By Daniel Mersey
King Arthur, the most well known of British kings and one whose identify is synonymous with braveness, chivalry and romanticism. Arthur, King of the Britons, Arthur the medieval legend, Arthur the Celtic warlord, Arthur of the Pre-Raphaelites and Arthur of the movies...would the genuine King Arthur please get up? Daniel Mersey explores the various faces, myths and theories surrounding this well-known king.
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Additional info for Arthur, King of Britons: From Celtic hero to cinema icon
The Saxon revolt may have taken place in a small geographical area, or it may have been widespread, depending on exactly how far Vortigern’s influence spread. It seems as though Vortigern ruled the majority of the former Roman province, although if Britain fragmented into smaller kingdoms earlier than is widely accepted, his story may only tell of the downfall of one kingdom. Having said this, the weight of opinion does suggest that Vortigern was at the head of the whole nation, and as such, the story remembering his life probably contains snippets of the truth behind the Britons’ fall from power in their own country.
It is possible that the Pelagians were influential in Britain’s initial break away from the Empire, perhaps indicating that they were a British nationalist group, although this may be overplaying the movements’ real motive, which really might have been as simple as being a different way of worshipping. We simply no longer know. Most importantly, Germanus’ arrival indicates that there were still links between Britain and the continent, and that continental Roman church officials maintained an active interest in Britain after it became independent.
It may be that more information, perhaps a now forgotten lament, did exist about Camlann, but without it we can say little more – it is not even possible to judge where the battle really took place, if indeed it ever did take place. However, if Arthur did once live and breathe, his death must have occurred at some point, and it may well be that the great warrior’s career was ended in a bloody, hacking finale at a place known as Camlann in 539 or 515. Whether Arthur’s campaigns – fictional or real – were as significant as tradition suggests, and whether they were concentrated in one geographical area or across the country, he was not the only warlord making inroads in the late fifth and early sixth centuries.