Posts for Tag : Mount Badon

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Possible King Arthur (s)

I have very definite opinions about who King Arthur was, as evidenced by my book, Cold My Heart, as well as the numerous posts I’ve written on the subject. That said, his identity is up for debate …

The web site, Early British Kingdoms, has an entire section devoted to King Arthur, particularly who he could have been if he wasn’t ‘Arthur’, as no leader of that name in the middle 6th century or earlier seems to fit that profile.

The possibilities are quite endless, especially if you consider Scots as well as Welsh rulers.  For example, Norma Lorre Goodrich places Arthur at Carlisle (as Camelot) and as Arthur ic Uibar, in her book ‘King Arthur’.   In the book “Arturius – A Quest for Camelot,” David Carroll suggests that King Arthur is, in fact, the historical late 6th century Prince Artuir, eldest son of King Aidan of Dalriada. Carroll believes that Artuir ruled Manau Gododdin, the narrow coastal region on the south side of the the Firth of Forth, during his father’s Dalriadan reign. He died at the Battle of the Miathi in 582.  Carroll equates this with Camlann and places it in the same kingdom. “What is more natural than for this Prince to make his capital at the old Roman Fort of Colania (which Carroll refers to as Ad Vallum) in the centre of Manau Gododdin, a place called Camelot in the past and still called Camelon today?” http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/archaeology/camelon.html

In an earlier post, I postulated that Arthur could be a substitute for Gwydion, son of Don, one of the Welsh mythological heroes, as well as his links to Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, especially given that ‘Cadwaladr’ means ‘battle-leader’, the title attributed to Arthur (Dux Bellorum) by Nennius, rather than ‘king’.

Other possibilities abound,  however.  This site, makes an argument in favor of a Prince Arthur in Scotland, who had a daughter named Gwenwynwyn.  Another argues that Arthur was really Cuneglas (or Cynglas in Welsh) one of the five tyrants named in Gildas’ writings (one of the stumbling blocks to belief that Arthur existed is that Gildas does not mention him).  Gildas writes:

“Why have you been rolling in the filth of your past wickedness,you bear, rider of many and driver of the chariot of the Bear’s Stronghold, despiser of God and oppressor of his lot, Cuneglasus, in Latin ‘red butcher’? Why do you wage such a war against men and God? – against men, that is our countrymen, with arms special to yourself, against God with infinite sins. Why, aside from countless other lapses, have you rejected your own wife and now, against the ban of the apostle, who says that adulterers cannot be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, do you cast your eyes, with all the reverence (or rather dullness) of your mind, on her villainous sister, although she has promised to God perpetually chaste widowhood, like, as the poet says, the supreme tenderness of the dwellers in heaven? Why do you provoke with continual injuries the groans and sighs of the holy men who are present in the flesh by your side; they are the teeth of an appalling lioness that will one day break your bones.”  http://www.angelfire.com/md/devere/gildas.html

Lovely stuff.  Mark Devere Davies writes further, in reference to the name Arthur as ‘bear’:  “It has long been recognized that Arthur best translates as “Bear” in Celtic. A marginal note on a 13th century copy of the “Historia Brittonum”, by Nennius(9th century) says that Arthur means “Ursus Horribilis”. No matter what the actual origin of the name, this earliest etymology is important as it shows beyond doubt that the ancients understood “Arthur” to mean “Bear”. A rival theory has been current for years which claims Arthur derives from the Roman Artorius. This is more of a speculation than a theory as no text supports such a reading. The name is always rendered as some variant of the Welsh Arthur, or is Latinized in various ways like Artus, Arturus, or Arturius. And it should be remembered that “Arthur” was most likely not a personal name at this time. The word is unrecorded as a personal name before the end of the sixth and early seventh century, when several “Arthurs” are known.”  http://www.angelfire.com/md/devere/urse.html

Din Arth, the Fort of the Bear, was Cuneglas’ home, located in the Kingdom of Rhos, one of the sub-kingdoms of Gwynedd.  It was situated above Colwyn Bay on Bryn Euryn.  “An oval enclosure was built in the 5th century at the highest point of the fort to form a sturdy inner sanctum. Along with the surrounding Iron Age enclosure, a layout similar to the motte and bailey castles of the Normans was achieved and the same arrangement can be seen just a few miles up the Conwy Valley at Pen-Y-Castell, on a rocky ridge high above the village of Maenan.”  http://www.castlewales.com/euryn.html

