Germanic peoples (also called Teutonic, Suebian, or Gothic in
older literature) are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of
Northern European origin. They are identified by their use of
Germanic languages, which diversified out of
Proto-Germanic during the
Pre-Roman Iron Age.
The term "Germanic" originated in classical times when groups of
tribes living in Lower, Upper, and Greater
Germania were referred to
using this label by Roman scribes. The Roman use of the term
"Germanic" was not necessarily based upon language, but referred to
the tribal groups and alliances that lived in the regions of
modern-day Luxembourg, Belgium, Northern France, Alsace, Poland,
Netherlands and Germany, and which were considered less
civilized and more physically hardened than the Celtic Gauls. Tribes
referred to as "Germanic" by Roman authors generally lived to the
north and east of the Gauls.
The Germanic tribes were chronicled by Rome's historians as having had
a critical impact on the course of Europe's history during the
Roman-Germanic wars, particularly at the historic Battle of the
Teutoburg Forest, where Germanic tribal warriors, under the leadership
Cherusci chieftain Arminius, routed three Roman legions and all
their auxiliaries, which precipitated the Roman Empire's strategic
withdrawal from Magna Germania.
Germanic tribes moving during the
Migration Period included Goths
Ostrogoths and Visigoths), Burgundians, Lombards, Angles, Saxons,
Jutes, Suebi, Alemanni,
Vandals among many others.
Modern ethnic groups descended from the ancient Germanic peoples
include the Afrikaners, Austrians, Danes, Dutch, English, Faroe
Islanders, Flemish, Frisians, Germans, Icelanders, Lowland Scots,
Luxembourgers, Norwegians, and Swedes.
4.2 Early Iron Age
4.5 Collision with Rome
Roman Empire period
4.6.1 Battle of Adrianople
4.7 Migration Period
4.8 Role in the Fall of Rome
4.9 Early Middle Ages
4.10 Post-migration ethnogeneses
7 Later Germanic studies and their influence
8 See also
10.2 Bibliography and further reading
11 External links
Part of a series on
List of Indo-European languages
Phonology: Sound laws, Accent, Ablaut
Old Irish glosses
Alternative and fringe
Paleolithic Continuity Theory
Chalcolithic (Copper Age)
Domestication of the horse
Nordic Bronze Age
Painted Grey Ware
Northern Black Polished Ware
Peoples and societies
Religion and mythology
Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European
Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture
The Horse, the Wheel and Language
Journal of Indo-European Studies
Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch
Indo-European Etymological Dictionary
See also: Germania
Archeological cultures of Northern and
Central Europe in the late
Pre-Roman Iron Age:
Nordic (Germanic) culture
House Urns culture
Balt (Forest Zone) culture
In about 222 BCE, the first use of the Latin term "Germani" appears in
Fasti Capitolini inscription de Galleis Insvbribvs et Germ(aneis).
This may simply be referring to
Gaul or related people; but this may
be an inaccurate date since the inscription was erected in about 18
BCE despite referencing an earlier date. The term Germani shows up
again, allegedly written by
Poseidonios (from 80 BCE), but is merely a
quotation inserted by the author
Athenaios who wrote much later
(around 190 CE). Somewhat later, the first surviving detailed
discussions of Germani and
Germania are those of Julius Caesar, whose
memoirs are based on first-hand experience.
From Caesar's perspective,
Germania was a geographical area of land on
the east bank of the
Rhine opposite Gaul, which Caesar left outside
direct Roman control. This word provides the etymological origin of
the modern concept of "Germanic" languages and
Germany as a
geographical abstraction. For some classical authors
included regions of Sarmatia, as well as an area under Roman control
on the west bank of the Rhine. Additionally, in the south there were
Celtic peoples still living east of the
Rhine and north of the Alps.
Tacitus and others noted differences of culture which could be
found on the east of the Rhine. But the theme of all these cultural
references was that this was a wild and dangerous region, less
civilised than Gaul, a place that required additional military
Caesar used the term Germani for a very specific tribal grouping in
Belgic Gaul, west of the Rhine, the largest part of whom
were the Eburones. He made clear that he was using the name in the
local sense. These are the so-called Germani Cisrhenani, whom Caesar
believed to be closely related to the peoples east of the Rhine, and
descended from immigrants into Gaul.
Tacitus suggests that this was
the original meaning of the word "Germani" – as the name of a single
tribal nation west of the Rhine, ancestral to the
Tungri (who lived in
the same area as the earlier Germani reported by Caesar), and not the
name of a whole race (gens) as it came to mean. He also suggested that
Belgic tribes neighbouring Caesar's Germani, the
the Treveri, liked to call themselves Germanic in his time, in order
not to be associated with
Gaulish indolence. Caesar described this
group of tribes both as
Gauls and as Germani.
associated with Celtic languages, and the term Germani is associated
with Germanic languages, but Caesar did not discuss languages in
detail (though he did say that
Gaul was different from Celtic
Gaul in language). The geographer Ptolemy described the place where
these people lived as Germania, which according to his accounts was
bordered by the Rhine, Vistula and
Danube Rivers, but he also
circumscribed into Greater
Germania an area which included Jutland
(Cimbrian peninsula) and an enormous island known as Scandia (the
While saying that the Germani had ancestry across the Rhine, Caesar
did not describe these tribes as recent immigrants, saying that they
had defended themselves some generations earlier from the invading
Cimbri and Teutones. (He thereby distinguished them from the
neighbouring Aduatuci, whom he did not call Germani, but who were
descended from those
Cimbri and Teutones.) It has been claimed, for
example by Maurits Gysseling, that the place names of this region show
evidence of an early presence of Germanic languages, as early as the
2nd century BCE. The Celtic culture and language were however
clearly influential also, as can be seen in the tribal name of the
Eburones, their kings' names,
Ambiorix and Cativolcus, and also the
material culture of the region.[a]
The etymology of the word Germani is uncertain. The likeliest theory
so far proposed is that it comes from a
Gaulish compound of *ger
"near" + *mani "men", comparable to Welsh ger "near" (prep.), Old
Irish gair "neighbor", Irish gar- (prefix) "near", garach
"neighborly". Another Celtic possibility is that the name meant
"noisy"; cf. Breton/Cornish garm "shout", Irish gairm "call".
However, here the vowel does not match, nor does the vowel length
(contrast with inscriptional Garmangabi (UK) and Garma Alise, G-257)).
Others have proposed a Germanic etymology *gēr-manni, "spear men",
Middle Dutch ghere,
Old High German
Old High German Ger,
Old Norse geirr.
However, the form gēr (from PGmc *gaizaz) seems far too advanced
phonetically for the 1st century, has a long vowel where a short one
is expected, and the Latin form has a simplex -n-, not a geminate.
The term Germani, therefore, probably applied to a small group of
tribes in northeastern
Gaul who may or may not have spoken a Germanic
language, and whose links to
Germania are unclear. It appears that the
Germanic tribes did not have a word to describe themselves, although
the word Suebi, used by Caesar to broadly classify Germanic speakers,
was likely Germanic in origin.[b] They did however use the term walhaz
to describe outsiders (mainly Celts, Romans and Greeks). Roman
authors frequently employed the term "barbarian" from the Latin
derivative barbarus (inherited from the Greek barbaros which means
"foreign") when describing Germanic peoples. Such a term presupposed a
distinctive Roman intellectual and cultural superiority and their
ethnographic treatises on the various "barbarian" tribes ascribed
specific attributes of barbarism to each one so as to delineate the
dichotomy between barbarism and civilization. The more the Romans
increased their presence along the periphery of their Empire, the more
trade and employment for the "barbarians" became available, resulting
in an economic boom along the corridors of the
Danube River, which
subsequently increased the Roman focus upon the Germanic peoples.
Use of the modern term German or Germanic is the result of 18th and
19th century classical philology which "envisioned the Germanic
language group as occupying a central branch of the Indo-European
Further information: German language, Theodiscus, and Teutonic
Latin scholars of the 10th century used the adjective teutonicus (a
derivative of Teutones) when referencing East Francia, which in their
vernacular was connoted "Regnum Teutonicum", for that area and all of
its subsequent inhabitants. Modern speakers of English still use the
word "Teutons" to describe Germanic peoples. Historically, the
Teutones were only one specific tribe, and may not even have spoken a
Germanic language. For example, some scholars postulate that the
original Teutonic language may have been a form of Celtic. The
source of this confusion, whereby
Teutons are lumped into the same
category as German-speaking tribes, comes from their contact with the
Romans in the 2nd century BCE, when they, along with the
the Ambrones, led a frightening attack against the Romans. Teuton was
the byword the Romans applied to the barbarians from the north and
which they used to describe subsequent Germanic peoples. Under the
leadership of Gaius Marius, who built his career on barbarian
antagonists (like many who followed), the
Teutones became one of the
archetypal enemies of the Roman Empire.
One proposed theory for approximate distribution of the primary
Germanic dialect groups in Europe around the year 1 CE:
North Sea Germanic
North Sea Germanic (Ingvaeonic)
Rhine Germanic, (Istvaeonic)
Elbe Germanic (Irminonic)
By the 1st century CE, the writings of Pomponius Mela, Pliny the
Tacitus indicate a division of Germanic-speaking peoples
into large groupings who shared ancestry and culture. This division
has been appropriated in modern terminology describing the divisions
of Germanic languages.
Tacitus, in his Germania, wrote that
In their ancient songs, their only way of remembering or recording the
past, they celebrate an earth-born god, Tuisco, and his son Mannus, as
the origin of their race, as their founders. To
Mannus they assign
three sons, from whose names, they say, the coast tribes are called
Ingævones; those of the interior, Herminones; all the rest,
Tacitus also specifies that the Suevi are a very large grouping, with
many tribes within it, with their own names. The largest, he says, is
the Semnones, the
Langobardi are fewer, but living surrounded by
warlike peoples, and in remoter and better defended areas live the
Reudigni, Aviones, Anglii, Varini, Eudoses, the Suardones, and
Pliny the Elder, on the other hand, names five races of
Germans in his
Historia Naturalis, not three, by distinguishing the two more
easterly blocks of Germans, the
Vandals and further east the
Bastarnae, who were the first to reach the
Black Sea and come into
contact with Greek civilization. He is also slightly more specific
about the position of the Istvaeones, though he also does not name any
examples of them:
There are five German races; the Vandili, parts of whom are the
Burgundiones, the Varini, the Carini, and the Gutones: the Ingævones,
forming a second race, a portion of whom are the Cimbri, the Teutoni,
and the tribes of the Chauci. The Istævones, who join up to the
Rhine, and to whom the
Cimbri [sic, repeated] belong, are the third
race; while the Hermiones, forming a fourth, dwell in the interior,
and include the Suevi, the Hermunduri, the Chatti, the Cherusci, [c]
and the Peucini, who are also the Basternæ, adjoining the Daci.
Varini are listed by
Tacitus as being in the Suebic or
Hermionic group by Tacitus, above, but by Pliny in the eastern
Vandalic or Gothic group, so the two accounts do not match perfectly.
These accounts and others from the period often emphasise that the
Suebi and their Hermione kin formed an especially large and mobile
nation, which at the time were living mainly near the Elbe, both east
and west of it, but they were also moving westwards into the lands
near the Roman frontier.
Pomponius Mela in his slightly earlier
Description of the World places "the farthest people of Germania,
the Hermiones" somewhere to the east of the
Cimbri and the Teutones,
and further from Rome, apparently on the Baltic.
Suebi as going through a period where they were pushed
back east by the Romans, in the direction from which they had come:
the nation of the Suevi is the most considerable, as it extends from
Rhine as far as the Elbe, and even a part of them, as the
Hermonduri and the Langobardi, inhabit the country beyond the Elbe;
but at the present time these tribes, having been defeated, have
retired entirely beyond the Elbe.
By the end of the 5th century the term "Gothic" was used more
generally in the historical sources for Pliny's "Vandals" to the east
of the Elbe, including not only the
Goths and Vandals, but also "the
Gepids along the Tisza and the Danube, the Rugians, Sciri and
Burgundians, even the Iranian Alans."
Further information: Germanic substrate hypothesis, Proto-Germanic,
and Spread of Indo-European languages
Linguists postulate that an early proto-Germanic language existed and
was distinguishable from the other
Indo-European languages as far back
as 500 BCE. The earliest known Germanic inscription was found at
Negau (in what is now southern Austria) on a bronze helmet dating back
to the first century BCE. Some of the other earliest known
physical records of the Germanic language appear on stone and wood
Runic script from around 200 CE.
Runic writing likely
disappeared due to the concerted opposition of the Christian Church,
which regarded runic text as heathen symbols which supposedly
contained inherent magical properties that they associated with the
Germanic peoples' pagan past. Unfortunately, this primitive view
ignores the abundance of "pious runic writing found on church-related
objects" (ranging from inscriptions in the doorways of churches, on
church bells and even those found on baptismal fonts) when
Christianity was introduced into the Germanic North.[d] An
important linguistic step was made by the Christian convert Ulfilas,
who became a bishop to the
Visigoths in CE 341; he subsequently
invented an alphabet and translated the scriptures from Greek into
Gothic, creating the earliest known translation of the
Bible into a
From what is known, the early Germanic tribes may have spoken
"mutually intelligible dialects" derived from a common parent language
but there are no written records to verify this fact. Despite their
common linguistic framework, by the 5th century CE, the Germanic
people were linguistically differentiated and could no longer easily
comprehend one another. Nonetheless, the line between Germanic
languages and Romance speakers in central Europe remained at the
western mouth of the
Rhine river and while
Gaul fell under German
domination and was firmly settled by the Franks, the linguistic
patterns did not move much. Further west and south in Europe-proper,
the linguistic presence of the
Germanic languages is almost
negligible. Despite the fact that the
Visigoths ruled what is now
Spain for upwards of 250 years, there are almost no recognizable
Gothic words borrowed into Spanish.
