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In the year 867, the above-mentioned army of the pagans removed from East Anglia to the city of York, and laid waste the whole country as far as Tynemouth. At this period a sedition arising among the people of Northumbria, they expelled Osbert their lawful king from the kingdom, and raised a certain tyrant, Ella by name, who was not of royal birth, to the supreme power; but, on the approach of the pagans, this discord was for the common good in some measure allayed, on which Osbert and Ella united their forces, and having collected an army, marched to York. On their approach, the pagans at once took refuge in the city, and endeavoured to defend themselves within the walls. The Christians, perceiving their flight and dismay, began to pursue them even within the walls of the city, and to destroy the ramparts; but when the ramparts were now levelled, and many of the Christians had entered the city together with the pagans, the latter, urged by despair and necessity, making a fierce onset upon them, slaughtered and cut them down, and routed them both within and without the city; here the greater part of the Northumbrians fell, the two kings being among the slain; on which, the remainder who escaped made peace with the Danes. Over them the pagans appointed Egbert king, in subjection to themselves; and he reigned over the Northumbrians beyond the Tyne six years. This took place at York on the eleventh day before the calends of April, being the sixth day of the week, just before Palm Sunday. In the same year Elflstan, bishop of Sherburne departed this life, and was buried at that place.
In the year 868, a comet was distinctly seen. Alfred, the venerated brother of king Ethelred, asked and obtained in marriage a noble Mercian lady, daughter of Ethelred, earl of the Gaiui,64 who was surnamed "Mucil," which means "the great." Her mother's name, who was of the royal family of Mercia, was Eadburga; she was a venerable woman, and for very many years after the death of her husband, lived a life of extreme chastity, as a widow, even to the day of her death.
In the same year, the above-mentioned army of the pagans, leaving Northumbria, advanced to Nottingham, and wintered
M This is "Gamorum," in the text, but it ought to be "Gainorum, of the Gaini;" who were the inhabitants of Gainsborough, in Yorkshire.
in that place; on which Burrhed king of Mercia made a treaty with them.
In the year 869, the above-mentioned army of the Danes again advanced to Northumbria, and remained there one year, ravaging and laying waste, slaughtering and destroying a very great number of men and women.
In the year 870, many thousands of Danes collected together under the command of Inguar and Hubba, and coming to East Anglia, wintered at Teoford.66 At this time king Edmund was ruler over all the realms of East Anglia, a man holy and just in all things, and in the same year, he, with his people, fought valiantly and manfully against the above-mentioned army, but inasmuch as God had predetermined to crown him with martyrdom, he there met with a glorious death. In the same year Ceolnoth, archbishop of Canterbury, departed this life, and was succeeded by Ethelred.
In the year 871, the above-mentioned army of the pagans entered the kingdom of the West Saxons, and came to Reading, on the southern banks of the Thames, which is situate in the district called Bearocscira.66 There, on the third day after their arrival, two of their earls, with a great multitude, rode forth to plunder, while the others, in the meantime, were throwing up a rampart between the two rivers Thames and Kennet, on the right hand side of that royal town.67 Ethelwulph earl of Berkshire with his men, encountered them at a place which in English is called Englefleld,6s that is to say, "the field of the Angles," where both sides fought bravely, until, one of the pagan earls being slain, and the greater part of their army destroyed, the rest took to flight, and the Christians gained the victory.
Four days after this, king Ethelred and his brother Alfred, having collected an army, came to Reading, killing and slaying even to the very gates of the castle as many of the pagans as they could find beyond. At length, the pagans sallying forth from all the gates, engaged them with all their might, and there both sides fought long and fiercely, till at last the Christians turned their backs, and the pagans gained the day; there too, the above-named earl Ethelwulph was slain.
Four days after this, king Ethelred with his brother Alfred,
65 Thetford in Norfolk. 66 Berkshire. 67 Reading.
6s Englefleld about four miles from Windsor.
again uniting all the strength of their forces, went out to fight against the above-mentioned army, with all their might and a hearty good-will, at a place called Eschedun,69 which means "the hill of the ash." But the pagans divided themselves into two bodies, with equal close columns, and prepared for battle. For on that occasion they had two kings and many earls; the centre of the army they gave to the two kings, and the other part to all the earls. On seeing this, the Christians also, dividing their army into two bodies, with no less alacrity, ranged them front to front; after which Alfred more speedily and promptly moved onward to give them battle; whereas, just then, his brother Ethelred was in his tent at prayer, hearing mass, and resolutely declared that he would not move from there before the priest had finished the mass, and that he would not forsake the service of God for that of men. This faith on the part of the Christian king greatly prevailed with God, as we shall show in the sequel.
