The Laws of Howel the Good/Introduction

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Laws of Howel the Good by Hywel ap Cadell, translated by A.W. Wade-Evans

Rogo ut omnis lector, qui legerit hunc librum, det veniam mihi, qui ausus sum post tantos haec tanta scribere quasi garrula avis vel quasi quidam invalidus arbiter. Cedo illi qui plus noverit in ista peritia satis quam ego.—NENNIUS.

Y mae e'n wir yn orchwyl dyrus ddigon i chwilio allan Ddechreuad ein Cenedl ni yn gowir ac yn ddiwyrgam, a'i holrhain o'i haberoedd i lygad y ffynnon. Ond mi a amcanaf symud ymaith y niwl oddiar y ffordd, fel y bo ein taith at y gwirionedd yn eglur.—THEOPHILUS EVANS.

The notion that the Welsh came to the Isle of Britain with the grasshopper has been dispelled by modern research.—EGERTON PHILLIMORE.


      NOT one of the law books bearing the name of Howel Dda, which have come down to us from the Welsh medieval age, is older than the last quarter of the twelfth century, that is, about 250 years after Howel's death. The earliest of all, the Peniarth MS. 28,[1] is written in Latin with many Welsh terms, phrases, and short passages left untranslated. Next to this comes the Peniarth MS. 29 (MS. A), sometimes known as the Black Book of Chirk, and written in Welsh about 1200. Neither of these professes to be the original codex of the White House, nor does that claim appear to be made by any MS. of the laws now extant.
      These Welsh medieval law books bear so strong a general resemblance to one another that it can hardly be doubted but that they are all based on some one ultimate original, which, in our present state of information, we may suppose to have been a 'Book of the White House'.[2] Those written in Welsh, however, certainly fall into three distinct classes, each of which begins with its own peculiar type of preface. They may be distinguished as follows : —
      (a) Those which refer exclusively to the King of Aberffraw in North Wales,[3] and which give other indications that they pertain to the kingdom of Gwynedd in N.W. Wales, of which Aberffraw was the chief royal residence. Aneurin Owen dubbed them the 'Venedotian Code', that is, the code of Venedotia or Gwynedd, a name with which we need not on the whole quarrel. As it will be necessary, however, to diverge from Owen's other designations, this class will be distinguished here as the Book of Gwynedd. The chief exemplar is the Peniarth MS. 29 (MS. A) referred to above. References to a certain lorwerth ap Madog[4] indicate his influence as a jurist on this class, but they are such as show that the Book of Gwynedd was regarded as existing before his time.
      (b) Those which refer exclusively to the King of Dinevwr in South Wales,[5] but are void of any other reference such as would lead one to associate them in any special degree with that Deheubarth of which Dinevwr was held to be the chief royal residence. From a passage in the preface it appears that their original was written not only outside Deheubarth but in Powys and by a Powysian.[6] Is it possible that they represent what Aneurin Owen would have called the 'Powysian Code'? Unfortunately he styled them the 'Gwentian Code' as being the code adapted to Gwent or Southeast Wales, for which there appears to be no evidence of any kind.[7] A peculiarity of the preface of this class of law book is that it refers its compilation to a certain Morgeneu and his son Cyvnerth. Elsewhere[8] it is Cyvnerth ab Morgeneu who is referred to as a well-known 'jurist', for which reason this class will be distinguished here as the 'Book of Cyvnerth'. The text adopted by Aneurin Owen as the basis of his amalgam of this type of law book is the Peniarth MS. 37 (MS. U), 'not from any superiority but as being the simplest.'[9]
      (c) Those which refer both to the King of Dinevwr and to the King of Aberffraw,[10] stating expressly that of all the kings in Wales gold is payable to these two only. The King of Dinevwr, however, is mentioned first in order, and there is a special section devoted to him. One of the Dinevwr kings is also mentioned by name, viz. Rhys ab Gruffydd,[11] sovereign of Deheubarth, who died in 1197. There is also found a section dealing with the seven bishop-houses in Dyved,[11] one of the patrias included in the Deheubarth. This class therefore appears to represent a 'Book of Deheubarth'. Unfortunately again Aneurin Owen named them the 'Dimetian Code', that is, the code of Dyved, although there appears to be no reason why they should be confined to this particular patria, and not made to cover the whole of that Deheubarth which was held to be subject to the King of Dinevwr. The preface of this class mentions a certain Blegywryd who is described as the cleric appointed in Howel's convention at the White House to reduce the revised laws to writing. Nothing more appears to be known of this Blegywryd beyond what is stated in this preface. Hence this particular group of law books may not inaptly be styled the Book of Blegywryd. Aneurin Owen adopted the Cotton MS., Titus D IX (MS. L), of the second quarter of the fourteenth century,[12] as his representative text of this group. Dr. Gwenogfryn Evans regards the Peniarth MS. 36 A (MS. O), as the oldest now known, having been written shortly after 1282[13] but according to Owen 'the variations in the manuscripts of this class are but few', for which reason he is of opinion that 'they perhaps exhibit the nearest affinity to the original compilation sanctioned by Howel'.[14] It should be noticed that the earliest of all the existing law books bearing Howel's name, viz. the Latin Peniarth MS. 28, is of the form of the Book of Blegywryd, as also the important Latin Cotton MS., Vespasian E XI, written about 1250, 1 although the name of Blegywryd is absent from both.[15]
   The following passage[16] from the preface to the Book of Blegywryd is very suggestive as to these three types of law books, and appears also to throw some light on the puzzling matter of King Howel's dominions.

