History Files
 

 

Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain

 

 

 

Britain (Albion)

FeatureFeatureThe earliest traces of human habitation in the British Isles dates to about 700,000 years ago. These people were Homo Heidelbergensis, early humans who formed small, migratory groups of hunter-gatherers. They entered a Britain that was still firmly attached to the Continent by land following the end of a glacial period. As subsequent glacial periods ebbed and flowed, habitation faded and was re-established (it failed an estimated total of seven times), and modern humans entered around 30,000 years ago. The last recolonisation occurred from about 12,000 BC onwards, a little over five thousand years before the last vestiges of the land bridge were submerged beneath the newly formed North Sea (the English Channel was formed much earlier). These people made up a culture with a relatively peaceful communal society, part of the Early Mesolithic Period (8300-6500 BC) and the Late Mesolithic Period (6500-4000 BC).

(Additional information from External Link: Stonehenge.)

c.10,000 BC

FeatureAs the ice recedes northwards, the earliest hunter-gatherers to arrive in Britain live in caves. Gorfe's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, is one such site for these people. It is a fairly dry place that makes a good camp, with a good food supply from the land immediately outside. The Gorge channels animals such as horse and red deer quite close to the caves, and setting up ambushes to trap game as it goes past is relatively easy.

c.9500 BC

Until now a land bridge has connected Britain to Ireland, roughly from the south-eastern tip of the latter to south-western England. Trapped between this land bridge and the ice sheet to the north, the Irish Sea is filled by melt water that forms a vast lake. At this time, the land bridge is finally submerged beneath the salt water of the Atlantic. Animals, including the Giant Deer, and the hunter-gatherers who have followed them are now cut off. The land bridge makes a few more brief appearances as short-term fluctuations interfere with average sea levels before being swallowed up permanently.

Land bridge
This image may be somewhat fanciful, but it gives some impression of how the shrinking land bridge between Ireland and Britain might have looked

c.8500 BC

FeatureEvidence of the earliest people to inhabit Scotland is found by archaeologists in 2001. Discarded hazelnut shells and stone tools are amongst three thousand finds at the site which point to a temporary encampment at Cramond, on the coast near Edinburgh.

c.6500 BC

FeatureThe last vestiges of the Dogger Hills are submerged beneath the rising waters of the North Sea. Hunter-gatherer communities have been living on the sweeping plains of grass that had stretched from the east coast of Britain up to the Shetland Islands and across to Scandinavia (an area known as Doggerland) since the end of the last ice age, around 10,500 BC. They had lived in family groups in huts and hunted animals such as deer and wild boar until slowly rising water levels increasingly forced them to retreat to higher ground, land which today forms Britain or Continental Europe. Britain is now incontrovertibly an island.

c.4000 BC

FeatureScotland's oldest-known farm is in use at a site near Blairgowrie in Perthshire in the far north. The farm is close to a burial mound known as Cleave Dyke, which dates from a similar period, and contains a large, roughly circular enclosure which may be home to an extended family of about thirty people. This point marks the end of the Mesolithic Period and the start of the Neolithic, during which farming practices gradually erode the established hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

c.3800 BC

FeatureComplex techniques used in the construction of chambered tombs become evident at this time on the Orkneys. At Maes Howe, a chambered tomb built around 3000 BC shows that builders devise a standard unit of length by taking detailed readings from the movement of the sun and stars. The possibility also exists that the skills developed here are exported across Britain and from there to Egypt where they are used to construct the first pyramids. Mummification is also practised in Britain, with an example being found that is dated to 1000 BC.

c.3590 BC

FeatureA Neolithic massacre takes place when fourteen people die violently, with three of them probably being killed by arrows. The attack takes place at Wayland's Smithy, near Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire. It is possible that they are killed in a rush for land or livestock, suggesting a period of increasing social tension and upheaval.

c.3100 BC

FeatureThe site of Skara Brae on the Orkneys is built up and remains occupied until about 2500 BC. The group of six houses and a workshop is connected by a covered close. All buildings except for the workshop are buried to the tops of the walls by midden, a clay-like mixture of refuse consisting of ashes, shells, bones, sand and other domestic detritus. It is this that protects the site until it is uncovered by a severe storm in AD 1850.

Skara Brae
The rediscovery of Skara Brae in 1850 uncovered a wealth of data on Neolithic dwellings

c.2950 - 2900 BC

Phase I of Stonehenge is assembled, comprising a circular bank, ditch, and counterscarp bank of about a hundred metres (330 feet) in diameter. Just inside the earth bank is a circle of the fifty-six Aubrey holes that hold wooden posts.

c.2900 - 2400 BC

Changes take place for Phase II of Stonehenge. For the next five hundred years, post holes indicate timber settings at the centre of the monument and at the north-eastern entrance. The Aubrey holes no longer hold posts but are partially filled, some with cremation deposits added to the fill. The numerous post holes indicate timber structures but no clear patterns or configurations are discernible that can suggest their shape, form, or function.

Beaker Culture (Britain)

MapThe Beaker folk (or Beaker culture) arrived in Britain around 2700-2500 BC, intermingling fairly peacefully with the existing Neolithic culture and adopting its henges. The Beaker folk brought new burial practices with them so that Neolithic long barrows or cairns were replaced by smaller barrows or tumuli. They also brought new metalworking techniques with them, in copper and gold, heralding the start of the Chalcolithic Age. They came from a society that stretched across Europe (covering all of Iberia, most of Germany, and northern and southern France excluding the Central Massif), and they introduced a patriarchal society in which the individual warrior-chieftain became the most important and powerful figure. They gained their name, which is sometimes given as Bell Beaker Folk, through their use of a large number of drinking cups called beakers. Burials with these pots alongside the dead have been used by archaeologists to chart the growth and expansion of the Beaker folk.

Probably not an invasion of new people, the Beaker folk most likely represented the influx of a new ruling elite in much the same way as later waves of Celtic arrivals would dominate the country. These people were farmers and archers, wearing stone wrist guards to protect their arms from the sting of the bowstring. They introduced the roundhouse, which echoed in shape both the henges and barrow mounds, made their own, distinctive, pottery, and were eventually responsible for producing the first woven garments in Britain. They also appear to have introduced the first known alcoholic drink, a form of honey-based mead.

It was this Beaker culture that was disrupted in the twelfth century BC, possibly by the arrival of the first wave Celtic settlers during a period of intense disruption that took place as far afield as the Middle East, where the collapse of the Hittite empire was a major act in a century of turmoil. Although many would have stayed put and accepted their new Celtic overlords, some would have migrated westwards to avoid them, or were already in the west. Here they remained safe from Celtic domination for much longer, and when that domination finally came, it may only have been through a warrior elite.

Even today you can actually see in Wales where the Beaker folk and Neolithic people are to some extent separated. In South Wales are Mediterranean (Bell Beaker) types with a Neolithic admixture, and in the mountains of central Wales are the stockier more round-headed Neolithics. Judging from that alone one would posit that Mediterraneans took over and settled the South Wales lowlands, without substantially settling the mountains of central Wales.

(Additional information from External Link: Stonehenge.)

c.2600 - 2500 BC

With the influx of the Beaker folk adding fresh impetus to the work, the construction of Phase III of Stonehenge is begun at this time and continues until around 1600 BC. Aligned with the sunset of the winter solstice, the monument undergoes a complicated sequence of settings of large stones. This starts with a series of Bluestones placed in the Q and R Holes (Sub-Phase 3i). These are subsequently dismantled and a circle of sarsens and a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of Trilithons is erected (Sub-Phase 3ii). The Sarsen Circle is comprised of thirty upright sandstone blocks (only seventeen now remain standing). They support sarsen lintels forming a continuous circle around the top, with each sarsen probably being brought to the site from the Marlborough Downs, about thirty kilometres to the north.

FeatureA huge settlement, one of the largest seen in Britain, is used by the people who build Stonehenge. Its remains are discovered by archaeologists in 2006. The site at Durrington Walls seems to be occupied seasonally, being used for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies. Neolithic people from all over the region are probably drawn here, enjoying massive feasts in the midwinter, where prodigious quantities of food are consumed. The bones are then tossed onto the floors of the houses to be unearthed 4600 years later. Durrington also has its own henge made of wood, which is strikingly similar in layout to Stonehenge but which aligns to the sunrise of the winter solstice.

Stonehenge
The most impressive stages in the construction of Stonehenge took place between 2600-2500 BC, but work continued for another millennium

c.2550 - 1600 BC

The final stages of the construction and use of Stonehenge, Phase III Sub-Phase 3vi, comprises two circles, one inside the other, known as the Y and Z Holes. They are dug for the placement of stones but are never filled. Probably also dating to Phase III are the four Station Stones. These sarsen stones stand just inside the bank on more or less the same line as the Aubrey Holes. Also assigned to Phase III are Stoneholes D and E and the recumbent sarsen known as the Slaughter Stone. The earthwork known as the Avenue is probably laid at this time, extending north-east from the break in the bank-and-ditch. Located further along the Avenue is the so-called Heel Stone (Stone 96).

Wessex Culture (Britain)

The term 'Wessex Culture' was first termed in 1938, before British prehistory had been fully understood and properly categorised. It mainly concentrated on central and southern Britain of the early Bronze Age, and it can be seen today as a sub-category of the Beaker culture, as the Stone Age ended in favour of the Bronze Age. Wessex culture itself can be broken down into two phases, the first in 2000-1650 BC and the second in 1650-1400 BC.

Related to the Hilversum culture of Belgium, the central Netherlands, and northern France, the period saw fresh arrivals of Beaker Folk from these regions (the same pattern of successive waves of immigration by the same people would later be repeated by the Celts). They buried their dead in barrows, although cremation was later practised, with the remains being placed in the same barrows. A rich assortment of grave goods was added to the burials, some of which were imported from very good trading contacts on the Continent. Those links reached as far afield as Latvia and Lithuania (amber), and Mycenaean Greece (beads).

c.2000 BC

The beginning of the Bronze Age in Britain can be placed around this point in time. Although not certain, it is generally thought that the new bronze tools and weapons identified with this age are introduced from Continental Europe. The skulls recovered from burial sites from the Bronze Age are different in shape to Stone Age skulls. This would suggest that new ideas and new blood are brought over from the Continent. This is the start of Wessex Culture I.

c.1650 BC

Wessex Culture II sees the construction of Stonehenge ended, with the last work taking place around 1600 BC (the Y and Z Holes). While a wide range of artefacts from later periods are found at the site, it is still unknown if the monument remains in use or is just an object of amazement for later generations wondering at this massive stone construction.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge was probably abandoned in the seventeenth century BC as an anachronism that was no longer part of the lives of the people

Prydein (Prettania / Britannia / Britain) / High Kings of Britain

FeatureThe first wave of proto-Celtic settlers in Britain could have arrived in the Late Bronze Age period, between 1500 BC at the earliest to around 1000 BC. These early Celtic arrivals were later the focus of what may have been a long-established tradition of kingship that was claimed by the post-Roman Celtic peoples of Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain, expanded on work by Nennius and attempted to list all of the kings of Britain reigning between the arrival of Brutus and the Britons (a possible, archaeology-supported, early influx of Continental Celts) circa 1100 BC up to AD 689 and the end of Gwynedd's attempts to regain the territory lost to the Anglo-Saxons. These possible early arrivals were nominal rulers of the British Celtic tribes (starting initially in the south and east of Britain and working northwards). In all likelihood, they were probably strong rulers of their own tribal groups and perhaps held at least theoretical high-kingship over the rest. They usually only exercised real authority in this role in times of emergency, such as at the landings of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC.

