Monday, June 19, 2017

The Revised Map of Arthur's Battles

Once More Arthur's [Last Four] Battles (a little tribute there to Kenneth H. Jackson's famous Arthurian essay)

Aerial View of Eynsham Park Camp

Readers of my previous posts will recall that I discussed Arthur's last four battles in relationship to the prior engagements, which were all reflections of entries for Cerdic in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. I was bothered by the fact that after the Wihtgarasburh battle (= the Castle Guinion of Arthur), the other battles seemed to be tagged on in order to round out the number to a mythological, Zodiacal twelve.  These extra battles seemed, superficially, at least, to have nothing to do with any of the other battles listed for the Gewissei in the ASC.

I now have reason to think I may have been mistaken.  I had mentioned before that Arthur's City of the Legion battle may well be an attempt at the ASC's Limbury of 571, whose early forms are Lygean-, Liggean- and the like.  I discounted the possibility solely because the next battle-site, that of the shore of the Tribruit, was certainly for the Trajectus on the Somerset Avon or over the Severn.

There is a problem, though, with identifying Tribruit with the Avon or Severn Trajectus, viz. there were doubtless many trajecti in Britain!  And, indeed, Rivet and Smith (The Place-Names of Roman Britain, p. 178) discuss the term, saying that in some cases "it seems to indicate a ferry or ford..." Furthermore, although the Welsh rendered 'litore' of the Tribruit description in Nennius as 'traeth', demanding a river estuary emptying into the sea, litore (from Latin litus) could also mean simply 'river-bank'.  Thus traeth could well be an improper rendering of the word.

If I were to look at Tribruit in this light, and provisionally accepted the City of the Legion as Limbury, and Badon as Bath (which the spelling demands, and which appears in a group of cities captured by Cerdic's father Ceawlin/Maquicoline/Cunedda), then the location of the Tribruit/Trajectus in question may well be determined by the locations of Mounts Agned and Breguoin.  These last two battle-sites fall between those of the City of the Legion and  Bath, and after that of the Tribruit.

I decided to take a fresh look at Agned, which has continud to vex Arthurian scholars.  I noticed that in the ASC 571 entry there was an Egonesham, modern Eynsham.  Early forms of this place-name include Egenes-, Egnes-, Eghenes-, Einegs-.  According to both Ekwall and Mills, this comes from an Old English personal name *Aegen.  Welsh commonly adds -edd to make regular nominative i:-stem plurals of nouns (information courtesy Dr. Simon Rodway, who cites several examples).  Personal names could also be made into place-names by adding the -ydd suffix.  The genitive of Agnes in Latin is Agnetus, which could have become Agned in Welsh - as long as <d> stands for /d/, which would be exceptional in Old Welsh (normally it stands for what is, in Modern Welsh, spelled as <dd>). I'd long ago shown that it was possible for Welsh to substitute initial /A-/ for /E-/.  What this all tells me is that Agned could conceivably be an attempt at the hill-fort named for Aegen.

But what of Mount Breguoin?  Well, I had remembered that prior to his later piece on Breguoin ('Arthur's Battle of Breguoin', Antiquity 23 (1949) 48—9), Jackson had argued (in 'Once Again Arthur's Battles') that the place-name might come from a tribal name based on the Welsh word breuan, 'quern.'  The idea dropped out of favor when Jackson ended up preferring Brewyn/Bremenium in Northumberland for Breguoin.

So how does seeing breuan in Breguoin help us?

In the 571 ASC entry we find Aylesbury as another town that fell to the Gewessei.  This is Aegelesburg in Old English.  I would point to Quarrendon, a civil parish and a deserted medieval village on the outskirts of Aylesbury.  The name means "hill where mill-tones [querns] were got". Thus if we allow for Breguoin as deriving from the Welsh word for quern, we can identify this hill with Quarrendon at Aylesbury.

All of which brings us back, rather circuitously, to Tribruit.  Taking this for a ford, the obvious candidate given Limbury, Aylesbury and Eynsham, is Bedcanforda of 571.  This is also found as Biedcanforda and is believed by most to be Bedford (Bedanford, Bydanford, Bedefort, 'Bieda's Ford').  I would not hesitate, therefore, to propose that the Tribruit river-bank is the trajectus at Bedford.

