Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Final Word on 'Arthwys' as a Designation for the Irthing Valley

Irthing Valley

I've had new information from Prof. Paul Russell of Cambridge and Professor Richard Coates of the University of West England regarding the -wys ending of Arthwys, supposed father of Ceidio (my candidate for King Arthur).  The following is composed of a selection from my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, with the additional comment plugged in:

The name Arthwys has frequently been brought into connection with that of Arthur/Artorius. This name is from Arth-, ‘Bear’, + -wys. Dr. Simon Rodway of The University of Wales tells me that 

“There is an element –wys found in a number of words of obscure meaning and derivation which could be present in Arthwys, cf. doublets like mam ~ mamwys, neuadd ~ neuaddwys (Ifor Williams, The Poems of Taliesin, trans. J. E. C. Williams (Dublin, 1968), p. 51).”

To which Prof. Russell adds: 

“Most of the other forms in -wys derive from Latin -ensis (thus also Powys) and that is what it is in mamwys, etc.” 

And Prof. Coates contribution:

"The accepted etymology valid in other names, or words derived from names, viz. < Latin -enses, is beyond dispute."

The best example of such a name is Glywys, the Welsh equivalent of Glevensis, ‘a man of Glevum’, i.e. Gloucester.  Glywys is thus merely an eponym for people who traced their origin to Gloucester. In this, sense, then, Arthwys would be ‘a man of Arth/the Bear.’

Thus Arthwys can be interpreted as a territorial designation, rather than strictly as a personal name. Welsh has a -wys suffix, which derives from Lat-in –enses.  A discussion of this suffix can be found in John T.  Koch's Celtic Culture, among other sources.  Regedwis, for example, is 'people of Rheged' - or maybe better, 'inhabitants of Rheged'. The entry for -wys (1) in the University of Wales Dictionary confirms it as a Latin borrowing and as a nominal plural ending, giving the examples of Gwennwys, Lloegrwys and Monwys. Could –wys, then, be a suffix used for the people who live on a certain river?  Like on an Arth or Bear River?

When I put this question to Dr. Delyth Prys of the place-name experts at The University of Wales, Bangor, he replied: “I've no independent evidence for this, but river names are sometimes used as the name for a more general area and by extension it could be the people of the Arth (area)." 

This all fits in nicely  with the Irthing Valley as a diminutive of the word arth (eirth), an etymology first proposed by place-name expert Dr. Andrew Breeze of The University of Pamplona. From his article “Celts, Bears and the River Irthing” (Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, volume XXXII):

"Irthing, which has early forms Irthin, Erthina, and Erthing, would also make sense as ‘little bear’, with a Cumbric diminutive suffix corresponding to Middle and Modern Welsh –yn (Old Welsh –inn), as in defynyn ‘droplet’ from dafn ‘drop’ or mebyn ‘young boy’ from mab ‘boy’.  As the th of Arth is pronounced like that of English bath, but that of Irthing like that of brother, the process of voicing here would take place after borrowing by English, not before.”

Both the Birdoswald Dark Age hall at the Banna Roman fort and the Camboglanna Roman fort are within the Irthing Valley.  Given Arthwys as the father of Ceidio, and Gwenddolau ("White Dales", itself perhaps originally a place-name) at Carwinley as the son of Ceidio, and given that Etterby hard by Stanwix was called 'Arthur's Burg', I hold to my original opinion that the Stanwix Roman fort of Uxellodunum/Petriana was the site of Arthur's ruling center. Arthur as Penuchel in a corrupt Triad could be a reference to Uxello- (Welsh uchel), while the reason the Dyfed king Petr named his son Arthur may be because the original Arthur was a sort of successor of the Petriana garrison.  

Friday, September 22, 2017


Lochmaben Stone

In Kychwedyl am dodyw o galchuynyd (Llyfr Taliesin XVIII), Owain son of Urien or the god Mabon or Owain in his incarnation as Mabon is referred to as 'rwyf dragon.'  The full phrase is actually 
'ri rwyf dragon', which Professor John Koch renders "king, leader of chieftains [lit. = 'dragons‘] (see*

Let us go to the GPC definition for rwyf, modern Welsh rhwyf:

rhwyf2, rhwy3 
[H. Grn. ruy, gl. rex, (gurhemin) ruif, gl. edictum, Llyd. C. ro(u)e, roy, Llyd. Diw. roue] 
eg. ll. rhwyfau, (geir.) rhwyon.
Brenin, arglwydd, rheolwr, pennaeth, arweinydd:
king, lord, ruler, chieftain, leader. 

Dragon, once again, had the following meanings:

[bnth. Llad. llafar dracŏn-em a’r ff. l. dracŏnes] 
eg. ac e.ll., hefyd ll. -au.
a  Ymladdwr, gwron, arweinydd rhyfel, pennaeth, tywysog; nerth milwrol:
warrior, hero, war leader, chieftain, prince; military power. 


head, chief(tain), leader, lord, master, ruler, director, senior member.

'rwyf dragon' is found used in several other medieval Welsh praise poems, although, so far as I've been able to determine, its earliest use is in Llfyr Taleisin XVIII.  Rhwyf corresponds quite nicely with pen, and if dragon were to be rendered in a similar fashion in both honorifics, then the conveyed sense would be the same. 

I'm not saying that Owain as rwyf dragon should be identified with Uther Pendragon.  I still hold to the view that the latter is his father, Urien (see  The point I'm trying to make is that a title very much like that of Pendragon was used in an early poem on Urien's son.

In passing, I would revise Koch's translation somewhat.  'Dragon' is not plural in the text, and so there is no reason to make it so.  Instead, I would simply put down "King, Warrior/Chieftain-leader" or some such.    

*There is an edition and translation of the Book of Taliesin poem with useful notes by Marged Haycock, Prophecies from the Book of Taliesin (Aberystwyth, 2013), poem 3. There is also a translation by John Koch in The Celtic Heroic Age, ed. John T. Koch and John Carey, second edition (Andover + Malden, MA, 1995), pp. 349—51, cf. pp. 347-48 for notes on Mabon and Modron and their connection with Owain.  Information courtesy Dr. Simon Rodway of The University of Wales.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Rheged was a very important Dark Age kingdom of North Britain.  It is best known for its being ruled by Urien of Rheged and his son, Owain.

Lochmaben Castle

Burnswark Hillfort

There has been a tendency in the past to link the Dark Age kingdom name Rheged with the Romano-British period polis of the Novantae tribe, RERIGONIUM.  According to Rivet and Smith’s “The Place-Names of Roman Britain”, Rerigonium should be seen as “a latinization of British *ro-rigonio- ‘very royal (place)’.  Under their entry for the place-name Regulbium, the authors cite British *ro- ‘great’ (a prefix… rendered in Latin as heard or adapted by Latin speakers, re-, a common prefix).  –rigonio- is from British *rig- *rigon ‘king’ with *-io- derivational suffix.

For a full discussion of what past authorities have surmised in regards to the location of Rheged and its possible etymology, see pp. xxxviii-xlii in Sir Ifor Williams' edition of THE POEMS OF TALIESIN.

