Once Again on al-Bakri

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Incidentally, if you are interested in reports of Slavs in Westphalia (Quazwini), you may want to check out the edition of al-Bakri‘s Kitāb al-Masālik wa-al-mamālik by Adrian van Leeuwen et André Ferré (Tunis: al-Dar al-‘Arabiyya li-l-Kitab, 1992), where, apparently, al-Bakri, claims that the Rhine was the frontier between Franks and Slavs.

For more see Daniel G. König’s  “Arabic-Islamic Views of the Latin West: Tracing the Emergence of Medieval Europe” from which comes the above.  For more on al-Bakri’s mention of the account of Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub’s see here.

While Arab writers probably did confuse Slavs and Germans occasionally, there is no reason to believe that what they wrote above was anything other than a reflection of the situation at the time.  The Frankish realm was, after all, formed and run primarily from the West of the Rhine.

Even at the Treaty of Verdun (843), the realm of Louis the German consisted primarily of Saxony, Austrasia, Allemania, what was left of Thuringia and Bavaria.  Yet, the Saxons, Allemans and Thuringians were rather latecomers to Germania in any sedentary fashion.  The Allemans may have been, as the name suggests, a mixture of a whole bunch of people and the Bavarians’ origin is rather mysterious itself.  Suffice it to say that:

  • Alemanni appear about the beginning of the third century (213) in Cassius Dio
    • incorporated into the Frankish kingdom in 496
  • Thuringians appear first as Toringi about the year 400 in the Mulomedicina by Flavius Vegetius Renatus
    • incorporated into the Frankish kingdom in 531
  • Bavarians appear first in the Getica about 551 or 576 in Venantius Fortunatus
    • incorporated into the Frankish kingdom by 788
  • Saxons appear first (probably) in Ptolemy (?) north of the lower Elbe (Schleswig?), then about 356 in Gaul, then in Britain in 441-442 and, for the first time in Northern Germany in 555
    • rather brutally incorporated into the Frankish kingdom by 804

Austrasians were not really a tribe – rather Austrasia was an administrative region of the Frankish kingdom meaning the “eastern” portion as opposed to Neustria, which was the “new western” portion of that kingdom.

Did all these tribes come from the North after the birth of Christ? Probably not all but probably a sizable chunk of them which raises the question who were the Gauls or Germans who lived there before?  It is curious that Frankish records later show Slavic presence not just east of the Elbe-Saale but also in Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria and Carinthia.

For more on the idea of the Rhein as a border see here.  For more on al-Bakri see here.  For more on Thuringia see here.

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June 26, 2017

Something Fishy

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There is an excellent etymological discussion on Polish Radio about the words:

  • wędka – fishing rod
  • wędzić – to smoke fish

The expert on the show provides a fascinating discussion of the history of these words in the Polish language.  Everyone interested is encouraged to listen to this.  Of course, the translation requires some time.

The only quibble may be with the ultimate conclusion.

The discussion was spurred by a question posed by a listener (a Mr. Lech, incidentally) as to whether there is an etymological relationship between those words.  The expert on the show concludes that there isn’t.

But this is clearly wrong. She analyzes the usage of the words throughout history but finding no clear connection in the written sources, she answers the question in the negative.  The problem is that she does not care to ask the “next question.”  Let’s see what that means.

We first explain what she says about the history of these words:

Wędka – Fishing Rod

Wędka [pronounced vendka] is a word for a “fishing rod”.  It is a diminutive of the older form of the word – węda [pronounced venda] which may also have meant a “hook”.  (Incidentally, this is the same Slavic diminutive formation as one would expect to produce a laverca from a laver or lavera).

Wędka > Wędzić  – To Catch Fish

Apparently, from this word – węda/wędka – there later came a verb – wędzić – which meant as much as “to catch fish.”  Later this also became zwędzić meaning “to steal”.  (A similar meaning to łowić as in to fish/hunt which also became a colloquial synonym for “to steal”.)  This cognate of węda/wędka, however, was unrelated to the other wędzić (the one from Mr. Lech’s question).

Wędzić  – To Smoke Fish

But says our expert the above are unrelated to the word wędzić meaning “to smoke fish”.  That word, namely, comes from a “pre-Polish” (presumably meaning some old Slavic?) word meaning “to lose freshness” – same as wiotczenie as in “thinning.” But earlier that word, says our expert, the same meant “drying” or “losing water”.  She then says that “as is known, the preserving of meat by using smoke causes the meat to become dry” and that is why “the process of smoking fish was named by means of a word which referred to the [process] of drying.”

Typical ancient Slav meal

Expert Conclusion

“Of course, pure coincidence caused that wędzić and wędka are similar to one another – they  do not have the same origin.” (Incidentally, this is not original – Alexander Brueckner arrived at the same conclusion).  However, she says one can imagine a situation where a fish that is wędzona was a fish that was caught on a węda or a fish that was smoked or a fish that was first caught on   a węda and then was smoked (a “twice wędzona” fish).

The Smoking Elephant in the Room

The above conclusion however is not supported by the above discussion.  To use an oft-used aphorism “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Without getting into the question of whether you can prove a negative, it is worth noting that the expert does not bother to get into the question of:

  • why exactly did węda [pronounced venda] mean “fishing rod”?; and
  • why exactly did wędzić [vendit] mean “smoking fish”?

Taken each by themselves, the words remain a mystery but, taken together, they can be explained logically.

First of all note that while węda may have meant a “hook” that hook never referred to hooks used for anything other than catching fish or fishing rod hooks.  In other words, whether as a “hook” or as a “fishing rod” the word essentially meant a device for fishing.

To further pursue this, we know that fishing with a fishing rod or hook or both is a laborious exercise which you spend most often sitting around for quite some time hoping that something will bite.  Of course, you do this by sitting on a boat which sits on water or by sitting on the water shore.

