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From The “Historia Brittonum” Commonly Attributed to Nennius; From a Manuscript Lately Discovered in the Library of the Vatican Palace at Rome: edited in the Tenth Century by Mark the Hermit with an English Version, Fac Simile of the Original, Notes and Illustrations, by the Rev. W. Gunn, London: Printed for John and Arthur Arch, 1819; pp. 1-8, 87-122.




[Part I: The English Translation by W. Gunn]

[Latin Text]

FROM Adam1 to the flood are two thousand and forty-two years. From the flood to Abraham nine hundred and forty-two. From Abraham to Moses, six hundred. From Moses to Solomon, and the first building of the temple, four hundred and forty-eight. From Solomon to the re-building of the temple, which was under Darius, King of the Persians, six hundred and twelve years are computed. From Darius to the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius, are five hundred and forty-eight years. So that from Adam to the ministry of Christ, and the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius, are five thousand two hundred and twenty-eight years. From the Passion of Christ are completed, nine hundred and forty-six; from his Incarnation, nine hundred and seventy-six: 2 being the fifth year of Edmund,2 King of the Angles.

The first age of the world is from Adam to Noah; the second from Noah to Abraham; the third from Abraham to David; the fourth from David to Daniel; the fifth to John the Baptist; the sixth from John to the Judgment, when our Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.


The first Julius. The second Claudius. The third Severus. The fourth Carinus. The fifth Constantius. The sixth Maximus. The seventh Maximianus. The eighth another Severus Æquantius. The ninth Constantius.

Here beginneth the history of the Britons, edited by Mark4 the Anchorite, a holy Bishop of that people. The island of Britain derives its name from Brutus,5 a Roman consul.6 Taken from the south-west point (with something of an occidental bearing) to the northern7 extremity,8 it measures 800 miles, and is in breadth 200. It contains 33 Cities,9 viz.


· Iu·  Cair hebrauc · IIu·  Cair ceint · IIIu ·  Cair gurcoc · IIIuI ·  Cair guor thegern · V ·  Cair gusteint · V u~I ·  Cair guoranegon · VII ·  Cair segeint · VIII ·  Cair guin truis · IXu·  Cair merdin · X ·  Cair peris · XIu·  Cair lion · XIuI·  Cair mencipit · XIIuI ·  Cair caratauc · XIIII ·  Cair ceri · XV ·  Cair gloui · XVuI ·  Cair luilid · XVuII ·  Cair graut · XVI~II ·  Cair daun · XVIuII ·  Cair britoc · XXu ·  Cair meguaid · XXI ·  Cair mauiguid · XXII ·  Cair ligion · XXIuII ·  Cair guent · XXIIII ·  Cair collon · XXV · Cair londein · XXuVI ·  Cair guorcon · XXuVII ·  Cair lerion · XXVuIII ·  Cair drait hou · XXVIuIII ·  Cair pensavelcoin · XXuX ·  Cair teim · XXXuI ·  Cair urnahc · XXXuII ·  Cair celernion · XXXuIII ·  Cair loit coit.

These are the names of the ancient cities of the island of Britain.10 It has also a vast many promontories, and castles innumerable, built of brick and stone. Its inhabitants consist of four different people; the Scots, the Picts, the Saxons, and the ancient Britains. Three considerable islands belong to it; one, on the south, opposite the Armorican shore, called Wight,11 another between Ireland and Britain called Eubonia12 or Man; and another directly north, beyond the Picts, named Orkney;13 and hence it was anciently a proverbial expression, in reference to its kings and rulers, 4 “He reigned over Britain and its three Islands.”14 It is fertilized by several rivers, which traverse it in all directions, to the east and west, to the south and north; but there are two pre-eminently distinguished among the rest, the Thames and the Severn, which formerly, like the two arms of Britain, bore the ships employed in the conveyance of the riches acquired by commerce. The Britains15 were once very populous, and exercised extensive dominion by sea. Respecting the period when this island became inhabited subsequently to the flood, I have seen two distinct relations. According to the annals of the Roman history, the Britains deduce their origin both from the Greeks and Romans. On the side of the mother, from Lavina, the daughter of Latinus, King of Italy, and of the race of Silvanus, the son of Inachus, the son of Dardanus; who was the son of Saturn, King of the Greeks, and who having possessed himself of a part of Asia, built the city of Troy. Dardanus was the father of Troius, who was the father of Priam and Anchises; Anchises was the father of Eneas, who was the father of Ascanius and Silvius; and this Silvius was the son of Eneas and Lavina, the daughter of the king of Italy. From the sons of Eneas and Lavina descended Romulus and Remus, who were the sons of the holy Queen Rhea, and the founders of Rome. Brutus 5 was consul when he conquered Spain, and reduced that country to a Roman province. He afterwards subdued the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were the descendants of the Romans, from Silvius Posthumus, thus named, because born after the death of his father Eneas. His mother, Lavina, having concealed herself during her pregnancy, and he having been born in a wood was denominated Silvius; and hence the Roman kings are called sylvan; but the Britains are those who sprang from the family of Brutus.

Eneas, after the Trojan war, arrived with his son in Italy; and having vanquished Turnus, married Lavina, the daughter of king Latinus, who was the son of Faunus, the son of Picus, the son of Saturn. After the death of Latinus, Eneas obtained the kingdom of the Romans, and Lavina brought forth a son, who was named Silvius. Ascanius founded Alba,16 and afterwards married. His wife, Lavina,17 became pregnant, and Eneas being informed of it, ordered his son to consult a magician, to determine whether the child conceived were male or female. The magician pronounced it to be a son, who should become the most valiant among the Italians,18 and the most beloved of all men. In consequence of this prediction, the magician was put to death by Ascanius; but it happened that the mother of the child 6 dying at his birth, he was named Brutus; and after a certain interval, agreeably to what the magician had foretold, he displayed such superiority among his play-fellows, that they seemed to consider him as their chief. He was, from envy, expelled19 from Italy, and came to the islands of the Tyrrhene Sea,20 when he was exiled on account of the death of Turnus, slain by Eneas. He then went among the Gauls, and built the city of Tours, otherwise called Turnis. At length he came to this Island, named from him Britannia, dwelt there, and filled it with his own descendants; and it has been inhabited from that time to the present period. Eneas reigned over the Latins three years; Ascanius thirty-three years; after whom Silvius reigned twelve years, and Posthumus thirty-nine years: the latter, from whom the kings of Alba are called Silvan, was brother to Brutus, who governed Britain at the time Eli the high priest judged Israel, and when the ark of the covenant was taken by a foreign people.

After an interval of not less than eight hundred years, came the Picts,21 and occupied the Orkney Islands, whence they laid waste many regions, and seized those of the northern districts,22 where they still remain, keeping possession of a third part of Britain23 to this day. Long after this, the Scots24 arrived in Ireland from Spain. The first that came was Partholomus, 7 with a thousand men and women; these increased to four thousand; but a mortality coming suddenly upon them, they all perished in one week. The second was Nimech, the son of *****, who, according to report, after having been at sea a year and a half, and having his ships shattered, arrived at a port in Ireland, and continuing there several years, returned at length with his followers to Spain. After these came three sons of a Spanish soldier with thirty ships,25 each of which contained thirty women; and having remained there during the space of a year, there appeared to them, in the middle of the sea, a tower of glass,26 the summit of which seemed covered with men, to whom they often spoke, but received no answer. At length they determined to besiege the tower; and after a year’s preparation, advanced towards it, with the whole number of their ships, and all the women, one ship only excepted, which had been wrecked, and in which were thirty men, and as many women; but when all had disembarked on the shore which surrounded the tower, the sea opened and swallowed them up. Ireland, however, was peopled, to the present period, from the family remaining in the vessel which was wrecked.

Afterwards, others came from Spain,27 and possessed themselves of various parts of Britain. 8 Last of all came one Hoctor, who continued there, and whose descendants remain there to this day. Istoreth, the son of Istorinus, with his followers, held Dalmeta, Builc, the island Eubonia,28 and other adjacent places. The sons Liethali29 obtained the country of the Dimetæ, and the provinces Guoher and Cetgueli, which they held till they were expelled from every part of Britain, by Cuneda and his sons.



1  BEFORE chronology was reduced to a consistent form, every one assumed the right of calculating for himself, so that “Tot fere fuerunt Epochæ quot populi.” The present supputation, though clearly influenced by that of the septuagint, agrees neither in the aggregate nor in the intermediate divisions, with any other I am acquainted with.

