Gildas (c. 500 – 570) was a 6th-century
cleric of north Welsh origin. He is
the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British
Isles during this period. His work
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, which contains narratives of the
post-Roman history of Britain, is the only substantial source for
British history of the fifth century , although written one century
after the facts. He was ordained
in the Church, and in his works he favours the monastic ideal.
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae
Gildas' principal work, De Excidio et
Conquestu Britanniae, is a sermon
in three parts condemning the acts of his contemporaries, both secular
and religious. The first part consists of Gildas' explanation for his
work and a brief narrative of Roman Britain from its conquest under the
principate up to Gildas' time. He describes the doings of the Romans
the groans of the Britons, in which the Britons make one last request
for military aid from the departed Roman military. He excoriates his
fellow Britons for their sins, while at the same time lauding heroes
such as Aurelius Ambrosius, whom he is the first to describe as a
leader of the resistance to the Saxons. 
Part two consists of a condemnation of five British kings, Constantine,
Aurelius Conanus, Vortiporius, Cuneglas, and Maelgwn. As it is the only
contemporary information about them, it is of particular interest to
scholars of British history. Part three is a similar attack on the
clergy of the time.
Sadly, Gildas never had the intention to write history, so objectivity
was not of his concern. 'De Excidio' is a sermon, a preach in which
simply uses history as an illustration. Dates were unnecessary, so
Gildas gave none. When one reads his description
of the Anglo-Saxons, then it is very clear that Gildas absolutely hated
those people. We do not know the reason why. Despite this hate, Gildas
never mentioned a language imposition by the Anglo-Saxons.
Bede (672 / 673
– 26 May 735 AD), also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede
(Latin: Beda Venerabilis), was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of
Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, northeast
England, and of
its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow (see
Wearmouth-Jarrow), both in the Kingdom of Northumbria. Bede was a
proto-English speaking person. He mentions the existence of English in
Britain. Like Gildas, Bede never mentioned a language transition in
He lived about one hundred years after Gildas of whom he used a maximum
of text, although correcting Gildas sometimes where he could.
Bede wrote scientific, historical and theological works, reflecting the
range of his writings from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture
commentaries. He knew patristic literature, as well as Pliny the Elder,
Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers. He knew
some Greek and Hebrew. His Latin is generally clear, but his Biblical
commentaries are more technical.
Bede's best-known work is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum,
or An Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Completed in
about 731, Bede was
aided in writing this book by Albinus,
abbot of St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury. The first of the five
books begins with some geographical background, and then sketches the
history of England, beginning with Caesar's invasion in 55 BC. A
brief account of Christianity in Roman Britain, including the martyrdom
of St Alban, is followed by the story of Augustine's mission to England
in 597, which brought Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons. An other five
books relate the story of Christianity and its relation with worldly
power up to Bede's time. Unlike Gildas, Bede tries to give good dates
for the events he wrote about.
Nennius was a Welsh monk of the 9th century. He
has traditionally been
attributed with the authorship of the Historia Brittonum, based on the
prologue affixed to that work, This attribution is widely considered
a secondary (10th century) tradition.
Nennius was a student of Elvodugus, commonly identified with the bishop
Elfodd who convinced British ecclesiastics to accept the Continental
dating for Easter, and who died in 809 according to the Annales
Nennius is believed to have lived in the area made up by present day
Brecknockshire and Radnorshire counties in Powys, Wales. He lived
outside the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, isolated by mountains in a rural
society. Because of the lack of evidence concerning the life of
Nennius he has become the subject of legend himself. Welsh traditions
include Nennius with Elbodug and others said to have escaped the
massacre of Welsh monks by Ethelfrid in 613 by fleeing to Scotland.
The Historia Brittonum, or The History of the Britons, is an attempt of
work that was first composed around 830, and exists in several
recensions of varying difference. It wants to tell the history of
the Brittonic inhabitants of Britain from earliest times, and this text
has been used to write a history of both Wales and England, as it was
one of the
more reliable sources. Nennius is traditionally named as the author of
the text, though this is widely considered a secondary tradition,
originating in the 10th century. Bede's work is considered to be more
serious than Nennius' texts. Nevertheless, Bede gave us 446 AD as the
date of the coming of the Anglo-Saxons, Nennius mentioned 428 AD.
This website explains why 428 is far more likely.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle & other
The AS-chronicles were probably written one hundred year after Nennius.
They are rather unreliable. But as they again give some extra details
of what happened during the fifth century, they cannot be dismissed
More authors wrote during the early Middle Ages, such as Geoffrey of
Monmouth, but here we enter the realm of myths and legends, like the
legend of King Arthur.