Thursday, December 14, 2017

Arthur sites on the map

Arthur on the map.  Green push pin is Barbury Castle. The yellow pins are for battles (with Bath and Badbury/Liddington Castle both marked, as well as two possible 'Gleins' ).  Blue is Camlan (Uley Bury hillfort), and red is for the (probably) mythological burial spot at Glastonbury.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Uley Bury and the upper River Cam (Ewelme)

Uley Bury Hillfort, Aerial View

When searching for a Camlan (either Camboglanna/'Crooked Bank' or Cambolanda/'Crooked Enclosure') in southern England, we must keep some ground rules in mind.

First, it is very easy to fall victim to a reliance on modern forms of the various Cam names.  The earliest forms (spellings) must be found, if they exist.  Indulging in this exercise helps us avoid choosing the Cam in Somerset (a back formation from Camel, found as Cantmael in 995), the Camel River in Cornwall (Cambula in 1147) or the Cam Brook in Somerset (Cameler or Camelar in 1073).  

Second, we must avoid opting for an English place-name with a similar or identical meaning, as we have no we of knowing if an earlier British Camlan underlies it.  

And, third, we must seek for a site that lies within what appears to be Arthur's sphere of military action.  

Obviously, it may well be that Camlan is a "lost" name in the sense that this place now bears an English, Norse or Norman name.  If this is the case, then the site will never be found.

Fortunate for us, there remains just one candidate which holds significant potential: the River Cam in Gloucestershire.  This river is demonstrably from British *cambo- (Camma in 1086).  The upper course of this stream is now called the Ewelme.  The following selection is from Water and the Environment in the Anglo-Saxon World by Maren Clegg Hyer:

In other words, a word at first used to describe the source of the Cam later became the name for this stretch of the River Cam.  The Ewelme is simply the river-spring or source of the River Cam.  

One of the springs that feeds the headwaters of the Cam actually lies on the slope of the great hillfort of Uley Bury.  Uley is 'Yew Wood', from the OE, named for what was anciently considered the tree of death.  This fort has a peculiar curved or bent shape (see map and aerial photo above).  It lies opposite Cam Peak and Cam Long Down.  The Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru lists the meanings of cam as: crooked, bent, hunch-backed, distorted, wry, bowed, curved, looped, winding.

I would tentatively identify Uley Bury as the "Cam Enclosure" or "Crooked Enclosure", viz. Cambolanda/Camlan.  One possibility is that the River Cam name derives from that of the fort.   If the fort were originally named after the river, then we must assume a meaning "Enclosure of the [River] Cam."  It is not impossible that Cam Long Down betrays a later English substitution for Camlan Down (although, to be honest, the hill is long).

Uley Bury lies well within what was the tribal kingdom of the Hwicce, and so Arthur could easily have fought here. 

Monday, December 11, 2017


Maelduin's Boat

The secret to unlocking the truth about the Glastonbury Mystery resides in identifying the Melwas of the Life of St. Gildas. I had tried unsuccessfully to do this several times in the past.  As with the Hwicce etymology, I realized only recently that I've been trying TOO hard.  We need to ignore the usual derivation from W. mael, 'prince', and gwas, 'boy, servant.'  He is not found in any of the royal genealogies attached to Glastonbury, nor is he to be related to any Cornish or Breton personages.  Some have sought to identify him with Gwynn son of Nudd, who is also placed at Glastonbury, but there is no real justification for doing so. The idea that the name represents Maelwys son of Baeddan ('Prince Pig son of Little Boar') of CULHWCH AND OLWEN is slightly more attractive, given the foundation story of Glastonbury involving a sow (see The Archaeology and History of Glastonbury Abbey: Essays in Honour of the Ninetieth Birthday of C.A. Ralegh Radford, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1991).  However,

"This theory has been more recently rejected most notably by Proinsias Mac Canna, Rachel Bromwich, and D. Simon Evans in favor of John Rhys's 1891 assertion that the name derives from the Irish Mael Umai mac Baitan—an early seventh century king who fought with the Scottish king of Dal Riata Aedan mac Gabrain (d. 608) against the English invader Aethelfrith at the battle of Degsastan (SAL, pp. 51, 344, CaO, p.69, DAB, p. xxxiv)."


Melwas could be (given the ease with which w/v and m could be substituted in many medieval MSS.), the Malmes- of Malmesbury.  In fact, we have examples of spellings for this place-name such as 'Malves-' and 'Malues-'.  The spelling as Malmesbury is found in the Domesday Book, with coins (1016-66) showing forms Mealmas, Melmes.  Many variants of the place-name are known (see The Place Names of Wiltshire by J.E.B Gover, Allen Mawer and F.M. Stenton Volume XVI published in 1939).  The actual personal name preserved in the first component of Malmesbury is Maeldu(i)b, later wrongly conflated with Maelduin.  Both are Irish names, and we are reminded that in the SANAS CORMAIC Glastonbury is referred to as 'Glasimpere na nGaedel' or "Glastonbury of the Irish."   

The 7th century St. Maeldub was considered the founder of the monastic settlement at Malmesbury.  

If this identification is correct, then why did Caradog of Llancarfan, the author of the Vita of St. Gildas, place this saint at Glastonbury?

The answer is straight-forward and simple: as Maelduin, Maeldub was associated with the Irish hero of that name from the Immram Maele Dúin or the Voyage of Máel Dúin, who had visited 1) an island with the branch of an apple tree, where they are fed with apples for 40 nights and 2) an island of apples, pigs, and birds. Hence, this saint of Malmesbury was linked in story with the Isle of Apple Trees, viz, Avalon, and placed at Glastonbury.  Guinevere, Arthur's queen (= the Irish Sovereignty Goddess Findabair), is abducted by Melwas. 

Now, while the Roman period Dobunni kingdom seems to have extended to the Brue, with Glastonbury on the border between the former tribal territory and that of the Durotriges, the Hwicce kingdom, a sort of successor state, only went as far south as the Bristol Avon, so far as we know.  Interestingly, Malmesbury itself was well within the Hwicce kingdom. There was an Iron Age hillfort at Malmesbury:

The excavator of Malmesbury, Mr. Mark Collard of Rubicon Heritage, has kindly provided me with additional information on the age of the town:

We have found nothing in the town itself of the sub-Roman period as yet but there is a very important Anglo-Saxon site nearby in a field at a place called Cowage Farm, Foxley – it was subject to very limited excavation and dating evidence was scarce but the form of the buried archaeological remains is very similar to royal sites of the earlier to Middle Saxon period found elsewhere in the UK, though the date of its origins are as yet unknown.

