A comprehensive examination of the historical and mythological evidence for every major theory about King Arthur
• Explores the history of every Arthur candidate and the geographical arguments that have placed him in different locations
• Examines 1,800 years of evidence for Arthur’s life and the famous series of 12 battles fought against the Saxons in the 6th century
• Reconstructs the history of the 6th century in Britain, when the first references to Arthur and the core events of his reign appear
Few legends have had the enduring influence of those surrounding King Arthur. Many believe the stories are based on historical truth. For others Arthur represents the archetype of the brilliant monarch reigning over a fairy-tale kingdom, offering his knights the opportunity to prove their mettle in battle and find gnostic illumination through initiation into sacred mysteries like that of the Grail.
Presenting the culmination of more than 40 years’ research, John and Caitlín Matthews examine the historical and mythological evidence for every major theory about the existence of King Arthur. Drawing on modern techniques in archaeology and scholarship, they reconstruct the history of the 6th century in Britain, the period when the first unambiguous references to Arthur appear. They explore the history of every Arthur candidate, the geographical arguments that have placed him in different locations, and the evidence for his life and famous battles fought against the Saxons. Was the greatest British hero of all time not a king but a 2nd-century Roman officer active around Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria? A 5th-century soldier who operated in areas as far apart as Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, or Brittany? Or an entirely mythical fiction that provided a figure of light during a dark period of British history?
Examining other literary figures from the 5th century such as Vortigern and Ambrosius, the authors also break down the plots of all the major Arthurian romances, including those by Chretien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Malory, and Robert de Boron, to reveal the historical events they are based on. Piecing together the many fragments that constitute the image of Arthur, both the man and the myth, the authors show how each face of Arthur has something to offer and how his modern popularity proves the enduring power of the hero-myth, truly earning Arthur the title he first received in the 15th century: The Once and Future King.
About the Author
John Matthews has authored over 60 books, including The Grail: Quest for Eternal Life and The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Wisdom. A foremost expert in the Arthurian legends and esoteric wisdom of the Celtic traditions, he teaches and lectures around the world. He resides with his wife, Caitlin, in Oxford, England.
Caitlín Matthews is internationally renowned for her research into the Celtic and ancestral traditions. She is the author of 36 books, including The Celtic Tradition, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, and Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom. She is co-founder of the Foundation for Inspirational and Oracular Studies, which is dedicated to oral, shamanic, and sacred arts. Caitlin Matthews has a shamanic practice in Oxford, England, and teaches worldwide.
"Certain figures of myth and history have an ability to touch us deeply and take up residence in our imaginations, becoming a touchstone for inspiration and inner power. King Arthur is one of these. Whatever his historical veracity may be, he is a cultural icon that has lived through the centuries and continues to influence us in many ways today. In this book, John and Caitlin Matthews bring the importance of this figure to vibrant life. Far more than simply retelling familiar tales, they go deep into the spiritual, historical, literary, artistic, and mythic heart of Arthur to demonstrate most eloquently the wide reach of his cultural influence and why he continues to be the once and future king of our hopes and our imaginations."
— David Spengler, educator and author of Apprenticed to Spirit
“The Matthews have done it again! Here is a compact assembly of Arthurian sources from ancient Rome through the classics, including many obscure bits. A wonderful and entertaining read.”
— Greg Stafford, designer of the King Arthur Pendragon game
“Beautifully written and extensively researched, The Complete King Arthur provides a thorough overview of past and present examples of the tradition and the possible sources from which they sprang. Accessible to scholars and general readers alike, this study is a necessary addition to the library of anyone who loves King Arthur.”
— Linda A. Malcor, coauthor of From Scythia to Camelot
“What a treasure this book is, a gift of great magnitude from the Matthews to all the rest of us. I so wish I had had it when I was immersing myself in Arthur in college many decades ago. The Mathews are the rarest of writers: scholars who are poets, poets who are scholars, singers of myth and history. They understand that facts are the basis of story, but equally, story is the basis of facts. Over the years of their phenomenal body of work, they have never set aside one for the other but have fed them together, in great measure.”
— Rachel Pollack, author of Unquenchable Fire
"Because the Matthews have been studying Celtic traditions, including the Arthurian legends, for forty years, The Complete King Arthur really is complete."
— Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D., Witches & Pagans Magazine