Now the Christians had determined that king Ethelred, with his troops, should engage with the two pagan kings; and that his brother Alfred, with his men, should take the chance of war against all the nobles of the pagan army. Matters being thus arranged, while the king, still at his prayers, was prolonging the delay, the pagans, fully prepared, advanced rapidly towards the place of combat; on which, Alfred, who then held but a subordinate authority, being unable any longer to cope with the forces of the enemy, unless he either retreated, or made the charge before his brother came up, at length, with the courage of a wild boar, manfully led on the Christian troops against the army of the enemy, and, relying on the divine aid, his ranks being drawn up in close order, immediately moved on his standards against the foe. At last, king Ethelred having finished his prayers, on which he had been engaged, came up, and having invoked the great Ruler of the world, immediately commenced the battle.
But at this point, I must inform those who are not aware of the fact, that the field of battle was not equally advantageous to those engaged. For the pagans had previously taken possession of the higher ground, while the Christians drew up their forces on the lower. There was also on that spot a thorn
69 Now Aston, in Berkshire; some, however, think that Ashendon in Buckinghamshire is meant.
tree, of very stunted growth, around which the hostile ranks closed in battle, amid the loud shouts of all. After they had fought for some time boldly and bravely on both sides, the pagans, by the Divine judgment, were no longer able to bear the onset of the Christians, and the greater part of them being slain, the rest took to a disgraceful flight.
At this place one of the two kings of the pagans, and five of their earls, were slain, and many thousands of them besides who fell at that spot, and in various places, scattered over the whole breadth of the plain of Eschedun. There fell there king Baiseg, and earl Sydroc the elder, and another earl Sydroc the younger, earl Osbem, earl Freana, and earl Harold. The whole army of the pagans pursued its flight all night, until next day, when most who had escaped reached the castle.
In four days10 after these events, Ethelred, with his brother Alfred, uniting their forces, marched to Basing, again to fight with the pagans, and after a prolonged combat the pagans at length gained the victory. Again, after a lapse of two months, king Ethelred and his brother Alfred, after having long fought with the pagans, who had divided themselves into two bodies, conquered them at Meretun,'1 putting them all to flight; but these having again rallied, many on both sides were slain, and the pagans at last gained the day.
The same year, after Easter, king Ethelred departed this life, after having manfully ruled the kingdom five years amid much tribulation, on which his brother Alfred succeeded him as king, in the year from the incarnation of our Lord 872. He was the most accomplished among the Saxon poets, most watchful in the service of God, and most discreet in the exercise of justice. His queen Elswisa bore him two sons, Edward and Egelward, and three daughters, Egelfleda, queen of the Mercians, Ethelgeva, a nun, and Elethritha.
At the completion of one year72 from the beginning of his reign, at a hill called Walton,73 he fought a most severe battle
70 Asser and Roger of Wendover say fourteen days; which is more probable. 71 Merton.
"One month" is a various reading here, and is supported by Roger of Wendover.
"A various reading here, supported by Asser, Roger de Wendover, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, is Wilton, but Bronipton calls the place Walton in Sussex.
with a handful of men against the pagans; but, alas! the enemy was victorious; nor indeed is it to be wondered at, that the Christians had but a small number of men in the engagement; for in a single year they had been worn out by eight battles against the pagans, in which one of their kings and nine dukes, with innumerable troops, had been slain.
In the year 872, Alchun, bishop of the Wiccii,74 having departed this life, Werefrith, the foster-father of the holy church of Worcester, and a man most learned in the holy scriptures, was ordained bishop by Ethered archbishop of Canterbury, on the seventh day before the ides of June, being the day of Pentecost; he, at the request of king Alfred, translated the books of the dialogues of the pope Saint Gregory, from the Latin into the Saxon tongue. At the same period, the Northumbrians expelled their king, Egbert, and their archbishop Wulpher. An army of the pagans came to London, and wintered there, on which the Mercians made a treaty with them.
In the year 873, the said army left London, and first proceeded to the country of the Northumbrians, and wintered there in the district which is called Lindesig,75 at a place called Torkeseie,70 on which the Mercians again made a treaty of peace with them. Egbert the king of Northumbria dying, his successor was Reisig, who reigned three years. Wulpher, also, was this year recalled to his see.
In the year 874, the above-mentioned army left Lindesey, and, entering Mercia, wintered at a place which is called Reopadun.77 They also expelled Burrhed king of Mercia, from his kingdom, in the twenty-second year of his reign. Going to Rome, he died there, and was honorably buried in the church of Saint Mary, in the school of the Saxons. After his expulsion, the Danes reduced the kingdom of the Mercians to subjection, and committed it to the charge of a certain military officer of that nation, Ceolwulph by name, on condition that whenever they chose, without any subterfuge, they might take and keep it.
14 The inhabitants of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.
15 Lindesey in Lincolnshire.
70 Of this place Lambarde says; "it is a town in Lincolnshire, which, because it stood near the water, and was much washed therewith, obtained the name of an island, for so the latter part of the word, 'eie' doth signify, the former being the name of some person."
71 Repton in Derbyshire.