Volume 1, Chapter 1, Sections 6-11 -- Discoveries in the Time of Alfred King of England, in the Ninth Century of the Christian era: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 6 -- Geography of the Known World, in the Ninth Century, as described by King Alfred.[1]

Though not strictly conformable to our plan, as being neither a journey or voyage, it yet seemed incumbent to present our readers with this curious British production of the great Alfred King of England, which gives a singular record of the geographical knowledge of the world in the ninth century. It was originally written by Orosius, a Spanish Christian, who flourished in the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century, and who published a kind of History of the World, down to A.D. 416, which remained in good repute among the learned till about an hundred years ago, but is now much neglected. Near a thousand years ago, the work of Orosius was translated into Anglo-Saxon, by Alfred King of England, but, with great freedom and much licence, often using his author merely as a foundation for a paraphrase; omitting most of the introductory chapters to each book, sometimes leaving out considerable passages, and often inserting new matter. This is peculiarly the case with the first chapter of the first book, containing the whole of the geography, and which is all that has any reference to the nature of our work.

The Honourable Daines Barrington, who published the Anglo-Saxon version, with an English translation, informs us that the original MS. is in the Cotton Library, Tiberius I., and is supposed to have been written in the ninth or tenth century; but that, in making his translation, he used a transcript, made by Mr Elstob, occasionally collated with the Cotton MS. and with some other transcripts. But, before publishing a work of such curiosity and interest, he ought to have made sure of possessing a perfect copy, by the most scrupulous comparison of his transcript with the original MS.

In the following republication of the geographical chapter, much care has been taken to correct errors, chiefly in regard to direction, as east, west, north, and south, are often used interchangeably in the translation by Mr Barrington. Most of the notes are from that edition, or from J.R. Forster, who reprinted so much of this chapter as referred to northern geography, and who appears to have studied that part of the subject with great care.

As a specimen of the Anglo-Saxon, or the language of England near a thousand years ago, we have given the first sentence of this geographical chapter in the ordinary Roman letters, with a literal translation.


Ure yldran calne thysne ymbhwyrft thyses middangeardes, cwaeth Orosius, swa swa Oceanus ymbligeth utan, wone man garsecg hatath, on threo todaeldon.

Literal Translation

Our elders have divided all of this middle-earth, quoth Orosius, which Oceanus surrounds, which men calleth garsecg into three deals.

Geography of Alfred

§ 1. According to Orosius, our ancestors divided the whole world which is surrounded by the ocean, which we call garsecg,[2] into three parts, and they named these divisions Asia, Europe, and Africa; though some authors only admit of two parts, Asia and Europe. Asia is bounded to the southward, northward, and eastward by the ocean, and thus divides all our part of this earth from that which is to the east. On the north, Europe and Asia are separated by the Tanais or Don; and in the south, after passing the Mediterranean[3] sea, Asia and Africa join to the westward of Alexandria.[4]

§ 2. Europe begins, as I have said before, at the Tanais, which has its source in the northern parts of the Riphean mountains,[5] which are near the Sarmatic[6] ocean; and this river then runs directly south, on the west side of Alexander's temples, to the nation of the Russians,[7] where it runs into the fen called Maeotis, and thence it issues eastwards with a great stream, near the town called Theodosia, into the Euxine. Then becoming narrow for a considerable track, it passes by Constantinople, and thence into the Wendel sea, or Mediterranean. The south-west end of Europe is in Ispania or Spain, where it is bounded by the ocean; but the Mediterranean almost closes at the islands called Gades, where stand the pillars of Hercules. To the westward of this same Mediterranean is Scotland.[8]

§ 3. Asia and Africa are divided by Alexandria, a city of Egypt; and that country is bounded on the west by the river Nile, and then by Ethiopia to the south, which reaches quite to the southern ocean. The northern boundary of Africa is the Mediterranean sea all the way westwards, to where it is divided from the ocean by the pillars of Hercules; and the true western boundaries of Africa are the mountains called Atlas and the Fortunate Islands. Having thus shortly mentioned the three divisions of this earth, I shall now state how those are bounded by land and water.

§ 4. Opposite to the middle of the eastern part of Asia, the river Ganges empties itself into the sea, whilst the Indian ocean is to the southwards, in which is the port of Caligardamana. To the south-east of that port is the island of Deprobane.[9] To the north of the mouths of the Ganges, where mount Caucasus ends, is the port of Samera; and to the north of this port are the mouths of the river called Corogorre, in the ocean called Sericus. Now, these are the boundaries of India: Mount Caucasus is to the north, the river Indus to the west, the Red Sea[10] to the south, and the ocean to the east. In this land of India there are forty-four nations, besides the island of Taprobana or Ceylon, in which there are ten boroughs; and also many others which are situated on the banks of the Indus, and lie all to the westward of India. Betwixt this river Indus, and another to the west called Tigris, both of which empty themselves into the Red Sea,[11] are the countries of Orocassia, Parthia, Asilia, Pasitha, and Media, though some writers call the whole of this land Media or Assyria.[12] The fields are much parched by the sun,[13] and the roads are very hard and stony. The northern boundary of this land is Mount Caucasus, and the southern is the Red Sea. In this land there are two great rivers, the Hystaspes and Arbis, and twenty-two nations, though the whole has the general name of Parthia. To the westwards, Babilonia, Chaldea, and Mesopotamia are between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Within this country there are twenty-eight nations, the northern boundary being Mount Caucasus, and the Red Sea to the south. Along the Red Sea, and at its northern angle, are Arabia, Sabaea, and Eudomane, or Idumea. Beyond the river Euphrates, quite westward to the Mediterranean, and northward to Mount Taurus, even into Armenia, and southward to near Egypt, are many countries, namely Comagene, Phenicia, Damascena, Coelle, Moab, Ammon, Idumea, Judea, Palestine, and Sarracene, all of which are comprehended under the general name of Syria. To the north of Syria are the hills called Taurus, and to the north of these are Capadocia and Armenia, the former being to the westward of the latter; and to the westward of Capadocia is the country called the lesser Asia. To the north of Capadocia is the plain called Temisere, and betwixt Capadocia and lesser Asia are Cilicia and Isauria. Lesser Asia is entirely surrounded by salt water, except to the eastward; having the Euxine on the north, the Propontis and Hellespont on the west, and the Mediterranean on the south. In it is the high mountain of Olympus.

