Attested: (1) Brige on iter 15, with erroneous duplication on iter 12, of the Antonine Itinerary.
(2) Brigae in Vindolanda tablets 190 and 292.
Where: (1) was near Nursling Roman settlement at SU36511576. See Margary (1973: 94) about the route of his Roman road 422 across water channels where the river Blackwater joins the river Test, to feed into Southampton Water.
(2) must be quite close to Vindolanda. If briga does indeed relate to a river crossing, the two nearest candidates are at Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge, but further away lie Hexham, with a strong claim to having been a Roman settlement, and Bywell, NZ052619, where the modern bridge across the Tyne replaces a former, ruined structure, possibly Roman, demolished in 1838.
Name origin: Rivet & Smith tried to explain this name as *briga ‘hill-fort’, whose distribution as a component of names in early Iberia defines the zone of Indo-European languages within which Celtic may have evolved. This is unsatisfactory here because neither Briga is associated with high ground, but they are more likely to be precursors of bridge(s), whose exact etymology from PIE *bhru- ‘beam, bridge’ and/or PIE *bhru- ‘brow’ is debatable. The Latin locative ending -ae often became plain -e.
Notes England's oldest bridges, dating from about 1500 BC, were found near (1) when reservoirs were being created at Meadow Lake and Testwood Lake in 1998. They probably crossed a former course of the river Blackwater. Southampton Water/Test/Blackwater is tidal up to about where the present Nursling Mill was built in 1728. It is curious that the two known instances of briga seem to be near, probably downstream of, the two known instances of Onna. However, the recent discovery that Kirkbride Roman fort was the western sea-port terminus of the Stanegate, has prompted David Ratledge to suggest that is might be Briga -- possibly a good place for the commander's wife at Vindolanda to go for a social visit!
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Last edited 15 August 2021 To main Menu