Monthly Archives: March 2016

Out of or Into India?

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Here is the split between Centum and Satem languages.


The split has for a long while now been seen as rather artificial but the map is worth looking at for another reason – look south, at the cut off of the Indo-European languages in India.  Why do they stop there?  Well, maybe because there are mountains there – not terribly huge mountains but nevertheless.  So why does that matter?  Check out the name of that mountain range.  They are the Vindhya Range.


In fact, after India’s independence an administrative region in the area was named Vindhya Pradesh (since abolished).

And here is a map of two types of names containing:

  • Odra/Adra – also A/Od/t/ro/a/e RED
  • Warta – also Vart/a/e/o BLUE


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March 25, 2016

More Indian Connections in the Laterculus Veronensis?

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One of the documents that appeared in the early 4th century is a list of 53 peoples attached to a list of Roman provinces.  It is preserved in a 7th-century manuscript in the Chapter House Library (Biblioteca Capitolare, MS II (2)) in Verona (hence, the “Verona List” or Laterculus Veronensis or Veroneser Völkertafel).


This list’s title is “Barbarian Nations that Sprang Up Under the Emperors” (Gentes barbaras quad pullulaverunt sub imperatoribus).  It was first published by Francesco Scipione, marchese di Maffei (hence Mafei) in 1742 in his Opuscoli Ecclesiastici but was really brought to light by Mommsen in 1862.  The following peoples are listed:

“Scoti Picti Caledonii Rugi Heruli Saxones Chamavi Frisiavi Amsivari Angli [?] Angrivari Flevi Bructeri Chatti Burgundiones Alamanni Suebi Franci Chattovari Iuthungi Armilausini Marcomanni Quadi Taifali Hermunduri Vandali Sarmatae Sciri Carpi Scythae Gothi Indii Armenii Osrhoeni Palmyreni Mosoritae Marmaridae Nabathei Isauri Fryges Persae… Item gentes quae in Mauretania sunt: Mauri Quinquegentiani, Mauri Mazices, Mauri Barbares, Mauri Bacuates, Celtiberi, Turduli, Ausetani, Carpetani, Enantes.”

Or rather this is the list put together recently by Mathisen based on the 1878 Riese edition.  But if you look at the below you will see a number of differences (e.g., not Suebi but Suevi, Angri not Angli, Gallovari not Chattovari, etc.).  These differences are based on different interpretations of a single manuscript!  This should give you some sense of how much interpretive leeway historians and editors take!

Here is the 1742 Maffei edition (the peoples list portion is in red):


And here the 1862 Mommsen edition (again, the peoples list portion is in red):


However, what is interesting is that in all of these versions of the same thing the name Indii appears right between the Gothi and the Armeni.  The list otherwise seems within its European portion to follow a West-to-East pattern.  Thus, if the Indii are located between the Goths (who were then in Ukraine?) and the Armenians (who were presumably where they’ve always been and are) the Indii would be somewhere in the Caucasus.


Therefore, these Indii could not be Indians as in Indians of India.  Could they be Vindi?  That does not necessarily mean Veneti as in the Slavs.  The most likely candidate would be the Svaneti that we mentioned recently.



Of course, that would mean that there are no explicit Slavs on the list (though, by the same reasoning, neither are there any Deutsche to be seen unless Maffei is right and Mommsen is wrong).

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March 24, 2016

The Indian (Armenian) Connection?

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That the tale of Lech, Czech and Rus may have its origins in (or at least may share similarity with) the tale of the Polanians of Kiev, i.e., Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv (putting aside their sister Lybid) should be unsurprising.  However, that the latter should have something to do with tales of Indian princes (Kvar (town of Kvars), Meghtes (town/place of Meghti) and Hor (town of Horyan)) ought to raise an eyebrow or two.  In particular, it has been claimed a number of times that there are similarities between the tale of the founders of Kiev and the legend given by the Armenian writer Zenob Glak.  For example, there is in that story the district of Palunik which makes some people think of the Eastern Polans.


Lake Van – does it have anything to do with the Veneti?

Who was Zenob Glak?

To answer this question and to see what he wrote we consulted the book “The Heritage of Armenian Literature, volume 2.”  In it Glak is said to be (probably) a Syrian clergyman of the fourth century  who was appointed the first bishop of the Mamikonian feudal house and abbot of the Surp Karapet monastery in Taron (a province in then Armenia – the monastery itself was in Innaknian, today’s Mush in Turkey).  The work that he produced goes by the name Patmutiun Tarono, i.e., the “History of Taron.”  It was supposed to be a history of the Christianization of Armenia.  It claims to have been written by Glak in the fourth century but then expanded on by one Hovhan Mamikonian in the seventh century (the latter being the 35th bishop after Glak).  We say “it claims” because some authors (including the authors of the above volume on Armenian literature) suggest that the book was actually written in the seventh century (or later) and that Glak was only alleged to be the author of the main portion of it because of the desire by the real writer (presumably Hohvan but maybe another Mamikonian) to make the work sound “ancient.”  Whatever the reality, the book is interesting for containing descriptions of the struggle of the Armenians who were caught between the Byzantines (earlier the Romans) and the Persians and, consequently, subject to repeated subjugation attempts and wars.  The book is also interesting because it contains the tale of Saint Gregory’s war against the pagan priests of {northern?) Armenia and, in particular, his struggle to destroy the temples dedicated to Gisane* and Demetr – who are said to be of Indian origin.  They are said to have conspired against their king in India and then to have fled the king’s wrath to Armenia.  There they were given refuge by King Vagharshak who allowed them to settle in Taron where they established the town of Vishap.  Their followers deified them and called the idols by their names.  Thereafter, their three children who were called Kvar, Meghtes and Hor built three cities where Gisane and Demetr are worshipped.  Here is that tale (the authors, in general, follow the Levon Avdoyan translation in “Pseudo-Yovhannes Mamikonean”).

Why Does the History of Taron Matter for Slavs?

Maybe it does not.  Who knows.  But, maybe it does.

As noted above the main reason this book should be of interest to us, however, is its connection (or, at least, the alleged connection) between the story of Kvar, Meghtes and Hor and the later story of Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv.  In the former story Palunik is supposed to have been a reference/connection/basis – call it what you will – to the land of the Polane (Eastern) in the Primary Chronicle.

But there is another reason why this story is of interest.  Note the names of Gisane and Demetr.  This name Gisane is “assumed to be derived from the Armenian word gis, meaning a tress of hair that the priests used to wear.”  That much from the authors of “The Heritage…”  And, indeed, Gisane is said to have long hair.  The other Indian prince mentioned in the story is Demetr.  You might say, so what?  The interesting thing is that Gisane may instead (or may also) be connected to the Polish Yassa or Jason or Czech Chason.  The g > j change is rather easy.  But there is something else.  While we have talked of Essus and of Þjazi/Thjazi, another ancient deity (or semi-deity) – this time of Greek literature – was Jasion/Iasius.  And Jasion lusted after Demetr.  In fact, it was on account of his desire for Demetr that Zeus – in some versions – killed Jasion.  We will get back to that later.  What’s really interesting is that Jan Dlugosz, in addition to Jesza mentions (among other Gods) also Marzanna.  Marzanna who was later – in Christian times – associated with death seems to have been, as per Dlugosz, instead a Goddess of life or fertility.  In this role she would have fit well with Jesze not as the Polish Jove but as the Polish version of Eostre – Jaster or Jarovit.  Now Marzanna was, as this Goddess of fertility, claimed by Dlugosz to have been the Polish Ceres.  And Ceres is just another (Roman) name for (the Greek) Demeter – who was the goddess of harvest, grains and fertility.  Notice too the names such as Ashtishat (site of a later Council in Ashtishat – of importance to the Armenian Church) – a name that might deserve addition to our earlier chart.



