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Glast and the Glastening
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Eunydd son of Gwenllian
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Cowryd ap Cadfan of Dyffryn Clwyd
Marchweithian, Lord of Is Aled, Rhufoniog
Osbwrn Wyddel of Cors Gedol
Bradwen of Llys Bradwen in Meirionydd
Ednowain ap Bradwen
Who Was Sir Robert Pounderling?
Eidio Wyllt - What Was His Birthname?
Parents and Children of the Lord Rhys
                                THE LANDS OF THE SILURES
                                       By Darrell Wolcott
 
         Historians and geographers uniformly locate the Celtic-speaking tribe of Silures on the north shore of the Bristol Channel, in what is now called Glamorgan and Monmouthshire...the former kingdoms of Glywysing and Gwent.  While we agree those lands were occupied by folks called "Silures", was that only a part of the territory held by its ruling families?
 
         The second century geographer, Ptolemy of Alexandria, drew rough maps of Britain on which he labeled southeast Wales as "Silures" and much of the lands north of them as "Ordovices".  He said the "Demetae" were located "west of the Silures".  And he mentioned no tribe at all in north Wales as "Deceangli".  While we will allow the learned Ptolemy his opinions, we find his geography at odds with that described by the Roman Tacitus in the first century...a man much nearer the scene.  Following the 47 A.D. Iceni uprising on the eastern coast of Britain, Tacitus tell us:
 
        "The Roman army then struck against the Decangi [see Appendix], ravaging their territory and collecting extensive booty. The enemy did not venture upon an open engagement and, when they tried to ambush the column, suffered for their trickery. Ostorius had nearly reached the sea facing Ireland when a rising by the Brigantes recalled him."
 
        Although Tacitus refers to "Decangi" and "Brigantes" in describing native Britains which the Romans encountered in two different parts of the island, these were not names by which the inhabitants referred to themselves.  They were merely Latin terms meant to describe either the peoples or the lands they occupied. Since Decangli is said to be the eponym of the Welsh cantref Tegeingl, we would assume it was that area which the Romans had invaded before retreating to put down an uprising occurring to their rear.  Exactly how far the Roman column had penetrated is only a guess.  If moving northwest, the sea facing Ireland could be seen near the north shore before reaching the Clwyd.  But if moving due west toward Mon, it likely traveled as far as the Conwy. 
 
     After reporting that the Brigante uprising was quelled, Tacitus continues:
 
      "But neither sternness nor leniency prevented the Silures from fighting.  To suppress them, a brigade garrison had to be established.  In order to facilitate the displacement of troops westward to man it, a strong settlement of ex-soldiers was established on conquered land at Camulodunum.  Its mission was to protect the country against revolt and familiarize the provincals with law-abiding government.  Next Ostorius invaded Silurian territory."
 
          Are we to assume the Romans wholly forgot about the mission they'd be on in far north Wales when that had been interrupted by the Brigante uprising?  It seems much more likely it was exactly that mission for which Ostorius brought more men west; that he had assembled a group of ex-soldiers in Camulodunum to permit the regulars stationed in that area to accompany him on his renewed campaign in the west.  To bring to heel a group of people that refused to fight a pitched battle, to root them out of their deep forests and mountain perches, would require many more Roman soldiers.  So exactly who were these "Silures" that refused to yield peacefully?
 
         We suggest Tacitus used the word to mean "men of the rocks", that is "mountain men"....literally all the inhabitants of what is now Wales[1]. His account continues:
 
          "The natural ferocity of the inhabitants was intensified by their belief in the prowess of Caratacus, whose many undefeated battles - and even many victories - had made him pre-eminent among British chieftans[2].  His deficiency in strength was compensated by superior cunning and topographical knowledge.  Transferring the war to the country of the Ordovices...."
 
           We stop there to consider what we are being told. Those rough maps Ptolemy drew up 100 years later placed the Ordovices to the north of the Silures, but the campaign related by Tacitus was already near the north shore of Wales.  And how does a tribal leader "transfer the war" to the lands of another tribe who was not previously under attack?  To go further, were the "Ordovices" a separate tribe at all?  The Latin "ordo" signifies "class" or "rank".  Was the "country of the Ordovices" actually "lands personally owned by the ruling family" of the Silures?  Did Caratacus do no more than select a battle site on nearby lands owned by his family and with which he had intimate knowledge of the terrain?  Those who would place his heroic stand around Herefordshire or Shropshire put, we think, entirely too much faith in Ptolemy's rough maps.
 
         We would suggest the Romans simply followed their previous route through Tegeingl, crossed the Clwyd and as they reached the Conwy, were finally met by Caratacus in Arfon where he chose a spot in the foothills of Snowdonia on the west side of the Conwy.  That this was also the vicinity of his home is suggested by Tacitus' report that after the Romans defeated the army assembled there by Caratacus, they took his wife and daughter as prisoners.  It seems unlikely those ladies would be nearby the battle site unless they lived there.
 
                The later statement by Ptolemy that there were "Demetae" located "west of the Silures" is somewhat misleading.  The Latin "de metae" denotes "from the end boundry" or the westernmost point of south Wales.  Tacitus mentions no such separate tribe in Dyfed, we suggest because the men who lived there were simply more "silures".
 
         Later in his histories, Tacitus tells us "the Ordovices were virtually exterminated".[3]  Based on the standard tribal maps now claimed by modern historians, this would mean just about everyone who lived in Wales north of Glamorgan.  We think, however, the men whom the Roman army sought to exterminate (not simply subdue) were the members of the royal family who ruled virtually all of Wales; it was they whose warbands stubbornly resisted the Romans.  Rather than envisioning the slaughter of thousands of men, women and children, we suggest the Romans only meant to deprive the "silures" of their leadership...the group they called "ordovices".   That the effort was mostly successful can be seen in the pedigree evidence; only a single line descended from Caratacus is known until we reach the early third century. 
 
