Attested:  Tacitus Annales 12,31-32 & 14, 31 Iceni;   Caesar Bello Gallico 5,21 Cenimagni;   Ptolemy 2,3,21 Σιμενοι
Icinos on iter 5 and Venta Icinorum on iter 9 of the Antonine Itinerary;   Ventacenomum at position 103 of the Ravenna Cosmography;
Ad ...taum on the Peutinger map;   Coins ECEN, ECENI, EC, ECN, ECE.

Where:  This tribe appears to have occupied modern Norfolk plus parts of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, with one central place, Venta Icenorum, at modern Caistor St. Edmund, near Norwich.

Name origin:  The recorded spellings are remarkably diverse, so the traditional Iceni seems like a reasonable compromise, but ECENI on coins is easiest to explain.  There is no obvious parallel in Celtic or Latin, but this name is first attested among the tribes who submitted to Caesar, whose names generally make best sense in Greek, so maybe the best parallel is εκεινη ‘in that place’, not least because the idea of coinage seems to have spread in northern Europe from the time of Alexander.  If Welsh echen ‘lineage, family, tribe’ is another parallel, the overall sense of Ecen might just be ‘our people’.  Ecen also makes good sense in Germanic as meaning ‘oaken’, based on a word like modern German Eicheoak’.  The argument made by Daphne Nash Briggs that other words and symbols on Iceni coins have stylistic and linguistic links across the North Sea to Germanic peoples is widely accepted by coin experts.  The name possibly survived into the AD 900s in Icenhilde weg etc (modern Icknield Way), which may come from ‘oak-wood’.

Notes:  While discussing the river name Itchen, Ekwall (1928: 128-9) drew attention to Old English eacen ‘strong, mighty’, which probably came from the same PIE root *aug- ‘to increase’ as Augustus, eke, and the common early place-name element *uxelo-.  Presumably the people and the oak tree got their names from the same source.

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Last edited 28 April 2023     to main Menu