Alban (Albion) - White Island

In my article entitled The Trojan City of London I have explained that Brutus came to an island to the north of Gaul known as "Alban" (Albion), which means "White Island". Those who came with him were called "Britons", and the island became known as "Britain". In this article, I will explain the origin of the name "Alban".

Dictionary Definition of Albion

Virtue's Simplified Dictionary (1) gives the following definition:

Albion. noun [derived from Latin albus, white: in allusion to the white cliffs as seen from the Channel], a poetic name for England: Greek Mythology, a giant son of Poseidon, slain by Hercules.


  1. I am advised by Bill Cooper (2) that in Old Welsh, the same phrase can be translated "a giant called Albion" or "a giant of Albion". So Albion was not necessarily his name, it is more likely to have been his place of origin. However, in this article we will continue to call him Albion, for the sake of identifying him in the available literature.

  2. The Greeks and Romans had different names for the same gods:
Greek Roman
Poseidon Neptune
Zeus Jupiter
Heracles Hercules

Holinshed's Chronicle

Holinshed's Chronicle (3) is a large work consisting of six volumes, written by Raphael Holinshed with the assistance of others who continued the work after his death in 1580. It contains a comprehensive history of England, Scotland and Ireland, from the time when it was first inhabited up to about a year before the date of publication. The first edition was published in 1578 and there was an second edition in 1587. Volumes I to IV are mainly concerned with England, while volumes V and VI deal with Scotland and Ireland respectively.

Volume I gives the very early history of England, beginning with the arrival of the descendants of Japheth shortly after the Flood, known as the Samotheans. The land was invaded by Albion the giant son of Neptune who was killed by Hercules, and then Brutus arrived in the 12th century BC. The material is collected from a variety of sources that are not always clearly identified, but all you can do is compare it with other available histories and sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Some details of Holinshed and his work are given by McKisack (4).

Albions England

William Warner was a London attorney who held the office of the Lord Chamberlain of the Household under Elizabeth I. He wrote a rhymed history, called Albions England (5), published in several editions from 1586 to 1606. There are 16 books altogether, followed by some additional material, all bound in a single volume. The books are as follows:

  • Book I begins with the Flood, then tells the story of the Greek Titanomachy. It continues with the adventures of Hercules, the son of Jupiter, as far as his battle with Laomedon king of Troy.
  • Book II continues the story of Hercules up to his death, and ends with the story of the arrival of Brutus in Albion. It describes the battle between Hercules and Geron of Spain, but says nothing of his battle with Albion, which according to Holinshed, occurred immediately afterwards. However, at the end of this book, Brutus is found overcoming the giant sons of Albion.
  • Book III gives the history of the Britons, up to the death of Cadwaller.
  • Book IV continues as far as the Norman Conquest in 1066.
  • Book V continues to 1399.
  • Book VI continues to 1485.
  • Books VII to XIII cover the Tudor period, occasionally digressing into various religious subjects.
  • Books XIV to XVI are a continuation of the history, published in 1606, giving:
    - more information on the period from 1066 to Queen Elizabeth.
    - the history of Wales.
    - the history of South Wales and Glamorgan.

There is the following additional material:

  • An addition to Book II giving the story of Aeneas and his flight from Troy.
  • A summary of the whole history of England, from Brutus to Queen Elizabeth.

Here are a few quotes. Book I begins like this:

I tell of things done long agoe, of many things in few:
And chiefly of this Clime of ours, the Accidents pursue.
Thou high Director of the same, assist mine artlesse pen,
To write the gests of Brutons stout, and acts of English men
When Arked Noah, and feaue with him, the emptyd worlds remain,
Had left the instrumentall meane, of landing them againe,
And that both man and beast, and all, did multiply the store,
To Asia Sem, to Affrick Cham, to Europe Iapheth bore ...

The first mention of the land of Albion appears in association with Brutus as follows (page 3):

Not only Artes but Cheualry, from Greece deriue we may:
Whereof (omitting many things) my Muse, alonely say
How Naturne, Ioue, and Hercules, did fill the world with fame
Of iustice, prowesse, and how they both men and Monsters tame,
And so from these deriue the meane how Brute to Albion came.

