Attested: Galacum on iter 10 of the Antonine Itinerary. Probably the same as Ptolemy 2,3,16 Καλατον, but not the Cosmography's Caluvio or Galluvio.
Where: Somewhere near Fleetwood and the Wyre estuary, possibly at Thornton, SD354418, would give a straighter track to the Itinerary than the usually suggested Roman fort at Burrow-in-Lonsdale (Smith, 1997) at SD61527584, which involves a messy backtrack.
Name Origin: Initial Gal- appears to have contributed to at least three ancient names in this area and might derive from many PIE roots. Here are 3 possibilities:
1. Celticists point to Irish gal ‘warlike ardour’, said to come from PIE *gal- ‘to be able’.
2. Similar logic could point to Danish gal ‘mad, angry’, from PIE cal- ‘to call’.
3. Germanic *walhaz ‘foreigner’led to modern Wales, Walloon, Wallachia, etc, allegedly from a word for wolf, then some tribes called Volcae, then Latin Gallia ‘Gaul’, but it is hard to know who called whom foreigners, and when, as one can see from modern Galloway and Galway. In later Irish Gall meant a foreign invader, so that Dubhgaill and Finngaill were Scandinavians, while Comgalls near the Firth of Forth were probably Frisians. Relative darkness or lightness of hair or complexion seems to have contributed to many early ethnic names.
4. Alternatively, and not suggesting that this essentially meant ‘Gaelic’, PIE *ghel- ‘to shine’ might refer either to the yellowish-white sands of Morecambe Bay or to the slightly amber tinge of water in an area of iron mining and smelting, as discussed for Galava.
The -acum part was a pan-European adjectival suffix, equivalent to English -ic, which showed up, for example, at Eburacum, York.
Notes: The location at Lancaster Roman fort first suggested by Shotter (1998) no longer seems best (even though it was previously accepted here). The Itinerary's figure of 27 miles from Bremetonnaci to Galacum reasonably matches the 29 Roman miles from Ribchester to Burrow along the road traced by David Ratledge, but it would be more logical if the Itinerary travelled to Lancaster by a straighter route closer to the coast The name of Morecambe Bay is recent, due to misunderstanding of Ptolemy.
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Last edited 17 March 2023 To main Menu