Book 2, Chapter 1, 449 AD to 597 AD – The Saxons – Continued
After the natural and just representations of the Roman scene, the stage is again crowded with enchanters, giants, and all the extravagant images of the wildest and most remote antiquity. No personage makes so conspicuous a figure as King Arthur, a prince whether of British or Roman origin, whether born on this island, or in Armorica, is uncertain, but it appears, that he opposed the Saxons with remarkable virtue, and no small degree of success, which has rendered him and his exploits so romantic, that both are almost disclaimed by history. Light scarce begins to dawn until the introduction of Christianity, which bringing with it the use of letters, and the arts of civil life, affords at once a just account of things and facts, that are more worthy of relation, nor is there indeed any revolution so remarkable in the English story.
Such are the difficulties with which the historian has to contend, in trying to unravel the tangled skein of events at this period. The only satisfactory conclusion which can be arrived at is that one of the British chiefs, named Vortigern, being wishful to secure the supremacy over his rivals, called to his aid some of the roving freebooters of the Baltic and Northern Germany, who chanced to be on the British seas, and that these pirates, nothing loath, responded to the call, and having helped Vortigern, were assigned by him the Isle of Thanet, as a place of residence, the isle being then divided from the mainland by an arm of the sea, nearly a mile in width.
The traditional names given to the leaders of this expedition are Hengist and Horsa, and it is further said that they claimed descent from the god Woden, but this was common with the rough chiefs of those times, who found it added to their power to appeal to the superstitious feelings of their followers. So hazy, however, is the tradition of this period that some modern writers deny the existence of Hengist and Horsa, alleging that the names belong to the standards which the north men carried.
Chapter 1, The Saxons
Fables and Traditions of the Period
Chapter 1, The Saxon Kingdoms
Chapter 1, Introduction of Christianity
Categories: Book 2