JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
What the information in the chapter on the Rebellion of the Jews offers
this Holy Grail story, is the opportunity to turn what is at present considered a myth
into a possibility.
This is because we can no longer say with any conviction, that when
Petillius Cerialis became Vespasians governor of Britain, that Flavius Josephus, his close
companion in Jerusalem, did not come to Britain with him.
What is known, is that Flavius Josephus was granted a pension and moved
from Palestine and was given a house in Rome and that he was originally, "Joseph
bar Matthias." A name that could so easily have been misinterpreted as "Joseph
(of) Arimathea." Hence, the startling possibility of someone thought to have
been Joseph of Arimathea having entered Britain remains.
Before attempting to join Josephus Flavius in Britain, however, we
should first add detail of the story still in vogue but composed between 1180 and 1199 by
Robert de Borron.
In the de-Borron version of events, he alleges that Joseph of Arimathea
was a soldier at the time of Pontius Pilate who had become a Christian and was the one who
collected the blood of Christ after the crucifixion in a vessel used at the Last Supper. A
vessel or cup that later became the Holy Grail. Joseph then gave this precious cup to Bron
or Hebron, his brother-in-law, who brought it to the west. (Hebron is the name of a place about 12 miles south of the place
Tekoa of the Flavius Josephus - Petillius Cerialis story).
Bron was then told to become a fisherman and was known later as the
Rich Fisher or the Fisher King. It was the Fisher King who was then the one mainly
involved with the Holy Grail.
If we now refer to William of Malmesbury original treatise on the
Treasures of Glastonbury, compiled about 1130, we are informed that this was a work of
classic scholarship. But there are several reasons why we refer to this particular work.
The first of these is because William of Malmesbury clearly believed that (King) Arthur
was a historic warrior leader who had lived in the past. Other than this he considered
that the people of Cornwall talked nonsense in expecting Arthur to return from beyond the
grave to help their conflict with the foreign invader of their land.
To William, Arthur was obviously dead but he actually commented on the
fact that he did not know where Arthur's body was to be found. Therefore, in his work on
Glastonbury, he does not associated either Arthurs tomb or Bron or Joseph of
Arimathea with Glastonbury.
Yet 60 years or so later, on the instruction of the king, Richard 1st.,
the kings relative, the Abbot of Bermondsey, recovered a body at Glastonbury he claimed to
be the body of King Arthur. (Even
today, this blatant hypocrisy is indicated by a plaque at Glastonbury Abbey , indicating
the spot where this was alleged to have taken place).
With so much hypocrisy still about, is it any wonder, that when the
work of William of Malmesbury on Glastonbury was revised at the end of the 12th. century,
this version included information that Brons destination in Britain was Glastonbury.
With power politics in play, a late 12th. century return to the Joseph
of Arimathea theme, now reveals that Joseph of Arimathea was alleged to have entered
Britain in the year 63 AD. In addition, this story tells us that, after the Resurrection
of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea was put into prison and only released by Vespasians army
after the fall of Jerusalem. As the fall of Jerusalem was in 70 AD, Joseph had apparently
arrived in Britain, six year before he was released from prison.
What we do know as a fact, is that the historian Flavius Josephus was
imprisoned by the Romans about 70 A.D. and released shortly after this event. A
combination of 12th. century stories that suggest there were those who new Joseph of
Arimathea was a fiction and that this character was based on the real Flavius Josephus,
the companion of Petillius Cerialis in the ride back from Tekoa to Jerusalem.
The ride when Flavius Josephus observed on his return to Jerusalem,
that amongst those crucified were three of his friends and on his instigation they were
cut down and two of them died but one of them lived.
The story of Joseph of Arimatheas imprisonment after the
resurrection of Christ and his release by Vespasian after the fall of Jerusalem in 70
A.D., surely illustrate that at least those who revised William of Malmesburys work,
must have concluded that Joseph of Arimathea and Flavius Josephus were one and the same.
Indeed, we know from Flavius Josephus himself that he was imprisoned by
the Romans for his part in the revolt of the Jews but on the instructions of Vespasian was
released. A set of circumstance that would place his imprisonment between 69 and 70 A.D.
However, if Josephus Flavius as Joseph of Arimathea did come to Britain, why did de Borron
say it was 63 A.D. and not whilst Petillius Cerialis was governor in 71 A.D.?
