Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Stanwix Roman Fort

In my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, I made a case for the original Arthur of heroic legend being based at Stanwix in Cumbria, the Uxellodunum/Petriana of the Classical sources.  This was a Roman fort housing the largest cavalry unit in all of Britain and, according to the best historians and archaeologists of Roman Britain, the place acted as the command center of Hadrian's Wall, answering directly to York.

I had hinted at the possibility that the Arthur of Dyfed, son of Pedr (= Roman/Latin Petrus), had been given his name in honor of an Arthur who had ruled at Petriana. The name is used of Uxellodunum/Stanwix because the unit garrisoned there was called the Ala Petriana, named for the initial head of the unit, Titus Pomponius Petra. 

Furthermore, I suggested - very tentatively - that the Arthur Penuchel mentioned in a corrupt Triad as son of Eliffer/Eleutherius (an honorific given to Constantine the Great of York fame in ancient Greek sources) was an oblique reference to Arthur having ruled from Uxellodunum.  Uxello- becomes in Welsh uchel.  Dr. Simon Rodway of The University of Wales, a noted expert in the Welsh language, recently informed me that Uxellodunum in Welsh would have become *Uchelddin.  However, Welsh place-names show a shift in the order of components, so that one would expect a Din Uchel or Dinas Uchel.  Even more importantly, I cited the example of Ceredig Wledig of Strathclyde, who in the early Irish sources is called Coroticus 'regis Aloo/regem Aloo', or 'King of the Rock.' Aloo is here an abbreviated form of Alclud, the Rock of the Clyde, the capital of the early Strathclyde kingdom.  If this place-name could be abbreviated in such a way, so could Uxellodunum. 

The question I next asked myself was this: WHY DID PEDR OR PETRUS OF DYFED NAME HIS SON ARTHUR?  Clearly, he must have had a reason for doing so.  Could it not be that the famous Arthur of PETRIANA was the model for this Arthur of Dyfed?

As anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin knows, the relationship of Petra and Petrus is extremely close.  Here are the relevant entries from the Lewis and Short Dictionary at Perseus:

pē^tra , ae, f., = πέτρα,
I.a rock, a crag, stone (pure Lat. saxum; cf.: rupes, scopulus): petrarum genera sunt duo, quorum alterum naturale saxum prominens in mare; “alterum manufactum ut docet Aelius Gallus: Petra est, qui locus dextrā ac sinistrā fornicem expletur usque ad libramentum summi fornicis,” Fest. p. 206 Müll. (of the latter signif. there is no other example known): petris ingentibus tecta, Enn. ap. Fest. 1. 1. (Ann. v. 366); Sen. Herc. Oet. 804: “aquam de petrā produxit,” Vulg. Isa. 48, 21 et saep.: “gaviae in petris nidificant,” Plin. 10, 32, 48, § 91: “alga, quae juxta terram in petris nascitur,” id. 32, 6, 22, § 66; 34, 12, 29, § 117; Curt. 7, 11, 1.

