Who Is King Arthur?



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.




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”



  • 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




  • 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.



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


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


“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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