Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nennius' Historia Brittonum

History of the Britons, by Nennius.

I thought I would get a little jump-start on my Arthurian Literature Challenge and take a peek at Nennius.  He was a Welsh 9th-century monk who may or may not have actually written this history, but the history does seem to show that it was written in Wales and not in Anglo-Saxon territory.

I was surprised to see how very short this history is.  I was reading it on my tablet so I don't know exactly, but it must only be about 50 pages long.  It's easy to read, and here I was all this time, thinking it would be quite long and difficult.

Nennius tries to prove that the Britons are descended from princes of Troy.  Trojan ancestry was the best there was, so everyone wanted to prove that they too had an illustrious ancestor from Troy.  The Britons claimed a prince named Brutus who named the island after himself (dodgy at best, I know, but I love this stuff).

The famous mention of Arthur comes about three-quarters of the way through the book, and consists of maybe two pages.
Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons.  And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror.
After that we get a list of battles, the last of which is at the hill of Badon.  Note that Arthur is not a king here--he's not even very high up in the ranks of nobles.  He is a great general and warrior, but not a king.

I haven't looked at Gildas yet, but as far as I know he's the only earlier s
ource for this information, and he doesn't mention Arthur at all.  I'll have to take a look!

1 comment:

Ekaterina Egorova said...

I already have it on my ereader, but I was waiting for the new year:) I skimmed a few pages though (I have a Russian translation), and I was surprised to find it's not difficult.