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The Battle of Deorham was fought in southwestern Britain in 577, between the Saxons of Wessexmarker and the Britons of Glevummarker, Coriniummarker and AquƦ Sulismarker. Deorham is usually taken to refer to Dyrhammarker in South Gloucestershire, on the Cotswoldmarker escarpment a few miles north of Bathmarker. Since the only evidence of the battle is a brief mention in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, no details of it are known.

Presumed strategy and tactics

Historians (such as William St. Clair-Baddeley in 1929) have concluded that the Saxons may have launched a surprise attack and seized the site at Hinton Hill because it commanded the Avon Valley and disrupted communications north and south between Bath and her neigbouring Romano-British towns of Gloucester and Cirencester. Once the Saxons were in occupation of the site (and had begun reinforcing the existing Iron Age defensive structures at the site) the Britons of those three towns were compelled to unite and make a combined attempt to dislodge them. Their attempt failed and the three opposing British kings were killed (they are named as Commagil of Gloucester, Condidan of Cirencester and Farinmagil of Bath). Their routed forces were driven north of the River Severn and south of Bath where it appears they began the construction of the defensive earthwork called the Wansdyke in a doomed attempt to prevent more territory from being lost.

Outcome

The battle was won by the Saxons, who afterwards occupied the three cities of Cirencestermarker (Coriniummarker), probably a provincial capital in the Roman period, Gloucestermarker (Glevummarker), a former legionary fortress and a colonia, and Bathmarker (Aquae Sulismarker), a renowned pagan religious centre and spa-city. The remains of many villas are found around these cities, which suggests that the area was both wealthy and relatively sophisticated, and thus that this Saxon advance was a heavy blow to the Britons.

The battle is also considered by some to have begun the differentiation of Welsh and Cornish into two separate languages, by cutting off the Britons in Walesmarker from those in Devonmarker and Cornwallmarker, by land. Against this, it has been objected that, although the battle may have prevented large-scale movements, the passage of British-speakers between the two areas seemingly stayed possible, given that a Welsh genealogy appears to record that, in the 7th century, the descendants of kings of Pengwern founded a dynasty in the Glastonburymarker region. The journey by boat would not be difficult. Further, archaeology suggests that, although the Anglo-Saxons quickly took over the Cirencester region after the battle, it took many years for them to colonize Bath and Gloucester as well.

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