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Trucculensis Portus

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* forum du site Marikavel : Academia Celtica

dernière mise à jour, 18/07/2008 13:53:10

Définition : Apparemment un site avancé romain, de l'époque post-Agricola, à l'extrême nord de l'Ecosse, un peu au sud ouest du Tarvedum Promontarium / Cap Wrath, au débouché nord du Minch.


Extrait de la carte Map of Roman Britain, de Ordnance Survey



* A.L.F Rivet & C. Smith : The Place-Names of Roman Britain, p. 478 et suiv. : 


- Tacitus Agricola 38, 4: TRUCCULENSEM PORTUM (acc.), var. TRUTULENSEM PORTUM

This name presents a much-discussed problem. In either form it is unlikely to be correct as it stands. Students of Tacitus have speculated about it, including, in recent years, the following :

(i) Ogilvie and Richmond in their 1967 edition of the Agricola think (as was first suggested by Lipsius) that *Rutup(i)ensem may have been intended, adding that this makes an easy change palaeographically, since the var. (T)rutulensem needs only one further emendation to produce Rutupensem. They support this possibility by adding that proximo might mean `the shore adjacent or nearest to Rome, that is the south coast', which suits Richborough. *Rutupensem is indeed an easy emendation. The objection that the adjectival form of Rutupiae was Rutupinus may not matter much; the latter may have been a literary convention (from Lucan onward) rather than common usage.

(2) N. Reed in Britannia, II (1971), I47-48, argues for the identity of Tacitus's name with Ugrulentum of Ravenna 108,3, following a suggestion of Hübner in Hermes, XVI (1881), 545. He argues from the critical apparatus of the 1967 edition that Truccu- has better MS authority than Trutu-, but in that case rather considerable textual emendation is required before we reach Ravenna's Ugrulentum. The case is, however, independently supported by Dillemann (p. 70) who, after seeming to deny the equation, none the less remarks that `The change from Trutulensis to Ugrulentum in a poor text can be explained by three common errors: a metathesis Tutru for Trutu, the omission of the initial letter, and a misreading of c for g or t.' This is most reasonable so far as Ravenna's methods are concerned, and argues for the correctness of Trutulensis. It is as well to observe here that Ugrulentum is almost certainly an untrustworthy form, as so often in Ravenna (especially with North British names); Reed's further argument, based on the order of names in the Cosmography, tests on an unwarranted assumption - derived from R&C in 1949 - about the logic followed in the text.

(3) J. G. F. Hind in Britannia, V (1974), 285-88, challenges both the above suggestions on palaeographic and other grounds, and offers the possibility of a corruption of *Tun(n)ocelensis, that is an adjectival form of Itunocelum (Tunnocelo being the version in ND). He supports this with the possibility that the corruption in Tacitus's text could have come about by association with Latin trucculum, giving a sense `rough, stormy port'. However, there is no such word (? adjective truculentus); ND's form is irrelevant, and one must start from accurate early Itunocelum, the process of miscopying then being a more difficult one to envisage.

The form of the name in Tacitus is puzzling. Why the apparent circumlocution, with adjectival form plus portus? It can hardly be a question here of elegant periphrasis as a rhetorical figure. The reason is probably that this portus was based like other British portus- names ultimately on a river-name (Portus Dubris, Portus Lemanis) ; but whereas the other port-names refer directly to existing settlements - so that Portus Lemanis, for example, is `port-at-the-settlement Lemanis- (which-is-on-the-river-Lemana)' - in the present case in the remote northwest no seulement existed, and Trucculensis Portus is probably the `Trucculan harbour' at the mouth of a river *Truccula or *Trucculus. This argument may dispose of the suggestion of Ogilvie and Richmond, for if Richborough were intended, one would expect simply *portum Rutupias in Tacitus's text.

As we have said, Ravenna's Ugrulentum is in itself an untrustworthy form with no visible etymology; there is no point in taking it as a base and arguing from it. Reed and Dillemann seem to assume that the Cosmographer was miscopying Trucculensis from Tacitus's text, but there is no evidence that the Cosmographer knew him. The only statement one can make is that Tacitus's text is far more accurately preserved than Ravenna's; and that the Cosmographer took Ugrulentum - as he did his other N. British names - from the modernised Severan military map. If the equation of Ugrulentum with Tacitus's name is correct, Ugrulentum must have figured on the first (Flavian) version of this map, which was that known to Marinus and through him to Ptolemy; but Ptolemy does not mention it, nor any name resembling it. We can proceed, then, on the basis that Tacitus's two forms are a better guide. Yet Ravenna's entry may serve in one way, because its -ulen(t)coincides with Tacitus's, and we can take it as nearly certain -if we accept the equation - that the Flavian map had an entry which was adjectival (and nominative: see p. 196, note), perhaps after all *(Portus) Truculensis or Trutulensis. Tacitus's main form then has -cc- for -c- or -ct-, and his variant has t for c, a common error in medieval scripts; while Ravenna's Ugrulentum has the changes noted by Dillemann.

DERIVATION. Since we cannot, from the above, be sure of the original form, we have no prospect of a solution. It is tempting to think that the name is based on Celto-Latin tructa ` trout', probably an early borrowing (already in Pliny) from Gaulish into Latin; a river *Tructula `little trout' is just conceivable as a half-joking name conferred by the Roman fleet, which we know gave Latin names to some of the western isles at this saine time; and even though no other Latin naines appear on the western Scottish seaboard, and fish-names do not normally enter into river-names, the exception might be tolerable in this exceptional case (that is, the fleet called at a hitherto unnamed place). There is no evidence that tructa existed in British; the words for `trout' in the modern Celtic languages are quite different. Alternatively, Burn suggested in T. A. Dovey (ed.) Tacitus (London, 1969; p. 59) that Truccu- derived from a Celtic root identical to that which has given twrch `boar' in Welsh (*turco-, Holder II. 1995; Breton tourch, Irish torc), observing that this does in fact exist as a Welsh river-name (Watson CPNS 23a). This would then involve a metathesis of *Turc- to *Truc- for Tacitus's forms, and another metathesis for Ravenna's of *(T)urc- to *Ucr- *Ugr-. There is unfortunately no evidence for the use of this `boar' name in ancient toponymy in any region, nor of a deity with such a name who might have been present in water. The question must be left entirely open.

IDENTIFICATION. In addition to the possibilities mentioned by others, we indicate in Chapter n (p. 49 and notes) that an attractive identification might be with Sandwood Loch (Sutherland).


- Ordnance Survey : 

a) Map of Roman Britain

b) Map of Antonine's wall.

-A.L.F Rivet & Colin Smith : The place-Names of Roman Britain. Batsford Ltd. 1979-1982 

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