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KING ARTHUR The True Story by Graham…

KING ARTHUR The True Story (1992)

by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman

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1315134,476 (2.67)None
Title:KING ARTHUR The True Story
Authors:Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman
Collections:Your library

Work details

King Arthur: The True Story by Graham Phillips (1992)

  1. 00
    Concepts of Arthur by Thomas Green (Crypto-Willobie)
  2. 00
    Le chiavi di Avalon. Alla scoperta del mistero di re Artù by Scott Lloyd Steve Blake (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Another attempt to localise Arthur and all things essentially Arthurian, whether in North Wales or the Welsh Marches.

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This is a very well-researched book, delving into the true written accounts of Arthur's history: Geoffrey of Monmouth being one of the later ones, with Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, Gildas' De Excidio, and Nennius' Historia Brittonum as the earliest and therefore most authoritative sources of the reality of a historical Arthur. The authors make exhaustive reference, too, to the archeological evidence along the Kentish coast, South and North Wales, and the eastern edge of England to re-construct who might have been the almost unnamed leader of the Britons during the last decades of the 6th century under the Briton leader, Ambrosius. There is a lot of speculative language used, though, leading me to wonder if the authors are stringing together their own desire to discover a historical King Arthur, or if there is such a dearth of evidence in what was written about the early Dark Ages Britain that there really is no way of knowing for certain. Their most reliable arguments come when tracing the Roman lines at the tale end of the Roman occupation of Britain, as this is the most clear documentation of the period available. The other accounts (Nennius, Gildas, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) were written at least 50 years after the Battle of Badon took place, the famous battle that seems to have the most verifiable evidence of an unnamed general who defeated the invading Anglo-Saxons. And even the location of this famous battle is, for them, up for debate and discussion as there is no one phrase or monument that states Here was the Battle of Badon fought" but instead, source material must be combed and retranslated to find the area south of Bath as the most likely location." ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
An account of the authors' theories about who, when and where was King Arthur. It was fairly interesting, and I enjoyed the historical titbits throughout. They have a persuasive way with them, too. I have to say though, that when you think on it, they're building theory upon theory, assuming with each step that the one before was not merely possible but likely. That's no way to do serious scholarship, and so you can't take this book as such, or its findings as accurate. ( )
1 vote Shimmin | Oct 21, 2013 |
In this book we are invited first to look at the traditional evidence for the existence of King Arthur. And what a ragbag it is, as any researcher knows. At the centre is a yawning black hole, sucking in the unwary. A sensible approach therefore to the historical problem of who Arthur might have been is to fix, by logical deduction, the time and place in which he might have flourished.

The time suggested is the late 5th/early 6th century. This seems uncontroversial, so no Brythonic god, first-century Roman, Sutton Hoo warrior or Atlantean avatar here, it would seem. The first half of the book sifts through Romantic preconceptions through to the ghost chronology dimly perceived from the difficult documentary evidence we possess. Thus far, there is little to quibble about.

But now the authors make a leap into the dark, and the 'possible', the 'probable', the 'could be' and the 'surely' all rear their several heads. It is 'possible' that Arthur came from the ruling family of Gwynedd; it is 'probable' that he was the 'Bear' who ruled Powys before the 6th-century Cuneglasus; Viriconium, the Roman predecessor of Wroxeter, 'could be' Arthur's capital, Camelot if you like; and so 'surely' the likely candidate for Arthur is the father of Cuneglasus, Owain Ddantgwyn ('Whitetooth').

But, but, but, but! Owain Ddantgwyn (or Owein Danwyn in an alternative reading) is only known from one 10th-century document. This is a very slender thread on which to hang an identification. Nor would many scholars agree with the assertion that, despite its present archaeological status, Viriconium in the early 5th century became 'the most important city in Britain'. And, attractive as the theory may be, there is no way of proving that Arthur is the 'Bear' mentioned by the 6th-century monk Gildas. And it is merely rampant speculation to suggest that Arthur, if he really existed, was related to a ruling family; he may equally not have been.

One problem with this book is that there are no differentiated weightings given to the various possibilities raised by the authors. For them, all considerations are valid provided they support the thesis. For example, they suggest that the name Arthur derives from a combination of Brythonic 'arth' and Latin 'ursus', both meaning bear, thereby somehow symbolising a conscious espousal of both nationistic and imperialist causes. On linguistic ground this is, frankly, unlikely; it is merely clutching at straws. They also resurrect Beram Saklatvala's discredited theory that Arthur's drawing of the sword from the stone was based on a confusion between 'ex saxo' (from a stone) and 'ex saxone' (out of a Saxon). They even seem to propose that the 'name affix Cun-' is peculiar to the descendants of Cunedda (news perhaps to dwellers further afield in Lowland Roman Britain such as Cunobelinus, Cunospectus, Cunoarda, Cunobarrus and Cunomaglos).

Simple solecisms like this do not bode well. And yet possible circumstantial evidence for their hypothesis seems to have been disregarded. Would not Geoffrey Ashe's identification of Riothamus as Arthur (back in 1985) taken together with the tales of the giant Retho on Snowdon have been good ammunition for their arguments on North Walian locations? And what about the supposed son of Maximus, Owen, who had a missile fight with a giant near Dinas Emrys, also in Gwynedd? There are also the theories that the growth of Arthurian tales in Cornwall are the result of relocated Cornovians from the Welsh Marches taking their folklore with them to the southwest of the island. Phillips and Keatman seem to be unaware of these admittedly equally speculative theories, showing a very limited familiarity with Arthurian Studies in their widest sense.

It's worth pointing out here that both authors are also known as "psychic archaeologists", that is, investigators who use non-scientific methods to validate their conclusions, and this speculative modus operandi effectively underpins their approach in this book. Personally, I instinctively mistrust any book which includes the word "true", "truth" or “the real” in the title (typically, Rodney Castleden’s King Arthur: the Truth behind the Legend, Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd’s The Keys to Avalon: The True Location of Arthur’s Kingdom Revealed and Adrian Gilbert’s The Holy Kingdom: the Quest for the Real King Arthur).

The authors seem to have tried their best with some very intractable material, but they are not comfortably at home with the various disciplines--archaeology, linguistics, history, literature, placenames and so on--needed to sort the wheat from the chaff. In particular, their attempt not only to identify an Arthur-type figure but a whole host of contemporaries is both over-ambitious and unsuccessful. And the final section of their "Research Update" is a blatant attempt at commercialisation. This is really a book only for the completist. Or the gullible.

http://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/gullible/ ( )
1 vote ed.pendragon | Sep 27, 2010 |
Interesting thesis on who the legendary Arthur may have been. Worth reading! ( )
  Scaryguy | Sep 5, 2007 |
An interesting, but ultimately flawed investigation of the identity of King Arthur. Their reconstruction of Vortigern's kingdom and rule is quite good, unbiased by later reputation and their use of shaky evidence is handled well. However, as they build up to the final denoument, the unveiling of Arthur, their research becomes less careful and they seemingly overlook a key piece of evidence that would invalidate their identification -- the person they seek to identify as Arthur is never mentioned as the ruler of the kingdom in which they place him. Five stars for their handling of the difficult early history of fifth-century Britain; but their faulty handling of Arthur brings the book down to a mere three. ( )
1 vote InformationMagpie | Oct 15, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Phillipsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Keatman, Martinmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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