|Valentyn Stetsyuk, Lviv; Ukraine
Introduction to the Study of Prehistoric Ethnogenic Processes in Eastern Europe and Asia
The Interpretation of the Data of Ancient Historians.
Ancient historians had left us a wealth of material about the Scythians and Scythia, which, however, can not always be relied upon. Thou this is not the fault of the historians but the consequence of the nascent state of historical scholarship and the result of the geographical imaginations of the historians at the absence of a reliable cartographic base. That only is the assertion of Herodotus that Scythia is an almost regular quadrilateral, which is quite impossible to place on the modern map.
When he submits the names of gods and men, geographical names or names of tribes and different realities of those times, it's a concrete material, which should only be used skilfully. Unfortunately, too often, many scientists 'skilfully' used it in their own interest. Now, when we know the ethnic origin of the Scythians and their neighbors, this material may not only confirm the heuristic reasoning, but also enrich our understanding of that distant era.
We have already explained the names of Scythian gods, but Scythian place names can also have an explanation by means of the Chuvash language . For example, the name of the area Exampaios between the river Borysthenes and the river Hypanis may correspond to Chuv uksăm "wild garlic" and puy "to grow rich". The river Panticapes can be explained as "mouldy" (Chuv păntăh "mould" and kap "shape"). Some researchers identify Pantukapes with the river Molochna (Milky), the tributary of the lower Dnepr. The ancient and modern-day names of the river may have an identical explanation if the water in the river had (has till now?) whitish painting which gives the reason to compare its color with milk or with mould. The name of the river Kypakyris can be translated as "chaff" or something similar (Chuv. kipek "peels" and irěš "bran"). The name of the river Gerros can be connected with Chuv. kěre "a ford". According Herodotus the Gerros follows from the Dnepr to the sea and runs in the Kypakyris near it:
56. Seventh is the Gerros, which parts off from the Borysthenes near about that part of the country where the Borysthenes ceases to be known,--it parts off, I say, in this region and has the same name which this region itself has, namely Gerros; and as it flows to the sea it borders the country of the nomad and that of the Royal Scythians, and runs out into the Hypakyris.
Obviously, ancient inhabitants of the Azov Sea coast named by the Gerros the waterway has been formed by low currents of the river Samara, the rivers Vovcha, the Mokri Yaly, and the Kalchyk which runs in the river Kalmius near to its mouth. The Kalchik and the Mokri Yaly come so nearer to each other in one place that, else during rather near historical times, the Zaporozh cossacks drew their boats from the one river in the another by land. This fact was described by G. de Bauplan1 though he has wrongly named the Kalchyk as the river Miuss (See Map 9a)..
Map 9a. The river Gerros - the Waterway from the Dnepr to Azov Sea.
Closely considering a modern topographical map, one can see that the isthmus, which separates the Mokri Yaly from the small tributary of the Kalchyk, has the distance not more than six kilometers, and both rivers could be connected with a channel so that to form a continuous way from the Sea of Azov up to the Dnepr (See Map 9b). The map shows that a narrow valley leaves the river Mokri Yaly to south-east. It could be a small river in ancient times. Using this valley, it was possible to facilitate the work of hydraulic engineering, though increasing the length of the channel at the same time. Initially, this could just be a quagmire, which could be waded, and this explains the name of this whole waterway "Gerros" as a ford. Herodotus wrote that slaves dug a broad trench extending from the Tauric mountains to the Maiotian lake (the Sea of Azov) at the place where this is broadest. If the Tauric Mountains could be assumed by the Donetsk ridge, the trench would thus channel. Traces of this canal, in principle, can be found fairly easily, but now railroad crossed the isthmus and spoiled original landscape.
Map 9b. The of the channel between the rivers Kalchyk andMokri Yaly..
