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The sources on Vortigern -
The Text of 'Nennius': Historia Brittonum,
chapters 31-49, 66.
Robert Vermaat

This is a reprint of parts of Nennius: The Historia Brittonum, trans. John Allan Giles, in: Six Old English Chronicles, of which two are now first translated from the monkish Latin originals (George Bell and Sons, London 1891). The original Latin text is the edition by Mommsen (Nennius: The Historia Brittonum: Mommsen, Theodor (1894-98), Chronica Minora iii, pp. 111-222 in: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi xiii, Berlin.) The translation in the left column is based on this text, but annotated with the more accurate edition of Nennius: British History and the Welsh Annals, Latin and trans. John Morris, History from the Sources VIII, (Chichester 1980), as well as the Vatican Recension, although the original notes are retained as well. Additional translation by Annemarie Speetjens. The italics are mine.

31. It came to pass that after this war between the British and the Romans, when their generals were killed, and after the killing of the tyrant Maximus and the end of the Roman Empire in Britain, the Britons went in fear for 40 years. Vortigern [Guorthigirnus] then reigned in Britain. In his time, the natives had cause of dread, not only from the inroads of the Scots and Picts, but also from the Romans, and their apprehensions of Ambrosius.[1]


factum est supra dictum bellum, quod fuit inter brittones et romanos, quando duces illorum occisi sunt, et occisionem maximi tyranni transactoque romanorum imperio in brittannia per quadraginta annos fuerunt sub metu. guorthigirnus regnauit in brittannia et dum ipse regnabat, urgebatur a metu pictorum scottorumque et a romanico impetu nec non et a timore ambrosii.

In the meantime, three vessels, exiled from Germany, arrived in Britain. They were commanded by Horsa and Hengist, brothers, and sons of Wihtgils. Wihtgils was the son of Witta; Witta of Wecta; Wecta of Woden; Woden of Frithowald[2], Frithowald of Frithuwulf; Frithuwulf of Finn; Finn of Godwulf[3]; Godwulf of Geat, who, as they say, was the son of a god, not of the omnipotent God and our Lord Jesus Christ (who before the beginning of the world, was with the Father and the Holy Spirit, co-eternal and of the same substance, and who, in compassion to human nature, disdained not to assume the form of a servant), but the offspring of one of their idols, and whom, blinded by some demon, they worshipped according to the custom of the heathen[4]. Vortigern received them as friends, and delivered up to them the island which is in their language called Thanet, and, by the Britons, Ruym[5].


interea uenerunt tres ciulae a germania expulsae in exilio, in quibus erant hors et hengist, qui et ipsi fratres erant, filii guictgils, filii guicta, filii guecta, filii uuoden, filii frealaf, filii fredulf, filii finn, filii foleguald, filii geta, qui fuit, ut aiunt, filius dei. non ipse est deus deorum, amen, deus exercituum, sed unus est ab idolis eorum, quod ipsi colebant. guorthigirnus autem suscepit eos benigne et tradidit eis insulam quae in lingua eorum uocatur tanet, brittannico sermone ruoihm.

Gratianus Æquantius at that time reigned in Rome[6]. The Saxons were received by Vortigern, four hundred and forty-seven years[7] after the passion of Christ[8], and, according to the tradition of our ancestors, from the period of their first arrival in Britain, to the first year of the reign of king Edmund, five hundred and forty-two years; and to that in which we now write, which is the fifth of his reign, five hundred and forty-seven years[9].


regnante gratiano secundo cum equitio saxones a guorthigirno suscepti sunt anno cccxlvii post passionem christi.

32. At that time St. Germanus, distinguished for his numerous virtues, came to preach in Britain: by his ministry many were saved; but many likewise died unconverted. Of the various miracles which God enabled him to perform, I shall here mention only a few: I shall first advert to that concerning an iniquitous and tyrannical king, named Benlli.[10] The holy man, informed of his wicked conduct, hastened to visit him, for the purpose of remonstrating him. When the man of God, with his attendants, arrived at the gate of the city, they were respectfully received by the keeper of it, who came out and saluted them. Him they commissioned to communicate their intention to the king, who returned a harsh answer, declaring, with an oath, that although they remained there a year, they should not enter the city. While waiting for an answer, the evening came on, and they knew not where to go. At length, came one of the king's servants, who bowing himself before the man of God, announced the words of the tyrant, inviting them, at the same time, to his own house, to which they went, and were kindly received. It happened, however, that he had no cattle, except one cow and a calf, the latter of which, urged by generous hospitality to his guests, he killed, dressed and set before them. But holy St. Germanus ordered his companions not to break a bone of the calf; and, the next morning, it was found alive uninjured, and standing by its mother.


in tempore illius uenit sanctus germanus ad praedicandum in brittannia et claruit apud illos in multis uirtutibus et multi per eum salui facti sunt et plurimi perierunt. aliquanta miracula, quae per illum fecit deus, scribenda decreuei. primum miraculum de miraculis eis. erat quidam rex iniquus atque tyrannus ualde, cui nomen erat benli. illum uir sanctus uoluit uisitare et properare ad iniquum regem, ut praedicaret illi. at cum ipse homo dei uenisset ad ostium urbis cum comitibus suis, uenit portarius et salutauit eos qui miserunt eum ad regem et rex durum responsum dedit illis et cum iuramento dixit: si fuerint uel si manserint usque ad caput anni, non uenient umquam in medio urbis meae. dum ipsi expectarent ianuatorem, ut nuntiaret illis sermonem tyranni, dies declinabat ad uesperum et nox appropinquabat et nescierunt quo irent. inter ea uenit unus de seruis regis e medio urbis et inclinauit se ante uirum dei et nuntiauit illis omnia uerba tyranni et inuitauit illos ad casam suam et exierunt cum eo et benigne suscepit eos. et ille nihil habebat de omnibus generibus iumentorum excepta una uacca cum uitulo, et occidit uitulum et coxit et posuit ante illos. et praecepit sanctus germanus, ut non confringeretur os de ossibus uituli et sic factum est et in crastino uitulus inuentus est ante matrem suam sanus et uiuus incolumisque.

33. Early the same day, they again went to the gate of the city, to solicit audience of the wicked king; and, whilst engaged in fervent prayer they were waiting for admission, a man, covered with sweat, came out, and prostrated himself before them. Then St. Germanus, addressing him, said "Dost thou believe in the Holy Trinity?" To which the man having replied, "I do believe," he baptized, and kissed him, saying, "Go in peace; within this hour thou shalt die: the angels of God are waiting for thee in the air; with them thou shalt ascent to that God in whom thou has believed." He, overjoyed, entered the city, and being met by the prefect, was seized, bound, and conducted before the tyrant, who having passed sentence upon him, he was immediately put to death; for it was a law of this wicked king, that whoever was not at his labour before sun-rising should be beheaded in the citadel. In the meantime, St. Germanus, with his attendants, waited the whole day before the gate, without obtaining admission to the tyrant.


iterum de mane surrexerunt, ut impetrarent salutationem tyranni. at ipsi, cum orarent et exspectarent iuxta portam arcis, et ecce uir unus currebat et sudor illius a uertice usque ad plantas pedum distillabat. inclinabat se ante illos et dixit sanctus germanus: credis in sanctam trinitatem? et respondit ille: credo, et baptizatus est et osculatus est et dixit illi: uade in pace: in ista hora morieris et angeli dei in aere expectant te, ut gradieris cum illis ad deum, cui credidisti. et ipse laetus intrauit in arcem et praefectus tenuit illum et alligauit et ante tyrannum ductus et interfectus est, quia mos erat apud nequissimum tyrannum, nisi quis ante solis ortum peruenisset ad seruitutem in arce, interficiebatur. et manserunt tota die iuxta portam ciuitatis et non impetrauerunt, ut salutarent tyrannum.