MapPre-Roman, heroic age Celtic kingdoms almost always formed the basis of the ancestral heritage of later post-Roman Celtic kings. Although largely legendary until the Roman and post-Roman periods, considering the importance that the Indo-European Celtic warrior class placed on lineage, added to the tradition of being able to recite one's ancestors, these names may well reflect an element of truth. But, because the Iron Age Celts left no written records, and the post-Roman Britons probably lost a large amount of the records they possessed after the Adventus Saxonum, very little of this can ever be proved. The dates shown here are rough approximations for the legendary period (lilac-backed), and are calculated back from known high kings. They should not be taken as being historically accurate, but they do form the framework for the known facts about the Celtic settlement of Britain.

Britain, as the name is pronounced today, appears to be a Roman alteration of a Brythonic word starting with a 'p', retained today by the Welsh as Prydein. At some point in prehistory a change in pronunciation swept through many of the speakers of Celtic and Italic languages. A 'kw' sound ('qu' in Latin) was replaced by a 'p'. Most Italic speakers changed to a 'p', except for the inhabitants of Latium. Most of the Celtic speakers also changed, except for the far western lands of Iberia and Ireland. So if the name is Celtic in origin, then an examination of similar words in proto-Celtic beginning with 'kw' might discover its meaning. The most likely candidate appears to be *kʷrit-jo- (?), meaning 'poet', *kʷrito-, 'poetry'. Could the country have been the '[land of] poets'? Other words with the required structure are *kʷrit-er-āje/o- (?) 'consider, look after', or *kʷritero- (?) possibly meaning 'care', or *kʷrīto-, 'expensive', or *kʷritu-, 'form'. Notice that none of those make any sense. It was in Britain that the centre of the druidic practice was based. Druids were trained to memorise, and what they memorised was mostly poetry. Could the name 'Britain' simply be a reference to the island being the source of the druids?

Some later post-Roman high kings, accepted as such in other references, are not on Geoffrey's list, and are shown here in red text. The listing of most of these British monarchs was derived by the late Lewis Thorpe PhD from the 1966 translation of The History of the Kings of Britain (1982 Edition). In general, events given below with dates are historical fact or general estimates worked out from archaeological evidence, while events without dates relate to traditional, legendary storytelling.

(Additional information by Mick Baker and Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, and from External Link: Proto-Celtic Word List (PDF).)

fl c.1115 BC

Brutus

Led Britons to Lloegr (roughly modern England). Reigned 23 yrs.

FeatureThe legendary traditions of the Britons are later written down by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, largely in story form and involving much invention, either by the writers themselves or, more probably, by a much more ancient bardic tradition in an attempt to explain the origin of the name of Prydein/Britain and lend the Britons a greater heritage by linking them to Troy. Those traditions begin with Brutus and his followers landing at the mouth of the River Dart (in modern Devon). Brutus is the son of Silvius of the Latin kings of Italy, while his fellow leader, Corineus, and all his followers are the descendants of Trojan refugees. The newcomers fight off the 'giants' who occupy the island and Brutus gives all of the south-west peninsula to Corineus (westwards from a line between the Severn and Wight, meaning all of the fifth century AD kingdom of Dumnonia).

MapBrutus founds a city on the banks of the Thames which he names New Troy, 'that is, Trinovantum' (thereby linking the later tribe of the Trinovantes to the region that is under their control in the first century BC). It is here that the 'Crown of the Island' is worn, in the land that had been called Albion but is now named Britain after Brutus himself. He divides the land between his three sons. Albanactus (Albanac) gains Albany (Scotland), and Kamber gains Cambria (Wales). The eldest, Locrinus, gains Lloegr (Logris or Loegria, analogous to England south of the Humber and remarkably similar to the civilian-controlled areas of Roman Britain, south and east of the military zones of Wales and the north, most clearly shown on the accompanying maps in the AD 70-79 period).

Coincidentally perhaps, archaeologists have discovered evidence of a fairly significant disruption in cultural practices in the twelfth century BC, one that may indicate a migration into Britain, or perhaps even an invasion. This is precisely the period in which Brutus and his people arrive, with the legendary characters shown here probably representing the first arrival in Britain of Celto-Ligurian Bronze Age peoples. The native 'giants' refers to the hard-fighting Beaker culture natives (although this invasion theory is no longer as popular as it once was, being replaced by the idea of small scale migrations of a new ruling elite which simply 'tops-up' the country's population).

Locrinus

Son. High King of Britain. Reigned 10 years. Killed in battle.

Albanactus / Albanac

Brother. King of Albany (Scotland). Killed in battle.

Kamber

Brother. King of Cambria (Wales).

According to legend, 'foreign people' land in Britain to the north of the River Humber. They ravage the land and Albanactus is impetuous enough to engage them in battle without requesting reinforcements from his brothers. He is slain, and his death is avenged with great slaughter of the invaders on the banks of the Humber.

Locrinus is engaged to Vennolandua, daughter of Corineus, but he falls in love with Estrildis, concubine of the invaders' now-dead leader. Keeping his concubine a secret from his new wife leads to civil war between Locrinus and Vennolandua. In her anger, she dons full armour and becomes the first true warrior queen of the British. The two armies meet and Locrinus is slain. Vennolandua has Estrildis and her daughter, Savren, thrown into the Severn, and rules as high queen until her son is of age to succeed her.

Queen Gwendolen

Widow of Locrinus. Ruled 15 years until Maddan came of age.

Maddan

Son. Reigned 40 years.

c.1035 BC

The Phoenicians are creating trading posts along the North African coast, such as Carthage and Utica, in southern Italy, in the Mediterranean, such as Kition on Cyprus, and in southern Spain, such as Gadir and Tarshish. Merchants are also known to trade with the occupants of the Land's End region of Britain, and general opinion is that these traders are Phoenicians, although there is no surviving proof.

Snettisham torcs c.100 BC
The Celts arrived in Cornwall at much the same time as seafaring merchants were trading there, probably for the tin deposits in the region

Mempricius

Son. A tyrant. Reigned 20 years. Killed by wolves.

Tradition maintains that Mempricius and his brother, Malin, quarrel over who should succeed the peaceful forty year reign of their father. Through trickery, Malin is murdered by Mempricius, who goes on to rule as a tyrant over the whole island. He murders anyone who might provide competition, including members of his own family, and even his own wife deserts him. In the end, he is brought down not by his suffering subjects but by wolves who attack him when he becomes separated from his companions on a hunt.

fl c.1006 BC

Ebraucus

Son. Reigned 39 years. Eponymous founder of Ebrauc.

c.1000 BC

FeatureMummification is being practised in the Outer Hebrides. In 2003, archaeologists discover the mummified remains of four people below a Bronze Age roundhouse in South Uist. It is believed that the process had begun at the same time as in Egypt and it may be linked to the complex chambered tombs that had been constructed in the area around 3800 BC.

Also around this time, plus or minus a century or so, the Hekla 3 volcano on Iceland erupts. It is one of the most severe eruptions of the past 12,000 years (the Holocene era) and its effects are felt almost immediately in Britain. The temperature drops significantly, according to tree-ring evidence, and the marginal land that had first been cleared and farmed by the Beaker culture is now abandoned. One example of this is Dartmoor, where abandoned farmland and farm housing is soon covered by formations of peat. Warfare and banditry probably sweeps the country as food stocks fall drastically.

Brutus Greenshield

Son. Reigned 12 years.

fl c.950 BC

Leil

Son. Reigned 25 years. Eponymous founder of Caer Leil (Carlisle).

Rud Hud Hudibras

Son. Reigned 39 years.

Bladud

Son. Reigned 20 years. Founder of Aquae Sulis (Caer Baddan).

Leir

Son. Reigned 60 years. Shakespeare's 'King Lear'.

FeatureLeir is the subject of William Shakespeare's play, 'King Lear', and the Shakespearian spellings of his daughters' names are shown after the more original Celtic versions below. Leir is also the traditional founder of Caer Leir (or Caer Lerion, modern Leicester).

Goronilla and Riganna are gifted Albany and Cornwall respectively when Leir decides to divide his kingdom amongst his offspring (as is the custom, but this time before his death). Cordaella is banished from Britain for not praising her father when asked. She seeks refuge with her foster parents, Maglocun and his wife, and is brought to King Aganippus in an unidentified part of Gaul. Cordaella and Aganippus are soon married. Goronilla gains Logris while Riganna gains Cambria, both of which should have gone to their youngest sister.

Queen Goronilla / Goneril

Daughter. Queen of Logris & Albany (Scotland). Killed in battle.

Queen Riganna / Regan

Sister. Queen of Cornwall & Cambria (Wales). Killed in battle.

Leir has withdrawn from public life, but his attempts to maintain his household and warband are frustrated by Goronilla and Riganna. His status is whittled away by the pair until he has nothing other than the lowliest of bards. He goes to Gaul, to 'the place where Aganippus was king' (presumably a specific Gaulish tribe - he is sometimes referred to as one of the twelve kings that ruled Gallia), and seeks forgiveness from Cordaella. With the pair warmly reunited, they raise an army and defeat Goronilla and Riganna in battle. Leir is restored to his throne and Cordaella succeeds him.

Leir

Restored. Reigned 3 or 10 years.

Queen Cordaella / Cordelia

Youngest daughter. High Queen. Reigned 5 years.

fl c.750 BC

Marganus

Nephew. Son of Goronilla & Maglaurus. Duke of Albany (Scotland).

fl c.750 BC

Cuneglasus / Cunedagius

Cousin. Son of Riganna & Henwinus. Duke of Cornwall.

After reigning for five years, Cordaella faces rebellion by her two nephews. Marganus of Albany (Scotland) and Cuneglasus of Cornwall capture her and imprison her. Grieving for the loss of her kingdom and widowed since shortly after becoming high queen, she kills herself. Cuneglasus becomes king of Loegria, Marganus of Albany. Two years later, Marganus invades Loegria and is put to flight and then killed by Cuneglasus in Cambria (Wales). Cuneglasus is now undisputed high king.

fl c.750 BC

Cuneglasus / Cunedagius

Succeeded Cordaella. Reigned 33 yrs.

c.750 BC

Cuneglasus is dated by Geoffrey of Monmouth to the period in which Romulus founds the city of Rome and the prophet Isaiah ministers to the Israelites. The two versions of his name are curious, as they mean different things. Cuneglasus literally means 'blue dog' ('cuno-' meaning dog and 'glasus' meaning blue). Cunedagius means 'the hound (or dog) of [the god] Dadga'. A possibility is that the Britons combine 'cune'/'cuno' (dog) with 'maglos', to produce 'cune(ma)glas' as a pun. The modern Welsh are somewhat famous for clever nicknames, a habit they have almost certainly inherited from their British forebears.

This is also the period in which the Iron Age begins to arrive in Britain, introduced alongside more early Celtic settlers. The site of Caerau in the later territory of the Silures shows evidence of this, although the initial spread of the Celtic newcomers is probably confined to the south and south-east coast before it moves inland. It is quite possible that with most of southern Britain held by Celts, the pre-Indo-European natives of the west and north respond to the threat by building defences that contain the latest technological advances, which are typical of those seen at Caerau. The use of iron weapons would more quickly supplant the bronze ones as a matter of necessity, and pockets of pre-Indo-Europeans would survive and persist much as later Romano-Britons do in the face of Anglo-Saxon advances, with the natives adopting elements of the newcomers' weapons and fighting techniques as a matter of survival. Either way, Celtic language and tough iron swords gradually replace native language and soft bronze swords across the country over the course of the next 250 years.

Rivallo

Son of Cuneglasus. No reignal length given.

Gurgastius / Gurgustius

Son. No reignal length given.

The relationship of the next high king, Sisillius is not given, suggesting that the succession breaks down around this time. Curiously, this is not mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth as he works through the list of kings, making it more likely that some kind of oral tradition is being remembered for which the details in this case have been lost. Only the names and their relationships to their predecessors survive. The limited number of rulers for this period of almost four hundred years, between about 750 BC and 387 BC, could also meant that many names have been lost altogether. The swings between two branches of the royal house holding the high kingship support the idea of a period of civil war.

