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Glossary of Places

A Note on Historical Place Names

Where possible, I have used the name and spelling by which a settlement was known in the early- to mid-ninth century (i.e. the 800s AD). In some cases, this has been quite difficult, however, because spellings often vary between sources, or in some cases, there isn’t a record of the name by which that settlement was known at that time. You might also be surprised how much a place name can change over time; sometimes to a completely new name altogether. This is especially the case where a place has changed hands through history (e.g. Eboracum > Eoforwic > Jorvik > Yerk > Yourke > Yarke > York). I have also chosen to use the ‘er’ suffix (rather than ‘re’ written in some sources) for names like ...mynster and ...ceaster. I am sure I have been inconsistent from time to time, for which I apologise to those purists amongst you.

I suspect I have also been inconsistent with my Old Norse spellings, for instance using ‘th’ instead of ‘ð’. Again my apologies to any who are offended by my misspellings or my mixing of accents and modifiers.

Abbasid Caliphate

The Abbasid Caliphate was the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Founded by Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib (566–653 CE), from whom the dynasty takes its name, the Abbasid Caliphate grew to be a vast empire spanning the middle east and north Africa, and which was centred on its magnificent capital, Baghdad. This was Myran’s birthplace.


Part of the Frankish Empire, now modern-day western France.


Home of Mael ap Caradoc in exile, Armorica is the Roman name for the province of northwestern Gaul and Spain. In the context of this story, specifically the lands known today as ‘Brittany’ in western France.

It is no coincidence that the area is called Brittany (and its inhabitants ‘Bretons’), as these lands were settled by the Britons of Cornwall following the collapse of the Roman Empire in AD410. Indeed, by the middle of the 6th Century, this area of Armorica was known as Britannia, and within this division were the minor kingdoms of Dumnonia and Cornouaille, reflecting their direct origins across the channel. The Breton and Cornish languages were also identical in those times, and even today are the most closely related of the surviving Celtic languages.

It isn’t known why the migrations took place, for certainly a large number of people left old Dumnonia for Armorica, and this occurred over a period of centuries. The most popular theories centre around the Saxon expansion into British lands; as the Saxon influence extended westward, more people left for the “free” lands of the south. It is even possible that the settlement was originally started by a few adventurous souls, and as ‘New Dumnonia’ became more secure and viable, perhaps more people came, lured by the travel brochures which promised warm sun, fertile lands and, most importantly, no Saxon overlords. [Todd: 238-240]


Rathulf’s adopted home-fjord in western Norvegr. The spectacular 29-kilometre (18 mile) long fjord is a branch off Sognefjorden. Aurlandsfjorden is narrow and extremely deep, plunging about 962 metres (3,156 ft) below sea level. The fjord is hemmed on both sides by towering mountains, leaving very few places for habitation. Life here was isolated and hard. ON.


Myran’s birthplace and capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Baghdad was founded in 762 AD and grew to be one of the most important administrative, cultural and academic centres in the first millennia AD; a true ‘Golden Age’ of Islam. Baghdad was the largest city in the world for much of the Abbasid era, peaking at a population of more than a million (an astonishing size in those times). During Rathulf and Myran’s time, it was known as the ‘round city’ for the impressive city walls that encircled the citadel and the city’s core.


ON, literally ‘Bardi’s home.’ See ‘By’ below. Located near present-day Kaupanger, Sognefjord.


A Norse term for Britain / an inhabitant of Britain. ON.


OE name for a settlement on the southern Wessex coast, translating as ‘port on the (River) Bride.’ Now known as Brideport, Dorset.

Byzantine Empire

An ancient empire whose capital in Rathulf’s time was Konstantinoupolis (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey). Considered by many scholars of the day as the seat of Christian civilization (it was also known as the Holy Roman Empire), although sadly lacking in gold-paved streets, despite Sigvald’s claims to the contrary. Also the source of Sigvald’s silk pantaloons. Despite it being on the ‘edge of the world’, the ever-curious Vikings did make it all the way out there, and their reputation for fierceness eventually led to them being the preferred members for the Imperial Guard (‘the Varangian Guard’). Unfortunately, these fellows rapidly earned a reputation for their drinking, and were colloquially known as the Emperor’s Wine Bags (one wonders if this had any bearing on the high success rate of imperial assassinations).

Caer Uisc

British name for the capital of Dumnonia. Present-day Exeter, Saxon name Escanceaster. B. (See entry for Escanceaster below.)


Fjordside home of Cnut, at the far end of Årldalsfjorden. (Near present-day Årldalstangen).


The ancient Latin name for Cornwall, as recorded by the Romans. The name also refers to the related British kingdom in Armorica (the Breton peninsula in West Francia). Frankish Cornubia occupied a territory coextensive with the later Breton kingdom of Cornouaille, south of the River Elorn to the Elle. L.


