Galacum

AttestedGalacum on iter 10 of the Antonine Itinerary;   probably not the same as Ptolemy 2,3,16  Καλατον or the Cosmography's Galluvio.

Where:  Lancaster Roman fort, SD47336202, between the mediaeval castle and the river Lune.

Name Origin:  Initial Gal- might derive from a remarkable number of PIE roots and appears to have contributed to at least three ancient names in this area.  Possibility (1) is ‘foreigner’.  Later Irish Gall meant a foreign invader, so that Dubhgaill and Finngaill were Scandinavians, while Comgalls near the Firth of Forth were probably Frisians.  The Germanic equivalent *walhaz led to modern Wales, Walloon, Wallachia, etc.  The deep origin was perhaps a word for wolf, then some tribes called Volcae, then Latin Gallia ‘Gaul’, but it is hard to know who called whom foreigners, and when, as one can see from modern Galloway and Galway.  The -acum part was a pan-European adjectival suffix, equivalent to English -ic, which showed up, for example, at Eburacum, York.  In short, this name might mean ‘Gaelic’.   Possibility (2) is PIE *ghel- ‘to shine’, referring either to the yellowish-white sands of Morecambe Bay or to the slightly amber tinge of water in an area of iron mining and smelting, as discussed for Galava.

Notes:  The location at Lancaster, first suggested by Shotter (1998), overrules a previous preference for Burrow-in-Lonsdale (Smith, 1997), which was probably Καλατον.  AI's figure of 27 miles from Bremetonnaci to Galacum reasonably matches the 25 Roman miles from Ribchester to Lancaster along the road traced by David Ratledge, but the onward 12-mile route to Alone remains to be worked out.  It is easier to imagine identifiable foreigners (?from Ireland) at Lancaster than further inland at Burrow.  The name of Morecambe Bay is recent, due to misunderstanding of Ptolemy.

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Last edited 1 April 2020     To main Menu