History in Kent => Ancient History => Topic started by: Leofwine on November 06, 2011, 05:14:49

Title: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 06, 2011, 05:14:49
Following discussions about East and West Kent in another thread (http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=12137.0) I mentioned that sometimes when dealing with the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Kent the folklore may contain nuggets of history, whilst the accepted history may be little better than folklore. (I’m sure this is true of many other periods, but this one is a period I am fairly familiar with.) And warning here – long post coming up!

First let us look at the usual ‘historical’ sources for the invasion/settlement of Kent. The two most commonly quoted documents for the first wave of Anglo-Saxon (or Jutish) settlement in Kent are Bede’s ‘Ecclesiastical History’ and the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicles’ (actually a series of several different histories from different Anglo-Saxon monasteries scattered around the country and generally first compiled from about the 9th century onwards.1) The Chronicles trace the history of England from the birth of Christ until after the Norman Conquest, and were written by the Anglo-Saxons themselves, so surely they are an accurate, reliable source of information? Well, bluntly, no! At least, before about the eighth century, the details, and in particular the dates must be treated with a certain degree of circumspection. Most of the information in them for the migration period is drawn from Bede (perhaps with a few small additions/amendments drawn from regional folklore/oral history), so despite apparently having two sources that roughly corroborate one another, in effect we just have Bede.  Later writers such as Nennius in his Historia Brittonum2 and Geoffrey of Monmouth in the Historia Regum Britanniae3 drew on Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles supplemented by regional folklore for their works.

Bede wrote his history in the years around c.735AD, and his appears to have been the first written English (as opposed to British) history. Therefore he had no accurate sources or dates for earlier events, and he, in effect, was taking his ‘best guess’ for the earlier parts of his history, based on information received from other scholars around the country (and it is worth remembering that at this time England was one of the cultural and scholarly capitals of Europe). Generally his dates would have been achieved by using the genealogies of the various kings, something that would have been learned by most of the important members of each kingdom. However, these only recounted ancestry, not dates, so Bede would have been working back to find his dated by using the fact that King A ruled for about 15 years, his father ruled for about 20 years before that, his father for about 18 years before that, etc. All those ‘abouts’ can lead to fairly big discrepancies over a period of 250-300 years, and bearing this in mind his dates are often not bad, but not completely accurate. In some instances we can compare his (and the writers of the Chronicles’) dates for certain events with continental sources.4 In some cases, even events that are thoroughly established today, and would have been expected to have been accurately known by Bede or the Chroniclers, are sometimes inaccurately recorded, for example the Claudian invasion of Britain is recorded as 46/7AD5 in the Chronicles whereas we know it was actually 43AD, a three to four year discrepancy on what should be a ‘solid’ date!

We also know from archaeology that the Germanic settlement of Britain was a very complex affair taking place over many generations, with Germanic settlement indicated as far inland as Dorchester as early as about 380AD, so some small scale Germanic settlement was known to be taking place before Roman rule had even ended. Added to this we know Germanic mercenaries/auxiliaries were employed to man some (or maybe all) of the Saxon Shore forts.  In his history (and therefore in the Chronicles) Bede simplifies this process considerably, and perhaps we should think of his explanation as a generic example of how the early settlements began, rather than a single historical event. With that, let’s look at how the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles record the early conquest/settlement of Kent (combined from various copies of the Chronicles):

A.D. 449.  This year Marcian and Valentinian assumed the empire, and reigned seven winters.  In their days Hengest and Horsa6, invited by Wurtgern [Vortigern]7, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet [probably Ebbsfleet, Thanet]; first of all to support the Britons, but they afterwards fought against them.  The king directed them to fight against the Picts; and they did so; and obtained the victory wheresoever they came. They then sent to the Angles, and desired them to send more assistance. They described the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land.  They then sent them greater support. Then came the men from three powers of Germany; the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes.  From the Jutes are descended the men of Kent, the Wightwarians (that is, the tribe that now dwelleth in the Isle of Wight), and that kindred in Wessex that men yet call the kindred of the Jutes.  From the Old Saxons came the people of Essex and Sussex and Wessex.  From Anglia, which has ever since remained waste between the Jutes and the Saxons, came the East Angles, the Middle Angles, the Mercians, and all of those north of the Humber.  Their leaders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa; who were the sons of Wihtgils; Wihtgils was the son of Witta, Witta of Wecta, Wecta of Woden.  From this Woden arose all our royal kindred, and that of the Southumbrians also.8 (([Alternate entry in some chronicles] A.D. 449.  And in their days Vortigern invited the Angles thither, and they came to Britain in three ceols [Keels or Ships], at the place called Wippidsfleet.))

A.D. 455.  This year Hengest and Horsa fought with Wurtgern the king near the place that is called Aegelesthrep [Aylesford].  His brother Horsa being there slain, Hengest afterwards took to the kingdom with his son Aesc [sometimes Oisc].9

A.D. 457.  This year Hengest and Aesc fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Crecganford [Crayford], and there slew four thousand men.  The Britons then forsook the land of Kent, and in great consternation fled to London.

A.D. 465.  This year Hengest and Aesc fought with the Welsh,10 nigh Wippedesfleot [location unknown, but possibly another name for Ebbsfleet]; and there slew twelve leaders, all Welsh.  On their side a thegn was there slain, whose name was Wipped.

A.D. 473.  This year Hengest and Aesc fought with the Welsh, and took immense Booty.  And the Welsh fled from the English like fire.

A.D. 488.  This year Aesc succeeded to the kingdom; and was king of the Kentish people for twenty-four winters.

As can be seen this is little more than a short list of (estimated) dates, battles and a few names of important people. So can we flesh out events ant further? This is where folklore can sometimes give us clues and hints, if not solid details. So, let’s fast forward a millennium or so…

In the sixteenth and seventeenth century the English Nobility began to take an interest in their own national identity, and as part of this the first of the ‘modern’ histories of England began to be compiled by scholars (usually men of wealth and power) travelling around and recording the oral traditions and histories of the different parts of the country combined with earlier medieval histories. Many of these were written down and published over the next few centuries, forming the basis for much of the scholarly history of the Victorian era. So how much of this ‘folk history’ is reliable?  Is it all just a good story (after all, who does not enjoy a good Robin Hood story!?) or is there any historical value to it?

Let’s look at the first few Chronicle entries above and see what facts and folklores can be associated with them. (Forgive me if I repeat some of the information I posted in the thread mentioned at the start of this post)

The folk history versions (all the following are my own amalgamations from various folk histories11 compiled into a single narrative) give us much more detail, but how much of it is reliable can be hard to tell. After the basic telling of the tale we will look at the overall story and some of the individual details (indicated by a letter in brackets in the text) to see how likely they are to be true, or at least contain elements of truth.

So, sit back and listen as I tell of heroic deeds and mighty battles in days long gone and how the first English carved out their own Kingdom in Kent. The Legions have abandoned the once prosperous province of Britannia, and have told the Britons to look to their own defences. The tyrant, Vortigern, has taken command of Britannia as High King of the Britons, but is sorely beset by enemies - primitive Picts from the north, wild Irish raiders from the West and fierce barbarians from the East.(A) His own soldiers are too few to repel all these assaults, and he prays for a miracle to aid him.

One day, soon after, Vortigern is visiting Canterbury and is informed of "the arrival of some tall strangers in three large ships" and he ordered that they be received with peace and led to him. Hengest and Horsa are brought to him at the head of their men. Vortigern looks over their soldiers and observes that the brothers "excelled all the rest both in nobility and in gracefulness of person." Vortigern asks what country they have come from and why they have come to his kingdom. Hengest, whose "years and wisdom entitled him to precedence," responds for the company, stating that they have come from their homeland of Germania,12 across the sea, and that they had come to offer their services to Vortigern or some other prince. Hengest then explains that they were driven from their native country because "the laws of the kingdom require it." (B) He goes on to state they have arrived in Vortigern's kingdom "under the good guidance of Mercury."

At Hengest's mention of Mercury, Vortigern looks "earnestly upon them" and asks them their religion. Hengest responds:

"We worship our country gods, Saturn and Jupiter, and the other deities that govern the world, but especially Mercury, whom in our language we call Woden and to whom our ancestors consecrated the fourth day of the week, still called after his name Wodensday. Next to him we worship the powerful goddess, Frea, to whom they also dedicated the sixth day, which after her name we call Friday."  (C)

The Christian Vortigern comments that he is grieved that pagans have come to help him, but says that he rejoices at their arrival as, "whether by God's providence, or some other agency," their assistance is much needed, for Vortigern is surrounded by enemies. Vortigern asks Hengest and Horsa if they will help him in his wars, and offers them land and "other possessions." Hengest and Horsa accept Vortigern's offer, settle on an agreement, and stay with Vortigern at his court. Soon after, the Picts come from Alba [Scotland] with an immense army and attack the northern part of the island. Vortigern catches word of the attack, gathers his forces, and meets the Picts beyond the Humber. A fierce battle ensues, yet "there was little occasion for the Britons to exert themselves, for the Saxons fought so bravely, that the enemy, formerly victorious were speedily put to flight."