34. The man above-mentioned, however, remained with them. "Take care," said St. Germanus to him, "that none of your friends remain this night within these walls. Upon this he hastily entered the city, brought out his nine sons, and with them retired to the house where he had exercised such generous hospitality. Here St. Germanus ordered them to continue, fasting; and when the gates were shut, "Watch," said he, "and whatever shall happen in the citadel, turn not thither your eyes; but pray without ceasing, and invoke the protection of the true God." And, behold, early in the night, fire fell from heaven, and burned the city, together with all those who were with the tyrant, so that not one escaped; and that citadel has never been rebuilt even to this day.


solito ex more supradictus adfuit seruus et dixit illi sanctus germanus: caue, ne unus homo maneat de hominibus tuis in ista nocte in arce. et ipse reuersus est in arcem et deduxit filios suos, quorum numerus erat nouem, et ipsi ad supra dictum hospitium cum ipso reuersi sunt. et praecepit sanctus germanus manere eos ieiunos et clausis ianuis dixit: uigilantes estote et si quid euenerit in arce, nolite aspicere, sed orate indesinenter et ad deum uestrum clamate. et post modicum interuallum noctis ignis de caelo cecidit et combussit arcem et omnes homines, qui cum tyranno erant, et nusquam apparuerunt usque in hodiernum diem, et arx non aedificata est usque hodie.

35. The following day, the hospitable man who had been converted by the preaching of St. Germanus, was baptized, with his sons, and all the inhabitants of that part of the country; and St. Germanus blessed him, saying, "a king shall not be wanting of thy seed for ever." The name of this person is Catel Drunlue[11]: "from hence- forward thou shalt be a king all the days of thy life." Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of the Psalmist: "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the needy out of the dunghill." And agreeably to the prediction of St. Germanus, from a servant he became a king: all his sons were kings, and from their offspring the whole country of Powys has been governed to this day.[12]


in crastino die ille uir, qui hospitalis fuit illis, credidit et baptizatus est cum omnibus filiis suis et omnis regio cum eis, cui nomen erat catel. et bendixit ei et addidit et dixit: non deficiet rex de semino tuo. ipse est catell durnluc, et tu rex eris ab hodierna die. et sic euenit; et impletum est, quod dictum est per prophetam dicentem: ‘suscitans de puluere egenum, et de stercore erigens pauperem, ut sedeat cum principibus et solium gloriae teneat.’ iuxta uerba sancti germani rex de seruo facti sunt, et a semine illorum omnis regio pouisorum regitur usque in hodiernum diem.

36. After the Saxons had continued some time in the island of Thanet, Vortigern promised to supply them with clothing and provision, on condition they would engage to fight against the enemies of his country. But the barbarians having greatly increased in number, the Britons became incapable of fulfilling their engagement; and when the Saxons, according to the promise they had received, claimed a supply of provisions and clothing, the Britons replied, "Your number is increased; your assistance is now unnecessary; you may, therefore, return home, for we can no longer support you;" and hereupon they began to devise means of breaking the peace between them.


factum est autem postquam metati sunt saxones in supra dicta insula tanet, promisit rex supra dictus dari illis uictum et uestimentum absque defectione; et placuit illis, et ipsi promiserunt expugnare inimicos eius fortiter. at illi barbari cum multiplicati essent numero, non potuerunt brittones cibare illos. cum postularent cibum et uestimentum, sicut promissum erat illis, dixerunt brittones: non possumus dare uobis cibum et uestimentum, quia numerus uester multiplicatus est, sed recedite a nobis, quia auxilio uestro non indigemus. et ipsi consilium fecerunt cum maioribus suis, ut pacem disrumperent.

37. But Hengist, in whom united craft and penetration, perceiving he had to act with an ignorant king, and a fluctuating people, incapable of opposing much resistance[13], replied to Vortigern, "We are, indeed, few in number; but, if you will give us leave, we will send to our country for an additional number of forces, with whom we will fight for you and your subjects."[14] Vortigern assenting to this proposal, messengers were despatched to Scythia[15], where selecting a number of warlike troops, they returned with sixteen vessels, bringing with them the beautiful daughter of Hengist. And now the Saxon chief prepared an entertainment, to which he invited the king, his officers, and Ceretic, his interpreter, having previously enjoined his daughter to serve them so profusely with wine and ale, that they might soon become intoxicated. This plan succeeded; and Vortigern, at the instigation of the devil, and enamoured with the beauty of the damsel, demanded her, through the medium of his interpreter, of the father, promising to give for her whatever he should ask[16]. Then Hengist, who had already consulted with the elders who attended him of the Oghgul race[17], demanded for his daughter the province, called in English, Centland[18], in British, Ceint, (Kent.) This cession was made without the knowledge of the king, Guoyrancgonus[19], who then reigned in Kent, and who experienced no inconsiderable share of grief, from seeing his kingdom thus clandestinely, fraudulently, and imprudently resigned to foreigners[20]. Thus the maid was delivered up to the king, who slept with her, and loved her exceedingly.


hencgistus autem, cum esset uir doctus atque astutus et callidus, cum explorasset super regem inertem et super gentem illius, quae sine armis utebatur, inito consilio dixit ad regem brittannicum: pauci sumus; si uis, mittemus ad patriam nostram et inuitemus milites de militibus regionis nostrae, ut amplior sit numerus ad certandum pro te et pro gente tua. et ille imperauit ut facerent, et miserunt, et laegati transfretauerunt trans tithicam uallem, et reuersi sunt cum ciulis sedecim, et milites electi uenerunt in illis, et in una ciula ex eis uenit puella pulchra facie atque decorosa ualde, filia hencgisti. postquam autem uenissent ciulae, fecit hencgistus conuiuium guorthigirno et militibus suis et interpreti suo, qui uocatur ceretic et puellam iussit ministrare illis uinum et siceram et inebriati sunt et saturati sunt nimis. illis autem bibentibus intrauit satanas in corde guorthigirni, ut amaret puellam, et postulauit eam a patre suo per interpretem suum et dixit: omne quod postulas a me impetrabis, licet dimidium regni mei. et hencgistus, inito consilium cum suis senioribus, qui uenerunt secum de insula oghgul, quid peterent regi pro puella, unum consilium cum illis omnibus fuit, ut peterent regionem, quae in lingua eorum uocatur canturguoralen, in nostra autem chent. et dedit illis guoyrancgono regnante in cantia et inscius erat, quia regnum ipsius tradebatur paganis et ipse solus in potestatem illorum clam dari, et sic data est puella illi in coniugium et dormiuit cum ea et amauit eam ualde.