Dionysius Exiguus was the first chronologer who reckoned from the Incarnation. Yet, though sanctioned by the Pope, that great event was not generally introduced in the churches of the west, till the eighth century. (“Supputationem annorum a Christo nato in antiquis Historiis ante 750 circiter vix usurpatam: deinceps vero sub Pipino Rege ejusque filio Carolo Magno, paulatim invaluisse.” (Ægidius Bucherius, in Chron. Regum Francor. sec. 1.) Some event in our Saviour’s history, was from the early part of our æra, always reckoned from: it varied from the annunciation to the passion. The fifteenth of Tiberius (see the elaborate discussion of Lardner on this year; Credibility, vol. i. c. 5,) expressed in this computation, is not to be found in Gale or Bertram: — a presumption, that the materials for this chronicle were originally brought together, before the incarnation was a settled æra in this island.

2  The date of transcript is hence decided; the fifth of Edmund answers to 945. The custom of thus prefixing the year of the reigning prince to manuscripts, (still practised in the titles of our 88 Acts of Parliament,) was once usual, whether they were diplomatic or ecclesiastical. Instances occur from the commencement of the ninth to the eleventh century, in the thirty-fourth dissertation of Muratori. It is repeated in the nineteenth page of this chronicle.

3  The blank space of about the breadth of two lines, was probably left to be filled with some ornament.

4  edita ab Anachoreta Marco ejusdem gentis Sto. Episcopo.”

If Mark was a real personage, it is to be regretted, that he was not designated by his British, rather then by his ecclesiastical name, so that he might have been more easily identified. Independently of the ambiguity hereby occasioned, may be added that resulting from names being modelled after the Latin and Saxon tongues. In Italy, before the irruptions of the Goths and Lombards, the cognomen was continued in families originally Roman; but, from about that period, no name, discriminating a particular stem, descended to posterity. Some adventitious appellation marked the individual, and many of these, as the Porcari, Castracagni, &c. indicating the origin of the ancestor, are permanent in noble families of Italy; but, they were often personal, and were not always continued through life. Among the Britons, we have Cynedda Wledig, (the illustrious,) Caswallon law hir, (or the long-handed). St. Patrick was know by four different names, adopted in succession, each expressive of the change to which it owed its rise. Taliesin had been previously called Gwion and Merddin, (Hanes Taliesin). This want of precision was complained of at the time it was practised, especially where signatures were required; and Muratori speaks of an ancient deed, subscribed by ten Johns, three Peters, and four Martins, all without any addition. Nor was it before the end of the tenth century, that a surname became permanent. “Sub finem sæculi decimi, sed maxime sæculo undecimo ineunte, cognominum usum frequentari cœpisse.” (Mabillon de Re Diplom, l. 11. s. 7. Muratori Diss. 41. Du Cange, Nomina mutari,” O. P. M. S. and note 117.) But whether Mark be the real author, or only a transcriber of the work, the titles of Anachoreta 89 and Episcopus must point to an age when those titles were consistent in the same individual. The high opinion once attached to the eremitical life, is well known to those who are conversant with the earlier history of the Christian Church. Though Cœnobites and Anchorites were then chiefly laymen, yet, from the reputation of superior sanctity, it was not unusual to draw them from their retreats, invest them with holy orders, and elevate them to the rank of bishop.* (Orig. Eccles. vol. iii. p. 19. Godof. ad. Cod. Theod. tom. vi. pt. 1. p. 76, and 106.) Thus was the Episcopal Dignity sometimes conferred on such persons, as an honorary distinction, or, at least, with limited authority; (Orig. Eccles. vol. ii. p. 163. Fra Paolo delle mat. benif. c. 14,) and the title of bishop was occasionally given without consecration. (“Episcopi dicuntur qui tamen nusquam consecrati sunt Episcopi.” Du Cange.) In the Britannia Sancta, we meet with no less than five hermits among our countrymen, Kiaran, Kentigern, Paul, Vosiga, and Machutus, who were taken from their cells, and raised to the episcopal throne: the latest of these flourished in the sixth century. It was perhaps to prevent indiscriminate preference, that Anchorites were at length subject to rules, and placed under the jurisdiction of a superior. By the fifth canon of the seventh Council of Toledo, (646) it was ordered, that hermits who were ignorant or immoral, should be shut up in Monasteries, and that those only should be left in retirement who were commendable for their holy lives. That in future, none should be admitted to the profession of a hermit, who had not learned the religious life in monasteries. And the forty-first 90 canon of the Constantinopolitan council, (693) in Trullo, orders that those who would be Anchorites, should be at least three years in a monastery. (See also Isid. de Eccles. Offic. l. 2. c.15. De Monachis.)

“There is a small island almost adjoining to Anglesey, which is inhabited by hermits, living by manual labor, and serving God. This island is called in welsh Ynys Lenach, or the priests’ island, because many bodies of saints are deposited there, and no woman is suffered to enter it.” (Girald. Camb. Sir R. C. Hoares translation, vol. ii. p. 106.)

*  Though the Church, as to its external policy and government, held some conformity to the state and division of the Roman empire, the variations are not to be calculated. Before and after the council of Sardica, (A. 347) there were bishops, both in small cities and villages. Nazianzum “was but a very small city,” and for that reason, Gregory Nazianzem styled his own father, who was bishop of it, μικροπολιτης, a little bishop, and one of the second order. Yet he was no Chorepiscopus, but as absolute a bishop in his own diocese, as the bishop of Rome, or Alexandria, &c. &c. “In Asia Minor a tract of land, not much larger than the Isle of Great Britain, (including but two dioceses of the Empire,) there were almost 400 bishops; as appears from the ancient Notitia’s of the church, &c. — (Bingham, b. i, c. 12. sec. 2.)

5  To investigate the rise of the fable of Brutus, it becomes necessary to extend our research beyond the traditions and written documents of this island.

The first notices on record of the people of Italy, we receive from the Greeks of Sicily and Magna Græcia. Theagenes of Rhegium, who flourished in the reign of Cambyses, about the sixty-third Olympiad, is the oldest who makes mention of Italioti; for so the Greeks of lower Italy were denominated. (Hesych. Ιταλιωτης.) Hippius, his fellow citizen, contemporary with Xerxes, wrote also on the affairs of Italy, together with Antiochus of Syracuse, who is allowed to have flourished in the ninetieth Olympiad; and a catalogue of those who employed their pens on the same subject, is to be found in the Bibliotheca Græca of Fabricius. But these writers, far from investigating vulgar traditions, injured the truth of their national memorials, by the introduction of fabulous details. In a country, where the national temper was ardent, and the imagination rendered more fervid by the relations of Hesiod and Homer, a poetic character was impressed on the early narratives of the Greeks, which procured the applause of the vulgar, and the contempt of the philosopher. In the gentile nations of antiquity, power and vanity were associates, and no sooner did they feel importance, than a divine origin was asserted. If we attend to the imperfect and mutilated details of the writers above cited, we shall find an enumeration of the Greek and Trojan heroes, who had shared and survived the glorious enterprises of the ten years’ war, and 91 who, as impelled by the fates, settled in Asia, Africa, or Italy. Among these was Æneas: though they might have been taught from a source of at least equal authenticity with any they had any opportunity of investigating, that he and his descendants reigned over the Trojans, after the Greeks had destroyed the capital of their country.

The period, when the tradition of the Trojan extraction was assumed by the Romans, is to be ascertained with tolerable satisfaction. Before the fifth age of their city, this people knew little beyond the confines of the divisions of their own state; we may believe, they had scarcely heard of the Greeks, and were little conversant in their history and mythology. Neither were they otherwise than faintly visible to them, till the time of Alexander. Theopompus, who was contemporary with Philip, is the first writer by whom the Romans are mentioned, “ante quem nemo mentionem habuit.” (Plin. l. 3. c. 15.) So little were they known in the days of Aristotle, that his disciple Heraclides of Pontus, mistook Rome for a Greek maritime city, which he says, was captured by an army of Hyperboreans; for so he styles the Gauls. (Plut. in Camil.) In fact, the uncertainty of the true origin of the Romans is acknowledged by themselves, and various traditions of it, in early times, are quoted by Plutarch.* (V. Romuli,) and Festus, (in Romam.) The earliest rumour of the Trojan approach, is to be found in the fragments of Ennius, the first Latin author who wrote the annals of the Roman republick. (Apud Hessel.) In these Æneas is recognised in the island of Procida; the authority is from Nævius, in his poem on the first Punic war. “Prochyta hanc Nævius, in primo belli Punici de cognat Æneæ nomen accepisse dicit.” In the sixth age of the city, the inscriptions on the shields presented by Titus Quintius Flaminius, to Apollo at Delphi, after the 92 first Macedonian war, assert the Trojan extraction of the Romans. (Plut. in Flamin.)

