Monthly Archives: January 2016

Winnili and Venelli

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We have previously observed that Adam of Bremen places the Winnuli on the Odra during historic times, which if true would certainly refer to Slavs.  However, Winnili is, as per Paul the Deacon, the “old” name of the Langobards.  How are these to be reconciled?  A few observations are in order.

First, interestingly the name is perhaps related to the Gothic vinja that is “pasture”.  Whether that also tells us something about the Veneti is unknown.

Second, it is not at all impossible that the Scandinavian invaders renamed (like the Rus renaming the Polyane, with their own name Rus).

Third, the name is remarkably similar to that of the Venelli/Unelli.

“[The Veneti] fortify their towns, convey corn into them from the country parts, bring together as many ships as possible to Venetia, where it appeared Caesar would at first carry on the war. They unite to themselves as allies for that war, the Osismii, the Lexovii, the Nannetes, the Ambiliati, the Morini, the Diablintes, and the Menapii; and send for auxiliaries from Britain, which is situated over against those regions.” (Julius Caesar, On the Gallic War, Book 3, 9).

“[Caesar] sends Q. Titurius Sabinus his lieutenant, with three legions, among the Unelli, the Curiosolitae, and the Lexovii, to take care that their forces should be kept separate from the rest. He appoints D. Brutus, a young man, over the fleet and those Gallic vessels which he had ordered to be furnished by the Pictones and the Santoni, and the other provinces which remained at peace; and commands him to proceed toward the Veneti, as soon as he could. He himself hastens thither with the land forces.” (Julius Caesar, On the Gallic War, Book 3, 11).

It is the Venelli/Unelli that are led by their chieftain Viridovic (rather not Viridovix).


A number of tribal names should be interesting on the map here:

  • Venelli
  • Veneti (of course)
  • Ossismii (the “last” ones, e.g., ostatni)
  • Lexovii (“x” like “h”?)
  • Lingones
  • Bellovaci (white cow tribe or pretty cow tribe :-))
  • Morini (people who live by the sea – see Slavic more = sea; note also the -in suffix)
  • Eburones (Lugi Buri connection?)
  • Senones (similar to Suevi Semnones?)
  • Nervii (aside from the connection to the river Narew, there is the obvious connection to the town of Narva which is, apparently, of Veps origin – meaning “waterfall”; on the genetic similarity between the Veps people and the Poles of all people, see here)
  • Lemovices – note that the Lemovi are present – on the Baltic (!) right next to the Rugii in Germania.
  • Vellavi
  • Ruteni (!)
  • Namnetes/Nemetes

(We are not touching the Diablintes).  We are by no means suggesting that these tribes were somehow Slavic (e.g., Namnetes/ Nemetes!) – nevertheless, the similarity of some names is at least interesting.  There is also an interesting North-bias to these names.

Note that similarly interesting names also appear among the Celts in Italy (including Boii like the Boii of Bohemia and the Senones and, of course, the Taurini with the town of Torino named after them).

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January 31, 2016

Alexander & the Veneti

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We haven’t done much with the Paphlagonian Veneti lately so here is a little piece from the History of Alexander the Great by Quintus Curtius Rufus (or, if you will, Historiarum Alexandri Magni Macedonis Libri Qui Supersunt, that is, “All the Books That Survive of the Histories of Alexander the Great of Macedon”).


Medieval French edition – colourful, if perplexing

Rufus was most likely a first century historian and is a mystery man himself.  Nothing is known of him other than the fact that he wrote the above referenced book (some people suggest that Quintus Curtius Rufus was a pseudonym).  Be that as it may, here is the passage of interest (from the John C. Rolfe translation):

Book 3, chapter 1, paragraphs 22-24

“And now he had arrived at the city of Ancyra, from which, after having numbered his forces, he entered Paphlagonia; next to this were the Heneti, from whom some believe that the Veneti derive their origin.  All this region yielded to Alexander, and gave hostages and obtained freedom from the obligation of paying tribute, which they had not rendered even to the Persians.  Calas was made governor of that region, and Alexander himself, taking the troops that had lately arrived from Macedonia, made for Cappadocia.”


Quinti Curtii Rufi de rebus gestis Alexandri Magni libri decem : duo priores et finis decimi desiderantur (Codex Parisiensis 5716)

(Iamque ad urbem Ancyram ventum erat, ubi numero copiarum inito Paphlagoniam intrat: huic iuncti erant Heneti, unde quidam Veneto trahere originem credunt.  Omnnis haec regio paruit regi; datisque obsidibus, tributum, quod ne Persis quidem tulisswent, pendere ne cogerentur impetraverunt.  Calas huic regioni praepositus est: ipse, adsumptis qui ex Macedonia nuper advenerant, Cappadociam petiit.)

The reference to the Heneti as being the origin of the (Adriatic) Veneti is the same reference that is made in the musings of Strabo where he speculates that the Adriatic Veneti are likely to have come instead from Bretagne.

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January 29, 2016


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If you want to get a quick answer where the Sclavi come from, all you have to do is close your eyes and say that name really fast over and over again.

BTW the same works for the Suavi.


