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The Germanic peoples were historical groups of people that once occupied
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultural identity. The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) between Catholic Church, Catholicism and Protestanti ...
and
Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sámi languages: /. ( ) is a subregion#Europe, subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties between its constituent peoples. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' most commonly refers to Denmark, ...
during antiquity and into the early Middle Ages. Since the 19th century, they have traditionally been defined by the use of ancient and early medieval
Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 515 million people mainly in Europe, North America, Oceania and Southern Africa. The most widely spoken ...
s and are thus equated at least approximately with Germanic-speaking peoples, although different academic disciplines have their own definitions of what makes someone or something "Germanic". The Romans named the area belonging to North-Central Europe in which Germanic peoples lived ''
Germania Germania ( ; ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania''), or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman province of the same name, was a large historical region in nort ...
'', stretching East to West between the
Vistula The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, ) is the longest river in Poland and the ninth-longest river in Europe, at in length. The drainage basin, reaching into three other nations, covers , of which is in Poland. The Vistula rises at Barania Góra in t ...
and
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
rivers and north to south from Southern Scandinavia to the upper
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
. In discussions of the Roman period, the Germanic peoples are sometimes referred to as ''Germani'' or ancient Germans, although many scholars consider the second term problematic since it suggests identity with present-day
Germans , native_name_lang = de , region1 = , pop1 = 72,650,269 , region2 = , pop2 = 534,000 , region3 = , pop3 = 157,000 3,322,405 , region4 = , pop4 = ...
. The very concept of "Germanic peoples" has become the subject of controversy among contemporary scholars. Some scholars call for its total abandonment as a modern construct since lumping "Germanic peoples" together implies a common group identity for which there is little evidence. Other scholars have defended the term's continued use and argue that a common Germanic language allows one to speak of "Germanic peoples", regardless of whether these ancient and medieval peoples saw themselves as having a common identity. Scholars generally agree that it is possible to speak of Germanic peoples after 500 BCE. Archaeologists usually connect the early Germanic peoples with the
Jastorf culture The Jastorf culture was an Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age (Cha ...
of the
Pre-Roman Iron Age The archaeology of Northern Europe studies the prehistory of Scandinavian Peninsula, Scandinavia and the adjacent North European Plain, roughly corresponding to the territories of modern Sweden, Norway, Denmark, northern Germany, Poland and the ...
, which is found in Denmark (southern Scandinavia) and northern Germany from the 6th to 1st centuries BCE, around the same time that the first Germanic consonant shift is theorized to have occurred; this sound change lead to recognizably Germanic languages. From northern Germany and southern Scandinavia, the Germanic peoples expanded south, east, and west, coming into contact with the
Celt The Celts (, see Names of the Celts#Pronunciation, pronunciation for different usages) or Celtic peoples () are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-Europea ...
ic,
Iranic The Iranian peoples or Iranic peoples are a diverse grouping of Indo-European languages, Indo-European peoples who are identified by their usage of the Iranian languages and other cultural similarities. The Proto-Iranian language, Proto-Iran ...
, Baltic, and Slavic peoples. Roman authors first described Germanic peoples near the Rhine in the 1st century BCE, while the Roman Empire was establishing its dominance in that region. Under Emperor
Augustus Caesar Augustus (born Gaius Octavius; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14), also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor; he reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. He is known for being the founder of the Roman Pri ...
(63 BCE–14CE), the Romans attempted to conquer a large area of Germania, but they withdrew after a major Roman defeat at the
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, described as the Varian Disaster () by Ancient Rome, Roman historians, took place at modern Kalkriese in AD 9, when an alliance of Germanic peoples ambushed Roman legions and their auxiliaries, led by Publius ...
in 9 CE. The Romans continued to control the Germanic frontier closely by meddling in its politics, and they constructed a long fortified border, the
Limes Germanicus The (Latin for ''Germanic frontier'') is the name given in modern times to a line of frontier () fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubd ...
. From 166 to 180 CE, Rome was embroiled in a conflict against the Germanic
Marcomanni The Marcomanni were a Germanic people * * * that established a powerful kingdom north of the Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running ...
,
Quadi The Quadi were a Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * people who lived approximately in the area of modern Moravia in the time of the Roman Empire. The only surviving contemporary reports about the Germanic tribe are those of the Romans, whose em ...
, and many other peoples known as the
Marcomannic Wars The Marcomannic Wars (Latin: ''bellum Germanicum et Sarmaticum'', "German and Sarmatian War") were a series of wars lasting from about 166 until 180 AD. These wars pitted the Roman Empire against, principally, the Germanic peoples, Germanic Marc ...
. The wars reordered the Germanic frontier, and afterwards, new Germanic peoples appear for the first time in the historical record, such as the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the Lower Rhine and the Ems River, on the edge of the Roman Empire.H. Schutz: Tools, ...
,
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi, grc-gre, Γότθοι, Gótthoi) were a Germanic people who played a major role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of medieval Europe. ...
,
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * * peoples whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country (Old Saxony, la, Saxo ...
, and
Alemanni The Alemanni or Alamanni, were a confederation of Germanic tribes * * * on the Upper Rhine River. First mentioned by Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek ori ...
. During the
Migration Period The Migration Period was a period in History of Europe, European history marked by large-scale migrations that saw the fall of the Western Roman Empire and subsequent settlement of its former territories by various tribes, and the establishment ...
(375–568), various Germanic peoples entered the Roman Empire and eventually took control of parts of it and established their own independent kingdoms after the collapse of Western Roman rule. The most powerful of them were the Franks, who conquered many of the others. Eventually, the Frankish king
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; german: Karl der Große; 2 April 747 – 28 January 814), a member of the Carolingian dynasty, was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and the first Holy ...
claimed the title of
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator Romanorum, german: Kaiser der Römer) during the Middle Ages, and also known as the Roman-German Emperor since the early modern period ( la, Imperator ...
for himself in 800. Archaeological finds suggest that Roman-era sources portrayed the Germanic way of life as more primitive than it actually was. Instead, archaeologists have unveiled evidence of a complex society and economy throughout Germania. Germanic-speaking peoples originally shared similar religious practices. Denoted by the term
Germanic paganism Germanic paganism or Germanic religion refers to the traditional, culturally significant religion of the Germanic peoples. With a chronological range of at least one thousand years in an area covering Scandinavia, the British Isles, modern Germ ...
, they varied throughout the territory occupied by Germanic-speaking peoples. Over the course of Late Antiquity, most continental Germanic peoples and the
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a Cultural identity, cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo- ...
of Britain converted to Christianity, but the Saxons and Scandinavians converted only much later. The Germanic peoples shared a native script from around the first century or before, the
runes Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, a ...
, which was gradually replaced with the
Latin script The Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic writing system based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet, derived from a form of the Greek alphabet which was in use in the ancient Greece, Greek city of Cumae, in southe ...
, although runes continued to be used for specialized purposes thereafter. Traditionally, the Germanic peoples have been seen as possessing a law dominated by the concepts of
feud A feud , referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, clan war, gang war, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight, often between social groups of people, especially family, families or clan, clans. Feuds begin be ...
ing and blood compensation. The precise details, nature and origin of what is still normally called "Germanic law" are now controversial. Roman sources state that the Germanic peoples made decisions in a popular assembly (the thing) but that they also had kings and war leaders. The ancient Germanic-speaking peoples probably shared a common poetic tradition,
alliterative verse In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of ...
, and later Germanic peoples also shared legends originating in the Migration Period. The publishing of
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historiography, Roman historians by modern scholars. The surviving portions of his t ...
's ''Germania'' by humanist scholars in the 1400s greatly influenced the emerging idea of "Germanic peoples". Later scholars of the Romantic period, such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, developed several theories about the nature of the Germanic peoples that were highly influenced by
romantic nationalism Romantic nationalism (also national romanticism, organic nationalism, identity nationalism) is the form of nationalism in which the state claims its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs. This includes ...
. For those scholars, the "Germanic" and modern "German" were identical. Ideas about the early Germans were also highly influential among and were influenced and co-opted by the nationalist and racist völkisch movement and later by the
Nazis Nazism ( ; german: Nazismus), the common name in English for National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus, ), is the far-right politics, far-right Totalitarianism, totalitarian political ideology and practices associated with Adolf Hit ...
, which led in the second half of the 20th century to a backlash against many aspects of earlier scholarship.


Terminology


Etymology

The etymology of the Latin word , from which Latin and English Germanic are derived, is unknown, although several different proposals have been made for the origin of the name. Even the language from which it derives is a subject of dispute, with proposals of Germanic, Celtic, and Latin, and Illyrian origins.
Herwig Wolfram Herwig Wolfram (born 14 February 1934) is an Austrian historian who is Professor Emeritus of Medieval History and Auxiliary Sciences of History at the University of Vienna and the former Director of the . He is a leading member of the Vienna ...
, for example, thinks must be
Gaulish Gaulish was an ancient Celtic language spoken in parts of Continental Europe before and during the period of the Roman Empire. In the narrow sense, Gaulish was the language of the Celts of Gaul (now France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switze ...
. The historian Wolfgang Pfeifer more or less concurs with Wolfram and surmises that the name is likely of Celtic etymology and is related to the
Old Irish Old Irish, also called Old Gaelic ( sga, Goídelc, Ogham, Ogham script: ᚌᚑᚔᚇᚓᚂᚉ; ga, Sean-Ghaeilge; gd, Seann-Ghàidhlig; gv, Shenn Yernish or ), is the oldest form of the Goidelic languages, Goidelic/Gaelic language for which ...
word ('neighbours') or could be tied to the Celtic word for their war cries, , which simplifies into 'the neighbours' or 'the screamers'. Regardless of its language of origin, the name was transmitted to the Romans via Celtic speakers. It is unclear that any people group ever referred to themselves as ''Germani''. By late antiquity, only peoples near the Rhine, especially the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the Lower Rhine and the Ems River, on the edge of the Roman Empire.H. Schutz: Tools, ...
and sometimes the Alemanni, were called ''Germani'' by Latin or Greek writers. ''Germani'' subsequently ceased to be used as a name for any group of people and was revived as such only by the
humanists Humanism is a philosophy, philosophical stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and Agency (philosophy), agency of Human, human beings. It considers human beings the starting point for serious moral and philosophical in ...
in the 16th century. Previously, scholars during the
Carolingian period The Carolingian dynasty (; known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Franks, Frankish noble family named after Charlemagne, grandson of Mayor of the palace, mayor Charles Martel and a descendant ...
(8th–11th centuries) had already begun using ''Germania'' and ''Germanicus'' in a territorial sense to refer to
East Francia East Francia (Medieval Latin: ) or the Kingdom of the East Franks () was a successor state of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire, empire ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided t ...
. In modern English, the adjective ''Germanic'' is distinct from ''German'', which is generally used when referring to modern Germans only. ''Germanic'' relates to the ancient ''Germani'' or the broader Germanic group. In modern German, the ancient ''Germani'' are referred to as and ''Germania'' as , as distinct from modern Germans () and modern Germany (). The direct equivalents in English are, however, ''Germans'' for ''Germani'' and ''Germany'' for ''Germania'' although the Latin is also used. To avoid ambiguity, the ''Germani'' may instead be called "ancient Germans" or ''Germani'' by using the Latin term in English.


Modern definitions and controversies

The modern definition of Germanic peoples developed in the 19th century, when the term ''Germanic'' was linked to the newly identified Germanic language family. Linguistics provided a new way of defining the Germanic peoples, which came to be used in historiography and archaeology. While Roman authors did not consistently exclude Celtic-speaking people or have a term corresponding to Germanic-speaking peoples, this new definition—which used the Germanic language as the main criterion—presented the ''Germani'' as a people or nation () with a stable group identity linked to language. As a result, some scholars treat the (Latin) or (Greek) of Roman-era sources as non-Germanic if they seemingly spoke non-Germanic languages. For clarity, Germanic peoples, when defined as "speakers of a Germanic language", are sometimes referred to as "Germanic-speaking peoples". Today, the term "Germanic" is widely applied to "phenomena including identities, social, cultural or political groups, to material cultural artefacts, languages and texts, and even specific chemical sequences found in human DNA". Apart from the designation of a language family (i.e., "Germanic languages"), the application of the term "Germanic" has become controversial in scholarship since 1990, especially among archaeologists and historians. Scholars have increasingly questioned the notion of ethnically defined people groups () as stable basic actors of history. The connection of archaeological assemblages to ethnicity has also been increasingly questioned. This has resulted in different disciplines developing different definitions of "Germanic". Beginning with the work of the "Toronto School" around
Walter Goffart Walter Goffart (born February 22, 1934) is a German-born American historian who specializes in Late Antiquity and the European Middle Ages. He taught for many years in the History Department and Centre for Medieval Studies, Toronto, Centre for Med ...
, various scholars have denied that anything such as a common Germanic ethnic identity ever existed. Such scholars argue that most ideas about Germanic culture are taken from far later epochs and projected backwards to antiquity. Historians of the Vienna School, such as Walter Pohl, have also called for the term to be avoided or used with careful explanation, and argued that there is little evidence for a common Germanic identity. The Anglo-Saxonist Leonard Neidorf writes that historians of the continental-European Germanic peoples of the 5th and 6th centuries are "in agreement" that there was no pan-Germanic identity or solidarity. Whether a scholar favors the existence of a common Germanic identity or not is often related to their position on the nature of the end of the Roman Empire. Defenders of continued use of the term ''Germanic'' argue that the speakers of Germanic languages can be identified as Germanic people by language regardless of how they saw themselves. Linguists and philologists have generally reacted skeptically to claims that there was no Germanic identity or cultural unity, and they may view ''Germanic'' simply as a long-established and convenient term. Some archaeologists have also argued in favor of retaining the term ''Germanic'' due to its broad recognizability. Archaeologist
Heiko Steuer Heiko Steuer (born 30 October 1939) is a German archaeology, archaeologist, notable for his research into social and Economic history of Europe, economic history in early Europe. He serves as co-editor of Germanische Altertumskunde Online. Caree ...
defines his own work on the ''Germani'' in geographical terms (covering ''Germania''), rather than in ethnic terms. He nevertheless argues for some sense of shared identity between the ''Germani'', noting the use of a common language, a common runic script, various common objects of material culture such as
bracteates A bracteate (from the Latin ''bractea'', a thin piece of metal) is a flat, thin, single-sided gold medal worn as jewelry that was produced in Northern Europe predominantly during the Migration Period of the Germanic Iron Age (including the Vende ...
and
gullgubber Gullgubber ( Norwegian, ) or guldgubber ( Danish, ), guldgubbar ( Swedish, ), are art-objects, amulets, or offerings found in Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sámi languages: /. ( ) is a subregion#Europe, subregion in Northern Europe, with stron ...
(small gold objects) and the confrontation with Rome as things that could cause a sense of shared "Germanic" culture. Despite being cautious of the use of ''Germanic'' to refer to peoples, Sebastian Brather, Wilhelm Heizmann and Steffen Patzold nevertheless refer to further commonalities such as the widely attested worship of deities such as
Odin Odin (; from non, Óðinn, ) is a widely revered Æsir, god in Germanic paganism. Norse mythology, the source of most surviving information about him, associates him with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, v ...
,
Thor Thor (; from non, Þórr ) is a prominent god in Germanic paganism. In Norse mythology, he is a hammer-wielding æsir, god associated with lightning, thunder, storms, sacred trees and groves in Germanic paganism and mythology, sacred groves ...
and
Frigg Frigg (; Old Norse: ) is a goddess, one of the Æsir, in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, the source of most surviving information about her, she is associated with marriage, prophecy, clairvoyance and motherhood, and dwells in the wet ...
, and a shared legendary tradition.


