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VENETI: SLAV’S ANCESTORS
Pavel V. Toulaev
The core of the discussion around Veneti (Enetoi, Venethi, Vendi) is in the answer of the question whether they had been Slavs or not. Western scholars, Germans and Italians in particular, believe that Veneti having ancient roots, had not been Slavs, since the latter stepped on the historic stage only in the VI-th century A.D. when they took part in the destruction of the Roman Empire and got onto the pages of the Byzantine chronicles. The majority of the Slavic authors tend to regard Veneti as their ancient ancestors, although this point of view is not always well grounded and is not shared by all scholars.
On the basis of historic facts and conclusions in scientific literature we can reconstruct in more detail the picture of the Venetic world starting from ancient times. Chronologically it may be divided into the following major stages.
Before 1200 B.C., the data of the Trojan War, the Enetoi, mentioned by Homerus and later by Strabo and other ancient authors, lived in Troas and Paphlagonia. They descend to Dardanus, Ilus and Pilemen, which manifested itself in the contacts of the western regions of Asia Minor with Thracia and Illyria.
1200 – VII century B.C. After the collapse of Troy and Hittite Empire the Enetoi headed by Antenor first moved to Thracia and then to the northern coast of the Adriatic. The fellow-tribesmen of Enei (Aineias), the main hero of the “Eneide” by Vergilius and the legendary founder of Rome, colonized the western part of the Apennine peninsula. The civilization of Ethruscs also appeared in that area. At the same time there was migration of Paphlagonian Enetoi to Urartu, which comprised the Kingdom of Van.
VI – I centuries B.C. After the collapse of the Tarquinius Dynasty the Etruscan centre shifted to the region of Etruria. In that period the Adriatic Venice, described by many authors including Herodotus and Tacitus, witnessed a formation of the union of towns with developed trade and culture. The Adriatic Veneti set out to follow the Amber Route alongside with many others. The Route led from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea via the Alps and Noricum in particular.
I – IV A.D. The Veneti occupied a vast territory: from central Europe (evidenced by Plinius, Ptolemaeus, Julius Caesar) to the northwestern coast of the Baltic Sea, which was called Venetian by the contemporaries. To the east of the Danube in that period of time there came the tribe of Antes (Anti), which was related to western Veneti according to the Goths historian Jordan. The Antes moved from the South Bug to the mid-stream of the Dniepr.
V – VI century. Involved in the total movement of the Barbarians (Alans and Huns) and in the union with the related Slavic tribes (Sclavens) they intruded into the Roman Empire. They subjugated Illyricum, Northern Italy and conquered Rome. These events are described in detail by Procopius and other Byzantine historians. The tribe of the Vandals (Vandali), related to Antes and Vendi and headed by Slavic and Germanic chiefs, moved further to the West, passed in military action through Spain and founded the Kingdom of Vandals in Northern Africa.
VII – IX c. The Slavs, called Veneti, Vendi or simply Veni by Germans and Finns, set up their own towns and princedoms on the vast plains of Europe: from the Alpine meadows along the Danube to the forests and steppes of the East-European Plain. The state alliance of Karantanians, Checks, Moraves and Sorbs (the middle of VII century) headed by the leader Samo was Slavic in its nature and disintegrated under the onslaught of Germans. The Baltic Slavs headed by Varangian Rurik imposed their authority in Novgorod and Kiev Russia inhabited by Slovens, Polens, Krivichi, Vyatichi and other related tribes.
X – XII c. The Venetic civilization also developed on the southern coast of the Baltic inhabited by Pomors (Pomerans), Varii and Rugi. There appeared large religious centres (Arkona, Rhetra) and flourishing trade towns such as Volin (Vinetta) Stargrad, Szczecin. The whole region became known as Vindland, later Wandalia. The Pomorian Veneti had constant wars with Germans and the latter won the victory over them and destroyed Slavic towns.
XIII – XV c. The Germanic princes in alliance with the Catholic Rome established their supremacy in Central Europe. While militant monastic orders attacked Poland, Prussia and Lithuania from the west, Tatars and nomads ravaged Russian princedoms from the east. After the collapse of the Golden Horde and the conquering of the Orthodox Constantinople (Tzargrad) by Muslim Turks there started a fight for the hegemony in the Slavic world.
From the methodological point of view the following issues of vital importance have been cleared up. The Veneti lived originally in Europe. In the course of centuries they repeatedly moved from different places of settlements to others, retaining the principle of the tribal system. The Veneti were ancestors of some ancient civilization, presumably Vincha, Aratta or legendary Hiperborea with its cults of the Olympic gods Zeus, Leto, Appolo, Artemide and also the ancestors of Etrusc-Pelasgs. In the Bronze Age they already had developed religion, culture and economy. In the process of expansion the Veneti founded city-colonies (Troy, Rome, Venice, Vinetta) at the periphery of the Proto-Slavic world. The colonizer possessed a developed culture traceable by its artistic reflection in the images of such heroes as Enei, Orpheus, Sadko, and Veinemeinen.
Veneti are not modern Slaves but our ancient ancestors. And they are the ones from whom the genealogical line of the Slavs stems in its metahistorical aspect. The Veneti are not Germans, Scandinavians, Goths, Celts, Scythes, or any other but an independent historic community. This statement is of vital importance since we infer the ancestors Slavs were not “Arians”, “Indo-Europeans” or “Eurasians” in the exact meaning of these modern terms. From the anthropological point of view they were Europeids, subjects of the White Race and bearers of its civilization. A more ancient “Indo-Europeans” (“Arians”) community could have existed V-VI thousand years B.C. or even earlier, and Protoslavs had their own identity then as well.
It is only natural that in the course of centuries our ancestors mixed with neighbouring tribes and were exposed to influence. Dynastic marriages also presupposed mixing of different blood strains. The name of Veneti implied most likely different ethnoses in different historic epochs. This does not mean that they were not related or had no continuity. The name of Veneti has survived up to now alongside with many features of the given community. We cannot deny that the processes of degradation and degeneration did take place but that doesn’t mean that we should neglect our Venetic inheritance.
Slavic Renascence calls for assimilation of all its spiritual and cultural wealth. Further studies of the Veneti will be more accurate. We are going to research every fact differentially applying new methods of comparative culture study, semiotics, linguistics, anthropology and genetics. We will differentiate between the name of the ethnos and its bearer, the ethnos and the language, the language and anthropology, one epoch and another. We will pursue our road of lovingly learning our deep-rooted ancestry.
Finally I propose some practical ideas. We should think how to promote the new findings about Veneti in Slovenija and other countries of modern Europe. For this we must overcome ideological regionalism (“mestocentrism”) and political myths. We should study carefully the existing documentary base and the literature on item. Many facts were well known before in previous centuries, but they are ignored now, they are just forgotten. We should organize International Scientific Council on Veneti which aim should be the improving the investigations, publishing papers and coordinating conferences.
The treasures of the Veneti will have their say.