Friday, December 16, 2016


Solsbury Hill-Fort Near Bath

Years ago I played around with trying to equate some or all of the battles of Arthur and those of Cerdic of Wessex.  Alas, my knowledge of place-name development and of the languages involved was insufficient to the task.  Having once again brought up the very real possibility that Arthur = Cerdic in my previous blog post here, it occurred to me that I should take a second look at the battles listed in the Historia Brittonum and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

First,those of Arthur:

Mouth of the river Glein
4 battles on the Dubglas River in the Linnuis region
River Bassas
Celyddon Wood
Castle Guinnion
City of the Legion
Tribruit river-bank
Mt. Agned/Mt. Breguoin (and other variants)
Mt. Badon c. 516
Camlann c. 537

And, secondly, those of Cerdic (interposed battles by other Saxon chieftains are in brackets):

495 - Certicesora (Cerdic and Cynric arrive in Britain)
[Bieda of Bedenham, Maegla, Port of Portsmouth]
Certicesford - Natanleod or Nazanleog killed
[Stuf, Wihtgar - Certicesora]
Cerdicesford - Cerdic and Cynric take the kingdom of the West Saxons
Cerdicesford or Cerdicesleag
537 - Cerdic dies, Cynric takes the kingship, Isle of Wight given to Stuf (of Stubbington near Port and opposite Wight) and Wihtgar

As Jackson pointed out long ago, 'Glein' means 'pure, clean.'  It is Welsh glân.  However, there is also a Welsh glan,  river-bank, brink, edge; shore; slope, bank.  This word would nicely match in meaning the -ora of Certicesora, which is from AS. óra, a border, edge, margin, bank.  If we allow for Glein/glân being an error or substitution for glan, then the mouth of the Glein and Certicesora may be one and the same place.

Natanleod or Nazanleog is Netley Marsh in Hampshire.  The parish is bounded by Bartley Water to the south and the River Blackwater to the north.  Dubglas is, of course, 'Black-stream/rivulet.' Linnuis contains the British root for lake or pool, preserved in modern Welsh llyn.  Netley is believed now to mean 'wet wood or clearing', and this meaning combined with the 'marsh' that was present probably accounts for the Linnuis region descriptor of the Historia Brittonum.

W. bas, believed to underlie the supposed river-name Bassas, meant a shallow, fordable place in a river.  We can associate this easily with Certicesford/Cerdicesford.

Cerdicesleag contains -leag, a word which originally designated a wood or a woodland, and only later came to mean a place that had been cleared of trees and converted into a clearing or meadow. I suspect the Celyddon Wood was plugged in for this site.

Castle Guinnion is composed of the Welsh word for 'white', plus a typical locative suffix (cf. Latin -ium).  Wihtgar as a personage is an eponym for the Isle of Wight.  Wihtgarasburh is, then, the Fort of Wihtgar.  But it is quite possible Wiht- was mistaken for OE hwit, 'white', and so Castellum Guinnion would merely be a clumsy attempt at substituting the Welsh for the English.  /-gar/-garas/ may well have been linked to Welsh caer, 'fort, fortified city', although the presence of -burh, 'fort, fortified town' in the name may have been enough to generate Castellum.  Wihtgara is properly Wihtwara, 'people of Wight', the name of the tribal hidage.  Wihtgarasburh is traditionally situated at Carisbrooke.

At this point the author of the Arthur battle-list ran out of Cerdic battles.  To complement his list, and bring it up to the necessary Herculean 12, he either had knowledge of Cerdic/Arthur battles not mentioned in the ASC or had to look elsewhere for battle-sites belonging to other combatants. If we accept this as true, then my previous identifications of some of these remaining battles are likely incorrect.

