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Arthur: King of the Picts?
As mentioned in my recent article on the Abduction of Guinevere there is a possibility that her abduction spurred a war between Arthwys and the Picts. There are a few reasons to take this fairly seriously. The first is Lambert of Saint-Omer's work Liber Floridus, where he tell us of a palace in Pictland
There is a palace, in Britain in the Picts’ land, of Arthur the soldier, built with wondrous art and variety, in which may be seen sculpted all his acts both of construction and in battle. It shows in fact the 12 battles against the Saxons who had occupied Britain.
He then recounts Nennius’ battle list. Then he directly calls Arthur ‘Leader of the Picts’ or ‘Dux Pictorum’
Then Arthur the leader of the Picts, directing kingdoms inland in Britain, with strong men, this fiercest soldier, seeing England everywhere beaten in battle, good lands taken away, many enslaved and redeemed and expelled from their inheritance, with the kings of the Britons he came against the Saxons with a ferocious attack and rushing upon them fought manfully, the leader in 12 battles
Hector Boece remembers Arthur as fighting against the Picts and Mordred or as he calls him Modredus.
They had scarcely finished speaking when a shout arose on both sides, and immediately they fell to fighting with a will. Although they fought most fiercely, the Britons were hampered by the nature of the terrain. No few of them were prevented by the marshy ground from wielding their axes with their full physical strength, and they were compelled to fight their enemies with less than their usual martial virtue. The battle dragged on for several hours, and consumed such a number of men that the river Humber, flowing alongside the battlefield, ran red with blood and carried many bodies along with itself as it flowed into the sea. In the middle of the battle some very loud-voiced man, suborned for the purpose, cried out in the British language, as if he had a concern for the common safety of the Britons, that Arthur and all the noblest of the British nation were killed, so that they could not rely on their own handicraft: their sole means of safety was flight. This statement overjoyed the Scots and Picts, but filled the Britons with such panic that many of them threw away their arms and took to their heels. Neither their captains’ orders nor their buglers’ calls could restrain them. Others persevered, thinking (as was indeed the case) that this was an enemy trick, and fought to the end. Finally the confederates emerged the victors, routing their enemies’ forces and inflicting such a slaughter such as none involved in the fighting could remember occurring in the past. For in that deadly battle more than twenty thousand Scots and Picts, together with King Modredus and a great host of the nobles of both nations. About thirty thousand of the Britons and their Bretagne auxiliaries died, including King Arthur and Modredus’ brother Gawanus, who was so loyal to Arthur that he fought against his brother that day. Furthermore, there died Caimus, Gwalinus, and nearly the entire British nobility. Many were taken prisoner. For the Humber prevented nearly all who quit the fighting from fleeing any farther, and they, as well as the noblemen, died by the sword down to the last man.
Boece seemingly here conflates the Gododdin with the Picts, but maybe the two were allies along with the Scots. This is not a ridiculous stretch by any means, and as we see with the likely historical Camlann (which is described here as being fought alongside the Humber) and later Catraeth, the Picts do seem to be in league with the Gododdin. Boece earlier mentions that the Picts accept Arthur as an overlord.
They had no hope of overcoming the Saxons in Northumbria, until Arthur entered into a treaty with King Lothus of the Picts. The terms of this pact were that Arthur would rule in Britain until the end of his life; after his death, the throne of Britain would devolve upon Modredus and then upon his issue, should any such exist. When summoned, the Picts would join the Britons in fighting the Saxons.
This may all be a memory of a genuine conflict that Arthwys was involved in that resulted in him being crowned ‘King of the Picts’ as Gartnait I around 531. As mentioned before Gartnait and Arthur share the same year of death, 537, the generally accepted date for the Battle of Camlann, spurred by unrest and famine following the Volcanic Winter of 536.
