What's New I Sitemap I Bibliography I Vortigern I Vortigern Studies l Wansdyke I POLLS I LINKS l Sitemaster I FAQs
|Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Family of Vortigern > Pascent|
Vortigern Studies Index
Pascent was the third son of Vortigern by Sevira, and the only one to survive him. He has been the son most written about, albeit legendary mostly.
The forms of his name include Pasgen, Pascentius, Paschent, Ffasgen, Phasken. The meaning of the name is not clear, but it seems to have been a Latin name. There was even a contemporary one - a bishop Pascentius, whose successor attended the synod of Orange in AD 441. Pascent's brothers Vortimer and Catigern die on the battlefield (though Vortimer is later claimed to have been poisoned). Pascents son Riocatus is possibly encountered in connection with Faustus of Riez, who could have been the Faustus, son of Vortigern.
The Historia Brittonum says of Pascent:
Historia Brittonum, chapter 48
Historia Brittonum, chapter 49
He is also mentioned on the Pillar of Elise, which is contemporary to the Historia Brittonum:
Pillar of Elise
The earliest source to mention him is Nennius (above), who has not much to say about him. The sentence that he received his lands from Ambrosius (largiente Ambrosio) is enigmatic. The Historia Brittonum does not elaborate, but since Pascent is also mentioned as the ancestor of the dynasty of Buillt and Gwrtheyrnion, we might conclude that this sentence was to confirm his legitimacy. This action of Ambrosius would confirm the rights op Pascent to later readers. We may conclude that this part is almost certainly an interpolation, inserted by later genealogists for just that reason. This view may be strengthened by the strong possibility that the genealogic parts of Nennius came from Gwrtheyrnion, whose dynasty would thus have had a good reason to add this little sentence.
Pascent and Powys
Pascent is mixed up in a genealogical brawl which flared up in the 9th century around the dynasties that claimed the legitimacy of the throne of Powys. These were the dynasties of Cadell (promoted by the Historia Brittonum) and of Catigern (confirmed by the Pillar of Elise), which claimed descent from Vortigern. Harleian 3859, no. 17 for one makes Pascent a son of Catigern and a grandson of Cadell Dyrnllwc. Another is Jesus College 20, no.18, which has Pascent as a son of Cadell and a grandson of Catigern. The Pillar of Elise mentions Pascent as a son of Britu and a grandson of Catigern. Jesus College 20, no. 14 again makes Pascent a clear son of Vortigern. Confusion all around.
This confusion may reflect the attempts of genealogists to unravel the mixup resulting from both dynastic claims. Though it is possible that sons with these strikingly similar names did exist in the family of Cadell, it is not plausible. We may conclude that Pascent, Catigern and Britu were of the same generation as Cadell, but that they were sons of Vortigern, as is confirmed by every other source after that. Like Catigern, Pascent is clearly mentioned by Nennius (who is promoting Cadells case most strongly) as a son of Vortigern. Unfortunately, Pascent is never mentioned outside genealogical tracts, as shown in this simplyfied version of the pedigrees:
While the pedigree for Built/Gwrtheyrnion is never in doubt about Pascent as the heir of Vortigern, we have seen the confusion about Powys above, as is reflected in the assembled material here. All pedigrees accepted Vortigern as the founder, while most accepted at least that Catigern is next in line. But Catigern died at the battle of Ritergabail, which in all likelyhood accounts for a 'son' by that name in the later sources (see 'Rhuddfael'). What this material does make clear is that (some) Britu succeeded Catigern or maybe Vortigern directly as heir to Powys, followed by (some) Pascent. There is remote possibility that Pascent, having a Latin name, was also the the same as Britu, a 'political' Celtic name. If he adhered to this family tradition, it would greatly simplify the pedigrees of Powys, since all occurrances of Pascent and Britu were then to be treated as duplications. I am not much in favour of that solution, however.
Then, who was this Pascent that is mentioned in almost all version of the Powys pedigrees? Was he the son of Britu, maybe the grandson or son of Catigern? Or was he Pascent, son of Vortigern? If we align the pedigrees, we see that it is very much possible, as most pedigrees have seven to ten generations, to deduce a succession here. And if we deduct Catigern and Britu from most pedigress, they are mostly equal in number. I agree with Bartrum, who believed that Pascent took over Powys from his brother(s), maybe after the troubles that surrounded the death of Vortigern. His line was only challenged by Cadell (as attested by the Harleian genealogy), which might indicate this clan aquired some power in Powys during that time. Maybe Pascent's descendants conquered Powys at a later date, but early enough to be in a secure position when the genealogy became more or less fixed during the 7th century, to be challenged during the 9th century. Unfortunately, nothing of Pascent's rule is described in the early sources.
Geoffrey of Monmouth
The first to elaborate on Pascent is Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th century, when he wrote his Historia Regum Britanniae. He took the simple sentence from the Historia Brittonum and created a tale of Pascent's rebellion and ultimate defeat. Pascent's taking refuge in Ireland with king Gillomanius has been compared to several historical examples of medieval English and Welsh princes who fled to Ireland to raise forces for a revenge. Pascent does so as well, landing at Menavia, where he is eventually killed by Uther Pendragon.
Regum Britanniae, Book VI, chapter 12.
Regum Britanniae, Book VIII, chapter 13.
Regum Britanniae, Book VIII, chapter 14.
Regum Britanniae, Book VIII, chapter 16.
Does this tradition reflect a possible historic background? Sadly, no. Examples of this were frequent in Geoffrey's day, who used these to beef up his own scarce sources. The sons of Earl Godwin went to Ireland (1051-2), the sons of Harold returned (1068) with Irish aid to ravage the country. The Welsh did likewise; Cynan ap Iago fled to the Dublin Danes, his son Gruffydd ap Cynan landed in Wales (1081) with Irish and Norse forces. They defeated other Welsh princes together with Rhys ap Tewdwr, who in turn had to flee in 1087, before returning and overcoming his rivals. His son Gruffyd ap Rhys did the same, and the list is much longer. Various points here suggest Pascent's campaign against Aurelius Ambrosius was made up along those lines. Geoffrey apparently did not want to compare Pascent with any real persons, but he referred to these events as events very well-known to his audience, who were familiar with those tactics. We should therefore not look for any real history concerning Pascent in the Historia Regum Britanniae.
VortigernStudies is copyright © Robert Vermaat 1999-2008. All rights reserved