On their return from the north, Vortigern, impressed by the skill of these warriors, and realising he owes his victory to Hengest and Horsa, he increases the rewards he has promised to two. Hengest, "man of experience and subtlety," then told Vortigern that Vortigern's enemies assail him from every quarter, and that few of Vortigern's subjects love him. Hengest continues that Vortigern's subjects threaten Vortigern and say that they will bring over a foreign prince13 to depose Vortigern and become king. Hengest asks Vortigern to allow him to send word to Germania to bring over more soldiers so that the Saxon forces will be better able to oppose the call to depose Vortigern. Vortigern agrees, and adds that Hengest may invite over whom he pleases. Vortigern gives Hengest the Isle of Thanet "for the subsistence of himself and his fellow-soldiers."14 Hengest bows low in thanks, and tells Vortigern that, while Vortigern has provided him with much land, he wishes Vortigern would make of him a consul or a prince, as Hengest’s royal heritage dictates. Vortigern responds that it is not in his power to appoint Hengest to these positions, reasoning that Hengest is a pagan, that he barely knows Hengest, that Hengest’s people are strangers and that Vortigern's nobles would not accept the appointment.

Messengers were sent to Germania, where "a number" of warriors were selected, and, with sixteen ships, the messengers returned. With the men came Hengest’s beautiful daughter, Rowena.15 Hengest prepared a feast, inviting Vortigern, Vortigern's officers, and Ceretic, his translator. Prior to the feast, Hengest enjoined his daughter to serve the guests plenty of wine and ale so that they would get very intoxicated. The plan succeeded. "At the instigation of the Devil" Vortigern fell in love with Hengest’s daughter and promised Hengest whatever he liked in exchange for her betrothal.(D) Hengest, having previously "consulted with the Elders who attended him of the Angle race," demanded Kent. Without the knowledge of the then-ruler of Kent, Vortigern agreed! Vortigern marries Rowena that night, is very pleased with her, but brings upon himself the hatred of his nobles and three sons. Many versions of the story then survive, but we will follow the one that most closely matches Bede's.

So, on to the Battle of Aylesford...

The Britons of Kent (and perhaps surrounding areas) gather an army, determined to drive their Saxon overlords out and reclaim Kent. The British army (said to number well over a thousand men), led by, or at least including, Vortigern's son, Cartigern, crossed the Medway into Kent at Aylesford and began to march up Bluebell Hill. Hengest's Army of a few hundred men, commanded by himself and Horsa, was drawn up at the top of the hill.(E) On seeing the Britons approaching the brothers noticed the Britons were marching under the banner of a white horse,(F) which they took as an omen since the names Hengest and Horse meant "stallion" and "horse". They ordered their men down the hill to attack and take the standard. The two armies met about halfway down the hill and there was fierce fighting around an ancient standing stone. Hengest's warriors cut their way to the standard and took it, Hengest adopting the standard as his own. The stone was afterwards named 'White Horse Stone' in honour of the standard having been taken there.(G)

The loss of the standard disheartened the Britons so much they began to retreat back towards the ford, but near Kit's Coty Cartigern rallied them once more.(H) The two armies faced one another once again, but in order to save further bloodshed the leaders decided to settle the fight by single combat. Horsa would champion the Saxons whilst Cartigern would Champion the Britons, each offering a prayer to their respective Gods before climbing to the table-like top of Kit's Coty to fight their duel.(I) The champions began their battle, but were well matched, with neither getting the upper hand for long. After a considerable time, both warriors struck a mighty blow, each mortally wounding the other, each collapsing to the stone to die. Upon seeing this, the Christian Britons cried out in despair as they believed God had not protected Cartigern, and they turned and fled, throwing away their arms and heading for the ford. The Saxons on the other hand shouted praise to their war-god, for their champion had cut down the enemy, and been granted a glorious warrior's death.(J) They pursued the Britons, cutting them down as they fled, harrying them back to the ford and slaughtering most before they could reach the river. It was said afterwards that Hengest was able to walk from the ford back to the body of his fallen brother without his feet touching the ground, so many were the dead Britons he could walk upon.(K)

With the battle won, Hengest ordered that his fallen brother Horsa be carried to the high ground above the battle and buried with all the honour a great warrior deserved. He was buried with great riches and weapons and a mound was raised over him, the site of his burial being ever after known as Horstead (The place of Horsa). Of course, another derivation of the name Horstead would just be 'Horse Farm'! (L)

The first part of the story, detailing the arrival of the Germanic mercenaries and their subsequent employment and payment in land may be seen as a way of explaining at a personal level, the grand events that were taking place. Small groups of pagan soldiers, whether exiles or adventurers, were taking ship across the north sea and fighting for British leaders in return for land (basically the old Roman system of employing foderati, friendly tribes to form a bulwark against more hostile enemies). Once they have their land, they bring over their families and other tribal members to support them (cultivating crops, crafting necessary goods, etc). Some of these newcomers marry locals, mingling the populations somewhat. Through a combination of increasing numbers of settlers, political manoeuvring and armed force they gradually come to dominate the local population leading to a war of conquest where the native population is either assimilated into the new culture or driven out completely.

That covers the general outline of the story; now let’s look at some of the individual details more closely.

(A) These would have been the continuation of the raids that the Saxon Shore forts were built to counter. It is likely that without Rome’s protection these raids might have increased in size, frequency and/or intensity, leading the British leaders to look for more drastic solutions. The use of ‘barbarian’ mercenaries, in a kind of ‘fight fire with fire’ policy might have seemed like a logical solution.

(B) Exile was a common feature of early Germanic society. In one version of the tale recorded in the Historia Regum Britanniae, Hengest explains that his homeland had become overpopulated; and that the tradition of their people dictated that when their lands are overstocked with people, the leaders of all their provinces meet, and they order that all of the young men of the kingdom assemble before them. Then, through casting lots, the leaders chose from the "strongest and ablest" among their people to "go into foreign nations, to procure themselves sustenance, and free their native country from a superfluous multitude of people." Hengest notes that his retinue is the result of this process, and through this custom Hengest and his brother Horsa were made generals "out of respect to our ancestors, who enjoyed the same honour."  Another, probably much more common, reason for exile was the killing of someone important in a blood feud. This latter reason may fit in with some of the other tales of Hengest that have survived.

(C) Although the English had been (nominally) Christian since the late sixth or early seventh century, their pagan origins were not forgotten. In fact, later Christian Anglo-Saxon Kings justified their wars against Christian Britons because "they had selfishly withheld the light of Jesus Christ from them" when they had first arrived in this Island. The use of Roman rather than Germanic names is probably more to do with the later habit of seeing all things Roman as civilised, rather than any contemporary usage of such names.

(D) This high profile marriage, and its consequences, may not have been the true event, but it suggests that intermarriage between the incoming Saxons and the local Britons was taking place. The reaction to it remembered may also reflect an element of disapproval on the part of the 'loyalist' Britons. Those Britons who did marry the newcomers or adopt their culture may even have been seen as 'collaborators' to be shunned and despised, which would be likely to lead those marrying into this to become culturally Saxon even if they were Britons by birth, helping to account for the apparent complete replacement of British culture in Kent.

(E) This discrepancy in numbers may sound unlikely at first glance, but was possibly common in this era due to the way the two peoples raised their armies. Modern research suggests that the Britons still used the late Roman system of conscription of able bodied men. These units were a far cry from the mighty Legions of Rome's glory days. Conditions in the late Roman army were bad enough that many men mutilated themselves (usually by the removal of their right thumb, thus rendering themselves unable to hold a weapon) in order to avoid conscription. Those who were conscripted were generally poorly equipped with little in the way of armour (generally just a crude helmet and shield, with a few of the front rank equipped with a leather jerkin or small mail shirt), and poor quality, mass produced weapons and often inadequate training. By comparison, the Germanic warrior of the era was generally born into the role, being the son of a warrior, trained to fight from the age of five or six. Although possibly not much more heavily armoured than his British opponent, his weapons were of much higher quality (many wealthier officers in the late Roman army commissioned swords and spears from Germanic smiths, to replace their shoddy 'issue' weapons) and his training far in excess of his opponent. In modern terms we might think of a small group of ‘special forces’ troops up against a poorly trained, poorly armed rebel militia.  The size of the Saxon army, small to the modern mind, would not have seemed so to the Anglo-Saxons themselves. Later law codes from the eighth century define an army as a group of more than thirty-five armed men, so an army of several hundred was a sizeable force.

(F) If the Britons organised their armies in the late Roman fashion, a standard bearing an animal motif is not at all unlikely. The eagles of the Imperial Legions had long since been abandoned in favour of cloth banners bearing devices of all kinds, very often animals, birds or mythical beasts. Some of these designs have been preserved in manuscripts detailing regimental insignia, with red being a favoured colour for the background, and yellow or white being a common colour for the design, so Kent's traditional emblem of a white horse on a red background would easily fit in to this general form for a military banner.

(G) White horse stone seems to have been associated with the Medway megaliths, and survived in situ, halfway down Bluebell Hill until the road was widened in the 1980s/90s. The petrol station halfway down the hill was built on the site of the stone.

(H) Distinctive landmarks such has prehistoric monuments, feature in many accounts of battles in early history and late pre-history as rallying points or sites of last stands. This is probably because these man-made structures stand out clearly in a largely natural and untamed landscape.

(I) Both Germanic and pre-Roman Celtic warrior traditions included the concept of settling disputes or battles by single combat, the victor's side winning the battle, the loser's leaving the field, often being forced to leave some or all of their wealth and/or arms as tribute. Whilst unusual, it is not unlikely that after fierce fighting this method might be settled on to settle the battle.  Such single combats usually took place on a limited field - a spread cloak, a small island in a river, a forest clearing, etc, with a combatant losing by default id he left the chosen field. The large stone atop Kit's Coty would certainly have provided a suitable field of combat for such a fight.

