Beginning - 101 BC
Beginning - 101 BC
100 BC - 199 AD
200 AD - 419 AD
420 AD - 479 AD
480 AD - 549 AD
550 AD - 699 AD
700 AD - 799 AD
800 AD - 899 AD
Medieval Viking Age
900 AD - 999 AD
1000 AD - 1199 AD
Late Medieval Period
1200 AD - 1499 AD
Reformation & Restoration
1500 AD - 1699 AD
Mesopagan Celtic Age
1700 AD - 1899 AD
Neopagan Celtic Age
1900 AD - 1999 AD
Modern Celtic Age
2000 AD - present time
ANCIENT TIMELINE IS AS FOLLOWS -
ca 225,000 BC
First Evidence of humans in Wales.
Human tooth dated from Pont Newydd cave (Elwy Valley) near Saint Asaph.
Hand Axe dated from Pen-y-Lan near Cardiff.
ca 100,000 BC
Mousterian hand axes found in South Wales.
Stone Axes discovered at Coygan Cave near Laugharne.
ca 75,000 BC
Discoveries of the earliest human altars reveal evidence of worship to the Goddess and reverence for the act of birth as well as to the bear, wolf, and other animals cults. The identification of humans or gods with animals is one of the most common elements of myth and religion.
ca 26,000 BC
Kendrick's Cave Llandudno occupied.
ca 25,000 BC
Skeleton discovered at Goats Hole Cave on Gower (Red Lady of Paviland). The skeleton is shown on another page
Flint implements found at Ffynnon Bueno and Cae Gwyn caves near Tremeirchion in Flintshire.
ca 20,000 BC
Maximum advance of ice / glaciation over Wales.
ca 10,000 BC
Earliest settlers arrive in Ireland, in the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period. They cross by land bridge from Scotland. These people are mainly hunters but they did not war as they were still worshipers of the Great Goddess.
Retreat of ice and warming of climate in Wales.
Nomadic hunter gatherers in Anglesey and Lleyn.
Microlithic flints used to tip arrows.
ca 9000 - 8000 BC
Estimated date of the destruction of Atlantis. The Atlantean priesthood flee to establish colonies in the British Isles, Western Europe, North Africa and South America. Rise of the Northern Mystery Tradition centered on the island Thule and the Aryan culture. Invention of the Runic Alphabet.
ca 8000 BC
Stone tools discovered at Hoyle's Mouth Cave near Tenby.
ca 7800 BC
Hazel pollen dated from Tregaron.
ca 7000 BC
First occupation of Trwyn Du, Aberffraw.
ca 6700 BC
Mesolithic settlement at Rhuddlan.
ca 6500 BC
Estimated date of footprints in mud on Usk estuary.
ca 6000 BC
Seasonal settlements established in Wales.
Cave drawings in Catal Huyuk depict hunters draped in leopard skins, thus demonstrating how early humans learned to hunt by aping animal predators.
ca 5000 BC
Neolithic (new stone age) Period begins; first evidence of farming appears; stone axes, antler combs, pottery in common use.
Mynydd Rhiw Axe Factory, Aberdaron (until 3000BC).
ca 4000 BC
Construction of the "Sweet Track" (named for its discoverer, Ray Sweet) begun; many similar raised, wooden walkways were constructed at this time providing a way to traverse the low, boggy, swampy areas in the Somerset Levels, near Glastonbury; earliest-known camps or communities appear (ie. Hembury, Devon).
Neolithic Burial Chamber Trefignath, Holyhead.
Parc Le Breos burial chamber built (Glamorgan).
Approximate date of first documented Proto- Indo European culture ,which is believed Druidic, near the Black Sea circa.
ca 3500 - 3000 BC
First appearance of long barrows and chambered tombs; at Hambledon Hill (Dorset), the primitive burial rite known as "corpse exposure" was practiced, wherein bodies were left in the open air to decompose or be consumed by animals and birds.
Farmers arrive in Wales. Megalithic tombs. Start of forest clearance. Pottery used. Stone axes on microdiorite from Penmaenmawr. Gwernvale cromlech in Usk valley sealed around this date.
ca 3300 BC
Llandegai henge (near Bangor) may have been started.
ca 3000 BC
Colonists of the neolithic, or new stone-age period, reach Ireland. These people are farmers. Remnants of their civilization have been excavated at Lough Gur in Co. Limerick. They traded in a limited form in products, such as axe-heads. One of their monuments, a megalithic tomb at Newgrange in Co. Meath, has survived.
Graig Lwyd Axe Factory operating at Penmaenmawr exports through Britain and Europe.
