“C’est ce qu’il n’est pas facile de determiner” and other potpourri

Zeeuwen or Seeland is a region of the Netherlands.  We were previously debating the possibility of it being yet another candidate (along with Seeland in Denmark) for the Selencia of Gallus Anonymous.  What’s interesting is that the name Zeeuwen may have come from the name Suevi.  Or at least one researcher suggested that as a possibility.  That researcher was Maurits Gysseling, a name we came across already in the past.  He is the man who thought that BC the language of Gallia Belgica was neither Germanic nor Celtic but rather some “other” Indo-European language (the so-called “Northwest Block” theory).

Here are his musings from the “Toponymisch Woordenboek van België, Nederland, Luxemburg, Noord-Frankrijk en West-Duitsland”:


As you can see, Gysseling does not make up his mind on this point, nor, in fairness, would it be easy to do so.  Nevertheless, intrigued, we took a look at the passage he refers to in Annales Vedastini (Annals of Saint Vaast).  These annals are of interest also because of the location of the Abbey of Saint Vaast in Arras which is in Pas-de-Calais in the north of France – an area which has a number of interesting town names.


Annales Vedastini 880


Anno Domini *DCCCLXXX. Nortmanni vero Tornacam civitatem et omnia monasteria supra Scaldum ferro et igne devastant, interfectis accolis terrae atque captivatis. Gozlinus vero et Chuonradus eorumque complices aegre ferentes de amicitia Hugonis abbatis suorumque dominorum cum Hludowico iterum eum faciunt venire in Franciam. Contra quem Hugo abba cum sociis ac dominis et copioso exercitu venire non distulit, apudque monasterium sancti Quintini resederunt, Hludowicus vero rex et eius exercitus supra fluvium Hisam, et nuntiis intercurrentibus praedicti reges in unum conveniunt et pacis foedera inter se procurante Hugone abbate firmant, regratiatis his qui a se disciverant. Actum est hoc mense Februario.

Post haec Hludowicus parat redire in regnum suum, occurritque Nortmannis a praeda revertentibus. Et facta congressione apud Timiomum nobiliter eos vicisset, nisi contigisset Hugonem filium suum ibi ruere. Nam Godefridus rex Danorum illum interfecit. Quo mortuo omisit rex illos insequi. Multi quoque nobiles illius gentis ibi corruerunt, caeteri, qui evasere, rediere ad castra sua. Hugo quoque abbas fuit in illo proelio.

Hoc modo Hludowico ad sua reverso, Hludowicus et Karlomannus reges Ambianis cum suis fidelibus veniunt, ibique Franci inter eos dividunt, dataque est pars Franciae et omnis Neustria Hludowico, Karlomanno vero Aquitania atque pars Burgundiae necnon et Gothtia; et inde unusquisque ivit in sua.

Post haec Hludowicus rex dirigit Heinricum quendam e suis principibus, qui pergeret cum Hludowico et Karlomanno contra Bosonem tyrannum. In ipso etiam itinere Heinricus Teutbaldum filium Hucberti gravi devicit proelio. Hludowicus vero Gauzlinum cum aliis multis ad tuitionem regni contra Nortmannos dirigit. Ipse vero et frater eius cum reliquo exercitu Burgundiam petentes civitates, quas tyrannus invaserat, receperunt. Sociatoque sibi Karolo rege, fratre Hludowici, Bosonem in Vienna civitate incluserunt, pacemque ei obtulerunt, quam ille rennuit suscipere. Circumdata itaque urbe ille se firmissime intus munivit. Unde episcopi cum consilio regum et principum eum perpetuo damnavere anathemate. Karolus vero rex de nocte consurgens, ignorantibus Hludowico et Karlomanno, igne sua castra concremavit, atque ita revertitur in sua. Hoc etiam tempore obiit Karlomannus rex, frater Karoli et Hludowici. Hi vero qui Viennam obsederant videntes nil inimicis posse . ., accepto consilio, rediere in sua.

Gozlinus vero abba et exercitus qui cum eo erat statuunt Nortmannos bellum inferre. Mittuntque ad eos qui trans Scaldum erant, ut die statuta venientes, hi ex una parte fluminis hique ex alia eosque delerent. Sed non provenit ita ut voluerunt. Nam non solum nil prospere egerunt, verum turpiter fugiendo vix evasere, captis suorum plurimis atque occisis. Timor quoque et tremor eorum cecidit super inhabitantes terram, et hac elati victoria die noctuque non cessant aecclesias igne cremari populumque Christianum iugulari. Tunc omnes intra Scaldum et Sumnam atque trans Scaldum monachi, canonici, sanctimoniales cum corporibus sanctorum et omnis aetas et conditio fugam ineunt. Ipsi enim Dani nemini nec etiam aetati parcebant, sed omnia ferro et igne devastant. Gozlinus vero et hi qui cum eo erant videntes non posse eos resistere, mense Octobrio intrante dimisso exercitu, rediit unusquisque in sua. Nortmanni vero seu Dani sedem sibi mutaverunt et mense Novembris Curtriaco sibi castrum ad hiemandum construunt.  Indeque Menapios atque Suevos usque ad internitionem delevere, quia valde illis infesti erant.  Omnemque terram vorax flamma consumpsit. Hludowicus vero rex rediit in Franciam diemque nativitatis Domini egit celebrem in Compendio palatio.