(J) To me, this particular detail seems very telling, as the difference in attitudes of a pagan warrior to a Christian one would not have been something the average person would have been familiar with in the late medieval and early modern world, but that detail was recorded in 16th and 17th century versions of the story. Modern studies of ancient texts show that the idea of dying whilst defeating a worthy foe was considered a victory amongst the Germanic warrior elite (a good example being Beowulf dying as he defeats the dragon).

(K) This aspect of Germanic warfare, the slaying of a retreating foe, may well have come as a shock to the 'civilised' Britons, but was common practice amongst the many warring tribes of Germany and Scandinavia and is well recorded in Roman and later texts. In one text it is explained that the more thoroughly the enemy warriors are destroyed, the longer it is before that tribe can raise another army strong enough to threaten the victorious tribe, and in addition word of the ferociousness of the victorious tribe spreads, dissuading others from attacking them. This attitude may have continued throughout the Anglo-Saxon era and may go some way to explaining why, at the Battle of Hastings, when the Normans' flank was broken so many of the Saxon army streamed down the hill in pursuit, only to be cut of and slaughtered in their turn by the remaining, rallied part of the Norman army.

(L) The 'Horse farm' derivation of the name may be the true one, but when Fort Horstead was being built in the 19th century the workers are said to have found the remains of a mound containing bones, rusted iron weapons and golden jewels. Sadly these items seem to have quickly disappeared, but from the few descriptions would seem to indicate an early Anglo-Saxon male burial. Whilst it may not have been the actual burial of the legendary Horsa, it is interesting that local folk knowledge had preserved the idea of the place being the site of the burial of an important Anglo-Saxon warrior.

As we can see from these details, the story as told in the folk tales may not be one hundred percent historical fact, it remains in general just a good tale, but contained within it are details which can be paralleled in archaeological and historical sources. It seems that despite later additions and embellishments, these folk memories may contain kernels of what would have once been hard, historical fact. The description of the battle above could easily fit, in general terms, the course of a battle between Germanic and British forces, even if the leaders were not these illustrious figures from legend, but were in fact men whose names are now long lost to us.

Following this battle, several others are recorded in the Chronicles, spanning a period of twenty years or so before Kent was conquered to its greater extent, a full generation. Some continental sources suggest that this conquest may have taken nearer half a century to complete, but as seen earlier, the dating of these earlier events in the Chronicles may be suspect. A gap of anything from 10 to 50 years between the Battle of Aylesford and those that secured Kent, Crecganford and Wippedesfleot, have been suggested based on archaeological finds and continental sources. However, the general pattern of a major battle to secure the major part of Kent, followed by a series of subsequent ones to expand and secure the borders seems likely to follow actual events. The dating of events probably becomes somewhat more secure as we move into the reign of historic Kings such as Aesc/Oisc and Ochta rather than the legendary leaders such as Hengest and Horsa. Whilst it may be possible that Hengest and Horsa were the first leaders, it is equally likely, maybe more likely, that the first leaders were men whose names are now lost to us.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 06, 2011, 05:15:23
Footnotes

1  The original manuscript of the Chronicle is thought to have been created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Multiple copies were made of that original which were distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154. At present there are nine known versions or fragments of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" in existence, all of which vary (sometimes greatly) in content and quality.

2   The Historia Brittonum, or The History of the Britons, is a historical work that was first composed around 830, and exists in several recensions of varying difference. It purports to relate the history of the Brittonic inhabitants of Britain from earliest times, and this text has been used to write a history of both Wales and England, for want of more reliable sources. Nennius is traditionally named as the author of the text, though this is widely considered a secondary tradition, originating in the 10th century. This is also the earliest source for another great legendary character from the fifth century - King Arthur!

3  The Historia Regum Britanniae (English: The History of the Kings of Britain) is a pseudo historical account of British history, written c. 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons in a chronological narrative spanning a time of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation and continuing until the Anglo-Saxons assumed control of much of Britain around the 7th century. When events described, such as Julius Caesar's invasions of Britain, can be corroborated from contemporary histories, Geoffrey's account can often be seen to be wildly inaccurate, but is a valuable piece of medieval literature, which contains the earliest known version of the story of King Lear and his three daughters, and introduced non-Welsh-speakers to the legend of King Arthur.

4  On the continent many more records were kept using the Roman calendar/chronology, and in particular the early conversion of the Frankish court (England’s closest neighbour) led to written records being kept much earlier there than in England.

5   The exact date varies in different copies of the Chronicles.

6  The Old English names Hengest and Horsa mean "stallion" and "horse" respectively, and the two are usually described as brothers. Sources disagree with whether Hengest was the father or grandfather of Oisc of Kent and Octa of Kent, one of whom succeeded Hengest as king of Kent.

7  Vortigern (Old English: Wyrtgeorn or Wurtgern; Welsh: Gwrtheyrn; Breton: Guorthigern; Irish: Foirtchern), also spelled Vortiger and Vortigern, was a 5th-century warlord or king of Britain, a leading ruler among the Britons. His existence is considered likely, though information about him is scarce and shrouded in legend.

8   It is interesting that the Christian Bede records a genealogy going back to the Pagan God Woden [Odin]; Nennius' Historia Brittonum gives a different genealogy of the two: Hengest and Horsa were sons of Guictglis, son of Guicta, son of Guechta, son of Vouden, son of Frealof, son of Fredulf, son of Finn, son of Foleguald, and Foleguald son of Geta. It goes on to detail that Geta was said to be the son of a god, yet "not of the omnipotent God and our Lord Jesus Christ," but rather "the offspring of one of their idols, and whom, blinded by some demon, they worshipped according to the custom of the heathen." In either case, their descent is claimed from pagan gods. This very descent is what has led many scholars to dismiss Hengest and Horsa as purely fictional. On a side-note, our current Royal family are (distantly) descended from Alfred the Great, whose own genealogy traced him back to the god Woden!

9   It may be noted that the kings of Kent used the familial name Oiscingas [People of Oisc], and did not use Hengest to derive their surname. There are various potential explanations for this. Some scholars claim it as further evidence that Hengest was a mythical figure, others that Oisc or Aesc was the first to style himself ‘King’ of Kent, whereas his predecessor(s) may have just been considered tribal chiefs or war-leaders.

10   The word Welsh is derived from the Old English word ‘Wealas’ that was used by the Angelisc [Anglo-Saxons or English] to describe the natives of Britain and has two meanings. These two meanings give a good idea of the Anglo-Saxons’ attitude to the native Britons since the word meant both ‘foreigner’ and ‘slave’! It may also be noted that some English predjudices might have a long history – they arrive in a new country and immediately start calling the locals ‘foreigners’!

11   Often these folk histories have many different versions, sometimes complimentary, sometimes contradictory which is what makes them so unreliable as pure history, but at the same time they often contain memories of historical facts or customs that might be otherwise forgotten.

12  The name Germania applied not only to what we now think of as Germany, but also to Scandinavia.

13  This Prince is sometimes named as Aurelius Ambrosius from Armorica, a figure often associated later as being King Arthur, or his father, Uther Pendragon.

14  In some versions of the story Vortigern is tricked into granting the whole of Thanet as Hengest asks for “only as much land as he can enclose with the hide of a single bull.” Of course, Vortigern readily agrees to this. Hengest then orders the larges bull in his herd killed and skinned. He then carefully cuts the hide into a single long, narrow leather thong with which he bounded the Isle of Thanet. Whether this is designed to portray him as a sneaky and underhand villain, or as intelligent and cunning (two traits greatly prized in a Germanic warrior) is unclear.

15  In the Historia Brittonum Hengest had an unnamed daughter (her name is first given in Historia Regum Britanniae as Rowena)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: peterchall on November 06, 2011, 09:07:44
What can I say except 'WOW'?
That has put into place so much that that was just vague notions in my mind, and I'm going to print it to read at leisure (12 pages of 12pt!) - so be prepared for requests for more info, Leofwine. :)
A fantastic piece of writing - Many thanks :)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: smiler on November 06, 2011, 09:27:59
Can only double peterchall and say wow wow thanks for a great write up Leofwine look forward to whatmore it may bring
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Paul on November 06, 2011, 09:30:16
 :)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Sentinel S4 on November 06, 2011, 10:09:29
I have not read it all just yet. When are you going into print? This is Great Suff, just what I like and enjoy. Like Peterchall I am going to have to print it off and read at leasure. When you have a little time is there any more? Please........ Sentinel S4.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Lyn L on November 06, 2011, 17:10:49
Great stuff Leofwine, Thankyou  :)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: peterchall on November 07, 2011, 21:30:00
Leofwine, printing and reading your post in depth has increased my admiration of your work still further.

I presume this is the period known as the ‘Dark Ages’, which relates to the paucity of knowledge that you mention.

Despite the obvious difficulties of travel, I’m struck by the speed at which news seemed to spread. You mention:
1.   Quote: “…the Picts come from Alba [Scotland] with an immense army and attack the northern part of the island. Vortigern catches word of the attack, …”. And this was news from the other end of England.
2.   Word of the British incursion into east Kent reached Vortigern in time for him to gather a force to meet them on Bluebell Hill (Battle of Aylesford).
3.   The description of the marriage of Vortigern and Rowena suggests it is an event that would be known of throughout the land.
4.   Vortigern visiting Canterbury and being informed of "the arrival of some tall strangers in three large ships" and ordering that they be received with peace and led to him.
All of which suggests that the news spread faster than a person could travel, and this paradox seems to me to have existed right up until the advent of the telegraph. However, I believe that in Napoleonic times there was a system of semaphore stations within sight of each other, enabling signals to be sent almost as quickly as each letter could be sent on to the next station; was there any equivalent system in earlier times?

