Corstopitum

Attested:  AI iter 1 Corstopitum

Where:  Roman fort and supply base at Corbridge, Northumberland, NY982648, beside the lowest fordable place on the river Tyne at a road junction a little way south of Hadrian’s Wall.  Despite a 5-mile oddity in AI’s mileage figures and this site almost certainly being also called Coria, Corstopitum can hardly be anywhere else.

Name origin:  R&S described Corstopitum as “meaningless in British” and then launched into a long (and unnecessary) suggestion how to amend it into another name.  However, it does make perfect sense as Greek for something like ‘headquarters’, composed of κορση ‘head’ plus τοπιτης ‘of a place’.  The first element comes from PIE *ker- ‘horn, head’ and the second is from τοπος ‘place’ plus the suffix -ιτης that still survives in English as –itis.

Notes:  What might a Greek name be doing here, in a very Roman context far from the sea?  There seems to be no evidence of troops from the eastern Mediterranean, who might have been expected to use Greek, so perhaps Corstopitum was a technical word taken up into Latin from Greek without appearing in any literary text.  If Corstopitum was indeed the primary name of this site, it is possible that Coria was just a shortened nickname and not directly meaningful in its own right.

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Last Edited: 14 August 2016