(1) Chronicle sources
Crocea Mors (Geoffrey of Monmouth, HRB IV,iv)
Yellow-Death (ib. Thompson/Giles tr.)
Saffron Death (ib. Evans/Everyman's Lib. tr.) [E tr.]
Croce à mors (= "cross /or crosier of death")
4220, 4221 (Wace Brut, Le Roux de Lincy éd.)*2a,
Crocea Mors 4132 (Wace Brut , Ivor Arnold éd.)
Crocea Mors 3685 3781 ms. Otho, 3929 ms. Caligula
Crocia Mors 3810 ms. Caligula (Layamon, Brut)
rede deþ 1142 (Wright ed., Robert of Gloucester Chron., I, p.83)
Crucia mors 4490 4491
(Robert Mannyng of Brunne Chronicle)*5 [ME],
Crochi Amour "Crooked Love"
(Thomas Gray, Scalacronica, quot. tr. Nearing)
(2) Welsh forms in the Brutiau
- [13 c.]
[I. "Brut Gruffudd ab Arthur" type]
(Rhys & Evans ed., Bruts from the Red Book of Hergest, p.85;
RBH ‹c. 1375-1425›)
(Iolo Morganwg ed., Brut G. ab Arthur in Myvyrian Arch., II, p.177;
‹MS. uncertain›) *2
[t. b. d.]
(B. F. Roberts ed., BB, Llanstephan 1 ‹13c.›)
[II. "Tysilio" type]
angau coch (Iolo Morganwg ed., Brut Tysilio
in Myvyrian Arch., II, p.176;
Brit. Lib. Add. 19709 (?) ‹14c.›) *4
"the red death" (Brut Tysilio, tr. Robert Jones; J
= Jesus College MS. 61 ‹c. 1500›)
- [c. 1300] [III. Intermediate type]
angheu coch 36v (Brut y Brenhinedd,
MS Cotton Cleopatra B. v, ‹c. 1300?› Parry ed.) [W.];
"red death" (tr. Parry)*6 [E. tr.]
Angav Koch (ib., Bk of Basingwerk ‹c. 1350?›,
index entry in Parry)*6
- [c. ??]
[Triads of Britain]
Ange glas (version of "Twenty-Four Knights of Arthur's Court",
Y Gwyliedydd 4, "Arthur A'i Varchogion")*7
- [etymology: 1) "Yellow Death" was a name inspired by the "Yellow Plague"
(Pestis flava [L.]) according to Nearing*1.
2) In Welsh versions, the RBH Brut makes the sword's descriptive color glas "gray, yellow, white,"
but this seems the exception: most recensions calls the sword Angeu Coch "red death."
One can botanically explain how the color confusion arose: while crocea
denotes the yellow dye that leeches out of saffron, saffron spice (crocus stamens) themselves
are of red color.
3) Another explanation is that Geoffrey's Latinized Crocea Mors is
an attempt at phoneticizing some originally British name,
in which case, the likely scenario is that the name was prefixed with the Celtic root
cro- or cru-. Macbain's Dictionary lists crà-dhearg "blood-red"
≅ cró-derg [Early Irish];
and crò "blood" ≅ cró [Early Irish]
≅ crú [W.] ≅ crow [Cornish]..).
Windisch in Irische Texte IV glosses cró as 1. .. hut, socket cogn. with
Anglosax. hró Eng. roof.. ; 2.. gore (Lat. cruor).. ;
3. death, as noted on my page for the spear Croderg ]
- According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the deadly sword initially wielded by Julius Caesar.
When the Roman emperor invaded Britain, the British king Cassibellaunus
(Caswallaun [W.]) had a brother named Nennius (Nynyau [W.]).
Nennius exchanged blows with the emperor, and came into the possession of Caesar's sword when
it got lodged in his shield. Nennius then cast off his own sword, and used the Roman sword in
"Whomsoever he struck with it, he either cut off his head, or left him wounded without hopes of recovery". The tribune Labienus was one of Nennius's fallen casualties.
But it had been Caesar's second blow that glanced off Nennius's helmet and was blocked by
Caesar's first blow had already dealt him a helmet-splicing head injury.
This wound proved fatal beyond all leechcraft (medical treatment), and Nennius was dead
within the fortnight (two weeks) of the battle; and was buried in the North Gate of
Trinovantum (London), together with the sword.
As a sidenote, Nearing (p. 923, n73) points out that according to the
Anonymi Chronicon Godstovianum (Godstow Chronicle),
(ed. Thomas Hearne, with William Roper's More [Guilielmi Roperi Vita D. Thomæ Mori], Oxford 1716),
Caesar's sword was still being kept in the Tower of London.
