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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Warfare Through the Ages > The Medieval Era

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The Medieval Era Discussions on Knights and Crusaders, and all things medieval!

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  #1  
Old 14 Mar 09, 20:00
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King Arthur

King Arthur



A name that instantly conjures up images of chivalry, rescuing the damsel, finding the Grail and betrayel from within.

Incest and murder, heroic knights and dragons, saints and sinners, wizards and witches, magic and swords drenched in blood. The Celtic, Norman and High Medieval imagery all rolled into one. No wonder the stories have remained popular. Then the biggest mystery surrounding the tales themselves - was Arthur real or was he myth?

The biggest problem is that there is no definite proof that the man ever existed. This is countered by the huge amount of folklore surrounding the king.

Several films and TV series have been made of his exploits, the movie Excalibur being a relatively faithful Film version of the poem La Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, and first published by William Claxton in 1485 (the book not the film ).

Hopefully this thread will explore not just the man, the myths surrounding him and his court, but the very nature of Dark Age Britain.

Contemporary history sees Britain as imploding after the Romans left, while waves of Barbarians - Angles, Saxons and Jutes - drive out the Britons, and pushing them to Wales or Britanny. The Venerable Bede in his set of books Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum talks about a savage Britain that only slowly becomes re-Christianised. The following is a typical map of what many believe were the racial boundaries about that time (If King Arthur existed, he would be living around 500AD, ie a century earlier).



Many people blame Nennius and Historia Brittonum for the creation of Arthur in the first place, but fact can be stranger than fiction!
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  #2  
Old 14 Mar 09, 22:21
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Gildas was a monk and author living at a time when Arthur should have been a major source of content in his works. No King Arthur is included or even alluded to.

An Ambrosius Aurelianus (Emrys Wledig in my neck of the woods) is mentioned however. A little too early for the myth by about a generation, he remains is a genuine candidate for a King Arthur. Arthur was said to be born "of the Purple". That means Roman nobility, which Ambrosius was. He also seems to be the last Roman that not only protected, but expanded his land holdings in the south-east of England.

Another candidate for King Arthur is King Mark of Cornwall. The story of Tristan and Iseult (film version was called Tristam and Isolde) mirrors that of Lancelot and Guinevere to an uncanny degree - at least in the affair - Tristam being Lancelots counterpart. King Mark may have had his fortress at Tintagel as well.
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  #3  
Old 14 Mar 09, 22:52
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Wow... here we are..

Well The best place to find the beginning of the Arthur HIstory, where the legends came from is to look for the right beginnings. and I find that Wales is the only place that fits the bill for The Arthur that comprises part of the Legend of King Arthur.

One of the biggest issues with finding the Factual basis for the legend is as we all know, finding the legends roots.
The Arthur of story is impossible to fit into the historical context of one mans life unless he was aged well over 200 years when he died.

That leaves an issue because then, if you accept the fact that he must be two persons to have existed and accomplished all that he did; (and no other explanation is really possible) Then you have to ask the next question that's no easier that the one you had to start with: "Who was he?" is now: "Who were they?"

The Welsh annals, and certain other evidence still in existence bring light to who they may have been.

But I'm really curious to hear what others think, as I already know what I think.

Anyone?
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Old 14 Mar 09, 23:51
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Finding out the truth behind the Arthurian legends has been something of a hobby of mine for perhaps the last 12-15 years. Here is a cut and paste of a post of mine from back on '07

Quote:
If you mean the medieval version of Camelot, knights and shining armour,....not accurate at all.

Historcal evidence (such as it is) points to "Artur" being a title roughly equivalent to "leader of battles" and the historical figure living some time in the late 5th or early 6th century (post Roman or Dark Age Britain). The battle of Baddon Hill is thought, perhaps, to have been fought sometime between 490 and 510 AD near modern day Bath in southwest England and put an end to Anglo-Saxon expansion in Britain for perhaps 50 years. However, the Saxons could not be stopped by the remaing Britons and the remnants of the Celtic tribes were driven into Wales, Cornwall or held in Scotland after the Saxon conquest of the 7th - 8th centuries.

A possible candidate for the historical "Arthur" is a Welshman by the name of Owain Ddatgwyn who became the king of Powys after his famous victories over the Saxons in East Anglia, Wiltshire, Somerset and perhaps further north into Gloucestshire.

If you like, get a copy of "King Arthur, The True Story" by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman. They make a pretty good argument for the historical Arthur but I doubt their work is definitive,...still a fun read.
Here is what I have for works on a possible historical "Artur".

