Some time ago I posted a blog article on a radical idea, i.e. that the crippled boy in the c. 446-7 A.D. story of St. Germanus and Elafius ( = Elesa, father of Cerdic), as found in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, was a reference to Arthur/Artorius (or Artri/Arthri). Now that I've completed THE BEAR KING, which promotes Cerdic of Wessex as the Arthur, I thought I would go ahead and offer this up once more.
Here is the text and modern English translation of the relevant portion of Constantius’s Vita of St. Germanus:
 NEC multo interposito tempore nuntiatur ex eadem insula Pelagianam peruersitatem iterato paucis auctoribus dilatari; rursusque ad beatissimum uirum preces sacerdotum omnium deferuntur, ut causam Dei, quam prius obtinuerat, tutaretur. Quorum petitioni festinus obtemperat. Namque adiuncto sibi Seuero, totius sanctitatis uiro, qui erat discipulus beatissimi patris Lupi Trecasenorum episcopi, et tunc Treuiris ordinatus episcopus, gentibus primae Germaniae uerbum praedicabat, mare conscendit, et consentientibus elementis, tranquillo nauigio Brittanias petit.
Interea sinistri spiritus peruolantes totam insulam Germanum uenire inuitis uaticinationibus nuntiabant; in tantum, ut Elafius quidam, regionis illius primus, in occursu sanctorum sine ulla manifesti nuntii relatione properaret, exhibens secum filium, quem in ipso flore adulescentiae debilitas dolenda damnauerat. Erat enim arescentibus neruis contracto poplite, cui per siccitatem cruris usus uestigii negabatur. Hunc Elafium prouincia tota subsequitur; ueniunt sacerdotes, occurrit inscia multitudo, confestim benedictio et sermonis diuini doctrina profunditur. Recognoscunt populum in ea, qua reliquerat, credulitate durantem; intellegunt culpam esse paucorum, inquirunt auctores, inuentosque condemnant. Cum subito Elafius pedibus aduoluitur sacerdotum, offerens filium, cuius necessitatem ipsa debilitas etiam sine precibus adlegabat; fit communis omnium dolor, praecipue sacerdotum, qui conceptam misericordiam ad diuinam clementiam contulerunt; statimque adulescentem beatus Germanus sedere conpulit, adtrectat poplitem debilitate curuatum, et per tota infirmitatis spatia medicabilis dextera percurrit, salubremque tactum sanitas festina subsequitur. Ariditas sucum, nerui officia receperunt, et in conspectu omnium filio incolumitas, patri filius restituitur...
Meanwhile evil spirits, flying over the whole island, made known through the involuntary prophecies of their victims the coming of Germanus, with the result that one of the leading men in the country, Elafius by name, came hurrying to meet the holy men without having had any news of them through any regular messenger. He brought with him his son who had been crippled in early youth by a grievous malady. His sinews had withered and the tendons of the knee had contracted and his withered leg made it impossible for him to stand on his feet.
The whole province came along with Elafius. The bishops arrived and the crowds came upon them unexpectedly. At once blessings and the words of God were showered upon them. Germanus could see that the people as a whole had persevered in the faith in which he had left them and the bishops realized that the fallings-away had been the work only of a few. These were identified and formally condemned.
At this point Elafius approached to make obeisance to the bishops and presented to them his son, whose youth and helplessness made his need clear without words. Everyone felt acutely for him, the bishops most of all, and in their pity they had recourse to the mercy of God. The blessed Germanus at once made the boy sit down, then felt the bent knee and ran his healing hand over all the diseased parts. Health speedily followed the life-giving touch. What was withered became supple, the sinews resumed their proper work, and, before the eyes of all, the son got back a sound body and the father got back a son...
When I read the description carefully of Elafius's son's lameness, I happened to think of the following words (from Lewis and Short's Latin dictionary):
arto (not arcto ), āvi, ātum, 1, v. a. 1. artus,
I.to draw or press close together, to compress, contract (not found in Cic.).
