Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi

Detail from British Library, Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi, Cotton MS Tiberius BV f.56v.

The British Library describes this document thus:

“The ‘Anglo-Saxon world map’ contains the earliest known, relatively realistic depiction of the British Isles. It was created, probably at Canterbury, between 1025 and 1050 but is probably ultimately based on a model dating from Roman times. This showed the provinces of the Roman empire, of which ‘Britannia’ (England) was one. The map was revised and updated in about 800 and again in about 1000. New information was added but at each stage errors and misunderstandings occurred in the copying process.

Like most early maps, this one has East at the top. Nevertheless the British Isles (bottom left) are immediately recognisable and the Orkneys, the Scillies, the Channel Islands and the isles of Man and of Wight are shown. The tortuous shape of Scotland is particularly well drawn. London, the Saxon capital of Winchester and Dublin are indicated using Roman-style town symbols. The size of the Cornish peninsula is exaggerated, probably reflecting the importance of its copper and tin mines in the ancient world. Most tantalising of all is what appears to be two fighting figures in the peninsula. Could they refer to the conflict between the Saxons and the native Britons in the centuries following the departure of the Romans early in the fifth century, which gave rise to the legend of King Arthur?”

This is, therefore, a pre-Galfridian identification of Arthur’s conflict with the Saxons in the S.W. peninsula. A cross below the two figures may possibly identify the location of a battle and would be consistent with Badon having occurred at Badbury Rings, see Badbury Rings.

In order to identify the location, it will be noticed the courses of three southern rivers are shown. When comparing with a modern map:

Major rivers of England, my work CC BY-SA.

Major rivers of England, my work CC BY-SA.

it can be seen that the rivers are the Thames, the Bristol Avon and the Salisbury Avon, all three having sources that are not too distant from each other as also depicted on the Mappa Mundi. To the east of the last river is an area labelled Cantia. This is not Kent but rather a reference to the region of Venta Belgarum, that is Winchester. It has been pointed out that the names Gwent and Ceint have been confused elsewhere, for example in versions of triad 56.[1]

[1] Blake, S., Lloyd, S., 2003, 57.


Koch states:
“The name Gwenhwyfar corresponds exactly to Old Irish Findabair, the name of the daughter of Medb and Ailill in the Irish Ulster Cycle, a compound of find ‘white, fair’ and siabair ‘phantom’. Like Gwenhwyfar, Findabair is responsible for the death of many heroes in the calamitous confrontation of Táin Bó Cuailnge (‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’). Thus, it is possible that not only the names but also the characters are of common origin.”[1]

This suggests that the name of Arthur’s wife may not have been Gwenhwyfar after all and that it later became attached to her. Her abduction appears to be represented in the Modena Archivolt where she is given the possibly genuine name, Winlogee:

Modena Archivolt, Ruge, CC BY-SA 4.0

For the Shropshire town Much Wenlock and village Little Wenlock, Mills states:
“Shrops. Wininicas 675-690, Wenlocan, Winlocan 9th. cent., Wenloch 1086 (DB). Probably Old English loca ‘enclosed place’ (hence perhaps ‘monastery’) added to the first part of old Celtic name Wininicas (obscure, but possibly ‘white area’ or the like referring to limestone of Wenlock Edge, from Celtic *wïnn ‘white’). Affix is OE mycel ‘great’.”[2]

However, it may be that those placenames derive from the personal name Winlogge and thus give us an indication of the area of her origin. Triad 56 tells us Gwenhwyfar was the daughter of Ogfran Gawr. Old Oswestry hillfort in N.W. Shropshire, one of the best preserved hillfort in Britain, is known as Caer Ogyrfan:

Old Oswestry hillfort, Oswestry Borderland Tourism, CC BY-SA 2.0

[1] Koch, J.T. (ed.), 2006, 861.
[2] Mills, A. D., 2011, 489.

Liber Floridus

The Liber Floridus tells us of Arthur as leader of Picts:

“Tunc arthur dux Pictorum re[[ ]]abat”[1]

LF LVI Ghent uni.

This is compatible with triad 1 which tells us Arthur was Chief of Princes in Pen Rhionydd. Watson identified this site with Ptolemy’s Rerigonion which means ‘very royal palace’.[2] This was the capital of the Novantae, a tribe who may have included people of Bede’s ‘australes Picti’. It is also significant that the word “regnabat” indicates the title dux does not preclude its holder from ruling a kingdom.

