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Thursday, 4 October 2012

Coroticus Rex Aloo, Saint Patrick and Irish Kings.

Coroticus Rex Aloo, Saint Patrick and Irish Kings

“..a man who has no respect for God nor for His priests whom He chose..”

This is an updated version of this essay.

Coroticus was a rich land owning late fifth century tyrant in Ireland and possibly Britain who came into conflict with the apostle of Ireland St.Patrick when some Picts and Scots under the authority of Coroticus captured, enslaved, sold and killed newly baptised Christians in the 470’s - 480’s AD. Patrick first wrote a letter asking for the return of some of the captured women which was refused and then wrote a second letter proclaiming the injustice of these actions and as good as excommunicated Coroticus whom he considered a Christian and a Briton[1]. Only the second letter still survives in five manuscripts but none of them bear a title.[2] This second letter is now called the Epistola ad Coroticum and appears to be an open letter to the people and court of Coroticus and possibly to a wider audience in Ireland and Britain.[3] Before looking at Coroticus in more detail it would be useful to relate a short summary of Patrick’s life to the point where Coroticus became involve using his Confessio and Epistle to Coroticus.

         Patrick, the son of a Christian Deacon called Calpurnius, had been carried off as a slave as a boy of sixteen by Irish raiders from his father’s villa, which was in a village called Bannavum Taburniae ,probably in south western Britain,[4] perhaps at Bantham, Devon[5]. He was taken to northern Ireland, but escaped (or was allowed to escape)[6] in the seventh year when twenty two and returned to Britain and his parents[7]. Patrick doesn't tell us much about his time of slavery in Ireland, only that he tended sheep every day and fortified himself with his renewed belief in the Lord, saying prayers daily and suffering the cold and hardships willingly. That he knew prayers would suggest that Patrick, as a youth, via his father, had been taught the Christian faith and listened to various sermons in doing so but he had not taken his studies seriously. For this lack of faith he blamed his abduction.
Bantham, Devon
      In escaping he travelled two hundred miles to a port as foretold in his dream and escaped by ship with some pagan Irish sailors and made land in Britain after three days, probably around Exmoor; then travelled for twenty-eight days meeting other people after ten days.(Conf.22) This would be the only place in western Britain at this time which could conceivably have been three days travel from a port in northern Ireland and that would allow travel for ten days without encountering another soul. Exmoor would have been much larger then probably rolling into Dartmoor. Either way, Patrick would not have been too far away from his home if it was in Bantham.
      Patrick then, after returning to his parents, trained in his ministry[8] becoming first a deacon before returning to Ireland sometime after Palladius, the first Bishop of the Irish, appointed by Pope Celestine in 431[9]. Palladius, who was also called Patrick[10] in much later ninth century pseudo history, had been merged with the St Patrick by the time of Patrick’s hagiography by the seventh century monks Tirechan and Muirchu who wrote differing Lives of the saint. It is generally now agreed however that Patrick actually arrived for his mission to Ireland in the late 450’s (possibly 456) allowing time for his training as a Priest.
Within 30 years of becoming a Deacon Patrick was made a Bishop. Unfortunately we do not know exactly when this was, but it is generally assumed it was after he had preached in Ireland for some time. His appointment then may have been in the late 460's to early 470's when Patrick must have been in his mid fifties to early sixties [11]
Shortly before becoming a deacon, in his anxiety at accepting this appointment, he had confessed a sin that occurred in his boyhood to a close friend. This friend (who had helped appoint Patrick as Bishop) after thirty years, had used it against Patrick when he was already a Bishop, as a pretext for charges against him .[12] He was apparently exonerated. These charges came from what appears to be a British or Irish Church hierarchy who had no problems bringing the charges in what must have been the early 470's.