§ 5. To the northward of hither Egypt is Palestine, to the eastwards the land of the Sarracens, to the west is Libia, and to the south the mountain called Climax. The head of the Nile is near the cliffs of the Red Sea, though some say it is in the western part of Africa, near Mount Atlas, whence it flows over a large track of land, till it sinks; after which, it proceeds in its course, till it becomes a great sea, or wide river.[14] The spot where the river takes its rise is called by some Nuchal, and by others Dara. Hence, for some distance from the wider part, before[l5] it rises from the sand, it runs westward to Ethiopia, where it is called Jon, till it reaches the eastern part, where it becomes a wide river,[16] and then it sinks again into the earth; after which it appears again opposite to the cliffs of the Red Sea, as I mentioned before, and from this place it is called the Nile. Then running from thence westwards, it divides its stream round an island called Meroe;[17] then running to the northward, it empties itself into the Mediterranean. There, in the winter season, the current at its mouth is opposed by the north winds, so that the river is spread all over the land of Egypt;[l8] and by the rich earth which it deposits, it fertilizes the whole country. The farther Egypt lies along the southern part of the Red Sea, and to the east is the ocean. To the west is the hither Egypt, and in the two Egypts there are twenty-four nations.

§ 6. Having before given an account of the north part of Asia, I shall now speak of its southern parts. I have before mentioned that Mount Caucasus is to the north of India, beginning eastwards on the ocean, and running due west, till it join the Armenian mountains, which the inhabitants call Parcoatrae, from which the Euphrates takes its rise; and from the Parcoatrian mountains mount Taurus runs due west, quite to Cilicia. To the north of these mountains, quite to the ocean which environs the north east end of the earth, where the river Bore empties itself into the ocean, and from thence westwards to the Caspian sea, which extends to Mount Caucasus, all the land is called Old Scythia, or Hircania. In this country there are forty-three nations, all situate at great distances from each other, on account of the barrenness of the soil.[19] Then to the westward of the Caspian unto the Tanais or Don, and the Palus Maeotis, thence south to Mount Taurus,[20] and north to the ocean, is all Scythia, and is divided among thirty-two nations. The country on the east side of the Tanais is inhabited by a nation called the Alboari in the Latin tongue, which we now call Liobene. Thus have I shortly stated the boundaries of Asia, and shall now state those of Europe, as far as we are informed concerning them.

§ 7. From the Tanais westwards to the Rhine, which takes its rise in the Alps, and runs northward, till it falls into that branch of the ocean which surrounds Bryttannia, and southward from the Tanais to the Donua or Danube, whose source is near that of the Rhine, and which runs to the northward of Greece, till it empties itself into the Euxine,[21] and north even to that part of the ocean which is called the Cwen sea.[22] there are many nations; and the whole of this extensive country is called Germany. Hence to the north of the source of the Danube, and to the east of the Rhine are the people called eastern Franks.[23] To the south of them are the Swaepas.[24] On the opposite banks of the Danube, and to the south and east, are the people called Baegth-ware.[25] in that part which is called Regnes-burh.[26] Due east from them are the Beme.[27] To the north-east the Thyringas.[28] To the north of these are the Old Seaxan.[29] To the north-west of these are the Frysan;[30] and to the west of Old Saxony is the mouth of the Aelfe or Elbe, as also Frysan or Friesland. From hence to the north-west is that land which is called Angle, with Sellinde, and some other parts of Dene.[31] To the north is Apdrede,[32] and to the north-east the Wolds,[33] which are called AEfeldan.[34] From hence eastwards is Wineda-land,[35] otherwise called Sysyle.[36] To the south-west, at some distance, is the Macroaro,[37] and these have to the west the Thyringas and Behemas, as also part of the Baegthware, all of whom have been already mentioned. And to the south, on the other side of the Donua or Danube, is the country called Carendrae.[38]

§ 8. Southwards, towards and along the mountains which are called the Alps, are the boundaries of the Baegthware and of the Swaefas already mentioned; and then to the eastwards of the Carendrae country, and beyond the Waste,[39] is Pulgara-land or Bulgaria.[40] To the east is Greca-land[41] or Greece; and to the east of the Moroaro or Moravians, is Wisle-land;[42] and to the east of that is Datia, though it formerly belonged to the Gottan[43] or Goths. To the north-east of the Moroara or Moravians, are the Delamensen.[44] East of the Delamensen are the Horithi;[45] and north of the Delamensen are the Surpe;[46] to the west also are the Syssele.[47] To the north of the Horithi is Maegtha-land,[48] and north of Maegtha-land is Sermende,[49] quite to the Riffin,[50] or the Riphean mountains.

