First published on July 12, 2010.
…it really did exist!
If the history of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the OK Corral were to be written 1500 years in the future, what would we know, other than the name of Wyatt Earp, perhaps Doc Holiday, the OK Corral, and the mythical city of Tombstone. That’s it. Everything else would be considered conjecture, legend, and speculation.
Now, rewind back to 2010. The whole Wyatt Earp story would be picked apart (and it is). It would be subjected to political, psychological, cultural, and sociological analyses by a bunch of Ph.D. egg-heads who enjoy vomiting words to make themselves look good. (This does happen with Wyatt Earp, trust me).
Try dealing with King Arthur and dealing with the same trap. First, we must presume that the early texts are lying, the same way revisionists assume that Stuart Lake lied. We must accept the Frank Waters version of Wyatt Earp as a monster, rather than Wyatt Earp the heroic lawman. We are forced to deal with the Tombstone version of this stuff that resembles a barnyard substance.
“…The ‘maybe’ only appears when it is forced to, when the few references to a ‘historical’ Arthur are divorced from their context and made to answer questions regarding the possibility of a historical Arthur. If we ask what the material actually says rather than try and force any preconceived notions upon it then it appears, as Padel has observed, to very clearly tell of a legendary figure of folklore named Art(h)ur who was historicised in much the same way as Hengest or Fionn were — the serious possibility of there ever having been a ‘historical Arthur’ who was the ‘original’ from whom all the later tales spring is simply a construct based on a misuse of the sources. Therefore, rather than the folkloric Arthur evidenced in the Historia Brittonum Chapter 73 being an elaboration of the ‘historical’ Arthur of Chapter 56, this ‘legendary’ Arthur would appear to be ‘the true one, and the “historical” Arthur… the secondary development.’ (Padel, 1994: 30), a logical extension of his folkloric role, with not only the existence of Arthur but also his association with the fifth and sixth centuries being seen as most probably spurious (with regards to this, it should be noted that the post-Roman period was not the only period into which Arthur was historicise d — see below). To put it another way, the context of the few ‘historical’ references is such that the onus of proof would seem to come to lie firmly on the shoulders of those who would have a historical fifth-/sixth-century Arthur as the basis for all the later legends — in the absence of proof of historicity (and in the absence of a priori assumptions and the forcing of preconceived agendas onto the sources) there is simply no reason to think that a ‘historical Arthur’ is a serious possibility….”
In fact, when I wrote my 525 page, 2200 footnote book TRAVESTY: Frank Waters’ Earp Agenda Exposed, I based the entire premise of my book on the fact that Frank Waters was doing to Wyatt Earp what today’s alleged scholars are doing to the legend of Arthur.
Every once in awhile there are breaks in the clouds of time, where we get a glimpse into our past – where legend and reality meet. One of the reasons I am so adamant about studying and writing about Wyatt Earp is because I think the current group of historians and biographers are the 2nd generation of chroniclers of his life. I have this theory that behind legend is a grain of truth, a touch of reality. Every nation and culture has a defining moment. Ours occurred around 2:30PM on October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona.
Britannia’s moment coincided with the figurative fall of the Roman Empire, somewhere around 476 AD.
HIC IACET ARTHURUS REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS
The legend goes something like this. When England needs him most, in its darkest days, the Once and Future King will re-emerge to show his people the way.
“…“To the divine shades, Lucius Artorius Castus, centurion of the Third Legion Gallica, also centurion of the Sixth Legion Ferrata, also centurion of the Second Legion Adiutrix, also centurion of the Fifth Legion Macedonica, also chief centurion of the same legion, in charge of (Praepositus) the Misenum fleet, prefect* of the Sixth Legion Victrix, commander of two** British legions against the Armenians, centenary procurator of Liburnia with the power of the sword. He himself (set this up) for himself and his family in his lifetime….”
It is so very obvious – The City of Legions.
