Nemus Sorabense: “The Sorbian Forest” in the heart of ancient Sardinia

Nestled in the heart of ancient Sardinia, a place known as Nemus Sorabense (modern-day Sorable or Sorabile) hides an interesting slice of history that intertwines the island with the distant lands of the Balkans.

This historical site, not far from present-day Fonni and along the route towards Nuoro, was more than just a Roman mansio (a horse exchange station); it was a witness to the island’s tumultuous past and a potential link to ancient Slavic roots.

The Historical Significance of Nemus Sorabense

Nemus Sorabense, which translates to “Forest of the Sorbs,” was strategically positioned on the Karalis-Ulbia road (modern Civita), serving as a crucial stop for travelers and traders during the Roman era.

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The site’s importance is underscored by its tragic end in the fifth century when it was set ablaze and destroyed by the Vandals, with alleged complicity from native Barbarians who resisted Roman rule. Today, the remnants of this once-bustling station include walls constructed in opus latericium, some still bearing the charred marks of the ancient fire that sealed its fate.

A dedication to Diana and Silvanus from Nemus Sorabense

The Etymological and Cultural Connection

The names Sorbs and Serbs predate the more generalized term “Slavs,” suggesting that the connection between these groups and Sardinia could be deep-rooted and ancient. This connection is not merely linguistic but also genetic.

Genetic Links: Haplogroup I2a

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence linking Sardinia to the Balkans is the prevalence of the I2a haplogroup among Sardinians. Haplogroup I2a, particularly the I2a1 (I-M26) subtype, is dominant in Sardinia, with frequencies ranging from 37% to 45%. This genetic marker, which originated in the Balkans, is still prevalent in modern Slavic countries in the Balkans. Its high frequency in Sardinia, especially in remote mountainous regions like Barbagia and Ogliastra, points to a historical migration or connection between these regions.

In the following chart you can see that the highest frequencies of this haplogroup are found in modern day Bosnia, followed by Sardinia, followed by all other Balkan countries. (See Eupedia.com for more info)

Haplogroups by region, I2a2
Haplogroups by region, I2a2

Ptolemy placed Sardianians in Illyria

Adding another layer to this historical puzzle is the account of the ancient geographer Ptolemy, who, in his work “Geography,” placed Sardinians in Illyria. This placement suggests a possible recognition of ancient connections or movements of peoples between Sardinia and the Balkans.

shreden-migrations-shekelsh-peleset-sea-peoples
shreden-migrations-shekelsh-peleset-sea-peoples

Moreover, the ancient city of Pula, Sardinia, founded in the 8th century BC, mirrors the name of Pula, Croatia, that has been inhabited since the Neolithic. The traditional circular dance known as Ballu tundu or ballu sardu is often compared to traditional dances from the Balkans, and the same is true of the Sardinian masked carnival.

Also, there was a whole region of Sardinia known as Sarrabus. This is the region where Indo-European speaking tribes used to live, especially the Siculensi. This tribe is assoiciated with the Sikels of Sicily, and I already have an article stating that the Sikulian language was in fact Proto-Slavic.

Sorbollano, known as Surbudda in Corsican, is another interesting toponym in the viscinity. There are also a few toponyms named Sorbolo on the mainland Italy, but their names are officialy derrived from the Sorbus tree. However, this theory fails to explain all the other cultural and genetic similarities listed in this article.

In conclusion, the presence of a toponym named “Sorbian forest” (Nemus Sorabense) and a region called Sarrabus in ancient Sardinia may paint a different picture of ancient Slavic history. The genetic evidence of the I2a haplogroup further underscores a historical connection between Sardinia and the Balkans, suggesting that ancient migrations and interactions were more complex and widespread than previously thought.

The point of this article was not to state that ALL ancient Sardinian tribes were Slavic, as even in antiquity there was a lot of diversity on the island. However, it seems that proto-Slavic tribes were among these groups.

This is just another evidence that challenges the mainstream theory of the Slavic arrival in the Balkans solely during the 5th century, indicating that the movement and settlement of peoples in this region had much deeper and more intricate roots.

The Ilienses, the first settlers came from Troy?

According to ancient writers, the first people of Sardinia were the Iliensesrefuges from Troy, also known as Illion. The name of the Illyrians comes from the same root. Interestingly, one of the tribes of the Ilienses was known as Bulgares, according to the highlighted Wikipedia article. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article I couldn’t find any other source that speaks of them. I hope that mainstream historians won’t try to explain their name through some fruit.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting, Cogniarchae. I’m an Irish I21a/L-161.1 going back to the 1st people in Ireland after the glaciers melted. It’s also prevalent in the main passage tombs from the Orkneys(Skara Brae) thru Carrowkeel & Carrowmore in Sligo & Brugh na Boyne(Newgrange) in Co Meath. What they’re calling the folks buried there, since Dr Cassidy’s 2020 DNA work extracting DNA from the tombs, especially Newgrange, as god-kings.
    The Irish geneticiss told my 1st cousins in 2015 we were likely the descendants of the megalith builders, the Tuatha de Danaan &/or the Fir Bolg*. They said there was also a close connection w/Sardinia. I am an hereditary Seanachie poet. A Seanchae is a Keeper of the Lore. So I know many if not most of the ancient Irish tales. We were told that there are only about 1% of males left in Ireland who are I21a, which I roughly calculated as about 30K of us left.
    Here’s the revelation I had. When I learned this back then I researched to where else in the world was found the I2a1 Y Haplogroup & found Sardinia, but also the Balkans. What this triggered is the tales of the Fir(Men) Bolg (of the bag or spear or brave) who having been defeated by the Fomorians retreated ‘back’ to Greece where they were enslaved by the Greeks and made to carry dirt in bags to fill in a rocky area to make it amenable to growing crops. After about 230 yrs they grew and prospered and threw off the Greek chains and two of their tribes the Fir Domnann & Gailioin sailed back to Ireland. The Fir Domnann landing near where my mother’s ancient village in Co Mayo was in the ancient kingdom of Connacht(Carrowkeel & Carrowmore).
    I suddenly found a connection between Bolg, Balk, Bulg & Belg as the same sound possibly derived from the same source with the same meaning. Perhaps the name of an ancient revered warrior. It makes sense now that I see the Ice Age split between cousins. Surviving the Ice Age in the Pyrenee Refugia, or the Balkan or Ukrainian refugia, traveling by sea. A migration by sea from Iberia or overland thru the north to Doggerland, Scotland & finally Ireland.
    I’m at work & hastefully threw this together but I thought perhaps you may have a similar conclusion, and if not, other interesting facts you know now become clear. You can look up the Fir Bolg on Wikipedia but I also have a link below that is concise & a gives the basics.
    Please let me know what you think.

    James P ‘Seamus’ Casey

    • Dear James, thanks for the input!

      I agree with you, based on my own research (there are few 9-10 year old articles on this blog) the Fir Bolg came from Belgium, but their original homeland was probably somewhere around Volga river. I am not sure what was their cultural identity but they most likely had the steppe ancestry. The Fomorians were simply the Pomorians – the Slavs who live near the sea. See Pomerania. The Teutha de Dannan are more tricky. They could have been the Greeks (Dananians) or the Danes.

      In fact, there are a few Irish writers who published similar theories, as my readers informed me in the past, but I am afraid I don’t remember their names.

      Cheers!

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