Academic writing on English topic:
reality behind a legend
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A computer with Power Point 2003 or higher,
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By Eugene Gluzman,
English supervisor: Kondratov Alexander
Russian supervisor: Gorets Alexander
Chapter I. England in that time…………………………….… 4
Chapter II. The historical basis of Arthur……………………...7
Chapter III. Events in legend – were they real? .......................12
Appendix (the legend of King Arthur)…………………….… 15
My academic writing is on King Arthur. He legendary was a great British leader of V-VI centuries. His existence is still questioned by the historians. The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is filled by fiction – for example the cycle of stories surrounding the Holy Grail.
I have chosen this topic because of the following reasons. Firstly, I like history as a clever and important subject, especially this short period of medieval history. Also King Arthur’s rule (if he was a real person) could seriously influence the history. So, the subject of his existence is very actual.
Some middle-age sources (like Gildas - "On the Ruin of Britain”, Nennius - "History of the Britons" or Geoffrey of Monmouth - "History of the Kings of Britain”) mention people doing deeds that look alike Arthur’s ones. So modern historians think that King Arthur is a collective figure including different leaders of that time. I agree with this position – it seems to be true.
My work is divided into three parts: in the first part I’d like to present tell about the main situation in England of that time and in the second part I analyze some sources to find out who Arthur finally was. There is also an appendix with some additional material and with the legend of King Arthur(certainly, it is hardly shortened as the full legend fills two books).
As I decided the aim of my work is to explore Arthur and see whom he was for real.
Chapter I. Britain in that time
This chapter is dedicated to the historical situation in England of that time (mainly 5th-6th century). In the beginning of that time period Britain was invaded by the Romans. But soon they had to leave the islands. In this chapter you can read about Britain in the period, which is sometimes called Dark Ages.
Romans leave England
The Romans had been troubled by serious barbarian raids since around AD 360. Picts (northern Celts) from Scotland, Scots from Ireland (until AD1400 the word Scot meant and Irishman) and Saxons from Germany, all came to plunder the accumulated wealth of Roman Britain. The Roman legions began to withdraw from Britain in AD383 to secure the Empire's borders elsewhere in mainland Europe. By AD410 all Roman troops had been withdrawn, leaving the cities of Britain and the remaining Romano-British to fend for themselves.
As the Romans departed, so did the source of any major written historical data. For the rest of the fifth century and early sixth century, England entered what is now referred to as a period of time known as the Dark Ages. A time of legend, a time perhaps of a great hero and war leader of the Britain's - King Arthur. Possibly a Romano-Celtic leader defending his lands from the pagan Anglo-Saxon invaders? It was during these Dark Ages that the Anglo-Saxons became established in eastern Britain. The Romans had employed the mercenary services of the Saxons for hundreds of years, preferring to fight alongside them rather than against these fierce warriors. An arrangement, which probably worked well with the Roman military in place to control their numbers, using their mercenary services on an as required basis. Without the Romans in place however, at the ports of entry to issue visas, stamp passports, etc., immigration numbers appear to have got a little out of hand. First Saxon warriors raided England's south and east coasts. Little mercy was shown as men, women and children were slaughtered.
The Anglo-Saxons took control of most of Britain, although they never conquered Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. They settle in England in places near to rivers or the sea, which could be easily reached by boat. One of the places they settled in was Tonbridge, in Kent. Tonbridge was an ideal place to settle as it was on the main track from Hastings to London and has a river.
At the time when the Anglo-Saxons came to England much of the country was covered in forest. Only about a few thousand people in the whole land (today there are about 50 million people living in England). It was an easy place for newcomers to find a place to start a village and then chop down the surrounding forest to make farmland.
The Jutes, who came first and occupied Kent and the Isle of Wight, have been supposed to be identical with the inhabitants of Jutland, but it has been recently shown that this is probably an error (Stevenson, ibid., 167). They were, however, a Frisian tribe.
The Saxons of the fifth century were better known and more widely spread, occupying the present Westphalia, Hanover and Brunswick. The Angles in Tacitus's day were settled on the right bank of the Elbe close to its mouth. They seem to have been nearly akin to their then neighbors, the Lombards, who after long wanderings eventually became the masters of Italy. It is curious to find the great historian of the Lombards, Paul the Deacon, describing their dress as resembling that "which the Anglo-Saxons are wont to wear."
