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The name of the country

In the east the Svebes washes the shores inhabited by the Aistian tribes (Aestiorum gentes), " this is how, approximately in 98 A.D., for the first time in history, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus recorded the name of the Baltic ancestors in his book Germania. This name was used in reference to these tribes for quite a considerable period of time. In the 9-th century a Bavarian geographer mentioned the' name of the Prussians (Bruzi). Lithuania's name (Lituae) was first mentioned in Quedlinburg's annals in 1009. Scholars related Lithuania's name to the verb lieti "to pour". At present most scholars support Kuzavinis' hypothesis which derives Lithuania's name from the name of Lietauka river (tributary of the Neris in the district of Jonava) which could have been called earlier Lietuva.

The Aistians were first referred to as the Baits by Professor of Konigsberg University Ferdinand Neselmann (1811-81). In his book The Language of the Prussians According to its Surviving Fragments he came up with the idea of giving the languages spoken on the eastern shores of the Baltic the name of the Baltic languages. At the end of the 19-th century this name came to be used also in reference to the people who spoke the languages, the Lithuanians, Latvians and the extinct Yotvingians and Prussians.

The name of the Yotvingians disappeared together with their assimilation by other Baltic and Slavic tribes. The fate of the Prussians was different. After their subjugation by the Germans, their name was taken over by the new masters of the land and that was how it came down in history not as the name of a heroic people who fought for their freedom to their last breath but as the name of the great citadel of German militarism.



next previous contents
Next: The language Previous: Origin

J. Kudirka "THE LITHUANIANS"

Copyright ©, 1996 Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre.