Category Archives: Suevi


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The Suevi occupied portions of Portugal for quite some time.  One might ask what their cultural influence on Portugal has been?

Take the dictionary.

If you ask what Portuguese words may be Suevic, only very few are mentioned (and then too we are told that some of these may be not Suevic but Gothic).  The words in question include:

  • britar, to break (stones),
  • lobio, vineyard [now obsolete], and
  • laverca, lark

Let’s put aside britar and lobio and ask what is the source of laverca?  We are told that it comes either from Suevic *lâwerka, or from Gothic *laiwerko.  Both of these words appear to be “reconstructions” (signaled by *) meaning they have never been actually attested in that form in Gothic or any other language.  

Of Suevic we know nothing so there is nothing to compare the word to.

Now lark appears in English and other Germanic languages.

What is a “lark”?  The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us it is a “songbird of the Old World, early 14c., earlier lauerche (c. 1200), from Old English lawerce (late Old English laferce), from Proto-Germanic *laiw(a)ikon (source also of Old Saxon lewerka, Frisian liurk, Old Norse lævirik, Dutch leeuwerik, German Lerche), a word of unknown origin.”

More noteworthy is the use of the word in Scottish – laverock.

Old English and Old Norse forms suggest a contracted compound, perhaps meaning “treason-worker,” but “nothing is known in folklore to accont for such a designation” [OED]. Noted for its early song and high flying (in contrast to its low nest). When the sky falls, we shall catch larks was an old proverb mocking foolish optimism.

Some sources are nevertheless quite certain of the word’s origin.  Here is Britannica:

Others are less certain such as this 1957 piece from the Archivum Linguisticum (volume 9):

Or this 1977 piece from the Zeitschrift fuer Romanische Philologie (volume 93):

As for English, there are actually two “larks” in English (three, if you count the obscure 18th century use of the word to mean “a small boat”). The older “lark” is a small bird (also known as both the “laverock” and the “skylark”) famed for its melodious call and its love of flying at great heights. The name “lark” comes from the Old English “lawerce,” which came in turn from Germanic roots. Oddly, some of the earlier forms of “lark,” especially those found in Old Norse, imply that the original meaning of the word “lark” was related to “treason” in some way. There may be some rationale for this to be found in some folktale somewhere (“The Tale of the Perfidious Lark”?), but so far it’s a mystery and probably nothing to worry about. After all, a batch of the little birdies has been known as “an exaltation of larks” since the 15th century, which certainly beats “a murder of crows” in the avian public-relations department.

The other sort of “lark,” the one meaning “a lighthearted adventure, a spree, an impulsive action,” is of much more recent vintage, first appearing in the 19th century (“My mother … once by way of a lark, invited her to tea,” 1857). A “lark” is a brief but daring departure from routine, a flight of fancy, a bit of forbidden fun or a harmless prank, and “to lark” since the early 18th century has meant “to frolic or play.” The generally positive tone of this “lark” fits well with one theory of its source, namely that it is simply a reference to the light, soaring flight of the “lark” bird. A related verb of the same meaning, “skylarking,” apparently originated aboard sailing ships, and was used to describe crewmen roughhousing in the upper rigging of the ship’s masts, probably by analogy to the soaring flight of actual “skylarks.”

But it’s also possible that “lark” in this “frolic” sense came from a source unrelated to the “lark” bird. Some authorities point to the English dialectical verb “lake” or “laik,” meaning “to leap, play, spring up,” dating back to Old English and derived from Germanic roots. The transition from “lake” to “lark” would, in this theory, be explained by the particularities of pronunciation in southern England, where “r” sounds tend to creep into words lacking the actual letter. Of course, the similarity of the result to the name of the “lark” bird no doubt also played a role in the spread of this “lark.”

In any event… the Portuguese/Galician word is supposed to have been derived from Suevic.  The Slavic name for a lark is skowronek meaning, literally, “what a little crow”.  (It is of a male gender.  If it were female it’d be skowronka.)

But here are the interesting things about lawerka or laverca.

First, is the suffix.  The -erca or -erka suffix is quite common in Slavic.  It is (usually) used to express a diminutive of a female word whose suffix is –ra:

  • siekiera > siekierka
  • fujara > fujarka
  • manierka, stolarka, miarka

And so forth.  In fact, you can construct new words like that that normally lack a diminutive (wiar > wiarka).  Notice that if the base suffix is -ara > -arka but if it is era > erka and lawerka would be in that second group.

No matter the source/stem of the word, the suffix looks Slavic.

Second, there was (is?) a place name in Slovenia by exactly this name.  Specifically, it seems to have been located between Ljubljana (Laibach) and Gottschee (Kočevje).  Was (is?) it of Gothic or Slavic origin?

This piece is from Karl Baedeker’s “The Eastern Alps…”

In fact the place seemed to have been well known to travelers in the region.

But maybe Portuguese/Galician also have the same -ercas?

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May 28, 2017

Hüter am Rhein

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An interesting study of Slavic place names on the Rhine* was conducted at the end of the 19th century.  These place names were assumed by the author – Hubert Marjan – to have appeared there by reason of the resettlement policies of Constantine the Great who in 334 supposedly resettled 300,000 Sarmatians somewhere in the Roman Empire, presumably including Gall.  According to other authors, the settlement took place under Constantius II in 359.  If some or all of these Sarmatians happened to speak Slavic then their settlement would have left a mark.

(* note – we have come across a view that the very name of the river is Slavic… how, well, in some old documents (including the Vita Louis) the river is repeatedly referred to as Hrenus and the suggestion is that the H was a G originally G>H, in which case the next step would be to change the “e” to an “a” and add an -ica so that we have granica/граница (Croat, Polish, Russian) or better yet hraniční (Czech) or hraničné (Slovak) (it’s different in Slovenian/Ukrainian).  That way the Rhine would the “border”.  Since the Slavs would presumably be on its Eastern side, they would neatly fit with the Suevi yet again.  That said, the above requires a number of steps which we are not convinced are justified.)

Whether or not this resettlement is true or, if true, whether or not it has any relation to the below data, the below data is interesting in and of itself.

Where are or were those places?

We put them on the map:

Most of them are in red.  (The blue square is a place the author did not associate with Slavs.  It is the town Graach which appears in documents first as Gracho, Gracha and Graca).

Here is the list (you would not have guessed them and we are not saying we agree with all of them as being Slavic (or with classifying others, not listed below, such as the above Gracho, not with Slavs)):

  • Trechirgau – Latin Trigorium, otherwise Trechere, Drikerigau, Trichire, Drachere, Trekere, Trechgere – “three mountains”;
  • Brodenbach – from brod, i.e., “ford”;
  • Sarmersheim, Simmern, Simmerbach – meaning “Sarmatian-“;
  • Traust – previously Trausrait from trusa, trusti  author compares with Truosnasteti in Sclavis (from the area of Meiningen).  Meaning “reeds” trstinatrskatростни́кtrichina*trъstina;
  • Riegenroth – from reka;
  • Windesheim – obvious from Venadi (presumably Venadi Sarmatae);
  • Strimmig – from stream – Indoeuropean (e.g., German Strom) but with the Slavic diminutive -ig as in -ik, strumyk – “little stream”; (compare the German forms Sterminaberg, Strimitz, Strimmelitz, Stremmen, Strummin – all Slavic);
  • Kleinich –  previously Clenniche, Cleniche.  From klen or klon;
  • Crastel – chrast, that is, “brushwood”;
  • Savershausen – from the tribe of the Savari;
  • Seibershausen – from sebru – “farmer”;
  • Rhaunen – previously Hruna which he ties to a Croatian Pagus Crauvati, Chrouvat, praedia… Chrouata et Runa by Knittenfeld in Austria;
  • Weithersheim – from vetr, vetoer, vjetar, etc;
  • Namedi – earlier Namedey, Namedy – from Nemci or Nemetes (or same?) or “Germans”;
  • Veitskopf – that is “Vit’s head”;
  • Künskopfe – “horses’ heads”;
  • Pfalzfeld – because of the discovery of this column which, however, may have looked like the below reconstruction before (note the heads on top – this detail comes from earlier descriptions); this column has been classified as Celtic:
  • Hoch-Simmer – from zima (compare ZImor in Bohemia); Same concept as Sniezka;
  • Nurburg – from Mons Nore – Slavic nora;
  • Hoch-Pochten – Puthena  from bohin or pogoda or others (this one seems highly suspect);
  • Saffenburg – from “frogs” – compare with other such names from clearly Slavic places such as Sabnica or Sabniza, Safen and Saffin – all referring to frogs;
  • Sehl – previously Sele; nearby mountain Soch;
  • Soch – mountain name from socha/sucha that is “dry” – he notes the reference the “completely uncultivated” mountain in 1144 (penitus incultus).
  • Cochem – previously Cuchuma, Cuhckeme, Cochomo, Cochma, Kuchema and others – compared with villa Cugme (Serb) on the Danube which was Schaffarik thought was related to the word kukma, that is comb (but compare the Gujarati village Kukma);
  • Sarmersbach – “Sarmatian stream”.  Here the author relies on spring celebrations which were recorded in the village and which seem to have involved young men going around, with a basket that had a spruce in it and collecting eggs.  They would go house to house and demand eggs of young ladies singing as follows: “Will das Mädchen nicht obstohn, Fein Liebchen fein! So wollen wir’s in die Blotz dröhn.”  The “Blotz” had been explained as referring to an “offering” (Gothic blotan or Ahd pluozan).  But the author compares this to bloto meaning “mud”, i.e., if you do not give us eggs we will throw you in the mud.  He further compares this to the dyngus of Poland and Silesia (not found elsewhere in Germany).
  • Mückeln – in the area there are (or were in the 19th century) many pagan burial sites that the locals called tumuli.  The author derives the name from the Slavic mogila (see also Mugilones) and cites Miklosich as showing similar names in the area of Magdeburg such as Müglenz, Muggel, Möchling, Mücheln, Muchil, Mügeln, Muggelink.
  • Ober-Wesel – Wesel meaning froh or “happy” vesel, Veselka, Veseloe, Vjessel  

