Monthly Archives: November 2018

Early Sources For Arthur (Sean)

  • Much folklore has been developed around the title of King Arthur; indeed, he is a chief character in much medieval and modern literature (some of my personal favorite modern nods to him include “The Buried Giant,” by Kazuo Ishiguro, the character Saber, a.k.a. Arturia Pendragon, in the Fate anime series, and a single obscure episode in the third season of Babylon 5, in which nothing remotely significant to the plot ever occurs). However, the bulk of this work tends to be very fanciful, growing more so the further the source is displaced from the approximate period of Arthur’s life. It is natural to wonder what the earliest sources say about Arthur, as these should (logically) carry the most accurate and reliable information. Below, we investigate some of the early records and events popularly associated with Arthur, in an effort to determine the likelihood of his existence.
  • “De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae” — Gildas
    • Providing the most relevant context to the time when Arthur’s actions would have been current events, as Gildas was most likely a Briton, this text will get most of our attention.
    • There are limitations to how seriously and literally we can take this work, in spite of it being the earliest work following the lifetime of King Arthur, if he existed. As one notable article states, “This preface is the only surviving narrative history of fifth century Britain, but it was not written as history. Though Gildas was a native of Britain and deals with the period at some length, he was extremely ill-informed about the Roman period. . . [H]e may be regarded as the authority for the period before 547-9 (the year of death of Maelgwn Gwynedd in the Annales Cambriae), but in general he gives very little definite information.” (Vortigern Studies)
    • Additionally, this work is highly politicized, near impossible to date, and gives no direct reference to King Arthur, limiting the use we can make of it. The connection with King Arthur is found through the account of the Battle of Badon Hill, a battle generally connected to Arthur for reasons discussed below.
    • As mentioned, Gildas doesn’t mention Arthur in his commentary on the Battle of Badon. 12th century hagiography claims that “Gildas had praised Arthur extensively but then excised him completely after Arthur killed the saint’s brother, Hueil mab Caw.” (Wikipedia). In Concepts of Arthur, Thomas Green theorizes that the events of that battle were so well known that describing them in greater detail would have seemed a triviality (Green, 2007). However, it is somewhat difficult to believe that Gildas would have failed to comment on a monarch he disapproved of, considering the nature of the rest of his writings.
  • The Battle of Badon Hill
    • As this name keeps coming up, it is worth commenting on this battle. Out of the information available from the time of Arthur’s potential, the reality of this battle is one of the strongest points advocating for Arthur’s existence, as it is an event commonly associated with Arthur that almost certainly occurred. It is mentioned in a variety of sources, both with and without reference to Arthur. Here is the simple version:

The Battle of Badon has significance because the encroachment of the Anglo-Saxons on the Celtic Britons was halted as a result of it. This decisive victory was accomplished by a united force of Britons, which implies that they had some sort of leadership, at least militaristically; their military leadership was purported by later sources to be Arthur, though he was clearly not “King” Arthur at this time, as Gildas refers to Ambrosius Aurelianus (see right) as the organizer of this force. (Korrel).

    • Later sources name Ambrosius Aurelianus as Arthur’s uncle, the brother of his father.
    • Unfortunately for Arthur, the sources that actually connect him with the battle come much later, and their accounts are so fanciful that one cannot reasonably take them at face value. Historia Brittonum, for example, indicates that Arthur personally slew 960 men in a single charge (though other sources scale this number back to a more modest figure in the mid to upper 400’s). (Mommsen).
  • Other Sources:
    • Simply put, other notable historical documents of that time, including the Gallic Chronicles and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, do not mention Arthur, though they both comment on the Saxon invasion of Britain and Bede specifically makes reference to the “siege of Mount Badon, when they made no small slaughter of those invaders” (Bede).
  • Conclusion:
    • It seems doubtful that there was a historical King Arthur. The contemporary sources simply don’t reference him, while the later sources represent him in a way that is clearly more folklore than fact. If there was a historical Arthur, it seems very likely that Badon Hill would be the key event to tie him to, being an actual event that would be a pivotal moment in the events Arthur is described as being central to (the halt of Saxon encroachment and the unifying of Britain). However, as this battle is impossible to accurately place in time and space and as details of the battle from contemporary sources are effectively nonexistent, at least with the records we currently have, this pursuit is futile. And it is quite certain that if there ever was a King Arthur the accomplishments attributed to him are largely fictitious.

