Where did the Swedes come from?



There are numerous geographical studies, archaeological findings, historical accounts and written evidences which confirm much of Scandinavian history.  Most of the written history begins after 600 AD.  The little written evidence of Scandinavian history from 100 BC to about 600 AD comes from contemporary writers of history, like Tacitus and Jordanes.  However, the lack of written history prior to 100 BC does not diminish the provocative past of the Scandinavians.  A reconstruction of the history of these years has been attempted by many scholars.  Most of these attempts come from the interpretation of archaeological finds in view of contemporary European history and culture (Europeanization of history), often disregarding a wider perspective.  Some of these reconstructions contradict one another, do not fit all the facts very well, or are invalidated by new discoveries.  As such, this article should not be considered history strictly in the academic sense.  The conclusions here can be attributed to well studied authors, researchers and historians.  Other information comes from scholarly works, opinion, legend, mythology, professional historiography, and from the analogy of circumstances and evidences too compelling to ignore.

In pursuit of a more accurate evaluation of Scandinavian history, some historical questions will have no easy answers.  For example, who were the Svear and Daner people who lived in the Baltic region (Denmark and southern Sweden) in the BC era?  Who were the Erul people who lived in the Baltic region at the same time?  Were they all kin from Thracian warrior tribes? 

There is strong evidence that Swedish predecessors were migratory Thracians, an aggressive refugee "boat-people" who first came from the ancient city of Troy.  Located in northwest Asia Minor (present-day northwest Turkey), the ruins of Troy were discovered in 1870.  In the period beginning about 2500 BC, Troy was populated by an "invasion of peoples on the sea" according to the Egyptians.  These people were called Thracians by the Greeks, and were early users of ships, iron weapons and horses.  Troy (also called Troi, Toas or Ilium) was known as a center of ancient civilizations.  Its inhabitants became known as Trojans (also Trajans/Thracians, later called Dardanoi by Homer, Phrygians or Anatolians by others), and their language was Thracian or Thraco-Illyrian.  Evidence shows the city of Troy endured years of war, specifically with Greek and Egyptian armies.  The famous Trojan War was fought between the Greeks and Trojans with their allies.  Troy was eventually laid in ruins after 10 years of fighting with the Greeks, traditionally dated from around 1194 to 1184 BC, and is historically referred to as the Fall of Troy.  The city was completely devastated, which is verified by the fact that the city was vacant to about 700 BC.

Thousands of Trojans left Troy immediately after the war, beginning about 1184 BC.  Others remained about 30 to 50 years after the war, when an estimated 30,000 Trojans/Thracians suddenly abandoned the city of Troy, as told by Homer (Greek writer/poet, eighth century BC) and various sources (Etruscan, Merovingian, Roman and later Scandinavian).  The stories corroborate the final days of Troy, and describe how, after the Greeks sacked the city, the remaining Trojans eventually emigrated.  Over half of them went up the Danube river and crossed over into Italy, establishing the Etruscan culture—the dominating influence on the development of Rome—and later battled the Romans for regional dominance.  The remaining Trojans, mainly chieftains and warriors, about 12,000 in all, went north across the Black Sea into the Mare Moetis or "shallow sea" where the Don River ends (Caucasus region in southern Russia), and established a kingdom called Sicambria about 1150 BC.  The Romans would later refer to the inhabitants as Sicambrians.  The locals (nomadic Scythians) named these Trojan conquerors the "Iron people", or the Aes in their language.  The Aes (also As, Asa, Asen, Aesar, Aesir, Aesire, Æsir or Asir) soon built their famous fortified city Aesgard or Asgard, described as "Troy in the north."  Various other sources collaborate this, stating the Trojans landed on the eastern shores with their superior weaponry, and claimed land.  The area became known as Asaland (Land of the Aesir) or Asaheim (Home of the Aesir).  Some historians suggest that Odin, who was later worshipped as a god by pagan Vikings, was actually a Thracian/Aesir leader who reigned in the Sicambrian kingdom and lived in the city of Asgard in the first century BC.  He appointed chieftains after the pattern of Troy, establishing rulers to administer the laws of the land, and he drew up a code of law like that in Troy and to which the Trojans had been accustomed.

Historians refer to the Aesir people as the Thraco-Cimmerians, since the Trojans were of Thracian ancestry (click here for Thracian origins).  The Cimmerians were an ancient people who lived among Thracians, and were eventually absorbed into Thracian culture.  Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus noted about 440 BC that the Thracians were the second most numerous people in the world, outnumbered only by the (East) Indians, and that the Thracian homeland was huge.  The Thracian homelands included the Ukrainian steppes and much of the Caucasus region.  According to Flavius Josephus, Jewish & Roman historian in the 1st century AD, the descendants of Noah's grandson Tiras were called Tirasians.  They were known to the Romans as Thirasians.  The Greeks called them Thracians and later Trajans, the original people of the city of Troas (Troy), whom they feared as marauding pirates.  History attests that they were indeed a most savage race, given over to a perpetual state of "tipsy excess", as one historian put it.  They are also described as a "ruddy and blue-eyed people".  World Book Encyclopedia states they were "...savage Indo-Europeans, who liked warfare and looting."  Russian historian Nicholas L. Chirovsky describes the arrival of the Thracians, and how they soon dominated the lands along the eastern shores of the river Don.  These people were called Aes locally, according to Chirovsky, and later the Aesir (plural).

Evidence that the Aesir (Iron people) were Trojan refugees can be confirmed from local and later Roman historical sources, including the fact that the inner part of the Black Sea was renamed from the Mare Maeotis to the "Iron Sea" or "Sea of Aesov", in the local tongue.  The name remains today as the Sea of Azov, an inland sea in southern European Russia, connected with the Black Sea.  The Aesir were known for their fighting with iron weapons.  They were feared for their warships, as well as their ferocity in battle, and thus quickly dominated the northern trades, using the Don river as their main route for trading. 

The Aesir people dominated the area around the Sea of Azov for nearly 1000 years, though the surrounding areas to the north and east were known as the lands of the Scythians.  The Aesir fought with the Scythians for regional dominance, but eventually made peace.  They established trade with the Scythians, and even strong cultural ties, becoming united in religion and law.  The Aesir began trading far to the north as well. 

The land far north was first described about 330 BC by the Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia.  He called the region "Thule", which was described as the outermost of all countries, probably part of the Norwegian coast, where the summer nights were very short.  Pytheas translated Thule as "the place where the Sun goes to rest", which comes from the Germanic root word "Dhul-" meaning "to stop in a place, to take a rest."  Pytheas described the people as barbarians (Germanic/Teutonic tribes) having an agricultural lifestyle, using barns and threshing their grains.  These people had already established trade with the Aesir who later began migrating north around 90 BC from the Caucasus region, during the time of Roman expansion in Europe.  The Germanic/Teutonic tribes first made a name for themselves about 100 BC after aggressively fighting against the Romans.  Not much is known about the Germanic tribes prior to this.  When writing the "Gallic Wars", Julius Caesar described encounters with those Germanic peoples and distinguishes them from the Celts.  During this time period, many Germanic tribes were migrating out of Scandinavia to Germany and the Baltic region, placing continuous stress on Roman defenses. 

Migrating groups were normally smaller groups of different people or tribes, often following a strong leader.  The "nationality" of the leaders would usually appear as the nationality of the migrating group, until later when the group was separated again.  The migrations could take place over several decades, and often when the Germanic tribes were mentioned in the written sources, the Romans had only met raiding groups occupying warriors or mercenaries operating far away from their people.