So the first candidate for the meaning of węda [venda] is water.

But, maybe it refers to “fish”?  That would be a good guess too and perhaps even a better one!  (There was, after all, that fish named Wanda…)

That is where matters would likely stand if… we did not know that there was also the word wędzić meaning “to smoke fish” and, as our expert noted, originally meaning “to lose freshness”.

Note, of course, that what a smoked fish loses is freshness, yes, but it does so by losing water.  In fact, as per our expert, the word first used to mean “to dry” or “[cause] to lose water”.

Thus, it would seem that a better guess would be that wend refers to “water”.

This is further supported by:

  • the fact that wędlina [vendlina] or wędzonka [vendzonka] refers to smoked meats other than fish (typically pork);
  • the fact that więdnąć [viendnot] refers to the “withering” or “wilting” of flowers (usually this results from lack of water obviously);
  • the fact that in other Slavic languages a similar word exists that tracks the Slavic name for “water” – woda as in (following Brueckner) proso woditi meaning to “smoke/cure” in Slovenian or uditi/údený meaning “smoked/cured meant” in Czech/Slovak or wudyty in Ruthenian (?) or вэнджаны in Belarussian;
  • the fact that wundan [vundan] meant “water” in Old Prussian and vanduo means “water” in Lithuanian.

The fact that the princess Wanda has traditionally been associated with the Vistula is also suggestive.

For more on this see here and – regarding Odin/Wodan see here.

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June 25, 2017

Miscellaneous Raiding Activity

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Finished sometime between 640 and 724 (see below), the “Miscellaneous Chronicle up to the year 724” (that is Chronicon miscellaneous ad annum domino 724 pertinens) contains a single mention of Slavs (the “blessed men” could be monks killed by the invaders):

“AG 934 [AD 623]  The Slavs invaded Crete and the other islands.  There some blessed men of Quenneshre were taken captive and some twenty of them were killed.”

Typical Slav raid on Crete

The above is from the Andrew Palmer translation.

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June 18, 2017

Chapels in the West

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In his Westphalian annals (volume 3), the Catholic priest Hermann Stangefol makes the following curious statement regarding the so-called Drüggelter Kapelle (which just means chapel) just south of Soest.  The place was first mentioned during the Crusades as apud Druglete and the “Kapelle” as Capellam Druchlete.

“The Paradise Monastery is noteworthy for the fact that it was spared by the enemy in the siege of Soest in 1447.  At around the same time, by reason of a pious gift, the farms of the town Drüchgelte on the River Möhne were transferred to [the ownership of] this new monastery.  There in an ancient temple, that still exists, there stood there an statue of the Goddess Trigla, which had three heads, to which the pagans in times of greatest need typically ran, pleading for help. It may be thought that it is from this statue [Goddess] that the village derives its name.  This statue was destroyed in 1583 during the Cologne War [1583-1588].”

“Monasterio Paradiso in obsidione Susatensi a. 1447 hostes, quod notabile admodum est, pepercerunt.  Villae in Druechgelte ad Moenam fl. ex piorum oblationibus huic novello Monasterio simul obvenerunt.  Ubi in pervetusto templo, quod etiamnum supcrest, extitit olim simulachrum Triglae deae, tria habens capita, ad quam gentilitas in summis necessitatibus opem imploratura cofugere solebat.  Est credible, quod ab eadem imagine hunc pagaum nomen suum mutuasse.  Status haec anno 1583 in bello trucksessisno omnino periit.”

This from the Annales circuli Westphalici, hoc est Opus Chronologicum Et Historicum rerum omnium, maxime notabilium sub hoc circulo gestarum, a Christo nato ad annum MDCLVI deductum et in IV partes distinctum.  The Moenam/Moyne refers to the river Möhne.

It is curious that Stangefol mentions Trigla as having “three heads” but does not seem to be aware that the name is likely a direct translation of that same concept.  He also does not mention the Slavs or the Slavic God Triglav suggesting that he may not even have been aware that Triglav had been attested in the Life of Otto of Bamberg.  These facts would add credibility to his report.  And it is true that the columns of the Kapelle feature a number of “strange” symbols and carvings including a column with three heads (notice too the boar’s or ram’s head in the middle below):

 Then there is the column with multiple heads:

Whether the various carvings visible on other columns may be solar symbols or something else is up for debate.

Speaking of reports, as we observed previously, there certainly have been reports of Slavs in the neighboring Soest.  We’ve also mentioned that Soest itself sounds vaguely Slavic or at least features the “Venetic” prefix -est (as too does Tergeste/Triest).  Note too that Slavic idols may have been found in places such as Bamberg (Bababerg arguably referring to Slavic (?) sculptures).

It is also true that in some cases former pagan sculptures/images were incorporated in the structures of the new Christian churches as in Altenkirchen (incidentally, located between Arkona and Glowe with the latter meaning “head”).  Of course, one may legitimately guess that such “incorporation” was usually intended as either pragmatic (useful building materials) or humiliating (we put your “god” into our wall upside down) or both.  The notion that pagan sculptures should be incorporated as prominent features of a church may seem to stretch credulity.  And yet, if you wanted to have the local pagans attend mass, what better way to do that than pretend “nothing’s changed”.

Whether Druglete can in fact derive its name from Triglav is another question.  That seems unlikely.  If one were to seek a Slavic etymology, a druch or drug would seem to fit better – meaning a “friend” or “companion” (this presumably from the numeral drugi meaning “the second”).

As an aside, it is also remarkable that drugubica means a net/trap/snare and has a definite Slavic etymology.  Yet Druch apparently means the same in German – as in Schlinge, Fusschlinge or Latin pedica.

