Tag Archives: Paulinus

Where did they go … ?

Where did they go … ?

 

As part of visit to North Wales, we decided to head up and onto the Isle of Angelsey –Ynys Môn in Welsh.

This place has long been associated with the Druids and in 60-61AD the Roman General Paulinus gave orders for the Isle to be raided and the power base of the Druids to be destroyed.

Standing on the Angelsey side of the Menai Straights it was easy to let my mind slip back to the records left by Tacitus who recorded the events….

“[Paulinus] prepared to attack the island of Mona which had a powerful population and was a refuge for fugitives. He built flat-bottomed vessels to cope with the shallows, and uncertain depths of the sea. Thus the infantry crossed, while the cavalry followed by fording, or, where the water was deep, swam by the side of their horses. On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women, in black attire like the Furies, with hair dishevelled, waving brands. All around, the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven, and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight, so that, as if their limbs were paralysed, they stood motionless, and exposed to wounds. 

Perhaps I had a romanticised image in my mind based on this ‘report’. The rebellious peoples of Wales and England, coming to make a brave last stand against the colonising invaders… but history is rarely that simple.

Paulinus’ troops crossed the Menai Straights using amphibious craft with the fearless Batavi military units.The Batavi were an ancient Germanic tribe that lived around the modern Dutch Rhine delta in the area that the Romans called Batavia, from the second half of the first century BC to the third century AD. From these people several military units were employed by the Romans that were originally raised among the Batavi.then

When the Roman troops arrived in Angelsey they set about destroying the shrines and the nemetons (sacred groves) of the Druids – the political and spiritual leaders of the rebellious natives.

Soon, however, news of another pesky Briton revolt drew the attention of Paulinus just after his ‘victory’ in Angelsey. It was Boudica’s revolt which caused him to withdraw his army before consolidating his conquest of the Isle.

The island was finally brought into the Roman Empire by Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor of Britain, in AD 78. During the Roman occupation, the area was notable for the mining of copper. The foundations of Caer Gybi as well as a fort at Holyhead are Roman, and the present road from Holyhead to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll was originally a Roman road.

Llanfairpwilgwyngyll … there’s a place name to get your lips around!

Better know as Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch 

The long name was contrived in the 1860s to bestow upon the villages station the feature of having the longest name of any railway station in Britain, an early example of a publicity stunt.

The village’s website credits the name to a cobbler from the nearby village of Menai Bridge. According to Sir John Morris-Jones the name was created by a local tailor, whose name he did not confide, letting the secret die with him.The current postmark shows the name Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

The village was originally known as Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll (“St Mary’s in Hollow of the White Hazel Township”) and a settlement has existed on the site of the village since the Neolithic era (4000–2000 BC), with subsistence agriculture and fishing the most common occupations for much of its early history.

Pwllgwyngyll was the original medieval township where the village is today.

The Isle is littered with numerous Neolithic, Bronze, Iron Age and Roman Sites but the Groves of The Druids have long gone or been ploughed into the ground. Since the Druids belonged to a group of peoples who did not favour the writing of their histories, we are simply left with clues; tantalising ideas and romantic notions of how they would have incorporated Neolithic structures into their rituals and practices. Of them and their sacred places there is little that is concrete and everything that is otherworldly. Stands of Rowan, Oak, Blackthorn and Birch set nearby to sites like Lligwy Burial Chamber excite the imagination and offer tales for the remembrancer.

And if you cross the Menai Straight
Tarvel between those concrete gates
Stare down on Angelsey’s tide drencehd shore
And ask why we are no more.

We rest in Annwn but live in dreams
And speak in cracks between the seams
It is the Bard we will inspire
To keep alive ths sacred fire

And should a mournful Druid pass
Pray raise a drink, raise a glass
For we are not dead nor ever were
We turn from wood to stone to earth….

(See The Battle of Menai)

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Published: September 26, 2017

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