Vortigern and Hengist Ambrosius Aurelianus Vortimer Ælle Arthur The North Camlann

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BRITISH RESISTANCE: THE WARS OF ARTHUR

Both the Gildasian De excidio et conquestu Britanniae and the later Historia Brittonum present a picture of a great Saxon revolt followed by a successful counter-attack by the Romano-Britons, which led to a period of stalemate and peace between the two sides. This essay seeks to cover the major players presented in these sources.

Phoenix Wright

Objection! Speculation!
The author likes to indulge in wild theories from time to time. It's his webpage, so it's his prerogative, 'kay?

In the wake of the fall of Rome to the Visigoths in AD 410, the outpost diocese of Britannia was in a parlous position. Warfare with Pictish and Irish raiders, according to British sources dealing with the fifth century, highlighted the country's - and its collapsing administration's - vulnerability to attack. Rome was called upon desperately, but, with no help coming from that direction, the Britons instead turn to bands of Germanic warriors. This essay seeks to examine the sources for the subsequent rebellion by these "Saxons" and "Angles" and looks at the personalities involved on both the invaders' side and that of the Britons, whose successful resistance to Saxon domination ushered in a period of relative peace between the two sides.


VORTIGERN AND HENGIST

Vortigern

The story begins when the Britons, having sent their "groans" to Agitius - most likely the great Roman general Flavius Aetius - and with the Romans in no position to help (Aetius at the time being involved in a series of wars against other Germanic tribes, as well as various civil conflicts), send entreaties to the Saxons under the leadership of the warlords Hengist and Horsa. These agree to assist the Britons in their wars against the Picts and Scots in return for land, which is granted on the Isle of Thanet. By this stage, the DEB's superbus tyrannus, on whom the HB bestows the name of Vortigern, appears to rule a significant portion of Britain and is perhaps to be understood as a sort of over-king, capable of high-handedly dealing with lesser rulers (as seen in the case of Guoyrancgonus of Kent). Hengist then serves for a period as Vortigern's chief-of-staff - a position likely modelled upon the Roman magister militum - and subsequently petitions for the summoning of his sons Octa and Ebusa to man Hadrian's Wall, with Octa functioning in a capacity similar to that outlined for the Dux Britanniarum in the Notitia Dignitatum. The statement in the HB that Octa and Ebusa arrived in forty ships - a vast increase from the three attested for the first Saxons to arrive in both DEB and HB - implies that Vortigern was already losing his grip on the situation.

As the numbers of Angles and/or Saxons in Britain continues to increase, Vortigern is unable to meet their demands for clothing and provender, leading them to rebel, breaking out of Thanet into western Kent - and, if DEB is to believed, well beyond that area


AMBROSIUS AURELIANUS

Mediaeval illustration of Emrys - Ambrosius Aurelianus

In contrast to the depiction in DEB, the HB's potrayal of Ambrosius is rather circumspect: Ambrosius appears as a somewhat marginal figure whose power is more implicit than explicit. His role in the beginnings of the resistance to the Anglo-Saxons is practically nonexistent, with Vortimer at the forefront in the war against Hengist and Arthur taking up the mantle thereafter. Indeed, HB only records one battle involving Ambrosius, and even there it appears to be more closely associated with factional infighting than ethnic strife: his opponent is named as Vitalinus, a name which also appears in Vortigern's genealogy, perhaps suggesting civil conflict between pro-Roman and nativist interest groups. This battle is known to the author of the HB as Guoloppum or Cat Guoloph and is dated to twelve years after the reign of Vortigern. If the accession of this ruler is intended, there would thus be some eight years between the arrival of the Saxons - dated to Vortigern's fourth year - and the contention at Guoloph. Taking the date suggested by St. Bede and the author of the ASC of around 449 for the coming of Hengist and Horsa, the battle of Guoloph may have taken place as early as the latter half of the 450s, which would be during the period when the HB (given the dating evidence of the ASC) suggests that Vortimer was opposing the Saxons.

The site of this battle is unknown, though Nether Wallop in Hampshire is often suggested. The similarity between these place names is obvious, though Wallop is almost certainly of Old English - thus post-Saxon conquest - in derivation. Given the association between Vortigern's family and the area of Gloucester, as well as the likelihood that Aurelius Caninus from the DEB is to be located within this same general area, it is possible that the contention between Ambrosius (if Caninus is indeed intended as Ambrosius' descendant by the author of DEB) and Vitalinus was a battle for control over the former civitas of the Dobunni specifically. The genealogy of the Welsh petty ruler Fernmail lists a Guitolin as the son of Gloiu, whose name is the eponym for Gloucester, and gives him a son, Guiataul, who is listed as the father of Guorthigirn Guortheu, i.e. Vortigern.

Another piece of evidence which may connect the gens Aurelii with the civitas of the Dobunni comes in the form of belt buckles discovered in the same context as a pottery artifact naming one Aurelius Cervianus, which may date from as late as the early 5th century (though is likely to be considerably earlier). These belt buckles, according to Stuart Laycock, are of a style most commonly attested in the region controlled by the Dobunni.

Similarly, the location of the child Embreisguletic in "Gleguissing," i.e. Glywyssing, also points to the same region. Though said to be named for the eponymous Glywys, this region may as easlily refer to Glevum or Gloucester.

