He conquered the people of the Gauls after killing Frollo to whom the Roman power had given the care of that country; the Romans, too, who were seeking to make war on his country, he fought against and conquered, and killed the Procurator Hiberius Lucius who was then a colleague of Legnis the general, and who by the command of the Senate had come to bring the territories of the Gauls under their power.
It would be ludicrous, as most commentators assume, when referring to Geoffrey of Monmouth, that Henry Blois writing as ‘Geoffrey’ has not read Tacitus’ account of Agricola, Tacitus’ father in law. The De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae concerns the Roman conquest of Britain.
Henry Blois is the master of deception and has certainly read Suetonius’ the Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Adam of Damerham attests that Henry Blois left the book to Glastonbury abbey amongst the other books. Henry is steeped in learning and probably the best informed on Roman and Gallic history.
Posing as Master Gregorius,953 one might even accuse him of infatuation with things Roman. Much of the sentiment in the HRB and VM is too coincidental for it not to have been written by the same hand as the Gesta Stephani. Henry Blois rarely invents without basis or a tie to something historical in the construction of both the HRB and Vita. His continental escapade of Arthur is the most difficult to anchor historically because the events are his own invention.
Henry Blois has a problem when it comes to Arthur in Gaul. Arthur on the continent may have some substance in Breton sources954 but his appearance against a Roman army at Langres and Autun is complete fiction. The landscape in which he set his battle scene, is 35 miles distant from Clugny. This is why Arthur is put on the continent by ‘Geoffrey’ in that location. Otherwise it is a difficult concept to deliver without a good knowledge of the region and its peoples.
Being well informed of genuine Roman history, without any credible anchor to historical events, Geoffrey employs his usual discord…. deriving names out of tentative connections. Henry Blois’ aim in the Vita in the passage above is to make a quick transit into the Arthurian continental episode and onto Mordred, just as a reassertion of the HRB’s historicity. Even Henry would know Tacitus and the Lives of the Caesars presents a very different picture of History than he concocts in the HRB; especially since there are other sources available of events in Gaul. Henry’s main gambit in this passage is to introduce more confusion into the Gallic episode by introducing Frollo instead of Flollo, while at the same time linking back to his fictional character Lucius Hiberius and that of Leo who is now Legnis.
953See chapter on Henry Blois and Master Gregorius
954See appendix 20
Let us deal with Frollo first. Henry Blois’ mode of construction in both Vita and HRB employs what should be termed a ‘conflationary anchor’. Any one pursuing his inventions will usually find a discernible attachment or basis and it is for this reason ‘Geoffrey’ leaves a trail of doubt in all his material. Acceptable historical proximity is usually maintained which provides enough credibility for the reader to accept that which is being proposed. Frollo or Flollo is purposely confused with Rollo because ‘Geoffrey’ has provided a name in Gaul which aids to anchor in location an entirely spurious episode.
Gregory of Tours’ history ends in the latter half of the fifth century without mention of continental Arthur; but Henry Blois needs a name that he can link to his spurious Gallic campaign of Arthur. Even though anachronistic, Rollo is nevertheless a grandee in Gaul. Rollo is a Latin translation from the Old Norse name Hrólfr or Rollo (c.846–931). He was numbered Robert I and was a Norse nobleman of Danish or Norwegian descent who was the first ruler of the Viking principality which became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy.
Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. This is probably as far back as Henry Blois could trace his ancestry and thus invents Frollo and Flollo just to add flavour of historical inaccuracy or scribal error. His seemingly misconstrued name acts as a confirmatory tie to a name in the region. Frollo hitherto had no existence in Gaul prior to the HRB, especially in the 6th century. Henry understands who he is basing Frollo or Flollo on, because two sentences before the following extract he states that Arthur had brought into submission and had dominion over both Norway and Denmark.
The province of Gaul at that time had been committed to the charge of Flollo, Tribune of Rome, who ruled it under the Emperor Leo.955 Henry does not care that the Vita is set around Rhydderch Hael c.580–614; Rollo, Flollo or Frollo becomes part of the soup which now ties in to the fictitious names of Lucius Hiberius and Legnis or Leo in Gaul. Legnis, the General referred to as a colleague of Lucius Hiberius in the VM (as above) might be a mis-reading for the genitive Leonis since the HRB already makes Leo a colleague of Lucius, but it is probably purposeful confusion on the part of Henry Blois as he also changes Flollo to Frollo in VM.
So soon therefore, as the infamy of the aforesaid crime did reach his ears, he (Arthur) forthwith deferred the expedition he had enterprised against Leo, the King of the Romans, and sending Hoel, Duke of the Armoricans, with the Gaulish army to restore peace in those parts, he straightway hastened back to Britain with none save the island Kings and their armies. Now, that most detestable traitor Mordred…..956
The Emperor Leo, as a colleague of Lucius Hiberius in the Vita, is merely Geoffrey’s ploy to anchor back to his spurious episode in Gaul in the HRB. A credible re-affirmation now in the Vita through the words of Merlin himself…. recounting Geoffrey’s dubious account in the HRB set 35 miles from Clugny with Langres not that much further away.
955HRB IX, xi
Lucius Hiberius meanwhile, taking these disasters sorely to heart, was mightily perplexed and distressed to make resolve whether it were better for him to hazard a general engagement with Arthur, or to throw himself into Autun and there await assistance from the Emperor Leo. In the end he took counsel of his fears, and on the night following, marched his armies into Langres on his way to Autun.957
Loomis, Parry, Griscom, Zimmer, Tatlock, etc, all argue a hypothesis which assumes Geoffrey of Monmouth existed and some are much bemused that a man from the Welsh Marches has good topographical information in the region of Burgundy. It would be reasonable to assert that Henry Blois would have travelled to both Autun and Langres on several occasions, and it would be an ideal stage for Arthur’s campaign in an area, steeped in Roman ruins on lands controlled by Cluniacs in the region of Blois. Henry based the utopian Caerleon as Arthur’s court mainly for archaeological reasons and also Nennius mention of Urbs Legionum being synonymous with Caerleon.
957HRB X, vi