PART 5    Ch.XXXIII.21

The Pelasgians or proto – Latins (Arimii)

(The Pelasgians from the northern parts of the Danube and the Black Sea)





XXXIII. 21. Latinii in the regions of the Baltic Sea.


Various Latin tribes were scattered through the northern regions of Europe even from very remote times.

The most significant group of Latins from near the Baltic Sea was formed by the populations so-called Letic: Litvanii, Livonii, Iativingii and the ancient Prusii, today desnationalized.

The Polish historian Dlugos (+1480), who knew very well the ethnographic ties, not only of his country, but also of the neighboring countries, writes about these populations: “How, when and in what quality the nation of the Litvanii and the Samogitii have come in these northern lands where they dwell today, and from where they draw their origin, it is known but little, because no author wrote anything in this regard. But there exists a probable presumption, confirmed by the form of the language, their mode of speaking, and the conclusions which result from other circumstances and deeds, that: the Litvanii and Samogitii are a people of Latin origin, and if, nevertheless, their origin does not derive straight from the Romans, they originate from a Latin people; and that they have left the ancestral land of Italy, and their ancient dwellings, in the time of the civil wars, which took place firstly between Marius and Sulla, then between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, and those who followed after them. Because of these civil calamities, fearing that the entire population of Italy will perish, they have come with their women, with their herds and their families to these northern regions, vast, deserted, and trampled only by wild beasts….The Litvanii and Samogitii, before receiving Christianity, had the same religion, the same divinities, the same religious rites, and the same ceremonies, which the pagan Romans used to have; namely, they venerated the sacred fire, which they considered eternal,  in their vain belief, like the sacred fire was also guarded at Rome by the virgin Vestals, who were punished with death when the fire was extinguished because of their neglect. The Litvanii and Samogitii also had woods, called sacred, and believed that it was not only a sin if somebody touched them with iron, but that this deed also brought a deadly peril …. They adored the vipers and serpents, which shows that they had the cult of the god Esculapius, under the shape of the serpent. And although in these religious beliefs and customs they did not resembled that much the Romans and the Italians, they imitated in a large part their cult. While the Litvanii were still dominated by the darkness of paganism, and still kept to their ancestral customs, they gathered each year, around the beginning of the month of October, with their women and families, in some woods, which they believed sacred, and in the course of three days they sacrificed to their family gods, burning for them whole victims, oxen, calves, rams and other animals, and after they carried out this sacrifice, they celebrated with feasts, games and dancing. This sacrifice was considered as the most principal and solemn festivity of theirs, from which nobody was allowed to be absent…. But on one hand, the land on which they dwell, and the nature of the climate under which they live, and on the other hand, their living together with the Rutenii and their mixing with these, have changed in many ways their archaic nature, although it has not completely extinguished it …. The Litvanii, Samogitii and Iativingii, although having different ethnic names, and although being divided in a number of families, have once formed a single people, which drew its origin from the Romans and from Italy, constituting therefore a nation which has remained for a long time unknown and obscure ….In the beginning they lived as they liked, and because their neighbors did not hinder them, they multiplied and continuously peopled the lower country, towards Prussia, which, by the nature of their language, they named Samogithia, which means the lower country; following which, they also occupied the neighboring country of Poland, which they named Iaraczones. Their language is Latin, and it differs from this one only in a small measure, due to the fact that, because of the trade which they did with the neighboring peoples, they had also adopted in their idiom Slavonic words. Their army is composed in its larger part of slaves. These they keep in their buildings, use for house service, and give them as dowry to their son-in-laws. Often even free people become their slaves, some for the debts they themselves had contracted, others for giving guaranties, which they had not been able to honor later” (Hist. Pol. Ed. 1711, lib. X. col.113-118; Tacitus, Germ. 43).

(The ancient Prussian language has disappeared around the end of the 17th century, that of the Iativingii, from the voivodat Bielsk or Podlachia, even earlier – Diefenbach, Orig. europ. 203).

According to Cromer (+1591), to the same ethnic family of the Litvanii, Samogitii and Iativingii, also belonged the Livonii or Letii, who dwell on the eastern shores of the Riga gulf.

“Livonii, Samogitii, Litvanii and Prusii”, says Cromer, “use almost the same and only folk language, completely different from the Slav language, and in which there are not a few words of Latin origin, but mostly corrupted, and with a character more Italic and Hispanic than Latin. But we cannot know when the Latin language has mixed with the folk idiom of the Prussii, Litvanii and Livonii” (De orig. et reb. Gest. Pol. Lib. III. p. 42; Ptolemy, II. 11. 16 – the Levonii appear as a tribe from Scandinavia).


As we see, Dlugos reckoned that the Litvanii, Samogitii and Iativingii were peoples of Latin origin, emigrated from the territory of Italy, in the course of the great civil calamities from the latter times of the Roman republic [1].


[1. The Litvanii, men and women, are a beautiful race of people. In older times, when still not so mixed with various Slav tribes, they were of a taller stature, and there existed among them even giant figures. The Litvanii are almost all blond, and in a certain measure white in their youth, but the more they advance in age, the darker their hair becomes. Their eyes are blue. Their nose is of an antique shape and is in a straight line with the forehead. The men wear mostly long hair, cut short above the forehead (Brennsohn, Zur Anthrop. d. Litauer. Dorpat, 1883, p. 18-19; Pauly, Descr. etnogr. des peoples de la Russie, St.Petersb. 1867, p. 123)].


In truth, it is a well known fact that for half a century, from Marius to Octavianus, the agricultural population of Italy had completely changed. The decisions of Sylla and his successors had affected the entire peninsula. The people of Italy were scattered to the most remote regions. In those times all the roads of the peninsula were full of emigrants; some ran southwards, others northwards. The lands of the peasants were occupied by the veterans and bands of mercenaries, gathered from all the provinces and all the nations. At that time the ancient nation of Italy was extinguished, at that time the nation of the Etruscans, with all its science and literature, vanished, at that time also disappeared the ancient idiom of Latium.

The poet Virgil, in one of his poems, composed around the end of the civil wars, presents a peasant from Italy saying the following moving words: “Chased from our ancestral lands, from our beautiful plains, we have to abandon this country … Some of us will go to the dry lands of Africa, others to Scythia, some to the banks of the torrential river Oaxes in Crete, others to the country of the Britons, entirely separated from this world …. The lawless soldier will own in future the fields worked by us, and the barbarian will reap what we sowed! Look where the poor citizens have been brought by discord” (Bucolicon, Ecl. 1, v. 3 seqq).


Although some Italic groups had been forced, in those times political unrest, to look for a new country in the vast deserted lands of Scythia, the original stratum of the population of Litvania, and of the neighboring regions, belongs to much more remote times [2].


[2. Litvania (Litv. Letuva; med. Latin Litava and Lithvania) appears with the Romanian chroniclers under the name Litva. For the Romanian people the word litfa is synonymous with the term Latin or Letin and means a pagan, or a man who is not of our law. Under the form litfa, this word is very ancient. The wife of Hercules, as Cedrenus (I. p. 245) tells us, was called Lytbe (meaning the Latin). In the time of Diocletian we find one Aurelius Litva as “praeses Prov. Mauritaniae Caesariensis (C. I. L. vol. VIII, nr. 8924, 9041, and 9324)].


We reproduce here the following Latin elements from the actual idiom of the Litvanii (according to Schleicher, Litanische Grammatik, Glossar, Prag. 1856-1857.)

Various localities in Litvania, Curlandia, Samogitia, and oriental Prussia had preserved to our days names like: Laten, Laden, Lade, Ladenghof, Latu, Leteniski, Ledence, Lediken.