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.

Arthurian connections with Ewyas and Ergyng

In Culhwch ac Olwen,during his chase, Twrch Trwyth killed Llygadrudd Emys and Gwrfoddw, Arthur’s uncles, his mother’s brothers. The latter name appears in that of Gwrfoddw Hen, king of Ergyng, but he appears to be a later ruler. However, Welsh dynasties often preserved the same name, so Gwrfoddw Hen may have been a descendant. This suggests Eigr, Gwrfoddw’s sister, could have come from that region.

Ergyng may have covered parts of Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. The Brut y Brenhinedd calls Eudaf, an ancestor of Arthur, as “Eudaf yarll ergig ac euas”, that is Earl of Ewyas and Ergyng. However, Geoffrey refers to him anachronistically as “Octavius dux Wisseorum”, presumably the territorial name being derived from Welsh Ewyas.

Magnus Maximus had a daughter, named Sevira, by Elen, daugther of Eudaf. It was through Gwrtheyrn’s marriage with Sevira that he gained control of the territory that was to become known as Ewyas. Geoffrey referred to him as the “Consol Gewissiorum”. He invited Germanic warriors to settle in the Abingdon area to help defend attacks on his territory in Ergyng. The ASC confuses this event with the later settlement in Kent. The name for Gwent is easily confused with that for Kent. Gwrtheyrn locating the Gewisse, a Saxon tribe, in the upper Thames valley made logistical sense, as his opponent, Emrys Wledig i.e. Aurelius Ambrosius, was based in the Wiltshire area. Located in that county is the village of Amesbury, formerly known as “Ambres byrig” in the Cartularium Saxonicum.[1] It is likely that the East Wansdyke earthwork was built by the Britons as a defense against attack from the north.

Cerdic is attributed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the founder of the Wessex dynasty. However, as Dumville has pointed out, his reign started later than the chronicle suggests. In fact, he belonged to a second Wessex dynasty. The first dynasty was founded by the eponymous ruler, Wig/Giwis, the two names being, as Sisam explains, alliterative pairs. His reign was followed by that of Esla/Elesa. The latter is known as Osla Gyllellfawr, whose defeat by Arthur brought the first Wessex dynasty to an end. For obvious reasons, this disaster goes unmentioned in the ASC.

[1] Birch, W. de G., 1887, 178.

Tintagel 2017

In 2017, during the dig at Tintagel which was commissioned by English Heritage and done by Cornwall Archaeological Unit, a 7th C inscription was found at the southern terrace which like the 1998 discovery had inscription indicating a mix of different cultures. The dating may be a reference to the fact that the site was a post-Roman occupation from at least the 5th to the 7th C.

Two of the names that appear are Budic and Tito. The former is well-known and appears as an alternative to Emyr Llydaw, amongst other instances. The latter name, Titus, appears on an inscription located at Tawna, Cornwall, see CISP.

The stone will be examined further. I would propose the possibility of there being a third name. I believe what has been interpreted as “viri duo” is a reference to the name “Viridu”. The small circle at the end of that name has been misinterpreted to be an -o-. The use of such a symbol can be seen on the inscription at Lancarffe, also in Cornwall, see CISP.  Charles Thomas interpreted that to mean “of”. So the first part of the inscription states:

“Titus the son of Viridius” or “Titus the son of Viridus”.

The final name has been written incorrectly as “Viridu” where the -u- is an error for -ii- or -i-. The same mistake was made at Lanivet, in Cornwall, as pointed out by Thomas, see CISP.

The gens Viridia was a Roman family. The name is related to that of the Celtic god Viridius or Viridios. Dedications to him as well as a possible image were found at Ancaster, Lincolnshire. It has been suggested that the name may refer to “virile” or “verdant” and to associations with the Green Man.

Deo Viridio Stone from Ancaster. Author – Gfawkes05.

Time Team Stone Inscription from Ancaster. Author – Gfawkes05.

Carving from Ancaster. Photographer – The Portable Antiquities Scheme, Adam Daubney.

Viridius appears in the Arthurian Romance as Gweirydd ap Llew, the brother of Gwalchmai. He may be a doublet for Gareth. Their names appear in the Marchogion y Vort Gron (Soldiers of the Round Table). In the Vulgate cycle these names appear as Guerrehes and Gaheries respectively. He may have been Gwair dathar Weinidog with the cognomen Adarweinidog ([having] bird-servants or servant of birds) who appears in CO and had the daughter Tangwen.

Since Gweirydd’s mother was Gwyar, the daughter of Gwrlais and Eigr, it is not surprising for his name to appear at Tintagel. Nor so with Budic since Gwyar was first married to Emyr Llydaw and then to Llew ap Cynfarch. The name that the HRB gives for ByB’s Emyr Llydaw is Budic. That these figures of the Arthurian tradition are to be considered historical is a reflection of the fact that Gwalchmai belongs to its earliest stratum.

