September 2018 – King Arthur building the legend

By | October 4, 2018

The session covered:

Continued looking at Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”.

It was only in the Middle Ages that the story of Arthur started to take off.

Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the “History of the Kings of Britain” c 1136.  He was a well read clergyman.  He would have been familiar with early sources and welsh folklore and poetry.  He wrote it as an interesting read with added colour.  The west is Britons, the east was colonised by the Saxons amongst others.

The time at which it was written would have had an influence.  For example the references to the combat style and jousting were relevant to 12th Century not the time Arthur is supposed to have lived.

Arthur was a Christian waging war on pagan Saxons, which reflects Geoffrey of Monmouth’s beliefs.  There were massive Saxon casualties, in the many thousands.  No evidence of such huge losses has been found.

One of the old sources he used was Nennius’s battle list for Arthur.  This list was covered in our March session.  He changed the order of battles, combined and added to it.  Perhaps he had other sources for which we no longer have a record or made things up.

He reports military campaigns involving thousands of men, travelling great distances.  In one case an army 183,000 going to Gaul.  He conquered Iceland and Norway.

The result is a rollicking tale reminiscent of the Celtic warrior hero.

Last Updated on October 4, 2018