March 2018 – King Arthur is there evidence he existed contd.

By | March 26, 2018

The session covered:

A summary of the previous session where we discussed the suggestion he was a British or Romano leader from the north.  There was not a lot of evidence for his existence, no mention of him in the 540’s documents by Gildas nor by the Venerable Bede in 730ish.  The earliest mention is 800-900 AD (around 400 years later than he is thought to have existed) in the British Miscellany – the Welsh Annals mention Arthur being the victor at the battle of Badon 518 AD and his final defeat at the Battle of Camlann in 539 AD.

Nennius wrote in Latin circa 800 AD.  He compiled data and did not try to interpret it, just to collect it.  As a result there is often more than one account of things and we do not need to worry about his bias.  This gives us a lot of data.  In Nennius’s the ‘History of the Britons’ he covers a lot of the information discussed in the previous session.  He refers to Arthur as Dux Bellorum, a war leader not a king, that could have been why Gildas did not include him in his reporting as he was only a warrior.  Nennius says it as a fact and lists 12 battles in which Arthur took part and won.  He treats him as an historical figure but also as a folklore hero.

The written evidence is still not there and it is thought likely that Nennius found his information for the battles in an old Welsh poem of which there is no remaining evidence.  If this is true there is a theory that Arthur was alive when it was created which would place it prior to his defeat at the Battle of Camlann which is not mentioned.

We looked at the 12 battles referring to information from ‘Arthur’s Britain’ Penguin, London 1971 by, Leslie Alcock who tried to reconstruct the campaign.  The possible sites for the battles were greatly geographically spread which would have meant a lot of travel and did not make military sense and there were time order issues.  There was no consensus on locations and for the first eleven battles the evidence is speculative.  There seems to be very little if any residual evidence for Arthur’s battles.  There is more evidence for the twelfth battle The Battle of Badon.  The Battle of Badon is likely to be in the south given it took place between the Britons and Saxons but this still had five possible locations.

The final battle at Camlann is not mentioned by Nennius but this is covered in the Welsh Annals.  There is considerable debate over the location of Camlann.

Next month we shall consider some slightly later documents written in Latin then onto the mythology of Arthur.

Last Updated on March 26, 2018