Book I ends with the notion that Brutus came to Albion as a result of the Trojan wars (page 25):

When ventrous Telamon, for that he entred first the gate,
For Prize had faire Hesione, of Troy the latest fate:
For Priamus to quit her Rape, long after sent his Sonne
To rauish Hellen from the Greekes: So thirdly warre begonne:
Hesione the cause to Troy, and Hellen to the Greekes,
And all did worke that Troyan Brute the Albian Climate seekes.

Book II ends with Brutus suppressing the Albinests. It also identifies Albion as the son of Neptune in agreement with Holinshed (page 62):

Thrise fiue degrees from Noe was Brute, and fower times sixe was he
From Adam: and from Iaphets house doth fetch his petigree.
    Posthumus Syluius perishing in Chace amongst the brakes,
Mistooke for game by Brute his Sonne, Brute Italy forsakes:
And to associate his Exile, a many Troyans mo
At all aduentures put to seas, vncertain where to go,
To whom did Fortune, Fortunelike, become a friend and foe:
Till Brute (with no lesse payne and praise then had his Grandfier late
Atchieued Latium) landing here, suppressed so the state,
Of all the Fiend-breed Albinests, huge Gyants fierce and strong,
Or race of Albion, Neptunes Sonne (els some deriue them wrong)
That of this Isle (vn-Scotted yet) he Empire had ere long.

Book III begins (page 63):

Now, of the Conquerour, this Isle had Brutaine vnto name,
And with his Troians Brute began manurage of the same.

And at the bottom of the same page we have "New Troy" which became London:

Did Brute build vp his Troy-nouant, inclosing it with wall:
Which Lud did after beautifie, and Luds-towne it did call
That now is London:

Then we have the introduction to the story of King Lear and his daughters (page 65):

And since of noble Brute his line prodigious things I tell
I skipping to the tenth from him will show what then befell.

About a thirtie yeeres and fiue did Leir rule this Land,
When, doting on his daughters three, with them he fell in hand

In the next chapter we have the settlement of the Picts and Scots (page 69):

Three valiant people thus at once in Albion Empire held,
Brutes, Scots and Pichts: the latter twine lesse ciuill, but as bold...

This is what history looked like to the ordinary man in the street in Tudor times. They learned about Adam, Noah, Japheth, Albion, Hercules, Brutus and all the rest of it, unaffected by the modern-day requirement of evolution to delete everything that predates Julius Caesar in case it might lead to Noah.

Virgil's Aneid

The Aneid gives us an alternative, and possibly complementary meaning of the name Alban. The Trojans used to call themselves Albans while they were in Latium, giving the impression that their name had something in common with the giant called Albion who was killed by Hercules. It seems that Alban (Albion) must be a very ancient name.

The Aneid tells the story of the flight of Aeneas from the burning city of Troy and the re-establishment of his kingdom in Latium (Italy), in a province on the north-west coast which became known as Alba Longa. He fled from Troy with his father Anchises, his son Ascanius and many others, but his wife Creusa was left behind. They departed in ships, hoping to go straight to Latium but were caught in a storm and landed in Carthage, North Africa. They were received by Queen Dido, and were offered hospitality, but Aeneas believed that his destiny was in Latium, so they rebuilt their ships which had been damaged and set off again.

After many adventures, they eventually arrived in Latium and were received by King Latinus. He offered his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas in marriage, believing that their union was decreed by the gods, even though she was expecting to marry Turnus, king of the Rutulians. This caused a war between the Trojans and Rutulians, and there was much slaughter, until eventually Aeneas and Turnus fought each other in single combat and Turnus was killed.

The story ends with the death of Turnus, but the reader is left in no doubt about the continuation of the history of Latium, that Aeneas married Lavinia and became a king within his own province.

Extracts from the Aneid

On a number of occasions in Virgil's Aneid, the Trojans refer to themselves as Albans. There are also a number of references to people, animals or gods being white. The page numbers in this discussion are from the Penguin Classic edition (6).

