The Bastarnae were an important ancient people of uncertain, but probably mixed Germanic-Celtic-Sarmatian, ethnic origin, who lived between the Danube and the Dnieper (Strabo, Geography, VII, 3,17) during the last centuries BC and early centuries AD. Recent research indicates they were far more important and powerful than is generally realized. [Malcolm Todd, "The Early Germans", Blackwell Publishing, 2004, 2nd edition] They may have been of Celtic, Germanic, mixed Germanic-Celtic [H. Wolfram, p.44] or Baltic origin. The etymology of their name is uncertain, but may mean 'mixed-bloods' (compare 'bastard')Fact|date=October 2008, as opposed to the neighbouring East Germanic Scirii 'clean-' or 'pure-bloods'.

However, it should be noted that the connection between the name "Bastarnae" and the word "bastard" or similar words meaning of doubtful or mixed origins has no linguistic basisFact|date=October 2008. In both Old Persian and Germanic, "bast" is connected with binding or with the materials the binding is made from. In both Greek and Old Norse, forms of "bast-" are used to describe the binding of parcels or gathering of baggage. In Old French, "bast-" refers to a saddle bag or pack. Thus, the name may have been an identification of the Bastarnae as wagoneersFact|date=October 2008 -- which would match their description in Classical textsFact|date=October 2008. The word "bastard" with its modern connotation is only attested in the Middle AgesFact|date=October 2008. It should also be noted that Roman texts often use the spelling "Basternae"Fact|date=October 2008; which would relate them in some way to the Romance word for a litter or wagon.

The ethnic origin of the Bastarnae remains mysterious. Polybius and the authors who copy him regard them as Galatae. Livy claims (Liv. XLIV, 26,2-3,14) they are Celts. Strabo (with reservations - Strabo, VII, 3,17), Pliny (H.N. IV, 81), and Tacitus (Germ. 46) regard them as Germans, but the Romans often used "German" as a geographical rather than ethnic classification. [See "Atlas of Ancient History", p.50 by Colin McEvedy for a discussion of this point] Tacitus expressly declares their German origin but says that the race was degraded by intermarriage with Sarmatians. Strabo notes that they also "mingled with the Thracians" as well as some Celtic tribes. More recently it has been suggested that they had a semi-nomadic "Eastern" nature, which does not tie in well with either of the modern stereotypes of Celtic or Germanic ethnicityFact|date=October 2008.

The theory that they were a Germanic tribe (see below) considers them to have been among the first East Germanic tribes to have emigrated from Scandinavia (possibly as early as the 8th century BC, and as such they were among the first Germanic tribes to come into contact with the ancient world.Fact|date=June 2008

When the Bastarnae first appear in the historical sources, they were settled in Galicia and Bukovina. In 230 BC, the Bastarnae, along with the Scirii besieged the Black Sea port of Olbia. They appeared on the lower Danube about 200 BC, and were used by Philip V of Macedon against his Thracian neighbours. Defeated by the Dacians, the Bastarnae returned north, leaving some of their number settled on Peuce an island on the Danube (hence an alternative tribal name, Peucini). Their main body occupied the country between the eastern Carpathians and the Danube.

The Bastarnae had a reputation as excellent warriors. Appian called them "the bravest nation of all". As allies of King Perseus of Macedonia, as subjects of the Sarmatians (who seem to have overcome them late in the 2nd century BC), and then as mercenaries under Mithridates the Great and lastly on their own account, they had hostile relations with the Romans. In the time of Augustus, the Romans defeated the Bastarnae and made a peace. This peace however was disturbed by a series of incursions by the Bastarnae against neighbouring Roman provinces.

Archaeologically, the Bastarnae seem to fit well with the Zarubintsy culture of the southern Ukraine, which exhibits strong Sarmatian influences.Fact|date=June 2008 This identification is, however, not yet fully accepted.

The tribe participated the 3rd century massive invasions into the Roman Balkans during the reigns of Decius, Gallienus and Claudius II. [H. Wolfram, p.45, 51]

In the second or third centuries AD, the Bastarnae gave way to the Goths, with whom they seem to have amalgamated, and we last hear of them as transferred by the emperor Probus to the right bank of the Danube. They probably disappeared into the melting pot of the Chernyakhov cultureFact|date=June 2008, a multi-ethnic culture dominated by the Goths which thrived in the 3rd-5th centuries AD. According to an alternative view, the expansion of Goths and Taifali into the whole region north of Danube broke their allegiance with other tribes like Carpi and Bastarnae. [H. Wolfram, p.56] The greater part of the tribe was admitted to settle into Roman Thrace by the Emperor Probus in 285 and the rest followed in 295. The nearly five-hundred history of the Bastarnae ended at that point.



* Herwig Wolfram, "History of the Goths", University of California Press, 1988, ISBN 0-520-06983-8

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