Magic Songs of the West Finns, Vol. I, by John Abercromby, , at sacred-texts.com
As the sections on the earlier Iron Age in Russia have brought us down to historic times in the south of Europe, it is well, before proceeding to sketch the prehistoric history of the Finnish peoples, so far as it can be deduced from the culture-words in their vocabularies, to see what light the brief notices of classical and post-classical authors throw upon the huge territory in which we are interested, or upon its inhabitants. Herodotus, about the middle of the fifth century B.C., is the earliest writer that deals with any part of Russia, but as his knowledge was almost entirely confined to the north coast of the Euxine, he is of no great assistance. Indeed, it would be quite out of place to mention him at all here, were it not for the fact that several writers, including so well known and good a scholar as W. Tomaschek, identify several nations named by Herodotus with different Finnish peoples. For instance, the Budini are often identified with the Votiaks, who call themselves Ud-murt. W. Tomaschek does so, brings them as far south as Sarátov, and supposes they extended northwards as far as the lower course of the Kama and the Biélaya, eastwards to the Urals and westwards to the Sura. Yet, except in the passage in which Herodotus assigns the
[paragraph continues] Budini a geographical position three hundred geographical miles north of the Sauromatæ and east of the Don, the context of the other places in which they are mentioned all point to a more westerly position, somewhere near the upper waters of the Dniester or the Bug, where Ptolemy locates the Bodini. The father of history expressly states the Budini dwelt in a densely wooded country, though in his time, just as now, from Saratov northwards and westwards the country for a great distance must have been very bare of timber. Along the banks of streams, and where the subsoil was damp, trees doubtless flourished, but it is well known that the 'black earth' districts were never covered with primeval forest. On these two grounds it seems to me doubtful if the Budini lived east of the Don at all. To connect the vocable Budini either with Votiak or Ud-mort seems questionable for several reasons. First, we do not know that this was the name they applied to themselves. Secondly, there is no assignable cause for dropping the b, which itself is an impossible initial sound in original Finnish. Thirdly, an original Permian dental, unless supported by another consonant, seems to fall out or turns into l: e.g. ki = F. käte-; ku = F. kete-; ma, mu = F. mete-; va, vu = F. vete-; ku-nị = F. kuto-a; s´ulem = F. sydame-, etc.
W. Tomaschek also connects the name Thyssagetæ with the Čusovaya, and identifies the people with the Voguls. The identification is ingeniously worked out, though hardly convincing, while to explain the four rivers that flowed through their territory into the Mæotis he has to do great violence to the text he is trying to elucidate. Nor can I find sufficient ground for believing that the Melanchlainæ were Čeremis and that the Cannibals were Mordvins, for
both these nations seem to have lived too far south to be connected with any Finnish people. 1
The next authority is Ptolemy, who wrote about the middle of the second century A.D., but sometimes incorporated into his geography information of considerably earlier date. By this time the interior of Russia must have been partly explored. The geographical position of the sources of the Volga or Rha, a name still preserved by the Mordvins, and of the Don are given, as well as the points where they make a sharp, protracted bend, and the course of the Kama is also laid down. If, as seems probable, Ptolemy has taken the source of the Mologa for that of the Volga, his longitude is nearly right, though the latitude is a full degree too far north. But the point where the Kama falls into the Volga is 2½° too far west, and over 3° too far north, while the length he assigns to the Kama falls short of its real length, though it may reach to the confluence of the Čusovaya. The length of the Don is also too short, though the lower course below the bend is fairly exact. The neck where the Don and the Volga approach nearest each other was known, though it was placed fully 7° too far north and about 2½° too far west. The mouth of the Volga is fairly accurate as regards longitude, but a full degree too far north, while the mouth of the Don is about 2½° too far west, and fully 7° too far north.
