Vortiporius

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Map showing Dyfed, after the late 7th century, showing its seven cantrefi.
Map showing the location of Dyfed in southwestern-most Wales.

Vortiporius (or Vortipor) was a king of Dyfed in the early to mid-6th century. He ruled over an area approximately corresponding to the modern Pembrokeshire. As a mythical king in Geoffrey of Monmouth's treatment of the Matter of Britain, he was the successor of Aurelius Conanus and was succeeded by Malgo.

Records of this era are scanty, and virtually nothing is known of him or his kingdom. The only contemporary information about the person comes from Gildas, in a highly allegorical condemnation from his De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (English: On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain). At the time the work was written (c. 540), Gildas says that he was king of Dyfed, that he was grey with age, that his wife had died, and that he had at least one daughter.[1][2] He is not mentioned in the Historia Brittonum attributed to Nennius. His name is attached to a character in Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudohistorical account of the rulers of Britain, the Historia Regum Britanniae.

Vortiporius appears in the Irish genealogy given in the 8th-century work, The Expulsion of the Déisi, with his name given as Gartbuir.[3] The pedigree given in the Harleian MS. 5389 (written c. 1100) is nearly identical, with his name given as Guortepir.[4] In the Jesus College MS. 20 he is Gwrdeber.[5] The genealogy in Expulsion says he was a descendant of Eochaid Allmuir (English: Eochaid the Foreigner [literally (from) Overseas]),[6] who is said to have led a sept of the Déisi in their settlement of Dyfed c. 270,[7] though this date is considered to be too early for the arrival of the Déisi in Wales.[8][9]

A memorial stone was discovered in 1895 near the church of Castell Dwyran in Carmarthenshire, bearing a Christian cross and with inscriptions in both Latin letters and ogham.[10] Dedicated to 'Voteporigis' (in the Latin inscription; rendered 'Votegorigas' in the Ogham), it was immediately assumed that this referred to Vortiporius. However, the assumption is refuted by modern linguistic analysis, which notes that the missing 'r' in the first syllable of 'Voteporigis'/'Votegorigas' is significant, and so the stone must be dedicated to a different person.[11]

Gildas[edit]

Britain.circa.540.jpg

In his De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (English: On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain), written c. 540, Gildas makes an allegorical condemnation of 5 British kings by likening them to the beasts of the Christian Apocalypse as expressed in the biblical Book of Revelation, 13-2: the lion, leopard, bear, and dragon.[12] In the course of his condemnations, Gildas makes passing reference to the other beasts mentioned in the Apocalypse, such as the eagle, serpent, calf, and wolf. Vortiporius is called "the spotted leopard" and the "tyrant of the Demetians", where Demetia is the ancient name of Dyfed.

Gildas restricts his attention to the kings of Gwynedd (Maelgwn Gwynedd), Dyfed (Vortiporius), Penllyn (probable, as its king Cuneglasus/Cynlas appears in royal genealogies associated with the region),[13] Damnonia/Alt Clud (Constantine), and the unknown region associated with Caninus. These are all Welsh kingdoms except for Alt Clud, which had a long and ongoing relationship with Gwynedd and its kings.

The reason for Gildas' disaffection for these individuals is unknown. He was selective in his choice of kings, as he had no comments concerning the kings of the other British kingdoms that were thriving at the time, such as Rheged, Gododdin, Elmet, Pengwern/Powys, or the kingdoms of modern-day southern England. Gildas claims outrage over moral depravity, but neither outrage nor a doctrinal dispute would seem to justify beginning the condemnation of the five kings with a personal attack against the mother of one of the kings, calling her an "unclean lioness".[14][15]

Of Vortiporius Gildas says little other than offering condemnation for "sins" and providing the few personal details previously mentioned. He is alleged to be the bad son of a good father. Perhaps for good measure, Gildas also attacks his daughter, calling her "shameless".[1][2]

Monument stone[edit]

The Latin inscription on the 'Monument of Voteporigis the Protector', from a rubbing of the stone.

Its Latin inscription reads Memoria Voteporigis Protictoris (English: Monument of Voteporigas the Protector). The ogham inscription carries only the Goidelic form of his name: Votecorigas. Protictoris in the Latin inscription may imply a Roman-era honorific bestowed upon his ancestors, retained as a hereditary title into the 6th century. However, linguist Eric Hamp questions whether this is truly a title, suggesting that Protector may rather be a Latin translation of Uoteporix (which has essentially the same meaning as the Latin), a "sort of onomastic explanatory gloss".[16] The ogham inscription in Goidelic shows that the Irish language was still in use at that time, and had not yet died out in South Wales.[17][18]

The stone's original location at the church is next to a meadow known locally as Parc y Eglwys. Local tradition carries the admonition that plowing must not be done near the church. Examination of the meadow showed evidence of large hut-circles.

The ogham inscription on the 'Monument of Voteporigis the Protector', translated by John Rhys, reading from bottom to top (image was rotated 90 degrees clockwise).

