AttestedTraxula at position 236 in the Ravenna Cosmography, the first of a sequence of 35 rivers

Where:  The name describes the Isle of Portland, located by its position in the Cosmography's tour of harbour estuaries, acting as a marker for the Roman harbour at Weymouth.

Name origin:  Latin tragula ‘short javelin attached to a strap’ is remarkably similar in shape to the pointed Isle of Portland at the end of long, thin Chesil Beach.  Tragula is discussed carefully by Descroix (1948); it survived into French dialect as trachlle.  See here about how a strap increased the range and military effectiveness of a javelin.

Notes:  The Roman harbour entrance was probably by Weymouth, at SY684787, where the river Wey led to Radipole, and then to Dorchester (Durnonovaria), rather than the medieval harbour of The Fleet, sheltered by Chesil Beach, or the recent naval anchorage of Portland Harbour.  Roman authors were unsure whether to derive tragula from traicio ‘to throw across’ or from trago ‘to drag’.  The letters G and X were closely related in Latin: think of lex/legis, rex/regis, the ancestors of lax and languid, and the Runic alphabet, which used X to represent a G sound.

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Last edited 22 October 2022     to main Menu