Which raises another point; with the low density of the population (‘History of Kent’ states a total population of c50,000), why did the Britons and Saxons need to fight at all? With no vital resources like coal or oil to fight over I would have thought there was plenty of room for them to live side by side. Yet Hengist tells of his homeland becoming over-populated (Your note B). Did the style of living at the time require so much more land per person than modern living – for crops, livestock, etc?

So I wonder how far the division of labour had progressed in those times. Did each family keep its own animals, grow its own crops, bake its own bread, and make its own clothes? Or were there specialised farmers, bakers, tailors, etc? Apart from the existing Roman towns, were there any new population centres larger than farms or villages?

As David Frost said in ‘Through the Keyhole’: “Leofwine, it’s over to you”. :)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Sentinel S4 on November 07, 2011, 22:06:16
I think that a lot of the fighting between the two tribes is still prevalent today; you put two British Regiments together without a common enemy and they will fight; football fans will fight amongst them selves if no other fans are present. Then you were either Saise (Saxon) or Jute and 'nere the twain should meet'. This is really good. Please sir, may we have some more................ S4.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 08, 2011, 01:16:32
Leofwine, printing and reading your post in depth has increased my admiration of your work still further.

I presume this is the period known as the ‘Dark Ages’, which relates to the paucity of knowledge that you mention.

Yes, this is the period that used to be commonly known as the Dark Ages, but now it is usually labelled as Post Roman Period, Migration Period, or Early Medieval Period.  The term Dark Ages was popularised in the Victorian era, as back then Roman culture was seen as "the great guiding light" so Dark Ages had the double meaning of dark in the sense of little information, and dark as in no longer illuminated by Rome's greatness until the Normans come along and re-invent/rediscover the greatness of Rome. More recent multi-disciplinary approaches to historical research have given us much more information, and have shown that much that the Victorians credited the normans with was actually begun in the period 400-1000AD, and that much of the greatness of Rome that the 'barbarian hordes' ruthlessly destroyed was actually disappearing long before the departure of Roman Governance, hence the 're-branding' of the period.

Despite the obvious difficulties of travel, I’m struck by the speed at which news seemed to spread. You mention:
1.   Quote: “…the Picts come from Alba [Scotland] with an immense army and attack the northern part of the island. Vortigern catches word of the attack, …”. And this was news from the other end of England.

There are several factors to bear in mind here, and again the 'dark age' prejudice can affect people's perception. The first is that most armies of this period are primarily infantry, but horses were readily available, so a messenger on horseback, with spare horses, could travel much more quickly. In later Saxon times there were a group of king's messengers (also employed by many nobles) who were termed beadles, and these men could requisition horses, boats, etc to enable them to carry important messages swiftly. This, or a similar system, may have been employed in this period too. A rider with several changes of mount can cover 80-120 miles a day on the sturdy little horses employed in this period (basically the Germanic mount was what we now know as Icelandic Horses, a breed known for stamina and endurance). Germanic tradition (and probably British too) tended to make use of watchmen, coast-guards, etc to guard borders and send warnings. It is also likely that the Roman tradition of beacons/signal fires was also still being used, particularly at the shore forts. Another factor that may have come into play is the Germanic practice of using oared sailing vessels for swift coastal travel and troop deployment (a technique the Vikings used to great effect a few centuries later!). Another factor to bear in mind is that although Germanic warriors fought on foot, many, if not most, were also trained riders who would ride to battle, then dismount to fight on foot (much as modern infantry might deploy with trucks or helicopters). Lastly, espionage is nothing new, especially amongst those from the Roman world, and a powerful king or war leader was likely to have spies or informants in many enemy camps.

2.   Word of the British incursion into east Kent reached Vortigern in time for him to gather a force to meet them on Bluebell Hill (Battle of Aylesford).

See above, and bear in mind it was usual for a king to grant lands to a young warrior who had proven himself in battle, typically 4-6 farmsteads run by commoners, who supported the young noble in return for his protection.  Anglo-Saxon society was ruled by a warrior elite, and set up in such a way to support the rapid deployment of that warrior elite when tribal lands came under threat. In a newly conquered region these 'manors' were usually much more densely clustered near the borders keeping a ready fighting force on hand. If, as we assume, the Britons were organised along the late Roman lines militarily, the days of the Imperial legions covering 40 miles a day were long gone. Some accounts suggest 10 miles a day was good progress for a late roman army!  At this rate scouts and outriders could give fair warning. In addition, the medway is a formidable barrier with few crossing points and it is likely unlanded warriors in the king's retinue would be kept near these vulnerable crossing points. The speed and mobility of the Anglo-Saxon mounted infantry is borne out from the end of the era by the famous marches from London to Stamford Bridge and back, and then from London to Battle in only a day or so.

3.   The description of the marriage of Vortigern and Rowena suggests it is an event that would be known of throughout the land.

If this marriage actually took place and is not just allegorical, then it would presumably have been well known, and the spread of this news is suggested as the reason for Vortigern losing some of his support amongst his own nobles. In reality, there were probably many more factors involved in the loss of popularity Vortigern (or whoever the leader actually was) suffered including old favourites like increased taxation to pay for the military forces (Briton and Saxon), perceptions of things being better 'in the good old days', the use of foreign troops, etc, and many many more besides.

4.   Vortigern visiting Canterbury and being informed of "the arrival of some tall strangers in three large ships" and ordering that they be received with peace and led to him.
All of which suggests that the news spread faster than a person could travel, and this paradox seems to me to have existed right up until the advent of the telegraph. However, I believe that in Napoleonic times there was a system of semaphore stations within sight of each other, enabling signals to be sent almost as quickly as each letter could be sent on to the next station; was there any equivalent system in earlier times?

I think the answers to that are pretty well covered above.

Which raises another point; with the low density of the population (‘History of Kent’ states a total population of c50,000), why did the Britons and Saxons need to fight at all? With no vital resources like coal or oil to fight over I would have thought there was plenty of room for them to live side by side. Yet Hengist tells of his homeland becoming over-populated (Your note B). Did the style of living at the time require so much more land per person than modern living – for crops, livestock, etc?

There are probably many reasons for this, not least the leaders wanting to be able to point to the land and say "That belongs to me!"  In some of the less densely populated areas of Britain there is strong evidence to suggest peaceful settlement and co-existence between the Britons and Saxons. In other areas it seems the Saxons just replaced the ruling class, but the ordinary populace were the native Britons working for new lords. But Kent (and Sussex, Essex and other parts of the south-east) were densely populated by the standards of the day, and rich in agricultural land, a great prize.  Much of the country was wild, much of that wild area woodland (one estimate has suggested as much as 70% of the country was ancient woodland in about 500AD). On the continent, much of Germany and Scandinavia was also heavily wooded, or extensively marshy, leaving little good arable land. A good, already cleared area of farmland was much more tempting than wild lands that might take years to properly clear and bring under the plough.

Also, as you hint at, the land requirements were greater per person as modern intensive farming, selective breeding of crops and livestock, etc had not begun. The grain yields per acre may have been as low as only 10-15% of what could be grown on the same land today, due to both the type of crop grown and the farming techniques employed; for example the early plough was not much more advanced than the iron age Ard, so generally only lighter soils could be ploughed with it, and these tend to be less fertile than rich clay soils. The moleboard plough with proper share and coulter was an invention of the Middle-Saxon period and allowed these heavier soils to be cultivated, vastly expanding the wealth of the country, the very wealth that attracted the Viking raiders, proving every silver lining has its cloud! The ploughs were pulled by oxem, not horses, which were not as efficient either (the invention of the horse collar in the medieval period was an incredible revolution, allowing fields to be ploughed/harrowed/etc much more swiftly, thus bringing even more land into cultivation).

One resource in Kent and Sussex that would have been particularly appealing top the Anglo-Saxons would have been wealden iron, a resource well worth fighting for.  The section below on social structures also offers more explanations.

So I wonder how far the division of labour had progressed in those times. Did each family keep its own animals, grow its own crops, bake its own bread, and make its own clothes? Or where there specialised farmers, bakers, tailors, etc? Apart from the existing Roman towns, were there any new population centres larger than farms or villages?

Early Germanic settlement patterns, even before the Romans arrived in North Germany and Britain, were very stratified, consisting (in it's simplest version) of three main classes. At the top were the Warrior nobility. In the middle were the freemen - primarily farmers and craftsmen. At the bottom were the slaves. Although in essence this sounds not unlike later feudalism, it was actually more fluid and more complex than that, and relied much more on reciprocation than feudalism did...

