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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Cimbri


According to Strabo, the Greeks called the Cimmerians as Cimbri, ie by the same name, which is known in history for one of tribes fought in alliance with the Teutons with the Roman Republic at the end of the 2nd cen. BC . This coincidence gives grounds to consider the question of ethnicity of the Cimbri more closely having own ideas about the Cimmerians (see The Section Cimmerians).

While most experts believe that the Cimbri were Germans, still some doubt this, considering them either Celto-Scythians (see Eremenko V.E., Schukin M.B. Cimbri, Teutons, Celto-Scythians and Some Quetions of Time Limit of Middle and Late La Tène Culture //Problems of Chronology of the epoch of La Tène Culture and Roman Time. SPb. – 1992. – P.80-115. in Russian – ) or Celts (see. David K. Faux. The Cimbri Nation of Jutland, Denmark and the Danelaw, England: A Chronological Approach Based on Diverse Data Sources)

We connect Cimmerians with Kurds and analysis of place names of Western Ukraine shows that the ancestors of the Kurds had their settlements on the territory of Podolia (modern Ternopil, Khmelnytsky and Vinnytsia Regions), where the clusters of names explained by means of the Kurdish language were discovered. Analysis of the spread of archaeological cultures suggests that Podolia was populated by a single homogeneous and numerous tribe:


Just the fact, that carriers of Noa, Gava-Ğoliğrady, Koziy etc. cultures didn’t move to fertile lands of the Midle Dnestr area eastern of the Zbruch River and northern of the basin Prut, proves great obstacle which didn’t let them to do this. We can only suppose that enough robust, conservative in its traditions tribe resided on these lands. Using natural conditions – difficult for accessing canyons of the Podolian rivers – didn’t admit strangers to own lands (KRUSHELNYC’KA L.I., 1998: 193).


Podolia is adjacent to the ranges of the Germans, therefore, some communication between the Germanic and Kurdish tribes were supposed to be. They may include political relation what explains the Greek name of the Cimmerians as the Cimbri. The language contacts between the Kurds and Germanic peoples can be confirmed by lexical matches between the Kurdish and Germanic languages. F. Holthausen results some of them in the Old-English Etymological Dictionary (HOLTHAUSEN F. 1974.), for example: Old English wic, LowGer wike, Eng. witch-elm „a mountain maple ” – Kurd. viz, but they are only random finds. Looking purposeful one can find a lot of interesting matches. For example, OE scielf “top of a rock, an edge”, Eng. shelf, OIcl. skjolf "eminence" well correspond to Kurd. şilf "an edge". Ukr. ščovb "rock" is referred to the German words (VASMER M., 1973: 510.) but Germ. Schilf "reed" is disregarded for unknown reason. This word should be too attributed here for leaves of reed are similar to the edge of a blade. F. Holthausen does not find an explanation to the Old English name of the chamomile ferðing-wyrt. The Kurdish words pûrt "hair" and wurd "to clean" can suit for its explanation perfect. The flowers of the chamomile are used for washing head long since. The common Germanic word west good corresponds to Kurd. weşt "south". Insignificant differences in phonetics and semantics say that the Kurdish word is not borrowed from the Germanic languages at the late times. Some more English-Kurdish matches are such: OE bile "a beak" – Kurd. bel "sticking out", Eng. chuck "to throw" – the Kurd. çek "throw", OE gamen, Eng. game – Kurd. geme "a game", OE maffa «a film of egg» – Kurd. mef "a tent", OE reo, reowe «a coverlet, a coat» – Kurd. rav "cloud", Eng. time – Kurd. timê "always" etc.


Germanic tribes mostly left the Ukraine for Central Europe at the beginning of the first millennium BC. Obviously, most of the Kurds went with them:


Probably yet to the middle of the 5th cent BC agricultural population of Podolia was forced to leave their country for reasons that remain unknown. There is also no information where they were moved (ARTAMONOV M.I., 1974: 112).


