King Arthur’s 2nd to 5th Battles – Bulbarrow Hill Site Visit

This month, February 2017, I visited the area I had identified four years ago as where King Arthur fought his second to fifth battles. In my post “King Arthur of Somerset: early battles above the River Divelish”, I explained that the Historia Brittonum “says Arthur’s four battles on the borders of Lindinis were ‘above the river which is called Dubglas’,” and that “linguists inform us that the name Divelish can have derived from Dubglas. The River Divelish rises on the N Dorset Downs south of Ibberton.”

The location is far more spectacularly credible than I had imagined as the site of Arthur’s early skirmishes to prove his worthiness to rule the Kingdom of Lindinis by defending its southern border.

In what is now deeply rural north Dorset, two miles south of Ibberton, the rim of Bulbarrow Hill gives large vistas to southward over the valleys below. Any general who had command of south Somerset but needed to guard against enemies from his south would want to control and defend Bulbarrow Hill. Correspondingly, Bulbarrow defended would be extremely difficult to conquer from the south with anything less than overwhelming force.

Today there is a sign informing us that this scenic location is on the “Wessex Ridgeway” long-distance footpath. The footpath is a recent creation; but the ridge, one can truthfully say, is as old as the hills, and the sign tells us that it was “used by traders and invaders”.

There is even an Iron Age fort on the ridge, called Rawlsbury Camp (a mile west of the sign), about 500 metres from one of the sources of the River Divelish. King Arthur’s base for his second to fifth battles? The pieces of the jigsaw fit together: credible purpose, credible strategically, credible linguistically[1]. One can’t prove it, of course, but it would certainly make sense.

 

[1] Equally so, incidentally, if the anciently Dubglas-named river be the stream flowing from Higher Ansty (below Rawlsbury) southwards through Dewlish, as others have suggested.

 

 

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Dindraithou = Dundry (Dundry hill in Somerset, near Bristol)

Dundry = Dindraithou

I recently visited Dundry. Dundry is just outside the city of Bristol, on the south side. The Dundry hillfort is an impressive defensive site, with a mighty ditch on its eastern side, deeper even today than a man, and extensive outlying walls beyond the inner perimeter. The flat land immediately to the south of the fort could easily be a paddock grazing ground for a king’s horses when he was in residence.

How little they know of South Cadbury who only South Cadbury know. The South Cadbury hillfort, (‘Cadbury-Camelot’) has been excavated, was evidently a major royal residence of the late fifth and early sixth centuries, and was indeed probably often used as a kaer (defended citadel, royal residence and feasting-hall) by King Arthur.

Dundry by contrast has never, to the best of my knowledge, been excavated. But it has an obvious strategic value: its views. Places on the Dundry plateau fairly near the hillfort[i] command a vista over the entire city of Bristol, across the estuarial valley of the River Avon westwards to the Severn shore, and to the north-east as far as the hills near Bath which I and others argue was ‘the Badonic region’ where Arthur’s most important battle success was won in 490[ii] and, I think, to Dyrham (site of the disastrous battle in 577 when the prosperous Circencester civitas was lost, along with the cities of Gloucester and Bath, their territories becoming the English-allied Kingdom of Hwicce). No enemy could have advanced on Lindinis from the north by land or water without being seen and heard afar by lookout warriors on the Dundry hill. A less impressive, but still militarily useful, overview of lands to the south – especially the south-west – is possible from a different point on the Dundry plateau.

Cador, the Governor of Lindinis in the mid-fifth century,[iii] had need to guard the northern frontier of Lindinis, primarily from the threat of Irish pirate raiders penetrating up the Bristol Channel and along the Avon, as they had devastatingly done in 398, and also from the possibility of Saxon adventurers intruding from the north-east. Dundry makes great sense as a base from which he would have done so.

Dindraithou, which I regard as the ancient name for Dundry, appears twice in the historical record. The more important reference is in the Life of St. Carantoc, [iv] which names it as the royal residence of both Cador and Arthur which the saint visited. The other reference is in the list of 33 cities given in the Historia Brittonum; the significance of that is that Dundry Dindraithou was a contemporary or remembered important British royal kaer at the (unknown, perhaps seventh century) time of compilation of that list. (Cadbury-Camelot, there called Penselwood, is also on the list.)

In my post on Cador (9-3-13), I mentioned several places which were fortified in the fifth century for which name and/or date evidence point to his being the commander responsible. Dundry should be added to that list. So too, its name suggests, should Cadbury Heath. Cadbury Heath is now a decidedly ordinary suburb of Bristol, but its location is above the Avon, just a mile to the north of the river. It is a little surprising to find the Cad- name on the north side of the Avon, since the river itself would have been the natural boundary between Lindinis and the Cirencester civitas. But Cador was a military man with a genius for strategic defensive planning, and it is easy to suppose that he would have wanted to ensure that his men could keep watch over the Avon water-transport route from both sides, and that he had the force to take command of Cadbury Heath – with or without the approval of his opposite number in charge of Cirencester, about whom nothing is known.

 

[i] On the road to East Dundry.

[ii] For the basis for identifying 490 as the battle’s date, see my post here of 22nd Sep 2013.

[iii] See my post here of 9th March 2013.

[iv] See my post here of 4th March 2013.

Map of King Arthur’s Lindinis (Somerset) Kingdom

This map is great – except that, the Google I can use obviously takes the line representing KingArthur’s Lindinis kingdom’s boundary along today’s roads rather than along hilltops where in reality it must have been. Also, accuracy is limited by the number of reference points I can use. In particular, the line from Beaminster (marked M on the map) to Iwerne Minster (marked N) should be along the N Dorset Downs watershed, not dipping southwards to Dorchester.

The Real King Arthur

This blog piece has taken five hours / fifty years to make. Five hours to compose – and, behind that, fifty years of study and love, visits and maps, intellect and intuition. I have been in pursuit of the real King Arthur since I first visited Glastonbury, and then South Cadbury, in the 1960s.

As a schoolboy in Taunton, I believed that he was one of ours – a man of what we knew as The Westcountry, a land that included Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. Now I am confident. The pieces fit together. All the indicative evidence points in one direction. Arthur was King of Lindinis Civitas. This was northern Devon, most of Somerset, northern Dorset, and much of western Wiltshire.