It is easy to understand how Ambrosius came to be sidelined: he is described in the DEB as the last of the Romans, thus indicating that he preferred the old Roman ways to the resurgent sense of Britishness, almost certainly disdaining to patronise the legions of spittle-flecked bards who St. Gildas states infested the courts of the rulers of his day. Thus, there would be limited poetic information about this man and his career available to later writers such as the compiler of the HB. The likes of Vortigern and Arthur would have had no such compunctions, thus leaving a small corpus of information with regards to the actions they undertook against Anglo-Saxons and others.


VORTIMER AND THE CANTǷARE

  • River Darent
    Derguentid

    H; K; I; T; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: primum bellum super flumen derguentid;
    M; O; B; β: secundum super flumen derguint bellum fecit.
    N: secundum super flumen deguna bellum fecit.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Primum bellum super flumen Deruent.
    Lebor Bretnach: .i. cath for bru Deirgbeint.

  • Aylesford?
    Episford/Rithergabail

    H: secundum bellum super uadum quod dicitur in lingua eorum episford, in nostra autem lingua rit her gabail, et ibi cecidit hors cum filio guorthigirni cuius nomen erat categirn.
    K; I: secundum bellum super uadum quod dicitur in lingua eorum episford, in nostra autem lingua rit her gabail, et ibi cecidit hors cum filio guorthigirni cuius nomen erat categirnn.
    T: secundum bellum super uadum quod dicitur in lingua eorum episford, in nostra autem lingua rit her gabail, et ibi cecidit hors cum filio guorthigirni cuius nomen erat categyrn.
    Chronica Imperfecta: secundum bellum super uadum quod dicitur in lingua eorum episford, in nostra autem lingua rit her gabail, et ibi cecidit hors cum filio guorthigirni cuius nomen erat catægirn.
    Liber Floridus: secundum bellum super uadum quod dicitur in lingua eorum episford, in nostra autem lingua rit her gabail, et ibi cecidit hors cum filio guorthigirni cuius nomen erat catigerin.
    M: tertium super uadum quod lingua eorum episford uocatur, in nostra autem lingua setthergabail, et ibi cecidit horsus et filius guorthegirni nomine catigirn in pugna bellantes.
    N: tertium super uadu quod lingua eorum epifford uocatur, in nostra autem lingua secther gabail, et ibi cecidit horsus et filius guorthegirni nomine catigrin in pugna bellantes.
    O: tertium super uadum quod lingua eorum epffrod uocatur, in nostra autem lingua settergabail, et ibi occidit horsus et filius gorthegirni nomine catigirn in pugna bellantes.
    B: tertium super uadum quod lingua eorum episfrod uocatur, in nostra autem lingua setthergabail, et ibi cecidit horsus et filius guorthegirni nomine catigirn in pugna bellantes.
    β: tertium super uadum quod lingua eorum episford uocatur, in nostra autem lingua setthergabail, et ibi cecidit horsus et filius guorthegirni nomine catirgirn in pugna bellantes.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Secundum bellum super uadum quod dicitur in lingua eorum Episford, in nostra autem lingua Sathaneghabail, et ibi cecidit horsa cum filio Gortegirno rege cuius nomen erat Cathigirnus.
    Lebor Bretnach: & cath for bru Rethenergabail & is ann do rochair Osra & Catigernn mac Gortigernn, [...] & cath for bruaigh Episfort.

  • Richborough?
    Iuxta lapidem tituli

    H; T: tercium bellum in campo iuxta lapidem tituli qui est super ripam gallici maris commisit; et barbari uicti sunt, et ille uictor fuit, et ipsi in fugam uersi usque ad ciulas suas mersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.
    K: tercium bellum in campo iuxta lapidem tituli qui est super ripam gallici maris commisit; et barbari uicti sunt, et ille uictor fuit, et ipsi in fugam uersi sunt usque ad ciulas suas mersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.
    I: tercium bellum in caupo iuxta lapidem tituli qui est super ripam gallici maris commisit; et barbari uicti sunt, et ille uictor fuit, et ipsi in fugam uersi usque ad aulas suas mersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.
    Chronica Imperfecta: tercium bellum in campo iuxta lapidem tituli qui est super ripam gallici maris commisit; et barbari uicti sunt, et ille uictor fuit, et ipsi in fugam uersi usque ad caulas suas mersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.
    Liber Floridus: tercium bellum in campo iuxta lapidem tituli qui est super ripam gallici maris commisit; et barbari uicti sunt, et ille uictor fuit, et ipsi in fugam uersi usque ad naues suas mersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.
    M: quartum uero bellum iuxta lapidem qui super ripam maris gallici est, contra saxones oegit et uictoriam optinuit. saxones uero fugerunt usque ad naues suas. ipse autem post modicum interuallum mortuus est.
    N: quartum uero iuxta lapidem qui super ripam maris gallici est, contra saxones egit et uictoriam optinuit. saxones uero fugerunt usque ad naues suas. ipse autem post modicum interuallum mortuus est.
    O; B: quartum uero bellum iuxta lapidem qui super ripam maris gallici est, contra saxones egit et uictoriam optinuit. saxones uero fugerunt usque ad naues suas. ipse autem post modicum interuallum mortuus est.
    β: quartum uero bellum iuxta lapidem qui super ripam maris gallici est, contra saxones egit et uictoriam optinuit. saxonesque fugerunt usque ad naues suas. ipse autem post modicum interuallum mortuus est.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Tertium bellum in campo iuxta lapidem tituli qui est super ripam gallici maris. Statutum est et barbari uicti sunt illeque uictor fuit et ipsi in fugam usque ad ciulas suas uersi sunt in eas muliebriter intrantes.
    Lebor Bretnach: & cath for bru Mara Icht, & taifnigther Saxain co a longaib muliebriter,

The picture conjured by both the Vortimer section of the HB and the battles of Hengist in the ASC - the formulaic notice about Hengist and Horsa's landing notwithstanding - tell a similar story, with the first and fourth battles taking place apparently at the edges of the Isle of Thanet either side of two other battles in west Kent. If these refer to actual historical battles, we have a picture of thrust and counter-thrust, with the Saxons (according to the ASC) at one stage managing to force the Britons back as far as London, only to be themselves holed up again on Thanet by a counter-offensive which resulted in their taking to their ships for security (according to the HB). At this point, according to HB, Vortimer dies and his father once more assumes control of the kingdom.

