Category Archives: Historiographics

Soulanos and Boulanes

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The cool thing about these days is that you can actually go and check some of these things that you’ve read about.  Since the Vatican library is now mostly online, thanks to the efforts of one very generous guy, you can see things for yourself.

So on the Boulanes/Soulanes question, went back to look at two codices.

The results of those three are in and Soulanes seems to be winning the day.

Here are from Book 3, Chapter 5 (Sarmatia):

Vaticanus Graecus 191
(about 1300)

this one is clearly an “s” (Souloonos).

Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 82
(about 1300)


Vaticanus Palatinus Graecus 388
(about 1450)
(the one used by Erasmus)

This one is arguably a “b” (Boulanes).

You can also see the underlined references to the Veneti.  In between the two are the Goths (arguably) and the Finns (Finnoi).

As a point of interest here are the following from 388’s Book 2, Chapter 10 (Germania):


The three rivers in Germania, that is Suevus, Viadua and Vistula:


(Si) lingai?

Or Lingai?

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September 19, 2017

Historical Settings

Published Post author

In his intro to Slavic linguistics – “The Dawn of Slavic”, Alexander Schenker provided the reader with some historical background on the early Slavs.  This certainly made his book less dry that it otherwise would have been (even to a linguistics student).  Interestingly for us, as part of this side endeavor Schenker also decided to tackle the Slav – Veneti connection.

Let’s take a look at what this freebie that Professor Schenker tossed into his book looks like.

Without ultimately committing himself to any position, he generally rejects the evidence of a link between the Veneti and the Slavs.

Let’s go through his arguments.

The Tacitian Tackle

To start with he says that there were three different tribes bearing the name Veneti or Venedi: the Adriatic Veneti as to which place names and inscriptions “suggest” that they spoke an Italic dialect.  A “Celtic” Veneti who, according to Caesar, “excelled in the theory and practice of navigation.” And, finally, the Veneti on the Vistula who he concentrates on.*

[* note that, as we discussed, there may have been other Venetic tribes such as the Paphlagonian Enetoi as well as the Illyrian Veneti (assuming the Adratic and Illyrian were different or became different).]

Schenker observes that Tacitus was the first to “tackle” the ethnic affiliation of the northern Veneti and saw the Veneti as, in the end, Germanic based on cultural similarity.  Schenker writes:

“After hesitating whether to classify them as Germanic or Sarmatian, he finally decided in favor of the former on the basis of their cultural similarity with the Germanic peoples.”

This statement suggests more than it should.  To see how little Tacitus thought about the problem all we have to do is, once again, cite him:

Peucinorum Venedorumque et Fennorum nationes Germanis an Sarmatis adscribam dubito, quamquam Peucini, quos quidam Bastarnas vocant, sermone, cultu, sede ac domiciliis ut Germani agunt. Sordes omnium ac torpor procerum; conubiis mixtis nonnihil in Sarmatarum habitum foedantur. Venedi multum ex moribus traxerunt; nam quidquid inter Peucinos Fennosque silvarum ac montium erigitur latrociniis pererrant. Hi tamen inter Germanos potius referuntur, quia et domos figunt et scuta gestant et pedum usu ac pernicitate gaudent: quae omnia diversa Sarmatis sunt in plaustro equoque viventibus.

And the graphic representation (for the English see here):

Codex Aesinas

That’s all.  That’s the extent of the “tackling”.

The Schenkerian Complaint

Schenker then notes “[y]et, in most investigations dealing with Slavic prehistory, the Baltic VenetI are not considered Germanic, as Tacitus would have it, or Illyrian, like their namesakes on the Adriatic, or Celtic, like the Morbihan Veneti. Rather they are generally regarded as Slavic.”

This requires an unpacking.

First, there is the question about what Tacitus considered Germanic.  Tacitus cites nothing to suggest that we should view, for example, the Suevi as Germanic in today’s – German speaking /vaguely Nordic – sense of the word.  Yet using Tacitus’ vision of the world they were labeled as Germanic.  Consequently, the suggestion that the Veneti may have seemed “Germanic” to Tacitus proves only that, to Tacitus, they were similar to people Tacitus considered Germanic.  The classifications says nothing about the nature of the thing Tacitus compared them to, i.e., Tacitus’ Germanics such as the Suevi.  Since the Suevi, as we have argued, may well have been the same people as some or all of today’s Western Slavs (for example, the Aesti, typically viewed as Balts – who are today viewed as most similar to Slavs – are described by Tacitus as similar to the Suevi except for some language differences), the similarity between the Veneti and the Suevi does not help us to determine whether the Veneti were “Nordic” or “Slavic”.  In any event, this similarity seems to be based entirely on one cultural aspect – the Venetis’ fixed dwellings which characteristic made them, to Tacitus, similar to Germanics and distinguished them in his mind from the Saramatians (who lived on wagons).

Second, as regards the Adriatic Veneti, it is not even clear what Schenker means by “Illyrian”.  Just a few lines above he says that “[a] few surviving place names and brief inscriptions suggest that the Adriatic Veneti spoke an Italic dialect.  The memory of the Italic Veneti survives in the names of their province Venetia and the city of Venice.”

So were the Adriatic Veneti Italic or Illyrian?  Does Schenker think these are the same thing or is he just being sloppy?

Third, Schenker calls the Morbihan Veneti “Gallic”.  What does he mean by that?  He does not say – other than, we assume, he thinks that they lived in the territory of a Roman {eventually) province called by the Romans Gall and, presumably, spoke a language which Schenker views as Gallic.  As to the former, that is, of course, true.  As to the latter, we have zero evidence as to what language the Veneti of today’s Morbihan spoke as they seem to have left no inscriptions in their own language.

(Morbihan itself is a Breton word that may have arrived in that area with the Britons fleeing England after the Anglo-Saxon invasion – a documented exodus – incidentally. hence the current name of the area – Brittany).

Schenker then notes that the Veneti “are also mentioned twice on… the Tabula Peutingeriana whose protograph may go back to the the third or fourth century A.D.”

This is incorrect.  Veneti are mentioned three times on the Tabula.  Once in Gall, once on the Baltic and once at the mouth of the Danube.  (We might suppose that Schenker either has not familiarized himself with the Tabula sufficiently or by Veneti here he means only those Veneti that he thinks might conceivably be Slavs.)

The Schenkerian Tackle

Professor Schenker then proceeds to suggest why people have argued that the Baltic Veneti were Slavs.  He lists three arguments:

  • The Veneti of the first and second centuries A.D. occupied the same area as the historic Slavs of the sixth century.
  • The name of the Veneti survived in the German language as Wenden or Winden where it designated Slavs who lived in the closest proximity to Germany.
  • “And, last,” Jordanes “applied the terms Veneti and Slavs to the same ethnic community.”

Though the “last” is also incorrect as other arguments had been made in addition to the above, let’s go with Schenker’s tackling of the above.

What does Schenker think of these arguments?

Well, first he tells us that he thinks that they are “not decisive”.  Since he does not define what would be decisive, we must assume that what he really means is that, in his subjective judgement, for one reason or another he refuses to be convinced.


Argument 1
Quantum Reality 

What of the first argument? He notes that the Slavs by the 6th century were somewhere in the vicinity of where the Veneti had been recorded in the first but observes:

“This does not mean, however, that they had to be there in the time of Tacitus.  During the intervening four hundred years Europe underwent its most momentous transformations, as the fall of Rome and the Hunnic invasions started the ethnic whirligig known as the Great Migrations.  To assume a lack of change during during the period of such profound ethnic perturbations is to strain the laws of historical probability.”

There are two obvious problems with this statement.

For one thing, Schenker seems basically to argue that just because condition A was true at time T1, does not mean that A was also true at T0.  This, of course, is true.  But neither does this mean that at T0 we had condition B.  If a rock made of limestone sits on a mountain today, and you are vehement that yesterday that mountain side was occupied by an obsidian or quartzite boulder, it is you who should establish that the latter tumbled down into the valley over night and the former tumbled down onto their spot – not the proponents of the contrary view.

Schenker seems aware of that but obviously can’t prove it so he resorts to some factual assumptions and the laws of probability.

He says, well, there was a “whirligig” and also those “profound ethnic perturbations” so things must have changed (or at least so would “historical probability” dictate in Schenker’s view).

But here is the other problem.

There is currently no agreement among historians as to whether there were any such ethnic perturbations.  Modern scholarship takes a much more nuanced view of the Voelkerwanderung than the heroic scholarship of the 19th century.*

[* note: while we strongly suspect that the view of “modern scholarship” was influenced by a desire to refute the Germanic notion of a heroic Voelkerwanderung, it would be a height of cynicism to assume that that scholarship takes a purely results-oriented view of such arguments – claiming keine Wanderungen when talking to proponents of the Germanic “travel” mythos but claiming a “whirligig” of ethnic change when talking to proponents of Slavic “autochtonism”…]

In other words, was there really a whirligig?

Well, barbarians were roving left and right, the Roman Empire fell and different new kingdoms arose.  Seems like the whirligig theory wins hands down.

But does it?

Let’s take a look at the whirligig up close

Remember, Schenker’s theory requires not just any whirligig but rather an “ethnic” whirligig.  What would we really know about about this period if we were to follow Schenker’s logic?  Let’s look at the remnants of the Roman Empire and beyond:

  • In Spain, the prior Roman-era population was replaced with the new Germanic tribes of the Suevi, the Visigoths and the Vandals (and the Sarmatian Alans).  No one knows what happened to the indigenous population but we must assume that it was driven out, killed and/or assimilated.  As a result, of this whirligig, by the late 5th century the newcomers’ Gothic became the dominant language in Iberia where it continued its supreme position until Arabic replaced it as a result of the Muslim invasions and the driving out of the Germanics.  Subsequently, a new people – the modern Spanish emerged to drive out the Arabs – where did the Spanish speakers come from?  Modern historians are most perplexed by this query some locating their homeland in the Jutland Peninsula and others arguing for the Pripet Marshes.  Ahhhhhh…. Nope.
  • In Gall, the Galls and Romans were exterminated by the newly arrived Franks who also gave their name to the new ethnic creation.  France and its Franks remain the preeminent force in Europe today where Merovecha Lepenech seems destined to become the new All-Frankish monarch proudly pushing for the primacy of the Frankish Teutonic dialect within all gaus under Frankish control.  Yeeeahhh… Nope again.
  • In Italy, the population was perhaps the most brutalized in the wake of the Empire’s collapse.  After the Goths, Vandals, Ostrogoths and Lombards drove out the locals and established their polities, nothing was left of the aborigines (such as they had been).  Gothic and other East Germanic dialects naturally became predominant in this new environment and these languages continue their Teutonic preeminence on the peninsula till this very day.  See above...
  • In Britain the invading Anglo-Saxons replaced whatever locals there were and English is now the language of the day.  The locals themselves have either fled (see Brittany) or been killed.   Even here… while we do not pretend to deal much with DNA, it seems “Anglo-Saxon” DNA accounts for about 1/3 of British male DNA.  According to “Modern studies of British people suggest the earliest populations continued to exist and adapt and absorb the new arrivals.” Not to mention that “prior” Gaelic languages continue to exist in the west of Britain.  All that really seems to have happened is a bit of technological collapse where we learn that, for example, “…even basic technologies, like the use of the wheel for pottery production, all vanished during the fifth century…” Now, where did we see that before?
  • In Scandinavia, the intense Nordic invasions of the Continent not only relieved population pressures that caused such invasions in the first place but resulted in a virtual emptying out of the entire region.  As a result, vast numbers of Finns moved in, which is why, today, all of Scandinavia is simply known as Suomi.  Ahem… naaaahhh.
  • In Central and Eastern Europe, the Germanics on the move emptied themselves out here as well.  In the place of the proud Suavi, there now moved in – from parts unknown – the Sclavi – the newcomers whom we know as Slavs.   Oh, and the Veneti – they kind of disappeared… ehhh, the dog ate them.  Well, this one (finally!) seems ENTIRELY BELIEVABLE!