Around the same time, about 90 BC, the Aesir began their exodus from the Black Sea/Caucasus region.  Their arrival at the Baltic Sea in Scandinavia has been supported by several scholars and modern archaeological evidence.  As told by Snorri Sturluson (a 13th century Nordic historiographer) and confirmed by other data, the Aesir felt compelled to leave their land to escape Roman invasions by Pompeius, and local tribal wars.  Known as Thracian warrior tribes, the aggressive Indo-European nomadic Aesir came north, moving across Europe, bringing all their weapons and belongings in their boats on the rivers of Europe, in successive stages.  Historians note that Odin, who was a very popular Thracian ruler, led a migration about 70 BC with thousands of followers from the Black Sea region to Scandinavia.  It is also told that another Thracian tribe came along with them, a people called the Vanir or Vaner.  Odin's first established settlement became known as Odense (Odin's Sanctuary or Odin's Shrine), inspiring religious pilgrimages to the city through the Middle Ages.  These tribes first settled in present-day Denmark, and then created a power-center in what is now southern Sweden.  About 800 years later during the Viking era, Odin, the Aesir and Vanir had become gods, and Asgard/Troy was the home of those gods—the foundation for Viking religion.  The Aesir warrior gods, and the religious deities of Odin and Thor, were an integral part of the warlike nature of the Vikings, even leading them back down the waterways of Europe to their tribal origins along the Black Sea and Asia Minor. 

Aesir became the Old Norse word for the divine (also, the Old Teutonic word "Ase" was a common word for "god"), and "Asmegir" was the Icelandic term for "god maker"—a human soul on its way to becoming divine in the course of evolution.  The Vanir represented fertility and peace gods.  Not unlike Greeks and Romans, the Scandinavians also deified their ancestors.  The Egyptians adopted the practice of deifying their kings, just as the Babylonians had deified Nimrod.  The same practice of ancestor worship was passed on to the Greeks and Romans and to all the pagan world, until it was subdued by Christianity.

Snorri Sturluson wrote the Prose Edda (Norse history and myths) about 1223 AD, where he made an interesting comparison with the Viking Aesir gods to the people in Asia Minor (Caucasus region), particular to the Trojan royal family (considered mythological by most historians today, regrettably).  The Prose Edda is one of the first attempts to devise a rational explanation for mythological and legendary events of the Scandinavians.  Unfortunately, many historians acknowledge only what academia accepts as history, often ignoring material that might be relevant.  For example, Snorri wrote that the Aesir had come from Asia Minor, and he compared the Ragnarok (Norse version of the first doom of the gods and men) with the fall of Troy.  Sturluson noted that Asgard, home of the gods, was also called Troy.  Although Snorri was a Christian, he treated the ancient religion with great respect.  Snorri was writing at the time when all of Scandinavia (including Iceland) had converted to Christianity by 11th century, and he was well aware of classical Greek and Roman mythology.  Stories of Troy had been known from antiquity in many cultures.  The Trojan War was the greatest conflict in Greek mythology, a war that was to influence people in literature and arts for centuries.  Snorri mentioned God and the Creation, Adam and Eve, as well as Noah and the flood.  He also compared a few of the Norse gods to the heroes at the Trojan War. 

The Aesir/Asir were divided into several groups that in successive stages emigrated to their new Scandinavian homeland.  Entering the Baltic Sea, they sailed north to the Scandinavian shores, only to meet stubborn Germanic tribes, who had been fighting the Romans.  The prominent Germanic tribes in the region were the Gutar, also known as the Guta, Gutans, Gotarne or Goths by Romans.  These Germanic tribes were already known to the Aesir, as trade in the Baltic areas was well established prior to 100 BC.  The immigrating Aesir had many clans and tribes, and one prominent tribe that traveled along with them were the Vanir (the Vanir later became known as the Danir/Daner, and subsequently the Danes, who settled in what is now present-day Denmark).  However, the most prominent clan to travel with the Asir were the Eril warriors or the "Erilar", meaning "wild warriors".  The Asir sent Erilar north as seafaring warriors to secure land and establish trade (these warriors were called "Earls" in later Scandinavian society).  The clans of Erilar (also called Jarlar, Eruls or Heruls by Romans, and Eruloi or Elouroi by Greek historian Dexippos) enabled the Asir clans (later called Svi, Sviar, Svea, Svear or Svioner by Romans) to establish settlements throughout the region, but not without continuous battles with the Goths and other migrating Germanic tribes.  The Eruls/Heruls eventually made peace with the Goths who ruled the region.  The tribes of Svear, Vanir, and Heruls soon formed their own clans and dominated the Baltic/Scandinavian region.  The Gothic historian Jordanes (or Jordanis), who was a notary of Gothic kings, told in about 551 AD that the Daner were from the same stock as the Svear, both taller and fairer than any other peoples of the North.  He called the Svear, "Sve'han".

The Svear population flourished, and with the Heruls and Goths, formed a powerful military alliance of well-known seafarers.  The Svear and Heruls then gradually returned to their ancestral land, beginning in the 2nd century AD, building a fleet of 500 sailing ships.  Sometimes sailing with the Goths, they terrorized all of the lands and peoples of the Black Sea and parts of the Mediterranean, even the Romans.  They were the pre-Vikings.  In the 3rd century (267 AD) the Heruls controlled all of the Roman-occupied Black Sea and parts of the eastern Mediterranean.  There are several accounts about how the Herul warriors returned to ravage the shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, alone and together with the Goths.  The Romans noted that "the Heruls, a Scandinavian people, together with the Goths, were, from the 3rd century AD, ravaging the Black Sea, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean."  While the the Romans called the Scandinavian region "Thule" (after Pytheas), the Greeks called it "Scandia" (from ancient times), and others called the area "Scandza".  The term Scandia comes from the descendants of Ashkenaz (grandson of Noah in the Bible).  Known as the Askaeni, they were the first peoples to migrate to northern Europe, naming the land Ascania after themselves.  Latin writers and Greeks called the land Scandza or Scandia (now Scandinavia).  Germanic tribes, such as the Teutons and Goths, are considered the descended tribes of the Askaeni and their first settlements.

The first time Thule (Scandinavia) was mentioned in Roman written documents was in the 1st century (79 AD) by the Roman citizen Plinius senior.  He wrote about an island peninsula in the north populated by "Sviar", "Sveonerna" or "Svearnas" people, also called "Sveons", "Svianar", "Svetidi" or "Suetidi" by others.  Later in 98 AD the learned civil servant Cornelius Tacitus wrote about northern Europe.  Tacitus writes in the Latin book Germania about tribes of "Sviones" or "Suiones" (Latin Sviones was derived from Sviar) in Scandinavia, who live off the ocean, sailing in large fleets of boats with a prow at either end, no sail, using paddles, and strong, loyal, well-armed men with spikes in their helmets.  They drove both the Goths and Lapps out of Scandinavia.  Archaeological finds have provided a vivid record of the evolution of their longships from about the 4th century BC.  Tacitus further wrote, "And thereafter, out in the ocean comes Sviones (also "Svionernas" or "Svioner") people, which are mighty not only in manpower and weaponry but also by its fleets".  He also mentions that "the land of Svionerna is at the end of the world."  In the 2nd century (about 120 AD) the first map was created where Scandinavia (Baltic region) could be viewed.  Greek-Egyptian astronomer and geographer Ptolemaios (Ptolemy of Alexandria) created the map, and at the same time wrote a geography where he identified several different people groups, including the "Gotarne", "Heruls", "Sviar" and "Finnar" who lived on peninsula islands called "Scandiai".  During the Roman Iron Age (1-400 AD), evidences are convincing for a large Baltic seafaring culture in what is now Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Estonia.

Many clans of Aesir and Germanic peoples were united by settlements.  For example, the Aesir clan Suevi (also Suebi) settled among Germanic peoples in a region called Swabia (named after themselves), which is now southwest Germany.  Those clans became known as the Alemanni, first mentioned about 213 AD after attacking the Romans.  Called Suevic tribes by historians, they formed an alliance for mutual protection against other Germanic tribes and the Romans, and retained their tribal designation until the late Middle Ages. 

