Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Buxton in the High Peak, Derbyshire

NOTE: As there are still many proponents of a Badon place-name with a Brythonic etymology - despite the fact that no such Brythonic etymology has been discovered or proposed - I felt it necessary to re-post this blog entry.  The idea is fairly simple, and not in doubt among leading Celticists: the name is British, but is also a British form of an Anglo-Saxon name.  As to why Gildas would have used such a form, well, I have discussed that in this chapter from my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY.  Essentially, the place was named for a pagan goddess in the original Brythonic language.  Gildas was a devout Christian, later to become a saint, and as such could not assign a pagan name to the scene of a great British victory against the pagans.  Thus he defaulted to his own people's rendering of the innocuous Saxon word for "Baths".  For those who haven't bothered to read my full treatment of Arthur's Badon battle, I include it here once more in its entirety.

The Twelfth Battle: Mount Badon

Badon is a difficult place-name for an unexpected reason. As Kenneth Jackson proclaimed:

"No such British name is known, nor any such stem." [To be briefly mentioned in the context of Badon is the Middle Welsh word bad, 'plague, pestilence, death' (GPC; first attested in the 14th century), from Proto-Celtic *bato-, cf. Old Irish bath. Some have asked me whether this word could be the root of Badon - to which Dr. Graham I. Isaac, of the National University of Ireland, Galway, responds emphatically, "No, absolutely no. A (modern) W form _bad_ etc. would have been spelt in the W of the ancient period as _bat_ and there can be no connection since _Bad(on)_ is what we find." Other noteworthy Celtic linguists, such as Dr. Simon Rodway of Aberystwyth University, Dr. Richard Coates of the University of the West of England and Professor Ranko Matasovic of the University of Zagreb, agree with Isaac on this point. Matasovic adds: “Professor Isaac is right; since we have references to Badon in Early Welsh sources, the name would have been spelled with –t- (for voiced /d/). The spelling where the letter <d> stands for /d/ and <dd> for the voiced dental fricative was introduced in the late Middle Ages.”]

Graham Isaac has the following to say on the nature of the word Badon, which I take to be authoritative.

His explanation of why Gildas's Badon cannot be derived from one of the Badburys (like Liddington Castle, often cited as a prime candidates for Badon) is critical in an eventual identification of this battle site. Although long and rather complicated, his argument is convincing and I have, therefore, opted to present it unedited:

"Remember in all that follows that both the -d - in Badon and the -th- in OE Bathum are pronounced like th in 'bathe' and Modern Welsh - dd-. Remember also that in Old English spelling, the letters thorn and the crossed d are interchangeable in many positions: that is variation in spelling, not in sound, and has no significance for linguistic arguments.

It is curious that a number of commentators have been happy to posit a 'British' or 'Celtic' form Badon. The reason seems to be summed up succinctly by Tolstoy in the 1961 article (p. 145):

'It is obviously impossible that Gildas should have given a Saxon name for a British locality'.

Why? I see no reason at all in the world why he should not do so (begging the question as to what, exactly, is the meaning of 'British locality' here; Gildas is just talking about a hill). This then becomes the chief crutch of the argument, as shown on p. 147 of Tolstoy's article: 'But that there was a Celtic name ‘Badon’ we know from the very passage in Gildas under discussion'.

But that is just circular: ' "Badon" must be "Celtic" because Gildas only uses "Celtic" names'. This is no argument. What would have to be shown is that 'Badon' is a regular reflex of a securely attested 'Celtic' word. This is a matter of empirical detail and is easily tested; we have vast resources to tell us what was and was not a 'Celtic' word. And there is nothing like 'Badon'.

So what do we do? Do we just say that 'Badon' must be Celtic because Gildas uses it? That gets us nowhere.

So what of the relationships between aet Bathum - Badon - Baddanbyrig? The crucial point is just that OE Bathum and the Late British / very early Welsh Badon we are talking about both have the soft -th- sound of 'bathe' and Mod.Welsh 'Baddon'. Baddanbyrig, however, has a long d-sound like -d d- in 'bad day'. Both languages, early OE and Late British, had both the d-sound and the soft th-sound. 


1)   If the English had taken over British (hypothetical and actually non-existent) *Badon (*Din Badon or something), they would have made it *Bathanbyrig or the like, and the modern names of these places would be something like *Bathbury.

2)   If the British had taken over OE Baddanbyrig, they would have kept the d-sound, and Gildas would have written 'Batonicus mons', and Annales Cambriae would have 'bellum Batonis', etc. (where the -t- is the regular early SPELLING of the sound -d-; always keep your conceptions of spellings and your conceptions of sounds separate; one of the classic errors of the untrained is to fail to distinguish these). 

I imagine if that were the case we would have no hesitation is identifying 'Baton' with a Badbury place. But the d-sound and the soft th -sound are not interchangeable. It is either the one or the other, and in fact it is the soft th -sound that is in 'Badon', and that makes it equivalent to Bathum, not Baddanbyrig. 

(That applies to the sounds. On the other hand there is nothing strange about the British making Bad-ON out of OE Bath -UM. There was nothing in the Late British/early Welsh language which corresponded to the dative plural ending - UM of OE, so it was natural for the Britons to substitute the common British suffix - ON for the very un-British OE suffix -UM: this is not a substitution of SOUNDS, but of ENDINGS, which is quite a different matter. That Gildas then makes an unproblematic Latin adjective with -icus out of this does not require comment.)

To conclude:

1) There is no reason in the world why a 6thcentury British author should not refer to a place in Britain by its OE name.

2) There was no 'British' or 'Celtic' *Badon.

3) 'Badon' does not correspond linguistically with OE Baddanbyrig.

4) 'Badon' is the predictably regular Late British / early Welsh borrowing of OE Bathum.

Final note: the fact that later OE sources occasionally call Bath 'Badon' is just a symptom of the book-learning of the authors using the form.

Gildas was a widely read and highly respected author, and Badon(-is) (from Gildas's adjective Badonicus) will quickly and unproblematically have become the standard book-form (i.e. primarily Latin form) for the name of Bath. Again, all attempts to gain some sort of linguistic mileage from the apparent, but illusory, OE variation between Bathum and Badon are vacuous."

It is thus safe to say that 'Badon' must derive from a Bath name. However, we must not restrict ourselves to the Southern Bath, which makes no sense in the context of a Northern Arthur.

For as it happens, there is a major Northern ‘Bath’ site that has gone completely unnoticed!

In the the High Peak District of Derbyshire we find Buxton. This town had once been roughly on the southernmost boundary of Brigantian tribal territory (thought to lie along a line roughly from the Mersey in the west to the Humber in the east). It was also just within Britannia Inferior (that part of northern Britain ruled from York), whose boundary was again from the Mersey, but probably more towards The Wash. 

In the Roman period, Buxton was the site of Aquae Arnemetiae, ‘the waters in front of (the goddess) Nemetia’. To the best of our knowledge, Bath in Somerset and Buxton in Derbyshire were the only two ‘Aquae’ towns in Britain.

But even better, there is a Bathum name extant at Buxton. The Roman road which leads to Buxton from the northeast, through the Peak hills, is called Bathamgate. Batham is ‘baths’, the exact dative plural we need to match the name Bathum/Badon. -gate is ‘road, street’, which comes from ME gate, itself a derivative of OScand gata. Bathamgate is thus ‘Baths Road’.

The recorded forms for Bathamgate are as follows:

Bathinegate (for Bathmegate), 1400, from W. Dugdale's Monasticon Anghcanum, 6 vols, London 1817-1830.
Bathom gate, 1538, from Ancient Deeds in the Public Record Office
Batham Gate, 1599, from records of the Duchy of Lancaster Special Commissions in the Public Record Office.
Buxton sits in a bowl about one thousand feet above sea level surrounded by mountains and is itself a mountain spa. The natural mineral water of Buxton emerges from a group of springs at a constant temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and is, thus, a thermal water. There are also cold springs and a supply of chalybeate (iron bearing) water. The evidence of Mesolithic man suggests a settlement dating to about 5000 BCE and archaeological finds in the Peak District around the settlement show habitation through the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages to the time of the Romans. 

