As has often been noted, post-Roman Britain has very few native sources of information wither. But when the reader goes over what we already know about the period, that reality makes perfect sense. It is a fact of history that in 409 the last Roman organization in Britain was dismantled. We also know that Rome would revive again in the 420s and 450s but it would never again send a governor to Britain. Looking back at the fifth century from an historical perspective we not only know this, we know that what followed was inevitable.
It was not so clear to any person living in that era though. The Britons of 409 had been educated in Roman culture. Legend had it that Rome had existed for over 1000 years with Romulus and Remus. The empire had been in the middle of at least one war for as far back as oral memory stretched while civil wars and insurrections had been commonplace for centuries. Through it all, Rome had survived and thrived. For any person growing up in the Latin culture, the idea that the Roman Empire could fall was simply unthinkable. As far as the people of Britain were concerned Rome had simply entered a period of difficulties. Once a strong emperor was on the throne he would stabilize the empire and bring the legions back to Britain. That had always happened before.
That certainty influenced every aspect of Roman life in Britain. Since Rome would return there was no need to adapt to the barbarian threat. There might be no Roman bureaucracy and no official contact with the empire but that did not mean that the Britons should stop living, learning, eating, and even worshipping like the Romans. Nor was there any motivation to install an island-wide government. In fact, alone among the provinces, Britannia had dismantled its rebel government in anticipation of the Roman return.
It was that absolute faith in the Roman Empire that doomed Britain. With the political superstructure gone, no person or group had the moral authority to install a new leader. There is no record of a successful Romano-British general trying to carve out a Roman kingdom there, either, even though it was common on the continent and many scholars have assumed it happened in Britain. Without them, the chances of a British leader emerging to unite Britain would have been slight even if the thought of breaking away from Rome had not been unthinkable.
Without a single leader or a government capable of repelling raiders through the collection of taxes and the maintenance of forts and soldiers, there was no means of keeping control over the English Channel raiding. As a result, there was no reliable line of communication to the continent during the fourth century and into the fifth. It also meant that there was no patronly funding for would-be historians and no retirement plan set up so that an old soldier or a government employee had the time and money to write any sort of history as was happening on the continent with Ammianus Marcellinus or Procopius.
Even if one or two wealthy families had remained in Britain, it would have made no real difference to historical writing. Because of the dissolution of Roman government and the evacuation of the Roman Army under Constantine, the Britons of the early fifth century had no sense of security from the Irish, Picts, or Germanic tribes. There were probably still enough soldiers to man Hadrian’s Wall and a few forts along the western frontier, but only skeleton garrisons; they could not have repelled any serious raiding parties and would have been overwhelmed by any real invasion. Any wealthy families that had stayed behind would have been more worried about personal security than anything frivolous like poetry or history.
The political and military instability alone would have limited historical writing, and the Romano-British belief that they were still Roman would have prevented any regional British histories. Religion was also a factor though. When the people overthrew Constantine’s government and begged Rome to return, Roman Christianity was not the single overwhelming religion it would become during the “Age of Saints”. In 410, it was only one of many religions. If the reader will recall, Pelagian Christianity was so powerful that a special mission would be sent to Britain in 429. Mithradaism was practiced by the few remaining soldiers as well as their families. The Celtic religion was followed by most of the people who had not been under the direct control of Rome during the last century or so. There was also an underground religion that focused on the respect of nature and regeneration.
With so many other religions active at the time, Christianity did not possess the universal respect it would take on in later times, nor did the monks who practiced it or the monasteries where they lived. Probably, this meant that the records of a monastery were not sacred. It has long been known that Annales Cambriae and the Irish annals developed from notes written on Paschal or Easter Tables. The tables themselves could have easily been copied and passed from one monastery to another regardless of the number of other religions or the relative prestige of Christianity. However, there would have been no point in recording the many battles and royal deaths of the fifth century if the monks had known that whatever they wrote down might be destroyed next week. It should come as no surprise, then, that the first written Insular records of the fifth century come in two letters; one addressed to a king from a long-lived dynasty and the other to a gathering of British ecclesiastics, and by one of the most famous religious people of the time – St. Patrick.
We are certain the letters were written in the fifth century. Every study that has ever been made on them has confirmed that the language and grammar belongs with other Latin writing of the period. We also know that Patrick wrote them and that they were intended for people who would have known about any factual errors. All three of of these pieces of information have given scholars confidence that they contain valuable information on Patrick’s period. What we cannot be so sure about is the relationship, or even the order, of the letters to each other. The Confessio may have been written within months of Patrick’s arrival in Ireland and his letter to Coroticus a decade or so later. Or, Coroticus might have pressured his local clergy into challenging Patrick after he had exchanged letters.
Knowing that, the author will arbitrarily start with the letter to Coroticus. Coroticus, from the context of the letter, was a chieftain of Aloo who had recently abducted several of Patrick’s freshly converted Christians. Patrick had already written one letter requesting their return but his presbyter, a man he had trained from a young boy, was laughed at. It has been mainly useful for suggesting the development of British kingship during this time. The fact that he had trained a presbyter “from a young boy”, also suggests that Patrick had been in Ireland for several years by the time of the raid. The mention of Coroticus “of Aloo” has also strongly suggested to many people the Strathclyde king Ceredig, whose capital would have been at Alt Clud, modern Dumbarton.
In his Confessio, Patrick responded to an accusation about an indiscretion he had made before his promotion to deacon. His letter is not, as we might think, a confession of his guilt, but more like a short autobiography of his life. This is where we learn the most about fifth-century Britain. He was born into a wealthy family and learned Latin until the age of about twelve when he was captured by Irish raiders. He eventually escaped from Ireland and returned home, where he finished his studies, took religious vows, and returned to Ireland in order to evangelize the people.
What he does not provide is any information about the political structure he was raised in. He names no king, no region, not even a board of elders. The reader is left not knowing if his village was an isolated community or one of a coalition. Nor is there any suggestion of a wider political situation. Patrick might have been born at the violent end of the Roman period, raised during the Germanic revolt of 441, or during the rise of the British kingdoms decades later.
Gildas wrote the next two documents, an open letter known as De Excidio Britanniae a letter of advice to an abbot named Uennianus. De Excidio is the more useful of the two documents because he provides an historical context for his present as a preface to his letter. The problem lies in the fact that he wrote for a specific purpose; to demonstrate that the British people were being punished and rewarded by God based on how well behaved they were. He ends his letter by listing off individual kings and naming their sins as well as broadly noting the clergy’s indiscretions and warning them of the inevitable retribution by God.
Gildas’ strategy of giving an historical background before listing crimes was a standard practice in Roman courts. That is clearly his purpose, too; the entire design of the letter is actually a carefully crafted argument which he uses to prove that the British people will be punished by God’s hand if they do not behave like proper Christians.
Gildas was clearly a well-educated writer; scholars have noted that he used none of the linguistic patterns which would indicate he was a native speaker of Latin and yet seems to use all of the unusual words in his repertoire correctly. It is his legal approach, though, that is of the most interest. The learning of courtroom techniques was part of the normal education given to the wealthy and most intelligent Romans. For the latter it was so that they could defend themselves. For others, it was to prepare them for life as a public servant. It was the most advanced education available in the Roman world, so that Gildas tells us in his writing exactly how much was still available in Britain during his childhood. Gildas’ education is evidence that not only was he taught by a grammarian, grammaticus, but also by a rhetor, a specialist in rhetoric.