Virgil has been censured for countenancing a vulgar delusion, but surely without foundation; for whatever his private sentiments were, time and opinion had sanctioned an error unsafe to controvert, since it was then interwoven with the established religion and the public annals of Rome. The pontifical college exercised a superior jurisdiction over all things that related to the service of the gods, and the private rights and interests of individuals. The sacred character of the members of that association, (on whom additional lustre was reflected by rank and extraction,) was protected by the laws, opinions, and manners of their country, and they never failed rigorously to exercise the rights attached to their sacerdotal and civil jurisdiction; the tradition of a Trojan origin must have had the sanction of their approbation, for many of the most distinguished and ancient families in Rome, as the Lamiæ from Lamus, a king of the Lestrygones, (Hor. l. 3. O. 17.) the Mamilli from Ulisses, (Vaillant. Num. Fam. Rom.) and it was the boast of Cæsar, “a Venere Julii cujus gentis familia est nostra. Est ergo in genere et sanctitas regum, qui plurimum inter homines pollent: et ceremonia Deorum, quorum ipsi in potestate sunt reges.” (V. Jul. Cæs. 16. 6.) This tradition was never lost to posterity. “So universal was this humour, and carried to such an absurd excess of extravagance, that, under the reign of Justinian, even the Greeks were ambitious of being thought to be descended from the Trojans, their ancient and notorious enemies.” — Wartons Hist. of English Poetry, vol. I. Diss. 1.)

Vain, perhaps, of claiming a descent similar to that of the masters of the world, the vanquished nations of western Europe adopted a similar persuasion. In the fourth century, Ammianus reports a tradition, which prevailed among the Gauls, that they were descendants of fugitive Trojans. “Aiunt quidam paucos, 93 post excidium Trojæ, fugitantis Græcos undique dispersos, loca hæc occupasse tunc vacua.” (l. 15.) And in the sixth, Hunibaldus Francus deduced the Franks, from Francio son of Priam, and exhibits a regular line of sovereigns down to Pharamond, “and the Trojan extraction of the French was a favourite opinion in France in the seventh and eighth centuries.” (Hist. Liter. de France, tom. iv. p. 271.) Du Chesne, Biblioth. des Auteurs, &c. c. 3. p. 10.) It is again discovered in the chronicle of the celebrated Sigebert de Gemblours, (Sherringham, c. 1. p. 9.) which is brought down to the year 1112; it was also found in the MS. which Henry of Huntingdon saw at Bec, in Normandy, 1110, (Langhorn Antiq. Albionenses: and Archæologia, vol. xii. p. 56.) and from which he also transcribed the Trojan origin of the Britons, in his own history (l. 1.).

His narrative, together with the former, is given nearly in the words of Mark, without any amplifications with which the history of Jeffery abounds. It should not pass unnoticed, that in the most ancient and authentic Cambrian records, the Trojan origin of the Britains is never adverted to. The expression of Taliesin in his mystical poem, Hanes Taliesin

“I was in Britain when the Trojans came,”

means the Romans. Are we hence to infer, that the tradition of Brutus was familiar to him, and that he here alludes to it contemptuously? A translation of this extraordinary and obscure performance is given in the Appendix.

If we admit the authority, the period when the name of Brutus was conferred on this island, is fixed by Jeffery, in the reign of Cadwallader, (676-703,) who, speaking in the person of Merlin, “The island shall be called by the name of Brutus, and that now given by foreigners shall be abolished.” (Thompsons translation, b. 7. p. 212.) The traditions respecting the founders of the British dynasty, which he professes to have received, “ex annalibus Romanorum;” — “ex antiquis libris nostrorum;” — “ex traditione veterum,” are particularized in pages 4 and 48. It is, perhaps, hardly worth remarking on the unsettled opinion, as to the identity of the hero; “a quodam Bruto,” is the expression. He is Decimus Brutus, who subdued Spain, “ac detraxit eam in servitutem 94 Romæ;” he is the grandson of Æneas; and in a subsequent pedigree, Brutus is grafted on the line of Japhet, and not many removes from that Patriarch. The lines in italics, from obliteration in the copy, whence the present was made, have been supplied by a later though an ancient hand; who, being unacquainted with the subject, breaks the thread of the narrative, and fills up the chasm with something of his own. The sense is restored from Berham.


“Et filius esset omnium Hytalorum fortissimus amabilis omnibus hominibus.” Propter hanc vaticinationem, &c.

Bertram, c. 3. p. 99. l. 9.

“Et fœtus ejus erit foris, quia occidet, inquit, patrem et matrem suam, et erit exosus omnibus hominibus.” Propter hanc vaticinationem, &c.


“Omnes superabat ut omnium dominus videretur; idcirco autem invidia,” expulsus est ab italia, &c.

Bertram, c. 3. p. 99. l. 25.

“Inopino ictu sagittæ occidit patrem suum, non de industria sed casu.” — “Propter hanc causam expulsus est ab Italia,” &c.

*  He says that the first Grecian writer, who adopted the legend of Romulus, was Diocles of Peparetus. He was followed by Ennius, whose work was composed in Greek, (Cic. de Div. l. 1. c. 21.) as were those of C. Alimentus, P. Corn. Scipio Afric. (Son of the great Scipio.) A. Post. Albinus, who was ridiculed by Cato, for composing an history in Greek, and afterwards offering apologies for the inaccuracy and inelegance of his expressions.

 †  The Gaulish Bretons were proud of this origin so late as the sixteenth century, Parvi, in his funeral oration, pronounced over Ann of Bretagne, (1514) Queen of Louis the Twelfth, traces her genealogy up to Brutus and Ynoge, daughter of Pandrasus, a noble Emperor of Greece. (Lobineau, tom. i. p. 187.)

6  “Consule Romano.” Omitted in the Bodleian copy.

The term consul, in the middle ages, became a title of honour, and was conferred on illustrious persons. (Selden. Poly. p. 84.) Traces of this usage appear in the reign of Charlemagne. (Muratori, Diss. 46. Dei magistrati delle Città libere d’ Italia.)

In our ancient law-books it signifies, or is equivalent to the dignity of an Earl. Bracton (l. 1. c. 8.) tells us, that Comes is from Comitatu, and consul from Consulendo; and in the laws of Edward the Confessor, mention is made of Vicecomites and Viceconsules. The appellation occurs in Thompson’s Translation of Jeffery, (b. 9. c. 15.) where Arthur and his consuls are introduced. The British word is Twysogion, Princes, or Generals, terms by which the true meaning is better expressed. In Alfred’s 95 Anglo-Saxon version of Orosius, Alaric is an Alderman, Archimedes is a Thane, Augurs are Bishops, and Vestals are Nuns.

7  This sentence, in itself obscure and ungrammatical, has been rendered less intelligible from the supposition, that Africus has reference to the continent of Africa.

Gale, Bertram, Selden, and the Bodleian copy, read — “ab Africa brumali.” The Bennet College, MS. “Ab Africa brumali, i. e. hiemali.” Mark preserves the true reading. Africus, the Libs of the Greeks, the Libeccio of modern Italy, is described by Vitruvius, (l. 1. c. 6.) as the south-west wind, or that blowing between Auster and Favonius. This term, with reference to Britain, was in frequent use among early topographers. Isidore says of it, “Ab Africo in Boream porrigitur.” (l. 14. c. 6.) Orosius, — “Hybernia insula, inter Brittanium, et Hispaniam sita, longiore ab aphrico in Boream spatio porrigitur.” (l. 1. c. 2.)

8  “Ad occidentem versa DCCC in longitudine, milium, CC in latitudine spatium habet.”

These measures must be understood generally, and taken in an inclined direction throughout the island from Penryn, (Penryhn Cerniu) to Caithness (Peryn Badon): many English antiquarians take the commencement from Totness. This track is traditionally connected with one of the ancient British roads, reputedly constructed by Dunwal Moelmud, the line of which it followed. Respecting this tradition, the reader is referred to the Collectanea of Leland, (tom. ii. p. 224.) to Tysilio, (p. 48.) with Roberts’s notes, and Higden in his chapter, “de Platiis Regalibus.” (Polychron., l. 1.) and the commentary on the itinerary of Richard, p. 102. (English Trans.) Some idea of the magnitude of Britain, seems to have been handed down from times long prior to the invasion of the first Cæsar; for Pytheas and Isidorus report, that it was 3825 miles in circuit. (Plin. l. 4. c. 16.) The first of these may have sailed round it, his voyages will be afterwards referred to.


