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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Family of Vortigern > Gloiu

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The Family of Vortigern
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Gloiu Long-Hair
Robert Vermaat

Gloiu is given in most pedigrees as the great-grandfather of Vortigern. But was he a real person or just an eponym of the city of Gloucester?

The name of Gloiu, or Gloyw Wallt Hir ('Gloiu Long-hair') first appears in the Historia Brittonum, where he is the ancestor of Vortigern:

Historia Brittonum, chapter 49

49. 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; Eltat of Eldoc; Eldoc of Paul; Paul of Meuprit; Meuprit of Braciat; Braciat of Pascent; Pascent of Guorthegirn (Vortigern); Guorthegirn of Guortheneu; Guortheneu of Guitaul; Guitaul of Guitolion; Guitolion of Gloui. Bonus, Paul, Mauron, Guotelin, were four brothers, who built Gloiuda, a great city upon the banks of the river Severn, and in British is called Cair Gloui, in Saxon, Gloucester.


haec est genealogia illius, quae ad initium retro recurrit. fernmail ipse est, qui regit modo in regionibus duabus buelt et guorthigirniaun, filius teudubir. teudubir ipse est rex bueltiae regionis, filius pascent, filii guoidcant, filii moriud, filii eldat, filii eldoc, filii paul, filii mepurit, filii briacat, filii pascent, filii guorthigirn guortheneu, filii guitaul, filii guitolin, filii gloui. bonus, paul, mauron tres fratres fuerunt filii gloui, qui aedificauit urbem magnam super ripam fluminis sabrinae, quae uocatur brittannico sermone cair gloiu, saxonice autem gloecester.

Gloiu was the father of Guitolin, whose name can be a Welsh version of either Vitalinus or Vitalianus. In Jesus College MS 20 he is called Gloyw gwalltir, father of Gwdoleu. This has given rise to a theory that the ancestors of Vortigern were Irish, for an ancient name for the Irish is Gwyddyl (Goidelic). However, this is not reconcilable with the earliest version of the names in the Historia Brittonum, which are clearly derived from Latin Roman names. What's more, the brothers of Guitolin were Bonus, Paul and Mauron, have names which are also perfectly Roman.

There is another version, which appears similar, which is the Breton Life of St Gurthiern:

Vita sancta Gurthigierni

Accordingly, Gurthiern was the son of Bonus, who was the son of Glou the son of Abros the son of Dos the son of Jacob the son of Genethauc the son of Jugdual the son of Beli the son of Outham the Elder The son of Maximian the son of Constantus the son of Constantine the son of Helen who was thought to have held the Cross of Christ.


Igitur Gurthiern filius Boni filii Glou filii Abros filii Dos filii Iacob filii Genethauc filii Iugdual filii Beli filii Outham Senis filii Maximiani filii Constantii filii Constantini filii Helene que Crucem Christi habuisse refertur.

In this pedigree (which uniquely gives both paternal and maternal ancestors of Gurthiern, the saint (who appers to be identified with none other than Vortigern!) is the son of Bonus and the grandson of Glo(i)u.

Historia Brittonum
§ 49

(c. 825)

Vita S. Gurthierni

(12th c.)

Jesus College MS 20.14 & 15

(c. 1375)

Gloiu Glou Gloyw g.
Guitolin Bonus Gwdoloeu
Guitaul   Gwidawl
Guorthigirn Gurthiern Gwrtheyrn g.

Unfortunately, this pedigree is useless, for it was in all likelyhood stolen from other work, and compiled at a much later date. In my article about the Life of St Gurthiern, I go deeper into the connection between Vortigern and the material about St Kentigern, who supplied the genealogical material for St Gurthiern’s maternal ancestors. I have attempted to deal some more with these connections between Gurthiern and Vortigern, St Kentigern, Lailoken/Merlin and others in some more detail in Saints on the move and More saints on the move.

So, what about the pedigree found in the Life of St. Gurthiern? As his mother's (not unique, but rare) pedigree is evidently copied from that of St. Kentigern, what about his father's? It would be naive to suppose that Gurthiern had anything to do with the real Vortigern, other than perhaps sharing his name. Therefore, it may be supposed that the male pedigree was also copied from some source about Vortigern. Not the Historia Brittonum, apparently (for this gives a different pedigree), although a lost, different version might be possible. Bonus, here the father of Gurthiern, occurs in the Historia Brittonum as the brother of Vitalinus and the grandfather of Vortigern (instead of his father in the Life of St. Gurthiern) and might therefore belong to a lost version of the pedigree of Vortigern.

