2016, Volume 13, Issue 1

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Andrew Breeze
University of Navarra
Pamplona, Spain

Legionum Urbs and the British Martyrs Aaron and Julius

Voprosy onomastiki, 2016, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp. 30–42 (in English)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2016.13.1.002

Received 5 February 2016

Abstract: The article focuses on the localization of the martyrdom of the British saints Aaron and Julius, known of solely from Gildas, writing in the early 530s. His remarks were taken up by Bede (d. 737), so that the two saints have never been forgotten, their cult surviving to this day. The author provides a detailed survey of discussion of Aaron and Julius over the centuries, and argues that their martyrdom was neither at Caerleon (in south-east Wales) nor Chester (in north-west England), as suggested by numerous scholars, but at Leicester, another major city of Roman Britain. Working from epigraphic sources and taking into account ancient models of naming, the author attempts a reinterpretation of Legionum urbs in the original texts by emending it to Legorum urbs “city of the Legores,” the Celtic people of the Leicester region. The latter, by the time of Gildas, was occupied by the Angles, while the city itself was abandoned, which may explain Gildas’s remarks, otherwise unclear if one identifies Legionum urbs with Caerleon or Chester. The author adduces both historical and linguistic arguments for his proposal and shows that it sheds new light on the history of early British Christianity.

Key words: Latin language, Aaron, Julius, Christian saints, early British Christianity, Roman Britain, Gildas, Bede, Caerleon, Chester, Leicester, place-names, toponymy, textual criticism


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