From these scraps of information we can place Patrick’s birth in the most tumultuous time in British history, the early fifth century at about 413-415[13]. This was a time when barbarian hoards ransacked Western Europe and sacked Rome itself. Britain was devastated by Saxon raids and in concert with Armorica, rebelled and threw out her Roman magistrates and took the government of the provinces into her own hands[14]. Peace and Roman authority in Gaul was restored in 417[15] but the position in Britain is not so clear. Gildas, the sixth century writer of British history may suggest that the Romans did return to restore peace in Britain at around the same time.[16] Patrick’s capture and slavery then would have occurred in 431 when he was sixteen; escaping or being released in 437/8 when he was twenty two and finally returning to Britain possibly having spent a short time in Gaul first.[17]
Patrick began his training then in the late 430’s and then into the 440’s may have taken vows of monasticism.[18] This at a time when the Scots and Picts were ravaging northern Britain and the Gallic chronicle records that Britain is under sway of the Saxons. According to Gildas, following the defeat of these peoples, there was a time of luxury, richness and plenty for Britain, which however also brought corruption and licentiousness (447-460)[19], prompting the second mission of Germanus to Britain in around 448, if indeed this mission ever took place.[51] 
      Dumville et al suggest that in the 450’s Saxon troubles may have amplified and an ecclesiastical break with the authorities in Gaul and Rome may have caused the Church in Britain to take responsibility for Irish ecclesiastical matters prompting the mission of Patrick to Ireland.[20] Patrick however says nothing about this and in fact only infers that he went via his own volition to spread the word of God and due to the calling of a dream in which a messenger from Ireland called Victoric(n)us, bearing letters, requested his presence. Patrick probably means St.Victorinus, whose work he seems to know, probably through St. Jerome's, (obit 420) editing of. This would make sense as Victorinus' commentary on the Apocalpyse espoused that in connection with the Second Advent and the end of the world he looked for wars, famines, pestilences and persecution of the church. The crowned rider of the four horsemen seated upon the white horse, going forth "conquering, and to conquer," is interpreted as prophetic of Christ's church going forth on its victorious mission, the triumph of Christianity over paganism. Just the sort of mission Patrick was about to undertake during an apoclayptic time for Britain and Europe. Patrick also appears to know nothing about Pelagianism, or doesn't mention it, suggesting that this chronology is correct in placing his return to Britain after Pelagianism had been stamped out; by Germanus In Britain and Palladius in Ireland.
The fact that Patrick doesn’t mention the Saxons probably means he left before they were called by the British Council mentioned by Gildas and before the Saxons revolted. Examining the traditions spoken of by Gildas and ignoring the pseudo-historical assumptions of Bede, we could place the acquiring of Saxon mercenaries to around 464, a retrospective date given in the Irish Annals[21] and following a plague mentioned by Gildas that was evident in Gaul in 463/4[22] having been mentioned by Gregory of Tours. After this the Superbus Tyrannus ( later known as Vortigern) was appointed and Saxon help requested. Penny MacGeorge in Late Roman Warlords (pg 101, footnote 400) also mentions this Gildas reference in relation to Gregory's text.  
     The debatable archaeology of the time shows there were only small pockets of Germanic settlements in Britain, probably the result of retired Romano Germanic soldiers of the late empire[23] and some settled after raiding. So this would fit in well with Patrick leaving for Ireland before the Adventus and being ignorant of events in mainland Britain after his arrival in Ireland. By the time he wrote his works in the 480’s he was still not referring to Saxons, suggesting they were only a minor blip in the history of fifth century Britain, as Gildas envisages but exaggerates from hearsay. The mention in the Gallic Chronicle that Britain had fallen under the sway of the Saxons in around 441 must be discarded as unlikely and probably just reflected a combined raid of Picts, Scots and Saxons as noted by Gildas who didn’t appear to know the Saxons were involved. He suggests it was lowland Scotland/northern Britain to the wall that fell at this time.[24] Apparently this area was retaken by the 450’s.[25] The Alternative is that the Gallic Chronicle entry applies to the Britons of western Armorica, who had indeed rebelled in 441 and Aetius had to send in the Alans to pacify them. Perhaps due to lack of Roman protection they had fallen prey to the Saxons who were settled in areas around Bayeaux and the mouth of the Loire.
