Heroic Age Logo The Heroic Age, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 1999  

Letter From the Editor

Welcome to The Heroic Age!

On behalf of the editorial staff I would like to welcome you to a quest through, to my mind, the most exciting period in history and literature. When I was brainstorming for a title last fall, I went through many suitable titles that just didn't click until I came upon The Heroic Age. When something's right, you know it. It didn't take long to decide who would be the star of the inaugural issue. Who else but Arthur symbolizes everything The Heroic Age stands for? Arthur became the paragon of heroic tradition not only in his own land and to his own people but also throughout western Christendom during the early medieval period. Even his enemies in time adopted him as their role model, a feat few other early medieval figures can boast.

I have heard people question the value of studying the earliest Arthurian literature and the question of Arthur's historicity. This has always puzzled me. An analogous question might be: Why do psychologists delve into childhood memories when they have the adult sitting in front of them? Because events that benefitted and scarred the child altered the adult in otherwise incomprehensible ways. Much the same is true of Arthurian studies. To really understand Arthur, you have to understand where he came from and the nature of fifth- to sixth-century events and political geography in which he is repeatedly placed. Small changes and perceptions in the childhood of Arthurian oral and literary development blossomed into major trends and core traits in later tradition.

Apart from the insight into Arthur that can be gained, most studies on early Arthurian tradition also generate insight into other disciplines and topics. Works in this issue are no exception. Every essay and article in this issue contributes not only to Arthurian studies but also to our understanding of early medieval history, literature and folklore, linguistics, or archaeology.

In the area of linguistics, we have P.J.C. Field's study of the post-Roman meaning of the phrase "city of the legions" and its implications for understanding the works of both Gildas and Nennius. In literature and folklore, we have my study on the parallels between the tale of Arthur, Gwenhwyfar and Modred in Geoffrey of Monmouth and the records of the Roman conquest era dispute between Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes and her first and second husbands, Venutius and Vellocatus respectively.

We have an abundance of material in history and archaeology. Nowhere across the landscape of Britain is the memory of Arthur evoked more than at Tintagel. Indeed, few places in Britain continue to play a role in the Arthurian literature throughout the ages more than Tintagel. Whether or not the Arthurian legend can be associated with Tintagel before the time of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the exciting new finds there are remodeling the views of historians and archaeologists on the post-Roman period. We have an interview with Rachel Harry and Kevin Brady from the team currently excavating at Tintagel on their newest finds. In Chris Snyder's essay, he provides us with a overview of the history and archaeology for all of Britain during the Age of Arthur.

"The Forum" is a section dedicated to essays that stimulate discussion among early medievalists by supporting or attacking prevailing theories on a variety of topics. In this issue, Tim Clarkson evaluates John Koch’s recent theory for the context of the early Brittonic poem Y Gododdin, which is the first work to mention Arthur.

As we learn more about the development of the Arthurian legend, it becomes clear that we are not looking for one historical King Arthur but the original prototype. In our "History by Biography" section, we have biographies of two men proposed as historical Arthur candidates. Linda A. Malcor describes the discernible details of the life of Lucius Artorius Castus in startling detail. Who would have guessed that so much information could be gained from one sarcophagus?! I have also reviewed the evidence for the life of Artúr mac Aedan of Dalriada and evaluated the unconvincing evidence that he was the original proto-type for King Arthur.

This issue also debuts three regular sections: "Nonfiction Book Reviews," "Medievalia on the Web" column, and "Archaeology News Briefs". We introduce what will eventually be an extensive review section with several reviews of recent nonfiction works. Look for reviews of TV/films and fiction in addition to nonfiction works in upcoming issues. The "Medievalia on the Web" column will be written by various editors from The Heroic Age as the topic shifts to their area of specialization. In the column for this issue, Norman Hinton reviews the best--and worst--the web has to offer Arthurian enthusiasts in "Arthur on the Web/Net." "Archaeology News Briefs" will keep you up to date on the latest early medieval discoveries from all over northwestern Europe. In this issue, we have a retrospective of discoveries from the late 1990s.

New on our homepage is a bookstore and our Links for the Heroic Age page. Our bookstore carries an extensive selection of early medieval primary and secondary sources. In the next few months, the bookstore will expand to cover fiction that will appeal to medievalists, videos and maps. Proceeds from the bookstore will all be used to defray the operating costs of the journal in an effort to keep The Heroic Age free to our readers. Our "Links for the Heroic Age" page will strive to be the most complete source for early medieval web sites. "Links for the Heroic Age" debuts with a selection of basic and Arthurian resources. Keep an eye on this page; it will expand dramatically as the "Medievalia on the Web" column finds more pages too good to miss.

I hope you enjoy this first issue of The Heroic Age and come back to visit us on a regular basis!

Michelle Ziegler
Editor-In-Chief, The Heroic Age

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