Monthly Archives: May 2015

On Names – Part I

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The interesting thing about ancient Slavic names is that it is difficult to claim with certainty that any of them are “really” Slavic.  For what does it really mean “really Slavic”?  To a modern Slav any name with the following suffixes (or prefixes) would “sound” Slavic:

  • -mir
    • Branimir
    • Dragomir
  • -gost
    • Milogost, Miłogost
    • Riedogost
  • -slav or –sław (i.e., -suav)
    • Boleslav, Bolesław
    • Branislav, Bronisław
    • Yaroslav, Jarosław

The first means “peace” or “world”.  The second “guest”.  The third fame.  All or most of these can be made female by just adding an -a at the end, e.g., Dragomira.


But it is quickly made clear that various Germanic/Scandinavian peoples used similar names.  And so we have the corresponding suffixes (and prefixes):

  • -mar, -mer but also -mir, e.g.:
    • Visimar
    • Merobaudes
    • Vithimiris
    • Geilamir
  • -gast
    • Arvagastes
    • Cunigastus
    • Merogaisus
    • Neviogastus

Slavs Again

To add confusion, the very first Slavic chieftain names are written also with a -mer not necessarily -mir and with a -gast not always -gost.  Thus, for example we have the Slavic (or Antes) chieftains (see here for more details):

  • -mer
    • Mezamer (Antes)
  • – gast
    • Ardagastus
    • Kelagast (Antes)
    • Peiragastus

So were the Slavs led by a Germanic leader class?  Or did the Slavs not have names of their own before they met the Germans?  (OTOH, the Germanic -bod suffix occasionally showed up in Slavic names too as –bud meaning “to be” or “being”).

Thankfully, we can grow some comfort from the fact that the prefix and suffix -slav are 100% pure Slavic.  It may be that the Western Slavs will pronounce that -suav but the Germanic Schwaben never had such names.

Germans Again

Well, not exactly true, they did have names like Suabhard, Swabberaht, Suab, Swab, Suabo, Swap, Suabalah, Suabberi, Suabilo, Suabin, Swabulf, Swabinc, Swabizho, Swapold, Swabperaht, Swabger, Suabgast, Suaphart, Swabahilt, Suaprod, Suabolach (!), Suavarich, Suabrito.  (Most of these are out of Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, volume 16).

But here is another source showing much of the same :

swab1 sawab2

Slavs Return

But at least we still have our suffixes!  And that is how you can tell a true Slav.  Or for that matter a Slava – if we are talking female.  So we have, e.g., the above names

  • Boleslav, Bolesław – great fame
  • Branislav, Bronisław – defender of the fame
  • Yaroslav, Jarosław – strong fame

and the female versions

  • Boleslava, Bolesława
  • Branislava, Bronisława
  • Yaroslava, Jarosława

Thus, we see that the only way to be absolutely sure that we have us a “Slav” is to have a suffix with –slav or -slava in it.

There are just two problems.  Hopefully, they are minor.

First, the meaning of the above words is odd.  Fame is Chwala or Slava but not Slav.  Boguchwal or Boguslav works because the chwal or slav could be a verb in the injunctive.

But Boleslav, Branislav, Yaroslav or for that matter Wladyslaw does not work if slav is meant to be the noun Slava.  That is because the prefix is not a noun that can be modified by a subsequent verb (as in Boguslav/Boguchwal) but rather is an adjective (Bole-) or a verb (Brani- or Yaro-) that modifies the subsequent noun, i.e., -slav.  But if -slav is a noun it cannot mean fame since fame is Slava not Slav.

But maybe it works for the female names?  Well, it’s a bit better but not really convincing.  That is because in Slavic languages the adjective gender has to match up with the noun gender.  So you would have to have had Yaraslava not Yaroslava.  This suggests that the female version is merely a derivative of the male onto which the -a was slapped on.  But the male version does not work as we note above.  Is there a solution?

Well, you could make it work if you thought that Slav was not a reference to any “fame” or “glory” but rather to a person, i.e., to a Slav or, as the Western Slavs would pronounce it, to a Suav.  Then you would have a:

  • Boleslav – Great Slav
  • Bronislav – Defender Slav
  • Yaroslav – Strong Slav (this one does not work perfectly, maybe Yareslav?)
  • Wladyslaw – Ruling Slav

(all pronounced Suav for the Western Slavs if they so insist and yes Wlady, Vald and Veleda are likely Indo-Europeano related)

In other words, now the prefix is an adjective that describes the ethnic Slav.

So we fix the first problem.  And we continue to own our own Slav name.  In fact, we own Slav and the female Slava!  That is how you can tell a Slav or a Slava!


Hippo Regius was a Vandalic-controlled town in Africa.  Many ruins remain to today.  Here is an inscription on one female tomb (dated to 474):


The woman’s husband who gave the dough to pay for this was named Ingomar.  No problem there – sounds very Swedish/Germanic.

So does the woman’s name is – the best scientists inform us – Ermengond, a lovely Germanic name for no doubt a beautiful person.  The name is actually written RMENGON as you can see.  So it seems the husband could not fit the initial “E” or the final “D”.  He did manage to fit in the woman’s ethnic designation, however – SVABA.  Strange, you do not fit the actual name but focus on ethnic details?  Was it that important that the world know that Ermengond was a woman of the Suevi (or as it so happens here Suavi)?  Did it matter that she was not of local stock or of the ruling Vandals or Alans (whatever was left of the latter by that time)?  Or was that, perhaps, part of her name?



Nothing seems sacred to these people!  Now there is that separator dot between the “N” and the “S” so maybe these are two words.  But then we hear (again from the same volume of Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte) of Altswab, Adalswab and Erchanswab.

Other Thoughts

There are other interesting names.  E.g., the ultra-Slavic Bogdan meaning “God’s gift”.  If you want to have fun just change Bog to the Greek θεός/Theo/Theos and you get Theo[s]dan.

Or Bozydar (same meaning) – and you get Theo[s]dar.  And there was that stuff about -ik being a Slavic suffix (bartnik, miecznik, etc).  Or, for that matter the words dar or podarek (meaning a gift or present).  We will return to podarek when discussing Veneti again.

Funny stuff.

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May 30, 2015

On Krak of Cracow

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The original (or at least as original as we think) story of Krak was put to pen by Master Vincentius (Wincenty) aka Kadlubek in his Polish Chronicle.  We have previously explored the origin of the Krak name/persona but did not delve into the actual Krak legend.  Given that we’ve already given space to the legend of Piast, it seems fitting that we should also finally get to Krak. This then is that story.  (We will also get to the Czech Krok, of course!)

(The chronicle is in the form of a dialogue between Matthew and John, Polish clergymen that Master Vincentius greatly respected.  For the duration of the Krak tale, Matthew is the one telling the tale while John chimes in with philosophical observations (usually taken from the Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus of Marcus Junianus Justinus).  Since the latter are not relevant to the story of Krak, we’ve left them out and only have Matthew speaking).

The Legend of Krak

“It is said too that at time it was the Gauls who had taken control of almost all of the world.  Our legions killed a great number of them in many a battle.  The ones that remained, a long time harassed, our men compelled to an agreement that stated that, whether by fortune or by bravery, either side should gain something from others, each side should get an equal share.  The Galls received all of Greece and we got the lands running from, on the one side, the country of the Parthians, on the other side all at the way to Bulgaria and on the third side to the borders of Carinthia.  Then after many a battle with the Romans, after braving many a danger of war, they took over cities, setting up regional governors and elected a duke by the name of Gracchus.  But eventually they [it appears that here the author is talking about the Galls] grew indolent in their profligacy, slowly losing their mettle by the debauchery of [their] women [or women running things].  The most noble of this tribe died poisoned and the others bent their heads to the yoke of the locals.  And so those, who could not be defeated by a force of arms, were brought down by the sloth of the few.”


Galls being brought down by women

“From then on many a man was beguiled by a desire to rule.  For that reason, Gracchus, returning from Carinthia, for he had the gift saying deep things, calls a council of the whole troop, has them all face him, gets their support and unites them in obedience [to him].  He says that a headless man like a wounded animal is pathetic.  The same is a body without a soul, the same a lamp without light, the same a world without the sun – as too a country without a king.  For a soul refuels the spirit of bravery, light makes seen the nature of things, the sun too spreads to all its beneficent rays.  With these rays, as with jewels, is encrusted a diadem on a kingly head such that from the brow there shines magnanimity, from the back restraint and from both sides there sends its munificent radiance a garnet of enterprise.  He promises that should they elect him such, then he will not be a king but rather a partner in the kingdom.  For he believes that he was not born for himself but for the whole world [see Lucan].”


