Guotodin

The modern city of Edinburgh is at the heart of the Lothian region, which itself is an ancient name. Traditionally, Lot was the first independent, post-Roman king of the region that bears his name, ruler of the Romano-British tribe of the Votadini. By this time pronunciation of the name had altered to Guotodin, which is sometimes shown by modern writers as Goutodin, with the ‘o’ and ‘u’ incorrectly swapped around.

The still semi-tribal, hero-led Guotodin kingdom was probably created out of Coel Hen’s ‘Kingdom of Northern Britain’. No names are put forward as Guotodin kings by tradition or early writings until after his powerful governance had ended. It appears to have been his death that began the gradual division of the Roman militarised north, and it was also around this time – the fourth century – that the southern section of Votadini territory seemingly became independent of the northern section as Bernaccia. The northern Votadini territory probably had a border at Berwick, a scene of later conflict with the later Bernician Angles, but the kingdom eventually fragmented under pressure from those Angles after half a century of resistance.

It is possible that the territory was initially part of Alt Clut, as some sources show its powerful first king, Coroticus, ruling here as well as further west (possibly as a high king with a local sub-king who acknowledged his supremacy). The capital, or main fortress, seems to have been at Din Eidyn (with at least partial occupation that can be dated as early as 850 BC, thanks to Bronze Age material being left behind). This may have survived the fall of the Guotodin for a short time, in the form of an enclave in the early seventh century. It was later called Edinburgh by the Angles, the name being unchanged apart from the switch from the Brythonic to Germanic form of the word for ‘fort’ (although the older version still survives in Scots Gaelic as Dùn Éideann). It has been stated that the capital was a creation of the Angles, with King Edwin of the Northumbrians claiming the naming rights. This is clearly incorrect as the name was in use for the fort prior to its capture (see the Annals of Ulster).

As with many British names, the Votadini tribal name became somewhat altered in the period between the tribe’s first recording by the Romans in the first century AD and its emergence as an independent kingdom in the late fifth century. The exact shift is uncertain, but it probably did something like this: British ‘votādin’ (with a ‘v’ sound) to ‘wotodin’ (with a ‘w’ sound), and then to ‘gwotodin’ or ‘guotodin’ (with a ‘gw’ sound) – modern Welsh spells this sound ‘gw’, and Brezh (Breton) spells it ‘gu’. The Old Welsh ‘guotodin’ was the version in use in the fifth to seventh centuries, which later became ‘gododd-’ (Middle and Modern Welsh, the plural being ‘gododdin’). As mentioned above, the older form of the name is often used but with the ‘u’ and ‘o’ swapped around to produce Goutodin.

The kingdom could also call upon Traprain Law (Haddington in Lothian) to act as a substitute capital, which perhaps pre-dated Din Eidyn. However, this hill fort was abandoned in the fifth century. Also of note was the area of Manau (Manaw). The Manau Gododdin (note that the second part of the name is in its late Welsh form) were a subsidiary of the main Guotodin people. They occupied land just beyond the Antonine Wall, around the Forth’s headwaters, which provided natural citadel at Stirling. They had probably formed part of the Venicones tribe in the first and second centuries, but it was from here that Cunedda Wledig, almost legendary founder of Gwynedd, migrated. Bede mentions Stirling as urbs Guidi, and this was adapted to provide the Firth of Forth with its early Welsh name of merin Iodeo, ‘the sea of Iudeu’.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era: Authenticating the Enemies and Allies of Britain’s Post-Roman King, Frank D Reno, from The Gododdin: The Oldest Scottish Poem, Kenneth H Jackson, from The History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland, W J Watson, from A History of Wales: Dinas Powys, Catraeth, and Llantwit Major, John Davies, from The Germanico-Celtic Isles, Norman Davies, and from the Etymological Glossary of Old Welsh, Alexander Falileyev.)

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Cunedda Wledig (the latter word is the later Welsh for ‘prince’) and his branch of Romanised Venicones are transferred from the Manau dependency of the Guotodin kingdom, traditionally under the authority of Magnus Maximus, although perhaps this is handled by Coel Hen of ‘Northern Britain’. They are moved to the former territory of the Deceangli in western Wales to secure the region from Irish raiders, and it is here that they found the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Ceredigion.

Guotodin

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