The Real Story of King Arthur (Final Part)

The final chapter of Mr. Griffith-Davies real story of King Arthur.


The dynasty that Athrwys had founded in Caerleon continued - with one interruption - until exactly 700 A.D. Almost all of the succeeding kings called themselves "Athrwys" or "ap Athrwys" (son of Arthur).

The year of 700 A.D. heralded the end of Roman Caerleon, which was destroyed by the Saxons in a sudden attack. Yes, the attack was definitely sudden and it could have been at night because excavations there in 2010 discovered Roman steel armour for fighting purposes and yet more Roman bronze armour for ceremonial use, complete with chainmail and weapons, lying intactin the ruins of the armoury there, which clearly proves that Caerleon's legion was caught by surprise.The same series of excavations also discovered accidentally - when some students were practising with geodesic surveying instruments in a nearby field during pauses in the excavations of the fortress under the present town - the largest building complex in Roman Britain, namely, a huge  palace and two or even three much smaller and superficially identical buildings, which I conclude must have housed the archives and administrative staffof Caerleon's succeeding kings and former governors. Everything had been burnt and thereforeall the records of Caerleon's administration and historywere destroyed 'at a stroke'. The Saxons continued with their genocidal policy of killing the 'waesla' (which meant'foreigners' in the Saxon language: what a blinking cheek!) by murdering as many of Caerleon's inhabitantsas they could catch, followed by burning the city downto the ground and demolishing as much of it as possible but they gave up trying to destroy the massive stone amphitheatre as a bad job: itis still the most completeexample in Britain. The population of Roman Britain is estimated to have beenaround 3,500,000 in 410 A.D. when Britain declared independence from the Roman Empire but the invading Saxons had reduced it to roughly500,000 by 700 A.D.)

The last King of Caerleon was Morgan ap Athrwys,who was the son of the preceding King Athrwys ap Meurig. King Athrwys ap Meurig was a brilliant military leader who kept the Saxons at bay by winning several important battles against them. Morganap Athrwys retreated westwards to a safe area with the remnants of hisarmy and the surviving citizens of Caerleon,where he founded Glamorgan (named after him) in the same year of 700 A.D. I assume that he chose the Roman city of Cae r Dydd (Cardiff) as his military capital and Llanilltyd Fawr (Llantwit Major) as his cultural capital,which was a sizeable town with a huge and internationally renowned "monastic college that incorporated 7 halls" according to a Welsh text. It had been founded by Saint Illtyd himself in about 520 A.D. on the orders of Saint Dubricius to replace the ruined and equally famous Cor Tadwys (College of Theodosius) that Irish raiders had destroyed in 446 A.D.on the same site.

The ruins of Roman Caerleon, which I estimate comprised about 20,000 buildings,were still clearly visible to the Welsh historian called Gerallt Gymro (Gerald of Wales in English) when he visited the 'new' town of Caerleon around 1180, i.e., almost five whole centuries after it had been destroyed.In fact, some of the city'sremains even survived for six more centuries: Cox mentions them in his famous 'An Historical Tour Through Monmouthshire' that was published in 1801, which in fact summarizes three tours that Cox had made there during the 1790s.

I estimate that the population of Roman Caerleon was at least 120,000 (about the same as Londonat its zenith around 400 A.D.), which must have swelled by 50,000 or even more as refugees poured into it from what is now Herefordshire from roughly570 A.D. until 600 A.D., when the Saxons finally tookover that Welsh territory. Even so, there are still several place-names in Herefordsire that begin with 'Llan ….', which is the Welsh word for "church and its parish" and the Romano-British culture lingers in Herefordshirenowadays in the form of cider, as it is doesin Somerset and Brittany too. Cider is a Romano-British beverage.

The Romano-Britishor rather Brythons as they called themselves (the word Welsh is derived from the Saxon word "waesla" - see above - which the Normans modified to "Walsh")had been defeated but they were just as indomitable as always and they were determined torecover their lost ground after making careful preparations. They had developed the most lethal of all mediaeval weapons during their exile in Glamorgan, namely the Welsh Longbow, which was 2 yards high and fired an arrow that was 1 yard long that could penetrate 1/2 inch of steel or 1 foot of wood at a distance of 300 yards. It was this irresistible weapon that enabled them to recover Caerleon fromthe Saxons in about 730 A.D. (and also ensured that Llewellyn the Great's army killed 3,000 soldiers of King John's army in one day several centuries later, thereby regaining independence).

However, theWelsh force that returned to Caerleonfrom Glamorganmerely repaired the breached walls of the ruined fortress and built a littletown of Caerleon inside it; theyutilized the ruins of the destroyed capital as a convenient quarry. In other words, theynever attempted to rebuild Caerleon - which admittedly would have been a colossal taskemploying thousands of men for many years - but they did recover the county of Gwent, which the English later called Monmouthshire and it has always remained on the Welsh side of the borderever since.

To summarize, the value of Chrétien de Troyes' Legend of King Arthur lies in its perpetuation of the facts, albeit in a distorted form. In a similar way, it is thanks to Homer's Legend of King Minos that Sir Arthur Evans travelled to Crete in 1900, stuck his"spade into a hillside covered with pretty flowers" and … discovered the Palace of Knossos along with the 'mythical' Minoan civilization.

Unfortunately, theself-perpetuatingand incompetent 'conventional wisdom' that prevails in British historical and archaeological circles nowadays falselyasserts that: 

1) Caerleon has always been an insignificant village,

2) Caerleon was never a major Roman city - let alone a CAPITAL city and the ONLY major Roman city to have survived after York, London and Chester had all been destroyed by the Saxons(Chester lastly in 616 A.D., following the Battle of Chester when a combined Welsh army from Powys and Gwynedd was defeated by the overwhelming forces ofthe Saxon King Aethelfrith of Northumbria; a few days prior to which he hadordered 200 Welsh monks to be massacred because he feared that they praying against him; he died shortly after the battle, which was interpreted by the surviving Romano-British as divine retribution).

3) Caerleon did not have a cathedral or a church during the Roman era,

4) King Arthur is a figment of a Frenchman's imagination, as are the Isle of Avalon, Guinevere, etc.


By John H. Griffith-Davies