Picture of Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book 1, Ch. 7: Origin of the names Cambria and Wales

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Origin of the names Cambria and Wales

Cambria was so called from Camber, son of Brutus, for Brutus, descending from the Trojans, by his grandfather, Ascanius, and father, Silvius, led the remnant of the Trojans, who had long been detained in Greece, into this western isle; and having reigned many years, and given his name to the country and people, at his death divided the kingdom of Wales between his three sons. To his eldest son, Locrinus, he gave that part of the island which lies between the rivers Humber and Severn, and which from him was called Loegria. To his second son, Albanactus, he gave the lands beyond the Humber, which took from him the name of Albania. But to his youngest son, Camber, he bequeathed all that region which lies beyond the Severn, and is called after him Cambria; hence the country is properly and truly called Cambria, and its inhabitants Cambrians, or Cambrenses. Some assert that their name was derived from CAM and GRAECO, that is, distorted Greek, on account of the affinity of their languages, contracted by their long residence in Greece; but this conjecture, though plausible, is not well founded on truth.

The name of Wales was not derived from Wallo, a general, or Wandolena, the queen, as the fabulous history of Geoffrey Arthurius (15) falsely maintains, because neither of these personages are to be found amongst the Welsh; but it arose from a barbarian appellation. The Saxons, when they seized upon Britain, called this nation, as they did all foreigners, Wallenses; and thus the barbarous name remains to the people and their country. (16)

Having discoursed upon the quality and quantity of the land, the genealogies of the princes, the sources of the rivers, and the derivation of the names of this country, we shall now consider the nature and character of the nation.

Gerald of Wales, The Description of Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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