|Vortigern Studies > Faces of Arthur > Arthurian Articles > August Hunt (2) > part 5|
Who was Arthur?
To find where Arthur ruled, we need to find where his father Uther Pendragon came from. This is not as easy a task as one might think, as Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh genealogists have conspired, through ignorance or a spirit of literary invention or both, to obfuscate Uthers origin.
Despite the fictions which accumulated around Uther, Welsh tradition has sufficient references to Arthurs father (see the entry for Uthr Bendragon in P.C. Barturms A Classical Welsh Dictionary) that are pre-Galfridian (before Geoffrey of Monmouth) to prompt us to look for a genuine historical figure.
There are those who would follow the genealogy offered for Uther found in Geoffrey of Monmouth. In that source, Uther was the son of Constantine III, the western emperor who was proclaimed in 407 by British troops. Uthers brothers are said to be Constans and Aurelius Ambrosius. As it so happens, Constantine III did have a son Constans, but Aurelius Ambrosius is an anachronism, for that personage was the 4th century prefect of Gaul, father of the much more famous St. Ambrose (see the Introduction above).
The reason for the anachronism is simple: the 5th century Constantine III took his name Flavius Claudius Constantinus from the 4th century Constantine I the Great. The latter Constantine also had a son named Constans (337-350). This Constans had brothers named Constantius II (337-361) and Constantine II (337-340).
The 5th century Constantine III had a younger son named Julian. But both Julian and Constans were killed on the Continent, the first at Arles in 411 and the latter at Vienne. Although there is some reason to believe that Constans and Julian may originally have borne British names, for chronological reasons alone, neither of these two sons of Constantine III could have been Uther Pendragon.
So if Constantine III was not the father of Uther, and neither Constans nor Ambrosius were the brothers of Uther, how do we possibly find out what kingdom Uther ruled in Britain?
The Welsh genealogy for Arthur follows Geoffrey in the main, making Arthur son of Uther son of Constantine the Blessed (W. Fendigaid) or of Cornwall (W. Cernyw, Corneu) son of Cynfor son of Tudwal son of Gwrfawr son of Gadeon son of Eudaf. The sole purpose of this Welsh genealogy, it would appear, was to provide Constantine father of Uther with a Breton origin. This may have been done (although see below) in order to accommodate Geoffreys claim that Constantine came from Brittany.
This genealogy is patently false. Cynfor the supposed grandfather of Uther is the Cynfor/Cunomorus or Chonomor, Prince of Domnonee in Brittany and probably of Dumnonia in southwestern Britain, who died c. 560. Professor Charles Thomas (_And Shall These Mute Stones Speak? Post-Roman Inscriptions in Western Britain. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994) dates the Drustanus son of Cunomorus stone at Castle Dore in Cornwall at 533-599. Drustanus in the Welsh tradition was Trystan son of Tallwch, an identification with the Pictish king Drostan mac Tallorg. C.A.R. Radford (_The Early Christain Inscriptions of Dumnonia_, Redruth: Cornwall Archaeological Society, 1975) claims, and I believe rightly, that Cynfor/Cunomorus was the predecessor of that Constantine, who was among the contemporary rulers denounced by [the 6th century] Gildas. Thus Cynfor cannot possibly have been the grandfather of a fifth century Uther.
If we are willing to free Uther from the artificial pedigree imposed upon him by Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh, a pedigree which has Uthers father Constantine come from Brittany of the 6th century, an excellent solution to the problem of Uthers ancestry may reveal itself to us. In the process, we will be able for the first time to adequately explain why the various Arthurs of the 6th-7th centuries all hail (see below) from an Irish-descended dynasty.
The answer to the riddle of Uthers true origin lies in the identification of Cynfor/Cunomorus with the fabled King Mark. And this identification, in turn, provides a solution to the mystery of the Mote of Mark in Dumfries. The Mote of Mark fort is not many miles east of a Trustys Hill fort, i.e. Drustans/Tristans Hill, near Gatehouse of Fleet. Beroul's TRISTAN associates its hero with both Galloway and Dumfries. How can we account for Tristan's and Mark's presence in the far North?
No one has adequetely explained the presence of the names Mark and Drustan in southwestern Lowland Scotland. As my battle-site identifications for Arthur suggest a power center at the west end of Hadrians Wall, establishing a connection between the Mote of Mark and the Cynfor of the Uther genealogy may have interesting consequences.
The pedigree of the Welsh Mark, or rather March, runs as follows:
March son of Meirchion son of Custennin son of Kynfarch (sic) son of Tudwal, etc.
To this we may compare Arthurs pedigree:
Arthur son of Uther son of Custennin son of Cynfor son of Tudwal, etc.
We notice two things immediately: 1) Cynfarch has been wrongly substituted for Cynfor and 2) Arthur and March are first cousins. We are told Arthur and March son of Meirchion are first cousins in The Dream of Rhonabwy and in Ystorya Trystan.
Cynfor/Cunomorus/Chonomer was first identified with King Mark or March by the Breton monk Wrmonoc in his Life of St. Paul of Leon, written in 884. At some point Cunomorus/Cynfor was confused with the name Cynfarch (see below; idea supplied by Sigmund Eisner, University of Arizona, retired). Cynfarch is from either *cintu- (> W. cyn, "former") or cuno- (perhaps in the sense of "warrior") + -march/-farch, "horse" (information courtesy Gareth Bevans of The National Library of Wales). There is also a hypothetical *cuno- meaning high, thought to be found in Cunetio (Kennet, Wiltshire), Kent (Kenet, Cumbria) and Welsh Cynwyd (Merioneth, Wales).