By the 5th century, the Aesir Heruls were in great demand as soldiers in the Roman Imperial Guards.  The Romans were impressed with the war-like Heruls, and recruited them to fight in the Roman Army.  Herul factions were making settlements throughout Europe, fighting and battling everywhere they went.  In the late 5th century, the Heruls formed a state in upper Hungary under the Roman ruler Cæsar Anastasius (491-518 AD).  Later they attacked the Lombards, but were beaten, according to Greek-Roman author Prokopios (born at the end of the 5th century).  He was a lawyer in Constantinople and from the year 527 private secretary to the Byzantine military commander Belisarius on his campaigns against the Ostrogoths.  Prokopios says by the early 6th century (about 505), the remaining Heruls in upper Hungary were forced to leave.  Some of them crossed the Danube into Roman territory, where Anastasius allowed them to settle.  Historians mention that remaining clans of Heruls sailed northwards, back to Thule to reunite with their Svear brethren.  Prokopios noted that there were 13 populous tribes in Thule (the Scandinavian peninsula), each with its own king.  He said, "A populous tribe among them was the Goths, next to where the returning Heruls settled".  Prokopios also mentions that "the Heruls sent some of their most distinguished men to the island Thule in order to find and if possible bring back a man of royal blood.  When they came to the island they found many of royal blood." 

Evidence of their existence during this time period can be found on the frequent appearance of runic inscriptions with the name ErilaR "the Herul".  While it is thought that the ancient Scandinavian alphabet, called futhork or runes, is of Latin origin, the evidence suggests that it was used far to the northeast of Rome where Roman influence did not reach.  The runes are a corruption of an old Greek alphabet, used by Trojans along the northwest coast of the Black Sea.  From examples of Etruscan, Greek, and early Roman scripts, it is not difficult to see that earlier runes resemble archaic Greek and Etruscan rather than Latin.  The Heruls used runes in the same way their ancestors did, which have been discovered throughout Europe and Scandinavia.  Scandinavian sagas tell us that the Scandinavian languages began when men from central Asia settled in the north.  Sometime after 1300 AD the runes were adjusted to the Roman alphabet. 

The Heruls brought with them a few Roman customs, one being the Julian calendar, which is known to have been introduced to Scandinavia at this time, the early 6th century AD.  When the Heruls returned to join again with the Svear in Scandinavia, the Svear state with its powerful kings suddenly emerges.  Their ancestors were the warring bands of Aesir (sometimes called Eastmen) who became known as the Svear or Suines.  They became the dominant power and waged war with the Goths, winning rule over them.  By the middle of the 6th century, the first all-Swedish kings emerged.  This royal dynasty became immensely powerful and dominated not only Sweden but also neighboring countries.  Gothic historian Jordanes writes of the Suines or Suehans (Sve'han) of Scandinavia, with fine horses, rich apparel and trading in furs around 650 AD.  The Swedish nation has its roots in these different kingdoms, created when the king of the Svenonians (Svears) assumed kingship over the Goths.  The word Sweden comes from the Svenonians, as Sverige or Svearike means "the realm of the Svenonians".  The English form of the name is probably derived from an old Germanic form, Svetheod, meaning the Swedish people. 

By the 7th century, the Svear and Goth populations dominated the areas of what is now Sweden, Denmark and Norway.  However, the term Norway came later.  Latin text from around 840 AD called the area Noruagia, and Old English text from around 880 AD used Norweg.  The oldest Nordic spelling was Nuruiak, written in runes on a Danish stone from around 980 AD.  The Old Norse (Old Scandinavian) spelling became Nordvegr, meaning "the country in the north" or "the way to the north", and the people were called Nordes.  All of the names were given by people south of Norway to signify a place far to the north.  The people of Norway now call themselves Nynorsk, a name decided by linguists in the 1880s.  The name Denmark originated from the people called the Vanir (or Vaner) who settled the region with the Aesir in the first century BC.  The Vanir were later called Danir (or Daner), and eventually Danes.  By the 9th century AD, the name Danmark (Dan-mörk, "border district of the Danes") was used for the first time.  In Old Norse, mörk meant a "forest," and forests commonly formed the boundaries of tribes.  In Modern Danish, mark means a "field," "plain," or "open country."   Hence, Denmark once meant  literally "forest of the Danes."  During this period, their language Dönsk tunga (Danish tongue) was spoken throughout northern Europe, and would later be called Old Norse or Old Scandinavian during the Viking period.  Old Norse was spoken by the people in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and parts of Germany.

The ancestor of all modern Scandinavian languages, beginning with the Germanic form, was developed from the languages of the Aesir (Thracian tribes) and Goths (Germanic tribes).  When the Aesir integrated with the people of the lands, their families became so numerous in Scandinavia and Germany that their language became the language of all the people in that region.  The linguistic and archaeological data seem to indicate that the final linguistic stage of the Germanic languages took place in an area which has been located approximately in southern Sweden, southern Norway, Denmark and the lower Elbe river which empties into the North Sea on the northwest coast of Germany.  The Germanic tribes began arriving in the area about 1000 BC.  Later, the Aesir brought their language to the north of the world, to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.  The future rulers of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland trace their names and genealogies back to the Aesir.  The most ancient inscriptions in Old Norse/Scandinavian are from the 3rd and 5th century centuries AD, with other inscriptions dating up to the 12th century.  They were short signs written in the futhork runic alphabet, which had 24 letters (though many variations were used throughout the region).  By the end of the Viking era (11th century AD), the Old Norse language dialect varieties grew stronger until two separate languages appeared, Western Scandinavian, the ancestor of Norwegian and Icelandic, and Eastern Scandinavian, the the ancestor of Swedish and Danish.  Many Old Norse words were borrowed by English, and even the Russian language, due to expansion by Vikings.

The next Svear conquests began in the early 8th century.  By 739 AD the Svear and Goths dominated the Russian waterways, and together they were called Varyagans or Varangians, according to written records of the Slavs near the Sea of Azov.  Like their ancestors, the Svear lived in large communities where their chiefs would send out maritime warriors to trade and plunder.  Those fierce warriors were called the Vaeringar, which meant literally "men who offer their service to another master".  We later know them by their popularized name, the Vikings.  Thus began the era known as the Viking Age, 750-1066 AD.  They often navigated the Elbe river, one of the major waterways of central Europe.  Their ships were the best in all of Europe—sleek, durable and could travel by both sail or oars.  To the east of the Elbe they were known as Varangians, and west of the Elbe they were called Vikings.  Many called them Norse or Northmen—those from the Scandinavian countries, which consisted of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.  Once again the Svear began returning to the places of their Thracian ancestors in the Caucasus region, sailing rivers which stretched deep into Russia, establishing trading stations and principalities.  Other Vikings raided the British Isles and western Europe, as noted in this Old English prayer:  "A furore Normannorum libra nos, Domine" (From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, Oh Lord).  

Vikings never called themselves Vikings.  Unlike Varangian, the term Viking probably originated from Frankish chroniclers who first called them "Vikverjar" (travelers by sea), Nordic invaders who attacked the city of Nantes (in present-day France) in 843 AD.  The word "vik" meant bay or fjord in Old Norse, and later meant "one who came out from or frequented inlets to the sea".  Viking and Varangian eventually became synonymous, meaning "someone who travels or is passing through," whether merchant, mercenary, or marauder.  Their activities consisted of trading, plundering and making temporary settlements (see Viking Routes).  Finnish peoples referred to the Swedish voyagers as Ruotsi, Rotsi or Rus in contrast with Slavic peoples, which was derived from the name of the Swedish maritime district in Uppland, called "Roslagen", and its inhabitants, known as "Rodskarlar".  Rodskarlar or Rothskarlar meant "rowers" or "seamen".  Those Swedish conquerors settled in eastern Europe, adopted the names of local tribes, integrated with the Slavs, and eventually the word "Rusi", "Rhos" or "Rus" came to refer to the inhabitants.  The Arab writer Ibn Dustah wrote that Swedish Vikings were brave and valiant, utterly plundering and vanquishing all people they came against.  Later, the Arabic diplomat Ibn Fadlan, while visiting Bulgar (Bulgaria) during the summer of 922 AD, saw the Swedish Vikings (Rus) arrive, and he wrote:  "Never before have I seen people of more perfect physique; they were tall like palm trees, blonde, with a few of them red.  They do not wear any jackets or kaftaner (robes), the men instead wear dress which covers one side of the body but leaves one hand free.  Every one of them brings with him an ax, a sword and a knife."  Their descriptions mirror the physique, dress and armor of Trojan warriors—the Viking ancestors.  The various ancestors of the Vikings included the Thracian tribes (Asir) and the Germanic tribes (Goths).

