Domestication of the horse
Nordic Bronze Age
Painted Grey Ware
Northern Black Polished Ware
Peoples and societies
Religion and mythology
Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European
Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture
The Horse, the Wheel and Language
Journal of Indo-European Studies
Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch
Indo-European Etymological Dictionary
Map of eastern Europe in 3-4th century CE with archeological cultures
identified as Baltic-speaking in purple. Their area extended from the
Baltic Sea to modern Moscow.
Migration Period in 5-6th century CE, the area of
archeological cultures identified as Baltic is becoming more
By the 7-8th century CE, only
Eastern Galindians remain in the east
within the Slavic territory.
Balts or Baltic people (Lithuanian: baltai, Latvian: balti) are an
Indo-European ethno-linguistic group who speak the Baltic languages, a
branch of the Indo-European language family, which was originally
spoken by tribes living in area east of
Jutland peninsula in the west
and Moscow, Oka and
Volga rivers basins in the east. One of the
Baltic languages is the number of conservative or archaic
features retained. Among the Baltic peoples are modern Lithuanians,
Latvians (including Latgalians) — all Eastern
Balts — as well as
the Old Prussians,
Galindians — the Western Balts
— whose languages and cultures are now extinct.
2.3 Middle Ages
3 Baltic peoples
4 See also
5.1 English language
5.2 Polish language
7 External links
German medieval chronicler
Adam of Bremen
Adam of Bremen in the latter part of the
11th century AD was the first writer to use the term Baltic in its
modern sense to mean the sea of that name. Although he must have
been familiar with the ancient name, Balcia, meaning a supposed
island in the Baltic Sea, and although he may have been aware of
the Baltic words containing the stem balt-, "white", as "swamp", he
reports that he followed the local use of balticus from baelt ("belt")
because the sea stretches to the east "in modum baltei" ("in the
manner of a belt"). This is the first reference to "the Baltic or
Barbarian Sea, a day's journey from Hamburg."
The Germanics, however, preferred some form of "East Sea" (in
different languages) until after about 1600, when they began to use
forms of "Baltic Sea." Around 1840 the German nobles of the
Governorate of Livonia
Governorate of Livonia devised the term "Balts" to mean themselves,
the German upper classes of Livonia, excluding the Latvian and
Estonian lower classes. They spoke an exclusive dialect, Baltic
German. For all practical purposes that was the
Baltic language until
1919. Scandinavians begin settling in Western Baltic lands in
Vendel Age and with interruptions their
presence in Baltic lands continued most of Viking Age.
Georg Heinrich Ferdinand Nesselmann proposed a distinct
language group for Latvian and Lithuanian to be called Baltic. It
found some credence among linguists but was not generally adopted
until the creation of the
Baltic states as part of the settlement of
World War I
World War I in 1919. Gradually the non-Baltic Estonian was excluded
from the linguistic meaning of Baltic, as was Livonian, a now
extinct Finnic language in present-day Latvia, while Old Prussian
— long recognized as close to Lithuanian and Latvian — was added.
Finland (the states of Baltic Finns), however, also became
counted among the
Baltic states in the geopolitical sense. (Finland
was dropped from this definition after World War II, though Estonia
remains within the definition.)
Balts or Baltic peoples, defined as speakers of one of the Baltic
languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are
descended from a group of Indo-European tribes who settled the area
between the lower Vistula and southeast shore of the
Baltic Sea and
upper Daugava and Dnieper rivers. Because the thousands of lakes and
swamps in this area contributed to the Balts' geographical isolation,
Baltic languages retain a number of conservative or archaic
It is possible[according to whom?] that around 3,500–2,500 B.C.,
there was massive migration of peoples representing the Corded Ware
culture. They came from the southeast and spread all across Eastern
and Central Europe, reaching even southern Finland. It is believed[by
Corded Ware culture
Corded Ware culture peoples were Indo-European ancestors
of many Europeans, including Balts. It is thought[by whom?] that those
Indo-European newcomers were quite numerous and in the Eastern Baltic
assimilated earlier indigenous cultures (Europidic cultures – Narva
culture and Neman culture). Over time the new people formed the Baltic
peoples and they spread in the area from the Baltic sea in the west to
Volga in the east.
Some of the major authorities on Balts, such as Būga, Vasmer, Toporov
and Trubachov, in conducting etymological studies of
eastern European river names, were able to identify in certain regions
names of specifically Baltic provenance, which most likely indicate
Balts lived in prehistoric times. This information is
summarized and synthesized by
Marija Gimbutas in The
Balts (1963) to
obtain a likely proto-Baltic homeland. Its borders are approximately:
from a line on the Pomeranian coast eastward to include or nearly
include the present-day sites of Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev, and Kursk,
Moscow to the River Berzha, westward in an irregular
line to the coast of the Gulf of Riga, north of Riga.
A possible early reference to a Baltic people occurs in 98 CE, when
Tacitus names a tribe living near the
Baltic Sea (Mare Svebicum) as
Aesti (Aestiorum gentes) and describes them as amber gatherers.
However, it is not clear if the
Aesti mentioned by
Tacitus were: (1) a
(now-extinct) Baltic people (possibly synonymous with the
Brus/Prūsa), or; (2) a
Finno-Ugric people (e.g. modern Estonians).
Aesti appear to have inhabited the Sambian peninsula (in or near
the present Kaliningrad Oblast.
