Well, You Can Round my Table if this Don't Beat All!
Yes, another episode in the never-ending
series, "All Famous People Are From Naples". We now know
that the founder of the Knights
Templar was Neapolitan, and a future installment
will deal with Napoleon. Just look at the names: Napoleon/
Neapolitan! Coincidence? Hah.
For now, however, settle for King Arthur.
Ever since prominent
German historian, philologist, and bockwurst maker
Heinrich Zimmer opined in 1890 that the name "Arthur"
amazingly derives from Latin "Arturius" (see Zimmer,
Heinrich. 1890. "Review of Gaston Paris's Histoire
littéraire de la France, Tome XXX", Göttingische
gelehrte Anzeigen) there has been speculation that
King Arthur was a Roman.
The most recent
reworking of that intriguing possibility is in the form of
the book, From Scythia to Camelot: Radical
Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights
of the Round Table and the Holy Grail, by C. Scott
Littleton and Linda A. Malcor (Garland Science, 2000). It
presents a dauntingly footnoted argument that King Arthur
was one Lucius Arturius Castus, who entered military
service as a centurion in 158 AD. He served during the
reign of Caesar Antoninus Pius and was assigned to Syria.
In 166 AD, he was stationed near present-day Budapest,
where he fought the Sarmatians of the central Asian
steppes. In 175 AD he and others
were sent to Britain to a fort at Bremetennacum, near
Eboracum (present day York), where they formed the
so-called "Sarmatian cavalry", led by Castus. They were among the defenders of
Hadrian's Wall against the Pict invasions of 180-185 AD. And, interestingly, Castus established
an outpost called Caerleon, known by the Welsh as—Camelot!
Thus, the Arthurian and Holy Grail legends do not derive
from Celtic folklore, but rather from the folklore of the
ancient Sarmatians, brought to Britain by real Roman
warriors and their chief, Lucius Arturius Castus, who then
wound up being woven into the myths, themselves. Castus' family left dozens of
inscriptions all over the city of Rome—and one at
Pompeii—and they lived in Campania (the modern Italian
province of which Naples is the capital). Thus,
King Arthur was originally from right around here
With Chrétien de Troyes (who wrote Perceval), Sir Thomas Malory (who wrote Le Morte D'Arthur), and Wolfram von Eschenbach (who wrote I Wonder Why my Parents Named Me "Tungsten"), I, too, believe in the spiritual quest, in humility, in chastity (well, maybe not chastity); with Robert Heinlein, I, too, want "…Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake…", (Glory Road, R. Heinlein, 1963) so I really want this one to be true. The lake—a good candidate, and I can opine as well as Fritz Bockwurst up at the top—is nearby Lake Averno, more fabled than any Celtic puddle in Britain. It's near where they keep the water buffalo that produce all that good mozzarella. My guess is that they have a camel lot next door, as well.