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T the time that the emperor Constantine left Britain for Gaul, as related in the preceding Book, he left behind representatives, and among these was Maximus, a stout man, to govern the island. He took with him a goodly part of British youth, he took their chief men, on whose virtue, loyalty and steadfastness he had most pinned his hopes. And accompanied by these men he passed through Gaul and sought Italy, everywhere victorious as he went. Meanwhile for a while Britain imagined it had gained its liberty, because it had Constantine, a British ruler, as emperor of all the world, and it it was most blessed in honor, dignity and authority, and so did not unwillingly acquiesce to this condition. Even if it had once burned with hatred against the Romans, now this had changed, because by both the will of God and the kindness of so great a ruler it enjoyed peace and had made a beginning towards supreme honor such as would endure with their posterity. And yet rule did not long endure in Constantine’s dynasty, so quickly does human power fail us. But the glory of this rule could not fail, since even now English kings, in the manner of their ancestors, employ the imperial diadem as a gift bestowed on them by the Emperor Constantine. And so Britain lay quiet, as Eutropius attests, when Constantine died and left his sons as imperial successors, Constantius, Constans, and Constantine. To this last chanced to come Britain, together with Gaul, Spain, and the Orkneys. But not long thereafter discord arose, he came to grips with Constantius in Italy near Aquila and was killed. Then Britain, like the other provinces, came into the power of Constantius, and he was the last of these brothers to depart this life, having governed in his own right more than twenty years. Afterwards the province did not fail in its loyalty for more than twenty-four years, which was the fifth year in the reign of the brothers Gratianus and Valentinianus, the year of human salvation 386. At the same time Maximus, whom I have mentioned above, was created emperor in Briton by his soldiers (although some say this was done in Spain). He, inspired by eagerness for expanding his empire, immediately had a levy of young men whom he perceived to be sturdy enough for making war, and, having recruited a large army, crossed over to Gaul. To restrain this upheaval the emperor Gratianus hastened from Rome. He led an army to Gaul and showed preference to a company of Halani (a people of Scythian origin) whom he had attracted to his side by gold. This was so distasteful and offensive to his veteran soldiers that not long thereafter he was abandoned by his army, his Roman soldiers having gone over to Maximus. Terrified by this sudden defection of his men, when he was seeking to go over into Italy he was taken by treachery and killed at Lugdunum. Gratianus’s brother Valentinianus, frightened by his enemies, took refuge at Byzantium with Theodosius, to whose protection Gratiausn had given the Eastern Empire. As St. Jerome testifies, this Theodosius was the brother of the Theodosius who had been put to death in Africa by command of Valens, and whom Gratianus had summoned from Spain and made his partner, at a time when all the empire was in a state of turmoil. Therefore Theodosius, not unmindful of these kindnesses, received him with fatherly piety and, thinking the business of avenging Gratianus’ murder to take precedence over all other things, declared war on Maximus, who was in Italy at the time. But this thing was done so swiftly that Theodosius had crossed the Alps almost before he was said to have left Byzantium. Maximus, unaware that he had such adverse fortune to fear (for it mostly shows itself to us when favorable), was then carelessly tarrying at Aquila, when he was suddenly besieged, captured, and beheaded. Thus mortal affairs stand and fall in the blink of an eye. There are those who write that Maximus was overwhelmed by Theodosius and Valentinianus at the third milestone and fell into his enemies’ hands will still alive, and was visited with the supreme punishment by the victors not even a full year after the death of Gratiausn. Martin Bishop of Tours, a man of great piety, is said to have forecast a very unhappy ending for Maximus while he was still in Britain.