      Guedy hynny yd erchis gwnneuthur tri llifuyr kyureith : vn vrth y lys peunydyaul pressuyl y gyt ac ef ; aral y lys Dineuur ; y trydyd y lys Aberffraw, megys y caffey teir rann Kymry, nyt amgen, Gwyned, Pwys, Deheubarth, audurdawt kyureith yn eu plith vrth eu reit yn wastat ac yn parawt.
      After that he ordered three law books to be made: one for the daily court to be always with him; another for the court of Dinevwr; the third for the court of Aberffraw, so that the three divisions of Cymru, to wit, Gwynedd, Powys, and Deheubarth, should have the authority of law amongst them at their need, always and ready.

      Here it is clearly implied that the king's daily court was not in Deheubarth but in Powys. The common opinion is that Howel Dda lived in Deheubarth and especially in Dyved,[17] but in the light of the above passage he generally dwells in Powys. Moreover, the manner in which the White House is spoken of as being the king's hunting-lodge 'when he came to Dyved' seems to bear out the same idea. It is true that the preface to the Book of Cyvnerth appears to restrict Howel's dominions outside Powys, and it is curious that Powys appears to be the very division of Wales wherein that compilation had its origin. How to reconcile these apparent contradictions does not at present appear. The above passage would seem to suggest that there were three types of law books, those of Gwynedd, Powys, and Deheubarth respectively, although, as the passage now stands, it means no more than that three copies of one original were made for the three divisions of Cymru. It may be that in time they each underwent such modifications as adapted them more perfectly to the varying customs of each division. If, however, in the case of the Book of Cyvnerth, we are dealing with a 'Powysian Code', how shall we explain the mention of Dinevwr and the absence of all reference to any chief royal residence in Powys such as the Mathraval mentioned in later texts?[18] It seems therefore advisable for the time being to abandon territorial designations for the two Dinevwr classes of law books, and to style them after the names of the 'jurists' preferred in their respective prefaces. The designations therefore tentatively proposed for the three kinds of Welsh law books in lieu of those invented by Aneurin Owen are as follows : —
      Book of Gwynedd for Venedotian Code,
      Book of Cyvnerth for Gwentian Code,
      Book of Blegywryd for Dimetian Code.


      Our present text, the Harleian MS. 4353 (MS. V) belongs to the second of these classes, viz. the Book of Cyvnerth, being, according to Dr. Gwenogfryn Evans,[19] 'the oldest and most important' of this kind. Aneurin Owen had six codices of this class before him, which he denominated U, V, W, X, Y, and Z respectively. He noticed that some of them closely resembled the Book of Blegywryd, so much so indeed in the case of Y and Z that he soon ceased to use them in his edition. Two others, viz. V (our present text) and W, which are very closely allied, also resemble in some respects the Book of Blegywryd, especially V, which actually contains the passage on the bishop-houses of Dyved. The leading peculiarity of these two MSS., however, is this, that in their prefaces the name of Blegywryd appears in lieu of that of Cyvnerth and Morgeneu, and indeed appears to have been substituted for them. One was almost tempted on this account to distinguish these two codices, V and W, by some such name as the 'Composite Book of Cyvnerth and Blegywryd', a description which further investigation may yet substantiate. The two remaining codices, U and X, are much smaller in bulk than the two last, and might be supposed to approximate nearer to the original Book of Cyvnerth. If they were as closely allied as V and W, one might indeed think so, but they differ considerably in their arrangement, appear to be much condensed, and are both somewhat carelessly written. Their matter is practically all comprised within the present text, the few additions, which each contains, being given in the appendix.

V and W[20]

      V = Harleian MS. 4353. Vellum ; 7¾ x 5 inches ; folios 1-3, (4-5), 6-27, (28), 29-45, the three folios in round brackets being insertions on later material in a hand of about 1600, copied from X; written according to Dr. Gwenogfryn Evans about 1285 by the same scribe as wrote Peniarth MSS. 2 and 6 Part iv, and Mostyn MS. 117; 'it is curious that all the MSS. written in the same hand are imperfect'; coloured capitals, generally in red and chocolate alternately; 25 lines to the page (except 16b and 40a which have 24 and 26 lines respectively) ; the first and last pages are so stained and worn that it is difficult to be always certain of the reading ; one pagination in ink till folio 37, after which till last folio but one there are two paginations, one in ink (39 to 45), and one in pencil (38 to 44), which last is the official numbering of the British Museum, followed in this present work, the last folio being paginated in ink as 45 ; half bound in morocco. Most of the marginal index words are in the hand of Jaspar Griffith. ' Liber Humfredi Wanley A.D. 1714' (I b) ; 'Sum liber Jaſpar Gryffyth 1586[-1714=128] f (2 a); 'Yma y gellir craſſu a gweled dau beth. * i. Yn gyntaf pan yſcrifenned y llyfr hwn fod yr offeirieid yn berchen gwragedd priawd, o ran bod breint yma wedi ei ofod i ferched offeirieid. 2. Yn ail mae yn gyffelyp yſcrifennu y llyfr hwn cyn gwahardd priodas ir offeirieid. Yr hon waharddedigaeth a gymmerth rym (?) yn Eglwys Loegr ynghylch y flwyddyn 1100 yn niwedd teyrnafiad Willm Rufus, edrych fol 44 a ' (3 b and 4 a bottom margins. The asterisk refers to 4 a, line 3) ; ' Rys ap howel ap Jeuan ap gwalter ddugan cof (?) ' (18 a right margin from top to bottom) ; ' Mae yma ddalen yn eifiau ' (31 b and 37 b) ; ' Timothy Middleton ' (32 a) ; ' Timothy Middleton his booke douth Owe '(43 a).
      W = Cleopatra A XIV. Vellum ; 6½ x 4¾ inches ; folios 34-107 in pencil pagination ; first quarter of the fourteenth century ; coloured capitals in blue and red alternately, save that the larger ones are in blue with red foliations ; y dotted throughout, and gu for gw ; 21 lines to the page, except 55 a from line 5, 55 b from line 13, 94 a from line 7, 94 b, 95, 107 a from line 9, and 107 b, which were left blank by the original scribe ; portions of the text are in the margins on folios 42 a, 42 b, 57 a and 83 b ; three paginations, two in ink and one in pencil, which last is the official one of the British Museum, followed in this present work ; two and a half lines on 101b( = V45a 10-12) are almost stained out by some prudish person ; bound in calf along with some Latin MSS. Besides occasional marginal index words, we have ' Liber Cardiff de Conſuetudinibus Walliae ', ' Leges Howeli Dha Wallice ' Robertus Cotton Bruceus ' (34 a) ; also much scribbling on folios 43, 44, 55, 94, 95 and 107, wherein occur proper names— ' Sciant prefentes et futuri quod Ego Johannes filli dedo conceſſi in hac prefenti Carta ' (43 b) ; ' Sciant prefentes et futuri quod Ego johannes (?) vabe ll (?) dedi conceſſi ' (44 a) ; ' Johannes vechan ' Jeuan ap phelippe hir dd ap fillippe hir ' (55 a) ; 'Johannes ap gwill (?) ', ' Willmus' (?) (55 b) ; '—vabe rimy', 'Jeuan ap dd ap—', 'Handrods dekerfilly in die martis,' ' Roberto ', 'Th et buon anne coſe nant per ta ' (94 b) ; '—ap blethyn jor ap r . . . . ap—' [k]arfill die—' ' Hoell ap—' (95 b). These names (says Dr. Evans) are in a fifteenth-century hand, but more or less intentionally deleted by rubbing.