I. A.. Lit.: omnia conciliatu artari possunt, * Lucr. 1, 576: “libros,” Mart. 1, 3, 3; Col. 12, 44, 2: “vitis contineri debet vimine, non artari,” Plin. 17, 23, 35, § 209: “angustias eas artantibusinsulis parvis, quae etc.,” id. 3, 6, 13, § 83.—
B. Trop., to contract, straiten, limit, curtail: “fortuna humana fingit artatque ut lubet, i. e. in angustias redigit,” Plaut. Capt. 2, 2, 54 Lind.; Liv. 45, 56: “tempus,” to limit, circumscribe, Dig. 42, 1, 2; 38, 9, 1: “se,” to limit one's self, to retrench, ib. 1, 11, 2 al. —
II. In gen., to finish, conclude, Petr. 85, 4.—Hence, artātus , a, um, P. a., contracted into a small compass; hence, narrow, close; and of time, short: “pontus,” Luc. 5, 234: “tempus,” Vell. 1, 16.
artus , ūs, m. id., mostly plur. (artua, n., Plaut. Men. 5, 2, 102; quoted in Non. p. 191, 12.—Hence, dat. acc. to Vel. Long. p. 2229 P. and Ter. Scaur. p. 2260 P. artibus; yet the ancient grammarians give their decision in favor of artubus, which form is also supported by the best MSS.; cf. arcus.—The singular is found only in Luc. 6, 754; Val. Fl. 4, 310, and Prisc. p. 1219 P.).
I. A.. Lit., a joint: “molles commissurae et artus (digitorum),” Cic. N. D. 2, 60, 150: “suffraginum artus,” Plin. 11, 45, 101, § 248: “elapsi in pravum artus,” Tac. H. 4, 81: “dolorartuum,” gout, Cic. Brut. 60, 217.—Sometimes connected with membra, Plaut. Men. 5, 2, 102: “copia materiaï Cogitur interdum flecti per membra, per artus,” in every joint and limb,Lucr. 2, 282; 3, 703 al.; Suet. Calig. 28; cf. “Baumg.-Crus., Clavis ad Suet.: cernere lacerosartus, truncata membra,” Plin. Pan. 52, 5.—
B. Trop., the muscular strength in the joints; hence, in gen., strength, power: Ἐπιχαρμεῖον illud teneto; “nervos atque artus esse sapientiae, non temere credere,” Q. Cic. Petit. Cons. 10.—More freq.,
II. The limbs in gen. (very freq., esp. in the poets; in Lucr. about sixty times): cum tremulis anus attulit artubus lumen, Enn. ap. Cic. Div. 1, 20, 40 (Ann. v. 36 Vahl.); so Lucr. 3, 7; cf. id. 3, 488; 6, 1189: “artubus omnibus contremiscam,” Cic. de Or. 1, 26, 121: dum nati (sc. Absyrti) dissupatos artus captaret parens, vet. poet. ap. Cic. N. D. 3, 26, 67: “copia concita per artusOmnīs,” Lucr. 2, 267: “moribundi artus,” id. 3, 129 al.: “rogumque parari Vidit et arsurossupremis ignibus artus, etc.,” Ov. M. 2, 620 al.: “salsusque per artus Sudor iit,” Verg. A. 2, 173; 1, 173 al.: “veste strictā et singulos artus exprimente,” and showing each limb, Tac. G. 17: “artusin frusta concident,” Vulg. Lev. 1, 6; 8, 20; “ib. Job, 16, 8.—Of plants: stat per se vitis sine ullopedamento, artus suos in se colligens,” its tendrils, Plin. 14, 1, 3, § 13, where Jahn reads arcus.
artus (not arctus ), a, um, adj. v. arma, prop.