Page 170. Anchises prophesied to Aeneas how he would have a son who would be king:
He has the Alban name of Silvius, and he is your son, to be born after your passing; your queen Lavinia will rear him in the forests, and he will be a king and sire of kings, and founder of our dynasty which shall rule from Alba Longa. The nearest to him, there, is Procas, the pride of the Trojan race; and next Capys and Numitor, and Aeneas Silvius, who will revive your own name and be a prince exalted alike in his righteousness and his arms, if in fact he shall ever succeed to the Alban throne.
Note: It doesn't matter whether or not Anchises actually made such a prophecy. This is Virgil's way of naming just a few of the kings of Alba Longa, which became the capital of Latium, and they are not in historical order.

Page 202. Tiber, the river-god, gave a sign to Aeneas as follows:
Lying under holm-oak trees near the sea shore you shall find a huge white sow, stretched on the ground with her thirty young which she has just farrowed, all white like her, gathered round her teats. This spot shall be the place for your city, and there shall you find sure rest from your toils. Within thirty circling years from this time, Ascanius shall found a city of illustrious name, Alba. My prophecy cannot fail.

Page 203. While Aeneas was making his way along the river, in a boat with a rowing crew, he came to the spot where the city was to be founded:
Suddenly a remarkable and imposing sight came into view. On the green river-bank was a shining-white sow with her white litter of the same colour as herself, which had lain down on the ground in a wood. Aeneas the True brought implements, and stationed both sow and litter at an altar. And he sacrificed all to Juno, to Juno only, to Juno herself, the Supreme. Then did Tiber make smooth his heaving flood for the whole length of that night and withdrew the flow of his now voiceless waves, becoming so still as he levelled the ripples on his surface that it seemed like a kindly pool or peaceful marsh, on which no oar need strain. So then the Trojans began their journey and made good speed, encouraged by what Aeneas had been told.
Note: On the basis of this, I would expect to see the white sow and her litter as an important image in the history of Alba Longa, perhaps as their national symbol. I have never found it, but perhaps I don't know where to look.

Pages 210-211. The land which became known as Latium was originally inhabited by strange mythological figures. The name of Latium, and other historical names including Albula are described as follows:
The first to arrive among them was Saturn, from heavenly Olympus, an exile who had lost his throne and was retreating before Jupiter's weapons. He unified the folk, who had been living scattered among hill-tops and were slow to learn, giving them laws and choosing 'Latium' for the land's name, because he had been safe in hiding, 'latent', within its boundaries. Under Saturn's reign passed those centuries which are famed as 'golden', so gentle and peaceful was his rule, until gradually an inferior and tarnished age succeeded, mad for war and lusting to possess. Next there came a band of Ausonians and tribes of Sicanians; and Saturn's Land now began to forget its name. There followed kings, and among them a fierce giant, Thybris, so that it lost its true name, which had been Albula in ancient times.

Page 212. Venus, the mother of Aeneas, is described as snow-white.
So divine Venus spoke. Her husband was hesitant; but she passed her snow-white arms about him on this side and that, and coaxed him with her caressing embrace.
Note: In ancient times, kings and queens were considered to be descended from gods. In the case of Aeneas, his father Anchises was human but his mother was the goddess Venus. This could have something to do with Genesis 6:1-6 where hybrid giants were born through the union of humans and fallen angels. Aeneas and Turnus were both very big, a fact that becomes obvious during the battles between the Trojans and Rutulians. There is also a "maid" called Queen Camilla who chases away a whole army of men.

Page 237-239. Two Trojans, called Nisus and Euryalus, went out among the Rutulians and killed many of them in a surprise attack. Euryalus was captured and Nisus came to rescue him, and passed the spot called Alban (presumably where the white sow and her litter were found). He killed two of the Rutulians with spears, while hiding in the woods, then he appeared and tried to intervene verbally on behalf of Euryalus, offering himself as their victim instead. But his attempt was in vain, and Euryalus died with a sword through his "white breast". Then Nisus killed Volcens, the Rutulian commander and finally met his own death.
Nisus however darted forward, and, running with never a thought, he had soon left the enemy behind and was clear of the danger. He passed the spot later called Alban after Alba Longa, but at that time used by King Latinus as a fenced cattle-station . . . But even as he spoke the sword, forced strongly home, pressed through the ribs of Euryalus and burst his white breast . . .

