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 Song of the Tides – locations

Tomorrow is release day of the Song of Octa novella – or Book “5.5” of the Song of Britain – “The Song of the Tides“. The entire story takes place in Armorica – today’s Brittany.

LAUREA – Ile de Brehat

Aerial view of the island of Bréhat in Brittany
A sparsely inhabited island in antiquity, just off the northern coast of Brittany. Other than as the place of disembarkation of several legendary saints arriving in Armorica, there is little mention of it before the Middle Ages.

WORGIUM – Vorgium, Carhaix-Plouguer

Centre d'interprétation virtuel de Vorgium
Capital of the Osismes, and an important cross-road town in Western Brittany. In its heyday, the largest city in all of Armorica. Its modern name comes from “Caer Ahes” – the Fortress of Ahes.

GESOCRIBATE – Douarnenez

Remains of an ancient Garum factory, from Gallo-Roman peri… | Flickr
Gesocribate is only mentioned in Tabula Peutingeriana, as the last stop on the road from Vorgium. Though many historians identify it with the city of Brest, there is also possibility that it refers to the harbour of Douarnenez, famed for its garum factories, as seen above.

CAIR INIS – Ile Tristan

Douarnenez. Un exercice incendie en cours sur l'Île Tristan -  Brest.maville.com
A small tidal island in the bay of Douarnenez. Inhabited since ancient times, long associated with the legend of Sunken City of Ys, and the romance of Tristan and Iseult. It is said that the tomb of the two lovers is somewhere on the island.

“The Wrath of the Iutes” locations

It’s time for another of the “locations” post – I like to think of my books as much as a travelogue as action novels, and the travels of my characters in Book 5 take them to the very north-western edges of the Empire: from Armorica to Northern Wales.

The Wrath of the Iutes” is released on July 1st – pre-order now!

ROTOMAG – Rotomagus, Rouen

A major harbour on the River Seine, once the second most important city in Gallia Lugdunensis, now capital of Normandy.

REDONES – Condate Redonum, Roazhon, Rennes

A market town and bishopric on the frontier of Armorica, now capital of Brittany.

Worgium – Vorgium, Karaez, Carhaix

The remains of Vorgium are visible at the interpretation center
The largest Roman city in western Brittany, capital of the Osismii, then of Cornouaille. Medieval name comes from Caer Ahes – the Fortress of Ahes.

Cair Wortigern – Craig Gwrtheyrn

A large Iron Age hillfort in Carmarthenshire, on the shores of River Teifi, one of several associated with Vortigern.

The Forks – Tre’r Ceiri

An enormous, spectacular hill fort on Llyn Peninsula, used up to 5th century. The valley below, Nant Gwrtheyrn, is another place associated with Vortigern, who is said to have been buried somewhere in the area.

Hrodha’s Fort – Caer Gybi, Holyhead

A small Roman fortlet at the very end of the Mona road – the last harbour before Hibernia, the Edge of the Empire.

Silurian Isca – Isca Augusta, Caerleon

A major Legionnary fortress and a garrison guarding the main harbour of what is now Wales.

The Blood of the Iutes – Map Reveal

It’s that time again – the premiere of the new volume is fast approaching, and the first marker of the book being ready for release is the map is now done.

There’s only one map this time – but one that shows more of the ancient world than any of the maps before – all of late Roman Gaul and Germania north of Augusta Treverorum.

This should tell you how much greater the scope of the story has become – the interests of Iutes are no longer confined to Britannia, they now enter into the power plays of the late Empire

“The Blood of the Iutes” locations

In “The Blood of the Iutes” the action moves from Britannia to northern Gaul and Germania, introducing a slew of new locations in what is now Belgium, northern France and western Germany.

TORNAC – Tornacum, Tournai

One of the oldest towns in Belgium, the first capital of the Salian Franks.

Notre-Dame de Tournai, Belgium

TRAIECT – Trajectum ad Mosam, Maastricht

Ancient crossing town on the Meuse River.

File:Maastricht, maquette laat-Romeins Maastricht (F Schiffeleers, 1992)  05.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

AKE – Aquae Grani, Aachen

Hot springs resort town, popular with the Legionnaires stationed at the Rhine. Later, capital of the Frankish Empire.

