How old is King Arthur

King Arthur

Many of the legends have a real background. But the further back in time, the more difficult it becomes to learn about them. The fact is that around AD 400. Campaigns of conquest ravaged Britain. In particular the people of the Saxons - a West Germanic tribal association - pushed onto the island. But then Arthur appeared, who is said to have become King of England and Wales at the age of fifteen, and provided the basis for a legend that is still alive today. According to tradition, he fought off the Saxons and then fought against his enemies on the continent.

But over the centuries the picture changed, and what may once have been a simple factual report acquired more and more mythical features. According to this, Arthur was a pupil of the mysterious magician Merlin and had to pull a sword out of a stone that the magician had rammed into it in order to prove his claim as "true king". This was about Excalibur, which is as much a part of the Arthurian legend as the round table with the knights Gawain and Lancelot. Artur holds court at Camelot, marries Guinevere and extends his empire to the mainland. Of the adventures experienced by the Knights of the Round Table, the search for the Holy Grail is best known to this day. This is a vessel that holds immortality ready for the finder.

But the Arthurian legend also has a tragic aspect. After Queen Guinevere is said to have committed adultery with Lancelot, the Round Table in Camelot is put to a severe test. But even after this crisis seems to have been averted, Arthur learns on the train to Rome that his nephew Mordred has taken the throne and married the queen. Arthur kills the competitor, but is seriously wounded himself and taken to the mysterious island of Avalon. Whether he dies there, continues to live or even waits for his return is presented differently in the various sources.

It is difficult to speak of “a” Arthurian legend, because the material has been reinterpreted and enriched over and over again over the centuries. Accordingly, there are numerous variations, but hardly any facts about the background. Whether there really was an Arthur must therefore remain open. Maybe he really was a British military leader defending his country against the Anglo-Saxons and falling in battle - maybe not. What is striking is the strong stylization of the figure, who increasingly appears to be an ideal ruler. This also includes the equality that prevails among the knights of the Round Table in Camelot. Arthur thus becomes a role model, but also an alternative to real power relations. During the Renaissance, i.e. during the 15th and 16th centuries, the shape was largely forgotten. Since then, however, it has maintained its position in numerous operas, books and films and, not least, left unmistakable traces in the great fantasy epics of the 20th century. Avalon and Camelot cannot be located either, but there are at least clues for the fortress - albeit in different places. In this way, King Arthur and the community of the Round Table will continue to keep their secret.

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