Krak explaining his concept of partnership through teamwork

“And so they all greet him as the [new] king.  And he lays down laws and enacts statutes.   And so there arises the seed of our civil law and there takes place its birth.  Because before him freedom had to give way to servitude and right to walk step by step behind injustice.  And that was just which brought the biggest advantage to the wealthiest.  Nevertheless strict justice was not to rule right away.  But from then on it did not yield to great violence, and justice was called that which benefitted that one who can do the least.”

“Poland flourishing thus wonderfully under Gracchus’ leadership would most assuredly recognized his offspring as the most worthy heir to the throne had not the second of his sons been disgraced by the crime of fratricide.”

Of the Dragon 

“For there was in the cracks of a certain rock/boulder a terribly cruel monster, that some used to call ‘whole-eater’ [holophagus, in other writings also draco].  To sate his hunger based on the number of days he was to be given a certain count of cattle.  Should the inhabitants fail to deliver the same offerings they would be punished by the monster through a loss of a commensurate number of their own heads.”


Another victim of the whole-eater about to be eaten whole

“Gracchus, unable to suffer this shame – for he was a more affectionate son of the fatherland than a father to his own sons – secretly called his sons and presented his plan and gave his advice: ‘Cowardice is the enemy of bravery, foolishness of wisdom, indolence of youthful vigor.  For it is no bravery if it is cowardly, it is not wisdom if it is foolish and it is not youth if it is indolent.  What’s more when there is no opportunity to practice courage, so must one create one.  Who then should avoid glory when it presents itself on its own, unless he be someone inglorious!  Yet the good of the citizenry, defended and preserved, becomes an eternal triumph.  For one should not  care about his own safety whenever a common danger arises.  It is for you, you who are our favourites, who, one as well as the other, we have raised according to our abilities, to arm yourselves so as to kill the monster, it befits you to join battle with him but [also] not to risk yourselves too greatly for you are one half of our life, those who deserve to inherit this kingdom.‘”

“And they answered thusly: ‘Truly one could count us filled with the hatred of [as if we were treated as mere] stepsons, should you withhold from us so glorious a task!  To you belongs the power of commanding and to us the necessity of obedience.‘”


One of Krak’s sons confronts the holophagus

“And so when they have experienced many a time an open manly combat and futile tests of strength, they were forced to rely on their guile [instead].  For in lieu of placing cattle, they put in the usual place only hides filled with burning sulphur.  And when the greedy whole-eater greedily gulped these down, he choked on the flames blazing through his innards.”

“And right after this took place, the younger of the brothers attacked and killed the older, his partner in victory and in the kingdom, [treating him] not as a companion but as a rival.  He follows his [brother’s] body [during the funeral procession filled] with crocodile tears.  He lies saying that [his brother] had been killed by the monster but the father welcomes him back happily as a victor.  For it is often the case that grief becomes overcome by the happiness of triumph.”


Once his crime was discovered, the younger Krak agreed to banishment

“And so in this way, the younger Gracchus takes the rule after his father, a criminal inheritor!  Yet he was longer branded by the fratricide than decorated with power.  For when the deception soon after was revealed, as penance for his crime he was sentenced to eternal banishment: ‘for it is the most justice law that those who commit crimes should be [slowly] killed by the same.

And of Wanda

“Soon thereafter, on the rock [perhaps, crag? interesting, is that Celticism where the name of the city comes from!?] of the whole-eater, a famous city was founded, from the name of Gracchus named Gracchovia.  And the funeral rites were not concluded but with the completion of the building of the city.  Some called it Cracow from the crowing of crows that gathered there to feast on the corpse of the monster.”

“And so great a love of their departed ruler filled the Senate, the magnates and all of the people that they entrusted his only daughter Wanda with the rule of the country after her father.  She so exceeded all others by her beautiful person as also by the allure of her grace that you would have thought that nature, when rewarding her [with its gifts], not only generous but even extravagant was.  For even the most prudent of the wise were astounded by her advice and the most cruel amongst the enemies relented at her sight.”

“Thus, when a certain Lemmanic [Alemannic? but see here] tyrant raged forth with the intent of destroying this people, thinking to take the throne seemingly free [i.e., because there was no male king], he yielded to her unspeakable charm rather than the force of [her] arms.”

A FISH CALLED WANDA, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, 1988, (c) MGM

Wanda denies the Alemannic tyrant

“For the moment his armies saw in front of them the queen, they fell as if touched by some sort of a ray of light – and all of them as if commanded by some god, purged themselves of all hostile feelings and stood aside from the fight.  They claimed then that they did not balk at battle but rather at sacrilege.  They said that they were afraid of no man but in [this wo]man they venerated a godly majesty.  Their King touched by the torment of love or perhaps of outrage [at his soldiers refusing to fight], or both, proclaims:

Wanda, the sea,

Wanda, the Earth,

the clouds, let Wanda command,

to the immortal gods, let her give herself as sacrifice for her own people

and I for you, oh my lords, make this solemn sacrifice to the gods of the underworld, that you as also your successors forever should grow old under this womanly rule!‘”

He said thus and then threw himself onto his sword giving up his spirit, and so his angry life, with a complaint, amongst the shadows escapes.”

“From her name, they say, is the name of the River Wandal[us] [meaning Vistula] derived, for that [river] was the center of her kingdom; so too all those who were under her rule became known as Vandals.  Because she desired no one marry and even virginity she thought of higher than marriage, she left the world without an heir.  And for a long time did the kingdom teeter without a ruler.”


Interestingly, it was Isidore of Seville that first suggested in his Etymologies that the Vandals got their name from the River  “Vindilicus” or “Windilicus” though he placed it in Gaul.  Kadlubek was probably aware of Isidore’s works though whether he got this idea from the Etymologies is unknown.


The River Vindilicus springs from the far frontier of Gaul and people maintain that the Vandals lived by it and got their name from it

It was only much later that Jan Dlugosz gave name to the “tyrant”, i.e., Rytygier or Ruediger.  Interestingly, in the so-called Dietrich of Bern sagas, Ruediger is also the emissary of Etzel/Attila  to the king of the Wilzi/Veltabi who tries to get the king – Ossantrix – to give the hand of the king’s daughter – Helke – to Attila/Etzel.  As if that were not enough, Dlugosz, at least in some manuscripts, also states that Popiel’s name in German was Osserich – presumably, deriving that from Ossen – ash.  On the Asciburgian mountains we wrote already here.  Whether this Ossantrix has anything to do with the ancient Ossi of Tacitus’ Germania – which Ossi lived in the neighborhood of the Veltae/Veltabi in Ptolemy’s Geography – and whether either of those have anything to do with the land of Ossum that the Goths entered from Gothiscandza in Jordanes Getica is a matter for another time.

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May 29, 2015

The Suevi-Sarmatian Connection

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We’ve been asked to expand on the Suevi-Sarmatian connection that we previously briefly talked about.  So we oblige listing here most of the relevant sources.  (We keep the Suebi spelling of the translations, where it appears, though suspect most manuscripts refer to the Suevi).


