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The monkish chronologists thought that these 60,000 men would, of course, be in want of wives; and therefore they appended the tale of St. Ursula and the eleven thousand, nay seventy thousand virgins, who, on their voyage from Britain to Armorica, were captured by pagan pirates, and all suffered for their faith. But this grave narration is so improbable throughout, that the whole may, without scruple, be pronounced a fiction.*
There is a church in Cardiganshire called Llanygwyryfon, or Llanygweryddon, which is supposed to be dedicated to
Ursula and the virgins; and if so, it is obviously of late foundation.
Before the end of this century the celebrated Pelagius, who was a Briton, commenced his career; but as the name of this person has not been enrolled in any catalogue of Saints, it will be enough to observe that his heresy was first promulgated in Italy, and was soon afterwards brought to Britain by his disciple, Agricola.
• The story may be seen at length in Cressy's “ Church History of Brittany."
The Welsh Saints from A. D. 400 to A. D. 433.
The list of primitive Christians has reached the beginning of the fifth century, and it may be stated that of all those hitherto mentioned, none, with the exception perhaps of Lleurwg, were founders of churches in the usual sense of the term. But the reader is now about to enter upon a time, when, in consequence of the distresses of the Romans, the Britons threw off their yoke, and the affairs of the island underwent a complete revolution. From the Welsh genealogies it would seem as if the country came at once into the possession of several chieftains, who rose into power, either as elders of tribes according to a system of clanship, or from their activity in resisting the northern invaders.
This event took place, according to Zosimus, in A. D. 408 or 409; and he says it happened in consequence of an irruption of barbarians into Gaul, which cut off the communication between Britain and the rest of the Roman empire. His words may thus be rendered :
"The barbarians above the Rhine, invading all parts with unrestrained freedom, forced, of necessity, the inhabitants of the island of Britain, and some of the Celtic tribes, to revolt from the dominion of the Romans, and to live independent, no longer obeying the Roman laws. The Britons, therefore, armed themselves, and, facing the danger on their own account, delivered their cities from the barbarians that infested them. And all Armorica and other provinces of Gaul, imitating the example of the Britons, set themselves free in like
manner; expelling the Roman governors, and setting up a native form of government at their own liberty. This revolt of Britain and the Celtic tribes happened during the time of the usurpation of Constantine, when the barbarians had made an incursion through his neglect of the affairs of the empire.”*
This is the statement of a contemporary historian, for Zosimus died A. D. 420 ; and though it does not enter into particulars as much as could be wished, it is of incomparably greater value than all the dreaming of Gildas and the monkish writers about the “groans of the Britons,” whom they represent as the most imbecile of the nations of antiquity. It is pleasing, however, to find historians of such eminence as Gibbon, Mr. Sharon Turner, and Dr. Lingard, giving to the testimony of Zosimus the respect to which it is entitled; and they proceed to describe the state of Britain after its emancipation, in terms perfectly consistent with the information to be gleaned from the Welsh authorities. Gibbon indeed quotest a passage from Procopius to show that the Romans could never recover possesssion of the island, which continued from that time under the government of tyrants; and by the latter term, in the original úmo tupavvous, which is not always used in a bad sense, it is obvious the writer intended to designate the native chieftains.
From the Triads it would appear that the emperor Maximus left a son in Britain, called Owain ab Macsen Wledig, who was by national convention elected to the chief sovereignty of the Britons. It is said that under him Britain was restored to a state of independence, and the annual tribute which had been paid to the Romans from the time of Julius Cæsar was discontinued. It is added that the Romans, under pretence of consenting to these proceedings, withdrew their troops, and
* Zosimi Historiarum Lib. VI. Cap. 5, 6.
brought away at the same time the best of the Britons who were able to bear arms, by which means the country was so weakened that it became a prey to its enemies.*_In this traditional account may be perceived a confused notion of the events which took place as related by Zosimus; and if the Roman and Greek writers make no mention of so distinguished a person as Owain the son of Maximus, it was because all communication with Britain had been intercepted. One of the Triadst states that Owain was raised to the dignity of Pendragon or chief sovereign of the Britons, though he was not an elder, from which it may be concluded that he was a young man at the time of his election. The editor of the Cambrian Biography says that he was also called Owain Finddn, and that he has been considered a Saint by his countrymen; but there are no churches existing which bear his name.
According to the Welsh accounts, one of the most distinguished chieftains of this time was Cunedda Wledig. His territory is said to have been in the north, an expression used indefinitely for any part of the tract reaching from the
* Triads 21 and 31. Third Series, Myv. Archajology.
+ No. 17. Third Series. Qu. Was not his disqualification owing to the foreign origin of his father, which prevented him from being the elder of a clan of native Britons ?
Humber to the Clyde; the particular district is not mentioned, but owing to the remoteness of the country from Wales it cannot be expected that the tradition should be precise. In right of his mother, Gwawl, Cunedda was also entitled to the headship of the clan of Coel Godehog in the south ; Ceneu and Mor, the proper representatives of that tribe, being ecclesiastics.* Soon after the departure of Maximus to the continent, a people, called Gwyddyl Ffichti, or Irish Picts, to distinguish them the Picts of the north, landed on the western coasts of Britain,t and occupied the whole of North Wales, as well as the Dimetian countiest of South Wales. At a later time, the northern Picts made one of their irruptions into the country of their more civilized neighbours; and Cunedda, being unable to resist them, was forced to seek an asylum to the south ward. The probability is that he retired to his maternal kindred. He was the father of a numerous family ; and his sons, being reduced to the condition of adventurers, undertook the enterprise of delivering Wales from the Irish marauders. In this it is presumed they were assisted by the rightful inhabitants; and they were so far successful that they recovered a great part of South Wales, and the whole of North Wales, except Anglesey and some portions of Denbighshire. The country recovered was divided between them, and they became the founders of so many clans which gave names to the districts that they occupied, some of which names are retained to this day. Thus Ceredig had Ceredigion, comprising the present county of Cardigan with a great part of Carmarthenshire; the word, Ceredigion, being the
Saints. † In this statement the Welsh authorities are confirmed by the Irish historians, who relate that an invasion of Britain, on an extensive and formidable scale, took place towards the close of the fourth century under the auspices of a king of Ireland, called Nial of the Nine Hostages.Moore's History of Ireland, Chap. VII.
I The present counties of Cardigan, Pembroke, and Carmarthen.