Komatina, Predrag. Slavic Ethnonyms in the Bavarian Geographer: A Historiographic Linguistic Analysis

Published Date:

For citation: Komatina, Predrag. Slavic Ethnonyms in the Bavarian Geographer: A Historiographic Linguistic Analysis, in Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana. 2020. № 1. Pp. 106-137. DOI https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu19.2020.106.

Title of the article  Slavic Ethnonyms in the Bavarian Geographer: A Historiographic Linguistic Analysis

Komatina, Predrag ― PhD in History, Institute for Byzantine Studies, Serbian Academy if Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, Serbia, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., OrcID 0000-0003-2469-2278, Scopus ID 56769854600

The paper was translated by Alimov, Denis Evgenyevich — PhD in History, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., OrcID 0000-0002-4733-4150 

In the section  Miscellanea / Miscellanea
Year 2020 Issue  1 Pages  106-137
Type of article RAR Index UDK; BBK 930.85; 63.5 Index DOI  https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu19.2020.106

The article is part of the project «Tradition, innovation and identity in the Byzantine World» (no. 177032), supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia.

The so-called Bavarian Geographer describes the ethnopolitical situation at the end of the first half of the 9th century in a wide area of Central and Eastern Europe. The names of those tribes are mostly recorded in their Germanic forms, as they were known at the time among the Franks. Those names are in their Slavic forms basically authentic, quallificative in their nature, created according to certain collective characteristics that their bearers attributed to themselves. Thus we can assume that those tribes brought those names from their ancient homeland when they settled the Elbe region, and that could be corroborated with the fact that some of those tribal names appear also among the South Slavs (Obodrites, Serbs, Milingoi = Milcians?). In the area of ​​the ancient Slavic homeland itself, in the basin of the upper Oder, Warta, Vistula, West Bug and Upper Dniester, it lists a number of tribes that can be divided into two groups. The first would include those who still kept their old names and ancient tribal identities The second group includes tribes, which, judging by their names, were new, territorially based tribes, composed of members of various tribes that during the migrations stayed at their homes. Based on the ethnonymic material from the treatise of the Bavarian Geograph and other early medieval sources, one important conclusion can be reached about the Slavic ethnonymy — in naming of the tribes, peoples and communities, the Slavs held much more to the essence than form. The names derived from the same root occur often with different suffixes, and sometimes for one and the same tribe the names are derived from another, but semantically identical root. 

Keywords Bavarian Geographer, Slavs, Slavic tribes, Slavic ethnonyms, ethnic categories, ethnicity 
Full text version of the article. Article language Russian
  • Alimov, Denis Evgenyevich. Etnogenez khorvatov: Formirovanie khorvatskoy etnopoliticheskoy obschnosti v VII–IX vv. [The Ethnogenesis of the Croats: The Formation of the Croatian ethno-political community in the 7th–9th centuries]. St. Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriya Publ., 2016. 380 p. (in Russian).

    Bańkowski, Аndrzej. Etymologiczny słownik języka polskiego [Etymological dictionary of the Polish language]. Vol. II: K–P. Warsaw: State Scientific Publ., 2000. 873 p. (in Polish).

    Beševliev, Veselin. Protobulgarische Inschriften [Proto-Bulgarian Inscriptions]. Berlin: Akademie Publ., 1963. 382 p. (in German).

    Betti, Maddalena. La Descriptio civitatum et regionum ad septentrionalem plagam Danubii. Lo spazio oltre il «limes» nel IX secolo [The Descriptio civitatum et regionum ad septentrionalem plagam Danubii. The space beyond the «limes» in the 9th century], in Mélanges de l’École française de Rome. Moyen Âge. 2013. Vol. 125/1. URL: (last visited — May, 30, 2019) (in Italian).

    Bierman, Felix; Gossler, Norbert. Zwischen Freund und Feind — die Linonen und ihre Nachbarn im frühen und hohen Mittelalter [Between friend and enemy — the Linons and their neighbors in the early and high Middle Ages], in Biermann, Felix; Klammt, Anne (eds). Siedlungsstrukturen und Burgen im westslawischen Raum [Settlement structures and castles in the West Slavic area]. Langenweißbach: Beier & Beran Publ., 2009. Pp. 137–154. (in German).

    Bošković, Radosav. Srblji i Srbi [Srblji and Serbs], in Zbornik Matice srpske za filologiju i lingvistiku. 1978. Vol. 21/1. Pp. 23–25. (in Serbian).

