'Yf God will, at an other apter tyme and in more apt place, marveilous agreement of the historyes of Antiquity and great unlooked for light and credit will be restored to the Originalls of Brutus...' (John Dee 1577. Cotton MS. Vitellius. c. vii. f 206v)
On Wednesday 7th November 1917, Flinders Petrie, a renowned archaeologist of the day, addressed the assembled members of the British Academy. He was to present a paper to them entitled Neglected British History, (1) in which he drew attention to the fact that a considerable body of historical documentary source-material was being overlooked if not willfully ignored by modern historians. He drew fleeting attention to the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth and then homed in on one particular record that shed much light upon Geoffrey's too-disparaged history. The ancient book to which he drew attention was known to him as the Tysilio Chronicle, which is listed today as Jesus College MS LXI and is lodged in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It is written in medieval Welsh, and is, as its colophon reveals, (2) a translation that was commissioned by the same Walter of Oxford who commissioned Geoffrey of Monmouth to translate a certain very ancient British book into Latin. It is, in fact, a translation from early British into medieval Welsh of the same source-material used by Geoffrey, and is an answer to all those learned critics who have stated with such emphasis over the years that Geoffrey of Monmouth was lying when he claimed to have translated such a book.
However, this is not the only light that the Welsh chronicle was to shed, for it was to address matters of far greater import and relevance than the mere vindication of Geoffrey's good name. (3) Indeed, it contains historically verifiable accounts that overturn many modernist assumptions and teachings about our past. More importantly, the material that it contains reveals an antiquity for itself that carries contemporarily recorded history back to uncomfortably early times. Uncomfortable, that is, for evolutionary and modernistic philosophy. Flinders Petrie highlights some of these points, and we shall consider these and others in this chapter.
Among the points he mentions is the account contained both in Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh chronicles of the attempted invasions of these islands by Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC. Caesar, of course, has left us his own account of this, and it is tempting to think (and is often stated) that the Welsh chronicles (and hence Geoffrey of Monmouth) contain nothing more than a rehashed version of Caesar's account. But close examination reveals a different story. The account in Geoffrey and the Welsh chronicle turns out to be nothing less than the Julian invasion as seen through the eyes of the early Britons themselves. An eyewitness account in fact, which dates this part of the material to the middle of the 1st century BC. This, of course, is far too early for most modern scholars to accept for Celtic literacy, and it also sheds a somewhat unfavourable light upon Julius Caesar, himself the hero of many a modern book on the history of early Britain. But how, exactly, do the British and Roman accounts compare?
Caesar tells us (4) that when he initially landed on the shore of Britain, the landing was resisted in a most alarming way for the Roman troops. The British charioteers and cavalry rode into the very waves to attack the Roman soldiers as they tried to leap from their ships into the sea, and the landing was almost aborted due the unusual nature and ferocity of the attack. Moreover, Caesar had made some very serious miscalculations about the tide and weather that had almost lost him his army. But what does the British account say of all this? Nothing. Nothing whatever. There is no triumphant trumpeting about the bravery of the Celtic warriors or the Romans' difficulties in making land.
Instead, we hear only how, on first receiving news of the Roman landing, the Britons under Kasswallawn (Caesar's Cassivelaunus) gathered together at a certain fort in Kent. Caesar had clearly been resisted merely by a band of local levies of whom the Britons' intelligence reports had taken no account. But why should they? It was only to be expected (by the Britons) that the locals would meet the assault, and the opposition to the landing had been unsuccessful in any case. But perhaps the gathering of the Britons at the Kentish fort is one of the more telling aspects of the affair. The Welsh chronicle names the fort Doral, which Geoffrey of Monmouth transposes into Latin as Dorobellum. (5) It was known to later Latin writers as Durolevum, and was a fortress that stood roughly midway between Rochester and Canterbury. As Flinders Petrie points out, it would have been the ideal meeting place for an assembling army that was uncertain whether the invading force would proceed directly across the river Medway towards London, or would skirt along the coast towards Sussex and then head north to London, thus saving itself the task of having to cross the Medway. And yet Caesar never mentions this fort, for the natural reason that he would have been entirely unaware of its existence and name. A medieval monk rehashing Caesar's work would not have mentioned it either for the same reasons. Of further significance is the fact that Nennius writes in his Historia Brittonum:
'Julius Caesar ... while he was fighting with Dolabella.' (6)
... Dolabella being mistaken in Nennius's source-document for the personal name of a British warrior rather than the fort where the warriors were gathered, thus revealing that by the end of the 8th century AD at the very latest, a serious corruption of the account of the British maneuvers from which Nennius drew his own information existed. The fact that no such corruption is evident in the Welsh chronicle (or Geoffrey's Latin version) speaks volumes not only for the purity of the information contained in both the Welsh chronicle and Geoffrey, but for the antiquity and undoubted authenticity of their common source material.
