The Greater Chronicle (in Latin the Chronica maiore), comprises chapter 66 of Bede’s On the Reckoning of Time (in Latin De Tempoum Ratione). This is a chronicle intended to be a basis for other historians. Bede, along with much else, includes dates and events concerning Britain between the departure of the Romans and the conversion of the Saxons of Kent by Saint Augustine, giving more details of chronology then provided in his Ecclesiastical History and there are occasionally slight differences.
Accordingly, the sections relating to this period between the years 398–493 are presented here in the translation of J. A. Giles, very slightly modified with additional paragraphing, respelling of some names, and some changes in capitalization. The translation is in the public domain and is good enough. Note that here Bede uses a dating system from the supposed creation of the world. The dates in square brackets are added by Giles to provide the corresponding year date according to what is now the normal Christian system. Material related to Britain has been reproduced in a larger typeface.
The translation begins:
Selection from Bede’s Greater Chronicle:Edit
A.M. 4349 .Edit
Theodosius, who had now ruled the East for 6 years in the lifetime of Gratian, reigned 11 years more after his death. Himself and Valentinian, whom he had hospitably entertained on his expulsion from Italy, slay the tyrant Maximus at the third milestone from Aquileia.
As Maximus had spoiled Britain of almost all its armed youth and military power, which had followed him into Gaul, and never more returned home, the barbarous transmarine nations, the Scots from the West, and the Picts from the North, seeing the island denuded of its strength, invade and miserably ravage it for many years.
Jerome, the expositor of sacred history, writes a book on the worthies of the church, and brought it down to the fourteenth year of the reign of Theodosius.
A.M. 4362 .Edit
Arcadius, son of Theodosius, reigned with his brother Honorius 13 years. The bodies of the Holy Prophets Habakkuk and Micah are brought to light by divine revelation. The Goths invade Italy, the Vandals and Alans Gaul. Innocent, Bishop of Rome, consecrated the church of the most blessed martyrs Gervase and Protasius, built by the testamentary bounty of a devout and noble lady named Vestina. Pelagius, a Briton, impugns the grace of God.
A.M. 4377 .Edit
Honorius, with Theodosius the younger, his brother’s son, reigned 15 years. Alaric, King of the Goths, attacked Rome, and burned part of it with fire, on the the ninth of the calends of September, in the 1164th year from the building of it; the sack of the city lasted six days, at the end of which he quitted it. Lucian, a presbyter, to whom in the seventh year of Honorius, God revealed the spot where were interred the remains of the relics of first blessed martyr Stephen, and of Gamaliel and Nicodemus, of whom we read in the Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, wrote an account of that revelation in Greek, and sent it to the head of each of the churches; the presbyter Avitus, a Spaniard by birth, turned it into Latin, and by the presbyter Orosius transmitted it to the western churches; this same Orosius was sent to the Holy Land by Augustine, to Jerome, to enquire of his soul’s welfare, and there he obtained the relics of the blessed Stephen and brought them home with him to the west.
The Britons, dreadfully infested by the Scots and Picts, send to Rome and submissively ask for aid against the enemy: forthwith a legion is sent to them which slew a great multitude of the barbarians, and drove the rest from the British territories; before taking their departure, the Romans persuaded their allies, with a view to repel the enemy, to build a wall from sea to sea across the island; which they accordingly did, but with so little skill, constructing it rather with turf than stone, that it availed them nothing. For no sooner had the Romans departed than their old foes returned in their vessels, and slaughtered, trod down, and devoured like standing corn whatever withstood them. At their entreaties the Romans again fly to their aid, and routing the enemy drive them beyond the seas; and then in conjunction with the Britons they build a wall from sea to sea, between two towns, which had been built there from fear of the enemy, and they construct it not as before of earth and sand, but of solid stone. They also build towers at intervals along the southern coast, because an enemy was to be apprehended from that quarter also; after which bidding their allies farewell, they depart to return no more.
Boniface, Bishop of Rome, made an Oratory in the cemetery of St. Felicitas, and beautified her sepulchre and that of St. Silvanus. Jerome, the presbyter, dies in the twelfth year of Honorius, in the 91st year of his age.
A.M. 4403 .Edit
Theodosius the younger, son of Arcadius, reigned 56 years. Valentinian the younger, son of Constantius, is made emperor at Ravenna. Placidia, his mother, is styled Augusta. A fierce people, composed of Vandals, Alans, and Goths, passing from Spain into Africa, desolated the whole province with fire, sword, and rapine, and moreover carried with them the infection of Arian impiety; but Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo, whose instruction had been a blessing to all the churches, did not witness the ruin of his city, for he departed to the Lord in the third month of the siege, on the 5th of the calends of September, in the 76th year of his age, having been either presbyter or bishop nearly 40 years. The Vandals at the same time took Carthage, and devastated Sicily: this capture is mentioned by Paschasinus, prelate of Lilybaeum, in a letter which he wrote to Pope Leo on the manner of keeping Easter.
The Scots having been converted to the faith, Pope Clementine sent to them Palladius, and ordained him as their bishop, in the 8th year of Theodosius.
