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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. (accessed November 3, 2018).
  • “Battle of Badon.” Wikipedia. (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. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Daley, Jason. “A Palace Was Unearthed Where Legend Places King Arthur’s Birthplace.” Last modified August 5, 2016. (accessed November 4, 2018)

Huber, Emily Rebekah. “Geoffrey of Monmouth: Introduction.” Robbins Library Digital Projects. Last modified 2007. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“King Arthur.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 19, 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“King Arthur’s Burial Cross.” Britannia History. Accessed November 4, 2018. (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. (accessed November 4, 2018)

“Y Gododdin.” Wikipedia. Last modified July 30, 2018. (accessed November 4, 2018)



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.

“Ambrosius Aurelianus.” Britannia. Accessed November 5, 2018.

“Ambrosius Aurelianus.” New World Encyclopedia. Accessed November 5, 2018.

Lydwien, Charlotte. “Who Was King Arthur?” 2010. Accessed November 5, 2018.


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.


“Annales Cambriae” The Annals of Wales, 447-954 AD.

Robert Vermaat “The text of the Vita sancti Germani.”

Saint Armel, Wikipedia.

Wace, “Arthurian Chronicles: Roman de Brut”


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.

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

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?



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,

Bonnet, James. “How the Great Myths and Legends Were Created.” Writers Store.

“Æthelstan, The First King of England (c.893-939)” Roots of Excalibur

Bilyeau, Nancy. “The Secrets of a Saxon King”. English Historical Fiction Authors.

Phillips, Graham. “The Lost Tomb of King Arthur.” The Lost Tomb of King Arthur 4,

“Owain Danwyn.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Mar. 2018,

“History.” King Arthur – The Legend,

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

Hopkins, Annette B. “Ritson’s Life of King Arthur.” PMLA, vol. 43, no. 1, 1928, pp. 251–287. JSTOR, JSTOR,

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.


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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.  


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,

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.


Works Cited


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,

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879). King Arthur. 1874. Artstor,

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,

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,


Annales Cambriae., Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Bonsing, John and S. Rhys Jones. “Historical Arthur.”, 21 June 2007, Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Geoffrey of Monmouth. Historia Regum Britanniae., Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Nenius. Historia Brittonum., Accessed on 4 Nov. 2018.

Beholdaman – somebodycallixii

“Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch ( : 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,

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,

“Áedán Mac Gabráin, Rí Na Dál Riata.” geni_family_tree, 3 Nov. 2018,Áedán-mac-Gabráin-Rí-na-Dál-Riata/6000000003318435827.

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Jacob- People and training of gladiators

Gladiator Schools:

While there were many gladiator schools, by far the biggest and most important ones were the ones located right there in Rome. The first, Ludus Magnus, was the biggest; holding about 2,000 gladiators. Then there is Ludus Dacicus, east of the colosseum, used to train Dacian prisoners of the Dacian wars. Third is the Ludus Gallicus; the smallest of the gladiator school and more dedicated to training more heavily armoured classes. Lastly, the Ludus Matutinus; this school was more for beast hunters and not so much for gladiators fighting each other. The word matutinus means “of the morning” where these sorts of shows would be performed.  The schools had their training ground in the middle, with their barracks and other supporting structures -such as a mess hall and a kitchen- surrounding the periphery of the training ground.

Where the Gladiators came from:

While there are many sources that suggest many different things about where the gladiators came from, there is a trend within the sources. The majority of the gladiators were criminals or slaves, but there were a few exceptions. There are accounts of volunteers who became gladiators professionally.

Employment of the gladiator schools:

The owners: Just like most corporate businesses today, the owners don’t do much except for accumulate money.

The Lanistae: The Lanistae can be assimilated to the managers of the ludus. What is interesting about the Lanistae, is that there seemed to have been a stigma with the lanistae and they were looked down upon; they were on the same ground as pimps and even the gladiators of that time.  (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 133 )

Medici: The medici were the doctors of the Ludus. They insured that the gladiators’ health was kept up to par. They may have been slaves or prisoners, but the gladiators competing was a source of income for the owner of the ludus. Included with the medical care that the gladiators received, they also had access to decent food to keep their energy up. One account mentions that the gladiators ate barley water mixed with beans.. (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 126 )

Magistri: The magistri were the gladiators’ trainers. Most of the magistri was composed from retired gladiators, mostly because after retirement from gladiating, they did not have good prospects, so they trained newer gladiators. While the magistri were the official trainers, many of the gladiators helped each other out. The more experienced ones were in charge of training the newer gladiators, despite the fact that they may have to fight each other in the ring.

Training of the Gladiators:

The gladiators were separated in different ways. The first way they were separated was by social standing. The volunteers, or the professionals, were separated from the slaves and criminals and ended up getting better treatment. The slaves and criminals though, even though it wasn’t as bad as regular prison -they had to be healthy for fighting- it wasn’t up to par to the professionals. They were also separated based off of their fighting style, and each fighting style had their own trainer. It wasn’t unusual for the gladiators to befriend their fellow adversaries, because the friends usually were the ones that made their gravestone.(Coleman)  Another point of segregation, usually the professionals went by their own name; while the slaves tended to have stage names that they used. One example is “Secundus” or “Lucky” (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 129)

In the arena:

Despite popular belief, there were actual rules when it came to gladiating; and it even included umpires. It wasn’t just kill your enemy, because you didn’t always have to. The gladiators were trained to fight with skill and accuracy; not necessarily to kill the enemy, but to disarm him or somehow disable him. (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 139)Remember, this is a show, even if it does seem like a battlefield. From there, it was decided by the crowd whether the defeated would die or be spared.

Among many things, one of the things that was harsh about the gladiating world is that you could have trained with someone, and even befriended him/her, only to be pitted against them in the arena.  (Talbert, Slootjes, Brice. 137)

Special gladiator schools were created in Rome. Capua was one of them. Agents scoured the empire looking for gladiators to recruit, as their turnover time was very short.


History of the Games – Garrett

The games have roots in both religious funeral rites and practices created by the people located in modern day Italy. The Etruscans of Northern Italy held gladiator battles and chariot races as sacrifices to the gods. The Romans picked up the practice later and continued to hold the games about 10-12 times a year (Pierre). It was believed in Rome that when people died their souls would travel in human blood to the afterlife. Because this was a popular belief, they would kill slaves or prisoners of war at important funerals. At Julius Brutus’s funeral in 264 BC his family had 3 pairs of slaves fight each other to the death ( Other wealthy families followed this example and began having these fights as well to prove their wealth. People passing by would come watch these fights as well and someone eventually had the idea to put out chairs and charge people to come watch the fight. The funeral of P. Licinius Crassus 120 gladiators fought and his funeral took place over 3 days and ended with a massive banquet in his honor (Thomassen). This practice eventually changed from its religious routes to more of a political event to win the favor of the mob.

The games were originally created and funded to show one’s wealth at a funeral and ensure safe passage into the afterlife. This quickly changed once they realised that they could win the hearts of the poor and desolate masses by putting on these massive spectacles for free. Once the aristocrats realized that the games would slowly increase in size to become massive, almost unbelievable spectacles of bloodsport.

As with most entertainment industries the most important thing is to be bigger and better than your competition so each times gladiator games were put on they had to be better than the last. The first advancement in scope came when aristocrats began constructing wooden arenas filled with sand. Previously they had fought either out in the open or in a roped off area. With the sand there to absorb the blood that was spilled the games could be held more often and for longer periods of time. This increase in frequency and duration then allowed gladiators to become a big business. Gambling on the outcome of gladiatorial games became a massive industry with gladiators creating troupes or familia, with managers that would decide where and when they would fight. Schools that recruited slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war in order to teach them combat techniques. Some elite romans even owned their own troupes of gladiators. formed. This growth, backed by the most elite in Rome, lead to the games becoming massive spectacles lasting months at a time at the creation of dedicated arenas rather than improvised grounds.

