THE State of Wales and the distribution of the Cymric population, between the termination of the Roman dominion and the sixth century, so far as we can gather it from these ancient authorities, does not accord with what we should expect from the ordinary conception of the history of that period, but contrasts in many respects strangely with it.
We are accustomed to regard the Cymric population as occupying Britain south of the wall between the Tyne and the Solway; as exposed to the incursions of the Picts and Scots from the country north of the wall, and inviting the Saxons to protect them from their ravages, who in turn take possession of the south of Britain, and drive the native population gradually back till they are confined to the mountainous region of Wales and to Cornwall. We should expect, therefore, to find Wales the stronghold of the Cymry and exclusively occupied by them; the Saxons in the centre of Britain, and the country north of the wall between the Tyne and Solway surrendered to the barbaric tribes of the Picts and Scots. The picture presented to us, when we call first survey the platform
of these contending races; is something very different. We find the sea-board of Wales on the west in the occupation of the Gwyddyl or Gael, and the Cymry confined to the eastern part of Wales only, and placed between them and the Saxons. A line drawn from Conway on the north to Swansea on the south would separate the two races of the Gwyddyl and the Cymry, on the west and on the east. In North Wales, the Cymry possessing Powys, with the Gwyddyl in Gwynned. and Mona or Anglesea; in South Wales, the Cymry possessing Gwent and Morganwg, with the Gwyddyl in Dyfed; and Brecknock occupied by the mysterious Brychan and his family.
On the other hand, from the Dee and the Humber to the Firths of Forth and Clyde, we find the country almost entirely possessed by a Cymric population, where ultimately a powerful Cymric kingdom was formed; but this great spread of the Cymric population to the north not entirely unbroken. On the north of the Solway Firth, between the Nith and Lochryan, was Galloway with its Galwydel; in the centre the great wood, afterwards forming the forests of Ettrick and Selkirk and the district of Tweeddale, extending from the Ettrick to the range of the Pentland Hills, and north of that range, stretching to the river Carron, was the mysterious Manau Gododin with its Brithwyr. On, the east coast, from the Tyne to the Esk, settlements of Saxons gradually encroaching on the Cymry.
A very shrewd and sound writer, the Rev. W. Basil Jones, now Archdeacon of York, struck with this
strange distribution of the population in Wales, has, in his essay, Vestiges of the Gael in Gwynedd, revived a theory first suggested by Edward Lhuyd that the Gael preceded the Cymry in the occupation of the whole of Britain, and that these Gael in the western districts of Wales were the remains of the original population, seen, as it were, in the act of departing from the country before the presence of the Cymry; but, though maintained with much ingenuity, it runs counter both to the traditions, which indicate their presence and to the real probabilities of the case. Till the year 360 the Roman province extended to the northern wall which crossed the isthmus between the Forth and the Clyde, and the Cymric population was no doubt co-extensive; but in that year barbarian tribes broke into the province, which the Roman authors tell us consisted of the Picts, Scots, and Saxons, and, though driven back, renewed their incursions from time to time. The Saxons, of course, made their descents on the east coast, and Gildas tells us that the Picts came ab aquilone, the Scots a circione, implying that they came from different directions; while all authorities concur in making Ireland the head-quarters of the latter. The Saxons made their descents on the east coast, the Picts from the north, and the Scots from the West.
Gildas tells us that the Picts finally occupied the country up to the southern wall pro indigenis, and settled down in the northern regions; and Nennius, in his account of the arrival of the Scots in Ireland, adds
four settlements of them in regionibus Britanniæ, one of which he expressly says was in Demetia, or South Wales, and terms the people expelled by Cunedda and his sons, Scotti. The Scots, therefore, probably effected a settlement on the west coast of Wales, as they did on that of Scotland; and these foreign settlements in the heart of the Cymric population of Wales and the North seem more probably to have been permanent deposits remaining from the frequent incursions of the so-called barbaric tribes on the Roman province, than vestiges of an original population.
