Atecotti

Attested:  Ammianus XXVII,VIII,5   Attacotti bellicosa hominum natio
   Notitia Dignitatum Atecotti; Atecotti Honoriani seniores and ditto juniores; Atecotti juniores Gallicani
   Jerome  Atticotorum (Epistolae 69);  Atticottos (Adversus Iovinianum 2)
   Inscription in Macedonia: MIL DE NUM ATECUTTORUM

Where:  A warlike race of men, who ranged widely and caused great devastation, along with Scots and two types of Picts, from AD 364 to 368, according to Ammianus.  Cannibals, somewhere in Britain, according to Jerome.  Soldiers in the Roman army according to the Notitia and that inscription.

Name Origin:  Uncertain.  Rivet & Smith set out an unconvincing Celtic interpretation as ‘very old ones’, based upon a debatable guess that *Cott- in personal names meant ‘old’.  There is huge scope for alternative suggestions, because of all the spelling variants and many possible parallels in dictionaries of Latin (e.g. atta ‘Daddy’), Greek (e.g. ατακτεω ‘undisciplined’), Irish (aithech ‘peasant’), epigraphy (Atecundus, Attaconus), or history (Alt Clut = Strathclyde).  The most likely meaning is something like ‘rabble’, reflecting how Roman insiders viewed threatening barbarian outsiders.  Soldiers often turn disparaging names into a badge of pride: think of the Old Contemptibles or the Desert Rats.

Notes:  The word attack is generally traced back to PIE *steg- ‘stake’, so it is conceivable that Attacotti meant ‘stake-out’, so that they were pikemen, hired into the Roman army from northern tribes who are suggested to have pioneered the schiltron formation, perhaps as illustrated by a famous Pictish stone at Aberlemno.  Was that the best way to make a peasant militia effective?

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Last edited 16 April 2020     To main Menu