But private citizens owning sometimes hundreds of well trained warriors was something that could not be ignored by the state. When the Roman Republic fell the Roman empire and the Senate assumed complete control over all gladiators. They also gave Roman courts the ability to sentence criminals to participate in the games. With the ever increase in popularity, amphitheatres made of stone were built to house the games. The first of these arenas was called the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus and was built in 29 BC with the most famous of these, the Roman Colosseum being built in 80AD (Thomassen).

The history of using animals in the arena also have roots in funerals as well, with wealthy people would stock up native creatures to parade around in honor of the dead. They would teach these animals tricks as well as kill them in staged hunts called venationes. Wild animals first came into the games when elephants captured during the first punic war were taken the games in 252 B.C ( This really expanded however with the wealth figures of Pompey, Crassus, and Julius Caesar bringing in animals from Africa such as crocodiles, hippopotami, tigers, lions ,leopards, and more. Trajan’s games is famous for being the largest show ever put on. It lasted form 79-81 A.D and was held to celebrate his victory over the Dacians ( The games lasted 120-123 days and consisted of over 9,000 gladiators and about 11,000 animals ( animal hunts were so popular that many Roman Emperors actually fought in these gladiatorial animal hunts in order to earn the honor that was afforded to to the coliseums greatest champions. Emperor Commodus is the biggest example of this as he is said to have participated in over 700 gladiatorial fights (Pierre).

Eventually the attitude towards the games shifted dramatically. The rise of Christianity lead to a feeling of the games being wrong. Eventually the Emperor Honorius ended the Gladiatorial games after an Egyptian monk named Telemachus was killed after he plead to end the games. Honorius decreed the end of the games officially in 399 AD Although the gladiator games were abolished at this time the last known gladiator fight in the city of Rome took place on January 1 404 AD A bloodsport spectacle that once once brought emperors and nobles the people’s favor was now doing the opposite, and so it disappeared into history.


Emma- Colosseum 

Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 people, probably averaging to about 65,000 spectators per event. It was used for about 500 years, and it is estimated that over 400,000 people died there. Construction began in 70 AD and it was finished in 10 years, followed by a 100 day streak of daily events to celebrate the emperor, the city, and the arena. Unlike other amphitheatres carved out of hillsides, the Colosseum is a freestanding concrete and stone structure. The land it was built on was originally a lake, so drains were built to clear the area, and the arena itself would have needed to have extensive architecture planning done before construction. Since its days of fame, the Colosseum has been used for several things, including a Christian shrine, a quarry, and a source for building materials. It was also partially destroyed by an earthquake in the 1300s. There were over 250 arenas built in this time, but this was the largest of them.

There were 76 entrance gates labeled with roman numerals, much how modern stadiums are set up. Spectators were packed in like sardines, and though some scholars guess that the people were sat according to their rank, more than likely everyone just packed in as tight as they could. The Colosseum was renovated a few times, and underground tunnels, sun and rain shades, and other amenities were installed. Some evidence of latrines and even water fountains has been found. Eventually canvas shades mounted on masts that extended from top of the arena were installed, which could be rolled out to protect spectators from the hot sun and sometimes rain. The floor of the arena was covered in sand to help absorb the spilt blood of combatants. The arena was used for the famous gladiator battles but also for chariot racing, naval battles, public executions, and even plays. There is no physical evidence that the naval battles happened, but there are a few ancient records that report the Colosseum being flooded and used to recreate famous battles at sea. Underground, there were tunnels, cages for animals, holding areas for upcoming gladiators, and machinery like trap doors. This underground area was probably not present during the supposed naval recreations.

Overall, the Colosseum was a hugely successful and impressive work of art that displays Rome’s power and position at the time. It was planned out carefully, and funds were controlled to ensure the best and fastest construction. Even over a thousand years past its last use, the Colosseum is still a huge attraction today, even if you now have to pay for tickets, and has been named one of the 7 Wonders of the World.


“Munera” The Games– Alaina

Before the games could begin, advertising had to be done to inform spectators of date, venue, editor, fighters, scheduled executions, and added perks for those in attendance; which may include information on food, drink, shade awnings, and on some occasions, “door prizes”. More detailed programs could be obtained the day of, and provided additional information about the matchups and fighting styles of the gladiators. The night before the event a banquet would be held as a sort of “last meal”. It was a chance for the gladiators to sort out their affairs as well as bring more publicity to the event.

The munera would begin with something similar to an “opening ceremonies”. A pompa, or procession, would enter the arena and led by lictors (who represented the power of the magistrate editor over life and death), and were then followed by trumpet fanfare, images of the gods (who were brought to “watch” the spectacle), a scribe, and men carrying in the palm branches to be awarded to winners. The magistrate editor would then enter with the weapons and armour to be used, and the gladiators entered last.

The exact order of the munera would differ among individual events, but would generally open with sham fights, which were fought with wooden or dummy weapons as a sort of warm-up. The munus could also be opened with animal spectacles, such as the ones Seneca praised involving trainers and handlers putting their heads in lions’ mouths or getting elephants to perform tricks like kneeling and walking on ropes. He also recalled wild animals fighting each other and people; with events in single combat being fought by bestiarii (beast-fighters), and groups of hunters demonstrating their skill in venationes, or “beast hunts”.

The next stage was called the ludi meridiani, which featured a wide range of possible content. It often featured the execution of noxii (condemned prisoners), which was sometimes done through fatal re-enactments of Greek or Roman myths. The audience, as well as the gladiators were not as enthralled with these events as they denied the noxii the dignity associated with a fair fight. Comedy fights, which had the potential to be lethal, would be performed in this stage of the munus as well.

By far the most popular event were the scheduled fights between gladiators. These were also the most expensive events, owing to the need for highly trained fighters who possessed both the skill in combat and showmanship needed to create a successful show. There were four main classes of gladiators: the Samnite (named for the warriors the Romans had defeated early on in the Republic) were the most heavily armored. They carried a sword or lance, a large shield, and wore armour on his sword arm and opposing leg. The second class were the Thracian gladiators, who carried a short curved sword called a sica and a small shield for deflecting blows.The Myrmillo gladiator (sometimes called “the fisherman”) was armed in a Gallic style and was easily idenfied by the crest in the shape of a fish on his helmet. The last class, the Retiarius, wore only a padded shoulder piece for armour and carried a heavy net and a trident.

In terms of the actual combat, retired gladiators often served as “referees”, and music was played during the match to enhance the experience. The match was over when a gladiator defeated his opponent, which was done when his opponent surrendered by raising a finger or was killed. The victor was awarded a palm branch, but a laurel crown and additional money from the audience could be awarded for an outstanding performance, and emancipation granted to those who fought an especially spectacular performance.

If a gladiator surrendered, it was up to the editor to determine whether he lived or not; a decision that was usually made based on the audience’s collective decision, and was marked by the infamous thumbs up or down gesture. In the later years of the munera, the audience favored missio (not killing the gladiator) for various reasons, some being the shortage of gladiators or the rise of Christianity and decrease in bloodthirst.

In the unfortunate event a gladiator was denied missio, he was killed by his opponent, usually by a well-placed blow to the neck, but that was only if he had already earned the right to a quick death, that is. If he died honorably (without begging for mercy or crying out), he would be removed to the morgue in a dignified manner, stripped of his armour, and his throat would be cut to ensure he was in fact dead. However, if he did not die with honor, his corpse would be subjected to a more humilating fate, which involved area officials dressed as Dis Pater, the god of the underworld, and Mercury who would beat the body with a mallet and “test” for signs of life with some sort of “heated wand”, respectively. The body would then be dragged out of the area and would be denied proper funeral rites and memorial; effectively condemning his manes (shade) to wander as a restless lemur forever.



