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The Sword in the Stone: True Story

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Marge has asked me to explain how I figured out the story of young King Arthur drawing the sword from the stone, and thus becoming king, was a true story. Here’s my argument:

Herodotus said the nomadic peoples of South Russia, who had no real temples, used to worship their gods by heaping up a pile of stones and thrusting a sword into it. Among these peoples were the Sarmatians.

The Romans stationed Sarmatian cavalry in Britain. When the Romans abandoned Britain in 415 A.D., some of the soldiers chose to stay. The Sarmatian cavalry stayed.

All the old sources portray Arthur as a war-leader who won victories all over Britain. He must have relied on cavalry; foot soldiers couldn’t have reached such widely-separated battlefields in the time allowed. Hence the tradition of Arthur and his mounted knights.

Now imagine a young Christian war-leader, desperate to defend his homeland from invaders, casting his eyes on the Sarmatian cavalry troops, pagans, but also the best and most experienced cavalry in Britain–and seeing them praying to a sword thrust into a pile of stones. What would happen if he walked up and pulled the sword out of the stones, and called on these horse-soldiers to rise up and follow him?

I think they would have either killed him on the spot, or else been swept away by his boldness and become his men.

It could’ve happened that way.

I had this figured out early in the 1980s but hadn’t a clue as to how to publish it, or where. A few more years went by; and then, alas, I discovered that someone else had since come along with the same theory, published it in an academic journal, and left me twiddling my thumbs.


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