AttestedRaxtomessasenua at position 268 in the Ravenna Cosmography, clearly written as a single word in all three manuscripts.  Its penultimate letter might be N not U.

Where:  In or near the Solent, deduced from its position in the Cosmographys's tour of harbour estuaries between Novia and Cunia.

Name origin:  This name looks like a pile-up of three elements.  The first part fits PIE *reig- ‘stretch’, which led to Scots rax, equivalent to rack, meaning ‘to stretch out’.  It also led to the sailing term reach, meaning to hold a straight course for a while, which shows up in Regulbio (Reculver), the turning point at the north end of the Wantsum Channel.  Gelling (1984:183-5) translated Old English *raec as ‘raised straight strip’, taking note that Ekwall (1960:386) translated Old English *ric as ‘stream, ditch’ related to Swedisk raik ‘stream, ditch’.  Raxto-is also close to Old English ręhte ‘it reaches’ from ręcan ‘to reach’.  The next part is prima facie Latin messa ‘cut off’, derived from PIE *me- ‘to mow’.  The third part, –senua or –senna, may just come from PIE *senə- ‘apart, separated’.  There are several alternative ways of segmenting Raxtomessasenua, notably deriving the middle part from words ancestral to meso- or mesh, but they all end up plausibly fitting the Solent.

Notes:  An experienced Roman sailor seeing the Solent would have thought of the Strait of Messina, a name derived from Μεσσηνια a relatively fertile part of Greece, possibly within miscopying range of messasenua.  Might this name denote the original “Isle of Wight ferry”?  It ran from an estuary now silted up at Stone Farm, near Lepe (Bede's ad Lapidem, possibly ancient Regno) to a small harbour on the Island, in the lee of a promontory, now washed away, by Gurnard, on the Island.  See Clarke (2003) and Ulmschneider (1999).

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Last edited 7 April 2020     To main Menu.