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Ceawlin (d. c.593), king of the West Saxons (560–91). Ceawlin, who began to reign in 560, fought against the Britons to extend Saxon power. At the battle of Dyrham in 577 he is reported to have defeated three kings and to have taken Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath, thus effectively separating Britons in the south-west from those north of the Bristol channel. In 584 he may have suffered a set-back at Fethanleag, possibly near Bicester (Oxon.) for despite taking towns and booty, he is said to have returned home in anger. Ceawlin's final days are not easy to establish. Dissatisfaction may have produced another king or subking, Ceol, in 591, and in 592, after a defeat at Wodnesbeorh (near Alton Priors in the vale of Pewsey), Ceawlin was expelled. He ‘perished’ the following year. Though the end of his reign was disastrous, he played an important role in Saxon expansion and Bede lists him as the second great overlord, or bretwalda.

Audrey MacDonald

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