 

Works Cited:

  • Vermaat, Robert. “Gildas (early sixth century AD).” Vortigern Studies. http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artsou/gildas.htm (accessed November 3, 2018).
  • “Battle of Badon.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Badon (accessed November 3, 2018).
  • Korrel, Peter. “Arthur, Modred, and Guinevere in the historical records and in the legendary Arthurian material in the early Welsh tradition”, An Arthurian Triangle: A Study of the Origin, Development, and Characterization of Arthur, Guinevere, and Modred. Brill Archive, 1984.
  • Mommsen, Theodore (ed.) Historia Brittonum. Accessed 7 Feb 2013.
  • Bede. “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.”

 

Arthurian Artifacts (Abe)

The earliest mention of King Arthur can be found in the 594 poem “Y Gododdin” by Aneirin. Still, this is only a reference and certainly provides no concrete evidence for a real King Arthur. The stanza in which Arthur is referenced reads:

He fed black ravens on the rampart of a fortress

Though he was no Arthur

Among the powerful ones in battle

In the front rank, Gwawrddur was a palisade (Wikipedia)

One remarkable, though quickly refuted, artifact is the Artognou stone, discovered in 1998 at Cornwall, United Kingdom. The inscriptions on the stone read, as translated by the Celtic Inscribed Stones Project,  “Artognou descendant of Patern[us] Colus made (this). Colus made (this).” (Wikipedia). Because “Artognou” bears semblance to “Arthur,” many parties, including the media, mistakenly referred to the artifact as the “Arthur stone.” Additionally, the stone was dated back to the approximate time period in which Arthur is reputed to have lived, if he did. Despite these commonalities, scholars have rejected the notion that the stone is related to the historic King Arthur in any way. Perhaps one of the contributing factors to this rejection is the fact that the stone does not appear to be an official inscription, rather a work of graffiti, as the carvings are shallow and untidy.

The Artognou Stone

 

Another artifact, also refuted, is the Glastonbury cross. In 1184, at Glastonbury Abbey,  fire destroyed the monasteries. While reconstruction was underway, visits to the abbey declined, that is until the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere was reportedly discovered, alongside a leaden cross that read: Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia (“Here lies interred the famous King Arthur on the Isle of Avalon“). (Wikipedia). In retrospect, this incidence has been dismissed by scholars and historians as nothing more than a publicity stunt by the abbey to attract visitors (Britannia History).

The Alleged Burial Place at Glastonbury Abbey

 

Most recently, a castle was discovered on the Tintagel peninsula in Cornwall. This structure evidently housed noblemen of the area, based on the additional findings of fancy, imported food utensils, such as plates from North Africa and glass cups from France (Daley). Most relevant to the legend of King Arthur, however, is the fact that this structure lines up with the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote History of the Kings of Britain in 1138. Geoffrey claims that King Arthur was either conceived or born in the same area that this high-profile structure has been discovered (Huber). In discoveries such as this, it is important for researchers to objectively analyze what they have found, rather than seek to connect their findings to King Arthur. Prematurely claiming Arthurian ties without backing evidence only encourages the spread of misinformation among both media and scholarly works. Such has been the case with the Tintagel excavation: the slightest inkling of possible ties to King Arthur are ran with, and facts becomes muddled (Proctor).

Based on these artifacts, evidence for the historical King Arthur is rather shaky. The castle-like structure carries the most weight, as Geoffrey of Monmouth described a similar location for the origin of Arthur. Altogether, however, physical evidence for King Arthur is about as convincing as the written and spoken testaments of his existence. The evidence, or lack thereof, points towards King Arthur existing only in legend.

 

 

Works Cited:

“Artognou Stone.” Wikipedia. Last modified August 18, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artognou_stone. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Daley, Jason. “A Palace Was Unearthed Where Legend Places King Arthur’s Birthplace.” Smithsonian.com. Last modified August 5, 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/palace-unearthed-king-arthurs-birthplace-180960035/. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Huber, Emily Rebekah. “Geoffrey of Monmouth: Introduction.” Robbins Library Digital Projects. Last modified 2007. http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/geoffrey. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“King Arthur.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 19, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“King Arthur’s Burial Cross.” Britannia History. Accessed November 4, 2018. http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/cross.html. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Proctor, Elizabeth Gaj. “The Legendary King: How the Figure of King Arthur Shaped a National Identity and the Field of Archaeology in Britain.” DigitalCommons. Last modified May 2017. https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1267&context=honors. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“Y Gododdin.” Wikipedia. Last modified July 30, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_Gododdin. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Pictures:

 

Ambrosius Aurelianus: Possible King Arthur? (Amanda)

 

Ambrosius Aurelianus was a 5th century Roman leader in Britain. From the writings of Gildas it can be determined that he was noble or descended from nobles, and most likely a Christian as Gildas said that he won his battles “with the help of God.” Had he not been a Christian, the author would likely have neglected to mention him at all, or at least not by name.