Who knows if there is a connection.  Dlugosz did not specifically tie Jesze to Marzanna (but rather to Jove).  And it is entirely possible that Gisenke and Demetr were remembered under these names in the fourth or seventh century precisely by reason of the Greek myths, i.e., that somehow the Greek (or rather Samothracian) myth made its way into Armenian lore.  The connection to the brothers of the Primary Chronicle also seems tenuous.  In any event although this story does not explicitly mention Slavs (as some other Armenian sources do), we nevertheless thought it of interest for the reasons stated above – and we’ll let you decide.   (At this rate we are showcasing about one Armenian source a year). 

We note too other connections to the area such as:

  • the story of Jason and the story of some of the origins of the naming of Poland, or
  • the northern Georgian tribe of the Svaneti (Georgian not Armenian but close enough for these purposes)

Finally, the story requires some unwinding.  It is the story of war against the northern pagan priests by Saint Gregory the Illuminator (circa 257 – circa 331) and the Armenian princes.  After a description of that war, however, the author – presumably Zenob Glak who accompanied Saint Gregory on this war – provides a background story (in red) about how exactly it happened that there were pagan temples in the north of Armenia in the first place.  It is that story that is relevant both to our discussion of Lech, Czech and Rus as well as to the discussion of Yassa/Chasson/Jasion.  There is a suggestion that the Old Gods were worshipped in all of Armenia (or at least all of Taron) previously for forty years.  Literally, that would put the arrival of  Gisane and Demetr in Taron sometime in the second half of the 3rd century (their worship starts with their children, the three brothers Kvar, Meghtes and Hor) – but the story, something tells us, may well be much older than that.

Here we go:


The Response of Bishop Zenob the Syrian to the Letter of the Syrians and the History Concerning the Region of Innaknian and the War Which Occurred with the Pagan Priest, Ardzan  

“Some of the princes advised the holy Grigor [Gregory the Illuminator – the patron saint and the first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church] that there remained in the district (gavar) of Taron two temples to pagan gods, where the people still were sacrificing to the demons.  Now he proposed to go so that he should destroy these heather temples of idols as well.  And he came to the land of Palunik into the avan of Gisane in the village of Kvars [village in the region of Mush, the province of Baghesh/Bitlis], where some of the pagan priests were.  And when they [the pagan priests] learned from the prince of Hashtyank that on the next day the Armenians would destroy the idols of the great gods Gisane and Demetr*, they went to the places of the idols at night and stored the temples’ treasuries in underground rooms and the priests at Kvars advised the pagan priests in Ashtishat (Acesilene): ‘Gather every man who is a warrior and hasten to reach us tomorrow for the great Gisane will go into battle against the apostatizing princes.’  Likewise, they spurred on the men of Kvars to lie in ambush in the enclosures of the vineyards and placed others in the forest to lie in ambush.  And the chief priest, who was named Ardzan, and his son, Demetr**, took the troops who were from the precinct of the temples, numbering four hundred men, and ascended the mountain which was opposite Kvars: they remained until other troops should come from all directions to their aid.”

* According to Hr. Acharian, Demetr was a prince who fled to Armenia from India and is dated by Acharian to 149-127 B.C. (incredibly exact and what is the source for this!?)

** This one apparently was named after the divinity.


Gregory the Illuminator

“Meanwhile, the Armenian* troops rose on the next day and passed along the foothills of the mountain of Meghti, by which route invading armies usually passed.”

* By “Armenian” the author means Saint Gregory’s army, i.e., not the opposing “pagans.”

“Now the holy Grigor took the princes of Artzrunik, of Andzevatsik [province of Vaspukaran], and of the Angegh tun [Latin Ngalawa, a region in the province of Aghdznik near Diarbakir, Turkey] and a few troops, some three hundred in number, and in the third hour ascended that same hill where Ardzan was hidden; and they (i.e., Grigor et alia) were confidentially proceeding and were totally without suspicion.  And when the Armenians were near the end of the ascent, Ardzan and Demetr came forward, caused the horns of war to be sounded, and boldly attacked the Armenians.  And when the princes heard this, they were greatly aroused, for when their steeds heard the sounds of the horns, they began to neigh and seek out the battle.”

“Now the prince of House of Angegh shouted” ‘Prince of Siunik, advance and look; perhaps these are the troops of the prince of the North.'”

“He [prince of Siunik] then went and was not able to ascertain who they were.  He returned and said: ‘Take Grigor to somewhere safe, together with his companions; the enemy might perhaps seize them and we would be shamed before the king.  And you send some men after our troops that they return here, for their ranks are numerous and many gleaming standards appear in their midst.'”

“Then the prince of Angegh tun gave the holy Grigor into the hands of the prince of Moks and said: ‘Hasten into the fortress of Voghkan until you learn what will be.’  And he himself sent three men to inform the troops.”

“Now the prince of Moks took Grigorios and turned toward the downward slope of the mountain, for he wanted to descend to Kvars.”

“Now the local men began to seize the passes of the route.  When the holy Grigor saw that there was great danger in that place, he took down the relics* and placed them near a spring, on that side of the valley opposite the giugh;  and he marked the spot.  And the Lord hid the place and no one was able to see the location until the holy Grigor had returned to it.”

* presumably the Christian relics that Gregory was carrying with him.

“Now the men of the village were pursuing us [this is the first time that the narrator (Glak? Hovhan Mamikonian?) switches to the first person in this passage; it seems that Glak was with Saint Gregory – away from the fighting] and we were fleeing, each mounted upon a horse, to the fortress of Voghkan, and since we had come ahead of them we entered the fortress, since the men of the fortress had come out in opposition to those pursuing us and had admitted us inside.  Now the men of the village arrived on the other side of the city of Kvars and the villagers informed them about us; when they heard this they crossed to this side and began to besiege the fortress.  Now, since we had become anxious, we sent someone at night to the prince of Angegh tun and informed him by letter of the state of affairs.  He then entrusted four thousand select men, armed with swords, to the prince of Apahunik and on the morrow they crossed the river and, laying siege to the city, after three days they destroyed it and leveled its ramparts to the ground.  And they brought the men of the city to Meghti.”

“Then the princes, when they had heard all of this, ascended the hill and saw that Ardzan [prince of the North (?) – the enemy] scarcely had four hundred men; the brave princes immediately attacked and forced Ardzan into flight.  Now, when the other Armenian forces heard the sound of the clamor, they instantly reached the summit of the hill.”

“Then Ardzan advanced and began to insult the Armenian princes and said: ‘Advance, O you who are irreligious and who have forsaken your nation’s* gods; and you who are enemies of the glorious Gisane.  Do you not know that the great Gisane has today come out into battle against you and he will deliver you into our hands and strike you with blindness and with death?'”

