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March 14 , 2010

Arthurian Chronicles: Roman de Brut


Roman de Brut (c. 1155) was based on the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It cannot be regarded as a history in any modern sense, although Wace often distinguishes between what he knows and what he does not know, or has been unable to find out. Wace narrates the founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy to the end of the legendary British history created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The popularity of this work is explained by the new accessibility to a wider public of the Arthur legend in a vernacular language. In the midst of the Arthurian section of the text, Wace was the first to mention the legend of King Arthur's Round Table and the first to ascribe the name Excalibur to Arthur's sword, although on the whole he adds only minor details to Geoffrey's text.

The Roman de Brut became the basis, in turn, for Layamon's Brut, an alliterative Middle English poem, and Piers Langtoft's Chronicle. Historian Matthew Bennett, in an article entitled "Wace and warfare," has pointed out that Wace clearly had a good understanding of contemporary warfare, and that the details of military operations he invents to flesh out his accounts of pseudo-historical conflicts can therefore be of value in understanding the generalities of warfare in Wace's own time.

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