When we ask this question, there is curious possible answer. Namely,
that once we assume Joseph was in Britain because Petillius Cerialis was in Britain, then,
as the legate of Legio IX during the Boudiccan rebellion, Petillius could indeed have been
in Britain in 63 A.D.
This is because, it is only in recent years that the Boudiccan
rebellion has been dated to 60/61 AD. In the 19th century, for example, Meiklejohn dated
the Boudiccan rebellion to 62 AD. Therefore, opinion placing Petillius Cerialis in Britain
in 63 A.D. could be accepted, as we do not know for certain exactly when he left Britain
after the rebellion ended.
Flavius Josephus was not the only one who referred to Petillius, he was
also included in the works of the Roman historian, Tacitus. Tacitus revealing that he was
sent to the Rhine to quell the rebellion of Civilis in 70 A.D. and that he was a man with
a flair for action, headstrong and impatient but nevertheless, usually successful.
As a friend and relative of Vespasian, Petillius Cerialis was sure of
advancement in his career once Vespasian was emperor. Becoming Vespasians governor of
Britain in 71 AD, with a second consulship in 74 AD. Whilst he was governor of Britain in
71, the Romans moved into Brigantia for the first time. Brigantia roughly comprising the
North of England from either the Ribble or the Mersey in the west and the Humber in the
east to were Hadrians Wall was later constructed.
In one of the Grail stories, we again read how Joseph of Arimathea
delivers the Grail to the safe keeping of his son, Bron. This story then introduce a
character called Petrus and this time it was Petrus who was told to depart to the west and
not Bron. The destination of Petrus was the vales of Avaron and it is there that Bron will
join him; along with Alein, one of Brons sons.
There are also a cross section of 12th. and 13th. century Grail stories
that all included a character called King Pelles. He was allegedly the uncle of Galahad in
the Vulgate Cycles Queste Del San Graal and one of the uncles of Perceval in
other Grail stories.
In effect, King Pelles was the brother of the all important Fisher King
and likewise the brother of the evil king of Castle Mortel. Hence, from other stories
where Bron was the Fisher King, we can assume that Bron and Pelles were considered
From these stories, therefore, we could so easily believe that it was
Flavius Josephuss companion, Petillius, who was to play the part of Petrus and also
of Pelles. Whilst Bron and Joseph of Arimathea either accompanied him to the west or
joined him there later depending upon which version of events you read.
Or are we to believe that the names Petrus and Pelles were used by
these late 12th. and early 13th. century story tellers by coincidence when the above
account is capable for the first time of logically attaching Petillius Cerialis to a
believable Joseph of Arimathea?
Seen in the context of a story with a series of similar plots that name
so few characters and when accurate dating of events was no way as refined as it is today,
what this new information does imply, is that those compiling the Joseph of Arimathea
story were taking their themes from credible historical material.
Presumably with those compiling it, truly believing that Flavius
Josephus the historian, was in some way associating with Jesus and later his name was
simply misinterpreted to give, Joseph of Arimathea. Especially if these stories are seen
in the context of where Flavius Josephus was previously the Pharisee, 'Joseph the son
of Matthew', who had operated in the Galilee region; the real homeland of Jesus.
THE VALE OF AVARON
Modern research into myths and legends have suggested to some, that the
Holy Grail idea evolved from the pagan Celtic stories of such magic vessels as the
cauldron of plenty. A vessel that supplied endless food to all comers.
However, it is difficult to believe that King Arthur and his followers
with a background of 150 years of Christianity, would be attached to a pagan cauldron of
plenty myth. But if not, what other reason is there for attaching the Holy Grail stories
specifically to Arthur court?
When we ask this question, one answer would be if a vessel or cup was
known to have been specifically associated with Arthur up to the 12th.century and the
legend regarding it was lost or forgotten due to the Holy Grail taking over Arthur court
from it by the end of the century.
To pursue this theme, we recall how Joseph of Arimathea trusted the
Grail to Bron and then either Bron or Petrus was told to depart to the west to the vales
However, we should not necessarily assume that Avaron was Avallon, the
alleged mythical otherworld to which Arthur was taken after the civil war battle of
Camlann. Instead, the vales of Avaron, could just as easily have been, the vales through
which a River Avon would run.
