Parisi (Yorkshire)

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Approximate territory of the Parisi
Capital Speculated : Petuaria (Brough)
Location East Riding of Yorkshire
Rulers None known

The Parisi were a tribe located somewhere within the present day East Yorkshire, UK, known from a brief reference by Ptolemy in his Geographica.

Historical sources and archaeology[edit]

They are known from a description in Ptolemy's Geographica which states them to be located near Opportunum Sinus ("Good harbour", thought to be Bridlington bay, though not certain,[1] also identified as Holderness or Spurn Head by early authors.[2]

The Parisi are also mentioned in the forgery De Situ Britanniae originally credited to Richard of Cirencester (14th century AD): the Parisi's towns supposedly included Petuaria and a place Portus Felix, the locations of which were uncertain, and subject to speculation.[2][3][4]

The tribe are inferred to have been surrounded by the Brigantes, and with the Coritani south of them across the Humber. Ptolemy mentions the Parisi in association with Petvaria, a town thought to be located close to Brough-on-Humber.[5]

Evidence for link with continental tribes[edit]

Burials in East Yorkshire dating from the pre-Roman Iron Age are distinguished as those of the Arras Culture,[6] and show differences from surrounding areas, generally lacking grave goods, but chariot burials and burials with swords are known.,[5] but are similar (chariot burials) to those ascribed to the La Tène culture of areas of western and central Europe, giving a potential link to the similarly named Parisii of Gaul. There is no other evidence for a link between the two tribes.[7] Writers of the late 19h century made a connection with the Frisians on the opposite side of the North Sea based on etymological speculation,[8] but the realism of these suggestions was promptly questioned.[9]


The origin of the name is uncertain or unknown, in addition to a possible origin as a variant of 'Frisian',[8] 19th century authors speculated origins from "Par Isis" (of the wetlands),[2] and similar "Paür Isa" (low pasture) as well as "Porüys" (herdsmen).[3] John T. Koch in the encyclopaedia Celtic Culture (2006) states an Celtic linguistic origin, meaning "the commanders", similar to the Welsh language peri (to cause, command or have done).[7]


  1. ^ Frank Elgee (1930), Early man in north-east Yorkshire, p. 201, "The location of the bay round which the Parisi lived has always been doubtful.." 
  2. ^ a b c J.J. Sheahan; T. Whellan (1857), History and topography of the City of York, the East Riding of Yorkshire, and a portion of the West Riding: embracing a general review of the early history of Great Britain, and a general history and description of the county of York, 2, pp. 303, 305 
  3. ^ a b Thomas Thompson (1824), Ocellum promontorium: or, Short observations on the ancient state of Holderness, with Historic facts relative to the sea port & market town of Ravenspurne, in Holderness 
  4. ^ John Walker (1834), "VIII. Observations to prove Filey Bay, in Yorkshire, the Portus Felixm or Sinus Salutaris; and Flamborough Head, the Ocellum Promontorium, of the Romans", Archaeologia: or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity 25, Society of Antiquaries of London, pp. 127–145 
  5. ^ a b "The Parisi",, retrieved 26 May 2012 
  6. ^ Stephen J. Murray, 6:Carvetii 7:Brigantes 8:Parisi, "British Tribes", 
  7. ^ a b John T. Koch (2006), "Arras culture", Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volumes 1–5, ABC-CLIO, p. 88 
  8. ^ a b Sources:
  9. ^ Sources
    • Wright, T. (1849). "On the Remains of a Primitive People in the South-East Corner of Yorkshire; with some remarks on the Early Ethnology of Britain". Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 3: 465. doi:10.1144/pygs.3.465.  edit
    • (also published in) Thomas Wright (1861), "On the Remains of a Primitive People in the south-east corner of Yorkshire", Essays on archaeological subjects: and on various questions connected with the history of art, science and literature in the middle ages 1, John Russell Smith (London), pp. 1–22, "A not improbable suggestion has been made by our modern ethnologists, that the name of the tribe, Parisi, is only a corruption of that of Frisii, or rather that the two words represent the same original name, and that the primitive people who dwelt round the bay of Bridlington were originally settlers from the opposite coasts of Friesland. I mention this suggestion as being rather a happy one, for it seems agreeable to what we might expect in such a tribe so situated; but at the same time I would urge how extremely cautious we ought to be in accepting -arguments founded on, I fear, too often fanciful derivations of the old names of places and peoples, ascribed to languages of which we really know nothing, and which, sometimes, have existed only in the imaginations of those to whom we owe the derivations" 


  • Ramm, Herman Gabriel (1978), The Parisi, Duckworth 
  • Halkon, Peter (1989), New light on the Parisi, recent discoveries in Iron Age and Roman East Yorkshire, East Riding Archaeological Soc., University of Hull School of Adult and Continuing Education, ISBN 0905218035 
  • Halkon, Peter (2013), The Parisi: Britains and Romans in Eastern Yorkshire: Britons and Romans in East Yorkshire, The History Press, ISBN 0752448412 

External links[edit]