Incidentally, if the Romans and Greeks inserted the “c” between the “S” and the “l” of “Sclavi because they found the “sl” sound hard to pronounce (as a lot of academics believe), wouldn’t it make sense that the “c” in Viscla was also inserted between the “s” and the “l”?  And if so aren’t we dealing here with an original sound that is the same as the Sclavi sound?

Note that Vistula had different spellings such as Viscla but also Vistla.  And ithe “t” there may have played a similar role as the “c”.  But what of “Sclabi”?  Well, the “b” and “v” sounds have changed.  Thus we have Suevi but also Suebi and also Suavi. Indeed we even have a Bisula designation for the Vistula in Jordanes’ Getica.

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January 28, 2016

Of Spain, Suevi, Iacetani and Napoleon

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A reader forwarded to us a link to the Wikipedia page on the Suevi where one of the editors happily said the following;

“ALLARIZ BEARIZ MONDARIZ In Galicia there are different villages with names ending in IZ, like Allariz and Beariz (Ourense) and Mondariz (Pontevedra), which origin comes from the Swebian tribe. Allaritz, Bearitz, Mondaritz….like Austerlitz.”

Like Austerlitz indeed.

So, let us take a look at Austerlitz.  Austerlitz is, without a doubt, a German name.  It would seem to be a name that is completely unrelated to the Slavic name of the town.

But two interesting things come up right from the start here.

First, the current name of the town is – now – Slavkov u Brna (which, in Polish, is Sławków, i.e., its pronunciation is Suavkuv).

The Czech name literally means Slavkov by Brno, i.e., the Czech city of Brno (known in German as Brünn).  (We will not touch the topic of whether this Brno has some connection to Bern in the Switzerland and other similarly named cities… for now).

So that’s a quasi-Slav (Suevic?) connection.

Ok, whatever.

Second, and more importantly, the Czech name also seems to be a relatively new one and an older Czech name may have been Novosedlice (a name found already in Cosmas’ Chronicle of the Czechs).  It is, supposedly, from that Novosedlice that Austerlitz comes from.  If so, then Austerlitz is merely a corruption/mispronounciation of Sedlice or Sedlitz.


“Town stays Slavic & your Reich’s kaputt”

Ok, ok.

But there is something else.  Let’s look at the claims about Allariz, Beariz and Mondariz.  Allariz still stands as Allariz.  And so does Beariz and so does Mondariz.  Here they are in blue:


But are -iz and -itz endings Suevic?  Well, the stems certainly could be Germanic, e.g., Allariz may be from Alaric.  On the other hand, were place names with such suffixes to be found in East Germany they would likely be classified as Slavic.  Add to that that where they’d be classified as German it would be in West Germany.  But in West Germany such names appear only in certain areas – towards the south – not in west central or north and certainly not in Scandinavia.  They’d be found somewhere in between the Slavic and the ancient Vindelician area.  That itself is, or at least should be, interesting.

However, there is more, there are other places with -iz and indeed even -itz (!) in Spain.  Are these also Suevic?  The problem is that they are nowhere near the former Suevic kingdom.  For example, take a look at these with special notice of the cluster just north of Pamplona and into France:


Are these all Basque?  The largest concentration just north of Pamplona is really in Navarre.  There are Basques in Navarre, for sure.  Indeed, the first King of Pamplona was called Eneko (Íñigo) Arista and was Basque.  But the rest of Basque country (Navarre currently is not in Basque country) contains such names only sporadically.

BTW what are these green stars you ask?  They are other interesting names such as:

  • Grocin
  • Zubiri
  • Eslava, and our favourites:
  • Liedena, which just happens to be right next to
  • Yesa

And there are more…


This Navarre bias is demonstrated here too if you use the Buscador tool to look for -itz suffixes which gives you this (we mark the pure -itzes not, e.g., -itzu or -itza – though if you look closely those too are primarily in Navarre) (Vizcaya is Bizkaia or the current administrative province of Basque country):


Apparently, these references may be a sign of the former tribe of the Iacetani.


For more of this you can look at the Venetic area about Bretagne.  As far as we know the only major recent effort to compare Slavic and Basque languages was in the “Veneti: First Builders of European Community” book which. while not the clearest in exposition, is certainly more than worth reading.

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January 28, 2016

More on H2O

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Now that we are done with our venting (so to speak) we look for additional topics.  Before we get there, some off the top remarks, however:

Those who have followed our Water of Jassa here and here as well as our little puzzle, will enjoy our threading these topics together.  For your amusement, note that the River Thames on which sits the town of London, etc., was, apparently, also known as Thame-Issa.  Why?  It seems that this is result of the River Thame combining with the River Isis – hence Thame & Issa.  A part of it was, according to one , called *(p)lowonida (the Indo-European roots *pleu- “flow” and *-nedi “river”?  See the rivers Nida).  And a potsherd found nearby bears the name Tamesubugus fecit – that is, supposedly, the name of someone Tamesubugus who made the original pot.  Actually, what it says is TΛ·MII·SV·BV·GVS·FII·[…]  The II is supposed to be an “e” and hence “fe” and hence “fecit”.  Oddly, we know a River Bug from the Belorussian border.  Whether it means something like “God” because of its similarity with Bog is to be doubted (does Bug have anything to do with beugen (what you do when you run but also when you bend the knee in front of  a deity) rather than the Iranian bhaga?  So many possibilities.