The Vikings included many tribes and kingdoms from around the Baltic Sea, including the Svear from Sweden, the Norde from Norway, the Danes from Denmark, the Jutes from Juteland (now part of Denmark), the Goths from Gotland (now part of Sweden), the Alands from Åland (now part of Finland), the Finns from Finland, and others.  The Svear Vikings traveled primarily east to the Mediterranean (what is now Russia and Turkey), where they had been returning regularly since leaving the region 900 years earlier.  Subsequent Viking raids and expeditions covered areas deep into Russia, the Middle East, Europe and America, ending in the 11th century (about 1066 AD) after the introduction of Christianity around the year 1000 AD.  The kingships and provinces of Sweden then combined to form one country.  The dominant king during the Viking age was from the Erik family of Uppsala.  One of the first Swedish monarchs in recorded history was Olof Skotkonung, a descendant of the Erik family.  Olof and his descendants ruled Sweden from about 995 to 1060.  Sweden's first archbishop arrived in the 12th century (1164).

Sweden's expansion continued during the 12th and 13th centuries through the incorporation of Finland into the Swedish kingdom after several crusades, promoted by the Catholic church.  There was a struggle for power between the Sverker and Erik families, which held the crown alternately between 1160 and 1250.  However, during this period the main administrative units were still the provinces, each of which had its own assembly, lawmen and laws.  It was first during the latter part of the 13th century AD that the crown gained a greater measure of influence and was able, with the introduction of royal castles and provincial administration, to assert the authority of the central government and to impose laws and ordinances valid for the whole kingdom.  In 1280 King Magnus Ladulås (1275 - 1290) issued a statute which involved the establishment of a temporal nobility and the organization of society on the feudal model.  A council containing representatives of the aristocracy and the Catholic church was set up to advise the king.  In 1350, during the reign of Magnus Eriksson (1319 - 1364), the various provincial law codes were superseded by a law code that was valid for the whole country, and Finland became part of the Swedish kingdom.

In 1389, through inheritance and family ties, the crowns of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were united under the rule of the Danish Queen Margareta.  In 1397, the union of the three Scandinavian countries concluded under her leadership lasting 124 years. The whole union period, 1397 - 1521, was marked by conflict, and provoked a rebellion which in 1521 led to the seizure of power by a Swedish nobleman, Gustav Vasa, who was elected king of Sweden in 1523.  The foundations of the Swedish national state were laid during the reign of Gustav Vasa (1523 - 1560).  The position of the crown was strengthened further in 1544 when a hereditary monarchy was introduced.  Before that time the country had been an elective monarchy, and the aristocracy had been able to assert itself every time the throne fell vacant.  The church was turned into a national institution, its estates were confiscated by the state and the Protestant Reformation was introduced in several stages.

Thracians:  Ancestors of the Swedes


The origins of the Thracians, and thus the Swedes, can be traced back to secular and biblical history.  Chapters 9 and 10 of Genesis describe how the nations developed from Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Recorded history continually verifies the biblical account of the spread of nations.

The Genesis account, as a historical document, is fully corroborated by an overwhelming richness of documentary and other historical evidence so vast that it is unique in recorded history.  No other manuscript enjoys such a wealth of detailed corroboration from such a wide-ranging variety of sources.  The Indo-European peoples were all too aware of their historic and ethnic descent from the line of Japheth, Noah's 3rd son.  These peoples, through carefully preserved records, could trace their lineage and race back to the time of Babel and the dispersal of the nations from the plain of Shinar.  Noah's flood is generally agreed to have occurred about 3400 BC (see Setterfield's chronology), and from here we find the beginnings of nations and empires (Egypt, Persia, Greek, etc).  The evidence is striking from those early post-Flood nations of the Mesopotamian valley, who had direct contact with one another, and who preserved in written records those names that are explicitly mentioned in the Genesis record.

The records that have come down to us lend their weight to the already vast body of documentary evidence that can only convince us that the Genesis record is a true and faithful historical account of the early history of mankind.  What is remarkable about these records is that they mostly come from ancient historians and writers of various nationalities who had not the least intention, either consciously or otherwise, of lending support to the Genesis record.  Most of them were nurtured within pagan systems that were openly antagonistic to the knowledge of God, and who had labored over many centuries to darken, if not totally erase that knowledge altogether.  Their verification is therefore all the more valuable.

Thracian WarriorJapheth is considered the father of Indo-European people groups (several royal European genealogies confirm this).  Japheth's 7th son, Tiras, was the progenitor of the Tiracians.  Historians note they probably first settled in the area of Asia Minor (present day Turkey) about 2,500 BC.  The transfer of words through nations and languages is prevalent in every people group.  Merenptah of Egypt, who reigned during the 13th century BC, provides us with what is so far our earliest reference to the people of Tiras, recording their name as the Tursha (or Tarusha), and referring to them as invaders from the north.  Herodotus (425 BC Greek historian) wrote:  "The Thracian people are the most numerous of the world; the Thracians have several names, according to their specific regions, but their habits are more or less the same...and only their chronic disunity prevented them from being the most powerful of all nations."

History attests that they were indeed a most savage race, given over to a perpetual state of "tipsy excess".  They are also described as a "ruddy and blue-eyed, people", fighting with their own tribal factions.  In the 3rd century BC, the Thracians were noted as having numerous tribes that rarely united, most having their own kings.  Thracian dress was well known.  Several descriptions were given, including illustrations on Greek vase paintings.  Basic dress was tunic, cloak, cap and boots.  After the Greek victory over the Persians (449 BC), the Persian king Xerxes (486-465 BC) established for himself a large army among whose soldiers Herodotus mentions Thracians from northwest Asia Minor, who are described as follows:

"The Thracians joined the expedition wearing fox caps, wearing long coats under their vivid colored capes. Their calf-high footwear was made of deerskin. They were equipped with spears, light shields and small daggers."
Josephus (1st century AD Jewish & Roman historian) identifies them as the tribes who were known to the Romans as Thirasians, and to the Greeks as Thracians, whom they feared as marauding pirates.  Dio Cassius, Roman historian in the 2nd century AD, wrote "let us not forget that a Trajan was a true-born Thracian."

Tiras himself was worshipped by his descendants as Thuras (Thor), the god of war.  The river Athyras was also named after him, and the ancient city of Troas (Troi, Troy?the Trajans or Trojans) perpetuates his name, as also does the Taunrus mountain range.  Thracian lands stretched from southwestern Europe to Asia Minor, a vast area historically known as Thracia.  The historical Thracian genealogical tree counts over 200 tribes which had several names, according to their specific regions.  Some of their tribal names were Trajans, Etruscans, Dacians, Luwians, Ramantes, Pelasgians, Besins, Odrisi, Serdoi, Maidoi and Dentheletoi.  The Trajans (Trojans) founded the city of Troy which existed over 3,000 years (about 2500 BC to 500 AD), which was destroyed and rebuilt several times.  Thousands of Trojan warriors left the city of Troy during the 11th century BC.  They came north and captured land along the banks of the river Don (southwestern Russia), a major trade route.  The locals named the Trojan conquerors the "Aes", meaning "Iron People", for their superior weaponry.  The tribes of Trojan Aes would eventually move north, settling in present-day Scandinavia.  The Aes or Aesar (plural), subsequently became known as the Svear, and then Swedes.  Historians refer to the Aes people as "Thraco-Cimmerians" due to their Trojan ancestry.  Other tribes of Thracians remained a culture in Asia Minor and southern Europe until the 5th century AD.  Many present-day Bulgarians claim to be direct descendants of ancient Thracians (different from the Slavs who arrived that region in the 6th century AD).

