Friday, May 17, 2024

Was King Arthur a Real Person?


Last Battle of King Arthur

From Hidden Cumbrian Histories:

Something stunning has happened in British History. The quest to establish whether King Arthur was a real person has suddenly leapt back to life. Fifty years ago, the academic profession came to a consensus view that the legendary Dark Ages hero had never lived. Scholars began excluding him from serious history books, leaving the study of Arthurian legend to what they termed cranks, amateurs and pseudo-intellectuals. But a new generation of academics more skilled in the interpretation of ancient texts has succeeded in decoding previously unreadable clues.

They suggest Arthur was an actual historical person who lived in the sixth century after all - and that he was a northerner. The analysis says he fought 12 battles against other North Britons, many in Rheged, the predecessor of Cumbria, to provide cattle for his starving people. This followed a volcanic winter caused by the eruption of Krakatoa in 536 AD. It suggests he met his end at the battle of “Camlann”, a location now identified as Castlesteads fort on the Cumbrian section of Hadrian’s Wall.

The new analysis is based on a Latin work entitled the Historia Brittonum compiled from earlier now-lost documents by a monk called Nennius in 829 AD. The text survives in the form of copies written by clerics on vellum in the 11th Century. This work is crucial because it contains the earliest-known definite reference to Arthur.

The Historia contains a list of a dozen battles supposed to have been fought by Arthur. Academics say it must be taken seriously because it is the only detailed record that survives of any events that took place in the Dark Ages from a British point of view. If true, the new analysis of the locations of these battles overturns the traditional story that Arthur was a royal southerner with a magical sword who fought the Anglo-Saxons. In reality, the new analysis says, he was a gritty military leader who earned a great reputation while campaigning much of his time in Rheged and the north-east of Britain.

This reading of the document is controversial because Nennius was not a historian in any conventional sense. He rummaged through old chronicles and fragments of folklore “heaping together all I could find” in order to create a heroic narrative. His ninth-century audience was facing the threat of heathen Saxon invaders so Nennius cast the semi-mythical Arthur as the hero of a fight to expel the Anglo-Saxons. By the time Nennius was compiling his work, Arthur had become a folk hero and this encouraged the monk to credit him with miraculous deeds such as slaying hundreds of enemy warriors single-handedly. (Read more.)

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