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In Search of the ‘Original’ King Arthur – Part Eleven

18 Mar

UPDATED 3.6.12

Connections?

Before getting on to my conclusion, I want to see what connections, besides the obvious ones, there are with these Hiberno-British Arthurs and the Arthur of Badon. I will list those already mentioned first. Some will have more ‘strength’ to them than others.

  1. They are either Hiberno-Britons or live in Hibernian (Gael) dominated areas or areas of Hibernian influence or descent.
  2. Three may have been given the name between ca 570 and 600, with one of them of the earlier date.
  3. The mention in Y Gododdin (if dated correctly by Koch) is around the same time.
  4. All but one are in the north.
  5. One of the battles from the Historia Britonnum – Celidon Wood – is identified as being in the northern area between the Walls by some (but not all!).
  6. The Battle of Camlan is identified by some as being on the Wall, at Camboglanna (but not all!).
  7. The battle at the confluence or estuary of the Glein is identified as being in the northern area between the Walls by some (but not all!).
  8. The Annales Cambriae were written in a once Cambro-Irish area.

Which Arthur?

There are, of course, two very distinct things I am looking at here: my conclusion on the evidence and what to make an Arthur of a screenplay.  They are not the same.

There are five questions that can be asked:

  1. Do I think one of these was the ‘original’?
  2. Do I think it is possible one of these was the ‘original’?
  3. Was there no ‘original’ and the later Arthur was an amalgamation of some of these and other historical figures?
  4. Was the ‘original’ mythical?
  5. Are these named after an ‘original’ of Badon fame or is one of these the ‘original’?

The answer to the No. 1 is, there can be no certainty about anything, but from how I read the evidence (and others will see it differently) I think not. However, this may rest on whether John Koch’s datings are right or not.

The second is, yes, it’s always possible one of these was the ‘original’ … and by ‘original’ I mean the one whose name was used to hang everything else off.

The third is, yes, it’s possible there was no actual ‘original’ and Arthur of the H.B. was an amalgamation of some of the other Arthurs, or even a mythical or folkloric figure called Arthur in answer to question five. But more on this later.

The answer to the fourth question depends on the dating of Artúr mac Áedán and whether he was, in fact, the later Artúr mac Conaing. If Arthur map Pedr is a generation (or even two) before this Artúr then that changes things.  He could then be the ‘original’. We then have to rely on the much later Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae to tell us he wasn’t.

In answer to question five; yes it’s possible all the Arthur’s (which could include an Arthur of Badon) where named after an earlier mythical figure. This is explored in greater detail in THIS Blog.

If these Arthurs were named at roughly the same time or just before the name appears in Y Gododdin (if it is dated correctly by Koch), it does strengthen the argument that another historical Arthur came before them.  From this research I certainly cannot see how there could be any certainty that the name in Y Gododdin refers to Artúr mac Áedán.  If this Arthur can be considered then so should Arthur son of Bicoir (if he’s not in fact Arthur of Badon) and Arthur map Petr, but the latter may have the best strength, in my opinion. Subsequent Arthurs to the above mentioned in the north could indeed be named in honour of either one of them or an ‘original’ of Badon fame.

There is a theory that places the battle of Mount Badon, not just to a possible decade but to something far more specific: February, 483! This solution, by D. O. Croinin, is based on the 84 year ‘paschal cycle’. (The ‘lost’ irish 84-year easter table rediscovered, Peritia (6-7), 1987-1988, p. 238). If it’s correct, could these (or one or two of them) Arthurs have been named because they were born on the 100th anniversary of Badon?  Could this also be the case of his mention in Y Gododdin, if Koch’s dating is anywhere near correct?

If they are named after Arthur of Badon the weight of evidence might balance in favour of him being from the north, who came south; but that cannot rule out a southern, including what is now Wales, or even a Dumnonian one who went north.  If he was purely a military commander, again, I’d favour the north … but only just.  If he was also a great king – something I want to leave for another article/blog – then we may need to look at another area entirely: the east for example.  However, this might rule out an Hiberno-British Arthur, but not totally if one Gael parent went east and married.

The  Arthur I haven’t covered yet is Lucius Artorius Castus.

Lucius Artorius Castus (2nd century AD)

Lucius Artorius Castus, is the 2nd. century historical Roman commander that Linda A. Malcor and the late C. Scott Littleton championed as the ‘original’ … and the one the film King Arthur put in completely the wrong century! (Malcor & Littleton, ‘From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Holy Grail,’ 2000).  Is it possible that his deeds, or name, were passed down through the centuries to kick-start the legend? Yes, it’s possible. It’s even possible that if there was an Hiberno-British Arthur of Badon fame he was named after him … or a folkloric character he inspired. If there wasn’t an Arthur of Badon, then it’s possible that Arthur ap Pedr was named for the same reasons. But why didn’t those of purely British areas use the name if this was the case? Out of awe? Out of respect? If so, it seems odd that those of mixed race or a mixed cultural areas would.