The Germanic tribes moved and interacted over the next centuries, and
separate dialects among
Germanic languages developed down to the
present day. Some groups, such as the Suebians, have a continuous
recorded existence, and so there is a reasonable confidence that their
modern dialects can be traced back to those in classical times. By
extension, but sometimes controversially, the names of the sons of
Mannus, Istvaeones, Irminones, and Ingvaeones, are also sometimes used
to divide up the medieval and modern West Germanic languages. The
more easterly groups such as the
Vandals are thought to have been
united in the use of
East Germanic languages, the most famous of which
is Gothic. The dialect of the Germanic people who remained in
Scandinavia is not generally called Ingvaeonic, but is classified as
North Germanic, which developed into Old Norse. Within the West
Germanic group, linguists associate the Suebian or Hermionic group
with an "Elbe Germanic" which developed into Upper German, including
More speculatively, given the lack of any such clear explanation in
any classical source, modern linguists sometimes designate the
Frankish language (and its descendant Dutch) as Istvaeonic, although
the geographical term "Weser-
Rhine Germanic" is often preferred.
However, the classical "Germani" near the Rhine, to whom the term was
originally applied by Caesar, may not have even spoken Germanic
languages, let alone a language recognizably ancestral to modern
Dutch. The close relatives of Dutch, Low German,
Frisian, are in fact sometimes designated as Ingvaeonic, or
alternatively, "North-Sea Germanic". And Frankish, (and later Dutch,
Luxembourgish and the Frankish dialects of German in Germany) have
continuously been intelligible to some extent with both "Ingvaeonic"
Low German, and some "Suebian" High German dialects, with which they
form a spectrum of continental dialects. All these dialects or
languages appear to have formed by the mixing of migrating peoples
after the time of Caesar. So it is not clear if these medieval dialect
divisions correspond to any mentioned by
Tacitus and Pliny. Indeed, in
Tacitus (Tac. Ger. 40) and in Claudius Ptolemy's Geography, the
Anglii, ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons, are designated as being a
By CE 500 west Germanic speakers had apparently developed a distinct
language continuum with extensive loaning from Latin (due to their
ongoing contact with the Romans), whereas the east Germanic languages
were dying out.[e] West
Germanic languages include: German, Yiddish,
Dutch, Luxemburgish, Frisian, and English. These combined West
Germanic languages are spoken as a primary tongue by more than 450
million people today. North
Germanic languages are Swedish,
Danish, Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic. Only a mere 20 million
people or so currently speak the North
Germanic languages as their
native tongue. Later manifestations of the western Germanic
languages and their pursuant typological characteristics are due in
part to the activities of the
Hanseatic League where trade
necessitated a lingua franca from the mainland of
along the navigable shores of the North Sea, and within the Baltic
Map of the Nordic
Bronze Age culture, around 1200 BCE
The gilded side of the Trundholm sun chariot
The Dejbjerg wagon, National Museum of Denmark
Indo-European migrations and Nordic Bronze Age
Archaeological and linguistic evidence from a period known as the
Bronze Age indicates that a common material culture existed
between the Germanic tribes that inherited the southern regions of
Scandinavia, along with the
Schleswig-Holstein area and the area of
what is now Hamburg, Germany. Additional archaeological
remnants from the
Iron Age society that once existed in nearby
Wessenstedt also show traces of this culture. Exactly how these
cultures interacted remains a mystery but the migrations of early
Germanic peoples are discernible from the remaining evidence of
prehistoric cultures in Hügelgräber, Urnfield, and La Tene. Climatic
change between 850 BCE to 760 BCE in
Scandinavia and "a later and more
rapid one around 650 BCE might have triggered migrations to the coast
Germany and further toward the Vistula.
The cultural phase of the late
Bronze Age and early
Iron Age in Europe
(c. 1200–600 BCE in temperate continental areas), known in
contemporary terms as the
Hallstatt culture expanded from the south
into this area and brought the early
Germanic peoples under the
influence of early Celtic (or pre Celtic) culture between 1200 BCE to
600 BCE, whereupon they began extracting bog iron from the available
ore in peat bogs. This ushered in the Pre-Roman Iron Age.
Stretching from central
France all the way to western Hungary and then
from the Alps to central Poland, the
Hallstatt culture also
constructed sophisticated structures and the archaeological remains
across parts of France,
Germany and Hungary suggest their trade
networks along the North Atlantic,
Baltic Sea and up and down central
Europe's river valleys were fairly elaborate as well.
Early Iron Age
Further information: Pre-Roman Iron Age
The earliest sites at which
Germanic peoples per se have been
documented are in Northern Europe, in what now constitutes the plains
Denmark and southern Sweden. However, in even this region, the
population had been, according to Waldman & Mason, "remarkably
stable" – as far back as the Neolithic Age, when humans first began
controlling their environment through the use of agriculture and the
domestication of animals. Given this stability, the population of
the region necessarily preceded the arrival in Europe of the
precursors of the
Germanic languages – which most likely began with
the Corded Ware culture.
During the 2nd millennium BCE, the so-called Nordic
Bronze Age culture
expanded eastward into the adjacent regions between the estuaries of
the Elbe and Oder rivers.
As early as 750 BCE, archeological evidence gives the impression that
the proto-Germanic population was becoming more uniform in its
culture. As this population grew, it migrated south-west, into
coastal floodplains due to the exhaustion of the soil in its original
By approximately 250 BCE, additional expansion further southwards into
central Europe had begun to take place and five general groups of
Germanic people emerged, each employing distinct linguistic dialects
but sharing similar language innovations — they are distinguished
from one another as: North Germanic in southern Scandinavia; North Sea
Germanic in the regions along the
North Sea and in the Jutland
peninsula NW Europe, which forms the mainland of
Denmark together with
the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein; Rhine-
along the middle
Weser river (which empties into the North
Sea near Bremerhaven);
Elbe Germanic spoken by the people living
directly along the middle Elbe river; and
East Germanic between the
middle of the Oder and the Vistula rivers.[g]
Concomitantly, during the 2nd century BCE the advent of the Celtic
La Tene arose in nearby territories further
west but the interactions between the early Germanic people and the
Celts is thought to have been minimal based on the linguistic
evidence. Despite the absence of the Celtic influence further
eastwards, there are a number of Celtic loanwords in Proto-Germanic,
which at the very least indicates contact between the people of Gaul
and the early Germanic cultures that resided along the Rhine
river. Nonetheless, material objects such as metal ornaments and
pottery found near the areas east of the lower
Rhine are connoted as
Jastorf in nomenclature and are characteristically distinguishable
from the Celtic objects found further west.
It is not clear if the first occurrence of the term Germani in Roman
ethnography is either a reference to Germanic or Celtic according to
modern linguists, but it is probable that the clear geographic
demarcation appearing between the two peoples may have been made for
the sake of political convenience by Caesar. Caesar described some
tribes more distinctly than others but generally considered most of
them as being from Germanic stock. However, the archaeological
evidence in some of the regions creates an ethnographic problem in
clearly delineating the indigenous people based strictly on Roman
classification. Nonetheless, there are scholars who assert that there
was an eventual linguistic "Germanization" that occurred during the
1st century BCE through something they call the "elite-dominance"
model. Archaeologists are unable to make definitive judgments
which accord the observations of the Roman writer Tacitus. Enough
cultural absorption between the various Germanic people occurred that
geographically defining the extent of pre-Roman Germanic territory is
nearly impossible from a classification standpoint.
Some recognizable trends in the archaeological records exist, as it is
known that, generally speaking, western Germanic people while still
migratory, were more geographically settled, whereas the eastern
Germanics remained transitory for a longer period. Three
settlement patterns and solutions come to the fore, the first of which
is the establishment of an agricultural base in a region which allowed
them to support larger populations; second, the Germanic peoples
periodically cleared forests to extend the range of their pasturage;
thirdly (and the most frequent occurrence), they often emigrated to
other areas as they exhausted the immediately available resources.
War and conquest followed as the Germanic people migrated bringing
them into direct conflict with the
Celts who were forced to either
Germanize or migrate elsewhere as a result. West Germanic people
eventually settled in central Europe and became more accustomed to
agriculture and it is the various western Germanic people that are
described by Caesar and Tacitus. Meanwhile, the eastern Germanic
people continued their migratory habits. Roman writers
characteristically organized and classified people and it may very
well have been deliberate on their part to recognize the tribal
distinctions of the various Germanic people so as to pick out known
leaders and exploit these differences for their benefit. For the most
part however, these early Germanic people shared a basic culture,
operated similarly from an economic perspective, and were not nearly
as differentiated as the Romans implied. In fact, the Germanic tribes
are hard to distinguish from the
Celts on many accounts simply based
on archaeological records.
One of the earliest known written records of the Germanic world in
classical times was in the lost work of
Pytheas (fl.). It is believed
Pytheas traveled to northern Europe c. 325 BCE, and his
observations about the geographical environment, traditions and
culture of the northern European populations became a central source
of information for later historians - often the only source.[h]
Authors such as Strabo, Pliny and
Pytheas in disbelief,
although Pytheas' observations appear to have been accurate. Though
Pytheas was not the first
Mediterranean to explore those lands (note
Himilco (5th century BCE), and possibly Phoenicians and
Tartessians (c. 6th century BCE), his became the first substantial
surviving description of these populations. Much of the Germanic
peoples' early history enters into view through Pytheas, particularly
since he was also possibly the first to distinguish the Germanoi
people of northern and central Europe as distinct from the Keltoi
people further west. Along with the records of a couple of
other classical writers (namely
Polybius (2nd century BCE) and
Posidonius (c. 135 BCE – c. 51 BCE), the work of
Pytheas on the
Celts and early
Germans influenced scores of future geographers,
historians and ethnographers.
Migrations of the
Cimbri and the
Teutons (late 2nd century BCE) and
their war with
Rome (113–101 BCE)
Main article: Bastarnae
An early Germanic people known as the
Bastarnae were identified by
Roman authors and were allegedly the first to reach the Graeco-Roman
world, living in the area north of the Danube's mouth in the Black
Sea. They resided primarily in the territory east of the Carpathian
Mountains between the
Dniester River valley and the delta of the
Danube in what is now the Ukraine,
Romania and are
considered the easternmost of the Germanic tribes. The Bastarnae
are mentioned in historical sources going back as far as the 3rd
century BCE all the way through the 4th century CE. In 201–202
BCE, the Macedonians under the leadership of King Philip V,
Bastarnae as soldiers to fight against the Romans in
the Second Macedonian War. They remained a presence in that area
until late in the Roman empire while some settled on Peuce Island at
the mouth of the
Danube on the
Black Sea which is why the name Peucini
is also associated with the Bastarnae. King Perseus enlisted the
service of the
Bastarnae in 171–168 BCE to fight the Third
Macedonian War. By 29 BCE, they were subdued by the Romans and those
that remained began merging with various tribes of
Goths into the
second century CE.
Sometime in CE 250, the Gothic king Kniva employed the assistance of
the Bastarnae, Carpi, various Goths, and the Taifali when he
eventually laid siege to Philippopolis; he followed this victory up
with another on the marshy terrain at Abrittus, a battle which cost
the life of a Roman emperor and inaugurated a series of consecutive
barbarian invasions of the northern Balkans and Asia Minor.
Historian Thomas Burns references the
Bastarnae but only as an aside
from the Latin poet Claudian, claiming that they were among "the
oldest of the various Scythian people". Burns further elaborates
in stating that there are no "specific references" to the Bastarnae
and that remarks about them by
Claudian and later third century
writers "must give us pause" for the mention of such people might
merely have been a "convenient poetic device." Historian Peter
Heather disagrees with this position and identifies the
one of the Germanic tribes and asserts that they once "dominated
substantial tracts of territory at the mouth of the Danube." Along
similar lines, the late classical scholar, Theodor Mommsen, recognized
Bastarnae and placed them in the geographic regions of Moldavia
Bessarabia during the reign of Tiberius.[i] This is the same
Tacitus placed them. Another historian of antiquity,
J. B. Bury, counted the
Bastarnae along with the Goths, Vandals,
Gepids, Burgundians, Lombards, Rugians, Heruls and Sciri among the
eastern Germanic peoples. Sometime during the 4th or 5th century
Bastarnae were defeated by the Huns, ending their regional
Collision with Rome
Main article: Germanic Wars
Roman limes and modern central European boundaries.
