King Arthurs Round Table wasnt just the romantic meeting place of Arthurs warriors but a massive building on the edge of a huge Roman city. What’s more, it was a powerful symbol of Roman authority that survived for some 600 years after the Romans left Britain. (Skip to the Video)
Thats the bold conclusion made by archaeologists in a new documentary that shows how the monumental Roman structure was transformed from an amphitheatre into a fortified stronghold.
King Arthurs Round Table Revealed explores this and other mysteries surrounding by the iconic British hero King Arthur.
The documentary is an exploration of what archaeology today is revealing about King Arthurs world. It follows life in Dark Age Britain after the fall of Rome resulted in chaos, anarchy and inter-ethnic strife. It all led to the rise or warlords including King Arthur, who led the resistance against the Saxon insurgency.
The refortification of Roman sites, the vital strategic importance of the road system and the use of Christianity as a rallying point against the pagan Saxons are all studied. There are some excellent reconstructions of Arthurian warfare by Comitatus and Regia Anglorum; scientific analysis of one of the skeletons from a Dark Age mass grave outside Chester; and high quality replicas showing the distinctive military fittings which characterised the armies of the British warlords.
Chester King Arthur’s Stronghold
The programme uses Dark Age texts to track down traces of Arthur on the ground, while at the same time taking in archaeological evidence relating to key sites such as Hadrians Wall, Silchester and, crucially, Chester. Here, finds in the huge amphitheatre confirm the identity of Chester with the City of the Legion, site of two of the first Christian martyrdoms in Britain and one of King Arthurs famous 12 battles.
You wont have seen a programme like this, he says. The scholarship is cutting edge and the list of contributors is a whos who of the most respected archaeologists working in the field. The part which sees the forensic scientist Malin Holst examine the body of a slain Saxon warrior is incredible. Tony Wilmott of English Heritage conveys a real sense of the awe he and his team felt confronted with the evidence of the Christian martyr from the Chester Amphitheatre. There is also some great CGI and the reconstructions of the Romanised British army fighting the invaders are the best Ive seen. King Arthurs Round Table Revealed will have you thinking this has got to be right.
One of the programme’s other contributors, Stuart Laycock himself an expert on post-Roman rule in Britain has described Gidlow as the most credible proponent of a historical Arthur.
I take this as meaning that I keep up to date with modern scholarship and that I dont have a blinkered attachment to proving that King Arthur shared my postcode or that some other shadowy Dark Age character is hiding behind the Arthur mask, says Gidlow.
You can read an extract from Gidlow’s Revealing King Arthur on the Tintagel Stone in Cornwall here on HK.And also trace his Top 10 Archaeological Clues to the Real King Arthur.