Dumville apparently has a new study of the Annales forthcoming). It mentions Arthur in two entries: that for. 516 which tells of the 'battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights, and the Britons were the victors' and that for. 537 concerning 'the battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell'. In assessing the value of these entries, considerable attention should be paid to the date of these annals. Jones (1964) and Alcock (1971) were both inclined to see at least one of these annals as a contemporary record of Arthur and, if it could be accepted, such a conclusion would 'prove' arthur's historicity. However, hughes (1980) in her important and extensive studies of the Annales reached a rather different (and convincing) conclusion, and this has been built upon by dumville (in Grabowski and Dumville, 1984) and Charles-Edwards (1991) - the Annales Cambriae to 613 is basically a version.
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Whilst this is an interesting suggestion it has to be recognised that such a notion is speculation and it does not allow us to give this section of the the historia an early date. Indeed, various considerations indicate that any such hypothetical poem would date to much the same period as the historia anyway (see jackson, 1945-6: 57; Jackson, 1959a: 7-8; Dumville, 1977a: 188; Jarman, 1981: 2-3; Dumville, 1986: 13-14; Charles-Edwards, 1991: 21-29; Padel, 1994). (5) Furthermore it must not be forgotten that, with the writer of the historia brittonum now seen as an author actively manipulating his text to create a synthetic pseudo-history rather than a simple compiler, Chapter 56 was, to some large extent, his creation. This is underlined by howlett's (1998: chapter 5) discovery that this section is written in the highly complex 'biblical style showing that Chapter 56 was an integral part of the historia that was created, engineered and planned by the author in accordance with his aims. As such the notion that Chapter 56 might represent anything like a postulated earlier source incorporated bodily into the text of the historia can be rejected. Instead it seems clear that this chapter, along with its concept of Arthur, cannot be separated from the historia as a whole, the aims, methodology, unity of structure and outlook with which this was created, or, indeed, the general comments of Dumville and others. On Chapter 56 as an integral and inseparable part of the historia ). The best we can therefore honestly say is that in the historia brittonum, a source of very dubious historical value (which can be shown to portray mythical figures as genuinely historical we have evidence for the idea that Arthur was a historical figure being current. 829/30 at the latest. Our last source, the Annales Cambriae, was compiled in 950s and is sometimes seen as providing good evidence for Arthur being a historical figure (see grabowski and Dumville, 1984 for the dating. Studies and commentaries on the text include jones, 1964; Alcock, 1971; Hughes, 1980; Grabowski and Dumville, 1984; Dumville, 1990; Charles-Edwards, 1991 and Koch, 1996.
His procedures were synthetic and interpretive, his sources overwhelmingly non-contemporaneous with the paper events which they purport to describe' (Dumville, 1994: 419). (4) As such the historia is of very dubious historical value, for example, in addition to many of its sources being of a similar date to itself and suspect in nature, the historia can be shown to portray characters who are decidedly mythical in origin. Indeed, as a number of recent commentators have recognised, the historia brittonum is in fact a synchronising and synthetic history of the type well known from medieval Ireland, fusing sources for its own political ends and involved in the creation of a full national pseudo-history. Directly relevant to this question of the 'historical value' of the historia brittonum is the fact that the author of the historia was not writing 'history' as we know it today but was rather engaging in something more akin to that which we would call. To try and read such works as the historia as linear history is completely false to the methods and assumptions with which they were composed (see hanning, 1966; Howlett, 1998;. This leads us to Chapter 56 of the historia brittonum, which contains the references to a 'historical' Arthur. This is 'a pseudo-historical account of a suspiciously formulaic list of twelve battles against Germanic invaders' (coe and young, 1995: 6 supposedly fought by Arthur. Some have suggested (for example, chadwick and Chadwick, 1932; Jones, 1964) that Chapter 56 could have been based on a poem written in Welsh that was translated into latin by the author of the historia.
829/30, the ascription to one 'nennius' now being regarded as false (Dumville, 1974; 1975-6, though see field, 1996). There is considerable debate over the nature of the text (see, for example, dumville, 1986; Charles-Edwards, 1991; Dumville, 1994; Koch, 1997; Howlett, 1998) but it now seems clear that the writer of the historia was not an ignorant and incompetent compiler who simply 'made. Comm.; 1998: chapter. For the celtic-Latin tradition of Biblical style see howlett, 1995). Given the above, we must question to what extent the author altered his sources for his own purposes, what were the nature of his sources, and thus how far can we trust what we read in the historia? Dumville (1986) took a very pessimistic line on this, arguing that it was a source only for the ninth century and its concerns. While this view has been challenged the by Thomas Charles-Edwards (1991 who identifies the historia as a fusion of the two historical genres, historia gentis and Historia ecclesiastica, it is still clearly the case that 'even where credit might be given to the supposed source. Do not encourage us to be confident about the possibility of recovering usable information about the period whose history he was narrating.