§ 9. To the south-west of Dene or Denmark, formerly mentioned, is that arm of the ocean which surrounds Brittania, and to the north is that arm which is called the Ostsea[51] or East sea; to the east and north are the north Dene,[52] or North Danes, both on the continent and on the islands. To the east are the Afdrede.[53] To the south is the mouth of the AElfe or Elbe, and some part of Old Seaxna[54] or Old Saxony. The North Dene have to the north that arm of the sea which is called the East sea, and to the east is the nation of the Osti,[55] and the Afdrede, or Obotrites, to the south. The Osti have to the north of them that same arm of the sea, or the Baltic, and so have the Winedas and the Burgendas.[56] Still more to the south is Haefeldan.[57] The Burgendas have this same arm of the sea to the west, and the Sweon[58] to the north. To the east are the Sermende, to the south the Surfe.[59] The Sweons have to the south the arm of the sea called Ost, and to the north, over the wastes, is Cwenland,[60] to the north-west are the Scride-finnas,[61] and the North-men[62] are to the west[.63]

§ 10. We shall now speak of Greca-land or Greece, which lies south of the Danube. The Proponditis, or sea called Propontis, is eastward of Constantinople; to the north of that city, an arm of the sea issues from the Euxine, and flows westwards; to the north-west the mouths of the Danube empty themselves into the south-east part of the Euxine.[64] To the south and west of these mouths are the Maesi, a Greek nation; to the west are the Traci or Thracians, and to the east the Macedonians. To the south, on the southern arm of the Egean sea, are Athens and Corinth, and to the south-west of Corinth is Achaia, near the Mediterranean. All these countries are inhabited by the Greeks. To the west of Achaia is Dalmatia, along the Mediterranean; and on the north side of that sea, to the north of Dalmatia, is Bulgaria and Istria. To the south of Istria is the Adriatic, to the west the Alps, and to the north, that desert which is between Carendan[65] and Bulgaria.

§ 11. Italy is of a great length from the north-west to the south-east and is surrounded by the Mediterranean on every side, except the north-west. At that end of it are the Alps, which begin from the Mediterranean, in the Narbonese country, and end in Dalmatia, to the east of the Adriatic sea. Opposite to the Alps, on the north, is Gallia-belgica, near which is the river Rhine, which discharges itself into the Britanisca sea, and to the north, on the other side of this sea, is Brittannia.[66] The land to the west of Ligore, Liguria, is AEquitania; to the south of which is some part of Narbonense, to the south-west is Spain. To the south of Narbonense is the Mediterranean, where the Rhone empties itself into that sea, to the north of the Profent[67] sea. Opposite to the wastes is the nearer[68] part of Spain, to the northwest Aquitania, and the Wascan[69] to the north. The Profent[67] sea hath to the north the Alps, to the south the Mediterranean, to the north-east the Burgundians, and to the West the Wascans or Gascons.

§ 12. Spain is triangular, being surrounded by the sea on three sides. The boundary to the south-west is opposite to the island of Gades, Cadiz; that to the east is opposite to the Narbonense, and the third, to the north-west, is opposite to Brigantia, a town of Gallia, as also to Scotland,[70] over an arm of the sea, and opposite to the mouth of the Scene or Seine. As for that division of Spain which is farthest[71] from us, it has to the west the ocean, and the Mediterranean to the north, the south, and the east. This division of Spain has to the north Aquitania, to the north-east Narbonense, and to the south the Mediterranean.

§ 13. The island of Brittannia extends 800 miles in length to the north-east, and is 200 miles broad. To the south of it, on the other side of an arm of the sea, is Gallia-belgica. To the west of it, on the other side of another arm of the sea, is Ibernia or Ireland, and to the north Orcadus.[72] Igbernia, Ibernia, Hibernia, or Ireland, which we call Scotland, is surrounded on every side by the ocean; and because it is nearer the setting sun, the weather is milder than it is in Britain. To the north-west of Igbernia is the utmost land called Thila,[73] which is known to few, on account of its very great distance.

§ 14. Having mentioned the boundaries of Europe, I now proceed to state those of Africa. Our ancestors considered this as a third part of the world; not indeed that it contains so much land as the others, because the Mediterranean cuts it, as it were, in two, breaking in more upon the south part than on the north.[74] And because the heat is more intense in the south, than the cold in the north, and because every wight thrives better in cold than in heat, therefore is Africa inferior to Europe, both in the number of its people, and in the extent of its land.[75] The eastern part of Africa, as I said before, begins in the west of Egypt, at the river Nile, and the most eastern country of this continent is Lybia. Ciramacia[76] is to the west of lower Egypt, having the Mediterranean on the north, Libia Ethiopica to the south, and Syrtes Major to the west. To the east of Libia Ethiopica is the farther Egypt, and the sea called Ethiopicum.[77] To the west of Rogathitus[78] is the nation called Tribulitania,[79] and the nation called Syrtes Minores, to the north of whom is that part of the Mediterranean called the Hadriatic. To the west again of Bizantium, quite to the salt mere of the Arzuges;[80] this nation has to the east the Syrtes Majores, with the land of Rogathite; and to the south the Natabres, Geothulas, and Garamantes,[81] quite to the sea of Bizantium. The sea ports of these nations are Adrumetis and Zuges, and their largest town is Catharina. The country of Numidia has to the east the Syrtes Minores and the salt mere formerly mentioned, to the north the Mediterranean, to the west Mauritania, and to the south the hills of Uzera, and the mountains which extend to Ethiopia, one way, and the Mauritanian sea on the other side. To the east is Numidia, to the north the Mediterranean, to the west the river Malvarius, to the south Astryx, near the mountains which divide the fruitful country from the wild and barren sands which lie southwards towards the Mauritanian sea, by others called the Tingitanean. To the east is the river Malon[,82] to the north the hills of Abbenas and Calpri. Another mountain also closes the end of the Mediterranean sea, between the two hills to the west, where stand the pillars of Ercoles or Hercules. To the west again is Mount Atlas, quite to the sea; to the south the hills called AEsperos, and to the south again the nation called Ausolum[,83] which inhabits quite to the sea.