In this regard, "The Place-names of Roman Britain",
by Rivet and Smith, reveal that the, 'Avon', word generally evolved from the
word, 'Abona'. A British word that simply meant, 'river'. Indicating
that there are eight Rivers Avon, of which two are in Scotland.
Of those in England, these are all in the south west. The ones of
interest to us, are probably those in the Ravenna Cosmography document, as these were,
River Avon, known to the Romans. Rivet and Smith believe these to be:-
1). The River Avon that runs from the River Severn through Bristol, Bath and Bradford on
Avon and then north towards Chippenham.
2). The River Avon that runs from the Vale of Pewsey south via Salisbury Plain and
Salisbury into the English Channel just east of Bournemouth.
If the vales of Avaron were those through which a River Avon ran and we
continue to assume this was actually a river in Britain due to the Joseph of Arimathea
connection, then the ideal Avaron or Avon would surely be the one from the Vale of Pewsey
in preference to the other.
This is because, just north of the Vale of Pewsey are the 3000 to 4000
year old Avebury Circle and Silbury Hill; the latter, the highest man made mound in
Europe. Whilst south of these and close to this particular River Avon, is Stonehenge. A
place attached to both Merlin and Arthur by the forerunners of those who compiled the Holy
Other than this, within 6 miles of the source of this particular River
Avon and on the edge of the Vale of Pewsey, a 2nd. century cup was found in a well at
Rudge Coppice, near Froxfield in 1725 and it is the wording on this cup that must intrigue
THE CUP OF PLENTY
Found in the debris of a well at Rudge Coppice, near Froxfield in
Wiltshire, the Rudge Cup is now deposited at Alnwick Castle Museum in Northumberland. The 'Name
Cup' is traditional used for it but it is shaped like a small bowl. It is a bronze
enamelled vessel four inches in diameter and three inches in height.
However, it is the inscription around the rim of this beautiful relic
that is of interest to us, as it reads:-
VXELODVM CAMBOGLANS BANNA
Rivet and Smith point out that these as, "five forts in the Cumbrian group at the western
end of the wall". In doing
so, they agree with Richmond and considering the letter "A" at the
beginning of the group as probably a preposition. To Rivet and Smith the following apply:-
MAIS as the Roman
fort at Bowness on Solway in Cumbria.
ABALLAVA as the Roman Fort at Burgh-by-Sands in Cumbria.
VXELODVM as the Roman fort at Stanwick in Cumbria.
CAMBOGLANS as the Roman fort at Castlesteads in Cumbria.
BANNA as the Roman fort at Birdoswald in Cumbria.
There are those who consider the Rudge Cup having odd Latin forms in
its word structure. Because of this, they can not derive a satisfactory origin or meaning
for the word, "MAIS", that follows the letter, "A",
on the rim of the cup.
However, as almost all alleged Roman place-names in Britain are not
Latin but Celtic in origin, there is a possibility that the, "A", was
not always separated from the "MAIS" word but was originally attached
to it to give the word, AMAIS.
We then need to ask whether it is more than mere coincidence that the
word, AMAIS, is a word in Gaelic with the meaning "to meet".
Or should we ignore the fact that some Goidel Celt words from which Gaelic derives, could
have survived in parts of Britain and in the Solway area in particular.
Once we consider a Goidel Celt origin for the place-name (A)MAIS, it is
interesting but possibly of no value, to also discover that an Old Irish word from the, 'amais',
stable is the word, "ammus", meaning, to "lie in wait"
We now move on to,
"ABALLAVA" the next place-name on the rim of the Rudge Cup. Discovering
that this was the only Roman place-name in Britain that could naturally have evolved as
the place, Avalon.
To Arthurians, Avalon, was the otherworld kingdom where Arthur
was alleged to have been taken when he suffered a mortal wound at the battle of Camlann.
To the pagan Celts, this otherworld was usually associated with either a lake or with the
However, if similar concern of Arthurians is to bypass VXELODVM on the
Rudge Cup and move on to the, CAMBOGLANS, place-name, we have here the only Roman
place-name in Britain to which Arthur's battle site of, Camlann, is alleged to relate.
