Ceawlin of Wessex

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King of the West Saxons
Reign3 June 560 — 21 June 592
Coronation27 June 560
Born(530-02-27)27 February 530
Winchester, Hampshire, Wessex (present-day England)
Died25 April 593(593-04-25) (aged 63)
Dunadd, Dál Riata (present-day Scotland)
Burial10 June 593
IssueCuthwine, Crown Prince of Wessex
FatherCynric of Wessex

Ceawlin (also spelled Ceaulin, Caelin and Celin; 27 February 530 — 25 April 593) was the King of Wessex from 560 until in 592 where he was overthrown by his nephew, Ceol, who became his successor. His reign is mostly known thanks to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It was said that Ceawlin was very active fighting in battles. It was also said that it was during Ceawlin's reign where Wessex greatly expanded.

War leader and 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.[1] According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Ceawlin became king of the West Saxons in 560.[2] Bede states Ceawlin was the second king to rule the southern English as overlord.[a][3] 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'.[5] These overkings typically received tribute from other Anglo-Saxon kings in the south.[6]

In 577 Ceawlin, with his son Cuthwine, led the Gewisse against the Britons at 'Deorham' (Dyrham in Gloucestershire).[7] They reportedly killed three kings, Coinmail, Condidan, and Farinmail. Ceawlin and Cuthwine captured Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath.[7] 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.[8] This also divided the Britons so they could no longer communicate by land.[8] But it was territory later Wessex kings would not be able to hold.[7] In 584 Ceawlin defeated the Britons at Fethanlea (Oxfordshire) but his ally Cutha was killed there.[9]

About 592 Ceawlin fought a battle at Woddesbeorg (or Wodnesbeorg)[b] also called Adam's Grave, east of Devizes in Wiltshire.[9] There was a 'great slaughter' but nothing was said as to who he fought; Britons or Anglo-Saxons.[9] But it was over this loss that Ceawlin was driven out of power.[11] His nephew Ceol replaced him as king in 592.[12] 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.[8]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. King Ælle of Sussex was the first to hold overlordship over the Anglo-Saxons in southern Britain.[3] There was at least a half-century between Ælle's overlordship and that of the second overlord, Ceawlin.[4]
  2. 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.[10]

References[change | change source]

  1. Benjamin Thorpe, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle according to the Several Original Authorities: Translation (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1861), p. 15
  2. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 21
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans. Leo Sherley Price, revsd. R. E. Latham (London; New York: Penguin, 1990), p. 111
  4. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 19
  5. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 34–35
  6. Barbara Yorke, Wessex in the early Middle Ages (London; New York: Leicester University Press, 1995), p. 34
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 29
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Peter Hunter Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 35
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 301
  10. Edwin Guest, Origines Celticae (a Fragment) and Other Contributions to the History of Britain (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1971), pp. 243-44
  11. Benjamin Thorpe, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle according to the Several Original Authorities: Translation (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1861), p. 17
  12. Jim Bradbury, The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare (London; New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 25

Other websites[change | change source]