Bessi – Shepherd Culture – Statuta Valachorum – Cătun


The Bessi (/ˈbɛsaɪ/Ancient Greek: Βῆσσοι, Bēssoi or Βέσσοι, Béssoi) were an independent Thracian tribe who lived in a territory ranging from Moesia to Mount Rhodope in Northern Thrace, but are often mentioned as dwelling about Haemus, the mountain range that separates Moesia from Thrace and from Mount Rhodope to the northern part of Hebrus.[1] Herodotus[2] described them as a sort of priestly-caste among the Satrae, the Bessi being interpreters of the prophetic utterances given by a priestess in an oracular shrine of Dionysus located on a mountain-top. Later Strabo, provides a record in which the Bessi[3] are described as the fiercest[4] of the independent Thracian tribes, dwelling on and around the Haemus range, and possessing the greater part of the area around that mountain chain. Towards the end of the 4th century, Nicetas the Bishop of Dacia brought the gospel to “those mountain wolves”, the Bessi. Reportedly his mission was successful, and the worship of Dionysus and other Thracian gods was eventually replaced by Christianity.  Cecaumenos the Byzantine historian described the Vlachs from Thessaly (i.,e. the Aromanians of Great Wallachia) as being descendants of ancient Dacians and Bessi who invaded Greece from the area on the Danube, supposedly seeking revenge for the defeat inflicted to their ancestors by Trajan during the Dacian Wars. In 570, Antoninus Placentius wrote that in the valleys of Mount Sinai there was a monastery in which the monks spoke GreekLatinSyriacEgyptian and Bessian. The origin of the monasteries is explained in a mediaeval hagiography written by Simeon Metaphrastes, in Vita Sancti Theodosii Coenobiarchae in which he wrote that Saint Theodosius founded on the shore of the Dead Sea a monastery with four churches, in each being spoken a different language, among which Bessan was found. The place where the monasteries were founded was called “Cutila”, which may be a Thracian name.

Tatăl nostru” în străvechea noastră limbă bessă, spre jena noastră, îl păstrează o mănăstire romano-catolică şi l-a găsit în Alexandria Egiptului un savant american de origine armeană, numit Jack H. Antreassian (1920-2009), putrător de grijă a Bisericii Sfântului Grigore Luminătorul din Complexul Sfântului Mormânt din Ierusalim. În 1274 este atestat un ,,magister Paulus de Rodna et Bysterce”, iar în 1295 un ,,magister Vivianus” din Bisytercze. Este clar atestat şi în acest document numele ,,BISY” ca şi cel de ,,TER” (terra) adică: ,,ŢARA BISYLOR” sau ,,Besterr za”. Descompunerea toponimului ,,BESTERZE” în trei ne revelează: ,,TER”: ,,terra” adică ,,pământ” ,,ţară”; ,,BES” adică ,,a bessilor”, sau ,,Pământul (ţara) bessilor”; ,,ZE” arată divinitatea. Deci avem ,,Ţara dată de Dumnezeu bessilor”, aşa cum Cannanul a fost dat de către Dumnezeu evreilor.
BESSII – preot profesor Nicolae Feier