Herodotus told a story of the battle between the two teams of the Cimmerians which arose because of the disagreement of opinions before the threat of Scythian invasion. At the council meeting, the common people in their mass considered to leave their homeland and give the land to the Scythians without a fight. The kings insisted on the battle, not wanting to save themselves with the people. From the words of Herodotus it is not clear which a decision was made at the council, but further events developed as follows:


Having resolved upon this, they parted into two bodies, and making their numbers equal they fought with one another: and when these had all been killed by one another's hands, then the people of the Cimmerians buried them by the bank of the river Tyras (where their burial-place is still to be seen), and having buried them, then they made their way out from the land, and the Scythians when they came upon it found the land deserted of its inhabitants. (HERODOTUS, IV: 11).


The assumption about migration of the Cimmerian-Kurds westwards is supported by words of Iranian origin in the Polish and Czech languages (see "To the Question of Iranian-Slavic Language Connections") and by place names. The main bulk of Kurdish place names is concentrated in Podolia, but they can be found sporadically in more western areas. However, while analyzing the place names of the south-eastern corner of Poland a small collection of names easily decrypted by means of Kurdish was found on a small area in the Lublin Voivodeship, Lubaczów County. These are the names of Polish villages: Paary, Pordysówka, Rebizanty, Chemernia.

As deciphering showed, the first four words are in one way or another connected with the customs and religion. If the name of the village Chamernia is associated with the sun, it also can be attributed to this group, because the Kurds worship not only fire but the sun too. All five villages are stretched as a chain from the south-east to north-west trough a distance of five-ten miles one from other between two large tracts of forest. A little away from them is located the town of Bilgoraj, whch name can originate from Kurd belg "a leaf" and ray "root". Taken together, these factors cannot be accidental. Obviously, pagan temples were concentrated in this area, where local population came together to perform religious rites. This is assumed on the warrant of the names of numerous villages having in their name the word Majdan (Kurd meydan “area, space”), both separately and in complex names (Majdan, Maydanek, Majdan-Górny, Majdan-Welki, Majdan-Sopoci, Majdan-Niepryski) located in the immediate neighborhood at a distance till forty miles from above mentioned villages. This concentration of Kurdish place names is located quite far from the Carpathians, and there are on their other side no place-names of possible Kurdish origin, but it is interesting that the name of the Carpathians Beskid can be decrypted by means of the Kurdish language.

The Beskid is a system of ridges in the northern outer strip of the Carpathians. They are located on the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine, between the Morava River in the west and the headwaters of the San River in the east. The mountain slopes are covered with beech and fir forests, alpine meadows are located higher till the treeless peaks. The Beskyd have convenient passes at an altitude of 500-1000 meters which were used since the past.

The Ukrainian language has much similar words with different but semantically like senses. The very mountain range called Beskydy, Bieshchad, Bieshchady but there are also words meaning "a slope", "a rock", "a mountain", "a ridge" – besked, besket, beskeda, beshket, beskeddya etc. Under the influence of Ukrainian, these mountains are called Beskid, Beszczad in Polish, but formerly they were known as Bieszczad, and the Polish beskid means "a mountain range”, “mountains covered with forests". Similar words in different versions having similar senses are present also in the Slovak and Czech languages. These words have no accepted etymological interpretation. Most often they are associated with Alb (Thrak.) bejške "a mountain pasture", "a series of high mountains," but the formant –(k)ed remains unclear. Attempts to find the origins of this word in the Germanic languages were unsuccessful (see MELNYCHUK O.S., 1982-2004; VASMER M. 1964-73).

