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

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 Igraine, Paternus, made this for his grandfather Coel.
Artorgnou made this for his grandfather Coel.

So, Arthur’s name in his own lifetime was Artorgnou. The second element of the latter name means renowned. The two elements of his name can be seen to be in reverse order in the manuscripts listed in the table below where all the names are given in their original form:

Gen. ABT 18a fragment
HG 2 fragment
JC 12 fragment
3 Kathen Cathen Cathen
2 Gwlyddien Cloten [Gwlyddien]
1 [Eleothen] [Eleothen] Eleothen
0 Nowy (m.) Arthur Nougoy (m.) Arthur Nennue (m.) Arthur
-1 Pedyr Petr Peder

This reversal of the elements may have occurred when a text that indicated Artorgnou was the father of Eleothen came to be interpreted as Arthur was the father of Nowy who was the father of Eleothen. Eleothen is wrongly believed to be a corruption of Cloten and, in fact, the name refers to Llacheu who was indeed a son of Arthur. He may be Ilinot, a son of Guinevere, in Wolfram’s Parzival and Loholt in Perlesvaus and Ulrich’s Lanzelet.

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 Padern was Petrwn. So, Arthur and Paternus had fathers of the same name, Petranus, supporting the proposition that the two names refer to a single individual.