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The Anglo-saxon Chronicle

by James Ingram

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is an account of the early history of Britain. It was originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great, approximately A.D. 890, and subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th Century. The original language is Anglo-Saxon (Old English), but later entries are essentially Middle English in tone.

This edition is a translation from the Old English to a more readable Modern English by the Reverend James Ingram. His scholarly view is amply demonstrated in his introduction that traces the early fusion of The Doomsday Book and the Saxon Chronicle into this work that has come to be known as The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

It consists of 9 differing manuscripts that collectively trace the outlines of British history. Together, even with their inconsistencies, they comprise the best source of factual information from an era shrouded in myth. For a millennium or so, historians have been reading this landmark reference to distinguish between fact and fantasy in the complex history of Britain. It has established the standard time-line from pre-history into the middle ages.

Excerpted from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle by James H. Ford, James Ingram. Copyright © 2005. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Chronicle


The island Britain (1) is 800 miles long, and 200 miles broad. And there are in the island five nations; English, Welsh (or British) (2), Scottish, Pictish, and Latin. The first inhabitants were the Britons, who came from Armenia (3), and first peopled Britain southward. Then happened it, that the Picts came south from Scythia, with long ships, not many; and, landing first in the northern part of Ireland, they told the Scots that they must dwell there. But they would not give them leave; for the Scots told them that they could not all dwell there together; "But," said the Scots, "we can nevertheless give you advice. We know another island here to the east. There you may dwell, if you will; and whosoever withstandeth you, we will assist you, that you may gain it." Then went the Picts and entered this land northward. Southward the Britons possessed it, as we before said. And the Picts obtained wives of the Scots, on condition that they chose their kings always on the female side (4); which they have continued to do, so long since. And it happened, in the run of years, that some party of Scots went from Ireland into Britain, and acquired some portion of this land. Their leader was called Reoda (5), from whom they are named Dalreodi (or Dalreathians).

Sixty winters ere that Christ was born, Caius Julius, emperor of the Romans, with eighty ships sought Britain. There he was first beaten in a dreadful fight, and lost a great part of his army. Then he let his army abide with the Scots (6), and went south into Gaul. There he gathered six hundred ships, with which he went back into Britain. When they first rushed together, Caesar’s tribune, whose name was Labienus (7), was slain. Then took the Welsh sharp piles, and drove them with great clubs into the water, at a certain ford of the river called Thames. When the Romans found that, they would not go over the ford. Then fled the Britons to the fastnesses of the woods; and Caesar, having after much fighting gained many of the chief towns, went back into Gaul.



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