From the historical evidence we can say that Buxton was a civilian settlement of some importance, situated on the intersection of several roads, and providing bathing facilities in warm mineral waters. In short, it was a Roman spa. Place-names in and around Buxton, and Anglo-Saxon finds in burial mound excavations, suggest a continuing inhabitation of the area and probable use of the mineral waters.

It has long been speculated that we should expect to find a military installation at Buxton. However, subsequent archaeological fieldwork, including excavations, in and around suggested locations at the spa town have singularly failed to establish a military presence. A 'ditch feature' identified initially through resistivity survey and then from aerial photography above Mill Cliff, Buxton, gave rise to the almost confident interpretation of this site as being that of the fort: subsequent evaluation in advance of development, however, has shown that these features were geological rather than man-made, and the absence of Roman finds of any description from a series of evaluation trenches suggests that if Buxton had a fort it was located elsewhere.

Today, the site of the probable Roman baths is covered by the Georgian Crescent building. In this area during the seventeenth and eighteenth century discoveries of lead lined baths, red plaster and building remains were made at some considerable depth in the sediments which surround the area of St Anne's well. In the eighteenth century, Pilkington investigated a mound overlooking the site of the previous discoveries. Here he found a structure which has been interpreted as a probable classical temple - one of only three known from Britain. In the mid-seventies, following the removal of a 20th century swimming pool, a brick structure was exposed and a deposit containing 232 Roman coins, 3 bronze bracelets and a wire clasp ranging in date from the 1st to the end of the 4th century CE was excavated.

This intriguing series of early discoveries lends tangible support to the interpretation of Buxton as the 'Bath of the North', but the character and extent of civilian settlement - and whether this was in association with a military installation or not, remains obscure. A considerable range of small finds, together with occasional glimpses of apparently Roman contexts, from the backgardens of houses has failed to provide a clear sense of the extent of Roman Buxton, let alone a soundly based understanding of its chronology and development. The dating of coinage in the 'votive' deposit from near the Crescent might be seen to indicate heightened frequencies of offerings during the third and fourth centuries. To what extent this might correlate with the development of settlement at Buxton is a matter of some conjecture.

At Poole's cavern, Buxton, excavations between 1981 and 1983 by Peakland Archaeological Society and Buxton Archaeological Society produced a large Romano-British assemblage containing a considerable body of metalwork including coins and brooches, rolls of thin sheet bronze, along with ceramics, a faunal assemblage and burials. The dating of the coins and fibulae point to use between the late 1st and 3rd centuries, with the majority being of 2nd century date. Indeed, reanalysis of the material has suggested that the cave saw its principal period of use between 120 and 220 CE. The excavators appeared to reveal some spatial separation of the coin and fibulae finds from the pottery and faunal remains, although this has been questioned.
Discussing the possible character of the use of the site Bramwell and Dalton draw attention to the comparative absence of spindle whorls, loom weights and bone hairpins which might be expected from a domestic site. Instead, they see the evidence as supporting the interpretation of the site as that of a rural shrine or sanctuary.

This too has subsequently been questioned and rejected. Instead, Branigan and Dawley interpret the site as essentially domestic, but with the additional refuse from a metalworker’s activities. They see a link between Poole's Cavern and the growth of Buxton as a spa centre providing a ready local market for small decorative trinkets.

The general trend of the evidence suggests that the Roman site may have consisted of a temple overlooking a set of Roman baths. At Bath we have a clear idea of the layout of a significant bath/water shrine complex which consisted of two major ranges: a temple and a religious precinct, within which lay the sacred spring; alongside this range were a line of three baths within a major building, at one end of which lay a typical Roman bathhouse or sauna. The Bath buildings were lavishly built in a classical style and the whole complex attracted visitors from outside the province.

In essence the Buxton layout mirrors that a Bath: parallel to the spring line is a temple and alongside the springs is a range of possibly Roman baths. As the Buxton temple is two-thirds the size of that at Bath we could assume the Buxton complex was somewhat smaller.

If the grove of the goddess Nemetia continued as an important shrine well into Arthur’s time (and the presence of St. Anne’s Well at the site of the town’s ancient baths shows that the efficacy of the sacred waters was appropriated by Christians), there is the possibility the Saxons targeted Buxton for exactly this reason. Taking the Britons’ shrine would have struck them a demoralizing blow. If the goddess or saint or goddess-become-saint is herself not safe from the depredations of the barbarians, who is?

A threat to such a shrine may well have galvanized British resistence. Arthur himself may have been called upon to lead the British in the defense of Nemetia's waters and her temple grove.

There may be a very good reason why Gildas (or his source, or a later interpolator) may have opted for English Bathum (rendered Badon in the British language of the day). The two famous 'baths' towns were anciently known as Aquae Sulis and Aquae Arnemetiae for the two goddesses presiding over the hot springs. As Arthur is made out to be the preeminent Christian hero, who in the Welsh Annals has a shield bearing the Cross of Christ that he carries during the Battle of Badon, it would not do for the ancient Romano-British name to be used in this context. To have done so would inevitably have referred directly to a pagan deity. Hence the generic and less “connotation-loaded” Germanic name for the place was substituted. This explanation might do much to placate those who insist on seeing Badon as a Celtic name.

And where is the most likely location for the monte/montis of the Baths/Batham/Badon, where the actual battle was fought?

I make this out to be what is now referred to as The Slopes, at the foot of which is the modern St. Ann’s Well, and the Crescent, under which the original Roman bath was built. The Slopes were once called St. Ann’s Cliff because it was a prominent limestone outcrop. The Tithe map of 1848 shows that the upper half of the Cliff was still largely covered in trees. I suspect the spring was anciently thought to arise from inside the Cliff, and that the trees covering it marked the precincts of the nemeton or sacred grove of Arnemetia.

The three days and three nights Arthur bore the cross (or, rather, a shield bearing an image of a cross) at Badon in the Welsh Annals are markedly similar to the three days and three nights Urien is said to have blockaded the Saxons in the island of Lindsfarne (British Metcaud) in Chapter 63 of the HB. In Gildas, immediately before mention of Badon, we have the following phrase: "From then on victory went now to our countrymen, now to their enemies…" Similarly, just prior mention of Urien at Lindisfarne, we have this: "During that time, sometimes the enemy, sometimes the Cymry were victorious…" It would seem, therefore, that either the motif of the three days and three nights was taken from the Urien story and inserted into that of Arthur or vice-versa.

What is fascinating about this parallel is that Lindisfarne or ‘Holy Island’, as it came to be known, was an important spiritual centre of Northern Britain. The inclusion of the three days and three nights (an echo of the period Christ spent in the tomb) in the Badon story suggests that we can no longer accept the view that Arthur's portage of Christian symbols at Badon was borrowed solely from the Castle Guinnion battle account in the HB. Aquae Arnemetiae, like Lindisfarne, was a holy place. Arthur's fighting there may have been construed as a holy act.
Supposedly, 960 Saxons were slain by Arthur at Badon. In the past, most authorities have seen in the number 960 no more than a fanciful embellishment on the Annals' entry, i.e. more evidence of Arthur as a ‘legend in the making’. But 960 could be a very significant number, militarily speaking. The first cohort of a Roman legion was composed of six doubled centuries or 960 men. As the most important unit, the first cohort guarded the Roman Imperial eagle standard.
Now, while the Roman army in the late period no longer possessed a first cohort composed of this number of soldiers, it is possible Nennius's 960 betrays an antiquarian knowledge of earlier Roman military structure. However, why the Saxons are said to have lost such a number cannot be explained in terms of such an anachronistic description of a Roman unit.

The simplest explanation for Nennius's 960 is that it represents 8 Saxon long hundreds, each long hundred being composed of 120 warriors.

