Talk:Ælle of Sussex

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Featured article Ælle of Sussex is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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Date Process Result
June 5, 2007 Good article nominee Listed
June 13, 2007 Featured article candidate Promoted
Current status: Featured article

Biography assessment rating comment[edit]

WikiProject Biography Assessment

Little is known about the Saxon kings. This is complete and referenced enough to warrant a GA.

The article may be improved by following the WikiProject Biography 11 easy steps to producing at least a B article. -- Yamara 16:24, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Promoted to GA. -- A-class review requested at WikiProject Biography to get final opinions on Aelle's legendary or historical status, while FA review is ongoing. -- Yamara 01:13, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
A-class review closed due to promotion to FA. A-class review archive -- Yamara 04:25, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

sources, background[edit]

It is probable that Ælle’s entire career is fictional. Allegedly he arrived in three ships, with three sons, and fought three battles. That sounds more like a fairy tale than history. It annals are supposedly derived from Easter tables, but during the period to which they relate, the South Saxons were illiterate pagans, with no use for Easter tables, and no ability to write notes on them.

The story of Ælle is a heroic Anglo-Saxon legend to explain the acquisition of Sussex. An entirely different and equally implausible British (Welsh) myth was preserved by Nennius. He stated that Hengist treacherously seized the British king Vortigern and demanded the cession of Essex and Sussex as ransom for the king: “Hengistus sicut dixerat, vociferatus est et omnes seniores trecenti Guorthigirni regis iugulati sunt et ipse solus captus et catenatus est et regiones plurimas pro redemptione enimae suae illis tribuit, id est Estsaxum, Sutsaxum” (

More probably, Saxon migrants had been colonizing the area for decades, and it was already heavily populated by Saxons before the supposed dates of Hengist and Ælle. In late Roman times the coast was already known as “the Saxon Shore”: “The Saxon Shore Forts were built by the Romans in the late 3rd century AD along the southeast coast of Britain to guard against increasing invasion and piracy by Germanic tribes including the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes” (

There are no easy answers to questions such as ‘Who invented the motor car’: it was a gradual process over decades. Likewise, the colonization of South East England by Germanic migrants was a gradual process. But there is a human need for simple answers to complex question. It is for this reason that myths arise. The British (Welsh) myths assume that the provinces were lost due to foul trickery by wicked rebel mercenaries, while the English myths revolve around heroic deeds by noble warriors. Slightly more relevant is that German king Fraomar and his people were settled in Britain by the Emperor Valentinian a century before the supposed arrival of Ælle: “Another point of view which has grown up from unfortunately reading only the Saxon Chronicle, is that Continental immigration began suddenly with the ‘three keels’. The evidence of tradition, and of tribal names, shows that there had been a continual flow of population into Britain before the Roman age. The Atrebates, the Belgae, the Parisii, the Brigantes, and others, are equally familiar names on both sides of the channel. Nor was this process stopped even by Rome: it was only regulated. Rome brought over masses of troops largely recruited from the Continent, even to the Huns on the Wall. Aurelius brought multitudes of the Marcomanni to settle in Britain. Similarly did Probus, with the colonies of Vandals and Burgundians. The Franks raided the south and occupied London under Allectus. Constantine was accompanied by the king of the Alamanni - and doubtless a good following - when he came over to Britain. Valentinian removed Fraomar and his tribe of Alamanni into Britain.” (


I am not a scholar of English history, but it is plain to see that this article is biased, e.g. "That sounds more like a fairy tale than history", "The story of Ælle is a heroic Anglo-Saxon myth", etc. Can anyone contribute to this article to give it a a more neutral stance? Matt 16:48, 27 September 2005 (UTC)


My additions to the article reflect current academic opinion: "The folkloric arrival in three ships, and the inclusion of people whose sole function seems to be to give their names to local settlements, suggest that these Chronicle entries should be treated as later fiction rather than recorded fact" [1].

Hovite 20:26, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Content vs. Language[edit]

I don't have a problem with the content of this page. Rather, I have a problem with the way that content is presented. Rather than saying "the story of Aelle is a myth", why not say "modern academic opinion is that Aelle's story is a fictional"? I think this article merely needs some revision to its language to give it a NPOV. JMHO Matt 17:53, 21 October 2005 (UTC)

NPOV cleanup[edit]

This article is listed on the NPOV backlog. My knowledge of old English history is not great, but I've tried to rearranged text and rewrite a few point-of-view sentences. (I might have destroyed the article for what I know). However, since there's no discussion suggesting a larger disagreement, the POV tag is removed. If you disagree with this, please re-tag the disputed section with {{NPOV-section}} (or the article with {{NPOV}}) and post to Talk. Also consider improving the article yourself. -- Steve Hart 23:58, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

This section is for a discussion of the requested move from Aelle of Sussex to Ælle of Sussex. See Talk:Æthelbald of Wessex#Requested move for a parallel recent discussion. Mike Christie (talk) 13:07, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Here are some more detailed notes. There are a couple of complications: not everything disambiguated at Aelle requires the ligature, so I think the right answer is two dabs, one for "Ælle", and one for "Aelle". The former would list only the Anglo-Saxons, and would include an informative link to the latter, which would continue to list everything it lists now, with the ligatures where appropriate. The related move listed in WP:RM is in line with this suggestion. In addition, "Ælla" should become a redirect to "Ælle"; these names may be slightly different but the possibility of confusion is so great that using a single dab page seems best. Finally, Ælle of Sussex is the most famous of these kings, so I would give "Ælle" primacy over "Ælla". Mike Christie (talk) 13:18, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

