Galacum

AttestedGalacum on iter 10 of the Antonine Itinerary.  Probably the same as Ptolemy 2,3,16 Καλατον, but not the Cosmography's Caluvio or Galluvio.

Where:  Probably the Roman fort at Burrow-in-Lonsdale (Smith, 1997) at SD61527584.

Name Origin:  Initial Gal- appears to have contributed to at least three ancient names in this area and might derive from many PIE roots, but its most likely meaning is ‘foreigner’.  Later Irish Gall meant a foreign invader, so that Dubhgaill and Finngaill were Scandinavians, while Comgalls near the Firth of Forth were probably Frisians.  The Germanic equivalent *walhaz led to modern Wales, Walloon, Wallachia, etc.  The deep origin was perhaps a word for wolf, then some tribes called Volcae, then Latin Gallia ‘Gaul’, but it is hard to know who called whom foreigners, and when, as one can see from modern Galloway and Galway.  The -acum part was a pan-European adjectival suffix, equivalent to English -ic, which showed up, for example, at Eburacum, York.  In short, this name might mean ‘Gaelic’.   A second possibility may be PIE *ghel- ‘to shine’, referring either to the yellowish-white sands of Morecambe Bay or to the slightly amber tinge of water in an area of iron mining and smelting, as discussed for Galava.  (The name of Morecambe Bay is recent, due to misunderstanding of Ptolemy.)

Notes:  The location at Lancaster Roman fort first suggested by Shotter (1998) no longer seems best (even though it was previously accepted here).  The Itinerary's figure of 27 miles from Bremetonnaci to Galacum reasonably matches the 29 Roman miles from Ribchester to Burrow along the road traced by David Ratledge, but it is not at all clear why the Itinerary did not travel to Lancaster by a straighter route closer to the coast.

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Last edited 23 February 2022     To main Menu