2. Victor, the son of Maximus, was likewise killed in Gaul. Thus all his strivings cane to naught. Then the condition of the island began to worsen by the day. For within a short time, as I shall explain elsewhere, the Britons lost liberty together with empire. Furthermore it is said that when Maximus was pursuing the fugitive Gratianus and was in Gallia Celtica, he placed Conan, a Briton, as captain of the maritime states along the seaboard of Armorica. But Conan, after gained power, lingering in that land with a great band of his Britons, ejected the Gauls from all places and settled only Britons there as inhabitants. Indeed these scorned intermarriage with the Gauls and sought wives for their sons out of Britain They that it therefore happened that a large number of virgins came from the island, and that at one time eleven thousand of both sexes perished, partly by shipwreck and partly by execution (for the barbarians along that shore used to murder their captives). And among these was said to have been St. Ursula, the daughter of King Dionotus of Cornwall, who had been betrothed to Conan. When news of Maximus’ death was heard in Britain, Gratianus, an island-born man, seized the tyranny in a moment. He was quickly removed, and the Roman soldiers left in the island as a garrison replaced him with Constantine, a man of no account, distinguished neither by family nor military prowess, and in whom they seemed to be attracted to nothing but his name. This Constantine crossed over from the island to Gaul with an army, and lingered among the Veneti, Cenomani, and other coastal dwellers, and he attempted to pacify Gaul, being eager to achieve a truce, if he could not procure peace, with the Vandals, Suevi and Halani. But he obtained neither, which did great harm to the commonwealth. And not long after Constantius, a man of great counsel and virtue, was sent to Gaul by Honorius with an army to defend it, and he besieged this tyrant Constantine near Arelatus, wearied him, got him in his power, and put him to death. But Constans, whom his father had Constantine had appointed Caesar although he was a monk, moved against Dyndimus and Severianus, who were striving to prevent Constantine and his barbarian following from entering Spain, and killed them with next to no trouble. Soon afterwards he came to Vienne, where he was murdered by his companion Gerontius. Thus at one stroke died Constantine the father and Constans the son, and, thanks to the care and diligence of Constantius, a noble captain, Honorius regained the island together with its British army. My authority is Paul the Deacon and Bede, who in particular wrote about these things well and carefully. In the very same year that Constantine was proclaimed emperor by the Roman soldiers, with Arcadius dead at Constantinople, the majesty of the Roman empire went into open decline. And then Constantine’s death was immediately followed by the murder of his son, as I have said. Next Honorius, having recovered the British army, brought back into the Empire the island, which had been weakened by the many slaughters of its tyrants. But then very few years intervened after the death of Honorius, and since the time Arcadius’ son Valentinianus, the son of his aunt Placidia, had been appointed a Caesar and hailed as an Augustus, when a great number of barbarians began to afflict the Roman Empire, against whom Roman generals often fought.
3. Meanwhile Britain, after all its military might had been destroyed, partly killed off by the tyrants’ savagery, partly being frequently taken away from their nation by them to fight new wars in other lands, seemed to be constantly exposed to its neighbors as plunder. For one difficulty always arises from another. Understanding this, the Scots, either attracted by the hope of booty or desirous of change, came flying out of Ireland into the island, as Gildas states. They made no delay in striking a treaty with the Picts and, having gathered a large number of desperate fellows, they ravaged the islanders’ property, plundering their men and cattle, and keenly strove to occupy the island itself. Day by day this evil grew, beyond the degree that could be safely resisted in the future, and there was no man who did not harbor the suspicion that soon the whole island would go to ruin were these attempts not quickly resisted, protection set up against them, and a remedy applied. At the time, as I have shown, Britain was without protection. Fearing this, the unarmed and helpless multitude was afraid, since it was far weaker than to be able to avert this bane, and so it asked help from Aetius, whom Honorius had placed over the imperial forces in place of Contantius, a man of patrician birth who haled from Dorostana in Moesia. And he, wearied and disturbed by the Britons’ entreaties, since so far they remained loyal to the Empire, sent a legion from Gaul for their protection. Henceforth the Picts and Scots suffered various reversals at Aetius’ hands, and British affairs stood in good order. And, lest the peace henceforth be disturbed by these enemies, it seemed most advantageous to the legionary captains that a wall, which I have mentioned in my preceding Book, be built between the Roman province and the Pictish territory, and, as Gildas testifies, this was done. But since this was built of turf more than of stone, it was not sufficiently firm against the enemy’s assault. So then the Wall was built by Aetius’ officers, rather than by the emperors Hadrian or Severus, as many falsely record, if we trust the British writer Gildas. Out of necessity, Aetius recalled his men out of the island and, leaving one legion at Paris and Orleans as a garrison and a second in winter quarters in Taraconensis (a province of Spain), he marched against the Burgundians with the rest of his forces. After the departure of the legionaries, the Scots immediately joined with the Picts in launching an assault on the Britons, took away herds of cattle and other animals, and wasted their fields with sword and fire. Because of this a new war would have blazed forth, had not the islanders asked for aid and the legion stationed at Paris come to their aid by command of Valentinianus, who believed wars needed to be anticipated. At this time the Wall was once more reinforced, and made out of stone so that it would be stronger for warding off the enemy might, with the result that henceforth the banditry of the Scots and Picts began to work less harm. But a little later, with the powers of the Roman Empire everywhere shattered and all but in a state of sudden collapse (such are our powers that they do not increase with the same ease as they fail), they invaded the island far more ferociously than they ever did before. Then Aetius sent no protection to the islanders as they implored the Roman Empire for its aid and likewise for its loyalty towards themselves. It is questionable whether he refused, being ill-disposed towards Valentinianus, or whether he was unable, being vexed by more serious wars. But, whatever his reason was, this assuredly inflicted an evil on both the Roman Empire and Britain, even if the Britons had wretchedly bewailed their misfortune, for according to Gildas they wrote thus: “To Aetius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons. We beg your aid for this Roman province, for our nation, children and wives, at this moment, in which we are in immediate peril. For the barbarians are driving us into the sea, the sea drives us back to the barbarians. Between these, two manners of death arise, we are slaughtered or we are drowned, nor do we have any defense or help against evils of this kind. Therefore we plead with all our entreaties that you be mercifully minded and bring us help.” From which we can see that in the end the Britons did not willingly forsake the Romans, since, now accustomed to their government, they held in respect those from, as Cornelius Tacitus attests, they had for some time imbibed civil manners, for the sons of their chieftains had been educated in the liberal arts and their talents had flourished, and they did not abominate the Roman language but rather craved to acquire eloquence. For the same reason Roman dress was held in esteem and the toga became commonplace. As Gildas tells us, they even learned the art of warfare from the Romans themselves. And so Britain was lost by the Romans about five hundred years after the coming of Caius Julius Caesar, and at almost the same moment it gained its liberty and was plunged into by far the cruelest war, in which it lost its name and its government, as will be shown below. This was the sixteenth year of the reign of Theodosius and Valentinianus Augustus, the son of his aunt, and the year of human salvation 362.