  • Ebbsfleet
    Ypwinesfleot

    A: 449: Her Mauricius 7 Ualentines onfengon rice 7 ricsodon .vii. winter. 7 On hiera dagum Hengest 7 Horsa from Wyrtgeorne geleaþade Bretta kyninge gesohton Bretene on þam staþe þe is genemned Ypwinesfleot, ærest Brettum to fultume, ac hie eft on hie fuhton. Se cing het hi feohtan agien Pihtas, 7 hi swa dydan 7 sige hæfdan swa hwar swa hi comon. Hi ða sende to Angle 7 heton heom sendan mare fultum 7 heom seggan Brytwalana nahtnesse 7 ðæs landes cysta. Hy ða sendan heom mare fultum.
    B: 449: Her Mauricius 7 Ualentinus onfengon rice 7 rixodan .vii. winter. On heora dagum Hengest 7 Horsa fram Wyrtgeorne gelaþode, Brytta kyninge, gesohton Brytene on ðam stede þe is nemned Hypwinesfleot, ærest Bryttum to fultume, ah hie eft on hie fuhton.
    C: 449: Her Mauricius 7 Ualentinus onfengon rice 7 rixodan .vii. gear. On heora dagum Hengest 7 Horsa fram Wyrtgeorne gelaþode, Brytta kyninge, gesohtan Brytene on þam stede þe is genemned Hypwinesfleot, ærest Bryttum to fultume, ac hy eft on hy fuhton.
    E: 449: Her Martianus 7 Ualentinus onfengon rice 7 rixadon .vii. winter; 7 on þeora dagum gelaðode Wyrtgeorn Angelcin hider, 7 hi þa coman on þrim ceolum hider to Brytene on þam stede Heopwines fleot. Se cyning Wyrtgeorn gef heom land on suðaneastan ðissum lande wið ðan þe hi sceoldon feohton wið Pyhtas. Heo þa fuhton wið Pyhtas 7 heofdon sige swa hwer swa heo comon. Hy ða sendon to Angle, heton sendon mara fultum 7 heton heom secgan Brytwalana nahtscipe 7 þes landes cysta. Hy ða sona sendon hider mare weored þam oðrum to fultume.

  • Aylesford
    Agęlesþrep

    A: 455: Her Hengest 7 Horsa fuhton wiþ Wyrtgeorne þam cyninge, in þære stowe þe is gecueden Agęlesþrep, 7 his broþur Horsan man ofslog; 7 æfter þam Hengest feng to rice 7 Æsc his sunu.
    B: 455: Her Hengest 7 Horsa gefuhton wiþ Wyrtgeorne ðæm kyninge on þære stowe þe is gecweden Æglesþrep, 7 his broðor Horsan man þær ofsloh, 7 æfter þæm feng to rice Hengest 7 Æsc his sunu.
    C: 455: Her Hengest 7 Horsa gefuhtan wið Wyrtgeorne þam kyninge on þære stowe þe is gecweden Æglesþrep, 7 his broðor Horsan man þær ofsloh, 7 æfter þam feng Hengest to rice 7 Æsc his sunu.
    E: 455: Her Hengest 7 Horsa fuhton wið Wyrtgerne þam cininge on þære stowe þe is cweden Ægelesþrep, 7 his broðor Horsan man ofsloh; 7 æfter þonn feng to rice Hengest 7 Æsc his sunu.

  • Crayford
    Crecganford

    A: 457: Her Hengest 7 Æsc fuhton wiþ Brettas in þære stowe þe is gecueden Crecganford 7 þær ofslogon .iiiim. wera, 7 þa Brettas þa forleton Centlond 7 mid micle ege flugon to Lundenbyrg.
    B: 456: Her Hengest 7 Æsc his sunu fuhton wiþ Bryttas on þære stowe þe is gecweden Creacanford 7 þær ofslogan .iiiim. wera, 7 þa Bryttas þa forletan Kentland 7 mid myclum ege flugan to Lundenbyrig.
    C: 456: Her Hengest 7 Æsc his sunu fuhton wið Bryttas on þære stowe þe is gecweden Creacanford 7 þær ofslogan .iiii. wera, 7 þa Bryttas þa forletan Kentland 7 mid myclum ege flugon to Lundenbyrig.
    E: 456: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wið Bryttas on þere stow þe is gecweden Crecganford 7 þer ofslogon .iiii. werad, 7 þa Bryttas forleton þa Kentland 7 mid mycclum ege flugon to Lundenbyrig.

  • Ebbsfleet
    Wippedesfleot

    A: 465: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton uuiþ Walas neah Wippedesfleote 7 þær .xii. wilisce aldormenn ofslogon, 7 hiera þegn an þær wearþ ofslægen, þam wæs noma Wipped.
    B: 461: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wiþ Wealas neah Wippedesfleote 7 þær ofslogan .xii. Wylisce ealdormen, 7 heora ðær wearð an ofslegen, þam wæs nama Wipped.
    C: 461: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wið Wealas neah Wippedesfleote 7 þær ofslogan .xii. Wylisce ealdormen, 7 heora þær wearð an ofslegen, þam wæs nama Wipped.
    E: 465: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wið Walas neh Wippedesfleote 7 ðær ofslogon .xii. Wilsce ealdormen, 7 heora an þegn wearð þær ofslegen þam wæs nama Wipped.

