the English, who that day had almost been vanquished, readied reinforcements, since men kept running from all sides bringing help to their countrymen. And so on the morrow the sky grew pale, after fresh men had replaced the weary, they came out to fight with high spirits, which scarcely gave pause to their enemy, albeit they were exhausted by this foreign fight and were not reinforced. The battle was therefore renewed, and for a little while fought on even terms. For the death of Ivar, who was immediately hewn down fighting in the forefront, so disheartened the Dacians that they immediately turned tail. And before they could find safety a goodly number of them were killed. But after they had occupied a place suitable for their camp, they immediately appointed as their captains the brothers Agner and Hubo, whom I have mentioned above, who showed wonderful zeal in striving to repair the army. What Saxo Grammticus has written does not agree with these things, who writes that when Ivar saw that the lion’s skin did not succeed, donned the skin of the fox, i. e., that he mistrusted in his strength and attacked the enemy by deceit. Furthermore, as says the same writer, after peace with the English had been achieved, Ivar obtained from them as much land as he could encompass with a horse-hide. So he slit the hide into the smallest thongs he could and gained land sufficient for erecting a city. And then, the war being renewed, he gained power in this way. But two years later he was obliged to return home became of a revolt, and left Agner behind to protect the island. Saxo does not give the name of the city Ivar built by this clever scheme. But the town called Doncaster seems to have taken its name from this bit of trickery, for the English use th for d, and we may suppose the name was Dongcaster, i. e., Thongcaster. But let me return to the subject. Ethelred, although he had gained a great victory, refused to scorn his enemies’ strength and omitted no means for completing the remainder of the business, since he understood a great number of men was constantly coming to the island to support their countrymen, and soon this multitude was at hand. Two weeks after their setback, with a rebuilt army, the Danes came to blows with the English with undoubting hope and so routed them and put them to flight that this came close to being the final day the English could resist the Danes. Then the victorious army turned to pillaging and began to range widely for plunder. And when they were over-free in overrunning their enemies’ lands, they unexpectedly fell into the trap which Etheldredus set for them as they raged, for he had collected his countrymen as they were running away. There the English killed no few fleeing Danes, but not without their own losses, one of which was Ethelred himself, who was wounded and soon died of the excruciating pain. This was the sixth year of his reign, and such was his fame that his premature death seems to have done nothing to diminish it, especially because on his deathbed he bequeathed the task of caring for the realm to his brother Alured (whom he had already made his heir), a man of equally splendid virtue.
6. After Alured came to power, at the first time possible he went to Rome to fulfill a vow, where he was crowned a second time by Pope Hadrian II, and htis was in the year of salvation 871. So it is impossible that he received this honor from Leo IV, as those who are in a deep sleep when it comes to chronology. In the interim the Dacians did not hold their peace, for they invaded Mercia and deprived King Bertulph of his rule. Not much later they were again expelled by Buthred, but soon thereafter they in turn drove him from his kingdom and, as I have told at length in the preceding Book, gained power over Mercia and set up Cleowoph as king. Then they made their attack on the Northumbrians, and conquered them when out of fear they had taken refuge in York, and after capturing the city they sacked it. Having done these things prosperously and elated by their success, they lastly overwhelmed the East Angles and killed their king Edmund, that most holy man. And when these had been conquered, they set up one of their captains, Guthurm, as their king. His successor was Eric, likewise a Dane, whom the English finally killed for lording it over them with cruelty. Thus at that time the Danes possessed Mercia and likewise ruled the East Anglians, and they bent all their might to overwhelm the West Saxons, for it grieved them that this nation’s power was growing. Alured was praiseworthy both for his foreign exploits and his domestic innovations, and also for his supreme intellect and prudence. From the beginning of his reign everything was most difficult, and also requiring great exertion, but also most prosperous. The Dacians begrudged this excellent ruler so many virtues, and they sought to put him down as quickly as they could. For when he once was at a manor he possessed in the territory of London, and sometimes went to the hunt for relaxation, they made a sudden flying raid there with a large number of warriors, and pent up the king within the walls of his manor unawares. The very few English soldiers who were there, terrified by this sudden development, urged the king that he should look to his safety in flight while they made a sally. But he, thinking this unbecoming and unworthy of royal majesty, and that he would be reproached for this, decided to confront his danger, and, confronting his attackers, put up a stout fight. But when he saw that he and his men were surrounded by a large number of enemies, then at length, albeit unwillingly, of