While Merlin the Wizard was a very prominent character in the stories of Camelot, that is not where he originated. While a large portion of Historia Regum Britanniae is a historical account of the former kings of Britain, Merlin was included as a fictional character although it is likely that Geoffrey intended for readers to believe he was a figure extracted from long-lost ancient texts. Merlin was paradoxical, as he was both the son of the devil and the servant of God.
The History Press | Ancient Legends Retold: The Legend of Vortigern
Merlin was created as a combination of several historical and legendary figures. Ambrosius was a figure in Nennius' Historia Brittonum. In Historia Brittonum, British king Vortigern wished to erect a tower, but each time he tried it would collapse before completion. He was told that to prevent this, he would have to first sprinkle the ground beneath the tower with the blood of a child who was born without a father.
Ambrosius was thought to have been born without a father, so he was brought before Vortigern. Ambrosius explains to Vortigern that the tower could not be supported upon the foundation because two battling dragons lived beneath, representing the Saxons and the Britons.
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Ambrosius convinced Vortigern that the tower will only stand with Ambrosius as a leader, and Vortigern gave Ambrosius the tower, which is also the kingdom. Geoffrey retells this story with Merlin as the child born without a father, although he retains the character of Ambrosius. Illumination of a 15th century manuscript of Historia Regum Britanniae showing king of the Britons Vortigern and Ambros waching the fight between two dragons. Wikimedia Commons. Geoffrey does not include any stories of Merlin acting as a tutor to Arthur, which is how Merlin is most well-known today.
A giant helps Merlin build Stonehenge. Over the years, Merlin was interspersed through the tales of Arthurian legend. Merlin falls in love with Niviane. However, Niviane fears Merlin will use his magical powers to take advantage of her. She swears that she will never fall in love with him, unless he teaches her all of the magic he knows. Merlin agrees. Merlin and Niviane depart to return to Northumberland, when they are called back to assist King Arthur.
As they are returning, they stop to stay in a stone chamber, where two lovers once died and were buried together.
When Merlin falls asleep, Niviane places him under a spell, and traps him within the stone tomb, where he dies. Merlin had never realized that his desire for Niviane, and his willingness to teach her his magical ways, would eventually lead to his untimely death. Today, Merlin is most well-known for being the wizard who tutored and taught the young Arthur, before he grew to become the King of Camelot. While this legend continues on today, it is interesting to see the many variations of Merlin, from an evil wizard, to a shapeshifter, to one who met his downfall from teaching his powers to the woman he loved.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Merlin — The Camelot Project. M R Reese is a writer and researcher with a passion for unlocking the mysteries of ancient civilizations. She believes that only by understanding where we come from, can we truly understand our life path and purpose. She has earned All carriers deliver during normal business working hours and may require a signature on receipt, so please ensure your order is delivered to an address where someone will be available to accept it. We do our best to ensure that the products that you order are delivered to you in full and according to your specifications.
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Constantine is reported killed by a Pict and his reign is followed by a brief succession crisis. Candidates for the throne included all three sons of Constantine, but there were problems for their eventual rise to the throne. Constans was a monk , and Ambrosius and Uther were underage and still in their cradle. When Constans is killed by the Picts serving as bodyguards of Vortigern, Vortigern feigns anguish and has the killers executed. Ambrosius is still underage and Vortigern rises to the throne. The chronology offered by Geoffrey for the early life of Ambrosius contradicts Gildas and Nennius, and is also internally inconsistent.
This person has been identified with Flavius Aetius d. The Groans are generally dated to the s and s, preceding the death of Aetius. If Geoffrey's Constantine rose to the throne immediately following the Groans, this would place his reign in this period. However the eldest son Constans is clearly older than 10 years by the time his father dies. He is already an adult candidate of the throne and has had time to follow a monastic career. Even assuming there is a time gap between the death of Constantine and the adulthood of Constans, his younger brothers have not aged at all in the narrative.
Accounts deriving from Gildas and Nennius place Ambrosius in the prime of his life in the same decade. Nennius places the rise of Vortigern in the year , and Vortigern is entirely absent in chronologies of the s. Suggesting that he was deceased by that time. Geoffrey's narrative includes as a major character Hengist , as leader of the Saxons.
He is featured as the father of Queen Rowena and father-in-law of Vortigern. The other son, Ebissa, is more difficult to identify. He might correspond to kinsmen of Hengist variously identified as "Ossa", " Oisc ", and "Aesc". A minor Saxon character called "Cherdic" is probably Cerdic of Wessex , though elsewhere Geoffrey calls the same king "Cheldric". He actually may appear under three different names in the narrative, since Geoffrey elsewhere calls the interpreter of Hengist "Ceretic", a variant of the same name. Geoffrey, in the last chapters featuring Vortigern, has the king served by magicians.
This detail derives from Nennius, though Nennius was talking about Vortigern's "wise men". They may not have been magic users but advisers. Merlin warns Vortigern that Ambrosius and Uther have already sailed for Britain and are soon to arrive, apparently to claim his throne. Ambrosius soon arrives at the head of the army and is crowned king. Ambrosius burns the castle down and Vortigern dies with it.
