Source Problems in English History


World History


The Chronicle of Ethelwerd.

(Latin text in Petrie’s Monumenta Historica Britannica. This translation, with slight changes, from J. Stevenson’s The Church Historians of England.)

The barbarians renewed the peace, with a fraudulent intention, and more hostages than were demanded were given, for they promised to withdraw forces from the territories of the illustrious King Alfred, and they did so. After ravaging the kingdom of Mercia, they drove out all the freemen; and after a changeable course they erected their huts at the town of Gloucester. Therefore, in the course of this year, this vile rabble broke their treaty with the West Angles, although it had been ratified by a firm oath; and they took up their winter quarters at Chippenham. But their cavalry rode over the necks of many of the people, so that the inhabitants had no place of safety from their tyranny, and all turned their minds quickly away from them. Then, with impious insolence, they drove many across the sea to the shores of Gaul. King Alfred, in truth, was at this time more straitened than became him. Æthelnoth also, duke of the province of Somerset, delayed with a small band in a certain wood; and they built a stronghold of some sort on the isle of Athelney, which is situated in a marsh, as may be seen. But the above-mentioned king, together with the whole province of Somerset, never ceased to engage in daily contests with the barbarians; and no others assisted him, except those servants who were provisioned at the king’s expense. In the same year Halfdene arrived, the brother of the tyrant Inwar, with thirty galleys, on the territories of the West Angles, and besieged Odda, duke of the province of Devon, in a certain castle, and lighted up the flames of war within and without. The king of the barbarians perished, and eight hundred men with him. The Danes at last obtained the victory. Meanwhile, after Easter in that year, King Alfred hazarded a battle against the army which lay at Chippenham, at a place called Edington, but they obtained the honor of victory. But after the issue of the engagement, the barbarians promised peace, begged a truce, did not refuse hostages, and bound themselves by an oath; their king also submitted to the rite of baptism, and King Alfred, as sponsor, received him from the laver in the marshy isle of Alney. Duke Æthelnoth likewise purified the same king after his baptism, at a place called Wedmore, and there King Alfred loaded him with magnificent honors. Then, after a year from the period when the pagan army had set out from the city of Gloucester, it reached the town of Cirencester, and remained there during the winter season. In the course of this year the sun was eclipsed. In the year following this solar eclipse, the aforesaid army left Cirencester for the country of the East Angles; there they pitched their camp and reduced all the inhabitants under their yoke. Fourteen years had now been completed since the barbarians had first wintered in the aforesaid fields and had been provided with horses. Moreover, in the same year, after all the aforesaid country had been subjected to them, they set sail for Gaul and stationed themselves at a place called Ghent, being the very same troops who had formerly pitched their camp at Fulham. After a year they attempted to proceed farther; but the armies of the Franks assaulted them so vigorously that they gained the victory, while the barbarians were put to flight. After the lapse of a year the above-mentioned army passed into the higher districts of the river Meuse, and established their camp at Ascloha. In the same year King Alfred put out to sea and met with four of their ships; two of them he overcame and destroyed, and the remaining two surrendered. In the following year the above-named army set out for the districts above the Scheldt, at a place called Condé, and there fixed their winter quarters. After the expiration of a single year a violent slaughter committed by the aforesaid army broke out on the higher districts of the Somme, near the town of Amiens, and there they pitched their camp for the winter. Then, after a year, they divided themselves and spread over the country in two parts, the one occupying Louvain, and the other Rochester, and they besieged both these towns. They also constructed for themselves other smaller camps. The original inhabitants were defeated, till Alfred arrived with Ms western band.... Some of them retreated beyond the sea. In the course of that year they renewed their treaty by giving hostages to the Angles, and twice in the year they divided the spoil obtained by fraud in the densely wooded district close to the southern borders of the river Thames. The filthy crew which then held within its power the East Angles furnished their supplies, and then they suddenly sought an outward course toward Bamfleet. There the united bands divided with ill-omened movements: some remained, and some departed beyond the sea. In the same year, therefore, the above-named King Alfred sent a fleet into the borders of the East Angles; and immediately on their arrival, sixteen ships met them at Stourmouth; these were ravaged, and their captains slain with the sword; then the rest of the piratical fleet met that of Alfred; they plied their oars, they removed their sails, their arms glittered on the constrained waves, and at length the barbarians achieved a victory. In the same year died Charles the Magnificent, king of the Franks, being cut off by death before the completion of one year; after him followed his own brother, who then ruled over the western coasts of Gaul. Both were sons of Louis, who had formerly exercised the sole sovereignty; the close of his life took place during the aforesaid eclipse of the sun, and he was the son of the great King Charles, whose daughter Ethelwulf, king of the Angles, had married. In the progress of that year, an assault was made by the barbarian fleet, with no small force, filling the shores of the Old Saxons; two battles were fought about the same time, and the Saxons were victorious. Fries-landers also were present at the engagement. In the same year, Charles the younger succeeded to the sovereignty of all the western parts of Gaul, extending as far as the Tyrrhenian Sea, and, if I may say so, to all the dominions of his great grandfather, except the province of Amorica. His father was Louis, brother of the middle Charles, whose daughter Ethelwulf, king of the Angles, had married. And these two were sons of Louis, and he was the son of Charlemagne, and he was the son of Pepin. In the same year the blessed Pope Marinus departed, who gave liberty to the school of the Angles which now exists at Rome by the foresight of King Alfred, and he sent as a present a part of the thrice-blessed cross of Christ, in whom the salvation of the world shines forth. In the course of the same year, the aforesaid pestilential horde broke their agreement, and assailed King Alfred with their weapons. Then, after a year, they sought the lower parts of Gaul, and settled themselves permanently near the river Seine for the winter. Meanwhile the city of London was fortified by King Alfred—a man whom the cruelty of civil discord could never subdue by either ingenuity or assault; all men hailed him as their deliverer, especially the Saxons, with the exception, however, of the barbarians, and those who were then held as captives under their power. Also, after his armament there was strengthened, Ethered was appointed leader by the aforesaid king as the guardian of the citadel.


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Chicago: "The Chronicle of Ethelwerd.," Source Problems in English History in Source Problems in English History, ed. Albert Beebe White and Wallace Notestein (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1915), 25–30. Original Sources, accessed February 21, 2024,

MLA: . "The Chronicle of Ethelwerd." Source Problems in English History, in Source Problems in English History, edited by Albert Beebe White and Wallace Notestein, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1915, pp. 25–30. Original Sources. 21 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: , 'The Chronicle of Ethelwerd.' in Source Problems in English History. cited in 1915, Source Problems in English History, ed. , Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, pp.25–30. Original Sources, retrieved 21 February 2024, from