necessity he fled. But he did not seek a place of concealment, rather, like a good general, leaving the fury of the enemy behind him, he scraped together an army as quickly as he could and confronted the Dacians, who, hearing of the gathering of their enemies, did not dare march against him and retreated to London. Greatly fearing the king’s powers, they began to treat of peace by ambassadors. The conditions of peace were that never at any time hereafter would they trouble the West Saxons with invasions or plundering expeditions, and that go guarantee the treaty they would surrender hostages. Some writers that the conditions were in particular that the Dacians would leave the island, never to return, but this is so contrary both to truth and to fact, since they ruled far and wide, and would do no such thing unless compelled by a power which did not yet exist. The king did not reject these conditions, since by now he loathed war in comparison with pace, so that, if there was a cessation from arms, he would be able to ornament his nation with learning, which at that time was rare, and strengthen it with laws. Therefore, accepting the hostages, he not unwillingly consented to the pact, even if it were destined to last only a brief time. For the Dacians, who thought that faith and religion were less important than their advantage, immediately thereafter moved from London toards Exeter and took the city by storm. Exeter is a city of Devonshire, set in a high place facing westward, and it is watered by the river Exe from which it takes its name. When Alured heard of this crime, he swiftly killed the hostages in requital for the broken truce, and marched against the enemy.
7. The Dacians did not wait upon the king’s arrival. Either to weary him in his pursuit or genuinely panic-strticken, they abandoned Exeter and swiftly retreated towards Longon by way of Chipenhyam, which as a village seventeen miles from Bristol, and there they established a camp defended by a wall. Bristol is a town on the Severn estuary facing the west. It is watered by the river Avon, by which smaller ships can sail to it. Learning this, the king soon turned aside from his way and pitched camp nearby the enemy, striving to provoke them to a battle by taunts and insults. The Dacians, who knew full well they must either fight or die, made no delay in preparing for a battle. On both sides the call to arms was given, so that evern man might arm himself. With no signal having been given, the English rushed into the fight, even if they were disordered and few in number, and made such a hot-blooded assault on their enemy that this very audacity terrified them yet more. But afterwards, being few against many, since their small numbers were unsafe, the English looked at each other, and, being oppressed on every side, they began to form a circle. Although this was the best plan, yet the Danes pressed them so much that they were packed together and scarce had the space to ply their weapons. And thus, albeit forced into this circle, they killed many Dacians, among whom was Agner’s brother Hubo and many other noble captains. In the end the English, surrounded by a circle of their enemies until late in the day, were killed all around. So they broke out and retired to their camp. This battle was fought on such equal terms that neither side could tell which was the victor and which the vanquish. Afterwards they tended their wounded and buried their dead. In particular, the Danes buried Hubo with great ceremony. Having done so, they marched towards Abingdon, a village on the Thames, about forty-five miles from London, and when they had arrived they encamped. And soon thereafter the English appeared and pitched their camp near their enemies. Meanwhile the rumor spread that Alured had been defeated by the Dacians, since little by little he had broken off the battle and led his men back to camp. But this was to his advantage. For many a man came running to his king to bring help. On the day after his arrival Alured brought out his enlarged army for a fight. Nor did his enemies delay the battle, but manfully stood to their task after it had begun sharply. Gathering together their army, nowhere else did they fight in such numbers or with such courage, since the fight was waged with such anger that neither side shot missiles. The work was done with swords, and it was begun with energy. And its outcome was so doubtful that the fight against the Dacians, who previously had been routed, put to flight, and conquered, but rather with some new nation. Neither side readied itself for flight, and matters came to such a pitch of effort and danger that on both sides the horsemen dismissed their mounts and fought against each other on foot. Now blood flowed freely everywhere, the piles of bodies impeded the fighters when night checked them, putting an end to this fight, none more glorious in human memory. It was wholly uncertain to which side the victory fell, thus much they fought on equal terms. They say the English and Danes fought seven times in that year with equal danger and glory, and in the end, after the powers of both had been much weakened, they readily entered into a treaty, and peace was made on these conditions, that the Dacians abstain from arms, making no war or working no treachery against the English, nor summon new fighters out of Dacia. Some write that as a result of this treaty all the Dacians went back to their homeland, which is an inaccurate report, since this was not done. This was the fifth year of the reign of Alured, in which year the Dacians wintered at London, as was their custom.
