Attested:  RC Metambala

Where:  Somewhere on the Welsh bank of the river Severn, most likely at or near Magor Pill, ST43818427.  The name Magor descends from Latin maceria ‘enclosure wall built of soft clay’, via Welsh magwyr and Magwr, which presumably reflects embankments put up from Roman times onwards to control the complex pattern of drainage channels that led out to a coastline probably about 800m out from the present coast.  A medieval boat has been found there.  For more information about this whole area and how it was much altered by Romans based at Caerleon see here and here .

Name Origin:  There is no perfect match for Metambala, so R&C suggested emendation to *nemetabala ‘sacred grove of apple trees’.  Or maybe one should think of ομφαλος ‘sacred stone’, from PIE *ombh- ‘navel’, the root of umbilicus.  However, the best parallel is probably μεταβαλλω ‘to change position’, which is only a small linguistic change since B readily interchanged with MB in Celtic or Greek.  This would fit the changing coastline.

Notes:  RC lists Metambala between Iupania and Albinumno, making three names that need to fit in just 9 Roman miles (13 kilometres) between Caerleon and Caerwent.  Emendation to *nemetabala has been accepted widely (e.g. here) and used to justify locating this name at Lydney Park temple, by analogy with Nympsfield across the Severn near the shrine at Uley.  Not convincing.

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Last edited: 19 August 2018