Political respite

This policy of encouraging friction between the Saxon kingdoms appeared to be working, especially since it was combined with extensive Celtic missionary work in England. This Celtic religious interference came to an end in 664, however, when the Synod of Whitby favored

For much of the seventh century the Celts continued to resist the Anglo-Saxons, engendering disunity among the Saxon leadership to buy time for their own survival. Cradually the Celts of southern Britain were forced into the Welsh and Scottish mountains, and only in Pictland did they succeed in turning the tide. By the early eighth century the Celts were a spent force, and Anglo-Saxon hegemony in Britain was assured.

Facing: More than 1200 years have passed since King Offa built his great wall to keep out the Celts. Sections of Offa's Dyke can still be traced today.

n 731 the Anglo-Saxon chronicler Bede completed his Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Ang/orum, and he records the final struggles between the Celts and the Saxons tor mastery of Britain. A century before, Cadwallon, the Celtic king of Gwynedd defeated King Edwin of Northumbria in battle at Hatfield (633). Apart from the Pictish victory over the Northumbrians at Nechtansmere in 685, it was to prove the last great Celtic victory over the Saxons.

The crown of Northumbria passed to Oswald, who raised a fresh army and defeated and slew Cadwallon of Gwynedd the following year (634). Cadwallon was celebrated by Celtic chroniclers as "the most brilliant lord king," a Celtic Christian monarch who tried to save Celtic civilization from destruction. Following his death, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria became the dominant power in

Right: Remains of the 6th-century Celtic monastery at Tintagel, Cornwall. With the fall of Dumnonia to the Saxons in 690, the Cornish peninsula became the last home for Celts in southern Britain.

the Roman rather than the Celtic Church for the newly-converted Saxons (seepages 164—165).

In 670 Ecgfrith became the new king of Northumbria and for the next 14 years the Northumbrians would channel their military energies northward, in a struggle for control of the Scottish lowlands. Their opponents were the Picts, who survived several defeats before they finally vanquished the Northumbrians in 684. Ecgfrith was killed in the battle.

Prom that point on, the Saxons ceased to be a threat to the Picts, who were free to engage the Dal Riada Scots in a struggle for control of the north. In Mercia, a series of border disputes ended with peace being forged between it and Northumbria, effectively sealing the Welsh Celts into their mountain kingdoms. In 682 a West Saxon invasion took Dumnonia by surprise. Although it took a further decade to completely conquer the kingdom, the other Celtic kingdoms in the north were powerless to help.

By the early eighth century the Saxons had captured Exeter (711), and apart from in Scotland, only the Celtic kingdoms in Wales retained their independence. By this time they lacked the military muscle to attack the English, and the ultimate insult came in about 784, when King Ofla of Mercia built a wall to keep the Celts penned into their Welsh mountain enclave. The struggle for Britain was lost, and the Celts became peripheral to British history, reduced to maintaining a tenuous hold on the outer fringes of the British Isles.

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The Celts become peripheral to British history—England at the time of King Offa. c.780.

NORTH SEA

CELTS

GALLO WA y

CELTS

CELTS

ENGLISH CHANNEL

CELTS

GALLO WA y

CELTS

oxfed cO**

CELTS

The Celts become peripheral to British history—England at the time of King Offa. c.780.

■I Offa's direct rule J/J) Offa's overlordship

IRISH SEA

NORTH SEA

ENGLISH CHANNEL

F aha ci Mi

Ll9more

The location of major finds of late La Tene and early medieval Celtic art.

Celtic Renaissance finds from 450 to 12th century

Right: From the 7th century onward, the quality of Celtic artistry both in illumination of manuscripts and in metalwork grew in breadth of imagination, technique, and sheer beauty to heights unparalleled since. One of the finest examples of the late flowering of Celtic religious art is the 8th-century Cross of Cong. Made from oak, the cross is encased in copper and riveted silver. The sides are engraved with inscriptions; one refers to Maelisu. the artist who created the cross.

DesKford

• Abedemno ■ . Meig)« • St. Vigean's larlhen

Old Wardei

The of

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