Unlike gordur or the other warriors he is not actually present at the battle: 'In the allusion, Arthur is presented as the unrivalled paragon of martial valour and is thus used to form a highly unusual comparison by rendering explicitly inferior the honorand of the. Therefore, if the relevant awdl and lines can be sustained as Aneirin's original, this would tell us that by the later sixth century there existed in North Britain a tradition of a brittonic superhero Arthur.' (Koch, 1996: 242). . Whilst we might not be able to accept Koch's assertions on dating, we can say that Arthur is essentially a 'highly unusual comparison not a warrior who is being honoured; he is not envisaged as being present at the battle and he is a military. He is therefore in a different league to the rest of the figures who appear in y gododdin and, as such, there is no reason to think that assumptions drawn from the identifications of a few characters in the text as a whole, even. All the y gododdin reference tells us is that Arthur was seen, by the ninth or tenth century, as 'the impossible comparison' (Padel, 1994: 14 a 'superhero' to whom not even the greatest living warrior could compare; it does not tell us whether this reflects. (3) In light of the fact that neither of the above can help in the investigation of Arthur's possible 'historicity the case for a historical Arthur rests entirely on two sources, the historia brittonum and the Annales Cambriae, both of which would appear to have. The historia brittonum was written anonymously.
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Similar caveats have been shown to apply to koch's 'reconstruction' of the heart poem Gweith Gwen Ystrat, with Isaac demonstrating that whilst one can undertake such a exercise and show how this poem would have looked if it had been composed. 600, such a reconstruction is entirely unwarranted and there is no reason to think that the text was composed in this period (Isaac, 1998). Given the above, it seems clear that, despite koch's assertions, 'the date of composition of y gododdin remains as unclear as ever.' (Padel, 1998: 55). Indeed Isaac (1996; 1999) has recently followed. Simon evans (1978) in arguing that there is no linguistic evidence that would necessitate dating y gododdin as a whole before the ninth or tenth century and, in light of all of this, Charles-Edwards' comments on the antiquity of the Arthurian references in this text. Turning to the 'arthurian' awdl stanza of y gododdin, how does this reference affect the question of Arthur's historicity, given that Arthur only appears as a comparison to a warrior of (supposedly) the late sixth century?
One common argument is that in works such as y gododdin the figures named are always believed to be historical and therefore the Arthurian awdl would seem to indicate that by the ninth or tenth century Arthur was believed to have been a historical personage. Whilst superficially convincing, there are considerable problems with such a judgement. First, the simple fact of the matter is that we can only identify a few of the characters that appear in early welsh heroic poetry; many of the people in the poems appear only there, poetry so that we have no knowledge of whether they were. Second, the assumption may well not have a sound basis as Rowland has recently noted that the people who appear in these works (and are recognisable) are nearly all historical figures, that Gereint like most of the heroes identifiable in this type of poetry. Given this, there is no reason for making any such assumptions. Third, in y gododdin Arthur is in the remarkable position of appearing 'only not to appear' (Padel, 1994: 14).
This tendency has been correctly and heavily criticised by david Dumville (1977a amongst others, mainly because these sources cannot be seen as in any way historically reliable - we are therefore, when looking at a possibly historical Arthur and in the light of Dumville's comments. Dealing with the last of these first, the occurrence of four (or possibly five) people named 'Arthur' in sixth- and seventh-century western Scotland and Wales has often been seen as one of the best pieces of evidence for a historical Arthur - the argument. (2) However such a commemoration by name of an earlier historical hero would be totally unparalleled in the celtic world and as such cannot be at all supported as an explanation of these names (see bromwich, 1975-6: 178-79). Thus these names cannot be used as evidence for a historical Arthur and as long as we continue to see arthur as genuinely historical they are likely to remain a lasting crux (at present there is only one viable explanation of these names, that proposed. It is worth noting that none of these 'arthurs' can be seen as the 'original' Arthur, pace barber, 1972 - see bromwich, 1975-6: 179; Jackson, 1973; Roberts, 1973-4). The second source for consideration is the collection of heroic death-songs known as y gododdin, relating to a battle fought in the late sixth century.
In recent years there has been considerable debate over the statement in y gododdin that Gordur 'fed black ravens on the rampart of a fort, although he was no Arthur' (B.38. Koch (1997) numbers this.38). Thomas Charles-Edwards (1991: 14 building on his theory of textual transmission (set forth in Charles-Edwards, 1978 concluded that, as the reference only occurs in the b version and not the a version of y gododdin, it need be no older than the ninth or tenth. Recently, however, john Koch (1997) has attempted a 'reconstruction' of the 'original' text of y gododdin and includes the 'arthurian' reference in this text, dated by him to pre-A. Whilst his is certainly an interesting exercise in discovering how y gododdin might have looked if it was of sixth- or seventh-century date, the limitations of this 'reconstruction' must be recognised. As one reviewer has noted, koch's text is, in reality, a translation of y gododdin into the language. 600 and in this it must be seen in the same light as Jarman's earlier translation of this text into modern Welsh (Jarman, 1988) - koch has not shown that y gododdin was composed in this period, only what it might have looked like. Indeed, Isaac has demonstrated that Koch's whole theory of the creation and transmission of y gododdin, including the idea that B represents the Ur-text, cannot be at all supported (Isaac, 1999).
