Celtic Animals Celtic Animals

Corineus and Gogmagog

Brutus and Albion

Geoffrey of Monmouth, or Gaufridus Monemutensis, of Monmouthshire in Wales, is one of the earliest sources of the legendary beginnings of Britain. Geoffrey wrote Historia Regnum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) circa AD 1136. He uses earlier sources, including Nennius’ Historia Brittonum and Gildas De Excidio Britanniae. He also says he used ‘a certain very ancient book written in the British language’ given to him by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford; this book is now lost. Some scholars argue whether or not this text ever existed.

Geoffrey’s work may be more properly called a story rather than a history as we understand the word. Lewis Thorpe, in his introduction to his modern translation, says that the work "may be said to bear the same relationship to the story of the early British inhabitants of our own island as do the seventeen historical books in the Old Testament, from Genesis to Esther, to the early history of the Israelites in Palestine."

Geoffrey’s purpose in writing this book is to trace the history of the Britons through a sweep of nineteen hundred years, from the mythical Brutus, great–grandson of the Trojan Aeneas, after whom Britain is named from his landing there in the twelfth century before Christ, down to the last British King, Cadwallader, who finally abandoned Britain to the Saxons in the seventh century. All of the history seems to lead to and culminate in Arthur of the Britons and his fight against the Anglo–Saxon invasions. The Anglo–Saxon’s invasion of Britain was successful after Arthur and those people are called the English. The Britons escaped westward into the mountains of Wales and Cornwall or south across the Channel into Armorica (Brittany).

Geoffrey was probably a Welshman or perhaps a Breton born in Wales. This makes him a Briton, not an Anglo–Saxon. The Normans, adjacent to Brittany in northern France, under Duke William the Conqueror, conquered the last Saxon king Harold at Hastings in 1066. The Norman’s were Scandinavian by and large. Geoffrey’s purpose, then, was also patriotic. The British people had once ruled Britain from sea to sea; now they had been conquered by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from the German, Denmark, and Friscan areas and divided into two groups, those in Wales and Cornwall, and those in Brittany. The enemies of the Normans and the enemy of the British Arthur was the same, the Anglo–Saxons, and Geoffrey’s history celebrated the British culminating symbolically in Arthur.

Origin of Brutus the Trojan

Geoffrey relates that Aeneas, hero of the Trojan war between the Greeks and Troy, fled the ruined city of Troy after the war to Italy by boat with his son, Ascanius. King Latinus of Italy received Aeneas in peace but not so Turnus, a king of the Rutuli tribe. Turnus attacked Aeneas but lost. Aeneas killed Turnus and seized the kingdom of Italy and the daughter of Latinus, Lavinia.

Aeneas’ son Ascanius became king after his father’s death, founded the city of Alba on the bank of the Tiber river and fathered Silvius. Silvius married a niece of Lavinia and made her pregnant. Ascanius called in soothsayers to discover the sex of the child. The soothsayers declared she would give birth to a boy who would cause the death of both his father and mother. In addition, this boy would rise to the highest honor after wandering in exile for this deed.

The mother died in childbirth fulfilling the death of the mother to the boy. The father gave the boy, Brutus, to a midwife to raise. When Brutus was 15 he and his father were hunting together. Their beaters drove some stags into their path and Brutus accidentally shot his father with an arrow below the breast, killing him. His relations exiled him for the act.

The Exile of Brutus and Finding Trojans Enslaved by the Greeks

Brutus went into exile in Greece and discovered the descendants of Helenus, Priam’s son, who were in captivity by Pandrasus, King of the Greeks. Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, had dragged Helenus off with him in chains after the fall of Troy in vengeance for the slaying of his father.

Brutus, realizing these people were fellow Trojans, stayed with them and became very popular. The Trojans began to flock to him to become their leader and freed from the Greeks.

A nobly born Greek, Assaracus, whose mother was Trojan, favored the Trojan faction which numbered about seven thousand. Assaracus’ brother (a half brother whose mother was Greek) was harassing him because his father had left him three castles which the brother was trying to take away from him alleging Assaracus was the son of a concubine. The brother had persuaded the Greek King and other Greeks to support him. Brutus agreed to the Trojan request seeing the number of men he had and that the three castles of Assaracus were there for him to take.