Sisillius (I)

Son.

Jago

Nephew of Gurgastius.

Kimarcus

Son of Sisillius.

Corodubic / Gorboduc

Son. m Judon. Died senile, fostering civil war between his sons.

c.550 BC

FeatureInhabitants of the Outer Hebrides could be farming animals for milk by this time. In 2000, traces of cow's milk in cooking pots are discovered by archaeologists at the Iron Age settlement of Cladh Hallan, South Uist, on the Western Isles. Bones of calves are also found at the site, suggesting that the Iron Age farmers are slaughtering the young animals to maintain milk production. Further bones, of people, discovered underneath dwellings show that the practice of mummification continues in the region.

Cladh Hallan mummies
The bodies of ancestors were submerged in peat bogs to mummify them, before being laid to rest beneath the dwelling of their relatives, laying there during several hundreds of years of occupation before the site was finally abandoned around 400 BC

Ferrex and Porrex (I)

Sons.

According to legend, as their father descends into senility Ferrex and Porrex become engaged in a civil war, and Britain is fractured. Corodubic dies as the fighting begins. Ferrex flees to Gaul and brings a Gaulish army back with him, but this is destroyed by Porrex and Ferrex dies in battle. In her grief, their mother, Judon, kills Porrex and the line of descent is broken. A long period of civil war follows and five (initially) unnamed kings subsequently rule areas of the country with no one claiming the title of high king.

MapThe legendary Logris is generally analogous to England south of the Humber and on a rough map looks remarkably similar in territory to the civilian-controlled areas of Roman Britain, south and east of the military zones of Wales and the north.

Pinner

King of Logris (equal to civilian-controlled Roman 'England').

Staterius

King of Albany (Scotland).

Rudaucus

King of Cambria (Wales).

Cloten

King of Cornwall (Dumnonia).

Dunvallo Molmutius

Son. King of Cornwall (Dumnonia).

The period of civil war comes to a head with the rise of Dunvallo Molmutius. He attacks Pinner and kills him in battle. Rudaucus and Staterius form an alliance against him but again, both are defeated in one huge pitched battle and are killed. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions five kings of Britain during the civil war period, and Dunvallo is not one of them, but the name of this other king has been lost.

Dunvallo Molmutius / Dyfnwal Moelmut

Gained high kingship. A representation of a later historical king.

Claimed by tradition as one of the 'Three Pillars of the Island of the Mighty', Dunvallo Molmutius appears to have two possible sources for his origins. One is as Dumnovellaunos of the Trinovantes at the end of the first century BC, while the other is as Dyfnwal Moelmud (the Bald and Silent), king of Bernaccia in the mid-fifth century AD. In this mythical list, his son is Brennius, who appears (in part at least) to be Bran Hen of Bernaccia. The legendary Dunvallo is also nicknamed 'the Lawgiver' because he forms the laws that later prevail throughout Britain.

FeatureIn the tale by Nennius, following Dunvallo's sudden death the highly competitive Brennius and Belinus divide Britain between them (with Brennius notably taking the lands north of the Humber, precisely where Bernaccia would later be located). The first druids to enter the island are invited so that they can decide which of the brothers will be high king, and the two are eventually reconciled, although not without five years of peace and a great deal of further warfare. During his period of exile, Brennius also encounters King Guichthlac or Ginchtalacus of the Dacians or Danes respectively, King Elsingius of the Norwegians, and Seginus or Segnius of the Allobroges.

fl c.387 BC

Belinus

Son. King of Logris. 'Duke of Cornwall'. Cuncar of Bernaccia?

fl c.387 BC

Brennius

Brother. King of Albany & Cambria. Bran Hen of Bernaccia?

387 - 386 BC

While there is a possibility that Brennius is a version of Bran Hen of Bernaccia, it is more likely that he has been placed here because he is actually the powerful Brennus of the Senones tribe, a chieftain who conquers and sacks Rome at this time.

Gurguit Barbtruc

Son of Belinus.

FeatureThanks to the generosity of Gurguit Barbtruc, Partholoim or Partholomus is the leader of the first settlement in Ireland after the Mesopotamian Great Flood. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions him in conjunction with Gurguit Barbtruc, probably finding him in the Historia Britonum (Chapter 13), the ninth century Welsh Latin historical compilation put together by Nennius.

Guithelin

Son.

Queen Marcia

Widow, and regent for her young son, who was aged 7.

Sisillius (II)

Son. Reigned after his mother's death.

c.350 BC

It is estimated that the second wave of Celtic migrants reaches western Britain (modern Wales) around this time, replacing or absorbing the previous Celto-Ligurian peoples of the Bronze Age. These second wave settlers include the Ordovices, as well as the predecessors of the Gangani and Deceangli, an unknown and unnamed neighbouring people who may bear some relation to the Ordovices.

Kinarius

Son.

Danius

Brother.

c.325 BC

Pytheas of Massalia, a Greek geographer and explorer undertakes a voyage of exploration around north-west Europe. During his trip he visits Britain, which he names Pretania or Pritannia (a name which covers all of the islands and Ireland), and travels extensively, making notes of what he sees, and also providing what may be the earliest written report of Stonehenge. He names the promontory of Kantion (land of the Cantii), the promontory of Belerion (later the land of the Cornovii), and Orkas (the Orkneys). Belerion is home to a civilised people who are especially hospitable to strangers, apparently due to their dealings with foreign merchants who are involved in the tin trade.

Ptolemy's map of Britain
The details recorded by Pytheas were interpreted by Ptolemy in the second century AD, and this 1490 Italian reconstruction of the section covering the British Isles and northern Gaul shows Ptolemy's characteristically lopsided Scotland at the top

Morvidus

Son. A cruel ruler.

Gorbonianus

Son.

Archgallo

Brother. Outraged nobles who rose in rebellion and deposed him.

c.300 BC

Judging by burial practises in the region, the Parisi probably occupy their territory by this date. Whether they are related to the Parisii tribe in Gaul is unknown, but they seem to be a late arrival in the migration of those Celtic tribes which are dominant by the first century AD.

Elidurus (the Dutiful)

Brother. Reigned 5 years.

Tradition paints this as an unsettled period, one which sees the five sons of Morvidus constantly jostling for control of the country. The throne changes hands no less than seven times during their lifetimes with Elidurus occupying it three times. Elidurus, Ingenius and Peredurus seem to be borrowed from the names of the last British rulers at Ebrauc in the late sixth century AD.

Archgallo

Restored by Elidurus. Reigned well for 10 years.

Elidurus

Succeeded his brother, but defeated and deposed.

Ingenius

Brother. King of Logris & Kambria. Reigned 7 years.

Peredurus

Brother. King of Albany. In reality, Peredyr of Ebrauc.

Peredurus

Succeeded to Logris as a benign king. Died.

Elidurus

Restored for a second time.

?

Son of Gorbonianus. Name not recorded (and not even invented).

Marganus (II)

Son of Archgallo.

Enniaunus

Brother. Reigned 6 years. Deposed as a tyrant.

Idvallo

Son of Ingenius.

Runo

Son of Peredurus.

Gerennus

Son of Elidurus.

Catellus

Son.

In the traditional list of high kings given by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the father-to-son succession largely appears to fail at this point, or whatever records he might be working from have not recorded the information.

Millus

Porrex (II)

Cherin

mid-200s BC

A large number of Gallo-Belgic A coins are to be found in southern Britain at this time or soon afterwards. This suggests heavy trade with the Ambiani tribe in northern Gaul, but also the probability that Ambiani have settled in Hampshire, possible as the earliest representatives of the tribe of the Belgae. The Suessiones may be another Belgic tribe that is settling heavily in Britain from this time.

Gallo-Belgic quarter stater
A gold Gallo-Belgic quarter stater of the C-type, dated between 80-60 BC

This arrival of the third wave of Celtic settlers in the country probably sees them become dominant over previous, second wave arrivals in some parts (most especially with the Cantii). In other areas, the previous occupants are probably forced to migrate further west. The Cornovii tribe (to be found in the Midlands by the first century AD), may be one such tribe. There are also Cornovii to be found in Cornwall by the first century AD and Cornavii in Pictland by the second century AD. If there is any connection between these three, could it be due to a fracturing of the tribe as it is pushed out of its established territory?

Fulgenius

Son.

Edadus

Brother.

Andragius

Brother.

Urianus

Son.

Eliud

Cledaucus

Clotenus

Gurgintius

Merianus

Bledudo

Cap

Oenus

Sisillius (III)

Beldgabred

A great musician.

Archmail

Brother.

Eldol

Redon

Redechius

Samuil Penessil

 A representation of a later semi-historical king.

Samuil Penessil is an addition to whatever traditional list of kings later exists in the British Celtic oral tradition. He is Sawyl Penuchel, king of the South Pennines in the late sixth century. By Geoffrey of Monmouth he is split into two individual kings, Samuil and Penessil. Clearly Geoffrey doesn't know who he is.

Pir

Capoir

Digueillus

Son.

113 - 105 BC

A large-scale migration of Teutones and Cimbri from their homeland in what later becomes central and northern Denmark is triggered by deteriorating living conditions in their homeland. The chaos caused by the passage of this mass wandering through western Europe is probably the spark that causes migrations of Belgic peoples from the Netherlands and northern Gaul into Britain.

fl c.110 BC

Heli / Beli Mawr (the Great)

Son. Reigned for 40 yrs. m Don ferch Mathonwy.

Beli Mawr is claimed as the founder of the Deisi, later rulers of the kingdom of Dyfed, and also of the Silures. His eldest son, Aballac, is claimed as the ancestor of Coel Hen, of the fourth century 'Kingdom of Northern Britain' which is based at Ebruac. His second child, daughter Lweriadd, marries Llyr Lleddiarth, who is claimed as the founder of Gwent. Another of his children as claimed by tradition is Cassivellaunus, the mid-first century BC high king who fights against Julius Caesar's expeditions.

c.90 - 60 BC

Gallo-Belgic C coins can be found in Britain which are tentatively identified with Diviciacus of the Suessiones. Finds are concentrated amongst the Cantii, but can be found as far west as the Sussex coast, in the territory of the Regninses, and up to the Wash, covering the Catuvellauni, Trinovantes, and Iceni.

fl c.80 BC

Lludd Llaw Ereint (the Silver-Handed)

Third child. Began the line of Cunedda Wledig of Gwynedd.

Lud, or Lludd Llaw Ereint, is claimed as the ancestor of Cunedda Wledig, the chieftain of the Venicones tribe, in Fife in Pictland, who is moved by Britain's late fourth century AD central administration to northern Wales to fight off the wave of Irish raiders there (or who invades North Wales during a time of weakness in Britain's administration). Lludd himself is claimed as the rebuilder of the city of Trinovantum, which is renamed Lludd's Dun, or London, in his honour. Following his death he is buried at Porthlud (modern Ludgate in the City of London). His two sons, Androgeus and Tenvantius, are still young and another son, Amalach or Afallach is claimed as the founder of the later ruling families of both Powys and Gwynedd, so Lludd's brother, Cassivellaunus, gains the high kingship.

c.60 - 30 BC

Cassivellaunus

'Brother'. King of the Catuvellauni. Fought Julius Caesar.

Androgeus

Son of Lludd. In reality Mandubracius of the Trinovantes.

Tenvantius

Brother. King of Cornwall. Later High King Bran.

Cridous

King of Albany.

Gueithaet

King of Venedotia.

