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Literature / The History Of Arturius Aurelianus

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Listen thee well, son of Artorius Draconarius. Since you have insisted thrice I will not withhold my knowledge. But let this be known at the final prophecy of Emrys Moridunius. You will die, not tonight nor tomorrow, nor in many days hence, but slain by your own blood and forgotten forever by history, but never by legend.
Merlin, prophesying Arthur's fate.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/arthur_shield.png
The shield of Arturius, bearing the inscription "IHS" (In hoc signo vincesnote )
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The History of Arturius Aurelianus (also called Historia Arturii Aureliani) is a work of fiction hosted on AlternateHistory.com, written by the user "Tom Colton", and explores Arthurian myth through a pseudo-historical lens, drawing upon the earliest mentions of King Arthur and subsequent literature, especially Historia Brittonum and Historia Regum Britanniae, also incorporating Welsh traditions concerning Arthur and his retinue.

The literary device used is that the text is a Fictional Document written Paul Aurelian, a real-life Welsh/Breton saint who in-universe claims a connection via shared cognomen with the Romano-British war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus through Arthur, who in line with Historia Regum Britanniae is Ambrosius's nephew. Paul writes his account as a direct response to the only contemporary account of the times, a screed by St. Gildas which omits Arthur, explaining later in the text that Gildas's deliberate omission is nothing less than an Unpersoning of Arthur for their past contention.

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Paul's work, Historia Arturii Aureliani, goes into the history of Britain and the coming of the Saxons, and those who rose up and fought them. Many of the familiar characters such as Arthur, Kay, Bedivere, Gawain, Guinevere, Merlin, Mordred turn up, but not quite in the way one might think at times...