This was noted by Wilhelm Engelbert Giefers in his study of the Three Strange Chapels of Westphalia. Giefers presumably did not know that the same is true in Slavic.  He also noted that Trigla cannot be the name of a goddess since, among other reasons:

“neither in the Germanic, nor Roman nor Greek mythology is there anywhere a reference to a Goddess Trigla.”

This, however, is not exactly true.

The 12th century Eustathius of Thessalonica (Commentary on the Illiad, XVII, 73) observes otherwise regarding Diana saying that she used to be called Trigla (by reason of three heads or eyes?).  Note too that “eyes” would work – gała/gały/gałka/gałki – compare with Russian galaz (or głazy – meaning stones, pebbles – or to simplify, something round). (Note too glaesum for “amber”).  Yet tri by itself won’t do it to make this Slavic since that is an IE prefix (at least in Slavic and Celtic – compare Tarvos Trigaranos on the Pillar of the Boatmen).

And earlier we have in Atheneus (3rd century AD, Deipnosophistae, Book 7) the following quote regarding a “trigle” fish (taxonomy continued to today):

“The Red Mullet (triglê). — This word, like chichlê (thrush) is spelled with an ê. For all feminines ending in la require a second l: Scylla, Telesilla. But all words in which g is inserted end in ê, like troglê (hole), aiglê (brilliance), zeuglê (yoke-strap). “The red mullet,” Aristotle says in the fifth book of Parts of Animals, “spawns thrice a year.” He says that fishermen infer this from the roe, which is seen three times a year in certain localities. Perhaps, therefore, the name triglê is derived from this circumstance, just as the amias are so‑called because they do not go solitarily, but in schools, scarus (parrot-fish) and caris (shrimp) from scairo (leap), aphyae (anchovies) because they are aphyes, that is, of poor size; from thyo, dart, the darting thynnys (tunny), because at the time when the Dog-star rises it is driven forth by the bot-fly on its head.”

“The triglê (red mullet) is jagged-toothed, gregarious, spotted all over, and also carnivorous. The third spawning is infertile; for certain worms develop in the womb, which devour the roe that is to be spawned. From this circumstance Epicharmus calls them the “squirming” in these lines from The Marriage of Hebe: “So he brought some squirming mullets and disgusting baiones.” Sophron, again, mentions trigolae, whatever they may be, in Mimes of Men, thus: “With a trigolas that cuts the navel-cord;” and “the trigolas that brings fair weather.” On the other hand, in the mime entitled Puffing Passion, he has: “The jaw of a Triglê, but the hind parts of a trigolas.” And in Mimes of Women: ‘The barbelled Triglê.” Diocles,in his work addressed to Pleistarchus, mentions the Triglê among fish with hard flesh. Speusippus says that the piper, flying-fish, and Triglê are similar. Hence Tryphon declares in his work On Animals that some persons identify the trigolas with the piper because of the hardness of their hind parts, which Sophron has indicated when he says, “the jaw of a Triglê, but the hind parts of a tirgolas.” Plato says in Phaon: “But the red mullet will give no strength to the glands. For she is a daughter of the virgin Artemis and loathes the rising passion.” The Triglê, on account of the syllable in its name which is common to the epithets of Hecate, is dedicated to her. For she is the goddess of the three ways and looks three ways, and they offer her meals on the thirtieth days. By like analogies they associate the turbot (citharus) with Apollo, the boax with Hermes, the ivy with Dionysus, the coot (phalaris) with Aphrodite, by way of insinuating phallus, like Aristophanes’s pun in The Birds. (So some persons associate the duck, called netta, with Poseidon.) The sea product which we call aphyê, others aphritis, others still, aphros (foam) — this, I say, is most dear to Aphrodite, because she also sprang from foam. Apollodorus also, in his treatise On the Gods, says that the Triglê is sacrificed to Hecate because of the associations in the name; for the goddess is tri-form. But Melanthius, in his work On the Eleusinian Mysteries, includes the sprat with the Triglê because Hecate is a sea-goddess also. Hegesander of Delphi declares that a Triglê is carried in the procession at the festival of Artemis, because it is reputed to hunt sea-hares relentlessly and devour them; for they are deadly. Hence, inasmuch as the Triglê does this to benefit mankind, this huntress fish is dedicated to the huntress goddess. Further, Sophron called the Triglê barbelled, because those mullets which have barbels are better to eat than other kinds.”

At Athens there is also a place called Trigla, and there is a shrine there dedicated to Hecate Triglanthinê. Hence Charicleides says in The Chain: “Mistress Hecate of the three ways, with three forms and three faces, beguiled with triglas.” If a Triglê be smothered a live in wine and a man drinks this, he will not be able to have sexual intercourse, as terpsicles narrates in his book On Sexual Pleasure. If a woman, also, drink of the same wine, she cannot conceive. The same is true even of a bird. The encyclopaedic Archestratus, after praising the trials of Teichious, in the Milesian territory, goes on to say: “Also in Thasos buy a red mullet, and you will get one that is not bad. In Teos it is inferior, yet even it is good. In Erythrae, too, it is good, when caught by the shore.” And Cratinus says in Trophonius: “No longer may we eat a red mullet from Aexonê, nor taste sting-ray or black-tail of huge growth.” The comic poet Nausicrates commends the red mullets of Aexonê in these lines from The Skippers: “A. With them, excellent in quality, come the tawny-skins, which Aexonê’s wave fosters as its own children, the best of all. With these, sailorfolk pay honour to the goddess, light-bringing virgin, whenever they offer her gifts of dinners. B. You are talking about mullets.”

Whatever your judgment on Trigla, the Slavs are not mentioned by Eustathius or Atheneus.  Perhaps the mystery is deeper and its solution lies with the Laconians/Lacedaemonians or the Pelasgians (as per Pokorny, from pelag-skoi “flatland-inhabitants” – Polanie?) who were descended (perhaps) from the mythical Phoroneus Φορωνεύς (Piorun/Perun/Perkunas?).

