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Post-Roman Britain

Arthur Identified as Cadwaladr of Meirionnydd

by Mick Baker, 28 October 2003. Updated 15 June 2017

In an online article of 2003 which was entitled Arthur and Camlann, the argument was put forward for identifying Arthur as Cadwaladr, ruler of Meirionnydd and contemporary of Owain Ddantgwyn. [1]

Cadwaladr, we were told, could have been known as dux bellorum, a Latin title which was used to describe Arthur, since by analysing Cadwaladr's name we arrive at a similar title. In answer to those who would contest the use of Latin military titles being used by Nennius, the article in question goes on to illustrate its support with several precedents:

Cuneglasus = lanio fulve ('tawny butcher' - a military title?). Actually, it means nothing of the sort, it translates as 'grey hound'.

Vortigern = superbus tyrannus

Voteporix = protictoris ('protector') [uotep = votep + rix (king) - as the article puts it, 'a sort of onomastic explicatory gloss'].

The article also demonstrates the explanatory etymological leap between the Dumnonian king, Mark [Marcus Conomari], and his alternative names, Cunomorus or Cynfawr ('hound-great'). By linking together the Germanic components, 'cuno' / 'cyn', with the Old English 'cyne' - and similarly - 'morus' / '-fawr' equals OE 'mearh' (meaning horse), we arrive at Old Norse 'marr', meaning 'horse, steed'. By means of these methods the article demonstrates that with such precedents it is quite feasible for Cadwaladr to be synonymous with the dux bellorum (from 'cad-', meaning 'battle', and 'gwaladr', meaning 'lord, prince, leader, chieftain', for a meaning for 'battle-leader'.

However, in the case of Cunomorus, an equally logical link could be drawn with the Votadini chieftain, Cunedda, as can be seen with the Viroconium inscription 'Cunorix' (see the Owain Ddantgwyn feature for more details, via the 'following pages' links, right).

Likewise, if such linguistic gymnastics can be applied to provide what seems to be these most fragile and tenuous links, then surely the connections between Owain Ddantgwyn and his father, Enniaun Yrth (with 'Yrthr' being equal to the far better-known 'Uther'), and the description of Cuneglasus as 'the charioteer of the Bear's stronghold' (Din Arth) are no less shaky and unconvincing?

When all is said and done we can do no more in this case than to theorise and say that Maelgwn [of Gwynedd] killed his uncle. Therefore the legendary tale of Medraut (Mordred) killing his uncle - Arthur - would seem to be based on the actions of the king of Gwynedd.

King Arthur in film
The list of candidates which have been put forward as potentially historical 'King' Arthurs is extensive, although many are without substantial backing, including the claim for Cadwaladr ap Meirchion to take the honour

[1] The author of the original article, August Hunt, has studied this field for many years and no longer holds the opinions which he expressed in the original piece. Instead his latest work, The Arthur of History: A Reinterpretation of the Evidence can be purchased via Amazon or downloaded from the Academia.edu website (dead link).

The article in question said that Cadwaladr had the right name at the right place and the right time, and the author knew of no other candidate which would fit all three conditions. Reference to the place would indeed seem to have been acceptable. However, the name was arrived at on very thin evidence and this author has never seen a direct reference to Cadwaladr as 'Dux Bellorum'.

The article's hypothesised date also should be disputed. The more likely date of 519 or 520 is preferred for Arthur's final conflict [although the earlier date of 511 is generally preferred for use across the site as this seems to fit in better with the general perception of Arthur as a fifth century warrior - Ed]. There are too many other contemporary dates which fit in with this one for Cadwaladr to be considered as a possible candidate. It should be added, however, that a conflict with a Medraut at a place called Camlann does make this an attractive theory, date notwithstanding.

Another theory, developed by Mark DeVere Davis, has Cuneglasus himself identified as Arthur. This is a well-argued and fascinating hypothesis, which deserves the full attention of any serious scholar (see Arthur and Cuneglasus, by Mark DeVere Davis on the author's website).



Text copyright © Mick Baker. An original feature for the History Files.