BY NELSON CABEJ/
In stark contrast to theories in natural sciences, historical hypotheses and theories are not empirically verifiable; having occurred in the past historical events are inaccessible to the historian and the only way he can reconstruct the past is to use historical sources, archaeological finds, linguistic remnants of the time, etc. However, historical sources are tinted by the emotions, prejudices and subjective feelings of the authors, which may have distorted the reality, archaeological finds may not always be related to the relevant populations and linguistic evidence may reflect foreign influences. The critical consideration and comparison with other sources may often corroborate historian’s views to a satisfactory degree but not always validate them. Furthermore, the historian himself is not free of the human emotions, prejudices and biases, so he is attracted by the kind of information he finds to agree with his beliefs and opinions. It is certainly very difficult to write history of the past based on the partial evidence that is available now. In spite of all the problems and philosophical impasses, the historiography is a 25-centuries old science that has contributed immensely to the human knowledge.
Being all of the above more or less philosophical problems relevant to the history of every particular country rather than a sui generis problem of the Albanian historiography, I will adopt herein a down-to-earth approach.
What I intend in these articles is not to access the inaccessible past of my people, but simply to reconstitute its historical past by using as much as possible pieces of available relevant evidence. All the evidence in sources, archaeological finds, linguistic fossils etc. is mere data which only after processed in historian’s brain generates information necessary for constructing the historical past. Certainly the emerging picture, by definition, will not be identical to the real past, but again this is is rather a problem of historiography in general than a problem of the Albanian history.
The theory of the Illyrian origin of Albanians gives the best and the more complete explanation of the known facts about the history, language and culture of Albanians, as linear descendants of south Illyrians that uninterruptedly inhabited the present-day Albanian-speaking territories, at least during the last three millennia. The theory looks at the language of Albanians, in Gustav Meyer’s expression, as the younger phase of a south-Illyrian dialect
As mentioned earlier, the theory of Illyrian origin of Albanians started with an unbiased inquiry by Leibniz in his attempt to give an answer to the Prussian Königliche Bibliotek’s question on the nature and origin of Albanian. He analyzed the results of his research on the subject matter and first he guessed that its remnants may be “in the mountains of Epirus”2 and in the third letter, he expanded the territory to reach the conclusion that Albanian “was the language of the ancient Illyrians”3. Then Johann E. Thunmann expanded the area of research and elaborated arguments by delving into the historical evidence on the Albanian people4.
Thunmann, was the first to present the autochthony of Albanians in the form of a partly proven hypothesis. Had Thunmann, at his time, formalized it according to the present-day criteria of hypothesis building he could be able to state that his hypothesis fulfills the main criterion of a scientific hypothesis, the criterion of falsifiability, by offering the possibility to show it being false or the possibility of being refuted by demonstrating, e.g., the lack of sufficient linguistic affinities between the Albanian language and Illyrian; by proving that the Illyrian tribe of Albanoi mentioned by Ptolemy5 in the 2nd century AD was not related to the medieval Albanoi; by presenting historical evidence on migration of Albanians to their present territories at some point in time during the late Antiquity up to the 10th century, when they appear first in the known written sources6, etc.
Had he formalized the hypothesis that Albanians are descendants of ancient Illyrians inhabiting their ancestral territories in the west Balkans would allow him make a number of predictions.
With such formalization in mind, we can retrospectively reconstruct the predictions of the hypothesis of the autochthony of Albanians as presented more than two centuries ago by Thunmann and the relevant research to prove/disprove it as follows:
- Albanian is key to explaining the attested and reconstructed Illyrian words.
This prediction was proven to be true. In the works of Conrad Malte-Brunn, Martin William Leake, Johan Georg von Hahn, Paul Kretschmer, Alf Torp, Wilhelm Deecke et al., an ever increasing number of Illyrian (and Messapian) tribe names, personal names and place names began to be related to, and explained by, Albanian7. Although the common origin of Albanian with other Indo-European languages would make it possible that other languages like the ancient Greek (attested at an earlier time, when the IE languages were closer to each other) be helpful in this respect, Albanian has prevailed among all the IE languages in explaining the attested and reconstructed Illyrian words as well as Illyrian personal, tribe and place names.