In England the Saxons, after establishing themselves in the south and east, in the localities now represented by Sussex and Essex, founded a great kingdom in the West which gradually absorbed almost the whole country south of the Thames. In fact, the King of Wessex ultimately became the lord of the entire land of Britain.
The Angles, who followed close upon the heels of the Saxons, founded the kingdoms of East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk), Mercia (the Midlands), Deira (Yorkshire), and Bernicia (the country farther north). The extermination of the native Inhabitants was probably not so complete as was at one time supposed, and a recent authority (Hodgkin) has declared that "Anglo-Celt rather than Anglo-Saxon is the fitting designation of our race."
The Saxons had been raging around the countryside for years. The Britons had been fighting them off as best they could, but the hordes were too strong, the desire for legitimacy too great. The Britons needed a victory bad. Their country was at risk of being overrun by Germanics.
Gildas, a 6th-century monk, mentions Mount Badon, saying that the Britons won a great victory there. But Gildas doesn't mention Arthur. Instead, Gildas says the British took up arms under Ambrosius. Now, Gildas doesn't say Ambrosius was the commander at Badon Hill; indeed, he doesn't name that commander at all. Still, Ambrosius is the last commander named by Gildas.
The new Anglo Saxon invaders were not organized centrally, as the Romans had been, or as the Normans would be. They slowly colonized northwards and westwards, pushing the Britons to the fringes of Britain. Roman Britain was replaced by Anglo Saxon Britain, with the Celtic peoples remaining in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. The Anglo Saxon areas eventually combined into kingdoms, and by 850 AD the country had three competing kingdoms.
The timeline of 5th-6th century
AD 465 - Arthur was probably born around this time.
AD 466 - Battle of Wippedesfleot, in which Saxons defeat Britons, but with great slaughter on both sides. Mutual "disgust and sorrow" results in a respite from fighting "for a long time."
AD 466-73 - Period of minimal Saxon activity. Refortification of ancient hillforts and construction of the Wansdyke possibly takes place during this time.
AD 469 - Roman emperor, Anthemius, appeals to Britons for military help against the Visigoths. Reliable accounts by Sidonius Apolonaris and Jordanes name the leader of the 12,000 man British force, Riothamus. The bulk of the British force was wiped out in battle against Euric, the Visigothic king, and the survivors, including Riothamus, vanished and were never heard from, again.
AD 470 - Battle of Wallop (Hampshire) where Ambrosius defeats Vitalinus, head of the opposing faction. Ambrosius assumes High-kingship of Britain.
AD 473 - Men of Kent, under Hengest, move westward, driving Britons back before them "as one flees fire."
AD 477 - Saxon chieftain, Aelle, lands on Sussex coast with his sons. Britons engage him upon landing but his superior force drives them into the forest (Weald). Over next nine years, Saxon coastal holdings are gradually expanded in Sussex.
AD 480 - "Vita Germani," the Life of St. Germanus, written by a continental biographer, Constantius.
AD 485-96 – It is suggested to be the period of Arthur's "twelve battles" during which he gains reputation for invincibility.
AD 486 - Aelle and his sons overreach their normal territory and are engaged by Britons at battle of Mercredesburne. Battle is bloody, but indecisive, and ends with both sides pledging friendship.
AD 490 - Hengest dies. His son, Aesc, takes over and rules for 34 years.
AD 495 - Cerdic and Cynric, his son, land somewhere on the south coast, probably near the Hampshire-Dorset border.
AD 496 - Britons, under overall command of Ambrosius and, how some scientists think battlefield under command of the "war leader" Arthur, defeat Saxons at the Siege of Mount Badon.
AD 496-550 - Following the victory at Mt. Badon, the Saxon advance is halted with the invaders returning to their own enclaves. A generation of peace ensues. Corrupt leadership, more civil turmoil, public forgetfulness and individual apathy further erode Romano-British culture over next fifty years, making Britain ripe for final Saxon "picking."
AD 501 - The Battle of Llongborth (probably Portsmouth), where a great British chieftain, Geraint, King of Dumnonia, was killed. Arthur is mentioned in a Welsh poem commemorating the battle.
AD 508 - Cerdic begins to move inland and defeats British king Natanleod near present-day Southampton.
AD 515 - Death of Aelle. Kingdom of Sussex passed to his son, Cissa and his descendents, but over time, diminished into insignificance.
