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Gwent, Wales

[Friday - 05/07/99] Caerleon is a small Welsh town beside the River Usk. It's name is Welsh for "City (or Fort) of the Legion." In his History, Geoffrey of Monmouth calls it the City of Legions, detailing the lavish court that Arthur holds there foreshadowing the Camelot to come.

"For it was located in a delightful spot in Glamorgan, on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea. Abounding in wealth more than other cities, it was suited for such a ceremony. For the noble river I have named flows along it on one side, upon which the kings and princes who would be coming from overseas could be carried by ship. But on the other side, protected by meadow and woods, it was remarkable for royal palaces, so that it imitated Rome in the golden roofs of its buildings... Famous for so may pleasant features, Caerleon was made ready for the announced feast."

The Roman ruins at Caerleon have attracted travelers for at least eight hundred years. In 1188, gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), on a recruiting tour for the Third Crusade, described them in terms that leave no doubt that there were still imposing ruins to be seen. In 1405, a French expeditionary force in support of Owein Glyndwr took time off to inspect the Roman amphitheatre, by then already dubbed 'King Arthur's Round Table.' And a topographer/poet, Thomas Churchyard, wrote lyrical descriptions of the Round Table and the surrounding ruins in his The Worthines of Wales (1587).

Before the excavation of the Roman amphitheater in Caerleon, it was buried under a mound of soil with an oval shape. This was claimed by the locals to be the "real" Round Table and accepted by the majority of of Britain's medieval inhabitants. As far as they were concerned, this was the location of Arthur's Camelot, and that was that. In spite of its excavation in 1926-27 by Dr. R.E.M. Wheeler (later Sir Mortimer) and his wife, Tessa, local legend still tells of an undergound chamber in the woods where a thousand of Arthur's soldiers lie sleeping, awaiting the day Britain will need them once again.

Even in later legend, Camelot doesn't replace Caerleon entirely, though. Caerleon continues to have a presence in the Arthurian legend as a minor Court. It was also claimed as the scene of Arthur's ninth battle in Nennius' Historia Brittonum.

Back-up to Pentre Ifan. Show the location of this site. Return to House Corvus site Main Menu. Return to Corvus '99 Tour menu. Proceed to the Roman Barracks.

Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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