In my opinion, Rheged is rather easily derived from a Welsh ged, ‘gift’, and the Re-/Rhe- can again be accounted for if we allow the original Ro- to have been altered due to Roman influence.  The meaning would be something like ‘Great Gift’ and may have been formed, originally, after the model provided by nearby Rerigonium.

It would be nice to suggest that Ptolemy made a mistake, and his Rerigonium should instead be something like *Rereconion, *re-rec- meaning 'great gift'.  Welsh rheg, like ged, means ‘gift.’ Rerec[onion] would exactly match my proposed meaning for Reged.  Unfortunately, we are not justified in assuming that Ptolemy made such an error.

Alternately, Rheged could be from rheg (from Brth. *-rek).  The -ed is likely the Welsh suffix -ed1. From the standpoint of the philologist, relying on rheg- is a better bet than requiring the *ro- to become *re-.  Regularly, we would expect Ro + ged to become Rhyged (I have this confirmed from Dr. Simon Rodway of The University of Wales). According to Professor Koch in CELTIC CULTURE: A HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, "The name [Rheged] is Celtic and is related to Welsh rheg ‘gift’, explaining the artful poetic theme of its rulers’ renowned generosity." I would agree with Koch on the etymology, but not on its application as a kingdom name.

We must remember that Urien is linked to Modron and Mabon.  Lochmaben is near the Annan, which is thought to derive from a goddess name like the Irish Anu, which has the same root as the Welsh word anaw.  One of the meanings of anaw is 'gift.' The Lochmaben Stone is on the other side of the Annan near Gretna Green.  The great Burnwark hillfort is nearby and this is believed to have been the oppidum of the Novantae.

From the GPC:


[H. Wydd. anae, yr e. lleoedd Brth. a Gal. Anava, yr e. prs. Gal. Anavos; cf. yr e. prs. H. Gym. Anaugen, Anauoc, yr e. prs. H. Grn. Anaoc, Anaudat, a’r e. prs. H. Lyd. Anaugen]

eg. a hefyd gyda grym ansoddeiriol.
Cyfoeth, golud, budd, rhodd, trysor, hefyd yn ffig.:
wealth, riches, benefit, gift, treasure, also fig. 

Perhaps the nucleus of Rheged was found on the Annan?  This tribe may possibly be descended from the Roman period  Anavionenses, thought to be a sub-group of the Novantae.

This does leave open the problem of the small Dunragit hillfort near Stranraer and the Rhinns of Galloway.  If  Rheged refers to the River Annan, why do we find an apparent Rheged name so far to the west? My guess is that at some point the kingdom name Rheged was wrongly identified with Rerigonium.  As such, Dunragit as a place-name may be fairly recent.  The other polis of the Novantae mentioned by Ptolemy is Leukopibia or, rather, Leucovia, which has been identified with the Roman fort at Glenlochar.  However, the Water of Luce quite close to Dunragit makes for a much better Leucovia.

Before closing, I should refer the interested reader to my recent identification of Urien with Uther Pendragon:

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Selection from Mike McCarthy's ROMAN CARLISLE AND THE LANDS OF THE SOLWAY (ref. Stanwix/Uxellodunum, etc.)

As those have been reading my posts (or books) now know, I have tentatively proposed the Stanwix Roman fort (Uxellodunum/'Petriana') as Arthur's headquarters on the west end of Hadrian's Wall.

I'm currently trying to get my hands on the unpublished report (or raw data?) concerning the sub-Roman or early Medieval timber structure(s) found there during a dig in 1999 at the Stanwix Primary School.  If I'm successful, and the material contains anything worth passing along here, I will do so.

For now, here is yet another summary of such findings at the Wall, prepared by the man who was the director of the archaeological group conducting the Stanwix Primary School dig, Dr. Mike McCarthy. The selection may be found in his book ROMAN CARLISLE AND THE LANDS OF THE SOLWAY:

"At Stanwix, Carlisle, little of the fort, the largest on Hadrian's Wall, has been investigated under modern conditions, and it is certain that much will have been destroyed. Excavations in the school playground, however, have provided tantalising hints that activities continued [past the Roman period], with the discovery of at least two phases of buildings represented by substantial post-pits cutting through earlier Roman deposits...

To summarize, modern investigations at several forts have yielded evidence for sub-Roman activity in key buildings. They include the granaries at Birdoswald, the commanding officers' houses at South Shields and Vindolanda, the bath-house at Binchester and the headquarters building at Carlisle.  The conclusion one might draw is that important buildings in important locations (forts) continud to have a function at the point where the old-style Roman military command structure no longer had any real force, and the pay chests needed for the soldiery had ceased to arrive; and we can see this at Carlisle where the barracks fell from use. Nevertheless, the continued use of formerly key buildings, as we can see in several forts, might allow us to infer that this is an element in the archaeology of lordship. If so, it is lordship in transition from a Roman command structure to one of sub-Roman leaders emerging as local chiefs or kings with military titles and authority derived from that of the late fourth century. They doubtless formed small private armies or warbands, and established territoria which could supply their provisions and over which they exercised a quasi-leadership role. They were not yet kings or princes, but neither were they members of the Roman army linked into a wide-ranging command structure.  Their authority was derived from the former prestige attached to the place, and their dwelings may, as is hinted in the late phases of the Commanding Officer's house at South Shields, be large and imposing, as the central range location of their buildings at Carlisle and Birdoswald may also suggest."

My Case for Uther Pendragon as Urien Rheged (from an earlier post)

Uther Pendragon, called gorlassar in a Taliesin poem (the origin of Geoffrey's 'Gorlois'), may well be Urien of Rheged, son of the Cynfarch (not Cynfor) who was the father of Eliffer's ("Constantine's") wife Efrddyl.  I long suspected this, as gorlassar is otherwise found only in two places - and on both occasions it is used of Urien, once for his person and once for his spear.  I resisted this conclusion for a long time because with Arthur as Urien's son I was forced not only to deal with the absence of Arthur in Cynfarch's line of descent, but also with a chronological impossibility: Urien is too late to be Arthur's father.  Still, I can no longer deny that Urien of Rheged is Uther Pendragon.  

The name may have come about as Uther Pen at first.  I say this because in a Llywarch Hen poem, the hero bewails the fall of Urien and is in possession of his slain lord's head. 

Professor John Koch once had a similar idea regarding the god Bran's severed head.  Here is what he has to say in CELTIC CULTURE: A HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA:

"One possibility is that the strange and strangely named yspyddawt urddawl benn (feast of the stately head) around Brân’s living severed head in the Mabinogi represents a garbling of a more appropriate ‘feast of the uncanny head’ (uthr benn); the marwnad would make sense as the words of the living-dead Brân mourning himself. For Geoffrey, the epithet Pendragon is ‘dragon’s head’, an explanation of a celestial wonder by Merlin (see Myrddin). This meaning is not impossible..."

From Koch on the head of Urien:

"... another 30 lines describe Urien’s decapitated corpse. In the former, there is much penetrating wordplay on the multiple senses of pen (head, chief, leader) and porthi (carry, support [e.g. of a poet by his patron]). The situation is reminiscent of that in Branwen, in which seven survivors, including the poet Taliesin, return from Ireland with the severed head of their king, Brân, and the englynion may intentionally echo this story:

Penn a borthaf ar vyn tu,
penn Uryen llary—llywei llu—
ac ar y vronn wenn vran ddu.