If accurate, the pieces could literally fall into place, just where the ancient historians said they were – right in front of us all along. It was a circular meeting place, where men of valor could gather – an amphitheater – in the City of Legions – Chester.
The Pink Flamingo has obsessively studied the Matter of Britain since I was 12 years old. I have waited my entire life for the final piece of the puzzle. Apparently that final piece of the puzzle was recently discovered in Chester, so very close to the Welsh border – just where Gildas said it would be – The City of Legions – Chester.
“….Mr Gidlow said: “In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred to both the City of Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it. That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court and his legendary Round Table.”…”
There are some historians who have proposed that Arthur was from Scotland. Others say he was from Wales. I am of the group who consider him a Roman general who had the rank of consul, one of the last. He had a troop of mounted soldiers who could ride from one end of the isle to the other, according to legend.
“…”But rather than it being a piece of furniture, historians believe it would have been a vast wood and stone structure which would have allowed more than 1,000 of his followers to gather.
“Historians believe regional noblemen would have sat in the front row of a circular meeting place, with lower ranked subjects on stone benches grouped around the outside.
“They claim rather than Camelot being a purpose built castle, it would have been housed in a structure already built and left over by the Romans. ”
Chester, a town on the northwest coast of England, was founded by the Romans soon after the conquest of Britain and named Deva Victrix. Deva was the home of the XX Valeria Victrix Legion until the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain in about 410 AD…”
I have spent my entire adult life trying to prove Arthur existed. I have hundreds of books on the subject, have traveled through England and Wales and have had one infamous temper tantrum telling off the alleged authority on the subject. The article below is quite flawed, based on outdated information. The author skips a tremendous amount of ancient material, which is typical.
“…The earliest documented proof we have of a real Arthur is the Easter Annals. In an entry dated to around 518 CE the Annals state (in translation), “Battle of Bardon in which Arthur carried the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights and the Britons were victors,” (Alcock, 45). The problem with the Annals is the fact that historians argue about when they were written. Were they written all at once or over time. A majority of people tend to believe that they were written over time, as an ongoing chronicle of the events of the day.
The proof that the Annals themselves are actual historic documents come from other documents that backup the information contained within the Annals. There are other figures in the Annals that have been mentioned in other verified historic documents and can be dated o certain times. This other historic evidence proves the viability of the Annals. The problem with the entry on Arthur is that it is in a different style from the other entries, being that it is longer and more descriptive. But the problems with the entry that mentions Arthur can easily be explained by looking at other similar entries, though few. Some of the entries have been translated from other languages, and some of the differences can be explained by misinterpretations of the language….”
There is source material in Wales that has never been translated into English – a tremendous amount of source material. There is also enough material to prove the existence of Merlin as a Welsh prince and poet. His poetry still exists, but is not translated from Welsh.
So much material exists – but it is ignored. Only those of us who are brave enough to delve into texts once considered fanciful have begun putting the story together. This much we do know:
“…There are several historical recounts that shed light on the reality of King Arthur. One of the earliest written accounts holding significance in proving a real Arthur is Constantius’ Life of Germanus, which was written in 448 CE. In this recount of the life of St Germanus, Constantius tells of a king named Vortigern who ruled over Southern Britain. The significance of this historical recount is that, according to Arthurian legend, Vortigern was said to have been a nobleman who was able to persuade Arthur’s uncle, Constans, to give him control of Britain. Arthur’s father, according to legend, Uther, and Uther’s other brother, Ambrosius, were obviously angered by this and vowed to retrieve their rightful throne from Vortigern. Given that there is evidence of their actually having been a king named Vortigern, as well as Ambrosius, this gives some basis for the claim that Arthur too may have actually lived.
There is further historical mention of Arthur in a compilation of annals written by a monk named Nennius. These annals make mention of Arthur carrying the cross of Jesus Christ at the battle of Badon in 516 CE, and again in 537 CE in a recording of Arthur and Medraut’s, better known as Mordred, death at Camlann. In his annals, Nennius also recorded the other twelve battles of Arthur. The British monk Gildas confirms that after the Battle of Badon Britain went into a state of peace in which no outside forces attacked. He unfortunately makes no direct mention of Arthur; however, this time of peace does correlate with the Arthurian legend involving the Battle of Badon….”
