Germania (/dʒərˈmeɪniə/; Latin: [ɡɛrˈmaː.ni.a]) was the
Roman term for the geographical region in north-central Europe
inhabited mainly by Germanic peoples.
It extended from the
Danube in the south to the Baltic Sea, and from
Rhine in the west to the Vistula. The Roman portions formed two
provinces of the Empire,
Germania Inferior to the north (present-day
Netherlands, Belgium, and western Germany), and
Germania Superior to
the south (Switzerland, southwestern Germany, and eastern France).
Germania was inhabited mostly by Germanic tribes, but also Celts,
Scythians and later on Early Slavs. The population mix changed
over time by assimilation, and especially by migration. The ancient
Greeks were the first to mention the tribes in the area. Later, Julius
Caesar wrote about warlike Germanic tribesmen and their threat to
Roman Gaul, and there were military clashes between the Romans and the
Tacitus wrote the most complete account of Germania
that still survives.
The origin of the term
Germania is uncertain, but was known by
Caesar's time, and may be Gaulish in origin.
1.2 Modern usage
2.1 Ancient sources
3.2 Roman conquests
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
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Depiction of Magna
Germania in the early 2nd century
The name came into use after
Julius Caesar and whether it was used
widely before him amongst Romans is unknown. The term may be Gallic in
origin. Caesar reports hearing from his
Remi allies that the term
Germani was used for the group the Romans called the Germani
Cisrhenani, and that these tribes had historically come from over the
Rhine, so the name
Germania seems to have been extended to cover the
similar tribes in the area understood to be their homeland. Some
Tacitus claimed that this is precisely what
happened, saying that the
Tungri of his time, who lived in the area
which had been home to the Germani Cisrhenani, had changed their name,
but had once been the original Germani.
Tacitus wrote in AD 98:
For the rest, they affirm
Germania to be a recent word, lately
bestowed. For those who first passed the
Rhine and expulsed the Gauls,
and are now named Tungrians, were then called Germani. And thus by
degrees the name of a tribe prevailed, not that of the nation; so that
by an appellation at first occasioned by fear and conquest, they
afterwards chose to be distinguished, and assuming a name lately
invented were universally called Germani.[full citation needed]
Germany in English and some other languages are derived from
"Germania", but German speakers call it "Deutschland", and Dutch
speakers call it "Duitsland", both from *þeudō "people or nation"
Theodiscus and Teutons). Several modern languages use the name
"Germania", including Hebrew (גרמניה), Italian (Germania),
Albanian (Gjermania), Bulgarian (Германия), Maltese
(Ġermanja), Greek (Γερμανία), Macedonian
(Германија), Romanian (Germania), Russian (Германия),
Armenian (Գերմանիա) and Georgian (გერმანია).
Germania extended from the
Rhine eastward to the
Vistula river, and
Danube river northward to the Baltic Sea. The areas west
Rhine were mainly Celtic (specifically Gaulish) and became part
of the Roman Empire in the first century BC.
The Roman parts of Germania, "Lesser Germania", eventually formed two
provinces of the empire,
Germania Inferior, "Lower Germania" (which
came to eventually include the region of the original germani
Germania Superior (in modern terms comprising an area
of western Switzerland, the French Jura and
Alsace regions, and
southwestern Germany). Important cities in Lesser
Germania in the Roman 2nd century view of the world; after Ptolemy in
a map of the 15th century
The geography of Magna
Germania was comprehensively described in
Ptolemy's Geography of around 150 AD via geographical coordinates of
the main cities. By means of a geodetic deformation analysis carried
out by the Institute of
Geodesy and Geoinformation Science at the
Technical University of Berlin
Technical University of Berlin as part of a project of the German
Research Association under the direction of Dieter Lelgemann in
2007–2010, many historical place names have been localized and
associated with place names of the present day.
The expansion of the Germanic tribes 750 BC – AD 1 (after
the Penguin Atlas of World History 1988):
Settlements before 750 BC
New settlements by 500 BC
New settlements by 250 BC
New settlements by AD 1
Germania was inhabited by different tribes, most of them Germanic but
also some Celtic, proto-Slavic, Baltic and
Scythian peoples. The
tribal and ethnic makeup changed over the centuries as a result of
assimilation and, most importantly, migrations. The Germanic people
spoke several different dialects.
Classical records show little about the people who inhabited the north
of Europe before the 2nd century BC. In the 5th century BC, the Greeks
were aware of a group they called
Scythians but no other tribes. At around 320 BC, Pytheas
of Massalia sailed around Britain and along the northern coast of
Europe, and what he found on his journeys was so strange that later
writers refused to believe him. He may have been the first
Mediterranean to distinguish the Germanic people from the Celts.
Contact between German tribes and the
Roman Empire did take place and
was not always hostile. Recent excavations of the Waldgirmes Forum
show signs that a civilian Roman town was established there, which has
been interpreted to mean that Romans and Germanic tribesmen were
living in peace, at least for a while.
Caesar described the cultural differences between the Germanic
tribesmen, the Romans, and the
Gauls in his book Commentarii de Bello
Gallico, where he recalls his defeat of the
Suebi tribes at the Battle
of Vosges. He describes them at length at the beginning of Book IV and
the middle of Book VI. He states that the Gauls, although warlike, had
a functional society and could be civilized, but that the Germanic
tribesmen were far more savage and were a threat to
Roman Gaul and
Rome itself. Caesar said the Germanic tribes were nomadic, with no
notable settlements and a primitive culture. He used this as one of
his justifications for why they had to be conquered. His accounts of
barbaric northern tribes could be described as an expression of the
superiority of Rome, including Roman Gaul.