      Instead of Saxons, Patrick mentions the pagan Franks who were paid off in Solidi for the return of Christian captives. The mention of Solidi is another confirmation of this chronology as it wasn't until after the 420's that golden solidi were used to pay off barbarians and probably not until the time of the Hun's in the 450's did it become common. The Franks had become a nuisance in eastern Gaul in the 430’s under Chlodio, and Aetius held them back somewhat in 431. But from this time until the 440’s they expanded south as far as the Somme. It may be during this expansion when captives may have been taken and Patrick had been in Gaul and then back in Britain that he learned of this practice. However following the demise of Aetius and then Aegidius in 464, the Franks had become by the 460’s a force to be reckoned with in western Gaul under Childeric I (whose grave contained a hundred solidi) and his son Chlodovechus – Clovis – who was himself to become a Christian shortly after Patrick died. In the vita of St Genevieve written in the mid sixth century, Childeric is said to have held captives in Paris and sought to leave Paris with them before Genevieve could intercede. She was able to catch up with him though and negotiate their release.[26] The fall of Paris to the Franks of Childeric is dated roughly to 464/65, although a ten year siege of the city is also noted in the vita but is absent from contemporary sources unless this occurred when Franks allied with Attila entered western Gaul in 450. See also my article on Childeric suggesting a later date for the occupation of Paris by Childeric and for a fuller chronology of Childeric and Clovis.
     Childeric, who was probably Merovech’s brother, not son, seemed to be allied with the Romans and it was probably this prince that Aetius supported in around 448-450 when the Frankish succession arose due to the death of the Frankish king Chlodio. One son chose to ally with the Hun of Attila travelling to Pannonia to do so, the younger went to Rome to petition Aetius who welcomed him warmly and sent him back a friend and foederatus[27]. In any event, Patrick would have learned of the ransoming of Christian captives from the Franks in the 440’s and indeed crowned Solidi of this period (440-450) have been found in Belgium and eastern France supporting this suggestion,[28] although it can’t be ruled out that visitors to Ireland told him of such occurrences at any time from the 460’s to the 490’s.
Patrick then, would have become a Deacon sometime after his twentyfifth birthday, an age decreed in the 16th Council of Carthage in 419, (Canon16). Ludwig Bieler has shown (pg II.93) that Patrick had studied the Canons of the Council of 418 (as he quotes from Canon 5, so it follows he would have needed to have studied those of 419 as well), so lets say around 445 at age 32. He would have needed to study the Canons as that was also an order of the Council for prospective Bishops (419, Canon 18 [Gk. Canon xix.]). 419-Canon 23 states that "bishops shall not go beyond seas without consulting the bishop of the primatial see of his own province: so that from him they may be able to receive a formed or commendatory letter". As Patrick appears to have left of his own volition without permission which would probably not have been granted, we can be fairly certain that he was not a Bishop before leaving for Ireland.
After becoming a Priest by 456, at around the age of forty one, Patrick had his calling to return to the place of his previous captivity. This calling took the form of a dream in which a person named Victoricus gave him a letter from the people of Ireland requesting his presence. His parents and elders were against his returning to Ireland for good reason as the Picts and Scots being well known in Britain of the time for their raiding and settlement. Patrick though resisted these calls to stay, even though he delayed because of them, claiming God as his guide and impetus. So he returned to Ireland and spent his time generally in regions bordering the western Sea, ie Ulster, Mayo, Donegal and other parts of northern Ireland, converting the sons of Irish chieftains and the general population[29]. He mentions nothing about ministering to existing British Christian communities or individuals although this must have occurred later as his mission progressed. He may have been captured twice during these troubled times, once for a few days and once for only two months[30]
     How Patrick managed when he got to Ireland is a long debated problem. He appears to have bribed his way around the territories he visited by paying off the Brehons and Fili, ie Judges, claiming that during his work he had paid out the price of fifteen men to these Judges. This would probably have been the equivalent of a free mans honour price. It's debatable whether this was equivalent to the honour price of a free man in Britain or of one in Ireland. In any event it was a large amount of treasure, grain, cattle or bondmaids that he would have to have paid as there was certainly no coinage to use. An Irish  free man was worth about 7 Cumals which was 21 cows, equivalent to 21 ounces of silver (595 grams). So Patrick's payments to the Brehons amounted to around 315 milk cows or 315 ounces of silver (Thompson suggested the equivalent of 300 gold solidi including the bribes to the kings). This was before he even got to the kings! These figures may have been lower in the fifth century though so lets assume 250 milk cows and similar amount of silver ounces. Over a period of 20-30 years that looks a tad better, perhaps 8-10 cows per year or 5-6 Solidi; still a relatively large amount though and payments to the kings and entourage would have increased this significantly as Thompson states.