The Battle of Brutus to Free the Trojans Under the Greeks

Brutus occupied the castles while Assaracus occupied the open woodlands and hills with his forces who supported him and Brutus. Brutus sent the King a letter asking that the King either free the Trojans to live in this area in peace or allow the Trojans to leave for other lands.

King Pandrasus was surprised at the boldness of his slaves and collected an army to pursue the Trojans. Brutus with a force of about three thousand men attacked Pandrasus’ army by surprise in the wastelands of Sparatinium. Brutus had heard of their coming and entered this castle the night before so he could surprise the Greeks as they passed by in unreadiness and in broken order. The Greeks fled in all directions and the party with King Pandrasus rushed across the river Akalon which flowed near by. The Greeks were in danger from the swirling currents of the river and from Brutus’ men. Brutus attacked in the river and on the banks. Brutus thus inflicted a double death.

Antigonus, Pandrasus’ brother, marshaled the scattered Greeks for an assault on Brutus. He preferred to meet death fighting and exhorted his men to resist bravely and hurl back the weapons thrown against them. The Trojans were completely organized and inflicted heavy slaughter. The Trojans killed almost all the Greeks and captured Antigonus and his comrade Anacletus.

Brutus garrisoned the fortress with six hundred men and then set off to the forest when the Trojan people awaited his help. Pandrasus was upset because of his own flight and Brutus’ capture of his brother and spent the night rallying his scattered forces. The next morning he besieged the castle believing that Brutus himself occupied it, along with his captured brother, Antigonus. He surrounded the castle with some of his men, ordered others to cut off the water supply to the castle from nearby rivers, and ordered others to bring u p battering rams and other machines of war to shatter the fort’s walls. Pandrasus’ men made good progress and set up camp that night with a watch while his men slept.

The Trojans of the fort resisted strongly and stood on the walls to repel the war machines. They hurled down missiles and torches. The enemy dug trenches under the walls and the defenders repelled them with Greek fire and boiling water. They sent word to Brutus for help before it was too late.

The Trick of Brutus to Defeat Pandrasus

Brutus had insufficient men to attack outright so he relied on a cunning plan, thinking he would approach the camp at night, trick the guards, and slaughter the Greeks as they slept. His plan required the assent and assistance of one of the Greeks. He summoned Anacletus, the comrade of Antigonus, and told him at sword point of his plan to surprise the Greek camp at night. Brutus told Anacletus he could assist my tricking the guards or die. Anacletus was to go to the sentinels in the second hour of the night and say he had freed Antigonus from Brutus and taken him to the woods beyond and hidden him there. He was to pretend Antigonus could go no further because of his chains and Anacletus needed the guards’ help to break the shackles. Anacletus was to lead the guards to the edge of the glade where Brutus’ men would kill them.

Anacletus was terrified of Brutus and his sword and agreed to the treachery if Brutus would allow Antigonus and he to live. The bargain was sealed.

Anacletus struck out for the siege and the Greeks guards surrounded him at once. He pretended to be overjoyed at seeing them saying that he had escaped from Brutus’ prison with Antigonus as arranged. One of the sentinels recognized him and the sentinels were thus led away to the wood and attacked and killed by Brutus’ men.

Then Brutus divided his men into thirds and sent each to the camp various points and told his men to occupy their positions quietly until Brutus had seized the King’s tent himself and sounded his horn as a signal.

Brutus advanced to Pandrasus’ tent and signaled without waiting any longer. His men went ruthlessly throughout the sleeping camp showing no pity. They caught the Greeks completely unawares and without their weapons at hand. Those which fled and did not meet a Trojan sword either fell to his death on the rocks or drowned in the surrounding rivers. Brutus’ men in the besieged fort hurried out to help as soon as their heard the sounds of the slaughter.

Brutus, in the meantime, captured Pandrasus and tied him up, knowing he was worth more alive than dead. By dawn, the Greek camp lay in death with the Greek King captive. Brutus distributed the spoils of victory to his men and entered the fort with the bound King Pandrasus. He established a garrison and ordered the dead buried. A victory celebration followed.