The ASC, meanwhile, states that the Saxons' opponent at a location variously given as Agęlesþrep, Æglesþrep or Ægelesþrep, and conventionally identified as Aylesford in Kent, was Vortigern himself, which hints perhaps at the high king having a more active role in the conflict than the British sources, which generally upbraid him for his invitation to the Saxons and present him in a negative light as a result. Additionally, while some texts of the HB indicate that the first of Vortimer's battles incorporated his holing up of the Saxons on three occasions on Thanet, the ASC entry for 449 merely mentions Hengist and Horsa's arrival at Ypwinesfleot (Hypwinesfleot; Heopwines fleot). It should also be noted that the order is reversed, with the HB placing the battle of Derguentid (variants: Derguint; Deguna; Deruent; Deirgbeint) prior to Episford/Rithergabail (variants: Episfrod; Epffrod; Epifford; Episfort; Setthergabail; Sechter Gabail; Settergabail; Sathaneghabail; Rethenergabail), whereas the ASC places Agęlesþrep in 455 and Crecganford (or Creacanford) two years later.

  • A: 473: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wiþ Walas 7 genamon unarimedlico herereaf, 7 þa Walas flugon þa Englan swa fyr.
    B: 473: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhtan wið Wealas 7 genaman unarimedlicu herereaf, 7 þa Wealas flugan þa Engle swa swa fyr.
    C: 473: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wið Wealas 7 genaman unarimedlicu herereaf, 7 þa Wealas flugan þa Engle swa swa fyr.
    E: 473: Her Hengest 7 Æsc gefuhton wið Walas 7 genamon unarimenlicu herereaf., 7 þa Walas flugon þa Englan swiðe þearle.

Additionally, the ASC has Hengist and Æsc fighting the Britons again in 473, taking "immense booty," which could potentially represent the HB's account of Hengist's duplicitous slaughter of almost the entirety of Vortigern's nobility during the episode commonly known as the Treachery of the Long Knives.


ÆLLE THE BRETWALDA

St. Bede's statement that Ælle of Sussex was the first Anglo-Saxon ruler later regarded as having held dominion over the lands south of the Humber is enigmatic, particularly given the dearth of evidence for any particular greatness - or, indeed, even a genealogy - attached to his kingdom. The only real account of Ælle's activities is that furnished by the ASC, which mentions him on three occasions: -

  • Selsey Bill
    Cymenesora

    A: 477: Her com Ęlle on Bretenlond 7 his .iii. suna, Cymen 7 Wlencing 7 Cissa, mid .iii. scipum on þa stowe þe is nemned Cymenesora, 7 þær ofslogon monige Wealas 7 sume on fleame bedrifon on þone wudu þe is genemned Andredesleage.
    B: 477: Her com Ælle on Brytenland 7 his þry suna, Kymen 7 Wlencing 7 Cissa, mid þrim scipum on þa stowe þe is nemned Kymenesora, 7 þær ofslogan maniga Wealas 7 sume on fleam bedrifan on þone wudu þe is nemned Andredeslea.
    C: 477: Her com Ælle on Brytenland 7 his þry suna, Kymen 7 Wlencing 7 Cissa, mid þrim scipum on þa stowe þe is genemned Kymenesora, 7 þær ofslogan manige Wealas 7 sume on fleam bedrifan on þæne wudu þe is genemned Andredeslea.
    E: 477: Her com Ælle on Brytenland 7 his .iii. suna Cymen 7 Wlencing 7 Cissa. mid .iii. scipum on ða stowe þe is genemnad Cymenesora, 7 þær ofslogon manige Walas 7 sume on fleame bedrifon on þone wudu þe is nemned Andredeslege.

  • Ashburnham
    Mercredesburnan steðe

    A: 485: Her Ęlle gefeaht wiþ Walas neah Mearcrędesburnan stęðe.
    B: 485: Her Ælle gefeaht wiþ Wealum neh Mearcredesburnanstaðe.
    C: 485: Her Ælle gefeaht wið Wealum neh Mearcredesburnan stæðe.
    E: 485: Her Ælle gefeaht wið Walas neh Mearcredesburnan steðe.

  • Pevensey
    Andredesceaster

    A: 491: Her Ęlle 7 Cissa ymbsæton Andredescester 7 ofslogon alle þa þe þærinne eardedon; ne wearþ þær forþon an Bret to lafe.
    B: 491: Her Ælle 7 Cissa ymbsætan Andredesceaster 7 ofslogan ealle þa ðe þærinne wæran þæt þær ne wearð furðum an Bryt to lafe.
    C: 491: Her Ælle 7 Cissa ymbsætan Andredesceaster 7 ofslogan ealle þa ðe þærinne wæran þæt þær ne wearð furþum an Bryt to lafe.
    D: 491: Her Ælla 7 Cissa ymbsæton Andredesceaster 7 ofslogon ealle þa ðe þærinne eardedon; ne wearð þær forþen an Brit to lafe.

Additionally, while the ASC confidently places Ælle and his sons within a late 5th century context, St. Bede's mention of Ælle's Bretwalda status immediately prior to its assumption by Ceawlin of the Gewisse has led Guy Halsall to conclude that Ælle was originally a mid-to-late-sixth century figure who was transposed back into the fifth century to provide a foundation legend for Sussex which mirrors temporally its geographical location between Kent and the West Saxons.