„Eu sunt aicea barbar: nu mă pricepe nimeni, Iar geţii râd ca proştii de graiul meu latin… Şi besii şi sarmaţii dau zidului ocol.” Publius Ovidius Naso,”Ponticele”.
„Dobrogea a fost din vechime o „BESS TERRA” (ŢARA BESSILOR)…Munţii Hercinici, calcaroşi, au numeroase peşteri (bess terra, pess terra), care au adăpostit comunităţi monastice besse precreştine străvechi (vestiţii pileates tarabostes) şi apoi creştinate. Aceste comunităţi besso-pileate au dat lumii personalităţi ilustre. Cu oarecare surprindere va afla cititorul că argonauţii, cutezătorii căutători ai „lânei de aur” au intrat pe braţul lui Ares, pe Istru (un braţ al Dunării) şi nu spre legendarul Caucaz, iar acest lucru îl afirmă Apolonius din Rhodos. Iason, Hercule şi alţii din pleiadă, erau traci, nu greci. Inşişi neamul grecilor sunt o expulzare (de tip solar) din neamul tracilor (poate al inzilor) spre sudul balcanic cu ramurile lor: aheii, dorienii, ionienii. Se ştie că vechii greci au „importat” masiv înţelepciune din Egipt şi că ceea ce numim platonism şi aristotelism vine în parte dinspre Ţara Crocodilului, dar şi din nordul balcanic, de unde au coborât.
Marele neam al tracilor, cu peste o sută de triburi, conform surselor antice, avea în fruntea sa o castă preoţească „bessi” – notează autorul în Prolog şi de aceasta se va ocupa pe parcurs. Din reconfigurarea vocabulelor „terra besstes” a venit numele castei preoţeşti „tarabostes”, numiţi apoi şi „pileati”. Ca martor ia părintele Nicolae Feier pe istoricul Iordanes, ce notează: ”Aceia dintre ei care erau de neam, s-au numit la început „tarabostes”, apoi „pileati”. Dintre ei se alegeau regii şi preoţii.” „ Sfatul bătrânilor era compus din zece bărbaţi aleşi dintre cei mai curaţi şi înţelepţi bessi. Ei se numeau şi „dece”, adică „cei zece”.

sec V-II BC, researchgate.net/figure/Dacia-during-Decebal-85-106-AD

balkancelts.wordpress.com/tag/bessi-tribe The campaign of 109 BC was launched, not along the Struma valley where Cato’s army had been destroyed, but along the Maritza (Hebrus) river valley, a route more suitable for a Roman army. Furthermore, this campaign appears not to have been directed at a specific military target, but at the ‘barbarian’ population in general. Thus, while the Scordisci are again mentioned as the focus of the Roman campaign, it was the Thracian Bessi tribe along the Hebrus river who bore the brunt of the Roman attacks. In fact, until this point the Bessi tribe had taken no part in attacks on Roman forces on the Balkans, nor had they played any role in the Celtic campaign against Rome. It would appear that the Thracian tribe simply happened to be ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
In terms of Roman expansion in the Balkans, Rufus’ victory in 109 BC did not lead to any territorial gains, and the Roman forces retreated south into Macedonia, indicating again the punitive nature of the campaign. During their homeward march a large part of the Roman army was drowned when the ice on the Hebros (Maritza) river cracked underneath them (Flor. 1.39.5).
In the long term, the events of 109 BC did not significantly affect the geo-political situation in the Balkans. Rome had still not achieved a foothold in Thrace, and the attack on the Bessi tribe had the effect of turning this tribe into one of Rome’s most bitter enemies. In the ensuing conflict the Bessi became one of the most enthusiastic participants in attacks on Roman Macedonia, and continued to resist the Romans in Thrace even after the end of the Scordisci Wars. These events also forged closer links between the Bessi tribe and the Celts in Thrace. It should be noted that the term Scordisci is applied by the Romans to the tribes of today’s southwestern Bulgaria who lived in the Rila/Rhodope mountains area. This once again clearly illustrates that the term was used by the Romans to refer to all the Celts of Thrace, whether in today’s Serbia, northern Bulgaria or, as in the present case, southwestern Bulgaria (the tribes who had destroyed the army of Porcius Cato, and massacred the Roman garrison at Heraclea Sintica, in 114 BC).
During the Curio campaign in 75 BC, large numbers of the native population were enslaved by the Romans, one of whom was a chieftain of the Maidi tribe – Spartacus. In this case, however, it appears that Rome had taken the vipers to her bed. In 73 BC a number of Thracian and Celtic slaves, led by Spartacus and the Celt Crixus, rose against the empire in a rebellion that would shake the very foundations of Rome.