4. Meanwhile, while the Britons were spending their time using ambassadors to request aid, the Scots occupied the extremity of the island from Mt. Grampius northward, the same as they possess to day, and after themselves they called it Scotland. And this was the third nation which, after the Picts, as I have said above, came to Ireland out of Scythia, and thence to Britain and settled the island. According to Bede, the leader of this band of Scots was Reuda. But their own annals relate that Fergus came into Britain long before Reuda, and gave to his army the red lion standard used by their modern kings, and because of his successes he was made king by his people. And afterwards they say that his nephew Reuther (whom Bede calls Reuda) succeeded him and advanced the borders of this realm. But perhaps there will someday be those who find these things annoying. For lately Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, a Scotsman of high nobility and virtue, who had come to England for some reason, hearing that I was writing this history, met with me. After we had struck up a friendship he urged me not to follow a history lately published by a certain fellow Scotsman when it came to explaining Scotch affairs. He promised to send me within a few days an important memorial about these things, which he did. In this was first described the origin of that nation, in this manner. Gathelus, a son of King Neolus of Athens fled his father’s harsh rule and betook himself to Egypt, where he helped Pharoah in his war against the Ethiopians (he was the one to whom Moses was God’s spokesman). Moved by this kindness, the Egyptian king bestowed on Gathelus his daughter, who was named Scota. Soon he arrived in Spain, in search of a new home, and possessed that shore which afterwards was named Portugal in his honor, as if it meant “The Port of Gathelus,” and he named his people the Scots after his wife Scota, a noble woman. The nation grew larger, and after three hundred years, under King Simon Brechus, it started a new kingdom in Ireland, and finally, before the coming of Christ, it removed itself to Albion. Not long thereafter the Picts also arrived in Albion, coming from Scythia, and these two foreign nations propagated their races and kingdoms in that part of the island which is now Scotland, and from the from the beginning they fought with the Britons and the Romans (especially with Julius Caesar), and the Scots were never defeated and overthrown. Only Reuther King of Scots, things going badly against the Britons at home, once left this nation and fled to Ireland, where he gathered new forces and returned to his former home, which Bede failed to appreciate, identifying this return of the Scots to Albion as their first arrival. And all these things were done before the coming of Christ.
5. As soon as I read these things, I seemed to be witnessing the bear giving birth (as the proverb has it). Afterwards, when we were together for relaxation’s sake, as was our habit, Gavin asked me my opinion. I replied that I had no argument about the origin, since nearly every people is accustomed to derive its origin either from gods or heroes, for when less credulous men subsequently wish to investigate these things, since it is hard to discover anything certain, they are compelled to believe rather than to waste their effort. But, in sum, this one thing in no way squares with the historical record, that these two mighty people, the Scots and the Picts, were already in the island, waged all those wars, and often pressed, vexed and conquered both the Britons and Romans, and yet there is not any grave ancient author who mentions them. This is particularly so because in their accounts Caesar, Tacitus, Ptolemy and Pliny (not to speak of the rest) make frequent mention of the other peoples of Britain, i. e., the Trinobantes, Cenimagni, Segontiaci, Bibroces, Brigantes, Silures, Iceni, Ordulacae, Vicomagi, Elgovae &c., but not likewise of the Scots or the Picts, presumably because these names had not yet arisen in Britain, which is why even later writers are slow to mention them. Therefore I said (both amicably and truthfully) that the rule of history forbade me to write about the Scots or Picts prior their arrival in the island, which Bede rightly placed in his own age. And the rule is this: a historian should neither dare to write any falsehood, nor dare to leave any truth unsaid, lest he fall under suspicion of writing out of flattery or enmity. And Gavin (a very honest man) was scarcely offended by this opinion, for he thought that reason itself most agrees with the truth so that true things can always be distinguished from the false with ease. But I was not able to have the enjoyment for long, because he died in the plague at London in that very year, which was the year of human salvation 1520.