Suffice it to translate only the last part:

“The Northmen or Danes moved their camp in the month of November and they built a fort in Kortrijk to spend the winter there.  And then they [that is the Northmen] razed the land of the Menapii and the Suevi for they were very hostile to them.  And the eager flames devoured the entire country.”

Since we know where Kortrijk is we also know where, approximately, the Menapii (a Belgic tribe – whatever that means) and Suevi must have been:


At the very least this was rather interesting.  As previously discussed here some of the names in the area with the -in ending seemed similar to the -in endings in the east but they were hardly conclusive of a Slavic presence in the area (even if suggestive).

That the Suevi must have in part lived in this area alongside the Frisians we also know from Tacitus’ Agricola (28):

“The same summer a Usipian cohort, which had been levied in Germany and transported into Britain, ventured on a great and memorable exploit. Having killed a centurion and some soldiers, who, to impart military discipline, had been incorporated with their ranks and were employed at once to instruct and command them, they embarked on board three swift galleys with pilots pressed into their service. Under the direction of one of them—for two of the three they suspected and consequently put to death—they sailed past the coast in the strangest way before any rumour about them was in circulation. After a while, dispersing in search of water and provisions, they encountered many of the Britons, who sought to defend their property. Often victorious, though now and then beaten, they were at last reduced to such an extremity of want as to be compelled to eat, at first the feeblest of their number, and then victims selected by lot. Having sailed around Britain and lost their vessels from not knowing how to manage them, they were looked upon as pirates and were intercepted, first by the Suevi and then by the Frisii. Some who were sold as slaves in the way of trade and were brought through the process of barter as far as our side of the Rhine, gained notoriety by the disclosure of this extraordinary adventure.”

(A reference to the Suevi appears also in the curious story of “Indian” sailors.  Here they are Boii (in Pomponius Mela’s description) and Suevi (in Pliny’s).  That the Boii too may have been Suevi seems to have occurred to no one.  The similarity of these nautical stories also seems to have been hardly explored).

So we started poking around a little bit more but, notwithstanding some nearby place names (e.g., Lessines) and some river names), there were no major breakthroughs.

But then we came across the following:


And further down this:


Now, again, this was the area (or close enough to the area) of the various -ins such as these (shown in red, see, e.g., Wavrin) so we were intrigued that this was where these various Perunnes were appearing (in blue):


Consequently, we were eager to get an explanation for the Peronnes. Picking one of these the Péronne in the Somme department, we tried to see how old this place was.  Strangely, it seems it is quite ancient with the first mention being already in the 6th century as Peronam urbem regiam by the poet Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530–c. 600/609).  This was easy to confirm in the MGH where we have the full “Life of Radegunde” including the aforementioned reference in the form “in Perunna villa”:


About the same time we have the mention of the town in a November 10, 585 edict of the Burgundian king Guntram:

So the town is quite old and the name is quite old.  In fact, the town is so old that in 1880 it even got to have a book written about it:


In that book the author begins, of course, with discussing the etymology of the name and, right from the start, there are snags!


But there were other Perunian names in France.  Here they are along with the original Kortrijk location:thorstagCertainly, many of these have nothing to do with Slavs. Perhaps they refer to the fibula, the leg bone that was earlier referred to as the perone.  In fact, that continues to exist and be used in Italian, Spanish and other Romance languages (and Basque apparently).

Of course, one can ask whether the fibula looks like a thunderbolt but we leave that to you (or thunderbolt like a fibula):


Slavic fibulae take on a whole new meaning

For the Dutch Veleti see here and here.  If you want to get really “far out” check out the fibula description in Basque:

euskaraSorburua means source meaning seemingly in other instances too “original” – so now we have the Sorbs – the original people…

To come full circle, note that Safarik thought that Venantius Fortunatus in one of his poems meant Veleti (in the Netherlands) when he talked about Vascos (i.e., Basques).  Was there a difference back then?  Note too that the below poem, again, mentions together the Suevi and Frisians suggesting that Suevi (also) lived in northwest Germany.  Perhaps in the neighborhood of the River Leda or the River Lippa.

fortunatusCopyright ©2016 jassa.org All Rights Reserved

February 3, 2016

4 thoughts on ““C’est ce qu’il n’est pas facile de determiner” and other potpourri

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