17 September, 2012

Trusty's Hill, Galloway

Trusty’s Hill is a small hillfort in Galloway, south-west Scotland, on a craggy ridge near the mouth of the Water of Fleet, near Gatehouse of Fleet on the north shore of the Solway Firth.

Map link here

Trusty’s Hill is on the summit of a ridge running roughly north-south, with steep sides on the east and west flanks and easier gradients at the north and south ends.  The hillfort has the remains of a rampart enclosing the summit, forming a rough oval, with an entrance at the south end between two rock outcrops.  There are traces of further defences outside the entrance. At the north end, where the ridge drops down to a col, there are also further defences, with a rampart and a deep ditch cut in the rock across the ridge. For a more detailed description of the site, see the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website, and for a detailed plan of the earthworks, see the Galloway Picts Project page.

Excavations in the 1960s suggested that the site was occupied in the Iron Age and then refurbished and reoccupied in the sixth to seventh century (RCAHMS). 

Fortified sites occupying dramatic craggy promontories and headlands are well known in Western Britain. Examples include Tintagel Head in Cornwall, Dumbarton Rock on the Clyde estuary, and Deganwy in North Wales. Several have archaeological evidence of high-status occupation during the early medieval period, with finds such as pottery imported from Gaul or the eastern Mediterranean, and/or fine metalworking.

The name 'Trusty's Hill' may be derived from Drust or Drustan, which is a common name in the Pictish king lists and a form of the Brittonic name Trystan (also spelled Tristan, Tristram, Drystan). Whether the place name, and/or Trusty's Hill itself, have any connection with the romantic legend is anyone's guess.

Galloway Picts Project excavation, 2012
Trusty’s Hill was excavated in the summer of 2012 by the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society as part of the Galloway Picts Project. My thanks to Beth, who mentioned the excavation in a comment on an earlier post here, and prompted me to go and look for details.  There’s a short description in the September 2012 issue of Current Archaeology, and lots of information on the Galloway Picts Project website.

The excavation identified clear evidence of high-status early medieval occupation. The excavation found a fragment of pottery called ‘E-ware’, which would have been part of a container from Gaul used to transport luxury items such as spices and dyes and dated to the sixth-to-seventh century. There were also crucibles and other equipment used in fine metalworking, with deposits on the crucibles indicating the working of silver and possibly also copper or glass, though more analysis is needed for a definitive identification of the materials (Galloway Picts Project 6 August 2012).

Radiocarbon dates from inside the fort clustered in two groups, one group spanning the early fifth to mid seventh centuries and the other group around 400 BC (Galloway Picts Project 10 September 2012), consistent with the previous interpretation of two phases of occupation at the site, one Iron Age and one early medieval.

So it seems clear that Trusty’s Hill was occupied by a high-status group or groups in the early medieval period, who had access to luxury goods both made on site (fine metalwork and jewellery) and imported from Gaul (whatever came in the E-ware vessel). This places Trusty’s Hill in the same sort of category as other known high-status or royal sites in early medieval western Britain.

Pictish symbol stone - a royal centre?
What makes Trusty’s Hill especially interesting is that it possesses the unusual feature of a Pictish symbol stone carving on a rock outcrop by the south entrance.  For a drawing of the carvings, see the front page of the Galloway Picts Project site. There is also a worn Ogham inscription, which has not yet been interpreted.

Pictish symbol stones are generally found in the areas associated with Pictish kingdoms in north and east Scotland (roughly, north of the Forth-Clyde valleys and east of the main mountain spine).  According to Current Archaeology, the only sites other than Trusty’s Hill outside north-east Scotland with Pictish symbol stones are Dunadd and Dun Eidyn (modern Edinburgh), both of which were early medieval royal centres (Dunadd in the kingdom of Dal Riada, Dun Eidyn in the kingdom of the Gododdin). 

So the Pictish symbol stone, combined with the recent finds, potentially places Trusty’s Hill in very select company indeed. The luxury metalworking and imported pottery indicates it was occupied by a high status group. The Pictish carving, shared only (so far) with other known royal centres, may indicate that Trusty’s Hill was also a royal centre. If so, it may have been associated with the kingdom of Rheged, which was an important early medieval kingdom, mentioned in the poetry attributed to Taliesin. (Current Archaeology is in no doubt, cheerfully headlining its article ‘Rheghed revisited’; I’d be more cautious and say this is plausible but by no means proven). Rheged was probably located somewhere in what is now north-western England and/or south-western Scotland, but its location is not known with certainty.  I’ll come back to Rheged and its royal dynasty in later posts.

If Pictish symbol stones found outside the traditional Pictish territories do indicate an early medieval royal centre, it is interesting to speculate on what they may have signified. 

Presumably whoever carved the symbols expected that they would be recognised and understood by at least some of the people who saw them, which implies to me that at least some of the people in or around Dunadd, Dun Eidyn and Trusty’s Hill could understand Pictish symbols. This is quite plausible at royal centres, as maintaining any diplomatic, trading or other communications with neighbouring kingdoms would be easier if at least some people knew the neighbour’s language and script. (The Ogham inscription at Trusty’s Hill may imply that Irish was also in use there, which is likely given the location).

As the carvings are still there and have therefore survived from whenever they were carved until now without being destroyed or defaced, this suggests to me that the carvings were made with the consent, or at least acceptance, of the locals.  I interpret this as indicating that the symbols are unlikely to represent a Pictish conquest.  Even if Dal Riada and southern Scotland were conquered by the Picts at some time in their history, they did not stay permanently conquered during the early medieval period, since they appear as independent kingdoms in historical sources.  Symbols of dominion carved by a hated occupying power might be expected to be damaged or removed when the locals got their independence back and threw out the occupiers; since this did not happen to the Pictish symbols at Trusty’s Hill, Dun Eidyn and Dunadd, that suggests to me that the locals did not object to the symbols and that the symbols, whatever their meaning, did not represent subjugation.

Pictish symbol stones in the Pictish territories are often free-standing stones, and it has been suggested that they may be memorials and/or grave markers, erected to commemorate an important person (“Here lies X”) (see my earlier article on Pictish symbols). However, the Trusty’s Hill and Dunadd inscriptions are both carved on rock outcrops near the fort entrance, rather than being free-standing stones.  So these are not stones deliberately raised as grave markers, and it seems unlikely (though not impossible) that the fort entrance would have been the site of a grave.  Possibly the symbols could represent the name of a Pictish king or leader who was killed in an attack on the fort, in which case the fort entrance might have been a suitably symbolic location.  This would be the exact opposite of the interpretation of the symbols as signs of Pictish conquest; instead of representing a Pictish victory, they would represent a notable Pictish defeat. Whether such a scenario would represent the honouring of a respected fallen enemy, or a warning to future would-be attackers, or some other meaning is anyone’s guess, and indeed may have varied according to circumstances.