Page 313. Shortly before an arranged duel between Aeneas and Turnus (which disintegrated into all out war between the Trojans and Rutulians before it was properly reconvened), Juno looked down from the hill which later became known as Alban.
Then, streaming from their homes in high excitement, came the mothers, the weaponless multitude, and the old and feeble; and they gathered on towers and rooftops, or took their stand upon the tall gates. Juno meanwhile looked forth from a high crest, a hill now known as Alban, but in those times a nameless eminence without regard or fame; and she watched the plain, the Laurentine and Trojan hosts, and Latinus' city. Forthwith she spoke to Turnus' sister, a goddess like herself . . .
Note: This last remark means that Turnus was of divine descent, as was Aeneas.

Page 330. When the duel had been reconvened, Aeneas went out to meet Turnus. It says that Aeneas was white, but it seems to be his hair rather than his skin:
Then Troy's chieftain, Aeneas, hearing the name of Turnus called, left the high fortress-walls. Thrusting aside all impediment, he broke off the operations in hand, and rejoiced exultantly, striking a dread thunder from his arms. He towered like Athos or like Eryx, or like old Father Apennine himself, with his rustle of shimmering holm-oak trees, joyously lifting his snow-covered head to the sky.

Pages 334-335. During a conversation between the gods, Juno says how the names Latium and Alban are to be preserved while the name of Troy should disappear.
But command not Latins, in a land which is their own, to change their ancient name, to become Trojans, or to be called Teucrians; command none to speak a different tongue or wear another garb. Let there be Latium still, and, down the centuries, Alban kings; let there be the Roman breed drawing power from Italian manliness. Troy has fallen, and fallen permit her, and her name, to stay.
The 'Creator of the world' (whoever he is) confirms that the Trojans will be absorbed into Italy:
The ancient folk of Italy shall retain the speech of their forefathers and their way of life; and their name shall be as now it is. The Trojans shall only blend, absorbed, in the Italian breed.
Note: At the time when Virgil wrote these words, not only had the name of Troy disappeared from Latium, it was also disappearing from Britain. Troia Newydd had been re-named Caer-Ludd, and the Romans called it Londinium. But today there are still a few streets named after Troy, as I have discussed in The Trojan City of London.


The island, now called Britain, was once called Alban and was ruled by a giant called Albion. For those who have difficulty accepting giants as part of ancient history, we have to accept that this is a feature of Roman, Greek, Biblical and also British history. We have to find out what the giants were, rather than deleting them from history, otherwise we would have no ancient history at all.

The Trojans living in Latium called themselves Albans. It must be a very ancient name, originating from only a few generations after the Flood, a fact that is verified in my article on the Samotheans.

Virgil's Aneid and Tysilio's Chronicle agree with each other in important details, without being copies, giving the impression that they are true historical accounts. Not only do they use the name Alban consistently, but also its meaning, in that it refers to things that are white. Virgil's Aneid and Tysilio's Chronicle should be treated as companion volumes, telling different parts of the same story.

See also Back to Babylon where I have given an interpretation of the Aneid that explains why the city of Troy was doomed. They had migrated in the wrong direction, contrary to the comandment of God (the One True God, not the pagan "gods").


1. The Simplified Dictionary, Encyclopedic Edition, Lewis, Canby & Brown, Virtue & Co, London.

2. Private communication with Bill Cooper.

3. Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 6 volumes, Raphael Holinshed and others, 1587 edition. Reprinted 1807 for J. Johnson and others, London. Facsimile reprint 1965 by AMS Press Inc, New York, NY 10003.

4. Medieval History in the Tudor Age, May McKisack, Oxford, 1971, pp.116-119.

5. Albions England, William Warner, first published by himself, reprinted 1612, Anglista & Americana facsimile reprint 131, 1971 by Georg Olms Verlag Hildesheim, New York.

6. Virgil, The Aneid, translated by W.F. Jackson Knight, Penguin Classics, 1958, ISBN 0-14-044051-8.

Copyright 2001

Mike Gascoigne
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