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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Radio Interview 26th August, thoughts.

Discussion on radio concerning my book King Arthur In Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition

Radio interview below.
Well, the interview on Inishowen Conmmunity Radio was certainly a difficult one, not because of the questions asked, but of how to couch the replies when we are dealing on one hand with pseudo history/mythology and on the other with real history. I think in future I will have to point out the distinction between the two. It's also difficult when I am introduced as claiming that Arthur was Irish, when in fact I only ask the question. This is to be expected though when people have not read the book.

Mac Erca with the fairy woman Sheen
Yes, Mac Erca in mythology was the ruler of Ailech and the Grianan of Ailech would fall into that assumption, but in reality he is never associated with the Grianan, but with the house of Cletech on the Boyne. Furthermore, the O'Neills didnt acquire the Grianan until the late seventh century when they defeated the Cenel Conaill in battle as pointed out by Brian Lacey in his work on the O'Neills of the North. However, as what we know of the late fifth to mid sixth century was retrospectively added to the annals of Ireland it's quite possible the sons of Eoghan may have occupied the Grianan but then lost it again to the Cenel Conaill in the late sixth century.

The other difficulty, as pointed out in the book, is that Muircertach Mac Erca is a merged character , made up of the historical Mac Erce mentioned in the seventh century by Adamnan and in an early Irish MS called the book of Conn of the Hundred battles where he is called by the diminutive Mac Ercene and Muircertach Mac Muiredach, a member of the northern O'Neills in their genealogies. In the book I make this distinction so in effect we dont really know if Mac Erca was of the O'Neills at all or whether they just aquired or interpolated him into their clan by merging him with Muircertach Mac Muiredach. This would then  beg the question, who was Mac Erca? We do know he had a father called Muiredach but thats as far as it goes. Whether this Muiredach was a son of Eoghan is unknown.

The conversation covered some of the links with the similarities of the two stories, the Merlin type character Saigin the Druid and St Cairnech, who was closely associated with Mac Erca, the name of Mac Erca's wife, which translates into Welsh as Gwinau-verch, the story of his conquests of places known to have been conquored by Arthur, the dates of their death etc etc.

I think the people of Inishowen would have been left wondering what all the fuss was about when I could not give them a definate answer that Arthur was Irish and from that place, other than in mythology and Pseudo-history. How does one explain all this in a ten minute interview? Should I have concentrated on the mythology and left the real history or was I right to try and mention both in shuch a short time?

Listening to the interview for the first time today 31/8, I think I didnt actually do that bad.

Bid to save O'Doherty Castle

A campaign has been launched to raise €120,000 to "stabilise and preserve" O’Doherty Castle at Carrickabraghy on the Isle of Doagh, Inishowen, Donegal Ireland. See here for full story

Carrickabraghy Castle, Doagh Island - - 1333326

If you would like to join or support the society – whether you are at home or abroad - you can contact them on , +35374- 9378468, or at Carrickabraghy Restoration Society, Isle of Doagh, Inishowen, Co Donegal.

Friday, 26 August 2011

The letters of Cassiodorus to Clovis, King of the Franks, late 5th early 6th Century

Gesta Theodorici - Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus (c 485 - c 580)

Letters of Cassiodorus

Addressed as Luduin by Theoderic via his secretary Cassiodorus , these letters to Clovis (Chlodovechus) would certainly confound etymologists who would be at a loss to explain why the Romans put an ‘n’ at the end of his name instead of a ‘c’. It’s certainly a puzzle. 

The letters appear to have been written in the early 6th century when Clovis defeated the Alamanni in around 505 or was a later battle against the Alamanni and when Clovis was intent on attacking Alaric the Goth in around 514.

The first letter concerns Clovis' request for a harper and is written to Boetius. The other letters are directed at Clovis himself. The letters in which Clovis is mention are these. (But I am only presenting three.)

  1. Theodoric marches his troops against (508),
  2. A harper sent to, chosen by Boethius, (below)
  3. Congratulated on victory over Alamanni, (below)
  4. Letter dissuading from war with Alaric II; (below)
  5. Called 'regius juvenis' by Theodoric,
  6. His overthrow of the Alamannic kingdom. 
All the letters can be found here. By Thomas Hodgkin.