This is not to say that invaders cannot bring new languages (Today’s Turkey did not previously speak Turkish, the US did not speak English, etc) but the conditions for an ethnic language and culture change vary and one cannot a priori claim that every whirligig will result in such a change (as evidenced by the above).  In fact, the claim of a whirligig, as made by Schenker, necessarily assumes the conclusion.

Perhaps even more importantly, even if a language (and culture) changes that certainly is no indication that the population changed.  just look at Spanish speaking America.  Would Schenker claim that the Spanish invaders replaced the natives?  As rulers sure, but it’s not like those natives disappeared.

Put in other words, the laws of probability cannot be invoked (at least not with a straight face) to say anything about a population exchange in general, the 5th century European exchange in particular and the Venetic place in Slavic history in the very particular.

If anything the laws of probability here would suggests precisely the opposite conclusion than that drawn by Schenker.

There is one point to be made here.  If “whirligig” happened then what happened to the Veneti? Where did they go?  Surely, an out migration of the Veneti would have been registered somewhere?

The Slavs were according to this story coming from the East.  So the Veneti would have had to flee West, South or North?  Is there any evidence of this?  One could claim that the Western Slavs were the fleeing Veneti but at no point (that we know of) are their names, customs or look (based on anthropological similarities and probably genetic) different from that of the “eastern” Slavs.  In any event, Schenker does not claim such an outmigration.  He is just silent on the topic altogether.

Argument 2
Of Susan McKendrick and Sharon Evers 

Let’s give the pulpit back to Schenker:

“Nor can the German practice of designating their Slavic neighbors by the names Wenden or Winden help us to solve the question of the ethnic character of the Veneti.”


According to Schenker:

“[t]ransfers of names from one ethnic group to another have frequently occurred in history and signify no more than some kind of spatial and temporal contiguity between the two communities.”

[As a matter of English usage, the conjunctive above is quite difficult to untangle.  Assuming that the “two communities” that Schenker is referring to are the Veneti and the Slavs, presumably he means spatial but not temporal overlap.  Assuming “contiguity” refers to the Germans on the one hand and the Veneti/Slavs on the other, presumably he means that each of the latter two shared a boundary with the Germans, albeit at different times.  If so, then that would not preclude them sharing a different space from one another but, let’s move on.]

He goes on to say:

“The German usage may merely indicate that some non-Germanic Veneti lived in the area occupied later [aha, there it is!] by the West Slavs and that the Germans transferred the name of the former to the latter.”

He then cites cases of Lithuanians calling the East Slavs “Goths” (Gudai) and the German practice of referring to the Czechs as Bohemians by reason of “the Celtic tribe of the Boii who lived in Bohemia before the Czechs.”

He continues:

“There is no reason, however, to assume that the transfer of the name Veneti to the Slavs occurred much before the sixth century.”

That’s all of his Argument 2…

To begin with, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the East Slavs have nothing to do with the Goths and the Czechs have nothing to do with the “Celtic” Boii other than their spatial overlap.

The fact that transference of names does occasionally occur does not mean that it happens always and continuously.  When an astronaut looks down on France and Germany, then closes his eyes for a second, and, upon opening again notes that the French still call the Germans Allemands and the Germans call the French Franzosen, surely he won’t be justified in arguing that there is no evidence for the population remaining the same on both sides of the border…

If we may assume (as surely we may) that the general and more likely case is that when we call something A at T0 and A at T1, we mean the same thing and the thing is indeed the same, then “tribal name transference” must be an exception, a special case to that general rule.  Indeed, that is precisely why such a confusing set of words is needed to explain this unusual phenomenon.  On the other hand, we lack a term for the more usual case of “nothing happened”.

It is ridiculous to claim, as Schenker does, that what is an occasional exception to the rule renders the rule meaningless altogether.  Specifically, to say that “the German practice of designating their Slavic neighbors by the names Wenden or Winden [cannot] help us to solve the question of the ethnic character of the Veneti” because such practice “may merely indicate” a transference of names, is just pure bunk.  Here, Schenker goes further in what he writes above, by literally claiming not just that the rule is meaningless but that it states the opposite from what it states.  In fact in the above, Schenker says that evidence of condition A may indicate condition B…

(It seems that authors need not only the help of an editor but also of a logician)

Of course, anything “is possible” but what is more likely?

And were the Finns (and Estonians) also previously in spatial (but not temporal!) “contiguity” with the Veneti and the Slavs?  Are they also engaged in tribal name transference when they refer to the Russians as Venäläiset (Venelased)?

So that, as they say, is that.

Argument 3
Or How the Gallo-Romans Conquered the Franks

Schenker goes on:

“There is also no compelling evidence to justify the claim that Jordanes’ identification of the Veneti with the Slavs reflects an ancient situation.  The Slavicization of the Veneti is possible in the sixth century but most improbable in the first.  To take an anologous example, the Franks in the eight-century France were already fully Romanized and could be identified with the native Gallo-Roman population.  It would be absurd, however, to extend such an identification to the fifth-century Germanic Franks, who were then just embarking upon their conquest of Gaul.”

It’s entirely unclear what he means here.  For starters, let’s put aside subjective judgment words such as “compelling” or “most improbable” or “absurd.”

Beyond that much of this is silly.

First of all, Schenker’s use of an “analogous example” is only analogous if the argument he is trying to prove is correct.  Otherwise he’s just assuming the conclusion.

But it’s even more confusing that that.  Schenker’s arguments 1 and 2 assume a full or substantial replacement of the Venetic population with the Slavs (remember the ethnic whirligig whereby the Veneti disappear and Slavs appear?  Or the mistaken transference of the Venetic name onto the “new” Slavs?).  Yet in his argument 3, Schenker admits the possibility of the “Slavicization” of the Veneti.  So now he argues that the Veneti could have stayed where they were after all but were – by the 6th century – “Slavicized.”  And what does he mean by “Slavicization”?

Presumably, he means just a change of language/culture as a result of some new incoming people.  But then of what relevance is the Frankish example?

The Franks were conquerors who melded into the local “Gallo-Roman” population adopting the locals’ language while giving their name to the locals.  We know the same thing happened with the Rus in the East somewhat later.  In each case, this outcome seems to have resulted from the relatively small number of the newcomers and the quick merging of the populations.

If this is indeed the analogy Schenker sees, is he then saying that the language the “Slavs” speak is the Venetic?  Surely, that is what his “analogy” would tell us if the Veneti preceded the Slavs in their mutual “space.”

But if so, then it is not the Veneti that were Slavicized but the incoming Slavs (Suevi?) who were “Venetized.”  

Except that is not what Schenker seems to be saying.

Presumably he means that the Veneti were the minority and the Slavs were the majority.  The Slavs came and took over the Venetic lands absorbing the remnants of the Veneti.  That would explain why there may be some “Venetic” dNA in Slavic blood but why the culture/language is Slavic.

But then the above Frankish example is hardly analogous.

As a side note, it is also not clear why he also objects to the “Slavicization” of the Veneti in the 1st century.  The people who are arguing for the Slavic nature of the Veneti do not argue that the Veneti were Slavicized in the 1st century (or earlier) but rather that they were always Slavic in the sense that the Slavs (as Jordanes says) emerged from the Veneti.

And if Schenker accepts Veneti somewhere about the Vistula in the first century (as he seems to – though even this is not clear), does he question the existence of a post-Venetic Germanic (meaning Nordic) interlude?  Though he does not even acknowledge the issue, presumably he would not take that position.  And so, if there really were Germanic Goths, Vandals and Burgundians living in formerly Venetic lands, why does Jordanes not say that the Slavs also incorporated those?  Were the Veneti living in Central Europe before, during and after the Germanic invasions?  Successfully resisting Germanization all along for 200-400 years?  And then when the Germanic tribes left (?) the Veneti immediately fell victim to Slavicization?

Most fundamentally, Schenker does not even try to impugn Jordanes’ credibility.  He says there is no “compelling” reason to “justify” Jordanes’ claim of the Venetic-Slavic identity  (Compelling how/to whom?).

But it stretches credulity to suggest that a 6th century observer of these events (who, supposedly, relied on earlier sources) would need to do more to justify his plainly reasonable and hardly fantastic claims (no alien spaceships here!) to someone who finds the observer uncompelling from a distance of over a millennium and a half.

The very lack of Schenker’s temporal contiguity with Jordanes and the events of Jordanes’ day makes the former, without more, a less compelling source as to the truthfulness of these events than our Gothic scribe.

Argument 4
A Meillet Detour

Then Schenker throws in a couple of other thoughts:

“… the very fact that the ancient sources locate the Veneti on the Baltic provides the most persuasive argument against their identification with the Slavs  The point is that Slavic vocabulary does not contain any indication that he early Slavs were exposed to the sea.  Proto-Slavic had no maritime terminology whatsoever, be it in the domain of seafaring, sea fishing, boat building, or sea trade.  Especially striking is the absence of a Proto-Slavic word for amber, the most important item for export from the shores of the Baltic to the Mediterranean.  In view of this, the very fact that Ptolemy refers to the Baltic as the Venedic Bay* appears to rule out a possible identification of the Veneti of his time with the Slavs.”

[* note: It’s actually not entirely clear as to what Ptolemy thought represented the Venedic Bay.  It may have been the entire Baltic Sea but it also may have been a portion of the Baltic (candidates range from the Kiel Bay (on which the Wagri were known to reside) to the Gulf of Finland) or even (and less plausibly) some other location]

These “very facts” turns out are less factual than we might think just reading the above.  Ancient sources may or may not have located the Veneti on the Baltic.  Jordanes locates the Veneti at the Vistula but the Vidivarii at the river’s mouth.  Before that, Pliny locates the Veneti in the continent’s interior but not necessarily on the Baltic.  Tacitus does not locate the Veneti anywhere specific other than somewhere at the edge of Suevia – whether that is on the Baltic or not depends on a number of assumptions, starting with the assumption of where is the hic at which his Suevia finis.  The only person who, arguably, speaks of the Baltic is Ptolemy who locates the Veneti at the Venetic Bay which – probably – was a bay on the Baltic.  That said, it is also not clear whether Ptolemy locates all the Veneti at that bay as his description of the “greater” and “lesser” peoples suggests that he may have understood the Veneti to encompass several sub tribes, some of which he clearly does not locate at the Venetic Bay.

What about these claims about “maritime” vocabulary?

Here we come to an interesting detour.  Schenker’s only citation for the above sweeping claim is to Antoine Meillet‘s three and a half page article in the Revue des études slaves titled “De quelques mots relatifs a la navigation.” (A few words relating to navigation) which we discussed here and here.  As we’ve shown Meillet’s article exhibits, what may charitably be called, a shocking ignorance of Slavic languages (at least shocking in case of someone who purports to be a linguist undertaking to write a scholarly article about such languages) combined with no relevant examples to support his claim.

So that, as we say again, is that for the only reference that Schenker provides.

What about Schenker’s own (since gives no other citation we should presume that to be his own argument) argument “that Slavic vocabulary does not contain any indication that he early Slavs were exposed to the sea.  Proto-Slavic had no maritime terminology whatsoever, be it in the domain of seafaring, sea fishing, boat building, or sea trade”?