9  ”Civitates — Cair,” — “ai was anciently written, where we now use ae. For, in all the old copies of Nennius, we never find Caer; (a city) but Cair, or Kair.” (Lhuyd Arch. Brit. p. 226.) “Caer, the root of this word is Cae, (sub. mas.) an inclosure, a hedge, metaphorically signifying a field.” “Cair, (sub. fem.) a wall, or mound of defence; the walls of a city, a castle, a fortress, a walled or fortified town. Places denominated Caer by the Britons, were called by the Romans Castrum, and by the Saxons Caester, Cester, Cister, Chester. (Owen’s Welsh Dictionary. Mona Antiqua, sec. 5, p 29.) The term Caer does not always designate a genuine british city. The Britons prefixed this word to most places fortified by the Romans. (Camden, Merionythshire, p. 658.) It was the custom of this people to retain the names of the places they conquered, adding a latin termination; and where it is british, we may infer that they had had a previous existence, and it may be urged in favour of the antiquity of these which follow, that they are neither latinized nor saxonized. The motives which influence Mark in this selection of British cities, is not entirely clear. They have only a casual relation to such as are episcopal, to the civitates of Roman Britain, as enumerated by Richard; nor have they a regular correspondence with the capitals of the Saxon Heptarchy. A list of thirty-three is here given; our early chronicles, and the copies called after Nennius, enumerate only twenty-eight, nor are the latter and the former uniformly correlative. Of these a greater average is localised within or near the borders of Wales, a proportion at no period admissible, since (except in the venial prepossession of a Cambrian) in opulence, magnitude, or celebrity, the cities there situated, never excelled those of England taken generally; from a preference so partial, it may be conjectured, that the collector was a native of the Principality. Materials aiding topographical research relative to our islands, in remote periods, are few and unsatisfactory, and all attempts fully to identify our ancient cities have been more or less unsatisfactory. With regard to those before us, the occasional deviations from the high authority of Usher, are proposed with much diffidence. 97 Some indeed as Cair hebrauc and Cair Londein, may, perhaps, be allowed to speak for themselves; but in the absence of better testimony, resemblance in sound and fancied etymology, have been received with too little caution.

But, “the footsteps of several towns and forts, that flourished in the time of the Romans, are now so obscure and undiscernible, that we are not to wonder if the conjectures of learned and judicious men about their situation, prove sometimes erroneous.” (Ibid, Caermardinshire, p. 626.) These are reasons, which, I trust, will be admitted as justifiable for retaining the original names.

+ + +

[Several years after the publication of this text, it was found that the manuscript purportedly written by Richard of Cirencester was a fraud. Any information that uses Richard. in the citation should be questioned.— Elf.Ed.]

+ + +

Cair. Usher.

A municipal city. (Richard, l. 1. p. 36.)


Gur coc.
I find no trace of this city elsewhere. The Goccium or Coccium of Antonine, (Camden, Lancashire, p. 973) distant eighteen miles from Mancunium, was once of eminence, and possessed the rights of Latium, Richard, l. 1. p. 36,) and from whence, perhaps, the modern town of Preston. (Camden, ibid:) Whitaker (Manchester, vol. i. p. 76,) says, the village of Blackrode marks the site of the ancient Coccium. Tre Coc (the red city, from being built of bricks probably) was once an important Roman station — it was near Llandovery. (Hoare’s Giraldus, Preface, p. ci. and cix.)


We learn from Mark, (p. 72.) that Vortigern built a city, — “quæ suo nomine Cair Guorthegirn appellatur,” — some are of opinion that the Castle Gurthrenion (on the Wye) arose from the ruins of it. (Camden, Radnorshire, p. 586.) The castle of Gurthrenion is marked on the ancient map of Wales, in Warrington.

C. Seiont est
prope Caer-
C. Custeint. (Gale and Bertram.) “Urbs Constantii vel Constantini, Cair Seiont est propre Cair Nervon.” (Usher Ant. p. 33.) The death of Cadwallader (A. 703.) closed the imperial dignity, which had been annexed many ages to the British government. The Welsh princes of latter times usually resided at Caer Segont, near Caer-narvon, (Caer-yn-ar-von) the city opposite Mona. (Hum. frag. p. 65.) About this time (A. 873) Roderic changed the royal residence from Caer Segont, on the streights of the Menai, to Aberffraw, in Anglesey. (Warrington, vol. ii. p. 148, and 256.) Edward the First built the town of Caer-narvon out of the ruins of C. Seiont. (Camden, Caernarvonshire, p. 665.) “It has been styled by Nennius, Caer Custent, or the city of Constantius; and his 99 historian, Matthew of Westminster, says, that about the year 1288, the body of Constantius, father of the Emperor Constantine was found there, and honourably deposited in the church, by the order of King Edward the First.” (Giraldus, Sir R. C. Hoares Translation, Annot. in c. 6. p. 95. v. 2.)

Guorangon. (O. P.) In the Triads Wyrangon. “Urangon — litera g olim erat liquidiuscula, sicuti nostrum .” (Baxter, p. 58.)

This city is not to be found in any copy of Nennius, that has fallen within my notice. Notwithstanding the doubts expressed by Horsley, (p. 467.) the identity of it seems to be well ascertained. “Cilcester non procul a Basnigo (Basingstoke) quæ olim Caer et Segontium a Romanis dicebatur.” (H. Lhuyd, frag. p. 14.) “Caer Segent, i. e. Cilcestria, quæ super Thamisium non longe a Radingo ponitur.” (Higden de Antiquis Urbibus, l. 1.) Camden (Hampshire, p. 125.) asserts its importance, and says, “this city was two miles in circuit.” Silchester was probably one of the largest class of walled towns in Roman Britain, and had at least one magnificent temple of the Corinthian order, as 100 is proved by part of a capital, and of a corresponding column, which now remain there; but from other fragments, which also remain, and are of different dimensions, it is probable, that there were other decorated buildings besides. The dedication to “Hercules of the Segontiaci,” which has been found there, clearly proves to what people it belonged. (Do. Becke, Archeologia, vol. xv. p. 184.)

Guin Truis.
Not to be found in the Triads, nor in the copies of Nennius, and is the only city omitted in his list of twenty-eight cities. This word may have been disfigured by transcript; and if so, it was perhaps “Cair Guinguie quæ Norwicum fortasse fuerit (Britannis Caer Guntin appellatum — vel potius Winwick Lancastrensium: Veteri Ninii glossatori Wincestria sive Wintonia est.” (Usser, p. 33.) The British name of Norwich was Caer Guntum; a city which derived its importance from the ruins of the neighbouring Venta Icenorum; (Caster) nor does the name appear in any writer before the time of the Danish wars, and the appellation of Venta still exists in that of the more recent Guntum. (Camden, Norfolk, p. 385.)


I do not find this city in Nennius, nor is it noticed by Usher, though it is by Henry of Huntingdon. It is the Caer Vyrddin of the Triads. Caermarthon. (Camden, p. 662.) It is the Muridunum of the Itineraries, and by Richard, (p. 22, 36) a stipendiary city, and the capital of the Dimetæ. (p. 22) “Dimeciarum urbes Menapia et primaria Muridunnum.” It has been, though erroneously, styled the city of Merlin. (Giral. Cam. p. 185.) Caervyrddin, (Caer-marthen) is not so called after Merlin, but from Myrzdin, the city of the legion “because of the Myrddyn, that is, the legion of ten thousand men; i. e. a legion who were there.” (Roberts Coll. Camb. p. 118.) “Myrz — infinity; a myriad or ten thousand. (Owen’s Dict.)

“Ad mare est etiam Portus magnus, nunc Portesmouth in cujus ostio erat Civitas Caer Peris olim, nunc vero Porchestre vocata.” (H. Lhuyd Frag. p. 14.)

Caer Lion
(upon Usk.)
See No. 22 — “Caer Lion — it has been supposed, that the word Lion is a Welsh modification, or corruption of the term Legion; if this derivation was well considered, 102 the improbability of it would appear; for the places so called had names, and I would presume, those identical names here mentioned, and were also places of strength, pointed out by the eligibility of their situation before the Romans made their appearance. The Welsh term for Legion, is Lleng, a very common word in all the writings of the different ages; and, therefore, the name ought to be Cair Lleng, a very easy structure from Cair Llëon, a word of three syllables: the proper name of the town is Cair Llïon, not Caer Llëon; as it is always found in our most ancient MSS. The import of Llïon seems to be streams, torrents, or floodings, and the situation of the place which bears that name, is situated on the banks of a river. (Owen, MS.)