No opinion on the move (some people dislike the ligatures, I believe that it's covered somewhere in WP:NC subpages, I can't find exactly where), but it's generally not a problem with the dab page: common practice is to redirect all common and similar spellings, (in this case, Ælla. Aella and Ælle) to one dab page, in this case, Aelle, especially in the cases when there are not many items to disambiguate. IOW, just as it is now. Duja 15:20, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Oh, you meant Talk:Æthelbald_of_Mercia#Requested_move? Well, wth, you can move it yourself: see WP:BRD :-) Duja 15:26, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but the related dabs can't be moved except by an admin; plus since Talk:Æthelbald_of_Mercia#Requested_move wasn't unanimous I thought I'd put it up for discussion. Mike Christie (talk) 15:39, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

This article has been renamed from Aelle of Sussex to Ælle of Sussex as the result of a move request. --Stemonitis 16:21, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

And badly done, too—without fixing the sort keys so that it would sort properly in categories. Gene Nygaard (talk) 04:08, 24 November 2007 (UTC)


I'm removing the material about Wlencing being obviously not the son of Ælle; I can't find any source for this, though it does seem reasonable. Mike Christie (talk) 02:41, 26 May 2007 (UTC)

Campbell and 28 year cycle[edit]

I have cut the para about Alastair Campbell's theory of a 28-year Easter table cycle, and the possibility that the scribe forgot to return to the story of Ælle. There was no source given, and I can't find any other references to this. Mike Christie (talk) 17:59, 26 May 2007 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

It's not really necessary to go into the details of the criteria here: This article passes all of them with flying colours. Obviously, it can't be expected to reach definite conclusions, but it does a nice job of setting forth what evidence there is. Good job! Adam Cuerden talk 17:50, 5 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks very much for the positive comments. Mike Christie (talk) 19:37, 5 June 2007 (UTC)

Digits in annals[edit]

I've reversed part of a change made to put "three" instead of "3" in the 477 annal. Swanton uses the digits to indicate that the original annal used Roman numerals rather than words for the numbers. This is a distinction worth preserving in general because certain kinds of scribal error are possible with digits but not with words. In this particular case there's no likelihood of scribal error, but since this is mostly quoting Swanton I think it should preserve his usage. Mike Christie (talk) 12:14, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

Further research[edit]

Here are some suggestions for further research, copied in from the FAC discussion. These are from Warofdreams.

  1. Several websites, and our own article on the Battle of Mons Badonicus, claim that Ælle may have led the Saxons there. This is repeatedly sourced to recent scholars. Could we find out whose theory it is, and then mention it in the text?
    The only websites listed in that article that refers to the claim that Ælle led the Saxons is this one. I took a look around and it says that it's based on this book, which I don't have. Reading the reviews at Amazon, it appears to be a good faith attempt to review the archaeological data, though there are also some negative comments about speculation there. I don't know anything about the authors or how well-accepted this suggestion is. (It sounds plausible to me, but it also sounds like guesswork.) I think the best thing is to put a note on the talk page saying that it would be good to add a note to this effect if it can be sourced to a scholarly suggestion rather than just speculation. The Phillips/Keatman book might be good enough, if they hold academic positions; I just don't know about them. Mike Christie (talk) 20:40, 10 June 2007 (UTC)
  2. Is "Mearcred's Burn" the actual text in the translation of the Chronicle used? "Mearcred's Creek" appears widely online, while "Mearcred's Bourne" is a more likely form for south eastern England. Google Books turns up an early C20 study which mentions lukewarmly a theory that it is the Battle Bourne in Windsor Great Park - perhaps this might be worth mentioning.
    Yes, Swanton gives it as "Mearcred's Burn". The underlying original OE text is "Mearcrædes burnan" in the A text, "Mearcredes burnan" in the E text, again according to Swanton. Swanton simply says it's "unidentified". The book you link to is interesting; I didn't know anything about this author, but he does appear to have academic credentials. I found this link which describes him as having a "vivid imagination" and being a "picturesque historian"; this gives me enough pause to want to see another opinion on the location of Mearcred's burn before adding his suggestion, particularly since Swanton is so unequivocal. I think again that the best thing is to note this on the talk page for further research. Mike Christie (talk) 20:40, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

Another discussion from the FAC nom relates to the suggestion that Aelle led the Saxon forces at Mons Badonicus. Here's the comment from Warofdreams:

On Mons Badonicus, I suspect that there is a stronger reference than the apparently rather imaginative Phillips and Keatman. In the 1972 British Battlefields, Philip Warner writes that the Saxon force "was reputed to have been led by one Aelle but this can hardly have been the Aelle who had first appeared in 477" [because he reasons the date of the battle as 516]. By the 2004 Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, we have "It has been thought possible the English leader was Aelle of Sussex"; it seems to me that there is enough discussion of this to merit a mention in the article, although rather a cautious one. Lastly, I've added the picture I mentioned, thinking that it is a reasonably notable work, but I'd be happy to discuss its inclusion further on the article talk page.

