Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era

Authenticating the Enemies and Allies of Britain’s Post-Roman King


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About the Book

The author has determined in an earlier McFarland book (The Historic King Arthur, 1996, paperback 2007) that there was not a historic King Arthur during the sixth century. However, as listed in The Historia Brittonum, there was a “great king of all the kings of Britain” named Ambrosius Aurelianus who was conflated with a heroic Arthur of the second century, and hence with the legendary King Arthur. To further authenticate the Celtic/Romano “King Arthur,”—that is, Ambrosius—the author here examines seven major historical figures of the period A.D. 383–500 based upon the Genealogical Preface of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the emendation of dates in that chronicle. Those seven allies and adversaries are Vortigern, Vortimer, Vitalinus, Cunedda, Cerdic, Octha, and Mordred.
Through an extensive analysis of Arthur’s 12 battles listed in the Historia Brittonum, this work explores both the influences of the High King’s allies, and the shifting allegiances of his enemies. A battle list provides possible geographic locations for each of the battles, including a new site for Arthur’s fateful battle at Camlann.

About the Author(s)

Frank D. Reno lectures throughout the United States and in 2002 was invited to Britain to contribute to the BBC documentary Arthur: King of the Britons. He lives in Lafayette, Colorado.

Bibliographic Details

Frank D. Reno
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 358
Bibliographic Info: 14 photos, 12 maps, 10 tables, glossary, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010 [2000]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4509-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9220-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations      ix

List of Abbreviations of Works Cited in the Text      xi

Prologue      1

1. New Perspectives of Ancient Insular History      15

The De Excidio of Gildas Badonicus      19

The Annales Cambriae      29

The Historia Brittonum      30

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle      36

2. Other Early Manuscripts      49

Geoffrey of Monmouth: Pseudohistory and the Welsh Chronicles      54

3. Riardd Ambrosius      66

4. Who’s Who: Ambrosius’s Father, the Superbus Tyrannus Vortigern

The House of Constantine      74

The Superbus Tyrannus      84

Vortigern      90

Conclusions      100

5. Vortimer and Vitalinus: Arthurian Enigmas

Vortimer      105

Vitalinus      125

6. The Breach of Colors: Cunedda’s Role in Civil War

Introduction      144

Cunedda: A Pivotal Figure of History      146

Homeland      149

Motive for Cunedda Migration      151

The Chronological Computation of Cunedda’s Migration      153

Cunedda’s Ancestry and Progeny      155

7. The Breach of Colors: Romanitas Versus Cunedda’s Progeny and the Saxons

The Interfusion of Arthur’s Personality      160

Cunedda’s Progeny as Arthur’s Adversaries      164

Octha’s Invitation into Britain      170

8. Arthur’s Battles with the Saxons      177

The Cities of Roman Britain      181

Geographic Possibilities of the Historia Brittonum Battle List      183

9. The Strife of Camlann      214

Mordred, Arthur’s Nemesis      228


Narrative History      237

Identification of Historical Figures and Locales      240

The Earliest Manuscripts as History      249

Resolutions      262

Appendix A: A Century and a Half of Dark-Age History      271

Appendix B: Two Tales of The Mabinogion      281

Chapter Notes      285

Glossary of Terms and Proper Names      303

Bibliography      327

Index      333

Book Reviews & Awards

“scrupulously documented…well worth a visit”—C&RL News; “a worthy addition to any library of material devoted to King Arthur and British history”—Operaphile.