For more see Ernst Maaß’ Hekate und ihre Hexen in the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der Indogermanischen Sprachen.

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June 17, 2017

The Rain of Wodan

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We previously remarked on the similarities between Wodan and wodz – “leader”.  We speculated that a wodz did wodzil, meaning led around his people (ziehen) because fundamentally, people travelling in the old days needed water to survive.  So you went along the rivers.  Thus wodzic ought to mean just to walk along, to or around water.  The person who led that became a “wodz”.

That is probably also the origin of the word “wander” or the German wandern (notice, for example, the Old Prussian wenda for “water” – which also suggests that the Veneti were – in some “Baltic” language simply “those who dwell or travel on/by water”).  Thus:

  • woda (Sla) > wodzic > wodz
  • udens (Balt Lat)
  • wenda (Balt Pr)
    • also compare with wędka [vendka] or wędzić [vendit] or wędlina [vendlina]
  • vanduo (Balt Lith)
  • [wasser] (Germ) > wandern

Notice too that “to wander” is the roughly the same as “to meander” – both are done by rivers and both may be undertaken by people travelling along rivers or on rivers.  These names indeed suggest the very life style of certain tribes.  The fact that Slavs are recorded (Procopius) as worshipping water spirits kinda fits.

From this you could also construct wojewoda as in the one who leads “woje” or “warriors”. Incidentally, the word woje means the same as boie.  The Boii were supposedly a Celtic tribe but it is not known what language these “Celts” spoke.  (Incidentally, in this version, the Germanic Heerzieher becomes a translation of the Slavic wojewoda – not vice versa).

We’ve also mentioned the curious fact that “one” in Slavic languages is jeden/odin.

But Wodan’s name itself suggests a Slavic (or Baltic?) source word of woda (or udens in Latvian) meaning “water”.

Wodan was – perhaps (this is unproven) – the same as Mercury.  Mercury was not really a water god but a god of trade.  On the other hand, during the Mercuralia, apparently, merchants sprinkled water from Mercury’s sacred well at the Porta Capena in Rome…

All of this may suggest that Wodan (whoever he was initially) was or at some point became a “rain god.”  This raises the possibility that Wodan was the same as Piorun.  Both are, in effect, storm gods – one’s name may mean “water” – the other’s “thunder”.  The fact that wuetend then came to mean the same as “raging” naturally follows from that.

Also the ending of

  • syllable then -n,
  • as in -on, -an, -un

seems rather fashionable among Europeans:

  • Jasion
  • Piorun/Perkun (or Perkun-as)
  • Wodan, Woden

Numerous other examples abound (they are typically viewed as Greek if in the form of -on but this may just be because of the fact that Greeks could actually write – see also Simon, Jason and others such as Chasson – the Slavic protagonist of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius.  BTW Josippon is a Greek word).

As we already pointed out, piron in both Greek and Venetic (!) means “fork” which naturally suggests the physical image of electricity streaming through the sky.

For other interesting factoids you can see that Vaduz – the capital of Lichtenstein – was first recorded as de Faduzes and this too refers to water.  Although the etymology is supposed to be Rhaetian (Rhaeto-Romanic) from aqueductus, it might just as well be Germanic or even Slavic.  That wadi means “river” in Arabic should also suggest that IE languages (or something similar) were much more widely spread (in the Old World) than previously thought.

Incidentally, os means “mouth” or “estuary” and is obviously cognate to the Slavic usta.  Likewise, os, as are cognates with the idea of motion jazda and all, for obvious reasons relate to water – jezero meaning “lake” – or Tamissa meaning Thames River, Izera and many others.

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June 16, 2017

Krakows Gallore

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That there are multiple Krakows in Germany we’ve written about before.  The furthest one is on the west bank of the Rhine.  But here is another one – this one near Magdeburg (previously Krakow – currently Cracau):

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June 16, 2017

Westpolen

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We’ve previously described here the curious case of the town of Soest.  However, what can be said about Soest can also be said about other places in Westphalia.  Take, for example, Osnabrück.  What is the origin of that name?

One theory holds that the oldest version of the name – Osenbrugge* – was a reference to a bridge (German Brücke) and that the Osen was a reference to German Gods, i.e., Asen.

* note:  elsewhere Asnabruggensi

First off, there is the interesting matter that the German Brücke seems like it should be related to the Slavic bereg (Берег) meaning “shore” (also related probably German Berg meaning “mountain”.  Either “bridge” or “shore” would be a fitting description of the settlement’s location.  However, on balance, brugge seems closer to Brücke

But what about the “Asen”?  Apparently, someone who knows a lot about water names – particularly Slavic ones –  Jürgen Udolph (the author of, among other titles, Die Stellung der Gewässernamen Polens innerhalb der alteuropäischen Hydronymie) – stated in an interview for the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) that the name *Osna or a similar form was once  the name of a portion of the run of the River Hase* and that, later, it was renamed Hase.  According to this version, the name *Osna would have survived in the name of the city of Osnabrück, which would mean something like “a bridge over the river Osna.”

* note: Regarding the river Hase, it appears in 763 as Hassa (elsewhere Assa).  Those who’d like to connect it to Tacitean Chasuarii will, however, find a gap of seven centuries.  In German Hasa or Hassa is supposed to mean “grey” – similar to “hazy”.

Haven’t heard this interview so can’t say for sure how far Udolph took this but one has to observe that Osna is actually the first reported name of the Polish Silesian town of Ośno Lubuskie.  The name of that town before WWII was a German Drossen but the name (as far back as we can tell) is Slavic.  It was written as civitas forensi Osna in 1252 in the report on the possessions of the bishopric Lebus (Polish/Slavic Lubusz).  In the same document,the other towns listed as belonging to the Osna grant are such Slavic towns as Boriza and Boleseouiz. Indeed, in 1856 the Landbuch der Mark Brandenburg und des Markgrafthums Nieder-Lausitz expressly admitted that the town’s name was likely Slavic and even provided an etymology noting that the place was probably named by the “immigrant Slavs” – eingewanderte Slawen:

As late as 1350, the name of the town was still reported as Osna.