Over time, the area of Baltic habitation shrank, due to assimilation
by other groups, and invasions. According to one of the theories which
has gained considerable traction over the years, one of the western
Baltic tribes, the Galindians, Galindae, or Goliad, migrated to the
Eastern end of Baltic realm around the 4th century CE, and settled
around modern day Moscow, Russia. Finally, according
to Slavic chronicles of the time, they warred with Slavs, and perhaps,
were defeated and assimilated some time in the 11th to 13th
Balts became differentiated into Western and Eastern
Balts in the late
centuries BCE. The eastern Baltic region was inhabited by ancestors of
the Western Balts: Brus/Prūsa ("Old Prussians"),
Sudovians/Jotvingians, Scalvians, Nadruvians, and Curonians. The
Eastern Balts, including the hypothesised Dniepr Balts, were living in
Ukraine and Russia.
Subsequent Germanic and Gothic domination in the first half of the
first millennium CE in Northern and Eastern Europe, as well as later
Slavic expansion, caused large migrations of the
Balts — first, the
Galindians towards the east, and later, Eastern Balts
towards the west — until, in the 13th and 14th centuries, they
reached the general area that the present-day
Balts inhabit. Many
other Eastern and Southern
Balts either assimilated with other Balts,
Slavs in the 4th–7th centuries and were gradually
In the 12th and the 13th centuries, internal struggles, as well as
Poles and later the expansion of the
Teutonic Order resulted in an almost complete annihilation of the
Galindians, Curonians, and Yotvingians. Gradually Old
Prussians became Germanized or some Lithuanized during period from the
15th to the 17th centuries, especially after the Reformation in
Prussia. The cultures of the
Latvians survived and became the ancestors of the
populations of the modern countries of
Latvia and Lithuania.
Old Prussian was closely related to the other extinct Western Baltic
languages, Curonian, Galindian and Sudovian. It is more distantly
related to the surviving
Eastern Baltic languages, Lithuanian and
Latvian. Compare the Prussian word seme (zemē), the Latvian zeme,
the Lithuanian žemė (land in English).
Old Prussian contained a few borrowings specifically from Gothic
Old Prussian ylo "awl," as with Lithuanian ýla, Latvian
īlens) and even North Germanic.
Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE. The Eastern Balts
are shown in brown hues while the Western
Balts are shown in green.
The boundaries are approximate.
Main article: List of ancient Baltic peoples and tribes
Modern Baltic peoples
Eastern Baltic peoples
Eastern Baltic languages
Western Baltic languages
Bojtár, Endre (1999). Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the
Baltic People. Budapest and New York: Central European University
Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-963-9116-42-9.
Gimbutas, Marija (1963). The Balts. London: Thames & Hudson.
"Lithuanians". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica (1 ed.). 1911.
"Bałtowie". Encyklopedia Internetowa PWN (in Polish). Archived from
the original on April 26, 2005. Retrieved May 25, 2005.
Aleksander Gieysztor (1979). Bałtowie zachodni w
V w. p. n. e. – V w. n. e. : terytorium, podstawy gospodarcze i
społeczne plemion prusko-jaćwieskich i letto-litewskich (in Polish).
Olsztyn-Białystok: Pojezierze. ISBN 83-7002-001-1.
Kosman, Marceli (1981). Zmierzch Perkuna czyli ostatni poganie nad
Bałtykiem (in Polish). Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza.
"Bałtowie". Wielka Encyklopedia PWN (in Polish) (1 ed.). 2001.
Okulicz-Kozaryn, Łucja (1983). Życie codzienne Prusów i
Jaćwięgów w wiekach średnich (in Polish). Warsaw: Państwowy
Čepiene, Irena (2000). Historia litewskiej kultury etnicznej (in
Polish). Kaunas, "Šviesa". ISBN 5-430-02902-5.
^ Bojtár page 18.
^ a b Bojtár page 9.
^ Balcia, Abalcia, Abalus, Basilia, Balisia. The linguistic problem
with these names is that Balcia cannot become Baltia by known rule.
^ Latvian: balti; Lithuanian: baltai; Latgalian: bolti, lit. "white".
^ Bojtár cites Bremensis I,60 and IV,10.
^ Bojtár page 10.
^ Butler, Ralph (1919). The New Eastern Europe. London: Longmans,
Green and Co. pp. 3, 21, 22, 23, 24.
^ Schmalstieg, William R. (Fall 1987). "A. Sabaliauskas. Mes Baltai
(We Balts)". Lituanus. Lituanus Foundation Incorporated. 33 (3).
Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved
^ "Death of a language: last ever speaker of Livonian passes away aged
103". June 5, 2013.
^ Mikkels Klussis. Bāziscas prûsiskai-laîtawiskas wirdeîns per
tālaisin laksikis rekreaciônin Donelaitis.vdu.lt (Lithuanian version
Gimbutas, Marija (1963). The Balts. London, New York: Thames &
Hudson, Gabriella. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008.
Retrieved 2008-09-06. E-book of the original.
Baranauskas, Tomas (2003). "Forum of Lithuanian History".
Historija.net. Archived from the original on 6 September 2008.
Sabaliauskas, Algirdas (1998). "We, the Balts". Postilla 400.
Samogitian Cultural Association. Archived from the original on
2008-04-02. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
Straižys, Vytautas; Libertas Klimka (1997). "The Cosmology of ancient
Balts". www.astro.lt. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
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