King Arthur’s Round Table: Discovered at Last?

Thanks to my friend Matt for posting this originally.  I’m really not sure how much stock to put in these stories, but the Daily Mail, and then AOL.news, have posted stories about a Roman amphitheater found in Chester, complete with martyr’s shrine–circumstances which confirm old Gildas’ story about Arthur holding court in the “City of Legions.”  Thus, apparently, we finally have a lock on where the legendary Round Table was located, and we are that much closer to establishing the parameters of the Historical Arthur.

Weeeeeeeeellllllll…I’ve been skeptical of this kind of talk for a long time, particularly after reading Geoffrey Ashe’s The Discovery of Arthur (speaking of which, I wonder how this will force him to revise his theses).  It’s all seemed a pointless linguistic exercise, backed by archeological finds of uncertain provenance (at least for the purposes of Arthuriana).  There probably was some kind of great war-leader in the “long” sixth century in Britannia, whether of Celtic or Romano-Celtic stock, who knows.  But the persistent attempt to link this shadowy figure with 12th- and 13th-century romance is largely misconceived, in my opinion, since the romances fashioned by the French and German sources took contemporary socio-cultural conditions as their subject material.  High Medieval audiences found Arthurian stories to be a fascinating and ideal setting for idealizing, debating, critiquing, and reaffirming the various cultural discourses of the day.  Historical accuracy was generally their last priority, and I almost feel that every edition of, say The Death of Arthur or The Quest for the Holy Grail, should be published with the movie disclaimer, “All the characters, incidents, and events in this work are fictional, and any resemblance to past events or individuals is purely coincidental.”

That’s pushing it, of course, and perhaps this discovery fits better with the old Welsh Arthurian literature.  But I’m not holding my breath for any shocking new discoveries….