The name Tiras perpetuated through different languages, as in this list of names from Noah to the present-day Swedes.

1. Noah
   2. Japheth
      3. Tiras
         4. Tarusha
            5. Thirasian
               6. Thracian
                  7. Troi
                     8. Trojan
                        9. Aes
                           10. Aesar
                               11. Svear
                                   12. Svenonian
                                       13. Sverige
                                           14. Swede
<---------------------4,000+ years--------------------->

Japheth's first born son was Gomer.  Gomer is perpetuated through the names of Gamir, Gimmer, Gomeria, Gotarna and Goth.  The tribes of Gomer are mentioned by the Jews in the 7th century BC as the tribes that dwelt in the "uppermost parts of the north".   The Assyrians in the 7th century referred to them as the Gimirraya.  Other names used throughout history include Gimmerai, Crimea, Chomari, Cimmer, Cimmerian.  Cimmerians populated areas of the north of the Caucasus & Black Sea in southern Russia.  Linguistically they are usually regarded as Thracian, which suggests a close relationship.  "Thraco-Cimmerian" remains of the 8th-7th century BC found in the southwestern Ukraine and in central Europe are associated with the Aes people.

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Pour les articles homonymes?, voir Thrace (homonymie).
Cavalier Thrace.
Cavalier Thrace.

Les Thraces étaient un peuple indo-européen (thraco-illyrien) dont les membres partageaient un ensemble de croyances, un mode de vie et parlaient la même langue avec des variations et dialectes. Leur civilisation, encore mal connue, s'est épanouie du III° millénaire au III° siècle av. J-C. Leur culture, orale, faite de légendes et de mythes se différencie de celle des autres peuples de ce temps par la croyance en l'immortalité "orphisme thrace" rapporté par Hérodote

Les Thraces vécurent sur un vaste territoire européen entre la mer Noire (le pont Euxin) à l'est, la rivière Strouma (Strymon) à l'ouest, les Carpates (Carpathes) septendrionales au nord (Daces), la mer Egée au sud, ainsi que dans le sud-ouest de l'Asie mineure (Phrygiens). Mais ils avaient leurs origines en Asie centrale (Bactres, Massagètes). Ils s'étendirent au cours de l'histoire sur les régions suivantes :

Roumanie, Moldavie, Bulgarie, nord-est de la Grèce, Yougoslavie, Turquie (partie européenne et Asie Mineure occidentale), Autriche, Hongrie, Allemagne, Tchécoslovaquie, Pologne, Ukraine (jusqu'au Dniepr), Volga inférieure et Tadjikistan.

En général, on admet que les Thraces du sud du Danube étaient plutôt composés de plusieurs tribus et que ceux du nord ont pu créer en Dacie un état puissant et une civilisation propre partageant les mêmes langue et coutumes, qui fut pendant plus d'un siècle le plus important ennemi de l'Empire romain (en alliance avec les Goths, tribus germaniques et autres).



Histoire des Thraces [modifier]

Origines [modifier]

Les avis des historiens diffèrent à propos de la date d'arrivée des Thraces. Une première hypothèse considère que les Thraces sont présents dans la région des Balkans plus de 5000 ans avant JC. Il n'y aurait alors pas eu de réelle rupture depuis le néolithique chez ce peuple. Leur société se serait complexifiée au fur et à mesure.
La seconde hypothèse veut que les Thraces ne soient venus des steppes ukrainiennes que vers le début du IIe millénaire av. J.-C.


Époque Mycénienne [modifier]

Un trésor d'or Thrace provenant de Panagyurishte, Bulgarie.
Un trésor d'or Thrace provenant de Panagyurishte, Bulgarie.

C'est l'époque des rois anonymes décrits par Homère dans l'Iliade. Dés le III° millénaire av.J-C les Thraces, l'un des peuples indo-européens les plus anciens d'après les linguistes présentent une société très hiérarchisée gérée par les soldats et les prêtres. Sur chaque territoire il existe un souverain.

Cette civilisation tout à fait spécifique s'est créée dans une vaste zone du sud-est européen à la population sédentaire mais en contact avec les "cultures des steppes". Durant cette période les Thraces n'ont eu que peu de contacts avec les autres grandes civilisations.

En l'absence d'écrits, les trésors des rois et des aristocrates permettent une approche de la culture Thrace. Le service cultuel de Valchistan, les trésors de Panayot Hitovo et de Kazitchéné donnent la preuve du pouvoir politique et économique des premiers souverains thraces anonymes ainsi que de l'originalité, de la technologie et de la maîtrise artistique de leurs orfèvres.

Royaumes Thraces : des états religieux [modifier]

Alors que disparaît la civilisation mycénienne et qu'apparaissent les cités grecques, les Thraces gardent la même organisation. Les royaumes sont gouvernés par des dynasties de rois-prêtres (Polistes) à la tête de troupes de cavaliers aristocrates (Tarabostes) et de paysans guerriers (Comates). Les nombreuses résidences fortifiées correspondent à des capitales temporaires, quand le roi y réside.

Les paysans sont libres. Les fouilles archéologiques sur un marché du V° siècle av.J-C (près de Krastevitch) n'ont pas permis de découvrir d'atelier. Mais les mines, la métallurgie, le travail des métaux étaient des monopoles royaux et les ateliers étaient à la cour du roi.

L'influence grecque [modifier]

A partir du VI° siècle av.J-C l'aristocratie thrace, surtout les Besses et les Odryses ont des échanges avec les Grecs et même utilisent l'alphabet grec pour des écrits non encore déchiffrés.

Hérodote a dit :La nation des Thraces est, après celle des Indiens, la plus importante du monde. S'ils avaient un seul roi et s'ils pouvaient s'entendre entre eux, ils seraient invincibles et, d'après moi, beaucoup plus puissants que toutes les nations.

A cette époque les Thraces sont refoulés de leur frontière ouest sur l'Adriatique par les Illyriens puis par les Macédoniens. La région côtière formant leur frontière sud déjà colonisée par les Grecs est conquise par les Perses de Darius Ier en 515 av.J-C. puis repasse sous le contrôle des Athéniens.

Sitalkès, le roi des Odryses (le plus puissant des royaumes thraces de cette période) est l'allié des Athéniens dans la guerre du Péloponnèse. Après sa mort commence une période de déclin malgré les essais d'unification de la Thrace sous Cotys Ier et Kersobleptès.

Philippe II de Macédoine puis Lysimaque étendent la domination macédonienne sur la Thrace méridionale puis sur la majeure partie du territoire. Mais les Odryses continuèrent la lutte contre Lysimaque proclamé roi de Thrace puis contre ses successeurs Séleucos, Ptolémée Kéraunos, les Attalides de Pergame.

La Ligne Jireček (du nom de l'historien qui l'a déterminée Konstantin Josef Jireček) montre les zones de romanisation (au nord) et d'héllénisation (au sud) des Thraces
La Ligne Jireček (du nom de l'historien qui l'a déterminée Konstantin Josef Jireček) montre les zones de romanisation (au nord) et d'héllénisation (au sud) des Thraces

De la période romaine à nos jours [modifier]

En 168 et 133 av.J-C la Thrace passe sous domination romaine et le royaume des Odryses reste fidèle à Rome, sûrement en raison de la menace des Daces sur le Danube. Mais d'autres s'y opposent et sont soumis par la force. De nombreux Thraces sont pris comme esclaves: leur caractère rebelle et combatif les destine fréquemment à la carrière de gladiateurs (le plus connu d'entre eux est Spartacus).