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One well known dissenter from this is geoffrey ashe (1981; mini 1985; 1995) who argues that riotamus, a fifth-century 'king' of the Britons who campaigned on the continent, is the actual historical prototype of Arthur and geoffrey of Monmouth drew on this tradition when writing his. While this theory is quite popular it is rightly dismissed by academic commentators as nothing more than 'straws in the wind' (Bromwich et al, 1991:. See also padel, 1994: 31,. 113; Hanning, 1995; Padel, 1995) on the grounds that, while riotamus (or Breton traditions about this figure) could be the (partial) inspiration for geoffrey's portrayal of Arthur, he has nothing at all in common with the insular traditions of Arthur and thus cannot be the. The above means that the historical Arthur, if he existed, will be found in the pre-galfridian texts and it is to these we must now turn. The pre-galfridian sources for Arthur can be most conveniently read in coe and young (1995 which provides facing text and translation. Some earlier historians, such as John Morris (1973 tried to make use of, as historical texts, all the sources which mentioned Arthur including, for example, the saints' lives and late poetry.
When looking at Arthur's possible historicity however, archaeology cannot really help as it deals with sites not people - it can show that a site was occupied in the right period but only very rarely (that is, when we have an inscription) can it tell. The only piece of archaeological data which might have been significant to the debate is the Glastonbury cross naming King Arthur as the occupant of the grave it was supposedly found in by the monks of Glastonbury in 1191. Some have suggested a mid-tenth- or eleventh-century date for this (for example, radford, 1968; Alcock, 1971) but it is now clear that it was the product of a late twelfth-century fraud and derivative of geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae, and thus of no use. The early sixth-century inscribed stone that has recently been found at Tintagel does not refer to Arthur, contrary to reports by English Heritage and the media). Given the above, any conclusions regarding Arthur's historicity, or lack thereof, must be drawn from the textual references to him. The king Arthur we encounter in the later medieval texts (and with which people are biography often most familiar) is not the Arthur of earlier works - shortly before. 1139 geoffrey of Monmouth ( Galfridus Monemutensis ) completed his Historia regum Britanniae history of the kings of Britain which glorified Arthur and made him an international warlord. This work quickly became influential throughout western Europe and affected the Arthurian legend in all areas with the result that, in general, scholars look to sources written before geoffrey's Historia for the 'original' Arthur (that is, in the 'pre-galfridian' sources).
this that will probably particularly interest readers of this article are hengest and Horsa, who were kentish totemic horse-gods historicised by the eighth century with an important role in the fifth-century Anglo-saxon conquest of eastern Britain (see turville-petre, 1953-7; Ward, 1969; Brooks. 437, in the nibelungenlied (Thomas, 1995: 390). (1) given this, no a priori judgements can be made as to whether a figure is, in origin, historical, mythical or fictional - each individual case must (and can only) be decided by a close examination of all the relevant material. When we have figures such as Arthur being portrayed as historical we are therefore, on a very basic level, looking at either a historical figure or a legendary figure who became historicised, with neither explanation enjoying priority on a priori grounds - it must. The following article is intended to provide a summary account and bibliography of the latest academic research into Arthur with a particular focus on the question of historicity. Aside from the various articles and books cited, much of what is below has been discussed in detail on the discussion list of the International Arthurian Society, arthurnet, in a moderated debate that I had the great pleasure of chairing. The results of this discussion, including all posted comments, can be found in the Arthurnet archives. The historical Arthur: an Analytical and Bibliographic Survey any inquiry into the 'historical' Arthur must proceed from the sources. One of the most important sources for the student of post-Roman Britain is archaeology and, indeed, the case is sometimes made that it is our only reliable source (see, for example, arnold, 1984).
The history of Arthurian, scholarship (Boydell, 2006) and. Arthur in Antiquity (Routledge, 2004). In order to ease both reading and referencing, a pdf transfer has been gender created and can be downloaded by clicking the link below; The historicity and Historicisation of, arthur has also now been published in my Arthuriana: Early Arthurian Tradition and the Origins of the legend. The historicity and Historicisation of Arthur. Introduction, many different theories are available as to the 'identity' of Arthur and some brief methodological notes will be found here regarding the making of such identifications. While these theories are interesting, they fail to address fully one important question - was there a historical post-Roman Arthur? Many books, articles and web-pages simply make the a priori assumption that there has to be a historical figure behind the. Such an assumption is totally unjustified.
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Below can be found the review article The historicity and Historicisation. Arthur, the first version of which appeared online in 1998. An up-to-date expansion, development and revision of all the material found here is contained. Concepts of Arthur (Tempus, 2007). As such, this article will no longer be updated. It will, however, continue to be archived at this website, given its long independent existence and the fact that it yardage is itself cited in various publications, such. Higham's, king Arthur, myth-making and History (Routledge, 2002.