* The writer does not seem to dispute here Ardzan’s claim that the Armenians’ old(er) gods were the Gods worshipped at Kvars, i.e, Gisane and Demetr – at least for forty years (see below) before this expedition.

“Now the prince of Artzrunik, having passed into the middle ground between the forces, replied: ‘O you who rant against us! If you are making war on account of your gods, you are acting falsely; if for this land, then you are completely irrational, for this man is the prince of House of Angegh, and that, of Siunik, and these others are from among the noble men, whom you yourself recognize.'”

“Now Demetr, Ardzan’s son said: ‘Listen to me, princes of Armenia! It is now forty years that we have served these great gods and we know their power, for they themselves will wage war against the enemies of their own servants.  Now, we cannot oppose you in battle, for this is the house of the king of the Armenians and you are his princes.  But let this be known to you: Although we are not able to conquer you, nevertheless it is better to die for our gods than to see their temples corrupted by you.  On this account we have become tired of our lives and have come to look with pleasure upon death.  But you who are prince of House of Angegh, advance, that you and I fight in single combat.'”

“Then Ardzan [why not Demetr?] and the prince of Angegh tun passed into the middle of the armies and began to circle around each other.  And Ardzan pressed forward and struck the prince above his thigh and drew near to hurl him down.  Now the prince, turning against him, said: ‘Know this, Ardzan, that they will call this place Ardzan, for you will become fixed like a monument in this place.’  And he lifted his arm up and made his sword descend against Ardzan’s right shoulder and cut open his throat together with his left shoulder and leg.  And he fell and rolled on the ground.  And they amassed a monument above him, and he is buried in that location, so that even now they call the mountain Ardzan.”

“And when this had been accomplished in this manner, suddenly the troops of the priests from the city of Vishap and men from Prakh and the men of Meghti and all men from the region in general arrived there.  And others had come from Astghaun with them; all together, as they themselves afterwards said, there were five thousand four hundred and fifty men.  And when they reached the summit of the mountain, a clamor was raised among both armies.  And after the ranks of the priests had united with each other, they attacked the Armenian troops and put them to flight down the slopes of the mountain toward the region of the village.  Now the men of that village who were waiting in ambush rose against our troops; they thus had caught the Armenian forces on both sides and they started to massacre them.  Then the prince of Angegh tun made a breach in the ranks of the pagan priests, passed from behind, and took note of the hill, for there were enemy infantrymen there, on the descending slope of that hill, who were inflicting great damage on the horses by hurling stones. Now Demetr, when he saw that the prince of Angegh tun had ascended the hill, left the other troops and made for him.  Likewise the other troops of cavalry also began to arrive there.  And when they had ascended the hill, the two sides again joined battle against each other.  And our princes remained there with their own troops, for all had not gathered, since four thousand were as yet guarding the prisoners in Meghti; three thousand were yet passing by way of Basen and Hark, while still others were scattered throughout that plain plundering the land.”

“And while they were battling each other and longed to mix together in battle, night overtook them.  And they dismounted in that place and there made camp until morning.  And when it was morning the Armenian forces arrived and certain others, numbering some seven hundred, from the city of Tirakatar to aid the priests. Then when both groups of troops had come, both sides had grown larger (the army of the priests numbered six thousand nine hundred and forty-six, while the army of the Armenian princes numbered seven thousand and eighty men).  Then they had the horns of battle sound and each man attacked one opposite to him.  The Armenian troops at first were winning over the pagan priests.  But the prince of Hashtyank, who was with the Armenian army but was from the same race as Demetr, took seven hundred mean and went over to the side of the priests and began to fight against the Armenian princes.  When the Armenian troops saw this, they became disheartened and dejected, because he was the kind of man who was a victor and who was well-versed in war and force, so much so that all the Armenian princes trembled before him.  And he began to slaughter Armenian troops without compassion, and all the troops raised a clamor before the prince of Siunik.  Then the prince of Siunik gave voice and shouted: ‘Ay, wolf’s cub you have remembered the manners of your father and have returned to the filth-eating ways.’ And he responded: ‘O, young eagle, you who take pride in your wings! if you should fall within the range of my traps, I shall show you my power,'”

“Now the prince of Siunik did not suffer these insults; he attacked and struck him on his helmet with his battle axe, and separated him from his troops.  And he forced him to flee onto the mountain along its eastern side.  And then, the prince of Siunik reached him in the area opposite Innaknian, he pushed forward and felled him from his horse.  And he dismounted from his own horse and with a knife cut off the head of the price of Hashtyank; and after he had thrown his body from the heights of the mountain, he said: ‘The vultures will see you and know that the eagle has killed you, rabbit!’  And he himself returned.  Up to this day this place is called Artzvik [Armenian for eagle].”

“Now the prince of Artzrunik passed into the middle of the fray, cut off the chief priest of Ashtishat, whose name was Mestakes and made him flee through the highest places to the summit of the mountain.  And when the prince reached him, Mestakes turned against him and struck his leg.  Then the prince of Artzrunik, enraged by the blood from his own body, rushed forward and cut his shoulder open through his neck; his head fell on the ground and he threw the corpse down, so that they named the place Mestakogh.”


Ashtishat in relation to Lake Van

“Now the prince of Arjk had fled to that place to hide.  Although the prince of Artzrunik saw him, he pretended as though he had not, and he drew near to him.  And all of a sudden he rushed upon him.  Thereupon the prince of Arjk turned in flight into the forest but a cropping of wood passed through his heart and there he died.  Then prince of Artzrunik took both their horses and returned to his own troops; and that place was called Arjuts dzor [valley].”

“And after he had returned from there, he came upon Demetr and the prince of Angegh tun fighting in single combat with each other.  And the prince of Angegh tun attacked Demetr and cut through his right shoulder and Demetr fell to the ground.  And the prince of Angegh tun cut off his head and flung it into his own sack.”

“And the princes of Artzrunik and of Angegh tun turned against the enemy troops and they butchered them without compassion and caused some one thousand and thirty-eight men to fall dead on the ground and others they stripped naked.”

“And in that battle Demetr killed the son of the prince of Moks, which was the cause of great sorrow for the Armenian princes.”

“Now after Demetr had died in that battle, the prince of Siunik caused the horns of war to sound peace, and both sides ceased from massacring each other.  And when the local men who were priests saw that, they implored the Armenian princes for peace so that they could bury their own dead, and the princes gave their permission.  And they gathered their dead, from both sides and, digging out a tomb, they placed the bodies inside, and above these graves they erected this stone monument, and wrote on it in this manner:”


“They wrote this inscription in Syriac and Greek, using Greek and Arabic letters.  And then the Armenians themselves descended and passed the night in the vicinity of Innaknian.  And they hurriedly sent messengers to the holy Grigor, while they themselves remained there, some in the heights, and other troops making camp in a marshy meadow by a sweet spring in the forest.”

“Now, we [again, switching to first person] came out of the fortress and returned by the same route by which we had fled.  As we came to the environs of the village of Kvars, we went astray, for it was night.  But while we were going along the banks of the vineyards, suddenly a light much more brilliant than the rays of the sun shone from the relics which the holy Grigor had hidden.  And so brightly did they shine, that all the inhabitants of the village – men and women, young and old – ran outside to see it.  And struck with amazement, they began to repent.  And at that time they took up and bore the relics into the middle of the village; and they worshipped with joy until morning.”