Brittahel

King of Demetia.

c.60 - 50 BC

Gallo-Belgic F coins are also found in many coastal areas of Britain, introducing the triple-tailed horse design on the reverse that becomes widespread over the next few decades. The existence of so many coins that are linked to the Suessiones, or which ape their design, suggests to scholars that the Suessiones form a considerable portion of the Belgic peoples who migrate into Britain from the second century BC. Julius Caesar states that the Belgae have entered Britain looking for booty, saying: 'The inland part of Britain is inhabited by tribes declared in their own tradition to be indigenous to the island, the maritime part by tribes that migrated at an earlier time from Belgium to seek booty by invasion...' The 'indigenous' tribes are probably themselves descended from earlier waves of Celtic immigrants into the island.

57 BC

On the Continent the Belgae enter into a confederacy against the Romans in fear of Rome's eventual domination over them. They are also spurred on by Gauls who are unwilling to see Germanic tribes remaining on Gaulish territory and are unhappy about Roman troops wintering in Gaul. The tribes march en masse against the Romans but are defeated in turn, or are forced to surrender. Many anti-Roman leaders flee, especially those of the Bellovaci and probably the Suessiones, and end up in Britain, probably as part of a limited wave of refugees. With this action, northern Gaul has been brought under Roman domination.

c.56 BC

The fleet of Roman general Julius Caesar defeats the Veneti off the coast of what becomes known as Armorica. Elements of the tribe may flee to Britain and Ireland where they form two tribes of Venicones, one in what becomes Pictland and the other in County Donegal, where both are attested by Ptolemy by AD 140.

55 - 54 BC

FeatureLed by Cassivellaunus, several British tribes are involved in the fight against the unwanted Roman expeditions of Julius Caesar which enter the country from the Kent coast. The second expedition embarks from Portus Itius in Gaul, which probably lies in the territory of the Morini. The British tribes who resist the expedition include the Atrebates, Belgae, Cantii, Catuvellauni, and Trinovantes, while others surrender to the invader, namely the Ancalites, Bibroci, Cassi, Cenimagni, and Segontiaci. Cassivellaunus commands around 4,000 chariots, something that has not been seen for a long time on the Continent, and the sight appals the Romans. Caesar himself admires the courage of the Britons.

John Deare's invasion of Julius Caesar
John Deare's late eighteenth century sculpture shows Julius Caesar and his troops on their beachhead in Kent, desperately fighting off the Britons

Tradition has Cassivellaunus fighting Caesar alongside the representatives of the peoples of Britain, Androgeus of the Trinovantes, Tenvantius (the young Bran Fendigaid) of Cornwall, Cridous of Albany, Gueithaet of Venedotia, and Brittahel of Demetia, alongside Nennius, brother of the high king. Nennius dies of his wounds fifteen days after the battle.

c.20 BC

FeatureAppearing in several of the Welsh Triads, Bran Fendigaid, Bran the Blessed, is the son of Lir (or Llŷr in later Welsh) who comes from beyond the waves, from the Living Land. Lir dwells with Penardin White Throat (or Penarddun) in her brother's house (a well-known Celtic custom of temporary marriage where no bride fee is paid), her brother being the otherwise unnamed high king. She is named by the Mabinogion as a daughter of Beli Mawr, which would make her brother Lludd Llaw Ereint, although the genealogy is confused (unusual, if this story is a complete fabrication and not based on partially-remembered events). Bran's younger siblings by Lir are Manadan (or Manawydan) and Branwen, and he has a half-brother born after Lir's return to the Living Lands in the form of Emnissien (or Efnysien).

fl c.30 BC

Bran Fendigaid (the Blessed) / Tenvantius

Son of Lludd. King of Ewyas / the Silures.

Bran becomes high king and is approached by Matholug (or Matholwch), king of Ireland, who asks for Branwen's hand in marriage. Branwen is taken back to Ireland where she gives birth to a son, Gwern. An insult paid to Matholug by the troubled Emnissien plays on his mind so, at the urging of his advisors, Branwen is consigned to captivity in his kitchens. When Bran hears of this, he leads a mighty host which defeats the Irish king. His son, Caradoc, is left in command in Britain. Despite a truce between Bran and Matholug, further fighting erupts, devastating both sides and resulting in the deaths of Bran, Emnissien, Gwern, Matholug and, eventually, Branwen. Only Manadan survives with a few followers to bring Bran's sacred head back to Britain to bury it in the White Mount looking down the Thames to the sea. While the head remains in place, Britain will be protected from invasion from across the sea.

Caradoc ap Bran

Linked to the Silures.

 

When Bran sails with his host to face Matholug, king of Ireland, it is Caradoc who is left in command of the chieftains of the land. These chieftains are Hefeydd the Tall, Unig Strong Shoulder, Iddig ab Anarawd, Ffodor ab Erfyll, Wlch Bone Lip, Llassar fab Llasar Llaes Gyngwyd, and Pendaran Dyfed. Once Bran leaves, Caradoc is attacked by his great-uncle, Caswallawn fab Beli (the historical Cassivellaunus of 54 BC). The chieftains are murdered by him and Caradoc dies of a heart broken by the needless slaughter. When Bran's brother, Manadan, returns from Ireland, he submits to Caswallawn. As Cassivellaunus has already held the high kingship once, quite legitimately, these legends would seem to suggest that he has been removed, and perhaps only recently, around 30 BC.

fl c.30 BC

Caswallawn fab Beli / Cassivellaunus

Son of Beli Mawr. Restored.

c.AD 1 - 41

Cunobelinus / Cunobelin / Cymbeline

King of the Catuvellauni. Acknowledged by Rome.

41 - 43

Togodumnus

King of the Catuvellauni. Killed in battle or died of his wounds.

43 - 51

Caratacus / Guiderius

King of the Catuvellauni. Eventually seized and taken to Rome.

43

MapThe might of imperial Rome invades Britain and quickly starts to conquer individual kingdoms. The Cantii and Trinovantes are amongst the first to fall, while the northern Dobunni appear to surrender. The first Roman Governor leads the campaign.

MapRoman Empire Britannia

From AD 43 to around AD 79 the Romans invaded and conquered the south and east of Britain, although at times their hold on the island appeared tenuous. From there they extended their conquests to cover modern Wales and the north, areas in which their hold would appear even more tenuous, especially in modern Scotland. Aulus Plautius was appointed by Rome as the first Governor of the island in AD 43, and it was he who commanded the legions and their conquests.

FeatureFor the entire period of the Roman occupation of Britain, tradition still dictates that high kings held some form of power or influence in the country. Most of this tradition was written down by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, and most of it is very easy to dismiss. However, the concept of a high king seems to have re-emerged in the fifth century AD, and perhaps for some time after the initial Roman conquest it also persisted, apparently with the Silures having predominance over the other conquered British tribes (if Nennius et al are to be believed at all). Since the Silures fought so hard against Rome, perhaps they had earned the right to proffer titular high kings in place of the Catuvellauni who had been so quickly defeated, and so completely defeated. Many of the later Roman-period names claimed by much later writers as high kings were nothing of the sort. They were often Roman emperors, Roman senior commanders in Britain (such as Magnus Maximus), or even Roman usurpers (such as the Carausius of 286). In fact, it seems that anyone who could rule all of Britain in defiance of Rome itself was eligible.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson and from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, and from Roman Britain: A New History, Guy de la BÚdoyŔre.)

43 - 51

Caratacus fights from 43-51, first in the territories of the Cantii and the Catuvellauni, from where he takes shelter with the southern Dobunni. He then moves to the Silures and the Ordovices, before being defeated in battle for the last time. Caratacus takes shelter with the Brigantes, but is betrayed and handed over to the Romans. Taken in chains to Rome, Emperor Claudius pardons him and his family, and they live out their lives there. The Demetae appear to be subdued in AD 51 but complete conquest of Wales is not effected until AD 79. The Dumnonians are subdued by AD 55, and probably the neighbouring Cornovii with them.

43 - 51

Caratacus / Guiderius

High King of the Britons in opposition to Rome.

59 - 61

Once Prasutagus of the Iceni dies, the Romans begin to ignore the terms of the Iceni's client-statehood. Stirred up by imperial heavy-handedness, Boudicca leads a powerful Celtic uprising involving the Iceni, the Trinovantes and other tribes. It results in the loss to the Romans of lower eastern Britain. After sacking and burning Campulodunum, Londinium, and Verulamium (St Albans), the Celts are confronted by a fresh Roman army under Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and are defeated. Boudicca's fate is unknown, but it is presumed that she commits suicide rather than allow herself to fall into Roman hands.

Boudicca coin
Two sides of a coin issued about AD 61 showing the face of Boudicca and a horse, which was a valuable commodity amongst the Britons

70 - 125

FeatureA period of intense building work following the Boudiccan revolt takes place in London during the Flavian period in the Roman empire, doubling the size of the the municipium and turning it into one of the greatest of cities in Britain. This is the period in which London truly becomes a capital city.

74 - 125

Marius / Meric/ Merius / Meurig

High King. King of the Silures.

78 - 79

The Roman Governor, Julius Agricola, continues his campaign from the territory of the Ordovices and breaks the Deceangli in Mona (Anglesey). Troops are withdrawn from the territory of the Dumnonii to support the campaign.

80 - 84

The Roman Governor of Britain leads two invading columns into Lowland Scotland, The force sets up permanent garrisons in its wake. In AD 81 the Forth-Clyde line is secured, perhaps slightly south of the later Antonine Wall. The following year, the Romans secure the western coast up to the Clyde to contain the tribesmen there (the Damnonii, Selgovae, and Novantae) and perhaps prevent Irish landings. Within the Caledonian heartland, firstly north of the Firth of Forth (in AD 83) and then at Mons Graupius (in AD 84), the Romans win victories over what they call the 'Caledonides' led by Calgucus (probably involving the tribal grouping of the Creones and their neighbours along the western coast), and then fight a decisive battle to end the campaign.

fl 100 - 105

Arviragus / Arbitrages

Hostile, chariot-borne British chieftain, mentioned in Juvenal.

c.100 - 105

Arviragus seems to have been a chief of the northern Brigantes who may be responsible for the burning of the Roman auxiliary fort at Corstopitum (Corbridge), as well as others at this time (including Trimontium, now known as Newstead), as the British tribes of Lowland Scotland stage a major uprising. By AD 100 the Romans give up Scotland, and fully establish their defences along the Tyne-Solway line. Geoffrey of Monmouth claims Arviragus as the son of High King Cymbeline and the father of Marius of the Silures.

c.118 - 120

FeatureThat Britain is the scene of some serious warfare is not in doubt. However, although the weight of evidence points to an invasion from outside the province, this is by no means certain. Emperor Hadrian visits and authorises the construction of a stone Wall along the Tyne-Solway line in 121-122 as part of his defensive reorganisations to divide the barbarians from the Romans. Some forts are maintained to the north of the western section, once the wall is completed in around 127.

125 - 154

Coilus / Coel

Son of Marius. Puppet king, according to the Damnonii exiles.

c.125 - 130

A fairly serious fire occurs in Londinium, presumably from accidental causes. The later archaeological record shows a clear burn layer for this period. Rapid action is taken to rebuild the damaged sections of the city.

Roman Londinium
A recreation of Roman Londinium showing the legionary fort (lower centre) and the River Walbrook running from the north wall (on the left) into the Thames

140 - 143

The Romans move north to the Forth-Clyde line, roughly the southern Caledonian boundary, reoccupying Lowland Scotland and beginning construction of the more basic Antonine Wall (curiously, this takes place immediately after a revolt by the Brigantes is put down). Coins announcing a victory are issued in late 142 or early 143 to mark the event.

148

Corvus of the Alt Clut Damnonii apparently announces the creation of the kingdom in 148, raising a following of British patriots. He dies fighting the Romans in 184 but his kingdom remains outside direct Imperial control, one of four such kingdoms. The others are probably those of the Votadini and Selgovae Britons, and the Novantae Caledonians.

154? - 180?

Lucius / Llewrug Mawr

Son of Coilus. King of the Silures. Introduced Christianity?