The Hostage King Pandrasus of the Greeks

Brutus then called his elders together to decide what to do with King Pandrasus. Some argued to demand part of the Greek Kingdom so they could settle here; others argued for permission to emigrate and to ask for whatever would be helpful on such a journey. Finally, after vacillating back and forth, one called Membritius stood up and said that they must depart because if they were granted part of Pandrasus’ kingdom and stayed they would enjoy no peace from the brothers, sons, and grandsons of those slain that day. The Trojans were still a minority in the country at large. Membritius called for Brutus to ask for Pandrasus’ daughter Ignoge in marriage as well as gold and silver, ships and grain, and everything needed for their journey.

All agreed and guards brought Pandrasus to them and gave him a seat higher than the others. Pandrasus agreed with their demands on pain of torture and death, but against his will. He did take comfort that he was giving his daughter to so mighty a young man of such prowess. He said if they changed their minds and wanted to stay he would give them one third of his kingdom for them to live in.

The Voyage of Brutus

Pandrasus then sent orders to collect Greek ships from the shores and 324 ships were assembled, loaded with grain. Brutus married Ignoge and his men received gold and silver according to his rank. King Pandrasus was freed and the Trojans sailed away on the next wind. Ignoge stood on the poop of one of the ships, fainting in Brutus’ arms, weeping and sobbing to leave her homeland and relations. As long as the shore was visible, she could not avert her eyes from it. Brutus soothed her until she fell asleep.

The Trojans sailed for two days and one night and landed at an island called Leogetia which lay uninhabited since attack in ancient times. Brutus’ party killed wild animals but found no people. They came to a deserted city and found there a temple of Diana. A statue of her in the city gave answers if anyone questioned her through it. The party returned and told Brutus of the statue and suggested that he should ask of the place where they should go for a safe dwelling place.

The Prophecy of Diana

Brutus took the Augur Gero and twelve elders and set out for the temple. When they reached the statue they set up three hearths and poured a libation at each. Brutus himself stood before the altar of the goddess with a vessel in his right hand filled with wine and blood from a white hind, in accordance with an ancient ritual, and turned his face upwards to the statue, and said nine times:

O powerful goddess,
Terror of the forest glades,
Yet hope of the wild woodlands,
You who have the power to go in orbit through the airy heavens
and the halls of hell,
Pronounce a judgment which contains concerns the earth.
Tell me which lands you wish us to inhabit.
Tell me of a safe dwelling–place where I am to worship you down the ages,
And where, to the chanting of maidens,
I shall dedicate temples to you.

Brutus then went around the altar four times, pouring wine upon the sacrificial hearth. Then he lay down on the skin of a hind stretched before the altar, and at length, fell asleep.

At about the third hour of the night, the goddess stood before Brutus in a vision, saying:

Beyond the setting sun,
Past the realms of Gaul,
There lies an island in the sea,
Once occupied by giants.
Now it is empty and ready for your folk.
Down the years this will prove to be an abode suited to you and your folk;
And for your descendants it will be a second Troy.
A race of Kings will be born there from your stock
And the round circle of the whole earth will be subject to them.

Brutus doubted whether he had only dreamed or whether the goddess had actually appeared to him when he awoke. His comrades, however, were delighted and advised that they immediately set sail as foretold while the winds were favorable.

After thirty days at sea, the ships arrived at Africa. They came upon the Altars of the Philostines and to the Salt–pan Lake. From there they sailed on between Russicada and the mountains of Zarec where they were attacked by pirates and repulsed them and became richer by booty and plunder.

The Meeting of Corineus

After this they passed the River Malve and landed in Mauretania where they ravaged the country to restock their food and drink. Then they passed by the Pillars of Hercules and they saw the sea monsters the Sirens which nearly sank their ships. They escaped intact and came upon four generations born to exiles from Troy who had accompanied Antenor in his flight, led by Corineus, "a sober–minded man, wise in counsel, yet great of courage and audacity. If he were to come up against a giant he would overthrow him as easily as if he were fighting against a mere boy. As soon as they realized that his stock was of such antiquity, they took him into alliance with them straight away, together with the people over whom he ruled. Later Cornwall was called after the name of this leader. In every battle he was of more help to Brutus than anyone else."

