Pendragon, not Utherpendragon, accurately describes the epithet for Ambrosius Aurelius, not Arthur, as king of the Briton nation during the fifth century.
FATHER OF KING ARTHUR AMBROSIUS
Tracing King Arthur’s father from the tales and Romances of the twelfth century to his historic origins is impossible, since a noteworthy Arthur (not prefixed as King) did not exist between the seco. century and the fifth century, nor is there a traceable Arthur who was recognized by either Gildas Badonicus or Bede. Of note there was an Arthur recorded by Aneirin in the sixth century, but that particular Arthur was Lucius Artorius Castus who did have a title of dux bellorum a. who was assigned to Bri.in near Hadrian’s Wall at the close of the second century. Nennius of the early ninth century records one section (§ 56) which names Arthur as a “leader in battle,” but Nennius either deduced the wrong century from a now non-existent manuscript, or this section vvas fiction. Monmouth’s text did not appear until the twelfth century, suggesting that there might be a slim chance that Nennius had access to Monmouth’s fiber vetustissimus, but that possibility has never been suggested by historians or scholars. The only other logical solution, backed by convincing evidence supplied by C. Scott Littleton a. Linda Malcor, is that Aneirin was recording the episodes of Lucius Artorius Castus.
Because there is no shred of evidence that a renown Arthur existed in the fifth century which therefore makes Arthur a bogus figure of that era, then Arthur’s father Utherpendragon, as created by Monmouth, is also a bogus figure unless that epithet can be at least plausibly assigned to some other actual renown king of the fifth century. Based upon Roman manuscripts, upon Monmouth’s appallingly unreliable “history,” and upon the meager scraps from ancient insular scribes , can a a phoenix arise from the ashes to provide a nevv and tangible Briton hero of the fifth century?
The De Excidio penned by Gildas Badonicus, does not mention the name Arthur, but instead, Gildas praises the last remaining Roman, Ambrosias Aurelianus, whose parents “wore the purple,” a symbol of Roman royalty. The reader is informed that this particular lead, Ambrosius, survived the onslaught of the Saxons and reversed the misfortunes of the Britons into victory. From that point onward, Gildas writes, the victories vacillated until the year of the siege of Badon Hill. Identifying Ambrosias Aurelianus as the son of Roman royalty alerts an individual that Ambrosius’s father suggests Constantius III, the Comes Britanniarum who was instructed by the Emperor to reclaim Britain as a province. There are claims that Gildas-no surname attached-did not name Arthur in his treatise because Arthur had killed Gildas’s brother Hueil, but before accepting that as as a truth, once should read the segment in this webs. titled Gild. Badonicus-Albani. for a more realistic explanation supplied by Josephus Stevenson a. others.
Two centuries later, the Venerable Bede echoed what Gild. Badonicus had written, not mentioning an Arthur but describing Britain’s hero as Ambrosius Aurelianus, “a man of good character and the sole survivor of Roman race … whose parents were of royal birth.”
A century beyond that, the third British source, The Historia Brittonum, did devote a small section to Arthur and his twelve battles, labeling him as a dux bellorum. But much greater praise and notice were awarded to Ambrosius Aurelianus. Section 31 states that Vortigern, the ruler at that time, feared three things, the worst which was a “dread of Ambrosius.” Section 00, 01, and 02 details the confrontation between the young Ambrosius Aurelianus a. Vortigern. When Vortigern learned that his adversary was Ambrosius, whose father was a Roman consulibus, Vortigern granted the young boy all the kingdoms of the western part of Britain, a. fled to the north. Section 08 contains the crowning commendation, no pun intended: “Pascent ruled by permission of Ambrosius, who was the taneat t king among all the kings of the British nation.” And as a bonus, Section 66 gives a chronological clue: “From the beginning of the reign of Vortigern to the quarrel between Guithelinus a. Ambrosius are 12 years.”