Classical terminology

The first author to describe the ''Germani'' as a large category of peoples distinct from the
Gauls The Gauls ( la, Galli; grc, Γαλάται, ''Galátai'') were a group of Celts, Celtic peoples of mainland Europe in the Iron Age Europe, Iron Age and the Roman Gaul, Roman period (roughly 5th century BC to 5th century AD). Their homeland was k ...
and
Scythians The Scythians or Scyths, and sometimes also referred to as the Classical Scythians and the Pontic Scythians, were an ancient Eastern * : "In modern scholarship the name 'Sakas' is reserved for the ancient tribes of northern and eastern Cent ...
was
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
, writing around 55 BCE during his governorship of Gaul. In Caesar's account, the clearest defining characteristic of the ''Germani'' people was that they lived east of the
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
, opposite
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and Aquitani tribes, encompassing present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy (only dur ...
on the west side. Caesar sought to explain both why his legions stopped at the Rhine and also why the ''Germani'' were more dangerous than the Gauls and a constant threat to the empire. He also classified the
Cimbri The Cimbri (Greek Κίμβροι, ''Kímbroi''; Latin ''Cimbri'') were an ancient tribe in Europe. Ancient authors described them variously as a Celts, Celtic people (or Gauls, Gaulish), Germanic peoples, Germanic people, or even Cimmerian. Sever ...
and
Teutons The Teutons ( la, Teutones, , grc, Τεύτονες) were an ancient northern European tribe mentioned by Ancient Rome, Roman authors. The Teutons are best known for their participation, together with the Cimbri and other groups, in the Cimbri ...
, peoples who had previously invaded Italy, as ''Germani'', and examples of this threat to Rome. Although Caesar described the Rhine as the border between ''Germani'' and Celts, he also describes a group of people he identifies as ''Germani'' who live on the west bank of the Rhine in the northeast of Gall, the
Germani cisrhenani The ''Germani cisrhenani'' (Latin '':wikt:cis#Latin, cis-:wikt:Rhenanus#Latin, rhenanus'' "on this side of the Rhine", referring to the Roman or western side), or "Left bank ''Germani''", were a group of Germanic peoples who lived west of the Lo ...
. It is unclear if these ''Germani'' spoke a Germanic language. According to the Roman historian
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historiography, Roman historians by modern scholars. The surviving portions of his t ...
in his ''Germania'' (c. 98 CE), it was among this group, specifically the
Tungri The Tungri (or Tongri, or Tungrians) were a tribe, or group of tribes, who lived in the Belgae, Belgic part of Gaul, during the times of the Roman Empire. Within the Roman Empire, their territory was called the ''Civitas Tungrorum''. They were desc ...
, that the name ''Germani'' first arose, and was spread to further groups. Tacitus continues to mention Germanic tribes on the west bank of the Rhine in the period of the early Empire. Caesar's division of the ''Germani'' from the Celts was not taken up by most writers in Greek. Caesar and authors following him regarded Germania as stretching east of the Rhine for an indeterminate distance, bounded by the Baltic Sea and the Hercynian Forest.
Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman Empire, Roman author, Natural history, naturalist and Natural philosophy, natural philosopher, and naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of t ...
and Tacitus placed the eastern border at the
Vistula The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, ) is the longest river in Poland and the ninth-longest river in Europe, at in length. The drainage basin, reaching into three other nations, covers , of which is in Poland. The Vistula rises at Barania Góra in t ...
. The Upper Danube served as a southern border. Between there and the Vistula Tacitus sketched an unclear boundary, describing Germania as separated in the south and east from the Dacians and the Sarmatians by mutual fear or mountains. This undefined eastern border is related to a lack of stable frontiers in this area such as were maintained by Roman armies along the Rhine and Danube. The geographer
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-gre, wikt:Πτολεμαῖος, Πτολεμαῖος, ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and music theorist, who wrote about a dozen scientific Treatise, treatis ...
(2nd century CE) applied the name Germania magna ("Greater Germania", gr, Γερμανία Μεγάλη) to this area, contrasting it with the Roman provinces of Germania Prima and
Germania Secunda Germania Inferior ("Lower Germania") was a Roman province from AD 85 until the province was renamed Germania Secunda in the fourth century, on the west bank of the Rhine bordering the North Sea. The capital of the province was Colonia Agrippine ...
(on the west bank of the Rhine). In modern scholarship, Germania magna is sometimes also called ("free Germania"), a name that became popular among German nationalists in the 19th century. Caesar and, following him, Tacitus, depicted the ''Germani'' as sharing elements of a common culture. A small number of passages by Tacitus and other Roman authors (Caesar, Suetonius) mention Germanic tribes or individuals speaking a language distinct from Gaulish. For Tacitus (''Germania'' 43, 45, 46), language was a characteristic, but not defining feature of the Germanic peoples. Many of the ascribed ethnic characteristics of the ''Germani'' represented them as typically "barbarian", including the possession of stereotypical vices such as "wildness" and of virtues such as chastity. Tacitus was at times unsure whether a people were Germanic or not, expressing his uncertainty about the
Bastarnae The Bastarnae (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around pres ...
, who he says looked like Sarmatians but spoke like the ''Germani'', about the Osi and the Cotini, and about the
Aesti The Aesti (also Aestii, Astui or Aests) were an ancient people first described by the Ancient Rome, Roman historian Tacitus in his treatise ''Germania (book), Germania'' (circa 98 AD). According to Tacitus, the land of ''Aesti'' was located somewh ...
, who were like Suebi but spoke a different language. When defining the ''Germani'' ancient authors did not differentiate consistently between a territorial definition ("those living in ''Germania''") and an ethnic definition ("having Germanic ethnic characteristics"), although the two definitions did not always align. The Romans did not regard the eastern Germanic speakers such as Goths, Gepids, and Vandals as ''Germani'', but rather connected them with other non-Germanic-speaking peoples such as the
Huns The Huns were a Nomad, nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that wa ...
,
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; grc, Σαρμαται, Sarmatai; Latin: ) were a large confederation of Ancient Iranian peoples, ancient Eastern Iranian languages, Eastern Iranian peoples, Iranian Eurasian nomads, equestrian nomadic peoples of classical ant ...
, and
Alans The Alans (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around prese ...
. Romans described these peoples, including those who did not speak a Germanic language, as "Gothic people" () and most often classified them as "Scythians". The writer
Procopius Procopius of Caesarea ( grc-gre, Προκόπιος ὁ Καισαρεύς ''Prokópios ho Kaisareús''; la, Procopius Caesariensis; – after 565) was a prominent late antique Greek scholar from Caesarea Maritima. Accompanying the Roman ge ...
, describing the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Alans, and Gepids, derived the Gothic peoples from the ancient
Getae The Getae ( ) or Gets ( ; grc, Γέται, singular ) were a Thracian-related tribe that once inhabited the regions to either side of the Lower Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Emp ...
and described them as sharing similar customs, beliefs, and a common language.


Subdivisions

Several ancient sources list subdivisions of the Germanic tribes. Writing in the first century CE,
Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman Empire, Roman author, Natural history, naturalist and Natural philosophy, natural philosopher, and naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of t ...
lists five Germanic subgroups: the Vandili, the Inguaeones, the Istuaeones (living near the Rhine), the Hermiones (in the Germanic interior), and the Peucini Basternae (living on the lower Danube near the Dacians). In chapter 2 of the ''Germania'', written about a half-century later, Tacitus lists only three subgroups: the Ingvaeones (near the sea), the Hermiones (in the interior of Germania), and the Istvaeones (the remainder of the tribes); Tacitus says these groups each claimed descent from the god Mannus, son of
Tuisto According to Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historiography, Roman historians by modern scholars. The sur ...
. Tacitus also mentions a second tradition that there were four sons of either Mannus or Tuisto from whom the groups of the Marsi, Gambrivi, Suebi, and Vandili claim descent. The Hermiones are also mentioned by
Pomponius Mela Pomponius Mela, who wrote around AD 43, was the earliest Roman geographer. He was born in Iulia Traducta, Tingentera (now Algeciras) and died  AD 45. His short work (''De situ orbis libri III.'') remained in use nearly to the year 1500. It ...
, but otherwise, these divisions do not appear in other ancient works on the ''Germani''. There are a number of inconsistencies in the listing of Germanic subgroups by Tacitus and Pliny. While both Tacitus and Pliny mention some Scandinavian tribes, they are not integrated into the subdivisions. While Pliny lists the
Suebi The Suebi (or Suebians, also spelled Suevi, Suavi) were a large group of Germanic peoples originally from the Elbe river region in what is now Germany and the Czech Republic. In the early Roman era they included many peoples with their own names ...
as part of the Hermiones, Tacitus treats them as a separate group. Additionally, Tacitus's description of a group of tribes as united by the cult of
Nerthus In Germanic paganism, Nerthus is a goddess associated with a ceremonial wagon procession. Nerthus is attested by first century AD Roman historian Tacitus in his ethnographic work ''Germania (book), Germania''. In ''Germania'', Tacitus records tha ...
(''Germania'' 40) as well as the cult of the Alcis controlled by the
Nahanarvali The Nahanarvali, also known as the Nahavali, Naha-Narvali, and Nahanavali, were a Germanic tribe This list of ancient Germanic peoples is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civili ...
(''Germania'' 43) and Tacitus's account of the origin myth of the
Semnones The Semnones were a Germanic peoples, Germanic and specifically a Suebi, Suevian people, who were settled between the Elbe and the Oder in the 1st century when they were described by Tacitus in ''Germania (book), Germania'': "The Semnones give the ...
(''Germania'' 39) all suggest different subdivisions than the three mentioned in ''Germania'' chapter 2. The subdivisions found in Pliny and Tacitus have been very influential for scholarship on Germanic history and language up until recent times. However, outside of Tacitus and Pliny there are no other textual indications that these groups were important. The subgroups mentioned by Tacitus are not used by him elsewhere in his work, contradict other parts of his work, and cannot be reconciled with Pliny, who is equally inconsistent. Additionally, there is no linguistic or archaeological evidence for these subgroups. New archaeological finds have tended to show that the boundaries between Germanic peoples were very permeable, and scholars now assume that migration and the collapse and formation of cultural units were constant occurrences within Germania. Nevertheless, various aspects such as the alliteration of many of the tribal names in Tacitus's account and the name of Mannus himself suggest that the descent from Mannus was an authentic Germanic tradition.


Languages


Proto-Germanic

All
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 515 million people mainly in Europe, North America, Oceania and Southern Africa. The most widely spoken ...
derive from the
Proto-Indo-European language Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European language family. Its proposed features have been derived by linguistic reconstruction from documented Indo-European languages. No direct record of Proto-Indo ...
(PIE), which is generally thought to have been spoken between 4500 and 2500 BCE. The ancestor of Germanic languages is referred to as Proto- or Common Germanic, and likely represented a group of mutually intelligible
dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
s. They share distinctive characteristics which set them apart from other Indo-European sub-families of languages, such as Grimm's and
Verner's law Verner's law describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby consonants that would usually have been the voiceless fricatives , , , , , following an unstressed syllable, became the voiced fricatives , , , , . The law ...
, the conservation of the PIE
ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony (regular vowel variations) in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the ...
system in the Germanic verb system (notably in strong verbs), or the merger of the vowels ''a'' and ''o'' qualities (''ə'', ''a'', ''o'' > ''a;'' ''ā'', ''ō'' > ''ō''). During the Pre-Germanic linguistic period (2500–500 BCE), the
proto-language In the tree model of historical linguistics, a proto-language is a postulated ancestral language from which a number of attested languages are believed to have descended by evolution, forming a language family. Proto-languages are usually unat ...
has almost certainly been influenced by an unknown non-Indo-European language, still noticeable in the Germanic
phonology Phonology is the branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds or, for sign languages, their constituent parts of signs. The term can also refer specifically to the sound or sign system of a ...
and
lexicon A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or branch of knowledge (such as nautical or medical). In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word ''lexicon'' derives from Koine Greek language, Greek word (), neuter of () ...
. Although Proto-Germanic is reconstructed without dialects via the
comparative method In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with genetic relationship (linguistics), common descent from a shared ancesto ...
, it is almost certain that it never was a uniform proto-language. The late Jastorf culture occupied so much territory that it is unlikely that Germanic populations spoke a single dialect, and traces of early linguistic varieties have been highlighted by scholars. Sister dialects of Proto-Germanic itself certainly existed, as evidenced by the absence of the First Germanic Sound Shift (Grimm's law) in some "Para-Germanic" recorded proper names, and the reconstructed Proto-Germanic language was only one among several dialects spoken at that time by peoples identified as "Germanic" by Roman sources or archeological data. Although Roman sources name various Germanic tribes such as Suevi, Alemanni, Bauivari, etc., it is unlikely that the members of these tribes all spoke the same dialect.


Early attestations

Definite and comprehensive evidence of Germanic lexical units only occurred after
Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
's conquest of
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and Aquitani tribes, encompassing present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy (only dur ...
in the 1st century BCE, after which contacts with Proto-Germanic speakers began to intensify. The '' Alcis'', a pair of brother gods worshipped by the
Nahanarvali The Nahanarvali, also known as the Nahavali, Naha-Narvali, and Nahanavali, were a Germanic tribe This list of ancient Germanic peoples is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civili ...
, are given by Tacitus as a Latinized form of (a kind of '
stag Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family (biology), family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, and the fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, inclu ...
'), and the word ('hair dye') is certainly borrowed from Proto-Germanic (English ''
soap Soap is a salt (chemistry), salt of a fatty acid used in a variety of cleansing and lubricating products. In a domestic setting, soaps are surfactants usually used for washing, bathing, and other types of housekeeping. In industrial settings, ...
)'', as evidenced by the parallel Finnish loanword ''.'' The name of the '' framea'', described by Tacitus as a short spear carried by Germanic warriors, most likely derives from the compound ('forward-going one'), as suggested by comparable semantical structures found in early
runes Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, a ...
(e.g., ''raun-ij-az'' 'tester', on a lancehead) and linguistic cognates attested in the later
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
,
Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, was a Germanic language and the earliest recorded form of Low German (spoken nowadays in Northern Germany Northern Germany (german: link=no, Norddeutschland) is a linguistic, geographic, socio-cultura ...
and
Old High German Old High German (OHG; german: Althochdeutsch (Ahd.)) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional form of German at this period, and Old High ...
languages: '','' and all mean 'to carry out'. In the absence of earlier evidence, it must be assumed that Proto-Germanic speakers living in ''Germania'' were members of preliterate societies. The only pre-Roman inscriptions that could be interpreted as Proto-Germanic, written in the
Etruscan alphabet The Etruscan alphabet was the alphabet used by the Etruscans, an ancient civilization of central and northern Italy, to write Etruscan language, their language, from about 700 BC to sometime around 100 AD. The Etruscan alphabet derives from the E ...
, have not been found in ''Germania'' but rather in the Venetic region. The inscription ''harikastiteiva\\\ip'', engraved on the
Negau helmet The Negau helmets are 26 bronze helmets (23 of which are preserved) dating to c. 450 BC–350 BC, found in 1812 in a cache in Ženjak, near Negau, Duchy of Styria (now Negova, Slovenia). The helmets are of typical Etruscan civilization, Etruscan ...
in the 3rd–2nd centuries BCE, possibly by a Germanic-speaking warrior involved in combat in northern Italy, has been interpreted by some scholars as ''Harigasti Teiwǣ'' ( 'army-guest' + 'god, deity'), which could be an invocation to a war-god or a mark of ownership engraved by its possessor. The inscription ''Fariarix'' ( 'ferry' + 'ruler') carved on
tetradrachm The tetradrachm ( grc-gre, τετράδραχμον, tetrádrachmon) was a large silver coin that originated in Ancient Greece. It was nominally equivalent to four Greek drachma, drachmae. Over time the tetradrachm effectively became the standard ...
s found in
Bratislava Bratislava (, also ; ; german: Preßburg/Pressburg ; hu, Pozsony) is the Capital city, capital and largest city of Slovakia. Officially, the population of the city is about 475,000; however, it is estimated to be more than 660,000 — approxim ...
(mid-1st c. BCE) may indicate the Germanic name of a Celtic ruler.