     By paying off the Judges he was able to approach the nobility of the land to further bribe them with presents and to convert their children and the general population. Once converted some of these sons of kings became his followers on the road. Patrick himself, being a foreigner to these Túatha would have had no honour price of his own, being a cu-glas, an outsider (as he frequently called himself). He would though under Irish law, once under the protection of the Brehon or Fili, be entitled to shelter and food with those nobility he visited. Patrick claims that he himself refused presents and payments for his work; the reason being that as a cu-glas with no honour price of his own he had to be very careful to make sure he was not accused of breaking any laws of the lands he passed through, such as theft or fraud. How did he then finance the ongoing mission? Some scholars have suggested that it was financed from Britain but with no coinage available at this time that is unlikely. Gildas mentions silver and gold in the sixth century when describing the finances of the tryant Maglocunus, so it's possible some of Patrick's wealth, when he sold his birthright, was converted to such and used . Another solution may be that the ongoing mission was financed by those who followed him. The sons of kings would have come with their property, cattle and bondmaids. Perhaps as in any cult, it was the followers wealth combined that made the ongoing mission financially viable and perhaps it was these followers that accepted presents, not Patrick himself. Although Patrick himself says he paid these kings son's as they accompanied them. Did the Church authorities perhaps also provide some support for Patricks efforts?
The time frame in which Patrick, the letter, and Coroticus are placed is towards the end of Patrick’s life, so around 475 to 485. Patrick was to die in around 493 after upwards of nearly forty years in his mission to Ireland. This date seems secure by Patrick's use of the word 'exagellia', in his Confession, shortly before he died, which was only used in a small number of texts from the  late fifth to the early eight century. An example being a usuage by Ennodius (obit 521) in his Vita Epiphanus . See Bieler on this.
 If as suggested his birth was in around 413 then he would have been eighty at the time of his death. At such an advanced age, in his late sixties or early seventies when dealing with Coroticus, it is clear why Patrick was not able to confront him himself and hence sent letters instead with trusted clerics, one of whom he had taught since childhood. Of other associates or romantic links we have no knowledge except a very beautiful noble woman that he mentions in passing in his Confession.
   Patrick’s status as the apostle of the Irish is based mainly on much later seventh and eighth century hagiography. Some evidence of this may be seen in an early document which is silent concerning him. It is the letter of Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV in around 613 CE. Columbanus writes that Ireland's Christianity "was first handed to us by you, the successors of the holy apostles", appearing to refer to Palladius alone and ignoring Patrick[31]. His main impetus appears to have been in northern Ireland, the southern half having already experienced Christianity under previous missionaries and Palladius[32]. Patrick's rise to fame in the seventh century coincided with political manoeuvrings in Ireland of the time when competing tribes foisted their own Saints to positions of glorification; Brigit and Columcille being the impetus for Patrick’s elevation by the powerful Ui’Neills of the North. In the fifth and sixth centuries Irish Christianity was still a separate entity in law from secular society and had no powers to impose its will. By the seventh and eighth centuries this had changed and a merging of ecclesiastical law with that of secular had attained and this empowered religious leaders, leading to conflicts and outright war between them. Their respective saints were used in these battles for religious dominance with Patrick emerging victorius[33].
Attempts have been made to associate Coroticus with the Strathclyde King Ceretic, an ancestor in the Harleian Genealogies of Rhun Ab Arthal of the ninth century. Although the genealogies may be corrupt or inaccurate they do place Ceretic in nearly the correct time frame in a life spanning the last third of the fifth century to the first third of the sixth century. Professor David Dumville of the University of Cambridge worked out from the genealogies a tentative obit for Ceretic of approximately 522. Of course the possibility remains that Ceretic himself is purely based on the legend of Coroticus and a late attachment with Dumbarton. Finally though, as Coroticus was a Briton it’s quite possible he did enter Ireland via the Strathclyde region, suggesting he may have been a ruler there as well, having pacified the Picts and Scots and taken some to Ireland with him (Ireland however already had Pictish peoples called Cruithne[34] settled there and of course Scots).