Distribution of Celtic weapons in NW Bulgaria 2nd – 1st c. BC academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

wiki: In 72 BC, the proconsul of Macedonia Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus defeated the Bessi in Thrace. Mommsen says the capital of the Bessi was Uscudama (now Edirne) in modern Turkey[6] but the real place seems to have been Bessapara, today Sinitovo near PazardzhikBulgaria. Towards the end of the 4th century, Nicetas the Bishop of Dacia brought the gospel to “those mountain wolves”, the Bessi. Reportedly his mission was successful, and the worship of Dionysus and other Thracian gods was eventually replaced by Christianity. In the 11th century Strategikon text, Cecaumenos the Byzantine historian described the Vlachs from Thessaly (i.,e. the Aromanians of Great Wallachia) as being descendants of ancient Dacians and Bessi.

The Thracian language was the language of the ancient population of the modern Thracia and several adjacent regions. The newest studies point out that, besides Thracia, Thracian was also spoken to the west of the Ossogovo mountain, along the upper course of the Bregalnica river and further to the west of the lower course of the river Vardar (Axios) including the modern city of Thessalonica and its environs. The northern branches of the Balkan mountains (approximately to the south of the line Montana – Devnja) probably also belonged to the Thracian linguistic territory. The ancient name of the city of Varna – Odessos is not Thracian, however, therefore in Varna and its environs was spoken another language – the Dacian.
Jordanes in his Gothic history, written in the middle of the VI-th c. provides one of the final accounts. Thus, speaking about the Danube river, he informs us that this river is called  Ister in the language of the Bessi (a Thracian tribe): “Qui [=Danubius] lingua Bessorum Hister vocatur”. It is accepted that lingua Bessorum for Jordanes and his contemporaries meant “the language of the Thracians”.

An interesting problem is the survival of Thracian words in the language of the Bulgarian Slavs. Such are river names: Iskar, Panega, Osam, Etar (Jantra), Ibar (the upper course of Marica), Marica, Strjama, Tundzha, Arda, Struma, Nestenica (Mesta’s tributary), Bregalnica; names of mountains: Ossogovo and Rhodopes. The ancient name of the Balkan mountains – Hemus, has survived in the rare form of Im(-planina), attested by N. Gerov in his “Dictionary of Bulgarian language” (vol. II, p. 32). Thracian are also the names of some settlements: Nessebar, Plovdiv, Silivrija (transmitted via the Greek), etc. There are reasons to believe that Thracian are also some geographical names, which were not attested in the ancient sources: Véleka (a river), Nésla (a village, named after the neighbouring river), Batkun (a village near the town of Pazardzhik), Pirdop, etc. A number of words in the modern Bulgarian are also Thracian in origin

www.kroraina.com/vg There are about fifty toponyms formed as two-stem compound words with the term dava ‘town, city’, e.g. AcidavaThermidava, Cumidava, Rusidava, Sucidava, etc. The number of toponyms of this type is considerable. This enables us to make some conclusions on the basis of their geographical distribution. Their distribution is as follows:
 – Twenty-nine of these names, i.e. more than half of them, appear in Dacia (today Rumania): Dacia was, therefore, their centre of irradiation.
– Ten of them are to be found in Scythia Minor (today Dobrudža) and Mysia Inferior (today northern Bulgaria).
– Eight are attested in the south-eastern part of Mysia Superior, i.e. Dardania and Dacia Mediterranea (today north-eastern Yugoslavia).
In Thrace there are about fifty toponyms formed as two-stem compound words with the term para (probably meaning ‘river’ or ‘brook’), e.g. , Bessapara, Sauzupara etc.; fourteen toponyms formed as two-stem compound words with the term bria ‘town, city’, e.g. , etc.; eleven toponyms formed as two-stem compound words with the term diza ‘fortress’, e.g. Beodizos, Orudiza, , etc. These three types of toponym occur only in Thrace; they do not appear in Dacia, in Mysia or in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. Besides these there are other toponyms and personal, names that appear only in Thrace or only in Dacia.
From this characteristic geographical distribution of the most frequent toponyms in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula (see Fig. 1) an important conclusion emerges. If in Thrace and Dacia the same toponymy was not used, then these two countries must have been inhabited in antiquity by peoples who spoke two different languages, i.e. two different ethnic unities dwelt there. Therefore the Daco-Mysian language was different from the Thracian one. This conclusion is certain, since it is not founded on etymologies that might be of a subjective character, but on geographical distribution which is an objective criterion.
Thus we have separated Dacian (or Daco-Mysian) from Thracian as two different IE languages, and all other data and considerations support this conclusion. The study of the phonology of these languages, for example, proves that they are very different from each other.

