The three Merlins

As first stated by Giraldus Cambrensis, Merlin of the Historia Regum Britanniae was not the same individual as Myrddin Caledonius.[1] But whereas he stated there were two Merlins in fact there were three.

Gildas’s Ambrosius Aurelianus was known to the Welsh as Emrys Wledig. Geoffrey or a later copyist called him Ambrosius Merlinus. This Merlin was a boy during Gwrtheyrn’s reign and so belonged to gen -2. His father is likely to have been Constantine III. His mother may have been Gwledyr ferch Clydwyn. If so, his name appears in ABT 18d as Amwerydd ap Custennin.

Emrys was the father of Uthr Bendragon and not his brother as claimed by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Also, Geoffrey created a doublet of Emrys by inverting the two Latin elements and thus producing the name for this supposed brother as Aurelius Ambrosius.

The second Merlin was An, the son of a daughter of Helig ap Glannog, see Myrddin Emrys, and consequently of gen. -1. He was the one who articulated the prophecy in HRB VII 3 and was involved in the deception played on Eigr.

The third Merlin is he of the Vita Merlini, known as Myrddin Caledonius, son of Morfryn and king of Dyfed. His sister, Ganieda, was married to Rhydderch Hael who was of gen. 0, see Rhydderch Hael and Rhydderch Hen. He may well have been a contemporary of the adult Arthur, being of gen. 1.

It is generally held that the name Merlin was created to avoid the association with the Latin equivalent of Myrddin, namely Merdinus. However, in reality, the name originated in the HRB as a corruption of Aurelianus.

[1] Rhys, E., 1908, 125.
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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).

Bartrum suggests Aurelius Caninus can be identified with Cynan Garwyn of Powys, which is plausible. He adds that there is no consensus as to which kingdom he ruled. Gildas’s list follows a geographical progression which suggests Cynan ruled over an area of South Wales. He would have been of gen. 0 or 1, as were the other tyrants, 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. It may be they inherited his kingdom as indicated by:

brenin Emrys y bumran
King Emrys of the Five Parts

[1] Cylchg LlGC XVIII, 414.

Myrddin Emrys

Gen. PP1 63 seg. MG 3 seg. HG 16a seg. ByS L 42 seg. PP1 12
4 Seissyllt Eorf Caurtam Braint hir
3 Kynvynn Kaenawc Serguan Nevydd
2 Kynann kanhysgwydd Tegonwy Letan Geraint
1 Sawyl velyn Teon Catleu Garanawc
0 Mevric brenin Dyfed Gwineu Catel Glewddigar
-1 Maredudd brenin Dyfed Howyr leu Decion Anan Kynwas
-2 Predri How dec Cinis scaplaut [daughter] Rychwin varfoc
-3 Pliws hen brenhin Dyved Run rudpaladyr Lou hen Helic Helic
-4 Llara Guidgen Glynnawc Glanawc
-5 Kasnar wledic Caratauc
-6 Gwynn gohoyw Gloyw gwlat lydan Cinbelin
-7 Tenewan Teuhant

The genealogical table above exhibits the names as they appear in the various manuscripts. The name in gen. 0 of the list PP1 63 is Meurig who the document states was present at Arthur’s coronation. This is in accord with some other manuscripts, including the Brut y Brenhinedd :

“And before him [Arthur] were four men bearing four naked swords (namely Arawn Kynvarch’s son, King of Albany, and Caswallaun Longhand, King of Venedotia, and Merrick King of Demetia, and Cador Earl of Cornwall), for this was their privilege by the custom of the emperor.”

The name in gen. -2 is the Demetian Pryderi, son of Pwyll and Rhiannon, and the main character of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion. The name exhibits a number of variations including: Blitri, Bletri, Bledri and Bledri hir. I believe this is the individual that Robert de Boron called Blaise. That he should be the grandfather of a contemporary of Arthur, tallies with the belief that his foster-son, Merlin, should be at least one generation earlier than Arthur.

Bromwich says of Blaes, son of the Earl of Llychlyn, one of the Three Just Knights in Arthur’s Court mentioned in triad 6 of the Pedwar Marchog ar Hugain:

“The name appears to be derived from that of the hermit Bla(i)se in the Prose Merlin …”[1]

The triad states:

“Blaes [preserves justice] by earthly Law …”

This corresponds well to the fact that Blaise defended Merlin’s mother in court.

