The real story behind King Arthur

When most of us think of King Arthur, we tend to think of the valiant British king who managed to pull the sword out of the stone, had help from a wily wizard called Merlin, fought dragons, and hung around Camelot and the Round Table (although we have Disney to thank for that). However, it seems Disney has got the whole history completely wrong – as much of this story is false.

The real story behind King Arthur

He wasn’t a king at all

Yep, sorry to break it to you – but King Arthur wasn’t actually a king. In fact, he wasn’t even called Arthur. The first time we heard about Arthur (or whatever his name was) was in 540 AD, when the historian Gildas wrote of a man who fought alongside the kings of England, who wasn’t noble at all. However, the man Gildas wrote about was actually called Ambrosius Aurelianus – with the name Arthur being adopted a few hundred years later as the story was adapted.

He was a hero

Despite the fact that Aurelianus wasn’t a King, there is no denying that he was a hero – just like in the King Arthur story. Aurelianus was active during the start of the Dark Ages when Britain was being attacked by the Anglo-Saxon Barbarians. It is believed that Aurelianus was Roman soldier who took charge of the British military and began to overpower the Anglo-Saxons one battle at a time. However, in the original story, there is no mention of whether Aurelianus fought in the battle personally – or simply guided from the sidelines. Nevertheless, as the story began to change, Aurelianus (or Arthur) became a valiant warrior who single-handedly killed 940 enemy soldiers.

The real story behind King Arthur

Camelot was not a castle

In the adapted King Arthur story, Camelot plays a huge role in the events – and most of us imagine Camelot to be a grand fairytale castle holding the famous Round Table. However, this castle is actually a fictional realm. Instead, Camelot was a tiny Roman fort that was built for the British military in the town of Colchester in England. At the time, Colchester was not called Colchester; it was called Camulodunum, and it was the first ever Roman town built in England.

His dog was famous

Many people associate King Arthur with his dog – whether you’ve read the original story or the modern adapted story. In fact, this part of the story is true. During his time leading the British Military, Aurelianus kept a dog called Cabal by his side all of the time. Cabal proved vital in finding enemies and hunting, but he soon died during a boar hunt. However, those who retold the story became so engrossed in the story of Cabal, later renamed Cavall, that they decided to change the story so that Cabal was killed by an evil monster called Troynt that had also killed most of his army.

The real story behind King Arthur

 It didn’t end well

It is believed that Aurelianus died in battle, which spelled disaster for the British military. As he had been the only person to fight off the Anglo-Saxons, there wasn’t anyone powerful enough to take over his role after he died – and the Anglo-Saxons launched their reign once more and invaded Britain numerous times over the next few years.

Arthur and Merlin never met

In the famous King Arthur story, Arthur is helped along his way by the powerful and wacky wizard, Merlin. However, this could not have been possible – because Aurelianus was dead before Merlin was born, so they never met. It’s believed that Merlin was added to the story around 600 years after the original Aurelianus died.

It seems like most of the King Arthur story has been changed over the years, although some of the main points are still (slightly) valid. Unfortunately, the best known story of King Arthur, made popular by Disney, doesn’t involve a wizard called Merlin or a Sword in the Stone. Like most things, the story has been re-imagined and embellished over the years.

The real story behind King Arthur