Castles, Palaces and Forts

I’ve been using Hrady, Zámky a Tvrze Království Českého (“Castles, Palaces and Forts of the Bohemian Kingdom”) by August Sedláček as a reference work quite a bit recently. Rather than just constantly going back to the bookmarks, I thought I would post the links here, especially in case others were interested — it’s a very thoroughly researched reference work!

Karlštejn from Hrady, Zámky a Tvrze, Vol. VI, Podbrdsko.

The work is divided into fifteen (15) volumes, conforming loosely to the provincial boundaries of the old Bohemian Kingdom of the Middle Ages:

  1. Chrudimskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-1-chrudimsko
  2. Hradeckohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-2-hradecko
  3. Budějovskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-3-budejovsko
  4. Táborskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-4-taborsko
  5. Podkrkonošíhttps://archive.org/details/hrad-zamky-tvrze-5-podkrkonosi
  6. Podbrdskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-6-podbrdsko
  7. Píseckohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-7-pisecko
  8. Rakovnicko a Slanskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-8-rakovnicko-slansko
  9. Domažlicko a Klatovskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-9-domazlicko-klatovsko
  10. Boleslavskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-10-boleslavsko
  11. Prácheňskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-11-prachensko
  12. Čáslavskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-12-caslavsko
  13. Plzeňsko a Loketskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-13-plzensko
  14. Litoměřicko a Žateckohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-14-litomericko
  15. Kouřimskohttps://archive.org/details/hrady-zamky-tvrze-15-kourimsko

Volume IV deals with Táborská Vysočina, that is, the portion of Vysočina that’s physically located in Bohemia, while Volume XV actually covers Kouřimsko, Vltavsko and the south-western of Boleslavsko.

New long-form blog posts coming up soon!

Czech Genealogy

I’ve been doing a bit of research around the 1651 Czech Census that was taken immediately following the end of the Thirty Year’s War. Bohemia and Moravia had been predominantly Protestant prior to 1624 and the Census was ordered by the Austrian Catholic Habsburg rulers to determine the likelihood of converting the population back to Catholicism.

The Census documents are a valuable source of information for genealogical research, and are divided according to feudal province. They are available electronically for free from the Czech National Archives:

The formal Czech name for the Census is Soupis Poddaných Podle Víry z Roku 1651  (“List of Subjects According to Faith from the Year 1651”). A Full Index for the documents is also available.

The modern Czech provinces are slightly different, so it’s useful to reference this list against a map like the following, which illustrates how Bohemia looked at the time of the 1654 Tax Rolls (e.g., Berní rula):

Bohemia at the time of the 1654 Berní rula (click to enlarge)

The numbered regions on this map do not correlate perfectly with the eleven provincial census registers from 1651 listed above, but they should give a general sense of the local geography.

The numbered regions listed on the map are as follows: 1. Boleslavsko, 2. Hradecko, 3. Chrudimsko, 4. Čáslavsko, 5. Kouřimsko, 6. Bechyňsko, 7. Prácheňsko, 8. Plzeňsko, 9. Žatecko, 10. Litoměřicko, 11. Slánsko, 12. Rakovnicko, 13. Podbrsko, 14. Vltavsko, 15. Loketsko, 16. Pražská města, 17. Kladsko, 18. Chebsko, 19. Ašsko.

Additional detailed maps of some of the provinces are also available:

Bechyňsko

Click to enlarge

Boleslavsko

Click to enlarge

Čáslavsko

Click to enlarge

Cheb-Eger

Click to enlarge

Hradecko

Click to enlarge

Kladsko

Click to enlarge

Kouřimsko

Click to enlarge

Plzeňsko

Click to enlarge

Prácheňsko

Click to enlarge

Podbrsko

Click to enlarge

Rakovnicko

Click to enlarge

Vltavsko

Click to enlarge

Žatecko

Click to enlarge

Most of these maps are color-coded according to a scheme similar to:

  • Stav duchovní — Monastic or clerical estate
  • Stav panský — Noble or aristocratic estate
  • Stav rytířský — Knightly or military estate
  • Stav městský — City or town municipal jurisdiction

German Toponyms

Most, if not all, of the regional census documents listed above includes a table translating German-to-Czech place names, so you have a bilingual reference to city and village names — e.g., you can deduce that Liberec is also Reichenberg, or that Okna is also Wocke, which might not be so obvious just by looking at the respective names.

The following German-Czech Ortsnamenverzeichnis can also be helpful — it appears to be as complete as the larger Czech Census PDF documents, and it can be searched electronically much more easily:

The Czech Republic is a country where every province, with the exception of the central Prague district, touches a foreign border — moreover, four of those five borders have historically been German (Silesia, Saxony, Bavaria and Austria). This has changed since the end of WWII with the transfer of Silesia back to Poland, but a knowledge of German Ortsnamen in Bohemia can still prove very useful in doing historical research.

Regional Archives

The following map is immensely helpful for doing actual genealogical research:

Regional Czech Genealogical Archives (click to enlarge).

Birth and death records will generally be kept in the regional archive (indicated above) where the individual was born or died, so you may have to jump around between different regional archives to track down all your relatives.

Finally, even though you manage to track down the correct archive, the battle has only just begun — even if you’re fluent in both Czech and German!

Click to enlarge

Reproduced above is the frontispiece to a matricula from 1723 kept at the parish church in Červený Kostelec in northeastern Bohemia near Náchod. Even if you think you know Latin, good luck deciphering that script! [1]

Click to enlarge

The actual genealogical records themselves can be an even bigger challenge.

From the 19th-century onwards the records are generally kept in a more standardized format, and recorded in more legible German or Czech, but if you’re looking for earlier records it may be worthwhile to hire a local, professional genealogist who’s trained in reading these older, hand-written Latin scripts. [2]

Update — October 11, 2020

Many matrices and archives have been digitized, the following Web site is an excellent resource for locating the various regional archives:

However, the link to the Zámrsk archives in northeastern Bohemia is outdated, to reach those archives use the following links:

Update — October 20, 2020

The Litoměřice Archives are available online here:

Footnotes

  1. Reproduced here under Fair Use.
  2. As far as I know, all of the documents and images cited here are in the public domain. Nevertheless, I found many of these documents on the following Web site: https://www.ahnenheidrich.eu/

Sternberg Roses

The Sternberg family is a name that comes up prominently in the history of Prague, especially, e.g., in connection with the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, which has a history in Prague dating back to the year 1233.