These people belong to a local “Keltengruppe” – look at these faces :-).

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February 3, 2017

Of Foolishness & Depravity

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We present a short article from the Classical Review (Przegląd Klasyczny) an interwar Polish magazine published at Lviv (then Lwow).  The 1936 article presents an argument for equating the names Suevi with Suoviane, i.e., the English “Slavs”.suevi1It was written by one Janusz Bożydar Daniewski and was based on his earlier and longer PhD thesis entitled “Tacitus’ Suevi or Western Slavs in Roman Times” which was published in 1933.  Since the suggestion was controversial, the Classical Review also printed a much, much longer and highly derisive response by one Eugeniusz Leonard Słuszkiewicz who mocked the idea that Slavs descended from the Suevi contending instead that they came from the East (given his own physical appearance, a remote marsh/bog origin in the Pripet may in fact have been true – for him). Słuszkiewicz’s response to Daniewski, whatever one may think of its merits, can only very generously be described as “impolite”.  Daniewski then responded to Słuszkiewicz in a separate note.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is fascinating to note that Słuszkiewicz later, during World War II, surprisingly found paid work at the Cracow-based Institut für Deutsche Ostarbeit (“Institute for German Work in the East”) – an institute  established by Hans Frank (the Nazi governor-general of Poland), whose main task was to prove the German character of Poland and other Slavic lands.  One can only assume that, given Słuszkiewicz’s views/resume, he was a natural fit for the Institute.

We note that many of Daniewski’s assertion could be questioned but we found nothing in this excerpt that is fundamentally implausible.

On the the Slavic letter “Ł” or “ł” see here.

With that in mind, here is the text (thank you for assistance in translation to our interns):


“In antiquity, the name Sueui (Tac.), Σοῆβοι (Strabo) was given to a number of tribes, settled on the Elbe, Oder, Vistula and on the shores of the Baltic, from the base of the peninsula, which today is called the Jutland [peninsula, that is the Cimbrian Peninsula], to the mouth of the Vistula.  Between antiquity and the Middle Ages we have a gap in [our written] sources.  But once at the dawn of the Middle Ages contemporary shone a light upon the aforementioned lands, everywhere there where in antiquity there dwelt tribes that went by the name Sueui, we find peoples, who are called Slavi, Slavi – that is the Latin name of peoples who are called Słowianie [pron Suovianie] in Polish, Славя́не [pron Slaviane] in Russian [and] in the language of the Baltic Slavs (Kashubians): Słevi [pron Suevi]*, that is Słowjanj [pron Suovianie] (Florian Cenova, Skorb. VI, p. 88).”

[*note: Cenova equates Suevi and Slavs but the Kashubian term he actually uses is Sławy, i.e., Suavy]

“The Baltic Sea, which in antiquity was called: mare Suevicum (Tac. Germ. 45), is called in the Middle Ages Slavicus Sinus (Script. R. Dan. VII p. 317).”

[note: haven’t seen the actual language though Adam of Bremen has a Slavic Gulf “et sinus sclavanicum” in Book IV]

“The gap, that we see at the turn of antiquity and the Middle Ages, is merely a gap in written sources.  In reality the medieval life is simply the continuation of life in antiquity.  The Middle Ages are not some new world separated from antiquity by some chasm that negates any connections [between the two].  The borderline drawn between antiquity and the Middle Ages is merely convention.  Just as the sinus Slavicus of the Middle Ages – the Baltic Sea is the same sea, which in antiquity was called mare Suevicum, so too the nation of Slavi, living by this sea, consists of the descendants of the nation called Sueui in antiquity.  The name changed while the body that it referred to, remained the same.  Many tribes of the Sueui nation continue in the Middle Ages in the same abodes under the general name Slavi, maintaining their ancient customs, traditions, rituals and religious rites, even political systems.”


“Because I happen to have come across the opinion to the effect that the medieval Slavi cannot be descendants of the ancient Sueui nation because, the name Slavi allegedly does not correspond to the ancient name Sueui, I wish to analyze this matter in more detail here.  The setting together and equating the words SueuiSlavi is not the only evidence of the identity of these peoples, [rather] it is one of the links in a long chain of arguments.  It’s easy to come to the conclusion that these names are the same, the difference [between them] being only in transcription and in certain local and temporal forms of pronunciation.  The forms: SueuiΣοῆβοι , SlaviSclaviSłeviSłowianie, Славя́не – these are the different variants of the same name.”

“The first phone s appears in all the forms [of the name].”

“The second phone, the one that the Poles represent graphically with a ł, pronounce variously, in the East like a dental consonant/sonorant [?], in the West as a “short” u (), an asyllabic u [note: that is a vocalized L].  Baltic Slavs (Kashubians), like an asyllabic [], with the exception of one group of them, the so-called Beloks, who pronounce this l phone as a palatal consonant.  Ancient Romans and Greeks did not have the phone discussed – the dental consonant/sonorant [?] ł – in their  language, therefore there was no letter that could represent it [the phone] in the Latin and Greek alphabet.  The letter l with a slash through (ł) began to be used among the Poles first int he XVIth century.  In the Middle Ages, people made do in other ways to express this phone, either writing an l without any additions or writing cl – whereby the letter c played the same role at the side of an l as the line through the l in the letter ł (compare Viscla = Wisła).  Ancient Romans and Greeks who did not have in their speech the dental consonant/sonorant ł, not having in their possession a letter for this phone, not being in possession of the letter ł, which was only created many centuries later, were they able to better express the phone in question than by an asyllabic u or a short o (omnicron), in accordance with its phonetic pronunciation?  In the word Sueui the u is short, as indicated by the Greek transcription of  this word and not long.  The two beginning phones of the words: SueviΣοῆβοι,evi, Słowianie, Славя́не are identical, in the phonetic transcription they appear as S.”

“The vowel in the word Sueui – is [made of] the long eη.”  

“In the words Slavi and Славя́не – there appears an a, in the word owianie, an o, in the word evi, an e.  The vowels aoe, substitute for one another in Slavic languages, for example: Stolp = Słëpsk (here, in addition to the change of an  into an e, there is also a metathesis [he means the the vowel and the l/ł flip], Chołm =  Chełmrak (Polish) = rek (Kashubian), mały (Polish) = meły (Kashubian) and so forth; a countless number of such examples can be given.  The fact that an ancient nation living on the Baltic Sea between the lower Elbe and the Vistula was called Sueui – a word which sports the e vowel whereas in the words Slaviowianie, and so forth we have an a or an o, cannot, therefore, serve to establish that these are different names – especially since even today, among the Baltic Slavs (the Kashubians), who are a remnant of a once great nation whose seats stretched far into the West into lands on the left bank of the lower Elbe, the word pronounced by the Poles owianie [note: that is, Suovianie] occurs in the form evi, whereby the phonetic transcription is Suevi.  How does this word differ from that ancient word written by the Romans Sueui with the short u occurring after the S?  The fourth phone of the word under consideration is uv = β.  But the Greek β already in antiquity lost the character of a voiced bilabial stop/closed bilabial consonant [?] and phonetically corresponded to the Latin v.”