En 46 est créée la province romaine de Thrace. La romanisation des Thraco-illyriens (du moins, au nord de la ligne Jireçek) les transforme en Dalmates et en Valaques (latins orientaux). Une colonie grecque au nom thrace de Byzance (Byza = rivage, coteau) est choisie pour être la capitale de l'Empire romain d'orient sous le nom de Constantinople.

Mais l'invasion des Goths en 376 commence une série de guerres qui transforme cette région en champ de bataille : pour ne citer que les plus marquantes, après les passages des Huns et des Avars, l'occupation par les Slaves et l'affrontement des Bulgares et des Byzantins s'achève par une slavisation de plus en plus marquée des pays jadis thraces. La Thrace n'est plus qu'une région géographique.

Les Turcs annexent toute la Thrace en 1389, puis encerclent et prennent Constantinople en 1453. Leur domination dure jusqu'en 1878. Se crée alors en Thrace septentrionale la province autonome de Roumélie-Orientale réunie à la Bulgarie en 1885. Durant la 1° guerre balkanique (1912) la Thrace est prise par les Bulgares, disputée entre Bulgares et Grecs, en partie rendue aux Turcs par le traité de Constantinople du 29 septembre 1913. Les frontières ont changé plusieurs fois mais finalement la Thrace reste partagée entre ces trois pays, dont deux (Bulgarie et Grèce) sont aujourd'hui membres de l'Union Européenne, et le troisième (Turquie) candidat.

Liste des peuples thraces [modifier]

Les Thraces étaient composés de plusieurs centaines de peuples différents selon les témoignages, sans qu'on puisse savoir qui sont ces peuples.

Les quatre principales tribus était les Odryses, les Gètes, les Triballes et les Daces. On trouve la première mention des Thraces dans l'Iliade d'Homère. Ils sont alors les alliés des Grecs assiégeant Troie. Les Thraces étaient réputés être de très bon cavaliers, ainsi que des orfèvres de grande qualité.

On sait que sans doute, le plus important et le plus puissant des peuples thraces, que les Grecs appelaient Gètes et les Romains Daces, était composée de plusieurs tribus, capables de se réunir en temps de guerre dans un seul état centralisé, ce qui faisait leur puissance comme contre-pouvoir face à l'Empire romain (falsifications massives des monnaies romaines par exemple).

Les autres Thraces, où qu'ils aient habité, semblent avoir été tous conquis par l'Empire romain très tôt et assimilés très vite, ne pouvant pas opposer une aussi grande résistance (surtout ceux de Mésie).

Les tribus suivantes avaient une composante Thrace :

Thraces célèbres [modifier]

  • Orphée, héros légendaire de la mythologie grecque, fils du roi de Thrace Œagre et de la muse Calliope. Il est le fondateur mythique d'un mouvement religieux appelé orphisme.
  • Spartacus fut un gladiateur Thrace qui mena un soulèvement d'esclaves dans l'actuelle Italie.
  • Burebista était l'un des plus grands rois Daces. Il réussit à confédéreer les populations thraces depuis la rivière Hercinica (l'actuelle Moravie) à l'ouest, jusqu'au Boug méridional à l'est.
  • Décébale, dernier roi Dace: battu par Trajan, il s'est suicidé avec toute sa cour.

Voir aussi [modifier]

BULGARIA - a brief history outline
Dimiter Markovski


were a conglomerate of numerous tribes. The formation of the Thracian tribal community appreciably antecedes the emergence of the other Indo-European communities - the Roman, the Celtic, the German, the Slavic and the Scandinavian. The ancestors of the Thracians had lived on the Balkan Peninsula as far back as the new Stone Age. Experts use the term 'Proto-Thracians' to describe the inhabitants of an extensive area in South-Eastern Europe during the third and second millennium B.C. The name 'Thracians' first appeared at the end of the second millennium B.C. (according to Homer). 'From that time on this term gradually became the common ethnonym for the inhabitants of the area between the Carpathians and the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and the valleys of the Morava and Vardar rivers' (Acad. V. Georgiev, Prof. A. Foll and Prof. G.I. Georgiev). The people in question spoke related or similar dialects of a common language. During the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. the Thracians settled not only on the peninsular mainland and the Mediterranean islands, but also moved south-eastwards into Asia Minor. Thracians took part in the Trojan War. Homer recorded that the Thracian chieftain Rezos appeared before the walls of Troy with the most handsome and well-built horses, whiter than snow and fleet as deer.

During the first millennium B.C. the Thracian tribes were a relatively unified tribal entity. Their history can be classified in two main periods: the first one dates from the end of the second millennium B.C. until the end of the 6th century B.C. During this period, and particularly after the eighth century B.C., Greek colonizers began to settle along the Aegean and Black Sea littoral. Quite a number of Greek city-colonies had Thracian names, including Byzantion- later the famous capital of Byzantium (Greek settlers from the town of Megara formed this colony, naming it after Byzas the Thracian). The second period, from the end of the 6th century until the turn of the 3rd century B.C. was the Golden Age of the Thracian state and culture.

According to Herodotus, the Thracians were a multitudinous people. Compared to the Greek city-states, whose total population numbered around 200-250 thousand, the tribal nucleus of the Thracian ethnos alone, the people living between the Danube and the Aegean Sea, numbered around one million throughout the first millennium B.C., according to rough estimates. The biggest state alliance of the Thracians, the state of Odrys, existed from the beginning of the fifth century B.C. until the beginning of the third century B.C. Its first capital was situated somewhere along the lower reaches of the Maritsa River. In mid-fourth century B.C., this state disintegrated into three smaller alliances of which the one with the capital of Seuthopolis (in the area of present-day Kazanluk) survived longest.

How the Thracians titled their ruler is unknown (the Greeks called him basileus and the state basileia). The state ruler had a council of representatives of the tribal aristocracy. The taxes from the Thracian tribes within the state were levied in gold and silver as well as in the form of gifts such as cloth and other articles. A dragon was depicted on the standard of the Thracians.

Slavery in the Thracian community existed on a smaller scale than in the Greek states. According to Herodotus, however, the Thracians did on occasion sell their own children into slavery. The state of Philip II (359 - 336 B.C.) and his son Alexander of Macedon (336-323 B.C.) resembled more closely the classical form of slave ownership. Both kings were involved in Greek and Balkan affairs. Alexander of Macedon took the Greek world out east, drafting into his army many Thracians. The Celts, too, took possession of some Thracian lands. Their state, with the capital of Tile (near the present-day town of Kazanluk) existed from 279 to 211 B.C. Thus the Celts left their trace on these lands, after which they dispersed to settle over the entire continent, reaching the British Isles. Scythian and other tribes also migrated to the Thracian lands, but the Thracians firmly withstood the invaders. For a very long period, too, the Thracians repelled the attempts of the Roman empire to conquer them. It was only two centuries after they first set foot on the Balkans in the year 45 A.D., that the Romans succeeded in subjugating all Thracian lands.

A courageous and daring people, the Thracians were employed as mercenaries in the armies of various rulers as early as the Hellenic epoch, later in the Roman auxiliary troops, and from the second century onwards in the legions. The great slave uprising in the Roman empire (74-71 B.C.) can also be attributed to Thracian history not just because its leader and military commander Spartacus was a Thracian (it seems most likely that he came from the Medi tribe which inhabited the areas along the Strouma River) but also for the reason that most of the insurgent slaves were Thracians and Gauls. Historical chronicles on many occasions cite Thracian revolts against the Roman conquerors. The Odrysae tribe (which lived in-the Rhodope region) rebelled in the year 21 A.D., and the tribes settled south of the Balkan Range revolted in the year 26 A.D. The new ways introduced by the Romans ushered in a new stage in the development of the slave-owning society.

