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The Britons, entirely occupied in the enjoyment of the present interval of peace, made no provision for resisting the enemy, who, invited by their former timid behavior, soon threatened them with a new invasion. We are not exactly informed whát species of civil government the Romans, on their departure, had left among the Britons, but it appears probable that the great men in the different districts assumed a kind of regal, though precarious authority, and lived in a great measure independent of each other.* To this disunion of counsels were also added the disputes of theology; and the disciples of Pelagius, who was himself a native of Britain, having increased to a great multitude, gavë alarm to the clergy, who seem to have been more intent on suppressing them, than on opposing the public enemy. Laboring under these domestic evils, and menaced with a foreign invasion, the Britons attended only to the suggestions of their present fears, and following the counsels of Vortigern, prince of Dumnonium, who, though stained with every vice, possessed the chief authority among them, they sent into Germany a deputation to invite over the Saxons for their protection and assistance.
Of all the barbarous nations, known either in ancient or modern times, the Germans seem to have been the most distinguished both by their manners and political institutions, and to have carried to the highest pitch the virtues of valor and love of liberty; the only virtues which can have place among an uncivilized people, where justice and humanity are commonly neglected. Kingly government, even when established among the Germans, (for it was not universal,) possessed a very limited authority, and though the sovereign was usually chosen from among the royal family, he was directed in every measure by the common consent of the nation over whom he presided. When any important affairs were transacted, all the warriors met in arms; the men of greatest authority employed persuasion to engage their consent; the people expressed their approbation by rattling their armor, or their dissent by murmurs; there was no necessity for å nice scrutiny of votes among a multitude, who were usually carried with a strong current to one side or the other, and the measure, thus suddenly chosen by genera agreement, was executed with alacrity, and prosecuted with vigor. Even in war, the princes governed more by example than by authority; but in peace, the civil union was in a great measure dissolved, and the inferior leaders administered justice, after an independent manner, each in his particular district. These were elected by the votes of the people in their great councils; and though regard was paid to nobility in the choice, their personal qualities, chiefly their valor, procured them, from the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, that honorable but dangerous distinction. The warriors of each tribe attached themselves to their leader, with the most devoted affection and most unshaken constancy. They attended him as his ornament in peace, as his defence in war, as his council in the administration of justice. Their constant emulation in military renown dissolved not that inviolable friendship which they professed to their chieftain and to each other. To die for the honor of their band was their chief ambition; to survive its disgrace, or the death of their leader, was infamous. They even carried into the field their women and children, who adopted all the martial sentiments of the men: and being thus impelled by every human motive, they were invincible; where they were not opposed, either by the similar manners and institutions of the neighboring Germans, or by the superior discipline, arms, and numbers of the Romans.*
* Gildas, Usher, Ant. Brit. p. 248, 347. y Gildas, Bede, lib. i. cap. 17. Constant. in Vita Germ.
Gildas, W. Malms. p. 3.
The leaders and their military companions were maintained by the labor of their slaves, or by that of the weaker and less warlike part of the community whom they defended. The contributions which they levied went not beyond a bare subsistence; and the honors, acquired by a superior rank, were the only reward of their superior dangers and fatigues. All the refined arts of life were unknown among the Germans: tillage itself was almost wholly neglected; they even seem to have been anxious to prevent any improvements of that nature ; and the leaders, by annually distributing anew all the land among the inhabitants of each village, kept them from attaching themselves to particular possessions, or making such progress in agriculture as might divert their attention from military expeditions, the chief occupation of the community.t
The Saxons had been for some time regarded as one of the most warlike tribes of this fierce people, and had become the
Cæsar, lib. vi. Tacit. de Mor. Germ.
terror of the neighboring nations.* They had diffused them. selves from the northern parts of Germany and the Cimbrian Chersonesus, and had taken possession of all the sea-coast from the mouth of the Rhine to Jutland; whence they had long infested by their piracies all the eastern and southern parts of Britain, and the northern of Gaul. In order to oppose their inroads, the Romans had established an officer, whom they called “ Count of the Saxon shore;" era as ine naval arts can flourish among a civilized people alone, they seem to have been more successful in repelling the Saxons than any of the other barbarians by whom they were invaded. The dissolution of the Roman power invited them to renew their inroads ; and it was an acceptable circumstance that the deputies of the Britons appeared among them, and prompted them to undertake an enterprise to which they were of themselves sufficiently inclined. I
Hengist and Horsa, two brothers, possessed great credit among the Saxons, and were much celebrated both for their valor and nobility. They were reputed, as most of the Saxon princes, to be sprung from Woden, who was worshipped as a god among those nations, and they are said to be his great grandsons ; § a circumstance which added much to their authority. We shall not attempt to trace any higher the origin of those princes and nations. It is evident what fruitless labor it must be to search, in those barbarous and illiterate ages, for the annals of a people, when their first leaders, known in any true history, were believed by them to be the fourth in descent from a fabulous deity, or from a man exalted by ignorance into that character. The dark industry of antiquariés, led by imaginary analogies of names, or by uncertain traditions, would in vain attempt to pierce into that deep obscurity which covers the remote history of those nations.
