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Cunedda ap Edern (c.AD 386-c.460; reigned from the 440s or 450s) (Latin: Cunetacius; English: Kenneth), also known as as Cunedda Wledig ('the Imperator'), was an important early Welsh leader, and the progenitor of the royal dynasty of Gwynedd.
The name 'Cunedda' derives from the Brythonic word counodagos, meaning 'good lord'. His genealogy is traced back to Padarn Beisrudd , which literally translated as Paternus of the Scarlet Robe. One traditional interpretation identifies Padarn as a Roman (or Romano-British) official of reasonably high rank who had been placed in command of Votadini troops stationed in the Clackmannanshire region of Scotland in the 380s or earlier by the Emperor Magnus Maximus. Alternatively, he may have been a frontier chieftain who was granted Roman military rank, a practice attested elsewhere along the empire's borders at the time. In all likelihood, Padarn's command in Scotland was assumed after his death by his son, Edern (in Latin, Aeturnus), and then passed to Edern's son, Cunedda.
Cunedda and his forebears led the Votadini against Pictish and Irish incursions south of Hadrian's Wall. Sometime after this, the Votadini troops under Cunedda relocated to North Wales in order to defend the region from Irish invasion. Cunedda established himself in Wales, in the territory of the Venedotians , which would become the centre of the kingdom of Gwynedd. Two explanations for these actions have been suggested: either Cunedda was acting under the orders of Maximus (or Maximus's successors) or Vortigern, the high king of the British in the immediate post-Roman era. The range of dates (suggested by PC Bartrum ) runs from the late 370s, which would favor Maximus, to the late 440s, which would favor Vortigern.
The suggestion that Cunedda was operating under instructions from Rome has been challenged by several historians. David Dumville dismisses the whole concept of transplanting foederati from Scotland to Wales in this manner, especially given the political state of sub-Roman Britain which may not have been able to exhibit such centralised control by the fifth century. As Maximus himself was dead by the end of 388, and Constantine III departed from Britain with the last of Rome's military forces in 407, less than a generation later, it is doubtful that Rome had much direct influence over the military actions of the Votadini, either through Maximus or any other emissary, for any significant length of time.
Maximus (or his successors) may have handed over control of the British frontiers to local chieftains at an earlier date; with the evacuation of the fort at Chester (which Mike Ashley , incidentally, argues is most likely where Cunedda established his initial base in the region, some years later) in the 370s, he may have little option. Given that the archaeological record demonstrates Irish settlement on the Lleyn peninsula however and possible raids as far west as Wroxeter by the late fourth century, it is difficult to conceive of either Roman or allied British forces having presented an effective defence in Wales.
Academics such as Sheppard Frere have argued that it may have been Vortigern who, adopting elements of Roman statecraft, moved the Votadini south, just as he invited Saxon settlers to protect other parts of the island. According to this version of events, Vortigern would have instructed Cunedda and his Votadini subjects to move to Wales in response to the aforementioned Irish incursions no later than the year 442, when Vortigern's former Saxon allies rebelled against his rule.
Cunedda's supposed grandson Maelgwn was a contemporary of Gildas, and according to the Annales Cambriae died in 547. The reliability of early Welsh genealogies is not uncontested however, and many of the claims regarding the number and identity of Cunedda's heirs did not surface until as late as the tenth century. Nonetheless, if we accept this information as valid, calculating back from this date suggests the mid-fifth century interpretation.
Of Cunedda personally even less is known. Probably celebrated for his strength, courage, and ability to rally the beleagured Romano-British forces of the region, he eventually secured a politically advantageous marriage to Gwawl, daughter of Coel Hen, the Romano-British ruler of Eboracum (modern York), and is claimed to have had nine sons. Cardigan (Welsh: Ceredigion) and Merioneth (Welsh: Meirionydd) were supposedly named after his two sons Ceredig and Meirion .
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