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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Ancient Balts Outside the Ancestral Home

In the course of my onomastic research within the Scythian-Sarmatian period, it was discovered that some place names in the Pontic steppes, as well as the names of some historical persons, can be deciphered by means of the Baltic languages. It has long been known that the Baltic toponymy is found far beyond the Baltic. However, apparently, it was established among experts that hydronyms belong to more ancient times compared to oikonyms and therefore they limited their research to a large part by hydronyms, giving less importance to the names of settlements. An example of such an approach could be the capital work of Russian scientists searching for Baltic hydronimy in the Upper Dnieper basin (TOPOROV V.N., TRUBACHEV O.N. 1962). This prejudice is contradicted by the well-known fact that some European oikonyms do not have a reliable explanation by means of languages, whose speakers have been living in Europe for several thousand years. Having no decoding, scientists attribute them to Paleo-European. In some cases this is true but often the search for explanations is hindered by established ideas about the ethnic composition of prehistoric Europe.

On this basis, an attempt was made to search for place names of Baltic origin far beyond the ethnic territories of the Balts.

At left: Baltic tribes before the coming of the Teutonic Order (ca. 1200 AD).
(The map from Wikipedia)

The Eastern Balts are shown in brown hues while the Western Balts are shown in green. The boundaries are approximate.

The search was not limited to hydronymy, although it began with the analysis of the data already obtained by other researchers. As it turned out, some of the place names attributed by the authors to the Baltic had clear correspondences on a much larger territory and not only in hydronyms, but also in the names of settlements.

A great help in the work was also provided by modern technologies, especially the mechanism of tips in the GooglMap system and lists of the same geographical names in Wikipedia.

A great help in the work was also provided by modern technologies, especially the mechanism of tips in the GooglMap system and lists of the same geographical names in Wikipedia. Knowing the location of the ancestral home of the Balts, determined by the graphic-analytical method., and its link to certain chronological frames, it was possible to relate the Baltic place names in space and time. On the map drawn up by V. Toporov and O. Trubachev, it can be seen that the Balts left significant traces in hydronymy on their ancestral home. The high density of Baltic hydronyms in the interfluve of the Upper Dnieper and Western Dvina does not correspond to the ancestral home of the Balts but indicates one of the directions of their migration (see map below).

Baltic hydronymics of the Upper Dnieper basin (ibid, Map 3.
The map is supplemented by the border of the ancestral home of the Balts, marked with red dots by the author.

On the map, there are traces of numerous hydronyms, which are absolutely impossible to identify. Only a very small part of them managed to be placed on GooglMap, but this is not a serious drawback for two reasons. First, V. Toporov and O. Trubachev referred many names to the Baltic ones with great doubt. Secondly, the complete etymologization of all small objects is of interest mainly to local ethnographers and can only confirm the conclusions already drawn on the basis of other more reliable data.

Baltic toponymy outside ethnic territories

Baltic toponyms are marked with red dots. The black dots of place names of Kurdish origin mark the migration route of the Balts.

The Google My Maps Map (see above) shows that the place names of the prospective Baltic origin are found on a large area, which can indicate a significant expansion of the Baltic peoples in prehistoric times. However, there is practically no confirmation of the correctness of the interpretation of the place names due to the lack of reliable references to the peculiarities of the terrain, soil, and riverbeds. In addition, despite the deliberate exclusion from consideration of Slavic roots close to Baltic, some of them, preserved in only local dialects and reflected in the place names, can indicate their Slavic origin. In such conditions, a certain system in a location of place names on the terrain provides the necessary assistance. With careful analysis, one can see that some of them form a denser group or chains, which cannot be accidental. Especially expressive is the chain of place names coming from the city of Sumy in Ukraine in the direction of Ciscaucasia. Consider them in order:

Loknya, villages in Sudzha district of Kurs Region and Yakovle district of Belgorod Region, three villages and three rivers in Krolevets, Romny, Hluchiv, and Sumy districts of Sumy Region – Lith. luknė "yellow water-lily" (TRAUTMAMM REINHOLD, 1970: 163). There are several similar hydronyms in the Baltic land – Lith. Luknė, Let. Lukna etc. (TOPOROV V.N., TRUBACHEV O.N. 1962: 193).

