Glevum


AttestedGlebon Colonia at position 62 in the Ravenna Cosmography.   Inscriptions (not found at, or tightly linked to, Gloucester):  GLEV..., GLEVI 2x, GLEVA 2x.
  Also RPG many times.   Probably not Clevo on iter 13 of the Antonine Itinerary.

Where:  Gloucester, around SO831185.  See here for a fine presentation of the history of the river Severn's multiple channels there through history.

Name origin:  PIE *gleubh- ‘to tear apart, to cleave’ fits the character of the river Severn, where it splits apart here.  Descendant words in English include clove, cleft, and glyph (from Greek).  It also fits the post-roman development of the name towards modern Gloucester.  Spellings in *Glev- presumably reflect the attraction of Latin gleba (or glaeba mainly by Pliny) ‘lump of earth, clod’ hence ‘land, soil’.  No useful parallel in Celtic has been widely presented.  This does not mean that none exists, but merely that past efforts in that direction are unhelpful distractions.

Notes:  Gloucester has the lowest fordable (or easily bridgeable) crossing of the river Severn, which makes it a twin of London, but the really distinctive geographical feature of Gloucester is that its built-up area all lies east of a floodable island between 2 modern channels of the Severn, representing a complex and changeable situation in the past.  Also there is an inflowing tributary river Leadon, which Ekwall (1928) tried to explain unconvincingly with a Celtic word for ‘wide’ (see Litana), while ignoring other parallels among river names and river banks elsewhere in Europe.  The Cosmography appears to show Glebon and Colonia as separate words, and hence possibly as separate places, but that does not help to solve the problem of names in the Welsh Marches.

You may copy this text freely, provided you acknowledge its source as www.romaneranames.uk, recognise that it is liable to human error, and try to offer suggestions for improvement.
Last edited 13 October 2021     To main Menu