Gododdin

From Academic Kids

Gododdin, or in its earlier version Guotodin, and even earlier Votadini, refers to both the people and to the region of a Dark Ages Brythonic kingdom south of the Firth of Forth, extending from the Stirling area to the Northumberland kingdom of 'Brynaich', and including what are now the Lothian and Borders regions of eastern Scotland. Those living around Stirling were known as the Manaw Gododdin.

Gododdin became an independent kingdom following the break-up of the ancient British kingdom of the North, from about 470. Its capital was probably at first the Traprain Law hillfort in East Lothian, moving later to Din Eidyn. Scotland's capital city is still known as Důn Čideann in Gaelic.

In the 6th century its southern neighbour 'Brynaich' was invaded by the Angles to become Bernicia.

Y Gododdin

The poem Y Gododdin by the bard Aneirin, composed at the time in Brythonic (a Medieval Celtic language closely akin to Welsh), records the Gododdin expedition in about 600 to try to fend off these Angle invaders. It survives as a 13th century manuscript known as the Book of Aneirin, and is well appreciated in Wales, but in Edinburgh where it is thought to have been composed few have ever heard of the poem or of the Gododdin. A reference in the poem to Arthur hints at a link to Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh.

The poem tells of the Gododdin king providing his warriors drawn from several British kingdoms with training in the form of a year's feasting and drinking mead in his halls in Din Eidyn, and gives a lyrical description of their beauty and honour, and of the tragedy of their heavy defeat at the Battle of Catraeth (thought to be Catterick in North Yorkshire). Although very different, it brings to mind the song Flowers of the Forest about a similarly ill-fated expedition in the 16th century. The poem has 99 verses; as a sample a translation of verses 1 and 11 is given below.

Man in might, youth in years, courage in battle.
Swift, long-maned stallions under the thigh of a fine lad.
Behind him, on the lean, swift flank, his target, broad and bright,
Swords blue and bright, clothes fringed with gold-work.
There will be no reproach or enmity between us now
Rather I shall make you songs in your praise.

Men went to Catraeth at dawn: their high spirits shortened their life-spans.
They drank mead, gold and sweet, ensnaring; for a year the minstrels were merry.
Red their swords, leave the blades unwashed; white shields and four-edged spears,
In front of the men of Mynyddawg Mwynfawr.

The fall of Gododdin

The Angle invasion continued, and by about 638 the capital of the Gododdin, 'Din Eidyn', had fallen to siege and was renamed Edinburgh. To what extent the native population was replaced is unknown. The region came under the rule of the Angles of Bernicia which became part of Northumbria, and by 954 was overrun by the Danish kingdom of York. Shortly afterwards this came under a unified England, then in 1018 Malcolm II brought the region as far as the River Tweed under Scottish rule.

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