Round cairn built at Trwyn Du, Aberffraw. Neolithic Burial chamber built at Presaddfed, Bodedern. Decorated passage grave built at Barclodiad y Gawres. Ty Newydd Neolithic burial chamber at Llanfaelog built. Din Dryfol burial chamber built near Aberffraw. Bodowyr Neolithic burial chamber built. Bryn Celli Ddu burial chamber built over henge monument. Neolithic burial chamber built at Ty Mawr, Llanfairpwll. Neolithic burial chamber built at Hendrefor, Beaumaris. Pant y Saer burial chamber at Benllech. Lligwy burial chamber at Moelfre. Lletty'r Filiast burial chamber at Llandudno. Capel Garmon burial chamber at Betws y Coed. Bachwen burial chamber at Clynnog. Tan y Muriau burial chamber, Rhiw, Lleyn. Dyffryn Ardudwy burial chamber.
ca 3000 - 2500 BC
Castlerigg Stone Circle (Cumbria), one of Britain's earliest and most beautiful, begun; Pentre Ifan (Dyfed), a classic example of a chambered tomb, constructed; Bryn Celli Ddu (Anglesey), known as the "mound in the dark grove," begun, one of the finest examples of a "passage grave."
ca 2500 BC
Bronze Age begins; multi-chambered tombs in use (ie. West Kennet Long Barrow) first appearance of henge "monuments;" construction begun on Silbury Hill, Europe's largest prehistoric, man-made hill (132 ft); "Beaker Folk," identified by the pottery beakers (along with other objects) found in their single burial sites.
Communal tombs decline.
Evidence of farming settlement in Clwyd valley.
Coed-parc-garw cairn constructed, Coety, Glamorgan. Ceremonial henges built. Farming activity spreads to uplands. Beaker pottery found.
ca 2500 - 1500 BC
Prospectors and metalworkers arrive. Metal deposits were discovered, and soon bronze and gold objects were made.
Erection of Stonehenge and other megalithic stone circles in the British Isles.
ca 2300 BC
Construction begun on Britain's largest stone circle at Avebury.
ca 2100 BC
Sarn y bryn caled timber circle, Powys.
ca 2000 BC
Metal objects are widely manufactured in England about this time, first from copper, then with arsenic and tin added; woven cloth appears in Britain, evidenced by findings of pins and cloth fasteners in graves; construction begun on Stonehenge's inner ring of bluestones.
Burial mounds and cairns, stone circles and standing stones and evidence of copper mining and manufacture of bronze tools in Wales. Penrhos Feilw standing stones, Holyhead. Soar Stone, Llanfaethlu. Llanfechell Triangle of standing stones, Llanfechell. Maenaddwyn standing stone, Llannerchymedd. Bedd Branwen round barrow, Llanddeusant. Llanddyfan stone and barrows, Pentraeth. Moel y Gaer timber circle, Denbighshire. Moel y Gamelin tumulus, Llantysillio mountain. Neolithic Settlement at Abergavenny. Maen Madog standing Stone near Ystradfellte. Copper Mining beneath Great Orme in North Wales.
Suggested date when the Epic of Gilgamish was written down, giving us, in the character of Enkidu the first literary expression of a werewolflike creature.
ca 1900 BC
Brenig timber circle, Denbighshire.
ca 1800 - 1600 BC
The Bronze Age.
ca 1800 - 1200 BC
Secular control of society passes from priests (pre-Druids?) to those who control the manufacture of metal objects.
Beginning of the MILESIAN GENEALOGIES.
ca 1500 BC
Farms (houses and separate, walled fields) in use on Dartmoor (Devon) and in uplands of Wales; stone circles seem to fall into disuse and decay around this time, perhaps due to a re-orientation of the society's religious attitudes and practices; burial mounds cease to be constructed; burials made near stone circles or in flat cemetaries.
Patterned gold cape, together with amber beads and skeleton parts found at Mold.
ca 1400 CE
Timber round house at Glanfeinion built.
ca 1200 BC
More people reach Ireland, producing a greater variety of weapons and artifacts. A common dwelling of this period was the "crannog", an artificial island, constructed in the middle of a lake.
ca 1200 - 1000 BC
Emergence of a warrior class who now begins to take a central role in society. Some believe that these people, also known as the Urnfield civilization, are the "proto-Celts."
ca 1100 - 1000 BC
Brutus, grandson of Aeneas, leads a group of Torjan exiles to Britain. High Kingship of Brutus, followed by Locrinus, Gwendolen, Maddan, Mempricius, Ebraucus and Brutus Greenshield.
Changes in climate. Weather becomes colder.
Abandoning of upland farms. Evidence of population pressure. Defensive settlements appear.
ca 1000 - 900 BC
Earliest hill-top earthworks ("hillforts") begin to appear, also fortified farmsteads; increasing sophistication of arts and crafts, particularly in decorative personal and animal ornamentation. Ramparts of Iron Age fort at Dinorben put up (Denbighshire).
High Kingship in Britain of Leil, Rud Hud Hudibras, Bladud, Leir, Queen Cordelia, Cuneglasus and Rivallo.
Evidence of a Proto-Celtic Unetice or Urnfield culture in Slovakia.
