Myths, Hypotheses and Facts
Concerning the Origin of Peoples
The True Origin of Roma and Sinti
Soon after this website was published (see the main page), some supporters of the "Indian origin myth" reacted with displeasure, yet without providing any proof to support their theory, that is fading away.
It is well known that the most respectable scientists during the Middle Ages firmly believed that the Earth was plain, with the doubtless support of the apparent evidence that it is indeed plain since we are standing on it. Whoever suggested that it was round was condemned to be burnt on the stake. Now some so-called scholars of the "Indian origin" theory would willingly burn me on the stake as well, since I have destroyed their myth and they have no evidences against the proofs presented here.
Up to now, the largest majority of people who theorized about the origin of Roma are Gadje (non-Roma), and it is impossible for them to know Romany culture intimately. It is the same as for an outstanding Bible scholar to explain the essence of Judaism not being himself a Jew ‒ no matter how deeply that person knows Hebrew language and Torah, Kabbalah and Talmud, he could never be able to expose the innermost Jewish feelings and spirituality ‒ at least, not as a Jew.
The few of them who are Roma, are extensively secularized ones and have simply followed the trend imposed by the Gadje scholars' theories, without having done any deeper research within their own original culture. The fact that there are Roma supporting the "Indian origin myth" does not imply that such theory is creditable, in the same way as the fact that Karl Marx was a Jew did not make of him an authority in Judaism. A psychotic novelist called Koestler was also a Jew and invented the legend that his own people were not Semitic but Turkish, a theory that was soon accepted by all anti-Semites. Yet, his theory was proven to be a fallacy even though it was a Jew who framed it. Therefore, being Roma essentially humble people, I invite them not to follow the pseudo-intellectualist fashion but to research within their own cultural roots, that lead them certainly not to India, but somewhere else.
The Misleading Factor
As it has been already said in this essay, the whole hypothesis regarding the alleged Indo-European ethnicity of Roma is founded on a sole thing: the Romany language. Although the classification of peoples according to their linguistic family has been abandoned, the supporters of the Indian origin myth are still following this misleading trace and refuse to be updated ‒ they still insist in supporting the "language = ethnicity" formula. Here we present some examples to show how utterly erroneous is to ascribe ethnic origin according to language:
Among unlearned people it is common to hear that the French or the Spaniards or the Italians are "Latin" peoples, just because the languages they speak are of Latin origin (by the same reason the Spanish-speakers in the United States are called "Latinos"). Now let us make a serious consideration on this matter: a few people of unknown origin, allegedly Trojans, founded a village in Aetruscan territory, that they called "Roma", and consequently they were known by their neighbours as "Romans". They spoke Latin. The country where this village was built was inhabited by different peoples of various origins: in the south there were Italics (a complex of tribes presumably sharing a common background), Greeks, Sea Peoples (Philistines), Siculs, Phoenicians (Canaanites), etc.; in the middle region ‒where the village of Rome was located‒, there were Aetruscans, Umbrians, Italics, Celts, etc.; in the north dwelled Venedi, Ligurs, Celts, etc. It is evident that all these peoples belonged to various ethnicities and the land known today as "Italy" was quite a lot heterogeneous. The Romans were a kind of "kshatryas" that conquered all the country and imposed their language on the whole population, in such a way that it prevailed even over the invaders and settlers that came after the fall of the Roman Empire: Goths, Lumbards, Heruls, Saracens, Normans, Turks, etc. They all are now Italians, a "Latin" people...
Romans went further: they conquered the Gaul, a Celtic nation, and after their rule was over, the Franks, a Germanic people, took the country and gave it their name, yet the Romans' language remained, and was adopted even by the Norman settlers. They are now the French, a "Latin" people...
Romans went on westwards beyond the Pyrenees and subdued a land inhabited by Tarthessians, Phoenicians, Iberians, Basks, Celts, etc.; they imposed their language in such a way that even the Goths, Vandals, Alans and whoever came after them still speak tongues derived from that of the Romans. Those peoples now are Spaniards, Catalonians and Portuguese, all of them "Latin" peoples... They went on also northwards beyond the Channel and conquered the Celtic Great Britain, having left deep traces of their culture ‒ but the Germanic invaders that came after them did not adopt the Romans' language, so this factor determined that the British are not a Latin people (while ethnically and also by many traditions they are much more related to Romans than the French).