Knights of the Cross with the Red Star at Dobřichovice Castle. [1]

I was doing some research on the House of Sternberg on the Lippe — they may or may not be the same Sternberg family that we see in Prague, but the Lippe River is an interesting region of Germany nevertheless. The name Lippe is of Slavic origin, from lípa, e.g., “linden tree”, and Lippe river valley of Germany is covered with obvious Slavic toponyms, including:

  • Kamen (meaning “stone” in Slavic).
  • Bergkamen (same thing, in a German-Slavic mash-up).
  • Bielefeld (sounds like a German-Slavic mash-up meaning “white field”)

The region is interesting since it borders the Rhine and is located far to the west of modern-day Slavic settlements.

Sternberg stain-glass window at the Gymnasium Leopoldinum in Detmold. [2]

The history of the German Sternberg family, and the Lippe region in general, is worth exploring in greater depth. For now, I just wanted to make a short post, highlighting the family’s coat of arms, which I find to be strikingly beautiful — the stained-glass window from the Gymnasium Leopoldinum in Detmold is reproduced above, featuring a red Tudor Rose, reminiscent of the Rosicrucians.

Footnotes

  1. Image reference: [Source]
  2. Image reference: [Source]

The Lion of Thuringia

I was recently reading some old accounts of the legend of Nine Crosses at Červený Kostelec. [1] The story is basically a late medieval version of Romeo and Juliet set on the Náchod estate in northeastern Bohemia, except that unlike Shakespeare’s version, these events probably really did happen in real life.

Nine Crosses Memorial in Lhota za Červeným Kostelcem [2]

To this day, a crucifix stands in Lhota za Červeným Kostelcem in Hradec Králové, Czechia commemorating the nine noblemen who lost their lives in this romantic misadventure in the year 1428.

Yet what caught my attention was the following passage from the story:

Byl parný den roku 1428 v měsíci červnu. Na hradě Vízmburku hledali zbrojnoši stinná místa a čistili zbroj. Pán a majitel hradu s panstvím se rozhlížel z hradní věže po překrásné krajině. Jeho zrak utkvěl na městečku Úpice, pak prohlédl celou řeku až ke hradu Červená hora a zahlédl i tvrz Turyň, ztracenou za hustými lesy. Mezi buky, borovicemi i smrky zahlédl v dálce i věž náchodského hradu.

It was a steamy June day in the year 1428. At Vízmburk Castle, the gunsmiths searched for a shady place and cleaned their guns. The lord and owner of the castle and manor looked about the beautiful landscape from the castle tower. His gaze fixed upon the small village of Úpice, then he inspected the entire river as far as Červená Hora castle and even saw the fortress Turyň, lost behind the dense forests. Amongst the beeches, pines and spruces, he even saw the tower of Náchod castle off in the distance.

Toponyms are probably my favorite diversion, and that name Turyň is definitely something we’ve all heard before. Even the Google AI will tell you that it sure sounds a lot like the famous city of Turin, Italy:

The correspondences between Bohemia and northern Italy are worth exploring in their own right, but some brief highlights include:

  • The ancient Boii were said to have left their home in Bohemia and conquered most of northern Italy in the fourth century B.C., crossing the river Po and giving their name to Bologna, Italy. In 191 B.C. they were defeated by the Romans and driven back north of the Alps. [3,4]
  • King Charles IV of Prague waged war in Tuscany, Italy against the Houses of Visconti and Scaligeri in the 1330s, founding the fortress Montecarlo in Lucca, Italy in the process. [5]
  • Between 1634 and 1783, the Náchod estate was owned by the Piccolomini family of Siena, Italy. This same family produced two Roman Catholic Popes — Pope Pius II (née Enea Silvio Piccolomini, †1464), and Pope Pius III (née Francesco Piccolomini, †1503). [6, 7, 8]

But there’s another matching and perhaps less obvious toponym that’s just as interesting — the German province of Thurginia, located just west of the Czech border.

The German province of Thurginia [9]

Here again the Google AI agrees that we’re onto something:

During the reign of Charles IV the Bohemian Crown exercised jurisdiction over a small portion of the Upper Palatinate in Bavaria that is now known historically as the Bohemian Palatinate, with its administrative center in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Germany. [10] But while Slavic influence over a small portion of northern Bavaria is one thing, what are we to make of the whole of Thuringia?

We could start by taking a look at their coat of arms:

Thuringian Coat of Arms [9]

I don’t know about you, but to me that sure looks a lot like a Bohemian lion dressed up in pan-Slavic red, white and blue. 😉

Thuringian Flag [9]

The Thuringian flag isn’t really any more convincing — it looks like a straight up clone of the ancient Bohemian flag, and/or the modern Polish flag.

An interesting quirk of history that’s never been adequately explained (as far as I know) is the seemingly close relationship between the Low Countries and Bohemia:

  • King Samo, King of Slavs, who would go on to create a Slavic kingdom loosely centered (geographically) on modern Prague, was born in c. 600 in Soignies, Belgium. [11]
  • One of the world’s oldest pub, in business since 1375 and located immediately adjacent to Prague Castle, is named “At the Brabantian King’s” (i.e., “U Krále Brabantského”), a reference to the province of Brabant in the Low Countries. [12]
  • The most successful line of Bohemian kings, including Charles IV, were all from the House of Luxembourg.
  • The Nyvlt family, a family of some local prominence in the Podkrkonoší (i.e., Sudeten) region of northeastern Bohemia, migrated to Bohemia in the mid-15th century from Utrecht, Holland.

Many more examples could be cited, but this is a good start.

These correspondences are seemingly difficult to explain in terms of what we know about medieval commerce. For instance, in the Middle Ages, national boundaries were defined largely by river basins — Bohemia, almost by definition, is that land which drains into the Elbe River, which in turn drains directly into Hanseatic Hamburg. You might expect kings and pubs in Prague to be named after people and places in Hamburg or Saxony, but instead the correspondence seems to be much stronger with the Low Countries — countries which sit the mouth of the Rhine River and which have no obvious maritime passage directly into Bohemia.

The shortest, most direct overland  route connecting  Amsterdam and Prague cuts straight through the center of Thuringia.

The German province of Thuringia, however, sits directly on the straight-line overland route connecting Amsterdam and Prague. Thuringia is also mostly inside the Fowler Line, a region discussed earlier that demarcates ethnically Slavic populations inside modern German borders. [13] Thuringia and the Low Countries are topics that we will explore in more depth soon, this post is intended as a short primer on both.