Near St. Albans — “Verulam was not quite ruined by these wars, (with the Saxons) when about the year of our Lord 793, Offa founded a stately monastery to the memory of St. Alban. (Camden, p. 298.) I am not convinced, that Mencipit and Verulam were the same. Verulam is recorded by Tacitus under the name of Verulamium; 103 and who, together with Richard, styles it a municipal city: and it is the fancied resemblance between Mencipit and Municipium, which has thus designated it; but I conceive, that as an ancient British city, Verulam had an appropriate name, and not one derived from the rank it held among the Civitates of the Roman empire. York was municipal also, and retains a modification of its British denomination. Verulam was by the Saxons called Wertamcester. (Camden, p. 296.)

Not to be found in Nennius. In the Triads, Caradawg. So many places commemorate the name Caractacus, that it is difficult to ascertain which is here meant. Caer Caradoc — nunc vero Sarysbury ab Anglis. (H. Lhuyd. Frag. p. 15.) Owen (MS.) places it near Amesbury. The true Caer Caradoc, which, if not the royal seat of Caractacus, seems to have been his fortress during the wars with the Romans, was in Shropshire, two mules south of Clun, and three from Coxal, (a hamlet to the parish of Brampton Bryant). Munim. Antiq. vol. i. p. 23. Camden, Shropshire, p. 551.) There is another fortress, distinguished by the name of Caer Caradoc, near 104 Longnor, in Shropshire. (Munim. Antiq. vol. i. p. 22.)

Cair Ceri is mentioned in a Welsh poem, Gorhoffed Hywell, or the boast of Howel, and again in another, composed in one of the periodical circuits formerly made at the great festivals, by the Welsh princes. It must have been of note, as it received the train in its progress. It was in Montgomeryshire. (Bardic Museum, vol. ii. p. 39; and the ancient map of Wales, in Warrington.) “The name of Cair Ceri, I believe, is retained in the village of Ceri, which lies on the road from Newton, in Montgomeryshire, to Bishops Castle, in Shropshire, within four miles from the former place. It is written Ceri by the Welsh, the pronouncing of which, according to the English orthography, is Kerry; but in the old map now before me, is Kerye.” (O. P. MS.)

In the Triads, Caer Locu. A colonial city. (Richard, l. 1. p. 36. Camden, Gloucestershire, p. 235.)


On the Cam, a mile and a half 105 from Cambridge. This city was in ruins as early as the time of Bede. “Venerunt ad civitaculam quondam desolatam, non procul inde sitam, quæ lingua Anglorum Grantacaester vocatur; et mox invenerunt juxta muros civitatis locellum de marmore albo pulcherrime factum, operculo quoque similis lapidis aptissime tectum,” &c. (Hist. l. 4. c. 19.)



Meguaid. (Usher.) In the Triads, Cair Mygid. Meivod, now a small village in Montgomeryshire, situated about a mile below Mathraval, on the north side of the river Myrnwy. (Camden, Montgomeryshire, p. 654.) Mathraval was once the royal residence of the Princes of Wales. (Warrington, vol. i. p. 153.)

Mauchguid. (Gale and Bertram.) Camden (p. 511, 514.) is inclined to think it Mancester, and the Manduessum of the Romans. It is seated on the military way by the river Anker, not far to the south of Atherston, and says divers coins in silver and brass have been found there. We meet with 106 Cair Menegid, in Anglesey, the scene of one of Roderick’s engagements with the Danes, A. 873. (Powel’s Wales.) Whitaker says, the British name of Manchester was Mancenion. (Manchester, vol. i. p. 4.)

In the Triads, Caer Lleon; and is styled Caer Lleon Vaur, to distinguish it from Caer Lleon ar Usk. No. 11.

C. Went.
The Venta Silurum of the Romans, and one of the 12 stipendary cities of Britain. (Richard, p. 36.) The ruins of this once celebrated place are still visible about 4 miles from Chepstow; the name of Caer Went is not lost to the neighbouring inhabitants to this day. (Camden, Monmouthshire, p. 595.)

Perhaps the Caer Golun of the Triads. Usher is undecided respecting this city. Colchester has been proposed, from its being seated on the Colne, or because it was a colonial city
       It may have been Caer Kolwhyn, now Harlech in Merionethshire, where many Roman antiquities have been dug up. Camden, p. 658.)



Apparently the Caer Gorgyrn of the Triads. I have nothing satisfactory to offer respecting this city. Can it have been Caer Voran “Litera g olim erat liquidiuscula, sicuti nostrum .” (Baxter, p. 58.) on the Tippal? (Camden., Northumberland, p. 848.) See the Elegies of Lywarch Hên. (Owen’s Translation, p. 95, n.)


Shropshire. Droithon. Gale and Bartram.

Pensavelcoit, Gale and Bartram. (Camden, Somersetshire, p. 59.)

I cannot satisfy myself as to this city. It is not to be found in any copy of Nennius I have seen, nor in the Triads, Camden, Usher, nor Baxter. Several of our rivers begin with Tam, or some word like it. Thus we have Timesbury on the Time in Shropshire; Tamar on the river so called, now Tamerton, an ancient town mentioned by Ptolemy; Teignmouth and Bishop’s Teignton, on the Teigne in Devonshire. (Camden, p. 13, 30. Baxter, p. 22.)


The Vriconium of the Itineraries. Nomen dedit Urbs inclyta monti Vericonio, sive Wreken. (Baxter, p. 243.)

“Super Damnonios ad Sabrinum æstum erant olim Murotrignum regio nunc vero nobis Gülâd yr haf, apud quos visum celeberrimi loci olim Caermalet alius Camalet vestigia.” (H. Lhuyd Frag. p. 33.)

Loit Coit.
Luit Coit, Bertram. Luit Coit, Gale. See note on the latter, and also that of Usher. (Antiq. c. 5, p. 35.)

10  The lines comprehended between “XXXIII Civitates,” and “et innumerabilia promontoria, cum innumerabilibus castellis,”* are parenthetical, and may be taken away without injury to the sense. In other copies of the Historia Brittonum, twenty-eight cities only are particularised, and they make the final chapter. Thus Gildas (c. 1.) bis denis bisque quaternis civitatibus ac nonnullis Castellis, &c. and Bede (l. 1. c. 1.) “Erat et civitatibus quondam viginti et octo nobilissimis insignita præter castella innumera, &c.” “Et in ea habitabant IIII gentes.” Bede adds a fifth. “Hæc in præsenti, juxta numerum librorum quibus lex divina scripta est, quinque gentium linguis, unam eamdemque summæ veritatis et veræ sublimitatis scientiam scrutatur et confitetur, Anglorum videlicit, Brittonum, Scottorum, Pictorum, et Latinorum, quæ meditatione scripturarum cæteris omnibus et facta communis.” (Hist. l. 1. c. 1.)

*  “Cum innumerabilibus Castellis.” I have translated this word Castles, for want of one more appropriate, and subjoin the definitions of it in its ancient acceptation from Du Cange. “Castellum Gloss. Lat. MS. Regium Cod. 1013. Castrum antiqui oppidum vocabant in alio positum, cujus diminutio facit castellum. Quô sensu Hirtius dixit. Castella complura lacis editis posita. Gloss. Lat. Græc. Castellum Municipium, κωμη  Castella φρουρια. Ugutio: Castrum, quod in loco alto situm est, quasi casa alta, unde Castellum. Salvianus, lib. 5. Sicut solent hi, qui hostium terrore compulsi, ad castella se conferunt, Ordericus Vitalis, lib. 4. Munitiones, quas Castella Galli nuncupant. Guibertus Abbas Novigenti de Laude B. Mariæ, cap. 7. Castellum autem ex vallo et muro turrique conficitur, et id ipsum à castrando et coercendo vocatur.”


 †   The Armorican tract was formerly of varying extent. (Whitaker, Britons Asserted, &c. 213.) and there are reasons for believing, that consistently with the term, the northern and western coast of Gaul were so denominated. The Civitates Armoricæ in the map in Richard of Cirencester, are laid down as extending from the Seine to the Loire.

11  “Guerth — Eubonia vel Manau, cum tribus insulis.”

