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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain


MapVenicones (Britons)

FeatureMapThis was a Celtic tribe that was located in Fife (now in Scotland) and on both banks of the Tay. The tribe's existence there was recorded between the first and second centuries before perhaps merging into other, later tribal groupings. They were bordered by the Taexali to the north, the Caledonii to the west (perhaps the original tribe of that name into which was lumped all the other western tribes by Roman writers), the Epidii to the south-west, and the Damnonii and Votadini to the south.

The Venicones would seem to have been very successful until the Romans showed up. They dominated a swathe of territory between Fife and the western coast, probably conquering the Epidii either fully, or weakening them and making them subject - this seems to be an easy assertion because the Dal Riada Scots later gained their foothold on the island of Britain by taking the (weakened) Epidii lands. Unfortunately for the Venicones, they occupied the very region that the Romans needed to invade several times in order to quell attacks by Britons in the east of the Highlands, including attacks by the 'Pictish navy'. A legionary fortress was built at Inchtuthill, Tayside (Pinnata Castra), which remained occupied during the late first century by the Twentieth Legion Valeria. (See the map of most of Europe's tribes around the first centuries BC and AD to view the tribe's location in relation to all other Celts via the map link, above.)

The Venicones name was pronounced 'wen-ichones', most likely due to a shift in the language. In the case of this tribe, the original name was 'venet' (the 't' becoming a 'ch') plus '-on' (definitive article - as in 'the') plus the later addition of '-es' - another (possibly unnecessary) plural suffix. The Romans would probably have mispronounced it. They apparently added their plural suffix to the already-present plural definitive article, giving us Venicones. The origin of the name suggests (but does not prove) a link to the Veneti tribe of Armorica. Elements may have fled Roman advances, arriving in northern Britain and also, according to the geographer Ptolemy, settling in County Donegal in Ireland as the Venicnii.

FeatureGwynedd is said to have been founded by Britons from Manau Gododdin which was located on both sides of the Firth of Forth and the River Forth. These Britons had a fort believed to be at what is now Clackmannan ('Stone of Manau'), north of the Forth. A second possible candidate for their fort could be above Tillicoultry (Castle Craig, five kilometres to the north, but unfortunately destroyed by a quarry). Another natural area for a citadel can be found at Stirling (a few kilometres to the west). Bede mentions Stirling as urbs Guidi, and this was adapted to provide the Firth of Forth with its early Welsh name of merin Iodeo, 'the sea of Iudeu'. Unlike later British writers, Roman writers did not describe this area as Gododdin territory. To them it was the land of a Pictish (British) tribe called the Venicones, and it was these people, perhaps tributary to the Gododdin Britons, who founded Gwynedd, coming from a fort in Fife called Manau, which was nominally under Gododdin overlordship, hence 'Manau Gododdin'.

The region's most famous son is, of course, Cunedda Wledig, the chieftain who, according to Welsh tradition, was invited to found Gwynedd on the condition that he freed the region from Irish raiders. As he hailed from Venicones territory, his traditional ancestry is shown in this list. Much of the list dates from anything up to the tenth century, so its believability beyond Tacitus ap Cein is highly doubtful and preceding names are backed in lilac to reflect their legendary status. However, given that the tribe may have fled the first century BC arrival of the Romans in Armorica, the assumed dating for the first name in the list (apart from the dubious addition of a British high king before him), that of Afallach, does lend it something of an air of authenticity. It may be highly speculative to suggest, but perhaps it was this chieftain who led the migration to Britain.

(Information by Edward Dawson, with additional information from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K. Faux, from A History of the English Church and People, The Venerable Bede (Leo Sherley-Price translation - revised by R E Latham), from Geography, Ptolemy, and from Life of Agricola, Tacitus.. Other sources are listed in the 'Barbarian Europe' section of the Sources page.)

fl c.80 BC

Lludd Llaw Ereint (the Silver-Handed)

Son of Beli Mawr. High King of Britain.

c.56 BC

The fleet of Roman general Julius Caesar defeats the Veneti off the coast of what comes to be 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.

fl c.45 BC

Afallach ap Lludd

'Son'. Possibly led the Venicones to Britain?

fl c.10 BC

Owain ap Afallach

Brother of Euddolen ap Afallach, ancestor of kings of Powys.

fl c.AD 25

Prydein ap Owain


fl c.60

Dubwn ap Prydein


AD 80 - 81

The Roman Governor of Britain leads two invading columns into Lowland Scotland, with (probably) the Twentieth (previously based at Glevum in Dobunni territory) and Ninth Legions meeting up at Inveresk (near Edinburgh) in the territory of the Votadini Britons. The force sets up permanent garrisons in its wake. The following year, the Forth-Clyde line is secured, perhaps slightly south of the later Antonine Wall and edging into the territory of the Venicones.

