The Legend of King Arthur (Greek Mythology)

The Legend of King Arthur Greek Mythology

The legend of King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table have been heavily influenced by Greek mythology. Think of it this way, the myths and legends of King Arthur are simply the Greek myths retold.

Zeus would have instigated the whole King Arthur myth if it really did happen in any case. Something worthwhile had to come out of the Dark Ages and wow did it ever. Let me explain.

Consider these 10 classic acts in the legend of King Arthur:

1) A close associate of the king has magical powers.
2) One beautiful woman motivates a king to go to war.
3) Transforming appearances to sleep with a beautiful woman.
4) The sword in the stone – the rightful ruler gains a powerful weapon.
5) Superior beings rule in a very special abode.
6) Marriage unfaithfulness – betrayal by a close member of the inner circle.
7) The land perishes due to lost love.
8) Going on a heroic quest in search of a mystical object.
9) A water Goddess offers divine assistance.
10) The final destination is hopefully eternal paradise.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into these 10 acts in the myth of King Arthur:

1. A close associate of the king has magical powers

A wizard named Merlin assists the king. Notice how the name “Merlin” is very closely associated with Mercury, the Roman name given to Hermes.

Both their names start with “Mer” which is purposeful due to the fact that Hermes (Mercury) is the messenger of the Gods and closely associated with Zeus, the king of the Gods.

Merlin Excalibur Movie 1981

Hermes Mercury carrying the caduceus

Merlin carried a powerful staff with two serpents (dragons) shown on it. He can be seen wearing a metal cap.

The caduceus is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek Mythology.

It is entwined by two serpents (snakes), sometimes surmounted by wings. This sculpture of Hermes (Mercury) seen here shows the God carrying his staff in his left hand.

Merlin’s staff didn’t have wings but when he invoked his magical powers, the top of his staff on occasion did spurt out some awesome red sparks.

Hermes would often wear a hat covering his head too. Hermes is best known for wearing his winged cap (helmet) but he also seems to like this one as well.

Merlin and Hermes have another thing in common in that Hermes (Mercury) could enter different realms just as Merlin the wizard was able to do.

2. A beautiful woman motivates a king to go to war

The legend of King Arthur essentially started with Uther Pendragon falling in lust/love with the beautiful Igraine (Igrayne), wife of the Duke of Cornwall.

Helen of Troy standing at the castle walls

Even though Igraine was married to Duke Gorlois of Cornwall, it didn’t stop Uther from pursuing her.

Uther Pendragon and his followers besieged the castle where Igraine lived in a desperate attempt to possess the beauty for himself.

The Trojan war is similar in that the beautiful Helen happened to be the object of a man’s desire.

In the Trojan war, King Menalaus wanted his wife Helen back, so he went to war with his followers and laid siege against the city of Troy.

Uther on the other hand did the opposite since he desired someone else’s wife.

These were the Dark Ages so I’m assume that some of the stuff which happened during this mysterious age had to be opposite one another.

3. Transforming appearances to sleep with a beautiful woman

Uther Pendragon transformed into the likeness of the Duke of Cornwall with the aid of the wizard Merlin so he could essentially sleep with Igraine.

When the Duke of Cornwall left the castle to take part in the battle, Uther magically entered the castle to see the beautiful Igraine.

He entered the castle by riding his horse on the sea of fog. It reminds me a little bit of Pegasus, the flying winged horse well known in Greek mythology.

The Legend of King Arthur Excalibur movie scene

Zeus is that you?

Igraine thought she had slept with her real husband since Uther looked exactly like him. As a result of the deception, Igraine unwittingly fell pregnant to Uther.

Tragically at around the same time as the conception, Igraine’s husband died in battle.

Zeus is well-known for transforming himself to be with a beautiful woman. I wouldn’t put it past Zeus to come up with this type of plan.

Actually this is exactly what happened when Zeus wanted to sleep with Alcmene, the mother of Hercules. Zeus took the likeness of her husband so he could sleep with the beauty which is how Hercules ended up being born.

4. The sword in the stone – the rightful ruler is given a powerful weapon

Uther plunged the magical sword Excalibur into a stone just before he died from wounds after being ambushed. It resulted in the sword Excalibur being stuck in the stone.

No one could release the sword from the rock, not even Merlin. The sword was safeguarded until the right person came along.

Excalibur sword in the stone

That special person happened to be Arthur, the son of Uther, who eventually became King Arthur.

