Aneirin

Photograph of a battlefield, with soldiers fighting on horseback

Last updated: 20 October 2009

Aneirin is regarded as one of the early Welsh poets, one of Y Cynfeirdd, dating from the sixth century, and is credited as the author of the famous Welsh poem Y Gododdin.

Aneirin, along with Taliesin, is mentioned in the Historia Brittonum as one of a number of early poets who flourished in the late sixth century, though he failed to take on as legendary a status as Taliesin.

Dating from the 13th century, the Book of Aneirin is attributed to the poet, with the most well-known poem in it being Y Gododdin. The poem is an elegy - or rather series of elegies - to the band of 300 soldiers of the Gododdin tribe who fought against the Anglo-Saxons at the battle of Catraeth. (Catraeth exists today as the modern Catterick in Yorkshire.)

The poem tells of the ill-fated soldiers who were selected by the ruler of the Gododdin for the battle, Mynyddog Mwynfawr. For the year preceding the event Mynyddog housed and feasted the men with food and mead. Many references were made in early historic poetry to 'talu medd' - payment of mead, in which soldiers became obliged to fight for the leader of the battle in order to repay his hospitality.

Aneirin's poem details the battle and laments the loss of almost all of the warriors, while praising their valour and honouring their bravery in battle. Y Gododdin also makes what is believed to be the earliest reference to Arthur in Welsh literature.

The Gododdin exists as two texts, A and B, with the latter believed to have been written down in about the 10th century.


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