The head I carry at my side, head of generous
Urien—he used to lead a host, and on his white
breast (bron wen) a black crow (brân).

Arthur's Breguoin battle = the Brewyn of Urien.  This may suggest either that they both fought at the place, together or separately on different occasions.  It is not necessarily the case (as I discuss in my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY) that Brewyn was copied from Urien's battles onto the Arthurian battle-list.  In the "Marwnat Uthyr Pen", Uther claims that his ‘champion’s feats partook in a
ninth part of Arthur’s valour’.

I would add that the 'Pa Gur' poem's phrase "Mabon son of Modron servant of Uther Pendragon" at last makes sense.  For the center of Mabon worship, the locus Maponi of the Classical sources, was at the heart of Urien's kingdom in the North, and in the early poetry his son Owain is referred to as an incarnation of Mabon.  

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Staffordshire Moorlands Patera Showing Uxellodunum
on the Right Side Below the Rim

From Professor Anthony Birley on the Ala Petriana at Stanwix:

That the praef. alae Petrianae at Stanwix was the "senior officer" of the Wall garrison is simply a statement of fact: he was the only prefect of an ala milliaria in the entire province and thus was in the quarta militia, the elite highest grade for equestrian officers, probably only created in the early 2nd century. For the regiment see e.g. M.G. Jarrett in the journal Britannia for 1994. Whether this officer ex officio "controlled" the Wall is another matter; but he no doubt at least had the authority to give orders in an emergency without having to wait for authorization from the legionary legate at York (from Caracalla = at the same time the governor of Britannia Inferior) or the consular governor of undivided Britain further south.

The place-name: this is a conjecture by Mark W.C. Hassall, in Aspects of the Notitia (1976), 112f., edd. R. Goodburn and P. Bartholomew, who convincingly restores [Banna] after tribunus cohortis primae Aeliae Dacorum in line 44 in the Duke's list and inserts [tribunus cohortis secundae Tungrorum] before [C]amboglanna, making Banna the name of Birdoswald and Camboglanna that of Castlesteads; and replacing Petrianis after alae Petrianae in line 45 with Uxel(l)oduno, and Axeloduno in line 49 with Mais. This is now generally accepted, see e.g. A.L.F. Rivet & C. Smith, The Place-Names of Roman Britain (179) 220f. Cf. also in Britannia for 2004 on the Staffordshire pan, with another list of place-names from the western sector of the Wall.

And from M.G. Jarrett's article, cited by Prof. Birley above:

It [the unit] was in Britain in the Flavian period, probably arriving with the other reinforcements brought by Cerealis in 71. A tombstone (RIB 1172) which lacks the titles milliaria c.R. presumably relates to the first occupation of Corbridge or that of the earlier site at Beaufront Red House... An inscription from Carlisle which records a single torque (RIB 957) has no intrinsic dating evidence; but by a date late in the reign of Trajan a second torque had been awarded.  We have, therefore, evidence that under Trajan at the latest the unit was at Carlisle; by that time it had become milliaria... In the second scheme for Hadrian's Wall the ala Petriana was probably moved to a new fort at Stanwix, across the Eden from Carlisle. It is not attested on any inscription, though there is a lead seal (RIB 2411.84); the size of the fort is appropriate to an ala milliaria and there was no other such unit in Britain.  Nothing suggests that the ala ever left Stanwix... The ala Petriana was still at Stanwix when the Notitia was compiled.

In conclusion, if - as many leading archaeologists now believe - there was some kind of attempt along the Wall by local Dark Age warlords to retain a level of Roman military practice - and Arthur was, as I've theorized, situated someplace on the western end of the Wall, I can think of no better place than Stanwix for such a powerful leader to reside.   

Friday, September 15, 2017


Because in the 'Dialogue of Arthur and the Eagle' Uther is said to have a son Madog, I would point out that Emyr Llydaw was said to have a son of the same name.  Here is the relevant entry on Emyr from P.C. Bartram's A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY.  Bartram stresses in this entry that the real Llydaw may have been somewhere in SE Wales.  I've recently shown this to be the Vale of Leadon (

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY and THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON, Updated/Revised Versions, Soon to be Released...

... plus, at some point in the near future, I will be re-releasing THE BEAR KING (my newest book) under a new title:


I now feel pretty strongly that what we have in Arthur vs. Cerdic/Ceredic are two opposing heroes. By that I mean on the one hand we have Arthur, a true British hero fighting Saxons in the North.  On the other hand we have Ceredig, who while Hiberno-British was, nonetheless, a hero of the Saxons. We find both touted by their particular sides, and they were contemporaries.  One occupies the same time period in the Historia Brittonum as the other does in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  This fact has led several Arthurian researchers astray (including your's truly).  I now feel confident in saying that Ceredig son of Cunedda was not in fact Arthur.  However, he was an extremely important sub-Roman/Dark Age figure and, as such, deserves a thorough accounting of his military feats.  THE BEAR KING is being retired as a separate title, but rest assured that all the relevant material it contains concerning Ceredig/Cerdic of the Gewissae and of Irish involvement in Britain during his floruit will be retained.

Thank you all for your continued interest.  I will make publication announcements as the various refurbished titles become available on Amazon.

These three books are to be the culmination of my many years of Arthurian research.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


View from the Stanwix Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall

In my previous blog, I offered Professor Patrick Ford's translation of 'Penuchel' as 'Overlord.'  This is almost certainly a proper rendering of the Welsh word.  Understand that Penuchel is found in a corrupt version of a Triad, so is suspect to begin with!  I'm writing about it more now only because it is just barely possible the substitution of Penuchel for the original Penasgell, and the former's application to Arthur, may have been a sort of correction, rather than a mistake.  If so, the epithet is worth exploring in more detail. Still, this major caveat should be kept in mind by the reader.

To begin, it had occurred to me that if Arthwys was a real name, and he belonged specifically in the Irthing Valley, and Ceidio son of Arthwys's son Gwenddolau (if this 'White Dales' is also more than just a place-name) belonged at Carwinley, that Ceidio might have held a region or fort between these two locations.

Part of my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY dealt with a place hard by Stanwix near Carlisle called Etterby.  It was once known as 'Arthur's burg [or fort].'  As it turned out (see below), Etterby was surely a mistake for Stanwix itself, site of the largest cavalry force in all of Britain and the command center for much of Hadrian's Wall.

The Roman name for Stanwix was Uxellodunum, the 'High Fort.'  As it happens, British uxello- becomes in Welsh uchel - the exact same word we find in Penuchel.

Could it be that Penuchel means the 'Chief of Uchel[-dunum]'?  

Stanwix was also called after the unit that garrisoned the fort, the Ala Petriana (named for Pomponius Petra).  This reminds us of the fact that the later Arthur of Dyfed was the son of one Petr.

Probably far-fetched, and I'm not placing any emphasis on these apparent correspondences. But as I already have the following material on Stanwix prepared, I might as well repost it here entire.

Etterby as Arthur’s Burg (i.e. Stanwix)

Etterby, in the parish of Stanwix near Carlisle, was called Arthur’s burg, according to Joseph Nicolson and Richard Burn’s History and Anti uities of the County of Westmorland and Cum-berland, Vol. 2:

“Etterby in old writings is called Arthuriburgum, which seems to imply that it had been a consid-erable village. Some affirm, that it took its name from Arthur king of the Britons, who was in this country about the year 550 pursuing his victories over the Danes and Norwegians. But there are no remains of antiquity at or near this place to justify such a conjecture.”

