“Antiquam exquirite matrem.”
[“Seek out your ancient mother.”]
Respectfully inscribed to Gen. ALEXANDER DIROM, of Mount Annan.
BY the concurring testimony of ancient writers, it is quite apparent that the Mæatæ, or Midland Britons, possessed for ages a principality, or kingdom of their own, called Regnum Cambrense, or the kingdom of Cumbria. This immense region extended from the great northern friths in the land of the Damnii and the Houstii, to the mountainous divisions of Cumberland and Westmoreland, the dwellings of the warlike Brigantæ in former times. Bounded to the west by the “Marmore Ierene,” it stretched eastward to that grand natural barrier, the Cheviots, the territories of the Northumbrian kingdom.1 The chief city in this extensive principality was Alcluid, or Alcluyd, founded on that impregnable fortress, the vast Petra-Cloithe of Celtic ages, a name highly descriptive of the nature of its situation, as signifying the rock or fortress of Clyde. This was the celebrated Balcluith of the Ossianic Warriors and the Dunbrittons, and which also signifies, in that kindred and expressive language, “the fortress of the Britons” – Dunbritton, or Dunbarton,2 of modern times. The Regnum Cambrense included in its territories the five British tribes, which, in after ages, formed the Romanized province of Valentia: viz. the Ottadeni, the Gadeni, Selgovæ, the Novantæ, and the Damnii. These, when they became incorporated with their civilized invaders, were acknowledged a sovereign and independent people, at the era of the Roman abdication, and had to contend for their liberties against the Picti and the Scoti, from the west and north of Caledonia.3
In every province of Romanized Britain, a regal government was established; princes were chosen, and commanders appointed, when the day of battle was at hand. In the regions of Cambria we have beheld the people governed by a supreme magistrate or prince in the time of peace; and rearing his ensigns as Pen Dragon4 in the conflicts of Cattreath.5 This supposition is fully authenticated by Gildas, who mentions not less than five British kings of this country;6 and Langhorne has given us a catalogue of Cumbrian kings, in his Chronicon Regnum Anglorum, beginning with Roderic and ending with Dunmael.7 However dubious these authorities may be, we are assured from incontrovertible evidence, that the kings of Cumbria reigned at Alcluyd, or Dunbritton, till the year 756; when Egbert, king of the Bernician Saxons, and Oengus, king of the Picti, reft their capital from them, and possessed themselves of a great portion of their ancient kingdom.8 At the epoch of the Roman abdication, and establishment of the Valentinian independence, the Picti rushed down from their pathless mountains in a formidable torrent, plundering and devastating the confines of their envied neighbours.9 These warlike inhabitants of the northern regions of Caledonia, however formidable in their incursions, wanted that unanimity of character, those innate resources which confer the power of subjugation on an invading army. – Disunited by the spirit of hatred and jealousy, they could place no reliance on each other; every man’s weapon seemed brandished in a selfish cause; and, if they conquered, it was merely with a view to indulge in the acquired spoil, and riot in the stranger’’ luxury. They crossed the dividing friths in their rude and ill-managed currachs, driving the unnerved and trembling inhabitants before them, till their ancient spirit began to rekindle in their bosoms, and prompted them onward to a redemption of their territories. The Picti were repulsed and driven back to their confines. – Nor was this department of the country ever finally subjugated by them, though it fell a prey to the victorious armies of Devia and Bernicia.10 – These cruel and bloody conflicts of the Picts against the Britons, are narrated by Fordun, with all the energy and eloquence of the Monkish historians;11 and their final slaughter and defeat is pathetically deplored by the bardic chieftain in his celebrated Gododin.12 This final defeat was accomplished by the Anglo Saxons in the latter end of the sixth century, who, being allured by the beauty of their country, and the richness of their possessions, made a formidable descent into their confines, and defeated the principal warriors of Valentia, after a well-contested conflict, on the bloody plains of Cattreath. – There it was, says the indignant minstrel, “that the fatal stroke swelled the mighty stream, and there the brown eagles flapped their wide wings over the sons of Gadeni.”13
The remains of those scattered people, the Romanized posterity of Valentia, united together for their common defence, and founded, what is generally denominated the Regnum Cambrense, or kingdom of Strathcluyd, in the south and west of Scotland. – This recent kingdom of the midland Britons, or Walenses, extended from the Ituna Æstuarium, or Solway Frith, on the south, to the Scottis-water on the north; and from the Irthing on the east, to the bay of Lochrayan, on the western confines of Galloway; including Teviotdale, Eskdale, Annandale, and Nithsdale; all Galloway, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Lanark, Peebles; the west part of Stirling, and nearly the whole of Dunbartonshire. In the Inquisitio Davidis, the limits of this kingdom, as founded on the oaths of the people, were said to be “Inter Angliam et Scotiam,” between Scotland and England. The boundaries of Scotland at this important period were the Friths Forth and Clyde, and the northern boundaries of England were the Solway, the Esk, and the Liddal. This inquisition was taken in the time of David I. Prince of Cumbria, in A.D. 1116, to ascertain the limits of the see of Glasgow, which appears to have included the whole of that extensive territory.14 There is an immense ridge stretching from the river Annan, at Mount Annan, on the west, to the Kirtle on the east in Dumfriesshire, denominated Druym Brettan; in the Scotto-Irish tongue, the ridge of the Britons, which plainly evinces the southern extent of this once-disputed kingdom; as Druym-Brettan lies immediately on the shore of the Solway Sea.15
The description of the warriors who assembled at the battle of the Cattreath, from the Gododin of Aneurin, a celebrated Ottadinian chief of the sixth century:
The complement of the borders were three moving bands; five battalions of 500 men each; three levies of 300 men each; 300 warlike Knights of Eiddyn,16 arrayed in splendid armour; three loricated bands, with three commanders wearing gold chains; three adventurous knights, with 300 of equal quality: these three bands of the same order were mutually jealous of each other, in their bitter and impetuous assaults on the foe. They rushed like the lion to battle. Gold had collected all these for the conflict. – There came also three princes of the land, native Britons, Cinric and Cenon, of the stock of Aeron, to oppose the ashen spears of the men who poured into Deira; and there came from amongst the Britons, a man who was better than Cenon, even he who proved a serpent to the sullen foe.
