Compiled by: John Matthews
FROM producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates
of the Carribean and Black
Hawk Down), director, Antoine Fuqua (Training
Day), and screenwriter, David Franzoni (Gladiator),
comes Touchstone Pictures' King Arthur, a spectacular, epic tale
of bravery and one man's destiny.
The film is being heralded by the makers as the most historically
accurate version of the myths of King Arthur, and presents a fresh
look at the origins of a legendary hero.
According to this trio, King Arthur sets the record straight
historically by taking us back to the 5th Century, and the Roman
Britain of the Dark Ages.
Here are some key facts from the time.....
1. Arthur the Roman. There is evidence that
Arthur was a Romano-British Soldier - the child of a mixed marriage
between a Roman and a Briton. In the movie he is based on Lucius
Artorius Castus, an historical figure whose life and deeds are
recorded on his tombstone found in Croatia.
2. Sarmatian Knights. Arthur's knights are inspired
by Sarmatian Knights - nomadic fighters skilled with bow and spear,
who came from the Steppe Lands between the Red Sea and the Caspian
Sea - roughly where Georgia is today. 3000 Sarmatians were stationed
in Britain as part of the Roman Legion, mostly at a fort near
the Lancashire town of Ribchester.
3. The 12 Battles. Early records list 12 great
battles fought by Arthur against the Saxons, the last of which
was at Mount Badon. This is the climactic battle depicted in the
movie. The site of the battles remains uncertain, but one of the
locations evidence points to is Hadrian's Wall.
4. Hadrian's Wall. The Wall was built by the
Romans to keep out the wild Caledonian tribes from the North.
It took 10,000 men nearly 8 years to build and is 72 miles long.
The remains of this miraculous feat of engineering can still be
5. Camelot and Avalon. Two of the forts on the
wall have names that are similar to those found in the Arthurian
legends. Camboglanna could have been the origin either of Arthur's
fabled city of Camelot or the site of his last battle at Camlan.
A few miles from here once stood the fort of Avalanna, a name
that cannot fail to remind us of Avalon, where Arthur is said
to have been buried. Archaeological evidence also tells us of
a small Sarmatian contingent at the fort of Camboglanna.
6. Picts. The Picts are probably the oldest
native inhabitants of Britain, yet almost nothing is known about
them. Wild tribes people living north of Hadrian's Wall, they
carried on a guerrilla war against the Romans. Their name means
'the Painted Ones' - probably given to them from their habit of
tattooing themselves with intricate markings, believed to be tribal
7. Woads. The Woads, as they are called in the
movie - the name is taken from the blue dye which they use to
paint their bodies. Calling the Picts 'Woads' was a device meant
to echo similar belittling titles given to enemies wherever they
8. Crossbows. The Picts may have been among
the first people in Britain to use cross-bows. A Carving on an
ancient stone slab discovered in Scotland shows a range of weapons
used by them - including a very distinct crossbow.
9. The Romans. They invaded Britain in 43AD
and remained here until the beginning of the 5th century, when
they began to withdraw the legions to protect the Empire. However
a small standing army was left to protect the province and it
is this army who make up the Roman presence in the movie.
10. Guinevere. In the movie Guinevere is a brave
and determined warrior and a Pict. Women warriors were common
among the native people of Britain. Irish traditions tell of a
school for Warriors run by the fierce Scathach. Julius Caesar
remarked that it was hard to face the painted tribes people from
the North but that their women were even more fearsome and terrible!
The Picts also practiced matrilineal descent - thus their royal
houses all descended through the female line.
11. Woad. The distinctive blue dye used by the
Picts to tattoo themselves came from the woad plant, which grows
wild in the North of Britain. The body decorations you will see
in the movie are all based on authentic Pictish designs found
carved on stones across much of Scotland.
12. Nakedness in Battle. The Pictish and Caledonian
tribes from the North often went into battle naked, believing
that this demonstrated their courage, as well as showing off their
tattoos. Women too went into battle alongside their men, and believed
that to display their bodies sapped the strength of their enemies.
13. Saxons. Set against the British and Roman
forces are the Saxons. These fierce and savage warriors actually
consisted of Jutes, Friesians, Angles and Saxons. They were originally
invited into Britain as mercenaries, but liking what they saw,
and seeing the Romans withdrawing, they began to invade from the
5th century onwards. After intermarriage with the native Britons
they became the ancestors of the present English.
