Armenia, homeland of the Germans?
According to Online etymology dictionary “Germany” means:
“of the same parents or grandparents,” c. 1300, from Old French germain “own, full; born of the same mother and father; closely related” (12c.), from Latin germanus “full, own (of brothers and sisters); one’s own brother; genuine, real, actual, true,” related to germen (genitive germinis) “sprout, bud,” of uncertain origin; perhaps dissimilated from PIE *gen(e)-men-, from root *gene- “to give birth, beget”
But what if this guess (because that’s what it is) is not really a good one? First of all, the term “German” is much older than medieval French – we know that it has been in use at least since Julius Caesar. In the year of 98 AD Tacitus wrote:
“For the rest, they affirm Germania to be a recent word, lately bestowed. For those who first passed the Rhine and expulsed the Gauls, and are now named Tungrians, were then called Germani. And thus by degrees the name of a tribe prevailed, not that of the nation; so that by an appellation at first occasioned by fear and conquest, they afterward chose to be distinguished, and assuming a name lately invented were universally called Germani“
Wikipedia article on Germania, adds that this term may be Galic in origin. This would mean that the pronunciation of the first sound “G” is debatable – it may have also been “J”, like in modern French, and even “Y” or “H” in other local languages. In this case we get a word sounding very close to “Yermenia”, which is a Slavic name for “Armenia”.
The first famous chieftain of the Germans, who had lived between 18/17 BC and 21 AD, was “Arminius” (Hermann in German). One would expect that his name means simply “German” and has the same etymology. However, we read that it means something completely different:
Hermann Monument, Germany
Ok, but then what about the etymology of Armenia? Surely it can’t be German? Unfortunately here etymology dictionary can’t help us. It simply states:
“Place name traced to 521 C.E., but which is of uncertain origin. “
Wikipedia article on Armenia gives us more information:
“The exonym Armenia is attested in the Old Persian Behistun Inscription (515 BC) as Armina ( ). The ancient Greek terms Ἀρμενία (Armenía) and Ἀρμένιοι (Arménioi, “Armenians”) are first mentioned by Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC)”
So it looks like this “Armenia” is at least 500 years older than the European one. But what does this word mean? What if it simply means “Arya men”? We do know that the Armenian name of the mount Ararat, and the ancient kingdom of Urartu was “Ayrarat“. This word can be traced all the way to 13th century BC Assyrian records, right in the time of supposed Aryan migrations. Also, it seems that the etymology of this word could be traced to word “white”, relating to its snow-covered mountain peaks.
Do we have other evidence for this supposed migration, apart from the similar sounding words? Maybe we do. A genetic one. This is the current distribution of proto-Germanic R1b in Caucasus region, which according to eupedia.com peaks in Armenia:
Moreover, Caucasus region is considered to be a cradle of R1b haplogroup, which had apparently later migrated, only to conquer the whole of the Western Europe (click to enlarge):
I know, many people will say that relating haplogroups to nations and culture is a wrong approach, however we can get a pretty good idea that certain migrations did really happen . So who were these tribes?
Maybe a part of the answer lies again in the word “Armenia”. Because of linguistic change called Rhotacism in some languages like Naepolitan, Romanesce, Romanian, Basque, Spanish and Portuguese, it is typical that “L” becomes “R”. For example “albero” becomes “arvero”, “alto” becomes “arto” and “Alban” becomes “Arban”.
So if we work our way backward, we may get the word “Almen” from “Armen”. This is very interesting because that is another name for Germany, in for example, French, Kurdish and some Slavic languages. It is also related to confederation of Germanic tribes known as “Alemanni” Current etymology of this word is “all men” (?) We further read that Alemanni could be “mysteriously” connected to the tribe of Hermunduri, for whom Pliny the elder, in his Historia Naturalis, lists as one of the nations of the Hermiones. Could there in fact be some etymological connection between all these words?
As for Alemanni, we do know that their territory had stretched around present-day Alsace and Northern Switzerland.