Later in his account, (7) Caesar describes in detail how his cavalry came to grief when they encountered the unusual fighting tactics of the Britons. He describes these tactics in detail, remarking on their effectiveness. And yet no such description appears in the British account. One could reasonably expect that a later forger or compiler would triumphantly have mentioned how his forebears terrified and almost defeated the Romans with superior and ingenious fighting tactics, but not a contemporary Briton who was recording the same events as Caesar but from a different vantage point. But, again, why should a contemporary Briton mention tactics with which he and his intended readers would have been all too familiar?
Three further specific items in both the Welsh chronicle and Geoffrey's Latin account reveal the sometimes garbled nature of the British intelligence reports of the time that were sent over long distances, in two cases from the other side of the Channel, and the natural confusion that arose over the debriefing of warriors that returned from the front line of battle and the subsequent interviewing of eyewitnesses. The first concerns the death of a certain Roman officer. He was named as Laberius (Quintus Laberius Durus) in Caesar's account, (8) according to which Laberius died in action during the second campaign in Britain of the year 54 BC. The British account, however, states that Laberius was killed during the first campaign, and, more tellingly, it identifies the soldier concerned as Labienus (9) (Welsh Alibiens). Now, the name Labienus would earlier have been known to the Britons from reports reaching them of Caesar's second-in-command who, at the time of Caesar's second invasion and quite unknown to the native Britons, had been left behind in Gaul to administer matters there in Caesar's absence. Thus, learning from prisoners taken in battle that the dead officer's name was Laberius, they confused the names and naturally assumed that this was the Labienus of whom they had heard. It was a perfectly natural error made in wartime conditions, but not one that would have been made by a medieval forger who had Caesar's account in front of him.
Similarly, the second item concerns the garbled British report of a fortress that was erected at Caesar's command when he returned to Gaul. Caesar does not name the fort, whereas the British account reports its name as Odina. (10) Flinders Petrie points out that no such place is known, although he does mention that Caesar reports (11) the sending of troops to Lexovii (today's Lisieux), and that the river there, which again Caesar does not name but which is called Olina, suggests the origins of the British report. Again, the name Odina (which Caesar does not give) could obviously not have been borrowed from Caesar's account by any medieval hand.
The third incident concerns an inaccurate report by British scouts which led Kasswallawn's intelligence gatherers to assume that Caesar had fled Britain at a time when the Roman army was in fact firmly encamped on these shores. Caesar, having lost valuable ships during a storm, ordered that the ships be taken out of the water and dragged inland to within the Roman camp. (12) This was a prodigious feat of engineering. These ships were extremely heavy military transports, and yet the task was well within the (to us well-known) capabilities and engineering skills of the Roman sappers. However, it would not have occurred to the Britons that such a thing would be contemplated let alone possible, and so it is that when the advance scouting parties of the Britons could no longer see Caesar's ships beached upon the strand, they naturally but wrongly assumed that he had fled these shores.
