Εβουδαι

Attested:  Pliny Natural History 4, 102:  XXX Hebudes
   Ptolemy 2,2,11: above Hibernia lie the so-called Εβουδαι, five in number, their western island is called Εβουδα and the next to the east is also called Εβουδα
   Solinus  Ebudes & Ebudibus;  Marcian/Stephanus Αιβουδαι & Αιβουδαιος

Where:  Ptolemy’s coordinates map to the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura, according to Kleineberg, Marx, and Lelgemann (2013).  RC probably drew on information similar to that possessed by Ptolemy, and one may perhaps guess that the five Εβουδαι were these RC names: Birila (Gigha), Elaviana (Jura), Sobrica (Scarba), Scetis (Colonsay-plus-Oronsay), and Linnonsa (Islay).

Name origin:  R&S could find no etymology within Celtic, but a possible explanation is prompted by thinking about the first encounters between Graeco-Roman sailors and people living in the western isles.  What would the two sides trade?  Εβουδαι can be analysed as the root of Latin ebur ‘ivory’ (probably from Egyptian) plus the Greek ending –δαι ‘sons of’ or ‘people’.  Those sailors might well come back speaking of the ‘ivory people’ from whom they obtained carved ivory trade goods, much as a modern tourist might come back from the Hebrides clutching Lewis chessmen and talking of the whalebone arch.  Marine mammals would have been common around Scotland in Roman times, before humans had the technology to hunt them.

Notes:  Commentators have long noted the similarity with Ptolemy’s Επιδιοι people, but that does not lead to any convincing etymology. 

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Last Edited: 05 June 2016