Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,28 mentioned Βελγαι living south of the Δοβουνοι and having settlements at Ισκαλις, at Υδατα Θερμα ‘hot waters’ (Bath), and at Ουεντα (= Venta Velgarom at position 41 in the Ravenna Cosmography, Venta Belgarum on iter 7 of the Antonine Itinerary and Venta Velgarum on iter 15).
  The Notitia Dignitatum mentions Procurator Gynaecii Bentensis in Britannis
  Caesar wrote in de bello Gallico 5,12 that Britanniae pars ... incolitur ... maritima ab eis, qui praedae ac belli inferendi causa ex Belgio transierunt ‘the maritime part is inhabited by those who had passed over from the country of the Belgae for the purpose of plunder and making war’

Where:  People apparently living in southern Britain, between Southampton Water and the Bristol Channel.  Their Venta river-basin central place was not at Winchester as usually claimed, but at Twyford, a little downstream on the river Itchen.  Roman roads 45b and 45a of Margary ran through the heart of this territory, serving to carry lead from mines in the Mendips towards the river Itchen for onward shipping to the Continent.  The western end of their territory lay in the Somerset Levels, with Ισκαλις most likely at Crandon Bridge on the river Parrett.

Name origin:  The name probably derives from PIE *bhelgh- ‘to swell, bulge’, whose many descendants include Old Irish bolg ‘bag, belly’ and Old English belganto enrage oneself’.  Majority opinion currently holds that Belgae swelled with martial price.  An alternative possibility is that they bulged with ample food grown on some of the most productive land in Britain and the Continent.  Or maybe they were consummate traders, known for always having a bulga ‘bag’.

Notes:  It is a mistake to infer from Caesar's remark that Belgae in Britain lived near the east coast, across the North Sea from Belgium, whose modern name was created relatively recently.  Their continental trading partners lived near the south-west limit of the Roman province of Belgica, most specifically the Ambiani around modern Amiens.  Roman lead ingots, known as pigs have been discovered at Bossington (Onna) and at St Valéry-sur-Somme (see Whittick, 1982) and at Bitterne.  A link with the Fir Bolg of Irish legend is sometimes claimed.  Many Roman villa owners, forerunners of later English country squires, might have been Roman soldiers originally recruited from Belgae.

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Last edited 24 August 2023     To main Menu