Some scholars speculate that the Iazyges cavalry consisted of war oliphants

Tacitus Annals (Book 12, 29)

“At this same time, Vannius, whom Drusus Caesar had made king of the Suevi, was driven from his kingdom. In the commencement of his reign he was renowned and popular with his countrymen; but subsequently, with long possession, he became a tyrant, and the enmity of neighbours, joined to intestine strife, was his ruin. Vibillius, king of the Hermunduri, and Vangio and Sido, sons of a sister of Vannius, led the movement… an immense host of Ligii, with other tribes, was advancing, attracted by the fame of the opulent realm which Vannius had enriched during thirty years of plunder and of tribute. Vannius’s own native force was infantry, and his cavalry was from the Iazyges of Sarmatia an army which was no match for his numerous enemy. Consequently, he determined to maintain himself in fortified positions, and protract the war. But the Iazyges, who could not endure a siege, dispersed themselves throughout the surrounding country and rendered an engagement inevitable, as the Ligii and Hermunduri had there rushed to the attack ; …He then fled to the fleet which was awaiting him on the Danube, and was soon followed by his adherents, who received grants of land and were settled in Pannonia. Vangio and Sido divided his kingdom between them; they were admirably loyal to us [i.e., the Romans]…” [close to the years 40-50];

Tacitus Histories (Book 1, 2)

“The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time. There was success in the East, misfortune in the West. Illyricum was disturbed, the Gallic provinces wavering, Britain subdued and immediately let go.  The Sarmatae and Suebi rose against us [Charles Dennis Fisher’s edition has “the tribes of the Suevi and the Sarmatæ rose in concert against us“]; the Dacians won fame by defeats inflicted and suffered; even the Parthians were almost roused to arms through the trickery of a pretended Nero.” [years 85-88]


These date to the years 89-92 and Domitian’s war against the Dacians and then Quadi and Marcomanni:




Cassius Dio (67, 5, 12)

“In Moesia the Lygians, having become involved in war with some of the Suebi, sent envoys asking Domitian for aid. And they obtained a force that was strong, not in numbers, but in dignity; for a hundred knights alone were sent to help them. The Suebi, indignant at his giving help, attached to themselves some Iazyges and were making their preparations to cross the Ister with them. Masyus, king of the Semnones, and Ganna, a virgin who was priestess in Germany, having succeeded Veleda, came to Domitian and after being honoured by him returned home.” [year 98];

Tacitus Germania (46)

“I am in doubt whether to reckon the Peucini, Venedi, and Fenni among the Germans* or Sarmatians; although the Peucini, who are by some called Bastarnae, agree with the Germans in language, apparel, and habitations.  All of them live in filth and laziness. The intermarriages of their chiefs with the Sarmatians have debased them by a mixture of the manners of that people. ” [written about the year 98]

* Suevi are described as the largest of the German tribes

(Unknown Authors) Historia Augusta (Marcus Aurelius – Emperor 161-180, 21)

“He armed the Diogmitae, besides, and even hired auxiliaries from among the Germans for service against Germans.  And besides all this, he proceeded with all care to enrol legions for the Marcomannic and German war.  And lest all this prove burdensome to the provinces, he held an auction of the palace furnishings in the Forum of the Deified Trajan, as we have related, and sold there, besides robes and goblets and golden flagons, even statues and paintings by great artists.  He overwhelmed the Marcomanni while they were crossing the Danube, and restored the plunder to the provincials.  Then, from the borders of Illyricum even into Gaul, all the nations banded together against us — the Marcomanni, Varistae, Hermunduri and Quadi, the Suebians, Sarmatians, Lacringes and Buri, these and certain others together with the Victuali, namely, Osi, Bessi, Cobotes, Roxolani, Bastarnae, Alani, Peucini, and finally, the Costoboci. Furthermore, war threatened in Parthia and Britain.  Thereupon, by immense labour on his own part, while his soldiers reflected his energy, and both legates and prefects of the guard led the host, he conquered these exceedingly fierce peoples, accepted the surrender of the Marcomanni, and brought a great number of them to Italy.”

“Always before making any move, he conferred with the foremost men concerning matters not only of war but also of civil life.  This saying particularly was ever on his lips: “It is juster that I should yield to the counsel of such a number of such friends than that such a number of such friends should yield to my wishes, who am but one”.  But because Marcus, as a result of his system of philosophy, seemed harsh in his military discipline and indeed in his life in general, he was bitterly assailed; to all who spoke ill of him, however, he made reply either in speeches or in pamphlets.  And because in this German, or Marcomannic, war, or rather I should say in this “War of Many Nations,” many nobles perished, for all of whom he erected statues in the Forum of Trajan, his friends often urged him to abandon the war and return to Rome.”

(Unknown Authors) Historia Augusta (Aurelian – Emperor 270-275, 18)

“Aurelian, too, during that same time, fought with the greatest vigour against the Suebi and the Sarmatians and won a most splendid victory…” [years 270-275];

(Unknown Authors) Historia Augusta (Aurelian – Emperor 270-275, 33)

“It is not without advantage to know what manner of triumph Aurelian had… there were Goths, Alans, Roxolani, Sarmatians, Franks, Suebians, Vandals and Germans — all captive, with their hands bound fast.”

(Item Aurelianus contra Suebos et Sarmatas iisdem temporibus vehementissime dimicavit ac florentissimam victorian rettulit… Non absque re est cognoscere qui fuerit Aureliani triumphus… Gothi, Alani, Roxolani, Sarmatae, Franci, Suebi, Vandali, Germani, religatis manibus captive) [years 270-275];

Flavius Eutropius’ Compendium of Roman History, Book VIII, 13

“Having persevered, therefore, with the greatest labour and patience, for three whole years at Carnuntum, he brought the Marcomannic war to an end; a war which the Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Suevi, and all the barbarians in that quarter, had joined with the Marcomanni in raising…”

(Unknown Author) Panegyric of Constantius (I Chlorus), 10

“…Raetia was lost and Noricum and the Pannonias devastated.  Italy herself, mistress of nations, lamented the destruction of very many of its cities.  There was not so much distress over individual losses when the Empire was deprived of almost everything.  But now that the whole wold has been reclaimed through your courage, not only where it had been Roman, but thorough subjugated even where it had been the enemy’s, vince Alamannia has been trampled so many times, the Sarmatians so often shackled, the Iuthungi, the Quadi and Carpi so frequently utterly crushed, the Goth submitting and seeking peace, the King of the Persians making supplication through gifts, this one disgrace of such a great Empire was searing our souls – we can now at last confess it – and seemed the more intolerable to us because it alone frustrated our glory.”

Ammianus Marcellinus (Book 16, 10, 20)

“…but he [Constantius II] was alarmed by frequent reliable reports that the Suebi were attacking the two provinces of Raetia and the Quadi Valeria*, and that the Sarmatians, who are particularly expert marauders, were devastating Upper Moesia and Lower Pannonia” [years 357-358];

* A division of Pannonia, named from Valeria, daughter of Diocletian and wife of Galerius; Basically they were both attacking Pannonia at different parts

Paulinus of Beziers Epigramma (19-21)

“Even though the Sarmatian devastates, the Vandal lights fires, and the quick Alan pillages, we strive, with painful effort and uncertain results, to put everything back to order.” [year 407];

Note that here the usual Suebi, Vandal, Alan trio of the Rhein-crossing fame is actually replaced by the Sarmatian, Vandal, Alan trio.

Saint Jerome Letter to Heliodorus (16)

“For twenty years and more the blood of Romans has been shed daily between Constantinople and the Julian Alps.  Scythia, Thrace, Macedonia, Dadania, Dacia, Thessaly, Achaia, Epirus, Dalmatia, the Pannonias – each and all of these have been sacked and pillaged and plundered by Goths and Sarmatians, Quades* and Alans, Huns and Vandals and Marchmen.”

*Quadi, one of the tribes of the Suevi

Saint Jerome Letter to Agenuchia (16)

“Nations innumerable and most savage have invaded all Gaul. The whole region between the Alps and the Pyrenees, the ocean and the Rhine, has been devastated by the Quadi, the Vandals, the Sarmati, the Alani, the Gepidae, the hostile Heruli, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, and the Pannonians [or “alas! for the commonweal even the Pannonians”].”

Again, the Vandals and the Alans are accounted for so which/where are the Suebi?

And, of course, the Baltic Sea is the Suevic Sea of Tacitus but also the Sarmatian Ocean of Ptolemy.

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May 28, 2015

On Celtic Suevi

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Were the Suevi German?

