Saturday, July 14, 2018


West and East Wittering, West Sussex, England 

In previous blog posts I've talked a little about possible locations for the Cymenesora (Cymen's shore) mentioned in the ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE and in some later medieval charters.  In these last, the shore is at or near Wittering in West Sussex.  There is the possibility that Arthur's Camlann (Crooked shore) might be a Welsh attempt at rendering this English place-name.  However, I've also shown that The Cams on Portsmouth Harbour would more closely match the actually meaning of Camlann.

Here I wish to address my idea for an etymology for Cymen, one which will allow us finally to pinpoint this shore on the map.

Wittering is derived from a personal name Wihthere, plus the usual -ingas suffix for the region belonging to 'Wihthere's people.'  Now, ordinarily one would interpret Wihthere as 'wight-army/host', in a literal sense.  However, given the fact that Wittering is coastal and directly faces the Isle of Wight across The Solent - Wight being Wiht in Old English - it is tempting to see in Wihthere a sort of artificial construction meaning '[Isle of] Wight-host.'

Dr. Richard Coates, the emiment English place-name expert, said only this:

"It’s true that Wihthere might in principle mean ‘Wight host’, and that Wihthere as a given name is rare, which boosts the credibility of ‘Wight host.'"

In the ASC, Cerdic and Cynric give the Isle of Wight to their nefan Stuf and Wihtgar.  Stuf is the eponym for Stubbington just across The Solent in Hampshire, while Wihtgar is a corruption of Wihtwara, the 'men of Wight.'  

I've remarked before that Cymen is otherwise unattested as an English personal name.  Furthermore, there are several demonstrable Celtic names present in the early part of the ASC, most notably those belonging to the Gewissei (descendants of Cerdic).  It is for these reasons that I would relate Cymen to Welsh cyman, a word first found attested in the 9th century.  From Alexander Faileyev's ETYMOLOGICAL GLOSSARY OF OLD WELSH:

And from the GPC:


[cym-+?man(n) (fel yn y S. man), cf. Gwydd. commann ‘cymdeithas, cwmni’, cummann ‘cyfeillach’] 

?eb. ac a.

Llu, tyrfa, cynulliad, cwmni, cymdeithas; teulu, llu mewn brwydr; brwydr, cyfranc; coflys, math o lys cofnodion:

throng, host, assembly, company, society; bodyguard, battle-host; battle, encounter; tourn.

[NOTE: there is a Welsh word cymen, but it can hardly apply here, not only due to its meaning,  but because of both its late attestation and its absence as a known personal name.]

This word - not a personal name - should be related to the -here of the "name" Wihthere.  From Bosworth and Toller:

HERE; gen. heres, heriges, herges; m. An army, a host, multitude, a large predatory band [it is the word which in the Chronicle is always used of the Danish force in England, while the Egglish troops are always the fyrd], hence the word is used for devastation and robbery :-- Ne dohte hit nú lange inne né úte ac wæs here and hunger bryne and blódgyte it is now long since matters were thriving at home or abroad, but there has been ravaging and famine, burning and bloodshed, Swt. A. S. Rdr. 106, 68. Micel here turba multa, Mt. Kmbl. Lind. 14, 14. Here legio, Lk. Skt. Lind. 8, 30: exercitus, 23, 11. Þeófas wé hátaþ óð vii

men from vii. hlóþ óð xxxv siððan biþ here up to seven men we call thieves, from seven to thirty-five a gang, after that it is an army, L. In. 13; Th. i. 110, 14. [Cf. L. In. 15; Th. i. 112, 1, be herige; and L. Alf. 28; Th. i. 52, 2.] Hé gearo wæ-acute;re tó ðæs heres þearfe he would be ready to supply the needs of the Danes, Chr. 874; Erl. 76, 32: 878; Erl. 80, 3. Ðæs heriges hám eft ne com æ-acute;nig tó láfe of that host came no remnant back home, Cd. 167; Th. 209, 30; Exod. 507: Elen. Kmbl. 410; El. 205. Herges, 285; El. 143. On Eást-Englum wurdon monige men ofslægene from ðam herige in East Anglia many men were slain by the Danes, Chr. 838; Erl. 66, 15: Andr. Kmbl. 2397; An. 1200. Herge, Cd. 4; Th. 4, 9; Gen. 51: Beo. Th. 2500; B. 1248. Se ðæm here waldeþ who rules that host, Bt. Met. Fox 25, 30; Met. 25, 15. Sió fierd ðone here gefliémde the English force put the Danish to flight, Chr. 894; Erl. 90, 26. Swá oft swá ða óðre hergas mid ealle herige út fóron ðonne fóron hie as often as the other armies marched out in full force then they marched, Erl. 90, 5. Tuelf hergas duodecim legiones, Mt. Kmbl. Lind. 26, 53. Hergia[s] agmina, Rtl. 115, 10. Ðý læs æ-acute;fre cweðan óðre þeóda hæ-acute;ðene herigeas nequando dicant in gentibus, Ps. Th. 78, 10: Andr. Kmbl. 1304; An. 652. Herigea mæ-acute;ste with the greatest of hosts, 3001; An. 1503. Herega, Cd. 209; Th. 259, 29; Dan. 699. Heriga, Elen. Kmbl. 295; El. 148. Herga, 230; El. 115. Betwuh ðæ-acute;m twám hergum between the two armies, Chr. 894; Erl. 90, 9: Elen. Kmbl. 219; El. 110. Herigum, 811; El. 406. [Laym. Orm. here: Goth. harjis. O. Sax. heri: O. Frs. hiri, here: Icel. herr: O. H. Ger. hari, heri exercitus, agmen: Ger. heer.] DER. æsc-, égor-, flot-, forþ-, gúþ-, inn-, ísern-, sin-, scip-, þeód-, út-, wæl-here.

If I'm right, then the Cymenesora thought to be at or near Wittering actually IS Wittering.  In other words, cyman (= Cymen) is the British version of here (or here is the English version of cyman!), and the shore in question is that of Wihthere's people.

The 'host of Wight' = cyman/Cymen.

There is an alternative explanation.  The entry on Cymenesora says that Aelle and his sons "slew many Welsh" there.

"ofslogon monige Wealas"

Now, would not many Welsh = cyman, 'throng, host, assembly, company, society; bodyguard, battle-host'?

In other words, Cymenesora may be the shore upon which the Welsh host was destroyed.

The question I will address in my next post is whether Cymenesora could have been corrupted into Camlann, or whether we should instead opt for The Cams on Portsmouth Harbour.   

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