32 Facts About King Arthur


King Arthur was a legendary Celtic Briton who, according to medieval histories and romances, was leader of the Celtic Britons in battles against Saxon invaders of Britain in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.

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Details of King Arthur's story are mainly composed of Welsh mythology, English folklore and literary invention, and most historians of the period do not think that he was a historical figure.

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King Arthur is first recorded in source sources which date to 300 years after he is supposed to have lived, the Annales Cambriae and the Historia Brittonum.

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King Arthur's name occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.

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The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth's fanciful and imaginative 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae .

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In some Welsh and Breton tales and poems that date from before this work, King Arthur appears either as a great warrior defending Britain from human and supernatural enemies or as a magical figure of folklore, sometimes associated with the Welsh otherworld Annwn.

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The historian John Morris made the putative reign of King Arthur the organising principle of his history of sub-Roman Britain and Ireland, The Age of King Arthur .

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Morris's Age of King Arthur prompted the archaeologist Nowell Myres to observe that "no figure on the borderline of history and mythology has wasted more of the historian's time".

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King Arthur is not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or named in any surviving manuscript written between 400 and 820.

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King Arthur is absent from Bede's early-8th-century Ecclesiastical History of the English People, another major early source for post-Roman history that mentions Badon.

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Some scholars argue that King Arthur was originally a fictional hero of folklore—or even a half-forgotten Celtic deity—who became credited with real deeds in the distant past.

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The so-called "King Arthur stone", discovered in 1998 among the ruins at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall in securely dated 6th-century contexts, created a brief stir but proved irrelevant.

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Andrew Breeze has recently argued that King Arthur was historical, and claimed to have identified the locations of his battles as well as the place and date of his death, but his conclusions are disputed.

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In Welsh poetry the name is always spelled King Arthur and is exclusively rhymed with words ending in -ur—never words ending in -wr—which confirms that the second element cannot be [g]wr "man".

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Familiar literary persona of Arthur began with Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-historical Historia Regum Britanniae, written in the 1130s.

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The textual sources for King Arthur are usually divided into those written before Geoffrey's Historia and those written afterwards, which could not avoid his influence .

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The second is that the pre-Galfridian King Arthur was a figure of folklore and localised magical wonder-tales, the leader of a band of superhuman heroes who live in the wilds of the landscape.

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The third and final strand is that the early Welsh King Arthur had a close connection with the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn.

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One of the most famous Welsh poetic references to King Arthur comes in the collection of heroic death-songs known as Y Gododdin, attributed to 6th-century poet Aneirin.

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The story as a whole tells of King Arthur helping his kinsman Culhwch win the hand of Olwen, daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief-Giant, by completing a series of apparently impossible tasks, including the hunt for the great semi-divine boar Twrch Trwyth.

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Finally, King Arthur is mentioned numerous times in the Welsh Triads, a collection of short summaries of Welsh tradition and legend which are classified into groups of three linked characters or episodes to assist recall.

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Cadoc delivers them as demanded, but when King Arthur takes possession of the animals, they turn into bundles of ferns.

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Gaul is still held by the Roman Empire when it is conquered, and King Arthur's victory leads to a further confrontation with Rome.

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King Arthur seems to have made use of the list of Arthur's twelve battles against the Saxons found in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum, along with the battle of Camlann from the Annales Cambriae and the idea that Arthur was still alive.

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Whereas King Arthur is very much at the centre of the pre-Galfridian material and Geoffrey's Historia itself, in the romances he is rapidly sidelined.

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So, for example, the 16th-century humanist scholar Polydore Vergil famously rejected the claim that King Arthur was the ruler of a post-Roman empire, found throughout the post-Galfridian medieval "chronicle tradition", to the horror of Welsh and English antiquarians.

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John Dryden's masque King Arthur is still performed, largely thanks to Henry Purcell's music, though seldom unabridged.

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King Arthur himself played a minor role in some of these works, following in the medieval romance tradition.

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Tennyson's Arthurian work reached its peak of popularity with Idylls of the King which reworked the entire narrative of Arthur's life for the Victorian era.

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Indeed, the first modernisation of Malory's great compilation of King Arthur's tales was published in 1862, shortly after Idylls appeared, and there were six further editions and five competitors before the century ended.

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The revived Arthurian romance proved influential in the United States, with such books as Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur reaching wide audiences and providing inspiration for Mark Twain's satire A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court .

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American authors often rework the story of King Arthur to be more consistent with values such as equality and democracy.

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