As well as Dumville’s work on St Patrick, great strides were made into the problem of St.Patrick and Coroticus by James Carney in the 1950’s, by Charles Thomas in the 1990’s in Christianity in Roman Britain who suggested a plausible chronology and by E. A. Thompson in his works St.Patrick and Coroticus[35] and Who Was Saint Patrick. In these Thompson pointed out that although Coroticus may have been a Briton, he must have been ruling in Ireland at the time, as Patrick was able to as good as excommunicate[36] him which he could only do if Coroticus was within Patrick’s Episcopal jurisdiction. This revelation of course produced many questions and Thompson came to the conclusion that Coroticus was a British exile or renegade freedman amongst a larger British population in Ireland. This would not be beyond the bounds of possibility. Gildas, in the sixth century describes the exodus from Britain with the advent of the Anglo Saxon expansion in the mid fifth century. In the late ninth century the Breton writer Wrdisten in describing the words of Gildas tell us that the exodus was to Armorica, Ireland and north eastern Gaul (Belgium)[37]. Patrick’s mission therefore, may have originally been to this fledgling British population in Ireland from which he then expanded into the wider Irish or Hibernian population as he calls them. As well as the Irish common Hibernians he also distinguished the Scots who were probably the northern Irish nobility[38] and the Picts some of whom were under the command of Coroticus.
In the late seventh century a life of St.Patrick was written by the monk Muirchu entitled ‘Vita Sancta Patricii’ which survives in the Book of Armagh. In the eighth century headings of this book by an unknown scribe, Coroticus is called ‘Coirthech Rex Aloo’[39]. Aloo is a genitive form of Al or Ail, ‘rock’ which has prompted some to translate Rex Aloo as ‘King of Alt Clut’, the `Rock of the Clyde’ an old name of Dumbarton[40] in Strathclyde, Scotland. With this attachment[41] Coroticus was instantly made a king of Strathclyde who commanded Britons, Picts and Scots. He was now able to raid Ireland and carry off captives for sale abroad. Thompson’s work of course changed this view that Coroticus had to be based in Dumbarton and Dumville agreed that Coroticus actually ruled to some degree in Ireland.
In his letter to Coroticus Patrick attempts a form of excommunication without stating as much. Michael E Jones in `The End of Roman Britain’[42] puts it like this in the way Patrick thinks about Coroticus:

..Coroticus will suffer accordingly, with punishment in the future life and exile (through excommunication) in the present one...”

What happened after the letter to Coroticus is generally unknown. Muirchu in his life of St. Patrick explains a supernatural tale of Patrick asking God to remove Coroticus and then during a meeting of his royal court a bard sang a song suggesting that Coroticus should leave his royal seat, which was miraculously echoed by the assembled nobility. At this Coroticus turned into a fox before their very eyes and scurried away.[43] All we can say is that Coroticus probably returned to Britain at some time after the letter, either exiled, as hinted by Jones above, or according to his own free will. Most likely though is that he ended his life in battle or old age in Ireland.
The idea that ‘Aloo’ refers to Alt Clud, ‘the fortress of the Clyde’ appears to be without any firm basis in fact[44]. Bede calls Dumbarton AlCluithe and the Annals of Ulster for 780 ‘Ail Cluaithe’; in 870 ‘Ailech Cluathe’and finally Adomnan in the late seventh century calls it ‘Petra Cloithe’[45]. Therefore the name clearly always carries the Clyde river assignment. Add to this the archaeology which shows no fortress until the seventh century and Alt Clud appears to recede in consideration even further[46]. Coroticus, as Thompson and Dumville have shown was actually based, at this time in the late fifth century, in Ireland and hence it is to Ireland we must look for the name of this Kingdom.