“In certain editions of Tacitus’ Germania we see a systematically printed form Suebi and not SueviSueui.  What is the source of this?  The form Suebi does not exist in the codices used for critical editions of Germania.  Instead, we have everywhere the form Sueui, a fact that I personally had the opportunity to confirm in Rome and Naples.  While there does occur in some transcriptions the substitution of a b in place of a u = v, all the Tacitean codices feature a u, so that no editor of a critical edition should introduce this arbitrary change.  The Germans do this because the form Suebi is phonetically closer to the word Schwaben, desiring in this manner to transfer into the scientific realm the view commonly held by laypeople that ‘the Suevi are simply the same as the Swabians.'”

[note: compare these in the manuscripts of Germania here]

“In reality, the Swabians have nothing to do with the Suevi of antiquity other the phonetical similarity of sounds.  The name of Swabians in Greek transcription is different, that is Σουαβοι [note: compare with Σοῆβοι] (Procopius, Bell. Goth. I, 15, 26); they appear only in the the third century.  In the Teubner [publishing house] critical edition [of Germania], there is an attempt to justify the change from vu to b.  In the critical  apparatus we read ‘sueuos libri ac sic deinceps’ (Tac. Germ. 2, 17), but, because in the 41st chapter of Germania the copyist made a mistake and in the codices there appears the word verborum instead of Suevorum – this copyist error is supposed to indicate [according to German scholars] that the true form of the word is Sueborum: ‘quae corruptela genuine formam nominis testatur.’  This copyist error is immediately used by the Germans as justification to replace the uv with a b everywhere the word Sueui appears.  The arbitrariness and bad faith is plainly visible here.  Despite this, Polish publishers, trusting the Germans blindly, have for some time now been following [the Germans] in printing not Suevi but Suebi.”


“In the words owianieСлавя́не, to the root ov Słav there is added also a suffix before the ending [whereas], the words: Suevi, SlaviSłevi occur without a suffix.”

“What linguist should see difficulties in considering the words SueviSlavi = Słevi, that are in essence identical, to be the same?  Schönfeld (RE 2 R. IV. 1932, p. 578, nsv Suebi) states that the word Suavus has been connected wight he Latin word suavis ‘sweet’, as a play on words – here the accidental nature of the similarity is obvious.  This Schönfeld maintains that the word Sueui comes from the Gothic swes, ‘one’s own’ (eigen) and means probably ‘air selbst’.  The fact that the Gothic swes means ‘one’s own’ in no way proves that this word has anything to do with the word Sueui – a certain phonetic similarity may be accidental.”

[note: a better argument may have been that ‘one’s own’ people is swoi in, for example, Polish even today; and what does it say about the likelihood of the Germanic origin of this word when it is an East Germanic language like Gothic that is the only Germanic language with a words similar to the word in question?].

“This etymology is not worth more than the etymology of Suavus – suavis.”

[note: and yet being ‘sweet on someone’ may well hearken back to being with one of one’s own]  

“Whether it [this etymology] is correct or not, it does in no way gainsay the identity of the words SueviSlavi nor the Slavic nature of the Swevi.  Schönfeld ponders from what common word, should the word Suevi be derived from.  The correctness of Suevi = Slavi is an altogether separate matter that is unaffected by Schönfeld’s etymologies, even were they something more than conjectures.  The words Sueui – Slavi are identical not only in their form, but they are identical as to the thing they represent [note: that is being a designation for a people today called the Slavs].”

“The notion that the Slavs are not encompassed by any name known to the ancient authors, but rather that they sometime about the fifth century appeared from nowhere and populated an enormous part of Europe – a notion that has been a cardinal rule until now among scholars of the beginning of the Slavs, is fundamentally incorrect.  The Slavs were in antiquity not only understood under names known to us from those times but – as we have shown – this ancient name has been their own name in the lands on the Elbe, Oder and Vistula and on the shores of the Baltic, appearing also in later times and living on to this day.”


“German scholars of the Berlin-Austrian school tell us about the arrival of the Slavs at the Elbe, Oder and the Baltic sometime between and the Middle Ages –  a tale that stands in contrast to the surviving historical monuments.  It is difficult to accept that German scholars may honestly believe what they write.  Slavic scholars should not repeat, how we’ve often noticed, tendentious untruths of German scholars, [but should] walk their own path in accordance with historical truth.  There occurs to one a thought from that Andersen fairy tale regarding the Emperor’s clothes: no one dares to say the obvious truth when that truth is contrary to the dominant, albeit notoriously false, opinion.”

“We are hopeful that not too long from now we will be able to say the following about the antiquity of Western Slavs in their historical settlements: ‘Nemo est tam stultus, qui haec non videat, nemo tam improbus, qui non fateatur.'”

[“no one is so foolish as not to see, no one so depraved as not to admit it”] (compare Cicero, Catil. 1.12.30)

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September 3, 2016

Kaszubian Suavi

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One may ask the question of whether Slavs called themselves Suavi or Suevi.

(The first supposed difficulty is the question of pronunciation of the “ue” in old Slavic languages.  We have already devoted time to this before (finding no difficulty) so we won’t spend any time on it here.)

So are there any examples of this?  Well, such examples do exist albeit they are rare to say the least.  One is the following from Florian Ceynowa’s “The Treasure of the Kaszubian language” (Skôrb kaszébskosłovjnskjè mòvé, published in 1866, page 62) where, in discussing customs and attire of the Kaszubian Slovinians, he refers to them as “Slovinians, that is the Suavs” (genitive Sławów):slavowCeynowa was a bit of a character, nevertheless his testimony is interesting.

Note too that the Slovinian Kaszubs lived mostly around the town of Łeba which raises a question – was this Łeba also derived from some sort of a Germanic Elba (like Łaba allegedly from Alba, Albis or Elba) or is it rather the case that all these words are Slavic in origin (note the German form is Leba)?  According to Christian Friedrich Wutstrack, a German topographer, the name Łeba is Wendish, that is Slavic, and means as much a wood or forest:


From the 1793 Kurze historisch-geographisch-statistische Beschreibung des Königlich-Preußischen Herzogtums Vor- und Hinterpommern.

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August 11, 2016

Theories of Theodor Pösche

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The following exchange took place in August 1878 at the general conference (assembly) of the German anthropological society in Kiel.  It was reprinted in the Correspondenz-Blatt der deutschen Gesellschaft ruer Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte – volumes 10 and 11 in November 1878.


(The same exchange was summarized in the Archiv fuer Anthropologie, volume 11.  Later it also sparked a response from Carl Platner (against Pösche naturally) in Zeitschrift fuer Ethnologie, volume 16.  An excerpt from the former we show below.  As to the latter, we will return to Platner’s arguments later).referate

 Mr.  Pösche:

“First of all, I feel induced to thank Professor Virchow for his highly instructive lecture and know that [in so doing] I will be expressing the view of all gathered; but I would like not to miss this opportunity to add something.”

[note: Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Pösche (1825-1899) was a German author from the Sorb area (born in Zöschen, Leuna) who fled to the US after the events of 1848; he later returned to Germany and represented the US government in certain of its dealings with Bismarck.  Ironically, Pösche’s other writings on the “Arians” were later selectively used by the Nazis]

“Professor Virchow had made it clear through several expressions which he used that he shares entirely the commonly held view of German academics that everything pre-Slavic in the eastern part of today’s Deutschland, is Germanic.  A number of statements [made by Virchow] have indicated this.  But I wish to record an objection to this view which nowadays is commonly held. To say it bluntly [curtly]: whoever picks up Tacitus’ Germania, should, in lieu of Suevi, read Slavi.”

