Attested: Ptolemy 2,3,2 Τοισοβιος ποταμου εκβολαι
Where: One of the big, sandy estuaries into Cardigan Bay in west Wales (Tremadog Bay, exit for the river Glaslyn etc; or near Barmouth, exit for the river Mawdach; or near Aberdovy, exit for the Dyfi past Machynlleth) but Ptolemy's coordinates do not pin down the location precisely enough for certainty.
Name origin: The –οβιος ending probably meant ‘river, water’ as discussed here, but the τοισ- part is more difficult. It might come from PIE *teus- ‘empty’ which seems not to have modern descendants in English or Welsh, but is well represented in other languages, such as Russian тощий. That meaning may have been preserved in the modern place name Dyserth, which is Welsh for ‘deserted, desolate’, a loan-word from Latin desertum. A better suggestion may be the word tuz ‘salt’ seen in all the Turkic languages and much in evidence around the Black Sea, notably in Lake Tuz and many places called Tuzla.
Notes: The Pontic Steppe (grasslands north of the Black Sea, sometimes claimed as the cradle of Indo-European languages, and a 2022 war zone) is traversed by two rivers that have name parallels in Roman Britain. Compare Τουεροβιος with the river Τυρας, now known as the Dniester, and Iupania with Ὑπανις (Hypanis), now known as the southern Bug. All the candidate Welsh rivers and their Black Sea parallels have large estuaries, with areas of flat sand suitable for drying seawater to make salt, plus a propensity to flood and to host trading emporia. Thanks to Andrew Fielding for prompting a rethink of previous bad suggestions of the rivers Clwyd (past St Asaph Varis) or Conwy (past Canovium and Llandudno).
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Last edited 9 November 2022 to main Menu