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Old December 1st, 2011, 12:13 PM   #1

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Arthur: one Camelot? Many Camelots.


I'm absolutely sure the thread has been already discussed in this forum. The figure of King Arthur is so dominant in historical myths and legends that I guess there is already a lot of material about this subject.

I would like to add a particular mix of historical data and opinions regarding the Roman British civilization which developed while the Empire was leaving the isle.

The possible scenarios on which I focus my attention are two

1. "nomad" throne
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2. Network of centers of power [several "Camelots"]
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Old December 1st, 2011, 12:52 PM   #2

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I'm going to discuss this from a literary stand-point as opposed to an historical one, as I find debate about a historical Arthur to be kind of pointless.

The Arthurian myths clearly distinguish between Tintagel and Camelot. While it was important in the Arthurian myths (Igraine of Cornwall, former resident of Tintagel, being his mother), Tintagel is not Camelot.

Caerleon as Arthur's seat of power is contemporary to the origins of Camelot. It originates with Geoffrey of Monmouth, while Camelot originates with Chretian de Troyes. Distinct places, distinct ideas of Arthur's capital. Chretien de Troyes mentions Arthur leaving Caerleon for Camelot in one of the opening lines of his own work.

While Deva Victrix was an important Roman fort, I know of no relationship with Arthurian myth. There are certain etymological similarities between the Anglo-Saxon name of Deva Victric and Caerloon, but that's to be expected since they were both former Roman forts/administrative centers.

I know of no relationship between Arthurian myths and York/Eboracum/Jorvik/Etc.

As for Camulodunum, that's one of those things that I try to be wary of. It looks right when written out, but there are so many issues with the meaning of the words involved (Camulos being a Celtic God and the dunum referencing a fort).

The first mention of Camalot (as Camaalot) is, as I mentioned, in Chretien de Troyes' Lancelot, Knight of the Cart. This work is interesting because it is the first recorded mention not only of Camelot, but of Lancelot. De Troyes had no problem creating new places, themes and characters for his works. He was building off works he saw as fictional, and saw no reason to preserve them in any fashion. Camelot is his invention.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 01:35 PM   #3

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@Alexander;

Thank you for a fascinating and informative post.


I agree about the problems in studying Arturian mythology.I think a lot the problem is the popular (but wrong) insistence that most,if not all myths have a factual base. .

SOME myths have a basis in reality,most do not. In Arthur, I think that base is tenuous.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 01:50 PM   #4

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Quote:
SOME myths have a basis in reality,most do not. In Arthur, I think that base is tenuous.
Agreed.

I am of the opinion that Arthur is very powerful as a symbol for British culture and the Anglosphere as a whole. The myth and romanticism played such a huge role in the way our culture works and perceives itself. I think we would be doing irreparable damage British culture if we were to find the historical figure that became Arthur.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 02:11 PM   #5

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if we look to the myth of artus we can see, that camelot was an impressiv place. The name is so close to Camulodunum, which was really an impressive place during roman times, that I would connect the name Camelot with Camoludunum.
The question is only, can we connect Artus with Camulodunum? Geoffrey did not mention Camelot. It was Chretien de Troyes who did. But had he informations aboutthe connections between Artus and Camelot? I suppose the ruins of Camulodunum were the occasion for the myth.
York could be a good place for Arthuis of Ebrauc. He is the best according to his life time.
So not only towns like camulodunum melted together with the myth of Artus, but as well different rulers, like Arthuis of Ebrauc, Riothamus and others melted together, too with these myth.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 09:45 PM   #6

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The fortress of Deva Victrix, base of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix, is anyway an other good candidate as 'city of the legion'.

The dimensions of the fortress were considerable. Bigger that Isca (Caerlon) and Eboracum (York).

The symbol of the legion was a wild boar, as it's visible in this picture.

The XX deserved the ornamenta triumphalia and historians talk about a link with the Valeria gens.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 09:48 PM   #7

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Quoting Michael from an other forum [this is his own hypothesis]
Quote:
My theory is that Roman Britain did have great resources, for a relatively small population. They had technical skills and the villas had been far more prosperous than those on the continent.