As we previously noted when discussing Meillet, Slavic vocabulary in fact does contain words with a clear Slavic origin that relate to maritime matters.  In answering the question of how rich that vocabulary was, we must first ask as compared to what?  In other words, it’s all relative.

Did Schenker undertake an examination of the maritime terminology of the proto-Germanic languages?  Of proto-Illyrian?  Proto-Celtic?  Proto-Greek?  Dacian?  Did he, upon concluding such an examination, tabulate the various seafaring, sea fishing, boat building, and sea trade terms across these groups concluding, based on such unassailable evidence, that the proto-Slavic was, in fact, greatly lacking in the maritime department?

We assume the answer must be yes and he is just careful not to share his findings with the reader since otherwise he’d just be spouting hot air…

In fact, this is the same sleight of hand as is often done with the disappearance wheel-based pottery in Central Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire.  This fact is taken as proof of a cultural change (and hence a change of ethnicities) without bothering to test for the presence or absence of such cultural collapse across the entire Roman frontier (thus, missing, as noted above, evidence of the same collapse in other areas where a population exchange did not take place or, to the extent it took place, it took the form of Celtic tribes being “augmented” by Germanic (as in Nordic) tribes, both presumably familiar with wheel based pottery and yet none able to prevent a regression to the simpler hand-made pottery model).

Does Schenker suggest that Slavs could not have lived near the sea because they lacked a word for mizen-mast, leach lines and spinnaker?

There is also another problem with this argument.  It says nothing about where specific Slavic groups lived.  The proto-Slavic may have developed 100k years ago right on the sea’s edge but if it developed in an era of primitive boating, it would contain no sophisticated nautical vocabulary.

(You could easily see a situation whereby some Slavs then head out East and never develop more sophisticated maritime vocabulary.  The Slavs that remain do but then those words never make it back to Proto-Slavic.  What’s more if the Slavs that remain do develop certain words and then pass them onto the Germans, such words make it into Proto-Germanic. Now they are in Proto-Germanic and in – some – Slavic languages (the ones from which the Germans borrowed them) but the result is that Proto-Germanic has them but Proto-Slavic does not.  If that is the case, the easy next step is to claim that those Slavs with whom the words originated instead borrowed such words from the Germanic.)

So much for the claim of “whatsoever”.

What about amber – the Greek electron, the Latin Sucinum or glaesum?

The claim is that the Slavs use variations on the Germanic/Nordic word Bernstein (meaning “burning stone”).  This is true but just this much.

Suffice it to say that we do know (from Pliny) that the trade in amber was run by the Gutones and, perhaps, the Teutones – not the Slavs.  As such it is their (Gothic) name of the resin that became predominant.  This, however, does not mean that there was no Slavic name for the same product.

In fact, we know of at least two:

Here there is word for amber that appears in all Slavic languages – jantar.  This has been as a borrowing from the Baltic languages (Lithuanian gintaras, Latvian dzintars, Prussian gīntars?).  But this does not stop here… Rather we are also told the Baltic words are themselves borrowings from… the Phoenician jainitar meaning “sea-resin”.  Say what?

So the Slavic J came from the Baltic G but the Baltic G came from the Phoenician J!?  Why not just say that both Slavic and Baltic got the word from the Phoenician?  Or maybe the Phoenicians got it from the Balts?

And why from the Phoenician?  The Phoenicians are not known to have reached the Black Sea or the Baltic Sea.  Why not from the Venetic?

And how do we know the word is even Phoenician!?  (We have not seen this explained anywhere – just repeated).  The Phoenician word for “sea” seems to be ym or yam.  Not Jain or Yain.  In fact, the latter smack of Indian Jainism.  And what of the word tar for “resin”?  Do we have to reach to the Phoenician for that?

Isn’t the most obvious connection to the Germanic/Nordic “tar”?:

“tar (n.1) a viscous liquid, Old English teoruteru “tar, bitumen, resin, gum,” literally “the pitch of (certain kinds of) trees,” from Proto-Germanic *terwo- (source also of Old Norse tjara, Old Frisian tera, Middle Dutch tar, Dutch teer, German Teer), probably a derivation of *trewo-, from PIE *derw-, variant of root *deru-*dreu- in its sense “wood, tree” (see tree (n.)).” [but what about terra – Earth!?]

(Moreover, the Lithuanians feature a name Gintaras.  But that name seems to have first come up in the 1940s suggesting (perhaps) an imitation of the German GüntherGunther.  These names are related to Gunnar and, ultimately supposed to relate to something like “fight/battle” and “warrior/army”.  For example, Günther from Old High German gund ‎(battle) + heri ‎(army) or Gunnar is derived from Old Norse gunnr ‎(fight) and -arr from Proto-Germanic *harjaz ‎(warrior)).

This would suggest a Germanic origin for jantar.  But the Germans already have Bernstein!  And, to top it off there is another Germanic word – Rav/Raaf.  Why would then need three different words for the same thing and does that suggest that some of these are not Germanic?  Which of the three would not then be Germanic?  Presumably jantar or gintaras/dzintars but what is its origin?

We add to this the fact that the Prussians seem to have also had the word glēsis (in addition to gīntars).  This makes for a very close match with Pliny’s glæsum.  In addition, as shown here, there is also the Polish głaz (pronounced “guaz”) which means a “large stone” but in, for example, Russian, refers to an eye.  What this tells us is that the Slavic “oko” was partly replaced by the “stone” word of głaz (see Polish gałki or gały).  

But for that to have made any sense, the głaz stone must have been understood as a much smaller stone than the current Polish głaz.  In fact, such a głaz would have been the size of a piece of amber.  The assumption is that there must have been a specialized term for this kind of a “stone” such as a “burn stone” or “amber” but unless you were involved in the amber trade*, a stone was just a stone.  For this argument to have any legs you’d presumably have to establish that the Slavs did have their own words for pumice, jade, marble, granite, obsidian, etc…  Otherwise, to be consistent, you’d want to conclude that they originated in an area devoid of those rocks as well.

[* note: we also suspect that the above paragraph overstates the importance of amber in the Baltic-Rome trade.  While amber did come to Rome from the Baltic, it also came from other European areas such as Friesland.  And while amber did come from the Baltic, other goods came from the Baltic (and came from Rome to the Baltic) as well.  Even if the Slavs (and Balts) were not ever to have had their own word for amber, that relevance of that fact to the debate about Slavic ethnogenesis is itself debatable.]

Note too, that the “island” that Pliny refers to as the island of amber is named by the “Germans” Austeravia.  This can mean “Eastern” island obviously is also very similar to the Slavic name for (we are told, river) island – ostrów.

Where does this leave us?   The fact that Bernstein became the prevalent name for amber among many Slavs may have much to do with the fact that the Goths ran (took over?) the amber trade.  The only thing that is safe to say beyond that is that, it may be the case, that the Slavs referred to these little amber stones as głazy and that no one knows for sure what the origin of the word jantar is – even if it were derived from a Baltic form, it may well be that the Balts were included among the Veneti…

Argument 5
Schwinden Winden

We previously discussed the account of Cornelius Nepos (relayed by Pomponius Mela and, in a different variation, by Pliny the Elder) regarding the capture of the “Indian” sailors by the king of the Boii (Mela) or of the Suevi (Pliny) and the gift made of these to a Roman proconsul in Gaul, one Qunitus Metellus Celer.  Professor Schenker points out that these Indi have at times (starting with Pavel Jozef Šafárik) been hypothesized to have been the Windische, i.e., the Veneti and hence possibly Slavs:

“It is interesting to recall in this connection a story that many scholars, from Šafárikon, have adduced in support of the identification of the Veneti with the Slavs…  Could one claim that the Indi of this account were Slavs?  In suggesting that this indeed could have been the case, Šafárik had to accept a number of hypotheses [we number these assertions for ease of reference]:

  1. that Nepos’ story was not fictitious;
  2. that a sea voyage from India (or some other place referred to as India) to Western Europe was not feasible in or before the first century B.C.;
  3. that Indi and Indicus are to be read as Vindi and Vindicus;
  4. that the Indi (now identified as the Vindi) were in fact the Venedi < Veneti;
  5. that the Indi (now identified as the Veneti) arrived on the shores of Germany from the Baltic rather than from some other sea like the Adriatic;
  6. that the watery expanse [aequora] which the luckless sailors had to traverse was merely the Kattegat and the Skagerrak;
  7. that the Indi ( = Indi = Veneti) were Slavic; and
  8. that the Slavs were capable of making long sea voyages in or before the first century B.C.

The degree of probability of most of these assumptions is fairly low, and Šafárik was duly cautious in advancing his hypothesis… Šafárik’s followers, however, show no hesitation ion considering his surmise a proven fact.”

First, as a matter of logic, the only thing that needs to be true here are hypothesis 1 and 7.  The other hypotheses are either irrelevant to the argument (for example 2), largely subsumed by hypothesis 7 (for example, 3, 4 and 5) or irrelevant and set forth in an inconsistent way (hypothesis 6 and 8).

Second, one might observe that the Slavic connection with the Veneti hardly depends on this story.

Third, there is Veleda…


Well, we have previously argued that the Batavian priestess Veleda appears to us suspiciously Slavic.  Indeed, we have previously written about the Dutch Slavic myths (see here and here).

It just so happens that we have some names of the members of the Imperial Germanic Bodyguards.  One of those names is of a man named Indus.  He is described there as a Batavian.

“Indus, bodyguard of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus, of the Second Decuria, of the Batavian nation, [who] lived 36 years, is buried here. [The gravestone] was erected by his brother and heir, Eumenes, from the collegium of the Germans”

[Indus / Neronis Claudi / Caesaris Aug(usti) / corpor(is) custos / dec(uria) Secundi / natione Batavus / vix(it) ann(os) XXXVI h(ic) s(itus) e(st) / posuit / Eumenes frater / et heres eius ex collegio / Germanorum.]

(His (?) brother’s name is recorded as Eumenes – this appears to be a Greek or perhaps Thracian name – for example, Eumenes of Cardia).

So what you say? Well, maybe the Indi were just Batavi in Celler’s mind.   Or maybe there is something to that Batavian – Slavic connection.

Argument 6
Quantum Arguments

The last argument that Schenker makes is rather bizarre.  He uses the report of Henry of Livonia “who described a clearly non-Slavic tribe of the Vindi which lived in Courland and Livonia… [and whose people] may well be the descendants of the Baltic Veneti.”

Schenker’s statement is puzzling and one has to wonder how any thinking person could have made it.

First of all Schenker (whose citation practice leaves much to be desired) provides zero evidence to support his claim that this tribe was “clearly non-Slavic”.  There is nothing clear here because there is nothing here at all.  Schenker just asserts this.

We have previously written about this report.

For Schenker’s argument to hold, we would have to accept a number of hypotheses:

  1. that the Veneti were not Slavs;
  2. that these non-Slavic Veneti did in fact live near the Baltic;
  3. that the same non-Slavic Veneti survived as a distinct people for about a millenium, all along avoiding any Germanization, Gothicization, Balticization or Slavicization;
  4. that the continued existence of such a tribe went about unnoticed and unremarked on for the duration of the same millenium until one Heinrich of Lettland stumbled upon them in the first half of the 13th century;
  5. that this Heinrich, a German crusader who must have been intimately aware of the practice of his people calling the Slavs of his time Wenden would have called some other tribe by that exact same name;
  6. that Heinrich would have done so with respect to a tribe that he encountered in the Baltic-Slavic borderlands; and that
  7. that Heinrich, a writer who conveyed much about the life of the local tribes, would have considered his use of such nomenclature for a “clearly non-Slavic” tribe to be something entirely unremarkable to the point of not observing upon the oddity of the existence of these “clearly non-Slavic” Wends to his readers.