Nevertheless, the ASC's depiction of Ælle and his possible overlordship warrants further inspection.

In common with the Kentish and West Saxon origin stories, Ælle arrives with his kinsmen - sons in his case - in the standard three ships on the shore of his future kingdom and fights a series of battles against British forces which can be located rather securely within the later boundaries of that state. Ælle's landing place, given as Cymenesora, is very likely somewhere in the vicinity of Selsey Bill in the extreme west of Sussex. His sons - Cymen, Wlencing and Cissa - lend their names to locations within Sussex (the aforementioned Cymenesora, Lancing and Chichester respectively), and the Britons are put to flight, seeking safety in a wood called Andredeslea, commonly identified with the Weald. Seven years later, in 485, Ælle is depicted fighting the Welsh near Mercredesburnan steðe. This particular location, which local tradition suggests is in the region of Ashburnham in north-eastern Sussex, remains open to debate, as does the outcome: some sources suggest that an indecisive battle took place leading to a treaty between Ælle and the Britons (led, according to the late chronicler Roger of Wendover, by Ambrosius). In 490, Ælle, along with Cissa, is again in action in eastern Sussex, laying siege to the former Saxon Shore fort at Pevensey, slaying all of the defending force.


ARTHUR THE SOLDIER

So, where did Arthur fight his wars? The evidence for the concentration of Anglo-Saxons in the south and east of England suggests that this was the major focus of his campaigns - and, indeed, one of the more elegant theories for the locations of his battles, that developed by Sean Bamborough, associates the twelve battles with the known forts of the Saxon Shore.

However, the weight of evidence seems to favour a more northerly location for Arthur's wars, ranging from Lincolnshire and Shropshire in the south up into Scotland.

  • Glein

    H; K; I; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: primum bellum fuit in ostium fluminis quod dicitur glein;
    T: primum bellum fuit in ostium fluminis quod uocatur glein;
    M: primum bellorum contra illos iniit iuxta hostium fluminis quod dicitur glein;
    N: primum bellum contra illos iniit iuxta ostium fluminis quod dicitur gleinu;
    O; B; β: primum bellum contra illos iniit iuxta ostium fluminis quod dicitur glein;
    Pseudo-Gildas: Primum bellum fuit in hostium fluminis quod dicitur Glem.
    Lebor Bretnach: .i. in ced cath in n-indbear Glein;

  • Dubglas in Linnuis

    H; K; I; T; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: secundum et tercium et quartum et quintum super aliud flumen quod dicitur dubglas et est in regione linnuis;
    M: secundum et tertium quartumque ac quintum super aliam amnem quae nominatur brittannicę duglas, quae est in regione linnuis;
    N: ac tertium quartumque ac quintum super aliam amnem quae nominatur britannice duglas, quae est in regione iniis;
    O: secundum et tertium quartum ac quintum super aliam amnem quae nominatur brittannię duglas, quae est in regione linnuis;
    B: secundum et tertium quartumque ac quintum super aliam amnem quae nominatur britannice duglas, quae est in regione linnuis;
    β: secundum et tertium quartumque et quintum super aliam amnem quae nominatur britannice duglas, quae est in regione linnuis;
    Pseudo-Gildas: Secundum et tertium et quartum et quintum super flumen quod uocatur Duglas quod est in regione Linnuis.
    Lebor Bretnach: in tanaiste & in treas & in ceathramad & in cuicead cath for bru Dubglaisi;

Arthur's first five battles - that at Glein and the four subsequent encounters by the Dubglas - can perhaps be best understood in a Lincolnshire context. That county has a River Glen and the location of the Dubglas in the region Linnuis strongly points to that region. While the notice of four battles having taken place in roughly the same vicinity might otherwise suggest that Arthur was not as successful as the HB claims, this particular theatre would likely have been one in which the Britons were aiming to - and successful in - containing an Anglo-Saxon population within a small area of the modern county.

There is, however, another River Glen in Northumberland, which runs below the important Sub-Roman site at Yeavering, which was occupied by descendants of the Votadini and thus Arthur could conceivably have been dispatched to Yeavering to forestall an Anglo-Saxon incursion into this region.

  • Bassas

    H; K; I; T; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: sextum bellum super flumen quod uocatur bassas.
    M; N; O; B; β: sextum bellum super flumen quod uocatur bassas.
    Pseudo-Gildas: uium bellum super flumen quod uocatur Bassas.
    Lebor Bretnach: in seiseadh cath fhor bru Bassa;

The River Bassas may be identifiable with the Eglwysau Bassa from the Canu Heledd, modern Baschurch in Shropshire. The River Perry runs close by and is joined by War Brook. Of course, Baschurch would appear to be much further to the west than the regions threatened by the Anglo-Saxons at this time, though Arthur could have been fighting Irish elements on this occasion: indeed, the old Roman site at Wroxeter - which was still inhabited during this period - has yielded evidence of Irish activity at around Arthur's time in the form of the Wroxeter stone, which bears an inscription which appears to be of a Goidelic provenance.