There was some decline because of the decline of foreign trade, but there was plenty of organizational skill, metal working skill and horsemanship to form a technically advanced heavy armored cavalry.

They did not have the manpower for a large infantry force, but the effectiveness of heavy cavalry (which was an altogether new way of fighting) allowed a few well-equiped men to defeat a force many times their size.

There are records of a very few instances where Rome used the heavy armored cavalry concept. In each case a few men were able to defeat hundreds, without any injury to themselves. It was like the Nazis developing jet fighters -it was a superior weapon, but it was just too late to help.

But Britain was in a better position to use this new technolgy than the empire on the continent was, at that time.

To repeat myself, the technique was learned from fighting the Persians. They had stirrups and pommels, which had never been seen before by Romans, and they used heavy chain mail to protect the horse and rider - and they were devastating.

When the Romans copied this, they also copied the style of the Persian helmet, which is identical to the conical Norman helmet with the nosepiece. The Normans got this style from their Roman ancestors (Arthurs' countrymen).

Undoubtedly it was Ambrosius who brought the knowledge of this revolutionary new fighting technique to Britain.

The training takes about a generation. We know that to be effective, a knight has to start his training as a child. The horses also have to be a special breed, large and strong enough for all the weight
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Old December 1st, 2011, 09:50 PM   #8

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Excalibur?


A point in the myth of King Arthur is without doubt this legendary sword.

The hypothesis of a Roman origin of the sword of the power on Yns Pridain has been proposed several times. Probably the rational thought behind this conception is that until the legions were there the commander's sword was in a certain way the symbol of the absolute power on the isle of Great Britain [in the south Roman part].

EX-CALIBRIS: made by only one mould, meaning that also the hilt, the grip was a piece with the blade. This would add a rational explanation to the legend that it was impossible to break it. At least if the blade is not added to the hilt, the lever effect will be in favor of who will handle the swor

An other fascinating possibility [the most fascinating one, I would say] is ...

cai.iul.caES.ensis.CALIBURnus or only Ensin Caliburnus, that is to say the writing on Ceaser's sword [made by the population of Calibri].

Anyway this is more a tradition than a historical fact.

Regarding the sword of the Roman chivalry, since the II century Roman chivalry used longer sword [imitating Celtic sword], until it introduced the "spatha" from which the Italian "spada", a real log sword [in the 4th century].

About Ceaser's sword, I would note that the Roman General took a sword from the Calimbri. It wasn't a Roman sword. [Ceaser lived before than Romans adopted long sword for their chivalry].
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Old December 1st, 2011, 09:52 PM   #9

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As for I know [I appreciate to compare my knowledge about this with others] the British Isle saw the following situation:

Despite what common people think, barbarian invasion in Britain in IV century caused suffering overall to the country side. Roman fortified cities were almost untouchable in many cases. This meant that there was an economical social fall, but not so deep as usually who doesn't know the real history of late Roman Britain thinks.

This means that in early V century a.c. Britain was still able to supply an Army to an Emperor as big as necessary to subdue part of the continent. When Onorio [licit Western Empire] defeated Costantino III, in 407 a.c., it's not clear how many legionaries remained in Britain, anyway the Roman cities had enough resources at least to organize a military force suitable to defend themselves: in 408 a.c. Britons rejected a great Saxon invasion and in 409, according to some sources expelled the Roman administration.

This was probably the reason why Emperor Onorio refused to answer to a British request of help in 410 a.c. From that moment on it was local power to administrate the south of the Great Britain.

It can be interesting to know how it was divided:

Britannia Secunda, at North, capital Eburacum,
Britannia Prima, at West, capital Corinium Dobunnorum,
Britannia Maxima Caesariensis,at South, capital Londinum,
Britannia Flavia Caesariensis, at South West, capital Lindum Colonia.