Incidentally, the name of the river Mokri Yaly could mean "a waterway," because the Turkic languages have the word jol/joly "a way" and Ukr.mokri means “wet”. If looking for proper Turkic correspondence to the first part of the name, we take words meaning "water", "wet" and suddenly come to the river Kayala known for the Ipatiev Chronicle. M. Vasmer and K. Menges2 argue that the correct form of the name is not Kayala but Kayaly. M Vasmer said about the explanation of the name of the river as qaj + jaly "a river with slippery banks", proposed by M. Sokol, but disputed it, because qaj is "just a verbal stem", while the second part of the word was borrowed by the "Southwest" Turkic languages from modern Greek γιαλοσ "a sea-shore, beach"3. This is not so, because the Gagauz and Turkish languages have a word qaj-ğy, where ğy - adjective suffix from the nominal stem (in other Turkic languages "slippery" - tajğy). If we take Turk. joly, turned into jaly in one of the "a-speakin" dialects, we get an explanation of the name of the river Kayala as "a slippery way". Semantically, it is close to the name of "wet way" if our assumption about the existence of wetlands between the Mokri Yaly Kalchik is true. Especially if there had been drag-way on the wet areas.
Thus Gerros (Kayaly) was a water route from the Dnieper to the Sea of Azov, and then the Kypakyris can be identified with the river Kalmius. In this case it turns out that no the river Mius was mentioned by Herodotus, and Kypakyris in accordance with his order of enumeration of the Scythian rivers would have to be west of the Gerros, not east, as follows from our arguments. Many scholars tried to put in order Herodotus’ muddled data, but so far no one was able. Obviously, we should recognize that they are true only partly. The Greek historian mentioned as the last the Tanais which, obviously, is to be understood, as many have done before, the lower reaches of the Don and the Siversky Donets. Probably, Herodotus and his informants did not know anything about the true Don, because if they would know it then they were certainly aware of the Volga, as they converge in this area very closely and this interesting fact could not be silent on. However Herodotus said nothing about any powerful waterway which could correspond to the Volga.
It is very difficult to establish ethnicity, and places of settlement of individual Scythian tribal groups on Herodotus' data. We have already mentioned that a sufficiently large number of Scythian names can be explained by means of the Old English. This could be considered an accident if it would not turned out that even more indecipherable Sarmatian and Alanian names of Abaev's Onomastikon have Old English interpretation. For a more detailed consideration of this matter, a list of names belonging to the Scythian-Sarmatian time and having a good interpretation by means of the Old English had been compiled on the basis of assembly of V. Petrov, V. Abaev, J. Harmatta, V. Latyshev, N. Knipovich and others. There are among these names many belonging to Alans, so the list became the code name "Alano-Anglo-Saxon Onomasticon".
The number of names which can be decrypted using the Old English language is very large, although no doubt that some interpretation may be erroneous. This fact may be explained by the fact that the ancient Anglo-Saxons which moved to the left bank of the Dnieper and settled in the basins of the Desna and Seym remained here until the Scythian time and later moved to the Black Sea. At the same time, the southern and south-eastern boundary of the Urheimat of the Anglo-Saxons was held at the river Teteriv, which separated the ancient Anglo-Saxon settlements from the Thracians. Name of the city of Zhitomir, we explained as "a border protection" (OE scyttan "to shut, close", mer "a border") but OE scytta had also the sense "a shooter" and by sounding is close to the Greek name of the Scythians Σκυθαι. The Scythians were considered to be the best bow shooter and the ancient Greek ethnonym "a Scythian" was considered as the synonymous to the shooter. In this regard, we can assume that the Greek word for the Scythians may occur from the Old English word meaning "a shooter". In this case, some group of Anglo-Saxons was to hold near Zhytomir for as long as the Scythians-Bulgars pushed the Thracians out.