Possibly a Pictish symbol stone may have been a fashion statement, indicating the importance and status of the fort’s occupants and/or their connection with a glamorous foreign culture. Inscribed stones in Latin and with Roman-style titles occur in early medieval Wales, and presumably indicate that whoever raised them wanted to signal a connection with Rome.  By analogy, perhaps Pictish culture had a similar aspirational status in neighbouring early medieval kingdoms.

Possibly the Pictish symbols at Trusty’s Hill could represent some sort of diplomatic or political agreement between the local kingdom and the Pictish kingdom. It has been suggested that the ‘Kingdom of the Picts’ was a confederacy between more or less equal regional or tribal groups (Cummins 1995). If so, presumably the confederacy was accustomed to organising some form of agreement between its members, and may have been able to form other agreements with neighbouring kingdoms from time to time, as occasion arose.  Such an agreement may have been formally recorded on stone in Pictish symbols at the royal centre.

A variation of this is that the Pictish symbols at Trusty’s Hill could record a marriage alliance between the local royal dynasty and the Pictish royal dynasty.  If the Picts practised a form of matrilineal succession (see my earlier article for a discussion of Pictish matriliny), then the children of a marriage between a prince from a neighbouring kingdom and a Pictish princess could have rights in the Pictish succession.  This would make a Pictish marriage alliance different from a marriage between patrilineal dynasties, and may have been formally recognised by some sort of treaty or agreement recorded by Pictish symbols at the royal centre.

If the place name Trusty’s Hill preserves the name of someone called Drust or Drustan who was associated with the fort in some important way, one or more of the symbols on the carving could possibly preserve the same name.  It is logical that a carving recording a diplomatic, political or marriage agreement would record the names of the parties. If so, the hypothetical Drust or Drustan could have been the name of the Pictish king who made the agreement; there are several kings with that name in the Pictish king-list. However, since an inscribed stone in Cornwall also records the name ‘Drustanus’, the name was not necessarily confined to Pictish areas. Presumably if Pictish aristocrats or royalty married into other kingdoms some of the children of such marriages may have been given Pictish names, or if Pictish Christian monks and priests travelled as widely as their Irish contemporaries local children may have been named after them in far-flung places. It may be equally possible that the ‘Trusty’ of the place-name was a non-Pictish local ruler named something like Trystan.
No doubt there are many other possible interpretations.

Cummins WA. The Age of the Picts. Sutton, 1995, ISBN 0-7509-0924-2.
Current Archaeology, Issue 270, September 2012, p 9.
Galloway Picts Project, available online
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), Trusty’s Hill, available online


Beth said...

Most taken with those radiocarbon dates, I was. Even the 7th-8th century one. :P

The high-status material chimes in well with the sort of prosperous kingdom that Rheged is usually seen to be, but as you say, it's by no means certain. Unless of course that ogham inscription turns out to say something like 'Urien woz 'ere'. Which seems a trifle unlikely. ;) I'll be very interested to see what Andrew Breeze's study of Rhegedian place names reveals, actually, since it seems to be an attempt to prove the kingdom's north-western location. What I've seen of it so far has failed to convince me, but that was just notes.

I didn't know that dyes were transported in those sorts of vessels, so thanks for that snippet of info. :)

With regard to the Pictish carvings, I like the idea of them being 'fashionable'. It's notable that many of the 'Pictish' chains, including those decorated with Pictish symbols, come from what isn't traditionally considered Pictish territory - another demonstration of fashion-conscious chieftains? The idea that the symbols demonstrated an alliance also has a lot to commend it, as you point out, and if that's the case it would be most interesting that quite a number of separate 'kingdoms', both Brittonic and Goidelic, were involved.

Would you say the Trusty's Hill article is worth buying Current Archaeology for? Or is it more a summary of what's on the Galloway Picts site?

Thanks for the link, by the way. :)

Rick said...

Such wonderful names! Trusty's Hill ... Water of Fleet ... Gatehouse of Fleet. (Is this 'fleet' related to the Fleet river, and thus Fleet Street? I assume in any case it has nothing to do with ships.)

To the topic: Didn't some early English king (Offa??) strike gold coins that had an Arabic - or at least pseudo-Arabic - inscription, simply because that was what gold coins were then expected to have?

So the carvers might not necessarily have known or cared what the Pictish inscription meant, if such incriptions conveyed status. Having said that, it is more likely that the inscription was expected to be readable by at least some viewers.

One thing I would question a bit: Is it all that typical for ex-conquerors' stone monuments to be defaced? It certainly happens, but it is a lot of work! More something a new conqueror orders than what soldiers do on their own. (Temporary defacing, say with dung, is another matter, but chipping away at stone?)

Again this need not bear much on the overall point.

Carla said...

Beth - Well, if the Pictish symbols do represent names (which I think is likely), and if the Ogham repeats the same information as the symbols, you never know...

I've only seen the summary of Andrew Breeze's talk. My own feeling is that there probably isn't enough evidence to 'prove' anything one way or the other. It strikes me as a similar problem to the perennial one of trying to locate Arthur on the basis of a handful of place names, either now lost or so general that they could have been topographical names applied to many places. Many locations can be consistent with the handful of names, but it's hard to identify a single definitive answer. Maybe if someone could systematically plot all the known place names that match the names in the poetry, perhaps weighted by the firmness of the match (a contemporary record scores 10, dictionary-fishing scores 1), and analyse them to see if one area had a significantly larger cluster than anywhere else. Even then, unless one area turned out to be absolutely head and shoulders above all the others, there would probably turn out to be several contenders.

I've read something somewhere about some red and purple dyes being imported, so maybe they came in E-ware pottery, but don't quote me on that! The mention of dyes was in the Current Archaeology article, and also in the Galloway Picts site, I think. I took their word for it.

No, it's not worth buying the magazine issue just for that one article. It's only a half-page news report, not a full-scale feature, and it summarises the Galloway Picts website information plus a quote from the project co-director Ronan Toolis of GUARD Archaeology, who drew the connection with Rheged. If they ever do a full feature on the dig that might be different; those often have quite a lot of information. If they do one on Trusty's Hill I'll let you know!

Carla said...

Beth - (continued) Yes, it is interesting that the massive silver chains (only one of which, if I remember rightly, actually has a Pictish symbol on it, so quite why they are called 'Pictish' silver chains is a bit lost on me) turn up mainly in southern Scotland. If they were a Pictish fashion that spread (as fashions do), it's a bit puzzling that there seem to be so few in the traditional Pictish areas. Looking just at the distribution, they could be more accurately described as 'Votadinian silver chains'. The one with the Pictish symbol fits quite well into the idea that 'Pictish' was fashionable; it's not hard to imagine someone taking a local status symbol (the silver chain) and adding to it a glamorous foreign motif. If you see the 'Picts' as multiple different cultural groups who perhaps had some sort of co-operation/ alliance/ confederation, the use of certain types of symbols by the top brass of each group may have helped connect them all together, rather as if 'Pictish' symbols were a marker of social status/class rather than ethnicity as such. Equally, the Pictish symbol on a silver chain could also fit into an idea of a symbolic gift exchange to mark a diplomatic or marriage agreement. It's not hard to imagine a marriage gift taking an item that signalled status in one family (the silver chain) and adding to it an item that signalled status in the other (a Pictish symbol), perhaps with the intention of handing the resulting item on to the children of the marriage. Combining the red and white roses of Lancaster and York to make the Tudor rose might be a more recent analogy. Or it might be that the silver chain was obtained as loot after conquest and carved with the symbol of the victor as a symbol of ownership. Or, more proasiacally, it could just be that someone thought 'that looks nice, I'll copy it'.