163

FeatureIn response to a growing need for troops elsewhere, the Romans seem to abandon the northern, Antonine Wall, although some outpost forts may remain in use until at least the 180s. A fort excavated at Camelon, just two kilometres or so east of Falkirk, seems to confirm a withdrawal date of this time. Hadrian's Wall itself is certainly still garrisoned, as archaeology has proven.

165 - 180

Plague enters Rome from the east, brought back by returning legionaries. It quickly spreads throughout the empire and is generally known as the Antonine Plague. When it arrives in Britain it strikes hard. In 2004, archaeologists uncover the remains of ninety-one men, women and children dumped haphazardly into a mass grave at Glevum in the territory of the former Dobunni tribe.

c.170 - 175

The coastal tribe of the Chauci have long been sea raiders, but by the late second century the problem has grown much worse. Now Chauci raids are as bad as the better-known Saxon raids of the fourth century, but what is assumed to be their last recorded attack happens in this period. Archaeological finds show a layer of destruction along a great deal of the North Sea and Atlantic coast of Europe, between Belgica and southern Gaul, and in eastern Britain, well inside the territory of modern Essex.

The Chauci are prime suspects for the raids, and Rome responds with improved defensive measures over the following thirty years or so. Fortifications are put in place at sites including the Iceni civitas of Venta Icenorum (modern Caistor-by-Norwich), the Trinovantes town of Caesaromagus (modern Chelmsford), and the civitas of the Canninefates, Forum Hadriani (modern Voorburg). This is the start of the system that will develop into the Saxon Shore in Britain.

175

FeatureThe Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, defeats the Iazyges tribe of Alans. He takes them into Roman service and settles them in northern Britain, at Ribchester, south of Lancaster. The Alans are assigned to the VI Legion Victrix, commanded by the Alani warlord who is renamed Lucius Artorius Castus (a candidate for the battle leader, Arthur, of the fifth century).

Roman-era skull from the Walbrook
Even after the Roman occupation of Britain, a number of British customs seem to have survived, such as using human heads as ritual objects, with this skull being placed in the River Walbrook (which flows through the very centre of Londinium)

178 - 180?

FeatureLucius writes to Pope Eleutherius of the Roman Church requesting to become a Christian. The event is first noted in the sixth century Liber Pontificalis, and Bede repeats it, after which Lucius is widely acclaimed as being responsible for introducing Christianity into Britain. His story is expanded by later writers, when he is claimed as the son of former High King Coilus and is credited with founding the church of St Peter upon Cornhill in London (the church carries a plaque to the effect, dating the event to 179). In fact, Lucius may be a misreading of Lucius Aelius Megas Abgar IX, Roman client king of Osroene. However, whether through the involvement of Lucius or not, a British Church does apparently begin to make its presence felt in the country during this century.

Geoffrey of Monmouth claims a date of death for Lucius of AD 156. His home has been in Caer Gloui, suggesting perhaps that it falls within the edges of Silures territory or that they may be a dynastic link between the Silures and the Dobunni. Lucius dies without an heir to succeed him, and the (legendary) high kingship falls vacant. Subsequently, many Roman figures are listed as high kings, some of which certainly do hold positions of power in Britain, either as regional commanders or usurpers.

180 - 185

A serious attack of the northern peoples takes place upon the death of the Roman emperor in 180, either from north of Hadrian's Wall into the province itself (with Alt Clut being an especial candidate), or from beyond the Antonine Wall to attack and devastate Roman forts in Lowland Scotland. Either way, it seems probably that in 184-185 the Roman Governor, Ulpius Marcellus, campaigns with two legions into Lowland Scotland and beyond the Forth-Clyde line into Caledonia.

From the point of view of the high kingship, it seems perhaps more than coincidental that this attack, or uprising, occurs straight after the presumed date of death for Lucius. Could he have provided a voice of reason and complicity with the Romans which the northern peoples chose to observe during his lifetime? Geoffrey of Monmouth has the attack being lead by a British noble man named Sulgenius. Ultimately he captures York and is besieged there. He kills Severus in combat but is mortally wounded himself (which would suggest that the uprising lasts for about thirty years, as the death of Severus is in 211).

193 - 197

Decimus Clodius Albinus

Rival emperor of Rome. Governor of Britain.

197

After an attempt to have Albinus assassinated fails, Emperor Severus marches on Gaul to meet Albinus' forces. The final battle is a close-run affair, but Albinus does not survive the encounter. Severus immediately divides the single province of Britannia, probably in a temporary fashion at first, with division being confirmed within two or three years.

198 - 217

Bassianus (Caracalla)

Son of Septimus Severus. Emperor of Rome.

209 - 212

Geta

Brother. Joint emperor of Rome. Murdered by Caracalla.

209 - 211

Roman Emperor Severus leads a campaign against the Caledonii in person, making his headquarters (and the centre of the Roman empire for three years) at Eboracum (York), but ill-health means he has to hand control of its day-to-day conduct to Caracalla.

Arch of Septimus Severus
The Machiavellian Septimus Severus continued to increase the glory of Rome (this surviving arch is named after him) but he continued the imperial practice of Christian persecution

260 - 274

Against a backdrop of almost unknown Roman Governors in Britain, crisis strikes the weakened empire, with the Rhine frontier collapsing completely to the Alemanni. Britain and Gaul revolt against Rome's control when Marcus Cassianus Latinius Postumus, second-in-command on the Rhine, murders the praetorian prefect, Silvanus, and declares himself emperor. The Roman provinces in Germany, Gaul, Spain, and Britain and their armies support him. For the next thirteen years the whole of the north-western part of the empire is run as an independent but fully Roman state with its own series of emperors, and is called the 'Empire of the Gallic Provinces' (Imperium Galliarum / the Gallic Empire - 260-274).

260 - 268

Marcus Cassianus Latinius Postumus

Usurper emperor of Rome. Murdered.

268 - 270

Victorinus

Usurper emperor of Rome.

270 - 274

Tetricus

Usurper emperor of Rome.

271

Domitianus

FeatureUsurper emperor of Rome. 'Ruled' for four days.

277

Vandali and Burgundians who had crossed the Rhine to invade the Roman empire are defeated by Emperor Probus and are resettled in Britain.

fl c.283

Octavius / Eudaf Hen

FeatureKing of Ewyas, a successor state to the Silures.

285

Roman emperor Diocletian takes the title of Britannicus Maximus, and it seems reasonable to assume that a military success of some importance had been won in his name in Britain.

286 - 287

Carausius, a Roman commander of low birth who had been impressive under Maximianus' command, is suspected of collusion with raiding barbarians. When his execution is ordered he proclaims himself emperor and seizes the Diocese of the Britains. It is at this time that at least one of the Saxon Shore forts is built, that of Anderitum in the territory of the Regninses.

286 - 293

Marcus Mausaeus Carausius

Usurper emperor of Rome.

293

Following the loss of their territories in Gaul to Constantius Chlorus, the western Roman Caesar, Allectus assassinates Carausius and assumes command himself.

293 - 296

Caius Allectus

Usurper emperor of Rome.

296

Allectus is defeated and killed as Rome recaptures Britain, leaving its victorious commander in charge. Geoffrey of Monmouth gives Asclepiodotus the title, duke of Cornwall.

296 - 305

Asclepiodotus

Roman commander who recovered Britain for Rome.

303

St George, an officer of the Roman army, is in Britain when he hears that Christians of the Roman Church are being persecuted by Emperor Diocletian in Rome. He returns to plead their case but is eventually beheaded for refusing to renounce his own belief (George becomes the patron saint of England in the fourteenth century).

fl c.305

Coel Godhebog

Lord of Colchester (early Roman capital of Britain). High king.

305

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Coel Godhebog is lord of Colchester, or Caer Colim (effectively a dux, and perhaps even a protector of part of the Saxon Shore, given his location). In legendary terms, he begins a rebellion against Asclepiodotus and kills him in battle. Then Coel rules the country, submitting to Constantius (suggesting that Coel is a mere figurehead high king, just as Lucius may have been before him, in the second century). Coel dies after a short reign.

305 - 306

Constantius Chlorus

Emperor of Rome. Married Helena. Died at Eboracum.

305 - 306

MapBritannia's two provinces are subdivided into four by Roman reorganisations. These are named (by no later than 314) as Britannia Prima (with a capital at Glevum in former Dobunni territory), Britannia Secunda, Maxima Caesariensis, and Flavia Caesariensis. The new provinces form part of the Diocese of the Britains. At the same time, Constantius personally leads a campaign into Caledonia to bring the elusive tribes in the Highlands to battle and ensure a period of renewed peace.

306 - 337

Constantine the Great

Emperor of Rome. Elevated at Eboracum.

314

Three bishops of the British Church participate in the Roman Church's Council of Arles: Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius of Lincoln or possibly Colchester.

337 - 343

The death of Constantine, and then his eldest son, Constantine II in battle in 340, proves serious for Britain. Its early fourth century age of peace and prosperity begins to vanish. Constans makes a sudden visit in early 343, suggesting something happens in 342 to bring him to Britain at a most unusual time for Channel crossings (possibly warfare against the tribes north of the Wall, evidenced by severe fire damage to at least three forts, Risingham, High Rochester, and Bewcastle). It is also suggested that the widespread refortification of cities which occurs in this century happens as a result of this visit. Units of Germanic laeti begin to appear in some cities, notably Venta Belgarum in the Belgae civitas, and migration begins from south-western Britain (notably the former territories of the Cornovii and Dumnonii) into Armorica.

Venta Belgarum
The Roman city of Venta Belgarum was refortified in the fourth century and Germanic mercenaries were brought in to improve the defences, suggesting an increasing lack of Roman soldiery fitted to the task

353

Following the rebellion of the Roman usurper Magnentius, a witch hunt is conducted, notably in the Diocese of the Britains, where the feared notarius (imperial notary) Paulus lives up to his reputation by targeting the innocent as well as the guilty. In fact the methods used are so extreme and unjust that the vicarius of Britain, Flavius Martinus, attempts to persuade Paulus to release the innocent, and, failing, threatens resignation. This only results in false accusations against him, so as a final desperate act, Martinus is driven to attack Paulus with a sword. Unsuccessful, he commits suicide.

fl 356?

Carausius II

An unverified usurper between 354-358.

359

Three bishops of the British Church participate in the Roman Church's Council of Ariminum. The fact that they have to accept assistance with their travel suggests that as institutions the churches in Britain are not well-off.

364

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and Attacotti (possibly the Britons of Alt Clut) attack the Diocese of the Britains in what seems to be a serious incursion. The term 'Saxons' is used by the Romans to cover all Teutonic races, so these attacks might also be by Jutes, Frisians, or Angles on the eastern North Sea coast, or even the Danes in southern Scandinavia.

c.366

Shortly before 367, three people are killed in Vindolanda Fort near Hadrian's Wall. Archaeologists discover two of them in the 1930s and a coroner's inquest decides they are 'victims of murder by persons unknown'. The third person, who is not necessarily killed at the same time, is thought to be a girl aged between eight and ten who may be tied up before she dies. Human burials are strictly forbidden within built-up areas, and Vindolanda has a cemetery laid out on the settlement's outskirts. The body is located in a shallow pit dug in a corner of the garrison's living quarters at the heart of the fort. It would be very difficult to get a body out of the barracks, through the wider fort and out of the gate, so hiding it here is much easier, but whether the men who share the barracks are accessories is unknown.

