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The History of the Kings of Britain

The History of the Kings of Britain: An edition and translation of the De gestis Britonum (Historia Regum Britanniae)

Latin text edited by Michael D. Reeve
Translation by Neil Wright
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 388
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  • Book Info
    The History of the Kings of Britain
    Book Description:

    Written in the 1130s, Geoffrey's imaginative history of the Britons from Brutus to Cadwallader, the first work to recount the woes of Lear and the glittering career of Arthur, rapidly became a bestseller in the British Isles and Francophone Europe, with over 200 manuscripts surviving. Yet no critical edition of the main version has appeared since 1929. This new text, for which 14 manuscripts have been collated in full, rests on a survey of the entire tradition; it is accompanied by a facing English translation, prepared especially for this volume. A comprehensive introduction discusses the status of variant versions, the shape of the main tradition, and many questions of editorial principle; critical notes analyse some problems raised by the transmitted text; and there is a full index of names. MICHAEL REEVE is Kennedy Professor of Latin Emeritus at the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge; Dr NEIL WRIGHT is a Senior Language Teaching Officer at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-556-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-lxxvi)

    At Oxford from 1129 to 1152 a Galfr dus Artur, twice calledmagister, and a Gaufr dus b shop elect and then b shop of St Asaph, once calledmagister, witnessed several extant documents, mostly alongs de Walter archdeacon of Oxford¹. The author of the work commonly known asHistoria regum Britanniaenames h mself as Galfr dus Monemutens s (§§ 3, 110, 177) and says that he has translated an old British book put at his disposal by Walter (§§ 2, 208); and not only do some of the older and better manuscripts call the author in titles and...

    (pp. 1-1)
  5. Text and translation

      (pp. 2-5)

      While my mind was often pondering many things n many ways, my thoughts turned to the h story of the kings of Br tan, and I was surprised that, among the references to them in the fine works of Gildas and Bede, I had found nothing concerning the kings who lived here before Christ’s Incarnation, and nothing about Arthur and the many others who succeeded after it, even though the deeds were worthy of eternal praise and are proclaimed by many people as if they had been entertainingly and memorably written many people as if they had been entertainingly and...

      (pp. 6-7)

      Britain, the best of islands, lies in the western ocean between France and Ireland; eight hundred miles long by two hundred miles wide, it supplies all human needs with its boundless productivity. Rich in metals of every kind, it has broad pastures and hills suitable for successful agriculture, in whose rich soil various crops can be harvested in their season. It has all kinds of wild beasts in its forests, and in its glades grow not only grasses suitable for rotating the pasture of animals, but flowers of various colours which attract bees to fly to them and gather honey....

    • BOOK ONE
      (pp. 6-31)

      After the Trojan war Aeneas fled the devastated city with his son Ascanius and sailed to Italy. He was received with honour by King Latinus, but this attracted the envy of Turnus, King of the Rutulians, who attacked him. Aeneas emerged victorious from their struggle, killed Turnus and was rewarded with the kingdom of Italy and the hand of Lavinia, Latinus’ daughter. After Aeneas had breathed his last, Ascanius succeeded him, built Alba by the Tiber and had a son named Silvius. He, indulging a secret

      pass on, married a niece of Lavinia and made her pregnant. When his father...

    • BOOK TWO
      (pp. 30-49)

      By his union to Innogin, Brutus had three fine sons, named Locrinus, Albanactus and Kamber. When their father passed away, twenty-four years after his landing, they buried him in the city he had founded and divided up the kingdom of Britain among them, each living in his own region. Locrinus, the first-born, received the central part of the island, afterwards called Loegria after him; Kamber received the region across the river Severn, now known as Wales, which for a long time was named Kambria after him, and for this reason the inhabitants still call themselves Cymry in British; Albanactus, the...

      (pp. 48-67)

      Dunuallo’s two sons, Beli and Brennius, both wished to succeed him as king and fell prey to great disagreement. They argued to determine which of them should wear the crown. After many altercations, their mutual friends intervened and reconciled them. They decided terms to divide the kingdom between them, with Loegria, Wales and Cornwall along with the crown going to Belinus, since he was the elder and Trojan custom demanded that the chief inheritance should fall to him. Brennius, since he was younger, obtained Northumbria from the Humber to Caithness, subject to his brother. Having cemented this agreement with a...

      (pp. 68-89)

      Meanwhile, as we read in the histories of Rome, it happened that after his conquest of Gaul Julius Caesar had arrived on the coast of Flanders; and when, as he surveyed the ocean, he spied the island of Britain from there, he asked those standing beside him about the country and its inhabitants. On learning the name of the kingdom and its people, he exclaimed:

      ‘By Hercules, we Romans and the Britons share a common ancestry, being both descended from the Trojans. After the sack of Troy our first ancestor was Aeneas, theirs Brutus, whose father was Silvius, son of...