“This viewpoint does not originate with me but rather with a gentleman of great merit who 50 years ago had published a whole slew of works, from that 70 year old man resident of Hanover, that is from Mr. von Wersebe.  If one wants to know a biographical fact that is otherwise unavailable, reaches for [Heinrich] Pierer’s encyclopedia.  The newest edition available to me, had, strangely, no mention of Mr. von Wersebe – a man who had published  five to six volumes relating to the oldest deutsche history.  I would like to examine this matter in a little bit more detail.”

[note: August von Wersebe (1751-1831) – German historian.  He was among a number of German historians who previously (prior to the emergence of the German Empire) expressed the same view regarding the Suevi-Slav identity.  There may be something to Pösche’s conspiracy theory since – while Pösche has one – von Wersebe has not yet gotten his own Wikipedia page – in German or any other language…]


No Enthaltung and no Wikipedia page

“In the History of the German Language, Jacob Grimm mentions with disgust the viewpoint that the Slavs already in the times of Tacitus sat there where we later find them.  But the same learned Jacob Grimm establishes a new proof for the correctness of this viewpoint, in that he shows that Suevi and Slavi are only dialectically different, since even today ‘freedom’ is known in some Slavic dialects as sloboda but in others svoboda.  The first place where Mr. von Wersebe expresses this view, is in his book about the districts between the Weser and the Saale.”

[note: ironically, Pösche seems to have been unaware that the River Saale’s first recorded name was Souava and that this is indeed a Slavic name].

“But now there is another thing and Professor Virchow already mentioned the thing, as it appears to me, a new factual evidence for the correctness of this view.  Those are the temple rings, that we find only among the Slavs.  I connect these with the mention by Tacitus which alludes to a  hairstyle peculiar to the Suevi, who wore a hair knot bound on top of the middle of their head.  I believe the temple rings served the function of holding the hair together in the knot.”


[note: the rings in question were later found in Suevic places and, perhaps, in portions of Scandinavia, and, therefore, declared “Germanic” as well as Slavic.  However, this kind of appropriation (though common) does not – in this specific case – answer the question of the rings’ “ethnic belonging” since the question at hand is precisely the question of Suevic ethnicity.  To say that they were also Suevic and, therefore, not Slavic is merely to provide a circular response.  A much more relevant objection may be that the temple rings appear to have been worn by women – the hairstyle mentioned by Tacitus, however, seems to have been male.  Tacitus himself also mentions no specific means of holding the “Suevic knot” together.  For a more recent find of seemingly similar type see here (“Mixed with these remains were gold rings likely worn on the hair”)].


“I do not wish to hold up the meeting further.  I will close by saying that I am ready to stand by and completely represent the view expressed by Wersebe more than 50 years ago –  that the Suevi were Slavs and that already at the end of the first century A.D. they lived there, where we later find them, that is also here [the proceeding took place in Kiel] till the easternmost Holstein – so long as my strength lasts.  I wish at the same time to repay the debt of honour to the man, who more than 50 years ago announced such important truth for our oldest history and [who] to this day remains unmentioned/ignored.”

Mr. Virchow

“I would like to at first note that the ungratefulness vis-a-vis Mr. von Wersebe is not entirely general.  One must only differentiate between his different works.  I personally am very thankful in relation to his work about the colonization of North Germany and have cited it many times.”


The offending text

“However, a different matter arises, when we ask whether the position of Tacitus should, by means of a simple rewriting of a word, be turned to mean its opposite.  This is not merely a philosophical question. In this respect I should point out that  all these peoples that Tacitus mentions in our parts did not remain in their seats; they appear, bit by bit, in the course of further wanderings in areas more to the West and to the South but everywhere where they so appear, they show themselves not as Slavs but as Germans.  Not one of these tribes that we view as our predecessors, that we must designate as originally autochtonous to our areas, is ever in the old works differentiated from the Germanics.  Wherever they are shown to us, they are shown/described as Germanic peoples.”

[note: Virchow does not really address the question here.  These tribes are described as “German” because they came from “Germania”.  Elsewhere, other – what we would call “Germanic” – tribes are described as Sarmatian because they came into the Roman world from “Sarmatia” (for example, see Procopius’ description of the Goths where they, Gepids and Vandals are linked even to the  Melanchlaeni of Scythia (previously located west of Tanis/Don!))]

“The more one delves into the specifics, the more one becomes convinced that all, that has been preserved about them from ancient times, provides a certain homogenous picture, in which these tribes united themselves with the remaining/other Deutsche.  When you look for the old seats of the Longobards, the Vandals, the Semnones and the Burgundians, where do you come to?  You come finally till the Wertha, to Silesia, to the March, Brandenburg, to the shores of the Elbe – yes, admittedly where we doubtless find Slavs later.  But does it follow, that the Longobards and Burgundians were themselves Slavs?  Certainly not.  The Langobards sat in the Barden district, which later was also Slavic.  I think, however, you will not for this reason want to make Langobards into Slavs.” 

[note: the problem with this argument is that – outside of people called the Burgundians – it is difficult to establish the presence of any so-called Germanic tribes in any of today’s Slavic areas – except temporarily.  Specifically, virtually all the Origina Genti of the Langobards or Goths point towards Scandinavia.  The Vandals left no such stories but their presence in Silesia or elsewhere in Poland also cannot be established from known sources.  And if all these people were in fact such wanderers from Scandinavia then the obvious question is: who lived in the Central European areas that they entered from the North?  And what happened to these original inhabitants?  It is undisputed that all of the Nordic tribes eventually ended up marching south – towards Rome – thus we know that, e.g., Pannonia was the Langobards’ base of operations for many years – and yet no one claims that the Langobards were native to Pannonia or that no one lived in Pannonia before they arrived.  One might also note that even the Burgundians could – with some eyebrow raising – be explained as Slavic – after all their name just means city dwellers but city dwellers come from a city, from is “z” or “s” in Slavic and town – in Latin and, perhaps, ancient Venetic – would have been an urbs – and so we come to the Z-urbs or Sorbs… 🙂 ]

Mr.  Pösche:

“Gentlemen! In the beginning I have to say that I only spoke of ingratitude when discussing this one paper of Mr. Wersebe and not in general.  Against Doctor Montelius I must say that I tried to be as brief as possible and, therefore, forgot to say that I believe the Langobards and all these Vandalic peoples in the majority to have been Slavs.  I accept the view of Šafárik.  This one had stated that the Vandals were Germanized Slavs, that the Germanic elements in all these peoples were invasive [elements that  appeared] when the Germans broke into Slavic lands, that all the the Langobardic and Vandalic peoples – the great mass of the population – are Slavs initially.  but the nobility among them I believe was Germanic.  Little by little had the great mass of the population adopted the Germanic language.  I do not wish to forget to mention that Paul the Deacon describes a portrait of old Langobardic kings, and there, it occurs to me, that the Kings wore their hair on the side, which was probably held in place by means of temple rings.”

[note: Montelius spoke just after Pösche’s first statement – he generally relied on the perceived similarities between various archeological finds to support Virchow’s position; as regards the rings, consistent with the above discussion, Pösche is implying that these would have been Slavic customs because temple rings were typical of Slavs. See above note for a discussion of this]

“I would ask to be able to mention something else regarding Tacitus.  Professor Virchow and Doctor Montelius will agree with me:  The Veneti of Tacitus were probably the Wends!  But now Tacitus says: ‘I am unsure whether to count the Veneti among the Germans’ or not.  Finally, however, he decides to count them among the Germans ‘because they fight on foot and because they have fixed homes.’  Now, gentlemen, the Slavs also have fixed homes and also fight on foot.  Here we have the criterion upon which Tacitus makes his decision though he himself doubts [the correctness] of the basis for his decision.  You have to admit that these [decision] bases are not solid.  Therefore, [just] because they fought on foot and had fixed habitations  they could never be viewed as Germans!  You avowedly view the Veneti to be the Wends [i.e., Slavs] but when you then claim the Suevi to be Deutsche, then you are obliged to count the Wends too among the Germans!”

[note: Pösche’s point, more simply stated, is that 1) the Veneti were Slavs and 2) their mode of life was such that they were counted among the Germans (as per Tacitus).  It follows that the ethnicity of the Suevi – the biggest Germanic group of all – can likewise not be established with certainty.  At least not based on Tacitus.  His point about the Suevi is simply that their lifestyle and manner of fighting was exactly the same and yet these were counted by his colleagues – without hesitation – as Germans].

Mr. Mehlis:

“Regarding the use of names, I would like to say a few words against the position of Mr. Pösche.”

