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| The Berth |
[600 x 309 jpg]
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The Berth lived on until the 4th Century AD and possibly even further and Andy has given me the ok to post some later reconstructions. This one is of 540 depicting the site if it were 'the churches of Bassa'.
There are some very interesting theory that link this site with the burial place for the Kings of Powys, known as "eglwysseu bassa" - "the churches of Bassa", which could have been the source for the legendary Avalon. As for beyond 540, there is another theory that it was Cynddylan's Llys Pengwern: the capitol of a British kingdom in the late 6th. and early 7th. Centuries, made famous by some early Welsh poetry. Let's first look at the case for the former...
The 'Isle of Avalon' was said to be the resting place of the legendary King Arthur. Here he is said to lie with his knights, waiting until Britain was in great peril before rising again to defend the isle. (I don't know what his idea of "peril" is, but he didn't budge during the Second World War!). The Anglo-Norman (?), Geoffrey of Monmouth, when translating the 'History of the Kings of Britain' from Welsh into Latin, called it "Insula Afallonis", which was shortened to "Avalon". However, the original Welsh text referred to it as "Ynys Afallach"- "Island or Realm of Afallach" (Afallach - pronounce something like "Avaklakh" - was also a Celtic deity but in this case may have been an actual person. "Aval" means "apple", which is why it is sometime referred to as the "Island of Apples"). The idea that the Berth was Avalon is not as far fetched as you might imagine.
It's so complicated!
Several Early Medieval historical figures have been attributed to the real Arthur, and one particular British leader is a contender. In the following, I'll try to explain the theory behind this - and the counter arguments - in as a succinct way as I can. It is a complex and difficult subject but I'll try, as a layperson, to make it as clear as possible...
Land of 'The Bear'
In their book 'King Arthur - The True Story', Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman tell us that there was a Powys king called Owain Ddantgwyn (pronounced something like "Owen Thantgooun"); meaning 'Owain White Tooth'. A king, the authors suggest, who was the son of a certain Enniaun Girt, the 'Head Dragon' of Gwynedd, which in Brythonic (the Briton language) would translate as 'pen dragon'. Owain, and the kingdom of Powys itself, were known as 'The Bear' or 'Artus' in Brythonic. (In Welsh, the modern form of this language, "arth gwyr" - "arth goour" - means "bear man").
The evidence goes on to tell us that a king called Cuneglasus was the predecessor of a ruler called 'Bear' - so he came before Owain. Cynddylan was said to be the "heir of the Great Arthur" - so he came after Owain. The legendary King Arthur was killed by his nephew Mordred at the Battle of Camlann in Cornwall. Owain died in a battle at Camlan - not in Cornwall, but on the ancient Powys\Gwenydd border. He may have fought in the Roman cavalry style - although the Romans tended to use Celtic cavalry anyway - which is what made him a match for the Saxons who were a little short on horses. The dates of Owain's life tie in with the supposed dates of the life of Arthur. Their conclusion is that Owain/'Artus' is our real King Arthur!
It's known that the kings of Powys were buried at "eglwysseu bassa" - pronounced something like "eglooussay bassa", but in modern Welsh "egloousseye bassa". In English this translates as "the churches of Bassa". This, by some, has been identified as modern day Baschurch, in the parish of which the Berth lies. IF Cynddylan was buried at the "the churches of Bassa" and IF this site is indeed the Berth, it would follow that 'Artus' was buried here too.
This is the BBC
Phillips and Keatman got the BBC interested in the story in the early ‘90’s. In a program called ‘Scoffield's Quest’ they persuaded the BBC to take a look at this site. They enlisted a lady - who was a psychic and dowser - to see if she could find signs of a burial. She did indeed, saying there was something large and round beneath where she stood. Something like a large shield. On its own this means nothing, but next they brought in geophysics and to everyone's amazement they too found something large and round, right where she had said!
So, we all thought this would be it. English Heritage, we thought, would be in there digging in no time! We're still waiting for the dig 13 years later! But, it isn't going to happen, not yet anyway. English Heritage, who assign the historic schedule status to sites and give permissions to dig, aren’t allowing digs here for the foreseeable future!