kroraina.com Many linguists and historians, e.g. H. Hirt, V. Pârvan, Th. Capidan, A. Philippide, N. Jokl, G. Weigand, P. Skok, D. Detschew, H. Baric’, I. Siadbei, etc. have put forward very important considerations indicating that the Albanians cannot be autochthonous in the Albania of today, that their original home was the eastern part of Mysia Superior or approximately Dardania and Dacia Mediterranea, i.e. the northern central zone of the Balkan Peninsula, and part of Dacia. Now, however, when it is clear that Daco-Mysian and Thracian represent two different IE languages, the problem of the origin of the Albanian language and the Albanians themselves appears in quite a new light. Rumanian possesses about a hundred words which have their correspondences only in Albanian. The form of these Rumanian words is so peculiar (e.g. Rum. mazǎre = Alb. modhullë ‘pea(s)’) that they cannot be explained as borrowings from Albanian. This is the Dacian substratum in Rumanian, whereas the Albanian correspondences are inherited from Dacian. In this way it has been definitively proved that Albanian is descended from Daco-Mysian. Therefore the primitive home of Albanian is a Daco-Mysian region, probably Mysia Superior (Dardania, Dacia Mediterranea) or western Dacia. This fact enables us to explain the numerous typical agreements between Albanian and Rumanian. Rumanian and Albanian took shape in the Daco-Mysian region; Rumanian represents a completely Romanised Daco-Mysian and Albanian a semi-Romanised Daco-Mysian.

The Bessi (/ˈbɛsaɪ/Ancient Greek: Βῆσσοι, Bēssoi or Βέσσοι, Béssoi) were an independent Thracian tribe who lived in a territory ranging from Moesia to Mount Rhodope in Northern Thrace, but are often mentioned as dwelling about Haemus, the mountain range that separates Moesia from Thrace and from Mount Rhodope to the northern part of Hebrus.[1]

Balkan mountain range (Bulgarian and Serbian: Стара Планина, romanizedStara Planinaliterally: “Old Mountain”; Bulgarian pronunciation: [ˈstarɐ pɫɐniˈna]Serbian pronunciation: [stâːraː planǐna])

wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlachs#Shepherd_culture During the Middle Ages, many Vlachs were shepherds who drove their flocks through the mountains of Central and Eastern Europe. Vlach shepherds may be found as far north as southern Poland (Podhale) and the eastern Czech Republic (Moravia) by following the Carpathians, the Dinaric Alps in the west, the Pindus Mountains in the south, and the Caucasus Mountains in the east.[70]
Some researchers, like Bogumil Hrabak and Marian Wenzel, theorized that the origins of Stećci tombstones, which appeared in medieval Bosnia between 12th and 16th century, could be attributed to Vlach burial culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina of that times.[71]
wikipedia.org/wiki/Statuta_Valachorum Based on the Grenzers’ petitions[7] and the court statement, Emperor Ferdinand II issued the Statuta Valachorum on 5 October 1630. Privileges of Grenzers (called as “Vlachs” or “Morlachs”) on the northern and northwestern border of Bosnia in 1630 was confirmed by Ferdinand II in “Statuta Valachorum”.[22] In 1627, the Varaždin Grenzer told authorities they “rather be hacked into pieces than be separated from their officers and become subjects of the Croatian nobility”.[7] In 1627, emperor Ferdinand II granted the “Vlach people inhabiting the regions of Slavonia and Croatia, the right to stay undisturbed in their settlements and estates”;[16] the Frontier Vlachs were allowed land use regardless of the land’s ownership, in an effort to make the Grenzers independent of the Croatian nobility, and more willing to wage wars for him.[12]  The Statuta, applied only to Vlachs in the area of the Varaždin Generalate (between Drava and Sava), later[when?] came to be used by all Vlachs.[12] The Vlach law refers to various special laws and privileges enforced upon pastoralist communities in Europe in the Late Middle Ages and Early modern period. The term “Vlachs” originally denoted Romance-speaking populations, primarily concerned with pastoralism; the term became synonymous with “shepherds”.[1]