Kyn-/Cyn- may have been interpreted by someone with a rudimentary knowledge of English as OE Cyne-, a common proper name component. Cyne- (information courtesy Hoyt Greeson, Department of English, Laurentian University, citing Clark-Hall Merritt's Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, and Paul Acker via the Ansax-L mailing list) means "royal" or "kingly". A perceived Cyne + march could then wrongly be rendered as "Royal or Kingly horse", i.e. King March, or Marcus in Latin.
So when Wrmonoc says, 'fama ejus regis Marci pervolat ad aures quemalio nomine Quonomorium vocant', "his [St. Paul Aurelian's] fame flew to the ears of King Marcus, known also as Cunomorus", he is wrongly interpreting Cunomorus or, rather, Cynfarch, as "King March".
Cynmarch or Cynfarch was the name of a famous cheiftain of the North. His fathers name, Meirchion, just happens to match that of Marchs father:
Cynfarch (or King Mark) son of Meirchion
March son of Meirchion
It is my contention that the Welsh March son of Meirchion is an error for Cynmarch/Cynfarch son of Meirchion.
Similar errors have been made in other sources. One that comes to mind is Gildass claim that Cuneglasus, in Latin, means Tawny Butcher. Cuneglases actually means Blue-Hound. Some have thought the superbo tyranno of Gildas is a pun on the name Vortigern, which does not mean Arrogant or Haughty Tyrant, but instead Over-lord. But it is just as possible Gildas was mistranslating the name Vortigern.
Geoffrey of Monmouth identified Cynfarch with Cunomorus. He calls the latter Chinmarchocus (variants Chinmarhogus, Chimarcous, Chinmarcus; information courtesy Gregory S. Uchrin, Catholic University of America), i.e. Cynfarch, and makes him ruler of Treguier near Lannion in Brittany. A St. Tudwall founded the bishopric of Treguier and Cunomorus's father is said to have been one Tudwall. Kerduel near Lannion means "Fort of Tudwall" (information courtesy Jean-Yves le Moing).
Within the ancient diocese of Treguier stands the hill-fort Ruvarq or Run Marc'h, "Mark's Hill", yet another site associated with Cunomorus as Mark (information courtesy Christian Rogel, Director of the Bibliotheque du Finistere, Quimper).
In Britain, there is a Castellmarch near Abersoch on the Lleyn Peninsula in Gwynedd, Wales, and a Din Meirchion or Fort of Meirchion five miles from Henllan in Flintshire, only several miles SE of the Moel Arthur hill-fort in the Clwydian Range. There are at least two traditional sites in Cornwall, one a Kilmarch not far from Lantyan and a Marks Gate at Lantyan wood.
In The Dream of Rhonabwy, March son of Meirchion leads the men of Llychlyn, usually a Welsh designation for Norway, but as Rachel Bronwich has shown (see the note to her Triad 35R), this is an error for Llydaw, the Welsh name for Brittany. As two stories are preserved on March in Gwynedd (see Bartrums entry for March son of Meirchion in his A Classical Welsh Dictionary), and as there is a Llydaw in Gwynedd (Llyn Llydaw, Lake Llydaw), Marchs Llydaw in The Dream of Rhonabwy could be either Gwynedd or Brittany.
Cynmarch/Cynfarch is better known as the father of Urien Rheged. It could well be this Cynfarch, mistakenly rendered King Mark, who ruled from the Mote of Mark in Dumfries.
If we now stick with March, i.e. Cynfarch, as the first cousin of Arthur, then Uther would be the brother of Meirchion. With his nephew Cynfarchs fort in Dumfries, Uther himself must have ruled somewhere very close to the apparent ruling center of Arthur.
As Cynfarchs approximate birth date is c. 480 (Bartrum), and Arthur was his first cousin, this would make Arthur the perfect age to have fought in 513 at Badon and in 537 at Camlann.
This solution retains part of the Uther pedigree (Cynfor as Mark, i.e. Cynfarch), while correcting for the chronological and geographical errors posed by Cynfor/Cunomorus and his successor Constantine, who were of the 6th century and from Cornwall and/or Brittany. When Cynfor was wrongly identified with Cynfarch/Mark of the North, Uther and Arthur, relatives of Cynfarch, were pulled into the Cynfor pedigree.
The father of Meirchion of the North is Gwrgwst Ledlum, father of Dyfnarth. This has been shown to be Fergus Mor, father of Domangart, the founder of Scottish Dalriada, who died c.500. This would give us our much needed explanation of why all subsequent Arthurs are from Irish descended dynasties especially the Dalriadan (see below). While the Welsh pedigree makes Ceneu son of Coel Hen of Strathclyde the father of Gwrgwst (as Ceneu heads most of the Northern dynasties), the real father of Fergus Mor was Erc/Eirc/Earca.
Arthur son of Uther son of Fergus Mor of Dalriada
Cynfarch son of Meirchion son of Fergus Mor of Dalriada
Two versions of Fergus Mors genealogy, which includes a 6th-7th century Arthur, run as follows:
Artur son of Conaing son of Aedan son of Gabran son of Domangart son of Fergus
Artur son of Aedan son of Gabran son of Domangart son of Fergus
We cannot say whether Gwrgwst/Fergus actually belongs in the Meirchion pedigree or if his name represents an intrusion into the British Northern genealogies. Certainly, Ferguss presence in the Meirchion pedigree is not an isolated instance. In the Strathclyde genealogy proper, we find a Garbaniaun son of [Ceneu son of] Coel Hen. This Garbaniaun has a son named Dumngual Moilmut or Dyfnwal Moelmul. Both names are, rather transparently, forms of the Dalriadan prince Gabran (Garbaniaun shows a metathesis of Gabran, plus a territorial suffix, as in Gwrtheyrniaun, a region named for Gwrtheyrn/Vortigern; cf. with Garban for Gabran in the Irish Book of Lecan) and his son Domnall. The Bran son of Dumngual/Domnall of the British pedigree is probably the attested Bran son of Aedan son of Gabran.
