Matter of Britain  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Matter of Britain is a name given collectively to the legends that concern the Celtic and legendary history of Great Britain, especially those focused on King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The 12th century French poet Jean Bodel created the name in the following lines of his epic Chanson de Saisnes:

Ne sont que III matières à nul homme atandant,
De France et de Bretaigne, et de Rome la grant.
(translation: "There are but 3 literary cycles that no man should be without: the matter of France, of Britain, and of great Rome".)

The name distinguishes and relates the Matter of Britain from the mythological themes taken from classical antiquity, the "matter of Rome", and the tales of the paladins of Charlemagne and their wars with the Moors and Saracens, which constituted the "matter of France". While Arthur is the chief subject of the Matter of Britain, other lesser-known legendary history of Great Britain, including the stories of Brutus of Britain, Old King Cole, King Lear, and Gogmagog, is also included in the Matter of Britain: see Legendary Kings of the Britons.

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