Oh, and that these Wends’ “colours” were the same as those of the other Western Slavic tribes such as Poles or Czechs (as per the later Livländische Reimchronik we hear of  “a red banner cut through with white after the manner of the Wends.”).

Now, to make this kind of an argument is not only to strain the laws of historical probability but to leave them by the wayside entirely.  Here we really are in the world of quantum history.

The last stand of the last non-Slavic Venet – somewhere on the Venta River about 1250 (photo credit: Heinrich von Lettlandski)

(p.s. otherwise, the book is ok but if we are to take a linguist’s word as to the relationship between the Veneti and the Slavs, we’ll go with Vasmer‘s).

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February 27, 2017

What Can We Learn From Strabo?

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Here is an exercise in what one can surmise out of Strabo’s Geography.  Let’s take this passage (Book 7.1.3):

“Here, too, is the Hercynian Forest, and also the tribes of the Suevi, some of which dwell inside the forest, as, for instance, the tribes of the Coldui, in whose territory is Boihaemum, the domain of Marabodus, the place whither he caused to migrate, not only several other peoples, but in particular the Marcomanni, his fellow-tribesmen; for after his return from Rome this man, who before had been only a private citizen, was placed in charge of the affairs of state, for, as a youth he had been at Rome and had enjoyed the favor of Augustus, and on his return he took the rulership and acquired, in addition to the peoples aforementioned, the Lugii (a large tribe), the Zumi, the Butones, the Mugilones, the Sibini, and also the Semnones, a large tribe of the Suevi themselves. However, while some of the tribes of the Suevi dwell inside the forest, as I was saying, others dwell outside of it, and have a common boundary with the Getae.  Now as for the tribe of the Suevi, it is the largest, for it extends from the Rhenus to the Albis; and a part of them even dwell on the far side of the Albis, as, for instance, the Hermondori and the Langobardi; and at the present time these latter, at least, have, to the last man, been driven in flight out of their country into the land on the far side of the river.”

  • The Suevi include Coldui, the Semnones and Hermondori and Langobardi;
  • The Suevi dwell between the Rhine and the Elbe except that the Hermondori and Langobardi have been driven onto the other side of the Elbe;
  • The Suevi border the Getae and thus the Getae are not Suevi;
  • The Getae cannot be the Dacian Getae since these are nowhere near the Elbe; therefore, the Getae are likely Goths;
  • Lugii, Zumi, Butones, Mugilones and Sibini are not Suevi;
    • Butones cannot be “emendated” to “Gutones” since that role is filled by the Getae;  perhaps they are the Budinoi;
  • There are basically three groupings here:
    • Suevi – a confederation (?) of several tribes
      • some of these have “Germanic” names such as Hermondori and Langobards;
      • others not necessarily, such as Coldui or Semnones;
    • non-Suevic/non-Getic tribes – Zumi, the Butones, the Mugilones, the Sibini; and
    • Getae.

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August 20, 2016


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Quite by chance, a correspondent of this site happened to forward to us an excerpt from the website of the University of Warsaw discussing our favourite topic – the Vandals.  We previously discussed the scientific project that gave rise to this website here.  But, in retrospect, we seem to have missed some of the morsels.

This is what that excerpt says:

“Vandals.  A Germanic people whose original lands were located in the territories of today’s Poland… Based on [the works of Pliny and Tacitus] one may suppose that already at that time the Vandals constituted a large tribal confederacy inhabiting the lands of Western Poland near to the Goths (who the scholars are united in agreeing are represented by the Wielbark culture).  This is confirmed by Jordanes who states that the Goths defeated the Ulmerugi and Vandals having landed on the southern shore of the Baltic… According to the opinion of most scholars who study this area, the Vandals were most likely a member of the tribal confederation called the Lugian Union… This hypotheses is supported by an analysis of archeological sources…  A small part of the Vandals may have remained in its old lands [after the outmigration of the Vandals to Africa].  This is supported by the testimony of Procopius who says that during the kingship of Geiseric (439-477) there arrived a Vandalic embassy from their old dwellings… The archeological sign of these ‘old dwellings’ may be Germanic settlements from the later portion of the Migration Period – in the Kuyavia region and in the middle of the river Prosna.”

At first, we admit, we were a bit concerned.  The view that the Vandals occupied vast tracks of Poland expressed in the write up finds no support in the source material as we already discussed many times before.

To recap:

  • No ancient source locates a people named Vandals in the territory of today’s Poland
  • In fact, if one discards Tacitus’ (as he calls it) conjecture and Pliny’s Vinde-lici, no ancient source knows of a people named Vandals before their appearance in Dacia (Romania) in the third century (perhaps second).
  • There is nothing to suggest that Legii (Lougii, Luti, Lugii) were Vandals.
  • Recent scholarship has been skeptical on the connection of Vandals with Przeworsk.
  • Even assuming, arguendo, that Vandals had lived in Poland in the first or second century, they’d since would have moved and it seems much more likely that, in the middle of the 5th century (time of the embassy), their “old dwellings” would refer to any of Spain, Gall, Pannonia or Dacia where they had lived for close to 300 years before hopping over to Africa.

Was this a copy of something that bullshitter extraordinaire – Herwig Wolfram wrote?

It turns out that the answer is “no”… Wolfram’s texts are nowhere listed in the biography generously provided by the authors of the website.

So what kind of scholarship were the authors of the above excerpt relying on?  Most of the works listed in the accompanying biography are not particularly interesting but two things are striking.

First, let us note what’s not there.  Whoever wrote that text did not seem interested in relying on/reading the latest scholarship on the Vandals – as in “The Vandals” by Andrew Merrills and Richard Miles.  For a project selling itself as the latest and greatest on the topic, this seemed like a rather surprising omission.

Second, some of the works listed as relevant to the topic appeared, to put it charitably, questionable as regards their scholarship and genesis…


We decided to investigate – if only a little bit.

What Was “So Yesterday” Is Now All the Rage Again

The first book brought to our attention was Ferdinand Ludwig Schmidt‘s (1862 – 1944) History of the Vandals (Geschichte der Wandalen), published in Leipzig in 1942.  This was actually a reprint of an earlier 1901 edition of the same work.  Schmidt, best known for Die Geschichte der deutschen Stämme bis zum Ausgang der Völkerwanderung, was your typical turn of the century German historian with all the stereotypical baggage associated with that category.  He, rather simplistically, equated Germanic tribes with modern Deutschen and let his interpretations be guided by scholars like Muhlenhoff who, as we noted, were always ready to fudge answers to difficult questions and to “emendate” left and right when the manuscripts did not show what they wanted to see.

Thus, Schmidt places the Vandals in Silesia, slavishly following Muhlenhoff, notwithstanding a complete lack of historic sources for such assertions.  He also interprets the Legii name as Lugii and claims that their name signifies The Lying Ones (from luegnen) – a name allegedly given to these Lugii by their neighbors… Schmidt didn’t elaborate whether the same brilliant (and Germanic) etymology should be applied to the Lougei of Portugal, Lugdunum (Lyons) of France (City of Liars? A name given by a Germanic merchant cheated out his gold!?) or the Lugi of Scotland (incidentally, who lived next to the Smertae – what could that mean in German?). And so forth…


Ferdinand Ludwig Schmidt was not a fanatic but, as seen above, his Vandal history was written properly enough such that the country’s new management ordered an unaltered reprint in 1942.

Still, it is the other book listed as a worthwhile source by Warsaw University that piqued our interest…


Martin Jahn’s Die Wandalen – formed a portion of the Vorgeschichte der deutschen Stämme as edited by Hans Reinerth (volume 3: Die Ostgermanen und Nordgermannen) published in Leipzig-Berlin in 1940.  This volume remains a hit since it is available from many sources including from this outfit, sporting a charmingly vibrant logo:


So who were Jahn and Reinerth?

Martin Jahn (born in 1888) was a pre-historian known for such inspiring titles as, for example:

  • “The Siling – the Holy Mountain of the Vandals” (Der Siling, der heilige Berg der Wandalen),
  • “The Separation of Culture Groups and Peoples in Pre-History” (Die Abgrenzung von Kulturgruppen und Völkern in der Vorgeschichte)

and similar titles that appropriately reflected the then prevalent Zeitgeist.

Not content to be merely a preeminent historian, Jahn was also engaged in various extracurricular activities.  He took valuable time away from his studies to become a member of a number of social welfare,  veterans‘ and teachers‘ organizations as well as a member of an environmentalist league specifically concerned with air quality.  


After the war, he continued on his progressive path joining in 1947 a local labour federation.

But the real piece of work is the next fella.

Hans Reinerth, the editor of the volume, born in 1900, was, it seems, a man with a keen political sense.  Early on he became a member of the KfdK (Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur) before joining a local socialist party in 1931.  In March of 1933, he was one of the signatories of a declaration (in a local town paper) endorsing the then new budding leadership of Germany.

In 1933 he set out to rework the old Deutsche Gesellschaft für Vorgeschichte (founded by Gustaf Kossina) into a more open, diverse and inclusive organization which went by the name Reichsbund für Deutsche Vorgeschichte witha charming motto:

Zehntausende deutscher Volksgenossen bekennen sich in machtvoller Kundgebung zur Ehre unserer germanischen Vorfahren und zu unserem heiligen Lande: Deutschland!)

and whose leader he became in 1934.

The RDV organized frequent social events (also referred to in those days as Reichstagungs) such as this one (the 5th Reichstag was a splendid event – the best powwow in 1936 Germany, save for the Olympics):


Also in 1934 Reinerth replaced Kossina as head of German archeology at Berlin University bringing with him a more “modern” approach to that respected chair.

In 1937 Reinerth made the following comment in a German periodical by the name of Volk und Heimat:

Wer unsere germanischen Vorfahren schmäht und herabsetzt, steht heute nicht mehr dem vereinzelten völkischen Kämpfer, sondern der geschlossenen Front aller nationalsozialistischen Deutschen gegenüber

We will let you translate that.

By 1939 our Hans was the head of the Pre-History Department in a respected German historical think tank.  Through hard Arbeit Reinerth quickly rose to become a leader in a Sonderstab for pre-history in the think tank’s department charged with striving to preserve European cultural heritage at all cost.  During his career there he also gained a vast international experience leading, for example, an expedition to Greece in 1941 where he preserved an early Stone Age site that unequivocally showed that Greece had originally been settled and its ancient civilization established by various Germanic tribes from the north…

In 1942 Hans became a leader in another outstanding archeological institution.  His boss continued to entrust Hans with massive and highly challenging scientific undertakings:

From the 21 of September 1942, I have tasked Dr. Reinerth with the obtaining, securing and researching pre- and early-historical Germanic and Slavic finds and other types of legacy goods in scientific institutes, private collections and other places in the occupied territories in the East.

Alfred Rosenberg to Richard Harder (Bundesarchiv (Deutschland), Signatur NS 8/265, S. 15)

And did we mention that not only was Herr Reinerth an outstanding scholar but also a stylish hipster?  Check out these glasses and period-appropriate moustache – so fashionable in German pre-history circles of the 1940s:


After the war Reinerth lived on a life devoted to scholarship where he continued to publish titles that firmly established German history and archeology as independent and free of the ghosts of its nationalistic excesses such as this darling piece:


He led an active and busy life, our Hans (what with all the researching, not to mention the obtaining and securing) and Warsaw University today should be thankful that he was able to pull himself away from his demanding responsibilities to edit the Vorgeschichte der deutschen Stämme.  

