Re: [tied] Kraków and other enigmas

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 9178
Date: 2001-09-07

Norman Davies thinks all southern Poles are undercover Celts :) Well, there may be a grain of truth in that. At the time when the southern two-thirds of modern Poland was Vandal territory, there were still Celtic enclaves in the south, one of them in the area round Kraków. The local Celts had their own distinctive culture, which only partly absorbed Przeworsk culture influences (they even struck their own gold coin, which suggests the existence of a political centre) and maintained contacts with the Boii and other peoples on the other side of the mountains. The enclave seems to have been engulfed by the Przeworsk culture in the early Roman period (1st c.).
Kraków occupies a very convenient location on the upper Vistula and has attacted human settlers since the Palaeolithic; it has an almost continuous record of settlement since the fifth millennium BC. It is also a place easily reached by cultural and political trends from the south. The Slavs (White Croatians?) possibly reached it about the 5th c., and by the 8th it had become a fortress of the Vistulans and a local political centre.
Several questions can be asked at this point: What language was spoken in the area of Kraków when the Slavs arrived? Truth is, we don't know. It could be some form of Germanic, or a residual Carpathian language related to Dacian, or (improbably) unassimilated remnants of a Celtic language. Did the Slavs rename the place or adopt an old name? Again, we don't know. Kraków (also older feminine Cracco(uu)a = "Krakowa") looks like a possessive adjective, but the base *krak- is enigmatic. Place-names in *-ov- can sometimes be formed from words denoting natural features, and one very outstanding natural feature of Kraków is Wawel, the site of the Royal Castle, a limestone hill overlooking the Vistula. Now, a Gaulish reconstruction *cracos 'limestone rock' has been proposed on the basis of placenames in Western Europe (only Chris Gwinn can tell if there is any substance to it), so maybe "the Krak" was the original Celtic name of the hill, inherited by whoever replaced the Celts and passed on to the Slavs. The failure of *a (unless originally long) to become Slavic *o is paralelled by the name of the Carpathians -- Slavic Karpat-, adopted in this version very late, after the metathesis of liquids, and probably of southern (Dacian?) origin, cf. Albanian karpë 'rock', so the plural of *karp-at- = the Rockies).
Another local enigma is the name of the Tatra mountains (Pol. Tatry, the highest range of the Carpathians, forming the border between Poland and Slovakia, just south of Kraków). Old versions of the name include <Tritri>, which suggests the reconstruction *trtr-(o-) with branch-specific vocalisations like West Slavic *tartr- > *tatr- by dissimilation or *tritr- (with syllabic *r > *ri as in Albanian). A hill range in Ukraine is called Toutry (< *toltr- < *tortr- < *trtr- with East Slavic vocalism). There are Balkan connections (the Trtra upland in Herzegovina, perhaps Greek mythological Tartaros), and maybe Celtic ones if French tertre 'hill' is of Gaulish origin.
----- Original Message -----
From: Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2001 9:22 PM
Subject: Re: [tied] Re: Odin as a Trojan Prince

Any theories about the real etymology of Kraków (Norman Davies seems to favour a Celtic origin, but he does not elaborate)?