5th century–9th century
Common languagesOld English (Englisc)
• Established
5th century
• Disestablished
9th century
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sub Roman Britain
Kingdom of Wessex

The Haestingas were one of the tribes of Anglo-Saxon Britain. Their territory was a folkland located between the Eastbourne downs in East Sussex and the Romney Marsh in Kent that was absorbed by the Kingdom of Wessex in the ninth century. The tribe's name survives in Hastings in Sussex and Hastingleigh in Kent, as well as in the Old Prussian and modern Lithuanian names for the Vistula lagoon, Aīstinmari and Aistmarės respectively.[1]


The name Haesti is an example of epenthesis, the addition of one or more sounds to a word at the beginning or end. It likely occurred with the introduction of the Gallic ethnonym Aesti to a Proto-Germanic language speaker.[2] The root Aesti is a Latinized ethnonym of Ōstimíous which in turn is the accusative masculine plural of the Ancient Greek name Ὠστιμίους purportedly given to the Gallic Osismii tribe of Armorica by Pytheas circa 325 BC.[3] The name literally means “ultimate” in Gaulish, carrying a connotation of “most remote” or “farthest away.” [4] The suffix -ingas is the Latinized version of inge, an ethnonym for the Ingaevones, a West Germanic cultural group living along the North Sea coast in the areas of Jutland, Holstein, and Frisia in classical antiquity.[5] Their endonym was Hastinge.[5]


The Haestingas were an amalgam of Aesti and Ingaevonic tribes that emerged as the former fled westward from modern-day Lithuania in fourth century.[6] They are sometimes incorrectly identified as Jutes[7][8] when in fact they were Scandinavian Ingaevones.[a] Attributions to a non-historical founder named Haesta[9] are examples of founding myths.


The Aesti were first identified by the Roman historian Tacitus as a Baltic tribe that spoke a language similar to that of Britain in his first century treatise Germania.[10] It is likely they were Gallic Osismii who migrated to the Baltic region after the Roman conquest of Gaul to participate in the amber trade. They were subsequently conquered by the Goths in the fourth century.[11] Escaping westward some members of the tribe found refuge among and amalgamated with the Ingaevones[5] before finally settling the Hastings peninsula.[12]

Settlement patterns suggest the existence of a settlement at Hastings prior to the Roman conquest of Britain,[13] a network of towns in Roman times along the Brede and Rother rivers connecting the ore-bearing Hastings peninsula with the far-western regions of Kent,[14] and a network of ports linking the southeast coast of Britain with the Celtic port located at Bononia in Gaul.[15] One such port appears to have been located at Old Winchelsea, a fishing village one mile southeast of Winchelsea on a shingle between modern-day Rye Harbour and Winchelsea Beach. It was eroded away by a storm in 1287 AD.[16]

The Haestingas likely first settled the area around the town of Guestling - possibly from Hastingleigh in Kent[17] - concurrent with the decline of the Roman port of Gesoriacum after the reign of Constantine III in 411 AD. They appear to have been initially organized in support of Gesoriacum, and in subsequent generations to have taken over de facto governance of the port at Old Wincheslea (known as Hastingaport until the region was reorganized by William the Conquerer).[15] Their primary occupation was likely the trade of salted fish to Romano-Gauls and subsequently Franks across the English Channel.[18]

Historians have presumed Mercian overlordship[19] and/or sublimation into the Kingdom of Sussex,[20][21] when in fact the tribe appears to have largely maintained its autonomy up until the Norman Conquest. They are not mentioned in the Tribal Hidage, suggesting they were free of Mercian influence at that time. Symeon of Durham nearly three centuries after the fact recounted the defeat of the gens Hestingorum by Offa of Mercia in 771 AD,[22] though there is at best sporadic evidence of Mercian involvement in East Sussex after that date.[23] While there are several Anglo-Saxon charters identifying a Watt of Sussex[24] and several What/Watt place names, this suggestion of royalty takes place on the northwest fringes of Haestingas territory. The tribe does appear to have become a vassal to the Kingdom of Wessex in the mid-ninth century.[25]

Their territory is mentioned in an entry of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle[26] in 1011 AD and was most famously the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD.


  1. ^ The Jutes were a Gutonic rather than an Ingaevonic people. The Haestingas settlement in Britain was located between the Jutes of Kent and the Jutes of Hampshire and did not have any apparent Visigothic influence; indeed, Jutes in general would likely been regarded as enemies given that their ancestors had been conquered by Goths.


  1. ^ Mikkels Klussis, Dictionary of Revived Prussian: Prussian - English, English - Prussian, Vilnius 2005–06, p. 47.
  2. ^ Ringe, Don (2006). A linguistic history of English: From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ The Geography of Strabo, Vol. I. Strabo. (Loeb Classical Library edition: 1917).
  4. ^ Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. Errance. ISBN 9782877723695.
  5. ^ a b c "Settlement names in -inge". Names in Denmark. Department of Nordic Research. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  6. ^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. XXV., pp. 890, 891
  7. ^ R. Coates. On the alleged Frankish origin of the Hastings tribe in Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol 117. pp. 263-264
  8. ^ Myers, J.N.L. (1989). The English Settlements. ISBN 0-19-282235-7.
  9. ^ Brewer's Britain & Ireland: The History, Culture, Folklore and Etymology of 7500 Places in These Islands. Ayto, John; Crofton, Ian. Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006
  10. ^ Tacitus, Germania, Germania.XLV
  11. ^ ’’De Rebus Geticis: O. Seyffert, 329; De Getarum (Gothorum) Origine et Rebus Gestis’’
  12. ^ "The Battle of Hastings - The Real Battlefield Location". The Battle of Hastings. Momentous Britain. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  13. ^ "Gazetteer of Prehistoric, Roman and Saxon sites in Romney Marsh and the surrounding area". Archaeological finds. The Romney Marsh Research Trust. 1 January 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  14. ^ "Roman Industrial Area in the Brede Valley in Sussex". Wealden Iron Research Group. Anglo-Saxon History. 1 January 1968. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  15. ^ a b The Battle of Hastings at Sedlescombe. Starkey, J & Starkey, M. (Self-published, 2016). ISBN 978-1-5272-4204-3
  16. ^ "Old Winchelsea". Winchelsea. Winchelsea Corporation. 15 May 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  17. ^ Hastingleigh: 100-2000 AD. Berry, Brian J. L. (Self-Published: 2002).
  18. ^ Rye: A History of a Sussex Cinque Port to 1660. Draper, G. History Press Limited (2016). ISBN 9780750970266.
  19. ^ Anglo-Saxon England. Stenton, F. M. The Oxford History of England, edited by G. N. Clark. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1943)
  20. ^ Welch, Martin (1978). "Early Anglo-Saxon Sussex". In Brandon, Peter (ed.). The South Saxons. Chichester: Phillimore (1979). ISBN 0-85033-240-0.
  21. ^ Grant Allen. An English Shire in Urban Sylvanus. The Gentleman's Magazine .v252. January–June. pp. 49-70. Retrieved 2 December 2013
  22. ^ English Historical Documents, Vol. I: c. 500-1042, Ed. Whitelock, Dorothy. (Routledge: 1996).
  23. ^ The Earliest English Kings. Kirby, D. E. (Psychology Press: 2000).
  24. ^ Anglo-Saxon Charters VI: Charters of Selsey. Kelly, S.E. (OUP for the British Academy: 1998). ISBN 0-19-726175-2.
  25. ^ Sussex Anglo-Saxon Charters, p. 132-4. Ed. Barker, Eric Ernest. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, 1948).
  26. ^ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. (Everyman Press, London, 1912).