“One can argue quite well using names.”

“With names one can create a SYSTEM.”

[note: Mehlis seems to be saying “that sneaky Pösche – so clever with his names and words!”]

“But I believe, that anthropology should be governed not by names but by FACTS.  I believe, that in this context the authority of Messrs.  Virchow and Montelius (which [authority] has proven the GERMANIC CHARACTER of a whole range of finds, which [finds] extend far in the abodes to the East till the Oder and the Vistula, which abodes the classical authors have IN FACT been named as the ABODES OF GERMANICS) will suffice, so as to lead us back to the land of FACTS.”

“A few more words about the well-known claim of [Jacob] Grimm’s in the German Grammar [book], that the word Suevi should be the same as Slavi.  Until now, no one has dared to step up against Grimm’s authority.  The correctness of this claim can be shown quite well that even the Suevi were called Slavi by their neighbors.”

[note: this assertion seems entirely made up – to our knowledge, Slavs never called Germans (or Swabians) by the name Slavs.]

“And the explanation of this name giving can be even better if we observe the analogical situation with the Celts who called their eastern neighbors ‘Germans’.  Also the name ‘Germans’  is derived by a row of authorities too long to mention, from Celtic roots ‘ger; ‘guer‘ and ‘man‘ = that is a ‘yeller/screamer’ or from ‘gais‘ and ‘man‘ = that is a ‘speerman’ = ‘Ger-man’; and when we in the East of Germany find this same name given by the Slavs [to the Germans], this is explained by the analogous Western name giving by the Celts.  I believe, that this analogous name giving process is the most suitable, to resolve this argument about names.”

[note: It is not clear what Mehlis means by this. He seems to be saying that the name “German” was a western Celtic name for the Deutsche but had been appropriated in the East by the Slavs to name the same Deutsche.   This is intended as an apparent analogy to the “Slavic” Suevi name which, Mehlis implies, was an eastern Slavic name for the Deutsche that was then adopted in the West for the same Deutsche.

This is rather a stretch.  For one thing, the name “German” was never adopted in the East – rather it makes a late and limited appearance in Russia only most likely due to German influence during the imperial period.  Even there the older name Nemec continues in existence.  Moreover, just because something happened once in an era of broader communication of the 18th and 19th centuries does not mean it happened before in the much more insular era B.C.  Surely, Mehlis is not suggesting that the Suevi name was brought West by Slavic visitors to Celtic courts of Gaul…]

 Mr.  Pösche:

“I have to confess that things are not clearer to me now.  I have brought up the words of Tacitus.  But I am being reproached that words and names mean nothing.  But that cannot be.  When a reliable writer names names, that has meaning and [is] not merely empty noise.  With respect to the Germanic antiquities in the East which Professor Virchow mentions, I have heard nothing of them in his lecture today; but I would like to know nevertheless, whether Germanic antiquities were ever found there.  That would be of relevance [methinks].  You try to establish an analogy there between the process of naming [peoples] in the West and East of Deutschland, and there you claim that it was the Germans that, if I understood correctly, gave the Slavs their own name.  But “Slavs” is demonstrably a name which they [the Slavs] have used to call themselves.  So long as you have not brought up evidence, I must nevertheless take exception [and] to believe in the truth.”

[note: Mehlis’ argument, if we follow it at all, seems to be slightly different – that Slavs named their German neighbors Suevi and, he implicitly assumes, that the Slvs then transferred that naming to the Celts; this, as discussed above however, seems even more untenable than the argument that Pösche thinks Virchow is making]


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March 14, 2016

A Degree of Separation?

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The word “slave” has previously been derived from Slav.  Slave, however, would be a new word resulting from the slave trade in Slavs in the middle ages.  Antiquity did not know the word “slave”.  In particular, the Latin word for “slave” had previously been “servus”.  But this too appears strange inasmuch as a connection seems to exist between the names Slavs and Serbs – albeit, obviously, not all Slavs are Serbs.  To add to the mystery, the word Slav has historically among the Western “Slavs” been pronounced “Suavianin” – a remarkable pronunciation given that Procopius and Jordanes referred to what must have been Suebi as Suavi. On the etymological connection (noted by no less than an authority than Jacob Grimm) between Suevi and Suavs/Slavs we have written previously.


So where do we go from here?

There was a theory by Edward Romuald Bogusławski (there were at least two Bogusławskis) that the Slavs were basically the servants/slaves/lower classes of the Suevic confederacy who then took over the name of the tribe once the upper classes hit the dirt in the various Suevic wars.  If this were to be the case, their ethnic background could have been Suevic but also as diverse as that of the peoples conquered by the Suevi, i.e., “Germanic” (?) in the north, Celtic (?) in the south, Venetic (?) in the east (or far west?) or Pannonian or “Sarmatian” or Baltic (Aestic) in the east.

One could further extrapolate from this and posit that the Servi were those Suevic captives (whether Suevic or otherwise) that fled – perhaps eastwards across the Elbe – encountering there, perhaps, the Veneti.  That would make the remaining Suevi (i.e., the Suavs/Slavs) much like the later Cossacks fleeing the feudal oppression of the magnates to the Wild Fields of the Zaporozhian Sich…  And what of language? Was there one language of the Suevi?  Tacitus suggests yes but he also says that the Suevi are not one nation…  What does he mean by that?


We have mentioned before the interesting connection between the Suevi and, what seem like,  the Sorbs by bringing up Vibius Sequester’s sentence (see also here):

Albis Germaniae Suevos a Cerveciis dividiit: mergitur in Oceanum.

(Elbe of Germany divides the Suevi from the Cervecii and empties into the Ocean)

It is a bit strange, given the above sentence, that the Suevi were previously separated from “other Germans” and the Suevi freemen from the Suevic “Servi” in another way (in the words of Tacitus):

Insigne gentil obliquera crinem, nodoque substringere.  Sic Suevi a ceteris Germanis: sic Suevorum ingenui a servis separantur.

(It is the special characteristic of this nation to comb the hair sideways and fasten it below with a knot. This distinguishes [separates] the Suevi from the rest of the Germans; this, among the Suevi, distinguishes the freeman from the slave)


Prisoner’s head – from a bronze figure found at Vindobona (aka Vienna)

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March 13, 2016

On Jason & the Argonauts

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Some of the Suebi sacrifice also to Isis.  I cannot determine the reason and origin of this foreign cult, but her emblem, fashioned in the form of a Liburnian [or small/light] ship, proves that her worship came in from abroad. (Cornelius Tacitus, Germania)



Some actually believed Tacitus’ statement verbatim to be the truth.  Isis was worshipped in Rome and, apparently, had a maritime connection.  Thus, in the Kalendarium Rusticum, the 5th of March was in Rome the day of the Isidis navigium.  For example, we have Apuleius in his Metamorphoses Book 11 give this statement by Isis:

“The morrow that from the present night will have its birth is a day that eternal religion hath appointed as a holy festival, at a period when, the tempests of winter having subsided, the waves of the story sea abated, and the surface of the ocean become navigable, my priests dedicate to me a new ship, lade with the first-fruits of spring [!], at the opening of the navigation.”  (see also Lactantius Instit. i. 27).

Jacob Grimm thought that the mysterious goddess Isis was the Germanic goddess Zise/Ziza who was apparently worshipped in the area of Augsburg (i.e., in Swabia) which was allegedly called Zisaris of old.  We say allegedly because the sole reference for that is a 14th century poem by Küchlin for Peter Egen the new mayor of Augsburg.  (Incidentally, the suggestion that Zisa, Cisa was a Germanic name (in the Nordic sense) is itself worthy of a polemic – note too below the reference to the Vindelici):

Further, the Chronicle of Rudolf of Saint Trond (Gesta Abbatum Trudonensium),relates that in 1133 at Inda (Vinda!? supposedly, Muenster!) a ship was secretly constructed in a forest and then wheeled to Aix and then onto Mastricht and further.  The people engaged in this enterprise were apparently dancing and playing music (to the consternation of the priests).



The carrying of ships also occurred at Ulm (again in Swabia) and in Tuebingen.  This is attested by the prohibitions against the practice issued by the local authorities in 1530 and 1584, respectively (in each case this was an event that occurred on Shrove Tuesday).  A similar festival is attested at Mannheim on the Rhine and Brussels, Belgium (Ommegank).  Whether these have anything to do with Isis is unclear.

