Madus

Attested:  Peutinger map madus xvii, in the small strip of Britain that has survived after the leftmost page of the manuscript was destroyed.  The initial letter seems to be a small m, not a capital M.

Where:  Probably somewhere on, or associated with, the river Medway, an idea that has been around since at least the time of William Camden before 1600; see here.  The argument that madus is just the cut-off end of a larger name is weak, since there would have been space for more letters in the surviving area to the left, though Baromaci nearby is almost certainly a cut-off end of *Caesaromaci.  Expansion to *Noviomagus, suggested by R&S, is highly unlikely.

Name origin:  Latin madeo ‘to be wet, to flow’, from PIE *mad- ‘moist, wet (especially with food)’ naturally fits a river.  Its nearest surviving relative in English is meat, but if madus did mean the river Medway it got reinterpreted towards middle, as with the rivers Medina and Meden.  Possible parallels include Maidstone (whose original name has never been explained satisfactorily), Matrona (now the Marne, one of many rivers apparently named for their benevolence, flowing with good things, like a μαστος ‘breast’, or like a good mate), or Ptolemy's Μοδονου (probably the ‘muddy’ river Slaney in Ireland), or even the *Madingas said to have founded Madingley.

Notes:  All the Roman names along Watling Street in Kent might suit a river used during the Roman conquest of Britain to bring supplies inland from the Thames estuary by ship.  It looks as if Roman officers, accustomed to the sunny, tideless Mediterranean were struck by how much ground in rainy Britain went squelch!  The Roman battle to cross the Medway in AD 43 (which has been called the second most important battle of British history) has been much discussed.  David Young suggests a location near Halling, whereas Simon Elliott (2016:115-7) prefers the Snodland area.  If Peutinger's distance of xvii Roman miles Roman miles to Roribis (which was probably near Sittingbourne) is to be taken seriously, that might point to somewhere higher up the Medway, such as at Yalding, or even beyond the Medway, near the Roman villa at Cobham.  Thanks to Mike Haken for prompting a closer look at Peutinger names.

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Last Edited: 22 April 2018