Legacy of the Dragons: A Dark Ages Timeline

Legacy of the Dragons

Cadbury Castle, one of the more popular sites claimed to have been Arthur's court

Hello all, and welcome to a timeline ten years in the making.

For years now, I've wanted to put together an alternate history where, instead of the Anglo-Saxons, the Welsh (or, to be more true to the premise, Britons) remain the dominant culture of Britain. How this could be accomplished is debatable, given the lack of genuine sources from Britain until the Saxons were already dominant, so any ATL dealing with the concept needs to rely heavily on conjecture. In this case, my TL will have a POD in the 6th century (well, late 5th if you want to get technical), hence the name. Yes, King Arthur will be the jumping off point for this TL … sort of.

I was inspired by two timelines while developing this timeline. The first is, obviously, Britons Triumphant, by the late Robert Perkins, which was the timeline I first joined the site to comment on. That said however, this timeline will go in several different directions from his. The other timeline is Sons of the Harlot Empress by @Carp , which provided the idea of writing this as an in-universe overview on the subject. A major focus of this timeline will be on how supposedly major events can be forgotten or exaggerated when written sources are few and far between, so, aside from Arthur's existence being viewed as a matter of fact (for the most part), the historians of TTL know roughly as much about 6th century Britain as we do. As a result, I am also adopting Carp's footnote style, were numbers are in-universe clarifications and letters are out-of-universe clarifications.

With all that said, there are a few statements I'll make before the timeline proper begins:

1. The conceit of this timeline is that King Arthur was a real, historical figure. It will be presumed for the purposes of the timeline that Arthur was a son of Uther Pendragon, who likewise will be presumed to have been a son of Constantine Corneu and a warlord in the service of Ambrosius Aurelianus. So no arguments about the historicity of Arthur or anyone connected with him or the Matter of Britain at large.
2. As a corollary to the above, this timeline presumes for the ease of reference that the Welsh and Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies are, by and large, accurate, with any contradictions being ruled in favor of the older genealogies.
3. This timeline presumes that when Hywel Dda wrote his legal system, what he actually did was codify pre-existing legal traditions that already existed, and that these traditions were followed by Britons in the 6th century.
4. By the time of the POD, Celtic Paganism is more or less dead in post-Roman Britain, and Pelagianism is dying if not also dead. The Britons will, by and large, be in communion with Rome.
5. Although realistically a surviving sub-Roman Britain would probably develop a Romance language due to holding on to the major urban centers of the island, the Britons of TTL will still be speaking Welsh, due to me not being a linguist.

Anyway, I do hope you enjoy what follows. The timeline proper will start in the following week, so you can ask any preliminary questions you want.
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Background - Magnus Maximus and the End of Roman Britain
The Emperor Gratian, who had once ruled the Roman Empire with energy and vigor, had by 383 become deeply unpopular. A young man, it was clear Gratian had grown to enjoy the lifestyle his position entailed without caring about the responsibilities. He alienated his Roman subordinates with his indolence, and his Germanic subjects were alienated by his favoritism towards the Alans - an Iranic people from the steppes who would produce Gratian's close companions. As had happened so many times before, the conditions were ripe for a military uprising. And as had happened so many times before, this uprising occurred in Britain.

The commander in Britain at this time was a man named Magnus Maximus. Little is known about his early life - he was born in Hispania Gallaecia, to the brother of Comes Theodosius, whose own son, Theodosius I, was now the Eastern Emperor. Maximus is recorded as having a brother, one Marcellinus, and at least one son, Flavius Victor. The troops of Britain proclaimed him Emperor in 383 (possibly with the encouragement of Gratian's Frankish Magister Peditum[1], Merobaudes), and he crossed the British Sea[A] that year. That autumn, Gratian was captured and executed at Lugdunum[В] by Dux Andragathius, Maximus's Magister Equitum[2]. Maximus then prepared to march into Italy and overthrow Gratian's brother, Valentinian II, but a large army from Theodosius convinced him overwise, and in 384 an treaty overseen by Saint Ambrose led to all three men recognizing each other as co-emperors.

A solidus depicting Magnus Maximus
Macsen Wledig

Part of the difficulty in determining Maximus's life is that the British have adopted him as an almost messianic figure, Macsen Wledig[3]. He is said to have been a grandson of no less a figure than Constantine the Great himself (a story which can date back to Maximus's own propaganda). He is also said to have been the son-in-law of Eudaf Hen, a semi-legendary nobleman associated with Caer Seiont[C] in modern Gwynedd (and who may have actually lived a century earlier), via Eudaf's daughter. Maximus's wife is listed in one genealogy as "Ceindrech", but all other sources, whether historical or fantastical, name her "Elen" (It is, of course, not impossible for Maximus to have married twice in his life, or for Elen, the British form of Helen, to have been Ceindrech's baptismal name). Whatever her name, she was apparently a well-learned woman who corresponded with Saint Martin. In addition to Victor, the British have associated Maximus with three more sons - Owain Finddu, Anwn Dynod, and Custennin - although only Custennin lacks an alternate genealogy. He is also awarded at least two daughters - Gratianna, who is held to have married into the Dumnonian royal family, and Severa, who we will see later - and an unnamed third daughter has been theorized to have been the mother of Petronius Maximus.

