Return to King Arthur

Glastonbury Tor

"...the wondrous events appeared and the adventures were sought out which, whether for love of his generosity, or for fear of his bravery, are so often told about Arthur that they have become the stuff of fiction: not all lies, not all truth, neither total folly nor total wisdom. The raconteurs have told so many yarns, the story-tellers so many stories, to embellish their tales, that they have made it all appear fiction."

Wace, Le Roman de Brut

Three sources, Gildas, the Welsh Annals, and Nennius, are the first to refer to the figure of Arthur, although hundreds of years later. The earliest manuscript of Gildas, who wrote in the mid-sixth century and whose text was available to Bede in AD 731, when he finished his Ecclesiastical History, is from the tenth century, four hundred years later. It is this manuscript (Vitellius, which was badly damaged when Cotton's library was destroyed by fire, that is the exemplar of all later twelfth-century, and later, copies. The best text of Nennius, who wrote in AD 829, if not earlier, is from the eleventh century. All mention the battle at Badon hill, which occurred at the end of the fifth century or early in the sixth. But it is Ambrosius who is victorious.

The Arthur of legend is more the creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, Mallory, and Tennyson.

Return to Top of Page