At the bend made by the Don were the Perierbidi, who were a great people; above them Ptolemy names three others; above them Royal Sarmatians, Modocæ, and Horse-eating Sarmatians, and north of these the Hyperborean Sarmatians. All these tribes, including the most northerly, are expressly said to be a pastoral people, so that, starting
from the bend of the Don northwards, they could not have extended beyond the Volga, and, if the information is correct, some of these tribes roamed over a region where Mordvins are now found. Whether any of them are ancestors of the Mordvins is a question that cannot be answered, though it does not seem impossible. Near the supposed source of the Kama, but really about the confluence of the Čusovaya, were the Robosci, and to them perhaps belonged the objects of stone and copper that have been found near its mouth (p. 79), as well as the place near Gliadénova where they sacrificed to their gods. East of the Volga, but south of the Kama, were the Lice-eaters, the Materi, and the district Nesiotis.
Although nothing definite can be learnt from a perusal of the ethnic names of Ptolemy, we have the assurance that the Don, the Volga, and the Kama were known for the greater part of their respective lengths by the middle of the second century, and possibly earlier. That means they had been traversed by persons of sufficient intelligence to measure roughly the length of the rivers on which they were travelling, and to note down the names of the nomadic tribes that lived on the banks. Along the Volga the notebook seems not to have been used after reaching the Old, for pastoral tribes, owing to the forests, could hardly have pastured large herds west of that river. The left bank of the Volga appears to have been imperfectly known, which may mean that all the stopping-places were on the right or high bank. Along the banks of the Kama, which must have been thickly wooded, no notice is taken of the inhabitants, not even of the people who buried their dead in the cemetery at Anánino, till we reach the supposed source of the river. East of the Urals Ptolemy knew of no rivers
that drain into the Siberian Ocean, a sufficient proof that his knowledge did not extend much beyond the 55th parallel of north latitude, and that no caravan route could have existed in the time of Herodotus that led up the valley of the Kama, across the Urals and up the Irtịš, as W. Tomaschek maintains. 1
As nothing was known of Central Russia, taking Moscow as a centre and describing a circle with a radius of at least two hundred miles, it is more convenient to leave Ptolemy for a while and hear what Tacitus at the end of the first century has to relate about the Æstii and the Fenni. He places the Æstii, or Aistii, on the coast to the right of the Suevian Ocean, by which we have to understand somewhere on the east side of the Vistula, for his descriptive geography is hazy in the extreme. In dress and manners they resembled the Suevi, but they cultivated the earth with a patience that was hardly consistent with the natural laziness of Germans. They searched the sea for amber, which they termed glēsum, and were the only people that gathered it. Being possessed of little iron, their favourite weapon was the club. They worshipped the mother of the gods, and in war placed the greatest reliance on carrying about with them the figure of a wild boar; by doing so they were perfectly secure. With regard to their language it had more affinity with that of Britain.
In this brief account there are certainly discrepancies. In one breath the Æstii are classed with Germans, in another their language is said to resemble rather that of Britain, while the only word quoted is a genuine Teutonic vocable. In the next section, however, Tacitus hesitates whether to collocate the Venedi and the Fenni with Germans
or Sarmatians, though he finally arrives at the conclusion that the former must be ascribed to Germany, since they had settled habitations, knew the use of shields, and travelled on foot, while the Sarmatians lived on horseback or in wagons. His classification of ethnic groups was based therefore more on ethnography than on language. But if the introduction of the word glēsum was made through inadvertence, as might well be the case, the substantial fact remains that the language of the Æstii and the Suevi differed more than dialectically; it belonged, in fact, to a different group. Tacitus further mentions in order from north to south the Fenni, the Venedi, and the Peucini without defining exactly their geographical position, though all must certainly be placed to the east of the Vistula. The Venedi led a wandering life and supported themselves by plunder, but at the same time they had settled abodes, used shields, and travelled on foot, not on horseback like the Sarmatians. The Fenni were extremely ferocious, poor, and dirty; they possessed no weapons, save bows and arrows tipped with bone, no horses, and no fixed abode. They slept on the ground, lived partly on herbs, and dressed in the skins of wild animals. As Tacitus hesitated whether to class the Fenni among the Germans or not, there may be some exaggeration in his picture of them, and it does not correspond with what we have reason to believe was the civilisation of the Finns at the beginning of the present era.
