Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a clergyman and one of the major figures in the development of British history. Born in about 1100 in Wales, he probably had some Breton blood. After graduating from Oxford University, he became archdeacon of Llandaff and/or Monmouth, and in 1152 he rose to the position of bishop of St Asaph. He died around 1154.
Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote several works of interest. The earliest one to appear was Prophetiae Merlini (The Prophecies of Merlin), which he wrote at some point before 1135. Geoffrey presented a series of apocalyptic narratives as the work of the earlier Merlin who, until Geoffrey's book came out, was known as "Myrddin". (It is assumed that Geoffrey changed the name of the seer to avoid an unwanted association with the French word merde.) The first work about this legendary prophet in a language other than Welsh, it was widely read--and believed--much as the prophecies of Nostradamus were centuries later.
Next was Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), the work best known to modern readers. It claims to relate the history of the pre-Saxon kings of Britain but was in fact a deliberate spoof, being filled with legends, such as the idea that Aeneas was the ancestor of the first line of British kings. It is one of the first texts to mention King Arthur (having him subdue most of Europe, no less) and the first surviving text to mention King Lear (as King Leir). John Morris writes in The Age of Arthur that Geoffrey warned aware readers of his time that his work stemmed from Walter Map of Oxford, "who was then well known as a satirist, a wit, and a literary practical joker." Consistent with this, Geoffrey makes numerous statements that historians of the time readily knew to be satirical, such as that Constantius married the daughter of Old King Cole. "It ought not to be necessary to warn," concludes Morris, "that no word or line of Geoffrey can legitimately be considered in the study of any historical problem; but the warning unfortunately remains necessary."
Lastly, Geoffrey wrote the Vita Merlini ("The Life of Merlin") at some point between 1149 and 1151. This is Geoffrey's own retelling of the earlier Myrddin legend from Welsh tradition.
All of these books were written in Latin, as were most learned works of the medieval period.
- John Morris. The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650. Barnes & Noble Books: New York. 1996 (originally 1973). ISBN 0-7607-0243-8
- John Jay Parry and Robert Caldwell. "Geoffrey of Monmouth" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0198115881
- Latin Chroniclers from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries: Geoffrey of Monmouth from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume I, 1907–21.
English Translations Available on the Web:
- Historia Regum Britanniae:
- By Aaron Thompson with revisions by J. A. Giles at http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/geoffrey_thompson.pdf. (PDF)
- (Arthurian passages only) edited and translated by J. A. Giles at http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/geofhkb.htm.
- Brut y Bryttaniait, translated from a medieval Welsh version (which has a few interesting differences) by Wm. R. Cooper at http://www.annomundi.co.uk/history/chronicle_of_the_early_britons.htm
- Vita Merlini, Basil Clarke's English translation from Life of Merlin: Vita Merlini (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1973).
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details