The Ordovīcēs (Common Brittonic: *Ordowīcī) were one of the Celtic tribes living in Great Britain before the Roman invasion. Their tribal lands were located in present-day North Wales and England, between the Silures to the south and the Deceangli to the north-east. Unlike the latter tribes that appear to have acquiesced to Roman rule with little resistance, the Ordovices fiercely resisted the Romans. They were eventually subjugated by the Roman governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola in the campaign of 77–78CE when the Romans overran their final strongholds on Anglesey.

Tribes of Wales at the time of the Roman invasion. The modern Anglo-Welsh border is also shown, for reference purposes.


The Celtic name *ordo-wik- could be cognate with the words for 'hammer': Irish: ord, Welsh: gordd (with a prothetic g-) and Breton: horzh (with a prothetic h-). John Edward Lloyd suggested that the name of this tribe is preserved as the element -orwig, -orweg in the place name Dinas Dinorwig ("Fort of the Ordovices") in North Wales,[1] though Melville Richards rejected the idea.[2]


In 1879 the pioneering English geologist Charles Lapworth named the Ordovician geological period after the Ordovices because the rocks he was studying were found in the tribe's former territories in North Wales.


South of the Brigantes, the geographer Ptolemy reported three tribes whose territories stretched from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. The Ordovices occupied the westward lands and had two noteworthy cities, Branogenium which was located 195 Roman miles from London, and Mediolanium which was located 200 Roman miles from London. Neither has been conclusively located.[3] The boundaries of the tribal territory are also unknown; they have been taken to extend through modern Powys into what is now the English Midlands, or alternatively to be limited to the land north of the rivers Dyfi and Dee.[4]


They were among the British tribes that resisted the Roman invasion. The initial resistance was mainly organised by the Celtic leader Caratacus, exiled in their lands after the defeat of his tribe in the Battle of the Medway. Caratacus became a warlord of the Ordovices and neighbouring Silures, and was declared a Roman public enemy in the 50s AD. In Caratacus's last battle, governor Publius Ostorius Scapula defeated Caratacus and sent him to Rome as a prisoner.

In the 70s, the Ordovices rebelled against Roman occupation and destroyed a cavalry squadron. This act of war provoked a strong response from governor Agricola. According to Tacitus, He collected a force of veterans and a small body of auxiliaries; then as the Ordovices would not venture to descend into the plain, he put himself in front of the ranks to inspire all with the same courage against a common danger, and led his troops up a hill. The tribe was all but exterminated.[5] Agricola went on rapidly to conquer Anglesey. The location of this battle is unknown but the hill-fort Dinas Dinorwig encloses a hectare of land about 3 km from the Menai Strait.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest. John Edward Lloyd , M.A., Longmans Green & Co. 1911 p.119 "Dinorwig, which is found as Dinorddwig"
  2. ^ Some Welsh place-names containing elements which are found in Continental Celtic. In Études celtiques Année 1972 13-1 pp. 364-410 p. 377 Actes du quatrième congrès international d'études celtiques (Rennes 18-25 juillet 1971) Volume I. Linguistique celtique "A massive hill-fort and the name of a mediaeval township. Persistent attempts have been made to equate -orwig, -orweg with the tribal name Ordovices, but these must be rejected in the absence of an early Welsh form *Orddwig. In view of the obvious importance and extent of the hill-forts of Dinorben and Dinorwig we should perhaps begin to think of a possible element *dinor, i.e. din + a collective suffix -or. The elements byn/-ben and -weg/wig must remain conjectural."
  3. ^ Ptolemy's Britain and Ireland: A New Digital Reconstruction. May 2018 Proceedings of the ICA 1:1-6 DOI:10.5194/ica-proc-1-1-2018 Authors: Corey Abshire, Anthony Durham, Dmitri Gusev, Purdue University, Sergey K. Stafeyev's_Britain_and_Ireland_A_New_Digital_Reconstruction/fulltext/5af99361aca2720af9ef32c2/Ptolemys-Britain-and-Ireland-A-New-Digital-Reconstruction.pdf
  4. ^ E. W. Williams. 2015. J.E.Lloyd and his intellectual legacy; the tribes of Wales reconsidered.
  5. ^ "Cornelius Tacitus, the Life of Cnæus Julius Agricola, chapter 18".
  6. ^ Dinas Dinorwig Hillfort

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