King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable; just reading it still gives me goosebumps.Back when I was a youngster, around nine or ten years old, the tales and stories centered on this icon of Western Mysticism fascinated me.Sometimes called "The Matter of Britain", the escapades of Arthur and his Knights have been at the center of discussions among historians for many years.Are these simply stories told to delight audiences, or is there a historical basis for this hero we have named Arthur?In the interests of establishing a better understanding of the subject, I will attempt to show how Arthur became the hero of these sagas, persuade you why he is not the hero put forward by the mythmakers, and give an historical presentation of who he could have been.
The myth making of Arthur starts with the early Celtic bards and their songs about him.In these early tales, some of whom have come down to us in written form, Arthur is represented as a warrior king fighting the invaders of Romanized Southern Britain.In these songs, called lays, Arthur is portrayed as a dynamic leader, whose skill in combat is legendary.In a work written many years after his death, the famous Celtic bard Anerien credits a warrior's skill in battle in a backhanded way (this is done to exaggerate the prowess of the individual) by stating,"and he stood at the wall amid the black ravens and slew twenty and seven of the enemy, though he was no Arthur."These stories were then taken up by the bards of Brittany (many of the people of Brittany were the direct descendants of Romano-britons who had fled southern Britain during the times just prior and immediately after the historical time frame for Arthur) and were sung for the noble courts throughout northern and western France during the 12th and 13th centuries.During the reign of Eleanor of Aquitane a court bard, Chritien deTroyes, began to use some of the content of t…