AttestedPanovius or Panonius at position 230 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  Probably the Roman fort at Inveresk NT342720 on the outskirts of Edinburgh, beside the river Esk where it feeds into the Forth estuary, because of where Panovius occurs in a list of Cosmography names discussed here.  Also the size and importance of the fort, plus the multiple Roman camps and a fort upstream on that Esk, make it highly unlikely to be ignored by the Cosmography.

Name origin:  The -ovius part looks like another instance of the *upa/*oba ‘water, river’ element discussed here.  For Pan- there is a clue nearby at Prestonpans, a relatively recent name whose -pans part refers to salt-making, an industry that became hugely important all around the Forth; see for example here.  One can confidently extrapolate salt-making back to Roman times at a place such as Inveresk (though whether coal was used as fuel back then is open to doubt), but the word saltpan need not necessarily imply human activity since it can also apply to a completely natural saline depression, such as De Panne on the Belgian coast.  Dictionaries trace ‘pan’ back to a common Germanic word, but are not sure whether that came independently from PIE *petə- ‘to spread’ or passed through Latin pando ‘to spread’ or patina ‘shallow dish’.  Or else it may descend from PIE *pen- ‘swamp’ (which also led in English to fen).  This analysis outranks any analogy with the sea nymph πανοπτης ‘all-seeing’ or other derivatives of παν- ‘all’ (neuter of πας).  If the -ovius (seen also in some early names in Wales) part applied to the river's banks as much as its water that would resemble Germanic *oferaz ‘shore, bank’.

Notes:  Inveresk fort and civilian settlement sat on a patch of raised ground beside a river estuary, since filled in by siltation and isostatic rebound to become the flood-vulnerable area of Musselburgh.  There is an interesting parallel in Bede's Pentae amnis, the modern river Blackwater (formerly called Pant) in Essex, where sea salt is still produced commercially at Maldon, Britain's last remaining vestige of an industry that was massive for well over 2000 years.  Since Ekwall (1928:319) that river name has been likened to Welsh pant ‘depression’, but that word might be borrowed from Latin or even from Germanic.  Possibly in Bede's Peanfahel too.

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Last edited 29 October 2022     To main Menu