Nicolson and Burn may have been correct in their assessment of Etterby as wholly lacking ‘remains of antiquity’. The evidence from excavation has been too slender to confirm a tentative suggestion as to what kind of Roman camp – if any - may once have existed at Etterby. While it has been suggested that there might be a Roman camp at Etterby, no evidence for this has been found.

However, there is some evidence for the neigh-boring Stanwix Roman fort continuing into the post-Roman period. Thus, if there is a connec-tion with 'Arthur', it should be attached to Stanwix, rather than to Etterby.

The timber features at Stanwix are fairly recent discoveries. Most of the excavations there have been unpublished, so when archaeologists talk about the timber buildings these may be more examples of timber hall-like structures (such as those from the Birdoswald Roman fort). There is always a hope that the Stanwix excavations revealing the late Roman/sub-Roman timber structures will be published, but in the mean-time it is interesting to know that the Carlisle Millenium Project excavation report will be avail-able in the near future (the Carlisle Roman fort being just a stone’s throw across the river from Stanwix), and very late timber structures were also found there.

The truly amazing thing about the 9.79 acre fort of Stanwix, whose Romano-British name was Uxellodunum, the ‘High Fort’, is that it is exactly between the forts of Camboglanna, where Arthur died, and Aballava on the western end of the Wall (see Chapter 7 below for my discussion of Aballava as ‘Avalon’).

This large fort also housed a force of one-thousand cavalry, the Ala Petriana, the only mil-liary ala (‘wing’) in the whole of Britain. The Petriana’s presence at Stanwix accounts for the name of this fort in the late 4th/early 5th centu-ry ‘Notitia Dignatatum’ – Petrianis. Titus Pomponius Petra, a distinguished former commander of the unit, gave his name to the ala.

Fell Pony, Cumbria

Roman historian Sheppard Frere nicely sums up the strategic importance of this fort:

“The western sector of the Wall was the most dangerous… both on account of the nature of the ground and because of the hostile population beyond it. It is not surprising to find, then, that at Stanwix near Carlisle was stationed the Ala Petriana… Such regiments are always found on the post of danger; and the prefect of this Ala was the senior officer in the whole of the wall garrison. Here, then, lay Command headquarters, and it has been shown that a signaling system existed along the road from Carlisle to York, which would enable the prefect at Stanwix to communicate with the legionary legate at York in a matter of minutes.”

The fort lay on a fine natural platform today occupied by Stanwix Church and Stanwix House, a little over 8 miles from Castlesteads (Camboglanna).

To the south lies the steep bank falling to the River Eden, while the land falls somewhat more gently to the north. Little is known about the fort apart from its defences. The south-west an-gle tower, south wall and east wall were traced in 1940, with the north wall being located in 1984. This was uncovered in the grounds of the Cumbria Park Hotel. A length of wall was subsequently left exposed for public viewing and the line of the wall marked out by setts; the exposed portion of wall lies close to the north-west corner of the fort. This and the south-west corner, a low rise in the churchyard, are the only remains visible today. Brampton Road lies more or less on the line of the south defences, with Well Lane marking the east defences. 

The northern end of Romanby Close lies approximately at the north-east corner of the fort. The northern defences consisted of a stone wall with a clay rampart backing, fronted by two ditches; an interval tower was also found. The north wall was 5 ft 8 in wide with a chambered base course above the footings on the north side; the rampart backing was at least 11 ft 6 in wide.

To the south of the tower lay a feature tentatively identified as an oven. The fort appears to be an addition to the Wall which was located in 1932-4 a little to the south of the north fort wall, with the north lip of its ditch found in 1984 to lie under the interval tower. A few meters further south, a turf deposit, probably a rampart, was recorded in 1997. No other trace has been dis-covered at Stanwix of a turf-and-timber fort, but the known fort is clearly later than the replacement of the Turf Wall in stone. 

The causeway over the south ditch was located beside Brampton Road in 1933. This was placed centrally in the southern defences, but this in itself gives little indication of the internal ar-rangements, which might have been unusual in such a large fort. Little is known of the interior buildings. A series of four parallel walls, possibly representing two barracks-blocks and lying to-wards the north fort wall, were examined in the school yard in 1934. A large granary was located further south in 1940.

The Archaeological Evidence for Stanwix as Arthur’s Power Center

In this section I will be discussing the case that has been recently made by Ken Dark of the Uni-versity of Reading for the sub-Roman (i.e. 5th-6th century CE) re-use of Hadrian’s Wall, as well as of forts along the Wall and in the adjacent tribal territory of the ancient Brigantian kingdom.

Location of Stanwix Roman Fort

According to Dark, from whose paper I will liberally quote:

“… eight fourth-century fort sites on, or close to, the line of Hadrian’s Wall have produced, albeit sometimes slight, evidence of fifth -sixth-century use. Nor is this simply a reflection of a pattern found father north; for no Roman fort site in what is now Scotland has any plausible evidence of immediately post-Roman use. Thus the situa-tion to the north of the Wall is similar to that found in Wales.

What is more surprising still is the character of the reuse found on the line of the Wall. Two sites, Housesteads and Corbridge, have evidence not only of internal occupation, but of refortification; at Birdoswald there are the well known ‘halls’, while at Chesterholma Class-I inscribed stone of the late fifth or early sixth century come from the immediate vicinity of the fort. At South Shields there is also evidence of re-fortification, and there is an external inhumation cemetery. Another Class-I stone was identified by C.A.R. Radford at Castlesteads [I have rendered the inscription of this stone above in Chapter 3]. 

At Binchester immediately to the south of the Wall, and at Carvoran, Benwell and Housesteads on its line, there are early Anglo- Saxon burials or finds, while at Chesters and Chesterholm (perhaps sixth century) Anglo - Saxon annular brooches come from within the forts, although these may be somewhat later in date than the other material so far mentioned.

At the western terminal of the Wall, a town-site, Carlisle, though not necessarily primarily military in the Late Roman period, has also produced substantial evidence of sub-Roman occupation, with continued use of Roman-period buildings into the fifth, if not sixth, century.

Many scholars accept that Carlisle was part of the late fourth-century Wall-system, perhaps even its headquarters, and at Corbridge, the other town-site intimately connected with the Wall, fifth -and sixth century material has also been found, including, perhaps, evidence of continuing British and Anglo-Saxon use. In the North as a whole, fifth- or sixth-century evidence from what had been Late Roman towns is not common. York, Aldborough, Malton, and Catterick are our only other examples. Two of these sites (York and Malton) were part of the same Late Roman military command as Hadrian’s Wall: that of the Dux Britanniarum.

It is interesting that, of the sites at Manchester and Ribchester– between the Mersey and Carlisle the only fort-sites known to have possible fifth or sixth -century evidence – Ribchester was not only part of the command of the Dux Britanniarum, but also listed as per lineum valli in the Notitia Dignitatum. It is, therefore, remarkable that out of the twelve fourth-century Roman military sites in northern and western Britain to have produced convincingly datable structural, artefactual, or stratigraphic evidence of fifth-or sixth-century occupation, eleven were, almost certainly, part of the Late Roman military command.

