Spangenhelm Hofbourg Museum
The spangenhelm, of Sarmatian origin, became popular in both Romans and barbarians because of its cheap cost of construction and the effective protection that offered. Its construction was simple, made of metal fragments which were bound tightly together. Especially towards the end of the Western Empire and after that, the spangenhelm variety of helmets became rather the most popular group. This group was also used by some Romano-Britons and their Anglo-Saxon enemies.
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britannia_draco_

A Romano-Briton of the 5th cent. AD with his hound, possibly watching the Anglo-Saxon enemy. He is holding the standard of the Dragon, of Sarmatian origin, and wears a Late Roman helmet of Persian design. The strong Iranian influences on the Late Roman army survived for a long time among the Briton fighting men (reenactment by Britannia)
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED from PART I
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According to legend, when King Arthur needed a new sword, the Lady of the Lake emerged from the water and handed him the sword Excalibur. The sword’s name probably derives from the Roman ‘Caliburnus’ meaning ‘steel’ and indicates the material of the blade. Excalibur’s episode is likely rooted in the known Celtic ritual of dropping the swords of mighty warriors who died, in lakes or rivers to symbolize their passage to the netherworld. Archaeologists have found countless ancient swords at the bottom of lakes and rivers of Britain and other Celtic lands. However, the Sarmatians had also similar traditions. The Sarmatians and the Iranian nomads generally attributed (as the Celts did) “magical properties” in their swords surrounding them with respect, a custom which survived in the tradition of Medieval European Chivalry. Here, the Celtic tradition correlates with the Sarmatian tradition.
Chretien de Troyes quotes that Arthur lived in the strong fortress of Camelot, from where he controlled his territory living a rather luxurious life. Some scholars believe that Camelot was the Roman Camulodunum (modern Colchester) because this toponym is analyzed as ‘Camelot-dun’. The Celtic word dun means the fortress, e.g. Lund-dun i.e. modern London, Lug-dun modern Lyon (Roman Lugdunum) etc. However, perhaps there were some other Briton towns also named Camelot/Camulon (Camulum). The hypothetical Camelot of the 5th-6th centuries would have been a wooden fort on a hilltop, according to the British Celtic stereotype. In 1542, John Lelant, a researcher and collector of archaeological finds, observed in modern Somerset, the existence of the River Cam and two villages known as West Camel and Queen Camel. The three toponyms are originated from the same verbal root ‘Cam’ as “Camelot.” In a distance of 7 km from the Camel villages, Lelant observed the Cadbury hill. In the 16th century, the hill was found surrounded by four rows of defensive ramparts and moats. These were the fortifications of a fortress of impressive size. Lelant thought that he spotted the legendary Camelot at Cadbury hill, but he had no archaeological evidence to prove it. In the 1950s, British archaeologists began excavations at Cadbury hill and confirmed the existence of a large fortress of the Dark Ages. At its southwestern part, they discovered the foundations of the main gate and confirmed the existence of a wooden wall with a very long perimeter. The inner rampart was made of wood and stones, a style unique to Britain, found only in Cadbury. The fortress was dated to the 4th-5th centuries, from the utensils and other items found inside. This is probably the biggest British fort of this age, with a probable area of 7-8,000 square meters. Although only a part of its area is excavated, it is obvious that it was the seat of a powerful commander of the 4th-5th centuries.

Cadbury Castle

Cadbury Hill
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seax

An accurate reconstruction of a seax (sachs, sax). It was a military knife, characteristic of the Germanic peoples. The tribal name of the Saxons, the main invaders in Britain, originates from the seax.

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The fort at Cadbury is large enough to have been the headquarters of the aforementioned (in Part I and other articles of mine on Arthur) Supreme Commander of the Briton archons and warlords (Dux Bellorum, Rigo-tamus, Riothamus). It has been estimated that 800 men were needed just to defend the walls. Given that a typical military force of that period normally did not exceed the figure of 100 men, it is obvious that only a very powerful ruler could command an army of this size, a ruler who had no equivalent across Britain. Arthur had assembled a large army just before the battle of Mount Badon (Roman Badonicus), which lies a few miles from Cadbury. An important evidence for the identification of Cadbury with Chretien’s Camelot is the conclusion of the archaeologists that the fortress was refortified with stronger defenses in the second half of the 5th century, i.e. the alleged start of Arthur’s politico-military action. The local oral tradition which associates the fort of Cadbury with Arthur or in general with a powerful king, is maintained until today. It is significant that when in the 1950s the archaeologists began excavating the hill, the local people asked them “if they had come to unbury  the King.” The modern inhabitants of the region are English but their ultimate origin is Briton, i.e. their ancestors were Anglo-Saxonized.
Geoffrey does not mention Camelot, but he quotes that Arthur ruled his kingdom with the support of a dedicated brotherhood of knights, the Knights of the Round Table. Geoffrey celebrates the Brotherhood and over the centuries the personal stories and deeds of the Knights of the Round Table became more important than Arthur himself. The archaeological finds from a mound in the center of the Cadbury fort, indicate the historicity of the Brotherhood. In addition to the utensils of the 5th century, the archaeologists excavated a number of pillars that were grounded to a specific order. The household utensils and the pillars were the remains of a wooden hall which covered a quite large area, appropriate for a large gathering of warlords. The archaeologists discovered in the hall evidence related to the Round Table, i.e. fragments of jugs for wine or mead. From the amount of the jugs it is evident that the warlords were gathering here mainly to drink. This was the most usual way to relax before or after a battle. The epic poem “Y Goddodin” demonstrates how the drinking and the Round Table were connected, describing how the noble fighters of the poem gathered to have fun drinking mead and wine. It seems that the Round Table was nothing more than a metaphorical performance of the bond connecting the knights (the noble cavalrymen, to be more accurate) including the King (Dux Bellorum). It is the ideal of equality and fraternity in a brotherhood of professional warriors.

mort d arthur
“Le Mort d’Arthur”, a classic artwork by James Archer.
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The noble warlords were extravagant by the standards of their time. They were carrying expensive weapons which passed them from one generation to the next, drinking large quantities of alcohol of high quality and eating expensive meals e.g. meat with pepper. The tradition of the luxurious life of the Knights in Camelot is probably based on this way of life of the Briton fighting nobles. Concerning the Round Table itself, the scholars who are looking for some such real table or related object, rather perceive too literally its image. The warlords of the Early Middle Ages were sitting circularly around the warmth of the hall’s fire, and probably this habit is the reality of the Round Table.
If Arthur was an historical personality, he probably had his headquarters in contemporary Southwestern England, the land of the Dumnonii and their sub-tribes, where Tintagel and Cadbury are located. It is likely that he was a Dumnonian. However, many researchers believe that he came from other British regions, with the stronger versions being the ones of Wales and modern Northern England or Lowland Scotland (theory of a ‘Northern Arthur’)….
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CONTINUE READING TO THE LAST PART
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Periklis Deligiannis
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