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Historical Sources for King Arthur

Cold My Heart at AmazonHistorians are not in agreement as to whether or not the ‘real’ Arthur—the living, breathing, fighting human being—ever existed. The original sources for the legend of King Arthur come from a few Welsh texts. These are:

1) Y Goddodin—a Welsh poem by the 7th century poet, Aneirin, with it’s passing mention of Arthur. The author refers to the battle of Catraeth, fought around AD 600 and describes a warrior who “fed black ravens on the ramparts of a fortress, though he was no Arthur”.  http://www.missgien.net/celtic/gododdin/poem.html

2) Gildas, a 6th century British cleric who wrote De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain). He never mentions Arthur, although he states that his own birth was in the year of the siege of Mount Badon. The fact that he does not mention Arthur, and yet is our only historian of the 6th century, is an example of why many historians suspect that King Arthur never existed.   http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gildas.html

3) Taliesin, a 6th century poet, to whom The Spoils of Annwn, is ascribed.  This poem is only one of several in which he mentions Arthur.  http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/t30.html

4)  Nennius – “History of the Britons” (Historia Brittonum, c. 829-30)
“Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons. And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror.”  http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/nennius-full.html

5) Native Welsh Tales: These connected works of Welsh mythology were named the Mabinogion in the 19th century by their first translator, Lady Charlotte Guest.  These include the story of Culhwch and Olwen, in which Arthur and his men track down the thirteen treasures of Britain, and The Dream of Rhonabwy.  These stories are found in the Red Book of Hergest and/or the White Book of Rhydderch, both copied in the mid-14th century.   http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/index_welsh.html

6) The Annales Cambriae. This book is a Welsh chronicle compiled no later than the 10th century AD. It consists of a series of dates, two of which mention Arthur: “Year 72, The Battle of Badon, 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. Year 93, The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut fell.”    The early dates of the above works indicate little or no relation to the later English/French embellishments of Arthur, which Geoffrey of Monmouth popularized.   http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/annalescambriae.html

Later texts that are built on the above works, in chronological order, are:

1) William, Chaplain to Bishop Eudo of Leon – “Legend of St. Goeznovius, preface” (c. 1019)
“In the course of time, the usurping king Vortigern, to buttress the defence of the kingdom of Great Britain which he unrighteously held, summoned warlike men from the land of Saxony and made them his allies in the kingdom. Since they were pagans and of devilish character, lusting by their nature to shed human blood, they drew many evils upon the Britons. Presently their pride was checked for a while through the great Arthur, king of the Britons. They were largely cleared from the island and reduced to subjection. But when this same Arthur, after many victories which he won gloriously in Britain and in Gaul, was summoned at last from human activity, the way was open for the Saxons to go again into the islane, and there was great oppression of the Britons, destruction of churches and persecution of saints. This persecution went on through the times of many kings, Saxons and Britons striving back and forth. In those days, many holy men gave themselves up to martyrdom; others, in conformity to the Gsopel, left the greater Britain which is now the Saxon’s homeland, and sailed across to the lesser Britain [ed. note: Brittany].”.] [ed. note from Brittanica.com: There are enough similarities with Geoffrey's "History" that some have questioned whether Goeznovious might be of later date, i.e. post-Geoffrey. But, unless William's original source, "Ystoria Britannica," is found and proves otherwise, we have to consider the possibility that Geoffrey may have used Goeznovious as a source.

2) William of Malmesbury - "The Deeds of the Kings of England (De Gestis Regum Anglorum)" (c. 1125)
"When he [ed. note: Vortigern's son, Vortimer] died the strength of the Britons diminished and all hope left them. They would soon have been altogether destroyed if Ambrosius, the sole survivor of the Romans who became king after Vortigern, had not defeated the presumptuous barbarians with the powerful aid of the warlike Arthur. This is that Arthur of whom the trifling of the Britons talks such nonsense even today; a man clearly worthy not to be dreamed of in fallacious fables, but to be proclaimed in veracious histories, as one who long sustained his tottering country, and gave the shattered minds of his fellow citizens an edge for war.