While we need not take these apparent intrusions of Irish Dalriadan royal names into the British Strathclyde genealogy at face value, they probably do indicate the existence of marriage ties between the Strathclyde Britons and their neighbors, the Dalriadans. Such marriage ties are hinted at in the records which pertain to the history of Scottish Dalriada (see John Bannermans Studies in the History of Dalriada, Edinburgh and London, 1974).
Strathclyde was the kingdom of the ancient Damnonii or Dumnonii, a tribal group whose name is identical with that of the Dumnonii in southwestern Britain and the Domnonee in Brittany. So rather than Arthur being descended from Cunomorus of the Dumnonii in the South, he was descended at least in part from the Dumnonii in the North.
I have elsewhere shown that there is some doubt as to whether the Arthur son of Pedr/Petr/Petuir/Retheoir of Dyfed actually belongs in the Dyfed genealogy. This Dyfed genealogy was altered by the Welsh to show a Roman ancestry, but the Irish Deisi genealogy reveals that the Dark Age dynasty that ruled Dyfed was of Irish origin.
Petuir, given that p and b commonly substitute for each other, and that t and c can often be mistaken for each other in MSS., looks to be the Bicoir, father of an Arthur who is situated in 7th century Kintyre of Dalriada.
I have offered as a possible explanation for the geographical dislocation of Bicoir (whose father is said to be a Briton) the fact that Kintyre or Ceann - tir, Head-land or Lands End, was confused at some point with Penbrog/Pembroke,Head-land or Lands End, in Dyfed, the center of power in that kingdom. In The Gododdin, the Kintyre of Domnall Brecc grandson of Aedan son of Gabran is called pentir, which is the P-Celtic equivalent of the Q-Celtic Ceanntir. There are Pentirs/Pentires in Wales and in Cornwall, and the known Arthurian centers up to and including Geoffrey of Monmouths Tintagel are all on headlands or on/near the sea:
Penrhyn Rhionydd , Rhinns of Galloway, headland
Menevia or St. Davids, on a headland (and see nearby St. Davids Head)
Aberffraw, on a bay between Penrhyn and Penrhynhalen
Kelliwic, if Killibury Castle near Geoffreys Camel, just inland from Pentire Point on the Cornish Peninsula
Dindraathou/Dunster, overlooking Blue Anchor Bay, Dunster Beach and Warren Point
There is another similarity as well. Both the Dyfed and Dalriadan dynasties list as their progenitors Eochaids. Eochaid or Horseman is cognate with the Latin equitis, knight. The Deisi who came to Dyfed were led by the first of their dynasty, Eochaid Almuir. Erc, father of Fergus Mor, was son of Eochaid Munremar. This Dalriadan Eochaid is believed by many to be a reflection of the Epidii or Horse-people tribe, who anciently inhabited Kintyre. We have seen how the Latin name Marcus became March in Welsh, a name meaning Horse. Meirchion, from L. Marcianus, may well have been associated with Welsh meirch, the plural of march.
Finally, we might compare the Dyfed genealogy of Arthur son of Petr/Petuir, which continues to Petuirs father Cyngar and thence to Voteporix, with the Coel Votepauc genealogy, which passes down through Garbaniaun/Gabran, Dyfnwal/Domnall and Bran (son of Aedan) to Cyngar and Morgan Fwlch. The Votepo- of Voteporix is the same word as Votepauc, from an earlier Votepacos, meaning shelterer, protector, defender (see P.C. Bartrums A Classical Welsh Dictionary, citing Idris Fosters Prehistoric and Early Wales). I would suggest that it is to Coel Votepauc and the Cyngar of that line that Arthur son of Bicoir properly belongs.
Voteporix Coel Hen Votepauc
Domnall and Bran]
Petuir Bicoir? Morgan Fwlch
Morgan Fwlch has been variously identified with the Morgan who killed Urien of Rheged or the Morgan who persecuted St. Kentigern on the Clyde. The precise location of his kingdom is uncertain, but it was definitely in the North, and probably in southwestern Scotland.
If I am right about Petuir = Bicoir, then all the known Arthurs either hail from or are related to the Northern British and Dalriadan dynasties.
We know nothing of the reign of Cynfarch, Meirchions son, other than that he may have ruled from the Mote of Mark. But we do know a great deal about Urien of the next generation. He was a powerful king whose center seems to have been Dunragit in Galloway, but whose battles and claimed territories extended to Strathclyde in the North, High Rochester and Lindisfarne in the northeast, and Cattraeth in the south. His wife was named Modron, i.e. Matrona, the Divine Mother of the god Mabon of Lochmaben and the Clochmabenstane in Dumfries. Modrons father was Afallach or Aballach, the Welsh cognate to Irish ablach, as in the Irish Otherworld Emhain Ablach, Emhain of the Apple Trees. In the context of Modron of Dumfries and northwestern Cumbria, Aballach should be seen as the eponymous god presiding over Aballava/Avallana/Avalon, the Roman fort at Burgh-By-Sands where Arthur was buried.