Triad 67. The three chief islands of the primary island of Britain, were Orch, Manau, and Gwyth. Afterwards the sea broke in, so that Mon (Anglesey) became an island; and in like manner Orc was so broken, as to have become a multitude of islands; and other parts in Albania (Scotland) and the Cymri land, became islands.*

Triad, No. 3. (Vaughan’s copy.) Its three principal adjacent islands: Orkney, Manau, and the isle of Wight, and sixty-seven other adjacent islands there are to it.

The name of Guerth (ilam Gwyth nominaverunt, quod divortium significat. Sherringham, p. 42.) countenances the tradition above stated respecting this island. If, as usually conjectured, (though I confess with little foundation) it is the Ictis of Diodorus, it was once separated from the opposite shore by a ford only. In the time of Bede, however, it was divided from the main land by a channel three miles wide, (“interposito pelago latitudinis trium millium.” Hist. l. 4. c. 3 and 16.) it is now near thirty. The Scilly islands too, once only ten in number, are now more than one hundred and forty. (Whitaker, Manchester, vol. i. p. 385. Camden, p. 1111.)

*  As Anglesey is not enumerated as one of the British Islands, are we thence to conclude, that the materials he made use of were of higher date than the separation of that Island by the Straights of Menai? (Warringtons Wales, vol. ii. p. 25.)


12  Eubonia vel Manau. Eubonia Menaii, (Bodleian); Menau quod est Main aii vel exilis insula, (Baxter). Man was the Monæda of Ptolemy. “Olim appellabatur Monæda, nunc autem Menavia secunda.” (Richard.) Bede (l. 2, c. 5 and 6) styles this island Menavia secunda, to distinguish it from Anglesey, or Menavia prima. Orosius (l. 1, c. 2) says it was inhabited by the Scotti. It was by early writers called Eubonia, and among others by Joceline in his life of St. Patrick. “Returning to Hibernia he touched at the islands of the sea, one whereof, Eubonia, that is Mannia, at that time subject to Britain, he by his miracles and by his preaching converted to Christ.” (Swift’s Translation, c. 92.)

The Isle of Man was never in possession of the Romans; and its inhabitants retained their primitive simplicity. Their original government was Druidical, admirably adapted to the good of mankind, and so mixed with the prince and priest, that the state and religion had but one interest. This patriarchal government is supposed to have continued here till the end of the 4th century. (Sacheverell’s Isle of Man.)

13  Orch. — Orcania (Gale). Orkanie (Bodleian).

The existence of Orkney as a single island, rests, I believe, on the tradition preserved by our author, and the Triad last cited. I see no more reason to doubt the division of Orch, than of the Scilly islands, the multiplication of which is indubitable.

It may be added, that Dr. Barry, from geological observation, is of the opinion that the Orkneys were formerly united to the main land of Scotland. (History of the Orkney Islands p. 7.)

14  This transient glance at the civil policy of our early ancestors derived, proverbio antiquo,” is one of the few preserved by our author; nor do I know that the system here alluded to, is to be found in any of our ancient chronicles. It is, however, further developed in the Cambrian MSS. In the thirty-fourth Triad of the three conventional princes of Britain, Prydain, the son of Aedd the great, is said to have governed Britain, with its dependent isles. In Triad the third, (Vaughan’s copy) we find 111 that Britain, in remote times, was divided into three parts, Lloegria (England), Albania (Scotland), and Cambria (Wales) and that each of these was subdivided into districts, which were governed by their respective Reguli, but apparently with limited authority. The order of succession, though sometimes broken, was commonly hereditary; and in the partition of private inheritance the law of Gavelkind apparently uniform.

In seasons of great emergency, the confederate princes elected a supreme sovereign, on whom was conferred the title of Brenhim Prydaim Oll, or King of all Britain; who, as expressed by Mark, “judicavit Britanniam cum tribus insulis.” This high distinction was, with few exceptions, (Triad 44) confined to the successors of Hu Gadarn, the leader of the first colony of the Cymri in Britain, and continued in that line till the eighth century, when it finally closed in the person of Cadwaladyr, the last King of Britain.

With some semblance of this antique title, Roderic the Great, in the following century, divided his dominion among his three sons, gave the eldest a superiority over his brothers, by assigning him the title of Brenhim Cymru Oll, or King of all Wales. The materials which have furnished this note, are Triads 3, 4, 6, 17, 34, 44. Tysilio, p. 3, 4, 6. Mona Antiqua, p. 39, 174, and the Cambrian Biography. On this subject, Blackstone, vol. i. Introduction, sec. 3, and book 4, c. 33: and Mr. Roberts’s dissertation on the laws of Dyvnwal Moelmyd (Coll. Camb. vol. i. Appendix, No. 5) may be consulted with advantage.

15  Lhuyd (Archæol. c. 1, p. 228 and 230) thus traces the change of the vowel i into in ancient British MSS. Towards the end of the 12th century the was so common as wholly to exclude the use of i. In the year 1260, he finds it constantly pointed, but the letter i also used with it indifferently. In the books of the fourteenth century, the point is generally omitted, and so was ever after discontinued; the difference in the pronunciation between and i, where the syllable is short, being scarcely perceptible.


16  “Ascanius autem Albam condidit,” Dionysius (l. 1.) asserts that Ascanius never left Phrygia; and Strabo (l. 13) that he reigned at Scepsis, near the ruins of Troy, and that his posterity continued there a long time possessed of a regal title. Any one inclined to call in question the earlier parts of the Roman history, may be furnished with materials for gratifying scepticism, in the literary contest carried on in the last century between Messrs. Poulli and Sallier (Mémoires de la Literature, tom. viii) and in a “Dissertation upon the Uncertainty of the Roman history during the first five hundred years.” (8vo, London, 1740.)

17  Labina. In the foregoing paragraph, Lavina. The convertibility of the labial letters was, in the opinion of Lhuyd (Archæol. c. 3. p. 19) one cause of the origin of the various European dialects (many of which are now become distinct languages) common to the Celtic, of course to the British tribes, to the Etruscans, and to the Romans; by the latter long prior to the sixth century. Probincia, Cibica, Bibus, Atabis, &c. for Provinica, Civica, Vivus, Atavis, are continually found in inscriptions, and more particularly in sepulchral stones, which record the memory of private individuals, and may be supposed to preserve both the mode of expression and the orthography in common use. It was anciently the custom for sculptors to keep by them monumental stones for retail trade. They were well formed, and neatly finished, and the D. M. at the top elegantly cut, (a circumstance too that accounts for our sometimes finding this abbreviation upon those that are Christian); while the inscription that follows is often inferior both in composition and execution. We have still to regret that a Lhuyd, or a Gebelin, has not undertaken to develop the relation between the classical and vulgar dialect of ancient Rome. Tiraboschi has occasionally called the attention of his reader to this enquiry; and it has been slightly, though with some extravagance, treated of by Leonardo Bruni in his familiar letters (2 tom. 8vo. 1741). Many invaluable notices are scattered over the Saggio di lingua Etrusca of Lanzi; while it has been adverted to by Quadrio (Storia e ragione della 113 poesia — passim) but I am not aware that any author has expressly and successfully employed his talents in this interesting enquiry.

18  Hẏtalorum, for Italorum. The aspirate before a vowel was not unusual. “H, literam sive illam spiritum magis quam literam dici oportet, inserebant veteres nostri plerisque vocibus verborum firmandis roborandisque, ut sonus earum esset vividior vegetiorque atque id videntur fecisse studio et exemplo linguæ Atticæ.” (Aul. Gell. Noct. Attic. 2, 3.)

19  “Armilis fuit.” Gale, Bartram, and Bodleian, Ariminis Armilis Cott. See Du Cange Armillum. Probably exilis is here meant.

20  “Ad insulas Maris terreni.” The name of the Tyrrhene sea was applied to the whole sea that washes the western coast of Europe. (Collect. Camb. vol. i. Appendix 4th, p. 260.)

21  “Post intervallum vero multorum annorum.” As before observed, no dependence is to be placed on the chronological arrangements which occur in our ancient chronicles. The early Britons had no means of comparing dates, for centuries before chronology was scientifically cultivated by the more polished nations of Europe. I can add little to what is already known of the early history of the Scots and Picts. From the computation here made use of, the latter came to Britain 212 years before Christ, a period much earlier than is elsewhere assigned for their arrival. The term Pict applied to certain of the inhabitants of Caledonia, first occurs in the panegyric of Eumenius on Constantinus Chlorus, which could not have been pronounced later than 306, or the year in which that Emperor died at York, soon after his return from his northern expedition.

