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Thread: Roman Historian Describes Ancient Scandinavia // Before The Vikings // Tacitus 97 AD

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    Roman Historian Describes Ancient Scandinavia // Before The Vikings // Tacitus 97 AD

    Here have Tacitus (perhaps the greatest of Rome's historians) describing to us his knowledge of the lands of the Swedes, Aestii and Sitones - modern day Scandinavia (and the lands across the Baltic Sea). Ancestors of the Vikings, Tacitus gives us a description of a people with no right to bear arms, and who in the far north of the lands live in a matriarchal society.


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    Senior Member Uwe Jens Lornsen's Avatar
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    Did not understand much , the speaker appears not to speak clear language .
    Mk 10:18 What do you call me a good master, no-one is good .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uwe Jens Lornsen View Post
    Did not understand much , the speaker appears not to speak clear language .
    I had no issues, I thought it was fine.

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    The Aestii are truly a peculiar case. From their name the Estonians come to mind of course. Yet they supposedly spoke a language more like the (obviously Celtic) languages of Britain rather than that of the Germanic Suebi.

    That Tacitus says they have the customs and attire of the Suebi is probably of no consequence and not relevant to the question of their identity since to a "civilised" Roman these tribes probably behaved and looked similar, at least in clothing, the Suebi of the time being among the least culturally Celticised and Romanised tribes.

    So this leaves essentially three options:

    1. They were indeed an isolated Celtic tribe.

    2. They were ancient Estonians and accordingly spoke a Finno-Ugric language.

    3. They were Balts.

    One of two things that speaks for 1. is the comment of Tacitus, that their language resembles the undoubtedly Celtic Brythonic. What is peculiar here, is that the specifically says "languages of Britain" rather than using those of the far bigger and important Gaul or even simply stating it resembled Celtic in general. So their language specifically resembled Insular Celtic in some way or at least it sounded this way to Tacitus or his informants (who must have been familiar with Brythonic, accordingly).
    This additional information makes it already unlikely however because, even if such isolated Celtic population existed (for example the Cotini), it certainly spoke a continental Celtic language closer to Gaulish.
    It's also unlikely that a people so reputed for it's mastery of iron, uses few weapons of iron but mostly uses clubs.
    On the other hand the following sort of speaks for Celts, rather than for the other two options: "In producing of grain and the other fruits of the earth, they labour with more assiduity and patience than is suitable to the usual laziness of Germans."

    What speaks for 2. is the name. But it seems unlikely, that the Romans would hold a Finno-Ugric language for Celtic and would even specifically connect it to Brythonic.
    Also, based on geography and ancestry (because their ancestors were fishers and herders), they're also the last people in the area that should be remarkable for agricultural production.
    The name could have been adopted by the later Estonians locally. Its first attestation is quite late and their actual endonym unknown.

    The third option is probably the most likely for the following reasons:
    The ancient Balts should be the first non-Germanic population encountered after the lands of the Suebi.
    Baltic is more plausibly Celtic-sounding than a Finno-Ugric language.
    The area was poor in iron and the people still uncivilised.
    What speaks against it is, as with the Estonians, the agricultural production.
    And the day they sold us out, Our hearts grew cold
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    Ancient DNA: List of All Studies analyzing DNA of Ancient Tribes and Ethnicities(post-2010)


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