6. Then there followed as kings among the Scots Eugene I and Fergus II. Eugene was killed in a battle against the Picts (who at the time were subject to the Romans). For this reason the Scots, despairing of their safety, were intent on retiring elsewhere, and they fled the islands in different directions. Forty-three years later, the Scottish exiles were invited back to their ancient homes by the Picts (now frightened of Roman power), partly from Ireland and partly from Norway, and they returned under the leadership of Fergus. Fergus was succeeded by his son Eugene. He entered into a treaty with the Picts and began so to harass the Britons that they were obliged, as I have told above, to beg aid from the Romans at the first possible moment. But Eugene did not live long, and was followed by his brother Dongard. Now I return to my subject. Elated by their success, the Scots took more license in making inroads on the islanders, more by way of plundering than waging real war, and they rudely provoked their enemy to fight and inflicted injury on them. The Britons, abandoned by Aetius, even though they regarded anything safer than fighting a battle, were nevertheless mindful of their old-time virtue, and were well aware that in such uncertain times either their own blood or that of their enemies must be shed. So they did not abandon their courage, and, as if aroused by a clarion or inspired by rage, they marched against their enemy, who were ranging more wantonly than usual, as if assured they had nothing to fear. The Britons drove them back at the first encounter, then fell on their main force and inflicted a universal slaughter. The Britons came out on top in that battle, and they who were accustomed to defeat conquered. But their enemies, no more behindhand in trying their fortune, went on the offensive again, plundered, and gathered themselves now in this place, now in that. They wasted and burned the fields, they killed whoever they met with no respect to age, and inflicted other injuries of the kind, as if they were none the weaker. Many men were so panic-stricken that they voluntarily offered up all their belongings that would be of any use to the Scots, and this seemed such a great thing that it terrified the Britons more than battle. Driven by this necessity, they took what seemed the best counsel for fending off their enemy and as quickly as they could they rebuilt and extended the Wall which, as I have said, had previously been constructed by the soldiers of Aetius. For a time this restrained the Scottish onslaught, but this gradually gathered itself and burst forth with even greater fury. For a little later they came to attack the Wall, and when the Britons put up a feeble and ill-considered resistance, they leveled the Wall itself, partly routing their enemy, and partly cutting him down. But this victory was a bloody one for the Scots. For Dongard their king fell in the battle, and he was succeeded by Constantine. And then suddenly added to this evil was a great shortage of food, since the fields lay empty due to constant warfare, and many men starved. This was the reason why, after mutual slaughter, the enthusiasm for fighting waxed cold on both sides. Then the fields were tilled with greater industry and there was a great abundance of crops. This divine gift was the ruin of the Bristns, for, as Gildas writes, they began to exult and so they turned away from abstinence and modesty and indulged themselves in pleasures and vices. The result was that this nation, which had constantly sinned, was not free from fear and perils, for by the will of God the Judge a great pestilence arose, by which this same writer tells us an incredible multitude of men was consumed. And a little later another malady came as a companion to this one. For the wretched Britons were once again oppressed by a barbarian invasion, and were brought to such a degree of calamity that, to their harm, they were compelled to invite the Saxon English into the island, men who indeed were the mightiest of all, but treacherous, as to their great misfortune they subsequently discovered.
7. Furthermore the British princes, seeing such a storm impending from the Scots and Picts alike, those most fierce and cruel enemies, were afraid lest, while war obtained abroad, a domestic struggle for power might arise (since it is innate for all mortals, even those of lowest degree to thirst after honors and principalities), and so they decided to elect some single king. And so, quickly convening a council, the majority voted to bestow this honor on Vortiger, who was a supreme man among men for his authority, nobility, and virtue. The others approved this motion and Vortiger was created king. And he, not unaware why he had been summoned to the throne at such a very difficult time, regarded nothing more important than to take thought for the commonwealth and to have a care for foreseeing, providing, and taking precautions how the doom of his nation (which had all but arrived) could be averted. But so that he might not seem to have taken such a great task on himself, he refused to deliberate anything other than with the consent of his council, and so on the first day possible he convened his privy council and consulted with his princes, and for their benefit he measured the strength of his side and of the enemy. With an eye on the condition of the times, he carefully dealt, handled, and inquired what manner of remedy was to be applied. Finally it entered the heads of a goodly part of his princes (who mistrusted their own resources) and especially of the king himself, to summon the Saxon English, famous for their martial prowess. And so ambassadors were sent to Germany as soon as possible, using money, gifts, and promises to ask, exhort, and entice them to bring help. In the end they did not refuse to come to the aid of the Britons. After receiving this news the Saxons, eager to serve as mercenaries, placed a choice band of their hardiest young men in ships and, under the leadership of Hengist and Horsus they immediately set sail for the island. This was in the year of human salvation 448. The king gave them a kind reception, assigned them a home in Kent, and immediately thereafter led them against the Picts and Scots, who were raving the land far and wide. A battle was hard-fought for a while by both sides, but then the English recalled that this was the day which would gain them either an eternal name for virtue in British eyes or disgrace with a repulse, began to fight the battle with such vigor that the enemy could scarce withstand their onrush and were slaughtered. Gaining this victory, the king rewarded this nation, thanks to whose virtue he had overcome his foes, with a worthy prize. There are some who write that the Saxons were not summoned by the king, but had arrived at the island by happenstance, and that the reason for their crossing was as follows. There was a custom among the Saxon English, a most warlike people of Germany, that when their numbers grew to the point that the nation could no longer support them, by order of their chieftains their best young fighting men would be chosen by lot and sent abroad to seek new homes and for the sake of waging war. Therefore it so happened that they arrived in Britain and promised to serve under the king as mercenaries.
