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~ Camelot ~

~ Arthur ~


The following information is quoted from Ronan Coghlan in The Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends!

The name Arthur may be (and according to K. H. Jackson certainly is) a form of Artorius, a Roman gens name, but, according to J. D. Bruce, it is possibly of celtic origin, coming from artos viros (bear man) see Welsh arth gwyr (T.R. Davies). Bruce also suggests the possibility of a connection with Irish art(stone).

Arthur is not mentioned by any contempory and his historicity cannot be regarded as certain. Milton(History of England) reckoned him a fiction, but Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) felt there might be some substance behind the legend. Modern opinion tends to echo Gibbon. The earliest mention of Arthur is in the Gododdin(sixth century) of Aneirin, but it is possible that the line alluding to Arthur may not have formed part of the original. Nennius(early ninth century) links Arthur's name with a succession of battles but does not describe him as a king, saying that he came to the aid of various British Rulers.

An outline of the hero's life is given in Geoffrey of Monmouth (twelfth century) in his Historia Regum Brittaniae. Just how much of his life was Geoffrey's invention and how much was culled from traditional material is uncertain. He tells us that King Arthur was the son of Uther and defeated the barbarians in a dozen battles. Subsequently he conquered a wide empire and eventually went to war with the Romans. He returned home on learning that his nephew Mordred had realised the standard of rebellion and taken Guinevere, the queen. After landing, his final battle took place. The saga built up over the centuries and Celtic traditions of Arthur reached the continent of Brittany.

Malory (fifteenth century) produced a huge Arthuriad that many would regard as the standard 'history' of Arthur. In this, we are told of Arthur's conception when Uther approached Igraine who was made, by Merlin's sorcery, to resemble her husband. The child was given to Ector to raise in secret.
After Uther's death there was no king ruling all England. Merlin had placed a sword in a stone, saying that whoever drew it out would be king. Arthur did so and Merlin had him crowned. This led to a rebellion by eleven rulers which Arthur put down.
He married Guinevere whose father gave him the Round Table as a dowry; it became a place where his knights sat, to avoid quarrels over precendence. A magnificant reign followed, Arthur's court becoming the focus for many heroes.
In the war against the Roman's, Arthur defeated the Emporer Lucius and became ruler himself.
However, his most illustrious knight, Lancelot, became enamoured of Guinevere and an affair between the them followed. The quest for the Holy Grail took place and Lancelot's intrigue with the queen came to light. Lancelot fled and Quinevere was sentenced to death. Lancelot rescued her and took her to his Continental Realm; this led to Arthur crossing the channel to make war on his former Knight. While away from Britain he left his natural son Mordred in charge. (Mordred was also his nephew, the result of an unwittingly incestious affair between Arthur and his sister Morgause. Arthur had been unaware of the incestous nature of the intrigue because he was ignorant of his own parentage.)
Mordred rebelled and Arthur returned to quell him. This led to Arthur's last battle on Salisbury Plain, where he slew Mordred but was himself gravely wounded. (In Welsh accounts, the site of this battle is called Camlann.)
Arthur was then carried in a barge, saying he was heading for the vale of Avilion (Avalon).




Some said he never died, but would one day return. However, his grave was supposedly discovered at Glastonbury in the reign of Henry II(1154-89).

One of the most mysterious aspects of Arthur's Reign involves his relationship with Morgan Le Fay. In Malory she is his sister but, when Geoffrey mentions her in the Vita Merlini, her seems to know nothing of the kinship, nor does he mention any emity between them. This seems to be a later development. It has been suggested that Arthur was originally her lover and only latterly her brother, but such a suggestion is unsupported by evidence. Whether Morgan is in origin identical with Arthur's sister ( Anna in Geoffrey) cannot be decided with certainty. In the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, (1982), Morgan is his sister with whom Arthur unknowingly commits incest - this is not implausible. Morgan's enmity towards Arthur is generally taken to spring from the fact that Arthur's father, Uther, killed her father, Gorlois.

The actual status or title of Arthur is also uncertain. He is usually styled a king, sometimes an emporor and, in Rosemary Sutcliffe's novel Sword at Sunset (1963), he is represented as turning Britain into the last vestige of the Western Roman Empire. Is is not certainly impossible that he did so. Nennius does not speak of him as a king but as dux bellorum (leader of wars), a title which suggested he held a Roman-invented designated such as Dux Brittaniarum (leader or 'duke' of the Britons).
br> Apart from his title, the question of where Arthur functioned also arises. Various persons have favoured the view that he was a leader in the north, in the south-west, in Wales or throughout Britain, but the truth of the matter is that we cannot be certain.

The date of Arthur's death is given by Geoffrey as AD 542. Malory places his life in the fifth century. Geoffrey Ashe puts forward the argument that Arthur is, at least to some extent, to be identified with the historical Celtic King Riothamus. Is this is so, he would have flourished in the fifth century. It is not impossible that the legendary Arthur is a composite of a number of persons so called, living at different times.

Arthur is given as having various ancestors, descendants and kinsfolk. Arthur's survival after death was believed in by many Briton's who awaited his return. He was thought to have journeyed to Avalon (a Celtic paradise) or to be lying asleep in a cave somewhere, awaiting arousal. The findng of his possible grave at Glastonbury did not extinguish these beliefs.