Everything, every story or notice that has a geographical element and is maybe derived from a source in the fifth or sixth centuries, has a certain or probable Lindinis provenance. Modern writers placing Arthur in the north, Scotland, Lincolnshire, or the third century, base their thinking on no more than the odd piece of etymology (such as Camboglanna on Hadrian’s Wall as a claimant for Camlan, or Lincoln – Lindum in Latin – as a claimant for Linnuis), and bypass the inconvenient total absence of Arthur’s name from the Bonedd y gwyr gogledd (“Descent of the men of the north”), a document of genuine antiquity in which the names of the actual kings of the various regions of northern Britannia are given in several genealogical compilations; and any connecting of Arthur to Tintagel, Caerleon, Colchester or London is derivative of the fanciful imaginings of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

The earliest historical source on Arthur pointing in part away from Lindinis is the list of twelve battles in the Historia Britonnum, an eighth- or ninth-century compilation; however, all the battles there listed which are identifiably far from Lindinis are also identifiably ones that were unconnected to King Arthur (Chester; Wallop; Armterid – now called Arthuret, north of Carlisle; etc): they were fought by other warriors at dates spread across the quarter of a millennium after the British overthrew their Roman governors.

It is a lost cause to attempt to convince academic historians that there even was a real King Arthur, let alone that anything specific can be said about him. Such historians allow as evidence only documents that are beyond doubt contemporary to the events they attest, or copied unaltered from ones that were so, and physical archaeology and artefacts. In an era when very few people could write, when the main method of culture transmission was oral storytelling – primarily by bards in poetic song – and when even the most imposing residences and strongholds of the social elite were built in wood, evidence that attains academics’ thresholds is virtually non-existent. It is not only for King Arthur that this type of evidence is lacking: even the reality of (piecemeal) conquest of England by Englishmen (the “Anglo-Saxons”) is questioned for lack of such ultra-hard proof.

But the indications for King Arthur are diverse and consistent. What happened has often come down to us as told in allegory and story, a culturally natural form for the fifth and sixth centuries, rather than as the dry facts beloved of modern scholarship.

The one dry source is the Annales Cambriae, which names him as a Christian and as the victor of the Battle of Badon – at a date that has to be corrected to 490 – and as being killed in 538 at the Battle of Camlan. The other sources, which I have discussed in previous posts here, are oral traditions later written down, saints’ Lives, and an eighth-century battle list that straddles the border between eulogy and record-keeping.

In probable chronological sequence, the life of King Arthur thereby conveyed is this:-

  • As a youth when Cador was Governor of Lindinis Civitas, Prince Arthur met St. Carantoc at the mouth of the Doniford Brook, near Watchet in Somerset. They travelled to see Cador in his kaer (citadel) at Dundry (Somerset). Cador chose Christianity to be the official religion of Lindinis. He granted St. Carantoc a land charter to build a church at the commercially significant town of Carhampton (Somerset).
  • Arthur as the new man in charge of Lindinis had a culturally essential duty to fight and win raids on his borders. He won one such at Glein (possibly Clannaborough, in the Lindinis part of Devon), and four more skirmishes on the hills above the River Divelish (near Ibberton, on the border of the Lindinis part of Dorset).
  • He won a battle on the Bristol Channel coast (Somerset); and then another that may have been near Beaminster (on the border of the Lindinis part of Dorset) or near Mere (near the border of the Lindinis part of Wiltshire).
  • He was given Divine protection from death by a Christian Mystery initiation at Beckery on what was then the Glastonbury peninsula (Somerset).
  • He defeated English aggressors at the stunningly successful Battle of the Badonic Hill near Bath (Somerset) in 490.
  • He ruled Lindinis for half a century and became known as King Arthur (rather than Roman-style Governor). During the long peacetime that followed his Badonic victory, his largest citadel which he used often to host feasts for kings of other British kingdoms, was the Cadbury-Camelot hillfort at South Cadbury (Somerset).
  • He was killed at the Battle of Camlan at Queen Camel (Somerset) in 538.
  • He was buried by monks of Glastonbury Abbey (Somerset), most likely at Nyland, the island in the marshes (now the Somerset Levels) held sacred as the Gate to the Otherworld, rather than by the Old Church at Glastonbury itself.

After his death he was remembered as a great warrior hero by Celtic bards of the later sixth century (Aneurin, Taliesin), and as their own past warrior hero by the bard who eulogised a battle lost in the eighth century at Langport (Somerset). He was remembered in song particularly by minstrels of Brittany (culturally descended from immigrants from the Westcountry).

From them, his fame entered mainstream European literature as the fictionalised hero of “Arthurian legend”. The real King Arthur, successful Brittonic warrior leader, commander of a hillfort in SE Somerset beside the River Cam later known as Camelot, Christian ruler of one of the ten former Roman civitates of Britannia Prima, Lindinis, a name after his time corrupted to Lyonesse…. became transformed into the wizard-guided idealised model English (!) king, born at Tintagel, and governing the whole island of Britain (and then some) with the help of the Knights of the Round Table – voided in the public imagination of all lifetime connection to his true home among the hills, coasts, forests, and extensive brackish marshes of Somerset.

Camlan (Camlann) and Camelot

Camlan

King Arthur was killed at the Battle of Camlan (sometimes spelt Camlann). This bare fact is stated in the Annales Cambriae in its entry for 538CE.  Commentators have for decades searched the length and breadth of Britain for the location of Camlan, striving to decipher at which enclosure or church (lan) on which bend (cam) Arthur fell.

All the while they have missed what is hidden in the open. Re-parse the name from Cam lan to Caml an; recall that, for the Druid faith, “An” is a name of the Supreme Being, the Goddess, the Queen of Heaven; then all that remains is the translation into English: Queen Camel.

 

Queen Camel

Queen Camel is at the foot of Camel Hill; two miles to the west, encouragingly for this connection, is Annis Hill. The River Cam, which flows through Queen Camel, rises a few miles to the north-east on God’s Hill (the only place so named in Britain).

Queen Camel is also just two miles west of Cadbury Castle, the hillfort proved by Alcock’s archaeologists to have been a major timber-built kaer (royal banqueting centre and defensive citadel) during the late fifth and/or the sixth centuries, its principal hall twice the size of any other in Britain known for this period. Its name is indicative of it having been built or rebuilt by Cador (the Governor of Lindinis in the third quarter of the fifth century – see my post here of 9th March 2013). If Arthur was King of Lindinis, Cadbury Castle would certainly have been one of his residences, and quite possibly the most sumptuous one at which he fulfilled his political/diplomatic responsibilities to other kings of Britons as a giver of feasts[1]. Cadbury Castle is only six miles from Ilchester and therefore can be reckoned to have been the place to which the greatest proportion of Lindinis’s ruling class decamped when they vacated the Roman city during Cador’s governorship. If the battle of Camlan was indeed, as legend portrays it, an internal struggle in which somebody (Medraut?) challenged Arthur, by then an old man, for his kingship, the Queen Camel area below Cadbury Castle is a most rational location for such a battle.

