Tuesday, February 6, 2018


John Speed's 17th Century Representation of Cerdic of Wessex

In my book THE BEAR KING: ARTHUR AND THE IRISH IN SOUTHERN ENGLAND AND WALES (https://www.amazon.com/Bear-King-Arthur-Southern-England/dp/1548982954/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517936246&sr=8-1&keywords=the+bear+king+august+hunt), I make my case for Arthur being Cerdic of Wessex/Ceredig son of Cunedda.  Except for the section on Uther Pendragon, who at the time I tried to identify with Cunedda, I consider the argument to be very strong.  

Oddly enough, there is one little bit of "evidence" supporting the Cerdic theory that I can't shake.  Tht is the mention of the lame boy, son of Elafius, from the Life of St. Germanus of Auxerre.  I showed in my book that, in all likelihood, this was a reference to the name Arthur, connected fancifully in the hagiographical account with Latin words of an arthr- construction.  Experts on such saints' lives and on the medieval propensity for false etymology agreed with me that this was quite possible. 

So, I'm 99% certain that Arthur = Ceredig son of Cunedda.

However, I'm also 99% certain that the Uther Pendragon made his father is none other than St. Illtud.  An Illtud who is otherwise referred to as a cousin of Arthur!

Clearly, there is something wrong here of a major nature.  

Also, with Cerdic of Wessex being the victor of the Arthurian battles as these are listed in the HISTORIA BRITTONUM - battles said to have been fought against the Britons - to postulate a separate Arthur who fought the English and won the same battles automatically creates a dichotomy.  For "both sides" can't be right.  Someone, either the English or the Welsh, are lying.

How do we find our way through to the truth about who Arthur really was?

I now think I know what happened.  

Scholars have always known that the traditional genealogy which provides Cunedda with sons who conquer (or are "granted") west and northern Wales is probably an artificial construct.  It is more likely that chieftains like Ceredig were not actually sons, but members of Cunedda's teulu or warband.  But we may extend this idea even further.  The various minor kingdoms founded in Gwynedd may have been the product of wholly independent Irish raiders/settlers who were only later made sons of Cunedda.  They may not have fought under Cunedda's banner at all.  Throughout the Welsh genealogies, sons are given to great ancestral chieftains due to place-names that are adjacent to the primary kingdom.  

If we allow for Ceredig of Ceredigion/Cerdic of Wessex being originally the son of someone other than Cunedda, then we can easily resolve our difficulties.

I've tried identifying the "Llydaw" in Wales with a number of different places.  However, there are only a couple of real Llydaw place-names in Wales.  One is that of the lake whose river flows into Llyn Dinas at Dinas Emrys.  In a previous blog post I discussed the conquest of Arfon (in which Dinas Emrys is situated) by a grandson of Cunedda.  At least this is what scraps of the Welsh tradition tells us took place. Supposedly, Irish were in Arfon before being driven out - a supreme irony, since Cunedda was of the Irish Ciannachta.  This may be a "cover story", in effect.  For in the story of Vortigern's granting of Dinas Emrys to the fictional Ambrosius, we have a substitute tale for the Welsh High King giving the place to the Irish.  

Enter Illtud or Uther Pendragon, the Terrible Chief-warrior.  He comes from Llydaw (NOT Brittany!) to Dinas Powys in southern Wales.  Just as Cunedda and his sons were said to do when they ousted the Irish Ui Liathain from that region.  Illtud's father Bicanus is a pun on Welsh bychan (or fechan), 'little', a reference to Little Britain, i.e. Brittany.  

What I'm proposing, of course, is that Illtud was of Irish or mixed Irish descent and he came from Llydaw/Dinas Emrys in Arfon.  His son was Ceredig/Cerdic/Arthur, who was later made the son of Cunedda.  He could thus be traced to a man who was falsely said to come from Roman stock in the far north of Britain (Manau Gododdin, an error for Drumanagh in Ireland). 

At some point the Welsh propagandists decided they needed a national hero.  While Ceredig/Cerdic was surely quite famous in his day - as he had significant military successes while fighting for the High King of Wales - it was not considered desirable that his opponents in battle were other Britons.  Even less flattering was the fact that he had allied himself with the English (who referred to such foreign mercenaries or federates as the Gewissei)!  The solution to this dilemma was to use the name/title Arthur rather than that of Ceredig.  While it is certainly possible that over time it was forgotten that Arthur = Ceredig, and thus separate entities were created in legend, to me this distinguishing of the two names seems deliberate.  The only argument against such deliberate tampering of history would be that surely someone, somewhere, would know Arthur was Ceredig.  This someone - or many someones - would have spoken out and we would have a record of the deception.

There is, of course, another possibility.  That to separate out Arthur from Ceredig the former was simply given a fake father, viz. Illtud/Uther Pendragon.  Once this was done, Arthur could be declared the victor of the HISTORIA BRITTONUM battles against the English.  Ceredig/Cerdic as the actual victor of these battles could be let go.  However, it is hard to justify this idea.  For why not simply create a wholly new father for Arthur?  Why fall back on a man who really existed?

What we must understand when delving into this material is that we are not dealing with modern, objective historiography.  We are dealing not only with fragments of tradition, but with a tradition that is composed of a chaotic hodge-podge of myth, legend, folklore, religion, propaganda, fraudulent genealogies, etc.  Thus any attempt to describe in detail the process by which the Arthur story came into being is fraught with more than peril: it might well be an impossible task.  Yet in my mind there is just barely enough there to at least plausibly postulate what might have happened and why.  

To summarize my most recent thinking on the subject, then:  

1) Illtud the Terrible Chief-dragon was Irish or part-Irish
2) He left Dinas Emrys and may have been involved in driving the Ui Liathain out of southern Wales
3) He became the leader of the soldiers of a British chieftain at Dinas Powys
4) His son was Ceredig of Ceredigion, also known as Arthur
5) Ceredig, along with all the other eponymous founders of minor kingdoms in Gwynedd, was made a son of Cunedda in the doctored royal genealogies
6) Arthur and Ceredig through some mechanism not immediately apparent to us became separate entities
7) The battles of Ceredig/Cerdic against Britons (as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) were transformed into the battles of Arthur against the English

Alternately, it could all be THIS SIMPLE:

Illtud's title is used as the name of an elegy in the Book of Taliesin.  In that poem, the warrior is compared with Arthur (much as another warrior is compared with Arthur in The Gododdin). 

Geoffrey or his source uses this title (as he did the gorlassar descriptor applied to Uther to conjure Gorlois) as Arthur's father's name.  It is likely that Geoffrey did not know Arthur = Ceredig son of Cunedda.  Furthermore, he may not have known Uther Pendragon was merely a Welsh rendering of Latin titles used for Illtud.  Uther at some point obviously took on an independent existence.

We don't know how Arthur was originally employed as a designation for Ceredig.  I've made a good case for the arth- or bear component found in the royal pedigree of Ceredigion coming from the Afon Arth. Arthur as it stands is from Latin/Roman Artorius, but it was undoubtedly a decknamen for an earlier British Arthr(h)i or Irish Artri.  This could have been a name or a title held by Ceredig. 

If this is what happened, then Ceredig could still have been an actual son of Cunedda.  And, historically speaking, Uther Pendragon/Illtud would have absolutely nothing to do with Arthur.

I've come to this conclusion because I'm as certain as I can be that Ceredig son of Cunedda/Cerdic of Wessex is Arthur.  I cannot reconcile this with Illtud as his father.  So I can only assume that Uther Pendragon as a title for Illtud was wrongly employed by the myth-makers as the father of Arthur.

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