Bath has long been connected
with the historic Arthurian Battle of Badon mentioned in Nennius.
Tim and Annette Birkitt in
‘The Frontier Zone and the Siege of Mount Badon: a review of the
evidence for their location’, Somerset Archaeology and Natural History’,
Vol 134, 1990, explain that, The Burghal Hidage documents (C13th copies of
C10th originals) use the names Baþan, baderan, badecan, bathe and Badaran.
Bathu was used in the C12 copy of the foundation charter of the Bath
Cartulary (675AD), and that versions of the Domesday Book record the names
Batha, Bathae, Bathoniensis, Bada and Bade. Also, Ecgfrith, a Mercian King
issued a charter in 796AD from ‘that celebrated town which is called in
Saxon tongue aet Baþun’.
Rev. Professor Earle, ‘Bath
During British Independence’, from ‘Handbook to Bath’, The British
Association, 1888, extracts from ‘From the Departure of the Roman
Legions to the Desolation of Akeman (1) AD 410 –577’. "The departure
of the Legions must have greatly lowered the splendour and the commercial
activity of Aquae, and have made it seem to its denizens a dull and
miserable place. I assume that Aquae was the usual and colloquial name,
and that the full-length designation Aquae Sulis was not employed in
speech but only in formal writings, or in lapidary inscriptions. This ‘Aquae’
would in pronunciation have sounded like Ak-e. We are not without data in
this matter; in Roman times there were various places called Aquae, and
the modern forms which such names now bear afford elements of evidence
concerning the pronunciation in the time of the later Roman Empire. The
German name Aachen represents Aquae, so do the French names Aix, Ax, and
Dax; the latter, the name of a town in the Pyrenees, is for De Aquis. ….
… of all the barbarian settlements on our coasts, the most important for
the general history of England is the one which also absorbed our city.
The earliest date that has been assigned for the landing of the West
Saxons under Cerdic is 495. A long time was to elapse before they reached
this western country, and the steps of their progress in the interval
would have formed no legitimate part of the present narrative, but for the
fact that by a grotesque mistake a marked event which happened at an early
stage of that interval has imbedded itself in the history of Bath. The
memorable siege of Mons Badonicus, where the Walas dealt a severe blow
upon the Saxons, has been fixed, by the help of data in the book of Gildas,
to the year 520. Dr Guest identified Mons Badonicus with Badbury Rings,
near Wimbourne, and the identification is now generally accepted.
Previously it had been identified with Bath, and Banner Down was the spot
fixed upon for the battlefield, because it seemed to offer a sort of
translation of Mons Badonicus, as well as a vague echo in similarity of
sound. But it was upon Bath that the word fastened itself etymologically,
as if Badonicus, which might pass for an adjective of Bathonia. It did not
trouble the old antiquarians that they were elucidating a word from the
sixth century by help of another word which had no existence until the
John Britton in his ‘The
History and Antiquities of Bath Abbey Church’, stated "Before,
however, they obtained possession of Bath, the Saxon hordes are stated to
have been twice defeated, with immense slaughter, on Mons Badonicus,
perhaps Bannerdown (a hill close on the north-east of Bath), in its
immediate vicinity, by the British King Arthur, in the years 493 and 520.
They proved victorious, however, in 577, when their chiefs, Cuthwin, and
Ceawlin King of Wessex, defeated the British kings Commail, Condida, and
Farinmail, at Dyrham, about eight miles distant, and took the three cities
of Baþan cearcen*, Cirencester, and Gloucester. Under the sway of the
Saxons, Bath received the appropriate names of Hat Bathun, or Bathum*, and
Acemannes-cestre*, or the Sick Man’s City; by these appellations, and
their derivatives, Balnea*, Badonia*, Badonessa*, Bathonia*, Acamanni*,
Achamanni*, and Achumanensi*, it is subsequently designated in the Saxon
and Monkish chronicles".
Rodney Casledon in his 'King
Arthur; the truth behind the legend', Routledge, 2000, draws upon the
arguments of John Morris and the Burkitt's, and states boldly that,
ever archaeology shouted 'they shall not pass!', it was here in Dark Age
Bath'. The positioning of the East Wansdyke, and other Wansdyke-like
earthworks on the western approaches to Bath; and the positioning of the
West Wansdyke, that suggests that its builders would retreat to the south
of Bath if the city fell, demonstrate that the city was strongly defended
to the north-east, and that its' defenders had prepared to abandon the
city and defend Northern Somerset."