THE HERULI (The forefathers of the Samogitians)
Heruli were the forefathers of modern Samogitians. In prehistoric
times they were called "Hirri" or "Giriai", which means
"Forest Dwellers" (the Prusso-Lithuanic word "giria" means
"forest"). The earliest record about the "Hirri" we find
in the writings of Plinius. Plinius stated that the territory extending from
the Vistula river, as far as Eningia (probably he meant Feningia = Finland),
is inhabited by the following nations: the Wends (the inhabitants along the
shore of Windau river), the Scirri (Courlanders) and the Hirri. ---- "Nec
minor opinione Eningia. Quidam haec habitari ad Vistulam a Sarmatis, Venedis,
Sciris, Hirris, tradunt". ----- Plinius, IV. 27. Later, the Hirri were
known as Hirruli or Heruli. Most of the scholars agree that in ancient times
they lived near the Baltic Sea. One of the noted Spanish authorities, Senor
Feijoo, writes thus: "Los Herulos, pueblo antiguo poco distante del mar
Baltico, ....... mataban todos los enfermos y viejos" etc. ---- Diccionario
Enciclopedico Hispano-Americano. Barcelona: 1892. Vol. X, p. 257.
It is important to determine the locality in which the Heruli
lived in Samogitia. Near Klaipeda (Memel) there is a village named "Giruliai".
But on the bank of the Dubysa river there is a town named Eiriogala, which in
ancient times was called Geriogala (Heragala in a document of A.D. 1418), and
this town was the most ancient capital of Samogitia. Near Eiriogala there is
another town called Girukalnis, which means "The Hill of the Hirri".
Also there is a village called Vad-giris, which means "The Seat of the
Chief of the Hirri". In those vicinities there are many inhabitants with
such names as: Girenas, Girulis, Gerulis, Gerulaitis. Besides, here we find
numerous tumuli, creeks, and ancient settlements having Herulian names. Therefore,
in my opinion, the centre of the Herulian seat was near Geriogala (Eiriogala).
The Herulian language is very similar to the Samogitian dialect;
it also resembles the Courish dialect. This fact was revealed to us by an important
document namely the "Lord's Prayer" which was written in the language
of Heruli. Huppel, the well known scholar published this Herulian "Lord's
Prayer" which he found amongst the letters of Pritzbuer, the Pastor of
Marienburg, where it was stated that a certain priest by the name of Frank was
the author of Mecklemburg's Chronicles of the Fifth Century, and in those Chronicles
he wrote down the "Lord's Prayer" in the native (Herulian) tongue.
---- Vide: Took, Histoire de Russie trad. de l'Angla. p. M. S. Paris 1801, T.
H, p. 259-260, Another chronicler, named Wolffgang Lazius, also published the
Herulian "Lord's Prayer" in "De gentium migrationibus, Libri
XII, Basileae, A.D. 1557". p. 789. Here he states that even in the Sixteenth
Century some inhabitants around Mecklemburg still spoke that language. Lazius
was the official chronicler of Ferdinand, the king of The Holy Roman Empire,
and he was a man of intelligence, therefore historians have confidence in him.
|1. HERULIAN: ---||TABES||MUS,||KAS TU||ES EKSZAN|
|2. Samogitian: ---||Teivs||mus,||kors tu||es's auksta|
|3. Lithuanian: ---||Teve||musu,||kurs tu||esi aukstai|
|4. English:---||Father||our||who||art high|
|4.||in the clouds,||hallowed be||thy||name,||may come|
|4.||be done||just as||high||in the clouds||so||on|
|4.||sins,||just as||we||see (them)||on our||trespassers,|
|4.||do not||lead||us||into bad||temptation,||but|
Because this Herulian "Lord's Prayer" in an extremely
important document, we reprint it here word for word from Lazius' book.
The customs of the Heruli were just like those of the ancient
Samogitians. According to the statements of Procopius (a historian A.D. 500-565),
the Heruli worshipped numerous gods; the prisoners of war were sacrificed to
these gods; they used to get rid of their incurable invalids and the helpless
aged people by killing them and burning their bodies; after her husband's death
it was customary for the widow to burn herself on a pyre; they never tolerated
slavery and they valued their liberty more than their lives; in war they were
brave, enduring and fearless of perils; in a battlefield they never wore armor,
seldom would they even protect themselves with their shields; they always were
dressed in fur coats, and while journeying the laps of their fur coats were
folded and tied up. If some Roman would sneer at the "barbarian" fur
coat, then the Herule would say: "Warmth never cracks the bones"!
As a rule the Heruli were cordial to their neighbors, but if someone wronged
them then they were extremely revengeful.
In the history of Europe, the Heruli were already known in the
First Century. Prof. Thomas Hodgkins and other Gothicists believe that the Heruli
came to Rome not as invaders but as employed recruits. What caused the Heruli
to migrate out of Samogitia to seek their fortune in a strange land, we have
no definite idea. The vast forests of Samogitia sheltered them from their enemies
and provided them enough food. Then surely it was not the hunger that pressed
them to leave their native land, but the desire of "seeing the world".