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The History of Arturius Aurelianus provides examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: Paul Aurelian uses descriptions from The Book of Revelation to underscore just how many Britons have fallen to war, plague, famine and internal strife.
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Arthur does this with a bronze head of Claudius said to possess magical power, syncretising the archaeological find with a triad saying he chucked the head of Bran the Blessed into the sea, leading to Britain's ruin.
  • All Myths Are True: Inverted Trope in that this is supposed to inspire the various other Arthurian legends, since this is meant to predate all their manuscripts.
  • Artifact of Doom: Crocea Mors (called Coccina Mors in-universe), the sword of Julius Caesar whose touch is claimed to be instantly lethal. Despite getting impaled by it, Arthur draws himself up the sword to kill Mordred.
  • Artistic Licence – History: There is little to no historical proof of any of the events of this story, except perhaps for the Battle of Badon Hill.
    • Like Gildas, Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall are ascribed to Septimius Severus.
    • The line of Constantine III is extended through his second son Julian, who in reality was executed along with him.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Paul Aurelian, being a churchman, peppers his account with Biblical quotes, reaching critical mass during the Grail Quest.
  • Berserk Button: Killing Arthur's companions or kidnapping his wife tends to end poorly for their perpetrators.
  • Bigger Bad: The Emperor Justinian for Lucius Tiberius.
  • Climax Boss: The procurator Lucius Tiberius, emissary and general of Rome, defeated man-to-man by Arthur in Brittany.
  • Composite Character:
    • Anna (Arthur's sister and Gawain's mother, better known as Morgause) with Gwyar (Arthur's sister and Gwalchmai's mother in earlier Welsh sourcesnote ), under the name "Corinna" (with cor in Latin meaning "gore", i.e. "Gwyar")
    • Culhwch with Perceval/Peredur and Colus, a name attested to by the so-called "Artognou Stone".
    • Gwenhwyfach with False Guinevere.
    • Llacheu with Loholt, both sons of Arthur in seperate legends who meet premature ends.
    • Mordred with Amr, a son of Arthur's only known for being killed by him and getting buried in a grave of variable size.
  • Cool Sword: Excalibur, the original. Crocea Mors, the sword of Julius Caesar also turns up, and Arthur gifts it to Mordred in a parallel with Clarent. Mordred kills Arthur with it.
  • Crapsack World: Britain. It's constantly getting invaded and even all of Ambrosius's, Uther's and Arthur's efforts aren't enough to expel the Saxons, and even though Arthur manages about 20 years of peace between Badon Hill and Camlann, it all falls apart with his death.
  • The Dark Ages / The Low Middle Ages: The setting, and squarely set in it unlike most interpretations of Arthurian legend.
  • Demythification: To an extent; most events are given naturalistic explanations and are expressed vaguely enough to become interpreted as the myths we recognise.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Aelle of Sussex, slain during the Battle of Badon Hill.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Although there are still supernatural / divine events within the text, Paul Aurelian tries to give mundane explanations to some of them:
    • Instead of magical transmutation, Uther adops Gorlois's guise by killing him and wearing his clothes.
    • St. Cadoc simply runs white calves through a ford dyed with red water to produce cows which are "half red and half white" to foil what Arthur thinks is an Impossible Task.
  • Evil Chancellor:
    • Vortigern to Constantius III, fictional descendant of Constantine III and King of the Britons
    • Mordred to Arthur.
  • Evil Twin: Gwenhwyfach to Guinevere.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: Arthur finds a Roman sword made "of steel" (chalybeius) which breaks in combat, and a new sword is reforged "from the steel" (ex chalybeius). The original sword was found in a cave, so it is said to be "drawn from the stones".
  • Final Boss: Mordred at Camlann.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Both by dint of it being an Arthurian retelling and Paul Aurelian harping on about how it all ends in tears.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: This text's interpretation of the Battle of Mons Agned, in which Arthur lights a pyre atop Arthur's Seat to summon the Britons' allies.
  • Good Is Not Nice: It doesn't pay for it to be so in the time period in which this is set, but Arthur takes several divergences from his usual portrayal as The Good King.
    • As this retelling syncretises several accounts of churchmen's lives in which Arthur is portrayed antagonistically, this is to be expected; Arthur's not above ambushing and outnumbering opponents, and outright spills blood into (i.e. just outside of) a church when Melwas / Meleagant gives himself up thinking he'll be let go despite holding Guinevere hostage.
  • Heroic Bastard:
    • Llacheu, Arthur's extramarital son with the Lady Lisanor.
    • Arthur himself was conceived in bigamy, but Uther and Igraine marry just before he's born.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • Brutus of Troy is transplanted in time to Pytheas's voyage, with the island still named during said journey but after him instead of the Picts.
    • Arthur gets inspiration for his shield in the exact same way Constantine does.
    • The Grail Quest is set during the Samaritan Revolt of 529-531, and its entire theology is related to the Monophysite Controversy.
  • Legacy Hero: The Epilogue features characters who base themselves on Arthur and Merlin in a bid to liberate the island. Even though this Arthur is the great-grandson (and namesake) of Arturius and this Merlin is the "original" Myrddin Wyllt, it's not enough.
  • Meaningful Name: Two competing theories for the origin of Arthur's name are both used.
    • Arthur's birth name is Artorius, inherited all the way from the Roman officer Lucius Artorius Castus who lived centuries ago. Lucius's family had adopted Arthur's ancestor.
    • Arthur is dubbed Arturius, "man of the bear", after he slays a bear on his own. Since the fictional document is in Latin, Arturius is meant to be the Latinized version of a British/Welsh name meaning "man of the bear" or "bear man", i.e. Arthur or rather Artur note 
  • Meaningful Rename/Red Baron:
    • Artorius becomes known as Artur/Arthur/Arturius, as above, roughly meaning "the Bear Guy" in the Britons' native language.
    • His father Artorius Draconarius is said to have taken a native name which means "the Dreaded". This is the origin of "Uther" (uthr or uthyr) though Paul Aurelian doesn't write it as is.
  • Mutual Kill: The Trope Codifier itself, Arthur and Mordred.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • The Nameless: Merlin initially just goes by Moridunius (of the sea-fortress) because his mother suffered Death by Childbirth in a convent and he never was named; Subverted later on when he eventually meets Ambrosius Aurelianus and adopts his name.
  • No Name Given: As this is both an Arthurian story and written to be a plausible antecedent to latter sources which have a tenuous grasp of history, several characters and historical figures are described but not named.
    • Although Brutus of Troy is on Pytheas's ship, the Greek explorer himself goes unnamed.
    • Neither Boudica nor Calgacus are named despite their rebellions being mentioned in the story's history.
    • Count Theodosius and his son the Emperor Theodosius, along with their roles in defeating the Great Conspiracy and Magnus Maximus respectively, are described but not actually named.
    • The name Gorlois for Igraine's husband doesn't turn up before Historia Regum Britanniae so he's simply called the Duke of Dumnonia (Cornwall).
    • Justinian is simply called "The Emperor in Rome".
    • Subverted with Timothy the Chanter, who's introduced as a nameless Fisher King but drops his name as a Brick Joke later.
  • Rule of Three: As this is also based on Welsh poetry, this turns up a lot.
    • The text is divided into six books of nine segments each, and three segments form a pericope each.
    • Love Potion is deployed thrice, and has disastrous effects each time.
    • Arthur asks Merlin about his future thrice before Merlin caves in, invoking the trope.
    • Arthur fights twelve battles against the Saxons and the Picts.
    • Arthur has three courts at Celliwig, Caerleon and Camulodunum.
    • Of Arthur's twenty-four companions, three (Kay, Bedivere and Gawain) are listed as exemplars.
    • Arthur has three "children": Llacheu, Arturius Minor and Mordred, who's his heir.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny figure into this rendition of the Grail Quest.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": As the text is nominally supposed to be in Latin, Latinised versions of the characters' names are used; where these don't exist in other texts, attempts are made at transliterations and translations.
    • Arthur: Arturius
    • Bedivere: Bedvero
    • Gawain: Galvanus Valens
    • Guinevere: Guinhuamara
    • Kay: Caius
    • Llacheu: Lilaceus
    • Merlin / Myrddin / Emrys: Ambrosius Moridunius
    • Mordred: Moderatus
    • Uther Pendragon: Artorius Draconarius
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: The "disappearance" of the 9th Legion Hispana, which provides Arthur with a semi-plausible source for Excalibur and his companions' plate armour.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Despite Arthur killing Gildas's brother the churchman still forgives him, but it's when Arthur kills Melwas despite his assurance that he'd be let go despite kidnapping Guinevere that Gildas actively tries to Unperson him.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Mordred and Gwenhwyfach, who's also his aunt-in-law.
  • Unperson:
    • Paul Aurelian accuses Gildas of doing this to Uther and Arthur, justifying the whole account in the first place to tell the "true story".
    • He himself does it to Diocletian, who he only calls "the Antichrist in Rome" who began the Age of the Martyrs, and Vortigern, who he calls by name once or twice then reverts to "the proud usurper" thereafter.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The entire section based on the lives of the saints whom Arthur crosses.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Uther is besieging Tintagel as Gorlois is holding Igraine hostage, and threatens to kill their child (i.e. Arthur) the moment he's born, giving some urgency to the whole matter once the siege enters its ninth month.
  • Yin-Yang Clash: Excalibur, wielded by Arthur, is described as unbreakable (once reforged) and Crocea Mors, wielded by Mordred, as so deadly wounds lain by it are instantly lethal, and they clash at Camlann. They break each other, and Mordred stabs Arthur with the broken half of Crocea Mors.
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