Sovereigns of Anglo-Saxon England
Traditionally known as the ‘Aescings’, thus claiming definite descent from Aesc/Oesc. The placing of this ruler as the supposed son of Octha and grandson of the founder of the dynasty, the Jutish warlord Hengest, is highly uncertain – different traditions give Aesc/Oesc as the son of Octha or of Hengest himself. Behind the legends Hengest was probably a real person. Hengest’s name means ‘Stallion’, and he and his alleged brother Horsa (‘Mare’) are figures of myth as much as history. But Hengest is remembered in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon sources, though his precise dating is uncertain. Bede’s dating of his first landing in Thanet as 449, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s statement that he landed at Ebbesfleet in the time of Emperors Marcian and Valentinian (450–5), are contradicted by Gallic sources which date his revolt against the British some years after his arrival as 442. Archaeology confirms that there were certainly Saxon settlements in Britain, inland near towns so presumably those of mercenaries invited there rather than invaders, well before 450. It is probable that the legends are correct in placing Hengest as the Jutish leader of a warband in the service of the British ‘High King’ ‘Vortigern’ who revolted some time around the 440s and established a Germanic bridgehead in Kent.
KeywordsEditing Timothy Cymen
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