Longovicium

Attested:  ND Longovicio, where the Praefectus numeri Longoviciarorum was based.

Where:  Probably not at Lanchester, which was Lincovigla.  ND lists Longovicio next to Derventione among names that are easier to explain in or near Cumbria, rather than in Yorkshire.  Several estuaries on the Cumbrian coast have an early modern history of shipbuilding and it would would make good sense if they had Roman precursors.  However, all the known Roman forts in Cumbria have tolerably acceptable name-to-place assignments, and fitting in Longovicio would require some shifting around, or assigning two names to one place, or guessing that camps or forts currently thought to be short-lived still operated in the time of ND.  Or else maybe ND's list had a big geographical gap here, so Derventione actually referred to the other river Derwent in Yorkshire.  The least bad solution may be to guess that the Roman road (Margary's number 75) from Carlisle to Egremont was heading for a definite destination on the Cumbrian coast near the mouth of the river Ehen, north of Sellafield and Starling Castle, perhaps in the region of Braystones, somewhere around NY0105.  No Roman fort is known there, but a few Roman coins have been found in that area.

Name originNavis longa ‘long ship’ was the usual Roman name for a warship, often abbreviated to plain longa, as for example when Aulus Gellius enumerated differents types of ship known to Romans, while vicus meant ‘Romanised settlement’.  So Longovicium naturally meant something like ‘warship-building community’.  Delamarre (2017:225-232) argued that Celtic words for ‘ship’ such as Welsh llong, might not have come from Latin (as R&S and others accepted), but from a separate root that meant ‘light, fast’.

Notes:  Notice how ND's military unit (discussed here) is just based on the local place name.  An inscription found at Ravenglass mentioning ...OHORT T AEL CLASS shows that the Roman navy was active on the Cumbrian coast.  Manuscript readings in -arorum (which editors emend to -anorum) may echo all the Latin words ending in -arius for ships' crew and parts of ships.  It is obvious that the coastline around here has changed over the centuries.  Longshore drift, carrying a sediment load (see here) increased by industrial sediments in the 1800s, created a spit that has shifted the mouth of the river Ehen a long way south so that it now snakes 3 km parallel to the coast before finally exiting to the sea.  Hypothetically, a Roman shipbuilding site lies buried somewhere under all that sediment, in much the same way as the coastal lagoon where Caesar's fleet was assembled to invade Britain is nowadays flat farmland inland from Calais.

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Last edited: 21 July 2018