A curious line occurs in the early Welsh poem Pa Gur. There we are told that Mabon son of Modron is the servant of Uther Pendragon. While Mabon in later Welsh story was identified with the youthful god Lleu of Gwynedd, the historical center of Mabon worship, as already mentioned above, was in the North. The inscriptions we have from the Roman period place Mabon as Apollo Maponus at Corbridge hard by Arthurs Dubglas battle site (three altars), Ribchester (one shaft), Hadrians Wall (an altar whose exact provenance is unknown) and Chesterholm (silver pendant). Luguvalium, the ancient name for Carlisle, is derived from the theonym *Luguvalos, Lugus (or Lleu) strong (cf. the Dinas Dinlleu fort in Arfon, Gwynedd, the Town of the Fort of Lleu). The proximity of this Luguvalos place-name to Lochmaben and the Clochmabenstane suggests that Lugus and Apollo Maponus of the North may have been identified with each other in a fashion similar to that of Lleu and Mabon of Gwynedd.
It is logical to propose, then, that Arthur, who ruled from Carlisle or Stanwix, and who belonged to the real Dark Age period before Urien, wielded power similar to that of Urien. Whether he was an over-lord of sorts for the eastern and central region of Lowland Scotland and Northern England is a possibility. Certainly, Urien seems to have played this kind of role.
But it is just as likely Arthur was simply recognized as the strongest war-leader or field general of the time and did exactly what Historia Brittonum 56 said he did: fought against them [the Saxons] in those days, together with the kings of the British; but he was their leader in battle.
Arthur is only referred to in our earliest sources as dux bellorum, battle-leader, and miles, soldier. This suggests that he acted as a general over the armies of other kings, and may, therefore, have performed a mercenary or federate function. I think that the mercenary notion is unlikely, if he did have the royal connections I have outlined above. A federate standing for Arthur is acceptable, given his possible descent from both the Strathclyde and Dalriadan dynasties. Some scholars believe the Dalriadans were granted a sort of Dark Age version of Roman federate status by the Strathclyde Britons, although this may well have been granted ipso post facto, i.e. after the Dalriadans had already gained a foothold in Kintyre via conquest.
That Arthur may have been a soldier and not of a noble house may be indicated by his father Uthers epithet Pendragon or Chief-dragon. While this epithet is usually interpreted according to later Welsh usage of the word dragon as a poetic term for a warrior, chieftain or hero (see Rachel Bromwichs discussion of draco in her note to Triad 37), Pendragon matches to an uncanny degree an actual Roman army rank known to have existed in the fifth century AD, i.e. the time of Uthers floruit. To quote from Robert Vermaats The Draco:The Late Roman Military Standard (http://www.fectio.org.uk/groep/draco.htm):
By the fifth century, as may be deduced from inscriptions from Perge and Prusias/Üskübü, Turkey, as well as a poem by Prudentius, there was a rank called magister draconum. This officer was the superior of the draconarii in a unit, ranking immediately below the tribune. However, we don't know if he directed the draconarii in battle, or may just have been the head of the standard bearers' club or scholae. The magister draconum probably replaced the optio signiferorum, whose function unfortunately is equally vague.
Could Arthur, then, have been the son of a man who held the Roman-derived rank of Magister Draconum?
An alternative would be to see Arthur as being appointed supreme military commander over the region by a council of chieftains. This would be similar to the famous Scotsman William Wallace being made Lord Protector. In my opinion, Arthur, while himself of royal blood, was a shrewd, strong and popular military leader who was able to unite warring British factions against a common enemy and repeatedly win victories against that enemy on several fronts. His military successor and blood relative Urien continued the tradition.
In passing, I would remind the reader of the presence of Loch Arthur between the town of Dumfries and the Mote of Mark, the hill of Arthur Seat just a few miles NE of Longtown and another Arthurs Seat at 731 meters elevation on Hart Fell. Also, Aedan of Dalriada, either the father or the grandfather of a later Arthur, is known to have fought a battle at a place called Degsastan. This is believed to be Dawston in Liddesdale.
THE NORTHERN KINGDOMS
To give some idea of the political landscape of Arthurs Northern Britain, it might be helpful to investigate the Northern princes and the kingdoms they controlled.
The most northern of these kingdoms was, of course, the ancient territory of the Votadini or Gododdin, which in the Roman period is believed to have stretched from the Wear or the Tyne through Northumberland and the Lothians (including Traprain Law) to the Forth [from Rivet and Smiths The Place-Names of Roman Britain].
The term Lothian appears to have been of Dark Age origin, and stands for an original Lugudunum, the Fort of Lugus. There is an eponymous king recorded in the Life of St. Kentigern called Leudonus, i.e. Lleuddun, and his kingdom in Welsh was known as Lleuddunion. He was supposed to have ruled from Traprain Law, which was earlier called Dunpelder, the Fort of the Spear (shaft).
In the late 6th century, the king of the Votadini was, apparently, the Mynyddog Mwynfawr who is said to have ruled from Din Eidyn or Edinburgh. He was the son of a certain Ysgyran, and probably succeeded Clydno Eidyn. The Gododdin oem implies that the Britons who fought the English at Cattraeth assembled at Mynyddogs court at Edinburgh. Clydno Eidyn, in turn, was the son of Cynfelyn son of Dyfnwal Hen. Myynyddog is also given the epithet Eidyn.
Pabo Post Prydain,
the "Pillar of Britain,as the son of Ceneu son
of Coel Hen, both famous chieftains of the North. Pabo
is spelled Pappo in the genealogies appended to the Historia
Brittonum. Coel Hens name is believed to be
preserved in Kyle in Ayreshire.