8. But now I must speak of the arrival of Rollo, from whom the Dukes of Normandy (who gained England itself) derive their origin, in England, and then in France, so that my history may proceed in due order. Rollo, a Dacian, came to England about the year of human salvation 886 with a throng of young men seeking a new home, so they might join themselves to their countrymen and with joined forces eradicate the race and name of the English. But when he found that his Dacians, now wearied by a protracted war, had made a truce with the English, he disliked this. And thinking he should by no means abstain from arms, he burst into English territory to work harm on his enemy, laying waste to everything with fire and sword. This created no little fear and trouble for King Alured, who had hoped for a brief respite from arms. But, thinking that, in the face of this arrival of a new enemy, nothing was safer than speed, he hastened to go and confront their enterprises, and made preparations to resist. Therefore battle was joined and many men lost on both sides, but the loss for the Dacians was the greater. After this, when Rollo chanced to fall asleep, such as often befalls wearied bodies, they say that in a dream he saw a swarm of bees flying over himself and his army. With a great noise they crossed the sea and sought the Continent, and there they gathered and fed on the flowers of various trees. Then they went to the shore of the French sea and gathered there flowers in one place. He immediately awoke and immediately began to ponder this dream, regarding it as prophetic, as if assuredly knowing that it foretold a future happiness and release from his labors in France. But others tell a different story, relating that he dreamt he was suddenly afflicted by leprosy but cured by washing in the spring of a certain mountain, and afterwards that the climbed to the summit of this same mountain. And some dream-interpreter is said to have explained that the leprosy signified the vain worship of pagan gods by which he was gripped, the spring was baptized and then gained his desire, and thus he finally attained to the mountain top, i. e., to supreme glory. And so Rollo, full of good hope, set sail and crossed to France, and first of all busied himself with ravaging the Celtic part of it, on the shore of the French sea about the mouth of the Seine. Then, taking advantage of the Seine’s commodity, he sailed upstream to Rouen and assaulted the city. at length, after long hoping for assistance that never came and fearful for themselves and their property, the citizens voluntarily surrendered. Caesar testifies that this city was once possessed by the Aulerci. Having gained it, Rollo turned his mind to seizing nearby places, thinking it very conducive to this thing that three navigable rivers, the Seine, the Loire and the Garonne, could serve his purpose. Therefore, gathering the largest army he could and outfitting a fleet, part went along the Loire and part overland, filling all France with great terror and bloodshed. For harassing the enemies, who daily grew more numerous as the gathered men from their neighbors, Rollo sent his fighting men in all directions. They burned all the villages and buildings that they saw, pillaging everywhere, and King Charles of France, named The Simple, certainly a man of upright life but not covered with martial glory, thought he could appease this savage enemy’s mind by offering good advice rather than by arms, sent ambassadors to ask Rollo for a three months’ truce. And since this was very opportune for the Dacian, who wished to rest his soldiers after such great effort, it was not denied. So a three-month treaty was arranged with the King of France, and as soon as it expired Rollo mustered his army and assaulted the people of Chartres, seeking to take their city by storm. And after he had encircled it with a siege, Richard Duke of Burgundy (the Burgundians were once called the Sequani) came with a large army to aid the besieged, and immediately launched an attack on the enemy. When the men of the city saw this, they all regained their spirits and, with their bishop leading them instead of a standard-bearer, carrying a shirt which they say had belonged to the Virgin Mary and praying for divine help, they made a sally against their enemy. The Dacian leader could not withstand this assault, and fled to a place not far distance, not without great loss of life, and there he wrathfully collected his scattered men from their flight, and soon, bursting forth in all directions, ordered his men to harry all places belonging to his enemy. And they, partly inspired by hope of plunder, partly by hatred, most cruelly vexed the poor Frenchmen with their pillaging and killing, sparing neither age nor sex, even most cruelly firing churches and private homes.