To Ptolemy the Vistula was the boundary between Germany and Sarmatia. He places the Venedic Gulf east of the mouths of the Vistula, and continues the coast in an easterly and north-easterly direction for several hundred miles. Along this stretch of sea coast he mentions four
rivers—the Khronos, Rhubon (Rhudon), Turuntos, and Khesinos (Khersinos, Khesynos). In contradistinction to the rivers west of the Vistula, most of which bear names that recall the ancient designations, none of these four can now be recognised. This circumstance might arise either from a complete migration of the older population, which was succeeded by another that renamed the rivers, or from the information that Ptolemy used having been obtained from a foreign, perhaps a German, source. To the watershed, lying 800 to 900 feet above the sea, from which these rivers descended, the Greek geographer and his successors gave several names; east of the Vistula it was termed the Venedic Hills; further east, but on the same parallel, it bore the name of Bodinon, and still further east, of Alaunon; 2½ degrees north and a little to the east came the hills called Rhipaia. According to Marcian of Heracleia the Khronos was the smallest of the four rivers, and both it and the Rhudon debouched into the Venedic Gulf, but the first rose in the Venedic Hills and the other in the hill Alanos (Alaunos). The two other rivers had their rise in the Rhipaian Hills. Smaller tribes near the Vistula and south of the Venedai were the Guthones, then the Phinnoi, then the Sulones. East of these, and also south of the Venedai, were the Galindai, Sudinoi, and Stavanoi. It has been suggested that the names Galindai, Sudinoi are perhaps preserved in the old Prussian districts of Galindia and Sudovia, the first lying west, the other north-east, of the Spirding See, though Ptolemy seems to place them south of the watershed. On the coast adjoining the Venedic Gulf were the Veltai, north of them the Ossioi (Hosioi), and north of all the Carbones. East of the latter were the Karestai and Saloi, south of them the
[paragraph continues] Agathursoi. Marcian makes the remark that the Agathosoi (Agathursoi) were a Sarmatian people in Europe that lived on the Khesynos.
As the longitude of the mouth of the Vistula given by Ptolemy is only a little east of the true longitude, it may be the result of an astronomic observation; but he places its latitude more than a degree and a half too far north. Every point on his map east of this river is extremely doubtful, for when his data are protracted to scale on a modern map his furthest point falls to the west of the north end of Lake Onega. As this point was supposed to be in the same latitude as Thule, which Ptolemy placed three degrees of latitude too far north, it must be lowered by that amount and set on the both parallel, which runs through the head of the Gulf of Finland. And as the base point at the mouth of the Vistula is too far north, another degree or so must be subtracted, which places the furthest known point somewhere on the north-west coast of Esthonia. That Ptolemy's knowledge should have extended so far north, if not further, is corroborated by the archæological objects found in Esthonia, some of which had evidently been brought there by a maritime route. Between the furthest point on the Esthonian coast and the Vistula the four rivers above mentioned must be sought. As the Khronos was the smallest of the four, and rose in the Venedic Hills, it might be the Pregel, which at various times has been known as the Pregora, Lipza, Lipsa, and Skarra; the Rhubōn, which also fell into the Venedic Gulf, must be the Niemen, Lith. Nemōnas; the Turuntos is very difficult to identify, but I suppose it to be the Windau, Lith. Venta, though it does not rise anywhere near the Rhipaian Hills; the Khersinos is probably the Dvina.
The Venedai occupied the south coast of the Gulf of Dantzig as far, perhaps, as the Niemen, a territory that in historic times belonged to the Old Prussians, a people of Lithuanian stock. The Veltai, who came next, may have been on the coast of Kurland, the Ossioi in Livland, and the Carbones in Esthonia. The only evidence we have regarding the nationality of the tribes hereabouts is of a negative nature, the chance remark that the Agathyrsi on the Khesynos (Dvina?) were a Sarmatian people implying at any rate that they were not Germans. Of course it is astonishing to find such well-known ethnical names as Agathyrsi and Aorsi, who came next below them, so far to the north, but a probable explanation is that local names resembling these in form have been transmuted into the above by a rash and thoughtless scribe. As the Agathyrsi were not on the coast, they may have lived about the Drissa, a northern affluent of the Dvina, and the four tribes mentioned by Ptolemy as occupying the country between the Agathyrsi and the Rhipaian Hills, in which the Khersinos or Khesynos took its rise, were possibly cantoned along its banks. If that is so the Dvina was navigated in boats that may have been taken as far as the site of Bielị in the government of Smolensk, where navigation begins, and some, if not all, of the inhabitants of the valley were Sarmatians.