Gildas was also an excellent student. Recent study has demonstrated Gildas was one of the best writers of his age, more resembling the most accomplished Roman writers of the classical period than any other post-Roman scholar.
As he was so intelligent, we must assume that when he wrote in Latin to a lay audience there must have been people in in the halls who could understand the language. Considering the limited life-span of the age, roughly thirty years, that means the same education may have been available as little as ten years before he wrote.
When he wrote is a little less certain. The annals date his death to about 570. If he lived to as old as eighty years, that would put his writing in the middle third of the sixth century. Columbanus, an abbot whom we will learn more about below, mentioned Uennianus in one of his letters in about 600. This also suggests that Gildas was active during the sixth century. Internal evidence is also consistent; his use of the term iudices in De Excidio Britanniae ranges from judge to ruler, which is exactly as it should have been defined during that era.
More focused studies have provided a little more precision. The first and literal interpretation is that he wrote an open letter in the forty-fourth year following his birth and the Battle of Badon. Following Dumville in working through Gildas’ historia section from the letter to Aetius (433×456) and working forward, that gives a range of about 485×515 for Badon and 525×560 for De Excidio Britanniae.
The author’s use of date-guessing around Gildas’ known relations to the Irish and Welsh saints, his obit as found in the Annales Cambriae, and the internal chronology of his work suggests a range of 521×535 for his work and 478×492 for his birth.
An alternate theory proposed by McCarthy and Ó Cróinín is that when Gildas mentioned forty-four years he was speaking about the year in the Easter table and not the year after his birth. The date of Easter moved around on an 88-year cycle. The only Easter table Gildas could have meant started in 438, meaning that he wrote in 482.
It is his historical prelude that has always been of the most interest, though. He begins in the fourth century with detailed information about the last years of Roman Britain – Maximus’ career. The narration goes on with the building of two walls (Antonine’s and Hadrian’s), followed by what is probably the Honorian Rescript of 410 in which Rome officially abandoned the island.
What most people have not considered yet is that Gildas’ spelling of Aetius shows us he only had access to oral knowledge for the mid-fifth century and before. But in a time when fifty-five was the maximum life-span of an average person and eighty for a member of the clergy, Gildas could not have heard anything earlier than 408 (if he had been told something at five by a seventy-five year old man who just happened to remember what was going on in the world when he was five himself) and, considering that civilization was falling apart and communications with the continent had been shut off by the Germanic tribes, we can only safely be certain he had actually heard about the events of maybe 433 and after (a sixty year old man recounts events that occurred when he was five and over to a fifteen year old Gildas).
Our date-guessing is supported by Gildas’ narrative. Working in reverse order, Gildas mentions Aetius (433×456), followed by what has been assumed was the Honorian Rescript (410), the building of two walls, and Maximus’ career as an emperor (383). In all of the pre-Aetius material, though, only Maximus’ career is certain. This Maximus would become a cult figure in Welsh lore, developing into the founding father of several prominent dynasties as his legend grew. His status as the last link to the Roman Empire ensured he would be remembered, in the sixth century and throughout the medieval period. The next three items, the two returns of the Roman Army each time followed by the building of a wall and the Honorian Rescript, are not history. Hadrian’s Wall and Antonine’s Wall were created centuries before Gildas was born, and we know historically that the Roman Army only returned one more time after Maximus. That ended with the emperorship of Constantine who eventually left for the continent as well.
In the past it has been argued that Gildas may have lived in the North and been privy to improvements in the walls that we are not. Alternatively, a few scholars have suggested he might have been talking from the south about Hadrian and Antonine’s Wall or even about a southern wall. The fact is that he could not have known when the walls were built. It is even possible that he used them to create a theme; the Romans had twice returned because they believed the Britons were worthy of being protected. The implication was that they might one day be worthy again.
The Honorian Rescript is also a stretch. From Zosimus, whom we have met above, we learn that Honorius sent his infamous letter on the heels of the pillaging of Rome. For Gildas, there was no emperor involved; the Romans simply told the Britons that they were tired of traveling to Britain so they should just protect themselves. In short, nothing before Aetius is actually historical.
There is one more item to mention about Gildas before moving on. Many scholars have commented on how sparing he is with his names (and how irritating that is with the question of Arthur’s historicity, for instance). He had a purpose here, though, too. He has only employed those details that helped him further his purpose. Details about historical activities or the people who were involved in them would have created a tangent to his purpose, which was to prove to the British people that they needed to act like good Christians or God was going to punish them. Everything that Gildas wrote, and omitted, must be seen only in the light of his goals and his rhetorical abilities.
Taliesin was a British bard of the sixth century who wrote for, in order, Cynan Garwyn and Urien, with a pair of poems for Gwallog during his time under Urien. Bards held a unique place in Celtic society. They were trained in mythology, legend, and history (all three being one in the same) and given a multitude of motifs and presentation techniques. This allowed bards to tell wonderful stories that could vary from audience to audience. It also gave them the rudiments for creating poetry and in particular praise poetry for kings. Their knowledge of history also made them ideal royal geneologists.
Their last two uses made the bard a useful tool for the newly made kings of post-Roman Britain. Their praise poetry gave them entertainment value for the kings and their men, but on a more subtle level it could be used to reinforce to rule. As geneologists, bards were ideal for learning about the great local kings of the past and attaching them to their king’s geneology to give him further credibility. And since the bard’s knowledge of history was considered absolute, his official history was considered beyond question as well.
The biases of a bard’s work are easily seen. As someone in the king’s employ, a bard had every reason to magnify his lord’s successes while minimizing failures. And, while his audience might already have known the reality, they might have accepted some spin on reality. The truth is, we cannot know reality from propaganda. We can only take very small portions of it.
Bards could also make large changes to a king’s family tree. His king might have known his grandfather, or he might not have. He would have had no idea of any ancestor before that. Logically, if he had no idea his people would not remember, meaning a bard could attach any local chieftain to the family tree before that generation and add to the prestige of the dynasty.
Twelve poems are generally regarded as his. Their language contains enough archaic words to ensure that they were written during the sixth century. The social setting and the warrior’s mindset all match the period smoothly. They even progress in sophistication, with the Cynan poems very basic and the Urien works becoming more developed. By their devekopment and by information given in the poems it is clear that Gwallog’s patronage interrupted Urien.
As the centuries passed, Taliesin would take on the persona of the ultimate bard, traveling back in time to every crucial event. In the sixth century though, he was just a very good bard
Aneirin was also a British bard of the sixth century. He worked for the King of Gododdin, though exactly when or with whom he was active has never been resolved. Aneirin wrote one extant poem, Y Gododdin, which is a series of elegies about the warriors who died on a joint campaign he claims to have participated in to the South. The uncertainty about Aneirin’s dating led to a long-held belief that the battle took place around 600.
