Επιακον

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,16 Επιακον, a πολις of the Βριγαντες

WhereRoman fort at Whitley Castle, Northumberland, NY69494869, beside the river South Tyne on a Roman road through the northern Pennines that was important for access to lead/silver mines, notably nearby Alston.  The fort, with prominent surrounding ramparts, has an unusual lozenge shape (fully described by Went & Ainsworth, 2009) dictated by the small knoll on which it sits, chosen for the sake of visibility and access.

Name origin:  Επιακον is pure Greek, beginning with επι ‘upon’.  The –ακον part obviously referred to the lozenge-shaped natural platform that dictated the fort’s shape, but what exactly did it mean?  PIE *ak- ‘sharp’ led to Latin acus ‘needle’ and to many Greek words developed from the basic ακη ‘point’, such as ακων or ακοντιον ‘javelin’.  Ακονη ‘whetstone’ had a medical meaning of ‘ointment slab’, possibly appropriate to the way that the fort sat on its base.

Notes:  R&S suggested a translation of ‘Eppius' people’ like Epiaco in the AD 1100s in Alsace.  Not convincing, though it is curious that Ptolemy referred to a πολις in such a sparsely populated area.  The real puzzle is why the name is so Greek.

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Last Edited: 6 June 2016