Meliodas is a character from the Arthurian legends. Although not very famous today compared to characters such as Sir Lancelot or Sir Owain, he appeared in numerous Arthurian works throughout the centuries.
In fact, one of the romance tales of Arthur’s reign is named after him and features him prominently.
So, who was Meliodas? In this article, we will see:
- Who he was
- Who he was related to
- What he did
- Which stories he features in
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Who Was Meliodas?
Meliodas was one of King Arthur’s knights. In fact, some stories claim that he was considered to be one of the best knights in the world.
He was the king of Lyonesse, a mysterious land in Arthurian legend which is often connected with Cornwall in some way. One version of the legend says that it sank into the sea after Meliodas’ death.
The high king of Cornwall at this time was King Mark, a tyrant ruler. Meliodas was thus his vassal king.
Despite being a vassal of King Mark, Arthur’s enemy, Meliodas serves Arthur faithfully and engages in a number of adventures.
However, on at least one occasion during his youth, he fought a war against Arthur.
The name of Meliodas appears in several different forms across the legends in which he appears. Some of these variations are:
The father of Meliodas is sometimes said to be a certain Felix, king of Cornwall. In these versions, Felix is also the father of Mark, Meliodas’ overlord.
In other versions, Meliodas and Mark are not brothers, but rather, brothers in law. Meliodas was said to have married Isabelle (also named ‘Elizabeth’ or ‘Elyabel’ in other tales), the sister of King Mark.
Meliodas also had a second wife. She was either the daughter or the sister of King Hoel of Brittany.
By his first wife, the sister of King Mark, Meliodas fathered Tristan. This boy (whose name is also spelled ‘Tristam’) would grow up to be the famous lover of Isolde and the enemy of his uncle King Mark.
Legend of Meliodas
The story of Meliodas is not consistent throughout the Arthurian legends, but here is an overview of the key parts of his story as found in the various tales:
Abduction of the Queen of Scotland
In his youth, early in the reign of King Arthur, Meliodas desired the beautiful queen of Scotland.
The name of the queen is not given, and since Scotland was still ruled by various kingdoms at this time, her supposed identity is unclear, but some consider her to be the wife of King Augusel, the brother of Sir Urien.
By this queen, Meliodas fathered a son, whom he names Meliodas the Younger.
Meliodas abducting this queen led to a war against the people of Scotland and their allies, which included Arthur.
Arthur defeated him and imprisoned him at Camelot.
Enemy Turns Ally
At one point, Arthur faces a Saxon invasion led by a commander or king named Aliohan. This invasion was so strong that Arthur needed all the help he could get, so he released Meliodas from prison and got him to join the British forces.
On the battlefield, Meliodas faces Aliohan in single combat and defeats him.
In a different version, found in La Tavola Ritonda, Meliodas refuses to submit to Arthur when he is crowned high king.
He goes to war against Arthur, but then his ally, Lord Galehaut, surrenders. At seeing this, Meliodas likewise submits to Arthur.
The Birth of Tristan
After this, Meliodas married the sister of King Mark of Cornwall, Isabelle. From their union is born Tristan, who grows up to become one of Arthur’s most famous knights.
For the final part of Isabelle’s pregnancy, Meliodas was imprisoned at a castle called the Rock of Cornishmen by an enchantress. Isabelle wandered through a wilderness to try to find him, but to no avail.
She then gave birth to her son in a forest. It was due to this distressing situation that she named her son ‘Tristan’ (from the word ‘triste’, meaning ‘sad’ in several Latin-based languages).
After this, Isabelle died and Meliodas was rescued by Merlin.
Seven years after the death of Isabelle, Meliodas remarried. His second wife was the sister or daughter of Hoel, king of Brittany. In most versions she is unnamed, but in La Tavola Ritonda, she is named Agia.
Meliodas and Agia had a son together, named Allegreno.
Agia did not like Tristan. The reason is that Tristan was in line to inherit Meliodas’ kingdom of Lyonesse, whereas Agia wanted her son Allegreno to be the heir.
Therefore, she concocted a plan to murder Tristan. She created a poison potion to give to Tristan.
