Ουολιβα

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,30  Ουολιβα, a πολις of the Δουμνονιοι or Δαμνονιοι

Where:  Near Falmouth, SW837317, from Ptolemy’s coordinates, according to Kleineberg, Marx, and Lelgemann (2012).  One plausible guess is the promontory fort at Round Wood Quay, SW838403.

Name origin:  Most likely Ουολ- survives in the river name Fal, while –ιβα is a variant of the *uba/*oba ‘water, river’ element discussed here.  Ekwall (1928) could not explain the name Fal, and apparently no one since then has thought seriously about it.  The whole huge estuary is a ria (drowned valley) consisting of a central open portion (Carrick Roads) surrounded by multiple inlets with relatively small rivers, of which the river Fal proper, leading towards Truro, is just the biggest.  Everything is very convoluted and bendy, which fits PIE *wel- ‘to turn, wrap, wind’.  Which particular language families led to Ουολ- and Fal- is anyone’s guess, since one could cite as parallels dozens of English words (vale, vault, wall, waltz, etc), a few from Latin and Greek, and a couple from Celtic, notably Old Irish fail/foil ‘torque, circuit’.

Notes:  All this still does not pin down Ουολιβα to a specific location and there seem to be no recognised Roman sites in the area.  Ptolemy's coordinates are uncertain enough to fit a site well inland from modern Falmouth and towards Truro.  The Round Wood Quay guess above slightly outranks other possibilities such as the Bosvizack Round hillfort at SW783462, or a hypothetical tin-exporting port up the river Carnon in the region of Bissoe, SW773414.

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Last Edited: 28 September 2016