Viroconium

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,19 Ουιροκονιον, a πολις of the Κορναουοι;  Utriconion Cornoviorum at position 79 in the Ravenna Cosmography
  Antonine Itinerary iter 2 Vrioconio/Vriocunio, iter 12 Viroconiorum and Viriconio/Viroconio

WhereWroxeter, Shropshire, SJ566088, beside the river Severn, where an early Roman legionary fortress developed into a large settlementViroconium was surrounded by other forts and marching camps.  It was a hub of Roman roads and had a river port.  It is close to the later English-Welsh border, to later Shrewsbury, and to the Wrekin hill-fort, a likely tribal centre of some Cornovii ‘bendy river people’.

Name origin:  The parallel with Ariconium, lower down the river Severn, tips the balance towards deriving Viro- from *wer-3 ‘to turn, to bend’, referring to meanders in the Severn here, occupying the same slot as Ari- from *arku- ‘arc, bow-and-arrow’ referring to the Severn horshoe bend by Ariconium.  The -conium part meant something like ‘coming together’, as explained for Ariconium.

Notes:  The present analysis overrules many (at least 20!) other PIE roots that might potentially explain ver-, vir-, etc in early names, with little unanimity among advanced linguists in how to present them.  Candidates include *wer-4 ‘to perceive, watch out’ (with derivatives including wary), *wer-5 ‘to cover’ (with derivatives including weir and guard), *per-1, a prefix variously meaning ‘forward’, ‘chief’, etc; and *per-2 ‘to pass over’ (hence words such as fare), *wiro- ‘man’ (hence vir, Old English wer, and Welsh gŵr).  Personal names from Gaul beginning with Vir- are often claimed to have developed in Celtic, though Delamarre (2003: 320-1) pointed out that there seem to be two roots involved, pronounced differently (what would now be written weer- and wirr-), and meaning ‘true’ and ‘man’, respectively.  Attempts to relate this name to werewolves, based on a desire to explain C-vowel-N in early names with a Celtic word for ‘dog’, are not convincing.  It is curious that Uxacona 11 miles away and next on iter 2 begins like Latin uxor ‘wife’.

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Last edited 15 October 2021     To main Menu