The First Reliable Reference to Arthur . [70] For example, 60 manuscripts are extant containing the Brut y Brenhinedd, Welsh-language versions of the Historia, the earliest of which were created in the 13th century. Some of these are human threats, such as the Saxons he fights in the Historia Brittonum, but the majority are supernatural, including giant cat-monsters, destructive divine boars, dragons, dogheads, giants, and witches. Early Welsh literature quickly made Arthur into a king of wonders and marvels. So, for example, the 16th-century humanist scholar Polydore Vergil famously rejected the claim that Arthur was the ruler of a post-Roman empire, found throughout the post-Galfridian medieval "chronicle tradition", to the horror of Welsh and English antiquarians. The fact of the matter is that there is no historical evidence about Arthur; we must reject him from our histories and, above all, from the titles of our books. They were more likely added at some point in the 10th century and may never have existed in any earlier set of annals. [120], The romance Arthur has become popular in film and theatre as well. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). This is a world which has inspired an overwhelming amount of literature, film, music, dance and other works of … King Arthur, also called Arthur or Arthur Pendragon, legendary British king who appears in a cycle of medieval romances (known as the Matter of Britain) as the sovereign of a knightly fellowship of the Round Table. [8], This lack of convincing early evidence is the reason many recent historians exclude Arthur from their accounts of sub-Roman Britain. See. This renewed interest first made itself felt in 1816, when Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur was reprinted for the first time since 1634. King Arthur is unquestionably one of the most famous icons of the dark ages. Arthur and his warriors, including Kaius (Kay), Beduerus (Bedivere) and Gualguanus (Gawain), defeat the Roman emperor Lucius Tiberius in Gaul but, as he prepares to march on Rome, Arthur hears that his nephew Modredus (Mordred)—whom he had left in charge of Britain—has married his wife Guenhuuara (Guinevere) and seized the throne. However these were very troubled times and Merlin, a wise magician, advised that the baby Arthur should be raised in a secret place and that none should know his true identity. [88] Particularly significant in this development were the three Welsh Arthurian romances, which are closely similar to those of Chrétien, albeit with some significant differences: Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain is related to Chrétien's Yvain; Geraint and Enid, to Erec and Enide; and Peredur son of Efrawg, to Perceval. He seems to have made use of the list of Arthur's twelve battles against the Saxons found in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum, along with the battle of Camlann from the Annales Cambriae and the idea that Arthur was still alive. Even in these, however, Arthur's court has started to embody legendary Britain as a whole, with "Arthur's Court" sometimes substituted for "The Island of Britain" in the formula "Three XXX of the Island of Britain". "[80], Arthur and his retinue appear in some of the Lais of Marie de France,[82] but it was the work of another French poet, Chrétien de Troyes, that had the greatest influence with regard to the development of Arthur's character and legend. [91] These works were the Estoire del Saint Grail, the Estoire de Merlin, the Lancelot propre (or Prose Lancelot, which made up half the entire Vulgate Cycle on its own), the Queste del Saint Graal and the Mort Artu, which combine to form the first coherent version of the entire Arthurian legend. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The 9th-century Historia Brittonum, traditionally attributed to Nennius, records 12 battles fought by Arthur against the Saxons, culminating in a victory at Mons Badonicus. However, this may not say anything about the origin of the name Arthur, as Artōrius would regularly become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh. NOW 50% OFF! [5] In some Welsh and Breton tales and poems that date from before this work, Arthur appears either as a great warrior defending Britain from human and supernatural enemies or as a magical figure of folklore, sometimes associated with the Welsh otherworld Annwn. On Uther's death, the fifteen-year-old Arthur succeeds him as King of Britain and fights a series of battles, similar to those in the Historia Brittonum, culminating in the Battle of Bath. [126] However, Arthur's diffusion within modern culture goes beyond such obviously Arthurian endeavours, with Arthurian names being regularly attached to objects, buildings, and places. According to medieval fictional writers, King Arthur was a powerful British ruler who fought and defended his empire from being invaded by … One of the most famous Welsh poetic references to Arthur comes in the collection of heroic death-songs known as Y Gododdin (The Gododdin), attributed to 6th-century poet Aneirin. Many faery women thread together the stories of … The legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table is the most powerful and enduring in the western world. [118] Myrddin's disappearance at the end of the novel is "in the tradition of magical hibernation when the king or mage leaves his people for some island or cave to return either at a more propitious or more dangerous time" (see King Arthur's messianic return). [104] Tennyson's works prompted a large number of imitators, generated considerable