A Light in a Dark Age

A Light in the Dark Ages is a book series conceived and written by British author, Tim Walker. It began in 2015 as a reflection on a question that popped into his head on a visit to the site of a Roman town (Calleva Atrebatum/Silchester) – how would the Briton tribes have reacted to the end of nearly 400 years of Roman occupation?

The first book, Abandoned, was published as a short novella in 2015, but was extensively re-written an re-launched as a novel in 2018. The narrative is loosely based on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of the politics of post-Roman Britain in his 1136 work, The History of the Kings of Britain, but supplemented by scraps of researched historical opinion.

Picture shows the author at the Roman wall remains at Silchester.

Although widely dismissed by historians as at best, wildly inaccurate, and worst, a work of fiction, Geoffrey has been credited with accumulating and working from source material, including a mysterious ‘text in a native tongue’ that remains undiscovered by historians. More recently his work has been re-evaluated with attempts made to try to understand why he moved historical figures and events around in his timeline in a sort of Middle Ages cut-and-paste job. Historian Miles Russell offers an interesting attempt at ‘decoding’ Geoffrey’s work in his Arthur and the Kings of Britain (2019).

Certainly the figure of Arthur, plucked from early Welsh folktales and mentions by church clerics such as Nennius in his work, History of the Britons (820), has been embellished with the deeds of other heroic leaders to create Britain’s first superhero. The deliberate creation of an heroic Briton leader who defeated the hated Saxons in battle is thought to have been done to please his Norman readership and sponsor. So there is a backbone of researched historical facts (and earlier mythology) in Geoffrey’s work, although it fails as a history due to the creative embellishments and the switching around of events and people to plug gaps in his timeline – and, presumably, to make his book a more enjoyable read.

Abandoned is followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017). Both high kings Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus are believed to be genuine historical figures in mid-fifth century Britain, due to mentions from a range of sources. This book charts the intense rivalry between these two figures that ultimately resulted in defeat and death for Vortigern, and victory and renewed hope for the Britons with Ambrosius.

Ambrosius is followed by Uther’s Destiny (2018), a story that is also based around Geoffrey’s tale of Uther, Merlin and the birth of Arthur. Uther’s name, ‘Pendragon’ is a title that literally means ‘The Head Dragon’. This may have been the title given to kings of Gwynedd in North Wales, some historians believe, hinting at a possible base for a historical ‘Uther’. But no early king of Gwynedd has this name, leaving historians with another puzzle to solve.

Arthur Dux Bellorum (2019) is the fourth book in the series. This covers the early life of Arthur, from late teens to late twenties. The idea for the plot came from an article historian David Ford Nash, who wrote an article on his best-guess for the locations of Nennius’s twelve battles of Arthur. He believes that Arthur first three battles may have been fought in Lincolnshire, in East England.

Other battles could have take place around York and further north in Northumberland and the Central Lowlands of Scotland, including Cambuslang – now a suburb of Glasgow. So, my young Arthur travels north from Winchester, though Lincolnshire and Yorkshire to Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall, where he is based at the old Roman fortress of Vindolanda. From here, he leads his men into battles north of the wall, in the Caledonian Forest of Celidon and further north at Cambuslang. Distance wise, the journey from Winchester to Hadrian’s Wall is less than 300 miles, so perfectly achievable over a number of weeks on horseback using Roman roads.

This book is followed by Arthur Rex Brittonum (2020), covering the remainder of Arthur’s life – from thirty to his late forties. Again, following Nash Ford’s speculation on the possible locations of Arthur’s battles, he leaves the north and travels to the Welsh borders and, finally, to the West Country. The author has opted to locate Mount Badon near Bath, and Camlann at Avalon in Somerset in the West Country.

This series is fiction, loosely based on scraps of historical evidence, and the author remains fascinated by this ‘black hole’ in British history. What really happened in the 200 years between the end of Roman rule and the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms? Perhaps one day historians and archaeologists will find the missing pieces in our historical jigsaw puzzle.