  • Cat Coit Celidon

    H; K; I; T; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: septimum fuit bellum in silua celidonis, id est cat coit celidon.
    M: septimum contra illos iniit bellum in silua celidonis quae bryttannicę cat coit celidon nominatur.
    N: uero septimum contra illos iniit bellum in silua celidonis quae brittannice cattoit celidon nominatur.
    O: septimum contra illos iniit bellum in silua celidoni quae brittannice cat coit celidon uocatur.
    B; β: septimum contra illos iniit bellum in silua celidonis quae brittannice cat coit celidon nominatur.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Septimum bellum fuit in silua callidonis, id est cath coit celidon.
    Lebor Bretnach: ocus in seachtmadh cath a Caill Caillidoin .i. cait Coit Cleiduman;

  • Castellum Guinnion

    H: octauum fuit bellum in castello guinnion, in quo arthur portauit imaginem sanctę marię perpetuę uirginis super humeros suos; et pagani uersi sunt in fugam in illo die, et cędes magna fuit super illos per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et per uirtutem sanctę marię uirginis genitricis eius.
    K: octauum fuit bellum in castello guinnion, in quo arthur portauit imaginem sanctę marię uirginis super humeros suos; et pagani uersi sunt in fugam uersi sunt in fugam in illo die, et cędes magna fuit super illos per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et per uirtutem sanctę marię uirginis genitricis eius.
    I; Chronica Imperfecta: octauum fuit bellum in castello guinnion, in quo arthur portauit imaginem sanctę marię perpetuę uirginis super humeros suos; et pagani uersi sunt in fugam in illo die, et cędes magna fuit super illos per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et per uirtutem sanctę marię uirginis genitricis eius.
    T; Liber Floridus: octauum fuit bellum in castello guinnion, in quo artur portauit imaginem sanctę perpetuę uirginis super humeros suos; et pagani uersi sunt in fugam in illo die, et cędes magna fuit super illos per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et per uirtutem sanctę marię uirginis genitricis eius.
    M: octauum contra barbaros aegit bellum iuxta castellum guinnion, in quo idem arthur portauit imaginem sanctae mariae dei genitricis semperque uirginis super humeros suos; et tota illa die saxones, per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et sanctae mariae matris eius, in fugam uersi sunt et magna cęde multi ex eis perierunt.
    N: octauum contra barbaros egit bellum iuxta castellum guinnion, in quo idem arthur imaginem sanctae mariae dei genitricis semperque uirginis super humeros suos portauit; et tota illa die saxones, per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et sanctae mariae matris eius, in fugam uersi sunt et multi ex illis magna cęde perierunt.
    O: octauum contra illos barbaros egit bellum iuxta castellum guinnion, in quo idem arthor portauit maginem sanctae mariae dei genitricis semperque uirginis super humeros suos; et tota illa die saxones, per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et sanctae mariae matris eius, in fugam uersi sunt et magna cęde multi ex eis perierunt.
    B: octauum contra barbaros egit bellum iuxta castellum guinnion, in quo idem arthur portauit imaginem sanctae mariae dei genitricis semperque uirginis super humeros suos; et tota illa die saxones, per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et sanctae mariae matris eius, in fugam uersi sunt et magna cęde multi ex eis perierunt.
    β: octauum contra barbaros egit bellum iuxta castellum guinnion, in quo idem arthur portauit imaginem sanctae mariae dei genitricis super humeros suos; et tota illa die saxones, per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi et sanctae mariae matris eius, fugati sunt et magna cęde multi ex eis perierunt.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Octauum fuit bellum in castello Guinnon, in quo Arthur portauit imaginem sanctę Marię semper uirginis super humeros suos et pagani uersi sunt in fugam in illo die et multi ceciderunt, plagaque magna super illos uenit per uirtutem domini nostri iesu christi sanctęque suę genetricis.
    Lebor Bretnach: in t-ochtmhadh cath im lesc Guinidoin; is and sin ro imarcor Artur delb Muire for a gualaind, & ro teilgistar na Pagáin.

While Caitlin (Thomas) Green makes an interesting case for understanding Arthur's battles in the Celidon Wood and the fortress of Guinnion within the context of the mythological poetry which came to be associated with him to a greater or lesser extent, certainly the former can be ascribed a real-world location, deep within modern Scotland. Whilst the Caledonii from whom the wood is apparently named lived in what was coming to be known as the heartland of the Pictish people, the locative is also ascribed to a location in the Myrddin Wyllt cycle, with the antihero taking refuge there after the battle of Arfderydd, at which his king Gwenddoleu was slain. Myrddin was also seeking refuge from Rhydderch Hael of Strathclyde, which - given Gwenddoleu's probable association with Carwinley north-east of Carlisle - may suggest a more southerly location for the Celidon Wood.

Similarly, Guinnion may be identifiable with the Roman-era Vinovium or Vinovia near present-day Binchester on the River Wear. Archaeological evidence suggests that the fort remained in use throughout the 5th century and into the 6th, at which time evidence of Germanic occupation appears.

  • Urbe Legionis

    H; K; I; T; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: nonum bellum gestum est in urbe legionis.
    M: nonum aegit bellum in urbe leogis quae bryttannicę cair lion dicitur.
    N; O; B; β: nonum egit bellum in urbe leogis quae brittannice cair lion dicitur.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Nonum bellum gestum est in urbe Legionis.
    Lebor Bretnach: In nomadcath i cathraig ind Legoin;

The City of the Legion is almost certainly Chester in north-western England near the border with Wales, which, like the Baschurch area, seems strikingly out of place were all of Arthur's battles conducted against Germanic forces. Again, a detachment of Irishmen (or even Picts) may well have opposed the Britons at this juncture, though it could also represent the counterpunch to an incursion from any Anglo-Saxon forces remaining in the vicinity of Hadrian's Wall.

