Ceawlin of Wessex

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Ceawlin
King of Wessex
Reign 591-597
Predecessor Cynric
Successor Ceol
House House of Wessex
Died 593

Ceawlin (also spelled Ceaulin and Caelin) ( 593) was the King of the Gewisse,[a] also called the King of Wessex. He ruled from 560 to 592. He was the second king to be overlord over all the English south of the River Humber.

War leader & King[change | change source]

Early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

Ceawlin was the son of Cynric. He is mentioned as fighting alongside his father against the Bretons at Branbury in 556.[3] According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Ceawlin became king of the West Saxons in 560.[4] Bede states Ceawlin was the second king to rule the southern English as overlord.[b][5] The informal term for a king that ruled over other kings was bretwalda. The term comes from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and means 'Britain ruler'.[7] These overkings typically received tribute from other Anglo-Saxon kings in the south.[8]

In 577 Ceawlin, with his son Cuthwine, led the Gewisse against the Britons at 'Deorham' (Dyrham in Gloucestershire).[9] They reportedly killed three kings, Coinmail, Condidan, and Farinmail. Ceawlin and Cuthwine captured Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath.[9] West Saxons then colonized the lower Severn valley. The importance of this victory was that it gave the West Saxons access to the western sea.[10] This also divided the Britons so they could no longer communicate by land.[10] But it was territory later Wessex kings would not be able to hold.[9] In 584 Ceawlin defeated the Britons at Fethanlea (Oxfordshire) but his ally Cutha was killed there.[11]

About 592 Ceawlin fought a battle at Woddesbeorg (or Wodnesbeorg)[c] also called Adam's Grave, east of Devizes in Wiltshire.[11] There was a 'great slaughter' but nothing was said as to who he fought; Britons or Anglo-Saxons.[11] But it was over this loss that Ceawlin was driven out of power.[13] His nephew Ceol replaced him as king in 592.[14] Ceawlin died in 593. At the end of his reign, the Gewisse or West Saxons held the lands of Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and much of Gloucestershire.[10]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Bede thought of the Gewisse and the West Saxons as being the same people. That identification has been generally accepted by historians. But the Gewisse were not the only dynastic lineage in Wessex.[1] But when writing of the West Saxons during the reign of Cynegils he referred to them as "anciently known as the Gewissae."[2]
  2. King Ælle of Sussex was the first to hold overlordship over the Anglo-Saxons in southern Britain.[5] There was at least a half-century between Ælle's overlordship and that of the second overlord, Ceawlin.[6]
  3. The historian Johann Martin Lappenberg (History of England, 1834-1837) thought there was a temple to the pagan god Woden at Wodensburg. In the long struggle between Mercia and Wessex the kings of Wessex frequently defended this place.[12]

References[change | change source]

  1. D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings (London; New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 38-39
  2. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 153
  3. Benjamin Thorpe, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle according to the Several Original Authorities: Translation (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1861), p. 15
  4. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 21
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 111
  6. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 19
  7. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 34–35
  8. Barbara Yorke, Wessex in the early Middle Ages (London; New York: Leicester University Press, 1995), p. 34
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 29
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Peter Hunter Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 35
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 301
  12. Edwin Guest, Origines Celticae (a Fragment) and Other Contributions to the History of Britain (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1971), pp. 243-44
  13. Benjamin Thorpe, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle according to the Several Original Authorities: Translation (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1861), p. 17
  14. Jim Bradbury, The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare (London; New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 25

Other websites[change | change source]