Eight of these were probably within the same part of that command, and eight comprise a linear group (the only regional group) which stretches along the whole line of Hadrian’s Wall from east to west. The two more substantial late fourth- century settlements adjacent to the Wall – Carlisle and Corbridge– have also produced fifth- and sixth-century evidence and two of the other towns with such evidence were also late fourth-century strategic centres under the military command of the Dux.”

Flavinus. Signifer of the Ala Petriana, Hexham Abbey

After setting forth these facts, and discussing them, Dr. Dark offers a rather revolutionary idea:

“Although it is difficult, therefore, to ascertain whether the military project which I have described was the work of an alliance or a north British kingdom or over-kingdom, there does seem to be reason to suppose that it may have represented a post-Roman form of the command of the Dux Britanniarum…

This archaeological pattern, however it is interpreted, is of the greatest interest not only to the study of the fifth-and sixth- century north of Britain, but to that of the end of Roman Britain and the end of the Western Roman Empire as a whole. It may provide evidence for the latest functioning military command of Roman derivation in the West, outside the areas of Eastern Imperial control, and could be testimony to the largest Insular Celtic kingdom known to us.”

In another paper, Ken and S.P. Dark rebut P.J. Casey’s argument for a reinterpretation of the reuse and re-fortification of the Wall and its associated forts. His conclusion for this paper reads as follows:

“If one adopts the interpretation that the Wall forts were reused in the later fifth-early sixth century for a series of sub-Roman secular elite settlements, then the associated problems involved in explaining this new evidence of occupation at that time disappear…

So, the interpretation that the Wall became a series of secular elite settlements, discontinuous from the Late Roman activity at the forts within which they were sited, is compatible with the evidence of pollen analysis, while the alternative interpretations are both rendered unlikely by it.

This does not, of course, make the suggestion that this reoccupation represents the sub- Roman reconstruction of the Command of the Dux Britanniarum any more likely, but the pattern on which that interpretation is based has been strengthened, rather than weakened, by the new archaeological data, whilst the evidence also hints at a similar reoccupation with regard to the signal stations of the Yorkshire coast and their headquarters at Malton.

Perhaps, then, at last one is able to see answers to many of the most pressing questions regarding what happened in north Britain, and more specifically on Hadrian’s Wall, in the fifth and sixth centuries…

The answer to all of these questions may lie in the rise and fall of a reconstructed Late Roman military command, unique in Britain, which was organized in a sub-Roman fashion reliant upon the loyal warbands of warrior aristocrats (and Anglo-Saxon mercenaries) rather than paid regular soldiers. The organizing authority of this system, probably a king of the sub-Roman Brigantes, assigned a politico-military role to the defended homesteads of these elites, and (as in the location of churches at disused forts, through land-grants?) positioned these at what had been Roman fort sites, but which were (at least substantially) deserted by the time when they were reused in this way. Thus, the ‘Late Roman’ Wall communities dispersed during the first half of the fifth century, but the Wall – and perhaps the north generally – was redefended in the later fifth and early-mid sixth century on very different lines, yet not completely without regard for the Late Roman past.”

I would add only that it is my belief this ‘king’ of the sub-Roman Brigantes whom Dr. Dark proposes was none other than the dux bellorum Arthur.

An Arthur placed at Stanwix makes a great deal of sense when we place these two forts in the context of the Arthurian battles as I have out-lined those in Chapter 3 above. These battle site identifications (taken from the list in the HB, supplemented by the Welsh Annals) shows a range of conflict extending from Buxton in the south to a the Forth in the north, with the majority of the contests against the enemy being fought along or just off the Roman Dere Street from York northwards. The site of Arthur’s death is in a fort only a few miles to the east of Stanwix and we will see in the next chapter that the location of his grave is most likely at a Roman fort [Aballava] just a few miles west of Stanwix.

For those interested in my final identification of Uther Pendragon, please see the last blog entry...

Uthr Bendragon


Mote of Mark Hillfort, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

Many years ago I noticed that the Dumnonian king Cynfor or Cunomoros was often confused in the sources through spelling errors with Cynfarch/Cunomarkos. At the time I was exploring the possibility of a Northern Arthur.  My interest centered on Cynfor as the father of Constantine, father of Uther, father of Arthur.  

Could it be, I wondered, that Cynfor in the Arthurian pedigree was an error for Cynfarch and not the other way around?

Cynfarch Oer of the North, whose center may have been the Mote of Mark, held a particular fascination for me.  He had given his daughter Efrddyl to Eliffer (Eleutherius, a title used by Constantine the Great) of York.  The Triad referring to the children of Eliffer and Efrddyl is (in P.C. Bartram's words) "referred to in a slightly corrupt passage in the Brychan section of Jesus College MS 20."  There the daughter Arddun is called Arthur.  As Arddun is herself found replaced in a variant of the Triad with Ceindrech Benasgell (showing yet another confusion, as an Arddun Benasgell was properly the daughter of Pabo Post Prydyn), this Arthur is given the epithet 'Penuchel', literally 'Overlord' (translation courtesy Professor Patrick Ford).

No one has taken this Northern British Arthur seriously.  But we shall return to him in a moment.

Only recently, while taking another look at Arthur's claimed connections with Ercing in SE Wales (most or all the product of Geoffrey of Monmouth's imagination), I noticed a second Efrddyl.  She was the daughter of King Peibio of Ercing and mother of St. Dubricius.  More importantly, her own mother was a daughter of a king named Constantinus.  

I've already mentioned that a Constantine was given a daughter by Anblaud of Ercing, and that their son was Goreu.  This same Anblaud was the father of Eigr, wife of Uther and mother of Arthur.

So, we are up to our gills in Constantines!

To make matters worse, I've shown how the names/titles Anblaud Wledig and Uther Pendragon are near perfect matches for each other.  Anblaud the 'very terrible/fearful' appears to be a made-up name, a sort of play of words, with his kingdom of Ercing being related to W. erch, "terrible, frightful." Brynley F. Roberts long ago stated his belief that Anblaud was a fictional kingdom-founding ancestor for Arthur and his extended family relations.

Is there anything at all we can get out of this genealogical mess?

One thing I'm prepared to state right now: Uther Pendragon, called gorlassar in a Taliesin poem (the origin of Geoffrey's 'Gorlois'), is Urien of Rheged, son of the Cynfarch (not Cynfor) who was the father of Eliffer's ("Constantine's") wife Efrddyl.  I long suspected this, as gorlassar is otherwise found only in two places - and on both occasions it is used of Urien, once for his person and once for his spear.  I resisted this conclusion for a long time because with Arthur as Urien's son I was forced not only to deal with the absence of Arthur in Cynfarch's line of descent, but also with a chronological impossibility: Urien is too late to be Arthur's father.  Still, I can no longer deny that Urien of Rheged is Uther Pendragon.  

The name may have come about as Uther Pen at first.  I say this because in a Llywarch Hen poem, the hero bewails the fall of Urien and is in possession of his slain lord's head. 