However, a nurse accidentally served it to Agia’s son, Allegreno, instead of Tristan. Thus, Agia’s own son died.
But despite this tragedy, Agia tried a second time to murder Tristan.
However, some confusion occurred and Meliodas was about to drink the poison instead. To save her husband, she had no choice but to reveal the truth about what she had done.
Meliodas was furious and wanted to have her executed, but Tristan convinced his father to spare her. Due to this noble behavior, Agia’s attitude towards Tristan changed completely and she grew to love him rather than hate him.
Sending Tristan Away
After these attempts on his life, Meliodas decided to send Tristan away. He sent him to France, to the court of Pharamond, a king who appears separately in Frankish legend.
Tristan stayed there for seven years, before returning to his father’s court again. At some point after this, Meliodas’ heard that Sir Marhaus was going to have a battle against a champion of King Mark’s choosing to settle an issue they had.
Tristan begged his father Meliodas to allow him to go and offer himself to be Mark’s champion. Meliodas warned Tristan of Marhaus’ power, but then gave his son his blessing and permitted him to go.
This is the last we hear of Meliodas in Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. However, earlier tales talk about his death.
In the earliest version of Meliodas’ story, that found in 13th century Prose Tristan, Meliodas went hunting unarmed one day.
While out on the hunt, two armed knights appeared, sent by the Count of Norholt, a location in Cornwall, and claimed that they knew through prophecy that their families would be dishonored by Meliodas or one of his descendants. Thus, they killed him.
A similar account is found in the Italian tale La Tavola Ritonda. This agrees with the Prose Tristan that Meliodas went hunting, but this time his enemies were different.
In this version, Meliodas comes across twelve knights who are related to him, who then kill him. In both versions, Tristan later avenges his father’s death by killing all, or almost all, of those who were involved.
Sources for the Legend of Meliodas
The earliest tale which talks about Meliodas is the Prose Tristan, written in the 13th century by an unknown author. This primarily tells the story of Tristan, although it naturally provides some information about Tristan’s father, Meliodas.
A more useful source is the Palamedes, part of which is commonly known as the Meliadus due to the key focus that it has on the character of Meliodas. This was written at about the same time as the Prose Tristan. The author is, again, unknown.
Another key source is La Tavola Ritonda, an Italian romance written the 15th century, again by an unknown author. It focuses particularly on the life of Tristan, giving helpful information about his family, such as Meliodas.
Another important source for the legend of Meliodas is Le Morte d’Arthur, written in the 15th century by Thomas Mallory.
Meliodas in Popular Culture
Meliodas has not appeared very much in modern media. One of the only examples includes:
- The Seven Deadly Sins: A manga produced by Nakaba Suzuki based loosely on the Arthurian legends. Meliodas appears as the leader of a group of knights known as the Seven Deadly Sins.
It seems that interest is generally focused much more on Tristan than on his legendary father.
Frequently Asked Questions About Meliodas
Who Is Meliodas in the Arthurian Legends?
Meliodas is the king of Lyonesse and one of Arthur’s knights.
Who is Meliodas Related To?
Meliodas is sometimes called the brother of King Mark of Cornwall, although he is usually portrayed as his brother in law. He was said to have married Mark’s sister.
Meliodas was the father of Tristan, the lover of Isolde.
After his first wife died, Meliodas married into the royal household of Brittany, marrying the daughter or sister of King Hoel.
How Did Meliodas Die?
Meliodas died by being attacked and killed while he was out hunting. In one version, he is killed by knights sent to kill him by the Count of Norholt. In another version, he comes across a group of knights related to him, who decide to kill him.
Was Meliodas a Real Person?
It seems very likely that Meliodas can be identified with the probably-historical Meliavus, a king of Brittany in the sixth century. He was the brother in law of Conomor, a figure many have identified as King Mark.
Meliavus had a son named Melor, who is likely the origin of the legendary Meliodas the Younger.
See our complete list of Arthurian characters for more entries like this one.
- Norris Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Debra Mancoff – The Arthurian Handbook (Second Edition)
- Alan Lupack – The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
- Ronan Coghlan – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
- Anonymous – Lancelot-Grail, the French Vulgate
- Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur
See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.