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 thing if any of it did happen in any case. Something worthwhile had to come out of the Dark Ages and wow, did it ever.
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 assistance.
10) The final destination is hopefully paradise.
Let’s delve a bit deeper into these 10 acts:
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 of 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 carried a powerful staff with two serpents (dragons) shown on it.
He wears a metal cap.
Hermes would often wear a hat covering his head too.
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 him carrying his staff in his left hand.
Merlin’s staff didn’t have wings but when he invoked some of his magical powers, the top of his staff did spurt out some awesome red sparks.
Another thing that Merlin and Hermes have in common is that Hermes (Mercury) could enter different realms, just like Merlin.
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.
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 an attempt to possess the beauty for himself.
The Trojan war is similar in that the beautiful Helen happened to be the object of 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. He desired someone else’s wife. These were the Dark Ages so I assume some of the stuff that happened during this mysterious time period 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 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 from Greek mythology. There aren’t too many stories out there with a horse capable of riding through the air.
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, her 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.
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 of wounds after being ambushed. This resulted in the sword Excalibur being stuck in the stone. No one could release it.
The sword was safeguarded until the right person came along.
That special person happened to be Arthur, the son of Uther.
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.
Zeus himself also 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.
The affair that blew the Olympians away occurred between Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, and Ares, the God of war. They had been caught in the act by Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus, in a golden net.
Hephaestus later called all of the other Olympians to see the shamefulness for themselves. Things were 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 to be with the beauty. No one would bless a union between Hades and Persephone.
Who’d want to live in the underworld anyway given a choice? Hades decided he had to have Persephone for himself. One day when he saw her in a field picking flowers, he opened up the earth and carried her away to his home in the underworld.
Demeter soon became concerned. She didn’t know what had happened to her missing daughter. She roamed the world looking for her. During this time because of her grief and anxiousness, the earth started to become barren. The seasons were out of control and nothing would grow. Crops failed and things looked very bleak.
Zeus had to fix the problem. Once he found out what had occurred he ordered Hades to return Persephone to his mother.
Hades however wanted Persephone to stay with him forever so he cunningly made her eat a pomegranate seed, which meant that she would never be allowed to leave the underworld.
Zeus insisted on a compromise since all living things were at stake. Persephone could stay part the year with Hades, as queen of the underworld, and the rest of the year with Demeter.
This did the trick. Demeter accepted the outcome and fixed the seasons so that crops, trees, plants and fruit could once again thrive on earth. Though there’s always 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 Golden Fleece and the Holy Grail represent the same thing as both have the power to heal.
9. A water Goddess offers assistance
The immortal Lady of the Lake assists 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.
King Arthur has a Goddess in the story 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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