AttestedSmetri at position 168 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  In the flood plain of the river Nith, near the Roman forts of Dalswinton and Carzield, around NX951833, just north of modern Dumfries.  At this point in its list of places the Cosmography is heading south from Cambroianna (Drumlanrig) down the Nith, towards Uxela (near Caerlaverock) on the Solway Firth.

Name origin:  From a precursor of Old English smeşe ‘smooth’, which refers to flat, level ground in a dozen or so English place names, while the ending –ri may mean ‘flow’, as in many languages and other names, or it might resemble the collective suffix –ry, seen in words like gentry.  Presumably due to Roman troops of Dutch/Belgian origin, as revealed, for example, by the inscription fortvnae coh i nervana germanor m eq found at Birrens.  Five rivers in England, in generally flat land, are (or were) called Smite, which Ekwall (1928:373-4) reckoned meant something like ‘gliding’.

Notes:  In later place names smeşe sometimes got reinterpreted into smith, so maybe Smithtown Moss, near Dalswinton preserves a memory of Smetri.  Rivet & Smith could see no parallels better than Ptolemy's Σμερται people, far away in northern Scotland.  This analysis overrules a previous suggestion of ‘smithery’, like Dutch smederij.  The best places for the Roman army to make its iron tools, weapons, and horse sandals would be dictated mainly by transport links, since iron bloomeries could operate almost anywhere there was timber to make charcoal.  Macadam (1887) mentioned that numerous sites of ancient iron-making were said to be near Ecclefechan, but he could obtain no precise sites.  See here for a discussion of all Roman names in this area north of the Solway.

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Last edited 30 May 2023     to main Menu