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BATTLE OF BADON

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The Battle of Badon . . . or was it?

 

Depending upon whose view point you take, either this famous battle is one of the only historical events which can be linked to King Arthur with a fair degree of certainty or to others this link is based upon spurious historical foundations.

 

The Battle of Mount Badon was fought some time between AD 490 and 516 (depending on which source you believe).

 

 

 

The Saxon invaders were defeated and forced to come to terms with the British.

 

 

 

 

 

Today, we do not know exactly where Mount Badon was, though it is most likely to have been Little Solsbury hill, or Lansdown Hill, above Bath. It would have been called Badon (possibly pronounced 'Bath-on') by the British.

 

 

The only near contemporary reference comes from Gildas, a Welsh monk.

 

 

 

Gildas preached a blood and thunder sermon about The Ruin of Britain (Book 1. 25-26) some time before 547.

 

Gildas wrote:

 

After a time, when the cruel plunderers had gone home, God gave strength to the survivors ... Their leader was Ambrosius Aurelianus, a gentleman who, perhaps alone of the Romans, had survived the shock of this storm: certainly his parents, who had worn the purple, were slain in it ... Under him our people regained their strength and challenged the victors in battle. The Lord assented and the battle went their way.

From then on victory went now to our countrymen, now to their enemies ... This lasted right up till the year of the siege of Badon Hill, pretty well the last defeat of the villains and certainly not the least. That was the year of my birth; as I know, one month of the forty-fourth year since then has already passed.
 

Gildas' account implies that Badon was won not by King Arthur, but by Ambrosius. Arthur is never mentioned in Gildas.

 

However, by the ninth century, Badon had been firmly established as one of King Arthur's victories.

 

How had this happened?

 

To find out we must go back to Nennius.

 

Nennius mentions Arthur in the History of the Britons (Historia Brittonum IV.56), where it claims that he won Mount Badon:

 

At that time the English increased their numbers and grew in Britain Then Arthur fought against them in those days, together with the kings of the British; but he was their warleader (or 'dux bellorum').

The first battle was at the mouth of the river called Glein.

The second, the third, the fourth and the fifth were on another river, called the Douglas, which is in the country of Lindsey.

The sixth battle was on the river called Bassas. The seventh battle was in Celyddon Forest, that is, the Battle of Celyddon Coed.

The eighth battle was in Guinnion fort, and in it Arthur carried the image of the holy Mary, the everlasting Virgin, on his [shield,] and the heathen were put to flight on that day, and there was a great slaughter upon them, through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ .

The twelfth battle was on Badon Hill, in which 960 men fell in one day from a single charge of Arthur's, and no one laid them low save he alone; and he was victorious in all his campaigns.

 

This is the first known reference to King Arthur and Mount Badon, and it gives credence to the historicity of King Arthur the warlord. For no-one would deny that Mount Badon was a historical event. If Arthur was linked to it, then surely King Arthur must be an historical figure too?

 

Mount Badon was also mentioned along with King Arthur in another Welsh record, the Annales Cambriae, which list in the year 516:

 

'The Battle of Badon in which Arthur carried the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights, and the British were victorious.'

 

The Annales Cambriae survive in an English manuscript of c.1100 and are part of a list of events begun by the monastic community of St David's in the 8th Century AD - two to three hundred years after the time of King Arthur.

 

The references of earlier events, from the 5th to the 7th Centuries, derive from oral traditions.

 

Some people doubt their accuracy for that reason.

 

However, this line of argument rest upon the assumption that (oral) historians in the past were less trustworthy than historians today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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