The Historical Origin of Lancelot

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,510
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#41
Huail ...

Considering how many persons Gildas mentions, and how few persons Gildas names, it might be more logical to ask what were the reasons why Gildas mentions some persons by name.

And apparently the reason why Gildas mentioned Maglocunnus by name was to denounce him by name, and denouncing Maglocunnus and a few others by
name might have been the main reason why Gildas wrote the The Ruin of Britain.
If this is the case, would this mean that Gildas had no reason to denounce Arthur mentioning him? This wouldn't be in agreement with the hypothesis that Arthur killed Gilda's brother [Huail mab Caw and according to Elis Gruffudd he cut off his head ... on the Mauen Huail stone].

In good substance we've got two opposite behaviors by Gildas with reference to two different personages [or, obviously, the reason why Gildas didn't glorify Arthur's deeds was different].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,510
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#42
The alternative can be:

Gildas would have mentioned Arthur to denounce him, but the memory of the "Dux Bellorum" was still alive and a matter of rivalry between two lords [important for Gildas, but not for the general public] would have been difficult to be explained and embedded in such a work like the De Excidio.

This is the other common explanation why Gildas didn't mention Arthur: he was so famous that it wasn't necessary ... only he was in the position to lead the post Roman-Britons at Badon.

[The rebuttal for this hypothesis is simple and natural: the absence of a mention is an absence of mention. It's not an evidence of existence ...].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,510
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#43
Gildas and Badon

Let's consider again what Gildas wrote about the siege of Mons Badonicus.

He didn't name lords [we don't know who leaded the two sides in the battle].

What probably is not enough pondered is that the paragraph begins ...

ex eo tempore nunc ciues, nunc hostes, uincebant, ut in ista gente experietur dominus solito more praesentem israelem, utrum diligat eum an non
"from that time on" ...

From which time? The time of a leader that Gildas mentions in the previous paragraph:

duce ambrosio aureliano
To be fair, it's difficult to note a discontinuity. Even if there are no clear temporal references, there is who sustains a really direct and simple solution: Gildas doesn’t say who leaded the post Roman-Britons at Badon because he was still Ambrosius Aurelianus [who would be our “Dux Bellorum” aka King Arthur]. It’s anyway not irrelevant that Gildas indicates him as a “duce” [an other form of Latin dux, in this context it means "guide", "leadership" ... the Latin passage says "under the leadership of ..."].
 
Sep 2015
319
ireland
#44
Gildas wasn`t writing for us, but for his contemporaries. He didn`t have to be specific about the`lioness of Damnonia` or the `receptacle of the bear` because his congregation knew exactly what he was referring to. The problem however is that a couple of centuries later, the real meanings of many of his metaphors were forgotten. His writing survived as a lone voice from a dark age because he predicted doom and doom arrived soon afterwards in the form of Anglo-Saxon intrusion and a plague. I would suggest that his imagery was continually used by later chroniclers to flesh out Arthurian narratives.

So for example, the image of Maglocune wallowing in a black pool might have inspired later tales of red and white worms/dragons fighting in a pool beneath the foundations of Vortigerns fortress, which is usually placed in Maelgwyns later kingdom. The bear imagery, or more specifically a possible interpretation that Cuneglase` father or recent ancestor was alternatively associated with a bear might have convinced Nennius that a legendary figure called Arthur might have fought at the battle of Badon a generation or two earlier. There is logic in this because it is probable that recent ancestors of the five kings might have fought at Badon. In fact because Aurelius Caninus and Uortipor are described as elderly, they might have been there in person. The later writers had legendary material from an oral tradition and tried to interpret Gildas to give it all some provenance.

Once Nennius put the legendary Arthur at Badon, later writers pored over the writings of Gildas and engaged in a square peg in round hole process, sometimes to suit the agenda of the day. I`m going over old ground but my own view is that Arthur isn`t of 5th/6th century origin. He may have had associations with the territory usually associated with Cuneglas in north Wales which would mean that Gildas was aware of the legendary figure, but didn`t write about him because he was just that... a legend. There are also a number of reasons why Cuneglas was associated with a bear which might have had little or nothing to do with Arthur.

It`s also possible that Aurelius Caninus, based on his name, was a descendant of Ambrosius Aurelianus, which might rule Ambrosius out of Badon. I`d suggest that Uortipor might have been a great grandson of Ambrosius who may appear in corrupt form as Aeda Brosc/Ewein Vreisc in the Dyfed genealogies. Gildas says that Ambrosius` descendants don`t live up to the high standards of their ancestor. However, in criticising Uortipor he also adds that he is the son of a good king which might indicate the Gildas admired the earlier kings of Dyfed.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2015
319
ireland
#45
The evidence seems convincing enough to establish the academic consensus, academics generally being far more sceptical about such things than the casual researcher.
As a casual researcher, I like to look behind what at first glance might appear to be an outlandish claim that is disregarded by academic consensus and try to come up with an explanation for it. Most of the time, I will conclude that the academic consensus is spot on. But every now and again something pops up that bucks the trend. I would suggest that had you been satisfied with academic consensus, you wouldn`t have written your thesis(from what I know of it), your blog or even started this thread. Consensus is an ever evolving entity.
 
Sep 2015
319
ireland
#47
I`d suggest that he has closer associations with Finn mac Cumhall. More specifically, the Arthur of Culwych and Olwen who is a war-band leader and hunter is quite similar to Finn. Finn is usually considered to be synthetic and is often associated with individuals who pre-dated Arthur by a few centuries.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,305
Brassicaland
#48
Geoffrey of Monmouth didn't mention him actually. To identify him with a personage in his chronicles is a little "jump".

As for I know, it was Chrétien de Troyes to introduce the "proper" Lancelot in the Arthurian cycle.

Again as for I can know, his name hasn't got clear Celtic roots [even if in Italy there is who thinks to a derivation from "Lance ap Lot", that is to say Lance son of Lot].

More interesting is the hypothesis that the name came from the Hebrew Aziloth with a Romance passage "L'Aziloth", referred to the noble soul of the Knight.

Chrétien de Troyes shows Lancelot in well different ways in his works [from a Knight of King Arthur to an opponent of him].

From fairy tales ...

An other curious idea about the origin of the personage is that Chrétien de Troyes found the components to make it in the folklore [so he would be a literary invention]. The child kidnapped by a sorceress, the prisoner in the castle, the repetitions in the tale [so common in fairy tales] ...

P.S. Maelgwn

Like for King Arthur, this doesn't mean that there wasn't a real model, a historical personage who gave the inspiration to the author. Sure he wasn't that "Lancelot". Maelgwn is a good candidate.
Is it true that King Arthur is a Celtic legend?
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,709
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#49
Is it true that King Arthur is a Celtic legend?
In 1 AD, the population of the British Islands included many tribes, kingdoms, and groups speaking two or more languages in the Celtic language family, as well as possible Pict groups that didn't speak a Celtic language.

In 43 AD the Roman empire began conquering Britain and in a few decades ruled most of the Island of Britain. About 407-411 the Roman soldiers left Britain and the Romano-Britons ruled the former Roman provinces. During the 5th century the Angles, and Saxons, and Jutes, and maybe other Germanic groups began to invade and settle in what is now England. By 597 the proto-English groups ruled all of southern England and the native Britons they ruled gradually became English over generations.

The historical setting of the earliest King Arthur accounts have him lead the more or less Celtic Britons fighting against the Saxon invaders sometime during the fifth and/or sixth centuries. So any legends about King Arthur are basically Celtic legends.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,510
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#50
Is it true that King Arthur is a Celtic legend?
I would say that yes, the sources of his legend are substantially Celtic. What is still to be understood is when his figure has been "composed". If the literary option will demonstrate to be the correct one, we could be dealing with a later work.

Anyway, the material looks Celtic.
 

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