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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Classical Review
Vol. 21 (1907), pp105‑106

F. J. Haverfield died in 1919; the text is in the public domain.

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 p105  Three Notes.

(1) Rutupinus. Roman Kent possessed three ports suitable for cross-channel traffic, Richborough, Dover, and Lympne. Of these Richborough (Rutupiae) was far the most important. Its site, now two miles from the sea, lay then on the shores of a lagoon or land-locked estuary providing a suitable harbour, and the surviving remains — especially the coins, pottery, and the like — and the statements of Orosius and Ammian​a show that it was the usual point of landing and departure for continental passengers or merchandise long before the building of the great fourth-century fort. As a result, the adjective Rutupinus seems to be used in the Latin poets rather with a typical than a specific meaning. Juvenal IV.141 Rutupino edita fundo Ostrea may no doubt be taken (as it usually is) to signify that Roman Richborough possessed oyster-beds, and there would doubtless have been room for oysters in its lagoon. But, as everyone knows, the chief oyster-beds of modern England are on the north coast of Kent off Whitstable, and on the other side of the Thames estuary near Colchester. It would be simpler to think that Rutupino meant 'British.' Again in Lucan VI.67:

aut vaga cum Tethys Rutupinaque litora fervent,

unda Caledonios fallit turbata Britannos,

there is plainly no reference to a land-locked harbour, but a general contrast between (as we should now say) England and Scotland. So, too, beyond question in the other three passages in which the adjective seems to occur in poetry, in Ausonius, tellus Rutupina means Britain (Parent. IX.2), Rutupinus ager the British provinces (ibid. XX.8), and Rutupinum latronem the usurper Maximus (Ord. urb. nobil. 71). In short, the familiar name of the landing-place has been taken to denote the island in a more general sense, just as 'the white cliffs of Dover' might be used to denote England.​b

(2) Claudian de bello Pollentino 416, venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis. The reference is to a withdrawal of troops from Britain by Stilicho about A.D. 402, when other troops (manus) were withdrawn from Raetia and others (agmina) from the Rhine. Historians have disputed what legion was thus withdrawn and have even deduced data for the chronology of the latter days of Roman Britain. But it does not seem clear that legio necessarily means a legion. As used by Claudian, the word often denotes — as in early Latin and in Vergil — a levy or army of any sort. This might be the case even in the de bello Gildonico I.422, where after mentioning a Herculea and a Iovia cohors, the poet proceeds:

Neruius insequitur meritusque vocabula Felix

Dictaque ab Augusto legio, nomenque probantes

Invicti, clipeoque animosi teste Leones.

Nervius, Felix, Invicti, Leones, are all recognizable as auxiliary regiments, classed among the 'auxilia Palatina' in the Notitia, and as these auxilia included 'augustei' (Occid. V.183), legio may refer to them. On the other hand, the 'cohorts' Herculea and Iovia may be legions. As Gibbon observes, the change in discipline allowed the poet  p106 to use the terms 'legio, cohors' and the like, quite indifferently: to which we may add that the precedents of Latin poetry made easy the employment of legio in its vaguer sense.

(3) Patrick in his 'Letter against Coroticus', calls his father Calpurnius a decurion (decurione patre nascor). The title would naturally imply member­ship of a municipal senate. But there is difficulty in finding such a senate near any of the places where it has been suggested that Patrick's family had an estate (villula) and he himself was kidnapped. Possibly the decurion in this case was not a town-chancellor but member of a cantonal senate. That such cantonal authorities helped to carry on the local government of Britain is now, I think, certain, though little else is known about them. Their existence should at least be considered among the possibilities of Patrick's conjectural life.

F. Haverfield.

Thayer's Notes:

a Oros. I.2.76, Amm. XXVII.8.6.

b Another Late Antique example of this type of synecdoche can be found in Claudian, Carm. Min. XXI, where the poet, under the duress of prosody, calls a fellow Egyptian, possibly an Alexandrian, Pharius: he is hardly to be understood as having anything to do with the famous lighthouse.

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