Battle of Brunanburh


Battle of Brunanburh

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Brunanburh


caption=
partof=
date=937
place=Unknown: various sites in northern England, Axminster, Devon or southern Scotland suggested.
result=West Saxon victory
combatant1=West Saxons
combatant2=Dublin Norsemen
Scots
Strathclyde
commander1=Athelstan of England
Edmund
commander2=Olaf III Guthfrithson of Dublin
Constantine II of Scotland
Owen I of Strathclyde
strength1=
strength2=
casualties1=
casualties2=

The Battle of Brunanburh was a West Saxon victory in 937 by the army of Athelstan, King of England, and his brother, Edmund, over the combined armies of Olaf III Guthfrithson, Norse King of Dublin, Constantine II, King of Scots, and Owen I, King of Strathclyde (mention is also made in some sources of Irish, Welsh and Cornish mercenaries). [Lawrence Snell - The Suppression of the Religious Foundations of Devon and Cornwall. 1966]

Athelstan had invaded the Kingdom of Strathclyde a few years previously (roughly 933-934). This provoked much anger across the British Isles among rulers no doubt fearing for their own positions.

Battle

Most of the information regarding the battle itself come from the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle", the writings of Anglo-Norman historian William of Malmesbury, the "Annals of Tigernach", the "Brut y Tywysogion" and sagas from Iceland, including Snorri Sturluson's "Egils saga" about Egill Skallagrimsson, a Viking who fought for Athelstan.

The "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" records the event as follows:

:"937:":"Here, King Athelstan, leader of warriors,":"ring-giver of men, and also his brother,":"the aetheling Edmund, struck life-long glory":"in strife around 'Brunanburh' "

The battle is considered one of the bloodiest of the period. Five English kings and seven earls were killed in the battle. Two of Athelstan's cousins Alfric and Athelwin and a prominent Saxon bishop were also killed. Some sources claime that at one point the West Saxons deployed a cavalry charge, contradicting popular belief that the early English fought in infantry-based armies.Fact|date=October 2008 Cavalry were a relatively insignificant part of the Saxon force and were likely mercenaries from any number of other kingdoms. However, the Anglo-Saxon text of the chronicle makes no such mention: Burton Raffel's translation of the poem, for instance, is misleading. His rendering "All the battle / Became the Wessex cavalry endlessly / Hunting a broken enemy" mistranslates the Anglo-Saxon 'eorodcistum,' which means 'troop' or 'company.' [Burton Raffel, "Poems and Prose from the Old English" (New Haven: Yale UP, 1998): 41; J.R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1960): 106]

Aftermath

This poorly recalled battle is actually one of the most important in British history since Athelstan's crushing defeat of the combined Norse-Celtic force facing him irrevocably confirmed England as an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, forcing the Celtic kingdoms to consolidate in the positions they occupy today.

The Battle of Brunanburh still has a great deal of influence in the Wiltshire town of Malmesbury, 200 miles south of any probable site. The townsfolk of Malmesbury fought for King Athelstan, and he granted them 600 hides of land and gave them all freemen status. This status and the organisation formed then exists today, as the Warden and Freemen of Malmesbury, and Athelstan is remembered in their ceremonies. When Athelstan died, his body was transported from Gloucester to Malmesbury for burial.

Literature and art

English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson translated the poem from the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" in 1880, publishing it as part of his "Ballads and Other Poems". Tennyson's son Hallam Tennyson published a prose translation of the poem. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote various poems about or mentioning the Saxons and their victory at Brunanburh.

Battle site

The location of Brunanburh has not been definitively identified though possible sites in Northumberland have been suggested as well as Bromborough on the Wirral Peninsula [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/4112301.stm Birthplace of Englishness 'found'.] " BBC News Online (URL accessed 27 August 2006).] , Burnswark in southwest Scotland, Tinsley Wood near SheffieldWood, Michael (2001). Tinsley Wood. In "In Search of England: Journeys into the English past", pp203–221. Penguin Books Ltd (University of California Press in the United States). ISBN 0-520-23218-6] , Yorkshire and Axminster, Devon. [ [http://research.uvsc.edu/mcdonald/Anglo-Saxon/ASwarfare/battles.htm Anglo-Saxon warfare] ] These are not the only sites suggested, but they are the most commonly accepted. Alistair Campbell analysed all the sources, contemporary and later, and found it impossible to locate the battle.

External links

* [http://loki.stockton.edu/~kinsellt/litresources/brun/brun2.html Text of the poem "Battle of Brunanburh", including Anglo-Saxon version, modern English translation, and Tennyson's version]

References


*An Oxford History of England-Volume 2- Anglo Saxon England


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