Ceawlin

A Version: “577: Here Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Britons, and they killed 3 kings, Coinmail and Condidan and Farinmail, in the place which is called Dyrham; and took 3 cities: Gloucester and Cirencester and Bath.”

So why this particular entry? Well the figure of interest here is Ceawlin, a man most people don’t even know ever existed, and yet was a pivotal figure in British history and the most powerful man in England when alive. Born in, well, we have no idea as to the year of his birth, but ruling for either 7, 17 or 32 years until 592 when he was deposed (potentially) by his successor Ceol, he died in 593.

So who actually was Ceawlin? He was king of Wessex, a pagan and eventually the second of 8 π΅π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘‘π‘€π‘Žπ‘™π‘‘π‘Ž recorded by Anglo-Saxon chroniclers. A bretwalda (brytenwalda/bretanwealda) was a monarch who had achieved hegemony over some or all of the other kingdoms of the time.

The battle described in the brief entry is, for all it’s lack of detail for later entries, an absolutely pivotal moment in the advance of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and therefore a pivotal moment in the story of Britain. Taking place at Dyrham, a small village and parish in South Gloucestershire near a major Roman road crossing at the Avon, the Battle of Deorham resulted in a decisive West Saxon victory that allowed them to colonise three important sites: Glevum (Gloucester), Corinium (Cirencester) and Aqua Sulis (Bath). But the acquisition of 3 old population centres was not the most important outcome: instead this honour must be given to the resultant separation of the ‘West’ and ‘North’ Welsh while opening up the Severn Valley to the Saxons.

The Welsh never regained control of the Bristol Channel, it was taken by that mightiest and last of Pagan Anglo-Saxons, Penda of Mercia in 628. Following Ceawlin’s death everything he achieved proved shortlived, competition with Mercia proved to be a fight the West Saxons could not win, and the next recorded Bretwalda is Aethelbehrt of Kent, the first Christian king in Anglo-Saxon England, who rose to dominance in subsequent power vacuum.

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