14 - THE HERULI
So far in our Quest for the Holy Grail, i have managed to show some of the long-forgotten genealogy of King Arthur. I would now like to compile a generational sequence of kings from several of the lineages, as in;
Galan ErilicKing ArthurEleutherPeredurGalan Erilic appears in the Pictish King list, in which he is followed by Garthnach. This man is evidently King Arthur, who appears in the Men of the North genealogy as Arthwys, where he is followed by Eliffer (i.e. Eleuther), who is followed in the same lineage by Peredur.
I would like to show how each of these four men are connected, in differing degrees, to a semi-mysterious barbarian tribe known as the Heruli. In the latter centuries of the Roman empire they fought alongside the legions as 'foedorati,' & were rewarded lands along the Danube in gratitude. Marcellinus Comes records that in 512 Emperor Anastasius allowed some of the Heruli to resettle depopulated 'lands and cities' in Moravia, near the fortress of Singidunum (Belgrade). About the same time, some Herulian elements were also 'heading home' to Scandinavia. According to Jordanes (quoting Ablabius) their homelands were the Maeotian marshes at the confluence of the River Don and the ‘Maeotian Lake,’ (i.e. the Sea of Azov), in the ancient region of Scythia.
Before they settled in that area, however, Jordanes tells us they were driven out of their original homelands by the Dani, giving them a Scandinavian heritage. Procopius supports this by stating how the Herulians maintained close ties with their kinsmen in Thule, the name given in antiquity to the Scandinavian land mass. He writes; After these they passed by the nations of the Dani, without sufferingviolence at the hands of the barbarians there. Coming thence to the ocean, they took to the sea, and putting in at Thule, remained there on the island.'
Such a move is supported through archeology, such as the hordes of late Roman coins discovered on the islands of Gotland, Osland & Bornholm, possibly the wages for the 'youth of all the islands he had conquered,' which Big Geoff attributes to Arthur. The modern scholar, Birgit Arrhenius, also notices the many, connections between Scandinavia & the east roman empire in the migration period, stating; 'Precious & prestige items undoubtedly of Byzantine origin found in Scandinavia also seem to be an indication that there were direct contacts with the empire.... it is remarkable that Byzantine finds in Scandinavia have all been part of hoards.' It seems evident that the Byzantine Empire was paying large sums to Scandinavian warlords. Andersson (intellektuell import eller romersk (i)dona. Tor 20) describes rings of gold gemstones found in elite-status graves & declares them to be 'dona miltaria' given by the emperor himself.
Not long after the Heruli return to Scandinavia, they disappear from history roundabout the mid 6th century. Their impact on society, however, was massive, a nigh invisible historical strata whose topsoil I would like to begin scraping off. Beginning with Galan Erilc, the King of the Picts 502-517, his epithet is a perfect match for the Nordic word for the Heruli, ‘Erilaz,’ as found on runestones across Scandinavia. Further evidence for Herulian kingship among the Picts comes with the shield-painting of the Herules Seniores found in a medieval copy of Notitia Dignitatum from the beginning of the 5th century AD.
It is a perfect match for a symbol found on a number of Pictish stones, such as that on stone 7 at Meigle. In many places two of these symbols appear together, & I believe this may be reconciled with the origin stories of the Picts & Herulians, both of whom were said to have come from Scythia;
The nation of the Picts, putting to sea from Scythia, as is reported, in a few ships of war, and being driven by the winds beyond the bounds of Britain, came to Ireland and landed on its northern shores. There, finding the nation of the Scots, they begged to be allowed to settle among them … The Scots answered that the island could not contain them both; but “We can give you good counsel,” said they, “whereby you may know what to do; we know there is another island, not far from ours, to the eastward, which we often see at a distance, when the days are clear. If you will go thither, you can obtain settlements; or, if any should oppose you, we will help you.BEDENow the aforesaid race, as the historian Ablabius tells us, dwelt near Lake Maeotis in swampy places which the Greeks call hele; hence they were named Heluri. They were a people swift of foot, and on that account were the more swollen with pride, for there was at that time no race that did not choose from them its light-armed troops for battle… But after a short space of time, as Orosius relates, the race of the Huns, fiercer than ferocity itself, flamed forth against the Goths. We learn from old traditions that their origin was as follows: Filimer, king of the Goths, son of Gadaric the Great, who was the fifth in succession to hold the rule of the Getae after their departure from the island of Scandza,–and who, as we have said, entered the land of Scythia with his tribeJORDANES
Another connection between the Picts & the Heruli comes with both people’s proliferation for nudity & dying their skin. Of the Heruli, Tacitus writes, 'not only are they superior in strength to the other peoples I have just mentioned, but they minister to their savage instincts by trickery and clever timing. They black their shields and dye their bodies, and choose pitch dark nights for their battles. The shadowy, awe-inspiring appearance of such a goulish army inspires mortal panic; for no enemy can endure a sight so strange and hellish.' As for the Pictish prediliction for nudity & tatooes, Herodian tells us, 'Strangers to clothing, they wear ornaments of iron at their waists and throats; considering iron a symbol of wealth, they value this metal as other barbarians value gold. They tattoo their bodies with coloured designs and drawings of all kinds of animals; for this reason they do not wear clothes, which would conceal the decorations on their bodies. Extremely savage and warlike, they are armed only with a spear and a narrow shield, plus a sword that hangs suspended by a belt from their otherwise naked bodies.'
