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”.It 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 Sueui = Slavi 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: Sueui, Σοῆβοι , Slavi, Sclavi, Słevi, Słowianie, 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 (u̯), an asyllabic u [note: that is a vocalized L]. Baltic Slavs (Kashubians), like an asyllabic u [u̯], 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: Su–evi, Σοῆβοι, Sł–evi, Sł–owianie, Славя́не are identical, in the phonetic transcription they appear as Su̯.”
“The vowel in the word Sueui – is [made of] the long e = η.”
“In the words Slavi and Славя́не – there appears an a, in the word Słowianie, an o, in the word Słevi, an e. The vowels a, o, e, substitute for one another in Slavic languages, for example: Stolp = Słëpsk (here, in addition to the change of an o into an e, there is also a metathesis [he means the the vowel and the l/ł flip], Chołm = Chełm, rak (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 Slavi, Słowianie, 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 Słowianie [note: that is, Suovianie] occurs in the form Słevi, 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 u = v = 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 Suevi = Sueui. 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 v = u 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 u = v 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 Słowianie, Славя́не, to the root Słov Słav there is added also a suffix before the ending [whereas], the words: Suevi, Slavi, Słevi occur without a suffix.”
“What linguist should see difficulties in considering the words Suevi = Slavi = 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 Suevi = Slavi 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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