Cagniart, Pierre. “The Philosopher and the Gladiator.” The Classical World, vol. 93, no. 6, 2000, pp. 607–618. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Cartwright, Mark. “Roman Gladiator”. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 3 May 2018. Web. Accessed 22 October 2018.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Gladiator”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 16 March 2018. Web. Accessed 22 October 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Gladiator.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 Oct. 2018. Web. 22 Oct. 2018.

Cartwright, Mark. “Roman Gladiator.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2018.

“Capua.” 2018.

Talbert, Richard. Slootjes, Danielle. Brice, Lee. “Aspects of Ancient Institutions and Geography: Studies in HOnor of Richard J.A. Talbert” Impact of Empire: Roman Empire, C. 200 B.C.-A.D. 476. Volume 19. EBSCOhost. 2015.

The Ludus Originating

“About Rome.” BB Roma. 2012.

Coleman, Kathleen. “Gladiators: Heroes of the Roman Amphitheatre.” BBC- Ancient History in Depth: Gladiators. 2012.

“Ludus Dacicus.” Wikipedia.

“Rome, Ludus Magnus.” Livius.

“Gladiator Schools in Rome” Ancient Civilizations Online Textbook. Gladiators, Chariots, and the Roman Games. Web. 21 10 2018 Accessed.

Thomassen, Lasse. “‘Gladiator,” Violence, and the Founding of a Republic.” PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 42, no. 1, 2009, pp. 145–148. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Pierre Cagniart. “The Philosopher and the Gladiator.” The Classical World, vol. 93, no. 6, 2000, pp. 607–618. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Jackson, Ralph. “The Chester Gladiator Rediscovered.” Britannia, vol. 14, 1983, pp. 87–95. JSTOR, JSTOR,

BOWER, BRUCE. “Roman Gladiator School Digitally Rebuilt.” Science News, vol. 185, no. 8, 2014, pp. 14–14. JSTOR, JSTOR, Editors. “Colosseum .”, A&E Television Networks, 2009,

“Top Attractions.” Rome by CIVITATIS,

Hopkins, Keith. “History – The Colosseum: Emblem of Rome.” BBC, BBC, 22 Mar. 2011,

Nikola Simonovski. “Ancient Romans Flooded the Colosseum to Re-Create Famous Naval Battles for Thousands to See.” The Vintage News, 13 Mar. 2018,



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Hadrian: Buildings, Public Works, and Administration


Hadrian’s rule of Rome is best characterized by his numerous buildings and similar establishments. It is important to recognize the effects Hadrian’s works had on Rome’s legacy and reputation as well as the effects on his citizens’ lives.



Looking retrospectively upon his actions, Hadrian was deeply invested in improving the living quality of Rome for its citizens. Two minor but effective ways of accomplishing this were by sanctioning and reducing wheeled traffic in the city and by serving harsher punishments to those caught burying dead bodies within city limits (Boatwright 26). These steps would contribute to a cleaner and more appreciated city. A more direct service to his citizens was Hadrian’s increase of Rome’s borders to include land that was previously uninhabitable due to flooding. Through the creation of a dike, the land was made safe and habitable, and became a significant area for housing (Boatwright 24). Another benefit to Roman citizens was the creation of jobs for tens of thousands. Large numbers of workers were needed for Hadrian’s projects; skilled and unskilled workers alike were needed (Boatwright 20). Examples of these projects are the development of shrines, temples, baths, and theatres (Boatwright 7).


Map of Rome

Each of these things contributed to a greater Roman identity for citizens. Between the swell of new buildings and public works as well as the active presence and power of the Roman senate and other princeps, citizens of Rome saw their city as a beacon of strength and unstoppable improvement (Boatwright 7). A greater Roman identity would have benefited the republic in that citizens would be more supportive of their officials and proud of their community. Hadrian was well aware of these effects. In fact, many of Hadrian’s buildings arguably serve two purposes: their literal purpose and their perceived statement of status or power. For example, the purpose of the Pantheon has been debated, but it can be agreed that aside from just being a structure of religious importance, it is a uniquely Roman accomplishment. It was an emblem of Roman identity and potential (Joost-Gaugier 21).

Another point of interest is Hadrian’s buildings themselves. Hadrian, famously enamored with the culture, drew much of his inspiration from the Greeks. This can be seen in his classically Greek yet Roman reinventions of architecture (Somers). The majority of the most well known ancient Roman buildings were built under Hadrian’s reign, such as the Pantheon, the Temple of Venus and Roma, and the Mausoleum (Boatwright 5). Unlike the buildings commissioned by Trajan before him, Hadrian’s buildings lacked lavish decorations and detailing. Rather, these buildings compensated with their sheer size and scale (Boatwright 21). A contributing factor to this feat was the development of efficient and reliable concrete, which opened the doors to buildings previously impossible (Wikipedia).



The Roman Pantheon

These buildings also serve as important cooperations between the senate and the emperor. As the senate was chiefly responsible for religious matters, the creation of religious buildings required agreement between the two powers. In fact, most of the identified buildings from Hadrian’s time are religious, which paints the relationships between Hadrian and Rome’s senate in a positive light (Boatwright 29).


Works Cited

Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro. Hadrian and the City of Rome. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

“Concrete.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 16, 2018.

“Hadrian.” Wikipedia. Last modified October 17, 2018. Joost-Gaugier, Christiane L.

“The Iconography of Sacred Space: A Suggested Reading of the Meaning of the Roman Pantheon.” Artibus Et Historiae, Last modified January 1, 1998.

Mark, Joshua J. “Hadrian.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 21, 2018.

Granger. “Roman Empire: Map Of Rome by Granger.” Fine Art America. Accessed October 21, 2018.

Somers. “Hadrian’s Villa A Roman Masterpiece.”, Last modified October 4, 2004.

“The Roman Pantheon.” The Roman Pantheon – Crystalinks. Accessed October 21, 2018.




Hadrian’s Public Works

Hadrian had an interest in architecture even before he became emperor. Unlike Trajan before him, Hadrian was unable to create a military legacy, and left an impact on Roman history through public works instead. Hadrian used his public improvement projects in Rome and throughout the empire to unite his people, giving them a sense of common identity.

The Pantheon is Hadrian’s most well-known architectural achievement. It is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Roman construction ability, largely due to the use of concrete in its design. The Pantheon’s 43.3-meter-wide dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world even today. The original Pantheon was built by Marcus Agrippa after 27 BC but was burned down around AD 80. Hadrian completely rebuilt it into the building we know today. Cultural impacts of the Pantheon and its revolutionary architecture can be seen across the world, from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to the Basilica of St. Peter in 15th century Rome, which was partly designed by Michelangelo after close study of the Pantheon.

Through his extensive building and public works projects, Hadrian was able to secure his legacy as emperor, as well as strengthening the empire for his successors. In order to ensure a smooth transition of power after his death, Hadrian built himself a tomb in the center of Rome modeled after that of Augustus’s mausoleum nearby. This action was seen as a bold political statement, highlighting Hadrian’s desire to establish a dynasty.




Works Cited

“Hadrian–Life and Legacy.” British Museum. 2017. Accessed October 20, 2018.

“The Pantheon.” Honors Program in Rome. September 8, 2004. Accessed October 20, 2018.

Gill, N. S. “The Roman Emperor Hadrian.” ThoughtCo. August 14, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.



