Who created Excalibur

Arthur The Arthurian legend

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a mighty and just king named Arthur. His magnificent castle was called Camelot, and it was there that the bravest and noblest warriors in the country, the Knights of the Round Table, gathered. Arthur's adviser was the wise magician Merlin, who warned the young king about the wedding with Guinever, in which he had fallen in love. But Arthur did not heed the advice of the magician and married Guinevere. She fell in love with Lancelot, the best and most loyal knight of Arthur, and soon the forbidden love brought the downfall of the king's kingdom.

This is the legend of Arthur that all of us have heard at some point. And who does not know the magician Morgana, Arthur's half-sister, who was not well disposed towards her brother, or who has never heard of Excalibur, the magical sword of the king, which the magician Merlin once entrusted to him to protect the country? Who does not know the legend of the Holy Grail, on whose search the knights of the round table went, brave and brave warriors like Perzival or Galahad? Everyone has probably heard the tragic love story of Arthur's knight Tristan and the beautiful Isolde before.

But what did reality look like? Did King Arthur, or Arthur as I usually call this man, ever exist? If so, where were his kingdoms and castles, who were the knights who fought for him? And if not; who was or is Arthur, rex quondam, rexque futurus, the former and future king who never was?

- up The origins of the legend

Arthur's story is old; it has been told for more than 1500 years. The image we have today of "King Arthur" was largely created in the Middle Ages, and was shaped by the stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Malory and others. Arthur, however, was a 6th century man. The authors who later wrote his legend told a story that was about 500 to 1000 years before their time, namely around 500 after the birth of Christ, but described their own presence as the place where the action took place.

There is little evidence of what happened in Britain in the hundred years or so between the departure of the Romans and the rise of the Anglo-Saxons. There are a multitude of sources reporting on this time; but most were written much later, and many are contradicting itself. It seems that the further we get from this age, the more information we get about it, and we have to wonder how reliable it is. The hundred years are the age of legends and poetry, and it is not for nothing that one speaks of the Dark Ages.

Arthur steps out of this very darkness. We don't know whether he is a historical figure or "just" a fictional legendary figure from the Dark Ages. It is only certain that Britain was in an uproar at that very moment, and that someone was able, once again, for a short time, to bring calm and order into this turmoil which marked the disappearance of the Roman rulers and the arrival of the Saxon occupiers over the country brought to bring. Arthur fills this void in the history of Britain, the century of the Dark Ages, more perfectly than anyone else.

The many stories that exist about Arthur depict him as a mighty ruler who resided in his magnificent castle, as a knight in his shining armor, who rode through the country on his noble steed, and as a devout Christian who met his followers Search for the Holy Grail sent. The "real" Arthur, however, was a Celtic personality.

- up Historical prehistory The Celts in Britain

The mysterious people of the Celts came to Britain from the east. They brought their culture, foreign customs and rituals with them to the island. Little is known about the Old Folk, those people who lived there before them. The enormous stone monuments, such as Stonehenge, are testimonies that they have left behind. The first clear evidence of agricultural use of the land dates back to around 1200 BC; from the 8th century, Celtic tribes, coming from mainland Europe, settled the country.
Originally only the peoples who lived on the continent were referred to as "Celts", it was only later that the inhabitants of the British Isles were also called that. The term "Celtic" appears for the first time in reports by ancient authors, its origin is not clearly understood. The Celtic peoples probably did not call themselves that, they do not have their own scriptures. They were not a homogeneous family of peoples, the individual peoples had a lot in common, but also a lot of differences. Since they did not leave any records for their posterity, the image of the uncultivated "barbarians" quickly emerged; only modern archeology gave real information about their lives. The Celtic peoples played an important role in the creation of European life.
Britain has to a certain extent developed independently. The islanders did a lot of trade with the Mediterranean, but otherwise Britain was not of great importance in the history of Western Europe before the Roman invasion.