There are two surviving versions of the poem. The first was written down in about 700, after over a century in an oral environment. As a result, many stanzas are badly damaged. Successive manuscript copyings have given the edition additional errors.
The other account continued to evolve in an oral environment and was only written down in the ninth century. Before then, Y Gododdin was regularly used by bards wishing to showcase their talents to potential patrons. The combination of an extended stay in an oral environment and its popularity among a class of entertainers noted for their spontaneity and endless modification has, by common sense and by manuscript evidence, resulted in a much greater variation than the earlier version.
The result is two greatly devolved versions of an ancient poem. The work has attracted a large number of scholars over the years who have attempted to collate the two versions into an accurate representation of the original. This has been most notably accomplished by Professor John T. Koch, who has attempted to restore the language of the original through his own extensive linguistic background and innovative techniques.
According to the preface of the only surviving copy, The Code of Æthelberht was commissioned by the king of Kent, suggesting it was written some time during his reign, most likely during his ascendancy over the Germanic kings south of the Humber River between 596 and 616. As will be seen in the chapters below, Kent had first been unified during his reign. The law code was possibly designed to imitate the Romans and solidify that unification. Alternatively, it is possible that Augustine of Canterbury urged it so that Kent could follow contemporary continental kingdoms. Whatever the reason, it would have made a good tool in drawing his subject kingdoms closer to him as well.
Æthelberht’s code focuses on standardizing payments for personal and property injuries and touches on matters of trade. This suggests that the law code was also created as a way of making the law consistent throughout his kingdom, and in fact there is good evidence that the code is based on oral customs.
The law code breaks up society by classes – churchmen, the king and his dependents, an eorl and his dependents, a ceorl and his dependents, the semi-free, women, servants, and slaves. It focuses on the amount of compensation given for various offenses based on the offending party and the social status of the victim. It gives certain values for specific goods and so gives their relative worth among the sixth-century Germanic peoples. As with all the Kentish law codes, the Code of Æhelberht is found only in the Textus Roffensis manuscript, a book written down by a single scribe between 1122 and 1124 under the supervision of Ernulf, Bishop of Rochester.
The two codes that followed Æthelberht’s in Kent were the Code of Hlothere and Eadric (676×685) and The Code of Wihtred (c. 695). The Code of Hlothere and Eadric is unique in that it never directly deals with the church. While it does focus on compensations for injuries and damage to property, it also lays out procedures for making proper accusations and making land purchases in London. It has proven most useful for showing scholars how the legal process worked in seventh-century England.
The Code of Wihtred deals almost exclusively with the church, how the state dealt with religious matters, and theft. It has proven useful for demonstrating the growing power of the church in the period. For instance, a bishop’s word was considered the equal to a king and any slave forced to work on the Sabbath was to be freed. Each concession to the church’s authority also included some admission to the king’s authority however, e.g. praying for and honoring their king.
Between the two Kentish codes Ine of Wessex commissioned his own The Laws of Ine, probably as an act of prestige in order to reestablish stability after a long period of inter-kingdom warfare in the South. Frederick L. Attenborough dated the code to between 688 and 694 based on its similarity with a code of laws issued by Wihtred of Kent.
The Laws of Ine demonstrates several aspects about Ine and the period in which he lived. Many of the laws reveal the growing power of church – in a few instances it is superior to the king. Other laws show us the growing importance of trade by speaking directly about it and by focusing on the treatment of theft and foreigners. Scholars have often looked on the laws to show the importance of the ceorl in English society. However, Richard Abels seems to have come closer to the truth with his realization that the law code was not so much a reflection of society as it was of Ine’s hopes for his kingdoms and the kingdoms he ruled. As Professor Richard Abel demonstrated, Ine was hoping to centralize his power. He was also hoping to put into law for all warriors what had been tradition among a lord’s personal household; ultimate loyalty was to lie with the king and not his lord. In that regard, and in any way relating to it, The Laws of Ine will have to be ignored.
The Vita Columbae was probably composed by Adomnan in 697 to mark the centenary of Saint Columba’s death. It is believed to be based on oral memories and an earlier collection, De uirtutibus sancti Columbae, which was written around 640 by Cummene Find, who was later the abbot at Iona (656-668/9). The work is generally reliable. The exceptions are miracles (of course) and Columba’s participation in secular affairs. Adomnan tended to minimize his offenses or sidestep them altogether. The main difficulty with the source in studying British affairs is that the author’s purview was so narrow that the reader can get no idea of the wider political world. Adomnan is not even forthcoming about the politics within Dal Riata.
The Tribal Hidage is a simple list with Germanic and British kingdoms. Each entry is followed by its hidage. Hidage was what the Anglo-Saxons used as a measure of land. A hidage of one meant that if a person cut the hide of an average cow into thin strips and spread them end to end, they would form roughly that size of land.
Along with the size of a kingdom, hidage was used to determine how much tribute a kingdom owed. The Tribal Hidage is a tribute list, with Mercia at the top having by far the largest hidage of the group. In the past, scholars had assumed it was issued by Mercia, but a careful look at the list shows two details out of place. For one, neither Northumbria nor any of its original kingdoms (Pennawc, Berneich, Deur, and possibly Dent and Perym) are present.
The second is that Mercia is listed as having a much higher hidage than any other kingdom, much higher than it is known to have had in any other historical source. Hidage lists were made for tributary kingdoms, while a king was likely to collect his hereditary kingdom’s tribute personally.
If the reasoning is sound, then the Tribal Hidage was most likely composed in Northumbria. The question then becomes one of when. One other detail is useful in that regard; Elmet is listed. Edwin would make Elmet a part of Northumbria in 626. Since he became king in 616 and was the first known Northumbrian to rule over Mercia, the Tribal Hidage was probably written in the window of 616×626.
The Letters of Columbanus were written by an outspoken Irish abbot of around 600. Columbanus began his career as a monk at Bangor, where his personal charisma and faith attracted a large following. Instead of traveling around Ireland or even Scotland as previous Irish holy men had done, though, Columbanus went to the continent with his disciples. In Gaul he founded several monasteries before his outspoken views on the Frankish royal family made him unwelcome there.
At this time he also started writing letters of advice to the pope; these are mainly what have been preserved. In the short run, they drew the pope’s attention which would lead to the scrutiny of Celtic Christianity’s unique approach to the faith, and its eventual elimination at the Synod of Whitby (664) which effectively ended the period under study in the next few pages. For the modern scholar, Columbanus mentions Gildas in the past tense as the writer of both the De Excidio Britanniae and a letter to Uinniau. Columbanus’ letters show that Gildas was dead by 600 but was a highly respected churchman.
The Senchus Fer n’Alban has several extant copies, all found in Ireland, all in Irish, and none dating from before the fourteenth century. Bannerman concluded these all came from a Latin original and this has never been disputed. Most versions begin with the legendary landings of Eochaid Muinremar and the sons of Erc through the reign of Conall Crandomna (obit c. 660). One version traces the Dal Riata line back to Cairpre Riata of the first or second century B.C.E. but all variants go up through the reign of Conall Crandomna in about 660. The Senchus also provides a census of the Dalriadic regions. It has been presumed that the document dates to the seventh century but the question of why has never been answered. It seems to the present author that there are two possibilities.