Related Articles

Footnotes

  1. Devět křížů. [Source]
  2. Národní Památkový Ústav, Krucifix U Devíti křížů. [Source]
  3. Wikipedia, Boii. [Source]
  4. The words “boii”, or “boi”, “boj”, or sometimes spelled “voj” or “woj” all mean “war”, “warrior”, “battle”, or “fight” in Slavic.
  5. Wikipedia, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. [Source]
  6. Wikipedia, Piccolomini. [Source]
  7. Wikipedia, Náchod. [Source]
  8. Pope Pius III had one of the shortest reigns in Vatican history, lasting only for a few weeks from September 22, 1503 to October 18, 1503.
  9. Wikipedia, Thuringia. [Source]
  10. Wikipedia, Bohemian Palatinate. [Source]
  11. Wikipedia, Samo [Source]
  12. Holland, Belgium and northern France all have provinces or regions named Brabant.
  13. Yiddish-Speaking Slavs [Source]

An American in Prague

In the previous post on Yiddish-Speaking Slavs, I had mentioned that Slavs have a long history of confusing and conflating Germans with Jews — much of it due to the closeness of spoken-German and spoken-Yiddish — and that Slavs often cynically regard Germany as the “Land where Jews come from.” Westerners today are largely tone-deaf to these kinds of European cultural nuances, so I thought it would be interesting to cite an example where a prominent American tourist traveling in Bohemia in the early 20th-century had observed exactly this same linguistic and cultural phenomenon.

Booker_T._Washington_Lecture,_1906

Washington speaking at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1909 [1]

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia on the eve of the U.S. Civil War in 1856. He rose to national prominence after Emancipation and is probably best-known today for founding the Tuskagee Institute in Alabama in 1881. In 1910 his friends persuaded him to take a three-month trip to visit Europe, where he visited the prominent capitals of Vienna, Budapest and Prague in Austria-Hungary. His memoirs were later published as part of an autobiographical anthology of papers, The Booker T. Washington Papers.

Washington’s observations in Prague are worth noting:

Washington-quote

“When I reached Prague in Bohemia I learned that among the masses of the people there is little distinction made between Jews and Germans, since both speak the same language and the Czechs, confusing one with the other, hate both with a double hatred, first for what they are and then for what they seem to be.”

— Booker T. Washington, Race and Prejudice in Europe [2]

Exactly the ideological basis of our Yiddish-Speaking Slavs article, as expressed by an American tourist in Prague in 1910. 🙂

Footnotes

  1. Public Domain Image [source]
  2. “Race and Prejudice in Europe”, Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee, Alabama, December 5, 1911.

Yiddish-Speaking Slavs

“Austrians are basically just South Slavs who pretend to be Germans”
@DrunkAustrian on Twitter

There’s a joke in Eastern Europe about how Germans are really nothing more than Yiddish-speaking Slavs. The joke is a riff on the perceived German “superiority complex” relative to both East Europeans and Jews, the irony being not only that Germans might actually be ethnic Slavs, but even worse that their language bears an eerie and uncanny resemblance to Yiddish (at least to Slavic ears). [12]

Yet what may have started out as a snarky joke about German-speaking Jews wandering around Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages is now slowly being proven true by genetics and a better understanding of the historical record.

Administrative-Division-German-Union-1866-10-and-Germany-2009

The Cold War border between East and West Germany is already clearly visible on this 1866 map. [3]

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the New York Times recently re-published an old story named Zombie Borders about the persistence of certain political boundaries in Central Europe. [4] For example, the Cold War border between East and West Germany can already be discerned on 19th-century maps of Europe as the boundary between Saxony and Prussia to the east, and the rest of Germany to the west.

12borderlines-blog427

The ancient German-Slavic border (c. 900 A.D.) aligns nearly perfectly with the former German-German Iron Curtain border (1949-1990) [5]

In fact, this divide between east and west “Germany” goes back for more than a thousand years to the time of Henry the Fowler (876 – 936 A.D.), the first German king to successfully advance eastward out of the Rhineland and push the opposing Slavic tribes back over to the far side of the Elbe River. The resulting boundary he established — which, for the sake of discussion, we’ll call the Fowler Line — has persisted in one form or another ever since, right down to the Iron Curtain of yesteryear. [6]

What’s even more remarkable is that this thousand-year old divide running down the middle of Germany is not only an ideological, political or dynastic border, but also an ethnic one. For more than a millennium, the “Germans” living on the eastern side of the Fowler Line have been — quite literally — “Yiddish”-speaking Slavs. It’s also remarkable that it was the Russians who first proposed using these specific (ethnic and Slavic) boundaries to define the DDR, long before the Western allies had given any thought to the matter. [4]

It’s almost as if the old Soviet Bloc was some kind of grotesque, inverted parody of the pan-Slavic ideals of the late 19th-century — complete with the Slavic half of Germany included.

More on this idea in future posts..

main-qimg-b863bc39725be4dccfce63d9b548156c

Slavic R1a haplogroup distribution in the German-speaking lands [7]

Compare now the medieval “zombie border” map above to a modern map of Slavic R1a haplogroup distribution in eastern Germany. The influence of Slavic genes in the area is obvious, even today. Bear in mind too that this map indicates the modern-day borders of Germany, and excludes most of the territory once known as Prussia — that is, parts of what are now Poland, Russia and the Baltic States. Prussia was the dominant cultural and political force in Germany during the Second and Third German Reichs, and the underlying Slavic tenor of what otherwise passes for “German” would have been even more pronounced back then.

michael-schnabl-theresa-steinkellner-portret-makiiazh-retush

Theresa Steinkellner is an Austrian fashion model: German or Slavic? [8]

The eastern edge of Austria — an area which includes the capital city of Vienna — is also worth a closer look. It’s remarkable that 43% of the German-speaking residents in Graz, Austria are of type R1a, compared to a country-wide average of only 38% for neighboring Slovenia. [9] The ancient name of Graz is Gradec (pronounced “Gradetz”), which means “small castle” in Slavic. [10]

The ancient Roman name for Vienna was “Vindobona”, literally “the white city”. [11] White City, in turn, or Belgrade (Белград), is of course a name that Slavic people frequently attach to their own capital cities. It’s well-known that the modern Belgrade is located just down the road from Vienna, in Serbia. It’s less well known that the ancient name for both Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia was also Belgrade. [12]

Austria-Slavs

We can even speculate that what very nearly happened to Czechia during WWII must have already happened to Austria sometime during the Middle Ages — namely, that the indigenous Slavic population and culture was overrun and ultimately wiped out by German colonization. 

So what’s in a Name?