The neighborhood of the Anglo-Saxons and the Scythians may be confirmed by interpretation of some Scythian realities by means of Old English. For example, the name of the Scythian short sword akinakes (ακινακεσ), which is probably corresponded to Iranian kynk "a sword", is well explained “a killing ax” OE æces "an ax" and nǽcan "to kill". Another Scythian weapon, the battle ax sagaris (σαγαρισ) could also get the name from the Anglo-Saxons - OE sacu "a strife, war" and the earh "an arrow". The name of the Scythian clothing σακυνδακη was explained by V. Abayev as "the clothes from deer fur" (Os sag "a deer" and the tag/dag "a thread, woven fabric"), which is not entirely correct, as in this case the question is not the wool, but the skin. Too much deer would be need to collect their wool but the Scythians were not engaged in deer herding. Perhaps the second part of the word is OE đescan "to cover", akin to Lat. tŏga "a toga", tĕgĕre "to cover." The first part of a word can be translated as "Sakian", but also as "battle, war" (cf. OE sacu "a strife, war"). The name of the large boneless fish αντακαιοι has no convincing explanation. In accordance with the peculiarities of the fish, the prefix could mean "without, no”. Such words are present in Germanic languages (eg O.N.Gmc an/on). Then the root would have sense "a bone". Maybe Dt tak "a branch" and Ger Zacke "a spike" of unknown etymology can suit as their meaning is close to the sense "a bone". Then the third part of the word may be akin to Ger Hai “a shark," whose origin is hidden somewhere in North Germanic languages, but the proto-form of the word was supposed to be *kai. It is known that sharks are cartilaginous fishes, ie, boneless.
The possibility to decipher the names of the Scythian realities, as well as the names of some tribes by means of Old English seems strange if the Anglo-Saxons, not being Scythians, left a large tace in the Scythian vocabulary. It is appropriate to recall Herodotus’ words:
“How many the Scythians are I was not able to ascertain precisely, but I heard various reports of the number: for reports say both that they are very many in number and also that they are few, at least as regards the true Scythians”4
Thus, Herodotus after his informants could sometimes call the Scythians also other peoples of the Northern Pontic country. The Anglo-Saxons can be connected with the Neuroi of Herodotus, if we assume that he listed the tribes in order from west to east. Just the Neuroi stood as the second in the listing after the Thracians-Agathyrsians. Herodotus indicated that they left their homeland and settled among the Budinoi5. OE neowe, niowe means "new". The nominalization of the word could give neower "a newcomer." The Anglo-Saxons could not call themselves newcomers, it is logically assume that such name them could give the local settlers, ie, the Anglo-Saxons, who came here earlier at the time of Trzciniec culture. This first wave of the Anglo-Saxons, judging by the place names and sites on the territory of East-Trzciniec on the Left Bank Ukraine, occupied basins of the Seym, the Low Desna, while the basins of the Sulla and Psel were settled by the Mordvins. The Budinoi are connected by many scientists with the ancestors of the Mordvins, and this assumption has some justification, but as it turned out, deciphering of the names of Budinoi by means of Old English confirms our assumption. Βουδινοι, perhaps even "Wudinoi", according to Herodotus, were the inhabitants of the forest country. In this case, OE widu, wudu "wood, forest", Eng wooden by the meaning and phonetically are suitable perfect. The word wuden was not found in the Old English but it could exist and mean "forest" on the laws of English grammar.
If we assume the presence of Anglo-Saxons on the territory of the Ukraine at the Scythian time, then they must be identified by a tribe known to us from later historical sources. The explanation of some of the names of Alan leaders by means of Old English suggests that such tribe could be the tribe of Alans (Αλανοι). This iis discussed in more detail in the section "Alans".
The Alazonians may be considered as the ancestors of the modern-day Kurds. The analysis of the place names in the Western Ukraine has shown that the cluster of names, decrypted by means of the Kurdish language, lies precisely in those places where Larissa Krushelnytska researched one of the variant of the Chornolis culture (Krushelnitska L.І., 1998) and where Herodotus placed the Alazonians above the the Callipidai, ie where the Tiras (Dniester) and Hypanis (Southern Bug) approach one another (Herodotus, IV, 52). Interpretation of the ethnonym "Alazonians" (Αλαζονεσ) is difficult. It can be translated as "born in a shirt" (OE hāla "the afterbirth, placenta", sunu "a son"), another option could also be "colored (red?) people" at Chuv ula (in other Turkic languages ala) "colorful" and çyn "a man."
