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Old October 30th, 2016, 05:25 PM   #111
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Originally Posted by AlpinLuke View Post
May be "Arthur" had the possibility to became a title, like Caesar or Augustus.
I`d be confident that it`s a nickname, that the real man is historic and possibly someone we already know quite well but his association with the name has been forgotten. For reasons I`ve earlier expressed, I think he was active before the fifth century. Our knowledge of many of the important Romans who were active in Britain has been reconstructed from epigraphic evidence both in Britain and abroad. This will list a general or governor`s record and achievements but it doesn`t convey what the the locals thought of him or what they might have called him.
This scenario allows for an Arthur who campaigned abroad and as far north as the Antonine Wall but who might have also had a strong association with Wales. He may have an association with bears or the star Arcturus or both. Magnus Maximus ticks a lot of boxes but he is well recorded in various sources and it would be remembered if he was the one. The same criteria might also rule out the likes of Agricola and Septimus Severus.
I think there`s a good chance that he`s a `local boy done good` which might have contributed to his popularity, but we should also remember that one man`s hero is another man`s tyrant, depending on which side of the wall you stand.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 12:17 AM   #112
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Originally Posted by concan View Post
I`d be confident that it`s a nickname, that the real man is historic and possibly someone we already know quite well but his association with the name has been forgotten. For reasons I`ve earlier expressed, I think he was active before the fifth century. Our knowledge of many of the important Romans who were active in Britain has been reconstructed from epigraphic evidence both in Britain and abroad. This will list a general or governor`s record and achievements but it doesn`t convey what the the locals thought of him or what they might have called him.

This scenario allows for an Arthur who campaigned abroad and as far north as the Antonine Wall but who might have also had a strong association with Wales. He may have an association with bears or the star Arcturus or both. Magnus Maximus ticks a lot of boxes but he is well recorded in various sources and it would be remembered if he was the one. The same criteria might also rule out the likes of Agricola and Septimus Severus.

I think there`s a good chance that he`s a `local boy done good` which might have contributed to his popularity, but we should also remember that one man`s hero is another man`s tyrant, depending on which side of the wall you stand.

Who is Arthur depends on whom you interrogate. For the people of the Old North, he might be "Arthwys of the Pennines". For the men of Gwent, he would be a South Welshman.

If you expect history from Geoffrey of Monmouth, be warned that he drew some of his core material from the 11th century.


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Old October 31st, 2016, 12:54 AM   #113
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Why no more King Arthurs???


Likewise, the earliest story in the Mabinogion, "Culhwch and Olwen", is dated by its style to the period 1060x1100.

So it's plausible that the "Arthur" of these tales is influenced by one or more prominent figures of the 1000s. We can be specific about Geoffrey's models for King Arthur and his family.

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Old October 31st, 2016, 01:51 AM   #114

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The problems about a possible historical King Arthur are well known:

* absence of definitive archaeological evidences [there are just clues which are subjected to interpretation, so ...]

* absence of a reliable and comprehensive contemporary chronicle of his deeds

* presence of several later [some of them are too later] sources mentioning Arthur and his deeds which are not exactly in agreement among them

Usually this indicates a mythological figure. If not for the weight in history and its symbolic value, the figure of King Arthur would be considered a myth, the main personage of a legendary tale.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 02:25 AM   #115
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But to accept what you are suggesting means we need to close the book on Gildas and put him back on the shelf.
Not quite, although I can see why it might look that way. I'd accept that Gildas is an important source, but we have to be clear about what we can use him for. He is not a historian and never made any claims to be one. Although most people who have read Gildas focus on the famous complaint against the five kings, its important to read the whole of DEB to understand not only the purpose for which he wrote (which he is very clear about in the opening section), but also the structure he employed to make his points.

Gildas seems himself as akin to an Old Testament prophet, warning a morally debased secular and spiritual authority about the perils of turning away from God. He gives examples of what happened in the past to underline what he thinks is likely to happen again if Maglocunus et al don't stop usurping the natural order or if corrupt churchmen don't stop taking bungs. Those examples are deliberately apocalyptic, because that was what is required for Gildas to make his point. As we have discussed before, early medieval writers were perfectly happy to exaggerate or to say things which they didn't think were true.

