Hengist and Horsa - Legendary Founders of Kent

Hengist and Horsa Landing in England
Public Domain

Hengist and Horsa were known for being the first leaders of Anglo-Saxon settlers known to come to England. Tradition has it that the brothers founded the kingdom of Kent.


Military Leaders

Places of Residence and Influence

Early Europe

Important Dates

Arrival in England: c. 449
Death of Horsa: 455
Beginning of Hengist's reign over Kent: 455
Death of Hengist: 488

About Hengist and Horsa

Although very likely actual people, the brothers Hengist and Horsa have taken on legendary status as leaders of the first settlers of Germanic stock to come to England. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, they were invited by the British ruler Vortigern to help defend against invading Scots and Picts from the north. The brothers landed at "Wippidsfleet" (Ebbsfleet) and successfully drove off the invaders, whereupon they received a grant of land in Kent from Vortigern.

Several years later the brothers were at war with the British ruler. Horsa died in battle against Vortigern in 455, at a place recorded as Aegelsthrep, which is possibly present-day Aylesford in Kent. According to Bede, there was at one time a monument to Horsa in east Kent, and the modern town of Horstead may be named for him.

After the death of Horsa, Hengist began ruling Kent as king in his own right. He reigned for 33 more years and died in 488. He was succeeded by his son, Oeric Oisc. The kings of Kent traced their lineage to Hengist through Oisc, and their royal house was called "Oiscingas."

Numerous legends and stories have sprung up about Hengist and Horsa, and there is much contradictory information about them. They are often referred to as "Anglo-Saxon," and some sources label them as "Jutes," but the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle calls them "Angles" and gives the name of their father as Wihtgils.

There is a possibility that Hengist is the source for the character mentioned in Beowulf who was associated with a tribe called Eotan, which may have been based on the Jutes. 

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Snell, Melissa. "Hengist and Horsa - Legendary Founders of Kent." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/hengist-and-horsa-1788987. Snell, Melissa. (2021, February 16). Hengist and Horsa - Legendary Founders of Kent. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hengist-and-horsa-1788987 Snell, Melissa. "Hengist and Horsa - Legendary Founders of Kent." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hengist-and-horsa-1788987 (accessed April 1, 2023).