According to the ‘Saxon Genealogies’ found in some manuscripts of ‘Nennius’ and held by a number of scholars to be of the 7th cent., ‘Cunedag,’ ancestor of Maelgwn Gwynedd, came with his eight sons from the north, i.e. Manaw Gododdin, 146 years before Maelgwn reigned, and drove the Scots (i.e. the Irish) with very great slaughter from Gwynedd, so that they never returned. Tenth cent. pedigrees provide the links with Maelgwn, furnish the names of nine sons of Cunedda, and describe him as the son of Edern ap Padarn Beisrudd ap Tegid. Though far from contemporary, these accounts seem to tell a true story. The Old Welsh form ‘Cunedag’ goes back to a Celtic ‘Counodagos,’ signifying ‘good lord,’ while Eternus, Paternus, and Tacitus point to a Roman environment of several generations. ‘Peisrudd’ (scarlet cloak) may, perhaps, be taken as evidence of the holding of some high office in the empire. As to the sons it is noteworthy that the names of most of them are preserved in the nomenclature of Welsh tribal units within the limits traditionally assigned to their conquests, viz. the rivers Dee and Teify. Rhufon (Romanus) is represented by Rhufoniog, Dunod (Donatus) by Dunoding, Ceredig by Ceredigion, Afloeg by Aflogion in Lleyn, Dogfael by Dogfeiling in Dyffryn Clwyd, and Edern by Edeirnion. The Osweilion of Osfael has not yet been located; Tybion, the eldest son, is said to have died in Manaw Gododdin, but his son Meirion (Marianus) comes into the picture as lord of Meirionydd. Einion Yrth completes the number; it was his son, Cadwallon Lawhir (of the long hand), who, according to tradition, rounded off the work of the family by the final defeat of the Irish of Anglesey.
All this may be reasonably accepted as showing how, about the time that the Roman authority came to an end in Britain, a Brythonic Christian chief from the banks of the Forth drove the Goidels from north-west Wales and laid the foundation of the Gwynedd of the Middle Ages. It has been suggested that Cunedda and his troops came south in pursuance of a deliberate plan devised by Stilicho, when, a little before 400, he was concerned in the defence of Britain. This would fit in fairly with the 146 years of the ‘Saxon Genealogies’; on the other hand, the position of Cunedda in the pedigrees points to a later date in the 5th cent. Four of the sons, viz. Donatus, Eternus, Marianus, and Romanus, bear names which were current in Christian circles of this time; the title Gwledig (ruler) indicates a prince of special (perhaps Roman) authority. The name is an unusual one, though found in the place-name Allt Cunedda near Kidwelly; it was bestowed, perhaps as an antiquarian Revival, upon a son of Cadwallon ap Gruffudd ap Cynan. The poem in the ‘Book of Taliesin’ known as ‘Marwnad Cunedda’ has some interesting details, but the false form ‘Cuneddaf’ betrays its late origin and it cannot be used with any confidence.
Published date: 1959
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