Ceawlin of Wessex

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Ceawlin (also spelled Ceaulin and Caelin, died c. 593) was a King of Wessex. He may have been the son of Cynric of Wessex and the grandson of Cerdic of Wessex, whom the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle represents as the leader of the first group of Saxons to come to the land which later became Wessex. Ceawlin was active during the last years of the Anglo-Saxon invasion, with little of southern England remaining in the control of the native Britons by the time of his death.

The chronology of Ceawlin's life is highly uncertain. The historical accuracy and dating of many of the events in the later Anglo-Saxon Chronicle have been called into question, and his reign is variously listed as lasting seven, seventeen, or thirty-two years.[1] The Chronicle records several battles of Ceawlin's between the years 556 and 592, including the first record of a battle between different groups of Anglo-Saxons, and indicates that under Ceawlin Wessex acquired significant territory, some of which was later to be lost to other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Ceawlin is also named as one of the eight "bretwaldas", a title given in the Chronicle to eight rulers who had overlordship over southern Britain, although the extent of Ceawlin's control is not known.

Ceawlin died in 593, having been deposed the year before, possibly by his successor, Ceol. He is recorded in various sources as having two sons, Cutha and Cuthwine, but the genealogies in which this information is found are known to be unreliable.


Historical context

The history of the sub-Roman period in Britain is poorly sourced and the subject of a number of important disagreements among historians. It appears, however, that in the fifth century raids on Britain by continental peoples developed into migrations. The newcomers included Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians. These peoples captured territory in the east and south of England, but at about the end of the fifth century, a British victory at the battle of Mons Badonicus halted the Anglo-Saxon advance for fifty years.[2][3] Near the year 550, however, the British began to lose ground once more, and within twenty-five years, it appears that control of almost all of southern England was in the hands of the invaders.[4]

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