That Arthur fought in the Byzantine forces is possibly corroborated by the Byzantium-originated Tintagelware, & this wonderful passage from Culhwch & Olwen, the oldest Arthurian tale, which shows how Arthur fought military campaigns far from the shores of Britain;
Then Glewlwyd went into the Hall. And Arthur said to him, "Hast thou news from the gate?"“Half of my life is past, and half of thine. I was heretofore in Kaer Se and Asse, in Sach and Salach, in Lotor and Fotor; and I have been heretofore in India the Great and India the Lesser; and I was in the battle of Dau Ynyr, when the twelve hostages were brought from Llychlyn. And I have also been in Europe, and in Africa, and in the islands of Corsica, and in Caer Brythwch, and Brythach, and Verthach; and I was present when formerly thou didst slay the family of Clis the son of Merin, and when thou didst slay Mil Du the son of Ducum, and when thou didst conquer Greece in the East.” I have been in Caer Oeth and Annoeth, and in Caer Nevenhyr
The sites of many of these places have been lost to modernity, but there is enough to show that Arthur was campaigning in Byzantium & beyond. India the Great is India itself, while India the Lesser was Ethiopia. there are also mentions of Africa, Greece & the islands of Corsica. All these places were theaters of action for the Byzantines, especially during Justinian's Reqonquista in the 520s & 530s. Mil Du the son of Ducum, was Dhu Nawas, a Jewish warlord who was defeated in the Yemen in 527, while the Byzantine's drove Godas out of Sardini & fought the Hymarites in Arabia (Lesser India) in 530. Arthur's presence in Sicily (Salach) is also remembered in a tale known as Floriant et Florete, whose battles at Palermo are an exact match for those undertaken by Belisarius in 536.
The name of Eleuther, & a variant spelling, appears in the Byzantine World attached to a war-leader of the Roman province of Thrace, in which the Herulians had settled.
Alathar (John of Antioch) = Eleuther (Harleian)
Alathort (Jordanes) = Elifert (Annales Cambrae)
Alathar was given the title Magister Utriusquae Militum for Thrace, meaning ‘master of foot & horse,’amounting to something like the Field-Marshal of the British Army. These combined forces could well have been perceived as ELIFFER’s ‘Great Warband’ by Brythonic historians. Jordanes also describes Alathar as a scythian, which supports his Herulian heritage.
In an earlier post I showed how Eleutherius was the Greek version of the Latin Liberalis. Now, I dont think its a coincidence that an MVM for Thrace called Liberarius appears as ruling the Syrian city of Edessa for the Byzantines in 525. The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rheto describes him as; 'Liberarius the Goth, a harsh governor, who was nicknamed 'The Bull-Eater.' The nick-name, I believe, comes from Liberalis once possessing the wonderful dining-set that was dug out of the earth in today's Western Romania, near Nagyszentmiklós, in 1799, in the same regions that Justinian had settled 4,500 Heruli.
The hoard consists 23 pieces of golden plates, cups & bowls amounting to about ten kilos of pure gold, with some of the plates baring images of bull. One plate has a peculiar inscription which also mentions bulls. The inscription's language is unknown, but a orthographical date can be ascertained through the shape of the omega - whose middle vertical line appears higher than its round sides, a typical feature of 6th century Greek inscriptions. A transliteration of the inscription reads;
Boila zoapan finished this bowl, which Boutaoul zoapan made suitable for hanging up
I believe that Boutaoul is actually Sir Bedivere, one of Arthur's oldest knights, for his name derives from Beado-Wulf, which seems to appear on teh dining-ware as Boutaoul. We also have in support this lovely & obscure corner of Arthuriana given by Big Geoff,
When he had seated all according to rank, Kai arose, with a thousand men to serve from the kitchen, with a robe of yellow ermine about him, — and such wore each one of them; and then arose Bedwyr, Arthyr’s chief butler, with a thousand men adorned with the like garments, to pass the yellow mead in innumerable gold and silver cups.
A few miles from where the dinner-service was discovered, in the small Vojvodina village of Berkasovo, several 6th century, highly ornate helmets were excavated from the soil. These are highly similar to the 'Vendel' ere helmets, discovered in Sweden at the same area & timescale of the incoming Heruls.
Peredur is given a couple of variant names - Pheredur & Parzival - whose phonetics are contained in the name of a Herulian warrior called by Procopius, Pharas Eril.
PH –The ‘ph’ of Pheredur, the archaic spelling of Peredur
AROS– The ‘arz’ of Parzival
ER –The ‘ur’ of Pheredur
IL –The ‘al’ of Parcival
History supports the connection, for Peredur’s 14 year sojurn in Constantinople finds a tally in the Byzantine Pharas. What is interesting is that he appears fighting alongside another foedorati leader called Bouzes, whose name is rather reminiscent of a certain Sir Bors...& According to Grail literature, Sir Peredur & Sir Bors were the two knights who found the Holy Grail!