To quote from Tacitus on the Germanic long hundred:

"On general survey, their [the German's] strength is seen to lie rather in their infantry, and that is why they combine the two arms in battle. The men who they select from the whole force and station in the van are fleet of foot and fit admirably into cavalry action. The number of these chosen men is exactly fixed. A hundred are drawn from each district, and 'the hundred' is the name they bear at home. What began as a mere number ends as a title of distinction" [Germania 6]
Curiously, in the Norse poem Grimnismal, 8 hundreds of warriors (probably 960) pass through each of the doors of Valhall, the Hall of the Slain, at the time of Ragnarok or the Doom of the Powers.

Osla or Ossa Big-Knife and Caer Faddon

It has often been said that the Welsh Caer Faddon is always a designation for Bath in Avon.

However, at least one medieval Welsh tale points strongly towards the ‘Baths’ at Buxton as the proper site.

I am speaking, of course, of the early Arthurian romance ‘The Dream of Rhonabwy’, sometimes considered to be a part of the Mabinogion collection of tales. Rhonabwy is transported back in time via the vehicle of a dream to the eve of the battle of Caer Faddon. Arthur has apparently come from Cornwall (as he is said to return thither after a truce is made) to mid-Wales and thence to Caer Faddon to meet with Osla or Ossa, a true historical contemporary of Arthur who lies at the head of the royal Bernician pedigree.

As Arthur is said to progress from Rhyd-y-Groes to Long Mountain, he is traveling to the northeast via the Roman road. In other words, he is headed in the direction of Buxton in the High Peak.

While the romance is entirely fanciful, the chronological accuracy in the context of choosing Osla/Ossa is rather uncanny. Furthermore, it is quite clear that in the tradition the author of the romance was drawing from, Caer Faddon is most certainly not Bath. Ossa is known in English sources for being the first of the Bernicians to come to England from the Continent. Under his descendants, Bernicia became a great kingdom, stretching eventually from the Forth to the Tees. In the 7th century, Deira – which controlled roughly the area between the Tees and the Humber - was joined with Bernicia to form the Kingdom of Northumbria.
In its heyday, Northumbria shared a border with its neighbor to the south – Mercia – at the River Mersey of ‘Boundary River’. The Mersey flows east to Stockport, where it essentially starts at the confluence of the River Tame and Goyt. The Goyt has its headwaters on Axe Edge, only a half a dozen kilometers from Buxton in the High Peak.

If we allow for the story’s author to have properly chosen Ossa as Arthur’s true contemporary, but to have viewed Northumbria in an anachronistic fashion – i.e. as extending to the River Mersey – then with Ossa coming from Bernicia in the extreme north of England, and with Arthur coming from Cornwall in the extreme southwest - their meeting for a battle at Buxton makes a great deal of sense. In fact, Buxton is pretty much exactly equidistant between the two locations. Ossa would have been viewed as engaging in a battle just across the established boundary.

If I am right about this, the Welsh knew of the ‘Bathum’ or Badon that was Buxton.  Certainly, it cannot have been the Bath in Somerset, as there is otherwise no reason for the Cornish Arthur to have been in central/northeastern Wales while on his way to fight Ossa.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Castell Dinas Bran, Denbighshire, Wales

The victorious “Alleluia” Battle of St. Germanus has long remained a mystery. In the past I tried pointing towards the Moel of Crio, supposedly the Hill of the Cry or Shout, near Maes Garmon (“the field or plain of Garmon”) in Flintshire, Wales, as the location.  Unfortunately, further research showed the crio was here a late and corrupt form of another word.  This from archivist Jane Sellek of the Denbighshire Archives:

“Moel y Crio:  Crio, 1. Careiau, pl. of carai, 'thong, lace (bootlace)'  2. Creuau, pl. of crau, 'hole, aperture'.  The popular explanation - 'moel of the crying or weeping' is unacceptable.

The book was written by Ellis Davies and published (in 1959) on behalf of the Board of Celtic Studies, University of Wales. An archivist who used to work here told me that the "bootlaces" and holes are indicative of lead-mining activity.”

Not only was I wrong about this Hill of the Shout, there were legitimate objections raised about placing the battle in Wales (a problem that has been discussed in the past by other authorities).  As the battle account insists that both Picts and Scots were involved, a site has been sought –albeit unsuccessfully – in northeastern England or southeastern Scotland. 

Furthermore, my idea that the “Shout Motif” came about as either an aetiological way of explaining the origin of a lace-name OR was an attempt to actually translate or interpret a place-name was not met with much enthusiasm.  The primary reason for the resistance I encountered over the latter has to do with the stated “purity” of St. Constantius’ Life of St. Germanus.  For it is contended that as Constantius began work on the Vita only a half century or so after the battle took place, the veracity of his account should be respected. 

To bring the read up to speed on both Constantius and his Life of St. Germanus, the following excellent pages are available from Robert Vermaat’s Vortigern site:

For those interested in the Latin text of the Vita, Mr. Vermaat kindly referred me to that as well:

The text begins on p. 247, with the Alleluia battle occurring on p. 264.

The first thing I had to do was to find out what was our earliest extant MS. of the Vita.  According to Professor John J. Contreni of Purdue, an expert in medieval MSS.,

‘There are two versions of the text: one considered to be Contantius's authentic work and a second, "interpolated" version with additions. According to the introduction of Rene Borius's Sources Chretiennes edition of Constantius's text (Paris, 1965), the earliest MS would be Paris, BNF, lat. 12598, which is dated to the 8th century.”

Contreni also was able to verify for me that the battle story was in the non-interpolated version of the Life.

So what we have with the Life of St. Germanus is a MS. prepared by a man about 50 years after the event recorded in that work.  And all of this comes from a MS. which was copied centuries after that.  Finally, we have another early MS. filled with interpolations.  And let us not forget: a saint’s Life is a piece of hagiography.  And hagiography is not in any sense of the word history.  Saints’ Lives are an odd combination of biography and wonder working, full of the standard falsehoods of religion.  As such, they are an expression of the medieval mindset and world view, intended to glorify saintly personages and to promulgate the ideals and doctrines of the Church.  By their very nature, then, they are often rife with pious fraud.

Still, on the surface of it, there is nothing fantastical about a holy man being present at a battle.  We need not take his generalship of the British army seriously, of course, and the defeat of the pagans with a thrice-shouted ‘Alleluia!’ can be relegated to the dustbin of fictional miracles.  It does seem that a Germanus of Auxerre did go over to battle Pelagianism. That much seems certain. All else is doubtful.

What history can be derived from the story?  Can we find its location and, if so, what would that tell us about the nature of St. Germanus himself?

Well, for starters, let’s read the entire account of the battle once again.  The following selection is taken from Robert Vermaat’s Website:

“Chapter Seventeen

Meanwhile, the Saxons and the Picts had joined forces to make war upon the Britons. The latter had been compelled to withdraw their forces within their camp and, judging their resources to be utterly unequal to the contest, asked the help of the holy prelates. The latter sent back a promise to come, and hastened to follow it. Their coming brought such a sense of security that you might have thought that a great army had arrived; to have such apostles for leaders was to have Christ Himself fighting in the camp.

It was the season of Lent and the presence of the bishops made the sacred forty days still more sacred; so much so that the soldiers, who received instruction in daily sermons, flew eagerly to the grace of baptism; indeed, great numbers of this pious army sought the waters of salvation. A church was built of leafy branches in readiness for Easter Day, on the plan of a city church, though set in a camp on active service. The soldiers paraded still wet from baptism, faith was fervid, the aid of weapons was thought little of, and all looked for help from heaven.

Meanwhile the enemy had learned of the practices and appearance of the camp. They promised themselves an easy victory over practically disarmed troops and pressed on in haste. But their approach was discovered by scouts and, when the Easter solemnities had been celebrated, the army--the greater part of it fresh from the font--began to take up their weapons and prepare for battle and Germanus announced that he would be their general [dux proelii, "leader for this battle"]. He chose some light-armed troops and made a tour of the outworks. In the direction from which the enemy were expected he saw a valley enclosed by steep mountains. Here he stationed an army on a new model, under his own command.