There are later, touching, accounts in the early British chronicles (but on which Flinders Petrie is silent) where mention is made of British warriors fighting in this country against the armies of the kings of Syria and Lybia, (13) and which look initially like a most unlikely collection of stories. Yet, what becomes of these accounts when we view them in their correct historical perspective? The Britons were never ones to employ foreign mercenaries to do their fighting for them. They knew the dangers involved in such a policy, dangers that were unhappily demonstrated when one British king, Vortigern, invited the Saxons over to chase away the Picts. As history records, and to Vortigern's everlasting infamy as far as the Welsh are concerned, the Saxons stayed and eventually banished the Britons themselves to a rocky and inhospitable part of the island, Wales. Rather, in times of war or emergency the Britons would band together as separate tribes into one fighting force, and place their many kings under the authority of one overking for the duration of the hostilities. Thus, when the Britons encountered the Roman army, they were surprised to find not Romans only amongst the enemy's ranks (if there were any Romans at all), but separate legions made up of Syrians, Lybians and every other kind of nationality. (14) We know from the archaeological record that Syrians and others did actually make up some of the occupying legions in this country, and it is therefore not only natural that the Britons should refer to them by the names of their countries of origin, but that they should also assume that the Syrians and others were led into battle by their own petty kings as were the Britons themselves who fought them. It is an unsuspected and striking mark of authenticity that no medieval forger would have thought of.
But if this portion of the chronicle contains material that can be dated to the middle of the 1st century BC, then there is other material that goes back much further. One such item (on which again Flinders Petrie is surprisingly silent) is the account of two men named Belinus and Brennius in Geoffrey's Latin version, and Beli and Bran in the Welsh. (15) One part of the story records how Bran led an invasion of Italy and sacked Rome. Certain modernist scholars have been quick to point out that Rome has never been sacked by the Britons, and that the story is a nonsensical fiction. However, a reading of Rome's historians might have led them to a different conclusion, for the sack of Rome by the Celts is told in considerable detail by an early historian of Rome, and the early British account of the event is confirmed, and indeed expanded upon, in every point.
The Roman historian in question is Livy (Titus Livius , 59 BC-17 AD), whose History of Rome consisted of no less than 142 books, although only 35 of these have survived to the present day. However, it is Book 5 of Livy's history that contains the rather illuminating account that follows. (16)
According to Livy, the sack of Rome by the Gallic Celts occurred around the year 390 BC, and we shall see precisely how closely this accords with the chronology of events and personages that is contained in the British chronicle. It matches it exactly. But of more interest to us is the fact that Livy has preserved the names of those who were involved in the planning and carrying out of the attack.
The first name is that of the king of the Bituriges, a Gallic (Celtic) people who were to give their name to the modern city of Bourges. The king was Ambitgatus, and Livy tells us that he had two nephews, one named Bellovesus, and the other Segovesus. These two names also appear in the British account where they are given as Beli in the Welsh chronicle and Belinus and Segnius (the king of the Allobroges or Burgundians) in Geoffrey of Monmouth. The Welsh chronicle mentions Segnius as the prince of the Burdundians (i.e. Byrgwin, another term for the Allobroges) but does not name him. Each name, however, must have been given in the original British source-material for them to appear in either Geoffrey or the Welsh chronicle.
It is here, however, that Livy sheds some interesting light upon the Celtic royal families of the early 4th century BC. According to both Geoffrey and the Welsh chronicle, the father and mother of Belinus and Brennius were Dunvall Molmutius (Welsh Dyftial Moel Myd) and Tonuuenna (Welsh Tonwen). We know from the genealogy around which both Geoffrey's and the Welsh account are built (see Appendix 7), that Dunvallo was of British descent. Which means that Tonuuenna, whose genealogy is not given, could easily have been the sister of the Gaulish king, Ambitgatus, as is implied in Livy when he calls Bellovesus (the British Belinus and son of Tonuuenna) the nephew of Ambitgatus. There is nothing at all unlikely or improbable in such a relationship. Indeed, marriage between the British and continental Celtic royal families would have been an entirely natural and expected event.
Which brings us to the name of the leader of the Gallic sack of Rome, whom Livy names as Brennus. (18) This is practically identical to the transposition into Latin of the British name of Bran that Geoffrey gives (Brennius), and the fact that Geoffrey and Livy are such distinct and independent authorities reveals that neither of them were making up the names of their characters as they went along. That neither Geoffrey nor the Welsh chronicle are merely copies or rehashes of Livy's account is abundantly evident when one compares the British account with that of Livy. There are far too many important and fundamental differences between them to suggest that one is dependent on the other. And yet they are all clearly and independently referring to the same historical event, namely the Celtic sack of Rome in ca 390 BC, but viewing that event from different camps.