8. When Hengist, a man of supreme intelligence and prudence, had understood the mind of the king, who now wholly relied on English virtue, and when he had witnessed the wealth of this nation, he began to ponder by what tricks and artifices he could gradually procure the rule over the island for himself and his people. Therefore he first strove to fortify the land given his nation for settlement, to expand its borders, and to strengthen his hold on it with a garrison. Next he endeavored to persuade the king that it was needful for a greater band of troops to be fetched from Germany so that, fortified with this protection, the island might be a source of fear to its enemy and tranquility for itself. The king, ignorant of his destiny, did not reject this treacherous advice. And so a great multitude of men soon migrated to Britain, and at the same time, as they say, Hengist’s daughter Ronix, a girl of choice beauty, was introduced to try Vortiger’ mind, since the Englishman already had a good inkling of the vice from which he suffered. Bede tells us that the Saxons, Vites and Angles, three very fierce German peoples, came together: from the Vites arose the Kentishmen and those who inhabit the Isle of Weight today, from the Saxons those who are called the East, Middle, and West Saxons, and from the Angles (who acquired their name either from the place they had lived, or from their queen), the East Angles, the midlanders, and those who dwell in Northumbria, and that Hengist and Horsus were their leaders. Cornelius Tacitus makes special mention of the Angles in that little book he wrote on the physical description of Germany, although he calls them by the three-syllable name of Anglii. But I return to my first things. When he perceived that his people were accepted by the king, he commenced to ply him artfully so he might inflame his corrupt mind with lust. This was the thing that especially blinds, infatuates and sometimes ruins men, but with such gentle poisons that it kills without pain. Hengist wined and dined the king elegantly, merrily, lavishly. And it befell that when all were warm with the wine, Hengist’s daughter was present and lovingly, and as courteously as she could, served Vortiger his drink. As soon as the king set on eyes on the girl he was smitten with sudden love, delighted both with Ronix’ beauty and her proven virtue, so much so that speedily but foolishly he divorced his previous wife, and, setting the worst example in human history, married the girl. This crime of their king greatly offended his nobility, and hastened the downfall of his nation. For the Saxons, learning of this kinship with a king of their nation, formed an army, and so many vied in coming flocking to the island that it is wonderful how many gathered in such a brief time and, both because of their numbers and because of their virtue in war, they readily became a source of terror to the very inhabitants who had originally summoned them.
9. Now, as often is the case, I have come to a place where I find many things left doubtful by both Italian and British writers. Wherefore, lest like a wanderer I follow the uncertainties of each writer, I will set before you every opinion which I have deemed not far from the truth, so that in this way I may preserved the faith of history intact. Gildas writes as follows about the summoning of the Saxons: “Then all the councilors, together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern, Polydore’s Vortiger], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them, like wolves into the sheepfold, the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky.” Then has says that these men came as if fighting for the nation, but more likely to fight against it, since, their alliance broken, they turned their arms against the Britons themselves. And Bede narrates virtually the same things, albeit at greater length, and he tells us that, after perceiving they were a source of terror to other men, the Saxons suddenly entered into a temporary league with the Picts, with whom they were even then at war, and turned their arms against their British hosts. And turning their hands against them, with great arrogance they demanded them to give them grain, with which that needy throng of barbarians could subsist in the island. And when the Britons did not provide it, then the Saxons raced through their fields and murdered everybody, without any distinction of age or sex. Everywhere they fired houses, cruelly using savagery against priests as if they were an idolatrous race, and in the end the Britons, partly unhinged by fear and partly out of a zeal to avoid slaughter, ran hither and thither like madmen, hiding themselves in out-of-the-way places or submitting to the yoke of servitude. And not much later, as Gildas, Bede, Paul the Deacon all attest, Aurelius or Aurelianus (for I find both names written) Ambrosius, the sole remaining man of Roman stock, assumed the purple, was hailed as emperor, and began to resist the Saxons. Here we may observe that nothing is so foreign to some men as truthfulness, for they affirm that Aurelius Ambrosius was a Briton, although it is clear as can be that he was born of Roman blood. But let us return home. After this kinship with the Saxon English was established, his wife Ronix eagerly strove to insinuate her own countrymen into her husband’s good graces, and to exclude British chieftains from his privy council. For this reason Vortiger now had a bad reputation with one and all, and came in for the worst of vituperation among neighboring nations, since from the beginning, in his enthusiasm for avoiding one evil, he had summoned, invited, and introduced the Saxon English, a fierce, cruel, peevish nation, to the island, and now he was the cause of a second, far worse evil, since he was nourishing men against himself, and after they had been increased in authority, name and wealth, he would try too late to oppose them.
