Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cunedda, Carlisle, Durham - and Camboglanna?

Map Showing Camboglanna and Aballava in Relation to Carlisle/Luguvalium

In my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, one of the proofs I supplied for a historical Arthur based on the western end of Hadrian's Wall was the presence of some Roman fort names that seemed to match up very well with famous place-names found in the Arthurian tradition.  Chief among these was Camboglanna (= Camlann?) and Aballava (or Avalana, = Avalon?).  However, my more recent research, which opts instead for an Arthur originating from the kingdom of Ceredigion, made it seem much more likely that Camlann is to be identified with one of the sites of that name in NW Wales.  It seemed possible, therefore, that 'Avalon' was conjured up as the burial place of Arthur because one of the Welsh Camlanns was confused with the Camboglanna fort on the Wall.

An ancient Welsh poem called MARWNAD CUNEDDA, or the "Death-Song of Cunedda", may allow for us to have our cake and eat it, too, in a sense.  In this poem (, Cunedda, father of Ceredig/Arthur, is said to have fought at Carlisle and Durham.  These locations are interesting, as they designate sites not far to the south of Hadrian's Wall, at both the western and eastern ends, respectively.  But what are we to make of this claim in the panegyric?

Carlisle, the earlier Roman fort of Luguvalium, is directly between the Camboglanna and Aballava forts.  If Cunedda really were fighting here, and his sons (or teulu) were with him at the time, then it is certainly conceivable that Ceredig/Arthur fought and died at Camboglanna.  This would appear to be in contradistinction to Ceredig (or Cerdic) fighting in the extreme south of England.

There are two possibilities, as I see it.  First, as a mercenary chieftain (or federate in the old Roman style), Ceredig/Arthur was literally fighting all over the place.  There is nothing wrong with this notion and it cannot, on the face of things, be objected to.  We do have to remember, though, that Cunedda himself was falsely associated with the Far North when he was converted from an Irishman into a Briton with bogus Roman ancestry.  The same death-song, for example, has him being militarily active in Bernicia, which at its maximum extent eventually bordered right on Manau Gododdin, the region substituted for that around Drumanagh in Ireland.  Thus it could well be that these northern locations with which Cunedda became associated represent fictional elements in his exploits.  In other words, as he came to be seen as a great British chieftain of the North, who at some point in his career came down and conquered or settled in NW Wales, it was deemed necessary to provide a "history" for him that preceded his actions in Gwynedd.

So, did Arthur die at Camboglanna on the Wall or at one of the Camlanns in NW Wales?  Given that the Welsh Camlanns are just a little north of Ceredigion, it seems logical to at least prefer them over the Roman fort on the Wall.  Welsh tradition insisted from early on the the conflict between Arthur and Medraut was an internecine one.  We might imagine, then, a border dispute between Ceredigion and Meirionydd, or merely aggressive movement of the former into the latter.  Yet we must temper this view with my previous argument for Medraut (Modred, etc.) as a form of the Latin name Moderatus, which was borne by a prefect in the Cumbria region during the Roman period.

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