AttestedMaiona at position 298 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  An island off west Scotland, probably Iona, if the sequence Esse - Grandena - Maiona - Longis in the Cosmography's list of names does indeed follow a geographically logical, non-intersecting path across the map.

Name origin:  The ending -ona is frequently seen at the end of ancient river names (such as Abona) and the Mai- part might add to that a sense of PIE *ma- ‘good, timely, opportune’.  Iona suited Columba as a base for his evangelism and presumably also suited Roman explorers.  This analysis outranks noting that Maiona resembles Latin maiora ‘greater, larger’ (neuter plural), possibly making Iona analogous with Maia further south at Bowness-on-Solway, as the local centre of power, indigenous and/or (briefly) Roman, for communities of the inner Hebrides united by sea travel.  Compare the Roman legal concept of imperium maius ‘local commander-in-chief’, best known from powers given to Pompey to stamp out piracy in the eastern Mediterranean.

Notes:  See here for some general comments on Scottish islands.  The original form of the name Iona seems to have been something like the Hy used by Bede, which resembles Greek ὕαλος ‘crystalline stone, glass’, hence Latin hyalus and modern hyaline.  This may refer to Iona's outcrop of fine marble, white veined with green, which was quarried in large blocks and used in churches, such as Columba's abbey.  Saint Columba's choice of Iona for his base might have been partly due to the ancient fascination with glossy or translucent minerals (think of before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal in Revelation 4,6).  This analysis rejects any link to Greek μαιον ‘ptarmigan’ or to the islands called Mona etc, or to Irish móin ‘peat’, the base of Gaelic maonag ‘bog-berry’.

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Last edited 10 March 2021     to main Menu.