The Early Welsh Cult of Arthur: Some Points at Issue

Andrew Breeze 1
  • 1 University of Navarre, Pamplona, Spain


A recent discussion of Arthur and Wales prompts a reply, using up-to-date research. It offers these surprising conclusions. Arthur really existed: he is not a myth or a legend, but historical. He will not have been Welsh, but a North Briton, and perhaps a Strathclyder. His battles, fought against other Britons and not the English, can all be located in southern Scotland and the Borders. Camlan, where Arthur fell, can be securely dated to 537 (after the Welsh annals) and situated north of Carlisle on Hadrian’s Wall (as proposed in 1935 by O. S. G. Crawford). The battle of Mount Badon in 493 will, however, have nothing to do with Arthur or North Britain. It was a British victory over the English, fought near Swindon and perhaps at the hillfort of Ringsbury overlooking Braydon Forest. Proponents of a Northern Arthur, like Rachel Bromwich (1915-2010) and Charles Thomas (1928-2016) can thus be vindicated against those rejecting a Northern Arthur, like Professor Kenneth Jackson (1909-91) of Edinburgh.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Alcock, Leslie. 1972. ‘By South Cadbury is that Camelot...’: The Excavation of Cadbury Castle, 1966-1970. London: Thames and Hudson.

  • Alcock, Leslie. 1995. Cadbury Castle, Somerset. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

  • Bannerman, John. 1974. Studies in the History of Dalriada. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

  • Breeze, Andrew. 2015. ‘The Historical Arthur and Sixth-Century Scotland’. Northern History 52: 158-181.

  • Charles-Edwards, T. M. 2013. Wales and the Britons 350-1064. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Coates, Richard and Andrew Breeze. 2000. Celtic Voices, English Places. Stamford: Shaun Tyas.

  • Halsall, Guy. 2013. Worlds of Arthur. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Haycock, Marged. 2007. Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin. Aberystwyth: CMCS.

  • Higham, N. J. 2002. King Arthur. London: Routledge.

  • Jackson, K. H. 1969. The Gododdin: The Oldest Scottish Poem. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

  • Lloyd-Jones, John. 1931-1963. Geirfa Barddoniaeth Gynnar Gymraeg. Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru.

  • Michałowska, Teresa. 1995. Średniowiecze. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

  • Morgan, Gerald. 2014. ‘The Early Welsh Cult of Arthur’. Res Celticae 1: 133-145.

  • Pevsner, Nikolaus. 1975. The Buildings of England: Wiltshire. 2nd edn. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

  • Rivet, A. L. F. and Colin Smith. 1979. The Place-Names of Roman Britain. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Rowland, Jenny. 1990. Early Welsh Saga Poetry. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.

  • Sims-Williams, Patrick. 2011. Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Watts, Victor. 2004. The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Journal + Issues