In any event, the British perception of a just warrior-king with a magic sword who will return in the island's hour of need is very much at odds with the real man who reigned in Augusta Treverorum[D]. Maximus returned to Britain one more time, possibly to deal with a Pictish invasion, but otherwise seems to have allowed the various local magnates a greater deal of autonomy than what previous emperors had done, although he may have established the office of Comes Britanniarum. He also continuously denuded Britain of trained warriors for his army, most of whom he settled in Armorica. Most infamously, he is the first recorded Christian head of state to have a man, Priscillian of the Priscillianists, executed for heresy, over the protests of his wife and Saint Martin. Still, he proved to be an able administrator (Quintus Aurelius Symmachus writes highly of his jurisprudence) and a benefactor of Jews in the Western Empire (over the protests of Saint Ambrose).

But Maximus was ambitious, and this proved to be his undoing. In 387 he again tried to depose Valentinian, and again Valentinian requested the aid of Theodosius. This time, there would be no mercy. Marcellinus was killed in battle, Andragathius was defeated and "threw himself into the sea", according to one chronicler. Merobaudes, who may have facilitated Maximus's rise, also disappears from history in this year, although he may have died five years earlier. Maximus himself was captured and executed despite pleas for clemency, the Senate passing an edict of Damnatio memoriae on him. Theodosius negotiated the release of Maximus's mother and two daughters, but Flavius Victor was executed by Theodosius's Frankish general Arbogast. No mention is made of Maximus's wife or any other potential children in this period. This was the end of Magnus Maximus, but not of Macsen Wledig.

A fanciful 14th Century depiction of Macsen Wledig.
The House of Macsen

The history of Britain becomes confused after Theodosius's victory. The last recorded military campaign in Britain was ordered by Stilicho sometime around 397 to deal with a resurgent Pictish threat. It has been suggested that two comitanses of the Legio II Adiutrix were sent to Britain in 401, but there is no hard evidence for this, and seems to exist because the II Adiutrix had history in Britain, having participated in the campaigns of both Julius Agricola and Lucius Artorius Castus. If the II Adiutrix did serve in Britain, it was a very temporary measure - in 402 Stilicho stripped Britain of all professional troops to deal with the growing threat of Alaric, leaving only a skeletal garrison. This proved an opening for the Picts, Irish, and Germanics, and the stress proved too much for the British. Once again, British troops would raise a pretender to the throne, and they choose an officer named Marcus in 405. Marcus did not live up to expectations, and was soon killed and replaced with a new figure named, ironically, Gratian, all the while Stilicho allowed the Alans, Vandals, and Suebi to march into Gaul, using threat of a barbarian invasion as a Sword of Damocles against the British. Finally, Gratian (who is sometimes called "Gratian Municeps" to differentiate him from the official emperor) was himself killed, and replaced with a man who declared himself Constantine III in 407.

It is Constantine who has managed to capture the imagination. Some have suggested that he was the same man as Maximus's presumed son Custennin, but this is considered unlikely even if Custennin did exist - Constantine III never made such a claim himself, and since Custennin was apparently never involved in his father's rule the way Victor was, he would have likely been a young boy, an infant, or even in his mother's womb at the time of Maximus's death, and thus too young to be a believable pretender. Roman pretenders, after all, tended to be aged military men, not young, dispossessed princes.

This does beg the question of what happened to Maximus's other sons, if they indeed existed or were his sons, and British folklore and genealogies offer an answer. Owain Finddu is recorded as a king over the Silurian region, Anwn Dynod as a king of the Demetae (or, confusingly, over the Novantae beyond Hadrian's Wall), and Custennin himself as a leader in Ordovices territory. Of course, none of these men would have been old enough to be leaders in 407 if they were Maximus's sons, let alone adopt an anachronistic title like "king", but the future rulers of these lands would trace their descent to these men and ultimately to Macsen Wledig.

Coin of Constantine III.
In any event, shortly after his acclimation Constantine III led his forces into Europe - and this killed Roman rule in Britain. He spread his forces too thin, too quickly, and his domain collapsed in the face of barbarian and loyalist attacks. In 410, the British expelled the Roman officials Constantine III had left in charge, and apparently wrote to Emperor Honorius requesting relief. Honorius, however, had his hands full in Ravenna, dealing with Alaric and Constantine III alike. According to the Greek historian Zosimus, Honorius told the British to look to their own defenses[4]. Constantine III's cause was spent after this. In 411 his son Constans was murdered by his British right-hand, Gerontius, and he himself was soon killed. But there would be no attempt by the Romans to return to Britain - the island would now have to chart its own destiny.[E]

Footnotes (In-Universe)
[1] "Master of the Foot(men)." A Roman military title that would soon be replaced by the more expansive Magister Militum.
[2] "Master of the Horses." Another military title that would be replaced by Magister Militum, although "Master of the Horse" would survive as a ceremonial title in some courts.
[3] "Macsen" is a British attempt at transliterating "Maximus." "Wledig" officially translates to "of a country", but more often than not seems to have been used as an epithet denoting a man with significant military command, a British counterpart to Imperator in other words.
Because this statement appears out of nowhere in a discussion on central Italy, some historians think Zosimus may have confused Britain with the Italian city Bruttium - the Greek names for both are very similar.

Footnotes (Out-of-Universe)
[A] The English Channel
[В] Lyons (for various reasons I'm using Latin or Celtic names for cities).
[C] Caernarvon
[D] Trier
[E] Keep in mind that all of this is just backstory. Everything written so far is either OTL history or OTL folklore, but I felt the stories of Magnus Maximus and Constantine III needed to be established to give a frame of reference. The next entry will hopefully get us through to when Arthur himself shows up. And also, sorry for the wait.
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Promises next update.

Proceeds to get swamped and forget about TL for 4 and a half months.

Yeah, sorry about that. Things got really hectic and frustrating. Hopefully the update will go up tonight local time, but I've learned not to promise concrete deadlines.
"Wledig" officially translates to "of a country", but more often than not seems to have been used as an epithet denoting a man with significant military command, a British counterpart to Imperator in other words.
I believe ymerawdwr is the welsh cognate to Imperator, if you ever want to use that.
I'd suggest avoiding OTL Modern Welsh spelling for a bit more authenticity.
Like I said in the OP, I'm not good with the technical aspects of linguistics, and sources on Old Brittonic are hard to come by. I'm kind of stuck with Modern Welsh for most terms as a result.
Like I said in the OP, I'm not good with the technical aspects of linguistics, and sources on Old Brittonic are hard to come by. I'm kind of stuck with Modern Welsh for most terms as a result.
A simple cheat would then be using Modern Welsh with different spelling. Turn those w into u, u into i etc.
A simple cheat would then be using Modern Welsh with different spelling. Turn those w into u, u into i etc.
Hmm, alright then. In that case, I'll post this little mini update

The British Language in Legacy of the Dragons.
As I said in the OP, I'm not a linguist. I couldn't begin to tell you what a voiceless alveolar fricative is to save my life, and I'm looking at the Wikipedia article for that right now! That said, while I'm no true conlanger, I can at least make TTL British look different enough from OTL Welsh to emphasize the different influences that will occur in the language. So here is a brief list:

  • U is replaced with I
  • W is replaced with U, unless it starts a word, in which case it is Gu
  • FF is replaced with F, while F is replaced with V (in other words, they're spelled English phonetically)
  • C is replaced with K
  • If Y comes after a vowel (including Welsh W) it becomes I, otherwise it becomes E.
  • Other letters, including LL, DD, and CH, remain the same.
These aren't hard rules, and it will depend on how the word in question is pronounced.

To give some idea on the differences, here are all the Welsh words and names mentioned in the background or discussion rewritten into "British:"

Macsen Wledig - Macsen Guledig
Eudaf Hen - Eidav Hen
Ceindrech - Keindrech
Elen - Elen
Owain Finddu - Ouain Vinddi
Anwn Dynod - Anun Dinod
Custennin - Kistennin
Peiblig (A fifth son of Maximus I didn't know about until this week) - Peiblig
Caer Seiont - Kaer Seiont
Ymerawdwr - Emeraudur

And some others:

Cymru - Kemri (Wales)
Tywysog - Teuisog (Prince)
Prydain - Bredain (Britain)
Llydaw - Lledau (Brittany)
Rhufeinig - Rhuveinig (Roman)
Gwrtheyrn - Gurtheirn (Vortigern)
Emrys Wledig - Embres Guletic (Ambrosius Aurelianus)
Powys - Pouis (I'm not sure about this one)
Gwynedd - Guinedd
Dyfed - Deved
Gwent - Guent
Llewellyn - Lleuellen
Hywel - Heuil
Hoping this timeline continues.
Part of what happened was that alternate linguistics just don't interest me and trying to come up with new word when OTL Welsh would work just as well was a surefire way to kill interest for me.

The real reason, however, is 2019 was not a good year for me and I was simply under my covers for most of it, trying to avoid the weight of the world. And, as I pointed out in Shared Worlds, this year chose to open up by crashing my new computer and erasing 16 years worth of documents and writings.

Hopefully I might start this up again in the next few months, but for now I need time to rebuild.