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Germany, following such agreeable prospects, soon reinforced Hengist and Horsa with five thousand men, who came over in seventeen vessels. The Britons now began to entertain apprehensions of their allies, whose numbers they found continually augmenting; but thought of no remedy, except a passive submission and connivance. This weak expedient soon failed them. The Saxons sought a quarrel, by complaining that their subsidies were ill paid, and their provisions withdrawn: and immediately taking off the mask, they formed an alliance with the Picts and Scots, and proceeded to open hostility against the Britons.
The Britons, impelled by these violent extremities, and roused to indignation against their treacherous auxiliaries, were necessitated to take arms; and having deposed Vortigern, who had become odious from his vices, and from the bad event of his rash counsels, they put themselves under the command of his son, Vortimer. They fought many battles with their enemies; and though the victories in these actions be disputed between the British and Saxon annalists, the progress still made by the Saxons proves that the advantage was commonly on their side. In one battle, however, fought at Eaglesford, now Ailsford, Horsa, the Saxon general, was slain; and left the sole command over his countrymen in the hands of Hengist. This active general, continually reinforced by fresh numbers from Germany, carried devastation into the most remote corners of Britain; and being chiefly anxious to spread the terror of his arms, he spared neither age, nor sex, nor condition, wherever he marched with his victorious forces. The private and public edifices of the Britons were reduced to ashes: the priests were slaughtered on the altars by those idolatrous ravagers: the bishops and nobility shared the fate of the vulgar: the people, flying to the mountains and deserts, were intercepted and butchered in heaps: some were glad to accept of life and servitude under their victors: others, deserting their native country, took shelter in the province of
m Bede, lib. i. cap. 15. Nennius, cap. 35. Gildas, sect. 23.
Armorica; where, being charitably received by a people of the same language and manners, they settled in great numbers, and gave the country the name of Brittany ".
The British writers assign one cause which facilitated the entrance of the Saxons into this island; the love with which Vortigern was at first seized for Rovena, the daughter of Hengist, and which that artful warrior made use of to blind the eyes of the imprudent monarch o. The same historians add, that Vortimer died; and that Vortigern, being restored to the throne, accepted of a banquet from Hengist, at Stonehenge; where three hundred of his nobility were treacherously slaughtered, and himself detained captive P. But these stories seem to have been invented by the Welsh authors, in order to palliate the weak resistance made at first by their countrymen, and to account for the rapid progress and licentious devastations of the Saxons",
After the death of Vortimer, Ambrosius, a Briton, though of Roman descent, was invested with the command over his countrymen, and endeavoured, not without success, to unite them in their resistance against the Saxons. Those contests increased the animosity between the two nations, and roused the military spirit of the ancient inhabitants, which had before been sunk into a fatal lethargy. Hengist, however, notwithstanding their opposition, still maintained his ground in Britain; and in order to divide the forces and attention of the natives, he called over a new tribe of Saxons, under the command of his brother Octa, and of Ebissa, the son of Octa; and he settled them in Northumberland. He himself remained in the southern parts of the island, and laid the foundation of the kingdom of Kent, comprehending the county of that name, Middlesex, Essex, and part of Surrey. He fixed his royal seat at Canterbury, where he governed about forty years, and he died in or near the year 488, leaving his new-acquired dominions to his posterity.
" Bede, lib. i. cap. 15. Galfr. lib. vi. cap. 12. Orig. Britt. p. 324, 325.
Usher, p. 226. Gildas, sect. 24.
The success of Hengist excited the avidity of the other northern Germans; and at different times, and under different leaders, they flocked over in multitudes to the invasion of this island. These conquerors were chiefly composed of three tribes, the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes', who all passed under the common appellation, sometimes of Saxons, sometimes of Angles; and speaking the same language, and being governed by the same institutions, they were naturally led, from these causes, as well as from their common interest, to unite themselves against the ancient inhabitants. The resistance, however, though unequal, was still maintained by the Britons; but became every day more feeble: and their calamities admitted of few intervals, till they were driven into Cornwall and Wales, and received protection from the remote situation or inaccessible mountains of those countries.
