AttestedMarcotaxon at position 225 in the Ravenna Cosmography

WhereMarcotaxon occurs after Victorie and before Tagea in the Cosmography's sequence of names, which places it somewhere between Stirling and Perth, as probably the camp from which Roman troops marched out to fight the battle of mons Graupius on the edge of the Ochil Hills.  The temporary camp near Forteviot at Broomhill, NO039175, west of the Water of May, seems the most likely candidate.  That would allow the temporary camp at Dunning, which was apparently re-occupied in the later (Severan) invasion of Scotland, to claim the name Victorie.

Name originMarco- has several possible explanations, but PIE *marko- ‘horse’ seems best.  Its descendants include Welsh march (noticed by Richmond & Crawford and then Rivet & Smith), English mare and various Germanic cognates, Galatian μαρκαν, and Sanskrit marya.  The ending -taxon resembles Greek ταξις ‘arrangement, especially in battle order’, from PIE *tag- ‘to set in order’, whose descendants in Latin or Germanic languages seem to all descend from Greek.  If correct, this implies that Roman military terminology had a strong Greek influence, perhaps due to Alexander the Great, and that there was a special cavalry assembly place before the battle.

Notes:  Thanks to Bill Paterson for making the case for cavalry.  This analysis no longer favours Latin marcus ‘large hammer’ (implying that Edward I was not the first Hammer of the Scots!); or Greek μαργων, used to mean ‘spoiling for a fight’in Aeschylus' play Seven against Thebes, and related to μαργαινω ‘to rage furiously’.  Words for ‘boundary, border’, from PIE *merg-, seen particularly in Germanic marches, Mercia, Denmark, etc, are said to lie behind the word mark and also the verb to march, so maybe marco- ‘horse’ got named from riding the bounds.

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Last edited 12 May 2020     to main Menu.