Sub-Roman Britain refers to the period in Late Antiquity in Great Britain, covering the end of Roman rule in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, its aftermath into the 6th century. The term "sub-Roman" was used to describe archaeological remains such as potsherds found in sites of the 5th and 6th centuries, hinted at the decay of locally-made wares from a previous higher standard that had existed under the Roman Empire, it is now more used to denote this period of history instead. The term Post-Roman Britain is used in non-archaeological contexts. Although the culture of Britain in the period was derived from Roman and Celtic sources, there were Saxons settled as foederati in the area from Saxony in northwestern Germany, although the term "Saxon" was used by the British for all Germanic incomers; the latter assumed more control, creating Anglo-Saxon England in the process. The Picts in northern Scotland were outside the applicable area; the period of sub-Roman Britain traditionally covers the history of the area which subsequently became England from the end of Roman imperial rule, traditionally dated to be in 410, to the arrival of Saint Augustine in 597.
The date taken for the end of this period is arbitrary in that the sub-Roman culture continued in northern England until the merger of Rheged with Northumbria by dynastic marriage in 633, longer in the West of England, Cornwall and Wales especially. This period has attracted a great deal of academic and popular debate, in part because of the scarcity of the written source material; the term "post-Roman Britain" is used for the period in non-archaeological contexts. Britain south of the Forth–Clyde line; the history of the area between Hadrian's Wall and the Forth–Clyde line is similar to that of Wales. North of the line lay a thinly-populated area including the kingdoms of the Maeatae and the kingdom whose kaer near Inverness was visited by Saint Columba; the Romans referred to these peoples collectively as Picti Picts. The term "Late Antiquity", implying wider horizons, is finding more use in the academic community when transformations of classical culture common throughout the post-Roman West are examined.
The period may be considered as part of the early Middle Ages, if continuity with the following periods is stressed. Popular works use a range of more dramatic names for the period: the Dark Ages, the Brythonic Age, the Age of Tyrants, or the Age of Arthur. There is little extant written material available from this period, though there is a considerable amount from periods that may be relevant. A lot of what is available deals with the first few decades of the 5th century only; the sources can usefully be classified into British and continental, into contemporary and non-contemporary. Two primary contemporary British sources exist: the Confessio of Saint Patrick and Gildas' De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. Patrick's Confessio and his Letter to Coroticus reveal aspects of life in Britain, from where he was abducted to Ireland, it is useful in highlighting the state of Christianity at the time. Gildas is the nearest to a source of Sub-Roman history but there are many problems in using it; the document represents British history as he and his audience understood it.
Though a few other documents of the period do exist, such as Gildas' letters on monasticism, they are not directly relevant to British history. Gildas' De Excidio is a jeremiad: it is written as a polemic to warn contemporary rulers against sin, demonstrating through historical and biblical examples that bad rulers are always punished by God – in the case of Britain, through the destructive wrath of the Saxon invaders; the historical section of De Excidio is short, the material in it is selected with Gildas' purpose in mind. There are no absolute dates given, some of the details, such as those regarding the Hadrian's and Antonine Walls are wrong. Gildas does provide us with an insight into some of the kingdoms that existed when he was writing, how an educated monk perceived the situation that had developed between the Anglo-Saxons and the Britons. There are more continental contemporary sources that mention Britain, though these are problematic; the most famous is the so-called Rescript of Honorius, in which the Western Emperor Honorius tells the British civitates to look to their own defence.
The first reference to this rescript is written by the 6th century Byzantine scholar Zosimus and is found in the middle of a discussion of southern Italy. The Gallic Chronicles, Chronica Gallica of 452 and Chronica Gallica of 511, say prematurely that "Britain, abandoned by the Romans, passed into the power of the Saxons" and provide information about St Germanus and his visit to Britain, though again this text has received considerable academic deconstruction; the work of Procopius, another 6th-century Byzantine writer, makes some references to Britain, though the accuracy of these is uncertain. There are numerous written sources that claim to provide accurate accounts of the period; the first to attempt this was the monk Bede. He based his account of the Sub-Roman period in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (w
Taliesin was an early Brythonic poet of Sub-Roman Britain whose work has survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin. Taliesin was a renowned bard, believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Brythonic kings. Ifor Williams identified eleven of the medieval poems ascribed to Taliesin as originating as early as the sixth century, so being composed by a historical Taliesin; the bulk of this work praises King Urien of Rheged and his son Owain mab Urien, although several of the poems indicate that he served as the court bard to King Brochfael Ysgithrog of Powys and his successor Cynan Garwyn, either before or during his time at Urien's court. Some of the events to which the poems refer, such as the Battle of Arfderydd, are referred to in other sources. In legend and medieval Welsh poetry, he is referred to as Taliesin Ben Beirdd, he is mentioned as one of the five British poets of renown, along with Talhaearn Tad Awen, Aneirin and Cian Gwenith Gwawd, in the Historia Brittonum, is mentioned in the collection of poems known as Y Gododdin.
