By Peter Marren
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Britain used to be a spot of clash in the dead of night a long time, among the departure of the Romans and the Norman Conquest. Clashes of allegiance, festival for territory and assets, and excessive rivalries one of the warlords and kings gave upward thrust to widespread outbreaks of struggling with. This was once the time of mythical army leaders, like Arthur, Alfred and Canute, and of actually 1000s of battles. during this interesting booklet, Peter Marren investigates this harassed period of struggle, appears for the truth at the back of the myths, and makes use of the suggestions of recent scholarship to teach how battles have been fought in that brutal age, the place they have been fought, and why.
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Extra info for Battles of the Dark Ages
Eventually, the British were able to organize a capable resistance under the leadership of one Ambrosius Aurelianus, whose parents 'had worn the purple' 'but had been slain in these broils'. Under Ambrosius, asserts Gildas, 'our people regained their strength'. Sometimes 'our countrymen', sometimes the enemy, won the field, as if God, as with the ancient Israelites, was testing their faith. The culminating battle was the siege of Mount Badon, which he described as almost the last defeat of their foes, 'and certainly not the least'.
Many of the casualties of a battle were killed in the pursuit afterwards. For example, at Brunanburh the victorious English 'in troops pressed on in pursuit of the hostile peoples'. Why was warfare in the Dark Ages so proverbially brutal and merciless? Matthew Strickland offers two main reasons. The first is that the wars of Briton against Saxon, pagan Saxon against Christian Saxon, and then Saxon versus Viking, were to some extent wars of religion. As in the early crusades (or, perhaps, in the ideological conflict between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) killing a heathen was seen as a praiseworthy act.
The same was probably true of the Cornish (the 'West Welsh'), who were quick to make common cause with the Vikings against the English. Christianity did at least bring some possibility of mercy and forgiveness. Bede has a story of how two captured heathen nobles were baptized before execution, an act regarded by all, including the victims, as merciful: their bodies were punished but their souls were saved. Conflicts were, on occasion, resolved by negotiation. After the Battle of Archenfield in 917, the men of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire cornered the remnant of a Danish raiding party in an enclosure.
Battles of the Dark Ages by Peter Marren