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Anglo-Saxon Britain

Nothgyth Quest Supporting Notes

by David Slaughter, 3 February 2008

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Part 3: Cissa's Witenagemot

It was told that when Ælle died in 514, his eldest son and co-warlord (see the postulation in the main text), became king of the South Saxons. It is argued here that he was elected by his father's warmoot.

As has been recalled, tradition tells us that the new king declared his settlement of Cissan Ceaster, presumably a vil occupying the old Roman town of Noviomagum Regnorum, to be the royal centre of his tribal realm. At the same time he would probably have appointed the former members of the, by now, defunct Ællean Warmoot as the new Cissan Witenagemot. It is of course impossible to know exactly what Cissa might have called this conjectured gathering, perhaps the King's Moot?

Sometime after his son, Wine, reached his maturity at the age of fourteen, Cissa must have installed him as the royal alderman of the new settlement called Wines Ceseley, later to be known as Winchelsea. The West March of the kingdom had already been secured by the Haegelingas, and now the East March of the kingdom could be secured at the new centre of power on the firth of the Eastern Rother.

Wines Ceseley might have been established by about 525, and its significance would not have been missed by the Jutish colony of the Haestingas (Hastings). It is feasible, at least in theory, that a South Saxon Witenagemot would have agreed to recognise Wine Cissing as his father's atheling.

By the fourth decade of the sixth century, Cilta, Cidda, Cymen Wlencing, the chieftain of the Meallingas and perhaps the king of the Haestingas might have formed the members of this postulated witan, at a time when the Cissan kingdom was arguably at its height. If the evidence of pagan graves is significant in this context, Cissa would have needed the loyalty of such a council to maintain his royal authority over an expanding population in the centre of a long coastal territory.

Old houses in Hastings

Old houses in Hastings. The first settlement was founded by Jutes who called themselves the Haestingas. They did not identify with the South Saxons and kept their own ethnicity.

This factor also adds weight to the idea that Cilta and Cidda might have been Cissa's brothers, because their vils would have formed a cluster of royal power, together with the settlement at South Malling, where the growth of the South Saxon tribe was greatest.

Eventually, the death of Wine Cissing, predeceasing his father in about 563, and the exceptional longevity of Cissa himself must have contributed to the later course of history.

 

 

     
Images are free from copyright. Text copyright © David Slaughter, BA Hons, ATC (Sussex), Blue Robe Order of the Welsh Gorsedd, expanded from material first released on the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Sussex blogspot. An original feature for the History Files.