The fact that German-sounding Graz is really just a recent corruption of an older and originally Slavic name is a hint that we should take a closer look at toponyms across Germany and see if we can determine their origin.

brandenburg-gate-former-berlin-city-inspired-greek-propylea-hall-doric-columns-quadriga-depicting-victoria-87862471

We could just try not building capital cities on top of actual, literal swamps. [13]

That Germany is filled with toponyms of Slavic origin is well-known to many East Europeans. [14] The most politically awkward example, perhaps, is Berlin itself — the name means “swampy place” in Slavic. The same root is used in Bern, Switzerland and Brno, Moravia, also swampy regional capitals. [1516] The New York Times article above even acknowledges how the famous Berlin city flag with a bear on it is really just a sneaky German attempt to misdirect away from the city’s Slavic origins. [17] 😉

Jens Ohlig, a German blogger, made an informal study into German toponyms that end with the Slavic suffixes -ow (e.g., Moscow, Russia or Krakow, Poland) or -itz (e.g., Chemnitz, Germany, which is from the Slavic Kamenice, meaning “stony river”). [18, 19] His findings are reproduced below:

German_ow_itz

German cities and towns that end with the Slavic suffix -ow or -itz, from blog.johl.io. [20]

The results are striking, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) they correlate almost perfectly with the Fowler Line. To help provide some contextual background, Ohlig links to the following German-language resources, which have quite a bit of useful information:

For the sake of discussion, I’m going to reproduce the -itz toponym map generated by Wikipedia from the link above:

800px-Ortsnamenendung-itz

Areas of Germany where toponyms ending in -itz can be found. [21]

As you can see, the -itz toponyms (again) align almost perfectly with the Fowler Line “zombie border” map produced by the New York Times.

But there’s still more to the story.

Lusatia-2

For instance, looking at a map of Lusatia (i.e., Sorbia) — located in the east German state of Saxony at the Czech-German-Polish tri-state boundary — we can easily identify several Slavic toponyms inside Germany that have slipped past Ohlig’s filter:

  • Zittau — It’s true that -ow is a typical Slavic suffix, but so is the sneaky German misspelling -au which is pronounced identically. [22] Other examples in Lusatia using this suffix include Drebkau, Großdubrau, Hohendubrau, Löbau, Niederau, Wittichenau and many more too numerous to list. [23]
  • Bad Muskau — Presented without comment.
  • Kamenz — Literally means “stone” in Slavic.
  • Niesky — Literally means “lowlands” in Slavic.
  • Oybin — Etymology is unclear but the town was founded by the Czech Ronovec family (probably in the late thirteenth century) and the name sounds more Slavic than German. The original name was probably closer to Mojivín.

As for Dresden, yes it’s very German-sounding but in reality the name of the city and all its suburbs and geographical features all have Slavic origins. [24] We could go through the same exercise for German-sounding cities like Leipzig, Lübeck, Potsdam, Rostock, Rügen, Schwerin, etc., none of which have a canonical Slavic suffix but all of which have names of Slavic origin. [25, 26, 27, 28]

Knowing this, I decided to try my hand at some SPARQL data queries and Perl scripting, and see if I could generate some slightly more refined maps. I first wanted to split out of the -itz and -ow toponyms from Ohlig’s map.

First let’s take a look at the -ow toponyms:

Suffix_ow

German toponyms ending with the -ow suffix.

It’s remarkable that throughout the whole of Germany, the -ow toponym really only occurs in the very northeastern corner of the country. The toponyms cover the states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern almost uniformly, but outside of those two regions — both of which border Poland — there is almost nothing.

The German-language link above about -ow toponyms indicates that many areas in the Prussian Saxony (1816-1944) that had originally used the toponym -ow were gradually (and deliberately) changed over to the sneaky and misleading -o suffix instead. [29] I decided to plot the -o suffixes alongside the -ow suffixes to see how they lined up:

Suffix_ow_o

German toponyms ending with the -ow suffix (red) and the -o suffix (green).

Clearly there are not as many, and while some examples can be found in western Germany and in Bavaria near the Austrian border, the -o toponyms mostly just form a sort of “southern border” around the -ow toponyms in eastern Germany.

A short geography and history lesson may add some needed context here — Prussian Saxony (also known as the Province of Saxony) was something different and distinct from the Kingdom of Saxony, although the two regions once shared a common border:

Map-Prussia-Saxony

Prussian Saxony (red) and Prussia (blue). The Kingdom of Saxony is wedged inbetween Prussian Saxony and the modern Czech Republic. [30]

The Kingdom of Saxony is what has now become the federal German state of Saxony.  It runs alongside the northwestern border of the Czech Republic and its capital is Dresden. Prussian Saxony, on the other hand, was a short-lived province during the Second and Third German Reichs which has now been mostly absorbed into the federal German state of Anhalt, and which was located immediately to the north of the Kingdom of Saxony. Our -o toponym map above confirms that the changeover to the -o suffix seems to have been limited mostly to Prussian Saxony.

So if Germans are being sneaky with the -o suffix, using it to disguise the Slavic -ow suffix, what about the German -au suffix? Remember we mentioned earlier that -au is often used as a sneaky German way to disguise what was originally a Slavic -ow suffix.

Suffix_au

German toponyms ending with the -au suffix.

Oww! Now that looks incriminating! 🙂

It would be a cheap-shot to say that all of these toponyms must necessarily be Slavic in origin (or would it?!) For now, let’s give our German friends the benefit of the doubt and assume that many, if not most of these toponyms are organically German.

1600px-Lustnau_Evangelische_Kirche_Nordseite_01

Evangelical church in Lustnau, Germany near the Black Forest. [31]

Nevertheless, it’s worth taking a look at one example in the far southwestern corner of Germany, exactly on the opposite side of the country from where we find all the -ow toponyms near Poland — that example is Lustnau, a suburb of the famous university town of Tübingen, which itself is a suburb of Stuttgart. [32]

The Wikipedia entry for Lustnau talks about how the city was founded as an Alemannic settlement sometime around the 7th century A.D., and about recent archaeological excavations in the city wherein Roman-era artifacts were discovered. What’s really interesting, though, is how in the first written records we have of the city, dating to around 1100 A.D., the city’s name is recorded using the Slavic spelling Lustnow. [33]

So here we have at least one example of the Slavic -ow toponym occurring about as far from the Polish border as you can get and still be in Germany. Moreover, it’s an example of where the originally Slavic -ow suffix has been deliberately changed over to the more Germanic -au suffix. The possibility of a Slavic presence on the Rhine in ancient times is a topic we’ve explored previously on this blog. [34]

Next I wanted to take a look at the -itz toponyms, broken out separately from the -ow toponyms. I also included -etz toponyms on this map (in green) since as we saw with the example of Graz, Austria, whose older German name Gradetz is based on the Slavic name Gradec, there are many cases where the Slavic -ec suffix is transliterated into German as -etz rather than as -itz.

Suffix_itz_etz

German toponyms ending with the -itz suffix (red) and the -etz suffix (green).

The results are not surprising — the -itz toponyms conform almost perfectly to the contours of the Fowler Line — although they are fewer in number than in the previous examples. Likewise, the -etz toponyms form a distinct cluster in northeastern Germany near the Polish border — mostly in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern — just like the -ow toponyms.

