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|Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Family of Vortigern > Faustus|
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Vortigern had three sons: Vortimer, Catigern and Pascent. But a fourth is also added. Sometimes we hear of a Faustus, while a Britu is also mentioned. While Faustus may have been a real historical personality, the discussions about who Britu may have been will probably never cease. This article will at least attempt to make a contribution, and hopefully shed more light on this mystery.
The first source to mention a fourth son of Vortigern was the 9th-century Historia Brittonum:
Historia Brittonum, chapter 48
In a very confusing way (below) it is claimed here that Vortigern had a fourth son named Faustus, born to him incestuously by his own daughter, and who later became bishop of Riez. This Faustus of Riez is actually a historical figure. Faustus, first a monk, then abbot of the island Lérins off the coast of Marseilles and subsequently bishop of Riez, is referred to as a Briton both by Avitus, bishop of Vienne, and also by his friend Sidonius Appolinaris. Though the African bishop Possessor calls him a Gallus, this was probably because he had lived in Gaul for so long. Faustus was a leading member in the community of Lérins, which included other known fifth-century chroniclers such as Salvian and Hilary. Maybe the chronicler of 452 belonged to that group of ascetics as well, which would account for his hostility towards the doctrine of Augustine. Curiously enough, this (now anonymous) chronicler is the only source that we have of the Saxon rebellion in 441. How did the Chronicler of 452 receive his information, where other historians and chroniclers seem to have been either disinterested, misinformed or simply ignorant? Wood has (cautiously) remarked that, based on three entries relevant to the monastic culture of Lérins (c. 86, 104, 134), that he was in some way associated with Faustus.
We can cast the net even wider: the later emperor Avitus (455-7) and Ruricus, bishop of Limoges, admired the writings of both Faustus and Sidonius Appolinaris, who was related to both men. Sidonius, whose brother was influenced by Faustus, in turn admired the writings of Faustus. Sidonius writes to Faustus of the visit by a certain Riocatus, a presbyter, who is taking back books to Britain on Faustus' behalf. This indicates Faustus' links with his old compatriots. Sidonius indeed refers to 'your Britons', so the conclusion that Faustus was indeed from Britain as the Historia Brittonum proposes might be correct. If we identify this Faustus as the son of Vortigern, and Riocatus with Riagath, the son of Pascent and thus grandson of Vortigern, we would indeed have an important link for the transfer of information from Britain to southern Gaul. It has even been suggested that Faustus was the chronicler of 452. Sidonius Apollinaris, by 474 the bishop of Clermont and one of the leaders of the Arvernian resistance against the Goths, gave his impression of Faustus' authority as a member of the delegation of four bishops who reached a treaty between the Visigothic king Euric and the last Roman Emperor Nepos: "Through you delegations come and go; to you, first of all, in the absence of the emperor, peace is not only reported when it has been negotiated, it is even entrusted to be negotiated" (Epist. 7.7.4).
But was this Faustus also a son of Vortigern? The author or editor of the Historia Brittonum thought so at least. The passage seems full of glosses; after that of Ambrosius, Faustus is suddenly added as an apparent afterthought to the three earlier sons of Vortigern. The he clumsily adds a daughter, the mother of Faustus, thus duplicating the statement he made a moment earlier! This second statement though does not make Vortigern the father of Faustus, as the first one does. This gloss muddles the waters, even more so when compared to the earlier chapter relating to the so-called 'incestuous' affair:
Historia Brittonum, chapter 39
Here we have another statement, the third so far, of Vortigern's incestuous affair which resulted in the wrath of St Germanus. But here the name of the son is not given, only that St Germanus took him in and became his mentor. Thus we have a synthesis by which (1) Vortigern had a son by his own daughter, (2) this son was blessed by St Germanus and (3) this son was St Faustus. Was the name of Faustus only a much later interpolation? Faustus is never actually mentioned in the genealogies, but there is nothing inpropable in an identification of the abbott of Lérins with the son of a British king.
Was the editor of the Historia Brittonum correct in identifying Faustus of Riez, who was probably a Briton, with the son of Vortigern? The identity is by no means impossible. The position held by Faustus at Lérins would seem to imply both political prestige and wealth. Royal birth would help to account for his exalted position as head of the great monastery in the south of Gaul - the greatest of its time in Europe! Nor need any hesitation be felt on the ground of the distance between Britain and Lérins, for a century earlier had one St Martin from Dacia (modern Rumania) become bishop of Tours.. The passage in which St Germaus takes the boy under his wings is not scandalous at all, but a simple presentation by his mother to his foster-father, charactaristic of a Celtic fosterage. This passage therefore signifies an attempt at creating a scandal, or at least a misunderstanding of a normal practice. It would have been very common for Vortigern to present his son to Germanus and entrust him with his upbringing, in fact it would have been an honour.