In about 574, Columba oversaw the inauguration of Áedán son of Gabrán as the first king of a united Dalriada. Áedán would go on to be one of the strongest kings in Britain for decades. This would have provided him with the perfect opportunity for recording and enforcing an official dynastic history. Once created, the history would have been maintained up to Conall Crandomna, continuing for nearly fifty years under Northumbrian rules of Edwin, Oswald, and Oswiu.
The second possibility is that at some point during Conall Crandomna’s reign he rebelled from Northumbria and took the opportunity to record a family history in order to generate loyalty for his movement and his family. In this theory, there would be no need to theorize how a legendary history had survived nearly a century of Northumbrian rule.
Dr. Bannerman favored a seventh-century origin-legend. The present author would, too. As was demonstrated in Hengest, Gwrtheyrn, and the Chronology of Post-Roman Britain, the Senchus manipulated the mid-sixth century history of Dalriada; it plucked the most famous and powerful leaders of the early Irish settlement from all available historical sources and formed them into a readily understandable united family history. Áedán would have had difficulty changing history that was within the living memory of his people but Conall Crandomna, living decades later, would have had no such problems.
One further note; Bannerman noted that the extant text has tenth-century grammar. As the initial draft was written before 660, this must represent a revision. Possibly, it may have been translated into Irish at that time.
The Irish Annals were roughly contemporaneous with the Senchus. They were first written in four monasteries – Bangor, Iona, Lismore, and Clonmacnoise. Contemporary records begin in about 600, the 680s, 700, and 740, respectively. We know this because those dates are when each respective monastery begins an unbroken sequence of its own abbots and because Bangor and Lismore had a scriptorium at that time, Iona was recording because of its prominent role in Scottish and Irish affairs, and because of all the references to surrounding monasteries and Connaught kings, respectively.
At some point during the eighth century the Bangor, Iona, and Lismore annals were compiled into a hypothetical text known as the Chronicle of Ireland. The chronicle was probably maintained in County Louth or eastern Meath until 913 because the annals that were later based off of it contained a continuous Uí Néill history as well as a continuing interest in the descendents of Aed Sláine during that time.
After 913, the monastery at Innisfallen, a second site in Ulster, and the monastery at Clonmacnoise each took a copy of the Chronicle of Ireland and began writing independent entries again. It is at this point that earlier entries were made. We know this for a couple reasons. First, the orthography or spelling for events before 640 is late, stretching nearly to the ninth century at times. Also, Kathleen Hughes noticed that the common core of information between the three annals was 50% between 488 and 585, but 67% between 650 and 700 when contemporary dating started. That statistic only makes sense if the earlier entries were added after The Chronicle of Ireland was in use at different sites.
The only extant annal that did not contribute to the Chronicle of Ireland was the Annals of Clonmacnoise. It did, however, add the chronicle’s entries to its own. The Annales of Clonmacnoise survived independently until at least 1627, when Connall Mag Eochagáin translated it into English. It has since been lost, taking with it any orthographic evidence with it. However, copies remain and the entries seem to focus on the families around Clonmacnoise.
There are two extant versions of the Vita Kentigerni, both written in the twelfth century. The first was prepared between 1147 and 1164 for Bishop Herbert and the second for Bishop Jocelyn (1175-1199). They both list a Baldred as Kentigern’s successor to the bishopric of Strathclyde. This detail tells us that their common original was written in 800 or before.
The only Baldred to be found in Strathclyde’s religious records is an Anglo-Saxon abbot from Northumbria who died in 757, some 145 years after Kentigern. This Baldred could not have been Kentigern’s successor. However, a person who died in 757 would have had access to the name of Kentigern’s mother and the British place-names of Lothian and several political and religious factors suggest that Baldred might have had a reason to write a life of Kentigern.
Between 744 and 756, Northumbria was fighting a back and forth war of conquest with Strathclyde. For years after the kingdom had given up, the kingdom might still have claimed ownership over the region. This is probably the era when Baldred was made a bishop of Strathclyde. A Northumbrian installed as the leading ecclesiastic would have made an intelligent political move, and once installed it would have been difficult to depose him.
The reason a Northumbrian bishop is important to the writing of the Vita Kentigerni stretches back almost a hundred years. In 664 there was a great debate between proponents of Celtic and Roman Catholic Christianity. The continentals had won. Since that time, Northumbria had been attempting to spread the religion. Kentigern had lived decades before that decision and so had followed the Celtic practices. However, he was the patron saint of Strathclyde and. As the Bishop of Strathclyde, Baldred would have had access to more information about him than was present any where else. He might have seen writing a vita about Kentigern as an opportunity to use the greatest Strathclyde saint as an early follower of the Roman practice.
Once looked for, the bias is easy to spot in the vita. Kentigern stays with David briefly before going on pilgrimage to Rome. There the reader is informed that Kentigern had originally been created a bishop by the wrong (British) method. Having been informed of this, he is immediately re-consecrated according to canon. The episode really has no other purpose; the patron saint of Wales informs the patron saint of Strathclyde that the Celtic practice is wrong and the two use the Roman practice to install Kentigern as a proper bishop. In a matter of several lines, Strathclyde’s most revered holy man was made an ally of the Roman church in Britain.
The rest of the vita has a few miraculous events, but none of the standard motifs that plague later vitae. There are no other passages where the Roman version trumps over the Celtic, and the people and incidents it mentions are, where checkable, perfectly plausible.
Apart from this clear evidence of bias, the vita looks extremely valuable to the present purposes because of its accurate information about Kentigern and his era. Both accounts begin with Kentigern’s birth in Lothian. By the middle of the seventh century the Northumbrians controlled Gododdin so there was no way of getting local legends by the eighth century.
Kentigern’s grandfather, Lleudun, is called the ruler of Dunpelder in both lives. Dunpelder was a major royal residence up through the fifth century and possibly into the sixth. Judging by the hoard that has been found there, it was the home of very wealthy kings, too. However, this was not common knowledge when the two extant versions of the Vita Kentigerni were written down in the eleventh century. By that time only Din Eidyn, modern Edinburgh, was remembered as a Gododdin king; toponymic studies have also demonstrated that native place-names are forgotten after about a century when an area is conquered by a different culture, which means that it would have gone out of use much after 750.
A third clue can be found in the personal name of Kentigern’s mother; Thaney in the Herbertian life and Taneu in the Jocelyn version. These are from Archaic British Täneü, which in written form was obsolete by about 800.
If the original version was written in or before 800, then the Vita Kentigerni could be a valid source for the period. I say could because each source that has been studied above has been riddled with layers of personal bias, passages where the author has guessed to create a scene or story out of missing knowledge, and the thinking of the time. Even if the original vita was old enough, to simply accept everything in it without knowing the background would be naïve. However, as it stands, the Vita Kentigerni seems like a near-contemporary source of useful information.
The Llandaff Charters are a collection of diplomas and charters that are related to the Llandaff monastery. They begin in the sixth century and terminate in the twelfth. However, it is clear from the handwriting and other details that the earlier documents have been rewritten. They were probably not just recopied, either; there are several clear and unavoidable chronological inconsistencies between the extant documents that are the result of this later editing.
