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King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend New Ed Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415316552
ISBN-10: 0415316553
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Editorial Reviews


"Castleden tells an engaging and engaged tale, full of legendary personages, stirring clashes between cultures, and revelations regarding ancient mysteries." - Elizabeth A. Ragan, Salisbury University, Journal of Anthropolical Research

About the Author

Rodney Castleden has been researching landscape processing and prehistory for the last the 30 years. He is the author of The Making of Stonehenge, The Knossos Labyrinth, Minoans and Atlantis Destroyed.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (May 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415316553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415316552
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,951,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on May 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Let me state up front that, yes, as another Amazon reviewer noted, Rodney Castleden did indeed mess up by confusing a passage from Nennius' 9th Century Historia Brittonum with the material in Constantius'5th Century Life of Germanus. I suspect the error lay in how Castleden assembled his notes, getting something in the wrong file, and it is disconcerting that the mistake was not picked up during the editing process. And I think that this error does highlight the fact that Castleden is something of an outsider in Arthurian matters, not a professional in the area like Ashe or Alcock or an amateur enthusiast such as those who reguarly churn out the latest "final answer" to the old mysteries. Rather, he is a writer on archaeological subjects asked by his publisher to write a book on this always intriguing subject. As such, he brings a fresh, albeit imperfect, eye to familiar ground, along with a certain degree of expertise.
Perhaps the most solid portions of "King Arthur: The Truth behind the Legend" are those where he is reviewing various books and theories on the subject, including quite a few from the last couple decades which produced "final answers" (none of them agreeing with one another, of course). At the same time, Castleden does present a good summary of the evidence (even if he does get that Nennius passage in the wrong place) and an even better tour of some of the major sites associated with Arthur.
Of course, Castleden has his own version of a "final answer".
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book uses a detailed analysis of archaeological evidence and textual references in an attempt to reconstruct the world in which King Arthur would have lived and to try to determine if he really occupied it. Castleden constructs a plausible thesis: that Arthur was local king of Trigg in present-day Cornwall; that he became high king and war leader of the united Britonnic front against the Saxon conquest; that he was likely a first-generation Christian who retained some elements of Celtic and Roman influence; that his itinerant court occupied various castles including a site at Killibury in peacetime and the Tintagel stronghold in wartime and ceremonial occasions; that Tintagel's alternate name of Myrddin (sea-fort) was confused with a northern bard of the same name, leading to the legend of Merlin as Arthur's protector; that the battle of Camlan where Arthur's career ended was at the convergence of the Gamlan and Eden rivers, where he was attacked by the forces of Maelgwn, who succeeded him as high king; and that a crippled, defeated Arthur may have abdicated by retiring to a monastery, explaining the discrepancy in his reported death dates as well as the legend of his disappearance and inevitable return. It's a credible scenario, consistent with the evidence Castleden presents, and Castleden's grasp of that evidence is excellent. He shows some keen insights, for instance realizing that an contemporary reference seeming to state that Arthur bore a cross on his shoulders for three days and nights (a superhuman feat) was probably mistranslated, and that he actually bore the cross symbol on his shield. But his "biography" of Arthur can't be proven, and Castleden seems too willing to take it as fact, to the point of glossing over other theories.Read more ›
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By H. M. Wiseman on April 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"King Arthur - the Truth behind the legend" is not as bad as many books purporting to find the historical King Arthur. At least the suggestions for Arthur's location etc. are plausible.
However, it is not a work of scholarship. This became obvious in the second chapter "The documents" where Castleden makes the unbelievable howler of confusing the part of the Historia Brittonum (c. 800) concerning St Germanus with the "Life of Germanus" by Constantius (c. 470). You'd think he would have noted something wrong since he himself points out that the manuscript indicates 10 generations instead of one generation between the events described and the time of writing.
Obviously Castleden has not read the primary sources he quotes. He relies heavily on John Morris (as do many authors with similar books). Even though Morris is questionable sometimes in his interpretation, at least he knows his sources. As a reader, you are better of with Morris' "The Age of Arthur", or Alcock's "Arthur's Britain" or Snyder's "The Age of Tyrants".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read some of Castleden's books before, and been somewhat suspicious about his facts. With this book I see many of my suspicions confirmed since I actually know something about the subject before I start. The problem with this book is that it seems to be something which it's not. There is a large amount of data here, and if you haven't read other books on this topic then you could easily think that this represents a serious scholarly work on the topic. It just seems professional and has some truly excellent charts and maps. But the problem is that this is a much less professional work than it appears. It's really more akin to a fanboy pushing his own pet theory than a serious history book.

The basic error of Castleden's method is that he starts by assuming Arthur is real and then looks for facts to prove it. He never states that this is his method, but it's inherent to his approach. He also lacks any understanding of how to deal with questionable written sources. He seems to view every source as factually true and then tries very hard to piece them together. This is a method that has been out-of-date since the 19th Century when most of the authors he praises were writing. He actually strongly criticizes modern authors for their over-reliance on facts and proof and makes them out to be ignoring vital data because of a cheap historiographical trend. Even now most stories you hear told about the past are wrong or highly colored by hindsight and wishful thinking. How much more so are stories that were only told through an oral tradition for 300 years or more?

Castleden's faith in an oral tradition is seemingly boundless.
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