The Medieval New England – An Anglo-Saxon Colony On The Black Sea

Long before either the region of New England in contemporary northeastern United States of America or the namesake region of New South Wales in Australia existed there could have likely been an Anglo-Saxon colony bearing this name established near the shores of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe.

Two historical documents dating to the Middle Ages mention the existence of a territory given by the Byzantine Emperor to a crew of Anglo-Saxons rebels who defected the rulership of William the Conqueror and ventured south across the Mediterranean and subsequently arrived in Constantinople.

Satellite image of the Black Sea photographed in 2014 by NASA. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The first source in question is ‘Chronicon Universale Anonymi Laudunensis’ (a Latin chronicle written by an English monk at some point during the early 13th century) which differs in several respects from the second one, namely an Icelandic saga entitled ‘Játvarðar Saga’. The Icelandic saga recounts a perilous voyage of a crew of Anglo-Saxon rebels who fought William the Conqueror in the then recently Norman-conquered England.

After no longer receiving support on behalf of the Danish monarch (at the time King Sweyn II) regarding their insubordination campaign, those outlaws fled from Norman rule southward, following a route across the Mediterranean which led to Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire.

Chronologically, they navigated past Pointe Saint-Mathieu in Brittany, contemporary northwestern France, then Galicia in northern Iberia, the Gibraltar strait, disembarking briefly in Ceuta in the north of Africa and seizing the citadel in the process. Eventually, they also seized the islands of Mallorca and Menorca from the Balearic archipelago, before set ashore in Sicily, having been told that Constantinople is under siege.

After they heard the news concerning Constantinople’s siege, the Anglo-Saxon rebel crew headed towards the Byzantine capital with the purpose of defending it. After successfully defending Byzantium, these Saxons were rewarded by the then Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Commenus with both the right of living in Constantinople and with a strip of land of their own to settle and rule upon.

Historical map from the 16th century drawn by Diego Homem depicting the Black Sea and the medieval polities centered or located around it: Wallachia, Russia, Podolia, Campestria, Mengralia, Tartaria, Capadotia, and Armenia. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Allegedly, this new land was situated roughly a week on a maritime distance northward from Constantinople, placing it approximately in the peninsula of Crimea and/or the adjacent surroundings. It is believed that the descendants of these Anglo-Saxon colonists lived there ever since.

Nonetheless, the historical accuracy of such an account is debated and seen with mixed views amongst many historians. While it without doubt that a consistent number of Anglo-Saxons joined the ranks of the Varangian guard (alongside the more numerous Norsemen), the elite order of mercenaries under the command of the Byzantine Emperor, ascertaining that a number of them were given land in Crimea to rule over is seen as fantastic by many scholars.

On the other hand, there are also several historians who look positively on the existence of such an English-speaking Eastern European colony bordering the Black Sea. They claim that there are even identical place names in Crimea to those in the colonists’ native England, such as, most notably, London (which was given to one of the newly settlements established by the rebels). Concretely however, the existence of a medieval New England in Crimea still remains one of history’s many myths that have been longtime shrouded in mist.

Documentation sources and external links:

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3 Responses to The Medieval New England – An Anglo-Saxon Colony On The Black Sea

  1. John Bjorge says:

    I find this interesting since my DNA test came back with 9% Greek – Italian. I grew up being told I was 3/4 Norwegian, and 1/4 Scottish – Dutch – Irish. The DNA results did come back with 81% Scandinavian, 9% Scottish – Welsh – Irish and 9% Greek – Italian. I can not find any Greek or Italian in my tree.

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