"King Arthur, The True Story" by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman (1992)
"AD 500", Simon Young (2005)
"The Quest for Arthur's Britain", Edited by Geoffrey Ashe (1968)
"King Arthur's Avalon", Geoffrey Ashe (1957)
"Notes on Ancient Britain and the Britons", William Barnes, BD (1858)
"History of the English People, Vol I", John Richard Greene, MA (1900)
"Anglo Saxon England", FM Stenton (1947)
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Old 14 Mar 09, 23:51
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Isn't this the first recorded mention of Arthur?

In Welsh!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_Gododdin

Obviously, there is some historical basis for almost all Epic stories. But the telling and retelling gets exaggerated every time. Still fun to study what is available to us and imagine what is true!

Nice thread Nick!
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Old 14 Mar 09, 23:58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Purist View Post
Here is a cut and paste of a post of mine from back on '07
Good stuff Purist! I hadn't heard this version yet.

I had just been reading about Taliesin and his writings.

Will have to check out the book you recommend.
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Old 15 Mar 09, 04:56
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I don't think there ever was a King Arthur. IMHO,the legend is just a mishmash of events involving warlords and kings.

In any event wiki has an interesting srticle regarding the historical basis of Arthur;


http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...or_King_Arthur
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Old 15 Mar 09, 06:23
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While it is likely King Arthur was a composite of many characters, much like Robin Hood (another thread perhaps), the popularity of King Arthur remains. First, you have the actual saga itself, a cracking good yarn whether you believe the story or not.

Then you have three major time periods where the story served as something more, and which kept the saga frsh in the public consciousness. Apart from the initial Welsh literature, the first sagas became popular just after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The reason for this is quite simple. The Normans (who also controlled Celtic Brittany) wanted to show they were actually the same peoples as those who had fought against the Saxons centuries earlier. They were merely returning home (that was the propaganda). This carried on until as late as Edward I's time, when he and Eleanor arrived at Glastonbury to pay homage to the recently discovered bones of Arthur and Guinevere. The propaganda then was that Edward and his Queen were the reimbodiment of these two famous souls.

The second major period was during Henry VII, a Welsh born king, who wanted to link himself to the Arthurian legend. Indeed he called his first son Arthur, although the latter died before he could become king. Probably the most famous piece of literature comes from this period - La Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory.



The third major period was the end of the Victorian period, when escapism was the theme. Life in Victorian Britain could be pretty vile for most. This era is has Lord Alfred Tennysons Morte D'Arthur as the most important piece of work.

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Old 15 Mar 09, 06:31
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I concur with the Purists recommendation of "King Arthur, The True Story" by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman (1992). Of all the books, it is one of the cheapest, wide ranging and actually comes up with a suitable candidate. A thoroughly enjoyable read. My only issue is that I felt they found a plausible character, and then bent the story to fit their reasoning. Still, if you were only going to get one book on the subject this would be my choice.

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Old 15 Mar 09, 11:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Purist View Post
Finding out the truth behind the Arthurian legends has been something of a hobby of mine for perhaps the last 12-15 years. Here is a cut and paste of a post of mine from back on '07
Historcal evidence (such as it is) points to "Artur" being a title roughly equivalent to "leader of battles"
Actually: Artur, Artorius, Athrwys, Arthwys and Arthur all mean: "The Iron Bear" coming from Artus

Leader of battles ( among the Khymry) was the title "Pendragon"

No this was not a Surname but a title which was bestowed upon the person given command of the United Khymry(Welsh) forces.

If I remember correctly Dux Bellorum was the latin quoted by nennius to describe the same thing: Leader of battles.

Quote:
The battle of Baddon Hill is thought, perhaps, to have been fought sometime between 490 and 510 AD near modern day Bath in southwest England and put an end to Anglo-Saxon expansion in Britain for perhaps 50 years.
Popular fiction has it based there, however the Place Name of Mynydd Baedan is still found on Ordinance Surveys of Wales.

Indeed a startling number of Names related to the Arthurian Legend are found in Wales. Including the elusive Camlann...

Quote:
However, the Saxons could not be stopped by the remaing Britons and the remnants of the Celtic tribes were driven into Wales, Cornwall or held in Scotland after the Saxon conquest of the 7th - 8th centuries.
True enough
The Mercian king Offa built his Great Dyke across the border of what it now wales back in around 665 which Formalised the border and it runs along the border in most places of Wales today.

There is ample physical evidence of him in wales as well.
Llandaff cathederal still has Stainglass windows showing him, his father Meurig and his Grandfather.