In other cases, we can talk about the Baltic, Finno-Ugric and Turkic tribes, but assumptions can be very different. For example, the name Irycai, (Ἰύρκαι) may hide Ugric ancestors of modern Hungarians, Khanty and Mansi peoples, as well as Turks or even a tribe disappeared over time.
If we talk about the one-eyed Arimaspians, we can assume that this is not pure fantasy of the informants of Herodotus as this name may hid Turkic word jarym "half" which together with some, yet undiscovered word means simply "a half-seeing" or even better "half-open eyes". In the latter case, this people could be of Mongoloid appearance. Obviously, these people have lived beyond the Volga. With the help of the Turkic languages, you can decipher the name of Issedonians as "people in warm clothes” (Turkic issi/yssy " warm" and don "clothes ").
Herodotus wrote that the Callipidai were Hellenic Scythians. We have no sure prerequisites to identify them with any historical ethnic group. Maybe they spoke special dialect of Greek, badly understood by true Hellenes. In this case, the Callipidai may be the descendants of those Proto-Greeks which remained in the Ukraine after the bulk of them went to the Peloponnese. Summing up our discussion of the ethnic composition of Eastern Europe since the end of the 2nd and during the first half of the 1st millennium BC, we submit a map of migration of the population in this period of time (see map below).
Map10. The directions of the migrations of ethnic groups in Eastern Europe in the end of the 2nd – the beginning of the 1st mill. BC.
Moving to the east and south-east, the Bulgars during the 1st mill BC gradually settled the steppe part of the left bank and there entered in a long and close contact with the Magyars, as evidenced by the numerous lexical correspondences of the Chuvash and Hungarian languages. Being here in a few centuries, the Bulgars have created a culture of a high level which is known as the Scythian. In the steppes of Ukraine and Northern Caucasus, they have established and maintained contact with the cultural centers of agricultural Asia Minor and the Balkans. Sharing with them the experience and technology, they created a culture on a local basis. Herodotus identified as the parts of the whole Scythian community four distinct groups - the Scythians-farmers, the Scythians-plowmen, the Nomadic Scythians, and the Royal Scythians. In historic times we know already two ethnic communities, which we relate to the Ancient Bulgars – the actually Bulgars and Khazars. The Khazars had semi-nomadic and semi-agricultural economy but the Bulgars were nomads6. It is difficult to judge how agricultural tribes under the influence of natural conditions may shift from farming to nomadic economy, so the identification of four Scythian tribes of Herodotus with later Bulgarish tribes is difficult.
Obviously, the four tribal groups of the Scythians were not united in a power state, because in the middle of the 3rd century BC, as testified Diodorus Siculus, caming from the Don Sarmats devastated much part of Scythia and established their rule over it. Retreating before the rush of the Sarmats, the Scythians had left vast areas of Azov coast, although a deal of them stayed on the banks of the Lower Dnieper, "where a half dozen settlements was arisen such Zolota Balka, Znamenka, Liubymivka and others moved to the Crimea, where they formed a Scythian Kingdom, or Scythia Minor with its capital in Naples”7. Another part of the Scythians went beyond the Danube and settled in Dobruja, formed another Scythia Minor here.
It is still difficult to talk about the ethnicity of the population of the Northern Black Sea region at the time when the Goths came here. It is possible that they didn’t caught the Scythians, but found their traces in place names. Jordanes, in his "Getica" rather scanty described the coming of the Goths for new place of settlement, but it does have such evidence:
“But when the volume of the people increased greatly and Filimer, son of Gadaric, reigned as king--about the fifth since Berig--he decided that the army of the Goths with their families should move from that region. In search of suitable homes and pleasant places they came to the land of Scythia, called Oium in that tongue”8.