Right at the top of the heap was the King or Chieftain, but this was not a hereditary position. In fact, in the first few hundred years of Anglo-Saxon England remarkably few crowns passed from father to son. The king was chosen by the nobles from amongst the most powerful warrior families. When one king died or was killed the nobles met and chose the one of their number deemed to be most powerful (and hopefully honourable). These successors were usually related to the previous king, sometimes a son, but often a cousin or brother. They were 'of the royal kin', the word King and kin are derived from the same root (O.E. cyn and cyng/cyni(n)g respectively).  In some cases, when there was more than one powerful candidate it could (and did) lead to civil war. The new king would be expected to be brave, warlike, just and generous.  In return for their support the warriors would expect to be rewarded with land, gold, arms, slaves, etc.  A king who did not/could not supply these things would quickly lose support and might find himself ousted in favour of a more suitable leader. Thus, whilst the king could demand service and loyalty, he would only receive it as long as he was brave and generous to his followers. If he did this his warrior nobility would follow him almost unquestioningly, fighting when and where he told them. It was up to the king to pick his wars and his nobles to fight them. Tacitus, writing of the Germanic tribes in the first century, noted that "the warriors fight for their leader, the leader fights for victory." This pattern was still true to some extent even a thousand years later in the Germanic world.  A successful king would attract more followers, sometimes from outside his own kingdom, thus increasing his power and status further. Of course these new followers would expect more rewards (usually via conquest). Of course, successful conquest led to more followers and so on. A term often seen to describe a young or newly crowned king early in his careeer is "when he was still weak", i.e. when he had not fully secured the loyalty of many noblemen.

The warrior classes came in two types, the young unlanded warriors and the older landed ones. The unlanded warriors were generally the sons of the landed warriors. From a young age, maybe five or six, they would be taught skill at arms, poetry & riddles (a swift mind was considered as important as a swift sword-arm) and other things such as running the manors, tribal history and other things they would need in later life. To further bond the tribe, these boys were often fostered with another nobleman for their martial training, ensuring close ties between the various families. At the age of about 12-15, their training substantially complete, these young warriors would be sent to the king, acting as his 'rapid deployment' troops, living in his hall, or on one of his royal manors, ready to spring into action as needed - seeing of raids from enemy tribes, acting as honour guards, or whatever else was needed. These warriors were most often rewarded with arms, gold and other portable wealth. As the young warrior grew older and more experienced he would hope to distinguish himself enough to be granted land. This land was not his permanently, but was 'on loan' from the king for his lifetime, or if he was exceptional, for three lifetimes (his son & grandson too).  After this the land reverted back to the king.  (With the arrival of Christianity this became more complicated as sometimes land was granted to the church, but since God is eternal, so is his lifetime...) Sometimes he might be granted his father's estate after he died, but often it would be a completely different estate. Of course, many warriors would have more than one son, meaning the king's army would be constantly growing in size, and the need for new lands to reward them with would be a constant factor. It was these young warriors referred to above who protected the borders. In times of great threat (such as an invading army rather than just a raid) the king would call upon all his warriors, landed as well as unlanded to come to his aid.

The landed warrior would live in a hall, sometimes fortified with palisade and ditch, surrounded by farmland and one or more villages. At the hall and important nobleman might have his own staff of specialist craftsmen such as weaponsmiths, jewellers, horse-breeders or even glassworkers, as well as slaves and freemen to farm his lands.

Below the king was the ordinary freeman. These tended to live in villages of a about 3-6 families, each with their own family house in addition to a communal hall, workshops, barns, etc (the reconstructed Anglo-Saon village at West Stow in Suffolk is an excellent example of this type of settlement). Each village was surrounded by farmland these villagers cultivated. The villages were largely self sufficient with the men being farmers, but also skilled in various basic crafts - woodworking, leather-working, simple ironwork, etc. The women would practice crafts such as cloth production, gardening (in the sense of fruit and vegetables), cooking, food preservation, basketry, etc and the general day to day running of the household. Children, in addition to learning to farm and other crafts would be herders, foragers, etc. It is probable that within each village people speciaised in one or two crafts they had an aptitude for, rather than all being expected to be a jack-of-all-trades. Presumably these skills, or their products, would be bartered amongst the various families. Within the village people might also practice fishing, beekeeping, etc. Villages were often grouped together in estates, and within each estate you might have more specialised, almost full time craftsmen such as potters, smiths, boat-builders, wheelwrights, etc, though even these would help with the farming at busy times of the year.  These villages would send a certain amount of their produce to their nobleman, in return for which they would be protected, have access to his craftsmen, and hopefully receive a share of any spoils he gained on the battlefield or as a reward from the king. The king would regularly send his representatives to the villages, and if the villagers were not happy with their overlord the village elders could petition the king to have him replaced, so in the same way that it was in the King's interest to keep his nobles happy, it was in the nobles' interest to keep the villagers happy.  It should also be borne in mind that interraction between villages would have been widespead due to the sheer number of villages. For every modern village that can claim Anglo-Saxon founding there are likely to be 5 or 6 'lost' villages, and there might well be a dozen or more neighbouring villages within half a days walk (not quite the old image of the isolated peasant who never went more than a mile from his house!) The reason for the later concentration of these villages in the seventh and eighth centuries is thought to primarily be Christianity - quite simply, a church was built to serve a number of villages, but as the villagers would be expected to go to church almost every day, it became easier to move the settlement to the church, leaving the longer walk to the fields as you were visiting the fields less days of the year than the church!

At the bottom of the pile came the slaves, and these we know least about. Scholars disagree on how many slaves there were, figures varying from about 10% of the population up to as high as almost 90% of the population, depending on which scholar you ask. The actual figure was probably very variable depending on time and place, and affected by many factors. Sources for slaves were many - prisoners of war, criminals, bred slaves, slaves bought from traders, spoils from raids, etc.  After a war, for example, the number of slaves might be expected to increase, but after a long period of peace their numbers might have gone down. Needless to say slaves, where available, probably bore the brunt of the heaviest and least pleasant tasks in the settlement. Sometimes slaves might be freed, but most probably died in bondage. We don't know how slaves were treated, and their treatment may have varied from owner to owner, but it seems that male slaves were distinguished by having their hair very closely cropped.  Some freed slave may even have moved highly up the social scale. In Beowulf King Hrothgar's queen is named Wealtheow which means 'foreign slave', leading some scholars to suggest she may have been a slave he took a fancy to and freed, eventually marrying!

As David Frost said in ‘Through the Keyhole’: “Leofwine, it’s over to you”. :)

Hopefully that has helped explain at least some of the answers.

I think that a lot of the fighting between the two tribes is still prevalent today; you put two British Regiments together without a common enemy and they will fight; football fans will fight amongst them selves if no other fans are present. Then you were either Saise (Saxon) or Jute and 'nere the twain should meet'. This is really good. Please sir, may we have some more................ S4.

I once read a book called "The Xenophobe's Guide to the English." It is a jokey book, but contains a lot of things that are funny, because they are true. One that has always stuck with me is a piece from the introduction which I cannot quote exactly, but can give you the gist of. I think it explains what you mean, and is almost certainly one of the traits we have inherited from our Old English forebears. It goes something along these lines:

In order to understand the concept of Englishness you first have to understand how the Englishman perceives foreign-ness. In most countries foreign-ness starts beyond your country's borders. In England it starts beyond the end of your street! However, don't be fooled into thinking foreign-ness is purely a product of distance. It is equally as much to do with distance and common history. To an Englishman, a Frenchman, whose country lies a mere 20 miles or so from England, is far more foreign than say, a Canadian, an Indian or an Australian....

I suspect our Anglo-Saxon ancestors would have fully understood this, and you might have heard a Kentish Jute say something like. "I'm not sure about those foreigners in Essex, Sussex or Wessex. But at least they aren't as bad as those strange Mercians, or Woden help us, Northumbrians!  As for those Britons (Welsh), well the less said the better. Very stange the lot of them. No, I'd much rather have a Frisian as a neighbour than any of THAT lot!"
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: peterchall on November 08, 2011, 11:53:13
Another post to print and read at leisure - and never mind the expense :)
Thanks again, Leofwine
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: busyglen on November 08, 2011, 15:01:49
....and it's `wow' from me also!

I have only just caught up with this thread not having had much chance to read all of the posts recently, but what a joy!

When I was at school, I hated history!  Probably because my history teacher didn't seem to have the knack or the `enthusiasm' of being able to bring it to life, and I found it boring to say the least. 
Now....as an OAP, and having read all that has been said so far...I have gone on to re-read everything again, and can't wait for more.  At last I am looking for answers, rather than taking everything as `read'.  So...Leofwine, thank you so much for your informative and questioning posts, which are so interesting.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: peterchall on November 09, 2011, 09:48:01
After reading Leofwine's latest post I feel as if I could be dropped into Kent in about 600AD, understand what was happening around me, and feel quite at home - brilliant :) However, Leofwine, can I prevail upon you for a bit more info?

Regarding taxation - this requires a system of record keeping, a mechanism for collection, and the existence of coinage. I know that the Romans had coins but in the (presumably) less organised and centralised Anglo-Saxon society, was there a common coinage, and were the 'workers' paid in cash? Presumably even a slave would have an allowance for a minimum of personal needs. It seems that there was no equivalent of the modern village shop, so if a family didn't have the skill to bake its own bread or make a pair of shoes, how did it get them?

Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Islesy on November 09, 2011, 10:15:49
An absolutely brilliant posting Leofwine, one that almost deserves to be made a 'sticky'! Kent has always been the 'Arrivals' Hall for Britain and the period between the Romans leaving and the Normans arriving is one that has always fascinated.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: smiffy on November 09, 2011, 14:29:34

Some excellent work from you there, Leofwine - very informative. One of the reasons I'm interested in this period is the very lack of historical information. I find the mystery surrounding this time to be one of its main attractions, giving plenty of room to speculate! It also means that even minor archaeological finds can have a lot more significance in trying to piece things together than with some other better documented periods.

