The Otranto mosaic

The mosaic is dated from 1163, at a time when the cathedral was in the Norman Principality of Taranto. One portion of the mosaic depicts King Arthur:

Arthur in the Otranto mosaic. A Caper in Salento (capersalento.blogspot.com)

The mosaic depicts a leopard confronting the rider. Two yellow leopards on a red background is the emblem of Normandy. This was the coat of arms of the Plantagenet king Henry II (1154 to 1189). England’s royal arms, with an extra cat, derives from Henry’s son, Richard the Lionheart. The imagery is one of the Normans defeating the English, hence the leopard mauling the dislodged rider.

Why Arthur? The House of Godwin may well had adopted him. A number of manuscripts, including Harl. 2414 which describes him as “iarll Kernyw”, show Godwin, Earl of Wessex, having Cornish ancestry, see Coliavus. As pointed out in The Bayeux tapestry and the draco standards, it is likely that one of the standards portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry is of Cornish and not Saxon origin.

The writing “Rex Arturus” is referring to the figure hovering to the right of the picture, not the rider as is usually thought. The text is closer to him than the mounted figure. The reason that “Rex” became associated with the rider is because of his crown, but this was a late additon in a repair to the mosaic, see image:

Drawing by Aubin Louis Millin of Otranto mosaic before restoration. A Caper in Salento (capersalento.blogspot.com)

It shows areas of damage and the rider wearing a cap, but not a crown.

It appears that Arthur is in spirit form, long since dead. The figure who is riding the goat is a representation of Harold Godwinson. He is being ridiculed with an imagery showing him going to battle riding a goat and inadequately dressed for the conflict. Arthur has his hands raised to his face, as if in horror, thus suggesting his agreement with the Normans that Harold was a false claimant to the throne.

The whole scheme being placed between the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the Cain and Abel story is to suggest the result of Hastings was an act of God, whose hand is depicted above. Harold’s location on the mosaic is significant. Cain and Abel are relevant as a case of treachery. It is claimed that when Harold ended up in Normandy he had taken an oath of fealty to William and then sworn on sacred relics. Likewise, Adam and Eve had broken a covenant with God.

Arthur as grandson of Ambrosius Aurelianus

A number of genealogies indicate Arthur was a grandson of Ambrosius Aurelianus, see Arthur’s descent from Cunedda. There may be an oblique reference to this relationship in DEB 25, following on from the reference to Ambrosius:

“… cuius nunc temporibus nostris suboles magnopere auita bonitate degenerauit …”
“… whose offspring now, in our times, has greatly degenerated from his grandfather’s moral excellence ..”

Arthur’s adversaries and ally

The HB is correct in claiming Ochta was the son of Hengest. This is supported by Bede. Although the ASC names Aesc as the son, if it is accepted that the 488 date is correct for Hengest’s obit then it would seem that Ochta was the name of Arthur’s opponent in some of the 12 battles.

As far as Esla of the Gewisse is concerned, as Sisam pointed out, Esla/Elesa formed an alliterative pair as did Wig/Giwis. Chronology would, therefore, suggest he was a contemporary of Arthur and identification with Osla Gyllellfawr is reasonable. The Culhwch ac Olwen, where we are told his dagger, Bronllafn Ferllydan, is used as a bridge and also that he was involved in the chase of the Twrch Trwyth, describes him as an ally of Arthur. However, in the Breuddwyd Rhonabwy he is an opponent at Badon, but asked Arthur for a truce. Perhaps, he defected to Arthur. If Esla was, indeed, an ally it may explain why DEB 26 states:

“tam desperati insulae excidii insperatique mentio auxilii”

“… ‘so desperate a destruction of the island’ – the Saxon revolt – ‘and unhoped-for mention of assistance’ …”[1]

This unforseen help referred to may have been Saxons fighting with the Britons against Kentish forces. That may also explain the reason why the West Saxons claimed their dynasty started with Cerdic, rather than with the arrival of Giwis, possibly in 475. Although the ASC claims Cerdic’s obit in 534, Dumville dates it to 554. It is, therefore, likely that Cerdic was one of Arthur’s opponents at Camlan.

[1] Higham, N.J., 2018, 162.

 

St. Stephen’s church

Le Morte D’Arthur III 5 states:
“Then was the high feast made ready, and the king was wedded at Camelot unto Dame Guenever in the church of Saint Stephen’s, with great solemnity.”