Chapter Eighteen

By now the savage host of the enemy was close at hand and Germanus rapidly circulated an order that all should repeat in unison the call he would give as a battle-cry. Then, while the enemy were still secure in the belief that their approach was unexpected, the bishops three times chanted the Alleluia. All, as one man, repeated it and the shout they raised rang through the air and was repeated many times in the confined space between the mountains.

The enemy were panic-stricken, thinking that the surrounding rocks and the very sky itself were falling on them. Such was their terror that no effort of their feet seemed enough to save them. They fled in every direction, throwing away their weapons and thankful if they could save at least their skins. Many threw themselves into the river which they had just crossed at their ease, and were drowned in it.

Thus the British army looked on at its revenge without striking a blow, idle spectators of the victory achieved. The booty strewn everywhere was collected; the pious soldiery obtained the spoils of a victory from heaven. The bishops were elated at the rout of the enemy without bloodshed and a victory gained by faith and not by force.”

Now, to begin with, I now know I was indeed in error when trying to find a ‘shout’ place-name. While there are some in Britain, one or two of which can be traced to the Romano-British period, these are will-o-the-wisps.  The fact is that the very name of the saint seems to have contributed to the formation of the Shout Motif.   

These entries are from the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (GPC):


[Crn. garm ‘gwaedd’, Llyd. garm ‘gwaedd’, H. Wydd. gairm ‘gwaedd, sgrech’: < Clt. *gar-(s)mn̥ o’r gwr. *ĝā̆r- ‘galw, sgrechian’]

eb. ll. garmau.

Bloedd, cri, llefain, dadwrdd, twrf:
shout, cry, outcry, clamour. 


[bf. o’r e. garm+-ain1]

bg. a’r be. fel eg.

Bloeddio, gweiddi, llefain, nadu:
to shout, yell, cry, wail. 


Proto-Celtic *gar(s)man-,

SEMANTIC CLASS: language, Gaulish

 *gar(s)men- (> Old French guerm-enter) ‘lament’, Early Irish gairm ‘call, shout’, Scottish Gaelic gairm ‘call, office’, Welsh garm ‘shout, cry, outcry, clamour’, Cornish garm ‘call, shout’, Breton garm ‘call’

What I’m suggesting, in other words, is that at some point the saint's LATIN name was interpreted along Celtic lines.  Thus the idea of the shouted Alleluia was born.

To this idea, Dr. Simon Rodway of the University of Wales replied. “Yes, this sounds quite plausible”, while Professor Peter Schrijver said only “That must be right!.” I’ve obtained similar positive responses from other top Celticists. 

If I’m right about this, then the battle story in the Life of St Germanus came from a Celtic source or, at the very least, this must be true of the Shout Motif.

As the St. Germanus (or ‘Garmon’) place-names are all in Wales, and St. Germanus’s story in the HISTORIA BRITTONUM also focuses on Wales, it is to that land that we should turn for the location of the Alleluia Battle.  One traditional spot is Maes Garmon or the Field/Plain of Germanus near Mold, Flintshire.  But I have reason to believe the battle site is to be found elsewhere in Wales.

According to P.C. Bartram in A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY, these are the Welsh locations associated with St. Germanus [I’ve before mentioned that the “hounding” of Vortigern by the saint in Nennius functions as a means of plotting out St. Germanus church locations]:

For me, the most interesting passage in the Vita’s description of the battle is the one which describes the church made of leafy branches within the camp of the British army, a church made on the plan of a city church.  The leafy branches made me wonder about a possible place-name, and so I began by searching for the known St. Garmon sites that were next to or near forts.
      St. Harmon is only a little over a kilometer from a Roman camp

      Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog is just across the Ceiriog from the hillfort of Cerrig Gwynion
     Capel Garmon is next to the Capel Garmon chambered long cairn

     Castell Caereinion has a St. Garmon’s chuch WITHIN IT

The village is named after an ancient castle. The castle was built in 1156 by Madog ap Maredudd. Madog's nephew Owain Cyfeiliog swore allegiance to the English, Owain Gwynedd took the castle from him and destroyed it in about 1167. It has been suggested that a mound in the churchyard of St Garmon's is the remains of the earthwork castle. This mound is known as Twmpath Garmon, so it could be a preaching mound (as in Llanfechain; see below). The most recent view is that the mound does not appear motte-like and a survey in 2002 failed to find a surrounding ditch.

     Llanfechain is only a few kilometers from the Foel Hill hill fort

The parish church, St Garmon's, was originally constructed in Norman times, and still retains many original features. It is a Grade II* listed building. It is a single-chambered structure with surviving Romanesque windows in the east wall and two doorways in the south wall. There were some Victorian alterations including the addition of a western bell turret. Inside, the roof dates from the 15th century, the font is from about 1500, the pulpit carries a date of 1636, and at the western end its gallery remains.

According to tradition, the saint preached from a mound in the churchyard at Llanfechain. The remains of this mound, 'Twmpath Garmon' are still evident today north of the church, although graves have been dug into it. According to the recollections of 19th century villagers, recorded in Volume 5 of the Montgomeryshire Collections, cockpits were dug near to the mound for cockfighting.

   The Eliseg Pillar of Valle Crucis is only a couple of kilometers from the hill fort of Castell Dinas Bran, which stands over Llangollen

It was Llangollen that caught my eye.  This is the Church of St. Collen.  However, the word collen, taken as a known instead of a name, is the plural of the following:

From the GPC:


[H. Grn. colwiden, gl. corillus, H. Lyd. limn-collin, gl. tilia, Gwydd. coll: < Clt. *kosl-, cf. Llad. corilus, S. hazel] (un. collen) ll. cyll.

Math o lwyni neu goed bychain yn dwyn cnau bwytadwy; pren ifanc, brigyn, ysbrigyn:

hazel; sapling, twig. 

9g. (MC) VVB 78, Corilis i. coll.

12g. LL 247, finnaun he collenn.

13g. LlDW 9723-4, guerth kolluyn .xxiiii. otenyr vn kollen or kolluyn .iiii.

14g. WML 104, Kollen pymthec atal.

14g. GDG 234, Llysgon, oedd well eu llosgi, / O gyll ir; ni bu o’m gwall i.

c. 1400 R 103329, Gorwyn blaen coll. geir digoll bre.

id. 134912-13, Glewllew llit meruyn. is brynn bryt kyll.

c. 1400 [RB] WM 49031-2, nyt oed yma goet namyn un o gollen derwen.

15-16g. TA 473, O chaf finnau wych feinwen, / Bagl goll a gaiff bugail Gwen!

1547 WS, koll pren, hasyll.

1588 Gen xxx. 37, Yna Iacob a gymmerth iddo ei hun wiail o boplyswydd a chyll.

1604-7 TW (Pen 228) d.g. corylus (hefyd D).

Digwydd fel e. p. yn yr enw Llangollen.

Hence, the church of leafy branches is an interpretation of the Church of St. Collen!  Collen being rendered as ‘hazels, saplings, twigs’ rather than a personal name.  And, indeed, it is entirely possible that St. Collen, of whom typically marvelous stories are told, is a personification of the noun collen.  
Llangollen in the valley of the river Dee is not only close to the Pillar of Eliseg, which bears the name of St. Germanus, but is also pretty much exactly between the St. Garmon churches at Ial and Dyffryn Ceiriog.

I would, therefore, tentatively propose that a battle was fought in the Dee Valley at or near Llangollen, Castell Dinas Bran and the Eliseg Pillar.  It wouldn’t have been waged against Saxons in 429 A.D., and is unlikely to have involved Picts (although the Brittu/Brydw whom Germanus blesses on the Eliseg Pillar may bear a name that is cognate with the Pictish name Brude, a name or title born by many Pictish kings, with variants including Breth, Bred, Bredei, Breidei, Brete, Bridei, Brideo, Bridiuo and Bruide). The St. Germanus who was present (in spirit if not in body!) would not have been St. Germanus of Auxerre, but instead either a Powysian Garmon or Mac Garmon of the Isle of Man.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Caerau Camp


The case has often been made that Camelot is a late French form of the Romano-British Camulodunum place-name. However, archaeological evidence from both the fort on Old Lindley Moor near Slack and from the fort on Almondbury five miles from Slack (either of which may have been the ancient Camulodunum) has not revealed Dark Age occupation of these sites. The other primary candidate for Camelot is the Cadbury hill-fort by the Camel villages in Somerset. While this fort does show Dark Age occupation, its location does not match that provided for Camelot in the romances.

