All Quiet On The Eastern Front? – Part Seven

30 Mar

*Be sure to read the interesting comments at the end of this blog.

These blogs are going through a rethink and rework as of 09.12.11. New material or changes will be in bold type.

A rough placing of the 'Anglo-Saxon' regions


To the east of the area last discussed lay Lindsey; another British territory that the ‘enemy’ kept the name of, like Kent. If Linnuis is Lindsey, as many (but not all) suppose, and Arthur did fight here at the Dubglas – possibly the Witham or the Humber – then what was the reason? The ‘Anglians’ certainly seem to have been contained and kept at a very safe distance from Lincoln. Had fighting caused this or was there some agreement?

Thomas Green has written extensively about this area and from what he says, it’s really only the area around Lincoln – the old provincial capital – that was Lindsey per se at this time, although other think it included the area in general (See comments). What the rest of the region was then known as we may never know, although it later became ‘Anglian’ Lindeswara. Here are some quotes from his paper ‘The British Kingdom of Lindsey’, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 56 (2008), 1–43]

“ [...] the early cemetery evidence reflects a British authority at Lincoln which continued to control the city and a significant area around it throughout the fifth century and into the early-sixth century, and which was furthermore able to control the settlement of Germanic immigrants on the edges of this territory. No other explanation of the distribution of the cemetery evidence carries conviction.”

(How ironic that I’m drawing on the work of such ‘anti-Arthurians’ – for want of a better word – as Higham and Green!).

“ [...] the archaeological evidence is not only perfectly explicable in terms of the British ‘country of *Lindēs’ found in the non-archaeological sources, but it adds considerable further weight to the arguments for the existence and significance of this polity made above. Indeed, this situation would seem to accord well with the picture of Anglo-Saxon immigrants being controlled by successful British military action in regione Linnuis c. 500 that we find in the Historia Brittonum. Furthermore, if we consider the distribution of inhumation cemeteries too, then the Anglo-Saxon archaeological evidence would also seem to support the notion that the balance of power in the ‘country of *Lindēs’ shifted from British to Germanic hands during the course of the sixth century.”

Ironic too that Green uses the Arthurian battle list in the Historia Brittonum.

Green gives Baumber (called Badeburg in the Doomsday Book) in Lincolnshire as a possible siting of Badon, although I believe Kenneth Jackson forwarded this also in 1945 and Keith (aka Bad Archaeology blogger) came to a similar conclusion in his latest paper (‘The ‘Arthurian battle list’ of the Historia Brittonum’, 2010). If they’re right, this changes so many things, especially for this discussion. If Gildas was writing in the north a Lincolnshire Badon might be important to him; if not, it could be, as some scholars suggest, that Badon was only important to Gildas because it was the final British victory and (possible) year of his birth.

If, as argued, Lindsey had contained the settlers/invaders – or they were just at peace with them – why would there be a major battle here? Of course, the answer could be be it was the battle that contained them, but then we might have to think what this had to do with those of the south, if anything? I suppose if Ælle was their Bretwalda (but Dumville’s evidence would suggest otherwise) he might feel he had to help them. There’s also the chance that the southern wars were separate, just as northern wars could be also, if Badon was in the south. There’s also the possibility that it was Anglo-Britons repelling new ‘Anglian’ incomers.

With regard to Arthur, this gets us into that ‘wasn’t he supposed to be fighting the ‘Saxons’ debate. ‘Saxon’ (Saeson) was a general term used for all the Germanic peoples. Whilst he could indeed have ranged far and wide, if Keith’s and Christopher Gidlow’s suggested battle sites are possible (almost all north of a line east-west of The Wash), then Arthur may have only fought at one battle in the south: Badon … if it was there! I don’t have a problem with this, but I’m sure there are many that do, and many Arthurian scholars and enthusiasts have endeavoured to place some battles in the south. If he was mainly fighting north of this line, then someone else was beating back the southerners! But this is a whole other discussion, so I’ll leave it there.

