Why Bartrum’s dating of the Demetian Arthur is wrong

To understand why there is a problem with the birthdate of Arthur ap Pedr given by Bartrum, i.e. 560, we need to look at a manuscript that mentions this individual. My allocation of the generation numbers are in the first column and they are based on the principle that the generation number of an offspring should be one greater than that of the parent. The generation number in the fourth column are those given by Bartrum. The first table shows the first part of the Demetian pedigree. The obits shown in the third column are those stated by Bartrum and originate from the Annales Cambriae.

Gen. HG 2a Obit acc. Bartrum Gen. acc. Bartrum Birthdate acc. Bartrum
-2 Cincar 6 510
-1 Petr 7 535
0 Arthur 8 560
1 Nougoy 9 580
2 Cloten 9 600
3 Cathen 10 625
4 Catgocaun 11 650
5 Regin 11 675
6 Teudos 12 700
7 Margetiut 796 13
8 Ouein 811 14?
9 Tancoyslt 15? 790
10 Himeyt 893 16
11 Ioumarc 904 17
12 Elen 929 18
13 [O]uein 18 900

Using my generation numbers, regression analysis of the five obits in the above table give a generation step-size of 28 years. On the basis of this statistical technique and on the assumption that the average life expectancy was 65 years, it follows that an estimate of Arthur’s birthdate is 531, not 560 as stated by Bartrum.

Using a much larger database of obits the step-size is 32 years. This is consistent with Bartrum who wrote:
“This is based on the well known fact that, on the average, three male generations span almost exactly a century.”
After which he added the note:
“A male generation is the period of time between the birth of father and the birth of son, or daughter. Female generations, birth of mother to birth of son or daughter, are on the average much shorter, and in the period covered are nearer to 20 years, i.e. five to a century.”[1]
The vast majority of generations in my database are male ones.

The larger database gives Arthur’s birth as occuring c. 487, this being the mid-value in the range for gen. 0. The Demetian Arthur’s birthdate is in the period that one would expect for the individual around whom the Arthurian cycle was built. A birthdate of rounded figure 490 would be reasonable on the basis of the dates for Badon and Camlan given in the Annales Cambriae.

Using my generation numbering, Bartum’s estimates for the birthdates from Cyngar to Owain in the above table has an average step-size of 26 years, which is far too small. To achieve a more realistic step-size, he has given a number of parents and offsprings the same generation number, viz. Elen/Owain, Cadwgon/Rhain and Nowy/Gwlyddien. This results in a more satisfactory step-size of 33 years, but at the cost of artificially giving parents and offsprings the same generation number.

The reason why Bartrum’s analysis went astray may have been because he believed that HG 2 was a single pedigree list, whereas in reality it consists of three seperate segments. That the manuscript compilers did not always know when one list ended and the next one began can be seen in, for example, JC 10 to 11 where the ending of the first list is repeated in the start of the following one. In the second segment of HG 2, shown below, he made use of two dateable events, namely the birth of Gwerthefyr and that of Macsen Wledig. In the Harleian document itself there names take the form Guortepir and Maxim gulecic respectively.

Gen. HG 2b Obit acc. Bartrum Gen. acc. Bartrum Birthdate acc. Bartrum
-9 Protector
-8 Protec
-7 Maxim gulecic 388 1 330
-6 Dimet 2 355
-5 Nimet 2 380
-4 Gloitguin 3 410
-3 Clotri 4? 440?
-2 Triphun 4 430
-1 Aircol 5 460
0 Guortepir 6 480

Gildas writing in the 540s in the De Excidio describes Gwerthefyr, whose name takes the form Vortipor, with the words

“… though thy head is now becoming grey … though the end of life is gradually drawing near …”.

So, Bartrum’s birthdate for him of 480 cannot be too wrong. He errs when he identifies the Maxim Wledig with the Roman emperor Magnus Maximus who died in 388. That individual, who the Welsh called Macsen Wledig, belonged to gen. -4, see the table below. This forces him to use an average generational step-size for the second segment of 21 years, which is not credible. Again, he circumvents this problem by giving Clodri/Tryffin and Annun/Ednyfed the same generation number, resulting in a step-size of 30 years.