Religion in the time of Hadrian

The emperor Hadrian seems to have had a rather eclectic view of spirituality.  He favored the traditions of Hellenism, with a flair for Egyptian mythology, and a sprinkling of other religions of the day.  He constructed temples to the Greek and Roman gods, deified Antinous by comparing him to Osiris, and curbed anti-Christian sentiments by instructing governors to investigate claims against Christians and punish those who made false accusations.

Hadrian himself is difficult to classify into just one religion.  (Walton, 165) He had at least a passing knowledge of most of the sects and cults of his time, and it would stand to reason that he had a particular fascination for eastern religions, given his time spent in that region.

Hadrian desired to rebuild many cities that had been destroyed in previous conflicts, including Jerusalem.  This, however, enraged the Jewish populace — who believed that it was an insult for anyone other than their people to rebuild their holy city and temple, and ended in the Bar Kokhba revolt. (Rénan, 501)  This bloody conflict put down further Jewish uprisings.  (Goodman, 182)

The Hellenistic religions during Hadrian flourished.  New temples to the gods were erected, and nothing controversial happened between people of those beliefs. (Religious Activities, Wiki)

Christians, who practiced their religion quietly so as not to provoke enemy persecution, benefitted from Hadrian’s policies.  Hadrian allowed their religious practices so long as Christians did not object to paying homage to the many Roman gods.  Only if they broke other laws were Christians punished. (Religious Activities, Wiki)  Hadrian had knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, and would have built a temple to him if not for the admonishment of the oracle at the time, who warned that if he built that temple, the other temples would fall into disuse and it would be the end of those other religions. (Rénan, 508)

The death of his boy-lover Antinous began a new cult that was spread by Hadrian far beyond the Nile, where Antinous likely drowned.  Hadrian deified the young man, and he became known as Osiris-Antinous.  A city was established near the place of this death, called Antinopolis, which also served as a place that connected the Egyptian culture with Greco-Roman culture.  (Antinous, Wiki)

These religions would have translated from the population as a whole into the military ranks.  Though, for many soldiers, the Hellenistic cults would have been the most popular, given their high favor by emperor Hadrian.  There would have likely been a small group of Christians and other religions among the soldiers as well.

In conclusion, Hadrian’s rule was largely peaceful, with many benefits to the various religious groups — with the notable exception of the Jews, whose uprising was perhaps the most violent event in Hadrian’s reign.


Sources Cited:

Goodman, Martin. “Trajan and the Origins of Roman Hostility to the Jews.” Past & Present, no. 182 (2004): 3-29.

Rénan, Ernest. “The Emperor Hadrian and Christianity.” The North American Review 127, no. 265 (1878): 492-508.

Walton, Francis R. “Religious Thought in the Age of Hadrian.” Numen 4, no. 3 (1957): 165-70. doi:10.2307/3269342.


“Hadrian: Religious Activities.”



The Law Under Hadrian

When Hadrian became emperor, he sought to organize the government more efficiently. During his reign he sought to codify roman law. In other words, he wanted the law written down and set in stone with little room for personal interpretation. He made his legal advisors into a permanent office. The central government became very strong and often helped the upper classes more than the lower. Punishments for higher classed citizens were much more forgiving than those for the lower class. He encouraged political figures to behave well and dress nicely.

While emperor he implemented the Praetor’s Edict or Perpetual Edict. A praetor “was the magistrate charged with the administration of justice” (Touri). They made sure the law was being upheld and made sure proper legal action was taking place. At the beginning of each year, praetors would publish their edict and all legal procedures listed within. As the year continued, changes and additions may happen. When legal action needed to take place, they could refer to the edict to determine what the outcome should be. If they were ever presented a case they hadn’t dealt with in the past, they could work the case out and add to the edict.

The Perpetual Edict would be very beneficial in many ways. It prevented the law from being left to interpretation. Rather than every single legal issue needing to be brought before the emperor or praetor, smaller issues could be dealt with by referring to the edict. If anybody attempted to find a way around the law, the edict could adapt to cover their offenses.

With most praetors, their edict would rarely change from year to year (Johnston). The idea of the perpetual edict was not new to Hadrian’s time, though he was the first emperor to make it official. There are also very few sources that reference the perpetual edict and it is difficult to find exact dates for when they were published. When referring to Hadrian’s perpetual edict, there is uncertainty and vagueness associated. It is possible that modern ideas have influenced what has been said about the government of ancient Rome and it is even possible the edict didn’t exist until after Hadrian’s time.




Watson, Alan. “The Development of the Praetor’s Edict.” The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 60, 1970, pp. 105–119. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Dr Kaius Tuori (2006) Hadrian’s Perpetual Edict: Ancient Sources and Modern Ideals in the Making of a Historical Tradition, The Journal of Legal History, 27:3, 219-237, DOI: 10.1080/01440360601041076

Johnston, David. Roman Law in Context. Cambridge University Press, 1999. EBSCOhost,




The Military under Hadrian

What made the legions (and auxilia and such) so appealing compared to other professions?


Significant Non-Military Occupations:

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Farming
  • Trade
  • Government Positions


Benefits of the Legions (and Auxilia and such):

  • Legion:
    • A well established and secure pension at the end of service (worth about 14 years of income).
      • A lesser pension is given if you are misso causaria (this depends on your length of service.
    • Opportunities to travel, meet new people, and receive training in some professional skills (and lots of training in construction and ditch digging).
    • Potential for loot if you are actually involved in and survive a successful campaign.
    • More if you’re a centurion or higher officer, including potential advancement, though your fancier garb will put you in greater danger in the event of an actual battle.
  • Auxilia and such:
    • Potential to become a Roman citizen after service.
    • A pension, though a lesser one when compared to that of a Legionnaire.
    • In the navy, a slave can serve and potentially be freed
    • Again, travel and receive professional experience


Pros and Cons of Other Occupations:

  • Construction: much of the work you might like to do is already done by the legions. A traveling army needs roads, so if no such convenience exists it must be built. However, in the empire proper this is a valid occupation, if you can do the work for less than a slave.
  • Mining, Quarrying, etc.: Genuinely a valid career path, though like construction it’s hard to be more affordable than slave labor. As Hadrian downsized the empire and largely ceased conquesting however, competition with slave labor went down as slaves became less plentiful and more expensive.
  • Farming: To put it simply, land is expensive. Also, there are many parts of the world that are more agriculturally productive than Rome (much of southern Asia, for example). As a result, foreign imports tend to be less expensive for many products than their domestically produced equivalents.
  • Trade: This is, again, a decent alternative. Assuming you live somewhere along a major trade route or on the coastline, you will likely be able to make a decent living. However, like modern entrepreneurship, getting into the business and getting established is as hard as ever.
  • Government/Public Service Positions: There are obviously a lot of these in the world’s greatest empire. However, there are a few major hurdles to overcome. Among other things, you need some sort of patron to obtain a good position. Also…public service really isn’t an alternative to military service, as most civil offices are reached only after service as an officer in the Roman Army (a position which one also requires a patron to obtain).
  • In general, all of these alternatives have the advantage of significantly lower chances of being cut to pieces, shot, trampled, or otherwise brutally killed. And, with the exception of construction, you will also spend less time digging trenches than the average legionary by a significant amount.


Works Cited:

Rodgers, Nigel (2006). Roman Empire. Dodge, Hazel. London: Lorenz Books.


“Ancient Rome.” Wikipedia. (21 October, 2018).

Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2009.


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Legionary Religion and Weapons

Weapons – scaleydragon

Weapons played a huge role in military, religious, and societal standing in the Legionary times in Rome. Arrowheads made or break armies, axes made to change fighting methods, spears had various symbolic meanings, and a weapon that started the evolution of all iron weapons. This weapon was the Styli (or pen).

