Attested:  (1) Magnis on iter 12 of the Antonine Itinerary;  Magnis at position 57 in the Ravenna Cosmography
   (2)  Magnis at position 130 in the Ravenna Cosmography;  Magnis in the Notitia Dignitatum, where the Tribunus cohortis secundae Dalmatarum was based.;  Inscription (lost) Magnensium

Where:  (1) the Roman town of Kenchester, Herefordshire, SO439427, a reasonably secure location thanks to the mileages in the Itinerary.
   (2) Carvoran fort on Hadrian's Wall at NY66556571

Name origin:  Locative plural of Latin magnus ‘great’.  Udolph (2012:45-48) explained that a similar word contributed to many later place names, such as Maidstone etc in England, or Magdeburg etc in Germany, or Machelen in Belgium, probably also with a meaning of ‘great’, applied particularly to monumental traces of the past, but it became confused with maidens and serving maids.  Old English, mægen ‘main, exercise of power, military force’ was related.  Welsh has maen ‘(special) stone’.

Notes:  These two places both block potential routes through which predatory hill people might be channeled by the landscape and rivers, so it was important to project Roman power.  Kenchester was the Roman neighbour (?supervisor) of the native hillfort (said to be the second biggest in Britain) at SO450446 called Credenhill.  Carvoran has no real equivalent, but there was a large native enclosure 5 km away at The Curricks, plus various relatively modern castles (Blenkinsopp, Bellister, Featherstone) that might be built on top of much older elite sites.  A Roman road known as the Maiden Way led to Carvoran.  Names based on the Roman usurper Magnus Maximus figure prominently in Welsh legends.  The matri magnae were attested all over the Roman Empire as a plural of the great mother goddess.

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Last edited 10 May 2020     to main Menu.