Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Roman: Maridunum, Moridunum
Welsh: Caerfyrddin, Caerfyrddyn

Carmarthen is a town in Carmarthenshire, Wales. It is situated in the southwestern part of Wales, along the River Tywi.

The name Carmarthen is an Anglicised form of the Welsh Caerfyrddyn, which means “Merlin’s fort.” Geoffrey wrote that Merlin was born in a cave outside Carmarthen. The Welsh incarnation of the town’s name was Caer Myrddin.

Some suggest that Myrddin took his name from the town, while others say that it was named after him. Whatever the truth, the link between the two reached Geoffrey of Monmouth, who made Carmarthen the site of the young Merlin’s encounter with King Vortigern’s soldiers, on a quest to find a “fatherless” child. Geoffrey also names Eli as the town provost under the king. Nennius had formerly placed the same events in Elledi. In Layamon, we are told that Uther Pendragon’s smith, Griffin, had his forge in Carmarthen.

The town certainly has many connections with Merlin the wizard and his prophecies. Probably the best known of these is that concerning the Priory Oak, or Merlin’s Tree. Myrddin prophesied that the town would fall if this particular tree ever fell. Its remains now stand in the foyer of Saint Peter’s Civic Hall, because the tree was moved in 1978 by the local authority from its site in the town, since it consisted mainly of concrete and iron bars and this constituted a hazzard to traffic. Pieces of the tree remain in the town museum. Carmarthen, however, is still awaiting the fulfiment of he prophecy, but perhaps simply moving the tree was not enough to bring about the town’s downfall.

When Myrddin’s Oak comes tumblin down
Down shall fall Carmarthen Town.

About two miles east of Carmarthen, it is believed in legend that Merlin is still alive and lives inside a cave called Bryn Myrddyn (Merlin’s Cave). It is said that here he is held in bonds of enchantment by Vivienne (Viviane), the woman that he truly loved an who ultimately was to enchant him with the use of his own knowledge bestowed upon her.

Carmarthen | 0 to the 9th century AD

Roman Period | Late 1st century AD
Carmarthen, known as Moridunum in Roman times, was established as a Roman fort and settlement around AD 75. It served as a key strategic point for controlling river crossings and trade routes in the region.

Roman Fort of Moridunum
The Roman fort at Moridunum played a crucial role in the Roman occupation of Britain. It was strategically located along the Roman road network and near the River Tywi. The fort served as an important administrative and trading center in the region. It was the most westerly of the Roman’s large forts, but few traces remain. However, the discovery of an apmphitheater with a seating capacity of 500 would seem to suggest that the garrison at Carmarthen was not so insignificant.

Transition to Post-Roman Period | 5th century
As the Roman Empire faced internal challenges and withdrew its forces from Britain in the early fifth century, the region went through a period of transition. The vacuum left by the Romans contributed to the emergence of post-Roman societies.

Early Medieval Period | 5th – 9th centuries
The early medieval period in Wales saw the establishment of various kingdoms and the influence of Celtic and later Anglo-Saxon cultures. Specific details about Carmarthen during this period are less well-documented, but it is likely that the town continued to be a center of local significance.

By the late fifth century, Carmarthen and the surrounding area became part of the Kingdom of Dyfed, ruled by Welsh kings, and had its capital in Carmarthen. It was one of the most powerful and long-lasting kingdoms in Wales.

Viking Raids and Invasions | 8th – 9th centuries
Coastal areas of Wales, including Carmarthen, were vulnerable to Viking raids during the eighth and ninth centuries. The Vikings sought to exploit the wealth and resources of coastal settlements, leading to conflicts in the region.

See also
Aber Tywi | The Legend of King Arthur

Historia Brittonum | Probably Nennius, early 9th century
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Brut | Layamon, late 12th century to mid-13th century