The Meeting of Goffar the Pict

Next they came to Aquataine where they entered the estuary of the river Loire and cast anchor and stayed for seven days. At that time Goffar the Pict ruled in Aquataine and was king. When he learned that a large fleet of foreigners had landed in his kingdom, he sent messengers asking whether they brought peace or war. The messengers ran into Corineus who had just landed with two hundred men to hunt for game in the woodland. The messengers immediately asked him by whose permission he had entered the king’s forest to kill his animals since it was decreed from ancient times that no one hunt in these forests without the king’s permission. Corineus answered that permission was completely unnecessary. Then one of the Picts called Himbert rushed forward and drew a bow at Corineus. Corineus dodged the arrow, charged at Himbert, and broke his head in pieces with the bow he was carrying. The remaining messengers fled and reported the incident to Goffar.

Goffar organized his army to avenge the killing of his messenger. Brutus put his ships in a state of defense keeping all women and children on board and his army of vigorous young men outside.

The battle began and the fighting was fierce on both sides all day. Corineus felt ashamed that the Trojans could not press home the victory. He took fresh heart and brought his men to the side where he arranged them in a fighting formation and charged headlong into the opposing army. They broke through the Aquitanian ranks until they were compelled to flee. Corineus lost his sword but acquired a battle–axe and anything he struck he cut in two. Brutus, his men, and the enemy were all impressed with the courage and boldness of Corineus. Corineus brandished his battle–axe at the retreating battalions shouting: "Where are you making for, you cowards? Turn back, I say, and do battle with Corineus! Shame on you.! You are so many thousands yet you run away from me who am one! Take at least this comfort in flight: that it is I, Corineus, who am after you–I who often drive in confusion before me the giants of Etruria, thrusting them down to hell three or four at a time."

At these words, one of the leaders called Suhard turned back and charged him with three hundred fighting–men. Suhard dealt Corineus a blow which he took on his shield. Corineus remembered his battle–axe and swung it up in the air and struck Suhard on the crest of his helmet splitting him in two halves top to bottom. Then he turned his battle–axe on the others and went on causing the same destruction. Each took him on and he took them each in turn. Brutus was filled with emotion seeing this and hurried forward with a company of men to assist Corineus.

The Trojans were victorious, driving King Goffar and him men backwards. Goffar escaped to the other regions of Gaul to seek help. There were twelve Gaulish kings of equal rank under whom the whole country was ruled. They received Goffar sympathetically and promised that they would drive out this foreign people from Aquataine.

The Second Battle with Goffar

Brutus was overjoyed with the victory and enriched his comrades with spoils, marshaled them again into companies, and marched them through the country with intention to sack it completely to restore his stocks. Inflicting devastation, Brutus came to the place now called Tours where he set up a camp to which he might retreat if he had to because of the arrival of Goffar with the kings and princes of Gaul and their huge force of armed men. Brutus waited two days in his camp for Goffar with all in readiness.

Goffar advanced his forces until he could see Brutus’ camp. He gazed at it grimly and then with a sardonic smile said, "How sad my destiny is! These ignoble exiles have pitched their camp in my kingdom. Arm yourselves, men! Arm yourselves, and charge through their serried ranks! In a short time we shall seize hold of these weaklings as if they were sheep and carry them captive through our kingdom." His men march toward the Trojans in twelve columns.

Brutus’ reaction was far from a weakling. He placed his companies in position and instructed them how they should advance and how they should hold their ground. When they joined the battle, the Trojans gained the upper hand and inflicted fearful slaughter killing two thousand Gauls while the rest was on the verge of running away. But, the Gauls fell back and re–formed and attacked the Trojans on all sides, for the Gauls were three times the number of the Trojans. The Gauls then caused them great slaughter and forced the Trojans back to their camp. With this victory, the Gauls besieged them in their camp believing that they would never withdraw until the enemy they had surrounded either offered their necks to be encircled with chains or had been cruelly tortured to death after suffering a long time from hunger.

