Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Geoffrey of Monmouth, Nennius, and Gildas
Chapter 3 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Chapter 4 Ceredig Vreichvras and the Welsh Genealogies
Chapter 5 The Name Arthur
Chapter 6 A Model of Cerdic's Early Career in Britain
Chapter 7 A Detailed Comparison of the Career of Cerdic with Geoffrey's Arthur
Chapter 8 The Formation of Wessex
Chapter 9 Riotimus or Cerdic?
Chapter 10 Conclusion
Chapter 11 Bibliography
Appendix A A Summary of Geoffrey of Monmouth's "The History of the Kings of Britain"
Appendix B A Possible Chronology of Cerdic's Life
Appendix C Discussion of Aetius and his possible involvement with Britain.
Over the centuries, people of many nations have enjoyed the
romance and heroism of the Arthurian legends, told time and again
by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Thomas Malory, Sir Walter Scott, Alfred
Tennyson, and other authors.
In the last century, scholars have embarked on a quest to
discover who, if he existed at all, was the REAL King Arthur? The
Arthur they seek is a king or warrior, who lived in Britain at
the time of the collapse of the Roman empire. He led the Britons
to victory against marauding Picts and Scots and against the
invading Anglo-Saxon tribes, collectively called the English,
gaining a forty-year peace for the Britons so that their culture
survived to become modern Wales. Although Arthur is believed to
have been one of the dominant military leaders of his time, none
of his contemporaries wrote of anyone by that name. Therefore it
is assumed by some that Arthur may have been not a name, but a
title used by some prominent leader of Dark Age Britain.
Many have concluded the quest to be a futile one. There are several problems concerning the identity of King Arthur. First, although late Medieval authors relate colorful stories of the King, progressively earlier accounts provide less and less information on Arthur. Secondly, Arthur's legendary forty-year peace is contradicted by apparent Saxon advances in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Finally, although Arthur's family and male offspring are well-described in legends, no Welsh line of inheritance from Arthur's progeny is found in Welsh tales or genealogies.
The authors of this essay believe that they can identify the real King Arthur and explain the Arthurian enigmas. This discussion will not present new information, but instead will demonstrate how previously published works by other authors support this conclusion.
We need to include a paragraph of caution here. In a previous attempt to have this paper published, a critical referee recommended that it not be published, because the paper makes too many assumptions, and because the historical sources cited (Gildas, Nennius, genealogies, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) are unreliable, and must be subjected to textual criticism by experts. The authors of this paper are not professional historians, and do not have the training, resources, or support required for such analyses.
The referee also complained that our reconstruction of Cerdic's life was unconvincing and parts were "pure fantasy". We admit to doing this, but we think we have made it clear where we are doing so. We feel it is necessary to create a model of his life in order to assure ourselves that such a model is possible.
We must grant that by the standards of some historians, this is not an acceptable history paper. However, we think that although any item of evidence we cite may be unreliable, there are so many items that a case can be made which some reasonable people may find convincing. Also, we feel there is enough evidence to warrant publicizing these ideas, so that historians and archeologists who are more qualified than we are can consider them.
Perhaps Cerdic and Arthur are both only myths. Still our thesis may have literary value, giving a relationship between myths, if not the historical origins of legends. But we believe there is more to the story than myth. Certainly we can't convince everyone. But we are convinced, and perhaps you will be also.
No one has been more responsible for molding the image of Arthurian tradition than Geoffrey of Monmouth. He was a twelfth century cleric who wrote "The History of the Kings of Britain", which attempted to relate the history of the British Isles from pre-Roman times to the completed Saxon conquest. The major focus of this history involved the transition from Roman to Saxon Britain. It presented an account of Arthur's life, military campaigns, and rule, according to the historical standards of Geoffrey's time. What Geoffrey wrote is unhistorical by modern standards, but his account is the earliest surviving extensive description of Arthur. For those who are unfamiliar with this account, a brief summary is provided in Appendix A.
Geoffrey's "History of the Kings of Britain" is the foundation of the whole genre of late Medieval Arthurian literature. Parts of Geoffrey's account are either exaggerated or downright fantasy, such as the stories of Arthur's conquest of Gaul and march on Rome. Nevertheless, many scholars believe that there is an historical reality underlying Geoffrey's account of King Arthur.
Geoffrey's story incorporated numerous oral traditions and written accounts, many of them lost. One such lost source is the mysterious "ancient book written in the British language," presented to Geoffrey by a "Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford." (Geoffrey of Monmouth, Book 1, Ch1) The identity of this book will probably never be determined. However, one obvious source of Geoffrey's information, directly or indirectly, was provided by the ninth century historian Nennius. (Ashe, 1985, p 62) Like Geoffrey, Nennius records many fantastic and magical tales, but unlike Geoffrey, he is too early to be influenced by the Norman cultural visions of grandeur, and most of his record seems to be a straight history. Nennius gives a much more realistic portrayal of Arthur.
According to Nennius, Arthur "fought against them in those days, together with the kings of the British; but he was their leader in battle." (Nennius, para 56) Nennius then lists twelve battles which Arthur won, culminating in the famous and decisive victory at Mt. Badon. The sites of many of these have not been identified, and there are various interpretations and speculations by scholars. The given locations are the River Glein, the River Doubglas in Lindsey, the river Bassas, the Celidon Forest, Fort Guinnion, the City of the Legion, the river Tribruit, Agned Hill or Bregion, and Badon Hill. For an excellent discussion of possible sites of Arthur's battles, see "Arthur's Britain". (Alcock, 1971, pp 61-71) Alcock presents a map showing several possibilities for many of the battles, most of them in western and northern Britain.
Nennius's account seems to be based on actual events and is more reliable than Geoffrey's. His work does not exaggerate the extent of Arthur's influence and is actually vague enough that he is clearly not creating stories to enhance his narrative. In fact, Nennius's description of the campaign of Arthur is the only British affair he relates that falls chronologically between the events involving Vortigern and Germanus, before 450, and the time when the English "considerably increased their numbers," probably in the sixth century. It should be noted that Nennius lived three centuries after Arthur. Therefore we turn to the writings of a British commentator who lived close to the time of Arthur.
Saint Gildas, a sixth-century monk, is best known as the author of "The Ruin and Conquest of Britain", written about 540. A hellfire-and-damnation chastise-ment of the rulers of Britain for their sins and vices, it condemned a series of tyrants for abandoning Christian morals and justice and for inviting the wrath of God. Gildas never mentioned the name Arthur, because it was not his intent to write a historical document, but rather to reprove his contemporary leaders for their vices and to plea for their repentance. Nevertheless, his discourse provides paramount information concerning the age of Arthur.
Gildas related that after the mid-fifth century Saxon revolt, a noble Roman named Ambrosius Aurelianus rallied the Britons to challenge the invaders. This began the Britons' long struggle to recover their dominion and to defend against marauders.
"From then on victory went now to our countrymen, now to the enemy....This lasted right up till the year of the siege of Badon Hill, nearly the last but not the least slaughter of the gallow-birds."
Gildas also wrote that the victory at Badon was in the year of his birth, 44 years before the writing of his work in the 540's. References by Gildas to living British kings fix the date of Badon to within ten years of the year 500. Gildas not only provides the date of Badon but also reveals the tremendous decisiveness of the battle. The victory of Badon Hill established over four decades of peace between native Britons and Saxon forces. During that span, as kings and officials passed away, they were succeeded by a generation "ignorant of the storm, acquainted only with the present calm."
It has been agreed by many scholars that the original historical Arthur may be defined as the leader who was victorious at Badon. His existence is disputed by some scholars, but because of Gildas, it is certain that some powerful leader, around the year 500, decisively secured a long period of peace between the Britons and Saxons.
Archaeology confirms that the Saxons in such nearby areas as Hampshire and the upper Thames valley were neither driven out nor exterminated. Such a lasting peace as described by Gildas could only have been achieved through the deeds of a war leader who won authority over a large number of Saxons and established a strong defense of his lands. The Anglo-Saxons were a proud and free people and would never have surrendered into a state of abject servitude. This implies that their conqueror won not only the battle, but also the respect and trust of the people he was to rule.
We will show that the leader was Cerdic, the founder of Wessex. His time, locations, life story, epithet, and even genealogy designate him as the original Arthur. Our theory is a radically new one which overturns the conventional paradigm. The most obvious objection to it is that Cerdic was recorded as a leader of the Saxon invaders in the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle". Arthur as described by Geoffrey was the implacable enemy of such Saxons.
The primary source of information concerning Cerdic and his sons is the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle". Here are the entries which concern him. (Garmonsway, 1955.)
495. In this year two princes, Cerdic and Cynric his son, came to Britain with five ships, arriving at the place which is called Cerdicesora, and the same day they fought against the Welsh.
508. In this year Cerdic and Cynric slew a Welsh king, whose name was Natanleod, and five thousand men with him. The District was afterwards [or in consequence] called Natanleag as far as Cerdicsford.
519. In this year Cerdic and Cynric obtained the kingdom of the West Saxons, and the same year they fought against the Britons at a place now called Cerdices-ford. And from that day on the princes of the West Saxons have reigned.
527. Cerdic and Cynric fought against the Britons at the place which is called Cerdicsleag.
530 In this year Cerdic and Cynric obtained possession of the Isle of Wight and slew a few (or many) men at Whitgaraesburh.
534. In this year Cerdic passed away, and his son Cynric continued to reign twenty-six years. They gave all the Isle of Wight to their two nefan, Stuf and Wihtgar.
552. In this year Cynric fought against the Britons at the place called Searoburh [Old Sarum], and put the Britons to flight. Cerdic was Cynric's father. Cerdic was the son of Elesa, the son of Esla, the son of Gewis, the son of Wig, the son of Freawine, the son of Frithuguar, the son of Brand, the son of Baeldaeg, the son of Woden.
The Chronicle then goes on to record how Ceawlin succeeded Cynric in the year 560, fought against the English king Aethelberht (who it notes was the first king to receive baptism), and slew two princes Oslaf and Cnebba at Wibbandun. In 577, Ceawlin and Cuthwine fought the Britons at Dyrham, slaying three kings Coinmail, Condidan, and Farinmail, and capturing Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath. In 584, Ceawlin and Cutha fought the Britons at Feranleag, capturing many villages and countless booty. Cutha was slain, and Ceawlin departed in anger to his own lands. In 592 there was great slaughter at Adam's Grave and Ceawlin was expelled. In 593, Ceawlin perished.
