Attested: Tacitus Annales 12,31-32 & 14, 31 Iceni; Caesar Bello Gallico 5,21 Cenimagni;
Ptolemy 2,3,21 Σιμενοι; AI iter 5 Icinos, iter 9 Venta Icinorum; RC Ventacenomum; TP Ad ...taum;
Coins ECEN, ECENI, EC, ECN, ECE.
Where: This tribe appears to have occupied modern Norfolk plus parts of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, with one central place, Venta Icenorum, at modern Caistor St. Edmund, near Norwich.
Name origin: The recorded spellings are remarkably diverse, so the traditional Iceni seems like a reasonable compromise, but ECENI on coins is easiest to explain. There is no obvious parallel in Celtic or Latin, but it makes good sense in Germanic as meaning ‘oaken’, based on a word like modern German Eiche ‘oak’. The argument made by Daphne Nash Briggs that other words and symbols on Iceni coins have stylistic and linguistic links across the North Sea to Germanic peoples is widely accepted by coin experts. The name possibly survived into the AD 900s in Icenhilde weg etc (modern Icknield Way), which may come from ‘oak-wood’.
Notes: While discussing the river name Itchen, Ekwall (1928: 128-9) drew attention to Old English eacen ‘strong, mighty’, which probably came from the same PIE root *aug- ‘to increase’ as Augustus, eke, and the common early place-name element *uxelo-. Presumably the people and the oak tree got their names from the same source.
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Last edited: 2 June 2019
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