Hill fort site at Tillicoultry
The former site of the hill fort of Tillicoultry is one candidate for the Venicones capital, although the Roman presence this far north was so transitory (relatively speaking) that firm detail about almost anything in Scotland is hard to come by

83 - 84

Within the Caledonian heartland, firstly north of the Firth of Forth (in AD 83) and then at Mons Graupius (or Mons Grampius, in AD 84), the Romans under Governor Julius Agricola win victories over what they call the 'Caledonides' led by Calgacus. The first area of operations, north of the Firth of Forth, is probably against the Venicones and their navy, the 'Pictish navy' which worries the Romans so much. The idea is to pre-empt an intended attack by the Caledonians, but it almost proves disastrous in the first year as the Ninth Legion is surprised by a night assault and is only just rescued by the main force.

The Roman mention of a 'Pictish navy' is an oddity on its own because the Celts of Britain are mostly afraid of the ocean and stay off it... with the exception of the Belgae in general and the Continental Veneti in particular. So the Romans are forced to launch their expedition into Caledonia to take out this potent weapon. After taking Fife as far as its border at the north bank of the Tay, they settle back into a defensive series of towers that leaves them in control of Fife. This is the territory of the Venicones, which makes it very easy to suggest that the Venicones are the tribe that has been operating the Pictish navy. The shift from Veneti to Venicones is an easy one to make (although it is circumstantial, backed up by no written evidence).

So what would the Romans do with the Venicones after conquering them? Some would be killed, others enslaved, but the bulk of the population are turned into yet another Roman client state, with its leadership consisting of Romanised locals. The evidence for their Romanisation can clearly be seen in the names of later descendants of Afallach ap Lludd (below).

fl c.95

Eufwn ap Dubwn


fl c.130

Anwrid ap Eufwn


140 - 143

The Romans move north to the Forth-Clyde line, roughly the southern Pictish boundary, reoccupying British Lowland Scotland and beginning construction of the more basic Antonine Wall. It is around this time that the geographer, Ptolemy, notes the tribes to the north of the wall. Some of them receive their one and only mention in history and it is thought that at least one or two tribes may have been created by refugees fleeing the Roman invasion of the south. The Venicones are mentioned as occupying the peninsula between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth.

fl c.165

(Gwr-)Dufn ap Anwrid


fl c.200

(Gwr-)Doli ap Dufn


fl c.235

(Gwr-)Cein ap Doli


fl c.270

Tacitus ap Cein / Tegid


fl c.305

Paternus Pasrut (of the Red Robe)



The Romanised Paternus Pasrut (or Padarn Beisrudd, a possibly more accurate native version of his name) is, according to tradition, a fairly high ranking Romano-British official or a frontier chieftain who is placed in command of Votadini troops in the Clackmannanshire region of Pictland. He is clearly one of the Romanised locals who had been set up in positions of authority by the Romans following their first conquest of the region - a Romanised name and wearing a red robe, official Roman attire. Perhaps this placement of Votadini troops forms the grounds for the later establishment of Votadini overlordship of the Manau Gododdin following the removal of Roman authority. It seems likely that Paternus is succeeded in the position by his son.

Male Romano-British dress
Costume illustration of a Romanised British man (left) and a Romanised British aristocrat, with each wearing leather Gladiator sandals, one pair with a thong fitting and the aristocrat with sandals with many straps (from Hope's Costume of the Ancients).

fl c.340

Aeternus ap Padeyrn / Edern

Son. Traditional father of Cunedda.


FeatureAfter fighting off raids by the northern Britons (Picts), Cunedda and his branch of Romanised Venicones are transferred from the Manau dependency of the Guotodin kingdom, traditionally by Magnus Maximus. They are moved to the former territory of the Deceangli in western Wales to secure the region from Irish raiders, and it is here that they found the kingdom of Gwynedd.

Some historians dispute the traditional view of Cunedda being moved by a central British authority and instead claim that he sails down the Irish Sea and invades North Wales of his own volition, forming a kingdom at a time when there is no one left to stop him. However, the fact that his father had clearly been a Romanised Celt who had held a position of authority is too important a factor to miss (note the red robe of his grandfather, something that was so notable and such a family high point that it had become a nickname). Cunedda is clearly the son of an important figure in Roman Fife.

Cunedda Wledig's first name (perhaps more realistically shown as Cunetha) is a fairly typical Brythonic play on words, taken from 'cuno' meaning dog (ie. servant) and 'dda' meaning the god Da or Dagda, making him the 'servant of Dagda'. The title 'wledig' is later Welsh for 'prince'. His son, Typaun, remains behind to assume whatever role it is that Cunedda is relinquishing.

fl c.390

Cunedda Wledig

In Manau Guotodin. Moved into Wales to found Gwynedd.

fl c.420

Typaun ap Cunedda

In Manau Guotodin. Eldest son. Remained behind.

fl c.480s?


Kinsman of Cunedda. Son or grandson of Typaun?

5th century

The otherwise unknown Marianus is possibly a kinsman of Cunedda, a descendant of one of those whose family had remained behind in Manau Guotodin. Whether he really exists or not, this is the last-known mention that the Venicones receive as a distinguishably independent people. From this point forwards they are lumped together with the general Pictish population, as the Britons north of the Antonine Wall come to be known by those to the south.