Arthur, Emperors, and Antichrists: The Formation of the Arthurian Biography

  • Judith Weiss
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The Arthurian “biography” was concocted by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Return Britanniae in the late 1130s. For the first time, some of the scattered legends about Arthur, which we nowadays encounter in Welsh histories, literature and saints’ lives, were used and embroidered into a coherent whole, which recast the king as an international figure when he moves beyond the bounds of his own land to confront and defeat the emperor of Rome and appropriate his empire. This and other elements of the biography invented by Geoffrey can, I believe, be significantly linked to certain historical and cultural attitudes and beliefs current in the twelfth century: views on empire and imperial pretensions on the one hand, and beliefs conditioned by prophetic and eschatological writing on the other. Such attitudes and beliefs are, of course, not confined to the twelfth century: they continue well beyond it and so also influence Geoffrey’s chronicler successors. I describe these in this chapter after a brief recall of some of the most striking elements Geoffrey added to the Arthurian legend.1


Europe Syria Verse Prose Briton 


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© Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones 2006

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  • Judith Weiss

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