As the last charters date to the twelfth century, that is the most likely time to find some form of explanation about the discrepancies in the charters. In 1107, Urban was consecrated bishop of Glamorgan in southeast Wales. For whatever reason, by 1119 Urban was styling himself the Bishop of Llandaff and took a personal interest in the development of the monastery’s prestige in order to enhance his diocese’s importance. To that end he involved himself in property disputes between Glamorgan and the St. David and Hereford monasteries from 1120 until his death in 1134.
The Llandaff Charters were extremely useful for his designs. Several of the documents predated any claims by St. David’s or Hereford and supported his claims. To the modern eye they are clearly forgeries, though. Though covering many decades, they were all written in the same hand, suggesting they were rewritten long after the fact. There are also the several chronological inconsistencies mentioned above; issues that would not exist if the documents had not been altered.
It makes the most sense that The Llandaff Charters went through a second draft at some time after 1120, when Urban could have made the most use of the changed documents. If that is what happened, then the Llandaff documents’ chronology as well as their land grants must be treated wih suspicion.
That said, the otherwise unknown witnesses and archaic language in the charters are definitely ancient, making clear that the original documents were probably made contemporarily with the people mentioned. Recognizing this useful fact, Professor Wendy Davies has generated a relative chronology based on the witnesses found in the charters that have not been biased by Urban’s claims. Her results have shown that the charters do not date back as far as they claim, but her chronology is more likely. Further, her exercise has demonstrated that the charters represent a feasible political landscape for the Arthurian period in southeast Wales.
The Pillar of Eliseg is a monument near modern Valle Crucis Abbey, which is near medieval Dinas Bran. It states that it was erected by Cyngen son of Cadell in honor of his great-grandfather Elisedd son of Gwylog; Dinas Bran was probably his capital. We know almost nothing about Cyngen or the events of his reign, only that he had three sons, that he died in 855, and that his maternal nephew Rhodri Mawr annexed his kingdom when he died. It stands to reason that either he had bad luck with children or his kingdom was unstable during his adulthood. If that is so, the monument might have been created to give the kingdom and his dynasty some historical stability.
The Pillar of Eliseg claims that Elisedd was descended from Gwrtheyrn through his son Brittu. As the author demonstrated in Gwrtheyrn, Hengest, and the Chronology of Post-Roman Britain, Gwrtheyrn and his dynasty were connected to the Severn valley and not northern Wales, making this official pedigree unlikely. Besides, as we will see below, Gwrtheyrn was one of the great heroes of Wales before the tenth century revision of the Historia Brittonum, which makes the pillar a clear example of ninth-century Powysian propaganda.
Stephanus’ Vita Wilfridi was written by a man who journeyed with Wilfrid on at least one of his trips to the continent. The Life was also written between about 709 and 719, within a decade of Wilfrid’s death. On the other hand, Eddius Stephanus idolized his subject, often presenting him as a hero who was mistreated by his fellow ecclesiastics. Bede wrote a biography as well and though written later and without the personal knowledge Stephanus enjoyed, Bede did not share the same opinion of Wilfrid. This makes the two sources useful in tandem.
The attitude of the anonymous Life of Ceolfrith was in many ways similar to Stephanus in his Wilfrid biography. The writer was a monk of Wearmouth or Jarrow who accompanied Ceolfrith on his last trip to Rome. He was therefore both more knowledgable than Bede on his particular topic, but not on the subject of Ceolfrith himself, whom Bede had known since early childhood. In addition, it is clear that this anonymous writer produced his work within a very short time after the saint’s death, but probably after Bede wrote as Bede does not mention the work. Ceolfrith was not the controversial figure that Wilfrid was, and because of that fact the anonymous life had no serious discrepancies with other histories of the period.
The Canu Heledd cycle is traditionally a group of poems written by Heledd, princess of a Powys kingdom, which focuses on the conquest of her birth kingdom and the subsequent death of her family. She alone had survived because she had been married to the Mercian king who killed them. Because the area she speaks of was conquered in the middle of the seventh century the poems were traditionally dated to that period. However, recent study by Jenny Rowland has demonstrated that the poems could not have been written until at least a century later. Her research suggests the poems were most likely written in the last two-thirds of the ninth century. Nor is the story they portray credible; the area was not conquered outright it was gradually assimilated.
However, the personal names seem to be accurate; they match the kingdom’s extant genealogy and the facts as found in the Marwnad Cynddylan, which is contemporary to the loss of the kingdom. Even the choice of Heledd as the poem’s voice suggests that some elements of the cycle might be ancient. Historically speaking, a daughter married to a potential rival would have been the most likely survivor if that rival ever conquered her native kingdom. And, once she had lost her political value, he would have abandoned her.
Alternatively, the choice of narrator could have been taken from Celtic myth. Part of the symbolism surrounding kingship was that the wife was the personification of the kingdom; she was young and fertile with each new king and grew haggard and barren as he aged or when he died to be renewed with the next king. As the lone surviving representative of the Powysian family, Heledd might have taken on that role. She is described much like the personification of the land between rulers. Regardless, there seems to be some original elements in Canu Heledd, but any materials which do not make sense when laid beside the earlier Marwnad Cynddylan cannot be used for historical purposes.
In 911, Hywel Dda inherited his father’s kingdom in a joint rule with his brother Clydog. Through marriage, inheritance, and political maneuvering he had taken control of all Wales except for Morgannwg and Gwent by 942. With so many kingdoms under one king, and possibly under the influence of his contemporary Athelstan’s law code, it was only natural that he decided his people needed one as well. According to the extant prologues he held a conference of leading legal experts and had Welsh law codified into The Laws of Hywel Dda. This may well have been a legend he propagated, but the fact remains that the laws are associated only with him.
As with the Code of Athelstan, The Laws of Hywel Dda was created during a time of cultural unity under one king in order to help standardize law and centralize authority in Hywel’s new empire. Because of this motive there was no serious bias against any of the Welsh kingdoms; the laws are fairly representative of Welsh society.
The most famous surviving version of this law is contained in the Black Book of Chirk. This is the oldest version of the law code and has been shown to contain historical information. It is possible that there are historical segments which favor Gwynedd or the dynasty Hywel was a part of in order to demonstrate its fitness to lead the Welsh kingdoms. If so, historical scenes like the details of Rhun’s campaign into the North would be the most likely place to find that sort of bias.
Saga poetry is the next major category of source material. Technically, the poetry of Taliesin and Aneirin fall into this group but they have been dealt with separately because they are central to any study of the period. Here I would like to deal mainly with the works focusing on the loss of Powys, basically the Llywarch Hen and Heledd poetry.
The “Pen Urien” group of poems is a part of the Llywarch Hen collection and is named after its most important elegy, “Pen Urien”. For many years it was thought that they might have been created by Llywarch Hen himself because of their personal nature; e.g. in “Pen Urien” the subject is Llywarch’s sorrow over having to take his cousin (Urien)’s head on the battlefield. Thanks to Dr. Rowland’s research, though, we can now be confident that they were actually written by several bards who added them over an extended period of time.
