Cantaventi

AttestedCantaventi, Cantiventi, or Cantanenti, depending on how one reads difficult handwriting, at position 115 in the Ravenna Cosmography.

Where:  The Cosmography lists this name between Medibogdo and Iuliocenon, which suggests two good candidates sites.  One is at NY29720328, by the Castle Howe ancient hill fort, next to the later Ting Mound and on a Roman road through Little Langdale.  The other is the Roman fort at the head of lake Windermere, near Ambleside, suggested to be also the Antonine Itinerary's Clanoventa and the Notitita Dignitatum's Glannibanta.

Name OriginCanta- naturally resembles PIE *kantho, ‘curve, angle, corner’ and -venta probably meant a tribal gathering place.  Could this be on a relatively local scale, referring to the wedge-shaped valley containing a ting or thing (=moot) that may have been very ancient?  Or could it be on a much greater scale, referring to the whole Lake District, sticking out like a north-west version of Kent?  Locating this name at Ambleside would require Canta- to be either a miscopying of Clano- or an alternative word with similar meaning.  Much confusion has surrounded names like Cantium (Kent), partly from attempts to claim that it was originally a Celtic word, but mainly because Latin canthus ‘iron wheel rim’ is inherently rounded, unlike Greek κανθος, whose primary meaning was ‘corner of eye’.  The explanation may be that a basic root of form *cam- ‘curve’ (which may even pre-date PIE) diverged into a range of meanings.

Notes:  Ancient Durotincum at Villar d'Arène in the French Alps offers a possible parallel of a ting in a mountain pass.  It was tempting to argue for a site near the head of Morecambe Bay, where the Cartmel Peninsula separates two inflowing river systems: to the east is the Kent (plus its tributaries, notably the Bela), leading to Medibogdo Roman fort near Kendal, and to the west is the Leven (plus its tributaries, notably the Crake), leading to Lake Windermere, with Clanoventa Roman fort at its head.  However, no Roman site is known in that area, though a naval base might have been logical.  Megalithic remains, to fit the idea of a Venta tribal assembly area, occur on the western (Furness) side of the Bay mainly in the Birkrigg area, with a hill-fort near Great Urswick and on the eastern (Lancaster) side mainly around Carnforth, with the Warton Crag hillfort noteworthy.  The Cosmography's harbour-estuary Coantia was somewhere in this area, too.  And the later name Kent (and similar) often turns up at sites associated with river harbours that may have had Roman roots, for which Cunetio is the archetype, but there are lots of confusions from words like canal.  And a Latin speaker would analyse this name as ‘singing winds’!

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Last edited 4 February 2021     To main Menu