'Owein,' said Arthur, 'call off thy ravens.' 'Lord,' said Owein, 'Play this game.'

- The Dream of Rhonabwy

The Arthur Project

HIC IACET SEPTULUS INCLITIS REX ARTURIUS IN INSULA AVALONIA

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'Here lies the renowned King Arthur in the isle of Avalon' reads the inscription recorded by the monks of Glastonbury in the 1190s, a decade after the completion of five Arthurian romances by Chrétien de Troyes written in the twenty years of 1160-80.

Both real and unreal, the inscription (Phillips and Keatman 1992, p. 17) at once encapsulates the mystery underlying the literary development of the stories associated with the legendary King Arthur and the searches for his historical authenticity: King Arthur, lying in the Isle of Avalon comes to us - and came to the Glastonbury monks - in legend from the Arthurian romances that blossomed throughout Europe following the History written in 1135 by Geoffrey of Monmouth and older stories recorded in Wales (Comfort 1914); and the production of a tangible grave and a tantalising inscription recorded on a lead cross is one of many 'discoveries' made over the centuries that showed the existence of a 'real' Arthur, satisfying the need for a truth about the marvels of Britain and trauma experienced amongst the Britons at the time of the Saxon invasions.

The Arthur Project is presented as an introduction to the Arthurian legends and the historical endevours to penetrate the Dark Age of Britain. A look at the events leading up to the age of Arthur, an overview of the stories and romances produced, the view from Britain and the search for an historical Arthur, and the power of the legend today are each presented to introduce information and to seek response. It is hoped that the articles will provide context to the development of the legends and the search for the reality of Arthur. The Project also intends to assist those searching the wealth of Arthurian information resident on the internet by presenting annotated weblinks to key web resources. Finally, the Project is hoped to provide a forum for discussion and the provision of information, both literary and historical, in which the many ideas both great and small about Arthur and the legend may be presented or suggested, shedding further light onto the often contradictory conclusions that have been reached over the years.

Copyright © John Bonsing & S Rhys Jones 2006. All Rights Reserved

References

Comfort, W (transl.) 1914, Arthurian Romances Chrétien de Troyes, 1977 reprint, J M Dent & Sons Ltd, London.

Phillips, G & Keatman, M 1992, King Arthur - the true story, Random House, London.