*Durobrivae

Attested:  (1)  AI iter 5 Durobrivas; DUROBRIVIS on pottery in river
(2) AI iter 2 Durobrovis, iter 3 Durobrius, iter 4 Durobrivis;    Peutinger Roribis;   ####briuas on wooden tablet.

Where:  (1)  The largest industrial complex known in Roman Britain grew up around an early fort where Ermine Street crossed the navigable river Nene at TL116976, near the junction of several other roads, between Water Newton and Castor, near Peterborough.
(2)  The Roman road across Kent that became Watling Street crossed the river Medway at Rochester, most likely near the later bridge and castle at TQ740687.  No one has ever definitively proved the existence of a Roman bridge or fort there.

Name origin: The Duro- part means ‘crossing’.  It is commonly asserted that *briva was Gaulish for ‘bridge’; see for example Delamarre (2003: 89).  However, in no case is there hard evidence for a bridge existing in Roman times at any –briva place, and a sense of ‘edge’ may be preferable, as in English words such as brim and brink or PIE *bhru- ‘(eye)brow’.  But then PIE *bhru- also meant ‘log bridge’.  There seems to be no Celtic parallel remotely near as close to the observed forms (–brovis, –brivis, etc) as Dutch breeuwen ‘to caulk’.  More work needed!

Notes: The argument the Bede’s form Hrofæscæstræ preserved hrof out of his civitate Durobrevi sounds suspiciously like the sort of bad etymology that early churchmen often dreamed up in an attempt to be helpful.

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Last Edited: 25 July 2016