What would they have known to write about the Vandals had Herr Jahn and Herr Reinerth not taken the time to put together their volume?


In the West, folks who cite Nazi literature to support their claims about the past tend to lose their jobs and be ostracized by mainstream society.  Different rules apply in Eastern Europe it seems.  Let’s just hope these same researchers do not turn their attention to Holocaust studies or Warsaw University might get to have an international incident on its hands.  That it hasn’t thus far, speaks volumes about the quality of the academic environment there.

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August 19, 2016

On “Frankish Cosmography”

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A poem discovered by H. Pertz in the 19th century became known (thanks to the title that the discoverer gave to his edition of it – see below) as the “Frankish Cosmography”.  Much like Widsith it is a list of tribes and places (though, in this case, not individual names) in Europe and abroad.  It exists in several manuscripts, each of which is slightly different.  Since most are available online, we give the list after Pertz:

  • French – (discovered by Pertz in 1827) – an 11th century manuscript – number 5091 in French National Library;
  • French – (discovered by Pertz in 1827) – a 10th century manuscript- Versus de provinciis parcium mundi;
  • Würzburg – (discovered by Pertz in 1833) – a 9th century manuscript- de globo mundi et coniecturae orbis versus – only last 21 verses;
  • Universitaets Bibliothek zu Leyden – (discovered by Pertz in 1833?) – a 9th century manuscript – versus de asia et de universi mundi rota – Codex Vossianus 69 in Quarto;

Finally, the oldest manuscript known is the following:

  • Saint Gallen number 2 – middle of 8th century;


The reference to the Slavs and to the Wends is in the context of the Danube (it immediately follows a reference to the Suevi but the two are clearly treated as separate):


Danubius currit per longum              inter gentes maximas,

Fluvios largos ministrat              et Sclavis pabulat,

Chunis pergit medianis,              Winidisque satiat.


Danube runs its length              among [to the needs of] great nations,

[this] generous river ministers              and [it] nourishes the Slavs,

[it] runs,cuts through the Huns              satiates the Wends.


The language in the Saint Gallen version is a little bit different but conveys the meaning:


And here is the poem in full in Latin.  The electronic version is from Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Poetae Latini nevi Carolini, 4, 2.3 (IV)).  The pdfs are from Pertz’ edition.  The differences are due to different manuscripts, the various emendations and to the free spirit of the scriveners (e.g., one manuscript says “camels” another “griffins”!).



Asia ab Oriente           vocata antiquitus

A regina, cuius nomen            funxit in imperio;

Hec in tertiaque parte            orbis est disposita.

Ab oriente orto solis,           mare a meridie,

Ab occiduoque mare           Tyrreno coniungitur,

Septentrione fluviale           Tanieque cingitur.

Habet primum paradisi            ortorum dilicias,

Omni genere pomorum            consitus qui graminat,

Habet etiamque vite           lignum inter medias.

Non est estus neque frigus,           sincera temperies ,

Fons manat inde perennis           fluitque in rivolis.

Post peccatum interclusus           est primevi hominis.

Circumseptus est undique           rumpheaque ignita ,

Ita pene usque celos           iungitque incendia;

Angelorum est vallatus           Cherubin presidia.

India habet in ipsa,           opulenta patria,

Gentes plurimas que gestat           atque magna oppida;

Insula quoque Taprobane           elefantes nutricat.


Auro, argento est fecunda,           atque pluras gemmulas,

Crisolitos et berillos,           adamantis, carbunculos,

Leonitas, margaritas,           unionis pullulat;

Septacum mirandam avem           et in canto nubile,

Unicornus atque griffas           et dracones cimeras;

Ibi sunt aurei montes,           quos custodunt bestias.

Partia et Aracusa,           simul et Asiria,

Media iuncta est prope           communisque Persida,

Babillonia, intra que           sunt confuse linguas.

Arabia thure ornata           et in saltis cinnama;

Nascitur ibique mirra           et sardonix gemmula;

Fenix nuncupatur aves,           que renascit mortua.

Palestina et Judea,           simul et Samaria,

Pentapolis et Galilea,           Egyptus et Scytia,

Bactriana et Archana,           candescit Albania.

Armenia sicque consurgit,           iuncta est Hiberia

Cappadociaque,           minor oriturque Asia,

Galatia nuncupatur,           nectit prope Frigia.


Lidia sedis antiqua           cum torrentes aureas,

Et Ysauria salubris,            prominet Cilicie,

Et Licia inter ipsas           montem gestat Cimeras,

Cuius ignis flammas mittit           et nocturnis estibus,

In Sicilia ut Ethna,           Vesulis Campania,

Ita flagrat flamina iugis           vivensque per tempora.

Ad Euruppa properemus,           Agenoris filia,

Quam Jovis raptam adsumpsit           duxitque in Grecia,

Et aurum corrupit primum,           nomen dedit patrie.

Scitia vocata prima           Euruppe provincia,

Meotidis paludes iuncta           sistitque Alania;

Vertitur exinde locus,           nuncupatur Dacia.

Unde Gotia emanat           adversus Dalmatia,

Pannonia, a Penninis           nomen que conglomerat,

Cispitem uberem ferens           iumentis ad pabula.

Germania nuncupatur           iuncta Reno flumine,

Ubi sunt gentes amare           et grandevi corpore,

Obdurati corde,           seve celi partis incole.


Animo feroci sistunt           semperque indomiti,

Rapto vivunt et venato           per venena toxice;

Plurime in ipsis locis           variantur lingue.

[Tolerantes , Samsivari , Quadi , Tungri , Chamasi ,

Marcomanni et Tubantes , Blangiani, Bructeri:

Frendentes …. verba contabescent labiis.]*

* this does not appear in the Pertz edition, only in MGH.

Suevorum parsque inter quos           aquilonis vindicant,

Quorum pagos centum narrant           simul et familias .

Mons Suevus est vocatus,           a quo nomen inchoat.

Danubius currit per longum           inter gentes maximas,

Fluvius largus,ministrat           et eSclavis pabula ,

Chunis pergit medianis           Winidisque sociat .

Interfuso ociano           ibi manent Saxones ,

Agiles et cor durati           et in armis validi ,

Scridifinni et Frisones           valentque piratici .

Franci demum a Francone           nomen prius sumpserunt,

Animati et feroces           regna plura ceperunt,

Modo tenent christiani           cum divino munere.

Gallia Belgica est dicta           infra Rino et Sigona,

Ubi sunt villas regales           et venusti principes.

Ad bellandum fortes viri,           pugnando terribiles.


Lugdunensis est vocata           Gallie provincia,

Quam insidunt Burgundiones           cum ingente gloria;

Rodanus fluit per ipsam           tendens in eSpania.

Neustria vocatur inde           ultra ripa Sigone ,

Iuncta litus ociani           pertingens ad Ligere ,

Patria fecunda nimis,           coniuncta ad Brittones .

Aquitania consurgit,           maxima provincia,

Ligeris limbo exorta           usque in Dornonia,

Et Garonna circumfusa           currit per planicia .

Gabirus sicque Adurus           exilent de montibus ,

Wascones incolent terram           per divexa vallium ,

Septimania interque           pertingens ad Alpibus .

Spania ab Hibero prius           dicta est Hiberia,

Spalo postea vocata,           unde nunc eSpania;

Tercioque nomen vertit,           narratur eSperia.

Inter Africa est sita           et Gallia patria,

Conclusa undique mare           et montium cacumina,

Salubris et fecunda           frugis simulque et vineas.

Copia gemmarum magna,           metallis ditissima ;

Flumina currunt per ea           Hiberus et Mineas ,

Tagus aurum gignit multum           simul atque Pactolus .


Africa nascitur inde,           tertia particula ,

Marmorem mirum diffundit,           exornantur platee ,

Trecentorum sexaginta           tribus pollet oppidis .

[Mauritania est vocata a colore populi

Semiusti , denigrati per solarem circulum;

Habens flumen magnum Malvam , que currit per Africa.]

[Silvas magnas secus flumen plenas circum bestiis

Gignit , feras et dracones , strucciones , simias ,

Olim simul elefantes cum ingente corpora.]

[Ethiopia est dicta …..

……. iuncta a meridie .

Ethiopum cutis dira , atramento similis.]


Unicornos et camelos , basiliscos nutricat ,

Pardos simul et dracones , fronte gestant gemmulas.]*

* this does not appear in the Pertz edition, only in MGH.

Italia olim a Grecis           obsessa adquiritur,

Deinde autem a Saturno           nomen tali censetur;

Longa est in circuitu,           lata minus panditur.

Habet lacumque Venacum,           Avernum et Lucrinum

Fluviumque Eridanum           et Tiberim maximum;

Sic tepentes manat fontes           Baias , gemmas tribuit.

Tuscia atque Etruria           iuncta finem Tiberis,

Ubi Romola est sita           et est civis nobilis;

In imperio est caput           cunctisque provintiis.

Tracia atque Hiberus,           Hilladas. Dalmatia,

Peloponensis et Thessali,           iuncta Macedonia,

Achaia atque Archadia,           nectitque Pannonia.

[Pertz also has another verse here re: Africa]

Sicilia a rege Secano           vocata antiquitus,

Premontoria Pirorum,           Pacinum et Libenum,

Ab Italia disiuncta           fretumque exiguum.


Terra fructum multum (gignit),           aurum habundantius,

Per cavernas penetratur           ventorum espiritus,

Sulphureum habet odorem           ignemque perpetuum.

Clauditur ambitus trium           stadiorum milium,

Narrat scriptura            ut puta Salustius




In Sicilia 〈 ut 〉 Ethna novem           ardent iugiter.

Britannia in ociano,           mareque concluditur

Quadragies octies quinque           septuaginta milibus;

Uberes emanat fontes,           terraque fructifera.

Taratus insula,           Tyle et Archadis plurimas;

Hibernia maxima floret           multa sapientia,

Vermiumque sic purgata,           apium aculia.

Huc usque in ociano           repperuntur insule;

Multe sunt in sino maris,           quas ignorant homines;

Si quis vellit perlustrare,           multum habet pergere.


Copyright ©2015 All Rights Reserved

September 14, 2015

Not Even Wrong

Published Post author

Piotr Kaczanowski, was the head of the Jagiellonian University’s history department (though himself an archeologist – we guess, he was a man of many interests).

He was a student of the unlamented Kazimierz Godłowski and the apple did not fall far from the tree.  In one of the more recent articles whose translation was forwarded to us, Kaczanowski wrote the following about a recent archaeology conference designed to prove, once and for all, that Slavs (Poles and others) must have come from somewhere else and that Poland was previously populated by Vandals…  Given our recent investigation of the matter, we found such a definitive conclusion to be troubling.  It appeared to be based on no evidence known to us (or anyone else, it seems).  So we were curious about this article.  We review portions of it here.

Vandalizing Polish History

We give voice to Kaczanowski (commentary, as always, in red):

“The Lugii are identified [by whom he does not say] with the Przeworsk culture which existed in southern and central Poland for over 600 years…”

Not sure where he got the 600 years but let’s not quibble – so far so good…

“The name of the Lugii is assumed [by whom?] to come from the Celtic language because of Celtic names of towns such as Lugudunum, Lugidunum or the Celtic God Lug.”

But where were these towns?  Also, why is “dunum” an exclusively Celtic name?  Was Go-dunum, then a Celtic town?  Do we have Celts at the Baltic?  Or did the Goths live in Celtic towns?  Or, are we simply dealing with a situation where the name of the town is known second-hand from another tribe?)

