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European Kingdoms



Budini (Slavic?)

MapThe Slavs formed part of a northern division of Indo-Europeans. They originated along the Pontic-Caspian steppe prior to the Yamnaya horizon event which saw the widespread outwards migration of Indo-Europeans (IEs). As they were located above the main migration paths, they failed to join the general West Indo-European migration (see the map link, right, for general locations of the various tribes in Europe of the first centuries BC and AD).

Eventually the other half of their northern division, the proto-Balts, divided away from them to head towards the north of the Pripet marshes, at some point around 2500 BC. The proto-Slavs themselves generally remained incubated in forest territory well above the northern coast of the Black Sea (largely falling within modern northern Ukraine, plus the southern edges of Russia and Belarus).

It took the arrival of the Avars to force the Slavs into the historical record. Just as the Huns caused the Germanic peoples (along with the Indo-Iranian Alani) to migrate and to develop new political groups, so too did the Avars cause the Slavs to move and to develop. In fact it would seem to be the Avars who were responsible for initiating any Slavic outward movement at all, after which they began to head west, south-west, and north for the most part.

The north saw far less Slavic intrusion in the early centuries though, perhaps with the Volga Bulgars providing too solid a frontier for them to cross. However, even in the fifth century BC there were recognisable proto-Slavic tribes to the north of the Scythian lands where they would generally remain until the arrivals of the Huns and Avars. The Budini (Budinoi or Boudínoi to ancient Greek writers) were one such tribe, scarcely dividable from their proto-Balt neighbours, and perhaps only barely outside the Scythian area of control but classed as an ally of theirs.

If the Budini are proto-Slavs (generally accepted), or even proto-Balts (far less popular an idea, although it was almost the same thing even as late as the sixth century BC) then their language would be closer to that of other eastern Indo-European peoples such as the Scythians who dominated the territory to the south of their location.

Eastern Indo-European reveals variants of 'b-u-d', meaning 'to perceive, to see, to know'. Sanskrit words such as 'budha' and 'buddho' would be cognate. The Latin word 'video' (the 'v' pronounces as a 'w') is also cognate. Therefore the word is present both in eastern and western main branches of proto-Indo-European.

The English cognate is 'wit'. With that, the Budini name can best be broken down as 'bud', meaning 'know, knower', plus '-in', a possible definite article (?), plus '-i', the added Latin plural. They were 'the knowers. the seerers, the perceptives'. Idiomatically they could even be 'the smart guys, the brainboxes'!

Herodotus states that the Budini were 'a great and populous nation', apparently healthy and ruddy in complexion. Their chief settlement was a walled town which bore the Greek-influenced name of Gelonus (apparently influenced by the Geloni people who were far more Greek-influenced at this date).

Their temples included more than one for Greek gods, furnished in the Greek style. The god Dionysus was honoured every two years with festivals and revelry, suggesting that the long Greek presence along the northern coast of the Black Sea had seen their influence seep right across the steppe and into the forests to the north, probably by using the Dnieper as a conduit.

Having largely been linked with the Yukhnove culture by the majority modern opinion, the Budini remained nomadic in their thickly-wooded homeland, and with a language which was not Greek-influenced.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from the Encyclopaedia of Indo-European Culture, J P Mallory & D Q Adams (Eds, 1997), from Mes Baltai (We, the Balts), A Sabaliauskas (Lithuania, 1995), from Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe (Nature), and Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Latin-English Dictionary.)

513 - 512 BC

As the centuries have gone by, the Scythians have become involved in wars against the invading Persians. Thanks to this the northern tribes along Scythian borders are also disturbed. Herodotus describes these wars in Book IV of his history, these being the earliest surviving written records concerning the history of Eastern Europe, at the end of the sixth century BC.

River Dnieper (Ukraine section)
The River Dnieper - the Borysfen to Herodotus, the Danapris to the Romans - long provided a conduit between the Black Sea and the Baltic lands to the north with the Neuri living around its headwaters in modern Belarus

Herodotus mentions and approximately locates the seats of the Neuri, Androphagi, Melanchlaeni, Budini, and other tribes living to the north of Scythia. With the Pripet marshes seemingly the natural border between Scythia and the Neuri, the latter dwell beyond the Scythian farmers (Slavs) at the headwaters of the Dnieper (which Herodotus calls the Borysfen, meaning 'river from the north'), in what is now Belarus and probably northern Ukraine too. Their neighbours are the Androphagi.

The Scythians seek help from the northern nations to counter the Persian attack, but the chieftains of the Neuri, Androphagi, Melanchlaeni, Agathyrsi, and Tauri do not agree to be Scythian allies. The Budini, though, do ally themselves with the Scythians, and they suffer the burning-down of one of their large fortified cities at the hands of Darius I as a result of the alliance.

The others also suffer when the Scythians purposely retreat before the Persians and into their lands. The Melanchlaeni are first, followed by the Androphagi and Neuri. All flee into the north as both armies enter their lands. The Agathyrsi stand firm though, threatening to attack either army should it come near. The threat works and the war recedes.

Map of Scythian Lands around 500 BC
This map attempts to show the Scythian lands at their greatest extent, failing to extend northwards thanks to the Balts (click or tap on map to view full sized)

2nd century BC

The changeless life of the eastern Baltic tribes in the Dnieper basin is disturbed by the appearance of the Zarubintsy culture, assumed to be Slavs. The Zarubintsy people progress into the lands of the Milograd people along the River Pripet and up the Dnieper and its tributaries, and the southern territories which are inhabited by the people of the Plain Pottery culture.

A peasant folk on a cultural level which is similar to that of the eastern Balts, Zarubintsy archaeological remains tend to contrast in every detail with those of the older population. Their intrusion must be interpreted as the first Slavic expansion northwards from the lands lying in the immediate neighbourhood.

The Yukhnove culture of the Budini seems to fade around the same time, and the Budini themselves, despite being described as populous, do not reappear in the historical record. This suggests either that later writers know them by another name which cannot be linked to this one, or that they have been dispersed by or assimilated into a superior cultural group.

River Dnieper (Ukraine section)
Located close to the Pripet marshes (shown here), the Yukhnove culture of the Budini was generally infringed upon by the invasive Zarubintsy culture (generally assigned to Slavs)

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