Professor John Koch once had a similar idea regarding the god Bran's severed head.  Here is what he has to say in CELTIC CULTURE: A HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA:

"One possibility is that the strange and strangely named yspyddawt urddawl benn (feast of the stately head) around Brân’s living severed head in the Mabinogi represents a garbling of a more appropriate ‘feast of the uncanny head’ (uthr benn); the marwnad would make sense as the words of the living-dead Brân mourning himself. For Geoffrey, the epithet Pendragon is ‘dragon’s head’, an explanation of a celestial wonder by Merlin (see Myrddin). This meaning is not impossible..."

From Koch on the head of Urien:

"... another 30 lines describe Urien’s decapitated corpse. In the former, there is much penetrating wordplay on the multiple senses of pen (head, chief, leader) and porthi (carry, support [e.g. of a poet by his patron]). The situation is reminiscent of that in Branwen, in which seven survivors, including the poet Taliesin, return from Ireland with the severed head of their king, Brân, and the englynion may intentionally echo this story:

Penn a borthaf ar vyn tu,
penn Uryen llary—llywei llu—
ac ar y vronn wenn vran ddu.

The head I carry at my side, head of generous
Urien—he used to lead a host, and on his white
breast (bron wen) a black crow (brân).

Arthur's Breguoin battle = the Brewyn of Urien.  This may suggest either that they both fought at the place, together or separately on different occasions.  It is not necessarily the case (as I discuss in my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY) that Brewyn was copied from Urien's battles onto the Arthurian battle-list.  In the "Marwnat Uthyr Pen", Uther claims that his ‘champion’s feats partook in a
ninth part of Arthur’s valour’.

I would add that the 'Pa Gur' poem's phrase "Mabon son of Modron servant of Uther Pendragon" at last makes sense.  For the center of Mabon worship, the locus Maponi of the Classical sources, was at the heart of Urien's kingdom in the North, and in the early poetry his son Owain is referred to as an incarnation of Mabon.  

Now that we've firmly established that Uther does not belong in the South, but in the North, what do we do with Arthur?

Well, it would be tempting to go with Arthur Penuchel, as perhaps a correction of a Triad, rather than merely a corruption.  His being made a son of a chieftain of York may even be a folk memory of the Roman-era Artorius who was camp prefect in that city.

But given the presence of the Dark Age Birdoswald hall (the birthplace of St. Patrick) and Camboglanna in the valley of the Irthing River (a river best etymologized as the 'Little Bear'), an Aballava/Avalana Roman fort not far to the west, an Arthwys father whose name appears to be a regional designation meaning '[place] of the Bear', and a hypocoristic name which almost certainly originally meant something akin to 'dux erat bellorum', I still have to put my money on Ceidio, brother of Eliffer/Eleutherius ("Constantine") of York.  I've demonstrated that this line has Irish blood in their pedigrees (from Fergus Mor/Mar, i.e. 'Gwrgwst Ledlwm' of Dalriada), which would explain why later Arthurs all belonged to Irish-descended dynasties in Britain. Ceidio was the father of Gwenddolau of Carwinley, the reputed lord of Myrddin/Merlin.  

And so Efrddyl daughter of Cynfarch was not Arthur's mother, but his sister-in-law.  And Uther Pendragon/Urien son of Cynfarch was not his father, but his brother-in-law.  


Mote of Mark, Dumfriesshire

Monday, September 11, 2017


Weston Under Penyard, Site of Roman Ariconium

A curious thing about the so-called Galfridian genealogy for King Arthur: no one will accept it, at least not at face-value, yet at the same time no one is willing to entertain another "manufactured", unrecorded pedigree.  This is one of the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemmas facing the Arthurian researcher.  One can opt for a pedigree associated with one of the later Arthurs, of course, but that comes implicit with its own problems, especially the chronological one.

Because I've recently treated of some of the early Welsh traditions which seem to situate Arthur in SE Wales, I thought it might be interesting, even if ultimately futile, to delve once more into what Geoffrey of Monmouth gives us in terms of Arthur's immediate family.  The Welsh did not offer anything to counter Geoffrey's version, although the Welsh material does add details.  Whether these details are pre-Galfridian or mere embellishments  - well, who knows?  Arguments have been made from both camps, with none of their volleys being particularly effective.

Geoffrey claims that Aurelius Ambrosius, Constans and Uther Pendragon were sons of Constantine, himself a brother of Aldroenus, king of Brittany.  The presence of Constans has suggested to many that the Constantine in question is a legendary reflection of Constantine III, the early 5th century Roman usurper, who had a son of that name.  The chronology doesn't work, of course.  Aurelius Ambrosius or Ambrosius Aurelianus was Gaulish and of the 4th century.  Constantine III's other son, Julian, bore the name of Julian the Apostate, who was referred to as a dragon and thoroughly embraced the draco standard. But, alas, this Julian does not work for Uther, the 'Terrible Chief-dragon.'  

In Geoffrey's HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF BRITAIN, Constantine is sent into Britain from Brittany when the summons sent to Agitius (usually considered to be Aetius) for help from the Romans went unanswered.  Once Constantine was dead, Vortigern raised Constans (at that time a monk at Winchester or, rather, Caerwent, where Uther leaves his draco standard; see below) to the throne, causing Aurelius and Uther to flee back to Brittany. After Constans is murdered, and Vortigern's situation regarding the Saxon menace grows increasingly perilous, Uther and Aurelius return to Britain. Aurelius burns Vortigern in his tower on the Little Doward hillfort in Ercing.

The first thing I wish to do is to pin down Brittany in this tale.  First off, Brittany was referred to as Letavia or (in Welsh) Llydaw.  As we know there were at least two such places in Wales, the sources naturally show some confusion over which is which.  P.C. Bartram in his A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY nicely sets out the problem:

The evidence for Llydaw in Brycheiniog is actually quite poor.  St. Illtud was put there - near Llangorse Lake - because his name became attached in folklore to the Ty Elltud long barrow. If Llydaw were in the heartland of Wales, as many contend, we would expect some relic of the name there.

I would instead propose the river Leadon just east of the Wye. The name of this river is decidedly Celtic, from *litano, 'broad'.  The same Celtic root is now believed to lie behind that of Letavia/Llydaw.  Ledbury on the Leadon has the Wall Hills hillfort, which may once have been the center of the kingdom.  This hillfort is a sort of outlier of the Malvern Hills.

On the other side of Ledbury is the much more impressive Herefordshire Beacon or 'British Camp' hillfort:

And yet a third major hillfort is near Ledbury, just a little south of British Camp:

In passing - and without meaning to make too much of it - I would note the presence of The Gullet [Pass], separating the narrow ridge of Swinyard Hill and Midsummer Hill with its camp.  The etymology of the word gullet is as follows:

"Passage from the mouth of an animal to the stomach," c. 1300 (as a surname), from Old French golet "neck (of a bottle); gutter; bay, creek," diminutive of gole "throat, neck" (Modern French gueule), from Latin gula "throat," also "appetite," from PIE root *gwele- (3) "to swallow" (source also of Latin gluttire "to gulp down, devour," glutto "a glutton;" Old English ceole "throat;" Old Church Slavonic glutu "gullet," Russian glot "draught, gulp;" Old Irish gelim "I devour").

This reminded me of Arthur's legendary birthplace Tintagel.  Professor Oliver Padel long ago derived the second element of this Cornish place-name from a word meaning "neck, throat, constriction, narrow."

