AttestedAlovergium at position 22 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  Somewhere in south Devon.  Alovergium is the last in a sequence of five Cosmography names that cannot be securely located.  These five are preceded by Isca (Exeter) and Termonin (probably Topsham) and followed by a chunk of text that possibly indicates a jump not following a road to Moriduno (Gittisham).  It seems likely that the Cosmography here heads into the area now known as South Hams, listing places that could have had a role in supplying the legionary base at Exeter.

Name Origin:  There is no ancient parallel closer than Allobroges, but many ancient river names began with Al-, with successors that may include two Allens in Cornwall and the Alaw in Anglesey, while modern place names based on Aller occur all over the West Country.  The second element of Alovergium might come from PIE *werg(h)-, which has multiple meanings derived from a basic *wer- ‘to bend, to turn’, or perhaps from PIE *bherg- ‘high’, which could point to an estuary that is bendy or hilly.

Notes:  Modern place names in the right area that might preserve a trace of Alovergium include West Alvington (which was Alvintone in Domesday Book) near the head of the Salcombe/Kingsbridge estuary, Aveton Gifford, at the tidal limit of the river Avon, and Aylestone Brook, near Modbury, up the river Erme.  During Iron-Age and Roman times it is likely that the easy pickings of tin from Dartmoor fuelled a lively export trade through these south-coast river estuaries.nbsp; As evidence has increased for the importance of Totnes in Roman times, and for a settlement at Ipplepen, it becomes ever more likely that the Roman road from Exeter (Margary 491) continued on its heading all to Kingsbridge, and that Alovergium was there.

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Last edited 5 May 2020     To main Menu