Rutupiae

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,27 Ρουτουπιαι, a πολις of the Καντιοι;  RC Rutupis;  TP Ratupis
    AI itinera 1 and 2 Ritupis;  Maritime Itinerary ad portum Ritupium;  ND Rutupis
    Ammianus Rutupias twice;  Orosius  Rutupi portus;  Roman poets  Rutupinus

Where:  The Roman fort and port at Richborough, Kent, TR324601, on a peninsula at one end of the Wantsum Channel.  See this map of the likely layout in Roman times.

Name origin:  R&C suggested a meaning close to ‘muddy creek’, based on a guess that Rutu- came from PIE *reudh- ‘red’ developing a sense of ‘rusty’ and then ‘muddy’.  There is no obvious reason why mud deposited there by the river Stour and the sea was especially rust-coloured, but there was one source of real redness – salt-making (briquetage) residues like those that generated Red Hills in Essex.  The second part, -upiae (apparently plural), might refer to salt-makers’ mounds, possibly via Latin tufa ‘helmet crest’.  Or else it might be related to *uba ‘water, river’.

Notes:  Another hint of redness appears in a famous section of the Historia Brittonum (“Nennius”): ‘Then came three keels, driven into exile from Germany. In them were the brothers Horsa and Hengest . . . Vortigern welcomed them, and handed over to them the island that in their language is called Tanet, in British Ruoihm’.  The language attributions seem backwards, because Tanet has a Welsh parallel in tant ‘string, tendril’, while Ruoihm has a parallel in modern Rooigem ‘red home’ near Antwerp, whose Rooi- ‘red’ meant cleared or burned land.

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Last Edited: 25 July 2016