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Old September 29th, 2016, 01:08 PM   #51

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There is also a matter about context: since no more invasions have affected Great Britain after the period of the diffusion of the legend of King Arthur [pay attention: not the supposed era of King Arthur, but when his tales became "famous" like Da Vinci Code ...] at London they haven't felt the need for such a figure of reference.

Today Great Britain, instead of a new King Arthur, thinks to have a good negotiator with EU.

The Pendragon would be quite disconcerted [to say the least].
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Old September 29th, 2016, 02:41 PM   #52
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It is also possible that the writer of the preface was just being formally modest about his achievement.

I have never read that alleged Taliesin poem before or heard it mentioned as an early reference to Arthur, thus I suspect it must be thought to be somewhat later than Taliesin's era - possibly considered to even be later than the British History. I see it is # XV, "the Chair of the Sovereign" from The Book of Taliesin .

"the Chair of the Sovereign" could have been composed after the Historia Brittonum was written, though possibly the ideas in it were floating around before then.

So because Hadrian's Wall was built around 130 and someone (like Arthur) could have crossed the wall anytime between 130 and 830, but the writer of the Historia Brittonum though it was built after 410, he might have mistakenly dated a wall-crossing Arthur to after 410 instead of between 130 to 410.

There are 280 years between 130 and 410, and 280 years between 410 and 690. If the wall crossing Arthur of the poem could have lived any time between 130 and 690 the writer of the Historia Brittonum would have a fifty percent chance of being correct if he put the wall crossing Arthur of the poem after 410.

I don't think that the poem describes an Arthur who is a Roman general, It describes an Arthur who is either a Roman general or a post Roman war leader who continues some Roman military traditions and thus somewhat resembles a Roman general.

If this is your original contribution, I congratulate you on your original idea. you have thought of another argument to use against those who claim that the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae must have been real, by showing another reason why he might not have been real.

But I am not one of those who claim that the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae must have been real, I admit that he might not have been real.

Instead I say that the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae is historical. Not totally historical but certainly at least partially historical.

Various sources written centuries later mention hundreds of people in Dark Age Britain. And it is certainly possible that some of them never lived and that some things written about some of them are incorrect. But most of them seem historical to me. Not totally historical but certainly at least partially historical.

And most persons alleged to have lived in Dark Age Britain are usually treated as historical. In most cases I don't see any reason for any debate about whether they were historical. And I don't see any reason why the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae should be considered so suspicious and doubtful as to be singled out for the most debates about how real he was.

I say that like most persons alleged, but not absolutely proven, to have lived in Dark Age Britain, but who could possibly have been imaginary, the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae should be considered historical until and unless some reason turns up in the future to consider him more doubtful than most persons in dark age Britain.
As far as I`m aware , the poem might be as late as the fourteenth century. But this is probably based on orthographic evidence which as far as I know gives an approximate date for when it would have been first written down and would not necessarily give us the true date of composition given the possibility of a long period of oral transmission. But I`m not an expert on this and I may be wrong. Steel Ala suggests armoured cavalry and specifically Roman cavalry. It`s also interesting that the poet seems to be not a contemporary of Arthur who he calls `a warrior of two authors` perhaps suggesting that he is relying on two separate sources of an older legend.

I would suggest that your opinion of Historia Brittonum and mine are actually similar. I happen to think that there probably was an Arthur and a battle list and that Historia is the most important source we have for him. But based on Gildas, I`m suspicious that the author took a legendary figure and placed him in the later fifth century in error. I`ve tried to come up with a plausible explanation as to how this might have happened. Any weaknesses in the idea will be exposed on here. You`ve proposed a couple of plausible shortcomings already. But if Nennius is wrong, it is possible that all the later accounts of Arthur followed him over the precipice.I`ve already discussed in a previous post how Bede`s misinterpretation of Severus and the turf wall was in essence repeated in Historia and by Geoffrey and I suspect a few others. As far as I can remember, the true origin of Hadrians Wall was lost in Britain for many centuries perhaps until as late as the seventeenth, but I`ve forgotten where I read that.
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Old September 29th, 2016, 11:49 PM   #53

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Originally Posted by AlpinLuke View Post
There is also a matter about context: since no more invasions have affected Great Britain after the period of the diffusion of the legend of King Arthur [pay attention: not the supposed era of King Arthur, but when his tales became "famous" like Da Vinci Code ...] at London they haven't felt the need for such a figure of reference.

Today Great Britain, instead of a new King Arthur, thinks to have a good negotiator with EU.

The Pendragon would be quite disconcerted [to say the least].
I think he'd be more disconcerted to find we were in it in the first place.
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Old September 30th, 2016, 02:12 AM   #54
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Instead I say that the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae is historical. Not totally historical but certainly at least partially historical.
To clarify, when you say he's historical but not necessarily real, do you mean that you argue for a real person behind the stories, but accept that the Arthur of the stories is a construct? That's a fair position to take, but if that is the case, could you confirm which bits of the Arthur story you'd accept as historically accurate?