DENT: regio Dunotinga is one of four districts of north-western Yorkshire overrun by the English in or before the 670s, Eddius 17 [Life of Wilfrid]. The passage is overlooked in EPNS WRY 6, 252, where the early spellings Denet(h) are rightly related to a British Dinned or the like, and Ekwalls derivation from a non-existent British equivalent of the Old Irish dind, hill, is properly dismissed. EPNS does not observe that Dent was, and still is, the name of a considerable region, and tha thte village is still locally known as Dent Town, in contrast with the surrounding district of Dent . Regio Dunotinga plainly takes its name from a person named Dunawt, Latin Donatus, as does the district of Dunoding in Merioneth, named from another Dunawt, son of Cunedda.
Bartram adds that this regio Dunotinga is associated with the Ribble and other places in the north of the West Riding.
According to Nicholas Higham and Barri Jones (in The Carvetii), the Upper Lonsdale area was probably within the canton of the Carvetii tribe, whose territory covers what we now consider Cumbria. The Dent River is, in fact, a tributary of the upper Lune in Lonsdale.
Another son of Pabos is Cerwyd or Cerwydd, who is otherwise completely unknown. This name is transparently an eponym for the Carvetii tribe. We have just seen that Dunods Dent seems to have been a part of the territory once covered by this ancient tribal kingdom.
The form Cerwydd as a direct eponym for the Carvetii is not possible, as Richard Coates of Sussex has assured me (via private correspondence):
would give a form spellable <Cerwyd> (probably <Cerguit>
Dr. Graham Isaac of Aberystywyth says that Cerwydd cannot be from Caruetii. They probably both contain carw stag, but Cerwydd has a different suffix, < *karw-iyos stag-like man (i.e. strong, proud, manly, etc.).
However, Bartram also lists a Cerwyd son of Cridol, whose name is more commonly given as Cywryd. I would suggest that the form Cerwyd for Pabos son is the correct form and that this is, indeed, a personification of the Carvetii. On the other hand, a Cerwydd the stag-like man may be either representative of the Carvetii, the stag-men, or may have been named after them.
I would add that Pabos epithet Post or Pillar is possibly a reference to the Solway, which is believed to be from OScand. Sul, pillar or post, and vath, ford (Ekwall and Mills). It has been proposed, quite reasonably I think, that the pillar or post of the Solway is the Lochmaben Stone at Gretna Green.
Sawyl (Samuel) Benisel ("Low-head"), another son of Pabo, is dated c. 480. On the Ribble, not far south of regio Dunutinga, is a town called Samlesbury. The place-name expert Ekwall has Samlesbury as Etymology obscure, but then proposes OE sceamol, bench, as its first element, possibly in the topographical sense of ledge. Mills follows Ekwall by saying that this place-name is probably derived from scamol plus burh (dative byrig). However, sceamol/scamol is not found in other place-names where a ledge is being designated. Instead, the word scelf/scielf/scylfe, shelf of level or gently sloping ground, ledge is used.
The complete history of this place-name has been kindly supplied by Mr. Bruce Jackson, Lancashire County Archivist:
A D Mills:
'A Dictionary of English Place-Names'; Oxford University
After a bit of extra research, it seems that all the spellings in <Sh-> and the like are from just 2 years in Lancashire assize roll entries (1246 and 1277). That makes them look more like the odd ones out and <S-> more like the norm. I'm coming round to preferring your interpretation, even though Ekwall in PN La (p. 69) simply rejects the idea it might come from "Samuel". Brittonic *_Sam(w)e:l_ (<m> here is vee with a tilde - nasalized [v]) is a good etymon for the majority of the forms, including the modern one, of course.
Dr. Andrew Breeze of Pamplona, another noted expert on British place-names, agrees with Dr. Coates:
I finally looked up _Samlesbury_ last night and feel sure you are right. The form surely contains the Cumbric equivalent of Welsh _Sawyl_<_Samuel_. Your explanation of this toponym in north Lancashire is thus new evidence for Celtic survival in Anglo-Saxon times.
Now that we have placed Pabo and his descendents on the map, we need to investigate what has been explained as an intrusion on their pedigree.
Bartram (in several entries) discusses an Arthwys and his father Mar who are both inserted into the Pabo genealogy. Instead of Pabo son of Ceneu son of Coel Hen, we have Pabo sone of Arthwys son of Mar son of Ceneu, etc. This same Arthwys is made the grandfather of a Cynwyd of the tribal group known as the Cynwydion (of the Kent river in Cumbria, Kent being from Kennet, which in Welsh is Cynwyd), of Gwenddolau of Carwinley or Caer Gwenddolau just a little north of Carlisle/Stanwix and father of Eliffer (Eleutherius) of York. Eliffer in another pedigree is the son of Gwrgwst Ledlum (Fergus Mor) son of Ceneu son of Coel Hen.
Mar is made the father of Lleenog, father of Gwallog of the kingdom of Elmet, but in another pedigree it is Maeswig Gloff, i.e. Maeswig the Lame, who is father of Lleenog.
Mar, whose name is also written Mor, as an intrusion in the Pabo genealogy, would seem to represent the Moringas of Westmorland. According to Ekwall, Westmorland or Westmoringaland, the Land of the West Moringas, is a people of the Yorkshire Moors (from OE mor). Mills adds that this territorial designation alludes to the North Yorkshire Pennines. As this region was adjacent to Elmet, Mar was made the father of Lleenog, father of Gwallog of Elmet.
If Mar/Mor is an eponym for Westmorland, and he boasts descendents who ruled the kingdom of Elmet, and his son Arthwys could claim descendents who ruled at Carwinley near Liddesdale just to the northwest of Carlisle, in the Kent valley of southern Cumbria and, possibly, at York, then it is understandable that his family connections and those belonging to other rulers of the region would become intertwined.