367

FeatureThe Barbarian Conspiracy sees attacks falling on the Diocese of the Britains from all sides, although this seems to be the culmination of seven years of large-scale trouble on behalf of the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and the mysterious Attacotti. Initially, Rome is taken by surprise, and the emperor's dux Fullofaudes is put out of action, either killed or cut off, probably near the Wall. Then Nectaridus, comes maritimi tractus (count of the maritime region), is killed in action. Both loses are serious blows, and the barbarians are now able to divide up into bands so that they can steal and sack and burn whatever they like. General Theodosius (the Elder) is sent to salvage the situation, which he does by restoring the army in Britain as a fighting force, pardoning soldiers who had deserted, attacking bands of brigands and looters wherever he finds them, and installing a new vicarius.

At the same point in time, the evidence points to Roman towns being much poorer, politically inactive, and socially weak, although by no means dead. However, decline is clearly setting in. Ratae, in the civitas of the Corieltavi, is struck by a serious fire which destroys the forum, basilica and market hall, as well as a fair chunk of the centre of town. The buildings are never restored. Many forts along the Wall and in the Pennines had also been damaged by fire, probably during the Conspiracy, and only some are restored.

372

In an act of imperial favour, an Alamannic king, Fraomar, is sent to Britain as a military tribune to command a Roman unit of Alemanni cavalry which is already stationed on the island in the modern county of Norfolk, as recorded by Ammianus. A German prince and his small army in Norfolk in the late fourth century sounds like a perfect avenue of entry for later waves of Angles in the following century, where they set up the kingdom of the East Engle.

Geoffrey of Monmouth relates that Octavius begins a rebellion against Roman rule which ousts the Roman proconsul. Octavius rules the country until Trahern, a Briton commanding Roman forces, defeats him in two battles and recovers the country for Rome. He is soon murdered, and Octavius is restored to power. However, it is impossible to discover how true any of this might be. Perhaps it represents a level of unrest in the country that is related to the Barbarian Conspiracy of 367, or perhaps it is simply an invention by later story tellers to enhance the background from which Magnus Maximus emerges.

Octavius / Octaf

Some confusion about this Octavius and Eudaf Hen of c.283.

Trahern

Defeated Octavius for Rome. Murdered in the street.

fl c.378?

Octavius / Octaf

Regained throne.

378 - 388

Magnus Maximus

Western Roman emperor 383-388.

382

FeatureAlthough his exact rank is unknown, Magnus Maximus (or Maximianus, British Maxsen, or Welsh Macsen Wledig) is clearly a senior commander in Roman Britain and an invasion of Picts is successfully defeated by him shortly before he mounts his expedition into Gaul.

According to British oral tradition which later survives in Wales, High King Octaf has a daughter named Elen who is sought out by Emperor Maximus after he first sees her in a dream. Octaf's sister's son is Conan Meriadoc, the foremost of the princes of Britain. At first he is angry that a foreigner has been selected to marry Elen when there are so many eligible Britons, but after threatening to expel the foreigner by force he is won over and becomes firm friends with Magnus.

383

Maximus revolts against ineffectual governance from Rome and plans to invade Gaul with a large army. In preparation, he sets up defences in Wales to protect the west coast from Irish raiders. This includes the creation of a territory in mid-south Wales under the command of his son, Eugenius (incorporating Cernyw and Ewyas). Some forts are abandoned at this time, probably as part of a general reorganisation of the available defensive units. From this point on, all of Britain's high kings originate from within the country, and Maximus selects Coel Hen as his replacement to command most of the militarised zone of Northern Britain. Once the invasion of Gaul commences, Armorica is probably one of the first areas captured, and Maximus is credited by Geoffrey of Monmouth with setting up Conan Meriadoc as high king there.

Magnus Maximus coin
The reverse of this coin issued by Magnus Maximus during his reign as co-emperor shows him standing, holding a laburnum and Victory on a globe

383 - 388

Caradocus

Mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Ruled in Maximus' name.

c.384 - 390

Warfare flares up with the Picts again, and according to Gildas (the first of his 'Pictish Wars'), it lasts 'for many years'. Upon Maximus' death in 388, Emperor Theodosius sends a legion (or a specialist taskforce), probably by 390, to help stop the Pictish attacks once he has promises of submission from the island.

388?

Another dux appears in Britain (the previous known incumbent of this military office being the unfortunate Fullofaudes who had been put out of action during the Barbarian Conspiracy of 367). Coel Hen, as he is known in later British oral and written material, appears to exercise a good deal more power in the northern half of Britain than previous holders of the office. According to tradition, he is assigned to the post by Magnus Maximus, and if this and other traditions about him are correct, he may represent a transition between Roman military official and a ruler in an increasingly independent Britain.

388? - 406?

Coel Hen, Dux Brittanorum

Feature'King of Northern Britain', based at Ebrauc.

c.390

The Deceangli and Ordovices tribes do not have a chance to re-emerge at a time when Roman central authority in the west of Britain is fading earlier and faster than elsewhere. Under threat by waves of Irish raiders, much of the land of these two tribes is incorporated into a new territory when Cunedda Wledig and his branch of Romanised Venicones are transferred from the Manau dependency of the Goutodin to secure North Wales from the raiders. They are extremely successful, and the kingdom of Gwynedd is formed by them.

392 - 394

Britain is again isolated from Rome by the revolt of Arbogast and Eugenius. Theodosius responds by raising his own two year-old son, Honorius, as Western Emperor, and marches on Italy, defeating his enemies at the Battle of Frigidus in 394 on the Italy-Slovenia border.

398

FeatureIt is possible that Roman forces defeat Saxons, Irish Scots, and the Picts in fighting which has been linked to the second of Gildas' 'Pictish Wars'. This is the probable source of the Britons' appeal for help to Rome around this time, although it seems possible that there is in fact no victory, and Stilicho merely attends to the island's defences before withdrawing more troops. One of the Saxon Shore forts known to undergo repairs at this time is that of Anderitum, in the civitas of the Regninses.

402

The official import of new coinage in large quantities comes to an end. Without those coins, trade as it has been known across the empire begins to stutter and slowly die out.

404/405

Troops are withdrawn from Britain to form part of the Roman army that defeats a force of Goths and other barbarians in northern Italy. This comes in the same year as further Irish Scotti raids take place on the south coast.

406

The British provinces are relatively isolated and now constantly lack support from the Empire in their fight against barbarian incursions, so from 406 the remaining soldiers raise a series of their own claimants to the throne. Marcus is probably Geoffrey of Monmouth's Dionotus, whom he calls the duke of Cornwall. Gracianus Municeps is named by Bede.

406

Marcus (Dionotus?)

Elevated Roman soldier. Ruled for a few months.

407

Gracianus Municeps (Gratian)

Urban magistratus or councillor. Ruled for four months. Killed.

After failing to win support from Rome in their hour of need, Geoffrey of Monmouth's semi-mythical history of Britain has the Britons seeking help from Aldroenus, fourth king after Conanus in 'Little Britain, called at that time Armorica or Letavia'. Guithelinus, archbishop of London (see the British Church entry for c.446), is sent to ask the king to take the crown of Britain, but the country has fallen so far from its former magnificence that he declines the offer. Instead he sends his brother, Constantine, with two thousand soldiers. Constantine is raised to the kingship of Britain.

407 - 411

Constantine III (Custennin ap Selyf)

Usurper Western Roman emperor.

407 - 408

Not content with governing Britain, Constantine has his eye on the imperial purple. With Honorius weak in Italy, he quickly crosses into Gaul and secures the Rhine, making Arles, the recently relocated headquarters of the Gallic prefecture, his capital in 408.

Roman silver ingots
Silver ingots from the late fourth or early fifth century which were used to pay soldiers and civil servants in the Late Empire, and which were discovered at the site of the Tower of London, and at Reculver and Richborough in Kent

408 - 411

Constans ap Custennin

Son. Caesar. Killed in Gaul.

408

Constantine sends his son, Constans, and General Gerontius to Hispania to defeat the cousins of Roman Emperor Honorius there and secure that province. Stilicho's forces in Italy rebel and he is executed. As a result of this and intrigues at the imperial court, plus the fact that Alaric's Visigothic army is roaming Etruria, Honorius is left powerless, and gladly accepts Constantine as co-emperor.

409

The Alans, Suevi and Vandali enter Hispania, disrupting Constantine's hold on his territory. Gerontius rebels against Constantine, raises Maximus as his own puppet emperor. With Constantine now in serious difficulties in Gaul, further Saxon raids convince the British and Armoricans to rebel and expel Roman officials, thereby breaking ties with Rome that are never renewed. Roman presence in Britain has been dwindling anyway, for at least the previous three decades, so the split probably produces little change, except that British officials now occupy former imperial posts. Records from this point become extremely sparse and British control on a national level appears to break down for a time.

MapPost-Roman Britain

With the expulsion of Roman officials in AD 409, Britain again became independent of Rome and was not re-occupied. The fragmentation which had begun to emerge towards the end of the fourth century now appears to have accelerated, with minor princes, newly declared kings, and Roman-style magistrates all vying for power and influence while also facing the threat of extinction at the hands of the various barbarian tribes who were encroaching on the borders from all sides.

Various units of laeti and foederati had been settled in the country from the mid-fourth century onwards (probably following the sudden visit to Britain by Emperor Constans in 343). By 409 they had been settled for up to sixty years, and may not have retained much of their 'Germanness'. The country was probably filled with immigrants from all over the former empire: Italians, Gauls, Spanish, Danubians, many of them the descendants of legionnaires and all settled for some time. By now they were part of the very fabric of the country. However, as Edward Dawson points out, later units of laeti may not have been so settled, and there appear to have been large numbers of them around many towns in the south-east of Britain. Amongst all the empire's immigrants, it was the Germans who best retained their cultural identity, sometimes for generations, continuing to teach their children German when others were learning Latin, or perhaps native British. When fresh waves of Germans arrived, conquering all in their path, it was probably not hard for the settled Germans to experience a change of loyalty.

The new states that appeared in Britain (and in some cases disappeared) or were consolidated in the fifth century include Alt Clut, Bernaccia, Bro Erech, Caer Celemion, Caer Colun, Caer Gloui, Caer Gwinntguic, Caer Went, Ceint, Cernyw, Cornouaille, Cornubia, Demetia, Domnonia, Dumnonia, Ebrauc, Elmet, Ercing, Goutodin, Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys, Rhegin, and Vannetais. The region around Caer Lind Colun may also have been under independent British control for a short time, although this was quickly subsumed by Lindsey.

MapIt may have been in this period in which emerged the Welsh concept of Lloegr (Lloegyr, Logris or Loegria). This was a span of territory which was roughly analogous to England south of the Humber, and was remarkably similar to the civilian-controlled areas of Roman Britain, south and east of the military zones of Wales and the North, most clearly shown on the accompanying maps in the AD 70-79 period. Could it have been purely a local term used by tribal Britons to refer to the areas that were under Roman law (continued by the post-Roman administration) instead of military or royal rule (which covered the North and the western principalities by this period)? The name Lloegr may stem from the Latin 'legibus', which means 'laws', and which was also present in Oscan as 'ligis'. There may not have been a Celtic equivalent as this may have been a new word, something that hadn't existed when the Celts and Latins shared a common language. It also has to be wondered just who coined this new name. Was it the Romanised Britons in the south of Britannia who took the general Latin word for laws, 'legibus', and mangled it, or fused it with some Gaulish or Old Brythonic cognate, to form a proper noun which referred to the area of Britannia that was not under military rule or royal tribal rule, indicating that it was ruled by Roman civil law (and therefore, perhaps, a cut above the rough-and-ready North and West). The result might be Lloegr, a word that later entered the Welsh language as the name for England as a whole.

(Additional information by Mick Baker and Edward Dawson, and from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Lindsey, Kevin Leahy, from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, from Herefrith of Louth, Saint and Bishop; A Problem of Identities, A E B Owen, from Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, Vol XV, and from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton.)