As many historians have pointed out, there are some problems with these accounts. They give an impression of a bitter unceasing struggle between English and British, an image also supported by Geoffrey. However, things might not have been nearly so polarized as they appear. Certainly there was warfare, but even in the Chronicles, it was often English fighting English, and according to Gildas and others, British fighting British as well. Although the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is generally considered relatively objective, it clearly omits Saxon defeats, suggesting an anti-British bias. During the two hundred-plus years between the events in question and their recording in the Chronicle, more balanced perspectives on sixth-century events must have certainly been lost.
A second argument against polarization is that Elesa, Cerdic, Cynric, and Ceawlin all have Celtic, not Anglo-Saxon, names. We will discuss this in more detail later. They appear to be Celtic leaders leading English warriors. This is not inconsistent with the accounts from other sources. Gildas condemned the British kings for using pagan warriors.
Third, the archeology of Wessex implies accomodation rather than conflict. Salway (1984, p478), points out that the dominant culture of early Wessex seems to be not Anglo-Saxon, but Roman. Alcock (1971, p312) points out that the laws of Wessex provided for wealthy Welshmen, who appear to have been living alongside the English.
Whittock's discussion also supports this (1986, p186). He points out that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle seems to deal only with the Gewisse--the royal house of Wessex and its associated warband, ignoring the large population of Saxons already settled in the upper Thames valley. It was the merger of this West Saxon community with Cerdic's royal family which created the kingdom of Wessex. Romano-Saxon pottery in the Thames Valley, dating from before 410, is evidence of the presence of Germanic troops stationed there. There is evidence of other English settlements throughout the 400s, such as Dorchester on Thames, northwestern Berkshire, and Oxfordshire. The Saxon settlements were continuous from Roman times, and mingled with Romano-Celtic ones. By the early sixth century, Thames Valley Saxons were spreading into Gloucestershire and Warwick-shire.
Whittock presents a critical analysis of the Chronicle. He suggests that the dates are unreliable although the sequence is roughly correct. Concerning the Celtic names of the Saxon leaders, he grants the possiblity suggested by Morris (1973, p103), that Cerdic may have had an English father and a British mother. Whittock then presents various theories of the name `Gewiss'. He notes that it was used by Bede and the Annales Cambria, and that it may have meant `confederates'. We would like to add one more possible meaning--that the word meant essentially the same as it does in modern German--`known' or `assured'. That is, it describes English who were known to the governing officials, and whose loyalty was assured, as opposed to strangers, or English of doubtful loyalty.
A passage from Nennius' "Historia Brittonum" supports the idea that Cerdic was a Celtic leader of Saxons. (Barber, 1972). According to Nennius, "Hengist gave a feast for Vortigern, and his men, and his interpreter, called Ceretic, and no other Briton among the Britons knew Saxon except this man; and he applied himself to acquiring a knowledge of it [or to reading it] until he was able to understand the Saxon speech." If we credit this passage, then it may well be that of all the Celtic leaders, only Ceretic was an effective leader of Saxon warriors, at least for a time. The passage does not indicate WHICH Ceretic is the subject, but certainly Cerdic of Wessex would have to be a prime candidate. This does pose an age problem. The incident discussed by Nennius, in which Ceretic was serving as an interpreter, occurred fairly early, probably in the 440s. Whittock suggests that Cerdic died around 516. If he were born around, say 427, then he would have been very young as an interpreter in the 440s, but not impossibly so. If he died in the period 505-516, he would have been over 80 years old--again not impossible. Note that he had a grown son or grandson, Cynric, in 495.
Another point which Whittock makes is that the most common versions of the Chronicle give Cynric much too long a reign. This can be partly explained by the inclusion of an intermediate king, Creoda, who is mentioned in the Abingdon manuscripts of the Chronicles. We will discuss Creoda again, later.
Cerdic is also briefly mentioned in the History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth: (Geoffrey, VI-13):
Hengist said unto [Vortigern]. . . let us invite also hither my son Octha with his brother Ebissa, for gallant warriors they be; and give unto them the lands that lie in the northern parts of Britain nigh the wall betwixt Deira and Scotland, for there will they bear the brunt of the barbarians' assaults in such sort that thou upon the hither side of Humber shalt abide in peace." So Vortigern obeyed and bade them invite whomsoever they would that might bring him any strength of succour. Envoys accordingly were sent, and Octha, Ebessa, and Cerdic came with three hundred ships (Nennius says 40) all full of an armed host, all of whom did Vortigern receive kindly, bestowing upon them unstinted largesse. For by them he conquered all his enemies and won every field that was fought. . .
In this passage, the mention of Cerdic is incidental, so there is no obvious reason why Geoffrey would have fabricated it. Geoffrey mentions it along with the visit of Germanus in 446-7, and if it is true, it implies a long period of activity for Cerdic.
This raises another question. If Cerdic were in Britain in the 440s, how is it that he came to Britain in 495? And where did he come from? And why? A possible answer lies in the turmoil in Gaul in the 490's. According to Geoffrey Ashe (1985, p56), the Visigoth king Euric may have captured a large number of British troops and settled them as vassals in western France after he defeated the British king Riothamus in Gaul around 470. It is possible that Cerdic had been captured at this time, and settled at Nantes or Vannes as a vassal king within the Visigoth empire. It was around 495 that Clovis expanded his territory to south of the Loire River, at the expense of the young Visigoth king Alaric (Euric's successor). When Clovis advanced, Cerdic felt threatened, and would have had to relocate dispossessed vassals. The time was ripe for a return to Britain, so he seized control of territory around Southampton. As we shall discuss later, there is evidence that Cerdic was indeed active in both Britain and Britanny. Furthermore, it may well be that in moving to Southampton, Cerdic was returning to one of the homes of his youth. As we shall see, there is a speculative possibility that he may have lived near Winchester as a child.
The citations of Cerdic by Nennius and Geoffrey mention a large fleet, and in our view, this is essential to understanding the role of Cerdic. His father had been associated with ships, as indicated by his title, "Master of the Sea," which will be discussed later. But shipping in northwestern Europe at this time was dominated by what Sidonius Apollinaris called "the curved ships of the Saxons". (Morris, 1973, p93) Thus from his youth, Cerdic was intimately involved with ships and Saxons. As further evidence of this, recall that the Visigoths had been stopped in the early 400s by less than thirty kilometers of water at Messina and Gibralter, and then suddenly in late 400s we hear of Gothic admirals coursing the western seas, and supplying tribes along the lower Rhine against their enemies, the Franks. But seamanship has never been acquired quickly. Euric must have acquired a fleet--perhaps Cerdic's.
In summary, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written centuries after the Arthurian/Cerdicean era, is an example of a history like Geoffrey's, influenced by the time-cultivated paradigm of continuous warfare of ALL Britons against ALL Saxons. Archaeology supports the conclusion that the earliest West Saxons were peaceful settlers mixed with, and possibly ruled by, Romano-British. Finally, Cerdic and his sons were of British heritage themselves. The evidence is that Cerdic was a chieftain of British origin who left and subsequently returned to Britain, and that he owed much of his success to his lifelong contact with Saxons.
To dispel any remaining doubt that Cerdic was British, we will now show that Cerdic of Wessex is the same as a sixth century Welsh patriarch named Caradoc Vreichvras.
Morris (1973, p210-11) wrote that Caradoc Vreichvras was a king mentioned in the genealogies and Saints' Lives, who had a kingdom somewhere between the middle Thames and the south coast, and who was said to have land on both sides of the Channel in the mid sixth century. The epithet Vreichvras meant 'Strong Arm'. Morris also mentioned that he may have inherited some of the western territories of Cato's Dumnonia.
Considering that Strong Arm's time and location were not well established, we asked the question: Could Caradoc Vreichvras be the same as Cerdic of Winchester? In seeking an answer to this, we turned to a copy of Bartrum's "Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts" (Bartrum, 1966), as well as various dictionaries.
Insight can be gained by an understanding of the word `vreichvras'. Vras is clearly a cognate of French bras, or Latin brachia, meaning `arm'. It has the same meaning in Old English. The origin of `Vreich' is more difficult to find. It has a cognate in modern Spanish, `recio' meaning strong, firm, or difficult to twist. Our dictionary said that the origin of the word is obscure, but may come from Latin `rectus' meaning upright, straight, correct, natural, or good. With this as a lead, we find in Old English `reccan': 1. To expound, teach, speak, direct, guide, rule; narrate, tell, interpret; stretch, tend go; extend, hold out, give; instruct, explain, quote; correct, reprove. 2. to take care of, be interested in, care for, care, desire (to do something), or trouble about (Borden, 1982). A derivative of this is beraeccan or bereccan--to relate, excuse, or justify oneself, which is a cognate of modern German berichtig--correct, set right, rectify, or amend. Quite clearly, if this is the cognate of vreich, then the implication is not so much "strong" as "disciplined" or "strengthened". Thus a more appropriate spelling of Vreich Vras would be "beraec bras" --and a more accurate translation than "strong arm" would be Caradoc of the "strengthened arms", which might imply either that he disciplined his arms (i.e. by exercise), or that he was cured of an early ailment, or perhaps both.
It should be noted, that although `vreichvras' may be a Celtic word, it also makes perfectly good sense in Germanic, as did many of the titles and epithets of Dark Age Britain. As an example of this, consider the Anglo-Saxon noun `wer' meaning `male,' `man,' `husband,' or `hero,' which is related to the verb `wyrdian' meaning `esteem,' `honor,' `praise,' or `exalt' (Borden, 1982). The Latin and Celtic forms are `vir,' `guir,' `vor,' `guar' and `gor,' with the same meanings. Hence their widespread incorporation into British names of that era.
The name Cerdic, pronounced with hard C's, also has a meaning. Although the name may sound hard or tough to Anglophones, it would not to speakers of Welsh. In the form Ceredig or Ceretic, it means `loving' or `caring'. It is still used in modern English, but as a feminine name--`Charity'. The name was acceptable to Saxons, who were probably unaware of its meaning, but from the Welsh viewpoint a more suitable name was required for a battle-leader. Hence the adoption of the epithet `strongarm'.
