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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albion

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ALBION (in Ptolemy Άλονίων; Lat. Albion, Pliny 4.16 [30], 102), the most ancient name of the British Islands, though generally restricted to England. The name is perhaps of Celtic origin, but the Romans took it as connected with albus, white, in reference to the chalk-cliffs of Dover, and A. Holder (Alt-Keltischer Sprachschatz, 1896) unhesitatingly translates it Weissland, “whiteland.” The early writer (6th cent. B.C.) whose periplus is translated by Avienus (end of 4th cent. A.D.) does not use the name Britannia; he speaks of νῆσος Ἰέρνων καὶ Άλβιόνων (“island of the Ierni and the Albiones”). So Pytheas of Massilia (4th cent. B.C.) speaks of Ἄλβιον and Ἰέρνη. From the fact that there was a tribe called the Albiones on the north coast of Spain in Asturia, some scholars have placed Albion in that neighbourhood (see G. F. Unger, Rhein. Mus. xxxviii., 1883, pp. 156-196). The name Albion was taken by medieval writers from Pliny and Ptolemy.