Friday, June 2, 2017

A Radical Reappraisal of the Last Four Battles of Cerdic/Ceredig/Arthur

In past articles, I've struggled with proper identifications for the following Arthurian battles:

a) City of the Legion
b) the Tribruit Shore
c) Mount Agned or Mount Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion
d) Mount Badon

In this new piece, I wish to explore these sites anew. This time, instead of concentrating solely on linguistic matches, I want to compare the first grouping of Arthurian battles from a strategic standpoint with the latter ones.  When considering this we have to remember that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for some strange reason REVERSES the genealogical order of the Gewessei princes. Hence the chronology of the ASC battles is seriously flawed.

The Glein, Bassas, Dubglas, Celyddon and Guinnion battles all can be firmly located between the Hampshire Avon, Southhampton Water and the Isle of Wight.  These battles indicate raiding from the sea.  They also suggest a distinctive method of penetration into hostile territory: following river valleys from their terminus to their source.  Cerdic eventually reached Charford on the Avon, or perhaps a bit further (depending where we situate the unlocated Cerdicesleag).  After the "conquest" of Wight, Cynric/Cunorix son of Maquicoline/Ceawlin (= Cunedda) defeats the British at Old Sarum hard by Salisbury.  This battle is on the same River Avon as Charford, only more to the north.  Again, the river is being followed into the heartland of the enemy.

Something odd then happens with the next battle, fought by Ceawlin.  The site is Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, far to the north of the Hampshire Avon.  However, Barbury or Beranbyrig is the "Bear's Fort" (or the fort of someone named Bear), and I've believed for some time now that this was an English designation for Arthur (as arth in Welsh means 'bear').  Barbury, in turn, is very close to the Liddington Castle Badbury.

Ceawlin's next battle (568) marks another major departure from prior arenas of conflict.  He is said to have driven Aethelberht into Kent and to have slain two princes at Wibbandun.  The location of Wibbandun is unknown.  However, given the villages said to have been captured in 571 (Limbury, Aylesbury, Benson and Eynsham), we can probably place it at or near Whipsnade (detached plot of a man called Wibba; Mills, A Dictionary of English Place-Names), Bedfordshire.  These places were supposedly taken by Ceawlin's BROTHER Cutha.  Cutha is a hypocoristic form of something like the Cuthwulf or Cuthwine mentioned as fighting alongside Ceawlin.  As I've pointed out before, the name derives from the goddess name Cuda, who is remembered in the regional designation The Cotswolds.  In 577 it is Ceawlin and Cuthwine who fight at Dyrham and who slay three kings (one of them - Coinmail - bears the same name as that of Apollo Cunomaglos, whose shrine was near the Dyrham battle site).  The cities of Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath are taken as a consequence.

So what now to do with the last 4 battles of Arthur?  If we assume for the sake of argument they are not simply fanciful additions to the list, meant to pad it out to the desired Herculean 12...

It has occurred to me that the City of the Legion could be Limbury from the ASC, as the first part of this place-name is variously spelled Lygean- or Liggean-.  It would not take much for a monkish scribe to have mistakenly related Lygean-/Liggean- to legionis, the genitive singular of legio. Badon would thus be Ceawlin's Bath.  But Caerleon cannot be discounted for the City of the Legion, especially as the Pierced-Through Shore that is Traeth Tribruit can only be the Trajectus that crossed from Caerwent near Caerleon to a spot on Bath's River Avon.

And this leaves the very troublesome Agned and Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion to untangle.  At one time I pitched W. Agned as directly derived from the Latin genitive Agnetis, for Agnes the virgin saint. This is perfect linguistically.  My idea was that this Christian virgin's name had replaced that of Sulis Minerva (Minerva being the ultimate virgin Roman goddess) which we find preserved at Little Solsbury Hill overlooking Bath.  Mount Agned and Mount Badon would then be one and the same place.  Yet Agned could also be an easily accountable error for Welsh agued, a mere adjective meaning that the host or hosts at Mount Badon were in straits or distress.  In this case it would not be a proper name at all.

Breguoin, while perfect for Brewyn/Bremenium in Northumberland, could also be a Welsh substitute for the Liddington of Liddington Castle, Badbury.  This is because the meanings of the roots of the Welsh and English words mean the same thing.  'Badon' would then be an incorrect substitution of Bath for a Baddan(byrig).  Bregion is simply a plural form meaning 'hills', and it can be nicely associated with Brean Down promontory hill-fort in Somerset.  Or it can be a generic terms for any grouping or range of hills - a fact that is spectacularly unhelpful.  Bregomion looks to be merely a strange combination of Breguoin and Bregion!  In other words, a corruption.

How to resolve these problems?

