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The Saxon Occupation: An Innocent Beginning

David White

Suite 101
first published on
Suite 101


It started innocently enough: as a call for help. The brothers were only too eager to oblige, having had a difficult time pressing their claim for settlement. The Isle of Thanet would do nicely, thank you, they were sure to have said. Their people had been coming to the foreign shores for years now, and their welcome was wearing thin. They wanted only a place to live, to hunt, to defend, and grow old and father children and die happy. They didn’t think it was too much to ask, especially since the foreign shores were none too densely populated. So the Isle of Thanet it was. That they would use as a base for their settlement operation. They could have the run of the land, provided they agreed to join in the defense against raiders from the north. Both sides agreed, words were exchanged, and the Saxon settlement of Britain had begun.

Innocent it began; blood-red and fire-strong it ended. In between, the Saxons ruled the Isle of Britannia as not even the Romans had before. Their legacy lives on in this nation of shopkeepers and their language, roughly borrowed from the Angles, inspires communication throughout the known world, in direct contrast to the picture of then, when Picts and Scots swept down across the once mighty Roman walls and threatened British domains in the central, south, and east realms. For the story of these humble beginnings, we turn to the man who started it all: Vortigern.

Vortigern it was who aspired to be High-King. He wanted to rule all of Britannia. He it was who struggled mightily against increasing Pictish presence in Britain proper. (Who could blame the Picts, really? The Romans having gone, the Picts considered their options and found it an excellent time to find new lands for their own people to live, eat, hunt, drink, and find riches. Was it their fault that the people living there didn’t agree?)

But back to Vortigern: He was having trouble of the worst sort. His soldiers were getting their weapons handed to them in the worst way--on the bodies of dead men. The Britons were having the worse of it, and they knew it. Vortigern fought on, mindful of losing his lands, his title, and his ambition. Desperate, he reached out to two strong men, Hengist and Horsa--Saxon leaders both--who agreed to help Vortigern fight his wars in exchange for a little breathing room. He let them settle on the Isle of Thanet, off the Thames and Londinium. They soon decided they wanted more.

It worked well at first, this alliance of the determined. Southern advances were stopped, northern counterattacks successful. The Britons and Saxons were on the move. With more victories came more calls for Saxon reinforcements. Hengist was only too happy to oblige.

A strange thing happened about this time: The Saxons decided they liked living in Britannia. Even more, they decided they liked the land they conquered. They decided they wanted it for themselves. Vortigern, of course, reminded them of their obligation to the terms of the agreement that both sides had pledged to honor. To Hengist, it was a fine point, one not worth worrying about. To Vortigern, it was the beginning of the end. The Saxons were there to stay.

BOOKS

  • Ashe, Geoffrey, "The Landscape of King Arthur," 1987, Webb & Bower, London
  • Barber, Richard, "King Arthur: Hero and Legend," 1986, Dorset Press, New York.
  • Day, David, "The Search for King Arthur," 1990, Facts on File, New York.
  • Jenkins, Elizabeth, "The Mystery of King Arthur," 1990, Dorset Press, New York.
  • Nennius, "The History of the Britons."
  • Phillips, Graham and Keatman, Martin, "King Arthur: The True Story," 1992, Arrow, London.

More about Vortigern
Single best link for info about Vortigern
Biography from Britannia.com
Short bio from Mystical A-Z

The Saxon Occupation: An Innocent Beginning is Copyright 2000, David White. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Comments to: David White


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