AD 519 - Kingdom of the West Saxons (Wessex) founded with Cerdic its first ruler.
AD 530-540 - Mass migration of Celtic monks to Brittany (the "third migration").
AD 534 - Death of Cerdic. Cynric takes kingship of Wessex.
AD 540 - Probable writing of Gildas' "De Excidio Britanniae."
AD 542 - Legendary battle of Camlann, according to Annales Cambriae. Death (or unspecified other demise) of Arthur (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth). From the historical side it could be just an in-family conflict of great size.
Chapter II. The historical basis of King Arthur
In this chapter I want to find out what part of the Arthurs character in legend*(see Appendix) is fiction and what has a historical meaning.
Is King Arthur just a legendary character?
Certainly, not at all. Some modern historians have suggested that Arthur had no historical basis, and was instead a mythological or folklore figure that was historicized over time. These historians point to the lack of hard evidence for a historical Arthur. Arthur is not mentioned in the writings of Gildas, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, or any other surviving manuscript dating between the 5th century and around 820. There is not a lot of proof that he really existed but certain historical facts lead to the conclusion that a character did exist who was involved in fighting the Saxons. There was a battle fought against them in 518 known as the battle of Mount Badon. This is an obscure part of British history because we do not know who was the leader of this combined Celtic force that defeated the Saxons. The first detail we have about Arthur possibly being the general in this conflict comes from Nennius. As his work was written over 300 years after the event, and considering the way information was passed to later generations, the question has to be asked. Can we trust this account? One thing remains and this is the name Arthur. If we can't categorically prove that he existed we can’t say that he is the legend we know today. Any work later than Nennius's or the Brittany chronicles can be discounted.
References to King Artur’s person
There is only one contemporary Arthurian source that can be examined today. "Concerning the Ruin of Britain", or "De Excidio British History Clube" was written by the Northern British monk, St. Gildas, in the mid-6th century. Unfortunately, Gildas was not a historian. He was only interested in lamenting the loss of the Roman way of life and reproaching the British leaders (Constantine, Aurelius Caninus, Vortepor, Cuneglasus & Maglocunus) who had usurped Imperial power and degraded Christian values.
There is no reference to Arthur, but Gildas does make reference to a character called "The Bear", the meaning of the Celtic word, Art-. He praises Ambrosius Aurelianus and also mentions the Siege of Mount Badon, though not the name of the victor. Gildas' writings are dated immediately prior to 549 (the death of Maglocunus, one of his usurpers). The passage telling of Badon places the siege forty-four years before this. This places Arthur firmly around the turn of the 6th century. (See Alcock 1971).
It is suggested to be the genealogical tree of the house of King Arthur.
In this version author sees Arthur as the nephew of Ambrosius, who
led Britons in war with Saxons. In this version Arthur was mentioned
as a war leader leading Ambrosius’s army in the battle of Badon(496 AD).
The Welsh Easter Annals or Annales Cambriae, supposedly written over the years that they cover, AD 447 to 957 (though very early entries were probably written some time after the events), are amongst the earliest sources to mention Arthur. Used to calculate Easter dates, this document also records historical events alongside many of its yearly entries. Two of these tell of Arthur. AD 516 refers to "The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors".
The entry for AD 537 records "The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut perished". All characters included elsewhere in these, otherwise reliable, annals appear to have been real historical people. There is no reason to suppose, therefore, that Arthur and Mordred were not likewise. It has been suggested that stylistically speaking, Arthur's appearance in the Badon entry may have been an interpolation. Criticisms of the length of the battle are unfounded though, for Gildas (see above), more correctly, calls the battle a siege. The statement that Arthur carried "the cross of Our Lord on his shoulders" may refer to an amulet containing a chip of the true cross. Or more likely it is a transcriptual error of Welsh "shoulder" for "shield", indicating the cross was merely an armorial bearing.
Arthur does warrant a passing comment in the early 7th century poem Y Gododdin by Aneirin, the famous bard from the Royal House of the North Pennines. This work praises the efforts of the Northern British armies, headed by those of Din-Eityn and Gododdin, at the battle of Catraeth around AD 600 and one warrior is described as having "glutted black ravens on the ramparts of the fort, although he was no Arthur".
It has been argued that this shows the early spread of Arthur's fame. Unfortunately, considering the northern overtones, this may refer to the Arthur's Northern contemporary, King Arthwys of the Pennines.