§ 15. Having thus stated the boundaries of Africa, we shall now speak of the islands in the Mediterranean: Cyprus lies opposite to Cilicia, and Isauria on that arm of the sea called Mesicos, being 170 miles long, and 122 miles broad. The island of Crete is opposite to the sea called Artatium, northwest is the sea of Crete, and west is the Sicilian or Adriatic sea. It is 100 miles long, and 150 miles broad. There are fifty-three of the islands called the Cyclades. To the east of them is the Risca Sea, to the south the Cretisca or Cretan, to the north the Egisca or Egean, and to the west the Adriatic. The island of Sicily is triangular, and at each end there are towns. The northern is Petores,[84] near which is the town of Messina; the south angle is Lilitem,[85] near which is a town of the same name. The island is 157 miles long from east to west, and 70 broad to the eastward. To the north-east is that part of the Mediterranean called the Adriatic, to the south the Apiscan sea, to the west the Tyrrhene sea, and to the north the [86] sea, all of which are narrow and liable to storms. Opposite to Italy, a small arm of the sea divides Sardinia from Corsica, which strait is twenty-two miles broad. To the east of it is that part of the Mediterranean called the Tyrrhenian sea, into which the river Tiber empties itself. To the south is the sea which lies opposite to Numidia. To the west the Balearic islands, and to the north Corsica. The island of Corsica lies directly west from the city of Rome. To the south of Corsica is Sardinia, and Tuscany is to the north. It is sixteen miles long, and nine broad.[87] Africa is to the south of the Balearic islands, Gades to the west, and Spain to the north. Thus I have shortly described the situation of the islands in the Mediterranean.

