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The World in 823AD


Part of the Frankish Empire, now modern-day western France.


Home of Mael ap Caradoc in exile, Armorica is the Roman name for the province of northwestern Gaul and Spain. In the context of this story, specifically the lands known today as ‘Brittany’ in western France.
It is no coincidence that the area is called Brittany (and its inhabitants ‘Bretons’), as these lands were settled by the Britons of Cornwall following the collapse of the Roman Empire in AD410. Indeed, by the middle of the 6th Century, this area of Armorica was known as Britannia, and within this division were the minor kingdoms of Dumnonia and Cornouaille, reflecting their direct origins across the channel. The Breton and Cornish languages were also identical in those times, and even today are the most closely related of the surviving Celtic languages.
It isn’t known why the migrations took place, for certainly a large number of people left old Dumnonia for Armorica, and this occurred over a period of centuries. The most popular theories centre around the Saxon expansion into British lands; as the Saxon influence extended westward, more people left for the "free" lands of the south. It is even possible that the settlement was originally started by a few adventurous souls, and as ‘New Dumnonia’ became more secure and viable, perhaps more people came, lured by the travel brochures which promised warm sun, fertile lands and, most importantly, no Saxon overlords. [Todd: 238-240]


ON, literally 'Bardi's home.' See 'By' below


Modern-day Bodmin, Cornwall, the defacto capital of late British Dumnonia, and the only market town to appear in the Domesday Book in the region now covered by Cornwall. Known as Dinurrin in Caelin’s and Aneurin’s time, this was an important monastic settlement, established by St Petroc in the early 500s. The name of the town probably derives from the Cornish ‘Bod-meneghy’, meaning ‘dwelling of or by the sanctuary of monks’.


OE name for a settlement on the southern Wessex coast, translating as ‘port on the (River) Bride.’ Now known as Brideport, Dorset.

Byzantine Empire

An ancient empire whose capital in Rathulf’s time was Konstantinoupolis (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey). Considered by many scholars of the day as the seat of Christian civilization (it was also known as the Holy Roman Empire), although sadly lacking in gold-paved streets, despite Sigvald’s claims to the contrary. Also the source of Sigvald’s silk pantaloons. Despite it being on the ‘edge of the world’, the ever-curious Vikings did make it all the way out there, and their reputation for fierceness eventually led to them being the preferred members for the Imperial Guard (‘the Varangian Guard’). Unfortunately, these fellows rapidly earned a reputation for their drinking, and were colloquially known as the Emperor’s Wine Bags (one wonders if this had any bearing on the high success rate of imperial assassinations).


The modern name for the land that was once part of the kingdom of Dumnonia. While some sources claim that the present-day name of Cornwall is derived from ‘Cornovii’ (the Celtic name for the people inhabiting the far west of the land), unfortunately it is more likely to have originated from Old English. The Saxons referred to the Dumnonians as the Cornwælisc or Cornwealhas; the direct translation being the ‘Welsh of the Horn’ (horn referring to the promontory which the Dumnonii inhabited). Innocuous enough until one learns that ‘Welsh’ (wælisc) is in fact a less-than-kind term derived from the Old English word ‘wealh’ (plural wealhas), meaning a foreigner, stranger or borderer, and also serf or slave. No wonder the Welsh prefer to describe themselves by their Celtic name, Cymru (pronounced coom-ree). Some Medieval maps also show the area now covered by Cornwall and Devon as ‘West Wales.’ [Source = Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable 1898 + others]


Saxon name for an important monastic settlement a few miles northwest Escanceaster (Exeter), its modern name being Crediton. OE meaning is “town on the River Creedy.” It is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Winfrith or Saint Boniface, who was born there in c. 672 and then took his Christian mission across to the Frankish Empire (where he became patron saint) and to the heathen lands beyond. OE.


OE name for modern-day Dorchester. The town is ancient, originally named Durnovaria by the Romans and Durngueir in British.


Birthplace of Rathulf and his brother Aneurin ap Cadwyr, an ancient British kingdom in the far southwest of what is now England, occupying the rough land area of present-day Cornwall, Devon and some of Somerset. Also home to Tintagel, claimed by many as the birthplace of legendary King Arthur. After two centuries warding off the inexorable expansion of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, Dumnonia eventually fell to the Saxon King Ecgberht in 838AD. Thereafter the people inhabiting the area became known by the Saxons as the West Welsh, or ‘kernow-wealas’, from which the modern-day name ‘Cornwall’ is derived. ‘Wealas’ is a somewhat derogatory Saxon word meaning ‘foreigners or strangers.’ Wealas, or Wales as we know it today, thus means ‘foreigners or strangers,’ which is why, unsurprisingly, folks from this country prefer the original British term Cymru (pronounced ‘cum-ree’) to describe themselves today.


