Round Table

views updated Jun 11 2018

Round Table

Arthurian legends* tell of a great Round Table in King Arthur's court at Camelot at which the king held meetings with his knights. Usually a king sat at the head of a royal table with his closest companions gathered around him. However, because the Round Table had no head or foot, none of the knights who sat at it could claim a more important position than the others. For this reason, the Round Table was a symbol of the equality that existed in Arthur's court.

According to legend, the magician Merlin created the table for Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon. After Uther died, the table came into the hands of a local king named Leodegran. In time, Leodegran's daughter Guinevere married Arthur, and Leodegran gave the table to Arthur as part of Guinevere's dowry.

The Round Table was supposedly patterned after a table made to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. One of the seats at that table was left empty to symbolize Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. King Arthur's Round Table also had an empty seat, known as the Siege Perilous. It was said that the only person who could safely occupy the Siege Perilous was the knight who would find the Holy Grail. When Sir Galahad came to Camelot, the Siege Perilous became his seat.

dowry money, goods, or property that a woman brings to her husband at marriage

Holy Grail sacred cup said to have been used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper

The other seats around the table bore the names of the knights who had earned the right to occupy them. When a knight of the Round Table died or left the court, his seat could be taken only by someone who was braver than the previous occupant. If a pretender tried to take a seat at the table, a magic force would throw him out of it. See also ARTHUR, KING; ARTHURIAN LEGENDS; CAMELOT; GALAHAD; GUINEVERE; HOLY GRAIL; MERLIN.

Round Table

views updated Jun 08 2018

Round Ta·ble • n. 1. the table at which King Arthur and his knights sat so that none should have precedence. It was first mentioned in 1155.2. an international charitable association that holds discussions and undertakes community service.3. (round table) an assembly for discussion, esp. at a conference: art historians fly around the world to attend colloquia and round tables | [as adj.] round-table talks.