||The Heroic Age, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 1999
Gildas and the City of Legions
Notes and Bibliography
- De excidio Britanniae § 10
(Winterbottom 1978:92; Mommsen 1898a:1-85:31). I am grateful to Tomos
Roberts, Keeper of the Melville Richards Archive of Place-Names at the
University of Wales Bangor, for advice on early Welsh philology and Welsh
onomastics, and to Rijcklof Hofman of the Dutch Organisation for
Scientific Research at Leiden University and the Titus Brandsma
Instituut, Nijmegen, for information about Saints Aaron and Julius and
early Christian writing generally. Their help has been indispensable.
- Gildas does not make it clear whether the two
martyrs shared a single shrine or had one each. For simplicity’s sake
I assume the former, but error in this matter would not affect my
- Rijcklof Hofman (personal communication) cites
De tempore rationum (CCSL 123B, 508, 1374/9), Quentin
(1908:104-7) and, among others, the chronicles of Ado of Vienne and
Orderic Vitalis (Patrologia Latina 106, 1191A; 123, 90D) and the
martyrologies of Notker Balbulus and Ado of Vienne (Patrologia
Latina 131, 1107C; 123, 290A).
- Rijcklof Hofman (personal communication),
following Dumville, cites Stokes (1905:160); and the gloss from the
Lebar Brecc in Stokes (1880:cxv). Hofman points out that
although the gloss shows that the two saints were known in Ireland, it
does not prove that they had a feast day in Ireland different from the
one given by Florus. The Irish glossator might too easily have been
prompted by the coincidence of name of the two Aarons or the similarity
between Julius’s name and the name of the month of July or both. Their
modern feast-day is 3 July; see the Saint Andrew Daily Missal
- Rijcklof Hofman kindly looked for the phrase,
including searching the Corpus Christianorum, the Patrologia
Latina, and the Archive of Celtic Latin Literature
electronically for urb* legio*, and, apart from an anomalous
occurrence in William of Malmesbury, which will be noticed later, found
it only in Bede and Geoffrey of Monmouth, who appear to be using Gildas,
Henry of Huntingdon, who is using Bede, and Gerald of Wales, who is
- Llandaff Charter 225, dated c. 864, in
Davies 1979:121; cf. Stephens 1985:326. For the continuation of their
cult in the equivalent Catholic diocese in this century, see the
Saint Andrew Daily Missal 1958:2000.
- This is Flower’s hypothesis, reported by
Dumville 1997:25-7; for a different view, giving more weight to the
Irish evidence, see Hofman (forthcoming). On the manuscript, Sankt
Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek 904, see Hofman 1996, 1:12-31 and passim.
- Geoffrey 3.10, 4.19, 9.12; Griscom 1929;
Thorpe 1976:99-100, 124-25, 224-28.
- Two-thirds of Geoffrey’s nine references to the
urbs legionum speak of it as a metropolitan see: Geoffrey 3.10,
4.19, 7.3, 8.12, 9.12, 11.3 (Thorpe 1976:99-100, 124-25, 146-48,
171-77, 197-98, 224-28, 262).
- Thorpe (1978:115) notes several of the points
of dependence on Geoffrey. Rijcklof Hofman points out that Gerald may
have known Gildas’s De excidio as well. He shows knowledge of
it in his Descriptio Kambriae, written a mere three years after
- Previous scholarship on Gildas's date is cited
by Higham (1994:118-45) and in Koch (1996:241-42). On Deira, see
Dumville 1989:213-22, especially 218-20.
- On Gildas's style, see variously
François Kerlouégan (Barley and Hanson 1968:151-76),
Winterbottom 1978:5-9, Lapidge and Dumville 1984:chs. vi-vii,
ix-x; Kerlouégan 1987; Howlett 1998.
- In later Latin it could even be used for the
City of God (Souter 1949:s.v.)
- For the early development of the place-names,
see Rivet and Smith 1979.
- Stevens 1937, especially 202 and note.
- Gildas § 3 (Winterbottom
1978:16-17). Stevens (1937:202-3, 201n) attempts to identify them.
- Stevens (1937:200-3) identifies 26
civitates (a few with less than full certainty); nothing he
reports suggests Chester or Caerleon was among those unidentified.
