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The Sword and the Stone

The story of King Arthur, and particularly his association with Merlin, has intrigued me ever since I was a child. As with most children interested in magic, I was at one time given the nickname 'Merlin'. Feeling that it was about time that I should investigate the different theories and see if I could come up with one of my own, I set off to the local library.

In one of the books, it was said that Merlin crowned Arthur at Silchester. Research indicated that Silchester did not exist at the time of King Arthur. It was then the Roman town of CALLEVA.

The exact whereabouts of Calleva had not been confirmed until an inscribed stone was unearthed during the excavations of a settlement just outside Silchester in 1907. An Internet search revealed that the finds at Calleva were now in the Reading Museum and a telephone conversation with Jill Greenaway, the Keeper of Antiquities at said museum, revealed that George C. Boon had written a book on these finds, entitled Silchester: The Roman Town of Calleva.

A copy of Mr Boon's book was soon in my possession. There is no mention of King Arthur or Merlin, of course, but something of interest had surfaced in 1893 -- "One famous relic, intrinsic proof of the presence of Irish elements at Calleva about the year 500, remains to be considered. The Ogham stone was found two-thirds of the way down a Roman well sunk through the corridor of an early house, Insula IX, House 1. It is a stubby baluster pillar of friable yellowish sandstone from north Berkshire. When it was washed, 'there appeared on one side a curious series of markings not unlike the characters of an Ogham inscription." [Boon, page 77]

More recently, Michael Fulford revealed that the stone had been discovered in 1893. The stone and its inscription were reported on separately in the account of the excavation itself by Sir John Rhys in the year of the discovery. His reading, EBICATO[S]/[MAQ]I MUCO[I--], 'of Ebicatus, son of the tribe of', had been accepted up to fairly recently. The inscription has been interpreted as an epitaph and it has been variously dated to the 5th and 6th centuries. Fulford wrote, "In our reassessment we established a new reading of the name (which is in the genetive case), with TEBICATO[S] replacing EBICATO[S] and the full reading TEBICATOS [MAQ]I MUCO[I..], which translates as '(The something) of Tebicatus, son of the tribe of N'. It has previously been assumed that this was a memorial stone (Boon 1974, 77-8) but no trace of a body has yet been found."

George Boon had mentioned something that Michael Fulford did not -- "The last word, completing the genealogy, is missing together with the capital of the column, for the upper end of the stone has been severely battered."

Mr Boon had suggested that the 'B' in the man's name was probably a mis-spelling for a 'V'. It does seem that 'V's were often interpreted as 'B's (e.g., DYFRIG, pronounced DUVRIG, became DUBRIC and then his name was Latinised to DUBRICIUS), so Fulford's (or Dr Mark Handley's?) TEBICATUS probably started out as TEVICATUS and that could well be a Latinised version of the name TEVI or TEIFI. [Was a B substituted for V because the Latin V is pronounced as W?]

In the Celtish language, the single letter 'F' was pronounced as a 'V' (just as we have 'of' and 'off').The River Teifi, pronounced TEVI, runs into the sea at Cardigan [Aberteifi] in west Wales and the Ynys Teithy, or Teifi, (later also known as Kaerrihoc) was one of the lands that was submerged by the sea in the fifth century. The ruler of this land was known as Teithy, or Teifi, the Old [Teithfallt] and he was said in one of the Welsh Triads to have been present at the court of King Arthur. [Ashley, page 195] On the pedigree given by Messrs Barber & Pykitt, Teithfallt is given as the great-grandfather of Athrwys -- their candidate for King Arthur. They claim that Athrwys married the daughter of 'AN' Uther Pendragon [not 'THE' Uther Pendragon of the stories] and so was his son-in-law, not his son.

Back to the inscription on that stone. My Latin dictionary revealed that neither tribe nor kin translated as either [MAQ]I or MUCO[I]. I couldn't find anything which resembled MAQI and the only word that I could find anything like MUCO was MUCRO, which means 'a point, an edge, or a SWORD'. I suggest that the inscription told the world that the article which was once embedded in the top of the stone was THE SWORD OF TEVICATUS THE OLD. King Arthur didn't just remove his great-grandfather's sword from the stone -- he smashed it out!

Teifi's sword was taken from the stone in CALLEVA and so it was EX-CALLEVA. 'V's became 'B's, as already understood, and the sword went into legend as EXCALIBUR. It was originally called CALIBURN by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This, I suggest, was a corruption of CALLEBAN, i.e, CALLEVAN, again indicating that the sword was from CALLEVA.

Geofrey told us that Merlin had crowned Arthur as King of the Britons in Silchester. Back in the days of King Arthur there was no Silchester but it was there from at least the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086. Calleva had been abandoned in the sixth century and Silchester did not grow out of the ruins; it was as if somebody suggested that the new village should be built away from the site -- as if they wanted to preserve the site of King Arthur's Court. The name 'Camelot' was used by Chretien de Troyes circa 1177; the British town of Calleva had been corrupted to Camelot over a period of 600 years.

It was Norma Lorre Goodrich who first suggested that St. Dubricius was the man known as 'Merlin'. But a merlin is an augmentative -- that which makes something greater. His name was not 'Ambrosius', as has been believed for hundreds of years. A fatherless boy was introduced to Vortigern as the "merlinus qui Ambrosius dicebatur" and Ms Goodrich was one of a long line who had translated this as "the Merlin also called Ambrose". The words mean "the merlin of whom Ambrose speaks". Any biography of St Dubricius will tell you that it was he who was fatherless; he was illegitimate. According to the story, his mother, Efrddyl, was sentenced to death by her father, King Peibio, for her 'sin' but allowed to live until the child was born. Upon being touched by the baby Dyfrig, Peibio had been cured of an illness and he allowed Efryddyl and Dyfrig to live. So this 'merlin' became known as a magician -- he had the magic touch.

The Ambrosius who spoke of the young Dyfrig was Aurelius Ambrosius and this made me believe that it was he who was eventually crowned as King Arthur. But according to several genealogies, Aurelius Ambrosius was the elder brother of Uther Pendragon. Gildas thought very highly of another member of the Ambrose family though -- Ambrosius Aurelianus -- and it was he who famously led the Britons against the Anglo-Saxons. It was he who won the Battle of Badon after a prayer had been offered up by Dubricius and it was Dubricius who crowned SOMEBODY as King Arthur at Calleva. My first choice was AMBROSIUS AURELIANUS, i.e., Ambrose the Younger, and that he decided to drop his Roman names and take up something more British, just as the Saxe-Coburgs did with their German names. But Messrs Barber & Pykitt were backing ATHRWYS, the great-grandson of Teifi the Old. King Teifi had successfully fought the Anglo-Saxons but then retired to become a monk. It is quite feasible that he jammed his sword into a stone, only to have it removed by his great-grandson when he decided to take up the fight.

Eventually Calleva was over-run and Arthur retreated to the mountains of what we now know as Wales. His last battle was at Camlan, east of Dolgellau and Cader Idris (which is Welsh for 'the stronghold of Arthur') He was severely wounded and is said to have told Girflet to throw Excalibur into a lake. There are several hillforts and several lakes on Cader Idris -- Llyn Cau being the largest Maybe one day these will be searched and the remains of an old sword will be found.

That this Camlan should be the site of Arthur's last battle I am certain. A boat down the River Mawddach to Cardigan Bay could easily have carried on sailing west to Bardsey Island, where Dubricius was living in retirement. This has long been thought by some to be the Isle of Avalon. The Welsh for 'apple-tree' is 'afallen' and don't forget that a single 'f' is pronounced as a 'v'. Apple Tree Island? The Bardsey Apple, re-discovered in 2000, has been declared to be unique.

We know that the remains of St Dubricius were transferred from Bardsey to Llandaff Cathedral in the twelfth century. So Merlin's second tomb may still be viewed. As for King Arthur, we really don't know whether he recovered from his wounds whilst on Bardsey or died there. It has been suggested that he recovered and then removed to Brittany and became a monk. I don't believe that -- my money says that he was entombed in St. Cadfan's monastery on Bardsey. The ruins to be seen nowadays are those of the second one to be built there. Perhaps a call to Tony Robinson and his Time Team might do the trick?


Ashley, Mike - The Mammoth Book of King Arthur (Robinson, 2005)

Barber, Chris, and Pykitt, David - Journey to Avalon: The Final Discovery of King Arthur (Samuel Weiser, 1997)

Boon, G. C. - Silchester: The Roman Town of Calleva (David and Charles, 1974)

Fulford, Michael, Clarke, Amanda, & Eckardt, Hella - Life and Labour in Late Roman Silchester: Excavations in Insula IX Since 1997 (Britannia Monograph No. 22)

Goodrich, Norma Lorre - Merlin (Harpur Perenial, 1988)

Copyright, February, 2008

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