The S axon Conquests

Saxon expansion resumed when the

_Romano-Celtic warlord Arthur was killed in battle around 539 (possibly at the semi-mythical battle of Camlann). This had already been taking place away from the main centers of conflict. In 530 Cerdic of Wessex conquered the Isle of Wight and, following his death in 534, his successor Cynric probed north into the modern county of Hampshire. Following the capture of the Celtic fortresses of Sarum (Salisbury) in 552, and Barbury Castle (Swindon) four years later, the West Saxons gained control of Dumnonia's eastern defenses.

The Celts were given a slight reprieve when a struggle for power broke out among the Saxons on the death of Cynryc of the Middle Saxons when /Kthelberht of Kent tried to grab Middlesex from Cynryc's son Ceawlin. But by 570, the West Saxons were ready to resume the offensive.

The following year they drove the Celts out of the area of the modern count)' of Bedfordshire, and by capturing the town of Limburv, they expanded the borders of Saxon England so that it stretched in a diagonal line from the New Forest near Southampton to I the lower waters of the Trent.

Delaying the inevitable

In 577 the West Saxons launched their [ decisive campaign through Dumnonia U toward the Severn. By defeating a i series of sub-Roman armies, Ceawlin captured Gloucester and Bath, splitting Dumnonia and Kernow off I from the rest of Celtic Britain. This I prompted a large-scale migration of

Dumnonian Celts to Armorica, which Became Little Britain (Brittany). The I remainder of Dumnonia lay ripe for f the taking.

Further forays to the north were stopped when the West Saxons were defeated by the Celts north of the modern city of Oxford in 584. For the moment, the expansion of Wessex had been halted. This ties in with references to a new British warlord Vnamed Mouric. Legend has it that he prayed

Between 550 and 650, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Bcrnicia, and Mercia expanded into Celtic territories, forming a solid band of English territory from the Firth of Forth to the Solent. Although temporary Celtic victories delayed this expansion, the British were unable to prevent it. By the second half of the seventh century, Anglo-Saxons had become the dominant force, and remained so until the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Anglo-Saxon penetration of Britain between the fifth and seventh centuries.

to the support of their countrymen. This reflects a Saxon backlash against Christian missionaries, who were driven out of Essex around the same time, and the older form of pagan worship was certainly still practiced in Northumbria.

/Ethelfrith was killed by his rival Edwin the following year, who took his crown. Edwin converted to Christianity around 625, then in the following year he led his Anglo-Saxon forces south into the Celtic kingdom of Elmet, where he defeated King Ceredig. Northumbria now encompassed much of the center of Britain, stretching from the Forth to the Humber on the east coast, and from the Solway to the Mersey on the west. By 650, similar expansion by Mercia threatened the last strongholds of Celtic power in Britain.

Left: Previously thought to be late Viking, this ship's figurehead found in the River Schelde, Belgium, actually dates from the 5th to 6th centuries. This means it is most likely to be Anglo-Saxon.

Facing: Anglo-Saxon helmet, 7th century, Sutton Hoo.

& Ruthwell

//// yy///, if. _ Lindisfarne Melrose ■ ^ ■ (t^^si^)

Candida Casa

■ Bamborough

Jarrow Wearmouth

.Hartlepool

Anglo-Saxon penetration of Britain between the fifth and seventh centuries.

Bangor Iscoed as-

Lichfield Worcester s**c,Aft s-:

Llandaff i

Glastonbury I

i«* Malmesbury

WESTS'^

Cadbury Castle "

Saram

Anglo-Saxon conquests to 500

conquests to 650

•." sites of pagan cemeteries and barrows, showing extent of Anglo-Saxon penetration by end of 7th century for a Christian victory, and by winning it at the Battle of Fcathcnleag (584), he ensured that West Saxon expansion northward would be halted for another 30 years.

The second dynamic phase of expansion in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms took place in Bcrnicia, the struggling east coast kingdom of the Angles. In 592 /Ethelfrith became the King of Bernicia, and held it against Pictish, Dal Riadan, and sub-Roman attacks. The most critical of these was an invasion by the Scots, whom he defeated in 603. He then expanded his territories to include the southern Angle state of Deira, and in 604 he formed the two kingdoms into one large kingdom, called Northumbria ("the land north of the Humber").

/Ethelfrith then marched against Selyf of Powys, defeating his Celtic army near Chester in 616. Following the battle, the Saxons slaughtered a thousand Celtic monks who came

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