To get back to the point; would ‘Anglians’ of Lindsey go fight in the south? That may depend partly on what possible ‘hold’ Ælle had over them, if any, or what hold the Britons had over them. If Badon was in this region then it was rather out of the way; some 15 miles east of Lincoln and about 20 miles from the sea, just off the Roman road that goes from Skegness to Lincoln. To be the Badonic Hill, however, it would have to be to the east in the Lincolnshire Wolds. This is an fairly flat region … in general.  (See comments).

If it was here, perhaps the threat was from the ocean as well as from the ‘locals’? Between this and the Dubglas (if it was the Witham) you’d have two pushes, from the south and east, both heading for Lincoln.


The once British tribal nation of the Parisii became the British ‘kingdom’ of Deifyr before becoming the Anglian kingdom of Deira, before becoming part of Northumbria.

Thomas Green:

“Turning to Deira, we find a similar situation once more [as Lindsey]. Here the probable original centre of the kingdom was located in the vicinity of Sancton – the largest and earliest Anglian cemetery in Deira, which seems to have its origins in the fifth century and from which the remains of 454 cremated individuals have been excavated – and Goodmanham, a few miles to the north, the latter being the site of what – according to Bede, writing a century after the conversion of King Edwin – was the principal heathen shrine of Deira. Higham and Loveluck have suggested that the position of Sancton on the Roman road north from the Humber, when combined with the cemetery’s characteristically Southumbrian burial rite, is suggestive of the foundation of Deira by immigrants who arrived via the Humber, probably from northern Lindsey.”

Here we have what might have been a very early settlement not appearing to go very far in the intervening 40 or so years. It could be because of the excellent containment of the Brigantians or Britannia Secunda? It could be because they were working for the Brits. If Thompson’s theory about the Saxon revolt happening in the north is correct (and it could appears that way) then it could be here that they were settled and not, as many assume, the Isle of Thanet in Kent.

The chances of them being at a southern Badon might be very slim. If it was in Lindsey it might be another matter. It’s also possible they were involved at the Dubglas if it was there. Arthur fighting Deirans could have given rise to Gwawrddur’s comparison to him in Y Gododdin.

There is also the consideration of just where these ‘Anglo-Saxons’ were being settled? By that, I mean the quality of land. For example, in this region, studies for this period have shown that they seem to have been located on the poorer quality soil, with the Britons still in the best areas. Strangely enough, in western Yorkshire, walh (British) sites are found on inferior lands at some distance from the early ‘Anglian’ settlements. (British Survival in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. Faull, 1977). So did they have the upper hand after all?


No one seems exactly sure where this one started and finished geographically, but some place it from the Tees to the Tweed, although it may have expanded that far from a smaller region.

There appear to be very few ‘Anglian’ settlements at this time. Whilst it could be involved in a battle with a Badon if it was in Lincolnshire, involvement with a southern one might be highly improbable.

In the next and final blog I want to see if any conclusions can be drawn from this research.

I look forward to any comments.

Thanks for reading,


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10 responses to “All Quiet On The Eastern Front? – Part Seven

  1. Bob O'Toole

    March 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I can’t help noting that you have only examined the political situation in the early 6th century. If Arthur is considered as one of the historically noted northern Arthurs he would have dated to the turn of the 6th/7th century. In this case he well could have been an ally, and defender, of Bernecia. I’d be curious to see your assessment of this possibility.

    Thanks for your interesting blog.

  2. badonicus

    March 31, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Hi Robert, great to hear from you.

    This article is mainly about the post Badon peace, and not Arthur, which is why I’m only covering this period. Have you read the ‘In Search Of The ‘Original’ Arthur’ blogs yet?

  3. Pabo Post Prydain

    August 2, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Mak,

    Good stuff again – thanks for pointing me to this post (I haven’t read everything on your site as yet, but I intend to!).

    I note your response to my last post on part 3. Please don’t think I was deliberately misunderstanding your points – I wasn’t. I just felt that despite your caveats, you were nevertheless painting a picture of conflict on largely ethnic lines in which both sides were able to organise their forces and mobilise large chunks of the country as though they were later feudal lords. If I misunderstood, I apologise.