Y and Z

      Y = 'a manuscript presented by the Rev. Mr. Conybeare to the Literary Society of Neath, by whom the use of it for this work [viz. Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales, MDCCCXLI] was kindly afforded to the Editor. It may be attributed to the middle of the fourteenth century.' So writes Aneurin Owen in the preface to his book on May 1, 1841. Mr. Egerton Phillimore in a note in Y Cymmrodor, vol. IX, states of this codex that it has been 'lost since before 1860 '.[21] It appears to have contained the first part on the Laws of the Court as far as V 12 a 19, proceeding immediately to the Laws of the Gwlad, but agreeing so closely with the Book of Blegywryd, that Aneurin Owen ceases altogether to refer to it.[22] One can therefore only surmise that it followed the Book of Cyvnerth as far as the point referred to, after which it followed the Book of Blegywryd.
      Z[23] = Peniarth MS. 259. Paper; 11x8 inches; folios a-e, 1-103 ; imperfect (folios b-e, 6-7, 13-20, 44, 47-8, 51, 56, 59-60, 99-101 being blank leaves inserted by binder) ; bicolumnar ; in two distinct hands ; first half of sixteenth century ; bound in leather with Peniarth MS. 259 A (MS. P). 'The text of folios 1-46 belongs to the class of which V or Harleian MS. 4353 is the prototype. This copy is a kind of selection arranged differently ; it is imperfect and corrupt. . . . The order of the text is very different.' A fresh hand begins at folio 49, being contemporary with the first. The latter inserts the following note on a passage written by the former— 'Hyn ydoedd wydi i scrivenu yny llyfr y copied hwn o hono. Y llyfr hwnn a gavos Einiawn ap adda pan vv yngharchar ymhwmfred gan y cunstabyl ai kavas gan brior y vynachlog a hanoedd o dehevbarth, ac nid oes athrondyst ar gyfraith namyn y sydd yn y llyfr hwn kysdal a hwn.' Aneurin Owen in his edition of the 'Gwentian Code' ceases using this codex at the very same point where he metes out like treatment to Y ; and he states of Z at the beginning of the Laws of the Gwlad that it ' is carelessly transcribed and has many chasms ', for which reason he leaves it. He inserts variant readings, however, from Z in vol. II of his work. Z is the codex which with S (the Brit. Mus. Additional MS. 22356 of the late fifteenth century) provides Owen with an interesting but extremely untrustworthy addition to the preface of his ' Dimetian Code '.[24]