Interestingly enough, there is another Gartnait found amongst the kings of the Picts, Gartnait II, who was roughly contemporary with another famous Arthur, Artúr mac Áedán of Dal Riata. Artúr himself has become a more in vogue candidate for the historical Arthur in recent years, with many attempting to place him at the very core of Arthurian legend. While I personally believe he lived too late to be the fount of inspiration for the original Arthur of Badon, he still may have played his part in the later composite, as he was a younger contemporary of Myrddin Wyllt, Arthwy’s great-great nephew, and son Madog ap Morydd, who seems to be part of the composite that becomes Melwas/Mordred of later legend. Artúr's father Áedán is often claimed to have been a participant in the Battle of Arfderydd in 573, where Peredur and Owain (Gwrgi) of Ebrauc made war upon their cousin Gwenddoleu of Caer Wenddoleu (all grandsons of Arthwys ap Mar), who Myrddin was in service to as a Bard. Áedán and Rhydderch Hael supposedly quarreled, resulting in Áedán seeking Gwenddoleu’s help, implying a political relationship of sorts between the Scottish prince and the Brythonic King. This does interestingly place Artúr in proximity to the historical Myrddin, and may even account for some of the later traditions.
Áedán's sons are listed in Senchus Fer nAlban, and Artúr is curiously absent.
Aedan had seven sons. i. two Eochaids. i. Eocho Bude and Eochaid Find, Tuthal, Bran, Baithíne, Conaing, and Gartnait
Artúr is instead found here listed as Aedan’s grandson
These are the sons of Conaing son of Aedan.i. Rígallán, Ferchar, Artán, Artúr, Dondchad, Domngart, Nechtan, Ném, Crumíne
Within Áedán's sons we do find Gartnait, who is unattested elsewhere. Artúr given as Áedán's grandson, is likely an error. Adomnan’s work The Life of St. Columba gives Artúr as a son of Áedán as does the Annals of Tigernach. It could be possible that the genealogist compiling the pedigree was working from a handful of sources, and as such didn’t know where to put Artúr. It would seem that the error is accounted for as Artúr was there all along, he was just called Gartnait instead leading to confusion.
This poses the interesting possibility that Gartnait is in fact a Pictish form of the name Arthur. It has been suggested that Artúr's mother was Domelch, and ruled the Picts by claim from his mother. This arrangement of Kingship would come to an end with the Battle of Miathi, where Áedán won a costly battle.
"from Aedan's army, three hundred and three were killed as the saint had also prophesied"
The Miathi are probably the same tribe described by Cassius Dio, probably living just north of the Antonine Wall near the River Forth. This may have been an attempt by Áedán to solidify power in the North, with Artúr strongly supporting him as King of the Picts. Things did not go well and instead Áedán's sons Artúr and Eochaid Find both were lost in the battle. Gartnait II's rule ends right around the time of the accepted dates for the Battle of Miathi, similarly to how Garnait I's ends the same year as Camlann. I think that this holds significant weight here, first that Gartnait is the Pictish variant of the name Arthwys/Arthur, and second that both Garnait I, and Gartnait II are contemporaries of neighboring Kings/Princes named some variation of Arthur, and that Gartnait I is Arthwys ap Mar, and Gartnait II is Artúr mac Áedán. Arthwys as I have demonstrated before was acting as High-King for the territory that his great-grandfather Coel ruled, as well as Alt Clut and The Gododdin, and as seen earlier in this article is likely remembered as Arthur subjugating the Picts as well, giving a significant amount of weight to him appearing as ‘Gartnait’. During Áedán’s time the most likely person taking on the role of a ‘high-king’ of sorts was Urien of Rheged, who for the main bulk of Áedán’s rule was busy keeping his Coeling cousins together to fight agains the ever encroaching Angles. Accepting then that the early Catraeth1 is the correct interpretation, Urien, his Angle Foederati, and Gwallog of Elmet, fought against a coalition of Ebrauc, Gododdin, Picts, and remnants of Caer Wenddoleu. The weakened Picts may have even lost a king there, leading to Áedán’s son Artúr, born of a Pictish princess Dolmech, being crowned King of the Picts as Gartnait II. I think the case here is compelling. Unfortunately another Gartnait doesn’t appear as a king of the Picts until 631, and there are no contemporary Arthurs to him in the north to further strengthen this theory.
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you can find more explanation here, https://aurochs.substack.com/i/101935458/alternative and here