Nearing quotes the passage in another paper
" Nennius frater Cassibulani regis eripuit gladium vel sicam de manu Julii,
quae sica in hunc diem custodi tur in turri London."*1
- [PREVIOUS OWNER]
- Caesar (Julius Caesar);
- Gaius Julius Cesar
(‹acc.› iulium cesarem HRB IV,i;
‹abl.› Gaio. iulio cesari HRB IV,ii) [L.];
Iulius Cesar ms. Otho
Iulius Cezar, Cesare ms. Caligula (Layamon) [ME];
Iuly, Iulius þe emperour (Robert of Gloucester) [ME];
- Ilkassar (emperor of Ryfain) (Jones tr., Brut Tysilio, ms. J) [tr. W.],
ulkesar (Bruts from the Red Book of Hergest, p.89)[W.],
Wlkeſar, Wlkeſer, (Iolo ed.,Brut G. ab Arthur op. cit., )
Ilcaſar (Iolo ed.,Brut Tysilio op. cit., )
vlkessar (Brut y Brenhinedd, MS Cotton Cleopatra B.v, 35v)[W.]
- Julius Caesar described his invasions into Britain in his Commentaries on the Gallic War, Book IV,
but that work does not elaborate on the sword with the name Crocea Mors, and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable mistakenly cites it instead of Geoffrey's HRB Book IV.
- [ELDEST BROTHER]
Lud (=acc. HRB III. xix ) *1a [L.]
Lud ms. Otho ms. Caligula (Layamon, Brut)
(Robert of Gloucester) [ME];
- llyd (ms. J) [tr. W.],
Ll6d, llud (RBH, p.88; Iolo BGA, p. 166, p.171)
Ll6d, Llud, Llwd (Iolo ed. BT, p. 166, 170, etc.)
- According to Geoffrey, Lud (Llud [W.]) was the elder brother of Cassibelaunus,
and king of the Britons before him. Since Lud died before the Roman invasion, he was not directly accessory
to the lore of the sword.
But the three brothers Lud, Cassibelaunus, and Nennius were the sons of King Heli
who in Welsh tradition was identified with Beli Mawr (RBH Beli Ma62,
Iolo BGA Bely mawr, Iolo BT Beli Ma6r, Peli,
Parry ed. Beli Mawr 11, 31v, 34v, 36) the deity,
so probably each of the three brothers was an euhemerization of a deity on his own.
A small matter: Geoffrey makes Heli son of Capoir, whereas the Welsh versions make Beli son of Manogan son of
Kapeus (kapoi2). A more glaringly adulteration is that some Welsh redactions
introduce a fourth son of Beli, named Llevelys (i.e. Louis of France) into the geneology,
and interpolate the Mabinogi tale of Lludd and Llevelys.
Lud was buried in Ludgate, the west gate of London, and Nennius and the sword was buried in its North Gate.
Cassibelaunus upon his death was buried in Eboracum (York).
When Lud died, he was survived by two young sons, and his brother Cassibelaunus succeeded the throne.
Lud's elder son Androgeus (anar6y, auar6vy uab llud, ada6ffei[W.], Afarwy [tr. W.]) was
created Duke of Trinovantum and Kent. Lud's younger son Tenuantius ([a]theneuan, [y]deneuan, Tenefan [W.]) became Duke of Cornwall.
The elder prince Androgeus was with his uncle Nennius when in the encounter which developed into the
single-combat with Julius Caesar, but years later he had a serious dispute with Cassibelaunus, forcing him to
seek haven with the Caesar, thus disqualifying him from the throne. Thus when Cassibelaunus died, Lud's younger prince inherited the kingship.
In the HRB, nothing particularly untoward is suggested in the way that Cassibelaunus took over the throne after Lud and kept it. However as we shall see below, Welsh tradition depicts him as a pretender to the throne who grabsthe seat of power by murder.
- [SECOND ELDEST BROTHER]
- *Cabsibellaunus (‹acc.› -aunum C),
*Cassibellaunus (‹acc.› -aunum ‹abl.›
-auno, -ano C B H) [L.]
- Cassibilane, Cassibilanus ms. Otho
Cassibellaune ms. Caligula (Layamon, Brut) [ME];
Cassibel (Robert of Gloucester) [ME];
- Kasswallawn, Kasswallon (Jones tr., Brut Tysilio, ms. J) [tr. W.],
kas6all6n, chas-, (Bruts from the Red Book of Hergest),
Kaſwalla6n (Iolo ed.,Brut G. ab Arthur op. cit., )
Caſwalla6n, Gaſwalla6n (Iolo ed.,Brut Tysilio op. cit., ) [W.]