    Cvetković, Miloš. Niže jedinice tematskog uređenja u Vizantiji (9–11. vek) [Lower units of the thematic organization in Byzantium (9th–11th centuries)]. Doctoral dissertation. Belgrade: University of Belgrade: Faculty of Philosophy, 2017. 317 p. (in Serbian).

    Fritze, Wolfgang Hermann. Beobachtung zu Entstehung und Wesen des Lutizenbundes [Observation on the origin and nature of the Lutician federation], in Fritze, Wolfgang Hermann; Kuchenbuch, Ludolf; Schich, Winfried (eds). Frühzeit zwischen Ostsee und Donau: ausgewählte Beiträge zum geschichtlichen Werden im östlichen Mitteleuropa vom 6. bis zum 13. Jahrhundert [Early Period between the Baltic Sea and the Danube: Selected Contributions to the Historical Development in Eastern Central Europe from the 6th to the 13th centuries]. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot Publ., 1982. Pp. 130–166. (in German).

    Fritze, Wolfgang Hermann. Die Datierung des Geographus Bavarus und die Stammesverfassung der Abodriten [The dating of the Geographus Bavarus and the tribal constitution of the Abodrites], in Zeitschrift für slavische Philologie. 1952. Vol. 21. Pp. 326–342. (in German).

    Fritze, Wolfgang Hermann. Geographus Bavarus [Bavarian Geographer], in Lexikon des Mittelalters [Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages]. Vol. IV. Stuttgart; Weimar: J. B. Metzler Publ., 1999. Pp. 1269–1270. (in German).

    Georgiev, Pavel. «Sedem plemena» (Ἑπτὰ γενεαί) — samonazvane ili administrativen termin [«The Seven tribes» (Ἑπτὰ γενεαί) — a self-designation or the administrative term?], in Godišnik na Sofijskij universitet «Sv. Kliment Ohridski». Centăr za slavjano-vizantijski proučvanija «Ivan Dujčev». 2010. Vol. 95 (14). Pp. 63–75. (in Bulgarian).

    Georgiev, Pavel. The Abodriti-Praedenecenti between the Tisza and the Danube in the 9th Century, in Doncheva-Petkova, Lyudmila; Balogh, Csilla; Türk, Attila (eds). Avars, Bulgars and Magyars on the Middle and Lower Danube. Sofia; Piliscsaba: Archaeolingua Publ., 2014. Pp. 107–124.

    Goldberg, Eric. The Struggle for Empire. Kingship and Conflict under Louis the German. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2006. 388 p.

    Gračanin, Hrvoje. Južna Panonija u kasnoj antici i ranom srednjovijekovlju (od konca 4. do konca 11. stoljeća) [Southern Pannonia in the Late Antiquity and early Middle Ages (from the late 4th to the late 11th century)]. Zagreb: Plejada Publ., 2011. 456 p. (in Croatian).

    Hanewinkel, Christian. Die politische Bedeutung der Elbslawen im Hinblick auf die Herrschaftsveränderungen im ostfränkischen Reich und in Sachsen von 887 bis 936: Politische Skizzen zu den östlichen Nachbarn im 9. un 10. Jahrhundert [The political significance of the Elbe Slavs in view of the changes of power in the East Frankish Empire and in Saxony from 887 to 936: Political sketches to the eastern neighbors in the 9th and 10th centuries]. Dissertation. Münster, 2004. 538 p. (in German).

    Herrmann, Joachim. Ruzzi. Forsderen liudi. Fresiti. K voprosu ob istoricheskikh i etnograficheskikh osnovakh «Bavarskogo geografa» (pervaya polovina ІХ v.) [On the question of the historic and ethnographic basis of the «Bavarian Geographer»  (the first half of the 9th century)], in Drevnosti Slavyan i Rusi [Antiquities of the Slavs and Rus’]. Moscow: Nauka Publ., 1988. Pp. 162–169. (in Russian).

    Herrmann, Erwin. Slawisch-germanische Beziehungen im südostdeutschen Raum von der Spätantike bis zum Ungarnsturm. Ein Quellenbuch mit Erläute-rungen [Slavic-Germanic relations in southeastern Germany from late antiquity to the Hungarian storm. A source book with explanations]. München: Robert Lerche Publ., 1965. 286 p. (in German).

    Herrmann, Erwin. Zu Entstehung und Bedeutung des sog. Geographus Bavarus (Descriptio civitatum) [On the genesis and meaning of the so-called Geographus Bavarus (Descriptio civitatum)], in Jahrbuch für altbayerische Kirchengeschichte. 1963. Vol. 23/1. Pp. 77–87. (in German).

    Kazanskiy, Mikhail; Zuckerman, Konstantin. Uliči [Uliches], in Palaeoslavica. 2017. Vol. 25/2. Pp. 1–37. (in Russian).

