Thursday, October 21, 2010

Its Darkest Hour

Early church fathers in the century before the Angles and Saxons arrive at our island, [according to later church writers invited by grand father Vortigern!], produced a writing called Vita Antonii (Life of Anthony) which romanticized the hermit communities of the Egyptian desert. This writing was to have a major impact on the early Christan missionaries that would come to our island, and that other one across the Irish Sea. [St. Patrick is an example.]

In the larger and more centrally organized church, St. Jerome [first to translate the Bible into Latin.], and St. Augustine of Hippo [explained why Rome was not eternal after it collapsed, stating there was a bigger picture called The City of God], founded monasteries based upon the practices of poverty, chastity, and obedience. As part of this early church development, St. Benedict stabilized this monastic life by setting strict rules joining daily chores, farming, prayer, reading of scriptures, and the celebrating of the Eucharist together in community, all day, every day. [It was a Benedictine mission from Rome that was ultimately responsible for converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity many years yet to come.]

Thus, by the time our Jones family faced one of its darkest hours, two separate views of the
Christian community were to become strongly active on our island. One having roots in the Egyptian desert, now called Monastic Asceticism, the other having roots in the St. Benedictine monastic life, but centered at Rome. These roots were to lay the foundation of the Celtic Church.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Belief Systems

Following the power vacuum that Roman withdrawal generated, local "kingdoms" emerged that patterned closely to those of the pre-Roman tribal groups. These kingdoms were essentially a return to the Celtic tribal system with distinctive leaders identified. Oral traditions were again brought to life by these rulers who wanted their name and accomplishments remembered. The positions of poet and bard returned to the forefront.

It took about 200 years for the dust to finally settle, and for folks to start writing down their stories. Gildas (ca.494-570 AD)was the first to record post-Roman history, and had a few strong opinions about what had just happened to the people of Briton. His book De Excido et Conquestu Britanniae had some pretty harsh words regarding the leadership left after the Roman withdrawal. To understand his writing it is helpful to describe the context of his environment and its own evolution.

As discussed before, Christianity came to the island as a result of persecution. This same persecution had help spread Christianity to Asia Minor, Italy, and Africa. By the time Christianity became the state religion, there were different views and opinions on how to live this Christian faith. In the Egyptian desert, individuals saw self-denial and spiritual asceticism (the practice of strict self-denial) as the highest Christian ideal of right behavior. This was often done in isolation from the world. (hermits and monks) On the other hand, prosperous Christian communities needed to develop activities surrounding large gatherings. These involved activities such as singing, preaching, sharing life experiences, and eating together. These larger groups also needed organization, leadership, direction and a shared belief system. This was to develop into the organized church and its traditions centered at the city of Rome. Thus, by the time the Roman empire had collapsed, Christianity had grown and branched into two major belief systems. More to come!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Holding the Bag

Vortigern [Gwrtheirn in the Welsh] was left holding the bag. He is blamed by later writers as being responsible for inviting those folks we call "Anglo-Saxons" to our island. Some present day writers believe that "Vortigern" which means "high king", was actually the name given to many individuals. Thus it was a symbolic name and not actually the name of one person. The Welsh however give a detailed genealogy of this "high king", and I give it as recorded in Heraldic Visitations of Wales and Part of the Marches by Lewys Dwnn, Vol. I, p.xv. Vortigern is 11th in descent from Beli Mawr. The founder of our Jones linage in Wales was 16th in descent from Vortigern. From Beli to Vortigern was roughly 400 years. The eleven generations would average 400/11= 36.36 years per generation. From Vortigern to Tudor Trevor was about 550 years, thus 550/16= 34.38 years per generation. Not a long lifespan, but for the time peroid the figures fit pretty well.

The genealogy in Dwnn is given as follows: Gwrtheirn Gwrthenau [called in English Vortiger]

his son: Cyndeirn : his son : Rhudd Fedel frych : his son : Rhydwf : his son : Pasgan : his

son: Cadell Dehurnllue: his son : Gwnfiw frych: his son : Gwnnan: his son : Gwriawn: his son:

Biodderch: his son : Bywyn: his son: Gwaethiawe: his son : Gwrgenaw: his son: Cadfarch: his

son Member [Ynys]: his son : Tudor Trefor!

What a list of names and spellings. This is the beginning of our JONES family lineage, of course holding the bag.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Who's on First?

History does record that those who remained on the Island after the Roman legions where withdrawn requested military assistance in 410 AD. Honorius, the western Emperor responded by "enjoining and authorizing them to look to their own defence."