Celts start to spread out over northern Asia as far as the frontiers of China. Development of the deliberate smelting of iron in the Middle East and China around the same time. Prompting the title 'The Iron Age' for this period.
ca 900 - 500 BC
Hallstat Period. (Rise of the Celts).
ca 900 - 800 BC
Mass invasion of Celtic people into British Isles. Goidelic-speaking people in England.
High Kingship in Britain of Gurgastius, Sisillius I, Kimarcus, Gorboduc, Ferrex and Porrex, followed by five unnamed kings and next Dunvallo Molmutius.
ca 800 - 700 BC
High Kingship in Britain of Belinus and Brennius, Gurguit Barbtruc, Guithelin, Queen Marcia, Sisillius II, Kiranius and Danius.
Proto-Celtic Tribes formed to create the Celtic culture.
Rome founded; supposedly by Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf.
ca 700 BC
Start of Iron Age.
Hallstatt culture developes in Austria. Early Celts in Austria bury iron swords with their dead.
ca 700 - 600 BC
High Kingship in Britain of Morvidus, Gorbonianus, Archgallo, Elidurus, Ingenius, Peredurus, and one unnamed king.
Evidence of Celtic invasion in Britain.
ca 600 BC
First evidence of Britain having a name - Albion - (albino, white - called after the chalk-cliffs of Dover). A major rebuild of old Bronze Age defences, and construction of new hillforts takes place in Britain.
Hillforts in Wales. Moel y Gaer hill fort, Denbighshire.
Goidelic-speaking Celts from Spain arrive in Ireland.
ca 600 - 500 BC
Greek find trading colony at Messalia (modern Marseilles) to trade with Southern Gaul.
Iron replaces bronze, Iron Age begins; construction of Old Sarum begun.
High Kingship in Britain of Marganus, Enniaunus, Idvallo, Runo, Gerennus, Catellus and Millus.
Hillforts. Concentric circle farms and hut groups. Iron tools appear .Ordovices make up main tribal group in Gwynedd.
Celts start arriving in Ireland, from central Europe. They continued to arrive, up to the time of Christianity.
Buddha lived about this time. So also did Confucius and Lao Tse.
ca 500 - 450 BC
End of Halstatt Era, La Tene culture develops; Celtic culture reaches its peak and is estabished in Britain. Evidence of the spread of Celtic customs and artefacts across Britain; more and varied types of pottery in use, more characteristic decoration of jewelry. There was no known invasion of Britain by the Celts; they probably gradually infiltrated into British society through trade and other contact over a period of several hundred years.
Druids, the intellectual class of the Celts (their own word for themselves, meaning "the hidden people"), begin a thousand year floruit. The foundation of Druidic wisdom colleges in Gaul (France) and the British Isles.
Odin is recognized as major god of Northern Mysteries replacing the Mother Goddess and is credited with inventing the runes.
Trade between the Etruscans and the Celts begins.
The Greeks record the name of a major tribe - The KELTOI - and this becomes the common name for all of the tribes.
Separation of Goidelic (Q) and Brythonic (P) Celts in Britain.
High Kingship in Britain of Porrex II, Cherin and Fulgenius.
ca 500 - 100 BC
The Celts settle in Wales.
ca 450 - 400 BC
Celts reach Spain.
La Tëne culture also emerges in northern France and the British Isles (especially decorated metalwork). This might reflect the migration of Celts north and west or the spread of a fashion.
Anglo-Saxon invasion in Celtic Europe.
High Kingship in Britain of Edadus, Andragius, Urianus and Eliud.
Herodotus recited his History in Athens.
Aristophanes began his career. Plato born.
ca 400 BC
The La Tëne Celts erupt over the Alps and invade northern Italy, settling there. The Romans called these settlements Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul this side of the Alps).
Other Celts migrate through the Balkans and in 279 BC sack Delphi in Greece. The Greeks called these people Keltoi or Galatae. Some go further and carve out a kingdom in Asia Minor (Turkey) called Galatia.
High Kingship in Britain of Cledaucus.
ca 390 BC
Battle of Clusium; These Gauls sack a young Rome but withdraw after a ransom has been paid. They fail to capture Capitol Hill.
High Kingship in Britain of Clotenus.
Celtic Gauls defeat Rome atAlia. Celts under Brennus plunder and occupy the city for three months. Offended by the dirty conditions of the city (they were country boys at heart) they demand a ransome to leave the Romans alone. Brennus demands his weight in gold and when the Romans complain he throws his sword on the scales to be weighed as well with the cry "VAE VICTUS" - (Woe to the Vanquished). Brennus cause the worst humiliation Rome has ever suffered.
ca 380 BC
Rome rebuilt under alliance with Samnites.
High Kingship in Britain of Gurgintius.
ca 370 - 285 BC
High Kingship in Britain of Merianus, Bledudo, Cap, Oenus and Sisillius III.
