(*) King Arthur’s historical existence is unproven. If he lived, which of the following is the most likely time for his life? (dates are A.D. or C.E.)
Ca. 500. The most likely period for King Arthur’s life is in the late 400s or early 500s. Some posit a Roman soldier of ca. 200 as Arthur, but that earlier date is not the most likely time.
The 5th and 6th centuries were tumultuous times in British history, when Romanitas faded in Britain and barbarian tribes repeatedly invaded. It was the time for a hero. Whether he comes from history or legend, Arthur fills that role. Arthurian scholars make arguments for an early Arthur (mid-late 400s) or for a late Arthur (early-mid 500s).
The Historia Brittonum (attributed to Nennius) lists Badon as being Arthur’s 12th battle. The Annales Cambriae give a date of 516 for the battle and a date of 537 for the death of Arthur, arguing for a late Arthur.
The Venerable Bede mentions Badon as occurring 44 years after the arrival of the Saxons, which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles place in 449, putting Badon in 493, arguing for an earlier Arthur.
Gildas refers to the Battle of Badon as occurring in the year of his birth, and he lived in the 500s, which could be either date.
Ca. 200: Some Arthurians note an even earlier Arthur. A Roman military commander named Lucius Artorius Castus served as commander of British Legions who fought against the Armenians. He lived ca. 200, and is sometimes credited as being King Arthur or having influence on the legends.
In about 60 CE, Bouticca led a British revolt against the Romans. After some military successes, her rebellion was crushed.
Ca. 400, Roman legions pulled out of Britain in several stages. Generally, people believe that Emperor Honorius abandoned the provinces in 410.
In 1066, the Norman Conquest began, pitting invaders from northern France against the English, not Arthur against the Saxons.
1485: The romance of Le Morte d’Arthur was published in 1485, and like many of the later romances, those tales depict clothing styles and settings for a period closer to that era than a true historical date for Arthur.
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