Explorations in Arthurian Legends
First and foremost of these followers were the Knights of the Round Table. That the greatest knight in skill of arms, Lancelot, pledged his loyalty to Arthur is testament to the fact that the king was worthy of such admiration, both as a king and as a warrior.
For war was a way of life in Arthur's day. Just after he pulled the Sword from the Stone, he hurried to Bedegraine and defeated a rogue band of 11 powerful men who had rebelled against his leadership.
He faced constant pressure from the Saxons and the Picts and the Irish and (according to Malory, who got it from Geoffrey) the Romans; in the end, he faced a mortal threat from his own men.
He was also the backdrop against which many other advenures took place. Beginning with Chretien de Troyes, writers wrote adventures of Arthur's knights, telling us of their wonderful adventures and of courtly love. The court, of course, was Arthur's. In a sense, Arthur was moved above the day-to-day adventures his knights was having and put on a pedestal as the symbol of what a knight could hope to achieve.
He was also the one whom everyone looked up to and whom everyone trusted to pass judgment if they had a dispute. Important men bowed to his authority and his wisdom He held court and was the arbiter of justice. He made his own laws and enforced them himself, with the respect of his subjects. He fought in battles and sent his knights out to do battle. As such, he was both king and battle commander.
As the legend writers searched for deeper meanings, they found the Holy Grail; with it, they found it sin. Arthur was said to have conceived a son out of wedlock; Guinevere was said to have consummated her affair with Lancelot. Both of these acts were sins. With the Holy Grail the symbol of true knightly goodness, the picture of Arthur as all that is good and right was weakened; so, too, with Arthur's failure to eradicate the adultery in his midst. The idea, which had been building for a while, that his rule was intertwined with the fate of the country was shaken to its core.
As the legend writers tied a knight's goodness to piety, they tied Arthur's fate inextricably to a bad end. The king who was the symbol of the prosperity of the nation and the land was sick in his heart and his soul and had sinned against his God; the nation and the land would surely suffer as well.
And so Arthur died or was mortally wounded (take your pick) in a battle as a battle commander who was king of all the land
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