Heavenfield Round-up 7: June Links

I’m not sure where June went. I wish I had been more productive, but luckily some of my fellow bloggers have been  much busier.

Bamburgh Research Project has been out in the field for most of June. Various updates have been posted on their blog.

Curt Emanuel, the Medieval History Geek, has posts on late antique panegyrics and mixed feelings on studying human tragedies.

Guy Halsall, the Historian on the Edge, has posted a recent conference paper Feud, Vengeance, Politics and History in Early Medieval Europe.

Kristina Killgrove of Powered by Osteons has put her presentation from the Moving Romans conference in Holland on her blog: Etched in Bone: Uncovering information about immigrants to Rome.

Magistra et Mater writes about why medievalists write cultural history.

Jonathan Jarrett of A Corner of Tenth Century Europe wrote on medieval gender studies and Vandals and archaeology.

Tim Clarkson of Senchus wrote about the Aberlady Cross and Medieval Archaeology goes online. At Heart of the Kingdom, Tim provides some background for a short story on a queen of Strathclyde.

Diane McIlmoyle of Esmeralda’s Cumbrian History and Folklore writes about the 9th century Kingmoor Ring.

Carl Pyrdum of Got Medieval finds reason to call fundamentalists medieval, dragging poor Nessie and St Columba into the fray.

Andy Gaunt of Archaeology and History of Sherwood Forest has posts on the Sherwood Forest Nature Reserve and Bothamsall Castle.

Clas Merdin has a series of posts this month on the foundation legends of London as New Troy, London as Mallory’s Winchester, and the London Stone. A little background for the coming Olympics in London in July.

Karen Jolly of Revealing Words has been scouting her sites for her novel around Oakley and interpreting what a note about an Anglo-Saxon tent means.

Sally Wilde has posts on her research on the importance of male heirs, early Welsh research, on landscape research.

Here at Heavenfield, I have posts on secondary sources for the Britons and a review of Disney/Pixar’s Brave. Medievalist.net also reviewed my Kalamazoo talk Famine and Pestilence in the Irish Sea Region, 500-800 AD.  On Contagions, I also have a post on plague at the siege of Caffa in 1346 that is reported to have started the Black Death in Europe.

Heavenfield Round-up 5: Signs of Power and Piety

The find of the week was the grave of a medieval abbot of Furness Abbey in Cumbria. Past Horizons has the best write up of the discovery at the abbey, which is just southwest of the Lake District. They have also had good features on reinterpreting the mass grave of Vikings found in Oxford, and possible remnants of the first Anglo-Saxon church at York.

Antiquarian’s Attic also has featured the finds at Furness abbey, and the purchase of the St Cuthbert Gospel by the British Library.

Karen Jolly of Revealing Words is investigating the design of the church at Chester-le-Street for her novel, and refining her design here.

Tim Clarkson of Senchus reviews People of Early Scotland, and on his blog Heart of the Kingdom looks at the hogbacks of Govan and Penrith.

Esmeralda’s Cumbrian Folklore and History brings us a picture of Cumbria’s oldest cat from St Cuthbert’s church, Penrith.

Jonathan Jarrett of A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe reviews James Fraser’s From Caledonia to Pictland (and hits the nail right on the head),  his digital work, on Alex Woolf’s vision of early medieval Scotland, and writes about Anglo-Saxon moneyers (or lack of them) and coin distribution.

Curt Emanual, the Medieval History Geek, takes up the defense of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus this week.

Magistra et Mater writes about the complicated history of Justinian’s code and its use in later Italy.

Nicola Griffith of Gemæcca writes about her vision of York and its church during King Edwin’s time.

Historian Sally Wilde has a new blog to write about her crime novel project on the murder of Hereric, father of St Hild. She has several posts up in the last week.

Clas Merdin has posts on Arthur’s Stone and on the Oxford mass Viking grave.

Geoffrey Chaucer hath a Blog and he also hath a new post up.

Mak Wilson of Badonicus posts about his plans for his Arthurian project.

Viqueen of Norse and Viking Ramblings writes about a fieldtrip to the Isle of Man to study runes.