Another entry points to the fact that Arthur, who was the leader of the Picts, had some authority, as opposed to ruling, over kingdoms in the interior of Britain:

“Tunc Arthur dux Pictorum interioris Britanniȩ re/gens regna”[3]

LF LVII Ghent uni.

We know, from the Historia Brittonum, this to be the case during the 12 battles. The refernce to the interior suggests Arthur himself was from a peripheral region. This is consistent with triad 1 since Arthur ruled in the North, as has already been stated, but also in Cornwall and Dyfed. The only known Demetian Arthur was a son of Pedr.

[1] Derolez, A., 1968, 137.
[2] Watson, W.J., 1926, 34.
[3] Derolez, A., 1968, 146.


The Chartres recension of the Historia Brittonum mentions that Slebine, abbot of Iona from 752 to 767, visited Ripon in Northumbria and found there a dating of the Adventus.

“Et in tempore Guorthigirni regis Britanie Saxones peruenerunt in Britanniam, id est in anno incarnacionis Chisti, sicut Libine abas Iae in Ripum ciuitate inuenit uel reperit. Ab incarnacione Domini anni .d. usque a kł. ian̄. in .xii. luna, ut a[i]unt alii in .ccctis. annis a quo tenuerunt Saxones Britanniam usque ad annum supradictum.”

The dates for his visit and that of the arrival of the English indicated by Grosjean are 753 and 453 respectively.[1] This will be shown to be confirmed by lunar cycles. The first point that needs clarification is which computus was being used in the above quote.

Using the Victorian computus the epact, that is the phase of the moon on the 1st January, was xxii for the year 753, not xii as required by the quote:

Monday 1 Jan 753 at UT 00 hr 00 min 00 sec. Waning Gibbous 53.55% full. Moonpage.

However, the Dionysiac computus, which uses the age of the Moon on the 22 March, the epact for the year 753 is indeed xii:

Sunday 22 Mar 753 UT 00 hr 00 min 00 sec. Waxing Gibbous 95.01% full. Moonpage.

Thus the year of Slébíne’s visit to Ripon was indeed 753. Further confirmation of this is provided by the letter “d” in the quote. In the past this has been wrongly interpreted as the number 500 since it immediately follows “anni”. However, in this context that interpretation would have no meaning. In fact, it represents the word ‘Dominicus’, that is Sunday, which indeed was the day on the 22 March. The original text would have read “usque a .d. kł. ian̄. in .xii. luna”. “The “.ccctis. annis”, therefore, indicates an AS 300 years earlier at 453.

The Annals of Ulster under the year 464:
“The Angles came to England.”
The gap between Chartres 453 and the AU 464 date for the Adventus is as a result of a difference of a hendecad.

[1] Grosjean, P., 1960, Analecta Bollandiana 78, 381.

The Otranto mosaic

The mosaic is dated from 1163, at a time when the cathedral was in the Norman Principality of Taranto. One portion of the mosaic depicts King Arthur:

Arthur in the Otranto mosaic. A Caper in Salento (

The mosaic depicts a leopard confronting the rider. Two yellow leopards on a red background is the emblem of Normandy. This was the coat of arms of the Plantagenet king Henry II (1154 to 1189). England’s royal arms, with an extra cat, derives from Henry’s son, Richard the Lionheart. The imagery is one of the Normans defeating the English, hence the leopard mauling the dislodged rider.

Why Arthur? The House of Godwin may well had adopted him. A number of manuscripts, including Harl. 2414 which describes him as “iarll Kernyw”, show Godwin, Earl of Wessex, having Cornish ancestry, see Coliavus. As pointed out in The Bayeux tapestry and the draco standards, it is likely that one of the standards portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry is of Cornish and not Saxon origin.

The writing “Rex Arturus” is referring to the figure hovering to the right of the picture, not the rider as is usually thought. The text is closer to him than the mounted figure. The reason that “Rex” became associated with the rider is because of his crown, but this was a late additon in a repair to the mosaic, see image:

Drawing by Aubin Louis Millin of Otranto mosaic before restoration. A Caper in Salento (

It shows areas of damage and the rider wearing a cap, but not a crown.

It appears that Arthur is in spirit form, long since dead. The figure who is riding the goat is a representation of Harold Godwinson. He is being ridiculed with an imagery showing him going to battle riding a goat and inadequately dressed for the conflict. Arthur has his hands raised to his face, as if in horror, thus suggesting his agreement with the Normans that Harold was a false claimant to the throne.

The whole scheme being placed between the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the Cain and Abel story is to suggest the result of Hastings was an act of God, whose hand is depicted above. Harold’s location on the mosaic is significant. Cain and Abel are relevant as a case of treachery. It is claimed that when Harold ended up in Normandy he had taken an oath of fealty to William and then sworn on sacred relics. Likewise, Adam and Eve had broken a covenant with God.