[1] Anglo-Saxon version from Orosius, by AElfred the Great, with an English  translation, by Daines Barrington, 8vo. London, 1773. Discoveries in the North, 54.
[2] This word is always employed by Alfred to denote the ocean, while smaller portions are uniformly called sae in the singular, saes in the plural.--Barr
[3] Called Wenadel sea in the Anglo-Saxon original; probably because it had been crossed by the Vandals or Wends, in going from Spain to the conquest of Africa.--E.
[4] In the translation by Barrington, this sentence is quite unintelligible. "All to the northward is Asia, and to the southward Europe and Asia are separated by the Tanais; then south of this same river (along the Mediterranean, and west of Alexandria) Europe and Asia join."--E.
[5] Riffing, in the Anglo-Saxon.--E.
[6] Sermondisc in the Anglo-Saxon, Sarmaticus in Orosius.--E.
[7] Rochouasco in Anglo-Saxon, Roxolani in Orosius.--E.
[8] Certainly here put for Ireland.--E.
[9] Taprobana, Serendib, or Ceylon.--E.
[10] By the Red Sea must be here meant that which extends between the peninsula of India and Africa, called the Erithrean Sea in the Periplus of Nearchus.--E.
[11] The Persian gulf is here assumed as a part of the Red Sea.--E.
[12] He is here obviously enumerating the divisions of the latter Persian empire. Orocassia is certainly the Arachosia of the ancients; Asilia and Pasitha may be Assyria and proper Persia.--E.
[13] The Saxon word is beorhta or bright, which I have ventured to translate parched by the sun, as this signification agrees well with the context.--Barr.
[14] The true Niger, running from the westwards till it loses itself in the sands of Wangara, seems here alluded to; and the Bahr el Abiad, or Western Nile, is supposed to be its continuation, rising again out of the sand.--E.
[15] This ought certainly to be after, and seems to allude to the Bahr el Abiad.--E.
[16] Literally a great sea.--Barr.
[17] This is a mistake, as it only takes a wide turn to the west in Dongola, around what has been falsely called the Isle of Meroe. The cliffs of the Red Sea seem to imply the mountains of Nubia, and the wide sea may be the lake of Dembea.--E.
[18] A strange attempt to account for the regular overflow of the Nile.--E.
[19] This account of the boundaries of Old Scythia is extremely vague. It seems to imply an eastern boundary by an imaginary river Bore, that the Caspian is the western, the northern ocean on the north, and Mount Caucasus on the south.--E.
[20] In the translation by Barrington, this portion of Scythia is strangely said to extend south to the Mediterranean; the interpolation surely of some ignorant transcriber, who perhaps changed the Euxine or Caspian sea into the Mediterranean.--E.
[21] Called by mistake, or erroneous transcription, Wendel sea, or Mediterranean in the text and translation.--E.
[22] The Cwen sea is the White sea, or sea of Archangel.   The Kwen or Cwen  nation, was that now called Finlanders, from whom that sea received this ancient appellation.--Forst.
[23] East Francan in the original. The eastern Franks dwelt in that part of Germany between the Rhine and the Sala, in the north reaching to the Ruhre and Cassel, and in the south, almost to the Necker; according to Eginhard, inhabiting from Saxony to the Danube. They were called east Franks to distinguish them from that other part of the nation which inhabited ancient Gaul, and Franconia continues to preserve their name.--Forst.
[24] Swaepas, or Suevae, who formed part of the Allemanic confederacy, and afterwards gave their name of Swabes to an extensive nation, in whose bounds modern Swabia is still situated.--Forst.
[25] The Bavarians, who were the remnant of the Boii or Baeghten, who escaped from the exterminating sword of the Suevi.--Forst.
[26] This may have been the province in which Regens-bergh or Ratisbon is still situated.--Forst.
[27] These were undoubtedly the Bohemians, called afterwards Behemas by our royal geographer. They had their appellation from Boier-heim, or the dwelling place of the Boii, who were exterminated by the Suevi.--Forst.
[28] The Thuringians, at one time so powerful, that their king was able to engage in war against the king of the Franks. Thuringia is still a well known district in Germany.--Forst.
[29] The Old Saxons inhabited the country still called Old Sassen, or Old Saxony, Halsatia in Latin, which has degenerated into Holstein.--Forst.
[30] These Frysae were afterwards confined by Charlemain to the country between the Weser and Elbe, to which they gave the name of Friesland.--Forst.
[31] That is to the north-east of Old Saxony, where the Angles, confederates of the Saxon conquerors of Britain, and who gave their name to the English nation, and England or Angle-land, formerly resided. But they likewise appear to have occupied some of the islands in the Baltic. Sillend is certainly the Danish island of Zeeland. Dene is Denmark in its most limited sense.--Forst.
[32] These are the Obotrites, a Venedic nation, settled in Mecklenburgh, who are called, a little farther on, the Afdrede. They were not, however, to the north-east of Old Saxony, but rather to the eastwards. Perhaps the copyist inserted north instead of east, or rather we ought to read thus: "To the north-east is Apdrede, and to the north the Wolds."--Forst.
[33] The word here translated Wolds on the authority of Daines Barrington, is in the original, Wylte; but whether it refers to the wild or barren state of the country, or the name of a people, it is difficult to say. There were a people named Wilzi in those parts, but J. R. Forster is disposed to believe, that Alfred refers here to the Wends or Vandals, who lived on the Havel, and were called Hevelli. But if they are meant, we must correct the text from north-east to south-east, for such is the situation of Havel-land, with respect to Old Saxony.--Forst.
[34] AEfeldan are, as King Alfred calls them, Wolds or Wilds; as there still are in the middle of Jutland, large high moors, covered only with heath.--Forst.
[35] Wineda-land, the land of the Wends, Vandals, or Wendian Scalvi in Mecklenburg and Pomerania; so called from Wanda or Woda, signifying the sea or water. They were likewise called Pomeranians for the same reason, from po moriu, or the people by the sea side.--Forst.
[36] In this Alfred seems to have committed a mistake, or to have made too great a leap. There is a Syssel, however, in the country of the Wends, on the Baltic, which connects them with the Moravians, or rather with the Delamensan, of whom mention is made afterwards.--Forst.
[57] The Moravians, so called from the river Morava, at that time a powerful kingdom, governed by Swatopluk, and of much greater extent than modern Moravia.--Forst.
[38] Carendre must be Carinthia, or the country of the Carenders or Centani, which then included Austria and Styria.--Forst.
[39] Barrington has erroneously translated this, "to the eastward of Carendre country, and beyond the west part is Bulgaria." But in the original Anglo-Saxon, it is beyond the wastes, or desert, which had been occasioned by the devastations of Charlemain in the country of the Avari.--Forst.
[40] This is the extensive kingdom of Bulgaria of these times, comprising modern Bulgaria and Wallachia, with part of Moldavia and Bessarabia. The Bulgarians were probably a Turkish tribe, dwelling beyond the Wolga, in the country now called Casan, deriving their name from Bolgar, their capital.--Forst.
Forster ought to have added, that the latter country was long called greater Bulgaria, and the former, or the Pulgara-land of the text, lesser Bulgaria.--E.
