An argument has been made numerous times that Slavs may have originated in the East – in fact in the far east. What evidence is for this usually involves two names mentioned by Ptolemy in his Geography.
We ought to mention up front that all of Ptolemy’s Geography is open to interpretation and has, in fact, been interpreted by cartographers and been interpreted differently. So that you may see one Ptolemy map drawn with certain tribes shown this way and another one – being the “same” Ptolemy map as the first one – showing the same tribes in a slightly (if you’re lucky) different location.
The first is “Stavanoi” (Σταυανοί). These are mentioned in Book III, chapter 5 entitled “Location of European Sarmatia.” (shown on Ptolemy’s “Eighth Map of Europe”). This is what he says:
“Among those we have named to the east: below the Venedae are the Galindae. the Sudini, and the Stavani [actually, Stavanoi], extending as far as the Alauni…”
The second is “Souobenoi/Sovobenoi” (Σουοβενοι). These people are mentioned in Book VI, chapter 14 entitled “Scythia this side of the Imaus Mountains.” (shown on Ptolemy’s “Seventh Map of Asia”). To be clear, the “Imaus Mountains” are typically perceived to be the Pamir Mountains. In other words, this is way after even the Asiatic Sarmatia (chapter 8). Ptolemy says the following:
“After this bend of the Imaus toward the north. Those who inhabit Scythia toward the north along the Terra Incognita are called Alani-Scythae, Suobeni [actually, Souobenoi/Sovobenoi] and Alanorsi. The part which is below these is held by the Satiani, the Massaei, and the Syebi.”
There are other curious names out there. We have the Suardeni (Book V, chapter 8 – Location of Asiatic Sarmatia – Second Map of Asia). We have the Serbi (same location). On the other hand, we have the town of Serbinum right in Lower Pannonia (Book II, chapter 14). We have Prusias in Ponthus/Bithynia but also Borusci (Borussia is the Latin word for Prussia) in European Sarmatia It’s all very confusing and it is highly unlikely that any one of these, apparently, very small tribes became the Slavs of today.
What all this suggests is perhaps something much more complicated than one tribe getting up and moving in a particular direction to establish a new homeland.
Vast numbers of people may have seen themselves as being part of some tribe or other and migrated in all kinds of directions. The Alani are a perfect example as they appear both in Sarmatia and in Scythia and altogether in numerous places. They may even have been the same people moving about. Or they may have been different Alani as they have different “sub tribal” designations as shown above.
It may thus well be that, e.g., the Suobenoi were Slavs but that in and of itself does not mean that they were the only Slavs out there at the time. For example, were we to know nothing about the location of the Slavs in the middle ages and were we then to discover that the Slovenes lived in Carinthia in the middle ages (at the latest!) we would not be entitled to clam that all Slavs must have lived in Carinthia at that same time.
These Souobenoi may have been a stray Slavic tribe gone rogue (i.e., gone East). On the other hand, as the designation of Sloveni seems to have often been a border designation it may well be that a number of other tribes between these Souobenoi and Europe [?] were already Slavic, with them being a “Grenzvolk.” Or, it may be that these Souobenoi (or Sovobenoi?) were in no way related to the Slavs. Or, maybe they were – but only to some Slavs. The mysteries continue.
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