Venta

Attested:  (1)  Ptolemy 2,3,28 Ουεντα, a πολις of the Βελγαι;  Venta Velgarom at position 41 in the Ravenna Cosmography;  Venta Belgarum on iter 7 and Venta Velgarum on iter 15 of the Antonine ItineraryProcurator Gynaecii Bentensis in Britannis in Notitia Dignitatum
(2)  Ptolemy 2,3,21 Ουεντα, a πολις of the Ικενοι;  Venta Cenomum at position 103 in the Ravenna Cosmography;   Icinos on iter 5 and Venta Icinorum on iter 10 of the Antonine Itinerary;   Ad Taum on Peutinger map
(3)  Venta Silurum on iter 14 of the Antonine Itinerary;  Ventaslurum at position 48 in the Ravenna Cosmography.

Where:  (1) Near Twyford, SU481250, where Iter 15 crossed the Itchen 3 miles south of Winchester; (2) Caistor St Edmund, TG230035, near Norwich; (3) Caerwent, ST469905.

Name originVenta was described by Rivet & Smith (pp 262-5) as “a well-known problem”.  It is often translated as ‘market’ under influence from French vente ‘sale’, but a better solution may lie in all the tribes across Europe with names similar to Veneti.  Loicq (2003) listed 18 or so of them and Weiss (2014) added more (dead link, try this instead).  The Veneti were not a single tribe of epic migrators, and attempts to translate their name as ‘conquerors’ (based on a PIE root that led in English to wound) are not convincing.  A better translation is ‘our people, our friends’, which many separate groups of people might have used to describe themselves.  The most likely root is PIE *wen- ‘to desire, to strive for’, which led to many words referring to friendship, work, and ownership of land, and to names such as Venus and Edwin.  Delamarre (2017:111-113) followed Koch (1992) in arguing that Venta meant ‘killing place’, either a slaughterhouse for food animals or a religious sacrifice site – not convincing.  However, Koch (2016) now prefers to translate -vent- as ‘rich in, having an abundance of’ or simply ‘possessing’, citing examples in Indo-Iranian, and accepting that Venta was some kind of tribal gathering place.

NotesVenta Belgarum has always been taken as Winchester, around SU48202932, but the mileages and the track of Iter 15 leave no doubt that the Roman location was further south.  Ptolemy's πολις suggests a native hill-fort, for which the best candidate is St Catherine's Hill, less than 2 miles away.  Twyford might have been its port on the river Itchen, long before the river was modified to enable cargo barges to reach Winchester.  Parallels for the name Venta include Bannaventa, *Glanoventa, Cantaventi, Beneventum in Italy, and modern Gwent.  The Historia Brittonum, written in Wales in the AD 800s, mentions cair guintguic, which is usually taken to be Winchester, with its second part being like wic, used at that time for a trading place, typically situated on the waterside outside a city.  A possible parallel in Scotland is Fintry, suggested by Boyle (1981).

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Last edited 2 June 2020     to main Menu