- Cassibelaunus of HRB is undoubtedly based on the historical Cassivellaunus, a chieftain who headed
the Britsh resistance described by Julius Caesar in his Commentaries.
Cassibelaunus's equivalent in Welsh romances, Caswallawn son of Beli appears in several branches of the Mabinogion.
The tale Branwen culminates as the hosts of the Welsh king Bran (Bendigaid Vran) away campaigning in Ireland
learn that Caswallawn has used a ⇒veil of invisibility to commit regicide (i.e., kill Bran's son Caradawg) and
usurp the British throne.
According to the Welsh triads, he received the horse
Julius Caesar as a bribe to allow the Roman legions to land on Britain.
- [THIRD BROTHER (WHO TOOK THE SWORD)]
- *Nennius (‹acc.›
-ium C B H) [L.]
- Nemnius ms. Otho
Nennius ms. Caligula (Layamon, Brut) [ME];
Nenny[n], Nemni (Robert of Gloucester) [ME];
- Myniaw (Jones tr., Brut Tysilio, ms. J) [tr. W.],
nynya6 (Bruts from the Red Book of Hergest, p.85)
Nynnya6 (Iolo ed.,Brut G. ab Arthur op. cit., )
Nynnia6, Nynia6 (Iolo ed.,Brut Tysilio op. cit., )
nynnyau (Bruty y Brenhinedd, MS Cotton Cleopatra, 36v)[W.];
- As stated above, this brother of the king of Britain took possession of Caesar's sword
and fought many Romans with it, but he was dead of his wounds within the forthnight and was
buried with the sword.
- [FOURTH BROTHER (Only in some Welsh vers.)]
llefelys (ms. J) [E. tr.],
Llevelys, Levelys (Iolo ed.,Brut G. ab Arthur op. cit., p.167)
Llefelys, Lefelys (Iolo ed.,Brut Tysilio op. cit., )
Llyuelis, Lyuelis (Bruty y Brenhinedd, MS Cotton Cleopara 31v-33v)[W.];
- The Welsh Brutiau interpolates wholesale the tale of Llud a Llefelys of the Mabinogion,
in order to add a fourth sibling Llefelys (i.e. "Louis of France") not mentioned by Geoffrey's HRB.
[According to Rhys/Giles, this interpolation is not found in the Red Book of Hergest version of the
Brut or other examplars of the group of earlier manuscripts they denote as the "A or Vaticinium"
versions. The interpolations are found in either the "B or Llevelys story" group, and "γ or compiled versions",
to the last of which belong the so-called Brut Tysilio. ]
Griscom, Acton, 1891-, (ed. Latin), Jones, Robert Ellis, 1858- , (tr. from Welsh),
The Historia regum Britanniæ of Geoffrey of Monmouth,..
(London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1929.).
Latin from ms. C = Cambridge Univ. ms. 1706 and variants, Welsh from J = Oxford, Jesus College, ms. LXI.
The naming of the three sons of Heli in the Latin version (C, fol. 28r) and the
four sons of Beli in the Welsh version (J fol. 72r) occur in HRB III. xix (Griscom, p.301)
Le Roux de Lincy, Antoine Jean Victor, 1806-1869, ed. Le roman de Brut
Tome 1 Tome 2
Arnold, Ivor Deiniol Osborn, 1895-1952, ed.
Le Roman de Brut de Wace (Paris, Societe des Anciens Textes Francais, 1er vol. 1938, 2e vol. 1940)
Layamon's Brut is found in Brit. Lib. manuscripts
Cotton Otho C.XIII
and Cotton Caligula A.IX
U. Mich Corpus)
Metrical Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, ed. Wright, W.A. (London, 1887.) [Rolls Series]
(Part I |
Part II )
Furnivall, Frederick James, 1825-1910 ed., The Story of England
by Robert Manning of Brunne, A.D. 1338,..
(London, Longman & Co.; [etc.,etc.] 1887.)[Rolls Series]
Nearing, Jr., Homer, "The Legend of Julius Caesar's British Conquest",
PMLA 64, 4 (Sep. 1949) pp.889-929.