We may carry the story back another generation by referring to the laws of Dunvallo, the father of Belinus and Brennius, which were known as the Molmutine Laws and which Geoffrey tells us were still held in high esteem by the Britons (Welsh) of Geoffrey's own day. (19) However, not only were they held in high esteem in Geoffrey's day, they also have survived to the present, and they clearly reveal their pagan origins. (20) The light that they shed upon the society in which the early Britons lived is set out in Appendix 6 of this book, where Flinders Petrie tells us in his own words about the laws and their application. But the history of the early Britons can be carried back further still, much further back, to the 12th century BC in fact, the time of the very foundation of the British nation.
The story is told of how a colony once landed on these shores, a colony led by one Brutus (Bryttys in the Welsh chronicle). It was from this Brutus that the British people derived their name. The history of Brutus'descendants is set out in the following chapter, but what interests us here is how, and by which route, the colony arrived on these shores in the first place. Again, we are indebted to Flinders Petrie for bringing to our attention the following details:
'After leaving Greece Brutus' [and his colony] 'sails to Africa, and then passes the Philenian altars, a place called Salinae, sails between Ruscicada and the mountains of Azara in danger of pirates, passes the river Malua, arrives in Mauretania, and reaches the pillars of Hercules. On this passage the ignorant editor notes: "It is probably impossible to discover whether these names describe existing places, or are purely the invention of the author". Now all these places are known, and they are all in consecutive order. The longitudes in Ptolemy are here added, for clearness. The Philenian altars (46 degrees 45 minutes) were two great sand heaps, for the story of which see Sallust; they would be well known as the boundary between Carthage and Egypt, but of no importance in late Roman times. Next, Salinae are the stretch of salt lagunes (33 to 34 degrees), which would be important to mariners for salting fish. Next, Ruscicada (27 degrees 40 minutes) is a headland to the south of Sardinia; Brutus sailed between this and the mountains of Azara, and Ptolemy names a mountain tribe of Sardinia as the Aisaronesioi. The prevalence of pirates noted here gives the reason for naming the Sardinian mountains, as mariners could stand well off the African coast by sighting Sardinia, which lay 120 miles north, and thus escape the pirate coast track without losing their bearings. Next is the river Malua (11 degrees 10 minutes), which was important as the boundary of early Mauretania. Lastly, the pillars of Hercules (6 degrees 35 minutes - 7 degrees 30 minutes). The general character of these names selected is that of points well known to mariners, such as any seaman might readily give as stages of a voyage. How then do they come into the Brut legend? They cannot have been stated by any seaman after AD 700, as the Arab conquest wiped out the old names and old trade.
Did a medieval writer, then, extract the names from a Roman author? No single author seems to contain all of them: Ptolemy omits Salinae, Pliny omits Salinae and Azara, Strabo only has the Philanae, the Antonine itinerary only Rusiccade and Malua, the Peutingerian table only Rusicade, and the Philaeni in a wrong position. When we see the medieval maps, from Cosmas on to the Mappamundi of Hereford, it is impossible to suppose a medieval writer having enough geography at hand to compile such a mariner's list of six minor places in the right order, as they stood during the Roman Empire. If this list was, then, written during the Empire, there is no reason for preferring one date to another. There is, however, internal evidence that this was written before Claudius' (i.e. 10 BC-AD 54). 'It is after passing the Malua that Brutus arrives in Mauretania. Now Mauretania was only west of the Malua originally; but in the, early imperial changes the east of that river was included, and Claudius constituted two Mauretanias, Tingitana and Caesariensis, divided by the river. The geography of the Brut is, then, older than Claudius.' (21)