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Various sources written centuries later mention hundreds of people in Dark Age Britain. And it is certainly possible that some of them never lived and that some things written about some of them are incorrect.
I suspect this is right. But the problem we have is winnowing the true from the untrue. Unfortunately, that is too often done by simplistically separating the clearly fantastical from the theoretically possible. So, if Bede tells us that the Almighty dropped a fish at St Cuthbert's feet, we discard that as superstitious nonsense. Yet if Bede tells us that the good people of Northumbria flocked down from their sheilings to hear Cuthbert speak, we accept that as true. The problems with this approach should be immediately obvious. If we know that thing A cannot be true, we have to be extremely careful about assuming that thing B is undoubtedly true. If Bede is unreliable by the standards of modern history (because he believes in miracles and divine intervention), then everything he says has to be treated with circumspection. We cannot just accept something because it is technically plausible.

By way of an analogy which I have used in the past, if I told you that I had a unicorn in my green shed, would it be safe to say "he clearly hasn't got a unicorn, but we can trust him implicitly when he says he has a green shed"?


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And I don't see any reason why the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae should be considered so suspicious and doubtful as to be singled out for the most debates about how real he was.
He isn't really considered any more doubtful that many other figures. The only reason his historicity is so widely challenged is because he is the subject of so many cod-historical works which take his existence as a given.

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I say that like most persons alleged, but not absolutely proven, to have lived in Dark Age Britain, but who could possibly have been imaginary, the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae should be considered historical until and unless some reason turns up in the future to consider him more doubtful than most persons in dark age Britain.
I disagree. We have to be completely neutral. We cannot assume anything either way.
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Old September 30th, 2016, 02:35 AM   #55
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What lost source for the life of St Alban are you referring to, Peter?
I can't remember the exact source, but I have it somewhere and am likely to stumble across it in the coming months so will be able to give you a reference then. As I recall, Bede's Latin in his passage about Alban is stylistically different to his usual Latin. This raised suspicion that he had cribbed an earlier document about Alban which, as I understand it, subsequently turned up.

But I'd agree that even so, that doesn't necessarily make Alban real.....
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Old October 1st, 2016, 12:59 AM   #56
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There are, but you are making an assumption that people in the early medieval period were interested in carrying out a forensic exercise of the sort you describe in order to winnow fact from fiction. And, as I have argued in the past, we know that they weren't.

The Angevins were famously sceptical, and had a strong incentive to be so, because they blamed the Britons for exiling them from western Armorica in 383.


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Old October 1st, 2016, 02:03 AM   #57
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There are reasons for it...

1. Arthur was a bastard. Therefore, he was not a legitimate ruler.

2. Arthur killed Huiel, son of Caw. Huiel is Gildas's biological brother. After the death of Huiel, Gildas burned his books containing every reference to Arthur.

3. Arthur's "son" Mordred married Cywyllog, daughter of Caw. This would mean that Gildas would be brother-in-law to Mordred - no sane person in the mid evil period would admit to be the brother-in-law of Mordred.

and


4. the rumors of bestiality...

Click the image to open in full size.

These are all late additions to the legends. However I cannot declare with certainty that they don`t contain some element of truth. The Hueil tale is particularly questionable because the author of it was an associate of Geoffrey of Monmouth. So he almost certainly had an agenda. I suspect that when Geoffrey published his history, the most frequent question he needed an answer for, ran along the lines of.....`But why is this Arthur character not mentioned by Gildas or Bede?`. Caradocs `Life of Gildas` certainly provides the answer, but how reliable is it?

I also think that Mordred may need to be rehabilitated. The later accounts required a sworn enemy for completeness and as Mordred was the only other figure recorded in the Welsh Annals to have died with Arthur at Camlann, he was in pole position to fit the bill. A strict reading of the Annals entry probably should be interpreted as two allies dying side by side in battle.
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Old October 4th, 2016, 11:50 AM   #58

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Yet if Bede tells us that the good people of Northumbria flocked down from their sheilings to hear Cuthbert speak, we accept that as true. The problems with this approach should be immediately obvious. If we know that thing A cannot be true, we have to be extremely careful about assuming that thing B is undoubtedly true. If Bede is unreliable by the standards of modern history (because he believes in miracles and divine intervention), then everything he says has to be treated with circumspection. We cannot just accept something because it is technically plausible.

