AttestedAnava at position 251 in the Ravenna Cosmography, among its tour of harbour estuaries;  anavion on an epitaph and on Vindolanda tablet 9594.

WhereAnava has traditionally been identified with the River Annan in south-west Scotland, with its mouth into the Solway estuary at about NY191643, whose valley contains a remarkable number of Roman forts and marching camps.  It might make better sense if Anava was the Moricambe estuary of the Waver plus Wampool, now marshy and thronged with waterfowl.  If the Cosmographer worked from a Ptolemy-style map, in which Scotland is pivoted weirdly through 90 degrees, that might distort his order of listing river names around here on a modern map.

Name Origin:  Many other names around the ancient literate world were similar, including the Greek island of Αναφη, the rivers Αναπος at Syracuse in Sicily, Αναυρος in Greece, Anas in Iberia, and Anatis in Morocco, plus the goddess Anahita in Iran, city Anau in Turkmenistan, and seaport Anapa on the Black Sea coast of Russia.  In the 200s BC Apollonius of Rhodes (Argonautica 4,1717-18) explained that Αναφη was so named after the gods made it appear to Jason and his crew.  The obvious guess is that all these places were named from Greek αναφαινω ‘to show forth, make known, cause to give light’, a compound of ανα ‘up’ and φαινω ‘make known’, because they had some kind of navigational recognition mark.  Unfortunately that does not pin down Anava's location.  Less likely is Greek αναβαινω, much used in the Bible to mean ‘to go up, ascend’, but for the Roman military more likely to mean ‘to embark (on a ship), mount (a horse)’.

Notes:  Many ancient words and names beginning with ana- were “wet”, including: words for ‘duck’ in many languages, such as anas in Latin, which descend from PIE *anət-, plus Gaulish anam glossed with Latin paludem ‘marsh’ in Endlicher's Glossary.  Watkins (2011:4) accepted a (slightly debatable) PIE root *an- ‘to pour’, best attested in Hittite, which could then be followed by a derivative of *ap- ‘water’.  If correct, that makes Anava like Abona, but with order of elements reversed.  Welsh anaw or Irish anae are probably cognate, but an obvious guess is that their meaning of ‘riches’ developed from the sense of a River of Plenty, which is a common notion worldwide.  Watson (1926:55) explained how Anava might have developed into Annan by gaining an N genitive case-ending, Gaelic-style.  Many etymological rationalizations (unconvincing, but can be looked up online) have been proposed for Ana-named places in the languages of peoples who took them over long after the original founders.  Delamarre (2003:45) discussed Gaulish *anavo- ‘riches, poetic inspiration’ as a possible contributor to personal names; it might have come from the same root as Latin animus ‘soul’ and ανεμος ‘wind’, but analysis as an-avus ‘without ancestor’ cannot be excluded.  Many rivers and valleys throughout the British Isles still have names that begin with Ann-, including Anna Valley, Annalees, Annalong, Annas, Annaside Banks, Annaside Beck, Annell, Annet Burn, and Annick Water.  Among them the Annan may be the biggest.  The only plausible way for name development from Anava to Waver is in writing, with AN misread as W, which seems unlikely.  Maybe the Annan had a salmon run to make it like Alaska's River of Plenty, to match the possible interpretation of Alauna as fish-rich.  Alarmingly many alternative etymologies must be considered, and largely rejected.  One geographically appropriate translation might be ‘opposite water’, with initial An- like the English prefix an- ‘against’ (seen in words such as answer), justified by the many names in that area apparently created by Roman soldiers recruited from around the lower Rhine.  Or Anava might just contain *navis ‘river’.

You may copy this text freely, provided you acknowledge its source as, recognise that it is liable to human error, and try to offer suggestions for improvement.
Last edited 6 May 2023     To main Menu