There is much else that Flinders Petrie could have added had he been aware of it. For example, before Brutus sailed with his colony to the African coast on their migration from the mainland of Greece, they were said to have alighted upon an island whose name is given as Legetta in the Welsh chronicle, as Leogetia in Geoffrey of Monmouth, and which was known as Leucadia amongst the classical authors of the Mediterranean world. Today, we know it as the island of Levkås. But there are certain details, important details, that the British accounts mention that could not have been gleaned by a medieval forger simply hearing of the place or seeing it on a map, even one that happened to possess an unusual degree of accuracy for medieval times. For example, although the Welsh chronicle omits the fact, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin version recounts the detail of the island's woodlands, (22) and we note that even today one can still see on the island 'the remnants of the oak forests which were a feature of Levkås well into the nineteenth century. (23)
For Geoffrey of Monmouth to be aware of these woods, they must have been mentioned in the original and ancient source-material that he was translating, and we can only ask ourselves whether the presence of oak forests on this sacred island which the Britons long remembered, and the fact that the early Druids of Britain ever afterwards held the oak tree to be particularly and peculiarly sacred, are entirely unconnected. As Pliny tells us:
'The Druidae... esteeme nothing more sacred in the world, than Misselto, and the tree whereupon it breedeth, so it be on Oke... they seem well enough to be named thereupon Dryidae in Greeke, which signifieth ... Oke-priests. (24)
However, of added interest is the fact that both Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh chronicle record the presence on the island of a ruined temple that was dedicated to the goddess Diana. There then follow the descriptions of a most complex ritual performed by Brutus and the nature and attributes of the goddess Diana that could only have come from a pagan source. But there is an added aspect to all this. Diana was considered to be the personification of the moon, and although there is no apparent trace remaining today of the temple of Diana on the island, there are the ruins of a temple to Diana's theological husband, the sun god Apollo. These ruins lie on a prominence some 230 feet above the sea, and:
'... it was from here that the priests of Apollo would hurl themselves into space, buoyed up - so it was said - by live birds and feathered wings. The relationship between the ritual and the god seems obscure, although there was an early connection between Apollo and various birds. Ovid confirms that the virtues of the flight and the healing waters below the cliff had been known since the time of Deucalion, the Greek Noah.' (25)
Now there are definite echoes of this curious and most ancient ritual in the story of one of Brutus'not far removed descendants, king Bladud (Blaiddyd in the Welsh chronicle. See next chapter). Bladud, it is recorded, made himself pinions and wings and learned how to fly. He only had one lesson and the flight was predictably a short one, but the important detail is that Bladud was killed as he struck the temple of Apollo that once stood in the city known today as London. (26)
Yet this is not the only curious detail to emerge out of the early British record. What, for example, are we to make of the mention of Greek Fire in the story of Brutus? This appears as tan gwyllt in the Welsh chronicle, and as sulphureas tedas and greco igne in Geoffrey of Monmouth's account. (27) As Flinders Petrie rightly points out, Greek Fire was entirely unheard of in Europe before the time of the Crusades. Did an early medieval forger have a lucky guess? I doubt it. And what of the further detailed geographical knowledge of the ancient Greek mainland that the British accounts reveal? The region called Yssgaradings in the Welsh chronicle and Sparatinum in Geoffrey's version, was anciently known as Thesprotia, an area on the west coast of Greece. Archaeology tells us that the Thesprotians were the earliest inhabitants of the region, their name being perpetuated today in the modern town of Thesprotikon. (28) Moreover, the river Ystalon in the Welsh chronicle (Abalone in Geoffrey) is the Acheron that flows through the ancient region of Epirus.
Further, there is the name of the king against whom Brutus fought in order to win the freedom of his followers. His name is given as Pendrassys in the Welsh chronicle and as Pandrasus in Geoffrey. (29) I have seen no attempt whatever to identify this king, and there is now no possibility of tracing the name in the surviving records of ancient Greece, although such tracing would itself be futile. Pandrasus is not, it seems, a proper name at all but a title - pan Doris - meaning king of all the Dorians. Again, archaeology tells us that the Dorian Greeks overran this part of the Grecian mainland at just about the same period (12th-11th centuries BC) in which the story of Brutus begins. (30) So it is clear that the name Pandrasus belongs firmly and authentically to the times that are dealt with in the opening portions of the British account.