In response: yes, I think this could be added. I don't have the Companion to Medieval Warfare, but perhaps you can add a note to this effect and cite that; that's strong enough a source, I think. I also find it interesting that Warner says "was reputed to have been led by one Aelle"; there is clearly some source he is referring to that is early enough to be described using "reputed" rather than "suggested". I'd like to know what that source is, and mention it here. Mike Christie (talk) 02:37, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

I've finally added a rather cautious note. If the possible source you mention turns up, those details should definitely be added. Warofdreams talk 03:22, 29 June 2007 (UTC)


I mostly find the guides to pronunciation a bit redundant (Manchester, anyone?) but I think an 'IPA' would be helpful here. Alley? Ella? Ely? Eel? Mr Stephen (talk) 20:52, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

I don't know the answer, but I've posted a question to someone who may know. Mike Christie (talk) 00:39, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
The Æ is the Anglo-Saxon ash, and it stands for the English vowel sound found in "bat," "fat," "hat," and "cat." This vowel is not the same as the α found in the Continental /a/. The double consonants indicate that it's a short vowel (not a big deal for us, here), and the terminal e was probably pronounced. æl-le is probably accurate. Midlands dialects would have affected the pronunciation, but also, therefore, the spelling. I.e. there wasn't the problem then, as now, of spelling words all one way and pronouncing them any which way: the spelling would have been pretty reflective of the pronunciation. That's my surmise, anyway. Geogre (talk) 04:10, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
I could do the IPA transcription if desired, but would need clarification of the /e/ sound. What words in standard British English would the /le/ rhyme with? Or is original research, if we can't find a source for the pronunciation? --Slp1 (talk) 02:06, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Thanks; it would be great to get the transcription done. Per Geogre on his talk page: "take the a sound in "ash" and then add "lluh."" Does that suffice? As for the original research, I think this is OK -- I don't think this is controversial, just not easy for a non-specialist. Geogre has some academic background in this area so I am comfortable with it -- up to you if you want to ping Geogre and ask if there are references. Mike Christie (talk) 02:16, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, as you can see I've done the IPA , assuming that the stress is on the first syllable and that the second vowel is a schwa, so that the name rhymes with Bala, the town in Wales. If this isn't right, please let me know. Slp1 (talk) 02:31, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
That looks right to me. Thank you for the help! Mike Christie (talk) 02:37, 7 January 2008 (UTC)


Why not the Britons? "British" is interpreted by most people to mean "during the time of Great Britain". "Britons" or "early Britons" would better suggest the time period of Aelle. -- (talk) 16:27, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

Reorder sections[edit]

I think it would be useful to reorder the sections in this article. Move the Reign section to be between Historical Context and Early Sources.

I think it makes more sense to present the "facts" of the man first, and then get deeper into the discussion of his actual existence, or lack thereof.

What are other opinions?

EAKugler (talk) 22:32, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

I'd be interested to hear other opinions, but I like it the way it is -- I think the "reign" section is where we get to assemble the information discussed in the first part of the article into a coherent, if speculative, narrative. Mike Christie (talk) 02:39, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Whereas, from a usability standpoint, I think it would be much more useful to know what the guy is supposed to have done, as opposed to focusing so much on whether he actually existed. I think the way this site is presented, it puts too much emphasis on the lack of information we have on that time period. EAKugler (talk) 00:10, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

it cannot be said with certainty that Ælle existed[edit]

This hints at what (for me at least) could be a fascinating question: how do historians say "with certainty" that anyone existed? I suppose there is some threshold of contemporary documents that make it highly probable the person actually lived and did what was claimed, but even today under the glare of multiple network cameras the media sometimes gets it wrong.

Anyway, if someone knowledgeable about this topic could find a way to link to an article on historical "certainty" and how it is determined, it might be helpful. Thanks. (talk) 01:50, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

It might be useful to link to historical method to clarify. EAKugler (talk) 00:21, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm posting here because, as this article stands as I write this, its language unnecessarily qualifies Ælle's existence. AFAIK, no one questions his existence.

"Historical method" in this case means that we accept what the sources tell us -- unless there is good reason to question their veracity. Although Bede, the first writer to mention Ælle, wrote a couple of centuries after the Sussex king lived, experts are willing to accept what he states without hesitation. What is written about him in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle may indeed be legends or simply wrong, but it's all we have about the person; again we have no strong reason to doubt its veracity -- beyond generic skepticism. If anything, the few hints we have about the veracity of this part of the Chronicle -- for example, the language in the relevant passages -- indicate that this is at least an early tradition, if not in general outline the truth. Primary sources do lie, but far less often than non-historians assume. And always for reasons we can determine.

