Attested: Maponi at position 228 in the Ravenna Cosmography, among its diversa loca discussed here.
Where: Stirling gives the best fit to the Cosmography's sequence of names. No hard evidence for a Roman fort at Stirling has ever been found, but Woolliscroft and Hoffmann (2006:76-81) set out strong reasons for thinking there was one (perhaps under the later King's Knot garden) and several temporary camps were nearby.
Name origin: Maponi is either the plural or genitive of Latin *maponus ‘child’, known from numerous inscriptions, most famously a curse found in the Auvergne, France, but most commonly on inscriptions found in Britain, around Hadrian's Wall. The name survived strongly in Welsh mabon ‘son, child’, mentioned in early Welsh tales such as the Mabinogion and related to Irish maccán ‘little son’ and English maiden. The concept of a divine child (Jesus, Horus, Apollo, Hercules, etc) was widespread but developed particularly strongly in northern Europe. A phonological change from KW to P occurred in many languages, but notably in Welsh.
Notes: A possible explanation of this name lies in the landscape situation of Stirling, which controls the main route north from the narrow waist of Scotland and the Antonine Wall towards the Highlands. The valley of the river Forth there is squeezed between the relatively forbidding Ochil Hills to north-east and Gargunnock Hills to south-west, not exactly Scylla and Charybdis or as narrow as the Iron Gates of the Danube but still impressive. Roman soldiers receiving supplies there by boat up the Forth would have been impressed by the two big volcanic crags that stick up on either side of the river, as outliers from the main ranges of hills. The southern one is Gowan Hill, which bears Stirling Castle at NS789940, but also at the end near the river it has the remains of a vitrified fort; the northern one is Abbey Craig, on which a hillfort has been partly trashed by the later building of the Wallace Monument. This analysis rejects the ideas that Maponi were a tribe or that the name was primarily religious, but accepts that Maponi were plural and could almost be translated as ‘the boys’ or ‘the brothers’.
NB In south-west Scotland an inscription
cistumucilomabomi was found at Birrens Roman fort, 14 km away from Lochmaben Castle, and 12 km from the Lochmaben Stone beside the Solway Firth. Despite the historical interest of a god *Mabon and of tribal assembly places, they do not justify speculation about a *locus Maponi and are not directly relevant to Stirling.
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