AttestedMetambala at position 50 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  Near Chepstow, where the river Wye flows into the river Severn.  Ormerod (1861) picked out the platform around ST555933, now occupied by a solar farm, near a cliff edge of the Severn, as the likely Roman site, next to the southern end of Offa's Dyke.

Name Origin:  Latinised from Greek μεταβαλλω ‘to turn about, change course’, with the development from B to MB that readily happened in Celtic or Greek.  This described the very bendy river Wye, as also did the Welsh word, of modern form treigl ‘turn, wandering’, which Ormerod convincingly explained gave rise to Estrighoiel, the Domesday name of Chepstow castle.  Many rivers appear to be named for their bendiness.

Notes:  The Cosmography's sequence of names Ventaslurum, Iupania, Metambala, Albinumno, Isca Augusta was hard to sort out, because of the two end names, which appeared to be Caerwent and Caerleon, just 9 Roman miles (13 kilometres) apart.  It finally became apparent that the middle 3 line up in order from south to north along the Welsh side of the Severn, so long as either the Cosmography's track across the map executes a jump before this Isca, or else it was a place on the river Usk other than Caerleon.  This analysis rejects a previous guess at or near Magor Pill (which attributed the name to coastline change not river wiggles), as well as Richmond & Crawford's suggested emendation to *nemetabala ‘sacred grove of apple trees’, or even ομφαλος ‘sacred stone’, from PIE *ombh- ‘navel’, the root of umbilicus.

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Last edited 29 April 2020     To main Menu.