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The Real Taliesin

Taliesin was a real person, he was a poet and a bard. He lived sometime between 534 and 599 AD. He was Brythonic (ancient Briton) or perhaps Welsh. Some of the events to which the poems refer, such as the Battle of Arfderydd (c. 583), are referred to in other sources, giving Taliesin credibility as a recorder of historic events.


 His writings are contained in the Book of Taliesin which is an old Welsh Manuscript.


He was a bard who sung at the courts of at least three Celtic kings. His poems have been dated to the 6th century, mostly  praising King Urien of Rheged  and his son Owain mab Urien, although several of his poems indicate that he was also bard to King Brochfael Ysgithrog of Powys and his successor Cynan Garwyn.  His time in Powys links him to Wales, but it is not known whether he was in Powys before, after or during his time at King Urien's court.

The legendary Taliesin.

Taliesin is a character in legend, known as “he of the shining brow”  he was supposed to be a companion of both Brân the Blessed and King Arthur  as well as a  contemporary of Merlin some even claiming that he was Merlin’s teacher.


Both Brân the Blessed and King Arthur were recorded as High Kings of Britain.  Brân is the Welsh for Raven, which was supposed to be King Urien of Rheged’s sign which further links Arthur, Brân and Urien as real or mythical High Kings of Britain.


 Iolo Morgannwg , was a Welsh historian (and possibly a forger) who wrote that Taliesin had an association with Gower and in particular Loughor. (13)   Iolo wrote that King Urien of Rheged held his court at Oystermouth 118 and that he wrote in the local dialect of the area and quotes Taliesin as:

“Chwaryeis yn Llychwr Cysgais ym mhorphor."

I have played at Llychwr (Loughor) and slept in purple.


Taliesin and the Iolo Manuscripts


Edward Williams was a 18th Century Welsh historian, poet, collector and  a forger. He better known by his bardic name;  Iolo Morgannwg , he wrote that Taliesin had an association with Gower and in particular Loughor.   


The Iolo Manuscripts (Taliesin Williams.  A selection of ancient Welsh manuscripts, in prose and verse, from the collection made by the late Edward Williams, Iolo Morganwg for the purpose of forming a continuation of the Myfyrian archaiology; page 40 ) 13  state  Taliesin’s association with Gower and Loughor in particular.


It says that Taliesin wasbard to King Urien and that Urien held court at Oystermouth near Swansea.


Talhaiarn (Urien’s court bard before Taliesin), the father of Tangwn, presided in the chair of Urien Rheged, at Caer-Gwyroswydd (Oystermouth, Swansea), after the expulsion of the Irish from Gower, Carnwyllion (near Llanelli), Cantrev-Bychan Ystrad Twyi near Carreg Cennin), and the Cantref of Iscennen (between the river Towy and the River Amman, from Llandeilo in the north to Ammanford). The said chair was established at Caer-Gwyroswydd, or Ystum Llwynarth (both Oystermouth Swansea), where Urien Rheged was accustomed to hold his national and royal court. 118

Iolo also claims that Taliesin wrote in a form of Welsh that could be identified as a South Wales dialect:

 “Taliesin' s intercourse with Gower [[Rheged]] and its Reguli is sufficiently
decided by the several poems addressed by him to those personages. He also
writes in the Gwentian dialect  of which district he was, doubtless, a native. “
See his compositions, Myv. Arch. vol. I. In his "Kad Goddeu" he says,

He also claims that  when Taliesin was an old man and just before he died, he  came back to Oystermouth to visit King Urien’s son Riwallon,


“Taliesin, in his old age, returned to Caer-Gwyroswydd, to Riwallon, the son of
Urien ; after which he visited Cedig, the son of Ceredig, the son of Cuneddav Wledig, where he died, and was buried with high honours, such as should always be shown to a man who ranked among the principal wise-men of the Cimbric nation ; and Taliesin, chief of the bards, was the highest of the most exalted class, either in literature, wisdom, the science of vocal song, or any other attainment, whether sacred or profane.”

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