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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Family of Vortigern > Pascent

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The Family of Vortigern
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Pascent, son of Vortigern
Robert Vermaat

Pascent was the third son of Vortigern by Sevira, and the only one to survive him. He has been the son most written about, albeit legendary mostly.


The forms of his name include Pasgen, Pascentius, Paschent, Ffasgen, Phasken. The meaning of the name is not clear, but it seems to have been a Latin name. There was even a contemporary one - a bishop Pascentius, whose successor attended the synod of Orange in AD 441. Pascent's brothers Vortimer and Catigern die on the battlefield (though Vortimer is later claimed to have been poisoned). Pascent’s son Riocatus is possibly encountered in connection with Faustus of Riez, who could have been the Faustus, son of Vortigern.


The Historia Brittonum says of Pascent:

Historia Brittonum, chapter 48

...the third was Pascent, who reigned in the two provinces Builth and Guorthegirnaim[67], after the death of his father. These were granted him by Ambrosius, who was the great king among the kings of Britain.


...tertius pascent, qui regnauit in duabus regionibus buelt et guorthegirniaun post mortem patris sui largiente ambrosio illi, qui fuit rex inter omnes reges brittannicae gentis.

Historia Brittonum, chapter 49

49. This is the genealogy of Vortigern, which goes back to Fernvail, who reigned in the kingdom of Guorthegirnaim, and was the son of Teudor; Teudor was the son of Pascent; Pascent of Guoidcant; Guoidcant of Moriud; Moriud of Eltat; Eltat of Eldoc; Eldoc of Paul; Paul of Meuprit; Meuprit of Braciat; Braciat of Pascent; Pascent of Guorthegirn (Vortigern); Guorthegirn of Guortheneu; Guortheneu of Guitaul; Guitaul of Guitolion; Guitolion of Gloui. Bonus, Paul, Mauron, Guotelin, were four brothers, who built Gloiuda, a great city upon the banks of the river Severn, and in British is called Cair Gloui, in Saxon, Gloucester.


haec est genealogia illius, quae ad initium retro recurrit. fernmail ipse est, qui regit modo in regionibus duabus buelt et guorthigirniaun, filius teudubir. teudubir ipse est rex bueltiae regionis, filius pascent, filii guoidcant, filii moriud, filii eldat, filii eldoc, filii paul, filii mepurit, filii briacat, filii pascent, filii guorthigirn guortheneu, filii guitaul, filii guitolin, filii gloui. bonus, paul, mauron tres fratres fuerunt filii gloui, qui aedificauit urbem magnam super ripam fluminis sabrinae, quae uocatur brittannico sermone cair gloiu, saxonice autem gloecester.

He is also mentioned on the Pillar of Elise, which is contemporary to the Historia Brittonum:

Pillar of Elise

Maximus of Britain [Conce]nn, Pascen[t], Mau[n], An[n]an [+] Britu, moreover, (was) the son of Guorthi(girn), whom Germanus blessed and whom Severa bore to him, the daughter of Maximus the king, who slew the king of the Romans +



The earliest source to mention him is ‘Nennius’ (above), who has not much to say about him. The sentence that he received his lands from Ambrosius (largiente Ambrosio) is enigmatic. The Historia Brittonum does not elaborate, but since Pascent is also mentioned as the ancestor of the dynasty of Buillt and Gwrtheyrnion, we might conclude that this sentence was to confirm his legitimacy. This action of Ambrosius would confirm the rights op Pascent to later readers. We may conclude that this part is almost certainly an interpolation, inserted by later genealogists for just that reason. This view may be strengthened by the strong possibility that the genealogic parts of ‘Nennius’ came from Gwrtheyrnion, whose dynasty would thus have had a good reason to add this little sentence.

Pascent and Powys

Pascent is mixed up in a genealogical brawl which flared up in the 9th century around the dynasties that claimed the legitimacy of the throne of Powys. These were the dynasties of Cadell (promoted by the Historia Brittonum) and of Catigern (confirmed by the Pillar of Elise), which claimed descent from Vortigern. Harleian 3859, no. 17 for one makes Pascent a son of Catigern and a grandson of Cadell Dyrnllwc. Another is Jesus College 20, no.18, which has Pascent as a son of Cadell and a grandson of Catigern. The Pillar of Elise mentions Pascent as a son of Britu and a grandson of Catigern. Jesus College 20, no. 14 again makes Pascent a clear son of Vortigern. Confusion all around.