And why stop there!  There is always the Russian river Luga – were Celtic Lugii all the way up there too? 

Also, what is the evidence for the existence of the Celtic God Lug?  Well, there is the God Lugh – a trickster (Loki?) – in Ireland.  Is there any reason to believe that the Celtic God Lugh was worshipped in Poland?  Would it not be simpler to assume that Lugii simply meant what the word still means in Croatian – groves?  

And if we assume Celts in Poland and Celts in Ireland, why can’t we assume, as the same people, Veneti in Poland, Veneti on the Adriatic and Veneti in county Gwynedd? (one might be a touch snide and point out that Wales is closer to Poland than Ireland…) 

But then he says what he really wants to say (i.e., the Celts are not really good enough for him):

“The Przeworsk culture, however, cannot be seen as a Celtic culture.  It arose, it is true among other cultures based on their contributions [really!?], but its people were certainly part of some other, non-Celtic ethnic group.  The written sources mention too other peoples, which lived in the basins of the Odra and the Vistula in the first two centuries after christ. Based on the information conveyed by Ptolemy one can judge that, in the basin of the Odra there lived the Burgundians.  Their presence in the Polish lands is confirmed by a later author, the sixth century Ostrogoth Jordanes, in a passage,  probably relating to the events of the third century.”

Ptolemy does place the Burgundians somewhere along the Oder – possibly extending to the Vistula.  But Jordanes does not mention where the Burgundians lived. The incident that Kaczanowski is referring to is (we think) the incident of the attack on the Burgundians by the Gepids  who, as per Jordanes, dwelt on an island at the mouth of the Vistula.  But no such islands currently exist so it is not clear what this means.  And, as we have argued before, it is at least possible, that the names of the Vistula and Oder have been mixed up by ancient writers.  And, elsewhere when discussing the Gepid embassy to the Goths, Jordanes states that the Gepid king complains of the need for more Lebensraum since he is “hemmed in by rugged mountains and dense forests.”  No such mountains exist anywhere near the Baltic.  Were the Gepids claiming all of Central Europe then, hemmed in by the Carpathians?  The Alps?  

All that notwithstanding, Jordanes does not say anywhere where the Burgundians then dwelt when they were attacked by the Gepids.  Or who the Burgundians were (though apparently not kin to the Gepids or Goths – and Romans, apparently, also used this term in a non-ethnic sense of “city dwellers”).  

Not to mention that Jordanes may have been of Alan not Goth heritage, ahem – but why quibble.

“According to other information of Ptolemy’s one can assume that, there lived along the Oder, most likely in Silesia, another Germanic tribe, the Silingae.”

As we have repeatedly stated, Ptolemy does not say anything of the sort.  Kaczanowski wants Ptolemy to say that but that is about it.   Also, Ptolemy does not say anywhere that the Burgundians were a Germanic tribe in the sense that Kaczanowski is using the name.  Unless, of course, one thinks that the Amerikaner are also a Germanic “tribe” because their name comes from Amerigo Vespucci.

“Archaeology delivers data indicating that, within the Przeworsk culture, there existed also Vandalic tribes.  And written sources confirm that around the year 170, during the Marcomannic Wars… Vandal tribes of Hasdings, Lacrings and Victofals, journeying somewhere from the North, reached the borders of Dacia.”

This is just BS with, likely, a healthy mix of “untruths.”

First, archaeology is not a Goddess – it is an academic discipline.  Archeologists may or may not believe something but, if they do, they should own up to their beliefs rather than pretending that some unbiased “Archeology” necessitates some findings.  Moreover, on the archeology of Przeworsk see here.

Second, there is nothing Vandalic about pots and pans discovered in Poland or Moravia.  And, if there is or should be, Kaczanowski does not say what it is.  Nor does he say what he means by that statement.  Who are his Vandals?  Would he answer: “the people who made this pottery”?  If so then the circle closes.  If not, then we need something more to designate these as “Vandalic”.  

(Note also that people have problem questioning whether a pot is “Slavic” but if the assertion is “it’s Germanic” – no one questions that.  After all, Germanic tribes lived in those areas so these pots must be Germanic.  And how do we know that Germanic tribes lived there if we do not have any written evidence of it?  Why, it’s the pots and pans of course!  Didn’t we just say they were Germanic!?)

Third, the written sources, say nothing about a “journey” of the Vandals or about the Vandals “reaching” Dacia.  They merely state that certain tribes – some (not all) of whom were – centuries later – “identified” as Vandals invaded the Roman province of Dacia (and not around 170 but in 171… but ok).

(Note that here we move from BS to what seem to be Kaczanowski’s ‘untruths’ (we would say ‘lies’ although we admit the possibility that, notwithstanding him being the head of Jagiellonian University’s history department, he was ignorant of the written sources – maybe their history department is just not very good)).

On the Veneti

After having concluded that the Celts – but especially the Vandals – most assuredly did live in Poland, Kaczanowski goes on also to inform us that the Veneti, were – maybe – located in northern Poland, on the lower Vistula, but, “most probably” were not Slavs.  Instead, they were:

“some other Indoeuropean people whose expansion must have covered enormous parts of Europe, the witness to which fact may be the names of that people strewn among greatly separated lands.  Further, the written sources of the first and second century clearly indicate, that in Central and Eastern Europe there were two separate peoples called by the name Veneti/  One, according to Pliny and Ptolemy on the shore of the Baltic, representing probably a people of Western Baltic stock, that is the future Prussians.  The second, known from Tacitus, located by this author to the East of our [oddly, he seems to mean “Polish” by this] lands.”

“The Slavs appear on the pages of history relatively late.  For the first time they are mentioned, without a doubt, by Jordanes who lived in the sixth century.  His report deal with events occurring in the fourth century when the Slavs had been conquered by the Goths.  This fact allows us to assume that they lived somewhere in Eastern Europe…”

The problems with this half-assed argument are so huge that one could write an essay just on these few paragraphs.

Enormous Spaces

Kaczanowski seems to assume that the Slavs could not have been the Veneti because there were different mentions of the Veneti all over the map of Europe, i.e., Venetis’ expansion, in Kaczanowski’s words, “covered enormous parts of Europe.”

Assuming, however, that the Veneti were a single people, and that single people did cover vast swaths of Europe at a time one has to ask why must it follow that this could not have been Slavs?

(BTW this is not, a priori, necessary, a single wandering people could also pop up in different places – the English were in India and in Gibraltar but not everywhere in between).

Indeed, just below that paragraph, Kaczanowski actually quotes Jordanes’ to assert that the Slavs themselves covered “enormous spaces” – but assumes this was only in really, really Eastern Europe.

So it seems, as a matter of logistics, the Slavs, like the Veneti, could, in Kaczanowski’s view, have covered “enormous spaces” – just not in Western Europe.  Even if one believes that, that belief hardly follows from the sources Kaczanowski cites.

Single People or Many Peoples

Kaczanowski asserts that these “other Indoeuropean” Veneti people must have been a single people (and, as per above, that they were not Slavs).

Why all the Veneti must have been a single and same people is left unclear – elsewhere, for example, some historians have argued that the Veneti name was a German appellation of all Eastern European dwellers (if true, this would mean such people were not necessarily of the same ethnicity but itself has the problem of not accounting for Veneti in Paphlagonia, the Adriatic or Bretagne).

Indeed, a paragraph below that assertion, Kaczanowski goes on to say that there were two different Veneti in Eastern Europe – a portion of the Balts (the Ptolemaic Veneti) and, what he seems to think, were the Slavs (the Tacitean and Jordanian Veneti – but these were really, really East he thinks!).  Thus, he seems to then argue that the Veneti did not, in fact, mean a single people… even though a paragraph earlier he argued the opposite.

What this looks like is someone for whom the Ptolemeic Veneti of the Baltic were not East enough but the Veneti of Tacitus (and Jordanes – again, see below) were – or could be.

To the extent Kaczanowski relies on Tacitus and Jordanes against Ptolemy, such reliance is misplaced.

To give just a few regarding Tacitus:

  • it is absolutely unclear where Tacitus locates the Veneti – we know that they are located “where Suevia” ends.  Where Suevia ends for Tacitus is itself not clear (that could mean as far West as the Elbe and the Oder) and it is possible that Tacitus did not know where the Veneti actually were.
  • there is zero evidence that the Veneti of Tacitus were different from the Veneti of Ptolemy.
  • the Veneti of Ptolemy, whose Geography is far more detailed – in matters of geography (vide name of the book) – than Tacitus’ ethnographic study, are located squarely on the Baltic Sea – e.g., he mentions the Venetic Bay which, by the way, one could argue was the entire Baltic Sea.

Jordanes, on the other hand, describes the Veneti as being all over Central Europe, north of the Danube, but says little about how far North they reach (source of the Vistula at least).  What’s more, if the Musian Lake really is Lake Constance/Bodensee then we would have his Slavs – in the sixth century – pretty much where they were in the centuries following.

The statement that written “sources clearly indicate” that there were two Veneti peoples in Central-Eastern Europe is BS of the smelliest kind.

And creating two people out of one is hardly the simplest solution and why that should be the case is left unclear – other than the fact that Ptolemy has the Veneti on the Baltic Sea, where Kaczanowski does not want them to be…

Kaczanowski points to the Stavanoi, Suebenoi and Serbs of Ptolemy as people that could be “with high likelihood” (where that high likelihood comes from is unclear) “connected” (whatever that means)  with the Slavs.  However, the information about such peoples comes from Ptolemy and neither Tacitus nor Jordanes says anything about the Veneti being any of these people or any of these people being Veneti.  On the other hand, Ptolemy – Kaczanowski’s source for this information – locates the Veneti on the Baltic.

The silliness continues, of course:

Why are the Slavs of Jordanes “without a doubt” current Slavs?

Were the names of these Slavs really Slavic (whatever that means)?  What language did they speak?  The truth is that one can just as easily argue that these people were not the Slavs who live in most of Europe today.  They appear to have come from Eastern Europe and may have been the offspring of Eastern Slavs – but were they related to Western Slavs?  To Southern Slavs?  For the most part they seem to have colonized the approaches to the Byzantine Empire and then, largely, been absorbed into the local population.  Thus, even if they were – possibly – “brothers & sisters” they were not the ancestors of the vast majority of modern Slavs (though may have been the ancestors of some modern Greeks, Turks, Romanians and, of course Bulgarians).

Why does the assertion by Jordanes that the Veneti were conquered by the Goths mean in Kaczanowski’s view that this must have happened far away from the Baltic?

Weren’t the Goths on the Baltic before they spread to the Ukraine?  And does not Ptolemy locate the Veneti on the Baltic?  Or, if Kaczanowski really believes that the Baltic Veneti were not Slavs, why are the Veneti conquered by Goths the “Slavic” Veneti and not the Baltic ones?

There is only so much dishonest and stupid we can deal with so we won’t test the reader’s patience with the remaining portion of his writing (including an archeological survey of Vandalic trinkets).

In any event, Kaczanowski concludes that:

“the run of the [archeological] conference, the discussions that took place there, as too the substance of the published excerpts from it, indicate uniformly, that the opponents of the so-called “allochtonist” “Kraków School” do not possess any actual arguments that would speak against the Eastern European [i.e., somewhere in the Pripet Marshes?] cradle of the Slavs.”

Kossina and Kaczynowski

Left to Right, Godłowski, Kossina and Kaczanowski – as they looked in better days

The only thing that can qualify as even worse junk science that we came across recently is Herwig Wolfram’s description of the origins of the Vandals. (We guess, the Vandals, even after all these years, bring out the worst in people).