Namely by which language was named the land, it is not clear from the context – Scythian or Gothic. Jordanes commentators believe that Oium is a Germanic word (supposedly Gothic *ajum akin to Ger Aue "valley, meadow" existed in the Gothic language). If we turn to the Chuvash language, we find the word uçam "area, the area", which has matches in other Turkic languages (Turkm., Kirghiz., Yakut. orun, Tat. uryn, Kaz. oryn, etc.) Complex transformation Turkic r - j - ç corresponds to the phonological patterns of the Chuvash language (cf.Chuv ura "a foot" - Turk. ajak "a foot", Chuv çĕr "hundred" - Turk juz "hundred"). The Goths just could borrow the Bulgar for the name of this land. But even if it has Germanic origin, it does not change anything, because the very existence of this word in the Chuvash language speaks of Gothic-Bulgarish language contact in the 2nd 2 cent AD in the Northern Black Sea coast. Jordan was also confirmed this:
"Farther away and above the Black Sea are the abodes of the Bulgars, well known from the wrongs done to them by reason of our sins"9.
Judging from the context, the area Oium was on the Left Bank of the Dnieper. In later sources, the Goths, as well as Bulgarians, often referred as the Scythians by the name of the country they inhabited:
“Das Reich der Skythen, die einst Herodot beschrieben hat, war länger aus den Steppen am Nordufer des Schwarzen Meers verschwunden. Dennoch betrachteten die Bizantiener noch ein Jahrtausend nach dem Klassiker der Geographie die Bewohner der Länder jenseits des „Pontos Euxines“ als Skyten“10.
To judge from the location|disposition| of areas|areas,domains| of Germanic and Mordvinic place-names, the Angles dwelled north of Mordvins and partly alternately.| Their settlement territory can be correlated to the region|area,domain| of the Lebediv culture. The center of this culture has been formed on the Sosnitsa variant of the East- Třynec culture and existed in the 11th – 8th c. BC was placed ”on an area between the rivers Prypiat' and Ros'11”.. Thus|on this grow|, both archaeological and toponym data confirm the supposition about the migration of the Angles across the Dnepr. If we assume the presence of Angles on the territory of Ukraine in the Scythian time, they have to be identified with some of tribes known to us from historical sources|springs|. One of such tribe could be the tribe of Alans (). This question will be considered in a next chapter.
According to scanty data of toponymy, the Mordvins had occupy the basins of the rivers Sula and Psel, i. e. the north-western part of the Bondarikha culture. Such localization of the Morvin settlements gives grounds to connect the known Bilsk hillfort with the city of Gelonos described by Herodotus. He noted that wooden city of Gelonos was located on the territory of Budinoi.
“The Budinoi are a very great and numerous race,.. and in their land is built a city of wood, the name of which is Gelonos, and each side of the wall is thirty furlongs in length and lofty at the same time, all being of wood; and the houses are of wood also and the temples”12.
The Bilsk hillfort lays at the old river-bed of the Vorskla opposite the city|town| of Kotelva in Poltava region. Its walls are 35 km long. The supposition about the identity of Gelon and Bilsk hillfort can be confirmed, except for everything other, by Mordvinic epos about the building of large city.
There is a word in English fang having dark etymology. Alike words with the same sense|importance,meaning| are present also in Finno-Ugric languages (Mansi puŋk, Khanty pöŋk, Hung fog, Lap pānnj, Udmurt, Komi pin’). This can be explained by the existence of the contact between the Angles and Finno-Ugric tribes. This word has not been fixed in Mordvinic, however these contacts can be confirmed by such English-Mordvinic lexical parallels: OE bend "hobble" - Mord (Moksha dialect) pandoz "bridle", OE glæs "glass", Mord (Moksha) klanc' "glass", Mord (Moksha and Erzia) loman’ “a man” (Os lymæn “a friend”) – Eng leman “sweetheart, paramour”, OE sot "soot" - Mord (Moksha) sod "soot", OE tang(e) "pincers" - Mord (Moksha) cianga "pitchforks". It is important that Erzia dialect of Mordvinic has not all these words. Mordvinic Mokshas occupy now the territory to the west of Erzia. Obviously, just the Mokshas had contact with the Angles and later were forced out by the Bulgars which began to penetrate cross the Dnepr up-stream of the Vorskla.