Area settled by the Alemanni, and sites of Roman-Alemannic battles, 3rd to 6th centuries
This is very interesting for two reasons:
Firstly, this is the area between Hallstatt and La Tene, the birth place of Celtic culture and a “melting pot” of it’s time, although it seems that Alemanni expansion in this region was quite a late one.
Secondly, this very region where Alemanni had settled, has since then been known as “Jervaine” – a word sounding pretty close to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
“The High Kingdom of Jervaine is a small proud nation in the heart of Europe, known for its wealth, diplomacy, hearty cuisine and fine wine. It comprises the three provinces Ausaedsa (Alsace), Siovadra (Black Forest) and Moseola (Moselle). Originally split off the crumbling Roman Empire, the kingdom has endured several Germanic mass migrations and has been passed to and from between French and German empires.”
As we see, the kingdom of Jerwaena is in the exact region around Alsace, where Alemanni tribes had settled, and it is known under this name since the time of their settlement. A coincidence?
It would be interesting to look for further linguistic evidence of connections between this region and Armenia. However, German will not be of much help because according to most of the authors proto-German started to develop only around 500BC, with earliest inscriptions dating to 6th century AD in Allemanic.
This is where we get to the crossroad where genetics, linguistic and culture separate as the origins of nations get lost in forgotten tribal migrations and genetic and cultural mixture. However, most of the historians, inspired by Roman authors, trace the origins of Germans to the North of Europe, and I wanted to illustrate here that this might not necessarily be the case.
If migration really happened from the south, our last clue may lie in another word, word by which Germans call their land – Deutschland – the land of the “Deutsch”. Etymological dictionary gives us the following explanation:
“late 14c., used first of Germans generally, after c. 1600 of Hollanders, from Middle Dutch duutsch, from Old High German duit-isc, corresponding to Old English þeodisc “belonging to the people,” used especially of the common language of Germanic people, from þeod “people, race, nation,” from Proto-Germanic *theudo “popular, national” (see Teutonic), from PIE root *teuta- “people”
Actually, the word “Dutch”, sounds exactly like the name of ancient people known as Dacians. Dacians were considered to be a Thracian tribe, original inhabitants of Balkan. But on Wikipedia we read the following:
“The Dacians spoke the Dacian language, believed to have been closely related to Thracian, but were somewhat culturally influenced by the neighboring Scythians and by the Celtic invaders of the 4th century BC.”
“Celtic invaders of the 4th century BC”? Interesting, because before this period, in 5th century BC the term “Dacian” is completely unknown to Herodotus. He does mention the Thracian tribe of Getae, a word that is considered to be a synonym for Dacians. But what if this was simply a native name before the Germanic invasion, that came from the south and not the north, like the current mainstream theory states?
I am saying this also because Herodotus actually knew a tribe called “Germani”, even though he mentions them only in one single sentence, and not where one would expect them to be:
“The other Persian tribes are the Panthialaei, the Derusiaei, and the Germanii, all tillers of the soil, and the Dai, the Mardi, the Dropici, the Sagartii, all wandering herdsmen.” Hdt. 1.125.4
In conclusion, it seems that for thousands of years, since at least 4th millennium BC, there were massive migrations to Europe from south and east. It may be so, that one of the last migrations, from around 5th century BC brought the ancestors of the modern German nation to Europe. However, they would have only followed the routes that their own ancestors had already established a few millennia earlier.
Perhaps there is some truth after all, in the 11th century German song “Annolied“, which describes origins of Bavarians, people whose territory is closely connected with Kingdom of Jervaine, with the following words:
“This was always a brave people.
Their tribe came long ago
from the magnificent Armenia,
where Noah came out of the ark
when he received the olive twig from the dove.
The remains of the ark
are still to be found in the highlands of Ararat.
It is said that in those parts
there are still those who speak German,
far towards India.
The Bavarians always loved to go to war.
Caesar had to pay in blood
for his victory over them. “