Constantine, Helena, Maximus: on the appropriation of Roman history in medieval Wales, <i>c.</i>800–1250

22 Nov 2017

This article explores the ways in which the three fourth-century figures Constantine the Great (d. 337), St Helena (d. c.330), and Magnus Maximus (d. 388) were represented in texts produced in, or connected with, medieval Wales. The texts concerned may be described as genealogical, hagiographical, or literary, and were written in either Latin or Welsh between about 800 and 1250. They include, amongst others, the ninth-century Historia Brittonum, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s De gestis Britonum, and the vernacular prose tale Breudwyt Maxen Wledic. It is argued that the appropriation of the fourth-century figures occurred in a more limited number of contexts than has previously been supposed. Moreover, the evidence indicates that writers responsible for composing or redacting texts about these figures were far more likely to turn to earlier written texts for information on their subjects than to any contemporary oral traditions.