Round Table (Camelot)

From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Round Table (disambiguation).

In the legend of King Arthur, the Round Table was a mystical table in Camelot around which King Arthur and his knights sat to discuss matters crucial to the security of the realm. In some versions, the wizard Merlin also has a seat.

Many different stories account for its origin: everything from an enchantment by Merlin, to a gift from some unknown duke.

There is no "head of the table" at a round table, and so no one person is at a privileged position. Thus the several knights were all peers and there was no "leader" as there were at so many other medieval tables. There are indications of other circular seating arrangements to avoid conflicts among early Celtic groups. However, one could infer importance on the basis of the number of seats each knight was removed from the king. Perhaps at each meeting King Arthur let his knights be seated at random without knowing where he might sit that day. The siège périlleux ("dangerous chair") was reserved to knights of pure heart.

There are many different estimates of the total number of the knights of the round table. If there were 25 knights, then the diameter of the table would have been around 25 feet, which is a rather large separation across which to maintain a polite conversation. If there were 100 knights, knights sitting across the table from each other would have been around 100 feet (30 m) apart. Some students of this arcane subject say that the table was constructed in segments and had a hollow center. Such a construction would have saved greatly on raw materials, and could have facilitated serving food to the knights. Since not even a picture of the round table remains from the time that Arthur is said to have reigned, the whole matter is one of total speculation.

Imitation of the Arthurian Round Table

Also in inspiration of this legend, "a combination of jousting, feasting and dancing" called a Round Table was performed as an organized activity in conscious imitation of King Arthur and his court during the late Middle Ages. Participants would dress in the costume of such well-known knights as Lancelot, Tristan, and Palamedes. The first recorded instance of this activity was in 1223, when the Crusader lord of Beirut held one in Cyprus to celebrate the knighting of his eldest sons.

Round Tables were an aristocratic activity throughout Europe from the 13th century in to the 15th century. They are recorded as occurring in France from 1235 to 1332. In Aragon they were held as early as 1269 in Valencia to as late as 1291 in Calatayud in 1291. According to R.S. Loomis, "Popes and prelates thundered against these costly, dengerous, and sometimes licentious frivolities, and denied Christian burial to those who took part."

Even the middle classes were caught up in this spectacle. In 1281, a burgher of Magdeburg announced a Round Table in that town. Another was set up by the burghers of Tournai in 1330.

England came late to this craze. Edward I held one in 1284 to celebrate his conquest of Wales, and is recorded as sponsoring several as late as 1304. One artifact that has survived from this craze in England is the "Winchester Round Table" in the Great Hall at Winchester Castle. This table is currently dated, by dendrochronology, the patterns of its tree rings, to timbers cut about 1275, the reign of King Edward I [1] (, though a royal provenance is not proven so far. The present "Winchester Round Table" was painted in 1522 under an order of King Henry VIII. The places at the table are divided up with alternating green and white panels with the name of each of the knights written in gold. However it is King Henry VIII's portrait that is painted at King Arthur's place and the Tudor red rose that adorns the table's center.

In 1345, a Round Table in England led to the founding of an order of 300 knights, which later became the Order of the Garter.


  • R.S. Loomis, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, chapter 41 "Arthurian Influence on Sport and Spectacle". Oxford, 1959.

External link

pl:Rycerze Okrągłego Stołu


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