Arthur’s adversaries and ally

The HB is correct in claiming Ochta was the son of Hengest. This is supported by Bede. Although the ASC names Aesc as the son, if it is accepted that the 488 date is correct for Hengest’s obit then it would seem that Ochta was the name of Arthur’s opponent in some of the 12 battles.

As far as Esla of the Gewisse is concerned, as Sisam pointed out, Esla/Elesa formed an alliterative pair as did Wig/Giwis. Chronology would, therefore, suggest he was a contemporary of Arthur and identification with Osla Gyllellfawr is reasonable. The Culhwch ac Olwen, where we are told his dagger, Bronllafn Ferllydan, is used as a bridge and also that he was involved in the chase of the Twrch Trwyth, describes him as an ally of Arthur. However, in the Breuddwyd Rhonabwy he is an opponent at Badon, but asked Arthur for a truce. Perhaps, he defected to Arthur. If Esla was, indeed, an ally it may explain why DEB 26 states:

“tam desperati insulae excidii insperatique mentio auxilii”

“… ‘so desperate a destruction of the island’ – the Saxon revolt – ‘and unhoped-for mention of assistance’ …”[1]

This unforseen help referred to may have been Saxons fighting with the Britons against Kentish forces. That may also explain the reason why the West Saxons claimed their dynasty started with Cerdic, rather than with the arrival of Giwis, possibly in 475. Although the ASC claims Cerdic’s obit in 534, Dumville dates it to 554. It is, therefore, likely that Cerdic was one of Arthur’s opponents at Camlan.

[1] Higham, N.J., 2018, 162.


Cadwaladr Fendigaid

There is an entry in Hengwrt 33 V, NLW Cwrtmawr 453 (c.1615×1630) that states:

“The age of the Lord when Cadwaladr Vendigaid went to Rome: 653.”[1]

There are two possible chronologies for Cadwaladr Fendigaid:

1. HRB XII 14 tells us his mother was a sister of Penda. This is confirmed by ByA 28a:

“Mam Gatwaladyr vendigait, merch Pyt, chwaer y Banna ap Pyt.”[2]

where Panna ap Pyd is the Welsh for Penda son of Pybba. The Annales Cambriae tells us his father died at ‘bellum cantscaul’ c.632 to 634. Bartrum estimated her marriage to Cadwallon c. 632.[3]  Thus, AC dating Cadwaladr’s death in 682, during a plague, is plausible. That there was indeed a plague around this time is confirmed by entries in a number of Irish annals.

2. Bartrum argued that the plague in which Cadwaladr died actually occurred in 664. Reference to it is given by Bede:

“In the same year of our Lord 664, there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the third day of May, about the tenth hour of the day. In the same year, a sudden pestilence …”[4]

The timing of the eclipse is accurate to within days, as the following reconstruction of the eclipse path shows:

Total Solar Eclipse of 1 May, 664 AD. NASA GSFC.

The earlier date is supported by HB 64 which talks of his death during the reign of Oswy. HRB states Cadwaladr reigned for 12 years which would give a start to his reign close to the time of his Rome visit. Charles Oman argued that HRB dating his death in Rome to 689 is a conflation with the Wessex Ceadwalla.[5]

The second of the two chronologies appears to carry more weight.

[1] Guy, B., 2016, 23.
[2] Bartrum, P.C., 1966, 91.
[3] Bartrum, P.C., 1993, 90.
[4] Sellar, A.M., 1907.
[5] Oman, C., 1921.

The Adventus Saxonum and the consuls Gratian and Equitius

At the end of HB 31 we have the following:

“When Gratian ruled for the second time with Equitius, the Saxons were received by Vortigern, 347 years after the Passion of Christ.”

The consulships of Gratian were:

Year Consul prior Consul posterior
366 Flavius Gratianus Dagalaifus
371 Flavius Gratianus Augustus II Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus
374 Flavius Gratianus Augustus III Flavius Equitius
377 Flavius Gratianus Augustus IV Flavius Merobaudes
380 Flavius Gratianus Augustus V Flavius Theodosius Augustus

How did this incorrect dating for the Advenrtus come about. There are two possible explanations:

1. It has already been shown how the error of Vortigern’s reign starting in the year 390 AD came to occur, see Vortigern to Badon in the Red Book of Hergest. This would have implied an Adventus in 393 AD, that is 366 AP. If it was later assumed that 366 was in anno domini dating, then the notion would have occurred it was during the consulship of Gratian.

The inclusion of Equitius was an error as can be seen by the HB claiming it was Gratian’s second consulship, rather than his third. As it turns out, the reference was to Gratian’s first period as consul.

2. Alternatively, again using the 393 AD date for the Adventus, if this event was placed one Metonic cycle too early it would result in the date 374 which is indeed the year of the consulship of Gratian and Equitius.

Vortigern to Badon in the Red Book of Hergest

The Red Book of Hergest claims there were 128 years from the start of Vortigern’s reign to the battle of Badon. As Vortigern’s reign started in the year 425 and Badon was in 518, this is clearly incorrect. The question is how was the figure of 128 arrived at. It is likely to have been as a result of the following:

1. The Incarnation and Passion was generally taken to be separated by 28 years. However, the source of the RBH, took 35 years as the time gap on the basis of HB 4, which states “From the Passion of Christ 796 years have passed; from the Incarnation 831 years.”.
2. The start of Vortigern’s reign was 425 AD. However, in the earlier dating method it would have been 390 AP (anno passionis) using the 35 year interval.
3. By the time of the RBH, the figure 390 had been interpreted by the later dating method as 390 AD (anno domini).
4. The RBH statement “From the age of Vortigern to the Battle of Badon, which Arthur and his nobles fought with the Saxons, when Arthur and his nobles were victorious, 128 years.” used the fallacious calculation 518 – 390 = 128.

