Nennius

(fl. early ninth century)
   Along with the sixth-century monk Gildas, Nennius was one of the most important early contributors to the legend of King Arthur. His work, the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), contains the earliest mention of the figure King Arthur and greatly influenced the twelfth-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, who elaborated on the earlier Arthurian tales.
   Nennius was a Welsh historian and antiquary who wrote at the end of the eighth or the beginning of the ninth century. His famous Historia Brittonum is traditionally dated between circa 800 and 829/830 and appeared originally in Wales. It remains uncertain, however, whether Nennius wrote the Historia himself or merely copied it from an earlier source or sources. Although best known for its treatment of the legendary Arthur, the Historia is not without reliable historical information; it includes details on the early residents and Anglo-Saxon invaders of the island, material on the kingdom of Bernicia, and topographical information. The descriptions of the struggles in Bernicia accord well with the tradition recorded by Bede and appear to follow Gildas, who noted that victory sometimes went to the invaders and sometimes to the Britons. Nennius's work is most famous for his account of the Britons' struggle against the Anglo-Saxon invaders, particularly his description of the one great leader, whom he named Arthur. Most significantly, the history of Nennius includes a list of the twelve great victories, culminating with the Battle of Badon Hill, that Arthur won against the invaders. The Historia also contains the history of the world in six ages, tales of miracles and prodigies in England, and details of the life of St. Patrick. The work exists in some thirty-five manuscripts from the tenth to the thirteenth century and was a popular and influential work.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Alcock, Leslie. Arthur's Britain: History and Archeology, a.d. 367-634. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1971.
 ♦ Barber, Richard. The Figure of Arthur. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972.
 ♦ Nennius. Nennius: British History and the Welsh Annals. Ed. John Morris. Totowa, NJ: Rowan and Littlefield, 1980.
 ♦ Stenton, Frank M. Anglo-Saxon England. 3d ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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