Based on a record of Saxon conflicts by Bede, it is generally accepted that his parents and many of his people were killed in an early invasion. According to Gildas, Ambrosius organized the survivors and defeated the Saxons, though this is disputed by other historical records which claim multiple battles were fought, with both sides claiming victories.

In Historia Brittonum, written by Nenius, Ambrosius morphed into a semi-mythical character who warns the hero Vortigern about dragons. Some believe Geoffery of Monmouth took some of this character’s superhuman attributes and changed his name to Merlin in his work History of the Kings of Britain. In Latin, Merlin’s name is given as Ambrosius Merlinus.

Based on Geoffery’s writings however, Ambrosius would have been too old to have fought in Arthur’s battles. He would have been around 70 years old when Arthur should have fought at Camalan. Based on this information, some people have concluded that Ambrosius is not Arthur, but his name and some of his deeds may have become mixed up in the Arthurian legends.

Ambrosius was known to the Welsh as Emrys Wledig (The Imperator). Some sources name him as the brother of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur, while others write him as the great warrior king that Uther may have been based on. Since Ambrosius was likely too old to have been Arthur, it is more likely that his victories against the Saxons led to him being written into myths as the famous king’s father, who was also known for his prowess in battle

Some have speculated that there were two men named Ambrosius, possibly an older and younger brother, one who fought against Vortigern in battles often attributed to Uther, and another who fought against the Saxons in the 5th century. This is unlikely however, as historical sources have only ever alluded to one Ambrosius.

Works Cited:

Hunter-Mann, Kurt. “The Last of the Romans: The Life and Times of Ambrosius Aurelianus.” The Heroic Age, no. 4 (2001). Accessed November 5, 2018. https://www.heroicage.org/issues/4/Hunter-Mann.html.

“Ambrosius Aurelianus.” Britannia. Accessed November 5, 2018. http://www.britannia.com/history/biographies/ambros.html.

“Ambrosius Aurelianus.” New World Encyclopedia. Accessed November 5, 2018. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ambrosius_Aurelianus.

Lydwien, Charlotte. “Who Was King Arthur?” 2010. Accessed November 5, 2018. http://www.lydwien.nl/kingarthur/ambrosius.htm.

 

Arthur and Christianity (Andrew)

Was King Arthur based on Jesus? I personally do not believe this is true, but it’s important to consider. The Annales Cambriae mentions Arthur carrying a cross for 3 days and 3 nights in year 516. This could potentially be a retelling of Jesus carrying his cross and being resurrected on the third day. Mordred is a man who betrayed Arthur. In year 537 they mention Arthur and Mordred dying. Mordred could be based on Judas who betrayed Jesus before he was crucified. The knights of the round table could be Christ’s apostles.

There are many reasons why I don’t believe Arthur was based on Christ. Thus said Arthur, noblest of kings: ‘See ye, my Britons, here beside us, our full foes,–Christ destroy them!’ In this legend Arthur is mentioning Christ. It’s strange that legends would refer to him mentioning the person he’s based on. Most of the rest of Arthur’s stories don’t relate much to Jesus himself.

It’s more likely he’s based on other religious figures such as saint Armel. Saint Armel was a prince who established some churches, retired as a monk, and even had rumors of slaying a dragon. While not talking about Arthur himself, there’s a quote that says, “to have such apostles for leaders was to have Christ Himself fighting in the camp.” The people may have thought similarly of Arthur and it’s possible that while not being based directly off Jesus, Arthur was a religiously impactful leader.

Sources

“Annales Cambriae” The Annals of Wales, 447-954 AD. http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artsou/annales.htm

Robert Vermaat “The text of the Vita sancti Germani.” http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artsou/constex.htm

Saint Armel, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Armel

Wace, “Arthurian Chronicles: Roman de Brut” https://ia800300.us.archive.org/20/items/arthurianchronic10472gut/10472-8.txt

 

Arthur was Based on Many Leaders (iamcamalot)

Based on the widespread popularity of the Arthurian Legends across many cultures, it is my belief that the historicity of Arthur was created from many different historical, mythical, and religious figures.  Due to the larger than life nature of Arthur’s feats, it seems unlikely that they were all completed by one man, let alone in one very short medieval lifetime.  There are also evidences of the mixing of religious and mythological themes along with the historically accepted battles, guesstimated timelines and locations.  The story of Arthur is popular in not only the Celtic traditions, but is claimed by the Romans and Scottish as well.

