Monday, July 12, 2010

From Out Of The Mist Of History & Legend . . .

In terms of sheer staying power, there can be no doubt that the greatest figure of romance and legend to come out of Britain is Arthur Pendragon - the legendary King Arthur. The stories of King Arthur and his round table have been told, retold and embellished for well over a millennium.

One of the mysteries of history has been whether Arthur was an actual historic figure. A little history is order. Britain was conquered and occupied by Rome in 43 A.D., In 410 A.D., Rome, with its fronteirs under attack elsewhere, withdrew its soldiers from Britain. Britain became an open land divided amongst Dark Age kings and subject to invasion from waves of Saxons. There are few written sources from that period, with the primary source being De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On The Ruin & Conquest Of Britain), written by St. Gildas (500A.D. to 570 A.D.). It has long been speculated that one of the figures mentioned by Gildas was the historical Arthur.

The Arthurian legend was later flushed out in subsequent works on the life of Gildas, and then given its most famous form by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 12th-century work of historical fiction, Historia Regum Britanniae. For centuries, historians have sought to weed through the legend to find evidence of the historical Arthur.

And now, historians believe they have found Camelot and the Round Table. This from The Telegraph:

Researchers exploring the legend of Britain’s most famous Knight believe his stronghold of Camelot was built on the site of a recently discovered Roman amphitheatre in Chester.

Legend has it that his Knights would gather before battle at a round table where they would receive instructions from their King.

But rather than it being a piece of furniture, historians believe it would have been a vast wood and stone structure which would have allowed more than 1,000 of his followers to gather.

Historians believe regional noblemen would have sat in the front row of a circular meeting place, with lower ranked subjects on stone benches grouped around the outside.

They claim rather than Camelot being a purpose built castle, it would have been housed in a structure already built and left over by the Romans.

Camelot historian Chris Gidlow said: “The first accounts of the Round Table show that it was nothing like a dining table but was a venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time.

“We know that one of Arthur’s two main battles was fought at a town referred to as the City of Legions. There were only two places with this title. One was St Albans but the location of the other has remained a mystery.”

The recent discovery of an amphitheatre with an execution stone and wooden memorial to Christian martyrs, has led researchers to conclude that the other location is Chester.

Mr Gidlow said: “In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred to both the City of Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it. That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court and his legendary Round Table.

With this discovery, can finding the Holy Grail be far behind?

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