Malory mistakenly identified Camelot with Winchester, probably because it supposedly housed the arthurian round table in the Great Hall. No religious building has ever been dedicated to St. Stephen at Winchester. As indicated Camelot was Celliwig, that is Castle Canyke in Bodmin, see Celliwig. Just over 3 miles away from Celliwig is the church of Saint Stephen’s, by the river Camel and about 350 yards away from the Roman fort at Nanstallon.

Church of St Stephen’s. Photo © Derek Harper (cc-by-sa2.0)

Of course, the current church would have been built over the Arthurian predecessor.

Custennin ap Cadwr

Custennin is the first ‘tyrant’ mentioned by Gildas. He was a nephew of Arthur as indicated by a number of sources[1]:

1. The Chronicle of John Hardyng:
“To Constantyne, duke Cader sonne on hye, / his neuewe was, for Cader was his brother, / As well was knowen they had but one mother.”[2]

2. Brut y Brenhinedd p. 182v:
“… i nai ap i vrawd kanis mab oedd y kadwr hwnnw i wrlais iarll keirnyw o eigr verch amlawd wledig mam arthur.”
“… his nephew, his brother’s son, for that Cador was son to Gorlois Earl of Cornwall, by Igerne, Arthur’s mother, daughter of Prince Amlawd.”[3]
as shown in the following extract from the manuscript:

Black Book of Basingwerk, NLW ms. 7006, 182v.

3. ByA 32:
“Kustenin ap Kadwr ap Gwrlais iarll Kemyw nai ap brawd vnvam ac Arthur.”[4]

It was because he was Arthur’s closest surviving relative that he inherited the crown of Dumnonia. His pedigree appears in Harl. 2414 and Llyfr Baglan. The former is shown below where the names appear as in the manuscript.

Gen. Harl. 2414b Harl. 2414c Harl. 2414d
2 Bledrys
1 Kystennin
0 Petrawg Kador
-1 Klemens Gwrloys
-2 Sartogys Selor
-3 Pandwlff Mor (m. Sglepiado[s])
-4 Gerdan Owen
-5 Maxen Wledig

Note, Harl. 2414b is a continuation of Harl. 2414d. Harl. 2414c had been inserted in between as Gerdan and Owen were both offsprings of Maxen. Gerdan is probably Gratiana, daughter of Macsen Wledig, who according to Harl. 1974 30 and 31 married Tudwal ap Turmwr.

[1] Bartrum, P.C., 2009, 96.
[2] Grafton, R., Ellis, H., 1812, 146.
[3] Parry, J.J., 1937, 182b.
[4] Bartrum, P.C., 1966, 94.

The Sword in the Stone

This is one of the most famous stories in Arthurian folklore. It may well be a symbolic representation of the transfer of sovereignty to Arthur after the death of his father whose name appears in HG 2a as Petr. Latin ‘petra’ means ‘rock’. Drawing of the sword could only be achieved by the rightful claimant, that is Uthr’s true heir. Although it first appears in Robert de Boron’s Merlin this interpretation indicates the story may well have an older origin.

Campus Elleti

HB 41 refers to a site called Campus Elleti:

“As they explored all the provinces they came to the plain of Elled in the country called Glywysing.”

where the envoys found what they were searching for, a child without a father. His name was “Ambrosius”, that is “Embreis Guletic”. The answer to the question of who the plain was named after can be found in JC 4 which consists of three parts:

Gen. JC 4a
JC 4b JC 4c seg.
1 Cadog
0 Gwynllyw
-1 Glywys
-2 Solor
-3 Nor
-4 Owain Finddu Constantinus Owain Finddu
-5 Macsen Wledig Magnus Maximus Macsen Wledig Ceindrech
-6 Maximianus Rheiden
-7 Constantinus Magnus Eledi
-8 Cynan Constantius Chlorus Elen Luyddog Morddu
-9 Eudaf Hen Meirchion

JC 4c mentions the individual, Eledi ap Morddu, as a grandfather of Ceindrech, a wife of Macsen Wledig and mother of Owain Finddu. JC 4a shows Glywys, the eponym of Glywysing, as a descendant of Owain.

The Liber Landavensis mentions the name “Elleti” and the place is located near “Llansanwyr”, that is Llansannor.[1] It may be significant that the village is less than 3 miles distant from Llanillid. There was a chapel dedicated to St. Ilid on Tintagel island.

[1] Davies, W., 1979, 98.