Far down he gazed
On Camelot, until he made of it
A phantom town of many stillnesses,
Not reared for men to dwell in, or for kings
To reign in, without omens and obscure
Familiars to bring terror to their days
From Merlin by EdwinArlington Robinson
Camelot is the phantom town, slipping from place to place, not to be fixed to a particular geographic location. Malory finally places it with Winchester, the capital of King Alfred's Wessix. Malory's editor, however, favors a Welsh Camelot. Another possible site is Camel near Cadbury Castle in Somerset which has been connected with arthur by legend and to the "original" Arthur by archaelogy.
The name Camelot is of unknown derivation. It may have taken from the Ronam Camulodunum, which means "Fort of Camulos," an ancient British war-god. Camulodunum was a town in Essex, almost on the Saxon shore, which doen't seem a likely inspiration for the legend. The aforementioned village of Camel may also have inspired the imagination of writers.
Camelot was a fictitious city first named as Arthur's principal home some time in the 12th century. It is peculiar, in that it was his personal capital and not a national capital. Historians believe that this makes it more plausible that there was a factual basis for Camelot. John Leland, in 1542, claimed Cadbury Castle was the "real" Camelot. Cadbury was the head quarters for a 5th century king. Its west country location gives it credibility as the original Camelot.
Camelot is a dream city, a "chivalric Utopia" Arthur's personal capital from whence he doles out justice, hosts grand feasts, and makes brave knights.
Picture: (close-up or cut-out) Gustave Dore. "And the dead, Oar'd by the dumb," Idylls of the King. from Mancoff