Eltabo   and   Elconio

AttestedEltabo at position 2 in the Ravenna Cosmography (not well separated in 2 manuscripts from Giano at position 1) and Elconio at position 3.

Where:  The Cosmography's list of names places these sites somewhere in the West Country, most likely in North Devon.  The best candidates are probably near modern Barnstaple and Bideford, on the rivers Taw and Torridge, whose joint estuary (much silted up since Roman times), is probably also mentioned by the Cosmography as Naurum.  The only recognized Roman military site there is the marching camp at Alverdiscott, which might claim Elconio, since it commands the wedge of land between the two rivers.  Evidence of Roman iron working has been found at Brayford, which may claim Eltabo.

Name originEltabo makes best sense divided Elt-abo, with first element like Latin altus ‘high, deep’ and Cornish als ‘cliff, hillside, shore’, and second element abo meaning ‘water, river’.  There is a parallel later in the Cosmography at Eltavori.
  Elconio, on the other hand, may be divided El-conio, where con- might suit the river confluence around the Roman camp (and as in the Concani or Conisci early tribes in the Celtic-ish Cantabria region of northern Iberia, discussed here).  Plenty of modern river names begin with El- (Ellen, Eller, Eller, etc) or Al- (Allow, Aln, Alne, Alwin, etc). The Roman Elaver is now the Allier in France, while the Roman Albis is now the Elbe in Germany.  Possible explanations proposed for El-/Al- include white (*alb- contrasting with rivers visibly ‘dark’ ), brown (as often suggested to explain alders, water-tolerant trees), and nourishing (as explained for Alauna).  Also there are words for ‘furrow’ and/or ‘wound’, related to ελκω ‘to drag behind’, which might apply to the two rivers.

Notes:  In effect, this analysis suggests that north Devon, on the western margins of Exmoor, had mineral resources that interested the Romans.  In later centuries, rich veins of silver were being exploited in the 1200s near the river Umber, through Combe Martin, around SS5847.  Other metals, including gold, were mined at South Molton.  Presumably, all the easy pickings have been worked out and are no longer visible, because there is no obvious source of iron ore near Brayford.
  This analysis downgrades any resemblance of Eltavo to rivers called Taw, Tavy, etc.  See here about Roman names for the river Tay.
  Amending El- to Fl-, short for Latin flumen, suggested by Rivet & Smith, is unconvincing.

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Last edited 28 January 2023     To main Menu.