Nennius

Nennius

▪ Welsh historian and poet

flourished c. 800

      Welsh antiquary who between 796 and about 830 compiled or revised the Historia Brittonum, a miscellaneous collection of historical and topographical information including a description of the inhabitants and invaders of Britain and providing the earliest-known reference to the British king Arthur. In the preface to the Historia he describes himself as a disciple of Elvodugus (d. 809), chief bishop in Gwynedd.

      The Historia Brittonum has survived in about 35 manuscripts, dating from the early 10th to the 13th century. Besides the preface, it contains an account of the six ages of the world, a description of the inhabitants and invaders of Britain, a section on St. Patrick, a list of 12 victories ascribed to Arthur, some Anglian genealogies, and accounts of 28 cities and of various “marvels” in Britain. The fullest manuscript (British Museum Manuscript Harleian 3859) also contains two later interpolations.

      The controversy as to whether Nennius himself composed the Historia Brittonum or merely adapted and edited an earlier version is still unresolved.

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