Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Gods and Holy Places of the Knýtlinga Saga

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Knýtlinga saga (The Saga of Cnut’s Descendants) is an Icelandic saga written in the 1250s, which covers a long period of Denmark’s history (from the early 10th century story of Harald Gormsson “Bluetooth” till the end of the 12th).  The Cnut or Canute of the saga is probably the legendary Harthacnut (Cnut I or Canute I).  (The alternative title might be the Lives of the Kings of the Danes – not to be confused with Saxo’s Gesta Danorum).

The story most likely came to Iceland by virtue of the efforts of Óláfr Þórðarson (the nephew of the famed Icelandic writer Snorri).  Óláfr traveled to Norway and then Denmark where he stayed at the court of Valdemar II (the son of Valdemar I who had conquered Arkona).  If  Þórðarson is really the author of the Knýtlinga saga then the pagan references in the Knýtlinga saga (as the saga itself obviously) are younger than Saxo Grammaticus’ chapters in Gesta Danorum (Saxo died about 40 years before the assumed composition date of the Knýtlinga saga) which we presented here.  Nevertheless, spending time at the Danish court may have given Óláfr an opportunity to access additional sources or hear more tales.

In the saga, Svantovit is represented as Svanteviz but five other Gods are also mentioned: the trio of Rinvit, Turupid and Puruvit – corresponding, presumably to Rugievit, Porenut and Porevit;  but also Pizamar (in Jasmund) and Tjarnoglofi, the Rugian’s God of War (who “went” with them on military expeditions – recall Thietmar’s discussion (at 8, 64) of the Veletian campaign alongside the Germans where the Slavic Goddess had been “disrespected” by a German commanded and the Emperor had to figure out a way to placate his allies).  Neither Pizamar nor Tjarnoglofi are mentioned elsewhere.  Whether the latter had anything to do with Thietmar’s Cernobog or with the famous Pomeranian Triglaf (described, for example, here and here and here; other sources elsewhere on this site) or was (either as a result of a conscious decision of the local religious leaders or the confusion of the Danes in telling the stories) a combination of the two, we do not even begin to guess.  Whether Boka (Böku) is another deity or just a sacred grove of some unspecified God, we likewise do not know.

The English translation of the saga is connected with another Canute – Canute IV (circa 1042 – 10 July 1086) who was king of Denmark and later got himself canonized and became the patron saint of Denmark.  His path led, of course, via martyrdom.  Specifically, Canute died during a peasant revolt which broke out on (appropriately) Vendsyssel.  The King escaped to Saint Alban’s priory at Odense where the peasant rebels caught up with him and made him a martyr in 1086.  The 900th anniversary of Canute’s death was celebrated in 1986 by the city of Odense (where he is buried at Odense Cathedral) as a major event.  As part of the celebrations, the town notables convinced two professors, Hermann Pállsson (of Iceland) and Paul Edwards (a professor with varied interests at the University of Edinburgh – where the two professors probably met) to translate the Knýtlinga saga into English.  Pálsson and Edwards translation is the only known English translation to date.


With all that in mind here is the invasion of Arkona as told in the Knýtlinga saga (as regards the Slavic Gods we follow the translators and give the Old Norse version below):


Section 101
King Eirik in Wendland

“King Eirik the Unforgotten, once he felt secure in his kingdom, was harsh and severe with the people of Denmark.  His own brother, Harald Kesja, and two of his sons Eirik had put to death along with many other friends of King Nikulas.  It was one year after the death of King Nikulas that Harald Kresja was killed.”

“A year later, King Eirik took his army to Wendland, plundering far and wide and causing great havoc.  He took a town called Arkona where the people were heathen, but by the time he left they had the whole population of the town baptized before he returned to Denmark.  But immediately the king had gone they renounced the faith and returned to the offering and sacrifice and other heathen practices.”

Section 121
Plundering in Wendland

“Towards the end of winter, Valdimar raised yet another levy for a seafaring expedition and sailed to Rugen.  They went ashore at Strele to a certain sacred grove called Boka where they set fire to and burnt everything apart from the people and the cattle, which they drove to the ships.  Then they went to another part of Valong and burnt the place down, then to Vik where they set everything ablaze all the way to the market place.  From there they rowed over to Hiddensee and lay there at anchor for twenty days, resting.”

“After that,  the king asked Absalon to sail on ahead , while he and the Jutes moved up to Strele. When dusk began to fall, the bishop rowed with his troops past the king over to Parez, then set up to a town called Gartz, where the Wends confronted them and at once began to attack the bishop by a certain lake.  It was a great battle and many fell in it but the bishop won the victory.  Eleven hundred men had been killed on the side of the Wends, but only one man on the bishop’s, though two of the bishop’s men died by drowning in a swimming match.  Later the bishop rode out to his ships.  As they were cantering aboard, King Valdimar came up to ask what they had been working at and the bishop told him.  The king gave him generous thanks for this victory and then they all travelled together to Strele.  The Isle-Danes had by now laid hands on a great deal of booty, and the Jutes were envious, saying that the Isle-Danes took everything while the Jutes lost everything but they did not risk saying this in the king’s hearing.”

“Afterwards the king went with an army to Jasmund and harried there, killing a chieftain called Dalemar and seizing all the people there and cattle.  Next they went to Hiddensee where the Rugians came to the king begging for mercy: they handed over hostages, paid him all the tribute he asked for, and swore their allegiance.  After that, the king went back to Denmark.”

Section 122
Pagan Idols in Wendland

“King Valdimar gave his son Kristoforus authority in Jutland: he was a powerful man ad had a dukedom at Hedeby and associated districts.”

“While he ruled over the kingdom, King Valdimar was always a busy man, having led eight expeditions to Rugen [Rugia] before winning control of it.”

“One winter around the time of Lent, Duke Kristoforus and Bishop Absalon went to Svold River and set everything ablaze as far as Tribuzis so that the place lay desolate for many years after.  They remained weather-bound for twenty days in the River Svold with a fearful gale but then they got a favourable wind and sailed back home.”

“After this, everything was quiet for three years until the Rugians once again broke the agreement made earlier.  So King Valdimar had to make yet another levy for an expedition by sea, sailing to Rugen and arriving on Whit Sunday to take the town of Arkona, mentioned earlier.  Then Tetizlaf, King of the Rugians, and his brother Jarmar, and all their leading men came to King Valdimar, surrendering themselves and their country into his power and telling he could do whatever he wished with them.  Then the king told them to embrace Christianity, for the land had been heathen ever since they renounced the Christian faith they received when Eirik the Unforgotten had them baptized on the conquest of the town of Arkona, as described earlier.  They said they would now do as the king and Bishop Absalon had asked.”

“Then the king ordered Soni Ebbason and others with him to go into the town of Arkona to the temple there, cut down the god called Svantaviz, drag it out of the town and plunder the temple of anything valuable.  As the townspeople feared the angrier of the god they would not dare cut him down, but bishop Svein and Soni Ebbason came and cut down the god, then put a rope round his neck and forced the Rugians themselves to drag him outside.  Once he was out, the heather were all amazed that he was unable to help himself and had less faith  in him than before.  After that, men came up and hacked him apart and burned him under their cauldrons; then the Rugians realised they had been deceived and no longer believed in him.  Bishop Absalon and all the clergy converted the people to Christianity, baptizing thirteen hundred ain one day, and when they left, the people agreed to give their obedience to the king and the bishop.”

“Next morning the king went to the place called Gartz and had three idols cut down, called Rinvit, Turupid and Puruvit.  These idols caused strange things to happen: if any man had intercourse with a woman inside the town the two were stuck together like dogs and were unable to go free until they left the town.  On the day their idols were destroyed, nine hundred people converted to Christianity and eleven graveyards were consecrated.  A great deal of wealth was taken from the gods, gold and silver, silks and furs and costly fabrics, helmets and swords, tailcoats and all kinds of weapons.  The fifth god was called Pizamar from a place called Jasmund, and was destroyed by fire,  There was also Tjarnaglofi, their god of victory who went with them on military campaigns.  He had a moustache of silver and resisted longer than the others buyt they managed to get him there years later.  Altogether, they christened five thousand on this expedition.  King Valdimar, Bishop Absalon and all the troops now returned home.”

Old Norse

Section 101

Herferð Eiríks konungs 

Eiríkr eymuni var harðr ok stirðr við fólk alt í Danmörk, þegar hann þóttiz festaz í ríkinu; hann lét drepa Harald kesju, bróður sinn, ok sonu hans II ok marga aðra vini Níkuláss konungs. Þat var einum vetri eptir fall Níkuláss konungs, er Haraldr kesja var drepinn.