38. Hengist, after this, said to Vortigern, "I will be to you both a father and an adviser; despise not my counsels, and you shall have no reason to fear being conquered by any man or any nation whatever; for the people of my country are strong, warlike, and robust: if you approve, I will send for my son and his brother, both valiant men who at my invitation will fight against the Scots[21], and you can give them the countries in the north, near the wall called Gual[22]. "The incautious sovereign having assented to this, Octa and Ebusa arrived with forty ships. In these they sailed round the country of the Picts, laid waste the Orkneys[23], and took possession of many regions, even to the Pictish confines.


et dixit hencgistus ad guorthigirnum: ego sum pater tuus et consiliator tui, et noli praeterire consilium umquam, quia non timebis te superari ab ullo homine neque ab ulla gente, quia gens mea ualida est. inuitabo filium meum cum fratueli suo, bellatores enim uiri sunt, ut dimicent contra scottos, et da illis regiones, quae sunt in aquilone iutxta murum, qui uocatur guaul. et iussit ut inuitaret eos et inuitauit: octha et ebissa cum quadraginta ciulis. at ipsi cum nauigarent circa pictos, uastauerunt orcades insulas et uenerunt et occupauerunt regiones plurimas ultra mare frenessicum usque ad confinum pictorum.

But Hengist continued, by degrees, sending for ships from his own country, so that some islands whence they came were left without inhabitants; and whilst his people were increasing in power and number, they came to the above-named province of Kent[24].


et hencgistus semper ciulas ad se paulatim inuitauit, ita ut insulas ad quas uenerant absque habitatore relinquerent, et dum gens illius creuisset et in uirtute et in multitudine, uenerunt ad supra dictam ciuitatem cantorum.

39. In the meantime, Vortigern, as if desirous of adding to the evils he had already occasioned, married his own daughter, by whom he had a son. When this was made known to St. Germanus, he came, with all the British clergy, to reprove him: and whilst a numerous assembly of the ecclesiastics and laity were in consultation, the weak king ordered his daughter to appear before them, and in the presence of all to present her son to St. Germanus, and declare that he was the father of the child. The immodest woman obeyed; and St. Germanus, taking the child, said, "I will be a father to you, my son; nor will I dismiss you till a razor, scissors, and comb, are given to me, and it is allowed you to give them to your carnal father[25]." The child obeyed St. Germanus, and, going to his father Vortigern, said to him, "Thou art my father; shave and cut the hair of my head." The king blushed, and was silent; and, without replying to the child, arose in great anger, and fled from the presence of St. Germanus, execrated and condemned by the whole synod.


nam super omnia mala adiciens guorthigirnus accepit filiam sui uxorem sibi, et peperit ei filium. et hoc cum compertum esset a sancto germano, eum corripere venit cum omni clero brittonum. et dum conventa esset magna synodus clericorum ac laicorum in uno concilio, ipse rex praemonuit filiam suam, ut exiret ad conventum et ut daret filium suum in sinum germani et ut diceret, quod ipse erat pater filii, et mulier fecit sicut erat edocta. germanus atuem eum benigne accepit et dicere coepit: pater tibi ero nec te permittam, nisi mihi novacula cum forcipe pectineque detur et ad patrem tuum carnalem tibi dare licetur. et obaudivit puer et usque ad avum suum patrem carnalem guorthigirnum perrexit et puer illi dixit: pater meus es, caput meum tonde et comam capitis mei. et ille siluit et tacuit et puero respondere noluit, sed surrexit et iratus est valde, ut a facie sancti germani fugeret, et maledictus est et damnatus a sancto germano et omni brittonum concilio.

40. But soon after, calling together his twelve[26] wise men[27], to consult what was to be done, they said to him, "Retire to the remote boundaries of your kingdom; there build and fortify a city to defend yourself[28], for the people you have received are treacherous; they are seeking to subdue you by stratagem, and, even during your life, to seize upon all the countries subject to your power, how much more will they attempt, after your death!" The king, pleased with this advice, departed with his wise men, and travelled through many parts of his territories, in search of a place convenient for the purpose of building a citadel. Having, to no purpose, travelled far and wide, they came at length to a province called Guenet; and having surveyed the mountains of Heremus[29], they discovered, on the summit of one of them, a situation, adapted to the construction of a citadel. Upon this, the wise men said to the king, "Build here a city; for, in this place, it will ever be secure against the barbarians." Then the king sent for artificers, carpenters, stone-masons, and collected all the materials requisite to building; but the whole of these disappeared in one night, so that nothing remained of what had been provided for the constructing of the citadel[30]. Materials were, therefore, from all parts, procured a second and third time, and again vanished as before, leaving and rendering every effort ineffectual. Vortigern inquired of his wise men the cause of this opposition to his undertaking, and of so much useless expense of labour? They replied, "You must find a child born without a father, put him to death, and sprinkle with his blood the ground on which the citadel is to be built, or you will never accomplish your purpose."


et postea rex ad se invitavit magos suos, ut quid faceret ab eis interrogaret. at illi dixere: in extremis fines regni tui vade et arcem munitam invenies, ut tu defendes; quia gens, quam suscepisti in regno tuo, invidet tibi et te per dolum occidet et universas regiones, quas amaras, occupabit cum tua universa gente post mortem tuam. et postea ipse cum magis suis arcem adipisci venit et per multas regiones multasque provincias circumdederunt et illis non invenientibus ad regionem, quae vocatur guined, novissime pervenerunt; et illo lustrante in montibus Hereri tandem in uno montium locum, in quo aptum erat arcem condere, adeptus est. et magi ad illum dixere: arcem in isto loco fac, quia tutissima a barbaris gentibus in aeternum erit. et ipse artifices congregavit, id est lapidicinos, et ligna et lapides congregavit et cum esset congregata omnis materia, in una nocte ablata est materia. et tribus vicibus iussit congregari et nusquam comparuit. et magos arcessivit et illos percunctatus est, quae esset haec causa malitiae et quid hoc evenerit. at illi responderunt: nisi infantem sine patre invenies et occidetur ille et arx a sanguine suo aspergatur, numquam aedificabitur in aeternum.

41. In consequence of this reply, the king sent messengers throughout Britain, in search of a child born without a father. After having inquired in all the provinces, they came to the field of Ælecti[31], in the district of Glevesing, where a party of boys were playing at ball. And two of them quarrelling, one said to the other, "O boy without a father, no good will ever happen to you." Upon this, the messengers diligently inquired of the mother and the other boys, whether he had had a father? Which his mother denied, saying, "In what manner he was conceived I know not, for I have never had intercourse with any man;" and then she solemnly affirmed that he had no mortal father.


et ipse legatos ex consilio magorum per uniuersam brittanniam misit, utrum infantem sine patre inuenirent. et lustrando omnes prouincias regionesque plurimas uenere ad campum elleti, qui est in regione, quae uocatur gleguissing, et pilae ludum faciebant pueri. et ecce duo inter se litigabant, et dixit alter alteri: o homo sine patre, bonum non habebis. at illi de puero ad pueros diligenter percunctabantur, et cunctantes matrem, si patrem haberet. illa negauit et dixit: nescio quomodo in utero meo conceptus est, sed unum scio, quia uirum non cognoui umquam, et iurauit illis patrem non habere.