    Kieffer-Kostanecka, Maria. Nazwy «Mazowsze» i «Płock» w świetle nauki współczesnej [The names «Mazowsze» and «Płock» in the light of contemporary research], in Notatki Płockie. 1969. № 4 (53). Pp. 23–25. (in Polish).

    Komatina, Predrag. The Slavs of the Mid-Danube basin and the Bulgarian expansion in the first half of the 9th century, in Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta. 2010. Vol. 47. Pp. 55–82.

    Koncha, Sergiy. «Bavarian Geographer» on Slavic Tribes from Ukraine, in Ukrainian Studies. Bulletin Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. 2012. Vol. 16. Pp. 15–21.

    Lehr-Spławiński, Tadeusz. Najstarsze nazwy plemion polskich w źródłach obcych [The oldest names of the Polish tribes in foreign sources], in Język Polski. 1961. Vol. 41. Pp. 263–268. (in Polish).

    Loma, Aleksandar. Toponimija Banjske hrisovulje [The Toponymy of the Banjska Monastery Charter]. Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Publ., 2013. 386 p. (in Serbian).

    Łowmianski, Henryk. O identyfikacji nazw Geografa bawarskiego [On the identification of the names from the Bavarian Geographer], in Studia Źródłoznawcze. 1958. Vol. 3. Pp. 1–22. (in Polish).

    Łowmiański, Henryk. O pochodzeniu Geografa bawarskiego [On the origin of the Bavarian Geographer], in Roczniki historiczne. 1951–1952. Vol. 20. Pp. 9–58. (in Polish).

    Łuczyński, Michał. «Geograf Bawarski» — nowe odczytania [The Bavarian Geographer — new readings], in Polonica. 2017. Vol. 37. Pp. 67–89. (in Polish).

    Łuczyński, Michał. Jeszcze o prapolskim etnonimie Polanie [Once more on the proto-Polish etnonym of Polanie], in Slavia Occidentalis. 2016. Vol. 73/1. Pp. 105–119. (in Polish).

    Łuczyński, Michał. Prapolski etnonim Glopeani (głos w dyskusji) [The proto-Polish ethnonym of Glopeani (a remark in the discussion], in Slavia Occidentalis. 2015. Vol. 72/1. Pp. 121–124. (in Polish).

    Nalepa, Jerzy. Połekszanie (Pollexiani) — Plemię Jaćwięskie u północno-wschodnich granic Polski [Połekszanie (Pollexiani) — a Jatvingian Tribe on Northeastern Borders of Poland], in Rocznik Białostocki. 1966. Vol. 7. Pp. 7–33. (in Polish).

    Nazarenko, Aleksandr Vasilyevich. Drevnyaya Rus’ na mezhdunarodnykh putyah: Mezhditsciplinarnye ocherki kul’turnykh, torgovykh, politicheskikh svyazey IX–XII vv. [Ancient Rus’ on international rooutes: Interdisciplinary essays on cultural, trade and political relations of the 9th–12th centuries]. Moscow: «Languages of Russian culture» Publ., 2001. 784 p. (in Russian).

    Oţa, Silviu. The mortuary archaeology of the medieval Banat (10th–14th centuries). Leiden; Boston: Brill Publ., 2015. 385 p.

    Pirivatrić, Srđan. Vizantijska tema Morava i «Moravije» Konstantina VII Porfirogenita [The Byzantine theme of Morava and «Moravia» of Constantine VII Porphyrogennitus], in Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta. 1997. Vol. 36. Pp. 173–201. (in Serbian).

    Rospond, Stanisław. Podlasie czy Podlasze? [Podlasie or Podlasze?], in Poradnik Językowy. 1970. Vol. 10. Pp. 290–296. (in Polish).

    Rossignol, Sébastien. À propos du manuscrit de l’opuscule du «Géographe de Bavière» [On the manuscript of the work of the «Bavarian Geographer», in Cottier, Jean-François;  Gravel, Martin;  Rossignol, Sébastien (eds). Ad libros! Mélanges d’études médiévales offerts à Denise Angers et Joseph-Claude Poulin [Ad libros! A miscellany of medieval studies dedicated to Denise Angers and Joseph-Claude Poulin]. Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2010. Pp. 49–68. (in French).

    Rossignol, Sébastien. Aufstieg und Fall der Linonen. Misslungene Ethnogenese an der Mittelelbe [Rise and Fall of the Linons. Failed Ethnogenesis on the Middle Elbe], in Willroth, Karl-Heinz; Schneeweiss, Jens (eds). Slawen an der Elbe [Slavs on the Elbe]. Göttingen: Wachholtz Publ., 2011. Pp. 15–38 (in German).