A summary is here:

The investigations were published in the Archaeological Journal:

The question naturally becomes, if Melwas = the founder of the monastery at Malmesbury, who was relocated in legend to Glastonbury, might the former site be the actual burial place of Arthur?

There was a medieval tradition concerning a Caer Bladon at Malmesbury.  The following selections are from Charters of Malmesbury Abbey, S. E. Kelly, OUP/British Academy, 2005:

Sad to say, while Malmes- would appear to be a good candidate for Melwas, there is a better possibility.  This is found in The Chronicle of Glastonbury Abbey: An Edition, Translation and Study of John of Glastonbury's "Cronica Sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie by James P. Carley, Boydell & Brewer, Apr 20, 2009.  In that source we are told that St. Patrick discovered among the monks at Glastonbury two named Weslicas (an eponym for the nearby town of Wells?) and Swelwes.  An elaborate story is told about Weslicas or Wellias:

The Charter of St Patrick the Bishop.

'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I Patrick, the humble servant of God, in the year of His Incarnation 430, was sent into Ireland by the most holy Pope Celestine, and by God's grace converted the Irish to the way of truth; and, when I had established them in the Catholic faith, at length I returned to Britain, and, as I believe, by the guidance of God, who is the life and the way, I chanced upon the isle of Ynsgytrin, wherein I found a place holy and ancient, chosen and sanctified by God in honour of Mary the pure Virgin, the Mother of God: and there I found certain brethren imbued with the rudiments of the Catholic faith, and of pious conversation, who were successors of the disciples of St Phagan and St Deruvian, whose names for the merit of their lives I verily believe are written in heaven: and because the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance, since tenderly I loved those brethren, I have thought good to record their names in this my writing. And they are these: Brumban, Hyregaan, Brenwal, Wencreth, Bamtonmeweng, Adelwalred, Lothor, Wellias, Breden, Swelwes, Hin Loernius, and another Hin. These men, being of noble birth and wishing to crown their nobleness with deeds of faith, had chosen to lead a hermit's life; and when I found them meek and gentle, I chose to be in low estate with them, rather than to dwell in kings' palaces. And, since we were all of one heart and one mind, we chose to dwell together, and eat and drink in common, and sleep in the same house. And so they set me, though unwilling, at their head: for indeed I was not worthy to unloose the latchet of their shoes. And, when we were thus leading the monastic life according to the pattern of the approved fathers, the brothers showed me writings of St Phagan and St Deruvian, wherein it was contained that twelve disciples of St Philip and St James had built that Old Church in honour of our Patroness aforesaid, instructed thereto by the blessed archangel Gabriel. And further, that the Lord from heaven had dedicated that same church in honour of His Mother; and that to those twelve three pagan kings had granted for their sustenance twelve portions of land. Moreover in more recent writings I found that St Phagan and St Deruvian had obtained from Pope Eleutherius, who had sent them, ten years[21] of indulgence. And I brother Patrick in my time obtained twelve years from Pope Celestine of pious memory.

'Now after some time had passed I took with me my brother Wellias, and with great difficulty we climbed up through the dense wood to the summit of the mount, which stands forth in that island. And when we were come there we saw an ancient oratory, wellnigh ruined, yet fitting for Christian devotion and, as it appeared to me, chosen by God. And when we entered therein we were filled with so sweet an odour that we believed ourselves to be set in the beauty of Paradise. So then we went out and went in again, and searched the whole place diligently; and we found a volume in which were written Acts of Apostles, along with Acts and Deeds of St Phagan and St Deruvian. It was in great part destroyed, but at the end thereof we found a writing which said that St Phagan and St Deruvian, by revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, had built that oratory in honour of St Michael the archangel, that he should have honour there from men, who at God's bidding was to introduce men to everlasting honour. And since that writing pleased us much, we sought to read it to the end. For that same writing said that the venerable Phagan and Deruvian abode there for nine years, and that they had also obtained indulgence of thirty years for all Christian folk who visit that place with pious intent for the honour of the blessed Michael. Having found therefore this great treasure of divine goodness, I and brother Wellias fasted three months, engaged in prayer and watching, and controlling the demons and beasts that in divers forms appeared. And on a certain night, when I had given myself to sleep, the Lord Jesus appeared to me in a vision, saying: Patrick my servant, know that I have chosen this place to the honour of My name, and that here men should honorably invoke the aid of My archangel Michael. And this shall be a sign to thee, and to thy brethren, that they also may believe: thy left arm shall wither, till thou has told what thou hast seen to thy brethren which are in the cell below, and art come hither again. And so it came to pass. From that day we appointed that two brethren should be there continually, unless the pastors in the future should for just cause determine otherwise.

'Now to Arnulf and Ogmar, Irish brethren who had come with me from Ireland, because at my request they were the first to make their humble dwelling at that oratory, I have entrusted this present writing, keeping another like unto it in the ark of St Mary as a memorial for those who shall come after. And I Patrick, by counsel of my brethren, concede a hundred days of pardon to all who shall with pious intent cut down with axe and hatchet the wood on every side of the mount aforesaid, that there may be an easier approach for Christian men who shall make pious visit to the church of the Blessed Ever- Virgin.'

Wellias or Swelwes could easily have been corrupted by Caradog of Llancarfan into Melwas.  Or someone could have misread the name, had a portion of it, over time, eroded from the pyramid. For example, /S/welwas > Melwas, with the same common change from w/u/v to m that I've already mentioned above.  As these monks were contemporary with St. Patrick, who was not far removed from Arthur's time, there is little difficulty in fitting them into the flexible chronology of hagiographical legend. 

Wellias and Swelwes are also brought into connection with the two great pyramids at Glastonbury:

These pyramids are interesting, for two such are mentioned in the context of the grave of Arthur and Guinevere.

Glastonbury, therefore, remains the only holy site to have claimed Arthur's grave - although, we must remember that as far as the Welsh were concerned, his final resting place was unknown.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

COMING SOON: Arthur at Glastonbury - not nonsense, after all?