Gwalchmai ap Gwyar

The HRB IX 11 tells us Gwalchmai, referred to as Gualguainus son of Loth, was twelve years old and had been knighted by pope Sulpicius. If this is a reference to the papacy of Simplicius (468-483) then it suggests Gwalchmai was likely of gen. -1. This dating is confirmed by a piece of inforamtion by William of Malmesbury, despite the fact he wrongly believes Gwalchmai was a nephew of Arthur:

“Regnavit in ea parte Britanniæ quae adhuc Walweitha vocatur: miles virtute nominatissimus, sed a fratre et nepote Hengistii … Cæterum, alterius bustum, ut præmisi, tempore Willelmi regis repertum est super oram maris, quatuordecim pedes longum …”[1]

“He [Walwen] reigned in that part of Britain [Ros in the province of Wales] which is still called Walweitha. A warrior most renowned for his valour, he was expelled from his kingdom by the brother and nephew of Hengist … The tomb of the other [that is Walwen], however, as I have said, was found in the time of king William upon the sea-shore, fourteen feet in length …”[2]

This would be compatible with HRB IX 9 which states Loth had married in the time of Aurelius Ambrosius. It follows that Loth would have been of gen. -2. That name appears in the ByB fol. 81 as “lew vab kynvarch”, that is Llew ap Cynfarch.[3]. Bromwich explains:

“Considerable confusion prevails in Welsh sources owing to the fact that Geoffrey of Monmouth gives Arthur’s sister Anna as the mother of Gualguanus. In the fourteenth-century Birth of Arthur (Cy. XXIV, pp. 250 ff.) an attempt is made to reconcile the native tradition with that of Geoffrey by substituting the name Gwyar for that of Anna as Arthur’s sister …”[4]

In its bid to reconcile contradictory traditions, it incorrectly maintains Gwyar was the daughter of Gwrlais and Eigr. However, it correctly says that Gwyar was  first married to Emyr Llydaw and then to Llew ap Cynfarch. This explains the reference to Aurelius Ambrosius in HRB IX 9, mentioned above, as Emyr Llydaw is likely to be a title held by him. Emyr Llydaw was of gen. -2, see table below, as indeed was Llew, see above.

Gen. ByS J 21 Proposed pedigree
-3 Kvnedda wledic Cynfarch
-2 Karedic Emhyr Llydaw Gwyar Llew
-1 Gwenn Petrwn Gwalchmai Medrod
0 Padarn

[1] Hardy, T. D., 1840 vol. 2, 466.
[2] Chambers, E. K., 1927, 17.
[3] Parry, J.J., 1937.
[4] Bromwich, R., 2006, 369.

Afan Buellt

The lines of descent for St. Afan of Buellt:

The name of the cantref of Buellt, Builth in English, derives from ‘bu’ and ‘gellt’ respectively meaning ‘ox’ and ‘pasture’. It occupied the northern portion of Brycheiniog and abuts onto Ceredigion. Afan’s grandfather, Tegid Foel who was the husband of Ceridwen, would have been a near contemporary of Ceredig ap Cunedda Wledig.

Roger Cornfoot St Afan’s Church, Llanafan-Fawr CC BY-SA 2.0

The church of Llanafan Fawr is dedicated to the saint as is that at Llanfechan. At the former is an inscription that reads:
but it is late, dating from the 13th/14th c.[1] He also founded Llanafan Trawsgoed in Ceredigion.

His supposed death at the hands of Danes may be a conflation with the 10th c. Jeuan who was said to be bishop for one day.[2]

Geraldus Cambrensis tells us:
“But here it is proper to mention what happened during the reign of king Henry the First to the lord of the castle of Radnor, in the adjoining territory of Builth, who had entered the church of Saint Avan (which is called in the British language Llan Avan), and, without sufficient caution or reverence, had passed the night there with his hounds. Arising early in the morning, according to the custom of hunters, he found his hounds mad, and himself struck blind.”
The text goes on to tell of his death in battle at Jerusalem.[3]

[1] Westwood, J.O., 1879, 72.
[2] Jones, T., 1909, Vol. 1, 226.
[3] Rhys, E., 1908, 14.