 

Given that there is a long list of potential claimants for the historical role of King Arthur, it stands to reason that there is likely the influence of one or many of those individuals in the lore.  The most commonly accepted theory is Ambrosius, mentioned above, but due to discrepancies between the timeline and other details, it is not likely that he was the one and only Arthurian archetype.  Other potential candidates for Arthur include a wide timeline and potential locales.  (Ashe)

 

Another reason that Arthur’s story is not likely to be based on one historical figure is that there are echoes of cultural influences of mythology, folklore, and religion in each culture that has adopted the Arthurian legends.  Christianity is one example. (Crawford) Irish and Celtic folklore is another. (Loomis) Lastly, there is a heavy link to Sarmation culture in many of the artifacts associated with Arthur. (Littleton) (Wadge)

 

One thing is for certain, the idea of a brave and just king was popular.  Add to that, the heroic journeys, epic battles, and magical elements to his story, there is little to rival such a romantic telling of history.  Let’s face it, the middle ages were no picnic to have lived through.  If the story of the legendary King Arthur was made up of only facts, it likely would not have endured through the ages.  There is something about the ethereal mythical properties of the tale that linger in the imaginations of men and women throughout the ages.  It is no wonder that the legend itself has gained a form of immortality, much like Arthur does in some versions of the story.

 

Sources Cited:

ASHE, GEOFFREY. “The Origins of the Arthurian Legend.” Arthuriana 5, no. 3 (1995): 1-24. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27869122.

Crawford, Deborah. “St. Joseph in Britain: Reconsidering the Legends, Part I.” Folklore 104, no. 1/2 (1993): 86-98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1260798.

Littleton, C. Scott. “The Holy Grail, the Cauldron of Annwn, and the Nartyamonga: A Further Note on the Sarmatian Connection.” The Journal of American Folklore 92, no. 365 (1979): 326-33. doi:10.2307/539418.

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by | November 13, 2018 · 12:21 am

Who Is King Arthur?

king-arthur-e1500901664935

 

The Arthur Myth:

Isaac, Son of Abrahm

Legends typically form through either a kernel of truth or just a made up story. It is very possible that King Arthur may have been based on a true person, but as time passed and as oral traditions of the story became deformed, the true historical person was credited with feats and quests that he simply did not do, which would make the main character of the story an entirely different person. In this case, a made up one.

Legends start like this. We have an event that is worth retelling. As we retell it, we forget the things that didn’t mean much to us, but glorify the story where the character did something amazing. Running a story through such a filter like this over and over again via oral tradition is bound to get yourself a legend. One that seems to be unrealistic.

This explanation seems likely as this sort of pattern is found to be true among human nature; Remember the fun stuff, forget the boring stuff.

It is also very possible that the story is a political or religious anecdote. Some have made similarities between the story of King Arthur and the Bible, claiming that King Arthur was similar to Joshua. Another claim suggests that the legendary 12 battles that King Arthur fought in was not so much historical, but had more of a biblical and symbolic meaning pointing to the 12 tribes of Israel. As for the political standpoint, there have been sources that cite that English Rulers like Henry VIII and Queen Victoria used the story of King Arthur for political purposes, suggesting that the story was skewed for the purpose for whatever the ruler so pleased. For example, although he didn’t skew the story, Edward III of England tried to make his own Knights of the Round Table, called the Order of the Garter. On the flip side, the legend of King Arthur could have been used as a template for how English Rulers were supposed to behave (maybe leading the rulers to skew the story to lower the standards.)

 

While the accuracy of this information is up for debate, some suggest that the legend may have been a scare tactic and to portray the Britons as a more war efficient society than they really were. Not to mention the sense of pride that it brought to the Britons. King Arthur served as a mascot just as much as the Utes are to the University of Utah or the Lancers to Layton High School.
It’s interesting to note that all of the more known legends come after the fall of a civilization. For example, the Iliad after the fall of Troy, the Legend of Romulus and Remus, after the fall of Greece, and of course, the legend of King Arthur after the descent of Rome. It could be speculated that legends are made by merely a consolidation of a time where things were better.

 

 

mediocrelegionnaire:

The Pendragons

  • Arthur or Uther were not on the list of Pendragons detailed by Laurence Gardner, so that means if Arthur was a Pendragon, he had a different name.

