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.
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Cyndeyrn Fendigaid

*Outigirn is a name that appears in HG 10. But in JC 5 his name has been corrupted to *Kyndeern weldic.

A later individual with the same name is to be found in HB 62:

Then Dutgirn at that time fought bravely against the nation of the Angles. At that time, Talhaiarn Cataguen was famed for poetry, and Neirin, and Taliesin and Bluchbard, and Cian, who is called Guenith Guaut, were all famous at the same time in British poetry.

The document indicates that *Dutgirn or *Outigirn (Eudeyrn) lived in the time of Ida and Maelgwn. The corruption of the name Eudeyrn to Cyndeyrn that occurred in JC 5 may have occurred in the opposite direction, i.e. Cyndeyrn to Eudeyrn in the HB. Chronology suggests the HB reference is to Cyndeyrn Fendigaid ab Owain ap Cyngar who appears in ABT 18a and JC 13. He was not Cyndeyrn Garthwys ab Owain ab Urien Rheged of ByS 14.

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.