Was Camelot a real place? Was King Arthur based on a genuine historical figure? These questions have been hotly debated by historians and scholars for centuries. And one professor who formerly worked at Bangor University thinks he may have found the real answer.
Many Welsh locations have been credited with being home to the original Camelot. Historians have credited Carmarthen, St David’s and Cardigan as the places where the Knights of the Round Table originally sat. But according to Professor Peter Field, the real location was in West Yorkshire.
Field believes that Camelot was originally a minor Roman fort at Slack, just outside of Huddersfield. “I believe I may have solved a 1,400-year-old mystery,” said Field of his conclusion.
Field is a prominent figure in Arthurian scholarship. And he has drawn this new conclusion seemingly as if by accident. “It was quite by chance. I was looking at some maps, and suddenly all the ducks lined up.”
The fort at Slack was originally named “Camulodunum,” which translates as “the fort of the god Camul.” Field believes that Camulodunum, following establish patterns of linguistic transformation, could very easily have become “Camelot” over time.
Before Field shined a spotlight on it, Camulodunum was barely a footnote in history. The fort was even abandoned by the time King Arthur would have reigned, sometime in 500 A.D. But Field believes that the fort would still have represented an important strategic location in the area.
Slack would have been a perfect place to defend the east coast from the invading Anglo-Saxons, against whom King Arthur and the constituent factions of his kingdom would have been arrayed against.
“If there was a real King Arthur,” says Field, “He will have lived around AD500, although the first mention of him in Camelot is in a French poem from the Champagne region of France from 1180. There is no mention of Camelot in the period between those dates, known as the Dark Ages, when the country was at war, and very little was recorded.”
But the King Arthur story survived the Dark Ages. “In this gap, people passed on information, much got lost in transmission, and people may have made up facts or just messed up known information.”
Professor Field’s theory is the fruit of 18 months of intensive research into the topic. He spoke at length about his conclusions at the launch of Bangor University’s Stephen Colclough Centre for the History and Culture of the Book. Field formerly taught at Bangor University, from 1964 to 2004.