By way of an analogy which I have used in the past, if I told you that I had a unicorn in my green shed, would it be safe to say "he clearly hasn't got a unicorn, but we can trust him implicitly when he says he has a green shed"?
This is a weak analogy, Peter. Bede was a meticulous scholar and cited his sources when he wrote about historical topics. He also wrote about scientific topics too. He was, however, a devout medieval Christian and, like everyone else at that time, he would have believed miracles could and did happen. Two separate issues really. To dismiss everything he wrote as worthless or near worthless because of his religion is ridiculous. If you do so, then you have to dismiss the works of the likes of Froissart and most other medieval scholars who were also Christians.
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Old October 5th, 2016, 12:24 AM   #59
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Bede was a meticulous scholar
I don't disagree with the notion that he was a great scholar, but I fear that we tend to cast Bede in a role which would have meant nothing to him. Bede was first and foremost a churchman and, specifically a Northumbrian churchman. His world view is therefore both ecclesiastical and Northumbrian. The paucity of written sources for the early medieval period means that it is very tempting to take what he says at face value and to present it as 'testimony'. However, without understanding what Bede's purpose was, we don't actually know what his work is testimony for.

The traditional approach is to see his purpose as akin to a 21st century historian - he was attempting to write a detached, objective and factual narrative history of the sort we might expect to see today in the better textbooks. In that context, we can forgive him his belief in the miraculous and the supernatural, but can still accept as reliable everything else he says which, on the face of it at least, is theoretically plausible and/or which doesn't involve rethinking the laws of physics.

This is where I think we make our big mistake. It is increasingly understood that Bede was not a historian in the modern sense. His intention in his Ecclesiastical History was to convey a religious message and specifically to position the English (and especially the Northumbrians) as God's chosen people - the latter day Isrealites coming to the Promised Land. His work therefore bigs up Northumbrian achievement and is peppered with implied and express warnings about what happens when people turn aside from God's plan. To use such material uncritically for the purposes of writing narrative history is, to my mind, unwise.

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To dismiss everything he wrote as worthless or near worthless because of his religion is ridiculous.
I agree. It would be. But I don't advocate doing that. All I said was that we had to be circumspect when dealing with him for the reasons as set out above.

Last edited by Peter Graham; October 5th, 2016 at 12:29 AM.
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Old October 5th, 2016, 01:30 AM   #60

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Originally Posted by Peter Graham View Post
I don't disagree with the notion that he was a great scholar, but I fear that we tend to cast Bede in a role which would have meant nothing to him. Bede was first and foremost a churchman and, specifically a Northumbrian churchman. His world view is therefore both ecclesiastical and Northumbrian. The paucity of written sources for the early medieval period means that it is very tempting to take what he says at face value and to present it as 'testimony'. However, without understanding what Bede's purpose was, we don't actually know what his work is testimony for.

The traditional approach is to see his purpose as akin to a 21st century historian - he was attempting to write a detached, objective and factual narrative history of the sort we might expect to see today in the better textbooks. In that context, we can forgive him his belief in the miraculous and the supernatural, but can still accept as reliable everything else he says which, on the face of it at least, is theoretically plausible and/or which doesn't involve rethinking the laws of physics.

This is where I think we make our big mistake. It is increasingly understood that Bede was not a historian in the modern sense. His intention in his Ecclesiastical History was to convey a religious message and specifically to position the English (and especially the Northumbrians) as God's chosen people - the latter day Isrealites coming to the Promised Land. His work therefore bigs up Northumbrian achievement and is peppered with implied and express warnings about what happens when people turn aside from God's plan. To use such material uncritically for the purposes of writing narrative history is, to my mind, unwise.

I agree. It would be. But I don't advocate doing that. All I said was that we had to be circumspect when dealing with him for the reasons as set out above.
Before of spending some words not only about Bede as historian, but specifically about the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, I would say that we could risk something suggesting caution in approaching his works. At the end, he has been declared "The Father of English History" with even academical celebrations [like at Stanford in 2009 Celebrating the man called 'Father of English History,' Venerable Bede].

I just quote the article
Quote:
Most famously, he is the author of The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, considered one of the most important sources on Anglo-Saxon history.
The premises is useful to make my opinion clear: Bede was a typical man of learning of his time. It was substantially the rule that the greatest scholars were in some way members of or near to the Church [the Church in Bede's age was "de facto" the guardian of knowledge and history]. So that I don't need semiotics to underline that a certain way to tell history, writing it down on the paper, was common too.

But in this particular case, we've got that word, "Ecclesiastical" [in Latin ecclesiastica], which gives a clear and declared "color" to his work.

So, with the cultural and social influence [which was common to all the scholars of his time], we have to put also a personal attitude, when we consider that work.

And if we want to consider the content, we have to go back to consider the environment in which he lived: pondering the details in a historical work written in early Middle Ages we should remember that authors not rarely interpolated to "fill in the blanks".

So, yes, also for "The Father of English History" a bit of caution is advisable.
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