 

Camelot – South Cadbury

There is, of course, no solid proof that King Arthur lived at Cadbury Castle. It is, though, most curious that in the earliest “Arthurian” tale to name a castle, by Chrétien de Troyes written in c1170, it is called Camaalot. Close variants of this name have been used in many later Arthurian tales. Perhaps Chrétien drew the name, along with some of the rest of his storylines, from Breton minstrels who sang of the achievements of Arthur and kept a true tradition of the Camel name from this district of south Somerset. And there is no other genuine contender for the location of King Arthur’s primary residence – the only other place so designated in medieval story, Caerleon in Monmouthshire where he is placed in other legends, is wholly spurious.


[1] There is a poem attributed to Taliesin, but known only from a text 1000 years later than Taliesin’s time, in which Arthur the victor of Badon is referred to as “Chief giver of feasts”, a praise totally apposite to a successful sixth-century British ruler.

On the Antiquity of the Church of Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey: Legends and Truths

The story of Glastonbury Abbey is coloured by forged charters, muddled by rival propagandists, amplified by legends (some invented by its own monks and others seized upon by them to add to its air of mystique and sanctity), threaded through by arcane societies, honoured by modern esotericists; its origins but dimly perceivable through the mists of antiquity.

Thus for example there is a charter attributed to St. Patrick, which historians are sure was not his. There is another, dated to 601, purporting a land grant to an otherwise unknown Abbot Worgret from an unnamed king of Dumnonia. The most instructive aspect of this is that the Abbey under Saxon rule acknowledged that it had existed in 601 under British Celtic rule. There is the “finding” in 1190 of the tomb of “King Arthur and Guinevere” on the Abbey grounds, marked by an inscription telling us that this was on “the Isle of Avalon”. Another piece of legendary Arthuriana is the fable in which a King Melwas of Somerset abducted Guinevere and held her until she was released after mediation involving an unnamed Abbot of Glastonbury.[1]

Most widely known of the legends that convey/conceal precious esoteric wisdom but which, unlike the Melwas fable (see footnote), are void of all linkage to historical veracity, is the tale of the coming to Glastonbury of Joseph of Arimathea leading a company of twelve monks in 63CE. Joseph’s party supposedly stopped on arriving in the holy Glastonian precincts at Wearyall Hill because they were “weary, all”, and stabbed his saint’s staff (an emblem of holy renunciation of Hindu origin – in medieval stories, every Christian saint has one) in the ground where it took root (a sure sign that he was a true saint!) and became the Glastonbury Thorn Tree. (Levantine thorn trees really do grow around Glastonbury; no-one knows how they came to be there or why the location is favourable for them: perhaps their seeds arrived on the Byzantine ships that brought olive oil and eastern wines and spices to the prosperous monks on the Tor in the fifth and sixth centuries.) After his rest, Joseph is said to have buried two cruets containing the blood and sweat of Christ in Chalice Well, to have built the first church (yes, the Old Church, the vetusta ecclesia) at Glastonbury, and to have lived and died on the site with his twelve good men of God and true.

John Scott, the historian who shares a name with a Celtic deeply wise ninth-century philosopher[2], has thoroughly proved the non-historicity of this tale, and generally with great skill and scholarship sieved ‘the wheat from the chaff’ in the content of Glastonbury’s manuscripts from the high Middle Ages.

William of Malmesbury: De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie

The primary sources of information on the early centuries of Glastonbury Abbey include various references in saints’ lives, and substantial archaeological examination; the principal primary documentary source, however, is the book whose title I have imitated for this post, “On the Antiquity of the Church of Glastonbury” (De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie), written by the monk William of Malmesbury in c1130.

William strove to serve two masters, truth and the Roman Catholic Church – as ever, an impossible task. He used ambiguous language when recording tales that he did not trust for accuracy, thus retaining sufficient goodwill from the Abbey for them to publish his book (if I may be permitted such anachronistic language), tales which someone less diplomatic might have brazenly described as poppycock.

William recorded oral tradition faithfully transmitted in secret within the Abbey from generation to generation and revealed to him, a source worthy to be highly regarded (as Scott himself substantially indicates) bearing in mind the continuity of the Abbey through and despite the Wessaxen English conquest of central Somerset, the Viking wars, and the Norman conquest – and also the relative unreliability of written sources, vulnerable as they were in the age of handwritten manuscripts and a Roman Church monopoly on learning, both to deliberate forgery and to unintentional copying errors.

Here, in summary, are the stages of the early history of Glastonbury Abbey as told by William (and, mostly, as translated by Scott), shorn of the sections of “his” book that Scott identified as later additions and not his work:-

(Chapter 2) Lucius, King of the Britons, asked Pope Eleutherius to send Christian preachers, which he did. They restored the old church of St. Mary at Glastonbury.

There are letters worthy of belief to be found at St. Edmund’s that the church at Glastonbury was built by the very disciples of Christ, sent by St. Philip the apostle. This is not inconsistent with the truth because if Philip preached to the Gauls, (Freculph, Book 2, Ch 4) it can be believed that he also cast the seeds of the Word across the ocean.

(Ch 19) birth of St. Patrick in 361AD…

(Ch 8) St. Patrick returned to Britain in his old age, rejecting his former dignity and popular acclaim. He landed in Cornwall [Cornubia] on his altar. Then coming to Glastonbury, he was made monk and abbot; and after several years he died of natural causes.

(Ch 11) [I paraphrase] As confirmed by a monk in a dream, he [Patrick] was a bishop, and later he became a monk and abbot.

(Ch 10) Patrick died aged 111 in 472AD, the 47th year after he’d been sent into Ireland. He reposes on the right side of the altar in the old church in a stone pyramid, later carefully covered in silver.

(Ch 13) In 460AD, St Benignus came to Glastonbury. He was a disciple of St. Patrick and the third to succeed him in his Irish see. Admonished by an angel, he forsook his homeland and undertook a voluntary pilgrimage which led him, under God’s guidance, to Glastonbury where he found St. Patrick. [There are] marks of his presence still at Meare.

(Ch 12) They say that after St Brigid, who had come there in 488AD, had tarried for some time on the island called Beckery [Beokery] she returned home but left behind a bag, a necklace, a small bell, and weaving implements, which are still preserved there in memory of her.

(Ch 7) As we have heard from our forefathers, Gildas the historian passed many years there [Glastonbury], captivated by the holiness of the spot.