[41] The Greek empire of Constantinople.--E.
[42] The country on the Wisle or Vistula, being great and little Poland.--Forst.
[43] These for some time inhabited Dacia, and, being famous in history, Alfred was willing at least to mention one of their residences.--Forst.
[44] The Delamensen, or Daleminzen of the middle age writers, sometimes called Dalmatians by mistake, or to shew their erudition, were situated near Lommatsch, or around Meissen or Misnia, on both sides of the Elbe.--Forst.
[45] These must have been a Sclavonian people or tribe, now unknown, and perhaps inhabited near Gorlitz, or near Quarlitz, not far from great Glogau--Forst.
[46] The Sorbi, Sirbi, and Serbii, of old writers, are the Sorbian Sclavons; and the modern Wends or Vandals of Lusatia, still call themselves Sserbs or Ssorbs.--Forst.
[47] These must have been another tribe of Sclavons about Seuselig, to the westward of the Sorbs of lower Lusatia.--Forst.
[48] Perhaps the duchy of Mazovia, called Magaw or Mazaw-land in ancient writers. Or perhaps it is wrong spelt for Wastaland or the Waste.--Forst.
[49] Sermende is the mutilated and disguised name of Sarmatia, which did not exist under that name in the time of Alfred, but which he inserted on the authority of his original author Orosius.--Forst.
[50] A mere corruption of the montes Riphaei or Riphean mountains of Orosius; and Alfred seems here to have got beyond his knowledge, copying merely from Orosius.--Forst.
[51] The Ost sea of Alfred comprehends what are now called the Scaggerrack, Catte-gatt, the Sound, the two Belts, and the Baltic, which our mariners still call the East Sea.--Forst.
[52] That is, both inhabiting North Jutland and the islands of Funen, Zeeland, Langland, Laland, and Falster.--Forst.
[53] Formerly called Apdrede, and explained to be the Obotrites.--E.
[54] Alluding, doubtless, to the country from whence the Saxons who inhabited England had come of old.--E.
[55] This is the same nation called Estum in the voyage of Wulfstan, who lived east of the mouth of the Wisle or Vistula, along the Baltic, and who are mentioned by Tacitus under the name of Estii. When the Hanseatic league existed, they were called Osterlings or Easterlings, or Ost-men, and their country Est-land, Ostland, or Eastland, which still adheres to the northernmost part of Livonia, now called Est-land.--Forst.
[56] The Burgendas certainly inhabited the island of Born-holm, called from them Borgenda-holm, or island of the Borgendas, gradually corrupted to Borgend-holm, Bergen-holm, Born-holm. In the voyage of Wulfstan they are plainly described as occupying this situation.--Forst.
[57] Called formerly AEfelden, a nation who lived on the Havel, and were, therefore, named Hevelli or Haeveldi, and were a Wendick or Vandal tribe.--Forst.
[58] These are the Sviones of Tacitus. Jornandes calls them Swethans, and they are certainly the ancestors of the Swedes.--Forst.
[59] This short passage in the original Anglo-Saxon is entirely omitted by Barrington. Though Forster has inserted these Surfe in his map, somewhere about the duchy of Magdeburg, he gives no explanation or illustration of them in his numerous and learned notes on our royal geographer.--E.
[60] Already explained to be Finland on the White sea.--E.
[61] This is the same nation with the Finnas or Laplanders, mentioned in the voyage of Ohthere, so named because using scriden, schreiten, or snowshoes. The Finnas or Laplanders were distinguished by the geographer of Ravenna into Scerde-fenos, and Rede-fenos, the Scride-finnas, and Ter-finnas of Alfred. So late as 1556, Richard Johnson, Hakluyt, ed. 1809. I. 316. mentions the Scrick-finnes as a wild people near Wardhus.--E.
[62] The North-men or Normans, are the Norwegians or inhabitants of Nor-land, Nord-land, or North-mana-land.--E.
[63] At this place Alfred introduces the voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan, already given separately, in Sect. ii. and iii, of this chapter.--E.
[64] Either the original or the translation is here erroneous; it ought to run thus: "The Propontis is westward of Constantinople; to the north-east of that city, the arm of the sea issues from the Euxine, and flows south-west; to the north the mouths of the Danube empty themselves into the north-west parts of the Euxine."--E.
[65] Carinthia. The desert has been formerly mentioned as occasioned by the almost utter extirpation of the Avari by Charlemain, and was afterwards occupied by the Madschiari or Magiars, the ancestors of the present Hungarians.--Forst.
[66] Very considerable freedoms have been taken with this sentence; as in Barrington's translation it is quite unintelligible.--E.
[67] Profent and Profent sea, from the Provincia Gallica, now Provence.--Forst.
[68] Probably in relation to Rome, the residence of Orosius.--E.
[69] Gascony, called Wascan in the Teutonic or Saxon orthography and pronunciation. Thus the Saxons changed Gauls to Wales, and the Gauls changed War-men into Guer-men, hence our modern English, Germans.--Forst.
[70] Scotland is here assuredly used to denote Ireland.--E.
[71] Probably in relation to Rome, the residence of Orosius.--E.
[72] Alfred includes the whole island, now called Great Britain, under one denomination of Brittannia, taking no notice whatever of any of its divisions. Orcadus is unquestionably Orcades, or the islands of Orkney and Shetland.--E.
[73] The Thila or Thule of Alfred, from its direction in respect of Ireland, and its great distance, is obviously Iceland.--E.
[74] This seems to have some obscure reference to an idea, that the sea had disjoined Europe and Africa. But the sense is extremely perplexed and even unintelligible.--E.
[75] It must be noticed, that Alfred was unacquainted with any more of Africa than its northern coast, along the Mediterranean, which explains this erroneous idea of its size being inferior to Europe.--E.
[76] Syrenaica.--E.
[77] The Red Sea, or Ethiopic Gulf. In this part of the geography of Alfred, his translator has left the sense often obscure  or contradictory, especially in the directions, which, in this version, have been attempted to be corrected. This may have been owing to errors in the Anglo-Saxon MS. which Barrington professes to have translated literally, and he disclaims any responsibility for the errors of his author.--E.
[78] Probably some corruption of Syrtes Majores, or of Syrenaica.--E.
[79] Tripolitana, now Tripoli.--E.
[80] I can make nothing of this salt lake of the Arzuges, unless it be the lake of Lawdeah, between Tunis and Tripoli. The Getulians and Garamantes are well known ancient inhabitants of the interior of northern Africa; the Natabres are unknown.--E.
[81] The Garamantes are a well known people of the interior of Africa, in ancient geography; of the Natabres I can make nothing; the Geothulas are evidently the Getulians.--E.
[82] Probably the same called just before the Malvarius, and now the Malul. But the geographical description of Africa by Alfred, is so desultory and unarranged as to defy criticism.--E.
[83] Alfred may possibly have heard of the Monselmines who inhabit the north-western extremity of the Sahara, or great African desert, and extend to the Atlantic.--E
[84] Faro.
[85] Lillibeum.
[86] The name of this sea is omitted in the MS.--Barr.
[87] These measures are incorrigibly erroneous, or must have been transposed from some other place, having no possible reference to Corsica.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 1 -- Sections 7-11