- up Occupation of Britain by the Romans

In AD 43, the Roman emperor Claudius I commanded the conquest of Britain, and this was the beginning of a Roman rule that lasted almost 400 years. Almost a hundred years earlier, 55 BC, Julius Caesar and his troops had already set foot on British soil, but had not carried out any conquests. After the Roman invasion by Claudius, after the resident peoples had fought bitterly against their occupiers for several decades, Britain became a province of Rome ruled by Roman governors. Around 85 AD the Roman troops even reached today's Scotland, but this area, like Ireland, is never conquered and romanised, the Picts living there maintain their independence.
115 there is a revolt of the British tribes against their occupiers, whereupon the Emperor Hadrian comes to Britain and has a 117 km long protective wall, the Hadrian's Wall, built between the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea and the mouth of the River Tyne in the east. 30 years later, further north, between the Fyrth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth, the narrowest part of the country, the Antoine's Wall, another protective wall is being built.
The island has been relatively peaceful for 200 years. In 383 Magnus Maximus, called Macsen Wledig by the Welsh, was declared emperor by the Roman army in Britain. With an army of volunteers he crossed over to the European continent and carried out conquests there, he even got as far as Rome, but was then defeated. In 395, Theodisius, the last emperor to rule an undivided Roman Empire, dies, leaving the territories in the west to his one son, Arcadius, and Honorius, his other, younger son. The power of an emperor changes from absolute rule to mere state leadership. After the debacle of Magnus Maximus, the Roman general Stilicho reorganized the British troops. At this point, military power began to be transferred from Roman commanders to British tribal chiefs. 402 Stilicho is forced to withdraw one of the two Roman legions stationed in Britain to use them on the continent against the Visigoths. The troops never return to Britain. Four years later, the barbarians invade Gaul, now France, and contact between the British Isles and Rome is broken. The army left behind in Britain mutinies and appoints three Imperatori in succession, the reigns of the first two not being of long duration. Constantine III is the third, and following the example of Magnus Maximus, he and the remaining second Roman legions of Britain leave for Gaul.
After the withdrawal of both legions, Britain was exposed to attacks by the Saxons, Picts and Scots, and the soldiers who remained on the island were unable to repel enemy attacks. 410, after Britain has asked the Emperor Honorius for help, and the latter could not fulfill the request, Rome gives up Britain.

- up The Dark Ages

This is where the real Dark Ages begin. It is hard to say anything concrete about these years, because up to this point the history of Britain had been recorded by the Romans in documents, and now it was no longer so. We know relatively little about this age, but the fact is that Britain was demographically divided into a Brytonic west, a Gaelic north and a Teutonic east during these years, with the country being largely Christianized.

During the nearly 400 years of Roman occupation, the individual British tribes were united under one central rule. To some extent the Romans had brought order to disordered Britain. The methodically planned and laid out Roman cities stood in contrast to the old, pre-Roman settlements of the British. The Roman roads that connected these cities were also planned, they were usually straight and well built. This safe and well-organized road system ensured easy and quick travel from city to city. The Romans also rebuilt many old Celtic fortifications so that post-Roman Britain had a very good defensive network.
Likewise, the Romans had practically brought their entire culture and lifestyle, as well as their political and legislative systems, with them to the island. Most of this was adopted by the British tribes, with the rural population still largely unaffected by the influences of Roman life, but the townspeople adapting. When the Romans left the island, they left the country with order and stability. Although now politically independent from Rome, the British administered their country according to the Roman model. However, after a few decades, the Roman influences increasingly faded. The hostile tribes that had long pushed the Romans into their borders reappeared in the country. The British are unable to fend off this threat because they now lack a unified political system and no ruler can unite the tribes to fight the enemy and deploy a unified army against them.

Little by little, rule falls into the hands of tyrants. One of these that very likely actually existed is Vortigern. "Vortigern" was probably more of a title than an actual name. Geoffrey of Monmouth tells Vortigern's story, and we cannot say for sure what is fiction and what is reality.

Vortigern comes to power around 445 and becomes High King of Britain. He used Saxon auxiliary troops, the Foederati, in the fight against the Picts, and allowed the Saxons, whose rulers were the two brothers Hengist and Horsa, to settle in the south-eastern coastal region. This is the beginning of the "coming of the Saxons", adventus saxonum. The British-Saxon alliance worked for a while, but then the Foederati rebelled and brought further reinforcements from Germania to Britain. Vortigern dies around 460.

The Saxons likely united with the Picts and Scots in a powerful enemy. This turmoil of war, hostile threats on all borders, and a formerly ordered country, which now lacked any unified order, was inherited by the man we know as "King Arthur".