Taliesin was regarded in the mid-12th century as the supposed author of a great number of romantic legends. According to legend Taliesin was adopted as a child by Elffin, the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, prophesied the death of Maelgwn Gwynedd from the Yellow Plague. In stories he became a mythic hero, companion of Bran the Blessed and King Arthur, his legendary biography is found in several late renderings, the earliest surviving narrative being found in a manuscript chronicle of world history written by Elis Gruffydd in the 16th century. Details of Taliesin's life are sparse; the first mention of him occurs in the Saxon genealogies appended to four manuscripts of the Historia Brittonum. The writer names five poets, among them Taliesin, who lived in the time of Ida of Bernicia and a British chieftain, utigirn; this information is considered credible, since he is mentioned by Aneirin, another of the five mentioned poets, famed as the author of Y Gododdin, a series of elegies to the men of the kingdom of Gododdin who died fighting the Angles at the Battle of Catraeth around 600.
Taliesin's authorship of several praise-poems to Urien Rheged is accepted, these poems mention The Eden Valley and an enemy leader, identified as Ida or his son Theodric. These poems refer to victories of Urien at the battles of Argoed Llwyfain, The Ford of Clyde and Gwen Ystrad. Taliesin sang in praise of Cynan Garwyn, king of Powys and Cynan's predecessor Brochwel Ysgithrog is mentioned in poems. According to legends that first appear in the Book of Taliesin Taliesin's early patron was Elffin, son of Gwyddno Garanhir, a lord of a lost land in Cardigan Bay, called Cantre'r Gwaelod, Taliesin defended Elffin and satirised his enemy, the powerful Maelgwn Gwynedd, shortly before the latter died. According to the Welsh Triads Taliesin had a son, accounted a great warrior who suffered a violent death in Lothian. Taliesin's own grave is held in folk-lore to be one near the village of Tre Taliesin near Llangynfelyn called Bedd Taliesin, but this is a Bronze Age burial chamber, the village of Tre-Taliesin, located at the foot of the hill, was named after the burial chamber in the 19th century though legend was traced by Edward Lhuyd to the 17th century.
More detailed traditions of Taliesin's biography arose from about the 11th century, in Historia Taliesin. In the mid-16th-century, Elis Gruffydd recorded a legendary account of Taliesin that resembles the story of the boyhood of the Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhail and the salmon of wisdom in some respects; the tale was recorded in a different version by John Jones of Gellilyfdy. This story agrees in many respects with fragmentary accounts in the Book of Taliesin. According to the Hanes Taliesin, he was known as Gwion Bach ap Gwreang, he was a servant of Cerridwen and was made to stir the Cauldron of Inspiration for one year to allow for Cerridwen to complete her potion of inspiration. Upon completion of this potion, three drops landed upon Gwion Bach's thumb. Gwion placed his thumb in his mouth to soothe his burns resulting in Gwion's enlightenment. Out of fear of what Cerridwen would do to him, Gwion fled and transformed into a piece of grain before being consumed by Cerridwen. Gwion was reborn and given the name Taliesin.