Cassius Dio (circa A.D. 155–235) in his History of Rome wrote (Book 51, chapter 22) that:


Professor Earnest Cary tackles confusion by “exercising discretion”

“Ἐπεὶ δὲ ταῦτα διετέλεσε, τό τε Ἀθήναιον τὸ Χαλκιδικὸν ὠνομασμένον καὶ τὸ βουλευτήριον τὸ Ἰουλίειον, τὸ ἐπὶ τῇ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ τιμῇ γενόμενον, καθιέρωσεν. Ἐνέστησε δὲ ἐς αὐτὸ τὸ ἄγαλμα τὸ τῆς Νίκης τὸ καὶ νῦν ὄν, δηλῶν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ὅτι παρ´ αὐτῆς τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐκτήσατο· ἦν δὲ δὴ τῶν Ταραντίνων, καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐς τὴν Ῥώμην κομισθὲν ἔν τε τῷ συνεδρίῳ ἱδρύθη καὶ Αἰγυπτίοις λαφύροις ἐκοσμήθη. Καὶ τοῦτο καὶ τῷ τοῦ Ἰουλίου ἡρῴῳ ὁσιωθέντι τότε ὑπῆρξε· συχνὰ γὰρ καὶ ἐς ἐκεῖνο ἀνετέθη, καὶ ἕτερα τῷ τε Διὶ τῷ Καπιτωλίῳ καὶ τῇ Ἥρᾳ τῇ τε Ἀθηνᾷ ἱερώθη, πάντων τῶν πρότερον ἐνταῦθα ἀνακεῖσθαι δοκούντων ἢ καὶ ἔτι κειμένων ἐκ δόγματος τότε καθαιρεθέντων ὡς καὶ μεμιαμμένων. Καὶ οὕτως ἡ Κλεοπάτρα καίπερ καὶ ἡττηθεῖσα καὶ ἁλοῦσα ἐδοξάσθη, ὅτι τά τε κοσμήματα αὐτῆς ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς ἡμῶν ἀνάκειται καὶ αὐτὴ ἐν τῷ Ἀφροδισίῳ χρυσῆ ὁρᾶται. Ἐν δ´ οὖν τῇ τοῦ ἡρῴου ὁσιώσει ἀγῶνές τε παντοδαποὶ ἐγένοντο, καὶ τὴν Τροίαν εὐπατρίδαι παῖδες ἵππευσαν, ἄνδρες τε ἐκ τῶν ὁμοίων σφίσιν ἐπί τε κελήτων καὶ ἐπὶ συνωρίδων τῶν τε τεθρίππων ἀντηγωνίσαντο, Κύιντός τέ τις Οὐιτέλλιος βουλευτὴς ἐμονομάχησε. Καὶ θηρία καὶ βοτὰ ἄλλα τε παμπληθῆ καὶ ῥινόκερως ἵππος τε ποτάμιος, πρῶτον τότε ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ ὀφθέντα, ἐσφάγη. Καὶ ὁ μὲν ἵππος ὁποῖός ἐστι, πολλοῖς τε εἴρηται καὶ πολὺ πλείοσιν ἑώραται· ὁ δὲ δὴ ῥινόκερως τὰ μὲν ἄλλα ἐλέφαντί πῃ προσέοικε, κέρας δέ τι κατ´ αὐτὴν τὴν ῥῖνα προσέχει, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οὕτω κέκληται.”

“Ταῦτά τε οὖν ἐσήχθη, καὶ ἀθρόοι πρὸς ἀλλήλους Δακοί τε καὶ Σουῆβοι ἐμαχέσαντο. Εἰσὶ δὲ οὗτοι μὲν Κελτοί, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ δὴ Σκύθαι τρόπον τινά· καὶ οἱ μὲν πέραν τοῦ Ῥήνου ὥς γε τἀκριβὲς εἰπεῖν (πολλοὶ γὰρ καὶ ἄλλοι τοῦ τῶν Σουήβων ὀνόματος ἀντιποιοῦνται), οἱ δὲ ἐπ´ ἀμφότερα τοῦ Ἴστρου νέμονται, ἀλλ´ οἱ μὲν ἐπὶ τάδε αὐτοῦ καὶ πρὸς τῇ Τριβαλλικῇ οἰκοῦντες ἔς τε τὸν τῆς Μυσίας νομὸν τελοῦσι καὶ Μυσοί, πλὴν παρὰ τοῖς πάνυ ἐπιχωρίοις, ὀνομάζονται, οἱ δὲ ἐπέκεινα Δακοὶ κέκληνται, εἴτε δὴ Γέται τινὲς εἴτε καὶ Θρᾷκες τοῦ Δακικοῦ γένους τοῦ τὴν Ῥοδόπην ποτὲ ἐνοικήσαντος ὄντες. Οὗτοι οὖν οἱ Δακοὶ ἐπρεσβεύσαντο μὲν πρὸ τοῦ χρόνου τούτου πρὸς τὸν Καίσαρα, ὡς δ´ οὐδενὸς ὧν ἐδέοντο ἔτυχον, ἀπέκλιναν πρὸς τὸν Ἀντώνιον, καὶ ἐκεῖνον μὲν οὐδὲν μέγα ὠφέλησαν στασιάσαντες ἐν ἀλλήλοις, ἁλόντες δὲ ἐκ τούτου τινὲς ἔπειτα τοῖς Σουήβοις συνεβλήθησαν. Ἐγένετο δὲ ἡ θεωρία ἅπασα ἐπὶ πολλάς, ὥσπερ εἰκὸς ἦν, ἡμέρας, οὐδὲ διέλιπε καίτοι τοῦ Καίσαρος ἀρρωστήσαντος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπόντος αὐτοῦ δι´ ἑτέρων ἐποιήθη. καὶ ἐν αὐταῖς οἱ βουλευταὶ μίαν τινὰ ὡς ἕκαστοι ἡμέραν ἐν τοῖς τῶν οἰκιῶν σφων προθύροις εἱστιάθησαν, οὐκ οἶδ´ ὅθεν ἐς τοῦτο προαχθέντες· οὐ γὰρ παραδέδοται.”

Herbert Baldwin Foster of the Delphi edition translates Κελτοί as “Celts.”   However, Ian Scott Kilvert of Penguin Classics and then Earnest Cary of the Loeb edition translate the same as “Germans“.  The text of the Loeb edition has this as:

“After finishing this celebration Caesar dedicated the temple of Minerva, called also the Chaldicum, and the Curia Iulia, which had been built in honour of his father. In the latter he set up the statue of Victory which is still in existence, thus signifying that it was from her that he had received the empire.  It had belonged to the people of Tarentum, whence it was now brought to Rome, placed in the senate-chamber, and decked with the spoils of Egypt. The same course was followed in the case of the shrine of Julius which was consecrated at this time, for many of these spoils were placed in it also; and others were dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus and to Juno and Minerva, after all the objects in these temples which were supposed to have been placed there previously as dedications, or were actually dedications, had by decree been taken down at this time as defiled. Thus Cleopatra, though defeated and captured, was nevertheless glorified, inasmuch as her adornments repose as dedications in our temples and she herself is seen in gold in the shrine of Venus.”

“At the consecration of the shrine to Julius there were all kinds of contests, and the boys of the patricians performed the equestrian exercise called “Troy,” and men of the same rank contended with chargers, with pairs, and with four-horse teams; furthermore, one Quintus Vitellius, a senator, fought as a gladiator.  Wild beasts and tame animals were slain in vast numbers, among them a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus, beasts then seen for the first time in Rome. As regards the nature of the hippopotamus, it has been described by many and far more have seen it. The rhinoceros, on the other hand, is in general somewhat like an elephant, but it has also a horn on its very nose and has got its name because of this.  These beasts, accordingly, were brought in, and moreover Dacians and Suebi fought in crowds with one another. The latter are Celts [but he says Germans!], the former Scythians of a sort. The Suebi, to be exact, dwell beyond the Rhine (though many people elsewhere claim their name), and the Dacians on both sides of the Ister; those of the latter, however, who live on this side of the river near the country of the Triballi are reckoned in with the district of Moesia and are called Moesians, except by those living in the immediate neighbourhood, while those on the other side are called Dacians and are either a branch of the Getae are Thracians belonging to the Dacian race that once inhabited Rhodope. Now these Dacians had before this time sent envoys to Caesar; but when they obtained none of their requests, they went over to Antony. They proved of no great assistance to him, however, owing to strife among themselves, and some who were afterwards captured were now matched against the Suebi. The whole spectacle lasted many days, as one would expect, and there was no interruption, even though Caesar fell ill, but it was carried on in his absence under the direction of others. On one of the days of this celebration the senators gave banquets in the vestibules of their several homes; but what the occasion was for their doing this, I do not know, since it is not recorded.”

From the Lacus Curtius wbesite we learn that:

“While it follows the standard system used in the Boissevain edition, Prof. Cary exercised a good deal of editorial judgment on the fragmentary texts of Dio.”


Maybe there is a different manuscript than the standard Boissevain edition above?

Or maybe this  made sense to Kilvert and Cary because “many people elsewhere claim their name” so let’s go with the default of “Germans”?

Or maybe it was just all Greek to them?

(In addition, Dio states too that the Bastarnae were Scythians).

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May 27, 2015

On Ariovistus

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Before Armin-ius there was Ariovist-us.  With Arminius, oddly, once you take away the Latin -ius, the ending becomes the Slavic -in.  What happens with Ariovistus?


