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Battle of Ellandun Date 825 Location near Swindon, Wiltshire Result Wessex victory Belligerents Mercia Wessex Commanders and leaders King Beornwulf Egbert Casualties and losses Beornwulf Ellandun was the site of the Battle of Ellandun between Egbert of Wessex and Beornwulf of Mercia in 825. Sir Frank Stenton described it as "One of the most decisive battles of English history", effectively ending the Mercian supremacy over the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. Egbert emerged victorious and became the eighth Bretwalda and the first Anglo-Saxon king to be styled "ruler over all England". Contents 1 Background 2 Accounts of the Battle 2.1 From the Anglo Saxon Chronicle 2.2 From the Winchester Chronicles 2.3 From Henry of Huntingdon 2.4 From the Annales de Wintonia 3 Location 4 Bibliography // Background The rivalry between Wessex and Mercia had been well established. For more than fifty years Wessex had suffered under weak kings, dominated by Mercia to such an extent that commentators describe Wessex as no more than an outlying province. King Beornwulf came to power in Mercia by capitalising on the atypical weakness of his predecessor. Keen to re-establish Mercian superiority he called for allies and set about raising an army with which to confront Wessex and extract territorial gain from it. Beornwulf, although the aggressor in this campaign, had not attempted to attack in Egbert's absence. There may be two reasons for this. Firstly, that Beornwulf was aware of the superior military strength of Wessex and was unwilling to attack even in Egbert's absence. Secondly, that Beornwulf was waiting for reinforcements before he committed his forces to battle. King Egbert of Wessex was building military power to reinforce his rule and expand his territory. Having campaigned in Cornwall, he returned home to his kingdom aware that Mercia was threatening his northern border. Accounts of the Battle The details of the battle are not well known. The Winchester Chronicles suggest that an official challenge had been agreed between the two leaders. From the Anglo Saxon Chronicle And in the same year Egbert, King of Wessex and Beornwulf, King of Mercia fought at Ellandune, and Egbert was victorious, and great slaughter was made there. From the Winchester Chronicles Beornwulf, deriding the ambition of Egbert, was the first to try whether the taught or untaught does the better when the game is played with the dice of Mars. Egberts lords, being consulted, thought it was more honourable to have their heads cut off than to lay their free necks beneath the yoke. The time pleased them in the summer, the place at Ellandune, now a manor of the Priory of Winton. Egberts men, pale and lean, Beornwulf's well-fed and ruddy, but inexperienced and rash.'' From Henry of Huntingdon The Brook of Ellandune was red with gore; it was choked with the slain, and became foul with carnage. From the Annales de Wintonia The most detailed description however is in a work entitled Annales de Wintonia The southward advance of the Mercian force was blocked by Egbert's soldiers and it is thought both sides deployed in lines on ridges opposite each other. Clearly the Mercians outnumbered Wessex considerably, although the ten-to-one ratio suggested by the Annales is probably an exaggeration. At any rate, Egbert held a council to decide whether the battle should go ahead or simply give in to Beornwulf's demands for territory at their expense. Egbert favoured this course of action, but his thanes wanted to fight, and the decision was made to defend their border. They did so by attacking the Mercian lines. The battle took some time and the fighting was fierce. This was at the height of summer, and the weather was very hot indeed. "More soldiers suffocated with sweat than blood". Eventually Beornwulf's morale broke. The Winchester Scribe writes that "He sought for flight himself and would not have wished to lose his spurs for three halfpence." This victory against great odds secured Wessex against hostility from Mercia. Location Ellandun is thought to be south of Swindon, Wiltshire but the exact site is not known. Wroughton was suggested by Charles Oman, based on geographical information and contemporary boundaries. Lydiard Tregoze, just west of Swindon, has been suggested by A. H. Burne based on tales of fighting on Windmill Hill nearby.[citation needed] Bibliography Stenton, Frank. Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford University Press, 1943/2001. ISBN 0-19-280139-2, ISBN 9780192801395. Burne, A.H. The Battlefields of England. Pen and Sword Books, 1950/2005. ISBN 1-84415-206-5, ISBN 9781844152063. Savage, Anne. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Coombe Books, 1996. ISBN 1-85833-478-0, ISBN 9781858334783.