Frollo and Freothwulf

The Historia Brittonum gives the following list for the kings of the Deira:
“Theodoric, son of Ida, reigned seven years. Freothwulf reigned six years. In whose time the kingdom of Kent, by the mission of Gregory, received baptism. Hussa reigned seven years. Against him fought four kings, Urien, and Ryderthen, and Guallauc, and Morcant. Theodoric fought bravely, together with his sons, against that Urien.”

The Flores Historiarum states:
“In the year of grace 570, Frethwulf reigned in Bernicia seven years. In this year the people of Armenia embraced the faith of Christ …
In the year of grace 577 … This year died Frethwulf, king of Bernicia, and was succeeded by Theodoric, who reigned seven years.”

The inversion in HB’s sequence, Theodoric followed by Freothwulf, in the FH’s list may be explained by the Chronicon ex Chronicis which gives a sequence of kings together with the lengths of their reigns:
“… Theodwlf uno, Freothulf VII., Theodric VII. …”
indicating the first name listed above was mistakenly written as Theodoric.

Freothwulf name becomes Frollo (Flollo in the Latin text) in the Historia Regum Britanniae. It takes the form Freol in The Awntyrs of Arthur. Indeed, in the Vulgate Merlin and Lancelot Frollo is said to be from Germany. Frollo’s flight to Paris may be a garbled version of Freothwulf retreating to the kingdom of Deira which originated as the civitas of the Parisi.

Those dates in the FH seem to indicate chronologically Freothwulf could not have been an adversary of Arthur. However, Urien fought against Theodoric and if Freothwulf preceded Theodoric then it is possible that Freothwulf was a contemporary of Arthur and the FH dating is incorrect. The FH does contain dates that may be questionable, such as Maelgwn’s death in the year 586.

According to the HB, Arthurs ninth battle occurred “in urbe legionis”. This may be a reference to York, which had been in the territory of the Brigantes according to Ptolemy and a Roman legionary base. Higham states that the Parisi were subordinate to the Brigantes.[1] Frollo is said to have fled to a city so it may well be his duel with Arthur occurred on an island beyond the old York city walls.

[1] Higham, N. J., 1987, 18.

Dating the Arthurian age

If we are to place Arthur in a historical context the first task needs be to identify the period in which he lived. This is given in the AC by the dates of his two most significant battles: the victory at Badon in the year 518 and the defeat at Camlan in 539.

Is it possible to verify this time period? The chronicle of his enemy, the ASC, makes no mention of these battles. This is not surprising as far as Badon is concerned since the Saxons would have preferred their defeats to be forgotten but it is surprising that Camlan is not mentioned, unless this was an internecine battle between the Britons.

Nennius, in his HB provides a clue for the dating of Badon:

“Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent. Then Arthur along with the kings of Britain fought against them in those days, but Arthur himself was the military commander [“dux bellorum”].”[1]

After the above quote Nennius lists Arthur’s 12 battles, culminating in Badon, and following that the reign of Ida. The ASC states Aesc succeeded Hengist in 488 and so Arthur’s battles occurred sometime after that date. Gildas speaks of a period of relative peace after Badon and says that the interval was of such length that the generation that had known the turmoils had passed away. The ASC indicates after 547, the start of Ida’s reign, there was no state of peace. If we now deduct 30 years, an approximate length of one generation, from the start of Ida’s reign we arrive at a date close to that given by the AC for Badon, namely 518.

Bede in his HE when giving Ethelbert’s genealogy indicates Octa was a son of Oisc and a grandson of Hengist. This contradiction with the HB may be explained by an earlier reference in that document which says that Hengist sends for his son Octa and Octa’s brother Ebissa. I believe the latter person may have been Oisc who was in reality, as Bede states, Octa’s father.

The GRA gives additional information concerning Oisc that he reigned for 24 years. We may, therefore, conclude Octa succeeded him in the year 512. It follows that Arthur’s 12 battles occurred between the years 512 and 518. The Saxons’ catastrophic defeat in the latter year may explain Octa’s absence from the ASC.

[1] Halsall, P., 1998.