One might also speculate that there was an element of civil conflict involved: Chester is close to Gwynedd and the fortress of Dinerth - probably the "Bear's Den" of the DEB. Thus, Arthur's battle at Chester may perhaps have been an early stage in the rise to power of Maglocunus, said to have murdered his uncle to usurp the throne of Gwynedd, as well as the context suggested by the notices of Cunedda having led a detachment of the Votadini southwards to combat Irish elements in North Wales.

  • Tribruit

    H; I; T; Chronica Imperfecta: decimum gessit bellum in litore fluminis quod uocatur tribruit.
    K: decimum gessit bellum in littore fluminis quod uocatur tribuit.
    Liber Floridus: decimum gessit bellum in littore fluminis quod uocatur tribuith.
    M: decimum uero gessit bellum in littore fluminis quod nos uocamus traht treuroit;
    N: decimum uero gessit bellum in littore fluminis quod nos uocamus tractheuroit;
    O: decimum uero gessit bellum in littore fluminis quod nos uocamus thiat treuroit;
    B: decimum uero gessit bellum in litore fluminis quod nos uocamus thrat treuroit;
    β: decimum uero gessit bellum in littore fluminis quod nos uocamus traht treuroit;
    Pseudo-Gildas: Decimum bellum gestum est in litore fluminis quod uocatur Ribroit.
    Lebor Bretnach: in dechmead in Robruid;

The battle on the banks of the Tribruit river - a name also rendered Treuroit, Tribuit, Tribuith or Ribroit - appears in Pa gur, where Arthur, along with allies including Manawyddan and Mabon, encounters and defeats the apparent wolf-man Garwlwyd at Trywruid.

  • Breguoin/Agned

    H; K; I; Chronica Imperfecta; Liber Floridus: undecimum factum est bellum in monte qui dicitur agned.
    T: undecimum factum est bellum in monte quod dicitur agned.
    M; B; β: undecimum in monte qui nominatur breguoin ubi illos in fugam uertit, quem nos cat bregion appellamus.
    N: undecimum in monte qui nominatur breuoin ubi illos in fugam uertit, quae nos cat bregion appellamus.
    O: undecimum in monte quę nominatur bregiloin ubi illos in fugam uertit, quem nos cat bregion appellamus.
    Pseudo-Gildas: undecimum bellum fuit in monte qui dicitur agned catbregomion.
    Pseudo-Gildas2: undecimum bellum fuit in monte qui dicitur agned [br]eg[uoi]n, id [est].

The battle at Breguoin or Agned is perhaps identifiable as Bremenium, the Roman fort at High Rocester in Northumberland. This particular place has an interesting history, being located some way north of Hadrian's Wall. Its strategic importance during the early medieval period is underlined by the probability that this was also the focus of Urien Rheged's conflict at Cellawr Brewyn, which appears in the poem Arddwyre Reged from the Llyfr Taliesin. Agned is, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Edinburgh, and it is worth noting that Pa gur depicts Arthur fighting at Eiddyn Cymminog and Mynyd Eiddyn, where he fights alongside Anwas Adeiniog and Llwch Llawynnog - another "faded god" - against Cynvyn, i.e. cynocephali (dog-headed people) - though a similarity between the name of this opponent and that of the Venicones has been noted.

Again, the similarity between the names of Brewyn and Breguion have led some to speculate that this battle became accreted with the figure of Arthur during the collection of the HB. However, as I state elsewhere, a strategically-important site during Urien's floruit was also likely of importance during Arthur's.

  • Badon

    Historia Brittonum H; K; I; Chronica Imperfecta: duodecimum fuit bellum in monte badonis, in quo corruerunt in uno die nongenti sexaginta uiri de uno impetu arthur, et nemo prostrauit eos nisi ipse solus.
    T: duodecimum fuit bellum in monte badonis, in quo corruerunt in uno die nongenti sexaginta uiri de uno impetu artur, et nemo prostrauit eos nisi ipse solus.
    Liber Floridus: duodecimum fuit bellum in monte badonis, in quo corruerunt in uno die nongenti sexaginta uiri de uno impetu arturi, et nemo prostrauit eos nisi ipse solus.
    M; B; β: duodecimum contra saxones durissime arthur bellum in monte badonis penetrauit in quo corruerunt impetu illius una die nongenti quadraginta uiri, nullo sibi brittonum in adiutorium adherente pręter ipsum solum, domino se confortante.
    N: duodecimum contra saxones durissime arthur bellum in monte hadonis perpetrauit in quo corruerunt impetu illius una die cccc quadraginta uiri, nullo sibi brittonum in adiutorium adherente pręter ipsum solum, domino confortante.
    O: duodecimum contra in quo corruerunt impetu illius una die nongenti quadraginta uiri, nullo sibi brittonum in adiutorium adherente pręter ipsum solum, domino se confortante.
    μ: duodecimum contra saxones durissime arthur bellum in monte badonis penetrauit in quo corruerunt impetu illius una nongenti quadraginta uiri, nullo sibi brittonum in adiutorium adherente pręter ipsum solum, domino se confortante.
    Pseudo-Gildas: Duodecimum fuit bellum in monte Badonis, in quo corruerunt in uno die octingenti quadraginta uiri de uno impetu Arthuri et nemo eos prostrauit nisi ipse solus.
    Annales Cambrię A: Bellum badonis inquo arthur portauit crucem domini nostri ihu xp'i. tribus diebus & tribus noctibus inhumeros suos & brittones uictores fuerunt.
    B: Bellum Badonís ín quo rex arturus crucem domini nostri ihesu christi tribus diebus et tribus noctibus in humerís suis portauít. In illo prelio ceciderunt colgrinus et Radulphus anglorum duces.
    C: Bellum badonis in quo arthurus portauit crucem domini ihesu christi tribus diebus et tribus noctibus et uictor fuit.

