Some people believe that the name Veneti must have been “transferred” to Slavs. Why do they believe that? Primarily because if Veneti were (as Jordanes would have it) the same as Slavs (or, at least, the Slavs were one of the people to have come from the Veneti), and if, God forbid, the various Venetic peoples were to have been at one point one (the ones in Bretagne, the ones in Illyria, the ones in northern Italy, the ones on the Vistula and, maybe, even the ones in Paphlagonia) the implication would be that a more than insignificant chunk of Europe was once filled with one people and, worse, the successors of those people – Slavs (at least some of them and maybe some non-Slavs too) – are still around today.
Can One Tribe Really Be This Big?
Of course, as we already wrote, Slavs do not have to be identified with all the Veneti (nor must all the Veneti have been the “same” people) for Slavs to be the heirs of some of the Veneti (most likely the northern European ones but, possibly, also the North Italian ones).
But, as we also wrote, would it be such an impossibility for the Slavs to have been all over Europe?
Certainly, it is no objection that one people can’t be covering such vast distances. Notice that historians have no problem with Celts or Illyrians being found under every bed from Gibraltar to Anatolia. What makes the Slavs different? However, one should rather ask what makes the Celts and Illyrians different… In our view, the reason why such vast geographies of the past could have – without a second thought – been assigned to the Illyrians and Celts had a lot to do with the present. The Celts are so few that Celtic nationalism (pan-Celticism?) is certainly no threat to anyone (except maybe in Ulster but that is for the most part off the European grid) or, at least, anyone German. The Illyrians are even better because they do not exist (if they ever did). The past can thus readily be surrendered to the Illyrians and the Celts since they are not a concern for the future.
Thus, we have Celts all over Europe as shown in these typical maps (notice though that there are significant differences in Central Europe – apparently not all is clear):
One would have thought that now, after World Wars I and II, Europe is more or less at peace, an instrumentalization of history could be set aside…
It is rather difficult not to conclude that what gives a seemingly never-ending life to the idea of the Germans having first lived next to the Veneti and then having “transferred” (übertragen) the “Veneti” name onto the Slavs is the fear of some historians of what it would mean if that “transference hypothesis” were not true.
Certainly transference of names is nothing new. On the other hand, it is hardly the rule either. Although the Germans called Avars “the Huns” (and were later so called themselves, pejoratively, by the English), the Huns, when they first appeared, were a rather new people. They were not simply called Scythians or Alans or anything else that the Romans were familiar with but rather “Huns”. Newcomers thus are called generally by new names.
As we remarked before, when the transfer of names usually happens is when a country becomes known by the name of its inhabitants and then a new people settles there. In fact, a rather under-investigated case of a potential name transference was that of the Schwaben. It may well be that the country there gets its name from the original Suevi but were the Alemanni really Suevi or was the Suevi name simply übertragt onto the Alemanni? Hmmm…
But where does the idea come from that the Veneti name was simply transferred onto the “incoming” Slavs? It comes, apparently, from Herman Hirt and his 1905 magnus opus “Die Indogermanen – Ihre Verbreitung, Ihre Urheimat und Ihre Kultur.” But Hirt is hardly a villain here. In fact, he is perfectly honest as to why he thinks this and honest hat this is simply a hypothesis.
“Since no Slavic tribe refers to itself as the Veneti, one can come to suppose that in the East of the Germans a non-Slavic people with the name Veneti [once] sat, whose name then was transferred onto the Slavs, once these ran into the Germans. Nevertheless, this can be treated only as a very uncertain supposition.”
Thus, the person who came up with the idea tells us that the reason he thinks so is only because the Slavs never called themselves Veneti… This seems a rather flimsy reason if one is to hang the entire theory on it. And, Hirt is quite open about that flimsiness by calling it, in his own words, “a very uncertain supposition.”
Once again, it’s difficult not to think that the reason the “transference hypothesis” has had such a good run is because the alternative would be difficult to stomach. If the Slavs are the remnants of the Veneti then one has to ask whether the so-called “Venetisch-Illyrisch” (or “old European” as per Max Krahe) words that are found all over Germany (and not just in current East Germany) are really “Slavic” (e.g., Suevi, particularly the Semnones). If so, one would have to ask how many of the ancient Germans were really German in today’s sense of the word… And what becomes of Germany as a Nordic country? Is it reduced to a Scandinavian beachhead in a Slavic sea?
Of course, one could continue with this well beyond Germany and ask whether Suevic Semnones could have something to do with the North-Italian Sennones? Or the Bohemian Boii with the North-Italian Boii? And, as we already asked, why did the Bretanic chieftain Viridovic have the name he had (and what of the various Ludvigs). Who were the Morini? And so forth…
Celts and Illyrians
Celts and, especially, Illyrians have largely disappeared. In Central and Eastern Europe they were replaced by Slavs. But it would be easier to think that, perhaps, some of the former “Celts” and “Illyrians” were not Celts or Illyrians than to suppose that two sets of giant peoples simply vanished only to be replaced with an entirely new very large tribe… (same goes for the Suevi, of course).
We leave you with this thought. Here is a picture from the so-called Pillar of the Boatmen (Pilier des Nautes). It shows the Celtic God Cernunnos. Although most people admit that the etymology of the name is unclear, the best candidate appears to be Carnonos which may stand for the horned one in Celtic languages. The seemingly obvious connection with Cernobog has, of course, not been investigated.
Of course, this is likely a coincidence. After all who are the other deities presented on the pillar? There is Jove, Tarvos Trigaranos, Volcanus, Esus, Castor but there is also Smertrios (a god of war of Gaul and Noricum identified with Mars and etymologically explained as “greasy”(!)) and Fortuna.
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