Sagittae, or arrows, were excavated from Concordia and were well-preserved (Salvemini, Arrowheads 1228). These arrows were either triangular, flat, or quadrangular (Salvemini, Arrowheads 1229). Triangular arrowheads were designed to penetrate armor (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1229). “The bladed heads once removed leave a flat slit of a wound, which the muscles surrounding the wound would help to close by automatically contracting. The more pronounced blades of the tri-lobed points would generate cuttings in three directions, plus a punch hole, causing the same reflex muscle action to hold the wound open. This would inhibit clotting, allowing blood to flow freely from the wound and make it much more open to infection (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1229).” Flat arrowheads were designed to aid equestrian archer’s skills. They were usually fired from compact bows to fly straight (also aided from the arrowhead’s heavier weight) (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1232). Quadrangular arrowheads were used to penetrate armored enemies in Legionary armies (Salvemini, Arrowheads, 1234). Although arrows and axes were the only weapons that didn’t have an impact on a Legionary’s status.


“> 3 SIDE BLADE ARROW HEAD < Very RARE Ancient Roman Legionary Archery Weapon • $34.98.” PicClick, 26 Aug. 2018,

There are three types of axes, simple large axes with triangular hilts, simple axes with holed bottoms, and crescentic axes with a pike on the other side. Simple large axes were made to be heavy to deal sharp, blunt blows and the triangular hilts were used for better grip (Montanari 238-239). Simple axes with holed bottoms were made to be lighter to wield and easier to maneuver (also possibly used as projectile weapons) (Montanari 239-240). Finally, crescentic axes were made to deal significant blows with its crescent side. For the pickaxe side, it’s meant to pierce armor and pin enemies to the ground if needed (Montanari 240-241). The axes were used but not as popular as spears and swords.

Spears were popular due to being a symbolic weapon. It could represent nobility, righteous devotion to the church, and standing in the armies (Montanari 241-242). Most spears were in a lozenge shape and the spearhead metal and hilt of the spears would distinguish other Legionary statuses. The most important weapon during the Legionary time aside from the spear and sword would be the Styli.


IETE Journal of Education Binomial Sampling Charts Revisited with Graphical and Analytical Arguments – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 18 Oct, 2018]

Styli had a huge impact on weapon manufacturing and religious assemblies since they were used for creating maps, being used for mailing services, writing religious scripts, and more (Salvemini Styli 1.1). Most well-preserved Styli were made out of iron, it was speculated that crating Styli was a common practice to train blacksmithing skills (Salvemini Styli 1.2). When one could craft Stylis then they would move onto spears, arrowheads, swords, and axes. A Styli’s look could determine someone’s standing in an army, church, or in society (Salvemini Roman). The more gold or copper accents on the iron Styli body would mean higher class in a Legionary army and within churches.

Roman Funerals- Kimberlee Whitmore

Funerals and burial, as in many cultures, were very important to the Romans. There were many rituals and events associated with a Roman funeral. Professional mourners were hired to comprise a large portion of the funeral procession; musicians, dancers and sometimes mimes who mimicked the dead or their ancestors were also hired (Sumi). The body, carried in a bier, would follow.


The end of the procession would have been the deceased’s family and friends, following behind the body. Funerals were very public, very loud events, and a great celebration. The more important you were the larger your funeral procession and the events surrounding it would be. The death of an emperor would result in a grand event for his funeral, there would be a parade though the center of the city and many eulogies and speeches would be delivered (Favro). The rituals of the funeral were performed to exactness, many believed that if they were not performed correctly the dead would have a difficult transition to the afterlife (Hope). Many of the records that remain about Roman funerals only describe the funerals of the very rich and may not accurately represent what the average funeral would have been like (Thompson).

Early in the Roman empire it was very common to cremate the body, inhumation, or burial, had become more common by the mid second century and predominant by the mid third century though the end of the Roman empire (Thompson). When the body was cremated it was taken to the necropolis and burned on a funeral pyre. Ashes and any remains, such as bone fragments and teeth, would be gathered and put into an urn and the urn would be buried. It was believed that until the body was contained within the urn the dead’s spirit had not yet crossed the River Styx and was still present (Fife). If the body was to be buried it would be placed in an intricately decorated sarcophagus before burial. An epitaph was often included on the urn or sarcophagus, this inscription would include the name of the deceased, their birth day and life span, their relations, political offices or military rankings they held and often some form of sentiment. After the cremation and/or burial of the body a feast would be held, it was a marker for the soul to move on to the afterlife and for their family to continue on without them (Fife).


Funerals in the military would have been similar to other Roman funerals, but likely not as lavish. The conditions they lived in could have made it difficult to perform the intricate ceremonies, the dead were highly honored, although their funerals were quite simple. If the funeral had to be carried out quickly after a battle the soldiers would be buried in a mass grave or given a mass cremation, this was always avoided if possible, so the dead could be honored separately. At permanent garrisons of the Empire a small portion of the soldiers’ pay was set aside for funeral expenses. Many of the cemeteries at these outposts had special areas set aside to build pyres that would be reused multiple times for different individuals (Thompson).

Roman funerals were events steeped in ritual and ceremony, members of high society would have lavish and very public funerals, while the funeral of a soldier was often much simpler and less celebratory.

Deities – Cassandra57

The Romans had many gods and goddesses which they worshiped. However, there were only a few main gods that had to do with warfare: Mars, Bellona, Honos, and Victoria. Roman military leaders and soldiers would honor these gods in order to be successful in battle. Each of these gods had a different role to play in warfare and each was essential to the Romans.


Mars is the god of warfare, agriculture, and animal husbandry and was perhaps one of the most important gods to the Romans. He is said to have been the father of Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome (Scopacasa). Therefore, Mars was seen to be the protector of the Roman land (Scopacasa). Many of the rituals/celebrations which take place between March and October (the war season) can be traced back to the honoring of Mars. One interesting point about Mars is the fact that many of his legends include him appearing on the battlefield and fighting amongst the soldiers, “However, once set loose on the battlefield, Mars was considered capable of indiscriminate destruction” (Scopacasa). Mars was also so important that a typical sacrifice to him consisted of a bull, ram, and a boar all at once (Scopacasa). Mars was important in warfare because he was able to rally the troops and bring enough bravery and spirit of war in order to succeed in battle (Scopacasa).

Bellona is the Roman goddess of war, and her role was mostly associated with foreign warfare. In literature, her symbols typically include a shield, a spear, a torch, and a trumpet (Holland). Her temple is located outside the city of Rome, and this is where the senators would meet in order to discuss or declare war on foreign nations (Holland). When Rome would declare war on another land, it became a ritual to cast a spear from Roman land to outside the city in the direction of the land they were declaring war on. However, when that land was simply too far away, the spear would be cast in front of Bellona’s temple because it was seen to represent all foreign lands (“Fetial”). Bellona was important because she helped the Roman troops while they were fighting abroad.


Honos is the Roman god of chivarly, honor, and military justice. He was also commonly associated with the god, Virtus, who represented bravery and military strength. Honos is typically depicted with a cornucopia and a branch or sceptor (Dowling).  He would have been important to the Romans during times of war because they wanted to be worthy of the spoils in which they gained. The Romans also were concerned about whether a war was righteous or not (“Fetial”). Therefore, adhering and praying to Honos would be seen as a way to keep their fight just.

Victoria became a prominent goddess because of her ability to determine the victor in battles (“Victoria”). She became the personification of victory and was often depicted with wings like the Greek goddess Nike (Thornton). Successful generals would worship her as they returned to Rome (“Victoria”). It is obvious as to why she was seen as important to the Romans since she could determine who was the victor over life and death (“Victoria”). Her importance can also be seen by the multiple temples dedicated to her, the most important being the one on Palatine Hill (Thornton). She even has a golden statue in one of the temples dedicated to Jupiter, the head god to the Romans (Thornton). Prayers and sacrifices to Victoria would help lead to victory on the battlefield.