Christopher Gwinn, at the King Arthur Group on Facebook has pointed out, and goes into in depth at his web page, that Castus was a Praefectus Legionis (ranking below a tribunus or general) with for the VI Victrix at York by the time he was in Britain, and an aging one at that. (See http://www.christophergwinn.com/celticstudies/lac/lac.html ). This rank went to men aged 50-60 and their duties were in the camp itself, not on campaigns. However, he is later said to have commanded the Britanicimiae, which might be a corruption for *Britanniciniae, (a British originated unit or units) in Vindobona and Pannonia. Could these exploits, or earlier ones when he was a centurio with various legions or as Praepositus of a fleet in Italy have got back to Britain? I think this might be stretching things a little. But, who knows? There has recently been a conference in Croatia about LAC, the results of which are yet to be published, and which might change some of the arguments here.

However, once again I would suggest we try not to think in the ‘all or noting’ or ‘either/or term. There could have been another famous Artōrius we’re simply unaware of.

The Sarmatians are also tied-in with this Artorius along with some of their legends being the bases for the Arthurian ones. It is possible, but a universal similarity in some legends could also explain it. The main argument I would level against this is why we don’t see these Ossetian (the region from which the Sarmatian are said to have come) stories appearing in the earliest Welsh Arthurian tale of Culhwch ac Olwen? The similarities don’t seem to appear until much later.

L. Artorius Castus is thought to be from Dalmatia (the Balkans) but a number of Italian scholars think the name to be Messapic (southeast Italy on the ‘heal’) but of unknown meaning. (Chelotti, Morizio, Silvestrini, Le epigrafi romane di Canosa, Volume 1, 1990, pp. 261, 264).  Another derivation could be from the Latinisation of the Etruscan name Arnthur.(Volume 5, Issue 2 of Abhandlungen der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, 2nd Edition, 1966, p. 72, pp. 333-339).

Artorius is, in fact, a family name (nomen) and LAC would most likely have been known by the praenomen Lucius, not Artorius, to his friends at least, or by his cognomen, Castus. The name is not attested anywhere  in Britain, besides LAC, but must have been at some point to be given to a mythical or historical figure. It’s relatively common elsewhere in the Roman world.

Great name!

As I have shown, those names reused tended to be the names of great men – Caroticus and Constantine to name but two – and these names were obviously passed down through centuries in some cases. It is possible that this is how the name Arthur came to be used, via Vulgate Latin Arturius, and epigraphic evidence shows that it was a name used throughout the Roman empire, although perhaps not in Britain. If this was the reason the Hiberno-British were giving their sons the name, then one of these Artorii before them had greatness, and logic dictates that he was the first one.

So the conclusion to this part of the question is there can be no certainty about anything, but the evidence, to me at least, seems to point to the ‘original’ either being an Hiberno-Briton of greatness, whether that be Arthur map Pedr, or someone called Artúr mac Iobhair/Arthur ap Vthvr. This argument, of course, hinges on the British name Arthur coming via Vulgate Latin Arturius and Goidelic (Irish) Artúr. The doesn’t rule out all of these figures (including an Arthur of Badon) getting their names from some mythical or folkloric figure. (See the blog, called King Arthur – Man, Myth … or Both?,  which covers this question in more detail).

There is one last point to be made. There could have been an Arthur of Badon fame who didn’t actually fight at Badon! By this I mean an Arthur who lived at that time, who was a great military leader. but never fought at that battle but was later associated with it.

In the end, the writer of a novel or a screenplay has to make a choice, and that choice is not going to be liked by a certain portion of Arthurian ‘positivists’ as Gidlow calls them.  (I’d call myself a ‘probablist’!).  The other factor is you’re telling a story, not making a documentary, and that story has to be able to sell.  The majority of your audience won’t care in the slightest if it’s based on certain ‘facts’, they just want a good yarn and so do producers.  It’s very conceivable, in the case of a screenplay, that a studio might buy it from you and that’s the end of your involvement as they hire a more experienced writer to complete it.  It is, at that point, their property, not yours, and they can do what they want with it.

There will also be the question of the last ‘King Arthur’ movie.  Even if one comes to the conclusion that he may have been from the Wall area, is it wise to make him this in light of this other project?  (This film may have been a critical flop, I hated it, but it has grossed £136M around the world to date).  There is now the ‘Camelot’ series (although there’s no second series planned) and a couple of new Arthurian (legend based) movies to contend with, which may make it impossible to sell as a feature film for quite a number of years. (A friend and I had just completed a 1066, Battle of Hastings script when we discovered that three other scripts had beaten us to it! Thanks Helen Hollick! LOL).

Personally, I’ve always wanted to do it as a three-part TV event mini series.  This gives you more chance to explore the story, not have quite the same pressure from a film studio, not have to attach a big name to it and the chance to create a spin-off documentary.  The downside is you don’t have a feature film budget!

Whatever kind of Arthur I go with, although I think he will probably be Hiberno-British one of some description (though that doesn’t mean he was, if he existed), I will make one thing plain in the opening credits:

We will never know the ‘true story’ of Arthur, but through the ages of darkness and from the mists of legends there may shine a glimmer of his life”.