Rowland has focused on the internal inconsistencies in the greater Llywarch Hen collection. The most glaring contradiction is that most of the poems work around the theme that Llywarch is too old to fight (Hen is Welsh for “old”) and must convince his sons to fight for him. That is not the case with the “Pen Urien” poems, though. In one, Urien gives Llywarch’s youngest son Gwên a horn as a gift, indicating that during Urien’s lifetime Llywarch’s sons were already adults. In the title poem, Llywarch participates in a battle before decapitating his cousin. If the poems were internally consistent, then these two details would mean that Llywarch was still a fighting man when his children were themselves warriors. This is in direct contradiction to Llywarch’s standing as a retired warrior.
A modern reader might see in this and the later poems a collection intended to cover the the breadth of Llywarch’s life. However, as Dr. Rowland has rightly observed, a complete life story is not what bardic poetry was about. A poet would focus on one period – a king’s dealings with another king, a warrior’s campaign, or even an old man’s regrets – but not an entire lifetime.
There are further indications that the cycle had different authors with access to alternate information. Some of the Llywarch Hen cycle has Latin and religious influences that indicate a later date more in line with the fall of Powys in the ninth century, while the “Pen Urien” materials seem almost contemporary with the events.
Another difference is the change in who is the enemy. Llywarch asks the kings Dunawd and Brân for aid in the poem “Gwahodd”, yet in the “Pen Urien” group of poems these two are opposed to Urien and therefore Llywarch. In “Gwahodd” there is no explanation of the changed loyalties, either. As we will see in the next chapter, Welsh materials from the ninth century on would view all the British as allies and the English as the enemy. Historically that was not the case, which is why the older group of poems describes some Britons as allies and others as enemies.
One of the major questions about the Llywarch Hen cycle is the taking of Urien’s head after he died. The subject is treated directly in “Pen Urien”, “Celain Urien”, and “Efrddyl” but the context of the act is never explained; we do not even know why it was taken. The answer is really not important in determining how useful the poems are, or even how old they might be. There is a clear conflict of loyalties for the beheader that is never fully explained, suggesting an old perspective. There are also no explicit connections to “Marwnad Cynddylan”, and the place-names in the “Pen Urien” group of poems are either independent of “Marwnad Cynddylan” or in perfect accord with those in authentic Taliesin poems. All of these clues suggest that the “Pen Urien” collection is very old. It is only the orthography and language of the extant poems themselves that suggest their date might be as late as the late eighth to the middle of the ninth centuries.
The concern for the treatment of Urien’s head is not important in understanding how the “Pen Urien” group of poems are related to each other, either. Each poem has a different approach to the same scene. The barrage of perspectives has sometimes been seen as demonstrating that different authors contributed to the poems. However, there are strong verbal links between the poems that suggest they only had one author. Each one also seems to perform a different function within the cycle. It seems reasonable that their different perspectives are simply poetic devices used to more fully explore the scene.
As to the other examples of the group, “Unhwch” and “Dunawd and Urien” seem consistent with the three poems named above. Unhwch is the main subject in them, but they have the same conflict of interests which the other three poems demonstrate. “Aelwyd Rheged”, the last poem, is retrospective. It was possibly created as a transition to the later Llywarch Hen poems which feature Llywarch as an old man. Stanzas 37 through 41 seem to take an ironic viewpoint towards Urien, and therefore do not belong in the collection proper. Stanzas 32 through 35 most likely refer to a Run other than Urien’s son, and are probably later additions as well.
Although the “Pen Urien” poems seem to be at odds with many details in Historia Brittonum, both sets of material are clearly derived from a common source or at least perspective. This suggests that all the materials may have derived from the Northern Memoranda at one stage or another. If they have, then this collection of poems becomes valuable as an opposing perspective to the information to be found in Historia Brittonum.
The last three insular sources – the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein), the royal genealogies, and the king-lists – were all dependent on the bards and skops of the Celtic and Germanic peoples, respectively. It was these two groups of people who acted as the historians as well as the entertainers in their respective cultures. Very little is known about their training but we can understand them best through their surviving writing.
In our present age, history is composed of dates, events, and people which remain constant. For instance, in 1066 William the Conqueror won the battle of Hastings. The why and the how are fluid, changing with each new era or historian, e.g. in the decades following 1066, the English would have recorded William as an invader and the language he insisted on, French, an obomination. In the 1300s, his victory at Hastings meant that England had lands in France from which to pursue the French crown. Nowadays, any grade school child will tell you that the real history of England does not start until 1066.
Not so for the early medieval Celts and Germanics. Arthur was always a hero pitted against the Germanic peoples. Cú Chúlainn was always the loyal warrior of Conchobar. On the other hand, they had no use for dates, only relative years in the case of king-lists (which is why so little is known even after writing was introduced). They knew the main participants of battles, but tended to add in others as the years went (which is why the participants of Ardferydd in the 570s are not certainly known even now). They retained key events in their history such as the invasion of the Milesian gods or the Battle of Camlann, but these only served as backdrops for what they considered important – the survivors, the most loyal warriors, and the most generous kings. They made little or no real effort to remember when they happened.
Whereas any good modern history class will pursue an understanding of a subject – who killed John F. Kennedy and why? Was Hitler a brilliant sociopath or just an angry man? – the Celts never worried about it. They memorized what they considered the important facts of myth, legend, and history and remembered them using pneumonic devices. We know this because The Welsh Triads are just such a device.
The forty-five triads from manuscript Peniarth 16 only mention Arthur a few times, and so were probably written down before Arthur’s influence overwhelmed Welsh history. All the other triads have been influenced by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and are not trustworthy where Arthur is concerned.
The historians of the early Middle Ages were not just historians but also entertainers. As such, they learned hundreds of motifs to help them craft their stories and rhyme to give them cultural power. They were also trained in how to adjust a story to their audiences – size, demographics, and even personal tendencies. As such, their opinions on the personal motivations of kings and queens were not just based on their own thoughts but were shaped by the political atmosphere within which they worked. It changed from king to king and session to session.
As the author established in Hengest, Gwrtheyrn, and the Chronology of Post-Roman Britain, the British kingdoms took shape in the last years of the fifth century and the Germanic tribes not until the middle sixth century. In all cases their first rulers were mercenaries, angry young peasants, and maybe a wealthy landowner or two. None of them would have had royal lineages. That was practical; with kingship abandoned for centuries among the British, the bloodlines had been lost. Similarly, there is no sign of kingship among the Germanic tribes until the middle of the sixth century, suggesting that their bloodlines may have been forgotten or at least obscured by then.
New dynasties were also inconvenient. Without a history of family kingship, any new king had to deal with the question of legitimacy; why did they deserve to be the king? What exploits had they and their ancestors accomplished that set them apart from every other warrior?
The burden of those questions was handed off to the bards and skops. Using their knowledge and training, they scavenged local legends to manufacture a pedigree that gave the kings credibility. Their “court historians” absorbed the most famous kings and warriors of the local regions and occasionally from old legends into one lineage or king-list, like the ones that are extant. Then they simply appended the additional names to the beginning of the king-list or genealogy. The technique not only added status to the current king, but lengthened his dynasty in the process. It is because of the bard’s and skop’s resourcefulness that a good historian cannot trust any official dynastic history before a more historical source starts naming the kings within an historical setting.