409 - c.425

FeatureThis is a period in which central administration apparently breaks down to an extent, with local administrative centres and then rulers beginning to appear. The climb to power of Vortigern of the Pagenses seems to reverse this trend, although in some regions he probably has to administer what are in effect kingdoms rather than provinces. Quite possibly, in true Roman fashion, he acquires the title of emperor, perhaps proclaiming himself 'Emperor of Britannia' in order to cement his hold on power. It seems that he and Aurelius Ambrosius of Caer Gloui form the figureheads for opposing parties, but for the moment it is he who has dominance.

During this period, mercenaries, or laeti, are settled in some regions of the country, possibly to bolster populations of foederati and laeti that may already have been in place for some generations. Groups are known to exist along the Thames Valley, in the north of Caer Celemion, and along the Saxon Shore from Caer Gwinntguic to Ceint and Caer Went. There is a strong economic reason for placing them in the Thames Valley and other lowland areas. Northern coastal Germans (Angles, Jutes, Frisians and Saxons) are accustomed to employing a farm economy set in lowlands, not uplands. They know how to work marshes and river valleys, so these settlement areas suit them entirely.

416

FeatureA synod is held in Carthage (the Council of Carthage) in the Roman province of Africa which takes a firm line against the Pelagian 'heresy'. Pelagius (c.354-420/440) is a British ascetic who has allegedly denied the doctrine of original sin and he finds many supporters in Britain and the British Church, especially amongst the educated classes.

420

The use of coinage (usually silver coins) as the means of substantial payment seems to die out within ten years of this date. However, a high level of self-sufficiency in both civil service and the army has already become the established norm in Britain for the best part of a century, so this in itself is far from being a sign of the collapse of civilisation.

425 - c.455

Wortigernos / Vitalinus (Vortigern)

King of Pagenses. First emperor of Britain? Died by fire.

429

St Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, visit Britain to fight the Pelagian 'heresy' that is running rampant through the British Church. They meet with a still extant Romano-British aristocracy (the principle proponents of the heresy), probably at Verulamium (Caer Mincip, possibly administered from Caer Colun). The following year, in line with standard Roman imperial policy in Gaul, Vortigern brings in Saxon allies to help restore order along the borders.

St Germanus of Auxerre
The Alleluia Victory saw St Germanus lead the Britons to a bloodless victory over marauding Saxons, perhaps demonstrating that the country was finally managing its own defence

c.432 - 436

Aurelius Ambrosius of Caer Gloui is apparently a leader of a British council, which presumably answers to Vortigern. It is his decision to confirm the Irish Deisi as commanders of the Demetia area of the west coast to counter the threat of Irish raiders. Vortigern acquiesces and assigns Ambrosius 'Dinas Emrys and all the western lands', suggesting that Ambrosius becomes the architect for the defence of these western areas. This is motivated by the council's reluctance to depend entirely on Saxon mercenaries, with their constant demands for increased provisions, especially in an area were they would be lightly supervised. The Deisi have already been settled for some time and would be self-supporting.

c.437/438

According to Gildas and Nennius when referring either to Aurelianus Ambrosius (Ambrosius the Elder) or his son, this family represents the Romanised nobility in Britain, and they appear to be based at the city of Caer Gloui and its surrounding territories. They are the main opposition to Vortigern's pro-Celtic faction, and it is at this time that the increasing animosity between the two groups erupts into internecine warfare. The factions fight the Battle of Guolloppum (Cat Guolph, Wallop in Hampshire). The result is uncertain, but it is probably followed by a period of civil strife in eastern and southern Britain.

fl c.437 - c.446

Ambrosius the Elder

Leader of the Romanised opposition in Britain. Killed by plague.

c.440 - 441

Saxon foederati and laeti (settled on the east coast and Thames Valley, and probably increased in number since the barbarian raids on Britain of 409) take advantage of the unrest and openly revolt. As a cause they cite the failure of the British to supply them with provisions which may have been reduced to zero as a consequence of the civil war.

FeatureBy 441, the Gallic Chronicles report large sections of Britain under German control following Saxon revolt: "Britain, abandoned by the Romans, passed into the power of the Saxons". Communications between Britain and Gaul are disrupted, vacated towns and cities are in ruin. The migration of Romano-British towards the west and to Armorica turns into a torrent, with emigrants coming especially from Dumnonia and Cornubia. The country begins to be divided geographically, along factional lines.

c.446

St Germanus' second visit to Britain rids the country of the last of the Pelagian heresy when he visits Elafius' subjects. Elafius seems likely to be the leader of the territory of Caer Gwinntguic. Severe plague hits southern Britain in the same year, and unburied bodies are to be found in the streets of cities such as Caer Ceri.

450

MapFormer Celtic tribal associations continue to re-emerge as independent territories and kingdoms develop over the course of the fifth century. There is evidence of the reuse and refortification of Iron Age hill forts. Cadbury Congresbury in Somerset is producing substantial quantities of Mediterranean pottery, with smaller amounts also coming from South Cadbury as local leaders move their residences to more protected locations.

Post-Roman Londinium
By the mid-fifth century Londinium had been largely abandoned following at least half a century of slow decay and a steadily dwindling population, but with trade virtually ceased the city's purpose was temporarily ended

It is attacks by the Picts (under Drust mac Erp) and Irish Scotti that prompts Vortigern to hire Jutish and Angle mercenaries to fight them off. Hengist and Horsa are invited into Britain and land at Ypwines fleot (Ebbsfleet). Traditionally, they fulfil the terms of their contract by fighting back the invaders and receive territory on which to settle on the island of Ynys Tanatus (Thanet) in Ceint (although according to British oral tradition, they are first given territory around the Wash and only gain Tanatus after their numbers are swelled by a massive influx of their countrymen).

c.455

According to later British tradition, Vortigern is removed from office by the council after trying to settle yet more foreign laeti in Britain, this time in the north-east, within the territory of the 'Kingdom of Northern Britain'. The high kingship is given to his eldest son, the able and popular Vortimer. Hengist, seeing that he no longer has a malleable ally, revolts and the territory or kingdom of Ceint is quickly overrun.

c.455 - 457

Vortimer / Britu

Son of Vortigern. King of Gwent. Appointed to replace Vortigern.

c.455

In the east of the island, the new and more serious foederati revolt sees a loss of territory to Jutes and Angles that is never regained by the Britons. The new arrivals have seen how weak are the British defences and begin a takeover of the kingdom of Ceint, aided by the many foederati settlements in key areas of the land, especially along the Saxon Shore forts and at Canterbury. They are probably further encouraged by the chaos in Roman Gaul following the murder of the magister militum Aetius. Hengist's polyglot army fights British forces (traditionally commanded by Vortimer) at a place they name Ăgelesthrep or Ăgelsthrep (probably Aylesford or, less likely, Epsford, both in Kent). Vortimer's brother, Cadeyrn Fendigaid, king of the Pagenses, is killed, as is Hengist's brother, Horsa.

FeatureAgain according to later tradition, Vortimer is poisoned and his death allows Vortigern to reclaim the high kingship temporarily before he is faced by Ambrosius Aurelianus. Vortigern flees to his ancestral lands, 'at the fortified camp of Genoreu, on the hill called Cloartius', in Ercing, by the River Wye. There he meets his end when Ambrosius sets fire to his fortress with him inside it. Historically speaking, as much as extremely limited historical knowledge will allow, Aurelianus and his probable successor, Artorius, seem to lead the fight to preserve the remaining British territory. If Vortigern had titled himself 'Emperor of Britannia', then it seems reasonable to assume that his successors copy this, but after Artorius even the grounds for this supposition become reduced.

As if all that isn't enough, in the region of Deywr within the 'Kingdom of Northern Britain', Soemel is noted by the later royal pedigree as someone who 'separated Deira from Bernicia'. It seems to be Soemel who probably refuses to blindly obey orders and instead establishes negotiated terms of service, perhaps on a semi-independent basis. This time of chaos and confusion would be an ideal date for this event. At the same time, it would seem likely that Angles from Deywr are settling in Lindsey, which may still be under Romano-British control.

c.457 - c.480

Ambrosius Aurelianus (Riothamus?)

Magistrate of Caer Gloui. Possible 2nd emperor of Britain.

FeatureGeoffrey of Monmouth proposes an almost entirely mythical account of the life of Ambrosius Aurelianus. It ends with him being poisoned by Saxons, and his brother, Uther Pendragon, succeeds him. Uther immediately sets out to attack the Saxons involved in his brother's death, who have teamed up with Paschent (Pascent of Buellt), son of Vortigern, and a young nobleman of Ireland named Gillomanius (could this individual be the contemporaneous High King Lˇeguire macNÚill?). Uther defeats them all, killing Paschent and Gillomanius. Then Uther has to defeat a resurgent Octa (which scholars think might actually be the real name of Hengist of Kent) before enjoying a largely peaceful reign that leads up to the well-known death of Gorlois of Cornwall and the birth of Arthur Pendragon.

Romano-Britons burying treasure
With discord building in the country between about 420-450, many Romano-Britons left in a hurry, burying their wealth in the hope that they could return in better times to collect it

457

After much hard fighting at a place called Crecganford (Crayford in Kent), and apparently heavy losses, the British abandon Ceint. The Saxons who had joined Hengist in 455 also settle in what is becoming Kent, but they have little impact on the Jutish nature of the kingdom and leave few traces. Some of them instead push further west to form early elements of the Middel Seaxe.

c.460

Occupation of Cadbury Castle is re-established, perhaps selected for its defensive capabilities in these troubled times. Its reoccupation is not in the form of a city or an established seat of government for successive rulers. Instead it seems to be a place that a British leader of stature, perhaps Ambrosius Aurelianus, or Riothamus (if they are not one and the same person), makes his personal headquarters.

468 - 469

FeatureRiothamus, 'King of the Britons', crosses the Channel to Gaul, bringing 12,000 ship-borne troops. 'Riothamus' is a title rather than a name, apparently meaning 'supreme king', which raises the possibility that he is Ambrosius Aurelianus. Riothamus remains in the country for a year or more (perhaps reinforced by Armorican Bretons), and advances to Bourges and even further. Gaul's imperial prefect, the deputy of the Western Roman emperor, treacherously undermines him by apparently dealing with the Visigoths.

Caught by surprise by the Visigoths, Riothamus fights a drawn-out battle near Bourges but is eventually defeated when no imperial forces come to his assistance. He escapes with the remnants of his army into the nearby territory of the Burgundians, never to be heard of again. A second battle soon follows which involves a combined army consisting of units of Romans, troops from Soissons under Comes Paulus, and Burgundian foederati, but they are also defeated, and Soissons and Armorica are cut off from Rome. The disappearance from history of Riothamus does not rule out the possibility of him successfully returning to Britain, but this would also be a reasonable date for Arthur to take command of Britain's defence as his successor.

477

Newly arrived Saxons under Ălle and his sons land at Cymens ora and beat off the Britons who oppose their landing (part of the proposed British kingdom of Rhegin), driving them to take refuge in the great forest called Andredesleag (The Weald). These Saxons quickly become known as the Suth Seaxe.

c.480 - 511

Artorius / Arthur Pendragon

Son of Uthyr/Uther & Eigr. Possible 3rd emperor of Britain.

FeatureThere is a great deal of material that has been written about Arthur, or more properly Artorius, but there is little direct proof of his existence. For that reason, many scholars have chosen to disbelieve entirely in his existence. However, it seems impossible that an individual who makes such an impact on history that later generations of kings name their sons after him, and who is included in a vast body of literature could not exist. In an historical sense, it seems logical to place him in the last few decades of the fifth century, governing, or at least protecting, the country after Ambrosius Aurelianus and before his traditional date of death in 511 (or 537 by some sources), and perhaps claiming Cadbury Castle as his headquarters.