‘Ail’ or its Britonnic form ‘Al’ and genitive old Irish form Alo means `the Rock’ and its genitive early Scots Gaelic form was Aloo and the later Irish genitive was Ailech. Therefore the kingdom in Ireland that Coroticus belonged to was the one later known as Ailech, in Tir Conell, later Donegal, northern Ireland, home to the northern UI’Neill dynasties and the descendants of Eoghan son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Ailech was their fortress, one of the most famous in Ireland with a history stretching back to the Iron Age and with evidence of an early medieval sixth century stone structure[47]. All we need do now therefore is ascertain who was ruling the kingdom of Ailech or its earlier name Fochla in the late 470’s to early 480’s when Patrick wrote his letter. Fochla or Foclut, the north, as Patrick put it (focluti  foclu, fochla) would have encompassed quite a large area of what is now Donegal and most of Ulster.
This is not an easy task as pseudo-history has masked the actual events we seek to discover. We know that the sons of Eoghan had established themselves in Fochla by around this time and part of the area even took his name as modern day Inishowen. It was Eoghan and his brothers Coirpre/Cairpre and Conall and their descendants who appeared to rules these areas as Cenél Cairpre, Cenél Conaill and Cenél Eoghan. Cenél Conaill are said to have ruled the Ailech region incorporating the Grianan of Ailech before Cenel Eoghan took the area in the eight century. In the fifth century though it is probably impossible to say who really operated with any authority in the area with several petty kings probably co-existing. In the Annals only two kings are said to have been paramount at this time Coirpre and Lugaid and it appears to be Coirpre who enters the life of Patrick in his vita as a hostile opponent. 

 Later seventh century hagiography by Terechan of St Patrick’s life locates Coirpre (here called Coirpriticus[48]) as residing in Meath (Mide) with Conall (Conallus) his brother and there was by that time a sept of Cairpre settled there. As the hagiography presented a Patrick who lived much earlier in time, these ‘sons of Niall’ were presented as ruling in areas they were later said to have emerged from, in this way the pseudo-history of the Ui’Neills was being woven. It’s telling that it was Coirpriticus who was opposing Patrick in the vita and here Patrick is said to call him “an enemy of God” a term Patrick himself actually used of Coroticus. Coirpre, in the hagiography even goes to the lengths of trying to slay Patrick and flogs some of his followers by a river, exactly as Coroticus’ men had done in reality to newly baptised Christians. A tentative proposal then could be that Coroticus was the man later known as Coirpriticus and in Irish Coirpre. Here are the actual words of Terechan concerning Coirpre and his brothers :

“On Sunday, he (Patrick) came to Taltena, during the royal games, to Coirpriticus, the son of Neill, who wished to slay him, and flogged his servants in the river Sele, which act of Coirpriticus was told Patrick, who called him an enemy of God, and said to him "Thy seed shall serve the seed of thy brothers, and there shall not be a king of thy seed forever, and there shall never be great fish hereafter in the river Sele."
Soon after he came to the house of Conallus, the son of Neill, which stood in the place where at this day, is the church of the great Patrick; and he received him with joy, and was baptized, and Patrick confirmed his throne forever, and said to him, "The seed of thy brothers shall serve thy seed forever, but you and your sons, and your son's sons, ought to deal mercifully unto my sons and successors, who faithfully believe for ever;" and he ordained that the length of the church of the God of Patrick should be sixty feet, and Patrick said, "If the church be lessened, thy reign shall not be long, nor firmly established””[49]

         Brian Lacey, in his work Cenél Conaill and the Donegal Kingdoms 500-800 (2006) suggests that the sons of Eoghan were always based in the north and the expansion had in fact been southwards and an amalgamation was made with the Ui’Neill’s of the South creating the North and South Ui’Neill pseudo-history. The startling suggestion that Coirpre may have been Coroticus and hence a Briton should not be so startling, as Lacey has started to unravel the process and suggests the northern ‘Ui’Neill’s’ were in fact Cruithne – Pretani – Britons! Coirpre was included in the earliest Irish King list in the Baile Chuind Chetchathaig before Lugaide, possibly another Briton, who was then followed by Mac Erce, the famous ‘Arthur’ of the Irish. Subsequent politics of the late seventh century onwards meant Coirpre was written out of later king lists which favoured the Cenel Conaill and Cenel Eoghan. By the time the hagiography had been written the identity of Coroticus with Coirpre may have been forgotten and so Coroticus entered the hagiography as Corictic based on Patricks own words.  