I'm now thinking all my attempts to make something of Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion have been for naught.  We must remember that the Welsh word for hill, bre, has the same Indo-European root origin as the English word beorg.  And that the Old English word for fort - burh - is also from the same root.

From the GPC on bre:

[Crn. Bray, Brea (e. lleoedd), Llyd. C. Bre (Levenez) (e. lle), Llyd. Diw. bre: < Clt. *brigā, o’r gwr. IE. *bhr̥ĝh- ‘uchel, dyrchafedig’, cf. Gal. Nemeto-briga, Nerto-briga, Alm. Berg; â’r ll. breon, cf. 9g. Hist Brit c. 56 Bregion (e. lle); a cf. H. Wydd. brí (gen. breg): < Clt. *brixs; tebyg mai cfl. traws bre1 a welir yn fry ac obry; cf. hefyd braint1, brenin] 
eg.b. ll. breon, breoedd, a hefyd fel a. ac adf.
Bryn, bryncyn, mynydd, bryndir, ucheldir, copa, hefyd yn ffig.:
hill, hillock, mountain, hill-country, upland, peak, also fig. 

We see here the OW bregion and MW breon for "hills".

And here is burh and beorg from the Bosworth/Toller AS dictionary:

BURH, burg; gen. burge; dat. byrig, byrg; acc. burh, burg; pl. nom. acc. burga; gen. burga; dat. burgum; f. [beorh, beorg = burh, burg the impert. of beorgan to defend]. I. the original signification was arx, castellum, mons, a castle for defence. It might consist of a castle alone; but as people lived together for defence and support, hence a fortified place, fortress, castle, palace, walled town, dwelling surrounded by a wall or rampart of earth; arx, castellum, mons, palatium, urbs munita, domus circumvallata :-- Se Abbot Kenulf macode fyrst ða wealle abútan ðone mynstre, [and] geaf hit ðá to nama Burh [Burch MS.], ðe æ-acute;r hét Medeshámstede the Abbot Kenulf first made the wall about the minster, and gave it then the name Burh = Burg [Petres burh Peter's burg = Peterborough] , which before was called Meadow-home-stead, Chr. 963; Erl. 123, 27-34; Th. 221, 34-39. ILLEGIBLE The style of the Anglo-Saxon indicates a late date, perhaps about 1100 or 1200. Burg arx, Cot. 10. Stíþlíc stán-torr and seó steépe burh on Sennar stód the rugged stone-tower and the high fortress stood on Shinar, Cd. 82; Th. 102, 15; Gen. 1700. Óþ ðæt hie on Sodoman weall-steápe burg wlitan meahton till they on Sodom's lofty-walled fortress might look, 109; Th. 145, 7; Gen. 2402. Ðæ-acute;r se hálga heáh, steáp reced, burh timbrede there the holy man built a high, steep dwelling, a walled town, 137; Th. 172, 6; Gen. 2840. Burge weall the wall of a city; murus, Ps. Th. 17, 28. Ðæt hie geseón mihten ðære wlitegan byrig weallas that they might see the walls of the beautiful city, Judth. 11; Thw. 23, 24; Jud. 137: Ps. Th. 44, 13: 47, 11. On leófre byrig and háligre in montem sanctificationis suæ, 77, 54: 77, 67. Ðá férdon híg þurh ða burhga egressi circuibant per castella. Lk. Bos. 9, 6. Eádweard cyng fór mid fierde to Bedan forda, and beget ða burg king Edward went with an army to Bedford, and gained the walled town, Chr. 919; Th. 192, 24, col. l. Ge binnan burgum, ge búton burgum both within walled towns, and without walled towns, L. Edg. S. 3; Th. i. 274, 7. Ðone æðeling on ðære byrig métton, ðér se cyning ofslægen læg they found the ætheling in the inclosure of the dwelling, where the king lay slain, Chr. 755; Th. 84, 19, col. 1: L. Edm. S. 2; Th. i. 248, 16: L. Eth. iii. 6; Th. i. 296, 5. II. a fortress or castle being necessary for the protection of those dwelling together in cities or towns, -- a city, town, burgh, borough; urbs, civitas, oppidum :-- Róma burh the city Rome, Bd. 1. 11; S. 480, 10, 12. Ða ðe in burh móton gongan, in Godes ríce they may go into the city, [may go] into God's kingdom, Cd. 227; Th. 303, 16; Sae. 613. Ðonne hý hweorfaþ in ða hálgan burg when they pass into the holy city, Exon. 44b; Th. 150, 26; Gú. 784. Ðæt he gesáwe ða burh ut videret civitatem, Gen. ll, 5. Ða burh ne bærndon they burnt not the city, Ors. 2, 8; Bos. 52, 8. Burge weard the guardian of the city, Cd. 180; Th. 226, 19; Dan. 173: Ps. Th. 9, 13. Ðonne hí eów éhtaþ on ðysse byrig cum perseguentur vos in civitate ista, Mt. Bos. 10, 23: Exon. 15b; Th. 34, 14; Cri. 542. Binnan ðære byrig within the city, Ors. 2, 8; Bos. 52, 4. Beóþ byrig mid Iudém getimbrade ædificabuntur civitates Judæ, Ps. Th. 68, 36. Byrig fægriaþ towns appear fair, Exon. 82a; Th. 308, 32;
Seef. 48. Ðá ongan he hyspan ða burga tunc cæpit exprobrare civitatibus, Mt. Bos. ll, 20. On burgum in the towns, Beo. Th. 105; B. 53. [Piers P. Chauc. burghe: R. Brun. burgh: R. Glouc. bor&yogh;: Laym. burh: Orm. burrh: Plat. borch, f: O. Sax. burg, f. urbs, civitas: Frs. borge, m. f: O. Frs. burch, burich, f: Dut. burgt, f: Kil. borg, borght: Ger. burg, f. arx, castellum: M. H. Ger. burc, f: O. H. Ger. buruc, burg, f. urbs, civitas: Goth. baurgs, f: Dan. borg, m. f: Swed. borg, m: O. Nrs. borg, f.] DER. ealdor-burh [-burg], fóre-, freó-, freoðo-, gold-, heáfod-, heáh- [heá-], hleó-, hord-, in-, leód-, mæ-acute;g-, medo-, meodu-, rand-, rond-, sceld-, scild-, scyld-, stán-, under-, weder-, wín-, wyn-.