En vetri síðar fór Eiríkr konungr til Vinðlands með her sinn ok herjaði þar víða ok vann þar mikit hervirki; hann vann þar stað þann, er Arkún heitir; þat fólk var heiðit, er þann stað bygði. Eiríkr konungr fór svá þaðan, at þeir tóku áðr við kristni, er eigi váru drepnir af heiðnum mönnum, ok lét konungr kristna alt fólk í staðinum; fór hann síðan heim til Danmerkr. En þegar konungr var í brottu þaðan, þá köstuðu þeir aptr kristni ok efldu síðan blót ok heiðinn sið.


Section 121

Frá Valdimar konungi 

En er vetrinn leið af, bauð Valdimarr enn út leiðangri ok fór til Réinga ok lögðu upp á Strælu við blótlund einn, er heitir Böku, ok brendu þar alt ok bældu, en tóku fólk ok fé ok fóru til skipa með. Ok þá lögðu þeir upp á annan veg á Valung ok brendu þar ok fóru þaðan til Víkr ok brendu landit alt til torgs þeirra.Þaðan reru þeir til Heðinseyjar ok lágu þar II nætr ok hvílduz. Þá bað konungr Absalón biskup fyrri fara, en konungr ok Jótar lögðuz þá upp við Strælu;


en er røkkva tók, reri biskup upp með sínu liði fram um konunginn til Parez ok reið síðan upp til borgar þeirrar, er heitir Garðz, en þar kómu Vinðr í móti þeim ok réðu þegar til orrostu við biskup ok börðuz við vatn eitt; þar varð mikil orrosta ok mannfall mikit, ok hafði biskup sigr, en þar fell af Vinðum XI hundruð manna, en einn maðr af biskupi; en II menn fóruz á kafi af biskups mönnum, er reyndu sund með sér fyrir kapps sakir. Síðan reið biskup út til skipa sinna, en er þeir hleyptu hestunum út á skipin, þá kom Valdimarr konungr þar ok spurði, hvat þeir hefði sýslat, en biskup sagði honum. Konungr þakkaði fögrum orðum sigr þenna, ok fara síðan allir samt til Strælu. Eylendingar höfðu nú fengit hlutskipti mikit, en Jótar lögðu þar öfund á ok sögðu, at Eylendingar fengu alls, en Jótar misstu; en þeir þorðu þó eigi at mæla þetta, svá at konungr heyrði. Eptir þat fór konungr með herinn til Ásund ok herjaði þar; þar drápu þeir höfðingja þann, er Dalemarr hét, ok tóku þar fólk alt ok fé ok fóru síðan til Heðinseyjar. Þar kómu Réingar til móts við konung ok báðu sér miskunnar ok settu honum gísla ok gáfu honum skatta slíka, sem hann kvað á, ok játuðu konungi hlýðni. Fór konungr heim til Danmerkr eptir þetta.


Section 122

Valdimarr konungr gaf Kristófóró syni sínum ríki á Jótlandi; hafði hann hertogadóm í Heiðabœ ok þat ríki, sem þar fylgir; hann var ríkr maðr. Valdimarr konungr hafði jafnan starfsamt, meðan hann réð ríkinu; hann hafði VIII leiðangra til Réinga, áðr hann vann landit. Einn vetr um föstu fór Kristófórús hertogi ok Absalón biskup til Svöldrs ok brendu þar alt upp til Tribuzis, svá at þar lá autt marga vetr síðan; þá lágu þeir XX nætr veðrfastir í ánni Svöldr í óveðrani miklu ok fengu síðan byr ok fóru heim.  Eptir þetta stóð kyrrt III vetr, áðr* Réingar rufu enn þá sætt, sem fyrr var gör. Þá bauð Valdimarr konungr enn út leiðangri ok fór til Réinga ok kom þar at hvíta sunnudegi ok vann borgina Arkún, er fyrr var nefnd. Þá kom til Valdimars konungs Tétizláfr, er var konungr þeirra, ok Jarmarr, bróðir hans, ok allir enir beztu menn af Réingum ok gáfu þá landit ok sjálfa sik í vald Valdimars konungs ok báðu hann gera af slíkt, er hann vildi. Þá bauð konungr þeim at taka við kristni, þvíat þar var jafnan heiðit, síðan þeir köstuðu aptr kristni, þá er Eiríkr konungr eymuni lét skíra þá, þá er hann vann borgina Arkún, sem fyrr var sagt; þeir sögðuz nú gera vildu, sem konungr beiddi ok Absalón biskup.


Þá kvaddi konungr til Sóna Ebbason ok menn með honum at ganga í borgina Arkún ok til hofs þess, er þar var, ok bað hann höggva niðr goðit, er Svanraviz* [or Svaravist?] hét, ok draga þat út af borginni, en ræna hofit öllu, því er fémætt er; en þeir, er fyrir váru í borginni, þorðu eigi at draga hann út, ok hrædduz þeir mjök reiði hans. Þá gekk til Sveinn biskup ok Sóni Ebbason ok hjoggu niðr goðit; síðan lögðu þeir reip um háls honum ok neyddu Réinga sjálfa at draga hann út; en er hann kom út, undruðuz allir heiðingjar, er hann mátti þá ekki hjálpa sjálfum sér, ok trúðu minnr á hann en fyrr.


Þá gengu menn til ok klufu hann í sundr ok brendu hann undir kötlum sínum. Sá þá Réingar, at þeir váru sviknir, ok trúðu ekki á hann síðan. En Absalón biskup ok allir lærðir menn kristnuðu fólkit ok skírðu XIII hundruð einn dag, ok fóru svá þaðan, at þeir játuðu konungi hlýðni ok svá biskupi. En um morgininn eptir fóru þeir konungr til þess staðar, er Karenz heitir, ok lét hann þar höggva niðr þrjú skurðgoð, er svá hétu: Rinvit, Turupið ok Puruvit; en skurðgoð þessi gerðu svá mikil undr, at þegar, ef nökkurr maðr átti samlag við konu innan borgar, þá loddu þau saman sem hundar, ok eigi losnuðu þau, fyrr en þau kómu út af borginni. En þann dag, er þessi skurðgoð váru brend, þá kristnuðu þeir IX hundruð ok vígðu XI kirkjugarða. Þar tóku þeir mikit fé af goðunum, bæði gull og silfr, silki og pell ok guðvef, hjálma ok sverð, brynjur ok allskonar vápn. Et fimmta goð hét Pizamarr; hann var á Ásund, svá heitir einn staðr; hann var ok brendr.


Þá hét ok Tjarnaglófi, hann var sigrgoð þeirra, ok fór hann í herfarar með þeim; hann hafði kanpa af silfri; hann helz lengst við, en þó fengu þeir hann á þriðja vetri þar eptir; en þeir kristnuðu alls á landinu V þúsundir í þeirri ferð. Eptir þat fór Valdimarr konungr heim ok Absalón biskup ok allr herrinn.

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May 30, 2016

Paphlagonian Veneti

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For our prior musings on Paphlagonia see here and here.  For the origin of the Poles as coming from a nearby Colchian country see here.  Here we present what is known of the stories of Paphlagonian Veneti.  Some of this we have already covered but other portions, we have not.  Below is a list of “true” references to Paphlagonian Veneti:

  • Homer’s Illiad (Book 2, lines 851-860) (we provide three different translations)
  • Strabo’s Geography (Book 1, chapter 3; Book 3, chapter 2; Book 4, chapter 4; Book 5, chapter 1; Book 12, chapter 3; Book 13, chapter 1 (this last one is thrown in for geography – it itself doe not mention Veneti)
  • Quintus Curtius Rufus’ Historiarum Alexandri Magni Macedonis Libri Qui Supersunt (Book 3, chapter 1)
  • Dictys Cretensis of Book IV (mentions “Indians” – whether these are real Indians or Veneti, we leave up to you)


Other books such as Dares Phrygius’ De Excidio Trojae Historia or Quintus of Smyrna’s “Fall of Troi” or Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca may mention the Paphlagonians but they do not mention the Veneti.  Dio Chrysostom’s (born in Prusa current Bursa) Orations on Troy does mention the Heneti but – interestingly – as people who lived on the Adriatic and were (it seems from the translation) taken over by the Trojans of Antenor – see here.


Iliad, Book 2, lines 851-860

Samuel Butler:

“The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from Enetae*, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini.  Odius and Epistrophus were captains over the Halizoni from distant Alybe, where there are mines of silver.”

* ἐνετοί (Enetoi);  another version of this reference is quoted by Strabo below (12, 3).  While Pylaemenes may appear similar to the Slavic plomien or plamen (flame but in Finnish liekki), the name is not anywhere explained by any connection with fire.  Nor are his relatives’ names likewise explainable via Slavic – his son’s name was Harpalion (not the only name so evidenced as another Harpalion seems to have fought on the Greek side and another – a wine grower – lived on Lemnos), his father’s name was either Bilsates (Bibliotheca) or Melius (Dictys Cretensis).