I have a tendency to believe there is something to this next part of the story. My reasoning goes back to a take about St. Patrick and the wastelands of Britain. Something catastrophic happened in the north of England around this time.
“…Arthur was noted as being a Christian king; this fact was also documented through Arthur’s bearing of the cross at the Battle of Badon and through a display of the Virgin Mary on his shield at another battle. Many of the Arthurian legends focus around Arthur and his search for the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus drank from during the Last Supper. This chalice was said to possess the power of granting spiritual enlightenment and everlasting life, which Arthur desired. According to the legends, Arthur sent several of his knights in search of the Holy Grail, including: Sir Perceval, Sir Gawain, Sir Galahad, and Sir Lancelot. Depending on which story is told, Sir Galahad or Sir Perceval may have been successful in finding the grail, though it was never returned to Arthur.”…
When dealing with anything about Arthur, one must wade through the political, the revisionists, the anti-heroes, doubters, hucksters, fantasy writers, and con artists (of which there are many). The history is there. The archaeology is there. The problem lies with the interpretation of the archaeology and the idiots who pander for the BBC and the History Channel.
One must also deal with those who are determine to cast doubt on anything positive that deals with heroic English (and American) figures. Then again, there is one other problem. Arthur was a Christian warrior. He went against the Church a time or two, but was very much a Christian king.
I have a tendency to think our Arthur was Lucius Artorius Castus. The most recent archaeological discovery might confirm this theory. It makes a heck of a lot of sense, esp. when one starts tinkering with the dates. There is also alleged to be either a son or grandson of Lucius Artorius Castus. Another theory suggests that later successors were given the Artorius name. I have tinkered and flirted with this theory for decades. Right now, it is sure looking good, esp. when Gildas is now proved. If Gildas is correct then how far behind will the other ancient sources be?
“…Lucius Artorius Castus
In 1924 Kemp Malone suggested that the character of King Arthur was ultimately based on one Lucius Artorius Castus, a career Roman soldier of the late 2nd century or early 3rd century. This suggestion was revived in 1994 by C. Scott Littleton and Linda A. Malcor and linked to a hypothesis (below) that the Arthurian legends were influenced by the nomadic Alans and Sarmatians settled in Western Europe in Late Antiquity. Littleton had earlier written about this hypothesis in 1978 together with Ann C. Thomas.
All that is known about Artorius’ life comes from two Latin inscriptions discovered in the 19th century in Podstrana on the Dalmatian coast. After a long and distinguished career in the Roman army as a centurion and then primus pilus, Artorius was promoted to praefectus legionis of the VI Victrix, a unit that had been stationed in Britain since c. 122 AD and headquartered at Eboracum (York). The praefectus legionis (otherwise known as the praefectus castrorum) served as third-in-command of the legion and was responsible for the general upkeep of the legionary headquarters; the position was normally held by older career soldiers who were close to retirement and they did not normally command any soldiers during battle (they remained at the headquarters during times of conflict). When Artorius term as praefectus legionis ended, he was assigned the temporary title of dux legionum and was put in charge of (or was responsible for the transfer of from one station to another) some units with British associations of unknown size (perhaps multiple cohortes or alae; the inscription was damaged prior to the 19th century, so it is not certain which he commanded) in an expedition against an unknown enemy on the Continent (as best as can be determined from the damaged inscription, either the Armorici or the Armenians). After this (and no doubt due to his long, loyal service to Rome) he became civilian governor (procurator centenarius) of the province of Liburnia, where he seems to have ended his days – likely at an advanced age – and was buried
In a hypothetical reconstruction of Artorius’ life, based in part on the groundwork laid by Malone and Helmut Nickel (author and curator of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval arms and armor collection), Malcor proposes that Artorius successfully fought against Sarmatians in eastern Europe early in his military career and this experience with their unique fighting styles led to him being assigned in 181 AD (during the reign of Commodus) the command of a numerus of Sarmatians based at Ribchester (Bremetennacum) and that which campaigned at (and north of) Hadrian’s Wall (5,500 Sarmatians had been sent to Britain by the emperor Marcus Aurelius in 175 AD and many might still have been in the country during Artorius’ tour of duty there). Malcor contends that Artorius led these Sarmatians against invading Caledonians, who overran Hadrian’s Wall during the period 183–185. Malcor then has Artorius (in 185 AD, after the collapse of his legion), return to the northern city of Eboracum, before being sent by the governor of Britannia to lead cavalry cohorts against an uprising in Armorica (modern Brittany). Malcor also suggests that Artorius’ standard was a large red dragon pennant (auxiliary forces did not use eagle standards), which is proposed as the origin of the Welsh epithet Pendragon “Dragon Chief/Head” (alternately, “Leader of Warriors”) in Arthurian literature.
