Eudaf Hen, supposed High-King of Britain
(Latin: Octavius; English: Odda)
Eudaf Hen (the Old) first appears in the old Welsh mythological tale, the "Dream of Macsen". The future Roman Emperor, Magnus Maximus, dreamt of Eudaf's beautiful daughter, Elen Lluyddog (of the Host), and sent emissaries across the Empire to find her. She was discovered in her father's palace at Caer-Segeint (Caernarfon) where the old man sat, carving 'gwyddbwyll' pieces (like chess-men). Maximus came to Britain, married the girl and eventually inherited her father's kingdom, much to the disgust of his male heir, Conan Meriadoc.
If he existed at all, Eudaf lived in the mid-4th century. He would, therefore, have been a Romano-Briton, living an extremely Romanized lifestyle. The Latin Octavius the Old is therefore a much more appropriate form of his name. His daughter was Helena.
The Dream story clearly indicates that Octavius was the monarch around Caernarfon in North Wales, but later writers - chiefly the mistrusted Geoffrey of Monmouth - made him "Duke of the Giwissei" or "Iarl Ergyng ac Ewias": evidently ruling in Ergyng and Gwent. This may have arisen from his supposed descent from so-called pre-Roman Kings of Siluria (named after the Celtic tribe who lived in that area). Though the connection is persistent and it is equally possible that the Caernarfon association is due to Maximus and Helena's later residence there. Octavius would not have been a king at this date, but perhaps a decurion of one of these civitates (Roman towns). However, he is also called one of the High-Kings of Britain. Such a title would, clearly, not have existed either but it may indicate that he held a position of considerable importance in the Roman administration. The official with control of both the Caernarfon and Gwent areas was the Praeses of Britannia Prima.
Geoffrey's mythology has Octavius taking up the British High-Kingship after defeating King Coel Godhebog (the Magnificent)'s brother, Trahearn, in battle near Winchester. So perhaps he took office by force.
Early records are confused about Eudaf's descendants. Some stories claim that he had various sons, Conan, Adeon/Gadeon and Eudaf II. Others, that Helena was his sole direct heiress and that Conan, his male heir, was only his nephew. This appears to fit best. Magnus Maximus and his wife probably inherited Eudaf's position in society, helping the former to put himself forward as Emperor of the West. Conan made excellent marriages and was placated with vast estates given by his cousin's husband. Adeon/Gadeon alias Cadfan was actually his son. Eudaf II appears very late and is probably mythological.
Generally considered Legendary.
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.|