This is a copy of the old roman-britain.org website saved from various archives as originally produced through the hard work of Kevan White. I pieced them back together but unfortunately, many were lost in the process and a few still have not been made to work. Since taking on the site in 2015, I have tried to avoid making significant changes to the cotent.
If you wish to contact me please use the contact form (under "admin" on menu), add a comment or email me (Mike Haseler) at mike2018 (at) roman-britain.co.uk
Upgrade: Map of Ptolemy page now includes a much better map.
Document: Place name certainty ranking.
Document: Place names & etymologies.
At one time there was an easily found version of the Ptolemy map on another website, which detailed all the place names and although a little squashed, it was an essential resource. However, for some reason that is no longer easily found. So, I've upgraded the Roman Britain map of Ptolemy to include the place names. The map is also clickable taking you to the relevant piece of text.
A while back I published on another website, an outline suggestion for the names along the Antonine wall based on the manuscript note telling us there were seven forts on the wall. This means that we take the sixth Ravenna Cosmography name: "MEDIO-NEMETON" and assume a copying error combined two places, we have a very good linguistic match to the sixth: Bal-muidy (MEDIO), seventh: Old Kilpatrick=Nemthur (NEMETON) and next place beyond the wall: Dumbarton SUBDOBIADON. A string of such good matches wouldn't happen be mere chance. However, to be certain I gave plenty of opportunity for people to comment. There has been no substantial evidence given to show that there is any error in this compelling reasoning. Instead I have had arguments of the form: "someone worked out the place names using their unique understanding of the etymology and you're wrong". That style of argument only convinced me that all I am doing by delaying is allowing poor quality material to remain on the site. Roman Britain deserves better. The revision of these names is contained in this article: "Saint Patrick's birthplace & the names of the Roman forts along the Antonine Wall". The appropriate pages as given in the above document, together with some referencing them, have been changed accordingly.
As I said, I have tried to leave the site well alone. But one of the glaring issues where the site currently lacks quality is the place names. Firstly I am not satisfied that places have been correctly given the right name and secondly the "etymology" of place names given leave a lot to be desired.
I know from my own research into this area, that many place names have been allocated to locations based on very dubious evidence. Checking every location to verify what evidence was used to locate it, would be an enormous task and one I wish I had the time to do. So all I have done at present is to move away from identifying locations by a Latin name toward identifying places by a location specific name (which is only evident at present by the URL used). But I am considering adding more information to indicate how securely names are attached to locations.
Roman Britain already has a system of using question marks to identify less secure names. However this is too coarse. It does not distinguish between the very secure names like Londinium which are attested in numerous accounts, had continuous occupation under that and similar names and whose location is known, with a site such as Velunia (Carriden at the end of the Antonine wall) whose location is largely located by a single inscription which could have conceivably been relocated. Nor does a simple question mark do justice to a site where there is only some ambiguity as to the exact name, when the same mark is also being used for locations that can might be best described as "a guess". So I have drawn up a draft ranking system which is outlined here. Please leave comments on that page.
But my biggest concern is with place name etymologies. After several decades looking at this area, I have found that the standard of most Roman period British etymologies is low. There are frequent unsupportable statements of the form "'name' IS derived from the 'celtic' *fantasy". Where the "*" means no record of that form and the assertion of "IS" owes nothing to the strength of evidence, but is a statement of the passion of the author. Moreover, the subject is clearly highly contentious and so generates far more heat than light. It seems there will never be agreement on names, so it is a simple fact that All Roman period place name etymologies are uncertain. If I could find an authoritative, dispassionate source to use as a "bible" I would, but I have not. Another option I considered is removing all etymologies from the site, but unfortunately, etymologies have been used to justify many place name allocations and cannot be removed entirely. So, I am now setting forward my position regarding this subject in a Roman Britain policy discussion document which I hope to use as a basis for future decisions on the subject.