The boy was, therefore, led away, and conducted before Vortigern the king.


et illi eum secum duxere usque ad guorthigirnum regem et eum insinuauerunt regi.

42. A meeting took place the next day for the purpose of putting him to death. Then the boy said to the king, "Why have your servants brought me hither?" "That you may be put to death," replied the king, "and that the ground on which my citadel is to stand, may be sprinkled with your blood, without which I shall be unable to build it."


et in crastino conuentio facta est, ut puer interficeretur. et puer ad regem dixit: cur uiri tui me ad te detulerunt? cui rex ait: ut interficiaris et sanguis tuus circa arcem istam aspergetur, ut possit aedificari.

"Who," said the boy, "instructed you to do this?" "My wise men," answered the king. "Order them hither," returned the boy; this being complied with, he thus questioned them: "By what means was it revealed to you that this citadel could not be built, unless the spot were previously sprinkled with my blood? Speak without disguise, and declare who discovered me to you;" then turning to the king, "I will soon," said he, "unfold to you every thing; but I desire to question your wise men, and wish them to disclose to you what is hidden under this pavement:" they acknowledging their ignorance, "there is," said he, "a pool; come and dig:" they did so, and found the pool. "Now," continued he, "tell me what is in it;" but they were ashamed, and made no reply. "I," said the boy, "can discover it to you: there are two vases[32] in the pool;" they examined, and found it so: continuing his questions," What is in the vases?" they were silent: "there is a tent[33] in them," said the boy; "separate them, and you shall find it so;" this being done by the king's command, there was found in them a folded tent. The boy, going on with his questions, asked the wise men what was in it? But they not knowing what to reply, "There are," said he, "two serpents[34], one white and the other red; unfold the tent;" they obeyed, and two sleeping serpents were discovered; "consider attentively," said the boy, "what they are doing." The serpents began to struggle with each other; and the white one, raising himself up, threw down the other into the middle of the tent, and sometimes drove him to the edge of it; and this was repeated thrice. At length the red one, apparently the weaker of the two, recovering his strength, expelled the white one from the tent; and the latter being pursued through the pool by the red one, disappeared. Then the boy, asking the wise men what was signified by this wonderful omen, and they expressing their ignorance, he said to the king, "I will now unfold to you the meaning of this mystery. The pool is the emblem of this world, and the tent that of your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons; the red serpent is your dragon, but the white serpent is the dragon of the people who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea: at length, however, our people shall rise and drive away the Saxon race from beyond the sea, whence they originally came; but do you depart from this place, where you are not permitted to erect a citadel; I, to whom fate has allotted this mansion, shall remain here; whilst to you it is incumbent to seek other provinces, where you may build a fortress."


respondit puer regi: quis tibi monstrauit? et rex: magi mei mihi dixere. et puer dixit: ad me uocentur. et inuitati sunt magi et puer illis dixit: quis reuelauit uobis, ut ista arx a sanguine meo aspergeretur? et nisi aspergeretur a sanguine meo, in aeternum non aedificabitur? sed hoc ut cognoscat is, quis mihi de me palam fecit? iterum puer dixit, modo tibi, o rex, elucubrabo et in ueritate tibi omnia satagam; sed magos tuos percunctor: quid in pauimento istius loci est? placet mihi, ut ostendant tibi, quid sub pauimento habetur. at illi dixere: nescimus. et ille dixit: comperior: stagnum in medio pauimenti est; uenite et fodite et sic inuenietis. uenerunt et foderunt, et ruit. et puer ad magos dixit: proferte mihi, quid est in stagno? et siluerunt et non potuerunt reuelare illi. et ille dixit illis: ego uobis reuelabo; duo uasa sunt et sic inuenietis. uenerunt et uiderunt sic. et puer ad magos dixit: quid in uasis conclusis habetur? at ipsi siluerunt et non potuerunt reuelari illi. at ille asseruit: in medio eorum tentorium est, separate ea et sic inuenietis. et rex separari iussit et sic inuentum est tentorium complicatum, sicut dixerat. et iterum interrogauit magos eius: quid in medio tentorii est? et iam nunc narrate, et non potuerunt scire. at ille reuelauit: duo uermes in eo sunt, unus albus et unus rufus; tentorium expandite. et extenderunt et due uermes dormientes inuenti sunt. et dixit puer: expectate et considerate quid facient uermes; et coeperunt uermes, ut alter alterum expelleret, alius autem scapulas suas ponebat, ut eum usque ad dimidium tentorii expelleret, et sic faciebant tribus uicibus: tamen tandem infirmior uidebatur uermis rufus et postea fortior albo fuit et extra finem tentorii expulit; tunc alter alterum secutus trans stagnum est et in tentorium euanuit. et puer ad magos refert: quid significat mirabile hoc signum, quod factum est in tentorio? et illi proferunt: nescimus. et puer respondit: en reuelatum est mihi hoc mysterium et ego uobis propalabo. regni tui figura tentorium est; duo uermes duo dracones sunt; uermis rufus draco tuus est et stagnum figura huius mundi est. at ille albus draco illius gentis, quae occupauit gentes et regiones plurimas in brittannia, et paene a mari usque ad mare tenebunt, et postea gens nostra surget, et gentem anglorum trans mare uiriliter deiciet. tu tamen de ista arce uade, quia eam aedificare non potes, et multas prouincias circumi, ut arcem tutam inuenias, et ego hic manebo.

"What is your name?" asked the king: "I am called Ambrose (in British Embresguletic[35])," returned the boy; and in answer to the king's question, "What is your origin?" he replied, "A Roman consul was my father".


et rex adolescentem dixit: quo nomine uocaris? ille respondit: ambrosius uocor, id est, embreis guletic ipse uidebatur. et rex dixit: de qua progenie ortus es? at ille: unus est pater meus de consulibus romanicae gentis.

Then the king assigned him that city, with all the western provinces of Britain; and departing with his wise men to the sinistral district[36], he arrived in the region named Gueneri[37], where he built a city which, according to his name, was called Cair Guorthegirn[38].


et arcem dedit illi cum omnibus regnis occidentalis plagae brittanniae et ipse cum magis suis ad sinistralem plagam peruenit et usque ad regionem, qua uocatur guunnessi, adfuit et urbem ibi, quae uocatur suo nomine cair guorthigirn, aedificauit.

