The oldest surviving copy of the History of the Britons (Historia Brittonum) is found in a miscellany of late Antique and early medieval texts in Latin. The history was assembled from a variety of sources in 829 or 830, probably under the patronage of the king of Gwynedd (r. 825–844) in northwestern Wales.
The text features the earliest written account of King Arthur as a historical figure, describing him as a war lord (dux bellorum), as a Christian soldier who carries either an image of the Virgin or Christ’s cross, and as a legendary figure associated with miraculous events. This work greatly influenced the 12th-century cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth’s (b. c. 1100, d. 1154) history of the kings of Britain.
This miscellany was produced in the early 12th century and includes works on astronomy, military strategy, architecture and theology.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Article by:
- Chantry Westwell
- History and learning
Chantry Westwell traces the ninth-century origins of the Legend of King Arthur and explores the growth of the bestselling tale in medieval England and France.