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Searching for the real Arthur of Britain

 Q:   Ask a Question about Searching for the real Arthur of Britain       
Arthur of Britain, King Arthur as he is often called, is a world renowned character. His exploits, his Knights of the Round Table, the quest for the Holy Grail and Lancelot’s doomed love affair with Arthur’s wife Guinevere are the stuff of legend. But was there a real Arthur behind it all?

The stories came out of France from the 13th Century onwards but interestingly they were almost always set in Britain and would appear to have arrived in France through Brittany, originally a colony for Britons in exile fleeing the Saxon invaders of their homeland.

The familiar world of Arthur is the world of the High Middle Ages, of feudal knights in full plate armour, of big chargers bred for the purpose and of jousting. Arthur in history if indeed he can be found there is a Dark Age Arthur nes tling in that short period between the Romans leaving Britain and the Germanic and Scandinavian hordes arriving.

The armour would have been much less ornate, simple chainmail perhaps, and the horses more like ponies. This Arthur would not have ridden with stirrups. The English, ever wont to assume the British mantle, may have taken Arthur to their heart but Arthur if he was anything was British or Romano-British and the English, for that is who these invading Saxons, Frisians and Angles became, were his enemy.

There is only one extant contemporary British source and that is Gildas. Gildas does not refer to Arthur by name. He does refer to the war of resistance fought by the British and names one leader Ambrosius Aurelianus a man apparently of Roman connections who had stayed behind.

He also mentions some Welsh (ie British) chieftains who may well also have fought the invading Saxons under Hengist, his son Ochta and Aelle. One he calls the Bear and interestingly arth is the Welsh for bear. Could this man have been the real Arthur?

Arthur starts being mentioned a few generations after Gildas’s death, in British war poems, in Welsh genealogies, in the writings of Nennius. There is one recurrent theme, the struggle against the “English” invaders. There was one great battle mentioned by Gildas as well, Mons Badonicus or Mount Badon fought somewhere in the west of Britain maybe Bath.

This British victory set the invaders back for the best part of a hundred years. It seems that Ambrosius may no longer have been the British commander, the Dux Bellorum, when Mons Badonicus was won but whoever led his men into battle that day, Ambrosius Aurelianus or another, that man was the real Arthur.


Tags: history, british



Category: Others  - ( Others Archive)

Date Added: 09 February '11


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