CHAPTER VI
THE HISTORICITY OF ARTHUR

HISTORY, asked to determine how much of veritable fact may underlie the imposing structure of the Arthurian legend, can only give a cold response. Most of that legend, whether it comes to us in the pseudo-historic form of Geoffrey's chronicle, or in the romantic form of the Welsh stories, or in the hagiographic form of the Vitae Sanctorum, can be no more than the play of imagination about the meagre details furnished by Harleian MS 3859. The documents contained in that manuscript, whatever their origins, are of uncertain and divided authorship. The earliest of them cannot be relied upon as taking us beyond the ninth century. And already they contain legendary elements in the shield of Guinnion and the mirabilia of Buelt and Ercing. Stripped of these, they tell us that Arthur fought against the Saxons, that he won the battle of Badon, which Gildas records without mention of him, that he won eleven other battles at named places, that he fell with Medraut at Camlan, that Badon was in 518 and Camlan in 539, and that he had a son Anir, whom legend has forgotten or perhaps confused with his own burial-place Licat Anir into Lacheu. There is nothing of Guinevere, of Kei and Bedwyr, or of Gawain, whom William of

-168-

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Arthur of Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Chapter I - The Early Tradition 1
  • Chapter II - Geoffrey of Monmouth 20
  • Chapter III - The Sources of Geoffrey 53
  • Chapter IV - The Acceptance of Arthur 100
  • Chapter V - Arthur and the Round Table 133
  • Chapter VI - The Historicity of Arthur 168
  • Chapter VII - Arthur and Mythology 205
  • Records 233
  • Bibliographical Note 283
  • Subject Index 295
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