The first Saxon state, after that of Kent, which was established in Britain, was the kingdom of South Saxony. In the year 477s, Ælla, a Saxon chief, brought over an army from Germany; and landing on the southern coast, proceeded to take possession of the neighbouring territory. The Britons, now armed, did not tamely abandon their possessions; nor were they expelled, till defeated in many battles by their warlike invaders. The most memorable action, mentioned by historians, is that of Mearcredes Burn; where, though the Saxons seem to have obtained the victory, they suffered so considerable a loss, as somewhat retarded the progress of their conquests. But Ælla, reinforced by fresh numbers of his countrymen, again took the field against the Britons; and laid siege to Andred Ceaster, which was defended by the garrison and inhabitants with desperate valour". The Saxons, enraged by this resistance, and by the fatigues and dangers which they had sustained, redoubled their efforts against the
Bede, lib. i. cap. 15. Ethelwerd, p. 833. edit. Camdeni. Chron. Sax. p. 12. Alured. Beverl. p. 78. The inhabitants of Kent and the isle of Wight were Jutes. Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, and all the southern counties to Cornwall, were peopled by Saxons: Mercia and other parts of the kingdom were inhabited by Angles. Chron. Sax. p. 14. Alured. Beverl. p. 81. Chron. Sax. a. d. 485. Flor. Wigorn. u H. Hunting. lib. ii.
place; and, when masters of it, put all their enemies to the sword without distinction. This decisive advantage secured the conquests of Ælla, who assumed the name of king, and extended his dominion over Sussex and a great part of Surrey. He was stopped in his progress to the east by the kingdom of Kent; in that to the west by another tribe of Saxons, who had taken possession of that territory.
These Saxons, from the situation of the country in which they settled, were called the West Saxons, and landed in the year 495, under the command of Cerdic, and of his son Kenric. The Britons were, by past experience, so much on their guard, and so well prepared to receive the enemy, that they gave battle to Cerdic the very day of his landing; and, though vanquished, still defended, for some time, their liberties against the invaders. None of the other tribes of Saxons met with such vigorous resistance, or exerted such valour and perseverance in pushing their conquests. Cerdic was even obliged to call for the assistance of his countrymen from the kingdoms of Kent and Sussex, as well as from Germany, and he was thence joined by a fresh army under the command of Porte, and of his sons Bleda and Megla". Strengthened by these succours, he fought, in the year 508, a desperate battle with the Britons, commanded by Nazan Leod, who was victorious in the beginning of the action, and routed the wing in which Cerdic himself commanded. But Kenric, who had prevailed in the other wing, brought timely assistance to his father, and restored the battle, which ended in a complete victory gained by the Saxons. Nazan Leod perished, with five thousand of his army: but left the Britons more weakened than discouraged by his death. The war still continued, though the success was commonly on the side of the Saxons, whose short swords and close manner of fighting gave them great advantage over the missile weapons of the Britons. Cerdic was not wanting to his good fortune;
* W. Malms. lib. i. cap. 1. p. 12. p. 17. 2 H. Hunting. lib. ii.
Chron. Sax. p. 15.
y Chron. Sax.
Ethelwerd, lib. i. Chron. Sax. p. 17.
and in order to extend his conquests, he laid siege to mount Badon or Banesdowne near Bath, whither the most obstinate of the discomfited Britons had retired. The southern Britons in this extremity applied for assistance to Arthur, prince of the Silures, whose heroic valour now sustained the declining fate of his country. This is that Arthur so much celebrated in the songs of Thaliessin, and the other British bards, and whose military achievements have been blended with so many fables, as even to give occasion for entertaining a doubt of his real existence. But poets, though they disfigure the most certain history by their fictions, and use strange liberties with truth where they are the sole historians, as among the Britons, have commonly some foundation for their wildest exaggerations. Certain it is, that the siege of Badon was raised by the Britons in the year 520; and the Saxons were there discomfited in a great battle. This misfortune stopped the progress of Cerdic; but was not sufficient to wrest from him the conquests which he had already made. He and his son Kenric, who succeeded him, established the kingdom of the West Saxons or of Wessex, over the counties of Hants, Dorset, Wilts, Berks, and the isle of Wight, and left their new-acquired dominions to their posterity. Cerdic died in 534, Kenric in 560.
While the Saxons made this progress in the south, their countrymen were not less active in other quarters. In the year 527, a great tribe of adventurers, under several leaders, landed on the east coast of Britain; and after fighting many battles, of which history has preserved no particular account, they established three new kingdoms in this island. Uffa assumed the title of king of the East Angles in 575; Crida that of Mercia in 585°; and Erkenwin that of East Saxony or Essex nearly about the same time; but the year is uncertain. This latter kingdom was dismembered from that of Kent, and comprehended Essex, Middlesex, and part of Hertfordshire:
b Gildas, Chron. Sax. H. Hunting. lib. ii.
a H. Hunting. lib. ii.