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dernière mise à jour : 12/04/2010 13:16:44

Peuple celte de la (G)Bretagne qui semble faire partie de la vague des Damnonii du nord;


Extrait de la carte Ordnance Survey : Map of Roman Britain

Étymologie :

* A.L.F RIVET & Colin SMITH : The place-names of Roman Britain, p 484 : 



- Ptolemy II, 3, 8: Ouakomagoi (= VACOMAGI) 

- Ravenna 10742 (= R&C 180) : MAROMAGO

- Ravenna's entry has not previously been associated with Ptolemy's. The proposal may seem extreme, but has its logic.

(a) As explained in Chapter V (p. 194), Ravenna takes up all Ptolemy's North British ethnie names except for very minor tribes which had probably been absorbed into larger groups by the time of the Severan revision of the military map; the sole exception among larger tribes has been the Vacomagi, and it is logical that they should figure in Ravenna.

(b) Their position in the list suits this equation well.

(c) The etymology assigned to Maromago by R&C and Williams, 'great plain', is superficially attractive but not sound. The adjective *maro- 'great' is always a second element when compounded, in very numerous names of places and persons; one or two apparent exceptions, with Maro- in first place, turn out to have other etymologies, as is made clear by Schmidt in ZCP, XXVI (1957), 237-38.

(d) Other ethnie names of North Britain are already known to be listed as places in Ravenna.

(e) For the miscopying, compare initial M- for V- in Mestevia 106,3 for (Anti)Vestaeum. For c rendered as r there is no direct parallel, but it could have arisen via *Vatomagi (c/t confusions are common) with t then copied as r, as in Lutudaton106,45 in one MS.

DERIVATION. Jackson PP 136 observes that this name 'cannot be said to be Celtic with any confidence', but in view of the Continental analogues, some of them with typically Celtic suffixes and formation, we need not be in doubt. Rhys (1904) 321 thought *vaco- a borrowing from Latin vacuus, later vacus (the borrowing > gwag ' empty ' does in fact exist in Welsh), giving a sense '(people of the) open plains', but Watson CPNS objected that this could not have been borrowed at an early enough stage to be present in Ptolemy; more fundamentally, it is not credible that the name of a tribe in Scotland should be formed with a Latin borrowing. The root is now widely accepted among Continental scholars as *uek- *uak- (Pokorny 1135) 'gebogen sein', the Vacomagi being 'die Bewohner der gekrümmten Felder'. From the same root comes Latin vaccilare and (via *uek-to-) Welsh gwaeth, a comparative, 'schlechter '. Ancient river-names include Vacalus, Vacua, and there are place-names Vacontium (Ptolemy II, 15, 4) in Pannonia Inferior, perhaps Vagoritum (Ptolemy II, 8, 7) of the Arvii in Gallia Lugdunensis, and ethnic names Arevaci, Bellovaci, Vaccaei, etc. ; together with divine names and personal names listed by Ellis Evans GPN 475-76. Whether all belong in effect to Pokorny's root, and whether the sense proposed fits them all, must remain in some doubt, which Ellis Evans expresses by listing the names in his Appendix. For -magi, see CAESAROMAGUS. This is recorded, though not frequently, in other ethnic names such as Vehomagi, Vercomagi (Holder H. 375). 'Crooked' or 'bent fields', as Pokorny expresses the sense of the Vacomagi, is not a particularly transparent concept; if the tribe typically had small, 'irregular fields' in hilly country, the sense might just fit, but one feels it to be unlikely that *magos 'field, plain ' would have been used for fields small enough to be perceived as 'crooked'. Ellis Evans's caution seems perfectly justified.

IDENTIFICATION. A people of Scotland of uncertain location. Ptolemy places them 'below the Caledonii' and attributes to them Bannatia, Tameia, Pinnata Castra and Tuesis ; there is no other evidence for their position and, as noted above (pp. 121 and 141), Ptolemy is not always reliable in his tribal attributions. Watson CPNS 22 says that they 'like the Caledonians appear to have occupied both sides of the Grampians, including Speyside and East Perthshire', but Ogilvie and Richmond, 43, rightly reject this: 'The Vacomagi of Strathmore are placed both there and in Banffshire, clean against topographical likelihood.' Their confidence in Strathmore, however, was based on their identification of Pinnata Castra with Inchtuthil, which weighted the balance three to one in favour of the southern area, and our restoration of the place to the southern shore of the Moray Firth makes the odds equal".


Compte tenu de la position géographique des Vacomagi, on peut avancer qu'ils font partie de vague indo-européenne, qualifiable de 'celtique', en Île de Bretagne, apparentée aux Damnonii


JC Even

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