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Silures (Ancient Siluria)

The Silures were a Celtic tribe which settled around, the modern terms, Swansea (Abertawe), Neath Port Talbot (Castell-Nedd Port Talbot), Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr), the Vale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg), Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful), Cardiff (Caerdydd or Caerdyf), Caerphilly (Caerffiu), Newport (Casnewydd), Torfaen (Tor-Faen), and Blaenau Gwent. The boudaries are not precise and their lands may have extended into southern Powys. According to the authority of cadair, or the bardic chair, of Morganwg, they extended over the present Morganwg, including the commot of Garthmathrin, or Brecon, Gwent, or Monmouthshire, and Ergyng, Euas, and Ystrad Yw, partly in Herefordshire, and partly in Breconshire.

They were neighboured to the north by the Ordovices, to the east by the Dobunni, across the Bristol Channel to the south by the Dumnonii, and to the west by the Demetae.

Tacitus, a later Roman writer that accompanied Agricola, described its people as "swarthy-faced with curly hair". He thought they may have migrated from Iberia. Modern genetic studies have shown a genetic similarity between some Irish and Welsh and the Basques of northern Spain. As the Basques are widely understood to be of pre-Indo-European stock, it is likely that the same stock inhabited Britain and Ireland before the arrival of the Celts. As with all incomers, the number of Celts would have been low at first, so the natives probably saw their ruling class replaced with a Celtic one while they continued with their everyday lives.

Their original rulers are found in semi-mythical Celtic folklore. However the first named on record is claimed as a son of High King Bran Fendigaid who appears in the late first century BC. The tribe was never encountered during the First Roman Invasion and are only really noticed when Caratacus, deposed ruler of the Catuvellauni, provided leadership for the western tribes in opposing the Roman conquest of the mid-first century AD.

Their main tribal centre may have been Venta Silurum (modern Caerwent), in the east of their lands. Ptolemy added Burrium (or Bullaeum, modern Usk), which was called a polis, and which featured a large fortress.

The inhabitants or tribes occupying the counties of Glamorgan, Monmouth, Brecon, and the Welsh part of Herefordshire, are become to be later called Gwennwyson (Men of Gwent), Gwent-men, or Gwentians. Their dialect becomes known Gwennwyseg, or the dialect of Gwent, Gwentish.

Known Events

The lands of the Silures is known from around 800 BCE. Archaeological sites around Caerau near Cardiff contains evidence of early users of Iron Age materials. Whether this is are part of the second wave of Celtic expansion that is sweeping outwards from the south-east by this time, or of native pre-Indo-Europeans is unclear.

The first historical record is associated with Caradoc, or Caratacus, a son of High King Bran Fendigaid.

c. 30 BCE. Caradoc ap Bran / Caratacus. When his father, Bran, sails with his host to face Matholug, king of Ireland, it is Caradoc who is left in command of the chieftains of the land.

c. 22 AD. Alan ap Bran, brother of Caradoc ap Bran. Appears as King of Ewyas. He is followed by his brother.

c. 24 AD. Sadwr ap Bran. Nothing is heard until the 2nd Roman Invasion.

47 AD. Following the campaign by Roman Governor Ostorius, against the Deceangli, Caratacus, former king of the Catuvellauni, still apparently recognised as High King, re-emerges to lead the Silures against Rome. It is not known where he had been or what he had done in he interim. Evidence suggests he may have been in the anti-Roman part of the Dobunni lands, at the Bulwarks stronghold in modern Gloucestershire.

47 - 49. Caratacus, High King. Former king of the Catuvellauni & Cantii. The confrontation with the Romans led to the Roman occupation of the tribal lands. Caractacus drew a significant number of tribes into a confederacy against the Romans. The site of the large-scale battle between the Britons and the Romans is unknown, other than that it lies somewhere on the Severn. Roman tactics and equipment produce an overwhelming superiority against the Britons.

52. After the defeat the Silures fight on creating havoc with the Romans. Roman records suggest that a trapped unit of legionaries suffer the loss of the prefect and eight centurions and evidence suggests the defeat of an entire legion, possibly XX Valeria Victrix, which forces Rome to appoint Aulus Didius Gallus, who manages to bring the situation under control.

c. 55 AD. It is about this time in history, likely because the Silures continue the fight against the Romans, that many of the "High Kings" appointed by the Celtic Kings, now appear in the west. Previously the title had generally fallen on the King of the Catuvellauni who had been completely defeated.

61. During the Iceni-led revolt in the east, the Silures, Ordovices, Dobunni, and perhaps the Durotriges are pinned down by the Roman Second Legion and are unable to join Boudicca.

74 - 125. Marius / Meric/ Merius / Meurig, Son of Arviragus of the Brigantes. Appears as High King. Although possibly a legendary charater he appears during the occupation by Sextus Julius Frontinus. Frontinus uses the Second Augusta Legion to pacify the Silures. A new legionary fortress is constructed at Isca (Caerleon) as part of the process of conquering the tribe, and a port[1] is built nearby so that troops can be landed in the heart of Silures territory. The Twentieth Legion is transferred to Isca from Glevum. The movement of the tribal centre of the Silures from their fortress at Llanmelin Wood to a new Roman town at Caerwent (later capital of Ewyas) is also thought to take place under Frontinus' governorship. More military forts are constructed at Caerdyf (modern Cardiff) and Leucarum (modern Loughor on the river of the same name ) in AD 75.

125 - 154: Coilus / Coel. A son of Marius. He was raised in Rome to a young adult and appears as High King of the tribes although likely as a puppet to the Damnonii.

c. 154 - c. 180. Lucius / Llewrug Mawr. He appears as King of the Silures and High King, although his latter status is unclear. He wrote to Pope Eleutherius of the Roman Church to become a Christian. Geoffrey of Monmouth suggests he died, without heir, c. 156 and that his fortress was at Caer Gloui (likely modern day Gloucester). A legend suggests that he is responsible for introducing Christianity into Britain but there is confusion on whether this was Lucius Aelius Megas Abgar IX, Roman client king of Osroene (in Mesopotamia).

After his death the tribe becomes incorporated into the Kingdom of Ewyas


Definition of Ystrad vale - flat - strata
Abaty Ystrad Fflur — Strata Florida Abbey
Ystrad Clud — Kingdom of Strathclyde
Ystrad Meurig
Ystrad Rhondda
Ystrad Yw, a commote forming the southeast corner of Brycheiniog.[2]

  1. This port was only rediscovered by archaeologists in 2011 and lies on the banks of the River Usk just north of the modern city of Newport
  2. Legend of Lewis, Ancient Wales

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Categories: Siluria