I. Lit., close, strait, narrow, confined, short, brief: “exierunt regionibus artis,” Lucr. 6, 120: “claustra,” id. 1, 70; so id. 3, 808: “nec tamen haec ita sunt arta et astricta, ut ea laxarenequeamus,” Cic. Or. 65, 220: “artioribus apud populum Romanum laqueis tenebitur,” Cic. Verr. 2, 1, 5: “nullum vinculum ad astringendam fidem jure jurando majores artius essevoluerunt,” id. Off. 3, 31, 111: “compages,” Verg. A. 1, 293: “nexus,” Ov. M. 6, 242: “artostipata theatro,” pressed together in a contracted theatre, Hor. Ep. 2, 1, 60: “toga,” a narrow toga without folds, id. ib. 1, 18, 30 (cf. exigua toga, id. ib. 1, 19, 13): “nimis arta convivia,” i. e. with too many guests, who are therefore compelled to sit close together, id. ib. 1, 5, 29 et saep.—Hence, subst.: artum , i, n., a narrow place or passage: “ventus cum confercit, franguntur in artomontes nimborum,” Lucr. 6, 158 Lachm.: “multiplicatis in arto ordinibus,” Liv. 2, 50; so id. 34, 15: “nec desilies imitator in artum,” nor, by imitating, leap into a close place, Hor. A. P. 134.—
II. Trop., strict, severe, scanty, brief, small: “sponte suā cecidit sub leges artaque jura,” subjected himself to the severity of the laws, Lucr. 5, 1147: “Additae leges artae et ideo superbae quasqueetc.,” Plin. 16, 4, 5, § 12: “vincula amoris artissima,” Cic. Att. 6, 2: artior somnus, a sounder or deeper sleep, id. Rep. 6, 10: “arti commeatus,” Liv. 2, 34; Tac. H. 4, 26; cf.: “in artocommeatus,” id. ib. 3, 13: “artissimae tenebrae,” very thick darkness, Suet. Ner. 46 (for which, in class. Lat., densus, v. Bremi ad h. l., and cf. densus) al.—So, colligere in artum, to compress, abridge: “quae (volumina) a me collecta in artum,” Plin. 8, 16, 17, § 44.—Of hope, small, scanty: “spes artior aquae manantis,” Col. 1, 5, 2: ne spem sibi ponat in arto, diminish hope, expectation, Ov. M. 9, 683: “quia plus quam unum ex patriciis creari non licebat, artior petitioquattuor petentibus erat,” i. e. was harder, had less ground of hope, Liv. 39, 32; and of circumstances in life, etc., straitened, distressing, wretched, needy, indigent (so in and after the Aug. per. for the class. angustus): “rebus in artis,” Ov. P. 3, 2, 25: “artas res nuntiaret,” Tac. H. 3, 69: “tam artis afflictisque rebus,” Flor. 2, 6, 31; so Sil. 7, 310: “fortuna artior expensis,” Stat. S. 5, 3, 117: “ne in arto res esset,” Liv. 26, 17.—Adv.: artē (not arcte ), closely, close, fast, firmly.
I. Lit.: “arte (manus) conliga,” Plaut. Ep. 5, 2, 29: “boves arte ad stipites religare,” Col. 6, 2, 5: “arte continere aliquid,” Caes. B. G. 7, 23: “aciem arte statuere,” Sall. J. 52, 6: “arte accubare,”Plaut. Stich. 4, 2, 39.—Comp.: “calorem artius continere,” Cic. N. D. 2, 9, 25: “artiusastringi,” Hor. Epod. 15, 5: “signa artius conlocare,” Sall. C. 59, 2: “artius ire,” Curt. 4, 13, 34: “artius pressiusque conflictari,” Gell. 10, 6.—Sup.: “milites quam artissime ire jubet,” Sall. J. 68, 4: “artissime plantas serere,” Plin. 12, 3, 7, § 16.—
II. Trop.: “arte contenteque aliquem habere,” Plaut. As. 1, 1, 63; id. Merc. prol. 64: “arte etgraviter dormire,” soundly, Cic. Div. 1, 28, 59: “arte appellare aliquem,” briefly, by shortening his name, Ov. P. 4, 12, 10: “artius adstringere rationem,” Cic. Fat. 14, 32: “abstinentiamartissime constringere,” Val. Max. 2, 2, 8.—
III. Transf.: “arte diligere aliquem,” strongly, deeply, Plin. Ep. 6, 8; so also id. ib. 2, 13.
arthrītis , ĭdis, f., = ἀρθρῖτις,
I.a lameness in the joints, gout (in pure Lat., articularis morbus), Vitr. 1, 6.
