King of Gwynedd (c599-c615)
Born c560 Died c615

Iago whose was name is simply the Welsh form of Jacob 1 was the son of Beli ap Rhun, and succeeded him as king of Gwynedd on his death towards the end of the sixth century.

There is a tradition that Iago gave sanctuary to the young Edwin of Deira who was hiding from Aethelfrith of Bernicia. (Aethelfrith had invaded Deira in the year 604, killed poor Edwin's father and forced him to flee for his life.) Therefore it is said that Aethelfrith marched on Gwynedd in about 615 2 and that the Battle of Chester was fought in an attempt by Aethelfrith to punish those that were sheltering his enemy and of course, to get hold of young Edwin if it all possible. He failed in that latter objective but succeeded in the former by killing dear Iago.

Much of this is a wild extrapolation from an entry in the Annales Cambriae which states (under the year 613 2)

The battle of Caer Legion 3. And there died Selyf ap Cynan. And Iago ap Beli slept
Many people have read this entry and simply assumed that Iago was fighting at the Battle of Chester, but none of other annalistic records for the battle mention his name in conjunction with the battle. The Annales Cambriae are simply recording that Iago died in the same year as the battle was fought. As it is unlikely that Iago fought at the battle against Aethelfrith there is no need to invent a story to explain why they did so.

There is probably more truth in his reputation as a benefactor of the church at Bangor; but unfortunately the details of his reign are largely obscure and unknown, although there is a suggestion that he abdicated, joined a religous order and died soon afterwards.


1 And borrowed by Shakespeare for the villain in his tragedy 'Othello'; not that he necessarily had Iago ap Beli in mind.

2 Of course, the dating of events in the seventh century is uncertain, various annals date the battle at 613 and 614, various historians date it at 615 or 616.

2 'Caer Legion', the fortress of the legions being Chester

4 Sourced from the Annales Cambriae and the The Welsh Kings by Kari Maund (Tempus 2000)

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