Arthur's Battles in the Context of a "Dobunnic" Theater


Dobunni Tribal Territory

The first thing new readers will notice when reading the following blog post is that there seems to be major chronological problems with my treatment of the Gewissei battles.  However, I've discussed this in my books and in previous posts.  In brief, the order of the leaders of the Gewissei in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are consistently presented to us IN REVERSE ORDER.  I opted to accept the veracity of the Welsh sources in this regard.  So reigns and martial activities of Gewissei chieftains, as well as supposedly precise dates cited in the ASC, must be held to be extremely suspect.  We need to adopt a sort of  "backwards viewing" of the dates of the battles as these are to be found in the ASC.

The Gewissei, to summarize, were Irish or Hiberno-British 'federates' (or mercenaries) who had de facto possession of NW Wales.  They were recognized by the so-called High King of Wales (himself of partial Irish descent) and offered retention of their lands in return for service against enemies of that High King.  To aid in their efforts, the Gewissei allied themselves with the English against a powerful British kingdom that was considered a threat to the High King of Wales.  If I'm right, this kingdom was the successor state to the Dobunni, called the Hwicce by the English of a later period.  The chief champion of this successor state in the fight against the Gewissei and the English was none other than Arthur. His father was Illtud, styled the "terribilis miles" or Uther [Pen] Dragon, born in the Vale of Leadon to a king or prince of that successor state. Wherever his actual power base may have lain, Arthur was remembered as the "bear" of Barbury Castle, the "Bear's fort", near to Liddington Castle, one of the Badbury forts long proposed as Arthur's Badon.  

It now seems to me not only possible, but probable, that Arthur was the war-leader responsible for temporarily stemming the conquest of southern England by the English.  Obviously, when we compare the victories of Cerdic of Wessex/Ceredig son of Cunedda with those of Arthur, we are faced with a serious conundrum: who won these victories?  Was it the English, who claimed Cerdic as the victor, or was it Arthur?

Either side may have concocted a national hero out of their respective 'battle-leaders.' One side may have conjured a hero as a direct reaction to the glory assigned to the dux erat bellorum of the other.  Alas, we will probably never know what the truth is here. Certaintly, the Gewissei had notable successes and were considered by the English to be the founders of Wessex.  Yet the British, too, had their champion, and it seems almost inconceivable that the indigenous population would not have had its fair share of victories against the enemies who threatened it after the Roman withdrawal.  

As a historian, all I can do if offer this conflicting portrait of what may have happened in sub-Roman/early medieval/Dark Age Britain.  As they say, history is written by the victors, and there is no doubt that the ultimate victors in the battle for Britain were the English.  How long their conquest of the island was delayed, by whom and for how long, well, I do not feel qualified to say.  The only factual answer to the question lies in the hands of the archaeologists.  And while great strides have been made in that field in the last few decades, its knowledge base is still far from complete.

From Chapter Two of my book THE BEAR KING:

Years ago I played around with trying to equate some or all of the battles of Arthur and those of Cerdic of Wessex.  Alas, my knowledge of place-name development and of the languages involved was insufficient to the task.  Having once again brought up the very real possibility that Arthur = Cerdic in my previous blog post here, it occurred to me that I should take a second look at the battles listed in the Historia Brittonum and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

First, those of Arthur:

Mouth of the river Glein
4 battles on the Dubglas River in the Linnuis region
River Bassas
Celyddon Wood
Castle Guinnion
City of the Legion
Tribruit river-bank
Mt. Agned/Mt. Breguoin (and other variants)
Mt. Badon c. 516
Camlann c. 537

And, secondly, those of Cerdic (interposed battles by other Saxon chieftains are in brackets):

495 - Certicesora (Cerdic and Cynric arrive in Britain)
[Bieda of Bedenham, Maegla, Port of Portsmouth]
Certicesford - Natanleod or Nazanleog killed
[Stuf, Wihtgar - Certicesora]
Cerdicesford - Cerdic and Cynric take the kingdom of the West Saxons
Cerdicesford or Cerdicesleag
537 - Cerdic dies, Cynric takes the kingship, Isle of Wight given to Stuf (of Stubbington near Port and opposite Wight) and Wihtgar

As Celtic linguist Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson pointed out long ago, 'Glein' means 'pure, clean.'  It is Welsh glân.  However, there is also a Welsh glan, river-bank, brink, edge; shore; slope, bank.  This word would nicely match in meaning the -ora of Certicesora, which is from AS. óra, a border, edge, margin, bank.  If we allow for Glein/glân being an error or substitution for glan, then the mouth of the Glein and Certicesora may be one and the same place.

Ceredicesora or "Cerdic's shore" has been thought to be the Ower near Calshot.  This is a very good possibility for a landing place.  However, the Ower further north by Southampton must be considered a leading contender, as it is quite close to some of the other battles.

Natanleod or Nazanleog is Netley Marsh in Hampshire.  The parish is bounded by Bartley Water to the south and the River Blackwater to the north.  Dubglas is, of course, 'Black-stream/rivulet.' Linnuis contains the British root for lake or pool, preserved in modern Welsh llyn.  Netley is believed now to mean 'wet wood or clearing', and this meaning combined with the 'marsh' that was present probably accounts for the Linnuis region descriptor of the Historia Brittonum. 

W. bas, believed to underlie the supposed river-name Bassas, meant a shallow, fordable place in a river.  We can associate this easily with Certicesford/Cerdicesford, modern Charford on the Avon. Just a little south of North and South Charford is a stretch of the river called “The Shallows” at Shallow Farm. These are also called the Breamore Shallows and can be as little as a foot deep. An Anglo-Saxon cemetery was recently uncovered at Shallow Farm:

“A Byzantine pail, datable to the sixth century AD, was discovered in 1999, in a field near the River Avon in Breamore, Hampshire. Subsequent fieldwork confirmed the presence there of an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery. In 2001, limited excavation located graves that were unusual, both for their accompanying goods and for the number of double and triple burials. This evidence suggests that Breamore was the location of a well-supplied ‘frontier’ community which may have had a relatively brief existence during the sixth century. It seems likely to have had strong connections with the Isle of Wight and Kent to the south and south-east, rather than with communities up-river to the north and north-east.” [An Early Anglo-Saxon Cemetery and Archaeological Survey at Breamore, Hampshire, 1999–2006, The Archaeological Journal 
Volume 174, 2017 - Issue 1, David A. Hinton and Sally Worrell]

Cerdicesleag contains -leag, a word which originally designated a wood or a woodland, and only later came to mean a place that had been cleared of trees and converted into a clearing or meadow. I suspect the Celyddon Wood was plugged in for this site. Celyddon contains the word later found in Welsh as called, ‘hard.’.  

