Text: Trioedd Ynys Prydain

Trioedd Ynys Prydain “The Triads of the Isle of Britain” are a collection of historical traditions in Welsh, each of which contains three items. Although the first surviving manuscript of the triads dates only from the twelfth century, references to some of the same material in Y Gododdin and the Book of Taliesin indicate that they existed several centuries earlier as well. Although the degree to which they reflect historical realities or literary fictions posing as history, they functioned to memorialize Brythonic claims to the Isle of Britain and its territorial integrity.

The following excerpts were adapted from the most recent edition (1999) by Rachel Bromwich.

§ 1. The Three Tribal Thrones of the Island of Britain: Arthur as Chief of Princes in Mynyw [St. David’s Cathedral]; Dewi [St. David] as Chief of Bishops; Maelgwyn Gwynedd as Chief of Elders.

§ 8. The Three Humble Chieftains of the Island of Britain: Llywarch the Old son of Eilidir Llydanwyn; Manawydan son of Llyr Half-Speech; Gwgon Gwron son of Peredur son of Eliffer of the Great Retinue. These were called “humble” because they did not seek power and thus could not fail.

§ 11. Three Red-Speared Bards of the Island of Britain: Tristfardd, bard of Urien; Dygynnelw, bard of Owain son of Urien; Afan Ferddig [“Little Bard”], bard of Cadwallawn son of Cadfan.

§ 14. Three Seafarers / Fleet Owners of the Island of Britain: Geraint son of Erbin; Gwenwynwyn son of Naf; and March son of Meirchiawn.

§ 19. Three Enemy-Subduers of the Island of Britain: Greid(y)awl Enemy-Subduer son of E(n)vael Adrann; Gweir of Great Valour; Drystan son of Tallwch.

§ 29. Three Faithful War-Bands of the Island of Britain: The war-band of Cadwallawn son of Cadfan, who were with him seven years in Ireland, during which time they did not ask him for anything, lest they should be compelled to leave him; the war-band of Gafran son of Aeddan [Old Gaelic: Gabráin mac Áedáin], who went to the sea for their lord; the war-band of Gwenddolau son of Ceid(i)aw at Ar(f)derydd, who continued the battle for a month and two weeks after their lord was slain.

§ 33. Three Unfortunate Slaughters of the Island of Britain: Heidyn son of Enygan who slew Aneirin of Flowing Verse, Great Prince of Poets; “Heavy Battle Hand” of the Border of Eidyn who slew Afaon son of Taliesin; Llofan “Severing Hand” who slew Urien son of Cynfarch.

§ 36. Three Oppressions that Came to Britain and not Repelled: The people of the Cor(y)aniaid, who arrived in the time of Caswallawn son of Beli; the Gwyddel Ffichti [“Gaelic Picts”]; the Saxons, with Horsa and Hengist as their leaders.

§ 51. Three Men of Shame of the Island of Britain: Afarwy son of Lludd son of Beli: he first summoned Julius Caesar and the men of Rome to Britain, and caused the tribute of £3,000 to be paid from Britain yearly, because of a quarrel with his uncle Caswallawn; Gwrtheryn the Meagre, who first gave land in Britain to Saxons, and first to create an alliance with them […]; Medrawd, when Arthur left him the rule of Britain, when Arthur crossed the sea to oppose Lles, the emperor of Rome when demanded that Britain pay a tribute to Rome […] Arthur answered the emperor that the men of Rome had no greater claim to tribute from Britain than the Britons had to tribute from Rome […] Arthur took troops with him to the Alps, slew the emperor […]

§ 59. Three Unfortunate Advices of the Island of Britain: To provide a space for the feet of the horses of Julius Caesar and the Romans, as payment for Meinlas [“Slender-Grey,” the horse of Caswallawn son of Beli]; to allow Horsa, Hengeist, and Rhonwen to come into Britain; the division of Arthur’s men into thirds with Medrawd at Camlan.


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