An important town in southwestern Wessex, now known as Dorchester (in County Dorset). During Rathulf’s time it was a Saxon stronghold, still largely protected by its original Roman defences (hence the modern suffix ‘chester’). Nearby is the massive Iron-age hill fort of Maiden Castle, which was Durnovaria’s predecessor.

Escanceaster/Caer Uisc

The Anglo-Saxon walled city now known as Exeter. Originally built by the Romans as the administrative centre of Dumnonia and named Isca Dumnoniorum. When the Romans left, the British moved back in, named it Caer Uisc, and it remained the capital of Dumnonia until the Saxons took the city from the Dumnonians some time in the 600s AD. The Saxons kept the Roman name of Isca and added the suffix ‘Ceaster.’ Ceaster (also ‘chester’ or ‘caster’) is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘a nice, strong, walled town or fortress kindly built for us by the Romans.’ Chester/caster is a common element of many place names in Britain to this day (e.g. Chester, Dorchester, Manchester, Lancaster, Silchester), indicating their Roman origin. Evidently the medieval scholars tired of the mouthful that was Escanceaster, however, and eventually shortened it to the much punchier ‘Exeter.’ OE.


In this series of novels, the area that comprises the southwestern edge of Norway, stretching from modern-day Stavanger north up to Trondheim. In Rathulf’s day, anything beyond Trondheim was so cold, remote and full of monsters that no one with any sense would venture there.


Saxon name for a large, important port town that was built near the site of the earlier walled Roman fort and town of Clausentum. It is now known as the busy modern-day port city of Southampton.


ON name for the Shetland Islands


Capital of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire. Originally named Byzantium during Roman times, the city was renamed Constantinople in honour of the Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine in 330AD. During Rathulf’s times it would have been more commonly known by its Greek name, Konstantinoupolis. The city actually earned itself an imaginative Old Norse name too: Miklagarðr (from mikill ‘big’ and garðr ‘city’), also spelt Miklagard and Miklagarth. The city still exists, but is now known as present-day Istanbul, Turkey.


ON name for the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.


The original name from which modern-day ‘Norway’ comes, from the Norse meaning ‘the north way,’ (Norðr vegr) referring to the sheltered sea route up the west coast of that country.


Saxon name for an important Dumnonian monastic town, famous for being founded by St Petroc, one of the early Irish Christians missionaries who brought the Celtic brand of Christianity to Dumnonia and far beyond. Modern-day name is Padstow. Cornish name is Lannwedhenek. Home of St Petroc’s Priory before it moved inland to Bodmin, most probably as a result of Viking raids.

Sanctus Germanus

A monastery, also known by its Cornish name as Lannaled, founded by St Germanus ca. 430AD by the banks of the River Lynher, southern Dumnonia. Modern-day name is St Germans, Cornwall. L.


Saxon name for modern-day Shaftesbury in Dorset. ‘Sceapt’ is from the OE name meaning ‘a point’ and ‘Burh’ is the OE word for a fortified settlement.


Saxon name for modern-day Sherborne in Dorset. OE name meaning ‘bright, clear stream.’


The longest fjord in Norway (and second longest in the world), cutting 205 kilometres (127 miles) inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is exceptionally deep for much of its length: at around 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Anything lost overboard is definitely not going to be retrieved.


The Anglo-Saxon name for Taunton, in present-day Somerset. OE, meaning town on the River Tone.


Werham is the Saxon name for the settlement know known as Wareham on the Dorest coast. The name is derived from: wer (meaning ‘fish trap, a weir’) and hām (‘homestead’) or hamm (‘enclosure hemmed in by water’). OE.


Important Saxon monastic town on the River Wylye, modern name Wilton, Wiltshire. Wiltun Abbey was founded in AD 771 and quickly rose to prominence and prosperity.


Important Saxon monastic town in Wessex, modern name Wimborne. The Minster is dedicated to Saint Cuthburga (who was sister to Ine, King of Wessex and wife of Aldfrith, King of Northumbria), who founded a Benedictine abbey of nuns at the site of the present-day minster in c.705.


Capital of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex (and later all of England). There has been a settlement on this site for millennia. It came to prominence during the Roman Era, when it was named Venta Belgarum. It was later renamed by the Saxon settlers to Wintanceaster, with the ‘ceaster’ suffix being the Saxon word for ‘former Roman fort’. The city has retained its Saxon name (with a minor spelling alteration) as present-day Winchester. OE.


Old Saxon name for present-day Warminster, Wiltshire. Also recorded in some texts as Worgemynstre. OE.

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