Caesar's accounts portray the Roman fear of the Germanic tribes and
the threat they posed. The perceived menace of the Germanic tribesmen
proved accurate. The most complete account of
Germania that has been
preserved from Roman times is Tacitus' Germania.
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Some Germani, perhaps the original people to have been referred to by
this name, had lived on the west side of the Rhine. At least as early
as the 2nd century BC this area was considered[by whom?] to be in
"Gaul", and became part of the Roman empire in the course of the
Gallic Wars (58–50 BC). These so-called
Germani cisrhenani lived in
the region of present-day eastern Belgium, the southeastern
Netherlands, and stretching into
Germany towards the Rhine. During the
period of the Roman empire, more tribes settled in areas of the empire
near the Rhine, in territories controlled by the Roman Empire.
Eventually these areas came to be known as Lesser Germania, while
Germania (Magna Germania; it is also referred to by names
referring to its being outside Roman control:
Germania libera, "free
Germania") formed the larger territory east of the Rhine.
Germania of Caesar and
Tacitus was not defined along linguistic
lines as is the case with the modern term "Germanic". The Romans knew
of Celtic tribes living in Magna
Germania (Greater Germania), and what
we now term Germanic tribes living in Gaul, then a predominantly
Celtic region. It is also not clear that they distinguished the tribes
into linguistic categories in any exact way. The language of the
Germani Cisrhenani and their neighbours across the
Rhine is still
unclear. Their tribal names and personal names are generally
considered Celtic, and there are also signs of an older Belgic
language which once existed between the contact zone of the Germanic
and Celtic languages.
Germania in its eastern parts was likely also inhabited by early
Baltic and, centuries later, Slavic tribes. These parts of eastern
Germania are sometimes called
Germania Slavica in modern
Roman limes and modern boundaries.
The occupied Lesser
Germania was divided into two provinces: Germania
Inferior (Lower Germania) (approximately corresponding to the southern
part of the present-day Netherlands) and
Germania Superior (Upper
Germania) (approximately corresponding to present-day Switzerland,
Germany and Alsace).
The Romans under
Augustus began to conquer and defeat the peoples of
Germania Magna in 12 BC, having the Legati (generals)
Tiberius leading the Legions. By 6 AD, all of
Germania up to the River
Elbe was temporarily pacified by the Romans as well as being occupied
by them. The Roman plan to complete the conquest and incorporate all
Germania into the
Roman Empire was frustrated when Rome was
defeated by the German tribesmen in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
in 9 AD.
Augustus then ordered Roman withdrawal from Magna Germania
(completed by AD 16) and established the boundary of the Roman Empire
as being the
Rhine and the Danube. Under Emperors
Roman Empire occupied the region known as the Agri
Decumates between the Main,
Rhine rivers. The region soon
became a vital part of the
Limes Germanicus with dozens of Roman
Agri Decumates were finally abandoned to the Germanic
Alemanni, after the Emperor Probus' death (282).
Ancient Germanic culture portal
Roman Iron Age
^ german - Online Etymology Dictionary
^ Schulze, Hagen (1998). Germany: A New History. Harvard University
Press. p. 4. ISBN 0-674-80688-3.
^ "German", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Ed. T.
F. Hoad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference
Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 4, 2008.
^ Laurent Edward, Peter. "A Manual of Ancient Geography". 13 November
2014. H Slatter, 1840, p 163-168, The British Library. Retrieved 11
^ Stümpel, Gustav (1932). Name und Nationalität der Germanen. Eine
neue Untersuchung zu Poseidonios, Caesar und
Tacitus (in German).
Leipzig: Dieterich. p. 60. OCLC 10223081.
^ Feist, Sigmund (1927). Germanen und Kelten in der antiken
Überlieferung (in German). Baden-Baden.
^ Kleineberg, Andreas (2010). Kleineberg, Andreas; Marx, Christian;
Knobloch, Eberhard; Lelgemann, Dieter, eds.
Germania und die Insel
Thule. Die Entschlüsselung von Ptolemaios' "Atlas der Oikumene"
Germania and Thule Island. The Decipherment of Ptolemy's Atlas of the
Oikoumene] (in German). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
ISBN 978-3-534-23757-9. OCLC 699749283.
^ Jones, Terry and Alan Ereira (2006), "Terry Jones' Barbarians",
p.97. BBC Books, Ltd., London, ISBN 978-0-563-53916-2.
^ Frederic Austin Ogg. "A Source Book of Medieval History." American
Book Company, New York; pp. 19-21.
^ D. Geuenich, Geschichte der Alemannen, p. 23
Malcolm Todd (1995). The Early Germans. Blackwell Publishing.
Peter S. Wells (2001). Beyond Celts, Germans and Scythians:
Archaeology and Identity in Iron Age Europe. Duckworth
Claudius Ptolemy (1 March 2011) [150 C.E.]. Geography of Claudius
Ptolemy. Translated by Stevenson, Edward Luther. introduction by
Joseph Fischer. Cosimo, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-60520-439-0.
OCLC 800793368. ; see article at Geography (Ptolemy)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Germania.
Look up germania in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Germania (Roman provinces)
1849 Harper New York Map, Ancient Germanic Tribes and Towns
Germania at the Latin Library (text in Latin)
Tacitus' Germania: English translation (Gordon, c.1910, proofed by
Halsall at fordham.edu.)
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