'King Arthur - the True Story' is a very well researched book and the authors certainly had me convinced for a while. Recently, however, I've begun to wonder why, unlike any other ruler, he became known by his 'nickname' - Artus? Why, when the original Welsh translated texts only calls him a 'dux belorum' - leader of battles - are they looking for a king? Why does the Welsh monk Gildas - a contemporary of Arthur - not mention him in his writings of the time? Lastly; why plump for the Berth as 'the churches of Bassa' when there have been no findings beyond the 4th. Century?
There are other theories, of course, that place Avalon elsewhere. It all comes down to who Arthur really was. Arthur may very well be the Arthur of the original Welsh stories. Not a king at all, but a 'dux belorum', and not a man of Powys but of Gwynedd: a man of the ‘Dragon’ and not the ‘Bear‘. I'll post this theory with the next image.
|For those interested, the hill behind the Berth is the Wrekin.|
|Lovely pic, VH, and fascinating story!|
|Rob Beers |
|Owain Danwyn king Arthur?he was a ruler of Rhos a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd, no way did he ever rule powys! i work next to bryn euryn hillfort in rhos which was most probably built by danwyn`s father einion yrth.if you really would like the best bet for king arthur`s identity try `journey to Avalon`which tells you exactly why it wasnt owain Danwyn.|
|Hi Rob. I think because of the fluidity of the Powys-Gwenydd boarders and who ruled what and when, Keatman and Phillips are suggesting that Owain's influence extended into Powys.
I'll have a look at Journey to Avalon as I, personally, am unsure about as to whether Owain was Arthur. However, Keatman and Phillips aren't the only ones behind this theory. Allow me to supply the following quote by Mick Baker:
Owain Ddantgwyn was succeeded (overthrown?) in the kingdom of Gwynedd by his nephew Maelgwyn. David H R Sims presents the case both lucidly and plausibly on the weaknesses of this proposition. He argues that since Owain held Rhôs, his removal would have little bearing on the succession within Gwynedd. However, as stated above the suggestion is that the ruler of Gwynedd, Cadwallon Lawhir, died in circa 517, thus allowing the major kingdom to revert to the suzerainty of Rhôs, and leaving Maelgwn disinherited. Sims argues that if this were the case, there could be no explanation for Maelgwn's failure to also annexe Rhôs following the death of Owain. The fact that he made no such move however, actually supports the Owain theory. One would have expected, in the light of his father's assassination, that Cuneglasus (Cynglas) of Rhôs would have sought reprisals against his father's killer, his cousin.
The fact that he didn't, coupled with the fact he was allowed to keep his kingdom, suggests a certain amount of complicity in his father's death. Perhaps the cousins planned that Owain should die and that the kingdom would be split between them (after all, if Owain was Arthur, High King of Britain, there would have been much jealousy and a prize worth killing for). This provides an equally plausible explanation as to why Maelgwn allowed his cousin to keep the throne of Rhôs. Sims goes on to say "From the dates calculated and the absence of any known ruler between Cadwallon and Maelgwn, it must be surmised that any intervening reign was of some brevity. It is more likely the uncle (a possible unnamed maternal uncle) seized the throne." If control of Gwynedd passed to Rhôs on the death of Cadwallon, then we need look no farther than Owain for an uncle whose reign over Gwynedd was no more than two years. Pretty brief! (Sims bases his theory re: the uncle on Gildas's use of the word 'avunculus' when referring to the deposed uncle). According to the legend, Arthur was mortally wounded at the Battle of Camlann while attempting to quash a revolt led by his nephew, Mordred (Medraut). It seems likely that Mordred may well have been based on Maelgwyn.|
|Amanda Paulger |
|There is more likely evidence that "King Arthur" was Arturious, a Roman general who led his english legion into a great battle against the saxons. (Reference is the book Sarum)|
|The evidence for Artorius Castor being the bases for the historic Arthur is pretty none existant. For a start he dates from the 2nd Century - not from the 5th as portrayed in the film King Arthur - and had nothing to do with the Saxons... apart from possibly using them in his legions, although I doubt it since he was of a cavalry unit that used Sarmations. Nor is he based on Arturius of the Scotti. Although he's in the right century, the Brtions are hardly likely to use a Scotti as their hero.
Since writing the piece above I am also in no doubt that Owain wasn't the bases for Arthur either. I believe he was an obscure battle leader, possibly from Gwynedd, who managed to get a one line mention in the epic peom, Y Gododdin.
Geoffrey of Monmouth took a piece of work from Brittania (which we now know was the name for Wales at the time and not Brittany) and turned him into a king for his Norman overlords. His Arthur was an amalgamation of several characters.
|We should also remember that "Brittania" would also have covered the old British kingdoms in southern scotland, Cumbria and the South West, not just Wales. There are researchers based in South Scotland and Cumbria who believe that the Arthurian Legends grew in the North, and the stories/poems travelled south to Wales with the displaced British refugees. |
| In the 3 years since posting this I'm amazed at how much my theories on the historical Arthur have changed, but that's not surprising considering the amount of detailed research I've done recently because of working on a screenplay about him. In it I've tried to encompass the many varying theories, not just for the sake of it but because I came to the conclusion that trying to base it on one didn't work. Just because the current trend says that Arthur didn't get around Britain doesn't mean he didn't. And if he did, it still doesn't mean it was because he was the leader of a unified British resistance to the Anglo-Saxon or Irish threat (most people forget or don't know about how much trouble the Irish were) or because he was from a particular region, so he must have stayed there.|
So, he could be from Gwynedd (Guenedota), or Powys (Pagenses), and have fought in northern Britannia. There's even evidence that this went on, and it comes from what is thought to be the very first mention of him: Y Gododdin. This epic poem (kind of) mentions the men of Gwynedd (what is now North Wales) fighting along side the men of the Gododdin (what is now northern Northumbria and southeastern Scotland). How the hell the men of Gwynedd managed to travel that far unopposed to help the Gododdin fight the Angles and their British allies, no one knows, unless we're got the whole political geography of Dark Age Britain wrong and the Gododdin aren't where we thought they were, but they did!
So Arthur could have been a warlord of Gwynedd and still ended up in northern Britannia. Why? Because, if the histories are right, the lineage of the rulers of Gwynedd were from northern Britannia: Manaw Gododdin, and blood ties were the strongest there were. It would certainly explain why a North Walian people would travel three hundred miles to die!
This also doesn't mean that Arthur wasn't from the Shropshire (or Cheshire, or Staffordhire or...) region. We don't know when this region went form being Cornovii (Cornov/Cornob) to Pagenses (Powys) or Pengwern. This could explain why Arthur was thought to be from Cornwall (Cornov/Kernyw) when he was, in fact, from Cornov of the midlands. If he was fostered with Cai/Kei then this would explain his connection with Gwynedd and Rhos, as that's the kingdom Kei lived in and he grew up in... we think.
There's actually growing support for Cunenglasus of Gildas' writings to being Arthur. Why? because of all those bear references (the ones Phillips and Keatman take for their theory of Owain being Arthur). But this theory says Owain's son, Cynlas (Cunenglasus) may have been Arthur, and this, they say, explains why Goeffrey of Monmouth mentions all of Gildas' kings by name except Cynlas. (Remember, the name Arthur is believed to be an epithet, not a personal name, taken from either Arturus (from Acturus, 'Guardian of the Bear') or arth (bear) and uthr (terrible/horrible). The only downfalls to this theory are that Cynlas already had and epithet, 'Goch' (Red), and if Arthur died at Camlan in 537 and Gildas finished his polemic in 544, in which he talks about Cynlas still being alive, then Arthur had already been dead for 7 years. But who knows what dates are right?
The above theory explains why he's known in both regions and why, through Geoffrey of Monmouth, he got transfered to Cornwall. If I say so myself, it's as good as any other theory out there.
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