King Arthur and the last battle in Bath?

King Arthur - Battle of Mount Badon in Bath

King Arthur - Battle of Mount Badon in Bath

This is another story where the History of Bath blends with Myth. The Battle of Mons Badonicus (Badon Hill) is the legendary “last battle” of King Arthur. Sometime around 500 BC, the Britons seem to have countered the advance of the Anglo Saxons and this has become mixed with legend and the stories of King Arthur. In the History of Bath there must have been many such battles over such an important river crossing and religious site. But who was Arthur and where exactly was this battle? Some sources place the battle on the hill at Bathampton, where remains of an Iron Age fort survive. Others place this historical battle just north of Bath on Solsbury Hill (Hill of the Sun), site of another Iron age fort. Badon was the post Roman name for Bath. As to the identity of Arthur, it seems that the best contender is Ambrosius Aurelianus who British historian Geoffrey of Monmouth (12th Century AD) says is brother of Uther Pendragon (not son). He is reputed to be the descendant of an important Roman family, who galvanised the Britons against the Saxon invasion.

 

This map shows the location of Bathampton Hill.


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This map shows the location of Solsbury Hill.


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The myth of King Bladud, historical founder of Bath

Bladud's Statue in Bath

Bladud's Statue in Bath

King Bladud is the legendary founder of Bath and his story in the History of Bath has been embellished and revisited many times. Here’s one version: It was the year 863BC, and our story starts with Bladud, in his youth, studying in Athens, where he unfortuanetly contracts leprosy. Returning home to Britain he realises that an imperfect prince like him could never inherit the throne. Banished from court he is forced to be a swineherder. Living close to the steaming muds of Bath’s hot spring, his pigs would roll in the warm mud. He notices that his pigs have clean and blemish free skin, unlike other swine. He decides to bathe in the volcanic mud and is cured of his leprosy. Bladud takes his rightful place as King and founds the city of Bath, building a temple to Sul, the local celtic goddess of the springs in gratitude for curing him. And of course starting the tradition of visiting Bath to take the waters.

The map below shows the location of the “Roman Baths”, built over one of the hot springs by the Romans:


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Troy to Rome to Bath – a mythological journey

Romulus & Remus - mythological founders of Rome

Romulus & Remus - mythological founders of Rome and a link to Bath's history

Bath is rich in myths and legends and the founding of Bath is linked with the founding of Rome and Britain itself. The story starts with Aeneas, a noble man in Troy. After Paris abducted Helen, the angry Greeks sack Troy (c.1184 BC) but the gods save Aeneas (not for the first time!) With his small band of warriors, the Aeneads, he escapes. After many adventures he eventually lands in Italy to marry King Latinus’ daughter, Lavinia. Romulus and Remus were descendants of this marriage and founders of Rome (8th Century BC). Another descendant was Brutus (aka Brutus of Troy) who was banished from Italy after killing his father in an accident (oops!). Brutus is said to have wandered north, founded the city of Tours in France and fought the Gauls. Forced to sail across the sea to Albion (as Britain was called), he conquers the giants he finds there and founds New Troy (Trojanova), which later becomes London. Britain itself is named after Brutus. He is the mythological “first king of Britain”. This lineage of kings continues down the centuries to Rud Hud Hudibras, whose son is Bladud, the founder of Bath – but that is another story…

Sacred Waters – Beyond History….

Atmosphere by dan

Shrouds of mist

8000 years ago the land bridge between Britain and Europe disappeared beneath the waters of The English Channel, leaving Britain as an island. Water has always played an important role in Bath’s history – although there is no archaeological evidence of habitation at this time in the area, the area must surely have been considered a special and sacred place. The steaming hot springs would have shrouded the valley in mysterious mists and must have be approached with reverence by anyone passing. The ancient crossing of the River Avon in the Bath valley (so heavily defended and fought over in countless later battles) would have drawn any brave travelling trader close to the edge of this revered and silent place. Stopping in the stillness, the lone traveller would perhaps have cast a small offering into the waters of the Avon, believing they communicated directly with the deities of the water. Perhaps, as the sulphurous vapours filled his nose, he would have requested safe passage on his journey and continued, with a sense of relief that he had made connection with the spirits but pleased to be on his way…