We know that Romans expanded also eastwards and were not so successful in imposing their language everywhere, except in a land inhabited by Illyrians, where Romans sent a mixed contingent made up mainly by Italics and an insignificant number of "true" Romans. That land was subsequently invaded by many different peoples like Scythians, Goths, Sarmatians, Huns, Slavs, Petchenegs, Kumans, Turks, Mongols, Saxons, etc. and largely influenced by Slavic and Greek culture; nevertheless, part of the population that moved eastwards to the Danube region proudly call themselves "Român" and their country "România"; their language is the closest one to the ancient Latin in spite of being the only one that is geographically isolated from all the others and from the Rome area itself (though Romanians are not originated in Dacia ‒ see "Vlach"). What is more, in a quite different environment and without any connection, Romanian has undergone an evolution very similar to those of the Southern Italian dialects, mainly Neapolitan and Salentian, and also having some elements in common with Sicilian and Sardinian. Of all modern languages, an ancient Roman would probably understand better a Romanian than any other. This means that the person that today may have a dialog with an ancient Roman would likely have not the slightest trace of Roman blood in his veins, but rather a Kuman or Illyrian ancestry (as Romanians are not autochthonous of the ancient Dacia, but mostly originated in the Balkan region by the south-eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea).
Therefore, as well as the Roman "kshatryas" even being an irrelevant number of inhabitants of an almost unknown village in Aetruria have attached a "Latin" identity to a considerable area of Europe, the Indian (or Hurrian) kshatryas have done exactly the same over the whole sub-continent, whose population they subdued imposing on them their language, culture and caste social system. With which amount of certainty may modern scholars assert that the population of India is an homogeneous mass with a common origin?
Concerning modern Romanian, it is a good example to give a further response to some statements quoted in the essay, that were said by the author of the Kannauj-origin theory:
"among all modern Indo-Aryan languages, only the dialects of the Kannauj area, some of the Braj language and Nepali (Nepal is only sixty miles from Kannauj) have an ending of masculine nouns and adjectives in ~o (or ~au = ~o) identical to their Romani counterpart, which is also ~o: purano 'ancient, old' (other Indo-Aryan languages purana, Romani purano), taruno 'young [lit. in Hindi]' (other languages taruna, Sinto tarno, Romani terno). In fact the dialectal evolution of common ~a to ~o is submitted to rather complicated rules which are still to be elucidated."
What about the fact that among all Neo-Latin tongues, only Romanian, Sardinian and Southern Italian dialects have an ending of masculine nouns in ~u? Why for example the term "tongue" is said exactly the same both in Romanian and Sardinian ["limba"], while in no other intermediate Neo-Latin dialect has evolved in this way? Do Romanians descend from Sardinian soldiers? The history proves that there was not any relationship between these two peoples in Roman times, yet the linguistic coincidences unique to both languages are evident.
"among all modern Indo-Aryan languages, only Awadhi (a language spoken by some 20 millions users in a large area east of Kannauj) presents, just like Romani, an alternative long form for the possessive postposition. There is not only a strict parallel in the phenomenon itself but also the postpositions are identical in form: in addition to the short form (~ka, ~ki ~ke) which is common to all Indo-Aryan languages, Awadhi has a long variant ~kar(a), ~keri, ~kere, exactly like many of the most archaic Romani dialects,..."
The same is true for Romanian and the dialects of the region of Naples: among all Neo-Latin tongues, only these two place the possessive pronoun after the noun instead of before it, and are identical in form: the typical example is "sora ta" (your sister), pronounced and written in the same way in both languages ‒ the same is valid for all possessive pronouns. In addition, the Neapolitan way to pronounce the "a" is quite similar to the Romanian "â". Many other terms are astonishingly alike, for instance, the verb "to marry" for a man is "ânsura" in both Romanian and Neapolitan, and for a woman the same verb is "marita" in both languages. A large number of verbs and expressions are found only in these two regions and nowhere else within the vast Neo-Latin area. If we have to be consistent with the reasoning of the "Kannauj origin" or the "Indian origin" myth, we should conclude that the Romanians descend from people that dwelled in the area of Neaples when the local tongue was in process of formation, but indeed, Romanian language developed on the other shore of the Adriatic Sea and had no relationship with the formation of the Tyrrhenian Italian dialects. The fact is that only an irrelevant number of Roman soldiers (because Romans were very few, and most of their army was composed by men recruited from their conquered lands) settled in Romania and that ethnically modern Romanians have almost no relationship with Romans or Italians ‒ and Italians themselves do not descend from true Romans except an exiguous number.