The last major Arthurian reference occurs in the 8th century "Historia Brittonum" or "History of the Britons", apparently written by a Welsh historian called Nennius, possibly a monk from Bangor Fawr (Gwynedd). Nennius used numerous chronicles to put together this compilation history of the British peoples, followed by genealogies and a list of the 28 Towns of Britain. The work is particularly noted for its chapter concerning the Campaigns of Arthur, telling of his twelve battles.
So whom he was?
There are lots of people that seem to be the prototype for King Arthur. There were lots of people which have done the same deeds he done. Some of them had a similar neme.Here are the most realistic of them.
Riothamus was a historical figure whom ancient sources list as "a king of the Britons". He lived in the late 5th century, and most of the stories about him were recorded in the Byzantine historian Jordanes' The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, written in the mid-6th century, only about 80 years after his presumed death.
Ambrosius Aurelianus (also sometimes referred to as Aurelius Ambrosius) was a powerful Romano-British leader in Britain. He was renowned for his campaigns against the Saxons, and there is some speculation that he may have commanded the British forces at the Battle of Badon Hill. At any rate, the battle was a clear continuation of his efforts. Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain also states that Arthur led the forces at Badon; on the other hand, Geoffrey is notoriously unreliable and much of what he writes is incompatible with factual history. However, Geoffrey makes Aurelianus (whom he calls Aurelius Ambrosius) a king of Britain, an older brother of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur, thus relating Aurelianus and Arthur. He also states that Aurelianus was the son of a Breton ruler named Constantinus, brother of Aldroenus.
Athrwys ap Meurig
Amateur researchers Baram Blackett and Alan Wilson have re-interpreted Welsh manuscripts and other evidence to suggest that Arthur was Athrwys ap Meurig, possibly a king of Glamorgan and Gwent. They claim to have discovered what they believe to be two Arthurian artifacts of great importance, though serious questions about the provenance and authenticity surround the items. The first, discovered in 1983, is an alleged burial stone of Athrwys ap Meurig, which reads, "Rex Artorius, Fili Mavricius". The other, an electrum cross weighing some two-and-a-half pounds, discovered in 1990 and reads "Pro Anima Artorius" or "for the Soul of Arthur". The Latin grammar on both inscriptions is idiosyncratic and agrammatical, which has lead some to suggest that the inscriptions may be forgeries.
Owain Ddantgwyn, the 'Arthur'
Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, in their book, King Arthur: The True Story, argue that the name 'Arthur' was a mere title (see below) and that its recipient was Owain Ddantgwyn, an apparent King of Rhôs whom they relocate to Powys. From a passage in Gildas' De Excidio Britanniae, they interpret the description of Owain's son, Cuneglas, to mean that he was the successor at the 'bear's fort', the 'bear' or 'arth' being his father.
Chapter III. Events in legend – were they real?
In this chapter I want to analyze what events in legend had real historical basis and which were just fiction.
Battle at mount Badon
Legend mentions this battle as the greatest battle in the legend, where Arthur crushes mighty Anglo-Saxon army. In the legend he is a king-warlord leading the British defense, what is surely not true. Firstly, in that time Britain had no single king – it was a country filled by British tribes which fought with Anglo-Saxon invaders. Secondly, if Arthur was the leader of British defense he didn’t have to be the leader of British army.
All sources of that time mention this battle. Most of them mention Aurelius Ambrosius leading Britons. Only one of them mentions Arthur – not as the King, but as a battlefield commander. So, the conclusion – Arthur was just one of main leaders of that time. Nobody knows if he was a British chieftain or just a war leader.
The Battle at the mouth of the River Glein
The two candidates for the location of this Battle are either The River Glen in Northumberland, or the River Glen in Lincolnshire.
Yeavering Bell is a hillfort in Northumbria, near the town of Woller, overlooking the flat area where the River Glen flows into the River Till. The confluence of these two rivers has been identified as "the mouth of the River Glen." by some scholars. Excavations of the hillfort have shown that it was occupied in the time of Arthur, and he could have commanded his armies fighting the battle below.
The other candidate is the River Glen is in Lincolnshire, and many consider this the better possibility for the site of the battle. There were Angle settlements in this part of Britain, and Nennius cites four battles being fought in the Linnuis region, which many scholars believe to be Lincolnshire. The Glen in Lincolnshire seems more logical than the Glen in Northumbria, and ties in with the rest of Nennius's account.
