Arthur, it seems, is
claimed as the King of nearly every Celtic Kingdom known. The 6th century
certainly saw many men named Arthur born into the Celtic Royal families of
Britain but, despite attempts to identify the great man himself amongst
them, there can be little doubt that most of these people were only named in
his honour. Princes with other names are also sometimes identified with
"Arthwyr" which is thought by some to be a title similar to Vortigern.
Monmouth recorded Arthur as a High-King of Britain. He was the son
of his predecessor, Uther Pendragon
and nephew of King Ambrosius. As a
descendant of High-King Eudaf Hen's
nephew, Conan Meriadoc, Arthur's
grandfather, had crossed the Channel from Brittany and established the
dynasty at the beginning of the 5th century. The Breton King Aldrien
had been asked to rescue Britain from the turmoil in which it found itself
after the Roman administration had departed. He sent his brother, Constantine,
to help. Constantine appears to have been the historical self-proclaimed
British Emperor who took the last Roman troops from Britain in a vain
attempt to assert his claims on the Continent in 407. Chronologically
speaking, it is just possible he was King Arthur's grandfather. Arthur's
Breton Ancestry was recorded by Gallet.
Geoffrey Ashe argues that King Arthur
was an historical King in Brittany known to history as Riothamus, a
title meaning "Greatest-King". His army is recorded as having
crossed the channel to fight the Visigoths in the Loire Valley in 468.
Betrayed by the Prefect of Gaul, he later disappeared from history. Ashe
does not discuss Riothamus'
ancestry. He, in fact, appears quite prominently in the pedigree of the
Kings of Domnonée, dispite attempts to equate him with a Prince of
Cornouaille named Iaun Reith. Riothamus was probably exiled to Britain
during one of the many civil wars that plagued Brittany. He later returned
in triumph to reclaim his inheritance, but was later killed in an attempt to
expel Germanic invaders. The main trouble with this Arthurian identification
is that it pushes King Arthur back fifty years from his traditional period
at the beginning of the sixth century (See Ashe 1985).
Welsh tradition also sees Arthur as
High-King of Britain but tends to follow the genealogies laid down in the
Mostyn MS117 and the Bonedd yr Arwr. These show Arthur as grandson of
Constantine but, this time, he is Constantine
Corneu, the King of Dumnonia. Traditional Arthurian legend records
three Kings of Dumnonia during Arthur's reign: Constantine's son, Erbin;
grandson, Gerren and great
grandson, Cado. Nowhere is there
any indication that these three were closely related to Arthur, nor that he
had any claim on the Dumnonian Kingdom. Nor is their any explanation as to
why a Dumnonian prince would have been raised to the High-Kingship of
Britain. Arthur's connection with this area of Britain is purely due to his
supposedly being conceived at Tintagel,
the residence of his mother's first husband, and buried at Glastonbury,
the most ancient Christian site in the country.
The Clan Campbell trace their tribal
pedigree back to one Arthur ic Uibar: the Arthur son of Uther
of tradition. Norma Lorre Goodrich uses this fact to argue that Arthur was a
"Man of the North". This idea was first proposed by the
Victorian Antiquary, W.F. Skene, and there is some evidence to recommend it,
especially the possible northern location of Nennius' twelve battles.
Goodrich places Arthur's Court at Carlisle.
As the capital of the Northern British Kingdom of Rheged, this seems an
unlikely home for Arthur, who was not of this dynasty. Prof. Goodrich relies
heavily on late medieval literary sources and draws imaginative conclusions.
(See Goodrich 1986 & Skene 1868).
There was a Northern British
King named Arthuis who lived in
the previous generation to the traditional Arthur. He was of the line of Coel
Hen (the Old) and probably ruled over a large Kingdom in the city of
Ebrauc (York). Many of Nennius'
Arthurian Battles are often said to have taken place in the Northern
Britain. These and other northern stories associated with the King
Arthur may, in reality, have been relating the achievements of this near
Another Northern British Arthuis
was the son of Mascuid Gloff,
probably a King of the Elmet region of modern West Yorkshire. Nothing is
known of this Prince who was exactly contemporary with the real
King's traditional period. Though it is unlikely that he held his own
kingdom, his exploits may have contributed to King Arthur's story.