U and X

      U = Peniarth MS. 37. Vellum ; 5⅜ x 4⅛ inches ; 156 pages (pp. 153-6 being in court hand) ; late thirteenth century, in the same hand apparently as Peniarth MS. 35 (MS. G) with very numerous sectional initials and titles in rubrics, and also rubricated letters ; 18 lines to the page ; partly gall-stained but complete ; in old binding newly covered with pigskin. The text of pp. 131-52 is no part of the Book of Cyvnerth, but is taken from the Book of Gwynedd, being found in A and its important transcript E. Dr. Evans, however, finds that it is in such close agreement with the corresponding part in G that both must be from the same archetype or the one is a copy of the other, both MSS. belonging to the same school of writing and being possibly the work of the same scribe. It will be found reproduced with translation in Y Cymmrodor, vol. XVII. The Book of Cyvnerth, properly so called, covers the first 120 pages, and was adopted by Aneurin Owen as the basis of his ' Gwentian Code '. On the whole his edition is trustworthy, following the order of his original and giving adequate notice when he fails to do so. He rarely or never expands contractions, and does not even reproduce them, but in the present case this involves no serious consequences as they are rarely of greater importance than ran for rann, or edlig for edling. The following are the only serious discrepancies :—       p. 712, 1. 5. abu(vch ei)thyr (eu teithi) for abuuvch.       p. 722, 1. 13. Add Tavlbort o afgvrn Moruil. dec arugemt y gwerth.       p. 764, 1. 29. Section XII is erroneously bracketed, as it appears in U 49 a 6-10 as follows:— Or cledir pvll odyn ar tir dyn arall heb ganhyat pedeir. k. k'. ageift perchennavc y tir gan yneb ae cladho althri buhyn camlvrv yr bren.
      X = British Museum Cotton MS. Cleopatra B V. Vellum; 7½x5½ inches; folios 165-222 (222 a 8-22 added by another hand) ; written about 1350 ; coloured capitals, generally red and blue alternately, five of which are illuminated, viz. 165 a, 184 b (cut out), 185 a (two on this page) and 200 a ; 20 lines to the page ; two paginations in ink and pencil, both the same, the latter being the official numbering of the Brit. Museum ; v[25] = u or v, and not w ; bound with other works in Russian leather. ' Leges Howelli Boni principis Walli(ae) in Lingua Britanica ' (165 a) ; ' Cyfnerth mab Morgeneu yn gyntaf a ſcrifennodd ac a ddoſparthodd y llyfr yma ar y dull ar wedd hon. Jaſp. Gryff. 1600' (165 b) ; ' [ — ] y gwelir [ — ] or offeiriaid [ — ] briodol y [ — ] [pr]yd hynny ' (168b); the catchwords Moiwyn yſtauell in a fish cut through by bookbinder (176b) ' habet hie liber quinquaginta & octo folia ' (222 a in Jasper Gryffyth's hand). As compared with V, ' the wording is often changed and abbreviated, many passages being omitted and a few others inserted.'
      It will be noticed that none of the codices now extant of the Book of Cyvnerth and the Book of Blegywryd date from before the last quarter of the thirteenth century, probably after the death of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282. Those which are antecedent to this period are the following, which are enumerated in order of time : —

  1. Peniarth MS. 28. Latin; 1175-1200.
  2. Peniarth MS. 29 (= MS. A). Welsh; Book of Gwynedd ; about 1200.
  3. Harleian MS. 1796. Latin; 1200-1250.[26]
  4. Brit. Mus. Additional MS. 14931 (= E). Welsh ; Book of Gwynedd ; about 1250.[26]
  5. Caligula A III (= MS. C). Welsh; Book of Gwynedd ; about 1250.[26]
  6. Vespasian E XI. Latin ; about 1250.[26]

      All the earliest and best MSS. extant therefore of the Laws of Howel Dda were written at a time when the Normans had long interfered with Welsh affairs and had taken permanent possession of the majority of the patrias of South Wales. It is very important to bear this in mind, inasmuch as the codices, which are confessedly in a state of flux, cannot fail to reflect the political situation in Wales as it was at the time of writing.


      Throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries what may be called Welsh Wales, as distinct from Norman Wales,[27] was divided into the three main divisions of Gwynedd, Powys, and Deheubarth. As the result of the important battle of Mynydd Carn in 1079,[28] Gwynedd and Deheubarth henceforth remained under the rule of the House of Gruffydd ap Cynan and that of Rhys ap Tewdwr, respectively. Powys continued as before to be governed by the House of Bleddyn. These three families were all sprung from Rhodri the Great and were consequently of the true Cymric lineage of Cunedda Wledig. Norman Wales throughout the same period comprised the patrias of Morgannwg with Gwent, Brycheiniog, and Dyved, being roughly equivalent to the modern counties of Glamorgan with Monmouth, Brecon, and Pembroke respectively. The districts now known as Cardiganshire, Radnorshire, and Flintshire fluctuated, being sometimes held by the Welsh and sometimes by the Normans. Seeing, then, that our earliest codex dates from well within this period, and that its successors clearly show that the codification was subject to continual re-arrangement and other modifications, it must be allowed, as we have said above, that in reading them the political situation as it was in these two centuries is by no means to be disregarded. The law is the law of Howel, but it is the law of Howel as modified and amplified both by the varying customs of different parts of Wales and also by the changes which are taking place throughout three and a half critical centuries in the general life of the people.
      What share King Howel had in the codification of Welsh law and custom in the tenth century is not easy to determine, especially as the earliest account of the convention which he is said to have assembled at the White House is over two centuries later than his time.[29] Our earliest chronicle also, the so-called Annales Cambriae,[30] completed only a few years after his death, is silent as to any activity he may have displayed in this direction, and contains no reference of any kind to the alleged convention. All the codices, however, agree in associating his name with the formulation of the laws of Cymru, frequently appealing to his authority and indicating the fact when they have occasion to depart from it or to add thereto. This unanimous testimony of the codices is corroborated by the nature of the few facts which are known of his career. By the death of his father and paternal uncles, the sons of Rhodri the Great, he rose steadily in power. He had married Elen, the daughter of the King of Dyved, by which he became king of that country.[31] There is evidence which goes to show that he was by inheritance ruler of Powys, and as we find him laying claims to portions of Gwent in the far south-east,[32] this, with other indications,[33] makes it almost certain that Brycheiniog, which lay between him and Gwent, was also in his grasp. After the death of his cousin, King Idwal Voel of Gwynedd, in 943, he must have been easily supreme throughout the whole of Wales, although the realm of the king of Morgannwg appears not to have been brought under the sway of the family of Rhodri in the sense that the rest of Wales was subject to that house. Howel therefore between 943 and 950 was clearly in an excellent position to move with regard to the revision and codification of Welsh law and custom, if so minded ; and the evidence that he was so minded is ample. In the year 928 he had made a pilgrimage to Rome. He frequently attended the meetings of the Witenagemot of the Wessex kings, for his name appears as witness to several charters ranging from 931 to 949.[34] He was thus clearly on intimate terms with the royal house of Wessex, and was thereby under the direct influence of the traditions of Alfred the Great, not to mention the general effect in the same direction which Asser must have produced on the life of Wales, particularly in Dyved.[35] For Asser would spend six months with Alfred and six months in his own Britannia in his native Dyved.[36] Through the same traditions there was operating also the influence of Charlemagne, to say nothing of this same influence as it may have operated through Howel's own grandfather, Rhodri the Great. Indeed, it can hardly be doubted that the fame and character of Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and his own grandfather Rhodri acted powerfully on the mind of Howel, whose own life appears to be in emulation of theirs. We find that our earliest Welsh chronicle, accompanied by thirty-one invaluable pedigrees with other material, and attached to a copy of the historical compilation which goes under the name of Nennius, was completed (probably at St. David's)[37] a few years after his death in 950 a fact which points to its having been accomplished under his patronage, if not at his direction. He stands unique among the kings and princes of old Wales as being the only one who is known to have struck coin.[38] His reign was marked by unusual peace. And that he was in general an enlightened and a beneficent ruler we need no surer proof than the noteworthy fact that he is known in history as Howel the Good. It is only, however, as seen in the general history of Wales up to his time that the significance of his reign becomes apparent, how in particular it marks a noteworthy advance in the emergence of the entity we now know as Wales from the conditions which prevailed in the dim centuries of Roman Britain. It would require far more space than is at our present command to provide any adequate presentation of this subject, even if this were as yet possible. The main outlines, however, of the story are quite clear.