The River Glen runs through southern Lincolnshire. The "mouth of the River Glen" in Nennius, could be the confluence of the river Glen with the River Welland, to the east of Surfleet, near Spalding.
The eighth battle of King Arthur near Gurnion Castle
Nennius records that here "Arthur bore the image of the Holy Virgin, Mother of God, upon his shoulders, and through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Mary, put the Saxons to flight, and pursued them the whole day with great slaughter."
Gurnion Castle is another battle site that remains unknown. It could be:
1. A Roman fort, perhaps one near Stow in Selkirkshire
2. Garionenum in Norfolk
3. Vinovia near modern Binchester
It has been remarked that it is strange for Arthur to be carrying the image on his shoulder instead of on his shield (which is far more likely). This shows the problems of translation - Scuid in old Welsh means shoulder, while scuit in Latin means shield. Nobody really knows which is correct.
The Battle of Camlann
The Battle of Camlann is is King Arthur's final battle, in which he is mortally wounded by his his nephew Mordred. The story recalls that Arthur and his forces were away in Europe fighting (according to earlier sources) Emperor Lucius or (according to later sources) fighting Lancelot. When Arthur landed back in England, a series of battles ensued that climaxed with the Battle of Camlann. Both Arthur and Mordred are mortally wounded in this battle, but Arthur's army triumphed in the end.
While Camlann, Arthur's last battle, is not part of the battle list, it was a battle that was fought in Britain. The battle of Camlann is first mentioned in the Annales Cambriae (ca. 960-980). The name Camlann has a number of possible locations. It is said to have taken place by a river, and the prefix Cam means crooked. The battle probably took place, then, near a crooked river.
Various stories differ on how the battle started. Geoffrey of Monmouth's account is of a normal battle--both sides lined up and then charged into battle. In many other sources, though, the battle is set of by misunderstanding. Malory makes the beginning of the battle a complete misunderstanding: A knight is bitten by an adder, he draws his sword to kill the snake, and when others saw his drawn sword a battle resulted by mistake.
Certainly, legend is filled by lots of events – but they are mainly fiction. For example, if we trust in Arthur as the leader of Britons we have to understand – he couldn’t become a chief just by pulling a sword out of stone. Also, we can’t believe that there was an artifact similar to Holy Grail or a Fairy which gave power to some of his knights. We have to divide fiction and possible historical basis. So it is certain that he wasn’t such a man as some people imagine, wasn’t a just noble King treating everybody well. If he existed he was a usual politician, not an Idol.
The legend of King Arthur
Arthur was the son of Igraine and Uther Pendragon. Igraine was originally married to Gorloris the Duke of Cornwall. Uther beloved her and dealt with a powerful magician Merlin. Merlin agreed to make Igraine love Uther, but in exchange their son had to be given to Merlin. After Gorloris was killed by Uther in a battle, Uther, in the appearance of Gorloris, married Igraine who was tricked by Merlin
They had a son, Arthur, who was born at Tintagel Castle. So the baby, Arthur Pendragon, bound in a cloth of gold, was taken to the back gate of the castle and delivered unto Merlin, disguised as a poor man, and by him was carried forth to Sir Ector, whose wife nourished him as her own child.
Then within two years King Uther fell sick. All the barons made great sorrow, and asked Merlin what counsel was best, for few of them had ever seen or heard of the young child, Arthur. Then Merlin said: "Sir shall your son Arthur be the king, after your days, of this realm with the entire appurtenance?"
Then Uther Pendragon said in hearing of them all, "I give him God's blessing and mine, and bid him righteously and honorably to claim the crown upon my blessing."
Therewith he died, and was buried.
Then stood the kingdom with no single leader a long while, for every lord strengthened himself, and many of them thought to be a king rather than be ruled by a child that they had never known. All this confusion Merlin had foreseen, and he had taken the young prince away, to keep him safe from the jealous barons until he should be old enough to rule wisely for himself. Even Sir Ector did not know that the boy growing up with his own son Kay was the King's child, and heir to the throne.
The Sword in the Stone
When young Arthur had grown into a tall youth, well trained in all the exercises of honorable knighthood, Merlin went to the Archbishop of Canterbury and counseled him to send to all the lords that they should come to London at Christmas time, where the God will show who the right king is. The Archbishop did as Merlin advised, and all the great knights went unto London, each one thinking that he should be granted. So in the greatest church of the city all were at their prayers long day.
