Toward the east of Hibernia1 are these Islands Monaoeda Insula2 17*40 61°30 Mona Insula3 15*00 57°40 Adru which is barren 15*00 59°30 Limnu4 which is barren 15*00 59°00
- Isle of Man.
- Ynys MÃ´n, Anglesey.
- These last two islands remain unidentified.
The Roman name of this island is recorded in two of the major classical geographies: Claudius Ptolemaeus (book II, chapter i), which was written in the early-2nd century records the name Monaoeda (see above), while the Ravenna Cosmography of the 7th century records the name as Manavi (R&C#233), between the entries for Taba (= Tayside) and Segloes (Littleborough, Nottinghamshire). The island is also mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia (IV.ciii), where it appears as Monapia. The commonly accepted name is Manavia.
The name Manavia may have been derived from the Latin words mons (‘mountain’) and avis (‘bird’), with the meaning ‘the [island] mount of birds’; this appears plausible since Man is essentially two large mountains separated by a central valley, but especially because the south-western tip of the Isle of Man, the first landfall of any traffic arriving from the south – actually a small, detached island named the Calf of Man – is now designated a bird sanctuary.
Roman Evidence from the Isle of Man
According to the Archaeological and Historical Data Service, the Sites and Monuments Record for the entire Isle of Man contains details of 1,137 ancient and historical sites and find-spots, however, only nine entries are related to the Roman period and seven of these record the find-spots of solitary Roman coins.
Suspected Roman Fort at Maughold
The Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society in 1912 speculated that Maughold Church, which is situated close to the easternmost point on the island, lies within the square defences of a Roman fort or camp. This is only wishful thinking, however, as aerial photographs taken by the RAF in 1946 revealed no evidence for these defenses and no physical evidence has ever been recovered from the area. It appears likely that the square enclosure recorded by antiquarians was, in fact, the remains of a 7th century monastery upon which the church was built, sometime during the 11th.
Possible Roman Shipwreck Victim?
The only other possible Roman site on the entire island is a small rock shelter overlooking the small beach at Trae Coon near Port Saint Mary at the island’s southern end. Excavations here in 1969/70 and 1975/6 uncovered a midden containing a large amount of limpet shells, some bird and animal bones, “quantities of carbonized wood” and the bones of a single human adult. Radiocarbon dating of the wood remains undertaken by the University of Birmingham dated the deposit to 1880±150BP; a mean value of ad70. It has been suggested that the human remains are those of an unfortunate mariner who was shipwrecked here sometime during the LPRIA or perhaps the Roman era.
Roman Coins from the Isle of Man
Besides the two possible sites detailed above, a grand total of seven Roman coins have been recorded on the Isle of Man, all found at different times in different places, most of which are now on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas. All of these coins are listed here:
- bronze of Tiberius [14-37AD] minted at Alexandria found in quarry at Glen Auldyn [SC4393].
- sestertius of Trajan [98-117AD] found in 1950 under Monk’s Bridge [SC2770].
- denarius of Trajan [101-2AD] found in 1942 at Scouts’ Glen, Onchan [SC4078].
- coin of Antoninus [138-161AD] found on Douglas beach [SC3875].
- bronze of Septimius Severus [193-211AD] found in 1889 at Santon [SC3172].
- coin of Maximian [286-305AD, 307-308] found at Colby Glen [SC2370].
- bronze of Constans [337-350AD] found in 1951 at Noble’s Hospital, Douglas [SC3875].
The lack of any building remains probably indicates that the Roman military did not visit Manavia, but the coin finds suggest that Romano-British merchants certainly did, apparently throughout the period of Roman rule on the British mainland.