Celts besiege Rome again.
The Roman army defeats a Celtic army for the first time at Apulia in Italy.
Death of Plato.
Roman commanders are forbidden to settle warfare by single combat with Celtic Chieftains.
Celts encounter Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, on the Danube. They exchange pledges of alliance. Large numbers of Celtic warriors join the Greeks in a war against the Etruscans.
Alexander the Great dies, Celts push further into Macedonia.
ca 285 BC
Further Celtic hostilities against Rome; massacre on the River Tiber.
High Kingship in Britain of Beldgabred.
Celts invade Greece through Macedonia, temple of Delphi plundered.
ca 270 BC
Celts settle in Asia Minor; Galatia founded.
High Kingship in Britain of Archmail.
264 - 241 BC
First Punic War.
ca 250 BC
La Tene culture gains predominance in Britain.
High Kingship in Britain of Eldol.
Galatian Celts defeated in battle by Greek forces in Western Turkey.
Battle of Telemon; Celts advance on Rome again. Roman army routs invading Celtic Gauls at Telamon in central Italy, all Celtic tribes south of River Po destroyed. From the major Celtic loss at the Battle of Telamon, Celtic lands come under pressure from the Germanic tribes to the north, and the spread of Rome. Gallia Cisalpina and southern Gaul are conquered; the Iberian Peninsula falls by degrees.
High Kingship in Britain of Redon.
Hannibal invades Italy with Celtic mercenaries; Second Punic War.
Great Wall of China begun.
Hannibal defeated at Zama by Scipio; extensive Romanization of Celtic tribes begins.
ca 200 BC
The Celts occupied the British Isles, Brittany, modern France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland.
The Celts establish permanent fortified settlements (Oppida, or towns).
ca 200 - 150 BC
The Celtic culture of the La Tene civilization, named after a Celtic site in Switzerland, reaches Ireland. Celtic Ireland is not politically unified, only by culture and language. The country is divided into about 150 minitature kingdoms, each called a 'tuath'. A minor king rules a 'tuath', subject to a more powerful king who rules a group of 'tuath', who is in turn subject to one of the five provincial kings. (Early on there were five provinces, with Meath as a separate province.) This causes constant shifting in power, among the most important contenders. Celtic Ireland has a simple agrarian economy. No coins are used, and the cow is the unit of exchange. There are no towns. Society is stratified into classes, and is regulated by the Brehon Laws, based largely on the concepts of the 'tuath' as the political body, and the 'fine', or extended family as the social unit.
High Kingship in Britain of Redechius, Samuil and Penessil.
First Celtiberian Revolt.
Cisalpine Gaul is taken by the Romans.
The Roman version of the rite of Dionysos, the Bacchanalia, became so notorious for licence that it was outlawed by the Senate.
Celts raid Massalia; Rome forces relieve the city.
ca 150 BC
Metal coinage comes into use; widespread contact with continent.
High Kingship in Britain of Pir.
ca 133 BC
Galatia bequeathed to Rome as a semi-autonomous Celtic province.
Scipio Aemilianus conquers Iberian Celtic province of Numantia.
High Kingship in Britain of Capoir and Digueillus.
Rome takes Provence.
War between Rome and Celtiberians. Roman armies defeat Cimbri at Noreia.
ca 110 BC
High Kingship in Britain of Beli Mawr the Great, who married Don, daughter of Math. They have one daughter, Penarddun who will later marry Llyr. Other children are Amathaon, Nudd, Govannon, Aranrhod, Gilvaethwy and Gwydion. Beli Mawr is claimed as the founder of the Deisi, later rulers of the kingdom of Dyfed. His eldest son, Aballac, is claimed as the ancestor of Coel Hen, of Ebruac. His second child, daughter Lweriadd, marries Llyr Lleddiarth, who is claimed as the founder of Gwent.
Cimbri and Teutons defeated at Aix-en Provence.
Cimbri and Teutons defeated at Vercellae.
THE HOUSE OF MERIADOG:
Long, long ago, there was a land called Meriadog. Tin was still mined from the Mendip Hills, exported by the Romans to all areas of the Empire. In times past, it is told that Joseph of Aramathia, missionary and merchant from the Holy Land, brought the Holy Grail to Dumnonia and allowed his daughter Anna to marry the Silure king. From the lands of Meriadog, as elsewhere throughout the Kingdom of Dumnonia, the local Celtic people lived side-by-side with their Roman neighbors. The British High King, Eudaf Hen (The Old), ruled from Gwent and his nephews, Caradog and Donaut, were his client-kings of Dumnonia.