Suffix_ingen

German toponyms ending with the -ingen suffix.

Finally, I wanted to look at the -ingen toponym, which is common throughout the upper Rhine Valley and in all of German-speaking Switzerland. In fact, judging by the map, it looks like the toponym is common throughout all of western Germany, and especially so in Baden-Württemberg. We’ll note in passing that Switzerland and Swabia is where the Habsburg dynasty first got their start about a thousand years ago.

Other canonical Slavic suffixes include -gast and -anz [35], as well as those based on the Slavic root grad which means “castle” or “city”. Examples of the later in German would include variants like -grad, -gard or -gart [36]. In all these cases, though, the German maps are too sparsely populated to be of much interest and we’ll pursue specific examples individually in future posts.

Data Sets

The following data sets, generated from Wikidata, were used for this project:

The SPARQL query I used was:

SELECT DISTINCT ?item ?itemLabel ?coord WHERE {
  ?item (wdt:P31/(wdt:P279*)) wd:Q486972;
    wdt:P17 wd:Q183;
    rdfs:label ?itemLabel;
    wdt:P625 ?coord;
  FILTER (lang(?itemLabel) = "de").
  FILTER regex (?itemLabel, "(itz)$").
}

Adjust the final regex as appropriate for the suffix you’re filtering on (e.g., “itz”).

Related Articles

Update – April 15, 2020

Some more supporting imagery recently found on social media:

EVFBFAwWkAA43hG

Update – August 20, 2020

Some more supporting imagery recently found on social media:

Ef2kzqMX0AUcM11

Footnotes

  1. Spoken German differs from spoken Yiddish only in relatively small ways, especially to outsiders who are unfamiliar with either language. The major difference is that German is written using the Roman Latin script whereas Yiddish is written using the Semitic Hebrew script. During the Middle Ages — before the advent of canonical Hochdeutsch, when written literacy was low or non-existent, and at a time when dialectical differences were extreme — the two languages could have been confused easily, especially since most German speakers traveling in Eastern Europe in those days were Jewish merchants.
  2. Slavic people place great emphasis on language and instinctively regard themselves as “the people of the word” (i.e., slovo) — in the sense that they can all generally more-or-less mutually understand one another when speaking. In contrast, to this day the formal, diplomatic name for Germany in the Slavic world is still Němci or Německo — which literally means “the people who cannot speak (correctly)”. While this seems like a snarky little back-handed Euro-insult, it’s actually an important clue about Germany’s true origins and history, and is a topic that we’ll return to in future blog posts.
  3. Image reference: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Administrative-Division-German-Union-1866-10-and-Germany-2009_fig4_254404794
  4. Reference: https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/zombie-borders/
  5. Image reproduced under fair use, original article is available at: https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/zombie-borders/.
  6. Henry the Fowler is a prominent character in Lohengrin, Richard Wagner’s Grail Quest opera. That opera, in turn, inspired King Ludwig II of Bavaria to construct his iconic Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. On a darker note, NSDAP leader Heinrich Himmler believed himself to be the reincarnation of Henry the Fowler, and participated in an occult ceremony on July 2, 1936 at the king’s crypt in Quedlinburg, marking the 1,000-year anniversary of the king’s death.
  7. Image reference: https://www.quora.com/Are-many-East-Germans-descendants-of-the-Slavic-Wends
  8. Image reference: https://www.goodfon.com/wallpaper/michael-schnabl-theresa-steinkellner-portret-makiiazh-retush.html
  9. Reference for Austria DNA: https://www.eupedia.com/forum/threads/32728-My-map-of-haplogroup-R1a-in-Germany-and-Austria; Reference for Slovenian DNA: https://www.eupedia.com/europe/european_y-dna_haplogroups.shtml
  10. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graz
  11. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vindobona
  12. Reference: https://cogniarchae.com/2017/12/21/what-does-aryan-mean/
  13. Image Reference: https://www.dreamstime.com/brandenburg-gate-former-berlin-city-inspired-greek-propylea-hall-doric-columns-quadriga-depicting-victoria-public-domain-image-free-87862471
  14. It’s obvious to any English-speaker that California was settled by the Spanish, as half (or more) of the towns all have Spanish names. It’s much the same situation in Germany — the Slavic city names are literally everywhere, but they’re frequently missed by German- or English-speakers who don’t recognize them for what they are.
  15. Berlin is notoriously located on top of some of the swampiest marshland in all of Europe. [Source] Likewise, Bern, Switzerland is located at the edge of the Seeland swamp system, high in the Alps. [Source]
  16. Old habits die hard and the Americans have continued this time-honored European tradition of placing the capital city, Washington D.C. in this case, literally inside a swamp — Trump take note!
  17. Both Bern and Berlin feature a bear on their city flag. It is, of course, possible that both cities are actually, legitimately named after bears, although the fact that both cities happen to sit on top of dense swampland should raise an eyebrow or two regarding this story. Supposing that the bears really are an intentional misdirection, it’s an interesting choice of animal — bears are well-known as the iconic “totem” animal of Slavic people, it’s almost as if the cites’ origins are still “hiding in plain sight” albeit it in symbols rather than words.
  18. Reference: http://blog.johl.io/blog/2016/05/28/orte/
  19. Why the Slavic suffix -ice maps to the German suffix -tz is as follows — in Romanized Slavic, which is what you have at the western edge of Eastern Europe (i.e., in places near Germany), the symbol “c” transliterates to the Latin digraph “tz“. In Cyrillic Slavic, like what you have in Russia, the symbol “c” maps directly to the Latin “s“. Readers old enough to remember will recall that the Russian spelling for USSR is CCCP.
  20. Image reference, under fair use: http://blog.johl.io/blog/2016/05/28/orte/
  21. Image reference, under fair use: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/-itz
  22. Zittau was probably settled by the Czech Ronovec family sometime in the early 13th century. The name for the city comes from žito, the Slavic word for “rye”. Source: https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BDitava
  23. The name Großdubrau sounds like a German-Slavic mash-up that was originally supposed to mean “large oaks”, as “dub” is the Slavic word for an oak tree. Likewise, I’m guessing that Hohendubrau was originally supposed to mean “high oaks”. The powerful Czech noble family Berka z Dubé (“Baron of Oaks”) used to own a lot of property in this area back in the 13th century — it’s possible that that’s the origin of the cities’ names, or else it’s possible that lots of oak trees just happen to grow in the area.
  24. Quoting from Wikipedia: “The name of the city (Dresden) as well as the names of most of its boroughs and rivers are of Slavic origin.” [Source]
  25. The German name “Leipzig” is derived from the Slavic root lípa, which means “linden tree”. Indeed, the Czech city Česká Lípa (“Czech Linden”) in northern Bohemia is so named to distinguish it from the (German) “Lípa” in Saxony.
  26. German name “Rostock” is from the Slavic roots “roz-tok”, which means the splitting of streams or waters (e.g., a distributary at the mouth of a river). Confusingly, it can also mean a “solution” in the sense of a chemical mixture or solution. There are no fewer than five cities in the Czech Republic named Roztoky, mostly in northern Bohemia: Roztoky u Křivoklátu, Roztoky nad Labem, Roztoky nad Metují, Roztoky u Jilemnice and Roztoky u Semil. There’s also a castle near Prague named Roztoky. Additionally, there’s another Roztoky in Slovakia and four more in Ukraine.
  27. The root “tok” — meaning “stream” or “brook” — also appears in the name of Tokaj, the world-famous East European wine.
  28. The German name “Potsdam” is a corruption of the Slavic terms pod-dub, meaning “beneath the oak tree”. [Source]
  29. Quoting the original German source: “In Gegenden, die bis 1815 zum Kurfürstentum Sachsen (vormals Mark Meißen) gehörten verschwand das stumme -w aus einigen Ortsnamen. Statt -ow wird -o geschrieben: Grabo (bei Wittenberg und bei Jessen), Dubro, Ostro, sowie mehrere Dörfer nördlich von Roßlau. Auch in der Niederlausitz gibt es eine Reihe von Orten mit dieser Schreibweise, beispielsweise Meuro, Sauo oder Horno.” [Source]
  30. Image reference: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map-Prussia-Saxony.png
  31. Image Reference: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lustnau_Evangelische_Kirche_Nordseite_01.JPG.
  32. Stuttgart, as we’ll see below, is another example of a possible Slavic toponym.
  33. Quoting the original German source: “Ursprünglich war Lustnau ein eigenständiges Dorf. Es wurde 1100 erstmals urkundlich unter dem Ortsnamen „Lustnow“ erwähnt.” [Source]
  34. Previous blog entry: The Slavic Rhine.
  35. Konstanz am Bodensee comes to mind, again referring to a possible Slavic presence on the Rhine in ancient times.
  36. Stuttgart in the modern German state of Baden-Württemberg stands out as an obvious example. Again, this area is close to both the Rhine Valley and to the ancient Habsburg dominions.