22  “Occupaverunt — Orcades et postea ex insulis vastaverunt regiones multas, et occupaverunt eas sinistrali parte Brẏtanniæ.” That the Picts and Scots were alien, and not originally british 114 tribes, is a fact attested by early authorities. Mark is silent as to the country whence the Picts came. (Bede, l. 1, c. 1. and Smith’s note) that they came in long ships from Scythia (Scandinavia); that they sailed to Ireland, where the Scots were hostile to their settling; they then “petentes Brittaniam, habitare per Septentrionales insulæ partes cœperunt.” In the 7th Triad, the Picts are described as one of the three invading races of Britain; the second were the Gwyddyl fficti, the Irish Picts, who came to Alban (Scotland) over the Môr Llychlin (the Danish sea); “they are settled in Alban upon the coast of the Llychlyn sea.” The German* descent of the Caledonians is inferred by Tacitus (Vit. Agric.) from their red hair and large limbs, a fact which proves that in his time they must have been so numerous as to fix a national character.

The period of their progress to the south of Caledonia, as understood by the Romans after they had encountered Galgacus, is ascertained by Richard (l. 2, c. 1) who asserts, “that in the year of the world 4170, the Romans were expelled from Vespasiana, and about that time, under the conduct of King Reuda, the Picts are believed to have entered Britain from the islands.” Matthew of Westminster (l. 4) states, that in the reign of Vespasian, Marius the son of Arviragus reigning over the Britains, Rodericus (the Reuda of Richard) King of the Picts, began to lay waste Albania. Arviragus is recognised by Juvenal (s. 4, l. 127) and Holiday in his translation, has given a valuable note on the passage.

As subsequent accessions from the mother country must have been necessary to secure possession, and confirm the Pictish power, connexion with it was long continued, and we accordingly hear of repeated arrivals of Pictish colonies in the same districts.(Usser. Antiq. c. 15.)

*  This remark was not casually made, but the result of actual observation. In his treatise, De Moribus Germanorum, we have the following description also: “I concur in opinion with such as suppose the people of Germany never to have mingled by intermarriages with other nations, but to have remained pure and independent, and resembling none but themselves. Hence among such a multitude of men, the same make and form is found in all, eyes stern and blue, yellow hair, huge bodies, &c.”

[For Tacitus’ text on Germany, including this passage, with extensive notes, go to the Revised Oxford translation HERE on Elfinspell. — Elf.Ed.]


23  “Et manent tertiam partem Bryttaniæ tenentes.”

Though history scarcely supplies another instance of the entire abolition of any nation by one campaign, after the continuance of several centuries, as the Pictish, it is somewhat difficult to subscribe entirely to the following assertion: “Sic quidem non solum reges et duces gentis illius deleti sunt, sed etiam stirps et genus adeo cum idiomatis sui linguæ defecisse legitur.” (Scot. Chron. l. 4, p. 285.) The revolution to which allusion is here made, was the conquest of Kenneth the Second, who obtained a complete victory over the Picts, killed Drusken their king, and united under one monarchy, all the country from the wall of Adrian to the northern ocean. The remainder of this passage, “usque in hodiernum diem,” is of some importance, as it proves that the Pictish kingdom was in existence when the materials for the “Historia Brittonum” were collected. Kennet the Second reigned from 834 to 854, and the precise year is afterwards specified, the 24th of Mervinus, or 841, which falls within the period now mentioned.

24  “Novissime autem scotti venerunt a partibus Hispaniæ ad hiberniam.”

That the Scots came from Spain to Ireland (a national tradition of very early existence) was believed by Lhuyd, and whose arguments deduced from identity of language are important. “The inhabitants of Cornwall and Armorica shew by their language, that they were anciently Britons. But the ancient colonies of Ireland appear to have been two distinct nations, — Gwydhels and Scots. The Gwydhels were the old inhabitants of that Island; the Scots came out of Spain. So far as their language agrees with the Welsh or other British, the words are Gwydhelian, and for the rest, they must be either Gwydhelian, lost by our ancestors, or the ancient Scottish. The Gwydhelians were not confined to North Britain, but in times more remote inhabited both England and Wales, and were inhabitants of Gaul before they came into this Island. From a careful revisal of the New Testament, and certain MSS. in the Cantabrian language, I have had some satisfactory knowledge as to the affinity to part of the 116 Irish, that is not reconcileable to the Welsh. And my reason for calling the British, Irish Gwydhelian, and those of Spain Scots, is because the old British MSS. call the Picts Fitchid Gwydhelians, and that the Picts were Britains without question, as appears from a similarity in their language respectively. He then proceeds to prove, that the nations called by the Romans Galli or Celtæ, were these ancient Gwydhelians.” (Lhuyd, preface to his Welsh Glossary; apud Kennet, p. 103, and O. P. MS.)

The New Testament published in Edinburgh, 1767, for the use of the Highlanders, was printed in the Erse or Gaidlig Albannaick language.

Tacitus (Vit. Agric. c. 2) inculcates the opinion respecting one of the principal tribes in Britain, which corresponds with the suggestion of Lhuyd: “The swarthy complexion (colorati vultus) of the Silures, and their hair, which is generally curled, with their situation opposite to the coast of Spain, furnish ground to believe that the Iberians had arrived from thence here, and taken possession of the territory.” This semblance of African origin of the Iberians is favoured by the following authorities: Gallia Aquitania had for its boundaries, the ocean, the Garonne, and the Pyrenees, a district which in the days of Cæsar and Strabo abounded with Iberians.

“These people (the Iberians) are generally deduced from a nation of that name from the neighbourhood of Mount Caucasus; and this remarkable tract, situated between the Euxine and the Caspian, forms an Isthmus between the nations of the North and of the South, and which seems to have retained a specimen of each passing tribe, from the date of the earliest emigration; and this situation, and the name of Iberia — may have justified the tradition of a colony of the latter people proceeding from it, for I discover no other proof of such migration settling in Spain, than is supplied by that appellation. I am, however, more disposed to believe that the Iberians were an African stock.” (Rennel, Herodotus, p. 48 and 278.) It is not to be conceived but that Africa must have occasionally supplied colonies to the opposite coast of Spain. Strabo (c. 1 & 3) has preserved a tradition which was current among the people of Tartessus, 117 “that the Ethiopians once traversed the regions of Africa, quite to its western limits, and some of them came and settled at Tartessus, others got possession of different parts of the sea coast.”

The Irish extraction of the Scots has the support of tradition and probability. The intercourse between countries within sight of each other must have been frequent. From the nearest points in England, Port Patrick and the Mull of Cantyre, the county of Argyle is open; it is here that the first colony from Ireland are reputedly fixed. This was from the powerful tribe of the Dalraids, who are recognised in the kingdom of Ulster. (Usser. Antiq. c. 15.) The Scots are found in Ireland by Orosius (l. 1, p. 6.) “Hibernia Insula — Hæc pars proprior Britanniæ spatior terrarum angustior, sed cœli solisque temperie magis utilis, a Scottorum gentibus colitur.” Procedente autem tempore Brittannia, post Britones et Pictos, tertiam Scottorum nationem in Pictorum parte recepit; qui duce Reuda de Hibernia, progressi vel amicitiâ vel ferro sibimet inter eos sedes quas hactenus vindicaverint. Hibernia proprie patria Scottorum est; ab hâc egressi, ut diximus, tertiam in Brittania Britonibus et Pictis gentem addiderunt.” (Beda, l. 1, c. 1.) The Irish extraction of the Scots Is allowed by our early authors; (Whitaker, Britons asserted, p. 290) they came from Ireland, the North-western part of Antrim, formerly denominated Dalrieta, and these emigrants were hence denominated Dalreudini. They settled upon a winding of the river Clyde, and that the name of Dalrieta is recognised in that part of Scotland. (Camden’s Dissertation on the word Scot, p. 120, and Argyleshire, p. 932.) I cannot satisfy myself as to the date of the arrival of the Scots, it was in all probability early in the fourth century. Their numbers must have been greatly augmented by subsequent additions, and whether they at first obtained possessions by force or friendship, they soon joined the Picts in incursions into the territories considered Roman. In the fourth century, they harassed the province of Valentia with perpetual inroads. “In Britannis Scottorum Pictorumque gentium ferarum excursu, rupta quiete, condicta limitibus loca vastata sunt, et implicabat formido vicinas provincias, præteritarum cladium congerie fessas.” (Ammianus, l., c. 1.) Inne’s critical 118 Essay, c. 2, p. 637, on the true epocha of the first settlement of the Scots.) An enumeration of the later Spanish Colonies which settled in Ireland now follows, nothing farther of them is known; they do not illustrate any historical fact, nor are they elsewhere recognised, though they are notices which have proved an endless source of fabling. The reader will find all that tradition and imagination can supply in Usher, (Antiq. c. 15) Stillingfleet, (Orig. Brit. c. 5) and Vallancey in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, No. XIV.