Important Military Festivals and Holidays- Halle

In the Roman calendar the new year starts in March. This is so that the years can start with the Campaign season. While there are many significant festivals throughout the year, I will only be focusing on those during the military season, March through October, and those immediately related to them.

Martius (March) 1st is the birthday of Mars for whom the month is named. It is also a celebration of a battle early in Rome’s history wherein wives and children kept their soldiers from walking into a trap. The war was won when the king, here unnamed, sacrificed a bull to the God Jupiter. Phoebus dropped a shield (2)  from the sky to trick Rome’s opponents (Ovid). The 9th is the festival of sacred shields, also called the dancing of the shields after the dancing priests of Mars, the shield given to the Roman King on the battle of Martius, and the original eleven replicas made to conceal its identity, are taken out to hearten the people and the army. It was also believed to be a way for the army to have good luck in the upcoming campaign season (Warde, 44). There is an account where the shield that fell from the sky was replaced by a replica, and that campaign season was a disaster (Warde, 46). The 14th is the second of the Equirria, chariot racing and discus throwing dedicated to Mars (Ovid). The 17th of march is a celebration of Jupiter userping Saturn, this is symbolic of Rome dethroning its enemies. 23- The purifying of trumpets and a sacrifice to “the Strong God” (Ovid). The 23rd and the 24th are also for the Purification of the Trumpets, most likely tubas, which were primarily used in the military (Warde, 64).


Capitoline Museums. “Colossal statue of Mars Ultor also known as Pyrrhus – Inv. Scu 58.” Capitolini.information.

A recreation of a Roman sculpture of the war god Mars, for whom the month of Marius, now March, was named.

April the 21st is a historical festival where the Vestal Virgins cleanse the city and the citizens. It was also a day to honor Romulus, the founder of Rome, for blessing the walls of Rome to never fall (Ovid). There are many rites involved with the Founding celebration including: repeating the prayer four times, and jumping over a flame three times. Similar celebration similar to this are found all over Europe, probably due to the spread of the traditions via the army (Warde, 83).

October 15th (ides) is the date of an ancient horse sacrifice to Mars. The origin and reason for this sacrifice is unclear, it is hypothesized that the winning horses from the Equirria, or perhaps the best war horses from the campaign season, were sacrificed to Mars. This was likely done as a thank you to Mars (Warde, 242). This sacrifice marks the end of military campaign season (Ovid). The literal sacrifice is phased out by the start of the republic, though the celebration stays (Warde, 242). The 19th is a ritual cleaning and storage of weapons for winter dedicated to Mars. This sacred cleansing was known as Armilustrium,  there is evidence that the sacred shields make a second appearance (Warde, 250).

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Ancient shield illustration from Nordisk familjebok
A depiction of the sacred shield bequeathed to the king by the Gods.

Februarius (February) 27th is Equirria, first of two horse racing festivals to Mars, Ovid claims this festival to be based on the chariot runs that Mars himself made (Ovid). “The Equirria occurred between King’s Flight and New Year, bridging the period of ‘disorder’: held immediately before the new moon, they prepared the way for the reestablishment of order with the new month and year (Rüpke)”

Works Cited

“> 3 SIDE BLADE ARROW HEAD < Very RARE Ancient Roman Legionary Archery Weapon • $34.98.” PicClick, 26 Aug. 2018,

IETE Journal of Education Binomial Sampling Charts Revisited with Graphical and Analytical Arguments – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 18 Oct, 2018]

Montanari, Daria. “Early Bronze Age Levantine Metal Weapons from the Collection of the Palestine Exploration Fund.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, vol. 150, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 236–252. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00310328.2018.1491937.

Salvemini, Filomena, et al. “Morphological Reconstruction of Roman <italic>styli</Italic> from <italic>Iulia Concordia</Italic>—Italy.” Archaeological & Anthropological Sciences, vol. 10, no. 4, June 2018, pp. 781–794. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12520-016-0390-4.

Salvemini, Filomena, et al. “Morphological Reconstruction of Roman Arrowheads from Iulia Concordia: Italy.” Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing, vol. 117, no. 3, Nov. 2014, pp. 1227–1240. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00339-014-8511-3.

Salvemini, Filomena, et al. “Residual Strain Mapping of Roman Styli from Iulia Concordia, Italy.” Materials Characterization, vol. 91, May 2014, pp. 58–64. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.matchar.2014.02.008.

Favro, Diane, and Christopher Johanson. “Death in Motion: Funeral Processions in the Roman Forum.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 69, no. 1, 2010, pp. 12–37. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Fife, Steven. “The Roman Funeral.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 18 Jan. 2012,

Hope, Valerie M., and Janet Huskinson. Memory and Mourning : Studies on Roman Death. Oxbow Books, 2011. EBSCOhost,

Sumi, Geoffrey S. “Impersonating the Dead: Mimes at Roman Funerals.” Oral History Review, Oxford University Press, 15 Jan. 2003,

Thompson, T.j.u., et al. “Death on the Frontier: Military Cremation Practices in the North of Roman Britain.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, vol. 10, 2016, pp. 828–836., doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.020.

Dowling, Melissa Barden. “Honos.”, Wiley Online Library, 26 Oct. 2012, DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah17204. Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

“Fetial.” Encyclopedia Britannica, the Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 24 Feb. 2016, Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

Holland, Lora L. “Bellona.”, Wiley Online Library, 26 Oct. 2012, DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah17071. Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

Scopacasa, Rafael. “Mars.”, Wiley Online Library, 26 Oct. 2012, DOI: 10.1002/978144433836.wbeah17258.

“Victoria.”, Accessed on 21 Oct. 2018.

Ovid. Fasti. Translated by Frazer, James George. Loeb Classical Library Volume. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1931.

Warde, W. The Roman festivals of the period of the Republic, 1847-1921.

Capitoline Museums. “Colossal statue of Mars Ultor also known as Pyrrhus – Inv. Scu 58.” Capitolini.information.

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Alexander and his conquest of India


Alexander the Great was one of history’s greatest military leaders. He established the largest empire in the ancient world, and led an army so loyal they would fight to their deaths for him. His influence on Greek and Asian culture was intense enough to create the Hellenistic Period at his death. Though he died before his dream of conquering the world was completed, he is remembered as one of the most skilled, ruthless, tactical, and intelligent rulers in the ancient world.

The Greek sculptor Lysippus was Alexander’s “official” portrait artist during his reign. The Azara Herm is a Roman copy of a bust that Lysippus made of Alexander. The copy is not exactly like the original, but is generally regarded as the most accurate representation we have of Alexander.


Lyddios’ sculpture of Alexander

Alexander III was born to King Philip II in Macedonia in 356 BCE. Legend says his father was Zeus, but Alexander adopted his Philip’s dream of conquering the Persian Empire. Philip was skilled in military tactics and made Macedonia a mighty and formidable force.

Alexander had displayed his courage by the age of 12, and when he was 13 Philip called on Aristotle to tutor Alexander. Aristotle helped Alexander find an interest in literature, philosophy, and science. He was 16 when Philip went to battle and left Alexander in charge of Macedonia. At 18 he led a cavalry into battle, decimating a previously unbeatable army, and proving his bravery and militaristic vigor.

When Philip was assassinated in 336 BCE, Alexander claimed the throne and killed other challengers before anyone could overthrow him. He was just 20 years old. Alexander followed in his father’s footsteps and sought to dominate the known world, starting with the Persian Empire. He was a brilliant and ruthless military leader, and claimed the Persian Empire after the Persian king Darius was killed. He also conquered Egypt and founded Alexandria. Alexander adopted Persian customs and ordered a few of his generals to be killed, paranoid that someone would try to overthrow him.