The Adventus Saxonum in the Historia Brittonum

The Historia Brittonum contains a number of statements which allow us to date the Adventus Saxonum:

“Vortigern, however, held power in Britain in the consulate of Theodosius and Valentinian and in the fourth year of his reign the Saxons came to Britain, in the consulship of Felix and Taurus, and in the four hundredth year from the incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ.”

The first consulate of Theodosius II and Valentinian III was in the year 425. That this was the start of Vortigern’s reign is plausible since he was of gen. -3. This would suggest he was probably in his 30s when crowned king. The passage suggests the Adventus occurred in the year 428 which was, indeed, the year of the consulship of Flavius Felix and Flavius Taurus. The last element of the text may be reconciled with this date by suggesting incarnation was an error for Christ’s Passion.

In the Chronicon Britannicum we see the Adventus incorrectly placed one Metonic cycle later in the year 447, see The Adventus Saxonum in the Chronicon Britannicum. The events of 425 and 428 listed in the HB may have been swapped in the mind of the author when he wrote:

“Also, from Stilicho to Valentinian son of Placidia, and the reign of Vortigern 28 years.”

as Flavius Stilicho was consul for the first time in 400.

HB 31 states:

“It came to pass that after this war between the Britons and the Romans, in which the generals were killed, and after the killing of the tyrant Maximus and the end of the Roman Empire in Britain, the Britons went in fear for 40 years.”

Magnus Maximus was executed in 388. 40 years on from that date we arrive at 428, that is at the Adventus, which is described towards the end of the following passage of text:

“Vortigern welcomed them, and handed over to them the island that in their language is called Thanet, in British Ruoihm.”

Why Ossa was not Osla Gyllellfawr

The identification of Osla Gyllellfawr with Ossa, grandfather of Ida, king of Bernicia, as suggested by corrupted late entries in the Bonedd y Saint, shown below, is incorrect:

Gen. ByS 70 ByS 71 JC20 17 seg.
4 Eda Glynuawr Tegyth
3 Osswallt Oswydd aelwyn Gwynbei drahavvc Ceit
2 Mwc Mawr Drevydd Douc
1 Ydolorec vrenin Offa kyllellvawr Llewarch hen

The names given in the above chart are in the manuscript form. The first two individuals in ByS 70 are Oswald and his brother Oswiu, wrongly shown as his father but corrected in the above table. The third name would then be their grandfather, the Bernician Æthelric, wrongly shown as Oswiu’s father and this has also been corrected for. An alternative interpretation, which would be correct in terms of parentage, would be Oswine son of Osric son of the Deiran Æthelric.

Bartrum maintained the first name in ByS 71, Eda Glinfawr, is Æthelric’s father, Ida. However, that is impossible since Eda can safely be placed in gen. 4, more than a century after Ida. This conclusion is arrived at by noting Eda was the grandson of Mwng Mawr Drefydd who was in conflict with Mechydd ap Llywarch Hen. Llywarch can safely be placed in gen. 1. Furthermore, as Ossa was Ida’s grandfather he would have been far too early to be a contemporary of Arthur.

It would seem that the author of ByS 71 added cognomens that did not actually apply to Eda and Offa but instead belonged to other individuals with similar names. So, Glinfawr came from the name of the father of Ecgbert of York, Eata glinmawr, mentioned in HB 61. Likewise, Offa’s cognomen derived from that of Esla, see Dating the Wessex generations.

Melville Richards’ identification of the 8th C Offa of Mercia is unlikely for the chronological reason.[1] Also, the dissimilarity in the names suggests it is doubtful that Osla was the Kentish Ochta as suggested by Idris Llewelyn Foster.[2]

[1] Richards, M., 1948, 46.
[2] Foster, I. L., 1961, 42.

The Adventus Saxonum in the Chronicon Britannicum

The Chronicon Britannicum appears to indicate why there are differing dates for the Adventus suggested by the Historia Brittonum and the Historia Ecclesiastica. One of the possible dates indicated by the former is 428 and by the latter 447.

HB 66: “Vortigern reigned in Britain when Theodosius and Valentinian were consuls, and in the fourth year of his reign the Saxons came to Britain, in the consulship of Feliz and Taurus …”[1]

HE II 14: “So King Edwin, with all the nobles of his race and a vast number of the common people, received the faith and regeneration by holy baptism in the eleventh year of his reign, that is in the year of our Lord 627 and about 180 years after the coming of the English to Britain.”[2]

The CBrit inserts between the entries for the years 413 and 427 the following entry dated, out of sequence, to the year 447:

“Angli in majorem Britanniam venerunt, & Britones inde ejecerunt.”

This suggests that CCCCXLVII (447) may have been a corruption of CCCCXXVII (427), that is although the author was allocating the same date to the event as that in the HE, he was sequencing it in his list in line with a date close to that cited by the HB.

[1] Han, K. W. L., 2008.
[2] McClure, J., Collins, R., 1999, 97.