I quite like the idea of alliances, partly because the sixth-seventh-eighth centuries do seem to have seen consolidation of small political units into bigger ones. If the Picts already had experience of managing some sort of alliance between disparate groups, they perhaps had a model that could be applied, perhaps with modifications, to neighbouring kingdoms as well. I also wonder if the activities of aggressive warlords like Aethelferth and Ecgfrith prompted a certain amount of (temporary?) alliance-building, a bit like the kings in southern Wales allying with Alfred the Great when they felt threatened by aggression from Gwynedd.

Carla said...

Rick - there's an Old English word 'fleot' that meant 'stream', and that's the origin of Fleet Street. It seems likely that it's also behind 'Water of Fleet' (if it is, it's another of those redundant 'hill hill hill' in different languages names). Gatehouse of Fleet means what it says - the gatehouse on the river Fleet. 'Gate' in this context probably in the northern English (Norse-derived) sense of 'road' or 'way', so the 'house by the road' rather than a toll booth.

Yes he did, and the British Museum has one. They aren't common, and there's a suggestion that they may have been made deliberately for trade with areas that used Arabic coins, which you can't do with a rock outcrop (!), though the point still stands that the symbol stone at Trusty's Hill could have been simply a symbol of status rather than being readable. That's part of what I had in mind when I mentioned fashion. It could be both, of course, if only some people could read the symbols and everyone else recognised them as indications of power and status.

Good question. I was thinking of the way dictators' statues get toppled, and there's a Roman gravestone at Colchester defaced at the right sort of time to be possibly associated with the Boudican revolt. I haven't tried to do anything at all systematic.

Beth said...

I used to be a bit unsure about the theory that Pictish symbols represented names or name elements, since the number of them seemed relatively restricted. But perhaps they weren't meant to be literally interpreted and also had more than one meaning, or in fact maybe there were a restricted number of name elements among the people being commemorated. (As I recall, the corpus of Pictish names isn't huge as it is, though I realise that may be down to other factors.) And there are surely other possibilities.

I await the interpretation of the Trusty's Hill stone with interest. I know the inscription isn't in the best state, but if it could give us even as much as Dunadd did, that would be amazing.

That's much how I felt about Breeze's talk as well. I don't see
any mention of Maughanby, but perhaps it wasn't considered pertinent - I do feel the Lyvennet has something going for it (which I confess drew me to lead us on something of a detour on our journey up to the Lakes... ;)), but nothing's ever going to be certain without more evidence, which from the summary alone it's unclear whether Professor Breeze has or not. As Tim Clarkson points out in Men of the North, placenames like Papcastle, Kirksanton and Cardunneth mean you could put the family of Pabo Post Prydein in Cumbria instead, which just goes to show the difficulty of pinning these locations down. I'd like to see the possibilities plotted on a map, but with certain names (like Erechwydd) I think it would be more than problematic, with no extant place names to anchor them to. I hope the Trusty's Hill stone will tell us something useful! ;)

Ah, a quick look at the Galloway Picts site shows me that I managed to completely miss that post mentioning dyestuffs, so I'm glad your summary brought it to my attention.

Ooh, thank you - I'd love to know if CA did a full feature! :)

I suppose we ought to be thankful they were called 'Pictish' chains, really - they might otherwise have ended up being called 'Ritual Chains', after all. ;) But I agree, 'Votadinian' makes far more sense. Yes, any one of those theories could be the right one. As regards cooperation and alliances being signalled by such symbols...perhaps there's some connection there with the potential Picts in the ranks of Y Gododdin when they went to Catraeth.

Where such alliances are concerned, it is easy to see some kingdoms banding together against a particularly aggressive warlord; not to mention particularly aggressive warlords banding together to go that extra mile... (Thinking, perhaps a bit simplistically I admit, of Penda and Cadwallon here.) Temporary in many a case, I'm sure - your mention of Alfred, for example, brings to mind Anarawd ap Rhodri of Gwynedd, allying himself with the Danes of York before dumping them for Alfred and eventually meeting them in battle. Tut.

Carla said...

In his book WA Cummins has a frequency distribution graph of the symbols and another of the Pictish names from the king-lists, and they look remarkable similar. This doesn't prove that the symbols represent names, of course, just that they have a frequency distribution that means they could. Some documented historical periods have surprisingly limited numbers of names in common use, e.g. in the 14th-C English aristocracy the names Edward, Edmund, Richard, Henry, Hugh, Roger, John, Eleanor, Elizabeth, Isabel(la), Margaret and Joan seem to have covered practically everybody. Susan Higginbotham wryly commented in The Traitor's Wife that she had to instigate a policy of trying to have no more than two people with the same name speaking in the same conversation (!). Perhaps Pictish aristocracy had a similar approach to personal names. Or perhaps the same symbol could stand for a group of names that shared a common element or sounded similar, as you mention, in which case a fairly small symbol set might have gone a long way. If they were two-element names, then the number of combinations is much bigger than the number of elements.

What's the significance of Maughanby? (Apologies if this is a daft question). I like the Lyvennet valley association; as far as I know the issue is not so much whether Llwyfennyd could turn into Lyvennet, as how many other Llwyfennyds there might have been. If it really does mean something like 'elm tree' there might have been as many of them as there are Derwents. I don't see any problem with picking the surviving Lyvennet as the location for Llwyfennyd in fiction!

Good point about the possible Picts among the Catraeth warriors. I think there's probably a tendency to underestimate past mobility. Even if most of the population didn't travel much beyond the next village, some groups of people probably moved about quite a bit, such as traders, itinerant craftsmen and the top brass. A royal bride marrying into another kingdom would presumably bring a group of people in her entourage, and Bede comments that Oswine's warband contained fighters from many kingdoms. Not to mention exile, fosterage and hostage-taking, plus military alliances like Catwallaun and Penda - which took both of them to Northumbria, far from their own traditional territories.
Yes, probably alliances would be temporary in many cases, changing according to circumstances. The comment that nations don't have friends, they only have interests probably applied just as much then as now; some things don't change. One of the things that interests me is: if the larger kingdoms did form by consolidation of smaller ones (as seems likely), what made some of them stick together for long enough to eventually become more or less permanent, and how did the groupings that lasted differ from the temporary alliances?

Rick said...

When did 'Pictish' chains get that name? If, for example, it was given by 18th c. antiquitarians it could have minimal connection to actual Picts.