“And after we had taken up the relics on the next day, we arrived at Mount Ardzan and we read the inscription [see above].  And for many hours the holy Grigor shed tears on account of the purposeless massacre, and then he took up the right arm of the Baptist, and made the sign of the cross all around the district, praying: ‘May the eyes of the Lord be over this land to preserve it from its enemies; and though, for their sins, the inhabitants have been afflicted by the Lord, nevertheless may their enemies not be enlarged, but be destroyed by their own evils.  And let not heretics inhabit this land.  May the right hand of the holy Karapet be a seal and a preserver, and at the same time, let this house for the relics become an eternal structure from generation to generation.’  And when we had said ‘Amen,’ the sound of thunder reached our ears.”

“And when we had descended to the area of Innaknian, the Armenian princes came before us and gave us the news that Demetr had been defeated.  And when we came to the place, we saw that the temple of the idol had been destroyed and the idol, which had been fifteen cubits high, had been divided into four parts.  And the attendants of the idol were raising a clamor and were mourning most wickedly, to the point that even the demons lamented, so that men could hear them saying: ‘Woe to us, that even the bones of the dead should drive us from our land.’  And they appeared as winged creatures in human form and flew to the idols of the gods in Ashtishat.*  But others from among the demons, as wasps of immense number, or as heavy showers falling like hail, even so they attacked the multitude and, after they had maltreated the pagan priests in general, they left them for dead.  And the holy Grigor drew near and cured them and ordered that the idol of Gisane be destroyed.  The idol was made of bronze and was twelve cubits tall and two cubits and a span in width.  When those who were to destroy the idol entered the temple, the attendants of the idol saw them and with much lamentation attacked them, maintaining: ‘Let us die first and then let great Gisane be destroyed!’  Then the troops surrounded the priests and killed six men.  And they were then able to destroy the gates of death.”

* Were there other idols of the same Gods there at Ashtishat?


Ashtishat or Yesilova?

“Now the demons raised their voices and shouted: ‘Although you drive us from here as well, nevertheless whoever should wish to live here let him not find rest.’  But it is astounding that, just as, for example, a great number of troops enter through the gates of a city, likewise, this place was the demons’ gateway.  And there were as many demons in the temple of Gisane as were in the infernal regions of hell.”


Other Yesilovas (and similar)

“When the troops had destroyed the idol, the holy Grigor began to lay the foundations of a church.  And because he did not have materials at hand, he took stones, both unshaped and rough, and found lime mortar in the dwelling of the idol; he began to build the church in that place where the idol of Demetr had been with its same measurements.  He worked there for twelve days and intended to place all the relics of the Karapet in that church, but he had not received authority from the Lord.   But he gathered them and he placed the relics in a coffin of clay. (For man is of earth, not of gold.  On that account it is not proper to surround the boyd of a dead man with gold.)  And he placed that coffin into one of bronze, and there he also put one of the luminous gems which he had brought from Caesarea of Cappadocia, and that gem is called Lingiron.*  And he did not do these things openly to anyone, but in secret.  And in the night, taking up spades, I and Bishop Aghbianos dug a hole the dimensions of two men and lined it with small stones and we placed the relics of the Karapet in it.  And those which we placed there were the arm up to the elbow and the left hand up to the shoulder and the right hip bone and other smaller bones from his body.  And of the relics of Atenagines we divided the head and the right arm up to the waist in half and placed them in a sarcophagus of clay.”

* Lugkourion? An amber thought by the ancients to have been formed from the urine of a lynx (as per History of Armenian Literature)

“If you should wish to know all of this accurately, ask the Syrian narrator, Pisidon, and he will tell you.  For the Karapet is at the corner of the church where the royal Arsacid door is; a span away you will find the nails of a sign which marks the entrance, half a span above the ground and in the right side of the church, and the holy Grigor wrote that sign on a bronze tablet and placed it on the bema, thus ‘Let no woman dare to enter through the door of that church, lest she walk over the venerable relics; that the implacable enmity of God be onto those who intruded and to her who enters.’ And Pisidon himself had read the tablet.”

“Now the relics of Atenagines are near that same doorway but at the left corner of the church; and they are thus preserved, hidden, so that if someone should wish to find them using the sign of nails, he would not be able, even if they should dig forty cubits.  And the reason for this was the following: when he had placed the relics in that placed and had sealed it, then the holy Grigor together with us genuflected three times and after he rose, he spread his hands toward the east and prayed: ‘God of gods and Lord of lords, who accomplishes the wishes of those who are in awe of you and who do not neglect the supplications of those who implore you – You, Lord, who have protected these relics and have brought them to this place – stretch your arm over these sarcophagi and seal, by means of Your perfect power, their bones, that no one be able to remove them from here until the day of the end of the earth and their rebirth and that of all the saints.'”

“‘Although someone, even from among the pious, should attempt this with prayers, do not reveal their position.  But for those who, with hope and faith, should seek cures and the door of the church of the holy Karapet, may you cure them.  But if it should be your will to leave some with their afflictions, so that, tormented in their bodies, they shall live inn spirit in the hereafter, let it be.  Moreover, preserve the orders of the clerics who serve You with attention and holiness in this holy church, for You alone are powerful over all; and to You may there be glory for eternity.'”

“And when he had said ‘Amen,’ there came a voice from heaven which said: ‘Let it be as even you wish and let no one learn their place for the purpose of removing them; and as for those who shall serve me in this place with pious and sincere lives, may they be participants of those good things to come.’  And the land moved and the site of the relics was hidden.”

Now the next day a pagan priest was brought before the prince of Siunik and they demanded that the priest show them the location of the hidden treasures and the doors to the subterranean room; and he did not tell them, but died on the gallows.  And there was no possibility to find that subterranean room, though they presumed it to be under the foundations of the church where Demetr’s temple had been, because the foundation of the church had been set in the same place with the same length and breadth, except only that the followers of Demetr prayed toward the west.  Likewise, they also examined the temple of Gisane to discover its treasures; this temple was about two steps of a man to the east of the temple of Demetr, along an abundant spring; and they did not find it.”

“And when nine days were completed there, the prince of Siunik went into the town of Kvars; he persuaded the soldiers of the village to come to be baptized; they agreed to come with him.  And the holy Grigor received them and descended with them into the valley of Aytsan. And he baptized them.  The valley was on the eastern side opposite Kachkon – the fortress of Astghonk – and he baptized them with unction adorned by Christ, and thus received them among those who believe in the Holy Trinity.  And the Lord made a great light appear as a column of fire over those who were baptized.  And the light remained three hours over the wondrous consecration and then it was hidden from those who had seen it.  And those who were baptized were five thousand men and youths.  And he brought them to the Lord’s temple.  And he had a feast to the holy Karapet celebrated, which was on the first day of the month of Navasard [August 11].  And he entrusted them to the priests, and commanded that they be taken into their own village; and he ordered priests to erect a cross in that places here he had found the relics, and in the middle of the village to baptize the women.  And after all of this had been done, the holy Grigor had the children of the pagan priests and of the attendants of the idols gathered together and he exhorted them to turn to the Lord God.  Now they did not agree, but said to the princes: ‘Keep this in mind: as long as we live, we shall seek revenge upon you; even if we should die, the gods will exact our vengeance.’  And when the prince of Angegh tun heard this, he gave an order to shave off their long hair and had them moved, four hundred and thirty-eight men, to a prison in the city of Paytakaran.”*

* The eleventh province of Armenia on the western shore of the Caspian Sea


“But it was extremely awesome to see them, for they were black and long-haired and unpleasant to the sight, for they were by race from India.  And the reason for existence of the idols in this place was the following: Demetr and Gisane were Indian princes and tribal brothers; and they were contemplating a certain plot against their own king, Dinakse; when the king was informed of this, he sent troops after them either to kill them or to drive them from the land.  And they narrowly escaped and went to the Armenian King Vagharshak and he gave them the land of Taron as their principality, where they themselves built a city and called it Vishap.  And coming to Ashtishat, they erected that idol which was worshipped among the Indians.  And after fifteen years the king [Vagharshak?] killed both brothers – I do not know for what reason – and he gave the principality to their three sons – Kvar and Meghtes and Horyan.”