Late in the 2nd century BCE, Roman sources recount the migrating
Germanic people of Gaul,
Hispania who invaded areas
considered part of Imperial Rome. Unsurprisingly, this cultural
confrontation resulted in war between the
Roman Republic and the
Germanic tribes; particularly those of the
Roman Consul under Gaius
Cimbri crossed into Norticum (Austria) in 113 BCE
looking for food and usable land when they confronted and defeated a
Roman army. A combined force of Cimbri[j] and
Teutoni squared off
against additional armies from
Rome in 109 and 105 BCE, vanquishing
them in the process. Their further incursions into Roman Italy
were thrust back in 101 BCE at Vercellae by the Roman army. These
earlier invasions were written up by Caesar and others as presaging of
a Northern danger for the Roman Republic, a danger that should be
Julius Caesar describes the Germani and their customs in his
Commentarii de Bello Gallico, though it is still a matter of debate if
he refers to Northern Celtic tribes or clearly identified Germanic
[The Germani] have neither
Druids to preside over sacred offices, nor
do they pay great regard to sacrifices. They rank in the number of the
gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they
are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon; they
have not heard of the other deities even by report. Their whole life
is occupied in hunting and in the pursuits of the military art; from
childhood they devote themselves to fatigue and hardships. Those who
have remained chaste for the longest time, receive the greatest
commendation among their people; they think that by this the growth is
promoted, by this the physical powers are increased and the sinews are
strengthened. And to have had knowledge of a woman before the
twentieth year they reckon among the most disgraceful acts; of which
matter there is no concealment, because they bathe promiscuously in
the rivers and [only] use skins or small cloaks of deer's hides, a
large portion of the body being in consequence naked.
They do not pay much attention to agriculture, and a large portion of
their food consists in milk, cheese, and flesh; nor has any one a
fixed quantity of land or his own individual limits; but the
magistrates and the leading men each year apportion to the tribes and
families, who have united together, as much land as, and in the place
in which, they think proper, and the year after compel them to remove
elsewhere. For this enactment they advance many reasons-lest seduced
by long-continued custom, they may exchange their ardor in the waging
of war for agriculture; lest they may be anxious to acquire extensive
estates, and the more powerful drive the weaker from their
possessions; lest they construct their houses with too great a desire
to avoid cold and heat; lest the desire of wealth spring up, from
which cause divisions and discords arise; and that they may keep the
common people in a contented state of mind, when each sees his own
means placed on an equality with [those of] the most powerful.[k]
Tacitus described the Germanic people as ethnically uniform or
"unmixed" with "a distinct character" and he even generalized them by
claiming that "a family likeness pervades the whole." He also reported
that their eyes were "stern and blue" and they had "ruddy hair" with
"large bodies" that rendered them capable of "powerful exertions."
This image portrayed them as a fearsome people deserving Rome's
attention. Caesar was wary of these "barbaric" people of
invoked the threat of expansions such as that by Ariovistus'
justification for his brutal campaigns to annex
58–51 BCE. Both
Ariovistus and another notable Germanic warrior
Maroboduus attempted to rule their warrior-based empires in
autocratic fashion but were killed by the treachery of other
warrior-nobles who strove for their own glory.
An intense Roman militarization, greater than ever before, was begun
under Caesar to deal with the barbarian tribes along the frontier —
particularly since he feared that the Celtic
the Germanic people would not be able to defend themselves. One
major Celtic people who were forced from their homeland in modern
Germany and Bohemia were the Boii, a migration which had
major impacts on
Rome and many other peoples. Later, Caesar's
attention in 58 BCE was drawn to the movements of the Boii's old
neighbours the Helvetii, another population group forced into Gaul
from the direction of modern southwest
Germany and western
Switzerland.[l] When the
Gaulish Arverni and Sequani elicited
assistance from the Germanic
Suebi (who came to them from east of the
Rhine into Gaul) against their Aedui enemies in 71 BCE, the Suebi
essentially remained in situ and were able to expand further into the
territory along the periphery of the Roman frontier. Meanwhile, Celtic
culture and influence in
Gaul began to wane during the first century
BCE as a result.
Roman expansion along the
Danube rivers resulted in the
incorporation of many indigenous Celtic societies into the Roman
Empire. Lands to the north and east of the
Rhine emerge in the Roman
records under the name Germania. Population groups from this area had
a complex relationship with Rome; sometimes the peoples of Germania
were at war with Rome, but at times they established trade relations,
symbiotic military alliances, and cultural exchanges with one
another. Nevertheless, the Romans made concerted efforts to divide
the Germanic tribes when the opportunity presented itself, encouraging
intertribal rivalry so as to diminish the threat of an otherwise
formidable enemy. Over the following centuries, the Romans
sometimes intervened, but often took advantage as their neighbors
slaughtered one another using Roman-influenced techniques of war. More
instances of Germani fighting Germani appear in the works of Tacitus
than between Romans and Germani. But it was Caesar's wars against
the Germanic people that helped establish and solidify the use of the
term Germania. The initial purpose of the Roman military campaigns was
to protect Trans-Alpine
Gaul from further incursions of the Germanic
tribes by controlling the area between the
Rhine and the Elbe.
Roman Empire period
Further information: Roman Iron Age
In the Augustean period there was—as a result of Roman activity as
far as the Elbe River—a first definition of the "
Danube rivers in the West and South to the Vistula
Baltic Sea in the East and North. In 9 CE, a revolt of their
Germanic subjects headed by the supposed Roman ally, Arminius, (along
with his decisive defeat of
Publius Quinctilius Varus
Publius Quinctilius Varus and the
destruction of 3 Roman legions in the surprise attack on the Romans at
the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest) ended in the withdrawal of the
Roman frontier to the Rhine. Occupying
Germany had proven too costly
and with it, ended 28 years of Roman campaigning across the North
European plains. At the end of the 1st century, two provinces west
Germania inferior and
Germania superior were
established by the Emperor Domitian, having previously been military
districts, "so as to separate this more militarized zone from the
civilian populations farther west and south". Important medieval
cities like Aachen, Cologne, Trier, Mainz, Worms and
Speyer were part
of these two "militarized" Roman provinces.
Roman map of
Germania in the early 2nd century
Germania by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, an ethnographic work on the
diverse group of Germanic tribes outside of the Roman Empire, is our
most important source on the
Germanic peoples of the 1st century.
Germanic expansions during early Roman times are known only generally,
but it is clear that the forebears of the
Goths were settled on the
southern Baltic shore by 100 CE. According to historian Thomas Burns,
major hostilities between the external
Germanic peoples of the north
Rome did not commence in "earnest" until the reign of
98—117), who used the "full weight of Roman might" to attack the
In the absence of large-scale political unification, such as that
imposed forcibly by the Romans upon the peoples of Italy, the various
tribes remained free, led by their own hereditary or chosen leaders.
Rome faced significant threats on its borders, some of the
Germanic tribes who once guarded its periphery chose solace within the
Roman empire itself, implying that enough assimilation and
cross-cultural pollination had occurred for their societies not only
to cooperate, but to live together in some cases. The 4th century
Gothic Tervingi are most famous among scholars of classical
pre-modern Europe because the majority of them sought asylum inside
the heart of the
Roman Empire in 376 CE.[m]
By the middle to late second century CE, migrating Germanic tribes
Marcomanni and Quadi pushed their way to the Roman frontier
Danube corridor, movements of people which resulted in
conflicts known as the Marcomannic Wars; these conflicts ended in
approximately CE 180. Not long thereafter, larger confederations
of Germanic people appeared, groups led by tribal leaders acting as
would-be kings. The first of these conglomerations mentioned in the
historical sources were the
Alamanni (a term meaning "all men") who
appear in Roman texts sometime in the 3rd century CE. This change
indicated that the tribalism of the Germanic people was being
abandoned for consolidated rule. Meanwhile,
Rome adapted itself due to
the arrival of the Germanic tribes. Emperor
Severus Alexander was
killed by his own soldiers in CE 235 for example (for negotiating
peace with the tribes of
Germania through diplomacy and bribery
against the wishes of his men) and the general Maximin elected in his
place. Maximin was himself not Roman but was ethnically the child of a
Germanic Alan and a Goth.
Military expediency trumped aristocratic
privilege when it came to securing the Empire and a series of
professional military emperors followed as a result.
Around CE 238, the
Goths make their first clear impact on Roman
history, having moved from the Baltic sea to the area of the modern
Ukraine. And sometime in CE 251, they defeated a Roman army in the
Balkans, killing the emperor Decius in the process. Close to the same
time that the
Goths were fighting the Romans in the Baltics, there is
also the first mention of the
Franks around CE 250. Perennial
internal conflicts among several successive emperors of both the
eastern and western Empire during the 4th century CE resulted in civil
wars and damaged the overall quality of the Roman army; the fighting
also depleted the elite from within their officer corps. To compensate
for their losses the Romans recruited inferior untried Roman civilians
and sought replacements from across the frontier region by militarily
proficient barbarian troops, a development which further strengthened
the position of the Germanic peoples. Attempting to control the
periphery of the Roman empire meant finding innovative ways of dealing
with the Germanic people, so the Romans enlisted them as foederati
(federates) and by the late fourth century, the majority of the Roman
military was made up of Germanic warriors. Federating whole tribes of
Germanic people into the Empire marked a whole new phase of
encroachment and facilitated the fragmentation of
Rome from within its
Among the Romans, the Germanic presence in the military was so
extensive for example, that the word barbarus became a synonym for
"soldier" and the imperial budget of the military was known as the
ficus barbarus. Barbarians (Germanics) composed the mobile army of
emperor Constantine with many of them, particularly the more organized
ones like the
Franks and Alamanni, reaching levels of high command. An
example of such prominence shows in the fact that in CE 350 the
Frankish general Silvanus was the high military commander of Gaul.
Warriors and leaders among the
Germanic peoples had an advantage over
their Roman counterparts as they knew and could dexterously traverse
both worlds, whereas the Romans despised 'barbarian' culture and
customs and were unable to secure trust amid the Germanic soldiers on
their payrolls. In this way, the ethnic and regional ties within the
evolving bureaucratic Roman-Germanic world began to favor the
Roman Britannia was contemporaneously under constant threat during the
3rd and 4th centuries CE by northern Picts as well as the Germanic
Saxons who sailed from north of
Gaul to the eastern coast of the
British Isles. Late in CE 367, the Roman garrisons in Britannia
collapsed as the Germanic barbarians poured into the region from all
directions. Attempting to permanently reestablish control on
Britannia, the emperor Valentinian sent an experienced Roman commander
who was able to beat the invaders back after a year-long war and gain
control of Londonium, but it was a Pyrrhic victory, for the Germanic
invaders had burned down standing settlements, ravaged cities on the
isles, interrupted trade and annihilated entire Roman garrisons.
By the middle of the 5th century, the Picts, Scots and Anglo-Saxons
began to dominate the once Roman Britannia.
Battle of Adrianople
Further information: Battle of Adrianople
During the fourth and fifth centuries CE Roman emperors did their best
to stave off the advance of the Germanic tribes. While the rulers in
the Eastern Empire were able to endure the frequent clashes without
serious consequences to their territorial dominion, this was not the
case in the Western Empire. For upwards of two centuries, the Roman
emperors fought and confined the Germanic tribes to Rhine-Danube
frontier and in far-away Britain, but all that changed in CE 378 when
Visigoths destroyed as much as two-thirds of the Roman army of the
East under emperor Valens. Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus
referred to the damage inflicted by the Germanic tribes at Adrianople
as an "irreparable disaster" and ended his account of Roman history
with this battle. Subsequent historians like Sir
Edward Gibbon (among
others) ascribe a similar significance to this event and call the
Battle of Adrianople
Battle of Adrianople a watershed moment between the ancient world and
the medieval one that followed; for not only did this battle reveal
Rome's weakness to the Germanic tribes and inspire them accordingly,
never again were they to leave Roman soil. Evidence of the trauma
suffered at the hands of the ransacking
Visigoths shows up in the
writings of the former bishop of Milan, Ambrose, who wrote about
melting down golden church plates early in his episcopate so as to
help the victims of the calamity at Adrianople.
Further information: Migration Period
2nd century to 5th century simplified migrations
Before considering the later migration of various
Germanic peoples in
the 5th century, it is worth noting that the first recorded great
migration of a Germanic tribe occurred sometime at the end of the 2nd
century when the
Goths left the lower Vistula for the shores of the
Black Sea. For the next couple hundred years, the restless Goths
were a menace to the Roman Empire. Between the 2nd and 4th
Goths slowly filtered deeper into the south and
eastwards, making their way to what is now Kiev in
Rome in the process. The arrival of the nomadic Huns
Black Sea corridor in CE 375 further accelerated the Goth's
exodus across the Roman border. Germanic people from the northern
coasts of Europe had been making their way into Britain for several
centuries before the larger-scale incursions took place.
By the 5th century CE, the Western
Roman Empire was losing military
strength and political cohesion; numerous Germanic peoples, under
pressure from population growth and invading Asian groups, began
migrating en masse in far and diverse directions, taking them to Great
Britain and far south through present day
Continental Europe to the
Mediterranean and northern Africa. Over time, this wandering meant
intrusions into other tribal territories, and the ensuing wars for
land escalated with the dwindling amount of unoccupied territory.
Roaming tribes of Germanic people then began staking out permanent
homes as a means of protection. Much of this resulted in fixed
settlements from which many, under a powerful leader, expanded
outwards. Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and
Lombards made their way into
Italy; Vandals, Burgundians, Franks, and
Visigoths conquered much of
Visigoths also pushed into Spain; Vandals
additionally made it into North Africa; the
Alamanni established a
strong presence in the middle
Rhine and Alps. In
Jutes merged with the Danes, in
Gutes merged with
the Swedes. In England, the
Angles merged with the
Saxons and other
groups (notably the Jutes), as well as absorbing some natives, to form
Saxons (later known as the English). Essentially -
Roman civilization was overrun by these variants of Germanic peoples
during the 5th century.
