ANOTHER LOOK AT TEITHFALLT OF GWENT
By Darrell Wolcott
In an earlier paper , we had discussed
the conflicting citations which name the father of Tewdrig of Gwent, the man born c. 505 from whom the modern Gwent Dynasty
descended. While most genealogists support "Tewdrig ap Llywarch", the oldest citations claim "Tewdrig ap Teithfallt".
Peter Bartrum supposes the confusion can be traced to the Brycheiniog man of 100 years earlier also called Tewdrig ap Teithfallt.
We are less certain.
These are clearly names of Gothic, not
Celtic origin, which have merely been rendered in the Welsh style. Tewdrig was derived from Theodoric, and Teithfallt
from Thiudebalth. In the Brychan pedigrees, men of those names are said to have descended from a Greek man called
Annhun Ddu or "Antonius the black" whom we suggest came to Britain (or at least his son did) about 300 AD. Likely a
Roman military officer, this "Teudfall filius Annhun" married the heiress of Garthmadryn  and was the ancestor of
Brychan for whom the lands were renamed Brychieniog. Around the year 355, that family produced our first known "Theodoric
ap Thiudebalth", the father of an heiress named Marchel...mother of Brychan. In our search for another Roman soldier
called Thiudebalth who 100 years later also might have named a son Theodoric, we turn to Roman history.
In the mid-4th century located in what is
now Romania, a tribe of visigoths called the Thervingi had settled on the Danubian plains west of the Dniester River.
They had permitted a tribe of Sarmatians known as Taifali to settle adjacent to them. Two men battled for control of
the Thervingi, with Athanaric apparently besting Fritigern in their civil war. About the year 375, Fritigern appealed
to Roman Emperor Valens for permission to move his clan south across the Danube into Empire-controlled lands. It is
unclear whether Fritigern sought shelter from the Athanaric-led faction or from the Huns who were pressing them from
the north and east, but Valens granted them leave to move into his empire (to what is now Bulgaria); they would then have
all the rights and privileges of Roman citizenship as well as the duties of taxation and conscription of men for the army.
However, when these visigoths settled in the new lands, they became subject to the local Roman governor called Lupicinus.
A famine was apparently occurring locally and food was in short supply. Deciding there was not enough to feed both
the old inhabitants and the newcomers, Lupicinus charged Fritigern's clan outrageous prices and it is said some of his people
had to sell a child into slavery simply to get enough to eat. Before the year 376 ended, Fritigern led his men
in battle against Lupicinus and soundly defeated him. He then threw off any loyalty to the Roman Empire since Valen's
men had not keep the promises the Emperor had made to him.
In 378, Valens brought his army
to Thrace to deal with the visigoths. In the Battle of Adrianople that year, Fritigern's army soundly defeated the Romans
and Valens himself did not survive. That same year, back in their former lands north of the Danube, Athanaric was busy
battling his former ally the Taifali. They had complained that their lands were not included in the defensive plan
devised to protect the visigoth lands from the Huns. The Taifali had appealed to Gratian and they were resettled
in north Italy and Gaul.
The following year,
Theodosius I was named to replace Valens. His attempts to defeat the visigoths were unsuccessful, and after the death
of Fritigern, he concluded a treaty whereby the visigoths would be accepted in bloc within imperial borders as foederati.
They were given lands in Thrace and permitted to live under their own laws and rulers, on the condition that they provide
entire fighting units (not individual recruits) that would assist the Emperor when needed.
Meanwhile, problems were multiplying
over in the Western Empire; Gratian had been slain by the usurping Magnus Maximus in 383, leaving
it under the control of General Arbogast. Maximus was finally slain in 388 and Arbogast set up a puppet Emperor in Eugenius.
Theodosius came west leading an army which included many thousands of visigoths under Alaric, son of the Thervingian Athanaric.
The puppet, Eugenius, was slain in 394 at the Battle of Frigidus and Theodosius became
ruler of both the eastern and western Empires.
Theodosius had an elder son,
Honorius, who was just 11 years old whom he put in the care of his top general, Stilicho. A year later, Theodosius died
leaving minor sons as the new emperors: Arcadius in the east and Honorius in the west. The major threat to the Empire
was now Alaric, the visigoth warrior who was demanding payment for services provided to Theodosius and Stilicho. At
the same time, the people of Britain were seeking military assistance to combat both Pict and Irish invaders. Magnus
Maximus had drawn down the British garrisons to assist him in Gual and Rome had done nothing to beef them up when they executed
About 398/399, fresh units were dispatched
to Britain by Stilicho. These included a cavalry unit composed of Taifali men who had been resettled in Acquitaine 20
years earlier. The Equites Taifali Seniors, as they appear in Notitia Dignitatum, carried round shields bearing a dragon's
head and may be the earliest introduction of that device into British cavalry. 100 years later, "pendragon" was commonly
used to designate a battle leader. We think it possible that a junior officer of these Equites Taifali was named Thiudebalth,
and that his squad of cavalry was posted to Caerleon or Caerwent in Gwent. Everything we posit below about him and his
family is merely conjecture, offered as one possible explanation of subsequent events.
