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A Fleshed out Campaign Narrative for Arthwys ap Mar
Do not take this as fact, this is more or less a fun exercise in trying to rebuild what may have happened from a handful of sources. With some speculation from finding the sites of Arthur’s twelve battles from Nennius, combined with the regnal list that Geoffrey of Monmouth was drawing upon for his Archgallo narrative, we can maybe reconstruct something that is in the neighborhood (or at least surrounding county) of what happened. I have already touched on this slightly in my piece on the possible campaigns for Nennius’ battle list.
A quick rundown of people and how they are named in different sources
From Geoffrey’s Archgallo narrative we get a regnal list of
Morvidus → Gorbonianus → Archgallo → Elidurus → Peredurus and Ingenius
Coeling Analogues to Geoffrey’s Northern Chronicle/Regnal List
Mar - Father of Arthwys, also known as Mor, Maeswig or Masguid (Masguic) Gloff (the lame) and in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s De gestis Britonum (DGB) Morvidus, Ruler of Ebrauc from roughly ~460-480
Garbanian - Uncle of Mar, son of Coel Hen, sometimes Gorbanian, Garbanion, Germanianus, Garmonion, in DGB Gorbanianus, King of Bryneich, and seemingly King of Ebrauc for a period of time.
Arthwys - Son of Mar, sometimes appears as Athrwys, in DGB Archgallo, father of Eliffer, and others. King of Ebrauc from roughly ~490-540
Eliffer Gosgorddfawr - Son of Arthwys, in DGB Eleutherius, King of Ebrauc from roughly ~540 to 560, left the kingdom to his sons Peredur and Gwrgi
Peredur and Gwrgi - Sons of Eliffer, in DGB Peredurus and Ingenius, Kings of Ebrauc from ~560 to 580 supposedly losing Ebrauc to the Angles.
Geoffrey was likely pulling his information for this part of DGB from a lost regnal list or undetailed chronicle of the kings of Ebrauc, and had made some assumptions as to where these men fit as far as their familial relationships go, with him assuming that Morvidus/Mar was the father of the next three kings. Geoffrey places these figures a significant distance out from the time period they actually lived, you can read more about that here.
Setting the Stage
Now on to our attempt at a narrative.
Upon Coel Hen’s death he divided his Kingdom of Northern Britain among his sons, Ceneu, and Garbanian, as was the custom at the time, Ceneu receives the greater portion of his fathers Kingdom of Northern Britain, controlling Rheged, York, and Elmet, and Garbanian taking what became the kingdom of Bryneich. Ceneu in turn has three sons, Mar, Gwrwst, and Pabo, and his kingdom is further split. Mar inherits Ebrauc, Gwrwst takes Rheged, and Pabo takes the Pennines. Mar dies an early death, before his sons, Arthwys, Lleenawc, Einion, and Morydd came of age. Garbanian, Mar’s uncle then steps in and with our reconstructed regnal list from DGB took the throne of Ebrauc after Mar’s death, either as a regent for the young Arthwys (getting a small feeling of Sir Ector here, though it’s unlikely this is the inspiration for that) or possibly seeing an opportunity upon his nephew’s untimely death moved on Ebrauc as a usurper, taking the throne from the young Arthwys.
The Exiled Warrior Prince
This campaign plays out in four distinct parts. The first being a young Arthwys fighting on behalf of his uncle Garbanian. A teenage Arthwys begins his campaign in the late 480s with a battle deep into the territory of Bryneich, where Garbanian’s son Dyfnwal Moelmud was ruling at the time. Supporting Dyfnwal at the behest of his great-uncle Garbanian, the young prince defeats a Gododdin warband in a border raid, the old feud between the Coelings and the Gododdin, started between Coel and Cunedda, rearing its head again. Again fighting on his uncles command, Arthwys heads south to raid the Angles on their own territory winning his second, third, fourth, and fifth battles north of the River Witham in Lindsay. He pursues his enemies to Bassingbourn, defeating them giving him his sixth victory. Arthwys heads back home, and once again is tasked with going north to assist Dyfnwal Moelmud in securing his borders this time at the Kielder Forest, on the border between Strathclyde and Bryneich, giving him his seventh victory. Now after a handful of years fighting Arthwys has become a competent commander in his own right. He has now amassed enough fame, and by proxy enough spears to take his home of Ebrauc back from his great-uncle Garbanian.
The second part of the campaign begins, with Arthwys engaged in a civil war against Garbanian in Ebrauc, as well as the Kingdom of Bryneich. This kicks off with Arthwys’ Eighth victory, defeating Garbanian’s son Dyfnwal in an attack on Bryneich itself, at the old roman fort at Binchester (called Vinovium by the Romans, possibly morphing to Gwinnouion by Arthwys’ day giving us Guinnion). Arthwys then takes the fight directly to Garbanian at Ebrauc, the city of the legion, taking his home back by force, pursuing a fleeing Garbanian to the Humber estuary leading to Arthwys’ ninth and tenth victories, permanently cementing his position as King of Ebrauc, and establishing the grudge that follows the Kings of Bryneich for nearly ninety years, leading ultimately to Urien of Rheged’s (also a Coeling) death. The next phase of the campaign has Arthwys fighting the Gododdin on their own territory at Edinburgh directly, a continuation of the feud between the Coelings and the Gododdin alluded to in Y Gododdin, and maybe even doing so with Garbanian’s grandsons, Bran and Cyngar, with the former being King of Bryneich by now. After establishing himself as a capable warlord in his own right through these victories he joins the coalition of kings that puts a combined Saxon and Angle army down at The Wrekin, or Badon, setting the stage for a Pax Arthuriana, with the invaders progress halted for a generation.
…And Future, King
Arthwys victories have secured peace for almost 40 years, until a combined warband of Strathclyde and the men of Gododdin, bear down upon Arthwys’ cousin Meirchion Gul and his son Cynfarch. An elderly Arthwys, closer to seventy now than sixty heads west with his younger brother Morydd to help defend his kinsmen, meeting the invading northern warband at Camboglanna. Arthwys and Morydd die in the battle, Arthwys laid low by a man of Gododdin named Cydywal, and immortalized in the Annales Cambriae in it’s entry for 537
The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) fell and there was death in Britain and in Ireland.
Thank you for bearing with me in this exercise. This is something fairly new that I would like to do a little more of. As I said in the intro, this is by no means meant to be taken as blind fact, as we can only pull so much from the scant sources we have. A little bit of imagination and logic is required to try to fill in the gaps. Many scholars scoff at such exercises, but the goal here is not to find the cold hard truth, but to find new ways to engage with the sources, and maybe glean something new from them. As always, follow me on twitter at the button below, and subscribe to my substack, since you’re already here all it takes is a click, and it’s free!
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