Attested: Pliny Silures; Tacitus Silures etc; Ptolemy Σιλυρες
AI iter 14 Venta Silurum; RC Ventaslurum; inscriptions SILUR, SILURUM
Where: People in south Wales, tough opponents of the Roman conquest.
Name origin: PIE *sei- ‘to bind’ gained an L to form words in various languages, such as Welsh silltaer ‘chain’, Russian силок ‘noose’, and German Seil ‘cord’. The -ures ending possibly hints at *wiro- ‘man’. This implies that the Silures were a people bound together by mutual obligations (on the NATO model: “an attack on one is an attack on all”) in much the same way as the Salian Franks (whose vowel A also occurs in OE sál ‘cord’) or as the Λουγοι. Irish síl ‘seed, race’ has also been suggested as a parallel.
Notes: Rightly or wrongly, Greek-speaking mariners from the eastern Mediterranean would assimilate Silures to a large catfish, with an ambush-predator lifestyle, whose name passed into Latin as silurus. They might even notice how the shape of the south Wales valleys and coastline resembles a Greek λυρα ‘lyre’. Another potential reinterpretation by outsiders might involve Latin lura ‘thong’, which developed to mean ‘leathern sack’, hence the Dick Whittington model of the Silures as ‘men of leather bags’, like the Fir Bolg of Ireland or maybe the Belgae.
Last Edited: 1 March 2017