Annals, chronicles, and history are then silent about Ambrosius Aurelianus a. Arthur until the advent of Monmouth’s History& the Kings &Britain, which recounts a genealogy beginning with a certain Constantine a. giving a full embellishment of Ambrosius a. Arthur, plus another individual “epithetized” as Utherpendragon, Constantine’s youngest son. Lewis Thorpe gives the Jesus version as Ythr bed dragwn a. explains that Monmouth first uses just the name Other which he then changes to Utherpendragon, named from a comet and hvo golden dragons. The comet and dragons, however, are not seen until fifty pages after Monmouth’s genealogy, meaning that Monmouth had to backtrack a. insert the third son and the name into the genealogy.
Monmouth himself claims that he is translating a Welsh manuscript into Latin, in which case Utherpendragon doesn’t make sense. Pendraig is probably what he saw in the Welsh manuscript, meaning “head” or “top” of the dragon. The prefix added to that name, Ighr or Uther, is not a traceable Welsh word, but Uter, not Uther, is a traceable Latin word, cognate of uterus, meaning two siblings born of the same mother but of different fathers. Logistically, then, the epithet for Constantius III should be Pendragon, a. Uter Pendragon would refer to Constantius’s son, whose mother is a Celtic woman of noble birth (i.e. Ygema,) while Ygerna’s son Cador was sired by Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Constantius’s son is not Arthur, but Ambrosius Aurelianus.
The implication from a Roman perspective is drastic. Following Monmouth’s trail of circumstances, after the death of Constantius III (or more likely his recall to the continent), his son Ambrosius, aka Uterpendragon, was “too young to be raised to the kingship,” and hence those in charge of his upbringing “fled to Little Britain, just in case the child should be murdered by Vortigern.” (Monmouth’s exact words in quotations.)
The threat of assassination was dual-pronged. Ambrosius Aurelianus portended another usurper from Britain, and Constantine (Flavius Claudius Constantinus), beheaded less than a decade earlier, was a fresh, distasteful memory. Galla Placidia, who had resisted marrying Constantius III in the first place, had to protect not only her son Valentinian III, but also had to defend her title as Regent. It would be prudent for the Empire to eliminate Ambrosius Aurelianus before he, too, might claim the throne of the West. Although the boy’s wards sought refuge in Brittany, he would have to be shuttled back to Britain to depose Vortigern when he became of age. As lege. tells it, Arthur-that is, Ambrosius Aurelianus-was crowned king when he was fifteen.
Two sections-“The House of Constantine” a. “Arthur of Britain”- are paradoxically a treasure trove of information a. a jumble of maddening contradictions. Only after years of persistent, exasperating research, on-site exploration, relentless analysis, careful chronological calibrations, a. a tedious process of elimination was the jumbled ball of yarn untangled, linking Monmouth’s story, Gildas’s scant references to Briton heroes a. villains, a. Nennius’s tale of Ambrosius coupled with the first appearance of a Celtic hero named Arthur.
Summarized, these are the details:
In Monmouth’s section labeled “The House of Constantine” Constantine is the brother of the Breton King of Brit.ny, Aldroneus, whom the king sends back to Britain with Guithelinus to squelch the onslaught of the Saxons. Constantine becomes the King of Britain, marries a Celtic noblewoman, and has three children by her: Aurelius Ambrosius, a .cond son who eventually acquires the epithet Utherpendragon, and a third son (Constans) who is duped by the dethroned king Vortigern.
Upon Constantine’s death, Aurelius inherits .e throne. After he dies from poisoning, Utherpendragon becomes king, marries Gorlois’s wife Ygerna, and has two children, Anna a. Arthur. When Utherpendragon, too, is poisoned, Arthur claims the throne.
The epithet Utherpendragon first appears in the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, initially as a single word but then changing in mid-text to Uther Pendragon. In addition to those details listed above above about Utherpendragon, these are other cogent literary details describing him:
1. His blazon is a golden dragon which appeared in one of the his visions and was interpreted by Merlin.
2. In Monmouth’s work, Merlin is Utherpendragon’s magus, but never has detailed contact with either Ambrosius or Arthur.
3. After Utherpendragon dies, he’s buried within the Giants’ Ring (Giants’ Circle, Circle of Stones) which is most commonly interpreted as either Stonehenge or Avebury.
