Attested: Eltabo at position 2 in the Ravenna Cosmography (not well separated in 2 manuscripts from Giano at position 1) and Elconio at position 3.
Where: The Cosmography's list of names places these sites somewhere in the West Country, most likely in North Devon. The best candidates are probably near modern Barnstaple and Bideford, on the rivers Taw and Torridge, whose joint estuary (much silted up since Roman times), is probably also mentioned by the Cosmography as Naurum. The only recognized Roman military site there is the marching camp at Alverdiscott, which might claim Elconio, since it commands the wedge of land between the two rivers. Evidence of Roman iron working has been found at Brayford.
Name origin: Eltabo obviously hints at the river Taw, and see here about Roman names for the river Tay. Ekwall (1928) thought that Welsh taw ‘silence’ was less useful as a parallel than *teu- ‘to swell’ whose descendants include Sanskrit tavas ‘strong’, appropriate for the Taw's character as a spate river. Elconio obviously hints at cone, as would fit the wedge shape of land around the Alverdiscott camp, and the similar geographical contexts of the early tribes called Concani or Conisci in the Celtic-ish Cantabria region of northern Iberia, discussed here. The problem is then to link initial El- with two rivers. Amending to Fl-, short for Latin flumen, suggested by Rivet & Smith, is unconvincing. Plenty of modern river names begin with El- (Ellen, Eller, Eller, etc) or Al- (Allow, Aln, Alne, Alwin, etc). The Roman Elaver is now the Allier in France, while the Roman Albis is now the Elbe in Germany. Possible explanations proposed for El-/Al- include white (*alb- contrasting with rivers visibly ‘dark’ ), brown (as often suggested to explain alders, water-tolerant trees), and nourishing (as explained for Alauna).
Notes: A previous suggestion offered here for Eltabo no longer seems good: the river Umber, through Combe Martin, around SS5847, where there is no hard evidence of Roman interest in that area, has hillforts, a sheltered bay for small boats, and rich veins of silver that were being exploited in the 1200s. Also no longer favoured is likening
elt to Latin altus ‘high’, and Cornish als ‘cliff, hillside, shore’, and taking abo to mean ‘water’.
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Last edited 18 May 2022 To main Menu.