Maeswig Gloff (Masguic Clop in the Harleian genealogies) was, presumably, a ruler of Westmorland. His name could be from *Magos-vicos, Fighter of the Plain.
The name Arthwys has frequently been brought into connection with that of Arthur. Unfortunately, this name is from Arth-, Bear, + (g)wys, which in the early period was comparable to Irish fios, knowledge. Hence Bear of Knowledge or, perhaps, Bear-knowing. The etymology of Arthur is from the Roman Artorius, not from a Celtic Arth, Bear, + (g)ur, man, for Bear-man.
There is another interesting reference to a place in Cumbria that I might mention. In the Cambridge group of Historia Brittonum MSS., an interpolation tells us that Vortigern is said to have built Guasmoric near Carlisle, a city which in English is called Palme castre. While Palme castre has been firmly identified with the Old Carlisle Roman fort one mile south of Wigton in the parish of Westward, this is clearly a misidentification on the part of the interpolator.
As has been suggested before, Guasmoric must be Gwas Meurig, the Abode of Meurig or Mauricius. This is clearly an attempt at rendering the Gabrosentum Roman fort in Cumbria at Moresby. According to both Ekwall and Mills, Moresby (Moriceby, Moresceby) is Maurices By, Maurice being a Norman name and -by being Old Scandinavian for farmstead, village, settlement. Whether we can propose an original Welsh Meurig underlying Maurice is questionable. In all likelihood, the interpolation is late and Guasmoric represents Maurices By. If originally a Meurig place-name, this may commemorate the 6th century Meurig son of Idno son of Meirchion, who married a daughter of Gwallog of Elmet.
As archaeology has shown us (see Nicholas Higham and Barri Jones The Carvetii), there were two main centers for the Carvetii kingdom. One was the ancient tribal center near Brougham, the Roman Brocavum, with its triple sacred henges at Eamont. One of these henges is actually called King Arthurs Round Table. There is evidence in the form of a concentration of inscriptions at Brougham that the primary Carvetii deity worshipped at these henges was a horned god (doubtless a stag, given that Carvetii means people of the stag or deer) named Belatucadros.
The other two power centers Luguvallium/Carlisle and Uxellodunum/Stanwix I have briefly discussed above.
But there was also an important region called variously Erechwydd or Yr Echwydd, mentioned in connection with Urien, his sons, Gwallog son of Lleenog of Elmet (a small kingdom centered about Leeds, probably from Welsh elfydd, world, land; see Rivet and Smiths entry for Albion) and with Dunod Fwr. No wholly satisfactory identification of Erechwydd has yet been made, but it would seem to be somewhere in or close to Cumbria.
As Dr. Graham Isaac of The University of Wales, Aberystywyth makes clear, the Er- prefix is not the definite article yr, even though the name is sometimes wrongly written yr echwyd in the poetry, but a form of Ar-, as found in other place-names, e.g. Arfon. Ar- as a prefix originally meant in front of. But it came to have the senses of upon, on, over, at, in.
On echwydd, I quote the following entry from the National Dictionary of Wales
(information courtesy Andrew Hawke):
fresh (of water,
as opp. to salt); fresh water, ?cataract.
Commenting on this listing for echwydd, Dr. Isaac says:
the attestation and meaning, there is no mystery there.
The instances cited in GPC are, with one omission, ample.
E.g. Fynnaw[n] echwit a ymchweil yn waet 'the "fresh-water"
spring will turn to blood'. Fynnawn does not refer to a
seeping, dripping, oozing source of water, but a vigorous,
lively one, the source of a flowing river. 'Fynnawn
echwit' 'fresh-water spring' is only deceptively
pleonastic; the expression clarifies that the 'fynnawn'
in question is a natural one, not a 'fountain', which is
within the range of 'ffynnon'. Then there is, 'Aduwyn
dydaw dyuyr dychwart gwyrt wrth echwyt 'Waters flow
pleasantly, the green [sea] rejoices at the "fresh
water" ', i.e. the river-water flowing into the sea.
Omitted from GPC's instances is the important one from
the Black Book of Carmarthen (p. 88 in the ms.),
Where does it travel?
Where does it wander?
Where does it settle?
How long does it run?
Or where will it be?
For seven years the Lord has set its course;
[then] it will disappear wherever it is.'
This is obviously dynamic imagery; the main characteristic of this type of water is obviously its motion, its flow. It is instances like these which tell us clearly what the meaning of the word is.
As no good etymology for echwydd had been proposed, I asked Dr. Isaac if the word could come from ech, out of, from, plus a form of the Indo-European root *ued, wet (which Rivet and Smith in their The Place-Names of Roman Britain discuss under the entry for Vedra). Dr. Isaacs response was:
The etymology echwydd < *exs-wed-yo-, or *exs-ud-yo- (either would probably do it) seems plausible enough. This has no bearing on the meaning of the word, however, because 'flowing, fresh water' is the meaning of it in Welsh anyway. The interpretation of Erechwydd as 'Place by the fresh, flowing water' depends directly on the meaning of the word in Welsh. It would be fine to have an etymology of the word, but that has nothing to say about the locations of any places.
So where was Erechwydd/Yr Echewydd? Our clue lies not only in the name of the region, but in the battles fought there between Dunod Fwr of the Dent region and Gwallog of Elmet against Uriens sons. These engagements are recounted in the Llywarch Hen poetry. Given that Urien Rheged seems to have had his origin in Galloway (where we find Dun Ragit, the Hill-fort of Rheged), and both Dunod and Gwallog had kingdoms in southeastern Cumbria and just southeast of Cumbria, respectively, the most logical place to seek Erechwydd, the Place by the fresh, flowing water, would be the twin valleys of the Eden and Petteril.
