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The Chronicle of Ethelwerd

Also written in Latin, Ethelwerd's "Chronicle" is the product of a descendant of Alfred's brother. Because of his noble and familial relationships, White and Notestein believe that Ethelwerd based his "Chronicle" on a version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that has since been lost.

The barbarians renewed the peace, with a fraudulent intention, and morehostages than were demanded were given, for they promised to withdraw theirforces from the territories of the illustrious King Alfred, and they did so. After ravaging the kingdom of Mercia, they drove out all the freemen; and aftera changeable course they erected their huts at the town of Gloucester. Therefore, in the course of this year, this vile rabble broke their treaty withthe West Angles, although it had been ratified by a firm oath; and they took uptheir winter quarters at Chippenham. but their cavalry rode over the necks ofmany of the people, so that the inhabitants had no place of safety from theirtyranny, and all turned their minds quickly away from them. Then, with impiousinsolence, they drove many across the sea to the shores of Gaul. King Alfred,in truth, was at this time more straitened than became him. Aethelnoth also,duke of the province of Somerset, delayed with a small band in a certain wood;and they built a stronghold of some sort on the isle of Athelney, which issituated in a marsh, as may be seen. But the above-mentioned king, togetherwith the whole province of Somerset, never ceased to engage in daily contestswith the barbarians; and no others assisted him, except those servants who wereprovisioned at the king's expense. In the same year Halfdene arrived, thebrother of the tyrant Inwar, with thirty galleys, on the territories of theWest Angles, and besieged Odda, duke of the province of Devon, in a certaincastle, and lighted up the flames of war within and without. The king of thebarbarians perished, and eight hundred men with him. The Danes at lastobtained victory. Meanwhile, after Easter in that year, King Alfred hazarded abattle against the army which lay at Chippenham, at a place called Edington,but they obtained the honor of victory. But after the issue of the engagement,the barbarians promised peace, begged a truce, did not refuse hostages, andbound themselves by an oath; their king also submitted to the rite of baptism,and King Alfred, as sponsor, received him from the laver in the marshy isle ofAlney. Duke Aethelnoth likewise purified the same king after his baptism, at aplace called Wedmore, and there King Alfred loaded him with magnificent honors. Then, after a year from the period when the pagan army had set out from thecity of Gloucester, it reached the town of Cirencester, and remained thereduring the winter season. In the course of this year the sun was eclipsed. Inthe year following this solar eclipse, the aforesaid army left Cirencester forthe country of the East Angles; there they pitched their camp and reduced allthe inhabitants under their yoke. Fourteen years had now been completed sincethe barbarians had first wintered in the aforesaid fields and had been providedwith horses. Moreover, in the same year, after all the aforesaid country hadbeen subjected to them, they set sail for Gaul and stationed themselves at aplace called Ghent, being the very same troops who had formerly pitched theircamp at Fulham. After a year they attempted to proceed farther; but the armiesof the Franks assaulted them so vigorously that they gained the victory, whilethe barbarians were put to flight. After the lapse of a year theabove-mentioned army passed into the higher districts of the river Meuse, andestablished their camp at Ascloha. In the same year King Alfred put out to seaand met with four of their ships; two fo them he overcame and destroyed, andthe remaining two surrendered. In the following year the above-named army setout for the districts above the Scheldt, at a place called Conde, and therefixed their winter quarters. After the expiration of a single year a violentslaughter committed by the aforesaid army broke out on the higher districts ofthe Somme, near the town of Amiens, and there they pitched their camp for thewinter. Then, after a year, they divided themselves and spread over thecountry in two parts, the one occupying Louvain, and the other Rochester, andthey besieged both these towns. They also constructed for themselves othersmaller camps. The original inhabitants were defeated, till Alfred arrivedwith his western band. . . . Some of them retreated beyond the sea. In thecourse of that year they renewed their treaty by giving hostages to the Angles,and twice in the year they divided the spoil obtained by fraud in the denselywooded district close to the southern borders of the river Thames. The filthycrew which then held within its power the East Angles furnished their supplies,and then they suddenly sought an outward course toward Bamfleet. There theunited bands divided with ill-omened movements: some remained, and somedeparted beyond the sea. In the same year, therefore, the above-named KingAlfred sent a fleet into the borders of the East Angles; and immediately ontheir arrival, sixteen ships met them at Stourmouth; these were ravaged, andtheir captains slain with the sword; then the rest of the piratical fleet metthat of Alfred; they plied their oars, they removed their sails, their armsglittered on the constrained waves, and at length the barbarians achieved avictory. In the same year died Charles the Magnificent, king of the Franks,being cut off by death before the completion of one year; after him followedhis own brother, who then ruled over the western coasts of Gaul. Both weresons of Louis, who had formerly exercised the sole sovereignty; the close ofhis life took place during the aforesaid eclipse of the sun, and he was the sonof the great King Charles, whose daughter Ethelwulf, king of hte Angles, hadmarried. In the progress of that year, an assault was made by the barbarianfleet, with no small force, filling the shores of the Old Saxons; two battleswere fought about the same time, and the Saxons were victorious. Frieslandersalso were present at the engagement. In the same year, Charles the youngersucceeded to the sovereignty of all the western parts of the Gaul, extending asfar as the Tyrrhenian Sea, and, if I may say so, to all the dominions of hisgreat grandfather, except the province of Amorica. His father was Louis,brother of the middle Charles, whose daughter Ethelwulf, king of the Angles,had married. And these two were sons of Louis, and he was the son ofCharlemagne, and he was the son of Pepin. In the same year the blessed PopeMarinus departed, who gave liberty to the school of the Angles which now existsat Rome by the foresight of King Alfred, wand he sent as a present a part ofthe thrice-blessed cross of Christ, in whom the salvation of the world shinesforth. In the course of the same year, the aforesaid pestilential horde broketheir agreement, and assailed King Alfred with their weapons. Then, after ayear, they sought the lower parts of Gaul, and settled themselves permanentlynear the river Seine for the winter. Meanwhile the city of London wasfortified by King Alfred--a man whom the cruelty of civil discord could neversubdue by either ingenuity or assault; all men hailed him as their deliverer,especially the Saxons, with the exception, however, of the barbarians, andthose who were then held as captives under their power. Also, after hisarmament there was strengthened, Ethered was appointed leader by the aforesaidking as the guardian of the citadel.


translated in Albert Beebe White and Wallce Notestein, eds., Source Problems in English History (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1915).

Other works referred to in preparartion:

Elton, Geoffrey, The English (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992).

Maitland, F. W., The Constitutional History of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965).

Smith, Lacey Baldwin and Jean Reeder Smith, eds., The Past Speaks: Sources and Problems in English History, vol. 1 (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1993).

Text prepared by Seth Seyfried of the University of Utah.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996
[email protected]


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© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 6 October 2023 [CV]