Bamburgh Research Project blog has a new video up of excavations in the west ward of the castle and a post on Bamburgh village.

From the Professor Awesome’s Unlocked Wordhoard: The Battle of Maldon

Kingship in Early Northern Britain

When we write about 5-7th century kings we have this misplaced need to assign them a kingdom. We forget that when their contemporaries in neighboring kingdoms referred to them, they were usually referred to as King of Britons, King of Picts, King of Saxons. Within their people, they do refer to kings of tribes, or kingdoms. Bede refers to English kings by their kingdom, but their neighbors are kings of the Irish/Scots, Picts or Britons. He never gives those kings a region or kingdom. The Irish refer to a dizzying array of kings and their realms, sometimes by kindred, sometimes by place. Kindreds only really seem to apply to the Irish because only they seem to have settlements based on kinship with enough longevity to generate a big enough population to be politically significant. All of the other peoples of Britain likely had large royal kindreds, but they were still a small proportion of the total population they rule over. Among the Saxons, Britons and Picts, it is more likely that kings would be identified by their core region or primary fortress. I think the kings of Alt Clut and potentially Eten (Edinburgh)  are a primary examples of this.

Fraser points out that we actually don’t know that Eugein (Owain) ap Beli, King of Britons, who defeated and slew Domnall Brecc of Dalriada (Cenel nGabran) in the battle of Strathcarron in 642 was actually king of Alt Clut. (Notably Owain is the next and only king of Britons recorded after Rhydderch of Alt Clut before the late 7th century.) This is especially true because his reputed brother is Bridei ap Beli, King of Picts who killed his cousin Ecgfrith of Northumbria in 685. Fraser wonders if this family didn’t originate as kings of the Miathi. Could the Miathi have produced kings that could be either British or Pictish? Possibly, there was no people more on the frontier than them. The Maithi were considered a major Pictish tribe by the Romans but had their lands incorporated within the British civitas of the Damnonii, the same civitas as Alt Clut. After the time of Oswiu of Bernicia, the Britons were reduced to a small enough area around Alt Clut that one king may indeed have formed a kingdom later called Strathclyde. Prior to the consolidation of Northumbria and its extended hegemony, fixed kingdoms may simply not have existed. There were many kings who ruled form a primary fortress and the power of these local dynasties bobbed up and down with the success of individual kings. Only when one dynasty retained control of a large region with significant hegemony over its neighbors did something like a kingdom begin to form. Now, Eugein/Owain’s dynasty did manage to retain control of the remaining northern Britons, based from Alt Clut at least part of the time, from the mid-7th century until it finally fell to a combined Scottish and Norse siege. Such a dynasty is what was needed for Strathclyde to form into an actual kingdom. The only king who can’t be linked into Owain’s progeny is Guret who died in 658, but as the Welsh triads call him base born and this is the height of Oswiu of Northumbria’s power, it is possible that he was imposed upon them by Oswiu. It is noticable that Owain’s two sons who reputedly succeed him were named Elphin (Ælfwine) and Domnagual (Domnall) suggesting that Owain’s family had intermarried extensively with both the Scots and English. Recall that Owain’s brother Bridei ap Beli is said to be the cousin of Ecgfrith of Northumbria in the Historia Brittonum.

As for kings of this kindred moving into Alt Clut, I think this is perfectly natural for any major British dynasty that grew up in this area to take Alt Clut (Dumbarton). First of all, its possibly the best fortress in the area and further away from the English. I think the most important reason for Alt Clut being so important though is its position on the Irish Sea. Sitting at the mouth of the Firth of the Clyde, it is ideally placed for Irish Sea trade. Even Stirling, if there was a fortress there in the 7th century, was largely inaccessible to trade because the English and the Niuduari Picts controlled the entrance to the Firth of Forth.

Kingship in southern Britain among both the Britons and English may have been a little different in that it may have been based on Roman administrative districts at least initially. The Romano-Britons would have been conditioned to Roman-style administration. Although post-Roman political systems could not recreate the Roman system, it is likely that they retained some Roman territorial boundaries. Many of the kingdoms of southern Britain seem to be at least initially loosely based on Roman civitas.