By Martin Grimmer
Parergon: Bulletin of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Vol.19:1 (2002)
Introduction: According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Saxons arrived in the south of Britain in the third quarter of the fifth century. Successive shiploads of invaders progressively defeated the Britons of Kent, Sussex and southern Wessex, before moving north up the Thames Valley and beyond, establishing themselves over much of the territory of the Romano-Britons. Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, on which a proportion of the early material in the Chronicle is based, tells of Angle, Saxon and Jutish mercenaries invited to protect Britain from foreign incursion, but who rebel against their ‘cowardly British’ patrons, their real intention being to subdue the island for themselves. Gildas’s De excidio Britanniae, which Bede in his turn used, presents a picture of the Romano-Britons – civilianised by the Pax Romano, demilitarised by the removal of Roman troops – falling victim to the savagery of their Saxon foederati protectors. They are either massacred, forced to flee, or compelled to surrender to the Saxons as slaves.