The only other contemporary source I know of from this period is by a monk named Gildas, whose work from the 540's is called "The Ruin of Britain". Unfortunately it seems that this was a bit of a rant about all of the tyrants that were ruling the country at the time and isn't generally looked upon as a particularly reliable source of information. He does, however, mention a major British victory around 500 at a place called "Mons Badonicus" which, if true, has never been properly confirmed or identified. It is believed by some that later memories of this battle (Britons against the invaders) is where the legend of King Arthur first took root.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 09, 2011, 16:33:49
Regarding taxation - this requires a system of record keeping, a mechanism for collection, and the existence of coinage. I know that the Romans had coins but in the (presumably) less organised and centralised Anglo-Saxon society, was there a common coinage, and were the 'workers' paid in cash? Presumably even a slave would have an allowance for a minimum of personal needs. It seems that there was no equivalent of the modern village shop, so if a family didn't have the skill to bake its own bread or make a pair of shoes, how did it get them?

The term taxation when dealing with this period can be misleading when used to modern monetary systems. The taxes were generally paid in produce and goods (more like the later medieval church tithes). The Anglo-Saxon term feorm was used for this 'food rent' and may well be the origin of our modern words 'farm' and 'farming'. Whilst undoubtedly some of this produce would have been sent to the lord or the king directly, much of it was supplied in situ, as the nobleman and his retinue would spend a certain amount of his time travelling to the villages on his manor, and would there literally live off this rent/tax before moving on to the next. Likewise, the king would go on tours of his noblemen's halls and the villages on his own lands and receive similar hospitality. As well as the economic significance, it also reinforced the bonds between the lord (whether king or nobleman) and his subjects. During these visits the lord would settle disputes, oversee trials, etc. In a way these might be seen as the first royal walkabouts, but the had a much more important socialogical and political significance than the simple PR exercises of today, they served  (hopefully) to unite a small and warlike tribal kingdom, and cement the loyalty of the subjects to the overlords.

As mentioned before, little is known about the life of slaves in Anglo-Saxon England. Presumably they were fed an clothed by their owners, but what rights (if any) they had are unknown. Whether they were treated like the serfs of feudal England, much like freemen but without free right of movement, and with heavy labour, or whether they were as rightless as livestock is unclear. Later, after the advent of Christianity, on the feast of Michaelmas (I think, going just from memory here, so it may have been a different feast) they were entitled to a gift of coin and a sheep which they may have ben allowed to sell, or use as a feast. There are also later examples of slaves buying their own freedom or that of their families, but how similar pre-Christian era slavery was is unclear.

The exact economics of an early Anglo-Saxon village are unclear, and probably varied from place to place, so the following is a very generic explanation.  As mentioned before, most villagers were primarily farmers of one kind or another, but most would also have other skills. It is likely that the parents taught the children the skills they had ,so certain families might become the village 'specialist' - baker, leatherworker, boneworker, etc. This said, most people would probably know the basics of most everyday skills, but if they needed something a bit more advance they would go to the village specialist and barter for the goods. Some skills, such as pottery, might be something found only in one village on an estate, so would be bartered between villages, not just familes. Other skills, such as spinning, weaving, carpentry, etc would be so widespread that most members of most families would know them (although many were gender specific).

Re coinage, this seems to appear in sixth and seventh century England as kings establish wider power bases and start modelling their kingship on the Roman pattern, including the issuing of formal coinage. Before this things seem to have been done with barter and bullion, rather than coins. Interestingly, even by the eleventh century it was still common to weigh coins to see they had the proper bullion value, suggesting the coin was a piece of kingly vanity and propoganda, and a convenient way to move seilver (and rarely gold) around.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 09, 2011, 16:42:51
The only other contemporary source I know of from this period is by a monk named Gildas, whose work from the 540's is called "The Ruin of Britain". Unfortunately it seems that this was a bit of a rant about all of the tyrants that were ruling the country at the time and isn't generally looked upon as a particularly reliable source of information. He does, however, mention a major British victory around 500 at a place called "Mons Badonicus" which, if true, has never been properly confirmed or identified. It is believed by some that later memories of this battle (Britons against the invaders) is where the legend of King Arthur first took root.

Yes, Gildas' work is one of those frustrating pieces that so nearly tells us so much, but doesn't quite deliver. It hints at some things that help us understand other sources though, but is more religious propoganda than hard fact. One thing of interest to this thread, however, is that many modern scholars now believe that the Tyrant it was aimed at was Vortigern or, more likely, his direct descendants.

As far as Arthur is concerned, the mention of "Mons Badonicus" is thought to be the origin of the battle of Mount Badon in later Arthurian myth, but Gildas never mentions Arthur, and does not even make it clear if the forces concerned were led by one man or a coalition of local leaders.  I also find it interesting that in his various rants he chastises the British leaders for making the same mistakes their leaders made a century earlier - the employment of 'barbarian' mercenaries who would likely turn on them. Although we don't know his fate, I always like to imagine him living to a ripe old age in some monastery in the west of Britain, a bitter old man watching the streams of refugees fleeing the onslaught, ans waving his fist at the leaders  saying "I told you so!"
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: peterchall on November 09, 2011, 17:14:05
I am running out of words of acclaim, so will simply say "Thanks, Leofwine" :)
During these visits the lord would settle disputes, oversee trials, etc. In a way these might be seen as the first royal walkabouts,......
This seems to me to be the origins of Assizes.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 09, 2011, 18:11:36
During these visits the lord would settle disputes, oversee trials, etc. In a way these might be seen as the first royal walkabouts,......
This seems to me to be the origins of Assizes.

Many of our later legal systems had their origins in the Anglo-Saxon period, although sometimes in a much more primitive form than later versions. This is one of the (many) areas that modern research has shown started before the Norman Conquest, even though in the 19th and early 20th century the Normans got the credit for introducing them. The boom in historical interest in the 18th and 19th century was great for getting things started, but sadly very many fallacies and inaccuracies that the Victorian scholars came up with were taken as incontravertible fact by 20th century scholars, and reproduced time and time again. Fortunately modern 'multi-disciplinary' approaches combined with improvements in archaeology, post-excavation study, digitisation (and wider distribution) of historical documents, etc has meant that over the last 30 years or so much more has been discovered and these old 'truths' have begun to be questioned, often proving to have been false or distorted versions of things. Of course, some have also been proved much more strongly.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Merry on November 09, 2011, 23:08:18
Golly, this is fantastic.  I'd heard of the battle and always think of it when I go down Blue Bell Hill.

I'm another one who'll be printing off to read in detail.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge so generously.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: scintilla on November 10, 2011, 11:50:11
Just wanted to add my thanks for these articles as well. You do need to print them off and sit down and read them. I've done a bit of researching about this time on the internet and haven't found anything so clearly and succinctly written as Leofwine's pieces.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Riding With The Angels on November 10, 2011, 23:09:12
Brilliant Leofwine - will read when am not so tired after a long day at work :)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: PaddyX21 on November 11, 2011, 07:37:17
It is threads like this that make this forum what it is! Fantastic, well written, well researched, informative and entertaining.
Thank you!
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Riding With The Angels on November 12, 2011, 21:58:27
Great analysis Leofwine question though re point G

Has the White Horse Stone been moved from the site of the service station then? I have never heard this and have seen it where it is now presuming it to have always been there and the Colonels stone on the opposite side of the field?

RWTA
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 12, 2011, 22:08:10
That is a good question RWTA. At the time I know it was discussed that it would be moved as the garage was due to be built pretty much on the spot it stood on, but then there were some objections and I really don't know for sure what the result was. I think it was moved a few yard, but I'm not 100% certain.  Maybe someone else on the forum does know for sure?
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Far away on November 23, 2011, 10:09:40
Great piece of work, reminded me of many things I had forgotten :)

In order to understand the concept of Englishness you first have to understand how the Englishman perceives foreign-ness. In most countries foreign-ness starts beyond your country's borders. In England it starts beyond the end of your street! However, don't be fooled into thinking foreign-ness is purely a product of distance. It is equally as much to do with distance and common history. To an Englishman, a Frenchman, whose country lies a mere 20 miles or so from England, is far more foreign than say, a Canadian, an Indian or an Australian....

I heard all this kind of thing when I used to live in the UK, and then when I came to live in Poland I heard exactly the same things. I think people feel a need to find a way of justifying why their group is special, and they come up with the same answers...

I remember talking to this 80-90 year old woman in a village here where my wife's family came from, and she was telling me about things like how the Germans closed down their mill during the war. Then she asked me where I was from, and I told her England. "Never heard of it," she said "But it's probably just like here anyway."
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Far away on November 25, 2011, 10:08:25
This has made me think, and now I wonder if there is not some confusion in history about references to Wales and the Welsh, and Britons. If 'Welsh' means 'foreigner', are our references to Britons and Welsh for the period actually the same thing, and that 'Wales' was really the rest of Britain that the Germanic tribes had yet to conquer? Basically, was Wales all of Britain except East Kent in those early days? Does 'fighting the Welsh' mean nothing more than 'fighting the Britons from the other side of the river'?
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on November 25, 2011, 18:29:44
This has made me think, and now I wonder if there is not some confusion in history about references to Wales and the Welsh, and Britons. If 'Welsh' means 'foreigner', are our references to Britons and Welsh for the period actually the same thing, and that 'Wales' was really the rest of Britain that the Germanic tribes had yet to conquer? Basically, was Wales all of Britain except East Kent in those early days? Does 'fighting the Welsh' mean nothing more than 'fighting the Britons from the other side of the river'?