10. Vortiger nonetheless, mindful of the benefit done him, and unmindful of the coming periil, could not help loving the English, thanks to whose virtue he had repressed the fury of the Scots and also the Picts, who had prevented him from living in peace, and afterwards he for a few years as he pleased. Even now the common folk say that Vortiger had among his intimate acquaintances a certain prophetic man named Merlin, and consulted him as an oracle while managing his affairs, because he knew the future. Vortiger’ son Vortimer succeeded him, a youth born for praise, had a longer life been granted him. After Vortiger’s death the English, of whom there was a large number in the island, kept coming there in a steady stream, like so many ants. And this needy, poverty-stricken race now occupied not just Kent, but a goodly part of the island towards Scotland and the West Country. Now they thought that the time had come to try the fortunes of war, so first they made a pact with the Scots and Picts, then at nearly the same moment they all turned their treacherous arms against the Britons, inflicting injuries on them as if they had experienced evildoing, not kindness, at their hands. The Britons, although they imagined they would be obliged to a resist an enemy who had previously been unwarlike, nevertheless, being oppressed by such a great amount of warfare, could not help being terrified, since they would have to fight against Hengist, that most highminded leader, and also the Scots and the Picts, or else become their slaves. But at length the fear of servitude aroused their virtue. For they suddenly collected themselves and, being confident in mind, began to resist on every side. Yet, being entirely helpless, they were routed, slaughtered and scattered, and, despairing for the presence of any armed help, like straying sheep they followed this leader and that, slinking off and concealing themselves in byways, in forests, in marshes. What that (as Gildas says) they abandoned their cities and less well defended towns? Then the Saxons raged especially against the princes, as if they already gained power and, with those men vanquished, they would more easily come into possession of the whole island, the one thing for which they yearned. But divine favor did not fail the wretched British. For, behold, Aurelius Ambrosius appeared, as I have shown above, and everywhere he bid the bugle sound. Acting on his own behalf, every man went to him, asked him, begged him for protection and parayed that he should on the first possible day march against the enemy. Having thus collected an army, Ambrosius went out and stoutly attacked them. Thrice within the space of a few days they came to blows with great wrath and great force, and at length he put the Saxons to rout, with Hengist’s brother Horsus killed along with a great part of his men. Yet so far was the enemies’ wrath from cooling that within a few days, having received a new draft of men out of Germany, they burst forth against the Britons, full of high hopes. And when Aurelius Ambrosius had learned that the enemy was coming against him with a strong army, unhesitatingly he took to the road, bound for York, from where the storm impended. But while on the march he learned that Hengist had stationed himself twelve miles from York on the bank of a river which today they call the Don, where Doncaster is located. He headed directly there, and on the following day assaulted and conquered the enemy. Hengist, together with large number of Germans, was slain. Even now the fame of that victory remains in the memory of the local inhabitants, and this wonderfully weakened the Saxons’ strength, so much so that they now began to think they should resort to shameful peace rather than wretched war. Hengist left behind two sons, Osca and Otha. They, greatly sorrowed by this recent catastrophe, gathered a few forces and went to the western part of the island, because they thought this better than returning to Kent where there was a garrison which did not seem strong enough to put up a resistance. Here they wasted fields, burned villages, and did not stay their hand from any manner of cruelty. Learning these things, Ambrosius hastened there, so that his enemies would not prevail in that region, and he joined battle and scattered them once more. But he himself received a wound, of which he died a few days afterward. After these things, the English were not unwilling to hold their peace, having been visited with so many reversals within a few months. Yet the Britons undertook nothing, being less ready to undertake hardships because of the loss of their general. Meanwhile they built a magnificent tomb for this general of theirs Ambrosius, who had deserved so well of his commonwealth. It was built in the form of a crown, out of great squared stones, erected where he had fallen in battle, so that such a great commander’s virtue would not be forgotten by men then living, or go unremarked by posterity. This monument remains even now in the diocese of Salisbury near a village called Amesbury. Meanwhile Votimer died, and was followed by Uther Pendragon, who from the beginning of his reign regarded nothing as more important than to rid his nation of the barbarians, but he was unable to do so because of civil discords.