All I have to do now is write it, then try to sell it!

Thanks for reading these blogs and I hope they’ve been at least interesting and at best thought-provoking.

Mak

* THERE IS NOW A POST SCRIPT TO THIS BLOG. CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

** FOR THOSE INTERESTED, THERE’S A RELATED BLOG TO THIS CALLED ‘KING ARTHUR – MAN, MYTH … OR BOTH?‘ TO READ IT, CLICK HERE.

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28 responses to “In Search of the ‘Original’ King Arthur – Part Eleven

  1. Howard Wiseman

    March 27, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Hi Mak,

    I wonder if
    “There can be no ‘true story’ of Arthur, only a story”
    is too ‘negativist’ a message for what you seem to believe. To me that sounds like “Arthur is pure fiction.”
    Don’t you really mean
    “We will never know the ‘true story’ of Arthur. But it may have been like this …”
    (which is less satisfying rhetorically I admit).

     
  2. badonicus

    March 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    That is closer to what I mean Howard. What I am trying say are those who claim to tell the ‘true story’, like the last Arthur movie, and put it in the title, are lying to the audience. No one knows the true story.

    What I had originally was : “There can be no ‘true story’ of Arthur, only theories on who and what he might have been. This is one such theory”. But this isn’t very satisfying either. Perhaps, “We will never know the ‘true story’ of Arthur, but through the ages or darkness and from the mists of legends there may shrine a glimmer of his life”.

    I’ll keep thinking!

     
  3. Marcus

    May 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    BTW, where is the 570 date for Artur mac Aedan’s birth coming from? I understood that the conventional dating was c. 560, although obviously any date has to be pure guesswork.

    Aedan’s own birth appears from Irish annals to have occurred between 531 and 534, although David Nash Ford confidently asserts 527; if we dismiss annal statements about his age, then a range from c. 520 to c. 550 is possible. I’ve slowly been reaching the conclusion that my Arthurian novel, if I get round to writing it, will require Arthur to have been born c. 540 or earlier, which makes any identification with Artur mac Aedan problematic (though not impossible). In many ways Aedan himself is a more attractive candidate, but there is the problem of his name.

     
    • badonicus

      June 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      I’d need to look back at my research as to where the 570 date came from Marcus, but you’re right, 560 is another date proposed. This is also dependent on whether he wasn’t Artúr mac Conaing.

      As you say, Aeden is indeed more an attractive candidate than his son/grandson. He’s far more the Arthurian figure than Arthur with his achievements.

      Good luck with the novel!

       
  4. Makhno

    June 6, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thanks! Got to finish the last of my Hereward trilogy first though…

     
  5. Marcus

    June 6, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Er, sorry, that was me – I use that name on some other sites.

     
    • badonicus

      June 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Don’t worried Marcus, I’d figure that out.

      Hereward? Now there’s a story. Good luck.

       
  6. Mitchell Stokely

    June 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Interesting analysis, but I would think if you wanted to capture the essence of Arthur you would only look at the much “Siege of Badon Arthur”, likely independent of any northern Welsh bardic connection? That battle occured in a period from late 5th century to 516 at the latest, based on Gildas. That Arthur would predate any other named in Welsh poetry and literature by many years, and likely have a relic of Roman-British character to him. If not Ambrosius Aurelianus himself, that Arthur would likely have the same character and position as Ambrocius. (Thats one theory of course). To me, knowing where the Saxons colonized and their battles laid out in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, might limit the range to a more southern warlord, or one popping up in eastern Wales in the region of Aurelius Caninus. I have always been less attracted to the romanticized, chivalric Author of legend and more into the dark desperate spear-wielding post Roman battle weary leader, who stands as the last primitive “gateway” figure between two dark ages in the history of the Britons….the fall of the Romans and the rise of the Saxons. Trapped between two conquerors rose a fatherless warlord who has captured our imagination. (That character reminds me of Mad Max, the movie, btw…)

     
  7. badonicus

    June 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for you comments Mitchell.

    Personally I don’t think you should separate Arthur of Badon from the Arthur of Welsh tradition, even though he probably is a very different person. Not that I’ve made a great connection myself, other than relating it. There may have been an actual connection, there may not have been. We may never know. The only (possible) north Walian connection is the section in the HB, but that information could have come from anywhere and end up in the region.

    There is always the possibility that he wasn’t a great leader against the southern Saxons that he was made out to (or perceived to) be If the HB battle list is from a poem it would only take one mention of the Saxons for us to think they where the only ones he fought. Of course, if we take away the battle list he could be anyone from anywhere. (see both the Arthurian poetry blog and ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Front’ blog).

     
  8. Mark A Golding

    January 7, 2012 at 5:34 am

    To me it seems illogical to assume that Arthur may have been at least partially Irish merely because families which were at least partially Irish in culture named their sons Arthur.