Well, first we have Ariovist.  Then we break it down to Ario-vist.  Now, we are not going to weigh in on Ario-.  (Supposedly, it is a Celtic prefix meaning “noble”).

However, -vist seems familiar.


Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology translates -vistus by  claiming it is simply the German Fürst, “a prince”.  Alternatively, the suffix is supposed to be Celtic from, as per the ever correct Wikipedia, uid-, uidi-, uissu-, meaning “perception, knowledge.”


To know that -vid means knowledge one does not need to look to Celtic.  The Indian vedas have the same derivation.  In fact, so does the Polish wiedza.  But the suffix is -vist not -vid.

If you are thinking sight, as in vista, you may be right.  Assuming that is correct, we may want to ask if there is a word that expresses the concept?


If you said Czech věštec, Slovak veštec or Polish wieszcz (essentially, viest) we think you could be right.  (If one accounts for the fact that the Polish mazurzenie seems to have been the correct way of talking of old, the Czech/Slovak and Polish versions would sound the same except for the -ec suffix not present in the Polish version (though there is a Polish – diminutive version – wieszczek).  What does that mean?


A teller of news, a fortune teller, an augured, a seer but also – the necessarily derivative – magician, mage.  Linde’s Polish dictionary from 1814 also has the following Slavic forms visct, vjesct, vishtac.  Bruckner’s etymological dictionary concurs showing the Polish wiesc (news) to be cognate with the Avestani visti-, Indian vit-ti.


Thus, Ariovist would be a seer/magician.  And we must not forget his contemporary anti-Roman rebel commander, the Getae-Dacian chief Byrebistas, Boirebistas or Buruista/Burvista.  Again, once you eliminate the -as, you end up with Burebist or something like that.  However, as we pointed out, in Greek at least, the “b” in many places meant “v” (see, e.g., Sklabinoi, Sklaboi).

Another interpretation may be that vist meant as much as man.  Aleksander Brueckner believed that niewiasta (nye-veasta) (woman) originated from a word for a bride meaning one who was not known yet because she came from “the outside” (of the family).  Therefore, there was “no knowledge” (no wiedza or vista) of her (he analogizes the Hungarian word for son in law – igen).  However, this use appears at best secondary and at worst slightly contrived.  If one were to assume that nie-wiasta simply means “not a man” (sorry), that would match up with the vist being just a man.  The association of man with knowledge and woman with no knowledge thus seems unnecessary (or at least secondary).  The words may simply have meant man and not man (i.e., woman).

It seems entirely plausible that a vist, over time became the knowledgeable leader – wieszcz, its original meaning of “man” forgotten.  On the other hand, niewiasta (nye-veasta) may have lived on as the original name for a woman and this even after Slavic languages developed their own term for “wise woman/leader”, i.e., wieszczka.


When you are enjoying a vista of the Rodina, take a moment to give some thought to the sacrifices of Ariovist and Burevist

And so here we are.

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May 26, 2015

On the Danube Theories and the Suavi – Part IV

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It seems that the Suavi survived the Ostrogothic attack and remained in the Danubian Suavia (or Savia or Pannonia Savia).  We may draw this inference from Paul the Deacon who in his History of the Lombards cites from the Origo Gentis Langobardorum to claim that the Langobards subdued the Suavi apparently after they defeated the Heruli in 508-512 (causing the Heruli to, in part, head for Scandinavia through the lands of the Slavs) but before they entered Pannonnia (about 546) from Moravia where the Heruli kingdom used to be – right next to that of the Rugii).

We know this because Paul and Origo claim that this happened during the reign of Wacho or Waccho, a Langobard who helped himself to the Langobard throne by killing the prior occupant of the same, Tato in the year 510 but who ended his career in about 539-540, i.e., supposedly  before the Langobards entered Pannonia (there is some doubt here given what Paul writes as to the length of the Langobard stay in Pannonia before they left for Italy in 568).

We give here both the cite from Paul and the original version from the Origo.

Paul the Deacon, Book I, chapter 21

“But after these things Tato indeed did not long rejoice in the triumph of war, for Waccho, the son of his brother Zuchilo, attacked him and deprived him of his life.  Tato’s son Hildechis also fought against Waccho, but when Waccho prevailed and he was overcome, he fled to the Gepidae and remained there an exile up to the end of his life. For this reason the Gepidae from that time incurred enmities with the Langobards.”


“At the same time Waccho fell upon the Suavi and subjected them to his authority. If any one may think that this is a lie and not the truth of the matter, let him read over the prologue of the edict which King Rothari composed of the laws of the Langobards and he will find this written in almost all the manuscripts as we have inserted it in this little history.”

“And Waccho had three wives, that is, the first, Ranicunda, daughter of the king of the Turingi (Thuringians);  then he married Austrigusa, the daughter of the king of the Gepidae, from whom he had two daughters; the name of one was Wisegarda, whom he bestowed in marriage upon Theudepert, king of the Franks, and the second was called Walderada, who was united with Cusupald, another king of the Franks, and he, having her in hatred gave her over in marriage to one of his followers called Garipald.  And Waccho had for his third wife the daughter of the king of the Heroli, by name Salinga. From her a son was born to him, whom he called Waltari, and who upon the death of Waccho reigned as the eighth king over the Langobards. All these were Lithingi; for thus among them a certain noble stock was called.”

Origo Gentis Langobardorum, Part IV

“Claffo, the son of Godehoc, reigned after him. And after him reigned Tato the son of Claffo. The Langobards settled three years in the fields of Feld. Tato fought with Rodolf king of the Heruli and killed him and carried off his banner and helmet. After him the Heruli had no kingly office. And Wacho the son of Unichis killed king Tato his paternal uncle together with Zuchilo.”


“And Wacho fought, and Ildichis the son of Tato fought, and Ildichis fled to the Gippidi where he died. And to avenge his wrong the Gypidis made war with the Langobards.”

“At this time Wacho bent the Suabians under the dominions of the Langobards.”


“Wacho had three wives : (first) Raicunda, daughter of Fisud king of the Turingi. After her he took as his wife Austrigusa a girl of the Gippidi. And Wacho had from Austrigusa two daughters; the name of one was Wisigarda whom he gave in marriage to Theudipert king of the Franks, and the name of the second was Walderada whom Scusuald king of the Franks had as his wife, but having her in hatred he transferred her to Garipald for a wife. He had as his third wife the daughter of the king of the Heruli, Silinga by name. From her he had a son, Waltari by name. Wacho died and his son Waltari reigned seven years without posterity. They were all Lethinges.”

Post Scriptum

C.H. Mierow in his translation writes of this passage: “It is hard to see what people are designated by this name. The Suavi who dwelt in the southwestern part of Germany, now Suabia, are too far off. Hodgkin (p. 119) suggests a confusion between Suavia and Savia, the region of the Save. Schmidt says, “There is ground to believe that this people is identical with the Suevi of Vannius who possessed the mountain land between the March [Morava] and the Theiss [Tisa].”

Of course, if these were the Suavi of Savia or Pannonia Savia then the problem would be solved.  Therefore, we would have Suavians in the 520s-530s in the Danube area (though Hunimund may not have been so lucky himself – we do not know).

Incidentally, Wacho’s insurrection also brings into question the location of the Slavs in another way.  One of the claimants to the Langobard throne was one Hildigis who fled (a number of times), in Procopius’ version, to the Slavs – where these were is also uncertain and a subject of great speculation.  A topic for another day.

Finally, if you think it odd that a number of the Langobard names sound like Slavic diminutives or nicknames, we agree – although the same can be said of some Bavarian rulers and, perhaps, of some Goths.  It is also true that much later Adam of Bremen made the claim that the Slavic lands, i.e., Slavia were basically occupied by the Winuli – apparently, the Langobards’ original name – though this may be taken with a grain of salt given that Adam also called the Winuli Vandals – a tribe which was the main antagonist of the Langobards in the History of the latter (and indeed how the Langobards got their name is linked, of course, to their fight with the Vandals).  Whether Wisegarda had anything to do with the Visegrád Castle (tall hard/burgh) in Hungary or Višegrad town in Bosnia on the Serbian border, is another question – probably not but the name is curious.

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May 25, 2015

Of Stavanoi & Souobenoi, etc

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An argument has been made numerous times that Slavs may have originated in the East – in fact in the far east.  What evidence is for this usually involves two names mentioned by Ptolemy in his Geography.

