Tasciovanus

AttestedTasciovanus is the most likely full spelling of a name known from many coins marked TASC, TASCIO RICON, TASCIOVAN, etc.  The name appears to have survived into mediaeval Welsh texts as Teuhant.

Where:  Some of the marks on his coins may indicate the locations of mints, notably VER (?Verolamium) and CAM (?Camulodunum), from which it is inferred that Tasciovanus was a king of the Catuvellauni and was the father of Cunobelinus.  Other words on TASC coins (SEGO, ANDOCO, DIAS, etc) may refer to mint locations or to sub-rulers.

Name originTasc- ‘badger’ has been extensively discussed (Delamarre, 2003:291-2), including much fussing about grammatical stem, SK/KS metathesis, and direction of inter-language loans.  The -vanus part was explained by Koch (1992) as derived from PIE *gwhen- ‘to strike’, the root of English bane and (via Greek) in Bellerophon.  That would make Tasciovanus mean ‘badger killer’, implying a view of ancient society and royal names that is hard to accept.  A better parallel is PIE *pan- ‘cloth’, the root of English vane and pane, Dutch vaan ‘flag’, which would make Tasciovanus mean ‘badger flag’.  Maybe he used a black-and-white identity mark, for example like the (much later) flags of Cornwall and Britanny.  Roman standard-bearers wore animal skins (mostly bears or lions), while Tacitus (Germania 45) wrote “... the Aestii, who have the same customs and fashions as the Suebi, but a language more like the British. They worship the Mother of the gods and wear, as an emblem of this cult, the device of a wild boar, which stands them in stead of armour...”.

NotesKatz (1998) explained that Hittite tašku-, meaning a human body part at or near the scrotum, is the earliest known instance of a widespread Indo-European word for ‘badger’ exemplified by later German Dachs.  This naming probably resulted from the habit of badgers (and many other animals) of scent-marking, especially mutual squat marking.  Katz noted how the early Christian writers Epiphanius and Jerome equated tasco- with πασσαλος ‘peg’, but did not go on (as we do here) to suggest that they were slang words for penis.  Nor did he draw attention to PIE *tag- ‘to touch’, whose descendants include modern English task and the slang word todger.  Presumably ancient *taSKu- meant essentially ‘toucher’, while alternative names for badgers, such as brock, came from their pointed snouts, which collided with other words for sticking-out objects derived from PIE *ak- ‘sharp’.  It remains uncertain why so many ancient personal names were based on badgers: facial shape seems more likely than religion, sexual prowess, or personal feistiness, but in the case of Tasciovanus black-and-white colour seems like the best bet.

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Last Edited: 12 June 2017