    If Arthur was a great war leader he either used levies of local civilian Britons who may nave been more or less suitable and trained for combat, or he may have used professional soldiers, or both. If he used a large number of professional soldiers they would probably have come from the wilder, rougher, and more untamed parts of sub roman Britain such as Cornwall, Wales, Northern England and the area between the walls and/or from foreign ethnic groups such as the Irish, the Picts, and various German groups.

    Thus Arthur could have employed a large number of Irish warriors and nobles and kings to counterbalance the large numbers of Germanic, or Pictish, or native British, or Hunnish warriors and nobles and kings he may have employed.

    Recently I read of Dane Pestano’s book King Arthur In Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition which claims that because of the similarities in legends about the Irish high king Muicertach Mac Erca and Arthur, Mac Erca may have been the original King Arthur. If he is part right and the similarities are significant but the identification is wrong, then possible the stories about are so similar because they were associates. Perhaps they were both called great conquers because after they fought they negotiated and like Napoleon I and Alexander I at Tilsit agreed upon spheres of influence and then helped each other to conquer their respective spheres much more than Napoleon and Alexander did. Thus each may have had a share in the others conquests and gotten the praise for it from his bards.

    If Arthur was a Briton, a Romano-Briton, a Gallo-Roman, a Hispano-Roman, a Pict, an Irishman, a Teuton, a Nordic, a Hun, or whatever, or any mix of them, his name may have been very familiar with many Irish families, especially those living in Britain, because of their ancestors military service with him..

     
    • badonicus

      January 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Thanks for the comment Mark. At present I’m rather unwell, but as soon as I’m able I’ll get back to you.

      Thanks,

      Mak

       
    • badonicus

      January 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

      Hi Mark, managed to knock this out before another coughing fit started!

      MARK: To me it seems illogical to assume that Arthur may have been at least partially Irish merely because families which were at least partially Irish in culture named their sons Arthur.

      MAK: It would seem illogical to me too if the Britons used the name. I also don’t _assume_ anything. It’s merely an hypothesis to explain why the Gaelic regions might have used the name whilst the Brittonic regions didn’t. What does seem illogical to me is the explanation given as to why the Britons wouldn’t/didn’t use the name.

      MARK: If Arthur was a great war leader he either used levies of local civilian Britons who may have been more or less suitable and trained for combat, or he may have used professional soldiers, or both. If he used a large number of professional soldiers they would probably have come from the wilder, rougher, and more untamed parts of sub roman Britain such as Cornwall, Wales, Northern England and the area between the walls and/or from foreign ethnic groups such as the Irish, the Picts, and various German groups.

      MAK: Very good points Mark, but, as you say, he would also use British (possibly including those outside the old diocese), yet they didn’t take the name. (See this blog for my thoughts on possible military position etc. http://badonicus.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/king-arthur-a-provincial-dux-comes-or-tribunus-part-one/ )

      MARK: Thus Arthur could have employed a large number of Irish warriors and nobles and kings to counterbalance the large numbers of Germanic, or Pictish, or native British, or Hunnish warriors and nobles and kings he may have employed.

      MAK: Indeed he could, and if Artharu is a Pictish version of Arthur then it may indicate that he did employ Picts?

      MARK: Recently I read of Dane Pestano’s book King Arthur In Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition which claims that because of the similarities in legends about the Irish high king Muicertach Mac Erca and Arthur, Mac Erca may have been the original King Arthur. If he is part right and the similarities are significant but the identification is wrong, then possible the stories about are so similar because they were associates. Perhaps they were both called great conquers because after they fought they negotiated and like Napoleon I and Alexander I at Tilsit agreed upon spheres of influence and then helped each other to conquer their respective spheres much more than Napoleon and Alexander did. Thus each may have had a share in the others conquests and gotten the praise for it from his bards.

      MAK: I’ve read Dane’s book and found it of great interest, and yours is an interesting hypothesis.

      MARK: If Arthur was a Briton, a Romano-Briton, a Gallo-Roman, a Hispano-Roman, a Pict, an Irishman, a Teuton, a Nordic, a Hun, or whatever, or any mix of them, his name may have been very familiar with many Irish families, especially those living in Britain, because of their ancestors military service with him.

      MAK: Could be, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why the Britons didn’t use the name, which was the springboard for the blog. In my view, it seems a completely logical explanation (or certainly as logical or possible as others I’ve read) that they used the name because of the reasons I gave. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m right!

      Thanks again,

      Mak

       
    • badonicus

      January 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Sorry that last post didn’t format correctly via email!

      Mak

       
  9. Mark A Golding

    January 8, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Arthur ap Peder of Dyfed may not have been very Irish in Culture after several generations of living in Britain. We don’t know if his family gave up speaking Irish as a birth tongue after just a few generations or after several centuries. Thus his family may have been much more Welsh than Irish when he was named, which would make the problem much less severe.

