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Battle of Camlann
Part of the Sovereignty of Britain by legend; local feud by other traditions
How Mordred was Slain by Arthur.jpg

"How Mordred was Slain by Arthur, and How by Him Arthur was Hurt to the Death", by Arthur Rackham
Date 537 (traditional date)
Location Unknown
Result Arthurian victory, but indecisive; no effective succession.
Commanders
King Arthur Mordred
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
all but seven all

The Battle of Camlann (Welsh: Cad Camlan or Brwydr Camlan) is best known as the final battle of King Arthur, where he either died in battle, or was fatally wounded fighting his enemy and relative Mordred. All detailed accounts of this battle are legend or myth, but there are also early purely descriptive references to the battle.

Contents

Historicity

The earliest known reference to the Battle of Camlann is the entry in the 9th-century Annales Cambriae. The Annales date the battle to the year 537, and mention Mordred (Medraut) but do not specify that he and Arthur fought on opposite sides.

Gueith camlann in qua Arthur eroxt Medraut corruerunt.
(The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) perished.)

Later accounts of this battle are in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, the Alliterative Morte Arthure, and in the 13th century Welsh tale The Dream of Rhonabwy.

The location of the battle is unknown, but several candidates exist. One possible site is Queen Camel in Somerset which is close to the hill fort near South Cadbury (identified by some, including Geoffrey Ashe, with King Arthur's Camelot), where the River Cam flows beneath Camel Hill and Annis Hill. The site most consistent with the theory of a northern Arthur is the Roman fort called, in Latin, 'Camboglanna'. When this theory was first put forward, this was identified as Birdoswald, but has since been acceptedas nearby Castlesteads. Other identifications have been offered, the River Camel along the border of Cornwall, Camelon (now part of Falkirk) in Scotland and the River Camlan in Eifionydd in Wales.

Part of the confusion with the location is due to the literal meaning the word "camlann" which is "crooked bank". In looking for the place the battle might have taken place, one must first locate known battle sites around the right time and then look for the crooked bank or stream that might have given it the name; not an easy task.

Legendary versions

In legendary accounts, the battle was started by a knight on one side who drew blade, against orders, to kill a snake. As the unsheathing of cold steel was against the rules of the truce, and the metal shone, one army thought the other was breaking the truce. Both armies subsequently charged at each other, beginning the battle in earnest. Older Welsh tradition has the battle as the outcome of a feud between Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) with its origins in a quarrel between Arthur's wife Gwenhwyfar (later Guinevere) and her sister Gwenhwyfach.

Modern fiction

Sometimes Camlann is identified as Camelot itself in newer retellings of the Arthurian saga, such as Elizabeth Wein's The Winter Prince.

References








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