          This idea that the Irish may have adopted Britons into their genealogies and into their pantheon of Kings should not be surprising for Dumville has pointed out that the sixth century Briton St. Uinniau (anglicised as Ninian) who became resident in Ireland was adopted, not only into one, but two widely separate Irish genealogies by the beginning of the eighth century.[50] He also suggests the same for St Cairnech whose existence, although questionable, also shows two or more separate genealogies, sometimes agreeing in places. In the equivalent Welsh St Carranog we find in two cases that his father is called ‘Corun’ which is the Welsh version of the Gaelic ‘Sarran’ – `tonsured’. Now St Cairnech’s father in the tales of Mac Erca is called ‘Sarran’. This does suggest that Cairnech and Carranog were actually one and the same character whether real or imaginary. However the idea that Coirpre was Coroticus is un-provable and so we may be best just suggesting that Coroticus reigned in his tyranny to some degree at around the same time as Coirpre and that Ailech was a common enough name for places in Ireland.

[1] An Age Of Tyrants, Britain And The Britons, C. A. Snyder 1998, Sutton Publishing Ltd. P.77, Also by Dumville et al Pg.109 and most other commentators.
[2] Saint Patrick 493-1993 David N Dumville et al, 1993,  Boydell Press. Pg. 107
[3] Ibid. Dumville et al p.109
[4] K. Dark, Saint Patrick 493-1993, Pgs 19-24. Suggesting the West Country around Dorset.
[5] My suggestions for two possible locations of his home village would be Bantham, which sits at the mouth of the river Aven/Avon in Devon or Benaven which sits on a horn of coastal land near Nevez in Brittany again at the mouth of a river Avon. Bantham (which could be an Anglicisation of Bannavum) in Devon shows much evidence of post Roman occupation well into the sixth century and so looks the better possibility. It also sits on a horn of land which is what the Bann part of the name signifies, as does Benaven. With Taburniae, ‘of Taburnus’, we may here have another clue linking the place with Bantham as the root of Taburnus may lie in the IE root *steb(h)- 'post, pillar, stump, to support' which may link it to the nearby arched stone formation on the coast near Thurelstone.
[6] The period of servitude for a slave in ancient Ireland was usually seven years, so it may be that in the seventh year he was allowed to escape. See A New History of Ireland Vol 1. Edited by Daibhi O Croinin. Oxford 2005, for details about this period of slavery.
[7] The Confessio, Patricks  own work.
[8] Confessio. Patrick himself says “thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry” meaning it was many years before he returned to Ireland.
[9] “Palladius, having been ordained by Pope Celestine, is sent as first bishop to the Irish believing in Christ”. Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine.
[10] Ibid. Dumville pg.39 quoting Tirechan.
[11] This may appear quite late to some but evidence may be in Patricks own Epistola Ad Coroticum where he confirms that he must put on record that he is a Bishop, as though it is not yet well known. E.A Thomson also came to the same conclusion in Who Was Saint Patrick, Boydell Press, 1985, Chapter 5, suggesting that he became a Bishop in his sixties. Although Thompson bizarrely assumes Patrick was a Bishop before arriving in Ireland, which Patrick's writings do not state.
[12] Confessio Para.27. “They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence I had confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in my sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated on a day—nay, rather in one hour—in my boyhood because I was not yet proof against sin.” and  para32.
[13] Charles Thomas in Christianity in Roman Britain, University of California Press 1992 – in chapter  13, pg.319 suggests 415AD which agrees with my own chronology so I have followed his in this work.
[14] Gallic Chronicle of 452 and Zosimus.
[15] The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume 14, Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, AD 425–600, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
[16] Gildas, De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae  The History, Paras 17 and 18. Gildas’ knowledge though of events before 450 is sketchy and confused at best and so should be treated with caution.
[17] Ibid Charles Thomas pg. 321. Patrick’s 72 hour boat trip would seem to suggest a destination further than Britain. Although differing translations of this part suggested by Dumville and others may suggest Patrick just meant 'a few years later' as an indication of a jump forward in time, rather than saying he took a few years to see his parents again.
[18] Dumville and Charles Edwards, Saint Patrick 493-1993 p.18.
[19] Gildas “the island was deluged with a most extraordinary plenty of all things, greater than was before known, and with it grew up every kind of luxury and licentiousness”
[20] Dumville ; p.18
[21] Annals of Ulster U464.2  The Angles came to England.
