Helveconae

Helveconae

The Helveconae, or Helvaeonae, or Helvecones, or Aelvaeones, or Ailouaiones, are names possibly referring to the same ancient population, and possibly further connected to the Hilleviones of Sweden. The Helveconae as such (manuscript variant Helvaeonae) are one of the tribal states of the Lugii in Tacitus. The Lugii were located in the Silesia area (today Poland). Their ethnicity is speculative. Subsequent authors, such as Johann Jacob Hofmann, 1635-1706, , identified the people of Tacitus with a people of Ptolemy, the Ailouaiones in Greek , which has been Latinized to Aelvaeones. Perhaps the scholars innovated Helvecones, which is not attested in classical times.

Elbing theory

If Ptolemy's Routikleioi and Bourgountoi are the Tacitean Rugii (who gave their name to Rügen) and the original Burgundians, then the Aelvaeones were most likely to have resided somewhere between the Oder and the Vistula in area later called (Pomerania).

A possible connection to the city of Elbing did not escape Hofmann. The region has changed hands many times over the centuries and therefore the name has many variants: Elving, Elbinc, Elbiogowi,Elblagu, etc. It was named from the Ilfing river (Germanic form), which ran from Lake Dr(a)usen (Slavic: Druzno) to Frisches Haff. The city was officially founded in 1237 by Hermann Balk, master of the Teutonic Order, as Elbing. In the time of the Anglo-Saxon traveller, Wulfstan of Hedeby, ca. 890, Truso was in the vicinity, a name related to Drausen.

Language

There is some question as to the language from which Drausen came. It could have been either Slavic, as the Slavic Venedi once held Pomerania, or Old Prussian. The Truso captured by the Teutonic Order spoke Old Prussian, a Baltic language, and archaeology verifies a putative connection to Viking merchant-adventurers.

Etymology

We know that Ilfing (Elving) was the name of the river and that ethnic names are often intimately connected to river names, especially in a country of rivers. It is possible, but speculative, that the Elw- in Elwing came from an earlier people who lived there. The Goths and the Vandals (if indeed they are distinct) both are assumed to have come from Sweden. Many believe, without much evidence, that there is a connection to the Hilleviones of Sweden. The name can probably be segmented Helvec-on-ae, where the -on- is a Latin productive suffix used to generate people and place names. Helvec- might be further segmented as Hel-vec-, where -vec- might be "settlement", as -ing would be "people." As for the Hel-, there are as many possibilities as there are for Hellenes.

These speculative linguistic connections raise as many questions as they answer. We would require more evidence to be as certain as the encyclopedists of the past. In which direction would the migration over the Baltic have occurred? If the Hilleviones were Germanic, what were the Lugii, and why were the Helveconae among them? Could they have been Celtic, Baltic, or Germanized Celts or Balts?

Notes

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