If we accept all this, then we cannot very easily reject Badon as Bath.  In truth, with Bath listed in the ASC entry for 577, and made into a town captured by Ceawlin, we simply are no longer justified in trying to make a case for the linguistically impossible Badbury at Liddington.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Concerning the Second Battle of Badon

Ashdown's Proximity to Liddington Castle/Badbury

In the past I've discussed the very strong probability that the Second Battle of Badon in the Welsh Annals represents not a later engagement at Bath in Somerset, but at the Badbury of Liddington in Somerset:

I now believe this is the best argument in support of the first Badon being not Bath, but Liddington Castle.  Again, I must emphasize that Badon, when treated of solely linguistically, cannot be Badbury. What I've been proposing all along is that Badon has been confused for and thus substituted for Baddan(-byrig) in the Welsh sources.

According to Pastscape (, there is a hill-fort at Ashdown.  As the Mercian king was raiding into Wessex, it is entirely conceivable that his path took him through Liddington/Badbury or at at least along the Roman road that ran immediately to the east of the area.

Alfred's Castle hill-fort at Ashdown

For me, this identification of 'Badon' as the Liddington Badbury, combined with the presence of Cerdic's/Ceredig's/Arthur's father Ceawlin's at nearby Barbury (the BEAR'S FORT), and with the perfect correspondence of the Welsh place-names Breguoin and Liddington (both being based on roots meaning a roaring stream), comes as near as we can to clinching the case for Arthur's Badon = the Liddington Badbury.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

Badbury Rather than Bath: My Final Decision on the Matter

Map Showing Barbury and Liddington Castles
Connected by the Ancient Ridgeway

In past blog articles, I've gone back and forth on whether to favor Bath in Somerset or the Badbury at Liddington Castle in Wiltshire as Arthur's Badon.  I've made it clear that while the spelling Badon MUST relate to Bath, it could well be that this place became accidentally substituted for the Liddington Badbury.

I've come to realize that I really can't offer anything other than a logical argument in favor, ultimately, of the Liddington Badbury.  

While Agned as deriving from Agnetis, the genitive of Agnes the virgin saint, looks good linguistically, as we cannot demonstrate that St. Agnes was EVER present at Bath as a Christian substitute for Sulis Minerva, I don't feel I can support this idea any longer.  It is clever, but not convincing.  

On the other hand, there is no doubt whatsoever that Breguoin does, in fact, represent Brewyn/Bremenium, a Roman fort found in the Cheviots of Northumberland.  However, as I've demonstrated before in some detail, the meaning of the root of Breguoin has exactly the same meaning as the root of the place-name Liddington, an alternate name for the Wiltshire Badbury hill-fort.  We have also seen that Cerdic's/Ceredig's/Arthur's father Ceawlin/Maquicoline/Cunedda fought at Barbury Castle or the 'Fort of the Bear', only a very short distance from the Liddington Badbury along the ancient Ridgeway.  It is very possible that the English called Barbury the Bear's Fort because Arthur was there in some capacity (the Welsh arth meaning 'bear').  Granted, we are also told in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that Ceawlin took Bath.  

Agned is easily dispensed with.  I discussed how in my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, and cited top Celticists in support of the idea I presented there.  What I did was to adopt Dr. Andrew Breeze's quite sensible proposal that Agned was a misspelling of agued (the n > u copying error is a common one), a known Welsh word which simply means "distress, dire straits" or the like.  In other words, the host or hosts at Liddington Castle/Badbury were in 'dire straits, difficulty, anxiety' (suggested meanings provided by Dr. Graham Isaac).   Agned is thus not a real place-name at all, but instead a poetic descriptor of what happened at the battle.

For now, I will remain content with this analysis of the Agned and Breguoin place-names - until and if I encounter evidence or a counter-argument which convinces me otherwise.  

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Radical Reappraisal of the Last Four Battles of Cerdic/Ceredig/Arthur

In past articles, I've struggled with proper identifications for the following Arthurian battles:

a) City of the Legion
b) the Tribruit Shore
c) Mount Agned or Mount Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion
d) Mount Badon

In this new piece, I wish to explore these sites anew. This time, instead of concentrating solely on linguistic matches, I want to compare the first grouping of Arthurian battles from a strategic standpoint with the latter ones.  When considering this we have to remember that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for some strange reason REVERSES the genealogical order of the Gewessei princes. Hence the chronology of the ASC battles is seriously flawed.