Roman arches - Picture of Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia - Tripadvisor

COLN – Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, Cologne

Capital of the Germania Inferior province, the greatest city on the Roman Rhine.

TOLBIAC – Tolbiacum, Zulpich

A small crossroads town, with roads leading to every corner of Gaul. Place of many famous battles.

ICORIG – Icorgium, Junkerath

A small fortress, guarding an important pass into the Eifel Mountains.

TREVIR – Augusta Treverorum, Trier

The capital of all Gaul, seat of the Emperors.

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 shame of our time.

Today, 98% of those who took part in the Hungarian referendum voted against the EU plan of resettling the refugees arriving on Europe’s beaches. 

People who lived through World War II outside the Nazi-occupied territories had to later confront the pertinent questions: “what did you do during the war? How did you react to the atrocities? How have you helped, or if not, how did you sleep at night knowing what was going on?”

Well, now we know. It’s remarkably easy not to care about others if they’re far enough, or different enough. It’s easy not to think of the victims as human, of the dead as people, of the refugees as anything other than an invading horde. It’s so easy, it doesn’t even take a sustained campaign of dehumanization, by the media and the politicians, to do so – it seems as if all we need is the flimsiest of excuses not to give a fuck about anyone else than ourselves.

ctrskvow8aa60abWhat is the point of teaching history, if we don’t see the most obvious of parallels when they hit us between the eyes? What is the point of reading about Anne Frank, and building her a museum, when we don’t care about today’s Annes, like Bana Alabed live tweeting from bombed Aleppo? Only worse, because this time we all know she – and so many others – are there – and still we do nothing to help.

You know what’s the most terrifying? It’s that Syria is so fucking close. It’s the closest war to the West since Yugoslavia – both in terms of geography and culture. It’s one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It is – or used to be – what we like to call a “proper country”, with universities, science, literature, classical music, everything we expect of a people “like us” – and yes, I’m using those awful, racist categories, because this war has shown what awful, racist scum we all have become in response. It’s easy to imagine Syrians a few years ago thinking, “we’re not Afghanistan or Somalia – if anything bad happens, we’ll get help, because we are like them”. But no, all of this wasn’t enough. The colour of skin and the foreignness of religion was all it took to turn a nation of doctors and poets into a barbarian horde of “cockroaches”, swarming against our borders, their real intention to blow us up and rape “our” women.

I could go on, but it doesn’t matter. Those with their heart in the right place, already know all of this. The rest of you – just remember this: karma is a bitch. Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Syria… They used to be like “us”. Like you. One day, your country too could become a living hell for some random, unexpected reason. One year you host the Olympics, or the Euro, the other – cluster bombs and poison gas are falling on your head.

For your sake, when that happens, I hope the world will treat you better than how you treat others today.

 

History of Ōuzhōu as compiled by the Imperial Archaeologists

For the education and enlightenment, we, the Council of Imperial Archaeologists, hereby present a compilation of our knowledge of history of the region of Ōuzhōu, which in ancient time lay between the Bōsī and Èluósī Empires, and the Great Western Sea.

The dates given are numbered from the birth of the exalted Kǒng Fūzǐ (AC).

0-300 AC: The Archaic, or Dayuan Dynasty Period. These are the same Dayuans who, after defeating and briefly subjugating the Bōsī, established trade relations with the Han Emperors in 420 AC, the first of the Ōuzhōu peoples to do so.

300-850 AC: The Classical, or Dàqin Dynasty Period. The Dayuans are supplanted by the Dàqins. The Dàqins spread throughout most of the southern and western Ōuzhōu, and establish trade with the Han Emperors. To the east, they border with the Bōsī. To the north of their lands lay the forests of the Dé and the steppes of the nomadic Sīlāfū people.

850-1350 AC: The East and West Dàqin Period. The Dàqin Empire splits in two. Under the pressure from the Dé peoples, the western half succumbs to a period of chaos and in-fighting between the Dé warlords, known as the Gētè-Fǎlánkè Interregnum (1100-1350). The eastern half recedes before the Sīlāfū onslaught, but retains most of its integrity. The two halves will never reunite again under one rule for the next sixteen centuries.