If Ptolemy is to be credited, most, if not all, of the inhabitants of East Prussia in the middle of the second century were Slavs, for he calls them Venedai, or Wends. As he omits the Æstii he probably included them among the Venedai, who are expressly stated to have been a very great people. South of these, and presumably south of the Venedic Hills, he sets Guthones, who are generally
taken to be Goths, and whose position would therefore be in the north of Poland. South of them were the Phinnoi. Zeuss did not accept the Ptolemian account; he assumed that the name of Venedic Gulf was an entire misnomer, placed the Guthones on the coast instead of the Venedai, and affirmed it was impossible Ptolemy could have located the Phinnoi in their true position. 1 If by these we have to understand Lapps or Finns, it may certainly be granted that they never permanently lived near the right bank of the Vistula, and this position does not quite tally with that assigned to them by Tacitus. His Peucini inhabited the region north of the Carpathians, what is now Galicia; north of them were plundering Venedi, who may be placed in Volhynia, and north of them were the Fenni, in what is now the government of Minsk. Both authorities place the latter people in the same latitude, or nearly so, but Ptolemy sets them about two degrees further west. Although it is difficult to believe that any Western Finns ever resided permanently so far to the west and south as the government of Minsk, and although their civilisation in the second century A.D. was very different from that portrayed by Tacitus, it is not impossible to suppose that they made hunting or predatory excursions in that direction. To judge from the practice of modern Zịrians and Samoyedes, a hunting or trading expedition to a place several hundred miles distant from their headquarters is no great matter; and the former, even in winter, travel very lightly attired, with no more property than can be placed on a light sledge and dragged along by its owner. At certain seasons, when wild fowl were in abundance, the Pinsk marshes may have presented great attractions, and they were well within
reach of Finns near the sources of the Volga, the Valda Hills, and other places where they can with certainty be postulated. On these excursions all the members of a large family or small clan would not take part; some would be left behind to look after the few horses and cattle they possessed, to protect the huts, and till the ground. As iron was scarcely known, at any rate was very rare, the arrow-heads were tipped with bone. Supposing, as we arc bound to do, that such respectable authorities as Tacitus and Ptolemy had sufficient warrant for the statements they advanced, it is only by a hypothesis of this kind that we can explain the presence of Finns not more than one hundred geographical miles from the banks of the Vistula.
To return to the Aistii: they are mentioned in the sixth century by Jordanes, who speaks of them as a very peaceful people, living on the coast to the east of the Vidivarii, an aggregate of diverse nationalities that dwelt between the three mouths of the Vistula. They were therefore posted along the amber coast of East Prussia. In the ninth century, under the name of Estas, they are mentioned by Wulfstan in the description he gave to King Alfred of his voyage along the south coast of the Baltic. He sets them east of the mouth of the Vistula, and speaks of the Frische Haf as the Estmere. Estland is said to be very extensive, and to contain many towns, with a king over each. Honey and fish were there in abundance. The kings and the richest people drank mare's milk, while the poor had to content themselves with mead, as beer was entirely unknown. 1 When a man died his body was left unburnt
with his relations for a month, or even six months, according to the wealth and status of the defunct. During the whole of this interval the friends and relations were continually feasting and amusing themselves till the day of cremation. All that was left of the deceased's property after the long jollification was divided into several lots, and placed at different distances from the dead man's home. The relatives and friends then raced for the lots, and the man with the best horse carried off the best share, which was also the furthest off. When this excitement was over the corpse was burnt with the weapons and clothing. As neither drinking mare's milk nor racing in connection with funeral rites have been recorded as Teutonic customs, but are compatible with a people of Sarmatian descent or mode of life, the Æstii of Tacitus may be regarded as the progenitors of the Estas of the ninth century. And as the Est name was eventually transferred to the Finnish Esthonians, it is probable that, taken in connection with the craniological and archæological data of previous chapters, the whole of the Baltic Provinces were once possessed by tribes of Lithuanian or Lettish stock.