The Perp’s Other Affiliations

Kaczanowski was a member of the Board of an organization about whose mission, we wrote previously – let us recite what they say about themselves:

“There is urgent [sic] need for a thorough new study of the cultural, social, ethnic, demographic and environmental transition observed in Central Europe during the Migration Period… Input from our Project is expected to essentially alter views commonly accepted in archaeology, late Antiquity and early medieval history, palaeodemography and palaeobotany, especially, on the causes and course of settlement in Central Europe on the turn of Antiquity and Middle Ages, demographic and ethnic processes, the extent of colonisation, destruction and regeneration of the natural environment. We expect a significant impact on the public in and outside Poland, particularly, their sense of identity which has its roots in the Migration Period, the time of the first medieval states established over the ruins of the Roman Empire and its periphery.  The fictitious “proto-Slav past” of Poland will now be replaced with hard facts.  By broadcasting the research results, both in traditional form (conferences, publications and exhibitions) and especially, in an interactive form (e.g., presentations on the web, including social networking sites, and also, during themed picnics), and through mass media, we expect to promote interest, especially of the younger generation, in past changes in civilisation for a better understanding of the modern age.

(this is from the National Center for Science – this center is located in Poland but which “nation” it refers to is a matter of debate)

And Why That Matters

As per today’s New York Times, the “German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, took the unusual step of publishing a 10-point action program for Europe to avoid an open rift on migration policy.  Brussels is not at fault, a senior German government official said Monday. Rather it is up to individual governments in the 28 European Union member states to persuade their publics to take in refugees and treat them well.”


Members of the Krakow School of Polish archeology attend a meeting with their boss

In other words, the European governments are not supposed to serve their own people but rather to take on new people (the same people that other European governments do not want). Or, put differently, the low-breeding German establishment with its Lügenmedien (German compound words are second to none!) do not want anymore migrants because they fear social upheaval and plan to dump them everywhere else, including, in Central Eastern Europe.  Of course, these migrants do not really want to be in the poorer parts of the continent but once you put them in shelters and provide government assistance, the whole thing will be institutionalized.  If Polish assistance could be made higher than German, a further incentive could be created.  Of course, Central Europe can’t afford this but the German government may be willing to pay.

Given the relative birthrates and wealth gaps, was this not foreseeable?  And if it was did not the Germans foresee it (this is a rhetorical question – people have been talking about these kinds of issues for decades).  And if they have, have they acted to soften up Central European publics’ resistance to the concept?  And, if so, when did they start acting? 1989?  How was such softening done?  By putting influential historians, archeologists, etc, on the bandwagon?  How?

Reports are being made public wherein European agencies admit they cannot cope with the number of nutcases in their countries… Hardly surprising.  Central Europeans have the distinct advantage – this time – to have gotten a clear warning.  If experience of Western Europe is not something that can teach them to take care of themselves, nothing will.  And they will, likely, not get another chance.

Final Thoughts

To be clear, we are not offended by the notion of the Slavs coming from somewhere East (in fact, we have recent posts such as this one suggesting some “Eastern” connections), from America or from Mars – but – this must be based on honest review of sources and not on the perceived needs of current politics, considerations of international relations, personal biases, axes that people want to grind or other, even less savory causes.

May Lugh or Loki have mercy on Kaczanowski’s soul.

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


August 25, 2015

Whatever Remains, However Improbable

Published Post author

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

Politicizing Roots

Published Post author

Every once in a while we come across information that sheds some light on a particularly convoluted topic (which usually is a good opportunity to do some ranting – for those who do not care for rants, see you next time).

Sometimes, such information radically changes our previously held views, at other times it adds needed confirmation to what has long been suspected.  A fascinating example of the latter has come to our attention, courtesy of the University of Warsaw and the Polish Education Ministry.  But first for some brief background.

19th Century – First Half of the 20th Century

In this period, the discussion about Germans and Slavs on the territory of present Poland (specifically, in the Oder and Vistula area was a shouting match between the hyper nationalists of the German school who, in order to justify continued territorial claims in the East, concocted  theories that denied any room for the existence of Slavs in the same area (or indeed in Central Europe) before the 5th and maybe even 6th centuries.  There were many proponents of this view from:

  • the seemingly dim Johann Kaspar Zeuss, best remembered in the words of a poem:

Was man nicht deutsch erklären kann,

Das sieht man gleich als keltisch an

(What can’t possibly be explained as Germanic, that is immediately seen as Celtic)

  • the proto-Nazi Gustaf Kossina (member of the “Nordic Ring” society, loving teacher of such luminaries as SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans Schleiff), to
  • the Noble prize winning Theodor Mommsen – in eigenen Worten:

 “the Czech skull is impervious to reason, but it is susceptible to blows

and once more:

In any event, much more will fall away from the German Nation than the children of Israel, when its current form is corrected [durchkorrigiert] to fit with Tacitus’ Germania.  Mr. Quatrefages had shown many years ago that only the central states [of Germany] are truly German and that the Prussian race is a mass of peoples made up of reprobate Slavs and all kinds of other waste of humanity.

(to be clear, this was written by Mommsen to defend (!) Jews against Treitschke  In other words, Mommsen’s view was, “yes, Jews are, of course, not Germans but, come on, look at all the other crap that we have living here in Germany”)

And many, many others who sacrificed scientific objectivity for their exploration of inner demons, pursuit of careers and raw politics.


Mommsen’s “Durchkorrigierung” Begins

The fact that Mommsen was Danish and Kossina Polish should provide some exculpation for the Germans as well as a window into the twisted souls of some of these creatures (of course, if one were to go through Germany with a magnifying glass and see who actually has Scandinavian ancestors, many, many more Kossinas would first be found – many with names you would never have guessed were not Nordic).

14th December 1945: Huddling in blankets the only survivors of an original 150 Polish people who walked from Lodz in Poland to Berlin hoping to find food and shelter. They are waiting by a railway track hoping to be picked up by a British army train and given help. (Photo by Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images)

Side Effects of Mommsen’s “Durchkorrigierung”

Since, with the exception of tiny Serbia, there were no independent (not counting the Romanov Empire’s prison of nations) Slavic nation-states throughout most of the 19th century (people should remember that when bemoaning the effects of World War I), any response to this kind of “science” had to be a private one.  And, indeed, many Czechs, Poles and others undertook to tackle this kind of behaviour financing their activities and publications often out of their own private funds given official indifference or even hostility.  It was an uphill battle for it was fought against the machinery of the state but, in the end, it was victorious.

Even if for only a little while.

21st Century 

Compared to the many works produced by scholars roughly through the mid-20th century, what strikes one today is the paucity of decent (forget good, how about merely decent!) scholarship regarding Slavs.  There literally has not been a single respectable book published in English-speaking academia in over 50 years.  The situation in the local Slavic publishing world is not much better.  What gives?  People too busy with their every day lives to write or read about this stuff?  Maybe.  But is that it?

The response to the question of the autochtonous nature of the Slavs in Central Europe once again seems to shed some light on what may be going on.

If in the 19th century German historiography had a political goal of incorporating Slavs into the German nation – as Germans; if during the (late) Nazi time, the goal became separation and subjugation of those who would not hop on board; nowadays, a new goal is on the horizon.

Puzzle Palace

Whereas before Slavic autochtonism was a stumbling block on the road to consolidation of the lands of the overstretched reformed Germany Empire, now Slavic authochtonism is a major problem for the plans laid out for Europe in general.  Since, as we see recently, the party line is that anyone can come to Europe and anyone can be a European, the idea of a “native” or indigenous population is not too popular an idea.

After all, if there are “natives” then, one might ask, whether it is the natives that have a right to their lands – a right, tentatively speaking, greater than anybody else.  Greater than others from within Europe and certainly greater than others from outside.

But in the age of globalization this presents a problem.  The economics and demographics of Europe in relation to the economics and demographics of nearly everywhere else outside of Asia are such that a migration stream is all but inevitable as people are swept up by dreams of a better life somewhere else.

The elites have no mechanisms for dealing with the underlying structural problems in the origin countries except foreign aid…  [Now, if you thought that the various foreign aid programs have an uncanny resemblance to the kind of “stipends” that the Byzantines and Romans paid to their barbarians, you would not be the only one thinking that (you’ve got to wonder how much of what got paid to Gothic kunungs and Avar khagans ended up back in Constantinople’s bank vaults).]

All the Western elites can really try to do is to try to influence (one way or another) the future host populations.

And whereas no one cares about migrations to third world countries because whatever strife or misery such a migration may cause, the global impact of such upheavals is unlikely to create anything other than misery and violence in the given locality, e.g., the UAE or South Africa – Europe (and America, Japan) is different.

If the Europeans were to try to object to all of this, things could get proverbially ugly.  Europe has, ahem, a history.  And Europe has the technological capabilities to create a rather nasty “reactionary” regime.  In this respect, realistically, a regime that could halt or reverse some of these global trends would not be a democratic regime and such a regime could, for example, seek nuclear weapons, etc, etc, etc.

This is a problem (though, again, not just for Europe) because while the rich and powerful of this world do not determine the world’s course and had not planned any of this, neither do they want to be swept along with all of its currents – if they were there just for the ride, they would not be rich and powerful for long.  And, once someone has power, then, of course, that someone is unlikely to willingly want to surrender it.  So managing inevitable change (or at least inevitable to those that believe that the cure would be worse than the disease) becomes extremely relevant.

In this respect, Germany is the key to Europe and it has recently become clear Germany has been either successfully pacified…

(Proponents of the “pacification view” point to recent events such as the fact that the German football team will no longer be the Nationalmannschaft – just the Mannschaft.  No more national, in other words, in Germany (whether this suggests that some players on the team are, ahem, not German or whether using the word “Mann” is offensive to women folk, are the kinds of political mines that we will let the Germans, or what’s left of them, decide)).

… or at least co-opted to play a policeman role (at least on this matter).

But to be serious, these people are not evil – rather, they have that endearing combination of both being robustly filled with utter certitude as well as being entirely clueless]

And the pacification or co-optation of Germany means that Germany can now be used (or, again, can do so, reassessing its interests, willingly) to pacify or co-opt others.  After all, it is a model democracy and the most inclusive country on the continent (and there is that export-driven economy which is its Achilles heel).  Why not use it as a cudgel to help others fall in line?  All you have to appeal to is German sense of humanity and democracy (for some would be cudgelers) and to German nationalism (for other, unreformed, cudgelers).  After all, in the end, it does not matter why they will do what they will do.

This is why, once again, historical truth regarding Slavs (and others) becomes hostage to the day’s politics – this time on a global stage.

Dispeling and Deconstructing “National Myths”

And so, it is difficult not to notice that, beginning in the 1990s (or late 1980s even) the German juggernaut was being repurposed as a steamroller against the resurgence of ugly Slavic nationalism.  Foundations and institutes were established.  Scientific articles were written.  And donations and subsidies were handed out to understanding individuals and various “independent” organizations all over Central Europe.

Sometimes, the results of such deconstructive scholarship were quite amusing:

  • as when one would be scholar of the topic tried to argue that a migration myth has always been an appealing myth to the Slavic nationalist.

Thereby wonderfully illustrating that all that took place in the ’90s was a dusting off of the various essays earlier written by the same crowd about the Germanen (who, if by this term we mean the Norse, in our view, really did – originally – come out of Scandinavia but did not then walk into empty lands);

To all prospective deconstructors: if you aim to deconstruct our national myths then, at least, have the common courtesy of deconstructing our national “myths” not those of other peoples!

