Where was Arthur's Camelot?
Fantastic Camelot, capital of Arthur's realm
At Camelot, it is said, King Arthur established a brilliant court with the Knights of the Round Table, the greatest and most chivalrous warriors in Europe.
The Castle at Camelot, the starting point of the Quest for the Holy Grail, is at the very centre of the Arthurian legend, but where was Camelot? Can we visit it today?
Camelot could be at one of these seven places. Which one do you think?
Was Camelot in Caerlon?
The ancient history of Caerleon in Wales has given rise to many legends. Geoffrey of Monmouth states Caerleon Castle is Camelot in his History of the Kings of Britain . Although Geoffrey had a vivid imagination, this may be where we can find Camelot
Caerleon, on the River Usk, was once a legionary fortress and the headquarters for Legio II Augusta (known for its disgrace during the uprising of Boudicca).
The historic city of Winchester in modern Hampshire lies at the centre of the Anglo-Saxon heartland of Southern England.
Winchester is the choice of Sir Thomas Malory. In his Le Morte D'Arthur (written in 1469), he placed the Castle of Camelot in Winchester, ..and within five days' journey they came to Camelot, that is called in English, Winchester.
Winchester is home to the Great Round Table, built about 1270, at the beginning of the reign of Edward I, much later than the time of Arthur. Although its place in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle certainly pre-dates Malory, it's not King Arthur's Round Table
Castle of Dinerth
Dinerth is another medieval castle, originally built by an Anglo-Norman mercenary, possibly Richard de la Mare, and raised on top of a previous defensive position.
Those who believe Dinerth to be Camelot use etymology as their base.
I don't pretend to understand their argument at all, this is a discussion for scholars who are way beyond me, but Dinerth translates as Fort of the Bear ~ and we all know that Arthur is the Bear.
The castle on Tintagel Head, a jutting peninsula located on the north Cornish coast, was built by Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, where the ancient Kings of Cornwall held their court.
Both Geoffrey of Monmouth and Tennyson say Camelot is Tintagel.
Whether it is the actual legendary home of Arthur or not, Tintagel headland was the site of a high status Celtic monastery, a princely fortress and a trading settlement of the 5th and 6th centuries, in the period immediately following the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain.
Cadbury is a popular possibility
Cadbury Castle, the best known and most interesting of the reputed sites of Camelot, is a Neolithic earthwork fort in Somerset. It overlooks the Vale of Avalon to Glastonbury, the River Cam, and the old village of Queen Camel, once known as Camel.
A Celtic ceremonial shield dating back to 1200 BCE was unearthed in 1998, indicating that a wealthy clan, king or military lord once lived there. Why was it left behind?
Iron age hill forts date from pre-Roman times and mostly were still in use at the time of the Roman conquest of Britain. Most were abandoned when the Romans came, but can still be recognised today by the series of ditches and banks dug as defenses. There are hundreds all over Britain, but Cadbury Castle is deserving of a closer look.
Excavations reveal that, most unusually, the fort was re-occupied after the Romans left in 410 . (The ramparts were strengthened using masonry from derelict Roman buildings). Since Arthur is thought to have existed in the 5th or 6th Century, this would seem to be promising evidence.
It's been a busy place over the centuries. Saxons fortified it once again for protection from Vikings and there was an Anglo-Saxon church on the hilltop.
It is said that on Midsummer's Day the hill turns to glass and the King can still be seen inside the hollow hill, where he sleeps, waiting for the day when he will return to protect his people in their hour of greatest need.
Fairy Tale Camelot
The Camelot as imagined. The turreted keeps and delicate towers of poetic imagination are fairytale.
The name Camelot may be derived from Camulodunum, nowadays the modern Colchester, 90 km northeast of London.
Camulodunum was an Iron Age settlement, a busy place and home to the powerful Trinovantes. It's the oldest recorded town in Britain and served as the first Roman capital until it was destroyed during Boudicca's rebellion in 61.
It's been suggested that, as the descendants of the Romanised Britons looked back to a golden age of peace and prosperity under Rome, the name "Camelot" of Arthurian legend was probably a reference to Camulodunum in Roman times.
Now known as Wroxeter, Viroconium was the fourth largest Roman settlement in Britain with, at its height, a population of more than 6,000.
It was a busy, thriving place, over 70 hectares, with a forum, public baths and all the trappings of a civilised Roman town.
The last legions went home in 410 and, at this point, the fortunes of Viroconium changed.
However, in the early 5th Century, the basilica was tidied up, and a substantial new hall together with a number of barns and other buildings constructed within the old Roman city. We don't know who instigated this work, but given the time period and the close proximity of the site to Wales, it has been suggested that Arthur used it as his main base during his campaigns.
Whether Viroconium really was the Camelot of legend or whether some other local prince or king carved a domain for himself amid the remnants of the old capital of the civitas will perhaps never be known.
Viroconium seems to have been simply abandoned sometime in the late 6th Century.
Does it really matter? - Camelot is an Ideal
More Stories of Arthur
Arthur the Sleeping Hero
What happened to Arthur? Some say he was slain at the Battle of Camlann and buried there but many more say that he has joined the Company of Sleeping Heroes.
The Forgotten Women in the story of Arthur
Arthur's Women from Tales of King Arthur
The tales of King Arthur are legendary Stories of his courage and endeavour are passed down through generations, and songs are still sung of Arthur and his Knights but who sings of the women in the legend?
Camelot is not a Castle, but an Ideal
It doesn't really matter where Camelot may be, for in these modern times, it has come to mean not just a place, but a reflection of a glorious and lost ideal.
There are still many stunning castles to be seen in England. When Camelot is mentioned, what first springs to mind is the images of these architectural mult-purpose buildings (for that's what castles are, part home, part fort, part factory and very good jobs they did of it too).
But for Arthur, castles were almost 500 years in the future.