This confusion may reflect the attempts of genealogists to unravel the mixup resulting from both dynastic claims. Though it is possible that sons with these strikingly similar names did exist in the family of Cadell, it is not plausible. We may conclude that Pascent, Catigern and Britu were of the same generation as Cadell, but that they were sons of Vortigern, as is confirmed by every other source after that. Like Catigern, Pascent is clearly mentioned by ‘Nennius’ (who is promoting Cadell’s case most strongly) as a son of Vortigern. Unfortunately, Pascent is never mentioned outside genealogical tracts, as shown in this simplyfied version of the pedigrees:

HB § 49

(c. 825)

Pillar of Eliseg

(c. 850)

Harleian 3859.22, 23 & 27

(c. 1100)

Bonedd y Saint.62

(c. 1140)

Jesus College MS 20.14, 15, 16 & 18

(c. 1375)

ABT 6k, 9b, 20

(c. 1500)

Hen Lwythau
(Llwyth aelan)
Guorthigirn Guarthi(girn)   Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheyrn Gortheyrn Gortheyrn g.
  Britu Catel Eurdeyrn Cedehern Kyndeyrn Kyndern
  Annan Cattegirn Ruduedel Kadell d. Rhuddfedel Rhuddfedel v.
  Mau(n?)   Brutus Bredoe Brydw Brydw
Pascent Pascent Pascent   Pascen Pasgen Pasken

While the pedigree for Built/Gwrtheyrnion is never in doubt about Pascent as the heir of Vortigern, we have seen the confusion about Powys above, as is reflected in the assembled material here. All pedigrees accepted Vortigern as the founder, while most accepted at least that Catigern is next in line. But Catigern died at the battle of Ritergabail, which in all likelyhood accounts for a 'son' by that name in the later sources (see 'Rhuddfael'). What this material does make clear is that (some) Britu succeeded Catigern or maybe Vortigern directly as heir to Powys, followed by (some) Pascent. There is remote possibility that Pascent, having a Latin name, was also the the same as Britu, a 'political' Celtic name. If he adhered to this family tradition, it would greatly simplify the pedigrees of Powys, since all occurrances of Pascent and Britu were then to be treated as duplications. I am not much in favour of that solution, however.

Then, who was this Pascent that is mentioned in almost all version of the Powys pedigrees? Was he the son of Britu, maybe the grandson or son of Catigern? Or was he Pascent, son of Vortigern? If we align the pedigrees, we see that it is very much possible, as most pedigrees have seven to ten generations, to deduce a succession here. And if we deduct Catigern and Britu from most pedigress, they are mostly equal in number. I agree with Bartrum, who believed that Pascent took over Powys from his brother(s), maybe after the troubles that surrounded the death of Vortigern. His line was only challenged by Cadell (as attested by the Harleian genealogy), which might indicate this clan aquired some power in Powys during that time. Maybe Pascent's descendants conquered Powys at a later date, but early enough to be in a secure position when the genealogy became more or less fixed during the 7th century, to be challenged during the 9th century. Unfortunately, nothing of Pascent's rule is described in the early sources.

Geoffrey of Monmouth

The first to elaborate on Pascent is Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th century, when he wrote his Historia Regum Britanniae. He took the simple sentence from the Historia Brittonum and created a tale of Pascent's rebellion and ultimate defeat. Pascent's taking refuge in Ireland with king Gillomanius has been compared to several historical examples of medieval English and Welsh princes who fled to Ireland to raise forces for a revenge. Pascent does so as well, landing at Menavia, where he is eventually killed by Uther Pendragon.

Historia Regum Britanniae, Book VI, chapter 12.
Vortigern marries Rowen, the daughter of Hengist....The king the same night married the pagan lady, and became extremely delighted with her; by which he quickly brought upon himself the hatred of the nobility, and of his own sons. For he had already three sons, whose names were Vortimer, Catigern, and Pascentius.

Historia Regum Britanniae, Book VIII, chapter 13.
At the same time Pascentius, the son of Vortigern, who had fled over into Germany, was levying all the forces of the kingdom against Aurelius Ambrosius, with a design to revenge his father's death; and promised his men an immense treasure of gold and silver, if with their assistance he could succeed in reducing Britain under his power. When he had at last corrupted all the youth of the country with his large promises, he prepared a vast fleet, and arrived in the northern parts of the island, upon which he began to make great devastations. The king, on the other hand, hearing this news, assembled his army, and marching against them challenged the enraged enemy to a battle; the challenge was accepted, and by the blessing of God the enemy was defeated and put to flight.