Let us now turn to the genealogies. We will use excerpts from
"Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts" by P. C. Bartrum, (Bartrum,
1966). This text has hundreds of genealogies, of which we will
discuss just ten. We start by arranging the following six in
columns for comparison.
[A] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Succession of the early kings of Wessex from the Abingdon and Worcester Chronicles (Garmonsway, 1955, p 66)
[B] From Hafod MS. 19(1536) p.141, edited by S. Baring Gould and John Fisher, "Lives of the British Saints", iv. 375.
[C] From Bonedd y Saint [The lives of the Saints], 51. Dyunawc Sant
[D] From Bonedd y Saint [The lives of the Saints], 89. Kathan
[E] From Jesus College Ms. 20, item 9.
[F] From Achau Brenhinoedd A Thywysogion Cymru, Gwehelyth Morganwc (Bartrum, 1966, p105)
|Elessa||Llyr vyrenin||Llyr merini||Llyr merini|
|Cerdic||Kyriadoc vyraich vyras||Caradoc vreichvras||Kriadoc vreichvras||Caradawc vreichvras|
|[Cutha fought beside Ceawlin]||Kathan|
|descendants of Meuric:|
Column [A] represents a succession of kings of Wessex, as well as a genealogy. The others are Welsh Geneologies. In nearly all cases they were written down long after the lives of the people in them. There were different styles of language, so names are spelled differently, but from the sequences they clearly describe the same people.
Let's discuss some of these people. The first person in column [C], Cunedda Wledig, is the reputed ancestor of many of the British royal houses (Ashe, 1985, p33). Einion yrth, or Enion Gyrt, is one of his many sons. In column [A], Cerdic and Cynric were said to be father and son in some versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and in others Creoda is included.
In column [B], the father of Kriadoc Vyraich vyras is Llyr vyrenin, or Llyr merini in column [C]. Llyr merini is not the person's name but a title, meaning in Welsh `Llyr of the Sea', or perhaps in Old English `Master of the Sea'. In some legends of Caradoc Vreichvras which we will discuss later, the name of Llyr merini is given as Eliavres, so Llyr may be an elision of that name. Elessa is evidently the name preferred by the Saxons, who tended to use given names rather than titles.
Creoda is obviously Kowrda and Cawrdaf in the Welsh columns.
Cynric is a bit more of a problem. We notice in the genealogies, that he is not given as the son of Cawrdaf. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles name him as a son or grandson of Cerdic, so perhaps he is a younger brother or half-brother of Creoda. Although it is possible that Cynric and the Meuric in column [E] are different people, it is our guess that they are the same. The name Meuric was spelled in many different ways, including Mor and Amor. (Bartrum, 1966, p169, p205) We think that all of these are forms of the name which eventually became Henry in modern English, Henri in French, and Heinrich or Heimrich in German. Cynric was sometimes spelled Kendrick or Cymric. The forms Anr or Amr probably reflect pronunciations which are more like the modern French Henri. As added support for the idea that Meuric and Cynric are the same, compare the following genealogies: (Bartrum, 1966, p49 & p109):
[M]euruc m. Alaed m. Elud m. Glas m. Elno m. Docuael m. Cuneda wledic.
Kenwrik ap Elaeth ap Elgud glas ap Ilon ap Dogvael Dogveiling ap Kvnedda wledic.
In his index, Bartrum implies that Meuruc and Kenwrik are the same person.
The big surprise of the lists turns out to be the Welsh St. Collin, who appears to be identical to the Saxon King Ceawlin. Historically, this is entirely possible. Citing Morris (1973, p370), "In southern and central England the traditions that might have remembered saints were lost when the British language gave way to English. A few notices survive. The story of Collin sends him east from Glastonbury and brings him to Southampton, though his best-known monastic foundation is Llangollen, on the Dee." Collin undoubtedly became a Saint because he had founded one or more monasteries. However there are many examples of men of this era who went back and forth between kingship and monastery, and who often waged war even while they were monastics. St. Columba at one point waged a war in a dispute which arose over the copying of a Gospel. (Morris, 1973, pp164-173). The epistle of Gildas tells how Constantine of Dumnonia, while wearing the habit of a holy abbot, violated the sanctuary of the Church and his own sworn oaths, in killing two royal youths at the altar. Maelgwyn of Gwynned was both a monk and an aggressive king with a multitude of sins on his record. Returning to Collin, what business would he have had in Southampton, but to pick up the crown of his grandfather Cerdic? As seen above, Ceawlin was one of the most aggressive of the Saxon kings, waging war against the Britons, sometimes accompanied by Cutha, who eventually perished in battle. If Cutha is the Kathan of column [D], then he appears to have been the uncle of Collin.
Another interesting figure appears in column [C]--Medrawt is given as the grandson of Caradoc vreichvras. The rebel Modred of Geoffrey, or Medrawt of Nennius, is found in different legends to be related to Arthur, varying from nephew to illegitimate son.
We call attention to columns [E] and [F] which gives the ancestry of the house of Morganwc--the kings of Glamorgan. Thus Cerdic is the ancestor of the kings of at least two kingdoms, Glamorgan and Wessex.
We'd also like to include what appears to be a somewhat
different genealogy from Bartram's book:
>From Achau Brenhinoedd a Thywysogion Cymru (Bartrum, 1966, pp95, 104)
I. Ach Llewelyn ap Iorwerth Crwyndwn
[b] Mam Llywelyn ap Iorwerth: Marvred verch Madawg ap Meredydd ap Bleddin ap Kynvyn ap Gwerystan ap Gwaithuoed ap Gwrhydr ap Karadawc ap Lles llaw ddeawg ap Ednyued ap Gwynan ap Gwynnawgt var sych ap Keidiaw ap Korf ap Kaenawc ap Tegonwy ap Teon ap Gwinev dav vreuddwyd ap Pywyr lew ap Bywdec ap Run rudd baladr ap Llary ap Kasuar wledic ap Lludd ap Beli mawr.
In this genealogy it appears that Gwynnawgt is the patriarch Cunnedda, and Ednyued is Ennion yrth. Between them is another Gwynan, or Conan. Cutha is Gwaithuoed, Creoda is Gwrhydr, Cerdic is Karadawc, and Llyr merini is given as Lles llaw ddeawg. Lles is quite close to the Chronicle's Elessa. In `Llaw ddeawg', LLaw means `hand' and ddeawg means `fierce'. This genealogy continues into the dynasty of Powys (Gwehelyth Powys), so this adds a third dynasty to Cerdic's descendants, as well as affirming Elessa as Llyr merini.
There were several Ceredigs listed in Bartrum's genealogies for this era. One of these was Ceredig Wledig, a son of Cunedda, after whom Cardigan is named. Another is Ceredig of Strathclyde, who ruled Dunbarton around 450. Their geneologies are totally different from that of Ceredig Vreichvras. (Bartram, 1966). Many other genealogies and fragments are given in Bartrum's book and in other sources which he references. We have not exhaustively studied these works, but have included enough for our discussion.
The important comparison of this discussion is the comparison of the early kings of Wessex with the the corresponding British princes. From a statistical standpoint, to have two identical sequences of five kings, who ruled at the same place and the same time, who have the same names in the same order, and who are not the same, is vanishingly improbable--certainly less than one in a thousand. Admittedly fraud in the published sources is more probable than this, but the genealogical evidence is that Caradoc Vreichvras is Cerdic of Wessex.
Besides the genealogies of Caradoc Vreichvras, there are legends about him which contain a surprising amount of personal information which seems to coincide with that of Arthur. Our source for the legends of Caradoc Vreichvras is "The Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends" (Coghlan, 1991).
His epithet Briefbras (short arm) is a pseudo-translation into French of Welsh vreichvras (strong-armed). In the romances, he was the son of Eliavres the wizard and Ysaive, wife of King Caradoc of Vannes and Nantes. When Caradoc Briefbras confronted Eliavres about his parentage, Eliavres and Ysaive caused a serpent to twine around his arm and it took the combined efforts of his wife, Guignier, and her brother, Cador, to rid him of it. When King Mangoun of Moraine sent him a horn to expose any infidelity on the part of the wife of him who drank from it, Caradoc's draught showed his wife to be faithful. In Welsh tradition Caradoc's wife was Tegau Eurfon (`beautiful golden-hair') his father Llyr Marini, his son Meuric and his steed Lluagor. He was the legendary ancestor of the ruling house of Morgannwg and may have founded the kingdom of Gwent in the fifth century. From "Vulgate Version", edited by H. O. Sommer, Carnegie Institution, Washington, 1908-16.
The ruler of Cornwall, variously described as a king or duke. He was a supporter of Arthur and helped him against the Saxons, defeating Badulf and Cheldric. A Cador, son of the King of Cornwall, friend of Caradoc Briefbras and brother of Guignier, may be the same character. In origin, Cador may be Cadwy, son of Gereint. From "History of the Kings of Britain", translated by L. Thorpe, Penguin, Harmodsworth, 1960.
When we first read these excerpts we had the impression that we had stumbled into Geoffrey of Monmouth's mysterious sources. Let's see how this all ties together, one knot at a time. First, Caradoc is the son of Eliavres, which is quite close to Elessa and to Elaphius, a significant name soon to be addressed. `Llyr' could arise from an elision of Eliavres. Furthermore, we are told that Eliavres, or Llyr merini, is a wizard. The words llyr and merini both have the same meaning in Welsh--`of the sea'. To have the two together seems redundant. However in Old English it can make better sense. `Lehr marini' would be `master of the sea', `teacher of the sea', or perhaps `wizard of the sea'. This may tell us something about Strongarm's father, and perhaps Strongarm as well. He must have been one the major shippers or merchants of the British and Gallic coasts. As such he would deal constantly with Saxons, both as crews and as piratical enemies.