Linguistic disintegration

By the time Germanic speakers entered written history, their linguistic territory had stretched farther south, since a Germanic
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated vari ...
(where neighbouring language varieties diverged only slightly between each other, but remote dialects were not necessarily
mutually intelligible In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related Variety (linguistics), varieties can readily understand each other without prior familiarity or special effort. It ...
due to accumulated differences over the distance) covered a region roughly located between the
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
, the
Vistula The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, ) is the longest river in Poland and the ninth-longest river in Europe, at in length. The drainage basin, reaching into three other nations, covers , of which is in Poland. The Vistula rises at Barania Góra in t ...
, the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
, and southern
Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sámi languages: /. ( ) is a subregion#Europe, subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties between its constituent peoples. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' most commonly refers to Denmark, ...
during the first two centuries of the
Common Era Common Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE) are year notations for the Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most parts of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a modificatio ...
. East Germanic speakers dwelled on the Baltic sea coasts and islands, while speakers of the Northwestern dialects occupied territories in present-day Denmark and bordering parts of Germany at the earliest date when they can be identified. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, migrations of East Germanic ''gentes'' from the Baltic Sea coast southeastwards into the hinterland led to their separation from the dialect continuum.; ; ; . By the late 3rd century CE, linguistic divergences like the West Germanic loss of the final consonant ''-z'' had already occurred within the "residual" Northwest dialect continuum. The latter definitely ended after the 5th- and 6th-century migrations of
Angles The Angles ( ang, Ængle, ; la, Angli) were one of the main Germanic peoples who settled in Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it i ...
,
Jutes The Jutes (), Iuti, or Iutæ ( da, Jyder, non, Jótar, ang, Ēotas) were one of the Germanic people, Germanic tribes who settled in Great Britain after the end of Roman rule in Britain, departure of the Roman Empire, Romans. According to Bede ...
and part of the
Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * * peoples whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country (Old Saxony, la, Saxo ...
tribes towards modern-day England.


Classification

The Germanic languages are traditionally divided between
East East or Orient is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the four main compass directions: north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials N, E, S, and W respectively. Relat ...
,
North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west. ''North'' is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating Direction (geometry), direction or geography. Etymology T ...
and
West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the North Germanic languages, North Germanic and the extinct East Germanic languages, East Germanic ...
branches. The modern prevailing view is that North and West Germanic were also encompassed in a larger subgroup called Northwest Germanic. *
Northwest Germanic Northwest Germanic is a proposed grouping of the Germanic languages, Germanic languages, representing the current consensus among Germanic historical linguists. It does not challenge the late 19th-century tri-partite division of the Germanic diale ...
: mainly characterized by the ''i''-umlaut, and the shift of the long vowel ''*ē'' towards a long ''*ā'' in accented syllables; it remained a
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated vari ...
following the migration of East Germanic speakers in the 2nd–3rd century CE; **
North Germanic The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 515 millio ...
or Primitive Norse: initially characterized by the monophthongization of the sound ''ai'' to ''ā'' (attested from ca. 400 BCE); a uniform northern dialect or ''koiné'' attested in runic inscriptions from the 2nd century CE onward, it remained practically unchanged until a transitional period that started in the late 5th century; and
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
, a language attested by runic inscriptions written in the Younger Fuþark from the beginning of the
Viking Age The Viking Age () was the period during the Middle Ages when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest, and trading throughout Europe and reached North America. It followed the Migration Period and the Germ ...
(8th–9th centuries CE); **
West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the North Germanic languages, North Germanic and the extinct East Germanic languages, East Germanic ...
: including
Old Saxon Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, was a Germanic language and the earliest recorded form of Low German (spoken nowadays in Northern Germany Northern Germany (german: link=no, Norddeutschland) is a linguistic, geographic, socio-cultura ...
(attested from the 5th c. CE),
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
(late 5th c.),
Old Frisian Old Frisian was a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries along the North Sea coast, roughly between the mouths of the Rhine and Weser rivers. The Frisian settlers on the coast of South Jutland ...
(6th c.), Frankish (6th c.),
Old High German Old High German (OHG; german: Althochdeutsch (Ahd.)) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional form of German at this period, and Old High ...
(6th c.), and possibly
Langobardic Lombardic or Langobardic is an extinct West Germanic language that was spoken by the Lombards (), the Germanic people who settled in Italy in the sixth century. It was already declining by the seventh century because the invaders quickly adopted ...
(6th c.), which is only scarcely attested;; they are mainly characterized by the loss of the final consonant -''z'' (attested from the late 3rd century), and by the ''j''-consonant gemination (attested from ca. 400 BCE); early inscriptions from the West Germanic areas found on altars where votive offerings were made to the ''Matronae Vacallinehae'' (Matrons of Vacallina) in the
Rhineland The Rhineland (german: Rheinland; french: Rhénanie; nl, Rijnland; ksh, Rhingland; Latinised name: ''Rhenania'') is a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly Middle Rhine, its middle section. Term Historically, th ...
dated to ca. 160–260 CE; West Germanic remained a "residual" dialect continuum until the Anglo-Saxon migrations in the 5th–6th centuries CE; *
East Germanic East or Orient is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass. It is the opposite direction from west and is the direction from which the Sunrise, Sun rises on the Earth. Etymology As in other languages, the word is formed from ...
, of which only Gothic is attested by both
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. They generally contained practical information or memorials instead of magic or mythic stories. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of El ...
(from the 3rd c. CE) and textual evidence (principally Wulfila's Bible; ca. 350–380). It became extinct after the fall of the
Visigothic Kingdom The Visigothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of the Goths ( la, Regnum Gothorum), was a kingdom that occupied what is now southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to the 8th centuries. One of the Germanic peoples, Germanic su ...
in the early 8th century. The inclusion of the Burgundian and
Vandalic language Vandalic was the Germanic languages, Germanic language spoken by the Vandals during roughly the 3rd to 6th centuries. It was probably closely related to Gothic language, Gothic, and, as such, is traditionally classified as an East Germanic lan ...
s within the East Germanic group, while plausible, is still uncertain due to their scarce attestation. The latest attested East Germanic language, Crimean Gothic, has been partially recorded in the 16th century. Further internal classifications are still debated among scholars, as it is unclear whether the internal features shared by several branches are due to early common innovations or to the later diffusion of local dialectal innovations.


History


Prehistory

The Germanic-speaking peoples speak an
Indo-European language The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
. The leading theory for the origin of Germanic languages, suggested by archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence, postulates a diffusion of Indo-European languages from the
Pontic–Caspian steppe The Pontic–Caspian steppe, formed by the Caspian steppe and the Pontic steppe, is the steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (the Pontus Euxinus of antiquity) to the northern area around the Caspian Sea The ...
towards Northern Europe during the third millennium BCE, via linguistic contacts and migrations from the
Corded Ware culture The Corded Ware culture comprises a broad archaeological horizon of Europe between ca. 3000 BC – 2350 BC, thus from the late Neolithic, through the Chalcolithic, Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age. Corded Ware culture en ...
towards modern-day Denmark, resulting in cultural mixing with the earlier
Funnelbeaker culture The Funnel(-neck-)beaker culture, in short TRB or TBK (german: Trichter(-rand-)becherkultur, nl, Trechterbekercultuur; da, Tragtbægerkultur; ) was an archaeological culture An archaeological culture is a recurring Assemblage (archaeology), as ...
. The subsequent culture of the
Nordic Bronze Age The Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age, or Scandinavian Bronze Age) is a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 2000/1750–500 BC. The Nordic Bronze Age culture emerged about 1750 BC as a continuation of the Battle Axe culture (the ...
(c. 2000/1750-c. 500 BCE) shows definite cultural and population continuities with later Germanic peoples, and is often supposed to have been the culture in which the Germanic Parent Language, the predecessor of the Proto-Germanic language, developed. However, it is unclear whether these earlier peoples possessed any ethnic continuity with the later Germanic peoples. Generally, scholars agree that it is possible to speak of Germanic-speaking peoples after 500 BCE, although the first attestation of the name ''Germani'' is not until much later. Between around 500 BCE and the beginning of the
Common Era Common Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE) are year notations for the Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most parts of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a modificatio ...
, archeological and linguistic evidence suggest that the ''
Urheimat In historical linguistics, the homeland or ''Urheimat'' (, from German language, German '':wikt:ur-#German, ur-'' "original" and ''Heimat'', home) of a proto-language is the region in which it was spoken before splitting into different daughter la ...
'' ('original homeland') of the
Proto-Germanic language Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Germanic languages, Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. Proto-Germanic eventually developed from ...
, the ancestral idiom of all attested Germanic dialects, was primarily situated in the southern
Jutland peninsula Jutland ( da, Jylland ; german: Jütland ; ang, Ēota land ), known anciently as the Cimbric or Cimbrian Peninsula ( la, Cimbricus Chersonesus; da, den Kimbriske Halvø, links=no or ; german: Kimbrische Halbinsel, links=no), is a peninsula of ...
, from which Proto-Germanic speakers migrated towards bordering parts of Germany and along the sea-shores of the Baltic and the North Sea, an area corresponding to the extent of the late Jastorf culture. If the Jastorf Culture is the origin of the Germanic peoples, then the Scandinavian peninsula would have become Germanic either via migration or assimilation over the course of the same period. Alternatively, has stressed that two other archaeological groups must have belonged to the ''Germani'', one on either side of the
Lower Rhine The Lower Rhine (german: Niederrhein; kilometres 660 to 1,033 of the river Rhine) flows from Bonn, Germany, to the North Sea at Hook of Holland, Netherlands (including the Nederrijn or "Nether Rhine" within the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta); alt ...
and reaching to the
Weser The Weser () is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without ...
, and another in Jutland and southern Scandinavia. These groups would thus show a "polycentric origin" for the Germanic peoples. The neighboring
Przeworsk culture The Przeworsk culture () was an Iron Age material culture in the region of what is now Poland, that dates from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD. It takes its name from the town Przeworsk, near the village where the first Artifact (arch ...
in modern Poland is thought to possibly reflect a Germanic and Slavic component. The identification of the Jastorf culture with the ''Germani'' has been criticized by Sebastian Brather, who notes that it seems to be missing areas such as southern Scandinavia and the Rhine-Weser area, which linguists argue to have been Germanic, while also not according with the Roman era definition of ''Germani'', which included Celtic-speaking peoples further south and west. A category of evidence used to locate the Proto-Germanic homeland is founded on traces of early linguistic contacts with neighbouring languages. Germanic loanwords in the Finnic and Sámi languages have preserved archaic forms (e.g. Finnic ''kuningas'', from Proto-Germanic 'king'; ''rengas'', from 'ring'; etc.), with the older loan layers possibly dating back to an earlier period of intense contacts between pre-Germanic and Finno-Permic (i.e. Finno-Samic) speakers. Shared lexical innovations between Celtic and Germanic languages, concentrated in certain semantic domains such as religion and warfare, indicates intensive contacts between the ''Germani'' and
Celtic peoples The Celts (, see pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct pronu ...
, usually identified with the archaeological La Tène culture, found in southern Germany and the modern Czech Republic. Early contacts probably occurred during the Pre-Germanic and Pre-Celtic periods, dated to the 2nd millennium BCE, and the Celts appear to have had a large amount of influence on Germanic culture from up until the first century CE, which led to a high degree of Celtic-Germanic shared material culture and social organization. Some evidence of linguistic convergence between Germanic and
Italic languages The Italic languages form a branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family, whose earliest known members were spoken on the Italian Peninsula in the first millennium BC. The most important of the ancient languages was Lat ...
, whose ''Urheimat'' is supposed to have been situated north of the Alps before the 1st millennium BCE, have also been highlighted by scholars. Shared changes in their grammars also suggest early contacts between Germanic and
Balto-Slavic languages The Balto-Slavic languages form a branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of languages, traditionally comprising the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages share several linguistic traits ...
; however, some of these innovations are shared with Baltic only, which may point to linguistic contacts during a relatively late period, at any rate after the initial breakup of Balto-Slavic into Baltic and
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples and their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto ...
, with the similarities to Slavic being seen as remnants of Indo-European archaisms or the result of secondary contacts.


Earliest recorded history

According to some authors the
Bastarnae The Bastarnae (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around pres ...
or
Peucini The Bastarnae (Latin language, Latin variants: ''Bastarni'', or ''Basternae''; grc, Βαστάρναι or Βαστέρναι) and Peucini ( grc, Πευκῖνοι) were two ancient peoples who between 200 BC and 300 AD inhabited areas north of ...
were the first ''Germani'' to be encountered by the
Greco-Roman world The Greco-Roman civilization (; also Greco-Roman culture; spelled Graeco-Roman in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth), as understood by modern scholars and writers, includes the geographical regions and countries that culturally—and s ...
and thus to be mentioned in historical records. They appear in historical sources going back as far as the 3rd century BCE through the 4th century CE. Another eastern people known from about 200 BCE, and sometimes believed to be Germanic-speaking, are the
Sciri The Sciri, or Scirians, were a Germanic people. They are believed to have spoken an East Germanic language. Their name probably means "the pure ones". The Sciri were mentioned already in the late 3rd century BC as participants in a raid on th ...
(Greek: ), who are recorded threatening the city of
Olbia Olbia (, ; sc, Terranoa; sdn, Tarranoa) is a city and communes of Italy, commune of 60,346 inhabitants (May 2018) in the Italy, Italian insular province of Sassari in northeastern Sardinia, Italy, in the historical region of Gallura. Called '' ...
on the Black Sea. Late in the 2nd century BCE, Roman and Greek sources recount the migrations of the Cimbri, Teutones and
Ambrones The Ambrones ( grc, Ἄμβρωνες) were an ancient tribe mentioned by Ancient Rome, Roman authors. They are generally believed to have been a Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe from Jutland. In the late 2nd century BC, along with the fellow Ci ...
whom Caesar later classified as Germanic. The movements of these groups through parts of
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and Aquitani tribes, encompassing present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy (only dur ...
,
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
and
Hispania Hispania ( la, Hispānia , ; nearly identically pronounced in Spanish language, Spanish, Portuguese language, Portuguese, Catalan language, Catalan, and Italian language, Italian) was the Ancient Rome, Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula and it ...
resulted in the
Cimbrian War The Cimbrian or Cimbric War (113–101 BC) was fought between the Roman Republic and the Germanic peoples, Germanic and Celts, Celtic tribes of the Cimbri and the Teutons, Ambrones and Tigurini, who migrated from the Jutland peninsula into Roman ...
(113–101 BCE) against the Romans, in which the Teutons and Cimbri were victorious over several Roman armies but were ultimately defeated. The first century BCE was a time of the expansion of Germanic-speaking peoples at the expense of Celtic-speaking polities in modern southern Germany and the Czech Republic. In 63 BCE,
Ariovistus Ariovistus was a leader of the Suebi and other allied Germanic peoples in the second quarter of the 1st century BC. He and his followers took part in a war in Gaul, assisting the Arverni and Sequani in defeating their rivals, the Aedui. They the ...
, king of the
Suevi The Suebi (or Suebians, also spelled Suevi, Suavi) were a large group of Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were historical groups of people that once occupied Central Europe and Scandinavia during antiquity and into the early Middle Age ...
and a host of other peoples, led a force across the Rhine into Gaul to aid the
Sequani The Sequani were a Gallic tribe dwelling in the upper river basin of the Arar river ( Saône), the valley of the Doubs and the Jura Mountains The Jura Mountains ( , , , ; french: Massif du Jura; german: Juragebirge; it, Massiccio del Giu ...
against their enemies the
Aedui The Aedui or Haedui ( Gaulish: *''Aiduoi'', 'the Ardent'; grc, Aἴδουοι) were a Gallic tribe dwelling in the modern Burgundy region during the Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and ...
. The Suevi were victorious at the
Battle of Magetobriga The Battle of Magetobriga (Amagetobria, Magetobria, Mageto'Bria, Admageto'Bria) was fought in 63 BC between rival tribes in Gaul. The Aedui tribe was defeated and massacred by the combined forces of their hereditary rivals, the Sequani and ...
, and initially were considered an ally of Rome. The Aedui were Roman allies and
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
, the governor of the Roman province of
Transalpine Gaul Gallia Narbonensis (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
in 58 BCE, went to war with them, defeating Ariovistus at the Battle of Vosges. In 55 BCE, Caesar crossed the Rhine into Germania, massacring a large migrating group of Tencteri and
Usipetes The Usipetes or Usipii (in Plutarch's Greek, Ousipai, and possibly the same as the Ouispoi of Claudius Ptolemy) were an ancient tribe who moved into the area on the right bank (the northern or eastern bank) of the lower Rhine in the first century B ...
who had crossed the Rhine from the east.