- up The evolution of the legend No and first mentions

In the 5th century AD Gildas, who was a contemporary of Arthur, publishes his De Excidio Britanniae, but Arthur does not mention a word. Arthur also does not appear in Bede's Ecclesiastic History of the English People, completed in 731. He is mentioned for the first time by Nennius, who published the Historia Brittonnum around 820 and in it reports on the 12 battles that Arthur fought. "... cum regibus Brittonum, sed ipse erat dux bellorum." Arthur fought against the Saxons, together with the British kings, and was himself Dux Bellorum, a military leader or warlord. Nennius probably wrote down what he found in ancient documents, and also mentioned the magician Myrddin, whom we will later get to know as Merlin, and from whom he gleaned from Welsh myths. The 12 battles of Arthur that Nennius describes could never be precisely located, and many attempts were made to locate locations that are spread across Britain. Furthermore, Nennius tells of Arthur's dog Cabal and his son Amir, or Anir, who "... filius Arthuri militis erat et ipse occidit eum ibidem et sepelivit." - So was the son of the warrior Arthur, who killed and buried him himself there (according to Nennius in an area called Ercing).
Another early mention of Arthur is in the epic poem Y Goddodin, written around AD 600. was written, but it is believed that this passage was added to the work later.
Around 1019 AD Arthur is mentioned for the first time as king in a Breton legend.

- up Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes and Sir Thomas Malory

The written version of Geoffrey of Monmouth (1129-1159) was added to the oral tradition around 1136. He draws his Historia Regum Britanniae from old legends and sagas, and also refers to Nennius' work. The story of the British kings makes Arthur, seemingly freed from the legends and fairy tale undergrowth, appear in full size. Geoffrey lets his story take place in the 6th century AD, but tells it as if it took place in his own presence, the 12th century. To this day, most of the stories about Arthur describe a 6th century, which has the external appearance of a 12th century, with tournaments, knight fights and Minne song.
Barely 20 years after Geoffrey's History of the British Kings was published, the English poet Wace translates the Latin piece into French verse, adding the round table, which probably comes from a legend of Breton origin.
At the end of this century, Chrétien de Troyes added further heroes, such as Lancelot and Yvain, to the king's court, and incorporated the huge complex of the legend of the Holy Grail into Arthur's story. Many medieval poets and authors, especially French ones, dedicate themselves to the saga, adding more and more heroes, dragons and mythical rituals to it. Since this story, King Arthur has embodied a ruler as the people of the Middle Ages wanted him to be. Arthur became a figure of identification; a king, fair, just, benevolent and wise at the same time, who knew how to rule his empire prudently and energetically.
The most famous story by Arthur from this period is Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, the actual proto-version of "our" Arthurian legend.

- up Geoffrey of Monmouth: Tintagel and Arthur's Birth

Geoffrey mentions Tintagel in what is now Cornwall as the birthplace of Arthur. The Tintagel fortress was not built until the 12th century, but probably, more recent excavations show this, there was once a monastery here in Arthur's time.

Tintagel is the castle of Duke Gorlois. He has a beautiful young wife, who is called Igraine. When Uther, the Pendragon, was appointed High King of Britain, he asked all the nobles of the country to come to him to celebrate a great festival to mark his inauguration. Gorlois and Igraine also travel to the court of the Hochkönig. When he sees the young duchess, he immediately falls in love with her, but Igraine is uncomfortable with Uther's sudden attention, so she asks her husband to leave as soon as possible. The next day they go back to Cornwall. When Uther discovers her disappearance, he is very angry and declares war on Cornwall. With his army he moves into the little kingdom. Gorlois leaves his wife in Tintagel to entrench himself in another festival. Uther besieges these fortresses, but when they both prove to be impregnable, he asks the magician Merlin for a spell. This transforms the king into the image of Gorlois, and brings the supposed duke to Tintagel, to Igraine. But while Uther, in the form of Gorlois, attends the Duchess, his people kill the real Duke. Messengers ride to Tintagel to deliver the sad news to Igraine. And who do you meet there? A living Gorlois. But Uther, still enchanted in Gorlois' form, leaves the castle, only to return shortly afterwards as the High King and to take Igraine as his rightful wife.

Thus, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur was conceived with the help of a small intrigue, not very subtle but effective.

A more detailed version and continuation of the story can be found in Part

- up Robert Wace: The Round Table

The round table has been an integral part of the legend of the king since Robert Wace added it to Arthur's history, although it is believed to have an entirely different origin.

This round table was a gift from King Leodegrance, who brought his daughter Guinever as a dowry into their marriage to Arthur. Allegedly Merlin once made this huge, circular table, for the Hochkönig Uther, who passed it on to Leodegrance as a token of friendship. With Guinever, the monstrous table found its way back to the court of Uther's son Arthur. There is room for 150 knights at the round table. No one is superior to the others, because the circular arrangement of the squares means that they are all the same. Each knight has his own place, and through Merlin's magic you can read the names of future knights above the unoccupied places.