- For urbs, see Gildas
§§ 1.5 and 45.1 (biblical) (Winterbottom 1978:13-14, 41)
and §§ 2, 10.2,
and 13.2 (other) (Winterbottom 1978:16, 19, 20-21); for civitas,
§§ 1.4, 28.2, 42.2, 45.1, 51.1 (twice), 53.3, 55, 61.1 (twice), 87,
93.2 (twice), 110.3 (biblical) (Winterbottom 1978:13, 29-30, 39, 41, 45-46, 49, 66, 69, 79) and §§ 3.2,
19.3, 24.1, and 26.2 (other) (Winterbottom 1978:16, 23, 27, 28). He can also
speak of major cities as coloniae (e.g. at § 24.3; Winterbottom
- Aquileia was the chief city of the province of
Venetia-and-Istria (Hammond 1970).
- On the implications of the territorial origins
of the British delegates to the council, see Mann 1961.
- Haddan and Stubbs (1869-1871)
suggest that the corrupt reading of the name of the third bishopric
represented at Arles was an error for Caerleon, but Mann (1961),
followed by Rivet and Smith (1979:48-50) argues more plausibly for
- For some plausible moments, see Dumville
1989:220-1. For interesting parallels, consider the much
better-recorded process by which the Byzantine emperor Romanus Lecapenus
recovered the sacred Mandelion from the Moslems of Edessa in 943, after
it had been lost to Christians for 305 years (Runciman 1963:145).
One other word of Gildas's in this passage may be worth noticing,
because it may have related implications. In a writer so allusive and
so steeped in the Bible, divortium, which means
"divorce" as well as "partition", may allude to the
Gospel of Matthew 19.3-9. At another point in his book, Gildas cites
the Gospel passage in its literal sense with the usual implications
(Gildas 28.3; Winterbottom 1978:30). On his text,
see Burkitt 1934:206-15. If his words earlier allude to this passage
too, the echo implies that British territory had not simply been seized
by force, but had been permanently alienated by treaty or some
equivalent legal process, and that such alienation was illicit, contrary
to God's will, and should be reversed.
- Morris 1980; cf. Mommsen 1898:111-222;
Dumville 1985 (Of the projected ten volumes of this last, only the first has
- Dumville (1975-1976:78-95) has even argued that
Historia Brittonum was not written by Nennius; for a different
view, see Field 1996:159-65.
- Nennius 56; Morris 1980:35-36;
Mommsen 1898b:200; § 27 (Dumville 1985).
- The present scholarly consensus on it reported
by Koch (1996:246-51. For other scholars' views on the phrase, see
- Koch (1996:246-51) points out that the Welsh
source may have called the next battle Tribruit Abon
("the river Tribruit"), which could give six consecutive
rhymes in -on (adding abon, Bregion and
Badon), and that such a sequence would have important
implications for the date and content of the Welsh poem.
- Modern Welsh dinas, in the sense of
"city", which would have been even closer to urbs, is a
much more recent development.
- It also corrupts the Latin name to
urbs Leogis, but that is not significant.
- §§ 66a, 47; § 56; (Morris 1980:32-33, 35-36, 39) for the
Cornish equivalent see Padel 1985:50-2. For Vortigern and his city, see
- § 66a (Morris 1980:39); cf.
- See §§ 7, 10 (twice), 33, 38, 66a
(civitas) (Morris 1980:18, 19, 27, 29, 39); §§ 25, 32 (twice), 42, 49, 56, 64, 65 (urbs)
(Morris 1980:24, 26-27, 30-31, 33, 35-36, 38-39). In §§ 25 and 66a (Morris 1980:24, 39)the two words are used to refer to
Caernarfon, in §§ 32-3 (Morris 1980:26-27), to the city of King Benlli.
- § 66a (Morris 1980:39). Legeion
should be Legion, as Jackson, "Nennius and the Twenty-Eight
Cities," points out.
- E.g. Lloyd 1912, 1:126;
Jackson 1959:4; Bromwich 1975-1976:171; 1963:93-4;
Jones 1964:8; Bromwich et al. 1991:2-3;
Bartrum 1993:88. Alcock (1973:359)
says that it must be either Chester or Caerleon, but that there is no basis for
choosing between them.
- Lloyd 1912, 1:126;
Crawford 1935:279; Bromwich
- For instance, he has Arthur ludicrously going
into battle with the image of the Virgin Mary on his shoulders
(imaginem sanctae Mariae perpetuae virginis super humeros
suos). "Shoulders" will be a mistake for
"shield": in early Welsh the two words could be
homographs. What Nennius thought his source said was absurd, but
although he could have corrected or omitted the absurdity, he reproduced
it exactly, apart from presumably turning a singular
"shoulder" into a plural "shoulders".
- Mommsen (1898a:31) does not record
legionis in any Gildas manuscript, or legionum in a
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