Re: [tied] Re: Pliny's "Guthalus"

From: x99lynx@...
Message: 15836
Date: 2002-10-01

George wrote:
<<The river list of Historia Naturalis IV.100 roughly parallels the people
list of IV.99, so we must seek the "Guthalus" in the land of the "Vandili".
Only the Oder fits....Even those investigators who thought that "Guthalus"
might be "Goet(a)lv" looked
for it on the southern shores of the Baltic, usually opting for the

Hardly compelling. The Guthalvs is on the wrong side of the Vistula if we are
going to try to be objective. And Pliny doesn't even say these rivers are
major rivers, so we don't even have his criteria for picking the rivers he
As for the ivory-towered landlubbers who thought it was the Oder, their
guesses are as inconsequential as ours are.
The fact is that if you are going to see the mouths of rivers, you are going
to see them from the water. That would suggest that Pliny's list came from
mariners. The only way into the Baltic by sea from the south of Europe is
thru the Kattegat. And the first and only big river basin you would pass for
many miles along that singular narrow channel entrance to the Baltic would be
the Go:te A:lv. It is the seventh largest river in all Europe in water flow
and I believe today Go:teborg is Europe's #1 port in tonnage. The Go:ta
river mouth is extraordinary in that its outflow is not dictated by tidal
currents. It is rich in archaeology going back to the stone age and a rather
early (400BC) iron age. It was early on the major outlet and stopover for
traders coming into and out of the Baltic. It would have been the most
important outlet for mined iron north of the Alps.

Pliny was talking about river mouths and not whole rivers -- he did not
describe their courses, he only talks about them emptying into the Ocean.
This suggests he was getting a Mariners report and repeating a Mariner's list
and no Mariner would have considered the Go:te river an unimportant river. If
the "clarity" of this limited list of rivers refers to being shoal free and
therefore navigable to some degree, then the Go:te A:lv might qualify more
than the Oder.

This is not to downplay what may have been going on at the mouth of the Oder
at the time. But the Go:te river would logically have seemed more important
to ships and sailors coming from the direction of the Mediterranean.

<<And do not forget Solinus (a 3rd c. source) with his west-->east continuum
of "amnes clarissimi": Alba-Guthalus-Vistula.>>

And that puts the Go:te river right where it should be on a route from the
North Sea to the Vistula. You can't get from the Elbe to the Vistula without
passing close by it -- and again is a big river with a powerful current and
an excellent landing site. Of course, if Solinus was not merely copying but
correcting Pliny (who hasn't?) then maybe he shifted the name down to the
mouth of the Oder. The exploration of the New World proves that -- even with
charts, sextants and compasses -- the names of rivers can move. And the
lesson in all of this is that we really don't know with any certainty what
river Pliny was talking about, what its "real" name was and what the
etymology of that supposed original name was.

Steve Long