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Ambrosius and the city of Aureliani

In §25.3 of The Ruins of Britain, Gildas identifies Ambrosius Aurelianus as the leader of the wretched survivors [of the Saxon revolt], but provides little else about this Roman gentleman. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions a man named Aurelius Ambrosius in The History of the Kings of Britain. Many assume that these two men are essentially the same man. Another legendary man connected to Ambrosius Aurelianus is referred to by Nennius. The Welsh called him, Emrys.

Various arguments can be presented in regards to the proper form of his name. Many may assume that it is the standard type of name utlitized by the Romans. This assumption begs the question. What are the other parts of his name? With no further details provided in the major sources, a different interpretation has been made regarding his name. In Arthurian Tales, this enigmatic figure is portrayed as a Roman named Ambrosius that resided near Aureliani at various times.

Geoffrey of Monmouth presents several interesting details about Aurelius Ambrosius. When Aurelius and Utherpendragon were children, the brothers were originally given to Archbishop Guithelinus to be brought up. After their father's murder and the death of the archbishop, the brothers were taken to Little Britain so Vortigern could not murder them. A lord by the name of Budicius took them in. Though noted as the king of Brittany, Geoffrey of Monmouth states nothing more about this Budicius or the range of his power.

Within this information, a noteworthy point is the lack of similiarities between the names of Ambrosius and Uther. It gives the impression that the brothers were actually raised by two separate families, with the first being Roman while the latter possibly Alan. The conjecture regarding Uther is based on the brothers commanding an Armoric cavalry when they returned to Britain, the details provided by C. Scott Littleton and Linda A. Malcor in From Scythia to Camelot about the title Pendragon, and the various spellings for Goar noted by Bernard Bachrach in A History of the Alans in the West.

Geoffrey of Monmouth states that Utherpendragon and Aurelius Ambrosius still lay in their cradles when Vortigern crowned their older brother, Constans, the king of Britain. This gives the impression that the two younger brothers were both babies at that time and relatively the same age. This raises the possibility that they were twins.

Going with the assumption that a Roman family adopted Ambrosius, his name could have derived from his caregiver or from the region he lived in while exiled. Each scenario could imply that he resided in or around the Gallic city of Aureliani (present-day Orléans, France).

Tangent details provided by near-contemporary writers form the bases to these conjectures. An association between Ambrosius and the locale can faintly be seen in the writings of Jordanes. In section XXXVII of The Origin and Deeds of the Goths as translated by Charles C. Mierow, Jordanes states that the Alani king, Sangiban, promised to surrender Aureliani to Attila the Hun.

A precedent for someone living in the area with part of his name is established in a story from Gregory of Tours that was passed down by Fredegar. In the book, From Roman to Merovingian Gaul by Alexander Callander Murray, it states that Clovis sent a certain Roman called Aurelianus to inspect the king’s future wife, Chlothild. Aurelianus lived in the region of Orléans.

Though an example of a name-place in Britain based on Aurelianus seems lacking, Dr. John Morris identifies Ambrosden, Amberley, and Amesbury as examples of locations named after Ambrosius in The Age of Arthur. If these examples are named after a person, it seems more likely that the person was known as Ambrosius or Emrys but not Aurelianus while in Britain.

Considering these various factors has led to the view that the Roman gentleman mentioned by Gildas was widely known as Ambrosius and, at one time or another, lived near Aureliani, but also fought battles in Britain.


Key Elements of Ambrosius Aureliani

British Appeal to Agitius

St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre

The Coming of the Saxons

King Grallon viewed as Vortigern

Ambrosius and the city of Aureliani

The Sword of Power & the Round Table

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