- up Chrétien de Troyes: Lancelot and Guinever / The Holy Grail

According to Chrétien de Troyes, Queen Guinever is kidnapped and Lancelot, Arthur's bravest and noblest knight, frees her. However, the two commit adultery, and that means the fall of Camelot. From now on, for all later authors, the forbidden love of the two is the reason for the collapse of Arthur's empire.

It was Chrétien de Troyes who added the huge complex of the Grail Quest to the Arthurian legend. According to legend, the Holy Grail came to Britain with Joseph of Arimathea. After Jesus was taken down from the cross, Joseph helped wash Jesus' body and caught the blood of Christ in a chalice called the Grail. Joseph later went to Glastonbury, which was Britain's first Christian community, and took the Holy Grail with him.
The search for the Holy Grail was later the greatest and noblest adventure for Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. The Grail itself lost its meaning, the meaning of the search and the meaning behind it was much more important. the term "search" has become a leitmotif of the Arthurian legend.

- up Sir Thomas Malory: Political Propaganda

At the time of the "War of the Roses", the dispute over the succession of England to the throne between the Houses of Lancaster and York, Arthur was used as a propaganda symbol for British unity.

Malory was pursuing a political goal when he wrote his Morte Darthur. It is believed that he was in prison at the time, writing down his grief over the violence in the country and his longing for an orderly world. Malory longed for an Arthur who could keep things calm and orderly.

- up The Arthurian myth nowadays

With the end of the Middle Ages Arthur was a little forgotten, his popularity declined, so that the Golden Age under Elizabeth I practically took place without him. The Arthur myth was rediscovered in the 19th century by the romantic movement. The legendary hero Arthur is created. The army leader of the 6th century and the noble knight and king of the 12th century now become the mysterious hero that he has remained to this day. His image and demeanor, which we know today, come from this time.
Nowadays the legend, saga, story of Arthur is still very popular, in books and films it is taken up again and again, in different ways. For almost 1500 years, history has been written down over and over again, elements have been added and removed. But no matter what century he met them in, Arthur always fascinated people. To this day, his story has remained an open legend, although Arthur research has not been idle in the last few decades and a lot of interesting things have been discovered, so little light has come into the Dark Ages. Everyone is allowed to form their own picture of Arthur and his story, whether he were an emperor or a warlord, a noble Roman or a barbarian, a devout Christian or a pagan; Even for the people in the early Middle Ages he was a figure of light and a symbol for better times, and today we can also regard him as our dream king.

- up Alfred Tennyson: The Loss of Human Values

Alfred Tennyson was a poet at the English court. In the middle of the 19th century he wrote his "royal idylls", which were very popular with the people.

Tennyson equated the fall of Camelot with the fall of rural, peaceful England, for the Industrial Revolution had just begun and Tennyson feared the threat of emerging technology.
His Camelot is a symbol of the Golden Age, whose decay cannot be stopped. No external threat, but internal affairs, love affairs, friendships, betrayal and deceit lead to the downfall of Camelot. Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son and one of his knights, betrayed the king and usurped control of the realm. Arthur kills Mordred in the Battle of Camlann and is mortally wounded in the process. His half-sister, Morgan Le Fay, takes him to Avalon and takes care of him there, and one day he will return to Britain. But Guinever and Lancelot show repentance; their affair led to the Camelots case. Guinever goes to a monastery and Lancelot spends the rest of his life as an emeritus.

- up Arthur's full story, very briefly (freely based on Geoffrey of Monmouth and others)

