I just saw King Arthur

I’m always grotesquely late with these things. Pepper Mill and I can’t get a babysitter, so any adult movies keep getting put off untilo they’re on video, and then some.
You might remembver I ranted about Troy and its gratuitous departures from mythology. I’m not naive – heck, I’ve written plays myself. I know the importance of keeoping things movingg, and interesting, and that one shouldn’t be tied slavishly to a text. But some of the things they did in Troy were like making a film about the American Revolution which featured a scene with John Adams disemboweling George Washington. It’s interesting, showy, and bloody, and it clearly demonstrates that you’re not letting a slavish devotion to historical accuracy get in the way of telling a rousing good story. But people are going to talk.
Compared to King Arthur, Troy was slavishly devoted to its source material.

This clearly isn’t ther Arthur of Malory or Geoffrey or T.H. White. It’s gritty Tomano-Celt and Roman and Saxon, with lots of battles and gore. On the other hand, it’s not remotely the Arthur of history, either, unless it’s in some parallel universe. Arthur himself seems to be a romano-celt, a many have held, but his knights are all Sarmatian horsemen, brought from Central Europe, apparently because the Romans liked their horsemanship.Nobody has ever suggested anything like this. This includes a sorely out-of-place Lancelot.(Lancelot first shows up in the French romances of Chretien de royes, and he’s tied to Brittany) Merlin is leader of the “Woads”, and Guinevere is also a Woad. You know they’re Woads because the Romans call them that and because they’re daubed blue. But what are the Woads? They don’t seem to be the celts, because the peasants are ordinary folk (unless they’re like a guerilla group). Maybe they’re supposed to be Picts or something. In any event, the historical Merlin seems to have been a bard or something, who existed, if at all, at a different time than Arthur. Guinevere may have existed as a celt, but this is her first appearance as Warrior Princess. Well, if she’s not going to carry on with Lance or with Morderd, what else is she gonna do? (There is no Morderd).

There’s a Saxon army, but the leader is Cedric, not Hengist or Horsa. For no good reason, they’re up above Hadrian’s wall, menacing a Roman villa and camp which is also north of the wall. None of these people have any business being there, or any practical excuse for being there, either.
The Romans are there, and they’re pulling out of Britain. This isn’t like any withdrawl you’ve ever seen – not a gradual leaving, as happensd in reality. The Romans seem to have a timetable, and a definite date for when they all have to be ouit. It’s like they don’t want to lose their security deposit or something.

Before Arghur and his men can get their discharge papers and obtain free passage to Sarmatia, they have to perform one last mission – rescuing the Roman family. They’re pissed about this, but they do it, engaging Cedric’s army of thousands with their band of seven men (they frequently seem like the Seven Samurai, or The Magnificent Seven, defending peasants from an army of Bad Guys) in ludicrous battle tactics and winning. It looks gritty, but completely unconvincing. Cedric can’t beat Arthut’s men even before Arthur teams up with Merlin’s Woad guerillas. This makes you worry less about him as a credible threat. (Although, in good movie mode, he kills his own rebellious men, like Ernst Stavro Blofeld, as well as innocent civilians. so you know he’s a Bad Guy) In the end, of course, he gets defeated.

This isn’t the Arthur of Legend. But it’s not remotely the Arthur of History. Too many things don’t even make a lick of sense. There are a few nods to the Argur of legend – a Round Table, the names of Argthur’s closest men, Merlin and Guinevere. In the alternate ending a kid struggles to pull out a sword, and the battyle is said to be Mount Badon. But it’s all superficial – none of it says “Arthur” It’s a historical epic cut from whole cloth , unrelated to the epoch with weindow dressing to make it seem plausible. The screenwriter also did Gladiator. I’m not surprised.

Oh – I meant to post this. A link to a previous discussion of this film in retrospect. It seems a lot of people have wiped it from their memories:


Sorry to bring it back.

