We arrive now to one of the most important matters regarding the language of the Pelasgians: which were the characteristics of the barbarian language, according to the ideas of the ancients?

The Roman authors had begun, even from the times of Cicero, to make a more clear distinction between the barbarian language and the peregrine language.

The expressions barbare loqui and peregrinitas appear in Latin classical literature as two entirely different concepts.

According to Quintilianus (Inst. I. 5), the characteristics of the mode of barbarian speech were the following: to the Latin words were added, or were omitted, some letters or syllables, or, finally, one letter was changed with another, or was moved from its place.

According to Isidorus of Seville, it was called barbarism the mode of speaking of the barbarian tribes, which did not know how to pronounce the Latin words in their entirety. Barbarisms were the corrupt Latin words, either because of the letters they contained, or of the sound with which were pronounced (Orig. I. 31. 1).

The words called “barbarian” by the Roman authors were therefore words of Latin origin, but in a longer or shorter form; sometimes with the letters dislocated, or pronounced with other sounds.


The Roman authors always considered as barbarian language the idioms of the populations of Pelasgian race from Africa, Hispania, Gallia, northern Germania, Rhetia, Dacia, southern Sarmatia, Thracia, Macedonia, Mesia and Illyricum, in which were also included Pannonia, Noricum and Vindelicia.

Even in the times of Ennius (239-169bc), the national language of the populations from the Iberian peninsula was considered as a corrupt Roman language – Hispane non Romane loqui (Charisius, Inst. Gramm. II, in Keil, Gr. Lat. I. 200) – although only during those times had the Romans entered for the first time with their legions in the Pyrenean peninsula.

The Galii were also considered barbarians (Justin. I. XLIII. 4), and their language, “Gallicus sermo”, was regarded as a Roman rustic language (Hieronymus, Epist. ad Rusticum).

A Latin barbarian language was also spoken In the northern parts of Germany.

Drus, the adoptive son of Augustus, Suetonius tells us, had wandered with the Roman legions through almost the whole of Germany, and he had not ceased to chase the Germans until the moment when a barbarian woman appeared before him, and speaking to him in the Latin language, advised him to stop and turn back (Claud. I).

The Sarmatians formed one of the most “barbarian” peoples.

The Mesii were called “Barbari Barbarorum”.

The Bessii, whom Florus calls “Thracum maximus populus”, had the same military ensigns and the same customs as the Romans; but were regarded as “Barbarians” and “barbarus populus”.

All these populations, as we shall see, had a national Latin barbarian language.

The Roman Senate, Cicero tells us (N. D. II. 4), often asked the soothsayers of the Barbarians to look into and to express an opinion, if the Roman consuls had performed the auspices conforming to the ancient religious prescriptions [1].


[1. The old meaning of the word barbaros cannot be explained in the Greek language. The origin of the word must be looked for in the barbarian language. In the beginning, this term seems to have been used by the Greeks only as a simple epithet characteristic for the pastoral tribes from the north of Hellada. The word barbaros, in the form transmitted by the Greek authors, is from the same root of the Latin barbatus, meaning “man who wears beard”.

The ancient Pelasgian tribes had a national custom, the origin of which is lost in the dark of times, to wear uncut beards, left flowing down, “promissa, prolixa barba”, as an external sign of personal dignity and valor. They were called barbaroi, because they wore long beards, as other tribes were called Chomatai, Comati, Capilati, with long tresses; pilophoroi, who wore caps; bracatae nationes, who wore long and wide trousers; Melanchleni, with black mantles, etc. Barba barbarice demissa was a characteristic expression during the empire (Capit. Ver.10).


Greek traditions show Typhon and the Giants with long and horrible beards, which fluttered in the air. Saturn appeared in ancient representations with a long beard falling downwards (barba prolixa). “Jovem semper barbatum” (Cicero, N. D. I. 30).  The same custom of wearing natural beards was also had by the ancient Romans (Livy, V. 41; Varro, R. R. II. 11; Pliny, VII. 59). Cicero mentions the horrible beards seen at the ancient statues and images, “illa horrida (barba), quam in statuis antiques et imaginibus videmus” (Cael. 14). Barbatus, with Cicero, means “man with big beard”, according to the ancient custom; “unum aliquem te ex barbatis illis, exemplum imperii veteris, imaginem antiquitatis” (Sext. 8). Ovid writes about the Getae that they did not cut either their hair, or their beard, “non coma, non ulla barba resecta” (Trist. V. 7). On the Column of Trajan, the Getae and the Dacians are represented with natural beards, the nobles as well as the peasant class.


In Romanian folk poems, the old heroes often bear their name by the beards that decorate their face, “Venerable White Beard” (TN – Barba Alba colilie), “Black Beard, whole mind” (TN – Barba Neagra, minte intreaga). The Romanian epic poems tell us about Novac the Old that “his beard beats his waist, and his hair beats his heels”, and that “his beard with his sash he tied”. Finally, we also note here that in mediaeval Latin language “barbaria” meant “barbitonsoris officina” (Du Cange)].

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