Cerdicesleag or "Cerdic's wood" I would identify with Hardley on Southhampton Water.  I pick this location not only because it originally meant ‘Hard Wood’, but because of the mention of Stuf (= Stub/b) both before and after the Cerdicesleag battle. Hardley is just across Southhampton Water from Stubbington, the settlement of the descendents of Stuf/Stubb.  It is also just across the Solent from the Isle of Wight, which was given to both Wihtgar and Stuf.  

Castle Guinnion is composed of the Welsh word for 'white', plus a typical locative suffix (cf. Latin -ium).  Wihtgar as a personage is an eponym for the Isle of Wight.  Wihtgarasburh is, then, the Fort of Wihtgar.  But it is quite possible Wiht- was mistaken for OE hwit, 'white', and so Castellum Guinnion would merely be a clumsy attempt at substituting the Welsh for the English.  /-gar/-garas/ may well have been linked to Welsh caer, 'fort, fortified city', although the presence of -burh, 'fort, fortified town' in the name may have been enough to generate Castellum.  Wihtgara is properly Wihtwara, 'people of Wight', the name of the tribal hidage.  Wihtgarasburh is traditionally situated at Carisbrooke.

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.  The Waulud’s Bank earthwork is at Limbury. 

Tribruit is a Welsh substitute for the Latin word trajectus (see my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY for the full etymology).  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..." The Welsh rendered 'litore' of the Tribruit description in Nennius as 'traeth', demanding a river estuary emptying into the sea. However, in Latin litore could also mean simply a river-bank.

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.  –ed1 (see the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru) is the suffix in the kingdom name Rheged. 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', Modern Philology, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Aug., 1945), pp. 44-57) 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.  This can only be the Romano-British Trajectus on the Avon of the city of Bath.  Rivet and Smith locate this provisionally at Bitton at the mouth of the Boyd tributary.  The Boyd runs past Dyrham, scene of the ASC battle featuring Ceawlin which led to the capture of Bath.  Bitton is "farmstead [tun] on the river Boyd" (see Mills). 

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, such as the one at Liddington Castle in Wiltshire.  This is true despite the fact that Ceawlin/Cunedda is said to have fought at Beranbyrig/ Barbury Castle, the “Bear’s Fort” only a few kilometers distant from Liddington.  I’ve made the case in the past for Barbury being an English reference to Arthur, as the Welsh word arth means “bear.” There remains the possibility, of course, that Badon, a Welsh form of English bathum, was merely confused with and thus substituted for Baddanbyrig/Badbury. Arthur may indeed have won a major victory at Liddington Castle, while Bath may have fallen separately as a result of the action at Deorham/Dyrham.

There is one possible clue to identifying Badon. It lies in a comparison of the Welsh Annals entry for the Second Battle of Badon and the narrative of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  The actual year entry for this Second Battle of Badon reads as follows:

665 The first celebration of Easter among the Saxons.  The second battle of Badon. Morgan dies.

The "first celebration of Easter among the Saxons" is a reference to the Synod of Whitby of c. 664.  While not directly mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, nor the Anglo-Saxon version of Bede, there is an indirect reference to this event:

664 … Colman with his companions went to his native land…

This is, of course, a reference to Colman's resigning of his see and leaving Lindisfarne with his monks for Iona.  He did so because the Roman date for Easter had been accepted at the synod over the Celtic date.  

While there is nothing in the ASC year entry 664 that helps with identifying Badon, if we go to the year entry 661, which is the entry found immediate prior to 664, an interesting passage occurs:

661 In this year, at Easter, Cenwalh fought at Posentesburh, and Wulfhere, son of Penda, ravaged as far as [or "in", or "from"] Ashdown…

Ashdown is here the place of that name in Berkshire. It is only a half dozen miles to the east of Badbury and Liddington Castle.  A vague reference to ravaging in the neighborhood of Ashdown may well have been taken by someone who knew Badon was in the vicinity of Ashdown as a second battle at Badon.

Arthur's Battles Against the Gewissei

I will deal with Arthur's last and fatal battle at Camlan in a future blog post.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

COMING SOON: Arthur's Battles in the Context of a "Dobunnic" Theater

Liddington Castle from Barbury Castle (photo courtesy


Liddington Castle near Badbury, Wiltshire

Readers of my blog will know by now that I've made what I feel to be a truly valid identification of Uther [Pen]Dragon with Illtud, the terribilis miles.  Illtud was the son of Bicanus of  'Brittany', in this case the Vale of Leadon. Illtud's wife came from this 'Llydaw'.  The military man served the king of Penychen in Glamorgan at the hillfort of Dinas Powys. 

I've also made a case for the later English designation of Hwicce being for the kingdom of Ercing, which bordered on the Vale of Leadon.  Illtud/Uther's father married a princess of Ercing and other Arthurian connections are placed in that kingdom. 

Hwicce covered much of the region controlled by the Dobunni in the Roman period.  The following map on the Dobunni tribal territory is from Iron Age Communities in Britain: An Account of England, Scotland, and Wales from the Seventh Century BC Until the Roman Conquest by Barry W. Cunliffe (Psychology Press, 1991):

When I asked Professor Cunliffe if the Vale of Leadon were within Dobunni territory, and whether the Wiltshire hillforts of Liddington Castle and Barbury Castle were also (more on these forts below),  he responded:

"The Vale and forts in question were in the territory of the Dobunnni as it was defined in the early first century AD. The forts are not known to have been occupied after the Middle Iron Age at which date there is no evidence that the Dobunni actually existed as a tribe. If they did the extent of their territory at that date is unknown."

Over the years, I've gone back and forth on whether Arthur's Badon battle was Bath of the Badbury at Liddington.  Some may be familiar with my various arguments for both.  Essentially, I have believed for some time that Badon linguistically speaking can only be Bath.  However, other factors point to Badbury and there is no reason why Bath/Badon couldn't represent a later (accidental or intentional) substitution for Baddanbyrig/Badbury. 

I've also written about the Barbury fort near Liddington.  From Ekwall's time on, this has either been interpreted as the 'Bear's fort' or the fort of a man named Bera (unrecorded in OE).  As the name Arthur would have, from fairly early on, been associated with the Welsh word arth, 'bear', it seemed reasonabl to at least ask whether the bear toponym here could be a memory of Arthur's presence at the fort.