A parallel or link can confidently be made between Constantius III a. Pendragon:
1. Both Constantius III and Pendragon are associated with the House of Constantine. Constantius III was a patrician and Supreme Commander for Emperor Honorius of the West.
2. As verified by Gildas, Arnbrosius’s father was of Roman royalty who had a right to ‘wear the purple,’ a. as verified by the Historia Brittonum, Ambrosius’s father was a consulibus.
3. Both acquire the blazon of a dragon, first as a part of the typical division of a Roman legion, a. later in Britain as the Comes Britanniarum leading special forces.
4. During the years from 007 to 411, Constantine the Britain had depleted British troops by conscripting them in his attempt to conquer first Gaul and then the entire Roman Empire, but after Constantius defeated Constantine and restored order to Gaul a. Brittany, it became possible for Constantius to consider reoccupying and defending Britain as a province of the Western Empire.
5. Leaving Exuperantius, his trusted second-in-command, in charge of Gaul as an acting Praefectus, Constantius assumed the title of Comes Britanniarum, a. with a sizable Roman force plus auxiliaries of Britons who had pledged their support to the Empire after Constantine’s foiled attempt usurpation, Constantius began the reunification with Britain.
6. In Britain, one of Constantius’s primary initial goals was to reclaim the Comovii territory which separated the Combrogi and the Angli. Gorlois, the local king of the Cornovii tribe, was recruited u.er the typical Roman policy as foederati.
7. Although married to Galla Placidia and bound to a political marriage, Constantius took Gorlois’ beautiful young wife as his concubine. After Gorlois’s death Ygerna became Constantius’s so-called queen a. birthed a child which she claimed must have been sired by an incubus. Similarly, in the ‘Tale of Emrys. Arnbrosius’ mother claimed, “I do not know how he was conceived in my womb, but one thing I do know is that I have never known a man.”
8. With a massive show of Roman troops a. foederati leaders such as Cunedda and Vitalinus, Constantius was able to repel the Irish a. Anglian troops from overwhelming those tribes supportive of Roman control.
9. After a period of time a. a series of victories, Constantius gained the respect and support of the western tribes a. became known as the Pendragon, more commonly recognized as the Head Dragon of Britain rather than an officer of the Western Roman Empire.
10. Constantius’s plan to re-establish Britain as a Roman province was working well, but for some inexplicable reason he was recalled to the mainland, forcing him to leave behind his arrnies with foederati kings in partial control.
11. Shortly after his return to the continent, Constantius was crowned co-emperor, but died in that same year at the approximate age of 46.
*For details in Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era, see Chapter 4, “The House of Constantine,” pages 74-90.
Photo by F.D. Reno
However, Monmouth never identifies Uther’s burial site as Stonehenge. There are many “Circles of Stones” in Britain, and any of them could be identified as the Giant’s Ring. Besides Stonehenge, a second possible site is Avebury, larger and older than Stonehenge.
Photo by Frank D. Reno
NOVEL EXCERPT OF
KING ARTHUR: THE PENDRAGON LEGACY
Note( all material from King Arthur The Pengragon Legacy is copyrighted March 23, 2000. Please give appropriate citations when quoting excerpts, which are in black print.
Steve Blake a. Scott Lloyd in their second book Pendragon expand their theory that the historic Arthur occupied Wales rather than Cornwall. However, as the map to the left suggests, what might be more accurate is to claim that Arthur was the dux bellorum (or Comes Britanniarum) of the vast territory the Romans called Britannia Prima. It encompasses all of Wales and even more, a. a huge chunk of land within its perimeters was called Cornovii by the Romans (printed diagonally in black). When Blake a. Lloyd are translating the word “CERNYW” perhaps a more accurate translation would be CORNOVII a. not CORNWALL. If that were to be done, then Gelliwig, Rhita Gawr, Mons Aravius (Aran Mountains) and a host of other geographic sites a. Welsh historical figures would be accurately placed geographically. Indeed, “a prince of Cern, could then rightfully be called a man of the north.”
