AGE OF ARTHUR
According to medieval
historians as well as more recent scholarly inquiry, the historical
basis of the legendary King Arthur lies sometime in post-Roman
Britain. To truly appreciate the Romance tradition of Arthur it
helps to understand the more ancient tradition from which it is
derived. This tradition is that of Britain in the 5th and 6th
centuries, when the Roman withdrawal from the island left the
British to defend themselves against several invasions. The most
significant of these invaders were the marauding Angles and Saxons.
In the year 43 CE, Roman emperor
Claudius Caesar invaded Britain. Roman feet had trod British soil
before, during a brief sojourn by Julius Caesar in 55 BCE, but
the Claudian conquest would begin a Roman occupation of Britain
that would last almost four hundred years. Eventually, Rome was
faced with invading barbarian tribes on the continent, and Roman
occupation of Britain would cease. Without Roman presence, tribes
such as the Picts, Saxons, and Scots would fight the Roman Britains
for control of the island. It is during this struggle that the
historical King Arthur is placed.
The warriors of the true Arthurian period were very
different from the"knight in shining armor" of romance.
The main weapon was a spear instead of a sword, and the suit of
armor was rarely seen. Looting raids were common, and battles
were also fought to gain territory. Such battles were fought back
and forth with no resolution until Badon, where a British defeat
of the Saxons resulted in a generation of peace.
Life for the people in Arthur's time was agrarian with
a barter-based economy. There was limited trade with continental
Europe, but most common items, such as clothing, were manufactured
on the island. The typical dress was a simple tunic and trousers.
Domestic construction was wood and thatch and there was usually
a central hall that was the social hub of the community.