Political consolidations: These can, in principle, run the spectrum from voluntary federations to subject-allies to plain old conquest. 'True' federalism is problematic when monarchy is the norm, but outside pressure from barbarian devils - Saxons, Northmen, whoever - can certainly ease the way for the leading member of a defensive alliance to gradually and even gracefully ascend from 'primus inter pares' to acknowledged supremacy.

Beth said...

I haven't read Cummins' book, I confess, but it seems a reasonable theory in view of the available evidence. Certainly know what you mean about the limited pool of medieval names - I remember thinking when reading some of Elizabeth Chadwick's novels how tricky it must be to work around, and Susan Higginbotham's comment illustrates that rather well! If Pictish was like that, it's an interesting contrast to Brittonic, which seems to have had quite a wide range of names for the 'nobility' to choose from - although certain elements seem to have been particularly popular, like 'cin-' and 'cat-' .

Maughanby is potentially derived from 'Meirchiuan', the name of one of Urien's ancestors. I probably sounded more defensive of it than I intended - I can appreciate that there may have been any number of men bearing that name before, during and after this particular person was living, so that's no doubt why it hasn't been considered. Yes, the fact that the Britons often chose simple descriptive names, which therefore tended to be duplicated, means it's tricky to pick a location out of several possible candidates - for example, was the potential 'Llwyfein' in 'Pais Dinogad' connected with Llwyfenydd, Argoed Llwyfein, or was it a separate region again? The Lyvennet is definitely Llwyfenydd for me, though.

I absolutely agree about past mobility; as you demonstrate, there's actually huge potential for many people to be moving about, sometimes over quite large distances. One of the reasons for rejecting Catterick as the location of Catraeth hinges on the assumption that Brittonic warbands such as Gododdin couldn't or wouldn't have travelled so far, yet the fact that Cadwallon was killed some 250+ miles away from his homeland seems to belie this. (The question of what Gododdin might have wanted from a place like Catterick is another thing altogether, of course...) That's an interesting point about Oswine and his warband. I suspect it was
probably more common than we realise. One of the poems about Gwallog, for example, seems to suggest that he might have had a warband comprised of men from different Brittonic kindgoms, if not different ethnic backgrounds.

How and why some alliances became more permanent - it's an intriguing one, isn't it? Genuine good feeling between the groups? A prolonged set of shared interests or values? Fear on the part of a lesser ally which kept them from breaking away? I've sometimes wondered this about the Brigantes, actually - how did they orchestrate the creation of their apparent 'confederation'? And how was it maintained?

Carla said...

Rick - Good question. They were referred to as Pictish silver chains when I first heard of them, whenever and wherever that was (a good many years ago now). It seems to be fairly well established as a label, but I've no idea when it first came into use. I would guess that the chains with recognisably Pictish symbols gave the name to the group as a whole.

Indeed, and the position on the spectrum can shift over time, or be perceived differently by different people at the same time. There's a theory that the 'Picts' developed their grouping (whatever its nature) in part as a response to Roman Britain, which would fit with the idea of an alliance developing in opposition to an external threat. In which case, it's interesting that the 'Picts' remained a more or less identifiable group for several centuries after Roman Britain had evaporated as a political entity.

Carla said...

Beth - Ah, I hadn't come across that derivation of Maughanby. Is there an early record of the name that would be consistent with a derivation from the name Merchiaun? The -by element is Norse, so my first thought would be to look for a Norse origin of the 'Maughan' part as well, but there are plenty of hybrid names so it wouldn't be surprising to find a Norse suffix tacked on to a non-Norse personal name. Was Merchiaun a popular Brittonic name?

I think for descriptive topographical names it's probably impossible to tell whether the references are all to the same place, or to several places with the same name, unless there are other identifying features as well. So if you interpret the Llwyfein in Pais Dinogad to be the same as Llwyfenydd and/or Argoed Llwyfein, that seems a reasonable interpretation, but it doesn't preclude someone else interpreting them as three completely different places. There probably isn't a 'right' or 'wrong' answer.

I don't think there's any reason to assume that Catraeth couldn't be Catterick because it's too far from Gododdin. Early medieval armies could travel considerable distances, as discussed in an earlier post here. Catwallaun dying in Northumbria is a good example, as is Ecgfrith at Nechtansmere. Bede says that Eadwine/Edwin of Northumbria conquered Anglesey, also a long way from home. The location of the battle need not necessarily have been the objective of the expedition, in my view; it could just have been the location where the opposing armies happened to clash. I don't suppose either Wellington or Napoleon were much interested in capturing the obscure field of Waterloo. The Gododdin warband could have been on their way to (or back from) somewhere else, or their objective could have been to find and destroy an enemy king and his warband who happened to be in Catraeth (wherever it was) when they caught up.
Which of the poems about Gwallog is that?

Yes, it's an interesting question. It could be a mix of all those factors, and probably more. Re the Brigantes, I've wondered if they managed their confederation in a similar way to the way the Picts later maanged theirs. Cummins has a theory that matrilineal succession provided a mechanism for the Picts to rotate the High Kingship between the constituent tribes. If there was a female royal line for reckoning the candidates for the high kingship, the candidates to succeed a high king would be his brothers or half-brothers (sons of his mother), his sisters' sons (sons of his mother's daughters), and his maternal first cousins (sons of his mother's sisters). As the one person who could not succeed a king was his own son (unless he married his sister, niece or cousin), it was difficult for any one tribe to get a monopoly of the top job and use that to establish a dominant position over the others. So a tribe could join the federation with a reasonable prospect that they would be a more or less equal participant with a more or less equal shot at the top job, which may have helped to keep the confederation together. I quite like the theory, although it's impossible to prove. Tacitus says the Brigantes had a ruling queen (Cartimandua) in the first century AD. I wonder if they also had some sort of female royal line, and if that was part of the way their confederation was established and maintained. Pure speculation on my part.

Beth said...

I'm afraid I haven't seen any early records of the name Maughanby; Bromwich mentions it in her Triads and references Kenneth Jackson, who I'd trust to be pretty thorough - unfortunately I don't have the relevant books on hand to check what he says. Powmaughan ('Meirchiaun's Pool' - although in Cumbria 'pow' often seems to be applied to a stream) is also cited. There could well be a Norse derivation, but without the early name, hard to tell - if there was, though, it would still produce a hybrid, since 'pow' is Brittonic. Meirchiaun is suspected to have been a popular name c.450-7, during the rule of the emperor Marcianus, which is the Latin original. Presumably that could be used (read: I used it... ;)) as an earliest birthdate for Urien's purported ancestor as well.

Re topographical names, I agree, there are never any 'right' or 'wrong' interpretations because we just don't have evidence enough. Frustrating, but also exciting, and with a lot of scope for fiction...

I've never been comfortable with the fact that Catterick 'couldn't' be Catraeth solely because 'it's too far away' from Gododdin. I've also wondered whether, as you suggest, Catterick wasn't the main attraction in all this - that maybe the warband were headed somewhere else. York? Further south? Anyone's guess, of course - as you say it could equally be that someone had set up in Catraeth that they didn't like. (John Koch would say Urien, but I'm not sure his reasons really convince me.)

