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Geoffrey of Monmouth

(?- 1155)

Historia Regum Britanniae

(History of the Kings of Britain)

The reliabilty of this work published in 1136 has long

been a subject of debate but it is the first definitive

account of Arthurís Reign and one which puts

Arthur in a historcal context.

 

 

King Arthur had existed for centuries in mythology poetry and legend but the first narrative account of Arthur's reign is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th century Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), an entertaining and epic of British kings from the legendary Trojan exile Brutus to the 7th century Welsh prince Cadwallader. Geoffrey places Arthur in the same post-Roman period as the Historia Brittonum and Annales Cambriae.

 

He introduces Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, and his magician advisor Merlin, and the story of Arthur's conception, in which Uther, disguised as his enemy Gorlois by Merlin's magic, fathers Arthur on Gorlois' wife Igerna at Tintagel. On Uther's death, the fifteen-year-old Arthur succeeds him as king and fights a series of battles, similar to those in the Historia Brittonum, culminating in the Battle of Bath, and then defeats the Picts and Scots, conquers Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Gaul, and ushers in a period of peace and prosperity which lasts until the Roman emperor Lucius Tiberius demands tribute. Arthur refuses, and war follows.

 

Arthur and his warriors, including Caius, Bedver and Walganus, defeat Lucius in Gaul, but as he prepares to march on Rome, Arthur hears news that his nephew Modredus, whom he had left in charge of Britain, has married his wife Guanhumara and seized the throne. Arthur returns to Britain and defeats and kills Modredus on the river Camblam in Cornwall, but he is mortally wounded. He hands the crown to his kinsman Constantine and is taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds, never to be seen again.

 

Geoffrey's Historia became very popular and influential and was translated into Norman French verse by Wace, who introduced the Round Table, and Middle English verse by Layamon. It fed back into Welsh tradition, with three different Welsh prose translations appearing, and material in the Welsh triads deriving from it.

 

 

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Born circa 400 CE ; Welsh: Myrddin;

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