I know almost nothing of the history (though what I do know didn’t mesh with what I saw), but it was definitely a forgettable movie. I don’t mind watching it, and in fact, I’ve seen it a couple of times, but it’s one of those movies you watch and then immediately afterward start talking about the groceries you need to get and whether you should pick up the dry cleaning today or tomorrow.

I liked it. Especially the battle at the end. The tactics seemed clever.

To be fair, a number of people over the years have indeed suggested something like this. The theory of Lucius Artorius Castus and his Sarmatian horsemen was first suggested over 80 years ago and has been dusted off several times since.

Not that this stopped the makers of the film claiming that it was based on the latest research. One can only assume that they were using ‘latest research’ in the Hollywood sense of ‘dodgy theory that’s been around for decades and which has never been taken seriously by most of the experts’. But they didn’t make it up.

I don’t know why the hell they called them “Woads” but the Woads were most certainly supposed to be Picts. Picts tatooed their skin with woad (blue dye).

APB writes:

Do you have a cite for this? I’ve been going through my extensive Arthurian collection of lit recently, and have never run across anything like this.

Just Googled up this:


Interesting. I suppose the reason I never heard of it was that it predated the historical Arthur by three centuries, so none of the works I read ever took it seriously.
Still pretty hard to reconcile with any of the rest of Arthurian milieue, or with the undoubted Romano_celts of the 6th century.

More than you ever wanted to know about Artorius:


I liked the movie. It was very entertaining. But it sucked as a tale of King Arthur. The worst part was that the movie was billed as “The True Story That Inspired a Legend” or something similar. What a load of shite.

I thought the movie was pretty bad, except I enjoyed watching the cast. I like Clive Owen, I love to hear Ray Winstone talk, and Horatio Hornblower looked great with a beard. Titus Pullo, from HBO’s Rome, was also in it briefly.

I used to be a huge Arthur geek. I was especially a fan of historical Arthur stuff. It’s been years, so much of my “research” on the subject has faded. Nonetheless I was iintrigued to read, recently, somewhere, in an article about what name Prince Charles would go by if he is crowned king (not Charles, apparently), that if he used his (IIRC) second name Arthur, he would be the *first *King Arthur. So I guess the official line is that Arthur was emphatically NOT historical?

No, the official line is that the Arthurian legends were based on either one or several historical military commanders, none of whom was ever crowned King.

I liked Clive Owen.

I hate the movie though.
But I thought he was cool.

Whose official line? Cite?

It wouldn’t matter either way. The custom of regnal numbers only dates back to the Norman Conquest, so any kings before that aren’t counted. For instance, there were several Edwards pre-conquest, but they’re reffered to by their name and a nickname (e.g. Edward the Elder), while the first post-conquest Edward is listed as Edward I.

As far as Arthurian travesties go, it still sounds better than First Knight, the mere existence of which still bugs the crap out of me.

Well, it seems to be the position of Arthurian scholarship, at any rate. The foremost among the Arthurian scholars as near as I can tell is Geoffrey Ashe—he’s been writing books about the possible historocity of Arthur for something like 40 years. You might run a check on him at Amazon for his latest.

Well, it seems to be the position of Arthurian scholarship, at any rate. The foremost among the Arthurian scholars as near as I can tell is Geoffrey Ashe—he’s been writing books about the possible historocity of Arthur for something like 40 years. You might run a check on him at Amazon for his latest.

20 years ago Ashe wrote B]The Discovery of King Arthur**, in whch he came down on a fellow named Riothamus as the likel historical Arthur – not king, but definitely a single individual (although he’d grant that some features of rthurian myth were inspired by others). Immediately other people started writing their own books saying who Arthur really was – and the all named omeone else. I have a collection of these, a weird subset of Arthuriana (Lucius artorius Casta, mentioned above, is mentioned in two of these , I find, but just barely, Ashe puts him on three pages in his book, bt doesn’t ay much about the theory that he "was " Arthur.)

By strange coincidence I had just seen it last week, I had it from NetFlix.

I enjoyed it though I didn’t think it was great.