Lopan', the tributary of the Udy river in Basin the Seversky Donets Basin – V. Toporov and O. Trubachev confidently link this and similar hydronyms with the Baltic name of the fox (Lith. lapė, Let. lapsa) and give such examples in the Baltic States: Old Prus. Lapaynen, Lith. Lapinas, Let. Lapaina (ibid, 21, 194).

Vilcha, urban-type settlement (uts) in the Volchanskiy district of the Kharkiv Region. – Old Prus. wilkis, Lith. vilkis, Let. vilks "wolf".

Rudivka, villages in Svatovo and Markivk districts of Luhansk Region – names can have Slavic or Anglo-Saxon origin, but preference is given to the Baltic (cf. Lith. "grow/be brown/rusty" "grow/be brown/rusty"), because they are links in the chain of Baltic toponyms.

Mozhayevka, a hamlet in Tarasovskiy district of Rostov Region – Lith. mažai, Let. mazs "small", what has a match in the name of the town of Mažeikiai in Telšiai County, Lithuania.

Sibilev, a hamlet in Kamensk district of Rostov Region – Let. sebris "Let sebris, "a species of fish Vimba vimba" corresponds to Blr sibil (LAUČIUTE J. A. 1982: 148).

Izvarino, a town in Luhansk Rehion – лит. išvara "public pasture".

Yudino, a hamlet in Rodionovo-Nesvetay district of Rostov Region – Lith. judinti "to move, to set in motion." In Russia there are about two dozen settlements with this name, but the Russian language has no corresponding root.

Lopanka, a village in Tselina district of Rostov Region – see Lopan'.

Laba, the left tributary of the Kuban River – Let/ labs "good", labā "in favor".

Achuevo, a village in Slaviansk district of Krasnodar Krai – Let. ačiū "thanks".

Chemburka, a hamlet north of the towm of Anapa on the shore of Lake Chembur – Let. čempoti "to splash on the mud". The lake is known for its therapeutic mud.

Anapa, a town on Black Sea – Lith. anapus "on the other side".

It is possible that in the pre-Scythian time the Balts inhabited the territory between Sumy and Kharkiv, and the Bondarikha culture can be associated with them. The last word in resolving this issue belongs to archaeologists.

Confirmation of the presence of Balts in the Northern Black Sea and Azov Sea coasts can be found in the dark places of works of ancient historians and epigraphs left by participants or witnesses of real events. In this case, the inscriptions on solid materials are, although a meager, but still a more reliable source, for they lack the known bias of historians. For the first time, the Russian scientist V.V. Latyshev collected and published the epigraphy of the Black Sea region. His data were used and supplemented by M. Vasmer, V.P. Petrov, V.I. Abaev, J. Harmatta, A.Alemani, and a number of other specialists. Through their efforts, many of the inscriptions have been convincingly deciphered, but in the published works many of the transcripts are still probabilistic, while others are completely misinterpreted because of the same bias. The bias, in this case, was that a limited number of languages ​​were involved for the decoding of dark places in accordance with the preferences of historians, who, as a rule, ignored the Baltic languages. Replenishment of this shortcoming, together with the use of new knowledge, can to some extent clarify the picture of the days of yore, as can be seen from the explanations given below.

Κυρηακοσ (Kyreakos, the name is found repeatedly in the Northern Black Sea Coast (Andrey Vinogradov. 2015. Cherson. Epitaph of Kyriakos,.. IV–Vth centuries C.E.)) – Lith. kūrėjas «creator».

Μαζισ, Μαζασ, Μαζαια (Madzis, Madzas, female names, according Lucian a.o.) – out of Av. maz- (absent in Ossetian) „great” or to Lith. mažas, Let. mazs „small”?. Judging by the variations of names, they are based on the Baltic word.

Οσμαρακοσ (Osmarakos, a name, identity is not established, Tanaida) – the explanation of Fasmer is doubtful for the name as a "murderer of wife" (Os. osæ «wife» marun „to kill”). Lith. asmuo «a person», ragas «horn» fits better.

