Atrebates

Attested:  Caesar  Atrebates;  Ptolemy Ατρεβατιοι;  Galleva Atrebatum on iter 7 of the Antonine Itinerary ;  Caleba Arbatium at position 67 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  A Belgic tribe in Gaul, centered around modern Arras, who appear to have had an offshoot in Britain, around Silchester, under king Commius.

Name Origin:  It is customary to cite Celtic parallels, such as Irish ad-treba ‘inhabits, possesses’, but that is just one among many words across Indo-European languages that are related to the place-name element -thorpe, very common in the former Danelaw of England.  Szemerenyi (1977: 99-100), whose crucial piece of text has been scanned and posted here, explained that words describing various forms of dwelling and their inhabitants evolved from an original word that meant ‘crowd, throng’.  It follows that Atrebates meant essentially ‘ad-troop-ed’, which sounds like a description of their social organisation.

Notes:  Little is known about the Atrebates beyond Caesar’s account of finding them tough opponents at the battle of the Sabis.  Did they choose that name themselves, or was it applied by outsiders?

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Last edited 16 April 2020     To main Menu