All of this means that the practice of cherry-picking Gildas' comments to support (for example) the idea that all of the cities of Britain were destroyed in the Saxon rebellion is extremely unwise. Gildas is an exceptionally important source for a number of things (including ecclesiastical organisation, kingship, Roman education and even a sixth-century monetary economy, which we are generally told did not exist), but what he cannot be used for is to paint an accurate narrative history of the fifth or sixth-century.

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What is significant though is that he refers to it happening during a period post-Badon which he considers to have been relatively peaceful in comparison to what went before. Pre- Badon was an entirely different animal.
This is a good example of the problem. If you read the preceding sections of Gildas, you'll see that this post-Badon 'golden age' is an essential structural part of his moral lesson. The Britons turn away from God. The Britons get punished. The Britons turn back to God. The Britons are victorious. The foolish Britons never learn from their mistakes and then sink into complacency and sin in a short-lived golden age. The cycle repeats.

One cannot therefore take this episode out of its essential context and seek to see it as historically accurate. This doesn't necessarily mean that what Gildas wrote wasn't true, but it does mean that just because he wrote it (and just because he lived relatively near the time in question) doesn't mean we can safely assume it was true.

It's not a great analogy, but one wouldn't rely on the account of the third pig in the Three Little Piggies story to argue that sensible pigs live in brick houses. This is because we all know that the Three Little Piggies isn't actually a factual account of pigs versus wolves. It's a fable designed to teach us something. So too is DEB.


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At the end of the day Gildas is our primary source who had access to living memory from the later fifth century. Surviving physical evidence should be interpreted around what he says and he shouldn`t be discounted if some of the archaeology doesn`t seem to fit the narrative.
I disagree for the reasons set out above. The paucity of written sources means we must treasure what we have but we shouldn't make the mistake of assuming greater reliability, just because it's pretty much all we have got. To interpret archaeological evidence by reference to written sources is to assume for those written sources an accuracy and an authority which they may not deserve.

That's my take anyway, although I fully accept that I will be in the minority!

Last edited by Peter Graham; October 31st, 2016 at 02:27 AM.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 04:32 AM   #116
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All of this means that the practise of cherry-picking Gildas` comments to support (for example) that all the cities of Britain were destroyed in the Saxon rebellion is extremely unwise.
Well I don`t think that at all. I happen to think that he is far more localised and isolated than is usually considered. Just because he hands down a broad history of the island of Britain doesn`t mean he is well briefed on the current state of affairs of the island. So when he relates how Maglocunus is the `dragon of the island`, the island isn`t Britain. Maglocunus is a tyrant based on an island off the west coast (probably Mon) which in some ways illustrates how relatively insignificant he really was. However the image came in time to be misrepresented and is probably the source of the rather romantic Pendragon title which probably never really existed. In fact much of Gildas`s imagery was harvested to expand a lot of later legend.

However, the accounts of large migrations and bloodied corpses left exposed to wild animals and the elements are so vividly described, that they can only have been related to Gildas by survivors and witnesses of what can only have been a brutal and bloody period. These descriptions also explain the meagre archaeological evidence. Few conventional burials, fast moving migrants and marauders who don`t get to set down roots. I suspect a large swathe of south-central Britain was a no-mans land. You didn`t go there unless you were well armed and looking for confrontation. We`re not talking centuries here, only decades. A relatively short length of time in the grand scheme of things.

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early medieval writers were perfectly happy to exaggerate or say things which they didn`t think were true.
This is true. But are you questioning the authenticity of this particular account because there is evidence that contradicts it or because there is a lack of evidence to confirm it? There is a significant difference between the the two.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 04:38 AM   #117
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Indeed, we can with care use later sources to try with inferences to "flesh out" the narrative history of the fifth and sixth centuries, but this comes with a health warning written boldly.
I'd agree entirely, although I'd also argue that the health warning should be applied to contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous texts.

