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Geoffrey of Monmouth History of the Kings of Britain

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Geoffrey of Monmouth
History of the Kings of Britain
page 51

assassinate all that were present at the treaty, except myself only, who stood upon my defence with a stake which I accidentally found, until I made my escape. That very day proved fatal, through his treachery, to no less than four hundred and sixty barons and consuls, who all went unarmed. From that conspiracy God was pleased to deliver me, by throwing a stake in my way, wherewith I defended myself and escaped.” Thus spoke Eldol. Then Aurelius exhorted his companions to place all their hope in the Son of God, and to make a brave assault with one consent upon the enemy, in defence of their country. Nor was Hengist less busy on the other hand in forming his troops, and giving them directions how to behave themselves in the battle; and he walked himself through their several ranks, the more to spirit them up. At last, both armies, being drawn out in order of battle, began the attack, which they maintained with great bravery, and no small loss of blood, both to the Britons and Saxons. Aurelius animated the Christians, Hengist the pagans; and all the time of the engagement, Eldol’s chief endeavour was to encounter Hengist, but he had no opportunity for it. For Hengist, when he found that his own men were routed, and that the Christians, by the especial favour of God, had the advantage, fled to the town called Kaerconan, now Cunungeburg. Aurelius pursued him, and either killed or made slaves of all he found in the way. When Hengist saw that he was pursued by Aurelius, he would not enter the town, but assembled his troops, and prepared them to stand another engagement. For he knew the town would not hold out against Aurelius, and that his whole security now lay in his sword. At last Aurelius overtook him, and after marshalling his forces, began another most furious fight. And here the Saxons steadily maintained their ground, notwithstanding the numbers that fell. On both sides there was a great slaughter, the groans of the dying causing a greater rage in those that survived. In short, the Saxons would have gained the day, had not a detachment of horse from the Armorican Britons come in upon them. For Aurelius had appointed them the same station which they had in the former battle; so that, upon their advancing, the Saxons gave ground, and when once a little dispersed, were not able to rally again. The Britons, encouraged by this advantage, exerted themselves, and laboured with all their might to distress the enemy. All the time Aurelius was fully employed, not only in giving commands, but encouraging his men by his own example; for with his own hand he killed all that stood in his way, and pursued those that fled. Nor was Eldol less active in all parts of the field, running to and fro to assault his adversaries; but still his main endeavour was to find opportunity of encountering Hengist.

Chapter 6. Hengist, in a duel with Eldol, is taken by him. The Saxons are slain by the Britons without mercy.

As there were therefore several movements made by the parties engaged on each side, an opportunity occurred for their meeting, and briskly engaging each other. In this encounter of the two greatest champions in the field, the fire sparkled with the clashing of their arms, and every stroke in a manner produced both thunder and lightning) For a long time was the victory in suspense, as it seemed sometimes to favour the one, sometimes the other. While they were thus hotly engaged, Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, came up to them with the party he commanded, and did great execution upon the enemies’ troops. At the sight of him, Eldol, assured of victory, seized on the helmet of Hengist, and by main force dragged him in among the Britons, and then in transports of joy cried out with a loud voice, “God has fulfilled my desire! My brave soldiers, down, down, with your enemies the Ambrons. The victory is now in your hands: Hengist is defeated, and the day is your own.” In the meantime the Britons failed not to perform every one his part against the pagans, upon whom they made many vigorous assaults; and though they were obliged sometimes to give ground, yet their courage did not fail them in making a good resistance; so that they gave the enemy no respite till they had vanquished them. The Saxons therefore fled whithersoever their consternation hurried them, some to the cities, some to the woods upon the hills, and others to their ships. But Octa, the son of Hengist, made his retreat with a great body of men to York: and Eosa, his kinsman, to the city of Alclud, where he had a very large army for his guard.

Chapter 7. Hengist is beheaded by Eldol.

Aurelius, after this victory, took the city of Conan above-mentioned, and stayed there three days. During this time he gave orders for the burial of the slain, for curing the wounded, and for the ease and refreshment of his forces that were fatigued. Then he called a council of his principal officers, to deliberate what was to be done with Hengist. There was present at the assembly Eldad, bishop of Gloucester, and brother of Eldol, a prelate of very great wisdom and piety. As soon as he beheld Hengist standing in the king’s presence, he demanded silence, and said,

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