Discussion of the Sub-Roman
Character of Ambrosius, Part 4
by Michael Veprauskas
of Aurelius Ambrosius Aurelianus
A very curious feature
of Nennius' History Brittonum, and of all prior
and subsequent British and Welsh historical records,
is what they all lack - a detailed genealogy of the
Ambrosii. Vortigern's descent is traced some 12
or more generations by Nennius.22
The kingdoms established by his various son's are
recorded for many more. Nennius records many
genealogies of the neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms,
and an appendix to the most well preserved manuscript
of the Historia Brittonum, the Harleian
#3859, contains many more British and Welsh
genealogies. Should not Ambrosius, a man who
received both a benevolent nod from Gildas and the
praise of Nennius have been awarded this basic
recognition? Why is there no genealogy of the
individual who was instrumental in salvaging the
British Celtic nation; one who was both a Christian
and a defender of the faith? One possibility
previously mentioned is that he was an import from the
patrician class of the Roman Empire. He had no
British ancestral roots for the genealogists to draw
upon. Another is that his subsequent generations
apparently failed to thrive.
In Gildas' eyes,
Ambrosius' descendants were somewhat degenerate.
It appears that neither his sons or grandsons achieved
any form of High-Kingship in Britain. At the
time of Gildas' writing, Maeglwn of Gwynedd was
paramount among the British Kings, and probably
acquired this title at the time of his ascent
c.520. The era between Ambrosius Aurelianus and
Maeglwn saw the flowering of a certain "tyrannus".
In all likelihood, Ambrosius' heirs merely maintained
small kingdoms in the southern and midland parts
of Britain. Several of
these may have been centred around surviving Roman
Civitates such as Silchester, Old Sarum, and St.
Albans (See Map).
These kingdoms continued beyond the time of Gildas' De
Excidio Brittaniae, some well into the second half
of the sixth century. They have left no
written record of their achievements, reigns of
their princes and kings; nor was the bardic tradition
active here to preserve deeds for later posterity.
Had their names and exploits been of sufficient
magnitude, they most likely would had been
recorded/preserved in the Welsh heroic
Special note of thanks
to David Nash Ford of the "Early British
Kingdoms" web site, for his patience,
support and helpful suggestions. His knowledge
of obscure references was especially valuable in
completing this work.
of Ambrosius Appendix
- Nennius, Historia
Brittonum, section #49.