It is possible that Alazonians were the ancestors of the Proto-Kurds. The analysis of toponymy of Western Ukraine13 showed that the chainlet of place-names, which can be explained by the Kurdish language, goes along the Dnestr, exactly in this area where Larysa Krushelnyc’ka explored one of variant of the Chornolis culture14. This chainlet breaks approximately wherein Herodotus located Alazonians higher of Callipidai, in the place where the Tyras (Dnestr) and the Hypanis (South Bug) most draw closer to one another15.
On the other hand, the decoding of the Petrov's onomasticon shows that some deal of Scythians could be identified as Ancient Kurds. It is very difficult to trace the history of the Scythian-Kurds. To trace the history of Scythians-Kurds is very difficult. If to trust Assyrian sources, some deal of Scythians, pursuing Kimmerians, reached Trans-Caucasia, founded there their reign, and later came back to Pontic steppes. Just this deal of Scythians can be attributed to Proto-Kurds, as according to sources these Scythians spoke Iranian. But, if Scythians-Kurds came back to Pontic steppes, then when did they get again Trans-Caucasia and later transmigrated into the places of their nowadays residence? Suppositions can be different, but, as the Kurds' movement to Trans-Caucasia was not noted in historical time, one can consider that at least some deal of Kurds did not come back from their raid and was settled on adjoining territories of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. At the same time other part of Kurds either came back in Pontic steppes or at all never abandoned the country. In any case they were assimilated among other people. The interpretation of the name Alazonians ()is difficult. It can be translated as "the born in caul" (OE hela "placenta" and sunu "son") and as "mixed people" according to Chuv ula (other Turkic languages ala) "motley" and Chuv sunu “a son”. In other cases the matter can be about Baltic, Finno-Ugric, and Turkic tribes but suppositions can be different. For example, the name of Iyrcai () can hide Ugres, the ancestors of modern-day Magyars, Khanty, and Mansi or some disappeared Turkic tribe.
If talking about one-eyed Arimaspians (), one can suppose that is not clear fantasy of informants of Herodotus. The first partial word plausible is Turkic jarym (yarim) "half" and the whole word can have a sense "half-seeing" or "a man having half-open eyes". Such name could get the people of Mongoloid appearance. Obviously this people populated the territory beyond the Volga. The name of Issedonians can be explained by means of Turkic (Tur issi/yssy "warm" and don "clothes"). This people could populate the north territory.
There are no pre-conditions to connect the tribe of Callipidai with some historical ethnos. Herodotus wrote that they were Semi-Scythians and Semi-Hellenes, possibly because they spoke some special Greek dialect not enough clear for the real Hellenes. At that rate, Callipidai could be descendants of those Proto-Geeks which on the territory of the Ukraine since their bulk went away to Peloponnes.
Obviously, four Scythian tribal associations were not incorporated in a strong state structure, as in the middle of the 3rd c. BC Scythians abandoned vast spaces of Pontic steppes retreating of Sarmatian pressure having came from the Don's left bank. Some Scythian tribe stayed for a long time in so called Small Scythia between the Low Dnepr and the Crimea just in that place where Bulgarish Urheimat was. Thus, we can suppose that some Bulagarish tribe did not follow on other gone across the Dnepr in the 3rd mill BC and remained on the Urheimat during many centuries engaged in the nomadic cattle breeding up to the come-back of the bulk of Bulgars from the West Ukraine. Just this population can be identified with nomadic Scythians most confidently. The other part of Scythians, forced out by Sarmates, went away across the Danube and populated Dobrudgea, formed here the second Small Scythia.
It is difficult|complex| to talk, which people| populated Pontic steppes | when Goths came here. Maybe, they did not find Scythians here, but they found the tracks|traces| left by them in toponymy. Jordanes in his “Getica” | noted:
The term Oium corresponds well to Chuv uçam “place, territory”. Thus the Scythians of Bulgarish origin stayed in Pontic steppes till the invasion of the Goths. Iordanes confirmed this:
According to the context, locality of Oium was on the Dnepr's left-side. In posterior sources, the Goths, similarly as well as the Bulgars, were often named Scythians by the name of the country which they populated.
© Valentyn Stetsyuk