Relieved from the erroneous chronology applied by Bode to the events narrated by Gildas, into which he was led by the false place occupied by the letter to Aetius, the statements of Gildas harmonise perfectly with the facts indicated by contemporary Roman and Greek authors. The barbaric tribes who broke into the province in 360 were driven back by Theodosius in 368, and the province restored to the northern wall. Then follows the usurpation of the title of Imperator by Maximus in 383, who takes the Roman troops over to Gaul. This is succeeded by the first devastatio by the Picts and Scots, when the Britons apply to the Romans for assistance. Stilicho sends a single legion, who drive them back and reconstruct the northern wall. Claudian records the defeat of the barbarian tribes, which he names Picts, Scots, and Saxons, the fortifying the wall, and the return of the legion, which was recalled in 402.
[paragraph continues] Then follows the second devastatio by the Picts and Scots, and the second appeal for assistance, and a larger force is sent, by whom they are again driven back. The Roman troops then elect Marcus, after him Gratian Municeps, and finally Constantine, as Imperator, who likewise passes over to Gaul with the troops in 409, after having repaired the southern wall. Then follows the third devastatio by the Picts and Scots, and Honorius writes to the cities of Britain that they must protect themselves. The Picts settle down in the region north of the wall, the Scots return to Ireland, soon to reappear and again effect settlements on the western sea-board. The Saxons are appealed to for help, but unite with the Picts to attack the Britons, and finally bring the greater part of the country under their subjection in 441, and the Britons vainly appeal to Aetius for assistance in 446.
Such is a rapid sketch of the events which brought about the destruction of the Roman province, when the statements of Gildas are brought into harmony with those of the classical writers, and which produced the relative position of the different races presented to us soon after the final departure of the Romans.
Passing over the legends connected with Gortigern, as involving an inquiry into his real period and history, which has no direct bearing upon our immediate object, and would lead us beyond the, limits of this sketch, the first event that emerges from the darkness which surrounds the British history at this period, and which influenced the relative position
of the different races constituting its population, is the appearance of Cunedda, his retreat from the north, and the expulsion of the Gael from Wales by his descendants. We are told in the Historia Britonum that the Scots who occupied Dyfed and the neighbouring districts of Gower and Cedgueli "expulsi sunt a Cuneda et a filiis ejus;" and in the Genealogia that "Maelcunus Magnus rex apud Brittones regnabat, id est, in regione Guenedote, quia atavus illias, id est, Cunedag, cum filiis suis, quorum numerus octo erat, venerat prius de parte sinistrali, id est, de regione que vocatur Manau Guotodin, centum quadraginta sex annis antequam Mailcun regnaret, et Scottos cum ingentissima clade expulerunt ab istis regionibus." As Mailcun was the first king to reign in Gwynedd after the Scots were driven out, and he was fourth in descent from Cunedda, it is clear that the expression, that they were expelled "a Cuneda cum filiis ejus," is used somewhat loosely, and that the actual expulsion must have been effected by his descendants. In point of fact, we know from other documents that the real agent in the expulsion of the Scots from Gwynedd was Caswallawn Law Hir, the great-grandson of Cunedda and father of Mailcun. If four generations existed between Cunedda and Mailcun, this interval is well enough expressed by a period of 146 years; but an unfortunate date in the Chronicle of 977 has perplexed the chronology of this period, and led to Cunedda being placed earlier than is necessary. The Chronicle has, under the year 547, "Mortalitas
magna in qua pausat Mailcun rex Guenedote;" and if Mailcun died in 547, a period of 146 years from the beginning of his reign would take us back to the fourth century, and place Cunedda towards the end of it; but we know from Gildas that Mailcun did not die in 547, as he was alive and rapidly rising to power when Gildas wrote in 560, and the date in the chronicle seems to be a purely artificial date, produced by adding the period 146 years to the beginning of the century. Gildas mentions that Maglocunus or Mailcun had, some time previously, retired into a monastery, from whence he emerged not long before he wrote, and this is probably the true commencement of his reign. A period of 146 years prior to 560 brings us to 414; and some years before that must be considered the true era of the exodus of Cunedda, with his sons, from Manau Guotodin. It thus coincides very closely with the period of the occupation of territory between the walls by the Picts on the final withdrawal of the Roman troops in 409.
