AttestedLitana at position 198 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  On the outskirts of Glasgow, on the Antonine Wall, fort number 8 out of 10 (counting from the east) in the Cosmography's list.  The fort at Bearsden, at NS54627210 behind Manse Burn, seems more likely than the fort at Balmuildy, NS58117169, by the river Kelvin.

Name Origin:  All the Celtic languages have words close to litana meaning ‘broad, wide’, from PIE *plat- ‘flat, wide, spread out’, with the classic Celtic loss of P.  The land near the fort is not especially flat, but it is more than 4 km from any serious hills or the river Clyde.  Greek λιτανα ‘someone praying’ (of uncertain origin) led to the modern word litany.  Other possible parallels, including litus ‘river bank’, λιθαξ ‘stony’ or λιθινος ‘made of stone’, Lithuania, etc, do not obviously lead to any better explanations.

Notes:  Romans would have remembered the Silva Litana ambush battle in the second Punic War.

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Last edited: 4 March 2020     To main Menu