We are in the year 100 BC, in what is today south Wales, where roman soldiers were probably in search of an evening’s entertainment. They have probably gone to the amphitheater in the Isca Augusta fortress, that now is a well-preserved site of Roman culture. But over the centuries, long after the Romans were gone, the amphitheater gained notoriety for an entirely different reason. Tradition states that it was also the site of King Arthur’s famous Round Table.
Historically, the amphitheater was built around the year 90 AD outside fortress walls that dated back around 74 AD and it remains an impressive sight today. It is a testament to expanding Roman control, and the events that took place at the site, like animal hunts, gladiator battles or military parades, glorified that aggressive spirit. It could have been used for various games, military and religious festivals, or as a training or parade ground, exhibitions very popular for the time. Over 6,000 spectators could fill the seats, more people than were serving in the second Roman legion occupying the area.
The association with King Arthur is thanks to the historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, which after visiting Wales in the late 12th century, wrote about the amphitheatre as King Arthur’s court. His reports, of course, are easily contested in the absence of other evidence, but their influence reached lot of fame. In 1405, an invading French force even visited the site because of its association with the fabled king. Naturally, the National Museum of Wales has fueled this myth as it tried to raise funds for excavations around the Caerleon area in 1926 and for increase the tourism of this area.