3) Henry of Huntingdon – “History of the English” (Historia Anglorum, c. 1130)
“The valiant Arthur, who was at that time the commander of the soldiers and kings of Britain, fought against [the invaders] invincibly. Twelve times he led in battle. Twelve times was he victorious in battle. The twelfth and hardest battle that Arthur fought against the Saxons was on Mount Badon, where 440 of his men died in the attack that day, and no Briton stayed to support him, the Lord alone strengthening him.”
http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/historians.html

4) The History of the Kings of Britain, by Geoffrey of Monmouth, dating to the middle 12th century. This is the beginning of the King Arthur legend as we know it. Geoffrey was born in Wales, but worked for his patron, Robert of Gloucester, who was particularly interested in legitimizing the claim of his sister (Matilda) to the English crown. Thus, the confusion of landmarks which moved Arthur from Wales to England proper, and the romanticizing of the tale, including the notion that Britain was originally conquered by Brutus, the son of the Trojan hero Aeneas, and thus Britain was ‘classical’ in origin.

5) Roman y Brut (The Romance of Brutus) is the translation of Geoffrey’s work into Anglo-Norman verse. It takes much of Geoffrey’s story and adds the round table, courtly love, and chivalry, thus transforming Arthur from a Welsh warrior to a medieval, Anglo-French knight.  From this point, the Welsh Arthur is all but lost, and the Anglo/Norman/French ‘King Arthur’ is paramount.

By 1191, the monks of Glastonbury were claiming knowledge of his grave, and soon after, the link between Arthur and the Holy Grail, which Joseph of Arimathea supposedly brought there. By 1225, monks in France had written The Vulgate Cycle, telling of the holy grail from the death of Jesus Christ to the death of Arthur, and included the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere. This story became the standard version used throughout Europe.

One critic stands out, however:  William of Newburgh – “History of English Affairs” (Historia rerum Anglicarum, c. 1198)
“For the purpose of washing out those stains from the character of the Britons, a writer in our times has started up and invented the most ridiculous fictions concerning them, and with unblushing effrontery, extols them far above the Macedonians and Romans. He is called Geoffrey, surnamed Arthur, from having given, in a Latin version, the fabulous exploits of Arthur, drawn from the traditional fictions of the Britons, with additions of his own, and endeavored to dignify them with the name of authentic history.”

[ed. note: Amid the near universal chorus of hosannas heard throughout Europe for Geoffrey of Monmouth and his "History of the Kings of Britain," William of Newburgh stands out as, perhaps, the first and certainly his most ardent critic. In fact, the full preface to his 'History' is taken up with ever-crescendoing criticsm, of which the above quote is only the opening salvo. CLICK HERE to read William of Newburgh's full preface.]   http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/historians.html

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Geoffrey of Monmouth 0

Geoffrey of Monmouth was born sometime around 1100, probably in Monmouth in southeast Wales. “His father was named Arthur. Geoffrey was appointed archdeacon of Llandsaff in 1140 and was consecrated bishop of St. Asaph in 1152. He died c. 1155.

Geoffrey is one of the most significant authors in the development of the Arthurian legends. It was Geoffrey who, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (completed in 1138) located Arthur in the line of British kings. Such an action not only asserted the historicity of Arthur but also gave him an authoritative history which included many events familiar from later romance. Geoffrey also introduced the character of Merlin as we know him into the legends. Geoffrey’s Merlin, a combination of the young and prophetic Ambrosius in Nennius’s history and the prophet Myrddin who figures in several Welsh poems, first appears in a book known as the Prophetiae Merlini (The Prophecies of Merlin), which was written about 1135 but then incorporated as Book VII of the Historia. This book contains the prophecies made by Merlin to Vortigern, which foreshadow not only the downfall of Vortigern but also the rise and fall of Arthur, events subsequent to the end of the Historia, and events of the obscure future.”  http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/geoffrey.htm