When I asked Tom Sunley, Historic Environment Record Data Manager, Archaeology Service, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, about later reuse of Barbury Castle, he responded thusly:

"While we obviously have data and records relating to the site itself – which was a hillfort of Iron Age date (800 BC – 42 AD) there is some evidence both within the area of the hillfort and its immediate surroundings for activity in the latter periods of interest (encompassing 450-550 AD). Amongst other things, there is a Roman villa nearby, a few Saxon burials and a medieval trackway/droveway."

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records a battle at the hillfort in 556. 

In this same context, I had pointed to Durocornovium at Nythe Farm, Wanborough, a mere 3.5 miles from Liddington Castle.  Arthur is pretty much always associated with Cornwall/Kernyw in Welsh tradition, and this is generally believed to be because he was foisted onto the Dumnonian royal pedigree.  But Durocornovium is the 'Fort of the Cornovii', the same tribal name that yields Kernyw. We don't know if these were actually Cornovii people from somewhere else or a Roman military unit.  It is even possible some local horn-like landscape feature contributed to the name.  As Wanborough lies at the foot of the scarp slope of the Marlborough Downs, with its coombes, my guess is that a horn-shaped, projecting hill gave the place its name.  Upper and Lower Wanborough are themselves separated by a steep hill.

It was once thought the Durocoronovium name was an error for that of the Corinium Dobunnarum that is Cirencester, but so far as I know this notion has been abandoned.


For those of you who would enjoy a nice drone flyover video of Barbury Castle, go here:


Friday, December 8, 2017


Map of the Kingdom of the Hwicce (from

The Hwicce, the early medieval supplanters of the Roman period Dobunni tribe, have long been the subject of much speculation.  Several etymologies have been put forward to account for the name Hwicce.  A good summary of these, plus a new idea on a Welsh origin for the tribal designation, can be found online in Richard Coates' recent scholarly study: 

Alas, I think the scope of the problem has been exaggerated.  There is a very common noun in Anglo-Saxon, hwicce, meaning box, chest, ark.  I see no reason why this word shouldn't also have been applied to the tribal group.  What appears to have happened is that the Welsh kingdom name Ercing (Ergyng), from the Roman town name Ariconium, was interpreted by the Saxons as being derived from the word for ark (Latin arca, dim. arcula;  The English Archenfield is first found in forms (early spellings) of Ircingafeld, Arcenfelde, Erchenefeld.  Ark in Welsh is arch, with a form eirch.  It has the meaning of chest, coffer, coffin, also possibly shrine (see the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru listing for this word).  

Significantly, the Hwicce kingdom borders upon that of Ercing.

I've demonstrated in previous posts that Ercing crops up more than once in Arthur's family, and that the Llydaw/Letavia/'Brittany' of his parents was actually the Vale of Leadon.  The Hwicce are believed to have abutted on the Leadon River (although it seems more likely the entire Vale belonged to them).  

In a future piece, I will discuss the Dobunni and how they fit into this picture.  For now I am content to propose that the Hwicce, the people of the Chest/Box/Ark, were the people of Ercing.  The implication is, of course, that at some point in its history Ercing had embarked upon an expansion beyond its original territory.  Either that or it was initially much larger than we thought, and only later suffered major contraction.  

For the real etymology of Ariconium, see

On a good etymology for the Dobunni, see Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel in ‘More on Ptolemy’s Evidence for Celtic Ireland’, New Approaches to Celtic Place-Names in Ptolemy’s Geography, ed. Javier de Hoz, Eugenio R. Luján and Patrick Sims-Williams (Madrid, 2005), pp. 95-104.  The etymology is sound, as otherwise we must have recourse to PIE roots with no evidence in the Celtic languages.

Professor Ranko Matasovic discussed these alternative etymologies with me (the latter being my idea):

"If one really wants a PIE etymology, perhaps a derivation from PIE *dheb- / *dhob- is possible (the root is attested in German tapfer 'brave', OCS debel7 'fat' and probably in OCS dobr7 'good' as well). In that case we would have PCelt. *dobu:n < PIE *dheb-H3on- 'having bravery/virtue (or whatever)', thematicized as *dheb-u:n-o-, from which you would get Dobunni in the plural. Formally, the root *debh-/*dobh- ‘to beat, to hit, to strike, to harm, to injure’ would work just as well, but  semantically I think this is slightly less probable."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

COMING SOON: From Leadon to Liddington - Arthur of the Dobunni?

The Territory of the Dobunni from Barry Cunliffe's
Iron Age Communities in Britain: An Account of England, Scotland, and Wales from the Seventh Century BC Until the Roman Conquest


Directly between the Williton and Carhampton locations of the Life of St. Carannog is Daw's or Dane's or Dart's Castle (  Excavations here show the fort to be of Saxon origin (  The name Daw(e) is supposedly from a landowner in the 16th century.  Dane's Castle is self-explanatory - and, in fact, the archaeologists believe this fort was built to defend the coastline from Viking marauders.

The fort is built right on the cliff edge and is actually missing a large portion that has fallen or eroded away onto the shore below.  Fairly extensive mud and sand extend below it and to its east and west. It thus qualifies particularly well as a Din, fort, plus OCo. plur. *traitou, 'beaches, strands' (see Charles Thomas, Note 24, p. 325, And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?) or 'Dindraithou.'

Dart could be another family name, perhaps based on the name of the River Dart of Dartmoor fame in Devon.  However, it could also represent a simple metathesis of trait, 'beach, shore':  Trait > Dra(i)t > Dart. I'm now checking with all the relevant authorities in Somerset regarding the Dart name and if any new information is forthcoming from those sources, I will add it to this blog post.

When on reads the story of Carannog's floating altar, which Arthur wishes to use as a table, one is struck by the fact that it washes up first at Carhampton and then at the Guellit stream (Williton).  Arthur's interaction with the saint and this altar demands that Dindraithou be close to these places AND on the shore of the sea, flanked by sands associated with the mouths of rivers.  The only fort that fits this description is Dart's Castle.

We need not insist on finding an actual sub-Roman or early medieval site for Arthur in this instance.  Obviously, we are dealing with a story found in a saint's life.  Hagiography can hardly be considered historical and, indeed, we must expect more than a little poetic license.  It is quite possible the author of St. Carannog's Life knew of this fort near the Carannog sites and simply decided for dramatic effect to insert Arthur into the fiction.  He may have been ignorant of the fact that the fort went back no further than the Anglo-Saxon period.