In 406, with Alaric posed to assault
Rome itself, General Stilicho "desperately scraped together 30 legions" to meet the threat. While this likely included
most of the infantry units which had been stationed in Britain, we suggest he allowed the Taifali cavalry to remain.
The following year, with most of the Roman army deployed to Italy to battle Alaric, the troops in Britain raised Constantine
III to the purple. Attacks by the Irish and Picts subsided, fearful that this new Emperor in Britain might mean new
legions would soon appear there. But Constantine III crossed into Gaul and demanded recognition from Honorius.
Defense against the again emboldened Picts and Irish was left in the hands of the "barbarians": those tribes in the mountainous
north and west of the island who had never adopted the Roman citified lifestyle. Angry that their taxes and their sons
were being used to support Constantine's army in Gaul and not their own defense, in 409 the wealthy class purged the entire
group of Roman bureaucrats who managed the taxation, conscription and support functions for their army. Undoubtedly
this had to have included all Roman military staff officers still in Britain. Many of these likely abandoned their posts
and fled to Gaul, others may have switched sides to join with the "barbarian" war bands. Some units led by lower ranking
officers are believed to have simply disbanded and melted into the civilian population.
It is possible that our putative cavalry
officer, Thiudebalth, took his unit over to the British side in Gwent where he had established rapport with its leading family.
Now nearing 30 years of age, we suggest he married a Gwent lady and in 405, had a son whom he named Theodoric. The Brits
elevated a younger son of Magnus Maximus, a former cleric called Blessed Custinnen, to the role of overking charged with coordinating
the multiple warbands who were individually commanded by their own tribal leaders. The Gwent tribesmen were a cousin
line of the men in north Wales from whom Custinnen had sprung, and were among the counsellors who advised him on military
matters. Now called by the Welsh style "Teithfallt", we suggest Thiudebalth contributed with his cavalry expertise.
Britain's principal threat, by
mid-century, had shifted from invading Irish and Picts to a revolt by the Saxons which had been settled on the island as mercenaries.
We posit that the son of aging Teithfallt, led a cavalry unit against the Saxons while bearing the dragonhead banner.
Young Theodoric, now called Tewdrig, married an unknown lady. Their son, born c. 440, was probably named Honorius
and became the heir to a large manor which had been assembled from grants made to his father and grandfather. He was,
we suggest, the shadowy personage who appears in Welsh archaiology as Ynyr Gwent of the 5th century .
While most of the family and deeds attributed
to him actually belong to a Ynyr Gwent of the 6th century, we think this earlier man was the father of a Teithfallt named
in honor of that first Taifali cavalry officer. Born c. 475, this man is probably the one who married a daughter
of Peibo ap Erb of Gwent and fathered the Tewdrig ap Teithfallt whom currrent genealogists call Tewdrig ap Llywarch.
In addition to Peibo, Erb had an older son named Ninniaw who succeeded him as king of Gwent. This Ninniaw had a son
Llywarch who followed his father as king, but may have died without sons around 535. The kingship may have devolved
upon the son of Peibo's daughter:
450 Peibo 440 Ynyr (Honorius)
475 Llywarch 485 daughter====Teithfallt
While Peibo also had two sons, Cynfyn and
Angwared, both of their families became extinct in the male line by the early 600's, ending with heiresses
who married men descended from Tewdrig. With his own marriage to a sister of Urien Rheged (and cousin of Llywarch Hen),
Tewdrig was assumed by historians to be a purebred Celtic Welshman...not the descendant of a Taifali Sarmatian. It was
this belief which may have led the medieval genealogists to substitute Llywarch for Teithfallt as the father of Tewdrig. It
would seem cynical of us to suggest they did so in order to hide his Gothic roots.
We think it entirely possible the Goth family
is the one which survived, while the original Celt family became extinct in the male line with each of its heiresses marrying
a man from the Goth family:
440 Ynyr Gwent
475 Teithfallt======daughter 480 Cynfy
505 Tewdrig 515
Gwrgan Fawr Tewdwr 510
540 Athrwys 535 Meurig=======Onbrawst
3 sons all d.s.p.
to Morgan Hen of c. 885