AttestedMedionemeton at position 196 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  Somewhere around the middle of the Antonine Wall.  Kirkintilloch Roman fort at NS65137395 is the top candidate, ahead of Auchendavy Roman fort.

Name originMedio- obviously meant something like ‘in the middle’, but of what?  40 or so modern places in France with names apparently descended from Mediolanum are topographically incompatible with the old idea of ‘middle of a plain’ and are a better fit to something like ‘neutral meeting ground between several tribes’ Lacroix (2007: 194-199).  Nemeton is generally translated as ‘sanctuary’, often described as “Celtic” because the word has survived best in Irish, and associated with trees because of Latin nemus, but all that deflects attention from the key point that a nemeton was somewhere that people gathered, which needed some kind of visible marker.  See here for a clear description by Watson (1926) of how this ancient pagan tradition survived into Christian times and contributed to many Scottish place names.

Notes:  Almost anywhere near the middle of the central belt of Scotland might, in principle, serve as a meeting place for people coming from the areas around modern Glasgow, Edinurgh, and Stirling.  The most prominent natural marker is Bar Hill, but that has already been claimed by Colanica.  At Kirkintilloch no actual Roman fort has been found by excavation, and two debatable beliefs have grown up: that the mound in Peel Park is a Norman motte; and that Cair Pentaloch mentioned in a Norman-period addition to the Historia Brittonum can shed light on the origin of the name Kirkintilloch.  Maybe a thousand years earlier the mound marked a nemeton or moot place, where a word often spelled cruc in Welsh or crec/cric in English evolved here into kirk.  This argument is weak, and unprovable, but Kirkintilloch still outranks other suggested locations that include Cadder Roman fort and Cairnpapple Hill (Pigott, 1948).

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Last edited 12 May 2020     To main Menu