The Scots, though fresh from Ireland,
also used the name Arthur for a Royal Prince. Artur, the son of King Aidan
of Dalriada, was probably born in the 550s. David F. Carroll has recently
argued that this man was the real Arthur, ruling Manau Gododdin from Camelon
(alias Camelot) in Stirlingshire. Details can be found on the
author's web site. (Carroll 1996)
Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman
identify Arthur as Owain Ddantwyn
(White-Tooth), a late 5th century Prince of the House of Cunedda (more
specifically of Gwynedd and properly surnamed Danwyn). Their arguments,
however, are wholly unconvincing, and contain many unresolved discrepancies.
Owain's son, Cuneglasus (known
from Welsh pedigrees as Cynlas) was among the five Celtic Kings condemned in
the writings of Gildas.
Through a misinterpretation of this account, Keatman & Phillips imply
that Cuneglasus was the son of one Arth, ie. Arthur. They further claim that
he, and therefore his father, Owain, before him, must have ruled Powys, as
this is the only Kingdom un-reconciled with Gildas' Kings. However, Cynlas lived
at Din Arth in Rhos. He was not the son of Arth. In
traditional Welsh manner the Kingdom of Gwynedd had been divided between his
father, Owain, who received Eastern Gwynedd (ie. Rhos) and his uncle, Cadwallon
Lawhir (Long-Hand) who took the major Western portion. During this
period, Cyngen Glodrydd (the
Renowned) was ruling Powys. He was probably the Aurelius Caninus mentioned
by Gildas. (See Phillips & Keatman 1992).
A much simpler and thoroughly more
convincing thesis from Mark Devere Davies suggests that Arthur may have been
Cuneglasus himself. I can do no
better than recommend you to the
A King Arthwyr
ruled in Dyfed in the late 6th century. He was the son of King
Pedr ap Cyngar, but little else is known of him. Though he was probably
merely named after the great man, it is possible that some of his
accomplishments may have become attached to the traditional legend.
Baram Blackett & Alan Wilson have
theorized that the legendary King Arthur was an amalgam of two historical
characters: Anwn (supposedly aka Arthun), the British King who conquered
Greece and Arthwys (alias Athrwys) the King of Glywysing and Gwent. Arthun
was a son of the British Emperor Magnus
Maximus, who lived in the late 4th century. He is better known
as Anwn (alias Dynod) and his title
of King of Greece is generally thought to be a misreading of his
Latin name, Antonius Gregorius. He actually ruled much of South Wales. Athrwys
is widely accepted as a seventh century King, probably of Ergyng, in
South-East Wales. Heir to Glywysing and Gwent, he actually seems to have
predeceased his father. His home in the traditional Arthurian region around Caerleon
is part of this man's attraction. Blackett & Wilson argue, not
unconvincingly, that he really lived in the early 6th century and that his
father, King Meurig was called
"Uther Pendragon", a title
meaning Wonderful Commander. (See Blackett & Wilson 1980).
Like Blackett & Wilson, Chris
Barber & David Pykitt identify the King Arthur with King Athrwys
of Glywyssing & Gwent. However, here the similarity stops, for there are
important differences in the identification of people, places and events.
Their major addition is the supposition that after Camlann, Arthur/Athrwys
abdicated and retired to Brittany where he became an important evangeliser.
He was known as St. Armel (or
Arthmael) and his shrine can still be seen at St. Armel-des-Boschaux. Their
ideas have much to commend them and make compelling reading. (See Barber
& Pykitt 1993).
It was suggested by Kemp Malone, many years ago, that King Arthur may have been one Lucius Artorius Castus, an historical 2nd century Dalmatian general stationed in Britain who commanded the Roman auxiliary troops, known as Sarmations, on an expedition to crush an uprising in Armorica. The idea was expanded by C. Scott Littleton, Ann Thomas and Linda A. Malcor based on Sarmatian mythological stories, and a variant on the theme has been taken up by P.J.F. Turner. However, it still remains highly unlikely that Castus and Arthur had any connection with each other. (See Turner 1993).
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