And interesting point about the altar/table:  "whatever was placed upon it was thrown to a distance."  This suggests a confusion on the part of the author.  Dolmens (Breton dolmen means 'table stone')/cromlechs are, in folklore, often referred to as quoits.  This is because it was believed that giants (or great heroes) had flung the rocks that made up the funeral monuments, including their capstones, during such a game.  So the notion that objects were "thrown" from the table is a reference to the table itself - or the table's legs (= orthostats) - being thrown, thus creating a quoit.

There appear to have been such monuments near Williton.  The following is from An Exploration of Exmoor and the Hill Country of West Somerset by John Lloyd Warden Page (1890):

"A mile inland, close to Wiliton, is a field, or rather several fields, known as Battlegore, traditionally, as its name implies, the scene of a battle. In them are the remains of three large mounds, though one is now ploughed nearly level with the field, and another has been reduced by one-half by a hedgerow. The largest is close to the road.

From time immemorial the tale has been handed down that here the Danes fought with the Wessex men. A tradition, also unfortunately dating from time immemorial, states that much armour and many weapons have been discovered in these fields. But who found them, and what became of them, is as unknown as their period and fashion. The only weapon taken from the spot that I have seen is a remarkably fine bronze celt which would go some way to show that it was a British rather than a Danish battleground.

Collinson refers to 'several cells composed of flat stones, and containing relics,' as having been found in these tumuli, to which he gives the name of Grab-barrows. From this it would appear that they were chambered tumuli. I venture to think, however, that he is mistaken, except perhaps with regard to the mound now nearly levelled, inasmuch as neither of the existing barrows have been properly explored.

Close to the barrow near the road are two enormous stones, the one lying on its side, the other leaning against the hedge, as well as a third and smaller block, nearly concealed by brambles. As there are no similar blocks in the vicinity, they must have been brought here for some definite purpose, perhaps to mark the grave of some notable chieftain. Or, perchance, they are, as certain antiquaries opine, the supports of a British cromlech. The local story is that they were cast there from the Quantocks by the devil and a giant, who had engaged in a throwing match. The print of Satan's hand still marks the leaning stone.

This stone was upright some forty or fifty years since. It was toppled against the hedge by some young men anxious to test the truth of the legend that it was immovable."

[For additional information on this barrow cemetery, see the Pastscape entry at]

Diagram and text from British Fortifications Through the Reign of Richard III: An Illustrated History by Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage (McFarland, Dec 1, 2011)

COMING SOON: Dindraithou Identification Confirmed

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Plan of Camelot Castle, Somerset

Cadbury Camp, North Somerset

In a previous blog entry (, I set forth the arguments for Arthur's Dindraithou as a fort at various sites in Somerset and Cornwall.  These tentative identifications relied upon -draithou being interpreted either as a Welsh attempt at an English element or as a rendering of a Cornish place-name.

Here I wish to once again emphasize the significance of the odd co-rulership of Arthur and Cado (Cato, Cadwy) at Dindraithou.

The important question here, of course, is why the author of the Life of St. Carannog felt it necessary to have Arthur share rule of this particular fort with the Dumnonian king Cadwy. Obviously, this could simply be a convenient chronological fix.  Cadwy was born (according to P.C. Bartram's rough estimate) in c. 500 A.D.  But I find that hagiography, like folklore and myth, does not usually bother itself too much with adhering to accuracy in such matters.  In addition, as Arthur is indisputably the most famous figure, why risk diminishing his power and reputation by forcing him into a peculiar dual-kingship role with Cadwy?

I cannot help but see in Cadwy's presence at Dindraithou an attempt to indicate that we are dealing with one of the Cadbury forts.  In other words, Dindraithou is a Cadbury fort.  As it was presumably called after Cadwy, yet Arthur was there (in whatever capacity), the only way to reconcile this apparent contradiction was to make both chieftains ruler of the place.  The author of the Vita, in other words, knew that Dindraithou was a designation for a Cadbury fort.

If this is so, we must fall back on Dindraithou as either 1) a 'fort of the traethau' or "fort of the shores" or 2) a Welsh rendering of the Irish Dinn Tradui/Tredui, 'triple fossed fort.'   I will consider a third possibility below.

If Dindraithou is No. 1, then only the Cadbury Camp fort in North Somerset works.  As I've mentioned before, with the change in sea level at Arthur's time, Cadbury Camp atop its ridge overlooked the often flooded Somerset Levels.  Where the ridge met the water could have been called "the traeths" - although the word traeth itself is reserved for a shore associated with an estuary.  Cadbury Castle was too far east and was not close enough to the flooded area of the Somerset Levels.  

If No. 2, either of these two forts are candidates, as both are multivallate.  

So how do we decide between the Cadburys?

Archaeology may have done that for us, fortunately.  The famous excavations of Leslie Alcock showed conclusively that Cadbury Castle underwent a massive rebuild at Arthur's time. Because of the River Cam and Camel villages here, local tradition had long identified the place with Camelot. [Camel comes from Cantmael and has nothing whatsoever to do with Camelot, a late French attempt at rendering Campus Elleti in Wales.]

However... and this is a big 'however', if I'm right and Illtud is Arthur's father, I would opt for Cadbury Camp.  Why?  Because the Llydaw/Letavia/'Brittany' of Illtud's father, Bicanus, is almost certainly the Leadon Valley area of what was Dobunni territory.  Dobunni territory extended to Cadbury Camp in North Somerset, and Cadbury Camp is pretty much directly across the Mouth of the Severn from the Dinas Powys where Illtud served as military commander.

Another smaller Cadbury fort is to be found at Cadbury Hill 

Alas, there is no archaeological evidence for early medieval reuse of either of these two hillforts.


It has occurred to me that if Cadbury Castle in Somerset is Dindraithou, that there might be one more possible explanation for the latter name.  This idea is a stretch, but perhaps worth mentioning.  

Ilchester just a little ESE of Cadbury Castle (see map below) appears to have belonged to the ancient Durotriges tribe. Here is the entire entry for the Durotriges from Rivet and Smith's THE PLACE-NAMES OF ROMAN BRITAIN:

- Ptolémée, II,3,13 : Dourotriges ( = DUROTRIGES);

- Inscriptions RIB 1672 (pierre provenant de Cawfields sur le Mur d'Hadrien) : C(IVITAS) DUR(O)TR(I)G(UM) (L)ENDIN(I)ESIS.

- Inscription RIB 1673 (pierre provenant de près  de Housesteads sur le Mur d'Hadrien) : CI(VITAS) DUROTRAG(UM) LENDINIESI(S).