Mosaic of Alexander the Great

Alexander the great Mosaic


After conquering Persia, Alexander continued on his goal to conquer the world. The Greeks at this time only thought it reached to the eastern end of India, near Pakistan, so his “world” was much smaller than ours. They knew nothing of China, the Indian subcontinent, or any of the other eastern lands. He led an army of troops and supporters into India. By the time they had reached the Hyphasis River his army was too weary to continue, and they mutinied until Alexander agreed to retreat back to Persia.

The scale of the wars he fought and his undefeated status gives Alexander a reputation of being one of the most successful commanders of all time. By the time he died he had conquered most of the known world at the time. After claiming the throne to Macedonia upon his father’s death, he invaded Persia and overthrew the Persian king Darius III. He continued on to conquer Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, among others, and extended his empire as far as Punjab, India. He had made plans to expand into the Arabian Peninsula, but those plans were never seen through because of his death at age 32, which plunged his empire into civil war. He died either from malaria, natural causes, or poison. He had named no heir, and his death unraveled his massive empire, though many of the conquered lands retained his influence, and some still do.

Indian Conquest:

Alexander the Great started his conquest of India in 327 BCE, after he conquered Persia.

Alexander’s army was composed of Macedonians, Greek mercenaries, and an increasing number of Asian soldiers. As his army became less Macedonian, Alexander had to incorporate new rituals from the east. While the Macedonians accepted the introduction of Persian garments, they flatly refused the practice of proskynesis, a Persian court ritual, since many of the actions and gestures involved were what they associated with the cult of the gods.

Alexander had sent various ambassadors to the tribes of India to demand submission. Those who didn’t submit got attacked. After crossing the Hindu Kush, Alexander split his army in half. The first part of the army -under the command of Perdiccus and Hyphaestion- was sent to the Indus river to build a bridge for the army to cross. The other half of the army was sent with Alexander to conquer the neighboring tribes that did not submit to Alexander (Possibly to secure a supply chain for his army).  you see, the problem with marching across a continent with thousands of people is that you need access to food water, and other supplies. This is especially true if you also want to conquer the continent you’re walking through. The farther that you get from your own land, the harder it is going to be to get the supplies that you


Alexander’s Conquest path

need to continue. This is where having supply chains becomes extremely important.

A well functioning supply chain is essential for an extended campaign full of siege warfare. The army itself could only march up to 10 days at a time once they left a port with access to the sea. Typically a marching army would be followed by their spouses, servents, and wagons. Alexander on the other hand decided to maximize his armies speed and flexibility by taking none of these with him. He instead followed routes that would allow him access to rivers that could carry tons of supplies compared to the around 200 carried by beasts of burden (Mieghem 42). Along the way some cities would and tribes would surrender before his arrival allowing him to send messengers ahead, create the town into a depot for supplies, and acquire supplies for his army as soon as he arrived. These supplies were mainly acquired from the local terrain but were also shipped in using water routes. Using these methods of traveling light, having frequent and easy access to supplies, and acquiring resources locally allowed him to have supplies where and when he needed them.

The battles fought in the valleys were fierce, but none were quite as merciless as  that with the Aspasioi at the fort of Massaga. After the Chieftain of Massaga fell in battle, his mother, Cleophis, assumed command of the military. Her determination to defend her homeland to the death inspired the all of the local women to also join in the fight.

In 326 B.C.E,  fighting under Cleophus,  Massaga gives Alexander resistance and was bent on defeating Alexander’s army. So, Alexander lured them outside of their fort by attacking just outside the fort. Once more Indians came to reinforce themselves, Alexander “retreated” as to lure the Indians further and further out of their fort. Once Alexander had done this, he turned his army around and chased them back to Massaga, killing many of them. Alexander then constructed siege towers and bridges to storm the wall. Before Alexander was successful with this, the Indians called a truce, asking to join Alexander’s army instead. However, that night, the Indians attempted to desert the army. Alexander countered this by massacring them, then burned Massaga to the ground.

It is thought that Massaga is near the modern day town of Chakdara, near Churchill’s Picket. It is also notable to mention that Alexander’s ankle was severely injured during the siege of Massaga.

Going further into India (still in 326 B.C.E), Alexander captured the fort, Ora, where he employed the same tactic of total warfare from Massaga. After hearing this, many Assakenians fled North to a high fortress called Aornos. This fortress was famously uncapturable by even the mighty hero Hercules.Also, another local legend claimed that another local deity, Krishna, was not able to capture Aornos either. This likely spurred Alexander on because he was known for liking too claim deity. The problem was that traditional siege warfare is conducted with the purpose of weakening the occupants of a city by cutting off their supply chains and essentially breaking spirits due to lack of food and the eternal threat of attack (Louis 130) . This would either allow you to capture the city with little to no casualties after fighting a weakened opposing force or possibly even forcing your foe to surrender

Without any conflict. This is, of course, a very good method of taking an isolated city because it’s only a matter of time before they run out of supplies and all you have to do is wait and watch them wither away. But this wasn’t the case with Aornos. The “Rock of Aornos” -or more commonly known as Mt. Pir Sarai- was 25 miles in circumference and 8,000 feet high with only one path carved from the rock. This of course makes it easier to block their supplies, but it also makes it harder to attack and in this case the positive of cutting off supplies doesn’t apply. The Rock had fresh water springs and arable land on top giving the people on the rock a near limitless supply of food and water, allowing them to stay for a near infinite amount of time. So the question was, how could you capture the rock that even Hercules wasn’t able to?

Alexander, unlike Hercules, had help from the locals. He was informed that there was a weak spot where troops could be sent to create a forward position and begin his attack from a nearby mountainous ridge. He sent Ptolemy, one of his generals, to take the position with a smaller group and signal Alexander that he could bring his forces to join him after marching his troops up the main path. In the meantime, Alexander used his local connections to being stockpiling supplies of his own in preparation for an extended siege. Once the signal was given and Alexander eventually met up with Ptolemy they had the problem of trying to cross the gap between the forward position and Aornos itself. Alexander had the idea to essentially build a bridge over to the other side. The forces of Alexander cut down the nearby trees and create wooden stakes that were then used as a framework for an earthen mount looking toward Aornos. From this mound he began his assault using archers and catapults.

Alexander's Path to seige Aornos

Alexander’s siege of Aornos

These catapults would have either been built near the earth mound or would have previously been built before joining forces because siege equipment was still in its earliest form, it was hard to build, hard to repair, and hard to transport (Hacker 37).It was also much different from the more commonly thought of medieval catapult. Instead of throwing one large rock a long distance, it would instead propel smaller stones and arrows at high velocities in an attempt to pierce any armor enemy soldiers may have had. Once they had this offensive mound created they continued building it up further in order to build a bridge closer to the enemy encampment. This method is somewhat similar to Alexander’s strategy at the siege of Tyre in 332 BC where he built a land bridge to an isolated island(Lagasse). With the catapults and archers providing cover for the builders, the enemies quickly surrendered upon seeing the progress. Alexander accepted their surrender, but then killed many of the Indians as they retreated. That is how Alexander the great conquered The Rock of Aornos.

After Aornos, Alexander reunites his army at a town called Hun to cross the Indus river. (this is still 326 B.C.E)  They crossed by building a bridge, which was constructed by Hephaestion. Hephaestion was sent earlier by Alexander to subdue the lands before Alexander had gotten there. The bridge was thought to be constructed of boats that were linked together spanning about 1500 feet across. Once they reunited, the army crossed and headed towards Taxila.

