[If the text below uses any of the terms ‘hill-letter’, ‘river-letter’, ‘old-style name’, ‘transitional name’ and ‘inversion-type name’ a reader who is not familiar with those terms may wish to refer briefly to ‘The Celtic names of hillforts’, where an explanation of those terms is given].



The Celtic names of hillforts


Castle Ditches


Location: north-northeast of Ansty, Wiltshire, to the west of Salisbury

OS map reference:  ST 963 283                                        

Celtic name:  Anicetis, or possibly Danicetis

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography (35) – Anicetis


This is a large, triangular hillfort embracing the summit of a hill, the slope being fairly steep on the northeast and northwest sides, and around the southwest corner, but gentler to the southeast. The northern corner of the fort is fairly close to the northern side of the summit, but the southeastern side is some distance down the slope.

The writer’s reasons for identifying this hillfort as Anicetis are given in Chapter 11 (Roman place-names in central southern England) of the Home menu. The name is a straightforward inversion-type name in the hill-letter n, nicet meaning ‘hill steep high’. It is not clear whether Ravenna refers to the hillfort itself, to a Roman post built inside the hillfort after the occupants had been evicted, or to a Roman post built nearby and to which the Celtic name was simply transferred. The Celtic name presumably survives in modern Ansty. Note that whilst the interior of the fort is sloping rather than level the fort is nonetheless built at the top of the hill and so one might expect to see a d meaning ‘summit’ in the place-name. It is thus possible that the name had earlier been Danicetis, meaning ‘summit of hill steep high’ and that the initial D was lost or dropped. The hill-letter n in the name will be n2 , indicating that the hill-fort was occupied by the Atrebates  (see 'Ptolemy's Celtic tribes in Britain').

Note that the term Atrebates is used broadly above so as to embrace also the groups later referred to by Ptolemy as the Belgae and the Regni. All three groups, if indeed they were separate groups at that early date, appear to have used the hill-letter n2.


[This page was last modified on 10 May 2019]