There is also the question of the city on the river Bug, i.e., Brest – former Brest Litovsk (to distinguish it from other Brests in Slavic lands of which there are plenty).

Of course, there is also another Brest – unsurprisingly in Bretagne.  Are all those Brests Slavic/Suavic/Venetic?


If you’re reading this you have a dirty mind

And that’s before we even get to Dover – a Celtic word having something to do with water.  Fair enough, but wouldn’t we then suspect a reconstructed (hypothetical) Celtic *dubro– in the city of Dubrovnik too (rather than having anything to do with oaks)?

And what of Londonbyrig? The brig is supposedly like a “borough” or “burgh” and is Saxon.  But weren’t there Angles there too?  You know, the Suevi Angli?  Does it have anything to do with the shore (berg)?  Maybe, although this is hard to tell since most burghs would have been built on a river or lake to access water.

For this reason the question of whether -ava really means water is also tangly and needs a “fresh” look.

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January 25, 2016

The History of Menander the Guardsman

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Following the 1984 R.C. Blockley  translation, here are the mentions of the Slavs in the History of Menander the Guardsman.  We present here only the passages describing the Slavs.  Thus, for example, the mention of Usdibad the “Gepid leader” will require a separate examination (see Fragments 12, 5; 12, 6) (Ústí nad Labem anyone?).

Menander’s work remains in fragments from various sources such as the Suda (Σοῦδα), a 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia, the Excerpta of Constantine Porphyrogenitus and the so-called Greek Anthology.  The “history” continues the History of Agathias Scholasticus of Myrina with Menander covering the years 558-582.

The city of Sirmium is now within Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia.  The city of Singidunum is now Belgrade also in Serbia.


A different Menander

Fragment 20, 2

(between 576-578)

“… While time was passing and envoys of both states were engrossed in these discussions and the status of the war in the East remained unclear , in the fourth year of there gin of Tiberius Constantine Caesar it happened in Thrace that the nation of the Slavs to the number of 100,000 devastated Thrace and many other areas.”

Fragment 21


“Greece was being plundered by the Slavs, and a succession of dangers was threatening there on all sides.  [presumably the above mentioned Slavic invasion of Greece in 576-578]  Since Tiberius did not have a force strong enough to resist even a part of the invaders (and certainly not the whole horde of them) and since he was unable to face them in battle because the Roman armies were occupied with the wards in the East, he sent an embassy to Baian the chief of the Avars.  At the time he was not hostile towards the Romans, and, indeed, from the very beginning of Tiberius’ reign had wished to be friendly with our state.  Tiberius, therefore, persuaded him to make war on the Slavs, so that all of those who were laying waste to Roman territory would be drawn back by the troubles at home, choosing rather to defend their own lands.  They, they would cease to plunder Roman territory, preferring to fight for their own.”

“The Caesar, then, sent this embassy to him, and Baian agreed to his request.  John, who at this time was governor of the isles and in charge of the cities of Illyricum, was sent to assist him.*  He came to the land of Pannonia and transported Baian himself and the Avar forces to Roman territory, ferrying the multitude of barbarians in the so called ‘large transports.’  It is said that about sixty thousand armored horsemen were brought across to Roman territory.  From there Baian crossed Illyricum, reached Sythia and prepared to recross the Danube in the so-called ‘double-sterned’ ships.**  When he gained the far bank, he immediately put fire to the villages of the Slavs and laid waste their fields, driving and carrying off everything, since non of the barbarians there dared to face him, but took refuge in the thick undergrowth of the woods.”

*A.H.M. Jones has him as the quaestor exercitus (under whose control fell Moesia II, Scythia and the Aegean Isles) and praetorian prefect of Illyricum

** This is what Blockley says of this itinerary: ‘Contary to the view of Hauptmann and most scholars, I do not hunk that Menander meant to suggest that Baian crossed the Danube to Roman territory and then recrossed it.  It is possible that Baian ha been established in Pannonia since about 571, and in the present passage Menander’s language when noting John’s arrival in Pannonia suggests that he had left Roman territory.  Also it would seem a very foolish action to ferry the Avars across the Danube to an area which they were known to covet, when they could more safely and conveniently have been taken across from Dacia further down the river, were they not already in Pannonia.  Thus, John probably ferriedBaian across the Save and then back across the Danube to attack the Slavs.  (It is clear from the fragment that the bridges over the Save between Sirmium and Singidunum were down, as one would expect since the river was effectively the front line, Simrum being an isolated bridgehead supplied by water [on the possible existence of a bridge up river to Dalmatia see note 316 of the book]).’