[22] Gregory of Tours “At that time a great plague destroyed the people”. Chronicle source, entry written just before the mention of the death of Aegidius in 464. Gildas 22: “a pestilential disease morally affected the foolish people, which, without the sword, cut off so large a number of persons, that the living were not able to bury them. Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of 
the northern nations”
[23] Michael E Jones. The End of Roman Britain, Cornell University Press 1998, pg.25
[24] Gildas 19. ”No sooner were they gone, than the Picts and Scots, like worms which in the heat of the midday come forth from their holes, hastily land again from their canoes, in which they had been carried beyond the Cichican* valley, differing one from another in manners, but inspired with the same avidity for blood, and all more eager to shroud their villainous faces in bushy hair than to cover with decent clothing those parts of their body which required it.  Moreover, having heard of thedeparture of our friends, and their resolution never to return, they seized with greater boldness than before on all the country 
towards the extreme north as far as the wall.”
[25] Gildas 21.”And then it was, for the first time, that they overthrew their enemies, who had for so many years been living in their country..”
[27] Priscus, apud Excerpta de Legationibus, p. 40, ed. Paris.
[28] See Fifth Century Gaul A Crisis of Identity? edited by John Drinkwater, Hugh Elton 2002, Part VI. A Crisis of Identity: Roman, local and barbarian coinages in fifth-century Gaul, C. E. King.
[29] James Carney, Studies in Irish Literature and History (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1955) iii, Questia, 7 Mar. 2009
[30] Confessio 21. “And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: ‘You shall be with them for two months.’ So it happened”
[31] Ibid Dumville et al, Pg.10 by T.M.Charles Edwards.
[32] Kathleen Hughes, The Church in Irish Society 400-800. Pg 308. A New History of Ireland, 2005.
[33] A New History of Ireland. Edited by Daibhi O Croinin. Oxford 2005.
[34] Cruithne is just the Goidelic form of Pretani just as Coithrige is a Goidelic form of Patrick.
[35] The Journal of Theological Studies 1980 XXXI(1):12-27; doi:10.1093/jts/XXXI.1.12 © 1980 by Oxford University Press.
[36] He never actually uses the word so some doubt remains in this respect.
[37] Le Cartulaire de Landevenec, Arthur De La Borderie Arbre, d’Or, Genève, 2004. p.15. Wrdisten nomme trois de ces pays : d’abord celui qu’il habite luimême (istam terram), c’est-à-dire la péninsule armoricaine, puis l’Irlande (Scoticam terram) et le nord-est de la Gaule (Belgicam).
[38] Ibid Dumville et al.  " It is an affront to them that we are Irish (Hiberionaci)". Dumville says of this "It is as though 'Scottus' meant specifically 'pagan Irish', whereas 'Hibernus' or 'Hiberniacus' had a more neutral connotation.
[39] In Muirchu’s work he is called ‘Corictic’.
[40] From the Gaelic `Dunn Breatann’ Fort of the Britons.
[41] This idea dates back as far as 1886. See ‘A multidisciplinary chronology for Alt-Glut, Castle Rock, Dumbarton’. Leslie Alcock 1976.
[42] Cornel University Press 1998.
[43]Conversing With Angels and Ancients, The Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland’, Joseph Falaky Nagy, 1997 Cornell University Press.
[44] Ibid Alcock Pg.105  “the earliest of these references is the most contentious”
[45] Ibid Alcock Pgs. 106-107 Petra = Rock.
[46] Ibid Alcock Pg.111.
[47] Medieval Ireland, An Encyclopedia, By Seán Duffy, Ailbhe MacShamhráin, James Moynes. Routledge; 2004, pgs.11-12
[48] A strange version as the earlier fifth and sixth century forms would appear to be ‘Coribiri’, later Corrbri, Ibid McManus.
[50] Ibid Dumville et al. Pg.140.
[51]  See Saint Germanus and the British Missions, Anthony A. Barrett, Britannia, Vol. 40 (2009), pp. 197-218 for a discussion and dismissal of the second mission.


  1. Nice one Dane.

  2. Very interesting and very well written Dane.