Roman Imperial Period to 375


Early Roman Imperial period (27 BCE–166 CE)

Throughout the reign of Augustus—from 27 BCE until 14 CE—the Roman empire expanded into Gaul, with the Rhine as a border. Starting in 13 BCE, there were Roman campaigns across the Rhine for a 28-year period. First came the pacification of the Usipetes, Sicambri, and
Frisians The Frisians are a Germanic peoples, Germanic ethnic group native to the German Bight, coastal regions of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia and are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland an ...
near the Rhine, then attacks increased further from the Rhine, on the
Chauci The Chauci (german: Chauken, and identical or similar in other regional modern languages) were an ancient Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Rivers Ems (river), Ems and Elbe, on both sides of the Weser and ...
,
Cherusci The Cherusci were a Germanic peoples, Germanic Germanic tribes, tribe that inhabited parts of the plains and forests of northwestern Germany in the area of the Weser River and present-day Hanover during the first centuries BC and AD. Roman histori ...
,
Chatti The Chatti (also Chatthi or Catti) were an ancient Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser (''Visurgis''). They lived in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of that rive ...
and
Suevi The Suebi (or Suebians, also spelled Suevi, Suavi) were a large group of Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were historical groups of people that once occupied Central Europe and Scandinavia during antiquity and into the early Middle Age ...
(including the
Marcomanni The Marcomanni were a Germanic people * * * that established a powerful kingdom north of the Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running ...
). These campaigns eventually reached and even crossed the Elbe, and in 5 CE Tiberius was able to show strength by having a Roman fleet enter the Elbe and meet the legions in the heart of ''Germania''. Once Tiberius subdued the Germanic people between the Rhine and the Elbe, the region at least up to
Weser The Weser () is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without ...
—and possibly up to the
Elbe The Elbe (; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Giant Mountains of the northern Czech Republic The Czech Republic, or simply Czechia, is a landloc ...
—was made the Roman province ''
Germania Germania ( ; ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania''), or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman province of the same name, was a large historical region in nort ...
'' and provided soldiers to the Roman army. However, within this period two Germanic kings formed larger alliances. Both of them had spent some of their youth in Rome; the first of them was
Maroboduus Maroboduus (d. AD 37) was a king of the Marcomanni, who were a Germanic peoples, Germanic Suebian people. He spent part of his youth in Rome, and returning, found his people under pressure from invasions by the Roman empire between the Rhine and ...
of the Marcomanni, who had led his people away from the Roman activities into
Bohemia Bohemia ( ; cs, Čechy ; ; hsb, Čěska; szl, Czechy) is the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech Republic. Bohemia can also refer to a wider area consisting of the historical Lands of the Bohemian Crown ruled by the List o ...
, which was defended by forests and mountains, and had formed alliances with other peoples. In 6 CE, Rome planned an attack against him but the campaign was cut short when forces were needed for the Illyrian revolt in the Balkans. Just three years later (9 CE), the second of these Germanic figures,
Arminius Arminius ( 18/17 BC – 21 AD) was a chieftain of the Germanic peoples, Germanic Cherusci tribe who is best known for commanding an alliance of Germanic tribes at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, in which three Roman legions under t ...
of the Cherusci—initially an ally of Rome—drew a large Roman force into an ambush in northern Germany, and destroyed the three legions of
Publius Quinctilius Varus Publius Quinctilius Varus (Cremona, 46 BC – Teutoburg Forest, AD 9) was a Roman general and politician under the first Roman emperor Augustus. Varus is generally remembered for having lost three Roman legions when ambushed by Germanic tribes le ...
at the
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, described as the Varian Disaster () by Ancient Rome, Roman historians, took place at modern Kalkriese in AD 9, when an alliance of Germanic peoples ambushed Roman legions and their auxiliaries, led by Publius ...
. Marboduus and Arminius went to war with each other in 17 CE; Arminius was victorious and Marboduus was forced to flee to the Romans. Following the Roman defeat at the Teutoburg Forest, Rome gave up on the possibility of fully integrating this region into the empire. Rome launched successful campaigns across the Rhine between 14 and 16 CE under Tiberius and Germanicus, but the effort of integrating Germania now seemed to outweigh its benefits. In the reign of Augustus's successor, Tiberius, it became state policy to expand the empire no further than the frontier based roughly upon the Rhine and Danube, recommendations that were specified in the will of Augustus and read aloud by Tiberius himself. Roman intervention in Germania led to a shifting and unstable political situation, in which pro- and anti-Roman parties vied for power. Arminius was murdered in 21 CE by his fellow Germanic tribesmen, due in part to these tensions and for his attempt to claim supreme kingly power for himself. In the wake of Arminius's death, Roman diplomats sought to keep the Germanic peoples divided and fractious. Rome established relationships with individual Germanic kings that are often discussed as being similar to
client state A client state, in international relations, is a State (polity), state that is economically, politically, and/or militarily subordinate to another more powerful state (called the "controlling state"). A client state may variously be described as ...
s; however, the situation on the border was always unstable, with rebellions by the
Frisians The Frisians are a Germanic peoples, Germanic ethnic group native to the German Bight, coastal regions of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia and are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland an ...
in 28 CE, and attacks by the
Chauci The Chauci (german: Chauken, and identical or similar in other regional modern languages) were an ancient Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Rivers Ems (river), Ems and Elbe, on both sides of the Weser and ...
and
Chatti The Chatti (also Chatthi or Catti) were an ancient Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser (''Visurgis''). They lived in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of that rive ...
in the 60s CE. The most serious threat to the Roman order was the
Revolt of the Batavi The Revolt of the Batavi took place in the Roman province of Germania Inferior between AD 69 and 70. It was an uprising against the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίω ...
in 69 CE, during the civil wars following the death of
Nero Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( ; born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68), was the fifth Roman emperor and final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from AD 54 unti ...
known as the
Year of the Four Emperors The Year of the Four Emperors, AD 69, was the first civil war of the Roman Empire, during which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. It is considered an important interval, marking the transition from the ...
. The Batavi had long served as auxiliary troops in the Roman army as well as in the imperial bodyguard as the so-called '' Numerus Batavorum'', often called the Germanic bodyguard. The uprising was led by
Gaius Julius Civilis Gaius Julius Civilis was the leader of the Batavian rebellion against the Romans in 69 AD. His nomen shows that he (or one of his male ancestors) was made a Roman citizen (and thus, the tribe a Roman vassal) by either Augustus Caesar Au ...
, a member of the Batavian royal family and Roman military officer, and attracted a large coalition of people both inside and outside of the Roman territory. The revolt ended following several defeats, with Civilis claiming to have only supported the imperial claims of
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 23/24 June 79) was a Roman emperor who reigned from AD 69 to 79. The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empir ...
, who was victorious in the civil war. The century after the Batavian Revolt saw mostly peace between the Germanic peoples and Rome. In 83 CE, Emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Flavia ...
of the
Flavian dynasty The Flavian dynasty ruled the Roman Empire between AD 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as ...
attacked the Chatti north of Mainz (Mogontiacum). This war would last until 85 CE. Following the end of the war with the Chatti, Domitian reduced the number of Roman soldiers on the upper Rhine and shifted the Roman military to guarding the Danube frontier, beginning the construction of the ''
limes Limes may refer to: * the plural form of lime (disambiguation) * the Latin word for ''limit'' which refers to: ** Limes (Roman Empire) (Latin, singular; plural: ) is a modern term used primarily for the Germanic border defence or delimitin ...
'', the longest fortified border in the empire. The period afterwards was peaceful enough that the emperor
Trajan Trajan ( ; la, Caesar Nerva Traianus; 18 September 539/11 August 117) was Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Officially declared ''optimus princeps'' ("best ruler") by the Roman Senate, senate, Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emper ...
reduced the number of soldiers on the frontier. According to
Edward James Edward Frank Willis James (16 August 1907 – 2 December 1984) was a British poet known for his patronage of the surrealist art movement. Early life and marriage James was born on 16 August 1907, the only son of William James (who had inher ...
, the Romans appear to have reserved the right to choose rulers among the barbarians on the frontier.


Marcomannic Wars to 375 CE

Following sixty years of quiet on the frontier, 166 CE saw a major incursion of peoples from north of the Danube during the reign of
Marcus Aurelius Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Latin: áːɾkus̠ auɾέːli.us̠ antɔ́ːni.us̠ English: ; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good ...
, beginning the
Marcomannic Wars The Marcomannic Wars (Latin: ''bellum Germanicum et Sarmaticum'', "German and Sarmatian War") were a series of wars lasting from about 166 until 180 AD. These wars pitted the Roman Empire against, principally, the Germanic peoples, Germanic Marc ...
. By 168 (during the Antonine plague), barbarian hosts consisting of Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges, attacked and pushed their way to Italy. They advanced as far as Upper Italy, destroyed Opitergium/Oderzo and besieged Aquileia. The Romans had finished the war by 180, through a combination of Roman military victories, the resettling of some peoples on Roman territory, and by making alliances with others. Marcus Aurelius's successor
Commodus Commodus (; 31 August 161 – 31 December 192) was a Roman emperor who ruled from 177 to 192. He served jointly with his father Marcus Aurelius from 176 until the latter's death in 180, and thereafter he reigned alone until his assassination. H ...
chose not to permanently occupy any territory conquered north of the Danube, and the following decades saw an increase in the defenses at the ''limes''. The Romans renewed their right to choose the kings of the Marcomanni and Quadi, and Commodus forbid them to hold assemblies unless a Roman centurion was present. The period after the Marconmannic Wars saw the emergence of peoples with new names along the Roman frontiers, which were probably formed by the merger of smaller groups. These new confederacies or peoples tended to border the Roman imperial frontier. Many ethnic names from earlier periods disappear. The
Alamanni The Alemanni or Alamanni, were a confederation of Germanic tribes * * * on the Upper Rhine River. First mentioned by Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek ori ...
emerged along the upper Rhine and are mentioned in Roman sources from the third century onward. The
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi, grc-gre, Γότθοι, Gótthoi) were a Germanic people who played a major role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of medieval Europe. ...
begin to be mentioned along the lower Danube, where they attacked the city of Histria in 238. The Franks are first mentioned occupying territory between the Rhine and Weser. The Lombards seem to have moved their center of power to the central Elbe. Groups such as the Alamanni, Goths, and Franks were not unified polities; they formed multiple, loosely associated groups, who often fought each other and some of whom sought Roman friendship. The Romans also begin to mention seaborne attacks by the Saxons, a term used generically in Latin for Germanic-speaking pirates. A system of defenses on both sides of the
English Channel The English Channel, "The Sleeve"; nrf, la Maunche, "The Sleeve" ( Cotentinais) or ( Jèrriais), ( Guernésiais), "The Channel"; br, Mor Breizh, "Sea of Brittany"; cy, Môr Udd, "Lord's Sea"; kw, Mor Bretannek, "British Sea"; nl, Het Ka ...
, the
Saxon Shore The Saxon Shore ( la, litus Saxonicum) was a military command of the late Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, ...
, was established to deal with their raids. From 250 onward, the Gothic peoples formed the "single most potent threat to the northern frontier of Rome". In 250 CE a Gothic king Cniva led Goths with Bastarnae, Carpi, Vandals, and
Taifali The Taifals or Tayfals ( la, Taifali, Taifalae or ''Theifali''; french: Taïfales) were a people group of Germanic peoples, Germanic or Sarmatian origin, first documented north of the lower Danube in the mid third century AD. They experienced an ...
into the empire, laying siege to Philippopolis. He followed his victory there with another on the marshy terrain at Abrittus, a battle which cost the life of Roman emperor
Decius Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius ( 201 ADJune 251 AD), sometimes translated as Trajan Decius or Decius, was the Roman emperor, emperor of the Roman Empire from 249 to 251. A distinguished politician during the reign of Philip the Arab, De ...
. In 253/254, further attacks occurred reaching
Thessalonica Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, , also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki, or Salonica (), is the second-largest city in Greece, with over one million inhabitants in its Thessaloniki metropolitan area, metropolitan area, and the capi ...
and possibly
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
. In 267/268 there were large raids led by the Herules in 267/268, and a mixed group of Goths and Herules in 269/270. Gothic attacks were abruptly ended in the years after 270, after a Roman victory in which the Gothic king Cannabaudes was killed. The Roman ''limes'' largely collapsed in 259/260, during the
Crisis of the Third Century The Crisis of the Third Century, also known as the Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis (AD 235–284), was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed. The crisis ended due to the military victories of Aurelian and with the ascensio ...
(235–284), and Germanic raids penetrated as far as northern Italy. The ''limes'' on the Rhine and upper Danube was brought under control again in 270s, and by 300 the Romans had reestablished control over areas they had abandoned during the crisis. From the later third century onward, the Roman army relied increasingly on troops of Barbarian origin, often recruited from Germanic peoples, with some functioning as senior commanders in the Roman army. In the 4th century, warfare along the Rhine frontier between the Romans and Franks and Alemanni seems to have mostly consisted of campaigns of plunder, during which major battles were avoided. The Romans generally followed a policy of trying to prevent strong leaders from emerging among the barbarians, using treachery, kidnapping, and assassination, paying off rival tribes to attack them, or by supporting internal rivals.


Migration Period (ca. 375–568)

The
Migration Period The Migration Period was a period in History of Europe, European history marked by large-scale migrations that saw the fall of the Western Roman Empire and subsequent settlement of its former territories by various tribes, and the establishment ...
is traditionally cited by historians as beginning in 375 CE, under the assumption that the appearance of the
Huns The Huns were a Nomad, nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that wa ...
prompted the
Visigoths The Visigoths (; la, Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic people who, along with the Ostrogoths, constituted the two major political entities of the Goths within the Roman Empire in late antiquity, or what is kno ...
to seek shelter within the Roman Empire in 376. The end of the migration period is usually set at 586 when the Lombards invaded Italy. During this time period, numerous barbarian groups invaded the Roman Empire and established new kingdoms within its boundaries. These Germanic migrations traditionally mark the transition between antiquity and the beginning of the early
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
. The reasons for the migrations of the period are unclear, but scholars have proposed overpopulation, climate change, bad harvests, famines, and adventurousness as possible reasons. Migrations were probably carried out by relatively small groups rather than entire peoples.