This royal family of the Cymric Celts claimed a pedigree that began in 55BC, which, if factual, began the Poore lineage. Almost all of the “pedigree” is based totally on legend. It has little bearing on fact until the life of Conan Meriadog. Even his life is subject to varying stories. I will try to include all areas of conflict as the narrative continues. The names for the most part are shown with their Welsh spelling. “ap” means ‘son of’ and “ferch” means ‘daughter of’:
1. Llyr Lleddiarth (Half-Speech) arrived 55BC, probably being in the forefront of the withdrawal from Armorica during the war with Julius Caesar. He went on to become the legendary Celtic God of the Sea. His wife was Lweriadd ferch Beli Mawr, or daughter of Beli the Great, who was the son of Breogan of Iberia, ancestor of the Brigante nation of Yorkshire. Beli Mawh’s son, Milesius, founded the Irish Race.
2. Bran Fendigaid (the Blessed) ap Llyr (son of Llyr), reputed to be the first king of Siluria, founder of the dynasty of Gwent. Bran married Anna of Arimathia, about 63AD. Of this marriage, there were 12 children, but only three were recorded.
· Caradog ap Bran (see below)
· Alan ap Bran
· Sadwr ap Bran, plus 9 other siblings.
3. Caradog ap Bran
4. Coellyn ap Caradog
5. Owain ap Beli (since this person was the son of Beli, it must indicate that Beli was a son of Coellyn ap Caradog).
6. Merchion ap Owain
7. Cwrrig Fawr (the Great)
8. Gwrddwfn ap Cwrrig
9. Einudd ap Gwrddwfn
· Eudaf Hen (the Old), son of Einudd, King of Gwent and High King of Britain.
a. Saint Elen Lwyddog (of the Host), daughter of King Eudaf and wife of Magnus Maximus, Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.
10. Gereint ap Einudd of Mariadog, also called Gerontius (see below)
11. Arthfael ap Einudd
12. Gwrgant ap Arthfael
13. Meirchion ap Gwrgant
14. Caradog ap Arthfael, King of Dumnonia
15. Prince Mauric ap Caradog (died before Caradog)
16. Donaut ap Arthfael, King of Dumnonia
17. Saint Ursula ferch Donaut
18. Gereint ap Einudd – Gerontius (son of Einudd, brother of Eudaf)
19. Conan Meriadog (ap Gereint), King of Dumnonia & Brittany.
m. (1) St. Ursula ferch Donaut of Dumnonia.
a. Kings of Dumnonia
m. (2) Dareca, sister of Saint Patrick of Ireland.
b. Kings of Brittany
c. Saints of Ireland
Magnus Clemens Maximus was the Roman Imperator at the time of Conan Meriadog. The Welsh called him Macsen Wledig (the Imperator), and various accounts have him being of royal Roman decent or of Roman/Iberian Celt lineage. It is probable that he came from aristocratic Roman beginnings, even though he was born on the Iberian Peninsula. He would go on, for a short time, to become Emperor of the Western Empire. He operated from his fort of Isca (Caer-Leon), working closely with the High King, Eudaf Hen.
According to some accounts, Magnus married Saint Ursula, the daughter of King Donaut of Dumnonia. Although the legends surrounding her are many, I tend to lean towards Magnus marrying Saint Elen Lwyddog, daughter of King Eudaf Hen, as shown above. This union seems more plausible. Magnus would have placed himself in a firm seat of power both as Roman Imperator, and son-in-law to the British High King. The High King’s nephew, Lord Caradog, with his son, Prince Mauric, played a leading role in the marriage negotiations.
The marriage of Magnus and St. Elen placed Conan Meriadog in a vulnerable situation. He was also a nephew of King Eudaf and in line to inherit his throne; King Eudaf had no sons. He, at first, raised an army to fight against Magnus, but eventually befriended his cousin’s husband. Conan Meriadog became a close ally to the Imperator. Together, they plotted to overthrow the Emperor in Rome.
Around 383AD, Magnus raised a vast army of troops from Dumnonia to take into Gaul to fight the Germanic tribes that were attacking Rome. He chose Conan Meriadog, who shared joint rule of Dumnonia, as his commander. The campaign carried them first to Gaul, then on to Italy, where Magnus tried in vain to wrest the entire Western Empire away from the Roman Emperor, Valentian. Although he did become Emperor for a short time, his coup eventually failed and he was killed. Before he died, it is said that he rewarded his army of Britons with the entire Peninsula of Brittany in 383-388AD. This was the major portion of the old province of Armorica, which the Cymric tribes had fled over 400 years before. Conan Meriadog of Dumnonia now became the first King of Brittany.
Because Conan Meriadog was the first of a long dynasty, I want to spend some time here before progressing on to his descendants. First of all, I cannot be positive of his direct lineage, because the above pedigree is derived from a single source. There are accounts that place him as the son of Lord Caradog. This would imply that he was a nephew of Caradog’s brother, King Donaut of Dumnonia, who went on to offer his daughter as a wife to Conan. Would Donaut have given his daughter in marriage to his own nephew? Most accounts refer to Conan as being nephew to King Eudaf Hen (The Old). The pedigree shows him as the son of Gereint ap Einudd, the High King’s brother. This would place Conan Meriadog as first cousin to both Lord Caradog and King Donaut, which makes more sense to me. Gereint ap Einudd was also called Gerontius and he went, as well, to Gaul as a general with the army of Magnus Maximus. As the war developed into a rebellion against Rome, Gerontius sided with the Emperor, Valentian. Looking at the early Lords of Brittany, I believe that many from the Royal House of Dumnonia partook in the wars in Italy and Gaul.
