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Pillar of Eliseg Genealogy

The Pillar of Eliseg, erected in the 9th Century, is sited along the A542 near Valle Crucis Abbey near Llangollen. The stone column is all that is left of a once much bigger Celtic cross. Concenn (Cyngen), the king of Powys, who died at Rome in 854, erected this cross in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg (Elisedd or Elise) king of Powys. Its inscription, if true, gives the possibility that the maligned Vortigern could actually have gained power by marrying the daughter of Magnus Maximus. Vortigern is held responsible for letting the Saxons enter Britain and then proceeded by marriage and deceit to take it for themselves.

In order to defend Britain from his permissive attitude toward the Saxons, it became necessary for the grandson of Maximus, the famous Ambrosius, mentioned by Gildas, to hunt him down and kill him. His sons continued to rule the kingdom of Powys.

The inscription is now eligible, but fortunately Edward Llwyd, wrote it down (see his writing below).

The excerpts and photographs are from All around the Wrekin" by Professor Sir John Rhys (1908) from Y_Cymmrodor Vol 21




Concenn son of Cattell, son of Brochmail, son of Eliseg, son of Guoillauc.
Concenn, therefore being great-grandson of Eliseg, erected this stone to his great-grandfather Eliseg.
It is Eliseg who annexed the inheritance of Powys [--] throughout nine (years) from the power of the English
which he made into a sword-land by fire.

Whosoever shall read this hand-inscribed stone, let him give a blessing on the soul of Eliseg.

Paragraph v is mostly hopeless, but it seems to summarize the achievements of Concenn himself, especially as regards the additions which he made to his realm of Powys. (It is Concenn who ... with his hand ... to his own kingdom of Powys ... and which ... the mountain ... )

Then followed probably a paragraph stating that Eliseg's mother was Sanant, daughter of Nougoy (or Noe) , descended from Maximus (Pedigrees ii and xv), and closing with a sentence giving the names of fìve sons of Maximus. I am not clear how the sentence ran, but possibly thus: — "Priusquam enim monarchiam obtinuit Maximus Brittanniae, Concenn, Pascent, Dimet, Maun, Annan genuit." Concenn is a mere guess : perhaps Maucann would be better, but any name in 'nn' is admissible. (the monarchy ... Maximus ... of Britain ... Concenn, Pascent, Maun, Annan.)

Dimet, which in the Pembrokeshire bilingual inscription at Trefgarn Fach is Demet-i, seems to fit the lacuna, and a bearer of that name is mentioned as a son of Maximus in Pedigree ii, which makes Diniet an ancestor of Concenn through Eliseg's mother Sanant. Dimet's name is of importance as indicating a connection between Maximus and Dyfed, the country of the ancient Demetae, perhaps through his supposed British wife, the Elen Lüydog of Welsh legend. Add to this the fact of that legend associating him with Caerleon and Carmarthen, and, above all, calling a Dyfed mountain top after him Cadeir Vaxen 'Maxen or Maxim's seat'.

Annan is probably to be corrected into Annun, given as Anthun son of Maximus in Ped. iv. It is the Latin Äntonius, with the 'nt' reduced into 'nn' as in Maumnn, by the side of Maucant in Pedigrees xxii and xxvii: it is otherwise spelt Annhun or Anhun as already mentioned. The MS., Jesus College xx, gives Maximus three other sons all with their names derived from Latin Owein, older spelling Eugein = Eugenius, Custennin = Constantinus, and Dunaót = Dönätus.

The next paragraph runs as follows, beginning in a Celtic fashion without a copula : — "Britu autem filius Guorthigirn, quem benedixit Gerraanus quemque peperit ei Severa filia Maximi regis qui occidit regem Romanorum." (Britu, moreover, was the son of Guorthigirn, whom Germanus blessed and whom Severa bore to him, the daughter of Maximus the king who slew the king of the Romans. ) For Sevira is doubtless a spelling of Severa, but whether a daughter of Maximus of that name is mentioned anywhere else I cannot say.

To put this important statement right with the Nennian Pedigrees, the latter have first to be corrected in certain particulars. One of the foremost things to attract one's attention is the fact that they never mention Guortheyrn or Vortigern. For his name they substitute "Cattegirn, son of Catell Durnluc" : this seems done partly for the sake of Catell or Cadell, the pet convert in the story of St. Germanus's miracles as given in Nennius Historia Brittonum. There the Saint is made to be Cadell, one of the servants of Benlli, that he, Cadell, would be king, and that there would always be a king of his seed. The story proceeds to exaggerate the prophecy as follows : — " Juxta verba Sancti Germani rex de servo factus est, et omnes filii eius reges facti sunt, et a semine illorum omnis regio Povisorum regitur usque in hodiernum diem." (According to the prediction of St. Germanus from a servant he became king: all his sons were kings, and from their offspring the whole country of Powys has been governed to this day). So the Nennian Pedigree Harleian 3859 Pedigree 22 ends with "map Pascent | map Cattegirn | map Catel dunlurc", though the Fernmail Pedigree in Nennius Historia Brittonum, has "filii Pascent filii Guorthigirn Guortheneu", without a trace in any of the MSS. of either Cattegirn or of Catell. Nennian Pedigree Harleian 3859 Pedigree 27, however, emphasizes Pedigree 22, as it ends with "map Pascent | map Cattegir[n] | map Catel | map Selemiaun".

Here the father of Cadell seems to have been an unnamed man belonging to Cantrev Selyv, in Brecknockshire. This looks ingenious on the part of the scribe, as Cadell was described in the Germanus legend as rex de servo factus. The difficulty is avoided in the MS., Jesus College 20 Pedigree 16, where we have words to the following effect : Cassanauth Wledig's wife was Thewer, daughter of Bredoe, son of Kadell deernlluc, son of Cedeheren (=Cattegirn), son of Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu. This makes Cadell grandson of Gwrtheyrn or Vortigern. The Bredoe of this pedegree I take to be Bruttu in the Nennian Pedigree Harleian 3859 Pedigree 23, which ends with 'map Brttu/ map Catigern/ map Catell". That this hits the mark is proved to demonstration by 'Britu autem filius Guarthigirn' of the Elisseg Pillar.

The Powys dynasty was Goidelic, and probably the Welsh epithet Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu did not mean Vortigern of the Repulsive Lips. but rather that he spoke a language that was not Brythonic or that he spoke it badly.

The blessing of the Lord be upon Concenn and upon his entire household, and upon the entire region of Powys until the Day of Judgement.


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