A direct result of the Roman retreat was the disappearance of imported
products like ceramics and coins, and a return to virtually unchanged
Iron Age production methods. According to recent views this has
caused confusion for decades, and theories assuming the total
abandonment of the coastal regions to account for an archaeological
time gap that never existed have been renounced. Instead, it has been
confirmed that the Frisian graves had been used without interruption
between the 4th and 9th centuries and that inhabited areas show
continuity with the Roman period in revealing coins, jewellery and
ceramics of the 5th century. Also, people continued to live in the
same three-aisled farmhouse, while to the east completely new types of
buildings arose. More to the south in Belgium, archaeological evidence
from this period indicates immigration from the north.
Role in the Fall of Rome
Europe in 476 with Germanic kingdoms and tribes distributed throughout
Map depicting the Germanic kingdoms of Europe in 526 and the Eastern
Some of the Germanic tribes are frequently credited in popular
depictions of the decline of the
Roman Empire in the late 5th century.
Professional historians and archaeologists have since the 1950s
shifted their interpretations in such a way that the Germanic peoples
are no longer seen as invading a decaying empire but as being co-opted
into helping defend territory the central government could no longer
adequately administer.[n] Germanic tribes nonetheless fought against
Roman dominance when necessary. When the
Roman Empire refused to allow
Visigoths to settle in Noricum for instance, they responded by
Rome in CE 410 under the leadership of Alaric I. Oddly
Alaric I did not see his imposition in
Rome as an attack
Roman Empire per se but as an attempt to gain a favorable
position within its borders, particularly since the
Visigoths held the
Empire in high regard.
Alaric certainly had no intentions to destroy the great city which was
symbolic of Roman power, but he needed to pay his army and the spoils
of the city not only afforded the ability to do that, its wealth made
him "the richest general in the empire." For the next year,
Alaric extracted vast sums from the city; this included 5,000 pounds
of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 5,000 pounds of oriental pepper,
gilded statues from the Forum, and even the one-ton solid silver dome
which Constantine once placed over the baptismal basin next to the
Lateran basilica. Not only was Alaric able to bleed Rome, he also
established a Gothic confederation consisting of Theruingian and
Greuthungic peoples, and he played the eastern and western Roman
Empires off against one another for his benefit.
At about the same time Alaric was sacking the Empire's capital, there
was a Roman exodus from the British Isles, a departure which provided
Saxons the opportunity to occupy and control
the eastern coastlands of Britain, the southern regions of Sussex, and
move into the valley of the Thames. While Germanic tribes overran
the once western Roman provinces, they also continued to strive for
regional ascendancy closer to Rome's center; meanwhile the threat
along the periphery from the
Huns created additional difficulties for
Individuals and small groups from Germanic tribes had long been
recruited from the territories beyond the limes (i.e., the regions
just outside the Roman Empire), and some of them had risen high in the
command structure of the army. The
Danube provided the bulk
of geographic separation for the Roman limes. On one side of the limes
stood 'Latin' Europe, law, Roman order, prosperous trading markets,
towns and everything that constituted modern civilization for that
era; while on the other side stood barbarism, technical backwardness,
illiteracy and a tribal society of fierce warriors. Then the
Empire recruited entire tribal groups under their native leaders as
military officers. Historian Evangelos Chrysos claims the implications
concerning the recruitment of the 'barbarians' into the Roman army
during the migration period were enormous and relates that it
"offered them experience of how the imperial army was organized, how
the government arranged the military and functional logistics of their
involvement as soldiers or officers and how it administered their
practical life, how the professional expertise and the social values
of the individual soldier were cultivated in the camp and on the
battlefield, how the ideas about the state and its objectives were to
be implemented by men in uniform, how the Empire was composed and how
it functioned at an administrative level. This knowledge of and
experience with the Romans opened to individual members of the gentes
a path which, once taken, would lead them to more or less substantial
affiliation or even solidarity with the Roman world. To take an
example from the economic sphere: The service in the Roman army
introduced the individual or corporate members into the monetary
system of the Empire since quite a substantial part of their salary
was paid to them in cash. With money in their hands the "guests" were
by necessity exposed to the possibility of taking part in the economic
system, of becoming accustomed to the rules of the wide market, of
absorbing the messages of or reacting to the imperial propaganda
passed to the citizens through the legends on the coins. In addition
the goods offered in the markets influenced and transformed the
newcomers' food and aesthetic tastes and their cultural horizon.
Furthermore Roman civilitas was an attractive goal for every
individual wishing to succeed in his social advancement."
Assisting with defense eventually shifted into administration and then
outright rule, as Roman government passed into the hands of Germanic
Odoacer (who commanded the German mercenaries in Italy)
deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the West in CE
Odoacer ruled from
Rome and Ravenna, restored the Colosseum
and assigned seats to senatorial dignitaries as part of the process of
consolidating his rule. The presence of successor states
controlled by a nobility from one of the Germanic tribes is evident in
the 6th century – even in Italy, the former heart of the Empire,
Odoacer was followed by Theodoric the Great, king of the
Ostrogoths, who was regarded by Roman citizens and Gothic settlers
alike as legitimate successor to the rule of
Rome and Italy.
Theodoric ruled from CE 493–526, twice as long as his predecessor,
and his rule is evidenced by an abundance of documents. Under the
Ostrogoths a considerable degree of Roman and Germanic cultural and
political fusion was achieved. Germanic kings worked in-tandem
with Roman administrators to the extent possible to help ensure a
smooth transition and to facilitate the profitable administration of
once Roman lands. Slowly but surely, the distinction between
Germanic rulers and Roman subjects faded, followed by varying degrees
of "cultural assimilation" which included the adoption of the Gothic
language by some of the indigenous people of the former Roman Empire
but this was certainly not ubiquitous as Gothic identity still
remained distinctive. Theodoric may have tried too hard to
accommodate the various people under his dominion; indulging "Romans
and Goths, Catholics and Arians, Latin and barbarian culture" resulted
in the eventual failure of the Ostrogothic reign and the subsequent
Italy as the heartland of late antiquity."
According to noted historian Herwig Wolfram, the
Germanic peoples did
not and could not "conquer the more advanced Roman world" nor were
they able to "restore it as a political and economic entity"; instead,
he asserts that the empire's "universalism" was replaced by "tribal
particularism" which gave way to "regional patriotism."
Nonetheless, the entry of the Germanic tribes deep into the heart of
Europe and the subsequent collapse of the western Roman Empire
resulted in a "massive disruption" to long established communication
networks, a system that had in many ways "bound much of the continent
together for centuries." Trade networks and routes shifted
accordingly, Germanic kingdoms and peoples established boundaries and
it was not until the appearance of the Arabs in Iberia and into
Anatolia that Europeans began reestablishing their networks to deal
with a new threat.
Early Middle Ages
Frankish expansion from the early kingdom of
Clovis I (481) to the
divisions of Charlemagne's Empire (843/870).
The transition of the
Migration period to the
Middle Ages proper took
place over the course of the second half of the 1st millennium. It was
marked by the
Christianization of the Germanic peoples
Christianization of the Germanic peoples and the
formation of stable kingdoms replacing the mostly tribal structures of
the Migration period. Some of this stability is discernible in the
fact that the Pope recognized Theodoric's reign when the Germanic
Rome in CE 500, despite that Theodoric was a known
practitioner of Arianism, a faith which the Council of Nicaea
condemned in CE 325. Theodoric's Germanic subjects and
administrators from the Roman Catholic Church cooperated in serving
him, helping establish a codified system of laws and ordinances which
facilitated the integration of the Gothic peoples into a burgeoning
empire, solidifying their place as they appropriated a Roman identity
of sorts. The foundations laid by the Empire enabled the
successor Germanic kingdoms to maintain a familiar structure and their
success can be seen as part of the lasting triumph of Rome.
Anglo-Saxon and British kingdoms c. 800
In continental Europe, this Germanic evolution saw the rise of Francia
Merovingian period under the rule of
Clovis I who had deposed
the last emperor of Gaul, eclipsing lesser kingdoms such as
Alemannia. The Merovingians controlled most of
Gaul under Clovis,
who, through conversion to Christianity, allied himself with the
Gallo-Romans. While the Merovingians were checked by the armies of the
Ostrogoth Theodoric, they remained the most powerful kingdom in
Western Europe and the intermixing of their people with the Romans
through marriage rendered the Frankish people less a Germanic tribe
and more a "European people" in a manner of speaking. Most of
Gaul was under Merovingian control as was part of
Italy and their
overlordship extended into
Germany where they reigned over the
Thuringians, Alamans, and Bavarians. Evidence also exists that
they may have even had suzerainty over south-east England.
Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours relates that Clovis converted to
Christianity partly as a result of his wife's urging and even more so
- due to having won a desperate battle after calling out to Christ.
According to Gregory, this conversion was sincere but it also proved
politically expedient as Clovis used his new faith as a means to
consolidate his political power by Christianizing his army.[o]
Against Germanic tradition, each of the four sons of Clovis attempted
to secure power in different cities but their inability to prove
themselves on the battlefield and intrigue against one another led the
Visigoths back to electing their leadership.
When Merovingian rule eventually weakened, they were supplanted by
another powerful Frankish family, the Carolingians, a dynastic order
which produced Charles Martel, and Charlemagne. The coronation of
Charlemagne as emperor by Pope Leo III in
Rome on Christmas Day, CE
800 represented a shift in the power structure from the south to the
north. Frankish power ultimately laid the foundations for the modern
Germany and France. For historians, Charlemagne's
appearance in the historical chronicle of Europe also marks a
transition where the voice of the north appears in its own vernacular
thanks to the spread of Christianity, after which the northerners
began writing in Latin, Germanic, and Celtic; whereas before, the
Germanic people were only known through Roman or Greek sources.
The approximate extent of
Germanic languages in the early 10th
Old West Norse
Old East Norse
Germanic languages (Old Frisian, Old
Saxon, Old Dutch, Old High German).
Crimean Gothic (East Germanic)
In England, the Germanic
Anglo-Saxon tribes reigned over the south of
Great Britain from approximately 519 to the tenth century until the
Wessex hegemony became the nucleus for the unification of
Scandinavia was in the
Vendel period and eventually
entered the Viking Age, with expansion to Britain, Ireland and Iceland
in the west and as far as
Greece in the east. By CE
Vikings secured for themselves a foothold on Frankish soil
along the Lower Seine River valley in what is now
France that became
known as Normandy. Hence they became the Normans. They established the
Duchy of Normandy, a territorial acquisition which provided them the
opportunity to expand beyond
Norman Conquest which followed in CE 1066 wrought
immense changes to life in
England as their new Scandinavian masters
altered their government, lordship, public holdings, culture and DNA
The various Germanic tribal cultures began their transformation into
the larger nations of later history, English, Norse and German, and in
the case of Burgundy,
Normandy blending into a
Romano-Germanic culture. Many of these later nation states started
originally as "client buffer states" for the
Roman Empire so as to
protect it from its enemies further away. Eventually they carved
out their own unique historical paths.
Further information: Romano-Germanic culture, Romanization (cultural),
and Germanic-speaking Europe
Roman Empire in 1250.
The territory of modern
Germany was divided between Germanic- and
Celtic-speaking groups in the last centuries BCE. The parts south of
the Germanic limes came under limited Latin influence in the early
centuries CE but were swiftly conquered by Germanic groups such as the
Alemanni after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Germanic
tribes of the
Migration period had settled down by the Early Middle
Ages, the latest series of movements out of
Scandinavia taking place
during the Viking Age.
Vandals were linguistically assimilated to their Latin
(Romance) substrate populations. Evidence exists that for 2nd- and
Goths as well as for 4th- and 5th-century
significant population displacement throughout Roman-occupied Europe
occurred. This quite likely contributed to their linguistic
assimilation. An exception to this pattern was the Crimean Goths,
who preserved their dialect into the 18th century).
Lombards were assimilated into both Latin (French and Italian) and
Germanic (German-speaking Swiss) populations.
Norsemen split into an
Old East Norse
Old East Norse and an Old West
Norse group, which further separated into Icelanders, Faroese and
Norwegians on one hand and
Danes on the other. In
Scandinavia, there is a long history of assimilation of and by the
Sami people and Finnic peoples, namely
Finns and Karelians. In today's
usage, the term "Nordic peoples" refers to the ethnic groups in all of
the Nordic countries. In Great Britain, Germanic people coalesced into
Anglo-Saxon (or English) people between the 8th and 10th
On the European continent, the Holy
Roman Empire included all
remaining Germanic-speaking groups from the 10th century. In the Late
Medieval to Early Modern period, some groups split off the Empire
before a "German" ethnicity had formed, consisting of Low Franconian
(Dutch, Flemish) and Alemannic (Swiss) populations.