The last thing to point out is that these people were not simple tribesmen from the West Country. They were all members of the Roman Empire and traveled its width and breadth throughout their lives. It seems that it was common for even the women to leave Dumnonia or Brittany and travel to Rome, the Holy Lands, or anywhere on the continent that they wished. There is no way to define a single family as a unit. The various people, although closely related, constantly changed allegiances and fought each other for power. Throughout the Medieval times, constant warfare and brutality shared the same table with the evolving Christian church. Often times the two blended into one.
Conan Meriadog can be placed in Brittany in the year 388, for that is the year of the death of Magnus Maximus. The earliest time of settlement is placed at 383AD. Conan has varying dates of his death, from 395-421AD.
He twice married and had a son by each wife who would succeed him. King Donaut of Dumnonia sent his daughter, Ursula, to be his wife. There are many famous legends surrounding Ursula, who reputedly died at Cologne where she is venerated as a Saint. Ursula bore Conan a son, Gadeon. Upon the death of King Donaut, Ursula sent Gadeon to Britain to become heir to his grandfather’s throne. Conan chose as his second wife Darerca, sister of St. Patrick of Ireland. This again was probably a marriage of political leverage. The father of Darerca and St. Patrick, Calphurnius the Decurio, was a Roman dignitary who resided in Caledonia (Kilpatrick, Dumbarton), but had many dealings with the administration of Gaul. Darerca bore Conan a son, Gradlon, also called Urbian. He would become the second King of Brittany, with his half-brother Gadeon ruling as a King of Dumnonia.
Again, there are literally hundreds of legends and ancient accounts concerning St. Darerca. The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia lists her as being married twice and mother to a total of 17 sons and 2 daughters, all of whom became bishops and Saints of Ireland. If she were in fact the wife of Conan Meriadog, Prince Gradlon (Urbian) would have been son #18.
Her first husband was Restitutus the Lombard, who sired 13 sons with her, 8 of them becoming Saints. Upon his death, Darerca married (from the Catholic Encyclopedia) “Chonus the Briton,” a high-ranking British ruler. He gave her 4 more sons (bishops and saints) and 2 daughters (saints). Chonus could very well have been King Conan of Brittany and Dumnonia. Reading the old tales, he seems to have been very active in church affairs on the continent, and undoubtedly maintained close ties with Dumnonia. The Cymric tribes carried on a love/hate relationship with their Irish cousins, and Chonus may only be an old Irish variation of Conan. If so, Conan/Chonus founded the church of Both-Chonais, now Binnion, Parish of Clonmany, Barony of Inishoven, County Donegal. I have a list of all 19 of Darerca’s saintly offspring, if anyone is interested.
EARLY CELTIC LITERATURE -
The Sorrows Of Story-Telling
The Tain gives us vivid pictures of people and things, but it is not full of beauty and of tender imagination like many of the Gaelic stories. Among the most beautiful and best known of these are perhaps the Three Sorrows of Story-Telling. These three stories are called: The Tragedy of the Children of Lir; The Tragedy of the Children of Tuireann; and Deirdre and the Sons of Usnach. Of the three the last is perhaps the most interesting, because the story happened partly in Scotland and partly in Ireland, and it is found both in old Irish and in old Scottish manuscripts.
The story is told in many old books, and in many ways both in prose and in verse. The oldest and shortest version is in the Book of Leinster, the same book in which is found The Tain.
The tale goes that one day King Conor and his nobles feasted at the house of Felim, his chief story-teller. And while they feasted a daughter was born to Felim the story-teller. Then Cathbad the Druid, who was also at the feast, became exceeding sad. He foretold that great sorrow and evil should come upon the land because of this child, and so he called her Deirdre, which means trouble or alarm.
When the nobles heard that, they wished to slay the new-born babe. But Conor spoke.
"Let it not be so done," he said. "It were an ill thing to shed the blood of an innocent child. I myself shall care for her. She shall be housed in a safe place so that none may come nigh to her, and when she is grown she shall be my one true wife."
So it was done as King Conor said. Deirdre was placed in a safe and lonely castle, where she was seen of none save her tutor and her nurse, Lavarcam. There, as the years passed, she grew tall and fair as a slender lily, and more beautiful than the sunshine.
Now when fourteen years had passed, it happened one snowy day that Deirdre's tutor killed a calf to provide food for their little company. And as the calf's blood was spilled upon the snow, a raven came to drink of it. When Deirdre saw that, she sighed and said, "Would that I had a husband whose hair was as the color of the raven, his cheeks as blood, and his skin as snow."