A.T. Murray

“And the Paphlagonians did Pylaemenes of the shaggy heart lead from the land of the Eneti*, whence is the race of wild she-mules. These were they that held Cytorus and dwelt about Sesamon, and had their famed dwellings around the river Parthenius and Cromna and Aegialus and lofty Erythini. But of the Halizones Odius and Epistrophus were captains from afar, from Alybe, where is the birth-place of silver.”

Theodore Alois Buckley’s poetic translation:

“The Paphlagonians Pylaemenes rules,
Where rich Henetia breeds her savage mules,
Where Erythinus’ rising cliffs are seen,
Thy groves of box, Cytorus! ever green,
And where Aegialu and Cromna lie,
And lofty Sesamus invades the sky,
And where Parthenius, roll’d through banks of flowers,
Reflects her bordering palaces and bowers.
Here march’d in arms the Halizonian band,
Whom Odius and Epistrophus command.
From those far regions where the sun refines
The ripening silver in Alybean mines.”


Geography, Book 1, Chapter 3 (context Adriatic Veneti)

[see here for Strabo’s discussion of whether the Adriatic Veneti came from the Gallic Veneti or from the Paphlagonian ones] 


Geography, Book 3, Chapter 2

“As regards the latter, on the other hand, one might get hints from the following: In the first place, the expeditions of Heracles and of the Phoenicians, since they both reached as far as Iberia, suggested to Homer that the people of Iberia were in some way rich, and led a life of ease.  Indeed, these people became so utterly subject to the Phoenicians that the greater number of the cities in Turdetania and of the neighbouring places are now inhabited by the Phoenicians.  Secondly, the expedition of Odysseus, as it seems to me, since it actually had been made to Iberia, and since Homer had learned about it through inquiry, gave him an historical pretext; and so he also transferred the Odyssey, just as he had already transferred the Iliad, from the domain of historical fact to that of creative art, and to that of mythical invention so familiar to the poets.  For not only do the regions about Italy and Sicily and certain other regions betray signs of such facts, but in Iberia also a city of Odysseia is to be seen, and a temple of Athene, and countless other traces, not only of the wanderings of Odysseus, but also of other wanderings which took place thither after the Trojan War and afflicted the capturers of Troy quite as much as it did the vanquished (for the capturers, as it happened, carried off only a Cadmean victory).  And since the Trojan homes were in ruins, and the booty that came to each Greek was but small, the result was that the surviving Trojans, after having escaped from the perils of the war, turned to acts of piracy, as did also the Greeks; the Trojans, because their city was now in utter ruins; the Greeks, for shame, since every Greek took it for granted that it was “verily shameful to wait long” far from his kindred “and then” back to them “empty-handed go.” Thirdly, the wanderings of Aeneas are a traditional fact, as also those of Antenor, and those of the Henetians; similarly, also, those of Diomedes, Menelaus, Odysseus, and several others.  So then, the poet, informed through his inquiries of so many expeditions to the outermost parts of Iberia, and learning by hearsay about the wealth and the other good attributes of the country (for the Phoenicians were making these facts known), in fancy placed the abode of the blest there, and also the Elysian Plain, where Proteus says Menelaus will go and make his home: ‘But the deathless gods will escort thee to the Elysian Plain and the ends of the earth, where is Rhadamanthys of the fair hair, where life is easiest.  No snow is there, nor yet great storm, nor ever any rain; but always Oceanus sendeth forth the breezes of clear-blowing Zephyrus.’  For both the pure air and the gentle breezes of Zephyrus properly belong to this country, since the country is not only in the west but also warm; and the phrase ‘at the ends of the earth’ properly belongs to it, where Hades has been ‘mythically placed,’ as we say.  And Homer’s citing of Rhadamanthys suggests the region that is near Minos, concerning whom he says: ‘There it was I saw Minos, glorious son of Zeus, holding a golden sceptre, rendering decisions to the dead.’  Furthermore, the poets who came after Homer keep dinning into our ears similar stories: the expedition of Heracles in quest of the kine of Geryon and likewise the expedition which he made in quest of the golden apples of the Hesperides — even calling by name certain Isles of the Blest, which, as we know, are still now pointed out, not very far from the headlands of Maurusia that lie opposite to Gades.”


Geography, Book 4, Chapter 4 (context Gallic Veneti)

[see here for Strabo’s discussion of whether the Adriatic Veneti came from the Gallic Veneti or from the Paphlagonian ones] 


Geography, Book 5, Chapter 1 (context Adriatic Veneti)

[see here for Strabo’s discussion of whether the Adriatic Veneti came from the Gallic Veneti or from the Paphlagonian ones] 


Geography, Book 12, Chapter 3

“Tieium is a town that has nothing worthy of mention except that Philetaerus, the founder of the family of Attalic Kings, was from there. Then comes the Parthenius River, which flows through flowery districts and on this account came by its name; it has its sources in Paphlagonia itself. And then comes Paphlagonia and the Eneti.  Writers question whom the poet means by “the Eneti,” when he says, “And the rugged heart of Pylaemenes led the Paphlagonians, from the land of the Eneti, whence the breed of wild mules“; for at the present time, they say, there are no Eneti to be seen in Paphlagonia, though some say that there is a village on the Aegialus ten schoeni distant from Amastris.  But Zenodotus writes “from Enetê,” and says that Homer clearly indicates the Amisus of today.  And others say that a tribe called Eneti, bordering on the Cappadocians, made an expedition with the Cimmerians and then were driven out to the Adriatic Sea.  But the thing upon which there is general agreement is, that the Eneti, to whom Pylaemenes belonged, were the most notable tribe of the Paphlagonians,* and that, furthermore, these made the expedition with him in very great numbers, but, losing their leader, crossed over to Thrace after the capture of Troy, and on their wanderings went to the Enetian country, as it is now called.  According to some writers, Antenor and his children took part in this expedition and settled at the recess of the Adriatic, as mentioned by me in my account of Italy.  It is therefore reasonable to suppose that it was on this account that the Eneti disappeared and are not to be seen in Paphlagonia.”

[* Note that Homer’s Paphlagonians “came from the land of the Eneti” whereas Strabo’s Eneti, as per A.T. Murray, were “the most notable tribe of the Paphlagonians.” It is thus not clear whether the Eneti encompassed Paphlagonians and other tribes, whether the Eneti were just one tribe of the Paphlagonians or whether the latter was the case but there were other Eneti also somewhere else.]

“As for the Paphlagonians, they are bounded on the east by the Halys River, “which,” according to Herodotus, “flows from the south between the Syrians and the Paphlagonians and empties into the Euxine Sea, as it is called”; by “Syrians,” however, he means the “Cappadocians,” and in fact they are still to‑day called “White Syrians,” while those outside the Taurus are called “Syrians.”  As compared with those this side the Taurus, those outside have a tanned complexion, while those this side do not, and for this reason received the appellation “white.” And Pindar says that the Amazons “swayed a ‘Syrian’ army that reached afar with their spears,” thus clearly indicating that their abode was in Themiscyra. Themiscyra is in the territory of the Amiseni; and this territory belongs to the White Syrians, who live in the country next after the Halys River.  On the east, then, the Paphlagonians are bounded by the Halys River; on the south by Phrygians and the Galatians who settled among them; on the west by the Bithynians and the Mariandyni (for the race of the Cauconians has everywhere been destroyed) and on the north by the Euxine.  Now this country was divided into two parts, the interior and the part on the sea, each stretching from the Halys River to Bithynia; and Eupator not only held the coast as far as Heracleia, but also took the nearest part of the interior, certain portions of which extended across the Halys (and the boundary of the Pontic Province has been marked off by the Romans as far as this).  The remaining parts of the interior, however, were subject to potentates, even after the overthrow of Mithridates. Now as for the Paphlagonians in the interior, I mean those not subject to Mithridates, I shall discuss them later, but at present I propose to describe the country which was subject to him, called the Pontus…”

“…But Demetrius [of Scepsis] is not even in agreement with those for whose opinions he pleads; for in fixing the sites round Scepsis, his birth-place, he speaks of Nea, a village, and of Argyria and Alazonia as near Scepsis and the Aesepus River.  These places, then, if they really exist, would be near the sources of the Aesepus; but Hecataeus speaks of them as beyond the outlets of it; and Palaephatus, although he says that they formerly lived in Alopê, but now in Zeleia, says nothing like what these men say.  But if Menecrates does so, not even he tells us what kind of a place “Alopê” is or “Alobê,” or however they wish to write the name, and neither does Demetrius himself.”

