AVALON, Camelot and... a tract of land a few miles west-north-west of Swindon?
King Arthur’s greatest battle centred on a hill overlooking Braydon Forest, according to a paper about to be submitted to a respected New York-based journal.
Arthur is thought to have lived in the 400s and 500s, a period for which reliable, consistent records are scant.
Because of this, much of his life and reign is shrouded in mystery and legend, but whoever Arthur may have been, the greatest victory widely attributed to him is the Battle of Badon or Mons Badonicus.
According to stories passed down from the period, Arthur and a force of Britons bloodily routed a force of Saxon invaders.
Debate about the location of the battle has raged for years, but now a British senior lecturer at a Spanish university says he’s solved the mystery.
Cambridge-educated Andrew Breeze of the University of Navarre has written a paper called: “Arthur’s Battle of Badon and Braydon Forest, Wiltshire.”
It has been submitted for publication to the Journal of Literary Onomastics, an online publication edited by Dr Stefan Jurasinski of Brockport University in upstate New York, which is devoted to tracking down the truths behind names in literature.
The paper begins: “Mount Badon, where Arthur defeated the Saxons and for decades halted their conquests, is a British location of legendary fame, like Camelot and Avalon. Yet (unlike them) it was a real place, mentioned by Gildas in the sixth century and Bede in the eighth.
“The question of where the battle was fought has preoccupied historians since at least the twelfth century, when Geoffrey of Monmouth took Badon as Bath in Western England (a view with supporters even now).
“The purpose of this paper is not merely to rule out Bath and all other contenders hitherto, but to make a new proposal on the Battlefield’s whereabouts.”
Mr Breeze is the son of a miner and World War Two pilot who later became a senior mining manager.
He grew up in Kent and studied English and Anglo-Saxon at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he took first class honours. He also studied at Oxford, holds an MA and Phd and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries in London.
He is the author of countless articles and several books, the most recent of which was a study of ancient Welsh literature, The Origins of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.
He said of his Badon paper: “The case is simple. Gildas in the early sixth century refers to the siege of Mount Badon as where the Britons won a great victory over the Saxons, halting their conquest of British territory for more than forty years.
“In his Ecclesiastical History, Bede reproduces what Gildas says, so that the Battle of Mount Badon, in about the year 500, gets into all the history books.
“But nobody has ever been able to say where it was. Some historians take it as Bath, some as Badbury in Wiltshire, others as Badbury Rings in Dorset.
“What I argue is that these are all wrong, because the form ‘Badon’ is corrupt. Nobody has ever been able to explain it, even though it must be a British Celtic name.”
In contrast, he added, was Braydon near Purton, which was linked long ago by Professor Richard Coates of the University of the West of England with the Welsh word ‘brad,’ meaning ‘treachery’ – possibly referring to robbers in the vast old Braydon Forest.
Mr Breeze said: “If we accept that ‘Mons Badonicus’ or Mount Badon is an early error for Mons Bradonicus or Mount Bra(y)don, then the only place which makes sense here is the hill with Ringsbury Camp on its summit.
“It is situated not far from the Roman road from Winchester to Cirencester, and is the natural place where an attack of West Saxons on the Britons of Cirencester (long the capital of Celtic Britain) might be defeated.”
His paper concludes: “Future generations may look at an Iron Age camp near Swindon as the historical Mount Baydon or, rather, Mount Braydon.
“It will be a spot at which, in about the year 500, the Britons won a great victory over the Anglo Saxons, staving off for two generations their conquest of Celtic Britain.”