The Aesti were a people described by the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 in his treatise Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

(ca. 98 CE). According to this account, the Aestii lived on the shore of the Suebian Sea (Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

), eastward of the Suiones
The Swedes e, "one's own [tribesmen/kinsmen]"; Old English: Sweonas; , Suehans or Sueones) were an ancient North Germanic tribe in Scandinavia...

 (Scandinavians) and westward of the Sitones
Sitones were a Germanic people living somewhere in Northern Europe in the 1st century CE. They are only mentioned by Cornelius Tacitus in 97 CE in Germania. Tacitus considered them a Germanic people similar to Suiones :...

. They were a population of Suebia. Tacitus did not know whether to assign the nearby Fenni
The Fenni were an ancient people of northeastern Europe first described by Cornelius Tacitus in Germania in AD 98.- Ancient accounts :The Fenni are first mentioned by Cornelius Tacitus in Germania in 98 A.D...

 to Germania or Sarmatia
Sarmatia or Sarmatian can refer to:* the land of Sarmatians, western Scythia as described by many classical authors, such as Herodotus in the 5th century BC* Sarmatian languages, part of Scythian languages...

 (which extended as far west as the Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

 in places).


The ancient writers, beginning with Tacitus, who was the first Roman author to mention them in his Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

, provide very little information on the Aestii. Although Tacitus never travelled to Magna Germania himself and only recorded information he had obtained from others, the short ethnographic excursus below is the most detailed ancient account of the Aestii that we have:

"Upon the right of the Suebian Sea the Aestian nations reside, who use the same customs and attire with the Suebians; their language more resembles that of Britain. They worship the Mother of the Gods. As the characteristic of their national superstition, they wear the images of wild boars. This alone serves them for arms, this is the safeguard of all, and by this every worshipper of the Goddess is secured even amidst his foes. Rare amongst them is the use of weapons of iron, but frequent that of clubs. In producing of grain and the other fruits of the earth, they labour with more assiduity and patience than is suitable to the usual laziness of Germans. Nay, they even search the deep, and of all the rest are the only people who gather amber. They call it glesum, and find it amongst the shallows and upon the very shore. But, according to the ordinary incuriosity and ignorance of Barbarians, they have neither learnt, nor do they inquire, what is its nature, or from what cause it is produced. In truth it lay long neglected amongst the other gross discharges of the sea; till from our luxury, it gained a name and value. To themselves it is of no use: they gather it rough, they expose it in pieces coarse and unpolished, and for it receive a price with wonder."
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

, chapter XLV.

Apart from describing their idiom as closer to the British language than — as must be inferred — to the language of the Suebi, Tacitus mentions their term for amber in an apparently Latinised form, glesum (cf. Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 glīsas). This is the only word of their language recorded from antiquity, but seems to be Germanic in origin (from Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 glas). In spite of these points, the Aestii are generally considered the ancestors of the later Baltic peoples.

The placement of the Tacitean Aestii is based primarily on their association with amber, a popular luxury item during the life of Tacitus, with known sources at the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. The Baltic amber trade
Amber Road
The Amber Road was an ancient trade route for the transfer of amber. As one of the waterways and ancient highways, for centuries the road led from Europe to Asia and back, and from northern Africa to the Baltic Sea....

, which appears to have extended to the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, has been traced by archaeologists back to the Nordic Bronze Age
Nordic Bronze Age
The Nordic Bronze Age is the name given by Oscar Montelius to a period and a Bronze Age culture in Scandinavian pre-history, c. 1700-500 BC, with sites that reached as far east as Estonia. Succeeding the Late Neolithic culture, its ethnic and linguistic affinities are unknown in the absence of...

; its major center was located in the region of Sambia
Sambia or Samland is a peninsula in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, on the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea. The Curonian Lagoon and the Vistula Lagoon demarcate the peninsula. Prior to 1945 it formed an important part of East Prussia.-Names:Sambia is named after the Sambians, an extinct...


This trade probably existed prior to the historical Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

 in the 13th century BCE, as amber is one of the substances in which the palace of Menelaus
Menelaus may refer to;*Menelaus, one of the two most known Atrides, a king of Sparta and son of Atreus and Aerope*Menelaus on the Moon, named after Menelaus of Alexandria.*Menelaus , brother of Ptolemy I Soter...

 at Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 was said to be rich in Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's The Iliad.


Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator , commonly known as Cassiodorus, was a Roman statesman and writer, serving in the administration of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Senator was part of his surname, not his rank.- Life :Cassiodorus was born at Scylletium, near Catanzaro in...

' Variae, published in 537, contains a letter written by Cassiodorus in the name of Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great was king of the Ostrogoths , ruler of Italy , regent of the Visigoths , and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire...