Once at Taxila the Macedonians were confronted by Omphis, the local king of Taxila, and his army. The Macedonians prepared for battle, thinking that they were going to have to fight through Taxila too. Omphis came up to Alexander and Alexander had asked Omphis why he had mobilized his entire force if he wasn’t going to attack. Omphis then said that he was offering his army for Alexander’s disposal. This friendly gesture prompted Alexander to make Omphis king of Taxila. The common thought on why Omphis did this is he recognized that Alexander was powerful, so being his ally, he could possibly further expand his power into other territory under the wing of Alexander.

In the summer of 326 B.C.E, Alexander continues his journey of conquest; towards the Hydaspes river -more commonly known as the Jhelum river-. The only thing that stops him is King Porus. Hearing that Porus was on the other side of the river waiting for him, Alexander orders that the boats used to cross the Indus river to be disassembled and to be reassembled at the Hydaspes river.

King Porus, on the other side of the river, has set up pickets (little groups of troops) to border the shore of the Hydaspes river to discourage any attempt of Alexander trying to cross. What King Porus failed to realize though, is that Alexander came well prepared and Alexander’s army camped on the other side of the river throughout the winter.

Alexander really only had two options: wait for the waters height to drop in the winter, or cross right then and there. Although Alexander had the supplies to last until winter, he decided that he needed to cross this river as soon as possible and continue his conquest; but he would have to do so as secretly as possible. Alexander began marching his army up and down the river every day making an extremely large scene as if he were attempting to cross the river. Hydaspes would then mobilize his army to mirror the actions of Alexander’s in case they attempted a crossing. This strategy was successful in two ways. King Porus’ army was inclined to parallel Alexander’s army to insure that they would not attempt a crossing. After a while, however, they got a false sense of security because throughout those few nights, Alexander never crossed so it was (poorly) assumed that Alexander wouldn’t dare cross any of the other nights either. The second advantage to this strategy is it gave Alexander ideas on where it would be most beneficial to cross. Alexander, after a few nights, had decided that the best place to cross would be a heavily wooded island 18 miles upstream from where they were camping.

At the night of their crossing, (it is suspected that this was in July of 326 B.C.E) it was instructed that one of Alexander’s general, Craterus, would stay behind with his portion of the army and only attempt to cross the river if Porus had moved upstream to meet Alexander and there was a small force left behind. This is so Porus wouldn’t get too suspicious when all of Alexander’s army suddenly went missing.


Alexander’s Plan for crossing the river

As a source of communication, Alexander set up his own pickets along the banks of the river to have faster travel of messages, which were vital in this stealth operation. Alexander then moved part of his forces 18 miles up the river where he planned to cross. Under cover of night, and also a thunderstorm luckily,  he began his crossing. They destroyed the boats that they used to cross the Indus river and used the materials as flotilla that would help them bring the supplies and troops across. Unfortunately he didn’t realize that the landmass that he initially thought was the opposite shoreline was actually an isolated island. This added crossing time and allowed Porus’s scouts to spot the forces and inform Porus and move his forces to meet them. Once that happened Craterus was able to cross as well with little resistance; allowing all of Alexander’s forces to cross the river without becoming a massive target.

King Porus arrives on the scene and Alexander is left with a dilemma to solve. King Porus has elephants which are spaced 100 feet apart with cavalry behind them, along with a left and right wings of infantry and cavalry. Alexander knows it would be a death trap to attack the elephants head on, so he splits his army in two. He places ½ of his army in the command of general Coenus, and the rest in his command. Alexander leads the charge and attacks Porus’ left wing. In response, his cavalry rushes over to support the left wing, leaving the right wing with little support. General Coenus then attacks the right wing. ½ of Porus’ cavalry in response turns around to help out, splitting Porus’ army in half. This is exactly what Porus didn’t want to happen. As the battle progressed, Alexander’s army slowly condensed Porus’ army into a circle, taking out the elephant drivers when possible. The elephants were still a problem, but one that they solved relatively quickly. They just let the elephants pass when they charged.

It is important to note that the battle was made easier for Alexander because Porus’ chariots proved to be useless in the mud newly created by the storm. Alexander noticed this and made another opportunity to claim himself as a god like being.

As the battle continued on, Alexander’s army encapsulates Porus’ and this lack of space leads to a lack of coordination and chaos. The elephants take out a lot of Alexander’s men, but also take out a lot of Porus’ men too. At about this time, General Craterus comes with his portion of his army and reinforces Alexander.

After this strategic maneuver was done.  The majority of Porus’ army was decimated, and Porus is forced to retreat, wounded from the battle. Alexander sent messengers to Porus to negotiate. Finally negotiating in person, Alexander ask what Porus desires. Porus responds, “Treat me as a king would treat another king.”

Alexander respects this, and allows Porus to keep his land.

After the battle against King Porus was finished, Alexander holds a victory celebration before marching against a neighboring tribe, in which Alexander promised to Porus. The end of this gruesome and tough battle made Alexander’s more hesitant to continue the conquest of India.

In his march further into India, Alexander is troubled to have to deal with a few small rebellions in which he has to delay his conquest. Once taken care of, he continued his conquest; making the inhabitants come to terms or fight.  Most chose to come to terms, but a tribe by the name of the Kathaioi was prepared to fight them.  The rebellious tribe chose their fort, Sangala, as the perfect place to defend.

Although it has not been located yet, Arrian suggests that the fort of Sangala stood on top of a hill. The enemy set up three consecutive circles of wagons around the hill of which Sangala sits, to act as a barrier. Once Alexander understands their tactic, he changes the formation of his army so that the archers ran in front of the enemy front lines. When the battle commenced, the Indians countered by standing on top of the carts and using their bows to strike down Alexander’s cavalry. Alexander adapts by forcing his cavalry to retreat and Alexander leads his infantry head first into the wagon barrier. The Indians are forced to retreat back into the fort.

Alexander takes the break from battle to surround the fort with his army. He did not have enough people to completely encircle the fort, so he had the cavalry patrol the most likely route of escape.

The Indians, under the cover of night, attempted to escape their fort, but were routed back by the cavalry. In a separate attempt, they had opened the gates and had made a run for it. Unfortunately for them, Alexander had learned of this plan and had used the carts against them. Alexander used the cart to block the way of the Indians. Noticing that they wouldn’t be able to escape fast enough, they retreated again. Sangala was finally taken when Alexander’s army climbed the wall with ladders and the town was attacked by siege engines.

In the late summer/ early fall of 326 BCE, Alexander’s army refuses to cross the Hyphasis river. Alexander was convinced that they were nearing the end of the world, but Coenus reminded Alexander that his army was tired and wanted to return home. Angry and annoyed, Alexander waits two days at the Hyphasis river (more commonly known as the Beas river) and offers a sacrifice, in which he didn’t receive “favorable omens. ” So Alexander turns back, but acting on the will of the gods, and not the men, because that would be weak…

Many scholars disagree on the extent of Alexander’s impact on India’s history.

As Dr. V.A. Smith said, “India remained unchanged. The wounds of battle were quickly healed India was not Hellenized. She continued to live her life of splendid isolation and soon forgot about the passing of the Macedonian storm. No Indian author, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain, makes even the faintest allusion to Alexander or his deeds.”

While Alexander’s campaign was not a defining moment of Indian history, it wasn’t an isolated event of no consequence. It is possible that Alexander’s conquering of the small tribes set an example that allowed for unified Indian rule in the future. Additionally, the Greeks left behind dated records, which were incredibly useful for future historians because they could then more certainly date later events, and the records proved to be a valuable source for early Indian history.



HopologyEnthusiast: How

Isaac, Son of Abrahm: When and where

Codexromana99: Who and what

Mediocrelegionnaire: Why



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V, Shivani. “Alexander’s Invasion and Its Effect on India.”





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