The first clue as to the actual whereabouts of Camelot is found in Chretien de Troyes’ Knight of the Cart, which is the earliest romance to mention this site. According to Chretien, Camelot is ‘in the region near Caerleon’. For some reason, most authorities have seen fit to ignore this statement, insisting that Camelot was placed near Caerleon simply because of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s glorified description of the latter site as a major Arthurian centre. If we do take
Chretien’s statement seriously, we can for the first time arrive at a satisfactory identification of this most magical of royal cities.

The second clue to the location of Camelot is from the later romance The Quest for the Holy
Grail, wherein Arthur escorts the Grail questersfrom Camelot to a point just shy of Castle Vagan.

A third clue, from the prose Tristan, places Camelot either on or very near the sea. The last clue is from the Morte Artu; in this source, the castle of Camelot is on a river. It goes without saying that we need to look for a CASTLE or, at the very least, the site of an earlier hill-fort of some significance.

Castle Vagan is St. Fagan’s Castle (W. Ffagan) four or five miles west of Cardiff. This site lies in the Ely Valley, the supposed location of the Campus Elleti of the boy Ambrosius (not the historical Ambrosius in this context, who was made into Arthur’s uncle, but the ‘Divine or Immortal’ Lleu/Mabon; see Chapter 1 above).

According to the HB, Campus Elleti, the ‘Field or Plain of Elleti’, was said to be in Glywysing, the later Morgannwg/Glamorgan, which is indeed where the Ely Valley lies. Only a dozen miles separate Campus Elleti from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Caerleon.

In my opinion, Campus Elleti, with Latin Campus rendered as French Champ (the p of which is silent), became Camelot:

Cham(p) ellet(i) > Camelot

So can we now be relatively certain that Camelot was a site in the Ely Valley? Yes – although there is disagreement about the relative linguistics of Ely/Elei and Elleti.

According to Welsh place-name expert Professor
Wyn Owen, the derivation of the Ely river-name is uncertain:

“R.J. Thomas (Enwau Afonydd a Nentydd Cymru, [Cardiff 1938] 141) derives 'Elei, Istrat Elei' c.1150 tentatively from *Eleg' + -i but offers no meaning, while Ifor Williams (Enawau Lleoedd [Liverpool 1945] 40) suggests that the root is leg meaning dripping, slow-moving from which we get llaith 'damp', cognate with Eng. to leak, and lake”.

The initial E- of Elei could be explained by an el prefix, ‘much’, would would give us a meaning the ‘very slow-moving’ river. Elleti would have to be, therefore, a form of Elei which displays the terminal of llaith. Yet if so, it is difficult to account for why there is only one /l/ in Elei.

Graham Isaac disagrees that the river-name Ely can be related to Elleti:

“On Elei, it would be from the same root as Aled,
Alun, Eleri, all rivers, < Celt. *al- < PIE *h2el-, 'to shine'. They are all, in different ways, 'shining rivers'. Elleti is not connected with these. The form Elleti is corroborated by the instance of 'palude [Latin for “marsh” or “swamp”] Elleti' in Book of Llan Dav (148). But since both that and HB’s campum Elleti are in Latin contexts, we cannot see whether the name is OW Elleti (= Elledi) or OW Ellet (= Elled) with a Latin genitive ending. Both are possible. My guess would be that OW Elleti is right. As the W suffix -i would motivate affection, so allowing the base to be posited as all-, the same as in W ar -all 'other', all-tud 'exile', Gaulish allo-, etc. Elleti would be 'other-place, place of the other side (of something)'.

There are certainly no grounds for thinking of a connection between Elleti and Elei.”

This may be true, but it seems to me that the /ll/ Professor Owen was seeking is present in Elleti, and the palude or ‘swamp, marsh’ name applied to the place does favor the “very slow-moving’ etymology. Elei would merely represent a truncated form of the name.

Mabon as one of the ‘vultures of Elei’ is called the servant of Uther Pendragon because Uther is the Ambrosius and Ambrosius was situated at Campus Elleti.

It may also be that Campus Elleti, from a presumed Welsh Maes Elei or similar, was a relocation for the Moselle (Latin Mosella/Mosellae) River in Gaul, upon which stood the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum of the Gaulish prefect A.A. and his son, St. Ambrose.
If so, this would once again confirm my identification of A.A. as a personage belonging to the 4th century.

There are two notable monuments in the lower
Ely Valley. One is a Roman villa. The other is a fairly major hillfort now called Caerau. From -hill-fort/:

“Surrounded by housing and the A4232, Caerau hillfort is one of the largest and best preserved in
South Wales. It occupies the western tip of an extensive ridge-top plateau in the western suburbs of Caerau and Ely, Cardiff, Wales. The old parish church, St Mary’s, and a small ringwork, almost certainly a medieval castle site probably contemporary with the church, stand within the hillfort on the north-eastern side. Caerau Hillfort is the third largest Iron Age hillfort in Glamorgan enclosing 5.1 hectares (about the size of four football pitches). Recent excavations by Channel
Four’s Time Team in April 2012 showed that occupation started about 600BC and lasted, probably not continuously, into the 3rd century

This is certainly the only candidate for Camelot.

More information on the fort can be found at:

Campus Elleti almost certainly refers to the flat lowland plain leading to the banks of the river to the north of the fort.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Bury Hill, Herefordshire, site of the Romano-British Settlement of Ariconium

The British place-name Ariconium has for long gone without a decent etymology.  As I had just written a piece on some of the legendary Arthur’s connections with Ariconium in Welsh tradition, I thought I would have a stab at it. 
The following treatment of the name is from Rivet and Smith’s THE PLACE-NAMES OF ROMAN BRITAIN:

“Antonine Itinerary, 4853 (Iter XIII) : ARICONIO.

DERIVATION : The name is formed from British *are- (*ari-) 'in front of ' and *conio-, of unknown meaning but perhaps the same as in Viroconium. Among names formed in this way (Holder I. 188) are possibly British Argistillum (and divine name Arnemetia), and abroad Armorici (Aremorici, the people 'in front of the sea'), Arelaunum silva, Areduno vico > Ardin (Deux-Sèvres, France); these do not help to guess a meaning for the present name, though Jackson observes that thc prefix is 'usually used in place-names of regions beside some feature such as a forest, a marsh, the sea, etc.' (Britannia, I (1970), 68).

IDENTIFICATION. The Roman settlement at Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire (SO 6423).

Note. The name has interesting survivals. In EPNS, XL, 192, its first part, with Anglo-Saxon -ingas attached, is recorded as Ircingafeld in the ASC (918) and Arcenfelde in DB, modern Archenfield, a deanery of the diocese of Hereford. There is also Ergyn(g), the Welsh name for a district in Herefordshire. Possibly the first element survives in a different form in the name Yartleton; the Roman site is some three miles to the north-west of this place.”

The meaning of this supposed *conio- element has eluded all attempts by Celtic linguists.  The only respectable offered suggestion is mentioned by Professor Leonard Curchin in

“…the element *conio- also appears in British GNs (Ariconium, Viroconium), perhaps from IE *konio-
“common” (Greek  koi-nos).  Conimbriga could therefore mean “hill-fort of the common people”. 