    “Pure” British aristocrats would speak about four separate dialects with their equals and inferiors. Classical Latin, vulgar Latin, Ancient British, and very-late-British-evolving into-very-early-Welsh for lack of a better term. (And possibly Germanic, Irish, and other dialects while speaking with their mercenary warriors). The two Brythonic dialects would have been similar to Gaelic but not identical.

    So perhaps the current pronunciation of Arthur was changed to something rather negative sounding in British but not Irish during Arthur’s lifetime and for decades or centuries afterwards.

    I believe you wrote Arthur would have been pronounced something like Arth-oorr during the sixth century. So how is the word “growl” written and spoken in modern English? And when we make a growling sound what does it sound like? Like grrrr, I guess, which is different from the way the word growl is spoken or written. So probably nobody could know how the British made a growling noise in the Sixth Century. Perhaps it sounded like “ooorrr” and that make Arthur’s name sound silly like “Bear Growl”.

    Or perhaps there was some word that sounded like “oorr” that had a secondary meaning that was very comical or disgusting for at least a few decades during the Sixth Century.

    So I can imagine a few British queens telling their husbands in mixed British and Latin: “I don’t care how great a warrior Artorius was, I’m not going to let you saddle our son with being called “Arth oorr” for the rest of his life!”

    There is recent (c.1880) theory that Arthur was the maternal uncle who Maglocunnus the Dragon of Britain deposed in his earliest youth. If so maybe there was decree to not to speak the name of Arthur – or else! That would hamper naming people Arthur for a while.

    And if there is some sort of mystery about no absolutely pure Briton naming his son Arthur for centuries, isn’t there also an equal mystery about nobody naming their son Maelqwyn for centuries? Weren’t there at least a few purely British Medrawts during that period? And Pascents, despite later legend claiming that Pascent son of Vortigern assassinated a King of Britain and allied with the Saxons? To say nothing of using a few Saxon names.

    I believe there is an Arthurian book called The Heretic Emperor. If the British church came to believe that Arthur and Maelgwyn were heretics or oppressor of the Church perhaps no priest would baptize a baby Arthur or Maelgwyn for centuries.

     
    • badonicus

      January 9, 2012 at 8:24 am

      Many interesting points there Mark, which I’ll try and address below.

      As you say, we don’t know how culturally Irish (or Cambro-Irish) Demetia (or its elite) were by the time of Arthur ap Pedr, but, as Ken Dark points out, they had strong connections with Ireland for centuries, especially through the church. In the end it may not matter how ‘Irish’ Arthur ap Pedr was in his own time but that there would have been an ever present connections to their past and their origins (real or imagined) and, going with the hypothesis explored in these blogs, it could be a famous past Cambro-Irish/Hiberno-Britannian that might have influenced the naming of one particular son, especially if it was at the time of an anniversary of something momentous that he did. In a world of superstition, this kind of practice wouldn’t be unheard of. I realise this doesn’t address all the reasons why and I realise it’s only a possibility.

      As I mentioned in that blog on the pronunciation of ‘Arthur’, it may have been pronounced slightly differently in various regions. I’m not sure what negative meaning it could have had later on as I’m no expert on Brittonic or Neo-Brittonic, but, if the dating of Y Gododdin by Koch is correct (and it may not be), they didn’t have a problem with using the name Arthur in a poem or naming a prince of Demetia in the late 6th century (if they were more British than Gael as you suggest). Also, since Áedán mac Gabráin is thought to have married a British woman, and they too named their son Artúr (via Arturius), then, going by your suggestion, his wife should have been against using the name as should those of Demetia, if it had negative connotations to them?

      Arthur being seen as a bad guy is something I had wondered about, and said in the blog that not all regions may have seen him as their hero. But, again, if he was infamous, why did these 6th century kings give their sons the name? If he was Hiberno-Britannian AND infamous, then might that answer the question?

      I don’t see an “equal mystery” with the name Maelgwn/Mailcun/Maglocunus not being reused. Gildas’ portrayal of him may show he wasn’t perceived in a favourable light throughout Britain, and he doesn’t appear to have been as well known as Arthur. Medrod/Modrod/Medrawt being reused is actually in keeping with some of the Welsh portrayal of him, which isn’t as the ‘bad guy’. Pascent could be because they were ignorant of the legend of him siding with the Saxons, or that legend was a later addition, or they didn’t care that much. There was a bishop Pascentius, whose successor attended the synod of Orange in AD 441. Pascent son Riocatus is argued to be the same as Vortigern’s son. (Which ‘Saxon’ names are you referring to as being used by the British?)

      But none of these names are used by Gaels. In fact the only two famous (none Goidelic?)names that they used would be Arthur and Constantine (as far as I’m aware of); although the latter wasn’t until much later.

      The theory of Arthur being Maelgwn’s uncle is based on Philips and Keatman’s book that says that Owain Ddantgwyn of Rhos was Arthur. Gildas says Maelgwn (Maglocunus) killed his uncle to gain the throne and Owain was his uncle (if we can trust the genealogies). Firstly, I’m not convince by the Owain = Arthur argument, there’s probably a better one for Owain’s son, Cuneglasus. Secondly, Gildas actually uses the word ‘avunculus’ for uncle, which can mean ‘maternal uncle’.