According to these texts Taliesin was the foster-son of Elffin ap Gwyddno, who gave him the name Taliesin, meaning "radiant brow", who became a king in Ceredigion, Wales. The legend states that he was raised at his court in Aberdyfi and that at the age of 13, he visited King Maelgwn Gwynedd, Elffin's uncle, prophesied the manner and imminence of Maelgwn's death. A number of medieval poems attributed to Taliesin allude to the legend but these postdate the historical poet's floruit considerably; the idea that he was a bard at the court of King Arthur dates back at least to the tale of Culhwch and Olwen a product of the 11th century. It is elaborated upon in modern English poetry, such as Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Charles Williams's Taliessin Through Logres, but the historical Taliesin's career can be shown to have fallen in the last half of the 6th century, while historians who argue for Arthur's existence date his victory at Mons Badonicus in the years either si
White Book of Rhydderch
The White Book of Rhydderch is one of the most notable and celebrated surviving manuscripts in Welsh. Written in southwest Wales in the middle of the 14th century it is the earliest collection of Welsh prose texts, though it contains some examples of early Welsh poetry, it is now part of the collection of the National Library of Wales, having been preserved in the library at Hengwrt, near Dolgellau, Gwynedd, of the 17th century antiquary Robert Vaughan, who inherited it from the calligrapher John Jones and passed it to his descendants. The collection passed to the newly established National Library of Wales as the Peniarth or Hengwrt-Peniarth Manuscripts. What was one manuscript was divided into two in the medieval period and has been bound as two separate volumes, known as Peniarth MS 4 and Peniarth MS 5. Peniarth MS 4 contains the most important material: medieval Welsh tales now collectively known as the Mabinogion. Peniarth MS 5 contains Christian religious texts in Welsh translated from Latin and French, including Lives of various saints and a tale of Charlemagne.
The White Book was copied in the mid 14th century, most for Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd from Parcrhydderch in the parish of Llangeitho in Ceredigion. Rhydderch, who came from a family with a long tradition of literary patronage, held posts under the English Crown but was an authority on native Welsh law; the hands of five scribes have been identified in the manuscripts likely working in Strata Florida Abbey, not far from Rhydderch's home, in South Wales based on the dialect used by the scribes. The remainder of the name refers to the book being bound in white; the contents of the manuscript are similar to the Red Book of Hergest, may have been its exemplar. The White Book is no longer complete, but it was copied in 1573 by Richard Langford, before some of the text was lost. Langford's copy is itself now lost, but two copies descending from it do survive: Peniarth 111, whose spelling is close to the White Book's, London, British Library, Add. MS 31055.'White Book of Rhydderch'. In Meic Stephens, The new companion to the literature of Wales.
Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1383-3. Parry, Thomas, A history of Welsh literature. Translated by H. Idris Bell. Oxford: Clarendon Press
John Jones, known by his bardic name of Talhaiarn, was a Welsh poet and architect. He was born at the Harp Inn in Denbighshire, he was apprenticed to and working for the architect and Denbighshire County Surveyor Thomas Penson between 1830 and 1843. He served with ecclesiastical architects in London, was employed by Sir Joseph Paxton to oversee the building of the Crystal Palace, he came to prominence as a member of Cymdeithas y Cymreigyddion in London, became its president in 1849. Suffering from ill health, he returned to Wales in 1865 and in 1869 took his own life by shooting himself in his bedroom at the Harp Inn, he is buried under a yew tree at St Mary's church in Llanfair Talhaearn. Talhaiarn wrote in the Welsh language, his works included well-known lyrics such as Bugeilio'r Gwenith Gwyn, Mae Robin yn Swil. Whilst his bardic name is derived in a conventional way from the place of his birth, it is also to refer to Talhaearn Tad Awen, a noted 6th-century Welsh poet. Although he was accepted into Gorsedd y Beirdd in Bala in 1869, he is known to have failed several times to win the chair at the Eisteddfod.
In 1849 at the Aberffraw eisteddfod he rose to his feet to contest the adjudication and defend his defeated awdl. In 1863 at the Swansea eisteddfod he held that the Nonconformist judges were biased against him as an Anglican. John Thomas compiled a series of books called "Welsh Melodies with Welsh and English Poetry", it was a collaborative work with John Jones creating the Welsh words and Thomas Oliphant the artist and musician writing the English and authored by John Thomas the Welsh composer and harpist. There were four volumes, the first two published in 1862, the third in 1870 and the fourth in 1874. Works by or about Talhaiarn at Internet Archive Works by Talhaiarn at LibriVox
The Britons known as Celtic Britons or Ancient Britons, were Celtic people who inhabited Great Britain from the British Iron Age into the Middle Ages, at which point their culture and language diverged into the modern Welsh and Bretons. They spoke the ancestor to the modern Brittonic languages; the traditional view that the Celtic Britons migrated from the continent across the English Channel, with their languages and genes in the Iron Age has been undermined in recent decades by the contention of many scholars that Celtic languages had instead spread north along the Atlantic seaboard during the Bronze Age, the results of genetic studies, which show a large continuity between Iron Age and older British populations, suggesting trans-cultural diffusion was very important in the introduction of the Celtic languages. The earliest evidence for the Britons and their language in historical sources dates to the Iron Age. After the Roman conquest of Britain in the 1st century, a Romano-British culture emerged, Latin and British Vulgar Latin coexisted with Brittonic.
