The stuff of legends

Dear Mum, have found some ruins, must be Camelot.

The legendary figure of Arthur, knight and/or king, has always fascinated historians, with many theories arising as to when he might have lived, the location of his equally legendary stronghold, Camelot, and whether or not he actually had a round table.

The latest group of researchers exploring the legend of Britain’s most famous Knight believe his stronghold of Camelot was built on the site of a recently discovered Roman amphitheatre in Chester. Legend has it that his Knights would gather before battle at a round table where they would receive instructions from their King.

However, some historians believe that rather than the round table actually being a piece of furniture, it would have more realistically have been a vast wood and stone structure which would have allowed more than 1,000 of his followers to gather.

They believe regional noblemen would have sat in the front row of a circular meeting place, with lower ranked subjects on stone benches grouped around the outside and they also claim that Camelot, rather than being a purpose built castle, would have been housed in a structure already built and left over by the Romans. According to Camelot historian Chris Gidlow:

“The first accounts of the Round Table show that it was nothing like a dining table but was a venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time. We know that one of Arthur’s two main battles was fought at a town referred to as the City of Legions. There were only two places with this title. One was St Albans but the location of the other has remained a mystery”

The fairly recent discovery of an amphitheatre with an execution stone and wooden memorial to Christian martyrs has led researchers to conclude that the mystery location is, in fact, Chester. In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life and referred to both the City of Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it.

This, according to the historians, is the deciding factor and, therefore, the discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court and his legendary Round Table.

Now we know. Until the next theory arises, of course. Any archaeological discovery tends to lead to a new appraisal of history and speculation as to people and events.

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