'The King of the Franks [Clovis] has asked us to send him a harper. We felt that in you lay our best chance of complying with his request, because you, being such a lover of music yourself, will be able to introduce us to the right man.'
Theoderic Quarter Siliqua 80000847
Coin of Theoderic
Reflections on the nature of music. She is the Queen of the senses; when she comes forth from her secret abiding place all other thoughts are cast out. Her curative influence on the soul. The five tones: the Dorian influencing to modesty and purity; the Phrygian to fierce combat; the Aeolian to tranquillity and slumber; the Ionian (Jastius), which sharpens the intellect of the dull and kindles the desire of heavenly things; the Lydian, which soothes the soul oppressed with too many cares. We distinguish the highest, middle, and lowest in each tone, obtaining thus in all fifteen tones of artificial music. The diapason is collected from all, and unites all their virtues.
Classical instances of music:
The human voice as an instrument of music. Oratory and Poesy as branches of the art. The power of song: Ulysses and the Sirens. David the author of the Psalter, who by his melody three (?) times drove away the evil spirit from Saul. The lyre is called 'chorda,' because it so easily moves the hearts (corda) of men. As the diadem dazzles by the variegated lustre of its gems, so the lyre with its divers sounds.
The lyre, the loom of the Muses. Mercury, the inventor of the lyre, is said to have derived the idea of it from the harmony of the spheres. This astral music, apprehended by reason alone, is said to form one of the delights of heaven. 'If philosophers had placed that enjoyment not in sweet sounds but in the contemplation of the Creator, they would have spoken fitly; for there is truly joy without end, eternity abiding for ever without weariness, and
the mere contemplation of the Divinity produces such happiness that nothing can surpass it. This Being furnishes the true immortality; this heaps delight upon delight; and as outside of Him no creature can exist,so without Him changeless happiness cannot be 'We have indulged ourselves in a pleasant digression, because it is always agreeable to talk of learning with the learned; but be sure to get us that Citharoedus, who will go forth like another Orpheus.

Clovis abbaye
Clovis has stirred up the nation of the Franks, 'prisca aetate residem,' to new and successful encounters. 'It is a memorable triumph that the impetuous Alaman should be struck with such terror as even to beg for his life. Let it suffice that that King with all the pride of his race should have fallen: let it suffice that an innumerable people should have been doomed either to the sword or to slavery.'

'The affinities of kings ought to keep their subjects from the plague of war. We are grieved to hear of the paltry causes which are giving rise to rumours of war between you and our son Alaric, rumours which gladden the hearts of the enemies of both of you. Let me say with all frankness, but with all affection, just what I think: "It is the act of a passionate man to get his troops ready for action at the first embassy which he sends." Instead of that refer the matter to our arbitration. It would be a delight to me to choose men capable of mediating between you. What would you yourselves think of me if I could hear unmoved of your murderous intentions towards one another? Away with this conflict, in which one of you will probably be utterly destroyed. Throw away the sword which you wield for my humiliation. By what right do I thus threaten you? By the right of a father and a friend. He who shall despise this advice of ours will have to reckon us and our friends as his adversaries. 'I send two ambassadors to you, as I have to my son Alaric, and hope that they may be able so to arrange matters that no alien malignity may sow the seeds of dissension between you, and that your nations, which under your fathers have long enjoyed the blessings of peace, may not now be laid waste by sudden collision. You ought to believe him who, as you know, has rejoiced in your prosperity. No true friend is he who launches his associates, unwarned, into the headlong dangers of war.'

In a subsequent letter, not addressed to Clovis, Clovis is called a 'regius juvenis' by Theoderic. Some have puzzled at this but the term according to the Medieval Online Latin database is as follows: 

II. Subst.: jŭvĕnis , is, comm., one who is in the flower of his or her age (mostly of persons older than adolescents and younger than seniores, i. e. between twenty and forty years), a young person, a young man, a young woman. 

This confirms then that Clovis was probably still under the age of 40 to be still called Juvenis by Theoderic at this time.

King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland

This is only supposed to date back to the 1620's but this article claims references to it go back much further.

The King's Knot - - 461907

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dark Age TV - Britain AD by Dr. Francis Pryor

Defining the Dark Ages Part two - The rebellions

Constantius II
By 350 the emperor Constans was dead and a usurper, the half Briton, half Frankish Magnentius was in power in the Western Provinces. Constantius II was in power in the East. In Britain Flavious Martinus was the Vicarius; a governor in charge of the civil structure of the provinces. He was well respected by Britain’s nobility and was deemed to be fair and honest in his dealing with them. Ammianus[1] a Roman historian of the time tells us of Martinus that he was:

 “..a most just ruler, who had dared to lighten the unhappy lot of many…Martinus, who was governing those provinces as a substitute for the prefects, deeply deplored the woes suffered by innocent men..”

This shows that Martinus, although a nice guy had no real power. He was only a substitute for the role of Praetorian Prefect and this had profound affects for his authority after the revolt of Magnentius was put down.

Magnentius[2], called a barbarian by writers of the time[a], was born in Samarobriva (Amiens, north eastern France) of a British father and a Frankish mother. He was said to have been tolerant of both paganism and Christianity. He worked his way up the Roman ranks until he commanded the palatine legions - the Loviani and Herculiani seniores, personal legions of the Emperor Constans himself. He was raised to power in Autun when the Roman army became disgruntled with the behaviour of Constans and had him executed, after he had fled, near the pyrenees by one Gaiso (Consul in 351).