But to my original point: this article doesn't need weasel words like "if he existed" sprinkled through the text; no one -- let alone any serious authority on this period -- believes he never existed, these qualifications imply an opinion no one has. And unless someone objects, I will remove these unneeded words from the article. -- llywrch (talk) 17:41, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I wouldn't tinker, especially without solid references on the point - the only thing Bede says about him is that he "exercised what he calls "imperium" over "all the provinces south of the river Humber", which no historian now believes. Not only is Bede 200 years later, he is from right at the other end of the country. Johnbod (talk) 17:59, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Umm, what Bede wrote was "Now the first to hold the 'imperium' was Aelli, king of the South Saxons" -- or if you want to be pedantic, Nam primus imperium huiusmodi Aelli rex Australium Saxonum. It was the later historians who glossed "imperium", that is having a hegemony or "over-king-ship" of the other Anglo-Saxons, as "Bretwalda". Exactly what Bretwalda means is disputed: the traditional translation is "ruler of Britain", although D.P. Kirby (who prefers the form Brytenwealda) translates it as "wide ruler". (I've long wondered if its original meaning wasn't closer to something like "[the one who] defeated the British"; wealden can also mean "under control, subjected".) Now what exactly imperium over the other Anglo-Saxons meant in the late 5th century is a disputed point: it could mean that the other Anglo-Saxon kings did homage to him, explicitly acknowledged him as their ruler, or they deferred to him because he had the military & the skill to use it, or something in between. AFAIK, that is what contemporary historians believe. -- llywrch (talk) 20:36, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
The ODNB entry for him is interesting, and definitely seems to imply that there isn't a lot known about him that can be said with any certainty. It is probably best to check out the sources used for the qualifiers - and make them clearer. What is probably meant is "If he existed in the manner that the chronicles relate" much like how Arthur is considered - no one really doubts that there is someone who inspired the stories of Arthur, but it is highly unlikely that he lived anything like what was even ascribed to him in the earliest accounts, much less later ones. Ealdgyth - Talk 18:40, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
I am fairly sure that some of the qualifying language is due to Fletcher's Who's Who, which is not the strongest source in the article, though it's perfectly respectable. Unfortunately I can't lay my hands on my copy at the moment, so I can't check. I did take a look in Kirby and Stenton, and neither of them equivocates about Ælle's existence, so I think some at least of the language Llywrch objects to could be removed. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 01:51, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
I think what muddies the water, is Ælle's connection with Cymensora. Bede writing in the 8th century, does not mention it at all, it was included in the 9th century Anglo Saxon Chronicle and two 10th century charters (one of those was supposed to have orginated in the 7th century but was a 10th C forgery). The name ora is a West Saxon/ Jutish word used around the Solent, not in areas where the Saxons were settling in the 5th century, although Ælle was supposedly a South Saxon. Lastly the Mid and Outer Owers, the favoured location for Cymensora by a lot of historians, according to fairly recent coastal erosion studies would have been approx 11km off shore in the 5th century. I would suggest that the West Saxons had some political reason to anchor Ælle in the Selsey region a reason that we can only guess at, possibly according to Welch that King Alfred wanted the chronicle to document a heroic past. However, the tenuous link to Selsey is probably the reason historians are skeptical of Ælles existence. If you disconnect the Cymensora connection or at least bring it up to date then, Ælle becomes a lot more plausible. I think that one section discussing the reliabilty of sources and the various hypotheses is enough, rather than repeating qualifiers throughout the article. Wilfridselsey (talk) 08:29, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Not exactly, although I think you are on the right track, Wilfridselsey. To repeat myself, to my knowledge no one has gone on the record & stated that Aelle never existed. The closest analogy to this situation would be the early bishops of Alexandria, Jerusalem, & Antioch, most of whom are nothing more than names: the earliest primary sources about those sees rarely gives us nothing more about them than their names, & how long their tenure was. This lack of tenure has led some scholars to doubt at least some ever truly existed. (I've looked; there is nothing known about many of them, & unless we combine their entries into one catch-all article, any article about them will remain stubs.) But in the case of Ælle, except for the fact there is no contemporary mention of his existence, we do know something about him, & the stories are for the most part plausible. One can doubt some or all of what the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports he did, but there is no reason to doubt his existence. Unless my knowledge of the secondary literature is really behind the times. -- llywrch (talk) 20:36, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
I would say that most historians do not discount Ælle out of hand but they do tend to qualify, also I think that previous generations of historians were more secure. Compare say Stenton and Kirby with McDonald and Kelly:
  • Stenton: .. Bede is conclusive...whatever the precise significance of Ælle's overlordship may have been there can be no doubt that he was leader of the whole English movement....
  • Kirby: ...Traditionally king of The south Saxons..
  • McDonald: ...founder of the South Saxon kingdom, is said to have landed near Selsey Bill in 477 , traditionally with three sons and three ships..
  • Kelly. Ælle was evidently a notable figure, whose activities may well have been remembered for generations;....he may have been the founder of a South Saxon dynasty, but there is no firm evidence linking him with later South Saxon rulers
I could only really find Martin Welch who completely discounts Ælle and that is because he says that there is no archaelogical evidence to support it in the Selsey Bill area. As I said before, I think that the Cymensora element confuses things somewhat. I would suggest that there is evidence that Ælle existed and also that Cymensora existed, but when you try and put the two together it becomes more complex? Wilfridselsey (talk) 09:17, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Maybe the doubt should only be expressed once, and not in the first sentences, and of course with references such as these. It's actually not repeated as often as suggested above in the current article, but placed very prominently at the start. Johnbod (talk) 14:08, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Wilfridselsey, since you did find an authority -- Martin Welch -- who doubts he existed, then his opinion should be explicitly added, with the explanation about the lack of archeological evidence. (Although I know of at least one archeologist who believes the presence or absence of archeological evidence about a given people -- say sub-Roman activity or early Anglo-Saxon settlement -- doesn't necessarily reflect the presence or absence of these people, but instead whether anyone has bothered to look for said evidence at that location.) -- llywrch (talk) 04:34, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
I can certainly add it, but as the discussion above was essentially about weasel words, I would suggest some slight modification. First of all in his paper Early Anglo Saxons, Welch argues why Ælle could not have landed in the Selsey area, but in his AS England p. 9 he says that the AS Chronicle was a product of the West Saxon court and is concerned with glorifying the royal ancestry of Alfred the Great. Manipulation of royal geneologies , in this and other sources, to enhance the claims of present rulers was common. Literary formulas associated with original myths are a common feature of earlier entries. When Aella and his three sons land from three ships on a beach named after one of the sons, we are reading legend rather then real history.
I think that most historians are lukewarm on Ælle, it is the detail of his existence rather than whether he was a real person. So I would suggest the following, obviously with the appropriate citations:
In the Introduction:
  • Delete: The information about him is so limited that it cannot be said with certainty that Ælle existed.
  • Change: Ælle and three of his sons are reported to have arrived from the continent near what is now Selsey Bill—the exact location is under the sea, and is probably the shoals currently known as the Owers—and fought against the Britons.
To: According to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle Ælle and three of his sons are said to have landed at a place called Cymensora and fought against the Britons.
  • Delete: Although the details of these traditions cannot be verified, evidence from the place names of Sussex does make it clear that it was an area with extensive and early settlement by the Saxons, supporting the idea that this was one of their early conquests.
  • Change: Ælle's death is not recorded, and it is not known who succeeded him as king of the South Saxons.
To: Ælle's death is not recorded, and although he may have been the founder of a South Saxon dynasty, there is no firm evidence linking him with later South Saxon rulers
The beginning of Historical context section:
  • Change: Ælle, if he existed, lived in the middle of the least-documented period in English history of the last two millennia.
To: Historians are divided on the detail of Ælle's life and existence as it was during the least-documented period in English history of the last two millennia.
Comments?? Wilfridselsey (talk) 11:49, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
  • This is (?still) famously the shortest FA, and I think we should go into rather more detail, not just leave it, such as it is, here on the talk page. So the direction of these changes seems fine to me, but we should go further. There is little enough detail in the article as it is so we should use everything we have, which will also make it more interesting & less cryptic. Johnbod (talk) 12:08, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
My proposals really have limited aims, to remove weasal words, to remove some of the more contentious assertions in the introduction and to try and be more representative of what historians and scholars actually say about the existence of Ælle. I agree that the article could do with additional work, but I think at this stage we should just make limited changes as above. After that maybe look at additions based on the discussions here. There is also plenty of other material not included, for example we do not mention Medieval Historians? People like Henry of Huntingdon produced an enhanced view of Ælle's landings, was it fantasy or did he have access to sources lost in History?Wilfridselsey (talk) 08:04, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
As no one has objected. Implemented the changes as agreed here . Wilfridselsey (talk) 16:50, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Dumnonia and Cornwall[edit]

