Battle of Camlann
|Battle of Camlann|
"How Mordred was Slain by Arthur, and How by Him Arthur was Hurt to the Death", by Arthur Rackham
|Commanders and leaders|
|King Arthur †||Mordred †|
|Casualties and losses|
|all but seven||all|
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The Battle of Camlann (Welsh: Cad Camlan or Brwydr Camlan) is reputed to have been the final battle of King Arthur, in which he either died or was fatally wounded, fighting his enemy Mordred (who was, in some later versions of the tale, his incestuous son or his nephew).
The earliest known reference to the battle of Camlann is an entry in the 10th-century Annales Cambriae, recording the battle in the year 537. It mentions Mordred (Medraut), but it does not specify that he and Arthur fought on opposite sides.
- Gueith camlann in qua Arthur et Medraut corruerunt.
- (The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) perished.)[n 1]
Andrew Breeze notes that the Welsh prophetic poem Armes Prydein, 'which internal evidence shows to have been written in Dyfed in the year 940', calls for an army to avenge 'four hundred and four years' of suffering in Wales. That would place the onset of the Welsh troubles at around 537, the year assigned to the battle by the Annales Cambriae, and, as such, Breeze argues Armes Prydein provides a 'less well-known...allusion' to Camlann.
The location of the battle is unknown but there are several possibilities. One is Queen Camel in Somerset, 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 a northern Arthur is the Roman fort called Camboglanna, once identified as Birdoswald, but since identified as the nearby Castlesteads. Other identifications have been offered, including the River Camel along the border of Cornwall, Camelon near Falkirk and the River Camlan in Eifionydd, now part of Gwynedd.
Later accounts of the battle, much embroidered, appear in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and the Alliterative Morte Arthure. Some sources state that the battle was caused by King Arthur's return to Camelot, after his quest to hunt down Sir Lancelot. King Arthur had learned of Guinevere and Sir Lancelot's affair, and Sir Lancelot fled to France. Arthur pursued him in an effort to get revenge; and his enemy, Mordred, took over Britain. When Arthur returned and tried to take back his kingdom, Mordred refused. A battle erupted, and Arthur was severely wounded. He journeyed to the isle of Avalon, which is said to have magical properties, in hope that he could be healed. Some say he died there, and some say his wounds healed and he is waiting to be reincarnated.
Welsh triads offer clues to the alleged cause of the Battle of Camlann. Triad 51 reflects (and is most likely derived from) Geoffrey of Monmouth: Medrawd (Mordred) rebels against Arthur while the latter is campaigning on the Continent and usurps the throne, instigating the battle of Camlann. Triad 53 lists a slap Gwenhwyvach gave to her sister Gwenhwyfar, wife of Arthur, as one of the "Three Harmful Blows of the Island of Britain", causing the Strife of Camlann. Calling Camlann one of Britain's "Three Futile Battles", Triad 84 also mentions this dispute between sisters. Triad 54 describes Medrawd (Mordred) raiding Arthur's court, throwing Gwenhwyfar to the ground and beating her. Other Triads in which Camlann is mentioned include numbers 30 ("Three Faithless War Bands"), 59 ("Three Unfortunate Counsels"), 84 ("Three Futile Battles").
- Andrew Breeze provides the translation as "The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell".
- Breeze, Andrew (2005). "The Battle of Camlan and Camelford, Cornwall". Arthuriana. 15 (3): 77. JSTOR 27870702.
- Moffat, pp116-117
- Lacy, Norris J., Ashe, Geoffrey, Mancoff, Debra N. The Arthurian handbook, Edition 2, Taylor & Francis, 1997, p. 16
- Bromwich, Rachel. Trioedd Ynys Prydein: the Welsh triads, University of Wales Press, 1961, p. 160.
- Alistair Moffat, The Faded Map - Lost Kingdoms of Scotland. Birlinn, Edinburgh 2011.