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14. The Goths III
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15. Denmark's history - Danes, Heruls and Angles

Introduction - Dana meant river or estuary - Jordanes about Herulos and Dani - Procopius on Heruls and Danes - The Heruls - Dani, Switheudi, Thuringi and Aesirs - - The Aesirs came from Asia - The Angles - Gregor af Tours om Dani - Danes in Old English poems - North Danes and South Danes in Alfred's Orosius - Danes in the anonymous Cartographer from Ravenna - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles on Danes - Scandinavian sources about Danes - Danes and Denmark - Links og litterature

Introduction

Saxo Grammaticus starts "Saxonis Grammatici Historia Danica" with: "Dan and Angel, Humble's sons, from whom the Danish originate, was our people's founders, although the French chronicle-writer Dudo will know that the Danes descend from the Greeks or, as they are also called, the Danas, and got their name from them."

Saxo Gramaticus by Louis Moe
Saxo Gramaticus by Louis Moe.

This is probably not absolutely true, but shows Saxo's purpose of his work, namely, to create a history of Denmark that could unite the nation by creating or strengthening a common Danish idendity.

Jordanes wrote that Dani expelled Herulos from their settlements, which we must believe, lay in Denmark. The Heruls are mentioned by many ancient writers, but they are not found in any written sources from Scandinavia, neither at Snorre, Saxo or in other sagas, old English poems or in any other handed down histories. It must therefore be assumed that they were known in Scandinavia under a different name. Nobody knows for sure, who they were, and there is ample room for guesses and speculations. But it is tempting to think that they were the direct descendants of the dominating people in the old Bronze Age culture that still held out on Sjælland and in Skåne, until they were expelled by Dani. The Danish archaeologist Johannes Brøndsted noted that Sjælland and neighboring islands are strikingly poor in finds from the oldest Iron Age, it is as if the bronze age here continued yet another time, he argued.

Dana meant River or Estuary

Many believe that "danu" is an ancient proto-Indo-European word for river.

The Romans used mostly the Greek Ister for Danube, but Tacitus wrote Danubius. Pliny wrote: "Magnum est stare in Danubii ripa" meaning: "It's magnificent to stand on the banks of the Danube". In English and French the river is still called Danube.

Floden Dana gennem Klaipeda i Lithauen
The river Dana through Klaipeda in Lithuania. Photo curiositu.ru.

In "The saga of Hervarar and King Heidrek" the Gothic capital is called Arheimar and is located at the Danpar river that is Dnieper, which was also called Danapris or Danaper of Greeks and Romans. Dniester was in ancient times called Danastius or Danaster.

In the description of a Sclaweni people, the Antes, who lived in southern Ukraine between the rivers Dniestr and Dniepr, Jordanes calls the two rivers respectively Danastro and Danaprum (a Danastro extenduntur usque the Danaprum).

The river Don is called Tanais, among others by Strabo, and thus it is called also in Heimskringla by Snorre. Procopius tells that the Po River in northern Italy was called either Po or Eridanos. The French river Rhone is called Rodanus by several ancient writers, for example in "Historia Langobardorum" of Paul the Deacon, where we hear about some marauding Saxons, who came to the Rodanus river.

The river that runs through Klaipeda in Lithuania is called simply Dana, and is said that there are six rivers in UK, called Don. It is also said that on Jacob Langebek's maps from around 1755 the river Eider is called Døne.

Relief on Trajan's Column depicting the god Danubius
A relief on Trajan's Column depicting the god Danubius watching Roman legionaries - Wikipedia.

Plinius (23-79 AC) wrote in Naturalis Historia: "There is the extremely great mountains Saevo not inferior to the high crags of Riphaeus, which make up a very large gulf called Codanus as far as to the Cimbrians' Promontory, and it is full of islands, of which the most well known is Scandinavia, the magnitude whereof is not yet discovered." At about the same time Pomponius Mela (died around 45 AD) wrote on Codanus Sinus and Codannovia, which was a large island in Codanus Sinus. Most assume that "sinus" means bay.

The same Pliny the Elder wrote: "Pytheas says that Gutones, a people in Germania, inhabits the banks of an estuary of the ocean called Mentonomon." As the Goths really lived in southern Scandinavia, we must believe that he thought that the Danish straits and the Baltic Sea was a large estuary.

