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The Vistula Veneti (also called Baltic Veneti) were Indo-European peoples that inhabited the region of central Europe east of the Vistula River and the coastal areas around the Bay of Gdańsk. The name first appears in the 1st century AD in the writings of ancient Roman geographers to differentiate a group of peoples whose manner and language differed from those of the Germanic and Sarmatian tribes around them. Later, in the 6th century AD, Byzantine historians described the Veneti as the ancestors of the Early Slavs of the 6th to 8th centuries: Vends, Sclavens and Antes (South Slavs),[1] who, during the second phase of the Migration Period, crossed the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire.[2][3]

It is also clear that the Franks in later centuries (see, e.g., Life of Saint Martinus, Fredegar's Chronicle, Gregory of Tours), Lombards (see, e.g., Paul the Deacon), and Anglo-Saxons (see Widsith's Song) referred to Slavs both in the Elbe-Saal region and in Pomerania generally, as Wenden or Winden (see Wends), which was a later corruption of the word Veneti. Likewise, the Franks and Bavarians of Styria and Carinthia referred to their Slavic neighbours as Windische.

It has not been shown that either the original Veneti or the Slavs themselves used the ethnonym Veneti to describe their ethnos. Of course, other peoples, e.g.

It has not been shown that either the original Veneti or the Slavs themselves used the ethnonym Veneti to describe their ethnos. Of course, other peoples, e.g. the Germans (called so first by the Romans), did not have a name for themselves other than localized tribal names.[21]

Roland Steinacher states that "The name Veneder was introduced by Jordanes. The assumption that these were Slavs can be traced back to the 19th century to Pavel Josef Šafařík from Prague, who tried to establish a Slavic Origin. Scholars and historians since then viewed the reports on Venedi/Venethi by Tacitus, Pliny and Ptolemy as the earliest historical attestation of Slavs.[22] "Such conceptions, started in the 16th century, resurfaced in the 19th century where they provided the basis for interpretations of the history and origins of Slavs." [23]

Considering Ptolemy's Ouenedai and their location along the Baltic sea, the German linguist, Alexander M. Schenker, asserts that the vocabulary of the Slavic languages shows no evidence that the early Slavs were exposed to the sea. Schenker claims that Proto-S

Considering Ptolemy's Ouenedai and their location along the Baltic sea, the German linguist, Alexander M. Schenker, asserts that the vocabulary of the Slavic languages shows no evidence that the early Slavs were exposed to the sea. Schenker claims that Proto-Slavic had no maritime terminology and further claims it even lacked a word for amber. Based on this belief, and the fact that Ptolemy refers to the Baltic Sea as the "Venedic" Bay, Schenker decides against a possible identification of the Veneti of Ptolemy's times, with today's Slavs.[24] According to Gołąb, Schenker's conclusion is supported by the fact that to the east of the Venedae, Ptolemy mentions two further tribes called Stavanoi (Σταυανοί) and Souobenoi (Σουοβενοι), both of which have been interpreted as possibly the oldest historical attestations of at least some Slavs.[25]

Others scholars have interpreted these as Prussian tribes (Sudini) as they follow other known Prussian tribes in Ptolemy's listing (e.g., the Galindae (Γαλίνδαι)). Moreover, that conclusion (Gołąb, Schenker), if correct, may only account for the Byzantine Slavs of Jordanes and Procopius since Jordanes clearly (see above) understands Veneti as a group at least as broad as today's Slavs but does not understand the converse to be the case (i.e., his "Slavs" are localized around Byzantium and north through Moravia only) since his Slavs remain a subset of the broader category of Veneti.[26] It also is clear that the Byzantine term "Slav" had gradually replaced the Germanic "Winden"/"Wenden" as applied to all the people we would, today, consider Slavs.[27][21]

It has been argued that the Veneti were a centum Indo-European people, rather than satem Baltic-speakers. Zbigniew Gołąb considers that the hydronyms of the Vistula and Odra river basins had a North-West Indo-European character with close affinities to the Italo-Celtic branch, but different from the Germanic branch, and show similarities with those attested in the area of the Adriatic Veneti (in Northeastern Italy) as well as those attested in the Western Balkans that are attributed to Illyrians, which points to a possible connection between these ancient Indo-European peoples.[28]

In the 1980s and 1990s some Slovene authors proposed a theory according to which the Veneti were Proto-Slavs and bearers of the Lusatian culture along the Amber Path who settled the region between the Baltic Sea and Adriatic Sea and included the Adriatic Veneti, as presented in their book "Veneti – First Builders of European Community". This theory would place the Veneti as a pre-Celtic, pre-Latin and pre-Germanic population of Europe. The theory is rejected by mainstream historians and linguists.[29]