GILDAS, called the Wise: Author of the oldest historical work of Christian Britain; the De excidio et conquestu Britannia ac flebili castigaEione in reges, principes et sacerdotes, quoting the title from one of the latest editors, Theodor Mommsen. It is sometimes called the "Querulous Book," and was divided by an early editor, Thomas Gale, without good reason, into two parts, a Historic and an Epistula. A tenth century chronicle puts the death of Gildas in 570. All other traditions about him, including his visits to Brittany and Ireland, are doubtful. He states himself, according to the most probable interpretation of a corrupt passage of his work (MGH, Auct. ant., xiii. 3, chap. xxvi., Chronica minora, p. 40, 11. 16-20), that he was born in the year of the battle of Mount Badon [and that this occurred in the forty-fourth year before the time of writing. Hence it has been inferred that he was born in 493 and wrote c. 537], but the date of the battle of Mount Badon is uncertain. Less doubtful is the inference that the work was written before 547 (cf. chaps. xxxiii. sqq.). And beyond question the author was a well-informed, Romanized Briton, notwithstanding his clumsy Latin, who judged his countrymen with a monk's severity and criticized them with ruthless zeal [cf. W. Bright, Early English Church History, Oxford, 1897, 24, 30-32]. Other writings are ascribed to Gildas, but without good authority. [He was a popular saint in Brittany and was the reputed founder of a monastery at Ruys, which became famous as the place of retirement of Abelard. His work has historical value chiefly from the absence of anything better.]
Bibliography: The work of Gildas is in MPL,Wx.327-392; with the exception of chaps. ii it is in Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, i. 34-107. The best editions are by T. Mommsen in MGH, Auct. ant., siii. 3, Chronica minora awe. iv.-vii., part 3 (1898), 1-110; and by H. Williams, with transl., London, 1899. There is an Eng. transl. by Giles, London, 1841, reprinted in Bohn's Antiquarian Library, vol. iv. The life of Gildas by the monk of Ruys is in ASM, i. 138-139, less fully in ASB, Jan., iii. 573-574. Two lives are given by J. A. Giles, Vita quorundam AnploSasonum, London, 1854. For criticism consult: T. Mommsen, ut sup., pp. 1-24, 91-110; C. G. Schbll, De ecclesiastiae Britorum Scotorumque histories fontibus, Berlin, 1851; J. O'Hanlon Lives of the Irish Sainte, i. 471-494, Dublin, 1875; A. de la Borderie, La Date de to naissance de Gildas in Revue Celtique, vi (1883-85), 1-13; A. Anseombe, St. Gildas of Ruys and Irish Regal Chronology of th Sixth Century, London, 1893; H. Zimmer, Nennius v iucatuB, Berlin, 1893; J. Briel, Saint Gilda8, abb6 de Rhuys, Vannes, 1908; DNB, xa.344-346.
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