Round Table

"On account of his noble barons, each of whom thought himself the best and none of whom accounted himself the worst, Arthur made the Round Table, of which Britons tell many fabulous tales. There sat his vassals, all noble and all equal; they sat equally at table and were equally served. No one of them could boast of sitting higher than his peer." In Malory, Arthur does not create the idea of a Round Table but inherits it as part of the dowry of Guinevere, a gift from Leodegrance which I have noted in other articles may refer to the Roman barracks and amphitheatre at Caerleon.

   A vacant place at the Grail Table was introduced in Robert de Boron's Joseph. There was a similar vacant place at the Round Table in the sequel, Merlin. Both had the property of swallowing up the unworthy. In the third part of the trilogy, the Perceval, and in the work by Gerbert de Montreuil, the vacant place at the Round Table is occupied by Perceval. However, at about this same period, the Vulgate Cycle would appear, including the Quest of the Holy Grail, in which Galahad is the destined occupant of the Siege Perilous, and Perceval has been relegated to one of the three who succeed in the Quest, not the only one.

   Linda Malcor reminds us that communal dining in early society often used a model of dining in the round, sharing a common meal, eating out of a common bowl. "In Ossetia,  Alan-Sarmatian nomads used round tables in their camps/wagons/whatever they were living in at the moment. The diners sat around the table in a circle and ate from the food that was placed there. These sorts of tables are still in use today in Ossetia. At Bremetennacum and several other Roman forts in Britain, you would have had both the Roman model and the Sarmatian model in use."

   Laura Hibbard Loomis discussed the relationship between Arthur's Round Table and the table of the Last Supper in a series of articles: "Arthur's Round Table" PMLA XLI, 4, Dec. 1926, p. 771 ff., "The Table of the Last Supper in Religious and Secular Iconography" Art Studies, 1927, and "The Round Table Again" MLN 44, Dec. 1929, p. 511 ff. She noted that "from the end of the first century until the twelfth the table of the Last Supper was regularly represented as round, so regularly in fact that no certain example of this scene with the straight table can be found in European art before 1000."

The Table Round

Tabled Rounds

The Winchester Round Table