The modern name for the land that was once part of the kingdom of Dumnonia. While some sources claim that the present-day name of Cornwall is derived from ‘Cornovii’ (the Celtic name for the people inhabiting the far west of the land), unfortunately it is more likely to have originated from Old English. The Saxons referred to the Dumnonians as the Cornwælisc or Cornwealhas; the direct translation being the ‘Welsh of the Horn’ (horn referring to the promontory which the Dumnonii inhabited). Innocuous enough until one learns that ‘Welsh’ (wælisc) is, in fact, a less-than-kind term derived from the Old English word ‘wealh’ (plural wealhas), meaning a foreigner, stranger or borderer, and also serf or slave. No wonder the Welsh prefer to describe themselves by their Celtic name, Cymru (pronounced cum-ree). Some Medieval maps also show the area now covered by Cornwall and Devon as ‘West Wales.’ [Source = Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable 1898 + others].


Saxon name for an important monastic settlement a few miles northwest Escanceaster (Exeter), its modern name being Crediton. OE meaning is “town on the River Creedy.” It is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Winfrith or Saint Boniface, who was born there in c. 672 and then took his Christian mission across to the Frankish Empire (where he became patron saint) and to the heathen lands beyond. OE.


The Dumnonian name for what is believed to be modern-day Bodmin, Cornwall; or possibly the monastery at that location. Dinuurin (also spelt Dinurrin in some sources) was the defacto capital of late British Dumnonia, and the only market town to appear in the Domesday Book in Cornwall – by then known as ‘Bodmine.’ Dinuurin was an important monastic settlement, established by St Petroc in the early 500s. It was the seat of the Kernowyon archbishop in Rathulf and Aneurin’s time.

It is unclear when the name changed to Bodmin (if indeed it did – the two names may have been contemporaneous), but the name Bodmin probably derives from the Cornish ‘Bod-meneghy’, meaning ‘dwelling of or by the sanctuary of monks’. B.


OE name for modern-day Dorchester. The town is ancient, originally named Durnovaria by the Romans and Durngueir in British.


Birthplace of Rathulf and his brother Aneurin ap Cadwyr, an ancient British kingdom in the far southwest of what is now England, occupying the rough land area of present-day Cornwall, Devon and some of Somerset. Also home to Tintagel, claimed by many as the birthplace of legendary King Arthur. After two centuries warding off the inexorable expansion of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, Dumnonia eventually fell to the Saxon King Ecgberht in 838AD. Thereafter the people inhabiting the area became known by the Saxons as the West Welsh, or ‘kernow-wealas’, from which the modern-day name ‘Cornwall’ is derived. ‘Wealas’ is a somewhat derogatory Saxon word meaning ‘foreigners or strangers.’ Wealas, or Wales as we know it today, thus means ‘foreigners or strangers,’ which is why, unsurprisingly, folks from this country prefer the original British term Cymru (pronounced ‘cum-ree’) to describe themselves today. B.


Dumnonian name for the Kernowyon fortified settlement that was later subsumed by the growing town of Lannstevan; whose name has evolved over time to present-day Launceston. The Dun element of the name means ‘fort.’ B.

Lannstevan, means the “church enclosure of St Stephen” and is derived from the monastery at St Stephen’s (lying a few miles south-east of Dunheved) and the common Brythonic placename element lann- (meaning enclosure). B.


An important town in southwestern Wessex, now known as Dorchester (in County Dorset). Originally the seat of a Brythonic king (possibly a sub-kingdom of Dumnonia), the settlement was known as Durnovaria in Roman times. During Rathulf’s time it was a Saxon stronghold, still largely protected by its original Roman defences (hence the suffix ‘chester’). Nearby is the massive Iron-age hill fort of Maiden Castle, which was Durnovaria’s predecessor. OE.


Fjordside home of Eirik and Gunnar, at the far end of Lustrafjorden (now present-day Skjolden).

Caer Uisc

The Anglo-Saxon walled city now known as Exeter. Originally built by the Romans as the administrative centre of Dumnonia and named Isca Dumnoniorum. When the Romans left, the British moved back in, named it Caer Uisc, and it remained the capital of Dumnonia until the Saxons took the city from the Dumnonians some time in the 600s AD. The Saxons kept the Roman name of Isca and added the suffix ‘Ceaster.’ Ceaster (also ‘chester’ or ‘caster’) is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘a nice, strong, walled town or fortress kindly built for us by the Romans.’ Chester/caster is a common element of many place names in Britain to this day (e.g. Chester, Dorchester, Manchester, Lancaster, Silchester), indicating their Roman origin. Evidently the medieval scholars tired of the mouthful that was Escanceaster, however, and eventually shortened it to the much punchier ‘Exeter.’ OE.


In this series of novels, the area that comprises the southwestern edge of Norway, stretching from modern-day Stavanger north up to Trondheim. In Rathulf’s day, anything beyond Trondheim was so cold, remote and full of monsters that no one with any sense would venture there.


Also known as the Kingdom of the Franks or Frankish Empire, Francia was a vast kingdom that in Rathulf's time roughly covered the areas now occupied by modern day France, Germany, Austria and northern Italy. Its most famous monarch was Emperor Charlemagne (Charles the Great). OE.