      Roman Britain was treated as a single province till Severus (who died in A.D. 211) divided it into two, called Lower and Upper Britain, Britannia Inferior and Britannia Superior,[39] so that henceforward the term Britannia came to be used not only for the island or even for Roman Britain, but also for portions of Roman Britain which was now known as Britanniae or the Britains. Dion Cassius[40] gives us to understand that the legions at Caerlleon on the Usk and Chester on the Dee, were in Upper Britain, while that located at York was in Lower Britain. As the Romans, like other people, allowed the ready test of running water to decide what was upper and what was lower, it is natural to suppose that Upper Britain was mainly that part of Roman Britain which the legions had to approach by marching in the direction of the sources of the Thames and of the streams which meet to form the Humber. When, however, Upper and Lower Britain came to be distinguished as provinces, the question of what was expedient would also play its part in the new arrangements. And as the territory north of Chester would go more conveniently both for geographical and military reasons with that north of the Humber, the whole of this district falling under the surveillance of the official who resided at York, which we know to have been in Lower Britain, it is in no way improbable that Upper Britain as a province would be entirely excluded from what is now the north of England and would be confined to a territory south of Chester and including it. This then leaves us the country around the upper reaches of the Thames, and all to the west of it, including Wales plus the Devonian peninsula. Without for the moment attempting to define closely its eastern boundary we identify Upper Britain, Britannia Superior, with the territory west of a line drawn from Chester (which is included) to the Wiltshire Avon or thereabouts. The western portion of the Devonian peninsula, especially the country beyond the river Exe, was one of the least Romanized parts of Roman Britain, and Wales being a purely military district was similar in this respect, so that they would not inappropriately go together, being connected by the more Romanized region round about the estuary of the Severn.[41] In 397 Diocletian divided Roman Britain into four provinces instead of two and called them Britannia Prima, Britannia Secunda, Flavia Caesariensis, and Maxima Caesariensis. As the names clearly imply, we have here nothing more than a renaming of the two old provinces into Britannia and Caesariensis, which are subdivided into Prima and Secunda, and Flavia and Maxima respectively. And as it is certain that Cirencester was in Britannia Prima,[42] we conclude that by Diocletian's arrangement Upper Britain became exclusively known as Britannia, whilst Lower Britain was given the new name of Caesariensis. Moreover, as Cirencester was in Britannia Prima, we would also conclude that it was the Severn Sea which was the cause of the subdivision, and that therefore Wales was included in Britannia Secunda. Each of these Britannias was ruled by a governor called praeses or president, but the military command was in the hands of another official, who was called the Comes Brittaniae.
      Whether the reasoning just elaborated will be substantiated or otherwise by fresh discoveries, this at least is certain, that it is unquestionably to the kings and ecclesiastics of the smaller Britannia which we have just delineated that St. Gildas, who died after the middle of the sixth century, addresses his well-known Epistola.[43] Beginning with the words Reges habet Britannia, sed tyrannos (Britannia hath kings but they are tyrants), he proceeds to address five of the principal ones by name, commencing with him of Devon, and going in regular order until he reaches him of Anglesey, whom God hath ' made superior to almost all the kings of Britannia both in kingdom and in stature ', Maelgwn Gwynedd, insularis draco, dragon of the Isle of Mona.[44] This famous king, who was the head of the house of Cunedda Wledig, is also said by Gildas to have had as instructor one who is described as 'the refined teacher of almost the whole of Britannia', a statement which with the other indications makes it quite clear that the Britannia, with which St. Gildas and his readers are familiar, is neither the island nor Roman Britain, but that western Britannia in Britain which I have given reason to show was the Britannia Superior of the Romans to which afterwards the term Britannia became more exclusively applied.
      For it must not be supposed that the Roman provincial system in Britain crumbled away at the departure of the legions from the island. The divisions had been far too long established to perish in a night, especially those into Upper and Lower Britain, but it is probable in view of the troubles, which would afflict the land both from within and without, that the leading civil officials had to give way to the military governors, who alone persisted to protect the Roman tradition. These were the Dux Britanniae in the north, now probably in charge of the land from the Wall of Hadrian to the Humber and Mersey, constituting perhaps one of the provinces of Caesariensis or Lower Britain ; the Comes Littoris Saxonici in the south-east, from the Wash to the Wiltshire Avon or thereabouts, now likewise in probable charge of the whole of the other province of Caesariensis, and finding successors in the Saxon and Anglian Bretwaldas ;[45] and lastly the Comes Britanniae in the west protecting the whole of Upper Britain, or, as it was now called, Britannia.