In a previous chapter it was mentioned that some of the best archaeologists believe that the Baltic Provinces up to the fifth century were occupied by a Teutonic people who disappeared without leaving any trace of their presence, save the archæological finds of the earlier Iron Age. But as Ptolemy and other authorities make the Vistula the boundary between Germany and Sarmatia, and several indications seem to show that part of the information was received from German sources, such as words like Fenni, Æstii, glēsum, Khronos, Khersinos,
it is singular that none of the intelligence from such sources led Ptolemy to suppose that Germans lived along the Baltic coast east of the Vistula. It is remarkable, too, that the so-called 'face-urns' of the Hallstadt period, so common and characteristic of the region west and south of Dantzig, are only known in one place east of the Vistula, quite close to the right bank. This is easily explained by the hypothesis that the river was the boundary between two distinct nationalities, though not otherwise. The question whether the Lithuanian peoples are recent intruders might be definitely answered, if we knew of any grounds for believing them to have been settled for a very long time on the south-east shores of the Baltic, where they can certainly be traced for the last eighteen centuries. Two words show they have not materially changed their abode for a long period of time. They have native words for the 'eel' and the 'salmon,' both of which have to migrate annually to the sea, and are found in rivers that drain into the Baltic, but not in those that find an outlet in the Black Sea. This places the old home of the Lithuanian peoples north of the watershed of all rivers that run southwards; an area that includes East Prussia, Poland, the Baltic Provinces, and the governments of Kovno, Suvalki, Vilna, Vitebsk, Pskov, and Petersburg. But Poland and East Prussia west of the Pregel may be excluded, as the word for 'beech' is a Teutonic loan word, and the eastern limit of the tree at present is formed by a line drawn from Königsberg to Podolia. The original home of the Letto-Lithuanians may be sought chiefly in the valleys of the Niemen and the Dvina, with their tributaries. Though there are eels, there are no salmon in the Velíkaya, the Embach, or
[paragraph continues] Lake Peipus, as their progress is stopped by the Falls of the Narva; but they are caught in the Narva below the Falls, in the Salis, and all other rivers that fall into the Baltic. Whether salmon are found in Lake Ilmen or the Volkhov I have no information, but a variety of the salmon frequents Lake Ladoga, and there is no obstacle to prevent their ascending the Volkhov to Lake Ilmen. Yet it is curious that at the prehistoric station on Lake Ladoga no salmon bones were observed.
According to Professor Y. Koskinen, the first reliable information of a Finnish people being settled in the Baltic Provinces belongs to the middle of the ninth century. In his Life of St. Ansgarius, Rimbert mentions that the Kurs (Cori) had formerly been subjected to Sweden, though they had shaken off her yoke a long time ago. He then narrates how the Danes, about 853 A.D., had made an unlucky raid into the land of the Kurs, which was divided into six districts (civitates), and how afterwards the Swedes with better luck and the aid of Christ had again brought them into subjection. This shows that in Rimbert's time the Kurs were already settled on the Baltic coast, and this settlement must have occurred at least by the end of the eighth century, probably earlier. There is no doubt that the Livs and Kurs were one and the same people, and evidently about the same period the Ests settled in Esthonia and the Finns proper in Finland. 1 Against part of this statement Pastor Bielenstein raises an objection. Though he grants that the Kurs were undoubtedly Finns, and that the name was probably given them by the Scandinavians, he considers it a mistake to suppose that a Finnish people must have covered the
whole area where the name Kur is found. For instance, the Kurs of the Kurische Nehrung have always been Letts, and the Lithuanians call the Letts that live among the Finnish Kurs—Kuršei. In his opinion the Cori of St. Ansgarius, who fought with King Olaf in Apulia, not far from Schoden on the Bartau, were most likely Letts or Lithuanians, as no Finnish place-names occur in that part of Kurland. 1
This seems rather to invalidate the proposition that in the middle of the ninth century the Scandinavians knew of a Finnish people in the north-west of Kurland. But as about 12 per cent. of Finnish place-names are to be found in the old province of Bihavelanc, through which the lower half of the Bartau flows, some Finnish Kurs must have been settled there. It is possible then that the Finnish (?) Cori on this occasion, when attacked by a stronger force of Swedes, were compelled to retire up the river, and were actually on Lithuanian ground when, feeling themselves cornered, they delivered battle.