One observation that also deserves making is that the combination of:

  • vowel > s > n > vowel

is a rather Slavic combination.  Take, for example, jasna (“light”) or vesna/wiosna (“spring”) or, for that matter, sosna (“pine”)  

While it is true that similar combinations appear in France too – as an example you have the name Chesney – it is striking that the appearance of such French names seems limited to the northwest of the country – just slightly East of where would have expected to find the Gallic Veneti.

Further, there is also the Ptolemaic tribe of the Ossi who lived close to the Wilzi/Welatabi (note that the Dietrich of Bern saga features a “king of the Wiltzi” named Ossantrix).

Just for kicks you can open the Westfälisches Urkunden-Buch which has a rather nice list of early Westfallian documents.  There are plenty of German/Nordic names but there are a number of place names which, again, seem rather Slavic as these names and fragments:

  • Ysin-burg, Lippia (yes, the same one as this), Bure
  • in fluuuio Uuisura, in pago Uimodia nuncupato, cui confinis est uilla Liusci uocata
  • in ducatu Budinisuelt
  • in pago Logni
  • Uualanae
  • Chestinacha

And there are plenty of others even more interesting.

So the question that has to be posed is “how far have these Slavs really eingewandert“?

For more on this question see here and here and here and here and here and, of course, here.

We leave you with the coat of arms of the town of Osnabrück (for more on such rosettes, see here):

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June 13, 2017

Marwazī’s Account

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Here is an 1130 (?) account of the Arab court physician Sharaf al-Zamān Ṭāhir Marwazī or Marvazī (circa 1056/57– circa 1130) on the Slavs based on the 1942 Vladimir Minorsky translation (adapted by Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone along with most of the below notes).   Marwazī was (as the short version of the name suggests) a native of Merw (Persian: Marv), Khorasan in Persia (in today’s Turkmenistan).  His known work is Nature of Animals (Kitāb Ṭabāʾiʿ al-Ḥayawān al-Baḥrī wa-al-Barrī) which, presciently, includes as its first section a chapter on humans.  There he discusses the [Volga] Bulgars and Slavs and the Rus (the first portion of that discussion is a copy of Ibn Rusta).  Here are those excerpts.

The Bulgars and the Far North

“In the northern direction lies the country of Bulghar; it lies between the west and the  north, inclining towards th ePole, and is three months distant from Khwarazm.  These [people] have two cities, one called Suvar and the other called Bulghar; between the two cities is a distance of two days’ journey, along the bank of a river and through very dense forests, in which they fortify themselves against their enemies.  The trees are mostly khadang [birch?], but there are also hazels.  They are Muslims, and make war on the infidel Turks, raiding them, because they are surrounded by infidels.  There are in their forests fur bearing animals, such as grey squirrels, sable and so on.  The latitude of their territory is very considerable, so much so that in summer their day is extremely long and their night extremely short, so shot tin fact that the interval between twilight and dawn is not sufficient for cooking a pot [of meat].”

“At a distance of twenty days from them, towards the Pole, is a land called Isu [Wisu], and beyond this a people called Yura; these are a savage people, living in forests and mixing with other men, for they fear that they may be harmed by them.  The people of Bulghar journey to them, taking wares, such as clothes, salt and other things, in contrivances drawn by dogs over the heaped snows, which [never] clear away.  It is impossible for a man to go vover these snows, unless he binds on to his feet the thigh bones of oxen, and takes in his hands a pair of javelins which he thrusts backwards into the snow, so that his feet slide forward over the surface of the ice; with a favorable wind [?] he will travel a great distance by the day.  The people of Yura trade by means of signs and dumb show, for they are wild and afraid of [other] men.  Form them are imported excellent sable and other fine furs; they hunt these animals, feeding on their flesh and wearing their skins.”

“Beyond these are a coast-dweling people who travel far over the sea, without any [definite] purposes and intention; they merely do this in order to boast of reaching [such and such a remote] locality.  They are a most ignorant and stupid tribe, and their ignorance is shown by the following.  They sail in ships, and whenever two [of their] boats meet, the sailors lash the two together, and then they draw their swords and fight.  This is their form of greeting.  They come from the same town, perhaps from the same quarter, and there is no kind of enmity or rivalry between them; it is merely that this is their custom.  When one of the parties is victorious, they [then] steer the two ships together.  In this sea is the fish whose tooth is used in hafting knives, swords and suchlike.*  Beyond them is a Black Land which cannot be crossed.  As for the sea route, the voyager sailing towards the Pole reaches a part where there is no night in the summer and no day in the winter; the sun rotates visibly over the land for six months, circling the horizon like the revolution of a millstone; the whole year consists of one day and one night.”

* note: “Narwhal and walrus horn, called khutu, was much prized for its durability and was the preferred material for knife handles.”

The Slavs

“The Slavs are a numerous people, and between their territories and the territories of the Pečenegs is a distance of ten days, along steppes and pathless country which thick trees and [abounding] in springs.  They inhabit these forests.  They have no vines, but possess much honey.  They tend swine, and burn their dead, for they worship fire.  They grow mostly millet, and have a drink prepared from honey.  They have different kinds of pipes, including one two cubits long.  Their lute is flat and has eight strings but no peg-bx, while its pegs are level.  They have no great wealth.  Their weapons are javelins and spears, and they have fine bucklers.  Their head chieftain is called suit, and he has a deputy called shrih.*  The king has [riding] beasts and on their milk he feeds.  The town in which he resides is called Khazrat, where they hold a market for three days in every month.  Among them the cold is so severe that they dig deep underground dwellings which they cover with wood, and heat with the steam [produced by the burning of] dung and firewood.  There they remain during their winter season.  In the winter the Majghari [Magyars] raid them, and as a result of their mutual railings they have many slaves.”