“As regards Apollodorus, who discusses the same subject in his Marshalling of the Trojan Forces, I have already said much in answer to him, but I must now speak again; for he does not think that we should take the Halizoni as living outside the Halys River; for, he says, no allied force came to the Trojans from beyond the Halys.  First, therefore, we shall ask of him who are the Halizoni this side the Halys and “from Alybê far away, where is the birth-place of silver.”  For he will be unable to tell us.  And we shall next ask him the reason why he does not concede that an allied force came also from the country on the far side of the river; for, if it is the case that all the rest of the allied forces except the Thracians lived this side the river, there was nothing to prevent this one allied force from coming from the far side of the Halys, from the country beyond the White Syrians [Leuco-Syrians].  Or was it possible for peoples who fought the Trojans to cross over from these regions and from the regions beyond, as he says the Amazons and Treres and Cimmerians did, and yet impossible for people who fought as allies with them to do so?  Now the Amazons would not fight on Priam’s side because of the fact that he had fought against them as an ally of the Phrygians, against the “Amazons, peers of men, who came at that time,” as Priam says, “for I too, being their ally, was numbered among them”; but since the peoples whose countries bordered on that of the Amazons were not even far enough away to make difficult the Trojan summons for help from their countries, and since, too, there was no underlying cause for hatred, there was nothing to prevent them, I think, from being allies of the Trojans.”

“Neither can Apollodorus impute such an opinion to the early writers, as though they, one and all, voiced the opinion that no peoples from the far side of the Halys River took part in the Trojan war.  One might rather find evidence to the contrary; at any rate, Maeandrius says that the Eneti first set forth from the country of the White Syrians and allied themselves with the Trojans, and that they sailed away from Troy with the Thracians and took up their abode round the recess of the Adrias, but that the Eneti who did not have a part in the expedition had become Cappadocians.  The following might seem to agree with this account, I mean the fact that the whole of that part of Cappadocia near the Halys River which extends along Paphlagonia uses two languages which abound in Paphlagonian names, as “Bagas,” “Biasas,” “Aeniates,” “Rhatotes,” “Zardoces,” “Tibius,” “Gasys,” “Oligasys,” and “Manes,” for these names are prevalent in Bamonitis, Pimolitis, Gazelonitis, Gazacenê and most of the other districts. Apollodorus himself quotes the Homeric verse as written by Zenodotus, stating that he writes it as follows: “from Enetê, whence the breed of the wild mules”; and he says that Hecataeus of Miletus takes Enetê to be Amisus.*  But, as I have already stated, Amisus belongs to the White Syrians and is outside the Halys River.”

* note too that Amissus bears a striking resemblance to the river Ems (Amisia).  The Turkish Emesa was a place of anti-Christian riots where all churches were burned save one – that one was converted to a temple of Dionysus.


Geography, Book 13, Chapter 1

“…The Rhodius flows from Cleandria and Gordus, which are sixty stadia distant from the Beautiful Pine; and it empties into the Aenius.”

“In the dale of the Aesepus, on the left of the stream, one comes first to Polichna, a place enclosed by walls; and then to Palaescepsis; and then to Alizonium (this last name having been fabricated to support the hypothesis about the Halizones, whom I have already discussed); and then to Caresus, which is deserted, and Caresenê, and the river of the same name, which also forms a notable dale, though smaller than that of the Aesepus; and next follow the plains and plateaux of Zeleia, which are beautifully cultivated.  On the right of the Aesepus, between Polichna and Palaescepsis, one comes to Nea Comê and Argyria, and this again is a name fabricated to support the same hypothesis, in order to save the words, “where is the birthplace of silver.” Now where is Alybê, or Alopê, or however they wish to alter the spelling of the name? For having once made their bold venture, they should have rubbed their faces and fabricated this name too, instead of leaving it lame and readily subject to detection. Now these things are open to objections of this kind, but, in the case of the others, or at least most of them, I take it for granted that we must give heed to him as a man who was acquainted with the region and a native of it, who gave enough thought to this subject to write thirty books of commentary on a little more than sixty lines of Homer, that is, on the Catalogue of the Trojans. He says, at any rate, that Palaescepsis is fifty stadia distant from Aenea and thirty from the Aesepus River, and that from this Palaescepsis the same name was extended to several other sites. But I shall return to the coast at the point where I left off.”

Quintus Curtius Rufus

[see here]

Book IV of Dictys Cretensis*

“On the following day, Memnon, the son of Tithonus and Aurora, arrived with a large army of Indians and Ethiopians, a truly remarkable army which consisted of thousands and thousands of men with various kinds of arms, and surpassed the hops and prayers even of Priam. All the country around and beyond Troy, as far as eye could see, was filled with men and horses, and glittered with the splendor of arms and standards. Memnon had led these forces to Troy by way of the Caucasus mountains.  At the same time he had sent another group of equal size by sea, with Phalas as their guide and leader. These others had landed on the island of Rhodes, which they soon discovered to be an ally of Greece. At first, fearing that when the purpose of their mission was known, their ships might be fired, they stayed in the harbor.  Later, however, dividing their strength, they went to the wealthy cities of Camirus and Ialysus.  Soon the Rhodians were blaming Phalas for trying to aid Alexander, the same Alexander who had recently conquered Phalas’ country, Sidon.  In order to stir up the army, they said that whoever defended this crime was in no way different from a barbarian; and they added many such things as would incense the common soldiers and make them take their side. Nor did they fail in their intent, for the Phoenicians, who composed a majority of Phalas’ army, whether influenced by the accusations of the Rhodians, or wishing to gain control of the wealth their ships were carrying, made an attack against Phalas and stoned him to death. Then, dividing their gold and whatever booty they had, they dispersed to the cities we mentioned above.”

[* Note that Dictys Cretensis (Δίκτυς ὁ Κρής) of Knossus was the legendary companion of Idomenus during the Trojan War and the purported author of a diary of its events, that deployed some of the same materials worked up by Homer for the Iliad.  In the 4th century AD a certain Q. Septimius published Dictys Cretensis Ephemeridos belli Trojani, (“Dictys of Crete, chronicle of the Trojan War”) in six books, a work that professed to be a Latin translation of the Greek version.  According to the prologue to the Latin text details how the manuscript of this work, written in Phoenician characters on tablets of limewood or tree bark, survived: it was said to have been enclosed in a leaden box and buried with its author, according to his wishes:  “There it remained undisturbed for ages, when in the thirteenth year of Nero’s reign, the sepulchre was burst open by a terrible earthquake, the coffer was exposed to view, and observed by some shepherds, who, having ascertained that it did not, as they had at first hoped, contain a treasure, conveyed it to their master Eupraxis (or Eupraxides), who in his turn presented it to Rutilius Rufus, the Roman governor of the province, by whom both Eupraxis and the casket were despatched to the emperor. Nero, upon learning that the letters were Phoenician, summoned to his presence men skilled in that language, by whom the contents were explained. The whole having been translated into Greek, was deposited in one of the public libraries, and Eupraxis was dismissed loaded with rewards.” (William Smith. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology).]

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May 30, 2016

Jonas of Bobbio’s “The Life of Columban”

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Saint Columban (or Columbanus) was an abbot and missioner.  He was born in Leinster (Ireland), circa 543; died circa 615 at Bobbio, Italy, a monastery which he founded. His feast day is November 23.  The “Life of Columban” (Vita Columbani) by the monk Jonas of Bobbio contains the first mention of Slavs in the West: “ueneticorum qui & sclaui dicuntur


We introduce that work here along with an introduction about Jonas by D.C. Munro who is the work’s translator.  We also include the sections referring to the Suevi.  The pics are from the Saint Gallen Codex 553.  [*Note that, although Columban was also known as “Columba”, Columban is distinct from Saint Columba, who was founder of Iona, who was born in 521, and died in 597, and whose feast day is June 9.]

Introduction by  D.C. Munro

“During the sixth and seventh centuries the greatest missionary activity was shown by the Scots who dwelt in Ireland. In that country religion was cherished with greater zeal than elsewhere, and learning was fostered for the sake of the Cchurch. But not content with the flourishing state of Christianity in their own island, the most zealous monks often passed over to the continent. There even the nominal Christians were little inclined to follow the precepts of the religion which they professed. Gaul especially attracted the attention of the bold missionaries from Ireland, and the Irish usages became well established in some parts of lie country.  Unfortunately almost all the accounts of the missionaries from Ireland have been lost; consequently this biography of Columban is of great value.”



“Jonas, the author of this “Life”, became a monk at Bobbio, in northern Italy, three years after Columban’s death.  He was soon employed on this biography, for which he obtained material, as he himself said, from the stories told by the saint’s companions. Living as be did, among the, latter, his account reflects their feelings faithfully, and we may be certain that he has recorded the events accurately, and often reproduced the saint’s own words.  As is usual in such biographies, the miracles are numerous; for the contemporaries these formed the most valuable portions; for modern students they are full of instruction, and throw much light on the daily life of the monks.”

