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.
- They are either Hiberno-Britons or live in Hibernian (Gael) dominated areas or areas of Hibernian influence or descent.
- Three may have been given the name between ca 570 and 600, with one of them of the earlier date.
- The mention in Y Gododdin (if dated correctly by Koch) is around the same time.
- All but one are in the north.
- 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!).
- The Battle of Camlan is identified by some as being on the Wall, at Camboglanna (but not all!).
- 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!).
- The Annales Cambriae were written in a once Cambro-Irish area.
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:
- Do I think one of these was the ‘original’?
- Do I think it is possible one of these was the ‘original’?
- Was there no ‘original’ and the later Arthur was an amalgamation of some of these and other historical figures?
- Was the ‘original’ mythical?
- 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.
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.
* 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.