An estuary in the ocean called Mentonomon
Pytheas says that the Gutones, a people in Germania, inhabits the banks of an estuary of the ocean called Mentonomon. Their territory extends over a distance of six thousand stadia (about 1.100 kilometer). From Wikipedia.

At first glance, we imagine that Codanus most likely was latin, because it sounds latin and Pliny and Mela wrote in latin; but it is not. An online Latin-Danish dictionary gives the answer that Codan means "in Danish", and it was probably not the intention.

It's pretty likely that Codanus was the name of the inner Danish waters understood as a river or estuary in an original proto Indo-European language, like Eridanos, Rodanos and all the other river names that can be traced back to the term "dana" for "river" in an original language that probably was spoken from southern Russia to France and Scandinavia, most likely dating back to the Bronze Age. When Pliny and Mela wrote that the bay or estuary is called Codanus, then it was not a Latin name that they had given it, but more likely it was, what the inhabitants of the area called it themselves.

The ending -us in Codanhus is a mere gender- and case-suffix.

Indo-European languages
It is assumed that the Indo-European languages originate from an original proto Indo-European language. From Site for Language Management in Canada.

Many believe that Lithuanian is the modern language that is most close to an original Proto-Indo-European language. Lithuanians add -as to men's names to indicate that this person is a man, quite like the Romans added -us to men's names, like in Julius, Crassus, Augustus and so on.

I remember a former colleague, who strived to learn Lithuanian; he thought it was not so difficult, because many words recalls corresponding Danish words.

But when dana, danu, dan, danos eller danus meant river, what meant then "Co-"?

We recognize co- in many modern words denoting collaboration or cooperation between several agents, for example, company, coordinate, corpration - Codanus could then have meant something like "cooperating rivers", which is not a bad description of the three Danish straits, which spew brackish water into the Western Ocean.

En traditionelle fortolkning af Plinius' stednavne-angivelser
A traditional interpretation of Pliny's place names.

In the "Naturalis Historia" section on the Baltic Sea, Southern Scandinavia and the North Sea, Pliny the Elder gives additional examples of names that may have originated in an original proto Indo-European language that was spoken in these parts of the World: "The rest of these coasts are only known in detail by reports of doubtful authority. To the north is the ocean; beyond the river Parapanisus, where it washes the coast of Scythia. Hecataeus calls it the Amalchian Sea, a name that in the language of the natives means "frozen"; Philemon says that the Cimbrian name for it is Morimarusa (that is "Dead Sea") from the Parapanisus to Cape Rusbeae, and from that point onward the Cronian Sea. Xenophon of Lampsacus reports that three days’ sail from the Scythian coast there is an island of enormous size called Balcia; Pytheas gives its name as Basilia. Also some islands called the Oeonae are reported of which the inhabitants live on birds’ eggs and oats." These names are not Latin names, which the Romans have given islands and seas, but names that the people of these regions used themselves. Apart from "Oeonae" which recalls the Danish "ø" meaning island, they do not remind of Gothic or Germanic names.

Saxo wrote: "Dudo will know that the Danes descend from the Greeks or, as they also are called the Danas, and got their name from them." But Greece reminds geographically on Denmark, since it consists of a peninsula and numerous islands, where in between are flowing streams of less salty water from the many rivers that flow into the Black Sea; therefore, the country's inhabitants were in a remote antiquity also called Danas in an original Indo-European language.

Homer called the Greeks for Danaans or Danai. When the Greeks had left the walls of Troy and left behind their wooden horse, the priest Laocoon said: "I fear Dana'ans, even those who bring gifts."

Jordanes on Herulos and Dani

In Constantinople around 550 AD both Jordanes and Procopius wrote on Dani in Scandinavia. Jordanes wrote in Latin, and Procopius wrote in Greek.

Jordanes told about the tribes on the island of Scandia in the Northern Ocean: "In the northern part of the island the race of the Halogians (AlogiR) live - There are the Scrithifinni - But still another race dwells there, the Sweans, who, like the Thuringi have splendid horses - Then comes a throng of various nations".