I had mentioned before that the Tribruit/Tryfrwyd appears to represent a Welsh rendering of Latin trajectus.  As it happens, while the Pa Gur battle poem almost certainly puts this crossing-point at North Queensferry opposite Edinburgh, there was a trajectus actually called such on the Severn.  To quote from THE PLACE-NAMES OF ROMAN BRITAIN by Rivet and Smith:

Rivet & Smith, p. 474 :


- AI 4862 (Iter XIV) : TRAIECTUS

DERIVATION. The name is a Latin common noun, 'crossing', perhaps more specifically 'crossing-point' or 'ferry'. There are several Continental examples, and the name survives in modem Maastricht and Utrecht (Holland), etc. The word seems to have been used solely for the Roman transport system, and has nothing to do with possible Celtic names (such as the word which is now Welsh traeth 'sands').

IDENTIFICATION. The reference is probably to the crossing of the Severn; see the discussion in Chapter IV, pp. 177-78.

I would add that in CULHWCH AND OLWEN, a tale found in the medieval Welsh collection known as the MABINOGION, the great boar hunt takes Arthur and his men into the Severn estuary.  And, indeed, the Pa Gur involves Manawydan with the Tribruit battle, while the same personage is said to have been one of the heroes who plunged the boar into the Severn.

If this is the original Trajectus/Tribruit, then the City of the Legion is likely Caerleon, which is directly across from the mouth of the Avon and Bitton, near where the Trajectus fell (see Rivet and Smith, p. 177-178).

Bath must once again be the preferred site for the famous Badon battle.  I made my case in THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY for the name Badon being possible for only two known sites in early Britain: the sacred baths of Aquae Arnemetia or of Aquae Sulis.  Given a 'Southern Arthur', the only candidate for Badon is Bath.  We must elect one of the neighboring hill-forts, e.g. Little Solsbury Hill or Bathampton Camp.  Bath also makes sense given that Tribruit/Trajectus is likely at Bitton or thereabouts on the Avon, only a dozen kilometers or so northwest of Bath.  The English name Bathum, 'Baths', was given precedence by the Christian Gildas because the native Roman period name featured a pagan goddess, Sulis.

Agned is no longer a troublesome name.  While I could strain to make it derive from the Roman name Egnatius, who is attested at Bremenium (see below) in the North, I'm leaning more towards this being a simple error for the word agued, which I also discuss in some detail in my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY.  If Agned is from agued, then a description of what was happening at the hill-battle of Breguoin or Bregion was misunderstood as a real place-name.  What Agned actually implied is that the Britons or the Saxons were in 'distress' or found themselves in 'dire straits' at Breguoin or Bregion.

Breguoin is, certainly, for the Brewyn of the Urien poems, i.e. the Bremenium Roman fort.  All my attempts to make something else of it have failed.  As Dr. Simon Rodway of the University of Wales succinctly states,

"It's from Bremenium. The <gu> stands quite regularly for /w/, and the oi for the diphthong /ui/ < /e:/, a spelling  which is found elsewhere in Old Welsh. All this is explained quite clearly by Kenneth Jackson. There is nothing controversial about this derivation."

Obviously, if Arthur = Cerdic/Ceredig, and all his other battles were in the South, it makes no sense for him to have fought at Bremenium.  A Welsh glossator had a problem with the name as well, claiming it was for Bregion.  As Jackson and others have made clear, Bregion simply means hills in Old Welsh.  In Middle Welsh this would become Breon (see Peter Schrijver's STUDIES IN BRITISH CELTIC HISTORICAL PHONOLOGY, 1995).  As it happens, we have an excellent - nay, perfect - candidate for Bregion very close to the other battles Cerdic/Arthur was fighting in this region.

Brean in Somerset appears to have preserved the Breon spelling.  Early forms for Brean are Brien, Breen, Broen, Bren, Breon.  And Brean Down boasts a promontory fort, as well as other ancient structures, including a Romano-British temple (

Unfortunately, the glossator is plainly wrong.  Breguoin does not stand for Bregion.