Note.--The subsequent sections of this chapter, although not of much importance in themselves, and some of them possessing rather doubtful authenticity, are inserted in this place on the authority of Hakluyt. In an English general collection of voyages and travels, it would have been improper to have omitted these early specimens, some of which are considerably interesting and curious. In some measure these sections do not strictly belong to the present chapter, as limited to the reign of Alfred, and the ninth century; but as they contain isolated circumstances, which do not otherwise properly arrange themselves into the order of our plan, they may be considered as forming a kind of appendix to the era of Alfred. The number of these might have been considerably increased from different sources, chiefly from Hakluyt, who collected them from the ancient historians; but as they contain hardly any information, except historical, which does not enter into our plan, the selection here given has been
deemed quite sufficient for this work.


Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 7 -- The Travels of Andrew Leucander, or Whiteman, in the Eleventh Century.[1]

Andrew Leucander, or Whiteman, as his Latinized name is explained by Leland the antiquary, was an English monk, and third abbot of the monastery of Ramsay, who was much addicted to the study of the liberal sciences, devoting incredible exertions, both by day and night, to their cultivation, in which he profited exceedingly. Having a most ardent desire to visit those places where Christ our Saviour had perfected all the mysteries of our redemption, of which he only knew the names in the course of studying the Scriptures, he went from England to the holy city of Jerusalem, where he visited all the places which had been illustrated by the miracles, preaching, and passion of Christ; and on his return to the monastery he was elected abbot. He flourished in the year of our redemption, 1020, under Canute the Dane.

[1]  Hakluyt, II. 39.



Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 8 -- The Voyage of Swanus to Jerusalem in 1052.[1]

Swanus or Sweno, one of the sons of Earl Godwin, being of a perverse disposition, and faithless to the king, often quarrelled with his father and his brother Harold; and, becoming a pirate, he disgraced the virtues of his ancestors, by his robberies on the seas. At length, being guilty of the murder of his kinsman Bruno, and, as some report, of his own brother, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and on his return towards England, he was intercepted by the Saracens, by whom he was slain.
[1] Hakluyt, II. 39. Malmsb. Lib. II. ch. xiii.



Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 9 -- A Voyage of three Ambassadors from England to Constantinople and the East, about the year 1056.[2]

Upon the holy festival of Easter, King Edward the Confessor, wearing his royal crown, sat at dinner in his palace of Westminster, surrounded by many of his nobles. While others, after the long abstinence of the lent season, refreshed themselves with dainty viands, on which they fed with much earnestness, he, raising his mind above earthly enjoyments, and meditating on divine things, broke out into excessive laughter, to the great astonishment of his guests. But no one presuming to inquire into the cause of his mirth, all kept silence till dinner was ended. After dinner, when the king had retired to his bed-chamber, to divest himself of his robes, three of his nobles, Earl Harold, an abbot, and a bishop, who were more familiar with him than any of the other courtiers, followed him into the chamber, and boldly asked the reason of his mirth, as it had appeared strange to the whole court that his majesty should break out into unseemly laughter on so solemn a day, while all others were silent. "I saw," said he, "most wonderful things, and therefore did I not laugh without cause." And they, as is customary with all men, became therefore the more anxious to learn the occasion of his mirth, and humbly beseeched him to impart the reason to them. After musing for some time, he at length informed them, that seven sleepers had rested during two hundred years on Mount Ceelius, lying always hitherto on their right sides; but that, in the very moment of his laughter, they had turned themselves over to their left sides, in which posture they should continue asleep for other seventy-four years, being a dire omen of future misery to mankind. For all those things which our Saviour had foretold to his disciples, that were to be fulfilled about the end of the world, should come to pass within those seventy-four years. That nation should rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there would be in many places earthquakes, pestilence, and famine, and terrible apparitions in the heavens, and great signs, with great alterations of dominion; wars of the infidels against the Christians, and victories gained by the Christians over the unbelievers. And, as they wondered at these things, the king explained to them the passion of the seven sleepers, with the shape and proportion of each of their bodies, which wonderful things no man had hitherto committed to writing; and all this in so plain and distinct a manner, as if he had always dwelt along with them.

In consequence of this discourse, the earl sent a knight, the bishop a clerk, and the abbot a monk, as ambassadors to Maniches the emperor of Constantinople, carrying letters and presents from the king. The emperor received them very graciously; and after a friendly entertainment, sent them to the bishop of Ephesus with letters, which they name sacred, commanding him to admit the English ambassadors to see the seven sleepers. And it came to pass, that the prophetic vision of King Edward was approved by all the Greeks, who protested that they were assured by their fathers, that the seven sleepers had always before that time reposed on their right sides; but, upon the entry of the Englishmen into the cave where they lay, their bodies confirmed the truth of the foreign vision and prophecy to their countrymen. Neither were the calamities long delayed, which had been foretold by the king. For the Agareni, Arabians, and Turks, enemies of the people of Christ, invading the country of the Christians, spoiled and destroyed many cities of Syria, Lycia, and the lesser and greater Asias, and, among the rest, depopulated Ephesus, and even the holy city of Jerusalem.