      The connection is made between Rhos and Powys. Powys didn’t exist in the Late-5th/Early 6th centuries, as far as we know. Rhos was (supposedly) under the suzerainty of Gwynedd (Venedota) … which also may not have existed at the time. It was a disputed area between these two later kingdoms. So all these authors have taken something as certain, which is far from it.

      The Heretic Emperor – The Lost History of King Arthur’, after Philips and Keatman, sites the poem Marwnad Cynddylan, about a famous king of Powys, in which the line “Canawon artir wras dinas degyn” has been translated as saying the “whelps of Arthur, a resolute protection“. But, this is only done when a word in the poem, ‘artir’ is changed to ‘artur’. In not impossible it was a scribal error, (although the Welsh always spelled in ‘Arthur’), but Professor Jenny Rolands suggests this:

      OW: “canawon artir(n)wras dinas degyn
      MW: “canawon arddyrnfras dinas degyn
      ENG: “strong-handed whelps …”

      I can’t comment further on the book ‘The Heretic Emperor’, not having read it fully but only skirted through it online. ( http://www.hereticemperor.co.uk/ ), but the church (or rather the hagiographies) certainly used Arthur as character to get one over on, but they never made him out as an oppressor, and I’d love to know where the evidence comes from to say Maelgwn was actually an oppressor of the church. (I’d need to read this work further, but I haven’t been overly impressed by the Mr Picken’s arguments so far).

      I’m not suggesting the British wouldn’t use the name because Arthur was necessarily perceived negatively by them, but that, similar to what you’re suggesting, the name was seen as a one used by Gaels. As you suggested, it may have sounded wrong to the British … although I’m not sure how. It just may have become, by association with Gaels, simply a name British didn’t use, and later, as the folklore grew, this became the reason why it wouldn’t be used. Or, Arthur really had fallen out of favour by the time of his death and only regained favour through folkloric tales.

      I wonder if the case for the Hiberno-Britannians using the name that I’ve given isn’t a bad one, but the reason why the Britons didn’t use it, especially if he was as much a Briton as a Gael, is the trickier one?

      Thanks again,

      Mak

       
  10. Mark A Golding

    January 12, 2012 at 5:29 am

    The more we discuss it, the more inexplicable the pattern of naming babies Arthur seems to be, unless it is a mere chance that the only Dark age babies named Arthur who survived long enough to be recorded were the Irish or part Irish ones.

    As for Arthur possibly being the uncle deposed by Maglocunnus, Sir John Rhys mentioned it in one of his books long before Phillips and Keatman. The originator of the theory, whose name I forget, also suggested that possibly Malwas or Melegaunt, the abductor of Gwenivere, might have been a thinly disguised Maelgwyn.

     
    • badonicus

      January 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      “[...] unless it is a mere chance that the only Dark age babies named Arthur who survived long enough to be recorded were the Irish or part Irish ones.”

      That is always a possibility, especially if any if sons who kept being called Arthur suffered from an extremely high mortality rate, that would put them off. If it was the case, it went on for almost 700 years.

       
  11. Mark A Golding

    January 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    If a bunch of Britishh royal babies who all had the same name died young, it might be considered unlucky, and maybe nobody would tryusing the a name for a few centuries. PERHAPS ONLY A DOZEN DEATHS WOULD BE ENOUGH IF THEY WERE 100% OF THE BABIES NAMED ARTHUR WITH A FEW DECADES.

     
  12. Mark A Golding

    January 13, 2012 at 3:25 am

    The theory that Arthur was Maglocunnus’s unnamed uncle was mentioned by Sir John Rhys in Studies in the Arthurian Legend, 1891, page 8. Rhys attributed the idea to Professor (Archibald Henry ?) Sayce, The Academy, 1884, Volume XXVI, page 139, so i wrote that the idea appeared in Arthurian studies recently, about 1880.

    Here is a theory. Suppose that the pagan Saxons worshiped Thor, as pagan Norsemen did a few centuries later. Perhaps some British slaves escaped from the Saxons and their lurid tales of human sacrifices to Thor were spread far and wide in Brittannic society. Perhaps enemies of Arthur whispered that his family had been pagan worshipers of Thor (possible if he was at least partially Germanic in ancestry) and his name was really pronounced Ar-Thor. instead of Arth-orr.

    And maybe at that time Saxons referred to Irre Thor “fierce Thor”, or ure Thor “our Thor”, or
    or Thor “old Thor”, or ar Thor “servant or apostle of Thor”, or ar Thor “honor or glory of Thor” or even shouted such phrases as battle cries.

    So maybe British, but not Irish, priests refused to baptize any babies Arthur for fear that they might pronounce it close enough to Ar-Thor to be saying the name of a pagan god — and the chief war god of their arch enemies the Saxons.

     
  13. Mark A Golding

    January 13, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Another theory about the lack of British men named Arthur.