The Gwallog poem is the inspiringly named '[BT29] Gwallawc', which now I come to look at it only really mentions Owein Môn of the Maelgyning, from Gwynedd. 'Moliant Cadwallon', which is obviously later, seems to suggest (according to one translation) that Gwallog's warband contained 'overseas foreigners' - at least, I assume it's referring Gwallog and not Cadwallon's warband. There's definitely something about ships in the original but that's as much as I can say! :P And I know nothing about the poem's authenticity or otherwise.

Cummins has some good theories - I'm going to have to get hold of his book. ;) That would certainly explain how the Picts managed to hold things together, and I can see how it would work for the Brigantes as well, since it's apparent that Cartimandua was the centre of things rather than her consort(s). Pushing the speculation even further, I wonder if Venutios and Vellocatos were from the same tribe - if they weren't, and Cartimandua was seen as rejecting the tribe whose 'turn' at being royalty it was, it might explain the sudden crumbling and descent into 'civil war'. (Although, of course, I'm sure Venutios would've been pretty annoyed at being usurped even if the above wasn't the case!)

Carla said...

I tried looking for Maughanby on the English Place-Name Society website, but it's not listed. Perhaps it is too small a place for the website - I'm assuming it's the Maughanby Farm near Long Meg stone circle? Though it would probably be in their survey for Cumbria - the published volumes are very comprehensive and go down to tiny hamlets and sometimes even field names. It might be worth asking your local library. Powmaughan is a new one on me - where is it?

Yes, lots of scope for fiction :-) Your interpretation of Urien's purported ancestor seems plausible to me.

Catraeth was presumably an important and memorable event, and a battle fought a long way from home might have been more memorable than a local skirmish. If anything, that might be a point in support of Catterick as the location - it may have been remembered in part because it was a long way to travel. Lots of scenarios can be constructed.

I wonder if Owein Mon was from Ynys Mon (Anglesey)? 'Overseas' could refer to somewhere along the coast that was habitually accessed by ship - I should imagine it was a lot easier to get from Dyfed to Gwynedd by ship than to travel overland through the mountains - as well as to somewhere we might now think of as 'overseas' such as Ireland or continental Europe.

I think all we know about Vellocatus is that he was Venutius' armour-bearer, so whether he was related to Venutius or from a rival group is anyone's guess. Certainly if he was from a rival family or faction it might have been part of a power struggle. Not to mention Venutius' wounded ego!

If the Brigantes did have a female royal line, it seems to have worked differently from the Picts (caveat that we we know very little about either!), since Tacitus is quite clear that Cartimandua was a ruling queen, whereas the Pictish king-lists imply that the Picts had ruling kings. Clearly, Cartimandua's husband got to be king. Whereas, if I have understood Cummins' theory of the Pictish system correctly, a man who married a lady of the Pictish female royal line didn't get to be king; what he got was the chance of his sons by her becoming king in the next generation. It's possible that Cartimandua as a ruling queen may have been an exception - perhaps her situation was analogous to Empress Maud in the 12th C, as the sole (female) heir in a system that was normally patrilineal. I quite like the idea that Cartimandua represented some sort of female royal line, and that the same sort of thing also applied later among the Picts, but there are other interpretations (as usual).

Annis said...

Just putting in my two penn'orth - I'm a foreigner, so you're welcome to shoot me down :)

The Scandinavian "-by" as a suffix signifies a dwelling place or village, doesn't it? This suffix is generally preceded by a proper name, so presumably Maughanby, was the home or settlement founded by someone named Maughan- the name could be Cumbrian/Welsh in origin or possibly even Irish (Old Gaelic O' Mochain) - quite a few of the Scandinavians who settled in Cumbria had Isle of Mann and Dublin connections.

Carla said...

Yes, -by means a farmstead, hamlet or village. It commonly follows a personal name, though sometimes it follows a more general description, e.g. Derby is 'deer village', Selby is 'village by the willows'. Spelling often shifts over time, so sometimes the modern form of a name can be misleading about its original form. Hence the interest in finding the earliest available record of Maughanby as that will be closest (though not necessarily all that close, depending on the date!) to the original and gives the best chance of being able to tell whether 'Maughan' was originally Merchiaun, or an Irish name, or a Norse name, or a Norman name, or a topographical description. If there isn't a very early record and the name was first written down in roughly its modern form, it may still not answer the question. An Irish name such as the O'Mochain you mention is quite plausible. As I understand it a lot of the Norse in Cumbria had come from Norse Dublin and might well have been accompanied by Irish relatives and friends, or had Irish names themselves. There were probably also long-standing connections across the Irish sea independent of the Irish-Norse link, geography being what it is. There's a village called Ireby in Cumbria, meaning 'Irishman's village/farm' - it would be interesting to know whether the 'Irishman' of the name was a Norseman from Dublin or someone from elsewhere in Ireland who came to Cumbria independently of the Norse.

tenthmedieval said...

"With regard to the Pictish carvings, I like the idea of them being 'fashionable'. It's notable that many of the 'Pictish' chains, including those decorated with Pictish symbols, come from what isn't traditionally considered Pictish territory - another demonstration of fashion-conscious chieftains?"

For what it's worth, this is also what I think. The thing about the symbols is that they are really *remarkably* consistent; there's very little deviation in them and we can almost always say which symbol from the library was being carved. That, to me, says that their manufacture must have been confined to a very small group and monitored. Whatever message they sent has to be more unique than two people from neighbouring thanages getting married. Instead, I see them as a kind of Pictish élite `branding' that people were allowed to get carved at their settlement or on their graves because of some connection to the controllers of the brand. I suspect that the era of their use was probably quite short in duration, and that we should associate the spread of this brand from its apparent heartland up in the north-east with the formation of the Pictish kingdom that seems to have been going on in the late-seventh century. The symbols presumably marked a number of larger associations whose implications are such that one wouldn't want to have imitated them without them being true; there were no benefits to pretending to have links to the Pictish court if you actually didn't, I assume, and they were also presumably something that everyone knew had to be done by a specialist, so you couldn't just get someone in on the quiet. When the Viking Age (or the eclipse of Northumbria?) stopped this having its relevance, or just when élite fashion moved on a bit, the brand was retired. One of the big effects of that, of course, is that since the symbols are our primary identifier of Pictishness (something that the Trusty's Hill project is neatly calling into question), when they stop suddenly we see no more Picts, which makes a Gaelic takeover much easier to imagine...

However, all this stuff coming up from Cummins's book has me worried. I've not read it and he seems to have had several ideas I thought were mine, long before I had them, so I ought to find out more and then quite possibly resign any pretensions to expertise!

Carla said...

