Why is Kent?

(no, this isn’t about the politics 🙂 )

There’s Sussex, Essex, Wessex and Middlesex. There’s East Angles, split into Northern Folk and Southern Folk – and, once, there were even Middle Angles. There are counties and kingdoms with such undoubtedly English names as Surrey and Mercia. Why, then, in the middle of all this Germanic toponymy, is Kent not called something like “Jutland” or “East Jutia”?

Etymology will tell us that the name “Kent” comes from the Briton word for “edge” or “corner”, which in turn gave the name to the Iron Age tribe of Cantii. In Latin, it was variously rendered as Cantia, Cantium or Cantiacum. The Germanic settlers called it Centrige and Kentland. But etymology is not the same as explanation. After all, Sussex is not called “Reginland”. Essex is not “Trinovantia”. Norfolk is not “Ikenware”.

The Kingdoms of Angles, Saxons and… Kents?

Something happened in Cantium that was different from everywhere else. The myths and what little history we have written about the beginnings of “Anglo-Saxon” settlement in Britannia tell us that it all started there – with Hengist and Horsa, and his Jutes landing on the Isle of Thanet. It’s a convenient legend, but we know there is some truth in it. More, probably, than in the legends of Aella and his son Cissa conquering the southern provinces with his three ceol-fuls of Saxon warriors, or in the muddled origins of the Western Saxons, jumping about from the Welsh marches to Winchester and Salisbury with little regard to geography and chronology.

My books are a fiction, based on guesswork. Until we find some ancient copy of the lost Chronicles of the Kingdom of Kent, all we have to go on are those less precise tools of a Dark Age historian: myths, archaeology, toponymies and etymologies. After all, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was written in Wessex, hundreds of miles away and centuries after whatever events in Kent made it keep its Briton name when all the land around it took new names from the Saxons. It is a wonder that any rumour of what happened made it to the chronicle, even if only in form of a brief snippet of a legend of Wortigern and the two brothers.

Hengest and Horsa survey their muddy domain

That there was no “invasion” we know from archeological record. No great battles as described by the chroniclers, and no brutal conquest, wiping out entire native population. But I’d like to think there was something more to Kent’s good fortune. I’d like to think – and it is what I propose in my books – that Kent was a unique experiment in the early history of England. That in Kent, the Germanic settlers and the Briton natives not only lived side by side in peace, but dealt with the difficulties of that age of chaos together, that they shared the burden of the time of upheaval that ravaged the rest of Britannia, and the Empire beyond. That the reason why Christianity was welcomed first, and with such ease, in Kent – while other Anglian and Saxon kingdoms resisted and sometimes reverted to paganry – was because the Romano-Britons of Kent, the native Christian population, were not subdued and quashed by their new rulers, and did not turn to imitate them with the same eagerness as those under the Saxon rule. That they were allowed to live and rule in their towns even as the Jutes settled the countryside around them, allowed to keep their Latin names, with only small modifications to accomodate the Jute tongue: Dover for Dubris, Lympne for Leman, Rochester for (Du)Robrivae Castrum – and their capital, a Burgh of the Cants. Compare that with what little remained of the old names in the land of Saxons: gone is Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester), no trace remains of Anderitum (Pevensey) – and we can barely guess whether their main harbour of Novus Portus was at Brighton or Shoreham. And, most importantly, unlike any other tribal pagus in southern Britannia, they were allowed to keep their ancient name: the Land of Cant.

It is, I repeat, only a guess; a neat setting for a work of fiction. But I feel like it’s as decent explanation as any for why, to this day, the most south-easterly county of England is called Kent, rather than, say, Jutrey. And at the very least, it makes for a good story.

Octa, son of Oisc, ponders his place in history

The Story So Far…

Timeline of events up to the beginning of The Blood of the Iutes:

(all dates AD) (contains SPOILERS)

388 – Imperator Magnus Maximus defeated and executed.

389 – Birth of Pascent

392 – Birth of Wortigern, son of Vitalinus.

396 – Birth of Hengist. Martinus dies in Gaul. His cult soon spreads to Britannia.

406 – Birth of Pefen

407 – Imperator Constantine III takes the Legions out of Britannia

409Ambrosius born to Aurelius, Governor of Britannia.

410 – Rome sacked for the first time, by Goths. Londin votes to leave the Roman Empire. Civil War begins.

411 Constantine III defeated in Gaul. Some of his men, under Vitalinus, join General Constantius. Followers of Martinus establish a monastery on the Isle of Tanet.

413Wortigern marries Sevira, daughter of Imperator Magnus Maximus.

414 – General Constantius conquers Gaul. Vitalinus and his men are sent to quell rebellion of Bacauds in Armorica. Serfs of Britannia roused to rebellion by followers of Martinus.

415 – Battle of Wollop. Treaty of Sorbiodun ends the Civil War. Britannia split in two, with Aurelius as Dux of the Western half. Vitalinus invited to Britannia to deal with the serf rebels.

418 – Vitalinus suppresses the serf rebellion and is made Dux of the Eastern half of Britannia. Pascent granted Ariminum villa for his service.

