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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Family of Vortigern > Theodosius

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Theodosius, the real name of Vortimer?
Robert Vermaat

This article is an interesting (although rather speculative) note about Vortimer's possible real birthname. It is based on a story in later Welsh sources which in turn is connected with the possible duplications between Vortigern and Vortimer that I discussed elsewhere.

There is a later medieval story which relates about a certain Teithfallt, or Theodosius, who lived as a monk in Brittany at the time of the 'Massacre at Stonehenge' (in which the lords of Britain were slain at the orders of Hengist) and returns to take revenge on the Saxons and to succeed to the kingdom of Gwent. The question is: could this Theodosius have been the alter ego of Vortimer?

To be honest, I first got this idea when reading that very strange book by Gilbert, Wilson & Blackett. Unfortunately, the information on which these authors have based their theories is not very sound. Apart from numerous mistakes, their 'source' is not based on contemporary sources, not even on the twelfth-century Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (though they indeed claim so: HK, 59), but only on the nineteenth-century forgeries by the infamous forger Iolo Morgannwg. In their book, they describe the discovery of the memorial stone of Teithfallt in Wales. This Teithfallt is supposedly the son of two fathers, namely both Nyniaw and Teithrin (HK, 59-60). Teithfallt's son would be Tewdrig of Gwent, grandfather to their 'Arthur', king Athrwys of Gwent. In fact, they ended up confusing several people. Their Teithfallt was to be identified with the fifth-century Ambrosius Aurelianus (in later Welsh sources known as Emrys Wledig). This character was then then split up into two people; Ambrosius 'Teithfallt' and Aurelius 'Gwrgan Mawr', grandfather of Caradoc Vreichvras. Reasearching this very complicated reasoning goes way beyond the subject of this article. It suffices to say that the only Tewdrig who has a Nyniaw for a grandfather that I know of is a Tewdrig from the seventh century, but his father is called Llywarch, not Teithfallt! In fact, the Teithfallt ab Nyniaw is in fact a mistake for that same Llywarch, made by many of the later medieval genealogists.

If we stick to the story of the prince that takes revenge, we must therefore ask: who was Teithfallt? As his name knows many versions (Teithfall(t), Tuduvalus, Tudwal, Tudwalus, Tydfwlch), it shows there were several of them. In fact, the genealogies show no less than eleven persons named Tudwal alone! For instance; one was the fourth-century Tudwal ap Anwn, king of Garth Madrun. Another was Tudwal ap Gwrfawr, King of Dumnonia, who supposed married a daughter of Magnus Maximus. He was the great-grandson of Conan Meriadoc and the grandfather of Constantine the Blessed. But we also know of a St Tudwal, a sixth-century Welsh monk, remebered both on the Lleyn peninsula and in Brittany. The best candidate for our speculation is Tudwalus or Tuduvallus, king and opponent of St Nynia, living in the fourth decade of the fifth century. Though it should be stressed here that this reasoning is extremely thin.

So, not a son of Nyniaw, but his contemporary opponent. This makes Tudwal too old of course to be Ambrosius Aurelianus, but he would be the contemporary of another person eager to avenge the treachery at Stonehenge, namely Vortimer. If I am correct in supposing a duplication in the stories of Vortigern and Vortimer, and that Vortimer ruled after his father, this succession could only have taken place after the killings at Stonehenge. Teithfallt succeeds to the throne of Gwent, a kingdom that belonged to Vortigern after marriage to Sevira, daughter of Magnus Maximus. In fact, this was also Vortimer's inheritance, which he left to his daughter Modrun. Teithfallt's monastic background sounds very much like the possible ecclesiastical functions of both his father (as possible archbishop Vitalinus and later saint) and his (half-) brother Faustus (later abbot and saint). I have discussed elsewhere that the traditional sequence of events (Vortigern marries Rowena, Vortimer rebels, wins victories and dies, Vortigern returns, is again disgraced and vanishes again) is hardly logical and chronologically difficult to accept. Vortigerns disgrace is unique; Vortimer succeeds him; the rest is legendary confusion and duplication.

We are now left with the very remote possibility that two contemporary characters in several stories concerning victories against the Saxons after their rebellion are one and the same: Vortimer and Tudwal or Theodosius. To this we must add the problem of the Welsh names; Teithfallt is not my first choice as a Welsh form of Theodosius, as it seems a step further from Theodosius than a name like Teudws [*Teudos]. But Teithfallt is closer than Tudwal [*Tutagual], which makes Tuduvallus ever so doubtful.

The conclusion that might be made accordingly is that IF they were one and the same, Theodosius could have been the birthname of Vortimer. If at all so, 'Vortimer' was the name he probably took when he assumed power after the disgrace of his father. The meaning of Vortimerix is 'High-est king', showing his followers that he intended to outdo his father. Vortimer could very well have been named after Theodosius the Great, who was emperor of the East around the time of his birth, just like his son-in-law Ynyr Gwent was named after the emperor Honorius.

But of course, the readers can make their own conclusions.


  • Bartrum, P.C.: Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, (Cardiff 1966).
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth: The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, trans.R. Ellis Jones, ed. A.Griscom, (London 1929, repr. 1977).
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth: Life of Merlin, Vita Merlini, ed. and trans. B. Clarke, (Cardiff 1973).
  • Gilbert, Adrian, A. Wilson & B. Blackett : The Holy Kingdom, (Bantam 1998).
  • Historia Brittonum - Nennius: British History and the Welsh Annals, Latin and trans. John Morris, in: History from the Sources VIII, (Chichester 1980).
  • Nash Ford, David: The Descendants of Anwn Dynod: Kings in Southern Wales: http://freespace.virgin.net/david.ford2/anwnped.html
  • Tatlock, John S.P.: TBritain, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum he Legendary History of Britanniae and its early Vernacular versions, (Berkeley 1950).
  • Thomas, Charles: Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500, (London 1981, repr. 1993).
  • San Marte, A.S. : Gottfried's von Monmouth Historia Regum Britanniae, mit literar-historischer Einleitung und ausführlichen Anmerkungen, und Brut Tysylio, altwälsche Chronik in deutscher Uebersetzung, (Halle 1854).
  • Stevens, Luke: The Line of Cadfan ap Cynan: http://geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/2444/Cadfan.htm

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