Tuesday, July 11, 2017


According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the most famous of Cunedda’s sons was Cerdic (Welsh Ceredig).  This man founded the kingdom of Ceredigion in west Wales.  If we compare the military careers of Cerdic with that of Arthur, some amazing correspondences quickly manifest themselves.

The departure point for our exploration of this subject is a comparison of the relevant chronologies. When making such a comparison, we must bear in mind that the ASC reverse the order of the Gewessei generations.  In other words, Cynric or Cunorix, properly the son of Cunedda, is made to be the son of Cerdic/Ceredig son of Cunedda.  And Ceawlin/Mac Cuilinn/Maquicoline or Cunedda is made to succeed Cynric.  There is good reason to believe, therefore, that some or all of the later Gewessei battles have been temporally displaced.  

To proceed, Cerdic of Wessex appears on the scene (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) in 495 A.D.  His death is marked in 534.

Arthur's floruit is nicely bracketed from some time shortly after the accession of Aesc (ASC) to the kingdom of Kent in 488 (or Octha, according to the Historia Brittonum account) to the time of Ida, who according to the ASC succeeded to the kingship of Northumbria in 547.  The Welsh Annals give Arthur's death at Camlan at c. 537.

We can see that according to the two sources cited, Cerdic and Arthur were near perfect contemporaries.  

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 Celtic linguist Kenneth Hurlstone 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.

Ceredicesora or "Cerdic's shore" has been thought to be the Ower near Calshot.  This is a very good possibility for a landing place.  However, the Ower further north by Southampton must be considered a leading contender, as it is quite close to some of the other battles.

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, modern Charford on the Avon.

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.

Cerdicesleag or "Cerdic's wood" I would tentatively identify with Lee (leag)-on-the-Solent.  I pick this location because of the mention of Stuf (= Stub/b) both before and after the Cerdicesleag battle. Lee-on-the-Solent is just a little bit west of Stubbington, the settlement of the descendents of Stuf/Stubb.  It is also just across the Solent from the Isle of Wight, which was given to both Wihtgar and Stuf.  

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.

Arthur's City of the Legion battle may well be an attempt at the ASC's Limbury of 571, whose early forms are Lygean-, Liggean- and the like.

Tribruit is a Welsh substitute for the Latin word trajectus.  Rivet and Smith (The Place-Names of Roman Britain, p. 178) discuss the term, saying that in some cases "it seems to indicate a ferry or ford..." Furthermore, although the Welsh rendered 'litore' of the Tribruit description in Nennius as 'traeth', demanding a river estuary emptying into the sea, litore (from Latin litus) could also mean simply 'river-bank'.  Thus traeth could well be an improper rendering of the word.

If I were to look at Tribruit in this light, and provisionally accepted the City of the Legion as Limbury, and Badon as Bath (which the spelling demands, and which appears in a group of cities captured by Cerdic's father Ceawlin/Maquicoline/Cunedda), then the location of the Tribruit/Trajectus in question may well be determined by the locations of Mounts Agned and Breguoin.  These last two battle-sites fall between those of the City of the Legion and Bath, and after that of the Tribruit. 

I decided to take a fresh look at Agned, which has continud to vex Arthurian scholars.  I noticed that in the ASC 571 entry there was an Egonesham, modern Eynsham.  Early forms of this place-name include Egenes-, Egnes-, Eghenes-, Einegs-.  According to both Ekwall and Mills, this comes from an Old English personal name *Aegen.  Welsh commonly adds -edd to make regular nominative i:-stem plurals of nouns (information courtesy Dr. Simon Rodway, who cites several examples).  Personal names could also be made into place-names by adding the -ydd suffix.  The genitive of Agnes in Latin is Agnetus, which could have become Agned in Welsh - as long as <d> stands for /d/, which would be exceptional in Old Welsh (normally it stands for what is, in Modern Welsh, spelled as <dd>). I'd long ago shown that it was possible for Welsh to substitute initial /A-/ for /E-/.  What this all tells me is that Agned could conceivably be an attempt at the hill-fort named for Aegen.

But what of Mount Breguoin?  Well, I had remembered that prior to his later piece on Breguoin ('Arthur's Battle of Breguoin', Antiquity 23 (1949) 48—9), Jackson had argued (in 'Once Again Arthur's Battles') that the place-name might come from a tribal name based on the Welsh word breuan, 'quern.'  The idea dropped out of favor when Jackson ended up preferring Brewyn/Bremenium in Northumberland for Breguoin. 

So how does seeing breuan in Breguoin help us?

In the 571 ASC entry we find Aylesbury as another town that fell to the Gewessei.  This is Aegelesburg in Old English.  I would point to Quarrendon, a civil parish and a deserted medieval village on the outskirts of Aylesbury.  The name means "hill where mill-tones [querns] were got". Thus if we allow for Breguoin as deriving from the Welsh word for quern, we can identify this hill with Quarrendon at Aylesbury.

All of which brings us back, rather circuitously, to Tribruit.  Taking this for a ford, the obvious candidate given Limbury, Aylesbury and Eynsham, is Bedcanforda of 571.  This is also found as Biedcanforda and is believed by most to be Bedford (Bedanford, Bydanford, Bedefort, 'Bieda's Ford').  I would not hesitate, therefore, to propose that the Tribruit river-bank is the trajectus at Bedford.

If we accept all this, then we cannot very easily reject Badon as Bath.  In truth, with Bath listed in the ASC entry for 577, and made into a town captured by Ceawlin, we simply are no longer justified in trying to make a case for the linguistically impossible Badbury, such as the one at Liddington Castle in Wiltshire.  This is true despite the fact that Ceawlin/Cunedda is said to have fought at Beranbyrig/ Barbury Castle, the “Bear’s Fort” only a few kilometers distant from Liddington.  I’ve made the case in the past for Barbury being an English reference to Arthur, as the Welsh word arth means “bear.” There remains the possibility, of course, that Badon, a Welsh form of English bathum, was merely confused with and thus substituted for Baddanbyrig/Badbury. Arthur may indeed have won a major victory at Liddington Castle, while Bath may have fallen separately as a result of the action at Deorham/Dyrham.

That Barbury may be ‘Arthur’s fort’ brings up a very important issue.  For if Arthur and Cerdic/Ceredig are the same man, how can we account for the name difference?  


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