Germanic peoples of the Migrations period eventually
spread out over a vast expanse stretching from contemporary European
Iceland and from
Norway to North Africa. The migrants had
varying impacts in different regions. In many cases, the newcomers set
themselves up as overlords of the pre-existing population. Over time,
such groups underwent ethnogenesis, resulting in the creation of new
cultural and ethnic identities (e.g., the
Franks and Gallo-Romans
becoming the French). Thus, many of the descendants of the ancient
Germanic peoples do not speak Germanic languages, as they were to a
greater or lesser degree assimilated into the cosmopolitan, literate
culture of the Roman world. Even where the descendants of
Germanic peoples maintained greater continuity with their common
ancestors, significant cultural and linguistic differences arose over
time, as is strikingly illustrated by the different identities of
Christianized Saxon subjects of the
Carolingian Empire and pagan
More broadly, early Medieval
Germanic peoples were often assimilated
into the walha substrate cultures of their subject populations. Thus,
Burgundians of Burgundy, the
Vandals of Northern Africa, and the
France and Iberia, lost some Germanic identity and became
part of Romano-Germanic Europe. For the Germanic
particular, they had intimate contact with
Rome for two centuries
before their domination of the Iberian Peninsula and were accordingly
permeated by Roman culture. Likewise, the
Franks of Western
Francia form part of the ancestry of the French people.
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain resulted in
English) displacement and cultural assimilation of the indigenous
culture, the Brythonic-speaking British culture, causing the
foundation of a new kingdom, England. As in what became England,
indigenous Brythonic Celtic culture in some of the south-eastern parts
of what became
Scotland (approximately the
Lothian and Borders region)
and areas of what became the Northwest of
England (the kingdoms of
Rheged, Elmet, etc.) succumbed to Germanic influence c.600—800, due
to the extension of overlordship and settlement from the Anglo-Saxon
areas to the south. Cultural and linguistic assimilation occurred less
frequently between the Germanic Anglo-
Saxons and the indigenous people
who resided in the Roman dominated areas of England, particularly in
the regions that remained previously unconquered. Anglo-Saxons
occupied Somerset, the Severn valley, and Lancaster by c. 700 where
they remained dominant. Over time, the Anglo-Saxons, with their
distinct culture and language, displaced much of the extant Roman
influence of old.
Afrikaners are descended from 17th century Dutch immigrants to South
Perhaps the final incursions by Germanic people which altered in some
ways the ethnographic map of Europe was made by the Vikings. Between
the 8th and 11th centuries, these Scandinavian/Norse traders and
pirates ravaged most of north and central Europe as well as the
British Isles, spreading eastwards as far as
Russia and into
Byzantium. While their initial exploits were generally raids for
plunder, they later settled and mixed with the indigenous people of
Europe, which resulted in both conquest and colonization. Other
examples of assimilation during the
Viking Age include the Norsemen,
who settled in
Normandy along the French Atlantic coast, and the
societal elite in medieval Russia; among whom, many were the
descendants of Slavified
Norsemen (a theory, however, contested by
some Slavic scholars in the former Soviet Union, who name it the
Normanist theory). Known for their unique ships, there is evidence of
the Viking presence all over mainland Europe, as no lands with
navigable waters or coastlines escaped their pillaging. Vast
territories in eastern
England were overrun and occupied by the
Vikings and the Danish King, Canute, eventually succeeded to the
English crown. Archeological remains on North America even exist which
give evidence to the dynamism and territorial ambitions of these
Between c. 1150 and c. 1400, most of the
Scottish Lowlands became
English culturally and linguistically through immigration from
France and Flanders and from the resulting assimilation of
native Gaelic-speaking Scots although Lowland Gaelic was still spoken
in Galloway until the 18th century. The
Scots language is the
resulting Germanic language still spoken in parts of
Scotland and is
very similar to the speech of the Northumbrians of northern England.
Between the 15th and 17th centuries Scots spread into more of mainland
Scotland at the expense of
Scottish Gaelic although Gaelic maintained
a strong hold over the Scottish Highlands, and Scots also began to
make some headway into the Northern Isles. The latter,
Shetland, though now part of Scotland, were nominally part of the
Norway until the 15th century. A version of the Norse
language was spoken there from the
Viking invasions until replaced by
Scots in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Germanic bracteate from Funen, Denmark
Further information: Germanic king, Sibb, thing (assembly), Germanic
law, Germanic warfare, and Romano-Germanic culture
Common elements of Germanic society can be deduced both from Roman
historiography and comparative evidence from the Early Medieval
A main element uniting Germanic societies was kingship, in origin a
sacral institution combining the functions of military leader, high
priest, lawmaker and judge.
Germanic monarchy was elective; the king
was elected by the free men from among eligible candidates of a family
(OE cynn) tracing their ancestry to the tribe's divine or semi-divine
To a large degree, many of the extant legal records from the Germanic
tribes seem to revolve around property transactions. In early
Germanic society, the free men of property each ruled their own estate
and were subject to the king directly, without any intermediate
hierarchy as in later feudalism. Free men without landed property
could swear fealty to a man of property who as their lord would then
be responsible for their upkeep, including generous feasts and gifts.
This system of sworn retainers was central to early Germanic society,
and the loyalty of the retainer to his lord generally replaced his
Germanic law reflects a hierarchy of worth within the society of
free men, reflected in the differences in weregild. Among the
Anglo-Saxons, a regular free man (a ceorl) had a weregild of 200
shillings (i.e. solidi or gold pieces), classified as a twyhyndeman
"200-man" for this reason, while a nobleman commanded a fee of six
times that amount (twelfhyndeman "1200-man"). Similarly, among the
Alamanni the basic weregild for a free man was 200 shillings, and the
amount could be doubled or tripled according to the man's rank. Unfree
serfs did not command a weregild, and the recompense paid in the event
of their death was merely for material damage, 15 shillings in the
case of the Alamanni, increased to 40 or 50 if the victim had been a
The social hierarchy is not only reflected in the weregild due in the
case of the violent or accidental death of a man, but also in
differences in fines for lesser crimes. Thus the fines for insults,
injury, burglary or damage to property differ depending on the rank of
the injured party.[p] They do not usually depend on the rank of the
guilty party, although there are some exceptions associated with royal
Free women did not have a political station of their own but inherited
the rank of their father if unmarried, or their husband if married.
The weregild or recompense due for the killing or injuring of a woman
is notably set at twice that of a man of the same rank in Alemannic
All freemen had the right to participate in general assemblies or
things, where disputes between freemen were addressed according to
customary law. The king was bound to uphold ancestral law, but was at
the same time the source for new laws for cases not addressed in
previous tradition. This aspect was the reason for the creation of the
Germanic law codes by the kings following their conversion to
Christianity: besides recording inherited tribal law, these codes have
the purpose of settling the position of the church and Christian
clergy within society, usually setting the weregilds of the members of
the clerical hierarchy parallel to that of the existing hierarchy of
nobility, with the position of an archbishop mirroring that of the
In the case of a suspected crime, the accused could avoid punishment
by presenting a fixed number of free men (their number depending on
the severity of the crime) prepared to swear an oath on his innocence.
Failing this, he could prove his innocence in a trial by combat.
Corporal or capital punishment for free men does not figure in the
Germanic law codes, and banishment appears to be the most severe
penalty issued officially. This reflects that Germanic tribal law did
not have the scope of exacting revenge, which was left to the
judgement of the family of the victim, but to settle damages as fairly
as possible once an involved party decided to bring a dispute before
the assembly. A fascinating component of early Germanic laws were the
varying distinctions concerning the physical body, as each body part
had a personal injury value and corresponding legal claims for
personal injury viewed matters like gender, rank and status as a
secondary interest when deliberating cases.
Generally speaking, Roman legal codes eventually provided the model
for many Germanic laws and they were fixed in writing along with
Germanic legal customs. Traditional Germanic society was
gradually replaced by the system of estates and feudalism
characteristic of the High
Middle Ages in both the Holy Roman Empire
England in the 11th to 12th centuries, to some extent
under the influence of
Roman law as an indirect result of
Christianisation, but also because political structures had grown too
large for the flat hierarchy of a tribal society. The same effect of
political centralization took hold in
Scandinavia slightly later, in
the 12th to 13th century (Age of the Sturlungs, Consolidation of
Sweden, Civil war era in Norway), by the end of the 14th century
culminating in the giant Kalmar Union. Elements of tribal law, notably
the wager of battle, nevertheless remained in effect throughout the
Middle Ages, in the case of the Holy
Roman Empire until the
establishment of the
Imperial Chamber Court
Imperial Chamber Court in the early German
Renaissance. In the federalist organization of Switzerland, where
cantonal structures remained comparatively local, the Germanic thing
survived into the 21st century in the form of the Landsgemeinde,
albeit subject to federal law.
Further information: Germanic Wars, Gothic warfare, Anglo-Saxon
Migration period spear
Osterby Head, a bog body with a Suebian knot
Historical records of the Germanic tribes in
Germania east of the
Rhine and west of the
Danube do not begin until quite late in the
ancient period, so only the period after 100 BCE can be examined. What
is clear is that the Germanic idea of warfare was quite different from
the pitched battles fought by
Rome and Greece. Instead the Germanic
tribes focused on raids. Warfare of varying size however was a
distinctive feature of barbarian culture.
The purpose of these was generally not to gain territory, but rather
to capture resources and secure prestige. These raids were conducted
by irregular troops, often formed along family or village lines, in
groups of 10 to about 1,000. Leaders of unusual personal magnetism
could gather more soldiers for longer periods, but there was no
systematic method of gathering and training men, so the death of a
charismatic leader could mean the destruction of an army. Armies also
often consisted of more than 50 percent noncombatants, as displaced
people would travel with large groups of soldiers, the elderly, women,
and children. War leaders who were able to secure ample booty for
their retainers were able to grow accordingly by attracting warrior
bands from nearby villages.
Large bodies of troops, while figuring prominently in the history
books, were the exception rather than the rule of ancient warfare.
Thus a typical Germanic force might consist of 100 men with the sole
goal of raiding a nearby Germanic or foreign village. Thus, most
warfare was at their barbarian neighbors. According to Roman
sources, when the
Germanic Tribes did fight pitched battles, the
infantry often adopted wedge formations, each wedge being led by a
clan head. Legitimacy for leaders among the
Germans resided in their
ability to successfully lead armies to victory. Defeat on the
battlefield at the hands of the Romans or other "barbarians" often
meant the end for a ruler and in some cases, being absorbed by
"another, victorious confederation."
Though often defeated by the Romans, the Germanic tribes were
remembered in Roman records as fierce combatants, whose main downfall
was that they failed to join together into a collective fighting force
under a unified command, which allowed the
Roman Empire to employ a
"divide and conquer" strategy against them. On occasions when the
Germanic tribes worked together, the results were impressive. Three
Roman legions were ambushed and destroyed by an alliance of Germanic
tribes headed by
Arminius at the
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9
Roman Empire made no further concentrated attempts at
Germania beyond the Rhine.
During the 4th and 5th centuries CE,
organized themselves to sufficiently challenge and sack
Rome in CE 410
and again in CE 455. Then in CE 476, the last Roman emperor was
deposed by a German chieftain, an event which effectively ended Roman
predominance in western Europe. Germanic tribes eventually
overwhelmed and conquered the ancient world. That military transition
was additionally spurred by the arrival of the
Vikings from the 8th to
10th centuries, giving rise to modern Europe and medieval
For an analysis of Germanic tactics versus the Roman empire see: Roman
infantry versus Gallic and the Germanic tribes
Weapons used by the Germanic tribes varied. Some of them used axes,
throwing javelins, spears, bows and arrows along with swords. Most of
the swords used by the Germanic warriors were those captured from
Roman soldiers until the 4th century when German blacksmiths began
making the best steel in Europe. Body armor was rarely worn and
when it was, it was light by comparison to what the Romans employed;
only war leaders wore helmets on the battlefield. Commandeering
of Roman weaponry was widespread and the acquisition of the superior
Roman armaments allowed the Germanic leaders to exert their power in
ways not previously available. It also meant fierce inter-Germanic
rivalry which constituted the larger power blocks of the Germanic
world. Much like their predecessors, the
Vikings too used axes,
swords, long knives, spears, oblong shields, leather or metal helmets
and mail or leather coats for protection; the latter being luxuries
most could not afford.
To the greatest extent, Germanic fighting units consisted of infantry
who would emerge from cover and attack, but they also utilized skilled
cavalrymen at times, something the
Visigoths used decisively to aid in
their victory at Adrianople. Cavalry warfare was limited in northern
Europe due to the lack of suitably large horses for mounted troops.
Caesar provided his Germanic armies with Roman mounts to enable them
greater mobility and to enhance their fighting efficiency. Unlike
their western Celtic neighbors, the use of chariots was not picked up
by the early Germans. Notwithstanding the use of an occasional
fortified position, the Germanic warriors preferred to fight in the
open and normally assumed the offensive rather than fight
defensively. Emboldening themselves for fierce attacks, the
Germanic warriors would rouse themselves to a high-pitched level of
excitement and charge headlong against their enemies, which while
effective for ambush operations, lacked in terms of the organizational
skill needed for prolonged siege warfare. The berserker mentality
employed by the Germanic tribes against
Rome was still in effect
during the Viking era of the 8th and 9th centuries as they too
believed that by summoning their gods and working themselves up, they
would possess superhuman strength and be protected during battle. Such
resolution led them to believe that dying in such a manner was heroic
and would transport the fallen fighter straight into
they would be embraced by the warrior maidens known as the
Valkyries.[r] The later military development of armored knights
and fortified castles was a response in part to the relentless
plundering and raiding by the Vikings, which meant that the Germanic
tribes who had settled mainland Europe and the British Isles had to
adapt themselves so as to combat another Germanic tribe of
Traces of the earliest pastoralism of the
Germanic peoples appear in
central Europe in the form of elaborate cattle burials along the Elbe
and Vistula Rivers from around 4000–3000 BCE. These
archaeological remnants were left by the
Globular Amphora culture
Globular Amphora culture who
cleared forests for herding cattle and sometime after 3000 BCE began
using wheeled carts and plows to cultivate their lands. Central to
survival for their assistance in tilling the soil and supplying food,
cattle became an economic resource to these early people.