(Ch 6) The Old Church [vetusta ecclesia = Ealdechirche] was at first made of brushwood [virgea].

(Ch 19) The traditions of our fathers maintain that…. Paulinus, Bishop of Rochester and earlier Archbishop of York, had strengthened the structure of the church, previously made of wattle as we said [virgee], with a layer of wooden boards [ligneo tabulatu], and had covered it from the top down with lead. It was managed with such skill by this ingenious man that the church lost none of its sanctity, and its beauty was much increased.

(Ch 14) In 504AD, St Columba [Kolumkilla] came to Glastonbury.

(Ch 15) The great David of Menevia, the famous archbishop….. approved of the antiquity and sanctitude of the divine church, and he came to this place intending to dedicate it with seven bishops of whom he was the prime. He slept the night before the planned festivities. Lord Jesus came to him and said it had already been dedicated in honour of his mother, and a human iteration of this sacrament was not seemly. But so that something would be seen, he quickly took action to get another church built, and dedicated that construction.

(Ch 18) The church at Glastonbury is therefore the oldest that I know of in England.

Most of these statements by William of Malmesbury require some commentary.

Scott convinces that the story of King Lucius and Pope Eleutherius “arose from a misreading of the Liber Pontificalis” and is therefore false. As for the putative side-visit from St. Philip’s mission to Gaul, William’s own language makes clear that this is speculation, and there is no evidence for it. St. Gildas states in his book De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae that Christianity first reached Britain towards the end of Emperor Tiberius’s reign, i.e. in 46 or 47CE; one tradition has it that it was brought by St. Aristobulus, brother of the apostle Barnabas and one of “the seventy” missionaries whose first training mission work is mentioned in the Gospel. In any case, there is no Glastonbury connection to any of these attested, possible, and putative, missions to Britain by very early Christians.

St. Patrick, Abbot of Glastonbury

St. Patrick was not born in 361AD. Much more possible is that he was born in 388AD, which was 361 ad passionem. Prior to the church’s publication of a definitive AD calendar in 529CE, Christians calculated dates sometimes from the Passion (deemed to be 28CE) and sometimes from the Incarnation (1CE); a muddling between the two was possible.

The only substantial clue to St. Patrick’s date of birth is that he was captured in a raid and taken to Ireland as a slave when he was 16. There was a particularly destructive raid on Lindinis in 398 during which several villas in the Avon and Cam valleys of northern Somerset were destroyed by fire, which makes 382CE the hot favourite for St. Patrick’s birth year. But this was not the only Irish raid on Lindinis; a nearby year for his capture, such as 404, which would be correct if he was born in 388, is also possible.

William’s Chapter 8 (and 11) statement about St. Patrick returning to Britain in his old age and becoming a monk and abbot at Glastonbury must have been based on a strong Abbey tradition. It should be noted that there is, however, nothing in William’s words which says that the abbey was then on its present site. Nor does William say that Patrick was Glastonbury’s first abbot.[3]

In the major work of St. Patrick that exists in manuscript in his own handwriting, his Confessio, a document which William had read, St. Patrick states a longing to return to Britain, but a willingness to do so only if God consents. It would be natural to put St. Patrick’s and William’s words together and infer that God did indeed grant St. Patrick his wish, and that he spent his last few years as Abbot of Glastonbury. Most of the Irish annals, as restored by D.P. McCarthy (https://www.scss.tcd.ie/misc/kronos/chronology/synchronisms/Edition_4/K_trad/Synch_tables/s0425-0487.htm ), record Patrick’s death as in 458CE (not 472 as stated by William[4]), as also does the Annales Cambriae.

That William is not taken at face value on this is a mystery, for the only obstacle (other than the ultra-scepticism of some historians about the veracity of anything not proven to have been contemporaneously written down, or else archaeologically dug up and radio-carbon dated) is the perception created by Armagh sources that St. Patrick died there and was buried at nearby Downpatrick, when it is well attested that Armagh developed an effective propaganda machine in the seventh century to assert its claim to primacy as the archiepiscopal see of all Ireland, and that avowing St. Patrick’s loyalty to Ireland until his death was an aspect of that propaganda. Also, other sources say there was a second Christian leader called Patricius (which, after all, was a title fairly widely used in the fifth century, not a given-name) and that “the Patrick who died in Ireland was born there”.

St. Bride and other Celtic Saints

The Annales Cambriae record St. Benignus as having died in 469.

As noted in my post here of 4th July 2013, tradition says that in the late fifth century a Christian hermit lived at the place now called Bride’s Mound, and it is credible to suppose that when St. Bride visited Glastonbury in 488 she stayed at his house. Archaeology has found a grave of a man “of exceptional importance” at the Beckery location where evidence of a chapel and a male monastic community and cemetery were also found. He could have lived in the sixth century….. but could also have been centuries later. Rahtz, the archaeologist, suggests that “the community may have begun as the abode of a hermit, whose reputation attracted others to join him”.[5]

There is a charter saying land at Beckery was given to Abbot Berthwald in 670. The extant charter was probably written much later than 670, but its purported land grant and date may well nevertheless be genuine. Rahtz reckons the monastic community existed from the “eighth or ninth century”, which makes sense if the Abbey began to build the chapel there (the monks’ central focus) fairly soon after 670.

St. Gildas is believed to have lived at Street, just across the Pomparles Bridge over the River Brue from Beckery; most probably at what is now Holy Trinity church, where the shape of the grounds has been identified as typical for a sixth-century Celtic lan (church enclosure).

St. Pol de Léon

In Chapter 19, William made the mistake of assuming that the “Bishop Paulinus” who was the first to upgrade the Old Church was the Papal emissary Paulinus who was the first Archbishop of York. In fact, this was the Celtic British Christian leader St. Paulinus Aurelianus, better known as St. Pol de Léon, one of the “seven founding saints of Brittany”.

The Life of St. Pol written by Wrmonoc in 884 (therefore pre-dating the start of the main, more propagandistic, era of Saints’ Lives by two centuries) is consistent with the Lives of St Samson and St. Illtyd in the key facts for dating him. He was a pupil of St. Illtyd[6]; a contemporary of St. Gildas [lived 490-568/9], St. Samson, St. Brendan [d. 572/574], and St. David [c508-587]; met King Childebert of Paris [reigned 511-558]; and took part in the Synod of Llandewi Brefi (dated by the B script of the Annales Cambriae to 567). According to a website on the Seven Founding Saints, http://www.le-petit-manchot.fr/les-saints-fondateurs-de-bretagne/les-chroniques/, his birth was either in 480 or 492 and his working life in Brittany was from 517 to 553.[7] His death is commemorated as having been on 12th March, in c575 (which is credible with a birth year of 492).[8]

His father was Porphyrius, which means “clad in purple”. Curiously, this is exactly the exceptionally noble status with which Gildas dignifies the father of Ambrosius Aurelianus, the general whom he praises for leading partially-effective British military resistance to English raiders after the Great Raid of 473. This suggests the possibility that St. Pol was the younger brother of Ambrosius in the Aurelian family; or, perhaps more likely, that Ambrosius himself inherited the title “clad in purple” and St. Pol was Ambrosius’s son.