43. At length Vortimer, the son of Vortigern, valiantly fought against Hengist, Horsa, and his people; drove them to the isle of Thanet, and thrice enclosed them within it, and occupied, hit, threathened and freightened them on the western side.


inter[e]a guorthemir filius guorthigirn cum hengisto et horso et cum gente illorum petulanter pugnabant et eos usque ad supradictam insulam, quae uocatur tanet, expulit et eos ibi tribus uicibus conclusit obsedit percussit comminuit terruit.

The Saxons now despatched deputies to Germany to solicit large reinforcements, and an additional number of ships with many men: and after he obtained these, they fought against the kings of our peoples and princes of Britain[39], and sometimes extended their boundaries by victory, and sometimes were conquered and driven back.


et ipsi legatos ultra mare usque in germaniam transmittebant uocando ciulas cum ingenti numero bellatorum uirorum. et postea pugnabant contra reges nostrae gentis: aliquando uincebantur et expellebantur.

44. Four times did Vortimer valorously encounter the enemy[40]; the first has been mentioned, the second was upon the river Darent, the third at the Ford[41], in their language called Epsford, though in ours Set thirgabail[42], there Horsa fell, and Catigern, the son of Vortigern; the fourth battle he fought, was near the stone[43] on the shore of the Gallic sea, where the Saxons being defeated, fled to their ships[44].


et guorthemir contra illos quattuor bella auide gessit. primum bellum super flumen derguentid; secundum bellum super uadum, quod dicitur in lingua eorum episford, in nostra autem lingua rithergabail, et ibi cecidit hors cum filio guorthigirni, cuius nomen erat categirn. tertium bellum in campo iuxta lapidem tituli, qui est super ripam gallici maris, commisit et barbari uicti sunt et ille uictor fuit et ipsi in fugam uersi usque ad ciulas suas mersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.

After a short interval Vortimer died; before his decease, anxious for the future prosperity of his country[45], he charged his friends to inter his body at the entrance of the Saxon port, viz. upon the rock where the Saxons first landed; "for though," said he, "they may inhabit other parts of Britain, yet if you follow my commands, they will never remain in this island." They imprudently disobeyed this last injunction, and neglected to bury him where he had appointed[46].


ille autem post modicum interuallum mortuus est et ante mortem suam ad familiam suam dixit, ut sepulchrum illius in portu ponerent, a quo exierant, super ripam maris, in quo uobis commendo: quamuis in alia parte portum brittanniae teneant et habitauerint, tamen in ista terra in aeternum non manebunt. illi autem mandatum eius contempserunt et eum in loco, in quo imperauerat illis, non sepelierunt.

45. After this the barbarians became firmly incorporated, and were assisted by foreign pagans[47]; for Vortigern was their friend, on account of the daughter[48] of Hengist, whom he so much loved[49], that no one durst fight against him--in the meantime they soothed the imprudent king, and whilst practising every appearance of fondness, were plotting with his enemies[50]. And let him that reads understand, that the Saxons were victorious, and ruled Britain, not from their superior prowess, but on account of the great sins of the Britons: God so permitting it. For what wise man will resist the wholesome counsel of God? The Almighty is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, ruling and judging every one, according to his own pleasure.


at barbari reuersi sunt magno opere, cum guorthigirnis amicus illis erat propter uxorem suam et nullus illos abigere audacter ualuit, quia non de uirtute sua brittanniam occupauerunt, sed de nutu dei. contra uoluntatem dei quis resistere poterit et nitatus? sed quomodo uoluit dominus fecit et ipse omnes gentes regit et gubernat.

After the death of Vortimer[51], Hengist being strengthened by new accessions, collected his ships, and calling his leaders together, consulted by what stratagem they might overcome Vortigern and his army; with insidious intention they sent messengers to the king, with offers of peace and perpetual friendship; unsuspicious of treachery, the monarch, after advising with his elders, accepted the proposals.[52]


factum est autem post mortem guorthemir regis guorthigirni filii et post reuersionem hengisti cum suis turbis consilium fallax hortati sunt, ut dolum guorthigirni cum exercitu suo facerent. at illi legatos, ut impetrarent pacem, miserunt, ut perpetua amicitia inter illos fieret. at ille guorthegirnus cum suis maioribus natu consilium fecerunt et scrutati sunt, quid facerent; tandem unum consilium cum omnibus fuit, ut pacem facerent, et legati eorum reuersi sunt et postea conuentum adduxerunt, ut ex utraque parte brittones et saxones in unum sine armis conuenirent, ut firma amicitia esset.

46. Hengist, under pretence of ratifying the treaty, prepared an entertainment, to which he invited the king, the nobles, and military officers, in number about three hundred; speciously concealing his wicked intention, he ordered three hundred Saxons to conceal each a knife under his feet, and to mix with the Britons[53]; "and when," said he, "they are sufficiently inebriated, &c. cry out, 'Nimed eure Saxes,'[54] then let each draw his knife, and kill his man; but spare the king, on account of his marriage with my daughter, for it is better that he should be ransomed than killed."[55]


et hengistus omni familiae suae iussit, ut unusquisque artauum suum sub pede in medio ficonis sui poneret. et quando clamauero ad uos et dixero: eu saxones eniminit saxas, cultellos uestros ex ficonibus uestris educite et in illos irruite et fortiter contra illos resistite. et regem illorum nolite occidere, sed eum, pro causa filiae meae, quam dedi illi in coniugium, tenente, quia melius est nobis, ut ex manibus nostris redimatur.

The king with his company, appeared at the feast; and mixing with the Saxons, who, whilst they spoke peace with their tongues, cherished treachery in their hearts, each man was placed next his enemy[56]. After they had eaten and drunk, and were much intoxicated, Hengist suddenly vociferated, "Nimed eure Saxes!"[57] and instantly his adherents drew their knives, and rushing upon the Britons, each slew him that sat next to him, and there was slain three hundred of the nobles of Vortigern. The king being a captive, purchased his redemption, by delivering up the three provinces of East, South[58], and Middle Sex, besides other districts at the option of his betrayers.


et conuentum adduxerunt et in unum conuenerunt, et saxones amicaliter locuti in mente interim uulpicino more agebant et uir iuxta uirum socialiter sederunt. hengistus sicut dixerat, uociferatus est et omnes seniores trecenti guorthigirni regis iugulati sunt et ipse solus captus et catenatus est et regiones plurimas pro redemptione animae suae illis tribuit, id est estsaxum, sutsaxum.

47. St. Germanus admonished Vortigern to turn to the true God, and abstain from all unlawful intercourse with his daughter; but the unhappy wretch fled for refuge to the province Guorthegirnaim[59], so called from his own name, where he concealed himself with his wives: but St. Germanus followed him with all the British clergy, and upon a rock prayed for his sins during forty days and forty nights.


uero germanus guorthigirno praedicabat, ut ad dominum suum conuerteret et ab illicita coniunctione se separaret; et ille usque ad regionem, quae a nomine suo accepit nomen guorthigirniaun, miserabiliter effugit, ut ibi cum uxoribus suis lateret. et sanctus germanus post illum secutus est cum omni clero brittonum et ibi quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus mansit et super petram orabat et die noctuque stabat.