Cunedda is termed in all Welsh documents Guledig, a name derived from the word Gulad, a country, and signifying Ruler. The same term is applied to Maximus, who is called in Welsh documents, Maxim Guledig. It is therefore equivalent to the title and position of Imperator conferred upon him by the troops in Britain. After Maximus, and before the Roman troops left Britain, they elected three Imperatores, the last of whom, Constantine, withdrew the army to Gaul. We know from the Notitia Imperii
that the Roman legionary troops were mainly stationed at the Roman wall and on the Saxon shore, to defend the province from inroads of the barbarian tribes; and when the Roman army was finally withdrawn, and Honorius wrote to the cities of Britain that they must defend themselves, the Roman troops were probably replaced by native bodies of warriors, and the functions of the Roman Imperator continued in the British Guledig. If this view be correct, the real fact conveyed by Nennius' intimation, that Cunedda had left the regions in the north called Manau Guotodin 146 years before the reign of Mailcun, is that in 410, on the Picts conquering the land up to the southern wall, the Guledig had withdrawn from the northern to within the southern wall. In the Welsh documents there is also frequent mention of the Gosgordd or retinue in connection with the Guledig, which appears to have usually consisted of 300 horse. It was certainly a body of men specially employed in the defence of the borders, as the Triads of Arthur and his warriors--a document not subject to the same suspicion as the Historical Triads--mentions the "three Gosgordds of the passes of the island of Britain," and the Gosgordd mur or Gosgordd of the wall, is also mentioned in the poems. It seems to be equivalent to the body of 300 cavalry attached to the Roman legion; three times that number, or 900 horse, forming the horse of the auxiliary troops attached to a legion.
The next Guledig mentioned is the notice by Gildas, in a part of his narrative that indicates a time
somewhat later, that the Britons took arms "duce Ambrosio Auerliano," a man of Roman descent. whose relations had borne the purple. The term "Aurelianus" is Gildas' equivalent for Guledig, as he afterwards mentions Aurelius Conanus, and both are known in Welsh documents by the names of Emmrys Guledig and Cynan Guledig; and Ambrosius must have been connected by descent with prior "Imperatores" created by the Roman troops. Gildas then adds that after this "nunc cives, nunc hostes, vincebant usque ad annum, obsessionis Badonici montis", and the date of this event is fixed by the chronicle attached to Nennius, which places it in the year 516, in which year Gildas was born.
The period between the success of Ambrosius and the siege of Badon Hill is filled up in the Historia Britonum with the account of twelve battles fought by Arthur, of which that of Badon Hill is the last. In the oldest form of the text he is simply termed Arthur, and the title only of "dux bellorum" is given him. It says, "Tunc Arthur pugnabat contra illos (i.e. Saxones), in illis diebus cum regibus Britannorum, sed ipse dux erat bellorum." He was not "dux" or "rex Britannorum," but "dux bellorum," a title which plainly indicates the Guledig. That he bears here a very different character from the Arthur of romance is plain enough. That the latter was entirely a fictitious person is difficult to believe. There is always some substratum of truth on which the wildest legends are
based, though it may be so disguised and perverted as hardly to be recognised; and I do not hesitate to receive the Arthur of Nennius as the historic Arthur, the events recorded of him being not only consistent with the history of the period, but connected with localities which can be identified, and with most of which his name is still associated. That the events here recorded of him are not mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle and other Saxon authorities, is capable of explanation. These authorities record the struggle between the Britons and the Saxons south of the Humber; but there were settlements of Saxons in the north even at that early period, 1 and it is with these settlements that the war narrated in the Historia Britonum apparently took place.
The Historia Britonum records among the various bodies of Saxons who followed Hengist to Britain one led by his son Octa and his nephew Ebissa, to whom he promises "regiones que sunt in aquilone juxta murum qui vocatur Gual"--the name given by Nennius to the northern wall. They arrive with forty ships, and after ravaging the Orkneys and circumnavigating the Picts, they occupy "regiones plurimas usque ad confinia Pictorum." The Harleian MS. inserts; the words "ultra Frenessicum Mare," to which the Durham MSS. add, "quod inter nos Scotosque est," to show that the,
[paragraph continues] Firth of Forth is meant. That they may have had settlements beyond the Firth is very probable, but the regions next the wall, as far as the confines of the Picts, can mean nothing but the districts lying between the Forth and Clyde, through which the northern wall passes, as far as the river Forth, which formed at all times the southern boundary of the kingdom of the Picts. These regions are nearly equivalent to the modern counties of Stirling and Dumbarton. All Welsh traditions connected with this war invariably designate Octa and Ebissa, or Eossa as they termed him, and their successors, as Arthur's opponents, and we shall see that the localities of his twelve battles, as recorded by Nennius, are all more or less connected with the districts in the vicinity of the northern wall.
