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  1000 BC
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  784-1129
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784-1129 AD

784: THE KING OF MERCIA BUILDS OFFA'S DYKE
This may have been the single most important event in the survival of the Welsh nation. Whatever its initial intention, the dyke became a permanent boundary between the Welsh and the English people. Thus the notion of Wales as a separate geographical area from the rest of Britain came to be established, though many Welsh people continued to reside east of the 240 kilometer-long bank and ditch. Even today, at towns such as Owestry, there is a large Welsh presence on the "English" side of the Dyke. English settlements have taken place on the western side since the castle-building programs of Edward I, beginning with Flint in 1284.



800: NENNIUS AND THE "HISTORIA BRITTONUM"
Born around 800, Nennius was responsible for the work "Historia Brittonum," which purports to give the history of Britain from the time of Julius Caesar to the end of the seventh century. Nennius is important for the study of early Arthurian materials; he describes Arthur as a "leader of battles, who defeated the Saxons twelve times, the final battle being Mount Badon."



844-877: THE REIGN OF RHODRI MAWR (RHODRI THE GREAT)
In 844 Rhodri ap Merfyn became king only of Gwynedd, but by the time of his death in 877, he had united all of Wales under his rule. His reign certainly did much to heighten the Welsh consciousness of being one people. In 856, Rhodri killed the Viking leader the "black pagan" Horme, restricting Danish occupation of Wales to a few scattered ports and trading posts (Norse names survive at Llandudno (the Great Orme), Swansea (Sweyn's Ey) and some small islands in the Bristol Channel.



c. 890: WELSH RULERS ACKNOWLEDGE THE OVERLORDSHIP OF ALFRED OF WESSEX
After Alfred's successes against the Danes, the Welsh kings asked him for his patronage, and their recognition that the king of England had claims upon them became "a central fact in the subsequent political history of Wales" (Davies, p. 85). As Alfred's court became a center of learning, his patronage could only have been beneficial to the people of Wales, though a sense of subservience to the English Crown was established.

The "Cyfraith Hywe" (Law of Hywell) was written, not in Latin, but in Welsh. It excelled in granting a high status to women, curtailing death by execution, abolishing the primitive English practices of proving guilt, pardoning theft if the sole intention was to stay alive; and safeguarding the rights of illegitimate children. The far-reaching, far-sighted laws were drawn up in Whitland, in Dyfed. It was Welsh law (and literature) that a French scholar called the product of "the most civilized and intellectual people of the age."



937: THE BATTLE OF BRUNANBURGH
Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great of England, called "ruler of the whole orb of Britain," imposed heavy taxes upon the Celtic peoples of Britain. A rebellion against his rule was led by the Scots and the Northmen that culminated in their heavy defeat at Brunanburgh. The Welsh did not take part, even though the poem "Armes Prydein", written a few years before the momentous battle, had predicted their victory over the English King. Had the battle gone the other way, the people of Wales would have surely regained their independence.



960: THE "ANNALES OF CAMBRIAE"
Around 960 a collection of documents, pedigrees and annals that deal with the early history of the Welsh kingdoms over the past 500 years was drawn up. Other stories bound up with these "chronicles" and which include mention of Vortigern and Arthur, were later called "Historia Brittonum" and ascribed to Nennius.



1039-1063: THE REIGN OF GRUFFUDD AP LLEWELYN
Gruffudd ap Llywelyn deserves praise as the only Welsh ruler to unite the ancient kingdoms of the whole of Wales under his authority. He started off a brilliant reign by utterly defeating an army of Mercians to secure the borders of his nation, recovering many areas in present-day Flintshire and Maelor that would remain part of Wales. His alliances with English rulers brought peace to Wales for a quarter of a century.

According to Gwynfor Evans, that Wales did not suffer the fate of Strathclyde, where the Welsh language disappeared under the weight of the Anglo-Saxons incursions, was entirely due to the inspiration that Gruffudd ap Llywelyn brought to the people of Wales, inspiring them with his vigor and vision. Finding his country weak and divided, he left it strong and united.



1066-77: THE NORMANS COME TO WALES
Following the defeat of the English King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, it wasn't too long before the victorious William of Normandy set about establishing the Marcher Lordships on the borders of Wales, a country with which he did not seem particularly anxious to get involved. He had enough on his plate without getting involved west of Offa's Dyke; in any case it was in Norman interests to develop close ties with the Welsh rulers in order to secure their own frontiers.

The semi-independent Marcher Lords were responsible for many of the magnificent castles that today dominate the Welsh landscape. Beginning with Chepstow, erected by the Earl of Hereford, the castles commanded territories that became known as "Englishries." In them, English settlers practiced a way of life and law totally unknown to the inhabitants of the "Welshries" the less fertile, upland and mountain areas. The divisions are apparent even today, as one travels from Clwyd to Gwynedd, or from Glamorgan into Carmarthen, or better yet, from southern Pembroke into Northern Pembroke across the linguistic dividing line known as "landsker." The results of the 1997 Referendum also show the results of the original Norman divisions.

On the positive side, it is to the Norman-Welsh writers, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth and Gerald of Wales that the glories of Welsh literature became known to the world.



1090: "THE LIFE OF ST. DAVID"
"The Life of St David" is the first of the lives of the Welsh saints. It was written by Rhygyfarch of Llanbadarn (near Aberystwyth) around 1190.



1120-1129: "HISTORIA REGUM BRITANNIAE"
Geoffrey of Monmouth's major work became the basis for a whole new and impressive European literature of Arthurian romance. Giving his source for his history as Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, Geoffrey gives us the tradition of Arthur as a wise, noble and benevolent king presiding over a chivalric court in a kind of Golden Age of the British Isles, the tradition that is still one of the dominant themes of world literature today. It was Geoffrey's writings that provided the people of Wales with a claim to the sovereignty of the whole island of Britain, a claim of which the Tudors were later anxious to take advantage. To Geoffrey also we owe the story of "The Dream of Macsen Wledig", interpreted today by such visionaries as folk singer and nationalist Dafydd Iwan.

  

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