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Geoffrey of Monmouth

His Life & Works

 

 

 


Geoffrey of Monmouth was born around 1100 CE, it is not certain that he was born in Monmouth in South
East Wales but it is likely that as he took his name from the area, he was born there.

 

His father was named Arthur. Geoffrey was appointed archdeacon of Llandaff in 1140 and was consecrated bishop of St. Asaph in 1152. He died c. 1155.

Geoffrey is one of the most significant authors in the development of the Arthurian legends. It was Geoffrey who, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (completed in 1136) palces Arthur ina historical context and in the line of British kings as a pre- Saxon ruler.

 

This work not only established Arthur as a significant historical figure but also gave him an authoritative history which included many events familiar from later romance. Geoffrey also introduced the character of Merlin as we know him into the legends. Geoffrey's Merlin, a combination of the young and prophetic Ambrosius in Nennius's history and the prophet Myrddin who figures in several Welsh poems, first appears in a book known as the Prophetiae Merlini (The Prophecies of Merlin), which was written about 1135 but then incorporated as Book VII of the Historia.

 

This book contains the prophecies made by Merlin to the earlier celtic ruler Vortigern, which foreshadow not only the downfall of Vortigern but also the rise and fall of Arthur, events subsequent to the end of the Historia, and events of the obscure future.

The Historia proper begins in the legendary past and traces the origin of
Britain to its eponymous founder Brut, the great-grandson of Aeneas. (Because of this purported origin, histories of Britain were known as "Bruts.") Subsequent chapters tell of legendary and actual events in British history, including the story of Lear and his daughters, the offer of tribute from Rome to Belinus and Brennius, Julius Caesar's unsuccessful attempt at conquest, and the disasterous invitation of the Saxons to Britain by Vortigern.

The Arthurian portion of the story tells of Arthur's conquests on the continent, his slaying of the giant of St. Michael's Mount, a prominent role by Gawain in the Roman wars, the slaying of the Emperor Lucius, the treachery of Mordred, the entry of the nunnery by Guinevere, and the final battle between Mordred, who is killed, and Arthur, who is borne to the Isle of Avallon for the healing of his wounds.

The influence ofthe Historia on literature is enormous. It influenced numerous vernacular works, including translations into Welsh, Old Norse, and the French and English verse versions by Wace (the Roman de Brut) and Layamon (the Brut).

Geoffrey also wrote a Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin) in verse in about 1150.

 

 

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Born circa 400 CE ; Welsh: Myrddin;

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