AttestedNovia at position 267 in the Ravenna Cosmography's tour of important harbour estuaries

Where:  Somewhere along the coast of Sussex, which has changed substantially since Roman times, due to sea-level rise, siltation, and longshore drift.  Ptolemy's Καινος Λιμην ‘new harbour’possibly hints that coastal change, and changes in the positions of ports, was already well advanced in Roman times.  The Cosmography's sequence Lemanis - Novia - Raxtomessasenua suggests this site was between Dungeness and  the Solent, where many harbours need to be considered:
1.   Hastings, next to Bulverhythe, is unlikely, despite its association with the Norman conquest and its status as a Cinque Port.
2.   The Roman fort at Pevensey (?‘puffins island’), east of Beachy Head and Eastbourne, is generally agreed to be Anderidos of the Notitia Dignitatum, but it was also mentioned in the Cosmography as Anderelio nuba, where nuba might be a variant of Novia, since B and V were nearly interchangeable in Latin at that date.  See here for a video presentation of how Pevensey Lagoon may have looked in Roman times, before it silted up, or else see the flood risk map.  The fort had water on three sides (unusual for Roman coastal forts), at the east end of a peninsula sticking out from west to east, near the mouth of a huge marshy bay.  Ships could probably float past it to what are now inland towns at Hailsham and Polegate.
3.   The port of Newhaven became ‘new’ relatively recently, and was previously called Meeching (?‘mixing’), with the main port upstream on the river Ouse, close to modern Lewes, near TQ423095, or possibly at Bridge Farm, Wellingham, TQ43301440.  The original mouth of the Ouse was to the east, at Seaford, where Roman road Margary 144 apparently heads towards Seaford Camp on a high cliff on the coast, with Cuckmere Haven on its eastern side.
4.   Shoreham-by-Sea is at the mouth of the river Adur (suggested by R&S).
5.   Littlehampton is at the mouth of the river Arun.
6.   Pagham Harbour still has a saltmarsh lagoon, rather like some Roman harbours.
7.   Chichester was probably Ptolemy's Νοιομαγος, generally assumed to represent Latin *Noviomagus.  Attaching **Reginorum to that is not justified, despite the importance of the Roman villa or “palace” nearby at Fishbourne.
8.   Navimago regentium in the Ravenna Cosmography might also be Chichester, but Bitterne (near Southampton) is also possible.

Name Origin:  From Latin novus ‘new’.  It might also come from Germanic words for ‘protuberance’, related to words like nub or knob, or conceivably from *navis ‘river.

Notes:  Pevensey looks like a clear winner.

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Last edited 17 May 2020       To main menu