Arthur of Dalriada

Arthur of Dál Riada

Son of King Aedan mac Gabrain, who ruled Dalriada (a Scottish kingdom settled by the Irish, c. 500) in the final quarter of the sixth century. His existence is attested in the Life of St. Columbia (c. 700) and other Irish texts. He had several brothers, including Echoid Find and Domingart.

Aedan apparently fought a battle against the Picts at Miatha, in which Arthur was killed. Aedan was known as a prolific campaigner, and it is likely that Arthur participated in a number of battles before his death. He is said to have fallen in a battle against the forces of Aethelfrith, his death allegedly being foretold by his father by Saint Columba.

Although he lived later than the traditional dates of Arthur, some scholars, including Richard Barber (The Figure of Arthur), argue for Arthur of Dalraida as the original prototype of King Arthur. According to this theory, Arthur of Dalriada was the “Arthur” to which Y Gododdin (a poem written in the north for the northern audiences, contemporary to the life of Arthur of Dalriada) refers; his fame grew in oral legend until he was eventually attached to battles fought before his time, by other warleaders.

A less controversial theory holds that some of Arthur of Dalriada’s exploits were later conflated with his more famous predecessor’s (after whom, presumably, Arthur of Dalriada was named).

Life of St. Columbia | c. 700
The Figure of Arthur | Richard Barber, 1972
Y Gododdin | Aneirin, c. 600