Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Battle of Camlann

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The Battle of Camlannis is King Arthur's final battle, in which he is mortally wounded by his his nephew Mordred. The story recalls that Arthur and his forces were away in Europe fighting (according to earlier sources) Emperor Lucius or (according to later sources) fighting Lancelot. When Arthur landed back in England, a series of battles ensued that climaxed with the Battle of Camlann. Both Arthur and Mordred are mortally wounded in this battle, but Arthur's army triumphed in the end.
While Camlann, Arthur's last battle, is not part of the battle list, it was a battle that was fought in Britain. The battle of Camlann is first mentioned in the Annales Cambriae (ca. 960-980). The name Camlann has a number of possible locations. It is said to have taken place by a river, and the prefix Cam means crooked. The battle probably took place, then, near a crooked river.
  • Slaughter Bridge in Cornwall. Wace, like Geoffrey, speaks of this site in Cornwall as being the final battle
  • Fort Camboglanna (Castlesteads) on Hadrian's Wall. This was one of several Hadrian's Wall forts that saw heavy fighting during the Caledonian invasion. It does not fit with the earliest historic references which refer to Cornwall.
  • Welsh area around Cader Idris. Cader Idris means the Chair of Idris (a legendary giant). The mountain ridge lies near the town of Dolgellau, but its only connection to the Battle of Camlann are the nearby Camlan and Gamlan rivers.
  • Gamlan River is very near the Camlan valley and Cader Idris, also in mid Wales.
  • River Allen runs through the town of Bridge of Allen, just north of Stirling in Scotland. If you accept that Arthur was Scottish, this is a possible site of the final battle.
Various stories differ on how the battle started. Geoffrey of Monmouth's account is of a normal battle--both sides lined up and then charged into battle. In many other sources, though, the battle is set of by misunderstanding. Malory makes the beginning of the battle a complete misunderstanding: A knight is bitten by an adder, he draws his sword to kill the snake, and when others saw his drawn sword a battle resulted by mistake.

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