Order the book series HERE

A Fresh Look at King Arthur

Arthur Rex Brittonum… a novel of Arthur.
Kindle/paperback- http://mybook.to/ArthurRex
ibook/kobo/nook/other-
https://books2read.com/Arthur-Rex-Brittonum

A story of an imagined, historical Arthur, freed of the glitz and glamour of the Camelot legend.
No round table – instead Arthur hosts his councils of tribal chiefs in ‘Arthur’s Roundel’, the Roman ampitheatre at Caerleon.
No Holy Grail – instead the pre-Christian search for the Treasures of Britain, and an encounter with the ‘talking’ Head of Bran.
Arthur is accompanied by Welsh folklore (pre-Medieval) knights, Bedwyr, Kay, Lucan and the sons of Gawain – Agravane, Mador, and Gaheris, who all belong to the earliest incarnations of the Arthurian legend.
Arthur’s peers are ‘real’ historical tribal kings and chiefs of the late 5th/early 6th centuries, including, Meirchion Gul; Owain Ddantgwyn; Cadwallon; Geraint; Vortipor; Cyngar and Caradog.
Arthur’s enemies are names plucked from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – Cerdic; Octha (son of Hengist); Icel King of the Angles, and, for a bit of fun, Beowulf, the legendary Angle warrior and slayer of monsters.
Father (later Saint) Asaph is Arthur’s chaplain, and literary monk, Gildas, appears as a dour novice.

King Arthur Revealed

E-book Promotion!
To mark the launch of Arthur Rex Brittonum on 1st June, its two preceding books covering Arthur’s childhood (Uther’s Destiny) and youth (Arthur Dux Bellorum), have been discounted to just 99c/99p each this week!So indulge yourself with three novels covering the imagined life of Arthur for less than $5 or £4…
Uther’s Destiny: http://mybook.to/Uther
https://books2read.com/Uther
Arthur Dux Bellorum: http://mybook.to/Arthur
https://books2read.com/ArthurDuxBellorum
Arthur Rex Brittonum: http://mybook.to/ArthurRex
https://books2read.com/Arthur-Rex-Brittonum

Available in #kindle #ibooks #kobo #nook #scribd #tolino #biblioteca #hoopla #vivlio #overdrive #bakerandtaylor #barnesandnoble

Was there a ‘real’ Arthur?

Was Arthur a real historical figure? Many believe that buried beneath the legend is a real sixth century leader of Briton resistance to the settlement of Anglo-Saxons.

Tim Walker’s compelling book series, A Light in the Dark Ages, reaches its climax with his telling of Arthur’s story, based on historical evidence of an early sixth century warlord who unites Briton tribes in opposition to Anglo-Saxon colonisation.

The legend of Arthur grew in the years after his death, becoming grander and more exaggerated with each telling. By the ninth century, monk Nennius attributed 12 winning battles to Arthur in his ‘History of the Britons’.

In the Middle Ages, the legend was further embellished with the addition of Christian virtue, the search for the Holy Grail, knights in shining armour, a round table, Camelot, and a love triangle involving Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Arthur Rex Brittonum, Tim Walker’s new telling of Arthur’s story, launched on 1st June 2020. The paperback edition can be ordered here:
http://mybook.to/ArthurRexPaperback

order the ebook of Arthur’s story here:
http://mybook.to/ArthurRex

Is Science Killing our Legends?

Reflections on Legends by Tim Walker

I recently appeared via Skype (taking the place of Mary Anne Yarde who was unable to take part) on a Sky UK Television studio panel discussion (YouTube link below). The programme was appropriately called ‘Round Table’, and this edition was concerned with discussing the relevance of legends in contemporary times, given that scientists are now claiming to have disproved the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. Has science killed Nessie? …And, by extension, can it kill off our favourite legends?

One of the points I was keen to make was that the dictionary definition of ‘legend’ – a traditional story or myth; traditional literature; famous person or event; stories about such a person or event; inscriptions – understates the concept. A legend is a story whose origins are lost in the hazy mists of time, and therefore cannot be conclusively proved or disproved. They endure because their themes are re-interpreted by each age through re-tellings that reflect the values, fears and hopes of that age, and their appeal is partly held by the element of the unknown that add an air of mystery.

English Heritage Magazine Cover_LegendsIn reading about the origins of the King Arthur story, I became fascinated by the blurred boundary between historical fact and storytelling. The oral tradition of remembering great heroes and their deeds, who often protected a fearful community from an external threat, delivered through bardic praise poems, songs and dramatic performance, often has a root in factual events and real people. But by their nature, the feats of the hero are exaggerated and he is ‘bigged-up’ to make for a more engaging story. The bard, after all, was singing for his supper. The feats of an heroic warrior is a recurring theme in many of our favourite legends including Beowulf – the earliest epic poem in the English language; George and the Dragon and Robin Hood.

George and the Dragon is a meshing together of two stories – that of an early Christian martyr and a British folk tale about a brave warrior called Gaarge who is hired by a village to save it from ‘a giant worm’. The story of Arthur was cobbled together by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century from mentions of a heroic resistance leader in the fifth and sixth centuries in earlier Welsh chronicles and folk tales, although it is accepted by historians that he piled onto Arthur’s shoulders the deeds of other unnamed heroic figures in a political gambit to create a super-warrior who opposed the Saxons, and thus please his Norman readership.