Traditionally, again, he is the son of Eigr (Ygerna), the daughter of Anblaud 'the Imperator', who has a connection to Ercing. He marries Guinevere, a medieval form of a Cornish name that is probably Veneva (and which descends as the modern Jennifer). She is a princess of Dumnonia, and possibly a sister to King Gerren. Artorius himself is primarily a leader of cavalry, the best weapon of the British against the foot-slogging Saxons for as long as they can maintain their breeding stock. This is the force he leads against Geoffrey of Monmouth's Saxon leaders, Colgrin, Badulf, and Chelderic (the first of whom is sometimes linked to Deywr), while being supported by King Hoel of Brittany. This is also how he enters into legend.

486

Clovis of the Franks defeats, captures and executes Syagrius, the last Roman commander of Soissons. The Franks are now completely dominant in northern Gaul and Roman control has been thrown off. The death of Syagrius also sends a signal to the Saxons and other Germanic peoples that attempting to settle in Gaul is now hopeless. This would seem to be the single defining event that forces the Saxons to turn their attention to invading Britain instead.

488

This is the last recorded entry for the Jutes of Kent in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle until 565. The battles against the Britons move further westwards as they lose the south coast to the Suth Seaxe, Londinium to the Middel Seaxe and their Suther-ge, and the Upper Thames to the Thames Valley Saxons and Ciltern Saetan.

However, the influx of Saxon fighters may have slackened since 460, when the prospects for soldiers of fortune may have seemed better in the remnants of Roman Gaul, coupled with the fact that the Britons are apparently starting to gain the upper hand (especially in the traditional twelve victorious battles of Arthur in locations such as Lind Colun). Despite this apparent improvement in fortunes, the sense of profound shock that has been dealt to British society by events since the first major Saxon revolt around 441 has triggered changes that will see the rapid mutation of British into early Welsh in the space of about a century. Young people in this period who grow up with British and Latin languages may be hearing their grandchildren speaking a different tongue. Even the bardic tradition begins to break down, with the sounds and patterns of their words destroyed by the changes. Much of the Iron Age tradition is lost, although fragments survive.

Remains of Roman Canterbury
The Roman city of Canterbury was, by the sixth century, in ruins, with small Jutish houses built in between. The remains of the city wall can be seen in the distance

495

FeatureAccording to tradition Cerdic lands in five ships on the south coast at Cerdices ora, together with Saxon and possibly some Jutish companions, and begins a takeover of the local Jutish, Saxon and sub-Roman territories. The Jutes and Saxons who are already settled there are apparently already referring to themselves as the West Seaxe (possibly separate from the earlier Meonware settlers to the east).

The fighting begins on the same day as Cerdic 'arrives', suggesting that his potential power play begins in violence or immediate resistance. If Cerdic is in fact a Briton who rebels against the remaining central authority (which seems to be a distinct possibility), then given his location he could be serving as a magistrate of the Belgae territory of Caer Gwinntguic until he seizes part of the tribe's territory in order to found his own little empire. It is another blow to British unity and defence.

c.496

FeatureArthur commands the defence of Mons Badonicus against a confederation of Saxon and Jutish warriors which is led by Ălle of the Suth Saxe. The British victory grants them a generation of relative peace and consigns the South Saxons to subsequent obscurity. All building and repair work on major new defensive works probably comes to an end with the victory.

There is now a gap in Germanic Bretwaldas for the next half century. This is probably due to the Mons Badonicus defeat and the long peace between the Britons and the Germanic coastal settlements. As there is no significant warfare, there can be no significantly superior war leader to push forward the Germanic advance. Quite the opposite, in fact, as there seems to be a reverse migration of Angles and Saxons into the Continent during the first half of the sixth century.

Geoffrey of Monmouth has Arthur handing the kingship over to Constantine, but that would presume that the dating shown here is wrong. An alternative date (also given by Geoffrey) for Arthur's retreat to Avalon (Glastonbury in Dumnonia) is 542, which would provide an overlap between Arthur and Constantine, but would displace Arthur's fifth century activity against the Saxons. This revision might only work if his father, Utherpendragon, had actually existed and had enjoyed the long reign given to him by Geoffrey.

c.530 - c.540

Constantine / Custennin ab Cado

King of Dumnonia.

531

On the Continent, the Franks of Austrasia conquer the Thuringians. Portions of territory are lost to the Saxons, probably to the Continental Saxons, but there also seems to be a reverse migration of Germanics from the east coast of Britain, where the recent British victory at Mons Badonicus has cut them off from the acquisition of new lands. These returning Angles and Saxons appear to be given land in Thuringia by King Theuderich. However, it is also at this time, in this century, that the migration of Britons from the mainland to Brittany is at its heaviest, weakening the British defensive position for the future.

fl 540

Aurelius Conanus

King of Caer Gloui.

? - 540

Vortiporus / Vortiporius

King of Demetia.

c.540 - 549

Malgo / Maglocun / Maelgwyn Gwynedd

King of Gwynedd.

547

In the north, the British kingdom of Bernaccia is seized by the Angles who have been serving as laeti and the ruling king, Morgan Bulc is forced out. He takes refuge with the Goutodin, shifting his power base there, but the loss leaves a gaping hole in the defences of the eastern coastline. It is the first such breach in the defences of the north, despite a century of such chaos to the south of Britain, and suddenly the defensive strength of the Men of the North looks shaky.

549 - c.600

MapFollowing the death of the powerful Maelgwyn, and given the dearth of information about the Northern British kings at this time, it is entirely plausible to place Keretic and the 'three unnamed tyrants' below as kings in the North.

It is odd to have such a gap so late in the list, but not if those rulers were from the poorly documented North. The Saxon advance in the south also lends weight to this hypothesis (by Mick Baker). Their westwards advance becomes much more rapid, with them soon swallowing much of Somerset and Dorset from Dumnonia. The Angles also advance, taking large swathes of central and northern Britain, and ending any realistic claim by the high kings of Britain to rule over the whole island.

Saxon cremation urns from the area around London
By the mid-sixth century, Saxons were settling around Londinium, and using pots such as these for their cremation burials, while the seax blade is generally more Frankish than Saxon, but the city itself remained overgrown and in ruins for another half a century

Three unnamed tyrants now claim the high kingship. The names below are accepted as high kings in other references, and their dates fall conveniently into the gap left between the reigns of Malgo and Keretic, but they are not in the list formed by Geoffrey of Monmouth. To differentiate them, they are shown here in red text.

549 - 560?

Morgan Bulc

King of Bernaccia (to 547), and Goutodin (c.560 onwards).

552

The West Seaxe conquest of Caer Gwinntguic proves that the southern Saxons have recovered from their massive Mons Badonicus defeat. From this point onwards, the Britons continually lose territory until the modern borders of Wales are decided.

560? - 579

Rhydderch Hen

King of Alt Clut.

579 - 590

Urien

King of North Rheged.

577

Caer Gloui, together with Caer Baddan and Caer Ceri, falls to the West Seaxe. With this collapse, the territory of Caer Celemion to the east is now totally isolated, and Dumnonia is cut off from any overland contact with other surviving British territories. Gwent and Pengwern now form the western frontier against further Saxon advances. The Hwicce take over the territory and eventually push its borders north into Worcestershire, at the expense of Pengwern.

590 - 613

Keretic / Keredic / Ceredig

Probably the same Ceretic as in Elmet.

580

Ebrauc (York) falls to the Angles of Deira. It is a major blow to British hopes of regaining control of the country and blots out at least two and-a-half centuries of Christian worship in one of the British Church's key bishoprics. It seems likely that, if he exists, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Archbishop Tadioceus of York flees the city with the rest of the nobility, holding his title as an exile, perhaps from Elmet.

595

FeatureThe Annales Cambriae records the death of Dynod of Dunoting in battle against the Bernicians. He is probably the last British ruler of the Pennines (unless the remnants of the territory are absorbed into North Rheged). His family are forced to flee to Powys, including his second son, the famous bard, Aneirin, while another son, Deiniol, is already in Gwynedd as the British Church's first bishop of Bangor.

By this time the Deiran and Bernician Angles are pushing far into British territory, and the Iclingas are expanding to the south with only Elmet and Cynwidion holding out in this region as enclaves until 616-617, and South Rheged until about 613.

c.597

The Gododdin is a long series of elegies composed from the early seventh century onwards which commemorates a force of Britons who assemble in Goutodin at this time. This force marches south to fight the Angles at Catreath and seemingly attacks the Roman fort near the strategic road junction now called Scotch Corner. Ultimately, the battle is a disaster for the Britons. The flower of the Northern British warrior class is decimated by the superior numbers of the Bernicians. Goutodin, as well as the other kingdoms of the north, probably including Elmet, are all fatally weakened by the defeat.

603

The first meeting between the Roman Church in the form of St Augustine of Canterbury, and the Celtic Church (the descendant of the former British Church of the Roman period) takes place. It is arranged when Ăthelbert of the Cantware uses the Hwicce as intermediaries, and the meeting goes favourably for Augustine.

A second meeting is quickly arranged, although perhaps not in the same year. This takes place at Abberley in Worcestershire, probably close to the border between the Hwicce and Pengwern. It is attended by seven bishops of the Celtic Church, along with many learned monks, mainly from Bangor-is-Coed (in Pengwern). The meeting ends in disappointment for the Roman envoy, with no agreements of cooperation or unity being reached between the two churches, especially in regard to the important question of the calculations for Easter and evangelising the pagan English.

The Mote of Mark
The Mote of Mark is an early hill fort at Rockcliffe, overlooking Rough Firth, which was occupied in the sixth century, presumably by Rheged's nobility

c.600 - 610

The territory of Caer Celemion is destroyed, probably by Ceawlin of the West Seaxe. It is the last British-held territory south of London and east of Dorset to fall. The town of Calleva Atrebatum is abandoned and its wells are filled in to prevent its citizens from returning.

c.610 - 630

Pressure from the Ciltern Saetan to the south and the Middil Engle to the north forces the kingdom of Calchwynedd into collapse around this time. The territory is subjugated by the rapidly growing power of the kingdom of Mercia, which in this period often shows signs of being partially British itself, either in its early ancestry in Britain or in its choice of allies and the people who probably form a good percentage of the population.

613

After Keretic, the high kings are dominant only in Wales and surviving British western territories. However, even contact with territories such as Dumnonia, Elmet, and Gododdin are becoming tenuous, as the lines of communication are cut. In the first half of the seventh century, the whole of northern Britain is lost, including South Rheged around this time, cutting off Alt Clut, Gododdin, and Galwyddel.

613 - 625

Cadvan / Catamanus

King of Gwynedd.

617

Cadwallon (and probably his father) already holds a claim on the crown of Deira as part of his domains. He now apparently includes Elmet in this claim, following the kingdom's conquest by Edwin of Deira.

625 - 634

Cadwallo / Cadwallon ap Cadfan

King of Gwynedd. Claimed the Deiran crown, including Elmet.

633 - 634

Uniquely, perhaps, Penda of Mercia allies himself not to other English kingdoms but to the Brito-Welsh of the west Midlands and Wales. In this year, already working in alliance with Cadwallon, Penda kills Edwin of Bernicia and Deira. It seems that, up until this great victory, Penda is the junior partner in the alliance, but following Cadwallon's death in 634 he holds all the cards and is senior partner in the alliance with Pengwern.

634 - 664

Cadwaladr

King of Gwynedd. Last high king of Britain.

664

Cadwaladr is probably killed by the great plague that hits the country. There is no obvious candidate to replace him, and such is the extent of the loss of territory over the past century that there is no longer a 'British' Britain over which to claim any high kingship. Instead, the rival Anglo-Saxon Bretwaldaship takes precedence. Kingdoms such as Dyfed, Gwynedd, and Powys remain independent in the west, with Dumnonia in the south-west, and Alt Clut in the far north, but everywhere else the English are in control. A revised form of the British high kingship later emerges in medieval Wales, but only after centuries of internecine rivalry to work out just who qualifies as a 'prince of Wales'.