πέτρα , Ion. and Ep. πέτρη , ἡ,
A.rock; freq. of cliffs, ledges, etc. by the sea, “λισσὴ αἰπεῖά τε εἰς ἅλα πέτρη” Od.3.293, cf. 4.501, etc.; χῶρος λεῖος πετράων free from rocks, of a beach, 5.443 ; “π. ἠλίβατος . . ἁλὸς ἐγγὺς ἐοῦσα” Il.15.618, etc.; χοιρὰς π. Pi.P.10.52; also, rocky peak or ridge, αἰγίλιψ π. Il.9.15, etc.; “ἠλίβατος” 16.35, etc.; λιττὰς π. Corinn.Supp.1.30, cf.A.Supp.796 (lyr.); π. Λενκάς, ?ωλενίη, etc., Od.24.11, Il.11.757, etc.; π. σύνδρομοι, Συμπληγάδες, Pi.P.4.209, E.Med.1264(lyr.); πρὸς πέτραις ὑψηλοκρήμνοις, of Caucasus, A.Pr.4, cf. 31, 56, al.; π. Δελφίς, π. δίλοφος, of Parnassus, S.OT464(lyr.), Ant.1126(lyr.); “π. Κωρυκίς” A.Eu.22; π. Κεκροπία, of the Acropolis, E.Ion936.
2. π. γλαφυρή a hollow rock, i.e. a cave, Il.2.88, cf. 4.107; σπέος κοιλῇ ὑπὸ π. Hes. Th.301; δίστομος π. cave in the rock with a double entrance, S.Ph.16, cf. 937; κατηρεφεῖς αὐτῇ τῇ π. Pl.Criti.116b; “π. ἀντρώδης” X.An.4.3.11; “τόπος κύκλῳ πέτραις περιεχόμενος” IG42(1).122.21 (Epid.); ἕως τῆς π. down to virgin rock, PCair.Zen.172.14 (iii B.C.), OGI672 (Egypt, i A. D.), cf. Ev.Matt.16.18.
3. mass of rock or boulder, Od.9.243, 484, Hes.Th.675 ; “πέτρας κυλινδομένα φλόξ” Pi.P.1.23 ; “ἐκυλίνδουν πέτρας” X.An.4.2.20, cf. Plb.3.53.4.
4. stone as material, π. λαρτία, Τηΐα, SIG581.97 (Crete, iii/ii B. C.), 996.13 (Smyrna, i A. D.): distd. from πέτρος (q. v.), which is v.l. in X.l.c.; πέτρᾳ shd. be read in S.Ph.272 ; the distn. is minimized by Gal.12.194.
II. prov., οὐκ ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ᾽ ἀπὸ πέτρης, etc. (v. δρῦς); as a symbol of firmness, “ὁ δ᾽ ἐστάθη ἠΰτε π. ἔμπεδον” Od.17.463; of hard-heartedness, “ἐκ πέτρας εἰργασμένος” A.Pr.244; “ἁλίαν π. ἢ κῦμα λιταῖς ὢς ἱκετεύων” E.Andr. 537 (anap.); cf. “πέτρος” 1.2 . (Written πε-τε-ρα in a text with musical accompaniment, Pae.Delph.5.)

πέτρος , ὁ (in later Poets ἡ, AP7.274 (Honest.), 479 (Theodorid.)),
A.stone (distd. from πέτρα, q. v.); in Hom., used by warriors, “λάζετο πέτρον μάρμαρον ὀκριόεντα” Il.16.734 ; “βαλὼν μυλοειδέϊ πέτρῳ” 7.270, cf. 20.288, E.Andr.1128 (never in Od.); “ἔδικε πέτρῳ” Pi.O.10(11).72; “ἄγαλμ᾽ Ἀΐδα ξεστὸν π. ἔμβαλον στέρνῳ” Id.N.10.67; “νιφάδι γογγύλων πέτρων” A.Fr.199.7; “ἐκ χερῶν πέτροισιν ἠράσσοντο” Id.Pers.460; “λευσθῆναι πέτροις” S.OC435; “πέτρους ἐπεκυλίνδουν” X.HG3.5.20, etc.; ἐν πέτροισι πέτρον ἐκτρίβων, to produce fire, S.Ph.296; of a boulder forming a landmark, Id.OC1595; “τόνδ᾽ ἀνέθηκα π. ἀειράμενος” IG42(1).125 (Epid., iii B. C.).
2. prov., πάντα κινῆσαι πέτρον 'leave no stone unturned', E.Heracl.1002, cf. Pl.Lg.843a; of imperturbability, “καὶ γὰρ ἂν πέτρου φύσιν σύ γ᾽ ὀργάνειας” S.OT334, cf. E.Med.28.
II. a kind of reed, Peripl.M.Rubr.65.—The usual Prose word is λίθος.

Now, we can subscribe to the view that the author of the HISTORIA BRITTONUM, in Chapter 56, simply chose, through ignorance or design, to associate his Arthur with Arthur son of Bicoir of Kintyre/Cind Tyre.  The problem for us with this identification is that the dates for Arthur son of Petr/Petuir/Bicoir are way too late for the date of the Arthur found in the Welsh Annals.  This Arthur of Dyfed must have been named after an earlier, more famous Arthur. Otherwise, we simply cannot account for the popularity of the name in the following generation, and the dates of the Welsh Annals must be wholly discounted.  We would have to accept that the famous Arthur was a mere forgery, foisted upon us by a propagandist faction. Certainly a possibility, but a hard pill to swallow, nonetheless.

It is far more reasonable to see in the Arthur of the Welsh Annals a war-leader who ruled from Uxellodunum/Petriana.  His fame became so widespread that Pedr of Dyfed named his son after him.

This is the only way we can reconcile the Arthur of the HISTORIA BRITTONUM'S Chapter 56 with the Arthur of the Welsh Annals, so far as I can tell. We can have a real Arthur of the North, descended from Arthwys of the Irthing Valley, himself related to the ruler of the York of Lucius Artorius Castus, or we can have a make-believe Arthur whose name can be traced to no one at all.

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