Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Æsc

ÆSC, or OISC [Ash] (d. 512?), the son of Hengist, ealdorman of the Jutes, landed with his father at Ebbsfleet in 449. War broke out between the new settlers and the natives in 455. The Jutes met the Britons at Aylesford. Horsa, the brother of Hengist, fell in the fight, but the Jutes gained the day. The consequence of this victory was that Hengist and Æsc were made kings of their people. In this change of title from ealdorman to king is contained the first institution of the English kingship. Hereditary succession was secured by the association of Æsc with his father in the new dignity. Æsc took part with Hengist in the battle of Crayford in 457, and the two kings inflicted so decisive a defeat upon the Britons that they ‘forsook Kentland, and with much fear fled to London.’ After this, however, the energy of Aurelius Ambrosianus infused new spirit into the natives, and the tide of Jutish conquest received a sharp check. By 465 the fortune of the war had again changed, and Hengist and Æsc won a great battle at Wippedsfleet, where twelve of the Welsh leaders were slain. The conquest of Kent was secured by another victory of the Jutish kings in 473, and ‘the Welsh fled from the Angles like fire.’ During the lifetime of his father, Æsc probably reigned as under-king over a division of the Kentish men, and his kingship may perhaps indicate the existence of a tribal division, which is said to be marked by the later kingdoms of the East and West Kentings of the eighth century, and to be preserved in the ecclesiastical arrangement which fixed the two sees of Canterbury and Rochester in the two divisions of the shire. In 488 Hengist died. Æsc succeeded to the kingdom, and reigned for twenty-four years. Henry of Huntingdon says that his reign was glorious, and the assertion is confirmed by the fact that Æsc's successors, the kings of the Kentish men, took the patronymic of Oiscingas or Æscingas.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron.; Bede, Hist. Ecc. lib. ii. cap. 5; Guest, Early English Settlements; Green, Making of England, c. 1.]

W. H.