During and after the Roman era, the Britons lived throughout Britain. Their relationship with the Picts, who lived north of the Firth of Forth, has been the subject of much discussion, though most scholars now accept that the Pictish language was related to Common Brittonic, rather than a separate Celtic language. With the beginning of Anglo-Saxon settlement and Gaelic Scots in the 5th and 6th centuries, the culture and language of the Britons fragmented, much of their territory was taken over by the Anglo-Saxons and Scots Gaels; the extent to which this cultural and linguistic change was accompanied by wholesale changes in the population is still a matter of discussion. During this period some Britons migrated to mainland Europe and established significant colonies in Brittany, the Channel Islands as well as Britonia in modern Galicia, Spain. By the beginning of the 11th century, remaining Brittonic Celtic-speaking populations had split into distinct groups: the Welsh in Wales, the Cornish in Cornwall, the Bretons in Brittany, the Cumbric speaking people of the Hen Ogledd in southern Scotland and northern England, the remnants of the Pictish people in the north of Scotland.
Common Brittonic developed into the distinct Brittonic languages: Welsh, Cumbric and Breton. The earliest known reference to the inhabitants of Britain seems to come from 4th century BC records of the voyage of Pytheas, a Greek geographer who made a voyage of exploration around the British Isles between 330 and 320 BC. Although none of his own writings remain, writers during the time of the Roman Empire made much reference to them. Pytheas called the islands collectively αἱ Βρεττανίαι, translated as the Brittanic Isles; the peoples of these islands were called the Πρεττανοί, Pritani or Pretani. The group included Ireland, referred to as Ierne "inhabited by the race of Hiberni", Britain as insula Albionum, "island of the Albions"; the term Pritani may have reached Pytheas from the Gauls, who used it as their term for the inhabitants of the islands. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, compiled by the orders of King Alfred the Great in 890, subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th century, starts with this sentence: "The island Britain is 800 miles long, 200 miles broad, there are in the island five nations: English, Scottish and Latin.
The first inhabitants were the Britons, who came from Armenia, first peopled Britain southward." The Latin name in the early Roman Empire period was Britanni or Brittanni, following the Roman conquest in AD 43. The Welsh word Brython was introduced into English usage by John Rhys in 1884 as a term unambiguously referring to the P-Celtic speakers of Great Britain, to complement Goidel. "Brittonic languages" is a more recent coinage intended to refer to the ancient Britons specifically. In English, the terms "Briton" and British for many centuries denoted only the ancient Celtic Britons and their descendants, most the Welsh and Bretons, who were seen as heirs to the ancient British people. After the Acts of Union 1707, the terms British and Briton came to be applied to all inhabitants of the Kingdom of Great Britain, including the English and some Northern Irish; the Britons spoke an Insular Celtic language known as Common Brittonic. Brittonic was spoken throughout the island of Britain, as well as offshore islands such as the Isle of Man, Scilly Isles, Hebrides, Isle of Wight and Shetland.
According to early medieval historical tradition, such as The Dream of Macsen Wledig, the post-Roman Celtic-speakers of Armorica were colonists from Britain, resulting in the Breton language, a language related to Welsh and identical to Cornish in the early period and still used today. Thus the area today is called Brittany. Common Brittonic developed from the Insular branch of the Proto-Celtic language that developed in the British Isles after arriving from the continent in the 7th century BC; the language began to diverge.
