Explorations in Arthurian History

The Importance of Geography

Part 9: Carmarthen

The story of Merlin in connection with Arthur begins with Vortigern, probably in Dinas Emrys, in Snowdonia, in Wales. But the story of Merlin itself begins in Dyfed, in Carmarthen.

Carmarthen is, in Welsh, "Myrddin's Town." Was the town named after the seer? Perhaps not. The Roman name for the town was Moridunum, from which it is fairly easy to get Myrddin's Town. It could have been that the seer was just a "man from Myrddin." Whatever the case, echoes of Myrddin, or Merlin, abound. Merlin's Wood (Bryn Myrddin) is just outside of town; Myrddin's Tree, an ancient tree, used to stand in the center of town.

Also from Carmarthen comes the Black Book of Carmarthen, a collection of Welsh folk tales, some of which make mention of Arthur. He is mentioned as having been at the Battle of Llongborth, which can be historically traced. He is mentioned as having a dialogue with a castle guard named Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr. Tantalizingly, he is mentioned in the "Stanzas of the Graves," which says that the location of his grave is not known. This might have served as a jumping-off point for chroniclers who wanted to assert that Arthur would return.

Other relevant links

Merlin's Hill

Excerpt from the Black Book of Carmarthen

Battle of Llongborth

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