King Arthur There has been a lot of material written about the legendary King Arthur and although he has been a popular figure inliterature for over 800 years, not a lot is known about the real Arthur. It is believed that Arthur was a 5the-century British King named Riothamus (meaning “high king”) who ruled from 454 – 470 A.D. and led an army into Gaul where he was defeated by the Goths of Burgundy. Two men by the names of Jordanes (6the century) and William (11the century) contributed to the legend of Arthur. Their input was perhaps the real basis of future adaptations of the story. Arthur appeared in literature as a national hero in a book written in Latin by Geoffrey of Monmouth called Historia Regum Britanniae (meaning History of the Kings of Britain).
he book supposedly covered history from 1200 B.C. to 689 A.D. Geoffrey includes many sources of information with his work but most scholars believe it to be a fictional bibliography added only to give his book some credibility. Therefore his work is considered to be literature not factual history. Geoffrey is the one responsible for the portrayal of Arthur as a splendid King who conquered the British Isles and much of Europe Introduced by Geoffrey are Guenevere, Merlin, information about Arthur’s strange birth and death and the concept of chivalry. Due to the tremendous popularity of Geoffrey’s book, authors like Robert Wace and Chretien de Troyes continued on with the development of King Arthur and his life, adding yet more detail and depth to the story.
Robert Wace concentrated on the Arthurian aspect of the story while Chretien concentrated on the romantic aspect of Arthur’s life. Some of the new elements added include d the Round Table, courtly love and the love affair between Lancelot and Guenevere. In 1205 A.D. Layamon wrote the first English version of the King Arthur stories with a distinctly British perspective. Another nationalistic version of the story was Morte Arthure.
This version was centered around fighting and action diminishing many of the character’s parts, like Lancelot for instance. Perhaps the most widely accepted story of Arthur was written in 1485 by Sir Thomas Malory. Malory combines aspects of Wace, Chretien, Geoffrey and Layamon, expands on Arthur’s court by adding short stories about some of Arthur’s most important knights and writes of the collapse of the Round Table.