So in the context of the Rudge Cup, it would appear that when Arthur
was transported from Camlann to Avalon, the suggestion is that his real world would meet
the otherworld where the land met the sea. Therefore, in the context of the Rudge Cup, 'ABALLAVA',
being Burgh-by-Sands alongside the Solway was on the way to the sea. Whilst, (A)MAIS, as
Bowness on Solway, is where the Solway meets the sea?
Therefore, for some obscure reason, the words on the Rudge Cup may have
come to indicate, that Avalon simply represented a staging post between life and death. A
situation that was alleged to have actually applied to Arthur, as he was always considered
capable of returning from beyond the grave to assist his compatriots against their
The potential return of Arthur to assist those of Brythonic Celt
descent against the Norman's, was the recorded belief of the people of Cornwall and many
other parts of the south west of England in the 12th. century and this is the region where
the Rudge Cup was found.
Thus, after publicising the stories about Arthur in the reign of Henry
2nd. for their own political and religious ends, the Norman hierarchy suddenly realised
that many of the people they ruled, believed Arthur would return to help their cause
Therefore, in 1190, in the reign of Richard the Lionheart the son of
Henry 2nd., the Prior of Bermondsey, a relative of the king, was instructed to set in
motion the alleged exhumation of body from behind screens set up at Glastonbury. There
they unearthed a tall man they said was Arthur.
According to Gerald of Wales, who was alive at that time, a leaden
cross was also found on the underside of a stone, with the Latin inscription on it that
read: "Here lies Arthur, the famous king, in the island of Avalon".
It is reasonable to assume that the, 'Avalon', wording on this
cross was designed by the Normans to indicate that Glastonbury was Avalon and Avalon was
not the otherworld of Celtic myth. In effect, Arthur had been found and could no longer
return from beyond the grave to help his compatriots to extract their enemies from the
Since then the cross has vanished and we only have the 17th. century
representation of it from Camdens Britannia. All that can realistically be said
about the writing on the cross is that it is pre-11th. century or earlier rather than the
12th. century. One can guess that there was no conceivable chance of the wording on this
cross having been 6th. century when Arthur must have died.
Indeed, William of Malmesburys academic treatise on Glastonbury
Abbey of about the year 1130, did not associate Arthur with Glastonbury or Glastonbury
with Avalon and certainly did not record Arthur's grave in this place. The chances are,
the late 12th. century find of this cross was the first recorded identification of
Glastonbury with Avalon.
However, when recording facets of Arthur's life, William of Malmesbury
did say that no one new where his body could be found. Hence, the onus is now on us to
decide. Do we believe the Prior of Bermondsey, the relative of the king, or William of
Malmesbury? If we believe William of Malmesbury, Arthur's Avalon must be
elsewhere and not Glastonbury.
In any event, what we should remember, is the Rudge Cup can be
identified as a 2nd. century Roman relic, so the wording on it was either coincidental or
may even have been used in the distant past to create the myth of Avalon in the first
place. Arthur having lived over 300 years after it was made.
THE CUP BEARER
In the view of the academic, Sir John Rhys, the name of the Dark Age
warrior the bards referred to as Seithennin, was actually a corrupted
name from the word, Setantii. (Pronounce Setantii as Setanti-eye).
In effect, Rhys is saying that when the later bards took their stories
from oral traditions, they misinterpreted their source material and thought, when the
Setantii tribe was mentioned, a warrior leader was intended and as the years went by the
word was corrupted to Seithennin.
If we now accept the views of Rhys as realistic, then the pre-Roman
Setantii people simply continued as a viable tribal group throughout the Roman period and
into the Dark Ages.
The importance of this, is to recognise that the Setantii were a people
originally identified in the 2nd. century by the Roman geographer Ptolemy as having
possessed a harbour and this was north of the River Ribble in the North West of England.
What we do know, is the bards name a series of sons of Seithennin who
were active about 470 A.D. and that one of his grandsons was Gwenwynwyn, who was
referred to as Arthur's First Fighter.
However, it is the fact that one of Seithennin's alleged sons was
called, 'Menestry' , that is of interest, as this is a word that meant, Cup-Bearer
in Brythonic Celt; the common language of the Romano-Britons in the Dark Ages and that
later evolved into the Welsh language. But of equal importance, is that another alleged
son pf Seithennin was, 'Senewr', a word that meant, 'Senator'
Together, these two names, suggest the probable existence of a
Setantian Senate that possessed a special cup or drinking vessel. Presumably
this was either a symbol of the Senates authority or part of an
important religious ceremony practised by this Senate.