The Gullet at Midsummer Hill Camp

Ercing, which is a sort of focal point for things Arthurian in early Welsh tradition, lay principally between the Monnow and the Wye, so was just across the latter river from "Llydaw".  Gwent was just to the south. It was this Llydaw, I suspect,  that is referred to as Brittany in the "history" of Geoffrey of Monmouth.  If I'm right, then that means Uther's father Constantine was from the valley of the Leadon.  In Roman times, this area was most likely part of the Dobunni tribal territory.

To return now to our Arthurian pedigree.  I've discussed before the uncanny resemblance between the meaning of the name/title Anblaud Wledig and that of Uther Pendragon.  Anblaud was the father of Eigr, Arthur's mother.  But Anblaud also gave a daughter to Constantine, Uther's father.  Their son was Goreu. It has been thought that Anblaud's kingdom was Ercing, but that is nowhere stated.

Perhaps significantly, a Constantine (whom Bartram very tentatively suggests might have been a king of Ercing) gives a daughter to Peibio son of Erb.  Peibio was a king of Ercing and his father is styled king of Ercing and Gwent.  Llangustennin (church of St. Constantine) Garth Benni, now Bicknor on the Wye, was in Ercing. Anblaud's son Gwrfoddw was king in Ercing.  Another son, Llygatrudd Emys, is a corruption of Llygad Amr, the 'eye of Amr', source of Gamber Head in Ercing.  Elsewhere this Amr or Amhar is made the son of Arthur.   

Finally, Anblaud gives another daughter to Bicanus, king of Llydaw, i.e. of the Vale of Leadon.  Their issue is the famous St. Illtud.

Uther, the 'terrible/dreadful/fearful', was naturally associated with Anblaud, the 'very frightening/terrible.' But why was Anblaud so named?  Bear in mind that Brynley F. Roberts regarded Anblaud as fictitious, as someone who "seems to be a function rather than a person.  He is an 'empty' character... who exists merely so that his daughters may be the mothers of heroes who are all, therefore, cousins of Arthur."

Well, I do have an idea for the origin of the name Anblaud, although it relies upon a fanciful interpretation of the name Ercing (Latin form of Welsh Ergyng, from Ariconium, Ircingafeld in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Archenfeld in the Domesday Book).  Welsh has a word erch, from Proto-Celtic *φerko.  It means, according to the GPC, "horrible, dire, hideous, frightful, awful; dismal." If at some point the actual kingdom name had been related to erch, then it's reputed founder may well have been given a name such as Anblaud. I've given my own idea on the actual etymology of the Romano-British city of Ariconium elsewhere (

This is the best I can do with Geoffrey of Monmouth's pedigree, and the Welsh application of it. What are we to make of it - if anything at all?

Well, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the "other Llydaw" is, in fact, the Leadon Valley region.  That Constans is made a monk of Winchester (Venta Belgarum), a probable relocation for Caerwent (Venta Silurum), Ambrosius travels from 'Brittany' to Ercing to destroy Vortigern, Uther's supposed family connections are in Ercing and many Arthurian associations cling to the same kingdom or its environs, we can also surmise that Uther's father Constantine was thought to have hailed from the Leadon region and not from Brittany.  At least in so far as the Welsh tradition was concerned.  A tradition which may well have relied upon the fiction of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

[NOTE: Geoffrey of Monmouth's fictional Diwanius, Bishop of Winchester, is probably meant to be present at Llandevenny near Caerwent.  Interestingly, the Welsh version of Monmouth's HISTORY substitutes Julian for Diwanius, as Julian, along with Aaron, traditionally belonged at Caerwent. Diwanius has sometimes been associated with Merthyr Dyfan in Glamorgan and Llandyfan in Carmarthenshire.  Years ago I showed that Geoffrey placed Eledenius at Alclud because of Llanelidan in Clwyd, and Maugannius in Silchester/Calleva Atrebatum because of the Mawgan sites near Castle Killibury.]

It is possible that by Arthur's time, the eastern boundary of the Dobunni was the Severn.  In other words, Llydaw stretched from the Wye to the Severn.  This alone would account for why the kingdom was called after the River Leadon.

Hartpury Mill on the River Leadon


Because in the 'Dialogue of Arthur and the Eagle' Uther is said to have a son Madog, I would point out that Emyr Llydaw was said to have a son of the same name.  Here is the relevant entry on Emyr from P.C. Bartram's A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY.  Bartram stresses in this entry that the real Llydaw may have been somewhere in SE Wales.

And here is my previous piece on Eliwlad:

Sunday, September 10, 2017


The Smith God from Corbridge (Allitio?)

Several years ago I floated the idea on Robert Vermaat's Arthurian pages that Camelot was originally to be found in North England and that during the usual development of folklore, the place was transferred to a southern location in Wales.  I did not pursue the idea, feeling it was overly speculative.  As a result, I eventually decided not to include it in my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY.  However, having since re-read the piece, I felt it was worth at least posting here on my blog site.


The case has often been made that Camelot is a late French form of the Romano-British Camulodunum place-name. But before we allow ourselves to get excited about the fact that there was a Camulodunum at Slack, Yorkshire, in what will be shown to be the area controlled by Arthur, we need to determine the actual location of the Camelot of the romances. We also need to acknowledge the fact that 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 the sites.

The first clue as to the 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 center. 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 questers from 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.

Castle Vagan is St. Fagan’s Castle (Welsh Ffagan) four or five miles west of Cardiff. This site lies in the Ely Valley, the supposed location of the Campus Elleti of Ambrosius (see Chapter One). According to the Historia Brittonum, Campus Elleti, the “Field or Plain of Elleti”, was said to be in Glywysing, the later Morgannwg/Glamorgan. Only a dozen miles separate Campus Elleti from 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

It is interesting that Geoffrey of Monmouth substitutes Carmarthen, wrongly thought to be the Fort of Myrddin/Merlin, for Campus Elleti. This makes one wonder whether there had been some confusion over Elleti and Myrddin’s Northern Liddel, Old English Hlydan-dael, “valley of the [river] Hlyde”. Hlyde, meaning “the Loud One”, derives from OE hlud, “loud”. According to the 12th century Life of St. Kentigern by Jocelyn of Furness, Myrddin’s Battle of Arfderydd occurred “on the plain between Lidel [= Liddel] and Carwannock [= Carwhinley].”  Although, to be honest, once Geoffrey had identified Myrddin/Merlin with the Ambrosius whom Nennius had placed at Campus Elleti, the choice of Carmarthen was an obvious one.

Devil's Water Near Corbridge

A better candidate for an actual Northern Campus Elleti or Camelot can be found at the Corbridge Roman fort, where three altars to Maponus/Mabon were found, as well as a possible deity named Allitio.  Arthur fought several battles at the Dubglas or Devil's Water at Linnels very near this fort.
Dr. Graham Isaac, now with the National University of Ireland, Galway, commented as follows on the place-name Elei, , the Ely River in Glamorgan, which is associated in the 'Pa Gur' poem with Mabon servant of Uther Pendragon and is often thought to be the location of Campus 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'. The Ravenna Cosmography’s Alitacenon could be corrupt beyond redemption, but if it is accurate, then both elements are unproblematically found elsewhere: alita- 'shining [river]' gives W Aled (RN), and -cenon is a common toponym element, of admittedly uncertain meaning. [I asked Dr. Isaac about –cenon in the context of Alitacenon. If Alita- meant originally the "Shining" (-river), could not -cenon be from Proto-Celtic *cen-je/o, "rise (from)"? In other words, Alitocenon was at the headwaters of a stream called Alito, the place where the waters of the river rose from. To which he responded, “This is not impossible.”]