9. In this way the barbarians befouled things both divine and human. But the French for their part railed agains their king for being slow and idle, and for having no concern for repelling force by force. Then Charles himself, who far more trusted in the help of our great God than in arms, seeing the strength of the enemy to have grown too great to be safely resisted, earnestly strove to lead this nation, by nature savage in its manners, to the knowledge of the truth and join it to his friendship, again sent ambassadors to Rollo to exhort him to Christian piety, and to say that, if he embraced it wholeheartedly, he would bestow on him his daughter Aegidia, beautiful in appearance and likewise in her morals, with a great dowry. The leader of this embassy was Bishop Francio of Rouen, a man Rollo knew and liked. Wherefore he, who had already begun to tire of these constant movements of war and become more mild-mannered from consorting with the French, gave the ambassadors a friendly hearing and communicated their proposals to his men. All agreed not to reject these conditions of peace, but no other response was given to the ambassadors other than that Rollo desired to confer with King Charles. The ambassadors speedily returned to the king and related the results. Therefore, taking mature counsel, Charles met with Rollo and gave him his daughter, and at that the same time gave him as his daughter’s dowry that Celtic part which at the time was called Neustria and bordered on Britanny. Accepting this region, Rollo called it Northmania, since men from the north had occupied it. But later usage omitted the th for euphony’s sake, and it came to be called Normandy. This all comes from Norman writers, I do not know how accurately and truthfully, since other and more faithful historians do not agree with them, as it is agreed that before the coming of Rollo to France the Normans had invaded that region together with the Dacians,under the leadership of Gottfried and Sigifried, and had accepted part of Neustria from Charles the Fat. And so they report that Rollo had joined forces with his Norman countrymen and taken for his home the region which Charles the Fat had bestowed on King Gottfried of the Norman. They say this was done when Charles the Simple ruled the French, but that Aegidia was the daughter of King Lothar, not of Charles, and that Charles the Fat himself bestowed her on King Gottfried. And this was a source of error, since those writers imagined she was wed to Rollo, who is known to have married Opes, daughter of Count Berengarius of Beauvais. I have thought it well to advise the reader of these things so I might follow my rule, since I have promised to produce a very honest history, and so have chosen to report writers’ opinions when appropriate so that my readers will not be left in the dark about obscurities. But let us go back.
10. Having thus gained power in a hostile land, Rollo became less troublesome to men. What are we to say of the fact that he soon became both kindly and pious, since he scarcely shrank from religion, and was of his own free will baptized by Bishop Francio of Rouen and named Robert after Earl Robert of Poitiers, whom they say stood as his godfather? Some write that the Normans were commanded to pay a yearly tribute to the kings of France as lords of Neustria, so that the region could not be said to have been conquered in war but rather bestowed by Charles. So this Rollo was the first Duke of Normandy, from whom the other dukes took their origin, and finally Duke William the Bastard who, as will be shown at the appropriate place, obtained the kingdom of England. After Rollo died of old age his son William, born of Opes, followed him, of whom I shall speak in a convenient place. Now I return to Alured.