While we're on the subject of the name of Strongarm's father, we have to mention that we still can't rule out Gorlois (Guor-Elessa) as being a form of this name. Recall that Geoffrey makes Gorlois the occupant of a sea-protected stronghold and concocts a bizarre story in which Uther changes his image to that of Gorlois in order to seduce Gorlois' wife and conceive Arthur. Geoffrey could not have Arthur being the son of a wizard, so he created king Uther, a son of Constantine III, so that Arthur would be the rightful heir to the throne. Tatlock (1950, p313) is convinced that Gorlois, Igerna, and Uther are all inventions of Geoffrey of Monmouth, although we now suspect that the name Gorlois may have some basis afterall. However, the story of Uther is fiction, and the name seems to be the result of a confusion with the father of a much later Arthur. This Arthur was Arthur Mabuter or Mab Pedr of Dyfed, who lived around 600. We will address this in greater depth later.
There is mention of an elder King Caradoc of Vannes and Nantes. This is probably just an attempt to explain how there could be a Caradoc in Vannes and one in England. In fact there was probably only one who moved between the two sites.
The next line of the legends tells about a serpent entwining about Caradoc's arm. The version presented in Bullfinch (1900, pp 67-71) says that Caradoc was emaciated, and the arm was permanently shrunken. We would generally dismiss this story as a fiction created to explain the name Briefbras, except for a corroborative story from the life of St. Germanus. Germanus visited Britain in 428-9 and again in 445-6. On the second visit, he was received by one `Elafius, regionis illius primus'--`Elafius, the leading man of the district.' Morris places it at Winchester. Elafius brought to Germanus his son, who could not walk because he had been struck down in the flower of his youth by a crippling childhood disease (probably polio). Germanus prayed over the young man and miraculously cured him. We have seen that Caradoc's epithet `Vreichvras' can be read as `strengthened arm'. Possibly the crippled child was Caradoc. One form of the name of Caradoc's father was Eliavres, which is acceptably close to Elafius. There couldn't have been many `leading men' in Britain with names that close to Elafius.
The legends of Briefbras suggest that Cador and his sister Guignier may have helped rehabilitate Caradoc. One problem with the legend is that Caradoc's involvement with Cador and Guignier may not have begun until later in his life. In any case, the stories of Caradoc Briefbras seem to point to a real crisis in Caradoc's life.
Note that Caradoc's wife is Guignier, sister of Cador. Arthur's is Guenevere, raised in the household of Cador.
In "Marvels of the Isle of Britain", Nennius mentions the tomb of Anr, or Amr, whom he says was a son of Arthur the warrior, whom Arthur slew and buried. Scholars generally don't credit the slaying, nor will we, but the name of the son is intriguing since it is a form of Meuric, the name of Caradoc's son.
One of the major elements in the Arthurian legends is Merlin, who appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's story, and in nearly all subsequent versions. The role of Merlin in Nennius's version is taken by a prophetic fatherless youth by the name of Ambrosius--a fairly common name of the Roman empire. Tatlock (1950, Ch V), has an extensive discussion on the origins of this myth. After analyzing several possible derivations of the name, he concludes that there must have been earlier legends using the name Merlin, but the earliest that survives is Geoffrey's. Other scholars argue that there was "no Merlin before Geoffrey." The problem is clearly well-developed and has been widely discussed. We suggest a new origin for the name Merlin. Since Llyr Merini may have been known as a `wizard of the sea,' and was a wizard in the legends, Geoffrey may have derived the name of his wizard by combining the two words Llyr Merini into one--Merlin.
Caradoc's father Llyr Merini, his son Meuric, and the dynasty of Morgannwg we have already seen in the genealogies. The kingdom of Gwent, which Caradoc is said to have possibly founded, is next to Glamorgan, where Geoffrey's Arthur reigned.
In addition to the sites mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth, there are two other sites which are traditionally associated with Arthur (Ashe, 1985, pp91 & 181). The first is Winchester, where Malory usually located Camelot. The second is Nantes in France. Chretian de Troyes has Arthur hold court in Brittany, and Wolfram von Eschenbach locates him at the city of Nantes. Near the city of Nantes is the best small-ship harbor on the west coast of France. Its name Vannes derives from the Venetii, whom Caesar conquered in his Gallic campaign. Curiously, this is where St. Gildas, who first wrote of the Battle of Mt. Badon, spent the last years of his life. A town there is named after him, and nearby is another town named Badon. Another intriguing name there is the Isle Hoedic (Cerdic?), just offshore.
Finally there is the matter of Winchester. There is a traditional association of Arthur with the town, and of course it is also associated with Cerdic. Malory usually located Camelot at Winchester (Geoffrey Ashe, 1985). Cerdic is generally said to have ruled at Winchester (Morris, 1973, p104). Elaphius may have been a leading citizen of the district of Winchester (Morris, 1973, p80).
In summary, we see that the legend of Caradoc Vreichvras are in many ways identical to those of Arthur, and in the differences it appears that Geoffrey or someone before him has reworked the Vreichvras legends to suit his own goals.
We would like to suggest that the reason for the name Arthur was that the legends of Arthur, to a large extent, crystalized on the continent, particularly in Britanny. The subject of the tales was Ceredig Vreichvras, but the British name--which was meaningful to both Saxon and Celt, was replaced by a more scholarly and continental Latin version. (For a discussion of the replacement of Celtic by Latin, see Morris, 1973, p. 406, ff.) It is also possible that due to the remoteness of Britanny from the British Isles, the stories may have included additions which in fact referred to other heroes. For instance the warfare against the Roman emperor Lucius described by Geoffrey of Monmouth may well come from the life of Magnus Maximus. The ravaging of Ireland may have been due to confusing Ceredig of Dunbarton with Ceredig Vreichvras. We shall discuss other possibilities on this again. In any case, the wondrous tales developed and grew, and when they came back to Britain after several decades, few people realized that they in fact referred to Ceredig Vreichvras, especially considering that the name Cerdic was associated with the origins of a now primarily Saxon kingdom.
Tatlock (1950, Ch VI), has an extensive discussion on possible derivations of the name Arthur. He notes that the usual and earliest form in France was Artu or Artus. He points out that, "In France, before Geoffrey's influence the man's name Arturus, with the second -r, has not turned up." (Tatlock, 1950, p. 220-1)
We now cite the 1907 edition of Harper's Latin dictionary: Artus, plural artua: literally `joint', but figuratively `muscular strength in the joints', hence in general `strength, power'. Thus the Latin and English translations of Ceredig Vreichvras are Coroticus Artus and Cerdic Strongarm. `Arthur' simply means `Strongarm'.
Although much of the legend of Arthur presented by Geoffrey may have developed in Brittany over centuries, the name Arthur was clearly present in Britain by the late sixth century, when a number of princes in Wales and the North were given the name. One, Arthur Mabpedr of Dyfed, was the possible source of Geoffrey's erroneous "Arthur mab Uther," although he lived almost a century too late to have anything to do with the Battle of Badon, the chief event which defines the original Arthur.
The name Artus or *Artu-ri ("Strongarm King") may have been brought to Britain, during Cerdic's reign, by Bretons fleeing the Franks and seeking protection under the Gewisse. Both before and after Cerdic's death the name would have caught on and spread throughout the Celtic-speaking lands, where leaders were often called by title or flattering epithet. In contrast, Saxons preferred to know their leaders by their given first names.
During the turbulent middle and late sixth century, the West Saxons came to be despised by the Welsh. Despite the post-Badon peace, the Welsh soon suffered the consequences of their ways, as Gildas prophesied, in the form of increasing civil strife, a terrible plague, and the return of devastating wars between Welsh and Saxon kings. What survived of the next violent generation lost the last traces of Roman culture and was reduced to savagery. Much Christianity was lost, as monks like Gildas were driven to Ireland or Brittany. Ceawlin, a Welsh "saint" in his younger years, now fiercely led the West Saxons against the Celtic chiefs of Wales and Cornwall. Nearly all history was forgotten in these bitter, stormy years.
It would take the work of Irish Catholic missionaries to return the people of Britain to Christianity and culture. Early in the 7th century, St. Augustine came from Rome to help spur a revival of the Roman Catholic faith, and soon Anglo-Saxon kings were baptized and began to replace the old pagan cults and heretical forms of Christianity with Catholicism. From this time on, records were more consistently kept. However, knowledge of times before the late 500's had been forgotten and had to be restored largely through legends preserved in Britanny. It was only then that the misty Welsh memories of a glorious battle hero and king known as Arthur were vindicated. However, his identity as the ancestor of the kings of Wessex was lost for the next fifteen centuries.
We will model Cerdic's career on evidence found in the works of Gildas, Nennius, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, and also modern historians. The image of Arthur that comes down to us is that of a young, vigorous, heroic campaigner, who battled Picts, Scots, and Saxons, and who eventually became an aged and beloved king.
If Cerdic was active as a military leader by 450 and was still leading troops around 500 then he must have been born around 425 or 430. His father was associated with the sea, and was probably one of the wealthiest merchants of Britain. Since many of his ships had to be Saxon, Cerdic would have been associating with Saxons from his earliest childhood. There seem to be parallel traditions involving his being cured of a crippling disease. The legend which names Cador and Guignier as the curers seems to involve Cerdic in later life. However, if there is a common origin for the traditions, it is more likely that a cure took place in Cerdic's youth, perhaps involving St. Germanus.
The earliest events in Cerdic's career are mentioned in Nennius and Geoffrey--his serving as Vortigern's interpreter, and then joining with Octha and Ebessa in stopping the Pictish raids along the Antonine wall. We think this activity had a very specific purpose, and was directed by a vigorous and powerful Roman leader--Aetius. We suspect that Aetius recognized the importance of Britain as a base and as a source of iron for the manufacture of weapons to supply the armies which he was gathering to fight the Huns. (Salway, 1981, p476 ff.) Cerdic's mission in northern Britain may have been part of Aetius's preparations. As part of this campaign, he would have participated in or directed the ravaging of the Irish coast to suppress the Irish marauders. (For a deeper discussion of Aetius's campaign, see Appendix C.)
According to the Gallic Chronicle, in 442 Britain passed under the domination of the Saxons. John Morris calls this the first Saxon revolt. (Morris, 1973, p513) Gildas may have described what happened next--from the British viewpoint. "...the Romans send forward, like eagles in their flight, their unexpected bands of cavalry by land and mariners by sea, and planting their terrible swords upon the shoulders of their enemies, they mow them down like leaves .." The Romans instructed the islanders to learn to use weapons to protect their country, and "gave them patterns by which to manufacture arms." We believe that what was happening was that Aetius was sending Roman troops and loyal Saxons to Britain to restore order, to stop the barbarian raids, and most importantly to produce iron for armor and weapons. The reason patterns were needed was that many of the weapons were for warriors of other nations--Frankish battle axes and Visigoth lances and armor--and were unfamiliar to the Britons. We picture that this restoration of Roman authority was led by Ambrosius Aurelianus in the period 446-450.