“Modifying the name of the northern bard Myrddin, Geoffrey uses Welsh predictions of a Celtic revival and many of his own probable invention and ascribes them to the prophet. This work was followed toward 1136-1138 by the Historia Regum Britanniae that incorporated the prophecies in it. Near the end of 1150 he composed a long narrative poem expanding on Welsh traditions about the prophet entitled, Vita Merlini (“Life of Merlin”).”  http://www.pantheon.org/articles/g/geoffrey_of_monmouth.html

By his late twenties, Geoffrey certainly seems to have travelled eastwards to work at the Collegiate Church of St. George at the castle in Oxford.   He remained there, as a tutor of some kind, for at least the next twenty years  and began writing not long after he arrived.  The Prophecies of Merlin appear to have been a series of ancient Celtic prophecies which, at the request of Alexander of Salisbury, Bishop of Lincoln, Geoffrey translated into Latin, perhaps with some additions of his own. “Whether they had previously been attributed to the Northern British bard, Myrddin, is unknown. As with all his works, Geoffrey hoped the prophecies might bring him a lucrative preferment in the Church, and he used its dedication to ingratiate himself with Alexander who was Bishop of his local diocese. Geoffrey made a more appreciative acquaintance while at St. George’s, in the person of Walter the Provost, who was also Archdeacon of the city. In his writings, Geoffrey tells us that Walter gave him “a certain very ancient book written in the British language” and, probably because he was unable to read Welsh (or Breton) himself, the Archdeacon encouraged Geoffrey to translate it into Latin.”

Geoffrey began writing History of the Kings of Britain’ dedicated to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and Waleran, Count of Mellent in 1136. “At the time, the work was taken at face value and accepted by most as a true history of the Welsh nation from around 1100 bc to around AD 689. Merlin appeared again, as an advisor to Kings Ambrosius and Uther, but the work was most notable for its extensive chapters covering the reign of the great King Arthur. Since the 17th century, however, its author has been largely vilified as an inexorable forger who made up his stories “from an inordinate love of lying”. Modern historians tend to be slightly more sympathetic.

At the end of 1150, Geoffrey appears to have come into the possession of further source documents concerning the life-story of his original subject, the bard, Myrddin (alias Merlin). Unfortunately, these did not line up terribly well the information he had given about this man in his History of the Kings of Britain – perhaps indicating that this part was either invented or, more probably, that Merlin’s name had been rather over-eagerly attributed to an otherwise unknown Royal adviser. Keen to put across the true story, without losing face, Geoffrey wrote the Life of Merlin, correctly placing its events after the reign of Arthur, but thus giving his title role an impossibly long lifespan. It was dedicated to his former colleague at St. George’s, Robert De Chesney, the new Bishop of Lincoln.

“The following year, Geoffrey’s sycophancy at last paid off. He was elected Bishop of St. Asaphs, for good service to his Norman masters; and was consecrated by Archbishop Theobald at Lambeth Palace in February 1152. As a Welsh-speaker, he was probably chosen in an attempt to make the diocesanal administration more acceptable in an age when Normans were not at all popular in the areas of Wales which they controlled. However, the strategy seems to have been unsuccessful. Owain Gwynedd’s open rebellion was in full swing and Geoffrey appears to have never even visited his bishopric. He died four years later, probably in London.”   http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/geofmon.html

“Whenever his dates are checked, as in the Roman period, Geoffrey emerges clearly as a writer of fiction and cannot be relied upon for facts. Following medieval tradition, he fully modernizes Arthur’s court to the 12th century. Later, however, from Caesar on he is using what passed for real history at the time and some of his source materials can be identified – the Historia Brittonum, Bede and Gildas in addition to Roman historians.