However, there are echoes of a real Arthur in the writings of a monk called Nennius, accredited with writing The History of the British People in the ninth century, who talks of the twelve battles of Arthur, and describes Arthur as leading the combined armies of the Kings of the Britons against Saxon invaders, naming his opponent as Octha, the son of Hengist (deemed to be a real historical figures) as the King of Kent. Although Arthur, Britain’s first superhero, has a toe-hold in history, the legendary figure was deliberately created by Geoffrey to flatter his Norman lord and sponsor, goading the defeated Saxons with the tale of a noble king who lead the Britons in resistance to the coming of the Anglo-Saxons. In contrast, the dispossessed Saxons built up their own legendary folk hero in Robin Hood, who protected the common people from the tyranny of a Norman lord. There are grains of truth in the half-remembered stories that underpin these legends, kept alive by reflecting the values, fears and hopes of each generation, for whom the stories are slightly customised.

Legends persist because they are part of the fabric of our cultural identity, our sense of who we are. Witness a basic, sixth century warlord Arthur, seized upon by later generations who embellished him with Middle Ages chivalric and Christian virtue, presenting him as a just and devout ruler who kept the peace and protected the people from external (often pagan) threats. These are similar attributes now given to superheroes that have captured the public imagination in our contemporary popular culture. They are recurring themes in human society – the need for justice, order, peace and protection. Arthur, Beowulf, Saint George and Robin Hood provide these reassurances, and that is why they are enduring legends in British culture.

I’ve no doubt that Nessie will survive the glare of science and endure in popular memory and belief, despite scientists declaring that the only non-fish DNA found in the loch is that of eels. So, why not a giant eel? After all, the pre-runner of dragons in early folk lore are ‘giant worms’.

Tim Walker

A Light New Banner x 4 books

Tim Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages book series starts with…
Abandoned
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Ambrosius: Last of the Romans
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Uther’s Destiny
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Arthur Dux Bellorum
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YouTube Link to TV Show

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Abandoned Re-loaded

I’ve just re-published a new, longer second edition of Abandoned, book one in A Light in the Dark Ages series. It addresses the complaints at the brevity of the original novella that told the story of Marcus and the defence of Calleva. This is now incorporated into a longer story that charts Britannia’s troubled journey from abandonment by the Romans to choosing a king to organise their defence from determined raiders.

Abandoned second edition ebook coverThe narrative thrust is loosely guided by the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 1136 work, The History of the Kings of Britain. The romantic in me likes to think there might be some credence in his account of events in fifth century Britannia leading up to the coming of King Arthur (now widely thought to be a composite of a number of leaders who organised opposition to the spread of Anglo-Saxon colonists).
I’m holding the e-book price at just 99p/99c – so please help me replace the lost reviews from the now unpublished first edition. Much work has gone into this upgrade from novella to novel – I hope you enjoy it!
http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FKT7W8J
http://amazon.com/dp/B07FKT7W8J

The Dark Ages Illuminated

Britannia lay traumatised by the end of Roman rule and open to invasion from ruthless barbarians. Cruel tyrant Vortigern has seized control and chosen to employ Saxons in his mercenary army. But who is the master and who the puppet?

Enter Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Roman tribune on a secret mission to Britannia. He is returning to the land where, as a child, he witnessed the murder of his noble father and grew up under the watchful eyes of an adoptive family in the town of Calleva Atrebatum. He is thrown into the politics of the time, as tribal chiefs eye each other with suspicion whilst kept at heel by the high king.

Ambrosius Twitter PromoAmbrosius finds that the influence of Rome is fast becoming a distant memory, as Britannia reverts to its Celtic tribal roots. He joins forces with his adoptive brother, Uther Pendragon, and they are guided by their shrewd father, Marcus, as he senses his destiny is to lead the Britons to a more secure future.

Ambrosius: Last of the Romans is an historical fiction novel set in the early Dark Ages, a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.

http://myBook.to/Ambrosius

A Black Hole in Our History

The Dark Ages is the period in European history ushered in by the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Britain was thrown into a period of tribal conflicts and desperate resistance to invaders from the year AD410, when the last legion sailed away and Roman administration ceased. Early Briton kings, Vortigern and Ambrosius battled each other for the traumatised island, whilst what was left of the remaining Western Roman legions tried to stem the tide of Franks rampaged across Gaul.

