February 5, 2010 by

Mount Badon / Caer Faddon (part 2)

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Mount Badon, if it exists at all, should appear on the map somewhere.  But where?

There are many, many possibilities.

First of all, we should note where Mount Badon is not.  For all that Geoffrey of Monmouth embellished and expanded the Arthurian legend, he did history a disservice in supposing that King Arthur ruled all of England, Scotland and Wales.  Geoffrey wrote his book under the patronage of Robert of Gloucester, who was trying to justify the rule of England by his half-sister, Maud.  Thus, because Maud had roots in Normandy, so did Arthur; because Maud was hoping to rule all of Great Britain, so did Arthur; because Maud’s power base was in and around Gloucester, so was Arthur’s.

Yet even in the twelfth century, for one king to control all of Great Britain by force of arms was extremely difficult.  Gloucester himself was unable to spread his influence east, into the territory controlled by King Stephen, whose rule centered on London.  Both pretenders to the throne had trouble controlling Ranulf, the Earl of Chester, who’d stretched his domain across the north of England from Chester to Lincoln.  Looking at the situation objectively, to think that a Dark Age king (Arthur) could have ruled all of Normandy, Wales, Scotland, and England when the Romans couldn’t do it, William the Conquerer couldn’t do it, and no King of England could do it until 1745 (with the exception of Normandy, which had been lost to France), defies all reasonable reading of history.

Therefore, the historical Mt. Badon (if it is a true place) has to exist within striking distance of Wales–the last bastion of the Britons facing a Saxon advance–and circumscribed within an area no further east than Birmingham, south of Gloucester, or north of Chester.

Early British Kingdoms has this to say:  http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/arthur/kabattles.html

“It was at the Battle of Mount Badon that tradition says the Saxon advance into Britain was finally halted. It was Arthur’s greatest victory and, not surprisingly, there are many claimants for its location. Forts are preferred since Gildas, in his De Excidio Britanniae, more properly called the battle a “siege”  . . . Possibilities include Bowden Hill, Lothian; Dumbarton Rock, Strathclyde; Mynydd Baedan, Glamorgan; Little Solway Hill, Somerset; or Brent Knoll, Somerset. Modern theory, however, suggests one of the many Badburys around the country: in Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. Liddington Castle, near Badbury in Wiltshire, seems most popular at present. Welsh tradition backed up by Geoffrey of Monmouth is, however, almost certainly correct in identifying the battle site with Bath, Caer Baddon, or, at least somewhere in its vicinity. Bathampton Down has been suggested.”

Bath lies just south of Gloucester.  Not a surprise, given Geoffrey’s patron.

The Welsh word for ‘Bath’ is ‘Caer Faddon’ (http://www.geiriadur.net/).  It is the Welsh translation of an English name, not the Welsh word for ‘bath’ itself, which is ymdrochfeydd.  This observation leads to another possible location for Mt. Badon, one mentioned in one the Welsh myths, The Dream of Rhonabwy.  In this poem, Arthur and his men dismount below Caer Faddon, within a half-day’s ride of the ford of Rhyd-y-Groes (ford of the cross).  The ford is not near Bath, but is an actual, well established, geographic site.  It is located on the Severn (Hafren in Welsh) River, east of Welshpool.

In looking at a map, or Google Earth for that matter, there are a whole host of possible locations for a Dark Age siege within a half-day’s ride of this ford, including Breiddon Hill, an enormous iron age hill fort.  The range of mountains in which Breiddon is located sits on the eastern edge of what became known as the ‘Marche’–the borderland between Wales and England–and adjacent to Offa’s Dyke, which dates to the 700s AD and was built by the Saxons to pen the Welsh into their mountains.

Identifying the Mount Badon of the Anglo-Norman Arthurian tales with the Caer Faddon of the Dream of Rhonabwy at last connects the continental Arthur with the native Welsh tales.  It also de-links King Arthur from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Gloucester-centric perspective and perhaps finally brings us closer to finding the geographic center of the historic, battle-leader named Arthur.

11 Responses to Mount Badon / Caer Faddon (part 2)

  1. John

    Cool Post! There seems to have been more than one Arthur, which were melded together. The second Arthur was King of Glamorgan and Pendragon of Britain, It does seem likely that his battle was fought on the mountain plateau between Mynydd Baedan and Mynydd Margam. This area is called Maescadlawr which means Field of the battlearea, many of the remains do not appear on modern maps, there are also signs of many of his family members in the surrounding area. There is a lot more to it, just thought you might be interested.

  2. Brian


    On the Arthur theme there was, and is, a Mount Badon and that is not Caer Faddon. Further all the battles listed for Arthur, in Nennius, were in Wales not England, nor Scotland, neither of which places did he visit.

    A copyrighted brief resume of those battles etc can be found on http://www.gowerandcarmarthenbay


    • Sarah Post author

      I’m not sure that we disagree. I too believe that Arthur, if he existed, fought his battles in Wales. But your link didn’t work.

  3. Brian

    How can you take such a subject in isolation with all that happened in that Borderlands region from the time when the Romans first arrived in the region, through to the death of Egfrith son of Oswy. There is far more history lying hidden in the Borderlands than anyone at present even dreams about.

    It has taken me 13 years to link those years from AD 47 to AD 658 such that it all comes together in a squence that double-checks all along the line……and that is far more interesting than the Normans. Try it!

  4. Andy

    Alan Wilson has some very interesting things to say on this subject, backed up by multiple sources although there is a certain amount of conjecture.

    • Sarah Post author

      I would love a time travel machine though I’m sure the 6th century would knock me flat in a minute!

  5. Paul

    Its a bit much accusing a Welshman, Monmouth, of being in the pay of the “English”, actually Normans or French??? His Arthur, who ruled Britain out of Caerleon, too. So, accused by the English of creating a Welsh folk hero and now by the Welsh of being an English poodle. Poor Monmouth. Besides, you forget that all Western England, including Bath, was as Celtic as Wales is now. If you read Oppenheimer and Sykes you will realise that over 50% of the “English” are still Celtic now as well.

    • Sarah Post author

      Well, okay–Robert of Gloucester was a Norman, as were all of Geoffrey’s superiors. The Normans, however, were absorbed into ‘English’ society, such that within a few hundred years–as ‘England’ as a state and Arthurian mythology developed–Arthur’s story came to exemplify ‘England’ as a nation, not Wales, and thus the continued confusion about where Arthur was born, lived, and died. I was pointing out that Geoffrey was most certainly a tool of his patron–all his patrons in fact, of which there were many.

      In addition, regarding the ‘Celtic’ nature of England, I wasn’t making a biological distinction between ‘Welsh’, ‘English’, and if you will, ‘Norman’, but a cultural one. Western England certainly has celtic roots, but the big debate raging within archaeology/history now is how extensive the Saxon incursion really was and by what date things were or were not dominated by the Welsh or Saxons. Compare the maps of 600 AD (http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/maps/600_kingdoms.html) verses 500 AD (http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/maps/500_kingdoms.html). That’s a huge shift from Welsh to Saxon in 100 years. So there’s no question it happened–the issue is when and where the battles were fought. And what role, if any the mythic King Arthur played in it.