14. The Round Table.
Later traditions say that Arthur and the Knights sat at a Round
Table in token of their equality. This probably derives from a
time when they would simply have sat on the ground in a circle,
or even around a specially created mound. Sarmatian tradition
mentions that these warriors, too, liked to sit at round tables,
thus establishing another link in the chain of connectivity between
the Sarmatian Knights and Arthur's famous fellowship.
15. Excalibur. Arthur's sword is mentioned in
almost all of the medieval stories. But it had an earlier name
and history, in which it is called Caliburnus, which means 'cut-steel'
in Latin. This may derive from an older word still - kalabis,
again meaning steel. One of the neighbouring tribes of the Sarmatians
was the Kalybes, who specialised in smith craft.
16. The Knights. Among the most renowned of
Arthur's knights in the later stories are Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad,
Tristan, Dagonet and Bors. When it came to choosing names for
the Sarmatian knights it seemed appropriate to call them by these
familiar names, rather than older, unrecognisable ones.
17. The Draco. One of the most important historical
links between Arthur and the Sarmatians is the famous dragon standard,
known as the 'Draco' or 'Dragon', under which they fight in the
movie. The Sarmatians are known to have used such a banner - designed
to look like a dragon, with a metal head and a windsock body.
When they rode into battle, the wind entering the mouth made a
screaming sound, which terrified their enemies. In later tales
of Arthur he is often given the surname Pendragon, which means
'Dragon Chief'. Medieval manuscripts still show him carrying such
a standard hundreds of years after the historical events depicted
in the movie.
18. Pelagius. This important teacher and theologian
is believed to have been born in Britain. He taught that men have
freewill and can shape their own destiny. Declared a heretic by
the Pope he was banished from Rome and subsequently vanished,
19. Germanus. An actual historical figure, Germanus
of Auxerre was sent to Britain in the 5th century to root out
'heresy' such as that taught by Pelagius.
20. Sources. The earliest recorded mention of
Arthur is in the fragmentary poetry composed by wandering British
Bards and story tellers, who may have remembered the deeds of
the Sarmatian warriors and recorded them, adding their own touches
to their adventurers. Early British historians, such as Nennius,
Gildas and Bede added details drawn from documents now long since
lost. Medieval writers added tales of magic and wonder, finally
setting forth the stories of King Arthur and his Knights in a
medieval setting that was far from their true origin.
1. The King Arthur movie set was the largest set ever built in
2. The Hadrian's Wall you see in over 50% of the film was built
by over 300 crew
3. This life-sized version of Hadrian's Wall is 950 metres long,
35 feet high at its highest points with a 10 foot-wide walkway
on top! The main gate is 20 feet wide and 16 feet high.
4. Two native villages were also built in their entirety, with
real thatch and stone used in the creation of the peasant dwellings
5. The round table measures 28 feet in diameter, and 40 seats
circle the table made from pressed copper
6. Three costume researchers worked for six months to create
the looks of the four principle factions; the Sarmatians, the
Romans, the Saxons and the Woads. Each faction was allocated specific
furs and skins to distinguish them from their enemies
7. All 400 Saxons, 150 Roman soldiers and 175 Woads were armed;
armoury ranged from swords and axes through to agricultural implements!
8. The Sarmatian knights carry the greatest arsenal with each
of the men incorporating up to 60 pieces of individual weaponry
9. Excalibur was designed from a drawing based on Celtic motifs.
The blade bears an inscription, written in Ogham, an ancient form
of Celtic lettering that says 'Defender of the Land'
10. Clive Owen could not ride before he got the part, so undertook
seven intense weeks of training, five days a week to be able to
portray Arthur as a great horseman
11. Keira Knightley trained for seven weeks in boot camp learning
archery, sword-fighting and boxing, and did all her own fights
in the movie
12. Ioan Gruffudd also attended boot camp, where he learnt the
double-sword fighting technique for the character of Lancelot
13. The final battle in the film - The Battle of Badon Hill -
took five weeks to shoot
14. Nineteen cameras recorded the action all over the battlefield;
cameras were even placed on shields, swords and horses
15. Artificial snow created onset was blown away... by a real
Historical facts written by John Matthews - the UK's
leading Arthurian expert - John has spent more than 30 years studying
the Arthurian legend and was the consultant historian on the film.
John believes the stories of King Arthur are based on a real historical
figure who was a Roman Commander on Hadrian's Wall in Cumbria
in the 5th Century AD.