Habitancum

Attested:  HABITANCI on inscription RIB 1225 and HABITANCENSES on RIB 1235.

WhereRisingham Roman fort north of Hadrian's Wall at NY89038621, where Dere Street crosses the river Rede.  In principle small boats could have travelled from Cilurnum on the Wall, up the river North Tyne, into the river Rede, and then right up to the fort on old river channels that Selkirk (1995:260) noticed.  There was a relatively large civilian settlement around the fort, and modern flood risk maps suggest that it could have been thoroughly surrounded with wetlands.

Name origin:  R&S drew attention to the personal name Avitus (sometimes written Habitus), but it is hard to imagine the personal estate of a Roman aristocrat giving its name to a fort.  A better parallel is Latin habito ‘to dwell’ (derived from habeo ‘to have’).  It is customary to explain Habitanci as the locative case of a place name *Habitancum, but it could also be a variant of a verbal participle *Habitanti meaning ‘dwelling at’.  However, a word has survived in German as anger ‘meadow, especially one by the side of a river and more or less swampy or subject to inundation’.  It also survives in northern English place names such as Angram or Angerton, and also as a local word ing for wet meadows near the sites of the Roman forts Lagentium and Isurium (Aldborough), while Concangis conceivable contained the same element.  Risingham fortís known Roman garrison included Vangiones and Nervii who were both probably Germanic speakers.

Notes:  A recent thorough survey of the site (Biggins et al 2014) shed no particular light on this name, beyond the fact that this was a place for people to live (and possibly keep stores) near the last of the low ground before Dere Street heads into hills.

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Last Edited: 27 August 2017