6th Century Christian Britain from King Arthur to Rome’s Austin

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Simon Keynes, in his review of M.J. Whittock's book The Origins of England 410-600, rightly speaks1 of the important choice between striking a British or an Anglo-Saxon attitude during those two centuries. There can be little doubt, however, that the heroic exploits of Britain's Christian King Arthur — the great hero of the Celto-Brythons — completely overshadows the ferocious advances made against his countrymen by the English Anglo-Saxons who were then still unchristianized.

The famous historian Edward Gibbon relates2 that in a century of implacable war from A.D. 432 to 532, much courage and some skill must have been exerted for the defence of Britain. The tomb of Vortimer the son of Vortigern was erected on the sea-shore. It was a landmark formidable to the Saxons whom he had thrice vanquished on the fields of Kent.

Then there was Embres Erryll. Gibbon explains that he, Ambrose Aurelian, was descended from a noble family. His valour, till his last fatal action of A.D. 491, was crowned with splendid success.

However, adds Gibbon, "every British name is effaced by the illustrious name of Arthur…, the elected king or general of the nation…. He defeated, in twelve successive battles, the Angles of the north [in Northumbria] and the Saxons of the west [in Wessex]….

"After a war of an hundred years [A.D. 432-532], the independent Britons still occupied the whole extent of the western coast, from the wall of Antoninus [in Central Scotland] to the extreme promontary of Cornwall; and the principal cities of the inland country still opposed the arms of the 'barbarians'" on the eastern seacoast. 

Early evidence for the historicity of Celtic Britain's King Arthur

London's nineteenth-century King's College History Professor Brewer, in his book The Student's Hume on the History of England, discusses the A.D. 825 work known as The History of the Britons. Its full title is The History of the Britons from Creation to 687. Its authorship is very credibly ascribed to the Celtic Briton Nenni — who died early in the ninth century.

In that work, explains Brewer,3 the author professes to have collected his materials from: the traditions of his elders; the monuments of the Ancient Britons; the Latin chroniclers (Isidore, Jerome, Prosper &c.); and the various histories of the Scots and Saxons. The historian Professor Brewer then says he sees no real reason to doubt this. In our opinion, nor should anyone else.

Now according to that A.D. 825 Welsh historian Nenni, it was at the Battle of Cat Coit Celidon against the Anglo-Saxons, that the Brythonic King Arthur led his Celtic Christian soldiers onward into war against the invaders. Significantly, the Christian King Arthur did so, precisely while shouldering a shield emblazoned with the Christian cross.

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Clearly, Arthur did so near the Scottish border. For the Celtic phrase "Cat Coit Celidon" means: "the Battle of Calendar Wood" (alias Caledonia).

Arthur was the Christian 'High-King' or Arh-an-Rhaig of the Britons. Several have attempted to locate him at Gelliwig alias Kelliwic in Cornwall, where he may indeed have had at least a summer palace in his large western domain (comprising the better part of Brythonic Britain all the way from Dumbarton in the north to Land's End in the south). The mediaevalist Sir Thomas Malory, who died in 1471, did so4 in his work on Arthur's death entitled Morte d'Arthur — which he is alleged to have compiled5 from much earlier sources.

Yet although he favoured Cornwall as King Arthur's headquarters, Malory too knows of the importance to Arthur of places also in North Britain. For Malory also mentions Arthur's exploits in North Wales, at "Caerleon" (or at Chester); at "Carlisle" (or Caer-Leill in Cumbria); in Northumberland; and even at "Orkney."6

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