Maxim Wledig was a reference to the emperor Constantius Chlorus who died in 306, which is in line with him being in gen -7. His wife was Helena. This tallies with the first part of the Mabinogion tale entitled the Dream of Macsen Wledig  in which  Macsen came to Britain and married Elen Luyddog, the daughter of Eudaf.

It will be noted that there is an anomaly in that Bartrum’s tentative birthdate given to Clodri is 10 years after that of Tryffin who Bartrum believed was his nephew.

The third and last segment, HG 2c, is shown below. Note, the missing names that have been inserted, i.e. Custennin and Macsen Wledig, can be seen in JC 13b.

Gen. HG 2c JC 13b
-7 Constantii Helen luicdauc Custenint Elen
-6 Constantini magni Constantinus mawr
-5 Constans Maximianus
-4 [Macsen Wledig] Maxen wledic
-3 [Custennin] Custennin
-2 Pincr misser Miser
-1 Stater Ewein
0 Eliud Prwtech
1 Ebiud Kyngar
2 Ewein
3 Cyndwr bendigeit

This segment supports the identification of the Maxim with Constantius Chlorus as both appear in gen. -7. The latter individual’s wife, St. Helena, has been conflated with Eudaf’s daughter, Elen Luyddog who was probably St. Helena of Cornwall.

It may be that Barturm, too, noticed HG 2 need to be divided into three segments as he wrote:
“There seems to be three independent strands of pedigree here, see note to ABT 18a.”[2]

[1] Bartrum, P.C., 1974, vol. 1, 6.
[2] Bartrum, P.C., 1966, 126.

Arthur and Urien

The evidence for Arthur being a genuine historical figure is very similar to that for Urien. Both appear in the Welsh pedigree lists, Arthur in HG 2 and Urien in HG 8.

Gen. HG 2 HG 8
1 Nowy Urien Rheged
0 Arthur Cynfarch Oer
-1 Pedr Meirchion Gul

That Urien became incorporated into the Arthurian cycle is not necessarily a creation of the High Medieval writers since Urien belonged to gen. 1. Taliesin was a contemporary of Arthur and Urien. It is, consequently, not suprising that he wrote praise poetry about both, in The Chair of the Sovereign and Urien of Yrechwydd respectively.

St. Kentigern, who died in 614 according to the AC, was incorrectly identified with Cyndeyrn Garthwys, a grandson of Urien. I believe Kentigern was Cyndeyrn Fendigaid of gen. 1. This assertion is given support by the V. Kentigerni 24 which describes how a king called Melconde Golganu attempted to stop Kentigern from constructing a monastery. The king is identified as Maelgwn Gwynedd who belonged to gen. 0 and so could well have interacted with Kentigern.

The year of Kentigern’s birth can be determined with reasonable certainty. He is said to have died in 612 or 603. The latter date is more likely as his death occurred on 13 January on a Sunday. He is said to have lived 185 years which is likely to be an error for 85 years, giving a birthdate of 518.

Gen. ABT 18a ByS G 18
3 Cyndeyrn Garthwys
2 Owain
1 Cyndeyrn Fendigaid Urien Rheged
0 Owain Cynfarch Oer
-1 Cyngar Meirchion Gul

This confusion can be seen in triad 1 which describes Cyndeyrn as Chief of Bishops in the North but gives him the wrong cognomen, i.e. Garthwys.[1] The error may have resulted in further misidentifications as indicated in the above table below.

Gen. Corrupted list
ByS G 18
3  Cyndeyrn Fendigaid Cyndeyrn Garthwys
2 Owain Owain
1 Urien Rheged
0 Cyngar Cynfarch Oer

However, Cyngar (Hound love) and Cynfarch (Hound horse), the name of Urien’s father, are not the same.

I believe that doubt has been created concerning Arthur’s existence because of the supernatural stories built around him by later writers. This sort of phenomenon has similarly cast doubt, in the minds of some, on the historicity of Jesus.

[1] Bromwich, R., 2006, 1