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

How did this incorrect dating for the Advenrtus come about. 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.


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.


St. Samson was a generation younger than Illtud and was ordained by him at the abbey of Llanwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr).

Plate: Nash-Williams, V. E., 1950, The Early Christian Monuments of Wales

There is an inscribed stone at the church there which states it was prepared for the souls of Samson the abbot and others, one of which is a king called Iuthahelo, that is Ithel (Barturm incorrectly thought the stone bore the name Iltutus). This is likely to be Ithel Hael of Llydaw, thus indicating Llydaw was not only the name for Brittany but also of a region of Glamorgan.

Illtud’s father was Bicanus, prince of Llydaw. He may have preceded Erb, king of Gwent and Ergyng, and been conflated with Erbic, a later king. This would suggest Bicanus was of gen. -2 and Illtud of gen. -1. His mother was Rieingulid, daughter of Anblawd, wrongly identified as Amlawdd Wledig.

V. Samsonis states that Illtud was a disciple of St. Germanus but chronology indicates this could not have been the bishop of Auxerre. The V. Ninnochae states:

“Sanctus Germanus episcopus ex Hibernensium regione transmissus a Sancto Patricio archiepiscopo, venit ad Brochanum regem Britanniæ.”[1]

This individual, who was alive during the reign of Brychan of gen. -1, is likely to have been the Germanus who ordained Illtud. He was St. Garmon who, as indicated by Bartrum, was the Germanus of the Historia Brittonum. HB 39 suggests he was probably of the same generation as Vortigern’s daughter, that is gen -2.

[1] Baring-Gould, S., Fisher, J., 1911, 68.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Arthur’s death

Under the year 501 the ASC A has the entry:

“Her cuom Port on Bretene 7 his .ii. suna Bieda 7 Mægla mid .ii. scipum on þære stowe þe is gecueden Portesmuþa 7 ofslogon anne giongne brettiscmonnan, swiþe ęþelne monnan.”
“Here Port and his 2 sons, Bieda and Mægla, came with 2 ships to Britain at the place which is called Portsmouth, and killed a certain young British man – a very noble man.”[1]

It is not usual for the ASC to mention the death of an enemy and if the individual was a nobleman we may be able to identify him. It will be argued that the dating for this event is incorrect. Moreover, the previous entry, for the year 495, and the following entry, for 508, are also suspect of being wrongly dated as they are very similar to the entries for the years 514 and 527 respectively except that some of the names have been altered. The reason why the authors would wish to make duplicate entries for the start of the 6th C is because Arthur’s victories occurred in that time frame and they needed to fill that period.

Æthelweard’s Chronicle has a comment under the year 500 which must have been originally part of the ASC 519 entry as it speaks of the six year gap between arrival and conquest:
“Sexto etiam anno aduentus eorum occidentalem circumierunt Brittanniæ partem, quae nunc Vuestsexe nuncupatur.”
“In the sixth year from their arrival they encircled that western area of Britain now known as Wessex.”[2]

Sims-Williams notes:
“That Æthelweard meant A.D. 500 is confirmed by his comment on Ecgberht’s accession in A.D. 800: ‘From the reign of Cerdic, who was King Ecgberht’s tenth ancestor, 300 years elapsed (reckoned from when he conquered the western area of Britain).’ “[3]

The question arises what is the correct dating for the 501 event. The clue to answering this question is the fact that the entries for the years 514 and 527 have been essentially repeated one Metonic cycle, that is 19 years, earlier. The 519 event could not be repeated wholesale under the year 500 as it would have meant giving two dates for the origin of Wessex with the coronation of Cerdic. The solution was to do a part transfer as indicated by the above quote from the Æthelweard’s Chronicle. The 501 entry has no parallel under the year 520. Instead, it was a transfer from two Metonic cycles, that is from the year 539. This is the date of Camlan and the very noble man is none other than Arthur.

The next question is who were the two individuals, Bieda and Mægla, who brought about Arthur’s demise. They appear in CO as Maelwys son of Baeddan, indicating their probably correct father to son relationship. The identification of Maelwys with Meleagant was made by Chambers.[4] As Meleagant was the name given by Chrétien de Troyes for Melwas we may conclude Mægla was Melwas, the abductor of Gwenhwyfar as indicated by a number of sources including the V. Gildae by Caradoc of Llancarfan.

Bieda appears as Baudemagus in the 13th C French poem Sone de Nansai and as Burmaltus in the pre-Galfridian Modena archivolt which is a representation of Camlan. Mægla appears on the archivolt as Mardoc, a name that eventually evolved into Mordred in the French Romances. Cerdic of Wessex, too, can be identified there as Carrado. The appearance of the name Port in the 501 entry, however, was probably an attempt to give the location an eponymous origin and is not likely to be historical.

August Hunt independently came to the same conclusion that Camlan occurred in the Portsmouth area, see WHY ARTHUR’S CAMLANN IS PROBABLY ‘THE CAMS’ ON PORTSMOUTH HARBOUR, although his thesis is quite different. The Modena archivolt seems to indicate Arthur was attacking a fortress which would have been Portchester Castle.

The HRB states that Arthur was taken to Avalon for healing. The V. Merlini indicates he was transported by water. This may have been a journey along the coast followed by largely travelling up the river Avon and down the river Brue to Glastonbury. However, Arthur was not buried there.

It needs to be noted that the 501 description of the murdered Briton as “young”, although present in mss. A and E, is absent from mss. B and C. It, therefore, may have been an insertion into the A text. If it was common knowledge that the victim was Arthur, this word could have been inserted to justify the early date being given for his death.The E recension may have recieved this insertion from the Canterbury manuscript it was copied from.

ASC versions and related texts

Instances of when the ASC mentions the death of enemy combatants include:
465. … and there killed 12 Welsh chieftains …
508. … killed a certain British king, whose name was Natanleod, and 5 thousand men with him …
577. … and they killed 3 kings, Coinmail and Condidan and Farinmail …
It would seem that the authors were happy to name opponents the Saxons had killed when there was a handful of names to provide. However, the individual who was slain in 501 went unnamed, despite his acknowledged nobility, which might indicate that to have mentioned who he was would have been taboo. The only individual we know who could just possibly have been a nonperson for the Saxons is Arthur as the fictitious ASC entries were purely designed to deny the existence of a period of British successes under his leadership.

The entries in the ASC from 514 to 544 are one Metonic cycle too early and the repetitions from 495 to 508 have been pre-dated by two cycles. So, for example, Cerdic’s arrival in 495 occurred in 533 and his coronation in 538, a date also suggested by Dumville for the event. This date can be arrived at by subtracting the total for the regnal years given in the 9th C West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List from Alfred’s accession in the year 871.[5]

In order to obscure the generation of military defeats that may be called the Arthurian age the ASC made the adventus saxonum one Metonic cycle later than the actual date of 428, as indicated by the Historia Brittonum.

[1] Swanton, M., 2000, 14.
[2] Campbell, A., 1962, 11.
[3] Sims-Williams, P., 2007, (ed.) Clemeos, P. et al., Anglo-Saxon England vol. 12, 38.
[4] Chambers, E. K.,1927, 213.
[5] Dumville, D. N., 1985