Yet, to be coherent with the scholars that are fond of elaborating speculative theories on the basis of apparent linguistic coincidences and some other elements, why not to suggest another absurd origin of the Roma (Gypsies)? Here it is: History attests that the ancient Romans had uncertain origin; it is not known exactly where they came from. They appeared suddenly through facts interwoven with legend, like the rapture of the Sabine women ‒ rapture of the bride is a typical Gypsy custom. Romans were very superstitious and practised magic and fortune-telling, and preferred the Zoroastric cult of Mithra to their own pagan religion. They were as well fascinated by Egypt, so that they stole many obelisks that placed in their city, although they were not Egyptians. The heart of their capital is called the "Foro Romano", that in Romany language means exactly "Gypsy Town". Therefore, Roma (whose ethnic name is the same of their original city) descend from ancient Romans. When they conquered Dacia, the local inhabitants were hard to submit, so that they sent numerous armies from Rome, and that is why there are so many Roma in Romania. Ridiculous, ain't it? As much as the speculative theories framed by modern scholars suggesting an Indo-Aryan origin! Actually, ancient Romans shared many common features with the Hurrian/Indian kshatryas, at least in the aspect that both established a large empire in which the subdued peoples were assigned a lower status but warriors were granted a higher one. They were not related ethnically, of course, but exerted an influence over the population they ruled over that left indelible marks throughout the centuries, so that many of these peoples are still identified by the language they speak: "Latin" or "Indo-Aryan". Is it not language a misleading factor?
In conclusion, the supporters of the Indian origin of Roma would not discover America. They still think that the Earth is plain and there is no way to reach the east by sailing westwards. It is a folly that only a mad who deserves to be burnt on the stake may conceive.
These scholars still found their myths on an apparent linguistic relationship, without taking into consideration the true values of ethnicity that go far beyond language. Their theories however, do not provide an explanation to the facts exposed in this essay (see previous page: "The Facts"), essential characteristics of Roma and Sinti that do not belong to any Indic or Indo-Aryan people. It is time that they search for a more comprehensive hypothesis that would be consistent with Romany culture and spirituality instead of forcing Roma to accept a classification in which Roma do not feel comfortable and with which they do not feel actually identified. The kshatryas achieved in giving Roma their language, but failed in imposing them every other aspect; modern scholars are trying to complete that assimilation process by stealing Roma their true identity and ascribing them another that is completely alien to them.
Besides the only-linguistic-based theory of origins, also an arbitrary classification of the different Roma groups has been promoted by Gadje scholars, according to questionable patterns. Maybe the most aberrant definition is that of "Rom Vlax" applied to the Eastern European Romany group. In fact, there is not a single Rom in the whole universe that would recognize himself as a "Vlax". One can hear from those that have been included in such classification saying «Ame sam Kalderasha», or «Ame sam Churarya», or «Ame sam Lovarya», or else «Ame sam Gábor», or other identification, but surely one would never hear from any of them saying «Ame sam Vlaxurya» or «Ame das duma Vlaxitsko Romanes». Actually, such a term has no meaning at all for Roma, and does not even exist in Romany.
There are three main possibilities to establish a classification of the people:
1) The name by which Roma call their own group (the best way);
2) The name given to a group by other Roma (an acceptable way in most cases);
3) The way Gadje call Roma groups (the most unsuitable way).
Unfortunately, the third possibility has been chosen and declared official! As a matter of fact, the term "Vlax/Vlah/Vlach" means "Romanian, Walachian", that is a different people (see: Vlach). Even more, in Romany language it is like a synonym of "Gadjo", "non-Rom"! That is the case of Roma from Romania, that identify the "Gadjo" with the Romanian more than with any other nationality; for example, one can hear a Rom mentioning different peoples in an international meeting saying: «Kothe sas Ungurya, Nyamtsurya, Frantsusanurya thai vi Gazhé», that translated is: «There were Hungarians, Germans, French and also Gadje», "Gadje" meaning "Romanians". Therefore, when one is classifying Roma as "Vlax" is the same as saying "Gadje Roma" or "Roma non-Roma"!
The origin of the word Vlax is very well-defined: it is the term by which the Germanic peoples referred to the Celts (and survives today in the English name of Wales); since most of the Celtic tribes were Romanized, this denomination began to be applied to the Latin-speaking peoples (like the Belgian Walloons, to distinguish them from the Flemish-speaking Belgians, or the Swiss Welsche, namely the French-speaking Swiss as they are called by the German-speaking Swiss –their cantons are commonly referred to as Welschschweiz–, and in the same manner, the Italian area of Trentino-Alto Adige is called Welsch-Tirol). Subsequently, the term was taken by the Slavs and Hungarians with the meaning of Roman-like, Italian, French or Balkan Vlach (Romanian); hence the present-day Polish name of Italy, Włochy and the Hungarian word for Italian, Olasz (a variation of Olah, Walachian). To complete the paradox, the same term conveyed also the meaning of "shepherd", an occupation that has never been typical of Roma people...
It is not an easy task to make an appropriate classification of Roma groups, but at least we should try to find more suitable terms, that would be recognized also by Roma or with which they may in some way feel identified themselves. The first word to abolish is, of course, Vlax!
See "The Romany Alphabet"