The restoration was resisted by many Celt and Saxon leaders of the island. In the first half of the fifth century, Britain was the scene of a power struggle between two major wledig-founded clans. ("Wledig" means "landholder".) One was descended from Magnus Maximus, a late fourth century usurper of Rome, through the marriage of his daughter to Vortigern. The principal leaders of this clan were Vitolinus, his son or grandson Vortigern, Vortigern's sons, Vortimer, Pascent, and Categirn, and Vortigern's grandson Riagath, (Bartrum, 1966, p46) who may have led the Britons against the Visigoths in 470. (Ashe, 1984, p44) The other clan was descended from the Celtic patriarch Cunedd, who migrated from the North with his sons around 400. Its leading members would include the likes of Eniaun yrth, Llyr merini, Caradoc Vreichvras, Maelgwn of Gwynedd, and Cuneglassus the Butcher. It may well be that the primary conflict in early fifth century Britain was between these two houses rather than between Britons and Saxons. Each side used Saxon mercenaries. Although the sons of Maximus dominated Britain before 450, Cunedd's house could be found ruling numerous kingdoms by the early 500's. Ambrosius may have influenced this outcome by bringing about the downfall of Vitolinus and Vortigern. The conflict was not monolithic. Vortimer fought against his father's warriors, and Riagath likely enjoyed widely based British support in his campaign.
Vortigern and Vitolinus may have refused to cooperate with the plans of Ambrosius, or perhaps the Roman general knew that the clan wars would be a nuisance and felt that Vortigern's side was the greater perpetrator of the conflict. Whatever the causes, Vitolinus received a walloping at the hands of Ambrosius, and Geoffrey says that Vortigern and Hengist feared Ambrosius. Through Ambrosius's decisive action, iron was produced and the Pictish and Scottish raids were stopped. In the final weeks before the great Battle of Chalons, Vortimer may have driven unreliable Saxons onto the Isle of Thanet for security reasons. Britons and Saxons marched to the coast and joined Aetius' forces at the Battle. A considerable number of men and ships must have been employed just transporting men and supplies across the Channel.
Archeologically, there is evidence that about this time metal production expanded in western Britain. Large buildings --probably warehouses --were erected in Wroxeter. (Wood, 1987, p45) Also at this time, for the first time in eighty years, the Irish raids were brought to a halt, at least partly because, as recorded in a letter by St. Patrick, the soldiers of Coroticus had ravaged the coast of Ireland. Just north of the Antonine wall, a large beehive-shaped stone structure was built, with a small hole at the top, and one door, and no windows. It survived until about 1700, when its stones were used to make a dam. The Scots called it `Arthur's Oven'. It was probably a coking oven, used to make charcoal or coke for iron production. [For a more extensive discussion of Arthur's Oven see Goodrich (1986).] Geoffrey of Monmouth's story of Arthur felling trees to fence in a Saxon army makes little sense. The story may have arisen from a large number of trees which had been felled for making charcoal.
According to Geoffrey's history, Cerdic, and two sons of Hengist, Octha and Ebessa, were sent to northern Britain to defend against maruauding Picts and Scots. They were to be paid in land. Whether Cerdic was in command of this expedition, or whether Octha or Ebessa was, is not obvious. Nennius says that the expedition harried the Picts and Scots, and then encircled Scotland.
It is clear that this had to be done. The major metal working areas of Britain were in the towns and cities of western Britain --Cornwall, Cardigan, and Cambria. Iron and coal had to be shipped from mines along the Antonine wall to Dunbarton, and then down the coast. But not only were the shipping lanes in jeopardy--even the towns were not safe from raiders based in Ireland. The fleet which encircled Scotland was to be based in the Irish sea.
There are several bits of evidence to support this. Some versions of Nennius say that the expedition "took possession of many regions, even to the Pictish confines and beyond the Frenesic Sea (the Irish Sea)", and later "Octha, after the death of his father Hengist, came from the sinistral part of the island to the kingdom of Kent." Archeologically, there are pagan English burials dating from the later fifth century on the Ribble River near Preston, and on the Mersey near Manchester. (Morris, 1973, p107). These burials may be the sites of shipyards. Although rivers are the natural sites for the construction and repair of ships--because trees cut upstream can be floated down to the shipyard--they are not good places to base a fleet due to currents, narrow confines, shifting sandbars, lack of beaches, and occasional flooding. Looking for a more promising site, one spots Anglesey --island of the English --with abundant sheltered waters. The name is ancient, some suggesting that it dates from the conquest by Edwin around 620, but there are several reasons this is unlikely. First, it was the name used by the Welsh, and those who have lost a war seldom grant the name of seized territory to their enemies. Would the Argentines call the Falklands the British Islands? Second, Edwin's conquest was very brief, and there is no suggestion of any population changes. It is more reasonable to suppose that the island of Mona as it was known, was largely abandoned during the Irish raids of the early 400s, and then occupied by Cerdic's Saxons to stop the Irish raiders. The raids were stopped and the grateful Britons called the island Anglesey.
The Romans had grappled with the problem of seaborn raiders for centuries, with no solid results. Enormous effort had been expended on shoreline fortresses and garrisons, watchtowers, and a fleet --the `Classis Brittaniae'. However the raiders came when the winds and tides were favorable to themselves, or they gathered forces large enough to overwhelm the defenders at weaker points, or they came at night or in fog, or they simply waited for another year of more relaxed vigilance. Cerdic's solution was decisive. He ravaged Caledonia and the Irish coast. Villages were plundered and burned, ships seized, occupants killed or enslaved.
Around 450, St. Patrick wrote a letter addressed to the `Soldiers of Coroticus' condemning the ravaging and enslavements. It is generally asserted that this Coroticus was Ceredig of Dunbarton, who had a different genealogy than Cerdic. It is unlikely that Ceredig of Dunbarton ravaged Ireland with a different fleet and army than the one which Cerdic had brought to the Irish Sea. Possibly the two Ceredigs collaborated in the campaign, or else there may have been a confusion of the two. Possibly St. Patrick assumed that the Ceredig responsible was the Dunbarton Ceredig, or perhaps the letter was sent to Cerdic, and later authors made the confusion. It is even possible that Ceredig of Dunbarton is Cerdic and was inserted by the Strathclyde genealogists to explain a period of rule at Dunbarton by Cerdic.
Sometime after the Battle of Chalons came the second Saxon revolt. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is probably alluding to it when it says that Hengist fought Vortigern in 455. It may have been a year or two earlier. Geoffrey and Nennius say that the Saxons plotted a mass slaughter at a banquet and from the number of deaths it would have involved hundreds of plotters. Another possibility is that it was a brawl, made likely by the mixing of Saxon warriors, British nobility, and alcohol. Many of the Saxons may have been veterans disgruntled over the lack of expected rewards. Nennius says that the occasion was to establish a treaty of peace and friendship. Instead, the result was a massive loss of British leadership and the opportunity for raiders to run rampant throughout Britain.
At this point, the Britons sent the second plea for help to Aetius, beginning with Gildas' famous line "To Aetius three times consul--the groans of the Britons." But Aetius had been stabbed to death by Valentinian in 453, and Rome died with him. Gildas reports that Ambrosius organized British resistance and led the counter-attack against the barbarians. Geoffrey says that Ambrosius killed Vortigern, and then he and Eldol defeated and killed Hengist. Nennius says that Vortigern later died in a castle fire and that Octha became the king of Kent after his father's death.
Following Ambrosius's victories, there seems to have been a period of general prosperity, and Cerdic would certainly have shared in it. He was probably one of the leading figures in shipping and iron production, and perhaps dominant. He was a great grandson of Cunedd and respected or feared by Britons, Romans, and Saxons. We can imagine Strongarm's ships to have been the first choice of passengers and merchants.
If the British were not monolithic, neither were the Saxons. We can classify at least six distinct groups with some overlap. Basically these were farming folk, land mercenaries, and seafarers, each subdivided into those living under Roman or regional authority, and those who were immigrants, raiders, and members of independent warbands. These groups can be subdivided still further. For instance land mercenaries under Roman or regional authority could include men and their families who had been in Britain for decades or centuries, and those from the continent who were in the military units sent in by Roman authorities such as Aetius to restore order. Besides these there might also be the soldiers of various British royal clans, garrison troops hired by independent towns, and personal guards hired by merchants and wealthy landowners.
One very numerous group undoubtedly consisted of people whom we would today call refugees. When the Huns came west, the empire, especially Gaul, was flooded with fleeing Germanic tribes. Rulers such as Aetius could do little else except settle them where they went, and hire some of them to control others and defend borders. We can well imagine Germans of the northern lowlands flooding into the traditionally seafaring areas of Jutland, Frisia, and the Angle, and trying to purchase passage for themselves and their families to the safety of Britain. Once put ashore, they were an unmanageable problem for the British and Saxon authorites such as Vortigern and Hengist. "Too numerous to feed", according to Nennius and Geoffrey, they could be contained for a while, but when authority lapsed in the aftermath of the banquet massacre, they exploded into the island creating the havoc of the second revolt.
Immigration may have again been a problem even after Ambrosius restored order. The security which made it possible for British troops to leave for Gaul to aid Syagrius in 470 and the prosperity reported by Germanus' biographer in 480 inevitably attracted refugees to Britain. Also, good times often result in waxing troubles being overlooked. The continual migrations throughout the late fifth century would have eventually produced pressures and strife and may have moved Cerdic to march inland from Southampton and take control of Southwest Britain in the 490's. This will be discussed more thoroughly again.
