Monday, May 21, 2018


Cerdic of the Gewissei

Ever since I was able to identify the the leaders of the Gewissei with Cunedda and his son, I was aware of the strange and somewhat unaccountable fact that the line of descent for these Irish or Hiberno-British "federates" was reversed in the ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE.  Until now, however, I'd not really had the chance to consider what this reversal might actually mean.  Obviously, it creates a major chronological problem for the list of ASC battles featuring the Gewissei.  

Precedence must be given to the order established in the early British sources.  It is impossible, as far as I'm concerned, for the Welsh to have gotten the order of the Cunedda dynasty backwards.  That they did not is supported by the inscription of the Cunorix Stone at Wroxeter, where Cunorix/Cynric is the son of Cunedda/Maquicoline/Ceawlin (for my identification of Ceawlin with Cunedda Maquicoline, see my book THE BEAR KING and related blog posts).  In the ASC, it is implied that Ceawlin is the son of Cynric.

 Here is the order of the princes of the Gewissei, from both the Welsh and English sources:

Welsh:  Hyddwyn (from hydd, stag, hart) son of Cerdic   son of Cunedda Maquicoline

             Iusay (= Gewis/sei/sae)                son of Cerdic   son of Cunedda M.

                                                                             Cunorix son of Cunedda M.

English: Ceawlin (=Cunedda) son of (?) Cynric son of Cerdic son of Elesa/Esla (conflated with Aluca/Aloc from the Bernician pedigree), also Elafius, 'stag, hart', son of Gewis (eponym for the Gewissei)

The question that faces us, given this reversal of the Gewissei peidgree, is quite simply (and profoundly!) this: if Cunedda and his sons appear in reverse order in the ASC, are we to rearrange them in accordance with the order of the battles set down in that source or, even more radically, should the battle order itself be flipped on its head? In other words, do we maintain the battles as they are presented to us, and suggest only that the wrong leaders are assigned to them? Do we assume Cunedda and his sons all fought together and that some were present at various battles, even if their names are not to be found in this or that year entry? Or do we go even further and propose that some or all of the battles from 495 (the advent of Cerdic) to 593 (the death of Ceawlin) should be considered an incorrect and possibly artificial arrangement? 

Let us take the 577 ASC entry, for example.  This is when Ceawlin supposedly took Bath.  Over the years, I've taken great pains to show (by utilizing the expertise of top Celticists around the world) that Badon, as found in Gildas, and Caer Faddon/Vaddon of the later Welsh sources, linguistically has to be Bath.  That is, Badon is the regular British spelling for English Bathum.  However, we could not demonstrate that the generally accepted date for the Battle of Badon in the Welsh Annals, c. 516 (or c. 500 +/- 10-20 years) made any sense at all.  From what we know through archaeology and sources such as the ASC, a battle at Bath (even if we allow this to be the other bathum/batham in the North at Buxton) against the English this early was not possible.  The English had not gotten anywhere near as far west at Bath by this early date.

Yet we must bear in mind that it is Ceawlin/Maquicoline/Cunedda who took Bath, according to the ASC.  P.C. Bartram places the "migration" of Cunedda and his sons to NW Wales at c. 430. More recently, John Koch has suggested c. 400 as the migration date, or a "heyday" for Cunedda in the later 5th century. Other dates have been proposed, but the consensus is that Cunedda's floruit was the 5th century NOT, AS THE ASC WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE, THE 6TH CENTURY. The Cunorix Stone was dated by Wright and Jackson between 460-475 A.D., although they also added that it could belong anywhere between the beginning of the 5th century and the middle of the 6th. 

I suspect, therefore, that the Welsh Annals date of c. 516 A.D. is correct, and this was the Battle of Bath in Somerset.  That Ceawlin/Maquicoline/Cunedda was present, as was his son Cerdic, whom I've identified as Arthur in THE BEAR KING.  Of course, this means that Cerdic/Arthur was not fighting the English at all, but rather was allied with the English against the British at Bath.  And these Britons were enemies of the High King of Wales, for whom the Gewissei were acting as federates or mercenaries.  

While this solution to the 'Badon Problem" seems elegant enough, it does throw into total disarray the other battles of the ASC.  We must also accept the fact that Cerdic's death in 537, according to the ASC, matches very closely Arthur's death at Camlan in 537.  We are not told where Cerdic dies.  

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