Brychan (430-500):

  • We don’t know very much about him, but it seems very unlikely he was Arthur
  • According to a legend, he had 35 children, and when one of his daughters, Gwladys, was abducted, he persued the culprit in a fit of rage. Arthur, Cei, and Bedwyr were needed to stop the bloodshed.
    • Arthur was added later to this legend, which proves that there isn’t a legend where Bychand and Arthur are the same person.
  • Bychan did have a son named Arthen (460-530) (he was the first “Arthnamed” child of a Pendragon) but he entered the church.

 

Dyfnwal Hen (455-525):

  • He was a great and powerful warrior from the North
  • He had a pattern of battles that was similar to those on Nennius’s List
    • If true, would place the Badon near Linlighgow
      • The site does not indicate it’s old enough to be Badon
      • There were so many conflicts along the area it’s too hard to tell
  • Not in all the genealogies, but when he is referenced it’s always as “the son of Mar, grandson of Ceneu and great-grandson of Coel” which is why we date him around the 480s.
  • His name sometimes appeared as “Athrwys”
    • The root Athro means “master” or “teacher”

 

Riothamus:

  • Most of the stories he’s in were written 80 years after he died in by a Byzantine historian called Jordanes
  • Some historians argue that he is the same person as Ambrosius Aurelianus
  • King of Briton and/or Armorica (we’re not sure!)
  • Riothamus fits some of the Arthur criteria
    • Crossed into Gaul twice (helped a Roman emperor and subdued a civil war)
    • His actions in Gaul casually resemble Arthur’s campaign
    • Betrayed by advisor/ ally
    • Carried off/ fled to Avalon (or maybe passed through a place that was called Avallon)
  • The name means something along the lines of “High King”, “Freest”, “Most Kingly”, or “Kingliest” depending on which scholars you want to go with
  • What we know for sure:
    • Was “King of the Britons”
      • Could mean Briton Briton or Armorica (nearby colony)
    • Alive in the ballpark of 470
    • Fought against the Goths and was alligned with the Romans and was defeated
    • Received a letter from Sidonius Apollinaris, who was asking for his help and judgement
      • The letter survived
  • However the timeline doesn’t really match up to Arthur

 

Hopology Enthusiast:

Ambrosius Aurelianus

  • Ambrosius is one of the only people that is identified by name him the sermon De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae and the only person named from the 5th century
    • This document is the oldest extant British document about the Arthurian period,
  • Ambrosius was supposedly of noble birth and was also a most likely a Christian as the document says that he won all of his battles with God’s help
    • The document specifically states that he wore the purple which could mean a couple different things not just royalty
      • Purple can denote the purple worn by roman emperors and other aristocrats
      • Purple can also be in reference to the purple worn by Roman Military Tribunes
      • The purple may also represent blood referring to martyrdom
  • He is said to have fought of an invasion of saxons around the time that Arthur would have
  • This character’s life seems to match up with aspects of arthur’s supposed life
    • He was suppodley of noble birth
    • He was supposedly on a quest to reclaim his rightful place as king
    • He was born in troubled times and gathered a force to fight off a force of saxons invaders
  • Although a few of his life details successfully match with Arthur’s he his specifically mentioned as Arthur’s uncle and the father of Uther Pendragon
    • While this could be a drifting of names, this could also explain the similarities that he had to Arthur
      • As Arthur’s uncle he would be of royal blood
      • He could have helped fight of the saxons
      • He could have helped the real Arthur reclaim his place as king.

Owain Danwyn

  • Prince of Rhos in Gwynedd, Wales, in the 5th century.
  • Very little is known about his actual life
  • Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman proposed a theory that he was the basis for Arthur
    • This theory was based on how they interpreted the British power structure of the 5th century
      • The name Arthur is in reference to Owain’s honorific title and means bear
  • This is a very unpopular theory and has been disputed by many scholars

 

codexromana99:

Æthelstan

  • Born in the late 800s, so if he is “Arthur” than elements of AEthelstan’s life were added in later. Arthur supposedly lived around the 400 or 500s.
  • He succeeded his brother as the King of Wessex, centralized government and maintained control over productions.
  • His victory over the last Viking kingdom of York made him the first Anglo-Saxon King of England, later was known as King of all of Britain
  • He wanted to be seen as supreme ruler of all of Britain but not everyone liked him
  • He collected lots of relics and there are many manuscripts about him, more than any other king of this time. If there were no historical records he would likely be as famous as King Arthur. He married some of his sisters off to other european leaders to support his throne and was not selfish. He respected others if they respected him, and was always ready to support his many nieces and nephews.
  • Sources say he was “king arthur material” but he never married or had any kids. He did have a great influence over England and was considered the “English Charlemagne”, though he remains widely unheard of today.

