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Lugii – ancestors of Poles?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Map detail: Ancient Germania in the late 1st century.
Photo: Alexander G. Findlay, From A Classical Atlas of Ancient Geography, New York 1849

Lugii/Longiones were a people of not entirely clear origin, just before BCE and in the first centuries CE they inhabited the upper basin of the Oder and Vistula rivers, i.e. the area of ​​today’s southern and central Poland.

For the first time, the mention of the Lugii appears in Strabo’s Geography, who mentions that they were a “great people” and, together with other tribes, were subject to a certain Marbod – the leader of the Marcomanni, whose native lands were in present-day Bohemia.

Next, the Lugii are mentioned by Tacitus in his Annals.  In 50 CE they took part in the destruction of the state of a certain Vannius. In another work entitled Germania Tacitus writes that the Lugii were divided into many tribes (civitates), of which he lists the five most important: Hari, Helvecons, Manims, Helisians, and Nahanarvals.

Another Roman writer who quotes the Lygians is Cassius Dio. In Roman History it represents the reign of Domitian (81-96 CE), when in 91-92 CE The Lygians supported Rome in the fights against the Suebi and the Goths. For the time of fighting with the Suebi, the Lygians received Roman reinforcements in the number of 100 horsemen. We are not sure whether the Roman army actually went to the lands of the Lygians. However, if it were true, it would be the first evidence of the presence of Roman soldiers in the present Polish lands.

Claudius Ptolemy, a scientist of Greek descent living in the 2nd century CE, cites information about the Boers – who he felt belonged to the Lygian tribe. Apparently, they played an important role during the Marcomanian Wars (167-180 CE), as evidenced by the organization of a separate military expedition against them (Expeditio Burica) in the years 182-183 CE and later by Commodus an alliance with this people.

The next information about the Leagues is unclear. Some historians believe that they are mentioned by Zosimos in his New History. He claims that the Longiones fought in Raetia (now Austria) with the troops of the Roman emperor Probus in 279 CE. The ruler of Rome won a victory over them. The next mention may be the great people of Lupiones-Sarmatae placed on the Tabula Peutingeriana map generally dated to the 2nd-4th century CE.

Scientists believe that probably by the 3rd century CE, the Lygians were absorbed into the social and state structures of the Vandals.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the famous heroes of “Quo vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz: Ligia Kallina and Ursus were supposed to come from the tribe of Lygians. Sienkiewicz identified the Lygians with the Slavs, and the very motif of the appearance of the Leagues in the novel was primarily aimed at boosting the morale of Poles under partition. Attempts were made to derive the Slavic origin of the name of the tribe as the inhabitants of lugs, lenders, i.e. wet thickets, swamps, and forest swamps. However, this theory is rejected and it is believed that the name of the tribe comes from the name of the Celtic god – Lugh.

  • Cassius Dio, Roman History, LXVII
  • Jerzy Strzelczyk, Wandalowie i ich afrykańskie państwo
  • Jerzy Strzelczyk, Zapomniane narody Europy, Wrocław 2009
  • Tacitus, Germania, XLIII

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