…or when you cannot be arsed to think of something more creative (bit of geographical fun).
As anyone who speaks more than one language knows there are some certain words, which, while spelled the same way, mean vastly different things in different languages. One of such words is “ban” (as in “banish”, “prohibit” in English). When one of my friends used that word in our recent chat I mentioned that it also has an additional meaning, quite less known at that. Romanian “ban” is (or rather, was) a noble title used in southeastern Europe between early middle ages and first half of 20th century. Territory governed by a ban was called a banat or a banate, and was equivalent to more commonly known march. That might sound a little bit more familiar to some people, especially Romanians or Serbs, since Banat is also the name of a geographical region in central Europe.
It is named after Banat of Temeswar which was a Habsburg province in XVIII century, incorporated into Kingdom of Hungary in 1778. Through the years under Hungarian rule “Banat” must have become a common way to refer to this area, and in 1918, after dissolution of Austria-Hungary, a short lived Banat Republic was proclaimed, without the “of Temeswar” part of it’s old name. Now that got me thinking - are there any other places named in similar way to Banat in Europe? Off the top of my head I could think of Serbian Vojvodina and German Palatinate, but surely there must be more names like these, right? I grabbed a cup of coffee and started my research. So, in no particular order:
Vojvodina is a northernmost region and an autonomous province of Serbia. Vojvodina is an interesting one since it’s eastern part is at the same time western part of Banat, as you can see on the map of Banat above and the map below.
Its name comes from XIX century, from short-lived Serbian Vojvodina autonomous province of Austrian Empire which existed between 1848 and 1849. Vojvodina is a Serbian word for voivodship, a type of duchy or a province, typically ruled by a voivode, so Serbian Vojvodina was basically Serbian Province. It was later transformed into Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temeschwar (yes, that Banat of Temeswar) and the voivode title was held by emperor himself. After the end of World War I Vojvodina proclaimed its unification with Kingdom of Serbia (which was not part of Austria-Hungary) and the “Serbian” part of its name became redundant.
Second region I could think of, the Palatinate (“Pfalz” in German), lies in western Germany, between Saarland to the west and Rhine river to the east.
It is probably the most known place on my list, due to it’s appearance and quite important role in certain Swedish video game. What am I interested in today though is it’s rather peculiar name. “Palatinate” is a word describing territory governed by count palatine (count of the palace, in other words). Count palatine was a non-hereditary court title used by high-ranking officials who helped the ruler with managing royal household, or, in some cases, entire realm. Holy Roman Empire’s counts palatine (“Pfalzgraf” in German) were representatives of the emperor (originally also non-hereditary). In 1356 one of such counts, count palatine of the Rhine, was recognized as one of the prince electors of HR Emperor and with that received some hereditary offices, most importantly the one of imperial vicar of the Rhine, meaning that he was a prince charged with administering that specific part of Holy Roman Empire on behalf of the emperor. From that point onward he was known as elector palatine, and the lands he governed were called Electoral Palatinate, to differentiate from other “normal” count palatines and palatinates. Now I suppose that throughout the times the “Elector” part was dropped since it must have been quite obvious what somebody meant when talking about the Palatinate, and that’s how we got today’s name.
Dauphiné is a former French province and historical region bordering Savoy and Piedmont to the east, Provence to the south and river Rhône to the west.
It is probably the most interesting one since the way it got it’s name is quite bizarre. It was originally known as County of Albon. In XII century, count Guigues IV of Albon, a local ruler, was nicknamed le Dauphin (Dolphin in French) due to his coat of arms which had, you guessed it, a dolphin on it. Apparently there are some theories that his mother, Matilda, was a daughter of Edgar the Aetheling (last male member of house of Wessex) and the name Dauphin comes from a relative of her, Dolfin of Carlisle. It must have been quite a popular nickname since later his descendants changet their title from Count of Albon to Dauphin of Viennois and the county their ruled changed its name to Dauphiné. In 1349 though the last Dauphin of Dauphiné, Humbert II (who was drowning in debts and had no legal heir), sold his territory and title to the French king, Philip VI. One of conditions of their deal was that the heir of the throne of france was to be called le Dauphin, which was the case until the French Revolution. Thus the title after which Dauphiné was named survived for couple hundred years longer.
The last two are not as interesting as previous names
Appenzell is a historic canton of Switzerland, entirely surrounded by canton of St. Gallen. It was partitioned in 1597 into Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Appenzell Inner Rhodes, which is also the smallest canton of Switzerland, and Appenzell Outer Rhodes) as a result of Swiss Reformation.
Name “Appenzell” can be translated to “cell (estate) of the abbot”, which refers to nearby Abbey of Saint Gall. Abbots of St. Gall were rulers of this area and that is the reason it was named like that. There’s not much to add there, is it? Let’s move on.
Marche (or the Marches) is a region in central Italy, with Adriatic Sea to the east and republic of San Marino on it’s northern border.
This one slightly feels like cheating, since it is named after a march (or marches), which is a special kind of borderland region in medieval Europe, and not its ruler - a marquess, marquis or margrave. I’ll let it slide though since my list would be quite short. Marche was named after three medieval marches located in this area, March of Ancona, March of Camerino and March of Fermo, that’s why it’s sometimes referred to as “the Marches”. These marches were originally estabilished by Holy Roman Empire since they were located on the southern border of Imperial Italy, to the north of Papal States. In XII century though they were merged into March of Ancona and later claimed by the Papal States. According to some sources it became known as the Marches in 1815. The province was incorporated into unified Kingdom of Italy after a plebiscite held in 1860.
That seems to be everything, I didn’t really find any other regions in Europe named in similar way. Honourable mentions go to Jersey, which, according to some scholars, might mean jarl’s (earl’s) island (ending “-ey” denotes an island apparently) and to Hațeg Country in Romania, which, according to John Everett-Heath’s “The Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names”, derives from “Terra Herzog”, meaning “Duke’s Land”. I’m not seeing it chief.
What am I doing with my time.