          Pedigree evidence indicates that direct male descendants of Caraticus held extensive lands along all three coasts of Wales in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and we posit that this extended family ruled the whole of Wales except for the eastern-central lands held by the Cornovii tribe...both before the Romans came and after they left some 400 years later.  We further think they had lavish personal manors at several places along the coast which the Romans converted into forts, including Segontium and Caerleon.
 
          While the following is merely our own conjecture, we suggest that by the year 250AD the ruling family had divided their lands into four quadrants, each ruled by a different family branch.  In the northwest was Cernyw, so named for the "horn" formed by the Llyn peninsula.  Its royal residence was at Segontium and its lands extended east to the Conwy and south to the Dyfi.  The island of Mon was given over to the Druids but the rest was later to be called Gwynedd is Conwy.  Its first king was Eudaf Hen, born c. 230.
 
         Directly to the east was the kingdom of Llydaw, extending from the Conwy to the Dee and bordering Cornovii lands on the south and east.  Men from this kingdom were recruited by Emperor Maximianus Herculius for his Gaul campaign in the late 3rd century and rewarded with lands in Brittany which they named after their Welsh birthplace.  Its first king was Gereint ap Einudd of c. 235, a brother of Eudaf Hen.
 
          The southwest quadrant was called Demetae, comprising what was later known as Dyfed and Ystrad Tywy.  It was ruled from Menevia by Caradog ap Einudd of c. 220, an older half-brother of Eudaf Hen and Geraint.  His lands originally included the peninsula of Cornwall across the Bristol Channel, the source of tin for most of the European world.  Some early writers called Cornwall "Cernyw" due to its horn shape, but the Cernyw or "Gorneu" of Welsh history was Llyn and the lands around it.
 
          The final kingdom lay to the east and directly south of the Cornovii lands later called Powys, encompassing what we now call Glamorgan, Gwent and Brychieniog.  It was called Dumnonia and originally included much of Devon and Somerset across the Bristol Channel.  It was first ruled by Arthfael ap Einudd, the uterine brother of Eudaf Hen and Gereint and ancestor of the Gwent dynasty.
 
          We have elsewhere[4] mentioned the ancestor of this family, a seafarer known as Llyr Llediath "the man of the seas who spoke with a foreign accent".  This man, we think, had his ancestry with the Menapii Celts found both in Spain and Ireland and reknown as seamen plying the trade routes between continental Europe and the British Isles.  A number of later men descended from Llyr are called Menapiian by historians, including Carausius and Macsen Wledig...men we believe were actually born in Wales of Menapii roots.  We suspect the early historians reserved the name "Silures" for men of the mountainous inland regions of Wales, but referred to those who settled on the coastline as "Menapiians". Modern historians tend to confine Silures to Gwent and Glamorgan and Menapiians to Spain.
      

NOTES:
[1] Possibly excluding the Cornovii tribe lands.  Although their lands later included much of the east-central part of Wales, they may have mainly occupied only the fertile Severn valley in the days of Tacitus  
[2] This was Caradog ap Bran ap Llyr Llediath of Wales, not the Caraticus son of Cunobelinus of the Catuvellauni tribe.  The latter man opposed the original invasion of Claudius and was soundly defeated, while the Welshman of similar name is described as being undefeated in battles when he faced the Romans in AD 51.  Most English historians conflate the two men since they both lived in the mid-1st century.
[3] It was about the year 78 AD when Tacitus reports that Agricola "virtually extirpated the Ordovices" after they wiped out a whole corps of Roman calvary.
[4]  See the paper "Beli Mawr and Llyr Llediath in Welsh Pedigrees" at the link below:
 

APPENDIX:
 
          While many historians speak of a Celtic tribe called the Deceangli located in the far northeast part of Wales, the evidence they rely on is far from compelling.  Ptolemy's maps of the 2nd century include no such separate tribe in that location.  Most would point to the Annals of Tacitus, XII, 32 where the following text is found:
 
                        "et ductus in decangos exercitus"
 
          Most would translate this to read something similiar to "And then the army was led into decangi" and thereby assume he meant "into the lands of the Deceangli tribe".  We suggest that Tacitus was merely saying that the Roman army moved into the lead-mining area of north Wales.  Archeologists have found lead pigs (ingots) around Chester which date from the 1st century and were stamped with "Vespasian Augusta" on the top and "deceangi" on the side.  It is mere conjecture that this marking meant the ingots were mined in a place, or on lands occupied by people, called Deceangi or Deceangli.  It may have identified a specific lead mine which they designated "deca-Anglia" or "number 10 in Britian".  While the first-century Romans may have referred to the modern Flintshire as "the location of British lead mine #10", the folks living there were not necessarily a Celtic tribe apart from their neighbors to the south or west.  We would agree, however, that the Welsh name for the cantref of Tegeingl was derived from the old Roman lead mine designation.
 
          It is also possible to reach an entirely different meaning from the words of Tacitus.  Words 3 and 4 in the Latin phrase cited above may have been "inde cangos" rather than "in decangos".  We have no clue to what "cangos" might have meant, but one meaning of "inde" is "for that reason".  One might argue that Tacitus was trying to tell us the reason why the Roman army invaded north Wales in AD 47-50 rather than naming the people attacked.