- Illyrian personal names are preserved in Albania as such or as patronymics. Foreign authors and Albanians have proven this prediction to be true8. Among the Illyrian personal names inherited into Albanian are worth mentioning Bato (the name of the leader of the great Ilyrian revolt against the Roman rule in the first decade of the new era), which is still used now in unchanged form Bato in South Albania and probably Vatë, in northern Albania. Another example is Genthius, the name of the Illyrian king of the 2nd century BC, also attested in the Epirote version Gontha9 from which derives the modern personal name and patronymic Goxho in the rugged region of Labëria, South Albania, part of the ex-Roman province of Epirus vetus10, used as personal name and patronymic Goxho and Gjet/Gjeto as personal name and patronymic in northern Albania and Gjeç as patronymic in both northern and southern Albania; the Illyrian female name Teutana probably preserved in the personal female name Tana11.
- 3. Given the Illyrian tribe of Hylleis (Ύλεῖς)12, 13 was one of the three tribes (along the Dymanes (Δυμάνες) and Pamphyloi (Πάμφυλοι) that took part in the invasion of Dorians (Δωριεῖς) during the 11th century BC. Adequate evidence to prove the prediction will be presented elsewhere.
- Being consensually admitted that the Messapian language is a dialect of Illyrian, it would be expected that Albanian would uniquely be helpful in explaining words in Messapian inscriptions. Relevant research has showen that Albanian prevails among all the IE languages in explaining Messapian words14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. Noteworthy is the fact that similar place names and tribe names are uniquely encountered in the Messapian region of South Italy, Illyria and Epirus22.
- If Albanians were descendants of Illyrians it would be predicted that no interruption will be observed in the material culture of Albania at least during 2 last millennia. In point of fact, ample archaeological evidence reveals a clear continuity in the material culture of Albania, beginning from the Bronze Age. The Koman-Krujë culture, despite novelties it displays, is nothing but a continuation and evolution of the ancient Illyrian culture23,24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, under the new circumstances of the Byzantine empire to which Illyria belonged after the division of the Roman empire by the 5th century, the ethnological pressure of Slavic invasion and the accompanying shrinking of the ethnic Illyrian territories.
- The hypothesis would predict that proves and arguments will be found to refute the view on “the silence of written sources about Illyrians from the 7th century onward and about Albanians from the 2nd to the 10th century”. Indeed, concerning the first part of the statement, i.e. the silence of sources on Illyrians after the 7th century propounded by the Russian historian Dimitri Obolensky (1918-2001)31 is inaccurate. Evidence on Illyrians (Ἰλλυριοί) as a people exists in Chronicon Paschale32 of the 7th century and Paul the Deacon (c.720–799 CE) still writes about Illyria in the 8th in Historia Langobardorum, when he describes the destructions caused by Germanic tribes in Gallia and Illyria33. The place name Illyricum also appears in documents of the end of the 8th century, in relation to the transfer of bishoprics of Illyricum, Sicily and Calabria, from the jurisdiction of the Roman Church to that of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The doubt that this may have to do with any south Slavic country disappears as soon as we remember that Slavic people in the 8th century were still pagans. By the middle of the 9th century Illyrians are mentioned in a Bulgarian scholion treaty commenting on “Illyrian bishops”34 (not “bishops of Illyria”) and adding in the present tense: “Bishops of Illyria depend from the Holy See of Rome”35.
Given that the Albanian language developed by 5-6th century CE36, it is logical to believe that the formation of the Albanian people occurred not later than the 7th century. Hence it makes no sense to look for Albanians to be mentioned in sources before the 7th century. And this alone would reduce the centuries of the “silence” to 3 because the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus mentions Albania in the 10th century37. Moreover, there is a solid linguistic fossil proving the South Slavic neighbors of Albanians were aware of their presence in modern Albanian territories at least by the 8-9th century, making the so-called silence on Albanians almost inexistent. This is a phonetic law of liquid metathesis, which was operative during the second half of the 8th century and affected the endonym Arban, which is encountered in medieval south Slavic documents as Raban. This fact proves that Albanians were in the present-day territories in the 8th century38.