public interest in the legends of Arthur and the character himself, and brought Malory's tales to a wider audience. [78] Arthur's role in these works is frequently that of a wise, dignified, even-tempered, somewhat bland, and occasionally feeble monarch. The Welsh prose tale Culhwch and Olwen (c. 1100), included in the modern Mabinogion collection, has a much longer list of more than 200 of Arthur's men, though Cei and Bedwyr again take a central place. The cycle continued the trend towards reducing the role played by Arthur in his own legend, partly through the introduction of the character of Galahad and an expansion of the role of Merlin. In the view of historian Thomas Charles-Edwards, "at this stage of the enquiry, one can only say that there may well have been an historical Arthur [but ...] the historian can as yet say nothing of value about him". [86] Similarly, Lancelot and his cuckolding of Arthur with Guinevere became one of the classic motifs of the Arthurian legend, although the Lancelot of the prose Lancelot (c. 1225) and later texts was a combination of Chrétien's character and that of Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's Lanzelet. Bede ascribed to these legendary figures a historical role in the 5th-century Anglo-Saxon conquest of eastern Britain. There are many different versions of the stories that make up the Arthurian legend. The end of the Middle Ages brought with it a waning of interest in King Arthur. In Welsh poetry the name is always spelled Arthur and is exclusively rhymed with words ending in -ur—never words ending in -wr—which confirms that the second element cannot be [g]wr "man". During this period, Arthur was made one of the Nine Worthies, a group of three pagan, three Jewish and three Christian exemplars of chivalry. Problems have been identified, however, with using this source to support the Historia Brittonum's account. A 2007 academic survey led by Caitlin Green has identified three key strands to the portrayal of Arthur in this earliest material. Attempts to portray Arthur as a genuine historical figure of c. 500, stripping away the "romance", have also emerged. However, the most significant for the development of the Arthurian legend are Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, which introduces Lancelot and his adulterous relationship with Arthur's queen Guinevere, extending and popularising the recurring theme of Arthur as a cuckold, and Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which introduces the Holy Grail and the Fisher King and which again sees Arthur having a much reduced role. Growing out of the chaos of … [119] Powys's earlier novel, A Glastonbury Romance (1932) is concerned with both the Holy Grail and the legend that Arthur is buried at Glastonbury. [102] Arthur himself played a minor role in some of these works, following in the medieval romance tradition. Lacy has observed, whatever his faults and frailties may be in these Arthurian romances, "his prestige is never—or almost never—compromised by his personal weaknesses ... his authority and glory remain intact. Tennyson's Arthurian work reached its peak of popularity with Idylls of the King, however, which reworked the entire narrative of Arthur's life for the Victorian era. During the years 500 - 550AD the Britons appear to have held back the Saxon advance. [35], Another commonly proposed derivation of Arthur from Welsh arth "bear" + (g)wr "man" (earlier *Arto-uiros in Brittonic) is not accepted by modern scholars for phonological and orthographic reasons. Arthur is a central figure in the legends making up the Matter of Britain. See. Arthur was the first born son of King Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne. Malory based his book—originally titled The Whole Book of King Arthur and of His Noble Knights of the Round Table—on the various previous romance versions, in particular the Vulgate Cycle, and appears to have aimed at creating a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Arthurian stories. While it was not the only creative force behind Arthurian romance, many of its elements were borrowed and developed (e.g., Merlin and the final fate of Arthur), and it provided the historical framework into which the romancers' tales of magical and wonderful adventures were inserted. The so-called "Arthur stone", discovered in 1998 among the ruins at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall in securely dated 6th-century contexts, created a brief stir but proved irrelevant. On this shaky foundation, along with a scattering of place-names and oblique references, is an entire legend based. [58][59] Also important are the references to Arthur in William of Malmesbury's De Gestis Regum Anglorum and Herman's De Miraculis Sanctae Mariae Laudunensis, which together provide the first certain evidence for a belief that Arthur was not actually dead and would at some point return, a theme that is often revisited in post-Galfridian folklore. King Arthur . [99] John Dryden's masque King Arthur is still performed, largely thanks to Henry Purcell's music, though seldom unabridged. [51] This takes the form of a dialogue between Arthur and the gatekeeper of a fortress he wishes to enter, in which Arthur recounts the names and deeds of himself and his men, notably Cei (Kay) and Bedwyr (Bedivere). Morgana, also called Morgaine or Morgan, is a staple figure of the Arthurian legend. The historian John Morris made the putative reign of Arthur the organising principle of his history of sub-Roman Britain and Ireland, The Age of Arthur (1973). It is not certain how these legends