423 Eadgith born in Ariminum.

423426 – Hengist fights in Frisia.

425 Ash born in the Old Country. Vitalinus dies. Wortigern takes over as Dux and orders Comites to recruit German mercenaries for the island’s defence.

425-435 – Saxons arrive in the land of Regins and Trinowaunts; Gewisse arrive in the land of Cadwallons; Angles arrive in the land of Ikens.

427 Aelle born to Pefen. Rhedwyn born in the Old Country.

428 – Iutes arrive in the land of Cants.

429 – Bishop Germanus travels to Britannia, bringing news of Pelagius’s trial and death.

436Aurelius dies. His son Ambrosius Aurelianus takes over as Dux. Pefen lands in the land of Regins and takes over an abandoned fortress of Anderitum.

437 Haegel leads a Iute expedition to Meon.

SPOILERS FOR THE SAXON SPEARS:

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439 – Pascent’s 50th birthday feast.

440 – Eadgith banished from Ariminum. Birth of Octa, son of Ash and Eadgith.

441 – Battle of Aelle’s Ford. Pascent and Catigern die. Iutes allowed to settle in selected villages.

443 – Battle of Saffron Valley, defeat of Aelle’s forest army. Iutes allowed to settle in further villages.

SPOILERS FOR THE SAXON KNIVES:

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445 – Drust I invades the South. First Coup by Wortimer. Battle of Crei Ford. Iutes allowed to settle in Cantiaca. Birth of Croha.

449 – Bishop Germanus travels to Britannia for the second time, summoned by Wortimer. Wortigern excommunicated.

450 – Council of Sorbiodun. Wortimer’s Second Coup. Wortigern exiled to the West. The Great War with Heathens begins.

SPOILERS FOR THE SAXON MIGHT:

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451 – In Battle of Maurica, Aetius defeats Attila’s Huns. Iutes pushed back to Tanet. Octa abducted from his village and taken to the West.

452 – Wortimer and Rhedwyn die. Birth of their daughter, Myrtle. Londin razed. Battle of Eobbasfleot ends the Great War with the Briton defeat. Octa returned to the East. Haesta rebels against Hengist. Iutes land on Wecta.

454 – Pefen dies in Anderitum. Aelle takes over as ruler of Saxons. Battle of Seal Isle. Eadgith dies. Haesta defeated and banished from Cantiaca. Aeric crowned the King of Iutes.

455 – Rome sacked for the second time, by Vandals.

457 – Hengist dies.

6 resources for history of the Dark Ages Britain

1. CPNRB – Celtic Personal Names of Roman Britain.


https://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/personalnames/category.php 

The database of all Briton names confirmed in sources and found in inscriptions in the Roman period, from 1st to 5th century AD. Divided by period, location, tribe. Invaluable for coming up with real-sounding secondary characters.


2. DARMC – Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations.


https://darmc.harvard.edu/maps 

This one has everything. Roman roads, settlements – named and unnamed, bridges, passes, temples, fortresses, villas… the most comprehensive map of Ancient Rome on the internet.


3. ORBIS – Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World.


http://orbis.stanford.edu/

Calculator of distances and travel times for the Roman Empire. Google Maps for Ancient Rome, using main roads and sea routes.


4. PASE – Prosopograhy of Anglo-Saxon England.


http://pase.ac.uk/jsp/index.jsp

Similar to 1., a database of names but this time for the Anglo-Saxons. Covers all of Middle Ages, divided by locations, periods, occupations and more.


5. Rural Settlement of Roman Britain. Another detailed map of every archaeological find from Roman Britain.


https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/romangl/map.html

An even more detailed map of Roman archaelogy than 2., but dedicated solely to Britain, rather than all of Empire. Down to single coin finds.


6. Omnes Viae: Google Maps for Tabula Peutingeriana

https://omnesviae.org/

Similar to the ORBIS map, but using data only from Tabula Peutingeriana, the only remaining map of the Late Roman Empire. Also has the viewer of the Tabula reconstruction.



The Saxon Spears – The Song of Ash, Book 1

NOW AVAILABLE  – ONLY ON AMAZON!

Thirty years have passed since Britannia voted to throw off the Roman yoke. Now, the old world crumbles. Pirates roam the seas, bandits threaten the highways, and barbarian refugees land at Britannia’s shores, uninvited. The rich profit from the chaos, while the poor suffer. A new Dark Age is approaching – but all is not lost.

Ash is a Seaborn, a Saxon child found on the beach with nothing but a precious stone at his neck and a memory of a distant war from which his people have fled. Raised on the estate of a Briton nobleman, trained in warfare and ancient knowledge, he soon becomes embroiled in the machinations and intrigues at the court of Wortigern, the Dux of Londinium, a struggle that is about to determine the future of all Britannia.

A child of Saxon blood, an heir to Roman family, his is a destiny like no other: to forge a new world from the ruins of the old.

The Saxon Spears is the first volume of the Song of Ash saga, perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell’s “The Last Kingdom” series, Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden.

TheSaxonSpears_V6

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