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Foundation Myth of London

The Pseudohistorical Foundation Myth of of London

Yik Ka Chan [10415734]

900243HUM Urban Utopias

Short Essay: The foundation of (Ideal) Cities

Instructor: Minou Schraven

Amsterdam University College

9 Mar, 2013

Word Count: 755

Foundation Myth of London

The city of London has been the setting for many great stories. The realistic novels by Dickens, the heroic story of Robin Hood, the classical fiction of Sherlock Homes, the magical adventure of Harry Potter are just some of many. The Trojan foundation of London is described in Geoffrey of Monmouths book Historia Regum Britanniae, known in English as "History of the Kings of Britain" in 1136 AD. This piece of pseudohistorical medieval account was claimed to have translated from a very ancient book in the British tongue into Latin, the common language used in the twelfth century. In that time England has a growing self-government of England with election rights and having London as its capital. The very ancient book Geoffrey refers to might be Historia Brittonum, History of the Britons, which was also a purported account traditionally known as written by the Welsh Monk Nennius in around 828 AD, when the Viking attacks became more dominate. In view of the historical context of the two accounts, foundation stories of city and country could be interpreted as a mean of securing nation identity as well as forming coherence to the country man. The purpose of Geoffrey writing the pseudohistory of the country is also stated by himself, that "I have not been able to discover anything at all on the kings who lived here before the Incarnation of Christ, or indeed about Arthur and all the others who followed on after the Incarnation. Yet the deeds of these men were such that they deserve to be praised for all time." (Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1842) In the myth, the city of London was founded by Brutus (or Britto) of Troy, the first king of Britian, around 1070BC. It is closely linked into the heroic age of Greek and Roman literature, especially to the heroic foundation myth of Rome. In Historia Brittonum (828 AD) where the figure of Brutus first found, Brutus was a grandson of Aeneas, the Trojan hero who fled to Italy by the guidance of the gods after the fall of Troy (1184 BC), and in Historia Regum Britanniae he was the great grandson of Aeneas. According to the myth accounted in the epic poem Aeneid by Virgil, he was also the progenitor of Romulus and Remus who founded the cultural city of Rome (753 BC). Brutus stories was also told in Brutus the Trojan, Founder of the British Empire(1735 AD) Hildebrand Jacob in the tradition of Aeneid. The plots of all versions are similar, in which Brutus was told as the bravest and most beloved in Italy, where his grandfather Aeneas settled. Later he accidentally killed his father with an arrow was expelled from the country. With the guidance of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing, he travelled through and named the city of Tours (in the present day France) after his battle dead nephew Turonus and arrived to the island of Britian, then called Albion. After defeated the giants Gog and Magog (whose names were used in the Book of Genesis in the Christian Bible), Brutus settled on the island and renamed Britons after himself. In the book Historia Regum Britanniae he founded and named the city of London Troia Nova, Latin of New Troy, later known as Trinovantum after the Trinovantes, the Iron Age tribe at the area. Geoffery claimed the renamed of Trinovantum to Caer Ludein (Ludd's Town) by King Lud (King Lludd in Welsh Mythology). The city gain its Roman London name Londinium after the invasion in 43 AD.

Foundation Myth of London

Although being known by historian as fictional, the myth continues to live on today with monuments and characters of festivals. The London Stone on Cannon Street, which Shakespeare and Dickens wrote about, was said to be part of the altar of the temple Brutus built for Diana, on which the old British Kings took the oaths on their accession, laying their hands on it. (Merrion 1862), and the Temple to Diana is where the modern day St. Pauls Cathedral resides. There is the famous proverb that "So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish". (BBC, 2006). Despite of the negative image displayed in the story of Brutus, the two defeated giant Gog and Magog are considered as the traditional guardians of the City of London, and are the usual guess for parade of the annual Lord Mayor's Procession in London (

Gog and Magog on parade on November 9, 2013.. From Copyright 2013 by Patrick Scrivener

References S. Coughlan. (2006, May 22). Londons heart of stone. BBC News Magazine. Retrived from Clark, J. (2010). London Stone: Stone of Brutus or Fetish StoneMaking the Myth. Folklore, 121(1), 38-60. doi:10.1080/00155870903482007 Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph (1842). The British history of Geoffrey of Monmouth (J. Bohn Trans.) (Original work published 11362). Available from onmouth&as_brr=3&redir_esc=y#PPP7,M1 M. Merrion [Richard Williams Morgan]. "Stonehenge." Notes and Queries. 3rd series 1 (1862):3.

Foundation Myth of London

Nennius. (1848). Historia Brittonum, Six Old English Chronicles (J A Giles, Trans.). London: Henry G. Bohn. (Original work published 828). Available from Lord Mayor's Show > History > Gog and Magog. Retrived from