Annales Cambriae

The Annales Cambriae (Latin for Annals of Wales) is the title given to a complex of Latin chronicles compiled or derived from diverse sources at St David’s in Dyfed, Wales. The earliest is a 12th-century presumed copy of a mid-10th-century original; later editions were compiled in the 13th century. Despite the name, the Annales Cambriae record not only events in Wales, but also events in Ireland, Cornwall, England, Scotland and sometimes further afield, though the focus of the events recorded especially in the later two-thirds of the text is Wales.

Versions of the Annales Cambriae

The principal versions of Annales Cambriae appear in four manuscripts (A,B,C and D). Manuscript A is written in a mid tenth century hand of c AD 1100/1130, is therefore the oldest surviving copy, and is inserted without title into a manuscript (MS) of the middle ages Welsh history, Historia Brittonum, where it is immediately followed by a pedigree for Owain ap Hywel (who died AD 988). Although no explicit chronology is given in the MS, its Welsh annals seem to run from c AD 445 to AD 977, making it likely that the text belongs to the second half of the Tenth Century AD (if indeed the assumed dates are close to correct). The beginning date ascribed to Year 1 of the Annales is arbitrary. B was written, probably at the Cistercian abbey of Neath, at the end of the Thirteenth Century AD. It is entitled Annales ab orbe condito adusque A. D. mcclxxxvi (AD 1286). Manuscript C is part of a book written at Saint David’s, and is entitled Annales ab orbe condito adusque A. D. mcclxxxviii (AD 1288); this is also of the late Thirteenth Century AD.

References to Arthur on the Annales Cambriae

The “Annales Cambriae” features two entries about King Arthur, one about Medraut (known as Mordred in later traditions), and one about Merlin. Historically, these mentions have been cited as evidence for the actual existence of Arthur and Merlin. However, this interpretation has become less accepted over time. The concern is that the Arthurian references might have been inserted into the annals as late as 970, long after the Arthurian legends had begun to form.

In the A Text of the “Annales Cambriae,” the entries regarding Arthur and Mordred are as follows:

Year 72 (around AD 516): It describes the Battle of Badon, where Arthur is said to have borne the cross of Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and nights, leading to a British victory.
Year 93 (around AD 537): This entry details the Battle of Camlann, where both Arthur and Medraut fell, marking a period of death in Britain and Ireland.

The account of Arthur carrying a cross at the Battle of Badon parallels a narrative in Nennius’s work. Nennius mentioned Arthur carrying an image of the Virgin Mary, potentially on his shoulders, during a fight at Guinnion. However, the Old Welsh words for “shoulder” and “shield” (*scuit for “shield” and *scuid for “shoulder”) were easily mixed up. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his own writings, played on this ambiguity, depicting Arthur with a shield showing the Virgin Mary.

Merlin (Old Welsh Myrddin) doesn’t appear in the A Text, but the Battle of, associated with him in later Welsh literature, is mentioned:

Year 129 (around AD 573): The Battle of Arfderydd is recorded.

In the B and C texts of the annals, the latter part of the year 93 entry is omitted. The B Text refers to Arfderydd as “Erderit,” while the C Text names it “Arderit.” The B Text’s year 129 entry adds that this battle was between the sons of Elifer and Guendoleu son of Keidau, where Guendoleu died and Merlin went insane. Both B and C texts show the influence of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia Regum Britanniae,” evident in the Arfderydd entry’s use of the Latinized “Merlinus,” which first appeared in Geoffrey’s work, instead of the expected Old Welsh “Merdin.”

Text of the Annales Cambriae

The text below comes from the Harleian or A text.

