The two Macsen Wledigs

The name Macsen Wledig has been applied to two distinct persons. The first individual appears in gen. -8 of H3859 2 as Maxim gulecic, see Why Bartrum’s dating … . He also appears in H3859 4 as Maxim guletic and in BGG 11 as Maxen Wledic. I believe this individual can be identified with the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus as explained in the above link.

The opening lines of The Dream of Macsen Wledig from Pen. 4.

The opening lines of The Dream of Macsen Wledig from Pen. 4.

The Pen. 16 version of The Dream of Maxen Wledig only describes the story up to his stay in Britain. The version in Pen. 4 of the White Book of Rhydderch speaks about his return to Rome, but this continuation is actually referring to the second Macsen.

This is the Western Roman emperor Magnus Maximus born c. 335. He appears in gen. -5 as in the follwing fragment from JC20 13.

Gen. JC20 13
1 Cyndwr Fendigaid
0 Owain
-1 Cyngar m. Protec
-2 Owain
-3 Miser
-4 Custennin
-5 Macsen Wledig
-6 Maximianus
-7 Constantinus Mawr
-8 Constantius Elen

Note, Cyngar son of Protec is an error in this pedigree list. The latter name is simply Cyngar’s cognomen. The table is in accord with Constantine the Great’s birth in 272 or 273 and the birth of Helena, a wife of Constantius Chlorus, birth between 248 and 250.[1]

[1] Harbus, A., 2002, 13.

Why Bartrum’s dating of the Demetian Arthur is wrong

To understand why there is a problem with the birthdate of Arthur son of Pedr given by Bartrum, i.e. 560, we need to look at a manuscript that mentions this individual. The names in the tables below are in the same order as they occur in H3859 2, namely progressing from the most recent to later individuals. 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 segment of the Demetian pedigree. The obits shown in the 3rd column are those stated by Bartrum and originate from the AC.

Gen. H3859 2: 1st seg. Obit acc. Bartrum
Gen. acc. Bartrum Birthdate acc. Bartrum
13 Owain 18 900
12 Elen 929 18
11 Llywarch 904 17
10 Hyfaidd 893 16
9 Tangwystl 15? 790
8 Owain 811 14?
7 Maredudd 796 13
6 Tewdws 12 700
5 Rhain 11 675
4 Cadwgon 11 650
3 Cathen 10 625
2 Gwlyddien 9 600
1 Nowy 9 580
0 Arthur 8 560
-1 Pedr 7 535
-2 Cyngar 6 510

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.

Using a much larger database of obits the step-size is 32 years. Indeed Bartrum states a male generation (the period between the birth of a father and that of his child) is about 33 years whereas a female generation (the period between the birth of a mother and that of her child) is about 20 years. The vast majority of generations in my database are male ones.

The larger database gives Arthur’s birth as occuring c. 495, 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.

Using my generation numbering, Bartum’s estimates for the birthdates from Owain to Cyngar 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.

I believe the reason why Bartrum’s analysis went astray was that he believed H3859 2 to be a single pedigree list, whereas in reality it consists of three seperate segments. In the second segment, 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. H3859 2: 2nd seg. Obit acc. Bartrum
Gen. acc. Bartrum Birthdate acc. Bartrum
-1 Gwerthefyr 6 480
-2 Aergol Lawhir 5 460
-3 Tryffin 4 430
-4 Clodri 4? 440?
-5 Clydwyn 3 410
-6 Ednyfed 2 380
-7 Annun (Dyfed) 2 355
-8 Macsen Wledig 388 1 330
-9 Protec
-10 Protector

Gildas writing in the 540s in the DE 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, although, perhaps, a little on the late side. He errs when he identifies the Macsen Wledig with the Roman emperor Magnus Maximus who died in 388. 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 Dyfed/Nyfed the same generation number, resulting in a step-size of 30 years.

I believe in this instance the name Macsen Wledig was a reference to the emperor Constantius Chlorus, who died in 306, for the following reasons. He was born in the year 250 and this date falls into the period of my gen -8. 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 3rd and last segment of H3859 2 is shown below. Note, the missing names that have been inserted, i.e. Custennin and Macsen Wledig, can be seen in JC20 13.

Gen. H3859 2: 3rd seg.
0 Eifudd
-1 Eiludd
-2 Stater
-3 Pincr misser
-4 [Custennin]
-5 [Macsen Wledig]
-6 Constans
-7 Constantinus magnus
-8 Constantius Elen Luyddog

This segment confirms the identification of Macsen with Constantius, as his wife St. Helena has been given the cognomen of Eudaf’s daughter, namely Luyddog.

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 H3859 2 and Urien in H3859 8.