For the most part he is creating and aggrandizing very little data but in his preface he claims to be translating from a much fuller source, one “ancient book in the British language” (maybe Welsh but probably Breton) bestowed upon him by Walter, archdeacon at Oxford. This claim remains dubious as no copy of this source is extant. But the tale of Arthur scribed by Geoffrey cannot be fully accounted for from the aforementioned sources hinting at some unknown text of some kind. There is a possible tie to the Continent from the resonance with 5th century events in Gaul. Traces of a similar source are found in the preface to the Breton Legend of St. Goeznovius.”  http://www.pantheon.org/articles/g/geoffrey_of_monmouth.html

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The Fictional King Arthur (rant) 12

Yes, I have some issues with King Arthur as a fictional character.  And the new series on STARZ called Camelot does absolutely nothing to help:

King Arthur, as usually written, comes off as either as a flat character, someone whom the author employs as a backdrop to explore the personalities of other characters (Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot), or as unheroic and human, tripped up in the end by the overwhelming burden of his imperfections. Arthur is either a pawn, buffeted by the winds of fate, or so flawed, one has to ask how he was remembered as a hero in the first place.  In the Camelot series, at least the bit I’ve watched, it is inexplicable that Merlin would come to him as the hero (in a totally deserted castle) and expect anything good to happen.

There is a simple reason for this: it is very hard to synchronize the different aspects of Arthur’s story into a complete whole because the essential, heroic element of Arthur’s story—his defeat of the Saxons for a generation—has been grafted, at both the beginning and the end, to a romantic tale told for reasons having more to do with the medieval authors who were telling the story, and the time in which they were living, than with Arthur. In so doing, his character is incomplete and inexplicable, one who reacts instead of acts, and who never has a say in his own destiny.

Instead, it is Merlin who is the active character. It is he who sets the whole plot in motion, whose behavior acts at times like a ‘get out of jail free card’ for Arthur, who manipulates everybody else, but who is powerless to stop Arthur’s downfall in the end.  In the classic Norman/French tale, it is through Merlin’s actions at the beginning of the story that Arthur becomes high king, and because of Merlin’s abandonment at the end of the story that (in rapid succession), Arthur loses his wife, his best friend, his son, and his life.

In the Welsh tales, on the other hand, Arthur is nearly super-human.  He may have a few flaws, yes, but he is a ‘hero’ in the classic sense.  He takes his men to the Underworld and back again, he finds the 13 treasures of Britain, and he rescues his friends and relations from danger and death.   It is these tales, however, that are rarely told in modern fiction.  Why is that?  Why do authors have an easier time grafting sorcery (of the Merlin and Morgane kind) onto a tale of the gritty, Dark Age Arthur than the mythology that is far older and ‘authentic’ for the period in which Arthur actually lived?

As one of my grad school professors once said, ‘the English have a lot to answer for’ :)  As posted here (http://tinyurl.com/673mxrh), there are other reasons Camelot is a mess too.  Too bad.

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Guest Post: Anna Elliott, author of “Twilight of Avalon” 1

Why I love Arthurian Stories

In the Spring of 2007, I woke up from a very vivid dream of telling my mother that I was going to write a book about the daughter of Modred, son of Arthur and the great villain of the Arthurian cycle of tales.  I’d been writing historical fiction and sending books around to agents and editors, always coming close to being published but never actually getting a book sold.  I was four months pregnant with my first baby at the time, and had been starting to think that as much as I loved writing, maybe a professional career wasn’t going to happen for me–or at least not for some time.

            Something about this dream, though, just wouldn’t let me go.  I had been an English major in college with a focus on Medieval literature and history, and had fallen in love with the Arthurian world and the Arthur legends then.  I started to do some preliminary research, reading books that explored the possibility of a real, historical Arthur–who if he existed at all would, scholars agreed, have been a 5th century British warlord, possibly one who made a victorious stand against the Saxon tribes invading Britain at the time–a far cry from the king of Camelot who’s come down to us in the tales. 

            At the same time, though, I was reminded of why I’d fallen in love with the Arthur stories in the first place.  The world of the legends is a recognizably historical one, part of our own past–and yet it’s also a world that has the wonderful potential for magic and enchantment.  So as I was reading, I started to build my own version of that world in my head–one that was a blending of legend and late 5th century British history, truth and tale.

