Welcome “Manosphere” members, and a big thanks to Captain Capitalism for the link.
Dear Readers: I wanted to take some time away from the realm of ancient Egypt and review a wonderful series written by a good friend, Barry C. Jacobsen of “Deadliest Blogger – Military History Page“. He is close to wrapping up this wonderful work, which has been a real labor of love, and I wanted to share a few items and recommend the “Age of Arthur” series to history fans everywhere. (To start, go to “The Age of Arthur, Part One”).
I am an amateur Egyptologist, who has written articles and given lectures on mummification and other aspects of ancient Egyptian history. So, I am no scholar of Arthurian history, Germanic battle tactics, or Celtic legends. Yet, the now 17-part series provided a lot of background information so as each part tied into the next, to make a very cohesive and engaging overview of the 5th though the mid-6th Century A.D., when the Classical Age of Greece and Rome transformed into Germanic “Dark Ages”. I am still no expert, but a lot more informed!
“The Age of Arthur” shows how Britain became the only territory of the Western Roman Empire to hold back and even reverse the tide of Germanic expansion and conquest for nearly two centuries. One aspect I really enjoyed about “The Age of Arthur” was learning about a very transitional phase in World History, between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Medieval period. Before reading “The Age of Arthur”, I never considered that fully suited knights and court life did not arise in a vacuum — there is an true evolution in weapons and culture from Rome through to the Middle Ages. This series detail that fascinating transfiguration.
“The Age of Arthur” compares and contrasts the story of Camelot and the history of the “real Arthur”. For example, the legendary Arthur pulls a sword from a stone, gets named King, and then spends is reign sending his “knights of the round table” on quests before he his killed in battle by his son Mordred. However, the reality is more fascinating, if not quite as fantastical. In his essays, Jacobsen provides the evidence shows that the real Arthur was actually a warlord (who likely never used term “king”) of the Roman-Britons. Interestingly, this warlord actually fought the English, who were Germanic barbarian invaders! And Arthur’s “Knights of the Round Table” were probably a band of armored cavalry, of the late Roman type called cataphracts. Arthur’s men, in reality, went around on their steeds intercepting and defeating bands of Anglo-Saxon raiders
The study of ancient Egypt is often focused on specific rulers, whose projected personalities impact the view of a period. “The Age of Arthur” also offers an intriguing cast of characters, and Jacobsen goes into detail on family histories and theories about personalities and motivation that puts life into the legend. For example, there is a recounting of a chronicler of the period’s history, Gildas the Monk, the closest contemporary historian to the events in question. Gildas calls a British warlord Vortigern a superbo tyranno (“the proud usurper”) while heaping praise on another regional powerhouse, Ambrosius Aurelianus.
Below is a sampling of the work that discusses who Arthur actually is, which comes at Part 9. This demonstrates exactly how detailed Jacbosen’s analysis is):
Sometime in the last decade(s) of the 5th century, a new leader emerges among the Britons. He is Arthur/Artorius/Artos; and his name might either have been a nickname (“the Bear”) or his given name. In either case, his exploits as a war leader soon catapulted him into a position of primacy among the Celtic warlords.
Arthur is perhaps a kinsman (nephew?) of Ambrosius Aurelianus, the Riothamus (“Supreme King”) of Britain. If he’s a nephew, it is likely to have been by marriage: Gildas states that Ambrosius “alone” of his family survived slaughter by either Vortigern or the Saxons. Though Ambrosius was almost certainly a southern Briton, from the Belgae territory around Salisbury; it is not contradictory to suggest that Arthur could have been raised by a northern branch of the family (Ambrosius’ wife’s family). Perhaps (and this is a stretch) Arthur was even related to descendents of Lucius Artorius Castor; Ambrosius marrying a daughter of that house, Arthur’s aunt. Alternatively, Ambrosius’ exile in Armorica (Brittany) as a young man could have resulted in marriage to a daughter of the Alans; and Arthur could then have been of Armorican-Alan blood. Either origin would gives Arthur proximity in his childhood to the Sarmatian-Alans; and perhaps even kinship.
Jacobsen ties the series together effectively with his use of the “Twelve Battles of Arthur”:
“Then Arthur fought against them in those days, together with the kings of the British; but he was their war leader (or ‘dux bellorum’).
The first battle was at the mouth of the river called Glein.
The second, the third, the fourth and the fifth were on another river, called the Douglas, which is in the country of Lindsey.
The sixth battle was on the river called Bassas.
The seventh battle was in Celyddon Forest, that is, the Battle of Celyddon Coed.
The eighth battle was in Guinnion fort, and in it Arthur carried the image of the holy Mary, the everlasting Virgin, on his [shield,] and the heathen were put to flight on that day, and there was a great slaughter upon them, through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The ninth battle was in the City of the Legion.
The tenth battle was on the bank of the river called Tribruit.
The eleventh battle was on the hill called Agned.
The final battle was on Badon Hill, in which 960 men fell in one day from a single charge of Arthur’s, and no one laid them low save he alone; and he was victorious in all his campaigns”.
The following segments of “The Age of Arthur” details the landscape, tactics, weapons, and outcomes of each of these engagements. The most recent installment recounts the Battle of Badon Hill. At this point, I would like mention that Jacobsen makes very good use of maps, which provide a thorough understanding of the areas discussed and also allows readers to visualize the battles described. In fact, his use of graphics is extremely effective and is a big part of what makes this series successful.
For one brief shining moment, Camelot may have existed. However, Rome is eternal — and “The Age of Arthur” highlights its influences (especially in terms of weapons, cavalry and battle strategy). Jacobsen has managed to reconstruct a legend to create a history that is no less intriguing.
A Goddess Point of View
I would be remiss, in terms of my own website, if I did not add a few comments that provide a slightly feminine point of view.
1) I was very sorry to learn that my favorite Arthurian character, Morgan le Fay, only belongs to the realm of legend.
2) My personal favorite bit in the series came during Part 2, which involved a Saxon chieftain, his daughter, and a love-struck warlord!
“Sixteen more “keels” arrived, bearing another 400-700 Saxon warriors. More fatefully, among these was Hengist’s daughter, Rowena (or Rhonwen), a girl of surpassing beauty. At a welcome banquet for the newcomers, tradition has it that Hengist encouraged his daughter to serve Vortigern with her own hand. The effect of a young (perhaps teenage) girl on a middle-aged man can be profound. Vortigern became obsessed with the Saxon girl, and putting aside the mother of his sons, married the daughter of his Saxon lieutenant. As bride-price, Hengist persuaded Vortigern to give the Saxons all of Kent.”
Also, in terms of “Knights in Shining Armor”, here is a video of a melee I took at last Sunday’s “Order of the Phoenix” jousting tournament!