      This Britannia, by the withdrawal of the legions from Chester and Caerlleon, became exposed to the incoming of Picts and Scots, which were the general names given by the Romans to the barbarians who dwelt beyond the Wall of Hadrian and in Ireland respectively. Given that a people dwelt beyond the Wall, it would be commonly classed with the Picts whether it was racially Pictish or otherwise. These two peoples entered Britannia from over the water,[46] the Scots invading the west coast and effecting settlements in various districts ;[47] and the Picts starting from due north and landing on the seaboard from Anglesey to the mouth of the river Dee. Owing to the limitation of the term Picts in later times to the people properly so called, the fact was lost sight of that the Picts, who entered Britannia at this period, were no other than those who are called in Welsh literature Gwyr y Gogledd, the Men of the North,[48] including Cunedda and his Sons, who occupied the districts lying between the river Dee and the river Teify, having Scots to their north-west and south-west, and the original inhabitants (also interspersed with Scots) in occupation of the land south and east of the Dee and Teify.[49] The 'Men of the North' were almost certainly for the most part Britons both by race and language, but all who were free amongst them called themselves at a later period, even if not already, by the name Cymry, that is, compatriots.
      Cunedda is one of the very few to whom Welsh literature assigns the rare title of gwledig,[50] a term which denotes the ruler of a territory, apparently as distinct from that of a community of persons, which is a very important distinction in view of ' tribal ' custom. The expression Cunedda Wledig in this case would point to Cunedda as a ruler of territory (gwlad) whilst Cunedda and his Sons would indicate his character as a ' tribal ' king. Almost all who are known to have borne the title of gwledig can be proved to have lived within a century or so about the end of Roman rule in Britain. The three best known, Maxen, Cunedda, and Emrys, are all credited with being in some way connected with the Roman officialdom or race, so that there can be little doubt that gwledig is a Welsh rendering for a Roman title, perhaps the Comes Britanniae. Maxen, who was very early confounded with the usurper Maximus, is associated with the three military centres of Caerlleon, Carmarthen, and Carnarvon. He marries Elen, daughter of Eudav,[51] into whose family Cunedda marries at a later date. Emrys Wledig, otherwise known as Ambrosius Aurelianus, is associated with the patria of Glywysing[52] in south-eastern Wales, and was a contemporary of Vortigern, on one of whose sons he as overlord of 'all the kings of the Britannic race' bestows the two patrias of Buallt and Gwrtheyrnion in the modern counties of Brecon and Radnor.[53] Cunedda comes in point of time after Maxen and apparently before Emrys. His immediate ancestors all bore Roman names, and one of them was almost certainly a Roman official.[54] His great achievement in Wales was the crushing of the Scotti,[55] and it may be ]that it was on this account he became recognized as gwledig. The occupation of so much land, however, by his followers could hardly have been acceptable to the older inhabitants, especially to the Romani about the estuary of the Severn, whose supremacy would now be constantly challenged by these new comers. From this time also dates a close connexion between North Wales and that further and transmarine North whence Cunedda and his Sons had come, a connexion which can be traced for centuries afterwards.[56] It is possible that Cunedda may have been a gwledig before he entered Wales, and that he might even have held the post of Dux Britanniae[57] which implied the military leadership of the northern province, but the place and time in which he lived, his ' uncouth ' name, and the so-called ' tribal ' character of his settlement in Wales, all mark him as a 'barbarian' who may indeed have received honours from the imperial government, but only as the usual last and desperate remedy in the face of a ruin which was inevitable. The fact, however, remains that the House of Cunedda henceforth continued supreme in Wales for nine centuries, providing the Welsh with the greatest names in their history for the whole of that period. With its advent in Britannia about the end of the fourth century Welsh national history commences, and with the death of its last important representative, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, in 1282, the first half of the same history closes.
      The occupation of the northern and western portions of Britannia by Picts and Scots threw the old population of south-eastern Wales and the country between the Severn Sea and the Wiltshire Avon into a state of alarm. The Britons of the Devonian peninsula began to migrate in large numbers to Armorica on the mainland, where they founded Britanny. Already in 469 we find Apollinaris Sidonius speaking, as a matter of course, of the inhabitants of that region as Britons.[58] In this way the south-eastern portion of Britannia beyond the Severn Sea was thinned of its population and thereby made ready for the West Saxon victory of Deorham in 577, which brought the old Roman province of Upper Britain definitely to a close and at the same time exposed the whole of the Devonian peninsula to that process of Saxonization which does not even yet appear to be complete. The Britons west of the Severn, on the other hand, are found in the third decade of the fifth century torn into two factions, the one under the celebrated Vortigern and the other under Ambrosius Aurelianus or Emrys Wledig.[59]


