Historia Brittonum

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The Historia Brittonum or History of the Britons is an early 9th century collection of historical materials, ascribed in one recension to Nennius, though this claim is now largely discredited. It is the earliest source for some of the best-known Welsh legends.

Translations are from Nennius British History and the Welsh Annals, edited and translated by John Morris (Chichester: Phillimore, 1980).

  • Ego Nennius Sancti Elbodugi discipulus aliquis excerpta scribere curavi, quae hebitudo gentis Britanniae deiecerat, quia nullam peritiam habuerunt neque ullam commemorationem in libris posuerunt doctores illius insulae Britanniae. Ego autem coacervavi omne quod inveni tam de annalibus Romanorum quam de cronicis sanctorum patrum, et de scriptis Scottorum Saxonumque et ex traditione veterum nostrorum.
    • I, Nennius, pupil of the holy Elvodug, have undertaken to write down some extracts that the stupidity of the British cast out; for the scholars of the island of Britain had no skill, and set down no record in books. I have therefore made a heap of all that I have found, both from the Annals of the Romans and from the Chronicles of the Holy Fathers, and from the writings of the Irish and the English, and out of the tradition of our elders.
    • Preface
  • Britannia insula a quodam Bruto, consule Romano, dicta.
    • The island of Britain is so called from one Brutus, a Roman consul.
    • Section 7
  • Regni tui figura tentorium est; duo vermes duo dracones sunt; vermis rufus draco tuus est; et stagnum figura hujus mundi est. At ille albus draco illius gentis, quae occupavit gentes et regiones plurimas in Britannia, et paene a mari usque ad mare tenebunt, et postea gens nostra surget, et gentem Anglorum trans mare viriliter deiciet.
    • The cloth represents your kingdom, and the two worms are two dragons. The red worm is your dragon, and the lake represents the world. But the white one is the dragon of the people who have seized many peoples and countries in Britain, and will reach almost from sea to sea; but later our people will arise, and will valiantly throw the English people across the sea.
    • Section 42
  • Et Hengistus omni familiae suae jussit et unusquisque artavum suum sub pede in medio ficonis sui poneret: "Et quando clamavero ad vos et dixero Eu, nimet saxas!, cultellos vestros ex ficonibus vestris educite, et in illos irruite, et fortiter contra illos resistite…" Et conventum adduxerunt, et in unum convenerunt, et Saxones, amicialiter locuti, in mente interim vulpicino more agebant, et vir juxta virum socialiter sederunt. Hengistus, sicut dixerat, vociferatus est, et omnes seniores trecenti Guorthigirni regis jugulati sunt.
    • But Hengest told all his followers to hide their daggers under their feet in their shoes, saying "When I call out to you and say 'English, draw your knives', take your daggers from your shoes and fall upon them, and stand firm against them…" So the conference assembled, and the English, friendly in their words, but wolfish in heart and deed, sat down, like allies, man beside man. Hengest cried out as he had said, and all the three hundred Seniors of king Vortigern were murdered.
    • Section 46
  • Tunc Arthur pugnabat contra illos in illis diebus cum regibus Brittonum, sed ipse dux erat bellorum.
    • Then Arthur fought against them in those days, together with the kings of the British; but he was their leader in battle.
    • Section 56
  • Duodecimum fuit bellum in monte Badonis, in quo corruerunt in uno die nongenti sexaginta viri de uno impetu Arthur; et nemo prostravit eos nisi ipse solus, et in omnibus bellis victor extitit.
    • The twelfth battle was on Badon Hill and in it nine hundred and sixty men fell in one day, from a single charge of Arthur's, and no one laid them low save he alone; and he was victorious in all his campaigns.
    • Section 56

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