Carmarthen (Welsh Caerfyrddin - caer fort + Myrddin Moridunum, Merlin (origin disputed)) is the county town of Carmarthenshire, Wales. It is on the River Tywi and has a population of about 20,000.
When Britannia was a Roman province, Carmarthen was the civitas known as Moridunum (meaning sea fort) of the Celtic tribe known as the Demetae. Carmarthen is possibly the oldest town in Wales and was recorded by Ptolemy and in the Antonine Itinerary. The roman fort can be seen still and is believed to date from AD75-77.
The strategic importance of Carmarthen was such that the Norman William fitz Baldwin built Carmarten castle probably around 1094. The existing castle site is known to have been used since 1105. The castle was destroyed by Llywelyn the Great in 1215. In 1223 Carmarten castle was rebuilt and permission was received to wall the town (a murage). Carmarthen was probably the first mediaeval walled town in Wales. In 1405 the town was taken and the castle was sacked by Owain Glyndŵr.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the dominant business of Carmarthen was still agriculture and related trades including woollen manufacture. In the mid 18th century the iron and coal trades became much more important although Carmarthen never developed Ironworks on the scale of Dowlais or Merthyr Tydfil.
The famous Black book of Carmarthen, written around 1250AD, is associated with the town's Priory of St. John the Evangelist and Teulyddog.
Carmarthen was made a county corporate by charter of James I in 1604. The charter decreed that Carmarthen should be known as the 'Town of the County of Carmarthen' and should have two sheriffs. This was reduced to one sheriff in 1835, and the (now largely ceremonial) post continues to this day.
Carmarthen hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1867, 1911 and 1974 although, at least in the case of the 1974 Eisteddfod, the Maes was at Abergwili.
According to some variants of the Arthurian legend Merlin was born in a cave outside Carmarthen, with many noting that Merlin may be an anglicised form of Myrddin. Historians generally disagree with this interpretation of the name, preferring that Myrddin is a corruption of the Roman name, but the story is popular. Many areas surrounding Carmarthen still allude to this, such as the nearby Bryn Myrddin (Merlin's Hill).
Legend also had it that when a particular tree called 'Merlin's Oak' fell it would be the downfall of the town as well. In order to stop this the tree was dug up when it died and pieces are now in the museum. The occasional flooding of the appropriately-named Water Street has been attributed to ongoing redevelopment of the area.
The Black book of Carmarthen includes poems with references to Myrddin (Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin) and possibly to Arthur (Pa ŵr yw'r Porthor?). The interpretation of these is difficult because the Arthur legend was already known by this time, and many details of the modern form of the legend had been described by Geoffrey of Monmouth before the book was written. In addition some of the stories appear to have been moved into Wales at some point before their recording in the book.
Modern day Carmarthen is a midsized town of around 20,000 people. It is served by rail links through Swansea to Cardiff. Carmarthen has a large amount of surviving history including the roman amphitheatre and the castle . The Gwili Railway, a section of the former railway line to Aberystwyth, has been re-opened as a heritage railway for tourists. Carmarthen is the site of Trinity College Carmarthen. It also accommodates the headquarters of Dyfed-Powys Police.
Carmarthen has a large proportion of Welsh speakers, with the county of Carmarthenshire as a whole boasting the largest population of such by number (the largest Welsh-speaking population by proportion is in Gwynedd). Although Carmarthen is on navigable water the harbour sees no commercial use, in part due to the treacherous approaches.
Carmarthen is twinned with Lesneven, France, Santa Marinella, Italy and As Pontes, Spain.
Trains: Carmarthen is on the West Wales Line
Carmarthen Public Library
St Peterís Street
Carmarthen Farmers Market
9.am-1pm First Friday each month
01550 777 244
Rugby: Carmarthen Athletic RFC
Rugby: Carmarthen Quins RFC
Football: Carmarthen Town FC