Hengist and Horsa

Hengist and Horsa
(mid-fifth century)
   Brothers who, according to the history of Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, led a band of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries to England at the request of a British ruler. Rather than aiding the native Britons, they conquered them and established a kingdom. Bede also notes that they were descendants of Woden, "from whose stock sprang the royal house of many provinces"(56).
   Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 410, the native British population faced raids from the Picts and Scots to their north. Unable to defend themselves from these invaders, the British, led by Vortigern, sought out mercenaries to help them. Vortigern invited a band of Angles and Saxons under the direction of Hengist and his brother Horsa to expel the invaders. In exchange for their assistance the mercenaries were promised the Isle of Thanet. In 449 Hengist and Horsa arrived with three shiploads of warriors to fight off the invaders from the north. Having successfully defeated the northerners, Hengist and Horsa turned their mercenaries against their employers and began their own invasion of Britain. In 455 Hengist and Horsa fought a battle against Vortigern. Horsa was killed in the battle, but Hengist defeated Vortigern and took over the kingdom of Kent. Hengist and his son Æsc fought several other battles against the Britons in the course of their conquest of Kent. In 465 they defeated the Britons and killed twelve British chieftains, and in 473 they fought another battle in which they overwhelmed the British and forced them to flee from the battlefield. Although the date of his death is unknown, Hengist may have ruled Kent for much of the next fifteen years. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Æsc became king in 488 and reigned over Kent for the next twenty-four years.
   See also
 ♦ Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People with Bede's Letter to Egbert and Cuthbert's Letter on the Death of Bede. Trans. Leo Sherley-Price. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1991.
 ♦ Blair, Peter Hunter. The World of Bede. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
 ♦ Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1982.
 ♦ Howe, Nicholas. Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
 ♦ Stenton, Frank M. Anglo-Saxon England. 3d ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.
 ♦ Whitelock, Dorothy, ed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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