When preparations were done and they came out of the church, they saw a great square stone, in the churchyard in the middle of which was an anvil of steel, a foot high, with a fair sword naked at the point sticking through it. There were letters written in gold about the sword that read thus: "Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England."
Many people tried to pull the sword out, but no one succeeded. So the Archbishop has chosen ten knights of good fame to guard the sword until the rightful king will appear.
And upon New Year's Day the barons held jousts and a tournament for all knights that would engage. All this was ordained for to keep the lords and the commons together, for the Archbishop trusted that God would soon show him known an heir to the throne. So upon New Year's Day the barons rode to the field, to tourney; and it happened that Sir Ector rode also, and with him Sir Kay, his son, that had just been made knight, and young Arthur that was his foster-brother.
As they rode to the joust-ward Sir Kay suddenly missed his sword, which he had left at his father's lodging, and he begged young Arthur to ride and fetch it. Arthur hastened off home. But the lady and the entire household were out to see the tournament, and he found nobody at home to deliver him the sword. Then he was troubled, and he decided to get the sword in stone for his brother.
So he came to the great stone and then went straight to the tent of the guards, but found no knights there, because they were at the tournament. So he took the sword by the handles and pulled it out of the anvil; then he mounted his horse and rode his way till he came to his brother Sir Kay, and delivered him the sword.
Kay recognized the sword and so he rode away to Sir Ector, and said: "Sir, here is the sword of the stone; wherefore I must be king of this land." Sir Ector made Sir Kay to swear upon a book how he came by that sword. And Sir Kay answered that Arthur had brought it to him. When the people did not believe it was Arthur, he successfully repeated the task.
Now many lords became wroth, and said it was great shame unto them all and to the realm to be governed by a boy.
So once more great lords came thither to win the sword, but none might prevail except Arthur. The barons were sore aggrieved at this, and put it off in delay till the high feast of Easter.
Soon the coronation was made, and Arthur swore unto his lords and the commons to be a true king, to stand for justice all the days of his life. Some of the local kings decided that they did not want to be ruled by a youth, so they began a rebellion against their rightful king. To protect him, Merlin took Arthur to see the Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake gave him the magical sword Excalibur. Arthur then returned to defend his place as king. After a battle, the local kings gave in and Arthur became king. Then he made all the lords that were subject to the crown to come in, and to do service as they ought to do. And many great wrongs that had been done since the death of King Uther were righted, and to lords, knights, ladies, and gentlemen were given back the lands of which they had been unjustly deprived.
When the king had established justice in all the countries about London, he made Sir Kay seneschal of England, and other officers he appointed also that should aid in keeping back his enemies and holding his realm in peace and orderliness.
After Arthur was crowned, he married the princess Guinevere. As part of her dowry, Arthur was giving the famous Round Table by her father. Through the course of his reign as King of Britain, many events occurred.
Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table fought many battles with the Saxons. Eventually, they won the war at Mount Badon. Arthur and his knights also went in search of the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is thought to be a vessel used by Jesus at the last supper.
War with Lancelot
During Arthur’s rule, Guinevere and Lancelot, one of Arthur’s favored knights, became lovers. When he discovered the affair, Arthur condemned Guinevere to be burned at the stake, but Lancelot rescued her, and while escaping killed unarmed Gareth and Gaheris.
This started a war between Arthur and Lancelot. Brother of killed Gareth and Gaheris, Gawain forces Arthur to pursue Lancelot to his hideout in the city of Benwick. King Arthur made Sir Mordred chief ruler of all England, and also put Queen Guinevere under his governance; because Sir Mordred was King Arthur's bastard son, he gave him the rule of his land and of his wife; and so the king passed the sea and landed upon Sir Lancelot’s lands, and there he brent and wasted, through the vengeance of Sir Gawain, all that they might overrun.
Lancelot has sent a damosel to Arthur’s camp reminding the King of the forgotten peace. But Gawain convinced him to continue the war. Lancelot gathered his forces and prepared to defend.
King Arthur’s army laid siege on Benwick. They tried to get the city by an assault but Lancelot’s knights resisted well and the assault failed.
