The Celts in Wales

The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans.  The map to the right shows the migrations of the celtic (or proto-celtic) groups around 1000 BC.   Note the expansion of the Celts in particular between 500 and 200 BC into the British Isles.  The Welsh tribes in particular consisted of the Ordovices, the Deceangli, the Gangani, the Demetae, and the Silures. http://archaeology.suite101.com/article.cfm/archaeology_and_the_celts “History Read more…

The Roman Conquest of Britain

When the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD, they crossed in three divisions, under the command of Aulus Plautius.  The ships are thought to have traveled from Boulogne to what is now Richborough, on the east coast of Kent. The Romans operated on a shock and awe type of warfare and eleven tribes of southeast Britain surrendered to Claudius.  The Romans moved west and north from there,  establishing their new capital at Camulodunum. It wasn’t until late in 47 AD that the new governor of Britain, Ostorius Scapula, began a campaign against the tribes of modern day Wales.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_conquest_of_Britain “The ever-pugnacious Caratacus – the Caradog of Welsh legend – moved north to carry on the fight in the territory of the Ordovices in Anglesey and Caernarfon. There, in 51AD, he was defeated and his family captured.” Later, the Silures defeated Read more…

Jews in Medieval England

Jews in Medieval England I’m updating this post, in large part because of a comment a reader left about my use of the word ‘pogrom’ in Footsteps in Time, having not heard the word before. A ‘pogrom’ is defined as: “An organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews.”  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Pogrom Jews lived in England during the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods, but not as an organized community. This page states:  “When William the Conqueror arrived in England in 1066, he encouraged Jewish merchants and artisans from northern France to move to England. The Jews came mostly from France with some from Germany, Italy and Spain, seeking prosperity and a haven from anti-Semitism. Serving as special representatives of the king, these Jews worked as moneylenders and coin dealers. Over the course of a generation, Read more…

Offa’s Dyke

? In 780 AD, King Offa of Mercia was at the height of his authority.  Prior to his rule, in 750 AD, King Eliseg (immortalized by Eliseg’s Pillar near Llangollen) had swept the Saxons out of the plains of Powys.  Offa, in turn, attacked Powys in 778 and 784, and tradition states that he built the dyke, sometime (or throughout) his reign.  Prior to this, Aelthelbald, King of Mercia, had built ‘Wat’s Dyke’, which extends from the Severn Valley northwards towards the estuary of the Dee (A History of Wales, John Davies p. 62). There is a quote from George Borrow, from Wild Wales, that “it was customary for the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to the east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to Read more…

The Conquests of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth

Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, born around 1172, was the grandson of Owain Gwynedd and ruled Wales from the late 12th century (certainly by 1200) to his death in 1240 AD.  He married Joanna (Joan), the eldest (albeit illegitimate) daughter of King John of England. Llywelyn “proved to be the greatest and most constructive Welsh statesman of the Middle Ages. In his long career he succeeded, by constant warfare, by tactful yielding under pressure and by masterly resilience the moment that pressure was relieved, in bringing under his control most of Pura Wallia. When he died in 1240, full of honor and glory, he left a principality which had the possibility of expanding into a truly national state of Wales. There was a moment when an independent Wales seemed about to become a reality.”  http://www.castlewales.com/llewelyn.html The Chronicle of the Princes (Ystrad Fflur edition) details the events of Read more…

The Irish in Wales

The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans. http://archaeology.suite101.com/article.cfm/archaeology_and_the_celts The Celts had arrived in Britain and Ireland by 400 BC, super-imposing upon whatever native peoples were already there.  The Celts in these regions, then, were on the fringes of Celtic culture, not their heart, which was centered in Northern Europe, particularly in what is now Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Read more…

Maps from the Books!

A reader suggested I post the maps from the books on my web page, which is a really good idea. This is the main map for the After Cilmeri Series:   For Cold My Heart. It is much the same, except I use the old name for Aber, which is Garth Celyn:   The Last Pendragon Saga: The Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mysteries. Carreg Cennen from The Bard’s Daughter is not shown, but it forms a triangle with Dinefwr and Dryslyn:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wales has a tradition of religious dissent, dating back to the Dark Ages (see my posts on the Pelagian Heresy and Religious Nonconformity in Wales). Welsh people took advantage of the opening up of the new world very early on, seeing an opportunity for religious, political, and economic freedom that had been closed to them in Britain for centuries. The captain of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones, was Welsh. Puritanism did not flourish in Wales, however, and only small groups of dissenters ever got established. It may be that a significant percentage of Welsh Puritans, Quakers (later in the 17th century) and nonconformists came to the New World (which is one reason America proved so rebellious, since now the rebels were all congregated in one place).  Notable Welsh founding fathers include William Penn and Roger Williams early on, and later Thomas Jefferson, Sam and John Adams, Read more…

The Black Death in Wales

The Black Death is generally understood to have been caused by the flea on a rat that appeared in Europe from Asia, having come from the steppes.  The Black Death came in three forms:  bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic, all caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis.    These three forms had a mortality rate of 30-75%, 90-95%, and 100% respectively. http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/bdeath/Black.html Skip Knox writes:  ‘The Black Death erupted in the Gobi Desert in the late 1320s. No one really knows why. The plague bacillus was alive and active long before that; indeed Europe itself had suffered an epidemic in the 6th century. But the disease had lain relatively dormant in the succeeding centuries. We know that the climate of Earth began to cool in the 14th century, and perhaps this so-called little Ice Age had something to do with it.  Whatever Read more…

The First Crusade

The Crusades, Christendom’s attempts to win back the Holy Land and Jerusalem, began in 1095 with the First Crusade.  The Muslims had taken Jerusalem in 1076. Pope Urban incited the Christians of Medieval Europe with the words: “Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked. Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ. Wear his cross as your badge. If you are killed your sins will be pardoned.” The Crusaders had to follow an overland route to Constantinople, where they gathered in preparation for moving south to Palestine. By 1097, after a brutal journey to reach it, nearly 10,000 people had gathered in Constantinople.  http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/cru2.htm The Crusaders encountered little resistance for the most part, and reached Jerusalem by June 7, 1099.  They began their attack on the 13th, and by the 17th, had Read more…

Maps of Wales

Both topography and geography change over time.  Geologically, Wales hasn’t changed much in 2000 years, but the topography has, from mining, from the building of villages and cities, and from the wholesale cutting–and then replanting–of forests.  As evidenced by the loss of the location of many of the Roman roads, transportation routes change over time.  What used to be on a major pathway across the country is now in a desolate, hard-to-reach area. As one example, in Powys, in the 19th century, the leader of Birmingham City Council set about finding a clean water supply for the City.  He identified the Elan and Claerwen Valleys as having the best potential for water storage with ample water (72 inches a year), narrow downstream valleys, impermeable bedrock, and a higher altitude eliminating the need for pumps. “An Act of Parliament was passed Read more…