King Arthur's Round Table - Sarah Woodbury

King Arthur’s Round Table

. . . has not been found, despite recent news to the contrary.

This article states with the very generalized ‘historians believe’ that King Arthur’s round table is actually the ampitheatre in the City of Chester.  When the Romans abandoned Britain, they left their forts and roads behind.  Many archaeologists believe that in the ensuing chaos, the Britons no longer used the ampitheatres for their original purpose, if they used them at all.  As I said in this post of the Romans, “within a generation or two, little trace of them, except for their roads and ruined forts–and their religion, Christianity–remained.  Everything had fallen into disrepair.  The ‘Saxons’ descended from the east, the Scots from the North, and the Irish from the West, driving the original Britons west, into what is now Wales.”

The Chester ampitheatre was discovered in the 1960’s and is an ongoing project and subject to fifty years of speculation and research.  Archaeologists have found evidence of some Dark Age use, as well as a recylcling of it for homes and protection by around 1200 AD:

It might have been King Arthur’s round table, if he had one, but that is not something that they’ve discovered just yet, despite the claims of the ‘Camelot historian’, Chris Gidlow who states: “In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred to both the City of Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it. That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court and his legendary Round Table.”

As I pointed out here, Gildas actually never mentions King Arthur at all. That doesn’t mean he didn’t exist, because Gildas was notorious for having his own agenda. But it is odd that Gidlow mentions him in this context.

The first mention of King Arthur’s round table was in the Roman de Brut by Wace (c. 1155), writing from Normandy and working off Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, which itself is a highly suspect historical document. (see

King Arthur might have existed and had a round table.  It might even mean the ampitheatre of the City of Chester, but the present evidence has certainly not clinched it.

5 Replies to “King Arthur’s Round Table”

  1. Another example would be The Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, which originally was built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family. It was completed in 139. In 401 the the mausoleum was converted into a military fortress and enclosed within the Aurelian Walls. The popes converted the fortress into a castle, and connected the castle to St. Peter’s Basilica by a covered walkway. It was later used as a prison…

  2. There is a Roman theatre at Orange, France that was re-purposed by the local nobility and later the general population as a fortress and so forth; they even built structures inside — a guard post, a church, houses, a prison, etc. The theatre was restored in the 1860’s and is one of the best preserved in Europe. Although I agree with you that there is no conclusive proof that Arthur’s Great Hall was the Chester Roman ampitheatre (which I think was actually discovered in the 1920’s…) it is believable that the British made good use of the structures the Romans left behind; they were far better built than anything they could construct themselves at the time.

    Here is the information from the official website, Theatre Antique & Musee d’Orange:
    “…During the Middle Ages, the theatre underwent a great deal of upheaval. It was pillaged for stone, marble and mosaics, reused for public or private constructions. It also became a defence post and a sentry box was built within the complex.

    In the 8th century, William of Gellone, Count of Toulouse and a relative of Charlemagne, was granted the county of Orange after snatching the town from the Saracens. His coat of arms decorated with a black horn is the origin of the town’s emblem, which depicts a horn above three oranges.

    In the 12th century, the successors of William of Gellone turned Orange into a principality. The theatre once again hosted shows organised by the church and companies of players came to perform on the stage. In 1530, René de Chalon, Prince of Nassau, inherited the principality from his uncle. The descendants of the Nassau family remained princes of Orange until 1702.

    In the 16th century, Orange, governed by Protestant princes, was involved in the French Wars of Religion. In 1562 the town was sacked and its inhabitants fled to escape the carnage. Some time later, the princes of Orange succeeded in restoring peace to the town. This peace which lasted more than 100 years allowed the town to develop and the population quickly found the town cramped. So the inhabitants began to build a few houses within the theatre complex. Built against the stage wall and on the terraces, they formed a veritable district around a road that ran through the middle. In the 18th century, prisons were built in the theatre walls and in the basilicae (towers either side of the stage). They were mainly used to pack in prisoners during the French revolution…”

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