11. The Dacians existed in this treaty with the English, as has been said, until they broke their faith and attacked unawares Alured’s horsemen, who had stations around the borders of his kingdom, killing them to a man. Indignant at this thing, the king pursued the enemy as far as Exeter, but since they had entered the city at their first assault and were making preparations to exist, he thought he should break off his undertaking and again granted peace to the enemy on receipt of hostages, more so that he might in this way resist adverse fortune a little while, until he had caught his breath, than that he had any trust in their well-known treachery. But the Dacians did not remain quiet for a minute after entering into this truce, being enemies of peace. Then the king, ill treated in a series of battles, ordered a fresh levy to be held everywhere since he could not ward off the enemy, while in the meanwhile he himself, broken and afflicted of mind, retired with a few followers to a marshy place in Somersetshire. Here, worried by great cares and misgivings, he had spent a number of days asking God’s aid and earnestly pondering what counsel to adopt, when behold, he met a pauper, as he claimed to be, humbly begging for a crust of bread, which the king cheerfully gave him. On the day after he had given this gift he dreamt he saw St. Cuthbert, telling him he was the pauper to whom he gave the bread, and commanding him to be of good cheer. Hearing these things Alured was mightily refreshed and immediately rejoined his soldiers, and, reinforced by the many and great forces running in from all sides, he undertook the war enough. Thus this pious prince, just a little while ago beset by so many woes, by which he doubtless would soon have been crushed, was suddenly returned to his old self, like a ship come into harbor from the high seas. Therefore he assembled his army with great enthusiasm and recovered the cities which had defected , either by fear or by promising rewards. He fortified towns. He readied weapons and the other things which seemed needful for war. He repaired his fleet and stationed it in opportune places, both for blocking the multitude of Dacians who constantly came running into the island, and to block them from going home once they came. And in the meanwhile, with his ready and great wit, he dressed as a servant and entered the camp of his enemies, seeking for an opportune time to assault them, and afterwards he attacked them in great force as they were ranging about. At first the Dacians, being scattered about, were affected with no little trouble, but they gradually collected themselves and were so far from fearing the enemy that they scarcely refused to give battle any place at all. And so they frequently fought by land and see, with varying success, until at length Rochester, London and Chester were relieved of siege. And then the English so afflicted their enemy in both land and naval battles that some of their survivors went home and others converted to Christianity to save their skins. Among the latter was their king, Gormo, whom Alured lovingly embraced as if he were his son and made his governor over the Northumbrians. Some write that the king also granted him the province of the East Angles, but these have doubtless been misled into making this false because at the time Eric, by nation a Dacian, ruled the East Angles. Later Edward ejected him. This Gormo, distinguished by his nation’s ferocity, cruelly ruled the Northumbrians for twelve years, and then was followed by his son Sithric and his nephews, whom Adelstan deprived of their rule, as will be said below.
12. At the same time Alured defeated king Cevolph and gained the kingdom of the Mercians, and after having completed these great wars and toils, his preoccupations were to deserve well, first, of the Christian religion, second ,of education in all the liberal arts, and third, of the commonwealth and men’s good morals. For he was mindful of the divine oracle had received from St. Cuthbert at the time he had abandoned all good hope and despaired, as I have recounted above, and endowed the church at Chester, where the remains of Cuthbert were preserved, with many donatives, and increased the possessions of the bishop of that place, to whom he granted County Durham, which lies between the rivers Tyne and Tees, so that he might hold, possess, and govern this by royal authority and right. For at this time, about the year of salvation 881, the island of Lindisfarne has been sacked by the barbarians, and so the episcopal seat was transferred to a town about six miles from Durham, and forty-two years later it was finally translated to Durham together with the body of Cuthbert. And this was 280 years after Aidan had first occupied this seat at Lindesfarne. Durham is a maritime city, facing north, which is situated on the river Wear. About a mile from the city itself this stream has a steep, rocky bed, with such great stones arising from it that they are not underwater save when the river is swollen by rain. But in the same place, wonderful to tell, if water is placed over these rocks and has a little time to mix, it immediately becomes salty though it was sweet before, and this happens nowhere else in the bed of this same river. This appears to occur because such is the is nature of those rocks, or because their outer surface, being dried by sun and wind, acquires a salty taste. Now back to my subject. Alured furthermore founded three monasteries with magnificent furniture, one at Winchester, called the New Monastery; a second in the village called Shaftesbury belonging to the see of Salisbury, and he willed htis to be stocked with nuns, over him he placed this daughter Ethelgera or Elgina; and in the third on the spot where he had been beset by cares and had been ordered by St. Cuthbert to be of good cheer, and this monastery he gave to the Benedictines, endowing it with great possessions, as also the other two. This is place is a little raised above a great marsh which dries out in summer, in the manner of an island, and faces eastward. It is watered by a river called Tan, which, receiving the incoming tide of the sea, has salt water as far as that place. Once it was called the island of Ethelingea, but now Athelney, and it is about five miles removed from Tanton. Tanton is a populous town to the west in the extreme part of Somersetshire, watered by the river Tan, which has its source twelve miles away, and from which Tanton appears to have taken its name. The year when Alured did these pious works was the twenty-second of his reign, and the year of salvation 892.