    Lindsey is interesting and is a place I know well. I’m also familiar with Green’s excellent work – in fact, I believe that he lives there.

    I’m not sure that Green does argue that Brythonic Lindsey is limited to Lincoln – rather that Lincoln was the centre of a “polity” (to use his term) which controlled a large hinterland. He also makes it clear that he has grave doubts about the reliability of the HB, but that if (for argument’s sake) one accepts a historical Arthur (which you are no doubt aware that he probably doesn’t), Lindsey is as good a place to look as anywhere. Which is to say “not very good at all”.

    But, again, I feel we are in danger of making assumptions on ethnic grounds – why do we think the “locals” would be pushing on the settlers in the first place? Why do we think the Anglians were certainly “contained”. Look at the location of the cemeteries and the early settlement sites in Lincolnshire. Green and Sawyer point at containment but it clearly is not the only – or even necessarily the best – answer. Even the king list has clues (everyone picks up on Coedbad, but few pick up on Winta). Look at the archaeology. Aside from that one reference in the HB, there is little or no evidence of which I am aware of fighting in Lindsey prior to the Mercian/Northumbrian wars and a growing amount of evidence to show early assimilation. That doesn’t mean fighting didn’t happen, but does mean that the HB needs to be treated with enormous caution (which, in all fairness, I think you agree).

    I agree that the Badon/Baumber link is stretching it. However, a Lincolnshire Badon wouldn’t have to be in the wolds (although Baumber is). Lincolnshire – or Lindsey at least – isn’t perhaps quite as flat as you think and one very noticeable feature is the Lincoln Edge (or Cliff) which runs for miles and marks a very clear and obvious delineation between the heath to the east and the Trent valley to the west. A number of place names in the area contain the name elements *cliff and *hill. Ermine Street runs along the Edge for a number of miles on its way to the old Humber crossing and thence to York. There’s also two villages called Glentham and Glentworth just off the Cliff. Battle hunters such as Hunt and Moffatt have identified their sites for Urbs Legionis, Glein and Badon on no better evidence than that, which I think just goes to show what the eye of faith can do.



    • badonicus

      August 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      Apologies for the following curt answers, but they’re simply due to lack of time I have at present:

      I apologise if you misunderstood what I was saying. I added those caveats at the beginning, because I didn’t want to have to keep reiterating it all the way through. Having said that, some area could indeed have been ethnically divided. I doubt whether there was a blanket situation over the entire south and east of Britannia.
      As you say, Lincoln was probably the centre of a polity.

      The ‘Anglians’ _appear_ contained because of the archaeological evidence … as far as I’m aware. As I said at the beginning, my hope was that those who knew more could correct me.

      Completely agree that the HB should be treated with caution: see blog ‘A Different Look At An Arthurian Poem’.

      Good point about Lincoln Edge. It depends on what Gildas meant. Was this a single mount called Badon or the Badonic Hills? Either way, it doesn’t appear to be a British name.

      There might be faith in Hunt’s and Moffat’s cases (the latter more so) but I don’t think the same applies to Gidlow (to the same degree) and certainly not Keith Matthew-Fitzpatrick.

      Remember, this blog is not an Arthurian one per se, it is an exploration of why a perceived peace could last so long, regardless to whether there was an Arthur or not.

      Thanks again,


  4. Pabo Post Prydain

    August 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Hi Mak,

    I think Badon is a British word, isn’t it? I think it means something fairly mundane like “fort on the hill”.

    On the perceived peace, I’d argue that it is just that – perceived. We can be fairly happy that Badon was a real battle, but whether it genuinely had national, rather than regional, significance is debateable. It is also debateable as to whether it really was the direct cause of any peace – I seem to recall that Gildas refers to it as “nearly the last, though not the least defeat of the villains”, which suggests there was more fighting afterwards.

