Pilais

AttestedPilais at position 7 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  Probably somewhere on the north Cornish coast, because the Cosmography lists Pilais between Purocoronavis (probably near Bude) and Vernalis (probably near Penzance).  Most likely in Padstow Bay, from which the river now called Camel leads to the Roman fort of Duriarno at Nanstallon, near Bodmin, and then an overland portage to the Roman fort of Statio deventiasteno at Restormel, near Lostwithiel, leads to the Fowey river, with Devionisso probably at its mouth.  Pilais may even be specifically identified with the settlement investigated by Time Team at Lellizick around SW911771 next to Harbour Cove.

Name originPilais, as written, has no easy explanation in Celtic or Germanic, but it does in Greek: πυλαις meant ‘at the gates’, based on a word most familiar from Thermopylae.  Also, Latin pila ‘pillar’ or pilum ‘javelin’ would suit this rocky coastline, notably the islets that flank Padstow Bay.

Notes:  Candidates considered to be Pilais but rejected include notably Phillack, on St Ives Bay, and Tintagel, which was the powerbase of a post-Roman ruler.  See here that “the most important centre for south-west British gold and tin exports in the early Bronze Age may well have been north Cornwall's Padstow area”, based on research reported here.

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Last edited 17 July 2020     To main Menu