[NB The brief explanation given below has been drafted on the assumption that the reader is already familiar with the basic building-blocks used in Celtic topographical place-names (Chapter 1 of the Home menu), with the structure of compound place-names (Chapter 2) and with the structure of Celtic river-names (Chapter 19)]
This tribal name is listed by Ptolemy.
When the Romans divided the territory and the population of the Atrebates into two civitates they retained the tribal name Atrebates for the northern civitas based on Calleva at Silchester and had to find a name for the southern civitas based on Venta at Winchester. They chose the name Belgae, presumably because they knew that the Atrebates had migrated to Britain from that region of northwest Europe which was inhabited by various different tribes to whom the Romans applied the general name Belgae. The name Belgae may originally have been based on a topographical place-name such as Belgion, where Belg is a transitional element meaning ‘high hill steep’ and uses the hill-letter l. But the tribes living in that region at the time the Romans arrived on the scene evidently did not all use the hill-letter l. The Atrebates, for example, did not. They used the hill-letter n2 (see ‘Ptolemy’s Celtic tribes: Part 2’, 12).
[This page was last modified on 24 March 2021]