originated or whether the figure of Arthur was based on a historical person. Introduction. New York: Simon and Schuster. The most significant of these 13th-century prose romances was the Vulgate Cycle (also known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle), a series of five Middle French prose works written in the first half of that century. [93], The development of the medieval Arthurian cycle and the character of the "Arthur of romance" culminated in Le Morte d'Arthur, Thomas Malory's retelling of the entire legend in a single work in English in the late 15th century. [87] Chrétien's work even appears to feed back into Welsh Arthurian literature, with the result that the romance Arthur began to replace the heroic, active Arthur in Welsh literary tradition. These details have often been used to bolster confidence in the Historia's account and to confirm that Arthur really did fight at Badon. [89], Up to c. 1210, continental Arthurian romance was expressed primarily through poetry; after this date the tales began to be told in prose. Assumptions that a historical Arthur led Welsh resistance to the West Saxon advance from the middle Thames are based on a conflation of two early writers, the religious polemicist Gildas and the historian Nennius, and on the Annales Cambriae of the late 10th century. Many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey's Historia, including Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, the magician Merlin, Arthur's wife Guinevere, the sword Excalibur, Arthur's conception at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann, and final rest in Avalon. [107] Even the humorous tale of Tom Thumb, which had been the primary manifestation of Arthur's legend in the 18th century, was rewritten after the publication of Idylls. These culminate in the Battle of Badon, where he is said to have single-handedly killed 960 men. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. [41] The second is that the pre-Galfridian Arthur was a figure of folklore (particularly topographic or onomastic folklore) and localised magical wonder-tales, the leader of a band of superhuman heroes who live in the wilds of the landscape. [9] These modern admissions of ignorance are a relatively recent trend; earlier generations of historians were less sceptical. Re-enactment 2010. Additionally, the complex textual history of the Annales Cambriae precludes any certainty that the Arthurian annals were added to it even that early. The other text that seems to support the case for Arthur's historical existence is the 10th-century Annales Cambriae, which also link Arthur with the Battle of Badon. [76] His character also alters significantly. [55] According to the Life of Saint Gildas, written in the early 12th century by Caradoc of Llancarfan, Arthur is said to have killed Gildas' brother Hueil and to have rescued his wife Gwenhwyfar from Glastonbury. Arthur returns to Britain and defeats and kills Modredus on the river Camblam in Cornwall, but he is mortally wounded. Released in 2017, Legend of the Sword starred Charlie Hunnam as a streetwise Arthur, who discovers his royal lineage by pulling a sword from a stone and leads a rebellion against the evil King Vortigern (Jude Law). [44] Y Gododdin is known only from a 13th-century manuscript, so it is impossible to determine whether this passage is original or a later interpolation, but John Koch's view that the passage dates from a 7th-century or earlier version is regarded as unproven; 9th- or 10th-century dates are often proposed for it. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword piles mounds of modern action flash on an age-old tale -- and wipes out much of what made it a classic story in the first place. [71] As a result of this popularity, Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae was enormously influential on the later medieval development of the Arthurian legend. [40] The first is that he was a peerless warrior who functioned as the monster-hunting protector of Britain from all internal and external threats. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Theatrical release poster Directed byGuy Ritchie Produced by Akiva Goldsman Joby Harold Tory Tunnell Steve Clark-Hall Guy Ritchie Lionel Wigram Screenplay by Joby Harold Guy Ritchie Lionel Wigram Story by David Dobkin Joby Harold Starring Charlie Hunnam Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey Djimon Hounsou Aidan Gillen Jude Law Eric Bana Music byDaniel Pemberton CinematographyJohn Mathieson Edited byJames Herbert Production companies Warner Bros. Pictures … This is the world of Arthurian legend and, at the centre of it all, there is the ‘once and future king’ – Arthur himself, who, according to the stories, pulled a sword from a stone to become the greatest king that Britain has ever known. It is not known if there was a … One school of thought, citing entries in the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons) and Annales Cambriae (Welsh Annals), saw Arthur as a genuine historical figure, a Romano-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons some time in the late 5th to early 6th century. The Annales date this battle to 516–518, and also mention the Battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) were both killed, dated to 537–539. [97] King Arthur and the Arthurian legend were not entirely abandoned, but until the early 19th century the material was taken less seriously and was often used simply as a vehicle for allegories of 17th- and 18th-century politics. "[127], Legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, "Arthur