Knights of the Round Table - King Arthur
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Knights of the Round Table

Lancelot to the rescue! Notice the importance
of his strong steel sword

In the early Middle Ages, poets and story-tellers were telling a lot of different stories about knights and ladies and their adventures. When people wanted all of these stories to be tied together somehow, the poets came up with the idea of the Knights of the Round Table. It's a framing story, like the framing story in the earlier Odyssey, the Mahabharata, or the Arabian Nights. A poet named Wace wrote the earliest written description of the Round Table, about 1150 AD.

The table was at the court of King Arthur, and it was round so that all his knights could sit at it without anyone seeming more important than anybody else: they would all be equal to each other (though not to women, or peasants, who couldn't even sit at the table).

Some of the most famous Knights of the Round Table were Sir Kay, Sir Gawain, Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristan, and Sir Mordred.

Bibliography and further reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table:

Tristan and Isolde
Lancelot and Guinevere
Arthur and Mordred
Arthur and Morgaine
Medieval literature home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 25 April, 2017