Sections of “Life of Saint Columban”
by the Monk Jonas of Bobbio

Section 15 

“While the holy man was wandering through the dark woods and was carrying on his shoulder a book of the Holy Scripture, he happened to be meditating. And suddenly the thought came into his mind, to which he would prefer, to suffer injuries from men or to be exposed the rage of wild beasts. While he thought earnestly, frequently signing his forehead with the sign of the cross and praying, he decided that it was better to suffer from the ferocity of wild beasts, without any sin on their part, than from the madness of men who would lose their souls.”


And while he was turning this over in his mind he perceived twelve wolves approaching and standing on the right and on the left, while he was in the middle. He stood still and said: ‘Oh, God, come to my aid. Oh, Lord, hasten to aid me!’ They came nearer and seized his clothing. As he stood firm they left him unterrified and wandered off into the woods.”


“Having passed through this temptation in safety, he continued his course through the woods. And before he had gone far he heard the voices of many Suevi, wandering in the hidden paths. At this time they were robbing in those places. And so at length by his firmness, having dismissed the temptation, he escaped the misfortune. But he did not know clearly whether this was some of the devil’s deceit or whether it had actually happened. At another time he withdrew from his cell and entering the wilderness by a longer road he found an immense cliff with precipitous. There he perceived a hollow sides and rocky paths difficult for men. in the rock. Entering to explore its hidden recesses he found in the interior of the cave the home of a bear, and the bear itself. He ordered the beast to depart and not to return to that place again. The beast mercifully went, nor did she dare to return again. The place was distant from Anegray seven miles more or less.”

Section 53

“At length they arrived at the place designated, which did not wholly please Columban; but he decided to remain, in order to spread the faith among the people, who were Swabians.”


“Once as he was going through this country, he discovered that the natives were going to make a heathen offering. They had a large cask that they called a cupa [cubam], and that held about twenty-six measures, filled with beer and set in their midst. On Columban’s asking what they intended to do with it, they answered that they were making an offering to their God Wodan [uadono]  (whom others call Mercury).”


“When he heard of this abomination, he breathed on the cask, and lo! it broke with a crash and fell in pieces so that all the beer ran out. Then it was clear that the devil had been concealed in the cask, and that through the earthly drink he had proposed to ensnare the souls of the participants. As the heathens saw that, they were amazed and said Columban had a strong breath, to split a wellbound cask in that manner. But he reproved them in the words of the Gospel, and commanded them to cease from such offerings and to go home.”


“Many were converted then, by the preaching of the holy man, and turning to the learning and faith of Christ, were baptized by him. Others, who were already baptized but still lived in the heathenish unbelief, like a good shepherd, he again led by his words to the faith and into the bosom of the church.”

Section 56

“Once Columban though going to the land of the Wends, who are also called Slavs, in order to illuminate their darkened minds with the light of the Gospel and to open the way of truth to those who had always wandered in error.”


“When he proposed to make his vows, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a vision, and showed him in a little circle the structure of the world, just as the circle of the universe is usually, drawn with a pen in a book. ‘You perceive,’ the angel said, ‘how much remains set apart of the whole world. Go to the right or the left where you will, that you may enjoy the fruits of your labors.’ Therefore Columban remained where he was, until the way to Italy opened before him.”


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May 30, 2016

Rusty the Bear

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An interesting thing about the Slavic word for bear is that it has been universally etymologically explained as meaning “honey eater”.  Honey = med; vjed = to eat out.rustAnother interesting thing about the Slavic words for bears is that they are of roughly two types.  Most begin with an “m” whereas the Polish version begins with an “n”.  Thus we have, e.g.:

  • medvjed – in Croatian, but
  • niedźwiedź – in Polish.

Since miod in Polish is much the same as med (or mead for that matter) but the bear name has in Polish the first letter “n”, it seems that the “m” version is the “correct” or, at least, the older one and that the Polish “m” became an “n” over time.

Yet another interesting thing is that continental European brown bears are, well, brown.

Finally, we note this interesting translation from a dictionary put together by Oskar Priese in 1890:rost

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May 27, 2016

Slavonia in the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela

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This comes from Benjamin of Tudela‘s “Itinerary” – translated by Marcus Nathan Adler.  Benjamin (circa 1130 – circa 1173) was a Jewish traveler front the city of Tudela in Navarre throughout the Mediterranean where he gathered reports also of the Slavs.  We include a rather longer description as it also shows that the Frankish/German heavy hitter cities were, at the time, far to the West (map included) and that land in what is today’s East Germany truly was “marches” or borderlands.


“Alexandria is a commercial market for all nations. Merchants come thither from all the Christian kingdoms: on the one side, from the land of Venetia and Lombardy, Tuscany, Apulia, Amalfi, Sicilia, Calabria, Romagna, Khazaria, Patzinakia, Hungaria, Bulgaria, Rakuvia (Ragusa?), Croatia, Slavonia, Russia, Alamannia (Germany), Saxony, Danemark, Kurland? Ireland? Norway (Norge?), Frisia, Scotia, Angleterre, Wales, Flanders, Hainault? Normandy, France, Poitiers, Anjou, Burgundy, Maurienne, Provence, Genoa, Pisa, Gascony, Aragon, and Navarra, and towards the west under the sway of the Mohammedans, Andalusia, Algarve, Africa and the land of the Arabs: and on the other side India, Zawilah, Abyssinia, Lybia, El-Yemen, Shinar, Esh-Sham (Syria); also Javan, whose people are called the Greeks, and the Turks. And merchants of India bring thither all kinds of spices, and the merchants of Edom buy of them. And the city is a busy one and full of traffic. Each nation has an inn of its own…”

“Thence people pass to the city of Rome in ten days. And from Rome they proceed by land to Lucca, which is a five days’ journey. Thence they cross the mountain of Jean de Maurienne, and the passes of Italy. It is twenty days’ journey to Verdun, which is the commencement of Alamannia, a land of mountains and hills.  All the congregations of Alamannia are situated on the great river Rhine, from the city of Cologne, which is the principal town of the Empire, to the city of Regensburg, a distance of fifteen days’ journey at the other extremity of Alamannia, otherwise called Ashkenaz.  And the following are the cities in the land of Alamannia, which have Hebrew congregations: Metz, Treves on the river Moselle, Coblenz, Andernach, Bonn, Cologne, Bingen, Münster, WormsStrassburg, Würzburg, Mantern, Bamberg, Freising, and Regensburg at the extremity of the Empire.”


“Thence extends the land of Bohemia, called Prague. This is the commencement of the land of Slavonia, and the Jews who dwell there call it Canaan, because the men of that land (the Slavs) sell their sons and their daughters to the other nations.  These are the men of Russia, which is a great empire stretching from the gate of Prague to the gates of Kieff, the large city which is at the extremity of that empire.  It is a land of mountains and forests, where there are to be found the animals called vair*, ermine, and sable. No one issues forth from his house in winter-time on account of the cold.  People are to be found there who have lost the tips of their noses by reason of the frost.  Thus far reaches the empire of Russia.”

“The kingdom of France, which is Zarfath, extends from the town of Auxerre unto Paris, the great city—a journey of six days.  The city belongs to King Louis.  It is situated on the river Seine. Scholars are there, unequalled in the whole world, who study the Law day and night.  They are charitable and hospitable to all travellers, and are as brothers and friends unto all their brethren the Jews.  May God, the Blessed One, have mercy upon us and upon them!”

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May 22, 2016

Germania and Its Manuscripts – Part II

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What else can we say?


Boiis not Osis?

In section 28, we have the following:

Igitur inter Hercyniam silvam Rhenumque et Moenum amnes Helvetii, ulteriora Boii, Gallica utraque gens, tenuere. Manet adhuc Boihaemi nomen significatque loci veterem memoriam quamvis mutatis cultoribus.  

Sed utrum Aravisci in Pannoniam ab Osis, Germanorum natione, an Osi ab Araviscis in Germaniam commigraverint, cum eodem adhuc sermone institutis moribus utantur, incertum est, quia pari olim inopia ac libertate eadem utriusque ripae bona malaque erant.

“The region therefore between the Hercynian Forest and the rivers Moenus and Rhine, was occupied by the Helvetians; as was that beyond it by the Boians, both nations of Gaul. There still remains a place called Boiemum, which denotes the primitive name and antiquity of the country, although the inhabitants have been changed.”

“But whether the Araviscans are derived from the Osians, a nation of Germans passing into Pannonia, or the Osians from the Araviscans removing from thence into Germany, is a matter undecided; since they both still use the language, the same customs and the same laws.”

But that is not exactly what is said in the manuscripts.  Specifically, abois or a boiis.  Since “a” can  mean “from” just as “ab” can, saying a Boiis, essentially means “from the Boii.”  Now, right after that, Tacitus says or the Osians from Araviscans and then mentions “both” as still using the same language.  The emendation to “ab Osis” is one way to resolve the incongruity.