Ambrosius presentation4This was also the year that Rome was sacked by the Visigoths under their king, Alaric, as barbarian tribes from the east swept across Europe. Roman authority was briefly restored after paying off the barbarians, but they would not go away, and the final collapse came in 476 when the last western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer, whose father was purported to have been an adviser to Attila the Hun. The sun had set on a civilised and ordered way of life, to be replaced with tribal warfare, economic ruin and insecurity for the peoples of Europe.

Initially, historians used the term ‘dark’ to denote the fact that little was known about this period as there was a lack of written history, and it was felt there was little order or human development. It was the Italian Scholar, Petrarch, who first coined the phrase, ‘Dark Ages’. He used it to express frustration with the lack of Latin literature during this time or other cultural achievements. The Dark Ages were a tumultuous time: roving horse-borne invaders charged about the countrysides, slaughtering villagers and taking what they wanted. As a result, fewer crops were grown and famine and disease followed.

Ambrosius presentation5To some extent, the period of the Dark Ages remains obscure to modern onlookers. The term employs traditional light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the ‘darkness’ of the period in question with earlier and later periods of ‘light’. The tumult of the era, its religious and tribal conflicts and debatable time period, all work together to obscure it from our eyes. Scarcity of sound literature and cultural achievements marked these years, and barbaric practices prevailed. The leaders of the time are merely names without faces; nor are there accurate records of their deeds.

However, stuffy university academics, in a move to justify their status, have decided it wasn’t such a dark age after all. Plenty was going on, between the running and screaming (in isolated enclaves) as they uncover some evidence of art, culture and learning. It is now thought that some of the barbarian leaders, when taking time out from torture, rape and executions, became patrons of the arts (amassing treasures looted from palaces and churches) and in time converted to Christianity, embracing more civilised values. This has altered perceptions of this difficult period and some historians now prefer to used the term, ‘Early Middle Ages’ to denote the post-Roman period in Europe. Bully for them.

Ambrosius presentation2In our own time, some believe we are entering a new dark age, characterised not by the absence of written records, but by a plethora of false information aimed at confusing and distracting us from real events. The World Wide Web was given to us by its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to encourage the free exchange of information. But we have failed to safeguard it, and it has now been hijacked by thieves and those with extreme political agendas whose aim is to enslave us and strip us of our rights and dignity. ‘Fake News’ is a tactic used by unscrupulous politicians to terrify and confuse, leaving us susceptible to exploitation and undermining our democratic systems with lies and false promises.

Our age may be characterised by intellectual and technological advances, but our moral framework, egalitarian and empathetic values, are being eroded by the new cult of the individual that has replaced self-policing family and community groups. Socially, we are regressing as economic priorities trump those of citizen welfare. Corporate bullies have replaced barbarian warlords as we are brow-beaten, exploited and driven into poverty.

We live in an all-consuming media age, but we are blind to the dangers around us that are undermining our society, leaving us vulnerable to exploitation. Personal wealth accumulation and the trappings of a privileged lifestyle are dangled before us to tempt and incite us to embrace a culture built on greed and one-upmanship. Are we defeating ourselves, as loneliness, emotional repression and lack of purpose dog our ‘progressive’ secular societies? Our self-destruction seems assured.

Where is the new Ambrosius to organise us to resist the forces of darkness? Who will ride to our rescue and flush our enemies out into the open where we can confront them? Whilst pondering these questions, look for inspiration in this new action-packed historical fiction novel – Ambrosius: Last of the Romans. History comes in cycles – we are challenged to read the signs and be ready to oppose tyranny…

Part One of A Light in the Dark Ages series, Abandoned! Is a free download from Amazon Kindle on Wednesday 8th March

http://myBook.to/Abandoned

Part Two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans has just been released and is at the discount price of £1.99/$2.99

http://myBook.to/Ambrosius

Who Was Ambrosius?

This article has been written to provide background information to the release of a new historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, by Tim Walker. Download the e-book from Amazon here:-

http://amazon.com/dp/B06X9S7XQ7

http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B06X9S7XQ7

ambrosius-final-kindle-coverAmbrosius Aurelianus, to give him his full name, was a high king of the Britons in the early Dark Ages, some time after the exit of the Romans in the year 410. The exact dates of his reign, chronological details and physical evidence remain scant, and we must rely on the written accounts of three monks – Gildas (c. 650), Nennius (c.750) and Bede (c. 790), as well as the more fantastical History of the Kings of Briton by Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1140). The Britons shared a culture and language with similar Celtic tribes across northern Europe, a language similar to modern day Welsh.