Constantine is made Emperor of Britain. He marries and has three sons, Constans, who goes to the monastery as a monk, Ambrosius Aurelanius, and Uther. Constantin is overthrown and murdered by Vortigern, an ambitious prince. For a short time Vortigern uses the young Constans as a kind of puppet king, but then kills him too, and takes over sole rule of Britain. He allows the Saxon kings Hengist and Horsa to settle with their people on the south-eastern coast and marries Hengist's daughter Rowenna. The two young princes Ambrosius and Uther are brought to Armorica, in Brittany, by their bodyguards. For the next 20 years they grew up there and gathered followers around them, only to return later and take control again. Vortigern's power weakened as his two older sons, Vortimer and Catigern, rebelled against him, and the population split into a pro-Celtic and a pro-Saxon party. Vortigern still defeats the uprising of his two sons with the help of his Saxon allies, but at this point in time, Ambrosius and Uther return from their exile. You land in Cornwall, where Gorlois rules, an ally against the Saxons and Vortigern. Vortigern fell in a short war, and Ambrose took control of the country again, and was made the High King of Britain. He succeeds in pushing the Saxons back into the eastern parts of the country, and peace is established. After two years, Ambrosius is murdered and Uther, known as "The Pendragon", takes over from him.
To take office as king, Uther ordered all kings and queens to stay with him. On this occasion he saw Igraine for the first time, the young and beautiful wife of his old man, Gorlois. He falls in love with her, but Igraine is uncomfortable with the High King's attention and she asks her husband Gorlois to leave as soon as possible. The next day they return to their Tintagel castle. When Uther discovers her disappearance, he is terribly angry, and gathers an army with which he invades Cornwall. Gorlois hides his wife in Tintagel and hides himself in another fortress. When both these and Tintagel prove to be irreconcilable, Uther asks the magician Merlin for a spell. Merlin transforms the Hochkönig Gorlois and brings him to Ygernia in Tintagel. But while he is attending the Duchess, in the form of Gorlois, Uther's men kill the real Gorlois. Messengers ride to Tintagel to deliver the sad news to Igraine, but there they find a living, supposed Gorlois. Uther leaves the castle, only to return soon after in his own form and to take Igraine as his rightful wife. They get married and Arthur is born. But on the day of his birth, Merlin appears to get the promise in return for his magic, namely the boy. Merlin brings Arthur to Sir Ector, with whom the boy grows up with Ector's own son Kay.
Not much happens in the next fifteen years, the country is more or less calm. Then the ailing Uther dies without leaving an heir, the land is without a king. Again Merlin casts a spell: he makes a sword appear in an anvil, anvil in a stone, with the instruction that "he who can draw the sword out of the stone shall be the rightful King of Britain". All the nobles in the country try, but only boy Arthur can do it. After some turmoil, he is named High King of Britain. From the nymph Nimue he receives the sword Excalibur, which makes him invincible. The first thing he has to do is to fight the kings of the north who are troubling his kingdom Logres. He doesn't defeat them, but decides the battle in his favor. One of the northern kings, Lot of Orkney and Lothian, sends his young wife Morgause to Arthur. The young king falls for the beautiful queen and fathered a child with her - Mordred. However, he does not know that she is a daughter of Igraines by his first marriage, or rather that he is a son of Igraines and Uthers. Merlin tells him all about his parentage, and Arthur asks his mother to come to him. With Igraine, another sister appears, Morgaine, who temporarily stays with her brother, but also in the Otherworld on Avalon, the Celtic realm of the dead, where she has a certain power through her magic arts, which she also uses in the real world. Morgaine and Arthur share a kind of love-hate relationship - it harms him, but also helps him.
Arthur marries the Round Table on the instructions of his Guinean councilors, who bring a large round table into the marriage. A hall has to be found for the table, a castle for the hall, so Camelot is built. Arthur appoints his most loyal followers to be Knights of the Round Table. Then the Saxons are successfully fought and driven out, revolts of smaller princes put down, dragons and giants killed and virgins freed. Then there will be peace in Logres. Merlin dies, or rather is spellbound by the nymph Nimue, which equates to death for him. With Merlin Arthur loses his most important advisor. Now that there is peace, there is also boredom. While the knights sit together at the round table, the grail suddenly appears in a glaring white light. And so quickly he disappears again, and the king sends his knights on the high search for the Grail. They look for him for years until three knights find him, but they leave him where he is because they no longer see any point in him.
Meanwhile, Guinever commits adultery with the knight Lancelot, but Arthur forgives her. The marriage of the king and queen is childless, so it is rumored that Arthur's nephew (and son) Mordred will one day succeed him. But Mordred is ambitious and wants all power for himself. He is entrusted with power over Camelot and Logres, while Arthur himself is in Broceliande, on the continent. Mordred creates his own army and betrays Arthur. A war breaks out between the two, ultimately Mordred falls at the Battle of Camlann at Arthur's hand, but he himself mortally wounds Arthur. The dying king asks his friend Bedwyr to throw the Excalibur sword into the lake. Bedwyr obeys instruction, and as he flings Excalibur across the water, a hand emerges from the lake and takes the sword. The nymphs of the lake have recovered their swords. Then a barge appears on the lake, which ultimately brings the dying Arthur to Avalon, where he is looked after by his sister Morgaine and is supposed to return to reality from there one day. After the king's death, Logres falls apart. For a short time a distant one from Arthur rules the country, but then the Saxons return and take over power in what is now England.

... Sequel follows!