Gloiu is said by the Historia Brittonum to have built a great city on the banks of the river Severn named in welsh Caerloyw and in English Gloucester. This shows the origin of the name; it's clear this is an eponymous explanation of the name of Gloucester. The original Roman name for their newly founded colonia was Glevum, and the Saxon name Gleawanceaster, but a latinised name was Claudia Castra.

Later medieval commentators, however, had other ideas and fantasies. Geoffrey of Monmouth ascribed the foundation to the first emperor Claudius, from whom it received its name Kaerglou. However, Geoffrey also mentioned an alternative, where it was a son of this Claudius, Gloius, who really gave the city its name. Brut Brenhinedd went one further, and merged both names, as it called Claudius Gloyw or even Gloyw Cesar. Brut Dingestow and the Red Book Brut give the alternative that Geoffrey provided, but they substituted Gloius for Gloyw Gwlad Lydan.

This was, however, very similar to the name Gloyw Wallt Lydan ('Gloyw of the Abundant Hair'), who was a legendary figure, sometimes the son of Casnar Wledig, sometimes father of Gwyn Gohoyw and sometimes grandfather of Cigfa, wife of Pwyll in the Mabinogi branch of the same name. However, he also appears in some Powys genealogies as Gloyw Gwlad Lydan ('Gloyw of the Broad Country'), the father of Casnar Wledig, but in the Bonedd y Saint he is the grandson of Casnar Wledig and the father of Gwyn Gohoyw. Though the identification of both men is therefore clearly wrong, their mutual connection with Powys may be accepted as a good enough reason to accept Gloyw being a person based on a Powysian source.

Recently, this misidentification received a new life, when Gloiu was identified with the second Claudius, the Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus (Augustus AD 268-70) in the book by Gilbert, Wilson and Blackett. This identification can only be explained by a mistake in the translation of Gwlad Lydan, which was wrongly translated with 'of the Broad Walls'. The authors stated that the 'Claudius' remembered in Gloiu signified not the foundation, but the building of the city walls. Considering the medieval tenacity in which Gloyw and Claudius were connected, there might still be a possiblity that this identification could be correct. The amount of generations between 'Claudius/Gloiu' and Vitalinus would also be acceptable. Unfortunately, no direct proof of this exists, so the theory must remain just that.

It may even be a real possiblity that the 'brothers' of Vitalinus were his ancestors, as may be concluded from the different version in the Life of St Gurthiern. This would make Bonus the head of the family (atavus), with Paul and Mauron (proavus) the generations before Vitalinus, who then remains the fourth-century grandfather of Vortigern. Anyway, the best explanation for Gloiu still is a purely eponymous legend, which denoted the connection of the family of Vortigern to Gloucester.


  • Bartrum, P.C. (1993): A Welsh Classical Dictionary, (Cardiff).*
  • Brut y Brenhinedd, Llanstephan MS 1 Version, ed. Brynley F. Roberts, Mediaeval and modern Welsh series 5, (Dublin 1971).
  • Brut Tysilio, in: Gottfried's von Monmouth Historia Regum Britanniae, trans. A.S. San Marte.
  • Chadwick, Nora K.: A Note on the Name Vortigern, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 34-46.*
  • Gilbert, Adrian, A. Wilson & B. Blackett (1998): The Holy Kingdom, (Bantam).*
  • Nennius: British History and the Welsh Annals, Latin and trans. John Morris, History from the Sources 8, (Chichester 1980).*
  • Nennius: The Historia Brittonum, trans. John Allan Giles, in: Six Old English Chronicles, of which two are now first translated from the monkish Latin originals (George Bell and Sons, London 1891), full text (English) at http://www.littlebohemia.org/nennius.html
  • Vita sancta Gurthigierni (Life of St Gurthiern), ed. L. Maïtre and P. de Berthou, Cartulaire de l'abbaye de Sainte Croix de Quimperlé, (Rennes 1904).

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