The Northern Way

The Guthones


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.

Herulian "Lord's Prayer".

2. Samogitian: --- Teivs mus, kors tu es's auksta
3. Lithuanian: --- Teve musu, kurs tu esi aukstai
4. English:--- Father our who art high

2. debesysa, svestas tavas vards, antak
3. debesyse, sveskis tavo vardas, ateik
4. in the clouds, hallowed be thy name, may come

2. mums tava valstybe, tavas prots
3. mums tavo valstybe, tavo valia
4. to us thy kingdom, thy will

2. tebus kap auksta debes's tap virsuo
3. tebun kaip aukstai danguos taip ant
4. be done just as high in the clouds so on

2. zemes, musu deiniska maista duk
3. zemes, musu kasdienine duona duok
4. the earth, our daily bread give

2. mums siodeina, pamatyk ent muns musu
3. mums sendiena, pamatyk ant mus musu
4. us today, see on us our

2. greika kap mes pamatom musu patradukiam,
3. kalte kaip mes pamatom musu kaltininkams,
4. sins, just as we see (them) on our trespassers,

2. ne vesk mus lauman badeklen, bet
3. ne vesk mus blogan pagundan, bet
4. do not lead us into bad temptation, but

2. pasergek mus nu visos laumes.
3. apsaugok mus nuo viso blogo.
4. deliver us from all evil.

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 thus:

"O Thunder-god,

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]

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