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.
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).
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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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.
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.