Tenthmedieval - Why would you need to 'resign any pretensions to expertise', even if Cummins did have the same ideas as you? Surely if someone else has looked at the same evidence and independently come to the same conclusion as you, that supports the idea. A copyright library should have no trouble getting you a copy of Cummins' book if you want to read it. It's a popular history (I bought my copy in a local high street bookshop years ago). There are some interesting ideas and theories (like his theory on matrilineal inheritance as a mechanism to hold a confederation together), even though I don't always agree with his conclusions - for example, he interprets the Trusty's Hill carving as indicating a Pictish military conquest of the area, showing the names of the conquering Pictish king and the local fort commander, and I don't find the conquest interpretation all that convincing.

My thought about the symbols possibly indicating a marriage into the Pictish royal family might come under your definition of a 'connection to the controllers of the brand'. If there was a system of matrilineal inheritance in operation among the Picts, a marriage to a lady who could pass rights to the Pictish high kingship to her sons (and further matrilineal rights to her daughters?) might be the sort of connection that would be confined to a carefully chosen group and could be recorded in a controlled manner. Presumably a marriage that conferred potential rights to the Pictish royal succession would also have come with a set of responsibilities, the 'larger associations' you mention.

It is remarkable that the symbols are so consistent. I have assumed this was an innate conservatism (small 'c'), plus if the symbols carried meaning (and surely they must have done) they would need to be consistent enough for the meaning to be apparent, like letter shapes in a script. If the symbols represent some sort of elite 'brand', how do you see it being controlled? (What's the seventh-century equivalent of the corporate lawyer?) Perhaps if the symbols conferred some sort of rights in both directions - e.g. tribute obligations as a sort of 'subscription' to the Pictish federation, or some sort of mutual military alliance where each party could be summoned to fight alongside the other - local rulers would be wary about imitating the symbols unless they really had an agreement in place.

Yes, the disappearance of the symbols could look like a catastrophic takeover, even if it was just a change in fashion. I'm sure we've discussed before the pitfalls of trying to read culture/politics/ethnicity from material culture. If Gaelic culture happened to become glamorous/ fashionable/ aspirational (perhaps related to the rise of the Christian church with its Irish associations?) and the Pictish symbols happened to become seen as old-fashioned, a change in material culture could happen rapidly even if there was little or no change in the population or political or social structure.

Beth said...

I'm not sure this one made it through the first time, so just having another go.

Carla - Maughanby Farm is the one - there's also a Maughanby Moor adjacent. Having just looked the name up online, 'The Place Names of Cumberland and Westmorland' gives the form in 1288 as 'Merghanby'. Pow Maughan (my apologies, it's actually two words) exits the Eden just north-east of Carlisle, runs south through Aglionby (where it's crossed by Powmaughan (one word!) Bridge), then through Scotby and down to Lowthian Gill near Low Hesket.

Will check whether the library have those volumes, thanks! :)

With a name like that it seems more than possible that Owein Môn was from the Anglesey area - which would fit perfectly with him being 'Maelgyning'. Agreed, Gwallog could have (if we take the poem to be reasonable evidence) drawn his 'overseas' warriors from an area of Britain that was reached, from his location, most easily by water - or they could have been from other countries. Another one of those big unknowns...

I too like the idea of Cartimandua representing a female royal line. It might be fairly unusual given that such a position amongst the 'Celtic' people seems to have reserved for men, but as there's no guarantee that every tribe thought in the same way, I don't see why they couldn't have bucked the (apparent) trend.

Annis - good point about the Hiberno-Norse settlement. It can often make it very tricky indeed to work out the origin of a place name, considering that the Brittonic and Goidelic languages/personal names can sometimes be quite similar.

Carla said...

Beth - the comment only appeared once. 1288 is a long time gap from a possible 5th/6th C Merchiaun. Looking at the spelling it looks like something that could have developed from Merchiaun, but that's just dictionary-fishing on my part. You'd need a linguist to say whether Merghanby in 1288 would be a logical development from Merchiaun (with the Norse -by perhaps tacked on in the 9th or 10th C to replace an earlier equivalent).

Yes, Ynys Mon would fit with Maelgyning. If I remember rightly Cadfan is buried at Llangadwaldr on Anglesey, indicating that the family had connections with the island. I wonder if the tag Maelgyning indicates that Owein Mon was a relative?

I suppose one could argue that the position of king in early modern Britain was also, in theory, reserved for men, and yet circumstances meant that Mary I, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots were all ruling queens at about the same time (with varying degrees of success; but one could make that comment equally well about kings...). Empress Maud came close to a similar position four centuries earlier. So one could argue that they bucked the trend as well. It may be possible that the 1st century British tribes also had kings most of the time but sometimes had queens depending on circumstances, and 'sometimes' and 'circumstances' may well have varied by tribe, as you mention. It seems most unlikely that all the tribes had identical cultures and customs; certainly they don't appear to have considered themselves as unified, given their different reactions to the Romans.

Beth said...

Merghan does look like a possible corruption of Meirchiaun, but I'd agree it's hard to be sure. It looks like it may have been Ekwall who suggested it. (Which is quite something, given his predilection for Old English derivations... ;)) As you point out, that's a pretty long gap between c.450 and 1288; perhaps it refers to a much later Cumbrian.

Re the Môn/Maelgyning connection, hasn't someone also suggested that the 'isle' of which Maelgwn Gwynedd was 'dragon' (in Gildas) might have been Ynys Môn? I have a total mind blank on who it was... The -ing tag usually indicates the descendants of a certain person, it seems, so quite likely that Owein was, or was considered to be, a man of Maelgwn's family.

Agreed on the kings/queens front. It's interesting that you draw parallels between Cartimandua and someone like Elizabeth I - I couldn't help thinking of the latter's treatment of her male admirers and Cartimandua's reputed spurning of Venutios in favour of someone else. ;)

Carla said...

Some Brittonic names seem to have an extraordinarily long pedigree, e.g. Ceretic/Cerdic, so if Merchiaun was one of those there may well have been several candidates for the place name, perhaps over several centuries. Unlikely that we will ever know, so if you want the name for the 5th-century Merchaiun it's unlikely anyone can prove you wrong :-)

Yes, someone has, and like you I've forgotten who it was. I remember seeing it in the context of an argument about whether 'Pendragon' could have been a 'High King' title, with one side arguing that Maelgwn's 'dragon of the island' meant he was 'High King' over all of Britain and this was derived from Pendragon and therefore proved that Arthur was also High King, and the other side arguing that it was just a poetic description of Maelgwn as a local king of Anglesey and therefore proved that Arthur wasn't a high king. As usual, my feeling was that the phrase can bear either interpretation and you takes your choice...

I think Antonia Fraser draws a parallel between Elizabeth I and Cartimandua, in contrast to Boudica whom she parallels with Mary Queen of Scots, in her book Warrior Queens, on the grounds that Cartimandua and Elizabeth both had long reigns and seemingly some political cunning, whereas Boudica and Mary Queen of Scots had dramatic but rather short-lived reigns. Up to a point - Cartimandua's husband(s) actually got to be husband and king, unlike any of Elizabth's admirers.

Rick said...

Belatedly ...

