Battle of Deorham

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The Battle of Deorham or Dyrham was fought in 577 between the West Saxons under Ceawlin and Cuthwine and the Britons of the West Country. The location, Deorham, is usually taken to refer to Dyrham in South Gloucestershire. The battle was a major victory for the West Saxons, who took three important cities, Glevum (Gloucester), Corinium (Cirencester) and Aquae Sulis (Bath). The battle is known exclusively from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which gives few details, but it is thought to have been a major engagement.

Contents

Account

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 577 records that that year King Ceawlin of Wessex and his young son Cuthwine fought the Britons of the West Country at "the spot that is called [Deorham]". This is generally taken to be Dyrham in what is now South Gloucestershire, on the Cotswold escarpment a few miles north of Bath. The West Saxons carried the day, and three kings of the Britons, whose names are given as Commail, and Condida, and Farinmail, were slain. As a result of the battle, the West Saxons took three important cities, Glevum (Gloucester), Corinium (Cirencester) and Aquae Sulis (Bath), representing a fairly substantial area of Gloucestershire and Somerset.[1]

Presumed strategy and tactics

Historians (such as William St. Clair-Baddeley in 1929) have concluded that the Saxons may have launched a surprise attack and seized the site at Hinton Hill because it commanded the Avon Valley and disrupted communications north and south between Bath and her neighbouring Romano-British towns of Gloucester and Cirencester. Once the Saxons were in occupation of the site (and had begun reinforcing the existing Iron Age defensive structures at the site) the Britons of those three towns were compelled to unite and make a combined attempt to dislodge them. Their attempt failed and the three opposing British kings were killed (they are named as Commagil of Gloucester, Condidan of Cirencester and Farinmagil of Bath). Their routed forces were driven north of the River Severn and south of Bath where it appears they began the construction of the defensive earthwork called the Wansdyke in a doomed attempt to prevent more territory from being lost.

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