, addressed to the Aesti:

"It is gratifying to us to know that you have heard of our fame, and have sent ambassadors who have passed through so many strange nations to seek our friendship.
We have received the amber which you have sent us. You say that you gather this lightest of all substances from the shores of ocean, but now it comes thither you know not. But as an author named Cornelius (Tacitus) informs us, it is gathered in the innermost islands of the ocean, being formed originally of the juice of a tree (whence its name succinum), and gradually hardened by the heat of the sun. Thus us becomes an exuded metal, a transparent softness, sometimes blushing with the color of saffron, sometimes glowing with flame-like clearness. Then, gliding down to the margin of sea, and further purified by the rolling of the tides, it is a length transported to your shores to be cast upon them. We have thought it better to point this out to you, lest you should imagine that your supposed secrets have escaped our knowledge. We sent you some presents by our ambassadors, and shall be glad to receive further visits from you by the road which you have thus opened up
Amber Road
The Amber Road was an ancient trade route for the transfer of amber. As one of the waterways and ancient highways, for centuries the road led from Europe to Asia and back, and from northern Africa to the Baltic Sea....

, and to show you future favors."

The style of the letter proves that the nation was at thet time independent, not ruled by the Ostrogoths. Apparently Cassiodorus considered it politically essential to establish friendly relations with the Nordic region. The letter also indicates that the Aesti were fully confident of the value of amber and had made out of it a trade secret. The sending of presents and the promise to show future favors were in ancient times a cordial way of giving de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

recognition to another power.


Sixth Century historian Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 makes two references the Aesti in his book "The Origins and the Deeds of the Goths", which was a treatment of Cassiodorus' longer book (which no longer survives) on the history of the Goths. The first quote places the Aestii beyond the Vidivarii, on the shore of the Baltic:
"But on the shore of Ocean, where the floods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivarii dwell, a people gathered out of various tribes. Beyond them the Aesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean."

The next quote concerns the subjugation of the Aesti by Hermanaric, king of the Gothic Greuthungi
The Greuthungs, Greuthungi, or Greutungi were a Gothic people of the Black Sea steppes in the third and fourth centuries. They had close contacts with the Thervingi, another Gothic people from west of the river Dnestr. They may be the same people as the later Ostrogoths.-Etymology:"Greuthungi" may...

"This ruler also subdued by his wisdom and might the race of the Aesti, who dwell on the farthest shore of the German Ocean"

Alfred the Great

In a 11th century manuscript of King Alfred
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

's account of the voyage from Hedeby
Hedeby |heath]]land, and býr = yard, thus "heath yard"), mentioned by Alfred the Great as aet Haethe , in German Haddeby and Haithabu, a modern spelling of the runic Heiðabý was an important trading settlement in the Danish-northern German borderland during the Viking Age...

 to Truso
Truso, situated on Lake Druzno, was an Old Prussian town near the Baltic Sea just east of the Vistula River. It was one of the trading posts on the Amber Road, and is thought to be the antecedent of the city of Elbląg . In the words of Marija Gimbutas, "the name of the town is the earliest known...

 by Wulfstan
Wulfstan of Hedeby
Wulfstan of Hedeby was a late ninth century traveller and trader. His travel accounts, as well as those of another trader, Ohthere, were included in Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius' Histories...

, held by the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, includes ethnographic information on the medieval Aestii, in the which the terms Esti,Est-mere and Eastland are used. In the text, a summary description of the country and its riches is followed by a very detailed account of the people's funeral customs.

Adam of Bremen

During the 11th Century Adam of Bremen
Adam of Bremen
Adam of Bremen was a German medieval chronicler. He lived and worked in the second half of the eleventh century. He is most famous for his chronicle Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum .-Background:Little is known of his life other than hints from his own chronicles...

, citing Einhard
Einhard was a Frankish scholar and courtier. Einhard was a dedicated servant of Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pious; his main work is a biography of Charlemagne, the Vita Karoli Magni, "one of the most precious literary bequests of the early Middle Ages."-Public life:Einhard was from the eastern...

 (who in the Vita Caroli Magni states the "the Slavs and the Aisti live on the shores of the Eastern Sea"), denotes the coastal tribe as the Haisti and refers to today's Estonia as Aestland.

Transference of the name

It is speculated that name survived as specifically Estonians
Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns and inhabiting, primarily, the country of Estonia. They speak a Finnic language known as Estonian...

 and is the origin of the modern national name of Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

: Eesti in Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

, Eistland in ancient Scandinavian sagas, and Estia, Hestia and Estonia in early Latin sources.

Due to Alfred's chorography referring to the same Germanic tribe as Tacitus, every variant of the anglicised east-, Osti and the continental Esti - equates to aestius, meaning eastern or east, that is to the right side of the sea as understood from the perspective of the Germanic sailors who roamed the sea beyond the Vistula estuary. The germanic tribe referred to as the Aestii by others, who Endzelins states knew themselves as Prussians, transferred the name to the more eastern Estonians with which they had contact since the first century BC, as the Estonians did not have their own name other than maarahvas "people of the earth". The Estonians themselves only took on the name in the late nineteenth century.

The American historian James L. Cabot has gone so far as to claim descent from the Aesti, partly on the basis of his family's origin in East Prussia, and partly the fact that his surname is part of a European pattern of names denoting "Coaster" ('One who trades along the coast')—e.g., English Cabot, East Prussian Kabat, Italian Caboto, and Crimean Kbat.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.