Another way, however, would be to note that right above this sentence, Tacitus talks about the Boii.  Therefore, you could just as easily say “an Boii ab Araviscis”.

Essentially, the paragraph would then read:

“The region therefore between the Hercynian Forest and the rivers Moenus and Rhine, was occupied by the Helvetians; as was that beyond it by the Boians, both nations of Gaul. There still remains a place called Boiemum, which denotes the primitive name and antiquity of the country, although the inhabitants have been changed.  But whether the Araviscans are derived from the Boians, a nation of Germans passing into Pannonia, or the Boians from the Araviscans removing from thence into Germany, is a matter undecided; since they both still use the language, the same customs and the same laws.”

This would suggest that the Germanic (in the sense of their place of origin) Boii may have come into Germany originally from Pannonia (leaving the Aravisci behind in Pannonia) or, alternatively, that the Pannonian Araviscans may have come from Germany into Pannonia (leaving the Boii behind in Pannonia).

As an aside we also learn that the Aravisci (a nation of Germania) spoke the same language as the Ossi or, in our version, the Boii (whether the Boii have anything to do with the boyars or with the Bavarians is another matter).


You will also notice that the Nervii were rather the Neruli, which also brings up the Heruli.  (It also raises the question whether the Nahanarulos (as per manuscripts) were a tribe that lived “near” (?) the Neruli, rather than being any Nahanarvalos (seemingly made up by Müllenhoff).  And Ubii, at least in one place may have been Nubii (!).  All these, of course, can be mistaken as there are inscriptions mentioning these other peoples but, working from Tacitus’ manuscript alone, the conclusions reached by Müllenhoff are not entirely obvious.

Other Tribal Names – Dulgicubuni not Dulgubni, etc?

In section 34 we have the Dulgubni of Müllenhoff.  However, they are never actually named that way.  Instead we have:

  • Dulgicubuni (dulgibnii in the margin)
  • dulgitubini
  • Dulgibini
  • dulgibini (and above that dulcubuni)

And the Chasuarii are actually:

  • Thasuarii
  • tasuarii
  • occasuarii
  • chasudrii


In section 40, we note that the Suardones are actually:

  • Suarines (Suardones in one manuscript only in margin).

These latter are most obviously associated with the town of Schwerin which is in East Germany and has the typical -in Slavic suffix which, normally, would seem to make it a Slavic town.


In section 42, Müllenhoff talks about the Varisti.  The source for this is unclear and this has been corrected in most English editions to Naristi (originally inhabitants of Noricum?).  Naristi is a name used in some manuscripts but in others we have:

  • Narisci, or
  • maristi

noraWhat else?

In section 43, we have references to Lygiorum (Lugi!) but they are actually to:

  • Legiorum
  • legiorum (Ligij in the margin)
  • leugiorum
  • legiorum

Right where we’ve come to expect the Polish Lachs or Lechs, of course.

The Cotini are actually Gotini (though seemingly separate from the Gothones).

The Harii are actually alii (?)


The Naharnavalos of Müllenhoff are never referred to that way.  Instead they are:

  • Nahanarulos (naharualos in the margin)
  • Nahanarualos
  • naharualos
  • nahanarualos
  • nachanarualos

Interestingly, the Lemovii – who could otherwise have been connected to the Lemovii of Gall – are written as either:

  • Lemouii (same as Lemovii), or
  • lemonii

Now, the “lemonii” have likely little to do with lemons (?) but they do bring to mind Kadlubek’s mention of a Lemanian tyrant who wanted to marry princess Wanda.  That tribal name has been interpreted as referring to the Alemanni, i.e., Germans.  However, if you really believe that the Vandals lived on the shore of the Baltic, then a connection appears between the Vandals’ Wanda and the nearby “Lemonii” (who we know lived on the Baltic).

Neithu of the Nuithones?

There is, of course, no such goddess as Hertha.  But there is more.  Continuing with section 40, Müllenhoff’s Nerthum is Nerthum only in one manuscript and Nertum in another.  At other times the reference is to:

  • nethum
  • Neithu
  • neithum

So instead of Hertha we have Neitha?


Whether that name can have something to do with the Polish Goddess Nia is a question that, we think, is fair to ask given all this.

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May 21, 2016

Germania and Its Manuscripts – Part I

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Disintermediation is a concept that gains more and more currency with technological change.  In the realm of economics, disintermediation generally refers to the removal of the middle-man.  The value added by various intermediaries previously consisted of access to a web of connections jealously guarded by such strategically placed individuals or companies.  Nowadays, however, we have machinery and the internet.  The impact of these developments on various professions and trades has been tremendous.

However, the presence of the “world-wide web” has had far-reaching consequences even outside of purely economic transactions.  In the realm of academia, it has made vast amounts of knowledge readily accessible, viewable and, importantly, scrutinizable by people who previously could not have dreamt of being able to access such arcana.  This, in turn, has led to ordinary people being able to question the validity of the product sold being by the academic priest classes.  Although specialized knowledge is, of course, helpful and Internet quacks are indeed an unfortunate byproduct of all this technological change, the ability to easily access the vast amount of data out there by more people can only be viewed as positive.

Outside of physics and other highly technical subjects, most of the data belonging to the “soft sciences” can nowadays be critically analyzed by the rankest of amateurs provided they have an interest in the given topic and a sufficient amount of time on their hands.  Thus, for example, the old manuscripts can be examined directly – without the interpolation of old wise men.


Now, interestingly, some high-profile manuscripts have not yet been available to the public… Tacitus’ works, for example, seem not to be a priority for preservation efforts – Germania, in particular.  Nevertheless, wide access to information these days also includes access to secondary sources that were previously only available in far away academic communities.

So let’s take a look at Germania

What Does Germania Really Say?

Well, to deflate the balloon, it says pretty much what you think it says… but there are a few interesting variations from the “standard” editions.  An investigation of sections 38, etc of the Germania is therefore worthwhile.

A typical translation of Germania is ultimately derived from the Karl Müllenhoff (1818-1884) edition first put out as “Germania antique” in 1873 and then elaborated on by Müllenhoff in his Deutsche Altertumskunde, volume 4 (posthumously issued by Max Roediger in 1900).  All the below Latin paragraphs are from the Müllenhoff version.

Suevi not Suebi

Section 38 of Germania says the following:

[38] “Nunc de Suebis dicendum est, quorum non una, ut Chattorum Tencterorumve, gens; maiorem enim Germaniae partem obtinent, propriis adhuc nationibus nominibusque discreti, quamquam in commune Suebi vocentur. Insigne gentis obliquare crinem nodoque substringere: sic Suebi a ceteris Germanis, sic Sueborum ingenui a servis separantur. In aliis gentibus seu cognatione aliqua Sueborum seu, quod saepe accidit, imitatione, rarum et intra iuventae spatium; apud Suebos usque ad canitiem horrentem capillum retro sequuntur. Ac saepe in ipso vertice religatur; principes et ornatiorem habent. Ea cura formae, sed innoxia; neque enim ut ament amenturve, in altitudinem quandam et terrorem adituri bella compti, ut hostium oculis, armantur.”

However, Müllenhoff notes himself that the manuscripts B b C c, each say something different.  Specifically, they say Nunc de Suevis.  In fact, Müllenhoff says “and everywhere the same way” (et ubique modem modo): Suevi, Suevorum, Suevos; hence we have:

“Nunc de Suevis dicendum est, quorum non una, ut Chattorum Tencterorumve, gens; maiorem enim Germaniae partem obtinent, propriis adhuc nationibus nominibusque discreti, quamquam in commune Suevi vocentur. Insigne gentis obliquare crinem nodoque substringere: sic Suevi* a ceteris Germanis, sic Suevorum** ingenui a servis separantur. In aliis gentibus seu cognatione aliqua Suevorum seu, quod saepe accidit, imitatione, rarum et intra iuventae spatium; apud Suevos usque ad canitiem horrentem capillum retro sequuntur. Ac saepe in ipso vertice religatur; principes et ornatiorem habent. Ea cura formae, sed innoxia; neque enim ut ament amenturve, in altitudinem quandam et terrorem adituri bella compti, ut hostium oculis, armantur.”

* in b: “Suevi a”
** in T: “servoss”*

* on this see below too…

And so forth throughout Germania.  But maybe that’s only in the B b C c manuscripts?  Well, the problem is that these were the only manuscripts that Müllenhoff was working with…

So there was a subsequent manuscript discovered?

The answer is yes… but it does not matter since, e.g., the T (“Toledo”) manuscript also has Sueuos…

But maybe… let’s see… the “u” > “b” – possibly but not for Tacitus’ Suevi.

Here is a list from Frank Abbott showing the “standard” Müllenhoff edition on the left and the actual manuscripts on the right:


Mühlenhoff on the left, reality on the right

And it gets better

In section 41, Müllenhoff says:

“Moreover this quarter of the Suebians stretches to the middle of Germany.”  (Et haec quidem pars Sueborum in secretiora Germaniae porrigitur.)