However, the word of the Iranian languages: beš/biš «forest» and gada/ğada/qät “a tree" suit for explaining the words best of all. True, only word beš “forest” was found in Kurdish but the words gada/ğada/qät are present in the closely related to Kurdish the Ossetian, Yagnobi, Pashto, and Persian languages, so it could exist in Kurdish, but disappeared. On the other hand, among the Cimmerians could be a small Afghan tribe, as some place names on the Right Bank Ukraine are explained by means of Pashto. Both offered for decoding words beš/biš and gada/ğada are similar in meaning, but at first glance are not suitable for the name of the mountain. However, it is not so. Semantic shifting "mountain" – "forest" – "tree" can be found in Slavic and Baltic (GAMKRELIDZE T.V., IVANOV V.V. 1984., 666) that is the same word in closely related languages can mean either a forest, or a mountain, or this and another (eg Serb gora 1. "forest", 2. "mountain", Bulg. gora "forest"). Thus, Old-Kurdish *bešqät could have sense "a mountain covered with trees", what corresponds by the meaning to some modern Slavic words. If the words cognate to gada/ğada/qät never existed in the Kurdish language, then one can take into account Kurd qad 1. “boundary, limit, border", 2. "place, field". In this case bešqad meant "forest boundary" what suites to the situation even better, because Kurdish place names are absent on the other side of the Carpathians, that is, the Kurds did not dare to cross this forest frontier. Note that the Carpathians are covered with forests and some part of them is called the Wooded Carpathians. As for the Albanian word bejške, it could be a derivative of borrowed Kurdish beš at those times when the Thracians were neighbors of Proto-Kurds somewhere near Vinnytsia or Zhmerynka. Such compelling evidence on the presence of Kurds in the eastern part of Poland gave the motivation for the search of Kurdish place names on a large space, and they gave the rich results. Kurdish place names in the western part of Poland and further in other Central European countries is discussed sufficiently in section Iranian Place Names). Here we point out that more than seven dozen of names of assumed Kurdish origin were discovered only in Po;adn. Place names are distributed, although unevenly, across the whole country. Further traces of the Kurds follow from the area around Poznan to northern Germany. Stay here Cimbri evidenced by such place names as Germakere, Germendorf (Kurd. Germ "warm"), Gerdskhagen, Gerdau (Kurd. Gerd "large"), Waren (Kurd. war "site, camp"), and others.

Between years 350 and 320 BC a Greek explorer but born in the town of Massalia (modern Marseille), traveled along the coast of North-West Europe to the point where Celtic region ends and "the land of the Scythians" begins (MAGIDOVICH I.P., MAGIDOVICH I.P., 1970: 33). He left a detailed report of this journey. It has not come to our days, but Pytheas was quoted by many ancient historians and this material lets to conclude that he had visited the north-west coast of Germany to the mouth of the Elbe River. In particular, he wrote that the residents of the area, which is associated with the peninsula of Jutland, picked amber on the coast and sell it to their southern neighbors, whom he called Teutons. History of the Teutons and Cimbri is closely intertwined, so northern neighbors of the Teutons considered to be Cimbri.


At left: Himberland country.
The map from Wikipedia


This is confirmed by the location of Himmerland (Himberland) country on the north of Jutland. Its name refers to the country of the Cimbri, but Pytheas mentioning Teutons, says nothing about the Cimbri but he calls residents of Jutland, which supplied the amber for Teutons, Guions (Krämer Walter, 1979, 252). This word can be interpreted as the "owners of country" (Kurd. xweyî "owner, master", an "side"). Moreover, as it turned out, there were found a few place names on this small area, which are decrypted using the Kurdish language too:


Agger, a town in north-west Denmark – Kurd. ax "earth", ger "valley".

Asferg, a town to south-east of Hobro – Kurd. asê "fortified", ferq "top" or hasp "horse", erq "trench".

Asp, a town near Holstebro – Kurd. hasp "horse".

Names Gundersted, Gunderup and similar have a word part identical with Kurd. gund "village".

Hemmet, a town in Region Nordjylland – Kurd. h'îm "base, bed", mat "smooth, flat".

Hobro, a town in west Denmark – Kurd. xob "beautiful", ro 1. "a river", 2. "sun".

Holstebro, the main town in Holstebro Municipality – Kurd. xol "treshing", ştab "quick", ro "a river".

Nørager, a town – Kurd. nor "fire, light", agir "fire, flame" (or ger "valley").

Omunger, historical locality – Kurd. aman "vessel", ger "valley".

Ribe, a town in south-west Denmark – Kurd. reb "god".

Sevel, a town – Kurd. sêwel "a puppy".

Tander, a locality in east Denmark – Kurd. tan "base", der "place".

Tim, a town in west Denmark – Kurd. tîm "side".

Tønder, a town – Kurd. tan "base", der "place".


Thus, the Kurds moved from Germany to the north of Jutland Peninsula and now we can justifiably identify them with Cimbri. The further fate of the Cimbri, more or less known from history, is also confirmed by place names, and deciphering the names of some of the Germanic tribes, and personal names.

