'Mediolana' place names suggest the existence of an ancient Celtic map of Europe. These historical names can be found across Brittany too, suggesting ancient paths criss-crossing Gaul.
“Anyone who writes about Druids and mysteriously coordinated landscapes, or who claims to have located the intersections of the solar paths of Middle Earth in a particular field, street, railway station or cement quarry, must expect to be treated with superstition.”
Graham Robb’s book, The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe, makes exciting claims. In it he lays out the elements of Druidic science and shows how the Celts were the first to map the continent of Europe. And they did it with uncanny precision.
It all started with Robb’s plans to cycle along the Via Heraklea (Hercules’ Way), an ancient route which runs in a straight path from the southwestern tip of Portugal to the Alps. Along the route are a series of Iron Age Celtic settlements called mediolanum which link together in a way that is clearly not coincidental.
What he discovered was extraordinary. The route runs along the angle of the rising and setting sun at the solstices and these lines pass through points where the modern place name can be derived from an original mediolanum (often abbreviated to med, medl or mediol) dating back to Iron Age Celtic settlements. It suggests a means for colonizing ancient Europe; for positioning settlements and temples; and for establishing trade and migration patterns.
Mediolanum has been defined as a holy, symbolic or geographical centre. It comes from Gaulish: medio, ‘middle (of)’ and G: lanum, ‘sanctuary/sacred clearing’, ‘plain’. The majority of mediolana were in central Gaul but they also appear in Britain, Spain, Switzerland and beyond. The most famous of them are Milan, in north Italy and Whitchurch in England.
What is interesting about Robb’s discoveries is that mediolana appear to be more like survey points than tribal or religious centres. They are often in isolated or hilly areas with very few ruins or indications of settlement. As coordinates on a map they point beyond rather than to themselves. But in the end the key alignments focus on Bituriges (Chateaumeillant) in the dead centre of Gaul.
Robb claims that in addition to the thirty-six names which were definitely call mediolanum in the past, there are also hundreds of probables and possibles with contemporary names such as Meaullens, Meslan, Molliens and Meylant.
In Brittany Robb tentatively suggests the following mediolana [*]. I have added two more [**] and given the Breton names for each and the historical forms where appropriate.
COTES D’ARMOR (22)
*LE BEAU MOËLAN (near Planguenoual)
**MAËL-CARHAIX Mael Karaez [Medle, 1264; Mezle, 1317; Maël-Carhaix, 1790]
*MOËLAN-SUR-MER Molan [Moelan 1084, 1220]
*MOËLLIEN (near Plonévez-Porzay)
**PLOUDALMEZEAU Gwitalmeze [Ploutemedou/Plebs Telmedovia, 9thC]
*POINTE de MEYLANT (near Carnac)
*MESLAN Mêlann [Metlan/Mezlan, 1282]
*MALANSAC Malañseg [Malansac, 847]
If you look carefully, the place name evidence in Brittany reveals the existence of mediolana and appears to support a solar paths theory. This suggests that there are 'mysteriously coordinated landscapes' after all; but now we have a plausible explanation of why they were there in the first place.