 

The Cold, Snowy Winter Abode

The name of the Himalayan Mountain Range comes, as one might reasonably expect, from the Sanskrit — himá (हिम) signifying “snow” and ā-laya (आलय) signifying “dwelling” or “abode”. Hence, the Himalaya are the Snowy Abode.

Nanda_devi

Mount Nanda Devi in the Himalayan Mountain Range

However, it was recently pointed out to me — by a gentleman from India no less — that roughly the same etymology works coming from the Slavic as well, provided that we exchange the “H” in Himalaya for a “Z” — Zima-laya. Here, zima is the Slavic word for “cold” or “winter”, and “laya” could be derived from conjugating verbs like lehnout or ležet, which indicate “to lay down” or “to rest” in Slavic. In this case, Zimalaya would work out to something like the Cold Abode or the Wintry Place.

The point of this article is not to argue that the name Himalaya comes from the Slavic. It doesn’t, the name is from the Sanskrit. Rather, I just wanted to add yet another example to the long list of words that are in common, or at the very least, extremely similar between Slavic and Sanskrit.

A brief list of some of these cognates includes the following [1]:

English German Slavic Sanskrit
to ask fragen prosit prachhati (पृच्छति)
to awaken wecken budit budhyate (बुध्यते) [2]
to bake backen péct pacati (पचति)
to be sein být bhavati (भ्वति)
to burn brennen gorit gharati (घरति)
to cough husten kašlat kasate (कासते)
to dawn dämmern svítat svetate (श्वेतते)
to die sterben umirat marati (मरति)
to distribute verteilen vydávat vidhatte (विधत्ते)
to dry trocknen sušit susyati (शुषति)
to fall fallen padat padyate (पद्यते)
to hunt jagen lovit labhate (लभते)
to live leben žít jiv (जीव्)
to praise loben slavit sramyati (श्राम्यति)
to roll around herumrollen valet valate (वलते)
to rotate rotieren vrtat vartate (वर्तते)
to sell verkaufen prodat pradatte (प्रदत्ते)
to stick kleben lepit lepayati (लेपयति)
to swim schwimmen plavat plavate (प्लवते)
to think denken myslet manate (मनति)
to transport transportieren vozit vahati (वहति)

Note that the Slavic variants are all much closer to Sanskrit than the English or German equivalents.

There are also very interesting “near” cognates, where the same word has a complementary albeit slightly different meaning. We’ve already discussed one such example — the Slavic word zima, meaning “cold” or “winter”, being correlated with Sanskrit word hima, meaning “snow”.

Another interesting example is the word smrti, which in Slavic means “death” while in Sanskrit the same word means “memory” or “to remember”. This is interesting in the context of re-incarnation — for example, the ancient Greeks believed that upon death the Soul could suddenly regain full remembrance of all its past lives, and hence stop the cycle of re-incarnation.

1024px-Jupiter,_vermomd_als_herder,_verleidt_Mnemosyne,_godin_van_het_geheugen_Rijksmuseum_SK-A-3886

Upon death in Greek mythology, the Soul could drink remembrance from the
waters of the River Mnemosyne and stop the cycle of reincarnation.

As for the Germans, who persistently insist that they are the “Aryans”, how do toponyms like Kaltplatz or Winterstelle work out insofar as the Himalaya are concerned? These names translate with the identical literal meaning, but they’re not even remotely similar to Himalaya or its analogous Slavic counterpart. 🙂

Footnotes

    1. Source: Russian-Sanskrit Wordlist
    2. Obviously this is likewise a cognate of Buddha, which also indicates “awakened” in Sanskrit. Note that the cognate works well in both Slavic and Sanskrit, but not in English or German.

Aryan Silver

Most people today associate the word “Aryan” with Nazis and swastikas, but what does the word really? Wikipedia speaks at length about how the term is an ethnic “self-designation” for tribes coming out of India, but nowhere do they state what this “self-designation” actually means. [1]

Arjuna-Krishna

The archer Arjuna riding into battle on a horse-drawn chariot alongside Krishna

A good place to start would be in India. Most people trace the word “Aryan” back to the Mahabarta and its hero Arjuna (अर्जुन), whose name means “white”, “clear” or “silver” in Sanskrit. [2] It’s a cognate of the Latin word “argentum” (which also means “silver”), and even of the French word “l’argent” (which again, means “silver”).

So what is the word for “silver” in other Indo-European languages?

