King Arthur’s Round Table identified?

From The Daily Mail:

King Arthur’s Round Table ‘found’ – except it’s not a table, but a Roman amphitheatre in Chester

By Nigel Blundell

His is among the most enduring ­legends in our island’s history.

King Arthur, the gallant warrior who gathered his knights around the  Round Table at Camelot and rallied Christian Britons against the invading pagan Saxons, has always been an enigma.

But now historians believe they have uncovered the precise location of Arthur’s stronghold, finally solving the riddle of whether the Round Table really existed.

And far from pinpointing a piece of furniture, they claim the ‘table’ was in fact the circular space inside a former Roman amphitheatre.

The experts believe that Camelot could in fact have been Chester Amphitheatre, a huge stone-and-wood structure capable of holding up to 10,000 people.

They say that Arthur would have reinforced the building’s 40ft walls to create an imposing and well fortified base.

The king’s regional noblemen would have sat in the central arena’s front row, with lower-ranked subjects in the outer stone benches.

Arthur has been the subject of much historical debate, but many  scholars believe him to have been a 5th or 6th Century leader.

The legend links him to 12 major battles fought over 40 years from the Scottish Borders to the West Country. One of the principal victories was said to have been at Chester.

Rather than create a purpose-built Camelot, historian Chris Gidlow says Arthur would have logically chosen a structure left by the Romans.

The first accounts of the Round Table show that it was nothing like a dining table but was a venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time,’ he said.

‘And we know that one of Arthur’s two main battles was fought at a town referred to as the City of the Legions. There were only two places with this title. One was St Albans, but the location of the other has remained a mystery.’

Researchers, who will reveal their evidence in a television documentary this month, say the recent discovery at the amphitheatre of an execution stone and a wooden memorial to Christian martyrs suggests the missing city is Chester.

Mr Gidlow said: ‘In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred both to the City of the Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it.

‘That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court – and his legendary Round Table.’

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14 Responses to King Arthur’s Round Table identified?

  1. Tom in NY says:

    Etiam castrum Romanum apud urbem “Castrum.” Historiam de televisione expecto.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  2. Sam Urfer says:

    Sounds like a plot to get more tourists in Chester, honestly. It could have some basis in reality, but the article does not really sell it that well.

  3. MWindsor says:

    I did a fair amount of post-grad work on sub-Roman Britain. This seems awfully thin to me. It reminds me of the annual new-tomb-of-Jesus stories that crop up at Easter. Where are the archeologists?

  4. I like history because the cool factor doesn’t always come from the destination, but the journey.

    Sure, this is a stretch, and probably is an attempt to get money to Chester… but what if? Isn’t there a little intellectual fun to be had, at least in the idea?

    Maybe I woke up on the sunny side of the bed.

  5. robtbrown says:

    Etiam castrum Romanum apud urbem “Castrum.” Historiam de televisione expecto.
    Comment by Tom in NY

    Exactly. Thus Winchester, Worcester, Leicester, etc.

  6. Jordanes says:

    The legend links him to 12 major battles fought over 40 years from the Scottish Borders to the West Country. One of the principal victories was said to have been at Chester.

    Not exactly. One of the battles was said to have been at “the City of the Legion” (Castrum Legionum), which could be either Chester OR Caerleon-on-Usk. Arthurian legend strongly associates Arthur with Caerleon, never Chester. St. Albans was never known as Castrum Legionum — its old Roman name was Verulamium. Somebody is probably mashing together the martyrdom of St. Albanus at St. Albans with the martyrdom of Sts. Julius and Aaron at Chester.

    The idea that Arthur’s Round Table was originally the circle of Chester’s amphitheatre is interesting, but is not to be thought of as something that is, or even can be, established by history and archaeology. The discovery of the martyr’s shrine in Chester tells us nothing about where Arthur’s court may have been — Gildas mentions the martyrdom of Sts. Julius and Aaron at Chester, but never breathes of word of Arthur, let alone where Arthur’s court may have been. There is in fact no evidence that there ever was a “round table.” It’s fun to wonder, though.

  7. doanli says:

    And I’ve read from naysayers over the years that Arthur didn’t even exist. Hah!

  8. Jordanes says:

    Some doubt Arthur ever existed, but judging from the scant historical data and early legendary material, such skepticism is unwarranted. We may not know much about him for sure, but his existence is not to be doubted.

  9. Athanasius says:

    I won’t believe its the real site unless they find several decapitated bodies and a wild, vicious rabbit with sharp pointy teeth!

  10. irishgirl says:

    What does ‘a wild, vicious rabbit with sharp pointy teeth’ have to do with King Arthur and the Round Table?

    Or ‘several decapitated bodies’, for that matter?

    I’m just askin’….

  11. Robert_H says:

    What does ‘a wild, vicious rabbit with sharp pointy teeth’ have to do with King Arthur and the Round Table?

    Or ‘several decapitated bodies’, for that matter?

    I’m just askin’….
    Comment by irishgirl — 14 July 2010 @ 11:09 am

    A vicious streak a mile wide! Run away! Run away!

  12. Nathan says:

    Athanasius: That was hilarious. Of course, now I’m going to have “We’re knights of the Round Table, we dance whenever we’re able” and “here in Camelot we ham and jam and scam a lot” going through my head all afternoon.

    In Christ,

  13. chironomo says:

    The legends of Arthur are less indicative of facts than they are imbued with truths. While it may be fascinating to know for sure if this is THE Camelot, in the end it matters far less than the idea of Camelot itself. The round table is a metaphor, not a fact

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I wonder to what accounts Mr.Gidlow is referring? Norris J. Lacy and Geoffrey Ashe in ‘The Arthurian Handbook’ (Garland, 1988) point to Wace’s ‘Roman de Brut’ (c. 1155) as the first work known to refer to the Round Table, and, referring to later literature, say, “The number of places is given variously. Sometimes it is thirteen, in direct reminiscence of the Last Supper” but can, in keeping with “the reputed number of knights”, rise to 140, 150, or even 250. They further note that in Robert de Boron’s ‘Le Roman du Graal’, also known as the ‘Joseph d’Arimathie’ (end 12th/very early 13th c.) it is “the third of a series that included also the table of the Last Supper and a table set up by Joseph (at the direction of the Holy Spirit) to celebrate the service of the Grail.” Whether or not this has anything to do with earlier iconography of the table of the Last Supper as semi-circular, I do not know. Perhaps,fact or metaphor,it points to the body politic, with distinctions of gifts and offices, called to reflect the Body of Christ, upon Whom it does, and ought consciously to, depend? What happened to amphitheatres when an end was finally made to bloody games and pagan dramas? Would an amphitheatre with martyrium put a Late Antique Christian in mind of an altar with relics?