King Arthur: an Iranian forgotten heritage?

I just watched the movie King Arthur (2004). In this movie of King Arthur Legend I found an interesting distinction. King Arthur knights are described as descendants of Sarmartians knights brought by Roman to Britain as a result of their bravery in fight against Romans.

King Arthur (2004) movie trailer

Sarmatians were capable mounted warriors originally from Central Asia. They spoke Iranian languages and had cultural, artistic, linguistic and martial arts connection with other Iranian people namely Persian, Medians, Parthians and so on. Alans were one of Sarmatians tribes who were famous for their cavalry abilities. Roman historians described Alano-Sarmatians as good-looking warriors. They further spread in Europe and northern Africa and supposedly left their footprint on:

  • Some city names: for example  Allaines/ France, Allainville and Eure-et-Loir/France, Catalonia (= Goth+Alonia )/ region in Spain occupied with Alans and Goths by early 5th century,
  • First names: such as Alan,
  • European folklore: such as Arthur King Legend, we will discuss it later on in this post,
  • European art and architecture: Alans brought their art and architecture style to Europe which was a combination of Iranian and Greek and other styles. This combined style later became basis for Gothic Architecture,
  • Iranian folklore: In Shahnameh they are traced back to Salm brother of Tur (father of Turan) and Iraj (father of Iran). These three were sons of Fereydun, showing their Aryan origin. Their name  is mentioned in Shahnameh in a number of occasions:

یکی مرز ویران و بیکار دید   ز دریا به راه الانان کشید

Although Ferdowsi, the author of Shahnameh does not explicitly mention their Iranian origin but just their Aryan origin (Slam being brother of Iraj) and explains the fights between Iranian and Alanian but  the reader should keep this in mind that Alans were indeed Iranian and called themselves Ironi (=Iranian) and spoke Eastern Iranian languages.

  • Ossetian folkloreOssetians are the only contemporary Alano-Sarmatian people. Their epic, Nart Sagas, is indeed based on Alans mythology.

Lets return to the movie King Arthur which is developed on top of the theory that King Arthur tale has indeed Sarmatians origin. This claim received negative reception amongst some audiences in Britain. I am convinced that this tale has its roots in Samartians (A branch of Iranian people)  heavy cavalry troops stationed by Romans in Britain. This was indeed the result of  groundbreaking research by C. Scott Littleton and Ann Thomas. They concluded that in 2nd century a number of Alano-Sarmatians troops who were originally step nomads were recruited by Romans and transported to northern Roman Britain. Scott Littleton and Ann Thomas suggested Lucius Artorius Castus as possible historical King Arthur. There are many parallels between Alano-Sarmatians and King Arthur knights legend:

1- Cataphracts: Both King Arthur knights and Sarmatian knights were heavily armored and followed some kind of code of conduct. Something similar to Javanmardi principle of their Persian and Parthian cousins (other Iranian people and founders of some great dynasties in Iran/Persia).

2- The importance of swords: The same way as Sarmatians, King Arthur knights greatly cherished their swords. One can say they almost worshiped their swords. They even buried their fellow warriors by thrusting his sword in his grave. I guess the following screenshot from the movie and its comparison with Alano-Sarmatians will help.

(Right: ) Alano-Sarmatian burial tradition by thrusting their swords into the earth, ( Left:) A screen shot of the 2004 movie King Arthur directed by Antoine Fuqua showing tradition of thrusting swords into the earth by Knights of the Round Table.

To further stress the importance of swords by the Arthurian legends, I believe there is no need to mention the significance of Excalibur, King Arthur’s own sword.

3- Similarity of tales: the Ossetian (Iranic ethnic group and Samartians’ descendants) tale of Nart saga demonstrates striking parallels with King Arthur legend:. For example Batraz who is the greatest warrior in Nart saga has a special spiritual connection to his sword and the sword is thrown in the ocean as he dies. In Nart saga there are similar concepts such as Cup of the Narts (=Arthurian Holy Grail) and white dressed magical women associated with water (=Arthurian Lady of the Lake) .

There are some who believe Samartian just influenced King Arthur Tale rather than being it historical basis. I guess much more unbiased research should be conducted regarding this theory. Recently it was announced that researchers may have found King Arthur’s Round Table in Scotland. For more on Sarmatians I suggest this Osprey Publishing book:

The Sarmatians 600 BC-AD 450 (Men-at-Arms)- Osprey Publishing/ Richard Brzezinski (Author), Gerry Embleton (Illustrator)

For more on Samartians origin of King Arthur tale please consult this article by János Makkayof  in Dr. Farrokh website or the book: From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Holy Grail (Arthurian Characters and Themes) / C. Scott Littleton and  Linda A. Malcor .

In King Arthur movie, there are some inaccuracies in knights’ clothing , religious history (for example Pelagius was already dead on that time) and the military technology. The other issue is that I wish the movie producers mentioned the fact that Samartian are indeed Iranian people. However, I did not regret spending my time to watch this movie.

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2 comments on “King Arthur: an Iranian forgotten heritage?

  1. caucasus seems to be a melting pot of not only peoples but important world literature motifs…as
    iran is related to the area… It is a long way Arthur traveled to Scotland…

  2. constantly i used to read smaller content which
    as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this
    paragraph which I am reading at this time.

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