However, when speaking of Viroconium Rivet and Smith point towards another possible solution for Ariconium:

“It could be, however, that despite the attractive analogues above, we have in Viroconium a personal name plus suffix. Names such as Viriatus, Virius, Virinius are frequent in Spain (ELH I. 367), and Viricius, Vendus are widely recorded (Holder III. 379). In Britain Verica, ruler of the Atrebates, is named on coins as Verica and Ver but also as Vir, Viri (Mack Nos. 109-1316). In CIL v. 4594 (Brescia, Italy) there appears Virico. It is easy to analyse these names as Viric- (of unknown meaning; hardly *uiro- 'man') with various suffixes. The place-name Viroconium might therefore more properly be Viriconium, to be analysed in British terms as *Uirico- with suffixes *-on-io- as in CANONIUM, etc.; a meaning ' town of *Uirico-' is likely, and is one of the possibilities admitted by Jackson in his study of the name in Britannia, I (1970), 81. The name preumably applied originally to the hill-fort on the Wrekin, and was transferred to the Roman fortress and the town which grew from it.”

What I found myself wondering is whether Ariconium could be explained in the same way.  I wrote to Gaulish and Celtic language expert Professor Joseph Eske and asked him if he knew of any Gaulish names which resembled Ir. Airech in formation.  His response was simply this:

“OIr. airech continues proto-Celtic *fari-ko-.  It is found in Gaulish in the personal name Aricos, fem. Arica.  Ario- is a derivative of *fari- with –o- added.  It is found in names such as Ariobindus and Comarius.”

Prof. Curchin added this:

“Pokorny's dictionary, useful in its day, predates the widespread acceptance of laryngeal theory. His PIE root *ario- would nowadays be written *h2eryo- where h2 represents an a-colouring laryngeal. From this comes the Gaulish root *ario- which D.E. Evans (Gaulish Personal Names, p. 54) translates "nobleman". This is found in several Celtic and Celto-Germanic names: Ariomanus (inscriptions from Pannonia and Noricum), Ariobindus (inscriptions from Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum), Ariovistus (chief of the Suebi named by Caesar), Ariogaisus (chief of the Quadi named by Dio Cassius). Note that the "Gaulish" language was spoken not only in Gaul (France/Belgium) but also in Central and Eastern Europe. In the 3rd c. BC the Gauls overran Greece and Asia Minor.

In Irish and Celtiberian, *h2eryo- takes the form *airo- as shown by the Irish cognates cited by Pokorny and by "deo Aironi" in an inscription from central Spain.”

It seemed to me that if we allowed for a British cognate to that Gaulish Aricos, and Irish airech, we could have an Arico(s) + suffixes like *-on-io-.  This would be the ‘Place of Arico(s).’ or ‘Noble Place.’

To this idea, Eske replied: “Sure, Daniel, this is a possibility.”  Curchin said that “Gaulish *ario- ‘nobleman’ could have an adjectival form *ari-iko, making possible a hypothetical toponym *arik-on-io "noble place.”

Dr. Simon Rodway thought this might work:

"Yes, I suppose that would work. I was reconstructing airech as *fari-āko- (to use Eska’s notation), because that works for Irish, and because –āko- is so productive in Insular Celtic, but in the light of Gaulish Aricos etc., then fine."

As there is no other good etymology for this place-name, I will put forward this proposal.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Sites Discussed in the Article

Much has been made of the Pendragon name, and the presence of dragons in the story of Emrys/Ambrosius and Vortigern.  Although an attempt has been made to draw parallels with the Roman draco standard (introduced by the Sarmatians, who settled as veterans at the Ribchester fort), this has not been entirely successful. 

In this blog post I would like to explore the ‘pesky dragon’ one more time, with the aim of seeing if my identification of the name/title Uther Pendragon as a cipher for Ambrosius/Emrys holds any weight.

To begin, here are some interesting facts to consider:

1) Dragons of Dinas Emrys – with Emrys and Vortigern
            a) Amesbury connection
b) Center of Oxford (Lludd and Llefelys)
2) Crossed serpent standard of Segontium military unit in Notitia Dignitatum.  Segontium has strong associations with a Constantine. 
3) Maglocunus/Maelgwn as the ‘dragon of the isle’ (draco insularis)
4) The Pharoah’s (i.e. Vortigern’s) Red Dragon (standard? Metaphor for the Britons?) in the Gwarchan Maeldderw
5) In the Gorchan of Tudfwlch, the hero – from Eifionydd in Gwynedd, an area in north-west Wales covering the south-eastern part of the Llŷn Peninsula from Porthmadog to just east of Pwllheli  – is called the serpent with a terrible sting, and his place of origin is alluded to as the snakes’ lair.  Eifionydd, named for Ebiaun son of Dunod son of Cunedda, is the northern half of the kingdom of Dunoding and is hard by Dinas Emrys in Arfon. 
6) Owen Gwynedd is referred to by the poet Gwalchmai as the 'dragon of Mona' 
7) Arthur son of Bicoir 'the Briton' kills the Irish king Mongan with a dragon stone

So all of these ‘dragons’ cluster in Gwynedd.

[Admittedly, ‘serpent’, snake’, ‘dragon’, ‘drake’ are sometimes metaphorically used for heroes outside of Gwynedd.  For example, the son of Cynan Garwyn of Powys is one Selyf Sarffgadau, ‘Solomon Serpent of Battle.’  Cynan is likely the Aurelius Caninus of Gildas, which have led some to believe that Aurelius Ambrosius belonged to this family.  Cynan’s father was the great Brochwel (‘Badger-prince’) the Tusked. Maig Myngfras, brother of Brochwel, is in a 13th century poem compared to a later ruler who is referred to as “a valiant sharp dragon.”]

So am I right in seeing Uther Pendragon as a cipher for Emrys, for whom Vortigern has DREAD and who is called the Great King?

Let’s look towards Dinerth, ‘Bear Fort’ (Bryn Euryn hill fort), in Conwy, almost certainly the receptaculum ursi of Cuneglasus/Cyngils.  There is a church of Constantine here.  And let us not forget the Ceredigion Dinerth fort and river also – which was also part of Gwynedd.  See the Arth names in the Cerdigion genealogy, for example (Artbodgu, Artgloys, Arthgen). I’ve shown before that Ceredig son of Cunedda = Ceredic of Wessex.  The Arthur battles in Nennius’s Historia Brittonum fall exactly in the same chronological slot as the battles of Cerdic in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Some have tried to show that Cerdic IS Arthur.  I once explored this possibility myself and failed to produce anything convincing.  As with other theories on the historical identity of Arthur, none of the battles found in Nennius could be brought into accord with other Arthurian candidates. And it remained true that the name Arthur cannot have originated from northern or western Wales, as it derives ultimately from Artorius of York. 

If we want a “battle leader” and a Camlan, there is always Cadwaladr son of Meriaun of Merionydd.  No fewer than three Camlanns fall in his territory, and his name means ‘battle prince/ruler/leader.’

Then there is Enniaun girt map Cunedda. Enniaun has only his epithet to recommend him. Girt or gyrth can have the meaning of ‘dread’; (GPC) gyrth - garw, caled; aruthr, ffyrnig; cryf, cadarn; wedi ei yrru, curedig; trawiad, hwrdd, gwth, ‘rough, hard; dread, fierce; strong, mighty; driven, beaten; blow, push, thrust.’  This would roughly correspond to Uther.  But Enniaun was not of Eifionydd, the 'snakes' lair,' nor is there reason to connect him to Segontium.  And a further discussion of Enniaun's nickname by Andrew Hawke, editor of the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, does not support the idea that Enniaun should be seen as 'the Terrible', etc.:
"...'gyrth' is both an adjective and a noun. It is well attested in Middle Welsh but has no known etymology (?possibly from an old verbal form, perhaps from gyrru, which is from gyr meaning 'drive, thrust, blow, push; rush, onset, attack; compulsion; impulse, impetus'). The only indication of its meaning is the examples of its use which have survived. As you say, Bartrum is very dependable. From what he says in his Classical Dictionary, Einion was renowned for being slaughtered - hence 'stricken' or 'beaten' (as in GPC). There is also a verb, 'gyrthio' meaning 'to strike, beat; butt, push; shake, stir; touch' - which is probably the source of 'touched' as a possible meaning.

