Martial Culture: The Names of Early Medieval Cornwall

A superficial review of p-Celtic personal names from the first half of the first millennium CE shows a strong preference for militaristic, heroic and formulaic names, a point so obvious that it is rarely stated or enumerated. What conclusions, if any, can be drawn from this?

At the risk of being obvious, it is not that p-Celtic language lexicons had a preponderance of these words, but rather that the high status names most likely to be recorded on monumental stonework and in literature did. Although these languages had plenty of name elements relating to farming, metalworking or bardic activities these are not particularly numerous within the literary record. An ethnological and non-representational system for Brittonic will stress this, because that’s what the evidence says. This does not mean that most people were warriors, but simply that they were considered worth commemorating. This militaristic preoccupation in naming parallels the way that hill-forts dominate the archaeological record.

It seems reasonable to assume that Early Medieval Cornwall had strong oral and historical traditions that relate to martial valour.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *