Search for the Historical King Arthur

  • #1
selfAdjoint
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I have spun this thread off from the movie review on to discuss theories and evidence for the proposition that the legendary figure King Arthur was or was not based on one or more historical prototypes. We can also include posts on the various sources for the legends and their comparison.

To start off, when I was much younger it was stated that the real Arthur was a certain Artorius or Arctorius who had the title, or was described in some document as, Dux Bellorum ("War Leader" in Latin) who beat the Saxons in a big battle at some Mons Badonicus ("Mt. Badon", not identified with any modern site AFAIK). Comments?
 

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  • #3
matthyaouw
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Perhaps, but aren't some myths based in fact? :P
 
  • #4
wolram
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Well it is said that Arthur was king after Uther Pendragon, but there are no facts to support this.
 
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  • #5
loseyourname
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You know, I've never really looked into this and I'm going to have to now, but I remember hearing somewhere that there is thought that Charlemagne was at least partially the model for the Arthur character. Obviously, he couldn't have actually been Arthur, since he was not king of England, but I think the Frenchmen who first came up with the tales were drawing a lot from him in how they conceived of Arthur.

I could be remembering this wrong, though. Like I said, I've never looked into this at all. I think I just saw this glossed over on a web page discussing the origins of the Star Wars story.
 
  • #6
EnumaElish
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loseyourname said:
I think I just saw this glossed over on a web page discussing the origins of the Star Wars story.
Star Wars' origins go as far back as Arthurian legends, is that a truth?
 
  • #7
wolram
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Riothamus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Riothamus (also spelled Riotimus, Rigothamus, Rigotamos), was a military leader and considered "King of the Brittones" (c.470). Because the name means "highest leader", some scholars have suggested it may be a title, and not a personal name. It has usually been assumed that the "Brittones" or "Brittani" refers to the Bretons or the people of Brittany, a British colony in Armorica in northern Gaul, but the reference by Jordanes in his The origin and deeds of the Goths which states that they "came ... by way of the Ocean" could mean that he was a leader in mainland Britain or even the leader of the British people on both sides of the English Channel.

He took part in the Western Roman Emperor Anthemius' campaign against Euric, king of the Visigoths. Euric defeated his attack, and Riothamus vanishes from history while retreating towards a small town in Burgundy called Avallon. A letter to Riothamus from Sidonius Apollinaris, who requested support to act against troublemaking Bretons, has survived.

Riothamus has been identified as a source for the historical King Arthur by some recent scholars (notably Geoffrey Ashe and Leon Fleuriot). In any case, Riothamus' activities in Gaul may be the seed from whence grew the tradition (first recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae) that Arthur crossed the English Channel from Britain and attacked Rome.
 
  • #8
wolram
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Riothamus

The closest i can find to a real Arthur, most of the stories about Arthur seem
to start around the year 500 so he does fit date wise.
 
  • #9
wolram
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When the city of Rome fell to the invading Goths , Roman Britain, was left to its own defenses. One of the local Romano-British leaders may have been a tribal chieftain named Arthur, "but this is not clear" ,who put up some sort of organized resistance to the oncoming Saxon hordes.
This would put arthur in two places at about the same time, attacking Rome
and fighting the Saxons?
 
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  • #10
arildno
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The following thread has some historical info on Arthur:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=49198

arildno said:
It is quite probable that two figures, with the names "Arthur" and "Medraut" (Mordred)
once lived and "died in the battle of Camlan".
This is from an early entry of an Easter table which says something like:
"In the year of the great plague, Arthur and Medraut died in the battle of Camlann"
While we haven't got any Easter table reliably dated before the 800's (I think), it is well known that the monks transcribing these tables in other cases faithfully entered the entries from earlier tables (They didn't invent the stuff).

This is just about the only historical snippet that can be seen as a reasonably reliable confirmation of Arthur's existence.
 