    Rossignol, Sébastien. Civitas in Early Medieval Central Europe: Stronghold or District?, in The Medieval History Journal. 2011. Vol. 14. Pp. 71–99.

    Rossignol, Sébastien. Die Linonen zwischen Tat und Wort. Die Schriftquellen über die Entwicklung an der unteren Mittelelbe unter Berücksichtigung der interdisziplinären Forschungsergebnisse [The Linons between deed and word. The written sources on the development of the lower Middle Elbe, with taking into account the interdisciplinary research results], in Beug, Hans-Jürgen; Lüth, Friedrich; Schopper, Franz; Willroth, Karl-Heinz (eds). Frühmittelalterliche Archäologie zwischen Ostsee und Mittelmeer. Bd 4. Slawen an der unteren Mittelelbe [Early medieval archeology between the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. Vol. 4. Slavs on the lower Middle Elbe]. Frankfurt am Main: Reichert Publ., 2013. Pp. 135–150. (in German).

    Rossignol, Sébastien. Überlegungen zur Datierung des Traktates des sog. Bayerischen Geographen anhand paläographischer und kodikologischer Beobachtungen [Reflections on the dating of the treatise of the so-called Bavarian Geographer on the basis of palaeographical and codicological observations], in Bierman, Felix; Kersting, Thomas; Klammt, Anne (eds). Der Wandel um 1000. Beiträge der Sektion zur slawischen Frühgeschichte der 18. Jahrestagung des Mittel- und Ostdeutschen Verbandes für Altertumsforschung in Greifswald, 23. bis 27. März 2009 [The Change of 1000. Contributions of the Slavic Early History Section of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Central and East German Association for Archeology in Greifswald, 23 to 27 March 2009]. Langenweissbach: Beier & Beran Publ., 2011. Pp. 305–316. (in German).

    Rübekeil, Ludwig. Der Name Baiovarii und seine typologische Nachbarschaft [The name Baiovarii and its typological neighborhood], in Fehr, Hubert; Heitmeier, Irmtraut (eds). Die Anfänge Bayerns. Von Raetien und Noricum zur frühmittelalterlichen Baiovaria [The beginnings of Bavaria. From Raetia and Noricum to early medieval Baiovaria]. St. Ottileien: EOS Publ., 2012. Pp. 149–162. (in German).

    Savić, Viktor. Rani staroslovenski jezik i srpska redakcijska pismenost naročito s osvrtom na ć i đ [Early Old Slavonic and Serbian recensional literacy with special emphasis on ć and đ], in Todić, Branislav; Radujko, Milan (eds). Đurđevi Stupovi i Budimljanska eparhija [«Tracts of St. George» and the Eparchy of Budimlja]. Berane; Belgrade: Službeni glasnik Publ., 2011. Pp. 155–169. (in Serbian).

    Schafarik, Paul Joseph. Slawische Alterthümer [Slavic Antiquities]. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann Publ., 1843. Vol. I. 548 p.; 1844. Vol. II. 742 p. (in German).

    Schuster-Šews, Heinz. Zur Geschichte und Etymologie des ethnischen Namens Sorb / Serb / Sarb / Srb [On the history and etymology of the ethnic names Sorb / Serb / Sarb / Srb], in Zeitschrift fur Slawistik. 1985. Vol. 30/6. Pp. 851–856. (in German).

    Sedov, Valentin Vasilyevich. Slavyane v rannem srednevekov’e [The Slavs in the Early Middle Ages]. Moscow: Archeology foundation Publ., 1995. 415 p. (in Russian).

    Sedov, Valentin Vasilyevich. Sloveni u dalekoj prošlosti [The Slavs in the distant past]. Novi Sad: Academic book Publ., 2012. 495 p. (in Serbian).

    Shchavelev, Aleksey Sergeevich. Slavyanskie «plemena» Vostochnoy Evropy X – pervoy poloviny XI veka: autentifikatsija, lokalizatsija i khronologiya [Slavic «tribes» of Eastern Europe of the 10th – the first half of the 11th centuries: authentification, localization and chronology], in Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana. 2015. Vol. 2 (18). Pp. 99–133. (in Russian).