The Glein, Bassas, Dubglas, Celyddon and Guinnion battles all can be firmly located between the Hampshire Avon, Southhampton Water and the Isle of Wight.  These battles indicate raiding from the sea.  They also suggest a distinctive method of penetration into hostile territory: following river valleys from their terminus to their source.  Cerdic eventually reached Charford on the Avon, or perhaps a bit further (depending where we situate the unlocated Cerdicesleag).  After the "conquest" of Wight, Cynric/Cunorix son of Maquicoline/Ceawlin (= Cunedda) defeats the British at Old Sarum hard by Salisbury.  This battle is on the same River Avon as Charford, only more to the north.  Again, the river is being followed into the heartland of the enemy.

Something odd then happens with the next battle, fought by Ceawlin.  The site is Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, far to the north of the Hampshire Avon.  However, Barbury or Beranbyrig is the "Bear's Fort" (or the fort of someone named Bear), and I've believed for some time now that this was an English designation for Arthur (as arth in Welsh means 'bear').  Barbury, in turn, is very close to the Liddington Castle Badbury.

Ceawlin's next battle (568) marks another major departure from prior arenas of conflict.  He is said to have driven Aethelberht into Kent and to have slain two princes at Wibbandun.  The location of Wibbandun is unknown.  However, given the villages said to have been captured in 571 (Limbury, Aylesbury, Benson and Eynsham), we can probably place it at or near Whipsnade (detached plot of a man called Wibba; Mills, A Dictionary of English Place-Names), Bedfordshire.  These places were supposedly taken by Ceawlin's BROTHER Cutha.  Cutha is a hypocoristic form of something like the Cuthwulf or Cuthwine mentioned as fighting alongside Ceawlin.  As I've pointed out before, the name derives from the goddess name Cuda, who is remembered in the regional designation The Cotswolds.  In 577 it is Ceawlin and Cuthwine who fight at Dyrham and who slay three kings (one of them - Coinmail - bears the same name as that of Apollo Cunomaglos, whose shrine was near the Dyrham battle site).  The cities of Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath are taken as a consequence.

So what now to do with the last 4 battles of Arthur?  If we assume for the sake of argument they are not simply fanciful additions to the list, meant to pad it out to the desired Herculean 12...

It has occurred to me that the City of the Legion could be Limbury from the ASC, as the first part of this place-name is variously spelled Lygean- or Liggean-.  It would not take much for a monkish scribe to have mistakenly related Lygean-/Liggean- to legionis, the genitive singular of legio. Badon would thus be Ceawlin's Bath.  But Caerleon cannot be discounted for the City of the Legion, especially as the Pierced-Through Shore that is Traeth Tribruit can only be the Trajectus that crossed from Caerwent near Caerleon to a spot on Bath's River Avon.

And this leaves the very troublesome Agned and Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion to untangle.  At one time I pitched W. Agned as directly derived from the Latin genitive Agnetis, for Agnes the virgin saint. This is perfect linguistically.  My idea was that this Christian virgin's name had replaced that of Sulis Minerva (Minerva being the ultimate virgin Roman goddess) which we find preserved at Little Solsbury Hill overlooking Bath.  Mount Agned and Mount Badon would then be one and the same place.  Yet Agned could also be an easily accountable error for Welsh agued, a mere adjective meaning that the host or hosts at Mount Badon were in straits or distress.  In this case it would not be a proper name at all.

Breguoin, while perfect for Brewyn/Bremenium in Northumberland, could also be a Welsh substitute for the Liddington of Liddington Castle, Badbury.  This is because the meanings of the roots of the Welsh and English words mean the same thing.  'Badon' would then be an incorrect substitution of Bath for a Baddan(byrig).  Bregion is simply a plural form meaning 'hills', and it can be nicely associated with Brean Down promontory hill-fort in Somerset.  Or it can be a generic terms for any grouping or range of hills - a fact that is spectacularly unhelpful.  Bregomion looks to be merely a strange combination of Breguoin and Bregion!  In other words, a corruption.

How to resolve these problems?

I'm now thinking all my attempts to make something of Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion have been for naught.  We must remember that the Welsh word for hill, bre, has the same Indo-European root origin as the English word beorg.  And that the Old English word for fort - burh - is also from the same root.

From the GPC on bre:

[Crn. Bray, Brea (e. lleoedd), Llyd. C. Bre (Levenez) (e. lle), Llyd. Diw. bre: < Clt. *brigā, o’r gwr. IE. *bhr̥ĝh- ‘uchel, dyrchafedig’, cf. Gal. Nemeto-briga, Nerto-briga, Alm. Berg; â’r ll. breon, cf. 9g. Hist Brit c. 56 Bregion (e. lle); a cf. H. Wydd. brí (gen. breg): < Clt. *brixs; tebyg mai cfl. traws bre1 a welir yn fry ac obry; cf. hefyd braint1, brenin] 
eg.b. ll. breon, breoedd, a hefyd fel a. ac adf.
Bryn, bryncyn, mynydd, bryndir, ucheldir, copa, hefyd yn ffig.:
hill, hillock, mountain, hill-country, upland, peak, also fig. 

