The Real RianorixNovember 27, 2008
One of the problems with writing about ancient Britons is knowing what to call them. There’s a distinct shortage of names in the surviving record, and some of the ones we have simply don’t work for twenty-first century readers. I’m hoping never to be desperate enough to use ‘Enemnogenus’.* Maybe they used abbreviations when they spoke to each other? Or maybe conversation was slower in the Iron Age?
Anyway, it’s a joy to run across a name that’s relatively simple and doesn’t sound ridiculous. Welcome, Rianorix. Anyone who’s read ‘Ruso and the Demented Doctor’ (‘Terra Incognita’) will hopefully remember him as a local with an attitude problem. His name came from a reference book, but last weekend he and I finally met – or at least, we came as close as we ever will.
Rianorix’s tombstone is in the Senhouse Museum at Maryport, on the Cumbrian coast. It nearly wasn’t, having been ‘borrowed’ from the collection while it was in storage, but honesty prevailed and now it sits near a collection of grand Roman altars. It’s a simple and badly battered slab with uneven lettering bearing the words, ‘Rianorix vixit annos…’ Tantalisingly, the rest of the line is illegible.
The tribute was raised by an unknown mourner who evidently spoke Latin. It rests amidst the work of professional stonemasons: a silent reminder of the people who lived in Britain before, and after, the Roman army.
The fort at Maryport was part of a chain the Army built to keep an eye on the dangerous Northerners, lest they decide to sneak around the western edge of Hadrian’s Wall. This, from the museum watchtower, is their view across the Solway Firth to what’s now Scotland:
*’Taximagulus’ won’t be appearing anywhere soon, either.