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The-round-table

King Arthur presides at the Round Table with all of his Knights.

The Round Table is King Arthur's famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his Knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. The table was first described in 1155 by Wace, who relied on previous depictions of Arthur's fabulous retinue. The symbolism of the Round Table developed over time; by the close of the 12th century it had come to represent the chivalric order associated with Arthur's court, the Knights of the Round Table.

HistoryEdit

The Round Table first appears in Wace's Roman de Brut, a Norman language adaptation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae finished in 1155. Wace says Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others. Layamon added to the story when he adapted Wace's work into the Middle English Brut in the early 13th century, saying that the quarrel between Arthur's vassals led to violence at a Yuletide feast. In response a Cornish carpenter built an enormous but easily transportable Round Table to prevent further dispute. Wace claims he was not the source of the Round Table; both he and Layamon credited it instead to the Bretons. Some scholars have doubted this claim, while others believe it may be true. There is some similarity between the chroniclers' description of the Round Table and a custom recorded in Celtic stories, in which warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior, in some cases feuding over the order of precedence as in Layamon. There is a possibility that Wace, contrary to his own claims, derived Arthur's round table not from any Breton source, but rather from medieval biographies of Charlemagne—notably Einhard's Vita Caroli and Notker the Stammerer's De Carolo Magno—in which the king is said to have possessed a round table decorated with a map of Rome. Though the Round Table itself is not mentioned until Wace, the concept of Arthur having a marvelous court made up of many prominent warriors is much older. Geoffrey of Monmouth says that after establishing peace throughout Britain, Arthur "increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it." The code of chivalry so important in later romance figures in as well, as Geoffrey says Arthur established "such a code of courtliness in his household that he inspired peoples living far away to imitate him." Long before Geoffrey, Arthur's court was well known to Welsh storytellers; in the romance Culhwch and Olwen, written around 1100, the protagonist Culhwch invokes the names of 225 individuals affiliated with Arthur. In fact, the fame of Arthur's entourage became so prominent in Welsh tradition that in the later additions to the Welsh Triads, the formula tying named individuals to "Arthur's Court" in the triad titles began to supersede the older "Island of Britain" formula. Though the code of chivalry crucial to later continental romances dealing with the Round Table is mostly absent from the earlier Welsh material, some passages of Culhwch and Olwen seem to prefigure it, for instance when Arthur explains the ethos of his court, saying "[w]e are nobles as long as we are sought out: the greater the bounty we may give, the greater our nobility, fame and honour."

Though no Round Table appears in the early Welsh texts, Arthur is associated with various items of household furniture. The earliest of these is Saint Carannog's mystical floating altar in that saint's 12th century Vita; in the story Arthur has found the altar and attempts unsuccessfully to use it for a table, and returns it to Carannog in exchange for the saint ridding the land of a meddlesome dragon. Arthur's household furniture figures into local topographical folklore throughout Britain as early as the early 12th century, with various landmarks being named "Arthur's Seat", "Arthur's Oven," and "Arthur's Bed-chamber." A henge at Eamont Bridge near Penrith, Cumbria is known as "King Arthur's Round Table". The still-visible Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon has been associated with the Round Table, and has been suggested as a possible source for the legend.

In 2010, following archaeological discoveries at the Roman ruins in Chester, some writers suggested that the Chester Roman Amphitheatre was the true prototype of the Round Table but the English Heritage Commission, acting as consultants to a History Channel documentary in which the claim was made, declared that there was no archaeological basis to the story.

Knights of the Round TableEdit

Men who were gathered to join King Arthur's court. It is the highest order of chivalry. The number of knights range from 12 to more than 150 ... and incredibly to 1600, according to Layamon.

Winchester Round TableEdit

Roger-Dubuis-Excalibur-Table-Ronde-03

A table thought to date to the 14th century and to have been painted to represent seats for King Arthur and 24 knights (whose names are painted at their seats) during the reign of Henry VIII. For many centuries it hung on the wall of the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. The Knights on the Winchester table are:

  • Sir Agravain
  • King Arthur
  • Sir Bedivere
  • Sir Bors
  • Sir Breunor
  • Sir Dagonet
  • Sir Daniel
  • Sir Ector
  • Sir Elyan
  • Sir Galahad
  • Sir Gareth
  • Sir Gawain
  • Sir Kay
  • Sir Lamorak
  • Sir Lancelot
  • Sir Lionel
  • Sir Lucan
  • Sir Mordred
  • Sir Palamedes
  • Sir Pelleas
  • Sir Percival
  • Sir Safir
  • Sir Tristan

Related pagesEdit

ReferencesEdit

Winchester Castle website

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