13. At the age of twenty Aulured devoted himself to learning, and soon became so erudite that he translated the Dialogues of St. Gregory, Boetius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae, and with the Psalms of David from Latin into his native tongue, so they might be easily understood by all men. Yet there are those who say that the Dialogues and Boetius’ work were at his request translated by Bishop Werefred of Winchester, yet I do not agree with these writers since he himself was so educated that it is to reasonable to believe these were his works. But he was prevented by death from translating all the Psalms. Being excellently disposed, at a time when learning was most rare among the West Saxons, this king strove by all means possible to instruct his subjects in the way of living well, and to kindle men’s minds a desire for learning the goodly arts. And so he greatly fostered intellects, supported men’s dignity, embraced his noblemen, and, in sum, loved all men in whom there was virtue. It is also recorded that Aulured could not tolerate seeing any man be ordained a priest who was not upright and well-versed in letters, since he knew full well that priests, as the old saying goes, are spectacles for the world, hence other mortals could easily be altered by them in the manner of life. And since he found very few such men in his kingdom, for this reason he summoned from all quarters men distinguished for sanctity and learning, who could perform this royal priesthood, as the prince of apostles called it. And above all he embraced with wonderful affection Neots, a monk by profession and a very holy man, for his learning. And at Neots’ urging, he founded a university at Oxford, offering a salary for all men who would profess the goodly arts in public, and many men distinguished for their learning gathered there to teach. Indeed, from the time that King Sigibert of the East Angles established schools in his realm, which I mentioned in Book IV, there were henceforth very learned men in this island at all times, which, like streams of learning constantly flowing from that fountain, watered not only England but also France with the honeyed nectar of their teaching. For, as I have told elsewhere, when Albinus and Alchuin were sent to Charlemagne on an embassy to seek his friendship, when he saw much learning in this man, for which reason they were to be held in great honor, he transformed him from an ambassador into a guest, and from a guest into a teacher, in imitation, as I suppose, of the example set by the ancient Athenians, who retained Gorgias at public expense after he had been sent by the citizens of Leontinum and had performed his duty as an ambassador, being captivated by his wisdom. Therefore Alcuin, an Englishman, henceforth remained in Paris and began to profess goodly letters, and it was by his doing that not much later Charlemagne was the first to found a university in that city, as he also did at Pavia in Italy. This was about the year of our salvation 791, when they say that two monks from Ireland (or, as some prefer, from Scotland) sailed to France and put their wisdom up for sale, loudly proclaiming that they were only asking for food and clothing as their salary, and one of them, named Clement, was retained by Charlemagne at Paris and youths of every class were given him to be taught. But the other crossed over into Italy and taught at Pavia. Some writers attribute this to four students of Bede, Hrabanus, Alcuin, Claudius and Duns Scotus. But, be this as it may, it is clear enough that Englishmen were the first to have publicly taught the goodly arts at Paris, since Alcuin and Duns nicknamed Scotus among the most erudite of Englishmen. But I return to the University of Oxford. From its inception this began to grow famous both for its divine and secular studies and for the number of men devoting themselves to learning, and later it flourished to the point that it can compete for the glory of its reputation with any other university in all the world. Therein the students themselves, being imbued with a certain religious observance from the very beginning, cultivate their minds with good morals no less than with learning. They also have magnificently furnished monasteries, most opulent with the gifts of kings, noblemen, and most righteous women, which they call colleges, since their collegial fellowships are located there. There instructors are men especially approved in learning and honesty. Therefore they live communally in this