Apart from the sources in the next chapter, the above is a fairly complete if terse discussion on all the pertinent insular sources of early British history. As with all social studies, very few of the conclusions which have been outlined above are without their critics, but the consensus of scholars is in agreement with what has been put forward. As has been seen, we already know a good deal about the primary sources’ influences. We are fortunate in that, as whatever history of post-Roman Britain is to be constructed must be based upon them.
1 The theory is based on Gildas’ passage about a “superbus tyrannus”, proud tyrant, inviting Hengest and Horsa to Britain as mercenaries. Professor Alcock could be considered the first person to seriously question the “over-king” scenario (Alcock, Arthur’s Britain, (London, 1971)) while Professor Higham effectively buried it (Higham, Rome, Britain and the Anglo-Saxons, (London, 1992b). But that has not stopped others from continuing to make this nonexistent figure a key character in fifth-century Britain. A more reasonable view was proposed by Campbell, who suggested that more local sub-Roman rulers made use of foederati on an individual basis; (Campbell, “The lost centuries: 400-600”, ed. James Campbell, The Anglo-Saxons, (London, 1982), 20-3.
2 Higham, Rome, Britain and the Anglo-Saxons, (London, 1992b), 52.
3 Jones, Saints’ Lives and Chronicles in Early England, (Cornell, 1947 rep.1968); Bedae opera de temporibus, ed. Charles William Jones; (Cambridge, 1943); Poole, Chronicles and Annals, (Oxford, 1926).
4 Mohrmann, The Latin of St. Patrick: Four Lectures, (Dublin, 1961).
5 Dumville once suggested that the letter was an open one, not to be handed directly to Coroticus. This seems likely given the contents of the letter, but has no bearing on the evaluation given above. (Dumville, St. Patrick: A.D. 493-1993, (Woodbridge, 1993), 107.
6 The author’s date-guessing results gave the broad range of 413×443 for Patrick’s year of birth, suggesting he might have lived in all three periods.
7 Lapidge, “Gildas’ Education and the Latin Culture of Sub-Roman Britain”, Gildas: new approaches, eds. David N. Dumville and Michael Lapidge, (Woodbridge, 1984), 27-50.
8 Lapidge, “Gildas’ Education and the Latin Culture of Sub-Roman Britain”, Gildas: new approaches, ed. David N. Dumville and Michael Lapidge, (Woodbridge, 1984), 32-5.
9 Wright, “Gildas’ prose style and its origins”, Gildas: New Approaches, eds. Michael Lapidge and David N. Dumville, (Woodbridge, 1984), 107-28.
10 Schaffner, “Britain’s Iudices”, Gildas: new approaches, eds. David N. Dumville and Michael Lapidge, (Woodbridge, 1984), 151-155.
11 McCarthy and Ó Cróinín, “The ‘lost Irish 84-year Easter table rediscovered”, Peritia 6-7 (Galway, 1987), 227-42.
12 He figures in Mabinogion’s “The Dream of Maxen” and as a principal ancestor of Gwent and Powys.
13 An opinion supported by the traditional evidence, which places him in Strathclyde at birth and makes him the son of a known Pictish king named Cau in the vita by the monk of Ruys and the son of Nau of Scotland according to that by Caradoc of Llancarfan; A Monk of Rhuys and Caradoc of Llancarfan. Two Lives of Gildas, trans. Hugh Williams, (Llanerch, rep. 1990), 12-15 and 84-5. Wade-Evans, “Notes on the Excidium Britanniae: A Contribution towards a Re-Statement of Early Saxo-Welsh History”, Celtic Review 1 (Edinburgh, 1905), 289-95; Wade-Evans, “‘The Ruin of Britannia’: A Contribution towards a Restatement [sic] of Early Saxo-Welsh History”, Celtic Review 2 (Edinvurgh, 1906), 46-58 and 126-35; Thompson, “Gildas and the History of Britain”, Brit 10 (Stroud, 1979), 203-226; Field, “Gildas and the City of the Legions”, The Heroic Age 1 (1999), Web.
14 Miller, “Relative and absolute publication dates of Gildas’ De Excidio in medieval scholarship”, BBCS 26 (Cardiff, 1976b), 169-174; Sims-Williams, “Gildas and the Anglo-Saxons”, CMCS 6 (Cambridge, 1983a), 1-30; Dumville, “The Chronology of De Excidio Britanniae, Book I”, Gildas: new approaches, eds. David N. Dumville and Michael Lapidge, (Woodbridge, 1984b), 61-84; Wright, “Gildas’s Geographical Perspective: Some Problems”, Gildas: new approaches, eds. David N. Dumville and Michael Lapidge, (Woodbridge, 1984), 85-105; Higham, “Gildas, Roman Walls and British Dykes”, CMCS 22 (Cambridge, 1991), 1-14; Dark, Civitas to Kingdom: British Political Continuity 300-800, (Leicester, 1994), 258-266.
15 An argument proposed by Koch and Isaac is that Mwynðawg Mwynfawr was not a person’s name, leaving the question of the Gododdin lord still open; Koch, “Thoughts on the Ur-Godoðin: Rethinking Aneirin and Mynyðawc Mwynvawr”, Language Sciences 15.2 (Amsterdam, 1993), 81-9; Isaac, “Mwynddawg Mwynfawr” BBCS 37 (Cardiff, 1990), 111-113.
16 Ifor Williams was the initial proponent but was followed by every major researcher and translator of the poem up up until John T. Koch’s translation and attempt at a restoration of the work to its original wording. Koch has proposed a date nearer 570, which would mean that the action took place before the rise of the Northumbrian kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira; Aneirin. Canu Aneirin, ed. Sir Ifor Williams, (Cardiff, 1938), xxviii, xxxi-xxxii; The Gododdin: The Oldest Scottish Poem, ed. Kenneth H. Jackson, (Edinburgh, 1969), 8, 11-12; Bromwich (ed.) The Beginnings of Welsh Poetry: Studies by Sir Ifor Williams, (Cardiff, 2nd ed. 1982), 47-9, 52-3; Aneirin: Y Gododdin – Britain Oldest Heroic Poem, ed. Alfred Owen Hughes Jarman, (Llandysul, 1988), xviii-xx, Smyth, Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland A.D. 80-100, (London, 1984), 20-2; The Gododdin of Aneirin, trans. and ed. John T. Koch, (Cardiff, 1997), xvi-xxxiv.
17 Wormald, The First Code of English Law, (Canterbury, 2005), 1 and 17.
18 Ibid, 16-17.
19 Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, (Toronto, 2002), 16.
20 Wormald, The First Code of English Law, Canterbury, 2005), 11-15.
21 Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, (Toronto, 2002), 34-41; Wormald, The First Code of English Law, Canterbury, 2005), 13.
22 Wormald, The First Code of English Law, Canterbury, 2005), 1-2.
23 Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, (Toronto, 2002), 134.