If the symbols represent some sort of elite 'brand', how do you see it being controlled?

Perhaps it had some ideological or religious significance such that non-affiliated people wouldn't choose to use it. And its use may have been limited enough in time and place that 'heretical' or otherwise nonstandard uses did not emerge to complicate things.

Carla said...

It does seem that the use of Pictish symbols outside the area traditionally associated with Pictland was limited. It seems to be a handful of carved stones and the silver chains, and the chains are portable objects that could in theory have been made in Pictland and then moved to wherever they were later found.

A religious significance is an interesting possibility. As I understand it, symbol stones continued in use in Pictland until well into the 8th or 9th century, by which time Christianity was firmly established, which tends to argue against the symbols as religious insignia, at least by that time. However, I don't think that automatically rules out a possibility that they may have originally had religious connotations based in whatever religion(s) the Picts followed before they took up Christianity (unknown, as usual). If the symbols represent names, possibly the names represented had religious origins (which might also be consistent with the small number). The meaning may have shifted over time and the symbols and the names they represented may have become associated with a particular culture, independent of religion.

Beth said...

The suffix makes me wonder if it might be later (e.g. around the Viking period), but as you say, it's almost imposible to prove. So at least as far as fiction goes, I'll be giving it a 5th century date. :)

The theory about Maelgwn being a High King rings a bell; maybe someone was citing just that part of the argument, as I don't remember anything about Arthur. I'd personally feel that there isn't enough evidence that Maelgwn was a ruler anywhere except north Wales, but as you point out, the phrasing can be read more than one way - which means, of course, there's no guarantee that 'dragon of the isle' is even related to the name 'Pendragon'. This is one of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction so much - it can explore ideas like this without needing to create a serious or heated debate over what's the right or wrong answer.

Quite true about Elizabeth's admirers, although Devereux had a jolly good go at making himself out to be a royal, nevertheless.

Thanks to the Romans, we're so used to seeing Cartimandua simplistically, as a bit of a bitch, that to think of her as a kind of Elizabeth I of the Iron Age/Romano-British period is quite refreshing really.

Carla said...

The suffix is likely to be later, but there are cases of a Norse suffix added to an Old English word (e.g. Selby, which is OE sel 'willow' plus Norse -by), which might be cases of an older name acquiring a new suffix.

Yes, that's just how I feel about HF. I like being able to explore an interpretation without having to claim that it's somehow The Right Answer (probably impossible to identify at this distance in any case, even if there is such a thing).

Never had much time for Devereux, I'm afraid, except to wonder vaguely what on earth Elizabeth saw in him (echoes of lost youth, perhaps).

Gildas calls Maelgwn 'almost the greatest of the chiefs in Britain', which in characteristically ambiguous fashion can mean almost anything you want it to mean. I sometimes wonder if he intended to write a document that scholars would still be arguing over 1500 years later. He certainly succeeded :-)

Tacitus is fairly neutral about Cartimandua in the Annals, calling her 'astute', though he is more negative about her in the Histories where he says she captured Caratcaus by treachery (in the Annals he just says 'the defeated have no refuge') and condemns her for scandalous behaviour in taking up with Vellocatus and for letting power go to her head. Perhaps those struck close to home, given the antics of some of the Emperors! More recently she's had a bad press as a 'traitor', on the basis that all the 'Britons' should have been on the same side against the occupying Romans; although whether that concept would have had any meaning in 1st century Britain is open to question. I see her as potentially an interesting and complex character.

Rick said...

If I had only the phrase to go by, 'dragon of the isle' doesn't imply ruler, just badass. Or, to put it another way, 'among the greatest of the chiefs.'

On Devereux, I read a book - The Wars Of Elizabeth IIRC - that made a case for him as a more substantive (if not more attractive) figure than usually presented.

Still doesn't explain what Elizabeth saw in him!

Cartimandua strikes me as more interesting, really, than Boudicca. (Revenge for personal mistreatment is not so complicated.) In any case, if Cartimandua had any duty, or point of pride, or whatever, it would surely be to the Brigantes, not Britons in general. Who had been at each other's throats often enough, presumably, before the Romans ever showed up.

Carla said...

Gildas's tirade against the contemporary kings has a lot of animal imagery in it - serpent, spotted leopard, lioness all feature, and those are just the ones I can remember. 'Dragon of the island' might just be a continuation of that stylistic theme. It perhaps garners particular modern attention because it doesn't require much of a leap to connect it to 'Pendragon'.

Was it a convincing case for Devereux as a substantive figure? I tend to have a (rather vague) idea of him as a spoiled little rich boy promoted way beyond his capacity, though I don't know much about him and that might be a very unfair impression.

Yes, I tend to agree with you there. Boudica's story is more obviously romantic and dramatic; Cartimandua's has lots of potential scope for ambiguity and complexity. And yes, again, it seems likely that tribal or family loyalty would come way ahead of any loyalty to 'Britons' in general, if there was even a concept of 'Britons' at the time. Boudica's followers seem to have had no problem in massacring a town full of Britons from another tribe (Verulamium). Inter-tribal wars certainly occurred before (and after) the Romans came on the scene. Tacitus says somewhere that the British tribes were conquered because they would not fight together, and didn't Julius Caesar use a war between two tribes as an excuse for his invasion, claiming he had been invited in by one of the parties?

Rick said...

Re Devereux, the impression I got was that he wasn't a great commander, but not that bad either, while the hawkish faction was generally frustrated by what they saw as half measures by Elizabeth. And he sort of took the fall for problems in Ireland that had no good solution.

Not to mention that the courtly-love sexual politics pretty much guaranteed awkwardness for all involved.

Beth said...

Yes, I suspect it was Devereux's youth that was the main attraction, and I too have always tended to think of him as something of a spoiled brat. I certainly think that there were more interesting figures in Elizabeth's court - although I'd be interested in the depiction of him as a more substantive figure that Rick mentions, if only to round out my impressions a bit.

There's a good dose of animal imagery in Gildas - I think dogs get mentioned as well. Interesting that Maelgwn is called a dragon, since 'dragon/serpent' seems to be a complimentary piece of imagery that appears in, say, some of the poems of Taliesin. Did Gildas realise he was echoing that rascally crew of phlegmy flatterers he had so little time for? As you say, he's incredibly ambiguous. Not to mention that he says that Maelgwn is 'almost' the greatest chief, and then very inconsiderately doesn't tell us who actually was. Perhaps you're right, he did it on purpose, and there's more to that story of him throwing some of his 'Arthurian' histories into the sea in a strop than meets the eye. ;)

It's the Histories I was thinking of, but also the fact that the Romans only wrote down so much about Cartimandua, allowing what did exist to be embroidered by later generations. As you say, the argument for her as a traitor really is fallacious, since there was obviously very little perception of 'British' identity at the time - although having said that, Caratacos seems to have somehow managed to convince tribes across the other side of the country to join forces with him. Yes, Julius Caesar took Cassivellaunos to task over ousting Mandubracios, and later the plights of Verica, and Caratacos' brother Adminios, seem to have been used by the Romans as a good excuse for muscling in. The latter does demonstrate that there were tensions enough within tribes as well, and although if Cartimandua had any 'duty' it's likely that it was to her tribe first and foremost, one does wonder, given the split caused by her favouring Vellocatos, how strong a duty that was... Although we can never know the full truth behind her behaviour, of course.