Dafydd ap Gwilym ( poem 48 line 54) refers to a "Brychan Yrth   Literally 'Brychan the Mighty', probably Brychan Brycheiniog".
The epithet could mean 'mighty' or 'fierce' in relation to Einion also, I suppose. The context is really all we have to go on, together with similarities between different usages and references to the characters in the literature (Bartrum's particular strength)."
In my book THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON, I make my case for the Tintagel headland being the Roman period Promontory of Hercules.  It is occurred to me that the two crossed serpents of Segontium may have something to do with Hercules.  At Silchester was found a Roman stone dedicated to a god named Hercules Saegon-.  This divine epithet is from the same word we find in Segontium and means ‘vigorous’ or the like.  In the case of Hercules, it may be a native god with whom the Classical divinity was identified.  The river at Segontium is called the Seiont to this day. 

Two serpents appear in the myth of Herakles.  And in this myth, Herakles as an infant IS SLEEPING ATOP A SHIELD.  Here is the entire account from Theocritus:

INFANT HERAKLES (Theocritus 24: 1 - 63)

Once when Herakles was 10 months old,
Alkmena of Midea bathed him and Iphikles,
his brother younger by a night and nursed them both,
then laid them in the fine bronze shield
Amphitryon had stripped from Pterelaos as he died.
Gently the oman stroked their hair and spoke to them:
"Sleep, my babies, sleep sweet and refreshing sleep.
Sleep, my soul, two brothers, blessed children.
Blest be your slumber, blessed your awaking at dawn."
So speaking she rocked the great shield and sleep took them.
But at midnight when the Bear turns to the west
down after Orion, and shines against his mighty shoulder,
Then Hera the Devisor sent two deadly monsters forth,
two gleaming snakes with blue-black coils,
urging them across the broad threshold, the hollow doorposts
of the house,
directing them to devour the infant Herakles.
Along the ground, coiling high their bellies the two serpents
slithered, an evil fire shown from their eyes as they came,
and they spat forth an evil poison.
But when they came near the children, forking their tongues...
then the dear children of Alkmena awoke-for all was known to Zeus-
and a sudden light filled the house.
At once Iphikles cried out, as he saw the evil beasts above his
hollow cradle and saw their deadly teeth, and he kicked away his
woolly blanket, struggling to run away.
But Herakles put out his hands, gripped their necks with deadly force,
holding fast their throats of deadly poison, a poison even the gods feared.
The two snakes wound about the child, this new-born baby
who never cried. He tightened his grip again, then released it,
striving to ease the pain of the dreaded bond.
Alkmena first heard the cry and awoke.
"Get up, Amphitryon! Sheer terror holds me fast!
Get up, don't tie your sandals on!
Don't you hear how our younger child is screaming?
Don't you see the light, like dawn, but at night, about the walls?
There is something strange in the house, my husband!"
So she spoke. And he, in answer to his wife, got out of bed,
He grabbed his great sword which hung always above
their cedar bed, he snatched his strong scabbard lotus wood,
while with his other hand he belted on his new baldric.
Suddenly darkness enveloped the room again.
He called out the servants stretched out in heavy sleep.
"Bring a torch quickly, taking it from the hearth!
My servants, break down the door, break the bolts!"
There was a Phoenician housemaid sleeping near the mill;
suddenly she heard him and called out the other servants
sleeping throughout the house. They came running, bringing
torches: the house was full of running people.
Then as they saw Herakles, the baby, holding the two monsters
in his baby hands, they cried out in amazement. He held them out
to his father Amphitryon, and raising the serpents high above the earth
he laughed and laid the snakes, now slumbering in death, at his
father's feet.
Alkmene took in her arms Iphikles, still stiff with fright.
Amphitryon laid his other child, Herakles, back under his blanket,
and then returning to his bed thought about the strange event.

I would very tentatively propose, therefore, that the insignia of two crossed snakes at Segontium, which would have been on shields, represented the two snakes of the Herakles myth, and that Saegon- was a native version of Herakles whose name is preserved at Segontium.

Notitia Dignitatum showing the Segontium insignia at top, second from the left

Also in my book THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON, I had discussed the true nature of the vases found at Dinas Emrys.  These accord perfectly with two funeral urns placed mouth to mouth, the cremated bones inside of which – representing the remains of two chieftains or “dragons” – were wrapped or sealed in cloth. The description of these urns perfectly matches actual archaeological discoveries.  For more details on this, I urge readers to see the full account in my book.

At some point the two serpents of Dinas Emrys were converted in genii loci, protective spirits of the place.  From that point they further evolved into the genii of the British and the Saxons.  Finally, they may have taken on lunar characteristics.

I suspect that somehow the story of the urns and the dragons/chieftains they contained got mixed up with the two serpents of Segontium.  It is even possible that the cloth which sealed the urns or wrapped the cremated remains bore faint traces of the Segontium insignia, as this would likely have been used on standards as well. 

In any case, the Segontium serpents may be the origin of the Gwynedd dragons.

Does any of this help us with Uther Pendragon?

Eigr, the later Igerna, is from a Celtic root that is cognate with that of the Greek akraia, an epithet of Hera.  The name refers to a promontory or headland exactly like that of Tintagel.  The snakes of the Herakles story belong to Hera.  If I’m right and the Tintagel headland is the Promontory of Herakles, and Segontium Roman fort can be identified as a place sacred to Hercules Saegon- with its two snakes, we must ask the next rather obvious and logical question: was Arthur born not at Tintagel, but at Segontium?  Or even at Dinas Emrys, which is not far distant from Caernarfon (see attached map)?

Of course, the whole story of Arthur’s birth at Tintagel is the invention of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the reasons why he may have placed the infant hero there have been written about in detail before. Given the 12 Herculean battles of Arthur found in Nennius, we can understand how a story-teller like Geoffrey would seek to place Arthur on the Promontory of Hercules!

If Arthur is being likened to Hercules, is Uther meant to be Zeus, father of Hercules?  Geoffrey used the story of Manannan mac Lir’s transformation into the Irish king Fiachra to beget Mongan for his tale of Arthur’s begetting. And we are told in the Pa Gur poem that the god Mabon son of Modron (Maponos son of Matrona) is the servant (gwas) of Uther. This last has caused Arthurian enthusiasts and even a few scholars to wonder whether Uther was himself a god.  My identification of Uther with Ambrosius Aurelianus automatically begs the question as to which Ambrosius is meant – the geographically and temporally displaced personage of that name (Governor of Gaul, father of St. Ambrose) or the ‘divine/immortal golden one’ who is none other than Lleu/Mabon.

If we want to stick to names that belonged (if not exclusively) to mortals, then Uther Pendragon can designate only one of three men, all of whom were traditionally associated with Gwynedd:

1) Emrys
2) Vortigern
3) Cunedda

Vortigern, as I’ve recently demonstrated, was at least half Irish.  He was centered in southern Powys.

Emrys, once again, is an anachronistic personage of Gaul who came to be identified in legend with Lleu/Mabon of Gwynedd.  If he is Uther Pendragon, there is no way he was also Arthur’s father.

Cunedda was also Irish (see my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY); he was not from Manau Gododdin in the extreme North, but from Drumanagh across the Irish Sea.  He is called Ceawlin in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – and was called a Bretwalda, ‘Ruler of the Britons.’  As the person supposedly in charge of the conquest of Gwynedd, he could well have been referred to as the Pendragon.  Dinas Emrys was in Arfon next to Eifionydd, the latter being named for Dunod son of Cunedda’s son Ebiaun, as we’ve already seen above.  And Eifionydd was referred to as the ‘snakes’ lair.’ 

According to the MABINOGION, Lleu is given Dunoding by Math (the ‘Good One’, a taboo name for ‘Bear’) and lives/rules from Mur Castell, modern Tomen-y-Mur, site of a Roman fort.  Lleu had been raised at Dinas Dinlle(u) on the coast.  All these places are close to Caernarfon/Segontium.  Dinas Emrys is exactly between the two Lleu forts.  Nantlle(u), the place where Lleu exists for a time as the death-eagle in the oak and where Mabon’s grave is located, is exactly between Dinas Dinlleu and Dinas Emrys.