Among tribes, united by the Romans under the common term "Germans" were those whose names can be deciphered more plausible than offered explanation. In the first place, the name of the tribe Aduatuki akin to Cimbri. It can be translated as "gave an oath" (Kurd. ad "oath", vāt-in, wut-in "to say", tûke "angry" ). Title of neighboring tribe Eburonoi considered originated from Celt. *eburo- "yew", but can also be considered Kurd ebûr 1. "livelihood", 2. "shame", ebûrî "life". Kurdish word reb "Lord" can be seen in the name of the tribe Atrebates etc.

Judging by the historical evidence, the Cimbri way of life and their behavior more closely resembled the nomadic steppe dwellers than inhabitants of swampy and forest Jutland, where there could not be sufficient pasture for their numerous flocks. Soil degradation and population growth forced them to move in search of new land suitable for settlement and farming in the traditional way. Perhaps they did not expect that the search will stretch for decades.

These wanderings of the Cimbri left distinct traces in place names. Obviously not all kept difficulties of camp life in the long caravans and some migrants preferred to have a permanent home. They might be old, tired, wounded or sick soldiers. They could stay com with their families in a convenient place to stay forever, while the bulk of the Cimbri could move on. These are the remaining group of people gave rise to new settlements and gave them their names. Such settlements formed a chain in which the settlements are located at a distance of thirty or forty kilometers or more, obviously, in places of long stays. For some time the inhabitants of these settlements maintained contact with each other, but inevitably assimilated by more numerous neighbors. However, the names of the settlements have existed before our time, and they give us an idea of the ways of movement wanderers. However, they do not give an idea of the time of their foundation. It could be clarified by archaeologists.

At the last quarter of the second century BC some hitherto unknown to numerous barbarian tribes appeared in Central Europe and literally spread panic among the inhabitants of the Roman Empire its brutal militancy:


In 113 BC sinister rumors seized Rome. They were brought by traveling merchants from forests between the Oder and Elbe. Legionaries who kept guard at the northern border of the empire spread them… Up there in the north, beyond the Alpine passes, were some people on the move, so huge in number, as you've never seen. One million people crammed into a covered wagon, which clamped by oxen, with child and dogs, women and cattle, they vagabondized, devouring the land bare like locusts. 300,000 men strong was the crowd of their warriors, fearsome figures, true giant, six foot tall, most of them deep blond, blue-eyed like all… Elderly women dressed in rough linen moved forward barefoot, prophesied from the spurting blood of the gods sacrificed prisoners, of whom they made thousands. For no one had chance to oppose them, so terrible they were in combat as they were fearlessly in fight and without fear of death… From the North Sea down they came, where the sea mixes with the sky. After vain attempts in barbaric simplicity to fight their country threatening flooding with the sword, they left the home. They belonged to the Celts or Skyten but described themselves as Cimbri (FISCHER-FABIAN S. 1993, 15).


The movement of the Cimbri from Jutland ø³ marked by place names that extend as a chain from northern Germany and along the ridges of the Sudeten down to Bavaria. The most compelling examples of these can be as follows:


Gerdau a municipality in the district of Uelzen, in Lower Saxony – Kurd. gerd "great", av "water".

Hanover, the capital of the state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) – Kurd. hunurwer "deft".

Dederstedt, a villag in the Mansfeld-Südharz district, Saxony-Anhalt – Kurd. dediri "vagabond, vagrant".

Simildenstraße, the street in Leipzig – Kurd. simil "ear, spike", de'n "threshed grain".

Gera, a city in Thuringia – Kurd. gera "roe" (animal).

Raschau, Raschau and Markersbach forme the municipality Raschau-Markersbach in the district of Erzgebirgskreis in Saxony – Kurd. reş "black", av "water".

Tirschendorf< a village in the Vogtlandkreis district in Saxony – Kurd. tirş "sour".

Cham, the capital of the district of Cham in the Upper Palatinate, Bavaria – Kurd. xam "raw", "uncultivated, unplowed".


