Gobannium

Attested:  AI iter 12 Gobannio;  possibly the same as RC’s Bannio

Where:  Abergavenny Roman fort at SO29851409, which occupied the flat summit of a bluff above the confluence of the rivers Usk and Gavenny.

Name origin:  Probably from a word like gob, which means ‘mouth, snout’ in both Irish and English, plus a word like onna ‘river’ of Endlicher's Glossary (as in the river Annan).

Notes:  The oft-repeated theory that the river Gafenni was a ‘river of the blacksmiths’ because of medieval Irish gobae or gobann ‘smith’ is hard to defend, mainly because there is no evidence for any iron smelting reasonably near Abergavenny until well after Roman times.  And the idea of an ancient god Gobannus, ancestral to Welsh Gofannon, Irish Goibniu, and Lithuanian Gabija, rests upon a problematic record: five inscriptions mentioning Coban(n)o, plus others mentioning γοβανο, Goban, gobannilno, and Xuban, plus Vercingetorix’s uncle Gobannitio.  Most likely, *bann- was an early word for skilled craftsmen (possibly from the Semitic root *ban- ‘to construct’), which led to Greek βαυνος ‘furnace’ and βαναυσος ‘artisan’, plus various personal names such as Bannonius and the potter’s mark Banna fecit.  In that case, initial co- or go- might have a sense of ‘with’, appropriate to a patron deity of artisans.

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Last Edited: 26 July 2016