Magnentius must have visited Britain sometime in February 350AD, probably to raise taxes for his forthcoming war and to strip the country of some of its legions. He stripped Britain of all movable troops and emptied the frontier garrisons of Gaul to swell his ranks. For Magnentius, this was just the beginning of his claim for total power of the Roman world. He collected the armies of Britain and Gaul and called on his fellow Germanic Franks and Saxons plus Spaniards in support and started on his march first towards Trier then to Rome which capitulated in his favour. Magnentius tried to get recognition from Constantius as the rightful Emperor of the Western Empire but this was refused by Constantius, understandable, as the Flavian dynasty had held sway for 50 years since Contantine I.
the first Romano Briton to usurp power.
In response to all this Constantius II invited Germanic tribes to cross the Rhine and enter Gaul. This was a spoiling tactic to hold up Magnentius and was to have far reaching effects. Magnentius though, due to his Frankish allies was able to bring some control to the Barbarians invited in by Constantius.  Constantius however employed many more Germanic barbarians to swell his ranks. Magnentius for his part recruited Keltoi and Galatai. But his most enthusiastic followers, according to the emperor Julian himself:

"..were by virtue of their ties of kinship, Franks or Saxons, the most warlike of whom live beyond the Rhine and along the shore of the Western Sea." (Or. 1. 34c-d).

In 351AD these two massive armies met at the Battle of Mursa Major in present day Croatia and in the ensuing battle and stalemate 52,000 men lost their lives. With such huge losses the Roman armies were seriously depleted and it would take a couple of years before Constantine could try again. But by 353 he had successfully beaten Magnentius at Mons Seleucus in southern France.

One Gerontius (Keraint, Gereint) was Magnentius’ Comes Britanarium, commander of the armies. Gerontius was a Briton and shows the ties Magnentius had with the provinces and armies of Britain who had probably helped him to power in 350. Could this Gerontius be the Keraint ap Genedos of the Welsh genealogies? Is Genedos just a corrupted late Welsh form of Magnentius?  Anyway, according to Welsh myth, Gerontius set his relatives up in positions of power in Britain. To Tegid (Tacitus) was given the far north, his descendent was Cunedda. To his other brother Eudaff he gives Wales. Keraints daughter Faustus marries Magnentius. Eudaffs daughter, Sevira marrries Magnus Maximus. Eudaff may have been Magnus Maximus' Praetorian Prefect Eudosius. To his first son Cynan he gives Dumnonia and Armorica later. Cynan becomes Maximus' Magister Militum probably in control of Armorica. Cynans daughter Strada marries Coel Hen. All fascinating myth but unprovable[3]. Only this tentative tie with Gerontius, Comes Britanarium in 350 remains.

With a much reduced army in Britain it would not be long before the Barbarian tribes to the north and Scoti in Ireland realized the position. They don’t seem to have pushed for any major offensive during the time of Magnentius though. Perhaps when he visited Britain in 350 he had paid them off and made a treaty with them as Julian (who becomes Caesar of Gaul and Britain in 355) mentions a treaty that was made with the Scots and Picts later when he complains in about 359/60 that they have broken it.

After the death of Magnentius in 353 his general Gerontius is tortured then exiled but to where is unknown. Britain, the country, is still a rich and prosperous one but is about to feel the wrath of the Emperor Constantius.

By 353 the stirring of more hostile nations was starting to take place. The Huns in the east had started to make their way west  and the Irish had started to become united enough under strong leaders to begin raiding western Britain. The movement of the Huns started a domino effect pushing Germanic tribes westwards in panic, spilling over into Roman lands.

354AD was a momentous one in the history of Britain, for in this year the Roman nobility of Britain was decimated, it’s weak but honorable Governor Martinus dead by his own hand and by the end of the year this had caused the country to rebel under one Carausius II. These events were enough to weaken the internal structure of the country to such a degree that within a few years the Picts and Scoti were once more brave enough to raid in large numbers and make enough success of it that legions from abroad were needed to put down the troubles. So what led to this state of affairs? One Paulus Catenus, probably one of the most evil men ever to have entered Britain.  He was sent by Constantius to seek out those who may have supported Magnentius and return them to Rome. When he arrived in 354 and found the weak governor Martinus  in charge he went vastly beyond his remit and proceeded to accuse and implicate practically the whole of British Roman nobility. Poor Martinus looked on in horror as innocent as well as perhaps guilty were arrested and thrown into chains. From which custom Paulus acquired the nickname Catenus – The Chain.  For the full horror of the story we have Ammanius to thank and here it is :

The Torture of the Followers of Megnentius

1. While this was happening in the East, Constantius was passing the winter at Arelate, where he gave entertainment in the theatre and the circus with ostentatious magnificence. Then, on the 10th of October, which completed the thirtieth year of his reign, giving greater weight to his arrogance and accepting and accepting every false or doubtful charge as evident and proven, among other atrocities he tortured Gerontius, a count of the party of Magnentius, and visited him with the sorrow of exile.

2.And, as an ailing body is apt to be affected even by slight annoyances, so his narrow and sensitive mind, thinking that every sound indicated something done or planned at the expense of his safety, made his victory lamentable through the murder of innocent men.

3. For if anyone of the military commanders or ex-officials, or one of high rank in his own community, was accused even by rumour of having favoured the party of the emperor’s opponent, he was loaded with chains and dragged about like a wild beast. And whether a personal enemy pressed the charge or no one at all, as though it were enough that he had been named, informed against, or accused at all, he was condemned to death, or his property confiscated, or he was banished to some desert island.