So should we correct that to Suevorum?  Well, no because the word used is:


Serbos or Servos???  So now we might have Serbs masquerading as Suevians?  If so (and it is an “if” we admit!), does anyone still believe that Suevi have absolutely nothing to do with the Slavs?  Not to mention that this brings up the words of Vibius SequesterAlbis Germaniae Suevos a Cerveciis dividiit: mergitur in Oceanum.


What about Müllenhoff?

It is difficult not to conclude that Müllenhoff’s choice here was driven by his desire to make the name as similar as possible to that of the Schwaben.

Aha! What about the Codex Aesinas?  Seems same.


With such a sensitive work, lots of “Korrekturen” were necessary…

So there you have it.

Incidentally, given the name of this site, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Codex Aesinas was discovered (in 1902) at Iesi/Jesi, an “Umbrian” town before its conquest by the Gallic Senones.

And speaking of the Gallic Senones.

Semones (or Senones) not Semnones

The most ancient Suevic tribe is listed by Tacitus as that of the Semnones (section 39).  Except Germania does not say that except in the C, c class (and only once while the name appears twice in the book) and in margin notes in the T class.  Instead we have:

  • B – Semones (Señones on top);
  • T – Semones (Semnones in margin);
  • bsenones (with “m” above the first n);
  • C csemones;


Later, in the same section 39, we have:

  • Semonum (Semnonuss in the margin)
  • Semonu (sennonu above)
  • senonum
  • semnonum


Which raises a few questions about their relationship to:

  • the Gallic and Italic (in Galia Cisalpina really) Senones;
  • Samo, the merchant king;
  • most interestingly, Semovith (or Samovith), the son of Piast (Pazt) of the Gallus Chronicle;*

* the fact that Semovith’s son’s name was, as per Gallus, Lestik or Lesthko(n) seems interesting too, given that Lethuc was an ancient king of the Lombards, i.e., of Suevi Longobardi.  Lestik’s son was Zemimizl (but also Zemomisl, and in margins Semimizl, Szemimisl), the father of Mieszko I also suggests that the Semo-vith and the Zemo-misl (?) may have shared a prefix.



Incidentally, the suffix -misl or -mysl refers to the “mind” (mysl = thought).  Thus, it is likely related to “mind” and we cannot help but notice that mind itself may be cognate with various Slavic “smarts” words, such as the Czech moudrý or the Polish mądry.  The latter, however, may be pronounced mundry and it certainly could be phonetically transliterated that way into English.  From there there is no further distance to prefixes with –mund commonly found in Nordic names.  Of course, those prefixes refer to “protection”?

There are plenty of other interesting aspects of these manuscripts.

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May 19, 2016

The Vandals of Henry Huntingdon

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The Chronicle of Henry the Archdeacon of Huntingdon (circa 1088 – circa 1157), i.e., Historia Anglorum (The History of the English) is not a well known source of Slavic information but it does contain some bits here and there.  (Note it is a different history from Matthew Paris’ later namesake book).


For example, there is this report at the beginning of Book V which potentially refers to the Wends (as Vandals):

“In the early days of the English church religion flourished with so much lustre, that kings and queens, nobles and bishops, as I have before related, resigned their dignities, and entered into the monastic life.  But in process of time all piety became extinct, so that no other nation equalled them for impiety and licentiousness; as especially appears m the history of the Northumbrian kings.  This unpiety was not only manifest in the royal annals, but extended to every rank and order of men.  Nothing was held disgraceful except devotion, and innocence was the surest road to destruction. The Almighty, therefore, let loose upon them the most barbarous of nations, like swarms of wasps, and they spared neither age nor sex; viz. the Danes [Dacos] and/with Goths [Gothis], Norwegians [Norwagenses] and/with Swedes [Suathedis], Vandals [Wandalos] and/with Frisians [Fresis].  These desolated this country for 230 years, from the beginning of the reign of King Ethelwulf [King of Wessex from 839 to 858], until the time of the arrival of the Normans under the command of King William.  France also, from its contiguity to England, was often invaded by these instruments of the divine vengeance, as it richly deserved. With these explanations I will now resume the course of my history. [continues with AD 837]”


And this one in Book VI, which has Vandals but has been interpreted as an attack (dated to 1019 AD) on the Wends:

“In the this year of his reign, Canute, with an army composed both of English and Danes, went over to Denmark to war with the Vandals.  He had come up with the enemy and was prepared to give battle the day following, when Earl Godwin, who commanded the English troops, made a night attack on the enemy’s camp, without the king’s knowledge.  Taking them by surprise, he made great slaughter and entirely routed them.  At daybreak the king, finding that the English were gone, supposed that they had either taken flight or deserted to the enemy.  However, he marshaled his own force for the attack, but when he reached the camp, he found there only the corpses of the slain, blood, and booty.  Whereaupon he ver afterwards held the English the highest honour, considering them not inferior to the Danes.  After this he returned to England.”


(The above are from Thomas Forester’s 1853 translation; Latin version from Thomas Arnold’s 1879 edition).

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May 18, 2016

Signs of Lada – Part II

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We wrote about the Polish God (or Goddess?) Lada here, here and here.  We discussed potential appearances of the name here.


There is, of course, more:

A Clay Jug

In 1866, Karl Disch a member of the Friends of Antiquity Society in the Rheinland was said to possess a red jug made of clay, found, we speculate, somewhere in the Rheinland.  The jug was old, decorated with pictures of grape vines and apparently dated to Roman times.  It bore the following inscription:


This was assumed to be a form of a greeting to the owner – someone named Lada, in the form of:

“Imple, O Lada”

The society’s yearbook in 1866 speculated that the name is similar to the name of the famous Greek runner – Ladas.


But this seems strange.  A statue to Ladas is mentioned by Pausanias in his description of the sanctuary of Apollo Lycius in Argos and again when Pausanias describes  Ladas’ tomb on the road between Sparta and Arcadia.  (Ladas apparently did not make it home and died on his way back.)  There apparently also was a stadium named after Ladas that was located somewhere between Mantinea and Orchomenus where Ladas practiced his running feats (this too from Pausanias).  Further, Pausanias also mentions another Ladas (from Aegium in Achaea) who later won a stade race at an another Olympiad.  Ladas appears too in later literature and a famous statue of him was apparently sculpted by Myron.

All this is well and good but while the fact that there had been a “fleet-footed” Ladas in Greece may serve to establish that such a name did in fact exist in ancient Greece… it seems to have less bearing on the question of names in the much later Roman Rheinland.

And in any event the Greek runner’s name was Ladas – not Lada.

The society’s members thought that perhaps the same name was also displayed in the following inscription found in a Berlin museum: P VAL LADAE, apparently a seal of one P. Valerius Ladas with a banded staff (Thyrsus – typically a staff of Dionysus) and a caduceus (a winged staff with two snakes on it – usually a symbol of Hermes).


They also pointed to an inscription of CVR LADAE a name of Minerva (?) (contesting the reading Curia Lada).  This inscription had been known for a while and, already, in the early 18th century was giving some German researchers headaches.



Or this?

Or this?

This comes from the 1730 book “Kleiner Teutscher Schrifften, etc” by Herrmann Ulrich von Lingen who put together no less than three conjectures:


But getting back to our mug.

Why does a mug need to be greeting its owner?  Or is it a warning about too much drinking?  Or, perhaps, as the society’s members speculated, instead a dedication from the one who gave the owner this gift?  As the society’s members noted that would not be unprecedented.

Yet perhaps, instead, the invocation was an appellation?

Probably not to implore.  But it could be Imple o Lada, as in “fill it up Lada!”  Was Lada a serving girl?  Or was this something reminiscent of the Lelum and Polelum cries of the medieval Poles who would beseech the Gods (Lel & Polel) to keep the beer flowing? (from that did Brueckner apparently conclude that these were just drinking shouts – both may be true).

Oh, and did we mention that this jug was apparently found somewhere along the Rhein? (perhaps it was from elsewhere – this is not entirely clear – but since the society dealt with local artifacts it would have made little sense for them to have much of a discussion about a jug coming from, say, Rome).

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May 17, 2016

On Perigord & Gordes

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Under year 768, the Royal Frankish Annals contain the following statement:

“Here [in Saintes] he [Pepin] left the queen with her retinue and entered Perigord.  When Waifar had been killed, Pepin returned in triumph to Saintes.”

Putting aside the unhappy end of Waifar’s life (he was a duke of rebellious Acquitannians who the Frankish Pepin apparently felt he just had to deal with), one must ask what is a Perigord?

