King Arthur: Real or Mere Fantasy?

In the Hall of Fame of legendary figures, none compare to the great King Arthur.  This renowned character who pulled the sword, Excalibur, from the stone and became king, leading the Britains against the Saxon invaders in the 6th century, has stood the test of time and still remains a popular subject of interest.  Even though King Arthur and his knights are rooted in folklore and romantic tales, there has been much debate by ancient and modern historians alike, as to whether their existence was real.

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Though some poems and stories of Wales recounting King Arthur are documented at an earlier date, the work that put King Arthur on the map was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “The History of the Kings of Britain” in 1136.  Monmouth lived a mere twenty miles from Caerleon, the place where Arthur set up court, in his work.  According to legend, Caerleon was actually Camelot.  So, Camelot may have existed, but what about King Arthur?  A few historical works, “History of the Britons” and “The Welsh Annals”, do indeed record Arthur as a historical figure in the late 5th century to the early 6th century who led the Britains against the invasion of the Anglo Saxons.  Other potential supporting evidence of Arthur’s existence is the 9th century work “HistoriaBritonum” which includes 12 battles the king fought.

King Arthur Costume:

King Arthur Costume

As time went on, more confirmation that Arthur could be real, surfaced.  There was the 10th century Annales Cambriae tying Arthur to the historic Battle of Mount Badon, as well as the Battle of Camlan, where Arthur was killed.  This account is often used to support the accuracy of the “HistoriaBritonum” and goes to support Arthur’s participation at the Battle of Badon.  Also, as the Arthurian legends continued to develop, elements of them appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work, that connected with history.

In addition to writings, sites associated with King Arthur have been excavated as possible proof of his existence.  These spots include South Cadbury Castle, Glastonbury Abbey (believed to be the site of the Isle of Avalon), and Tintagel Castle (Arthur’s birthplace).  Within the locations found, there are some parallel historical events that match the Arthurian legends.  However, while some pieces fit together, no concrete proof can be tracked.

King Arthur Helmet:

King Arthur Helmet

While there is some documentation that King Arthur could have been real, another line of historians argue that he is merely a character of legend and myth and did not exist.  As findings are sparse, it is a debate that will continue to go on forever and there is a good chance we will never know if there was a real King Arthur.  But regardless, his impact has given us many exciting stories of imagination and adventure!

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