We believe the Sorb people deserve more attention than they have thus far received here – and deserve their own tab apart from the other major Polabian Slavs (Obotrites and Veleti).
Admittedly, the Sorbs (and Serbs) are a bit of mystery within the Slavic family. They are most often accused of having Eastern, “Sarmatian” or “Iranian” roots (the Croats, or at least some of them, get dragged into this as well). But as we have shown, Sarmatian peoples (in the shape of the Iazyges) were not only no strangers to Europe but, in fact, their most notable “friends” on our continent were the Suevi. Were there other Sarmatians?
And what better way to begin their story – though, we think, mid-stream – than with that 4th or 5th century writer, Vibius Sequester. Mind you, he was a 4th (i.e., 300s) or 5th (i.e., 400s) century A.D. persona. And while Slavologists (or whatever) talk freely about Jordanes and Procopius (even if only to lambast the former), they are somehow silent about Vibius – why?
Vibius, you see, wrote a little pamphlet of lists called De fluminibus, fontibus, lacubus, nemoribus, gentibus, quorum apud poëtas mention. It contains lists of various things but, currently, what’s of interest to us, is the list of Flumina, i.e., rivers/waterways. There, on his list we have the following sentence:
Albis Germaniae Suevos a Cerveciis dividiit: mergitur in Oceanum
or, “Elbe of Germany divides the Suevi from the Cervecii and empties into the Ocean”
[as to the Ocean, actually the reference is to the North Sea but ok; some manuscripts do not contain this reference]
In two manuscripts the name is shown as Corvitiis and Servitiis (!)
All the manuscripts feature the above forms. However, the printed editions vary. Originally, they all followed the above formulations. But in the Jeremias Jacob Oberlin (1735-1806) edition of Vibius, published in 1778, a switch was made to Cherusci. Why? Oberlin, confessed that this was based on a conjecture of (apparently, though this itself is not clear, of a 16th century Swiss theologian, Josias Simmler). From that edition onwards the name Cherusci began to appear in the Vibius editions. For no apparent reason. Other than… Well, it can’t be Serbs, right?
So who were the Cervecii?
The natural thought would be that these were Servii or Serbii or, using today’s nomenclature, just Sorbs. The Sorbs appear in the Story of Samo so we know that they were on the Elbe in the early to mid 7th century. (Some recent dendrochronological measurements put Slavic settlement on the Elbe in the 8th century – go figure – apparently, if there is no sufficiently aged wood, there are no Slavs – a new requirement).
Ok, early 7th century. But 4th or 5th century? That can’t be right. After all there were no Slavs in Europe at the time, right?
And there is something else.
On the Serbs and Suevi
The Bavarian Geographer’s list traces the Slavs – or at least the Eastern ones (there are at least two separate lists within that list) – to a people called Zeriuani – no one really knows who these were – were they Zerivani? Zervingi? Tervingi? Do they (any of them) have something to do with the Черве́нські городи́/ Rotburgenland or Tscherwener Burgenland/Grady tscherwenske/Grody Czerwieńskie? These are located partly in Poland and partly in Ukraine (here is a Polish map):
But some have suggested a Serb or Sorb connection. The same Slavic tribe list also contains the mysterious line about the Suevi being “sown” not “born” (and also about the Boii being from the River Boia), i.e., “Suevi non sunt nati sed seminati.”
Further, we may ask, putting aside the Cervecii, what’s going on with the Suevi here? Were they not to be found in the Swabia of today already? Is this proof of the Suevi being on the Elbe in the 4th or 5th century? Is that the same population as the population of the North Suavi, i.e., Nordschwaben that we discussed as being suspiciously close to Slavs here?
In any event, if these are Serbs/Sorbs, it is interesting then to see here them so close to the Suevi – another population with “source” potential for the Slavic question.
Does this mean that between the Suevi, the Serbs and the Veneti, we probably have our Slavs covered (somewhere in there, wherever that may be)?
And what if the Cherusci? Well, they last appear in Tacitus about 98 A.D. and make it into Ptolemy’s Geography – meaning their last mention is in the 2nd century. So could these have been Cherusci?
Sure, anything is, of course, “possible”. What will people think of next? Perhaps that Cherusci were Serbs!?
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