Gen. H3859 2 H3859 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 VK 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

Gwyddno Garanhir

Maes Gwyddno (The plain of Gwyddno) was a lowland area protected by a number of dykes which were managed by a individual named Seithennin, possibly its king. However, one night he failed in his duty through being too drunk and the land was drowned. This area, also known as Cantre’r Gwaelod, is said to be in Cardigan Bay near Aberdyfi.[1]

The region was named after Gwyddno Garanhir (Gwyddno Long-shank). Although Bartrum maintained that he was a legendary character, I believe we can identify him as a historical figure. The following table is a composite one.

Gen. BGG 10, 11
1 Elffin
0 Gwyddno
-1 Cawrdaf
-2 Garmonion
-3 Dyfnwal Hen
-4 Ednyfed
-5 Macsen Wledig

Gen. 1 to -3 are from BGG 10, gen. -4 to -5 are from a fragment of BGG 11. Gwyddno Garanhir appears in gen. 0 and his supposedly legendary son, Elffin, in gen. 1. As explained by Wolcott the Dyfnwal Hen in this pedigree was a different individual to that in the pedigree of the kings of Strathclyde.[2]

The prose Hanes Taliesin describes how Elffin discovered the child Taliesin. Elffin and Maelgwn, the king of Gwynedd, are contemporaries in this story and this is consistent with the fact that former belonged to gen. 1 and the latter to gen. 0. Maelgwn’s son, Rhun, plays a role in the tale which suggests he and Elffin belonged to the same generation, and this is in line with the above chronology.

When the bard Taliesin was 13 years of age he visited Maelgwn Gwynedd, who we are told was Elffin’s uncle, and correctly predicted Maelgwn’s imminent death. The AC tells us Maelgwn died of the plague in 547 and so we may conclude Taliesin was born c. 534.

[1] Rhys, J., 1901, 382
[2] Ancient Wales Studies > Anwn Dynod ap Maxen Wledig

The king list of Ceredigion

H3859 26, JC20 21 and JC20 42 together provide us with the pedigree of the royals of Ceredigion when Artgloys in the first manuscript is lined up with Argloes in the second one. In the columns two to four the medieval forms of the names are given whereas in the column headed Combined the modern forms are used.

Gen. H3859 26 JC20 21 JC20 42 Combined
10 [G]uocaun Angharat Agharat Gwgon and Angharad
 9 Mouric veuric veuruc  Meurig
 8 Dumnguallaun dyga6l dyfynwal Dyfnwallon
 7 Arthgen Arthen Arden  Arthen
 6 Seissil Seissill Seissyll Seisyll
 5 Clitauc Clyda6c Cleta6c Clydog
 4 Aruodeu Aruodeu Aruodeu
 3 Artgloys Argloes Argloes Arthlwys
 2 Artbodgu Arthfoddow
 1 Bodgu Pode6 Pode6 Boddw
 0 Serguil Seruuel Seruul Serwyl
-1 Iusay Vsai Vsai Usai
-2 Ceretic Keredic Karedic Ceredig
-3 Cuneda Kuneda wledic Kuneda wledic Cunedda

Gwgon and Angharad, in generation 10, were siblings. JC20 42 adds the incorrect comment that Angharad was the mother of Rhodri Mawr, whereas it is generally agreed that she was his wife. This is confirmed by the fact that he belongs to generation 10 in other pedigree lists.

Amlawdd and Gwen

JC20 7 states that Cunedda Wledig had two daughters, Tegid and Gwen, the latter being the wife of Amlawdd Wledig:

D6y verchet Cuneda Tecgygyl A Gwen g6reic Anla6d wledic.

ByA 29(14) agrees with the above, adding that Gwen was the mother of Cynwal Garnhwch:

Dwy ferchet Kunedda: Tegit, Gwenn ferch Kunedda gwreig Amlwyd wledig, mam Kynwal garnhwch.

Amlawdd and Gwen’s son Cynwal Garnwch appears in CO as Kynwal Canhwch, the father of Gwen Alarch whose name means White Swan. Bartrum in WCD says Kynwal’s name appears to be the Welsh equivalent of the Ulster hero Conall Cernach. Cynwal may have been given this name as it was also that of Amlawdd’s own father.

Locating Arthur

The Demetian pedigree according to Bartrum.

The Demetian pedigree according to Bartrum.

After fixing Arthur in time to the late 5th/ early 6th century we need to locate him geographically. That so much folklore attached to him suggests it is certain he was regarded as an exceptional leader and if he was the ruler of one of the British kingdoms he is likely to appear in one of the surviving king lists. This narrows the search down to just two individuals: Artur mac Aedan of Dalriada and Arthur map Pedr of Dyfed. However, neither men supposedly lived in the right time frame. According to the AT the former individual died in battle in 596 and, therefore, could not have been also fighting at Badon. Bartrum, the genealogist of the Welsh medieval period, dated the latter ruler to around 560. It would seem this individual too may need to be eliminated from our search. Unless, of course, this dating can be shown to be incorrect, see Why Bartrum’s dating … .