Leuca, Iuctius and Leugosena

Identification: the river Loughor, south Wales

Rivet and Smith equated Ptolemy’s Stuccia with Ravenna’s Iuctius, though this should be impossible, since if the order of names in Ptolemy is correct the Stuccia was in north Wales, and if the order of names in Ravenna is correct the Iuctius was in south Wales. It is, however, not at all clear what river might have been called the Iuctius, so the present writer suggests, half tongue in cheek, that Iuctius was originally the Latin word luctus meaning ‘grief, sorrow’ and that the compiler of Ravenna wrote down Leuca where he ought to have written the Leugo of Leugosena. The reason for this is probably very simple. We have to start with the Leucaro of Iter XII of the Antonine Itinerary. This will have been the name of a Roman fort at the point where the Roman road from Carmarthen to Neath crossed the river Loughor, probably in the Pontardulais/Fforest area. The Celtic name will have been Letucaro (though Lecucaro would also be possible). The name will have been transferred to the Roman fort from a Celtic settlement somewhere in the vicinity, most probably the earthwork on Graig Fawr (NGR: SN 618 068), a little to the northeast of Pontardulais. The earthwork stands at the top of a high, steep hill and overlooks the river Loughor. The river had been given a name of the kind in which a river-element is added as a suffix to a place-name (other examples of this are given in Chapter 19, 7.4), so the river-name was Letucarosena, where the river-element sena is just the river-letter s (corresponding to the hill-letter r  in Letucaro) and an ending ena.  With the passage of time the and ar  of Letucarosena  were dropped and the c underwent the common change to g, so that Letucarosena  became the Leugosena of Ravenna. The place-name Letucaro  was also shortened, though not so drastically, only the intervocalic t being dropped, so that the place-name became Leucaro. Now, the compiler of Ravenna was presumably looking at a map which showed both the place-name Leucaro and the river-name Leugosena. Quite forgetting that at that point he was supposed to be copying river-names he started to copy the place-name. He got as far as Leuca, realised his mistake and wrote luctus, meaning ‘Oops, sorry’, and then copied the river-name correctly as Leugosena. But much later some medieval copyist, who didn’t quite understand the document he was copying, mistook Leuca, luctus and Leugosena for three separate river-names and copied all three down, though changing the spelling of luctus very slightly to luctius.


[This page was last modified on 12 September 2020]


[NB. Detailed information as to the different river-letters and as to how they were combined to form compound river-names, together with information as to the four categories of Celtic river-names, is given in Chapter 19: the rivers of Roman Britain. Detailed information as to the different hill-letters is given in Chapter 1 and information as to how the hill-letters were combined to form compound place-names is given in Chapter 2]


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