Germanic settlements were typically small, rarely containing much more
than ten households, often less, and were usually located by clearings
in the woods.[s] Settlements remained of a fairly constant size
throughout the period. The buildings in these villages varied in form,
but normally consisted of farmhouses surrounded by smaller buildings
such as granaries and other storage rooms. The universal building
material was timber. Cattle and humans usually lived together in the
Germans practiced both agriculture and husbandry, the
latter was extremely important both as a source of dairy products and
as a basis for wealth and social status, which was measured by the
size of an individual's herd. The diet consisted mainly of the
products of farming and husbandry and was supplied by hunting to a
very modest extent. Barley and wheat were the most common agricultural
products and were used for baking a certain flat type of bread as well
as brewing beer. Evidence from a Saxon village known as Feddersen
Wierde near Cuxhaven,
Germany (which existed between BCE 50 to CE 450)
shows that the Germanic people cultivated oats and rye, used manure as
fertilizer, and that they practiced crop-rotation.
The fields were tilled with a light-weight wooden ard, although
heavier models also existed in some areas. Common clothing styles are
known from the remarkably well-preserved corpses that have been found
in former marshes on several locations in Denmark, and included woolen
garments and brooches for women and trousers and leather caps for men.
Other important small-scale industries were weaving, the manual
production of basic pottery and, more rarely, the fabrication of iron
tools, especially weapons. The
Corded Ware culture
Corded Ware culture and the
Funnelbeaker culture (circa. 2900–2300 BCE) of these north and
central European peoples coincide one another and provide evidence of
how they lived, traded and buried their dead.
After 1300 BCE the societies of Jutland and Northern
with the Celtic people experienced a major revolution in technology
during the Late Bronze Age, shaping tools, containers and weapons
through the improved techniques of working bronze. Both the sword and
the bow and arrow as well as other weaponry proliferate and an arms
race of sorts between the tribes ensued as they tried to outpace one
another. Trade was taking place to a greater degree and simple gems
and amber from the
Mediterranean indicate that long-distance exchange
of goods was occurring. When the
Iron Age (1500—1200 BCE)
arrived, the Germanic people showed greater mastery of ironworks than
their Celtic contemporaries but they did not have the extensive trade
networks during this period that their southern neighbors enjoyed with
the Greco-Roman world.
Widening trade between the Germanic tribes and
Rome started later
following the Empire's wars of conquest when they looked to the
Germanic people to supply them with slaves, leather and quality iron.
One of the reasons the Romans may have drawn borders along the Rhine,
besides the sizable population of Germanic warriors on one side of it,
was that the Germanic economy was not robust enough for them to
extract much booty nor were they convinced they could acquire
sufficient tax revenue from any additional efforts of conquest.
Drawing a distinctive line between themselves and Germanic people also
incentivized alliances and trade as the Germanic people sought a share
of the imperial wealth. Roman coinage was coveted by the Germanic
people who preferred silver to gold coins, mostly likely indications
that a market economy was developing.
Tacitus does mention the
presence of a bartering system being observable among the Germanic
people, but this was not exclusive, as he also writes of their use of
"gold and silver for the purpose of commerce", adding rather
sardonically in his text, that what they exchanged was nothing more
than "petty merchandise. Such observations from
fine metalwork, iron and glassware was soon being traded by the
Germanic peoples along the coast of the
North Sea of
Denmark and the
The writings of
Tacitus allude to the
Germanic peoples being aware of
a shared ethnicity, in that, they either knew or believed that they
shared a common biological ancestor with one another. Just how
pervasive this awareness may have been is certainly debatable, but
other factors like language, clothing, ornamentation, hair styles,
weapon types, religious practices and shared oral history were likely
just as significant in tribal identity for the Germanics. Members
of a Germanic tribe told tales about the exploits of heroic founding
figures who were more or less mythologized. Village life consisted of
free men assembled under a chieftain, all of whom shared common
cultural and political traditions. Status among the early Germanic
tribes was often gauged by the size of a man's cattle herd or by one's
Before their conversion to Christianity, the
Germanic peoples of
Europe were made up of several tribes, each functioning as an economic
and military unit and sometimes united by a common religious cult.
Kinship, especially close kinship, was very important to life within a
tribe but generally was not the source of a tribe's identity. In fact,
several elements of ancient Germanic life tended to weaken the role of
kinship: the importance of the retinues surrounding military
chieftains, the ability of strong leaders to unite people who were not
closely related, and feuds and other conflicts within a tribe that
might lead to permanent divisions. The retinue (often called
"comitatus" by scholars, following the practice of ancient Roman
writers) consisted of the followers of a chieftain, who depended on
the retinue for military and other services and who in return provided
for the retinue's needs and divided with them the spoils of
battle. This relationship between a chieftain and his followers
became the basis for the more complicated feudal system that developed
in medieval Europe. A chieftain's retinue might include close
relatives, but it was not limited to them. Eventually the rising power
of individual chieftains and kings from among the military leadership
of Germanic tribes and confederations curtailed and in many ways
replaced the power once enjoyed by tribal assemblies. A code of
ethics in battle prevailed among the Germanic kin. According to
Tacitus, the "greatest disgrace that can befall" a warrior of a clan
among the Germanic tribes was the abandonment of their shield during
combat, as this almost certainly resulted in social isolation.
Within tribal Germanic society, their social hierarchy was linked
intrinsically to war and this warrior code maintained the fidelity
between chiefs and their young warriors.
Feuds were the standard means for resolving conflicts and regulating
behavior. Peace within the tribe was about controlling violence with
codes identifying exactly how certain types of feuds were to be
settled. Those closely related to a person who had been injured
or killed were supposed to exact revenge on or monetary payment from
the offender. This duty helped reaffirm the bonds between extended
family members. Yet such feuds weakened the tribe as a whole,
sometimes leading to the creation of a new tribe as one group
separated from the rest. Clans of Germanic people consisted of
groupings of about 50 households in total with societal rules for each
specific clan. Recent scholarship suggests that, despite the
obligation to take part in feuds and other customs involving kinship
ties, extended families did not form independent units among the early
Germanic peoples. Though most members of a tribe would have been more
or less distantly related, common descent was not the main source of a
tribe's identity, and extended families were not the main social units
within a tribe. Traditional theories have emphasized the supposedly
central role in Germanic culture of clans or large groups with common
ancestry. But there is little evidence that such clans existed, and
they were certainly not an important element of social organization.
As historian Alexander C. Murray concludes, "kinship was a crucial
factor in all aspects of barbarian activity, but its uses and
groupings were fluid, and probably on the whole not long
lasting." Internal competition within the factions of a tribe
occasionally resulted in internecine warfare which weakened and
sometime destroyed a group, as appears to have been the case for the
Cherusci tribe during Rome's earlier period.
The most important family relationships among the early Germanic
peoples were within the individual household, a fact based on the
archaeological evidence from their settlements where the long-houses
appeared to be central in their existence. Within the household unit,
an individual was equally bound to both the mother and the father's
side of the family. Fathers were the main figures of
authority, but wives also played an important and respected role.
Some Germanic tribes even believed that women possessed magical powers
and were feared accordingly.
Tacitus describes how, during
battles, Germanic warriors were encouraged and cared for by their
wives and mothers. He also notes that during times of peace, women did
most of the work of managing the household. Along with the children,
they apparently did most of the household chores as well. Children
were valued, and according to Tacitus, limiting or destroying one's
offspring was considered shameful. Mothers apparently breast-fed their
own children rather than using nurses. Besides parents and children, a
household might include slaves, but slavery was uncommon, and
according to Tacitus, slaves normally had households of their own.
Their slaves (usually prisoners of war) were most often employed as
domestic servants. Polygamy and concubinage were rare but
existed, at least among the upper classes.[t] When a certain number of
families resided on the same territory, this constituted a village
(Dorf in German). The overall territory occupied by people from the
same tribe was designated in the writings of
Tacitus as a civitas,
with each of the individual civitas divided into pagi (or cantons),
which were made up of several vici. In cases where the tribes were
grouped into larger confederations or a group of kingdoms, the term
pagus was applied (Gau in German). Extensive contact with Rome
altered the egalitarian structure of tribal Germanic society. As
individuals rose to prominence, a distinction between commoner and
nobility developed and with it the previous constructs of folkright
shared equally across the tribe was replaced in some cases by
privilege. As a result, Germanic society became more stratified.
Elites within the Germanic tribes who learned the Roman system and
emulated the way they established dominion were able to gain
advantages and exploit them accordingly.
Important changes began taking place by the 4th century CE as Germanic
peoples, while still cognizant of their unique clan identities,
started forming larger confederations of a similar culture. Gathering
around the dominant tribes among them and hearkening to the most
charismatic leaders brought the various "barbarians" tribes closer
together. On the surface this change appeared to the Romans as welcome
since they preferred to deal with a few strong chiefs to control the
populations that they feared across the
Rhine and Danube, but it
eventually made these Germanic rulers of confederated peoples more and
more powerful. While strong, they were still not federated to one
another since they possessed no sense of "pan-Germanic solidarity",
but this started to change noticeably by the 5th century CE at Rome's
Based on the writings of Tacitus, most of the "barbarians" were
content with one wife which indicates a general trend towards
monogamy. For those higher within their social hierarchy however,
polygamy was sometimes "solicited on account of their rank". Of
Tacitus observed that "the wife does not bring a dowry to her
husband, but receives one from him" and wedding gifts related to a
marriage consisted of things like oxen, saddles and various armaments.
Revealing the warlike nature of their society,
Tacitus also reported
that wives came to their husbands "as a partner in toils and dangers;
to suffer and to dare equally with him, in peace and in war.
The age at first marriage among ancient Germanic tribes, according to
Tacitus, was late for women compared to Roman women:
The youths partake late of the pleasures of love, and hence pass the
age of puberty unexhausted: nor are the virgins hurried into marriage;
the same maturity, the same full growth is required: the sexes unite
equally matched and robust; and the children inherit the vigor of
For Germanic women of later antiquity, marriage obviously had its
appeal since it offered greater security and better placement in their
social hierarchy. Where
Aristotle had set the prime of life at 37
years for men and 18 for women, the
Visigothic Code of law in the 7th
century placed the prime of life at twenty years for both men and
women, after which both presumably married. Thus it can be presumed
that ancient Germanic brides were on average about twenty and were
roughly the same age as their husbands. Tacitus, however, had
never visited the German-speaking lands and most of his information on
Germania comes from secondary sources. In addition,
like those of other Germanic tribes, are marked as women from the age
of twelve onward, based on archaeological finds, implying that the age
of marriage coincided with puberty. Generally, there were two
forms of marriage among the Germanic peoples, one involving the
participation of the parents and the other, those that did not. Known
as Friedelehe, the latter form consisted of marriage between a free
man and a free woman, since marriage between free persons and slaves
was forbidden by law. Evidence of Germanic patriarchy is evident
later in the 7th century CE
Edict of Rothari
Edict of Rothari of the
stated that women were not allowed to live of their own freewill and
that they had to be subject to a man and if no one else, they were to
be "under the power of the king".
For Germanic kings, warrior chieftains, senators and Roman nobility, a
certain degree of intermarriage was undertaken to strengthen their
ties to one another and to the Empire, making marriage or connubium as
the Romans connoted the bond, an instrument of politics. Earlier
treaty terms in the late 4th century CE had forbidden "foreign" Goths
to intermarry with Romans. Some of the marriage attempts of the
6th century CE were deliberately planned for the sake of royal
succession. Imperial policy had to be carefully charted between the
Roman-Germanic claimants to kingship and the maintenance of Roman
imperial administration as the federated Germanic kings attempted to
put their stamp on Roman rule and replace Roman armies with their own
warriors. Roman leaders were not oblivious to the clever tactics
(intermarriage and offspring) employed by Germanic chieftains and
adopted creative treaties to either appease them or temper their
Main articles: Germanic paganism, Continental Germanic mythology, and
Roman bronze figurine depicting praying German with a Suebian knot.
Prior to the Middle Ages,
Germanic peoples followed what is now
referred to as Germanic paganism: "a system of interlocking and
closely interrelated religious worldviews and practices rather than as
one indivisible religion" and as such consisted of "individual
worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly
consistent framework". It was polytheistic in nature, with some
underlying similarities to other Indo-Germanic traditions. Despite the
unique practices of some tribes, there was a degree of cultural
uniformity among the Germanic people concerning religion.[u]
Germanic ideology and religious practices were pervaded and colored to
a large degree by war, particularly the notion of a heroic death on
the battlefield, as this brought the god(s) a "blood sacrifice."