We ought to mention up front that all of Ptolemy’s Geography is open to interpretation and has, in fact, been interpreted by cartographers and been interpreted differently.  So that you may see one Ptolemy map drawn with certain tribes shown this way and another one – being the “same” Ptolemy map as the first one – showing the same tribes in a slightly (if you’re lucky) different location.


The first is “Stavanoi” (Σταυανοί).  These are mentioned in Book III, chapter 5 entitled “Location of European Sarmatia.” (shown on Ptolemy’s “Eighth Map of Europe”).  This is what he says:


“Among those we have named to the east: below the Venedae are the Galindae. the Sudini, and the Stavani [actually, Stavanoi], extending as far as the Alauni…”


The second is “Souobenoi/Sovobenoi” (Σουοβενοι).  These people are mentioned in Book VI, chapter 14 entitled “Scythia this side of the Imaus Mountains.”  (shown on Ptolemy’s “Seventh Map of Asia”).  To be clear, the “Imaus Mountains” are typically perceived to be the Pamir Mountains.  In other words, this is way after even the Asiatic Sarmatia (chapter 8).  Ptolemy says the following:


“After this bend of the  Imaus toward the north.  Those who inhabit Scythia toward the north along the Terra Incognita are called Alani-Scythae, Suobeni [actually, Souobenoi/Sovobenoi]  and Alanorsi.  The part which is below these is held by the Satiani, the Massaei, and the Syebi.”


There are other curious names out there.  We have the Suardeni (Book V, chapter 8 – Location of Asiatic Sarmatia – Second Map of Asia).  We have the Serbi (same location).  On the other hand, we have the town of Serbinum right in Lower Pannonia (Book II, chapter 14).  We have Prusias  in Ponthus/Bithynia but also Borusci (Borussia is the Latin word for Prussia) in European Sarmatia  It’s all very confusing and it is highly unlikely that any one of these, apparently, very small tribes became the Slavs of today.

What all this suggests is perhaps something much more complicated than one tribe getting up and moving in a particular direction to establish a new homeland.

Vast numbers of people may have seen themselves as being part of some tribe or other and migrated in all kinds of directions.  The Alani are a perfect example as they appear both in Sarmatia and in Scythia and altogether in numerous places.  They may even have been the same people moving about.  Or they may have been different Alani as they have different “sub tribal” designations as shown above.

It may thus well be that, e.g., the Suobenoi were Slavs but that in and of itself does not mean that they were the only Slavs out there at the time.  For example, were we to know nothing about the location of the Slavs in the middle ages and were we then to discover that the Slovenes lived in Carinthia in the middle ages (at the latest!) we would not be entitled to clam that all Slavs must have lived in Carinthia at that same time.

These Souobenoi may have been a stray Slavic tribe gone rogue (i.e., gone East).  On the other hand, as the designation of Sloveni seems to have often been a border designation it may well be that a number of other tribes between these Souobenoi and Europe [?] were already Slavic, with them being a “Grenzvolk.”  Or, it may be that these Souobenoi (or Sovobenoi?) were in no way related to the Slavs.  Or, maybe they were – but only to some Slavs.  The mysteries continue.


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May 24, 2015

On the Danube Theories and the Suavi – Part III

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Attila’s “strava” was not going so well

Jordanes Getica

Chapter 34

[first half of 5th century]

“And what more? Valia (to repeat what we have said) had but little success against the Gauls, but when he died the more fortunate and prosperous Theodorid succeeded to the throne. He was a man of the greatest moderation and notable for vigor of mind and body. In the consulship of Theodosius and Festus the Romans broke the truce and took up arms against him in Gaul, with the Huns as their auxiliaries. For a band of the Gallic Allies, led by Count Gaina, had aroused the Romans by throwing Constantinople into a panic. Now at that time the Patrician Aetius was in command of the army. He was of the bravest Moesian stock, the son of Gaudentius and born in the city of Durostorum. He was a man fitted to endure the toils of war, born expressly to serve the Roman state; and by inflicting crushing defeats he had compelled the proud Suavi and barbarous Franks to submit to Roman sway.”

Comment: It is not clear which Suavi these were but we mention them here just in case they might have been Danubian Suavi.  The famous patrician Aetius who galvanized Rome and its allies against the Huns, lived between 391 and 454 A.D.  This story should have come after the story presented below in Chapter 48.

Comment: There follows in Chapter 44, the story of the Suavi of Galicia and Lusitania (i.e., in Portugal/Spain) with Riciarius their king fighting Theodorid of the Visigoths – and losing and having appointed over them, Theodoric’s retainer Agrivulf (“born of the stock of the Varni, far below the nobility of Gothic blood”) who then betrayed the Visigoths and was beheaded as a result – in Visigoths’ great mercy, the Suavi were then nevertheless allowed to choose one of their own people as ruler – choosing Rimismund.  We mention this for completeness although the story obviously pertains to events in the Iberian Peninsula and does not directly have anything to do with the Danube Suavi.

Chapter 48

[turn of the 5th century]

“And later, after the death of Vinitharius, Hunimund ruled them, the son of Hermanaric, a mighty king of yore; a man fierce in war and of famous personal beauty, who afterwards fought successfully against the race of the Suavi.  And when he died, his son Thorismud succeeded him, in the very bloom of youth. In the second year of his rule he moved an army against the Gepidae and won a great victory over them, but is said to have been killed by falling from his horse. When he was dead, the Ostrogoths mourned for him so deeply that for forty years no other king succeeded in his place, and during all this time they had ever on their lips the tale of his memory. Now as time went on, Valamir grew to man’s estate. He was the son of Thorismud’s cousin Vandalarius.

Comment: It is interesting that the preceding text comes right after the story of Boz and Vinitharius who “to show his courage” made war against the country of the Antes.  See here.  Thus, Vinitharius defeated the Antes and Hunimund the son of Hermanaric  fought against the race of the Suavi.

This must have happened in the late 4th, perhaps early 5th century – whether this was what drove the Suavi or some of them West with the Vandals and Alans is uncertain.  Chronologically, the story of Vinitharius and Hunimund should have come before Chapter 34’s story about the Suavi of Spain and Portugal.

Chapter 50 

[Battle of Nedao (454 A.D.)]

“…They took up arms against the destruction that menaced all and joined battle with the Huns in Pannonia, near a river called Nedao. There an encounter took place between the various nations Attila had held under his sway. Kingdoms with their peoples were divided, and out of one body were made many members not responding to a common impulse. Being- deprived of their head, they madly strove against each other. They never found their equals ranged against them without harming each other by wounds mutually given. And so the bravest nations tore themselves to pieces. For then, I think, must have occurred a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goths fighting with pikes, the Gepidae raging with the sword, the Rugi breaking off the spears in their own wounds, the Suavi fighting on foot [or “fighting with slings”], the Huns with bows, the Alani drawing up a battle-line of heavy-armed and the Heruli of light-armed warriors.“


Nedao – Suavi on the Left, Heruli on the Right – Ardaric of the Gepids in the middle (Tacitus called Scandinavia the “vagina of nations”)

Comment: After the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields (451 A.D.) [yes, Cat-alauni-an – having something to do with Alans?] and subsequent battles of Attila, the Hunnnic chieftain was driven back to, probably, Pannonia and then died (in 453 A.D.) after a party in the hands of his new bride.  Thereafter, after a proper strava (whether that is a Slavic word is debatable and debated), Attila was buried and the Huns and Goths fought against a coalition of Gepids, Rugi, Heruli, Alani and Suavi in Pannonia at the so-called Battle of the River Nedao in 454 A.D.  The passage above describes that.  The Huns and Goths lost and had to search for other places to live.  The Huns fled eastwards, the Goths, at least initially into Pannonia.  Even though the following does not have any descriptions of the Suavi we quote this here because it sets up nicely the situation of the various temporary kingdoms that arose in the post-Atyllic world after the Battle of Nedao and before the next two big events: the Gothic march against Odoacer that would create the Ostrogothic Kingdom at Ravenna and the invasion by the Lombards.  This is what Jordanes has to say:

“But the Gepidae by their own might won for themselves the territory of the Huns and ruled as victors over the extent of all Dacia, demanding of the Roman Empire nothing more than peace and an annual gift as a pledge of their friendly alliance. This the Emperor freely granted at the time, and to this day that race receives its customary gifts from the Roman Emperor.”