Yr Hen Ogledd, in English the Old North, is the region of Northern England and the southern Scottish Lowlands inhabited by the Celtic Britons of sub-Roman Britain in the Early Middle Ages. Its denizens spoke a variety of the Brittonic language known as Cumbric; the Hen Ogledd was distinct from the parts of northern Britain inhabited by the Picts, Anglo-Saxons, Scoti as well as from Wales, although the people of the Hen Ogledd were the same Brittonic stock as the Picts and Cornish, the region loomed large in Welsh literature and tradition for centuries after its kingdoms had disappeared. The major kingdoms of the Hen Ogledd were Elmet in western Yorkshire. Smaller kingdoms or districts included Aeron, Eidyn and Manaw Gododdin; the Angle kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia both had Brittonic-derived names, suggesting they may have been Brittonic kingdoms in origin. All the kingdoms of the Old North except Strathclyde were conquered by Anglo-Saxons and Picts by about 800; the legacy of the Hen Ogledd remained strong in Wales.
Welsh tradition included genealogies of the Gwŷr y Gogledd, or Men of the North, several important Welsh dynasties traced their lineage to them. A number of important early Welsh texts were attributed to the Men of the North, such as Taliesin, Myrddin Wyllt, the Cynfeirdd poets. Heroes of the north such as Urien, Owain mab Urien, Coel Hen and his descendants feature in Welsh poetry and the Welsh Triads. Nothing is reliably known of Central Britain before c. 550. There had never been a period of long-term, effective Roman control north of the Tyne–Solway line, south of that line effective Roman control ended long before the traditionally given date of departure of the Roman military from Roman Britain in 407, it was noted in the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus and others that there was ever-decreasing Roman control from about AD 100 onward, in the years after 360 there was widespread disorder and the large-scale permanent abandonment of territory by the Romans. By 550, the region was controlled by native Brittonic-speaking peoples except for the eastern coastal areas, which were controlled by the Anglian peoples of Bernicia and Deira.
To the north were the Picts with the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata to the northwest. All of these peoples would play a role in the history of the Old North. From a historical perspective, wars were internecine, Britons were aggressors as well as defenders, as was true of the Angles and Gaels. However, those Welsh stories of the Old North that tell of Briton fighting Anglian have a counterpart, told from the opposite side; the story of the demise of the kingdoms of the Old North is the story of the rise of the Kingdom of Northumbria from two coastal kingdoms to become the premier power in Britain north of the Humber and south of the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth. The interests of kingdoms of this era were not restricted to their immediate vicinity. Alliances were not made only within the same ethnic groups, nor were enmities restricted to nearby different ethnic groups. An alliance of Britons fought against another alliance of Britons at the Battle of Arfderydd. Áedán mac Gabráin of Dál Riata appears in the Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd, a genealogy among the pedigrees of the Men of the North.
The Historia Brittonum states that Oswiu, king of Northumbria, married a Briton who may have had some Pictish ancestry. A marriage between the Northumbrian and Pictish royal families would produce the Pictish king Talorgan I. Áedán mac Gabráin fought as an ally of the Britons against the Northumbrians. Cadwallon ap Cadfan of the Kingdom of Gwynedd allied with Penda of Mercia to defeat Edwin of Northumbria. Conquest and defeat did not mean the extirpation of one culture and its replacement by another; the Brittonic region of northwestern England was absorbed by Anglian Northumbria in the 7th century, yet it would re-emerge 300 years as South Cumbria, joined with North Cumbria into a single state. The organisation of the Men of the North was tribal, based on kinship groups of extended families, owing allegiance to a dominant "royal" family, sometimes indirectly through client relationships, receiving protection in return. For Celtic peoples, this organisation was still in effect hundreds of years as shown in the Irish Brehon law, the Welsh Laws of Hywel Dda, the Scottish Laws of the Brets and Scots.
The Germanic Anglo-Saxon law had culturally different origins, but with many similarities to Celtic law. Like Celtic law, it was based on cultural tradition, without any perceivable debt to the Roman occupation of Britain. A primary royal court would be maintained as a "capital", but it was not the bureaucratic administrative centre of modern society, nor the settlement or civitas of Roman rule; as the ruler and protector of his kingdom, the king would maintain multiple courts throughout his territory, travelling among them to exercise his authority and to address the needs of his clients, such as in the dispensing of justice. This ancient method of dispensing justice survived throughout England as a part of royal procedure until the reforms of Henry II modernised the administration of law. Modern scholarship uses the term "Cumbric" for the Brittonic language spoken in the Hen Ogledd, it appears to have been closely related to Old Welsh, with some local variances, more distant