Before moving on to study the sites of the various Viking raids further, I’m moving back to have another look at the name arx Cynuit.
This appears only (I think) in Asser’s Life of Alfred which had the fullest description of the event: the Danish ships had sailed de Demetica regione (Dyfed) ad Domnaniam (Devon, sort of; though the boundaries of Dumnonia at that time are not clear). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says it was on Defenascire (Ms A).
The map shows the territory of the Dumnonii in the Roman period, but what Asser might have meant by the name, we can only guess. The West Saxons gradually pushed westwards, but at what point did they begin to call part of their conquered lands ‘Somerset’ which had had no Roman name? Perhaps my book on the Origins of Somerset will make this clearer.
The Latin word arx is generally translated as ‘stronghold, fortress’ – which isn’t much of a clue since the whole north coast of Devon and Somerset had Iron Age forts which were probably used by the Saxons as they were well-placed for watching for Danish ships coming.
Cynuit is clearly of British/Welsh origin. The later form was Cynwyd which I’ve seen identified with a St Cunetus, about whom I find nothing. The shadowy historical Cynwyd Cynwydion seems to have been both a king and a saint – but his kingdom of Cynwydion is traditionally placed in the north, by the borders of Scotland. Or in the Chilterns. Cynwyd Cynwydion was apparently born c. 491, died in c. 519 and was the son of Cynfelyn (Cunobelinus) ap Arthwys. But the Latin form of his name is given as Conuvitus, otherwise Conowit. Unfortunately, all the online sources get mixed up with family history, tracing ancestors and a lot of imagination.
Cunetus or Conuvitus? They don’t seem to be originally the same name. But Cynwyd seems close enough to Cynuit and we do know of the church and village of Llangynwyd in Bridgend; consulting The parish of Llangynwyd by TC Evans (bardic name Cadrawd), Evans identifies the patron saint with Cynwyd Cynwydion, son of Cynfelyn, son of Garthwys. This, he said, came from the Genealogy of the Cambro British Saints, though what that is I have yet to discover.
Cynwyd Cynwydion, then, lived in the 6th century and Asser was writing in the 9th. From all we know, the arx or fortress in Devonshire had no connection with this Cynwyd but coincidences are coincidences, so I’m including a mystic map with all the esoteric Lost Knowledge of the lay lines of Glastonbury. Just for my satisafaction:
The mysteriousness of this is that Llangynwyd stands at the apex of an isosceles triangle, and at its base angles are Countisbury and Porlock Weir. I think this is meaningless, but nevertheless – it is so.
And in my next I shall look at Asser’s use of place names.