The Historical Authenticity of King Arthur
Oct 25, 2004
Author: Zostrianos Tammuz
In all mythologies a certain truth lay dormant. Across the English world Arthurian legends have always been an important archetype. But they may affect us in a much more significant way than we have previously thought. In all English-speaking nations we are educated and reeducated on King Arthur, his knights, and their quests. It was not until recently that historians actually came to believe that many of these legends may not be myths, but rather historic accounts of a Golden Age of the English, one that has been overshadowed by the Dark Age of the Western world.
On July 4, 1998, a group of archeologists excavating the ruins of the castle of Tintagel discovered a sixth century Roman slate referring to “Artognov”, when translated from Latin reads as “Arthnuo.” In legend, the castle of Tintagel is the site in which Uther Pendragon (under a disguise crafted by Merlin) raped Igraine, who later give birth to Uther’s son Arthur.
Several scholars have suggested that Arthur may in fact be the sixth century Prince Ard Ri of the Scottish Dalriada-Argyll dynasty. Further evidence supports this claim, the sixth century St. Columba prophesized the coming of an “Artur” who would die before fully succeeding his father’s throne. Prince Ard Ri and his son, the historic Modred, (a Druidic Archpriest who allied himself with the enemies of his father) both fell at the Battle of Camlanna in the year 603, thus fulfilling Columba’s prophecy.
When viewing certain names within the legends we find a historic correlation. The name of the castle “Camelot” most certainly refers to the castle of Colchester then called “Camuled”, a Latinized interpretation of the Celtic words “Camu lot”, meaning “curved light.” The names of “Pendragon” and “Merlin” are both found to have similar historical roots. “Pendragon” was a name referring to “the King of Kings of the Celtic Isles.” In Latin this becomes “Pen Draco Insularis” or “Head Dragon of the Island.” The name was not dynastic and could only be given by the council of Druidic Elders with consent of the Merlin. The “Merlin” was a Celtic title used to designate the High Priest of the council and seer to the King. Hence, this is why in the legends Arthur only becomes King through the guidance of Merlin.
The historic authenticity of the quests that were taken up by Arthur and his knights is more easily questioned. Personally I believe that this aspect of the legends serve as more of an allegorical and philosophical guide to the soul than a historic account. For example, the tales of the Grail are ageless. Myths from throughout the world have spoken of a cup or chalice that contains the answer to life’s greatest mysteries. During the Dark Ages, even before the claimed historic Arthur, several different Grail-oriented stories could be found in Europe.
In England, there is the legend of Joseph of Arimathea bringing the “Grail”, or “cup of Christ” to Glastonbury following the crucifixion. Thomas Jefferson enjoyed the legends of Joseph to such a great extent that he composed an English translation of The Lost Gospel of Arimathea.
To the south, in France, an even more intriguing and extraordinary story of a Grail originated over a millennium ago. This legend speaks of the “Sang Rael”, or “Royal Blood” of the Davidic dynasty, which the fathers of France, the Merovingians, are the direct descendants of. The allegorical chalice of this story is the womb of Mary Magdalene, who conceives and gives birth to a child with Jesus prior to the crucifixion. Magdalene and the child afterwards flee to southern France where a new holy land and dynasty are to be ushered in by their descendants, the Grail Kings. In the later English version of this legend the historic Arthur is also given a role: Art Ri of the sixth century Dalriada-Argyll dynasty is a Merovingian descendant.
The claim of an authentic historical Arthur is becoming harder and harder to rebuke as more research continues. Whatever the truth may be, we cannot deny that the legends of Arthur touch our collective unconscious, which to our soul is more meaningful than history.
(1) Associated Press, Archaeologists Find New Link Between King Arthur and Tintagel, July 8, 1998.
(2) Gardner, Laurence, Bloodline of the Holy Grail, 1996.
(3) Malory, Sir Thomas Le Morte Darthur, 1470.