"There is such a one," said Lavarcam, "he is Naisi the son of Usnach."
After that here was no rest for Deirdre until she had seen Naisi. And when they met they loved each other so that Naisi took her and fled with her to Scotland far from Conor the King. For they knew that when the King learned that fair Deirdre had been stolen from him, he would be exceeding wrathful.
There, in Scotland, Deirdre and Naisi lived for many years happily. With them were Ainle and Ardan, Naisi's two brothers, who also loved their sister Deirdre well.
But Conor never forgot his anger at the escape of Deirdre. He longed still to have her as his Queen, and at last he sent a messenger to lure the fair lady and the three brave brothers back to Ireland.
"Naisi and Deirdre were seated together one day, and between them Conor's chess board, they playing upon it.
"Naisi heard a cry and said, 'I hear the call of a man of Erin.'
"'That was not the call of a man of Erin,' says Deirdre, 'but the call of a man of Alba.'
"Deirdre knew the first cry of Fergus, but she concealed it. Fergus uttered the second cry.
"'That is the cry of a man of Erin,' says Naisi.
"'It is not indeed,' says Deirdre, 'and let us play on.'
"Fergus sent forth the third cry, and the sons of Usnach knew it was Fergus that sent for the cry. And Naisi ordered Ardan to go to meet Fergus. Then Deirdre declared she knew the first call sent forth by Fergus.
"'Why didst thou conceal it, then, my Queen?' says Naisi.
"'A vision I saw last night,' says Deirdre, 'namely that three birds came unto us having three sups of honey in their beaks, and that they left them with us, and that they took three sups of our blood with them.'
"'What determination hast thou of that, O Princess?' says Naisi.
"'It is,' says Deirdre, 'that Fergus comes unto us with a message of peace from Conor, for more sweet is not honey than the message of peace of the false man.'
"'Let that be,' says Naisi. 'Fergus is long in the port; and go, Ardan, to meet him and bring him with thee.'"*
And when Fergus came there were kindly greetings between the friends who had been long parted. Then Fergus told the three brothers that Conor had forgiven them, and that he longed to see them back again in the land of Erin.
So although the heart of Deirdre was sad and heavy with foreboding of evil, they set sail for the land of Erin. But Deirdre looked behind her as the shore faded from sight and sang a mournful song: -
"O eastern land I leave, I loved you well,
Home of my heart, I love and loved you well,
I ne'er had left you had not Naisi left."*
And so they fared on their journey and came at last to Conor's palace. And the story tells how the boding sorrow that Deirdre felt fulfilled itself, and how they were betrayed, and how the brothers fought and died, and how Deirdre mourned until
"Her heart-strings snapt,
And death had overmastered her. She fell
Into the grave where Naisi lay and slept.
There at his side the child of Felim fell,
The fair-haired daughter of a hundred smiles.
Men piled their grave and reared their stone on high,
And wrote their names in Ogham.* So they lay
All four united in the dream of death."**
* Ancient Gaelic writing.
** Douglas Hyde
Such in a few words is the story of Deirdre. But you must read the tale itself to find out how beautiful it is. That you can easily do, for it has been translated many times out of the old Gaelic in which it was first written and it has been told so simply that even those of you who are quite young can read it for yourselves.
In both The Tain and in Deirdre we find the love of fighting, the brave joy of the strong man when he finds a gallant foe. The Tain is such history as those far-off times afforded, but it is history touched with fancy, wrought with poetry. In the Three Sorrows we have Romance. They are what we might call the novels of the time. It is in stories like these that we find the keen sense of what is beautiful in nature, the sense of "man's brotherhood with bird and beast, star and flower," which has become the mark of "Celtic" literature. We cannot put it into words, perhaps, for it is something mystic and strange, something that takes us nearer fairyland and makes us see that land of dreams with clearer eyes.
BOOKS TO READ
The Celtic Wonder World, by C. L. Thomson. The Enchanted Land
(for version of Deirdre), by L Chisholm. Three Sorrows (verse), by Douglas Hyde.
Chapter IV: The Story Of A Literary Lie
WHO wrote the stories which are found in the old Gaelic manuscripts we do not know, yet the names of some of the old Gaelic poets have come down to us. The best known of all is perhaps that of Ossian. But as Ossian, if he ever lived, lived in the third century, as it is not probable that his poems were written down at the time, and as the oldest books that we have containing any of his poetry were written in the twelfth century, it is very difficult to be sure that he really made the poems called by his name.
Ossian was a warrior and chief as well as a poet, and as a poet he is claimed both by Scotland and by Ireland. But perhaps his name has become more nearly linked to Scotland because of the story that I am going to tell you now. It belongs really to a time much later than that of which we have been speaking, but because it has to do with this old Gaelic poet Ossian, I think you will like to hear it now.