“Now Kvar built his on town and called it by his own name, Kvars; and Meghtes built a town on that very plain and named it Meghti.  Then the youngest who had gone into the district of Palunik, built his town and called it Horians.”

“And after a while Kvar and Meghtes and Horian took council together and went out to Mount Karke* and found that place which was both pleasant and beautiful, for it had breadth of land for hunting and it was also breezy and abounding in both grass and trees.  And they built there dastakerts** and erected two idols, one by the name of Gisane and one by the name of Demetr, and they dedicated their race to their service.”

* According to Avdoyan’s Pseudo-Yovhannes Mamikonean, p. 209, this mountain was the site of a shrine of the god Vahagn.

** estates

“And because GIsane had long hair, for this reason his servants also had that long hanging hair, which the prince [see above in the main story] had ordered to cut off.  And when this race had turned to Christ, they were not consummated in their faith, and they did not dare to follow openly their paternal mores.  They then deceitfully conceived this device: they left a lock of hair on the heads of their children so that, when they saw it, they would remember their former filthy worship.*  And I beg you to be attentive of this, lest this practice spread even in your lands and lest you be accursed.”

* Whether this could be tied to the “postrzyzyny” of Piast is another question – though presumably this type of practice was common in antiquity

“But let us return from this to the previous subjects.”

“When the holy Grigor had set the foundations of the church and had placed the relics in it and had set up the Lords’ cross in the place of the idol of Gisane, he left there as officers of that church Anton and Kravnides.  And he personally established Epipan as abbot of the monastery.  And he left forty-three monks in that place and gave it twelve estates, that they should provide services to that place.  Among these are Kvars, Meghti and Brekh and Tumb Mush and Khorni, Keghk, and Bazu, which are the greatest towns, as described in the writings of the Mamikonian princes.  For Kvars has three thousand and twelve houses and one thousand and thirty cavalrymen and two thousand two hundred infantrymen.  And Meghti has two thousand seven hundred houses and eight hundred cavalrymen and one thousand thirty infantrymen.  And Tumb has nine hundred homes and four hundred cavalrymen.  And Khorni has one thousand nine hundred and six homes and seven hundred cavalrymen and one thousand seven infantrymen.  Now Brekh has three thousand two hundred homes and two thousand forty cavalrymen and eight hundred and forty archers and one thousand lance-bearers and two hundred eighty stone throwers.  And their pastures for their flocks extended to the district o Hashtyank”*.

* A region in Armenia Major, near the province of Tzopk.

“Now these avanagiughs [town-villages] were originally given to the service of the idols, and  now the princes rededicated them to the service of the church in the year 32.  In this manner were these matter arranged by the holy Grigor.”

“Now after twelve days we descended to the avanagiugh of Meghti and spent the night there.  And in the middle of the night a man came and related that the men of the North were coming against us.  Then, making up our minds, we intended to cross to the other side of the river to a fortress called Tardzenk.  And the princes went to the gates of the city of Mush and learned that there was nothing amiss.  They then returned before us and turned us away from the banks of the Aratzani River [branch of the Euphrates].  And some of them went toward and entered the city of Mush, while others continued with us.  And after we had left the river about two or three leagues behind, we approached a small valley.  And we were of one mind in wanting to pass through it and to go to the site of the temple, because it had been decided to place the remaining relics in that very location.  Then the mules which were drawing the carts were unable to cross to the other side of the valley and they sat down.  Then an angel of the Lord appeared to stop the holy Grigor from  continuing on and said: ‘The Lord is content that the relics of the saints which you have should repose in this place to show to those places farthest from here the power of God; when the men of those nations have seen this, they will believe in the miracles of God.’  We heard no other reasons than this from the holy Grigor for the repose of the relics in this place.”

“We there undertook the construction of a church and by that example of the past, at night we prepared a place for the relics.  And we placed the two confessors of Christ in a stone sarcophagus the size of one man near the doors on the right side of the church: and the holy Grigor put the other luminous gem in that sarcophagus, on account the eternal light which it possessed.” [see above – these are the remaining relics]

“But the relics which we put there were of Atenagines, the other half, and of the Karapet, the left hip bones and the two legs and a part of the bones of his spine.  Now the parts which remained of these relics – the two feet and the left thumb and the right hand up to the elbow – were retained in Caesarea.  Then, after we had placed the sarcophagus with the relics inside the prepared site, as deeply as we had at Innaknian, in the same manner as before, the holy Grigor, together with us, fell on his knees and offered that same prayer to God that no one should dare to remove them.  In similar manner as before, a voice came from heaven and said: ‘As yuou hav asked, thus will I do, and let there be no one who will be able to find them.’  And after he had said this, the place was hidden from us and it is marked by a sign of nails for those who wish to know the affair.”

“Now whatever happened after this, we have left that to another historian to narrate, while our history returns again to Taron.  For just as I have not written anything about other places in this letter, likewise, no one should have the audacity to write about mine, for that kind of comprehensive history would be the chronicle of kings.”

“This is the first count of the war which occurred with Ardzan and those events which happened in my own days.”


Svaneti peasant of the Georgian North

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March 21, 2016

Yassas and Assas

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If we were to catalogue the various yassas, yessas, assas, essas, issas, ashes and jashers, juters, jasters, etc. – and leave out only the continents of America, Australia and Subsaharan Africa, we would get a map that looks something like this:


Many of these have, no doubt simply to do with “flowing waters” (Tam-issa?) and with the tree ash (jesen) but some maybe with the Goddess Eostre, and others perhaps with the God Yassa (or are they the same? E.g., Juterbok).

zooming out…


and a bit more:


Which raises a question – is there a Slavic “Indian Connection”?

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March 20, 2016

Vistas of Wieses

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Wiese = in German [green] meadow


Origin: mittelhochdeutsch wise, althochdeutsch wisa, shown in use since the 8th century.  Further origin unclear.

wjas, wjes, wieś, vesnice, ves = in Slavic village


vieta = in Latvian/Lithuanian place, site


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March 19, 2016

What did Wersebe write?

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A question has come up as to what did Wersebe actually write.  We’ve included the text below in the original German but provide here the English version of the relevant portion.