24 Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, (Toronto, 2002), 165.
25 Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, (Toronto, 2002), 173-4.
26 Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, (Toronto, 2002), 166.
27 Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, (London, 1992), 125-6.
28 The Laws of the Earliest English Kings, ed. and trans. Frederick L. Attenborough, (Cambridge, 1922), 34; Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, (Oxford, 1971), 72-3.
29 Whitelock, English Historical Documents v.l. c. 500–1042, (London, 1968), 327-37; Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, (London, 1992), 2;
30 Chadwick, The Origins of the English Nation, (Cambridge, 1907), 161; John, Orbis Britanniae, (Leicester, 1966), 135-6; Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, (Oxford, 1971), 290; Finberg, “Anglo-Saxon England to 1042”, ed. Herbert P.R. Finberg, The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol. 1.2 (Cambridge, 1972), 443; Loyn, The Governance of Anglo-Saxon England, 500-1087, (Stanford, 1984), 32.
31 Abel, Lordship and Military Obligation in Anglo-Saxon England, (Los Angeles, 1988), 15-25.
32 Fraser, From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795, (Edinburgh, 2009).
33 Wormald, “Bede, the Bretwaldas and the origins of the Gens Anglorum”, ed. Patrick Wormald, Donald Bullough, and Roger Collins, Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies Presented to J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, (Oxford, 1983), 114; Dumville, “Essex, Middle Anglia, and the expansion of Mercia in the south-east Midlands”, ed. Stephen Bassett, Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, (Leicester, 1989a), 129.
34 Celtic Christianity was not a different religion, but was more accurately an older version of Christianity. The Irish and Britons dated Easter by a different method and had their monks shave their heads differently. Different practices had been enacted while Britain had been effectively shut off from the continent during the fifth century.
35 Bannerman, Studies in the History of Dalriada, (Edinburgh, 1974), 39.
36 Bede, A History of the English Church and People, trans. Leo Sherley-Price, (Baltimore, 1955), 3.6
37 Ibid, 1.1.
38 Bannerman, Studies in the History of Dalriada, (Edinburgh, 1974), 118-132
39 Mulchrone, “Die Abfassungszeit und Überlieferung der Vita Tripartita”, ZCP 16 (Berlin, 1926), 411-452; Stokes, The Saltair na Rann. A Collection of Early Middle Irish Poems, (Oxford, 1883); Strachan, “The Verbal System of the Saltair na Rann”, Transactions of the Philological Society 42 (Hoboken, 1895), 1-76.
40 Hughes, Early Christian Ireland: Introduction to the Sources, (New York, 1972), 121-123.
41 Ibid, 118-119.
42 Ibid, 141.
43 Grosjean, “Sur quelques exégetes irlandáis du viie siècle”, Sacris Erudiri 7 (Sint-Beggaplein, 1955), 67-98.
44 Hughes, Early Christian Ireland: Introduction to the Sources, (New York, 1972), 121-123, 118-119, and 138; Grosjean, “Sur quelques exégetes irlandáis du viie siècle”, Sacris Erudiri 7 (Steenbrugge, 1955), 67-98.
45 Hughes, Early Christian Ireland: Introduction to the Sources, (New York, 1972), 99-116.
46 Ó Máille, The Language of the Annals of Ulster, (Manchester, 1910), 9.
47 Hughes, Early Christian Ireland: Introduction to the Sources, (New York, 1972), 142.
48 For a complete explanation of the Vita Kentigerni’s early dating see The Gododdin of Aneirin, ed. and trans. John T. Koch, (Cardiff, 1997), lxxvi-lxxix; MacQueen, “A Reply to Professor Jackson”, TDGNAHS 3rd series 36 (Dumfries, 1959), 175-83; Jackson, “The Sources for the Life of St. Kentigern”, Studies in the Early British Church, ed. Nora K. Chadwick, (Cambridge, 1958), 286-293; MacQueen, “Yvain, Ewen, and Owain ap Urien” TDGNHAS 3rd series 33 (Dumfries, 1956), 107-131; Carney, Studies in Irish Literature and History, (Dublin, 1950), 79.
49 The Gododdin of Aneirin, ed. and trans. John T. Koch, (Cardiff, 1997), lxxix.
50 Johnson, Hengest, Gwrtheyrn, and the Chronology of Post-Roman Britain, (Madison, 2014), 86-92.
51 Formerly Eddius Stephanus because of an association between the author and a man named by Bede “Ædde, also known as Stephen”. The connection is no longer considered valid; Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon, (Princeton, 1988), 281 note 210.
52 Fulk, Cain, and Anderson, History of Old English Literature, (Malden, 2003), 90.
53 Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, (Cardiff, 1990), 120-141.
54 Ibid, 141-145.
55 O’Rahilly, “On the Origins of the Names Érainn and Ériu”, Ériu 14 (Dublin, 1946), 7-28; MacCana, “Aspects of the Theme of the King and Goddess”, EC 6 (Paris, 1955), 356-413.
56 “Hywel Dda”, ed. John T. Koch, Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, (Santa Barbara, 2006), 945.
57 Lloyd, A History of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest, (London, 1911), 337-8.
58 Kirby, “Hywel Dda: Anglophile?”, WHR 8 (Cardiff, 1976b), 1-13.
59 Thornton, “Mordaf Hael”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford, 2015), Web. Other historical asides have often been used by historians including but not limited to several passages about Rhun of Gwynedd, as will be seen below.
60 As will be seen in the essay on Historia Brittonum, Hywel Dda was not above propaganda.
61 Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, (Cambridge, 1990), 42.
62 Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, (Cambridge, 1990), 46-7.
63 Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, (Cambridge, 1990), 43.
64 Rowland believes that the beheader had control of the field and took the head as a trophy, while Ifor Williams believed the act was performed to save the king from disgrace; Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, (Cambridge, 1990), 78; I. Williams, “The Poems of Llywarch Hen”, The Beginnings of Welsh Poetry, ed. Rachel Bromwich, (Cardiff, 1972), 143; Canu Llywarch Hen, ed. Sir Ifor Williams, (Cardiff, 1935), liv.
65 N.J.A. Williams, “Canu Llywarch Hen and the Finn Cycle”, Astudiaethau ar yr Hengerdd, ed. Rachel Bromwich and R. Brinley Jones, (Cardiff, 1978), 234-265.
66 Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, (Cardiff, 1990), 82.
67 Ibid, 87-8
68 Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads, trans. and ed. Rachel Bromwich, (Cardiff, rev. 1978), lxxx-lxxxiii.
69 Bassett, “In Search of the Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms”, The Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, ed. Steven Bassett, (Leicester, 1989), 23; Wood, “Kings, Kingdoms and consent”, Early Medieval Kingship, eds. Peter H. Sawyer and Ian N. Wood, (Leeds, 1977), 18-20; Dumville, “Kingship, genealogies and regnal lists”, Early Medieval Kingship, eds. Peter H. Sawyer and Ian N. Wood, (Leeds, 1977b), 91-92; Yorke, “The Kingdom of the East Saxons”, ASE 14 (London, 1985), 1-30; Arnold, An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, (New York, 1988), 197-199.