That is exactly what it means. Following the Battle of Aylesford England (Angleland) was the area from the River Medway to the Kent coat, Wales was all the rest of modern England and Wales!  The term Welsh (wealas) was and English (Anglo-Saxon) term for the Britons, the Britons would have used the term Briton, or perhaps have used the Brittonic word Combrogi, meaning fellow countryman (also the origin of the place names Cumbria and Cymru.)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Far away on November 28, 2011, 09:04:29
Thanks, it all makes sense  :)

So, when you are reading a document you need to always bear in mind what the writer considered each group was called - which must interesting if a second writer quotes the earlier work a couple of centuries earlier and has not considered this...

Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: yeoman on February 18, 2013, 21:01:08
As a sort of update there was an article on the BBC at around 6.30pm this evening in which those interviewed made a case for Beowulf being based on Sheppey rather than in Denmark.  The presenter mentioned this would be on i-player and the BBC site.  I couldn't find a link (sorry) but did anybody else, and is anybody placed to comment? 
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: davpott on February 18, 2013, 23:30:05
I've got a feeling this is Dr Paul Wilkinson promoting his new book.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on February 19, 2013, 00:12:54
I've not heard the article, but I suspect his arguments for that are tenuous at best, and that for every argument he can make for Sheppey there are 100 much more convincing ones for it all being based in the Baltic!   

Though I think I may have seen descendants of Grendel's line on Sheppey.....
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: YonderYomper on February 19, 2013, 01:55:01
Hello Leofwine,

Just read all the posts on this thread, and immensly appreciated it all.

A couple of questions, or wonderings I'm curious to know your opinion on:

Firstly, The name Hengist/Hengeist/Hengest (as it is variously spelt, depending on where you look), do you think this could have some kind of significance derived from the German word Geist- spirit, as in Zeitgeist... like the spirit of the horse, or something like that; Is it the same word (piece)?

Secondly, what can not have failed to impress anyone who has visited the Coty, and Blue Bell Hill area when walking up it, is just how steep it is!  Even going up the longer, shallower inclines is a task in itself... what are the practicalities of getting an army up there to fight, and can this tell us anything about likely routes taken to get there, or the actual site of battle (let alone getting stones up there from anywhere else!)?

Thirdly, when considering the origins of the megaliths, it's often a question of whether the builders quarried the stone locally, or from afar... but could it also be that the builders of the monuments took the stones from other, pre-existing sites, like the tombs of the ancestors of the vanquished, after all, it saves them the work of cutting new stone.  You see this with the pyramids at Giza, with most of what used to cover them being found in newer buildings, and other recycling of old buildings... should we not consider these more ancient builders just as likely to do this as more recent peoples, and at least a possible source of the stones at Kit's Coty?
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: linyarin on February 19, 2013, 11:28:26
 

Though I think I may have seen descendants of Grendel's line on Sheppey.....
Ouch!

 :)
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: davpott on February 19, 2013, 17:03:34

Thirdly, when considering the origins of the megaliths, it's often a question of whether the builders quarried the stone locally, or from afar... but could it also be that the builders of the monuments took the stones from other, pre-existing sites, like the tombs of the ancestors of the vanquished, after all, it saves them the work of cutting new stone.  You see this with the pyramids at Giza, with most of what used to cover them being found in newer buildings, and other recycling of old buildings... should we not consider these more ancient builders just as likely to do this as more recent peoples, and at least a possible source of the stones at Kit's Coty?

 The sarsen stones used in Kent are natural rocks found at the top of the downs. There is an abundant quantity nearby on the top of the downs of Bluebell Hill. It can also be found in hill wash on the scarp side of the downs as a result of erosion following clearing of the woodland early in the Neolithic period ( c4000-c2500 BC). Of the Stour valley long barrows only 'Julliberrie's grave' has so far been excavated however none are believed to have been constructed using sarsen stones. To me that suggests their function was more important than what they were constructed from.

The Medway long barrows are believed to have been constructed c 3900-3800BC. That is the first time in the British Isles that sort of technology or knowhow existed to build such structures. At the start of the Neolithic period the population for England is estimated to have been around 100,000 (that's less than the population of Maidstone district council area). Even by the end of the Neolithic the population had probably little more than doubled over the course of c2500 years. So throughout the entire period there would have been little or no land pressures to prompt large scale warfare. And there is so far no evidence of Neolithic constructions being distroyed (in prehistoric times at least), indeed on the contrary ancient sites have often been adapted for modern usage during subsequent periods. 
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: davpott on February 19, 2013, 17:57:20
As a sort of update there was an article on the BBC at around 6.30pm this evening in which those interviewed made a case for Beowulf being based on Sheppey rather than in Denmark.  The presenter mentioned this would be on i-player and the BBC site.  I couldn't find a link (sorry) but did anybody else, and is anybody placed to comment?

The BBC link to the programme. The piece starts at about 19.55 . It will only be available for the next few days http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qtcyy/Inside_Out_South_East_18_02_2013/
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: YonderYomper on February 19, 2013, 18:58:05
Thanks on that point Davpott,

It answers that question for me about getting the stones there. No way they'd get them up the hill, even with horses or oxen pulling- although it offers a funny thought if they had, as to why Little Kit's Coty is further down the hill, as the chaps remembered their labours the first time round, and thought, well we liked this guy as a leader, be he wasn't that great... let's just build it here at the bottom of the hill!"

It just occured to me that it's an impressive statement to those you've beaten, to take what was sacred to them, and "bury it" in your own new structure... and wondered if older artefacts may have been incorporated into more recent buildings, effectively "lost" in plain sight.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on February 19, 2013, 23:05:37
Firstly, The name Hengist/Hengeist/Hengest (as it is variously spelt, depending on where you look), do you think this could have some kind of significance derived from the German word Geist- spirit, as in Zeitgeist... like the spirit of the horse, or something like that; Is it the same word (piece)?

As I understand it  the Old English from 'hengest' means stallion, but the original Old German is 'hengst' in turn derived from Indo-European roots. Interestingly in Medieval German 'hengist' was a word for a gelding, very different to  the 'stallion' of Old English.  The word Geist (again to my understanding, I may be wrong) is etymologically identical to the English ghost (from a Common Germanic word 'gaistaz') but in German has retained its full range of meanings -  mind, spirit, or ghost (as opposed to the English version - the spirit of a dead person.)  However, I don't think it has anything to do with the name Hengest.


Secondly, what can not have failed to impress anyone who has visited the Coty, and Blue Bell Hill area when walking up it, is just how steep it is!  Even going up the longer, shallower inclines is a task in itself... what are the practicalities of getting an army up there to fight, and can this tell us anything about likely routes taken to get there, or the actual site of battle (let alone getting stones up there from anywhere else!)?

The practicalities of an attack up a hill like that are simple - it is extremely difficult for the attacker and offers great advantage to the defender on the higher ground!!!  Which would be precisely why the Anglo-Saxon war-leaders chose it as their point to defend.  They knew the Britons would cross there as it was the only practical crossing point for miles. In our modern world of good roads and many bridges we sometimes forget the restraints mother nature put on moving large numbers of people in the past. Once across the ford (probably a fairly tiring exercise in its own right) the attacking Britons would have probably had very limited choices of route. They could have marched along the river bank via Wouldham, towards Rochester and avoided the steep hill, but that was, at that time, probably mostly marshy or scrubby woodland, very impractical for armies. This second choice would have the Prehistoric trackway that ran about halfway up the hill, which would have offered a better, but still not ideal for an army. The third choice was the Roman road which ran to the top of the hill (approximately where the road still runs today) which was designed for moving armies along, so what the best choice, despite the gradient. From the position on the top of the hill the Anglo-Saxons would be able to quickly judge which route the British commander was going to take as they are a long way apart nearer the river, converging as they approach the hill. From the top of the hill it would be no trouble to move your troops to intercept either route long before the attackers got there.  All in all it shows how well the Anglo-Saxon commander chose his ground to fight.  Such a position would also have given a smaller number of well trained warriors an advantage over a much larger conscripted army with lower levels of discipline and training.  In real terms, the Anglo-Saxons had probably won the battle before the Britons had even crossed the ford, and the fact that the accounts of the battle make it such a close run thing at first probably speaks for a British commander of considerable skil and/or a vastly larger British army.


Thirdly, when considering the origins of the megaliths, it's often a question of whether the builders quarried the stone locally, or from afar... but could it also be that the builders of the monuments took the stones from other, pre-existing sites, like the tombs of the ancestors of the vanquished, after all, it saves them the work of cutting new stone.  You see this with the pyramids at Giza, with most of what used to cover them being found in newer buildings, and other recycling of old buildings... should we not consider these more ancient builders just as likely to do this as more recent peoples, and at least a possible source of the stones at Kit's Coty?

Prehistoric monuments are not my area of expertise so I'm just going to point at davpott's excellent answer to that one!
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: YonderYomper on February 19, 2013, 23:54:39
Thanks for taking the time to answer those points.

Just can't fathom how the native Britons found themselves not in possession of that hill in the first place...Just walking around it, and certainly having been raised here, you'd think anyone would appreciate the importance of it strategically... and not give it up for anything.

And what could make them think they could take it back, considering the points you've made?