Early Migration Period (before 375–420)

The
Greuthungi The Greuthungi (also spelled Greutungi) were a Gothic people who lived on the Pontic steppe between the Dniester and Don rivers in what is now Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the ...
, a Gothic group in modern Ukraine under the rule of
Ermanaric Ermanaric; la, Ermanaricus or ''Hermanaricus''; ang, Eormanrīc ; on, Jǫrmunrekkr , gmh, Ermenrîch (died 376) was a Greuthungian Goths, Gothic Germanic kingship, king who before the Huns, Hunnic invasion evidently ruled a sizable porti ...
, were among the first peoples attacked by the Huns, apparently facing Hunnic pressure for some years. Following Ermanaric's death, the Greuthungi's resistance broke and they moved toward the
Dniester The Dniester, ; rus, Дне́стр, links=1, Dnéstr, ˈdⁿʲestr; ro, Nistru; grc, Τύρᾱς, Tyrās, ; la, Tyrās, la, Danaster, label=none, ) ( ,) is a transboundary river in Eastern Europe. It runs first through Ukraine and ...
river. A second Gothic group, the
Tervingi The Thervingi, Tervingi, or Teruingi (sometimes pluralised Tervings or Thervings) were a Gothic people of the plains north of the Lower Danube and west of the Dniester The Dniester, ; rus, Дне́стр, links=1, Dnéstr, ˈdⁿʲestr ...
under King
Athanaric Athanaric or Atanaric ( la, Athanaricus; died 381) was king of several branches of the Thervingi The Thervingi, Tervingi, or Teruingi (sometimes pluralised Tervings or Thervings) were a Goths, Gothic people of the plains north of the Lower Dan ...
, constructed a defensive earthwork against the Huns near the Dniester. However, these measures did not stop the Huns and the majority of the Tervingi abandoned Athanaric; they subsequently fled—accompanied by a contingent of Greuthungi—to the Danube in 376, seeking asylum in the Roman Empire. The emperor
Valens Valens ( grc-gre, Ουάλης, Ouálēs; 328 – 9 August 378) was Roman emperor from 364 to 378. Following a largely unremarkable military career, he was named co-emperor by his elder brother Valentinian I, who gave him the Byzantine Empire, ...
chose only to admit the Tervingi, who were settled in the Roman provinces of
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
and
Moesia Moesia (; Latin: ''Moesia''; el, Μοισία, Moisía) was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River, which included most of the territory of modern eastern Serbia, Kosovo, north-eastern Alban ...
. Due to mistreatment by the Romans, the Tervingi revolted in 377, starting the Gothic War, joined by the Greuthungi. The Goths and their allies defeated the Romans first at
Marcianople Marcianopolis or Marcianople (Greek language, Greek: Μαρκιανούπολις), also known as Parthenopolis was an ancient Greek, then Roman capital city and archbishopric in Moesia Inferior. It is located at the site of modern-day Devnya, ...
, then defeated and killed emperor Valens in the
Battle of Adrianople The Battle of Adrianople (9 August 378), sometimes known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis, was fought between an Eastern Roman army An army (from Old French ''armee'', itself derived from the Latin verb ''armāre'', meaning "to arm", and re ...
in 378, destroying two-thirds of Valens' army. Following further fighting, peace was negotiated in 382, granting the Goths considerable autonomy within the Roman Empire. However, these Goths—who would be known as the
Visigoths The Visigoths (; la, Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic people who, along with the Ostrogoths, constituted the two major political entities of the Goths within the Roman Empire in late antiquity, or what is kno ...
—revolted several more times, finally coming to be ruled by Alaric. In 397, the disunited eastern Empire submitted to some of his demands, possibly giving him control over
Epirus sq, Epiri rup, Epiru , native_name_lang = , settlement_type = Historical region , image_map = Epirus antiquus tabula.jpg , map_alt = , map_caption = Map of ancient Epirus by Heinrich ...
. In the aftermath of the large-scale Gothic entries into the empire, the Franks and Alemanni became more secure in their positions in 395, when
Stilicho Flavius Stilicho (; c. 359 – 22 August 408) was a military commander in the Late Roman army, Roman army who, for a time, became the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire. He was of Vandals, Vandal origins and married to Serena (wife o ...
, the barbarian generalissimo who held power in the western Empire, made agreements with them. In 401, Alaric invaded Italy, coming to an understanding with Stilicho in 404/5. This agreement allowed Stilicho to fight against the force of
Radagaisus Radagaisus (died 23 August 406) was a Gothic king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. * ...
, who had crossed the Middle Danube in 405/6 and invaded Italy, only to be defeated outside Florence. That same year, a large force of Vandals, Suevi, Alans, and Burgundians crossed the Rhine, fighting the Franks but facing no Roman resistance. In 409, the Suevi, Vandals, and Alans crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, where they took possession of the northern part of the peninsula. The Burgundians seized the land around modern
Speyer Speyer (, older spelling ''Speier'', French language, French: ''Spire,'' historical English language, English: ''Spires''; pfl, Schbaija) is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located on the left b ...
, Worms, and Strasbourg, territory that was recognized by the Roman Emperor Honorius. When Stilicho fell from power in 408, Alaric invaded Italy again and eventually sacked Rome in 410; Alaric died shortly thereafter. The Visigoths withdrew into Gaul where they faced a power struggle until the succession of
Wallia Wallia or Walha (Spanish language, Spanish: ''Walia'', Portuguese language, Portuguese ''Vália''), ( 385 – 418) was king of the Visigoths from 415 to 418, earning a reputation as a great warrior and prudent ruler. He was elected to the throne ...
in 415 and his son
Theodoric I Theodoric I ( got, Þiudarīks; la, Theodericus; 390 or 393 – 20 or 24 June 451) was the King of the Visigoths from 418 to 451. Theodoric is famous for his part in stopping Attila (the Hun) at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451, where ...
in 417/18. Following successful campaigns against them by the Roman emperor Flavius Constantius, the Visigoths were settled as Roman allies in Gaul between modern Toulouse and Bourdeaux. Other Goths, including those of Athanaric, continued to live outside the empire, with three groups crossing into the Roman territory after the Tervingi. The Huns gradually conquered Gothic groups north of the Danube, of which at least six are known, from 376 to 400. Those in Crimea may never have been conquered. The
Gepids The Gepids, ( la, Gepidae, Gipedae, grc, Γήπαιδες) were an East Germanic tribes, East Germanic tribe who lived in the area of modern Romania, Hungary and Serbia, roughly between the Tisza, Sava and Carpathian Mountains. They were said t ...
also formed an important Germanic people under Hunnic rule; the Huns had largely conquered them by 406. One Gothic group under Hunnic domination was ruled by the
Amal dynasty The Amali – also called Amals, Amalings or Amalungs – were a leading dynasty of the Goths, a Germanic tribes, Germanic people who confronted the Roman Empire during the decline of the Western Roman Empire. They eventually became the royal hous ...
, who would form the core of the
Ostrogoths The Ostrogoths ( la, Ostrogothi, Austrogothi) were a Roman-era Germanic peoples, Germanic people. In the 5th century, they followed the Visigoths in creating one of the two great Goths, Gothic kingdoms within the Roman Empire, based upon the larg ...
. The situation outside the Roman empire in 410s and 420s is poorly attested, but it is clear that the Huns continued to spread their influence onto the middle Danube.


The Hunnic Empire (c. 420–453)

In 428, the Vandal leader
Geiseric Gaiseric ( – 25 January 477), also known as Geiseric or Genseric ( la, Gaisericus, Geisericus; reconstructed Vandalic: ) was King of the Vandals The Vandals were a Germanic peoples, Germanic people who first inhabited what is now souther ...
moved his forces across the strait of Gibraltar into north Africa. Within two years, they had conquered most of north Africa. By 434, following a renewed political crisis in Rome, the Rhine frontier had collapsed, and in order to restore it, the Roman
Flavius Aetius Aetius (also spelled Aëtius; ; 390 – 454) was a Roman general and statesman of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was a military commander and the most influential man in the Empire for two decades (433454). He managed po ...
engineered the destruction of the Burgundian kingdom in 435/436, possibly with Hunnic mercenaries, and launched several successful campaigns against the Visigoths. In 439, the Vandals conquered
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of Ancient Carthage, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in ...
, which served as an excellent base for further raids throughout the Mediterranean and became the basis for the Vandal Kingdom. The loss of Carthage forced Aetius to make peace with the Visigoths in 442, effectively recognizing their independence within the boundaries of the empire. During the resulting peace, Aetius resettled the Burgundians in Sapaudia in southern Gaul. In the 430s, Aetius negotiated peace with the Suevi in Spain, leading to a practical loss of Roman control in the province. Despite the peace, the Suevi expanded their territory by conquering Mérida in 439 and Seville in 441. By 440,
Attila Attila (, ; ), frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, Alans, and Bulgars, among others, in Central Europe ...
and the Huns had come to rule a multi-ethnic empire north of the Danube; two of the most important peoples within this empire were the
Gepids The Gepids, ( la, Gepidae, Gipedae, grc, Γήπαιδες) were an East Germanic tribes, East Germanic tribe who lived in the area of modern Romania, Hungary and Serbia, roughly between the Tisza, Sava and Carpathian Mountains. They were said t ...
and the Goths. The Gepid king
Ardaric Ardaric ( la, Ardaricus; c. 450 AD) was the Germanic kingship, king of the Gepids, a Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe closely related to the Goths. He was "famed for his loyalty and wisdom," one of the most trusted adherents of Attila the Hun, who ...
came to power around 440 and participated in various Hunnic campaigns. In 450, the Huns interfered in a Frankish succession dispute, leading in 451 to an invasion of Gaul. Aetius, by uniting a coalition of Visigoths, part of the Franks, and others, was able to defeat the Hunnic army at the
Battle of the Catalaunian Plains The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (or Fields), also called the Battle of the Campus Mauriacus, Battle of Châlons, Battle of Troyes or the Battle of Maurica, took place on June 20, 451 AD, between a coalition – led by the Roman general ...
. In 453, Attila died unexpectedly, and an alliance led by Ardaric's Gepids rebelled against the rule of his sons, defeating them in the
Battle of Nedao The Battle of Nedao was a battle A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well de ...
. Either before or after Attila's death, Valamer, a Gothic ruler of the Amal dynasty, seems to have consolidated power over a large part of the Goths in the Hunnic domain. For the next 20 years, the former subject peoples of the Huns would fight among each other for preeminence. The arrival of the Saxons in Britain is traditionally dated to 449, however, archaeology indicates they had begun arriving in Britain earlier. Latin sources used ''Saxon'' generically for seaborne raiders, meaning that not all of the invaders belonged to the continental Saxons. According to the British monk
Gildas Gildas (Breton language, Breton: ''Gweltaz''; c. 450/500 – c. 570) — also known as Gildas the Wise or ''Gildas Sapiens'' — was a 6th-century Britons (historic), British monk best known for his scathing religious polemic ''De Excidio et Co ...
(c. 500 – c. 570), this group had been recruited to protect the
Romano-British The Romano-British culture arose in Britain under the Roman Empire following the Roman conquest of Britain, Roman conquest in AD 43 and the creation of the Roman Britain, province of Britannia. It arose as a fusion of the imported Roman culture ...
from the
Picts The Picts were a group of peoples who lived in what is now northern and eastern Scotland (north of the Firth of Forth) during Sub-Roman Britain, Late Antiquity and the Scotland in the Early Middle Ages, Early Middle Ages. Where they lived an ...
, but had revolted. They quickly established themselves as rulers on the eastern part of the island.


After the death of Attila (453–568)

In 455, in the aftermath of the death of Aetius in 453 and the murder of emperor
Valentinian III Valentinian III ( la, Placidus Valentinianus; 2 July 41916 March 455) was Roman emperor in the Western Roman Empire, West from 425 to 455. Made emperor in childhood, his reign over the Roman Empire was one of the longest, but was dominated by po ...
in 455, the Vandals invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 455. In 456, the Romans persuaded the Visigoths to fight the Suevi, who had broken their treaty with Rome. The Visigoths and a force of Burgundians and Franks defeated the Suevi at the Battle of Campus Paramus, reducing Suevi control to northwestern Spain. The Visigoths went on to conquer all of the Iberian Peninsula by 484 except a small part that remained under Suevian control. The Ostrogoths, led by Valamer's brother Thiudimer, invaded the Balkans in 473. Thiudimer's son
Theodoric Theodoric is a Germanic given name. First attested as a Gothic name in the 5th century, it became widespread in the Germanic-speaking world, not least due to its most famous bearer, Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Overview The name ...
succeeded him in 476. In that same year, a barbarian commander in the Roman Italian army,
Odoacer Odoacer ( ; – 15 March 493 AD), also spelled Odovacer or Odovacar, was a soldier and statesman of barbarian background, who deposed the child emperor Romulus Augustulus and became Rex/Dux (476–493). Odoacer's overthrow of Romulus August ...
, mutinied and removed the final western Roman emperor,
Romulus Augustulus Romulus Augustus ( 465 – after 511), nicknamed Augustulus, was Roman emperor of the Western Roman Empire, West from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476. Romulus was placed on the imperial throne by his father, the ''magister militum'' Oreste ...
. Odoacer ruled Italy for himself, largely continuing the policies of Roman imperial rule. He destroyed the Kingdom of the Rugians, in modern Austria, in 487/488. Theodoric, meanwhile, successfully extorted the Eastern Empire through a series of campaigns in the Balkans. The eastern emperor Zeno agreed to send Theodoric to Italy in 487/8. After a successful invasion, Theodoric killed and replaced Odoacer in 493, founding a new Ostrogothic kingdom. Theodoric died in 526, amid increasing tensions with the eastern empire. Toward the end of the migration period, in the early 500s, Roman sources portray a completely changed ethnic landscape outside of the empire: the Marcomanni and Quadi disappeared, as had the Vandals. Instead, the Thuringians, Rugians, Sciri, Herules, Goths, and Gepids are mentioned as occupying the Danube frontier. From the mid-5th century onward, the Alamanni had greatly expanded their territory in all directions and launched numerous raids into Gaul. The territory under the Frankish influence had grown to encompass northern Gaul and Germania to the Elbe. The Frankish king
Clovis I Clovis ( la, Chlodovechus; reconstructed Old Frankish, Frankish: ; – 27 November 511) was the first List of Frankish kings, king of the Franks to unite all of the Franks, Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a ...
united the various Frankish groups in 490s, and conquered the Alamanni by 506. From the 490s onward, Clovis waged wars against the Visigoths, defeating them in 507 and taking control of most of Gaul. Clovis's heirs conquered the Thuringians by 530 and the Burgundians by 532. The continental Saxons, composed of many subgroups, were made tributary to the Franks, as were the Frisians, who faced an attack by the Danes under
Hygelac Hygelac ( ang, Hygelāc; non, Hugleikr; gem-x-proto, Hugilaikaz; la, Ch(l)ochilaicus or ''Hugilaicus''; died 521) was a king of the Geats according to the poem ''Beowulf''. It is Hygelac's presence in the poem which has allowed scholars to ...
in 533. The Vandal and Ostrogothic kingdoms were destroyed in 534 and 555 respectively by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire under
Justinian Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus, ; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. His reign is marked by the ambitious but ...
. Around 500, a new ethnic identity appears in modern southern Germany, the
Baiuvarii The Baiuvarii or Bavarians (german: Bajuwaren) were a Germanic people The Germanic peoples were historical groups of people that once occupied Central Europe and Scandinavia during antiquity and into the early Middle Ages. Since the 19th c ...
(Bavarians), under the patronage of Theodoric's Ostrogothic kingdom and then of the Franks. The Lombards, moving out of Bohemia, destroyed the kingdom of the Heruli in Pannonia in 510. In 568, after destroying the Gepid kingdom, the last Germanic kingdom in the
Carpathian basin The Pannonian Basin, or Carpathian Basin, is a large Sedimentary basin, basin situated in south-east Central Europe. The Geomorphology, geomorphological term Pannonian Plain is more widely used for roughly the same region though with a somewh ...
, the Lombards under
Alboin Alboin (530s – 28 June 572) was king of the Lombards from about 560 until 572. During his reign the Lombards ended their migration period, migrations by settling in Italy, the northern part of which Alboin conquered between 569 and 572. He h ...
invaded northern Italy, eventually conquering most of it. This invasion has traditionally been regarded as the end of the migration period. The eastern part of Germania, formerly inhabited by the Goths, Gepids, Vandals, and Rugians, was gradually Slavicized, a process enabled by the invasion of the nomadic Avars.