The blessed man was unanimously chosen commander against the Saxons. And then, not by the clang of trumpets, but by praying, singing hallelujah, and by the cries of the army to God, the enemies were routed, and driven even to the sea.


( - )[60]

Again Vortigern ignominiously flew from St. Germanus to the kingdom of the Dimetæ, where, on the river Towy[61], he built a castle, which he named Cair Guothergirn[62]. The saint, as usual, followed him there, and with his clergy fasted and prayed to the Lord three days, and as many nights. On the third night, at the third hour, fire fell suddenly from heaven, and totally burned the castle. Vortigern, the daughter of Hengist[63], his other wives, and all the inhabitants, both men and women, miserably perished: such was the end of this unhappy king, as we find written in the life of St. Germanus.


et iterum guorthigirnus usque ad arcem guorthigirni, quae est in regione demetorum iuxta flumen teibi, ignominiose abscessit. et solito more sanctus germanus eum secutus est et ibi ieiunus cum omni clero tribus diebus totidemque noctibus causaliter mansit et in quarta nocte arx tota mediae circa noctis horam per ignem missum de caelo ex improuiso cecidit ardente igne caelesti; et guorthigirnus cum omnibus, qui cum eo erant, et cum uxoribus suis defecit. hic est finis guorthigirni, ut in libro beati germani repperi.

48. Others assure us, that being hated by all the people of Britain, for having received the Saxons, and being publicly charged by St. Germanus and the clergy in the sight of God, he betook himself to flight; and, that deserted and a wanderer, he sought a place of refuge, till broken hearted, he made an ignominious end[64].


alii autem aliter dixerunt. postquam exosi fuerunt illi omnes homines gentis suae pro piaculo suo inter potentes et impotentes, inter seruum et liberum, inter monachos et laicos, inter paruum et magnum, et ipse dum de loco ad locum uagus errat, tandem cor eius crepuit et defunctus est, non cum laude.

Some accounts state, that the earth opened and swallowed him up, on the night his castle was burned; as no remains were discovered the following morning, either of him, or of those who were burned with him.


alii dixerunt: terra aperta est et deglutiuit cum in nocte, in qua combusta est arx circa eum, quia non inuentae sunt ullae reliquiae illorum, qui combusti sunt cum eo in arce.

He had three sons: the eldest was Vortimer, who, as we have seen, fought four times[65] against the [barbarians] Saxons, and put them to flight; the second was Categirn who was slain in the same battle with Horsa[66]; the third was Pascent, who reigned in the two provinces Builth and Guorthegirnaim[67], after the death of his father. These were granted him by Ambrosius, who was the great king among the kings of Britain. The fourth was Faustus, born of an incestuous marriage with his daughter, who was brought up and educated by St. Germanus. He built a large monastery on the banks of the river Renis, called after his name, and which remains to the present period[68].


tres filios habuit, quorum nomina sunt guorthemir, qui pugnabat contra barbaros, ut supra diximus; secundo categirn; tertius pascent, qui regnauit in duabus regionibus buelt et guorthegirniaun post mortem patris sui largiente ambrosio illi, qui fuit rex inter omnes reges brittannicae gentis. quartus fuit faustus, qui a filia sua genitus est illi, et sanctus germanus baptizauit illum et nutriuit et docuit et condidit locum magnum super ripam fluminis, quod uocatur renis, et manet usque hodie. et unam filiam habuit, quae fuit mater fausti sancti.

49. This is the genealogy of Vortigern, which goes back to Fernvail[69], who reigned in the kingdom of Guorthegirnaim[70], and was the son of Teudor; Teudor was the son of Pascent; Pascent of Guoidcant; Guoidcant of Moriud; Moriud of Eltat; Eltat of Eldoc; Eldoc of Paul; Paul of Meuprit; Meuprit of Braciat; Braciat of Pascent; Pascent of Guorthegirn (Vortigern); Guorthegirn of Guortheneu; Guortheneu of Guitaul; Guitaul of Guitolion; Guitolion of Gloui. [71]Bonus, Paul, Mauron, Guotelin, were four brothers, who built Gloiuda, a great city upon the banks of the river Severn, and in British is called Cair Gloui, in Saxon, Gloucester.


haec est genealogia illius, quae ad initium retro recurrit. fernmail ipse est, qui regit modo in regionibus duabus buelt et guorthigirniaun, filius teudubir. teudubir ipse est rex bueltiae regionis, filius pascent, filii guoidcant, filii moriud, filii eldat, filii eldoc, filii paul, filii mepurit, filii briacat, filii pascent, filii guorthigirn guortheneu, filii guitaul, filii guitolin, filii gloui. bonus, paul, mauron tres fratres fuerunt filii gloui, qui aedificauit urbem magnam super ripam fluminis sabrinae, quae uocatur brittannico sermone cair gloiu, saxonice autem gloecester.

Enough has been said of Vortigern.


satis dictum est de guorthigirno et de genere suo.

66. - On the Chronography
From the beginning of the world to Constantinus and Rufus, are found to be five thousand six hundred and fifty-eight years.


mundi principio usque ad constantinum et rufum quinque milia sexcenti quinquaginta octo anni reperiuntur.

Also from the two consuls, Rufus and Rubelius, to the consul Stilicho, are three hundred and seventy-three years.


item a duobus geminis rufo et rubelio usque in stillitionem consulem trecenti septuaginta tres anni sunt.

Also from Stilicho to Valentinian, son of Placidia, and the reign of Vortigern, are twenty-eight years.


item a stillitione usque ad ualentinianum filium placidae et regnum guorthigirni uiginti octo anni.

And from the reign of Vortigern to the quarrel between Guitolinus and Ambrosius, are twelve years, which is Guolopum, that is Catgwaloph[72]. Vortigern reigned in Britain when Theodosius and Valentinian were consuls, and in the fourth year of his reign the Saxons came to Britain, in the consulship of Felix and Taurus, in the four hundredth year from the incarnation[73] of our Lord Jesus Christ.


et a regno guorthigirni usque ad discordiam guitolini et ambrosii anni sunt duodecim, quod est guoloppum; id est catguoloph. guorthigirnus autem tenuit imperium in brittannia theodosio et ualentiniano consulibus et in quarto anno regni sui saxones ad brittanniam uenerunt felice et tauro consulibus quadringentesimo anno ab incarnatione domini nostri iesu christi.

From the year in which the Saxons came into Britain, and were received by Vortigern, to the time of Decius and Valerian, are sixty-nine years.


ab anno, quo saxones uenerunt in brittanniam et a guorthigirno suscepti sunt, usque ad decium et ualerianum anni sunt sexaginta nouem.