(Both stones are probably of A.D. 369. For the spelling of the adjectival form of the civitas-name, see LINDINIS) 

It is by no means certain that the name bas -i-. though it is traditionally cited in this form. While this is present in all the Ptolemy MSS, it could be an error going back to the archetype or to Marinus. RIB 1672 omits the vowel, but RIB 1673 plainly writes -a- (A) and it is not likely a member of the civitas literate enough to be given the task of cutting the iscription would mistake the spelling of the name of his own people. For a similar (reverse) error in Ptolemy, compare VINDOGARA, which has Ouando- (= Vando-) in all the MSS at II, 3, 7.

DERIVATION. This name is obscure. It be divided Duro-triges or Durot-riges. It is tempting to think it another of the many names in *duro- 'fort ', although Britain we know this element chiefly applied to early Roman forts on low ground, so that it could hardly apply particularly in the name of a tribe whose region contains many spectacular hill-forts (which would have had *-dunon names). However, this *duro- does enter into a few names such as the two British Durocornovium and in Gaul ethnie Durocasses. Holder suggested (I. 1387) that the name might be a reduction of older *Durot(o)-riges, that is *duro- ' fort ' with some kind of suffix or infîx when in composition; but then there is no parallel for this among all the very numerous Dura- names.

The second element is possibly -riges, a plural of *rig- ' king ' which appears in several ethnic names, such as Gaulish Bituriges 'kings of the world'. Watson CPNS 16, note, identifies an element -raige (for older -rige ?) in Irish ethnic names, e.g. Dartraige (dart 'year-old bull or heifer') > Dartry, Cattraige (catt 'wild cat'), Luchraige (luch 'mouse'), and even though these seem somewhat unheroic names, they may have had totemic significance and are acceptable enough; but we have no evidence that in the present name *durot- is an animal-name which would fit into this series. If the second element is an unknown -triges, the British name might be paralleled by the Allotriges (= Allotriges : Strabo III, 4, 7 ; in Ptolemy II, 6, 7 they are the Autrigones  (= Autrigones), of Hispania Tarraconensis, with Allo- probably as in Allobroges of Gaul.

If -a- is right, the etymological possibilities are less good. A -rag- element is unknown, but -trag- is said by Dottin LG 193 to be a 'terme de composé' and is related by him to Irish traig 'foot' and Welsh traed (pi.). But this does not relate well semantically to a first element *duro-. The name must be left unresolved.

IDENTIFICATION. A people of southern Britain with their capital at Durnovaria, Dorchester; for the probability that their civitas was at some time subdivided, with a second capital at Ilchester, see Lindinis. Ptolemy attributes to them only Dunum (= Dunium, Hod Hill?), but the distribution of their pre-Roman coins indicates that they occupied Dorset, parts of Wiltshire, Hampshire and somerset, and perhaps the extreme eastern part of Devon.

Proximity of Cadbury Castle to Ilchester/Lindinis of the Durotriges

I can think of a very good word which might be brought into the context of -triges or -trages:

abode Proto-Celtic *trīko-, SEMANTIC CLASS: technology, cf. Old Welsh tricet ‘resides’, Welsh trig ‘stay, a residing, abode, dwelling(-place)’, Breton (milin) tric (Old Breton) ‘gl. permanendi in stupris ‘staying sullied’

From the GPC:

[bôn y f. trigaf1, trigiaf: trig(i)o; cf. H. Lyd. (milin) tric, gl. permanendi in stupris; ansicr yw union ystyr rhai o’r enghrau. isod] 
eg. ?a hefyd gyda grym ansoddeiriol.
Arhosiad, preswyliad, preswylfa, trigfan:
stay, a residing, abode, dwelling(-place). 

If this is -triges, then we have simply "Fort-dwellers", a very acceptable name for a tribe known for its many fine forts.  We may compare this name to that of the nearby Atrebates, whose name means simply "settlers, inhabitants" (Rivet and Smith; *ad-, to, + *treba, to inhabit). 

Again citing Rivet and Smith, "...*duro- 'fort, walled town', apparently usually on low ground (and named in contrast to *duno- 'hill-fort')...".  Given the spelling -trag-, and knowing as we do that /t/ (and from t, d) can substitute for /c/, could we suggest that -draithou (or the Irish tredui/tradui) is a corruption of trig/trag and that Din-/Duno- has been substituted for Duro-?  In other words, at some point, by some process, Duro-triges/trages became Duno-triges/trages?  And that it is this last we happen to have preserved in the form Dindraithou?

Even if this doesn't work linguistically, it is evident that Cadbury Castle was, at one time, in the tribal kingdom of the Durotriges.  

Saturday, December 2, 2017


If we do go with something like Welsh traethau for the Dindraethou fort name, there are a couple other options - although it takes Cadwy and Cadbury Castle out of the picture. [I myself tend to give precedence here to the Welsh source, rather than to the Irish for Dinn Tradui.]


Not far south of Carhampton and Williton (places mentioned in the Life of St. Carannog) there is a hillfort called Mounsey Castle.  It is hard by a place called Draydon.  According to Ekwall and subsequent place-name specialists, Draydon is to be derived from

OE draeg  a place where something can or has to be dragged (boats, timber); derived from draga to draw

+ dun

When I looked up traeth in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, I noticed that the word may be related to Latin tractus:

[H. Grn. trait, gl. harena, Crn. Diw. treath, H. Lyd. cundraid, gl. lidona, Llyd. C. traez, Llyd. Diw. traezh, H. Wydd. tracht: ?bnth. Llad. tractus ‘tiriogaeth, bro’]
eg. ll. -au, -oedd, treythydd, ?traith.
Ardal eang o dywod neu gerrig mân ar lan môr, glan y môr, tywyn, arfordir; moryd, aber; ?bro, ardal; hefyd yn ffig.:
beach, (sea)shore, strand, coast; estuary

The Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary at Perseus gives the following meanings to tractus:

a drawing, dragging, hauling, pulling, drawing out, trailing

Thus, is is quite possible that Dindraethou is a Welsh attempt at Draydon and Arthur and Cadwy's fort in this instance is Mounsey Castle.  Here are the Pastscape listings for this fort and the adjacent Brewer's Castle:

Could it be that Cadwy and Arthur are said to rule from here precisely because these are, essentially, "twin forts", divided from each other only by the River Barle?  In other words, Cadwy held one and Arthur the other?