When next we hear of Cerdic, he is coming to Britain in 495. We can only guess at what happened previously. Legends which place Caradoc or Arthur in Brittany suggest that he ruled at Vannes or Nantes (or both) at a time when it was Visigoth territory. He may have been captured by the Goths on the ill-fated expedition of the British king Riotimus (possibly Riagath), who was defeated by Euric, king of the Visigoths, near Deol in France around the year 470. (Ashe, 1985, pp50-59) If this is the case, Euric must have forced Cerdic into vassaldom, perhaps by threatening to massacre his men. Under the Saxon tradition, vassaldom was for life (Bloch, 1970), so Cerdic may have been bound until Euric's death in 484. Furthermore, one of Euric's most important elements of military strength was his naval power based on the west coast of Gaul. (Wolfram, 1979, p188) The "curved ships of the Saxons" would have been the preferred vessels for both merchants and naval commanders, and we can picture Cerdic being active in both of these roles.
There is some archeological evidence to support the idea that Cerdic was in Nantes from about 470 to 495, and that is the evidence of seaborne trade between Europe and the British Isles. With the Vandals controlling Africa and the open Mediterranean, there were three possible trade routes. Two involve shipping up the Rhone River, and then down the Seine or Somme through northern France, or down the Rhine, and the third would be sailing up the Aude to Carcassone, and then overland to Toulouse, and down the Garonne through Aquitaine to Bordeaux. The northern French route was blocked by hostile Franks, but there is some evidence of trade from Saxony, and much more from Aquitaine. (Alcock, 1971, pp 202-219) Some of the pottery imported into Britain at this time seems to come from Nantes, and Columban travelled from Nantes on a ship engaged in the Irish trade (Morris, 1973, p441). Morris (1973, p223) presents archaeological and historical evidence for vessels of Nantes regularly engaged in trade with the British Isles. It is evident that some shippers were active in this area, and the only one mentioned is Caradoc Vreichvras, ruler of Nantes.
Did Sidonius Apollinaris write about Cerdic? Possibly. He wrote one letter to a Gothic admiral who loved to go Boar-hunting on the Island of Oleron on the west coast of Gaul. In this letter he praised the seamanship of the Saxons, but cautioned the admiral against Saxon treachery and barbarism. If the admiral's name was "Namatius", then it is probably not Cerdic. He could have been another admiral who was based farther south, and whose tastes and duties were similar to those of Cerdic. But if "Namatius" is a title, meaning lord of Namnates (Nantes), then it may have been Cerdic.
Cerdic may have had no obligation to serve Euric's successor Alaric, and by 494 the time was ripe to return to Britain. With his son or grandson, he landed and seized Southampton. Support for both Arthur's involvement in Brittany, his association with Visigoths, and his relocating knights and navy to Britain, are found in Morris (1973, p127) under his discussion of one of Arthur's knights named Theodoric:
The appearance of a Goth in Britain suggests a date and context, for such commanders are commonly enlisted with their men, not empty-handed. Theodoric's later career implies that he had ships at his disposal, and argues that a Gothic admiral who lacked employment was available to aid the British. The troubles of Gaul suggest that such an officer was driven out in the middle years of Arthur's reign, and at no other time. The kingdom of the Visigoths had maintained a Biscay fleet in the later fifth century, but in 507 the kingdom was destroyed by Clovis the Frank, and the Goths were expelled over the Pyrenees into Mediterranean Spain. Their fleet lost its Atlantic harbours. No writer reports what happened to the ships and crews; but it is evident that a commander who had lost his homeland and his base might find it prudent to transfer all or part of his fleet to the service of the British; and Arthur's campaigns had a use for a naval force.
We differ with Morris in some ways--the Franks may not have conquered Vannes until several centuries later, and in our view Theodoric was a cavalryman, not an admiral. However, the relocation of some units was undoubtedly necessary, and as we have seen, Cerdic began this relocation about a decade earlier, around 495.
Besides the advancing Franks, Cerdic may have had another motive for returning to Britain. During the prosperous time described by Germanus's biographer, Cerdic's navy may have helped protect the coast of Britain from Saxon marauders. However, population growth and increasing tensions between rival chieftains were causing disorder by the 490's and, over time, some aggressive Saxons such as Aelle, Oisc, and Cissa had slipped through the defenses of Cerdic and others. At some point Cerdic decided to move his base from Vannes to Southampton and restore order as Ambrosius had done three to four decades before.
We will return to this last phase of his career shortly, but now pause to make a detailed comparison of the writings concerning Cerdic and Arthur.
We now compare the life of Arthur, as described by Geoffrey of Monmouth, with that of Cerdic as suggested by various sources.
|Geoffrey's Arthur||Cerdic (Vreichvras)||Source|
|Arthur means Strength of Arm||Vreichvras means Strongarm||Harper Dict. & Morris|
|Illegitimate son of Uther and Igerna, the wife of Gorlois (Gorlois = Guor Elessa?)||Illegitimate son of Isaive. Father is Eliavres or Elessa||Legends & Genealogies|
|Involved with wizard Merlin||Father a wizard--Llyr Merini||Legends|
|Campaigns against Saxons in Yorkshire, and drives Saxons into the Caledonian Wood. Then traps the Saxons in the forest, and blockades them by felling trees to make a fence.||Campaigns in northern Britain with Octha & Ebessa||Geoffrey|
|Extends the campaign to the Orkneys and all around Pictland||Nennius|
|Geoffrey's victor at Bath. Nennius's victor at Badon Hill. Gildas says Badon Hill ca. 500. Most scholars believe Badon in Southwest Britain.||Cerdic dominated Southwest Britain ca. 500 as evidenced by the pedigrees of the kings of Glamorgan, Gwent, and Wessex.||legends and genealogies of Vreichvras|
|Returns to Dunbarton and starts to exterminate the Picts and Scots, but abandons this in the face of entreaties by the clergy.||There is an emphasis here on Dunbarton. This may have been due to a confusion of Cerdic with Ceredig of Dunbarton.|
|Goes to York, marries Guenevere, raised in the household of Cador Duke of Cornwall.||Marries Guignier, sister of Cador, prince of Cornwall||Legend of Caradoc Vreichvras|
|Conquers Ireland and Iceland.||Someone named Ceredig gathered a fleet and ravaged the coast of Ireland around the year 450. This is about the date of the last Irish raids on Britain.||St. Patrick's Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus|
|Spent nine years subduing Gaul and held court in Paris. Reigned at Nantes in some stories.||Spent 25? years in Gaul and ruled at Nantes and Vannes.||Legends of Cardoc Vreichvras|
|Reigned for five years in Glamorgan.||Dynastic founder of the kings of Glamorgan.||Genealogies|
|Defeated and slew the emperor of Rome||[No Roman Emperor was slain by a Briton after Magnus Maximus in 383.]|
|Died fighting his nephew Modred, who married Guenevere and rebelled.||Medrot was Cerdic's grandson. Guenevere would have been much too old to marry him.|
|Traditionally associated with Winchester (Malory's Camelot)||Ruled at Winchester.|
Little commentary is needed on the above comparison chart. Nearly every element in the story of Arthur, which COULD be historical, was also an element of Cerdic's career. Personal names and relationships from the legends match well. Differences generally appear to be due to Geoffrey's purposes, such as Arthur's royal parentage. It is reasonable to conclude that Arthur is Cerdic.
Martyn Whittock (1986) presents the problem of the formation of Wessex: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles discuss only the royal family of Wessex and its immediate followers. But the kingdom was formed by the merger of Cerdic and his sons with the western Saxons, living mainly in the western Thames Valley, especially around Oxford. We will refer to the region as the Oxford basin. Many of these people had been living in that area since 410 or earlier.
This uniting was the most significant event of the early sixth century. The British recognized it and it was mentioned by Gildas and Nennius. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives the event part of one line:
519. In this year Cerdic and Cynric obtained the kingdom of the West Saxons, and the same year they fought against the Britons at a place now called Cerdicesford.
The date 519 is much too late for Cerdic. However, an arguable nineteen year error in the Chronicle dates (discussed below) would account for this, and allow for a suitable date of 500.
There must have been a campaign, but we know nothing about it except perhaps the name of the major battle -- Badon Hill. Cerdic had extensive and varied troops at his disposal, including possibly Britons, Saxons, Alans, and Visigoths. Some of his allies may have come from the west or north, but the bulk of his army probably moved north from Winchester, with the opposing Saxon leaders of the area retreating before him. According to Morris (1973, p 113) Hengist's son or grandson Oesc fought there, and Morris suggests Aella may have also. The bulk of Cerdic's army, marching with armor, probably followed the lowland route through Basingstoke and Reading to Oxford, but some units, perhaps cavalry, may have crossed the hills towards Cirencester, and then angled Northeast to cut off the Saxon retreat.
The sites of great battles often fit a pattern. Examples of this pattern include Chalons, Gettysburg, and Bastogne. Two armies are on the road, either both advancing or one retreating, and groping for each other. As the contact becomes greater, the commanders feel a need to concentrate their forces, and each directs his forces toward a site of converging roads. There the armies collide. If there is high ground nearby, both try to seize it and there the battle is fought.
We seek a site for the Battle of Badon Hill in the Oxford basin. Alcock (1971, pp 61-71) presents a discussion of prospective battle sites of which three are in this region. One is Liddington Hill near Swindon, one is near Burford, and the third near Stratford on Avon. For linguistic reasons he prefers Bath. Michael Wood (1987, p 50-52) argues for Liddington Hill, with a nearby village of Badbury. We would like to suggest one other possibility, and that is Banbury, twenty miles north of Oxford. There valleys converge on a site that today is the hub of roads from several different directions.
Gildas says Badon was a siege, and we can see that this is what Cerdic would have wanted. The longer he deferred his attack, the more time there was for the Saxon army to weaken and for them to consider accepting his rule. Geoffrey of Monmouth pictures Cerdic as the righteous defender, but we believe he was the attacker. He wanted to rule the territory and its people, and he was willing to wage war to achieve that goal. Some of the Saxons chose to fight rather than submit. The end must have been much like Hastings, but on a smaller scale. Probably several hundred fell, and in the end, Cerdic and Cynric "obtained the kingship of the West Saxons," and ultimately became the ancestors of the later Kings of England.
After the battle, Cerdic had his army intact and assembled, and he may have had more vassals to settle than good estates to pay them with. He must have used the army to extend his frontiers, partly at the expense of British neighbors. Morris (1973, pp 123-30) discusses this under "Arthur's Frontier Wars". This may account for the battle at Cerdicsford mentioned in the Chronicle. He also sent Theodoric to expell the Irish intruders from southern Wales, and may have personally led troops at Caerleon on the Usk.
