Arthur's age at death

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,694
Westmorland
The only real evidence that might identify an Arthur is buried underground and may never be discovered. Some people like to chase will o`wisps. Sometimes they`ll even cause a stir. What`s the harm. There will always be the Peter Grahams of this world to reel them back in.
There's certainly no harm in it.

If Arthur was real, then you might be right when you talk about evidence buried underground. But if he wasn't, we have created a 'god of the gaps' scenario in which the possibility that an inscribed stone lies undiscovered under the soil can never be entirely rejected.

If Arthur isn't real, then we are left with what we already have. The better news is that we have more than we sometimes think. There are enough references to Arthur in texts which arguably pre-date the Historia Brittonum to show how Arthur was though of. None of it supprts the notion of Arthur as the Saxon-bashing hero of Badon (which I know you don't argue for anyway), but taken together, it does suggest that the idea of Arthur as a matchless warrior of folklore was well established by the seventh century. It's not until the ninth century that we see him recast as a man of flesh and blood.
 
Sep 2015
351
ireland
There's certainly no harm in it.

If Arthur was real, then you might be right when you talk about evidence buried underground. But if he wasn't, we have created a 'god of the gaps' scenario in which the possibility that an inscribed stone lies undiscovered under the soil can never be entirely rejected.

If Arthur isn't real, then we are left with what we already have. The better news is that we have more than we sometimes think. There are enough references to Arthur in texts which arguably pre-date the Historia Brittonum to show how Arthur was though of. None of it supprts the notion of Arthur as the Saxon-bashing hero of Badon (which I know you don't argue for anyway), but taken together, it does suggest that the idea of Arthur as a matchless warrior of folklore was well established by the seventh century. It's not until the ninth century that we see him recast as a man of flesh and blood.
I did say "might". I`m not saying that it definitely exits, just that this is the kind of evidence that is required to settle the issue. Interpretations of literature have been done to death at this stage.
 
Sep 2015
351
ireland
As we've discussed before, the battle list is a rag bag of real battles reassigned to Arthur (Badon, Bregouin, the unknown battles in Lindsey and probably Urbs Legionis) and fantastical battles already associated with Arthur in folklore (such as Cat Celidon orTribruit).
You`re making a number of assumptions. I can only see one battle here that we can be satisfied was real (i.e. Badon) and would have been fought when HB says Arthur would have lived. HB attaching Arthur to both Badon and the battle of Chester in 615 or for that matter Uriens Brewyn, is akin to someone today crediting Napoleon with the winning of WW1. It implies intentional construction of a false narrative, which for all its faults is not what I think HB is necessarily about. You assume that Bregouin has been borrowed from Urien. How do you know it`s not the other way round? Even to say that Linnius is Lindsey assumes that HB firstly rendered the name properly and secondly that the author wasn`t making some assumptions of his own after imperfect transmission of already legendary material.
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,694
Westmorland
You`re making a number of assumptions.
That's fair comment, although I believe I can back them up.

I can only see one battle here that we can be satisfied was real (i.e. Badon) and would have been fought when HB says Arthur would have lived.
I fear there is a bit of circular reasoning here. The HB doesn't actually say when Arthur lived. We are obliged to imply his dates from the ordering of the text. I accept that doesn't take away from your central point, though.

HB attaching Arthur to both Badon and the battle of Chester in 615 or for that matter Uriens Brewyn, is akin to someone today crediting Napoleon with the winning of WW1.
Agreed, but...

It implies intentional construction of a false narrative, which for all its faults is not what I think HB is necessarily about.
The HB most certainly is an intentionally constructed narrative. It's widely considered to be the first Welsh stab at the sort of synchronising pseudo-history that was so popular in Ireland. This nonsense about Nennius writing the HB by making a heap of all he could find is a later accretion which arose centuries after the text was first written.

It's also a false narrative, in that it has plenty in it which is not historically true. The key here is not to assume (as we would today) that making stuff up and presenting it in a text called a 'history' was considered dishonest or bad form in the early middle ages. It wasn't. Hard as it is for us to get our heads round it, the point of a early medieval history was to make a point, not to provide a faithful and unvarnished record of past events. The point of the HB was 1) to give an illustrious pedigree to Mervyn Frych, the first ruler of the second dynasty of Gwynedd, 2) to assert Welsh (and by extesion) Venedotian claims to supremacy and 3) to explain why Gwynedd was getting hammered by the English and 4) the consequences of Welsh disunity.

Patrick Sims-Williams wrote a great article on this which I can give you a citation for if you would like.

You assume that Bregouin has been borrowed from Urien. How do you know it`s not the other way round?
Because the reference to Urien fighting at cellawr Brewyn most likely predates the HB. It may not be true either, of course, but it almost doesn't matter. Whoever fought the battle (and Gwallawg has a claim too, BTW), the use of name in connection with at least two different victors show how battles were recycled in these texts..

Even to say that Linnius is Lindsey assumes that HB firstly rendered the name properly and secondly that the author wasn`t making some assumptions of his own after imperfect transmission of already legendary material.
But the assumption is sound. Linnuis is the expected Old Welsh form of an earlier form Lindes. Lindsey is our best candidate for such a name. As such, if you argue either that the HB got it wrong or the compiler of HB was making incorrect assumptions, you need to be able to provide evidence at least as good as that which exists for Linnuis/Lindes/Lindsey.
 
