Ουξελλα

Attested:  (1) Ptolemy 2,3,3  Ουξελλα εισχυσις
    (2) Ptolemy 2,3,8  Ουξελλον or Ουζελλον; RC Uxela
    (3) Ptolemy 2,3,30  Ουξελλα or Ουζελα; RC Uxelis

Where:  (1) Axe estuary mouth in north Somerset, by Uphill at ST31795818 and Brean Down, formerly an important port.
    (2) Ward Law Roman camp at NY024669, uphill from Caerlaverock, Dumfries.
   (3)  Cadson Bury hillfort, at SX343673 in Cornwall, by a crossing of the the river Lynher.  This location outranks R&S's idea of a lost Roman fort under Launceston Castle mainly because it gives the best track across the map for RC's list of names, here following a Roman-style almost-straight route from Isca Dumnoniorum, the fortress at Exeter, to Duriarno, the fort near Bodmin.

Name Origin*Uxela plainly meant something like ‘high point’.  It has excellent parallels in Celtic languages: Welsh uchel, Breton/Cornish uhel, Irish uasal ‘high’, and the Ochil Hills in Scotland.  Its PIE root *aug- ‘to augment’ (from *h2eug-) led to OE eacan, Dutch oken, Gothic aukan ‘to increase’, German auch ‘also’, Greek αυξησις ‘growth’, Russian высокий‘high’, plus Latin augeo ‘to increase’, etc, but none matches *Uxela as closely as the Celtic words.  Maybe therefore *Uxela described a high fort of indigenous people, but Latin ocellus ‘little eye’, and hence perhaps ‘lookout’, could have influenced this name and Latin speakers would have been familiar with auxilium ‘helper’.  Conceivably, Greek υψσηλος ‘high’ turned into uxela in France, by a PS-to-KS change like that which distinguishes P-Celtic from Q-Celtic languages or like that seen where paraxsidi was written on a Gaulish pot where παροψιδες could be expected.

NotesUxelodunum (Stanwix near Carlisle) and Uxacona (Redhill, Staffordshire) also show this ‘uphill’ sense very clearly.  In France, at least 12 modern place names may derive from forms containing *uxelo-, presumed to be Celtic (Lacroix, 2003:122-3).  Below site (2) (see here for a map facing its p104) the salt-marsh has grown since Roman times due to isostatic rebound, so it is possible that the site of Caerlaverock Castle was an inlet capable of being a port, in the niche later occupied by Glencaple.  Site (3) controlled a significant old crossing of the river Lynher indicated by the names Durnaford (‘hidden ford’) Farm and Newbridge, while higher up that river lay metal ores likely to have interested the Romans, plus a suggestive name Upton Cross.  The lack of obvious Roman forts in this area possibly hints at mutually profitable relationships with the locals.

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Last Edited:15 August 2016