St. Pol’s life’s contextual chronology sets a terminus ante quem of c567 for his strengthening of the Old Church. Any date between the 510s and the 560s, St. Pol’s working lifetime, is possible.

In turn, it follows that the Old Church, the original wattle-and-daub church, must have been built in or before the first half of the sixth century.

St. Columba and St. David (Dewi Sant)

St. Columba could not have visited Glastonbury in 504: he was born in 521. The year is much more credible for a second visit to Glastonbury by St. Bride. A visit by her at that date would make possible the story that St. Gildas made and gave her a bell, for by then he was 14, in those days a credible age for a youth to be working as a craftsman.[9] If the source of the early Annales Cambriae entries has a Glastonbury origin, it would also explain the mistaken date of 455 there for St. Bride’s birth, which was actually in 439. Tradition says St. Bride was in her 50th year of age when she visited Glastonbury, a statement which was true of her visit in 488, but which could have been mistakenly figured as true of her visit in 504 by the writer of the source used by the compilers of the Annales Cambriae.

William’s confusion of St. Columba’s visit date may be due to a copying error from 553 (in Roman numerals DLIII) to 504 (DIIII).

William’s brief note is the only record of St. Columba having ever been anywhere outside Ireland, other than in connection with his work in Dalriada in what is now Scotland. That this prince of Ulster (a great-great grandson of the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages) visited Glastonbury and nowhere else in what are now England and Wales implied that there was some unique attraction for him at Glastonbury. The obvious explanation is that he believed that St. Patrick died there and his relics were enshrined in the Abbey.

Archaeology has verified the existence and the dimensions of the extension to the Old Church attributed to St. David. St. David lived late enough into the sixth century for it to be completely credible that he built it in the 570s or 580s, later by at least one and perhaps several decades than St. Pol’s strengthening of the Old Church with boards and lead. The Irish annals as calibrated by McCarthy all record St. David’s death as in 587.[10]

Culturally, the story as reported by William has the feel of William’s time rather than David’s: it is hard to credit that any church would have been dedicated with pomp and ceremony in the presence of seven bishops in the sixth century, let alone an Abbey church in that age when Celtic abbots could be in authority at monasteries as superiors over bishops.

In recording St. David’s contribution to the history of the Abbey, William knew he was handling a politically hot potato. David had been made a saint by the pope just ten years before William compiled his book De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie. Rhygyfarch’s Life of St. David had been in circulation for about forty years. Rhygyfarch had there said that David had founded the monastery of Glastonbury. Without mentioning Rhygyfarch, William actively refutes this, firstly by naming St. Patrick as an abbot from well before St. David’s time, and secondly with the story of St. David’s visit to the Abbey that he wrote in Chapter 15. This story skilfully combines the purposes of shining a holy light on St. David sufficiently bright to deter his See of St. David’s in Pembrokeshire from challenging it, adding a visit from Christ himself to the aura of mystique and religious prestige with which Glastonbury Abbey was investing itself, as well as embroidering St. David’s halo with it, and conveying the plain truth that what St. David had actually done for Glastonbury was build the first eastward extension (of several, some already built by William’s time) to the Old Church.

And Did Those Feet?

The story continues to resonate, for it evoked Blake’s famous poem Jerusalem, set to music by Parry, “And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green / And was the holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen?”[11]

The answer to Blake’s questions is “yes – symbolically, not literally”. The symbolism will be better understood by Glastonbury-loving mystics than by me. South of Street, just 4 miles from the Abbey, is a hill called Dundon, which means “Don’s Fort”. Don is a name of the Queen of Heaven, the Supreme Mother Goddess in the Celts’ Druidic faith. In the Glastonbury Zodiac, Dundon Hill embraces the child part of Gemini’s Mother-and-child / Mary-and-Christ symbol. So the Celtic Mother Goddess becomes the Catholic Mother of God on Dundon Hill.

The connection with St David is that the Zodiac balances (in Libra, naturally) around his name, Libra being represented by a Dove (c.f. Christ’s baptism by John, possibly across the Jordan from Jericho) at Barton St. David, whose church is on a straight (ley?) line from the River Tone at Athelney  – the tone, aum, being the Holy Sound or iera echo (> Jericho) – via Littleton where the other twin of Gemini is, a place at Bruton called Dovecote, and Monkton Deverill (Dove-rill??), to Stonehenge.

“And did the countenance divine / Shine forth upon our clouded hills?” Blake asks next. The name Glastonbury has the English words ‘ton’ (settlement), and later ‘burgh’ (citadel), added to an original British ‘Glas’, a word that denotes purity, Light, transparency, blue as in the blue of infinite sky – surely, characteristics of the shining ‘countenance divine’. Esoterically, Glas(tonbury) can be seen as Britain’s equivalent of India’s Kashi (the City of Light), also known as Varanasi because it is bounded by two rivers, the Varuna (c.f. the Brue at Glastonbury) and Asi (c.f. the Axe at Glastonbury).

Blake’s last question is “And was Jerusalem builded here?” to which the Templars, of whom William of Malmesbury may well have been one, presumably the creators of the Glastonbury Zodiac, who derived their sacred geometry and architectural inspiration from Solomon’s Temple, the spiritual pinnacle of Jerusalem, would surely say “yes – we did our Level best”.

Rahtz

Turning now from William of Malmesbury to archaeology, the good news is that a lot of excavation has been done both among the Abbey ruins and around the top of the Tor.

The bad news is that the building of a new church to replace the Old Church after it was utterly destroyed by fire in 1184 was sufficiently exact in location to wholly preclude the possibility of archaeology contributing anything to the question of when the Old Church was built. Excavation of the original boundary ditch of the Abbey, its vallum monasterii, also discovered no dateable evidence, neither in nor under the bank.