Maponus was always identified with Apollo the sun god. Apollo, of course, is famous for his defeat of the great serpent Python at Delphi.  Both Herakles and Apollo were sons of Zeus.  In Welsh tradition, Lleu’s father is Gwyddion (earlier Gwyddien, “Tree or Wood-born”) son of Don. Mabon is said to be the son of variously Modron or Mellt (“Lightning”).  As for Mellt, Zeus Astrapaios ‘of the lightning’ and Jupiter Fulgur, Fulgurator, Fulmen, Fulminator come to mind.

What is important to keep in my mind is that the center of Mabon worship in Britain was in the Scottish Lowlands not far to the northwest of the western portion of Hadrian’s Wall. We also find the name Lleu (or Lugos) at Carlisle/Luguvalium (Welsh Caer Liwelyd), the Roman fort that was ‘Lleu-strong.’ And it is on the western part of the Wall (Irthing Valley) where I have placed Arthur (Ceido son of Arthwys).  His brother Gwenddolau (of Merlin/Myrddin fame) was even closer to the Maponos/Mabon sites of Lochmaben, the Clochmabenstane hard by Gretna Green on the Solway and the Maporiton or ‘Ford of the Son’ at Ladyward.

Mabon features largely in the Taliesin poetry devote to Owain son of Urien.  Owain’s mother was said to be Modron, and the references in the relevant tradition seem to suggest that Mabon in this context should be seen as a poetic term for Owain himself.  I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the word gorlassar, which became Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Gorlois, is found used of only two heroes: Urien himself and Uther Pen (dragon). As a Llywarch Hen poem speaks of Urien’s head after death, some have thought Uther Pen, the ‘terrible head’, to be not a personal name, but a reference to Urien’s head after the latter fell in battle.  Alas, Urien is too late to be Arthur’s father.

Another northern Mabon, apparently a chieftain, is known as the son of Idno son of Meirchion. Meirchion was the father of Cynfarch (the ‘Mark’ of the Mote of Mark fort in Dumfriesshire), father of Urien. 

Finally, the Northern Myrddin or ‘Merlin’ appears to either be Lleu or, more likely, a sacred Lleu warrior, a sort of Lleu avatar.  He is said to have served Gwenddolau brother of Ceidio/Arthur.

So we have the well-attested presence of Lleu/Mabon not only in Gwynedd, but in northwestern Cumbria and adjacent Dumfriesshire.

Does ANY OF THIS HELP WITH DETERMINIG WHY UTHER WAS MADE ARTHUR’S FATHER? Or, indeed, with determining who Uther was (if someone other than Emrys/Ambrosius)?  Are we dealing with something as simple here as the Ambrosius of Gildas being made the father of Arthur, as Arthur was traditionally the victor at Badon, a battle mentioned right after Ambrosius in the De Excidio?  In other words, the two most famous military figures of the age were linked for this reason and this reason alone?  And then someone decided to forge for them a genealogy which bond them to the royal family of Dumnonia?

A question that has always intrigued me was this: what was Dinas Emrys called before it was called Dinas Emrys?  Welsh tradition records that it was called simply Dinas Ffaraon Dandde, the Fort of the Fiery Pharaoh, a name for Vortigern derived from Gildas.  There is no reason to believe, however, that Vortigern was ever really present at Dinas Emrys.

There is another tradition recorded at Dinas Emrys.  This is the battle between Owain Finddu son of Macsen Wledig (Maximus the Tyrant, a name which could easily have been confused for Vor-tigern) and a giant.  From P.C. Bartram’s entry on Owain F.:

"Plant Maxen Wledic: Cwstenin, Peblic ac Ywain vinðu yr hwn y claðwyd i benn ai gorff
o uewn Nanhwynyn ymhlwyf Beð Celert yNghoed Ffaraon. Yr hwn Ywain a laðoð Eurnaχ gawr;
yn yr unrhyw goed Eurnaχ ai llaðoð yntau.

The sons of Macsen Wledig: Custennin, Peblig and Owain Finddu whose head and body
were buried in Nanhwynan in the parish of Beddgelert in Coed Ffaraon. That Owain slew Eurnach Gawr; in the same wood Eurnach slew him."

To this day on the maps the ‘bedd’ or grave of Owain is marked as existing between Llyn Dinas and Dinas Emrys.

Owain is probably meant to be the Roman usurper Eugenius.  St. Ambrose “upbraided Eugenius for acquiescing to the demands of the senatorial order, but he was so afraid of the growing influence of the pagans that he fled Milan when the court of Eugenius entered Italy (”  The full letter written by Ambrose to Eugenius may be found here:  As an emperor at Dinas Emrys, Owain would qualify as a ‘Pendragon.'  However, there is no reason to believe he was ever at the fort.

But what of Eurnach the Giant?  What is his origin? John Rhys thought he was the giant Gwrnach or Wrnach of the MABINOGION.  Others have guessed he is Awarnach/Afarnach from the Pa Gur poem (a name I've identified with Abernethy in Scotland; see THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY)Bartram is of the opinion that the name Eurnach does not seem to be one of Iolo Morganwg's forgeries

I can only say this about Eurnach: Eur- is probably from Aur-, 'gold.'  Dr. Simon Rodway agrees with me on this, saying: "that is exactly what eur- is, a composition form of aur 'gold'."  Which brings to mind once again our AURelius Ambrosius.  He continues:

"As for the ending, -ach in Welsh has negative connotations (cf. papurach ‘useless paper, bumf’, sothach ‘rubbish’, petheuach ‘worthless things’ etc). This may be because it sounded Irish (cf. many Irish adjectives in –ach), and therefore uncouth! This accounts for the semantic development of Welsh gwrach ‘witch’ < ‘woman’ (cf. Old Irish fracc ‘woman’). Giants and monsters often have names in –ach in Welsh literature (Wrnach, Diwrnach, Duach, Brathach, Nerthach etc). This is discussed by Patrick Sims-Williams, Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature (Oxford, 2011), 183-84."

Why this “gold” giant as Owain’s adversary?  Well, it is perhaps not a coincidence that Eugenius was Flavius Eugenius, his general Arbogast was Flavius Arbogast and another man who served under the Western Roman Emperoro was named Flavianus.  All these names derive from Latin flavus, “golden yellow, reddish yellow, flaxen-colored, blonde.” Flavianus committed suicide when Eugenius perished at the battle of the Frigidus River, and Arobogast, after escaping into the mountains, committed suicide a few days later. 

Yet if one or both of these men with “golden” hair names lie behind Eurnach, why the name change?  It seems more logical to question the supposed paternity of Owain.  There were other early Owains in Welsh tradition.  If Eurnach is Irish in origin, the Irish name Eogan (‘born of the yew’) was Latinized as Eugenius as early as the Old Irish period.  Thus it could be that Owain should actually be Eogan.

The founder of the Irish Eoganachta was one Eogan Mor ‘the Great’ (Mor having the same meaning as Latin Maximus, as in Owain son of Macsen).  He had a brother named Eochaid Orainech.  While Welsh linguists would not like the idea much, Eurnach looks suspiciously like Orainech.  The name means ‘Gold-face’, and is found used also of a mysterious personage called Orainech Uisnech, who has been tentively linked to the god Lugh (see  Geoffrey of Monmouth told the story of Merlin Emry’s bringing the stones of Stonehenge from the Hill of Uisnech.  Stonehenge is hard by Amesbury, which doubles for Dinas Emrys. 

But why two early Eoganacht brothers would be battling at Dinas Emrys I cannot possibly hazard a guess!

Bartram touches upon a late legend that has Myrddin stay at Dinas Emrys for a long time before going away with Emrys Ben-aur, that is Ambrosius the Golden-headed.  

An even later legend tells of Merlin hiding a treasure on/in Dinas Emrys.  This was only to be expected, as Geoffrey identified Emrys with Myrddin/Merlin.  The person who goes searching for the treasure is a golden-haired boy.

So where do we stand regarding Uther? As far as I can determine, he is still a cipher for Ambrosius.  And he is NOT the real father of Arthur.

Perhaps we have finally fought our way clear of the obscuring smoke of the dragons.