Morbio

AttestedMorbio (twice) in the Notitia Dignitatum, where the Praefectus equitum catafractariorum was based.

Where:  Probably the Roman fort at Bawtry (also known as Scaftworth) at SK65919276, where the Roman road from Lincoln to Doncaster crossed the river Idle near its limit of navigation from the river Trent.  This location outranks the Roman forts at Roall SE56432521 near the modern A19 main road from York to Darlington, previously guessed here, and at Piercebridge guessed by Rivet & Smith.

Name origin:  Initial Mor- means ‘marsh’, as in many early names, and the -bio part is like Greek βιος ‘mode of life’.  Delamarre (2003:75) deduced a word *-biion from several Gaulish inscriptions and came down in favour of a translation coupe ‘cut’ under the influence of several Irish words ending in -be ‘killer’, effectively tracing it back to PIE *bheid- ‘to split’ from which, for example, English bite descends.  However, discussions of an observed word onobiia (see particularly Pailler, 2008) have since swung to favour a translation like ‘living’, from PIE *bheu-, from which, for example, English be descends.  So Morbio meant essentially ‘marsh-dwelling’.

Notes:  Thanks to Mike Haken for suggesting Bawtry.  Latin morbus ‘disease’ (which Roman poets personalised into a god) has no accepted etymology, but living in the middle of a marsh was a recipe for catching malaria in Italy in mediaeval and late Roman times, possibly earlier.  Back then, the link with mosquitoes was unknown, hence malaria = ‘bad air’, so perhaps ‘marsh-dwelling’ developed to mean disease more generally.  Another place still called Morbio is near Lake Como, in modern Switzerland, just over the border from Italy, where malaria was formerly a big problem.

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Last edited 13 May 2020     to main Menu.