The derivation of the date of the Badon entry in the Annales Cambriae from Bede and Gildas

Battle of Badon

Battle of BadonThe derivation of the date of the Badon entry in the Annales Cambriae from Bede and Gildas

Howard Wiseman

Parergon: 17, 1-10 (2000)


The earliest record of Arthur that places him in a precise (to within a year or two) chronological context is that found in the Annales Cambriae (AC), the annals of Wales. The first year of these annals corresponds to A.D. 447, and,in the oldest extant versions, the last entries are for the 950s . Thus the annals were almost certainly compiled as a single document at least as early as the mid tenth century. Two entries mention Arthur. This article is concerned with the first, which records his victory at the battle of Badon. It is entered under year 72, which corresponds to A.D. 518, and reads:

The battle of Badon [Bellum Badonis], in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were victorious.

Although earlier documents mention the victory of Badon, the AC are the first to give these details, and the first to give it a precise date. This article is devoted to the obvious question: how was the date of this entry derived? In answering this question, a crucial issue is when the entries were first written. The currently accepted position is that argued by Dumville, drawing on the work of Hughes, that the Arthurian entries were made in the late eighth century at the earliest, the mid tenth century at the latest. A late date of composition is supported by the fact that the year of another entry from the first half of the sixth century, the death of Maelgwn, must have been calculated after 911, according to Dumville (ibid.).

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