Elleti is probably not connected with these. The form of the name 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.

For Elei, Williams is implying < *Elu-legi-. 1) I am not aware of any other instance in which the prefix El- , *Elu- is used in Welsh with a river-name. It is otherwise exclusively used with personal names. This is not damning, but it is suspicious. 2) I am not sure that the British *Elu-legi- would not in fact end up as **Ellei. I know of no precisely parallel examples offhand. But the old feminine personal name Ellylw is suggestive. This looks as though it must be < *Elu-selwi: 'Having many possessions', with the cognate of OI selb 'possession' (the exact cognate OI shelb is extant, though not as a name).

The name will have gone through the following developments *Elu-selwi:> *Elu-silwi: > *Elu-hilwi: > *El-hilw > *Ellilw (with just a long, or double,-l-) > Ellylw (now with the characteristic W -ll-). This suggests that an early Welsh double -ll- resulting from syncope becomes the later W -ll-. That is the difficulty with Williams's explanation of Elei: *Elu-legi- > *El-legi- should give > **Ellei, not Elei. At least this is how it seems to me.

The problems are different with Elleti = Elleith. The name is rare, but we have it independently in HB and in Book of Llan Dav. The spellings -e- for /ei/ and -t- for /th/ are both possible in Old Welsh, but it would be very surprising indeed if BOTH HB (and its recensions) and BLlD had spelled **Elleith as Ellet. Which makes me think that they did not, and that, in fact, they are both spelling what would be written in Modern Welsh as Elledi. And note that the HB reference to 'campum Elleti' implies a W place-name 'Maes Elledi'. I would not expect a river-name to follow 'maes'.”

I would add that the Alitocenon Dr. Isaac alludes to appears to be in the Scottish Lowlands and that it is listed in the Ravenna Cosmography immediately after a Maporiton or Maporitum, the “Son’s Ford”. It has been suggested that this “Son’s Ford” should be sought near ‘locus Maponi’, the “place of Maponus/Mabon [the Divine Son]”, which is properly identified either with Lochmaben or the Clochmabenstane. The Ladyward Roman fort has been proposed as the most likely site. While Alitacenon’s exact location is unknown, there is no reason for amending it to read Alaunacelum, as is done by A.L.F. Rivet and Colin Smith in their The Place-Names of Roman Britain.

Still, Alita- and Elleti, as just demonstrated by Dr. Isaac, have different etymologies. Thus we cannot equate Campus or Palude Elleti with Alitacenon.

We are fortunate in that the place-name Elleti may be found in the form of a personal name at the Corbridge Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. A fragment of a large grey urn was found there bearing the name ‘ALLIITIO’ (Fascicule 8, RIB 2502.9; information courtesy Georgina Plowright, Curator, English Heritage Hadrian’s Wall Museums). This could be the potter’s name, perhaps a form of the nomen Alletius, or the name of the god portrayed on the fragment. J. Leach (in “The Smith God in Roman Britain”, Archaeologia Aeliana, 40, 1962, pp. 171-184) made a case for the god in question being a divine smith, primarily due to the presence on the urn fragment of what appears to be an anvil in relief, although there were also metal workings in the neighborhood of Corbridge. Anne Ross (in her Pagan Celtic Britain, p. 253) associates the name Allitio with the same all-, “other”, root Dr. Isaac linked to Elleti. She thinks Allitio may have been a warrior/smith-god and very tentatively offers “God of the Otherworld” for this theonym.

On the name ‘ALLIITIO’, Dr. Isaac agrees with Ross:

“Taking the double -ll- at face value, as I would be inclined to do as a working hypothesis,that would not be connected with Aled, but rather with the W all- that I have mentioned before.”

Treating more fully of ‘ALLIITIO’ in a private communication, Georgina Plowright, Curator, English Heritage Hadrian’s Wall Museums, says that the name

“…occurs twice on one piece of pottery showing feet and a base. This is always assumed to be the base of an anvil, with the feet being those of a smith god. There are a number of sherds of grey pottery from Corbridge with very distinctive applied decoration, with two recognisable themes, the smith god shown with hammer and anvil, and a wheel god who is shown with wheel and club. The fact that the wheel god is depicted by a mould suggests that this type of pottery was being made at Corbridge, though it appears on a number of other sites. The reading occurs twice on this piece of pottery, once in the frame created by the anvil base, and then on the pot below the feet of the standing figure.  Another sherd showing the smith god does not have any inscription.  John Dore and Stephen Johnson, who did the captions for the Corbridge gallery, have assumed that the name might be that of a potter, though RIB seems to go for either god or potter.  I haven’t got a copy of the Leach reference easily to hand, but my memory tells me the item should be illustrated there.”

Astonishingly, of the six inscriptions for Maponus/Mabon in Roman Britain, three belong to Corbridge. These inscriptions are in the form of dedicatory altars, something not found elsewhere in Britain for Maponus.

I would propose that the Campus Elleti of Emrys in the Historia Brittonum is a relocation of an Allitio site at Corbridge. The Elei of Mabon, which derives from the root *al-, “to shine”, represents the actual name of the Ely River, to which the Northern Campus or Palude Elleti was transferred during the usual development of myth and legend.

In passing, it may be worth noting that the ( ? ) divine name Allitio, again according to Dr. Isaac, can be associated with Myrddin's/Merlin's Welsh nickname, Llallogan or Llallawc.  This last derives from Proto-Celtic *alal( I )yo- 'another, other', cf. Old Irish arail, Middle Welsh arall (OW and MW), Middle Breton al( l )all, arall, Cornish arall.  This is a reduplicated, intensive variant of Proto-Celtic *al( I )yo- 'other', cf. Old Irish aile [io], Middle Welsh eil, all-, Middle Breton eil, Cornish yl, Gaulish Allo-broges, allos, Proto-Indo-European *h2elyo- 'other', Latin alius, Go. aljis.  Celtic-Iberian ailam, which has been interpreted as the Acc. of this pronoun, has also been taken to mean something like 'place, abode'.

I cannot say that Myrddin as Llallogan/Llallawc = Allitio, only that the derivation and meanings of the two names are the same.

Corbridge Roman Fort

While a construction Campus Allitio may be doubted, we can point to the Heaven-field of Bede, said to be close to Hexham, and thus quite possibly near Corbridge.  Bede has this as Hefenfelth or 'caelistis campus'.  The name is unlikely to be of Christain origin.  Instead, we should look to the Roman period dedication (RIB 1131) at Corbridge to Caelistis Brigantia, the 'Heavenly Brigantia'.  Caelistis campus would then be a field sacred to the pagan goddess of the Brigantes.  In this light, a field sacred to Allitios at or near Corbridge is more plausible.

For an online article that mentions the 'Allitio' found at Corbridge, please see: