King Arthur: History or Legend?
Legends surrounding Arthur have been retold in countless books and movies. The British king is famous for leading his Knights of the Round Table in battle against Saxon invaders. Despite his popularity, his historical identity is still uncertain. Was there actually a King Arthur who ruled Britain during the Dark Ages?
Writings don’t provide many reliable clues. The only existing early account is from a monk named Gildas, who described the Saxon defeat by British forces in the real-life battle at Badon Hill. However, Gildas mentions nothing about a commander named Arthur. Instead, he credited British victory to a British-Roman leader. Some say this leader’s name could have been Artorius─an uncommon Roman family name and a precursor to “Arthur.”
In the 9th century, Arthur appears for the first time in The History of the Britons, written by the Welsh monk Nennius, who listed 12 battles that Arthur fought in. But it would’ve been impossible for one person to have fought in all of those battles. Still, later writers drew from Nennius’s work, and Arthur’s fame spread across England and into France after the Norman Conquest in 1066.