Also in Bavaria several place names have Cimbrian origin: Merching (Kurd. merx "spruce, fir") Germering, Germaringen, Garmish-Partenkirchen (Kurd. germ/garm "warm"). Just the name of the country of Bavaria can be explained with the help of Kurd. bawar "hope" that the good complies with longing of the Cimbri to find a free place to settle. The name of the Danube (Ger. Donau) is Cimmerian too – Kurd. don "melted fat", av "water". PIE * had sense "liquid", "fat", "flowing water" (Av. dāhnu "river", Ind. dānu "oozing fluid", Arm. tamuk "wet", Gr. δημός "human or animal fat", Alb. dhjamë "fat, bacon", Ger. Ton "clay"). Judging by the found place names, the Cimbri moved to Austria up to Vienna, but then turned back:


Passau, a town in Lower Bavaria – Kurd. pas "behind", sava "beast".

Steyr, a city in Upper Austria – Kurd. steyr "star".

Vindobona (Latin name of Vienna) – Kurd. windabûn "loss, waste, disappearance".

Murau, a town in federal state of Styria – Kurd. mûr "block, log" (maybe better mar "snake"), av "water".


Moving in search of free land in Noricum, the Cimbri had the intention to invade Italy through the Alps in the most convenient place to go. Despite the fact that in the battle of Noreia in 113 BC they broke the blocked their way Roman army, the invasion of Italy for unknown reasons did not follow. Instead, they went to the Helvetia, Switzerland today, where they seem to have met with the Teutons and agreed on joint actions. It is not known when and where they were united with the Ambrons, a tribe of disputed origin. They all crossed on the rafts over the Rhine River and in Burgundy entered the Rhone valley, inhabited by Celtic tribes. Helping some of them in strife and simultaneously engaged in looting, a vast army passed the entire southern France but vacant land for settlement and a peaceful life here was absent. In general, the barbarians were moving in a southerly direction, and a few years later came to ancient Roman city of Arauzion in Narbonne Gaul, apparently with the intention of making a new invasion of Italy. This way is marked by following toponyms:


Bussang, a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine – Kurd. ice "ice", seng "stone". Cf Sarlat.

Aspach-le-Haut, a former commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine – Kurd. hesp "horse", ax "earth, soil".

Dijon, the capital of the Côte-d'Or département – Kurd. dijûn "evil".

Meyrin, a municipality of the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland – Kurd. mey "cane, rush" rijîn "pou".

Vichy, Vichy, a city in the Allier department of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes – Kurd. wehşî "wildness".

Sarlat, Sarlat, Saint-Augustin – Kurd. sar "cold, cool", wehşî "rock".

Sarlat-la-Canéda, a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine – – Kurd. sar "cold, cool", wehşî "rock".

Najac, a commune in the Aveyron department – Kurd. neçak "bad", "unkind".

Meyrueis, a commune in the Lozère département in southern France – Kurd. mey "cane, rush", rua "animal, beast".

Alès, a commune in the Gard department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region – Kurd aleş "brushwood".


Roman intelligence worked well and advance towards the barbarians were sent two Roman armies, but they were defeated in October 105 BC on the banks of the Rhone near Arauzion. The combined forces of the advancing were commanded by a Cimbr named Boiorix. This name is pretty good esplained using the Kurdish language about how "a fast ambler" (Kurd. bayi "swift as the wind", orxe "trot, amble"). Once again, the barbarians did not use the victory, the Teutons moved to northern France, and the Cimbri alleged to Spain did, but soon came back. No traces of the Cimbri in place names of the South of France have been found, obviously, it was already well populated by the Gauls. Met after the predatory raids in Belgium, the Cimbri and Teutons, again gathered to march on Rome. This time, it was decided not to take the entire convoy to seize Italy due a quick march by surprise. However, the Romans used respite to prepare for the invasion. The first was carried out reform of the army, the initiator and organizer of which was Gaius Marius. The reform and two crushing victories over the barbarians of Marius were described the famous Roman historian (PLUTARCH. 1987, 518-531). Half of the Teutons and Cimbri were killed in battle, the other half was captured. For the families left behind in Belgium almost no one came back. However, it was left to guard them a small army of six thousand men, so the history of the Cimbri did not end there. An idea exists that their remains were mixed with the Celts and gave rise to the tribe Aduatuci. (FISCHER-FABIAN S. 1993: 49). However about this farther.