Incidentally, Rheged has eluded a satisfactory derivation. I would propose Celtic Ry/Ro-, "Great", plus an otherwise unattested British word cognate with the Indo-European root *ket, with a meaning of 'Great Dwelling Place'. This could apply to Dunragit as the capital of the kingdom or the kingdom as a whole. There is no other acceptable etymology for Rheged.
A Roman road led from the south up through the valley of the river Lune right past Dunods Dentdale. This road continued north to the Eden Valley. Another Roman road led west from Leeds and joined with the Lonsdale road. Gwallog could have taken this route to the Eden or he could have gone north up Dere Street and then cut over through the Pennines at Stainmore.
The Eden and Petteril Valleys were the heartland of the ancient Carvetii kingdom. To summarize Higham and Jones discussion of this region in The Carvetii:
The twin valleys of the Eden and Petteril rivers provide the obvious natural route from Carlisle towards Lancaster and York. With the exception of a handful of wooded areas and heavy clay soils, the area has been shown to have supported a widespread, and in some areas a dense pattern of rural settlement in the Roman period.
It is even possible that Erechwydd as a regional designation can be more precisely localized within the Eden and Petteril Valleys. The headwaters of the Petteril lie just west and northwest of Eamont. We have already discussed the importance of Eamont with its sacred henges. The river Eamont (a back-formation from the name Eamont itself, from AS ea-gemot, river-meet, i.e. confluence) and Lowther join at Eamont Bridge and continue for a short distance eastward to the Eden. There was also, of course, a nexus of Roman roads at Eamont.
In my opinion, the Anglo-Saxon place-name ea-gemot/Eamont may overlie an original British Echwydd. Ekwall thought Eamont refers to the confluence of the Eamont and the stream from Dacre, although given the location of the Brougham/Brocavum Roman fort at the juncture of the Eamont and Lowther, it makes much more sense to see this ea-gemot as the confluence of the latter two rivers. If Im right, then Arechwydd was the Eamont area, specifically the land at and around the Brougham fort and the three Carvetii henges.
Just a few miles SSE of Eamont is the Lyvennet Beck, a tributary of the Eden. This has been identified with the Llwyfenyd over which Urien is said to have been ruler (W. teithiawc).
A Note on Godeu of the North
A very important region in the North of Britain was called Godeu. This place is mentioned in two of the Taliesin praise-poems of Urien. In both cases, Godeu is paired with Reget, i.e. Rheged. Yet Godeu has remained unidentified.
Locating Godeu is complicated by its use in an ancient battle poem called Kat Godeu, the Battle of Godeu. Because this battle poem tells of the god Gwydions magical activation of an army of trees, it has in the past been assumed that Godeu meant forest, cf. Welsh coed/goed. However, the word godeu (or goddeu/goddau actually existed in early Welsh. The Geiriadur Pryfsgol Cymrrulists as the meaning of this word intention, desing, purpose, object or aim, end in view.
Of godeu/goddeu as found in the Kat Godeu battle, Dr. Graham Isaac says (via private communication) that itisa genuine Welsh word; it's just that we do not know exactly what its significance in a few contexts is. The usual meaning is 'intention'.
are some clues about where we might find the Godeu of
Kat Godeu. Firstly, we know Gwydion was
most firmly associated with Gwynedd. One other
character mentioned in the poem a certaincan be
put in Gwynedd. The only Pebligknown to Welsh
tradition was the saint of Llanbeblig, the parish
In the Mabinogion tale Math son of Mathonwy, he fights Pryderi of Dyfed in gwynedd. The battle was fought over some magical swine Gwydion had stolen from Pryderi. Pryderihad gotten these swine from Arawn, king of Annwm, the Welsh Otherworld. A 17th century account of the Battle of Godeu tells us that Amaethon son of Don, Gwydionsbrother, had stolen a white roebuck and a whelp from Annwm. The battle was between Arawn and Amaethon. On one side was Bran, i.e. Raven, and on the other a woman named Achren. Achrencould be a corruption of Triad 84s a chornugil/a chornugyll/a chornigell, a lapwing or plover; according to the Triad, this bird was one of the causes of the Battle of Godeu. Her name is unlikely to be related to Proto-Celtic *akar(n)o-, cf. L. acernus, maple, as gwniolenis the name for maple in Welsh. The only other possibility I can think of for Achren is Old Irish achrann, tangled undergrowth, thicket. In another Taliesin poem, we are told that Lleu also took part in the battle.
The god Bran or Raven is also firmly attached to Gwynedd in Welsh tradition. The same is true of Lleu. In fact, Lleuis styled the Lord of Gwynedd.All the clues seem, therefore, to point to Gwyneddas the location of Godeu and Caer Nefenhir.
fort in question looks to me to be Caer Nefyn Hir, the
Fort of Nefyn the Tall (cf. Cai Hir, Caius the
Tall). This points strongly to Nefyn on the
first is the hill-fort of Garn Boduan or Bodfuan, the
Cairn of the Dwelling of Buan. Buanwas
a saint in the area, and his name means swift,
quick, fast. This is interesting, as an
unlocated fort called Caer Dathal, said to be in Arfon
adjacent to Lleyn, bears an Irish name which means
swift, from daith (see Donnchadh OCorrain
and Fidelma Maguires Irish Names). Melville
Richards, the famed Welsh place-name scholar, guessed
that Dathal was a Cymracization of the Irish name Tuathal
(information courtesy Dr. Hywel Wyn Owen,
The second fort at Nefyn is the promontory fort of Dinllaen, the Fort of the Laigin or Leinsterman.
