Hittites ~ Phrygians ~ Balkan peoples?

X99Lynx at aol.com X99Lynx at aol.com
Wed Aug 4 06:09:52 UTC 1999

In a message dated 7/30/99 12:32:35 AM, ECOLING at aol.com wrote:

<<There has been much discussion of the Hittites and the Phrygians, and other
names for these or other peoples of Anatolia and the Balkans (Thracians,
Illyrians, Dacians, Moesians, etc. etc.), which may have been incorrectly
taken as distinct peoples in the past, instead of simply as different names
used for the same peoples at different times or by different authors or

Can someone produce a summary of the argument for a new way of viewing things
in TABULAR form?>>

I can't supply what you are asking for here, but I can offer some
observations that may be pertinent, at least as far as the Balkan groups you
mention. And although I'm not sure this reflects the "new way of looking at
things,"  I think it's fairly current.

In general, the archaeological evidence seems at best ambiguous about the
<<Thracians, Illyrians, Dacians, Moesians, etc. etc.>>  But it is a little
difficult to see how these could be <<different names used for the same
peoples at different times by different authors or cultures.>>

Thracians, Dacians and Illyrians - as far as their remains have been
correctly identified - each left evidence of fairly distinct material
cultures behind them.  This may be attributed to some degree to when and from
where these material influences came from.  The culture that we would
identify as "Thracian", for example, was involved in Iron Age metalurgy far
earlier than anything we find north of the Danube that we might call Dacian.
Illyrians' sites on the other hand show strong affinities with cultures of
the Italian Peninsula in terms of material goods.

Beyond mere influence, north of the Danube, in areas commonly designated as
"Dacia" on historical maps, there is significant evidence of the presence of
cultures other than "Dacian." Dating before about 100BC, over 140 Celtic
settlements or cemetaries have been found in Transylvania and the Banat -
perhaps more than "Dacian" remains.  (Germanic metalwork and much
Scythian-Sarnmatian material have also been found in the area from about this
time.)  And this Celtic presence did not represent merely local settlements -
brooch types found in Romania are "almost identical" to the LaTene B types
found in central Europe.

This seems rather important when one sees statements like the following:
"...the Dacian pottery of the 2nd to the 4th centuries [AD] preserved
everywhere – both within the province and outside of it – [display] the
powerful traditions from the late La Tene, from which it developed relatively
uniformly."  Pottery is of course a basic yard marker of material cultural
identification, and this statement cannot be made regarding Thracian or even
Illyrian pottery.

Certain burial practices also suggest a deeper cultural difference between
the groups.  For example, we hear that rituals "such as placing the inventary
over the cavity, assembling of fragments of earthenware together with stones,
animal bones, and other objects, are old Dacian customs."  On the other hand,
"the ritual of burning of the cavities.. dates from the period before the
occupation of Dacia by the Romans. The funeral ritual of burned cavities is
not Dacian and does not appear in significant numbers [in Dacia] before the
Roman conquest. It is found in Pannonia, Moesia, and Illyricum. Garasanin
(quoted by Bârzu Cemet. 1973, p. 92), assumed that it is of Illyrian origin;
it was, in any case, widedspread in Illyria."  The contrast with the burial
tombs and necropolises (with almost Mycenaean-like "honeycombs") of the 3-5th
Century BC Thracians and their later Greek inspired practices is quite

There are quite a few other examples that are not exactly suggestive of a
"one people with different names" premise.  One does not find the continuity
in discoverable material culture that one finds in connection with, e.g., the
Celts, Germans or Slavs.  But the truth is that the correlations in the
geographic area of the upper Danube is quite muddled.  (For example, I just
saw in one article "Daco-Roman" sites identified as "Cherniakhov",  which is
much more often associated with the coming of the Goths and which extended
well into the Ukraine.  But this subject matter seems to generate these kinds
of surprises.)

In terms of the writers:  Homer identifies the Thracians (and Mysians) and
puts them on the side of the Trojans.  Herodotus (say 450BC) identifies both
Thracians and Getae, saying that the Getae are different from all other
Thracians.  This is in the course of describing Darius' invasion of Europe in
his attempt to attack the Scythians from the west.  Perhaps important here is
that Darius subdues the Getae before his army ever crosses north of the
Danube.  Herodotus also describes the more northwestern neighbors of the
Scythians as the 'Agythoni" - 550 years later, Ptolemy will place the Gythoni
south of the Venedi and just north of Dacia - about the same place.

A number of historians described Alexander's march to the Danube.  He is
first attacked in a northern mountain pass by Thracian "traders" who roll
wagons down the slopes at his army.  He chases other Thracians to the Danube,
then crosses it to attack Getae on the other side who run off into the
"uninhabited country" to the north.  "All the independent tribes" along the
Danube - mainly Celts - along with Celts from Illyria send emissaries to make
peace.  Later the Cimbri attack "Dacians" near Italy before invading in the
2d cent. BC.  The "Getae" consolidate and invade east, west and south into
the Balkans in 80BC under Burebista.  Then they fall back.

Strabo the Greek (around the time of Christ) says that the Greeks once
confused the Thracians with the Getae; that the Getae speak Thracian: that
for some time the Getae had been moved or escaped to Thrace because of the
attacks of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Bastarnae/Peucini (who both Strabo
and Tacitus describe as Germanic types).  Strabo also says that the Getae and
the Dacians are of the same people, but that the Dacians live in the west on
the borders of Germania (where Caesar also places them) far from Greece.
Strabo also correctly notes that the Thracian word for 'town' used in
compound is -bria.

Getea/Dacia rises again in the 2d Century AD under Decaballus (sp?) is
conquered by Trajan and becomes a buffer province (under the name 'Dacia")
for 160 years until the part north of the Danube is abandoned because of
barbarian incursions.  The Romans however continually also used "Getae,"
often to refer to Thracians, Boeotians and even as a surname or a slave name.

Linguistically, the most seemingly complete assessment I've gotten my hands
on is by Duridanov from the 1980's I believe.   He compares Thracian and
Dacian and concludes they were "two different Indo-European languages", based
on such phonetic differences as Dacian 'b,d,g' vs. Thracian 'p,t,k'; Dacian
'p,t,k' vs. Thracian 'ph, th, kh'; Dacian 's' vs. Thracian 'st'; etc.

It should be noted however that there are almost no Dacian inscriptions and
(by far) the longest Thracian one (the Ezero gold ring- 4th Cent BC?) is 61
Greek characters long and appears indecipherable (Duridanov mentions more
than 20 different translations; on a museum tour in the US in 1998 no
translation was even offered.)  The main source of data is personal and place
names.  Given the form of the evidence, maybe the most certain element in the
whole mess, the suffix for 'town', goes against Dacian=Thracian.  As JP
Mallory put it in 'In Search of the IEs': "Certainly it is odd that the
standard suffix in Dacian indicating a town '-dava', is not reflected in any
of the three Thracian words for town, villiage or fort (-bria, -para and

The Illyrian, Moesian, etc., questions are just about as complex.

Steve Long

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