Go to Index:  





The Poem
You are here: celtic » gododdin » historical & geographical background


The Celtic Pages

Y Gododdin

The Historical & Geographical Background

The geographical and historical background of Y Gododdin therefore lay in northern Britain in the latter part of the 6th century. In a territory very much larger than modern Wales, peopled by Brittonic-speaking communities, three substantial kingdoms had by this time emerged; Strathclyde (Ystrad Glud), Rheged and Gododdin, and their leading families and ruling classes are known as the 'Men of the North'.

In Strathclyde the most notable figure was Rhydderch Hael (the 'Generous'), who held sway in his fortress of Dumbarton or Alclud, although Glasgow later became the centre of the kingdom. Memories of him were preserved in association with the Merlin legend. He is, however, not mentioned in Y Gododdin, and is not in any way connected with the subject-matter of the poem. Carlisle was possibly the centre of Rheged and its most celebrated ruler was Urien. Urien has been called Llyw Catraeth, 'ruler of Catraeth', i.e. the very locality at which the men of the tribe of Gododdin are described as fighting in the poem Y Gododdin. Urien, however, is nowhere mentioned in connection with the battle, and probably died before it took place.

The Gododdin, as already mention, inhabited the territory, to the east and north-east of the other two kingdoms. Its capital was at Din Eidyn but extended from Manaw of Gododdin in the area of Stirling to the region of the Tyne. The tribe or people known as the Gododdin (earlier the 'Votadini') gave their name to the territory they inhabited, as also, later, to the poem which commemorated their fallen warriors. Their ruler at the time of the battle of Catraeth appears to have been Mynyddog Mwynfawr (Mynyddog the 'Wealthy') who, however, is a shadowy figure, for unlike Rhydderch and Urien his existence is not attested in any early source apart from 16 references in the text of Y Gododdin itself and one in Gorchan Tudfwlch. He is not mentioned in any of the genealogies of the Men of the North, or in any early poem other than those in the Book of Aneirin.

The Poet: Aneirin