Durocornovium

Attested:  Antonine Itinerary iter 13 Durocornovio

Where:  On the south-east of Swindon, somewhere near Wanborough, whose church sits on a hilltop at SU207825.  The almost perfectly straight line of iter 13 plus the mileages from Silchester and from Monmouth fix this location only to within a mile or two, but the proximity of Coate stone circle and of the stream name Dorcan are very suggestive.

Name origin:  This was the Duro ‘central place, transport hub’ of people called Cornovii, of whom several instances are known around Britain.  Presumably their name was a functional description of life in a river basin, which around here was a network of converging tributaries of the Thames, gathering particularly into a river now called Cole (whose name has never been convincingly explained).  *Cornovium may then be analogous to *Coronavis, seen also in Purocoronavis.  There is plenty of evidence for *navis ‘river’ but the coro- part is more difficult.  Among its many possible meanings, the best may be ‘bendy, winding’ from PIE *(s)ker- ‘to bend, turn’, whose descendants include κορωνος ‘curved’, Latin corona ‘garland, crown’, German Kehre ‘U-turn’, and a huge range of other words from whore to church.  Roots considered but rejected include: PIE *kar- ‘hard’, which Nicolaisen (2001:241-2) cited to explain rivers with “pre-Celtic” names like Carron; PIE *ka- ‘to like, desire’, which Ekwall indirectly invoked for Carrant, Carey, etc; and PIE *ker- ‘head, horn’, the likely root of Ptolemy’s Καρνονακαι.  A quick search for rivers that look a bit winding and have names possibly related to coro yielded Churn, Churnet, Cerne, Cherwell, Ceiriog, and Char, plus other lost names deduced by Ekwall. 

Notes:  Rivet & Smith suggested Wanborough, though slightly to the north, at Nythe Farm Roman settlement, SU192854, because they were then working on several false assumptions about iter 13: that it was heading next to Cirencester (Corinium), whose name had got missed out during manuscript copying; that Clevo was a mis-spelled version of Gloucester; and that Ariconium was at Ross-on-Wye.  Actually, it makes much better sense if the copying loss was just one numeral x in the distance to Clevo.  The river Cole “has been extensively modified by man for a variety of reasons over the past 900 years”, so it is hard to guess how bendy it used to be.

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Last edited 3 March 2022     To main Menu.