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Beli Mawr

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Beli Mawr ("Beli the Great") was an ancestor figure in Middle Welsh literature and genealogies. [1]

Mythic Origins

Scholars continue to debate the origin of the name Beli. [2]

  • Divine Name. The most popular hypothesis sees the name Beli as a Middle Welsh reflex of the Gaulish and Brittonic divine name Belenus (also attested as a personal name). [1]
  • Ancient Chieftain. Celticist John T. Koch, suggests that Beli derives from a Proto-Celtic name Belgius or Bolgios borne by one of the chieftains who led the Gallic invasion of Macedonia in 280–279 BCE. He therefore proposes that this great leader Belgius came to be regarded as the namesake and ancestor of the powerful Brittonic and Gallic tribal group, the Belgae, whence would have come the doctrine that Beli was the ancestor of tribal dynasties.[3]

Darrell Wolcott Analysis

Darrell Wolcott has drafted an published manuscript [4] tracing members of the Royal family of Powys back to Beli Mawr.

  1. Beli Mawr, born c. 130 BCE. Harl. 3859, 1 and some later sources add that the wife of Beli was Anna, a cousin on her mother's side of Virgin Mary. While chronologically impossible, such a relationship may have been believed by the 10th century Welsh. Beli was born at least 100 years before the era of Mary. Beli was the father of Caswallon ap Beli Mawr, born c. 95 BCE, who had no known children. Caswallon became king of his tribe at the death of his elder brother because the sons of Lludd were not yet old enough to succeed their father. Called Cassivellaunus by the Romans, he led the successful opposition to the invasions of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BCE. [4]
  2. Affleth, also called Lludd, born c. 100 BCE. Pronounced "luth" or "af-luth", he may or may not have been the eponym of London as some claim. He became king after the death of his father but died himself near 60 BCE. Lludd had two sons, Tecfan (Tasciovanus) ap Lludd. This senior branch of the family is better known to history, but became extinct in the male line a few generations after Caradog (Caraticus) ap Cunobelinus was defeated by Emperor Claudius in the year 43 of the Common Era. [4]
  3. Afallach ap Lludd ap Beli Mawr, born c. 68 BCE. As younger brothers of Celt kings often did, he relocated away from his paternal lands, probably by marrying a princess from a neighboring tribe. It isn't known exactly where his descendants lived until we reach the end of the 4th century. He was the father of Owain and Enddolen. Owain ap Afallach ap Lludd, born c. 40 BCE, was the father of Bryddgwyn and ancestor of the famed Cunedda of the 5th century. [4]
  4. More at Space: Vortigern's Descendants

Confusion with Beli son of Manogan

Another Beli from medieval Welsh literature, who first appears in the 9th century Historia Brittonum and is often confused or conflated with Beli Mawr in both medieval and modern sources, is Beli son of Manogan (also spelled Mynogan). This Beli is actually derived from the historical pre-Roman Brittonic king of the Catuvellauni, Cunobeline and his son Adminius (or Amminius). Via a series of textual corruptions that span several different popular books from Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the names of Cunobelinus and his son Adminius were combined and then jumbled, giving way to a new Beli, with the patronymic "son of Manogan" [5][6] The "new Beli" combines:

  • Adminio, Cunobellini Brittannorum regis filio (Suetonius, Caligula, Ch. 44) [6]
  • Minocynobellinum Britannorum regis filium (Orosius, Historia Adversus Paganos, vii 5.5) [6]
  • Bellinus, filius Minocanni (Historia Brittonum, ch. 19) [6]

Time Period: Pre Roman Invasion

Although Beli became a separate personage in medieval pseudohistory from Cunobelinus (Welsh Cynfelyn, Shakespeare's Cymbeline), he was generally presented as a king reigning in the period immediately before the Roman invasion; his "son" Caswallawn is the historical Cassivellaunus. [1]