beorg, beorh, biorg, biorh; gen. beorges; dat. beorge; pl. nom. acc. beorgas; gen. beorga; dat. beorgum; m. I. a hill, mountain; collis, mons :-- On Sýne beorg on Sion's hill, Exon. 20 b; Th. 54, 29; Cri. 876. Óþ ða beorgas ðe man hæ-acute;t Alpis to the mountains which they call the Alps, Ors. 1, 1; Bos. 18, 44; 16, 17. Æ-acute;lc múnt and beorh byþ genyðerod omnis mons et collis humiliabitur, Lk. Bos. 3, 5. Æt ðæm, beorge ðe man Athlans nemneþ at the mountain which they call Atlas, Ors. 1, 1; Bos. 16, 6. II. a heap, BURROW or barrow, a heap of stones, place of burial; tumulus :-- Worhton mid stánum ánne steápne beorh him ofer congregaverunt super eum acervum magnum lapidum, Jos. 7, 26. Bæd ðæt ge geworhton in bæ-acute;lstede beorh ðone heán he commanded [bade] that you should work the lofty barrow on the place of the funeral pile, Beo. Th. 6186; B. 3097 : 5606; B. 2807 : Exon. 50 a; Th. 173, 26; Gú. 1166 : 119 b; Th. 459, 31; Hö. 8. [Laym. berh&yogh;e : Piers bergh; still used in the dialect of Yorkshire : Plat. barg : O. Sax. berg : O. Frs. berch, birg : Ger. berg : M. H. Ger. berc : O. H. Ger. perac : Goth. bairga-hei a mountainous district : Dan. bjærg, n : Swed. berg, n : O. Nrs. berg, n : derived from beorgan.] DER. ge-beorg, -beorh, heáh-, mund-, sæ-acute;-, sand-, stán-.

Finally, the evidence for the common IE root for these hill words may be found here:

What I'm hinting at is that Agned and Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion may originally have been a single COMPOUND PLACE-NAME.  The first element was Agned-, while the second was -bury.  In other words, the Welsh chose to use their own breg for burg, and this word was further altered through careless Latinization.  Or, if we wish to preserve the plural, we are talking here about the "burgs of Agned".

If Arthur went from Caerleon to Caerwent and thence via the Trajectus over the Severn to the River Avon, and his very last victorious battle is Badon (whose spelling beyond a doubt does indicate Bath), then the Agned-burg or Agned-burgs in question must be between the Trajectus landing place (possibly Bitton) and Bath itself.  Brean Down can no longer be considered an acceptable candidate.

I am here going to propose that the Hills of Agned are Little Solsbury Hill camp and the Southampton Down camp, both of which stand over Bath on opposite sides of the River Avon.  While we have no extant evidence that St. Agnes was ever known here, I feel it is not unreasonable to assume that at least in this case she was chosen as an approved Christian substitute for Sulis Minerva. The hill-forts above Bath were sacred to her, of course, and control of both had to be wrested from their owners by Ceawlin/Cunedda and his son, Cerdic/Ceredig/Arthur.

Little Solsbury Hill and Southampton Down

NOTE:  Here is my earlier piece on Sulis Minerva and St. Agnes:

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