 

Sources:

Fanning, Steven. “Speculum.” Speculum, vol. 79, no. 2, 2004, pp. 502–504. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20462924.

https://www.history.com/news/was-king-arthur-a-real-person

Bonnet, James. “How the Great Myths and Legends Were Created.” Writers Store. https://www.writersstore.com/how-the-great-myths-and-legends-were-created/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_III_of_England

“Æthelstan, The First King of England (c.893-939)” Roots of Excalibur https://wjartuso.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/aethelstan-the-first-king-of-england-c-893-939/

Bilyeau, Nancy. “The Secrets of a Saxon King”. English Historical Fiction Authors. https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2011/12/secrets-of-dark-ages-king.html

Phillips, Graham. “The Lost Tomb of King Arthur.” The Lost Tomb of King Arthur 4, www.grahamphillips.net/arthur_tomb/arthur_tomb4.html.

“Owain Danwyn.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Mar. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owain_Danwyn.

“History.” King Arthur – The Legend, www.caerleon.net/history/arthur/page2.htm.

Russell, J. C. “Arthur and the Romano-Celtic Frontier.” Modern Philology, vol. 48, no. 3, 1951, pp. 145–153. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/435384.

Hopkins, Annette B. “Ritson’s Life of King Arthur.” PMLA, vol. 43, no. 1, 1928, pp. 251–287. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/457699.

Ashley, Mike. A Brief History of King Arthur. Little, Brown Book Group, 2013. Digital File.

Wikipedia contributors. “Riothamus.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Oct. 2018. Web. 5 Nov. 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Historicity of King Arthur.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 Oct. 2018. Web. 5 Nov. 2018.

Lydwien Charlotte. “Riothamus”. 2010. http://www.lydwien.nl/kingarthur/riothamus.htm

 

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Likely People who were King Arthur

Who was King Arthur? – Caci Kynaston/ Cassandra57

If we wish to know who the historical King Arthur is, we need to look at the historical records of the time. Some qualities that all the “historical texts” indicate:

  • Arthur was a great warrior king
  • He died c. 540
  • “Killed” by Mordred (Annales Cambriae and Historia Brittonum)
  • His final battle was at Camlan (Geoffrey of Monmouth)

Location may the most important thing to look at when deciding upon a historical King Arthur. This is because the legend of Arthur was mainly used as a political move by the Normans to instill divine right when they conquered England. They used Arthur as the true King of England, who they were descended from, to defend the conquest of why they should be the rightful rulers. Camlan is a real mountain pass in Wales, which happens to be near the 4th largest stronghold/city in Roman Britain — Virconium. It is also near Monmouth, where the author, who popularized the Arthur legend, Geoffrey is from.  

Presentation1

Maps taken from lecture by David Hartwig 2018.

The ruler of this city was Owain Ddantgwyn c. 500, the King of Powys. Owain was known as “The Bear King” (Bonsing and Jones) which connects him to the name Arthur, which has two root-words for bear: “Arth” which is the Celtic root and “Ur” which is the Latin root. Having that Celtic root further implies that a historical Arthur would be from Wales.

Another reason Owain is a good candidate for being the historical Arthur is his family. The legend goes that Arthur was fatally wounded by his nephew (or illegitimate son) Mordred. This is historically correct for Owain, who was killed by his nephew Maglocunus (Bonsing and Jones). Another interesting point is Owain’s father. Owain was the son of Enniaun Yrth, king of Gwynedd. The kings of Gwynedd were known as “Dragons.” Therefore, Owain’s father could be known as Yrthyr-pen-Dragon, which bears a striking resemblance to Arthur’s father’s name, Uther Pendragon (Bonsing and Jones). Owain may have also married a woman named Guinevere, but that fact has not been historically verified.

Owain Ddantgwyn is the best possible candidate for the historical Arthur because he fits all of the characteristics that the primary historical sources agree upon. His timeline fits with the estimate of when Arthur would have lived. He helped to fight off the Saxon invaders and was known as a great warrior. He was killed by his nephew. Yet most importantly, he is the most logical candidate geographically speaking, which is the most important factor because of why the Arthur legend even started.