The first battle was "in ostium fluminis quod dicitur Glein." There are two rivers of this name--one in Northumberland, mentioned by Bode as the river where Paulinus baptized the Angles in 627, and the other in Ayrshire. It rises in the mountains which separate that county from Lanarkshire, and falls into the Irvine in the parish of Loudoun. It is more probable that Arthur advanced into Scotland on the west, where he would pass through the friendly country peopled by the Cymry, than through Bernicia, already strongly occupied by bodies of Angles; and it is at the mouth of the latter river, probably, that he first encountered his opponents. It accords better, too, with the order of his battles, for the second, third,
fourth, and fifth, were "super aliud flumen quod dicitur Dubglas et est in regione Linnuis." Here must have been the first severe struggle, as four battles were fought on the same river, and here he must have penetrated the "regiones juxta murum," occupied by the Saxons. Dubglas is the name now called Douglas. There are many rivers and rivulets of this name in Scotland; but none could be said to be "in regione Linnuis," except two rivers--the Upper and Lower Douglas, which fall into Loch Lomond, the one through Glen Douglas, the other at Inveruglas, and care both in the district of the Lennox, the Linnuis of Nennius. Here, no doubt, the great struggle took place, and the hill called Ben Arthur at the head of Loch Long, which towers over this district between the two rivers, perpetuates the name of Arthur in connection with it.
The sixth battle was "super flumen quod vocatur Bassas." 1 There is now no river of this name in Scotland, and it has been supposed to have been somewhere near the Bass Rock, the vicinity of which it is presumed may have given its name to some neighbouring stream. The name Bass, however, is also applied to a peculiar mound having the appearance of being artificial, which is formed near a river, though really formed by natural causes. There is one on the Ury river in Aberdeenshire termed the Bass of Inverury, and there are two on the bank of the Carron, now called Dunipace,
erroneously supposed to be formed from the Gaelic and Latin words Duni pacis, or hills of peace, but the old form of which was Dunipais, the latter syllable being no doubt the same word Bass. Directly opposite, the river Bonny flows into the Carron, and on this river I am disposed to place the sixth battle.
The seventh battle was "in silva Caledonis, id est, Cat Coit Celidon"--that is, the battle was so called, for Cat means a battle, and Coed Celyddon the Wood of Celyddon. This is the Nemus Caledonis that Merlin is said, in the Latin Vita Merlini, to have fled to after the battle of Ardderyth, and where, according to the tradition reported by Fordun (B. iii. c. xxvi.), he met Kentigern, and afterwards was slain by the shepherds of Meldredus, a regulus of the country on the banks of the Tweed, "prope oppidum Dunmeller." Local tradition places the scene of it in Tweeddale, where, in the parish of Drumelzier, anciently Dunmeller, in which the name of Meldredus is preserved, is shown the grave of Merlin. The upper part of the valley of the Tweed was once a great forest, of which the forests of Selkirk and Ettrick formed a part, and seems to have been known by the name of the Coed Celyddon.
The eighth battle was "in Castello Guinnion." The word castellum implies a Roman fort, and Guinnion is in Welsh an adjective formed from gwen, white. The Harleian MS. adds that Arthur carried into battle upon his shoulders an image of the Virgin Mary, and that the Pagani were put to flight and a great slaughter made of them by virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ and of Saint
[paragraph continues] Mary his mother. Henry of Huntingdon, who likewise gives this account, says the image was upon his shield; and it has been well remarked that the Welsh ysgwyd is a shoulder and ysgwydd a shield, and that a Welsh original had been differently translated. Another MS. adds that he likewise took into battle a cross he had brought from Jerusalem, and that the fragments are still preserved at Wedale. Wedale is a district watered by the rivers Gala and Heriot, corresponding to the modern parish of Stow, anciently called the Stow in Wedale. The name Wedale means "The dale of woe," and that name having been given by the Saxons implies that they had experienced a great disaster here. The church of Stow being dedicated to St. Mary, while General Roy places a Roman castellum not far from it, indicates very plainly that this was the scene of the battle.