Early Middle Ages to c. 800

Merovingian Frankia became divided into three subkingdoms:
Austrasia Austrasia was a territory which formed the north-eastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of t ...
in the east around the
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
and
Meuse The Meuse ( , , , ; wa, Moûze ) or Maas ( , ; li, Maos or ) is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea from the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. It has a to ...
,
Neustria Neustria was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks. Neustria included the land between the Loire and the Silva Carbonaria, approximately the north of present-day France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a ...
in the west around
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of more than 105 km² (41 sq mi), ma ...
, and
Burgundy Burgundy (; french: link=no, Bourgogne ) is a historical territory and former Regions of France, administrative region and province of east-central France. The province was once home to the Duke of Burgundy, Dukes of Burgundy from the early 11 ...
in the southeast around Chalon-sur-Saône. The Franks ruled a multilingual and multi-ethnic kingdom, divided between a mostly Romance-speaking West and a mostly Germanic-speaking east, that integrated former Roman elites but remained centered on a Frankish ethnic identity. In 687, the
Pippinids The Pippinids and the Arnulfings were two Franks, Frankish aristocratic families from Austrasia during the Merovingian period. They dominated the office of mayor of the palace after 687 and eventually supplanted the Merovingians as kings in 751, f ...
came to control the Merovingian rulers as mayors of the palace in Neustria. Under their direction, the subkingdoms of Frankia were reunited. Following the mayoralty of
Charles Martel Charles Martel ( – 22 October 741) was a Frankish political and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Re ...
, the Pippinids replaced the Merovingians as kings in 751, when Charles's son
Pepin the Short Pepin the Short (french: Pépin le Bref; – 24 September 768), also called the Younger (german: Pippin der Jüngere), was King of the Franks from 751 until his death in 768. He was the first Carolingian The Carolingian dynasty (; known ...
became king and founded the
Carolingian dynasty The Carolingian dynasty (; known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Franks, Frankish noble family named after Charlemagne, grandson of Mayor of the palace, mayor Charles Martel and a descendant ...
. His son,
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; german: Karl der Große; 2 April 747 – 28 January 814), a member of the Carolingian dynasty, was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and the first Holy ...
, would go on to conquer the Lombards, Saxons, and Bavarians. Charlemagne was crowned Roman emperor in 800 and regarded his residence of
Aachen Aachen ( ; ; Aachen dialect: ''Oche'' ; French and traditional English: Aix-la-Chapelle; or ''Aquisgranum''; nl, Aken ) is, with around 249,000 inhabitants, the 13th-largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia, and the 28th-largest city of Ge ...
as the new Rome. Following their invasion in 568, the Lombards quickly conquered larger parts of the Italian peninsula. From 574 to 584, a period without a single Lombard ruler, the Lombards nearly collapsed, until a more centralized Lombard polity emerged under King
Agilulf Agilulf ( 555 – April 616), called ''the Thuringian'' and nicknamed ''Ago'', was a Duchy of Turin, duke of Turin and king of the Lombards from 591 until his death. A relative of his predecessor Authari, Agilulf was of Thuringian origin and be ...
in 590. The invading Lombards only ever made up a very small percentage of the Italian population, however Lombard ethnic identity expanded to include people of both Roman and barbarian descent. Lombard power reached its peak during the reign of King Liutprand (712–744). After Liutprand's death, the Frankish King Pippin the Short invaded in 755, greatly weakening the kingdom. The Lombard kingdom was finally annexed by Charlemagne in 773. After a period of weak central authority, the Visigothic kingdom came under the rule of
Liuvigild Liuvigild, Leuvigild, Leovigild, or ''Leovigildo'' (Spanish language, Spanish and Portuguese language, Portuguese), ( 519 – 586) was a Visigoths, Visigothic Visigothic Kingdom, King of Hispania and Septimania from 568 to 586. Known for his Codex ...
, who conquered the Kingdom of the Suebi in 585. A Visigothic identity that was distinct from the Romance-speaking population they ruled had disappeared by 700, with the removal of all legal differences between the two groups. In 711, a Muslim army landed at Grenada; the entire Visigothic kingdom would be conquered by the
Umayyad Caliphate The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE; , ; ar, ٱلْخِلَافَة ٱلْأُمَوِيَّة, al-Khilāfah al-ʾUmawīyah) was the second of the four major caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate was ruled by the ...
by 725. In what would become England, the
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a Cultural identity, cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo- ...
were divided into several competing kingdoms, the most important of which were
Northumbria la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum , conventional_long_name = Kingdom of Northumbria , common_name = Northumbria , status = State , status_text = Unified Anglian kingdom (before 876)North: Anglian kingdom (af ...
,
Mercia la, Merciorum regnum , conventional_long_name=Kingdom of Mercia , common_name=Mercia , status=Kingdom , status_text=Independent kingdom (527–879)Client state of Wessex () , life_span=527–918 , era=Heptarchy , event_start= , date_start= , ye ...
, and
Wessex la, Regnum Occidentalium Saxonum , conventional_long_name = Kingdom of the West Saxons , common_name = Wessex , image_map = Southern British Isles 9th century.svg , map_caption = S ...
. In the 7th century, Northumbria established overlordship over the other Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, until Mercia revolted under
Wulfhere Wulfhere or Wulfar (died 675) was King of Mercia from 658 until 675 AD. He was the first Christian king of all of Mercia la, Merciorum regnum , conventional_long_name=Kingdom of Mercia , common_name=Mercia , status=Kingdom , status_text= ...
in 658. Subsequently, Mercia would establish dominance until 825 with the death of King Cenwulf. Few written sources report on
Vendel period In Swedish prehistory, the Vendel Period ( sv, Vendeltiden; 540–790 AD) appears between the Migration Period and the Viking Age. The name is taken from the rich boat inhumation cemetery at Vendel parish church, Uppland. This is a period with ...
Scandinavia from 400 to 700, however this period saw profound societal changes and the formation of early states with connections to the Anglo-Saxon and Frankish kingdoms. In 793, the first recorded
Viking Vikings ; non, víkingr is the modern name given to seafaring people originally from Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden), who from the late 8th to the late 11th centuries raided, pirated, traded and se ...
raid occurred at
Lindisfarne Lindisfarne, also called Holy Island, is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England, which constitutes the civil parish of Holy Island in Northumberland. Holy Island has a recorded history from the 6th century AD; it was an importa ...
, ushering in the
Viking Age The Viking Age () was the period during the Middle Ages when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest, and trading throughout Europe and reached North America. It followed the Migration Period and the Germ ...
.


Religion


Germanic paganism

Germanic paganism refers to the traditional, culturally significant religion of the Germanic-speaking peoples. It did not form a uniform religious system across Germanic-speaking Europe, but varied from place to place, people to people, and time to time. In many contact areas (e.g.
Rhineland The Rhineland (german: Rheinland; french: Rhénanie; nl, Rijnland; ksh, Rhingland; Latinised name: ''Rhenania'') is a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly Middle Rhine, its middle section. Term Historically, th ...
and eastern and northern Scandinavia), it was similar to neighboring religions such as those of the
Slavs Slavs are the largest European ethnolinguistic group. They speak the various Slavic languages, belonging to the larger Balto-Slavic language, Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. Slavs are geographically distributed throughout ...
,
Celts The Celts (, see Names of the Celts#Pronunciation, pronunciation for different usages) or Celtic peoples () are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-Europea ...
, and
Finnic peoples The Finnic or Fennic peoples, sometimes simply called Finns, are the nations who speak languages traditionally classified in the Finnic (now commonly ''Finno-Permic languages, Finno-Permic'') language family, and which are thought to have orig ...
. The term is sometimes applied as early as the
Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistory, prehistoric period during which Rock (geology), stone was widely used to make tools with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface. The period lasted for roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 4,0 ...
,
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of ...
, or the earlier
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age (Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostly appl ...
, but it is more generally restricted to the time period after the Germanic languages had become distinct from other Indo-European languages. From the first reports in Roman sources to the final conversion to Christianity, Germanic paganism thus covers a period of around one thousand years. Scholars are divided as to the degree of continuity between the religious practices of the earlier Germanic peoples and those attested in later
Norse paganism Old Norse religion, also known as Norse paganism, is the most common name for a branch of Germanic paganism, Germanic religion which developed during the Proto-Norse language, Proto-Norse period, when the North Germanic peoples separated into ...
and elsewhere: while some scholars argue that Tacitus, early medieval sources, and the Norse sources indicate religious continuity, other scholars are highly skeptical of such arguments. Like their neighbors and other historically related peoples, the ancient Germanic peoples venerated numerous indigenous deities. These deities are attested throughout literature authored by or written about Germanic-speaking peoples, including
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. They generally contained practical information or memorials instead of magic or mythic stories. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of El ...
, contemporary written accounts, and in folklore after Christianization. As an example, the second of the two
Merseburg charms The Merseburg charms or Merseburg incantations (german: die Merseburger Zaubersprüche) are two medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, si ...
(two
Old High German Old High German (OHG; german: Althochdeutsch (Ahd.)) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional form of German at this period, and Old High ...
examples of
alliterative verse In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of ...
from a manuscript dated to the ninth century) mentions six deities:
Woden Odin (; from non, Óðinn, ) is a widely revered Æsir, god in Germanic paganism. Norse mythology, the source of most surviving information about him, associates him with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, v ...
,
Balder Baldr (also Balder, Baldur) is a æsir, god in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, Baldr (Old Norse: ) is a son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg, and has Sons of Odin, numerous brothers, such as Thor and Váli. In wider Germanic mythol ...
, Sinthgunt, Sunna,
Frija Frigg (; Old Norse: ) is a goddess, one of the Æsir, in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, the source of most surviving information about her, she is associated with marriage, prophecy, clairvoyance and motherhood, and dwells in the wet ...
, and Volla. With the exception of ''Sinthgunt'', proposed
cognate In historical linguistics, cognates or lexical cognates are sets of words in different languages that have been inherited in direct descent from an etymological ancestor in a common parent language. Because language change can have radical ...
s to these deities occur in other Germanic languages, such as
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
and
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
. By way of the
comparative method In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with genetic relationship (linguistics), common descent from a shared ancesto ...
,
philologists Philology () is the study of language in oral and writing, written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics (with especially strong ties to etymology). Philology is also defin ...
are then able to reconstruct and propose early Germanic forms of these names from early
Germanic mythology Germanic mythology consists of the body of myths native to the Germanic peoples, including Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon paganism#Mythology, Anglo-Saxon mythology, and Continental Germanic mythology. It was a key element of Germanic paganism. ...
. Compare the following table: The structure of the magic formula in this charm has a long history prior to this attestation: it is first known to have occurred in
Vedic India The Vedic period, or the Vedic age (), is the period in the late Bronze Age in India, Bronze Age and early Iron Age in India, Iron Age of the history of India when the Vedic literature, including the Vedas (ca. 1300–900 BCE), was composed in ...
, where it occurs in the
Atharvaveda The Atharva Veda (, ' from ' and ''veda'', meaning "knowledge") is the "knowledge storehouse of ''atharvāṇas'', the procedures for everyday life".Laurie Patton (2004), Veda and Upanishad, in ''The Hindu World'' (Editors: Sushil Mittal and G ...
, dated to around 500 BCE. Numerous other beings common to various groups of ancient Germanic peoples receive mention throughout the ancient Germanic record. One such type of entity, a variety of supernatural women, is also mentioned in the first of the two Merseburg Charms: Other widely attested entities from the North and West Germanic folklore include
elves An elf () is a type of humanoid supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore. Elves appear especially in North Germanic mythology. They are subsequently mentioned in Snorri Sturluson's Icelandic Prose Edda. He distinguishes " ...
, dwarfs, and the
mare A mare is an adult female horse or other equidae, equine. In most cases, a mare is a female horse over the age of three, and a filly is a female horse three and younger. In Thoroughbred horse racing, a mare is defined as a female horse more th ...
. (For more discussion on these entities, see
Proto-Germanic folklore Proto-Germanic folklore is the folklore of the speakers of Proto-Germanic and includes topics such as the Germanic mythology, legendry, and folk beliefs of early Germanic culture. By way of the comparative method, Germanic philology, Germanic philo ...
.) The great majority of material describing Germanic mythology stems from the North Germanic record. The body of myths among the North Germanic-speaking peoples is known today as
Norse mythology Norse, Nordic, or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths belonging to the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Old Norse religion and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Nordic folklore of the modern period. ...
and is attested in numerous works, the most expansive of which are the ''
Poetic Edda The ''Poetic Edda'' is the modern name for an untitled collection of Old Norse anonymous narrative poetry, narrative poems, which is distinct from the ''Prose Edda'' written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all primarily of text from ...
'' and the ''
Prose Edda The ''Prose Edda'', also known as the ''Younger Edda'', ''Snorri's Edda'' ( is, Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as ''Edda'', is an Old Norse textbook written in Iceland during the early 13th century. The work is often assumed to have been t ...
''. While these texts were composed in the 13th century, they frequently quote genres of traditional alliterative verse known today as '' eddic poetry'' and ''
skaldic poetry A skald, or skáld (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken b ...
'' dating to the pre-Christian period. West Germanic mythology (that of speakers of, e.g., Old English and Old High German) is comparatively poorly attested. Notable texts include the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow and the Old English
Nine Herbs Charm The "Nine Herbs Charm" is an Old English charm recorded in the tenth-century CEGordon (1962:92–93). Anglo-Saxon medical compilation known as '' Lacnunga'', which survives on the manuscript, Harley MS 585, in the British Library, at London.Macle ...
. While most extant references are simply to deity names, some narratives do survive into the present, such as the Lombard origin myth, which details a tradition among the
Lombards The Lombards () or Langobards ( la, Langobardi) were a Germanic peoples, Germanic people who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774. The medieval Lombard historian Paul the Deacon wrote in the ''History of the Lombards'' (written ...
that features the deities Frea (cognate with Old Norse ) and Godan (cognate with Old Norse ). Attested in the 7th-century '' Origo Gentis Langobardorum'' and the 8th-century ''
Historia Langobardorum The ''History of the Lombards'' or the ''History of the Langobards'' ( la, Historia Langobardorum) is the chief work by Paul the Deacon, written in the late 8th century. This incomplete history in six books was written after 787 and at any rate n ...
'' from the Italian Peninsula, the narrative strongly corresponds in numerous ways with the prose introduction to the eddic poem '' Grímnismál'', recorded in 13th-century Iceland. Very few texts make up the corpus of Gothic and other East Germanic languages, and East Germanic paganism and its associated mythic body is especially poorly attested. Notable topics that provide insight into the matter of East Germanic paganism include the Ring of Pietroassa, which appears to be a cult object (see also Gothic runic inscriptions), and the mention of the Gothic (cognate with Old Norse ''
Æsir The Æsir (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabi ...
'' '(pagan) gods') by
Jordanes Jordanes (), also written as Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th-century Eastern Roman bureaucrat widely believed to be of Goths, Gothic descent who became a historian later in life. Late in life he wrote two works, one on Roman history (''Romana ...
. Practices associated with the religion of the ancient Germanic peoples see fewer attestations. However, elements of religious practices are discernable throughout the textual record associated with the ancient Germanic peoples, including a focus on sacred groves and trees, the presence of seeresses, and numerous vocabulary items. The archaeological record has yielded a variety of depictions of deities, a number of them associated with depictions of the ancient Germanic peoples (see Anthropomorphic wooden cult figurines of Central and Northern Europe). Notable from the Roman period are the
Matres and Matronae The Matres (Latin for "mothers") and Matronae (Latin for "matrons") were female deity, deities venerated in Northwestern Europe, of whom relics are found dating from the first to the fifth century AD. They are depicted on votive offerings and al ...
, some having Germanic names, to whom devotional altars were set up in regions of Germania, Eastern Gaul, and Northern Italy (with a small distribution elsewhere) that were occupied by the Roman army from the first to the fifth century. Germanic mythology and religious practice is of particular interest to Indo-Europeanists, scholars who seek to identify aspects of ancient Germanic culture—both in terms of linguistic correspondence and by way of motifs—stemming from
Proto-Indo-European culture Proto-Indo-European society is the reconstructed culture of Proto-Indo-Europeans, the ancient speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, ancestor of all modern Indo-European languages. Scientific approaches Many of the modern ideas in this ...
, including
Proto-Indo-European mythology Proto-Indo-European mythology is the body of myths and deities associated with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language. Although the mythological motifs are not directly attested ...
. The primordial being Ymir, attested solely in Old Norse sources, makes for a commonly cited example. In Old Norse texts, the death of this entity results in creation of the cosmos, a complex of motifs that finds strong correspondence elsewhere in the Indo-European sphere, notably in
Vedic mythology The historical Vedic religion (also known as Vedicism, Vedism or ancient Hinduism and subsequently Brahmanism (also spelled as Brahminism)), constituted the religious ideas and practices among some Indo-Aryan peoples Indo-Aryan people ...
.See discussion in for example and .


