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Reconstruction of a Menapian dwelling at Destelbergen.

The Menapii were a Belgic tribe of northern Gaul in pre-Roman and Roman times. Their territory according to Strabo and Ptolemy is located at the mouth of the Rhine and from there extending southwards along the Schelde. Their civitas was Cassel (northern France), near Terouanne.

Their neighbours were:

The Menapii were persistent opponents of Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul, resisting until 54 BC. They were part of the Belgic confederacy defeated by Caesar in 57 BC, contributing 9,000 men.[1] The following year they sided with the Veneti against Caesar.[2] Caesar was again victorious, but the Menapii and the Morini refused to make peace and continued to fight against him. They withdrew into the forests and swamps and conducted a hit-and-run campaign. Caesar responded by cutting down the forests, seizing their cattle and burning their settlements, but this was interrupted by heavy rain and the onset of winter, and the Menapii and Morini withdrew further into the forests.[3] In 55 BC the Menapii tried to resist a Germanic incursion across the Rhine, but were defeated.[4] Later that year, while Caesar made his first expedition to Britain, he sent two of his legates and the majority of his army to the territories of the Menapii and Morini to keep them under control.[5] Once again, they retired to the woods, and the Romans burned their crops and settlements.[6] The Menapii joined the revolt led by Ambiorix in 54 BC. Caesar says that they, alone of all the tribes of Gaul, had never sent ambassadors to him to discuss terms of peace, and had ties of hospitality with Ambiorix. For that reason he decided to lead five legions against them. A renewed campaign of devastation finally forced them to submit, and Caesar placed his ally Commius of the Atrebates in control of them.[7]

The Menapii are attested in Strabo's 1st-century Geographica, situated north of the Nervii at the mouth of the Rhine.[8] They are also referref to in Ptolemy's 2nd century Geographia, situated between the Tungri and the Nervii.[9] Ptolemy also mentions a tribe called the Manapi living in south-eastern Ireland.[10] Place-names such as Fermanagh are thought to reflect their presence in north-western Ireland.[11]

A cohort of Menapian auxiliaries is attested by inscriptions dating to the 2nd century in Britain.[12] Carausius, the 3rd century commander of the Roman fleet who declared himself emperor of Britain and northern Gaul, was a Menapian, born in Batavia.[13] A legion called the Menapii Seniores is mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a 5th century register of Roman government positions and military commands.[14]

Etymology

A suggested etymology of Menapii: *Meen + *ape. Meen = main house, large house in a village where people met, justice was spoken, decisions proposed and voted: compare Dutch "gemeen" (common), "gemeente" (congregation or municipality) and "meent" (common fields to a small community). The suffix -ape (water) can still be found in Dutch villages like Gennep (Ghennepe), Jisp (Gyspe), Nispen (Nisipa) and Weesp (Wesepa=Wese+apa), thus yielding the generic Germanic equivalent "community along the water". Probably the name refers to a (Celtic) social organisation. [hypothesis] This could mean that populations slightly south of the Rhine, mentioned by Strabo and Ptolemy, had the same social system and living conditions and therefore were called Menapii also. This etymology is based upon a Germanic language.

The resemblance with the Irish Manapi is probably a coincidence. Celtic etymology: meno- + api- + io- [15] = 'high ground people'. The continental Menapii clearly lived in low wetlands [16].

References

  1. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 2.4
  2. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War 3.9
  3. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War 3.28-29
  4. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War 4.4
  5. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War 4.22
  6. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War 4.38
  7. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War 6.2-6
  8. ^ Strabo, Geographica 4:3.4
  9. ^ Ptolemy, Geographia 2.8
  10. ^ Ptolemy, Geographia 2.1
  11. ^ Ireland's History in Maps: Ptolemy's Ireland
  12. ^ Cohors Primae Menapiorum at Roman-Britain.org
  13. ^ Aurelius Victor, Liber de Caesaribus 39.20
  14. ^ Notitia Dignitatum, West, 5
  15. ^ Isaac, PNPG
  16. ^ Caesar BG
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