The ninth battle was "in urbe Leogis" according to the Vatican, "Legionis" according to the Harleian text. The former adds "qui Britannice Kairlium dicitur." It seems unlikely that a battle could have been fought at this time with the Saxons at either Caerleon on the Esk or Caerleon on the Dee, which is Chester; and these towns Nennius terms in his list not Kaerlium or Kaerlion, but Kaer Legion. It is more probably some town in the north, and the Memorabilia of Nennius will afford some indication of the town intended. The first of his Memorabilia is "Stagnum Lumonoy," or Loch Lomond, and he adds "non vadit ex eo ad mare nisi unum flumen quod vocatur Leum"--that is the Leven. The Irish Nennius gives the name
correctly Leamhuin, and the Ballimote text gives the name of the town, Cathraig in Leomhan (for Leamhan), the town on the Leven. This was Dumbarton, and the identification is confirmed by the Bruts, which place one of Arthur's battles at Alclyd, while his name has been preserved in a parliamentary record of David II. in 1367, which denominates Dumbarton "Castrum Arthuri."
The tenth battle was "in littore fluminis quod vocatur Treuruit." There is much variety in the readings of this name, other MSS. reading it "Trath truiroit," or the shore of Truiroit; but the original Cymric form is given us in two of the poems in the Black Book: it is in one Trywruid, and in the other Tratheu Trywruid. There is no known river bearing a name approaching to this. Tratheu, or shores, implies a sea-shore or sandy beach, and can only be applicable to a river having an estuary. An old description of Scotland, written in 1165 by one familiar with Welsh names, says that the river which divides the "regna Anglorum et Scottorum et currit juxta oppidum de Strivelin" was "Scottice vocata Froch, Britannice Werid." 1 This Welsh name for the Forth at Stirling has disappeared, but it closely resembles the last Part of Nennius' name, and the difference between wruid, the last part of the name
[paragraph continues] Try-wruid, and Werid is trifling. The original form must have been Gwruid or Gwerid, the G disappearing in combination. If by the traetheu Try-wruid the Links of Forth are meant, and Stirling was the scene of this battle, the name of Arthur is also connected with it by tradition, for William of Worcester, in his Itinerary, says "Rex Arthurus custodiebat le round table in castro de Styrlyng aliter Snowdon West Castle."
The eleventh battle was fought "in monte qui dicitur Agned,"--that is in Mynyd Agned, or Edinburgh, and here too the name is preserved in Sedes Arthuri or Arthur's Seat. This battle seems not to have been fought against the Saxons, for one MS. adds "Cathregonnum," and another "contra illos que nos Catlibregyon appellamus." They were probably Picts.
The twelfth battle was "in Monte Badonis." This is evidently the "obsessio Montes Badonici" of Gildas, and was fought in 516. It has been supposed to have been near Bath, but the resemblance of names seems alone to have led to this tradition. Tradition, equally points to the northern Saxons as the opponents, and in Ossa Cyllellaur, who is always named as Arthur's antagonist, there is no doubt that a leader of Octa and Ebissa's Saxons is intended; while at this date no conflict between the Britons and the West Saxons could have taken place so far west as Bath. The scene of the battle near Bath was said to be on the Avon, which Layamon mentions as flowing past Badon Hill. But on the Avon, not far from Linlithgow, is a very remarkable hill, of considerable size, the top of which is strongly fortified with double ramparts, and
past which the Avon flows. This hill is called Bouden Hill. Sibbald says, in his Account of Linlithgowshire in 1710:--"On the Buden hill are to be seen the vestiges of an outer and inner camp. There is a great cairn of stones upon Lochcote hills over against Buden, and in the adjacent ground there have been found chests of stones with bones in them, but it is uncertain when or with whom the fight was." As this battle was the last of twelve which seem to have formed one series of campaigns, I venture to identify Bouden Hill with the Mons Badonicus.