4. Moreover his harsh cruelty, whenever the majesty of the empire was said to be insulted, and his angry passion and unfounded suspicions were increased by the bloodthirsty flattery of his courtiers, who exaggerated everything that happened and pretended to be greatly troubled by the thought of an attempt on the life of a prince on whose safety, as on a thread, they hypocritically declared that the condition of the whole world depended.

5. And he is even said to have given orders that no one who had ever been punished for these or similar offences should be given a new trial after a writ of condemnation had once been presented to him in the usual manner, which even the most inexorable emperors were commonly allowed. And this fatal fault of cruelty, which in others sometimes grew less with advancing age, in his case became more violent, since a group of flatterers intensified his stubborn resolution.

6. Prominent among these was the state secretary Paulus, a native of Spain, a kind of viper, whose countenance concealed his character, but who was extremely clever in scenting out hidden means of dangers for others. When he had been sent to Britain to fetch some officers who had dared to conspire with Magentius, since they could make no resistance he autocratically exceeded his instructions and, like a flood, suddenly overwhelmed the fortunes of many, making his away amid manifold slaughter and destruction, imprisoning freeborn men and even degrading some with handcuffs ; as a matter of fact, he patched together many accusations with utter disregard of the truth, and to him was due an impious crime, which fixed eternal stain upon the time of Constantius.

7. Martinus, who was governing those provinces as a substitute for the prefects, deeply deplored the woes suffered by innocent men ;and after often begging that those who were free from any reproach should be spared, when he failed in his appeal he threatened to retire, in the hope that, at least in through fear of this, that malevolent man-hunter might finally cease to expose to open danger men naturally given to peace.

8. Paulus thought that this would interfere with his profession, and being a formidable artist in devising complications, for which reason he was nicknamed “The Chain,” since the substitute continued to defend those whom he was appointed to govern, Paulus involved even him in the common peril, threatening to bring him also in chains to the emperor’s court, along with the tribunes and many others. Thereupon Martinus, alarmed at this threat, and thinking swift death imminent, drew his sword and attacked that same Paulus. But since the weakness of his hand prevented him from dealing a fatal blow, he plunged the sword which he had already drawn into his own side. And by that ignominious death there passed from life a most just ruler, who had dared to lighten the unhappy lot of many.

9. After perpetrating these atrocious crimes, Paulus, stained with blood, returned to the emperor’s camp, bringing many with him many men almost covered with chains and in a state of pitiful filth and wretchedness. On their arrival, the racks were made ready and the executioner prepared his hooks and other instruments of torture. Many of the prisoners were proscribed, others driven into exile; to some the sword dealt the penalty of death. For no one easily recalls the acquittal of anyone in the time of Constantius when an accusation against him had even been whispered.

We can see from this that poor Martinus was barely strong enough to raise a sword against Paulus and was not able to deliver a killing blow. Paulus Catena though got his comeuppance a few years later in around 362 when he was burned alive for his crimes.

This probably left Britain in a state of flux, with most of the Roman nobility slain and imprisoned and with the cruel minions of Catena in place revolt must have been fermenting. To see Rome so cruelly despoil and kill its people was too much. Those left in power raised one of their own to power and rebelled from Rome probably expelling and killing any Roman officials who apposed them. This new leader was Carausius II. We do not know if this was his real name, only that he had used the same name of a previous usurper from about 80 years before. 

In 354 Carausius had an immediate problem though, Magnentius had stripped the country of its legions and best fighting men a few years before, many remaining Romano British leaders had been killed or taken by Paulus and then some Romans remaining would have been killed or expelled by Carausius II and his supporters. So Carausius II must have had problems of what to do at this point to defend the provinces from attack. He appears to have successfully led the country into the coming year and beyond but the weakened state of the defenses must have been apparent to the neighboring Scots and Picts for within a few years Britain was on it’s knees to Rome once again begging for help. 

In 355 AD Julian was made Ceasar of Britain and Gaul by Constantius as Constantius was tied up in the east fighting and couldn’t manage the whole empire. Julian however had problems in Gaul with the Alamanni who had crossed the Rhine. He didn’t have time to sort out Britain. For the next few years he campaigned against the Alamanni, made treaties with them and took enlisted troops from them. In his descriptions of Britain under the rule of Julian, Ammianus writes that unrest in Gaul distracted Julian from taking an active role as commander of Britain. 

The barbarian raids from Scot and Pict must have continued and probably also from Franks, Angles, Frisians and Jutes who had been roaming northern Gaul since Magnentius and Constantius had let them in. Julian had to deal with these Germanic tribes in Gaul as they had stopped the grain imports from Britain reaching Rome. This led to a scarcity of Grain in Rome in 360, when the people of Rome actually rebelled due to these shortages.

In 356 Carausius II is still in power. We know this as coins were issued by him. His reign must have been a difficult one. An example of  the coinage evidence is a copper issue, of barbarous type, showing on the obverse the head of an emperor and something like the legend domino Carausio ces, while the reverse rudely copies the device of emperor, phoenix and labarum, which was in use about A.D. 340-350, and bears the legend DOMIN . . . CONTA . .  NO.  This `Conta’ is Constantius of course showing that Carausius probably still recognized the authority of the Emperor in the east or hoped to show himself as equal to him. 