We see here the OW bregion and MW breon for "hills".

And here is burh and beorg from the Bosworth/Toller AS dictionary:

BURH, burg; gen. burge; dat. byrig, byrg; acc. burh, burg; pl. nom. acc. burga; gen. burga; dat. burgum; f. [beorh, beorg = burh, burg the impert. of beorgan to defend]. I. the original signification was arx, castellum, mons, a castle for defence. It might consist of a castle alone; but as people lived together for defence and support, hence a fortified place, fortress, castle, palace, walled town, dwelling surrounded by a wall or rampart of earth; arx, castellum, mons, palatium, urbs munita, domus circumvallata :-- Se Abbot Kenulf macode fyrst ða wealle abútan ðone mynstre, [and] geaf hit ðá to nama Burh [Burch MS.], ðe æ-acute;r hét Medeshámstede the Abbot Kenulf first made the wall about the minster, and gave it then the name Burh = Burg [Petres burh Peter's burg = Peterborough] , which before was called Meadow-home-stead, Chr. 963; Erl. 123, 27-34; Th. 221, 34-39. ILLEGIBLE The style of the Anglo-Saxon indicates a late date, perhaps about 1100 or 1200. Burg arx, Cot. 10. Stíþlíc stán-torr and seó steépe burh on Sennar stód the rugged stone-tower and the high fortress stood on Shinar, Cd. 82; Th. 102, 15; Gen. 1700. Óþ ðæt hie on Sodoman weall-steápe burg wlitan meahton till they on Sodom's lofty-walled fortress might look, 109; Th. 145, 7; Gen. 2402. Ðæ-acute;r se hálga heáh, steáp reced, burh timbrede there the holy man built a high, steep dwelling, a walled town, 137; Th. 172, 6; Gen. 2840. Burge weall the wall of a city; murus, Ps. Th. 17, 28. Ðæt hie geseón mihten ðære wlitegan byrig weallas that they might see the walls of the beautiful city, Judth. 11; Thw. 23, 24; Jud. 137: Ps. Th. 44, 13: 47, 11. On leófre byrig and háligre in montem sanctificationis suæ, 77, 54: 77, 67. Ðá férdon híg þurh ða burhga egressi circuibant per castella. Lk. Bos. 9, 6. Eádweard cyng fór mid fierde to Bedan forda, and beget ða burg king Edward went with an army to Bedford, and gained the walled town, Chr. 919; Th. 192, 24, col. l. Ge binnan burgum, ge búton burgum both within walled towns, and without walled towns, L. Edg. S. 3; Th. i. 274, 7. Ðone æðeling on ðære byrig métton, ðér se cyning ofslægen læg they found the ætheling in the inclosure of the dwelling, where the king lay slain, Chr. 755; Th. 84, 19, col. 1: L. Edm. S. 2; Th. i. 248, 16: L. Eth. iii. 6; Th. i. 296, 5. II. a fortress or castle being necessary for the protection of those dwelling together in cities or towns, -- a city, town, burgh, borough; urbs, civitas, oppidum :-- Róma burh the city Rome, Bd. 1. 11; S. 480, 10, 12. Ða ðe in burh móton gongan, in Godes ríce they may go into the city, [may go] into God's kingdom, Cd. 227; Th. 303, 16; Sae. 613. Ðonne hý hweorfaþ in ða hálgan burg when they pass into the holy city, Exon. 44b; Th. 150, 26; Gú. 784. Ðæt he gesáwe ða burh ut videret civitatem, Gen. ll, 5. Ða burh ne bærndon they burnt not the city, Ors. 2, 8; Bos. 52, 8. Burge weard the guardian of the city, Cd. 180; Th. 226, 19; Dan. 173: Ps. Th. 9, 13. Ðonne hí eów éhtaþ on ðysse byrig cum perseguentur vos in civitate ista, Mt. Bos. 10, 23: Exon. 15b; Th. 34, 14; Cri. 542. Binnan ðære byrig within the city, Ors. 2, 8; Bos. 52, 4. Beóþ byrig mid Iudém getimbrade ædificabuntur civitates Judæ, Ps. Th. 68, 36. Byrig fægriaþ towns appear fair, Exon. 82a; Th. 308, 32;
Seef. 48. Ðá ongan he hyspan ða burga tunc cæpit exprobrare civitatibus, Mt. Bos. ll, 20. On burgum in the towns, Beo. Th. 105; B. 53. [Piers P. Chauc. burghe: R. Brun. burgh: R. Glouc. bor&yogh;: Laym. burh: Orm. burrh: Plat. borch, f: O. Sax. burg, f. urbs, civitas: Frs. borge, m. f: O. Frs. burch, burich, f: Dut. burgt, f: Kil. borg, borght: Ger. burg, f. arx, castellum: M. H. Ger. burc, f: O. H. Ger. buruc, burg, f. urbs, civitas: Goth. baurgs, f: Dan. borg, m. f: Swed. borg, m: O. Nrs. borg, f.] DER. ealdor-burh [-burg], fóre-, freó-, freoðo-, gold-, heáfod-, heáh- [heá-], hleó-, hord-, in-, leód-, mæ-acute;g-, medo-, meodu-, rand-, rond-, sceld-, scild-, scyld-, stán-, under-, weder-, wín-, wyn-.