In Greek mythology, Aegeus, the king of Athens hid his sword under a rock. He hid it at a time when he feared usurpers to his thrown. He persuaded his wife Aethra to tell their son Theseus about it only when Theseus was strong enough to lift up the enormous rock.

Remember even Zeus himself received a thunderbolt as a gift. Every powerful king has a weapon of some sort.

5. Superior beings rule in a very special abode

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table ruled from within Camelot.

The 12 Olympian Gods and Goddesses ruled on Olympus.

6. Unfaithfulness in marriage – betrayal by a close member of the inner circle

King Arthur married Guinevere who became his Queen. This didn’t stop Guinevere from having an affair with Lancelot, the champion Knight of the Round Table.

King Arthur Guinevere Lancelot in Excalibur

The affair that blew the Olympians away was the one between Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, and Ares, the God of war.

The two lovers ended up ingeniously caught in the act by Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus, inside a golden net.

Hephaestus would then call all of the other Olympians to see the shamefulness for themselves. Things were obviously never quite the same after that.

7. The land perishes due to lost love

As soon as King Arthur lost out on love, the land started to perish.

Demeter, the Goddess of agriculture, had a beautiful daughter named Persephone.

Hades fell in love with Persephone and wanted the beauty to be his wife. The problem was that no one would bless a union between Hades and Persephone.

Who would want to live in the dark gloomy Underworld anyway given a choice?

Hades decided he had to have Persephone for himself so one day when he saw her picking flowers in a field he opened up the earth and carried her away to his home in the Underworld.

The Fate of Persephone Greek Mythology

Demeter soon became very concerned after she had lost contact. The Goddess didn’t know what had happened to her daughter so she roamed the world looking for her.

During this painful time due to her grief and anxiousness the earth started to become barren. The seasons went out of control and nothing would grow. Crops started failing and things looked very bleak.

Zeus had to step in. Once he discovered what had happened he ordered his brother Hades to return Persephone to her worried mother immediately.

Hades however wanted Persephone to stay with him forever so he cunningly came up with a plan and made her eat a pomegranate seed.

After she ate the seed it meant that Persephone would never be allowed to leave the underworld. Rules are rules.

Zeus insisted on a compromise since all living things were at stake. The compromise settled on was that Persephone could stay part the year with Hades as Queen of the Underworld, while the rest of the year could be spent with with her mother Demeter.

Demeter accepted the situation and returned the four seasons enabling crops, trees, plants and fruit to once again thrive on earth. That is why there is a part of the year which isn’t so great.

The land became barren due to lost love.

8. Going on a heroic quest in search of a mystical object

Arthur sent his Knights on a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Jason and the Argonauts went on a quest to find the Golden Fleece.

The Holy Grail and the Golden Fleece
Image credit: Alice Popkorn – Holy Grail (Mod) – Flickr

The Golden Fleece and the Holy Grail represent the same thing as both have the power to heal. Notice how both of these objects are golden.

The Lady of the Lake from The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights

9. A water Goddess offers assistance

The immortal Lady of the Lake assisted Arthur on occasion.

Water and river Goddesses are renowned in Greek mythology, not so much in other religions.

In actual fact, many religions of today don’t mention Goddesses at all. I wonder why?

King Arthur has a Goddess in the story all thanks to Greek mythology.

10. The final destination is hopefully paradise

After being mortally wounded King Arthur is taken away to Avalon, which you can assume is eternal Paradise.

In Greek mythology, Paradise is often referred to as the Elysian Fields.

Is this just a bunch of hogwash or are the Greek Myths, King Arthur and Zeus, one and the same?

All you have to do is watch the film Excalibur and consider it for yourself.

This classic fantasy adventure movie filled with romance and betrayal is one of my all-time favourite movies. I think I’ve seen the film close to one hundred times. It has to be one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces ever made.

 
Orion Pictures presents Excalibur. Remember in Greek mythology, Orion was a giant huntsman whom Zeus placed among the stars making it the constellation of Orion.

The movie obviously had to have a major connection with Zeus.

As a young kid under the age of 10, my favourite book was a children’s book about King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, which had some great pictures in it. I loved that book.

Years later I’m concluding that King Arthur and Excalibur is the ultimate Greek myth.

It’s so good that if I had a choice of only one movie existing, Excalibur (1981) or Jason and the Argonauts (1963), I wouldn’t know what to do. That would be one tough decision to make.

I’m super glad both of them exist, but if it came down to only one movie I think Excalibur would win.

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The Legend of King Arthur related to Greek Mythology