Conversion to Christianity

Germanic peoples began entering the Roman Empire in large numbers at the same time that
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...
was spreading there, and this connection was a major factor encouraging conversion. The East Germanic peoples, the Langobards, and the Suevi in Spain converted to
Arian Christianity Arianism ( grc-x-koine, Ἀρειανισμός, ) is a Christological doctrine first attributed to Arius Arius (; grc-koi, Ἄρειος, ; 250 or 256 – 336) was a Cyrenaica, Cyrenaic presbyter, asceticism, ascetic, and priest best ...
, a form of Christianity that rejected the divinity of Christ. The first Germanic people to convert to Arianism were the Visigoths, at the latest in 376 when they entered the Roman Empire. This followed a longer period of missionary work by both Orthodox Christians and Arians, such as the Arian Wulfila, who was made missionary bishop of the Goths in 341 and translated the Bible into Gothic. The Arian Germanic peoples all eventually converted to Nicene Christianity, which had become the dominant form of Christianity within the Roman Empire; the last to convert were the Visigoths in Spain under their king
Reccared Reccared I (or Recared; la, Flavius Reccaredus; es, Flavio Recaredo; 559 – December 601; reigned 586–601) was Visigoths, Visigothic Visigothic Kingdom, King of Hispania and Septimania. His reign marked a climactic shift in history, with the ...
in 587. The areas of the Roman Empire conquered by the Franks,
Alemanni The Alemanni or Alamanni, were a confederation of Germanic tribes * * * on the Upper Rhine River. First mentioned by Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek ori ...
, and
Baiuvarii The Baiuvarii or Bavarians (german: Bajuwaren) were a Germanic people The Germanic peoples were historical groups of people that once occupied Central Europe and Scandinavia during antiquity and into the early Middle Ages. Since the 19th c ...
were mostly Christian already, but it appeared Christianity declined there. In 496, the Frankish king
Clovis I Clovis ( la, Chlodovechus; reconstructed Old Frankish, Frankish: ; – 27 November 511) was the first List of Frankish kings, king of the Franks to unite all of the Franks, Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a ...
converted to Nicene Christianity. This began a period of missionizing within Frankish territory. The Anglo-Saxons gradually converted following a mission sent by Pope
Gregory the Great Pope Gregory I ( la, Gregorius I; – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to his death. He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregoria ...
in 595. In the 7th century, Frankish-supported missionary activity spread out of Gaul, led by figures of the
Anglo-Saxon mission Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon missionaries were instrumental in the spread of Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century, continuing the work of Hiberno-Scottish missionaries which had been spreading Celtic Christianity across the Fra ...
such as
Saint Boniface Boniface, OSB ( la, Bonifatius; 675 – 5 June 754) was an English Benedictines, Benedictine monk and leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire during the eighth century. He organised significant ...
. The Saxons initially rejected Christianization, but were eventually forcibly converted by
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; german: Karl der Große; 2 April 747 – 28 January 814), a member of the Carolingian dynasty, was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and the first Holy ...
as a result of their conquest in the
Saxon Wars The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the thirty-three years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Old Saxony, Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of Germanic peoples, tribesmen was defeated. In ...
in 776/777. While attempts to convert the Scandinavian peoples began in 831, they were mostly unsuccessful until the 10th and 11th centuries. The last Germanic people to convert were the Swedes, although the
Geats The Geats ( ; ang, gēatas ; non, gautar ; sv, götar ), sometimes called ''Geats#Goths, Goths'', were a large North Germanic peoples, North Germanic tribe who inhabited ("land of the Geats") in modern southern Sweden from antiquity until the ...
had converted earlier. The pagan
Temple at Uppsala The Temple at Uppsala was a religious center in the ancient Norse religion once located at what is now Gamla Uppsala (Swedish "Old Uppsala"), Sweden attested in Adam of Bremen's 11th-century work ''Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum'' and i ...
seems to have continued to exist into the early 1100s.


Society and culture


Runic writing

Germanic speakers developed a native script, the
runes Runes are the letter (alphabet), letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, a ...
(or the ''fuþark''), and the earliest known form of which consists of 24 characters. The runes are generally held to have been used exclusively by Germanic-speaking populations. All known early runic inscriptions are found in Germanic contexts with the potential exception of one inscription, which may indicate cultural transfer between the Germanic speakers to Slavic speakers (and may potentially be the earliest known writing among Slavic speakers). Like other indigenous scripts of Europe, the runes ultimately developed from the
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written graphemes (called letter (alphabet), letters) that represent the phonemes of certain spoken languages. Not all writing systems represent language ...
, but unlike similar scripts, the runes were not replaced by the Latin alphabet by the first century BCE. Runes remained in use among the Germanic peoples throughout their history despite the significant influence of Rome. The precise date that Germanic speakers developed the runic alphabet is unknown, with estimates varying from 100 BCE to 100 CE. Generally accepted inscriptions in the oldest attested form of the script, called the
Elder Futhark The Elder Futhark (or Fuþark), also known as the Older Futhark, Old Futhark, or Germanic Futhark, is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communicatio ...
, date from 200 to 700 CE. The word ''rune'' is widely attested among Germanic languages, where it developed from Proto-Germanic and held a primary meaning of 'secret', but also other meanings such as 'whisper', 'mystery', 'closed deliberation', and 'council'. In most cases, runes appear not to have been used for everyday communication and knowledge of them may have generally been limited to a small group, for whom the term ''erilaR'' is attested from the sixth century onward. The letters of the Elder Futhark are arranged in an order called the ''futhark'', so named after its first six characters. The alphabet is supposed to have been extremely phonetic, and each letter could also represent a word or concept, so that, for instance, the f-rune also stood for ('cattle, property'). Such examples are known as ''Begriffsrunen'' ('concept runes'). Runic inscriptions are found on organic materials such as wood, bone, horn, ivory, and animal hides, as well as on stone and metal. Inscriptions tend to be short, and are difficult to interpret as profane or magical. They include names, inscriptions by the maker of an object, memorials to the dead, as well as inscriptions that religious or magical in nature.


Personal names

Germanic personal names are commonly dithematic, consisting of two components that may be combined freely (such as the Old Norse female personal name ''Sigríðr'', consisting of 'victory' + 'beloved'). As summarized by Per Vikstrand, "The old Germanic personal names are, from a social and ideological point of view, characterized by three main features: religion, heroism, and family bonds. The religious aspect f Germanic namesseems to be an inherited, Indo-European trace, which the Germanic languages share with Greek and other Indo-European languages." One point of debate surrounding Germanic name-giving practice is whether name elements were considered semantically meaningful when combined. Whatever the case, an element of a name could be inherited by a male or female's offspring, leading to an alliterative lineage (related, see
alliterative verse In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of ...
). The runestone D359 in Istaby, Sweden provides one such example, where three generations of men are connected by way of the element , meaning 'wolf' (the alliterative ''Haþuwulfaz'', *''Heruwulfaz'', and ''Hariwulfaz''). Sacral components to Germanic personal names are also attested, including elements such as *''hailaga''- and *''wīha''- (both usually translated as 'holy, sacred', see for example ), and deity names ( theonyms). Deity names as first components of personal names are attested primarily in Old Norse names, where they commonly reference in particular the god
Thor Thor (; from non, Þórr ) is a prominent god in Germanic paganism. In Norse mythology, he is a hammer-wielding æsir, god associated with lightning, thunder, storms, sacred trees and groves in Germanic paganism and mythology, sacred groves ...
(Old Norse ).


Poetry and legend

The ancient Germanic-speaking peoples were a largely oral culture. Written literature in Germanic languages is not recorded until the 6th century (
Gothic Bible The Gothic Bible or Wulfila Bible is the Christian Bible in the Gothic language spoken by the Eastern Germanic (Goths, Gothic) tribes in the early Middle Ages. The translation was allegedly made by the Arianism, Arian bishop and missionary U ...
) or the 8th century in modern England and Germany. The philologist
Andreas Heusler Andreas Heusler (10 August 1865 – 28 February 1940) was a Swiss philologist who specialized in Germanic studies. He was a Professor of Germanic Philology at the Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Berlin and a renowned authority on earl ...
proposed the existence of various genres of literature in the "Old Germanic" period, which were largely based on genres found in high medieval
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
poetry. These include ritual poetry, epigrammatic poetry (), memorial verses (), lyric, narrative poetry, and praise poetry. Heinrich Beck suggests that, on the basis of Latin mentions in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the following genres can be adduced: origo gentis (the origin of a people or their rulers), the fall of heroes (), praise poetry, and laments for the dead. Some stylistic aspects of later Germanic poetry appear to have origins in the
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
period, as shown by comparison with ancient Greek and Sanskrit poetry. Originally, the Germanic-speaking peoples shared a metrical and poetic form,
alliterative verse In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of ...
, which is attested in very similar forms in Old Saxon,
Old High German Old High German (OHG; german: Althochdeutsch (Ahd.)) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional form of German at this period, and Old High ...
and
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
, and in a modified form in
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
. Alliterative verse is not attested in the small extant Gothic corpus. The poetic forms diverge among the different languages from the 9th century onward. Later Germanic peoples shared a common legendary tradition. These heroic legends mostly involve historical personages who lived during the
migration period The Migration Period was a period in History of Europe, European history marked by large-scale migrations that saw the fall of the Western Roman Empire and subsequent settlement of its former territories by various tribes, and the establishment ...
(4th–6th centuries AD), placing them in highly ahistorical and mythologized settings; they originate and develop as part of an
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and Culture, cultural material is received, preserved, and transmitted orally from one generation to another.Jan Vansina, Vansina, Jan: ''Oral Traditio ...
. Some early Gothic heroic legends are already found in
Jordanes Jordanes (), also written as Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th-century Eastern Roman bureaucrat widely believed to be of Goths, Gothic descent who became a historian later in life. Late in life he wrote two works, one on Roman history (''Romana ...
' ''Getica'' (c. 551). The close link between Germanic heroic legend and Germanic language and possibly poetic devices is shown by the fact that the Germanic speakers in
Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire ( la, Imperium Francorum), was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks dur ...
who adopted a Romance language, do not preserve Germanic legends but rather developed their own heroic folklore—excepting the figure of Walter of Aquitaine.


Germanic law

Until the middle of the 20th century, the majority of scholars assumed the existence of a distinct Germanic legal culture and law. Early ideas about Germanic law have come under intense scholarly scrutiny since the 1950s, and specific aspects of it such as the legal importance of '' sibb'', retinues, and loyalty, and the concept of outlawry can no longer be justified. Besides the assumption of a common Germanic legal tradition and the use of sources of different types from different places and time periods, there are no native sources for early Germanic law. The earliest written legal sources, the ''Leges Barbarorum'', were all written under Roman and Christian influence and often with the help of Roman jurists, and contain large amounts of "Vulgar Latin Law", an unofficial legal system that functioned in the Roman provinces. Although Germanic law never appears to have been a competing system to Roman law, it is possible that Germanic "modes of thought" () still existed, with important elements being an emphasis on
orality Orality is thought and verbal expression in societies where the technologies of literacy (especially writing and print) are unfamiliar to most of the population. The study of orality is closely allied to the study of oral tradition. The term "oral ...
, gesture, formulaic language, legal symbolism, and ritual. Some items in the "Leges", such as the use of vernacular words, may reveal aspects of originally Germanic, or at least non-Roman, law. Legal historian Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand writes that this vernacular, often in the form of Latinized words, belongs to "the oldest layers of a Germanic legal language" and shows some similarities to Gothic.


Warfare

Warfare seems to have been a constant in Germanic society, including conflicts among and within Germanic peoples. There is no common Germanic word for "war", and it was not necessarily differentiated from other forms of violence. Historical information on Germanic warfare almost entirely depends on Greco-Roman sources, however their accuracy has been questioned. The core of the army was formed by the
comitatus ''Comitatus'' was in ancient times the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known ...
(retinue), a group of warriors following a chief. As retinues grew larger, their names could become associated with entire peoples. Many retinues functioned as
auxilia The (, lit. "auxiliaries") were introduced as non-citizen troops attached to the citizen Roman legion, legions by Augustus after his reorganisation of the Imperial Roman army from 30 BC. By the 2nd century, the Auxilia contained the same ...
(mercenary units in the Roman army). Roman sources stress, perhaps partially as a literary topos, that the Germanic peoples fought without discipline. Germanic warriors fought mostly on foot, in tight formations in close combat. Tacitus mentions a single formation as used by the ''Germani'', the wedge ( la, cuneus). Cavalry was rare: in the Roman period, it mostly consisted of chiefs and their immediate retinues, who may have dismounted to fight. However, East Germanic peoples such as the Goths developed cavalry forces armed with lances due to contact with various nomadic peoples. Archaeological finds, mostly in the form of grave goods, indicate that most warriors were armed with spear, shield, and often with swords. Higher status individuals were often buried with spurs for riding. The only archaeological evidence for helmets and
chain mail Chain mail (properly called mail or maille but usually called chain mail or chainmail) is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh. It was in common military use between the 3rd century BC and ...
shows them to be of Roman manufacture.


Economy and material culture


Agriculture and population density

Unlike agriculture in the Roman provinces, which was organized around the large farms known as
villae rusticae Villa rustica () was the term used by the ancient Romans to denote a farmhouse or villa set in the countryside and with an agricultural section, which applies to the vast majority of Roman villas. In some cases they were at the centre of a large ...
, Germanic agriculture was organized around villages. When Germanic peoples expanded into Northern Gaul in the 4th and 5th centuries CE, they brought this village-based agriculture with them, which increased the agricultural productivity of the land;
Heiko Steuer Heiko Steuer (born 30 October 1939) is a German archaeology, archaeologist, notable for his research into social and Economic history of Europe, economic history in early Europe. He serves as co-editor of Germanische Altertumskunde Online. Caree ...
suggests this means that Germania was more agriculturally productive than is generally assumed. Villages were not distant from each other but often within sight, revealing a fairly high population density, and contrary to the assertions of Roman sources, only about 30% of Germania was covered in forest, about the same percentage as today. Based on pollen samples and the finds of seeds and plant remains, the chief grains cultivated in Germania were barley, oats, and wheat (both
Einkorn Einkorn wheat (from German ''Einkorn'', literally "single grain") can refer either to a wild species of wheat (''Triticum'') or to its variety of wheat, domesticated form. The wild form is ''#Triticum boeoticum, T. boeoticum'' (syn. #Triticum m ...
and
emmer Emmer wheat or hulled wheat is a type of Awn (botany), awned wheat. Emmer is a tetraploid (4''n'' = 4''x'' = 28 chromosomes). The domesticated types are ''Triticum turgidum'' subsp. ''dicoccum'' and ''Triticum turgidum ''conv.'' durum''. The w ...
), while the most common vegetables were beans and peas. Flax was also grown. Agriculture in Germania relied heavily on animal husbandry, primarily the raising of cattle, which were smaller than their Roman counterparts Both cultivation and animal husbandry methods improved with time, with examples being the introduction of rye, which grew better in Germania, and the introduction of the
three-field system The three-field system is a regime of crop rotation in which a field is planted with one set of crops one year, a different set in the second year, and left fallow in the third year. A set of crops is ''rotated'' from one field to another. The tech ...
.


Crafts

It is unclear if there was a special class of craftsmen in Germania, however archaeological finds of tools are frequent. Many everyday items such as dishes were made out of wood, and archaeology has found the remains of wooden well construction. The 4th-century CE Nydam and Illerup ships show highly developed knowledge of ship construction, while elite graves have revealed wooden furniture with complex
joinery Joinery is a part of woodworking Woodworking is the skill of making items from wood, and includes cabinet making (cabinetry and furniture), wood carving, woodworking joints, joinery, carpentry, and woodturning. History Along with Rock (g ...
. Products made from ceramics included cooking, drinking, and storage, vessels, as well as lamps. While originally formed by hand, the period around 1 CE saw the introduction of the
potter's wheel In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in the shaping (known as throwing) of clay into round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during the process of trimming excess clay from leather-hard dried ware that is stiff but malleable, a ...
. Some of the ceramics produced on potter's wheels seem to have been done in direct imitation of Roman wares, and may have been produced by Romans in Germania or by ''Germani'' who had learned Roman techniques while serving in the Roman army. The shape and decoration of Germanic ceramics vary by region and archaeologists have traditionally used these variations to determine larger cultural areas. Many ceramics were probably produced locally in hearths, but large pottery kilns have also been discovered, and it seems clear that there were areas of specialized production.