Archaeological findings suggest that the Germanic barbarians practiced
some of the same 'spiritual' rituals as the Celts, including human
sacrifice, divination, and the belief in spiritual connection with the
natural environment around them. Germanic priestesses were feared
by the Romans, as these tall women with glaring eyes, wearing flowing
white gowns often wielded a knife for sacrificial offerings. Captives
might have their throats cut and be bled into giant cauldrons or have
their intestines opened up and the entrails thrown to the ground for
prophetic readings. Spiritual rituals frequently occurred in
consecrated groves or upon islands on lakes where perpetual fires
Many of the deities found in
Germanic paganism appeared under similar
names across the Germanic peoples, most notably the god known to the
Wodan or Wotan, to the Anglo-
Saxons as Woden, and to the
Norse as Óðinn, as well as the god
Thor – known to the
Donar, to the Anglo-
Saxons as Þunor and to the Norse as Þórr. Pagan
beliefs amid the Germanic tribes were reported by some of the earlier
Roman historians and in the 6th century CE another instance of this
appears when the Byzantine historian and poet, Agathias, remarked that
the Alamannic religion was "solidly and unsophisticatedly pagan."
Christianity had no relevance for the pagan barbarians until their
contact and integration with Rome.
Germanic peoples were slowly converted to
varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and
indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion
process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions. Of
particular note is the survival of the pagan fascination with the
forest in the retention of Christmas tree even today. Many of the
Germanic tribes actually revered forests as sacred places and left
them unmolested. Conversion to
Christianity broke this pagan obsession
with protecting the forest in some locations and allowed once migrant
tribes to settle in places where they previously refused to cultivate
the soil or chop down trees based on religious belief. To that end,
the Christianisation of
Germanic peoples facilitated the clearing of
forests and therewith provided "a broad and stable basis for the
medieval economy of Central Europe" by leveraging the vast forest
resources available to them. The Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and
Christianized while they were still outside the bounds of
the Empire; however, they converted to
Arianism rather than orthodox
Catholicism, and were soon regarded as heretics. The one great
written remnant of the
Gothic language is a translation of portions of
Bible made by Ulfilas, the missionary who converted them.
Goths, Vandals, and other
Germanic peoples often offered political
resistance prior to their conversion to Christianity. The
Lombards were not converted until after their entrance into the
Empire, but received
Christianity from Arian Germanic groups sometime
during the 5th century.
Christianity were still being practiced across the empire
when Constantine died in CE 337, despite his conversion; he did
however ban pagan rituals at select religious temples. Sometime
between CE 391–392, the barbarian king Theodosius I made an official
proclamation which outlawed pagan religions in his region of influence
with various successors like Justinian doing likewise. The Franks
were converted directly from paganism to
Catholicism under the
leadership of Clovis in about CE 496 without an intervening time as
Arians. Eventually the Gothic tribes turned away from their Arian
faith and in CE 589 converted to Catholicism. Several centuries
Anglo-Saxon and Frankish missionaries and warriors undertook
the conversion of their Saxon neighbors. A key event was the felling
Thor's Oak near
Fritzlar by Boniface, apostle of the Germans, in CE
Thor failed to strike
Boniface dead after the oak hit the
Franks were amazed and began their conversion to the
Eventually for many Germanic tribes, the conversion to Christianity
was achieved by armed force, successfully completed by Charlemagne, in
a series of campaigns (the Saxon Wars), that also brought Saxon lands
into the Frankish empire. Massacres, such as the Bloody Verdict
of Verden, where as many as 4,500 people were beheaded according to
one of Charlemagne's chroniclers, were a direct result of this
Germanic paganism continued to dominate until the 11th
century in the form of Norse paganism, when it was gradually replaced
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February
Percentage of major
Y-DNA haplogroups in Europe. Haplogroup I1
represented by light blue.
It is suggested by geneticists that the movements of Germanic peoples
has had a strong influence upon the modern distribution of the male
lineage represented by the
Y-DNA haplogroup I1, which is believed to
have originated with one man, who lived approximately 4,000 to 6,000
years ago somewhere in Northern Europe, possibly modern
Most Recent Common Ancestor
Most Recent Common Ancestor for more information). There is evidence
of this man's descendants settling in all of the areas that Germanic
tribes are recorded as having subsequently invaded or migrated to.[x]
Haplogroup I1 is older than Germanic languages, but may have been
present among early Germanic speakers. Other male lines likely to have
been present during the development and dispersal of Germanic language
populations include R1a1a, R1b-P312 and R1b-U106, a genetic
combination of the haplogroups found to be strongly-represented among
current Germanic speaking peoples. Peaking in northern Europe,
the R1b-U106 marker seems particular interesting in distribution and
provides some helpful genetic clues regarding the historical trek made
by the Germanic people.
Haplogroup I1 accounts for approximately 40% of Icelandic males,
40%–50% of Swedish males, 40% of Norwegian males, and 40% of Danish
Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups.
Haplogroup I1 peaks in certain
areas of Northern
Germany and Eastern
England at more than 30%.
Haplogroup R1b and haplogroup R1a collectively account for more than
40% of males in Sweden; over 50% in Norway, 60% in Iceland, 60–70%
in Germany, and between 50%–70% of the males in
England and the
Netherlands depending on region.
Modern ethnic groups descended from the ancient Germanic peoples
include the Afrikaners, Austrians, Danes, Dutch, English, Faroe
Islanders, Flemish, Frisians, Germans, Icelanders, Lowland Scots,
Luxembourgers, Norwegians, and Swedes.
Later Germanic studies and their influence
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February
Renaissance revived interest in pre-Christian Classical Antiquity
and only in a second phase in pre-Christian Northern Europe. The
Germanic peoples of the Roman era are often lumped with the other
agents of the "barbarian invasions", the
Alans and the Huns, as
opposed to the civilized "Roman" identity of the Holy Roman
Early modern publications dealing with
Old Norse culture appeared in
the 16th century, e.g. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (Olaus
Magnus, 1555) and the first edition of the 13th century Gesta Danorum
(Saxo Grammaticus), in 1514. Authors of the German Renaissance
Johannes Aventinus discovered the Germanii of
Tacitus as the
"Old Germans", whose virtue and unspoiled manhood, as it appears in
the Roman accounts of noble savagery, they contrast with the decadence
of their own day.
The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin
translations of the
Edda (notably Peder Resen's
Edda Islandorum of
Viking revival of 18th century
Romanticism created a
fascination with anything "Nordic" in disposition. The beginning
Germanic philology proper begins in the early 19th century, with
Rasmus Rask's Icelandic Lexicon of 1814, and was in full bloom by the
1830s, with Jacob Grimm's
Deutsche Mythologie giving an extensive
account of reconstructed
Germanic mythology and his Deutsches
Wörterbuch of Germanic etymology. Apart from linguistic studies,
the subject of what became of the Roman era Germanic tribes, and how
they influenced the
Middle Ages and the development of modern Western
culture was a subject discussed in the Enlightenment by such as
Montesquieu and Giambattista Vico.
Later still, the development of Germanic studies as an academic
discipline in the 19th century ran parallel to the rise of nationalism
in Europe and the search for national histories for the nascent nation
states developing after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. A
"Germanic" national ethnicity offered itself for the unification of
Germany, contrasting the emerging
German Empire with its neighboring
rivals of differing ancestry. The nascent belief in a German
ethnicity was subsequently founded upon national myths of Germanic
antiquity. These tendencies culminated in a later Pan-Germanism,
Alldeutsche Bewegung which had as its aim, the political unity of all
German-speaking Europe (all Volksdeutsche) into a Teutonic nation
Romantic nationalism in
Scandinavia placed more weight on
the Viking Age, resulting in the movement known as Scandinavism.
The theories of race developed in the same period, which used
Darwinian evolutionary ideals and pseudo-scientific methods in the
Germanic peoples (members of a Nordic race), as
being superior to other ethnicities.
Scientific racism flourished
in the late 19th century and into the mid-20th century, where it
became the basis for specious racial comparisons and justification for
eugenic efforts; it also contributed to compulsory sterilization,
anti-miscegenation laws, and was used to sanction immigration
restrictions in both Europe and the United States.[y]
Ancient Germanic culture portal
List of Germanic peoples
^ In these early records of apparent Germanic tribes, tribal leader
names of the
Cimbri and Sigambri, and tribal names such as Tencteri
and Usipetes, are also apparently Gaulish, even coming from the east
of the Rhine.
^ See: L. Rübekeil, Suebica. Völkernamen und Ethnos, Innsbruck 1992,
Cherusci people are the progenitors of Arminius, who once a
Roman general, betrayed his erstwhile Roman legions by attacking them
using the combined forces of Germanic tribes in 9 CE at Teutoberg
Forest, a move which ended the Roman Empire's efforts to expand east
of the Rhine.
^ As late as the 10th century there is evidence of runic writing on a
stone monument erected by the first Christian king of Denmark, Harald
Bluetooth. In the text, Harald honors his parents using runic script
and on the other side of the stone is a depiction of 'Christ in His
Glory', incorporating a runic inscription which extolls Harald for
Norway and for converting the
Christians. See: Moltke (1985).
Runes and Their Origin:
Elsewhere, pp. 207–220.
^ Of the Germanic languages, the only well-attested east Germanic
language was Gothic. See: Don Ringe, A Linguistic History of English:
From Proto-Indo-European to
Proto-Germanic (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2006), 213.
^ For more on this, see: Kurt Braunmüller, "Was ist Germanisch
heute?" Sprachwissenschaft 25 (2000): 271–295.
^ See: The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th edition, 22: pp.
^ Ancient authors we know by name who saw Pytheas' text were
Dicaearchus, Timaeus, Eratosthenes, Crates of Mallus, Hipparchus,
Polybius, Artemidorus and Posidonius, as Lionel Pearson remarked in
reviewing Hans Joachim Mette,
Pytheas von Massalia (Berlin: Gruyter)
1952, in Classical Philology 49.3 (July 1954), pp. 212–214.
^ A preserved report from the Governor of Moesia indicates that Nero
released a notable number of
Bastarnae captives in recompense for
their tribal King's willingness to submit before the Roman
^ Plutarch writes of these Cimbrian warriors with "sky blue" colored
eyes, see: Truces et cærulei oculi. -- Germ. IX. Plutarch (in Marius,
XI). Cited from Francis B. Gummere, Germanic Origins: A Study in
Primitive Culture (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1892), 58 fn.
^ This derives from Gaius Julius Caesar, Commentarii De Bello Gallico,
^ The tribal
Helvetii lend their namesake to the formal epithet for
the nation of
Switzerland – the Helvetic Confederacy (or Helvetia).
See: The Encyclopædia Britannica (2015), "Helvetii". Stable URL:
^ The texts of the chronicler Marcellinus demonstrate that, at the
very least, military cooperation between the Germanic tribes and the
Romans took place at times since he makes reference to a "pactum
^ Recent academic work from the likes of Peter Heather supports this
argument. (See: Heather, Peter. (2012) Empires and Barbarians: The
Rome and the Birth of Europe). Conversely, historian Bryan
Ward-Perkins paints a different picture altogether. Ward-Perkins
states that, "The invaders were not guilty of murder, but they had
committed manslaughter." (See: Ward-Perkins, (2005) The Fall of Rome:
And the End of Civilization, p. 134.) The two titles alone speak to
their divergent positions.
^ For a period of upwards of 1300 years since the Frankish king Clovis
was converted to
Christianity (he ruled
Gaul in what eventually became
modern France), eighteen monarchs of
France have been Christened with
a French derivation of his Latin name Ludovicus or "Louis" in modern
French. See: Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three
Thousand Years (New York: Penguin, 2011), p. 324.
^ E.g. "If a freeman steal from the king, let him pay ninefold", in
the Law of Æthelberht, paragraph 4.
^ E.g. reduction of the weregild to half the regular amount if the man
responsible for the killing is employed by the king in the laws of
Æthelberht of Kent, paragraph 7.
^ Warriors were physically adept and owed much of their esprit de
corps to the loyalty existing between themselves and their tribal
chieftains. After forming a shield wall, they would then hurl a single
spear in unison as a sacrifice to Odin. Fighting thereafter normally
devolved to a gang raid and individual combat. See: Waldman &
Mason 2006, p. 837.
^ This and the following information is based on P.J. Geary, Before
France and Germany. The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian
World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 44 ff. and M. Innes,
Early Medieval Western Europe, 300–900 (Abingdon
^ See: Young, Bruce W. (2008). Family Life in the Age of Shakespeare.
Greenwood Press, pp. 16–17.
^ Many groups of
Germanic peoples shared one form or another of a
creation story where a divine being emerges from nothingness only to
be sacrificed and torn to pieces; the bones of this divine creature
(named Ymir) produced the rocks, his flesh became the earth, his blood
formed the seas, the clouds emerged from his hair, and his skull made
up the sky. In this creation story, a mighty tree called
Yggdrasill is situated at the center of the earth, its top touching
the sky, its branches covering the earth, and the great tree's roots
plunging into hell. Connecting the three planes of "Heaven, Earth, and
Hades", this "Universal Tree" symbolized the universe itself.
^ The principle shared deity among the Germanic tribes, Odin-Wodan,
(in varying name forms) was not only the god of war, but of the dead
as well. Odin-
Wodan protected great heroes in combat but often killed
his "protégés", who were led to him by the Valkyries and gathered
together to practice fighting in preparation for the final
eschatological battle of the Ragnarök.