1350-1450 AC (West): A Dé warlord Kaliman from the Fǎlánkè Dynasty reunites most of the western Dàqin. After a hundred years, his dynasty splits into two, eternally conflicted, branches.

1350-1650 AC (East): The Post-Classical, or Fu-lin Dynasty Period. Fu-lin rulers rise to control most of the former eastern Dàqin (and occasionally parts of the west) territory. Even after the invasions of the steppe people of the late 17th c., remnants of the Fu-lins will continue to control a diminishing petty kingdom until 2000 AC.

1600-2000 AC (East): The Five Tribes, Four States Period. Waves of invading steppe people crush the hegemony of the Fu-lin. Four nomadic kingdoms fight for dominance in the region: the Tūjué in the south, the Mǎzhá in the centre, and two states of the Sīlāfū in the north: the tribal confederacy of Bōlán-Lìtáo in the north-west and a former Mongghul vassal, Èluósī, in the north-east.

1450-2460 AC (West): The Eastern and Western Dynasties. The Western Ōuzhōu is dominated for several centuries by the power play between the East and West Fǎlánkè dynasties, separated by the Láiyīn River – once the border of the Dàqin Empire. The chief of their vassals and allies are the island duchy of Yīng and the many petty kingdoms of Xībānyá and Yìdàlì peninsulas.
(According to some scholars, throughout the four centuries between the years 1950-2350, the Eastern Dynasty ruled its increasingly fragmented territory only nominally – this period is sometimes known as the Hundred Kingdoms or Hundred States).

2000-2460 AC (East): The Three Kingdoms Period. Three major players emerge from the chaos of the earlier conflicts: Tūjué, Bōlán-Lìtáo, and a West Fǎlánkè principality of Hābùsībǎo, which absorbs the remnants of the Mǎzhá people (as well as most of the petty kingdoms of Xībānyá in the west). Certain scholars propose to split the period further into Older Three Kingdoms and Younger Three Kingdoms, when, after the Warring States Period, the confederacy of Bōlán-Lìtáo is supplanted by the rising Èluósī Khanate as the northern superpower.

2100-2200 AC (mostly West): The Warring States Period. Born originally out of a philosophical dispute over the nature of Dào, the conflict quickly engulfs most of Ōuzhōu. It severely weakens the West Fǎlánkè and the confederacy of Bōlán-Lìtáo. In their place, the Yīng dukes and the Èluósī khans, who took little part in the conflict, grow to major powers in the region.

The last century of this period (after the ambitious, but ultimately disastrous West Fǎlánkè attempt at unification of all of Ōuzhōu) is sometimes called the Peace of the Eagles, after the eagle emblems of the three strongest powers in the region: the East Fǎlánkè, the Hābùsībǎo and the Èluósī. Eventually, however, this fragile balance proves untenable.

2460-2500 AC: The Warlords Era. What initially looks like another conflict between Eastern and Western Dynasties, spills out over all of Ōuzhōu. For roughly forty years, the main powers, along with their vassals and allies, fight a prolonged, bloody conflict. Ancient dynasties are overthrown, and new ones come to power. Warlord states, based on old tribal allegiances, appear and disappear, particularly in the rough Sīlāfū borderlands between East Fǎlánkè, Tūjué and Èluósī.

In the devastated west, there are no clear winners, although East Fǎlánkè is nominally defeated by the coalition of the West Fǎlánkè and the dukes of Yīng. In the east, however, the Èluósī Khanate achieves total dominance, finally victorious over its chief adversaries, the Tūjué and Hābùsībǎo, and absorbing or subduing most of their territories.

2500 AC and after: The Twelve Star Coalition, or the Unified Fǎlánkè. Weakened by the warlord strife and facing the relentless rise of the Èluósī, the two Fǎlánkè kingdoms together with their erstwhile vassals form a defensive alliance and a trade federation known as the Twelve Star Coalition. In time, the overstretched Èluósī Khanate is torn apart by internal strife and external pressures. The Unified Fǎlánkè spreads eastwards, gobbling up the Èluósī borderlands piecemeal, until eventually its territory and might surpasses even that of the ancient Dàqin.

This, for now, is as far as we have managed to compile the ancient records. We will continue in our efforts to bring you the further history of this fascinating region as soon as the next volume is ready.