According to both Malone and Littleton/Malcor, Artorius’ alleged military exploits in Britain and Armorica could have been remembered for centuries afterward, thus generating the figure of Arthur among the Welsh, Cornish and Bretons. This is linked to the original theory of Littleton, Thomas and Malcor which suggests that the folk narratives and history associated with the Alano-Sarmatians settled in Western Europe formed the core of the Arthurian tradition (see below).
Problems with the identification
Neither of Artorius’ inscriptions from Podstrana mention command of any full legions (as proposed by Malcor, et al.), or establish his command of the VI Victrix (nor any numeri), nor do the inscriptions provide any evidence of command of, or association with, Sarmatians, or indicate anything about his standard.
In the earliest descriptions of Arthur, he is not a king, but is rather a soldier, knight (miles in the medieval Latin of the Historia Brittonum) that acted as a dux bellorum (variant dux belli) or “commander of war(s)”; as also mentioned above, Artorius was assigned the title of dux legionum, literally “leader of the legions”, during a military expedition late in his career. However, unlike dux legionum, neither dux bellorum or dux belli were actual titles or ranks in the Roman Army; rather they were generic Latin phrases used to describe any leader of an army, Roman or otherwise (famous examples being the Biblical figure of Joshua, who was called dux belli of the Israelites in the Latin Vulgate Bible, Hanno the Great, called the dux belli of Carthage in Justin’s Historiarum Philippicarum, and Saint Germanus of Auxerre, who was twice styled as dux belli by Bede).
In the Historia Britonum, compiled shortly after AD 820, there is a list of twelve battles in which Arthur is stated to have been victorious. About three centuries later, Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain, places these twelve battles in the north against barbarians. Based on the slimmest of evidence, seven of these battles have been matched by Malcor to battles Artorius could have fought in Britannia; but Artorius is not recorded as having fought in any known battles. Geoffrey also adds that Arthur fought a civil war, and twice took troops across the sea to Armorica, once to support the Roman emperor and once to deal with his own rebels. Depending on how one reads the phrase “adversus Arm[….]s” on the inscription from his sarcophagus, Artorius led British legions either in Armenia or in Armorica (according to Malcor’s reconstruction of Artorius’ biography, this was to help quell the bacaudic rebellions taking place in Western Europe in the late 2nd century AD).
Medieval sources often place Arthur’s headquarters in Wales at Caerleon upon Usk, the “Fortress of Legions” (borrowed from Latin Castra Legionum). Though it may be purely coincidental, Eboracum, in the Vale of York, was sometimes referred to as Urbe Legionum or the “City of the Legion”, and was the headquarters of the legio VI Victrix.
Critics of the Artorius hypothesis would argue that the obscurity surrounding Artorius makes this identification unlikely, as there seems to be little reason for him to have become a major legendary figure. No Roman historical source actually mentions him, or his alleged exploits in Britain. Nor is there any clear evidence that he ever commanded Sarmatians…”