AttestedOlerica at position 121 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  The Cosmography lists Olerica between Maio (probably Bowness-on-Solway) and Derventione (Papcastle), so it was probably a Roman fort in the relatively flat farmland of north-west Cumbria.  The strongest candidate is Kirkbride fort at NY22955732 at the head of the Wampool estuary, which was much bigger in Roman times than it is now.  Other forts in that area are allocated to other names, including Maglona and Magis, while the Caermote fort at NY20233681 was only short-lived.

Name origin:  The best translation may be ‘sticking out beyond’ or ‘outreach’, with elements based on PIE *ol- ‘beyond’ (as in ultra, alien, Allemand, etc) and *reig- ‘to reach, stretch out’.  Alarmingly many potential translations need to be considered for initial Ol- (as also for Ολικανα, Olenaco, and Olcaclavis).  For example, in 40 or so ancient personal names Delamarre (2003:240) translated Gaulish *ollos as ‘great’ (like Old Irish oll) but sometimes as ‘all’ (like Welsh oll).  It is not obvious how these relate to the five or more PIE roots of form *al- (or *ol-) or to Latin olea ‘olive’, oleo ‘to smell’, -oleo ‘to grow’, olla ‘pot’, olor ‘swan’, or olyra ‘spelt-like grain’.  In the light of nearby Axelodunum, the armpit fort, maybe PIE el- ‘to bend, elbow’ is relevant.  Olericium mentioned in AD 451 is modern Lirey, in France.

Notes:  This fort was the western terminus sea-port of the Stanegate Roman road, as shown by David Ratledge in the Roman Roads Research Association newsletter 19, in which he speculates that it might be the Briga mentioned in Vindolanda tablets.  The present analysis rejects any idea that -rica was closely related to the -rix ending of personal names (such as Ολοριγος mentioned on an epitaph in Galatia, who might be a precursor of Alaric).  Nevertheless North-west Cumbria was an important part of the post-Roman kingdom of Rheged, where one may guess that an indigenous population speaking Cumbric (similar to Welsh) became dominant over a former ruling class speaking Latin or a retired soldiers' dialect.

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Last edited 21 May 2022     To main Menu