All of which helps us in dating not only the fascinating and undoubtedly ancient material in the Welsh chronicle and in Geoffrey's version, but also the material passed down to us by Nennius that we noted in the previous chapter and from which we were able to construct the Table of European Nations. Clearly, none of all this is attributable to the nefarious work of early Christian monks who were seeking to foist upon the world a contrived but pious history, for all the material that we have considered in this chapter pre-dates the coming of the Christian faith to the early Britons by at least a hundred years, and certainly by up to a thousand years and more. In other words, the now wearisome modernist charge of pious fraud falls flat. This will be further seen in the following chapter which summarises the contents of both Geoffrey of Monouth and the Welsh chronicles, and Appendix 7 where the genealogy of the early British kings is set out. The approximate dates of each king are also given as I have been able to calculate them from the internal evidence contained in the Welsh chronicle and in Geoffrey's Latin version, and external evidence derived from other sources.
1. Published by Humphrey Milford at the Oxford University Press as part of the Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. viii. pp. 1- 28.
2. 'I, Walter of Oxford, translated this book from Welsh (Kymraec) into Latin, and in my old age have translated it a second time from Latin into Welsh.'
3. Happily, two English translations of this particular Welsh chronicle already exist: Roberts, Peter. Chronicle of the Kings. 1811. The sole surviving copy is at the Bodleian library, shelfmark Douce T., 301. (A poorly edited 2nd edition of this was brought out by Manley Pope under the title, A History of the Kings of Ancient Britain. Simpkin, Marshall & Co. London. 1862. As poor as his edition is, however, [Manley Pope interpolated comments of his own without marking them as such in the text, and he makes no acknowledgement whatever to Peter Roberts, whose translation he has clearly filched], Manley Pope does provide some very informative notes from pp. 155-216). The second translation is by Canon Robert Ellis Jones of New York. His untitled translation is a literal rendering into English of the Welsh text, and forms part of Griscom's book (see bibliography). Canon Jones died in 1929, the year of his translation's publication.
4. Caesar, pp. 99-100. See bibliography.
5. Geoffrey of Monmouth, p. 108, and Manley Pope, p. 60. See bibliography.
6. Nennius, p. 23. See bibliography.
7. Caesar, pp. 102-3.
8. Caesar,. pp. 111-2.
9. Geoffrey, p. 110 and Manley Pope, p. 60. As Flinders Petrie points out, while the shift in date may be due to tradition, it cannot agree with copying.
10. Geoffrey, (pp. 112-3) has Odnea. See Manley Pope, pp. 61 & 180-1.
11. Caesar, p. 87.
12. Caesar, p. 110 and Manley Pope, p. 61, 'Caesar was compelled to fly.'
13. Geoffrey, pp. 236 & 245-6. See also Manley Pope, p. 122.
14. Cottrell, (pp. 63-4. See bibliography) lists Spaniards, Hungarians, Germans, Syrians, Greeks, Africans, Gauls, and so on as some of the nationalities that made up the Roman legions in Britain. Hadrian's Wall alone was manned by Spaniards, Germans, Africans and Syrians.
15. Geoffrey, pp. 90-100 and Manley Pope, pp. 38-46.
16. Livy, pp. 378-395. See bibliography.
17. Livy, p. 379. Compare Geoffrey, pp. 97-9 and Manley Pope, pp. 44-5.
18. Livy, pp. 383 & 395.
19. Geoffrey, p. 89.
20. See Probert, William, Ancient Laws of Cambria. 1823.
21. Flinders Petrie, pp. 8-9.
22. Geoffrey,. p. 64. Thorpe, (p. 341. See bibliography. Aledges that the name is an invention of Geoffrey's.
23. Bradford, Guide to the Greek Islands, Collins. London. p. 48.
24. cit. Hawkins, Prof. G. Stonehenge Decoded, Fontana. p. 34. Hawkins points out that as the Greek word for oak was 'drus', then Pliny's etymology for the name would appear to have been correct.
25. Bradford, p. 50.
26. Geoffrey,. p. 81 and Manley Pope, pp. 28 & 167-8.
27. Geoffrey, p. 58 and Manley Pope, p. 10.
28. Webster's New Geographical Dictionary, G & C Merriam, Massachusetts. 1977. p. 1203.
29. Geoffrey, pp. 55-64.
30. Webster's, p. 340.
31. For a technical appraisal of the chronology, see my article The Early History of Man - Pt. 3. The Kings of the Ancient Britons: A Chronology, CEN Tech. J., Vol. 52 1991. pp. 139-142.
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