Arthur, a hero of British mythology, believed by many to have been identical with an actual sovereign in England in the 6th century. Nennius, the most ancient Cymric poetry, the Triads, and the Welsh bards Lly warch,Hen, and Taliesin, mention Arthur, a chief of the Britons, fighting against the Saxons under Cerdic. Based upon their statements, many attempts have been made to prove the actual existence of a great sovereign corresponding with the Arthur of romance. It seems probable that a prince called Arthur ruled in Britain about 525, fought many battles with the Saxons, was killed by his nephew, and buried at Glas-tonbury, where his tomb is said to have been found in the reign of Henry II. But late authorities (among them George W. Cox, who makes a searching inquiry into the story) may be said to have proved that the Arthur of romance is a purely mythical personage. Mr. Cox points out the resemblance between the legends of Arthur and the myths of other ancient nations, and by the aid of etymology shows that many of these were merely allegories derived from natural phenomena. - The Arthur of the famous legend was the son of Uther Pendragon and Igerne of Cornwall, whom Uther, by the enchantments of. the sage Merlin, was enabled to visit in the guise of her husband Gorlois. His high descent was concealed, and he was brought up by a faithful knight, who treated him as his own son until after the death of Uther, when Arthur, going ■with Ms foster brother to London, gave evidence there of his royal birth by drawing from the stone in which it was imbedded a sword with this inscription: "Whoso pulleth this sword out of this stone ... is rightwise born king of all England." He was crowned, and after reigning for several years he married Guinevere, "the fairest woman in the land." With her, as a part of her dower, he acquired the enchanted round table which had once belonged to his father Uther. About this he formed the famous circle of knights of the round table, and with these began the brilliant court, the wonderful series of exploits at home and abroad, and the countless adventures Of various heroes, celebrated in the legends preserved in the Chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth and elsewhere.
The story of Arthur ends with the wound given him by his false nephew Modred, at a battle near Salisbury; after which the king was borne away by the fairies to be cured by them in the valley of Av-alon, whence, said the legend, he should some time come again to lead the British Celts against the Saxons. - The legends of Arthur and his knights have been the subject of numberless poems in almost every modern language. Tennyson, more than all others, has added by his "Idyls of the King," "Morte d'Arthur," and other poems, to the beauty of the legends as we know them. For discussions as to the actual existence of Arthur, see, for support of the theory, " England under the Anglo-Saxon Kings," translated from the German of Dr. J. M. Lappenberg by B. Thorpe (London, new ed., 1857); for the opposite view, the introduction to Cox's " Popular Romances of the Middle Ages" (London, 1871); for history of the old romances treating of Arthur, the ap-pendix to the " History of the Anglo-Saxons," by Sharon Turner (London, 7th ed., 1852); for a good rendering of the legends themselves, the work of Cox, just cited.