Arthur, Cerdic, and the Formation of Wessex

I. Introduction

   Over the centuries, people of many nations have enjoyed the romance and heroism of the Arthurian legends, told time and again by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Thomas Malory, Sir Walter Scott, Alfred Tennyson, and other authors.
   In the last century, scholars have embarked on a quest to discover who, if he existed at all, was the REAL King Arthur? The Arthur they seek is a king or warrior, who lived in Britain at the time of the collapse of the Roman empire. He led the Britons to victory against marauding Picts and Scots and against the invading Anglo-Saxon tribes, collectively called the English, gaining a forty-year peace for the Britons so that their culture survived to become modern Wales. Although Arthur is believed to have been one of the dominant military leaders of his time, none of his contemporaries wrote of anyone by that name. Therefore it is assumed by some that Arthur may have been not a name, but a title used by some prominent leader of Dark Age Britain.
   Many have concluded the quest to be a futile one. There are several problems concerning the identity of King Arthur. First, although late Medieval authors relate colorful stories of the King, progressively earlier accounts provide less and less information on Arthur. Secondly, Arthur's legendary forty-year peace is contradicted by apparent Saxon advances in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Finally, although Arthur's family and male offspring are well-described in legends, no Welsh line of inheritance from Arthur's progeny is found in Welsh tales or genealogies.
   The authors of this essay believe that they can identify the real King Arthur and explain the Arthurian enigmas. This discussion will not present new information, but instead will demonstrate how previously published works by other authors support this conclusion.
   We need to include a paragraph of caution here. In a previous attempt to have this paper published, a critical referee recommended that it not be published, because the paper makes too many assumptions, and because the historical sources cited (Gildas, Nennius, genealogies, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) are unreliable, and must be subjected to textual criticism by experts. The authors of this paper are not professional historians, and do not have the training, resources, or support required for such analyses.
   The referee also complained that our reconstruction of Cerdic's life was unconvincing and parts were "pure fantasy". We admit to doing this, but we think we have made it clear where we are doing so. We feel it is necessary to create a model of his life in order to assure ourselves that such a model is possible.
   We must grant that by the standards of some historians, this is not an acceptable history paper. However, we think that although any item of evidence we cite may be unreliable, there are so many items that a case can be made which some reasonable people may find convincing. Also, we feel there is enough evidence to warrant publicizing these ideas, so that historians and archeologists who are more qualified than we are can consider them.
   Perhaps Cerdic and Arthur are both only myths. Still our thesis may have literary value, giving a relationship between myths, if not the historical origins of legends. But we believe there is more to the story than myth. Certainly we can't convince everyone. But we are convinced, and perhaps you will be also.

John C. Rudmin, 864 Chicago Av, Harrisonburg, VA, 22801
Joseph W. Rudmin, Physics Dept., James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA, 22807
(First submitted for publication in Oct 1993)

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