[and now back to Menander]

“The Avar attack on the Slavs arose not only out of the embassy from the Caesar and the desire of Baian to return a favour to the Romans in exchange for the great generosity which the Caesar had shown to him, but also because Baian was hostile to them out of a personal grievance.  For the leader of these Avars had sent to Daurentius and the chiefs of his people ordering them to obey the commands of the Avars and to be numbered amongst their tributaries.  Dauritas and his fellow chiefs replied, ‘What man has been born, what man is warmed by the rays of the sun who shall make our might his subject?  Others do not conquer our land, we conquer theirs.  And so it shall always be for us, as long as there are wards and weapons.’  Thus boasted the Slavs, and the Avard replied with a like arrogance.  After this came abuse and insults, and because they were barbarians with their haughty and stubborn spirits, a shouting match developed.  The Slavs were so unable to restrain their rage that they slew the envoys who had come to them, and Baian received a report of these doings from others.  As a result he nursed his grievance for a long time and kept his hatred concealed, angered that hey had no become his subjects not to mention that he had suffered an irreparable wrong at their hands.  Moreover, thinking both to win favour with Caesar and that he would find the land full of gold, since the Roman Empire had long been plundered by the Slavs,  whose own land has never been raided by any other people at all…”

Fragment 25, 1

(circa 579)

” When in this year Baian as usual sent Targitius [Targitios] to the Emperor to receive the agreed payment [which was 80,000 nomismata per year] and when Targitius had returned to him with the gold and the merchandise which he had bought with some of the money, then the Khagan of there Avars, without seeking an excuse or a pretext or even troubling to invest a false charge against the Romans, suddenly with a most barbarous lack of shame brokee the treaty which he had made with Tiberois immediately after he had become Caesar. With his whole army he came to the Save between Sirmium and Singidunum and began to bridge the river, having as his object the city of Sirmium, which he wished to capture.  Fearing that he would be prevented from bridging the river by the Romans who were guarding SIngidunum and being wary of their long expertise and skill with the ships that sailed on the river, he wished to complete his undertaking before his designs became known.  Therefore, he brought together on the Danube in Upper Pannonia many huge ships and he built large troop-translports not according to shipwrights’ standards but from what was available ton the spot.  He loaded them with many soldiers and oarsmen, who rowed not in rhythm but in a barbarously uncoordinated manner, and sent the vessels en masse down the river, while he with the whole army marched by way of the island of Sirmium and breached the river Save.”

“The Romans in these cities were thrown into consternation, and, when they realised what the aim was, the general at Singidunum, whose name was Sethus, sent to the Khagan and asked him what his purpose was in coming to the river Save while there was a firm peace and friendship between him and the Romans.  He also said that if he tried to bridge the river absolutely without the Emperor’s permission he would not stand idly by.  The Khagan replied that he wished to build the bridge not with any designs against the Romnas, but in order to attach the Slavs.   When he and crossed the river and reached, he would again cross the Danube agains the Slavs if the Roman Emperor had a large number of vessels ready for him for the crossing.  He pointed out that he and done this earlier to please the Roman Emperor and had freed and returned to the Romans many tens of thousands of captives from Roman territory who were in slavery amongst the Slavs.  Now, he said, he had been injured by the Slavs who had refused to pay him the yearly tribute due from them and had killed the Avar envoys sent to them.***  For these reasons he had come to the Save.  To this end he told Sethus to receive envoys from him and send them on to the Emperor in order that they might ask him to make ready the vessels on the Danube for the Khagan since he intends to cross over to attack the Slavs.  He said that he was ready to swear the oaths that were the strongest amongst the Romans and the Avars that he was not planning any harm to the Romans or the city of Sirmium but that he wished to consort a bridge for an attack upon the Slavic nation.”

*** see above

“These assurances were believed neither by Sethus nor by the Romans in Singidnum.  However, they did not consider that they had an adequate force since they had few soldiers available and many of the swift warships were absent because the movement of the Avars had happened suddenly and nepxpectedly.  Movereover, the Khagan was beginning to threaten and aver that he himself was abiding by the terms of the peace with the Romans and that he would not cease to work on the bridge since he was proceeding against the Slavs, the enemies of both himself and the Romans.  Furthermore, if any Roman dared to hurl one weapon against those working to build the bridge, they should be clear that they were the first to break the treaty and since as a result whey would have provoked the Avar nation to war, they could not complain at whatever the Roman Empire sufferered at their hands.”

“Having these fears, the authorities in Singidunum asked Baian to swear the oaths.  He immediately drew his sword and swore the oaths of the Avars, invoking against himself and the whole Avar nation the sanction that, if he planned to build the bridge over the Save out of any design against the Romans, he and the whole Avar tribe should be destroyed by the sword, heaven above and God in the heavens should send fire against them, the mountains and the forests around fall upon them and the river Save overflow its banks and drown them.  Thus were the barbarian oaths sworn by the Khagan. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘I wish to swear the Roman oaths,’ and he also asked what they held to be a sure and binding guarantee that if one who swore bu it broke his oath, he would not escape the wrath of God.  The archbishop of Singidunum, through those who were acting as intermediaries, immediately proferred him the holy books.  He, most treacherously concealing his intent, stood up from his throne, pretended to receive the books with great fear and reverence. threw himself on the ground and most fervently swore by the God who had spoken the words on the holy parchment that nothing of what he had said was a lie.  Thereupon Sethus received his envoys and sent them off to the Emperor Tiberius in the capital.”

