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According to Herodotus the Neuri were a tribe living beyond the Scythian, one of the nations along the course of the river Ὕπανις Hypanis (Southern Bug River), West of the Βορυσθένης Borysthenes (Dniepr river), roughly the area of modern northern (initially north western) Ukraine (historic Volyn) and southern Belarus.
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According to Herodotus the Neuri (Νευροί) were a tribe living North of the Tyres, and the furthest nation beyond the Scythian farmers along the course of the river Hypanis. The land of the Neuri is described as being bounded by the rivers Ister, Tyras, Hypanis, Borysthenes, Gerras and Tanais[clarification needed]; whilst the region itself is referred to as Hypakyris.[clarification needed] Herodotus also mentions wild white horses nearby that grazed by a great lake.
In Herodotus's account, he states that the Neuri were driven from their land "one generation before the attack of Darius (512 BC)" by an invasion of serpents. Herodotus says that "they observe Scythian customs" and that "they seem to be magicians." He also reports a Scythian tale that the Neuri changed once a year into wolves, although giving no credence to it. This is perhaps a reference to a shamanic practices.
Olaf von Dalin
The 18th century Swedish historian Olof von Dalin wrote that the Neuri were a mixture of races: Scythians, Greeks and Hebrews who accompanied the Budiner or "Shepherd Scythians", to the Swedish islands around 400 BC. This exodus was the result of pressure from the Macedonians. He also indicated a belief that the Neuri were the common ancestors of Finns, Sami, and Estonians.
- the Neuri seem to be remnants of the Ten Tribes of Israel which Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, brought as captives out of Canaan... [When one realises that] the language of the ancient Finns, Lapps and Estonians is similar to the Hebrew and even that this people in ancient times reckoned their year's beginning from the first of March, and Saturday as their Sabbath, then one sees that the Neuri in all probability had this origin.
Schafarik believes the Neuri to have been ancestors of the Slavic peoples. The position assigned to their district appears to be about the head waters of the Dniester and Bug (Bugh) and the central course of the Dnieper just the region which, on general grounds, place-names, recorded migrations and modern distribution, appears to be the original location of the Slavs (q.v.). The wolf story again recalls the tales of werewolves so common among Slavonic peoples, and there is much probability in Schafarik's conjecture that the Neuri are nothing but the ancestors of the Slavs.
Leading Ukrainian linguist Kostiantyn Tyshchenko, who did a comprehensible research on the toponyms and placenames in Ukraine, claims that Neuri were the Celtic tribe, what is witnessed by numerous Celtic placenames (50 Celtic placenames only in western Ukraine) with ending -chiv, - chy or prefix -treb from Celtic (found in Cornish) -chy house, building and -tref village) in Volyn (Vol(o)hyn, from Volohs (Walhaz) ancient Gothic-Slavic name for Celts). Tyshchenko mentions following Celtic placenames in Volyn (original Neurida, land of Neuri): Bakhiv, Borokhiv, Drukhiv, Radekhiv, Bykhiv, Rakhiv, Serkhiv, Cherniakhiv, Horokhiv, Velykhiv, Terekhiv, Zalukhiv, Darakhiv, Hlukhy. The movement of Neuri westwards is likewise is traceable with presence of 20 Celtic placenames (as in Malyn from Celtic mael, prince or Chernihiv, originally Ternihiv, compare Welsh teyrn, king) in Ukrainian Polissya (Zhytomyr and Chernihiv regions).
The Cambridge Ancient History
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Herodotus description matches modern geography in the following manner:
- Ister = Danube
- Tyras = Dnestr
- Borysthenes = Dniepr
- Gerrοs = Konskaya (a tributary of the Dniepr)
- Tanais = Don
- Hypanis = Southern Bug, flowing into the Black Sea
- Great lake = Polesie Marshes, by the Bialowieza Forest. Wild Tarpans from the Bialowieza Forest seasonally faded to near white in winter.
- Hypakyris = Kalanchak
Geographically, the upper Hypanis merges with the Narew river, which is called Naura in Baltic Lithuanian. The people living on the Naura river were West Balts at that time. There remains a town named Nur, Poland along the upper Bug River, near the Bialowieza Forest. The Nurzec River is in same region.
- (Swedish) Svea Rikes Historia, 1747, Vol. 1, pp. 54–55
- Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911, Vol. 19, p. 428
- (Ukrainian) Костянтин Тищенко. Мовні контакти: свідки формування українців (Linguistic contacts: witnesses of formation of Ukrainians). К., 2006. — 416 с. (64 карти, 77 іл.).
- Boardman & Edwards 1991, p. 585 "The territory of the Scythian-Husbandmen probably extended west wards nearly to the region of Vinnitsa. North of it lay the territory of the Milogrady culture attributable to the Neuri (Hdt. iv.17.100, 105), presumably a Baltic-speaking people. Herodotus says that 'they observe Scythian customs', 'they seem to be magicians', and 'once every year each Neurian becomes a wolf for a few days and then is restored again to his original state'."
- Boardman, John; Edwards, I. E. S. (1991). The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume 3. Part 2. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521227178. Retrieved March 2, 2015.