Explorations in Arthurian History

The Importance of Geography

Part 10: Camlann

That Arthur would return is, of course, predicated on the belief that he has gone away. Legends of Avalon and the like say he is carried away after the Battle of Camlann. Where was Camlann? What was Camlann?

First to the word: Camlann is a Welsh derivation of Camboglanna, a British word meaning "crooked bank." As such, it could be anywhere. Northern proponents point to the Roman fort called Camboglanna along Hadrian's Wall and say that it was probably Birdoswald.

Other possibilities are the River Cam, which runs near Cadbury, and the River Camel (left), in Cornwall. This is where Geoffrey of Monmouth puts Camlann, which the addition that the fighting took place at and near Slaughter Bridge. Later legends would have Bedivere toss Excalibur from this bridge into a pool or into the waiting hand of the Lady of the Lake. Tennyson says Camlann was in Lyonesse; Malory says it was at a "down beside Salisbury."

What is known for sure is that Arthur and Medraut (whom Geoffrey calls Modred) were mortally wounded at this battle. The Annales Cambriae dates it to 539 but doesn't say where it was.

Other relevant links

Birdoswald: Camlann?

Arthur and Camlann

A Northern Camlann?

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