Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia



Essex is a county situated to the northeast of London and is part of the East of England region. Essex is bordered by Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Greater London, and Kent.

Nennius says that it was given to the Saxons as a ransom for the life of King Vortigern, whom they had kidnapped.

Malory says that the province allied with Mordred during his rebellion against Arthur.

Essex | 0 to the 9th century AD

Pre-Roman Period
Before the Roman conquest of Britain in the first century AD, Essex was inhabited by Celtic tribes, including the Trinovantes. The Trinovantes had a major settlement at Colchester, which they called Camulodunum.

Roman Period | 1st – 4th centuries
During Roman times, Essex became part of the Roman province of Britannia. Camulodunum became an important Roman town, complete with defensive walls and a temple. The Romans established various settlements, roads, and infrastructure in the region.

Anglo-Saxon Period | 5th – 11th centuries
The history of Essex between 400 and 600 AD, also known as the Early Medieval period, is characterized by a complex mixture of Roman legacy, Anglo-Saxon migrations, and the establishment of new political and social structures.

After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early fifth century, Essex, like other parts of England, experienced the arrival and settlement of Germanic tribes, such as the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. The early Anglo-Saxon period in Essex was marked by a mixture of tribal groups establishing small settlements and kingdoms. These groups often clashed with each other and with the remaining Romano-British population.

Kingdom of East Saxons
The early Anglo-Saxon period in Essex was characterized by a decentralized political structure, with small tribal groups and chieftains exerting local control. Over time, some of these chieftains began to consolidate their power and establish more organized kingdoms. The establishment of the East Saxon kingdom was part of this trend.

The kingdom of East Saxons, centered around the modern county of Essex, began to emerge. It was ruled by kings, and the kingdom played a role in the complex political landscape of early medieval England. The historical sources from this period are limited, and much of what we know is derived from later chronicles and documents. The rulers of East Saxons held authority over parts of Essex and London.

The region was subject to conflicts with other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, including Mercia, as well as Viking invasions in the later part of the eigth and the ninth century. The kingdom of Essex continued to exist through the ninth century, but like many Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, it faced challenges from Viking raids and invasions.

One of the significant events during this period was the spread of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons. Saint Augustine arrived in Kent in 597 AD as a missionary sent by Pope Gregory the Great. The influcence of Christianity gradually extended to other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, including Essex. King Sæberht of Essex is believed to have been influenced by Æthelberht of Kent’s conversion to Christianity and allowed for Christian missionaries to work in his kingdom. Mellitus, a Roman abbot, was sent to Essex and established the first Anglo-Saxon cathedral at London.

The Name
In old English, the kingdom of Essex was referred to as East Seaxe or Ēast Seaxna Rīce. This name reflects the Anglo-Saxon origins of the region and its status as the kingdom of the East Saxons. The Latinized form of the name Essex, Essexa, if often used in historical records and documents. Another Old English variation of the name, reflecting the kingdom’s Anglo-Saxon identity is Estseaxna.

During the Viking Age, the Norse name for York, Eoferwic, was used by Scandinavian settlers in the area. While not a name for Essex directly, it’s an example of how place names could change due to external influences. In some historical sources, the Roman town of Colchester in Essex was referred to as Caer Colun or similar variations. This reflects the Latin and Celtic influence on place names during Roman and post-Roman periods.

Historia Brittonum | Probably Nennius, early 9th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470