In 356 Julian was still campaigning against the Alamanni in Gaul. In around 358 or 359 there is a major invasion by Scots and Picts. 358 is the last date we have for coins of Carausius II. It is possible he was defeated by these attacks and Britain was left open to plundering by small bands of Pict and Scoti in the north and west of the country. The tomb of Carausius II may have been found in Penmachno, Gwynedd, Wales. There is a cairn stone there that reads:


'Carausius lies here in this cairn'. This has been dated to between 4th to late 5th Century so it is most likely the Cairn of Carausius II who may have died fighting the Picts.

In Wales the Desi (Irish settlers from county Waterford) under Aed Brosc were beginning to expand. In 359 after this heavy assault by the Picts and Scots these raids had become too much and Britain’s leaders begged Rome for assistance. Julian answered and sent some legions under Lupicinus in 360AD. He brought with him the Herulians, Batavians and Moesians. In the words of  Jovian  another Roman historian we are told : 

"... the wild tribes of the Scots and Picts broke their understanding to keep peace, laid waste the country near the frontier, and caused alarm among the provincials, who were exhausted by the repeated disasters they had already suffered. The Caesar [Julian], who was spending the winter at Paris a prey to various anxieties, shrank from going in person, like Constans on a previous occasion, to help his subjects across the Channel; he was afraid of leaving Gaul without a ruler at the very time when the Alamanni were bent on fierce war. He decided therefore to send Lupicinus, at that time master of cavalry, to settle these troubles either by negotiation or by force. Lupicinus was a stout and experienced soldier, who was apt, however, to set up his horn on high and to talk in the style of a tragic hero. It was long a matter of debate whether his greed predominated over his cruelty or the reverse. Taking with him a light-armed force of Herulians and Batavians together with two units of Moesians, this commander reached Bononia [Boulogne] in the depths of winter. He embarked his troops on vessels which he collected, and sailed with a favourable wind to Rutufiae [Richborough] on the opposite shore. From there he marched to Londinium [London], intending to let the situation determine his strategy and to take the field as soon as possible."

Lupicinus arrived in 360 with his legions and quickly cleared up the Pict and Scoti attacks. Lupicinus appoints Alypius  as Vicarius, Fullofaudes as Comes Britanarium, and Nectarides Comes Maritimi Tractus.(General of the coastal regions). Due to these attacks the villa society in Britain is under terminal decline and by the end of the 4th Century most villas have been abandoned and even towns and villages show signs of abandonment and decay.

Alypius the Vicarius of Britain has the job of rebuilding or repairing Britain’s infrastructure, including Hadrians wall and the shore forts of Kent and East Anglia. He was probably based in London.  He was recalled within a couple of years and sent to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem.

Fullofaudes is made Comes Britanarium. He is said to be of Germanic origin, possibly Vandal or Goth. He would probably have been based in York. Nectarides was probably responsible for the southern and eastern coastal regions. He appears to have been Greek or Roman. Perhaps based on the Saxon shore in Kent or East Anglia.

Between 360 and 366 Britain appears to rebuild it’s defenses and has five years of relative peace before the Scots and Picts once more band together in 366/7, this time though in a more organized and planned way that may have also involved other Germanic peoples. This event is later called the `barbarian conspiracy’....
The beautiful peaceful country of Wales. Photo by Dane Pestano.

Next, Part 3 - the Barbarian Conspiracy.


[a] The early sources all call him a barbarian. Later sources  mention his Frankish mother and British father. That he may have had a British link is supported by the fact that he was able to get the support of the Romano Britons under the Comes Britanarium, Gerontius. However the above quote which states his kin were Franks and Saxons casts some doubt on this unless these two were closely allied at the time. See The Revolt And Ethnic Origin of the Usurper Magnentius and the rebellion of Vetrianio by John F Drinkwater, who suggests the British link may be suspect.

Images Public domain via Wikimedia Commons unless stated.
Copyright 2011 Dane Pestano.

Lost City of the Legion': Roman port from which soldiers launched invasion of Wales 2,000 years ago is unearthed.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Defining the Dark Ages - Part one

In defining the Dark Ages one must start with the period proceeding it to determine the events, wars and characters that led to the Roman withdrawal from Britain and western Europe. In these series of blogs I will briefly look at the history of Britain and to a lesser degree Europe, from the beginning of the fourth century AD to the beginning of the fifth.

Britain and Europe in the fourth Century.

Roman Britain at beginning of fifth century when the provinces had been split into five.
Britain at the beginning of the fourth century was a rich and prosperous one. The Romans had divided the country into two provinces Britannia Prima in the south and Britannia Secunda in the north, each with sub provinces or Caesariensis. These partitions were created by the Emperor Severus to try and limit the power of local generals to raise large armies against Rome. Although a good idea it did not stop further rebellion and in the future Britain was further split into four and then five different provinces, again for the same reason. The actual location though of the fifth provice Valentia is still debatable. Mak Wilson over on his blog Badonicus discusses the problems here. The governor (Consul) of Superior controlled the main bulk of the legionary armies and was based in London. Inferior was headed by a Praetorian rank and controlled smaller armies or frontier troops called Litanei and were based in York.

