Anava

AttestedAnava at position 251 in the Ravenna Cosmography, among its tour of harbour estuaries;  anavion on an epitaph and on Vindolanda tablet 99.

WhereAnava has traditionally been identified with the River Annan in south-west Scotland, with its mouth into the Solway estuary at about NY191643, whose valley contains a remarkable number of Roman forts and marching camps.  The Cosmography's order of listing river names here appears to back-track on a modern map, but it would not on a Ptolemy-style map in which Scotland is pivoted weirdly through 90 degrees.

Name Origin:  Ancient words and names beginning with ana- were generally “wet”.  They include: words for ‘duck’ in many languages, such as anas in Latin, which descend from PIE *anət-; Gaulish anam glossed with Latin paludem ‘marsh’ in Endlicher's Glossary; ancient river names including the Anas in Iberia, the Αναυρος in Greece, the Αναπος in Sicily, and the Anatis in Morocco; the goddess Anahita in Iran; and the ancient city of Anau in Turkmenistan.  Watkins (2011:4) accepted a (slightly debatable) PIE root *an- ‘to pour’, best attested in Hittite, which could then be followed by a derivative of *ap- ‘water’.  If correct, that makes Anava like Abona, but with order of elements reversed.  Welsh anaw or Irish anae are probably cognate, but an obvious guess is that their meaning of ‘riches’ developed from the sense of a River of Plenty, which is a common notion worldwide.  Watson (1926:55) explained how Anava might have developed into Annan by gaining an N genitive case-ending, Gaelic-style.  Delamarre (2003:45) discussed Gaulish *anavo- ‘riches, poetic inspiration’ as a possible contributor to personal names; it might have come from the same root as Latin animus ‘soul’ and ανεμος ‘wind’, but analysis as an-avus ‘without ancestor’ cannot be excluded.

Notes:  Many rivers and valleys throughout the British Isles still have names that begin with Ann-, including Anna Valley, Annalees, Annalong, Annas, Annaside Banks, Annaside Beck, Annell, Annet Burn, and Annick Water.  Among them the Annan may be the biggest, and it can fit the sequence of names in the Cosmography, but the possibility that Anava really belongs with another river in that area which now has a different name cannot be excluded.  For example, the marshy, waterfowl-thronged Moricambe estuary is a possible candidate, though the only plausible way for name development from Anava to Waver is in writing, with AN misread as W, which seems unlikely.  Maybe the Annan had a salmon run to make it like Alaska's River of Plenty, to match the possible interpretation of Alauna as fish-rich.  Alarmingly many alternative etymologies must be considered, and largely rejected.  For example, a geographically appropriate translation might be ‘opposite water’, with initial An- like the English prefix an- ‘against’ (seen in words such as answer), justified by the many names in that area apparently created by Roman soldiers recruited from around the lower Rhine.  Or Anava might just contain *navis ‘river’.  Greek αναβαινω is much used in the Bible to mean ‘to go up, ascend’, but for the Roman military more likely to mean ‘to embark (on a ship), mount (a horse)’.

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Last edited 17 April 2021     To main Menu