Ortiance Survey HISI011ed Map and Guide ROMAN BRITAIN, printed and published by Ordence Survey Southampton, Great B11.111, Crown copyright
When Constantius III returned with an army to Britannia Prima in 417 to purge the province of aggressive barbarians, he made his home base at Gorlois’s tribal center at Viroconium, also known as Wroxeter, in the center of the Cornovii territory, which separated the Welsh from the Anglians when Rome had occupied the island. Constantius became known as Pendragon (not Uterpendragon) and in the following excerpt, Pendragon and Aetius are on their way back to Wroxceastir after an inspection at Guar Wysg.
During the next several days, we toured the settlement and the fortification. Just inside the southwest wall were reconstructed billets which were built atop the original four barrack blocks. Four ancient coo.ouses were adjacent to the stone structures, two which had been refurbished and were in use. The ruins of baths were to the east of the barracks, but Mauron pointed out that they had been in disuse since before his fathees time. The River Wysg, only a short distance to the southwest of the amphitheater, was a serene location away from the clamor of the settlement. Both Aitius a. I agreed that this expedition had been well worth our time. On the morning of our departure from Glevum, we followed the River Sabrina north through the tribal city of Worcester, then turned onto the Roman road northeastward to Salinae, where we took the main route directly to Wroxceastir.
A light rain began as we passed the small fort of Greensforge, a. the landscape faded in the low hazy clouds whose vaporous mists rose, parted, then swirled together again to become more dense. The men and horses appeared and disappeared in the billowy fog where the road dropped into a desolate valley then cut through a dense forest where a tent of heavy, gray clouds blurred our vision. We slowed our pace as the scouts furtively attempted to see into the fog, glancing from side to side in an attempt to discern any movement in the murky landscape.
As we cautiously moved, one of the nearer scouts suddenly held up a hand, bringing the column to a standstill. We waited quietly. He turned his horse a. moved though the column to me and whispered that he heard something– perhaps the snapping of a twig, or the sou. of an arrow hissing in its path from a bow. Before he could finish his words, the swish of an entire flight of arrows sliced through the thick, gray mist. Simultaneously with the sou. of arrows, the raising of the turma’s shields reverberated in the muffled air. It was a reaction as instinctive as breathing. I gave a sharp comma. for half the men to face right, the others left, followed by an order to execute. A responding barrage of arrows flew from our turma, then we drew our spathas and hastae.
The attack came from the front, horses a. weapons clashing at the same time. The heavy fog that lay close to the ground obscured the lower portions of the combatants, creating an unreal scene of struggling, legless centaurs.
“Secure the right flank, Aitius,” I shouted while unsheathing ExChaly.s. I spurred Flamma toward the clamor of blood-curdling screams and the crash of metal against metal. Weapon raised, I lunged into the midst of battle a. immediately encountered a pelt-clad savage who was poised to kill one of my comrades. I swung ExChalybes at his upraised arm, blade crunching bone. His eyes widened, a. in disbelief he watched blood spurt from his partially severed limb. A second blow from my comrade hit the savage across the chest a. unseated him from his horse.
From my periphery I saw another savage charging with a thin lance leveled directly at me. I brought Flamma partially around, .isting to avoid a direct hit but the point of the long spear grazed my exposed left shoulder. Warm blood trickled down my arm as I swung my blade across the barbarian’s back as he passed. He grunted, but I couldn’t tell what happened to him in the close confusion.
I deflected a blade which came from somewhere out of the mist, clanging on my shield. I was knocked off balance, and before I could recover, another horse butted Flamma during the turmoil of in-fighting a. I was toppled to the ground. I was dazed, not only from the fall, but also because I had been unhorsed only twice in my life. I lost ExChalybes and feared I would be trampled. By sheer luck I dodged a horse and grabbed the rider by his foot, twisting a. pulling with all my might. As he fell toward me, I wrenched the spear from his grasp a. pushed him away. I buried the steel blade in his chest on his way down, wrenched the weapon loose, then started jabbing in all directions, trying to clear a space for myself. I succeeded, but still couldn’t find ExChalybes.
