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Etymology of Catuvellauni
Nicknack009 - would you mind telling me the reason you deleted my contribution to this page (I wasn't logged on when I added it this morning)? WillKemp 08:17, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
- Because it's a folk etymology, based on nothing more than "sounds a bit like". The Walloons are French-speaking Belgians, and there was no such thing as the French language in the first century BC. The word "Walloon" is derived from a Germanic word for foreigner which, as you mention, also gives us "Welsh", and in the 1st century BC there were no Germanic-speakers in Britain to call them that (as far as I'm aware the word element "-vellaunos" in personal and ethnic names is only attested in Britain), no reason for the Britons themselves to adopt it, and no reason, even if the Romans were in the business of inventing names for foreigners who had perfectly good names of their own, to use a Germanic name for them. "Catu-" is a well-established Celtic root meaning "battle" which gives Irish cath and Old Welsh cad and is attested in numerous Celtic names, so postulating a Greek-via-Latin origin doesn't make a lot of sense. And the Brythonic language spoken two thousand years ago is far from "more or less the same language" as Modern Welsh - the language has changed enormously over that time. --Nicknack009 09:29, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
The Walloons didn't speak French back then, of course. As I understand it, they spoke a celtic language. As far as Germanic speakers in Britain at that time, that's irrelevant - it was the Romans who called them that. Where the Romans got the name from, of course, is another matter, I suppose. But names of peoples come from all sorts of sources - and not always (perhaps rarely) from the people themselves.
Northern Europe was in turmoil at that time, in the face of the advancing Roman empire, and there was undoubtedly a lot of movement of people from one place to another. This would certainly have included a movement of refugees from the mainland to Britain - where they would have tried to regroup and organise the resistance. The Catuvellauni were quite likely one such group of refugees - from what is now called Wallonia. This would explain why Caesar never mentioned them but they were documented on that island when the Romans did finally conquer it a century later.
As for whether the languages are "more or less the same", well, they're more or less the same in the same way as modern English and Old English are more or less the same - and they're both "more or less the same" as modern Dutch (well, they're similar enough to be able to easily see that they are very closely related, anyway). Of course, no language stays static for 2000 years.
Regardless of all this, the etymology of the Roman name "Catuvellauni" has been debated for many years and will continue to be debated for many years to come. It's virtually impossible that it will ever be proved conclusively one way or another. So it's entirely a matter of opinion, really.
And as far as "folk etymology" goes, and "sounds a bit like", "Catu" may well mean battle - but it only "sounds a bit like" the first syllable of Catuvellauni. It sounds a bit too much like it, in my opinion, as it is supposedly the Latinization of it. And I've never come across a satisfactory explanation for what "vellaunus" meant in that context - and you haven't explained it, either. WillKemp 10:21, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
- The Walloons didn't exist then. They weren't named until about a thousand years later, by their Germanic speaking neighbours, after a great deal of linguistic and cultural changes had taken place. You're getting confused between Belgians and the Belgae, who certainly did migrate to southern Britain in the 1st few centuries BC, and the Catuvellauni may or may not have been part of that migration (the Belgic migrants weren't "refugees" - according to Caesar they were raiders who became settlers).
- Why do people imagine the Romans invented the names of ethnic/political groups they encountered? Caesar records over 100 of these names in De Bello Gallico - do you think he made them up? The Romans did with Celtic names exactly what they did with Greek ones - recorded what they sounded like in Latin spelling, and changed their inflexional endings to Latin ones. Gaulish, British and Latin had similar morphology and sound systems at that time (traced by the science of historical linguistics), so this was not difficult. Which is more likely: the Romans encountered a group calling themselves something that sounded like "Catuvellauni" and called them that, or they encountered a group that had their own name, and called them by a Greek/Germanic compound name (the Germaic part of which is not attested until the middle ages)?
- It's wrong to say that if something hasn't been "proved conclusively" then "it's entirely a matter of opinion". All opinions are not equal. The opinions of those who have made a lifetime's study of the evidence - historical linguists - must carry more weight than the opinion of a layman. Do you have a reputable source for your "Outer Walloons" notion? If so, cite it. If not, it's original research which is against Wikipedia policy.
The "Walloons" may not have existed then, however we can be fairly sure that neither they nor their name emerged from the primeval slime at about the same time as their existence was first recorded. The ancestors of the Walloons certainly did exist then and the name must have been around in some form for quite some time. Their Germanic neighbours didn't make it up on the spot about 1000 years ago.
I'm not confusing the Belgians and the Belgae and I'm well aware that some schools of thought believe the Catuvellauni may have been Belgic people and that some Belgae were in Britain at around Caesar's time.
"Refugees", "raiders", what was the difference in those days? You can be quite sure that the people who were already in a place weren't likely to welcome a big influx of migrants and be happy to share the local resources with them. As far as what Caesar says about the people he was out to colonize, I'd take that with as big a pinch of salt as I'd take what the US president says about the Iraqis!
I'm afraid I can't tell you why people imagine the Romans invented those names. But that's certainly not something I've ever said or implied. What I am saying, however, is that we can be quite sure that the Romans didn't come by those names by approaching a people totally unknown to them and asking them what they called themselves. The names of tribes are generally what their neighbours call them, not what they call themselves. What they call themselves, in many cases, is something akin to "the people" in their own language. Take for example the Welsh - their name in English is unrelated to their name in Welsh. I believe the Welsh words for themselves - Cymru, etc - derive from a word for "people".
As you point out, the Romans latinised those names. And it seems reasonable to suppose that when a group of people split up and ended up in two different places - as the Belgae did - the Romans would have employed some way of distinguishing between the two groups. For example, by prefixing one with "outer". ("Cat" by the way, is only Greek by derivation - it's a prefix to some Latin words too. For example, catafalque and catacomb.)
These things are a matter of opinion not because they haven't been proved conclusively, but because there is more than one school of thought on them among people who have studied the subject extensively. The fact that they can never be conclusively proved means they will most likely remain a matter of opinion forever.
However, I take your point about Wikipedia policy. I'm rather slack at recording sources of information, so I'll have to have a dig around and see if I can find where I got this from again and come up with a citation. WillKemp 23:28, 7 December 2005 (UTC)
Map of Tribal Area
The reason for this change is to allow users to more easily visualise the extent of the tribal territory in the context of the modern county boundaries.
Although the old map showed the relation to some of the bordering tribes - it did not show all of them. The text of the article has also been revised to give links to all of the neighbouring tribes. Their extent in relation to the Catuvellauni can be seen by following those links. Josephus (talk) 03:08, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
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