Attested:  RC Iupania

WhereIupania is the first of three names listed by RC in south-east Wales between Caerwent and Caerleon, which are only 9 Roman miles (13 kilometres) apart.  Plausibly they correspond to the three main rivers or creeks that headed inland from the Severn estuary in that area in Roman times.  See here or here about this archaeologically complex area.  The creek leading to Portskewett is mentioned in ancient Welsh stories as one of the three chief ports of Wales and in Roman times would probably have been the port for Venta Silurum (Caerwent).  Near its mouth and the new Severn Bridge, at ST50548731, was Sudbrook Camp, a promontory fort.

Name Origin:  Many names in RC seem to come straight from Greek, including Iupania’s neighbour Metambala, so the Greek name Ὑπανις (Hypanis) is a good parallel.  It was applied by ancient geographers to three rivers that are now the Southern Bug through Ukraine into the Black Sea (Herodotus), the Kuban through Russia into the Black Sea (Strabo), and the Beas, a tributary of the Indus (Dionysius).  That name is probably related to ὑπανταω ‘to come to meet’, because all three were where Greek speakers might trade with foreigners.  Presumably Greek ὑ became Roman iu as in Iuliocenon.

Notes:  Evidently Greek-speaking traders were in contact with local people enough to establish a name before the Latin became the dominant language.  See also Metambala and Albinumno for the other two names nearby.  This analysis rejects two ideas that formerly seemed attractive.  One is emendation to *Lupania,which might evoke Rome’s founding lupa ‘she wolf’ or else a lupanar ‘brothel’. Another is a hypothetical Greek precursor such as *ευπανια, with γ miscopied as ν from an original *ευπαγια, from ευπαγης ‘firm’, itself derived from ευς ‘good’ plus παγος ‘rock’.  That might fit the area of firm ground and rocks on which Sudbrook Camp sits.

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Last Edited: 11 January 2017