      (pp. 88-110)

      Meanwhile the glorious king Lucius, rejoicing that the worship of the true faith was esteemed in his kingdom, turned to better use the holdings and lands formerly owned by the pagan temples by permitting that they should remain in the possession of the churches of the faithful. And to afford the churches the greater honour that was their due, he increased their lands and holdings

      Interea gloriosus ille rex Lucius, cum infra regnum suum cultum uerae fidei magnificatum esse uidisset, maximo gaudio fluctuans possessiones et territoria quae prius templa idolorum possederant in meliorem usum uertens ipsa ecclesiis fidelium permanere concessit....

    • BOOK SIX
      (pp. 110-141)

      When Gratianus Municeps heard of Maximianus’ murder, he seized the crown and made himself king. So tyrannically did he treat the people that a crowd of commoners attacked and killed him. When this news spread through neighbouring kingdoms, his two foes returned from Ireland. Bringing with them Irish, Norwegians and Danes, they put the land to fire and the sword from sea to sea. On account of this attack and unbearable oppression, envoys were sent to Rome with letters, requesting with tearful entreaties an armed force to avenge them and pledging their submission for ever, if the foe could be...

      (pp. 142-145)

      Before I had reached this point in my history, news of Merlin spread and I was being pressed to publish his prophecies by all my contemporaries, and particularly by Alexander bishop of Lincoln, a man of the greatest piety and wisdom. No one among the clergy or the people enjoyed the service of so many nobles, whom he bound to him with his gentle goodness and kind generosity. Wishing to please him, I translated the prophecies and sent them to him with the following letter: ‘Alexander bishop of Lincoln, my love for your noble person compelled me to translate from...

      (pp. 144-159)

      As Vortigern, King of the Britons, sat on the bank of the drained pool, the two dragons emerged, one white, one red. As they neared each other, they fought a terrible battle, breathing fire. The white dragon began to get the upper hand and drove the red to the edge of the pool. But it was irked at being driven back and attacked the white, forcing it back in turn. As the dragons fought in this way, the king commanded Ambrosius Merlin to tell him the meaning of their battle. He burst into tears and was inspired to prophesy thus:...

      (pp. 160-193)

      Merlin foretold these things and more, and his riddling words reduced the bystanders to amazement. Vortigern was the most amazed of all and praised the insight of the youth’s prophecies. No man of his time had spoken so wonderfully in his presence. Wishing to know how his life would end, he asked Merlin to tell him what he knew. Merlin answered:

      ‘Beware the fire of Constantinus’ sons, if you can. Even now they are preparing their ships, leaving the shores of Armorica and setting their sails for the crossing. They will land on this island, attack the Saxons and conquer...

      (pp. 192-223)

      On Uther Pendragon’s death, British nobles from various regions assembled in Silchester and urged Dubricius archbishop of Caerleon to crown Uther’s son Arthur as his successor. They were motivated by necessity because the Saxons, when they learned of Uther’s death, had invited in their countrymen from Germany and, led by Colgrimus, were aiming to expel the Britons. They had already occupied all the island from the Humber to the sea at Caithness. Moved by his country’s plight, Dubricius and his bishops placed the crown of the kingdom on Arthur’s head. He was a youth of fifteen, of great promise and...

    • BOOK TEN
      (pp. 222-249)

      Once he discovered the contents of Arthur’s reply, Lucius Hiberius by the senate’s command instructed the kings of the East to muster their forces and join him in conquering Britain. There swiftly assembled Epistrophus king of the Greeks, Mustensar king of the Africans, Aliphatima king of Spain, Hirtacius king of the Parthians, Boccus king of the Medes, Sertorius king of Libya, Serses king of the Itureans, Pandrasus king of Egypt, Micipsa king of Babylon, Politetes duke of Bithynia, Theucer duke of Phrygia, Evander of Syria, Echion of Boetia and Ypolitus of Crete, with the dukes and nobles subject to them;...

      (pp. 248-281)

      Geoffrey of Monmouth will not be silent even about this, most noble earl, but, just as he found it written in the British book and heard from Walter of Oxford, a man very familiar with many histories, he will tell, in his poor style, but briefly, of the battles the famous king fought against his nephew, when he returned to Britain after his victory. When the news of the disgraceful crime came to his ears, Arthur immediately put off the expedition he had intended to mount against the emperor Leo, dispatched Hoelus duke of the Armoricans with the French forces...

    (pp. 282-308)
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-312)