Arthur as grandson of Ambrosius Aurelianus

A number of genealogies indicate Arthur was a grandson of Ambrosius Aurelianus, see Arthur’s descent from Cunedda. There may be an oblique reference to this relationship in DEB 25, following on from the reference to Ambrosius:

“… cuius nunc temporibus nostris suboles magnopere auita bonitate degenerauit …”
“… whose offspring now, in our times, has greatly degenerated from his grandfather’s moral excellence ..”

Arthur’s adversaries and ally

The HB is correct in claiming Ochta was the son of Hengest. This is supported by Bede. Although the ASC names Aesc as the son, if it is accepted that the 488 date is correct for Hengest’s obit then it would seem that Ochta was the name of Arthur’s opponent in some of the 12 battles.

As far as Esla of the Gewisse is concerned, as Sisam pointed out, Esla/Elesa formed an alliterative pair as did Wig/Giwis. Chronology would, therefore, suggest he was a contemporary of Arthur and identification with Osla Gyllellfawr is reasonable. The Culhwch ac Olwen, where we are told his dagger, Bronllafn Ferllydan, is used as a bridge and also that he was involved in the chase of the Twrch Trwyth, describes him as an ally of Arthur. However, in the Breuddwyd Rhonabwy he is an opponent at Badon, but asked Arthur for a truce. Perhaps, he defected to Arthur. If Esla was, indeed, an ally it may explain why DEB 26 states:

“tam desperati insulae excidii insperatique mentio auxilii”

“… ‘so desperate a destruction of the island’ – the Saxon revolt – ‘and unhoped-for mention of assistance’ …”[1]

This unforseen help referred to may have been Saxons fighting with the Britons against Kentish forces. That may also explain the reason why the West Saxons claimed their dynasty started with Cerdic, rather than with the arrival of Giwis, possibly in 475. Although the ASC claims Cerdic’s obit in 534, Dumville dates it to 554. It is, therefore, likely that Cerdic was one of Arthur’s opponents at Camlan.

[1] Higham, N.J., 2018, 162.


Rhun ab Alun Dyfed

Following on from the Myrddin stanza 17 in Pen. 98, see Myrddin Emrys, we have:
“Vch law rhyd y garw faen ryde
y mae bedd Rhun ap Alun Dyv[ed]”

In the version of made from the manuscript in Widow Wynn’s possession this takes the form:
“ychlaw rhŷd garwvayn ryde
y may bêdh Hun ap Alim Dyfe.”[1]

“Above the ford of the rough stone
is the grave of Rhun son of Alun Dyfed.”[2]

Pen. 177 has the following lines concerning Rhun’s death:
“Rhun ab Alun Dyfed who was buried on the edge of the Hard (or Difficult) Ford in the Gwynfynydd in Penllyn. And there he was killed when he retreated from Ciltalgarth.”[3]

The Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin mentions both poets lamenting the death of warriors in a battle which occurred in Dyfed against Maelgwn. It would seem that Rhun perished in this conflict. The location of Gwyn Mynydd is near Ganllwyd in Gwynedd.

Gwyn Mynydd has possibly the same meaning as Ben Nevis. Gaelic ‘Beinn’ means ‘mountain’ and ‘Niamh’ (pronounced ˈniːəv) could signify ‘bright’. It, therefore, appears that the two verses of stanza 18, which are quoted above, are a continuation of the previous stanza.

The ‘Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion’ mentions the combat between the Demetian Pryderi and the Venedotian Gwydion in which the former was killed. This story places the event at Y Felenrhyd and may be a reference to the same conflict.

BBC Englynion y Beddau stanza 24 refers to the same ford (W. rhyd):
“Piev y bet in Rid Vaen Ked
ae pen gan yr anvaered?
Bet Run mab Alun Diwed.”

“Whose is the grave at Rhyd Faen-ced
With its head downhill?
The grave of Rhun son of Alun Dyfed.”[4]

Dyfyr, another son of Alun Dyfed, is mentioned in Geraint ac Enid as having accompanied Geraint from Arthur’s court to Erbin in Cornwall and Breuddwyd Rhonabwy tells us he was one of Arthur’s counsellors. Culhwch ac Olwen mentions that a son of Alun Dyfed was needed for tht hunt for Twrch Trwyth for unleashing the dogs. The BBC Englynion y Beddau stanza 25 mentions Alun Dyfed’s father, Meigen, whose father’s name is given in stanzas 17 to 19. Meigen’s other sons, Eiddew and Eidal, are mentioned in stanzas 46 and 47.

[1] Arch. Camb. Parochialia  (Part 1), 155.
[2] Jones, T., 1967, 136, 137.
[3] Bartrum, P.C., 2009, 642.
[4] Jones, T., 1967, 122, 123.