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Having killed Vortigern, Ambrosius next turns his attention to Hengist. Despite the fact that no earlier military actions of Ambrosius are recorded, the Saxons have already heard of his bravery and battle prowess. They immediately retreat beyond the Humber. His army counts , men and Ambrosius' only 10, men. He marches south and the first battle between the two armies takes place in Maisbeli, where Ambrosius emerges the victor. It is unclear what location Geoffrey had in mind.
Alternatively it could be a field where the Beltane festival was celebrated. Following his defeat, Hengist retreats towards Cunungeburg. Geoffrey probably had in mind Conisbrough , not far from Hatfield. The second battle is more evenly fought, and Hengist has a chance to achieve victory. However, Ambrosius receives reinforcements from Brittany and the tide of the battle turns in favour of the Britons.
Hengist himself is captured by his old enemy Eldol, Consul of Gloucester and decapitated. Soon after the battle, the surviving Saxon leaders Octa and Eosa submit themselves to Ambrosius' rule. He pardons them and grants them an area near Scotland. The area is not named, but Geoffrey could be basing this on Bernicia , a real Ango-Saxon kingdom covering areas in the modern borders of Scotland and England. Geoffrey closely connects the deaths of Vortigern and Hengist, which are elsewhere poorly recorded.
Vortigern historically died in the s, and various dates for the death of Hengist have been proposed, between the s and the s. The ruling family of the Kingdom of Kent were called the Oiscingas, a term identifying them as descendants of Oisc of Kent , not of Hengist. In effect, none of them was likely a literal son of Hengist and their relation to Hengist may have been a later invention. Geoffrey did not invent the connection, but his sources here were likely legendary in nature.
Following his victories and the end of the wars, Ambrosius organises the burial of killed nobles at Kaercaradduc. Geoffrey identifies this otherwise unknown location with Caer-Caradog Salisbury. Ambrosius wants a permanent memorial for the slain and assigns the task to Merlin. The result is the so-called Giants' Ring. Stonehenge is closer to Amesbury than Salisbury. The ring formation of the monument could equally apply to Avebury , the largest stone circle in Europe. The term is mostly used for famous figures such as Cunedda , though a few obscure figures have been given the title.
In Robert de Boron 's Merlin he is called simply Pendragon and his younger brother is named Uter , which he changes to Uterpendragon after the death of the elder sibling. This is probably a confusion that entered oral tradition from Wace 's Roman de Brut. Wace usually only refers to li roi "the king" without naming him, and someone has taken an early mention of Uther's epithet Pendragon as the name of his brother.
Fleuriot argues that Ambrosius led the Britons in the battle, in which he was defeated and forced to retreat to Burgundy. Fleuriot proposed that he then returned to Britain to continue the war against the Saxons. It has been suggested that the place-name Amesbury in Wiltshire might preserve the name of Ambrosius, and that perhaps Amesbury was the seat of his power base in the later fifth century. These scholars have claimed that this element represents an Old English word amor , the name of a woodland bird. However, Amesbury in Wiltshire is in a different dialect region and does not easily fit into the pattern of the Midland dialect place names.
In Baxter's novel, Aurelianus is a minor character who interacts with the book's main Roman-era protagonist, Regina, founder of a literally underground matriarchal society. In the text, he is credited with winning the battle of Mount Badon. His sister's son is Uther Pendragon , but Uther is described as not having any Roman blood.
Aurelianus is unable to gather the leadership of the native Celts, who refuse to follow any but their own race. In Alfred Duggan 's Conscience of the King , a historical novel about Cerdic , founder of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex , Ambrosius Aurelianus is a Romano-British general who rose independently to military power, forming alliances with various British kings and setting out to drive the invading Saxons from Britain. Cerdic, who is of both Germanic and British descent and raised as a Roman citizen , served in his army as a young man. In the novel Ambrosius is a separate character from Arthur, or Artorius, who appears much later as a foe of Cerdic.
In Stephen R. Lawhead 's Pendragon Cycle , Aurelianus most often referred to as "Aurelius" figures prominently, along with his brother Uther, in the second book of the series, Merlin. He is poisoned soon after becoming High King of Britain, and Uther succeeds him. Lawhead alters the standard Arthurian story somewhat, in that he has Aurelius marry Igraine and become the true father of King Arthur Uther does marry his brother's widow, though.
In Valerio Massimo Manfredi 's The Last Legion , Aurelianus here called "Aurelianus Ambrosius Ventidius" is a major character and is shown as one of the last loyal Romans, going to enormous lengths for his boy emperor Romulus Augustus , whose power has been wrested by the barbarian Odoacer. In the film version of the novel, he is played by Colin Firth and his name becomes "Aurelianus Caius Antonius".
In both he is called "Aurelius" for short. Mary Stewart 's The Crystal Cave follows Geoffrey of Monmouth in calling him Aurelius Ambrosius and portrays him as the father of Merlin, the elder brother of Uther hence uncle of Arthur , an initiate of Mithras , and generally admired by everyone except the Saxons. Much of the book is set at his court in Brittany or during the campaign to retake his throne from Vortigern.
Later books in the series show that Merlin's attitude toward Arthur is influenced by his belief that Arthur is a reincarnation of Ambrosius, who is seen through Merlin's eyes as a model of good kingship.