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Twelve Knights of the Round Table

The Round Table
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.jpg
King Arthur presides at the Round Table with all of his Knights.
Plot element from Arthurian legend
First appearance Roman de Brut
Created by Wace
Genre Fantasy
In-story information
Type Fictional table
Element of stories featuring King Arthur

The Round Table is King Arthur's famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his Knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. The table was first described in 1155 by Wace, who relied on previous depictions of Arthur's fabulous retinue. The symbolism of the Round Table developed over time; by the close of the 12th century it had come to represent the chivalric order associated with Arthur's court, the Knights of the Round Table.

The Round Table first appears in Wace's Roman de Brut, a Norman language adaptation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae finished in 1155. Wace says Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others.Layamon added to the story when he adapted Wace's work into the Middle English Brut in the early 13th century, saying that the quarrel between Arthur's vassals led to violence at a Yuletide feast. In response a Cornish carpenter built an enormous but easily transportable Round Table to prevent further dispute. Wace claims he was not the source of the Round Table; both he and Layamon credited it instead to the Bretons. Some scholars have doubted this claim, while others believe it may be true. There is some similarity between the chroniclers' description of the Round Table and a custom recorded in Celtic stories, in which warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior, in some cases feuding over the order of precedence as in Layamon. There is a possibility that Wace, contrary to his own claims, derived Arthur's round table not from any Breton source, but rather from medieval biographies of Charlemagne—notably Einhard's Vita Caroli and Notker the Stammerer's De Carolo Magno—in which the king is said to have possessed a round table decorated with a map of Rome.

  • Bromwich, Rachel (2006). Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain. University Of Wales Press. .
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth; Thorpe, Lewis (1988). The History of the Kings of Britain. New York: Penguin. .
  • Lacy, Norris J. (ed.) (1991). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. .
  • Loomis, Roger S. (1959). "Arthurian Influence on Sport and Spectacle". Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages. Oxford.
  • Padel, O. J. (2000). Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature. University of Wales Press. .
  • Rouse, Robert; and Cory Rushton (2005). The Medieval Quest for Arthur. Tempus, Stroud. .
  • Thomas, Charles (1953). "Folklore from a Northern Henge Monument". Folklore. 64 (3): 427–429. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1953.9717383. JSTOR 1256826. 


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