|Home • Wales • John Lewis • Warner Hall • Bibliography • Dicta • Message Board|
Prologue courtesy Darrell Wolcott; Center for the Study of Ancient Wales www.ancientwalesstudies.org
The lands we call Ancient Wales were never a "country" or "nation" as we think of those concepts today, but a group of independent tribal territories each ruled by dynastic Royal Families, predominately Celtic. The boundaries of those territories, both individually and collectively, changed from era to era depending on the military might and ambitions of their rulers and on the power of external conquerors.
During the era of Roman Britain (circa 43 AD to 400 AD), it appears the indigenous people divided into two distinct groups: those living in the relatively flatlands of the eastern and southern parts of the island appear to have become thoroughly Romanized and took to city life, while those living in the mountainous areas in the far north and far west of the island continued to live much as they had before Rome came. Perhaps the reasons for this were solely due to the terrain; there was no natural protection from the Roman Legions in the island's lowlands and to survive at all, those people had to assimilate. Conversely, those people living in the rugged highlands were not easy to "citify" and were apparently allowed to retain most of their traditional lifestyles so long as the "obeyed" and didn't contest the Romans militarily. The lands they occupied were not really suitable for urbanization anyway.
After the Roman Legions left near the start of the fifth century, those tribes living in the north and west high country called themselves "Cymry" meaning "fellow countrymen" and most claimed decent from common ancestors. For a number of years, the Cymry contested the Romanized population for the "overking" role of the entire island but eventually were outnumbered and withdrew back to their old forms of purely local rule without a unifying central authority.
Those in the far west were called "Wealh" , a Saxon term of derision which meant "foreigner", and their collective lands became known as "the lands of the Wealh" or Wales. Three distinctive Celtic-speaking peoples inhabited that land; the tribe called Ordovices in the northwest, the Demetae in the southwest and the Silures in the southeast.
Outside the bare recitation of their names in surviving pedigrees, little is known of Caradog's descendants until late third century. A chieftan of the Silures called Einudd ap Gwrddwyfn left 4 sons: Caradog by a first marriage, and younger half brothers Arthfael, Gereint and Eudaf Hen by a second wife. Two of these appear quite anachronistically, in the "history" attributed to Geoffrey of Monmouth. Eudaf Hen was the father of Elen who either married or was simply made pregnant by a Roman called Maximian. Geoffrey equates that Roman to the Maxen Wledig of history who lived some 100 years later. He cast Caradog as an adviser to Eudaf Hen, not an unlikely role for a half-brother. And Geoffrey correctly identified Cynan Meriodoc as a nephew of Eudaf Hen but did not name his father who was Gereint. Unmentioned was the fourth son of Einudd, Arthfael.
Arthfael ap Einudd held the kingdom of Glywysing located just west of Eudaf's lands of Gwent. Born c. 230, Arthfael was the progenitor of the so-called Gwent Dynasty which seems to have combined the realm of those two brothers by the end of the sixth century. We believe it was the senior branch of his family which produced Morgan Hen of c.885 for whom the old Silurian kingdom was renamed Glamorgan or "Morgan's land". A junior cadet descended from Arthfael probably included the famous Caradog Freich Fras, said to have been a contemporary with King Arthur.
Caradog "large arm" seems to have begun as ruler in Ewyas about the year 500 and expanded his realm to include Fferlix, the Welsh lands between the Wye and Severn Rivers or roughly what is now called Radnorshire. He also is credited with rule in a large part of neighboring Brycheiniog although male descendants of Brychan its founder still lived; how that occurred is unknown. The claim that Caradog married a daughter of Brychan is no more than one historian's attempt to answer that question; neither the marriage nor the daughter occur in the oldest Brychan manuscripts.
About five and one half centuries after Caradog Freich Fras, the old pedigrees identify Bleddyn ap Maenyrch, born c. 1045, as his direct male descendant and king of Brycheiniog (Brecknock) in 1093 when the Normans invaded. A Rhys Goch ap Maenyrch, born c. 1070, is called Lord of Ystrad Yw, a commote forming the southeast corner of Brycheiniog. Careless genealogists identify the two men as brothers since the father of each was named Maenyrch, but the two men lived a full generation apart. More likely, the immediate ancestors of Rhys Goch represent a junior cadet of the family which branched off in the mid-tenth century. From this man sprang the Lewis family of Llangatwg, a civil parish in the hundred of Crickhowell in Brecknock. In the 11th century, this modern hundred was part of Ystrad Yw.
More Ancient Wales History coming soon!
© Darrell Wolcott; Center for the Study of Ancient Wales used with permission
|Legend of Lewis © 2007||Home • Wales • John Lewis • Warner Hall • Bibliography • Dicta • Message Board|