Established scholars disagree on the date of Mount Badon. For various reasons, it is felt that the date of 518 given in the Annals Cambriae is too late. Alcock (1971, p111) suggests the date of 490 for the battle, Morris (1973, p39) suggests c.495, and Ashe (1985, p66) suggests 500 based on the writings of Gildas. We have shown that Arthur is Cerdic, and if Cerdic came in 495, he cannot have fought at Badon in 490. The Annals Cambriae's date of 518 for the Battle matches the Chronicle's date of 519 for when Cynric and Cerdic obtained the kingdom of Wessex. However, Yorke (1989, p86) points out that many events in the Chronicle at the time are duplicated with a 19-year separation. It is as if there are two sources with a 19-year discrepancy. Assuming then that both entries are 19 years too late, we arrive at the year 500 for the Battle of Badon, agreeing with Ashe's estimate.
The significance of the Battle of Badon was recognized by all. Cerdic had created a large kingdom in the midst of Britain which included both Britons and Saxons content to live in peace together under his rule. His kingdom was a physical barrier between the previously hostile British and English kingdoms, and he was probably too powerful to challenge. Besides this kingdom he had lands and resources in Cornwall, Brittany, and perhaps still along the Antonine Wall in Scotland, as well as his ships and port facilities. The extent of Cerdic's kingdom is suggested by the genealogies which identify him as the founder of the houses of Gwent, Glamorgan, Powys, and Wessex. We believe that his kingdom was called Gewisse and its founding principle was the protection of its citizens against all outside invaders, whether Saxon, Celt, or Pict. In the time of Offa, two centuries later, a collection of tribes of mixed origin existed in the midlands of Mercia. They were known as the `Hwicce,' clearly a form of the name of Cerdic's kingdom. One Hwicce tribe, in fact, was called the Kendrica, after Cynric. In Offa's time, the Hwicce were still fiercely resisting outsiders. (Wood, 1987, p81-2)
We are well aware of the scholarship and leadership of Geoffrey Ashe in the field of Arthurian studies. This author of numerous books and papers on the Arthurian quest has presented a highly developed theory on the identity of Arthur which is undeniably convincing and must therefore be addressed. (Ashe, 1985) Ashe presents a strong case that the original Arthur was the British king Riotimus or Rigotamos, who led British troops into Gaul against the Visigoths around 470. His theory is based upon the identification of certain Roman officials found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's account with known officials presiding at the time of Riotimus' campaign.
Ashe's impressive argument undoubtably explains certain elements of the Arthurian legend handed down by Geoffrey of Monmouth. However, it is incomplete in several respects. In giving full faith to Geoffrey of Monmouth's unprecedented version of the Arthurian legend, Ashe inevitably dismisses the early documents which identify Arthur as the victor at Mount Badon. He admits that if Arthur's career ended around 470 then he could not be given credit for the victory at Badon. (1985, p118) He rejects the historical evidence for Arthur's presence at either Badon or Camlann.
We argue that the most credible source of information to be found is the candid work of the sixth century Gildas. The saint plainly reveals that a real victory at Badon was the event which established a lasting state of peace and security and that the victory occurred close to the year 500. Although Gildas doesn't name the victorious commander, later accounts associate no figure with Badon other than Arthur.
Ashe has shown that the part of the Arthurian legend involving the expedition to the continent is based on the expedition of Riotimus. However, there are many elements of the Arthurian legend, especially the essential victory at Badon, which the Riotimus theory does not and cannot explain. We have shown that these elements can be explained by identifying Arthur as Cerdic.
We believe that the deeds attributed to Geoffrey's Arthur may have come from several persons--namely Riotimus, Caradoc Vreichvras, and possibly Ceredig of Dumbarton. Nevertheless, the Arthur of Nennius was a single historical figure and must be defined as such. Nennius's Arthur is compatible with historical events described by Gildas. According to Ashe, Riotimus is not.
It all comes down to a choice of which historical event--the expedition to Gaul by a king of the Britons in 470, or the decisive victory at Badon by a battle leader in 500--is to define the one original Arthur. Geoffrey of Monmouth's story is apparently composed of events in the lives of at least two people, Riotimus (who may be Rigatomos) and Cerdic, and if Geoffrey's account were all we had to go by, the two would be equal candidates for Arthur. However Nennius' Arthur was the victor at Badon in 500, and is therefore incompatible with Riotimus, who disappeared in 470. Nennius' history IS compatible with Arthur being Cerdic, the Battle of Badon being the event which created Wessex. This version is also compatible with the account of Gildas. Furthermore, if the Battle of Badon resulted in the formation of Wessex, then it is immediately obvious HOW it produced the forty years of peace described by Gildas.
But more important, Riotimus is too small an Arthur on which to build the legends. Arthur's great achievement was not that he presided over a disastrous defeat which evoked nostalgic memories among the Britons. He was the leader whose memory evoked the pride of military success, and whose victories secured and shaped the future. He was such a man that Aneirin would later write of Gwawrddur "he glutted black ravens on the wall of the fort, though he was not Arthur". (Ashe, 1986, p137). Arthur's significance is not in the killing of Saxons but rather in the decisive deeds and victories which assured the survival of Wales and which created Wessex, uniting both Britons and Saxons in a kingdom that would later survive the Viking onslaughts. Until more discoveries are made, the better choice for the original Arthur is Cerdic.
We believe we have made a convincing case that Arthur, the victor of Mount Badon, was Cerdic, the founder of Wessex. Many other solutions have been proposed over the years, but most leave unresolved problems which the Cerdic-Arthur theory explains. We now illustrate these problems with a few quotations from various authors on the history of Dark Age Britain.
"How, then, may we account for the series of Wessex battles which span the period of supposed peace?" --Alcock (1971, p117)
"...a curious point about Arthur ... It is strange to find a King with an amply described family and several male offspring, yet none with whom the question of inheritance is so much as raised. Was his heir a senior son whose memory the Welsh chose to suppress?" --Ashe (1985, p196)
"The reason why the early Anglo-Saxon immigrants there are so difficult to identify from the finds is that culturally they were being more changed by the Romans with whom they came into contact than the reverse."--Salway, p 484
"Arthur dominates and unites the history of two centuries; his victory was the climax and consummation of the fifth-century struggles... He was at once the last Roman emperor in the west, and the first medieval king of the country now called England." --John Morris (1973, p141).
"This is that Arthur of whom modern Welsh fancy raves. Yet he plainly deserves to be remembered in genuine history rather than in the oblivion of silly fairy tales; for he long preserved his dying country." --William of Malmsbury (Morris, 1973, p141).
All of these puzzles are aspects of the same problem--that there is NO good solution to the problem of Arthur presiding over the territory and time of the founding of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, unless he presided over it! If in the year 500 the ruler of south-central Britain was Arthur, and the ruler of south-central Britain was Cerdic, then Arthur was Cerdic. For over a thousand years, years the literature of Britain has had a lost king and a forgotten victory. Now the identity of the national hero of Wales has been discovered, and he has turned out to be the founder of the kingdom of England. The 1500th anniversary of the coming of Cerdic to Southampton would be an appropriate occasion for England and Wales to celebrate their common heritage.
This paper could not have been written without the work of Geoffrey Ashe, Peter Salway, John Morris, Leslie Alcock, Martyn Whittock, P.C. Bartrum, and the library staff of James Madison University. Other cited authors made valuable contributions.
ALCOCK, LESLIE. 1971. "Arthur's Britain, History and Archeology". London: Penguin Press.
ASHE, GEOFFREY. 1985. "The Discovery of King Arthur". Geoffrey Ashe in Association with Debrett's Peerage. London: Guild Publishing.
ASHE, GEOFFREY. 1971 and 1982. "The Quest for Arthur's Britain". London: Pall Mall, and Paladin Press.
BARBER, RICHARD. 1972. "The Figure of Arthur". Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield.
BARTRUM, P.C. 1966. "Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts". Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
BLOCH, MARC, 1970. "Feudal Society" in "The Middle Ages, Vol II: Readings in Medieval History", Brian Tierney, ed: New York, Alfred A. Knopf.
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GOODRICH, NORMA LORRE, 1986. "King Arthur". New York: Harper & Row.
GORDON, C.D. 1960. "The Age of Attila", New York: Dorset Press.
"HARPER'S LATIN DICTIONARY", American Book Company, 1907.
JORDANES. "The Origin and Deeds of the Goths". translated by Charles C. Mierow, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1908.
MORRIS, JOHN. 1973. "The Age of Arthur, A history of the British Isles from 350 to 650". London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
NENNIUS. "British History and The Welsh Annals". Edited and translated by John Morris, London and Chichester: Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 1980. ISBN 08476 62640.
SALWAY, PETER. 1984. "Roman Britain". New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
TATLOCK, J.S.P., 1950. "The Legendary History of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britanniae and its Early Vernacular Versions", Berkeley: University of California Press.
WHITTOCK, MARTYN, 1986. "The Origins of England, 410-600". Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books.
WOLFRAM, HERWIG, 1979. "History of the Goths". Berkeley. University of California Press.
WOOD, MICHAEL, 1987. "In Search of the Dark Ages". Facts on File Publications, New York.
YORK, BARBARA, 1989. "The Jutes of Hampshire and Wight and the origins of Wessex", in "The Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms", Steven Basset ed.. London: Leicester University Press.
In the twelfth century a cleric named Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote "The History of the Kings of Britain", which attempted to relate the history of the British Isles from pre-Roman times to the completed establishment of England. A major part of this history involved the transition from Roman to Saxon Britain, and related and account of Arthur's life, military campaigns, and rule, according to the historical standards of Geoffrey's time. Much of what Geoffrey wrote was unhistorical by modern standards, but his account is the earliest surviving extensive description. We will briefly summarize Geoffrey's account of Arthur in this appendix.
In the "History", Arthur was the son of King Uther and Igrain, the wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall, whom Uther seduced with the aid of Merlin's enchantments. Upon the death of Uther, Arthur became king, and began his reign by campaigning against Saxons in Yorkshire. After receiving reinforcements from Brittany, he drove the Saxons from Lincolnshire into the Caledonian Wood. Here he trapped the Saxons in the forest, and blockaded them by felling trees to make a fence. He then permitted them to leave Briton, but when they sailed away, they turned and landed at the Severn, and besieged Bath. Arthur marched from Dunbarton to Bath, and there, with his lance, Ron, and his sword, Caliburn, slew four hundred seventy men, winning the victory. Ordering Cador, Duke of Cornwall, to pursue the enemy, Arthur returned to Dunbarton, which was being besieged by Picts and Scots under Badulf, Colgren, and Cheldric.
