Hengist and Horsa

(Hengest and Horsa)

d. 488

Hengist and Horsa were brother chieftains from Jutland, who led the first Saxon bands which settled in England. They were called in by the British king Vortigern to defend him against the Picts and other enemies. The place of their landing is said to have been Ebbsfleet in Kent, probably sometime around 450 A.D.. Hengist and Horsa were at first given the island of Thanet as a home, but they soon quarrelled with their British allies, and gradually possessed themselves of what became the kingdom of Kent. In 455 the Saxon Chronicle records a battle between Hengist and Horsa and Vortigern at a place called Aegaels threp, in which Horsa was slain. Thenceforward Hengist reigned in Kent, together with his son Aesc. There later followed three subsequent battles, which resulted in the expulsion of the Britons from Kent.

There are several legends associated with Hengist and Horsa. It is said that Hengist married off his beautiful daughter Rowena to Vortigern, which gave him great power over the British king, but angered the sons of Vortigern. There are stories of several more battles and incidents of treachery between the Saxon invaders and the Britons, and other stories which tie the early Saxon invaders to the legend of King Arthur. The truth is that the arrival of the Saxon hoards led to a long period of chaos, anarchy, and civil war in Britain, and the specifics of the matter are not known with any reliability. The first few centuries after the Saxon invasion are known as the 'dark ages' in British history, because the Saxon invaders were largely illiterate and kept few permanent records until they were converted to Christianity in the seventh century.

Key events during the life of :

Hengist and Horsa arrive in England and help repel a Pictish invasion.
  Island of Thanet granted to Hengist and Horsa for their services.
  Vortigern marries Rowena, the beautiful daughter of Hengist.
Horsa slain in battle with Vortigern.
  Hengist drives the Britons out of Kent and founds the first Saxon kingdom in Britain.
Death of Hengist
Dark ages of British History

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Anglo-Saxons  in  Alfred the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Wulf, the Saxon Boy in  Ten Boys Who Lived on the Road from Long Ago to No  by  Jane Andrews
Story of Vortigern  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
Coming of the English  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Story of the Coming of Hengist and Horsa  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Coming of the Teutons to England  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

Hengist and Horsa landing in England
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Rowena came into the room carrying a beautiful golden cup.
 in Our Island Story

Short Biography
Vortigern King of the Britons. Usurped the throne from rightful heir. Invited Hengist and Horsa to settle Britain.
Rowena Daugher of Hengist who marries Vortigern.
Vortimer Son of Vortigern who tried to reclaim Kent for the Britons.