King Arthur, General of the Britons
A discussion by David Nash Ford
Though Arthur is quite firmly established as an historical figure, there appears to be little evidence that he was the King of tradition. To quote Nennius,
Arthur fought…together with the Kings of the British; but he was Dux Bellorum.
This would seem to confirm the popular view today that Arthur was a professional soldier: a brilliant military leader employed in an official capacity by an alliance of British Kings to carry out their warfare against all coming enemies.
“Dux Bellorum” translates literally as Duke of Battles. This might be comparable to the Roman “Dux Britannorum” in charge of the Northern British defences. Though many think the Roman “Comes British History Clubrum” a better fit, for he led mobile cavalry forces across the country, as perhaps indicated by Arthur’s supposed widespread battles.
None of this, however, precludes Arthur from also being a King. Nennius may have intended his phrase to imply that Arthur was one of the Kings alongside whom he fought, yet he was the greatest warrior among them. If the more formal title of Dux or Comes was meant, then perhaps a High-Kingship is implied as tradition would suggest. Early sources, no doubt, assumed that everyone already knew Arthur was a King, as with most Royal entries in the Annales Cambriae. There was no need to announce it.