Who lived in the Vistula neighborhood?

A friend of the site asked specifically what the ancient authors say about the peoples in the neighborhood of the Vistula.  We’ve written about this numerous times but, why not, let’s do it again in one place.

Summarizing what we know about the Vistula neighborhood, we should first note that it is not clear which river is meant by the Vistula

Second, the concepts of “Germania”, “Sarmatia” or “Scythia” themselves are ill-defined in these works.

Third, note that the reports of these authors span half a millennium (from Pomponius Mela’s reports to Jordanes’).  As these authors themselves make clear, the situation in the lands of Germania, Sarmatia, Scythia was hardly static during this period.

With that said, here is, we think, where we are on the sources:

Pomponius Mela

Sarmatia is “separated by the Vistula River from the places that follow [Scythia?]” and “its people are very close to the Parthians in dress and in weaponry, but the rougher the climate, the cruder the disposition.”


“Eningia is of not less magnitude. Some writers state that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi, the Sciri, and the Hirri”



[Tacitus never mentions the river Vistula]

Semones/Semnones, Suarines, Narisci, Legii (including Alii or Harii, Helve[t]ones, Manimos, Helisios, Naharuli/Nahanaruli)

somewhere in Carpathian mountains: Cotini or Gotini, Ossi/Boii?

somewhere at the ocean: Lemovii, Rugii, Gotones

further East? Venedi, Bastarnae


“It [Sarmatia?] is terminated in the west by the Vistula river”

on the Ocean:  Rugiclei “up to the Vistula river”, Greater Venedae, Veltae, Ossi

away from the “Ocean” and more on the West side:

Suevi Semnones, Buguntae/Burguntae? “who inhabit from [the Suevus] to the Vistula”, Lingae, Lugi Omani, Lugi Diduni, Calucones, Camavi, Corconti, Lugi Buri “up to the head of the Vistula river”, Sidones, Cotini?

away from the “Ocean” and more on the East side:

“Lesser races inhabit Sarmatia near the Vistula river.  Below the Venedae are” the Gythones, Finni, Sulones, Phrungundiones, Avarini “near the sources of the Vistula river”, Ombrones, Anartophracti, Burgiones, Arsietae, Saboci, Piengitae, Biessi “near the Carpathian mountains”

 away from the “Ocean” and even more on the East side:

Galindae, Sudini and Stavani

Tabula Peutingeriana

Bur, Sarmati, Vagi, Solitubi?, Nes Sarmatarum, Amaxobii Sarmate, Lupiones Sarmate, Venadis (Venavis?) Sarmatae


Spali* around “Oium”?

* “z pali”, i.e., “from the fields”, i.e., Polanie?

“On the west [of Scythia] are the Germani and the river Vistula.”

“beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanse of land. Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called Sclaveni and Antes.  The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the Vistula.”

“But on the shore of Ocean, where the floods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivarii dwell, a people gathered out of various tribes. Beyond them the Aesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean. To the south dwell the Acatziri, a very brave tribe ignorant of agriculture, who subsist on their flocks and by hunting.”

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December 14, 2016

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