“Now when the Goths saw the Gepidae defending for themselves the territory of the Huns and the people of the Huns dwelling again in their ancient abodes, they preferred to ask for lands from the Roman Empire, rather than invade the lands of others with danger to themselves. So they received Pannonia, which stretches in a long plain, being bounded on the east by Upper Moesia, on the south by Dalmatia, on the west by Noricum and on the north by the Danube. This land is adorned with many cities, the first of which is Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) and the last Vindobona (Vienna).”

“But the Sauromatae, whom we call Sarmatians, and the Cemandri and certain of the Huns dwelt in Castra Martis [Kula, in northwestern Bulgaria], a city given them in the region of Illyricum. Of this race was Blivila, Duke of Pentapolis, and his brother Froila and also Bessa, a Patrician in our time. The Sciri, moreover, and the Sadagarii and certain of the Alani with their leader, Candac by name, received Scythia Minor and Lower Moesia.  Paria, the father of my father Alanoviiamuth (that is to say, my grandfather), was secretary to this Candac as long as he lived. To his sister’s son Gunthigis, also called Baza [compare with Boz?], the Master of the Soldiery, who was the son of Andag the son of Andela, who was descended from the stock of the Amali, I also, Jordanes, although an unlearned man before my conversion, was secretary. The Rugi, however, and some other races asked that they might inhabit Bizye [in European Turkey] and Arcadiopolis [same].”

“Hernac, the younger son of Attila, with his followers, chose a home in the most distant part of Lesser Scythia. Emnetzur and Ultzindur, kinsmen of his, won Oescus and Utus and Almus in Dacia on the bank of the Danube, and many of the Huns, then swarming everywhere, betook themselves into Romania, and from them the Sacromontisi and the Fossatisii of this day are said to be descended.”

Chapter 53 

[about 470 A.D.] 

“When the tribe of the Huns was at last subdued by the Goths, Hunimund, chief of the Suavi, who was crossing over to plunder Dalmatia, carried off some cattle of the Goths which were straying over the plains; for Dalmatia was near Suavia and not far distant from the territory of Pannonia, especially that part where the Goths were then staying. So then, as Hunimund was returning with the Suavi to his own country, after he had devastated Dalmatia, Thiudimer the brother of Valamir, king of the Goths, kept watch on their line of march. Not that he grieved so much over the loss of his cattle, but he feared that if the Suavi obtained this plunder with impunity, they would proceed to greater license.”

“So in the dead of night, while they were asleep, he made an unexpected attack upon them, near Lake Pelso [the Balaton].  Here he so completely crushed them that he took captive and sent into slavery under the Goths even Hunimund, their king, and all of his army who had escaped the sword. Yet as he was a great lover of mercy, he granted pardon after taking vengeance and became reconciled to the Suavi. He adopted as his son the same man whom he had taken captive, and sent him back with his followers into Suavia.”

“But Hunimund was unmindful of his adopted father’s kindness. After some time he brought forth a plot he had contrived and aroused the tribe of the Sciri, who then dwelt above the Danube and abode peaceably with the Goths. So the Sciri broke off their alliance with them, took up arms, joined themselves to Hunimund and went out to attack the race of the Goths. Thus war came upon the Goths who were expecting no evil, because they relied upon both of their neighbors as friends. Constrained by necessity they took up arms and avenged themselves and their injuries by recourse to battle. In this battle, as King Valamir rode on his horse before the line to encourage his men, the horse was wounded and fell, overthrowing its rider. Valamir was quickly pierced by his enemies’ spears and slain. Thereupon the Goths proceeded to exact vengeance for the death of their king, as well as for the injury done them by the rebels. They fought in such wise that there remained of all the race of the Sciri only a few who bore the name, and they with disgrace. Thus were all destroyed.”

Comment: The above is confusing in that Dalmatia was not near Suavia raising the question of whether the Suavi were coming from somewhere else, e.g., Savia on the River Sava.  A similar issue regarding the location of Suavia comes up in Paul the Deacon’s History of the Lombards (and indeed in the Origin of the Lombards).

Some have suggested that Jordanes was confusing Suavian lands in northern Pannonia with Pannonia Savia.  Alternatively, it may be that Pannonia Savia was also referred to as Suavia at the time and that the Suavians lived there at the time.  See for example Cassiodorus’ Variae (12, 7) and elsewhere.  Whether those Suavians were Swabians, however, is another matter. The fact that a country occupied in the 6th/7th century by Slavs is occupied by the Suavi at the end of the 5the century is suggestive.  In fact, Cassiodorus refers to the invaders of Venetia as Suevi coming, apparently, out of Pannonia Savia in the year A.D. 536. Modern dogma is that the Slavs settled Pannonia after the Avars migrated in 567 A.D. (see below on Drnovo)     


The above map shows the administrative division of the area from the 4th century.  Nevertheless it is instructive.  Notice the ancient Roman town of Serbinum (appears in Ptolemy’s Geography) suggesting that the Serbs at least may well have been in Europe (perhaps together with the Iazyges) way before the Huns and Avars.  Not to mention the town of Serbinum is actually on the Sava River.  

And speaking of towns we have another confirmation of where the “Suavi” were in Procopius as cited in a recent blog post here.  We reproduce that quote:

“But above them [the Veneti] are the Siscii and Suavi (not those who are subjects of the Franks, but another group), who inhabit the interior. And beyond these are settled the Carnii and Norici. On the right of these dwell the Dacians and Pannonians”

Intermission from Jordanes to Talk About Marshy Logic

Now, what town is just north of Serbinum?  Yes, Siscia.  Suggesting that the Suavi would be just up the river (as per Procopius) and what town lies there up the river? Yes, Noviodunum (really Neviodunum, today’s Drnovo in Slovenia).  So perhaps this is the Noviodunum of Jordanes where Slavs (but now, we’re pretty certain, referred to as Suavi, lived all the way to Lake Musianus (or Mursianus)?  Let’s bring up Jordanes again:

“(Near their left ridge [it appears he is talking about the Carpathians], which inclines toward the north, and beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanses of land.  Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called the Sclaveni and Antes.  The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the Vistula.”

Thus, we would have the following areas of possible settlement depending on which Noviodunum we use and which Lake Musianus/Mursianus you use.  We’ve already had one proposition here but here are some other ones:

Noviodunum (Novietunense):

– Isaccea, Romania (Castra Noviodunum, Roman Province of Moesia);

– Drnovo, Slovenia (Neviodunum);

BTW some people reject the Drnovo hypothesis because, as per them, there should have been no Slavs in the area until after the Avars came into Pannonia about 567 A.D. but this is just about the most circular reasoning you can get since the problem at hand is obviously where the Slavs were at the beginning of the 6th century.  If one were to follow this result-driven logic, nothing would suffice and an ancient author placing a Slav in the middle of the Colosseum during Nero’s reign would be shown to have (A) meant a [Greek] or (B) meant not Rome but [Pinsk] or (C) meant not Nero but [Victor Emmanuel II] or (D) been [drunk].  And after all that would only have been one Slav, and we all know no theory can be right about Slavs unless you can show that at least  [seven] were present at a given time and place.

(And, of course, we know from Procopius that already about 512 A.D. they were north of the Heruli – meaning probably in Poland, southeastern Germany and, perhaps, Bohemia.  We’ve recently come across a lovely map that, apparently to avoid this result, has the Heruli migrate from Moravia to Denmark not straight up but first south (some Heruli did go southeast to the Gepids/Byzantines but not these) then via Moldavia, then along the Black Sea coast, then along the Carpathians, via southern Poland and then onto Germany and Denmark – this resembles the way Ptolemy’s geocentric theory with its dozens of orbital circles needed to sustain it – but, hey, it  is theoretically possible – however unlikely –  that Ptolemy will ultimately be proven right whereas Copernicus will be shown wrong).

Lake Musianus/Mursianus:

– marshes in Northern Romania at Buzau Siret Dunare;

– marshes in Southern Moldavia around Galati;

– Drava- Danube marshes – hypothesis of F. Taube from 1778 (seems rather a random choice);

(BTW what’s up with all these marshes where everyone wants to put Slavs? They leave the Pripet Marshes only to end up in more marshes?  Why leave then? Is there no better real estate in the world?  Jordanes says swamps and forests – brother can you spare a Gambreta?)

– Lake Constance – see our prior post on this;

We should say that some people have tried to put together a Lake Musianus that is in Dabube delta with the Noviodunum that is Isaccea resulting in a grotesquely thin triangle.  But Slavs, like Zeno’s paradox just refuse to be squished like that.