The problem with so many 'I have found the real Arthur' claims is that the health warnings are almost always completely ignored. There is no appreciation of what these texts were written for, who they were written for and who they were written by. At its most extreme, commentators appear to work on the basis that anything written down must be true. This, in turn, obliges them to employ all sorts of ingenious tricks to explain away inconsistencies or omissions and one can detect a clear sense that people are working backwards from a pre-determined conclusion rather than forwards from the evidence. This is intellectually unacceptable, but does at least explain why Arthur can be found pretty much anywhere if one is prepared to look hard enough......
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Old October 31st, 2016, 04:45 AM   #118
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I agree with you here ,Concan, because Gildas is the only source who was near contemporary to the time under discussion, and what he wrote cannot be lightly dismissed. Indeed, we can with care use later sources to try with inferences to "flesh out" the narrative history of the fifth and sixth centuries, but this comes with a health warning written boldly.
I completely agree.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 04:55 AM   #119
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I happen to think that he is far more localised and isolated than is usually considered.
I'd agree with you, although I'm not sure how that changes the basic position, which is that he is giving a wider moral lesson.

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So when he relates how Maglocunus is the `dragon of the island`, the island isn`t Britain. Maglocunus is a tyrant based on an island off the west coast (probably Mon)
I'd agree with that, although he was clearly also linked with Gwynedd at some point as the (non-contemporaneous) Annales have him dying of plague in his court at Rhos. Rhos is slap bang where I'd tentatively put Cuneglasus, which might mean that Gildas' comment that Maglocunus had killed tyrants, including some of those whom Gildas had mentioned, referred to Cuneglasus. But even then, we have far too many 'mights' to hold this out as anything other than one of many possibilities.

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However, the accounts of large migrations and bloodied corpses left exposed to wild animals and the elements are so vividly described, that they can only have been related to Gildas by survivors and witnesses of what can only have been a brutal and bloody period.
I disagree. Many of those images have clear parallels in Vergil. The study of Vergil lay at the heart of the late Roman education in rhetoric, which Michael Lapidge has very plausibly argued that Gildas must have received. As such, it is far more likely that he is simply lifting and reshaping suitably gruesome imagery to make his point.


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This is true. But are you questioning the authenticity of this particular account because there is evidence that contradicts it or because there is a lack of evidence to confirm it? There is a significant difference between the the two.
Neither. I'm questioning what the evidence is actually evidence of. The primary purpose of this passage is to fit the narrative arc of Gildas' wider plan, not to tell us what was really happening in mid fifth-century Britain. It might be factually accurate too, but equally, it might not be. It would be unsafe to give precedence to one of these two possibilities, as that would be like saying 'unless you can positively disprove what Gildas says on a point, we can assume it's true'. No such assumptions are warranted.
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Old October 31st, 2016, 06:47 AM   #120
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Why no more King Arthurs???


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Originally Posted by gold heart View Post
(I'm not sure how long to wait my for my appeal (appealing unfair "suspension" - Historum - History Forums) before posting.)

I haven't been able to read all 11 pages since its been only recently seeing this here, so sorry if anything already been said.

Reasons why not any/many other king Arthurs may possibly include:
"(King) Arthur" probably/may not have been a King/Emperor but only a dux/count/miles.
"(King) Arthur" was mainly only majorly popularised from the time of Geoff of Mon's HRB and Malory's Morte d'Arthur.
"(King) Arthur" was "Welsh"/(Romano-)British/Celtic, not (Anglo-)Saxon/English/Germanic. (There are also other rival heroes like St George.)
"(King) Arthur" may not have been one person but may have been persons/people, or he may be a god/personification (of war/Britain).
"(King) Arthur" may not have been the person's/commander's real name. (The person's name might have been Luthor, or some other candidates.)
Some rulers did copy the Round Table if not the name (eg Stirling RT, Winchester RT).
(Robert Bambrough (who was in the combat of the thirty) referred to the prophecy of Merlin.)

Some people suggest that there was a 2nd king Arthur in Wales.
There seem to have been quite a few early British/Welsh "Arthurs" (some in our list (link below)).

Here is a list of many namesakes of "Arthur" (in which are some king Arthurs) combined with candidates for original "Arthur" (too long to post here)
The 12 Battles of Arthur Found , 15 - All Empires - EBooks
...

On your points 1,3,5&7 Geoffrey of Monmouth based his "King" Arthur on Count Alan Rufus, leader of the Conquest-era Bretons in England.