  • 447 ‡ Days as dark as night.‡
  • 453 Easter altered on the Lord’s Day by Pope Leo, Bishop of Rome.
  • 454 St. Brigid is born.
  • 457 St. Patrick goes to the Lord.
  • 458 St. David is born in the thirtieth year after Patrick left Menevia.
  • 468 The death of Bishop Benignus.
  • 501 Bishop Ebur rests in Christ, he was 350 years old.
  • 516 The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.
  • 521 St. Columba is born. The death of St. Brigid.
  • 537 The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.
  • 544 The sleep [death] of Ciaran.
  • 547 The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. ‡Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.‡
  • 558 The death of Gabrán, son of Dungart.
  • 562 Columba went to Britain.
  • 565 ‡The voyage of Gildas to Ireland.‡
  • 569 ‡The ‘Synod of Victory’ was held between the Britons.‡
  • 570 Gildas ‡wisest of Britons‡ died.
  • 573 The battle of Arfderydd ‡between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.‡
  • 574 The sleep [death] of Brendan of Birr.
  • 580 Gwrgi and Peredur ‡sons of Elifert‡ died.
  • 584 Battle against the Isle of Man and the burial of Daniel of the Bangors.
  • 589 The conversion of Constantine [king of Britain] to the Lord.
  • 594 ‡Aethelbert reigned in England.‡
  • 595 The death of Columba.
  • The death of king Dunod ‡son of Pabo.‡
  • Augustine and Mellitus converted the English to Christ.
  • 601 The synod of Urbs Legionis [Chester].
  • Gregory died in Christ and also bishop David of Moni Iudeorum.
  • 606 The burial of bishop Cynog.
  • 607 The death of Aidan son of Gabrán
  • 612 The death of Kentigern and bishop Dyfrig.
  • 613 The battle of Caer Legion [Chester]. And there died Selyf son of Cynan. And Iago son of Beli slept [died].
  • 616 Ceredig died.
  • 617 Edwin begins his reign.
  • 624 The sun is covered [eclipsed].
  • 626 Edwin is baptized, and Rhun son of Urien baptized him.
  • 627 Belin dies.
  • 629 The beseiging of king Cadwallon in the island of Glannauc.
  • 630 Gwyddgar comes and does not return. On the Kalends of January the battle of Meigen; and there Edwin was killed with his two sons; but Cadwallon was the victor.
  • 631 The battle of Cantscaul in which Cadwallon fell.
  • 632 The slaughter of the [river] Severn and the death of Idris.
  • 644 The battle of Cogfry in which Oswald king of the Northmen and Eawa king of the Mercians fell.
  • 645 The hammering of the region of Dyfed, when the monastery of David was burnt.
  • 649 ‡Slaughter in Gwent.‡
  • 650 The rising of a star.
  • 656 The slaughter of Campus Gaius.
  • 657 Penda killed.
  • 658 Oswy came and took plunder.
  • 661 Cummine the tall died.
  • 662 Brocmail ‡the tusked ‡ dies.
  • 665 The first celebration of Easter among the Saxons. The second battle of Badon. Morgan dies.
  • 669 Oswy, king of the Saxons, dies.
  • 676 A star of marvelous brightness was seen shining throughout the whole world.
  • 682 A great plague in Britain, in which Cadwaladr son of Cadwallon dies.
  • 683 A plague ‡was‡ in Ireland.
  • 684 A great earthquake in the Isle of Man.
  • 689 The rain turned to blood in Britain, and ‡in Ireland‡ milk and butter turned to blood.
  • 704 Aldfrith king of the Saxons died. The sleep of Adomnán.
  • 714 Night was as bright as day. Pepin the elder [actually Pepin II, of Heristal], king of the Franks, died in Christ.
  • 717 Osred king of the Saxons dies.
  • 718 The consecration of the church of the archangel Michael ‡on mount Gargano.‡
  • 721 A hot summer.
  • 722 Beli son of Elffin dies. And the battle of Hehil among the Cornish, the battle of Garth Maelog, the battle of Pencon among the south Britons, and the Britons were the victors in those three battles.
  • 728 The battle of mount Carno.
  • 735 Bede the priest sleeps.
  • 736 Oengus king of the Picts died.
  • 750 Battle between the Picts and the Briton, that is the battle of Mocetauc. And their king Talorgan is killed by the Britions.
  • 754 Rhodri king of the Britons dies.
  • 757 Ethelbalk king of the Saxons dies.
  • 760 A battle between the Britons and the Saxons, that is the battle of Hereford and Dyfnwal son of Tewdwr dies.
  • 768 Easter is changed among the Britons ‡on the Lord’s day ‡, Elfoddw, servant of God, emending it.
  • 775 Ffernfael son of Ithael dies.
  • 776 Cinaed king of the Picts dies.
  • 777 Abbot Cuthbert dies.
  • 778 The devastation of the South Britons by Offa.
  • 784 The devastation of Britain by Offa in the summer.
  • 796 ‡Devastation by Rheinwg son of Offa ‡ The first coming of the gentiles [Norsemen] among the southern Irish.
  • 797 Offa king of the Mercians and Maredudd king of the Demetians die, and the battle of Rhuddlan.