Hence, as Arthur was in close contact with the Setantians in the guise
of having, Gwenwynwyn, the alleged grandson of Seithennin, as his, First Fighter,
then the existence of a special cup could easily have motivated the 12th. century clerics
to attach their Holy Grail theme to Arthurs court when they concocted their own
stories about Arthur.
But if religion was part of the ritual, the chances are the Cup-Bearer
was a Christian cleric who was alive about the year 470. If so, this priest may have been
represented by, Gwyddno, another of the alleged sons of Seithennin.
Why Gwyddno could have occupied this role, is because the Welsh word
for druid, is, drewydd. Information that led E.O.Gordon
in his book, Prehistoric London, to realistically consider the
element, wydd, in, drewydd, as originally
signified a, priest, rather than an, oak tree,
it later evolved into in Welsh. Hence, in the view of E.O.Gordon, drewydd,
meant, High Priest.
To this we should add that Rachel Bromwich, considered the expert
on the Welsh, 'Triads', believed that the element, no, in
the word, Gwydd-no, as having evolved from the Celtic word, gnou,
meaning, famous. In effect, the word, Gwyddno,
indicated a person alive in the year 470, who was simply, the Priest famed for
A Priest who was 'famed for his knowledge', alive about the
year 470 and who was probably the Cup-Bearer of a Setantian Senate, would certainly be
someone capable of giving such an establishment the Christian authority it deserved.
However, although the history of the British Dark Ages records few 5th. century priests of
this stature, one does emerge and this was St. Germanus of Auxerre, an ex-Roman army
general who visited Britain in 429 and again in 448.
The biography of St. Germanus of Auxerre, written by his contemporary,
Constantius, was used in the 8th. century by Heiric, who also added new information
supplied to him by Bishop Marcus.
This new information tells how a character called Cadell Derynllwg was
assisted by Germanus to extract a wicked king called Benlli from his
city by sending down fire from heaven. As later genealogies reveal
that the descendants of Cadell Derynllwg ruled Powys, Sir John Rhys realistically believes
that the fortress of Benlli was now, Foel Fenlli, on the Powys-Gwynedd border.
The anomaly endemic in the account of Heiric, however, is that St.
Germanus of Auxerre died in the year 449, but the floruit, or, 'active life period'
of Cadell Derynllwg was about the year 470.
From this, one can only conclude that the additional information
supplied by Bishop Marcus to Heiric, was not about Germanus of Auxerre at all but about
St. Germanus of the Isle of Man who died in 474.
Considered the brother-in-law of St. Patrick, Germanus of the Isle of
Man was far from an obscure figure. Famed for his teaching, his star pupil was St. Illtud,
one of the best known Christian clerics of the Dark Ages.
Other than this, St. Illtud was allegedly Arthurs cousin, who
fought alongside Arthur in his youth. Whilst, St. Gildas, the most famous chronicler of
events of that period, was the star pupil of St. Illtud. So collectively the outstanding
Christian clerics of their day could all have been the Cup Bearers of a Setantian Senate..
Therefore, as Gwenwynwyn, Arthur's First Fighter, was a Setantian, the
chances are Arthur's court was attached to a Setantian Senate and if so, this Senate
appears to have had the most influential Christian clerics of the late 5th and early 6th.
century as their Cup- Bearer.
In this context, it would be far from mere coincidence for a 12th.
century Christian Church to decided to attach their Holy Grail story to King Arthur's
Unless, that is, the Pharisee who became known as Joseph of Arimathea
had come into the possession of the cup from the Last Supper whilst in Jerusalem and
Galilee and in 71 A.D. entered Brigantia with it in the company of Petillius Cerialis.
Nevertheless, whilst we may never know the truth, those who read the
work of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, will surely be left with the impression
that he would have made the ideal follower of Jesus rather than simply a Christian and on
this premise alone, if he had come across the cup from the Last Supper, he would certainly
have treasured it. We can of course say AMEN to all this but SUCH IS LIFE seems more