History gives a very poor impression of the ability and especially the judgement of the Briton's leadership.

Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: Leofwine on February 20, 2013, 00:20:24
As far as the Britons not having the hill... there are a number of reasons, but the biggie is that the Anglo-Saxons already had it!  It is also possible that they hoped to make a surprise attack, not realising the full mobility of the early Anglo-Saxon warbands, or that they believed they had a sufficient superiority of numbers to carry the fight.

As to why they tried to take it back, the answer is simple. They had to if they wanted to regain control of Kent. History is full of such do-or-die situations. Sometimes they pay off (Agincourt, D-Day, etc), sometimes they don't (Hastings, Arnhem, etc.)  If the Britons had managed to reach the top of the hill unopposed the situation would have been reversed, with the Anglo-Saxons facing the uphill struggle. In that case history would remember it as a bold and effective attack by the Britons.

As to leadership/judgement of the Britons, they had both good and bad leaders, but sadly they were busy trying to fight a series of what we might now call civil wars in addition to fighting off a foreign invader. They were heavily criticised for this by their own people in the following century or so, most notably by the monk, Gildas.

It does seem that they failed to learn from their mistakes though. In the fifth century they invite in Germanic mercenaries to fight for them, but fail to keep them under control and find their mercenaries becoming their conquerers. Then, after a few decades someone organises them enough to stem the tide (Arthur, or at least his model(s)), so they begin squabbling amongst themselves. To boost their armies they hire mercenaries from amongst those same enemies, who take the opportunity to scout out the British half of the country during such employment, learning the strengths and weaknesses of various leaders, towns, forts etc. When they have suitably weakened themselves through internecine warfare they are surprised when the mercenaries (and their relatives from the oversea homelands) turn on them and the take the rest of the land they want from them!
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: YonderYomper on February 20, 2013, 00:34:32
You can see why all the most notable people of this area appear on the Rochester Bridge Trust rolls thereafter... Get me that hill!
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: davpott on February 21, 2013, 22:19:30
Gildas was an almost contemporary record of the emergence of a new era. It was written circa AD 540, the date for the start of the saxon settlement is generally accepted to be AD 449.While he inadvertently gives us a glimpse into the fifth century Britain it is written primarily as a religious tract. If it hadn’t had been it would not have come down to us. With that in mind it and a bit of effort it is possible to read through his religious diversions and unravel the story.

 Gildas; De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain)

23. Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], 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 sheep-fold), 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. What palpable darkness must have enveloped their minds-darkness desperate and cruel! Those very people whom, when absent, they dreaded more than death itself, were invited to reside, as one may say, under the self same roof. Foolish are the princes, as it is said, of Thafneos, giving counsel to unwise Pharaoh. A multitude of whelps came forth from the lair of this barbaric lioness, in three cyuls, as they call them, that is, in their ships of war, with their sails wafted by the wind and with omens and prophecies favourable, for it was foretold by a certain soothsayer among them, that they should occupy the country to which they were sailing three hundred years, and half of that time, a hundred and fifty years, should plunder and despoil the same. They first landed on the eastern side of the island, by the invitation of the unlucky king, and there fixed their sharp talons, apparently to fight in favour of the island, but alas! more truly against it. Their mother-land, finding her first brood thus successful, sends forth a larger company of her wolfish offspring, which sailing over, join themselves to their bastard-born comrades. From that time the germ of iniquity and the root of contention planted their poison amongst us, as we deserved, and shot forth into leaves and branches. the barbarians being thus introduced as soldiers into the island, to encounter, as they falsely said, any dangers in defence of their hospitable entertainers, obtain an allowance of provisions, which, for some time being plentifully bestowed, stopped their doggish mouths. Yet they complain that their monthly supplies are not furnished in sufficient abundance, and they industriously aggravate each occasion of quarrel, saying that unless more liberality is shown them, they will break the treaty and plunder the whole island. In a short time, they follow up their threats with deeds.
 24. For the fire of vengeance, justly kindled by former crimes, spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults, therefore, not unlike that of the Assyrian upon Judea, was fulfilled in our case what the prophet describes in words of lamentation; "They have burned with fire the sanctuary; they have polluted on earth the tabernacle of thy name." And again, "O God, the gentiles have come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled," &c. So that all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests, and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in a press;* and with no chance of being buried, save in the ruins of the houses, or in the ravening bellies of wild beasts and birds; with reverence be it spoken for their blessed souls, if, indeed, there were many found who were carried, at that time, into the high heaven by the holy angels. So entirely had the vintage, once so fine, degenerated and become bitter, that, in the words of the prophet, there was hardly a grape or ear of corn to be seen where the husbandman had turned his back.
25. Some therefore, of the miserable remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers; others, constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves to be slaves for ever to their foes, running the risk of being instantly slain, which truly was the greatest favour that could be offered them: some others passed beyond the seas with loud lamentations instead of the voice of exhortation. "Thou hast given us as sheep to be slaughtered, and among the Gentiles hast thou dispersed us." Others, committing the safeguard of their lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices, thickly wooded forests, and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with trembling hearts), remained still in their country. But in the meanwhile, an opportunity happening, when these most cruel robbers were returned home, the poor remnants of our nation (to whom flocked from divers places round about our miserable countrymen as fast as bees to their hives, for fear of an ensuing storm), being strengthened by God, calling upon him with all their hearts, as the poet says,--"With their unnumbered vows they burden heaven," that they might not be brought to utter destruction, took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive. His parents, who for their merit were adorned with the purple, had been slain in these same broils, and now his progeny in these our days, although shamefully degenerated from the worthiness of their ancestors, provoke to battle their cruel conquerors, and by the goodness of our Lord obtain the victory.
26. After this, sometimes our countrymen, sometimes the enemy, won the field, to the end that our Lord might in this land try after his accustomed manner these his Israelites, whether they loved him or not, until the year of the siege of Bath-hill, when took place also the last almost, though not the least slaughter of our cruel foes, which was (as I am sure) forty-four years and one month after the landing of the Saxons, and also the time of my own nativity. And yet neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining. For as well the remembrance of such terrible desolation of the island, as also of the unexpected recovery of the same, remained in the minds of those who were eyewitnesses of the wonderful events of both, and in regard thereof, kings, public magistrates, and private persons, with priests and clergymen, did all and every one of them live orderly according to their several vocations. But when these had departed out of this world, and a new race succeeded, who were ignorant of this troublesome time, and had only experience of the present prosperity, all the laws of truth and justice were so shaken and subverted, that not so much as a vestige or remembrance of these virtues remained among the above-named orders of men, except among a very few who, compared with the great multitude which were daily rushing headlong down to hell, are accounted so small a number, that our reverend mother, the church, scarcely beholds them, her only true children, reposing in her bosom; whose worthy lives, being a pattern to all men, and beloved of God, inasmuch as by their holy prayers, as by certain pillars and most profitable supporters, our infirmity is sustained up, that it may not utterly be broken down, I would have no one suppose I intended to reprove, if forced by the increasing multitude of offences, I have freely, aye, with anguish, not so much declared as bewailed the wickedness of those who are become servants, not only to their bellies, but also to the devil rather than to Christ, who is our blessed God, world without end.
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: HuMcCulloch on June 10, 2017, 22:26:24
Leofwine --
   Thanks for your excellent post on the battle of Aylesford, Nov. 6, 2011!  Have you published this somewhere yet?  It compiles a lot of very interesting material, and I would like to quote you and learn your sources. 
   In particular, what is the source for your statement that an ancient burial was found during the construction of Fort Horsted?  C. Plummer, in a note to his 1896 edition of Bede's EH, states that Horsa was buried in a "flint heap" at Horsted after the battle, so it sounds as though this is the same burial.  He wrote as if the tumulus were still there, even though the Fort had been begun in 1880, but perhaps he had visited the site years before he wrote.   
   My interest in Aylesford arises from the right panel of the British Museum's Franks Casket, which A.C. Bouman and Simonne d'Ardenne convincingly argued depicts Hengist as a dejected stallion (AS hengist), mourning Horsa after his death at Aegelesthrep, usually identified with Aylesford.  They argue that Horsa is both the miniature person in the burial mound before "Hengist", and the strange horse-man-spirit creature seated on a mound at the left.   The runic text begins, "Here Hos (= Horsa?) sits on the sorrow-mound."  My own theory is that the warrior facing "spirit-Horsa" is Hengist himself, now as a man visiting Horsa's grave long after his death  See Wikipedia "Franks Casket" (which I've added to significantly) and my webpage at http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/FranksCasket/ .
   I'll be visiting England from the States in early July, and look forward to visiting Fort Horsted as well as Kits Coty per your post!   
 
Title: Re: History vs. Folklore: The Battle of Aylesford, Horsa and the White Horse of Kent
Post by: HuMcCulloch on June 16, 2017, 18:21:17
Here is a photo of the right panel of the BM's Franks Casket, which, as I noted below, has been identified by AC Bouman and Simonne d'Ardenne as representing Hengist (or Hengest) as a stallion (AS hengist or hengest), mourning his deceased brother Horsa after the 455 AD battle of Aegelesthrep (Ayesford).

(http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/FranksCasket/barg6-640.jpg)

Although 4 of the 5 panels of the Franks Casket are in the British Museum, the right panel somehow ended up in the Bargello Museum in Florence, and the BM has only a cast of it on display.  The above photo is of the original in the Bargello.  (The upstairs room where it is displayed is only open to the public during the tourist season.)