Carla said...

Rick - indeed, he could hardly be blamed for failing to resolve the Irish situation. Quite apart from the Seller and Yeatman view, a perennial problem for Elizabeth was that appointing a military commander automatically involved handing over part of the traditional role of the monarch and thereby potentially undermined her own position - a complication that would no doubt make life difficult for anyone.

Beth - Good question! Gildas was clearly highly educated, so my guess would be that he knew very well what he was doing and chose his imagery for a reason. It's possible that dragon/serpent, and some of the other imagery, could be pejorative or complimentary depending on the audience and the context. 'Dog' is a common insult, but it presumably wasn't seen that way in the context of the aristocratic names with Cuno- (hound) as an element.

What's the story about Gildas throwing his histories into the sea? I don't think I know that one. It immediately calls to mind Wressley of the Foreign Office in Kipling's tale, who dumped 'five packing cases of the best book on Indian history ever written' in a mountain tarn.

I wonder of Caratacus had some personal link with the Silures that helped him convince them? I suspect that it's the connection with the Welsh tribes that's the reason why he seems to have found his way into the Triads whereas Boudica seems not to have done. If the Brigantes were some sort of federation, Cartimandua may have considered that her loyalty was to her particular sub-tribe. If Venutius belonged to a different part of the federation, their marriage may have been an uneasy political alliance in an (unsuccessful) attempt to patch up a conflict (there are plenty of those in history).

Beth said...

Indeed; some of those words could have more than one set of meanings attached, and perhaps Gildas was deliberately using such animal imagery negatively in order to denigrate its use for praise.

The story is from Gerald of Wales; he says that after Arthur killed Gildas' brother Hueil, Gildas 'threw into the sea a number of outstanding books which he had written in [the Britons'] praise and about Arthur's achievements. As a result you will find no book that gives an authentic account of that great prince'. Admittedly late and, as Thorpe points out in his footnote, there's barely any evidence to support it, but I couldn't help but think of it when you said that about Gildas setting out to write a text we'd still be arguing over 1500 years later. ;) Whatever the case, it's certainly striking that he misses out a large proportion of Britain (i.e. the Old North) in his account.

A personal link between Caratacos and the Silures and Ordovices is a possibility, although if it was an alliance forged through intermarriage it's interesting that it appears to have spanned two separate tribes. (Unless there was a close alliance between the Silures and Ordovices themselves, of course.) I know that some people have hypothesised that Caratacos was also related to Cartimandua in some way, which is why he went to her for shelter, but I don't know how much of that might just be 'extra' justification for calling Cartimandua a traitor. As you point out, it's significant that Caratacos seems to have survived in Welsh tradition, and of course the name Caradog has been of enduring popularity. And further to the link between tribes it's perhaps notable that Cassivellaunos also appears, in The Mabinogion for example - although I don't know where else, or how early on he's first mentioned. John Koch has even suggested that Manawydan represents the chieftain Mandubracios - whether you accept the theory or not, it's interesting that the Welsh have apparently preserved traditions from what became south-eastern England.

Boudica's absence from the Triads is odd. She could, as you suggested, have been ommitted simply because there was no-one around who was interested in her story, or maybe her gender was the reason? Then again, perhaps she wasn't perceived as the same sort of 'hero' as Caratacos. The character of Aregwedd Foeddawg is sometimes posited as a memory of Cartimandua, but I believe the only mention of her comes from the Iolo Morgannwg Triads, which might make things a little suspect. I can imagine the scenario you sketch very easily, with Cartimandua's ultimate loyalty being reserved for her 'personal' tribe. So much for a federation! ;)

Carla said...

Um, yes, Gerald of Wales is, what, six hundred years after Gildas? It's a good story, though :-)

Another possibility is that both the Silures and Ordovicians were hard-line anti-Roman and were prepared to make common cause against a common enemy.

If the aristocracy in Late Iron Age Britain was anything like the aristocracy in medieval Britain it's possible that practically everybody was related to everybody else! Though I'd expect the degree of inter-relatedness to have been rather smaller in the Iron Age if marrying outside the tribe was 'international'. For what it's worth, my own feeling for the reason that Caratacus ended up in Cartimandua's territory is the prosaic one of geography; if he could not easily get to the coast after his defeat, which is quite likely if the battle was somewhere in the Marches, Brigantian territory was probably the nearest place that wasn't under direct Roman control. I don't think a kinship with Cartimandua is necessary as an explanation, although of course it is possible.

Cassivellaunus was also a chief of the Catuvellauni, wasn't he? Maybe there was some sort of long-standing connection with the Welsh tribes dating from his time, which Caratacus continued or revived? If Caratacus was related to the Silures and/or Ordovices by blood, e.g. through a female ancestor, or had married into one of the tribes and left descendants there (perhaps not all his family was captured?), there may have been people who considered him an ancestor or relative and thus preserved stories about him. If Boudica didn't have such a connection, maybe there was no-one in Wales who claimed descent from her and therefore no-one who wanted to tell stories abut their illustrious ancestress.

Beth said...

As far as the aristocracy in medieval Britain is concerned, I seem to reall that Gerald (sorry!) has a bit to say about inter-family marriages in medieval Wales... ;) I'd also imagined less relatedness in the Iron Age than the in the medieval period, since there seem to have been such distinct tribal groups. And I agree that the most likely reason for Caratacos' arrival in Brigantian territory is that there weren't many alternative options open to him - especially if he was still hoping to harass the Romans a bit. Cassivellaunos was indeed also Catuvellaunian, so perhaps there was a link between the tribes, either pre- or post-dating the second Roman invasion. Certainly, if Boudica lacked such a
connection, it would lower her chances of being remembered.

Carla said...

Quite so. Also, Venutius seems to have been less keen on the Romans than Cartimandua, so if Caratacus was hoping to continue to harass the Romans he may have been trying to make contact with Venutius (and/or others of the same opinion in Brigantian territory).

Beth said...

I see that the laser scan of the Pictish stone has revealed that there isn't an ogham inscription after all. Bit of a shame.

Carla said...

Beth - Thanks for the reminder about the scan results! Ah, well, no Pictish Rosetta Stone yet then, alas. Though the finding that the strange head with horns or antennae in the bottom corner is recent, because it overlies one of the Victorian graffiti, and therefore (presumably) is not a Pictish symbol, may be just as significant.

Beth said...

I confess to a pang of disappointment on reading that about the horned head, but if nothing else it does, along with Dunadd, draw attention to the apparant penchant of more recent individuals for carving funny faces on Pictish symbol stones...

Carla said...

A truth universally acknowledged that a stone with carvings on it must be in want of ... more carvings?