If we look at the Brythonic (i.e., “Celtic”) languages of the British Isles, we can quickly understand why the British might fancy themselves to be “Aryans”:

English silver
Irish airgead
Scottish-Gaelic airgead
Welsh arian

The Welsh variant for “silver”, in particular, is very close to the word Aryan. It seems that Sanskrit isn’t the only language where the word for “silver” translates into a local ethnonym.

In some Nordic languages, the word “silver” is quite close to the modern term “Slav”:

English silver
Danish sølv
Norwegian sølv

Does this mean that Nordics might secretly be closet Slavs? 🙂

In the numerous Slavic languages, the word “silver” almost universally reduces to some variant on the root SRB, indicating a Serb or Sorb:

English silver
Belarusian срэбра (srebra)
Bosnian srebro
Bulgarian сребърен (srebŭren)
Croatian stříbro
Czech stříbro
Macedonian сребро (srebro)
Polish srebro
Russian серебро (serebro)
Slovakian striebro
Slovenian srebro
Sorbian (Upper) slěbro
Sorbian (Lower) slobro
Ukranian срібло (sriblo)

How about Mongolian? It’s not an Indo-European language, but let’s see what we get:

English silver
Mongolian мөнгө (mongo)

Are you starting to see the pattern?

In all these Eurasian languages, the racial ethnonym that a group picks for itself is almost universally the local word for “silver” — a tradition that seems to go all the way back to Vedic India, Sanskrit and the Aryans.

310473__3

Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Silver Coin

It’s ironic that most Nordic languages — with the exception of Danish and Norwegian, cited above — break with this rule, especially since the English and Germans are usually the ones most obsessed with trying to prove their “Aryanhood”. It’s also ironic that amongst the Slavic languages, only Serbian breaks this rule — since in all the other Slavic languages the word “silver” reduces to the ethnonym Serb:

English silver
Dutch zilver
German silber
Icelandic silfur
Serbian силвер (silver)
Swedish silver

The Indian Connection

We’re accustomed to speaking loosely about “Indo-European” languages and religions, but the two ethnic groups closest to each other on this axis are, respectively, the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe (on the European side) and North Indians living along the sub-Himalaya (on the Indian side).

A full review of the close similarities between Slavic and Indian culture are beyond the scope of this article, but briefly:

  • Genetics — The R1a genetic marker is found only amongst Slavs of Eastern Europe and high-caste Brahmins in India (and, to a lesser extent, amongst Iranians). [3]
  • Language — The modern Slavic languages are still extremely close to the oldest forms of ancient Sanskrit. [4]
  • Culture – The Slavs of Eastern Europe have lived for centuries (or more) alongside the Gypsies, who are now known to originate from northern India. [5]
  • Toponyms — Eastern Europe and northern India share an astonishing number of place- and river-names in common with each other.
  • History — Slavic chroniclers from the Middle Ages have documented the existence of the Slavic nation in India in ancient times. [6]

6b078331b6860e036400fbea6f021ac6

Frequency distribution map for the R1a “Aryan” genetic marker.

How amazing is it, then, that in Telugu — a regional Dravidian dialectic spoken in south-eastern India — the word for “silver” is “vendi”:

English silver
Telugu వెండి (vendi)

The Veneti were an ancient European race that once occupied most of northern and eastern Europe, including Anatolia and the area surrounding Lake Van, Turkey. They lent their name to Venice, Italy and are known to history under a variety of pseudonyms, including the Venedi, the Vani and the Vandals (who famously sacked Rome in 455 A.D.). To Germans they were known as the Wends, a name still used to refer to Slavs in parts of eastern Germany today.

venetic-origins-cover

Frequency distribution map for the R1a-Z92 genetic clade, associated with the Veneti. [7]

To the ancient Greeks, who did not have a “V” sound their language, the Veneti were known as the “Eneti”. Homer places the Eneti in Paphlagonia (Pontic Anatolia) and claims that they came to the aid of Troy during the Trojan War. [8]

Many scholars believe the Veneti, or Vani, to be the ancestors of modern Slavs. The map above, illustrating distribution of the R1a-Z92 genetic clade, suggests that this isn’t an altogether unreasonable idea. Scholars have speculated that the label “Slovani” — the Slavic ethnonym for themselves (in Slavic) — was coined circa the sixth century A.D. (possibly by Jordanes) to indicate either “Šlo-vani” or “Slo-vani”, meaning, “comes from the Vani” or “word/language of the Vani”, respectively.

Aryan

Colored areas indicate fullest extent of Aryan settlement into India.

Classically, it has been thought that Aryan settlement into India was largely limited to the Indus river valley (in what is today mostly Pakistan), and then later spreading down the Ganges river valley along the Himalayan mountains.

dravidian_lgs

Telugu is a Dravidian dialect spoken mostly in south-eastern India.

Telugu is a Dravidian dialect spoken much further south into the subcontinent than where Aryans are traditionally thought to have settled. Does the “silver-vendi” cognate in Telugu indicate that the Veneti, or the Aryans, or the Slavs, were once settled much further south into India than what is traditionally believed?

Are the Welsh Turkic?

Let’s keep pushing forward and see what the word for  “silver” is in some of the Turkic languages spoken on the vast Russian steppes:

English silver
Kazakh күміс (kümis)
Uzbek kumush

This word is quite close to Cumans, the name of a nomadic Turkic tribe that roamed the Eurasian steppes in ancient times. Pliny the Elder describes a large fortress named Cumania located in Darial Pass, whose purpose was to stop these tribes from transiting south through the Caucasus mountains. [9] The Greek philosopher Strabo refers to Darial Pass as Porta Caucasica or Porta Cumana. [10]

Ivan-Aivazovsky-Handmade-Oil-Painting-Repro-Daryal-Pass-Canvas-Wall-Art-Set-Room-Painting-Designs-Decorative

Darial Gorge by Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky, 1862

The name “Cumans” also reminds me a bit of the Cimmerians, a large nomadic tribe  from the Pontic steppe also mentioned by classical writers. Some Western historians have tried to connect the Cimmerians to the Cimbri — an enigmatic tribe from Jutland that battled with Rome circa 100 B.C. – and from there, to the Welsh:

English Welsh
Scottish-Gaelic Cuimris
Welsh Cymraeg

and also:

English Wales
Scottish-Gaelic A ’Chuimrigh
Welsh Cymru

As you can see, the Welsh ethnonym for themselves, in their own language, is quite similar to the word for “silver” in some of the Turkic languages spoken on the Russian steppes! It’s worth pointing out, though, that most modern linguists regard this as a historical oddity, and derive the Welsh “Cymru” instead from a Brythonic root meaning “compatriot”:

English compatriot
Welsh cydwladwr

To me, the Turkic word for “silver” seems like a slightly better fit, and with a much more interesting backstory, but I don’t know enough about Turkic, or Welsh history to comment much further.