Pendragon" redirects here. [124], Arthur has also been used as a model for modern-day behaviour. [57] Similar incidents are described in the medieval biographies of Carannog, Padarn, and Eufflam, probably written around the 12th century. paperback. How the Legend Developed . Other early Welsh Arthurian texts include a poem found in the Black Book of Carmarthen, "Pa gur yv y porthaur?" [45] Several poems attributed to Taliesin, a poet said to have lived in the 6th century, also refer to Arthur, although these all probably date from between the 8th and 12th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, it was confined mainly to Pre-Raphaelite imitators,[111] and it could not avoid being affected by World War I, which damaged the reputation of chivalry and thus interest in its medieval manifestations and Arthur as chivalric role model. The legend of King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table have captivated readers for more than a millennium. [13] He is absent from Bede's early-8th-century Ecclesiastical History of the English People, another major early source for post-Roman history that mentions Badon. [84] Chrétien was thus "instrumental both in the elaboration of the Arthurian legend and in the establishment of the ideal form for the diffusion of that legend",[85] and much of what came after him in terms of the portrayal of Arthur and his world built upon the foundations he had laid. Britannica Kids Holiday Bundle! [65] However, while names, key events, and titles may have been borrowed, Brynley Roberts has argued that "the Arthurian section is Geoffrey's literary creation and it owes nothing to prior narrative. grades vg+ solid read copy not much wear. In the 21st century, the legend continues to have prominence, not only in literature but also in adaptations for theatre, film, television, comics and other media. The Legend of Alderley Edge Legend has it that beneath the hill in a cavern stretching the outcrop of sandstone, King Arthur and the knights of the round table lie sleeping. Ask any scholar of Arthurian literature if King Arth… Recent studies, however, question the reliability of the Historia Brittonum.[7]. The writer claimed that the island of Britai… This is of films that focus on King Arthur or are greatly influenced by Arthurian legend. 16, I-III" di Ostuni ed nomi" in, Wilhelm Schulze, "Zur Geschichte lateinischer Eigennamen" (Volume 5, Issue 2 of, Online translations of this poem are out-dated and inaccurate. Arthur flees and is raised in a brothel, knowing very little of his birthright. [108] The revived Arthurian romance also proved influential in the United States, with such books as Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1880) reaching wide audiences and providing inspiration for Mark Twain's satire A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). [26] Artorius itself is of obscure and contested etymology,[27] but possibly of Messapian[28][29][30] or Etruscan origin. Legends disagree on how Arthur became king, though most involve his famous sword, Excalibur. The later manuscripts of the Triads are partly derivative from Geoffrey of Monmouth and later continental traditions, but the earliest ones show no such influence and are usually agreed to refer to pre-existing Welsh traditions. There is clear evidence that Arthur and Arthurian tales were familiar on the Continent before Geoffrey's work became widely known (see for example, the Modena Archivolt),[74] and "Celtic" names and stories not found in Geoffrey's Historia appear in the Arthurian romances. ("What man is the gatekeeper?"). flat rate combined shipping - 5.95 ships everything you buy. Today the character of King Arthur appears in comic books, novels, television shows, and films. King Arthur. Lacy has observed, "The popular notion of Arthur appears to be limited, not surprisingly, to a few motifs and names, but there can be no doubt of the extent to which a legend born many centuries ago is profoundly embedded in modern culture at every level. She was given no other name apart from her title as the Lady of the Lake, yet she was different from Niniane. In particular, Arthur features in a number of well-known vitae ("Lives") of post-Roman saints, none of which are now generally considered to be reliable historical sources (the earliest probably dates from the 11th century). Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons and established a vast empire. [94] Perhaps as a result of this, and the fact that Le Morte D'Arthur was one of the earliest printed books in England, published by William Caxton in 1485, most later Arthurian works are derivative of Malory's.[95]. [36][37], An alternative theory, which has gained only limited acceptance among professional scholars, derives the name Arthur from Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear. [75] From the perspective of Arthur, perhaps the most significant effect of this great outpouring of new Arthurian story was on the role of the king himself: much of this 12th-century and later Arthurian literature centres less on Arthur himself than on characters such as Lancelot and Guinevere, Percival, Galahad, Gawain, Ywain, and Tristan and Iseult. Perceval, although unfinished, was particularly popular: four separate continuations of the poem appeared over the next half century, with the notion of the Grail and its quest being developed by other writers such as Robert de Boron, a fact that helped accelerate the decline of Arthur in continental romance. In his work, Geoffrey traces the ancestry of the Britons all the way back