Ancient Manuscripts>New Perspectives

There are only a limited number of options in the quest to create a clearer image of the historic King Arthur. Even with scientific advancements in fields such as archeology, incontestable proof of King Arthur’s historicity is beyond even remote possibility. Throughout the centuries, antiquarians have amassed material and postulated theories according to what was available to them in their era, and by using their building blocks, we are now in an age to explore new probabilities because of the resources at our fingertips. Based upon guidance and direction from the myriad of contributors, it is possible to formulate new insights which have heretofore not been considered, either because of a dogmatic attachment to the traditional interpretations, or because of an unthinking acceptance of terms and conditions as they were reported centuries ago. Different channels of thought must be explored since no new resources seem to be forthcoming. For those who need incontrovertible proof, any attempt to establish King Arthur’s historicity is undoubtedly foolhardy, but we now have a sea of knowledge available to us at the click of a button, and a layperson today can accomplish in an hour what would have been impossible for the so-called expert of yester-century to accomplish in a lifetime. In the past, it would not be uncommon for a learned historian to write about events of his generation and be respected for his labors even though he might not have strayed more than a hundred miles from his environment. Gildas Badonicus, for example, wrote of a “superbus tyrannus” without identifying the person by a propers, name, and a couple of centuries later, a historian by the name of Bede labeled that “superbus tyrannus” as Vortigern. In our modern age, rather than accept this pronouncement as an unshakeable truth because of its age, it behooves us to explore other feasibilities even at the risk of ridicule such as Galileo suffered. Some of the ideas which have been (and should continue to be) probed even more vigorously are concepts which have inspired me to write about the enigmatic King Arthur. Although some conservatives might understandably choose to guard the bastions of an ancient legacy, hopefully there are those frontiersmen who will venture across the river and step into virgin territory. In my limited forays into these new vistas that haven’t been mapped or charted in any detail yet, it’s important to question what might be long-ingrained misconceptions. The following is an enumeration of a few.
1. By relying upon excellent researchers such as G.N. Garmonsway and his translation of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it becomes obvious that for centuries we’ve all been lulled into complacency by the term “Anglo-Saxon.” During the nearly four centuries of the Roman occupation of Britain, the common Latin term for inhabitants of the island was Saxones, a term which collectively characterized Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, and German. And yet it is this lax kind of generalization which causes so much trouble in translations. It is crucially important to know exactly who was fighting whom, because all these clans which migrated to Britain settled in various parts of the island, and the distinction between tribes must always be kept uppermost in one’s mind. Garmonsway differentiates Angles from Saxons, and Britons from Welsh. Although he does this meticulously in each entry, our senses are dulled and we don’t realize the full impact until we’ve read the entries hundred of times. If the Angles are fighting the Welsh, that is very different from the Saxons fighting the Britons; the first might suggest a conflict between what is now known as Mercia and Wales, while the second might be Saxons in the area now known as West Sussex fighting Britons in Hampshire.
2. Along these same lines, there must be a distinction between the “English Saxons” and the “German Saxons.” The “English Saxons” is a reference to those Saxones (that generic Roman word) who had been settled in Britain for several generations and considered the island their homeland. The “German Saxons” (sometimes referred to as “Continental Saxons”) were those newcomers who raided or encroached from across the Channel.
3. This leads to the importance of properly defining “homeland”. Where, for instance is the “homeland” for English Saxons? for German Saxons? Where is Hengist’s or Octha’s point of origin, or where is Cunedda’s base prior to his migration. if there ever was a migration? Where was Vortigern’s original kingdom? In Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era I have an extensive glossary for a purpose: although it seemingly defines some points to an extreme, the distinctions are important. For example, the province on the continent which disintegrated about 425 A.D. was known as Angeln and an inhabitant would be an Angel: Mercia on the island was previously known as Anglia or East Anglia and a person from that province was an Anglian. Anglice. was a general term for Germanic settlers in Britain who were not Frisians. Consider, then, the crucial importance of identifying someone’s “homeland.” Most traditionalists, when reading about Vortimer driving Hengist and his “Saxones” back to their “homeland” would interpret that as saying Vortimer drove Hengist and his Saxons back across the Channel. Yet The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle explicitly states several times that Hengist is an Angel. Coupled with Glides’ statement in the De Excidio that Breitish wars were internal and fought against the “sacrilegious easterners” on the island. we can therefore more accurately label Hengist as an English Saxon, or more specifically as an Anglian from East Anglia. Hence,Vortimer drove the Anglians back to to the eastern coast of the island. When you read any of the ancient insular manuscripts, pay particular attention to the use of the words Welsh. Briton. Secants, Saxons, Angles, English Saxons, German Saxons, and homeland. And also keep in mind that all the headings and subheadings in the Historia Brittonum were later additions and not part of the original manuscripts. You’ll be astounded by the differences in meanings.
4. In this same vein, one of Vortimer’s battles is fought near an “Inscribed Stone.” Again, many traditionalists assume this battle was fought on the southeastern coast of Britain. Vet there is not a single inscribed stone which has been found in southeastern England. Of nearly TWO HUNDRED Group !inscribed stones, Wales has the overwhelming bulk of 140 of those markers, and there is not a single inscribed stone anywhere near Kent, which is erroneously listed as Hengist’s kingdom.
5. Other references which create geographic difficulties are sites which could be considered either proper names or common descriptive markers, especially confusing because the ancient manuscripts made no distinction between upper and lower case: Bath versus bath. Wall versus wall, North versus north.
6. Akin to the above. some terms are used as interchangeable synonyms when they should not be: Gildas BadonicusIGildas Albanius: Wessex ‘West Saxon: Manau GododdiniSododdin: CerdicesoralCerdicesford, Cornwall/Cornovii: ScottilScottish, City of LegionlCaerleon: OghugullAngeln.
7. Another difficulty is the use of general terms which can be defined in radically different way. “North”, for instance, could be beyond the Antonin Wall, but it could also mean what we now call the midlands. “Obtaining a kingdom” is not the same as “conquering a kingdom.. and “discord” need not mean “conflict” or “war” but could mean “argument” or disagreement..
8. Likewise, there is solid archeological evidence, based upon Leslie Alcock’s works, that there were three major Saxones migrations to the island, not just one. Some of the ancient manuscripts do not clearly make the distinctions because of their technique of “compactIng,” but common sense dictates that there was continuous coming and going because of all the upheaval, not only on the island, but throughout all of Gaul during the “Arthurian” age.
9. And what about the Wall of Severus? Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonin Wall are well-known British sites, and there are still remnants and ruins of each visible. But what happened to the Wall of Severus?