25  “Ceola.” The repeated use of this word, spelt in a different manner within a few lines proves the unsettled and neglected state of orthography before the discovery of printing.

26  “Vitrea turris.” When this fable of the tower or ship of glass arose, we know not; the reader will find it adverted to in the preface.

There is a singular Mabinogion tale respecting the early peopling of Ireland. An expedition from one hundred and fifty countries went thither to avenge the blow of Bronwen; the event was so disastrous to that island, that there was not a living person left except five women in the wilderness. To these were born five sons, and from this progeny Ireland was peopled and divided into five parts. This expedition was undertaken by the father of the celebrated Caradog Brân, the blessed, who is supposed to have died eighty years after Christ. (Camb. Biog. v. Brân.)

27  “Et postea venerunt paulatim a partibus hispaniæ (perhaps Hiberniæ) — novissimè —” The term novissimè implies that the invasions here enumerated took place at no very remote æra. They are most likely true; two of them are recognised in other sources. Of Istoreth I find nothing elsewhere. He was most likely one of the leaders of the Dalraids. (The word here Dalmeta, is in Nennius, in Gale, and Selden, Dalrieta.)

28  “Builc tenuit cum suis Euboniam insulam.” The Isle 119 of Man, as before mentioned, was, in the age of Orosius, inhabited by Scots. “Scotorum gentibus colitur.” (l. 1, c. 2.) “Filii autem Liethali obtinuerunt regionem demætorum, &c.” This, like the last, probably relates to those predatory incursions of the Irish, the Scots, and the Picts, by which the coasts of Britain were harassed, from the Clyde to the Land’s End, when the province of the Dimetæ (of which the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardiganshire, may be considered as the common extent) are not likely to have escaped those ravages, “et alias provincias Guoher æt Cetgueli,” one on Caermarthen, the other in Glamorganshire.

Liethali, the Nial of the Irish, was a sovereign of those people when the invasion here mentioned was attempted. This expedition was undertaken between the years 380 and 396. The British historians state that it was principally composed of Irish-Scots commanded by Sirigi. They were attacked and defeated by troops sent over by the Regent Stilicho during the minority of Honorius, who successfully guarded the Island of Britain from her incessant enemies of the ocean. (Usser. Antiq. c. 15, Gibbon, vol. v. p. 228. Claudian Const. Stil. l. 2. 250.) Our author assigns the merit of this victory to Cunedda and his sons. I am favoured by Mr. O. Pughe with a copy of a very curious MS. respecting this family and the events to which allusion is now made. It is prolix, but useful on this occasion. I will only premise, that as the dread of the Roman power declined with the retreat of the legions, hostile tribes from Caledonia and Ireland made incursions into Britain. With a policy peculiar to themselves, the Romans had permitted the kingly office in its ancient authority, to remain in many of the provinces of Britain. In the course of this period, two princely families had arisen into pre-eminence, above the rest of the British Reguli; who on the decline of the Roman power appeared in their ancient lustre, and attained that distinction which once belonged to their ancestors. These were the Cornich and the Cynethian dynasties. The former were derived from Bran-ap-Llyr, a Regulus of Cornwall, who was afterwards chosen King of Britain. From 120 this princely origin proceeded the illustrious names of Aurelius Ambrosius, Uthur Pendragon, Arthur, and Constantine, a line of heroes, who successively opposed the Saxon arms. The latter were sovereigns of the territory belonging to the Strath-Clyde Britons and of North Wales, and were descended from Coel, a northern prince, who by his marriage with the heiress of North Wales, became the sovereign of that principality. This union took place in the third century. Coel is the stock, to which many families trace their genealogies. From this line sprung Cunedda, surnamed Wledig, or the Illustrious, the hero now under discussion. (Mona. Antiq. Res. p. 162, et. seq. Camb. Biog.. v. Coel. Warringtons Wales, vol. i. p. 32.) From this digression I turn to Mr. Pughe’s note. “I think that our historical period may be rendered tolerably connected, up to the departure of the Romans, by a careful use of the Triads, the accounts of the establishment of the early Christian societies in this island, and from hints in the poetry, genealogies, &c.” “The manuscript, which gives an account of the establishment of the Christian societies, particularises the sons Cuneza (Cunedda) who died about the close of the fourth century, as having retreated to Wales from the North, owing to the molestation of the Scots from Ireland; and it records also the retreat of the sons of Can, from the same region, about the middle of the sixth century; of these, Gildas or Aneurin was one. The MS. is to this purport: — “The tribe of Cuneza Wledig. Cuneza, son of Edeyrn, son of Padarn with the crimson coat, son of Tegid, son of Iago, son of Genedawg, son of Enweryz, son of Onwez, son of Dwywg, son of Rhyçwain, son of Owain, son of Avelleç, son of Aveleç, son of Luz, son of Beli the great supreme of the isle of Britain. The mother of Cuneza Wledig was Gwawl, daughter of Coel Godebawg. Cuneza Wledig sent his sons to Gwyrez (North Wales) against the Gwyzelians (the Irish Scots) who had come there with Sirigi the Gwyzelian, into Môn (Anglesey) and other places, so that they had obtained the greater part of that country from the inhabitants, from their not having any as princes over them. So the sons of Cuneza led on 121 the Cymry, and they sent the Gwyzelians out of the country; others they killed; and those to whom their souls were given were made slaves.”

“Thereupon the men of Gwynez, gave possession to those princes, of the lands that they had won: not otherwise than these. The distribution follows: Meirion, Arwystyli, Ceredigion, Dunoding, Edeyrnion, Maelieryz, Dogveiling, Rhuvoniawg, Oswellion, that is to say, the town Oswall’s Cross (Oswestry.) The expulsion of the Scots and Picts from the Isle of Môn, (Anglesey) is thus described in the same MS. Cynyr, Meilyr, and Meigir, the sons of Gwron, son of Cuneza, went with Caswallon, the long-handed, their cousin, to chase the Gwyzels and Fictiads (Picts) out of the Isle of Môn, where they had taken flight from the sons of Cuneza; and having strengthened themselves in that island, after a cruel conflict, they drove the Gwyzels out of Môn; and Caswallon, the long-handed, slew Serigi the Gwyzel there with his own hand; that is to say, this Serigi was the leader of the Gwyzels and Fiçtiads, who subdued Gwynez, from the time of the Emperor Maxen (Maximus) Wledig. So after driving the strangers out of Môn, the Cymry became courageous, and drove them from every other place in Gwynez; and there staid in the country only such of them as were made slaves. And thus the tribe of Cuneza obtained a sovereignty over Wales; and his sons obtained the countries before mentioned. And Caswallon, the long-handed, son of Einnion Yrth, son of Cuneza, built a church to God, in the place where he gained the victory over his enemies; and he called it Llan y Gwyzel; and that is in Môn.”

Thus the forces under Builc, who had seized the island of Môn and North Wales, were attacked, defeated, and driven out of those districts. While the sons of Liethali seem to have made incursions in South Wales.

29  “obtinuerunt regionem demetorum, et alias provintias guoher et cetgueli:” In Bertram and Gale, after the word “demetorum” — “ubi Civitas est quæ vocatur Mineu” is inserted in a parenthesis. Mineu is Menevia, or St. Davids — “nor is 122 the word Meneu yet forgotten.” (Camden, Pembrokeshire, note 6. p. 635.) “Guoher et cetgueli.” Among the various copies which I have consulted, I have found Guihircelgweli, Gwyr Cydweli, Guir a Chedueli, Gower et Kedweli, names, of which nothing can be satisfactorily made. The author probably wrote Cair Cydweli, the modern Kidwelly, situated on each side of the river Gwendraeth, a small distance from the shore of Caermarthen Bay. Allowing this emendation, the passage is intelligible. These invaders made incursions in Pembroke and Caermarthenshires, counties which were a part of the province Dimetia. The event by which South Wales was freed from the Scots and Picts, is recorded in another part of the MS. just quoted. “Urien Reged obtained the sovereignty of a part of Glamorgan and Caermarthen, by driving the Irish from thence, about the time they were driven out of North Wales by Caswallon.”


Nennius — Part II.

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