The local tribes of southern and eastern Britain were mostly of Belgic origin, having fled in various waves before and after defeat to Caesars’ Romans in Gaul in 60BC. The Belgic tribes themselves were Germanic in origin, who had taken on Celtic customs and culture. The interior and western tribes would have been indigenous Britons. But they were all in effect Roman citizens, Romanised Britons, still though with Celtic customs, local tribal leaders and a degree of the old pre Roman culture.

Society had spread out from the confines of the town and cities and the rich and powerful made their homes in their vast country estates, building fine villas. The population at this time must have reached about five million. Rome had brought new machinery and practices that increased the production of arable land, feeding not only the population of Britain but also exporting enough to feed the mouths of a hungry Europe. Cattle and sheep rearing had also benefited from this time of plenty to form much larger herds. The woodlands of Britain had been much cleared and at this time boundaries of hedges and fences had started to enclose rectangular fields and pasture. Towns were civilised places where trade was strong, sanitation sound and an educational system was in place to produce a basis for the continuation of the Roman way.  To some, the early part of the fourth century AD was a golden age of Britain under imperial Roman power.

The situation in Gaul was not quite as good. Gaul like Britain was partitioned into its provinces, Gallica Prima in the south (as it was nearest to Rome) and secunda in the North. Armorica in the north west much later became Brittany. In the west Aquitania, which was further subdivided into three parts. The tribes of Gaul were similar to Britain’s. Gauls were the Celts who were settled in the central regions and to the west in Armorica, the Belgae had settled in north and eastern Gaul , and pushed westwards into parts of Armorica as well. The Aquitanians were entirely different with a variety of tribes hence the three way partitions, but the northern region bordering on the Loire and Armorica was originally Pictish. The Picts were very similar to the Gauls and Belgae. All three appear to have spoken different languages or dialects perhaps. Here is a description of the Gauls given by Ammianus, a fourth Century Roman  Historian.:

Wounded Gallic warrior
“Nearly all the Gauls are of a lofty stature, fair, and of ruddy complexion; terrible from the sternness of their eyes, very quarrelsome, and of great pride and insolence. A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called his wife to his assistance, who is usually very strong, and with blue eyes; especially when, swelling her neck, gnashing her teeth, and brandishing her sallow arms of enormous size, she begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missiles sent from the string of a catapult.
The voices of the generality are formidable and threatening, whether they are in good humour or angry: they are all exceedingly careful of cleanliness and neatness, nor in all the country, and most especially in Aquitania, could any man or woman, however poor, be seen either dirty or ragged.
The men of every age are equally inclined to war, and the old man and the man in the prime of life answer with equal zeal the call to arms, their bodies being hardened by their cold weather and by constant exercise, so that they are all inclined to despise dangers and terrors. Nor has any one of this nation ever mutilated his thumb from fear of the toils of war, as men have done in Italy, whom in their district are called Murci.
The nation is fond of wine, and of several kinds of liquor which resemble wine. And many individuals of the lower orders, whose senses have become impaired by continual intoxication, which the apophthegm of Cato defined to be a kind of voluntary madness, run about in all directions at random; so that there appears to be some point in that saying which is found in Cicero's oration in defence of Fonteius, "that henceforth the Gauls will drink their wine less strong than formerly," because forsooth they thought there was poison in it.”

We can see from this description that although the Gauls where hot tempered and fearsome warriors they also made sure that cleanliness and neatness where high priorities. Even the poor being made to dress well, suggesting some type of early welfare system where possibly local tribal leaders were responsible for the general well being of the whole tribe. You dont mess with their wives though ;-)

Barbarian raiding from across the Rhine by Frankish tribes had started in the late third century and had attacked the rich villa society of the open Gallic countryside. Many villas were abandoned in Gaul and Armorica and the people returned to towns which were then fortified and walls built to keep out raiders. This led to a movement of the rich nobility of Gaul to southern Britain were they built their new villas in the late third and early fourth Century. The situation in Gaul was brought under control by the efforts of Constantine the Great, Constantine I. He was proclaimed emperor of the Roman Empire in Britain at York in 306 AD soon after his father Constantius had died.  Constantine managed to bring the Rhine frontier under control and then the whole empire eventually, moving its capital to Constantinople. He was also a great supporter of Christianity and helped Christianity gain a foothold of power within the imperial system. Hans Polsander put’s it this way in his work on Constantine:

“By entrusting some government functions to the Christian clergy he actually made the church an agency of the imperial government”

This was an important move. As Christianity became more powerful it also became more involved in the workings of the Empire. Positions of power within government also became positions of power within the church. By the late fourth century and early fifth these positions of power were evident wherein Bishops came from the ruling nobility of the land.

Contantine I
Constantine the Greats legacy was one of stability and growth within his lifetime. When he died in 337 he was still wearing the white robes of a Christian neophyte, showing how far Christianity had come and how powerful its influence had been on those of the Empire. Although later Emperors would try to bring back the pagan ways or adopt alternative Christian creeds, the die was set and Catholic Christianity had a strong enough hold to come out on top by the end of the fourth Century.  Britain however, situated on the edge of the Empire was a breeding ground for alternative teachings such as Pelagianism and the Celtic churches attempts to remain independent from Roman doctrine. In one way this was good as without these dissentions we would probably know very little about subsequent fifth century Britain at all.