The archaeologist Rahtz therefore said “there is no evidence that it [the Abbey] was earlier than the seventh century”.[12] However, Rahtz did identify a well only 4 metres from the Old Church of which “the overall appearance was very similar to that of Roman wells excavated in the area”.[13]

Rather than on the present Abbey site, archaeologists found the earliest high-status settlement in Glastonbury on the Tor. They unearthed remains of meat joints that people had eaten, of graves, and of Byzantine amphorae (storage jars for wine, olive oil, spices, etc) that could “be matched from dated fifth- or sixth-century levels” in the Mediterranean, similar to ones found within Lindinis at South Cadbury, Cadbury-Congresbury and Cannington, and at Tintagel and other sites in Dumnonia. Rahtz allows therefore that the Tor may have been “in the later fifth or early sixth century, a monastic site”.[14]

Conclusion

In conclusion, the pattern by which events evolved that seems most probable, considering all the evidence, is that at some time in the middle quarters of the fifth century, two or a few monks set up a hermitage on the top of the Tor, which continued as a monastic settlement into at least the seventh century[15]. In the seventh century, the principal residential site became the more-practically located present Abbey. Their church, though, was from the beginning the Old Church, built close to the Roman well on the Abbey site. This church was the place of worship on high holy days also for other local monks who, in contrast to those on the Tor, lived in isolation as hermits, for example at Beckery, Meare, and Street.

So, what is the antiquity of the Old Church of Glastonbury? Clearly, no totally definitive answer can be given beyond the wide window of “almost certainly after 392,[16] certainly considerably before 587, and very likely at least several decades before 575”[17]. But a much tighter answer can be advanced on the balance of probabilities. On the one hand, the most credible supposition is that the inspiration to some British Christians to found a monastic community at all came from St. Germanus, either during his visit to Britain in 429 or during a second visit about a decade later. St. Germanus had himself been inspired by the monastic ways of the Desert Fathers of Egypt and St. Martin of Tours.[18]

This timing would also make sense of the condition of the ruling classes being so impoverished that they could accomplish only a wattle church. In the first few decades after independence in 409, the British economy went into a deep depression barely comprehensible to the modern mind – except possibly to someone who knew Maputo, Mozambique, during Portuguese rule and also during and just after the civil war. [19]  Following the overthrow of Roman imperial governors and the withdrawal of the Roman army, there was no work for mosaicists and stonemasons. The official postal service, the cursus publicus, stopped running, so the roadside shops went out of business.[20] Elegant town-houses, expensive villas, and baths with hypocausts were no longer assets. The socio-political culture and military needs of the indigenous ruling class called for timber feasting-halls and hill-fort defences; during Cador’s time as Governor of Lindinis, building them would have had priority call on the precious resources for construction of durable wooden structures.

On the other hand, if St. Patrick had become abbot of a monastery without a church, it would be most surprising if he had not built one. It is not as if the archaeologists unearthed evidence of a pre-eighth-century church on the Tor! And if it was he who built the Old Church, it would be at least as surprising that his abbacy was remembered but not his construction. On these grounds, the likeliest probability is that the Old Church, the Ealdechirche, the vetusta ecclesia, was built after St. Germanus’s visit(s) to Britian and before St. Patrick’s return from Ireland: i.e. during, or very close to, the 440s CE.


[1] The origin of the fable may be the genuine historical story (mentoned by James Carley, Glastonbury Abbey: 1996, p6) that in c708 a (presumably royal, or at least noble) Kentish woman was a hostage held by Abbot Beorhtwald at Glastonbury Abbey, and the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Bishop Forthere of Sherborne (the diocese that in 708 included Glastonbury) asking him to intervene to procure her release.

[2] John Scottus Eriugena (meaning ‘Irish-born’), c815-c880, who taught the primacy of reason over religious dogma, that humans have free will, and that all creatures and things came from God and ultimately return to God – a combination of understandings even now more likely to find favour with Unitarians and Hindus than with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church.

[3] Interpolated text presents Patrick as having gathered hermits and taught them the cenobitic life; no such idea appears in the words Scott identifies as genuinely William’s.

[4] It is conceivable that 72 (LXXII) was a copying error for 58 (LVIII).

These annals also concur that Patrick arrived in Ireland in 432, not 425. The annals which McCarthy designates “Mageoghagan’s Book” includes the phrase “425AD” in its recording of Patrick’s arrival, but, on McCarthy’s calculations, this entry actually also belongs to 432CE.

[5] Rahtz and Watts, Glastonbury: 2009, pp149-153.

[6] St. Illtyd founded a training institution at the place west of Cardiff now named after him, Llan Illtyd Fawr, in the mid-fifth century. Modelled on Druid and bard training, it was a Christian school for princely children, some of whom as adults became known to history as Christian leaders.

[7] St. David was younger than St. Gildas. Lives say that St. Gildas preached to St. Non, St. David’s mother, when she was pregnant with him. Of the two birth dates given for St. Pol, 480 and 492, the latter seems more probable for a man who lived to attend Llandewi Brefi.

[8] http://home.scarlet.be/amdg/oldies/sankt/mar12.html gives other details from St. Pol’s life, including giving his name to the village Paul, a mile and a half south of Penzance in Cornwall, where his sister had founded a convent.

[9] Based on a birth year for St. Gildas of 489/490, derived from a sensible, but controversial, interpretation of the period of “43 years and one month” connected to his birth which Gildas wrote of in his book De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae.

[10] His reported life events imply a date of birth probably around 508.

[11] It is a neat link that this “Jerusalem” is sung at sporting events as England’s unofficial national anthem and that, in the Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012, pre-industrial England was expressed by a visual representation of Glastonbury Tor.

[12] Rahtz and Watts, Glastonbury: 2009, p91.

[13] ibid, pp108-9

[14] ibid, pp71-73 and 78

[15] and maybe into the 16th century. Continuity between the seventh and tenth centuries was not confirmed: ibid, p78ff.

[16] The Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed that Christianity would be the only permitted religion in the Empire. 392 is the year in which he gained sovereignty over the Western Empire. To find a blatantly purpose-built church such as the Old Church before this date would be most unlikely.

[17] In addition to inferring this from the floruit of St. Pol, it is evident from the stories of other abbeys that conscious remembrance of, and sanctification of, the founder was the cultural norm for abbeys founded in and after the mid-sixth century, such as those of Mynyw (St. David), Bangor Fawr (St. Deiniol), Bangor-on-Dee (St. Dunawt), and Hentland (St. Dyfrig). If the founding of Glastonbury had been that late, there would likely, as with these examples, be uncertainty as to the exact date, but not the unknowing that there is with Glastonbury about the name of the founder.

[18] St. Germanus reputedly inspired St. Illtyd to found his school at Llan Illtyd Fawr.