            In my dream, I’d known only that the main character of my book was going to be Modred’s daughter.  It was only when I was looking over name lists trying to decide on one for my heroine that the name “Isolde” leaped off the page at me and made me turn back to the story of Trystan and Isolde.  The Trystan and Isolde legend is a later addition to the Arthurian cycle, very much grounded in a courtly, chivalric, 13th century world.  And yet it, too, has its roots in earlier legends and traditions that still echo faintly in the story as it has come down to us today.  I started to wonder what those earliest traditions might have been, what the story might have looked like at its first inception during the chaos and violence of Dark Age Britain, the “real” Arthurian age.

            That was how the story started to frame itself in my mind as a trilogy: Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, and Sunrise of Avalon.  Three books that would weave together the scraps we knew of 5th century British history with the earliest versions of both the Arthurian and the Trystan and Isolde tales.

            From the first, I’d known that my story was going to be a kind of sequel to the Arthur tales, a chance to explore what might have happened after the battle of Camlann, after Arthur was wounded and carried away to be healed on the mist shrouded Isle of Avalon.  And that idea, too, held tremendous appeal for me, in that it gave me a chance to see a different side of the Arthurian story. 

            I think one of the most captivating, the most moving aspects of the Arthur stories is their ability to show us the highest potentials for human nobility, human honor and courage.  And yet the story always ends in tragedy, with the battle of Camlann where Arthur falls, betrayed by all those he loved best. 

            His legend though, still lives, still gives us an ideal to strive for.  That was the feeling that stayed with me in reading the original Arthur stories–and the feeling I wanted the characters in my trilogy to have, as well.  The title of my book is Twilight of Avalon, because in many ways it’s set at a turning point, the end of the age defined by Arthur the king.  But I wanted my Trystan and Isolde to be able to hold onto the ideals of the Arthurian world, even if that world was forever gone.  Because even in the wake of tragedy, life goes on–and there’s always the possibility that someday those ideals will end in victory instead of defeat.  For me, that was one of the joys of writing Twilight of Avalon: to know that this time, in my small corner of the great Arthurian tapestry, the story didn’t have to end at Camlann.

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Mount Badon / Caer Faddon (part 2) 11

Mount Badon, if it exists at all, should appear on the map somewhere.  But where?

There are many, many possibilities.

First of all, we should note where Mount Badon is not.  For all that Geoffrey of Monmouth embellished and expanded the Arthurian legend, he did history a disservice in supposing that King Arthur ruled all of England, Scotland and Wales.  Geoffrey wrote his book under the patronage of Robert of Gloucester, who was trying to justify the rule of England by his half-sister, Maud.  Thus, because Maud had roots in Normandy, so did Arthur; because Maud was hoping to rule all of Great Britain, so did Arthur; because Maud’s power base was in and around Gloucester, so was Arthur’s.

Yet even in the twelfth century, for one king to control all of Great Britain by force of arms was extremely difficult.  Gloucester himself was unable to spread his influence east, into the territory controlled by King Stephen, whose rule centered on London.  Both pretenders to the throne had trouble controlling Ranulf, the Earl of Chester, who’d stretched his domain across the north of England from Chester to Lincoln.  Looking at the situation objectively, to think that a Dark Age king (Arthur) could have ruled all of Normandy, Wales, Scotland, and England when the Romans couldn’t do it, William the Conquerer couldn’t do it, and no King of England could do it until 1745 (with the exception of Normandy, which had been lost to France), defies all reasonable reading of history.  

Therefore, the historical Mt. Badon (if it is a true place) has to exist within striking distance of Wales–the last bastion of the Britons facing a Saxon advance–and circumscribed within an area no further east than Birmingham, south of Gloucester, or north of Chester.   

Early British Kingdoms has this to say:  http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/arthur/kabattles.html

“It was at the Battle of Mount Badon that tradition says the Saxon advance into Britain was finally halted. It was Arthur’s greatest victory and, not surprisingly, there are many claimants for its location. Forts are preferred since Gildas, in his De Excidio Britanniae, more properly called the battle a “siege”  . . . Possibilities include Bowden Hill, Lothian; Dumbarton Rock, Strathclyde; Mynydd Baedan, Glamorgan; Little Solway Hill, Somerset; or Brent Knoll, Somerset. Modern theory, however, suggests one of the many Badburys around the country: in Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. Liddington Castle, near Badbury in Wiltshire, seems most popular at present. Welsh tradition backed up by Geoffrey of Monmouth is, however, almost certainly correct in identifying the battle site with Bath, Caer Baddon, or, at least somewhere in its vicinity. Bathampton Down has been suggested.”