Then Gawain came to the city gate on his best horse and with his best lance and challenged Lancelot himself. He said that he has betrayed King Arthur and many more things that harmed Lancelot. He came upon the city wall and spoke well. But Gawain called him a coward and forced to get down for a fight. Then Lancelot had no choice, but to fight. He went down to his enemy in full armor and the battle began. Gawain lost.
It took three weeks for him to recover. After, he came to the city gate again and challenged Lancelot – and the same repeated. After three hours of resistance Lancelot defeated Gawain. It took nearly a month for him to recover. But this was their last battle – Arthur got such news from home that he had to leave Lancelot.
War with Mordred
While Arthur was away, his nephew Modred seeked the throne for himself. As Sir Mordred was ruler of all England, he did make letters as though that they came from beyond the sea, and the letters specified that King Arthur was slain in battle with Sir Lancelot. Wherefore Sir Mordred made a parliament, and called the lords together, and there he made them to choose him king. He was crowned at Canterbury and held a feast for fifteen days.
Then he liked to wed Queen Guinevere. She didn’t agree, but she was wise so she asked Mordred if she may go to London to buy things that are longed unto the wedding. When she came to London she locked herself in the Tower of London with necessary supplies and a garrison of armed men. All Mordred’s affairs to get the Tower failed.
By that time, news came that King Arthur arosed the siege of Benwick and is returning to his homeland to bring justice. Mordred convinced Englishmen to fight for him. He moved to Dover with much people and prepared to battle his father. When Arthur’s fleet arrived there was a great sea battle. His soldiers fought such courageous that they had the opportunity to land and forced sir Mordred to retreat. Lots of people died that day – beside them all there was Gawain. He asked for paper and ink and wrote a letter to Lancelot with apologies for his vengeance and asking him to come and fight for their King Arthur. So he died at the hour of noon.
Then there was a battle at Barham Down and again Arthur was the winner and Mordred’s forces retreated to Canterbury.
One night there came a ghost of Gawain to King Arthur and he told that king shall not fight until Lancelot arrives with the reinforcements. So Arthur asked for a treaty. They agreed with Mordred that they shall meet and discuss the rules of it. Both leaders told their armies to attack if they see a drawn sword, and rode to the field with twelve knights. The treaty was signed and the wine was fetched and they drank. But it happened that an adder came from a bush and stung one of the knights in his foot. And when the knight felt him stung, he looked down and saw the adder, and then he drew his sword to slay the adder, and thought of none other harm. And when the host on both parties saw that sword drawn, then they blew beams, trumpets, and horns, and shouted grimly. The battle began.
And both armies slain each other – and in the end Mordred was alone and Arthur had only sir Lucan and sir Bedivere left on his side. King got his spear and killed Mordred but he was mortally harmed himself.
Arthur asked, sir Bedivere return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. Twice he returned back and tried to lie Arthur that he have done what he was asked. Only the third time he got to the lake he forced himself to throw it into water. A hand rose from water, and caught it, and disappeared. Arthur asked Bedivere to carry him to the lake. When he got there he saw the Lady of the Lake and her servants in a barque. He laid in it and he said to Bedivere that he had gone to Avalon to be healed, and asked him to pray if no one hears of him anymore. So the barque set sail to the sacred island of Avalon…
I explored Arthur from different points of view – from the folklore point and from the both scientific points. Nowadays his legend is one of the world’s most popular legends. There are films about him, cartoons, different interpretations of the legend, lots of books that discuss different things – his debated historicity, or just parts of the story.
Modern historians still don’t actually know was he a real person. There are scientific and unscientific opinions. Scientific opinions are divided in two positions – some historians think that Arthur is just a myth made by bards and storytellers of that time; others think that he is originally one of great leaders of that time, after time becoming a legend with addition of fiction.
The position, which seems to be true to me, is that he is a collectible character – originally he was related to some leaders of 5th-6th century, then united in one character by the ancient writers and through time became a beloved legend. I hope you have chosen for yourself what opinion you trust. Now I have done what I had to, so this is the end of my work.
1. Sir Thomas Malory; “Le mort D’Arthur: Volume 1”; 1998
2. Sir Thomas Malory; “Le mort D’Arthur: Volume 2”; 1998
3. Unknown author;“King Arthur”; www.britannia.com
4. Unknown author; “King Arthur and his knights”; www.kingarthursknights.com
5. Michael Wood; King Arthur, 'Once and Future King'; 2009; www.bbc.co.uk