As for the scarcity of the appearance of the name of Illyrians in the early medieval documents, this is not a specific problem for Albanians and Illyrians but also for Hellenes which do not appear at all during the whole period of the Early Middle Age. Let’s remember that the medieval sources are silent for 3 centuries about Croatians and 2-3 centuries about Serbs until they are mentioned by the emperor Porphyrogenitus by the middle of the 10th century39. And this occurred for a good reason: the Byzantine historiography of the early Middle Age was reduced to a hagiography, focused almost totally on the life of saints and the church. Even based on this fact alone, the American historian, John van Antwerp Fine pointed out: “The lack of early references to the Albanians is not significant. The centuries before the ninth are a period of few sources”40
The alleged centuries-long silence of sources of Albanians disappears if would take into account the Illyrian-Albanian continuity ( ).
- In the Albanian mythology traces must exist of the ancient Illyrian mythology. Indeed, this seems to have been the case: a number of Illyrian deities are found transposed into figures of Albanian mythology. Such are the figures of Zana and “E Bukura e Dheut”, which are believed be transpositions of the Illyrian goddess Thana41 or the Albanian mythological figure of lugati, which is interpreted as demonization, under the pressure of Christianity, of the god Logetis42, an Illyrian-Messapian deity.
The large body of evidence and arguments accumulated on the autochthony of Albanians, with the efforts of numerous scholars, during the last three centuries has verified the implied predictions of the Thunmann hypothesis. This fact raises the autochthony of Albanians to the level of a scientific theory, in the meaning of the theory that while solving numerous questions and problems, naturally generates other puzzles and makes new predictions. In other words, the autochthony of Albanians has acquired now the status of a scientific paradigm, a scientifically supported theory.
From the standpoint of the present knowledge, the theory of autochthony of Albanians is the only and as of yet unrivalled theory of the origin of Albanians that explains best the evidence from the all the relevant fields of linguistics, history, archaeology, ethnography, folklore, mythology etc. It is a complete theory in the Kuhnian meaning of theory and normal science.
1 Meyer, G. (1888). Die lateinischen Elemente im Albanischen. In Grundriss der romanischen Philologie I, Trubner, Strassburg, p 804-821.
2 Reiter, M. (1980). Leibnizen’s Albanerbriefe . Zeitschrift für Balkanologie. XVI, 82-93.
3 Reiter, M. (1980). Ibid.
4 Thunmann, J.E. (1774). Untersuchungen über die Geschichte östlichen europäischen Völker. Chapter Über die Geschichte und Sprache der Albaner und der Wlachen. Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius, Leipzig.
5.Ptolemy Geography 3, 16.
7.Çabej, N. (2016). Epirotes – Albanians of Antiquity. Albanet Publishing, Dumont NJ, pp. 106-116.
8.von Hahn, J.G. (1854). Albanesische Studien. F. Mauko, Jena.
9.Spahiu, A. (2010). Gjuha e Epirotëve të Vjetër. Botimet Princi, Tiranë, pp.132-133.
10.Çabej, N. (2016). Epirotes – Albanians of Antiquity. Albanet Publishing, Dumont NJ, p. 119.
1.Çabej, N. (2016). Ibid. p. 181.
- Günther, H.F.K. Lebensgeschichte der Spartaner. Internet: http://www.thule-seminar.org/herkunft_sparta_guenther.htm.
- Kiechle, F. (1963). Lakonien und Sparta – Untersuchungen zur ethnischen Struktur und zur politischen Entwicklung Lakoniens und Spartas bis zum Ende der archäischen Zeit. München, Berlin 1963, p. 116.
- Torp, A. (1895). Zu den messapischen Inschriften, Indogermanische Forschungen V, 197-215.