Given that the Dumnonia article states that it's unknown whether Cornwall was ever even part of Dumnonia, would it be an idea to say something like "Dumnonia (modern Devon)", rather than "Dumnonia (modern Cornwall)"? Carre (talk) 13:04, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

I'll have to dig out the specific references I used, but I'm pretty sure that it's not controversial to say Cornwall was part of Dumnonia. If the Dumnonia article had a citation for that statement I could check that but as it is I think it's just as likely the Dumnonia article will change that assertion when someone gets around to expanding it and adding citations. Mike Christie (talk) 13:32, 28 January 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Mike; I think it'd be worth it – take a look at the map in Cerdic of Wessex, for example. I am far from knowledgeable about this period though, so shall leave it in your capable hands. Carre (talk) 14:15, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Archeological Context[edit]

There seems to be a lack of archaeological context in this article. The detail can follow if there's any interest, but for the moment it's worth noting that the attested fifth century archaeological in Sussex is situated in two parcels of land - between the Arun and the Adur in the west and between the Ouse and the Cuckmere in the east. Despite the tradition about Owers Bank, apart from one sunken hut in the vicinity of Westehampnett, there's no known South Saxon archaeology west of the Arun that predates the seventh century. Bearing in mind that Cymensore is traditionally located close to Selsey as a result of what is now known to be a suspect charter and given the locations of the principal South Saxon settlements, the balance of early settlement should really be shifted eastwards, either around Wick and northern Littlehampton, on Rookery Hill east of the Ouse, or else at Alfriston on the west bank of the Cuckmere. This also has implications for the remainder of the traditional view of South Saxon settlement in Sussex. Aridol (talk) 20:43, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

It would be very helpful to have specifics of the archaeology; please do post more details. I did read somewhere that the assessment of -ing endings as indicative of early settlement was no longer as definitive as it was once thought to be; I need to dig that out and add it here too. Mike Christie (talk) 21:22, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
There are three principal fifth century Saxon sites located, from east to west, at Alfriston, a verified settlement at Rookery Hill (Bishopstone) and one associated with a cemetery on Highdown Hill. Of the three, only Rookery Hill includes a 'discovered' settlement, but since Anglo Saxon cemeteries were located close by their settlement, it must be assumed that all three are effective settlement sites. There's a logical inference that a further principal settlement would have been located on the west bank of the Adur, but this would only stand up to scrutiny on the assumption that all the main settlements were placed purposefully as feodorate sites. Both parcels of land include the least amount of Romano British settlements, all are south of the downs and all are on river estuaries.
Other fifth century Anglo Saxon cemeteries have been located along the Roman road network, for the most part, north of the South Downs. These sites went into disuse from the late fifth century early sixth century until well into the seventh century.
All this has implications for the site of Cymensore, for the location of Macredsburnsted and, perhaps controversially, for the identification of Pevensey as the site of Aelle's seige - note that excavations of Pevensey in the 1990s demonstrated continuous occupation from its construction until past the Norman Invasion.
As you state, there's now some doubt that the Ingas placenames are the earliest. Current thinking has it that topographical placenames would predate the 'people of' variety. Aridol (talk) 22:03, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
Do you want to go ahead and add this material? You evidently are more familiar with the sources and the topic than I am, and I'd simply be copying your comments and adding them to the article. We do need to cite the sources you're using though. If you can post the sources here I can format them in the Wikipedia citation markup. Mike Christie (talk) 23:11, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Ælle of Sussex/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

== Biography assessment rating comment ==

WikiProject Biography Assessment

Little is known about the Saxon kings. This is complete and referenced enough to warrant a GA.