[19] White, Britannia Prima: 2007, plate 51 (p134), gives a graphic visual example of the effects of this economic decline at Whitley Grange, even in a part of western Britain where destruction and theft by English raiders did not add to the economic disaster.

[20] St. Patrick in his Confessio says he was born in a small town of this kind, a place with shops and somewhere to stay the night, Bannaventa berniae. It has not been identified. The size and function of such a place suggests to me that it would have been at a significant road junction. The status of St. Patrick’s father Calpornius suggests that it would not have been very far from a civitas capital such as Lindinis’s at Ilchester. My speculative fancy is that Bannaventa berniae lost the second part of its name and became shortened to Benter. Benter is a quarter of a mile from the Fosse Way, just over 3 miles from its junction with the road from the Roman mining town Charterhouse to Winchester. Nettlebridge on the Fosse and nearby Benter have a reliable water supply, whereas the junction itself is on top of a hill.

Myths and Legends which Obscure the View

In order to see clearly the real King Arthur, the historical man behind the myth and magic, it is necessary to shine the questing lamp through a haze of tales that have left a variety of images of King Arthur in the collective imagination of British (and indeed Euro-American) culture, the centuries of creative storytelling without which the question “who was Arthur?” would be of interest only to the narrow circle of Dark Ages experts and enthusiasts such as those who study Vortigern or Taliesin.

Some non-factual tales about Arthur are easy to identify as such because their original creative source can be observed.

The “Bardic Chair” in this hall of fame and fable belongs indisputably to Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey’s bestseller “The History of the Kings of the Britons”, published in c1130, transformed King Arthur from the slightly familiar hero of stories told in song by wandering Breton minstrels into the prime heroic archetype of west European Christendom. Geoffrey, however, was no more interested in clinging to historical accuracy than the average Hollywood director, and any resemblance of characters in his book to persons living or dead is only coincidental. Geoffrey’s King Arthur is no more ‘real’ than the titular heroes of Shakespeare’s plays drawn from ancient Britain, Cymbeline and King Lear.

Geoffrey took some of the names on his cast-list from history. Places such as Caerleon and Tintagel, London and Colchester, had associations that resonated for Geoffrey to provide settings for the deeds of his characters. St. Dubricius and Merlin, historical persons from the century after Arthur, each recorded with one line in the Annales Cambriae, were abracadabra’d by the Norman master storyteller into, respectively, an archbishop and a wizard. There is not a speck of genuine linkage between the real King Arthur and any of these people and places; nor, of course, was he emperor of any or all of Gaul, Rome, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

Soon after Geoffrey, the Templars rather less openly created a legend of the Knights of the Round Table and their Quest for the Holy Grail. For this substantial enterprise they took advantage of their ownership of large tracts of land in Somerset, and their infiltration of the county’s other principal landowner – Glastonbury Abbey – to reshape the field boundaries, contours and names of its geography to create a design matching the celestial zodiac. The Zodiac is of course the real Round Table. (In so doing they left a distinctively Templar signature in the twelfth-century equivalent of invisible ink: this esoteric organisation that sourced its name, its mythology, and much of its sacred architectural design schemes, from King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem replaced the crab of Cancer in the Glastonbury Zodiac with King Solomon’s ship.) The Templars made a kind of game, an adult Easter-egg-hunt, in which the discovering of this landscape zodiac represented succeeding in the quest for the Holy Grail (purported relics of Jesus’s crucifixion they said had been brought to Britain and hidden in Chalice Well by Joseph of Arimathea).

On the back of this legend, medieval creativity constructed an image of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in the Troubador code of honour: chivalrous protectors of damsels in distress and loyal upholders of Christian order and Roman civilization against barbarous invaders.

Yarns of Arthurian legend continue to be spun in modern times. Tennyson, who supplied love affairs and jousting tournaments; Hollywood, which brought a Yankee to the court of King Arthur; Marion Zimmer Bradley, who surrounded him with feminine magic: each has fertilised images in minds that bring an imaginary Arthur freshly idealised to the dreams of a new age to their contemporary generations.

The newest fabrication about King Arthur is the presentation by Ken Dark of Arthur as the historicisation of a mythological character. There is nothing in Welsh mythology to substantiate this 21st-century fantasy. Arthur is not interwoven among Bran, Pwyll, Rhiannon and Branwen in any of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion; he does not feature in royal genealogies such as those of Cerdic which include the mythological beings Woden and Bran; nor is he found in the Hanes Taliesin myth cycle which features genuine fifth- and sixth-century people engaging in events of deeply symbolic meaning that are not to be heard as literal, factual experiences: Seithenyn, wise Druid-guided Kings Gwyddno Garanhir and Elffin of Ceredigion, the great bard Taliesin, and the rapist, murderer, warlord, bully, and Christian, King Maelgwn of Gwynedd.

The Arthur who is mentioned in passing in the poems Y Gododdin and Preiddeu Annwn – once in each poem – is simply a praiseworthy, exemplary, warrior hero. In Marwnat Geraint he is the remembered warrior hero specifically of people who were fighting with King Geraint at the Battle of Llongborth. There is no sense in any of these three poems of Arthur as a mythological character, not even in the wondrously mystical Preiddeu Annwn.

There is a mythological Arthur in medieval Welsh literature. He features notably in the poem Pa gur yv y porthaur and in the prose tale Culhwch ac Olwen (philologically considered to be tenth century), as well as in later works influenced by Geoffrey of Monmouth or the earliest “Arthurian”/Grail Romances, the Bruts of Chrétien de Troyes, Layamon, Wace and others. If Dark could show that Culhwch ac Olwen was told in or before the 4th century CE with Arthur as a principal character, or that landscape features such as Arthur’s Seat carried his name in remote antiquity, he would at least have a case to answer. I find traces of Bran and of Brigit on Ptolemy’s map of Britain; but not of Arthur.

Other modern historians and commentators find a real Arthur in their study of the fifth century, but mislocate him. John Morris[1] examined archaeological evidence of fifth century warfare and deduced a nationwide campaign of British fighters against English aggressors. He plausibly inferred that Arthur was the British commander; but more-recent archaeologists, such as Roger White[2], have shown up Morris’s united-front war as imaginary. By contrast, Phillips and Keatman are reported by Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews as identifying Arthur as the ruler of one civitas, the only writer I am aware of to have done so before me; but they place him in Wroxeter-based Powys. Fitzpatrick-Matthews himself[3] maps his interpretation of the locations of Arthur’s twelve battles as listed in the Historia Brittonum and deduces that Arthur was a man of the Midlands. Others, differently interpreting this list, have located Arthur in the North, despite the fact that his name does not appear in any of the many northern royal genealogies preserved in Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd (“The Descent of the Men of the North”) which consistently feature Coel Hen (“Old King Cole”), Keneu, and Arthwys (who linguistically cannot be Arthur).

