Condercum

AttestedConderco in the Notitia DignitatumCondecor at position 144 in the Ravenna Cosmography

WhereBenwell Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall, inside modern Newcastle upon Tyne, at NZ21596477, perched on a hill about 100m above the river.

Name origin:  The Cosmography spelling Condecor was probably earlier and has a natural meaning in Latin of something like ‘together decorous’, appropriate for this site overlooking the confluence into the Tyne of a river Derwent coming from Vindomora (Ebchester).  The Derwent would then have been very rural, before it became important for transport of coal to a huge iron works.  This seems better than focussing on the later spelling Conderco, for which Rivet & Smith followed Richmond & Crawford in suggesting a meaning of ‘look-out place’, based on PIE derk-, ‘to see’, whose descendants include Greek δερκομαι ‘to see clearly’, Irish derc ‘eye(socket)’, and Old English torht ‘bright, splendid’.  A related word, draco ‘dragon’ from Greek δρακων, was standard Roman military terminology.  The Con- part might be as in the Irish suppletive (replacement) verbal form ad-condairc ‘saw’.

Notes:  In this area the main Roman road became called Dere Street.  The fort's garrison troops mentioned by the Notitia came from Asturia, where Celtic speech probably persisted in the hills, but troops of other ethnicities were at the fort earlier in its life.  Two epitaphs mentioning Conderci, apparently a personal name, were found near Toulouse and Ancona, neither known for Celtic speech.

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