Knights and Ladies; History and Archaeology: the Latest from the World of the Arthurian Legends

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Knights and Ladies; History and Archaeology: the Latest from the World of the Arthurian Legends

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We at Stone Ring Press are new to blogs generally, so to start with, let’s hear what author Dale Geraldson has to say in response to his own afterword section at the end of his novel, Dreamers of the Grail

 

It probably seems weird to try and describe the Arthur stories from the perspective of both history and archaeology as well as from their more acceptable media and milieu: the arts, ranging from literature to epic poetry, through painting, sculpture, drama, music, and, well, just about any medium, really.

“What? Arthurian history?!”  No doubt some of the academics are already rolling their eyes.   Even the most generous scholars on the topic will quickly point out that there are at least two “Arthurs:” the traditional, literary, artistic-idealistic one, and the historical (there’s that pesky academic word again…), a notably elusive and touchy topic based on what are, admittedly, scanty references and pieces of physical evidence, some of them as old as fifteen centuries.

So, what are the possibilities?

1) Arthur and his “contemporaries” were, or at least were based on, genuine personages.  This sometimes happens; there really was, for instance, a historical Gilgamesh, even if his literary form was more exciting and remains better known than his true age-old self, and his adventures went far beyond anything a genuine

2) Related to this first possibility, maybe the evidence has been so minimal because Britain at the time was largely illiterate; or because Arthur was so well known that it was thought that nothing needed to be recorded about him; or because the evidence itself has vanished, subject to the deteriorations of time, intentional destruction, or both.  All three of these have been seriously proposed by academics in a mix of specialties.

3) Alternatively, the whole “Arthuriana” cycle, which of course remains into our own time a self-perpetuating, organic thing, is really the result of just some old heroic tales which have been added to over the centuries.  This can be traced at least as far back as the poetry of Taliesin in the sixth century, and some argue that the antecedents are even older, perhaps going back to a Sarmatian cavalry officer and his fellow officers being sent to the Roman province of Britannia, possibly largely against their collective will (we’ll consider the Sarmatians a bit later).

What truth might there be in each of these possibilities, then?  We’ll get back to that next time…

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