Banna

AttestedRudge Cup and Amiens Patera  BANNA;  RC Banna;  Inscription BANNIESS

Where:  The Roman fort at Birdoswald, Cumbria, NY615663, on Hadrian's Wall.  It sits on flat ground above a steep slope down to the meandering river Irthing.  See here (chapter 6) about its archaeology.  A substantial settlement, civilian as well as military, stayed busy there into post-Roman times.  Banna would certainly have received some supplies by water, and was near the high point of Hadrian's Wall, on a watershed of northern England, causing Selkirk (2001:128) to wonder if the Romans dug a summit-level canal near there, roughly along modern Pow Charney Burn, to link the Tyne and Solway catchments.

Name origin:  The situation of Banna is an excellent fit to bàn (noun) and banawg (adjective) ‘prominent, conspicuous’, as defined by early Welsh dictionaries, notably Pughe (1834:148).  However, modern dictionaries have shifted to giving Welsh ban, Irish benn, and their Celtic cognates a primary meaning of something pointed and sticking up, such as ‘top, peak, horn, etc’, which does not fit Banna.  A proto-Celtic form *bando- (Matasovic, 2009:54) is said to descend from PIE *bend- ‘protruding point’, which also led to words such as pen, penis, and pin.

Notes:  The standard interpretation of *bann- is unsatisfactory, perhaps influenced by Watson (1926:480-2) mistranslating place names like Banchory, as discussed here.  Maybe Welsh ban actually came from the same PIE roots as Frankish ban and English banns (of marriage): *bha- ‘to speak’ and/or *bha- ‘to shine’.

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Last edited: 8 January 2019
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