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.

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.

Identifying Cynan Wledig

The name Cynan Wledig appears in its Latin form as Aurelius Caninus in the De Excidio where it is listed as one of five tyrants alive at the time of Gildas. Their territories were as follows:

Dumnonia (Constantinus),
? (Aurelius Caninus),
Dyfed (Vortiporius),
Rhos (Cuneglasus),
Gwynedd (Maglocunus).

Gildas’s list follows a geographical progression which suggests Cynan ruled over an area of South Wales. Bartrum suggests Aurelius Caninus could be identified with Cynan Garwyn of Powys. He adds that there is no consensus as to which kingdom he ruled. The king would have been of gen. 0 or 1, as were the other tyrants mentioned by Gildas, suggesting that he may have been Cynan ap Casanauth Wledig of Powys, see JC20 16b at Sanan ferch Elise.

The five rulers appear in the DEB after the Ambrosius passage. They may have inherited their kingdoms from Arthur who had succeeded Ambrosius:

brenin Emrys y bumran
King Emrys of the Five Parts[1]

HB 42 states tells us that Vortigern gave Emrys Wledig all the kingdoms in the western part of Britain. Triad 1 tells us Arthur ruled over Gwynedd, Cornwall and Pen Rhionydd.[2] The last name is likely to be in Rheged and, therfore, chronology suggests Aurelius Caninus is likely to have been Cynfarch Oer, the father of Urien. Koch derives Cynfarch from a name which literally means hound-stallion.[3] So here we have another example of Gildas’s name play.

[1] Arch. Camb. vol. 6, 239. NLWJ vol. 18 no. 4, 412 and 414.
[2] Bromwich, R., 2006, 1.
[3] Koch, J.T., 2006, 537.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the British victories

That the ASC makes no mention of Baddon is not surprising as the policy was clearly not to mention their defeats. A further example of this are the battles mentioned in the AC and also referred to in the ByT, dated to the year 721:

And the battle of Heilin, with Rhodri Molwynog, took place in Cornwall; and the action of Garthmaelog, and the fight of Pencoed in South Wales. And in those three battles the Britons were victorious.[1]

Moreover, although the ASC is reasonably accurate, it is clear that in the Arthurian age the information has been manipulated. The entries for the years 495 and 508 look similar to those of 514 and 527 respectively, seperated by 19 years, the Metonic cycle. It would appear that, by the use of repetition, the chronicle blanked out a disastrous period for the Saxons.

[1] Williams, J., 1860, 5


Triad 1 states one of Arthur’s tribal thrones is Celliwig in Cornwall. Other sources confirm that Arthur’s court was located there. I believe it must be a place that occupies a prime strategic site in Cornwall. The Romans had to make a similar decision as to where to locate their forts. Two of their four known forts in Cornwall are a mere 5 miles apart. Both occupy hilltops that overlook the highest navigable point on major Cornish rivers.

The first is at Nanstallon and the associated river is the Camel which drains on the north coast at Padstow. The second fort is at Restormel, near the river Fowey which drains on the south coast at the town of Fowey. The forts are separated by an east-west ridgeway, possibly prehistoric in origin, which runs along the central spine of Cornwall. They could also monitor the north-south traffic, some of which would be avoiding having to sail round the tip of the peninsula.

It is here, near the geographical centre of Cornwall and between the two forts, that Castle Canyke or Kynock is situated. It is the largest hill-fort in Cornwall and I believe it to be Kelli wic. It is bivallate and oval in shape measuring 348 m and 308 m. Ferdinand Lot (1901) thought Arthur’s residence was Bodmin, the town the castle is located in, and he noted that nearby was a place called Callywith.[1] Nearby is Callywith wood, perhaps originally part of the forest indicated by the meaning of the name Celliwig, i.e forest grove.

Koch states:
“The name Camulodūnon is most probably the source of Camelot …”[2]
Cornish/Welsh ‘din’ and Gaelic ‘dun’ were terms used to refer to a ‘fort’. The name is, therefore,  likely to mean a reference to “fort on the river Camel”.

[1] Romania 30, 13
[1] Koch, J.T., 2006, 337

Paganism in the Arthurian age

It is unlikely that paganism had disappeared by the 6th and maybe 7th C. O.J. Padel refers to a probably early 10th C text in the Vatican library listing between twenty-four and thirty-two names of saints revered in Cornwall.[1] Another text lists the twenty-four saintly children of Brychan Brycheiniog, the Cornish version of which is in The V. Nectani. Both lists are in the vernacular and the names are partly geographically arranged. Padel states that these lists demonstrate the existence in Cornwall of local dedications, many of which are unique to particular parish churches. The explanations he gives for the dedications is usually in terms of the conversion of the area by the local saint. The Vatican list dedications includes a number of 6th C saints, such as St. Levan, St. Just and St. Gerrans.

The AC records for the year 589 AD ‘The conversion of Constantine to the Lord’. This event is also recorded in the AT and AU. He may well have been Constantine, the king of Damnonia, the one rebuked by Gildas.

There is a description of communal worshiping in the V. Samsonis where the saint comes across in Tricurium (The Cornish Hundred of Trigg) a group worshipping an idol with music and dance.

St. Collen banishing the court of Gwyn ap Nudd may be a reference to him abolishing pagan belief in the Glastonbury area, see St. Collen.

[1] Thacker, A., Sharpe, R., 2002, 316-319