However, another possibility presents itself.

If Isis was really Isaya or Yassa then a ship reference becomes tantalizingly suggestive.  Remember that Johannes Georgius Stredowsky’s  Sacra Moraviae Historia lists a deity by the name of Chasson sive Jassen.  Theres should be little question that this is the same as Yassa, Yessa, Jessa.  But what of the “n” at the end?  Here, we suggest that the Czech Jassen or Polish Jas could be identified with a ship.

Which ship?


Argonaut Council meets

Why, the Argo, of course.  The ship of Jason and the Argonauts.  (We’ve, of course, already made this suggestion when discussing the legends of the name of Poland where Colchis – the location of the Golden Fleece – makes an appearance.  The fact that Colchis included a province called Suania სვანეთი, aka Svaneti makes this suggestion even more delicious – for more on the same, see Menander the Guardsman).

For a similar line of thought (albeit without a Slavic connection) see George W. Cox’s “The Mythology of the Arian Nations”, (vol 2, p 119).

Regarding the Roman ship that was made an offering for Veleda, you can see here.  If Lada was really the prior Veleda then the fact that she (he?) was a protector/guardian of Jassa gives further flavour to this reasoning – see “Alado gardzyna yesse“.

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December 27, 2015

Suevic Names

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Incidentally, the below are the only known names of people called the Suevi or who could be considered Suevi before the 5th century (in fact, the century is noted on the left side).  suevi suevi2 suevi3

Incidentally, Bissula may be a diminutive of Bissa (e.g., Ursa > Ursula) but that kind of a diminutive is hardly restricted to Germanic languages (it may also be worth noting that that is the name that Ammianus Marcelinus gives to the Vistula).  E.g., Wojciech > Wojtyła; Tomasz > Tomala; matka > matula.  As in:

Lulajże, Jezuniu, lulajże, lulaj!
A Ty Go, Matulu w płaczu utulaj.

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September 29, 2015

Whatever Remains, However Improbable

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In all of our discussions we have steadily leaned towards the position that the “homeland” of the Slavs must be somewhere in the area where the Slavs – or some of them – are now.  What is more, it is likely to be rather centrally located within that vast area.  But weren’t “Germanic” tribes there, one might ask?  It may make sense to review some of the issues with the “East Germanic” theory, i.e., the theory that East German tribes lived in the area of, say, Poland, before vacating the space to the advancing Slavic hordes who came from, take your pick:

  • the Carpathian bend/Podolia/parts of Ukraine;
  • somewhere in Russia, possibly even East of the Urals; or
  • everyone’s favorite – the Pripet marshes;

“78 on the Cephalic Index and R1a1a! You know what that means Watson!” “Holmes… could it be!? One of the Lugii Omani this far North!?” “Elementary my dear Watson, elementary!”

Place Names Issues

The vastness of the lands of “Slavia” suggests that there ought to have been significant Germanic place name remains somewhere in the area.  However, evidence for such is scant.  While it has been asserted that there are many place names in the area that are neither Germanic nor Slavic, the Slavic names – this itself creates a difficulty with the theory of Slavic expansion.

If the Slavs came into territories that were emptied of peoples, they should have renamed the various rivers and streams with their own Slavic names.  Instead, it appears that they didn’t do that.  So how did they learn the names of these?

  • The standard answer has been that there was, in reality, no total “emptiness”, i.e., that Germania had not, in fact, been entirely emptied of all of its peoples, that, in other words, some Germanics remained and it was they who, in turn, passed the names to the incoming Slavs.

The argument is entirely plausible but there is a problem with using it to explain Slavic knowledge of Central European hydronymy.  The names passed on to the Slavs are not clearly Germanic.  They are, as we noted, at best described as “Old European” or Illyrian or whatever – but not Germanic.

  • So, the answer comes back, maybe these names were “Venetic” and the Veneti passed the names to the Germans who, in turn, passed them on to the Slavs?

This sounds at least somewhat plausible except that the Germans have their own names for the same places and those names are different from those of the Slavs and were different as far back in time as we can tell.  In other words, the Germans would have had to have 1) learned the names of the rivers, etc from the Veneti, 2) come up with their own versions of the same, and 3) passed the Venetic (but not the Germanic!) versions to the Slavs.  Is that probable?

  • But perhaps there is another way to solve this that fits current theories!  What if the Slavs learned of the same names directly from the mysterious Veneti?

The problem with this theory and, specifically, with fitting it into the framework of a pre-Slavic Germanic population, is obvious.  If the Slavs actually encountered the Veneti upon arrival in Central Europe they would have had to have encountered the remaining Veneti in greater numbers than the remaining Germans.  But if we assume that all of Central Europe was occupied by Germanic tribes from, at least the time of Caesar till the 500s we would then have had to assume also that 1) the Veneti survived as a separate people under the German “yoke” for over 500 years and 2) that while the various Germanic tribes left (or at least left in sufficient numbers to make the Veneti dominant once more), the Veneti stayed.

Of course, one can assume this to be the case.  However, if the Veneti could survive half a millennium of living under foreign rulers why not the Slavs?  (Certainly, the Sorbs have survived for (at least) 1,500 years in Germany).  In other words, various historians have previously proposed an “underlayer” of Slavs that existed and persisted in Central Europe despite at least some Germanic presence.  But this was rejected as being just too clever.   And indeed the burden of proof should reside with the Slavic “side” in this case.

Except… that as we can see from the above, this version of the “Germanic” theory necessarily relies on an even more convoluted argument about the original Veneti who are taken over by the Germanics but who persevere until the Germans leave and the Slavs arrive so as to hand the Venetic knowledge of local hydronymy to the Slavs only to then be quickly “absorbed” by the latter – in some unspecified way – into the Slavic populace (despite the fact that the same Veneti were never fully absorbed by the Germans).

It should be obvious by now that these  free-standing, independent but otherwise unrelated Veneti are easily made redundant here.  It is much simpler to assume that they – the Veneti – were, what we would today call Slavs, than to assume the above described convoluted fact pattern.

And there is Another Problem

With the mysterious Veneti 1) not being Slavs themselves but 2)  being a conduit for the Slavs’ “learning” local place and water names.

Take Poland.  Based on archaeological “cultures”, the present scholarship divides the country into a “Gothic” half (so-called Przeworsk group) and a “Vandalic” half (so-called Wielbark group) (never mind that the evidence for Vandals ever having set foot in Poland is suspect and highly circumstantial, i.e., virtually nonexistent – more on that later).  Let’s assume that both of these spoke the same language and that language was a Germanic (i.e., Scandinavian) language.  Procopius says as much (though he also calls these (and the Herules) peoples Sarmatians, showing again that  such terms as Sarmatia or Germania were basically geographical constructs.

So here we have Germanic tribes of:

  • Goths
  • Vandals
  • Lombards
  • Herules
  • let’s add Franks too.

But all the origin myths of these peoples are myths of having come from Scandinavia:

  • Goths – see Cassiodorus/Jordanes;
  • Lombards – see Paul the Deacon;
  • Franks – see Gregory of Tours (this one less certain but talk is of “bursting” into the province of Germany);
  • Vandals & Herules –  see Gregory of Tours/Cassiodorus/Jordanes and Procopius.

There is no reason not to believe the old chroniclers on this point.  During the Christian Era people usually tried to derive their origins from Adam and hence the Middle East.  There was no reason to bring up Scandinavia here unless that “vagina of nations” really did beget all these peoples.

But if these people really did come from Scandinavia, then who lived in Central Europe before they arrived?  Were Lugi Buri and Lugi Diduni also Germanic?

  • the answer that comes back is that either:
    • these were all Germanic and constituent parts of the Goths, Vandals, etc, or
    • they were some other Germanic tribes (and it’s unclear whether they too came from Scandinavia – obviously, if they had, then the question of who was there in Central Europe before them would still stand), or
    • they were Celts (the last refuge of a scoundrel).

(one might object that you can always ask about the “before” until you get back to Africa but the reality is that we are only asking because the Germanic explanations for these place names are nonexistent).

If this is so then the question arises what footprint did these Celts and Germans leave on the rivers, mountains and towns of the area?  A longer “Germanic” necessitates more of an impact.  But we still get close to none (the Goths might get Gdansk though).

