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Unformatted text preview: st-Saxons established their monarchy, and dismembered the provinces of Essex and Middlesex from that of Kent. PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 36 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 His death, after a reign of twenty-two years, made room for his son Hermenric in 534, who performed nothing memorable during a reign of thirty-two years; except associating with him his son, Ethelbert, in the government, that he might secure the succession in his family, and prevent such revolutions as are incident to a turbulent and barbarous monarchy. Ethelbert revived the reputation of his family, which had languished for some generations. The inactivity of his predecessors, and the situation of his country, secured from all hostility with the Britons, seem to have much enfeebled the warlike genius of the Kentish Saxons; and Ethelbert, in his first attempt to aggrandize his country, and distinguish his own name, was unsuccessful.f He was twice discomfited in battle by Ceaulin, king of Wessex; and obliged to yield the superiority in the Heptarchy to that ambitious monarch, who preserved no moderation in his victory, and by reducing the kingdom of Sussex to subjection, excited jealousy in all the other princes. An association was formed against him; and Ethelbert, intrusted with the command of the allies, gave him battle, and obtained a decisive victory.g Ceaulin died soon after; and Ethelbert succeeded as well to his ascendant among the Saxon states, as to his other ambitious projects. He reduced all the princes, except the king of Northumberland, to a strict dependance upon him; and even established himself by force on the throne of Mercia, the most extensive of the Saxon kingdoms. Apprehensive, however, of a dangerous league against him, like that by which he himself had been enabled to overthrow Ceaulin, he had the prudence to resign the kingdom of Mercia to Webba, the rightful heir, the son of Crida, who had first founded that monarchy. But governed still by ambition more than by justice, he gave Webba possession of the crown on such conditions, as rendered him little better than a tributary prince under his artful benefactor. But the most memorable event, which distinguished the reign of this great prince, was the introduction of the Christian religion among the English Saxons. The superstition of the Germans, particularly that of the Saxons, was of the grossest and most barbarous kind; and being founded on traditional tales, received from their ancestors, not reduced to any system, not supported by political institutions, like that of the Druids, it seems to have made little impression on its votaries, and to have easily resigned its place to the new doctrine, promulgated to them. Woden, whom they deemed the ancestor of all their princes, was regarded as the god of war, and, by a natural consequence, became their supreme deity, and the chief object of their religious worship. They believed, that, if they obtained the favour of this divinity by their valour, (for they made less account of the other virtues) they should be admitted after their death into his hall; and reposing on couches, should satiate themselves with ale from the skulls of their enemies, whom they had slain in battle. Incited by this idea of paradise, which gratified at once the passion of revenge and that of intemperance, the ruling inclinations of barbarian...
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