Latvians are one of the three ancient Baltic people (Latvians, Lithuanians and ancient Prussians). The Latvian people formed in the merger of several Baltic tribes which inhabited the territory that we now call Latvia. Those tribes were Semigallians, Kurshi, Letgallians and Seeli; though, Libyans, called Livi, also lived on the shores of the Riga Gulf, they are a people related to the Finno-Ugric peoples, and have commingled in time with our Baltic tribes. They are part of the cultural heritage of the Latvian people.
Between 4000 and 2000 BC, Indo-european (arian) peoples conquered the current territory of Europe. They drove out or enslaved the nomad tribes living there. As time passed, the Indo-european people of origin split into several different peoples; they are the ancestors of almost all European peoples – the English, the Slavs, the Germans, the Italians, the Balts and others too.
The first Baltic peoples entered the current territory of Latvia around 2000 BC, pushing north or assimilating the Finno-Ugric peoples. The Balts inhabited a very wide region along the Baltic Sea – including all the current territory of White Russia (Belarussia), and a great part of Russia’s territory, to Moscow itself. About 1000 BC, Slav tribes, on the move to the North, entered the territories neighboring those of the Balt tribes gradually. Many southern balt tribes slavicized with time and drifted away from the Balts.
Balts practiced farming, fishing and trading. People knew them especially well for the amber they supplied – Baltic territories were often called the Land of Amber. Overall, their lifestyle, society and religion did not differ much from those of the rest of the Indo-europeans inhabiting Europe. The Balts lived as separate tribes. They often made war upon each other, which is also true for the tribes that inhabited the territory of Latvia. Only religion, language and habits bound them.
Writings recognized the Latvian language and the Latvian people as such only in the sixteenth century, and that came as a consequence of the Semigallian, Letgallian, Seeli, Kurshi and Livi languages and peoples merging. The word “Latvians” most likely originates from “Letgallians,” “Leti”. The Latvian and Lithuanian languages are recognized as one of the oldest Indo-european languages, which retain much still from prehistoric times. Many Dainas – folk songs – provide information about the way people saw the world in ancient times.
The earliest records of the term “The Baltic Sea” appears in the writings of a German chronicler, but many other terms for it were known as well (The East sea, the Varyag Sea, the Sea of Barbarians, etc). The use of this term became official only in the seventeenth century. No one really knows what words – Baltic, Baltia, Balticum means. Of course, Balts did not call their sea the Baltic sea, and did not call themselves Balts either.
The history of the Balt peoples still remains quite mysterious. All we known of our history is based on the chronicles of foreign chroniclers (whose reliability is impossible to test), archeological findings and the history of the neighbouring countries. Unfortunately, no one has yet found an Ancient Balt manuscript, and the mysterious puzzles and no one has solved the texts of the Dainas yet. In their quest to annihilate pagan cultures, Crusaders destroyed almost everything. Who knows, maybe one day archeologists and historians will discover something to make us revise our understanding of our past completely.