Aranus

Attested:  RC Aranus.  In handwriting, nu and mi look very similar, and the spidery writing of one RC manuscript has a mark that might be interpretable as a dot over an i to make Aramis a possible reading.

Where:  Somewhere in north Somerset, most likely the small Roman town and fort at ST500562 in the Mendips by Charterhouse, the centre of a major lead (and silver) mining industry, whose archaeology was discussed by Todd (1996).  See here for a discussion of all the ancient names in this area.

Name Origin:  Latin aranea, ‘spider’ plus its associated meaning of ‘cobweb’ immediately suggests an association with lead mining, as discussed for the VEB inscription on lead ingots.  There is no agreed deep etymology for aranea or for Greek αραχνης.  They both seem to begin with PIE *ar- ‘fit together’, but they might also come from a non-IE source.  The other reading Aramis would resemble Armis interpreted as referring to a road ‘junction’.  Also, a watershed (as discussed below) might show “legs” radiating out.

Notes:  R&C drew attention to possible parallels elsewhere, of which there are many.  In particular, Cappadocia in south-east-central Turkey is “a region dominated by mountains, the watershed of four great rivers flowing into different seas”, with many unlocated Ar- names, such as AI's Aranis, Ptolemy's Αρανε, and it borders the river Aras/Αραξες, Armenia, Arbilum (modern Erbil) etc.  AI's Aranni was probably near Ourique in southern Portugal.  Then there are rivers such as the Arno through Florence in Italy, Aran in mid-Wales, and Earn (a tributary of the Parrett in the wrong part of Somerset), which resemble the Sanskirt word arna ‘river’.  Basque haran ‘valley’ has been proposed as surviving from a pre-IE word that led to names such as Arundel.
    If there is any merit in the preference for spellings containing M expressed by R&S (p258) *Armis might refer to the Y junction where a road (modern B3153) coming from the west along the relatively high ground (Polden Hills) through the Somerset Levels met the Fosse Way near Lydford-on-Fosse just before it crossed the river Brue.  Or else where the Roman road (number 45b of Margary, 1973) running from the lead mines towards Salisbury and Winchester intersected the Fosse Way near Beacon Hill ST637460 just north of modern Shepton Mallet there was a Roman small town .  No Roman fort is known there, but at ST610471 Maesbury Castle hillfort could have been a local political centre.

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Last Edited: 5 May 2018