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Latin: Uurtigernus; Welsh: Gwrtheyrn
Gurthrigern, Gwrteym, Fortager, Fortagere, Fortageres, Fortages, Fortiger, Fortigers, Uertiger, Vertaggiere, Vertiger, Vertigier, Vitiglier, Vortiger
Vortigern was seneschal to King Constans of Britain, Arthur’s grandfather. After the death of Constans, twelve barons who wanted Vortigern for their king murdered Constans’ eldest son, Maines. Vortigern gained the kingship and allied himself to the Saxons. As king of Britain his reign preceded Ambrosius in the mid-fifth century. He invited Hengist to Britain to rid the land of Saxons, but Hengist in turn conquered Kent.
In fear of Constans’ remaining sons, Pandragon and Uther, Vortigern tried to build himself a tower, but did not succeed until after the child Merlin had shown him a pair of dragons in a great water beneath the tower’s proposed foundations, and made a very unfavorable prophecy about what the dragons symbolized for Vortigern. True to Merlin’s prediction, Pandragon and Uther killed Vortigern and burned his tower.
Vortigern was a fifth century British ruler who is first mentioned by Bede. He is blamed by the Welsh for the Saxons’ settlement in Britain, and thus for their eventual takeover of what is now England. Vortigern’s friendship with them is the cause of the troubles that Arthur temporarily ends.
As Vortigern means ‘overlord’, it may have been a title rather than a name, but this is by no means certain. He was connected with central Wales, South Wales and possibly Gloucester, from whose alleged founder he was thought to be descended. It cannot be stated with certainty over how much of Britain his sway extended, but he is generally regarded as historical, though H. Butler thinks it quite possible he is purely legendary. Nennius says he began to reign in AD 425. He may have married a daughter of Maximus, the rebel Roman emperor who led an expedition from Britain to the Continent. He is credited with sons called Vortimer, Catigern, Pascent and Faustus.
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A fortress built by King Vortigern. Nennius says that it is in North Wales, but he later places it in Dyfed, in South Wales. Geoffrey of Monmouth calls it Ganarew.