After 337 Constantine’s sons started to fight over the rights to the Empire. His son Constantine II took power in the west and started a wholesale genocide of his relatives to secure his position. His brother Constans now stood in his way, ruling in the eastern Empire. They met in battle at Equilea and Constantine was defeated. Constans how ruled both the east and west. He may have visited Britain sometime around 340 probably on a military campaign.(Ammianus).

Around this time the Irish started raiding the eastern coasts of Britain. Some started to settle North Wales and would eventually become a problem to Roman authorities within 20-30 years when Cunedda is brought down from northern Britain to expel them. At some point the Irish Desi tribe of Meath and Munster also started to settle southern and eastern Wales.

By 340 the villa society in Britain had increasingly succumbed to the same problems as those earlier in Gaul. Barbarian raiding by Picts, Franks, Angles, Frisians and other Germanic tribes had started to put pressure on these undefended rich Villa establishments. People started to move back to the cities and towns to better defend against such raids. It was at this time that Emperor Constans must have come to put down the Barbarian raids and re-establish order. 

In the next  part the start of the breakdown of Roman authority in Britain begins.
Copyright 2011. Dane Pestano.

Inishowen Community Radio appearance Friday 26th August

I will be appearing on Inishowen Community Radio station Donegal, Ireland this Friday, 26th August at 10.40am to discuss the findings in my book.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Book mentioned in news page.

See the Journal IE Article here.

 I have made my book available to all now as a downloadable PDF. Enjoy the story of the Irish Arthur in all his glory, at the correct time in history and in all the right places!

Download the full book here.

Here is the preface, without the References.