    As regards Lindsey, I think what we have is settlement by agreement and perhaps even by invitation. The location of the cemeteries suggests that the early settlers are staying away from Lincoln – roughly twenty miles away in any direction – which in turn suggests that they are moving onto land which isn’t particularly being used by the city with its presumably shrunken hinterland. However, they are living very close to the communication networks – the Roman roads, the canals and the Humber itself. If there was conflict and the Brits won, one might expect the settlers to have been cleared away from the transport network, as otherwise the Lincoln “polity” is basically under perpetual seige. If there was conflict and the settlers won, one might expect evidence of Anglian settlement much closer to Lincoln – and there isn’t any. Add to that evidence of urban survival (and Christian survival) in Lincoln itself, the emergence of a sort of Anglo-british decorative style in both pottery and metalwork, the survivial of British place names and personal names (in the king list), the apparent shared use of cemeteries (admittedly a little further afield on a site near Stamford) and the absence of any archaeology pointing at a violent end for Lincoln, and one can postulate that what we have in Lindsey is early, non-violent settlement followed by assimilation and the eventual transition from Welsh speaking to English speaking. I’d argue that at no point could it be said that the British “lost” Lindsey – they simply adopted the ascendant English language and culture.



    • badonicus

      August 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      Whether ‘Badon’ is British or Anglo-Saxon depends on who you talk to. Never heard of it being ‘fort on a hill’ though. Certainly the Welsh language expert Dr Graham Isaac sees it as a loan word from Anglo-Saxon ‘bath’. There’s a Mynydd Baedan in Glamorganshire, but this means ‘mountain of the boar’ (baedd).

      I can’t see how Badon (in of itself) was the cause of the ‘peace’ and there were battles after it, as you say. However, Gildas certainly believed there was ‘peace’ between the British dominated culture and the ‘Saxon’ dominated culture (for want of a better term) and the archaeology shows that the expansion stopped. So something happen. As to what this might have been, I’ve put my thoughts forward in Part Eight.

      You could be right about Lindsey and what happened there, some interesting points. IF the Arthurian, or any other battles, did happen at the Witham, this could be a push from the south, so any threat was coming from that direction, so a victory wouldn’t mean pushing the ‘Anglians’ out from the areas you mentioned. I’d be amazed if there weren’t any battles in that region between whatever groups, vying for power or land. That’s how warrior leaders proved their leadership.

      Thanks again,


  5. Pabo Post Prydain

    August 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Mak,

    Good points all.

    The Witham/Dubglas connection is frequently made, but I’ve never seen any evidence for the link. My concern is that some (not you!) work along the lines of “the Witham is the only river of any note in that bit of Lincolnshire and the HB must be true and accurate record of 12 real battles, ergo the Witham must be the Dubglas. We’ll say it’s peaty whilst we’re at it, even though we’ve never actually clapped eyes on it.”

    Strangely, for a short stretch along the Waterside in Lincoln, the Witham looks positively green, which might excite etymologists if they could prove it looked like that 1,500 years ago. However, elsewhere, it isn’t noticeably either black or green.

    I think I’d have to concede that violence in Lindsey pre- the Mercian/Northumbrian wars cannot be ruled out. It’s just that, the HB aside, we have no evidence for it. And although Green would disagree, I’m still not 100% happy about Linnuis being Lindsey and nowhere else.

    In any event, a successful southern push would have been likely to have displaced some of the early Anglian settlers from what is now Kesteven. And the early cemeteries show they weren’t kicked out. Further issues arise in relation to the topgraphy – the fens proper spread out in a cone from just SW of Lincoln (around Metheringham, Bardney, Nocton and Potterhanworth, if you have a map to hand or know the area) and it would be interesting to know what state they – and the Carr Dyke – were in 50 to 100 years after the end of the Roman period. Many years later, Guthlac whinges about the Britons in Crowland, suggesting that bits of the impenetrable and boggy south of what is Lincolnshire were recognisably British for some time after Lindsey presumably started looking and talking English.