  1. For a full account of this and other Peniarth MSS., see Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language, vol. I, Pts. II and III, by Dr. J. Gwenogfryn Evans, printed for the Historical Manuscripts Commission.
  2. Lleuyr e Ty Guyn mentioned in the thirteenth-century Pen. MS. 30. See Report on MSS. in Welsh I. 361, note. viii.
  3. Anc. Laws 1. 1-335 ; II. 1-36.
  4. Ibid. I. 104, 218, 292.
  5. Ibid. I. 620-797.
  6. See Glossary under Deheubarth.
  7. Anc. Laws 1.viii. Gwent was a patria between the lower courses of the river Usk and the river Wye, included in modern Monmouthshire.
  8. Anc. Laws I. 218, 340.
  9. Ibid. I. xxxi.
  10. Ibid. I. 338-617.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ibid. I. 574; 556-9.
  12. This date is that of Dr. Gwenogfryn Evans as given in his report on the MSS. in Welsh in the British Museum, the relevant portions of which report (not yet published) he has kindly forwarded to me for perusal.
  13. Report on MSS. in Welsh I. 369.
  14. Anc. Laws I. xxx.
  15. The third old Latin text, viz. Harleian MS. 1796, seems to be of the form of the Book of Gwynedd. See Glossary under taeogtrev.
  16. Anc. Laws I. 340.
  17. Seeing that he married Elen, daughter of the last king of Dyved, whereby he became immediate ruler of that kingdom.
  18. Anc. Laws II. 50, 380, 584.
  19. [Supra.]
  20. I must again express my obligation to Dr. Gwenogfryn Evans for the invaluable help received from him in drawing up these descriptions of the particular MSS. in question. I have myself examined U, V, W, and X. [See above.]
  21. p. 299.
  22. Anc. Laws I. 670, note 21, 686, note II.
  23. Report on MSS. in Welsh, vol. I. 1074-5.
  24. Anc. Laws I. 340-2.
  25. [Here as elsewhere, "v" is used for the Middle-Welsh v (U+1EFC & U+1EFD). It was used variously to carry the values of Latin "v"/"u" and Anglo-Saxon wynn (i.e., "w").]
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 [Supra & infra].
  27. Outlines of the History of Wales by Prof. J. E. Lloyd, 164. See also the valuable article by the same writer in the Transactions of the Cymmrodorion Society for 1899-1900, entitled 'Wales and the Coming of the Normans '.
  28. This as well as the majority of other dates in early Welsh history must be regarded as tentative only, until the whole subject of Welsh chronology has been thoroughly examined.
  29. i.e. the preface to Peniarth MS. 28.
  30. Reproduced by Mr. Egerton Phillimore, together with Pedigrees, &c., in Y Cymmrodor, vol. IX. 141-83. This reproduction is indispensable to every student of early Welsh history.
  31. Y Cymm. IX. 171, Peds. I, II.
  32. Y Cymm. IX. 325.
  33. See Glossary under Deheubarth.
  34. Transactions of the Cymm. Soc. 1905-6, pp. 11-13. It should be stated here however that there was a Howel, king of the West Welsh, flourishing at this time whose name appears in the Saxon Chronicle s. a. 926. See Plummer's Two Sax. Chrs. II. viii.
  35. Where Howel could hardly fail to have lived, at least at the time when he became its king through marriage.
  36. Stevenson's Asser, pp. 64, 65.
  37. Brit. Mus. Harleian MS. 3859.
  38. Transactions of Cymm. Soc. 1905-6, pp. 1-30.
  39. Herodian III. 24.
  40. Iv. 23. See Rhys's Celtic Britain, 3rd ed. 97, c. ; also The Welsh People, 103, &c.
  41. Prof. Haverfield's Romanization of Roman Britain, 8 and note 2, 27.
  42. An inscription found near Cirencester proves this. Eng. Hist. Review, July, 1896.
  43. I would refer the reader at this point to my articles on the authorship of the Excidium Britanniae as distinct from the Epistola Gildae in the Celtic Review (Edinburgh) for April, July, and October, 1905 ; also in the St. David's College Magazine for December, 1904. Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson has replied in the Celtic Review for April, 1906, in an article which for the moment can well be left alongside of the original contributions. The contention is that the first twenty-six chapters of the work, now commonly attributed to Gildas, formerly constituted a distinct book known as Excidium Britanniae, which was written by a 'Roman' Briton towards the close of the seventh century somewhere in the neighbourhood of the mouth of the Severn. This work was considerably ' edited ' by some one who ignorantly or deliberately misunderstood it, probably both. In this form it passed into the hands of Bede, who used it as his chief and almost only authority for what he had to say of fifth-century Britain. Almost all that Bede professes to know of this period is taken from the Excidium, which he seems to ascribe to Gildas (H. E. I. 22), although he gives no evidence that he was familiar with the genuine work of that monk, viz. the Epistola Gildae, to which the Excidium was subsequently prefixed.
  44. Epistola Gildae, cc. 34-36 (Chr. Min. III. pp. 41-7)
  45. Bede's Ecc. Hist. II. 5 ; Saxon Chronicle under 827 ; Stevenson's Asser, 147, note I.
  46. ' Duabus primum gentibus transmarinis vehementer saevis, Scotorum a circione, Pictorum ab aquilone calcabilis.' Excidium Britanniae c. 14 (Mommsen's Chr. Min. III. p. 33). Bede, who bases almost everything he has to say concerning the early centuries of post-Roman Britain on the Excidium, and indeed incorporates whole passages into his text, completely misunderstands the term transmarini as applied to the Picts, which he explains as being applicable to them in that they came from beyond the Firths of Forth and Clyde (H. E. I. 12). The only part of southern Britain which could be approached over the water from the north-west and the north is North Wales, which proves that the Britannia under- lying that of the 'edited' Exadium, which came into Bede's hands, was the Britannia of the genuine Gildas, including Wales plus the Devonian peninsula.