Metalworking

Despite the claims of Roman writers such as Tacitus that the ''Germani'' had little iron and lacked expertise in working it, deposits of iron were commonly found in Germania and Germanic smiths were skillful metalworkers. Smithies are known from multiple settlements, and smiths were often buried with their tools. An iron mine discovered at Rudki, in the Łysogóry mountains of modern central Poland, operated from the 1st to the 4th centuries CE and included a substantial smelting workshop; similar facilities have been found in Bohemia. The remains of large smelting operations have been discovered by Ribe in Jutland (4th to 6th century CE), as well as at Glienick in northern Germany and at Heeten in the Netherlands (both 4th century CE). Germanic smelting furnaces may have produced metal that was as high-quality as that produced by the Romans. In addition to large-scale production, nearly every individual settlement seems to have produced some iron for local use. Iron was used for agricultural tools, tools for various crafts, and for weapons.
Lead Lead is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metals, heavy metal that is density, denser than most common materials. Lead is Mohs scale of mineral hardness#Intermediate ...
was needed in order to make molds and for the production of jewelry, however it is unclear if the ''Germani'' were able to produce lead. While lead mining is known from within the
Siegerland The Siegerland is a region of Germany covering the old district of Siegen (now part of the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein in North Rhine-Westphalia) and the upper part of the district of Altenkirchen (district), Altenkirchen, belonging to the Rhi ...
across the Rhine from the Roman Empire, it is sometimes theorized that this was the work of Roman miners. Another mine within Germania was near modern Soest, where again it is theorized that lead was exported to Rome. The neighboring Roman provinces of
Germania superior Germania Superior ("Upper Germania") was an imperial province of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, R ...
and
Germania inferior Germania Inferior ("Lower Germania") was a Roman province from AD 85 until the province was renamed Germania Secunda in the fourth century, on the west bank of the Rhine bordering the North Sea. The capital of the province was Colonia Agrippine ...
produced a great deal of lead, which has been found stamped as ("Germanic lead") in Roman shipwrecks. Deposits of gold are not found naturally within Germania and had to either be imported or could be found having naturally washed down rivers. The earliest known gold objects made by Germanic craftsmen are mostly small ornaments dating from the later 1st century CE. Silver working likewise dates from the first century CE, and silver often served as a decorative element with other metals. From the 2nd century onward, increasingly complex gold jewelry was made, often inlaid with precious stones and in a polychrome style. Inspired by Roman metalwork, Germanic craftsmen also began working with gold and silver-gilt foils on belt buckles, jewelry, and weapons. Pure gold objects produced in the late Roman period included
torc A torc, also spelled torq or torque, is a large rigid or stiff neck ring in metal, made either as a single piece or from strands twisted together. The great majority are open at the front, although some had hook and ring closures and a few had ...
s with snakeheads, often displaying
filigree Filigree (also less commonly spelled ''filagree'', and formerly written ''filigrann'' or ''filigrene'') is a form of intricate metalwork used in jewellery and other small forms of metalwork. In jewellery, it is usually of gold and silver, ma ...
and cloisonné work, techniques that dominated throughout Germanic Europe.


Clothing and textiles

Clothing does not generally preserve well archaeologically. Early Germanic clothing is shown on some Roman stone monuments such as
Trajan's Column Trajan's Column ( it, Colonna Traiana, la, Columna Traiani) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Trajan's Dacian Wars, Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision o ...
and the
Column of Marcus Aurelius The Column of Marcus Aurelius ( la, Columna Centenaria Divorum Marci et Faustinae, it, Colonna di Marco Aurelio) is a Roman victory column in Piazza Colonna, Rome, Italy. It is a Doric column featuring a spiral relief: it was built in honour of ...
, and is occasionally discovered in finds from in
moors The term Moor, derived from the ancient Mauri, is an Endonym and exonym, exonym first used by Christianity in Europe, Christian Europeans to designate the Muslims, Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta duri ...
, mostly from Scandinavia. Frequent finds include long trousers, sometimes including connected stockings, shirt-like gowns () with long sleeves, large pieces of cloth, and capes with fur on the inside. All of these are thought to be male clothing, while finds of tubular garments are thought to be female clothing. These would have reached to the ankles and would likely have been held in place by brooches at the height of the shoulders, as shown on Roman monuments. On Roman depictions, the dress was gathered below the breast or at the waist, and there are frequently no sleeves. Sometimes a blouse or skirt is depicted below the dress, along with a neckerchief around the throat. By the middle of the 5th century CE, both men and women among the continental Germanic peoples came to wear a Roman-style
tunic A tunic is a clothing, garment for the body, usually simple in style, reaching from the shoulders to a length somewhere between the hips and the knees. The name derives from the Latin ''tunica'', the basic garment worn by both men and women in An ...
as their most important piece of clothing. This was secured at the waist and likely adopted due to intensive contact with the Roman world. The Romans typically depict Germanic men and women as bareheaded, although some head-coverings have been found. Although Tacitus mentions an undergarment made of linen, no examples of these have been found. Surviving examples indicate that Germanic textiles were of high quality and mostly made of
flax Flax, also known as common flax or linseed, is a flowering plant, ''Linum usitatissimum'', in the family Linaceae. It is cultivated as a food and fiber crop in regions of the world with temperate climates. Textiles made from flax are known in W ...
and
wool Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and other mammal, mammals, especially goat, goats, rabbit, rabbits, and camelid, camelids. The term may also refer to inorganic materials, such as mineral wool and glass wool, that have properties ...
. Roman depictions show the Germani wearing materials that were only lightly worked. Surviving examples indicate that a variety of weaving techniques were used. Leather was used for shoes, belts, and other gear. Spindles, sometimes made of glass or amber, and the weights from
loom A loom is a device used to weaving, weave cloth and tapestry. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the Warp (weaving), warp threads under tension (mechanics), tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads. The precise shape o ...
s and
distaff A distaff (, , also called a rock"Rock." ''The Oxford English Dictionary''. 2nd ed. 1989.), is a tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surrounding environment or help them accomplish a partic ...
s are frequently found in Germanic settlements.


Trade

Archaeology shows that from at least the turn of the 3rd century CE larger regional settlements in Germania existed that were not exclusively involved in an agrarian economy, and that the main settlements were connected by paved roads. The entirety of Germania was within a system of long-distance trade. Migration-period seaborne trade is suggested by Gudme on the Danish island of
Funen Funen ( da, Fyn, ), with an area of , is the third-largest island of Denmark, after Zealand Zealand ( da, Sjælland ) at 7,031 km2 is the largest and most populous islands of Denmark, island in Denmark proper (thus excluding Greenlan ...
and other harbors on the Baltic. Roman trade with Germania is poorly documented. Roman merchants crossing the Alps for Germania are recorded already by Caesar in the 1st century BCE. During the imperial period, most trade probably took place in trading posts in Germania or at major Roman bases. The most well-known Germanic export to the Roman Empire was amber, with a trade centered on the Baltic coast. Economically, however, amber is likely to have been fairly unimportant. The use of Germanic loanwords in surviving Latin texts suggests that besides amber (), the Romans also imported the feathers of Germanic geese () and hair dye (). Germanic slaves were also a major commodity. Archaeological discoveries indicate that lead was exported from Germania as well, perhaps mined in Roman-Germanic "joint ventures". Products imported from Rome are found archaeologically throughout the Germanic sphere and include vessels of bronze and silver, glassware, pottery, brooches; other products such as textiles and foodstuffs may have been just as important. Rather than mine and smelt
non-ferrous metal In metallurgy, non-ferrous metals are metals or alloy An alloy is a mixture of chemical elements of which at least one is a metal. Unlike chemical compounds with metallic bases, an alloy will retain all the properties of a metal in the resul ...
s themselves, Germanic smiths seem to have often preferred to melt down finished metal objects from Rome, which were imported in large numbers, including coins, metal vessels, and metal statues. Tacitus mentions in ''Germania'' chapter 23 that the Germani living along the Rhine bought wine, and Roman wine has been found in Denmark and northern Poland. Find of Roman silver coinage and weapons might have been war booty or the result of trade, while high quality silver items may have been diplomatic gifts. Roman coinage may have acted as a form of currency as well.


Genetics

The use of genetic studies to investigate the Germanic past is controversial, with scholars such as Guy Halsall suggesting it could represent a hearkening back to 19th-century ideas of race. Sebastian Brather, Wilhelm Heizmann, and Steffen Patzold write that genetics studies are of great use for demographic history, but cannot give us any information about cultural history. In a 2013 book which reviewed studies made up until then, scholars noted that most Germanic speakers today have a
Y-DNA The Y chromosome is one of two sex chromosomes (allosomes) in therian mammals, including humans, and many other animals. The other is the X chromosome. Y is normally the Sex chromosome#Sex determination, sex-determining chromosome in many species, ...
that is a mixture
haplogroup I1 Haplogroup I-M253, also known as I1, is a Y chromosome haplogroup. The genetic markers confirmed as identifying I-M253 are the SNPs In genetics, a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP ; plural SNPs ) is a germline substitution of a single nu ...
, R1a1a, R1b-P312 and R1b-U106; however, the authors also note that these groups are older than Germanic languages and found among speakers of other languages.


Modern reception

The rediscovery of Tacitus's ''Germania'' in the 1450s was used by German
humanists Humanism is a philosophy, philosophical stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and Agency (philosophy), agency of Human, human beings. It considers human beings the starting point for serious moral and philosophical in ...
to claim a glorious classical past for their nation that could compete with that of Greece and Rome, and to equate the "Germanic" with the "German". While the humanists' notion of the "Germanic" was initially vague, later it was narrowed and used to support a notion of German(ic) superiority to other nations. Equally important was
Jordanes Jordanes (), also written as Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th-century Eastern Roman bureaucrat widely believed to be of Goths, Gothic descent who became a historian later in life. Late in life he wrote two works, one on Roman history (''Romana ...
's ''
Getica ''De origine actibusque Getarum'' (''The Origin and Deeds of the Getae oths'), commonly abbreviated ''Getica'', written in Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the form of Literary Latin of late antiquity. ...
'', rediscovered by Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini in the mid-15th century and first printed in 1515 by
Konrad Peutinger Conrad Peutinger (14 October 1465 – 28 December 1547) was a German humanist Humanism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reaso ...
, which depicted Scandinavia as the "womb of nations" ( la, vagina nationum) from which all the historical northeastern European barbarians migrated in the distant past. While treated with suspicion by German scholars, who preferred the indigenous origin given by Tacitus, this motif became very popular in contemporary Swedish Gothicism, as it supported Sweden's imperial ambitions. Peutinger printed the ''Getica'' together with
Paul the Deacon Paul the Deacon ( 720s 13 April in 796, 797, 798, or 799 AD), also known as ''Paulus Diaconus'', ''Warnefridus'', ''Barnefridus'', or ''Winfridus'', and sometimes suffixed ''Cassinensis'' (''i.e.'' "of Monte Cassino"), was a Benedictine monk, sc ...
's ''History of the Lombards'', so that the ''Germania'', the ''Getica'', and the ''History of the Lombards'' formed the basis for the study of the Germanic past. Scholars did not clearly differentiate between the Germanic peoples, Celtic peoples, and the "Scythian peoples" until the late 18th century with the discovery of
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
and the establishment of language as the primary criterion for nationality. Before that time, German scholars considered the Celtic peoples to be part of the Germanic group. The beginning of
Germanic philology Germanic philology is the philology, philological study of the Germanic languages, particularly from a Comparative method, comparative or historical perspective. The beginnings of research into the Germanic languages began in the 16th century, wit ...
proper starts around the turn of the 19th century, with
Jacob Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب, Jacob in Islam, Yaʿqūb; gr, Ἰακώβ, Iakṓb), later given the name Israel (name), Israel, is regarded as a Patriarchs (Bible), patriarch of the Israelites and is an important figure in Abrahamic religi ...
and Wilhelm Grimm being the two most significant founding figures. Their oeuvre included various monumental works on linguistics, culture, and literature. Jacob Grimm offered many arguments identifying the
Germans , native_name_lang = de , region1 = , pop1 = 72,650,269 , region2 = , pop2 = 534,000 , region3 = , pop3 = 157,000 3,322,405 , region4 = , pop4 = ...
as the "most Germanic" of the Germanic-speaking peoples, many of which were taken up later by others who sought to equate "Germanicness" (german: Germanentum) with "Germanness" (german: Deutschtum). Grimm also argued that the Scandinavian sources were, while much later, more "pure" attestations of "Germanness" than those from the south, an opinion that remains common today. German
nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the State (polity), state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of peo ...
thinkers of the völkisch movement placed a great emphasis on the connection of modern Germans to the ''Germania'' using Tacitus to prove the purity and virtue of the German people, which had allowed them to conquer the decadent Romans. German historians used the Germanic past to argue for a liberal, democratic form of government and a unified German state. Contemporary
Romantic nationalism Romantic nationalism (also national romanticism, organic nationalism, identity nationalism) is the form of nationalism in which the state claims its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs. This includes ...
in Scandinavia placed more weight on the
Viking Age The Viking Age () was the period during the Middle Ages when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest, and trading throughout Europe and reached North America. It followed the Migration Period and the Germ ...
, resulting in the movement known as
Scandinavism Scandinavism ( da, skandinavisme; no, skandinavisme; sv, skandinavism), also called Scandinavianism or pan-Scandinavianism,Gustaf Kossinna Gustaf Kossinna (28 September 1858 – 20 December 1931) was a German philologist and archaeologist who was Professor of German Archaeology at the University of Berlin Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (german: Humboldt-Universität zu Be ...
developed several widely accepted theories tying archaeological finds of specific assemblages of objects. Kossina used his theories to extend Germanic identity back to the
Neolithic period The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts ...
and to state with confidence when and where various Germanic and other peoples had migrated within Europe. In the 1930s and 40s, the
Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a far-right politics, far-right political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945 that crea ...
made use of notions of Germanic "purity" reaching back into the earliest prehistoric times. Nazi ideologues also used the "Germanic" nature of peoples such as the Franks and Goths to justify territorial annexations in northern France, Ukraine, and the Crimea. Scholars reinterpreted Germanic culture to justify the Nazis' rule as anchored in the Germanic past, emphasizing noble leaders and warlike retinues who dominated surrounding peoples. After 1945, these associations led to a scholarly backlash and re-examining of Germanic origins. Many medieval specialists have even demanded that scholars avoid the term ''Germanic'' altogether since it is too emotionally charged, adding that it has been politically abused and creates more confusion than clarity.


See also

*
List of Germanic peoples This list of ancient Germanic peoples is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civilisations in ancient times. The information comes from various ancient historical documents, beginn ...


Notes


References


Citations


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * . * * * * * * Looijenga, Tineke. 2020
"Germanic: Runes"
in ''Palaeohispánica'' 20, pp. 819–853. Institucion Fernando el Catolico de la Excma. ISSN 1578-5386. * * * * * * Macháček, Jiří, et al. 2021
"Runes from Lány (Czech Republic) – The oldest inscription among Slavs. A new standard for multidisciplinary analysis of runic bones"
in ''
Journal of Archaeological Science The ''Journal of Archaeological Science'' is a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers "the development and application of scientific techniques and methodologies to all areas of archaeology". The journal was established in 1974 by Acad ...
'', vol. 127, March 2021. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

Classical and medieval sources
Agathias, ''Histories''

Bede, ''Ecclesiastical history of England''

in Latin

Caesar, ''De Bello Gallico''

Cicero, ''Against Piso''

Dio Cassius, ''Roman History''



Jordanes, ''Getica''

Titus Livy, ''History of Rome''

Paul the Deacon, ''History of the Langobards''

Pliny the Elder, ''Natural Histories''

Pomponius Mela, Description of the World

Procopius, ''Gothic War''

Ptolemy, ''Geography''

Strabo, ''Geography''

Suetonius, ''12 Caesars''

Tacitus, ''Germania''

Tacitus, ''The History''
{{Authority control 2nd-millennium BC establishments Indo-European peoples