The closest in time of the surviving accounts of events in the fifth century come from the gloomy On the Ruin of Britain by Welsh monk Gildas, written around the year 550. Here is what he said about Ambrosius:

The poor remnants of our nation… that they might not be brought to utter destruction, took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive.

britannia-fifth-century-mapThe Roman legions marched away between 409-410 never to return, and the Britons were left to defend themselves from various ‘barbarian’ raiders – the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from modern day Denmark and northern Germany, are not deemed to be invaders because they were employed to fight by an early high king named Vortigern (quite possibly a continuation of a tactic employed previously by the Romans). They clearly developed ambitions to settle having seen how green and pleasant England’s countryside was in comparison to their own salty marshes. They were also under pressure in their lands from other barbarian tribes pushing westwards.

Geoffrey of Monmouth is responsible for popularizing the legend of King Arthur and his knights, although there are earlier mentions of Arthur in the writings of Nennius in the eighth century. He more or less has a fifth century line-up of kings of Britain, starting with Constantine, who ‘wore the purple’, presumably as a provincial governor, and who was quickly murdered by ‘cruel and sly’ Vortigern. Vortigern is then defeated by Ambrosius Aurelianus and his brother Uther Pendragon. Uther then succeeds Aurelius, and is in turn succeeded by his son Arthur, with much sorcery from Merlin thrown into the mix. All of this is unproven in terms of hard archaeological facts. What happened where and when and who were the key players remain unanswered questions.

Taking up the story of Ambrosius from Geoffrey of Monmouth, we find the sons of Constantine, Ambrosius and Uther, arriving in Britain from Gaul with an army to confront Vortigern. He was already unpopular with the people for his brutal acts, constant wars and for employing Saxons to fight in his mercenary army:

As soon as news of his [Ambrosius’s] coming was divulged, the Britons, who had been dispersed by their great calamities, met together from all parts… having assembled together the clergy, they anointed Ambrosius king, and paid him the customary homage.

The brothers defeat Vortigern in battle and pursue him to his fortress, called Genoreu, where their attempt to burn him out results in his death. Ambrosius is then the unchallenged high king of the Britons, and ready to form resistance to the spread of the Saxon, Angle and Jute colonists, under brothers Hengist and Horsa.

Therefore, the Saxons, in fear of him, retired beyond the Humber, and in those parts did fortify the cities and towns… this was good news to Ambrosius, who augmented his army and made an expeditious march towards the north.

ambrosius_aurelianus_by_popiusGeoffrey goes on to describe the two armies meeting in battle on a field called Maisbeli, though to be somewhere in South Yorkshire. Again, a date and exact location of this battle is unknown. Another major battle in the late fifth century between the Britons and the Saxons often mentioned is Badon Hill, but again where this is and on what date it happened, and who commanded the Briton army – Ambrosius, Uther or Arthur – remains unknown.

It is widely thought that Geoffrey of Monmouth had supplemented the written sources of information he could muster with a fanciful imagination, perhaps also setting down folk legends that had been passed by word of mouth for generations. It is a masterful work, and all the more tantalising for the sparseness of other historical evidence of those misty days after the Romans departed and before Saxon kingdoms were established.

In my historical fiction series, I have woven a family saga – the Pendragons – taken from the writings of Gildas, Nennius and Geoffrey, surmising that if King Arthur was a real military leader who may have died around the year 537 at the Battle of Camlann (as mentioned in two sources), then there is 127 years of mayhem leading up to this point from the date of the Roman’s departure. My guesswork is that Vortigern ruled some time from 410-440, followed by Ambrosius, perhaps 440-470, then Uther from 470-500 and Arthur from 500-537. This is a conjectural framework for my storytelling in my three-part series, A Light in the Dark Ages.

Part one, Abandoned! tells the story of Marcus Aquilius, a half-Roman half-Briton auxiliary cavalry commander who is left behind by accident in 410 when his legion marches away from the town of Calleva Atrebatum (modern day Silchester in Hampshire). He organizes the defence of his town from a roving Saxon army, as they revert to Briton tribal leadership, and Marcus adopts his mother’s name – Pendragon.

Part two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (just released) is the story of Ambrosius Aurelianus, who returns to Britain in 440 as an experienced soldier to confront high king Vortigern over the murder of his father. He finds Marcus in Calleva, who, as an elder of the town, guides him through the murky political waters of tribal jealousies and divisions. In time he becomes king, that much is already told, but what happens to him, and how does the succession pass to his brother Uther?

Part three – Uther’s Destiny, is a work in progress. Together, they build up to the coming of Arthur, a story too well known to be re-told with any conviction. I choose to end with Arthur as a boy, and his destiny stretching before him. He is the intended Light in the Dark Ages; but having read about the exploits of Ambrosius Aurelianus, the Divine One, I’m now of a mind to give him the title.