The British Isles after Rome

Part 4: The End of the Beginning

The fighting raged across the countryside, and men died by the hundreds, including Horsa and one of Vortigern's sons, named Catigern. One source says that Vortigern and Hengist agreed to a peace conference, on Salisbury Plain, but that the Anglo-Saxon leaders showed up with swords hidden beneath their cloaks and got away with murder, literally.

Another source says that Vortigern himself was killed in a struggle with another British leader, Ambrosius Aurelianus. But in this version, Vortigern doesn't get the honor of dying by the sword. He is said to be cowering in a wooden castle when the castle is struck by lightning and demolished in flames.

Ambrosius Aurelianus was nearly the exact opposite of Vortigern. Ambrosius was one of the few people that Gildas, the 6th Century monk, mentions by name. He was a strong figure, a big, burly soldier whose father was the emperor Constantine.

Vortigern played some part in the demise of Ambrosius's brother Constans, then a king-like figure, and Ambrosius fled to Brittany, where he stayed until he deemed it safe to return. Sources vary in the details but agree that Ambrosius was a successful battle commander. Gildas names him as leading the Britons into battle against the Anglo-Saxons.

Ambrosius met his demise at the hands of a poisoner. He died at Winchester.

Ambrosius is said to have had two brothers, Constans and Uther. And Uther has often been given a surname or title, that of Pendragon. And Uther's son has long been held to have been named Arthur.

Uther is said to have been quite successful at defeating Saxon armies. He is said to have been poisoned and then, after one last victory in which he was carried on a litter onto the battlefield to help rally the troops, he died. His son survived him, and it was left to him to pick up the pieces.

Sometime near the end of the 5th Century, the Britons struck back against the Saxon waves, in a series of battles that culminated with a major British victory that is commonly named the Battle of Badon Hill. (Some sources date this battle to A.D. 500.)

That victory ended Saxon attacks and invasions for a generation, giving the Britons and the Welsh the opportunity to regroup and refortify. Historians differ on the name of the commander for these battles, particuarly the major one. A common name associated with this battle commander is that of Arthur Pendragon.

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