Ουσταναοσ (Oustanos, Phanagoreia, IV–Vth century C.E.) – limestone stele with this name in the inscription was discovered in 1962 in the hamlet of Soleny Krasnodar Krai. The translation of the inscription is not straightforward, but on the whole, there is no doubt that Oustanos, the son of Agathos, was the praepostor of the village of Χιμιρισ about the Baltic origin of the name, see below). As usual, it is assumed that the name has an Iranian origin and V. Abaev translated it as "well-built" from OIr. hu-stāna (ABAYEV V.I. 1979: 291). The name of Oustanos is found in Bosporan epigraphy is at least twice and the names of their fathers are always Greek (Andrey Vinogradov. 2015. Phanagoreia. Epitaph of Oustanos, son of Agathos, IV–Vth century C.E.). However, it is illogical to assume that Oustanos, being a Greek by origin and at the same time a praepostor in the village of the Balts, had an Iranian name. On the contrary, a good match of the name can be seen in the derivative *austanos from Lith. austi "to weave" and in the figurative meaning "to fly fast." In this case, we can assume that Oustanos received his nickname from the villagers. And since this name is found repeatedly, the Balts were a significant part of the population of Bosporus.

Παντικάπαιον (Panticapaeon), an ancient Greek city on the place of the city of Kerch, Crimea, Παντικάπης, a river in the Northern Black Sea region – the possibility of the Baltic origin of the name is considered at Old Prus. pintis, pentes "way, path", Lith. kãpas, kãpai "hill, grave" (YAYLENKO V.P. 2017: 70).

Παταικοσ (Pataikoc, name, identity not established, Gorgippia) – V. Abayev connects the name with Os. fætæg "leader" (ABAYEV V.I. 1979: 298), It is unlikely that a simple resident would be called a leader. Rather, the name should be associated with Lith. pataikus "obsequious".

σαπερδησ (saperdes), the name of a kind of fish at the Scythians, according to Hesychius of Alexandria – whom Hesychius understood as "Scythians" in the 5th century AD. is difficult to establish and this word could help to approach the answer to this question, however, a reliable decipherment of the name of fish has not yet been found. The most similar in sounding are the names of fish in the Baltic languages: the one mentioned above sebris, and also given by M. Vasmer Lith. šapalas, Let. sapals "chub", related OInd. saphara "a kind of carp" (VASMER MAX. 1967: 334).

Σαυαγ (Savag, the names of three persons on the monuments of the Taman Peninsula and Panticapaeum (Andrey Vinogradov. 2015. Taman peninsula, Azov sea shore) – the name is connected with Os. saw "black" together with the assumed suffix -ag (ABAYEV V.I.. 1979: 395), but according phonology the Baltic origin of the name is more likely (Lith. sauga «protection», suaugęs "adult").

Τιργαταω (Tirgatao, according Polyaenus, the first wife of the Sindian king Hekataios, IVth sentury) – Let. tirgoties "bargain", tirgotājs «marketeer». The name for the queen is not suitable, but it could be her nickname because of her quarrelsome nature.

Χιμίρις (khimiris, Phanagoreia, IV–Vth century C.E.) – toponym on the stele from the hamlet of Soleny (see. Ουσταναοσ) – Lith. kemeras "eupatorium", čemerys "hellebore". It is significant that the genus of of flowering plants Eupatorium is named for Mithridates Eupator, the Bosporan king.

Ζαβαγ (Zavag, Citea, IV th cebt.) – maybe as Savag) (see).