home, since faculties are furnished in abundance, and daily they arise early in the morning and either say their prayers or attend divine service, before assembling for their studies. And, venerating God above all else, they exercise themselves at once in the most chaste manner of living and in the study of all branches of learning, and so there constantly emerge men of singular piety and learning, as from the most ample theater of learning in the world, who wonderfully help, honor, and protect Christendom both piously and usefully, now by teaching, and now by writing. To be sure, from some few no flower blossoms, who spend their entire life’s course in looking after their own ease, and sometimes these hurt other youth by setting bad examples. And indeed this moral blight would be minimized if those who nowadays set the rules for colleges would appoint a fixed number of years for students, so they would either go home with an education or, like the donkey at the sound of the harp, as they say, would abandon their places to others who might make great progress in letters. The university which vigorously flourishes at Cambridge rivals Oxford for the repute of its name, which, although it scarcely surpasses it in number of students or magnificence of colleges, yet is in no way inferior in the richness of its goodly arts. What about the fact that, like a mother of integrity, it boasts it is never produced a son who has conceived bad ideas concerning religion? And it by far surpasses Oxford in its antiquity. For from the foundation of the academy at Cambridge until the beginning of the University of Oxford there was an interval of 265 years. For Alured founded it in the twenty-third year of his reign, which was the year of human salvation 895, whereas Sigibert founded the one at Cambridge about the year 629. But, if we believe the notes of some unknown author, the origin of the town is older than that of the university. For say that once a town named Chergrant stood at the foot of a nearby hill which they call Wythyll, and for the purpose of teaching, in the reign of Gurguntius the son of Bellinus, a certain Welshman named Bartholomew arrived and subsequently married the king’s daughter Chembriga, and that he founded a town named Cambridge after his wife, and that he was the first to teach there. his wives name, and first of all others tought there himselfe. But I wil retorne to the historie.
14. But I return to my history. After laying the foundations for learning in his kingdom, Alured, intent on enhancing good morals, handed down most pious laws, which I find written in very ancient manuscripts. But since these have since gone down to oblivion among the English, I have not thought it necessary to add them. And furthermore, there was no kind of virtue in which he was not distinguished. For he gladly gave a share of his own possessions to all men, and especially to the needy, and he was particular about maintaining justice. For just as he always visited due punishment on the guilty, so he fostered the innocent with wonderful charity. He was likewise the greatest king of all when it came to the arts of war, since scarce any other king was the victor in a number of wars. By his wife Ethelwitha he fathered Edward surnamed The Elder and Adelwold, as well as three daughters, Elfreda, Ethelgera or Elgina, and Ethelwitha. Elfreda was bestowed on a certain Ethelred, a leading man among the Mercians, with a poriton of Mercia received as her dowry. This woman set a very memorable example for the avoidance of venery. For, got with child by her husband, she greatly suffered in childbirth. Remembering this thing afterward, she always shunned her husband’s embrace, and she used to say that indulging this manner of pleasure, or devoting oneself to something that will create so much pain, is the height of folly. Alured, now advanced in years, was afflicted by a light disease and made his testament. In it he appointed his son Edward as his heir and, so he might make more men remember him, he bestowed various gifts on his soldiers, familiars, servants and the students of Oxford, as well as on churches for repairs and construction. After this, his health growing worse and his final day approaching, he died at Winchester. His body is buried in the New Monastery he himself constructed. He reigned for twenty-eight years. In that monastery was placed a college of so-called secular priests, then later one of monks, as I shall show elsewhere.
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