Morbio

Attested:  ND Morbio (twice)

Where:  Uncertain.  R&S suggested, as a possibility, the Piercebridge Roman fort, at NZ21001575 where Dere Street crossed the river Tees, but there is no obvious reason to link the name Morbiumwith that location.  An undiscovered Roman fort downstream from there, near the mouth of the river Tees, seems much more likely because of problems with ND names, discussed here.

Name origin:  Latin morbus ‘sickness’ was personified by Roman poets into a god of disease Morbus.  That sounds too negative for a place name, though another Morbio was near Lake Como, in Switzerland, just over the border from Italy, and the many coins retrieved from the river at Piercebridge might have been offerings to a dangerous river god.  It seems better to abandon that Latin explanation and instead segment the name as Mor-bio, where initial mor- meant ‘marsh’, as in many early names.  The -bio part might then be like *-biion translated by Delamarre (2003:75) as coupe ‘cut’.  PIE root *bheid- ‘to split’ has descendants in many language families, but they are easier to spot and earlier in Germanic (such as English bite and bill, or in banuabi on the Negau B helmet) than they are in Celtic.  However, Welsh morfa ‘salt-marsh’ preserves the likely sense of Morbio well.

Notes:  In Roman times Teesmouth probably had a large estuary extending inland to Middlesbrough and Stockton, which was fringed by marshes where there is now mainly industrial development, though Seal Sands and nature reserves give a hint of the original state.  That would certainly fit a name like ‘marsh bite’.  No Roman fort is known at Teesmouth, though a Roman villa has been excavated at Ingleby Barwick outside Middlesbrough. ND's Roman army unit of equitum catafractariorum seems not to help identify the location.  The bridges at Piercebridge are controversial.  Pastscape repeats a theory that Roman stonework beside the river at NZ21451550 was a bridge abutment, long after that idea was demolished by Selkirk (1995: 265-299).

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Last Edited: 1 January 2017