Bath lies just south of Gloucester.  Not a surprise, given Geoffrey’s patron.

The Welsh word for ‘Bath’ is ‘Caer Faddon’ (http://www.geiriadur.net/).  It is the Welsh translation of an English name, not the Welsh word for ‘bath’ itself, which is ymdrochfeydd.  This observation leads to another possible location for Mt. Badon, one mentioned in one the Welsh myths, The Dream of Rhonabwy.  In this poem, Arthur and his men dismount below Caer Faddon, within a half-day’s ride of the ford of Rhyd-y-Groes (ford of the cross).  The ford is not near Bath, but is an actual, well established, geographic site.  It is located on the Severn (Hafren in Welsh) River, east of Welshpool.     
http://www.donaldcorrell.com/mabinogn/rhonabwy.html

In looking at a map, or Google Earth for that matter, there are a whole host of possible locations for a Dark Age siege within a half-day’s ride of this ford, including Breiddon Hill, an enormous iron age hill fort.  The range of mountains in which Breiddon is located sits on the eastern edge of what became known as the ‘Marche’–the borderland between Wales and England–and adjacent to Offa’s Dyke, which dates to the 700s AD and was built by the Saxons to pen the Welsh into their mountains. 

Identifying the Mount Badon of the Anglo-Norman Arthurian tales with the Caer Faddon of the Dream of Rhonabwy at last connects the continental Arthur with the native Welsh tales.  It also de-links King Arthur from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Gloucester-centric perspective and perhaps finally brings us closer to finding the geographic center of the historic, battle-leader named Arthur.

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Mount Badon 0

In the Arthurian legend, as well as in the historical record, Mount Badon (or Caer Baddon) is the location of Arthur’s last battle that pushed the Saxons back into England for a generation.  All the literary sources, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, the last of the historical and first of the mythical, indicate its significance.  This is what they have to say:

Nennius:  “The twelfth battle was on Badon Hill and in it nine hundred and sixty men fell in one day, from a single charge of Arthur’s, and no one laid them low save he alone; and he was victorious in all his campaigns. ” Writing in 796 AD  (Historia Britonum, Page 35)

Annales Cambriae:   “The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.” (Welsh Annals), circa 796.  Page 45.

Gildas:    “From then on victory went now to our countrymen, now to their enemies: so that in this people the Lord could make trial (as he tends to) of his latter-day Israel to see whether it loves him or not. This lasted right up till the year of the siege of Badon Hill, pretty well the last defeat of the villains, and certainly not the least. That was the year of my birth; as I know, one month of the forty-fourth year since then has already passed.” Writing in 544. (De Excidio et Conquestu Britannie, Pages 27-28) 

Bede:  “Their leader at that time was a certain Ambrosius Aurelianus, a discreet man, who was, as it happened, the sole member of the Roman race who had survived this storm in which his parents, who bore a royal and famous name, had perished. Under his leadership the Britons regained their strength, challenged their victors to battle, and, with God’s help, won the day. From that time on, first the Britons won and then the enemy were victorious until the year of the siege of Mount Badon, when the Britons slaughtered no small number of their foes about forty-four years after their arrival in Britain.”  Writing in 731 AD  (Historia Ecclesiastica. Pages 54-55)

 http://www.lib.rochester.edu/CAMELOT/Badon/badnbibfrm.htm

http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/arthur/index.html

http://www.gorddcymru.org/twilight/camelot/infopedia/r/roundtableknights_welsh.htm

And Geoffrey of Monmouth, written in 1136 AD, an excerpt of which can be found here:  http://www.lib.rochester.edu/CAMELOT/Badon/monmouth.htm

His version, we have to believe could be wholly inaccurate, if only because most of what else he wrote is a great story, but with little factual basis. 

My next post will be on the location of Mt. Badon, which remains a mystery, although there are some interesting clues and possiblities, including a link to the an actual, Welsh site, Caer Faddon.