Places of Cimbrian settlements in Eastern and Central Europe and the ways of their migration evidenced by place names.

There are on the map Kurdish place names marked by red asterisks. Also places of battles of the Cimbri with the Romans at Noreia and Arausio are shown too.




The marches of the Cimbri, Teutons, and Ambrons between 120 and 101 BC.
The map was compiled on the basis given in the book "Deutsche Geschichte" (Herrmann Joachim. 1982, 115)


Shown on the map movement paths of the Cimbri Teutons, and Ambrons overlap with the location toponyms found in Central Europe which can be decrypted using the Kurdish language. However, evidences that the Cimbri reached Teutoburgium, marked on the map, are absent, it's just a guess based on the name of the Roman fortress.


To summarize. Proto-Kurdish ethnic group was formed in the area between the Desna, Seym, and the upper Oka Rivers around the middle of the 1st millennium BC. Along with other Iranian tribes Kurds left their ancestral home, going down the Desna to the Dnieper. Crossing the Dnieper, they headed towards Podolia and settled there for a long time, obviously among Bulgars inhabited this area. Perhaps the Bulgars were in the minority or have been poorly organized, but gradually they were assimilated by aliens. This is evidenced by the prevalence of Cimbrian place names on this country. In the middle of the 1st millennium BC began a new relocation, the causes of which are difficult to judge. One part of the Kurds moved into the Black Sea steppes, and from there they were different ways to Asia Minor. Another part of the Kurds moved west and settled on modern Poland. However, taking into account evidence of Pytheas about answer of local residents on asking of Greek sailors they are the "owners of the country", in the 4th cen. BC Kurds already populated Jutland. The origin of the word "Cimbri" remains unclear. Two centuries after Pytheas Northern Germans began to penetrate to Jutland from Scandinavia. Obviously, under their pressure the Kurds-Cimbri set off in search of suitable land for new settlements. So they came in Germany, which they considered warmer than Denmark and called it germ an, ie "warm land" (Kurd. germ "warm" and yan "side"). The etymology of the ethnonym germānī is still mysterious, and among many options exists an assumption about the origin of the word from the PIE root *ger- "warm" with a widening m, but the second part of the word remains without explanation (KUZ'MENKO Yu.K. 2011: 15). Who would it occurred to me that the explanation must be sought in the Kurdish language? However, they had suggestions that the word originated as the name of the country, and later was transferred on its inhabitants too:


Perhaps Feist was right, when believed that the concept of Germani was originally understood by ancient authors not ethnic but geographic and referred the tribes living on the right bank of the Lower and Middle Rhine (ibid, 143).


Sigmund Feist thought that in Caesar's time there was a certain ethnic community, divided the Celts and Germans (MEES B. 2001:20), but he did not have sufficient arguments to defend this idea. Now they are.

The accumulation of Cimmerian place names in Belgium and the neighboring Saar suggests that inhabited these lands remains of the Cimbri for a long time to preserve their language, but were eventually assimilated by the Germans, but could preserve traditional tribal names. For example, the name of the tribal unit of the Belgae may have Cimbrian origin (Kurd. belg "leaf"). Feist also believed similarly that the Belgae were not Germans by the language, although they spoke of their German origin, because they came from "Germany" on the right bank of the Rhine (KUZ'MENKO Yu.K. 2011, 143). The name of Saarland can be explained with the help of Kurd. se "dog", ar "fire". Other of the most compelling Cimbrian place names in this land can be as follows:

Berzhausen, a municipality in the district of Altenkirchen, in Rhineland-Palatinate – Kurd. berz "high", hewş "yard, plot".

Gunderath, a municipality in the Vulkaneifel district in Rhineland-Palatinate – Kurd. gund "a village", êretî "inattention, carelessness, negligence".

Merchingen> a part of Merzig in Saarland, a part of the town of Ravenstein in Baden-Württemberg, and other place names of the same root – Kurd. merx "air-tree".

Merzig, the capital of the district Merzig-Wadern, in Saarland – Kurd. merziq. "swamp, bog".

Neckar, a river, rt of the Rhine – Kurd. niqar "silver".

Rhine, a river – Kurd. rêjin "to pour", rêjne "shower".


At this the question of the ethnicity of the Cimbri can put a full stop.