Although the first reliable notice of the Kurs is by Ansgarius, they are named by Saxo as having taken part in the great battle of Bravalla between the Swedes and Danes about the year 775, in which the former were victorious. On this notable occasion Kurlanders and Esthonians are said to have fought on the side of the Swedes, while Livonians and Slavs had sided with the Danes. It is possible, perhaps likely, that these names are the additions of a later time, but it shows the Finns were a fighting people and were accustomed to face the sea at the time when these names became attached to the
legend of the great battle. The Slavs here mentioned are the Wends of Pomerania, and it is to be remarked that the Letts and Lithuanians are passed over in silence; either they were not a very warlike people, or they were not distinguished from the Wends, as Ptolemy seems also to have done.
Almost contemporaneous with the first notice of the Cori is the mention of the Ests, or Esthonians, under the name of Čudes, by Nestor, the earliest Russian annalist. In 859 he records that the Variags came from the other side of the sea and levied on the Čudes, Slavs, Merians, etc., a tribute of one white squirrel-skin per head. Three years later they again visited Russia. But on this occasion the above-mentioned peoples refused to pay the tax, drove the enemy back across the sea, and made an interesting experiment in self-government. It did not however prove a success. Internal quarrels were so numerous that a deputation of Čudes, Slavs, etc., was sent to the country of the Variags to solicit the loan of an impartial prince, strong enough to keep the peace. The result was that Rurik and his two brothers came to Russia, built the town of Ladoga, and became the founders of the Russian Empire. 1 So far as we can judge from the brief entries of the annalist, the Čudes and Slavs were apparently on a footing of equality. Both peoples rose against the Variags, and both took part in the council that determined to summon a foreign prince who could hold the balance evenly between the conflicting interests of Finns, Slavs, etc. The Čudes were probably as well, if not better, armed than the Slavs. If Ibn Dustah's information is to be relied upon, the latter fought on foot, and were only
armed with javelins, spears, and shields. In addition to these, the Čudes might have had swords as well as bows and arrows. At any rate they and the Merians took part with the Variags and Slavs, not only in Oleg's expedition that led to the capture of Smolensk in 882, but also in his far more important campaign against the Greeks in Constantinople in 907. Those of the Finns that lived to return to their homes no doubt brought back their share of the ransom that the Greeks had to pay to Oleg to avoid the complete sack of the imperial city. He had demanded and obtained twelve grivnas, or about six lbs., of silver for each of his fighting men. For more than a hundred years afterwards the Finns and Slavs seem to have lived together on friendly terms. It is not till the year 1030 that this happy state of things was disturbed by Yaroslav, who invaded the country of the Čudes, conquered them, and laid the foundations of Yúriev (Dorpat). Twelve years later his son Vladímir made a campaign against the Yems, now mentioned for the first time, subdued them, and took many prisoners. The Russians were not however always successful, for in 1054, when Ostromir and his Novgorodan soldiers made an incursion upon the Čudes, he was killed, and many of his followers. Generally speaking, however, the Čudes came off second-best, and no doubt were greatly outnumbered. 1 As the entries in the Chronicle are extremely brief, and tell us nothing of the customs or social life of the Finnish tribes, and often leave their geographical position uncertain, it is unnecessary to pursue them further.