Beli in Medieval Literature


Rachel Bromwich writes that such a figure has origins in traditional names/characters: "Beli Mawr is a character rooted far too firmly in Welsh tradition for his existence to be accounted for merely as an adaptation of Nennius's Bellinus. Further, Loth showed that Manogan itself can be explained as a Celtic name, since Monocan appears in the Cartulaire de Redon (RC LI, p. 10; Chr. Br., p. 152). Two further instances of this name in Celtic sources may also be included: Jes. Gen. XVIII Manogan m. Pascen m. Cadell; and the Ogham inscription MINNACCANNI (Macalister, Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum I, no. 135)." [7]

Henry of Huntingdon's Belinus

The 12th-century English historian Henry of Huntingdon, in his Historia Anglorum first published in 1129, follows the Historia Brittonum in his discussion of Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain, mentioning a Belinus, brother of Cassibella(u)nus, who are both styled sons of Minocannus, but in later revisions of the text (and under the influence of Geoffrey of Monmouth - see below), Liud (or Luid) (see Lludd Llaw Eraint). [8][9]

Geoffrey of Monmouth's Heli

Beli also appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's history Historia Regum Britanniae (1130s) as the British king Heli, son of Digueillus and father of Lud, Cassivellaunus and Nennius. He is said to have held the throne for 40 years, after which he was succeeded by his son Lud (Llud). [10]

In the Middle Welsh translations of Geoffrey's work known collectively as Brut y Brenhinedd, Heli's name was restored to Beli[12] and his father renamed to Manogan. [11]

Legendary Relationships

In legend, Beli the Great has been linked to the following other persons:

  • Cassivellaunus, (son) [1]
  • Arianrhod (son). According to the Welsh Triads, Beli and Dôn were the parents of Arianrhod, but the mother of Beli's other children—and the father of Dôn's other children—is not mentioned in the medieval Welsh literature. [1]
  • Lludd Llaw Eraint (son)[1]
  • Llefelys (son), [1]
  • Afallach (son)[1]
  • Anna Arimathea (cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus) , mother in some legends, [12] or wife in others. [1]
  • Penarddun. The Mabinogi names Penarddun as a daughter of Beli Mawr, but the genealogy is confused; it is possible she was meant to be his sister rather than daughter. [13]
  • Descendants. Several royal lines in medieval Wales traced their ancestry to Beli.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  2. Delamarre, Xavier. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, Editions Errance, Paris, 2003, pp. 70-72. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  3. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia by John Thomas Koch (Publisher: ABC-CLIO ISBN 1-85109-440-7 ISBN 978-1851094400). Page 200. See also Koch, John T. "The Celtic Lands." In Medieval Arthurian Literature: A Guide to Recent Research, ed. N. Lacy. New York, 1996. 239-322. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Darrell Wolcott. Pedigree of the Royal Family of Powys (unpublished) Accessed 3/25/2019 jhd
  5. Bartrum, Peter. A Welsh Classical Dictionary, National Library of Wales, 1993, p. 131; pp. 491-2. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff, 1961; revised ed. 1991), pp. 281-2.Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  7. Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff, 1961; revised ed. 1978), p. 282.Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  8. Fletcher, Robert Huntington. The Arthurian material in the chronicles, Harvard University, 1906, p. 68. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  9. Greenway, Diana E. (ed.), Henry of Huntingdon, "Historia Anglorum", Oxford, 1996, p. 32. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  10. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniæ, tr. Lewis Thorpe, Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. Harmondsworth, 1968, p. 106. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  11. Koch, "The Celtic Lands." p. 289. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd
  12. unspecified gedcom
  13. Gantz, Jeffrey (translator) (1987). The Mabinogion, p. 87. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044322-3. Cited by Wikipedia: Beli Mawr Accessed May 3, 2018 jhd

See also:

  • Primary sources [1]
    • Branwen ferch Llŷr
    • Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig ("The Dream of Macsen Wledig")
    • Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys ("Lludd and Llefelys)
  • the Welsh Triads
    • Brut y Brenhinedd[1]


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