“While the envoys were still on the road to the imperial city and the Emperor was still to hear the news, the Khagan meanwhile did not relax his efforts but with all zeal and a large workforce (for thee whole Avar army, as it were, joined in the work) continued to build the bridge over the river, wishing the bridge to be completed before the Emperor should learn of his plan and attempt to stop what he was doing.”

Fragment 25, 2

(circa 579)

“The envoys of the Avars reached the capital and asked the Emperor to make read the shops for the Khagan and the Avar army which would cross the Danube to attack the Slavs.  They said that the Khagan, enthused with friendship towards him was building a bridge on the river Save and wished to destroy the Slavs, the common enemies of himself and the Romans.  Then they delivered their message, immediately the Emperor realised clearly the aim and intent of the Khagan, that he was building the bridge because he wished to take Sirmium and wanted to cut off the transportation of supplies so that the might starve the city into surrender.  [Trusting in the peace treaty with the Avars, Tiberius had not laid up adequate supplies in the city.]  The Emperor did not have an army available – I do not mean and army capable of opposing the Avar horde, since he lacked even a tiny force – because all the military units were occupied with the war against the Persians in Armenia and Mesopotamia.  He, therefore, pretended that he did not recognize what the Khagan was planning and said that he too was eager that they attack the Slavs, who were causing much damage to the Roman Empire.  However, this was not a good time fro the Avars to make an attack, since the Turks were encamped at Cherson and they would quickly hear of the Avars crossed the Danube.  IT would be better if they withdrew and postponed their assault.  He himself would shortly learn the intentions of the Turks and where they proposed to attack, and he would pass on this information to the Khagan.”

“The Avar envoy was aware that this story had been purposely put together by the Emperor, who hoped by confronting them with fear of the Turks to diver them from their object.  They envoy, who was the major advocate continually urging war with the Romans, seemed to go along and agreed to refer the whole matter to the Khagan.  He departed the capital with many gifts for what he promised to do.  But it happened that while he was crossing Illyricum with his small Roman escort he was killed by Slavs who were raiding the area.”

“Only a few days had passed when suddenly another envoy from the Khagan, whose name was Solakh, arrived at the capital.  When he was granted an audience with the Emperor he declared boldly and with a complete lack of shame, ‘I think it is a waste of words to inform you that the river Save has now been cut by a bridge.  To inform those who know if what is very clear to them merely brings blame upon the speaker.  Since in future food or any other assistance cannot be brought to the city of Sirmium by river, there is no strategy which will protect the Romans there unless a Roman army comes large enough to drive the Avar army away by force and break the bridge.  The Emperor ought not make war upon the Avars and the Khagan of the Avars over one worthless city (or rather’a jar’, which is the expression he used), but should withdraw from it unharmed all the soldiers and civilian occupants other with all of their movables and leave the city stripped and deserted for the Khagan.  The Khagan fears at present the Romans are pretending to adhere to the peace treaty only until they settle the war with the Persians.  When they have settled that, then they will throw their whole army against the Avars, having Sirmium as a very suitable bridgehead agains them and being separated by no river or any other obstacle.  For it is clear and most obvious that, at a time when there was a secs peace between the Emperor and the Avars, he did not surround the city of Sirmium with such strong walls for their benefit.'”

“The envoy continued that the Khagan was satisfied with the gifts sent each year to him by the Emperor; for gold, silver and silken clothes were valuable commodities.  However, since life was more valuable and desirable that all of these, he had been worrying about this and reflecting that many of the  peoples who before times had come to this land had first been enticed with such gifts by the Romans, who in e need had attacked and destroyed them utterly.  Therefore, he would not abandon his attempt for gifts under threats or through any other pressure at all, until he had taken the city of Sirmium and was in possession of the whole isle of Sirmium, which, as a former possession of the Gepids, most justly belonged to him. since they had been conquered by the Avars, with the result that what had been theirs rightly belonged to him rather than to the Romans.”

“This declaration caused consternation and threw the mind of the Emperor into a terrible turmoil of anger and grief.  Nevertheless, as best he could, he summoned the appropriate words and replied, ‘It is clear to every single person that the Khagan has outflanked us not through force or bravery of his troops or through wisdom, but by scorning the treaty of peace and God by whom he swore.  But, I think, his treater will bring him no more gains.  I should rather betroth to him one of m two daughters than willingly surrender the city of Sirmium.  Even if he should take it by force, I, while awaiting the retribution of God whim he has so insulted, shall bnever consent to abandon any part of the Roman state.'”

“With these words he dismissed the embassy and prepare to defend the city as best he could under the circumstances.  Since, as I have already said, he did not have even a small army, he sent out generals, counts and tribunes, some through Illyricum, some through Dalmatia, to hold they city with the aid of garrison troops.”

