AN IRISH SETTLER FROM WROXETER
Photo: Dr. A. W. J. Houghton
T HE extent to which life continued in the towns of Roman Britain in the fifth century has been much discussed, but an important piece of new evidence has been discovered in the form of a tomb stone of an Irish settler dating to about 475 A.D. which was ploughed up in 1967 inside the Roman city of Wroxeter. Wroxeter is one of the few Roman towns that does not lie beneath a modern town, for apart from a small village in one corner it is now open fields which are regularly ploughed. The modern town is Shrewsbury, some four miles away, a Mercian foundation that was first heard of in 901. But whereas in the case of those Roman towns that underlie modern towns there is an a priori assumption of continuity of settlement, in the case of Wroxeter it has always been assumed that because there is no modern town, it must therefore have been abandoned early and completely. However the discovery of the inscribed stone suggests that the occupation of Wroxeter may have continued well beyond the end of Roman rule.
Mr. R. P. Wright has very kindly contributed this brief summary of the paper which he and Professor K. Jackson have contributed to the next part of the Antiquaries Journal. 'The inscribed stone from Wroxeter was found in 1967 in ploughing in the NE. sector of the Roman town just inside the defences.
The inscription was added only in the third stage of the stone's use, and was pecked on roughly; it reads: CVNOR1X/MACVS MA/QV1 COLINE. "Cunorix, son of Maqqos-Colini (Son of the Holly)."
'As yet Wroxeter has produced no Roman material securely dated to the 5th century. The style of the lettering could be dated to any time between the beginning of the 5th and the middle of the 6th centuries. But Professor Jackson shows by detailed analysis of the linguistic changes that he can date it to about 460-475. Thus Cunorix seems to be either one of the Irish foederati settled by the Romans in Wales or one of their descendants.'
It was common Roman policy in the later empire to settle a certain number of barbarian invaders within the boundaries of the Empire to ward off the rest. These Irish settlers in Wales are known mostly from their tombstones, of which there are a considerable number, chiefly concentrated in Pembrokeshire in the South West, and mostly written in the Ogham script. In Ancient Irish Macus (or Maqqos) means son, and is the same word as the 'mac' in modern Scottish sur-names, e.g. Macmillan.
However Maqui-Colini is not a patronymic but the honorific name of his father. Trees are sometimes used to form descriptive names in Old Irish.