Nearing quotes from Gray's Scalacronica (in French, begun 1355) on p.919-920,
apparently having consult the manuscript himself (MS. Corpus Cristi Cambridge No. 133)
and providing his own translation. He says that Cesar's account is lacking in both
Stevenson's edition ([archive])
and Leland's Colectanea
--- Welsh forms ---
Rhys and Evans ed., The Text of the Bruts from the Red book of Hergest (Oxford, 1890) [books.google] vol.2
"Brut Tysilio" and "Brut Gruffudd ab Arthur" (parallel texts one on top of the other) in:
Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales
(3 vol., 1801-03)
- Jones, Owen, 1741-1814, and Iolo Morganwg, 1747-1826. edd.
Roberts, Brnyley F., ed. Brut y Brenhinedd (Llanstephan I Version)
(Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1971)
*4 Myvyr. Arch. II, above.
*5 Jones's translation in Grisolm ed. HRB, op cit.,
Parry, John Jay, ed., tr., Brut y Brenhinedd: Cotton Cleopatra Version (Cambridge, Mass., The Mediaeval Academy of America 1937).
"Arthur A'i Varchogion" in Y Gwyliedydd (sef Cylchgrawn o Wybodaeth Fuddiol, er budd i'r Cymro Uniath)
(= Journal of useful information for the unification(?) of Welshmen),
Llyfr IV, (Oxford: Robert Saunderson 1826), p.84-5
--- e t y m o l o g y ---
Nearing (op. cit.) explains the etymology on p. 901
".. The sword itelf seems to take its name from the dreaded Yellow Plague (Pestis flava), whose former ravages had been indelibly impressed on the memory of the Britons* ".
The first work (De vita sancti Teiliavi) apparently records an outbreak of Pestis flava
and the death of Maelgwn Gwynedd by it (occuring in 547AD according to Annales Cambriae);
(* footnote: Faral (II, 152), who cites the Life of St. Teliavus in the Book of Llandaf (ed. J. Rhys, p.107) and the Annals of Tigernach (A.D. 550).
The Welsh form vad valen (= mad "good" + melyn "yellow";
= L. Bona flava) only comes to us via Iolo (thus a pall of suspicion clouds over it).
The Irish forms are Crom Chonnaill in Tigernach's entry for the year 548AD,
galar buidhe "yellow plague", or buidhe chonnail "yellow sickness"
--- e n t r y ---
Nearing, Jr., Homer, "Caesar's Sword (Faerie Queene II. x. 49; Love's Labour's Lost v.ii.615)",
Modern Language Notes, Vol. 63, No. 6 (Jun., 1948), pp. 403-405 JSTOR
§ Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136)
Geoffrey in Book III-IV
Exequias autem ei facientes posuerunt cum illo
gladium cesaris in sarcofago quem infra clipeum suum
pugnans retinuerat. Erat nomen gldii crocea mors quia
nullus euadebat uiuus qui cum illo uulnerabatur.
— Geoffrey of Monmouth,
Historia Regum Britanniae, §IV.4.
in Griscom's edition, Ms. Cambridge No. 1796, fol. 32r
..and they set by [Nennius's] side, in his coffin, the sword of Cæsar that had stuck in his shield in the
fight. And the name of that sword was Saffron Death
that no man smitten thereby might escape on live.
— tr. Evans*1Ev
At his funeral they placed beside him in his coffin the sword of Caesar,
which he had carried off in his shield during the fight. The sword was called
, for no man who was struck by it escaped alive.
— tr. Thorpe*1Thorpe
.. and Cæsar's sword put into the tomb with him [Nennius],
which he had kept possession of, when struck into his shield in combat.
The name of the sword was Crocea Mors
as being mortal to every body that was wounded with it.
tr. Thompson (rev. Giles)
Hist. Kings of Brit.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae.
Griscom, Acton, 1891-, ed. Latin and commentary, Jones, Robert Ellis, 1858- , tr. from Welsh, The Historia regum Britanniæ of Geoffrey of Monmouth,
with contributions to the study of its place in early British history..together with a literal translation of the Welsh manuscript no. LXI of Jesus College, Oxford,
(London, New York [etc.] Longmans, Green and Co., 1929.)
Evans, Sebastian, 1830-1909. tr., (E. P. Dutton & co, 1920)
Printed under the Everyman's Library series.
Thompson, Aaron, b. 1682? , revisions by Giles, J. A. (John Allen), 1808 -1884, rev. History of the Kings of Britain Book9(wikisource), IX.4 (Celtic Twilight) or (PDF)
The History of the Kings of Britain,
tr. Thorpe, Lewis G. M., 1913- ,
(Baltimore; Penguin Books 1966)
[also excerpted in White's King Arthur in Legend and History]