The name Brennus--and its varients Brennos, Brennius, Bron, and Brân--refers to several figures who may have a historical origin as a leader--or several leaders--in the Gaulish migrations of the fourth and third century BCE, or may ultimately go back to a god.
The earliest form of the name is latinized as Brennus, probably Brennos in Gaulish. It may be related to the word for raven (brannos?), or it may be a title for a leader.
Brennus of the Senones
The first figure is Brennus, chieftain of the Senones, who lead the Gauls in 387 BC to the Battle of Allia against Rome. He captured all of Rome except the Capitoline Hill, where the Romans attempted to buy their safety from the Gauls. During the measuring of gold, Brennus reportedly through his sword on the treasure, saying "Vae victis"--"woe to the conquered". During this argument over payment, Marcus Furius Camillus was able to return to Rome and drive out Brennus and the Senones.
Brennus of the Prausi
The Prausi--otherwise unknown--were driven from Gaul because of population growth. They moved west towards Thrace. There, they divided into three: one group lead by Cerethrius, who battled the Thracians and Triballi; one group lead by Bolgios (Belgius in Justin) against the Macedonians and Illyrians; and the third group lead by Brennus and Acichorius against Paionia. Brennus united his people under a plan to raid Greece, pushing on to Delphi. The Gauls are routed, though Strabo records a legened (which he doesn't believe) that gold from Delphi was carried off to Tolosa (modern Toulouse). Brennus, in defeat, commits suicide (either through drinking poisoned wine or stabbing himself).
Brennius of Britain
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Brennius and Belinus were brothers, sons of Dunwallo Molmutius, the legendary lawgiver of Britain. A quarrel broke out over who should rule, with Belinus taking most of Britain, and Brennius only ruling Northumbria. Brennius' supporters convince him that he deserves the whole island, and to marry the daughter of King Elsingius of Norway and gain an ally against his brother. Belinus siezes Brennius' lands, and Brennius sets sail with a Norwegian contingent to retake his land. Guichthlac, a jealous Norwegian abducts Brennius' wife, and joins Belinus. Belinus drives Brennius from Britain, gives Brennius' wife to Guichthlac, and proceeds to build roads through Britain. Meanwhile, Brennius goes to the Allobroges, where the duke of the Allobroges gives him his daughter in marriage. Brennius readies to invade Britain and get revenge on Belinus, but their mother Conwenna convinces him to make peace. They do so, then together invade and subjugate Gaul, then split with Belinus in Germany and Brennius in Rome, where the Romans believe him to be Brennus of the Senones; Geoffrey seems confused here, as he then identifies Brennius with Brennus, saying that Brennius' history is given in the Roman histories. Geoffrey hints that Brennius comes to a bad end in Rome, but says no more. The Triads say that Brennius--here called Brân--became emperor of Rome.
Brân the Blessed son of Llyr (Bendigeidfrân ap Lyr)
Brân is king of Britain, holding court at Harlech with his brothers Manawydan and the twins Efniessin and Niessin. The Irish king Mallolwch asks for his sister Branwen's hand in marriage. Efniessin creates trouble between the Britons and the Irish, and Bendigedfran goes off to rescue his sister Branwen, who is being abused by her husband the king of Ireland in retaliation. Brân crosses the Irish Sea, making his body into a bridge. In the battle for his sister (and for a magic cauldron), he is wounded, peirced in the thigh, and has his head cut off. Doing so lets him bring the Seven Survivors of Prydein to the Otherworld to feast for eighty years. After the spell is broken, his head is buried at the White Mount (Tower Hill?) in London. In the Triads, his head is said to be a talisman against invasion, but dug up by Arthur, leading to the eventual victor of the Saxons.
Brân's son Caradawg is killed (indirectly but deliberately) by Caswallawn,, son of Beli, reflecting the antagonism of Brennius and Belinus. Brân's brother Manawydan is usurped by Caswallawn, also possibly reflecting the historical usuprtion of Mandubracius's rule of the Trinobantes by Cassivellaunus.
Bran the Stingy
In "The Thirteen Treasures of Britain", a "horn of Bran" is mentioned; it is a horn of plenty, and Bran is said to be a king of the north--like Brennius in Geoffrey. In some marginalia, it is written that Taliesin transformed Bran from a miser to one of the most generous kings.
Bran mac Febal
In Immram Brain, the titular figure is lured to the Otherworld over the sea by a fairy woman, much like the story of Connlae; while on this journey, he encouters Manannan mac Lír, who prophecies the conception and career of Mongan. Bran then finds his way to the Land of Women; after a time, though, he and his companions return home, only to find that centuries have passed. One of the 27 companions of Bran sets foot on Ireland's shore, and crumples to dust. After this, Bran and his crew set sail again and are heard of no more.
However, according to John Carey, in the short poem "Immacallam in Druad Brain ocus inna Banfháitho Febuil", it's indicated that Bran conducted a raid on women living under Loch Foyle. This mirrors the other Brennus-figures raids on the Otherworld, and specifically the Amangons the Fisher King's rape of well-maidens in the post-Chretien Perceval prologue called "The Elucidation"; Carey further ties Amangon's name to Mongan, whose conception, again, figures prominently in Immram Brain.
In de Boron's Roman du Graal, Bron is the brother-in-law of Joseph of Arimathea. He helps lead the followers of Joseph to Britain, similar to the wandering company of the head, particularly in the wanderings which are associated with the west. He is associated with the sea (being the Rich Fisher), as is Bran. He possesses the Holy Grail, like Bran and his cauldron. He is wounded in the thigh, like Bran. In the Didot Perceval (generally believed to be a prose version of de Boron's lost romance), Bron lives in Ireland--again, to the west.
Bron mac Allot
In the Dindsenchas of "Carn Amalgaid" (both the prose and metrical), Bron mac Allot is the brother of Manannan, credited with clearing Mag mBroin "The Plain of Bron".
Saints Possibly Related
Obviously, these figures are somehow related, though the strands are difficult to untangle. Namely, are the Brennuses historical figures? Or are they originally gods? Are Brân and Bron originally Brennus, or are they independent gods whose stories merged with the historical Brennuses? Or is it all of the above?
Regardless, there are some obvious parallels:
In each case, the raid is ultimately a failure, and any treasure is lost.
de Boron, Robert. Merlin and the Grail: Joseph of Arimathea, Merlin, Perceval. trans. Nigel Bryant. Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 2001.
Carey, John. Ireland and the Grail. 2007.
Ford, Patrick. The Mabinogi, and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1977.
Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. trans. Lewis Thorpe. NY: Penguin, 1966.
Gwyn, E. "Poem 78: Carn Amalgaid" The Metrical Dindsenchas. Todd Lecture Series. School of Celtic Studies (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies). p. 424-425.
Justin. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson. London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).
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Koch, John T. 'Brân, Brennos: an instance of Early Gallo-Brittonic history and mythology', Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies vol. 20. 1990. p. 1-20
Livy. History of Rome. Editor Ernest Rhys Translator Rev. Canon Roberts. Everyman's Library. E.P. Dutton and Co. New York: 1912
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Parker, W.M. "The Mabinogi of Branwen" The Four Branches of the Mabinogi. 2003. URL: http://www.mabinogi.net/branwen.htm
Pausanias. Pausanias' Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. WWW. Perseus Project. Starting URL: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+10.19.1
Stokes, Whitley. "Carn Amalgaid" ‘The Prose Tales in the Rennes Dindshenchas’. Revue Celtique 16 (1895) 135-167.
de Troyes, Chrétien. "Érec et Énide". Arthurian Romances. trans. W.W. Comfort. London: Everyman's Library, 1914.
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