Of the same etymology as Draydon, but with the place-name elements arranged to match that of Dindraithou, is Dundry in Somerset.  The great Maes Knoll hillfort is located at the eastern end of Dundry Down ridge.  

Maes Knoll is a very large fort - much more impressive than Mounsey Castle.  My own personal feeling is that if Dindraithou were an impressive site - and one associated rightly or wrongly with the famous Arthur - then Dundry must be the place.  

Maes Knoll is typically considered to be one of the chief forts of the Dobunni tribe.  Interestingly, the Leadon Valley region, which is where I put the 'Letavia/Llydaw' of St. Illtud's father, Bicanus, was in territory once controlled by the Dobunni.  I will have more on Arthur and the Dobunni in a future blog piece.


'Dewi's farm' near Tintagel, called Tredwy in Hollinshead's CHRONICLE, could also be linked to 'draithou.' There are a number of other such places in Cornwall, including Trethevey near the Killibury Castle fort (Arthur's Kelliwic).  This last, however, is apparently from an earlier Tiwardewi and is thus not a very good candidate.  

Needless to say, these sites do not work for an Arthur close to Carhampton and Williton.  

There is absolutely no possibility, as is often cited, that Dunster = Dindraethou.  The early forms (spellings) of Dunster and its proposed etymology do not allow for this identification.  Bat's Castle hillfort near Dunster cannot, therefore, be Dindraethou.  


Church of St. Materiana, Tintagel

Many scholars (myself included) have provided explanations for why Geoffrey of Monmouth chose Tintagel as Arthur's birthplace.  Now, as I result of my work on Uther at Dinas Powis near the Ely River, I may have another reason.

According to the 'Pa Gur', Mabon son of Modron was Uther's servant in Ely.  Illtud, whom I've just identified with Uther, brought his wife to the court of Pawl Penychen.  It is my belief this court was the Dinas Powis fort.

At Tintagel, the earliest known church is that of St. Materiana, the 'Holy Mother.'  While this saint's name is subject to various alternate spellings, she has been most strongly linked to Madrun/Madryn, or Matrona, the divine mother of Mabon.

In my book THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON, I proposed that the Tintagel promontory was, in fact, the Roman period Herakleous Akron or Promontory of Herakles. The name Eigr would appear to be a reflection of Hera Akraia as the mother of Herakles and/or a designation for the promontory itself.  Arthur's conception story matches not only that of the Irish Mongan, but of Herakles himself.  The idea, then, is that Arthur, metaphorically speaking, is a Hercules and his mother is a goddess - or, one might say, a divine mother, i.e. Modron.

The actual birthplace of Arthur would, undoubtedly, have been Dinas Powis in Glamorgan.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Dindraithou and Cadbury Castle in Somerset

Cadbury Castle, Somerset

In the past, I had opted for a Welsh interpretation of Dindraithou (VITA of St. Carranog) or 'Cair Draitou' (HISTORIA BRITTONUM) as "Fort of the Shores".  This meant that I was forced to look for a Cadbury fort (Arthur and Cadwy are ruling Dindraithou in the VITA) on the "shores", given that Welsh traethau meant exactly that.  I went to sources such as Rivet and Smith's AN ATLAS OF ROMAN BRITAIN (p. 13) and more recent studies such as -

- so that I might show that the only Cadbury or Cadwy's burg/fort that might be on the 'shores' of the sea would be Cadbury Camp in North Somerset. Alas, archaeology did not support my identification, for there is no evidence of sub-Roman habitation of Cadbury Camp.

Thus, I have been forced back upon the Irish version of the name, i.e. Dinn Tradui, the 'triple-fossed fort.'  This description, combined with the presence of Cadwy, fits only the great Cadbury Castle at South Cadbury, Somerset.  It has long been recognized through archaeological work that this site was occupied during the Arthurian period.

I must now confess to believing that Arthur, son of Illtud, the terrible warrior, served the Dumnonian king Cadwy at this fort in much the same way as Illtud had served his master Pawl Penychen at Dinas Powis.  

In the near future I will again address the Arthurian battles, this time assuming for the sake of argument that Arthur son of Illtud was serving as the military commander based at Cadbury Castle.


If we do go with something like Welsh traethau for the Dindraethou fort name, there are a couple other options - although it takes Cadwy and Cadbury Castle out of the picture. [I myself tend to give precedence here to the Welsh source, rather than to the Irish for Dinn Tradui.]


Not far south of Carhampton and Williton (places mentioned in the Life of St. Carannog) there is a hillfort called Mounsey Castle.  It is hard by a place called Draydon.  According to Ekwall and subsequent place-name specialists, Draydon is to be derived from

OE draeg  a place where something can or has to be dragged (boats, timber); derived from draga to draw

+ dun

When I looked up traeth in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, I noticed that the word may be related to Latin tractus:

[H. Grn. trait, gl. harena, Crn. Diw. treath, H. Lyd. cundraid, gl. lidona, Llyd. C. traez, Llyd. Diw. traezh, H. Wydd. tracht: ?bnth. Llad. tractus ‘tiriogaeth, bro’]
eg. ll. -au, -oedd, treythydd, ?traith.
Ardal eang o dywod neu gerrig mân ar lan môr, glan y môr, tywyn, arfordir; moryd, aber; ?bro, ardal; hefyd yn ffig.:
beach, (sea)shore, strand, coast; estuary

The Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary at Perseus gives the following meanings to tractus:

a drawing, dragging, hauling, pulling, drawing out, trailing

Thus, is is quite possible that Dindraethou is a Welsh attempt at Draydon and Arthur and Cadwy's fort in this instance is Mounsey Castle.  Here are the Pastscape listings for this fort and the adjacent Brewer's Castle:

Could it be that Cadwy and Arthur are said to rule from here precisely because these are, essentially, "twin forts", divided from each other only by the River Barle?  In other words, Cadwy held one and Arthur the other?


Of the same etymology as Draydon, but with the place-name elements arranged to match that of Dindraithou, is Dundry in Somerset.  The great Maes Knoll hillfort is located at the eastern end of Dundry Down ridge.  

Maes Knoll is a very large fort - much more impressive than Mounsey Castle.  My own personal feeling is that if Dindraithou were an impressive site - and one associated rightly or wrongly with the famous Arthur - then Dundry must be the place.  

There is absolutely no possibility, as is often cited, that Dunster = Dindraethou.  The early forms (spellings) of Dunster and its proposed etymology do not allow for this identification.  Bat's Castle hillfort near Dunster cannot, therefore, be Dindraethou.