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Ward-Perkins suggests the Welsh had to abandon those Roman ways which proved insufficient, or indeed superfluous, to meet the challenge of survival they faced, "Militarized tribal societies, despite their political fragmentation and internecine strife, seem to have offered better protection against Germanic invasion than exclusive dependence on a professional Roman army (that in the troubled years of the fifth century was all too prone to melt away or mutiny)." The region of Venedotia, however, had been under Roman military administration and included established Irish Gaelic settlements, and the civilian element there was less extensive, perhaps facilitating technological loss.

Welsh tradition credited the founding of Gwynedd to the Brittonic polity of Gododdin (Old Welsh Guotodin, earlier Brittonic form Votadini) from Lothian invading the lands of the Brittonic polities of the Deceangli, Ordovices, and Gangani in the 5th century.

The true borders of the realm varied over time, but Gwynedd Proper was generally thought to comprise the cantrefs of Aberffraw, Cemais, and Cantref Rhosyr on Anglesey and Arllechwedd, Arfon, Dunoding, Dyffryn Clwyd, Llŷn, Rhos, Rhufoniog, and Tegeingl at the mountainous mainland region of Snowdonia opposite.

Other evidence supports Nennius's claim that a leader came to north Wales and brought the region a measure of stability, although an Irish Gaelic element remained until the mid-5th century.