Saxon name for a large, important port town that was built near the site of the earlier walled Roman fort and town of Clausentum. It is now known as the busy modern-day port city of Southampton. OE.pirits with superhuman strength. Trolls belong to the Jötunn race. Their name means “devourer”. ON.


ON name for the Shetland Islands.


The early Saxon name for Lydford, Devon. At the time, Lyford was an important border post between the Saxon marches of Dumnonia, and the British west country beyond. OE.


Fjordside home of Horik and Leif, on Lustrafjorden. (Present-day Feigom.)


Fjordside home of Ivar on Gaupnefjorden. (Present-day Gaupne.)


Capital of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire. Originally named Byzantium during Roman times, it was renamed Constantinople in honour of the Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine in 330AD. During Rathulf’s times it would have more commonly been known by its Greek name, Konstantinoupolis. The city actually earned itself an imaginative Old Norse name too: Miklagarðr (from mikill ‘big’ and garðr ‘city’), also spelt Miklagard and Miklagarth. The city still exists, but is now known as present-day Istanbul, Turkey.


Kernowyon name for the settlement of the monastery of Sanctus Germanus (modern-day St Germans, Cornwall). B.


Norse name for the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. ON.


Saxon name for present-day London. OE.


A small island (5km long and 1km wide) in the Bristol Channel off the north coast of Cornwall. The name means ‘puffin island’, from the Old Norse lundi meaning ‘puffin’. ON.


Early name for the Isle of Man. B.


One of the principal Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, covering a large area of central Britain. OE.


The original name from which modern-day ‘Norway’ comes, from the Norse meaning ‘the north way,’ (Norðr vegr) referring to the sheltered sea route up the west coast of that country. ON.


Norse name for the Orkney Islands. ON.


Saxon name for an important Dumnonian monastic town, famous for being founded by St Petroc, one of the early Irish Christians missionaries who brought the Celtic brand of Christianity to Dumnonia and far beyond. Modern-day name is Padstow. Cornish name is Lannwedhenek. Home of St Petroc’s Priory before it moved inland to Bodmin, most probably as a result of Viking raids. OE.


Earlier name for present-day Barnstaple in North Devon. Probably just a fishing village in Rathulf’s time, Pultun was later fortified by Wessex’s King Alfred the Great in the late 800’s as part of his Burghal Hidage in defence of Viking raiders. OE.

Sanctus Germanus

A monastery, also known by its Cornish name as Lannaled, founded by St Germanus ca. 430AD by the banks of the River Lynher, southern Dumnonia. Modern-day name is St Germans, Cornwall. L.


Saxon name for modern-day Shaftesbury in Dorset. ‘Sceapt’ is from the OE name meaning ‘a point’ and ‘Burh’ is the OE word for a fortified settlement.


Saxon name for modern-day Sherborne in Dorset. OE name meaning ‘bright, clear stream.’


Fjordside home of Sigvald, Helga and Ingrith on Laerdalsfjorden. (Present-day Hauge.)


The longest fjord in Norway (and second longest in the world), cutting 205 kilometres (127 miles) inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is exceptionally deep for much of its length: at around 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Anything lost overboard is definitely not going to be retrieved.


Norse name for the Hebridean islands, Scotland. ON.


Brythonic name for present-day Tavistock. In Rathulf and Aneurin’s time it was a small settlement but was later to become an important town following the founding of the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Rumon in 961. B.


The Anglo-Saxon name for Taunton, in present-day Somerset. OE, meaning town on the River Tone.


The Anglo-Saxon name for Totnes, in present-day Devon. OE.


The Anglo-Saxon name for Tiverton, in present-day Devon, meaning town on two fords. OE.


Werham is the Saxon name for the settlement know known as Wareham on the Dorest coast. The name is derived from: wer (meaning ‘fish trap, a weir’) and hām (‘homestead’) or hamm (‘enclosure hemmed in by water’). OE.

Westseaxna Rīce

OE name for the Kingdom of the West Saxons (Wessex), whose capital was Winchester. King Alfred the Great is perhaps Wessex’s most famous monarch. In Rathulf's time, it was King Ecgberht (reigned 802 – 839) who was causing all the trouble for Dumnonia. OE.


Important Saxon monastic town on the River Wylye, modern name Wilton, Wiltshire. Wiltun Abbey was founded in AD 771 and quickly rose to prominence and prosperity. OE.


Important Saxon monastic town in Wessex, modern name Wimborne. The Minster is dedicated to Saint Cuthburga (who was sister to Ine, King of Wessex and wife of Aldfrith, King of Northumbria), who founded a Benedictine abbey of nuns at the site of the present-day minster in c.705. OE.


Capital of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex. There has been a settlement on this site for millennia. It came to prominence during the Roman Era, when it was named Venta Belgarum. It was later renamed by the Saxon settlers to Wintanceaster, with the ‘ceaster’ suffix being the Saxon word for ‘fortified town’. The city has retained its Saxon name (with a minor spelling alteration) as present-day Winchester. OE.


Old Saxon name for present-day Warminster, Wiltshire. Also recorded in some texts as Worgemynstre. OE.

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