A great number of fortified settlements to serve as military posts for the defence of the Roman empire were constructed. Roads, bridges, public buildings, water-supply and sewage systems were constructed on a previously un-heard-of scale. What has survived of the latter, open-air theatres included, has become part of the living cities in present-day Bulgaria.

In the third century a process of decline began to take place in the life of the Roman empire. Spent in its efforts to assimilate the conquered peoples, the empire began to be influenced by the inferior cultures it had conquered. The Roman army was manned with soldiers from the rural population of the Danubean provinces. (The manning of the Roman army with Germans was to come later.) There were many Thracian cohorts in the empire. Thracian and Illyrian peasants also gained supremacy in the internecine strifes of contenders for the throne. From 236 to 238 Maximinus Thrax held the imperial throne. The Thracian armies secured the throne for Septimius Severus. The Thracian lands became the theatre of wars and conflicts.

Directly or indirectly the Thracians were involved in the evolution of ancient Mediterranean civilization (Graeco-Hellenic and Roman). The Thracian cultural heritage has left us many examples of gold, silver and bronze ornaments, tools and arms, household objects and vessels. Thracian culture, which preserved what was traditional and at the same time assimilated ideas from other nations, was a link between Europe and the East. Such outstanding finds as the Vulchitrun gold treasure of the eighth century B.C., the Panagyurishte gold treasure of the fourth century B.C., the tombs near the town of Kazanluk and the village of Mezek, Haskovo region, belonging to the same period, and the Rogozen treasure (North-Western Bulgaria) - all testify to refined tastes and consummate craftsmanship and art. Particularly indicative of the rich spiritual make-up of the Thracians, of the freedom-loving spirit of this land-tilling and stock-breeding population, was the multiplicity of religious cults it upheld: they worshipped the Horseman and his female counterpart Bendida; they partook of the Dionysian orgies (mainly the southern Thracians); upheld the Orphic teaching, based on the Dionysian cult, which was born in Thrace but later spread to and further developed in the Greek world. The Thracian Horseman (given the Greek name Heros in many reliefs and inscriptions) in his many forms became an almost universal deity during the Roman epoch: a deity of hunting, fertility, life and death, of God the Almighty, the omniscient, the omnipresent. Over 1500 stone reliefs and more than 100 bronze statuettes of the Horseman have been uncovered on the territory of present-day Bulgaria.

The Dionysian cult was also very widespread, primarily in the mountainous regions of the Haemus, Rhodope and Pirin mountains. In his original, popular conception Dionysus was the god of infinite creativity, of omnifarious Nature, of each tree and flower.

Without underrating the primary importance of ancient Greek culture and of Greek mythology, it would help the better understanding of this culture if we pointed out that Hellas benefitted to a great extent from its contacts and interaction with its Thracian hinterland. It has been established that the author of 'The Pelopones War' was of Thracian extraction. The name of Orpheus, whose Thracian origin is indisputable and who is believed to have really lived as a singer, preacher and oracle, is related to the transformation of the Dionysian cult to something superior, of higher spiritual value. Enriched through Orphism, the Dionysian cult and the related orgies, supplemented and fecundated Greek thinking and it was from the Dionysian cult that the ancient Hellenic tragedy and comedy developed. It is known that Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician (580-500 B.C.) was influenced by Orphism and through his teaching helped its dissemination. The first three centuries following the conquest of the Thracians by the Romans were a time of great confusion as regards religious concepts and cults. Parallel with the traditional religious beliefs, the divine tributes paid to the Roman emperor and the divine city Dea Roma, Serapis and Isis of Egypt, Doliheus of Syrian Comatena, which on occasions became one with Magna Mater Deorum - the Great Mother, also called Cybele, were worshipped. The Thracians also adopted through various channels Christianity, which was officially imposed in the towns after it was made the official religion of the empire in the year 313. In 330 the capital of the empire was moved from Rome to the ancient Byzantion. The centre of the ancient Mediterranean world was moved from West to East. Emerging with-in the former boundaries of Thrace, Constantinople remained the city of glittering magnificence, attracting the eyes and desires of all conquerors throughout the Middle Ages.

Various tribes continued to cross the Danube from the north-east. The native population neither hastened to unite with them, nor resisted them. The newcomers and the natives, burdened with heavy imperial taxes and multitudinous duties, cooperated in a unique manner. By the end of the third century and especially during the fourth century the lands along the Lower Danube were the target of incessant invasions by various tribes - Goths, Vandals, Huns, etc. By the end of the fifth century and the turn of the sixth century the Slavs also began to infiltrate the Balkan Peninsula on a mass scale.



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See Cimmeria (Conan) or Cimmeria (Poem) for the fiction of Robert E. Howard.

The Cimmerians (Greek: Κιμμέριοι, Kimmerioi) were ancient equestrian nomads who, according to Herodotus, originally inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea, in what is now Russia and Ukraine, in the 8th and 7th century BC. Assyrian records, however, first place them in the region of what is today Azerbaijan in 714 BC.



[edit] Origins

Their origins are obscure, but they are believed to have been Indo-European. Their language is regarded as being related to Thracian or Iranian, or at least to have had an Iranian ruling class.[1]

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:They probably did live in the area north of the Black Sea, but attempts to define their original homeland more precisely by archaeological means, or even to fix the date of their expulsion from their country by the Scythians, have not so far been completely successful.[2]

Very little is known archaeologically of the Cimmerians of the Northern Black Sea Coast. They are associated with the Srubna culture, which displaced the earlier catacomb culture (2000-1200 BCE).

A few stone stelae found in Ukraine and the northern Caucasus have been connected with the Cimmerians. They are in a style clearly different from both the later Scythian and the earlier Yamna/Kemi-Oba stelae.

There is a theory that the Cimmerians were Bulgars. According to the ancient "History of the Monk Spiridon" and to the "History of Zograf" (Zograf Monastery), the Cimmerian king Koled had two sons — Brem and Bolg. After a war with the Scythians, part of the Cimmerians migrated to the west, where Brem conquered West European lands; the Celts and the Brythons became Brem's successors. The other part of the Cimmerians migrated to the south, where Bolg's tribe resided on the Balkan Peninsula . Bolg's capital was discovered after archaeological excavations near the town of Kazanlak in what is now central Bulgaria.

[edit] Historical accounts

Cimmerian invasions of Colchis, Urartu and Assyria during the reign of King Rusas I
Cimmerian invasions of Colchis, Urartu and Assyria during the reign of King Rusas I

The first historical record of the Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BC. These describe how a people termed the Gimirri helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu. Their original homeland, called Gamir or Uishdish, seems to have been located within the buffer state of Mannae. The later geographer Ptolemy placed the Cimmerian city of Gomara in this region. After their conquests of Colchis and Iberia in the First Millennium BC, the Cimmerians also came to be known as Gimirri in Georgian. According to Georgian historians,[3] the Cimmerians played an influential role in the development of both the Colchian and Iberian cultures. The modern-day Georgian word for hero which is gmiri, is derived from the word Gimirri, a direct reference to the Cimmerians which settled in the area after the initial conquests.

Some modern authors assert that the Cimmerians included mercenaries, whom the Assyrians knew as Khumri, who had been resettled there by Sargon. However, later Greek accounts describe the Cimmerians as having previously lived on the steppes, between the Tyras (Dniester) and Tanais (Don) rivers. Several kings of the Cimmerians are mentioned in Greek and Mesopotamian sources, including Tugdamme (Lygdamis in Greek; mid-7th century BC), and Sandakhshatra (late-7th century).