The Roman army having finally retired from Britain, the Picts and Scots return and occupy the whole of the northern part of the island as far as the wall, and straightway having slain, taken, or routed its defenders, and broken through the wall itself, the cruel ravagers roam at large within it. The Britons address a most sorrowful letter to Aëtius the Roman general, now for the third time consul in the 23rd year of Theodosius, but fail of obtaining help. Meanwhile the fugitives were visited with famine, on which some submitted to the enemy, others maintained a desperate resistance from their forests and mountain fortresses, and made great slaughter of the enemy. The Scots return home, to come back again ere long: the Picts keep possession of the north part of the island, and thenceforth permanently occupy it.
The aforesaid famine was followed by an abundance of the fruits of the earth, abundance produced luxury and supineness; a dreadful pestilence ensued, and ere long a still more terrible plague in the arrival of new enemies, the Angles. The Britons in council with Vortigern their king, had unanimously invited them over to defend their country, but soon found them to be their most strenuous assailants.
Xistus, Bishop of Rome, consecrated the church of St. Mary the mother of the Lord, which was formerly called the Temple of Liberty. Eudoxia, wife of Theodosius, returning from Jerusalem, brought with her the relics of the most blessed Stephen the first martyr, which were with all veneration deposited in the church Attiia and of St. Laurence. Blaedla and Attila, brothers, and kings of many nations, devastated Illyricum and Thrace.
A.M. 4410 .Edit
Martian and Valentinian reigned 7 years.
A body of Angles or Saxons came to Britain in their ships of war; and on the news of their successful expedition being brought home, a stronger band is sent forth, who, joining the former, first attacked and drove out the enemy, and then turning their arms against their allies, reduced by fire and sword nearly all the island, from east to west, on the pretext that the Britons did not give them sufficient pay for their services.
John the Baptist reveals to two monks, who had come from the west to Jerusalem to worship, the spot where his head lay, near the dwelling of Herod, formerly the king of the country; they brought it to Emisa, a city of Phoenicia, where due honor was paid it.
The Pelagian heresy disturbs the faith of the Britons, who implore help from the Gallic bishops, from whom they receive, as defenders of the faith, Germanus, bishop of the church of Auxerre, and Lupus, of Troyes, equally prelates of apostolical faith. These prelates confirm the Britons in the faith, by the Word of Truth and by miraculous signs; moreover, by miraculous power, they stay the war which at that time the Picts and Scots, with united forces, made against the Britons; for Germanus himself being appointed leader, turns the fierce enemy to flight, not by the sound of the trumpets, but by the whole army, with uplifted voice, shouting “Alleluia!”
Germanus, after this, went to Ravenna, where he was received with the utmost honour by Valentinian and Placidia, and then departed to Christ: his body was buried at Auxerre, with every circumstance of honour, and with the accompaniment of miracles. The Patrician Aëtius, the great stay of the western empire, and formerly the terror of King Attila, is put to death by Valentinian; with him fell the western empire, never more to rise.
A.M. 4427 .Edit
Leo reigned 17 years. He addressed circular letters to all the orthodox bishops throughout the whole world, respecting the Decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, and requiring their opinion touching the said Decrees; their replies agreed so wonderfully as to the true incarnation of Christ, that they all might have been written at the same time, from the mouth of one person dictating. Theodoretus, bishop of a city named Cyrus, from its founder, the king of Persia, writes on the true incarnation of our Saviour and Lord, against Eutyches and Dioscorus, bishops of Alexandria, who deny that Christ took human flesh; he also wrote an Ecclesiastical History, continuing the account of Eusebius down to his own time, that is, to the reign of Leo, in which he died. Victorius, at the command of Pope Hilary, framed a calendar of Easter for 532 years.
A.M. 4444 .Edit
Zeno reigned 17 years. The body of the Apostle Barnabas, and the Gospel of Matthew in his handwriting, are brought to light by revelation from himself. Odoacer, king of the Goths, made himself master of Rome, which from that time continued to be governed for a season by kings of that people. On the death of Theodoric, son of Triarius, Theodoric surnamed Valamer, obtained the sovereignty of the Goths, and after depopulating Macedonia and Thessaly, and burning many towns nigh to the metropolis itself, he next invaded and made himself master of Italy. Honoric, King of the Vandals in Africa, an Arian, banished more than 334 catholic bishops, and closed their churches; he moreover inflicted tortures of all kinds on their people, even amputating the hands, and cutting out the tongues of multitudes, but after all he could not silence the confession of the Catholic faith.
The Britons under Ambrosius Aurelianus, a man of great modesty, and perhaps the only one of Roman descent that had survived the Saxon slaughter, his noble parents having fallen victims to the same, ventured forth against the Saxons to gain a victory over that hitherto victorious people; from that time they fought with varied success, until by the arrival of more formidable numbers, the entire island was after a long season subdued.
Original Latin only:Edit
- Stevenson, Joseph (Ed.) (1841). Bedæ opera historica minora, pp. 163–206. London: Sumptibus Societatis.
English translation only:Edit
- McClure, Judith & Collins, Roger (Trans.) (1994, 2005). The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede’s Letter to Egbert. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283866-0 or ISBN 0199537232 or ISBN 978-0199537235
- Giles, J.A. (Trans.) (1843). In An ecclesiastical history of the English nation, pp. 219–95. London: James Bohn.