^ See: Levison (1905). Vitae Sancti Bonifatii archiepiscopi moguntini,
^ New Phylthatetic Relationships for Y-chromosome Haplogroup I:
Reappraising its Phylogeography and Prehistory," Rethinking the Human
Evolution, Mellars P, Boyle K, Bar-Yosef O, Stringer C, Eds. McDonald
Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, UK, 2007, pp.
33–42 by Underhill PA, Myres NM, Rootsi S, Chow CT, Lin AA, Otillar
RP, King R, Zhivotovsky LA, Balanovsky O, Pshenichnov A, Ritchie KH,
Cavalli-Sforza LL, Kivisild T, Villems R, Woodward SR.
^ Obsession with Germanic origins ultimately resulted in perverse
racial theories which provided the mental fabric for the Holocaust.
For a more through understanding of scientific racism's historical
trajectory, see: Mosse, George L. Toward the Final Solution: A History
of European Racism. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.
^ a b Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 296.
^ a b c d Encyclopædia Britannica, "Germanic Peoples"
^ a b Minahan 2000, p. 769.
^ a b Pavlovic 2007, p. 53.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Imperial Teutonic Order.
^ Stümpel 1932, p. 60.
^ Heather 2012, pp. 5–8.
^ a b
De Bello Gallico
De Bello Gallico 2.4
^ "Germania" chapter 2.
^ Manco 2013, p. 207.
^ Lamarcq & Rogge 1996, p. 44.
^ Lamarcq & Rogge 1996, p. 47.
^ Schulze 2001, p. 4.
^ Partridge 1966, p. 1265.
^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 245.
^ Burns 2003, pp. 15–16.
^ Burns 2003, pp. 232–233.
^ Burns 2003, p. 19.
^ a b Dalby 1999, p. 224.
^ Detwiler 1999, p. 3.
^ Burns 2003, pp. 66–67.
^ Tac. Ger. 2
^ Tac. Ger. 38-40
^ Plin. Nat. 4.28
^ Ozment 2005, pp. 20–21.
^ Geography 7.1
^ a b c Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 300.
^ Todd 1999, pp. 12–13.
^ Halsall 1981, p. 15.
^ Antonsen 2002, p. 37.
^ Bauer 2010, p. 44.
^ Musset 1993, pp. 12–13.
^ Ostler 2006, p. 307.
^ Dalby 1999, p. 224–225.
^ Robinson 1992, pp. 194–195.
^ Ostler 2006, pp. 304–314.
^ Wightman 1985, pp. 12–14.
^ Dalby 1999, p. 225.
^ Kinder & Hilgemann 2004, p. 109.
^ Cunliffe 2011, p. 309–316.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 296–297.
^ Bury 2000, p. 5.
^ Verhart 2006, pp. 81–82.
^ Verhart 2006, p. 67.
^ Well 1996, pp. 603–611.
^ Bogucki & Crabtree, eds. (vol. 2) 2003, p. 152.
^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 222.
^ Hachmann, Kossack & Kuhn 1962, pp. 183–212.
^ Verhart 2006, pp. 175–176.
^ Bury 2000, p. 6.
^ Bury 2000, pp. 6–7.
^ Bury 2000, pp. 7–9.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 301.
^ Osborne 2008, p. 38.
^ Cunliffe 2011, pp. 6–8.
^ Burns 2003, pp. 51–52.
^ a b c d e Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 61.
^ Todd 1999, p. 24.
^ Todd 1999, p. 150.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 103.
^ Heather 2005, p. 49.
^ a b Mommsen 1968, p. 229.
^ Williams 1998, p. 184.
^ Bury 2000, p. 15.
^ Heather 2005, p. 154.
^ Ozment 2005, p. 58fn.
^ Woolf 2012, pp. 105–107.
^ Cunliffe 2011, pp. 369–371.
^ a b
Tacitus 2009, p. 48.
^ Pagden 2001, p. 22.
^ Todd 1999, pp. 34–35.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 302.
^ Todd 1999, p. 23.
^ Todd 1999, pp. 23–24.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 301–302.
^ Ozment 2005, p. 19.
^ Pohl 2002, p. 16.
^ Wolfram 1997, pp. 36–37.
^ Cunliffe 2011, p. 384.
^ Boatwright, Gargola & Talbert 2004, p. 360.
^ Burns 2003, p. 183.
^ Heather 2012, p. 594.
^ Bury 2000, p. 10.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 304.
^ Geary 1999, p. 109.
^ Collins 1999, pp. 2–3.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 304–305.
^ Collins 1999, p. 46.
^ Bury 2000, p. 61.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 305–306.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 306.
^ Pohl 1997, pp. 34–35.
^ Bauer 2010, p. 45.
^ Bauer 2010, pp. 45–46.
^ Bury 2000, pp. 129–130.
^ Katz 1955, p. 88.
^ Katz 1955, pp. 88–89.
^ Brown 2012, p. 128.
^ Bury 2000, p. 16.
^ Bury 2000, pp. 16–33.
^ Kishlansky, Geary & O'Brien 2008, p. 166.
^ Manco 2013, p. 204.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 26.
^ James 1995, pp. 60–67.
^ Drinkwater 2007, p. 81.
^ Kendrick 2013, pp. 60–63.
^ Pagden 2001, p. 37.
^ Bloemers & van Dorp 1991, pp. 329–338.
^ Davies 1998, p. 229.
^ Bury 2000, pp. 65–66.
^ Brown 2012, p. 294.
^ Brown 2012, pp. 294–295.
^ Collins 1999, pp. 53–54.
^ Davies 1998, pp. 231–232.
^ Davies 1998, p. 232.
^ Roberts 1997, pp. 146–147.
^ Chrysos 2003, pp. 13–14.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 307.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, p. 64.
^ O'Donnell 2008, p. 105.
^ Santosuo 2004, pp. 13–15.
^ O'Donnell 2008, pp. 105–107.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 308.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, pp. 69–70.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, p. 72.
^ Wolfram 1988, p. 332.
^ Wolfram 1997, p. 308.
^ Cunliffe 2011, p. 442.
^ Cunliffe 2011, pp. 442–444.
^ Heather 2014, pp. 58–59.
^ Heather 2014, pp. 61–68.
^ Pohl 1997, p. 33.
^ Kitchen 1996, pp. 19–20.
^ Kitchen 1996, p. 20.
^ Bauer 2010, p. 172.
^ James 1995, pp. 66–67.
^ Bauer 2010, p. 173.
^ Bauer 2010, pp. 178–179.
^ Kitchen 1996, pp. 24–28.
^ Bury 2000, p. 239.
^ James 1995, p. 60.
^ Morgan 2001, pp. 61–65.
^ Roberts 1996, pp. 121–123.
^ Derry 2012, pp. 16–35.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 310–311.
^ Sykes 2006, pp. 227–228, 264–266.
^ Geary 1999, p. 110.
^ Heather 2012, pp. 587–588.
^ Ostler 2006, pp. 306–307.
^ Menéndez-Pidal 1968, p. 19.
^ Wickham 2009, pp. 150–155.
^ Clements 2005, pp. 214–229.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 310.
^ Ferguson 2010, p. 240.
^ Oliver 2011, p. 27.
^ Oliver 2011, pp. 203–226.
^ Wolfram 1997, p. 310.
^ a b c Geary 1999, p. 113.
^ Geary 1999, p. 112.
^ Archer et al. 2008, p. 105.
^ Roberts 1996, pp. 65–66.
^ Daniels & Hyslop 2014, p. 85.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 836.
^ a b Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 321.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 321–322.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 458–459.
^ Santosuo 2004, pp. 143–144.
^ Todd 1999, pp. 36–37.
^ Todd 1999, p. 37.
^ Bémont & Monod 2012, pp. 485–486.
^ a b Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 322.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 322–323.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 312.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 313.
^ Kishlansky, Geary & O'Brien 2008, p. 164.
^ Osborne 2008, p. 39.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 313–314.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 314–315.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 315.
^ Manco 2013, p. 202.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 315–316.
^ a b Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 318.
^ Geary 1999, p. 111.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Comitatus
^ Todd 1999, pp. 31–32.
Tacitus 2009, p. 49.
^ Heather 2003, p. 324.
^ a b c Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 317.
^ Murray 1983, p. 64.
^ Todd 1999, p. 30.
^ Todd 1999, p. 32.
^ Williams 1998, p. 79.
^ Bémont & Monod 2012, pp. 410–415.
^ Pohl 1997, p. 34.
^ Santosuo 2004, p. 9.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, pp. 50–51.
^ a b
Tacitus 2009, p. 52.
Tacitus 2009, p. 53.
^ Frassetto 2003, p. 261.
^ Herlihy 1985, pp. 73–75.
^ Green & Siegmund 2003, p. 107.
^ Frassetto 2003, p. 262.
^ Bury 2000, p. 281.
^ Wolfram 1997, p. 105.
^ Wolfram 1997, p. 88.
^ Wolfram 1997, pp. 106–107.
^ Ewing 2008, p. 9.
^ Eliade 1984, p. 154.
^ Eliade 1984, pp. 155–156.
^ Eliade 1984, p. 157.
^ a b Eliade 1984, p. 161.
^ Burns 2003, p. 367.
^ Williams 1998, pp. 81–82.
^ Williams 1998, p. 82.
^ Drinkwater 2007, p. 117.
^ Burns 2003, p. 368.
^ Price 1965, pp. 368–378.
^ Santosuo 2004, pp. 14–16.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 327.
^ Cameron 1997, p. 97.
^ Waldman & Mason 2006, p. 497.
^ a b Cameron 1997, p. 98.
^ Pohl 1997, p. 37.
^ McKitterick 2008, pp. 103–106.
^ Wilson 2005, p. 47.
^ Kendrick 2013, pp. 118–123.
^ Manco 2013, p. 208.
^ Manco 2013, pp. 209–210.
^ McDonald 2005.
^ McGrath 2015, pp. 146–151.
^ Burns 2003, pp. 3–9, 14–23, 331.
^ Golther 1908, p. 3.
^ Strauss 1963, pp. 229–230.
^ Mjöberg 1980, pp. 207–238.
^ Chisholm 1911, p. 912.
^ Kramer & Maza 2002, pp. 124–138.
^ Jansen 2011, pp. 242–243.
^ Jansen 2011, pp. 242–249.
^ Mosse 1964, pp. 67–87.
^ Mosse 1964, pp. 218–225.
^ Smith 1989, pp. 97–111.
^ Derry 2012, pp. 27, 220, 238–248.
^ Weikart 2006, pp. 3–10, 102–126.
Bibliography and further reading
Antonsen, Elmer (2002).
Runes and Germanic Linguistics. New York and
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Archer, Christon I.; Ferris, John R.; Herwig, Holger; Travers, Timothy
H. E. (2008). World History of Warfare. Lincoln, NE: University of
Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-1941-0.
Bauer, Susan Wise (2010). The History of the Medieval World: From the
Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. New York: W. W. Norton
& Company. ISBN 978-0-393-05975-5.
Beck, Heinrich and
Heiko Steuer and Dieter Timpe, eds. Die Germanen.
Studienausgabe. Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde. Berlin,
New York: Walter de Gruyter 1998. Xi + 258
pp. ISBN 3-11-016383-7.
Bémont, Charles; Monod, Gabriel (2012). Medieval Europe, 395–1270.
Lecturable [Kindle Edition]. ASIN B00ASEDPFA.
Bloemers, J.H.F.; van Dorp, T. (1991). Pre- en Protohistorie van de
Lage Landen (in Dutch). Heerlen: De Haan / Open Universiteit.
Boatwright, Mary T.; Gargola, Daniel J.; Talbert, Richard J. A.
(2004). The Romans: From Village to Empire. New York: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511875-9.
Bogucki, Peter; Pam J. Crabtree, eds. (2003). Ancient Europe 8000 B.C
to A.D. 1000. Encyclopedia of the
Barbarian World (vol. 2). New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-684-80670-3. CS1 maint:
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Bowersock, G.W., Brown, Peter, and Oleg Grabar, eds. Late Antiquity: A
Guide to the Postclassical World. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of
Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-674-51173-6
Braunmüller, Kurt. "Was ist Germanisch heute?" Sprachwissenschaft 25
(2000): 271– 295.
Brown, Peter (2012). Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of
Rome, and the Making of
Christianity in the West, 350–550 AD.
Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Burns, Thomas (1994). Barbarians within the Gates of Rome: A Study of
Military Policy and the Barbarians, CA. 375–425 A.D.
Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Burns, Thomas (2003).
Rome and the Barbarians, 100 B.C.—A.D. 400.
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Bury, J. B. (2000). The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians. New
York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-00388-8.
Cameron, Averil (1997). "Cult and Worship in East and West". In Leslie
Webster; Michelle Brown, eds. The Transformation of the Roman World,
AD 400–900. London: British Museum Press.
ISBN 978-0-7141-0585-7. CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary
of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. 22. New York:
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Chrysos, Evangelos (2003). "The Empire, the Gentes and the Regna". In
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Early Medieval Peoples and
Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman World. Leiden, NLD: Brill
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Clements, Jonathan (2005). A Brief History of the Vikings: Last Pagans
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Collins, Roger (1999).
Early Medieval Europe, 300–1000. New York:
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