There remains a substantial question as to whether the stone refers to Vortiporius or to a similarly named individual, 'Voteporigis', as the 'r' in the first syllable gives the name different meanings depending on whether or not it is present. Rhys argued that the two individuals were the same person, saying that the 'r' had been added at a later date, and offering several suppositions as to how this might have happened.[18] However, he was working before the twentieth century advancements in the study of ancient Celtic languages, and his philological conclusions are suspect. More recently, Patrick Sims-Williams (The Celtic Inscriptions of Britain, 2003) notes that the two names cannot refer to the same individual due to differences in their etymologies, adding that dating the stone to the time of Vortiporius may not be valid because it relies on the inexact dating of manuscripts and their transcriptions.[11]

Geoffrey of Monmouth[edit]

Geoffrey's mention of Vortiporius is contained in a brief chapter titled "Wortiporius, being declared king, conquers the Saxons". He says that Wortiporius succeeded Aurelius Conan, and after he was declared king, the Saxons rose against him and brought over their countrymen from Germany in a great fleet, but that these were defeated. Wortiporius then ruled peacefully for four years, beings succeeded by "Malgo" (Maelgwn Gwynedd).[19] Geoffrey's fertile imagination is the only source of this information.

The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, an early 19th-century collection of Welsh histories, repeats Geoffrey's account, referring to him as 'Gwrthevyr' (though Vortiporius' proper Modern Welsh spelling is Gwrdebyr; here the name has been confused with that of Vortimer, the son of Vortigern).[20] In his Brittanicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates, James Ussher also repeats the account, attributing the information to Geoffrey.[21]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Giles 1841:27–28, De Excidio, section 31 (in English)
  2. ^ a b Giles:246–279, De Excidio, section 31 (in Latin)
  3. ^ Meyer 1901:112–113, The Expulsion of the Dessi. The Irish form is given as "Tualodor mac Rigin maic Catacuind maic Caittienn maic Clotenn maic Naee maic Artuir maic Retheoir maic Congair maic Gartbuir maic Alchoil maic Trestin maic Aeda Brosc maic Corath maic Echach Almuir maic Arttchuirp". Meyer's translation is "Teudor son of Regin, son of Catgocaun, son of Cathen, son of Cloten, son of Nougoy, son of Arthur, son of Petr, son of Cincar, son of Guortepir, son of Aircol, son of Triphun, son of Áed Brosc, son of Corath, son of Eochaid Allmuir, son of Artchorp".
  4. ^ Phillimore 1888:171, Harleian MS. 3859, "... Teudos map Regin map Catgocaun map Cathen map Cloten map Nougoy map Arthur map Petr map Cincar map Guortepir map Aircol map Triphun ...".
  5. ^ Phillimore 1887:86, Pedigrees From Jesus College MS. 20. "... Teudos M. Gwgawn M. Cathen M. Eleothen M. Nennue M. Arthur M. Peder M. Kyngar M. Gwrdeber M. Erbin M. Aircol lawhir M. tryphun M. Ewein vreisc M. Cyndwr bendigeit ...". Ewein vreisc is given here for Áed Brosc given elsewhere, and Erbin is inserted between Gwrdeber and Aircol, where he is not listed elsewhere.
  6. ^ Dictionary of the Irish Language, Compact Edition, Royal Irish Academy, 1998; allmuir, p. 37, column 289, line 078
  7. ^ Meyer, Kuno (1896), "Early Relations Between Gael and Brython", in Evans, E. Vincent, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, Session 1895–1896 I, London: Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, pp. 55–86 
  8. ^ Miller, Mollie (1977), "Date-Guessing and Dyfed", Studia Celtica 12, Cardiff: University of Wales, pp. 33–61 
  9. ^ Coplestone-Crow, Bruce (1981), "The Dual Nature of Irish Colonization of Dyfed in the Dark Ages", Studia Celtica 16, Cardiff: University of Wales, pp. 1–24 
  10. ^ Laws, Edward (1895), "Discovery of the Tombstone of Vortipore, Prince of Demetia", Archaeologia Cambrensis, Fifth Series XII, London: Chas. J. Clark, pp. 303–306 
  11. ^ a b Sims-Williams, Patrick (2003), The Celtic Inscriptions of Britain: Phonology and Chronology, c. 400 – 1200, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, pp. 342, 346–347, ISBN 1-4051-0903-3 
  12. ^ *Anonymous (1884), "Revelation 13-2", The Holy Bible, New York: American Bible Society, p. 219  — "And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." (underlining added)
  13. ^ Lloyd 1911:133, A History of Wales, Vol. I
  14. ^ Giles 1841:24–25, De Excidio, sections 28 and 29 (in English)
  15. ^ Giles:244–245, De Excidio, sections 28 and 29 (in Latin)
  16. ^ Hamp, Eric P."Voteporigis Protictoris", in Studia Celtica, 30, 1996, p. 293.
  17. ^ Lloyd 1911:132–133, A History of Wales, Vol. I
  18. ^ a b Rhys, John (1895), "Notes on the Inscriptions on the Tombstone of Votipores, Prince of Demetia", Archaeologia Cambrensis, Fifth Series XII, London: Chas. J. Clark, pp. 307–313 
  19. ^ Giles, John Allen, ed. (1848), "Geoffrey of Monmouth's British History", Six Old English Chronicles, London: George Bell and Sons (published 1900), pp. 89–294 
  20. ^ Jones, Owen; Morganwg, Iolo; Pughe, William Owen, eds. (1801), "Brut G. Ab Arthur", The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales (Prose) II, London: Jones, Morganwg, and Pughe, p. 359 
  21. ^ Ussher, James (1639), "Caput IV", in Elrington, Charles Richard, Brittanicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates (caput XIV-XVII), Dublin: Hodges and Smith (published 1847), p. 56 

References[edit]

Regnal titles
Unknown King of Dyfed
early to mid 500s
Unknown
Legendary titles
Preceded by
Aurelius Conanus
King of Britain Succeeded by
Malgo