Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Marsil of Ponmecainne

Marsil of Pomitain
Marsile, Marsille, Marsyl

King Marsil is a character who appears in several Arthurian romances, particularly those that focus on the legendary hero Roland, one of King Arthur’s knights.

In the French epic The Song of Roland, which is one of the most famous accounts of Roland’s exploits, King Marsil is the Muslim king of Spain who is at war with Charlemagne, the Christian king of France. Marsil and his army are ultimately defeated by Roland and the other Christian knights, but he is depicted as a formidable and cunning opponent who presents a serious challenge to the Christian forces.

In some versions of the legend, King Marsil is portrayed as a more sympathetic figure who is ultimately reconciled with the Christian knights. For example, in the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso, Marsil is portrayed as a noble and honorable ruler who is eventually converted to Christianity by Roland’s friend Astolfo.

King Marsil is typically depicted as a complex and multi-dimensional character who is often in conflict with the Christian knights but who is not simply a one-dimensional villain. Instead, his character reflects the complex cultural and religious tensions that existed in medieval Europe and the Middle East, and his portrayal in Arthurian romances reflects the evolving attitudes and beliefs of the time period in which these stories were told.

King Marsil, that had in gift an island of Sir Galahalt [Galeholt] the haut prince; and this island had the name Pomitain.

This, apparently Malory’s only reference to the good King Marsil of the island of Ponmecainne (Pomitain), comes when he is defeated by King Bagdemagus during Duke Galeholt’s tournament in Surluse.

Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Orlando Furioso | Ludovico Ariosto, 1516