Beli Mawr

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Beli Mawr (translated into English as Beli the Great) was an ancestor figure in medieval Welsh literature and genealogies. He is the father of Caswallawn, Arianrhod, Lludd Llaw Eraint, Llefelys, and Afallach. In certain medieval genealogies he is listed as the husband of Anna, cousin of the Virgin Mary. Other sources give his wife as Dôn, daughter of Mathonwy.[citation needed] According to the Welsh Triads, Beli and Dôn were the parents of Arianrhod, but the mother of Beli's other children--and the father of Dôn's other children--are not mentioned in the medieval Welsh literature. Several royal lines in medieval Wales traced their ancestry to Beli.

Beli and Belenus[edit]

The origin of the name Beli is still a matter of debate among scholars.[1] The most popular hypothesis sees the name Beli as a Middle Welsh reflex of the Gaulish and Brittonic theonym Belenus (also attested as a personal name), but a more recent alternative is that proposed by the Celticist John Koch, who suggests [2] that Beli derives from an Old Celtic name Belgius or Bolgios, borne by one of the chieftains who led the Gallic invasion of Macedonia in 280–279 BCE. He therefore proposes [3] that this great leader Belgius came to be regarded as the namesake and ancestor of the powerful British and Gallic tribal group the Belgae, whence would have come the doctrine that Beli was the ancestor of tribal dynasties.[4]

Beli son of Manogan[edit]

Another Beli from medieval Welsh literature, who first appears in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum and is often confused or conflated with Beli Mawr in both medieval and modern sources, is Beli son of Manogan (also spelled Mynogan). This Beli is actually derived from the historical pre-Roman, British king of the Catuvellauni tribe, Cunobelinus and his son Adminius (or Amminius). Via a series of textual corruptions that span several different popular books from Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the names of Cunobelinus and his son Adminius were combined and then jumbled, giving way to the new Welsh literary characters Beli and Manogan:[5][6]

  1. Adminio, Cunobellini Brittannorum regis filio (Suetonius, Caligula, Ch. 44)
  2. Minocynobellinum Britannorum regis filium (Orosius, Historia Adversus Paganos, vii 5.5)
  3. Bellinus, filius Minocanni (Historia Brittonum, ch. 19)

Thus, although Beli became a separate personage in medieval pseudohistory from Cunobelinus (Welsh Cynfelyn, Shakespeare's Cymbeline), he was generally presented as a king reigning in the period immediately before the Roman invasion; his "son" Caswallawn is the historical Cassivellaunus.

Henry of Huntingdon's Belinus[edit]

The 12th-century English historian Henry of Huntingdon, in his Historia Anglorum (first published in 1129 AD), follows the Historia Brittonum in his discussion of Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain, mentioning a Belinus, brother of Cassibella(u)nus, who are both styled sons of Minocannus, but in later revisions of the text (and under the influence of Geoffrey of Monmouth - see below), Liud (or Luid) (see Lludd Llaw Ereint).[7][8]

Geoffrey of Monmouth's Heli[edit]

Beli also appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's history Historia Regum Britanniæ (1130s) as the British king Heli, son of Digueillus and father of Lud, Cassivelaunus and Nennius. He is said to have held the throne for 40 years, after which he was succeeded by his son Lud (Llud).[9] In the Middle Welsh translations of Geoffrey's work known collectively as Brut y Brenhinedd, Heli's name was restored to Beli[10] and his father renamed to Manogan.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Delamarre, Xavier. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, Editions Errance, Paris, 2003, pp. 70-72.
  2. ^ Page 200 of Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia by John Thomas Koch (Publisher: ABC-CLIO ISBN 1-85109-440-7 ISBN 978-1851094400)
  3. ^ Page 200 of Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia by John Thomas Koch (Publisher: ABC-CLIO ISBN 1-85109-440-7 ISBN 978-1851094400)
  4. ^ Page 200 of Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia by John Thomas Koch (Publisher: ABC-CLIO ISBN 1-85109-440-7 ISBN 978-1851094400)
  5. ^ Bartrum, Peter. A Welsh Classical Dictionary, National Library of Wales, 1993, p. 131; pp. p. 491-2.
  6. ^ Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff, 1961; revised ed. 1991), pp. 281-2.
  7. ^ Fletcher, Robert Huntington. The Arthurian material in the chronicles, Harvard University, 1906, p. 68.
  8. ^ Greenway, Diana E. (ed.), Henry of Huntingdon, "Historia Anglorum", Oxford, 1996, p. 32.
  9. ^ Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniæ, tr. L. Thorpe. p. 106.
  10. ^ Koch, "The Celtic Lands." p. 289.

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Koch, John T. "The Celtic Lands." In Medieval Arthurian Literature: A Guide to Recent Research, ed. N. Lacy. New York, 1996. 239-322.

External links[edit]


Legendary titles
Preceded by
Digueillus
King of Britain Succeeded by
Lud