Attested: RC Dixio; ND Dictim or Dicti, where the Praefectus numeri Nerviorum Dictentium was based.
Name origin: Possibility (1): Latin dico and its derivative dicto meant ‘to say, to tell’, but their less familiar meaning of ‘to dedicate, to set apart for’ plus the Latin noun dicio ‘dominion, authority’ would better suit a place name. PIE *deik- ‘to show, to teach’ developed particularly in Germanic languages, and it is debatable whether OE diht ‘setting in order, command’ was a loan from Latin or descended independently from PIE. (Gothic gažeihan and ADIXOVI on a Bath curse tablet both pre-date AD 400.) Their meaning would then be much the same as *bann- ‘proclaimed authority’, suggested for some early British names.
Possibility (2): PIE *dhigw- ‘to dig’ is the origin of words such as ditch and dyke, which show up in some modern place names, such as Deighton, in the right area. This might be relevant if extensive earthworks usually attributed to post-Roman tribal struggles were already noteworthy in Roman times.
Where: Puzzling. RC, which is reliable in its order of listing names, puts Dixio between Devovicia (probably Malton) and Lugunduno (probably Durham), which suggests a location in or near north Yorkshire. If ND is equally reliable in order of listing, the way that it puts Dicti between Arbeia (probably South Shields) and Concangios (almost certainly Chester-le-Street), suggests a location further north, in Tyne and Wear. Various hypotheses might resolve this dilemma: (1) the two names do not refer to the same place; (2) geography did not dictate order of listing for ND; (3) another place allocation that appears reliable is actually wrong; (4) some vital information is missing, such as an undiscovered Roman site; or (5) foolish blindness.
Deighton in North Yorkshire, at NZ381017, is the place shown as Dicti? on our map, even though its claim is weak: it was Dictune (‘ditch settlement’) in Domesday Book and has a mediaeval moat beside a Roman road. Something better is needed!
Another good area to look for a candidate place is near Scotch Corner, well known to modern travellers as the point in North Yorkshire where the Great North Road (also known as Dere Street or the A1) from London to Edinburgh forks off to the left (now the A66) towards Carlisle and Glasgow. It was just as strategically important in Roman times and yet no proper town has survived there. However, 8 km away, in the angle of the fork, at Stanwick St John NZ1812, are the remains of the largest hill fort in Britain, which appears to have been a major tribal centre of the Brigantes. This site might fit either potential name meaning, because it was more like a walled country estate than a military fortress. It may have been the home of a client ruler backed by the Romans, such as Queen Cartimandua described by Tacitus, because it was surrounded by Roman forts: a crossing of the river Tees was controlled by the large fort at Piercebridge NZ21001575; a smaller fort was beside its tributary the Greta at Greta Bridge NZ08451318; and a third fort was closer to Stanwick, at
Carkin Moor. Intriguingly, the Roman roads around there (numbers 8c, 82, and 820 of Margary, 1973) form a large triangle with Pythagorean angles, which prompted Rob Entwistle to suggest in 2016 that they were long-distance-surveyed to mark a boundary between the area under direct Roman control and a client kingdom. This would fit the potential Latin meaning of Cartimandua as something like ‘guardian of the map’. If the hypothetical royal estate at Stanwick was Dixio, its moment of destiny passed when the Romans completely pacified the Brigantes, but perhaps its name persisted in the substantial Roman-era settlement that has recently been found by archaeology during road development at Scotch Corner.
Notes: See here for a general discussion of the difficulties in assigning ND names to places. Other candidate sites include:
- Piercebridge, which has been assigned (possibly wrongly) the name Morbio;
- Malton Roman fort, at a key crossroads and a natural base for cavalry to respond to pirate incursions into Yorkshire, reported by lookout stations on the coast, but the argument seems strong that Malton was Delgovicia;
- Cawthorn camps have been discussed as practice works from fairly early in the Roman occupation, which makes them unlikely to have had a major garrison in late Roman times;
- Lease Rigg Roman camp;
Last Edited: 14 December 2016