Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Story Behind The Name Antwerp

I first titled this The story behind the name of my town, but calling it 'my town' seemed a little too intimate. After all I've been here just 8 months. I then changed it to The story behind the name of the town I live in and apart from being too long that felt too impersonal too, because there are things about this town that I really have an attachment to.

Now that I'm at the fag end of my contract, I thought I should chronicle a few sights and sounds from here. I start with the origin of the name Antwerp.

Legend has it that a giant thug, curiously named Antigoon (talk about non-intuitive names!), controlled the opening to the harbour and demanded a huge pay from the ships that passed. He would cut the hands of anyone who refused to pay. This went on till a roman soldier called Silvius Brabo turned up, cut Antigoon's hand and threw it away. This came to be called the place where the hand was thrown (werpen in dutch). In time, Handwerpen got corrupted, as names of towns usually do, to Antwerpen.

Voila! Here's the hand.


At the city's most famous square, the Groenplaats, there is a fountain commemorating the legend. A colleague tells me that the statue is anatomically incorrect because the weight is on the wrong foot, but hell, I wouldn't know.
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