Well, it’s a region of France.  Its capital is Périgueux.  Périgueux’s name comes from the Latin Petrocorii.  Petrocorii is a Latinization of Celtic words meaning “the four tribes”.  Perigord is supposedly also derived from these Petrocorii.  Thus, the Petrocorii were translated once into Périgueux and once into Perigord.

It seems then this cannot have anything to do with Slavs.  While the suffix -gord may mean walled off burgh, this was a country not an actual gord.

But just to not let any stone lie unturned, we will look at this in some detail.

One has to ask first, who are these Petrocorii? They are mentioned only twice.  First, in Caesar’s Gallic Wars, Book 7, chapter 75 where the glorious one says:

“While those things are carried on at Alesia, the Gauls, having convened a council of their chief nobility, determine that all who could bear arms should not be called out, which was the opinion of Vercingetorix, but that a fixed number should be levied from each state; lest, when so great a multitude assembled together, they could neither govern nor distinguish their men, nor have the means of supplying them with corn. They demand thirty-five thousand men from the Aedui and their dependents, the Segusiani, Ambivareti, and Aulerci Brannovices; an equal number from the Arverni in conjunction with the Eleuteti Cadurci, Gabali, and Velauni, who were accustomed to be under the command of the Arverni; twelve thousand each from the Senones , Sequani, Bituriges, Sentones, Ruteni, and Carnutes; ten thousand from the Bellovaci; the same number from the Lemovici; eight thousand each from the Pictones, and Turoni, and Parisii , and Helvii; five thousand each from the Suessiones, Ambiani, Mediomatrici, Petrocorii, Nervii, Morini, and Nitiobriges; the same number from the Aulerci Cenomani; four thousand from the Atrebates; three thousand each from the Bellocassi, Lexovii, and Aulerci Eburovices; thirty thousand from the Rauraci, and Boii; six thousand from all the states together, which border on the Atlantic, and which in their dialect are called Armoricae (in which number are comprehended the Curisolites, Rhedones, Ambibari, Caltes, Osismii, Lemovices, Veneti, and Unelli). Of these the Bellovaci did not contribute their number, as they said that they would wage war against the Romans on their own account, and at their own discretion, and would not obey the order of any one: however, at the request of Commius, they sent two thousand, in consideration of a tie of hospitality which subsisted between him and them.”

We note first that many of these names sound suspiciously similar to Slavic tribes (e.g., Osismii in Armorica who were also called Ostimi (as per Pytheas via Strabo), the “last ones”; not to mention the Lemovices who sound very much like the Lemovii of Tacitus).  For more of these see here.

More importantly, however, it is not clear where these Petrocorii should be located.  Caesar mentions “Suessiones, Ambiani, Mediomatrici, Petrocorii, Nervii, Morini, and Nitiobriges.”  Other than the Nitiobriges (or Nitiobroges) none of the above tribes seems to have been located anywhere near the Petrocorii (they all seem to be placed in northeastern France or Belgium).

We have, however, another source to work with and that is Strabo who says in Book 4, chapter 2 of his Geography:

“Those tribes between the Garumna and the Liger that belong to Aquitania are, first, the Elui, whose territory begins at the Rhodanus, and then, after them, the Vellavii, who were once included within the boundaries of the Arverni, though they are now ranked as autonomous; then the Arverni, the Lemovices, and the Petrocorii; and, next to these, the Nitiobriges, the Cadurci, and those Bituriges that are called “Cubi”; and, next to the ocean, both the Santoni and the Pictones, the former living along the Garumna, as I have said, the latter along the Liger; but the Ruteni and the Gabales closely approach Narbonitis. Now among the Petrocorii there are fine iron-works, and also among the Bituriges Cubi; among the Cadurci, linen factories; among the Ruteni, silver mines; and the Gabales, also, have silver mines.  The Romans have given the “Latin right” to certain of the Aquitani just as they have done in the case of the Auscii and the Convenae.”

It is thus Strabo that places the Petrocorii somewhere between the Liger and the Garumna.

Strabo was likely right but even so, does that mean that Perigord refers to Petrocorii?  Where is the “t”?  Gone to the ages we suppose.  We do have a Peiragastus… but we’ll tentatively let this one go.

Conclusion: probably Celtic.

So we’re done with France for now… almost


In southeastern France we have the town of Gordes.  From a 1987 book about local history (Gordes notes d’histoire by Jean-Louis Morand) we learn that the name derives from the Celtic “Vordense”.  But that’s not quite the end of it.  We also learn that “Vordense was pronounced Gordenses, then Gordae/Gordone, and finally Gòrda then translated into French ‘Gordes’.”  All that is well and quite good but a few questions need to be asked.


What is Vordense?  This is, apparently, a reference to a “Celto-Ligurian” people.  How do we know such people existed?  Well, in the nearby Apt Cathedral there is a Roman inscription that says the following:



But then Mr. Generat in his 1860 ethnographic study of the peoples in the area suggested that Vordenses was a geographic description not necessarily a name of a tribe.

There is also no reason to believe that Vordenses has anything to do with Gordes.  It was just an idea of how to explain Gordes.  Gordes needed explaining apparently, there was a nearby inscription with Vordenses and perhaps one w-ord led to another.

Two things are worth noting:

First, Generat’s study was regarding the geography & ethnography of the villages Aeria and… Vindalium.


Vindalium (noted by Strabo – see post scriptum below) is the site of a 120 BC battle between between the Romans and the Gallic army of the Allobroges and Voconces.  It is commonly identified with Vedene in France and it is Vedene (Vaucluse) that Generat was studying.  Both Gord and Vedene are near to each other (in the area of Avignon):

pagnoiSo now we have some form of Vindi.

Second, what is this Gord (if not related to any Vordense)?  Well, Gordes was apparently (and here Morand agrees) the site of an oppidum.  What is an oppidum?  Well, it’s basically a Latin word for a large fortified settlement – typically associated with “Celts”.  Now the word “guard” is common to Indo-European languages (e.g., Garda Síochána of Ireland) but the word “gord” or “gard” as a designation of an enclosed “burgh” is a Slavic word.  The German peoples may have had “garden” but that referred to a vegetable or flower patch rather than an enclosed settlement.  There also are no “gords” or “gards” in countries known to speak Celtic languages so what gives?

And BTW, the Tabula Peutingeriana shows a tribe named Veliate in this area:

Post Scriptum

We note here what Strabo says of Vindalium (Book 4, chapter 1):

“…Between the Druentia and the Isar there are still other rivers which flow from the Alps to the Rhodanus, namely, two that flow round a city of the Cavaran Vari, and coming together in a common stream empty into the Rhodanus; and a third, the Sulgas, which mingles its waters with the Rhodanus near the city of Undalum [elsewhere Vindalium], where in a great battle Gnaeus Ahenobarbus turned many myriads of Celti to flight.”

A few observations:

  • That Druentia has to have something to do with Drwęca in northern Poland (sources in Masuria – former territory of the Prussians) is likely.  Whether this means that there were Celts in northern Poland or Slavs in France or something else altogether (Veneti?) is, of course, up for grabs;
  • We also encourage you to read the rest of Strabo’s passage, including mentions of:
    • Vienna (Vienne)
    • Segusiavi
    • Lugdunum

If you keep reading you will also come to this passage of interest, we think, to anyone interested in Paphlagonian connections to Balts (or Slavs):

“The people who are called Tectosages closely approach the Pyrenees, though they also reach over small parts of the northern side of the Cemmenus; and the land they occupy is rich in gold. It appears that at one time they were so powerful and had so large a stock of strong men that, when a sedition broke out in their midst, they drove a considerable number of their own people out of the homeland; again, that other persons from other tribes made common lot with these exiles; and that among these are also those people who have taken possession of that part of Phrygia which has a common boundary with Cappadocia and the Paphlagonians.  Now as proof of this we have the people who are still, even at the present time, called Tectosages; for, since there are three tribes, one of them — the one that lives about the city of Ancyra — is called “the tribe of the Tectosages,” while the remaining two are the Trocmi and the Tolistobogii.  As for these latter peoples, although the fact of their racial kinship with the Tectosages indicates that they emigrated from Celtica, I am unable to tell from what districts they set forth; for I have not learned of any Trocmi or Tolistobogii who now live beyond the Alps, or within them, or this side of them.  But it is reasonable to suppose that nothing has been left of them in Celtica on account of their thoroughgoing migrations — just as is the case with several other peoples.  For example, some say that the second Brennus who made an invasion against Delphi was a Prausan, but I am unable to say where on earth the Prausans formerly lived, either.

All this may also be of interest to anyone looking at ancient Anatolia and the capital of Phrygia – Gordion.  Now this was supposedly named after one (there were at least two) of the Phrygian rulers – Gordias (he of the Gordian knot) – but who knows where the truth may be here (did Slavs get the idea for a burgh to be called a gord from having lived near (or in) Gordion?

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May 15, 2016