The final battle listed in the HB is that at Badon, to which the AC adds the pertinent detail that, similarly to the religious observations associated with the Guinnion battle, Arthur carried the Cross of the LORD for three days and three nights prior to the conflict at Badon. This is also the only named battle during the Saxon rebellion and British counterattack specifically mentioned in the DEB, and it seems to have marked an important development in the relationship between Briton and Anglo-Saxon, ushering in an era of peace which held - according to the DEB - for over four decades.

The location of Badon, however, remains shrouded in mystery, with various locations suggested. These include Bath in Somerset, which seems untenable, as well as the various Badbury toponyms in the south of England in particular.

A southern milieu is also perhaps suggested in the ASC which, if the compilers were following St. Bede, would have placed Badon in 493. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that the last mention of Ælle of Sussex occurs three years earlier with his siege of Andredesceaster (modern Pevensey) along with his son Cissa. Indeed, with the exception of the problematic notices about the activities of Cerdic, Cynric and the early West Saxons and associated peoples (i.e. Port and his sons), the ASC records no further articles of note until the arrival of Ida in 547. The advent of Arthur is perhaps hinted at in the notice of 488, which states that Æsc succeeded to the kingship in Kent, which is comparable to the statement in the HB that, immediately prior to the appearance of Arthur in a military capacity, Hengist had died, leading to Octa's move southward to take over his lands.


ARTHUR'S NORTHERN OPPONENTS

A major question, then, would be: who exactly was Arthur fighting against in the north? What, if any, Anglo-Saxon presence was there in that region? The traditions themselves may furnish an answer.

The HB, as noted above, claims that Octa and Ebusa, sons of Hengist, were dispatched to the region of Hadrian's Wall during the time of Vortigern, enjoying much success harrassing the lands of the Picts and the Orkneys, and, while Octa is noted as having moved to the south in order to claim Hengist's lands, no further mention is made of Ebusa. Thus, it may be germane to speculate about this particular individual as a major opponent in the north during Arthur's time.

Indeed, as I speculate elsewhere, Ebusa may well figure in the genealogies of the later rulers of Bernicia, where Aloc appears beneath the name of Benoc (which is suggestive of the name of the kingdom). One may also notice the name Esa two generations above Ida, which is reminiscent of Eosa, the name Geoffrey of Monmouth gives in place of Ebusa. Interestingly, Kenneth Sisam associates Aloc with the Aluca or Elesa who appears as the father of Cerdic in the genealogies of the West Saxons, and indeed Cerdic's activities in the ASC begin in AD 495, two years after the putative Bede-derived date for Badon. Alusa is variously placed in the fourth or fifth generation after Woden in the attested versions of the Bernician royal genealogy, which is comparable with Hengist, who is a fourth generation descendant of Woden's.

Another potential opponent emerges from the Deiran royal genealogy in the HB, which states that Soemil (here a sixth generation descendant of Woden) was the "first [who] separated Deur from Berneich," which is most commonly read as Soemil's being credited with securing independence for Deira from British control. Elsewhere, I suggest that the name of Soemil in these Anglo-Saxon materials is reminiscent of that of Sawyl (i.e. Samuel) Benuchel, a ruler of the Hen Ogledd who appears in Welsh genealogical and hagiographical material, as well as the Trioedd Ynys Prydein, which depicts him in a negative manner, calling him one of the "Three Arrogant Men of the Isle of Britain." Whilst the genealogies make Sawyl the brother of Dunod Bwr, Irish sources would appear to place him somewhat earlier: a Samuel Chendisel appears in a genealogy as the husband of Deichter, a daughter of Muiredach Muinderg mac Forggo of the Dál Fiatach, who ruled in Ulster during the late 5th century (his death is placed in 489 in the Annals of Tigernach), becoming by her the father of St. Sanctan and Matóc Ailithir.


POSTSCRIPT: CAMLANN

  • Camlann

    A: Gueith cam lann inqua arthur & medraut corruerunt.
    B: Bellum camlam in quo inclitus arthurus rex britonum et modredus prodítor suus mutuís wlneribus corruerunt.
    C: In ultimo uero anno istius leonis pugnauit contra modredum nepotem suum iuxta fluuium cabulan et eum cum omnibus interfecit. Sed ipse arthurus grauiter uulneratus ad sananda uulnera sua in insulam auallonis perrexit.

Tha battle of Camlann was also likely a northern affair, taking place near Camboglanna, a fort on Hadrian's Wall now known as Castlesteads. Though later tradition makes Medraut - Mordred - Arthur's foe on this day, whether or not that was the original intent is unclear. The probable siting of the battle on Hadrian's Wall points to external aggressors, be they Anglo-Saxons, Picts or Scots, although the area would be heavily contested later, between Gwenddoleu and the sons of Eliffer, as well as during the campaigns of Urien Rheged, who was likely based in the Eden Valley to the south of Castlesteads.

As a minor note, Burgh-by-Sands to the west is identified as the Roman site of Aballava or Aballaba, which has been taken by some as being the wellspring from which the myth of Arthur's repose in Avalon (or Ynys Afallach) came into being. This is extremely unlikely: Avalon first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's heavily-mythologised account. A similar situation prevails with regards to Camelot, which emerges as an Arthurian location in the roughly-contemporary French Arthurian romances

Sir Graham