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  • #11
Astronuc
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loseyourname said:
You know, I've never really looked into this and I'm going to have to now, but I remember hearing somewhere that there is thought that Charlemagne was at least partially the model for the Arthur character. Obviously, he couldn't have actually been Arthur, since he was not king of England, but I think the Frenchmen who first came up with the tales were drawing a lot from him in how they conceived of Arthur.
Some background on Charlemagne (ca. 742 or 747 – January 28, 814), aka Karl der Große, or in Latin Carolus Magnus, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne). He was a Frank, not a Gaul.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks (germanic tribe)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaul (many were celtic tribes)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_peoples_of_Gaul
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Celtic_tribes

It would be interesting to read other sources for consistency or not.
 
  • #12
Evo
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selfAdjoint said:
To start off, when I was much younger it was stated that the real Arthur was a certain Artorius or Arctorius who had the title, or was described in some document as, Dux Bellorum ("War Leader" in Latin) who beat the Saxons in a big battle at some Mons Badonicus ("Mt. Badon", not identified with any modern site AFAIK). Comments?
I am also familiar with this. There was pretty good evidence to substantiate this, IIRC. I will have to get my books out.

Yes, King Arthur is a myth, but likely based on a real person.
 
  • #13
Astronuc
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selfAdjoint said:
. . . the real Arthur was a certain Artorius or Arctorius who had the title, or was described in some document as, Dux Bellorum ("War Leader" in Latin) who beat the Saxons in a big battle at some Mons Badonicus ("Mt. Badon", not identified with any modern site AFAIK). Comments?
However on Wiki -
In the Battle of Mount Badon (Latin Mons Badonicus, Welsh Mynydd Baddon) Romano-British and Celts inflicted a severe defeat on an invading Anglo-Saxon army sometime in the decade before or after 500. While it is a major political/military event of the 5th and 6th centuries in Britain, there is no certainty about its date, place, or who commanded the opposing forces.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mons_Badonicus

and Wiki offers - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur
and - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_basis_for_King_Arthur
 
  • #14
selfAdjoint
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That's good wiki stuff Astronuc. Seems like I named the thread better than I knew. Just like with Jesus, every scholar looks at the data as if it were a Rorschach blot and gives his own made-up version of what it means.
 
  • #15
wolram
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Evo said:
I am also familiar with this. There was pretty good evidence to substantiate this, IIRC. I will have to get my books out.

Yes, King Arthur is a myth, but likely based on a real person.
As is robin hood and his merry men, oh please, do not dis respect history.
 
  • #16
Evo
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wolram said:
As is robin hood and his merry men, oh please, do not dis respect history.
I can tell you don't like to think they pulled any tidbits from history into that tale. :biggrin: Surely the writer of the original tale knew bits and pieces of history and created a mythological "King Arthur" from various accounts.

Well, I love Michael Wood and this is what he has to say "Wood immediately disappoints thousands of Brits by opening with the declaration that Arthur is just one huge fictional story made up by Geoffrey of Monmouth around 1130 -- 1150. A young cleric based in Oxford, Geoffrey created Guinevere, Merlin, Excalibur and Avalon and even the evil Mordred -- all were born from his brilliant imagination."
 
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  • #17
wolram
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I think history is plagued by fictional characters, searching for a king Arthur
is a romantic folly that will un cover several, "could have beens", but no more,
history is rich enough with out these, "hero's", Take St Edwin for instance,
he lived an eventful rich life.
 
  • #18
wolram
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http://europeanhistory.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.arthuriana.co.uk%2F [Broken]

by Evo I can tell you don't like to think they pulled any tidbits from history into that tale. Surely the writer of the original tale knew bits and pieces of history and created a mythological "King Arthur" from various accounts
This page should quash any doubt that Arthur is a fictional character, and is
in no way historical.
But i guess some will still hold on to the fantasy :rofl:
 
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  • #19
Integral
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For an excellent fictionalization of Author try the trilogy by Bernard Cornwall, starting with Winter King
 
  • #20
Astronuc
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wolram said:
http://europeanhistory.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.arthuriana.co.uk%2F [Broken]
If that link is bad, try http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/
 
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