Historia Regum Britanniae, Book VIII, chapter 14.
Pascentius, after this flight, durst not return to Germany, but shifting his sails, went over to Gillomanius, in Ireland, by whom he was well received. And when he had given him an account of his misfortune, Gillomanius, in pity to him, promised him his assistance, and at the same time vented his complaint of the injuries done him by Uther, the brother of Aurelius, when he came for the Giant's Dance. At last, entering into confederacy together, they made ready their fleet, in which they embarked, and arrived at the city of Menevia. This news caused Uther Pendragon to levy his forces, and march into Cambria to fight them. For his brother Aurelius then lay sick at Winchester, and was not able to go himself. When Pascentius, Gillomanius, and the Saxons heard of it, they highly rejoiced, flattering themselves, that his sickness would facilitate to them the conquest of Britain. While this occurrence was the subject of the people's discourse, one of the Saxons, named Eopa, came to Pascentius, and said, "What reward will you give the man that shall kill Aurelius Ambrosius for you?" To whom Pascentius answered, "O that I could find a man of such resolution! I would give him a thousand pounds of silver, and my friendship for life; and if by good fortune I can but gain the crown, I promise upon oath to make him a centurion." ... Upon this offer, Pascentius entered into covenant with him, and confirmed what he had promised with an oath. ...(Eopa the Ambron then poisones Ambrosius and kills him).

Historia Regum Britanniae, Book VIII, chapter 16.
Uther, though he doubted of the truth of what Merlin had declared, pursued his march against the enemy, for he was now come within half a day's march of Menevia. When Gillomanius, Pascentius, and the Saxons were informed of his approach, they went out to give him battle. As soon as they were come within sight of each other, both armies began to form themselves into several bodies, and then advanced to a close attack, in which both sides suffered a loss of men, as usually happens in such engagements. At last, towards the close of the day, the advantage was on Uther's side, and the death of Gillomanius and Pascentius made a way for complete victory.

Does this tradition reflect a possible historic background? Sadly, no. Examples of this were frequent in Geoffrey's day, who used these to beef up his own scarce sources. The sons of Earl Godwin went to Ireland (1051-2), the sons of Harold returned (1068) with Irish aid to ravage the country. The Welsh did likewise; Cynan ap Iago fled to the Dublin Danes, his son Gruffydd ap Cynan landed in Wales (1081) with Irish and Norse forces. They defeated other Welsh princes together with Rhys ap Tewdwr, who in turn had to flee in 1087, before returning and overcoming his rivals. His son Gruffyd ap Rhys did the same, and the list is much longer. Various points here suggest Pascent's campaign against Aurelius Ambrosius was made up along those lines. Geoffrey apparently did not want to compare Pascent with any real persons, but he referred to these events as events very well-known to his audience, who were familiar with those tactics. We should therefore not look for any real history concerning Pascent in the Historia Regum Britanniae.


  • Bartrum, P.C.: Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, (Cardiff 1966).*
  • Chadwick, Henry Munro: The End of Roman Britain, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 9-20.*
  • Chadwick, Henry Munro: Vortigern, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 21-33.*
  • Chadwick, Nora K. (et al): Studies in Early British History, (Cambridge 1959).
  • Chadwick, Nora K.: A Note on Faustus and Riocatus, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 254-263.
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth: Gottfried's von Monmouth Historia Regum Britanniae, mit literar-historischer Einleitung und ausführlichen Anmerkungen, und Brut Tysylio, altwälsche Chronik in deutscher Uebersetzung, A.S. San Marte, (Halle 1854).*
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth: The Historia Regum Britanniae, trans. John Allan Giles, in: Six Old English Chronicles, of which two are now first translated from the monkish Latin originals (London, George Bell and Sons, 1891), full text (English) at http://www.gorddcymru.com/hrb/index.htm
  • Nash-Williams, V.E.: Early Christian Monuments of Wales, (Cardiff, 1950).*
  • Nennius: British History and the Welsh Annals, Latin and trans. John Morris, History from the Sources VIII, (Chichester 1980).*
  • Ralegh Radford, C.A.: Vortigern, in: Antiquity XXXII, 1958, pp. 19-24.*
  • Tatlock, John S.P.: The Legendary History of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and its early Vernacular versions, (Berkeley 1950).

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