The article may be improved by following the WikiProject Biography 11 easy steps to producing at least a B article. -- Yamara 16:25, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Promoted to GA. -- A-class review requested at WikiProject Biography to get final opinions on Aelle's legendary or historical status, while FA review is ongoing. -- Yamara 01:14, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 01:14, 9 June 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 11:21, 30 April 2016 (UTC)


Apparently I must justify adding something, since it is acceptable to remove unsourced information (despite there seeming to be case-by-case situations where people aren't allowed to remove spurious, unsourced info.) I'm moving the conversation here:

(Welcome and a note on Aelle) Hi -- welcome to Wikipedia. I just reverted your addition of a family tree to Aelle of Sussex and wanted to let you know why. The sons names are already in the article, and you didn't provide a source for the other names; even if you did I don't think they're relevant given that there's no reliable link to those names. I also thinking putting a tree in is giving the relationships too much weight -- at that early date it's very hard to know how much is true and how much is legend. I'd support readding a tree like that if a reliable source discusses the descendants as being of importance to a discussion of Aelle.

I hope you like editing here; let me know if I can help with anything. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 11:51, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

Then I'll keep the information to myself. Enjoy your barebones and misleading article full of bias and contempt for British history. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 11:54, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
If you're planning to work on other articles here, you might consider that this is a collaborative environment, and you'll have an easier time of it if you assume that other editors are acting in good faith. Comments like yours are likely to lead you to arguments, rather than collaboration, with other editors, which is unlikely to be satisfying for anyone concerned. If you want to make a case for the family tree being in the article, you're welcome to do so on the article's talk page, where other editors can join the conversation. I have no more authority than you do in that discussion (or any other). Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:24, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
There's no point. The articles actively show bias towards the period and indeed Britain. It's not acceptable to call our history a "fairy tale" in an article. And the family tree shows quite clearly the "gap" mentioned in the article, between Ricceol and Ricwulf of Sussex (attested men known to be descendants of Cissa by their patronym Cissing, descendant (sometimes son) of Cissa) and Aelle. It's very important since these men were British-Saxons, as evidenced by their British (or rather Old Cornish at the time they lived) word order names. Their real names were likely Wulfric and Ceolric, but the Britons would have called them Ricwulf and Ricceol if they were to translate the syntax. The fact the two claimed descent from Aelle, mentioned nowhere in the article, warrants the family tree. And yes, Aelhilda and Aedwin are conjectural (though educated guesses, not made by me may I add), but Rhywyrch (likely a corruption of an attested King Llywarch), Ricceol and Ricwulf aren't, they are attested. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 15:30, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
The User Hovite hit the nail on the head: "What is the historical basis for assumiing that Henry of Huntingdon evidently used his imagination? In Roger of Wendover's text an emandation is needed from 'died in 590' to 'died aged 90'. This is not so much the work of Roger's imagination, but more likely an example of Roger's falsifying the record for the purpose of filling-in an historical gap in South Saxon kingship. This might well have been done because neither Henry of Huntingdon nor Roger trusted the record on Ricceol and Ricwulf (Ceawlin's probable subreguli in Sussex, 567-592), who were Cissa's maternal Brito-Saxon grandsons." ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 15:33, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
Additionally, it's very easy to dismiss the twenty or so pieces of evidence of Aelle's existence. Where's your evidence he didn't? It's ridiculous to keep on claiming nothing is true. There's little evidence Gaius Iulius Caesar existed either. The coins could have been forged, the Roman historians wrote fairy tales and he is a legend. I have no source, but clearly sources don't seem to matter. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 15:35, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
There is copious evidence that Gaius Iulius Caesar existed, including his books on the Gallic Wars that I had to read at school. Please do not write nonsense here.Charles (talk) 22:21, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
Then don't write nonsense like Aelle of Sussex didn't exist. Can you prove that he wrote De Bello Gallico? Can you also disprove that De Bello Gallico was propaganda written by Marcus Tullius Cicero? No, you can't. Also, I suggest you go back to school if you couldn't realise I said that there's little evidence Caesar existed derisively. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 22:33, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
I assume your objection is to the phrases "much less the existence of Ælle" and "it is possible, therefore, that a historical king named Ælle existed"? The first one is sourced to Welch's Discovering Anglo-Saxon England; Welch says "When Aella and his three sons land from three ships on a beach named after one of the sons, we are reading legend rather than real history". Of the other sources given, my copy of Fletcher's Who's Who is in a box so I can't check it. I looked through Hunter Blair's Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, and he makes the point that annals from this early period cannot be unthinkingly relied on, though he doesn't explicitly say Ælle may not have existed. Stenton in Anglo-Saxon England is definite that Ælle is real, and Kirby mentions no doubts in The Earliest English Kings. It's not cited in the article, but Yorke, in Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England, says "it would be unwise to assume these foundation stories are historically valid" when discussing the founding of the various A-S kingdoms. This seems enough to place an indication of doubt in the article. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 23:25, 2 February 2017 (UTC)
I officially declare Gaius Iulius Caesar was communist propaganda and that he never existed. I will now set about deleting the article on him as he demonstrably does not exist.
Also, David Welch's main studies are propaganda, so no wonder he's started to believe things that are clearly real aren't. Hunter Blair is not a modern historian, he died almost forty years ago. False foundation stories =/= proof people don't exist. Æneas existed, he didn't found Rome. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 00:04, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