A mythical people also named Cimmerians are described in Book 11, 14 of Homer's Odyssey as living beyond the Oceanus, in a land of fog and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance of Hades; most probably they are unrelated to the Cimmerians of the Black Sea.[4]

According to the Histories of Herodotus (c. 440 BC), the Cimmerians had been expelled from the steppes at some point in the past by the Scythians. To ensure burial in their ancestral homeland, the men of the Cimmerian royal family divided into groups and fought each other to the death. The Cimmerian commoners buried the bodies along the river Tyras and fled from the Scythian advance, across the Caucasus and into Anatolia and the Near East. Their range seems to have extended from Mannae eastward through the Mede settlements of the Zagros Mountains, and south of there as far as Elam.

The migrations of the Cimmerians were recorded by the Assyrians, whose king, Sargon II, died in battle against them in 705 BC. They are subsequently recorded as having conquered Phrygia in 696 BC-695 BC, prompting the Phrygian king Midas to take poison rather than face capture. In 679 BC, during the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria, they attacked Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa. Esarhaddon defeated them near Hubushna (tentatively identified with modern Cappadocia).

In 654 BC or 652 BC – the exact date is unclear – the Cimmerians attacked the kingdom of Lydia, killing the Lydian king Gyges and causing great destruction to the Lydian capital, Sardis. They returned ten years later during the reign of Gyges' son Ardys II and this time captured the city, with the exception of the citadel. The fall of Sardis was a major shock to the powers of the region; the Greek poets Callinus and Archilochus recorded the fear that it inspired in the Greek colonies of Ionia, some of which were attacked by Cimmerian and Treres raiders.

The Cimmerian occupation of Lydia was brief, however -- possibly due to an outbreak of plague. Between 637 BC and 626 BC they were beaten back by Alyattes II of Lydia. This defeat marked the effective end of Cimmerian power. The term "Gimirri" was used about a century later in the Behistun inscription (ca. 515 BC) as a Babylonian equivalent of Persian Saka (Scythians), but otherwise Cimmerians are not heard of again in Asia, and their ultimate fate is uncertain. It has been speculated that they settled in Cappadocia, known in Armenian as Gamir (the same name as the original Cimmerian homeland in Mannae). However, certain Frankish traditions would locate them at the mouth of the Danube (see Sicambri).

A reference to the Cimmerians is preserved in Gomer גמר of the Hebrew Bible (Standard Hebrew Gómer, Tiberian Hebrew Gōmer, Genesis 10:2, Ezekiel 38:6). As the eldest son of Japheth and the father of Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah, his descendants thus represent one of the major branches of the Japhethic race.

The Cimmerians are also referred to in Homer's Odyssey, as well as in contemporary literature by Robert E. Howard in his Conan series of novels.

[edit] Timeline

  • 721-715 BC – Sargon II mentions a land of Gamirr near to Urartu.
  • 714 – suicide of Rusas I of Urartu, after defeat by both the Assyrians and Cimmerians.
  • 705 – Sargon II of Assyria dies on an expedition against the Kulummu.
  • 679/678 – Gimirri under a ruler called Teushpa invade Assyria from Hubuschna (Cappadocia?). Esarhaddon of Assyria defeats them in battle.
  • 676-674 – Cimmerians invade and destroy Phrygia, and reach Paphlagonia.
  • 654 or 652 – Gyges of Lydia dies in battle against the Cimmerians. Sack of Sardis; Cimmerians and Treres plunder Ionian colonies.
  • 644 – Cimmerians occupy Sardis, but withdraw soon afterwards
  • 637-626 – Cimmerians defeated by Alyattes II.
  • ca. 515 – Last historical record of Cimmerians, in the Behistun inscription of Darius.

[edit] Language

Of the language of the Cimmerians, only a few personal names have survived in Assyrian inscriptions:

  • Te-ush-pa, mentioned in the annals of Esarhaddon, has been compared to the Hurrian war deity Teshub; others interpret it as Iranian, comparing the Achaemenid name Teispes (Herodotus 7.11.2)
  • Dug-dam-me (Dugdammê) king of the Ummân-Manda (nomads) appears in a prayer of Ashurbanipal to Marduk, on a fragment at the British Museum. Other spellings include Dugdammi, and Tugdammê. Yamauchi (1982) interprets the name as Iranian, citing Ossetic "tux-domaeg" meaning "ruling with strength." The name appears corrupted to Lygdamis in Strabo I.3.21.
  • Sandaksatru, son of Dugdamme. This is an Iranian reading of the name, and Mayrhofer (1981) points out that the name may also be read as Sandakurru. Mayrhofer likewise rejects the interpretation of "with pure regency" as a mixing of Iranian and Indo-Aryan. Ivancik suggests an association with the Anatolian deity Sanda.

Some researchers have attempted to trace various place names to Cimmerian origins. It has been suggested that Crimea is named after the Cimmerians[citation needed] as well as the Armenian city of Gyumri. This, however, seems to be a dubious premise. The name "Crimea" is traceable to the Crimean Tatar word qırım (literally "my steppe" of "my hill"), and the peninsula was known as Taurica ("peninsula of the Tauri") in antiquity (Strabo 7.4.1; Herodotus 4.99.3, Amm. Marc. 22.8.32).

The Cimmerians are now often classified as an Iranian people, but based on ancient Greek historical sources, a Thracian or (less commonly) a Celtic association is sometimes assumed. According to C. F. Lehmann-Haupt, the language of the Cimmerians could have been a "missing link" between Thracian and Iranian.

[edit] Possible offshoots

The Cimmerians are thought to have had a number of offshoots. The Thracians have been identified as a possible western branch of the Cimmerians. If Herodotus is to be believed, both peoples originally inhabited the northern shore of the Black Sea, and both were displaced around the same time by invaders from further east. Whereas the Cimmerians would have departed this ancestral homeland by heading east and south across the Caucasus, the Thracians migrated west and south into the Balkans, where they established a successful and long-lived culture. The Tauri, the original inhabitants of Crimea, are sometimes identified as a people related to the Thracians.

Although the Cimmerians of historical record only appear on the stage of world history for a brief time (during the 7th century BC), numerous Celtic and Germanic peoples have traditions of being descended from the Cimmerians or Scythians, and some of their ethnic names seem to bear out this belief (e.g. Cymru, Cwmry or Cumbria, Cimbri). It is unlikely that either Proto-Celtic or Proto-Germanic entered Europe as late as the 7th century BC, their formation being commonly associated with the Bronze Age Urnfield and Nordic Bronze Age cultures, respectively. It is, however, conceivable that a small-scale (in terms of population) 8th century "Thraco-Cimmerian" migration triggered cultural changes that contributed to the transformation of the Urnfield culture into the Hallstatt C culture, ushering in the European Iron Age.

The etymology of Cymro "Welshman" and Cwmry "Cumbria", said in Welsh tradition to derive directly from the "Cimmerians", is instead considered by Celtic historical linguists as being from Proto-British *kom-brogos meaning "fellow countryman"[5][6] and is related to its sister language Breton's keñvroad, keñvroiz "compatriot" [7]. As for the Cimbri tribe, they are considered to be a Germanic tribe hailing from the Himmerland (Old Dutch Himber sysæl) region in northern Denmark [8]. In addition, in sources beginning with the Royal Frankish Annals, the Merovingian kings of the Franks traditionally traced their lineage through a pre-Frankish tribe called the Sicambri (or Sugambri), mythologized as a group of "Cimmerians" from the mouth of the Danube river, but who instead came from Gelderland in modern Netherlands and are named for the Sieg river [9].

If the Scythians are assumed to be related to the Cimmerians, as has often been claimed, many other peoples claiming possible Scythian descent could also be added to this list. Later Cimmerian remnant groups may have spread as far as to the Nordic Countries.

The association of the Cimmerians with one of the Lost Tribes of Israel plays a certain role in British Israelism.

[edit] In popular culture

[edit] Archaeology

[edit] Notes