So then were these Celts or Germanics responsible for the “Illyrian” or “Old European” topography or hydronymy of Central Europe?  This seems rather unlikely.  And that, in turn, means that such place and water names must have existed even before these Celts and Germanics.  But if that is true, how many thousands of years must the Veneti have survived the rule of these dominant peoples before all such Celts & Germanics were swept away and the Slavs arrived and the Veneti were able – in their final momentous act – pass their knowledge to the Slavs?

Possible?  This we would think is as close to impossible as you can get in history.

It would be much simpler to assume that:

  • while some tribes in Central Europe (e.g., Goths but also Vandals, Saxons and others on the above list) were Germanic speaking,
  • the rest (e.g., Lugii (Lechs? or Lusitians?), Rugiclei (later Slavic Rugii?), Sidones, Varisti, Viruni (later Slavic Varini?) Sudini (Balts?) or Adrabaecampi (those who camp on the Oder?)) – were not; and further
  • that the Goths and others (including non-Germanic tribes) were much like the later known roving warrior bands of Vikings – causing a lot of havoc but leaving a very small final footprint.  In fact, the same can be said of all of these:
    • Lombards – no one speaks German in Lombardy;
    • Vandals – ditto in Spain and Africa;
    • Franks – ditto in France;
    • Alans and Suebi – same;
    • Normans – same for Normandy (though they carried French but not Frankish German into Britain);
    • Herules – they’re back at Thule…

This seems to show that conquest does not necessarily mean assimilation of the host population if you do not have the numbers.  Remember, the children will be raised by the mothers who are taken from the local populace and, probably, taught the mothers’ language before the father comes back – if he does that at all.  Even if you stay you might need some semblance of a state in order to impose your language.  (And the fact that the locals themselves have different languages probably helps too (e.g., Spain and Portugal’s colonies or India during the Raj)).

But even that does not always work.  It does not take much to believe that the Rus were Scandinavian but does Russia speak Swedish?  Similarly, we’ve made the point before about the Mongols and their conquest of the Russians – the Mongol language is nowhere to be found in Kiev.  For other examples, just take a look at any late 19th century map of the world.  You’d think that virtually all lands were in the hands of the English, French, Germans, Dutch, Italians and Russians.  And yet, the map fails to account for the truth.  Even in South Africa where Dutch colonists’  roots reach the 17th century, the ethnic situation could not be described properly on any map.

Moreover, if the Scandinavian warrior bands had come from the North and pillaged and raped left and right (that was the way of life back then), what would the locals have done?  Academics speak of “reassessing”, “bargaining”, “changing affiliations”, attaching yourself to a “higher status ethnicity”.


Assuming you did not want to 1) be killed or 2) be conquered and enslaved – what would you do?


R                    U                   N


In this telling of the story, the Slavs may well have ran away – only to come back later.  Of course, all of this is speculative but it is also logical.  People flee!  Where could they have fled?  How about to the East – into the Pripet Marshes knowing that the Goths were unlikely to head in there.  Or into the Carpathians (which may explain why there are so many Slavic hydronyms in the foothills of the same).  Or even West towards the Elbe.

Certainly, we have seen that the Suevi who were on the Rhine at the time of Caesar were forced towards the Elbe by the time of Tacitus.  And later we find them on the Danube and in Pannonia.

Put differently, the story of the Germans moving out and Slavs moving in seems not only wrong but almost excruciatingly simplistic for the realities of the situation.  We speak of the Voelkerwanderung  but history notes vast movements of peoples or warrior bands already before that time.  It was the sedentary situation that followed during the Dark Ages that was unusual – not the earlier motion of tribes/bands or what have you!  Just look at the movements of the Cimbri or of the Goths or of the Marcomanni or of the Suevi or of the Boii who were kicked out of Bohemia, etc.

Thus, while the Veneti were portrayed as the Western Slavs, they may yet turn out to be the Eastern Slavs with the Suevi being the Western component (and yet the Polabian Slavs – at least some of them – may well have been more of the Venetic/Eastern stock) and some other group, e.g., the Iazyges mixed in with the Suavi of Pannonia, the Southern.  And there is another obvious possibility – these slightly different origins might also be visible, to some extent, even within each country.

This would also explain why Suavia/Slavia substantially overlaps with the earlier Roman concept of Suevia…

But what of the Language

But didn’t the tribes of Germania speak a Germanic language?  Fair point, but let’s see what that really means:

First, as we already pointed out the Romans have used the word Germania to designate an area where northern folk lived.  To the Romans they would have appeared similar since the Romans judged them by their own looks, language, culture.  But would they appear so similar to one another?  In other words, there is really nothing to suggest that all the tribes there were similar in all respects – including language.  And, even if so, we do not know what that language was.

This brings us up to the second point.  The only attested language of the “Germanic” tribes of the time is Gothic.  Procopius says that the same language was spoken by Vandals and Herules – at least as of the 6th century.  What about the others?  Again, this is hardly clear.

It is true that there were what we think of as Germanic or if you will Scandinavian names in Central Europe.  Many of the leaders of Germanic tribes did in fact have Germanic “sounding” names.  This was even true of the Danubian Suavi (see Alaric and Hunninund) but was that always the case?  Earlier, around the turn of the millennium, we had Ariovistus and Veleda and Ganna and Masyus – were these Germanic names?  They sound (well, “look and sound”) Slavic or Baltic or maybe Avestani but not Germanic.  Had something changed in the meantime?

The obvious suggestion (of course, unprovable) is that the Suevi were pushed back East under pressure from the Romans but also under pressure from the continual migrations of Scandinavians.  Those that stayed were incorporated into the latter contingents and thus may have been “Germanized” but retained their tribal name.  As the Scandinavian warriors were interested in the riches of Rome and not the people who lived in between they pressed onwards towards the Roman frontiers.  But what remained in the back of this Hammer of Thor?

Moreover, names – for lack of records the only thing we have to establish ethnicity – are hardly a definitive clue.  To give just one family example, Boleslaw Chrobry was married to Emnild or Emnilda – from this marriage his surviving and known children included: Reglinda, Lambert (aka Mieszko II) and Otto.  Who was Emnild?  We do not know the mother but the father’s name was Dobromir.  And the mother had been German, that fact, given her father, would not have made Emnild not a Slav.

Put differently, while names are a hint of ethnicity they are not more than that and many names can be interpreted in various ways.  For example, Stillicho is a Vandal on his father’s side we are told.  What is a “licho” though?  Or Kniva – the “knife” – was it Kniva or Gniva which would be a Slavic name similar to Gnievko, i.e., the “angry one”.  Names, namely, are like clothes (or pots), they may indicate that a particular style is popular but styles change and not just because the population changes.  Many “Romans” with Roman names were, in fact, Germans.  After all not every Jacob in the world is Jewish nor every Patrick, Irish (in fact, a safe guess would be that most are not).

We are far from dismissing this but just observe that a level of caution is necessary in extracting blood relationships from names.

But weren’t the Langobards and the Angli also Suevi?  They were called that by Ptolemy.  But what of the much earlier Semnones?  And why must it be the case that all those perceived as Suevi speak the same language?

But what of the Suebi in Suebia?  The problem here is that we do not know who actually lived there in what was a Roman border province throughout the half millennium under examination.  After all the same are referred to as Alemanni – all men?  Meaning some sort of a melting pot?  Peoples often give their names to countries but when they get invaded, they may leave but the name stays.

(On the other hand, one must note that it is rarer (except maybe for the Huns – a particularly fearful name – useful to appropriate or to beat someone over the head with) that a name for one people is used while referring to another people – a constant claim of the “Germans transferred the Veneti ethnonym onto the Slavs” crowd.  That kind of name transference usually requires a people first to live somewhere long enough to give the name of that people to that province.  Then, should such original inhabitants be driven out or conquered, the newcomers will be named henceforth from the name of the province by the same name.  However, this transference typically goes people 1 > province > people 2.  It does not usually go people 1 > people 2.  Thus the Prussians first gave their name (though it wasn’t really theirs) to Prussia, before Prussia could give the same name to the new incoming German colonists who became “Prussian” but obviously weren’t such initially).

After All Ethnicity Is About

Family and blood and not language or kettles (or what car you drive!).

What you say?  Surely, only the obvious.  Unless you think that an Australian Aborigine should seek his ancestors in Nottinghamshire…

Put differently, we care not whether the Slavs – in the sense of our ancestors – actually spoke Slavic.  We think they did (or spoke something like it) just based on probabilities but this is not a prerequisite to there being a Slavic family.