And that's hardly "an indication of doubt". Anyone who reads the article will fully believe he didn't exist. If you're going to cherry pick two historians (I'd be happy to compile a list of thirty historians who agree he existed) and also water down the bias in the article, why bother? Might as well just add nonsensical gibberish to the page, at least it'll be obvious and not poor-sourced misinformation. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 00:07, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
I'm open to removing the comments in the article that indicate he may not have existed, but I'd like to get other opinions, so I'm pinging two other editors who are more knowledgeable than I am about A-S history. Dudley, Nortonius, could either of you comment? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 01:55, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
If you're not knowledgeable, why remove my tree without asking then? ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 06:23, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
@Mike Christie: FWIW, neither James Campbell's The Anglo-Saxons nor the ODNB entry of Ælle suggest the possibility of him having not existed; and he does have an entry in the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, unlike clearly legendary figures such as Cissa or Port (however, note that Stuf and Wihtgar, whose historicity is rather dubious, also have entries). This being said, I do not see anything wrong with the article as it is. I believe it is nicely balanced regarding Ælle's historicity; it does not bluntly state that Ælle did not exist, but presents the data we have and what historians have made of it. (This is, may I add, the exact opposite of the family tree ÞunoresWrǣþþe wanted to add.) – Swa cwæð Ælfgar (talk) 08:13, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
The tree had to go as it was unsourced. I am, however, doubtful about the comments questioning Ælle's existence. 1. "It is possible, therefore, that a historical king named Ælle existed" is cited to Fletcher, who does doubt whether Ælle was a king, but he says "Bede does not tell us, perhaps because he did not know, what Ælle's imperium had meant, if anything." This appears to doubt Ælle's power rather than his existence. 2. "Historians are divided on the detail of Ælle's life and existence" This is cited to Welch, which I do not have, and Campbell. The quote from Campbell is general, and as Ælfgar says Campbell does not query Ælle's existence. 3. "These lines of reasoning cannot prove the dates given in the Chronicle, much less the existence of Ælle himself" This is cited to Hunter Blair's books on Roman Britain and Anglo-Saxon England. I do not have his Roman book and I have a different edition on the Anglo-Saxon one. On page 17 of the third edition he says of the early entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "though the dates cannot be regarded as more than approximations, there is no adequate reason for supposing the entries themselves to be other than reflections of genuine traditions about some episodes in the invasion period." 4. Kelly in ODNB says "Ælle was evidently a notable figure," but questions the accuracy of pretty well everything recorded about him. 5. So far as I can see historians query all the supposed facts, especially his dates and the landing with his three sons, but not his existence. Dudley Miles (talk) 11:49, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
Dudley FYI- Martin Welch's Anglo-Saxon England p. 9 says that "the Chronicle was a product of the West Saxon court and is concerned with glorifying the royal ancestry of Alfred the Great. Manipulation of royal geneologies , in this and other sources, to enhance the claims of present rulers was common. Literary formulas associated with original myths are a common feature of earlier entries. When Aella and his three sons land from three ships on a beach named after one of the sons, we are reading legend rather then real history." Welch is an archaeologist and he says that there is no evidence for Ælle in the Selsey area for the 5th century. He says that if Ælle existed he would have been in East Sussex where there is plenty of archaeology to back it up. There are various charters that support Cymensora being in the Selsey area. I think that taking Welch's argument it is possible that as Selsey was the seat of the Bishops of Sussex until after the Norman conquest and an important centre then the compilers of the Chronicle used Selsey as a centre for Ælle's invasion for propaganda purposes. Wilfridselsey (talk) 12:13, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
Does Welch appear to doubt Ælle's existence? (I don't have Welch.) If his scepticism is about the way in which Ælle is used by the compilers of the Chronicle, rather than his existence, I'd be OK with making the changes ÞunoresWrǣþþe suggested, so long as the article still makes it clear how doubtful historians are about the other facts -- as Dudley says, they question the accuracy of almost everything else. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:32, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
I have Welch and Fletcher, and neither doubt Ælle's existence. They do doubt just about everything else, however, as has already been noted. But let's not confuse doubt with denial, or propaganda with outright falsehood. Bede calling him King of the South Saxons is good enough for me, and I believe Bede was a propagandist par excellence. I haven't finished reading the article yet, so I expect I might have something to add. For now, I would note that this is a very old FA, of 2007, and it is very poor technically, for example per the MOS; but I've seen very little yet to get worked up about in what it says. p.s. I'm not entirely sure what changes ÞunoresWrǣþþe is suggesting, apart from adding an unsupported family tree, which I would predictably oppose. Nortonius (talk) 12:53, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
I agree with Nortonious, Welch does not deny Ælle's existence. The quote I cited above is pretty much all Welch says in his book AS England. However, he has an article in Brandon's S.Saxons. In it he does go into more detail and essentially he says that there is no evidence for Ælle landing in the Selsey area. He says that Cymensora would be in the Ouse-Cuckmere area of E. Sussex based on the archaeology. Of course other historians have fixed the landing in the Selsey area based on Cymensora being in some charters, although at least one is supposed to be of dubious origin. Also the name'ora' is only used in the Solent area (see Cymenshore for more detail). Wilfridselsey (talk) 14:35, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Well, the source is the British Chronicles. But the tree is necessary to understand what Slaughter thinks the link between Cissa (who is not clearly legendary but quite clearly real) and Ricceol was. Henry of Huntingdon and Roger ignored the attested Ricceol and Ricwulf (Probably reversed, so they were actually Ceolric and Wulfric) in favour of making Cissa reign a hundred years. I support at least mentioning the link to Ricceol, Ricsulf and Rhywyrch if not a tree, and making it less biased. Stating some historians don't think he existed is fair and fine. The Pictish wikipedia page notes Wolf's many skepticisms on matrilineality, which is fair to him, to historians and to the historical consensus on the Picts. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:22, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

