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7 Oct, 2017 17:01

‘Celtic Superhero’: King Arthur was actually created for 12th C Britons, study claims

‘Celtic Superhero’: King Arthur was actually created for 12th C Britons, study claims

King Arthur, the legendary monarch who rose to the throne by pulling his sword Excalibur out of a stone and ruled Britain with the help of the knights of the round table and the wizard Merlin, may not have been real after all.

Arthur's adventures have spawned countless books, and quite a few movies over the centuries; one of the most notable of these being ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ which details how Arthur and his merry band of buffoons attempt to track down the goblet, battling the Knights of Ni, Frenchmen and, of course, a killer rabbit in the process.

That film is about as factual as the fabled King himself, according to Miles Russell, a Senior Lecturer in Roman and Prehistoric Archaeology at Bournemouth University (BU), who believes Arthur was a fictional ‘Celtic Superhero’ created in the 12th century.

Russell came to the conclusion having forensically analysed a series of medieval texts, including ‘A History of the Kings of Britain,’ written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1136, in which the first full account of King Arthur appears.

“Geoffrey’s book itself derives from a series of myths, stories and bardic praise poems that go back to the first century BC, at a time just before Britain became part of the Roman Empire,” Russell said in a press release.

“By studying the text with a forensic eye, isolating individual tales and characters, it is possible to identify where the story of King Arthur first came from.”

“When you start to look at King Arthur in detail you realise that he is an amalgam of at least five separate characters – he never existed as an independent person at all,” Russell added.  

The five characters in question are Ambrosius Aurelianus who lived in the late 400s, Roman general Magnus Maximus, Roman emperor Constantine the Great and prehistoric warlords Arvirargus and Cassivellaunus.

“Once you take all these elements of his story away, there’s actually nothing left for Arthur,” Russell said. “He’s an echo of all these other individuals – what Geoffrey of Monmouth did was create a Celtic superhero for his times, a character for the Britons to celebrate, taken from all the best bits of those individuals who lived before."