  • or when another thinker constructed a theory of Slavic identity as imposed from above and the Slavic “nation” basically being a collection of pre-existing populations;

Then had to quickly backpedal when he realized that this effectively legitimized the so-called Venetic Theory…

In all of this, history and truth do not matter.  Europeans are being reeducated and Slavs were just accepted as full-fledged passengers on the Euro-tanic.

But we are being only half-serious when pointing the finger at the “globalists”.

Facts are what they are and the globalists only ride with them.  Moreover, the Germans, no doubt, think they have a very good reason to reeducate the East independent of any pan-European or globalist designs – the more accepting the Slavs are of “Others”, the fewer “Others” end up in Germany… The fewer riots in Germany, etc.

After all, wasn’t Poland the dumping ground of, to quote one illustrious German Noble Prize winner, “all kinds of … waste of humanity“? Why not again?

(stories about German industrial waste being dumped in Central Europe and Baltics are aplenty so why not refugees?)

And this should help answer the question of why the nature of Slavic scholarship is – recently – of such very, very poor quality.

A Case in Point

Let’s just take a look at one modest example.

This Polish website: is advertised as created by the “National Center for Science” (“national” for how much longer?) which on its page states:

“There is urgent [sic] need for a thorough new study of the cultural, social, ethnic, demographic and environmental transition observed in Central Europe during the Migration Period. A greatly improved recognition of these processes may be gained by taking a diachronic and interdisciplinary approach.  This is precisely the aim of our 5-year Project began in mid-2012 – to investigate in a comprehensive manner processes observed between the late 4th and early 7th century on the Odra and the Vistula. This region could be crucial for tracing the processes sweeping across Europe. From here the Germans – the Goths and the Vandals spilled out and played their part in the fall of the Western Roman Empire, setting up their first states over its ruins.”

One might ask, why is there an “urgent” need to study these processes of “transition” now?  What makes it urgent now?  Is it perhaps the fact that Europe is experiencing an unprecedented migration by non-Europeans – something that was entirely foreseeable for the last 50 years?

The website states its purpose in plain (albeit slightly broken) English:

“Input from our Project is expected to essentially alter views commonly accepted in archaeology, late Antiquity and early medieval history, palaeodemography and palaeobotany, especially, on the causes and course of settlement in Central Europe on the turn of Antiquity and Middle Ages, demographic and ethnic processes, the extent of colonisation, destruction and regeneration of the natural environment. We expect a significant impact on the public in and outside Poland, particularly, their sense of identity which has its roots in the Migration Period, the time of the first medieval states established over the ruins of the Roman Empire and its periphery.  The fictitious “proto-Slav past” of Poland will now be replaced with hard facts.  By broadcasting the research results, both in traditional form (conferences, publications and exhibitions) and especially, in an interactive form (e.g., presentations on the web, including social networking sites, and also, during themed picnics), and through mass media, we expect to promote interest, especially of the younger generation, in past changes in civilisation for a better understanding of the modern age.

[note that the underlined language was highlighted by the authors of this quote]

This is not a conspiracy.  It’s a consensus.  It’s as open as possible.  They are basically saying that:

  • ONE: the dispute about the proto-Slavic past is now over and Proto-Slavs re a “fiction”

Notice this itself is a curious claim – have there been new sources of information discovered?  Did someone find Cassiodorus’ Chronicle and we just missed it?;  if the dispute is, in fact, over then why does the Project have to “essentially alter views commonly accepted in archaeology, late Antiquity and early medieval history, palaeodemography and palaeobotany.”  These are not views of the “common people” after all.  (If you have a neighbor that is hard-core into palaeobotany, please let us know, we’ll get him on Oprah).

Why do the views of a scientific community have to be “essentially altered” if this is all so uncontroversial?

  • TWO: the aim of the project is to change the sense of identity of the Poles (though we can only assume that similar projects are underway in other European and Slavic countries) especially young people.

Now, almost all of the team members of this illustrious Project team are Polish.  Although you get some curious cases such as Jan Schuster and others either have German names or some past German connection.  Nonetheless, some of that is to be expected given the geographic closeness of Poland and Germany and, in and of itself, would not raise many eyebrows.

But then we get to the Steering Committee.  After all, you just can’t have a serious vehicle for change if the vehicle is improperly steered.  So who are the political officers of this outfit and where do they hail from?

  • Prof. dr hab. Karl-Ernst Behre
    • Niedersaechsisches Institut fuer historische Kuestenforschung
      Viktoriastrasse 26-28, D-26382 Wilhelmshaven
  • Prof. dr hab. Claus von Carnap-Bornheim
    • Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie
      Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinnische Landesmuseen
      Schloss Gottorf D-24837 Schleswig but also
      Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte
      Christian-Albrecht Universität zu Kiel
      Johanna-Mestorf-Straße 2-6
      D-24098 Kiel
  • Prof. Ulla Lund Hansen
    • Saxo-Instituttet
      København Universitet
      Njalsgade 80
      DK-2300 København

Thankfully, the natives (sorry, not natives, Slavs) are represented as well!

  • Prof. dr hab. Andrzej Kokowski
    • Instytut Areologii
      Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej
      Pl. Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej 4
      PL-20-031 Lublin
  • Prof. dr hab. Piotr Kaczanowski
    • [DECEASED]

Needless to say the Polish Culture Ministry also has no funds to sponsor digs to test the Y-DNA of Roman and pre-Roman age populations on the territory of Poland.

Go figure.


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

July 1, 2015

On the Discipline of Linguistics

Published Post author

We are reminded to use a safety or trigger word before discussing unpleasant or difficult topics – to protect the fragile minds of our readers.  We do not think a word can have the desired protective “alert” effect.  So from now on we will use a “safety picture” – this one – which will signify an upcoming quasi-cerebral section (quasi because this is a blog not a textbook – readers with 90 plus IQs will not notice anything):


WARNING: head explosion danger ahead! Consult your physician, have cold compresses on standby and if proceeding at all, for God’s sakes read slowly!!!

Linguistics is an interesting discipline with much to say about language formation, history, etc.  However, we are moved to point out that linguistics is not, as some would have it, a science.  It is no more than the study of patterns, which patterns may or may not be there in reality.  It should then be obvious that the linguists’ “laws” or “rules” are nothing of the sort.  They are in fact merely observations that may, if they are well laid out, more often than not, inform our assessment of some unknown quantity.  Their usefulness should be appreciated for they come against the backdrop of pre-19th century beliefs in the essential randomness of language development.  But, at the same time, their predictions should never be stated with the hubris of absolute certainty, deserving instead, and depending on the scenario, a good mark to the extent they produce more likely than not results in the observable realm of language.  As regards, the languages of the past, however, we must not forget that the linguists’ predictions can almost never be actually tested (we say almost never because one can imagine scenarios where some new artifact hitherto unknown comes to light and proves or sinks the validity of some prediction).  Even physics admits the existence of essentially random events via the propositions of quantum dynamics and linguistics, if anything, should be humbler than physics and certainly humbler than its professors frequently make it out to be.

That is to state the obvious.  But another observation here is, we think, useful.  Linguists live in their own world and seek to establish their propositions for reasons of their own.  To achieve that they frequently borrow from historians and archeologists without analyzing what the “other-disciplinary crutch” they just borrowed actually rests on.  When historians and archeologists look for their own crutch by, in turn, relying on linguists statements (and they should all fess up because, loathe that they may be to admit it, they – being all academics – actually do borrow from across the intra disciplinary aisle) it may happen that both sides come to realize, too late, that there is, in fact, no crutch there at all.

As we have seen already, historians have asserted that linguistics may help us determine the location of the “homeland” of the Slavs.  These ingenious folks took a look at certain words and, seeing as some of them were described by their colleagues the linguists as Germanic, classified them too as such and proceeded in turn to appropriate areas where such words may have relevance for the Germanic tribes and conversely exclude from those areas the Slavs.  This logic has its evident problems such as, for example, assuming the assumption as to the nature of a given word is correct, one must further assume no existence in the remote past of a similar Slavic word that then was not replaced by a Germanic one for a variety of reasons.  Nonetheless, as no one can be expected to prove a negative we are willing to let such considerations be put aside initially.  There is however another problem here.  The linguists themselves are interested only in linguistics and they look to the historians to help them with their own assumptions.  This raises what is a classic “chicken and the egg” problem.

Sometimes, the linguists can own the entire chicken/egg problem themselves even without resorting to other disciplines.  To give one recent example from the otherwise very interesting “The Germanic loanwords in Proto-Slavic” book by Saskia Pronk-Tiethoff:

“In view of the probable location of the Proto-Slavic and the Proto-Germanic homelands, it is highly unlikely that the contacts between the Slavic and Germanic tribes started before the time the Proto-Slavs began to spread into central Europe and onto the Balkans, and before the time the Goths had moved into the Pontic area.  It can therefore be excluded that any Slavic loanwords were borrowed into Proto-Germanic, for when the first contacts came about, Proto-Germanic as a linguistic unity had ceased to exist.  If it is possible to prove or put a convincing case for Proto-Slavic loanwords in Germanic, these must therefore be words that were either borrowed into Gothic or into West Germanic (or possibly even into Northwest Germanic); if an alleged loan-word is attested in all branches of Germanic, the word is hardly likely to stem from Slavic.”*

In other words, if you want to determine the homeland of the Slavs, you cannot use linguistics to do that.  Why?  Because linguistics cannot answer what was borrowed from what without relying on assumptions about the location of such a “homeland.”

So… take a word a version of which appears in all Germanic languages.  Say, buk for our notorious beech tree.

This word is Germanic in origin.


Because it cannot have come from Slavic.


Because it is in all Germanic languages and therefore must have been in Proto-Germanic.

So what?

Well, Slavs did not live close enough to Germans when there was in existence one proto-Germanic language so Slavic > Germanic cannot have occurred.

How do we know that?

Because Slavs do not have their own word for a beech tree.

But don’t they have buk?

No, silly – we’ve already explained that this is a Germanic word (see above).

End of story.

So what does this actually look like? Like this:

[S-T at 4.1.4 discussing “Proto-Slavic” homeland: “Proto-Slavic inherited the word[s] for beech… which was borrowed from Germanic – see 5.2” below and, therefore, according to her, the proto-Slavic homeland must have been to the East of the beech line – so now we know where the proto-Slavic homeland was]

[S-T at 5.2 discussing “beech”: “The word could have been borrowed by the Slavs in connection with the writing on slabs of beechwood… Alternatively, the borrowing might be connected to the spread of the Slavs from their original homeland to the west [as we know this location was established at 4.1.4 above]”; S-T then talks here about the Kaliningrad/Elbe-Odessa line and concludes regarding buk: “origin: Germanic” – stating that the only thing that is yet unknown is which Germanic language the borrowing was made from]

This kind of an issue is more easily determinable (assuming you are willing to scratch your head for a moment) but S-T’s other gymnastics actually require some effort to look behind the curtain.  She says, for example, that Slavic did not have its own marine vocabulary citing Schenker’s work.  If you actually trouble yourself, however, and shell out some cash or visit a library, you will note that Schenker does make this claim but… (perhaps this should be obvious?) cites precisely no one for the proposition (it seems that the claim can be traced back to Meillet and we will deal with that in due time).

* This is merely a flavor of the problem.  One may also ask why the word could not have been Proto-Indo European? (Supposedly, amongst other reasons because we know that there are no beech trees in the East and we know that the PIEs migrated from the East.  But did they? We get into the same quandary here).

One too may ask why a Slavic word could not have spread to all Germanic languages after contact was made (In whatever century – even if only in 5th/6th)?

Now, there are other reasons why buk may be Germanic but they are irrelevant to the above illustration which could have been done with any number of other words.

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February 19, 2015