The story of Arthur
The great King Arthur, defeater of Saxons, Picts and Scots, conqueror of Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Gaul and the Orkneys needs no introduction being probably the most famous ancient Briton of all time, but as we will be comparing his life with that of certain Irish legends a brief summary of what is known of his life and their sources would be useful.
     Arthur first appears through the mists of time in the early ninth century work the Historia Brittonum (HB) – the History of the Britons - composed around 829AD. This work was an accumulation of various sources bundled together and rewritten to form a whole narrative history. The work incorporates material concerning a chronology of ancient British events; material on Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus, St.Germanus and St.Patrick, Arthur’s battles, Northern British events, the mirablilia and Saxon genealogies.
      In this work then, Arthur’s twelve battles are mentioned for the first time, where he is said to have defeated the Anglo Saxons and won every battle including the famous battle of Badon hill. We also get a glimpse of the mythology that has begun to surround him as he became associated with the landscape due to the similarity of his name to various rock formations. Therefore, he is associated with a Neolithic tomb in Ercing in Wales and to another stone associated with a giant mythical dog of his called Cabal.
     In the HB Arthur is merely called in Latin a dux bellorum or miles, the former meaning a ‘general or leader of battle’ and the latter a ‘soldier’ or ‘mounted warrior’. From this, it has been deduced that he may have been of lower rank than the kings of the Britons he fought for, but this may not be the case. Medieval scribes in copying ancient manuscripts often changed the title of Rex (king) to that of Dux (General) or Comes (Count) as they didn’t recognise the status of the petty king. This was due to the time in which they wrote, not understanding that in the fifth and sixth centuries the whole country would have been full of petty kings and their kingdoms, with several kings occupying small areas that were later amalgamated under one sovereignty. The poetic epithet of dux bellorum (leader of battles) itself was a common enough one in Welsh poetry, suggesting, as many scholars have done, that the Arthur battle list derived from a Welsh poem of the seventh or eighth centuries. The HB was appended to over many years, with some more information on Arthur included, such as glosses to the main work. These made more of his Christian links and offered some puzzling comments concerning his wayward youth. The Irish then wrote their own vernacular version of the HB in the mid eleventh century.
      The next we hear of Arthur is in the tenth century poem The Gododdin[. This poem concerning events of Britons living in what is now southern Scotland around Edinburgh compared one of their heroes Gwawrddur to Arthur, implying that he was not as great as Arthur even though he could kill 300 men. This comparison is based on the battle list in the HB as Arthur was said to be able to kill 960 men in one assault. The poem also shows many more borrowings from the HB so can be dated in its Arthurian form sometime after the HB became widely read. Therefore, for this part a tenth century date seems appropriate even though the manuscript we have now only dates from the thirteenth century. The poem refers to a battle that took place in Scotland in the late sixth century called Catraeth, which is mentioned in the Irish annals as having taken place in 596AD against Saxons incursions into far northern Britain.  Also in the tenth century, we find Arthur mentioned in the Welsh Annals as having fought at Badon in the year 516 and having died in 537 in battle, at the same time as one Medraut (Mordred) but it is possible these are later interpolations to the annals.
       Arthur then reappears next in possibly an early eleventh century text called Vita Goeznovius (circa 1016 but could be later) which has taken material from a continental version of the HB, which detailed his twelve battles against the Saxons and then mentions for the first time his conquest of Gaul and his kingship.
     In around 1120 a Flemish cleric called Lambert of St Omer, in a work entitled Liber Floridus mentions a palace of Arthur situated in Pictland, “built with marvelous art and variety, in which the history of all his exploits and wars are to be seen in sculpture”. These sculptures are most likely those at the Pictish capital Forteviot as opposed to the medieval belief that Arthurs Oven near the river Carron is meant. Soon after this in 1125, William of Malmesbury in the Gesta Regum Anglorum mentions Arthur where he says that Arthur was the subject of “fantastic tales told by the Bretons”. This is then followed by the most famous or infamous work to mention Arthur, the History of the Kings of Britain written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in about 1139. This expands on the legends of Arthur and Geoffrey uses him as a figurehead to appease the British and English who had recently been conquered by the Normans with Breton help. He does this by linking Arthur to Breton descent and envisages the Bretons playing a major role in the conquest of the Saxons as they did in helping the Normans of William the Conqueror defeat Harold.
     Also in this century are other works from the Welsh such as Culhwch and Olwen and other fairy tales that mention Arthur from a group of works now called the Mabinogian.  It was Geoffrey’s work though which was to inspire the later romance tales of Arthur, including as it does mention of Merlin and Mordred and others that became linked with Arthurian legend. It is in this work that Arthur was given a father ‘Uther, whose deeds are merely a mirror of Arthur’s. It is here we find his wife for the first time, Guinevere, his famous sword Caliburnus, later Excalibur, his extended battles against the Saxons ( in various places Geoffrey assumes they took place) an expanded version of Arthur’s conquest of Gaul, southern Scotland and Ireland, his non death as he sails away to Avalon to heal his wounds and much more.
     From here on in Geoffrey’s work found its way to the continent and the French Romance writers picked up the story and incorporated their own localised legends of Arthur mixed with Greek mythology to create a chivalric Arthur and his knights, born to uphold late medieval moral values and take part in the search for the Holy Grail. Other later writers then incorporated the Round Table to accommodate Arthurs many knights in equal sitting and the legend of Arthur was complete.
     Arthur then, after the death of Uther , as a lad of fifteen, was chosen to lead the Britons after pulling a sword from a stone, signifying his right to rule. He moved against the Saxons, Irish and Picts fighting twelve battles with the help of his Breton allies culminating in the great battle of Badon where the Saxons were finally defeated and peace brought to Britain. He is given Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake to help in his wars. He was then threatened by the king of Gaul who called for the Britons to give tribute to the Romans as they had done in the past. This Arthur refused and set out to conquer Gaul instead, as many Romano British emperors had done in the past. He was successful in this and then married Guinevere and thought all was well but in a second campaign to Gaul he left his foster son Mordred in control of Britain. Mordred wanted the crown for himself so traitorously enrolled the help of the Saxons to usurp power. At this Arthur returned from his campaigns and fought against Mordred, which culminated in the great battle of Camlann in 537 where Arthur killed Mordred; but Arthur, mortally wounded, was carried off to the isle of Avalon. Arthur was now said to sleep in a cave waiting to return to save the Britons once more in their hour of need. Unfortunately, to stop this idea that the Britons had for salvation from the Norman conquest, the Norman King of England decided to orchestrate the finding of ‘Arthurs’ bones buried under Glastonbury Tor, complete with fake inscription. Arthur was now never to return but this did not stop his legends growing to even greater heights over the centuries.
     The biggest question for those seeking Arthur now is did he actually exist? From a scholarly viewpoint the evidence is scant to say the least, his name a puzzle to etymologists and contemporary evidence for his very existence is missing. Many have sought to find the original Arthur on whom these legends have grown but no one has been able to place their person in the right time frame. Instead we have the Roman - Lucius Artorius Castus from the second century AD who actually fought against the Britons as a suggestion; or Riothamus a fifth century British leader who fought in 470AD against the Goths in Gaul and lost ; or Artuir Mac Aedan an insignificant Arthur of Irish descent who died in the late sixth or early seventh century, as well as others such as Arthur Ap Pedr, again of the seventh century.
     What no one has been able to do is find legends concerning an Arthur like person that fits him into his correct time frame of the late fifth to the mid sixth century; that has him fight the Saxons, Irish and Picts and assume power over them all including the Danes and the Orkneys. That has him conquer the Gauls twice, has a wife Guinevere, has him raised by a druid, has special weapons and is not initially a king of the Britons. Not only this, but no one has been able to link such a person to an historical king living in the sixth century whose name could represent the name Arthur. What this current work sets out to do is present exactly those requirements in the form of annals and legends hidden for hundreds of years, some still awaiting translation. This material is brand new to the subject of Arthuriana and has never been presented before. This work therefore is an introduction to Arthuriana of this fascinating and rather brutal character of Irish history, pseudo-history and mythology. I will start first with an introduction to the character and to the sources in which he appears. I will then discuss his name, family and background and then move onto his battles. After this the main story of his life and deeds will then be presented as a narrative work.

Download the full book here.