[1] Morris translates: 'during his rule in Britain he was under pressure, from fear of the Picts and the Irish, and of a Roman invasion, and, not least, from dread of Ambrosius.' Original note: These words relate evidently to some cause of dispute between the Romans, Ambrosius, and Vortigern. Vortigern is said to have been sovereign of the Dimetae, and Ambrosius son to the King of the Damnonii. The latter was half a Roman by descent, and naturally supported the Roman interest: the former was entirely a Briton, and as naturally seconded by the original Britons.
[2] This should be Frealaf and Fredulf.
[3] This should be Folcwald.
[4] The whole passage in italics was based on the Vatican Recension (hence VR): "not the God of gods, the Amen, the Lord of Hosts, but one of their idols which they worshipped".
[5] Original note: "Sometimes called Ruoichin, Ruith-in, or 'River Island', separated from the rest of Kent and the mainland of Britain by the estuary of the Wantsum, which, though now a small brook, was formerly navigable for large vessels, and in Bede's time was three stadia wide, and fordable only at two places."
[6] This passage, dealing with the Roman consuls as presented by the Cursus of Victorius, was totally misunderstood by Giles. It should be: 'When Gratian ruled for the second time with Equitius'.
[7] Actually, the text says 347 years, although Giles altered that to 447 years, no doubt with Bede's dates of the adventus Saxonum in mind. However, we know that 'Nennius' actually meant 347 years, as explained in the next note:
[8] Here we have a total mix-up by the author of the Historia Brittonum. The year AP 347 is actually AD 374, which is a total mixup of AD dates and AP dates. Even if he meant the year AD 401 (turning his AD 374 into a mistake for AP 374), this would not fit with his later computation for the adventus Saxonum. Therefore it looks like he actually counted back the 27 years between the Passion and the Incarnation of Christ from AD 428 (his date for the adventus, and AP 401), arriving somehow at AD 374 which he then turned into AP 347. It's a weird conclusion but the numbers do end up. Looking up the entry for that year in the list of consuls he found Gratian and Equitius.
[9] The entire part in italics is not in the text by Mommsen, as not in most MSS, but added later during Norman times.
[10] There was a king named Benli or Benlli in the district of Ial (in Derbyshire), from which the hillfort Foel Fenlli was named; in the district of Dalrieta; Belinus; Beluni; and Benty. Sometimes he is a giant. Benlli has often been identified with Vortigern, mostly because their treatment by Germanus is similar. However, although the Cadell dynasty rivalled that of Vortigern (next note), such an identification is not easy. Nennius at least does not make it.
[11] Original note: "or Cadell Dyrnllug, prince of the Vale Royal and the upper part of Powys."
[12] The Cadelling dynasty, supported by Gwynedd, was a rival dynasty to that which claimed descent from Vortigern. Cadell is often inserted in various positions into the pedigree of Vortigern. This story, and others slandering Vortigern, must be read in the light of political rivalry. The story may not belong to Germanus at all, but to an older saint, but was at any rate copied to the 'haunting' of Vortigern by Germanus (chapters 39, 47, 48).
[13] Morris translates: "But Hengest was an experienced man, shrewd and skilful. Sizing up the king's impotence, and the military weakness of his people, he held a council."
[14] The total contradiction of bringing in far more warriors, when the Britons had just told them to go because they were unable to feed them, shows that this is not based on reality.
[15] Scythia is not mentioned in the Latin text. Morris translates: "envoys were sent across the sea.."
[16] Morris translates: "Ask of me what you will, even to the half of my kingdom".
[17] VR: Who had come with him from the island of Oghgul. Morris translates 'Oghgul' with the more appropriate 'Angeln'. Although often seen as a Jute, Hengist was probably an Anglian. The origin of the Angles is said to have been the island of Oghgul, Oehgul (or Tingle), Angul. Original note: According to Gunn, a small island in the duchy of Schleswick in Germany, now called Angel, of which Flensburg is the metropolis.
[18] The text says Cantguoralen, of which the latter part, -guoralen bears similarities to the Guorangon who is supposed to be the king.
[19] VR: Gnoiram cono, Goiranegono, Guiracgono. Malmesbury, Gorongi; Camden, Guorong, supposed to mean governor, or viceroy. Maybe he was a sub-king.
[20] Morris translates: ".., although Gwyrangon was ruling in Kent, and did not know that his kingdom was being handed over to the heathens, and that he himself given secretly into their power on his own."
[21] Morris translates rightly with Irish. The Scotti was the ancient name of the Irish, which seems to have meant 'pirates'. The land now known as Scotland was then called Caledonia, Albion, Alba or Pictland.
[22] Gwawl, The Wall. Although some identify this with the Antonine Wall, Gwawl is referred to in later texts as Hadrian's Wall.
[23] Original note: Some MSS. add, but Giles omits, "beyond the Frenesic, Fresicum (or Fressiccan) sea," i.e. which is between us and the Scots. The sea between Scotland and Ireland. Camden translates it "beyond the Firth;" Langhorne says, "Solway Firth."
[24] 'ciuitatem cantorum' may refer to Canterbury as well as the civitas of the Cantii, i.e. Kent.
[25] VR: immodest, is omitted in some MSS. Instead of a reproachable act, this is a misunderstood common practise among the British, to give their son in fosterage to raise as their own. As becoming the foster-father is an honoured position, and Germanus accepts, this is actually a sign of good relations between the two men. The whole story reeks of political slander.
[26] There is no mention of a number in the Latin text.
[27] Magi. Morris translated with 'wizards'.
[28] Other versions are: "You shall find a city in which you may defend yourself", or: "and find a fortified stronghold to defend yourself".
[29] VR: Heremi, Eryri, or Heriri. Morris translates: "that is, in English, Snowdon". The spot alluded to is Dinas Emrys.
[30] Note that, contrary to popular legend, it was the building material that vanished, not the wall that crumbled every night.
[31] Morris has Maes Elledi, VR has Elleti, Electi, Gleti. Possibly Bassalig in Monmouthshire.
[32] Morris has: vessels.
[33] Morris has: cloth.
[34] Morris has: worms. Although the creatures may have been somewhat larger than worms, it is clear that this earliest form of the legend does not speak of two fighting dragons! The creatures only represent dragons.
[35] Morris translates with: 'that is, he was shown to be Emrys the Overlord'.
[36] Morris translated with: 'the northern part'.
[37] Morris has: Gwynessi. The latter means Gwent, and is in South Wales.
[38] An interpolation in chapter 42 in the 'Cambridge group' of the Historia Brittonum in CCCC 139 folio 75r.) adds: "He then built

.. Guasmoric across Carlisle, a city which in English is Palmecastre.

.. Guasmoric iuxta Lugubaliam idi edificauit urbem [scilicet] que anglice Palmecastre dicitur.