In 369, a new province of Valentia had created at North, capital Luguvallium = Carlisle.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 09:55 PM   #10

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A basic work of that period is the De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, by Saint Gildas, a really important source for the history of Britain in that period.

It mentions some of the Arthurian battles, but he didn't mention a leader with that name.

The first mention of that mountain group is in the section 6, the war, chapter 26.

ex eo tempore nunc ciues, nunc hostes, uincebant, ut in ista gente experietur dominus solito more praesentem israelem, utrum diligat eum an non: usque ad annum obsessionis badonici montis, nouissimaeque ferme de furciferis non minimae stragis, quique quadragesimus quartus (ut noui) orditur annus mense iam uno emenso, qui et meae natiuitatis est.

sed ne nunc quidem, ut antea, ciuitates patriae inhabitantur; sed desertae dirutaeque hactenus squalent, cessantibus licet externis bellis, sed non ciuilibus. haesit etenim tam desperati insulae excidii insperatique mentio auxilii memoriae eorum qui utriusque miraculi testes extitere: et ob hoc reges, publici, priuati, sacerdotes, ecclesiastici, suum quique ordinem seruarunt.

at illis decedentibus cum successiset aetas tempestatis illius nescia et praesentis tantum serenitatis experta, ita cuncta ueritais ac iustitiae moderamina concussa ac subuersa sunt ut earum non dicam uestigium sed ne monimentum quidem in supra dictis propemodum ordinibus appareat, exceptis paucis et ualde paucis qui ob amissionem tantae multitudinis, quae cotidie prona ruit ad tartara, tam breuis numerus habentur ut eos quodammodo uenerabilis mater ecclesia in suo sinu recumbentes non uideat, quos solos ueros filios habet.

quorum ne quis me agregiam uitam omnibus admirabilem deoque amabilem carpere putet, quibus nostra infirmitas in sacris orationibus ut non penitus conlabatur quasi columnis quibusdam ac fulcris saluberrimus sustentatur, si qua liberius de his, immo lugubrius, cumulo malorum conpulsus, qui seruiunt non solum uentri sed diabolo potius quam christo, qui est benedictus in saecula deus, non tam discptauero quam defleuero. quippe quid celabunt ciues quam non solum norunt sed exprobrant iam in circuitu nationes?

English translation by William Hugh [it sounds a good translation]

From that time, the citizens were sometimes victorious, sometimes the enemy, in order that the Lord, according to His wont, might try in this nation the Israel of to-day, whether it loves Him or not. This continued up to the year of the siege of Badon Hill, and of almost the last great slaughter inflicted upon the rascally crew. And this commences, a fact I know, as the forty-fourth year, with one month now elapsed; it is also the year of my birth. But not even at the present day are the cities of our country inhabited as formerly; deserted and dismantled, they lie neglected until now, because, although wars with foreigners have ceased, domestic wars continue. The recollection of so hopeless a ruin of the island, and of the unlooked-for help, has been fixed in the memory of those who have survived as witnesses of both marvels. Owing to this (aid) kings, magistrates, private persons, priests, ecclesiastics, severally preserved their own rank. As they died away, when an age had succeeded ignorant of that storm, and having experience only of the present quiet, all the controlling influences of truth and justice were so shaken and overturned that, not to speak of traces, not even the remembrance of them is to be found among the ranks named above. I make exception of a few -a very few- who owing to the loss of the vast multitude that rushes daily to hell, are counted at so small a number that our revered mother, the church, in a manner does not observe them as they rest in her bosom. They are the only real children she has. Let no man think that I am slandering the noble life of these men, admired by all and beloved of God, by whom my weakness is supported so as not to fall into entire ruin, by holy prayers, as by columns and serviceable supports. Let no one think so, if in a somewhat excessively free-spoken, yea, doleful manner, driven by a crowd of evils, I shall not so much treat of, as weep concerning those who serve not only their belly, but the devil rather than Christ, who is God blessed for ever. For why will fellow-citizens hide what the nations around already not only know, but reproach us with?
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