That night, Corineus conferred with Brutus, saying that he wanted to make his way out of the camp that night and conceal himself until daybreak in the neighboring wood. Brutus should attack at first light and, while engaging the enemy, Corineus would attack from the rear, charging them and bringing about the overthrow of the Gauls.

Brutus approved of the plan and Corineus took three thousand men into the woods during the night. The next morning, Brutus assembled his men, opened the gates of the camp, and marched forth to battle. The Gauls immediately attacked and thousands were killed almost immediately. A Trojan named Turnus, second to Corineus in strength and valor, and a nephew of Brutus, is said to have slain six hundred men by his own sword, but he was killed before his time by the Gauls. The city of Tours is named after Turnus, who was buried there.

While The Gauls fought Brutus, Corineus attacked unexpectedly from the rear, coming at full speed. Brutus’ men fought with renewed effort in order to complete the battle. Brutus raised such a din as he charged that he terrified the confused Gauls, thinking there were more men than there actually was. The Gauls fled the battle with the Trojans in full pursuit still killing them until they gained victory.

Brutus was again filled with joy at this victory, but he was nevertheless filled with anxiety because his men decreased in number every day while those of the Gauls increased. Brutus doubted that he could hold out forever so he decided to return to his ships and leave in victory while he had as many men as he had as seek again the island promised by the divine prophesy.

Arrival in Albion

Brutus and his fleet sailed with their ships full of riches and came ashore at Totnes. At this time the island of Britain was called Albion and uninhabited except for a few giants. It was most attractive because of its great forests of game and rivers which teemed of fish. Brutus and his companions were filled with a great desire to live there. They explored different districts and drove the giants they found living in caves into the mountains. Brutus divided the land amongst them and they began to build houses and cultivate the land so that, in short time, one would think that the land had always been inhabited.

Naming of Britain

Brutus called the island Britain from his own name and his companions he called Britons. He intended that his memory be perpetuated by the derivation of this name. A little later, their language which had been known as Trojan or Crooked Greek was also called British.

Naming of Cornwall

Corineus, following the example of Brutus, called the kingdom that had fallen to his share Cornwall, after his own name, and the people who lived there Cornishmen. Although he might have chosen his own estates before all others who had come there, he preferred the region now called Cornwall, either for its being the cornu or horn of Britain, or through a corruption of his own name.

Corineus and Gogmagog

Corineus, Brutus’ next in command and the founder of Cornwall, was "a sober–minded man, wise in counsel, yet great of courage and audacity. If he were to come up against a giant he would overthrow him as easily as if he were fighting against a mere boy.">/p>

Corineus experienced great pleasure from wrestling with the giants, of whom there were far more there than in any of the other districts distributed to his comrades.

One particularly repulsive one was called Gogmagog and was twelve feet tall. He was so strong that, once given a shake, he could tear up an oak tree as if it were a hazel wand.

Once, when Brutus was celebrating a day dedicated to the gods in Totnes, Gogmagog, along with twenty other giants, attacked him and killed a great number of Britons. However, the Britons gathered from around the area and overcame the giants and slew them all except for Gogmagog. Brutus ordered that his life be spared because he wanted Corineus to wrestle him, who enjoyed to match himself against such monsters.

Corineus was delighted in this and threw off his armour and challenged Gogmagog to a match. The contest began. Corineus moved in and so did the giant; each caught the other by entwining his arms around the other. Gogmagog gripped Corineus with all his might and broke three ribs.

Corineus was infuriated by what had happened and summoned all of his strength and heaved Gogmagog up on to his shoulders and, hurrying as fast as he could under his weight, ran for the nearby coast. He climbed to the top of a mighty cliff and hurled the deadly monster far out into the sea. The giant fell on the sharp rocks of the reef where he was dashed to a thousand fragments and stained the waters with his blood. The place where Corineus hurled the giant to his death is called Gogmagog’s Leap to this day.