Though mentioned earlier, not much is known of the Livs till the arrival of the Germans at the mouth of the
[paragraph continues] Dvina in 1159. When Meinhart arrived in 1186 he found them paying tribute to King Vladimir of Polotsk, and the same winter the Lithuanians devastated the country and carried away many captives. His well-intentioned efforts to convert the Pagan Livs were not crowned with immediate success; when by promises of protection against their enemies a few had been enticed to accept baptism, even these few persons took the first convenient opportunity of washing it off in the waters of the Dvina. The German chroniclers tell us almost nothing of the Paganism of the Livs. A Bull of Pope Innocent in 1190 avers that the Livs paid the honour due to God to brute beasts, to leafy trees, to clear water, to verdant herbs, and to unclean spirits. They seem to have cut the images of their gods on the boughs of the sacred trees, and it is known that the Esthonians had images of their gods in a beautiful wood in Wierland. The offerings to the gods consisted of a dog or a ram, occasionally of a man. To discover the will of the gods before important undertakings different modes of sortilege were employed; and to this punctilious observance of the Livs a German missionary bishop once owed his life. They were under the impression that the sacrifice of the bishop would have a beneficial effect upon the crops. But they first consulted the oracle by making a horse step over a lance. As it crossed the spear with the foot that showed the victim was unsuitable—probably the left foot—the life of Bishop Theodorich was spared. How the Livs disposed of their dead is not recorded, but the Kurs practised cremation, and the funeral ceremony was accompanied with loud lamentation. The Livs did not form a connected state under a common head, but were under a number of small elders, whom Henry of Lettland
generally terms 'seniores.' Besides these there was a class of wealthier people, called by the chronicler 'primores, meliores,' from whose families hostages were taken. Some of the elders were entitled kings—without meaning, however, that they exercised authority over the other elders. And the district over which an elder ruled was termed 'provincia,' or in the language of the Ests—'kylegunda,' originally a loan word from the Scandinavians. The Livs were armed with swords, lances, javelins, bows, and shields, and fought both on foot and on horseback. Their many wars were chiefly predatory expeditions against their neighbours; at first against the Letts, whom they despised, and in later times against the Esthonians, Zemgalls, Lithuanians, and Russians. These incursions were carried on with great barbarity and devastation of property, the men being all killed, while the women and children were generally led captive. In this, however, they were no worse than their neighbours, and not so bad as the Letts, whom Henry describes as the most cruel of all people. The Livs, when not fighting and marauding, occupied themselves with agriculture, fishing, hunting, cattle-rearing, and bee-keeping. Before the arrival of the Germans they had some trade to boast of, for Adam of Bremen, writing of Livland some one hundred years before that event, says that it was rich in gold. Henry, too, relates that the sons of Lettish elders, after a raid into Esthonia, brought back three lispunds (sixty lbs.) of silver, besides other booty. Though the Livs used ships and boats, it is never mentioned that they used them for piratical expeditions. In this they differed from the Kurs, who, before the advent of the Germans, had the reputation of being noted pirates, and in conjunction with the islanders of
[paragraph continues] Oesel extended their depredations as far as Denmark and Sweden. 1
Although the Kurs are mentioned earlier than the Letts in Kurland, it does not follow that they were the older inhabitants. There is ground for believing them to be intruders. Both in Kurland and Livland, to judge from the evidence of place-names, the Finns only occupied a fringe of territory along the coast, for Finnish names on the map gradually diminish in number as we recede from the sea. Their name, too, for the Dvina (Vēna, Väinä) seems borrowed from a Slav dialect. 2
128:1 Tomaschek, Bd. cxvii, pp. 8–10, 17, 19–21, 32–34.
130:1 Tomaschek, (1) p. 780.
135:1 Zeuss, pp. 266, 274.
136:1 Ibn Dustah, about the year 912, says much the same of the Slavs. Only the great prince drank mare's milk, the rest of the people drank mead (Khvolson, pp. 31, 32).
139:1 Koskinen, p. 360.
140:1 Bielenstein, pp. 350, 351.
141:1 Akiander, pp. 12–14.
142:1 Akiander, pp. 15, 19; Paris, i. pp. 35, 36.
145:1 Wiedemann, pp. xxx, lvi, lxi–lxiv.
145:2 Bielenstein, pp. 348, 357, 365.