Arthur’s descent from Cunedda

Gwen, the mother of Eigr, was the daughter of Cunedda Wledig, see Amlawdd and Gwen. Arthur is identified with Paternus, Padarn in Welsh, on the Tintagel slate. The V. Paterni tells us that Paternus’s mother was a lady named Gwen (Guean) but does not give her ancestry. This is provided by late additions to the ByS, e.g. in version J:

Gwenn v’ch Karedic ap Kvnedda wledic

The respective pedigrees are shown below:

Gen. JC 7, ByA 31 ByS 21 Reconciled
0 Arthur Padarn Arthur/Padarn
-1 Eigr Pedrwn Gwen Eigr Gwendragon
-2 Gwen Emyr Llydaw Ceredig Gwen
-3 Cunedda Wledig Cunedda Wledig Cunedda Wledig

Arthur’s pedigree may be reconciled with that of Paternus as shown by the column entitled ‘Reconciled’ in the table above. The name of the Paternus’s mother, Gwen, was, in fact, also an element of Eigr’s cognomen. The evidence for this assertion is provided by two Irish Arthurian Romances. In the RIA.23D 22 version of the Romance Eachtra an Mhadra Mhaoil (The Story of the Crop-Eared Dog)[1] we have:

Artur mhic Iobhair mhic Ambros mhic Constaintin

whereas in the RIA.23M 26 version it is:

Arthur mhac Ambróis mic ConstantÍn mic Uighir Finndrea guin

In the Romance Eachtra Mhacaoimh an Iolair (The Story of Eagle-boy)[2] the last name in the above pedigree takes the form Ughdaire Finndreagain. These pedigrees are consistent but need to be interpreted as shown in the table below which presents the names in the forms given in the various documents:

Gen. EaMM RIA.23D 22 EaMM RIA.23M 26 EMaI
0 Artur Arthur Artur
-1 Iobhair [Iobhair] Uighir Finndreaguin Iubhair Ughdaire Finndreagain
-2 Ambros Ambróis Ambrois
-3 Constaintin ConstantÍn Constaintin

Iubair is the name given to Arthur’s father in the 1467 ms. The name Iobhair can take the form Iomhair which is derived from the Welsh Emyr Llydaw. This title referred to Petranus, Pedrwn or Pedr in Welsh, the father of Paternus. Thus, Arthur’s father, Iobhair (Pedr), was the son of Ambrois (Ambrosius) who also held the title Emyr Llydaw as shown by ByS 21. His father was Constantine as indicated in the Historia Regum Britanniae. However, as that document incorrectly claimed Constantinus (Custennin Fendigaid) was the brother of Aldroenus (Aldwr) who belonged to the later gen. -2, in order to maintain a viable chronology he was forced to claim Ambrosius was the brother of Arthur’s father.

Moreover, Arthur’s mother was Uighir Finndreaguin (Eigr Gwendragon), where Irish Finn and Welsh Gwen have the meaning white or fair or blessed. Finndreaguin was erroneoulsy taken to be Cinndreaguin resulting in the matronymic Arthur m. Uighir Finndreaguin becoming the false patronymic Arthur m. Uther Pendragon.

Allocating Ambrosius to gen. -2 is consistent with HB 42 which indicates he was one generation later than Vortigern and also with HB 66 which says the discord between Vitalinus and Ambrosius occurred 12 years after Vortigern’s reign. He was an illegitimate son of the Roman emperor Constantine III. Because the HRB wrongly identified Constantine as Aldwr’s brother, as stated above, Geoffrey was forced to make the false claim that the emperor’s genuine son, Constans II, was also the brother of Ambrosius.

[1] ITS vol.10 1907 2
[2] ITS vol.10 1907 118

The Tintagel slate

The slate was found on the island at Tintagel in 1998. I believe it reads

The Tintagel slate (Glasgow University)

  1.   MAV E[IGIR]
  2.   †
  3.   PATERN[VS]
  6.   COLI [AVI]
  7.   FICIT

where the bracketed letters are now missing and some of the words run together. A cross occupies the space between lines one and three.

The letters in the first line are in larger characters. They are not easy to identify and their interpretation has changed since the slate’s discovery. The M and A are ligatured with the start of the letter M being only just visible. The text below the cross occupies five lines and the script is smaller. The lefthand diagonal descender of the letter V in the third line is just about visible. Also, what has thus far been interpreted as a G on the fifth line is in reality an R and G ligatured as illustrated below.

Letter r

Letter g

Letters r and g ligatured







That the horizontal stroke of the ligatured letter R is not a scratch mark is indicated by the following diagram.

Barrowman, R.C., Batey, C. E., Morris, C.D. (eds.), 2007. 193. Drawing McEwan, L., Thomas, A.C. after Thorpe, C.

The inscription is clearly Arthurian as indicated by the following interpretation. The text in lines one to four form a sentence which is repeated in lines five to seven, but with the matronymic missing and the name Paternus replaced by Artorgnou. This suggests that they are alternative names for the same individual. The slate thus reads:

The son of Eigr, Paternus, made this for Coliavus.
The renowned Artor made this for Coliavus.



Charles Thomas wrote:
“Line (ii), which is complete, shows a name in latinized second-declension genitive – Coliauus, as Coliaui – followed by a verb, for which the preceding name ought to form the subject. This is not a Roman name. It comprises an element Col-, concievably the same as Coll-, meaning uncertain, found in Celtic name-formation; for example, an Irish ogam inscription with 117 COLLOS (Co Cork). This has been extended with a known British hypocoristic or ‘pet-name’ ending, -iau, in a written Latin context presented as -iauus (the first ‘u’ is a /w/sound).”[1] So Coliauus can be identified with Coll.”

The individual, Coliavus, is listed in the Llyfr Baglan as being one generation earlier than Arthur, see Coliavus.

We thus have an inscription with an interesting mix of Brythonic and Latin text. HG 2 states the father of Arthur was Petr. ByS 21 says the father of Padarn was Pedrwn. So, Arthur and Paternus had fathers of the same name, Petranus, supporting the proposition that the two names refer to a single individual.

[1] Barrowman, R. C., Batey, C. E., Morris, C. D., 2007, 199.