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EARLY TIMELINES IN WELSH HISTORY
By Darrell Wolcott
Much of what has been written
of the period of transition in Britian from Roman to self-rule has relied on the dating of events according to earlier
author's guesses. The dates and intervals between events found in Ninnius and cited by the various manuscripts which
comprise the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles can, if we rigidly adhere to them, become a barrier in reconstructing what must have occurred
in Britain in the 5th century. With this paper, we propose to arrive at dates mostly based on pedigree evidence for
the likely births, ages and marriages of the key historic men. Sometimes our results conform with previously accepted
dates, but often not.
Our basic premise in constructing
our scenerio is that initially the leading men of Britian thought and acted as Roman citizens and employed the Roman mode
of governance. But when this approach failed to bring stability and protection from external invaders, most elements
of the Roman system were forcefully rejected and replaced by the atavistic Celtic warlords of the mountains who for centuries
had organized their lands as family units without a unifying central government. However, the heads of these families
did at times choose a single battle leader to combat a foe who threatened them all. We shall begin in the late 4th century.
370 Roman Emperor Gratian named Coel Hen dux Britanniarum
to prevent the return of the Picts which he had come to expel in 367. The head of a Celt tribe in the north of
Britain, Coel Hen was likely stationed at York and his forces probably included both Roman army soldiers and men of his own
383 Magnus Maximum, the Maxen Wledig of Welsh memories, was serving as
a Roman general in Britain, possibly as the Count of the Saxon Shore. Without speculating on the reasons, he was raised
to Emperor by the consent of the leading men of Britain but without sanction by the legitimate Emperor Theodosius. We
think he was required to put aside his wife (and mother of his children) to marry a daughter of Coel Hen; this in the Roman
custom of a new Caesar being required to marry into the family of the Emperor who promoted him. Coel was only the Dux,
but was a native Celt with strong support of the other leading families. Maxen then named another native Britian as Wledig
(rural governor) in Britain, Edern ap Padern. Edern was required to marry another daughter of Coel Hen.
The usurping Emperor then crossed to Gaul and killed Gratian, causing both
Valentinian II and Theodosius I to confirm him as a legitimate Emperor of the West.
388 Maxen was finally outlawed as a usurper by Theodosius and slain.
The Roman general Stilicho was sent to restore Roman authority in Britain.
405 Stilicho withdrew from Britain withdrew his troops from Britain to
combat new threats to the Roman Empire from both Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The leading men in Britain asked Emperor
Honorius for replacement legions, but were told to look to themselves for their defense. They selected an army commander
named Marcus and raised him to Emperor status, probably requiring him to marry into the "royal" family of Maxen. We
suggest this lady was Seferus, daughter of Maxen
407 No reason is known, but support for Marcus was withdrawn and he was
killed. The leader of the rebellion, an army commander named Gratian was chosen to replace him. This man may have
declined to put aside his wife and marry a lady of Maxen's family, and was deposed and slain after only 4 months. He
was replaced by Constantine III who we think married the widowed Seferus ferch Maxen Wledig. Constantine III,
still fully intent on continuing the Roman mode, crossed to Gaul to establish himself as Emperor of the West just as Maxen
had done earlier.
409 Constantine III forced Honorius to recognize his claims. He named
his son, Constans, as his Caesar and put his best general, Gerontius, under his command. Shortly afterwards, Gerontius
revolted and killed Constans. Constantine III was now facing attack from his own men and Honorius now turned against
him. Back in Britian, the mountain men of the north (who had provided their military skills and wealth, but
had left the administrative part of government to imported Romans under the oversight of "citified" Britains) seem to
have lost all confidence in the ability of Rome or the Roman system of government to provide for the island's defenses.
They initiated a purge which killed off all of Constantine's civil servants, and they created a new office of "overking"
to rule Britain as a state wholly independent of Rome. Chosen as their new overking was Custinnen, not only a son of Maxen
but a maternal grandson of Coel Hen.
409-425 At various times during his rule, Custinnen named several
new men to the office of Wledig to oversee rural areas of the island:
(1) About 413, he chose Cunedda Ap Edern
as Wledig for the territory between the Roman walls, giving one of his daughters to be Cunedda's wife.
(2) About 409, he chose Cadell ap Caderyn as Wedleg
for the area around Chester in the far west, giving him as wife a daughter of his sister Seferus by Constantine III.
(3) About 409, he chose Gwrtheyrn ap Gwydol
as Wledig for the area around Caerleon, giving him to wife his own daughter, Seferus.
During his reign as overking, peace
was maintained on the island, the Picts were kept at bay in the north, the Irish who now occupied most of Wales were confined to the mountainous areas, and the hordes of Goths, Vandals, etc. who had
pressed into Gaul turned south toward Spain.
425 Custinnen died around age 50. His eldest son, Ambrosius, was
yet a teenager so his son-in-law was named interim overking. This was Gwrtheyrn ap Gwydol, known to history by his title
428 Fearing that events in the Roman Empire were such that it might seek
to reclaim Britain, Vortigern took steps to strengthen the defenses of his eastern coast. A contingent of Saxons, driven
from their own lands by eastern invaders, were welcomed to Britain and stationed on the island of Thanet, now the northeast
tip of Kent.
429 Cadell was directed to press westward as far as the Clwyd to drive
back the Irish who had invaded and settled there in the latter part of the previous century when more urgent matters occupied
the attention of first the Romans then the Britains themselves. Cadell resettled the area with families of his own tribe
and called the new lands Ddrwnllwg.
437 Ambrosius, the son of Custinnen, attained sufficient years to assume
rule but Vortigern refused to yield his power. They met in battle, but Abrosius was bested. However, many
of the leading men withdrew their support from Vortigern believing Ambrosius should now succeed to his father's office.
To shore up his own position, Vortigern imported a huge number of mercinaries from the continent, Saxons, Angles and
Danes. These likely included the brothers Hergest and Horsa.
440 Secure in his office with the backing of his imported troops, Vortigern
sent Cunedda Wledig to northwest Wales to expel the remainder of the Irish, replacing him in the far north by naming
Ceretic ap Cynloyp as a new Wledig.