* note: “suwit… shrih: suwit: must represent the first element in the name Svetopolk; shrih (sh.rih in the manuscript) has not been satisfactorily explained.”

The Rus

“The Rus live in an island in the sea, its extent being a distance of three days in either direction.  It has words an forests, and is surrounded by a lake.  They are very numerous, and look to the sword to provide them with a livelihood and profession.  When one of their menfolk dies, leaving daughters and sons, they hand his property to the daughters, giving the sons only a sword for they say: ‘Your father won his property by the sword; do you[r best and] imitate him and follow him in this.'”

“And in this way their education was effected, until they became Christians during the year 912*  When they entered [the fold of] Christianity, the faith blunted their swords, the door of their livelihood was closed to them, they returned to hardship and poverty, and their livelihood shrank.  Tgeb tget desired to become Muslims, that it might be lawful for them to makre raids and holy war, and so make a living by retrying to some of their former practices.  They therefore sent messengers to the ruler of Khwarazm, four ins men of their king; for they had an independent king called Vlaidmir, just as the king of the Turks is called khagan and the king of the Bulghars yiltawar.**  Their messengers came to Khwarazm and delivered their message, The Khwarazmshah was delighted at their eagerness to become Muslims, and sent someone to them to teach them the religious laws of Islam.  So they were converted.”

“They are strong and powerful men, and go on foot into far regions in order to raid; they also sail boats on the Khazar Sea [Caspian], seizing ships and plundering goods.  They sail to Constantinople win the Sea of Pontus, in spite of the chains in the gulf.***  Once they sailed into the Sea of Khazar and became master of Bardha’a for a time.  Their valor and courage are well-known, so that any one of them is equal to a number of any other nation.  If they had horses and were riders, they would be a great scourge to mankind.”

* note: “Vladimir converted in 988; probably a copyist’s mistake.”
** note: “The text reads b.t.ltw, Ibn Falan’s yiltawar, the title of the Bulghar king.  It is clear from this passage that Marwazi thought ‘Vladimir’ was a title, not a personal name.”
*** note: chains laid by the Byzantines to prevent ships passing.

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June 11, 2017

The Astronomer’s Slavs

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One of the principal sources for the times of Louis the Pious is the so-called Astronomer‘s “The Life of Emperor Louis” or Vita Hludovici (the others include Thegan as well as Ermoldus Nigellus that is Ermold or Ermoald the Black).  It was written sometime after 840.

Here are the Slavic excerpts from that work.  The translation is that of Thomas Noble (and the notes are his).  (Note that we do not include references to place names that might have an etymology suspiciously resembling Slavic such as Triburi, that is, “three forests” (Drevergau) not necessarily “drei Höfe”; Vlatten (“probably of Celtic origin” as in Vlatos = the ruler… but certainly not from Wladyka); or the River Cisse flowing into the Loire; or monastery at Vadala (San Salvador de la Valeda in Berga near Barcelona? Or Vandala? Or Veleda?).

Chapter 25

“…The emperor then ordered the Saxon counts and the Abotrits, who had formerly submitted themselves to the lord Charles, to give aid to Harald, so that he could be restored to his own kingdom.  Baldric was deputized to carry this message.  When they had crossed the Eider River, they entered the land of the Northmen in a place called Sinlendi.  Although the sons of Godfred had abundant forces and two hundred ships, they did not wish to come close and give battle.  Both forces withdrew, and our men destroyed and burned everything they encountered, and what is more, they received forty hostages from that same people.  Having done this, they returned to the emperor in a place called Paderborm, where he had gathered all his people in a general assembly [July 815] .  To that same place came the princes of the eastern Slavs and all their most important men*…”

[* note: “Other sources specify Abotrits, Sorbs, Wilzi, Bohemians, and Moravians.” The wording used is Quo in loco principes Sclavorum orientalium omnes primoresque venerunt]

Chapter 26

“After the emperor spent the harsh winter in restful health and calm success, and with the approach of summer’s most welcome charms, those who are called the eastern Franks and the counts of the Saxon people were sent by him against the Slavic Sorbs, who were said to have withdrawn from his authority.  With Christ’s help their attempt was suppressed very quickly and easily…”

Chapter 27

“…While he was staying in that palace [Aachen], he also received the envoy of Emperor Leo of Constantinople, whose name was Nicephorus.  Apart from friendship and alliance, the legation treated the boundaries of the Dalmatians, Romans, and Slavs.  But because they [the Slavs] were not present, nor was Cadalo [margrave of Friuli], the prefect of those border regions, and because without them affairs could not be brought into order, Albgar was sent to Dalmatia to pacify and organize the situation, along with Chadalo, the prince of those very same borderlands…”

Chapter 29

“…With these things already properly ordered, the emperor then, in that assembly, wished for his firstborn son Lothar, to be, and to be called, co-emperor, and he sent forth two of his sons, Pippin into Aquitaine and Louis into Bavaria, so that people might know whose authority they ought to obey.  Immediately, a defection of the Abotrits was announced to him.  They had come to an understanding with the sons of Godfred and were disturbing Saxony beyond the river Elbe.  The emperor sent adequate forces against them, and with God’s favor their movement was stopped…”

Chapter 30

“…The emperor, for the purpose of avenging their [the Bretons’] insolence, assembled a military force from all sides and headed for the Breton frontier.  He held a general assembly at Vannes [August or September 818], entered the province, an with little time or effort devastated everything until Murman [Breton leader], while he was attacking the baggage train, was killed by a certain keeper of the royal horses named Coslus [see Ermoldus Nigellus for more].  All of Brittany was conquered with him, gave up, and surrendered to whatever conditions the emperor might wish to impose, in the end, future servitude..  The Bretons gave and accepted hostages – who they were and hoe many, he decided – and he organized the whole land according to his will.”