Sep 2015
351
ireland
Because the reference to Urien fighting at cellawr Brewyn most likely predates the HB. It may not be true either, of course, but it almost doesn't matter.
It probably doesn`t matter. As far as I know the earliest recensions call it Agned and Breguoin may be a later attempt to come up with a British placename that might make some sense.

But the assumption is sound. Linnuis is the expected Old Welsh form of an earlier form Lindes. Lindsey is our best candidate for such a name. As such, if you argue either that the HB got it wrong or the compiler of HB was making incorrect assumptions, you need to be able to provide evidence at least as good as that which exists for Linnuis/Lindes/Lindsey.
My own view on this is that we should first find a Dubglas and then see if there is an association with a regional name similar to Linnuis. Glen Douglas and Loch Lomond would seem to me to be obvious candidates, but then this would make no sense in the context of Arthur the Saxon fighter. Is there a Dubglas placename even evident in Lindsey? It seems an unlikely part of Britain to find what appears to be a Gaelic placename, even before Germanic intervention.
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,694
Westmorland
It probably doesn`t matter. As far as I know the earliest recensions call it Agned and Breguoin may be a later attempt to come up with a British placename that might make some sense.
Possibly. Have you seen Keith Fitzpatrick Matthews' article on the textual history of the HB? Freely available online. He has some interesting points to make about Bregouin.

My own view on this is that we should first find a Dubglas and then see if there is an association with a regional name similar to Linnuis. Glen Douglas and Loch Lomond would seem to me to be obvious candidates, but then this would make no sense in the context of Arthur the Saxon fighter. Is there a Dubglas placename even evident in Lindsey? It seems an unlikely part of Britain to find what appears to be a Gaelic placename, even before Germanic intervention.
I don't know of any Dubglas placename in Lindsey. Is Dubglas only Gaelic? Glas is also Brittonic (meaning green/grey) and appears in a number of place and personal names, including Glasgow and Cuneglasus, one of the kings reviled by Gildas. Dub is also Brittonic (meaning black). As such, Dubglas could be either Brittonic or Gaelic and would mean the same thing in both languages. As it is difficult to see Linnuis as anything other than Brittonic, my view is that we don't need to look in Gaelic areas for these names.

I accept that lin also appears in Gaelic with the same meaning as it has in Brittonic, but the key is that uis ending, which became wys and is the Brittonic suffix meaning 'people of'. I'll bow to your superior knowledge of Gaelic, but so far as I an aware, wys does not have a direct Gaelic cognate. If that's right, what would Linnuis it mean in a Gaelic context? If I recall right, do you not argue that we have to emend the name to make it fit?
 
Sep 2015
351
ireland
I accept that lin also appears in Gaelic with the same meaning as it has in Brittonic, but the key is that uis ending, which became wys and is the Brittonic suffix meaning 'people of'. I'll bow to your superior knowledge of Gaelic, but so far as I an aware, wys does not have a direct Gaelic cognate. If that's right, what would Linnuis it mean in a Gaelic context? If I recall right, do you not argue that we have to emend the name to make it fit?
What you`re saying is fine in the context that Arthur lived in the 5th/6th century, fought against Saxons and the battle list author had access to some kind of account of it all. But I would suggest that none of this is the case. There are no Saxons evident in Welsh poetry about Arthur. To my mind it doesn`t matter whether the poetry predates or postdates HB, we should still find evidence of Germanic enemies in the poetry if HBs account is by and large correct. The fact that it this isn`t evident would suggest to me that the poetry offers traditions that predate HB and have not been tainted by it. In my opinion, everything that followed HB was tainted by HB. HB may have made emendations to a traditional tale that might have included a Dubglas in a region that sounded a bit like Linnuis. Within the context of Arthur the Saxon fighter, Linnuis would have made a lot of sense.
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,694
Westmorland
What you`re saying is fine in the context that Arthur lived in the 5th/6th century, fought against Saxons and the battle list author had access to some kind of account of it all. But I would suggest that none of this is the case. There are no Saxons evident in Welsh poetry about Arthur. To my mind it doesn`t matter whether the poetry predates or postdates HB, we should still find evidence of Germanic enemies in the poetry if HBs account is by and large correct. The fact that it this isn`t evident would suggest to me that the poetry offers traditions that predate HB and have not been tainted by it.
I agree with you on a lot of this, especially about the lack of Saxons in the poetry.

The image of Arthur in the earliest Welsh poetry is very different to his image in the HB. Although dating early Welsh poetry is complicated, it's reasonable to argue that the following poems/legends pre-date the HB:-

1. Y Gododdin.
2. Marwnad Cynddylan
3. Kat Godeu
4. The two legends referenced in chapter 73 of the HB.

A case can also be made for others including Geraint filius Erbin and your own favourite, Preiddeu Annwfn.

The picture that emerges from these poems is very much of Arthur as a figure of the otherworld.

In my opinion, everything that followed HB was tainted by HB.
I agree. Were it not for chapter 56 of the HB, none of the theories that have Arthur as the leader of the British 'resistance' to the Saxon 'invasion' could possibly exist. It is only the removal of chapter 56 (and the two references in the Annales Cambriae) from the rest of the early material which allows us to conceive of Arthur as a historical, early medieval figure.

HB may have made emendations to a traditional tale that might have included a Dubglas in a region that sounded a bit like Linnuis. Within the context of Arthur the Saxon fighter, Linnuis would have made a lot of sense.
Possibly. Equally, the Dubglas/Linnuis element need have nothing to do with Arthur. The compiler of the HB may have simply made it up or borrowed it from somewhere else when he was putting the battle list together. Just like he borrowed Badon.