"Who's on first?" was the question of the day. Each prior Roman province was left to its own defense. At least they were given authority to defend themselves. Scant historical records and accounts exist to help us understand what really happened. Northern Britain (from Yorkshire to the Clyde) seemed to organize their defenses along the northern frontier. Coel Hen who some believe to be the legendary "Old King Cole" is credited to be the first local ruler to help stabilize this area. [ca. 410-430 AD] Southern Britain (England south of Yorkshire) seemed to organize around the tribal leaders from the southern tribes including the Cornovii. Here is identified a "High King" of Britain. Our Jones families' legends begin with this person called "Vortigern" or in the Latin "Vitalinus". In the Welsh language he is called "Gwrtheryn Gwrthenau" or Vortigern the Thin! He came to power around 425 AD, and is believed to be the first post-Roman ruler to be declared "High King". Vortigen is the 11th in descent from Beli Mawr. Perhaps it is this linage that gave him the right to be called "High King". Our Jones family comes through this line, but much more will be said about this.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The World Turned Upside Down

The world turned upside down! Rome had withdrawn its legions and military control. The towns, forts, barracks, and most importantly the maintenance of these were forever lost. Imagine what it would have been like to have 6,000 to 12,000 men leave the town (Viroconium Cornoviorum) where you had your business. Over night it would become a ghost town. Those remaining would most likely be the ones that Rome did not want to take, or perhaps those who were not required to go because of family ties or poor health. At any rate, the military and most of the governmental folks pulled out. Our Jones family (those not in the military) remained. What were we to do? The family leaders would be looked to for direction and leadership. Those who had become more "Roman" , but for whatever reason, remained behind, were seen as leaders. Someone take charge! The family leaders would turn to what they knew, to the Celtic ways. Roman influence and knowledge would remain among those "Romanized". [You can understand that anyone with Roman connections or background would be looked upon for leadership.]

This time in our Jones family history is the least documented of any period. Very little is written, and very little is really known about this time frame. [After the Roman withdrawal.] Those writing the history books had left, and those remaining did not write or record their history. Oral tradition, written down centuries later suggest that the areas occupied by Rome broke apart into multiple smaller sections. The most northern part seems to have clustered together forming "The Men of The North". This area was to become known as Strathcyde. Legend places Coel Hen [Old King Coel] at the head of this area south of Hadrian's Wall. This area came under fierce attack from the Picts.

The southwestern part of the island, centered at Cornwall and Devon, developed its own identity.
This area would even develop its own separate Brythronic language called Cornish.

The southeastern part (centered at Kent) seems to have come under the leadership of Vortigern, the direct descendant of Beli Mawr.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What a Mess

In 330 AD, Constantine transferred the seat of government to his eastern part of the Roman world called Byzantium. Here he built magnificent churches, and brought works of art from all parts of the known world. He wished to make this new capital "Constantinople" the center of Christian religion. He elevated the "Bishop of Constantinople" to a position equal to that of the "Bishop of Rome". This left our families' land pretty much out in the cold.

The pagan world would not sit quietly by, and there was a rebellion against the Christian world which tried to revive the Graeco-Roman religions. What a mess it was. In 392 AD, Theodosius declared all "Heathen" sacrifices to be high treason, thus establishing Christianity the sole religion of the state. The "Church" and "State" became one.

In our Western part of the Roman world, we had enough troubles of our own. The Roman Empire had withdrawn both the military and political organization that our Jones family had been part of for more than 400 years. The Western part of the Roman world was in a state of siege and near collapse. By 406 AD - 407 AD the Romans had "left the building" and we were on our own. The Gothic sack of the city of Rome took place in 410 AD. What were we to do?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pagans We Were

As discussed in an earlier blog, Christianity probably entered Britain as a result of direct persecution. At the time of its arrival, [estimated to be between 249 AD - 305 AD], it was considered an "outlaw religion". You would want to keep things fairly secret since your life might depend on it. However, the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire made it evident to the Roman rulers that those following Christianity had become too numerous and influential to be eliminated. An "Edict of Toleration" was pronounced in 311 AD, and Christianity was recognized as a legitimate religion. This edict declared: "We grant to the Christians and to all others full liberty of following that religion which each may choose."

Constantine the Great and his fellow emperor Licinius recognized Christianity as their "first and principal concern" at Milan in March 313 AD. This struggle [to recognize Christianity] has been recorded in great detail by Eusebius who lived between 263 AD and 339AD. His "The History of the Church", believed to have been written around 324 AD and describes the lives of 146 martyrs, and the teaching of 47 heretics. Eucebius was a personal friend and admirer of Constantine, and credits him as being the primary force to the declaration that Christianity would become the religion of the State. However, Constantine continued as the supreme pontiff of the religious affairs of the "State", calling himself the "bishop of bishops".

Constantine called the first general council of the Church, held at Nicea in Asia Minor. To this council bishops came from all parts of the Empire. [They traveled by the imperial post and at government expense.] It was by this time that the church in Britain seemed to be organized for they sent bishops from the dioceses of London, York, and Colchester. Thus by 325 AD, Christianity in Britain had been organized along standard church structure. Archaeological evidence shows that the early Christan church in Roman Britain was concentrated in the southeast, surrounding population centers such as London and Lincoln. To the north, this evidence is found around the city of York. There has been no evidence found that Christian burials, symbols, and churches were present in and around my Jones family land. Just imagine, before 325 AD, we were "pagans".