Meanwhile, Cador seized the ships of the Saxons, drove them to Thanet, and slew their leader Cheldrec. Cador then joined Arthur in harrying the Scots & Picts in Scotland. Driving off the King of Ireland, who had come to the aid of the Scots, Arthur embarked on a campaign of extermination against the Picts and Scots, which he abandoned in the face of entreaties by the clergy.
Arthur withdrew to York for the winter, where he appointed Angusel king of Scotland, Urien ruler of Moray, and restored his sister's husband, Lot, to the Dukedom of Lothian. He married Guenevere, who was born of a noble Roman family and raised in the household of Cador.
The next summer Arthur fitted out a fleet and conquered the defenseless islands of Ireland and Iceland. Kings of other lands did homage to him and he reigned in peace twelve years. After this, he conquered Norway and Denmark, and invaded Gaul, which he subdued over the next nine years, granting various provinces to his nobility, and holding court in Paris. For the next five years he held court in Glamorgan, and vassals came to him from all over his empire.
A letter arrived from Lucius, Procurator of the Roman republic, demanding Arthur's submission. With Cador's encouragement, Arthur decided to fight Lucius, and gathered a huge army from all over his empire, while emperor Lucius gathered the kings of the orient. Leaving his nephew Modred and Queen Guenevere in Britain, he embarked for Gaul. At Mount St. Michael he slew a giant from Spain. Following this the armies of Arthur met those of the Roman emperor Lucius, and after a great slaughter on both sides, Arthur slew Lucius with his own hand. After attending to the dead, and beseiging the cities of the Allobroges during the following winter, Arthur was marching on Rome when he heard that his nephew Modred had married his wife Guenevere and seized the throne of Britain.
Modred gathered a great army and met Arthur at Winchester, winning a victory. Arthur renewed his attack, and Modred withdrew to the river Camel. There Arthur and Modred fell in battle. The wounded Arthur gave up his crown to Cador's son Constantine, and was carried off to Avalon in the year 542.
425-30: Birth of Cerdic, son of Eliavres and Ysaive
430's: Spends much of his youth on his father's ships with Saxon seamen
Birth of Guignier
440's: Serves as Vortigern's interpreter
Vortigern marries Hengist's daughter, and Britain thus "passes under the domination of the Saxons".
Cerdic stricken with polio; survives, but emaciated and crippled. Cerdic is cured by St. Germanus. Germanus' mission from Aetius to Vortigern unsuccessful or incomplete because of Vortigern's personal misconduct.
Ambrosius Aurelianus sent to Britain by Aetius. With Vortimer and Cador, challenges Hengist and Vortigern for control of the island.
Cerdic, Octha, and Ebessa campaign against the Picts in Scotland, and reopen iron and coal mines, perhaps using captured Picts and Scots as slaves.
448-50: Cerdic bases his fleet in Anglesey, and ravages the coast of Ireland, suppressing the Irish raids and capturing slaves for mines and transport. Weapons produced and stockpiled in Britain.
450: Patrick's letter of complaint over ravagings of Ireland by Coroticus.
451: Huns invade Gaul. Weapons and armor shipped to Nantes enable the Visigoths to lift the siege of Orleans in mid-June. British and loyal Saxon forces (`Gewisse') sail to Vannes and Boulogne. The Battle of Chalons in July. Perhaps at this time Vortimer forces refugees and untrustworthy Saxons onto the Isle of Thanet.
452: Armies return from Gaul (which Geoffrey interprets as reinforcements from Germany). At a banquet of returning veterans, called to reorganize Britain, a brawl erupts and several hundred British nobility are slain. This huge loss of leadership opens the floodgates for droves of marauders who lay waste to the countryside and initiate bitter Briton-Saxon hostilities.
456: Ambrosius organizes and leads the resistance against Saxon raiders, beginning a long struggle to recover order. Cerdic, Cador, and Riagath fight in the defense of Britain. Vortigern and Hengist perish.
460's: The Second Saxon Revolt is eventually put down. Octha comes from Anglesey to take command of Kentishmen, with Ambrosius's sanction. Ambrosius dies and Riagath becomes king. Peace and prosperity in Britain. Cerdic grows wealthy in shipping and iron working. He marries Guignier, and children are born, of whom at least Creoda, Anna, and Cynric survive. Guignier is from Cornwall, and perhaps at this time Cerdic rules Glamorgan, but his ships frequent ports all over Britain and the Gallic coasts. Saxon immigration continues in eastern Britain.
470: Aegidius and Syagrius in the Roman province of northern Gaul attempt to roll back the Visigoths under Euric. They are joined by Riotimus, who brings British cavalry, and Cerdic's Saxon footsoldiers. They are defeated at Deol, and Cerdic and his men are captured. Riotimus is driven into Burgundy. Cerdic, to save his men from massacre, agrees to be Euric's vassal, and is installed as ruler of Nantes and Vannes.
470-85: Cerdic transfers his operations from Anglesey and Glamorgan to Vannes, providing Euric with a fleet. Cerdic's ships supply the Frisians in campaigns against the Franks. Saxon raids increase in Britain, leading to the founding of Sussex and Northumbria. The aggressive Aelle kills Octha and takes Kent. Cador establishes the cavalry fortress of Cadbury, and appeals to Cerdic for help.
485: The death of Euric ends Cerdic's obligation.
495: Euric's son Alaric becomes overextended, and Clovis invades the Loire valley. Cerdic and Cynric leave Creoda in command at Vannes and move displaced vassals, including some Visigoth and Alanic knights, to the Southampton area.
495-98: Cerdic expands and consolidates Hampshire holdings, and begins his campaign to take over the Upper Thames region. Allied with Cador, Cerdic leads the kings of the Britons in battles against Oesc and Aelle's Kentishmen. Cador dies around now.
500: The Battle of Badonbyrig (Banbury?) establishes Wessex.
500-10: The aging king maintains the peace and well protects his country. His sons remain loyal, but a frustrated grandson, Medrot, seeks independence and power. Guignier sympathizes with Medrot.
510-15: Cerdic dies in his 80's, perhaps in an angry quarrel with the young and tragic Medrot.
Aetius had lived many years among the Huns, and he understood them well. He gained control of the western empire in 433, and from then on demonstrated a policy of settling powerful barbarian tribes--Alans, Franks, Saxons, and Burgundians within the Roman empire, probably to improve security and stability.
Around 441, he began to prepare for the invasion of the Huns, whom he knew would eventually come. (Salway, 1985, p442) The Hunnish hordes were very large compared to the Roman armies of the era, and were much more mobile than any forces in the west. If Aetius had any hope of defending the west against the Huns, he had to forge a largely Germanic barbarian alliance, and then had to execute a difficult plan requiring perfect timing and the coordination of many actions. To achieve the victory, Aetius needed to be a brilliant strategist, tactician, diplomat, and logistician, and he needed to be lucky as well. He had some advantages. For one, he was an educated Roman, which meant that he had read of the tactics of Hannibal and Julian. For another, he knew his enemy, and had a good idea of how Attila would respond to various situations. Finally, he had planted on Attila not one, but two secretaries. Curiously enough, one was Oerestes--the father of Romulus Augustus who would be the last Roman emperor-- and the other was Edico--the father of Odoacer, the barbarian king who deposed Romulus Augustus. These two were in a position to both inform Aetius of Attila's plans, and to help guide Attila according to Aetius' purposes. (Gordon, 1960, p 70).
What was the problem Aetius faced? It was not sufficient to eliminate Attila, because the Huns would select a new king and continue. The only hope of saving the west from Hunnish domination was to trap and annihilate the Hunnish horde as Hannibal had done to the Romans at Cannae. For this he had to equip and gather a large army; but not too early, for it would be impossible to maintain an army of young warriors from so many diverse peoples for more than a few weeks without quarreling. Second, he needed secure bases and supplies. When the Huns broke into Gaul, their divisions would be everywhere. No cities, no supplies, no command centers would be safe. He needed to be able to absorb the Hunnish attack, and then present them with a large enough army that Attila would concentrate his forces. Aetius then would have to trap and destroy those forces. Julian had faced similar problems in the great barbarian revolts of 360 AD. To supply the armies of Gaul in their campaigns against the Germans, he gathered a fleet of 600 ships, 400 of them built for the purpose, and reopened the supply routes from Britain. To restore order in Britain and to suppress the raids by Picts and Scots, he sent four legions to the Island. Julian's fleet came from the lower Rhine, and quite possibly many of the sailors of that fleet had descendants living in the same region when they were needed by Aetius for the same purpose. (Salway, 1984, p360)
Aetius knew how Julian had solved the problem of supplying and equipping his army, and it is reasonable that he too turned to Britain. But Britain had expelled the Romans thirty years earlier, and was now ruled by adamantly independent tyrants. Now Aetius desperately needed Britain, which had supplied the Roman army for three hundred years. Britain--with its twenty mile wide barrier of water barring Hunnish cavalry. Britain--rich in cattle, grains, and metals, with ports on every side. (Salway, 1985, p630). Aetius may have used churchmen such as Germanus to initiate negotiations and establish contacts. Aetius worked closely with the bishop of Orleans in preparing and maintaining that city's defence against Attila's siege, and from this same city Germanus went to Britain in 446 or 447, and possibly Ambrosius Aurelianus came from this city as well. If, on his mission, Germanus failed to establish good relations with Vortigern, then his opportunity to cure the crippled son of a powerful British prince and merchant, who worked closely with Saxons as well, can only be described as a godsend. By this era, most western Roman soldiers were mercenaries, primarily Germanic. The forces which Aetius may have sent to Britain would have to be mostly such troops, though Gildas might validly refer to them as Roman. Gildas specifically refers to cavalry and ships, and these would well describe Aetius' Alans and Saxons, who may have included the sons of Hengist. It would have been natural for the son of Llyr Merini to share in the command of the seaborn forces.