Geoffrey of Monmouth

From Academic Kids

Geoffrey of Monmouth was a clergyman and one of the major figures in the development of British history. He was born in about 1100 in Wales, possibly of Breton ancestory. After graduating from Oxford University, he became archdeacon of Llandaff 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).

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.

Bibliography

  • 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

External links

English Translations Available on the Web:


de:Geoffrey von Monmouth fr:Geoffroy de Monmouth kw:Geoffroi a Vynwy nl:Geoffrey van Monmouth no:Geoffrey av Monmouth pl:Geoffrey of Monmouth sv:Geoffrey av Monmouth

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