These two brothers, observing the other provinces of Germany to be occupied by a warlike and necessitous people, and the rich provinces of Gaul already conquered or overrun by other German tribes, found it easy to persuade their countrymen to embrace the sole enterprise which promised a favorable opportunity of displaying their valor and gratifying their avidity. They embarked their troops in three vessels,
* Amm. Marcell. lib. xxviii. Orosius.
Bede, lib. i. cap. 1o. Chron. Sax. p. 13. Nennius, cap. 28.
and about the year 449 or. 450,* carried over one thousand six hundred men, who landed in the Isle of Thanet, and immediately marched to the defence of the Britons against the northern invaders. The Scots and Picts were unable to resist the valor of these auxiliaries; and the Britons, applauding their own wisdom in calling over the Saxons, hoped thenceforth to enjoy peace and security under the powerful protection of that warlike people.
But Hengist and Horsa, perceiving, from their easy victory over the Scots and Picts, with what facility they might subdue the Britons themselves, who had not been able to resist those feeble invaders, were determined to conquer and fight for their own grandeur, not for the defence of their degenerate allies. They sent intelligence to Saxony of the fertility and riches of Britain, and represented as certain the subjection of a people so long disused to arms, who, being now cut off from the Roman empire, of which they had been a province during so many ages, had not yet acquired any union among themselves, and were destitute of all affection to their new liberties, and of all national attachments and regards.† The vices and pusillanimity of Vortigern, the British leader, were a new ground of hope ; and the Saxons in Germany, following such agreeable prospects, soon reënforced Hengist and Horsa with five thousand men, who came over in seventeen vessels. The Britons now began to entertain apprehensions of their allies, whose numbers they found continually augmenting; but thought of no remedy, except a passive submission and connivance. This weak expedient soon failed them. The Saxons sought a quarrel, by complaining that their subsidies were ill paid, and their provisions withdrawn; † and immediately taking off the mask, they formed an alliance with the Picts and Scots, and proceeded to open hostility against the Britons.
The Britons, impelled by these violent extremities, and roused to indignation against their treacherous auxiliaries, were necessitated to take arms; and having deposed Vortigern, who had become odious from his vices, and from the bad event of his rash counsels, they put themselves under the command of his son, Vortimer. They fought many battles
* Chron. Sax. p. 12. W. Malms. p. 11. Hunting. lib. ii. p. 309. Ethelwerd, Brompton, p. 728. f Chron. Sax. p. 12. Alured. Beverl. p. 49.
Bede, lib. i. cap. 15. Nennius, cap. 35. Gildas, sect. 23,
with their enernies ; and though the victories in these actions be disputed between the British and Saxon annalists, the prog. ress still made by the Saxons proves that the advantage was commonly on their side. In one battle, however, fought at Eaglesford, now Ailsford, Horsa, the Saxon general, was slain ; and left the sole command over his countrymen in the hands of Hengist. This active general, continually reenforced by fresh numbers from Germany, carried devastation into the most remote corners of Britain ; and being chiefly anxious to spread the terror of his arms, he spared neither age, nor sex, nor condition, wherever he marched with his victorious forces. The private and public edifices of the Britons were reduced to ashes; the priests were slaughtered on the altars by those idolatrous ravagers ; the bishops and nobility shared the fate of the vulgar; the people, flying to the mountains and deserts, were intercepted and butchered in heaps : some were glad to accept of life and servitude under their victors : others, deserting their native country, took shelter in the province of Armorica ; where, being charitably received by a people of the same language and manners, they settled in great numbers, and gave the country the name of Brittany. *
The British writers assign one cause which facilitated the entrance of the Saxons into this island the love with which Vortigern was at first seized for Rovena, the daughter of Hengist, and which that artful warrior made use of to blind the eyes of the imprudent monarch.† The same historians add, that Vortimer died; and that Vortigern, being restored to the throne, accepted of a banquet from Hengist, at Stonehenge, where three hundred of his nobility were treacherously slaughtered, and himself detained captive. But these stories seem to have been invented by the Welsh authors, in order to palliate the weak resistance made at first by their countrymen, and to account for the rapid progress and licentious devastations of the Saxons.
After the death of Vortimer, Ambrosius, a Briton, though of Roman dėscent, was invested with the command over his countrymen, and endeavored, not without success, to unite them in their resistance against the Saxons. Those contests increased the animosity between the two nations, and roused the military spirit of the ancient inhabitants, which had before
* Bede, lib. i. cap. 15. Usher, p. 226. Gildas, sect. 24. + Nennius, Galfr. lib. vi. cap. 12. .
I Nennius, cap. 47. Galfr Stillingfleet's Orig. Britt. p. 324, 325.