Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Rest of the Story

Some 200 years after Bede, another Celtic monk named Nennius wrote his account of the history of Britain. He was originally from what became North Wales, and had a great deal to say about our grandfather Vortigern. His view was certainly from the ancient Britons who had received the oral stories regarding the period after Roman withdrawal. He includes a complete account, "the rest of the story", regarding Vortigern and his activities. In the prologue his Historia Brittonum Nennius writes:

"Nennius, the lowly minister and servant of the servants of God, by the grace of God, disciple of St. Elbotus, to all the followers of truth sendeth health."

Here, Nennius certainly saw himself as God's spokesman writing to the "...followers of truth...". He goes on to say:

"...I was indignant, that the name of my own people, formerly famous and distinguished, should sink into oblivion, and like smoke be dissipated."

In chapter 31. he gets to the time of Vortigern stating:

"Vortigern then reigned in Britain. In his time, the natives had cause of dread, not only from the inroads of the Scots and Picts, but also from the Romans, and their apprehensions of Ambrosisus."

Interestingly, here Ambrosisus is viewed as a threat to the Britons and could not be the "King Arthur" that some writers have postulated!

Regarding the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, Nennius reports that three vessels had been "exiled from Germany", and arrived in Britain. Here it is clear that Nennius felt that an "exile" was the cause of their arrival, not an invitation!

The story continues: "Vortigern received them as friends, and delivered up to them the island which is in their language called Thanet, and, by the Britons, Ruym."

"The Saxons were received by Vortigern four hundred and forty-seven years after the passion of Christ, and, according to the tradition of our ancestors, from the period of their first arrival in Britain, to the first year of the reign of king Edmund, five hundred and forty-two years; and to that in which we now write, which is the fifth of his reign, five hundred and forty-seven years." [Edmund I, King of English - 27 Oct. 939 - 26 May 946.]

So, at the beginning, this Celtic cleric did not blame Vortigern for inviting the Anglo-Saxons. It was the fact that a certain group had been exiled from Germany! More to come.

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