The King Arthur Character does not significantly predate "The History of the Kings of Britain"
It is my position that the literary figure, King Arthur, does not significantly predate the creation of “The History of the Kings of Britain” in c.1136. I am aware that many historians disagree, with many of them claiming that there are mentions of him that date back to nearly the Roman era.
I am not convinced that this is true, for several reasons.
I would like to discuss this topic with anyone who might be able to produce some data that I have not seen before, and that might demonstrate that there are compelling reasons to think that I am mistaken.
I am willing to share the BOP, and we may dismiss any semantic tricks – this should be considered a “sharing of information” debate, and not so much a competition. I am willing to be flexible on any other rule that might be suggested. I am also not overly concerned about source material or references, unless they are requested. Simple links to websites will do for this.
First, I really need to thank my debate partner for his patience; the long weekend has prevented me from posting this argument until nearly the last minute. I had really expected to have had it out the same day, so.
As I said in the first round, I am willing to be very relaxed with the use of references, as these can easily devour character
counts. I am happy to back up any assertion that Con requests, and I encourage him to do the same. Likewise, if I am unfamiliar with some fact, I can ask him to source it for me. This will save time and effort. The main problem that Con and I are going to
be facing in this debate is that 8000 character limit. The size and scope of this subject is staggering, and trying to determine what to leave in and what to leave out is maddening.
It is my burden to demonstrate that the King Arthur story does not significantly predate 1136, when Geoffrey of Monmouth produced his fanciful “History of the Kings of Britain.” I will rely on Con to demonstrate the evidence that the King Arthur legend does indeed predate the 12th Century.
As I cannot prove a negative, that is, I cannot prove that Arthur exists nowhere in all of literature prior to 1136, I will be further depending on Con to produce the best evidence that he can find to support the case that he does. I will then harshly evaluate this evidence, and in this way we will establish (if not the absolute proof that Arthur did not exist before Geoffrey) that there is no real evidence for the proposition.
Here are a few of the bit more obvious reasons for my assertion that King Arthur does not appear in literature before Geoffrey.
In short, here is my perspective:
It is my opinion that the Arthur character was a composite, with elements taken from local history and legends, as well as the sponsor of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Robert, Earl of Gloucester.
Also i'd like to say any grammatical errors im sorry my keyboard isnt great and the buttons stick.
Anyhow i will be trying to prove that Geoffrey did not make up the character of king Arthur as well as trying to prove he existed.
So here goes.
As both me and my opponent will admit, while the Arthur tales may or may not be true, we can agree on these points:
1)Knights of the round table? Not true.
2)Merlin-A character probably based on a high ranking advisor to the king.
Point 1 - The Name - The name Arthur is suggested by some to be derived from the Celtic "Artu" or "Artos", a bear, or the Irish "art", a stone. It is more probably of Latin origin. This could mean the name was a common name, therefore i support your claim that the older workings of arthur may have been a different being. But it is unlikely that they are all someone else.
My opponent talked of older tales of Arthur depicting him as a type of "Demi-God", This is true however i believe in arthurs time (assuming he existed) There will have been poets and writers who were paid to exaggerate Arthur's qualities, and then proceed to spread the tales around the land. A king would have paid highly for this service and its likely they are tales of him but they probably aren't very accurate.
Also they are all very similiar tales and such can be counted as partly reliable sources.
I want to thank Con for being so concise; this is a massive topic, and suffers from a ‘minimum level of complexity,’ which tends to require long explanations. Maintaining focus will help remedy that tendency somewhat. Although the voters will evaluate this debate according to their own counsel, I am hopeful that Con’s technical difficulties are not graded too harshly. I am willing to ask that some consideration is made for this.
It has also occurred to me that some elements of this discussion will necessarily consist of technobabble that may be obscure for some readers. Therefore, I feel that I should explain myself better to these readers than I have so far. I think this step is important for our discussion, and so I must sacrifice the bulk of this round to providing this important background information.
Geoffrey Arthur of Monmouth:
This cleric is important to our story, because I believe that the King Arthur legend began with him. He wrote the “History of the Kings of Britain” sometime around the year 1136, which first names King Arthur as a side-character in a larger narrative history of the kings who had rule over Britain to his day.
Since Arthur’s character was still somewhat lacking in detail, the story was picked up and embellished by Chrétien de Troy, and later completed in the masterpiece, “The Romance of Arthur,” which was credited to an unknown and obscure writer named Sir Thomas Mallory.
The Arthurian tales that come after Geoffrey of Monmouth are known to researchers as “Galfridian,” after the Latin version of Geoffrey’s name, and those which came before Geoffrey are called “Pre-Galfridian.”
Geoffrey wrote the “History of the Kings of Britain” which I will reference often. A PDF copy of this important book can be obtained for free, at this link: http://www.yorku.ca...
Britain is not England:
Many Americans can be forgiven for not recognizing this fact. “British” refers to the indigenous peoples of the Island, while “English” refers to those Anglo-Saxon migrants who began to settle on the island after the collapse of Rome. In other words, the British are to the English as the Native Americans are to the Colonists. The British supported Rome, were nominally Christian, and unorganized and illiterate compared to the Germanic peoples that settled the Eastern half of the Island. The Angles (who ruled over the regions that became known as Angle-Land, or England), did not support Rome, and were Odinists (worshipping the god Odin, a variant of Wotan) until the establishment of the Gregorian Mission in 596. The Angles had a complex government based on family rule, and they produced poetry and managed complex economic systems.
Importantly, King Arthur was described by Geoffrey (who was Welsh, and therefore, British), as British, and not English. The idea of an English King Arthur strikes many citizens of the modern day UK as outrageous.
The period of Anglo Saxon rule ended with the advent of the “Danelaw,” when Danish Vikings destroyed most of the culture on the Eastern portion of the Island. The withdrawal of the Danes finally allowed the British to prosper politically and culturally.
The Dark Ages in this region lasted from the withdrawal of Roman garrisons from the Island, around 410 CE, and continued during the “Migratory Period,” which lasted until about 700 CE. The Migratory Period refers to the mass migration of Germanic peoples westward following the collapse of Rome. The Dark Ages on the Island ended at around the year 800. There were no “British Golden Ages” during this time, although there were times of relative prosperity among the Anglo Saxon kingdoms, and especially within the Central Kingdom of Mercia. The final of these periods of Merican prosperity seems to have ended the dark ages in this region, but all such cultural, economic and military gains were erased by the subsequent Danish Viking invasions.
Regional Political Climate:
The region was in anarchy following the withdrawal of Rome. This political and cultural chaos lasted until the Anglo Saxon settlements began to exert lasting influence, finally culminating in the period of Mercian Supremacy, during the “Seven Kingdoms Era” (also called the Heptarchy) of English history. The Seven Kingdoms consisted of Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, Sussex, Wales, Northumbria, and Kent. These seven kingdoms were interspersed with smaller protectorates, which had limited political or military power. Of the Seven Kingdoms, only Wales can be seriously considered as fully “British.” During the final years of Merician Supremacy, for example, the Mercian King had direct rule over most of the Island, with his son-in-laws overseeing every other important nation except Wessex and Wales.
My purpose for providing this short history is to demystify some of the argumentation, and to make a very simple point: There was no recorded British Golden Age during the British Dark Ages. Therefore, there was no opportunity for a British overlord of King Arthur’s stature to emerge, and enter the areas literary traditions. There was also no opportunity for British literature post-Rome to advance the legend of King Arthur, or any other literary figure for that matter.
Although there are recorded instances of the name “Arthur” appearing in regional literature dating back to c.830, there is no compelling reason why we must believe that these bare references are recounting the same character as the King Arthur described by Geoffrey. Nowhere is this personage called “King,” and he is never credited with any particular period of rule. In fact, the Pre-Galfridan Arthurs are wholly unrecognizable as the King that modern readers know.
According to the research of Thomas Greene, the Early Arthur is universally described as if he were a supernatural, rather than human, protector of Britain. This tradition seems to hold that Arthur was the leader of a war-band of heroes that included former pagan gods, and who did battle against werewolves, giants, witches, cat-monsters and other supernatural threats.
[Source: “Concepts of Arthur” by Thomas Green. Website: http://www.arthuriana.co.uk...]
To catalog each instance of the name Arthur appearing before 1000CE would be far to character consuming to manage here. Therefore, I encourage all interested readers to analyze Thomas Green’s research into the Pre-Galfridian legends at their leisure, here: http://www.arthuriana.co.uk...
My argument, therefore, remains unchanged. I have researched this topic extensively, and I have found no description of any King Arthur, or any figure that resembles King Arthur, before Geoffrey. Although there do exist instances of the name “Arthur” being used, none of these meet the minimum necessary conditions required to positively identify them as being early descriptions of King Arthur. I believe that this minimum level of complexity requires that King Arthur be at least a King of some note, as well as obviously human. I do not believe that these conditions are met by the Pre-Galfridian literature.
I maintain that the Arthur legend evolved into the version that modern readers understand, and that this evolution “modernized” at Geoffrey. There may be good reasons however, to second guess this assumption, and say that Geoffrey invented his character entirely on his own, and only lent him the name “Arthur.” I agree with much of the research done by Thomas Green that this character evolved from understood myths, and was written into historical traditions later in its development. I believe that the modern concept of Arthur began with the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and did not exist in that familiar form more than 100 years before Geoffrey’s time.
Unless some counter examples exist that I am unaware of, I must conclude that Geoffrey provided the earliest blueprint for this character.
CaldamanTSP forfeited this round.
I regret that my partner was unable to participate this round. I hope that he is well, and will return soon. It is unfortunate that I require the evidence that was to be presented by my partner here, so that the counter evidence could be evaluated.
Since I have been afforded a “free round,” with no rebuttals needed, I can do something I otherwise could not: I can describe the way that historians who lived at the same time as Geoffrey reacted to his assertions. These contemporaries seem very surprised to have heard of his “King Arthur.” It seems that these men were surprised to learn of the existence of “King Arthur,” although they recognized some resemblance to Welsh folklore – they did not recognize any such monarch.
To illustrate this, I will present the following statement, from William of Newburgh, who was so comically outraged by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s descriptions of King Arthur, that he dedicated the Preface to his own work, "Historia Rerum Anglicarum" to denouncing Geoffrey. It cannot be argued that the King Arthur stories were well known if these contemporaries had not heard of him.
I will quote as much of the Preface as I am able, because any fan of King Arthur will enjoy reading the hilarious venom and rage with which William discusses the subject. There is no better rebuttal to Geoffrey’s fanciful history than this, as told by as reputable a historian that can be found in the 12th century, William of Newburgh:
“A writer in our times has started up and invented the most ridiculous fictions
Moreover, no one but a person ignorant of ancient history, when he meets with that book
Now, since it is evident that these facts are established with historical
Since, therefore, the ancient historians make not the slightest mention of these
William of Newburgh, "Historia
Rerum Anglicarum" c 1198 (Preface
CaldamanTSP forfeited this round.
This debate has obviously been forfeited, I will wait out the clock rather than continue. Thank you to everyone who wishes to vote in the matter.
CaldamanTSP forfeited this round.
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