The above illustrates the River Vistula and the locations of each of Lake Musianus/Mursianus and the city of Noviodunum.  The lake options are in blue and the two city options are in red.

There is an interesting (though this does not readily square with Procopius and Jordanes) possibility might be the Lake Constance to Drnovo option.

There is also the possibility of the Slovenian Drnovo location and the Danube delta.

The maximum stretch would be from Lake Constance to the Danube delta and this probably reflects closest the situation in the 7th century (except for the Avars in the middle) and also a lake would actually be a lake not some marshlands.

So perhaps (at least some of) the Slavs are a mix of the Suevi and Serbs from the Savia/Suavia area?  And the rest are Suavi or, in the north at the Vistula, a Suavi/Veneti mix?

Back to Jordanes

Comment: What happened to Hunimund is uncertain although a Hunimund does appear as a attacked of the town of Batavia (today’s Pasau) in the Vita Severini by Eugippius (22):

“Mox igitur eo discedente Hunumundus paucis barbaris comitatus oppidum, ut sanctus praedixerat, Batavis invasit ac, paene cunctis mansoribus in messe detentis, quadraginta viros oppidi, qui ad custodiam remanserant, interemit. Presbyterum quoque illum, qui tam sacrilega contra famulum Christi in baptisterio fuerat elocutus, ad eundem locum confugientem insequentes barbari peremerunt. Frustra enim illuc offenso Deo veritatis inimicus accessit, ubi tam impudenter excesserat.”

Elsewhere, Hunimundus, Humimundus or Hodemundus. 

Curiously an Alemannic leader may have been in the same area at that time (Gibuldus = Gebavult?) (19):

“Batavis appellatur oppidum inter utraque flumina, Aenum videlicet atque Danuvium, constitutum, ubi beatus Severinus cellulam paucis monachis solito more fundaverat, eo quod ipse illuc saepius rogatus a civibus adveniret, maxime propter Alamannorum incursus assiduos, quorum rex Gibuldus summa eum reverentia diligebat.”  

The etymology of Hunimund is uncertain and may precede the Hunnic invasion though may nevertheless have something to do with the Huns.

(Did we mention that Severin was a Norican and, of course, as per Nestor, the Slavs came from Noricum 🙂 )

Chapter 54 

[about 470 A.D.] 

“The kings [of the Suavi], Hunimund and Alaric, fearing the destruction that had come upon the Sciri, next made war upon the Goths, relying upon the aid of the Sarmatians, who had come to them as auxiliaries with their kings Beuca and Babai. They summoned the last remnants of the Sciri, with Edica and Hunuulf, their chieftains, thinking they would fight the more desperately to avenge themselves. They had on their side the Gepidae also, as well as no small reenforcements from the race of the Rugi and from others gathered here and there. Thus they brought together a great host at the river Bolia in Pannonia and encamped there. Now when Valamir was dead, the Goths fled to Thiudimer, his brother.  Although he had long ruled along with his brothers, yet he took the insignia of his increased authority and summoned his younger brother Vidimer and shared with him the cares of war, resorting to arms under compulsion.”

“A battle was fought and the party of the Goths was found to be so much the stronger that the plain was drenched in the blood of their fallen foes andlooked like a crimson sea. Weapons and corpses, piled up like hills, covered the plain for more than ten miles. When the Goths saw this, they rejoiced with joy imspeakable, because by this great slaughter of their foes they had avenged the blood of Valamir their king and the injury done themselves. But those of the innumerable and motley throng of the foe who were able to escape, though they got away, nevertheless came to their own land with difficulty and without glory.”

Comment:  Once again we see the Suavi allied with the Sarmatians.

Chapter 55 

[about 470 A.D.] 

“After a certain time, when the wintry cold was at hand, the river Danube was frozen over as usual. For a river like this freezes so hard that it will support like a solid rock an army of foot-soldiers and wagons and sledges and whatsoever vehicles there may be – nor is there need of skiffs and boats. So when Thiudimer, king of the Goths, saw that it was frozen, he led his army across the Danube and appeared unexpectedly to the Suavi from the rear. Now this country of the Suavi has on the east the Baiovari, on the west the Franks, on the south the Burgundians and on the north the Thuringians. With the Suavi there were present the Alamanni, then their confederates, who also ruled the Alpine heights, whence several streams flow into the Danube, pouring in with a great rushing sound. Into a place thus fortified King Thiudimer led his army in the winter-time and conquered, plundered and almost subdued the race of the Suavi as well as the Alamanni, who were mutually banded together.”

“Thence he returned as victor to his own home in Pannonia and joyfully received his son Theodoric, once given as hostage to Constantinople and now sent back by the Emperor Leo with great gifts. Now Theodoric had reached man’s estate, for he was eighteen years of age and his boyhood was ended. So he summoned certain of his father’s adherents and took to himself from the people his friends and retainers — almost six thousand men. With these he crossed the Danube, without his father’s knowledge, and marched against Babai, king of the Sarmatians, who had just won a victory over Camundus, a general of the Romans, and was ruling with insolent pride. Theodoric came upon him and slew him, and taking as booty his slaves and treasure, returned victorious to his father. Next he invaded the city of Singidunum, which the Sarmatians themselves had seized, and did not return it to the Romans, but reduced it to his own sway.”

Comment:  This Suavia actually makes sense as the Swabia of today – assuming, that is, the Baiovari were then in Bavaria already.

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May 23, 2015

On Lake Mu(r)sianus

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“Introrsus illis Dacia est, ad coronae speciem arduis Alpibus emunita, iuxta quorum sinistrum latus, qui in aquilone vergit, ab ortu Vistulae fluminis per inmensa spatia Venetharum natio populosa consedit, quorum nomina licet nunc per varias familias et loca mutentur, principaliter tamen Sclaveni et Antes nominantur. Sclaveni a civitate Novietunense et laco qui appellatur Mursiano usque ad Danastrum et in boream Viscla tenus commorantur: hi paludes silvasque pro civitatibus habent. Antes vero, qui sunt eorum fortissimi, qua Ponticum mare curvatur, a Danastro extenduntur usque ad Danaprum, quae flumina multis mansionibus ab invicem absunt. Ad litus autem Oceani, ubi tribus faucibus fluenta Vistulae fluminis ebibuntur, Vidivarii resident, ex diversis nationibus adgregati; post quos ripam Oceani item Aesti tenent, pacatum hominum genus omnino.  Quibus in austrum adsidet gens Acatzirorum…”


in preparation for reparations let us enjoy the view

(Near their left ridge [it appears he is talking about the Carpathians], which inclines toward the north, and beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanses of land.  Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called the Sclaveni and Antes.  The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the [Vistula?].  They have swamps and forests for their cities.  The Antes, who are the bravest of these peoples dwelling in the curve of the sea of Pontus, spread from the Danaster to the Danaper, rivers that are many days’ journey apart.  But on the shore of Ocean, where the floods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivarii dwell, a people gathered out of various tries.  Beyond them the Aesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean.  To the south dwell the Acatziri…)




Where could this lake be?  Most historians, archeologists, Slavologists and academiologists have no idea and they readily admit it.  Best definite answer so far: somewhere in Romania…  But maybe the problem is that from 1861 it has been de rigueur to refer to the lake with an “r” as Mursianus but before that it was just Musianus.  What gives?



From Ueber den Bodensee. Ein Versuch By Georg Leonhard Hartmann



More Duck Tape!

We’re not quite serious…

or are we?

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May 21, 2015

On Birds

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Nay further, they [Antes & Slavs] do not differ at all from one another in appearanceFor they are all exceptionally tall and stalwart men, while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or blonde, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are all slightly ruddy in color.


slovikpicture slovik

(Suovik, bird name; e.g., Old Church Slavonic suaviy, Russian souoviey proven to be from original *souv meaning a grey-yellow color (German sal “dirty-gray”); Prussian salovis is a borrowing).

(Aleksander Brückner – Etymological Dictionary of the Polish Language)

In English thrush nightingale (Luscinia luscinia) and in German Sprosser.  Here is where they live and where they spend the winter.

sprosserNow you know too why the River Souava (Solawa) is called Saale in German.  Also, say suovik and then change the “s” to a “ch” & you get “chuovik”.  Anyone know what that is?

So maybe the Wends or Veneti were not Western Slavs but rather Eastern Slavs?

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May 20, 2015