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Tuesday, 13 October 2015



                                                   KING ARTHUR SITES IN SCOTLAND


This is one of the most important sources because it is the first to mention Arthur by name. It was written c. 600 AD by the poet Aneurin, describing a failed battle against the Angles at Catterick. Describing one warrior:
He struck before the three hundred bravest
He would slay both middle and flank
He was suited to the forefront of a most generous host
He would give gifts from a herd of horses in winter
He would feed black ravens on the wall
Of a fortress, though he were not Arthur
This is the earliest piece of vernacular writing in Europe, and it was written in Edinburgh. The Votadini were allied with the Damnonii of Strathclyde as both kingdoms were under threat from the Picts and Angles. It was Arthur who gave these kingdoms respite from their attacks, traditionally winning twelve battles (according to Nennius) and thus was celebrated by both peoples. The poem also mentions the Lord of Dumbarton:
He rose early in the morning
when the centurions hasten in the mustering of the army
following from one advanced position to another.
At the front of the hundred men he was first to kill.
As great was his craving for corpses
As for drinking mead or wine
It was with utter hatred
that the Lord of Dumbarton, the laughing fighter,
used to kill the enemy.
Here then is a brief examination of other primary sources...
Various annals refer to the period, although most are not contemporary but written later by monks. These can however be used to reference dates; most entries usually accurate to within a couple of years. The annals are the Annals of TigernachAnnals of IrelandAnnals of Ulster and the Annals Cambriae, sometimes called the Annals of Wales.
Gildas, the monk, wrote De Excidia Britanniae in the 6th Century. He makes no mention of Arthur but mentions a character called the Bear, possibly an epithet for Arthur - Arcturus is the latin for bear. He does mention a siege of Mount Badon however - which Nennius also mentions.
One point to bear in mind is that Gildas and Nennius although mentioning Saxons as the enemy of the British were actually referring to Angles.
Adomnan wrote Vita Columba in the 7th Century. Much of the text is an attempt to prove Columba worthy of sainthood. It details various miracles and prophecies ascribed to St. Columba. However, most of the rest of the text seems historically accurate.
Traditionally, Nennius wrote the Historia Brittonum in the 8th Century; although modern historians now regard the ascription to Nennius as false and the text written anonymously around 829/830 AD. Work on this ascription was undertaken by Heinrich Zimmer in his 1893 book Nennius vindicatus. He asserted that Nennius compiled the majority of the book (chapters 7 to 65) but that chapters 57-65 (known asGenealogiae Saxonum, regarded as the only legitimite historical section of the Historia Brittonum ) had been written by a unknown Briton of Strathclyde around 679 AD and merely revised by Nennius.
Whoever the author - whom I will regard as Nennius for convention - wrote of the twelve battles of King Arthur. He was in the words of Gerhard Helm in the book The Celts "unrestrainedly inventive" although he did have seem to have access to now lost 5th and 6th Century manuscripts. Thus any information taken from this source must be checked with care.
W. F. Skene in his Celtic Scotland says this of Nennius' Arthur : "The Arthur of Nennius was however, a very different personage from the shadowy and mythic monarch of the later Welsh traditions, and of th Arthurian romance. He is described by Nennius as merely a warrior who was a military commander in conjuction with the petty British kings who fought against the Saxons. The Saxons referred to were those whom Nennius had previously described as colonising the regions in the north under Octa and Ebissa, and it is that part of the country we must look for the sites of the twelve battles which he records." Thus Skene places almost all of the twelve battles firmly in Scotland.
The flow of the chapters in Nennius' Historia Brittonum also point to a Scottish base:- from chapters 50 to 55 Nennius writes of St. Patrick, a Saint born in Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire; chapter 56 mentions Arthur's battles; and chapter 57 is regarding Bernicia, an ancient Northumbrian kingdom that stretched into South-East Scotland. This geographical implication, of course, is that Arthur and his battle-sites rightly belong to southern Scotland.
This conclusion is reinforced by the original authorship of the Genealogiae Saxonum to be a Strathclyde Briton. Indeed it suggests that the same Strathclyde Briton may also have written those earlier chapters 50 - 56; obviously he would be familiar with St. Patrick's connection to Kilpatrick and Arthur's battles being correctly sited in Strathclyde and the north of Britain. And if that is the case, the argument for a historical Arthur is also strengthened, as the Genealogiae Saxonum is an accepted historical manuscript by the same author.

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