    In the Vortigern Studies website Fabio Barbieri’s History of Britain 410-597 claims that Aurelius Ambrosius, known as Emrys Wledig in Mediaeval Wales, founded a dynasty of High Kings of Britain and/or Northwestern Roman Emperors. Arthur usurped the throne and ruled for decades, and after his death the Ambrosian dynasty returned to overlordship in Britain.

    Barbieri believes the Galfridian genealogy of the high kings was fabricated by Arthur and his supporters during Arthur’s life to give him a claim to the throne. It makes Arthur the son of Uther Pendragon and nephew of the childless Aurelius Ambrosius and grandson of king Constantine who has similarities with usurping Emperor Constantine III who was killed in 411, way too early to be a plausible grandfather for Arthur.

    Unlike Barbieri, I believe that Arthur was widely known to be the son of an Uther and grandson of a Constantine, etc. etc. Thus Arthur’s supporters had to claim that Arthur’s only direct male line ancestor for many generations named Constantine was the Constantine believed to have founded the British kingdom or Empire and who was partially based on usurping Emperor Constantine III, despite the chronological problems. And this in turn practically forced them to make Aurelius Ambrosius or Emrys Wledig a son of Constantine the founder and a brother of Uther Pendragon since Ambrosius had to be descended from Constantine the founding king or emperor.

    Arthur’s mother is supposed to be Eigyr, daughter of Amlawdd or Amblaud Weldig, King of the Britons. I believe that Amlawdd or Amblaud is probably the name Ambrosius, changed much less than the form Emrys. Thus Arthur’s maternal grandfather was probably actually a king or Emperor Aurelius Ambrosius, nephew or son or grandson or cousin of the great Aurelius Ambrosius or possibly even the first Aurelius Ambrosius himself.

    And over the centuries Arthur’s supporters would have good reason to see that the name of his maternal grandfather did not change as much as the name Ambrosius usually did as it was changing into Emrys. Because the Arthurian theory was that Emrys Wledig/Aurelius Ambrosius died without any children, especially any sons.

    And keeping the names Emrys and Amblaud different also kept people from thinking that Arthur’s father Uther married his niece, the daughter of his brother Emrys Wledig. Once people got the idea Arthur’s parents were in an incestual relationship, explaining that was not true would require admitting there were several monarchs named Ambrosius and thus Arthur’s whole claim to the throne was a lie.

    Once the Ambrosians returned to the throne this false Galfridian genealogy would have been banned in Britain and people who had named their sons Arthur during Arthur’s reign might have been forced to rename them something else, and parents might have been forbidden to name any future sons Arthur. Perhaps all priests in Britain were made to swear to never baptize any person Arthur.

    This policy might have been relaxed once the House of Gwynedd came to the royal or imperial throne. But the house of Gwynedd might have been a branch of the Ambrosian Dynasty (making Aurelius Ambrosius a relative or descendant of Cunedda) and might not have relaxed the hypothetical anti-Arthurian laws for centuries.

    So the fame of Arthur might have been mostly kept up in the far north, or among Irish who had fought for Arthur, or in Brittany. Eventually contacts with Brittany would have brought Arthur increased fame in Wales and men would start to be named for him and the Galfridian genealogy would become accepted in Wales.

    King Peder of Dyfed may have ignored the high kings or emperors while the central government was weakened after Arthur”s time, and later when the central government regained more control over the kingdoms King Arthur ap Peder may have made a deal to keep his name at the price of paying more tribute and/or giving more military service.

     
    • badonicus

      January 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

      It’s a theory.

      Just a few points.

      *The etymological change from Ambrosius to Emrys (via Embreis) is well attested.

      *However, Dane Prestano came up with a theory that Embreis Guletic ciould refer to Breiz/Breis, Breton for Brittany. Em, he puts forward, was short for Emyr (King/Emperor), hence ‘King of Brittany’. There were two people with the same name called Emyr Llyddaw (king/emperor of Brittany, this time using Welsh word for Brittany, Llyddaw, or Letavia, Ledewig). (From Arthurnet posts)

      *Welsh tradition calls him ‘Emrys ben-aur’ (‘Ambrosius the golden-haired’), which is almost a direct translation of Ambrosius Aurelianus.

      *Amlaud/Ambluad/Amlawdd has its own etymology as identified by Dr Coates as being *An-bla:dos_ `[intensive prefix] terrible/swift’. ModW _blawdd_, with _Amlawdd_ being a perfectly regular development of that. (From Arthurnet posts)

      *Ambrosius obviously did have children because Gildas tells us so.

       
  14. Mark A Golding

    January 19, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Remember that several etymologies have been suggested for Arthur, for example. Showing that a name A would naturally become a later name C is not the same thing as showing that a different name B could not also become C by a different but equally plausible process.

    Here is another theory about the rarity of Arthur names.

    In Japan it is considered rude to refer to an emperor by his proper name. It is polite to speak of the present emperor. There is a story that during the reign of the Showa Emperor or Hirohito a Japanese man named his son Hirohito and when he found out that Hirohito was the personal name of the emperor he killed his son and then himself, feeling disgraced for insulting the Emperor.

