Piotr writes:
<<Göta älv is untenable because the modern name derives from older *gauta
which doesn't really look like Guthalus at all.... Gut-halus =
*gut(a)-xalsaz'outflow-neck', as you suggest, is perhaps a better idea,...>>

Okay, in this weird, upside world of reconstruction:
Gota alv [*gauta albiz] does NOT look like Guthalus
BUT *Gut(a)-xalsaz DOES look like Guthalus.
Give me a break.

First, Pliny's Latin did not have the letter <u>, so we should read Guthalus
as -alvs. And <v> could stand for what would be written as either <u> or <w>
in later script. Even if Pliny did interpret or Latinize the word as ending
in -us, there is no way to be sure that it originally was not -ws in his
Secondly, the idea that even the conjectured and undateable *gaunt albiz
could not end up as "Guthalus" in Pliny's writings is totally uncalled for,
especially when we know that Pliny had no personal experience with these
names and was mostly relying on lost Greek and other works (like Pytheas --
some three hundred years before Pliny wrote) for most of his imformation. To
act as if there were any certainty as to how such words would have been
transferred or altered is total overstatement. Especially since Gote Alv and
Guthalvs look like the same damn thing.

And HOW can one take seriously the distinction between <gut> and <guth> when
the Romans were apparently able to use <gutones>, <gotones>, <gothones>,
<getae> and <gothi> to describe Goths who supposedly had the self name
<goten>. (And PLEASE there's no reason to offer explanation for how the Goth
name could vary, because those explanations do not affect the fact the
Guthalvs word would have been subject to as much variation for any number of

The mouth of the Gote alv would have been very significant to anyone sailing
into the Baltic from western Europe and the archaeology seems to bear that
out. There is no reason to dismiss the connection between the modern Gote alv
and Pliny's Guthalus based on guestionable phonology or anachronistic
emphasis on modern land travel -- which was very likely not the source of
Pliny's information.

George wrote:
<<The old "Gota alv" hypothesis for Guthalus (first suggested in 1616) is no
longer considered tenable (see RdGA, XIII (1999) p. 229.>>

I'd love to hear why. I suspect that no other river is particularly more
tenable. (The absence of the Oder may best be explained by the distinct
possibility that no one mentioned the Oder in Pliny's sources. Or that it was
not a "clear" river. And even if later sources tried to correct this.)

George also wrote:
<< Some have also thought of an "ethnic" hydronym relating to the Goths, but
this may be "folk etymology".>>

This may be backwards. The word for "Goth" meant something long before it
meant "Goth." It may be the Goth name is what came out of "folk etymology"
-- or ex post facto origin stories. The river name may be older. The name
Gotland may be older as well.

<<It might however explain why Pliny mixed up the direction in his listing.
Perhaps he thought the Guthalus needed to be placed first since the Goths
were the easternmost "Vandili".>>

Or perhaps we might assume that he had it right and that the first "clear"
river when one sailed into the Baltic was on the north shore and called
something like "tidal river" (flooding river mouth) <?Goten alvis> by
non-native Germanic or other mariners who would have been quite familiar with
the site. Perhaps the mouth, harbor, wetlands or iron furnaces there gave
their name to the river mouth, island and later to the inhabitants. Pliny's
information is more likely to have come from those who travelled on the water
than those on the land.

One more thing -- unless we are neo-platonists, we should assume that there
were no "true names" for rivers. I was in North Carolina recently and
noticed that historians can't identify with any certainty the old
inlets/harbors on the barrier islands in that American state because the
early English explorers kept using the same names for different sites, giving
different map coordinates each time. This matches up with reports from the
western US that each Native American village along the Missouri River would
have a different name for that river, even among the same tribes. The name
changed around every bend. It makes just as much sense to think that formal
river names are all recent innovations -- coming with map making or
centralized administrative naming -- which picked up a local name or a vague
name from the Classical writers and made it the name for the whole river.
Roman or Greek or other "authorities" picked up some vague name
unintentionally and ended up giving that name to later generations who took
it as written in stone, even when they had to guess which river was which. It
may be Pliny who first named Gote alv, when later authorities read the
hearsay and decided they knew which river he was talking about. And then
later authorities would prove Gote Alv could not be Guthalus -- even though
Pliny didn't have the vaguest idea of what river he was referring to, in the
first place.

Steve Long