Roma as Character: The Role of Rome in Historia Regum Britanniae
By Stephen Brown
Labyrinth: An online journal published by the Classical Studies Department of the University of Waterloo, Issue 88 (2007)
Introduction: A reader with even a casual familiarity with ancient history realizes quickly that Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae is a not altogether factual source of knowledge for the period he chronicles. Although his narrative makes for compelling reading, it is a curious amalgam of three types of information. First, it is an account of historical events; but it also relates legends and traditional stories of bygone days as if they were equally true; and lastly there are certainly passages which are a product of Geoffrey’s own creative process. Devotion to accuracy of sources does not seem to be an important feature of his writing, but one is swept along by the sheer exuberance of the chronicle. His history of the original Britons, the Celtic peoples who inhabited Britain before the arrival of the Saxons, also encompasses the wider story of the western world of the time, that being Rome and its empire, and of the Roman people who were, according to Geoffrey, closely related to the Britons.