return to main page The historical works of Venerable Bede tr. from the Latin,J. A. Giles,1843

Bebe's Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World

A.M. 4444 [493] - A.M. 4471 [520]

Zeno reigned 17 years. [Byzantine Emperor from 474-491] The body of the Apostle Barnabas, and the Gospel of Matthew in his handwriting, are brought to light by revelation from himself.

Odoacer, king of the Goths, made himself master of Rome, which from that time continued to be governed for a season by kings of that people. [Flavius Odovacer was a Germanic soldier, who became the first King of Italy with the acknowledgement of the Senate (476–493).]

On the death of Theodoric, son of Triarius [an Ostrogoth chieftain, a rival for the leadership of the Ostrogoths with his kinsman Theoderic the Great], Theoderic surnamed Valamer, obtained the sovereignty of the Goths, and after depopulating Maccdouia and Thessaly, and burning many towns nigh to the metropolis itself, he next invaded and made himself master of Italy. [Emperor Zeno had ordered Theodoric the Great, king of the Germanic Ostrogoths (475–526), to overthrow Odoacer and after killing him became ruler of Italy (493–526).]

Honoric, king of the Vandals in Africa, an Arian, banished more than 334 catholic bishops, and closed their churches ; he moreover inflicted tortures of all kinds on their people, even amputating the hands, aud cutting out the tongues of multitudes, but after all he could not silence the confession of the Catholic faith.

The Britons under Ambrose Aurelian, a man of great modesty, and perhaps the only one of Roman descent that had survived the Saxon slaughter, his noble parents having fallen victims to the same, ventured forth against the Saxons to gain a victory over that hitherto victorious people; from that time they fought with varied success, until by the arrival of more formidable numbers, the entire island was after a long season subdued.*

(*Footnote by translator: See Bede's Ecclesiastical History, Book I. Chap. XVI. In this period we place, also, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, A.D. 515. The death of Prince Arthur, A.D. 542. )

Bede's Ecclesiastical History, Book I. Chap. XVI


WHEN the victorious army, having destroyed and dispersed the natives, had returned home to their own settlements, the Britons began by degrees to take heart, and gather strength, sallying out of the lurking places where they had concealed themselves, and unanimously imploring the Divine assistance, that they might not utterly be destroyed. They had at that time for their leader, Ambrosius Aurelius, a modest man, who alone, by chance, of the Roman nation had survivcd the storm, in which his parents, who were of the royal race, had perished. Under him the Britons revived, and offering battle to the victors, by the help of God, came off victorious. From that day, sometimes the natives, and sometimes their enemies, prevailed, till the year of the siege of Baddesdown­hill, when they made no small slaughter of those invaders, about forty­four years after their arrival in England. But of this hereafter.

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People Vol I ( Excerpt)


It was 449 years after our Lord's incarnation, when the emperor Martianus succeeded to the throne, which he occupied for seven years. He was the forty-sixth from the emperor Augustus. (the joint reign of Martianus and Valentinianus (Valentinian III ruled the Roman Empire in the west from 425 to 455, and Marcian ruled in the east from 450 to 457) At that time the Angles and Saxons were called in by the aforesaid king, and arrived in Britain with three great ships.

They received settlements on the east side of the island by order of the same king, who had invited them here, to fight as for their country. They at once took the field against the foe, who had often before overrun the land from the north ; and the Saxons won the victory.

Then they sent home messengers, whom they bade to report the fertility of this land, and the cowardice of the Britons. Immediately a larger fleet was despatched here, with a stronger force of warriors; and the host when united overpowered resistance.

The Britons gave and assigned to them settlements among themselves, on condition of fighting for the peace and safety of their country and resisting their enemies, while the Britons also provided them with a maintenance and estates in return for their labours.

The new-comers were of the three strongest races of Germany, namely, Saxons, Angles and Jutes, Of Jutish origin are the men of Kent, and the Wihtsaetan ; that is the tribe dwelling in the Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is from the people called Old Saxons, came the East Saxons, the South Saxons, and the West Saxons; and from Angle came the East Angles and the Middle Angles, Mercians, and the whole race of the Northumbrians. This is the land which is named Angulus, between the Jutes and Saxons, and it is said to have lain waste, from the time they left it, up to this day.

Their leaders then and their commanders were at first two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, sons of Wihtgils, whose father was called Witta, whose father was Wihta, and the father of Wihta was called Woden. From his race the royal families of many tribes derived their origin. Then without delay they came in crowds, larger hosts from the tribes previously mentioned. And the people, who came here, began to increase and multiply to such an extent, that they were a great terror to the inhabitants them- selves, who originally invited and called them in.

Later on, when occasion offered, they entered into alliance with the Picts, whom they had previously driven out by arms. And then the Saxons sought excuse and opportunity for breaking with the Britons. So they publicly announced to the Britons and declared, that, unless they gave them a more liberal maintenance, they would take it for themselves by force and by plundering, wherever they could find it. And they soon carried their threats into execution: they burned and plundered and slew from the sea on the west to the sea on the east; and now no one withstood them. Their vengeance was not unlike that of the Chaldees, when they burned the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed the royal palace by fire for the sins of God's people.

So then here almost every city and district was wasted by this impious people, though it was by the just judgment of God. Buildings both public and private collapsed and fell by every altar priests and clergy were slain and murdered. Bishops and people, without regard for mercy, were destroyed together by fire and sword; nor was there anyone who bestowed the rites of burial on those so cruelly slaughtered. Many of the miserable survivors were captured in waste places, and stabbed in heaps.

Some through hunger surrendered themselves into the enemy's hands, and engaged to be their slaves for ever in return for a maintenance.; some in sorrow went beyond the sea; some timidly abode in the old country, and with heavy hearts ever lived a life of want in wood and wilds and on lofty rocks.

Then when the host returned to their home after expelling the inhabitants of the island, the latter began little by little to rouse up their strength and courage: issuing from the obscure retreats in which they had hidden themselves, they began all with one consent to entreat heaven's aid, that they might not utterly and everywhere be annihilated.

At that time their general and leader was Ambrosius, also called Aurelianus: he was of Roman origin, and a man of courage and moderation. In his time the Britons recovered heart and strength, and he exhorted them to fight and promised victory; and by God's help in the fight they did win the victory.

And then from that time now the Britons, now again the Saxons were victors, till the year in which Mount Badon was beset; there they made a great carnage of the Angles, about forty-four years after the arrival of the Angles in Britain.

return to main page