    If the ancient Britons but not Irish had a similar taboo against naming people after monarchs during their reigns, nobody would have been named Arthur during his reign. And maybe some of the high kings or emperors who followed Arthur used Arthur as part of their throne names, which kept other people from naming their sons Arthur for several more reigns.

    Another theory on the rareness of Arthur names:

    Geoffry of Monmouth wrote that the high king Coroticus was a lover of civil wars and during his reign the Britons were overthrown in England by the Saxons.

    Coroticus is a version of the British name Cerdic, which of course is the name of the alleged founder of the West Saxon kingdom.

    Suppose that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle omitted the reign of Cerdic II, the hypothetical senior grandson of Cerdic. Suppose that Cerdic II was the king of the Britons living where the West Saxon kingdom would later be, His brother or first cousin Crealwin son of Cynric son of Cerdic may have been general and king of the Gewisse mercenaries stationed in the upper Thames valley, while Crealwin son of Cynric son of Creoda son of Cerdic may have been the general and king of the Jutish mercenaries stationed on the coast of Hampshire.

    Cerdic II may have plotted with the two Crealwins and others to overthrow the reigning high king in a civil war and make himself high king using the throne name Coroticus. But the two Crealwins and their allies decided that since the did all the work of leading the Germanic mercenaries in the war they should get all the power and glory, so one of the Crealwins was proclaimed high king or emperor and they revolted against Coroticus/Cerdic II.

    And perhaps the Saxons rouse up in revolt against the Britons while claiming to loyally support Crealwin as rightful high king of the Britons, which is how Crealwin became listed as the second Bretwalda, and the civil war turned into a British-Saxon race war in which the Saxons took over all of Southern England during the 570s and 580s.

    Coroticus/Cerdic II would have claimed the throne by right of his relationship to one of the dynasties of Britain, such as the House of Vortigern, or the House of Aurelius Ambrosius, or the House of Arthur. Geoffry Ash claimed that Cerdic was the son of Riothamus/Arthur and a daughter of Vortigern and Rowena, while Arthur, Cerdic and the formation of Wessex claims that Arthur, Caradoc Vreich Vras, and Cerdic of Wessex were all the same person.

    If Coroticus/Cerdic II was the grandson of Arthur, grandson of Arthur’s son, or grandson of Arthur’s brother or other close relative, he would have claimed the throne through relationship to Arthur and used a throne name like Coroticus Artorius if that was not actually his birth name. And if he was blamed as the British person most responsible for the Fall of Britain (the Crealwins being counted as Saxon enemies and not British traitors) any sort of honoring the glory of Arthur might have also been considered traitorous for decades to come, considering what it had led to.

    Please pardon my spelling.

     
    • badonicus

      January 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      A lot of supposition and speculation there … but there always will be.

      As I’ve said before, and looks like I’ll have to say again, it isn’t ‘Irish’ that are using the name (to begin with at least) but where there is some kind of Irish/British mix of varying degrees, with Demetia possibly being more British by this time. This is why I can’t see the taboo explanation working, unless the ‘Irish’ elements of the mix didn’t care about the British elements, which is always possible. If it was used by purely Scotti/Hibernian peoples this explanation would have more grounds.

      One of your possibilities could well be right. Who knows?

      Thanks again,

      Mak

       
  15. liamsagooch

    April 14, 2012 at 12:21 am

    This is a great post. I was hoping you could help me with something, I’m doing some research on the Arthurian legends but can’t seem to find much on his enemies. I read somewhere that Morgana, his half-sister despised Arthur and tried to kill him on several occasions. Is there any truth behind this? And are there any other key enemies in the stories? Thanks.

     
    • badonicus

      April 14, 2012 at 5:06 am

      Glad you liked the posts.

      As for enemies, it really depends on what stories you’re referring to. In the earliest Welsh traditions it’s mainly giants and the Otherworld. The Historia Britonnum says Saxons (and probably other Britons). It’s only in the later Romances, after Geoffrey of Monmouth, that we get Morgana etc. I (and most scholars) doubt if there is any ‘truth’ at all behind these stories. They’re in the same league as the roundtable, sword in the stone and Camelot.

      If he existed his enemies are going to be ‘Saxons’, other Britons and possibly Scotti and Picts.

       
      • liamsagooch

        April 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        The Roundtable? I thought that was one of the more “true” parts of the stories?

         
      • badonicus

        April 14, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        I’m afraid not. Most of Arthurian legend is just that … a story; added to over the centuries (mainly the Middle Ages). In the early 9th and 10th century Welsh tradition there’s no roundtable, no sword in the stone, no Camelot (or Kelliwig), no Morgana … probably nothing you’d recognise. Having said all that, no one knows if the later authors just plucked things from the air or if they were from earlier traditions, but looking at how any information was passed down it would be added to and corrupted. Take a look at this blog:

        https://badonicus.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/a-different-look-at-a-battle-poem-part-one/

         

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