  • 798 Caradog king of Gwynedd is killed by the Saxons.
  • 807 Arthen king of Ceredigion dies. ‡Solar eclipse‡
  • 808 Rhain king of the Demetians and Cadell ‡king‡ of Powys die.
  • 809 Elfoddw archbishop in the Gwynedd region went to the Lord.
  • 810 ‡The moon covered ‡. Mynyw burnt. ‡Death of cattle in Britain.‡
  • 811 Owain son of Maredudd dies.
  • 812 The fortress of Degannwy is struck by lightning and burnt.
  • 813 Battle between Hywel ‡and Cynan. Hywel‡ was the victor.
  • 814 There was great thunder and it caused many fires. Tryffin son of Rhain died. And Gruffydd son of Cyngen is killed by treachery by his brother Elisedd after an interval of two months. Hywel triumphed over the island of Mona and he drove Cynan from there with a great loss of his own army.
  • 816 Hywel was again expelled from Mona. Cynan the king dies. ‡Saxons invaded the mountains of Eryri and the kingdom of Rhufoniog‡.
  • 817 The battle of Llan-faes.
  • 818 ‡Cenwulf devastated the Dyfed region.‡
  • 822 The fortress of Degannwy is destroyed by the Saxons and they took the kingdom of Powys into their own control.
  • 825 Hywel dies.
  • 831 ‡Lunar eclipse.‡ Laudent died and Sadyrnfyw Hael of Mynyw died.
  • 840 Nobis the bishop ruled Mynyw.
  • 842 Idwallon dies.
  • 844 Merfyn dies. The battle of Cetill.
  • 848 The battle of Ffinnant. Ithael king of Gwent was killed by the men of Brycheiniog.
  • 849 Meurig was killed by Saxons.
  • 850 Cynin is killed by the gentiles.
  • 853 Mona laid waste by black gentiles.
  • 856 Kenneth king of the Picts died. And Jonathan prince of Abergele dies.
  • 860 Catgueithen was expelled.
  • 864 Duda laid Glywysing waste.
  • 865 Cian of Nanhyfer died.
  • 866 The city of York was laid waste, that is the battle with the black gentiles.
  • 869 The battle of Bryn Onnen.
  • 870 The fortress of Alt Clud was broken by the gentiles.
  • 871 Gwgon king of Ceredigion was drowned.
  • 873 Nobis ‡the bishop‡ and Meurig die. The battle of Bannguolou.
  • 874 ‡Llunferth the bishop consecrated.‡
  • 875 Dungarth king of Cernyw ‡that is of the Cornish‡ was drowned.
  • 876 The battle of Sunday in Mona.
  • 877 Rhodri and his son Gwriad is killed by the Saxons.
  • 878 Aed son of Neill dies.
  • 880 The battle of Conwy. Vengeance for Rhodri at God’s hand. ‡The battle of Cynan.‡
  • 882 Catgueithen died.
  • 885 Hywel died in Rome.
  • 887 Cerball died.
  • 889 Suibne the wisest of the Irish died.
  • 892 Hyfaidd dies.
  • 894 Anarawd came with the Angles and laid waste Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi.
  • 895 The Northmen came and laid waste Lloegr and Bycheiniog and Gwent and Gwynllywiog.
  • 896 ‡Bread failed in Ireland. Vermin like moles with two teeth fell from the air and ate everything up; they were driven out by fasting and prayer.‡
  • 898 ‡Athelstan king of the Saxons died.‡
  • 900 Alfred king of the Gewissi dies.
  • 902 Igmund came to Mona and took Maes Osfeilion.
  • 903 ‡Merfyn son of Rhodri died and ‡ Llywarch son of Hyfaidd dies.
  • 904 Rhodri ‡sone of Hyfaidd ‡ was beheaded in Arwystli.
  • 906 The battle of Dinmeir and Mynyw was broken.
  • 907 ‡Bishop ‡ Gorchywyl dies ‡ and king Cormac‡.
  • 908 ‡Bishop ‡ Asser died.
  • 909 King Cadell son of Rhodri dies.
  • 913 Ohter comes ‡to Britain‡.
  • 915 Anarawd king ‡of the Britons‡ dies.
  • 917 Queen Aethelflaed died.
  • 919 King Clydog was killed.
  • 921 The battle of Dinas Newydd.
  • 928 Hywel journeyed to Rome. ‡Helen died.‡
  • 935 ‡Gruffydd son of Owain died.‡
  • 938 The battle of Brune.
  • 939 Hyfaidd son of Clydog, and Meurig, died.
  • 941 Aethelstan ‡king of the Saxons‡ died.
  • 942 King Afloeg dies.
  • 943 Cadell son of Arthfael was poisoned. And Idwal ‡son of Rhodri ‡ and his son Elisedd are killed by the Saxons.
  • 944 Llunferth bishop in Mynyw died.
  • 945 ‡Bishop Morlais died.‡
  • 946 Cyngen son of Elisedd was poisoned. And Eneuris bishop in Mynyw died. And strathclyde was laid wasted by the Saxons.
  • 947 Edmund king of the Saxons was killed.
  • 950 Hywel king of the Britons ‡called the Good‡ died.
  • 951 And Cadwgan son of Owain is killed by the Saxons. And the battle of Carno ‡between the sons of Hywel and the sons of Idwal‡.
  • 952 ‡Iago and Idwal the sons of Idwal laid Dyfed waste.‡
  • 954 Rhodri son of Hywel dies.

Source: Ingram, James, translator. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. London: Everyman Press, 1912.

The primary text of this translation is from the Harleian manuscript, the earliest copy of the Annales Cambriae which has survived. The text enclosed within the “‡” symbols are entries which are not found in the Harleian MS, but which appear in a later version.