ZAKON VLAHOM (IUS VALACHICUM) IN THE CHARTERS ISSUED TO SERBIAN MEDIEVAL MONASTERIES
AND KANUNS REGARDING VLACHS IN THE EARLY OTTOMAN TAX REGISTERS Miloš Luković

core.ac.uk/download/pdf/154436981.pdf In the Serbian medieval state, as well as in other Balkan Christian states, there were no regulations that would uniformly regulate the position of the Vlachs. Regulations regarding the position of the Vlachs can usually be found in the foundation or donation charters of the monasteries. In the few charters from the first half of 14th century rules regarding the Vlachs were grouped under the common name Zakon Vlahom. Apart from this, common law applied to them as well. In conquering the Christian lands in the Balkans in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Ottoman state initially held certain lands and regions in a vassal status, and the sanjaks were formed following their definite subjugation and the liquidation of the vassal status, within the subjugated lands or regions. After the formation of a particular sanјak a tax list was immediately established, and that is how Ottoman Tax Registers (defters) were created. In each defter of the particular sanјak in the early Ottoman period (second half of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century) there existed a regulation known as kanun, regulating the duties of the Vlachs. They contained rules and legal traditions of common law, that had existed earlier in the territories of the subjugated Balkan Christian states.

Herzegovina : Map of medieval Vlach petroglyphs with „hora” dance (source: Marian Wenzel)

Jus Valachorum : Today, the word katun in the Serbian and Bulgarian languages has the meaning of “a place in the mountains where livestock (mostly sheep) is grazed and milked in the summer”; in Romanian, cătun means “a small group of homesteads, smaller than a village”; in Albanian, katund means a “village”; in Modern Greek, κατοΰνα (katuna) means “a tent, a camp”.
After much wandering in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, researchers came to understand, in the second half of the 20th century, mostly thanks to medievalists and Ottomanists,12 that the medieval katun was the corporate organization of social and economic life of transhumant livestock breeders. It was the basic unit of livestock breeders’ community, made up of several dozen households (kletištes) which were tied by kinship, sometimes with relatives in the female line (nephews, in-laws).13 After a certain period, it could divide and develop into new organizations of the same type (this is referred to as division of the katun).14 A katun was led by an elder (elected by their self-governing authority), and each katun had been called after its elder (for example: the “katun of Vukac Radičević”) before the transhumant population became sedentary.15 In the western areas of the Balkans, the leader of the katun was most often called katunar.
A self-governing body – assembly, gathering (skupština/zbor), was formed by the elders (katunars/primićurs) of the several katuns. However, in the central and western areas of the Balkans, the ruler would appoint a knez (under this name since the beginning of the 13th century, before that the term sudija [judge] was used) as the leader. The institution of katunar/primićur and knez secured the self-governance of livestock breeders, and the knez was the link between the self-governance system and the central state government. Knez also acted as a judge for the members of all katuns under his control. The ruler would also appoint the vojvoda of a larger group of livestock breeders, also from among the katunars, who were responsible for recruiting (mobilization) soldiers in their groups, as well as for leading the warriors during military campaigns.16 Such an organization of livestock breeders based on katun (katun organization) would secure the social autonomy of the Vlach population within the feudal system of Christian states in the Balkans, including the medieval Serbian state.

Transhumance in the western areas of the Balkans (Marković 1971)

About Alex Imreh

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