Saturday, September 30, 2017


A Hypothetical Family Tree

              Cynfarch                             Arthwys

Urien       Lleu      Efrddyl       Eliffer Gosgorddfawr

             Medraut                         Arthur Penuchel     

In my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, I suggested that the name of Medraut's father (the Loth of Geoffrey of Monmouth, properly rendered as Lleu in the Welsh sources; Lothian is derived from Middle Welsh Lleudinyawn, Brittonic *Lugudunianon, land of ‘Lugh's/Lleu's Fortress’) should perhaps be attached to Carlisle, the Romano-British Luguvalium,  This was principally because the latter, whether interpreted as a place-name or a description of the fort, meant 'Lleu-strong.'  

However, in going back over the Triads I realized that I'd missed something: Triad 70 lists as a son of Cynfarch, and thus brother of Urien and Efrddyl, a certain Lleu.  As it happens, the Welsh version of Geoffrey of Monmouth's tale makes this Lleu son of Cynfarch the father of Medraut. For the fun of it, I drew up the family tree presented above, as the various family relationships placed Medraut and Arthur Penuchel in the same generation.  Furthermore, in this scheme Arthur and Medraut are first cousins.

Lleu son of Cynfarch's mother was Nefyn - a name universally held to be cognate with the Irish goddess name Nemhain.  Nemhain, in turn, often appears as the trio of battle goddesses which includes the Morrigan.  In my THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON I made my case for the Welsh Morgan being a substitute for the Morrigan in Arthurian story.  If I'm right, then Nemhain wife of Cynfarch could also be seen as the Morrigan/Morgan, grandmother of Medraut.

In Geoffrey's story, Medraut's mother is Anna, Arthur's sister.  This points once again to the Annan River (from a British form of the Irish goddess name Anu, or at least from the same root).  According to the "Gorhoffedd" of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd, Caerliwelydd, i.e. Carlisle in Cumbria, was in Rheged (see John Koch's CELTIC CULTURE: A CULTURAL ENCYCLOPEDIA).  I've recently shown that the heartland of Rheged was, in fact, Annandale, just across the Solway Firth from Carlisle.   But it is not impossible that at some point Rheged did hold Carlisle, and that it was Cynfarch's son Lleu whose name may serve as a sort of partial eponym for that city.  Medraut, then, would be from Luguvalium.

The Welsh name Gwyar as Medraut's mother, as she was the mother of Medraut's supposed brother Gawain.  But I've shown in my THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY that Gwyar's people belonged at the pre-Saxon Bamburgh. 

Now, once again, accepting Arthur Penuchel as the son of Eliffer poses a rather grave problem chronologically - even though the connection with York (which is where the Artorius name came from to begin with!) is most attractive. It also relies upon a corruption of Triad 70 - although in the past I have been willing to entertain the notion that perhaps, at least as far as Arthur Penuchel is concerned, the corruption in question may represent a correction.

From the standpoint of chronology, there is some "wriggle room", as any reigns for these various Men of the North are conventional approximations.  While it is true that Medraut son of Lleu son of Cynfarch and Nemhain-Morrigan/Morgan looks very promising, we are still stuck with the c. 537 date for his passing with Arthur at Camboglanna.  According to Bartram, 585 or 586 are the most likely years to have seen the death of Urien, Medraut's uncle.  

Urien is thought to have been born about 510 (again, see Bartram).  Arthur fought at Badon c. 516.  While such a date for Badon fits Ceidio son of Arthwys (who was born around 490), my candidate for Arthur 'dux erat bellorum' (as Ceidio is a hypocorism for something like Cadwaladr, Cadwal, etc.), it cannot be reconciled with an Arthur Penuchel son of Eliffer.  Eliffer's sons Gwrgi and Peredur fought at Arderydd in 573 and perished at Carrawburgh on the Wall in 580 (see my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY).  

But let's consider for a moment that Ceidio the Battle-leader, son of Arthwys, and Arthur are, indeed, the same man.  If we do, something marvelous happens.  We can retain the Morrigan/Morgan as Medraut's grandmother, but as Ceidio (because Efrddyl was Eliffer's wife) was Lleu's brother-in-law, Medraut would be Arthur's nephew by marriage.   The kernel of the Arthur and Medraut story as found in both Geoffrey of Monmouth and the later romances would be present in this very early genealogical relationship.

Yet Medraut as son of Lleu son of Cynfarch suffers from the same chronological problem as Arthur Penuchel son of Eliffer.  It would be impossible to place this Medraut at a Camlann in 537. 


On February 26, 1996, I received a letter from Professor Oliver Padel of Cambridge. This was in response to a query I had sent him some time earlier in which I proposed that the name Medrawt – born by the personage who died with Arthur at Camlann – may represent the Roman name Moderatus. What Padel had to say on this possibility is important enough for Arthurian studies to be reprinted in full below:

“Not much has been done on the name of Medrawt or Mordred… In an article on various words in Welsh with the root med, Medr-, Ifor Williams suggested that the name might be connected with the Welsh verb medru ‘to be able, to hit’; but he did not develop the idea, only mentioned it in passing.

Middle Welsh Medrawt cannot formally be identical with Old Cornish Modred, Old Breton Mo-drot (both of which are recorded, indicating an original Old Co.Br. *Modrod), since the Welsh e in the first syllable should not be equivalent to a Co.Br. o there.

What people do not seem to have asked is what this discrepancy means: we can hardly say that Welsh Medrawt is a different name, since it clearly belongs to the same character as  Geoffrey’s [Geoffrey of Monmouth] Modredus < Co.Br. Modrod.

Which is ‘right’? I would suggest that the Co.Br. form is the ancient one, and that the Welsh form has been altered, perhaps indeed by association with the verb medru.

That was already my conclusion, but I did not have a derivation for Modrod. However, Modrod would be the exact derivative of Latin Moderatus, as you suggest. Your suggestion is most attractive, and neither I nor (so far as I know) anyone else has previously thought of it.

Like you, I should be relucatant to say that Modrod couldn’t have a Celtic derivation; but it fits so well with Moderatus that I personally don’t feel the need to look further.”

If Medrawt or, rather, Modrod, is Moderatus, this may be significant for a Medraut at Cambloglanna on Hadrian’s Wall, for we know of a Trajanic period prefect named C. Rufius Moderatus, who left inscriptions at Greatchesters on the Wall and Brough-under-Stainmore in Cumbria (CIL iii. 5202, RIB 1737, 166-9, 2411, 147-51). The name of this prefect could have become popular in the region and might even have still been in use among Northern British noble families in the 6th century CE.


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