The Nobleman

A final point, in conclusion, is that “Aryan” has often been translated from the Sanskrit as meaning “noble” or “freeman”. This etymology is thoroughly documented, is widely known, and is the one that English and German authors tend to favor — but note that both English and German lack the “silver thread” relating to Aryans that is evident in nearly every other Eurasian language.

I didn’t think the “Aryan-as-noble” etymology was worth giving much attention to here since you can easily find hundreds of other Internet resources discussing it. One interesting point, however, is that in their respective languages, both the word “Frank” — in the Carolingian, King Charlemagne-sense of that word — and the word “Slavic” can trace their etymology back to the concept of being a “noble” or “freeman”. This is noteworthy insofar as King Samo, the first (documented) king of the Slavs, is usually described as being of “Frankish” descent, having been born circa 600 A.D. in what is today Belgium [11] — in this context, however, “Frankish” and “Slavic” could well have the identical meaning, i.e., “of nobility”, or being “noble-born”. [12,13]

Addendum

This post is largely an adaption and editorialization of the article “What Does Aryan Mean?” available on the blog Cogniarchae. More information on this subject can be found at the following link:

Footnotes

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjuna
    3. It’s worth noting that ‘Aryan” is the root of the modern name of Iran.
    4. French linguist Antoine Meillet once stated that anyone who wants to know what ancient Sanskrit sounded like should go talk to a Lithuanian farmer — http://vilnews.com/2011-04-incredible-indian-lithuanian-relations-2
    5. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/genetic-sequencing-traces-gypsies-back-to-ancient-indian-origin/
    6. In the 15th century, Jan Długosz of Poland wrote that: “It is worth noting hereby that the Slavic nation possessed great luck for fortune gave it such splendid lands. For no other lands in the world – save for India – which lands the Slavs possessed, produce more gold, silver, salt, brass, copper and other metals which the human race has learned of and values.” — http://www.jassa.org/?p=12140
    7. Source for the graphic and R1a-Z92 genetic clade — http://venetianambassadors.org/projects/your-venetic-origins/
    8. “The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini” — Homer, The Illiad, Book II.
    9. “Beyond the Sodii are the Gates of Caucasus, which many have very erroneously called Caspise Portae, or the Caspian Gates : a mighty Piece of Nature’s Work, by suddenly cleaving asunder those Mountains, where the Gates were barred up with iron Bars, whilst under the midst thereof, the River Dyriodorus runneth : and on this Side of it standeth a formidable Castle called Cumania, situated upon a Rock, able to arrest the Passage of a very numerous Army; so that in this Place, by means of these Gates, one Part of the World is excluded from the other.” — Pliny the Elder, History of Nature, Book VI
    10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darial_Gorge
    11. Samo’s birth in Belgium suggests the possibility that he may have descended from the Britannic, or Amorican Veneti in what is today northern France.
    12. https://www.etymonline.com/word/frank
    13. Some linguists trace the word “Slav” back to the Slavic root “svoboda” which means “free” or “independent”. The cultural and historical context for this is that Slavs have traditionally regarded themselves as “freeman” in contradistinction to their neighbors, the Germans, who “bent the knee” and became subject to the Roman Empire.

Bronze Age Swastikas

I recently came across an interesting Facebook post about Bronze Age “Celtic” chariots that were discovered near Býči Skála (Bull Rock) in Moravia (modern-day Czech Republic). [1] The chariots are presently kept at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, where the public is free to view specially designed “reconstructions” — the claim is that the originals on which they’re based date to about 6 B.C. or so. [2]

bull-rock

Reconstruction of a Bronze Age chariot discovered near Býči Skála in Moravia, Czech Republic.

Labeling these chariots as “Celtic” — in the modern sense of the word —  is, I think, slightly misleading. The word “Celt” was never used to describe the Insular populations of the British Isles until 1707. [3] My suspicion is that the modern “Celts” of the British Isles are more closely related to the Basques of Spain than they are to Central Europe or Anatolia. Likewise, I suspect that much of what is presently labeled as Bronze Age “Celtic” culture in Central Europe is actually ethnically Slavic — or perhaps more accurately, ethnically Venetic — but I’ll leave a full explanation of that for a future post.

The NSDAP-style swastikas on the reconstructed bronze chariots are certainly interesting. When I was a kid, the going story was that the NSDAP had plagiarized the Buddhist-style swastika (which rotates in the opposite direction) during the 1938 Ahnenerbe expedition to Tibet, and had “inverted” the rotation since they were “evil”. This is, of course, impossible since the NSDAP had been using the swastika logo long before their trip to Tibet — but such is the wizardry concerning anything involving NSDAP history in Western, and especially American sources.

If the reconstructed chariot in the Viennese museum is accurate, it would be evidence of NSDAP-style swastikas in Central Europe dating to pre-Christian times. It would also suggest that if the NSDAP was plagiarizing anybody, it would have been an originally Slavic source (supposing, of course, that the chariots are in fact not “Celtic”).

 Býči Skála in the Křtiny valley in Moravia.

Bull Rock Cave was first explored by a local doctor, Jindřich Wankel, in 1867, although the site had been visited earlier by two European monarchs — first by Holy Roman Emperor Francis II in 1804 and then later by Prince Alois I of Liechtenstein. [4] The bronze chariots were discovered on an archaeological dig in 1872.

Some additional interesting facts:

  • Bull Rock Cave is part of the second-longest cave system in Moravia, running for more than 13 km through the Moravian Karst.
  • In 1920, after water was pumped out, a second cave system named Nová Býčí Skála (“New Bull Rock”) was discovered.
  • Since WWII, additional connecting cave systems have been discovered, including Sobolova, Májová, Prolomená and Proplavaná.

During WWII, the German Army intended to use Bull Rock Cave as a weapons factory, and paved the entrance of the cave under a thick layer of concrete. It would be interesting to excavate this concrete and see what, if anything, lies underneath. [5]

Footnotes

  1. Facebook Group Celtic Dawn.
  2. In other words, since it’s a “reconstruction” we can’t be sure if, or to what extent the museum curators are trying to “reconstruct” history in their own image.
  3. The idea of collectively labeling the Welsh, Scots and Irish as “Celts” was first proposed by the Welsh antiquarian Edward Lhuyd in 1707. Previously these people had been known collectively as Brythonic.
  4. In fact, Prince Alois I is buried nearby in the Mausoleum of Liechtenstein in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Brno-Vranov.
  5. A more in-depth discussion of Bull Rock Cave is available on the blog BalkanCelts.