But if Nefyn is Caer Nefyn Hir, what is Godeu?
The secret, I believe, lies in the meaning of Godeu. A meaning which will allow us to have not only one Godeu that which was in or of Gwynedd but two Godeus, including Uriens region of that name in the North.
The Gododdin kingdom of the North, later called Lothian, derives from a tribal name Votadini. The latter is found in early Welsh documents as Guotodin. Votadini is believed to derive from a personal name or word cognate with Irish Fothad. In Old Irish, Fothador fothad means basis (?), foundation, founding, support. But Irish fothad itself is from a root fotha, which has among its meanings basis, cause, charge, foundation, reason.
would, therefore, propose that early Welsh Godeu or godeu
represents a cognate to Irish fotha and that, as such, it
is effectively an abbreviation for Gododdin. Other
abbreviations are found for places in the early sources.
One example is the Aloo used in the St.
Patrick letters to Ceredig of Strathclyde. Aloo
represents the first component of Alclud, the
Godeu = Gododdin, what is a Godeu doing on the
answer to that question is simple: according to the
earliest Welsh authority (Nennius in his Historia
Brittonum), the founders of Gwynedd, led by the great
Cunedda, came down from Manau Gododdin. By calling Gwynedd
Godeu, then, the poets were ackowledging that
Gododdin warriors had established a kingdom in northwest
Uriens Godeu is Gododdin. The Godeu of Kat Godeu is Gwynedd.
And this brings up a related and important point: the true etymology and location of Bedes urbs Giudion the Firth of Forth. Giudiis found in the epic Welsh poem Gododdin as Iodeo. The 9th century Historia Brittonum spells the place-name Iudeu. Finally, the Middle Irish Mothers of the Saints mentions muir n-Giudan , where muir is sea, a reference to the Firth of Forth.
become customary, for no really good reason, to identify Giudi
or Iodeo with Stirling Rock. And this despite the
Dr. Andrew Breeze, in Some Celtic Place-Names of Scotland (Scottish Language), likens the root of Giudito Old Welsh iud, Middle Welsh udd, lord, and thus interprets the name as meaning lords place, place possessed by a lord. As a purely formal etymology, this is quite acceptable.
However, as Breeze himself notes, G- has the sound of y in English yes. This being so, we can take the Gododdin form Iodeo and suppose that this name entered the poem via an English source. In other words, the spelling was originally Godeo or, rather, Godeu. Thus we can be fairly certain that Bedes Giudiis also Godeu. The urbs Giudi would be the city of the Gododdin, a designation which would fit any of the major fortresses in Gododdin or Manau Gododdin.
A Note on Camelot
Before we allow ourselves to get excited about the fact that there was a Camulodunum at Slack, Yorkshire, in what was the area controlled by Arthur, we need to determine the actual location of the Camelot of the romances, which many believe to be a late form of the Camulodunum place-name.
The first clue as to the whereabouts of Camelot is found in Chretien de Troyes's Knight of the Cart, which is the first source to name this site. According to Chretien, Camelot is "in the region near Caerleon". For some reason most authorities have seen fit to ignore this statement, insisting that Camelot was placed near Caerleon simply because of Geoffrey of Monmouth's glorified description of the latter site as a major Arthurian center. If we do take Chretien's statement seriously, Camelot looms before us out of the mists of time.
The second clue to the location of Camelot is from The Quest for the Holy Grail, wherein Arthur escorts the Grail questers from Camelot to a point just shy of Castle Vagan. A third clue, from the Prose Tristan, places Camelot either on or very near the sea. And fourth, the Mort Artu places the castle on a river.
Castle Vagan is St. Fagans Castle (Welsh Sain Ffagan) 4-5 miles west of Cardiff. This site lies in the Ely Valley, the supposed location of the Campus Elleti of Aurelius Ambrosius. According to the Historia Brittonum, Campus Elleti was said to be in Glywysing, the later Morgannwg/Glamorgan. Only a dozen miles separate Campus Elleti from Caerleon. The name Campus Elleti is a Latinization of a Welsh Maes
According to Professor Wyn Owen of the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Wales, Bangor:
There is no absolute certainty. RJThomas (Enwau Afonydd a Nentydd Cymru,[Cardiff 1938] 141) derives 'Elei, Istrat Elei' c.1150 tentatively from *Eleg' + -i but offers no meaning, while Ifor Williams (Enawau Lleoedd [Liverpool 1945] 40 suggests that the root is leg- meaning dripping, slow-moving from which we get llaith 'damp', cognate with Eng. to leak, and lake.
In my opinion, Campus Elleti, with Latin Campus rendered as French Champ (the p of which is silent), became Camelot.
Cham(p) ellet(i), Cam elot
I would add that 1) there is no reason, based upon this identification of Camelot with Campus Elleti, to identify Arthur and Aurelius Ambrosius and 2) archaeological evidence from both the fort on Old Lindley Moor near Slack and from the fort on Almondbury five miles from Slack (either of which may have been the ancient Camulodunum) has not revealed Dark Age occupation of the sites.
Conclusion: where were Arthur's battles?
In summary, a British war-leader named Arthur, who could trace his descent through Roman cavalrymen and British Carvetii chieftains, fought the following battles in the 5th-6th centuries before being taken to Avalon/Burgh-By-Sands to be with the Goddess of the Lake in death:
From Glein to Camlann is Copyright © 2006, August Hunt. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Comments to: August Hunt
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