Gildas (Breton: Gweltaz; c. – c. ) — also known as Gildas the Wise or Gildas Sapiens — was a 6th-century British monk best known for his scathing. Gildas’. ‘On the Ruin of Britain’. Translated by J. A. Giles and T. Habington. For convenience, this text has been composed into this PDF document by. Camelot. The Preface, History and Epistle of Gildas’ principal work, De Excidio Britanniae, a sermon in three parts condemning the acts of his contemporaries, both.

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It is a sermon in three parts condemning the acts of Gildas’ contemporaries, both secular and religious, whom he blames for the dire state of affairs in sub-Roman Britain. It is one of the most important sources for the history of Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries, as it is the only significant source for the period written by a near contemporary of the people and events described.

Part I contains a narrative of British history from bildas Roman conquest to Gildas’ time; it includes references to Ambrosius Aurelianus and the Britons’ victory against the Saxons at the Battle of Mons Badonicus. Part II is a condemnation of five kings for their various sins, including both obscure figures and relatively well-documented ones such as Maelgwn Gwynedd.

Part III is a similar attack upon the British clergy of the age. Gildas’s work is of great importance to historians, because, although it is not intended primarily as history, it is almost the only surviving source written by a near-contemporary of British events in the fifth and sixth centuries. The usual date that has been given for the composition of the work is some time in the s, but it is now regarded as quite possibly earlier, in the first quarter of the sixth century, or even before that.

Gildas’ intent in his writing was to preach to his contemporaries after the manner of an old testament prophet, not to write an account for posterity. Thus, he gives historical details where it serves his purpose; for instance he offers one of the first descriptions of Hadrian’s Wall and perhaps the Antonine Wallthough his account of their history is highly inaccurate.

De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae – Wikipedia

The Annales Cambriae gives the year of his death as ; however the Annals of Tigernach dates his death gildsa Gildas’s treatise was first published in by Polydore Vergilbut with many avowed alterations and omissions.

In John Joscelynsecretary to Archbishop Parker, issued gildaz new edition of it more in conformity with manuscript hhe and in a still more carefully revised edition by Thomas Gale appeared at Oxford. It was frequently reprinted on the Continent during the kn century, and once or twice since. The next English edition, described by August Potthast as editio pessimawas that published by the English Historical Society inand edited by the Rev.


The text of Gildas founded on Gale’s edition collated with two other manuscripts, with elaborate introductions, is included in the Gritain Historica Britannica. The text as it is used today is thus a scholarly reconstruction; the prime witness and possibly the entire manuscript stemma may not actually preserve the original page order brjtain the autograph.

The first part consists of Gildas’ explanation for his work and a brief narrative of Roman Britain from its conquest under the principate to Gildas’ time:.

Part I is particularly notable as the earliest source to mention Ambrosius Aurelianusan important figure of British tradition credited with turning the tide against the Anglo-Saxon conquest. It also contains the earliest mention of the Britons’ victory at the Battle of Mons Badonicus. The second part consists of a condemnation of five British kings, and as it is the only contemporary information about them, it is of particular interest to scholars of British history.

Gildas swathes the condemnations in allegorical beasts from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelationbritajn the kings to the beasts described there: The reason for Gildas’s disaffection for these individuals is unknown. That he chose only the kings associated with one king’s pre-eminence Maglocune, the “dragon” suggests a reason other than his claim of moral outrage over personal depravity.


Neither outrage nor a doctrinal dispute would seem to justify beginning the condemnation of the five kings with a personal attack against Constantine’s mother the “unclean lioness”.

Maelgwn MaglocuneKing of Gwyneddreceives the most sweeping condemnation and is described almost as a high ggildas over the other kings the power-giving dragon of the Apocalypse.

The Isle of Anglesey was the base of power of the kings of Gwynedd, so describing Maelgwn as the ‘dragon of the island’ is appropriate. His pre-eminence over other kings is confirmed indirectly in other sources. For example, Maelgwn was a generous contributor to the cause of Christianity throughout Walesimplying a responsibility beyond the boundaries of his own kingdom.

He is also associated with the foundation of Bangor. His Damnonia is generally identified with the kingdom of Dumnonia in southwestern Britain. O’Sullivan considers this unlikely. Cuneglasse is the Cynglas rruin Welsh: Cynlas of the royal genealogies, the son of Owain Whitetooth son of Einion son of Cunedda. He is associated with the southern Gwynedd region of Penllyn, and he was the ancestor of a later King of Gwynedd, Caradog ap Meirion. One gilxas his brothers was Saint Seiriol.

On the Ruin of Britain by Gildas

Aurelius Conanusalso called Caninuscannot be connected to any particular region of Britain. John Edward Lloyd suggests a connection between this king and the descendants of the great hero Ambrosius Aurelianus mentioned previously by Gildas; btitain this is true his kingdom may have been located somewhere in territory subsequently taken by the Anglo-Saxons.


Though it is not easily supportable on linguistic grounds, some scholars maintain that he is mentioned fo a memorial rhe discovered in bearing an inscriptions in both Latin and ogham. The Latin inscription reads Memoria Voteporigis protictoris. The ogham inscription consists of a Primitive Irish spelling of the name: The third part begins with the words, “Britain has priests, but they are fools; numerous ministers, but they are shameless; clerics, but they are wily plunderers.

Following the conquest of Britain described in De excidioGildas continued to provide an important model for Anglo-Saxon writers both in Latin and in English.

Bede ‘s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum relies heavily on Gildas for its account of the Anglo-Saxon invasions, and draws out the implications of Gildas’s thesis of loss of divine favour by the Britons to suggest that this favour has in turn passed to the now Christianised Anglo-Saxons. In the later Old English period, Gildas’s writing provides a gldas model for Alcuin ‘s treatment of the Viking invasions, in particular his letters relating riun the sack of Lindisfarne in The invocation of Gildas as a historical example serves to suggest the idea of moral and religious reform as a remedy for the invasions.

Likewise, Wulfstan of York draws on Gildas to make a similar point in his sermons, fildas in the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos. Gildas’s work is important for reasons beyond the historical information he provides. At the time when Gildas was writing there was a Christian church in Britain.

Gildas uses Latin to address the rulers he excoriates and regards Britons, at least to some degree, as Roman citizens, despite the collapse of central imperial authority. Bywhen St Augustine arrived in Kent, England was populated by Anglo-Saxon pagansand tildas new rulers did not think gidas themselves as Roman citizens. Dating Gildas’s words more exactly would hence provide a little more certainty about the timeline of the transition from post-Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England; a certainty that would be the more valuable as precise dates and reliable facts are extremely scarce for this period.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The De Excidio of Gildas: Its Authenticity and Date.

Gildas – Wikipedia

Retrieved February 4, Phonology and Chronology, c. Giles, John Allened. Baxter published — in Latin Gransden, Antonia Historical Writing in England: Retrieved June 16, Longmans, Green, and Co published Miller, Molly. The Ruin of Britain. Retrieved from ” https: Views Read Edit View history. This page was last edited on 4 Decemberat By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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