Tadoriton and Maporiton

AttestedTadoriton and Maporiton at positions 162 and 163 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  Somewhere in Annandale, in the Scottish borders, almost certainly where the Roman main road from Carlisle towards Glasgow crossed the river Annan near NY109971 and Evan Water near NT087024.  In the Cosmography's list, Tadoriton and Maporiton form a natural pair, with their approximate location fixed by two names on either side: Carbantium (Raeburnfoot, located fairly solidly by a mention also in Ptolemy) and Alithacenon (probably Redshaw Burn).  The Romans were busy in this area (probably during their initial push into Scotland before AD 100), where Canmore reported that around NT092014, at Tassieholm, otherwise known as Milton: “The forts, fortlet and camp ... sit on a low ridge and comprise a Flavian fort of two phases with annexes, and an Antonine fortlet with probably two phases enclosed by a trapezoidal palisaded enclosure ... To the south of the fortlet lies a small camp (Milton I), and a possible camp may lie under the forts (Milton II, see probable camps below ...”.  Then around Beattock NT08450261 “On the gravel terrace ... about 1km to the north of the fort at Milton, lie some five temporary camps, on either side of the Evan Water, close to its confluence with the River Annan.”

Name origin:  These two are famously ‘father and son’.  Tado- is like the babble word ‘Daddy’ and shows up in many languages, including Welsh tad and Latin tata.  The origin of Mapo- and of Welsh mab ‘son’ are uncertain.  Some attribute them to PIE *maghu- ‘child’ along with words such as maiden plus the patronymic prefixes Mac- and Ap-.  Matasovic (2009) prefers to suggest PIE *meg- ‘great’ as the root.  The phonological change from PIE KW to P, which famously divides Irish from Welsh, actually happened in many languages, including most consistently Greek.  The -riton part is usually translated as ‘ford’ on the theory that the common Welsh place-name element Rhyd- descends from an ancient form *ritu, so the present two names would be father and son fords.  Aerial photos in Google Maps suggest that it would now be easy for a soldier on foot or on horseback to splash across Evan Water but possibly more difficult across the river Annan.  However, it is not easy to explain how two fords would merit commemoration in two paired place names, whereas river names often picked up adjective-like attributes (black/white, east/west, etc, see Peust, 2015 note 25)) to distinguish one river from a near neighbour and diminutive pairs were common, such as Donetz/Don and Moselle/Meuse.  Also the ten other ancient place names containing *ritu do not correlate well with fords, but better with moving water, so better parallels may be English rithe ‘stream’ and Germanic Ried ‘marsh’, but Greek ρυτον ‘flowing’ (rhyton) may be better still since the next name Alithacenon looks so Greek.  On balance -riton more likely meant a small river than a ford.

Notes:  At the crossing of the Annan Canmore reports a 1997 observation that: “a 3m wide causeway ... in the river bed ... is built of dressed sandstone blocks, mainly red, and appears to have ?grooves? or ?drains? at each side. It was visible for a length of some 4m projecting from the northern bank. This may be a feature connected with the building of the [railway] viaduct.”  At the crossing of Evan Water the 1899 Ordnance Survey map, but not its modern successor, shows Holms Bridge, allowing “Old Road” to cross the water, and among the trees on the north there is still a stone buttress standing remarkably high above the stream.  At the very least this shows that a road on the Roman line continued in use until quite recently.  Mapo is usually likened to the god Maponus, attested on numerous inscriptions, especially around Hadrian's Wall, and to Lochmaben lower down the Annan, possibly named from a destroyed megalithic monument, and to the place Maponi possibly located near Stirling, and Mapo is much cherished in Wales because of the Mabinogion.  Also, the name Moffat (applied to the local market town plus one river and its valley) looks suspiciously similar to Mapo- and has a commonly stated Gaelic explanation as ‘long plain’ that does not fit the local topography.  Tado- has no obvious successor locally, apart from possibly Tweed, the name of a river that originates just over a hill from the source of the river Annan in the Devil's Beef Tubnear the Ericstane Romano-British settlement and fort.  The name Tweed has resisted explanation (Ekwall, 1928:421-3), though it looks suspiciously similar to the word two.  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