Myrvyian Archaeology, and Davie’s Trans.
In a beautiful Welsh poem, entitled “The Herlas,” or “Drinking Horn,” by Owain, Prince of Powys, we have the following bold and energetic description of this disastrous conflict:
When the mighty bards of yore
Awoke the tales of ancient lore,
What time, resplendent to behold,
Flash’d the bright mead in vase of gold!
The royal minstrel proudly sung,
Of Cumbria’s chiefs, when time was young,
How with the drink of heroes fush’d,
Brave Cattreath’s lord to battle rush’d;
The lion, leader of the strong,
The marshal of Galwyeida’s throng;
The sun that rose o’er Itun’s bay,
Ne’er clos’d on such disastrous day;
There fell Mynyddyc, mighty lord,
Beneath stern Oswey’s baneful sword;
Yet, shall thy praise, thy deathless name,
Be woke on harps of bardic fame;
Sung by the Cumrii’s tuneful train,
Aneurin of celestial strain.
Mynyddyc Eiddyn was leader of the Britons in the fatal battle of Cattreath, the scene of which was in Scotland, and somewhere in the Lothian district, which formed the principal part of the country of the Ottadini. – The singular military work in that country, denominated the Catrail, may probably have a reference to Cattreath, and this battle may have been fought on some part of it.
Gerald. Cambren. II. p. 333.
Aneurin, of the tuneful name, called also supreme of bards, was one of the most celebrated of the Welsh poets, and a chieftain among the Ottadinian Britons, who bore a conspicuous part in the battle of Cattreath; on which he composed a poem, printed in the Myrvyian Archæology, entitled the “Gododin,” with another piece, denominated the “Odes of the Months,” being all that can be said with certainty to be preserved of his works. He flourished early in the sixth century, about the year 540, and is supposed to have lost his territories in the north, in consequence of this battle, so fatal to him and the rest of the confederated chieftains. – Some documents say, that he took refuge with the famous congregation of Catiog, in the country of the Silures, where he died about A.D. 570.
Camb. Biog. p. 9, &c.
1 The kingdom called Regnum Cumbrense extended from the Friths of Forth and Clyde, to the wall in Northumberland; from the Irish Sea on the one hand, to the Cheviot mountains on the other. “Innes’s Crit. Essays. Inquisitio Davidi. Chart. Glas. p. 128.
2 Dun-Britton, from the Celtic, Dun, a fort, and Britton, a people – the fortress of the Britons.
3 Innes’s Crit. Essay, vol. I., 32-40. Whitaker’s Man. II. p. 92.
4 Pen Dragon, head, or chief captain.
5 After the Roman dereliction, princes were appointed by the Britons over their distinct provinces – a plan suggested by sound policy for these petty kings would naturally be at variance. Dissert. I. 72. – Zozimus mentions that Honorius sent letters from Rome, appointing Princes “προς τας εν Βρεταννια ωοτεις,” to the towns in Britain.
Lib. VI. p. 45, &c.
6 Vide Vita Gildæ Sanctæ in act. Benedict. Tom. I. &c.
7 Langhorne de Reg. Angl. p. 239, ad calcem.
8 Howden’s Chron. ad hunc annum.
9 Vita Gildæ Sanctæ in Act. Benedict., &c.
10 Vide Robertson’s Hist. of Scotland, vol. I. p. 3.
11 Sævissimum inter eos deinde, nec auditum antea consimile bellum, quippe nullum historiis tale vel eo crudelius inter gentes prædicatur. Vulgus quidem gentis utriusque, cujus proprium est agriculturæ solummodo, non cædibus indulgere seu bellis, ex omni parte prædis penitus expositum est et rapinis . . . . . Hujus vero testes sunt cladis urbes Britorum fortissimæ, viz. Agned quæ per Heth Scotorum regem reparata postmodum, Hethenburg, sive Edinburg dicta fuit; Kaerleile etiam et Alneclud sive Alcide quæ et nunc Dunbrettan nuncupatur; oppidaque plurima quæ per eos usque quaque, solo tenus dejecta, nec sunt et quoquam hactenus reformata. Scoto Chron. lib. II. cap. xxix. ad finem.
12 Aneurin, the author of the Gododin, (a work of nearly 900 lines in Cumraig rhyme) was a chief among the Northumbrian Britons, in the province of the Gadenii, and flourished between the years 500 and 550. Vide Turner’s Vindication. Llwyds’s Archealogy, and the Myrv. Collections, &c.
13 Gododin, Song xxiv. p. 10, beginning “Angor Deor Daen.” Welsh Archeaol.
14 Vide preface to the Chart. of Glasgow, Chart. of Kelso, No. I. &c.
15 Vide Pont’s Map, and Ainslie’s Map of Scotland.