Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Final Word on 'Arthwys' as a Designation for the Irthing Valley

Irthing Valley

I've had new information from Prof. Paul Russell of Cambridge and Professor Richard Coates of the University of West England regarding the -wys ending of Arthwys, supposed father of Ceidio (my candidate for King Arthur).  The following is composed of a selection from my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, with the additional comment plugged in:

The name Arthwys has frequently been brought into connection with that of Arthur/Artorius. This name is from Arth-, ‘Bear’, + -wys. Dr. Simon Rodway of The University of Wales tells me that 

“There is an element –wys found in a number of words of obscure meaning and derivation which could be present in Arthwys, cf. doublets like mam ~ mamwys, neuadd ~ neuaddwys (Ifor Williams, The Poems of Taliesin, trans. J. E. C. Williams (Dublin, 1968), p. 51).”

To which Prof. Russell adds: 

“Most of the other forms in -wys derive from Latin -ensis (thus also Powys) and that is what it is in mamwys, etc.” 

And Prof. Coates contribution:

"The accepted etymology valid in other names, or words derived from names, viz. < Latin -enses, is beyond dispute."

The best example of such a name is Glywys, the Welsh equivalent of Glevensis, ‘a man of Glevum’, i.e. Gloucester.  Glywys is thus merely an eponym for people who traced their origin to Gloucester. In this, sense, then, Arthwys would be ‘a man of Arth/the Bear.’

Thus Arthwys can be interpreted as a territorial designation, rather than strictly as a personal name. Welsh has a -wys suffix, which derives from Lat-in –enses.  A discussion of this suffix can be found in John T.  Koch's Celtic Culture, among other sources.  Regedwis, for example, is 'people of Rheged' - or maybe better, 'inhabitants of Rheged'. The entry for -wys (1) in the University of Wales Dictionary confirms it as a Latin borrowing and as a nominal plural ending, giving the examples of Gwennwys, Lloegrwys and Monwys. Could –wys, then, be a suffix used for the people who live on a certain river?  Like on an Arth or Bear River?

When I put this question to Dr. Delyth Prys of the place-name experts at The University of Wales, Bangor, he replied: “I've no independent evidence for this, but river names are sometimes used as the name for a more general area and by extension it could be the people of the Arth (area)." 

This all fits in nicely  with the Irthing Valley as a diminutive of the word arth (eirth), an etymology first proposed by place-name expert Dr. Andrew Breeze of The University of Pamplona. From his article “Celts, Bears and the River Irthing” (Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, volume XXXII):

"Irthing, which has early forms Irthin, Erthina, and Erthing, would also make sense as ‘little bear’, with a Cumbric diminutive suffix corresponding to Middle and Modern Welsh –yn (Old Welsh –inn), as in defynyn ‘droplet’ from dafn ‘drop’ or mebyn ‘young boy’ from mab ‘boy’.  As the th of Arth is pronounced like that of English bath, but that of Irthing like that of brother, the process of voicing here would take place after borrowing by English, not before.”

Both the Birdoswald Dark Age hall at the Banna Roman fort and the Camboglanna Roman fort are within the Irthing Valley.  Given Arthwys as the father of Ceidio, and Gwenddolau ("White Dales", itself perhaps originally a place-name) at Carwinley as the son of Ceidio, and given that Etterby hard by Stanwix was called 'Arthur's Burg', I hold to my original opinion that the Stanwix Roman fort of Uxellodunum/Petriana was the site of Arthur's ruling center. Arthur as Penuchel in a corrupt Triad could be a reference to Uxello- (Welsh uchel), while the reason the Dyfed king Petr named his son Arthur may be because the original Arthur was a sort of successor of the Petriana garrison.  

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