[2] Hakluyt, II, 40. Malmsb II. xiii.



Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 10 -- Pilgrimage of Alured, Bishop of Worcester, to Jerusalem, in 1058.[1]

In the year of our Lord 1058, Alured, bishop of Worcester, dedicated, with much solemnity, to the honour of St Peter, the prince of the apostles, a church which he had built and endowed in the city of Gloucester; and afterwards having received the royal licence, he ordained Wolstan, a monk of Worcester, to be abbot of this new church. He then left the bishoprick which had been committed to his government, resigning the same to Herman, and, crossing the seas, travelled in pilgrimage through Hungary and other countries, to Jerusalem.

[1] Hakluyt, II. 41. R. Hoveden, fo, 255. line l5.



Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 11 -- Pilgrimage of Ingulphus, Abbot of Croyland, to Jerusalem, in 1064.[1]

I, Ingulphus, an humble minister of St Guthlae, in his monastery of Croyland, born of English parents, in the most beautiful city of London, was, in, my early youth, placed for my education first at Westminster, and afterwards prosecuted my studies at Oxford. Having excelled many of my fellow students in learning Aristotle, I entered upon the study of the first and second rhetoric of Tully. As I grew up towards manhood, I disdained the low estate of my parents, and quitting the dwelling of my father, I much affected to visit the courts of kings, delighting in fine garments and costly attire, And behold William, now our renewed sovereign, then only Earl of Normandy, came, with a splendid retinue to London, to confer with King Edward his kinsman. Intruding myself into his company, I proffered my services for the performance of any speedy or important affairs; and accordingly having executed many commissions with good success, I became known to and much beloved by the illustrious earl, and sailed with him to Normandy. Being there appointed his secretary, I governed his court at my pleasure, though envied by several, abasing whom I thought fit, and preferring others at my will.  But, prompted by youthful pride, I began even to be wearied of this place, in which I was advanced so far beyond my birth; and, with an inconstant and over-ambitious mind, I vehemently aspired, on all occasions, to climb to higher elevation.

About this time there spread a report through Normandy, that several archbishops of the empire, and some even of the secular princes, were desirous, for the salvation of their souls, to go in pilgrimage to Jerusalem, there to pay their devotions at the Holy Sepulchre. Upon this, several of us, who were of the household of our lord, the earl, both gentlemen and clerks, of whom I was the principal person, having received permission from the earl, addressed ourselves for the voyage; and, being together thirty horsemen or more, in company, we went into Germany, and joined ourselves to the Archbishop of Mentz. The whole being assembled, the company of this archbishop amounted to seven thousand persons, all properly provided for the expedition; and we travelled prosperously through many provinces, arriving at length at the city of Constantinople. We there did reverence to the Emperor Alexius, visited the church, of Sancta Sophia, and devoutly kissed many sacred relics.

Departing from Constantinople, we travelled through Lycia, where we fell into the hands of Arabian thieves; and after we had been robbed of infinite sums of money, and had lost many of our people, we escaped with extreme peril of our lives, and at length entered joyfully into the most anxiously wished-for city of Jerusalem. We were there received by the most reverend, aged, and holy patriarch Sophronius, with a great melody of cymbals by torch-light, and were conveyed in solemn procession, by a great company of Syrians and Latins, to the church of the Most Holy Sepulchre of our blessed Saviour. Here, how many prayers we uttered, what abundance of tears we shed, what deep sighs we breathed forth, is only known to our Lord Jesus Christ. From the most glorious sepulchre of Christ, we were conducted to visit the other sacred monuments of the holy city; and saw, with weeping eyes, a great number of holy churches and oratories, which Achius the Soldan of Egypt had lately destroyed. And, having deeply bewailed all the ruins of that most holy city, both within and without its walls, and having bestowed money for the re-edifying of some of these, we expressed the most ardent desire to go forth into the country, that we might wash ourselves in the sacred river Jordan, and that we might visit and kiss all the holy footsteps of the blessed Redeemer. But the Arabian robbers, who lurked in every part of the country, would not suffer us to travel far from the city, on account of their numbers and savage manners.

About the spring of the year, there arrived a fleet of ships from, Genoa, at the port of Joppa; and when the Christian merchants had exchanged all their commodities in the towns upon the coast, and had likewise visited the holy places, we all embarked. After being tossed about upon the seas by many storms and tempests, we landed at Brundusium; whence, with a prosperous journey, we travelled through Apulia to Rome, where we visited the habitations of the holy apostles St Peter and St Paul, and performed our devotions at various monuments of the holy, martyrs in different parts of the city.  From thence, the archbishops and other princes of the empire journeyed towards the right hand for Germany, while we declined to the left hand into France, taking our leaves of each other with indescribable courtesey and kindly greeting.  And at length, of thirty horsemen of us who went from Normandy fat and lusty, scarce twenty poor pilgrims returned, all on foot, and reduced almost to skeletons with fatigue and hardships.

[1] Hakluyt, II. 41. Ingulph. Ab. Croyl. apud finem.


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