Chapter 31

“…Meanwhile, the envoys of other peoples were there too, that is, of the Abotrits, Goduscani, and Timotani,* who had recently renounced an alliance with the Bulgars and associated themselves with us.  And the envoys of Liudewit [Croat leader rebelled in 819 and was murdered in 823], the commander of lower Pannonia, were there also accusing Cadalo [margrave of Friuli], falsely as it turned out, of being unbearably cruel to them.  All these were heard, dealt with, and dismissed, and the emperor moved on to that very palace where he planned to spend the winter.   While he was there, King Slaomir of the Abotrits was paraded before him by the Saxon leaders.  Since he was accused of defection and could not answer the charge, he was sent into exile, and his kingdom was given to Ceadrag, a son of Thrasco.**”

[* note: These are the south Abotrits “who lived on the north bank of the middle Danube.  The Goduscani lived on the Croatian-Dalmatian coast.  The Timotiani lived along the Serbian-Bulgarian frontier.  These people were pressured by the recent expansion of Bulgaria.”]

[** “Slaomir had mirdered Thrasco in 809 or 810 and the, from about 816 or 817, shared rule over the Abotrits with Ceadrag”]

Chapter 32

“…In the following summer [819], his people came to him in the palace of Ingelheim.  There he received the messengers from his army that had been sent to suppress the open treachery of Liudewit, but that affair remained more or less unresolved.  Indeed, puffed up by arrogance on account of his actions, Liudewit, through his envoys, laid before the emperor certain demands that, if the emperor were prepared to fulfill them, would lead him to return to his former obedience to Louis’ commands.  But these seemed pointless to him, and so he tossed them aside and did not accept them.  Liudewit decided to remain disloyal, and he associated with himself in perfidy whomever he could.  Indeed, after the return of the army from the frontiers of Pannonia, and while Liudwit was still in opposition, Duke Cadalo of the Friuli succumbed to fever and lived his last day.  Baldric took his place. When he first came into the provide and entered the lands of the Carinthians, he put the forces of Liudewit to flight near the river Drava with only a few men.  Harrying the rest, he compelled them all to leave his territory.  Chased out by Baldric, Liudewit confronted Borna, the duke of Dalmatia, who was camped on the Kupa River.  Borna had been deserted because of the treater or the fear of the Goduscani – it is not clear which – and he escaped the impending reckoning of accounts safe and sound only by using a force of personal bodyguards.  Later on he dealt with those who had deserted him.”

“Meanwhile Liudewit entered Dalmatia again, in the following winter. and he tried to destroy everything by cutting down with the sword every living thing and by setting fire to every inanimate thing.  Since Borna was unable to meet his attack, he looked for a way to harm him by cunning.  He did no declare open war on him but harassed him and his army with sneak attacks such that Liudewit was ashamed and sorry that he haas undertaken such things.  With three thousand of his soldiers killed and many horses and lots of equipment of various kinds destroyed, he was forced by Borna to leave the region.  The emperor, who was them at Aachen, heard all these things most joyfully…”

Chapter 33

“In that same palace, with winter [January 820] coming on, the emperor gather together an assembly of his people.  At that time Borna, who complained bitterly about the attack of Liudewit, received form the emperor substantial forces to help him grind down Liudewit’s land.  The forces were int he first place divided into three, and they devastated almost all the land under his authority by fire and sword, but Liudewit protected himself by the heights of a certain fortress and would not come forth to fight or to talk.  After these forces returned home, the people of Carniola and certain of the Carinthians who had give over to Liudewit surrendered to our duke Baldric…”

Chapter 34

“In this year the lord emperor spent the winter [820/821] season in Aachen.  In that same winter, im February, an assembly was held at Aachen, and three armed bands were dispatched to lay waste the land of Liudewit…In the midst of these things, Borna lost his life, and the emperor made his nephew Ladasclao his successor…”

Chapter 35

“…At the same time, he sent an army from Italy into Pannonia against Liudewit, Since he was unable to maintain himself there, he left his own city [Sisak as per the Carolingian Annals] and went to a certain chieftain of Dalmatia and was admitted to his city.  Then, however, he turned the gables on his host, brought him grief, and subjected the city to his own domination.  And although he would neither fight nor talk with our men, nevertheless he sent envoys to say that he had made a mistake and he promised that he would come to the lord emperor…”

“…With these things taken care of, he spent the autumn, hunting in the way of the kings of the Franks, and to pass winter, he sought out a place across the Rhine whose name is Frankfurt.  There he ordered an assembly of the neighboring peoples to come together, of all of those, that is, who lived beyond the Rhine and who obeyed the command of the Franks.  He discussed with them everything that appeared to contribute to the public good, while he took thought suitably for the affairs of each.  In that same meeting, a legation of the Avars appeared bearing gifts*…”

[* note: apparently last ever contemporaneous mention of the Avars]

Chapter 36

“In that same estate, that is, Frankfurt, after winter had ended, the emperor in May held an assembly of the eastern Franks, the Saxons, and of the other peoples who bordered on them.  There he brought to a fitting end a struggle between two brothers who were fiercely contending for the kingship.  They were WIlzi by birth, sons of King Liubi, and their names were Milegast and Celeadrag.  When their father, Liubi, declared war on the Abotrits, he was killed by them, and the kingdom was conveyed to the firstborn,  But when he showed himself to be more sluggish in the administration of the kingdom than the situation demanded, the favor of the people shifted on behalf  of the younger son.  They came into the emperor’s presence on account of this altercation.  He investigated, discovered the will of the people, and declared the younger to be chief.  The emperor endowed both with ample gifts, bound them by oaths, and dismissed them as friends, both to himself and to each other…”

“…In that same assembly the death of the tyrant Liudewit was announced.  He was killed by some trickery.  The emperor dissolved this assembly and called for another one at Compiegne in the autumn [of 823].”