Confirmation of this analysis is provided by Le chevalier aux deux epées which gives Maredudd of gen -1 the form Mériadeuc and states that he is the son of Bleheri, a name which corresponds to Blaise. Bromwich gives the following footnote:

“K.Jackson discussed the name Bledhericus as a latinization of Ml.W. Bleddri (‘king of wolves’) in a brief note in Les Romans du Graal dans les litteratures des XIIc et XIIIc siècles (Paris, 1956), p. 148. In this he showed that the Welsh name Bleddri becomes easily corrupted to Bleri and then by assimilation to Breri and Bleheris in the continental romances.”[2]

Clearly, if this process could have occurred with the name of Bleddri ap Cydifor then it could also have occurred with Bledri ap Pwyll.

According to the First Branch of the Mabinogion, Pryderi was married to Cigfa, the daughter of Gwyn Gohoyw, son of Gloyw Walltlydan, son of Casnar Wledig. The last two names appear in reverse order in MG 3. However, whichever scheme is correct, Run rudpaladyr of gen. -3 would have been a brother of Gwyn Gohoyw and uncle to Cigfa, confirming the chronological correlation between PP1 63 and MG 3.

Further confirmation of the soundness of the dating is provided by HG 16a which shows Lleu Llaw Gyffes in gen. -2 and his uncle Gwydion, who killed Pryderi, in gen. -3. Note, Cadlew of gen. 1 appears in the HRB IX 12 as Cathleus map Catel and as being present at Arthur’s coronation.

After listing the 7 sons of Helig ap Glannog, not shown in the table above, and mentioning the submerged kindom, ByS L 42 states:

“… ac Anan ap y lleian nai uabchwaer.”

This is similar to the first verse in stanza 17 of Pen. 98B:

“Bedd Ann ap lleian ym newais fynydd,
lluagor llew Ymrais,
Prif ddewin Merddin Embrais.”

This is an englyn penfyr. The rhyme is at the 8th syllable of verse 1 and at the end of the other two verses. The “fynydd”, the final word of line 1, is an addendum known as a gair cyrch. “Lluagor” may be a description of Myrddin’s military skill or a reference to his birth occurring at the same time as that of a certain war-horse. The stanza says “newais” is the name of a mountain, perhaps, it is the Welsh equivalent of Gaelic “Nibheis”, as in Ben Nevis. There is, however, one problem, namely the first verse should contain 11 syllables. It is conjectured that the first line was originally:

“Bedd An anap lleian ym newais fynydd”

The text appears in a number of corrupted forms.

Corruption sequence one: An anap → Ananap → Ananan.
Corruption sequence two: An anap → Ananap → Annap → Airap.
Corruption sequence three: An anap → Ananap → Annap → Ann ap.

“Ananan” appears in ByS K, M 42, “Airap” appears in an englyn milwr transcription and “Ann ap” appears in the englyn penfyr transcription shown above. So, a translation of the text would be:

“The grave of An, the misfortune of the nun, on Ben Nevis,
Host-splitter, lion of Emrais,
Chief magician, Myrddin Emrys.”

Confirmation that the generational dating for ByS L 42 is correct is provided by PP1 12 which shows the descendants of Glannog who was the great-grandfather of Anan, this being the diminutive form for An. One of these is Braint Hir who was a nephew of Cadwallon ap Cadfan and consequently correctly appears in gen. 4.

[1] Bromwich, R., 2006, 289.
[2] Ibid., xciv.

 

Was Arthur a king?

This question is raised from time to time. That Arthur was not a king during the period of his twelve battles is confirmed by the Historia Brittonum which gives him the title “dux bellorum” in the following passage:

“Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons. And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror.”

This is not surprising since during these campaigns he may well have been in his early to mid-twenties. That he eventually became king of Dyfed is shown by his entry in HG 2.

The Annals of Ulster has the following statement under the year 467:

“Death of Uter Pendragon, king of England, to whom succeeded his son, King Arthur, who instituted the Round Table.”

Hennessy pointed out that this comes from only version B of the annals and was done in a later hand.[1] This explains the anachronistic reference to an English king and a Round Table. The date for Arthur’s coronation is, clearly, incorrect and may have been the result of a copyist mistaking the date cccccxuii to be cccclxuii. This is close to that given by the Annales Cambriae for Badon as opposed to being much earlier providing evidence that Arthur attained kingship towards the end or soon after his twelve battles.

It has been pointed out that Arthur is not given the title “rex” in the AC. However, if the royals in version A are listed it shows this is not surprising.

