Place names on Ptolemy’s Map of Scotland

Introduction

Place names shown on Ptolemy’s map usually derive from a Celtic root name, complete Latin names are rare. It is reasonable to assume therefore that most Roman names derive from an original native term for a site, the obvious exception being Victoria, where the legionary fortress was named after the victory of Mons Graupius of the preceding year.

It is not necessary to equate each place name with a Roman installation – of which our knowledge is still incomplete. Roman forts were placed, and marching camps headed to and were thrown up at points of strategic interest, these often being tribal strong points or hosting places.

It would be wrong therefore to assume every place name must have been a Roman fort, especially in the far north where Roman intervention was extremely infrequent.

Where a geographical feature is the obvious location for a name on Ptolemy’s map, the nearest modern place name is given. Again this does not imply a Roman installation at that modern site, the name is offered here rather to identify the general location of Ptolemy’s place-name. Any as yet unidentified Roman installation at such a place could be in the near vicinity, such as Rerigonium and Stranraer.

The sites

  • Carbantorigon: Dalswinton.
  • Corda: Glenlochar (though not as far inland as shown).
  • Lucopibia: Gatehouse of Fleet.
  • Ienae Aest.: Wigtown Bay.
  • Abravanni Ostia: Glenluce / Luce bay.
  • Rerigonium Sinus: Loch Ryan.
  • Rerigonium: Stranraer. 
  • Novantarum Pr.: Mull of Galloway.
  • Vandogara: Loudoun Hill.
  • Vindogara Sinus: Irvine Bay.
  • Alauna: Dumbarton Rock (often incorrectly assumed to be Ardoch).
  • Trimontium: Newstead / Eildon Hills.
  • Bremenium:  High Rochester.
  • Epeiacum: Whitley Castle.
  • Uxellum: Possibly Tassieholm (though not on coast as shown).
  • Coria (southern): Cappuk near Jedburgh.
  • Calonica: Lyne / Happrew near Peebles.
  • Clotae Aest: Firth of Clyde.
  • Coria (northern): Castledykes near Lanark.
  • Boderiae (also Bodotria) Aest: Firth of Forth.
  • Alauna (Fife): Vicinity of Burntisland near Kinghorn.
  • Tinae Ostia: River Earn.
  • Orrea: Possibly the environs of the Lomond Hills.
  • Tavae /Tava Aest: - Firth of Tay.
  • Victoria: Inchtuthill.
  • Lindum: Possibly Strageath near Crieff.
  • Bannatia: Possibly Cardean near Coupar Angus.
  • Tamia: Possibly Stracathro (often incorrectly identified with a site on the Tay – Tavae).
  • Devae Ostia: Aberdeenshire Dee.
  • Devana: Currently unidentified location on Deeside.
  • Taezolorum Pr: Kinnaird Head.
  • Tvesis: Possibly environs of Auchinhove near Keith.
  • Tvesis Aest: River Spey.
  • Caelis Ostia: River Deveron / environs of MacDuff.
  • Castra Alata / Pinnata Castra: Burghead near Elgin.
  • Loxa Fl:  River Lossie.
  • Varrar Aest: Moray Firth.
  • Ripa Alta: Dornoch Firth / adjacent coastline.
  • Ilae Fl. Ostia:  Wick River and Wick Bay.
  • Verubium Pr.: Duncansby Head (often incorrectly identified as Noss Head).
  • Virvedrum Pr.: Possibly Dunnet Head or Kyle of Tongue.
  • Tarvedum Pr.: Cape Wrath.
  • Nabari Fl. Ostia.: Eddrachillis Bay.
  • Volsas Sinus: Gruinard Bay or environs of Ullapool.
  • Sketis / Scitis Insulae: Isle of Skye.
  • Orcades: Orkney Islands.
  • Thule: Iceland (often incorrectly identified as the Shetland Islands).
  • Dumna; the Outer Hebrides.
  • Oceanus Duecaledonius: The Atlantic Ocean.
  • Itis Fl. Ostia: Sound of Sleat.
  • Caledonius Saltus: Caledonian “Forest/Pastures/Ravines”; Atholl, Breadalbane, Cairngorm and Grampian mountains.
  • Longi Fl Ostia: Loch Linnhe / Oban.
  • Lemannonius Sinus: Loch Fyne.
  • Epidium Pr.: Mull of Kintyre.

Aest. = Aestuarium = Estuary or tidal river-mouth.
Fl. = Fluvius, Flumen = River.
Ost. = Ostium = River-mouth.
Pen. = Peninsula = A narrow strip of land projecting into the sea. The literal Latin meaning is 'almost an island'.
Prom. = Promonturium = Promontory or Headland. A high point of land or rocky coast which juts out into the sea.
Sin. = Sinus = Bay. A wide indentation of the shoreline, especially between two peninsulas or promontories.

 

Ptolemy's map Circa 140 AD

Ptolemys map of Scotland

©2008 Roman Scotland. All Rights Reserved
First Published March 2008

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