11. In these days nearly all the nations on the Continent bewailed the calamity of wretched Britain, because it suffered at the hands of enemies both domestic and foreign. But this calamity pained the bishops of Gaul above all others, who had heard that no little was added to this heap of woes that among the islanders decay of religion was daily growing. For seventeen years prior to the arrival of the Saxon English, the Pelagian heresy, a truly dire plague, had spread throughout the island, which had been strengthened, thanks to the Roman emperors’ savagery against Christians, and was now corrupting Christian teaching. For Pelagius, a Briton born in this nearer Britain, was persuaded that Man achieves his own salvation, can of his own volition attain to righteousness, is born without original sin and therefore has no need to be baptized. So this villain attempted to do a fine job of eliminating baptism. Therefore the British bishops, beset by armed enemies, since they were not perform all their functions and felt that their neighboring clergy were prepared to help, by means letters and messengers asked the Gallic bishops that they supply aid during this difficult time for the Christian religion. These swiftly convened a synod and voted to send into Britain German of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes, bishops of consummate integrity, learning and innocence, to strive to retain the islanders in the faith. These immediately crossed the sea, and partly by the sanctity of their life, partly by means of miracles, they easily returned those who had strayed to the path of righteousness. In this business Pope Celestine lent a helping hand, for he had lately sent Bishop Palladius into Scotland, which was now embracing Christian doctrine, and finally he consecrated Scotsmen as priests and ordained Servanus, a man endowed with singular goodness and modesty, a bishop, and later sent him to the Orkneys to teach the islanders the worship of the Christian religion, which he zealously did. And while he was in Scotland, Palladius, a good man, full of grace, piety and faith, with all his prayers exhorted King Constantine not to fight in support of the impious nation of Saxon English, nor to seek the friendship of the Picts, but rather to strive for government over the while island, nor risk himself and his people for the sake of foreigners, for nothing is more uncertain than the outcome of war. This admonition so moved Constantine that he then gave his promise never again to side with the English, and this he did. For in the future he supplied no little aid to the British. And this thing did much to support the Britons’ strength for a while, so that they did not immediately fall.
12. Meanwhile the Saxon English renewed their league with the Picts, for by now they had heard that the Scots had been separated from them. They gathered greater forces, once more threatening the Britons’ fortunes, and broke into places in the middle of the island. For the sake of attacking Kent, they made their way towards London. And when they arrived at the river Trent (as I conjecture), they chose a place on the other bank for their camp, and sent horsemen in all directions to see if there was an enemy force anywhere in the land. Meanwhile the Britons, learning their enemies’ movement, assembled their veterans soldiers and deliberated the wisdom of encountering them. The will was not lacking, but they had no hope of success, because they had not prepared any army or conducted any levy. And yet, so they would not fail themselves, they volunteered themselves and assembled an impromptu army rather than a seasoned one. Easter was impending, and everybody was minded to celebrate the high festival before marching against the enemy, even if he seemed to be hanging over their heads, just as if they were trusting in divine aid more than their own strength. And counsel was not lacking for their good minds. While they were devoting themselves to divine services, behold, Bishop Germanus, that exceedingly holy man, armed not with weapons, but with faith, piety, and innocent, announced himself as general of their army. It is wonderful to tell how much the Britons grew in courage and strength as the result of this news. Therefore, the holiday having been celebrated, they went against the Saxons and encamped as close to them as they could. On the following day their general Germanus ordered the army to hear Mass first thing in the morning, and asked God for victory. So they all prayed, and soon he gave the signal for battle, chanting Hallelujah three times in a loud voice. The army repeated this word so often and maid such a noise that the enemy, seeing it come against them, collapsed in sudden fear, threw down their weapons, and took to their heels as if, having been defeated in a lengthy battle and with hope for safety, there was no help for them more timely than flight. Thus the victory was gained by divine help, there was no killing, no captives were taken. And yet Bede attests that the enemy lost some men crossing the river, and they, terrified by the miracle, chose to hold their peace for some while. The Britons did the same, so much so that there was a lull in the fighting, as if a truce had been made. Then civil strife arose among the Britons, and this was the reason why in the end they were deprived of their liberty. And the Saxons were aroused to despoil the Britons of the parts of the island they possessed by any means possible, since (as Gildas testifies) their cities and towns were abandoned and deserted. Not long afterward they occupied a high mountain in that part of the island that faces Germany, called at the time Badonicus. I should think this is the one commonly called Blackmore by the river Tees, which divides Yorkshire from County Durham and has a mouth where ships coming to Britain out of Germany may conveniently put in. And the Saxon English awaited these daily, for every day they fetched help from their homeland. When these things were announced to the Britons they hastened there, surrounded the mountain, and protected the maritime regions with garrison so that there would be no ability for newcomers to fall upon the land. For a number of days the Saxons held themselves in these steep places, but then they were pressed by a lack of food and obliged to come down to the nearby flatland in battle array, and so the fight was joined. They fought from morning until late in the day, with so much slaughter that the land ran red, but the Saxons received by far the worst of it, losing their generals Oscan and Ota, with the result that they seemed to have been cast off the necks of the Britons. But they could not avert the omen, as will be shown below. Gildas in particular records this singular battle, which he affirms to have been fought in the year of his birth, and this was the sixty-fourth since the arrival of the English, and the year of human salvation 491.