- Torp (1895). Ibid., p. 208.
16.Torp, A. ( 1897). Bemerkungen zu den venetischen Inschriften. In Om Io-mythen. Ed. J. Lieblein, Christiania. pp. 1-16.
- Mommsen, T. (1850). Die unteritalischen Dialekte. Wigand’s, Leipzig, p. 70; Mommsen Unteitalische Dialekte, p. 46.
18.Çabej, E. (1976). SE, pp. 151-153.
19.Çabej, E. (1976). SGJ III, p. 26.
20.Orel, V. (1998), Albanian…, Brill, Leiden, pp. 7-8.
21.Fortson, B.W. IV (2011). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. sec. ed. Wiley & Sons, Hong Kong, p. 408.
22 Çabej, N. (2016). Epirotes – Albanians of Antiquity. Albanet, Dumont, NJ, pp. 106-118.
23 Prendi, F. (1966). La civilization préhistorique de Maliq. Studia Albanica I, 254–266.
24 Anamali, S. (1982). Des Illyriens aux Albanais. Les nouvelles données de l’archéologie, Illyria
25 Prendi, F. (1966). La civilization préhistorique de Maliq. Studia Albanica I,254–266
26 Anamali, S. and Korkuti, M. (1969). Problemi ilir dhe i gjenezes së shqiptarëve në dritën e kërkimeve arkeologjike shqiptare. Studime Historike 1, 115-142.
27 Korkuti, M. (1972). A propos de la formation del’ ethnie illyrienne. In Premier colloque des Etudes Illyriennes, Tirana, pp. 55-76.
28 Korkuti, M. (1972). A propos de la formation del’ ethnie illyrienne. In Premier colloque des Etudes Illyriennes, Tirana, pp. 55-76.
29 Anamali, S. (1982). Des Illyriens aux Albanais. Les nouvelles données de l’archéologie, Illyria; Also available in English: Anamali, S. (1985). From the Illyrians to the Arbërs. In The Albanians and their Territories. Academy of Sciences of the PSR of Albania, 8 Nëntori, Tiranë, pp. 100-132.
30 Ducellier, A. (1998). Les Albanais dans l’empire byzantin: de la communauté à l’expansion. In The Medieval Albanians. Athènes, 17-45.
31 Dimitri Obolensky (1994). Byzantium & the Slavs. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 284.
32 Paschalion seu Chronicon Paschale. vol. 4 Byzantinae Historiae Scriptoribus. Ed. du Fresne Du Cagne, Javarian, 1729, p.23.
33 Paul the Deacon Historiae Langobardorum. Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1907, p. 2.
34 Wyrwoll, N. (1966). Politischer oder petrinischer Primat? Zwei Zeugnisse zur Primatsauffassung im 9 Jahrhund. Excerpta ex dissertatione ad lauream in Facultate Theologica, Pontificae Universitatis Gregorianae, Hildes, Wunstrof, p. 25.
35 Wyrwoll, N. (1966). Ibid., p. 35.
36 Demiraj, S. (2006). The Origin of the Albanians. Tiranë, 2006, p. 210.
37 Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Op. cit.
38 Çabej, N. (1990). Sa të vjetër janë emrat “arbër” dhe “Arbëri”? Bashkimi, 10 shkurt 1990.. See also Çabej, N. R. (2013). Ilirët që Mbijetuan. Fan Noli, Tiranë, ff. 151-160; Çabej, N. R. (2014). Vazhdimësi Iliro-Shqiptare në Emrat e Vëndeve. Fan Noli, Tiranë, pp. 28-30.
39 C. Porphyrogenitus De Thematibus et de Administrando Imperio. Weber, Bonn, 1840, pp. 128, 131, 143, 144, 145, 146.
40 Van Antwerp Fine, J. (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press, p. 11.
41 Çabej, N. (2014). Në gjurmët e perëndive dhe mitologjemave ilire. Fan Noli, Tiranë, pp. 75-81.
42 Çabej, N. (2014). Ibid. pp. 69-74.