aka Nemnius, Nemnivus
fl. early 9th century.
A Welsh monk and historian, he is believed to have lived around the year 800. He calls himself a disciple of St. Elbotus, which is presumed to be Elfod, bishop of Bangor, Wales. In contrast to Gildas and Bede, Nennius' Historia Brittonum is an attempt to bring the Britons into a positive light, and apparently had an important impact on Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Nennius admits he's a bad historian, drawing chiefly from scattered texts1. Still, his influence is monumental--it is in Nennius that we have the first account of Brutus' coming to Britain; of Vortigern and the dragons; of Arthur's role in the Battle of Badon; and of the great bards of the sixth century, such as Taliesin and Aneurin.
Nennius is also thought to have invented an alphabet, when challenged by some Saxons, who were proud of their runes, and saw the British as inferior for not having their own alphabet. According to the four manuscripts which contain his alphabet, he invented the letters on the spot. This is unlikely, as many of them resemble runes.
1. The earliest manuscript--Chartres MS. 98, ca. 900--give the author as Rhun, son of Urien. Rhun would have lived at the time of the main events of Nennius' history, and he may have been a source for Nennius.
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Mary Jones © 2004