I think there is a rather simple solution to this problem.  Only several miles north of Bath is the Bury Camp or Bury Wood Camp, a major hillfort:

This hillfort is between the By Brook and its two tributaries the Doncombe Brook and the Lid Brook. It is also very near the Roman road known as the Fosse Way.  Now, as it happens, Lid is from OE hlyde, 'loud', and as Ekwall and others have made clear, the meaning was something like "the roaring brook".  Bremenium has the British root *brem- (cf. Welsh bref), and as found in Bremenium was named for a stream near the Roman fort that has the exact same meaning, i.e. it was "the roaring stream."  There is an Afon Brefi and a Roman fort Bremia in the Cardiganshire of Ceredig son of Cunedda.

I would make a case, then, for Breguoin (Brewyn, Bremenium) being a Welsh rendering of the Lid Brook name, and as a hill-name is would stand Bury Wood Camp to the north of the Lid Brook.


Readers of my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY and of previous blog entries posted here will be familiar with my comprehensive discussion of the place-name Badon as it relates to OE bathum, 'baths', and to baddan(-byrig).  In brief, there is not a single Celtic linguist who will allow Badon to have come from Baddan-.  All insist the form comes quite regularly from bathum.  

Recently, I made an attempt to derive OE Baddan- (from a supposed personal name Badda, although other ideas have been proposed) from an original Brythonic source.  This effort also failed.  To summarize why Badda/Baddan- can't come from the British, here is what Professor Richard Coates sent me:

"Badda, if borrowed, and if we take the double <dd> seriously, is difficult to link to a Brittonic etymon.

British */t/ > Britt. */d/ would show up as OE /d/, not as a geminate (double).
British */tt/ > Britt. */θ/ would show up as OE */θ/, written with thorn, but never <dd>.
British */d/ > Britt. */ð/ would show up as OE /d/ or /ð/, depending on the period, for which the spelling <dd> is most unlikely.
British */dd/ seems to have yielded simple Britt. */d/ (Jackson LHEB 428, on credu), and would show up as OE /d/, not as a geminate (double).

So I conclude that Badda cannot be of Celtic  origin, particularly because Late British did not have geminate /dd/."

However, I should point out what would otherwise appear to be an odd coincidence.  The Liddington name, as applied to the Badbury/Baddanbyrig hill-fort near Swindon, also means "loud or roaring stream." This would, then, match the meaning of Breguoin just as a fort on the Lid Brook might have done.  In the past I have pointed out that the Barbury or "Bear's Fort" near Liddington/Badbury could be an early English reference to Arthur, as his name was connected by the Welsh with their word arth, 'bear.'  Furthermore, Wanborough near Liddington was in the Romano-British period called Durocornovium.  This place-name contains the same word we find in the tribal name Cornovii and in Cernyw, the Welsh name for Cornwall.  Welsh legend consistently associated Arthur with Cornwall.

It seems inconceivable that Gildas's spelling for Badon - and every subsequent spelling - is incorrect.  Yet it is tempting to see in Agned (Agued), Breguoin and Badon a typical Celtic triad of names all designating the same very important hillfort.  But if this is so, someone much sharper than I am will have to be able to philologically and phonologically demonstrate to the satisfaction of the linguists how Badon could stand for Baddan-.  


Camlann still looks to be one of the sites of this name in NW Wales.  We might presume that Ceredig son of Cunedda was fighting on his home front, rather than in southern England.  The ASC merely says that Cerdic died and does not provide any information about where this happened.  However, there is a Cam River in Gloucestershire we need to take a look at.

The headwaters of the Gloucestershire Cam rise at the great Uley hill-fort (  Uley, of course, is an English name for the place.  According to both Ekwall and Mills, this is from Euuelege, Iwele, Iwelega, 'Yew-wood or Yew-clearing', OE iw-leah.

Uley Bury Hill-Fort

The problem the name Camlann or Camlan poses for many scholars is that, technically, it canmean either Crooked Bank or Crooked Enclosure.  To my knowledge, no one has found a good Brythonic 'Crooked Enclosure' where they could place Arthur's death.  I would propose that if one of the Camlan(n)'s in NW Wales is not the actual site, then we should look to the "enclosure" at the Cam source that is the Uley hill-fort.