From Greek ἄρθρον, arthron "joint," from PIE *ar(ə)-dhro-, suffixed form of root *ar- "to fit together."
The reader will note that these words contain among their meanings "joint", "contract", "lameness" and the like. The lameness of the boy was due in part to the contraction of the tendons of the knee joint.
Could it be that the author of the vita had not derived his story of lameness from the eponym Gewis, associated fancifully with Greek γυιός (guiós, 'lame'), but from the name Arthur/Artorius (or Artri/Arthri)? These names could well have been wrongly etymologized by drawing on Latin words like artus and arto. In this way Arthur was thought to mean a boy whose knee joint had suffered contraction of the tendons.
The idea is not as crazy as it sounds. Professor Stefan Zimmer, in his paper ‘The Name of Arthur’, includes among the formal possibilities for explaining the name Artorius the following:
“Artorius as a genuine Latin formation may belong to the word family of ars ‘art, skill, craftmanship’, and be a derivative of artus, -ūs (masculine substantive) ‘structure, joints’, or, less likely, from artus (adjective) ‘structured, tight’. Artorius might have been a substantivized adjective meaning ‘joiner’ (not necessarily in the restricted sense of the modern English word).”
Professor Joseph Pucci, one of the world’s top experts in Late and Medieval Latin, said in response to my query on this issue:
“I think it is possible for a Latin author to connect the name Arthur to the Latin words you discuss. That sort of etymologizing, in fact, strikes me as foundational to the way early medieval thinkers on language and/or literate people thought about the relationship of words to ideas. Two sources that might be useful: Robert Maltby, A Lexicon of Ancient Latin Etymologies, which will give a sense of this sort of thinking in an earlier context (earlier for your interests); the other is a contemporary, and perhaps more immediately useful, source: Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, in many editions and several translations, including English.”
Professor Gregory Hayes, another expert in Late and Medieval Latin, added:
“Medieval writers are pretty flexible when they start etymologizing and it wouldn't surprise me to see one connecting the name Artorius with artus (noun or adj.), if there was some advantage to be gained in a particular context by doing so.”
In support of the idea that a word or name in a saint’s life could be used to concoct a story, please see the following blog post on my identification of St. Germanus’s famous Hallelujah Battle:
If this confusion of the name Arthur/Artorius (or Arthri/Artri) for the Latin artus or similar did happen, then Cerdic son of Elafius/Elesa was quite possibly Arthur! This would appear to be in direct conflict with my idea that Cerdic is Ceredig son of Cunedda. Kenneth Sisam (supported by David Dumville) attempts to prove that Elesa is a derivative of Aloc/Alusa from the Bernician pedigree.* If so, there is no need to find a Celtic prototype for Elesa/Esla.
Of course, if this is true, then the very early St. Germanus story would have to be dependent on the Anglo-Saxon genealogy that grafted Aloc/Alusa onto the Gewessei line of descent.
*As written, Elafius is a Latin name derived ultimately from Greek elaphos, ‘hind, stag.’ A son of Ceredig son of Cunedda is named Hyddwn, from Welsh hydd, ‘stag, hart.’ He was the grandfather of St. Teilo of the stags. It is possible, then, that Elesa is not from Aloc/Alusa, but is a corruption of Elafius, itself a Latin translation for Hyddwn. I've conclusively shown that the Gewissei pedigree runs backwards in the English sources, and so the Elesa presented to us as the father of Cerdic of Wessex would actually be the latter's son.