In a lonely Highland village more than a hundred and fifty years ago there lived a little boy called James Macpherson. His father and mother were poor farmer people, and James ran about barefooted and wild among the hills and glens. When he was about seven years old the quiet of his Highland home was broken by the sounds of war, for the Highland folk had risen in rebellion against King George II., and were fighting for Prince Charlie, hoping to have a Stewart king once more. This was the rebellion called the '45, for it was fought in 1745.
Now little James watched the red coats of the southern soldiers as, with bayonets gleaming in the sun, they wound through the glens. He heard the Highland battle-cry and the clash of steel on steel, for fighting came near his home, and his own people joined the standard of the Pretender. Little James never forgot these things, and long afterwards, when he grew to be a man and wrote poetry, it was full of the sounds of battle, full, too, of love for mountain and glen and their rolling mists.
The Macphersons were poor, but they saw that their son was clever, and they determined that he should be well taught. So when he left school they sent him to college, first to Aberdeen and then to Edinburgh.
Before he was twenty James had left college and become master of the school in his own native village. He did not, however, like that very much, and soon gave it up to become tutor in a family.
By this time James Macpherson had begun to write poetry. He had also gathered together some pieces of old Gaelic poetry which he had found among the Highland folk. These he showed to some other poets and writers whom he met, and they thought them so beautiful that he published them in a book.
The book was a great success. All who read it were delighted with the poems, and said that if there was any more such poetry in the Highlands, it should be gathered together and printed before it was lost and forgotten for ever. For since the '45 the English had done everything to make the Highlanders forget their old language and customs. They were forbidden to wear the kilt or the tartan, and everything was done to make them speak English and forget Gaelic.
So now people begged Macpherson to travel through the Highlands and gather together as much of the old poetry of the people as he could. Macpherson was at first unwilling to go. For one thing, he quite frankly owned that he was not a good Gaelic scholar. But at length he consented and set out.
For four months Macpherson wandered about the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, listening to the tales of the people and writing them down. Sometimes, too, he came across old manuscripts with ancient tales in them. When he had gathered all he could, he returned to Edinburgh and set to work to translate the stories into English.
When this new book of Gaelic poetry came out, it again was a great success. It was greeted with delight by the greatest poets of France, Germany, and Italy, and was soon translated into many languages. Macpherson was no longer a poor Highland laddie, but a man of world-wide fame. Yet it was not because of his own poetry that he was famous, but because he had found (so he said) some poems of a man who lived fifteen hundred years before, and translated them into English. And although Macpherson's book is called The Poems of Ossian, it is written in prose. But it is a prose which is often far more beautiful and poetical than much that is called poetry.
Although at first Macpherson's book was received with great delight, soon people began to doubt about it. The Irish first of all were jealous, for they said that Ossian was an Irish poet, that the heroes of the poems were Irish, and that Macpherson was stealing their national heroes from them.
Then in England people began to say that there never had been an Ossian at all, and that Macpherson had invented both the poems and all the people that they were about. For the English knew little of the Highlanders and their customs. Even after the '15 and the '45 people in the south knew little about the north and those who lived there. They thought of it as a land of wild mountains and glens, a land of mists and cloud, a land where wild chieftains ruled over still wilder clans, who, in their lonely valleys and sea-girt islands, were for ever warring against each other. How could such a people, they asked, a people of savages, make beautiful poetry?
Dr. Samuel Johnson, a great writer of whom we shall hear more later, was the man of his day whose opinion about books was most thought of. He hated Scotland and the Scottish folk, and did not believe that any good thing could come from them. He read the poems and said that they were rubbish, such as any child could write, and that Macpherson had made them all up.
So a quarrel, which has become famous, began between the two men. And as Dr. Johnson was far better known than Macpherson, most people agreed with him and believed that Macpherson had told a "literary lie," and that he had made up all the stories.
There is no harm in making up stories. Nearly every one who writes does that. But it is wrong to make up stories and then pretend that they were written by some one else more famous than yourself.
Dr. Johnson and Macpherson were very angry with and rude to each other. Still that did not settle the question as to who had written the stories; indeed it has never been settled. And what most men believe now is that Macpherson did really gather from among the people of the Highlands many scraps of ancient poetry and tales, but that he added to them and put them together in such a way as to make them beautiful and touching. To do even that, however, a true poet was needed, so people have, for the most part, given up arguing about whether Macpherson wrote Ossian or not, and are glad that such a beautiful book has been written by some one.
I do not think that you will want to read Ossian for yourself for a long time to come, for the stories are not always easy to follow. They are, too, often clumsy, wandering, and badly put together. But in spite of that there is much beauty in them, and some day I hope you will read them.
In the next chapter you will find one of the stories of Ossian called Fingal. Fingal was a great warrior and the father of Ossian, and the story takes place in Ireland. It is told partly in Macpherson's words.