If the Historia Brittonum list be a factual record of Arthur’s battles, he would indeed have to have been a general who waged warfare widely geographically. Everyone except Fitzpatrick-Matthews agrees that the location of one of the battles there listed, Badon, is towards the south-west (if not Somerset, then Dorset or Wiltshire); another, Guinnion, is usually identified with Winchester; but two others are indisputably northern: the City of the Legions being Chester; and Cat Coit Celidon being the forest including the headwaters of the Clyde and Tweed that covered much of central southern Scotland.

It has, however, been noticed that the locations of four or five of the battles named in places six to eleven in the Historia Brittonum list closely match those of battles known to have been fought by other warriors in the centuries between Britain’s regaining independence from Rome and the writing of the Historia Brittonum. The battle of Arfderydd, fought in 571 just north of Carlisle, a dynastic conflict for the kingship of Strathclyde, could accurately have been called Cat Coit Celidon, the Battle in the Caledonian Forest. The Battle of Wallop, fought probably in 428, a power struggle for command of southern Britain won by Vortigern, was within the civitas of Winchester and so may also have been remembered as Gueith Caer Guinnion, the Strife of Winchester. English, Irish and Welsh records and archaeological remains all testify to a very real Battle of Chester – but not in Arthurian times. It was fought between Powys and Northumbria in 611. Bassas is the region of the Kingdom of Ergyng laid waste by English invaders and later reclaimed, its churches restored to the Diocese of Llandaff after British reconquest in the early eighth century.

There are two credible interpretations of the name of the eleventh battle in the list, Breguoin. One is to translate it as “White Hill”, which could frankly be anywhere. It is the kind of name an eighth-century Welsh-speaker could have used had he needed to invent an entirely spurious battle to make a list of battles up to the sacred number 12. However, conveniently for the “King Arthur: King of Lindinis” argument, if Breguoin be a genuine and otherwise unknown battle won by King Arthur, there is a White Sheet Hill above Mere in Wiltshire, a mere 11 miles into Lindinis from the Anglo-Arthurian border with the, by his time English-controlled, former civitas of Winchester. There is also another White Sheet Hill NE of Beaminster, exactly on the North Dorset Downs watershed running east from Broadwindsor that I identify as the southern boundary of King Arthur’s Lindinis (see my post here of 28th February 2013). A Battle of Breguoin there could realistically have been another of Arthur’s border skirmishes, comparable with those above the River Divelish I discussed in that post, which occupy places 2 to 5 in the Historia Brittonum Arthurian battle-list.

The other is to identify it, as Jackson does,[4] as Brewyn (Latin, Bremenium; English, High Rochester) in Northumberland, another location where a genuine battle fought by other warriors is known to history: in this case, the famous King Urien of Rheged. Kat gellawr brewyn, the “Battle of the Cells of Bremenium”, is celebrated by Taliesin in his poem Ardwyre Reget (“Rheged, Arise!”).

Fitzpatrick-Matthews shows that the best texts locate the remaining battle (the tenth) at Traith Tribruit, which he translates as “the very pierced shore”. The overall wording of the location means something like “on the shore of a river where the coast is very pierced”. On a map of Britain, two places stand out as locations where the coast is very pierced, the Firth of Forth and the Bristol Channel.[5] If one accepts Fitzpatrick-Matthews’s arguments, there is no textual basis for selecting between these two possibilities. I will note only that one of these was the principal external access to Lindinis, and that Cador, Arthur’s immediate predecessor in charge of that civitas, had at least six fortified defences close to this shore – from west to east: Cannington, Worlebury Hill, two Cadburys, the western Wansdyke, and Dundry (Dindraithou). It would hardly be eyebrow-raising to figure that at some point in the 480s Arthur had to use one or more of these forts to defend his kingdom against Irish raiders on his Lindinis north coast.

In sum, the battles attributed to Arthur in the Historia Brittonum can be divided neatly into two groups: seven (possibly eight) located close to the frontiers of Lindinis, which he may well have fought; and five (possibly four) located far from Lindinis, which he had nothing to do with. Thoroughly dissected, the Historia Brittonum therefore adds support to, rather than challenges, the identification of the original, actual King Arthur as King of Lindinis.

I find multiple strands of evidence for a fifth-into- sixth-century warrior hero Arthur, ruler of Lindinis. Each strand is thin and to the sceptical mind questionable, but they all point in the same direction. Collectively they add up to a coherent and creditable accumulation. By contrast, the evidence for Dark’s “historicisation of a mythical personage” hypothesis is zero. It is, rather, a “god of the gaps” construct, an undisprovable conjecture designed in his imagination for the purpose of reconciling his commitment to asserting the non-existence of any historical Arthur warrior leader with the presence of an Arthur warrior leader in Y Gododdin, Marwnat Geraint, Preiddeu Annwn, the Historia Brittonum, and the Annales Cambriae.[6]

 

 


[1]The Age of Arthur”: 1995

[2]Britannia Prima”: 2007

[3]The Arthurian Battle-List of the Historia Britonnum“: 2010

[4] Jackson (1959), quoted by Fitzpatrick-Matthews (2010).

[5] At a pinch, a case could also be made for the Humber.

[6] These five ancient sources, three poems and two documents purporting to be historical records, all indisputably safely predate Geoffrey of Monmouth by at least 170 years. Y Gododdin is attributed to the bard Aneirin. It was composed approximately 60 years after Arthur’s death. Preiddeu Annwn is attributed to Aneirin’s contemporary, the bard Taliesin, who was two years old when Arthur was killed. Philologists assert that it cannot be older than the eighth century because of the spellings in the written text; however, this does not dispose of the possibility that the poem was transmitted orally from the sixth century until the eighth or ninth before it was ever written down. Marwnat Geraint is apparently of eighth century origin. The relevant part of the Historia Britonnum, the list of Arthur’s twelve battles, is not later than the early ninth century in compilation; it claims to have been copied from a much earlier source. The Annales Cambriae is figured to have been compiled in 954; sceptics presume from this that the content was created in the 950s, but close textual analysis points instead to its content having been gathered from several monastic sources, and a real (though, of course, not provable) possibility that its two Arthur references – to his victory at the battle of Badon and to his death at the battle of Camlan – originate from the time of the events they report.