One of the more knotty assertions has been that the Paphlagonian Veneti had been driven out from their lands by the Assyrians (or by the Leuco (or white) Syrians though it may also be the case that the Veneti were the Leuco-Syrians). This claim appears in a number of 19th centuries works – usually written by amateur historians and without citations. We finally decided to get to the bottom of this.
Apparently, the statement was made by Arrian of Nicomedia (circa 86/89 A.D. – circa after 146/160 A.D.), the author of the Periplus of the Euxine Sea, Indica and a number of other works. However, it does not seem to have been directly preserved in any surviving work of Arrian’s. (we say “does not seem” because we hadn’t had a chance to look through the Arrian section in Felix Jacoby’s Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker – FGrH 156). Instead, the assertion is made by a 12th century Greek scholar Eustathius of Thessalonica (circa 1115 – 1195/6). Among Eustathtius’ works is a series of commentaries including one on the work of Dionysius Periegetes (Dionysius the Traveler), a Roman traveler and author of a geography book who is believed to have lived during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117–138 A.D.) though some say that he lived at the end of the third century.
It is in that commentary on Dionysius Periegetes (specifically, in section 378) that Eustathius cites Arrian. We find the passage of interest to us in the German philologist Gottfried Bernhardy‘s 1828 edition of Dionysius’ work (Dionysius Periegetes : graece et latine, cum vetustis commentariis et interpretationibus) which also happens to contain Eusthathius’ commentary on Dionysius.
Although about a millennium separates Arrian and Eustathius and fewer years than that have passed from Eustathius’ time to ours, nevertheless it is certainly possible that Eustathius did have access to one of Arrian’s lost works.
The following is the excerpt from the “Arrian” section of the commentary which section refers to the Veneti:
“ …The Eneti, who are now called the Veneti, as Arrian writes saying that the Eneti struggled hard in the fight against the Assyrians and passing into Europe lived by the river Po and the native language of these [people] is still called Venetian by reason of the Eneti and the land they dwell in [is called] Venetia. The old [people] truly say that some of those who come from the Eneti, people of Asia, brought their kind, those who struggled in that war (as it is said) fleeing to Europe. Others say that from the Eneti, who at one time inhabited Paphlagonia, they brought forth an exceptional nation, that after the attack on it was left wandering. Their leader Pylamenes went to Thracia and the Veneti wondered about and retreated to the Adriatic. This poet [Strabo] recalls such Venetian Paphlagonians saying: ‘from the [land] of the Veneti, whence comes the breed of wild mules.’ Many of the Veneti who are close to Aquileia, have colonies there by the same name. The ocean is called home not only by the Veneti but also by the Belgae. The Belgae are a Celtic nation. The geographer [Strabo] also writes that clearly the cities of the Veneti who live by the ocean were founded by those who live on the Adriatic. In a naval encounter they fought against Caesar such that they might prevent him from crossing to Britain. Nor is it an accident that the Veneti are those Paphlagonians that arrived safe from the Trojan War with Antenor the Trojan, as this is demonstrated by the fact that they excelled in raising horses, as reported by Homer. [Thus,] the training of horse is among the Greek called Venetica [?] It was from these that Diomedes was given an offering of a white horse. Moreover, they say their sea is similar to the Ocean [both] returning and flowing. And these lakes are filled by channels (as old historians recount), just as the Egyptian lakes are derived/filled [?]. It should also be noted that the entire region beyond the Calabrians was called Apulia and the people there Apulians. Note also that just as the wind that blows through Thracia is called the Thracian, and the Locrician the one that blows through Locris, so does the one that blows through Iapygia is called the Iapygian.*”
* This is confusing but Iapygia is the same as Apulia and as Messapia at the back heel of Italy (also the home to a town Sybar present apparently at the Trojan War before it was renamed Lecce by the Romans – given as Lipiae or Lippiae by Strabo and Ptolemy). Whether the Iapyges could have something to do with the Iazyges is a question at least worth asking. Why this passage should be thrown in here is uncertain – perhaps the author thought the Messapians/Apullians/Iapyges had something to do with the Veneti. Perhaps because of the city of Pula now in Croatia (Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea). What Locris has to do with any of this is even more unclear. Afterwards, the author continues with the description of the northern Adriatic turning his gaze to Triest so it seems that some connection is being drawn by Eustathius (or by Arrian?).
“ Also Tegaestrae, an Illyrian city, which is located in the innermost part of the Adriatic: its other name is Tergest as it is [written?] in the book of the Gentiles/[heathens?].”
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