Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Anoeth bin u bedd Arthur and Caer Oeth ac Anoeth: the Welsh Localization of Arthur's Grave

Slide of RCAHMW colour oblique aerial photograph of Brithdir Roman Fort, taken by T.G. Driver, 17/3/1999.

In my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, I outlined an Arthur who may have been situated along the western end of Hadrian's Wall.  Because there is an "Avalon" Roman fort very near that of Camboglanna on the Wall, I dared to propose that the story of Arthur's being taken to Avalon may have been based on the existence of a very real place.

However, an analysis of the Welsh sources forces us to a Camlann in NW Wales, and provides us with an important clue as the location of Arthur's grave near the fatal battle site.  I emphasize once again that Arthur MAY WELL HAVE BEEN RELOCATED TO WALES FROM THE WALL in Welsh tradition.  The problem with this possibility is the title Uther Pendragon, which seems to belong to the sub-kingdom of Eifionydd in Gwynedd.  Many Arthurian amateur scholars - myself included - have sought to either dispense with Uther entirely or to identify him with various Dark Age British rulers.  The truth is that until he can be firmly identified, there is no real hope of discovering the real Arthur.  The famous Arthur has only one father - Uther.  Without Uther, in a sense, there can be no Arthur.

In the past couple of blogs I've floated the idea that Bicoir, father of a British Arthur in the Irish Annals, is to be equated with Beccurus, found on a stone in Eifionydd, 'the snakes' lair.'  I went further in suggesting the Terrible Chief-Dragon as a title may belong to Beccurus. This title may also be reflected in the 'terrible warrior' who plays a role in the Irish story of the begetting of Mongan.

A localization of Camlann in NW Wales brings up an important point - namely, that Arthur's grave may have been thought to be in this region as well. Although we might first suppose his body to have been interred next to that of his father Beccurus, Welsh tradition points to another place.  

In the Welsh 'Stanzas of the Graves', we are told 'anoeth bin u bedd arthur'.  This has been translated in various ways.  But some (myself included) have noticed that anoeth in this line may be an oblique reference to both the teulu  (household warriors) of oeth and anoeth and Cair ('fort') Oeth and Anoeth. In Triad 52 we are told Arthur was a prisoner in Caer Oeth and Anoeth and the context suggests this was a sort of death-prison or Otherworld location.

We know where this fort was located: Gwanas, a mountainous region situated exactly between the Welsh Camlanns (see map below).

As it happens, there are two Roman camps in this area, a fortlet at Brithdir and a marching camp at Gwanas-fawr. If, as seems likely, Arthur's 'anoeth' is a poetic (or confused) reference to this fort, then his grave is to be sought either at Brithdir (the most most promising candidate, as the fortlet here is on the Roman road) or at Gwanas-fawr.

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