“I can’t help but make an observation which, I hope, even if new, after review will not be found without basis.  I believe namely that Tacitus’ Suevi are to be understood as Slavs.  The Thuringians who he counts among the Suevi, were, it is true, as far as the subsequent oldest sources can tell, not Slavs; though the Slavs could have during the times of Tacitus had the Thuringians amongst themselves and thereafter pushed [them] back across the Saale, or perhaps the Thurigians could have also been only in league with them [the Slavs].  Aside from these Thuringians, Tacitus does not count among the Suevi the inhabitants of any region that did not [also] later belong to the Slavic peoples; for even in a part of the Lüneburg region, where the Langobards had their seats, there live even now the Wends [i.e., Slavs].  Every Slavic province of Germany is to be understood among his Suevic lands.  In fact, the ancient [authors] counted many of the Slavic nations among the Deutschen/Germans; [Pomponius] Mela names the River Vistula [but which is that?] as the boundary between Germany and Sarmatia; but Tacitus goes even further and mentions among the German/Deutsche peoples even the Aesti in Estonia and the Finns; only the Sarmatians or the actual Poles, does he exclude from Germany.  But since he very much distinguishes the Suevi in their customs, their clothes and so forth from the other Germans/Deutschen, this agrees with the national differences between the Slavs and the actual Germans, which subsequently became even more visible because the latter [Germans] accepted Christianity so much earlier [than the Slavs].”

[Note that Wersebe excludes Poles from Germans but also from “Slavs” – by assigning them to the “Sarmatians”.  This is presumably based on his being aware of the Polish nobility’s penchant for identifying with the ancient Sarmatians.]

[Note also that Tacitus does not use the word Deutsche anywhere – the only possibly similar name is that of Tuisco – the Germanic deity; Wersebe assumes that these Germans all were in fact Deutsche – it is for that reason that he states his belief that Tacitus counts Slavs and Aesti and Finns among Deutsche – but Tacitus does no such thing, he counts all these peoples – depending on your reading – as peoples of Germania, arguably, as Germani – not as Deutsche]

Note that this view was held by a number of German historians in the beginning of the 19th century.  Later, as time passed, people like Theodor Pösche became rather the exceptions.  One can explain this by clinging to the perception that our knowledge of the past grew substantially over the course of the 19th century… but one can’t help to notice that German historiography became a lot more assertive about claiming the Suevi once the “unification” of Germany occurred and, what previously were merely academic debates, took on a politicized and nationalized aura.  This is because the Suevi were the key people of Tacitus’ Germania.  If the Suevi – the quintessential Germans of Tacitus – were not, in the modern sense of the word, Germans – but someone else, then Germany as one unified country would become a bit of a myth.  In historical terms it would have to be seen as partitioned, with the East as well as significant portions of the South and West being assigned to a people with whose descendants (or at least relatives) Bismarckian Germany was in a Kulturkampf.  In a word, the “true” – Nordic – Germany would – true to the Nordic name – have been reduced to portions of the North abutting Denmark.  And if one were to believe that the Vandals were Germanized or, really, Nordicized Slavs then even that would be questionable.

The question of the Suevi – whatever its ultimate resolution – was thus critical to the continued existence of the “new” German state – at least within the ethnic parameters that that state set out for itself as defining its national identity.  Without the Suevi what was the raison d’être of the German state?  Without them it would merely be an artificial administrative construction of the Hohenzollerns set up for their amusement.  One has to wonder whether the not infrequently demonstrated desire of some German authors to view some Balts as descendants of “Germanic”, i.e., Nordic tribes was also rooted in the conundrum of having the German Reich be realized in the name of Prussians – a people at once not Nordic and who could not be easily relabeled as such for the simple reason that – unlike the Suevi – they chanced to live in a period when ethnographic historical records clearly established them as Balts.

None of the above, of course, means that the Suevi (which Suevi?) were Slavic (whatever that means) but it does mean that there were plenty of interests who did not want any Suevi to be anything but Ur-Deutsche.

But, of course, this von Wersebe fellow is a suspicious one.  We already noted that Pösche may have had Sorb ancestors…  But maybe Wersebe or (as earlier) Wersabe has something to do with Warszawa?  The name comes from the town of Wersabe – near Bremen.  On the Veleti in the North we wrote here as well as here – mostly about the Netherlands – but who knows (for Belgium see here).

And the Veleti, well, they seem relevant:

“Among the different peoples who make up this pagan race, there is one that in ancient times held sovereign power.  Their king was called Majik and they themselves were known as Walitaba.  In the past, all the Saqaliba recognized their superiority, because it was from among them that they chose the paramount ruler, and all the other chieftains considered themselves his vassals.”

That would explain a lot, of course.

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March 18, 2016

Theories of Theodor Pösche

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The following exchange took place in August 1878 at the general conference (assembly) of the German anthropological society in Kiel.  It was reprinted in the Correspondenz-Blatt der deutschen Gesellschaft ruer Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte – volumes 10 and 11 in November 1878.


(The same exchange was summarized in the Archiv fuer Anthropologie, volume 11.  Later it also sparked a response from Carl Platner (against Pösche naturally) in Zeitschrift fuer Ethnologie, volume 16.  An excerpt from the former we show below.  As to the latter, we will return to Platner’s arguments later).referate

 Mr.  Pösche:

“First of all, I feel induced to thank Professor Virchow for his highly instructive lecture and know that [in so doing] I will be expressing the view of all gathered; but I would like not to miss this opportunity to add something.”

[note: Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Pösche (1825-1899) was a German author from the Sorb area (born in Zöschen, Leuna) who fled to the US after the events of 1848; he later returned to Germany and represented the US government in certain of its dealings with Bismarck.  Ironically, Pösche’s other writings on the “Arians” were later selectively used by the Nazis]

“Professor Virchow had made it clear through several expressions which he used that he shares entirely the commonly held view of German academics that everything pre-Slavic in the eastern part of today’s Deutschland, is Germanic.  A number of statements [made by Virchow] have indicated this.  But I wish to record an objection to this view which nowadays is commonly held. To say it bluntly [curtly]: whoever picks up Tacitus’ Germania, should, in lieu of Suevi, read Slavi.”

“This viewpoint does not originate with me but rather with a gentleman of great merit who 50 years ago had published a whole slew of works, from that 70 year old man resident of Hanover, that is from Mr. von Wersebe.  If one wants to know a biographical fact that is otherwise unavailable, reaches for [Heinrich] Pierer’s encyclopedia.  The newest edition available to me, had, strangely, no mention of Mr. von Wersebe – a man who had published  five to six volumes relating to the oldest deutsche history.  I would like to examine this matter in a little bit more detail.”

[note: August von Wersebe (1751-1831) – German historian.  He was among a number of German historians who previously (prior to the emergence of the German Empire) expressed the same view regarding the Suevi-Slav identity.  There may be something to Pösche’s conspiracy theory since – while Pösche has one – von Wersebe has not yet gotten his own Wikipedia page – in German or any other language…]


No Enthaltung and no Wikipedia page

“In the History of the German Language, Jacob Grimm mentions with disgust the viewpoint that the Slavs already in the times of Tacitus sat there where we later find them.  But the same learned Jacob Grimm establishes a new proof for the correctness of this viewpoint, in that he shows that Suevi and Slavi are only dialectically different, since even today ‘freedom’ is known in some Slavic dialects as sloboda but in others svoboda.  The first place where Mr. von Wersebe expresses this view, is in his book about the districts between the Weser and the Saale.”