The tribes on the island of Scandia following Jordanes
The tribes on the island of Scandia following Jordanes - rather randomly placed by the author. We can place Halogi, Scrithfinni, Finn Haith and Finni Mitissimi north according to their names. Sweans and Switheudi around the lake Malern - as we believe that they are Swedes. Gautigoths and Ostrogoths in the Gøta countries. Dani in Scania and some people with names, which remind of modern Norwegian place names, Raumarici and Agadii as good as possible in Norway. The rest I have placed rather randomly.

Later following Jordanes: "Switheudi, cogniti in hac gente reliquis corpore eminentiores: quamvis et Dani, ex ipsorum stirpe progressi, Erulos propriis sedibus expulerunt (quibus non ante multos annos Hrodwulf rex fuit, qui contempto proprio regno ad Theodorici Gothorum regis gremium convolavit et, ut desiderabat, invenit),-" which in Theedrich Yeat's translation to English sounds: "The Switheudi are of this stock and excel the rest in stature. However, the Dani, who trace their origin to the same stock, drove from their homes the Erulos, who claim to be predominent among all the nations of Scandia because of their tallness and over whom Hrodwulf was king not many years ago. But he despised his own kingdom and fled to the embrace of Theodorici, king of the Goths, finding there what he desired."

"This stock" must refer to "other race" above, "Sweans, who like Thuringi have splendid horses"; and Dani, "who trace their origin to the same stock", had an especially tall body height - which Switheudi too had - and probably Thuringi, whom they are connected to. Apparently Jordanes simply meant that Switheudi and Dani had common ancestry, which was different from the Halogian's, Goth's and Finn's descent.

To get the connection to Thuringi with the splendid horses, we must believe that Sweans and Switheudi are the same people.

The Latin is somewhat unclear, and it has been argued that it can also mean that the Heruli expelled the the Danes from their settlements. But since Heruls are not mentioned in any Scandinavian historical sources and the Danes are known to have inhabited these regions since then, we must believe that the sentence means that Dani expelled Herulos.

Dolichocephalic man skull from Vester Egesborg on Stevns on Sjælland
Dolichocephalic man skull from Vester Egesborg on Stevns on Sjælland from Roman Iron Age- From Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.

It is also not clear whether it was Dani or Herulos, who claimed sovereignty because of their body height, but as skeletons from Denmark from this time rather suddenly indicate fairly large body size, one must assume that it was Dani, who were the tall ones; Moreover, Jordanes tells that the Dani were of the same descent as Switheudi, who were tall - so it is natural that the Dani also were.

It is also unclear, whether Hrodwulf was king of Herulos or Dani, but the royal name Rodulf is later repeatedly associated with Heruls, so we must believe that he was king of Herulos.

It is not directly mentioned, where the Heruli settlements were located; but as Jordanes explicitly is talking about the inhabitants of the island of Scandia, that is the Scandinavian Peninsula, we must believe that the Heruli or some of them originally lived in Skåne, Halland or Blekinge and was expelled from there.

Jordanes also does not tell, when this expulsion took place.

Procopius on Heruls and Danes

By the end of Procopius' Book VI on the Gothic war in Italy he loses interest in the war and writes instead about the Heruli, who was part of Belisarius' army. He recounts among other things a decisive battle between Heruls and Langobards, which took place north of the Danube - possibly quite far north:

The Langobards' migrations
Reconstruction of the Langobards' migrations - Langobards had given name to the region around Milan, Lombardy - Paul the Deacon mentions that the Lombards came from Scandia, but elsewhere he writes that they were not so numerous, because they came from only a small island, and this does not fit with Scandia. - Wikimedia commons.

"And when the two armies came close to one another, it so happened that the sky above the Lombards was obscured by a sort of cloud, black and very thick, but above the Eruli it was exceedingly clear. And judging by this one would have supposed that the Eruli were entering the conflict to their own harm; for there ran be no more forbidding portent than this for barbarians as they go into battle. However, the Eruli gave no heed even to this, but in absolute disregard of it they advanced against their enemy with utter contempt, estimating the outcome of war by mere superiority of numbers. But when the battle came to close quarters, many of the Eruli perished and Rodolphus himself also perished, and the rest fled at full speed, forgetting all their courage. And since their enemy followed them up, the most of them fell on the field of battle and only a few succeeded in saving themselves."