Royals without their title:
516 arthur, 537 arthur, 537 medraut, 558 Gabran filius dungart, 580 Guurci, 580 peretur, 589 con stantini, 607 Aidan map gabran, 613 selim filíí cinan, 613 iacob filíí beli, 616 Ceretic, 616 Et guin, 626 Etguin, 626 run filius urbgen, 627 Belin, 629 cat guol laun, 630 Guidgar, 630 guin, 630 Catguo llaun, 631 catguollaan, 632 iudris, 657 Pantha, 658 Osguid, 662 broc mail, 665 morcant, 682 catgualart filius catguolaum, 722 Beli filius elfin, 750 teudubr filius beli, 760 dunnagual filíí teudubr, 775 Fernmail filius iudhail, 811 Eugem filius margetiud, 813 higuel, 814 Trifun filius regin, 814 grip huid filius cincen, 814 elized, 814 Higuel, 814 cinan, 816 Higuel, 825 Higuel, 842 Iudguoll, 844 mermin, 849 Mouric, 850 Cinnen, 864 duta, 873 mouric, 877 Rotri , 877 guriat, 878 Aed map neill, 880 rotri, 882 Cat guethen, 885 Higuel, 892 Himeyd, 894 Anaraut, 902 Igmunt, 903 Loumarch filius hiemid, 904 Rostri, 913 Otter, 939 Himeid filius clitauc, 939 mouric, 940 Ædelstan, 943 Catel filius artmail, 943 iudgual, 943 elized, 946 Cincenn filius elized, 951 cat guocaun filius ouein, 954 Rotri filius higuel.

Royals with their title:
547 mailcun rex genedotae, 595 Dunaut rex, 644 osuuald rex nordorum, 644 eoba rex merciorum, 669 Osguid rex saxonum, 704 Alch frit rex saxonum, 714 pipínus maior rex francorum, 716 Osbrit rex saxonum, 736 Ougen rex pictorum, 750 rex … talargan, 754 Rotri rex brittonum, 757 Edpald rex saxo, 776 Cenioyd rex pictorum, 796 Offa rex merciorum, 796 morgetiud rex demetorum, 798 Caratauc rex guenedote, 807 Arthgen rex cereticiaun, 808 regin rex demetorum, 808 catell [rex] pouis, 816 Cinan rex, 848 iudhail rex guent, 854 Cinnen rex pouis, 854 ionathan princeps opergelei, 856 Cemoyth rex pictorum, 871 Guoccaun … rex cereticiaum, 875 Dungarth rex cerniu, 900 Albrit rex giuoys, 909 Catell rex, 915 Anaraut rex, 917 Ælfled regina, 919 Clitauc rex, 928 Higuel rex, 942 Abloyc rex, 947 Eadmund rex saxonum, 950 Higuel rex brittonum.

There are 66 instances of royals not being given their title and 35 cases where they are. For the early period, say before the year 700, it is even more likely the title would not have been registered.

The poem Gereint fil[ius] Erbin refers to Arthur as:

“Amherawdyr, llywyawdyr llauur.”

Sims-Williams wrote:

“The description of him as ’emperor’ (ameraudur/amherawdur < Latin imperator) could reflect Geoffrey’s Arthur but not necessarily so.”[2]

Nerys Ann Jones wrote of the poem:

“Most scholars believe that they [versions of the poem] probably belonged to a lost collection of poems about Geraint similar to the Llywarch Hen cycle, with possibly a prose element, and composed sometime between c.800 and 1100.”

“The use of the term amherawydyr (from Latin imperator) for Arthur is not likely to indicate the influence of the emperor figure of Geoffrey of Monmouth, as it was originally a military term for a commander-in-chief, and is used in the work of the Poets of the Princes, often in combination with llywyawdyr, for powerful leaders like the Lord Rhys, a ruler of Deuheubarth in the twelfth century, and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native prince of Wales.”[3]

The two rulers listed by Jones tells us that the title does not preclude Arthur being a king.

The poem Kadeir Teyrnon refers to Cawrnur. He was one of Arthur’s counselors, see Cawrnur. The placename ‘Reon’ appears in the poem. Triad 1 tells us that ‘Penn Ryonyd yn y Gogled’ was one of Arthur’s tribal thrones.[4]

The title of the poem could be translated either with a proper name as ‘The Chair of Teyrnon’ or as ‘The Chair of a Prince’. It would seem that the second interpretation is more likely, particularly since the following lines indicate the eulogy was directed to him:

“Arthur has been blessed
In harmonious song-
[As] a defence in battle,
Trampling nine [at a time].”[5]

[1] Hennessy, W. M., 1887.
[2] Bromwich, R., Jarman, A.O.H., Roberts, B.F. (eds.), 2008, 48.
[3] Lloyd-Morgan, C., Poppe E., (eds.), 2019, 19.
[4] Bromwich, R., 2006, 1.
[5] Lloyd-Morgan, C., Poppe E., (eds.), 2019, 24.

Locating Arthur

The Demetian pedigree according to Bartrum.

The Demetian pedigree according to Bartrum. Cadair Early series (Aberystwyth University)

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 … .