[note: ironically, Pösche seems to have been unaware that the River Saale’s first recorded name was Souava and that this is indeed a Slavic name].

“But now there is another thing and Professor Virchow already mentioned the thing, as it appears to me, a new factual evidence for the correctness of this view.  Those are the temple rings, that we find only among the Slavs.  I connect these with the mention by Tacitus which alludes to a  hairstyle peculiar to the Suevi, who wore a hair knot bound on top of the middle of their head.  I believe the temple rings served the function of holding the hair together in the knot.”


[note: the rings in question were later found in Suevic places and, perhaps, in portions of Scandinavia, and, therefore, declared “Germanic” as well as Slavic.  However, this kind of appropriation (though common) does not – in this specific case – answer the question of the rings’ “ethnic belonging” since the question at hand is precisely the question of Suevic ethnicity.  To say that they were also Suevic and, therefore, not Slavic is merely to provide a circular response.  A much more relevant objection may be that the temple rings appear to have been worn by women – the hairstyle mentioned by Tacitus, however, seems to have been male.  Tacitus himself also mentions no specific means of holding the “Suevic knot” together.  For a more recent find of seemingly similar type see here (“Mixed with these remains were gold rings likely worn on the hair”)].


“I do not wish to hold up the meeting further.  I will close by saying that I am ready to stand by and completely represent the view expressed by Wersebe more than 50 years ago –  that the Suevi were Slavs and that already at the end of the first century A.D. they lived there, where we later find them, that is also here [the proceeding took place in Kiel] till the easternmost Holstein – so long as my strength lasts.  I wish at the same time to repay the debt of honour to the man, who more than 50 years ago announced such important truth for our oldest history and [who] to this day remains unmentioned/ignored.”

Mr. Virchow

“I would like to at first note that the ungratefulness vis-a-vis Mr. von Wersebe is not entirely general.  One must only differentiate between his different works.  I personally am very thankful in relation to his work about the colonization of North Germany and have cited it many times.”


The offending text

“However, a different matter arises, when we ask whether the position of Tacitus should, by means of a simple rewriting of a word, be turned to mean its opposite.  This is not merely a philosophical question. In this respect I should point out that  all these peoples that Tacitus mentions in our parts did not remain in their seats; they appear, bit by bit, in the course of further wanderings in areas more to the West and to the South but everywhere where they so appear, they show themselves not as Slavs but as Germans.  Not one of these tribes that we view as our predecessors, that we must designate as originally autochtonous to our areas, is ever in the old works differentiated from the Germanics.  Wherever they are shown to us, they are shown/described as Germanic peoples.”

[note: Virchow does not really address the question here.  These tribes are described as “German” because they came from “Germania”.  Elsewhere, other – what we would call “Germanic” – tribes are described as Sarmatian because they came into the Roman world from “Sarmatia” (for example, see Procopius’ description of the Goths where they, Gepids and Vandals are linked even to the  Melanchlaeni of Scythia (previously located west of Tanis/Don!))]

“The more one delves into the specifics, the more one becomes convinced that all, that has been preserved about them from ancient times, provides a certain homogenous picture, in which these tribes united themselves with the remaining/other Deutsche.  When you look for the old seats of the Longobards, the Vandals, the Semnones and the Burgundians, where do you come to?  You come finally till the Wertha, to Silesia, to the March, Brandenburg, to the shores of the Elbe – yes, admittedly where we doubtless find Slavs later.  But does it follow, that the Longobards and Burgundians were themselves Slavs?  Certainly not.  The Langobards sat in the Barden district, which later was also Slavic.  I think, however, you will not for this reason want to make Langobards into Slavs.” 

[note: the problem with this argument is that – outside of people called the Burgundians – it is difficult to establish the presence of any so-called Germanic tribes in any of today’s Slavic areas – except temporarily.  Specifically, virtually all the Origina Genti of the Langobards or Goths point towards Scandinavia.  The Vandals left no such stories but their presence in Silesia or elsewhere in Poland also cannot be established from known sources.  And if all these people were in fact such wanderers from Scandinavia then the obvious question is: who lived in the Central European areas that they entered from the North?  And what happened to these original inhabitants?  It is undisputed that all of the Nordic tribes eventually ended up marching south – towards Rome – thus we know that, e.g., Pannonia was the Langobards’ base of operations for many years – and yet no one claims that the Langobards were native to Pannonia or that no one lived in Pannonia before they arrived.  One might also note that even the Burgundians could – with some eyebrow raising – be explained as Slavic – after all their name just means city dwellers but city dwellers come from a city, from is “z” or “s” in Slavic and town – in Latin and, perhaps, ancient Venetic – would have been an urbs – and so we come to the Z-urbs or Sorbs… 🙂 ]

Mr.  Pösche:

“Gentlemen! In the beginning I have to say that I only spoke of ingratitude when discussing this one paper of Mr. Wersebe and not in general.  Against Doctor Montelius I must say that I tried to be as brief as possible and, therefore, forgot to say that I believe the Langobards and all these Vandalic peoples in the majority to have been Slavs.  I accept the view of Šafárik.  This one had stated that the Vandals were Germanized Slavs, that the Germanic elements in all these peoples were invasive [elements that  appeared] when the Germans broke into Slavic lands, that all the the Langobardic and Vandalic peoples – the great mass of the population – are Slavs initially.  but the nobility among them I believe was Germanic.  Little by little had the great mass of the population adopted the Germanic language.  I do not wish to forget to mention that Paul the Deacon describes a portrait of old Langobardic kings, and there, it occurs to me, that the Kings wore their hair on the side, which was probably held in place by means of temple rings.”

[note: Montelius spoke just after Pösche’s first statement – he generally relied on the perceived similarities between various archeological finds to support Virchow’s position; as regards the rings, consistent with the above discussion, Pösche is implying that these would have been Slavic customs because temple rings were typical of Slavs. See above note for a discussion of this]

“I would ask to be able to mention something else regarding Tacitus.  Professor Virchow and Doctor Montelius will agree with me:  The Veneti of Tacitus were probably the Wends!  But now Tacitus says: ‘I am unsure whether to count the Veneti among the Germans’ or not.  Finally, however, he decides to count them among the Germans ‘because they fight on foot and because they have fixed homes.’  Now, gentlemen, the Slavs also have fixed homes and also fight on foot.  Here we have the criterion upon which Tacitus makes his decision though he himself doubts [the correctness] of the basis for his decision.  You have to admit that these [decision] bases are not solid.  Therefore, [just] because they fought on foot and had fixed habitations  they could never be viewed as Germans!  You avowedly view the Veneti to be the Wends [i.e., Slavs] but when you then claim the Suevi to be Deutsche, then you are obliged to count the Wends too among the Germans!”

[note: Pösche’s point, more simply stated, is that 1) the Veneti were Slavs and 2) their mode of life was such that they were counted among the Germans (as per Tacitus).  It follows that the ethnicity of the Suevi – the biggest Germanic group of all – can likewise not be established with certainty.  At least not based on Tacitus.  His point about the Suevi is simply that their lifestyle and manner of fighting was exactly the same and yet these were counted by his colleagues – without hesitation – as Germans].

Mr. Mehlis:

“Regarding the use of names, I would like to say a few words against the position of Mr. Pösche.”

“One can argue quite well using names.”

“With names one can create a SYSTEM.”