How inglorious, I thought, to be killed without my sword in hand. I could discern enemy from comrade, but not much else. Turning in circles, I kept stabbing at beast and man alike, making sure the area around me was cleared. The din became fuzzy, a. as if in the slow motion of a dream, I was alone. I groped for my sword a. finally found it. !thought the blade would be broken, or the grip trampled beyond recognition, but amazingly it was intact and unscarred.
I heard shouts from Aetius, at first cursing the enemy, but then calling out to me. After controlling my voice, I called back. “Here Aiitius: over here,” I bellowed. “I’ve been unhorsed.”
“Keep shouting, Sire, until I find your bearings,” he yelled back. I did so, and he found me. Evidently the mist was still low-lying and the view from horseback was clearer. Aiitius kept shouting at the troops to regroup as he was tending to me.
“You’ve been hurt, Magister,” he said grimly. Up to that point, I’d felt no pain, but now that he mentioned it, my shoulder began throbbing.
“Does it look bad, Ailius?” I grimaced.
“I can’t tell, Magister, because your pauldron is blocking my vision. You’re bleeding, but it doesn’t seem excessive. Come under this tree. I’ll organize the turma then look for Flamma a. bring her back.”
It didn’t take him long to finish his tasks a. return. He’d also brought the capsarius with him, who took off my shoulder plate a. put pressure on the wound. “How is the turma?” I asked. “Were any of our men killed?”
“Two, Magister,” Aitius answered. “Another lost his ear-sliced off probably by the cheekguard when his helmet was knocked from his head. He was bleeding freely, which is the case with all head-wounds, but he’s keeping pressure on it.”
“Who were the swine? Could you tell?”
“Nay, Magister. They didn’t seem like Anglians, though. Too short and stocky. Bagaudae, I would guess. About fifteen of them.”
“Have you seen Flamma?”
“She’s fine. Knows enough to leave the battle scene when she’s riderless.”
I grunted. “Aelius, this is only the third time in my life I’ve been unhorsed! Only the third time, and done by Bagaudae I wouldn’t take time to piss on. We lost two men, heh? We lost only four of our Romans when we slaughtered all those Anglians. A plague on those sons-of-whores. How many of them did vve kill?”
“About ten. !didn’t really count, but unless they join forces with other podicis, they won’t be able to do much. We’ve captured most of the horse.”
The capsarius finished bandaging the wound, telling me that the gash was fairly long but didn’t cut deeply into the
I remounted Flamma with Aetius’s help. “Three times,” I grumbled in disgust.
I rode slowly toward our comrades who were retrieving anything of value and tending to our dead. “Bury any weapons you don’t want,” I shouted to the troops. “Don’t leave them to be used again by such vermin.”
When we arrived at Wroxceastir, I gained audience with Her.. tell him what had happened. “They appeared to be Bagaudae. Or a scouting party, but they didn’t look like Anglians.”
His concern was evident. “They must have attacked between our patrols,” he exclaimed. “I’ll immediately order our watchguards out at irregular intervals so a pattern won3 give us away.”
“I’m not too concerned, Nerth. They were scavengers, and it wasn’t an organized attack. I don’t think they knew who we were. If Bagaudae become a problem, though, we will set up lookout stations in that area. I’m going to the villa now. I have some messages to se. to Honorius, then I’m going to rest. This confounded arrn is aching more than I expected. Aitius will accompany me, then return to .e Wreocun.”
“One moment before you go, Pendragon,” Nerth said as he walked to the table. He opened a center drawer and came back with something which looked like dried grass.
“This comes from Cadarn,” he explained. “Chew it a. swallow the juices. It will taste bitter, but it will ease the pain.”