• peter clings

Ancient traces of the title Voievode

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

I am currently reading the English translation of the famous De Administrando Imperio (DAI) and I am surprised to find in it the first expression of the word Voievode as ('βοεβόδο') in the chapter 38 'Of the genealogy of the nation of the Turks and whence they are descended'

The text above reads as "The nation of the Turkon had of old their dwelling next to Chazaria, in the place called Lebedia after the name of their first Voevode, which Voevode was called by personal name of Lebedias, but in the virtues of his rank as was entitled Voevode, as have been the rest after him"


Although the name Lebedias sounds very much like the Romanian name Lepada (Eng. 'to cast away with stones') which evolved from Latin 'lapidare'. But an alternative origin of the name of the first leader may be from the Arabic 'الأبيض' or 'al'abyad' (Eng. 'White'). The Arabic connection could be true because the same DAI mentions the fact that the ancient homeland of the Tourkoi was next to Chazaria where trade with the Arabs might have been intense that is the Caucasus region. But than the title Voevode of Slavic origin cannot be sustained because there were no Slavs in that region. The Romanian connection is most likely because the tribes of the Voevodo Lebedias had been cast away 'with stones' and arrows by the Pecheneg from the more lucrative region, close to Khazaria, called Lebedia after the name of the leader. DAI actually mentions that when the Tourkoi were cast away their people broke apart in two groups. One heading to west and one to Persia

Although the etymology of the word Voevodo is given as Old Slavic, it is not attested in use for any people that speak a language in the Slavic group before the 13th century (it is not yet used as such in the Russian Primary Chronicle). The word could come from Old Slavic as a composition from 'voi' or 'vojsko' (militia) and 'vodi' (to lead) with the meaning of 'militia leader'


In Romanian the word Voievod may be an assembly that contains two word 'Voie' + 'vod'. The first word 'voie' means 'to will' in Romanian. The second word could be the contrived from of the 'Votum' that is the vow of political loyalty as religious expressions. As a result Voievod can mean 'to will to take a vow'. We can imagine that the ceremony of taking a votum by the leader an ancient Christian community, that elected leaders rather than used a dynastic scheme of inherited reign, could have led in time to the formation of the title 'Voievod' too


The meaning of the title Voevode as it is presented in the DAI, as an elected Warlord and supreme leader of a confederation of 7 tribes, is closer to the Romanian one. The Old Slavic is for a low ranking militia-man


The title was in use for the tribes of the Turkoi (Magyar) up to the time of Lebedias and only for a short while when they were located in southern Moldova of today. DAI specifies that location by referring to the name of a few rives. Those names of rivers are very much in use today, Troullos (Trotus), Seretos (Siret), Broutos (Prut), and Danastreos (Nistru) as described in my blog post. The location that can be deduced from putting them on the a modern map is southern Moldova. That makes is probable that the title of Voevode to have been inspired by the people living in that region (Slavs or otherwise)


One more strange archaeological finding though could provide evidence for a much ancient origin of the word Voievod is the famous Biertan Donarium. The Latin text usual reads as 'EGO ZENOVIUS VOTUM POSVI' (Eng. for 'I, Zenovius, offered this gift'). A Christian votum (see the Christian sign too) was a vow of political loyalty taken by a leader of a community before God for faithful service. The modern day term 'to vote' comes from the ancient practice of votum. It seems to me that the artifact from Biertan provides evidence that practice of giving/taking a Votum was very much known in the Post Roman Dacia. The artifact in the image below was dated to the 4th century although it could be of a younger date



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