Reference: (Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, pages 72–73.)
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Gogmagog from Drayton’s Pololbion

Robert Hunt quotes the following poem of this famous wrestling match, from Drayton’s "Pololbion:"

Amongst the ragged Cleeves those monstrous giants sought:
Who (of their dreadful kind) t’appal the Trojans brought
Great Gogmagog, an oake that by the roots could teare;
So mighty were (that time) the men who lived there:
But, for the use of armes he did not understand
(Except some rock or tree, that coming next to land,
He raised out of the earth to execute his rage),
He challenge makes for strength, and offereth there his gage,
Which Corin taketh up, to answer by and by,
Upon this sonne of earth his utmost power to try.
All, doubtful to which part the victory should goe,
Upon that loftie place at Plimmouth, called the Hoe,
Those mighty wrastlers met; with many an irefull looke,
Who threat’ned as the one hold of the other tooke:
But, grappled, glowing fire shines in their sparkling eyes,
And, whilst at length of arme one from the other lyes,
Their lusty sinews swell like cables, as they strive,
Their feet such tramling make, as though they forced to drive
A thunder out of earth, which stagger’d with the weight:
Thus either’s utmost force urged to the greatest height,
Whilst one upon his hips the other seeks to lift,
And th’ adverse (by a turn) doth from his cunning shift,
Their short–fetcht troubled breath a hollow noise doth make,
Like bellows of a forge. Then Corin up doth take
The giant ‘twixt the groins; and voiding of his hold
(Before his cumbrous feet he well recover could),
Pitcht headlong from the hill; as when a man doth throw
An axtree, that with slight delivered from the toe
Roots up the yielding earth, so that his violent fall
Shook Neptune with such strength as shoulder’d him withal;
That where the monstrous waves like mountains late did stand,
They leapt out of the place, and left the barèd sand
To gaze upon wide heaven, so great a blow it gave.
For which the conquering Brute on Corineus brave
This horn of land bestow’d, and markt it with his name
of Corin, Cornwal call’d to his immortal fame.

Gogmagog’s Impression in the Ground

Hunt then goes on to quote Robert Heath, who in 1750 published his Natural and Historical Account of the Islands of Scilly, to which he added "A General Account of Cornwall." Hunt infers from the text that the figures of the wrestlers cut out in the turf on Plymouth Hoe then existed:

The activity of the Cornish and Devonshire men, beyond others in the faculty of Wrestling, seems to derive their Pedigree from that grand Wrestler, Corineus. That there has been such a giant as Gogmagog, opposed by Corineus, the inhabitants of Plymouth show you a Portraiture of two Men, one bigger than the other, with Clubs in their hands, cut out upon the Haw–ground, which have been renewed by the order of the Place, as they ear out; a steep cliff being near, over which the giant might be thrown, are said to point out together the Probability of the Fact.

Gogmagog’s Jawbone

Hunt continues this portion of Corineus and Gogmagog quoting William Scawen in his Dissertation of the Cornish Tongue:

I cannot affirm with so much reason, as some of our neighbors have done with confidence, who say that at the last digging on the Haw for the foundation of the citadel of Plymouth, the great jaws and teeth therein found were those of Gogmagog, who was there said to be thrown down by Corineus, whom some will have to be the founder of the Cornish; nor am I able to assert that some instruments of war in brass, and huge limbs and portraitures of persons long ago, as some say that have been in some of the western parishes, were parts of giants or other great men, who had formerly had their being their.

Tunt also includes an editor’s note to the above quotation who debunks the claim thus:

Ihese bones must evidently have been found in a cavern, the nature of which has been most ably ascertained and described by Dr. Buckland and the Rev. Richard Hannah, who examined other caverns of precisely the same nature, comprising bones of various larger mamilia, in the limestone formation not far from Plymouth.

Hunt then concludes with a note on the editor’s note:

Thus we see the poetical belief of one age destroyed by the positive philosophy of the next. Happily, we move in all things in waves.Amidst the relics of the mamilia of the Devonshire caves we are now discovering the unmistakable remains of man and his works, stone knives, spear–heads, axes, and hammers speak of an ancient race; and may there not have been "giants in the earth in those days, and also after that?"

Reference: (Hunt, Popular Romances of the West of England, Second Series, page 463.)
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