We’ve all heard stories of King Arthur of Camelot, who, according to medieval legend, led British forces (including his trusted knights of the round table) in battle against invaders from Saxon in the Sixth Century.
The question is, was King Arthur a real person or just a hero of Celtic folklore? Though, debate has gone on for centuries, historians have not been able to confirm if King Arthur really existed.
We’ve seen many legendary movies like “Merlin”, “Arthur & Guinevere”, “Legend of King Arthur” and etc. portraying the life of King Arthur. Because these are being continuously shown and it however attracts more viewers, we tend to believe that a ‘certain King Arthur’ lived a life that we normally see on these TV shows.
Strangely, King Arthur doesn’t appear in the only surviving contemporary source about the Saxon invasion, in which the Celtic monk Gildas wrote of a real-life battle at Mons Badonicus (Badon Hills) around 500 A.D. Several hundred years later, Arthur appears for the first time in the writings of a Welsh historian named Nennius, who gave a list of 12 battles the warrior king supposedly fought. All drawn from Welsh poetry, the battles took place in so many different times and places that it would have been impossible for one man to have participated in all of them.
Later Welsh writers drew on Nennius’ work, and Arthur’s fame spread beyond Wales and the Celtic world, particularly after the Norman conquest of 1066 connected England to northern France. In the popular 12th-century book “History of the Kings of Britain” Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the first life story of Arthur, describing his magic sword Caliburn (later known as Excalibur), his trusted knight Lancelot, Queen Guinevere and the wizard Merlin.
An irresistible blend of myth and fact, the book was supposedly based on a lost Celtic manuscript that only Geoffrey was able to examine. A series of romances by the French poet Chrétien de Troyes gave Arthur’s quest a spiritual motive by introducing his search for the mysterious Holy Grail. Though Arthur may not have been a real person, his mythic power would only grow stronger as the centuries passed. English rulers from Henry VIII to Queen Victoria have appropriated the Arthur legend for political purposes, while countless writers, painters, photographers, filmmakers and other artists have produced their own versions for posterity.