 

Artuir ap Pedr (550 – 620) – scaleydragon – Patrick Luo

There are many King Arthur candidates. I chose Artuir ap Pedr who was the king of Welsh and name is pronounced the same a Arthur. It was suspected that the geographical location of Welsh is the same as the one read in King Arthur’s stories (King 120). Another reason why Artuir ap Pedr is most likely King Arthur from the sources is due to his sister, Niniane being equated and named Lady of the Lake (Ashley 16). Merlin was also the lover of Niniane from Artuir ap Pedr’s history (Ashley 16). With King Arthur’s treasures, Artuir ap Pedr’s treasures and exploits were said to be the same, if not, extremely similar to the story (Ashley 16). He is also cited from multiple sources that his battles and physical features are the same as King Arthur (Parry 572, Pacal).

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Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879). King Arthur. 1874. Artstor, library.artstor.org/asset/AEASTMANIG_10313040931

The reason why Artuir ap Pedr may not be a likely candidate for King Arthur is due to him being born in 550 while King Arthur was said to be born in 500(+/- 10 years) (King 119). Aside from his birth, Artuir ap Pedr was known to not be the best of fighters. This would be hard to imagine that Artuir ap Pedr actually fought and won against the Saxons in King Arthur’s tales (Ashley 16). Since Artuir ap Pedr was born decades after King Arthur, it may be possible that he was named after him (Matthews). It may also be possible that parts of their stories could be coming from entirely different events, one particular example is the Gwent episode (Ashley 16).

In conclusion, with Artuir ap Pedr’s birth being so late after King Arthur’s, it is very likely to say he isn’t the famous King Arthur we know dearly. With his feats being so similar to the other King Arthur, it is possible that it was in fact him living up to his given name. With the geographical location, Welsh it is in the same area of Wales (East Britian). So the most likely candidate still leads to Owain Ddantgwyn.

Pros

  • The historical King Arthur was thought to be from Welch and Artuir ap Pedr was from Welsh (Parry 572, Pacal).
  • Artuir ap Pedr’s sister (Niniane) was called and equated to be the Lady of the Lake (Ashley 16).
  • Artuir ap Pedr’s exploits during his time as King of Dyfed is said to be similar or the same as King Arthur’s reported treasures (Ashley 16).
  • The geographical location of Artuir ap Pedr’s era lines up with King Arthur’s historical sites (Ashley 16, King 120).

Cons

  • Artuir ap Pedr was born in 550 while King Arthur was said to be born in 500(+/- 10 years) (King 119).
  • It’s hard to imagine Artuir ap Pedr fighting the Saxons as told in King Arthur’s tales (Ashley 16).
  • It’s possible that Artuir ap Pedr was named after King Arthur’s tales since he was born decades after King Arthur’s tale (Matthews).
  • “The Gwent episode may relate to an entirely different historical event (Ashley 16).”

 

Ambrosius Aurelianus (430 – 500)-somebodycallixii- Kimberlee Whitmore

Ambrosius Aurelianus is another likely candidate for King Arthur. He was  a Romano-British leader who lived near the time of Arthur. His name could have easily been construed over the years to become Artorius and eventually Arthur.

Gildas writes that he was a war leader who won an important battle against the Anglo-Saxons sometime in the 5th century. This combat could have been the Battle of Badon Hill. This a battle claimed to have been the culminating fight of the contentions Arthur lead. If it was not the Battle of Badon that Ambrosius fought in it likely followed combat he lead. It is difficult to pinpoint because the names of the combatants are never mentioned directly by Gildas. Although we don’t know which battles Ambrosius fought we can say that he was certainly a great military leader. In the Historia Bittonum Ambrosius is said to be a ‘King among kings of the British nation.’ by Nennius. This is the first mention of Ambrosius as a king of any kind.

The trouble with naming Ambrosius Aurelianus as King Arthur is that the timing does not line up. The texts that mention him place this age around the rise of Vortigern. This event is placed around 425 CE by Nennius, but much later at about 460 CE by Geoffrey of Monmouth.  Since the year 425 CE is from older texts, it is likely more accurate and is used more often to place his birth. This is an age difference of about 30 years and is of great importance when considering whether Ambrosius could be the historical King Arthur. This date would make him quite old when participating in the most famous battles of King Arthur, which are often placed in the early 6th century. He would not have lived to see the Battle of Camlann in 537 CE if this date is used, and he would have been quite old if his birth year was 460 CE.

Ambrosius Aurelianus is unlikely to be the sole historical figure the legendary King Arthur is based on. If King Arthur is a culmination of people, the heroics of Ambrosius probably contributed to the tales.