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January 25, 2016

Statuta dioecesis Cracoviensis

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That names of former gods were invoked in Polish Christian ceremony and that various pre-Christian ceremonies and customs survived the Baptism of Poland, we know from many sources.  Here are the 1408 statutes of the Cracow (& Sandomierz?) diocese.   These statutes contain prohibitions dealing with practices such as sorcery/fortunetelling, invocations of pre-Christian Gods at Christian events (around the Pentacost again) and practices around Christmas (calends).


The source for these is a publication by Bolesław Ulanowski in the Archive of the Historical Commission volume 5 (as printed in Scriptores Rerum Polonicarum volume 13).

Part I

Of Fortune-Telling

“Also we prohibit, lest anyone or some damnably [should] presume to tell and assert fortune-telling and divinations; when [to] no one does this [behaviour] appear to be harmful but [rather] beneficial [and if they say that] it is not a sin, those who say that, err in the faith.”

(De sortilegiis.  Item prohibemus, ne aliquis vel aliqua dampnabiliter presumat dicere et asserere sortilegia et divinaciones, quando nulli videntir esse in dampnum sed in profectum, non esse peccatum, quia hoc est dicere in fide errare.)

Part II

Of the Pagan Ritual Hitherto Preserved By Christians

“And, it is not without great contempt for the divine name that certain Christian cults presume to practice idolatry, especially at the time that the Holy Spirit with his gifts [asks].  Therefore, we prohibit pagan songs at the time of the Pentacost, in which the names of idols are invoked and venerated, but [with] all the strength of Christ’s faithful should be pointed out and excluded to diminish idolatry and to strengthen the Catholic faith being conducive to their welfare.”

(De ritu paganico hucusque seruato per christianos.  Item non sine magno contemptu nominis divini aliqui specie christiani cultim ydolatrie presumunt exercere, presertim tempore quo spiritus sanctus cum suis donis est querendus.  Ideo prohibemus, ne tempore Pentecosthen fiant cantus paganisci, in quibus ydola invocatur et venerantur, sed totis viribus populus Christi fidelis inducatur et arceatur ad dimittenda ydolatica et ad amplecantanda fidei katholice congrua et saluti eorum proficua facienda.)

Part III

Of the Carolling* Done By the Commoners

“Also at the instigation of the devil perverse men fell into the custom of walking among people before, during and after Christmas and at whatever other time [per columbacianem], where they would commit many murders, thefts and many other crimes.  We therefore prohibit such things from happening in the future; and you should restrain your parishioners from the above.”


No fighting and everyone ends up at the manger – that’s the public version

(De columbacione per laicos exercenda etc. Item ex instinctu dyaboli et hominum peruersorum abusu uenit in consuetudinem aput laycos ante, citra et post festum Natiuitatis domini et quocunque alio tempore ambulare per columbacianem, ubi contiugunt multa homicidia, furta et alia plura crimina.  Nos igitur prohibemus, ne de cetero talia fiant; et vos rectores animarum vestros subditos a predictis curetis cohibere.)

* These were the people walking around villages kalendae or calends (going back to the Latin “first of the month).  See also: Welsh Calennig.  These were very much like the English carolers.  Earlier on the same topic we also have Bishop Nanker’s order against similar practices from 1323 entitled De columbacionis solucione.


More on similar happenings in Croatia here and here more on similar (but later – circa 1420) prohibitions from Greater Poland (the above presumably refer to practices around Cracow, i.e., in Little Poland).

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January 23, 2016

On a Light-er Note

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In Germanic languages the word for summer is, well, summer applied as follows:

  • sumor (Old English);
  • simmer (West Frisian);
  • zomer (Dutch);
  • sumar (Old Norse/Icelanding);
  • sommar (Swedish);
  • Sommer (Danish, Bokmål Norwegian);
  • sommar/sumar (New Norwegian);

These have, seemingly, little to do with the Slavic “summer” or:

  • Leto (Czech/Slovak/Russian);
  • Lato (Polish);
  • Lito (Ukrainian);
  • Leta (Belorussian);
  • Ljeto (Serbian/Croatian);
  • Poletje (Slovenian);


It might come as a surprise then that Old English months of June and July (roughly) bore the following names:


  • lida (as per Bede’s On the Reckoning of Time or De Temporum Ratione);
  • Ærra Līþa (as per George Hickes’ 1703 in De antiquae litteraturae septentrionalis utilitate sive de linguarum veterum septentrionalium usu Dissertatio epistolaris)


  • lida (as per Bede’s On the Reckoning of Time or De Temporum Ratione);
  • ærra litha (as per the 1031 Biblia Cattoniensis);
  • Æftera Līþa (as per George Hickes’ 1703 in De antiquae litteraturae septentrionalis utilitate sive de linguarum veterum septentrionalium usu Dissertatio epistolaris);

Ærra Līþa literally means “ere” or “before,” presumably, Midsummer.   Æftera Līþa literally means “after” Midsummer (?).  There may also have been Þrilīþa meaning (?) “Third Midsummer” (perhaps in those years which had 13 months). (Whether these have anything to do with the, e.g., Polish lipiec (July) we do not discuss here.  Suffice it to say that there seems to be a connection to the Slavic summer).