    Shchavelev, Aleksey Sergeevich. Yeshche raz ob identifikatsii i lokalizatsii slavyanskogo «plemeni» Λενζανῆνοι / Λενζενίνοι / *Lędjane [Once more on the identification and localization of the Slavic «tribe» Λενζανῆνοι / Λενζενίνοι / *Lędjane], in Vspomogatel’nye i spetsial’nye nauki istorii v XX – nachale XXI v.: Prizvanie, tvorchestvo, obshchestvennoe sluzhenie istorika [Auxiliary and special sciences of history in the 20th – early 21st centuries: Mission, creative work, service to the society of the historian]. Materials of the 26th International Scientific Conference. Moscow: Russian State University of the Humanities Press, 2014. Pp. 424–426. (in Russian).

    Špehar, Perica. Centralni Balkan od 7. do 11. veka: arheološka svedočanstva [Central Balkans from the 7th to the 11th century: Archeological testimonies]. Belgrade: Booka Publ., 2017. 259 p. (in Serbian).

    Trubachev, Oleg Nikolaevich. O plemennom nazvanii ulichi [On the tribal name of the Uliches], in Voprosy slavyanskogo yazykoznaniya. 1961. Vol. 5. Pp. 186–190. (in Russian).

    Trubachev, Oleg Nikolaevich. Rannie slavjanskie etnonimy — svideteli migratsii slavyan [Early Slavic ethnonyms — testimony of the migrations of the Slavs], in Voprosy yazykoznaniya. 1974. Vol. 6. Pp. 48–67. (in Russian).

    Trubachev, Oleg Nikolaevich. Etnogenez i kul’tura drevneyshikh slavyan: Lingvisticheskie issledovaniya [Ethnogenesis and culture of the early Slavs: Linquistic research]. Moscow: Nauka Publ., 2002. 489 p. (in Russian).

    Vasmer, Max. Die Slaven in Griechenland [Slavs in Greece]. Berlin: Academy of Sciences Publ., 1941. 350 p. (in German).

    Vedriš, Trpimir. Gdje žive Mirmidonci? Prilog raspravi o značenju pojmova Mirmidones i Marab u zadarskoj legendi o prijenosu moći sv. Krševana [Where do the Myrmidons live? On the meaning of the terms Mirmidones and Marab in the Zadar legend about the translation of the relics of st. Chrysogonus], in Povijesni prilozi. 2011. Vol. 41. Pp. 47–85. (in Croatian).

    Voytovych, Leontiy Viktorovich. «Bavarskij geograf»: sproba etnolokalizatsii naselennya Tsentralno-Skhidnoy Yevropi IX st. [«Bavarian Geographer»: An attempt of the ethnolocalization of the population of the Central-Eastern Europe of the 9th century], in Ukrainskiy istorichniy zhurnal. 2009. Vol. 5. Pp. 12–34. (in Ukrainian).

    Witczak, Krzysztof Tomasz. O dwóch plemionach prapolskich, zasiedlających Ziemię Przemyską i Chełmską — Lędzanach i Wierzbianach [On two tribes inhabiting the lands of Przemysl and Chełm ― the Lendians and Wierzbians], in Acta Archaeologica Carpathica. 2003. Vol. 38. Pp. 157–172. (in Polish).

    Witczak, Krzysztof Tomasz. Z problematyki Słowiańszczyzny plemiennej. Cz. 2: Lędzanie i Wierzbianie (Βερβίανοι) — dwa plemiona prapolskie na wschodnim pograniczu [Studies in early Slavic tribal geography. Part 2: Lędzanie i Wierzbianie (Βερβίανοι) — two proto-Polish tribes in eastern borderlands], in Slavia Occidentalis. 1991–1992. Vol. 48–49. Pp. 249–260. (in Polish).

    Witczak, Krzysztof Tomasz. Z problematyki słowiańszczyzny plemiennej. Cz. 5: Wierzyczanie (Uerizane), plemię wschodniopomorskie znad rzeki Wierzycy [Studies in early Slavic tribal geography. Part 5: Wierzyczanie (Uerizane) — an East Pomeranian tribe situated at the Wierzyca river], in Pomorania Antiqua. 2012. Vol. 24. Pp. 1–18. (in Polish). 

    Zeuss, Kaspar. Die Deutschen und die Nachbarstämme [The Germans and the neighboring tribes]. Munich: Ignaz Hoseph Lentner Publ., 1837. 798 p. (in German).

    Živković, Tibor. Južni Sloveni pod vizantijskom vlašću (600–1025) [South Slavs under the Byzantine Rule (600–1025)]. Belgrade: The Institute of History: Službeni glasnik Publ., 2002. 512 p. (in Serbian).


Tags: Source studies, identity, ethnicity, Slavic «tribes», Slavic Ethnonyms, Slavs, Slavic identity, MISCELLANEA / MISCELLANEA, historical source, Area studies, Communication, Bavarian Geographer, ethnonyms, ethnic categories

  • Hits: 46