commander in Londinium
, whose forces were overwhelmed by the British king Asclepiodotus. The British forces destroyed all but a single Roman legion
, and this surviving legion appealed for mercy to Asclepiodotus. While the king
deliberated on granting mercy
to the legion, a force of Venedoti (North Welsh men) attacked them by a small stream on the outskirts of the encampment. There, in a single day's massacre
, Livius Gallus and his legion were murdered and beheaded.
The story is related in the Historia Regum Britanniae
, The History of the Kings of Britain
, by the cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth
. This book is an early source of Arthurian legend. Most serious scholars consider Geoffrey an unreliable story teller and fabricator of British history. Geoffrey himself maintained that he had obtained his information from a "vetustissmus liber
", or a most ancient book, probably Welsh in origin. The story of Livius Gallus lends stong support to the accuracy of at least certain aspects of Geoffrey's history.
Acton Griscom, of Jesus College, Oxford
, published the original Latin version of the Historia
, interleaved with a Welsh
version of a similar chronicle, in 1929. He draws attention to the following points concerning the unfortunate Livius Gallus:
- Geoffrey's is the earliest known account of this incident. Therefore, he was either inventing it, or using an earlier source (his never found "most ancient book").
- Geoffrey idenifies the stream as the galabroc; the city of London has long since covered this brook, but several excavations have identified numerous skulls in the area where the brook once was, and practically no other human bones along with them.
- The skulls show no injuries(axe wounds, javelin holes, etc.), which is consistent with beheading.
- Coins found in the same area as the skulls can be dated to exactly the same time period that Geoffrey claims this incident took place (the 3rd century AD), and no coins were found from a later date.
Griscom concludes from this archaeological evidence that Geoffrey was not fabricating this story. The massacre of Livius Gallus and his legions substantiates at least some of the history
in the Historia