Perhaps (as per this is related to lithe, i.e., Old English liðe “soft, mild, gentle, meek,” from (alleged) Proto-Germanic *linthja (cognates: Old Saxon lithi “soft, mild, gentle,” Old High German lindi, German lind, Old Norse linr, “with characteristic loss of “n” before “th” in English”), from PIE root *lent- “flexible” (cognates: Latin lentus “flexible, pliant, slow,” Sanskrit lithi).  In Middle English, used of the weather. Current sense of “easily flexible” is from c. 1300. Related: Litheness.  (though one has to ask whether the loss of the “n” really happened in English if the word was lithi already (that is already without any “n”) in Sanskrit).

And what of light?

In this telling June/July would be the lithe or mild months. It is also hard not to notice the similarity of these words (as well as the Slavic Lato or Ljeto or Leto) to words such as lethargic. Is there a relation to summer?  Perhaps.  In Latin “deep sleep” or lethargy were called sopor and the God of Sleep was… Somnus.  The cognates of that one are, supposedly, the following: Sanskrit svapnah, Avestan kvafna-, Greek hypnos, Lithuanian sapnas, Old Church Slavonic sunu, Old Irish suan, Welsh hun “sleep,” Latin sopor “a deep sleep.”  And then there is Old English swefn, Old Norse svefn “a dream”.  Not to mention the Polish/Czech/Slovak sen which has the identical meaning of “a dream.” (Same for Serbo-Croat/Slovene san(je)).



Brueckner’s arrogance wafts off the paper

Further, what appears to be March was called in Germanic languages (among other versions) hlythahlyda, hlydmonath.  Whether this has anything to do with the, e.g., Polish name for February – luty – we leave to the readers.

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January 23, 2016

Widukind on Slavic Saturn with Some Miscellany

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We have had something to say about Widukind, the chronicler of the Saxons (Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri trespreviously.  And we will have more to say later.  However, for now, we note a curious passage in Book III, chapter 68 (chapter 66 of the same book mentions the Licikaviki) that mentions a bronze idol of… Saturn (father of Jupiter) captured from the Slavs – possibly at Stargard/Oldenburg – by “Duke” Hermann Billung.

The cast of characters includes:

  • Duke Hermann Billung – a servant of Emperor Otto I for Saxony and margrave of the so-called Billung March from 936 to 973 (though never officially a “duke”/Herzog).  He was the younger brother of Wichmann the Elder.
  • Wichmann the Elder – although not mentioned in the below tale, it was Wichmann the Elder’s outrage at having his younger brother Hermann be named „princeps militia“ (military leader) of the East Saxon areas, that caused him to rebel against Otto I – a rebellion soon suppressed.
  • Wichmann the Younger – together with his half-brother Egbert, he continued his father’s rebellion against his uncle duke Hermann and to aid him in this he went to the Slavs.
  • Duke (King) Mistivoj (Mistav) – duke of the Obodrites, perhaps the son of Nakon/Nacco; although he fought against the Saxons, he lost and became their ally which, perhaps, led to the Saxons favouring him in his conflict with Selibur (who was the duke of the Wagrians but also perhaps Mistav’s brother).  Later in life he participated in Otto II’s campaigns against the Saracens in Italy and, according to both Thietmar and Helmold, turned on the Germans in 983 during the Great Slav Uprising.
  • Duke (King) Zelibor (Selibur) – duke of the Wagrian Slav portion of Obodrite Confederation – perhaps the brother of Mistav (and hence, perhaps, the son of Nakon).  He allied with Wichmann the Younger against  Hermann Billung.  Apparently, he thought he should have been made duke (or, if you will, king) of all the Obodrites.

Sidenote 1: 

Mistav/Mistivoj’s daughter Tove became the second wife of Harald Bluetooth of Denmark.  She (and Mistav/Mistivoj) are mentioned on the so-called Sønder Vissing Runestone where it says: Tōfa lēt gørva kumbl, Mistivis dōttiR, øft mōður sīna, kona Hara[l]ds hins gōða, Gōrms sonar (or “Tofa, the daughter of Mistivoj, the wife of Harald the Good, son of Gorm, had this monument raised for her mother.”  What Mistivoj’s wife’s (and Tove’s mother’s) name was, however, we do not know.

vissing1Sidenote 2: 

It is possible that Sweyn Forkbeard was the child of Harald with Tove.  Sweyn Forkbeard fathered Cnut the Great with another Slavic princess – Świętosława (Sigrid the Haughty or Gunhild of Wenden). If so, then Cnut would have been Slavic on his father’s side as well.  It is also possible that Świętosława was the sister of Cnute (which name she would not have borne unless a connection existed to Slavs in the family); see “Santslaue soror CNVTI regis nostri”  in the Hyde Register, i.e., “Liber vitae of the New Minster and Hyde Abbey Winchester” (British Library Stowe MS 944):


That is all just background and now for the story:


Once again, the 1532 Basel edition

Deeds of the Saxons

Book III, Chapter 68 Regarding two minor kings and Wichmann

(Bernard & David Bachrach translation)

