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In search of Camelot
Camelot was the most famous castle in the medieval legends of King Arthur, and where, according to legend, he reigned over Briton before the Saxon conquest. At Camelot, Arthur established a brilliant court and seated the greatest and most chivalrous warriors in Europe, the Knights of the Round Table. Camelot was the starting point of the Quest for the Holy Grail, and by the 1200's, it came to symbolize the center of the Arthurian world.
The oldest known stories of Arthur do not refer to Camelot by name. It is first mentioned explicitly in the romance Lancelot written by Chretien de Troyes in the twelfth century. Different writers throughout the ages have placed Camelot in different locations. Sir Thomas Malory, in Le Morte D'arthur (15th century), placed the castle in Winchester. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his History of the Kings of Britain (about 1136) named Caerleon Castle in Wales. Another theory puts Camelot near Tintagel, Arthur's reputed Cornish birthplace. According to the romancers, Camelot was named after a pagan king called Camaalis. Modern attempts at identifying Camelot have sought to place Camelot at the ruins of Cadbury Castle in Somerset, excavated in the 1960's. There is much underlying tradition to support this belief. Cadbury Castle is an earthwork fort of the Iron Age, which looks over the Vale of Avalon to Glastonbury. Nearby is the River Cam, and the village of Queen Camel (once known as Camel) The antiquary John Leland, in the reign of Henry VIII speaks of local people who refer to the fort as "Camalat" and as the home of Arthur.
The mythology of Camelot, and the story of King Arthur has been told and retold over the centuries, hence there are many versions. The legends of Arthur may have originated with an actual chieftain named Arthur who lived in Wales in the sixth century, but the many retellings have moved the story far away from that place and time. Because of the belief that Arthur will return, he is sometimes called The Once and Future King and Camelot itself has come to not only be viewed as a place, but as a state of mind or a reflection of a lost ideal. Tennyson, in the Idylls of the King writes that it is symbolic of "the gradual growth of human beliefs and institutions, and of the spiritual development of man."
Don't let it be forgot, That once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot