Hengist (or Hengest) and Horsa (or Hors) are figures of English, and subsequently British, legend, which records the two as the Germanic brothers who led the Angle, Saxon, and Jutish armies that conquered the first territories of Great Britain in the 5th century AD. Hengist, through his son (who varies by source), is traditionally listed as the founder of the Kingdom of Kent.
Hengist and Horsa are attested in Bede's 8th-century Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum; in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum, attributed to Nennius; and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals compiled from the end of the 9th century. Geoffrey of Monmouth greatly expanded the story in his influential 12th-century pseudohistory Historia Regum Britanniae, which was adapted into several other languages. As a result, the pair appear in various other later works.
According to these sources Hengist and Horsa arrived in Britain as mercenaries serving Vortigern, King of the Britons. This event is traditionally recognised as the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. Sources disagree with whether Hengist was the father or grandfather of Oisc of Kent and Octa of Kent, one of whom succeeded Hengist as king of Kent. In the Historia Brittonum Hengist had an unnamed daughter (her name is first given in Historia Regum Britanniae as Rowena) who seduced Vortigern, eventually leading to the Night of the Long Knives when Hengist's men massacred the Britons at a peace accord. While the early sources indicate that Horsa died fighting the Britons, no details are provided about Hengist's death until Geoffrey's Historia, which states that Hengist was beheaded by Eldol, the British duke of Gloucester, and buried in a mound (no location is provided).
A figure by the name of Hengest, who may be identifiable with the leader of British legend, appears in the Finnesburg Fragment and Beowulf. In what is now Northern Germany, horse head gables were referred to as "Hengist and Hors" up until the late 19th century. Other founding horse-associated twin brothers are attested among various other Germanic peoples, and appear in other Indo-European cultures. As a result, scholars have theorized a pan-Germanic mythological origin for Hengist and Horsa, stemming originally from divine twins found in Proto-Indo-European religion. In older scholarship, scholar J. R. R. Tolkien and others have argued for a historical basis for Hengist.
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