  47. Vita S. Carantod and Vita S. David in Rees's Cambro-British SS. pp. 97, 1 01, 124 ; the De Situ Brecheniauc and Cognado Brychan in Y Cymmrodor, vol. XIX ; the Hist. Britt. (Chr. Min. III. 156). See also Bury's Life of St. Patrick, 325.
  48. Skene's Four Anc. Bks. I. 165-83.
  49. It is very noteworthy and confirms the view expressed above that the Picts as a distinct race of northern invaders in Wales are nowhere mentioned, as are the Scots, in early Welsh literature outside the Excidium Britanniae and works influenced by it. Thus the only reference to them in the Book of Llanddv is in the Life of Teilo (pp. 99, 100), where the ' Historia Gildae ' (i. e. the Excidium) is expressly referred to as the authority. There is no reference what- ever to them in the Cambro-British Saints. It appears, however, that the identity of the invading Picts and the Cymry was not completely forgotten, for in the Peniarth MS. 118 the statement appears that ' the Picts were none other than the old Cymry ' (nid oedhynt y Picteit onyd yr hen Gymry.). Rep. on MSS. in Welsh I. 724.
       ' Hec sunt nomina filiorum Cuneda quorum numerus erat IX : Typiaun primogenitus qui mortuus in regione que uocatur Manau Guodotin et non uenit hue cum patre suo et cum fratribus suis pre[dictis] ; Meriaun filius eius diuisit possessiones inter fratres suos ; ii, Osmail ; iii, Rumaun ; iiii, Dunaut ; v, Ceretic ; vi, Abloyc ; vii, Enniaun Girt ; viii, Docmail ; ix, Etern.
          ' Hie est terminus eorum a flumine quod uocatur Dubr duiu usque ad aliud flumen Tebi et tenuerunt plurimas regiones in occidentali plaga Brittanniae.' These valuable sections are appended to the Pedigrees which follow the Annales Cambriae in Harleian MS. 3859 (Y Cymm. IX. 182-3)
  50. In the indices to the Oxford Red Book of Hergest there are about ten names associated with this title, of the majority of which nothing whatever seems to be known. They are nearly all, however, made contemporaries of persons who are known to have lived before 577. Thus Tared Wledig is described as the father of Twrch Trwythy who appears in the tale of Kulhwch and Olwen as the wild boar pursued by Arthur and his men (Oxford Mab. 123, &c.).
  51. See the tale entitled Breudwyt Maxen Wledic (Oxford Mab. 82-92), in which it is amply evident, if the author's identification of Maxen with Maximus is eliminated, that Maxen is a dweller in Britain. The Welsh word for Rome, viz. Rhufain, older Rumein, is from Romania and not from Roma. This fact will explain many a marvel in old Welsh literature of journeys to the Roman city. It is curious that Geoffrey does not bring Arthur to the city of Rome, although he brings him as far as the Alps (Hist. Reg. Brit. X. 13 ; Oxford Brut, 229), so that it is by no means improbable that what Geoffrey had before him was an account of Arthur's wars in Romania, that is, some part of Britain where the Roman interest was sufficiently strong to cause it to be distinguished as Romania. The word actually appears in the Excidium, ch. 7 (Chr. Minora III. 30).
  52. 'Et ipse [i.e. Vortigern] legates ex consilio magorum per universam Brittanniam misit utrum infantem sine patre invenirent. Et lustrando omnes provincias regionesque plurimas venere ad campum Elleti qui est in regione quae vocatur Gleguissing. . . . Et rex ad adolescentem dixit, Quo nomine vocaris ? Ille respondit, Ambrosius vocor, id est, Embreis Guletic ipse videbatur. Et rex dixit, De qua progenie ortus es ? At ille Unus est pater meus de consulibus Romanicae gentis.' Hist. Britt. c. 41, 42 (Chr. Min. III. 182, 186).
  53. 'Pascent qui regnavit in duabus regionibus Buelt et Guorthegirniaun post mortem patris sui [i. e. Vortigern] largiente Ambrosio illi qui fuit rex inter omnes reges Brittannicae gentis.' Hist. Britt. c. 48 (ibid. III.I92).
  54. Cunedda, son of Eternus, son of Paternus, son of Tacitus. Y Cymm. IX. 170. Paternus is given the epithet Peisrudd, or him of the red tunic. Celtic Britain, 3rd ed. 118.
  55. ' Filii autem Liethan obtinuerunt in regione Demetorum et in aliis regionibus id est Guir Cetgueli donee expulsi sunt a Cuneda et a filiis eius ab omnibus Brittannicis regionibus.' Hist. Britt. c. 14 (Chr. Min. III. 156).
       ' Mailcunus magnus rex apud Brittones regnabat id est in regione Guenedotae quia atavus illius id est Cunedag cum filiis suis, quorum numerus octo erat, venerat prius de parte sinistrali, id est, de regione quae vocatur Manau Guotodin . . . et Scottos cum ingentissima clade expulerunt ab istis regionibus et nusquam reversi sunt iterum ad habitandum.' Hist. Britt. c. 62 (ibid. III. 205-6).
  56. See, for instance, the remarkable passage in the Book of Gwynedd, where Rhun, son of Maelgwn Gwynedd, is described as fighting in the North, apparently on the banks of the river Forth (Anc. Laws I. 104 ; Celtic Britain, 3rd ed. 126). Add to this the exploits of Cadwallon and the North Welsh usurper Cadavael between the Humber and the Forth. Hist. Britt. cc. 61, 64, 65 (Chr. Min. III. 204, 207-8) ; Celtic Britain, 3rd ed. 131-5.
  57. Celtic Britain, 3rd ed. 118-20.
  58. Hodgkin's Political Hist. of England to 1066, p. 106, and also note, where the reference is given as Ep. i. 7. See also Y Cymmrodor XI. 69.
  59. ' Guorthigirnus regnavit in Brittannia et dum ipse regnabat urgebatur a metu Pictorum Scottorumque et a Romanico impetu nec non et a timore Ambrosii.' Hist. Britt. c. 31 (Chr. Min. III.)

External links[edit]