That said the British Chronicles is full of nonsense. But it appears to stem from a Lombard genealogy having a "Prince Pissa father of Alhilda", which the author of the Chronicles identified with Cissa. Not very conclusive. Still though, even if that was made up (or falsely conflated), Ricceol and Ricwulf definitely seem to be attested and have claimed descent from Ælle. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:29, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
The chronicle should be evidence enough of his existence. In 477: "Her com Ælle on Brytenland ⁊ his þry suna, Kymen ⁊ Wlencing ⁊ Cissa, mid þrim scipum on þa stowe þe is nemned Kymenesora, ⁊ þær ofslogan maniga Wealas ⁊ sume on fleam bedrifan on þone wudu þe is nemned Andredeslea."

Here came Ælle to Britain and with his three sons, Cymen and Wlencing and Cissa, in three ships on the place that is named Cymenesora, and there they slew many Britons and some in flight were driven to the wood that is named Andredesleag. Also, do note the author of te Chronicle says "named" in the present, meaning he fully knows that Cymenesora was not the name at the time. Also, for whoever said Cissa was "clearly fictitious". If you're saying that since you think he's a back-formation for Cissasceaster... He almost certainly isn't. Cissa doesn't mean anything in Old English as far as we know, nor in Brittonic or Latin. Also, it wasn't uncommon for the Germans to rename places after their family members. The Visigoths did it in Spain, with places like Reccopolis (city founded by Recco), Lugopolis (city founded by Lugo's father Liuvigild). ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:38, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

Ok, I've finished reading the article now: with the caveat that "reading" is not the same as "absorbing", I think Ælfgar has already summed the situation up nicely. And, while there may be sources that the article does not use, and of which I'm not aware, I don't see any substantive changes that are necessary. ÞunoresWrǣþþe, you now introduce a new source as "David Slaughter" – now changed to "The British Chronicles", via an edit conflict: I'd be grateful if you would give the full details for this source, as this is how sourcing is made verifiable, and how sources can be tested for their reliability. Also please note the method of indenting comments on a talk page, so that all can see who is responding to whom and what: a first comment usually starts bare, the second with a colon, which indents it, and each response with an extra colon, indenting it further; responses by the same or different editors to a particular comment usually start with the same number of colons as the first; and, when text is pushed excessively to the right of the page, a response can start with {{od}}. This produces a line connecting comments: I've added it to the beginning of your last comment, so you can see what I mean. On a separate issue, and addressed to no-one in particular, I continue to think that the article is in fairly poor technical shape. In that light I would rather it were worked on than submitted for reassessment. Nortonius (talk) 13:42, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
Really, giving orders? Edit conflict: Also, for whoever said Cissa was "clearly fictitious". If you're saying that since you think he's a back-formation for Cissasceaster... He almost certainly isn't. Cissa doesn't mean anything in Old English as far as we know, nor in Brittonic or Latin. Also, it wasn't uncommon for the Germans to rename places after their family members. The Visigoths did it in Spain, with places like Reccopolis (city founded by Recco), Lugopolis (city founded by Lugo's father Liuvigild). ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:38, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
I edited out David Slaughter, I meant David Hughes[1], from his largely fictional British Chronicles. Can you deduce something from that? Perhaps that it was a mistake. No need to point it out and then give me orders on what to do and not do. Where are your sources? ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:47, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
ÞunoresWrǣþþe, please stop refactoring the comments of others, as you did here.[2] It makes discussion impossible to follow. If by "giving orders" you are referring to me, I was merely trying to help. You are taking this all far too personally, I suggest you drop it for a bit, have some tea and biscuits or whatever, and above all relax. Nortonius (talk) 13:50, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
Oh no, you've foiled my diabolical plan to "refactor" everyone's comments. Ever considered that was a mistake? And it's not personal, but this is an idiotic discussion and not very useful. Clearly the sources are going to be ignored if a majority of wikipedians (not historians, oddly) have a majority consensus on something. ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:54, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
And you're not being helpful, just pretentious and condescending. As you did here.[3] ÞunoresWrǣþþe (talk) 13:54, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────That "refactoring" might well have been a mistake, i.e. an edit conflict, and if so I apologise: the diff you linked to certainly was an edit conflict, so you may well be right. Wikipedia has seemed especially prone to edit conflicts of that sort lately. Believe me, I have been trying to be helpful, and my advice stands. I shall now follow it myself. Best. Nortonius (talk) 14:03, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

  • Please don't take it upon yourself to remove a comment thread that includes other users' comments. If others don't object, you may archive it early. Thanks. El_C 14:37, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
    • I think we should keep this discussion for now, as the substantive issue of the article's quality has been raised. I have said its technical quality is fairly poor, and that I would rather it were worked on to bring it up to scratch than reassessed. On the other hand, if someone wants to start a new thread on that topic while hatting or indeed archiving this thread, and linking it, I would be fine with that. Nortonius (talk) 17:21, 3 February 2017 (UTC)