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Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

From Scythia to Camelot

From Scythia to Camelot, Scott Littleton and Linda Malcor, Routledge, 2000 (revised ed.)

Colarusso: Nart Sagas of the Caucasus, Princeton, 2002.

Bachrach: History of the Alans in the West, Minnesota, 1973.

Darko, E., “Influences Touraniennes Sur l’Evolution de l’Art Militaire des Grecs, des Romans, et des Byzantins”, Byzantion #10, 1935.

“The Secret History of the Mongols and Western Literature“, John Emerson

This book argues that many of the main themes of the Arthurian legend can be traced back to the myths of the Alans — Northern Iranian nomads whose cavalry units served in the late Roman military. This kind of thing is right down my alley, and I mentioned this book in an earlier piece without having read it yet. A strong case can be made that the equestrian military forms and equipage of the medieval European aristocracy can be traced back to Alanic antecedents from the early Dark Ages, and this book merely extends this case to the literary culture of chivalry.

The methodology is philological, pre-structuralist, and pre-postmodern. The easy way out would be to follow Levi-Strauss or Deleuze and read it as mere proliferation — just another version of the myth, no truer than any other and part of a long series beginning with the Breton poets, Wace, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Sir Thomas Malory, et. al. and ending with T.H. White and Lerner and Loewe. (Alan Lerner, as it happens.)

But what Littleton and Malcor want to do is just the opposite: they’re saying that in actual fact, the Arthurian legends (which have always been set in the distant past) came into existence within the mixed Alano-Celto-Roman elites holding out in Britain and Brittany after 400 A.D. or so (at which time the legends referred back to a Roman soldier of two centuries earlier). Beyond that, they argue that those themes in the Briton-Breton legends which are shared with the Nart sagas of the Ossetes in the Caucasus (descendents of the Alans and of the Scythians) can ultimately be traced back to the pre-Roman steppe, rather than to Britain or Brittany.

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Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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