13. At this time Uther departed this life, and was succeeded by his son Arthur, who was indeed such a man that, had he lived longer, he would have finally restored the British state, which was all but ruined. Because of the powers of his body and the virtues of his mind, posterity has published the same kind of things about him as are in our days still recounted among the Italians about Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne by his sister. For even now the common folk praise Arthur to the skies, for thrice he overwhelmed Saxon captains in war, gained possession over Scotland and the neighboring islands, defeated the Romans with their general (a certain Lucius) in the territory of Paris, laid waste to Gaul, and finally bested some giants in a fight. It is related that in the end, while he was wanting to visit Rome, he was recalled from this journey by domestic seditions, that he killed his nephew Mordred, who in his absence had gained control of the kingdom as a tyrant, but that he himself received a wound in this fight and died. A few years ago a magnificent tomb for Arthur was erected in the monastery of Glastonbury, that posterity might understand that he was worthy of all ornaments, since Arthur’s day that monastery had not yet been founded.
14. After Arthur reigned Constantine, a dissolute man whom Gildas (a most holy man who flourished at the same time) utterly hated. Or rather he could not help castigating that man’s bad morals, since he loved the man. And so he admonished him just as lovingly about his salvation as he sharply reprehended him for his vices. For Constantine, contrary to law, had cast off his wife and publicly forsworn her, and was committing very many crimes each day, by which he did the most of all men to lead his fellow Britons into depravity. This Gildas reprehended, of this he accused him, by this he was scandalized, and therefore he ransacked the treasury of Scripture for many passages which taught that God requites every man for his deeds, and attempted to recall his fellow citizens to good behavior, now exhorting them, now threatening them, like a careful father. Aurelius Conan followed Constantine, then Vortiporius, Magolcunus, Carentius, Caduanus and Cadwallo. For the few years these men reigned, they were satisfied to hold back the catastrophe hanging over their heads by fighting frequently against the Saxons, by comporting themselves well and offering good counsel. This was done by Cadwallo especially. For when he perceived that fate was drawing close, he retired to the City of Legions near the western shore, and from there he launched frequent sallies against his enemies and so vexed the English that it seems that in a short time he would have destroyed them, had he not meanwhile been killed in battle by King Oswald of the Northumbrians, as will be described below. After these kings, Cadwallader the son of Cadwallo inherited a kingdom devastated by fire and slaughter. From the very outset of his reign he employed goodly arts, counsel and arms to defend and protect his nation, now prostrate, against harm from the enemy, for a little while. But not long afterwards (since it is necessary that what is destined to fall in annihilation will someday fall) he fell into ill health. And when he was sore oppressed, the British lords despaired of his life and began to contend for rule, and this was the reason for the nation’s failure. For as the discord spread, every field began to lie empty, as if peace had been banished, as the multitude of men were devoted to arms and seditions. As a result, a great famine soon came over them. And something even more deadly was added to this calamity, I mean pestilence (ever the good friend of famine), which followed most severely, to that the living could not bury the dead. Therefore everywhere corpses lay in the sight of men who were daily expecting a similar death, so much so that the dead infected the sick, and the sick infected the healthy with both fear and the plague. Therefore, when he had regained his health, King Cadwallader was oppressed with hardships of this kind, and, together with a good number of his fellow countryman he took ship for Britanny on the Continent. And there, soon thereafter, he collected no small army and, having been informed that the pestilence had now departed the island, he prepared himself for return, when behold, a superhuman apparition appeared to him in a dream, saying, “I tell you, king, cease making war, by that you cannot resist fate. Your nation is destined to fall into the power of its enemy, far in the future your posterity will recover it.” It is wonderful what great faith Cadwallader had in these words, who (as they say) saw silver turned into dross, and immediately cast down his weapons and ordered those Britons he had led into Gaul to return home. But he himself went to Rome, where his life had a most pious ending. This was in the twelfth year of his reign, the year of human salvation 599.
15. Then at length the Saxon English gained control over all of the island but Scotland and the places possessed by the Picts, and divided it among themselves, as will be shown below. And this was not done by common counsel or some definite scheme, but accordingly as each stout fellow could stake a claim on the land and set up his kingdom. But to those Britons who survived the collapse of their nation befell that part of the land which looks toward the setting sun. Henceforth the English called this Wales, and the Britons inhabiting it Welshmen, because in their native language Germans (as I showed in the first Book of this work) call all foreigners who speak a different tongue wualsmen, that is, strangers. For, having now gained mastery of the island, they regarded the surviving Britons as such. But I will not leave this unsaid: Bishop David of Meneva, a little before the fall of the British kingdom, was famed in life for the holiness of his life, just as he was in death for his miracles, and even today his fame persists. At that time Constantine King of Scots, whom I have shown above to have aided the British state in the end, died without children, and was succeeded by Congallus, his nephew by his brother. There followed these kings: Goranus, a stout fellow, Eugene III, Convallus, Amtillus, Aidan, Kenneth, Eugene IV, Ferquart, Donald, Maldwin, Eugene V, Eugene VI, and Ambercletus. For these men nothing was more important than continual fighting with the Picts, a particular passion of Ambercletus, who at length died in that war. I believe that in their minds they foresaw that it was destined that one of these two nations would destroy the other, as afterwards came to pass.
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