Most likely King Arthur candidates

Who was King Arthur?

  • A Roman officer

    Votes: 2 16.7%
  • Riothamus

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Athrwys ap Meurig (of Glamorgan)

    Votes: 1 8.3%
  • Arthwys ap Mar (of Elmet)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • An otherwise unidentified Romano-British king or war leader

    Votes: 3 25.0%
  • Lucius Artorius Castus

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Owain Danwyn

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Cuneglasus

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Ambrosius Aurelianus

    Votes: 5 41.7%
  • Arthur ap Pedr (of Dyfed)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Artuir mac Aedan (of Scotland)

    Votes: 1 8.3%

  • Total voters
Jan 2015
I know there are numerous threads discussing whether King Arthur was real or not, but I thought it might be nice to see what people would say if we put that issue to the side for the moment, and simply say that if we accept that Arthur was a real person, who do you think he was most likely to have been? I thought this would be a good place for people to be able to discuss their theories without other people saying 'But Arthur probably never existed in the first place'. I just want people to be able to discuss which figure they think best matches the available information about Arthur. I'm fascinated to hear other people's theories about this. I've created a poll with the most common suggestions, so hopefully that will be a good starting point.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
If he existed then he was most likely a Romano-Britsh warlord who held out for a while against the encroaching Saxons. Even more likely he is a combination of characters who fought the Saxons, whose deeds have been embellished and eventually credited to one man.
Likes: Olleus
Jan 2014
In the spirit of the thread and notwithstanding that I don't thnk Arthur was real, I have voted for Ambrosius Aurelianus. This is why:-

1. The greatest achievement of the historic Arthur is his victory at the battle of Badon, which most probably took place in the last quarter of the fifth century.

2. Badon was almost certainly a real battle and is attested in the only near-contemporaneous source (Gildas' De Excidio..., written circa 520). This is our ONLY primary source for the event.

3. No other battles attributed to Arthur exist outside the dynamic, poetic tradition other than just possibly Urbs Legionis (the battle of the City of the Legion, which has to be either Caerleon or Chester). We know of no battle of Caerleon, but we do know of a battle of Chester (fought 616) which was demonstrably a British defeat at the hands of Aethelfrith of Bernicia and is recorded as such by Bede, writing circa 731.

4. The victor of Badon therefore has some claim to being the original Arthur.

5. A reading of the original Latin of Gildas (which has none of the chapter headings and chapter breaks of modern translations, although there do appear to be some paragraph breaks) strongly implies that Ambrosius was the victor of Badon and that Badon was the final battle after a long struggle in which Ambrosius orchestrated and led the ultimately successful British resistance.

6. Any argument which seeks to impose a temporal break in the original text as a means of attributing the battle to someone other than Ambrosius relies entirely on synthesising much later SECONDARY sources with ahistorical sources such as poetry.

7. The secondary historical sources have been conclusively shown to have been subject to manipulation, usually for the purposes of aggrandising dynasties of the ninth-century or later. The earliest of such secondary texts was written circa 829, more than three centuries after the historical Arthur is supposed to have lived and most of the others are much, much later.

8. Ambrosius is therefore the ONLY candidate for whom there is reasonable primary evidence.

9. Ergo, Ambrosius has the best claim to be the historical Arthur.
Jul 2009
@Peter Graham,

That is a logical approach, but, as with so many other early medieval chroniclers and poets, Gildas likely contrived an impression of Ambrosius (if he ever even mentioned him) as a hero who had divine favor. One must assume that Gildas would have considered Ambrosius a Christian and that he was an example to Christians In struggles against barbarians.

I agree that Arthur is only legend, but the legend is fascinating nonetheless.
Likes: Aelfwine
Nov 2008
Recently I read an article by the folklorist, Norris J. Lacy about the theories concerning the origin of the legends about Arthur. Lacy wrote that "Riothamus" is not a proper name but rather a honorific name meaning "high" or "high king". I`m not a great "Arthur" enthusiast as such, but I would be interested if forum members who are knowledgeable on this topic agree with Lacy.
Nov 2018
Ambrosius Aurelianus is the least likely candidate. Gildas stated he wore the Purple, which indicates Roman nobility, but a quick review of Roman organisation reveals those who wore the purple were civilian leaders. Their general wore the Red, and Arthurs original title of Dux means he was a military man. The difference between Arthur and the local ruler, is much like the difference between Churchill and Montgomery or Roosevelt and Eisenhower, to use WW2 examples.

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