Around the middle of the first millennium BC Cimmerians-Kurds came to the Taman Peninsula from Asia Minor and settled in the neighborhood of the Balts. The state formation of both peoples of Tmutarakan that emerged here (Lith. temti "to darken", Kurd. tarî "dark", kanî "source, spring") eventually became dependent on the Kiev Rus. A part of the local population by Prince Mstislav Vladimirovich (who died in 1036) was resettled to the Chernihiv principality, in which the settlers played an important role. As the Kurdish place names show, along the path previously laid by the Balts, the Kurds later migrated to Lithuania (see. Cimmerians)

The fact that there are many place names of Baltic origin on Right-Bank Ukraine is no longer news, in particular, this topic is discussed in detail in a solid individual monograph (TRUBACHEV O.N. 1968). Here the Balts can be associated with the creators of the Milograd culture, which supposedly existed in the 7th – 1st centuries BC (LYSENKO S.D. 2012: 271), although its earlier origin is possible. Traces of the movement of the Balts further to the Balkan Peninsula are preserved only in toponymy. In particular, in Romania, one can find place names that may well be attributed to the Baltic. Let's take a look at some of them:

Balta Albă, a commune and village in the county (județ) Buzău – the most convincing Baltic toponym in Romania, since the double name consists of the Baltic and Romanian words having the same meaning "white" (Lith. baltas, Let. balts, Rom. alb). What was the original name, remains to be seen.

Bâlteni, a commune and village in the județ Gorj – possibly both Baltic and Slavic origin of the name (Lith. baltas, Let. balts "white", PSl. bolto "swamp").

Bărăști, settlements in the counties of Albă, Argeș, Buzău, Olt, Suceava – a good phonetic correspondence in Lith. berešt "birch bark", Although the Slavic origin of the names is possible.

Vârleni, a village in the județ Vâlcea – Lith. varlė "frog".

Lemniu, a village in the județ Sălaj , Lemnia, a commune in the județ Covasna – in Lithuania there are several lakes Liminas, hydronyms Lemna and Lemnia – in Russia, Belarus (TOPOROV V.N., TRUBACHEV O.N., 1962: 192). Romanian names come from the Rom. lemn "wood", but this word can be borrowed from some Baltic language. W. Mayer-Lübke refers the Romanian word to Lat lignum "wood" (MAYER-LÜBKE W. 1992: 408), but the phonetically closer Lith liemuo "body", liemenėlis "trunk".

Palanga, villages in Popeşti Commune, Argeş County and in Amărăști Commune, Vâlcea County – in Romania and Moldova there are six settlements called Palanca. They originate out of Rom. (palancă) "wooden stronghold", however, the name Palanga can have a Baltic origin as it has a good match in Lithuania (Palanga, town-resort on the shores of the Baltic Sea).

Suveica, a village in Mureş County – the village of Suviekas in Zarasai District, Lithuania. Cf. Lith. suvaikyti "drive together, round up".

Țuțora, a commune in Iași County, – a good match for the name can be seen in the toponyms of the Baltic States: Lake Čičirys in the north-east of Lithuania near the village of Suveika in Zarasai District Municipality, the river Ciecere, the right tribute of the Venta River in Latvia. There is a village of Tsytsory (Ternopil Region).

In general, the Baltic place names were found in Romania even in a slightly larger number than in the Northern Black Sea and the Azov Sea Regions, but the presence of the Balts in the Balkans was not confirmed either in historical documents or in epigraphy. However, there is indirect evidence of this.

The Bulgarian scientist Duridanov Ivan, having studied the Thracian-Baltic and Dacian-Baltic language connections, found 60 convincing separate lexical correspondences between the Dacian and the Baltic languages and 16 more possible, and between Thracian and Baltic – 52 and 19 respectively. At the same time, there were only 14 common Thracian-Dacian-Baltic correspondences. (DURIDANOW IWAN. 1968: 100). These numbers may seem small, but it should be borne in mind that the vocabulary of the Thracian and Dacian languages ​​has been preserved in very small quantity, so it is not the absolute numbers that are important, but their comparison with the data on the connections of the Thracian and Dacian languages ​​to those close to the Baltic. First of all, we mean the Slavic languages, but no special Dacian-Slavic or Thracian-Slavic ties were found. Estimating the results, Duridanov suggests that the ancestors of the Thracians, Dacians, and Balts lived in close proximity, but where exactly were the places of their settlements remains an open question (ibid).

Taking into account toponymy data, we can assume that the Balts at some time migrated through Ukraine to the territory of Romania, where they came into contact with the Thracians and Dacians. When this could happen, it remains to be seen.