Chapter 39

“Later the emperor ordered an assembly to be celebrated by his people in May [of 825] at Aachen.  While it was meeting, a legation from the Bulgarians, who had for a long time lived in Bavaria according to his instructions, was brought in to be heard.  They were especially concerned about the boundaries to be observed between the Bulgarians and the Franks after the establishment of the peace.  Present as well, and promising submission and obedience with many words, were not a few leaders of the Bretons, among whom was Wiomarc’h, who seemed to exceed the others in authority, the very one who had by reckless boldness and stupid audacity gone so far as to provoke the emperor to send a expedition into those regions to suppress his insolence.  Therefore, when he said that he regretted his deeds and that he would commit himself loyally to the emperor, he was received mercifully by him in his usual fashion – for he was always accustomed to bestow clemency – and he, along with totters of his countrymen, was endowed with gifts.  He was allowed to go home. But later, not unmindful of his customary perfidy yet forgetful of all that he had promised an dog the good things that he ha experienced, he did not miss a chance to complain about his neighbors, the emperor’s faithful men, and to harass them with persistent harm.  So it happened that, overwhelmed by the men of Lambert, he met the end of all his evils and the term of his life in his own house.”

“So, having dismissed the envoys of the Bulgarians and of the Bretons, the emperor went off hunting in the wilds of the Vosges, believing that he could do that until the month of August, when he would return to Aachen to hold an assembly, as he had planned.  At that time he ordered that the peace which the Northmen were seeking be confirmed in October…”

“…When the envoys of the Bulgarians returned from that assembly bearing the emperor’s letters, their king received what was written with little pleasure, because he had not obtained what he had sought.  With a certain irritation he sent back that same messenger and demanded that either a common boundary be established or he would, with whatever force he could muster, see to his own frontiers.  But then the rumor spread that the king who had made such demands had lost his kingdom, so the emperor retained the envoy for a bit, until he could send Bertric, the count of the palace, who learned that what was going around was false.  Having learned the truth he dismissed the envoy with that affair still unfinished.”

Chapter 40

“…On the first of June [of 826] the emperor came to Ingelheim and an assembly pif his people met him there, just as he had instructed…  Moreover, two dukes, Ceadrag of the Abotrits and Tunglo of the Sorbs, when they were accused and the verdict did not appear clear enough, were chastised and sent home…”

Chapter 42

“In February of the following winter [in 828], there was a public assembly at Aachen… Also a charge was lodged and investigated against Duke Baldric of the Friuliu, that on account of his laxity and carelessness the Bulgarians had wasted our land.  He was expelled from his duchy, and his power was divided among four of his counts.  But, then, the spirit of the emperor was most mild by nature, and he was always eager to request mercy for those who had sinned…”

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June 6, 2017

The Venni, Vindices and Veneti of the Later Roman Empire

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One of the complaints about the connection of the Slavs as Veneti of Jordanes and the Veneti of Pliny, Tacitus, Ptolemy or Strabo (Vindelici) is that there is a wide gap in time between the appearance of the latter (1st-2nd century) and the time when the former are identified with the Slavs (6th century).

But is that so?  It seems that what is rather true is that the people who make such claims are not familiar with Roman literature and other works of the middle and late imperial period.  We have pointed out some of those sources before but let’s rehash and a few other ones.

Notitia Dignitatum
395-433 A.D.

The Notitia mentions the Vindices:

These may be Vindelici or Veneti but, of course, those may well be one and the same tribe.

Tabula Peutingeriana
late 4th – early 5th century

In addition to the Veneti in Gaul, the Tabula Peutingeriana mentions three Venetic tribes including the Venadis Sarmatae somewhere north but also the Venedi on the Danube.  The first location is apparently the one mentioned by Ptolemy, Tacitus and Pliny and where we find Slavs later on.  The second is where the Slavs make their first appearance under that name (in Procopius and in Jordanes who makes the connection between Slavs and Veneti).

 Epiphanus’ Treatise on the Twelve Stones
circa 394 A.D.

Most of the Greek original of this work is preserved in an early Latin translation which is reflected in the Collectio Avellana.  In there we find the following passage (CSEL vol. 2):

“In the entire northern region which the ancients used to call Scythia, there are Goths, Danes [?],  Venni* and also Arii up to the German and Amazon regions.”

Scythiam vero soliti sunt veteres appellare cunctam septentrionalem plagam, ubi sunt Gothi et Dauni, Venni quoque et Arii usque ad Germanorum Amazonarumque regionem.

* On the “Venni” see below.

Hippolitus’ Chronicle
pre 235 A.D.

This chronicle tells us that “When looking to the north, these are the nations of Japheth scattered from Media as far as the Western Ocean: Medes, Albanians, Garganians, Errians, Armenians, AMazones, Coli, Korzanians, Dennagenians, Capadocians, Paphlagonians, Mariandyni, Tabareni, Chalybes, Mosynoeci, Sarmatians, Sauromatae, Maeotians, Scythians, Crimeans, Thracians, Bastarnae, Illyrians, Macedonians, Greeks, Ligurians, Istrians, Venni*, Daunians, Iapygians, Calabrians, Osci, Latins who are Romans, Gauls who are Celts, Lygistini, Celtiberians, Iberians, Gauls, Aquitannians, Illyricians, Basantians, Curtanians, Lusitanians, Vaccaei, Conii, Britons who live on islands.”

* Οὐεννοί – The German historian Josef Markwart (or Josef Marquart) noted that the Venni are the Veneti.

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June 3, 2017