Here's the equation:

Alan = Arthur;
Eudon Penteur = Uther Pendragon;
Orguen of Cornouaille = Igraine of Cornwall;
Hoel II of Brittany = Hoel of Brittany;
Alan III of Brittany (poisoned) = (Geoffrey's) Aurelius Ambrosius (poisoned).

Alan Rufus's epitaph emphasises how royally British he was.

It makes references to the Romans, and hints at a connection with Julius Caesar via his mother Aurelia Cotta.

It uses the term "satrap" for Alan, linking him to Persian history. (The Alans were an East Iranian nation of central Asia who migrated both east and west during the late centuries BC, appearing in both Roman and Chinese records.)

It calls him "dux" (cf Arthur as "dux bellorum").

It identifies him with a golden-red star ("stella ... rutilans"). Between the popular Aldebaran and Arcturus, the latter makes immediate sense, because he was "the guardian of the bears" as chief bodyguard (commander of the royal household knights) to both William I and II.

Moreover, the ermine emblem of Brittany which Alan wore signifies the Virgin Mary. Arcturus is just north of Virgo. Just as "Arthur" carried a symbol of Mary in battle, so did Alan.

Ermine subsequently became an emblem of sovereignty in Europe, worn in coronation robes.

Incidentally, the Combat of the Thirty involved Bretons and Englishmen. From the mid-1100s into the 1500s Brittany was ruled by Alan's heirs (the descendants of his brother Count Stephen of Dregor).

Alan's earliest independently attested male-line ancestor was the mid-ninth century Count Ridoredh of Gwened (Vannes), the Welsh-speaking county of Brittany.

The legend of Potter Thompson suitably locates the sleeping Arthur and his knights under Richmond Castle, built by Alan. Richmond has become the most popular placename in the Anglosphere.

The good Count built the market and port of Boston in Lincolnshire, which soon rivalled London and became a Hanseatic port. Very early he obtained a concession from the king that all of Alan's employees and tenants were exempt from tolls, customs and excise and other transit charges; this domestic free trade agreement was enforced by law until at least 1641.

He constructed St Mary's Abbey York but was interred outside the abbey church of Bury St Edmunds; the former abbey called him Earl of Richmond, and the latter abbey accounted him Earl of East Anglia.

By the way, the Bretons also encouraged the cult of St George; Alan's paternal aunt Adela was the foundation abbess of St George's in Rennes.

Count Alan's character was attested by those who knew him as of the highest. These witnesses are as diverse as the monk Stephen of Whitby in the early 1100s, King Harold's daughter Gunhildr circa 1093-94, and the anonymous author of the account of the 1088 treason trial of William de St Calais, Bishop of Durham.

According to the Monasticon Anglicanum, Count Stephen founded the first High Court of Parliament, at York in 1089. Christopher Clarkson has Count Alan (he thought Alan Rufus's brother Alan Niger) at the same event. (*)

(* See https://books.google.com.au/books?id...201089&f=false.)

Count Stephen was grandfather to both Duke Conan IV and William de Tancarville who trained and knighted his relative William Marshal.

Stephen was buried (in 1136) in one of the family mausoleums in Brittany, except his heart was buried at York.

So Stephen was around when Geoffrey of Monmouth was writing. Speaking of Monmouth, it's one of many places across Britain where Alan witnessed charters.

Alan's battles exceeded the twelve attributed to Arthur and were likewise in many locations, eg at Hastings and Stafford, at York and elsewhere in Yorkshire, at Pevensey and Rochester, probably some in Lincolnshire and East Anglia; also on the Continent several in Maine (+) and Normandy.

(+) Orderic Vitalis relates that in 1082/83 Odo of Bayeux got it into his head to sail with much of England's garrison to Rome. This was during the royal campaign against Anjou in Maine, so King William rushed back with most of his army to intercept, abandoning Alan and his 200 splendidly attired knights in the midst of enemy territory with orders to conduct a siege against the formidable castle of Sainte Suzanne. This they continued unaided for 3 years, against insurmountable odds, assailed by the boldest knights of France. The castle eventually gave in, to diplomacy.

Last edited by zoetropo; October 31st, 2016 at 06:49 AM.
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