Corinium

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,25 Κορινιον (or Κοριννιον), a πολις of the Δοβουνοι;    RC Cironium Dobuno

WhereCirencester, Gloucestershire, around SP025017, which was briefly important militarily as a hinge point of the Fosse Way, where it crossed the river Churn and was intersected by the road from Silchester to Gloucester (later known as Ermine Way), before settling down to be a prosperous Roman market town and possibly an administrative capital of Britannia Prima.

Name origin:  The name survives in modern Cirencester and its river Churn, but there is no certain explanation of its origin, as R&S carefully explained.  Ptolemy's Κορινιον = Pliny's Corinium was an exact parallel, at modern Donji Karin, Croatia, in ancient Liburnia, while Corinth in Greece and the Corinenses people in Italy come close, which implies that *corin- was a very ancient root, here given a banal Latin noun ending -inium.  That raises the likelihood that Cirencester was originally named from a tribal assembly place or Coria (of the type discussed by Allcroft) of the Dobunni at Bagendon hillfort.  Or else maybe the river Churn was originally a *coronavis, discussed under Durocornovium as possibly meaning a bendy river, though Nicolaisen (2001:241-2) preferred PIE *kar-/*ker- ‘hard’ to explain rivers with names like Carron.  Ancient people were as liable to reinterpret names (“folk etymology”) as modern observers, so a Latin speaker might think of Cirencester as being in the cor ‘heart’ of Roman Britain.  Equally, the situation of Cirencester in rich arable farming country might relate to words like grain and corn, from PIE *ger-, which developed to *grə-no and then to OE kyrin ‘churn’ and kyrnel ‘kernel’, plus Dutch koren.  Ekwall (1928:78-9) was puzzled by the later evolution of vowels in the river Churn (Cyrnea in about AD 800, plus Cerne and Churnet) but there is a parallel in OE hyrne ‘little horn, corner’.  Celtic languages seem not to have preserved good parallels for this name or for the Dobunni.

Notes:  AI's iter 13 missed out one line around Cirencester, suggesting that an ancient scribe found two similar names, referring to two consecutive river crossings, as puzzling as any modern analyst.

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Last edited: 28 May 2018