I’ve probably gone as far as I can go with Iscalis. My final thought was that it was somewhere on the coastal plain around Burnham-on-Sea, and south to the River Parrett. The heavily Romanised area, with many Iron Age sites, seems a more likely location (to me) than Charterhouse (on top of the Mendips). This area would have been a centre of the Durotriges, rather than the Belgae as Ptolemy said (so it’s a bit like believing you have the correct exam answer – provided the examiner has made a slight mistake with the question.)
As Nietzsche said: “We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers.” So I’m now hearing a different question.
I advanced a little further with Iscalis than in my study of arx Cynuit where I was fairly confident it wasn’t at Countisbury, but couldn’t come up with a likely alternative. And speaking of arx Cynuit … my dismissal of the suggestion that it was Castle Hill, near Beaford, was challenged, so I thought my next investigation could be around the west Devon coast, yes, back to arx Cynuit again.
This is not so much a ‘Well, we shall never know for sure’ question (even if we shall never know for sure) but: How did the local tradition develop and why did it persist for so long? What lay behind it? Where did it start? It MAY have started when the Danes landed near Appledore in 878, if they did. But did they (we shall never know for sure)? It’s the tradition I’ll be focusing on here, not the historical fact.
Method: If this were family history, you would start with modern times and work your way back, because you start with what you know and it gradually uncovers the unknown. But here we already know the ancient sources and we need to uncover the successive stages which led to the present. So I shall begin with Asser and the ASC (which neither support nor contradict the tradition).
[To be continued]