    Derivation of Badon? I’ll try and get a citation for you if you want. But Gildas uses a Latinate form of the word (as you very obviously know) and I don’t see why he’d be using an English name when it was a victory for his team and presumably was remembered in the language of his team.



    • badonicus

      August 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      There are other contenders for the Dubglas, but it’s the Linnius bit that throws people. August Hunt places Linnuis in what is now southern Scotland, other say it could be Ilchester. As you’ll know, there are many Dubglas/Dulas rivers around.

      As for it being the Witham and it’s varying colours? As you say, we’ve no idea what colour(s) it was 1500 years ago. Here’s another fact to through into the mix: if the River Dee is anything to go by, three different lengths of it once had three different names.

      A for battles (or conflicts) ANYWHERE at this time, we haven’t got evidence. Even the ASC can’t mention every battle/skirmish.

      Judging by the ‘wal’ placename in England, perhaps it was those who didn’t want to either ethnically mix, or take on the culture that left these.

      If Badon was in enemy territory a that hill had been known for a long while as the hill of Badon (or something akin to it) then remembering it as such is a reminder to the enemy. Interesting that the ASC still calls it the ‘Second battle of Badon” in 665, and they only named their battles in their language. Gildas could be using the British version of an Anglo-Saxon name, then translated into Latin.

  6. Pabo Post Prydain

    August 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Mak,

    “Dee” is interesting – a very common element in river names, probably from the OW dwr (water). I suspect a similar root for Deira. It’s also very interesting that one Dee carried three names – I never knew that.

    I think we have to be careful with *wal. Both “wall” and “well” could equally give us today’s Waltons and Weltons.

    As for “enemy territory”, I think we have to be careful about who the “enemy” was. There is no reason to think that there was ever a concerted, national war with all the Saxons on one side and all the Brits on another. We know that there are Brythonic place name survivals in English areas – especially for natural features such as rivers and hills. We also know that Brythonic words can be anglicized into a similar sounding name, but with a totally different meaning – for example, the “Old Man” of Coniston fame is a corruption of “allt maen” (rocky slope).

    Badon might be English, or it might equally be an anglicization of a British word. Or it might be straight British (which I think it is). I’m not aware of Gildas using English words for places, although you will no doubt correct me if I am wrong.

    We know from the HB and ASC (amongst others) that some places had both Brythonic and English names. But both the ASC and HB are secondary documents when it comes to understanding the 5th and 6th C and we don’t know how far the dual naming process was advanced at the time Gildas was writing. This is why I feel that his use of words is significant when looking for the root of that word. He was there – the Chroniclers were not.



  7. badonicus

    August 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    *wal could indeed come from other sources, but it could also come from *Weala.

    Depends what you mean by ‘national’ war? I wouldn’t think there was an old diocian-wide war (or wars, or battles) but there could have been provincial – if Ken Dark and Roger White are right and there were still remnants of them – or civitas, if they still exited. There was no state or nation so there could be no national war. There could have been short term confederacies against confederacies as well as small region against small region, or clan against clan. I keep saying that we’re not looking at Britons verses Saxon in an ethnic sense. I said at the very start that I think they should be called Anglo-British, or Saxo-British, or Brito-Saxon/Brito-Anglian, depending on which culture they’d gone with or their affiliations … which probably shifted when it suited. I’m sure these various groups fought another: ‘civil war’ on both cultural sides.

    But, in a sense, it doesn’t matter if it’s ethnic or cultural. Somebody who had a different culture and a different language (which was gradually shifting to Germanic) is an Other, to use Chris Wickham’s term. Someone from another village or area was different even if he wasn’t culturally different. When I was a boy, somebody from Newcastle, 10 miles away, was a bit of a foreigner, let alone someone from Teeside! As far as Gildas was concerned, those who were on the other side of the ‘divide’ were ‘Saxons’.

    The only English word Gildas uses is *cyulis. He uses no other English place names (if Badon was) and if it didn’t have an alternative British name for it, he’d have no option. I am no expert on such matters, but when someone as eminent as Prof Graham Issac questions Badon as not being British, it needs listening to.




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