Battle of Arfderydd

The Battle of Arfderydd (also known as Arderydd) was fought, according to the Annales Cambriae, in 573. The opposing armies are variously given in a number of Old Welsh sources, perhaps suggesting a number of allied armies were involved. The main adversaries appear to have been Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio and either the princely brothers, Peredur and Gwrgi, or King Riderch Hael of Strathclyde. Gwenddoleu was defeated and killed.[1] His bard, Myrddin Wyllt, went mad and ran into the forest. He is probably the original of the Arthurian character, Merlin.[2] The Welsh Triads refer to this battle as one of the "Three Futile Battles of the Island of Britain", along with the Battle of Camlann and the Battle of the Trees.[3]

Battle of Arfderydd

Result Christian victory, death of Gwenddoleu
Alt Clud
Commanders and leaders
Riderch I of Alt Clut
Peredur ab Eliffer
Gwrgi ab Eliffer
Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio  
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The 14th-century chronicler John of Fordun's Chronica Gentis Scotorum places the battle on the plain between Liddel and Carwannok. This was identified by W. F. Skene as being at Arthuret, near Longtown, in Cumberland (now Cumbria).[4]

In Welsh literature and mythology

The battle of Arfderydd is mentioned numerous times in a number of medieval Welsh texts, including the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein) and the Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest). The Welsh Triads name Gwenddoleu's warband as one of the "Three Faithful Warbands of the Island of Britain", going on to say that they "continued to battle for a fortnight and a month after their lord was slain." The retinue of Dreon the Brave "at the Dyke of Arfderydd" is named as one of the "Three Noble Retinues", while a listing of the three "Horse-Burdens" of Britain relates that Gwrgi, Peredur, Dunawd the Stout and Cynfelyn Drwsgl were carried by a horse called Corvan, which enabled them to watch the clouds of dust ("battle-fog") coming from Gwenddolau and his (mounted) forces in the battle of Arfderydd.[5]

The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin, the first song of the Black Book of Carmarthen (Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin), refers frequently to the battle, and many warriors said to have fought in the conflict are named: Cedfyl, Cadfan, Maelgwn, Erith, Gwrith, Bran, Melgan, Rhys, Cynelyn, Cyndur, the sons of Eliffer, and Dywel fab Erbin.[6] A further poem Apple Trees states that Myrddin wore a golden torque at the battle before fleeing into the Caledonian Forest,[7] while the poem The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir states that Gwyn ap Nudd, a mythological psychopomp, was "at the place where was killed Gwendoleu, the son of Ceidaw, the pillar of songs, where the ravens screamed over blood."[8]


  1. Bromwich, Rachel (1978) Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads pp. 208–209. ISBN 0-7083-0690-X
  2. Bromwich pp. 469, 472
  3. Bromwich pp. 206–210.
  4. Tolstoy, Nikolai (1985) The Quest for Merlin, pp. 72–73. ISBN 0-241-11356-3
  5. Bromwich pp. 57–60, 65–67, 109–116
  6. The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin
  7. Tolstoy p. 47
  8. The Dialogue of Gwyddno Garanhir and Gwyn ap Nudd
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