“There were two minor kings under the jurisdiction of Duke Hermann who had inherited enmity toward each other from their fathers.  One was named Selibur and the other Mistav.  Selibur ruled the Wagrians.  Mistav ruled the Obodrites.  They frequently brought accusations against each other.  Finally, however, Selibur was convicted after an investigation by the duke, and condemned to pay fifteen talents of silver.  Taking this fine very badly, Selibur decided to raise arms agains the duke.  But since he did not have sufficient forces to fight against him, Selibur sent a messenger to ask Wichmann for aid against the duke.  Wichmann, who thought that there was nothing more pleasant than to have some means of troubling his paternal uncle, immediately set out with is companions to join with the Slav.  However, as soon as Wichmann gained entry into the stronghold, it was immediately laud under siege by the enemy, who surrounded it with a wall.  An army commanded by the duke also besieged the fort.  In the meantime, whether by chance or by prudent counsel, Wichmann left the stronghold along with a few others, pretending as if they were going to seek aid from the Danes.”

“Within a few days, the food for the fighting men and the fodder for the baggage animals began to give out.  There were those who said that the Slav had only undertaken a sham rather than a true war.  It seemed incredible that a man, who had been accustomed to war from his youth, could have made such bad preparations.  They argued that this was, instead, a plan conceived by the duke so that he might be able to overcome his nephew by whatever possible means, so that he could recover him safely in his fatherland rather than allowing him to perish utterly among the pagans.  So the garrison, burdened by hunger and by the stink of their cattle, was forced to exit the stronghold.”

“The duke spoke bitterly to the Slav about his treachery, denounced him as wretched because of his actions.  The duke then received this response from the Slav: ‘Why do you accuse me of treachery?’ he said.  ‘Behold, here are men whom neither you nor your lord emperor were able to overcome.  They stand here unarmed because of my treachery.’  The duke was silent after receiving this answer.  He deprived the Slav of the lands that he held under the duke’s authority.  The duke then handed this territory with full authority to the son of the Slav, whom the duke darker had received as a hostage.  The duke imposed a range of punishments on Wichmann’s soldiers, and gave booty from the stronghold as a gift to his open soldiers.  On hi victorious return to the fatherland, the duke brought forth an idol of Saturn made of bronze, which he had found among the other spoils in the fort, as a great spectacle for his people.”


(LXVIII. De duobus regulis et Wichmanno.

Erant duo subreguli Herimanno duci, inimicitiae a patribus vicariae relicti; alter vocabatur Selibur, alter Mistav. Selibur preerat Waaris, Mistav Abdritis. Dum invicem quam saepe accusantur, victus tandem ratione Selibur condempnatus est quindecim talentis argenti a duce. Eam dampnationem graviter ferens arma sumere contra ducem cogitavit. Sed cum ei belli copiae non sufficerent, missa legatione postulat presidium ab Wichmanno contra ducem. Ille nichil iocundius ducens, quam aliquam molestiam inferre posset patruo, cito cum sociis adest Sclavo. Ut autem suscipitur in urbem Wichmannus, statim urbs obsidione vallatur ab inimico. Ductus quoque exercitus a duce urbem obsedit. Interim, casu nescio an prudenti consilio, Wichmannus cum paucis urbem est egressus, quasi ad extra[143]henda sibi de Danis auxilia. Pauci dies intererant, dum victus bellatoribus et pabulum iumentis defecerat. Fuerunt etiam qui dicerent Sclavum speciem quidem belli gessisse, non verum bellum. Incredibile omnimodis fore hominem a puero bellis assuetum bellicas res tam male preparatas habuisse; sed id consilii machinatum ducem, ut quoquo pacto posset nepotem vinceret, ut saltem in patria salutem recuperaret, quam inter paganos penitus perdidisset. Fame itaque urbani ac foetore pecorum aggravati urbe egredi sunt coacti. Dux Sclavum austerius alloquens de perfidia et nequam eius actibus arguit, hocque ab eo responsi accepit: «Quid me», inquit, «de perfidia arguis? Ecce, quos nec tu nec dominus tuus imperator vincere potuistis, mea perfidia inermes assistunt.» Ad haec dux conticuit, eum suae ditionis regione privans, filio ipsius, quem antea obsidem accepit, omni ipsius potestate tradita. Milites Wichmanni variis poenis afflixit, urbis predam suis militibus donavit, simulacro Saturni ex aere fuso, quod ibi inter alia urbis spolia repperit, magnum spectaculum populo prebuit victorque in patriam remeavit.)

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January 19, 2016

Not Everyone Is Hannibal

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Here is a simple topographic map of North Central Europe:

version1 Say you wanted to invade the Roman Empire and you were coming down from the Danish Jutland Peninsula.  How would you do it if you did not care for crossing mountains, hills and other hard to pass natural barriers?  Here is one way.  The red lines are the “lazy man’s invasion routes” and the blue line is an approximate Roman border (obviously it changed over time).


Now compare this to the Ketrzynski map of Slav settlement (again, only in Germany and only West of the Elbe-Saale, i.e., Uaba/Souava line):


More on the Hammer of Thor here.

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January 18, 2016