 

Aedan Mac Gabran (526-608 CE) Fifth King of the Irish- Scots:  Beholdaman

Aedan Mac Gabran was the fifth  King of the Scottish in Dal Riata, and often noted with the surname Pendragon, a name given by his cousin, Saint Columba of Iona, upon his coronation (pedigree resource file). He was married to a Domelch o Gwynedd verch Maelgwyn, a Welsh princess whose name translates to: Domelch of Gwynedd, of the Maelgwyn line (Áedán Mac Gabráin, Rí Na Dál Riata.). Her lineage could lend to the name Gwendolyn. It should be noted that Aedan and Demelch supposedly had a son named Arthur, who is often considered a candidate for the title of THE king Arthur, however, he never became King as he died well before his father in the battle of Maeatae, in approximately 590 CE(Áedán Mac Gabráin, Rí Na Dál Riata.). The existence of this son is often called into question and widely considered to be a product of revisionist history.

He is considered to have been the most powerful king at the time and King Aedan had many battles against the saxons as well as being one of the first Christian Kings of Scotland, which fits with the arthurian quest for the holy grail (Cowing). He is also well known for having ventured to many islands in “the west sea” while campaigning(Cowing). In legend, King Arthur traveled to an island in the west sea called Avalon, where he was sent to be healed.

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After being defeated by Æthelfrith, King of Bernicia, Aedan abdicated the throne in 574 CE and spent his days in a monastery, where he died in 608 (Nash). It is possible that Aedan could have sought refuge in the monastery founded by Saint Columba, his cousin, on the island of Iona. Many medieval kings are known to be buried on Iona, though records and markers have been destroyed over the years, leaving only 48 known royal tombs.

There are a few reasons why Aedan may not be the legendary King Arthur. First and foremost is the matter of his name. The only connection he has to the name Arthur is a son that may not have even existed. He has no known nicknames similar to Arthur. The second issue is how well documented his life was. Though much of his life is still shrouded in mystery, enough about it is known thanks to Saint Columba. The third problem is that there are already many recorded myths and legends surrounding King Aedan Mac Gabrain. How can two seperate legends spring from the same man?

It is likely that King Arthur is a legend based on an actual person. Aedan Mac Gabrain is as good a candidate as any proposed thus far.

 

Works Cited

scaleydragon

Ashley, Michael. A Brief History of King Arthur. Robinson, 2010.

“King Arthur.” The R. I. Schoolmaster, vol. 5, no. 4, 1859, pp. 119–120. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44788453.

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879). King Arthur. 1874. Artstor, library.artstor.org/asset/AEASTMANIG_10313040931

Matthews, John, and Caitlin Matthews. The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero. Inner Traditions, 2017.

Pacal. “Dowsing for King Arthur.” Skeptical Humanities, Word Press, 31 Mar. 2011, skepticalhumanities.com/2011/03/31/dowsing-for-king-arthur/.

Parry, John J. “Modern Welsh Versions of the Arthurian Stories.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 21, no. 4, 1922, pp. 572–600. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27702670.

Cassandra57

Annales Cambriae. Vorigernstudies.org.uk, http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artsou/annales.htm. Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Bonsing, John and S. Rhys Jones. “Historical Arthur.” athurproject.caeraustralis.com, 21 June 2007, http://arthurproject.caeraustralis.com.au/historical.php. Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Geoffrey of Monmouth. Historia Regum Britanniae. Vorigernstudies.org.uk, http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/arthist/vortigernquotesgom.htm. Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Nenius. Historia Brittonum. Vorigernstudies.org.uk,http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artsou/gildas.htm. Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Beholdaman – somebodycallixii

“Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:3QC2-8BK : accessed 4 November 2018), entry for KING Scotland Aedan /MacGABHRAN/, cites sources; “Sanders Jones Wilkins Snyder” file (2:2:2:MMD8-L9C), submitted 8 June 2014 by bob sanders_4 [identity withheld for privacy].

Cowing, Emma. “Fabled King Arthur ‘Was a Scottish Warlord’.” Lifestyle, 17 Nov. 2013, www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/fabled-king-arthur-was-a-scottish-warlord-1-3191742.

Nash, David. “HISTORICAL CHRONOLOGY of the EARLY KINGDOMS of SCOTLAND PART 1: AD 498-597 .” EBK: Historical Chronology of the Early Kingdoms of Scotland AD 498-597, Nash Ford Publishing, 2001, http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/kingdoms/scot498.html.

“Áedán Mac Gabráin, Rí Na Dál Riata.” geni_family_tree, 3 Nov. 2018, http://www.geni.com/people/Áedán-mac-Gabráin-Rí-na-Dál-Riata/6000000003318435827.

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