In Lichfield Cathederal the Stolen Llandaff Chartulary shows land grants as well as the wedding of The Prince Athrwys in it's pages.

The more one digs into ancient wales the more one finds

I'd advise all and sundry that are wanting to find the Real Arthur to leave the Fiction behind. Including Camelot and the Holy Grail.
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Old 15 Mar 09, 13:35
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The mystery aroung King Arthur includes his name. In Welsh Arth means bear. Some scholars believe the Ur comes from the Roman Ursus which also means bear. This may further prove that Arthur was a Romano-British hybrid, and the earliest known version of 'Arthur' appears to be the rare Roman name Artorius. In Welsh Artus means bear-man and in Gaelic bear or stone. The later coincidentally links Arthur to the sword in the stone.

One of the most remarkable elements about the name Arthur is that it became very fashionable from the mid 6th century onwards, secondary proof that a 'great' Arthur existed.

One meaning of Excalibur is 'liberated from the stone.' However, and most odd, Excalibur was not the sword in the stone, but, in the legend, given by the Lady of the Lake.


It is the very fact that the fact that even meanings of names is not always agreed upon that makes the myth difficult to decipher.
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Old 15 Mar 09, 13:59
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I've been to Camlan. Its a field. For some reason I expected more. There are images on google but you all know what a field looks like.

I must admit I favour the Bath location of Mount Baddon (and certainly not that of Hadrians Wall as in the King Arthur film). Strategically, Solsbury Hill just seems to be a more likely battlesite than any other, and Bath would still have been a rich target that needed protection.





One element the film King Arthur may have got at least partially right is the use of Sarmatian heavy cavalry. Indeed veterans were settled at Bremetennacum, where a 500 strong cavalry unit was based. Plenty of other places have Sarmatian funeral sites, from Chester to Hadrians wall. Contrary to many tales, many of the locals still needed to be subdued centuries after they had been 'conquered'. It is these cavalry that could have easily been the basis of a legendary band of knights employed by a local warlord.

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Old 15 Mar 09, 14:20
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I think Arthur was really a Scot, you know from Strathclyde.

Btw, Strathclyde in mid-Scotland is generally accepted to have a cavalry force inspired by the mixture of Roman-Briton-Sarmatian force stationed on Hadrian's wall previously.
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Old 15 Mar 09, 14:38
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I have a book called Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms by Alistair Moffat. This places King Arthur in Scotland. It lacks any real shred of evidence. Not one I would recommend.
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Old 15 Mar 09, 14:39
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Real Name: Shawn
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Location: 50 58'34.10"N 115 35'04.87"W
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Arthwys is simply cracking [600]
Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600] Arthwys is simply cracking [600]
OMG don't get started on the King Arthur Movie.

That was possibly the most annoying piece of crap claiming to be the "TRUE" story of Arthur I've ever heard!

The closest relationsihp to the area of Hadrians wall and Caledonia (no such thing as Scotland back then) is the 9th century (I believe) poem called Y' Goddin where he is referred to only in retrospect...

The issue I have with Hollywood representations is they're more than willing to shelve evidence that is not entertaining and then manage to twist the beliefs of the un-educated masses into their fable.

Sorry nick I've gotta argue against Salisbury hill and the bath locations ( as much as I find them attactive)

There is no link linguistically or in the annals about this location. Same with Strathclyde or Hadrians wall.

As for those who might want to mention the whole Glastonbury location that's bunk as well

The Tor isn't and never was Avalon.

when we're reasearching this kind of history we have to take into account what remains today of the history back then.

Again I must point out the Place Names still existing in Wales ( and no where else) that all show connections to the Arthurian History.

The Welsh language and culture is the least disturbed on the Island
in fact Welsh Gaelic has been essentially uncorrupted for the last 2000 years.

An interesting book or two you might want to try are:

The Holy Kingdom, Authored by Adrian Gilbert and containing the researches of Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett.

Also: The Age of Arthur. by John Morris.

Morris' work does a good job of showing the reader what the times were like,though in his introduction he makes allowances that he fully expects his work to be corrected in the future as more evidence comes to light.

Blackett and Wilsons' works ( gilbert just narrated the work, doing no research himself) are thought provoking, especially as they have found physical evidence matching the records they have pulled from the Welsh histories.

A number of Headstones, for ArthurI as well as ArthurII as well as II's Father King Meurig.

the Tumuli of ArthurI ( known as Andrigathius to the Romans)

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