But St Germanus also blessed other sons of Vortigern! He probably blessed Vortimer, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth:
Regum Britanniae, Book VI, chapter 14.
Germanus certainly blessed Britu, as attested on the Pillar of Elise:
But Britu is not claimed as the son of Vortigern by his own daughter, but by Sevira, the daughter of the Emperor Magnus Maximus. I will deal with the possible origin of the 'incest' elsewhere and concentrate here on the identity of this 'fourth son' of Vortigern. Britu is also claimed as the grandson of Catigern (Bonedd y Saint.62, Jesus College XX.16&18). But on the Pillar, Britu comes directly after Vortigern, though their connection is is mentioned in no other source. In later sources though, a certain Rhuddfedel is made the son of Catigern and father of Britu. Britu is made the son of Cadell in Jesus College XX.16 (the JC MSS do not mention Rhuddfedel at all), but all later sources place Cadell as the son of Britu !
It is possible that both Vortigern, Catigern and Cadell had sons named Britu, which is a form of 'Brutus' the legendary son of Aeneas of Troy and founder of Britain. Britu can also mean Briton or from Britain. It might therefore be possible that this is a scribal error, originally stating Vortigern the Briton or Cadell the Briton. Maybe the genealogists confused the generations below Vortigern into a solution that seemed to fit the descendants, or else it might simply be a popular name in the family of Vortigern! But a more satisfying explanation is that later chronographers were unsure where to place which person in the genealogies, so they attempted several compromises. Though this would account for the varying positions as son and/or grandson of Britu, Cadell and Catigern, we are still stuck with the question about the identity of Faustus and Britu. So let's add a third person, to make things even more complicated.
According to the pedigree of Fernmail, who was reigning in Builth and Gwrtheyrnion c. 830 (Jesus XX, 14), we find that Vortigern had a son Pascen (Pascent), who had a son called Riagath. The Harleian pedigree in the Historia Brittonum confirms this:
Historia Brittonum, chapter 49
The form here is Briacat (a misspelling of map Riacat), but the same name, which stems from Rigo-cat(us). The first element is the familiar 'king', also known in Rigo-thamos (Riothamus, 'most kingly'), the second element the even more familiar 'battle'. The name is virtually identical with Catigern and possibly even with Cadell. But to even suppose any interlinked identity between these persons is to deny their frequent appearences in all genealogies. We saw (a) Riocatus before, when Sidonius Appolinaris mentioned him bringing back books to Britain on Faustus' behalf. Though this one may have been a totally different person than his namesake from the genealogies, their connection is very likely to have been real.
Riocatus was almost certainly the son of Pascent and a grandson of Vortigern. His connection with Faustus would fit their age-difference; Faustus belonged to one generation earlier than Riocatus. Faustus was abbot at Lérins c. 433 and bishop at Riez in 475. The pedigrees (above) would confirm this. For us the fact of importance is that the evidence suggests that Riocatus and Faustus were relatives and contemporaries, with Riocatus the younger relative. This would supply an excellent reason for the visit of Riocatus to Faustus, for he was probably his nephew. Any criticism that Riocatus was king after Pascent and thus hardly a monk carrying books may be silenced by the possiblity that he was originaly trained as a cleric. The same happened to both Constans, son of the usurper Constantine III and also to Maelgwn Gwynedd, who both returned 'into the world' after having been clerics. We don't know if Riocatus was the eldest son, only that at some point he succeeded his father Pascent.
The fourth son?
With that we return to the question of the identity of Faustus. The sidestep above to Riocatus makes it clear that the latter could not have been Britu, which would have been a possibility due to the variant versions of the pedigrees. So, we have a son that Vortigern had by his own daughter, who was blessed by St Germanus and is called both Faustus and Britu. The incest part we can forget about as a political slur based on both malice and ignorance. Which leaves the part of the fourth son, carrying two names, both blessed by St Germanus. Was 'Faustus' an original name? It was almost certainly a 'name in religion', aquired when he entered the church. The conclusion, though of course being speculation, can be that Britu was the fourth son of Vortigern, who later changed his name to Faustus. But can this solution be reconciled with Britu being the ruler of Powys after Catigern, as mentioned in most genealogical material?
Catigern was the first ruler of Powys, but it remains very doubtful if he ever ruled, due to his early death. He was slain in the battle of Episford/Rithergabail, alongside Horsa the brother of Hengist. After him a certain Ruddfael ruled, but he is almost certainly a 'ghost', created by a misconception of Catigern's last battle, Ritergabail (which is essentially the same word). Most pedigrees agree that Britu followed him, placing him before Cadell.
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