[note: Mehlis seems to be saying “that sneaky Pösche – so clever with his names and words!”]

“But I believe, that anthropology should be governed not by names but by FACTS.  I believe, that in this context the authority of Messrs.  Virchow and Montelius (which [authority] has proven the GERMANIC CHARACTER of a whole range of finds, which [finds] extend far in the abodes to the East till the Oder and the Vistula, which abodes the classical authors have IN FACT been named as the ABODES OF GERMANICS) will suffice, so as to lead us back to the land of FACTS.”

“A few more words about the well-known claim of [Jacob] Grimm’s in the German Grammar [book], that the word Suevi should be the same as Slavi.  Until now, no one has dared to step up against Grimm’s authority.  The correctness of this claim can be shown quite well that even the Suevi were called Slavi by their neighbors.”

[note: this assertion seems entirely made up – to our knowledge, Slavs never called Germans (or Swabians) by the name Slavs.]

“And the explanation of this name giving can be even better if we observe the analogical situation with the Celts who called their eastern neighbors ‘Germans’.  Also the name ‘Germans’  is derived by a row of authorities too long to mention, from Celtic roots ‘ger; ‘guer‘ and ‘man‘ = that is a ‘yeller/screamer’ or from ‘gais‘ and ‘man‘ = that is a ‘speerman’ = ‘Ger-man’; and when we in the East of Germany find this same name given by the Slavs [to the Germans], this is explained by the analogous Western name giving by the Celts.  I believe, that this analogous name giving process is the most suitable, to resolve this argument about names.”

[note: It is not clear what Mehlis means by this. He seems to be saying that the name “German” was a western Celtic name for the Deutsche but had been appropriated in the East by the Slavs to name the same Deutsche.   This is intended as an apparent analogy to the “Slavic” Suevi name which, Mehlis implies, was an eastern Slavic name for the Deutsche that was then adopted in the West for the same Deutsche.

This is rather a stretch.  For one thing, the name “German” was never adopted in the East – rather it makes a late and limited appearance in Russia only most likely due to German influence during the imperial period.  Even there the older name Nemec continues in existence.  Moreover, just because something happened once in an era of broader communication of the 18th and 19th centuries does not mean it happened before in the much more insular era B.C.  Surely, Mehlis is not suggesting that the Suevi name was brought West by Slavic visitors to Celtic courts of Gaul…]

 Mr.  Pösche:

“I have to confess that things are not clearer to me now.  I have brought up the words of Tacitus.  But I am being reproached that words and names mean nothing.  But that cannot be.  When a reliable writer names names, that has meaning and [is] not merely empty noise.  With respect to the Germanic antiquities in the East which Professor Virchow mentions, I have heard nothing of them in his lecture today; but I would like to know nevertheless, whether Germanic antiquities were ever found there.  That would be of relevance [methinks].  You try to establish an analogy there between the process of naming [peoples] in the West and East of Deutschland, and there you claim that it was the Germans that, if I understood correctly, gave the Slavs their own name.  But “Slavs” is demonstrably a name which they [the Slavs] have used to call themselves.  So long as you have not brought up evidence, I must nevertheless take exception [and] to believe in the truth.”

[note: Mehlis’ argument, if we follow it at all, seems to be slightly different – that Slavs named their German neighbors Suevi and, he implicitly assumes, that the Slvs then transferred that naming to the Celts; this, as discussed above however, seems even more untenable than the argument that Pösche thinks Virchow is making]


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March 14, 2016

A Degree of Separation?

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The word “slave” has previously been derived from Slav.  Slave, however, would be a new word resulting from the slave trade in Slavs in the middle ages.  Antiquity did not know the word “slave”.  In particular, the Latin word for “slave” had previously been “servus”.  But this too appears strange inasmuch as a connection seems to exist between the names Slavs and Serbs – albeit, obviously, not all Slavs are Serbs.  To add to the mystery, the word Slav has historically among the Western “Slavs” been pronounced “Suavianin” – a remarkable pronunciation given that Procopius and Jordanes referred to what must have been Suebi as Suavi. On the etymological connection (noted by no less than an authority than Jacob Grimm) between Suevi and Suavs/Slavs we have written previously.


So where do we go from here?

There was a theory by Edward Romuald Bogusławski (there were at least two Bogusławskis) that the Slavs were basically the servants/slaves/lower classes of the Suevic confederacy who then took over the name of the tribe once the upper classes hit the dirt in the various Suevic wars.  If this were to be the case, their ethnic background could have been Suevic but also as diverse as that of the peoples conquered by the Suevi, i.e., “Germanic” (?) in the north, Celtic (?) in the south, Venetic (?) in the east (or far west?) or Pannonian or “Sarmatian” or Baltic (Aestic) in the east.

One could further extrapolate from this and posit that the Servi were those Suevic captives (whether Suevic or otherwise) that fled – perhaps eastwards across the Elbe – encountering there, perhaps, the Veneti.  That would make the remaining Suevi (i.e., the Suavs/Slavs) much like the later Cossacks fleeing the feudal oppression of the magnates to the Wild Fields of the Zaporozhian Sich…  And what of language? Was there one language of the Suevi?  Tacitus suggests yes but he also says that the Suevi are not one nation…  What does he mean by that?

Here is an interesting quote from Meisterlin’s Cronographia Augustensium (Chronik von Augsburg or Chronicle of Augsburg) which says: est gens Sevorum qui nunc Suevi dicuntur


We have mentioned before the interesting connection between the Suevi and, what seem like,  the Sorbs by bringing up Vibius Sequester’s sentence (see also here):

Albis Germaniae Suevos a Cerveciis dividiit: mergitur in Oceanum.

(Elbe of Germany divides the Suevi from the Cervecii and empties into the Ocean)

It is a bit strange, given the above sentence, that the Suevi were previously separated from “other Germans” and the Suevi freemen from the Suevic “Servi” in another way (in the words of Tacitus):

Insigne gentil obliquera crinem, nodoque substringere.  Sic Suevi a ceteris Germanis: sic Suevorum ingenui a servis separantur.

(It is the special characteristic of this nation to comb the hair sideways and fasten it below with a knot. This distinguishes [separates] the Suevi from the rest of the Germans; this, among the Suevi, distinguishes the freeman from the slave)


Prisoner’s head – from a bronze figure found at Vindobona (aka Vienna)

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March 13, 2016


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Thietmar of Merseburg mentions this humorous episode that occurred to his immediate predecessor at Merseburg, the Bishop Boso of Bavaria.  Boso apparently tried to teach Christianity to the Slavs in their own tongue but also required them to be singing kyrie eleison in the original Greek.  This did not go so well.


Thietmar’s Chronicle Book 2, 37

“Boso wrote his instructions for the faith in Slavic to make them more accessible to those who had been committed to him.  He also demanded the singing of the kyrie eleison, after explaining what it meant.  The fools mockingly changed this to ukrivolsa which, translated into our language, means ‘the alder stands in the bush’.  As often as he tried to correct them, they replied, ‘so has Boso spoken.’  The emperor granted him a few villages which belonged to the previously mentioned city [Merseburg] and also a certain burg in the district of Schkeuditz, called Medeburu, which means ‘protect the honey.’  The emperor’s like-named son also gave him a church in Helfta.  The church had been established in honour of Saint Radegund by his father…”


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March 1, 2016