A Brief History of Wales:
I had a glimpse at a website recently that purported to give a chronological history of Wales and began with “500-100BC: Celts settle in Wales”.
Sorry to disappoint, but this is untrue. In fact, it is false. I don’t dispute the dates (although there is some claim that prehistoric settlers arrived 7,500 years before), only the destination. Wales did not exist until, at the earliest, AD500 and has never existed in the minds and hearts of the Cymry. The aforementioned Celts settled in what is today refered to as Great Britain/United Kingdom or the Countries of Britain (y Gwledydd Prydain). A language similar to modern Cymraeg (Welsh) was spoken by inhabitants of the British Isles (excluding Ireland) from the extreme north of mainland Scotland to the most easterly edges of England as well as throughout Cornwall and Brittany. The Brythonic-speaking Celts (the Cymry) were the inhabitants of all of the above long before the arrival of the Romans and until nearly 500 years after the invasion of the Angles and Saxons.
The Cymry weren’t driven away from their homelands (which they had stolen from the Beaker people – Mediterranean explorers of the earliest millennia – perhaps as early as the prehistoric settlers aforementioned). The Beakers were short, dark and adventurous. The early Brythonic Celts were tall and fair, also adventurous. The Picts in northern and eastern Scotland were Brythonic Celts and the language they spoke was closely related to that of the Celts of the east, south and west – Brythonic Celts – the Cymry, therefore Cymraeg.
The Picts merged with the Gaels in the 10th century AD and their Brythonic language was superseded by the Gaelic. By the 11th century (AD1000), the Gael-Picts had absorbed the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Bernician Lothian, becoming the amalgamated Scots in the Kingdom of Alba. Scotland is called Yr Alban in Cymraeg and Alba in Scots Gaelic. Until the 10th century, the language we know today as Cymraeg (Welsh) was spoken throughout Alba. The Scotland we know today didn’t exist before AD900. To the Cymry, it was the northern reaches of their own country – divided from them by the invading Anglo-Saxon hordes. This accounts for place names such as Aberdeen and Glasgow – both clearly demonstrating origins in the Brythonic Celt language: Glasgow (means ‘quite blue/green’), Aberdeen (means Deen estuary – a verbal amalgamation of the Dee and Don rivers).
The language we recognize today as Cymraeg evolved from the Brythonic, with influences from the Latin until the 5th century. For example, the native Brythonic word for ‘fish’ was replaced by the Latin ‘piscis’, giving the Cymraeg ‘pysg’. The earliest surviving examples of Cymraeg date from the late 6th century (AD500) in the poetry of Taliesin and Aneurin – the earliest written records of any living European language.
When the Angles and Saxons began their invasion of the eastern and southern territories of the Brythonic Celts, they didn’t drive the Cymry out. Like most invaders, they found local knowledge essential. Those they didn’t slaughter, they bred – the age-old ‘breed them out of existence’ methodology. Much of the early Cymraeg remained visible in place names: Penrith (Penrhyd), Avon (Afon: ‘River Avon’ means River River), Chetwood (from ‘coed’ and means Wood Wood), Chatwood (as previous), Chatham (Coed: Wood town), Eccles (Eglwys).
Put simply, the Celtic tribes of early Britain (Scotland, England, Cymru, Cornwall and Brittany – some scholars also include Catalan) were related and spoke a language with common roots in the Brythonic branch of Celtic languages, which evolved into Early, Medieval and Modern Cymraeg. Romans brought a Latin influence and the Anglo-Saxon invasion borrowed and adapted much of the native Cymraeg into their Teutonic language – eventually becoming the English that I am now using (a language that had virtually no formal written existence until Chaucer). The Angles and Saxons drove a wedge between the northern Cymry and the southern. The tribal links between the Picts and the Cymry were further weakened by the Gaelic-speaking Celts colonization of Manaw (Isle of Man) and Yr Alban (Scotland).
Sources: Nora Chadwick, Peter Berresford Ellis, John Davies, Wikipedia, Kenneth Graham et al.