This is now called Old Carlisle. Some difference of opinion exists among antiquaries respecting the site of Vortigern's castle or city. Usher places it at Gwent, Monmouthshire, which name, he ways, was taken from Caer-Went, near Chepstow. This appears to agree with Geoffrey's account, {illegible} See Usher's Britan. Eccles. cap. v. p.23. According to others, supposed to be the city from the ruins of which arose the castle of Gurthrenion, in Radnorshire, Camden's Britannia, p.479 (see Castell Gwrtheyrnion). Whitaker, however, says that Cair Guorthegirn was the Maridunum of the Romans, and the present Caermarthen. (Hist. Of Manchester, book ii. c. 1.) See also Nennius, sec. 47. For more possibilities, see my chapter about the Cities of Vortigern.
[39] Morris translated with: "And afterwards they used to fight against the kings of one nation". He correctly omits '..and princes', but the word 'one' is certainly a misprint for 'our'.
[40] A much later (c. 1200) gloss in MS CCCC 139, fo 175r. here adds, "This Vortimer, the son of Vortigern, in a synod held at Guartherniaun, after the wicked King, on account of the incest committed with his daughter, fled from the face of Germanus and the British clergy, would not consent to his father's wickedness; but returning to St. Germanus, and falling down at his feet, he sued for pardon; and in atonement for the calumny brought upon Germanus by his father and sister, gave him the land, in which the aforementioned Bishop had endured such abuse, to be his for ever. Whence, in memory of St. Germanus, it received the name Guarenniaun (or: Guartherniaun, Gurthrenion, Gwarth Ennian) which signifies, 'a calumny justly retorted', since, when he thought to reproach the Bishop, he covered himself with reproach. It is said that he was so big and strong, that he, when fought a war in anger, he lifted up a tree, which he had felled and uprooted with its branches, en destroyed his enemies with it. Because with this tree he felled Horsa, a bellicose fellow, after he was almost robbed of his strength, had broken his weapons, and threw the others who had fled to the ground and chased them from the corners of Britain. And for five years the dared not enter the island until the death of Vortimer." See more about Vortimer.
[41] There is a major disagreement here about the battles. According to Morris, in my opinion correctly, the text says that: 'the first battle was on the river Darenth [Derguentid]. The second battle was at the ford called Episford in their language, Rhyd yr afael [Rithergabail] in ours, and there fell Horsa and also [with] Vortigern's son Cateyrn. The third battle was fought in the open country by the Inscribed Stone [Stone of the Ownership Claim] on the shore of the Gallic Sea [where the barbarians were defeated and he was the victor and they fled to their ships like women].' So, in fact no fourth battle is mentioned.
[42] According to Langhorne, Epsford was afterwards called, in the British tongue, Saessenaeg habail, or 'the slaughter of the Saxons'. The Rithergabail of the Historia Brittonum might well be the same as the Rhuddfael of the later medieval pedigrees. See more about Catigern.
[43] VR: "The stone of Titulus, thought to be Stone in Kent, or Larger-stone in Suffolk." Morris translates with: 'the inscribed stone', rather than calling it 'the stone of Titulus'.
[44] Morris adds: "and were drowned as they clambered aboard them like women".
[45] The reason is actually not in the text.
[46] Most MSS. end here. Morris continues with the late gloss (c. 1200):

He was buried in Lincoln. But if they had kept his command, there is no doubt that they would have obtained whatever they wished through the prayers of saint Germanus.


In Lincolnia enim sepultus est. At si mandatum eius tenuissent, proculdubio per orationes sancti Germani quiquid pecierant obtinuissent.

Original note: Rapin says he was buried at Lincoln; Geoffrey, at London (Trinovantum). I'll add that Triads 37 and 37R mention that his bones were buried in the main ports of Britain.
[47] There is nothing in the text about pagans here.
[48] VR: Of his wife, and no one was able manfully to drive them off because they had occupied Britain not from their own valour, but by God's permission.
[49] Nor is there anything mentioned about love.
[50] The whole passage in italics is not in the text.
[51] The text in fact says: "Vortimer, son of the king Vortigern".
[52] Giles omits to translate: "The envoys went back, and conference was convened, where the two sides, British and English, should meet, unarmed, to confirm the treaty."
[53] The text does not mention the numbers. Morris translates: "But Hengist told all his followers to hide their daggers under their feet in their shoes".
[54] The text actually says: "Saxons, draw your Sæx" (knives), although Morris translates: "English, draw your knives".
[55] Original note: The VV. RR. of this section are too numerous to be inserted.
[56] Morris translates: "So the conference assembled and the English, friendly in their words, but wolfish in their heart and deed, sat down, like allies, man beside man."
[57] The repeat of the war-cry is not in the text.
[58] Most MSS do not continue past Essex and Sussex.
[59] Original note: A district of Radnorshire, forming the present hundred of Rhaiadr.
[60] VR: This paragraph is omitted in the MSS.
[61] Original note: The Tobias of Ptolemy.
[62] Morris translates: "Then Vortigern withdrew in disgrace to the fortress of Vortigern, which is in the country of the Demetians, on the river Teifi."
[63] There is in fact no mention of the daughter of Hengist.
[64] Morris translates: "When he was hated for his sin, because he received the English people (this is not in all MSS), by all men of his own nation, mighty and humble, slave and free, monk and layman, poor and great, he wandered from place to place until at last his heart broke and he died without honour".
[65] There is no mention of four battles. As we have seen above (c.44, note [40]), there can be discussion about the actual number. The Latin text mentions no 'four times'.
[66] There is no mention in this part of the Latin text of the battle with Horsa.
[67] Original note: 'In the northern part of the present counties of Radnor and Brecknock'.
[68] VR: The MSS. add, 'and he had one daughter, who was the mother of St. Faustus'.
[69] Original note: 'Fernvail, or Farinmail, appears to have been King of Gwent or Monmouth'.
[70] VR: 'Two provinces, Builth and Guorthegirnaim'.
[71] Morris translates: "Ffernfael, who now rules in the countries of Builth and Gwerthrynion, is the son of Tewdwr. Theodore, is the king of the country of Builth, the son of Pascent, son of Gwyddgant, son of Moriud, son of Eldat, son of Elaeth, son of Paul, son of Meuris [son of Idnerth], son of Briacat, son of Pascent, son of Vortigern the Thin, son of Vitalis, son of Vitalinus, son of Gloiu".
[72] Original note: In Carmarthenshire. Perhaps the town now called Kidwelly. I think that the better candidates for Guoloph are the Hampshire Wallops.
[73] Morris has: Passion.


  • Nennius: British History and the Welsh Annals, Latin and trans. John Morris, History from the Sources VIII, (Chichester 1980).*
  • Nennius: The Historia Brittonum, based on Mommsen's version (Mommsen, Theodor (1894-98), Chronica Minora iii, pp. 111-222 in: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi xiii, Berlin.), at: http://www.gmu.edu/departments/fld/CLASSICS/histbrit.html.
  • Nennius: The Historia Brittonum: ed. and Latin Keith Matthews (2000), based on Mommsen's version (Mommsen, Theodor (1894-98), Chronica Minora iii, pp. 111-222 in: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi xiii, Berlin.), at: http://www.kmatthews.org.uk/history/hb/historia_brittonum1.html.
  • Nennius: Historia Brittonum, History of the Britons, by Nennius, for Project Gutenberg, at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1972/1972-h/1972-h.htm.
  • Nennius: The Historia Brittonum, trans. John Allan Giles, in: Six Old English Chronicles, of which two are now first translated from the monkish Latin originals (George Bell and Sons, London 1891), full text (English) at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/nennius-full.html.
  • VortigernStudies is copyright © Robert Vermaat 1999-2009. All rights reserved