What were the achievements of King Arthur

King Arthur between desire and reality

We are in the "dark age", an early, dark age full of need and misery. England in the 5th century. A 15-year-old pulls the mighty Excalibur sword out of a stone, unites the Roman British and the Saxons into a strong kingdom in many battles and becomes a legendary king: Arthur.

"So the whole thing is a historical background that can be grasped here. That is, the Saxons have already conquered parts of England and this Roman Britain, perhaps Arthurian Britain, who are trying to defend themselves against the Saxons in various battles these battles appear in the historical tradition in the 6th and 7th centuries. And later in the entire Arthurian history these battles are always included, at least in the historical tradition. "

Battles are at the heart of it all, says German studies specialist Jürgen Wolf, professor at the Technical University of Berlin. When the chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his History of the Kings of Britain in Latin at the beginning of the 12th century, he included relevant battles and a King Arthur. From now on, the connection is considered a historical truth and there is a reason: England was conquered by the Normans in 1066 and the country was divided into Angels and Normans in Geoffry's time. There were also disputes over the throne. A connecting element was needed and the legitimation for extensive power. Nothing was better suited for this than a common ancestor.

"And you could say that Geoffrey of Monmouth invents a British prehistory on behalf of the Norman royal family, in which Arthur then becomes the central hero to whom everyone can connect, both the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans. And the process seems to work It only took a few years for this figure of King Arthur to become a central role model for Britain. "

The unification work of King Arthur became the historical basis of the Norman-British understanding of rule almost into the modern age, says Jürgen Wolf. Even in the 12th century, enemy doubters were confronted with solid evidence. Excavations are strained and of course bring evidence of the real existence of Arthur. At the same time, the story is enriched with exciting myths:

"After the battles there is always peace. Peace is a very big problem because nothing happens in peace."

Geoffrey fills the void with court parties at Camelot Castle. When his Latin chronicle was translated a few years later into Old French, the common vernacular at the Anglo-Norman court, the author Wace clearly embellished the peaceful passages.

"It is reported, for example, that the Arthurian Knights experienced various adventures in these times of peace. And that they talk about these adventures. They meet by chance, according to Wace, at a table ronde. And so the round table was invented."

The round table will then actually be built and will henceforth be considered real. The "round table" is still known to us today. It stands for discussion among equals. Is the round table a model for this idea?

"We shouldn't allow ourselves to be misled by our absolutist rulers of modernity. At the time when this idea of ​​the Table Ronde was being developed, that is, in the 12th century, it was already the case that the king was always very strong is dependent on his advisors, that is, his princes around him. And the model that is invented there is also something like a mirror of reality. "

The hero or love stories about table knights like Gawein, Lanzelot or Galahad are dazzling inventions, but they have certain functions. Again and again, ideal chivalry is negotiated and everything together provides a pattern for the staging of domination. When the Tudors take over power in England, the staging of continuity becomes important and in the 16th century King Henry VIII portrays himself as the king who has returned from Avalon:

"Under his direction there are numerous Arthurian tournaments, Arthurian festivals. He is building a new Camelot, for example he also has the round table in Winchester Castle repainted, justamente of course in the colors of the Tudors and, quite by chance, the portrait that was painted in this round table is his portrait. "

Even a German ruler, Emperor Maximilian von Habsburg, reached into Arthur's bag of tricks at this time and was remembered as the "last knight".

"And at this time we find Arthurian figures everywhere in town halls, in large castles, in palaces. Because Arthur has meanwhile risen to become one of the new, greatest heroes in the world."

Only the time of the European Enlightenment brought much criticism of the Arthurian legend. One then desperately searches for the truth and does not find much more than at some point a few battles with successful military leaders. The Arthurian figure can no longer be used as a template for rulership. But it is far from forgotten. Jürgen Wolf:

"Now the Arthurian world becomes the fascination for an emerging romantic idea from the Middle Ages! And there are Arthur and the knights and then Avalon, the woman from the lake, fairies - yes, so to speak, the new pattern for Arthur and an Arthurian world. And Lord Tennyson with his great ones Stories about Arthur, he is now able to translate this idea into incredibly successful novels. And so Arthur, now perhaps not necessarily the historical but an ideally romantic Arthur, is just as popular, maybe even more popular than before. "