AttestedRutunio on iter 2 of the Antonine Itinerary

Where:  In Shropshire, at or near SJ557249, by Harcourt Mill, where the Roman road from Wroxeter to Chester crossed the river Roden.

Name origin:  This name appears to survive in the river Roden, for which Ekwall (1928: 344-5) suggested an original form *Rutuna from a base related to Latin ruo ‘to rush down’ from PIE *reu- ‘to bellow’.  However, the Roden is a peaceful river, which does not rut and roar as it descends from on high (as do, for example, Roughton Gill or the rivers Derwent), so another explanation needs to be sought.  Across Europe there are other river names that may be analogous, such as the ancient Rhodanus, now the Rhone, and there are dialect English words for rivers, such as rithe and roddon.  On the whole, these names tend to be explained with PIE *ret- ‘to run, to roll’ or *sreu- ‘to stream, to flow’, or by reference to redness, to reeds, or to personal names, none of which seems strongly applicable to *Rutunium.  However, if the place name preceded the river name the root could be a precursor of Old English rodu ‘clearing’ (Gelling & Cole, 2003:243-4) which shows up with a range of spellings in Bayreuth, Murgatroyd, Redding, Rothwell, etc.  The ultimate root of that clearing word, and its possible relationship to road, are uncertain, but Welsh rhwydd ‘open, clear’ looks like a cognate or descendant.

Notes:  No evidence of a Roman settlement has been found at the river crossing and there are slight problems with the mileage figures in the Itinerary, so other, nearby locations ought to be considered.  A big hill fort, Bury Walls, is just 3km away, which would have been of interest to the Romans during the conquest phase.

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Last edited 8 April 2020     To main Menu.