The ‘Vita Columba’ is older, by several hundred years, than any other mythical account of Arthur to be found in England or Wales. It is at least a century earlier than the famous Welsh ‘Nennius’ manuscript, which also mentions Arthur, but fails to say who he was. So, the ‘Vita Columba’ from Scotland is clearly the oldest manuscript in the world which mentions king Aidan and his son Arthur. Aidan was king of the Scots from AD 574 to AD 608.
Adomnan’s work was an attempt to prove his predecessor Columba was a saint. However, throughout the work, he mentioned historical figures of the 6th century AD. Including Aiden and his sons and in a rarity, a sister, or in this case a half-sister of Arthur. Adomnan places Aiden and Arturius in Dalriada (modern day Argyll), which lay on the west coast of Scotland, and of his death in battle at the hands of the Miathi Picts, who inhabited the Ochill Hills on the north bank of the River Forth in Scotland. Their name is retained in the hill called “Dumyat”, meaning “Fort of the Miathi”.
Adomnan’s manuscript is an almost contemporary account, written as it was less than one hundred years after the death of Arthur. It predates any evidence anywhere else in the British Isles. Further more, it is accepted beyond doubt by historians as genuine.
Another source of historical evidence which mentions Arthur, son of Aidan, is the “Annals of Tighernac”, where his name is spelled “Artuir”. These Annals were copied from earlier sources in the 11th century AD by an Irish monk called Tighernac.
As the Scots had migrated from Ireland to what we now call Scotland, their early history was recorded by the Irish/Scottish monks. Therefore, when Aidan became king of the Scots many accounts of him - and by association his sons, including Arthur - were recorded by these monks.
In the extract from the Annals for the year AD 596 Arthur is mentioned. “Cath Ratha in druadh cath Ardsendoim. Jugulacio filiorum Aedan, .I Bran Domangort, Eochach find Artuir I cath Chirchind in quo victus est Aedhan cath Coraind.” Translation: “Death of the sons of Aidan. Bran, Domingart, Eochach Find, Arthur at the battle of Chirchind, in which Aidan was victorious”.
The only reliable historical sources are those mentioned above, and both call Arthur the son of king Aidan. Aidan and he and his sons, including Arthur, fought on the side of the Britons against the Picts and Saxons. So, Arthur was connected with what we now call Scotland, and never with Wales or Cornwall.
In the 7th century chronicle The Life of St. Columba the real St. Columba was an adviser to King Aiden. St. Columba was noted for his powers of prophesy. In the legend of King Arthur his adviser, Merlin, also had the gift of prophesy.
There was a prophecy of Saint Columba regarding King Aidan’s sons. The saint questioned king Aidan about a successor to the kingdom. When he answered that he did not know which of his three sons should reign, Arthur, or Echoid Find, or Domingart, the saint then spoke in this manner: "None of these three will be king; for they will fall in battles, slain by enemies. But now, if you have others that are younger, let them come to me, and the one whom the Lord has chosen from among them to be king will run at once to my knee”.
They were called, according to the saint's word; and when Echoid Buide came in, he leaned on Columba’s bosom. Immediately the saint kissed and blessed him and said to the father: “This is the survivor, and he will reign after you as king; and his sons will reign after him”.
All these prophecies were completely fulfilled. For Arthur and Echoid Find were slain in the battle of the Miathi. Domingart was killed in a rout of a battle in Northumbria. And Echoid Buide succeeded to the kingdom after his father.
Adomnan gives no date for the death of Arthur in the battle of the Miathi. However, “The Annals of Ulster”, reliable Irish annals which fortunately record the early history of the Scots, record the battle of Manann for the year AD 582. This could quite possibly be the same battle as the battle of the Miathi mentioned in Adomnan's account, because the Miathi Picts lived in the Ochill Hills, directly opposite Manann, which lay across the River Forth.
The Scotichronicon, a fifteenth century history of Scotland written by two authors, John of Fordon and Walter Bower does mention Arthur, but little else. So how did Arthur slip away from Scotland and skip below the Borders?
This leads us back to the troubadours. Imagine yourself sitting in front of a group of villagers who are hanging on your every word. You must entertain them or you will leave the village without your daily fare. So, what kind of tale would you spin? Would you say once there was a young man, the son of a king. But he died young in a battle. The end. Boo, hiss, charlatan! They are looking for an escape from the drudgery of daily life. You would have been run out of town.
Or would you weave a tale containing adventure, romance and victory? There once was a handsome young man named Arthur. He was the first son of the king and he had his own castle. He was brave and a mighty warrior, beloved by his people. Then, you would embellish it from there. As JRR Tolkin prophetically said about writing The Lord of The Rings “The tale grew in the telling.”
Popular myth and Hollywood holds that King Arthur was either English or Welsh Briton. The origins of these myths can be traced back to the mid twelfth century, when William of Malmesbury had written an