But what of Culture Collapse?

Yawn.  See here.  And, if that is not enough google “Mayan pyramids” and ask yourself who built them (hint: not aliens).

And This is Before You Even

Get into the question of whether you could explain some of the names of, e.g., rivers found in Central Europe using Slavic languages.  This is not the place for an extended discussion about etymology but we would just note these Polish river names that, allegedly, “cannot” be explained using Slavic – paired with some “aquatic” Polish words (these aren’t proposed etymologies just observations of possible cognates):

  • Warta (German Warthe) – but Polish wartka (swift – of a water current);
  • Wisła (Vistla, Vistula, German Weichsel) – but Polish wiosła (oars);
  • Odra (Viadua, Viadra, German Oder) – but Polish szczodra (generous/bountiful), modra (dark blue), wydra (otter), wiadro (bucket);

Similar words exist too in the Baltic languages.

But someone might object that all or many of these words are Indo-European so, of course, anyone could pull them out of the Indo-European hat and claim an association with a specific Slavic/Baltic word.

Of course, this is partly true… except that such an exercise is much, much harder with any Indo-European languages other than Slavic or Baltic ones – try it (we will give “otter”, of course!).

And Speaking of Wetness

We must once again mention Austeravia [pron. Ostrovia?] a place where there was plenty of what the Germans [?] called glaesum.  Now, clearly, Austeravia can’t be the same as ostrovia since, as every babe knows, river islands are an entirely different thing from ocean islands.

But was ostrów always just a “river” island for the Slavs?  It must have been because we know that the Slavs never lived close to the “Ocean”.  (Except those Veleti, as per Ptolemy, but of course they could not have been Slavs back then).  Ergo > go to Ergo.

And things never, ever change.

And głaz cannot be glaesum because glaesum must mean glass because amber is so much like glass that amber windows are surely right around the corner now.  And głaz, of course, means a large stone in Slavic and amber is small.  This is so obvious we admit to being embarrassed even to be talking nonsense like this (even thinking like this makes us quite upset at ourselves).

And things never, ever change.

Unless, of course, you are talking about an outmigration of millions of people followed by an immigration of millions of others.  That is, of course, not only possible but even entirely likely.

And Highness

Of the mountains and their Gods we spoke already and will again but for now mentioning this topic is enough.

Not to Mention

Though we will do so, yet again – that, given that most of geographic Germania was Suevia when the last Roman were able to closely examine it and that, when the fog of the Dark Ages finally lifted, most of the same country was now full of Slavs.  it is simply easier to assume that either:

  • language changed; or that
  • nothing changed and the Slavs were where they were before – more or less – five centuries earlier – likely as Suevi.

than to argue for a massive outmigration of Suevi and an immigration of Slavs.  Once again we note that, as per official historiography, all the Suevic groups which previously held virtually all of Germany, in the end amounted to 1) the smallest contingent in the host of the Vandals and Alans, to 2) the population of a relatively small Suebia and to 3) a few stray fighters at the battle of Nedao.


Of course, such a migration is possible (if unlikely).  However, even then the story may not be so simple.  For example, such a migration may have taken place combined with a significant portion of the locals, presumably Suevi but maybe also Lugi (Lechites?), remaining in place – again, current history writing seems inadequately simplistic for the likely realities of the situation.

Finally, About

The strange similarity of the words Sporoi, Germani and Semnones we have written previously here.   And about the name of the Saale being Solawa and being rather similar to the hypothetical river Suevus – the mother river of all Suevi – both in the sounds and also in the fact that one can derive the Slavs or Suoveane name directly from Souaveane, i.e., from Soława or Souava we wrote before too 

But wasn’t it the case that the River Suevus ended in the “Ocean”?  So Ptolemy claims but it is also possible that he assumed that all the rivers that he saw (since he was “looking” from “upstream”) must have ended – in his mind – in the Ocean, at least if they ran North.  If you can find one river which he describes as running into another river that he also mentions, please let us know – we haven’t been able to do so.  (In fact, other difficulties exist as, for example, the fact that Ptolemy appears to locate his river Suevus east of the Elbe – but then Cassius Dio (55.10a.2n) seems to think of the Saale/Solawa is the Elbe which would leave the “real” Elbe as something else – Suevus perhaps?).

And were the various tribes that seem to appear during antiquity but later continue on as Slavs really Slavicized Germanics?  The Veleti are the obvious one but the same may be said of the Varni or the Rani or, as we have discussed already, the Rarogi.  More on that later…


Slavic historians, archeologists and linguists have boldly confronted our revelations

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July 29, 2015

On Words Part II

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We want to talk about words again (for Part I see here).

We’ve come across an interesting “Swebic” etymology in Wilhelm Obermüller‘s Deutsch-Keltisches, Geschichtlich-Geographisches Wörterbuch Volume 2 (published 1868).  The book is full of rather outrageous assertions.  Nonetheless, we thought why not review what Obermüller proposes and maybe we will find something interesting?  And so it was that we found this:

“Suebos is a Celtic word that means water forest (watery forest) or forest water from sua water and bosbus forest.”

This, of course, brought to our heads the thought we had about the Veneti, namely that the word wundan meant water in Old Prussian (see here) – as, indeed, does vanduo in Lithuanian.  And, a few paragraphs down below we came across this in Obermüller’s curious book:

“That the explanation (etymology) of water people is correct can also be seen in the fact that the Ravenna Geographer calls the Swebes Jani from ean water, thus the same [name] as the Eneti or Veneti.”

Not sure where the Jani comes from.

Then goes on to say:

“The Swebes fall in the same category [too] as the Finns, who also name themselves ‘water people’ from buinne.”

schwabenNow, the important thing here is that “water people” does not mean “living by the ocean or sea.”  Rather, a river might suffice or a lake.  This, of course, is not very descriptive and for good reason – most early clans and tribes obviously had to live by a source of fresh water (if you have to ask why, well…).  Thus, differentiating between people on this basis could only tell us that they were likely less advanced than those who could afford to live away from the rivers, e.g., because of aqueducts.

But when one thinks a bit more about this, the implications are quite interesting.  For example, where does the word rik as in Reich as in “kingdom” come from?  Could it be that originally it referred to a river?  After all, that word is Indo-European:

  • rives (Latin);
  • rith (Anglo-Saxon);
  • river (English);
  • řeka (Czech);
  • rieka (Slovak);
  • река, i.e., reka (Russian);
  • rio (Spanish);
  • rega, rego, reguerro (also… Spanish but only in Northwestern Spain);

So perhaps the first “kingdoms” or countries were just “realms” along rivers?  And hence all the Gallic rix‘s (Vercingeto-rix) and all the Germanic rik’s (Theude-ric) or Theude-rik)?

And speaking of rivers, what about these Suebi?

Isn’t the Slavic word for Elbe Labe?  Labe, yes, but better yet it is Łaba in Polish.   Łaba with our favorite “Ł”, i.e., to bring it back to the English pronunciation – “w”.  That is, in Polish, you would say, roughly, Waba.  The letter “z”, on the other hand, is directional meaning – in some contexts – “from where” you come from.  Now, apparently, in West Slavic languages, it was originally “iz” but this is not certain.

Now, if you ask where do you come from and the answer has to be “from Elbe”, you could say “Z Łaby” or “zwaby” or “swaby” but pronounced “suaby”.  (Łaby is the genitive case of Łaba – or, rather, it is the genitive case acting in place of the ablative case – which Polish does not have).  Of course, to accept this – putting aside etymological/linguistic objections – one would have to accept that the Suabi spoke Slavic or something close to that language.

So now we have:

  • Suabi as in “from the River Łaba (Elbe)“;

Wörterbuch der Altgermanischen Personen- und Völkernamen by Schönfeld

and, as per this discussion:

  • Suavi [or Sowaveanni] as in “from/of the River Soława (Saale)”;

At least these two rivers are real close!  So maybe these were really two different peoples?  One living on the Saale and the other on the Elbe?  However, even in that case, the Swebes would have had to be Slavic in order for the, e.g., Nemetes = Niemcy = Nemcy name to work.


Adam of Bremen (the letter “ł” did not (?) exist at the time)


“Albea seu Hab vel Lab” from the GPC in the Polish National Library – codex from the 15th century

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

June 26, 2015