The Heruli were divided into different groups, and each group
had its chief, and thus marched towards the south. Whoever he was, they were
willing to serve their employer faithfully. Of the Herulian chiefs the most
distinguished were these:
(1) KATVALDA (Catvalda). Concerning this Herulian chief we know only this, that he took revenge upon Marobodus, the king of the Markomanni, because sometime in the past that king had devastated Katvalda's territory. Katvalda did not forget those injuries, and in the year 19 after Christ, he led his army upon Marobodus and defeated him. Marobodus fled to Rome to plead with Emperor Tiberius for protection.
None of Katvalda's coins are known to me. The native money of the Heruli were shillings.
(2) NAULOBAITIS (Naulobathus) was another famous Herulian chief. His name is Samogitian and is composed of two words, namely: "Nau" (= Naujas in Lithuanian) meaning "new", and "lobaitis" meaning "nice treasure".
For some reasons Naulobaitis quarreled with other Herulian chiefs
and he forsook them. In about the year 260, with a large body of Heruli he enlisted
into Roman service. On account of this the Roman Emperor Gallienus gave Nalobaitis
a liberal compensation and bestowed on him the rank of consul.
No numismatic specimens bearing the name of Naulobaitis are known.
In those days the Koveni (Chaviones) lived and worked together
with the Heruli. We learn about them from the panegyrics of Mammertinus: "Cum
omnes barbarae nationes excidium universae Galliae minarentur, neque solum Burgundiones
et Alamanni, sed et Chaviones Erulique, viribus primi barbarorum, locis ultimi,
praecipiti impetu in has provincias irruissent, quis deus tam insperatam salutem
nobis attulisset, nisi tu adfuisses" --- Mamertini Paneg. Maximiano Aug.
dictus (an. 289), c. 5.
The said Koveni (Chaviones) were a branch of the Lithuanic race,
and their name is derived from the word "kova" ---- "kovoti",
meaning "a fight", "to wage war". Those Koveni probably
were the people that lived around Kovno, in the neighborhood of the Heruli-Samogiti.
(3) ALKRIKIS (Alkrks) became the king of the Heruli in the year 350. At that time the Heruli already were settled in a territory named "Maitis" ("Maeotis" ---according to Ablavius).
But the Heruli lived here in peace only for a short time. The
Ostrogothic king Germanrikis, the most powerful ruler of Europe, determined
to annex the Herulian nation and their land to his own dominions. About the
year 370, the Ostrogothic army invaded the marshy maitis and the Heruli were
conquered. Those that survived were enslaved, and king Alkrikis was forced to
become Germanrikis' vassal.
From that time, the liberty loving Heruli (Zem-Maiti) became deadly
enemies to the Goths, and down in their hearts they planted the seed of their
vengeance. And their hatred towards the Goths grew so deep that even up till
now, when thunder fulminates, the Samogitians (offsprings of the Heruli) invoke
Spare the Samogit;
Smite the Goth (1)
Just like a brown dog"!
The Heruli had to bear the Ostrogothic slavery for five years.
And when the Huns began to ravage Europe, the majority of the Heruli determined
to break away from the Ostrogothic yoke by entering the Hunnish service, so
that their revenge would be felt more painfully by the Ostrogoths. Alas, such
is the outcome of a national vengeance........
There are no coins with Alkrikis' name on them.
(4) RADAGAISIUS (Rada-gaisus) became king of the Heruli in the Sixth Century.
The German and English scholars for a long time were puzzled about "Radagaisius", and the majority of them came to the conclusion that the name "Radagaisus" is not of Teutonic but of Slavic origin. They are mistaken! If some scholars would gain a better knowledge of the Lithuanian language, they could avoid publishing such nonsense.
Radagaisus is a purely Samogitian surname. Up till now we can
find plenty of Lithuanians having such names as: Radagaisius, Ra-gaisius, Gaisius,
Gai-siunas, Gasiunas, Geisa, etc. In the township of Jurbarkas (in Samogitia),
there is a village by the name of Gaisiai.
In the year 400, when Alkrikis invaded Italy, Radagaisius with
a considerable body of men joined Alkrikis' forces.
Five years later, i.e. in the year 405, Radagaisius, commanding a host of 200,000 men composed of Alans, Burgunds, Goths, Sueves and Vandals, marched towards Rome. The whole of Italy was panic-stricken, because Radagaisius made a public vow to burn the city of Rome and to sacrifice the Roman senators and all the Roman notables to his gods. Why he wished to revenge himself upon the Romans, we have no definite information. As far as the city of Florence, Radagaisius met no resistance. But there a terrible battle took place. The Roman army would give no respite to Heruli, and, being exhausted from a prolonged journey, the Heruli were defeated. The Herulian king Radagaisius was captured and beheaded.
1. In modern times the Russians were the biggest enemies of the Lithuanian and Samogitian people, therefore now the Lithuanians apply the disdainful name "Gudas" (=Goth) to any Russian. [Back]