beorg, beorh, biorg, biorh; gen. beorges; dat. beorge; pl. nom. acc. beorgas; gen. beorga; dat. beorgum; m. I. a hill, mountain; collis, mons :-- On Sýne beorg on Sion's hill, Exon. 20 b; Th. 54, 29; Cri. 876. Óþ ða beorgas ðe man hæ-acute;t Alpis to the mountains which they call the Alps, Ors. 1, 1; Bos. 18, 44; 16, 17. Æ-acute;lc múnt and beorh byþ genyðerod omnis mons et collis humiliabitur, Lk. Bos. 3, 5. Æt ðæm, beorge ðe man Athlans nemneþ at the mountain which they call Atlas, Ors. 1, 1; Bos. 16, 6. II. a heap, BURROW or barrow, a heap of stones, place of burial; tumulus :-- Worhton mid stánum ánne steápne beorh him ofer congregaverunt super eum acervum magnum lapidum, Jos. 7, 26. Bæd ðæt ge geworhton in bæ-acute;lstede beorh ðone heán he commanded [bade] that you should work the lofty barrow on the place of the funeral pile, Beo. Th. 6186; B. 3097 : 5606; B. 2807 : Exon. 50 a; Th. 173, 26; Gú. 1166 : 119 b; Th. 459, 31; Hö. 8. [Laym. berh&yogh;e : Piers bergh; still used in the dialect of Yorkshire : Plat. barg : O. Sax. berg : O. Frs. berch, birg : Ger. berg : M. H. Ger. berc : O. H. Ger. perac : Goth. bairga-hei a mountainous district : Dan. bjærg, n : Swed. berg, n : O. Nrs. berg, n : derived from beorgan.] DER. ge-beorg, -beorh, heáh-, mund-, sæ-acute;-, sand-, stán-.

Finally, the evidence for the common IE root for these hill words may be found here:

What I'm hinting at is that Agned and Breguoin/Bregion/Bregomion may originally have been a single COMPOUND PLACE-NAME.  The first element was Agned-, while the second was -bury.  In other words, the Welsh chose to use their own breg for burg, and this word was further altered through careless Latinization.  Or, if we wish to preserve the plural, we are talking here about the "burgs of Agned".

If Arthur went from Caerleon to Caerwent and thence via the Trajectus over the Severn to the River Avon, and his very last victorious battle is Badon (whose spelling beyond a doubt does indicate Bath), then the Agned-burg or Agned-burgs in question must be between the Trajectus landing place (possibly Bitton) and Bath itself.  Brean Down can no longer be considered an acceptable candidate.

I am here going to propose that the Hills of Agned are Little Solsbury Hill camp and the Southampton Down camp, both of which stand over Bath on opposite sides of the River Avon.  While we have no extant evidence that St. Agnes was ever known here, I feel it is not unreasonable to assume that at least in this case she was chosen as an approved Christian substitute for Sulis Minerva. The hill-forts above Bath were sacred to her, of course, and control of both had to be wrested from their owners by Ceawlin/Cunedda and his son, Cerdic/Ceredig/Arthur.

Little Solsbury Hill and Southampton Down

NOTE:  Here is my earlier piece on Sulis Minerva and St. Agnes: