Mount Badon and Bath
The final defiance of the Saxon advent by Brittonic Britain was described by Gildas:
After this, sometimes our countrymen, sometimes the enemy, won the field […], until the year of the siege of Bath-hill (cf. badonici montis), when took place also the last almost, though not the least slaughter of our cruel foes, which was (as I am sure) forty-four years and one month after the landing of the Saxons, and also the time of my own nativity.
This location of the decisive battle in Bath was current since Geoffrey of Monmouth, though is not universally accepted. The main criticism on Mount Badon being identified as Bath (c.q. Solsbury Hill) stems from the refusal to accept the name Mount Badon as a linguistically valid equivalent of Bath. The defeat of the invading Saxons would have made a Germanic toponym even less appropriate. If so, where did the toponyms of the victorious Brittonics in the region go?
The choice of the real location should be in favour of a contemporary border. Especially since the Brittonic case seems to be represented by King Arthur as a Brittonic hero that never represented the whole of Britain, despite of reminiscent and anachronistic claims that may go back to the Roman backing of a Celtic Camulodonum as a British capital.
However, the linguistic identification of this battlefield as Bath should not pose a serious problem. “Mount Badon” could be an indication that Dio Cassius was right and Roman maps were wrong in naming the Dubonni, that thus rather should have been Bodunni.
Plautius […] conquered first Caratacus and next Togodumnus, children of Cynobelinus, who was dead. After the flight of those kings he attached by treaty a portion of the Bodunni, ruled by a nation of the Catuellani.
Here the Bodunni were mentioned as tributary to the Catuvellauni, a poweful tribe that was most probably Belgic and also experienced heavy Belgic immigration in Roman times. The latter may be attested by Y-DNA, that demonstrate exceptional high levels of the U106 marker in England and also in Belgae territories. Since the Belgae already could have brought a strong Germanic element to Britain at an early stage, this could explain apparent Germanic placenames in the neighbourhood that would have been anachronistic to the Saxon Landing. Hwicce was the region that in Anglosaxon times neatly corresponds to the territory of the Dubonni. Also the apparent tononym similarity between (Saxon) Gewisse and Hwicce points into the same direction.
The political continuity that was attested for this region should solve the puzzle. Under Roman administration, Dobunnic tribal areas became Roman civitates. Abundant traces of earthworks demarcate the original territory.
While a Late Iron Age date seems probable, the function of the system remains unknown, but its location, close to the supposed boundary between the Dobunni and the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni )at least in their latest stage of political expansion), is suggestive of a border function. – Cunliffe, 2005
Evidence for continuity of a territorial unit from Roman to Anglo-Saxon rule is supplied by the boundaries of the old diocese of Worcester and the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Hwicce, that show a remarkable overlap.
The Dubonni were a coin-issuing tribe, whose coins attest a gross distribution that adhere to the tribal boundaries. Probably these coins were melted in the economic regions elsewhere, while the western fringes “are far less easy to define since their boundaries are with non-coin-using neighbours.” (Cunliffe).
Definitely the “Saxon advent” in Dubonni territory was preceded by Belgic influences.
The whole question of the relationship of the Dobunni to the Catuvellauni is a difficult one to untangle. […] the coin evidence does suggest close relations with the Atrebates at the first, but with an increasing Catuvellaunian involvement beginning in the closing decates of the first century BC.The changes in the ceramic technology of the northern Dobunnic area, and the appearance of increasing quantities of Gallo-Belgic imports, again point to direct contact with the east of Britain increasing in the last few decades before the invasion.The evidence could be interprested as little more than an intesification of trading contacts but the possibility of some form of political domination cannot be ruled out. After all Dio Cassius was of the view that the Dobunni were subservient to the Catuvellauni at the time of the conquest. -Cunliffe 2005
The confusion surrounding the ethnical identity of Bath may have been as old as Ptolemy, that even placed Aquae Calidae (Bath) in the territory of the Belgae rather than the Dobunni (Rivet & Smith 1979, 121 & 256).
- Saint Gildas – De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, translated by Giles, J. A. (John Allen), 1808-1884. ed., link
- Dio Cassius – Rome, Vol. 4, 60.20, link
- K.R. Dark – Civitas to kingdom: British political continuity 300—800, Londen 1994
- B.Cunliffe, Iron Age Communities in Britain: an account of England, Scotland and Wales from the seventh century BC to the Roman conquest, 2005 (4th edition), link