According to the view I have taken of the site of these battles, Arthur's course was first to advance through the Cymric country, on the west, till he came to the Glen where he encountered his opponents. He then invades the regions about the wall, occupied by the Saxons in the Lennox, where he defeats them in four battles. He advances along the Strath of the Carron as far as Dunipace, where, on the Bonny, his fifth battle is fought; and from thence marches south through Tweeddale, or the Wood of Celyddon, fighting a battle by the way, till he comes to the valley of the Gala, or Wedale, where be defeats the Saxons of the east coast. He then proceeds to master four great fortresses: first, Kaerlium, or Dumbarton; next, Stirling, by defeating the enemy in the tratheu Tryweryd, or Carse of Stirling; then Mynyd Agned, or Edinburgh, the great stronghold of the Picts, here called Cathbregion; and, lastly, Boudon Hill, in the centre of the country, between these strongholds.
The Bruts probably relate a fact, in which there is
a basis of real history, when they state that he gave the districts he had wrested from the Saxons to three brothers--Urien, Llew, and Arawn. To Urien he gave Reged, and the district intended by this name appears from a previous passage, where Arthur is said to have driven the Picts from Alclyde into "Mureif, a country which is otherwise termed Reged," and that they took refuge there in Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond was therefore in it, and it must have been the district on the north side of the Roman wall or Mur, from which it was called Mureif. To Llew he gave Lodoncis or Lothian. This district was partly occupied by the Picts whom Arthur had subdued at the battle of Mynyd Agned; and this is the Lothus of the Scotch traditions, who was called King of the Picts, and whose daughter was the mother of Kentigern. And to Arawn he gave a district which they call Yscotlont or Prydyn, and which was probably the most northern parts of the conquered districts, at least as far as Stirling.
In 537, twenty-one years after, the Chronicle of 977 records, "Gweith Camlan in qua Arthur et Medraut coruere;" the battle of Camlan, in which Arthur and Medraut perished. This is the celebrated battle of Camlan, which figures so largely in the Arthurian romance, where Arthur was said to have been mortally wounded and carried to Avallon, that mysterious place; but here he is, simply recorded as having been killed in battle. It, is surprising that historians should have endeavoured to place this battle in the south, as the same traditions, which encircle it
with so many fables, indicate very clearly who his antagonists were. Medraut or Modred was the son of that Llew to whom Arthur is said to have given Lothian, and who, as Lothus, King of the Picts, is invariably connected with that part of Scotland. His forces were Saxons, Picts, and Scots, the very races Arthur is said to have conquered in his Scotch campaigns. If it is to be viewed as a real battle at all, it assumes the appearance of an insurrection of the population of these conquered districts, under Medraut, the son of that Llew to whom one of them was given, and we must look for its site there. On the south bank of the Carron, in the very heart of these districts, are remains which have always been regarded as those of an important Roman town, and to this, the name of Camelon has long been attached. It has stronger claims than any other to be regarded as the Camlan where Arthur encountered Medraut, with his Picts, Scots, and Saxons, and perished; and its claims are strengthened by the former existence of another ancient building on the opposite side of the river--that singular monument, mentioned as far back as 1293 by the name of "Furnus Arthuri," and subsequently known by that of Arthur's O'on.
In thus endeavouring to identify the localities of these events connected with the names of Cunedda and of Arthur, I do not mean to say that it is all to be accepted as literal history, but as a legendary account of events which had assumed that shape as early as the seventh century, when the text of the Historia Britonum was first put together, and which are commemorated in local tradition.
51:1 I may refer the reader on this subject to my paper on the "Early Frisian Settlements in Scotland," printed in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries (vol. iv. p. 169). For the struggle in the south, the reader cannot do better than refer to Dr. Guest's very able papers in the Archæological Journal.
53:1 The printed text of the Vatican MS. of Nennius has "Lussas," but this is a mistake. The original MS. reads "Bassas."
56:1 Chronicle of the Picts and Scots, p. 136.--It may seem strange that I should assert that Gwryd and Forth are the same word. But Gwer in Welsh is represented by Fear in Irish, the old form of which was For, and final d in Welsh is in Irish ch, in Pictish th. The river which falls into the Dee near Bala, in North Wales, is called the Try-weryn, a very similar combination.