Alternately, given that Arthur's Badon = Bath, we should not ignore the Cam Brook (early Camelar, Cameler) very close to that city.  Camlan(n) could have been fought and lost here as well.

No good etymology for Cameler/Camelar has been offered.  I think it is possible we are dealing here with *Cambo-, 'crooked', plus an element now found in Welsh as

llwrw, llwry1 
[H. Wydd. a Gwydd. Diw. lorg ‘llwybr, ôl, trywydd; ffordd, modd, dull’: < Clt. *lorgo- o’r gwr. IE. *lerg- ‘gwastad, llithrig’, cf. Crn. C. lergh, lyrgh, H. Lyd. lerg, Llyd. C. a Diw. lerc’h ‘llwybr, ôl’, Gwydd. C. lerg, Gwydd. Diw. learg ‘llechwedd; maes; llwybr’; am y pâr llwrw, llwry, cf. bwriaf: bwrw, eiry, eira
eg. ll. llyry, a hefyd fel ardd. ac fel cys.
a  Trywydd, ôl, llwybr, ffordd, cyfeiriad, rhawd, gyrfa; yn ffig. dull, modd, ffurf, rhith, tebygrwydd:
track, trail, path, way, direction, course, career; fig. manner, mode, form, semblance.

The Irish cognate of this word is the following, which could have the meaning of RIVER-BANK:


Cite this: eDIL s.v. lerg or

Forms: lerga

(c) Various applications. Shore of sea or lake, river-bank: cota lir lerggae īath nĒremōin, Ält. Ir. Dicht. ii 10 § 3 (.i. co himel mara, 11.13 ). ás (= ós) leirg Locha Lind Formait, TBC 4115 . learga Loich Éirne, Buile S. 92.14 . air leargaidh (?-aibh) Locha Séarchaidh,AU iii 598.8 . ar léirg chúain, Rel. Celt. ii 286.26 . croinn ḟinnleargan an Ḟorghais, TD 3.3 .

The Camelar/Cameler would then be the stream of the 'crooked course' or perhaps even the stream of the 'crooked bank.'  This latter meaning would match that of Camboglanna.  

My heavily (indeed, completely altered) revision of Arthur's (i.e. Cerdic's battles) would look like this on a map:

If I have this right, what does it say about the campaigns of Cerdic/Arthur?

My reading on this shows a pretty clear division between the British kingdom of Dumnonia and the expanding English kingdom of Wessex. What seems odd, in this context, is that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tradition insists Cerdic/Ceridig/Arthur was fighting FOR Wessex, or at least for the nascent kingdom of Wessex. Arthur was, in Welsh tradition at least, constantly associated with Cornwall and Devon and part of Somerset. So what are we to make of this?

Clearly, Arthur/Cerdic/Ceredig, the Irish or Irish/Briton mercenary or "federate", was fighting for both the Welsh and the Saxons AGAINST the Dumnonians.  The irony here is incredible, as tradition ended up placing Arthur in the Dumnonian genealogy. But, historically, it does make sense.  There would have been a natural and expected antagonism between the 'high king' of Wales and the ruler of SW England.  With the withdrawal of the Romans, the old antipathies - and territorial ambitions - quickly came to the fore. Irish mercenary sons of Cunedda, including Ceredig or Cerdic, took lands in NW Wales and agreed to serve Welsh overlords in a war waged against Dumnonia. To do so, the Irish mercenaries made a foedus pact with the Saxons who were attacking Dumnonia from the south-central area of England. They also had to address areas which were beyond Saxon control at the time - namely the places to either side of the Severn at which Arthur/Cerdic fought. If we draw a line from the location of the battles mentioned in the ASC to the battles mentioned in the HB, we can quickly grasp the significance of the goal of Arthur/Cerdic/Ceredig.

I admit that this may be far beyond what Arthurian enthusiasts tend to think of when they search for a true, historical Arthur.  Nonetheless, it is the best that I can do, while remaining true to the precepts of analytical honesty.


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