Circencester is where King Constantine was crowned according to Wace’s Roman de Brut and Lawman’s Brut, although Geoffrey of Monmouth reads Silchester. It is also where Arthur is crowned according to Wace, although here both Goeffrey and Lawman read Silchester.
The Latin name of this place was Corinium, thought to be associated with the ancient British Cornovii tribe, having the same root word as the River Churn, the river on which Cirencester lies. The earliest known reference is in Ptolemy in 150 CE. Corinium Dobunorum was the second largest city in Roman Britain.
The town walls were still being repaired early in the 5th century and the forum continued to be swept clean until finally abandoned before the middle of the 5th century. The amphitheatre, however, became the site of a large timber building associated with 5th or 6th century pottery. It may have been the fortified retreat of a king.
Balien of CirencesterEdit
Wace includes in his list of barons at Arthur’s court at Caerleon a certain Balien or Balduf of Silchester not found in Geoffrey’s list. The Cotton Caligula manuscript of Lawman renders him as “Balien of Silechæstre” while the Cotton Otho manuscript gives “Balien of Cirecestre”.
According to the medieval French tale of “Gormand and Isenbard”, the Irish king Gormand, of African origin, conquered England. This story derives from 8th century floating traditions of Danish kings who ruled Ireland, Danish kings who conquered parts of England, and a Viking who raided France in 881.
In the account of Gormand’s conquest of England, it is told that Gormand had great trouble in taking the city of Cirerncester. Gormand finally succeeded into taking the city by having swallows from the city captured, having flaming tinder in nutshells tied to their legs, and then releasing them. The swallows flew home and set Cirencester on fire, enabling it to be taken.
Gormand, under the name Gormund, is listed as one of the last kings of Britain following Arthur in Geoffrey’s Historia. Geoffrey also mentions Isembard, the nephew of the Frankish king. Geoffrey does not include the story of the conquest of Cirencester by swallows, but both Wace and Lawman include it.
Some Name VariationsEdit
LATIN: Corinium, Corinium Dobunorum, Cirecestia; FRENCH: Circestre; ENGLISH: Cirecestre, Cirecestres.