to the Trojans. [25] However, no convincing evidence for these identifications has emerged. A new code of ethics for 19th-century gentlemen was shaped around the chivalric ideals embodied in the "Arthur of romance". King Arthur is a legendary British king who appears in a series of stories and medieval romances as the leader of a knightly fellowship called the Round Table. Updated May 26, 2020. [103] In the Idylls, Arthur became a symbol of ideal manhood who ultimately failed, through human weakness, to establish a perfect kingdom on earth. Sites and places have been identified as "Arthurian" since the 12th century,[18] but archaeology can confidently reveal names only through inscriptions found in secure contexts. C. A. Coates, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Sites and places have been identified as "Arthurian", A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Bibliothèque nationale de France [French National Library], "The Historicity and Historicisation of Arthur", "Early Medieval Tintagel: An Interview with Archaeologists Rachel Harry and Kevin Brady", "The Egyptian Maid, or, The Romance of the Water-Lily", "Arthuriana: Studies in Early Medieval History and Legend", Arthuriana: The Journal of Arthurian Studies, published by Scriptorium Press for Purdue University, US, "John Dee, King Arthur, and the Conquest of the Arctic", The Camelot Project, The University of Rochester, The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe, Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain, Locations associated with Arthurian legend, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=King_Arthur&oldid=989622135, Characters in works by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Short description is different from Wikidata, Wikipedia indefinitely semi-protected pages, Wikipedia indefinitely move-protected pages, Articles containing Cornish-language text, Articles with Encyclopædia Britannica links, Wikipedia articles with Trove identifiers, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 20 November 2020, at 01:59. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and modern historians generally agree that he is unhistorical. [60], Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, completed c. 1138, contains the first narrative account of Arthur's life. On King Arthur’s Knights, we dive into both the historical side of Arthurian events and literature, as well as the legends and stories of Arthurian myth and folklore. [54], In addition to these pre-Galfridian Welsh poems and tales, Arthur appears in some other early Latin texts besides the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae. [73] It was not, however, the only Arthurian influence on the developing "Matter of Britain". King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a fun and thrilling adventure that shows how the man became a king, and takes us into a world of magic and mystery the likes of which have not been seen in such a way. The 12th-century prose romance Culhwch and Olwen associated him with other heroes, and this conception of a heroic band with Arthur at its head doubtless led to the idea of Arthur’s court. The Historia Brittonum, a 9th-century Latin historical compilation attributed in some late manuscripts to a Welsh cleric called Nennius, contains the first datable mention of King Arthur, listing twelve battles that Arthur fought. [112] The romance tradition did, however, remain sufficiently powerful to persuade Thomas Hardy, Laurence Binyon and John Masefield to compose Arthurian plays,[113] and T. S. Eliot alludes to the Arthur myth (but not Arthur) in his poem The Waste Land, which mentions the Fisher King. Whereas Arthur is very much at the centre of the pre-Galfridian material and Geoffrey's Historia itself, in the romances he is rapidly sidelined. The Annales Cambriae also mention Arthur’s victory at Mons Badonicus (516) and record the Battle of Camlann (537), “in which Arthur and Medraut fell.” Gildas’s De excidio et conquestu Britanniae (mid-6th century) implies that Mons Badonicus was fought in about 500 but does not connect it with Arthur. [101] Pre-eminent among these was Alfred Tennyson, whose first Arthurian poem "The Lady of Shalott" was published in 1832. After twelve years of peace, Arthur sets out to expand his empire once more, taking control of Norway, Denmark and Gaul. King Arthur, also called Arthur or Arthur Pendragon, legendary British king who appears in a cycle of medieval romances (known as the Matter of Britain) as the sovereign of a knightly fellowship of the Round Table. Medieval writers, especially the French, variously treated stories of Arthur’s birth, the adventures of his knights, and the adulterous love between his knight Sir Lancelot and his queen, Guinevere. A list of the best King Arthur movies. [106], This interest in the "Arthur of romance" and his associated stories continued through the 19th century and into the 20th, and influenced poets such as William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones. As Taylor and Brewer have noted, this return to the medieval "chronicle tradition" of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Historia Brittonum is a recent trend which became dominant in Arthurian literature in the years following the outbreak of the Second World War, when Arthur's legendary resistance to Germanic enemies struck a chord in Britain. Arthurian legend, the body of stories and medieval romances, known as the matter of Britain, centring on the legendary king Arthur. 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