Gloucester is the modern English place name for the British city known in Latin as Glēvum from a British word meaning ‘Glowing-bright place’. In Old Welsh it was known as Caerloyw, also interpreted as meaning ‘Castle Glowing-bright’. Its earliest English form is Glowancestre, originating from Glēv- (pronounced ‘glaiw-’) plus ceastre ‘castle’. The Latin form is sometimes given as Claudiocestria which is historically from medieval guesswork.

Origin of GloucesterEdit

Historical Roman OriginEdit

Gloucester Cathedral - 2004-11-02

Modern Gloucester Cathedral

In the year 48, 8 years after the first Roman conquest of Britain under Claudius, the Roman Road now called The Fosse Way was built across the Severn which encouraged the growth of a market town on the east bank of the Severn. A Roman fort was established at the current Kingsholm. Twenty years later, a larger replacement fortress was built on slightly higher ground nearby, centered on Gloucester Cross, and a civilian settlement grew around it.

Then, in 97, the Roman municipality of Colonia Nervia Glevensium that became Gloucester was founded in the reign of the Emperor Nerva. A colonia was intended as a residence of retired legionaries and provided farmland for them. At its height, Glevum may have had a population of as many as 10,000 people.

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s TaleEdit

Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia regum Britanniae tells a tale unknown to any but his followers, in which in his attempted conquest of Britain the Emperor Claudius agreed to give his daughter as wife to King Arviragus. This historically unknown daughter was named Genvissa. Arviragus then, ecstatic about his marriage, wished that he and Claudius might found a town at the place where they were wed. Between the two of them Gloucester was founded.

But Geoffrey also says that some say the city was named after a Duke Gloius whom Claudius had fathered in that city and that Claudius gave control of that dukedom to Gloius after the death of Arviragus.

A Royal Lineage as Told in the Historia BrittonnumEdit

The Historia Brittonnum says:

This is the genealogy of Vortigern, which goes back to Fernvail, who reigned in the kingdom of Guorthegirnaim, and was the son of Teudor; Teudor was the son of Pascent; Pascent of Guoidcant; Guoidcant of Moriud; Moriud of Eltat; Eltate of Eldoc; Eldoc of Paul; Paul of Meuprit; Meuprit of Braciat; Braciat of Pascent (Paskent); Pascent of Guorthegirn (Vortigern); Guorthegirn of Guortheneu; Guortheneu of Guitaul; Guitaul of Guitolion (Guithelin); Guitolion of Gloui. Bonus, Paul, Mauron, Guotelin, were four brother, who built Gloiuda, a great city upon the banks of the river Severn, and in British is called Cair Gloui, in Saxon, Gloucester.

Edol and EldadEdit

Geoffrey of Monmouth and his followers tell of Eldol, Count of Gloucester, who escaped from Hengist’s massacre of the Britons and later captured Hengist in single combat when Eldol was fighting under Ambrosius. They also tell of Eldad, Bishop of Gloucester, who was brother to Eldol.

Neither Eldol nor Eldad appears in the Histoire de Merlin which relates a different version of Hengist’s end.

Arthurian ReferencesEdit

In the Welsh Arthurian romance Culhwch and Olwen, Caer Lloyw is the fortress where the hunter Mabon son of Modron has been imprisoned for untold ages. While Arthur and his men attack the fortress from one side Kay and Bedwyr ride on a giant salmon to the other side of the fortress. The Kay breaks through while the defenders are distracted by Arthur’s attack and Kay rescues Mabon.

In the Welsh Arthurian romance Peredur, the nine witches of Caer Lloyw, with there father and mother, are at the point of overrunning a valley until Peredur promises to defend his hostess’ dwelling against them. When Peredur defeats one of the witches, the witch says that this was prophesied and that Peredur will be taught to fight by the witches. On agreement that his hostess’ dwelling should remain safe, Peredur accompanies the witch to the Witches’ Court where he learns the manner of their fighting for three weeks. At the end of the romance Peredur learns from a cousin that it was the Witches of Caer Lloyw who had slain another cousin of Peredur and who had maimed Peredur’s uncle. Arthur and his war-band are sent for by Peredur and Gwalchmei and with their help, Peredur slays the witches.

Some commentators suggest that Caer Lloyw in one or both of these tales may be derived from a fortress in an older tale unconnected with the historical Gloucester. Gloucester appears in Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec et Enide when Count Brandes of Gloucester is listed as one of the notables who attend the tournament held to honor Erec and Enide’s wedding. In Hartmann’s Erec Gloucester is here corrupted to Doleceste. In the yet more corrupt list in the Norse Erex saga Gloucester appears to be corrupted to Scalisbourg, but the differences between the Norse text and the original are too great to be certain of many of the correspondences.

The forest of Gloucester is mentioned in the Perceval Continuation 2, line 34153. An earldom of Gloucester is mentioned in L’Atre périlleux, line 960.

In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, and in many works derived from it, Count Morvid of Gloucester is one of those present at Arthur’s great court at Caerleon and is afterwards prominent in Arthur’s war with Rome.

Post-Arthurian ReferencesEdit

Geoffrey of Monmouth and those following him relate that during the reign of Constantine who ruled after Arthur, the Bishop of Gloucester was promoted to be Archbishop of London. The Welsh Bruts tell that the Bishop of London who died was named Daniel and that the Bishop of Gloucester who replaced him was named Theon.

Some Name VariationsEdit

LATIN: Glevum, Claudiocestria, Kaerglou; FRENCH: Gloëcestre, Glocestre, Gloucestre, Glorcestre, Colescestre; ENGLISH: Glowancestre, Gloucestre, Gloucestre, Glouchæstre, Glochæstre, Glochæste, Gloucecre, Glocetere, Gloster; GERMAN: Doleceste; OLD NORSE: Scalisbourg(?); WELSH: Caer Loyw, Caer Lloyw, Caerloyw, Cair Gloui.

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