"When the Eruli, being defeated by the Lombards in the above-mentioned battle, migrated from their ancestral homes, some of them, as has been told by me above, made their home in the country of Illyricum, but the rest were averse to crossing the Ister River, but settled at the very extremity of the world; at any rate, these men, led by many of the royal blood, traversed all the nations of the Sclaveni one after the other, and after next crossing a large tract of barren country, they came to the Varni, as they are called. After these they passed by the nations of the Dani, without suffering violence at the hands of the barbarians there. Coming thence to the ocean, they took to the sea, and putting in at Thule, remained there on the island."

Procopius was Belisarius' secretary through three wars: against the Persians in Syria, against the Vandals in Africa and against the Goths in Italy. In all three wars Heruls had been part of the Roman army. We must believe that Procopius had a very intimate relationship with them, and that he had his information from the Heruli themselves. It is assumed that he published his reports on Emperor Justinian wars around 550 AD in Constantinople.

It is known from the Gothic chancellor Cassiodorus' letters that the Goths in Italy tried to create an alliance with the Heruli, Thuringi and Varni against the Franks. Since he does not mention the Saxons, that we otherwise would expect, we must believe that Varni was an early name for the Saxons. We can imagine that the Saxons originally were called Varni and later got their name from their favorite weapon, the short single-edged sword, the sax; in the same way as the Langobards originally were called Vinil, but later was named after their favorite weapon, the long ax, langobard - bard as in the Danish name for halberd, hellebard.

Germanic tribes after Taticus
Reconstruction of the Germanic tribes following Tacitus. He did not create any map himself, but many writers have sought to place the tribes on a map following his description. As it can be seen Jutland and North West Germany are somewhat crowded at the expense of other areas. Tacitus mentions Varini after Anglii, and if we think that Varini is the Saxons, it is in conflict with many other sources, that is probably an error by Tacitus, who had all information on second hand. From "The Spoils of Victory. The North in the Shadow of the Roman Empire". Edited by L. Jørgensen, B. Storgaard and L.G. Thomsen. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen.

In that case, the Herulian travel party had followed the Rhine or more likely the Elbe, crossed "a large distance of barren land", perhaps Luneburger Heide, then traveled through the land of the Varni that most likely was Saxen, and from there through "the nations of the Dani"- notice that they are in plural - which must have been Jutland. Then they crossed the sea and landed in Thule, which is the Scandinavian Peninsula. As they traveled through Jutland through several of the Danes' nations, we must believe that they traveled a good distance up in Jutland, before they sailed over to Halland and Scania.

The earliest mention of Varni is by Tacitus in "Germania", in which he wrote: "Then follows in sequence and Reudignians, Aviones and Angles and Varinians and Eudoses and Suardones and Nuithones; all defended by rivers or forests." This means that the Varinians were neighbors to the Angles, which fits very well with the idea that they were a kind early Saxons and lived south of the "the nations of the Dani". Alternatively, it is suggested that Varni lived at the river Warnow and the city of Warnemünde, it would then lead to that the returning Heruls sailed from northern Germany to perhaps Blekinge and Scania, and that they not - as reported - "passed by the nations of the Dani" before they "took to the sea, and putting in at Thule".

Coin with portrait of Odovacar issued in Ravenna in 477 AD
Coin with portrait of Odovacar issued in Ravenna in 477 AD. He has a mustache following barbaric custom and maybe hair done up in a pillow. He was in all probability a Scirii, a Gothic-speaking people, but Consularia Italica call him king of Heruli. Consularia Italica is a collection of documents published by Theodore Mommsen in 1892. Other sources claim he was of Gothic origin. But Heruls constituted a large part of his men, and he was Rex Italia, therefore he was actually king of Heruli, though he himself was not a Herul. Moreover, Scirii was a kind of Goths, and as Odovacar was a Scirii, one can also say that he was a Goth. Thus, all statements are true. Odovacar deposed the last Western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, in 476 AD. Jordanes wrote about Odovacar: "Now that Augustus was appointed emperor in Ravenna by his father Orestes, it did not last long before Odoacer, King of Torcilingi (Thuringi), invaded Italy, as leader of Sciri, Heruli and allies of various races" - Photo Wikipedia.

In Procopius' report on the Heruli they assure him several times that they lived in their original homeland, when they fought their destiny battle against the Longobards. They did not tell Procopius that they originated from Scandia or another island, as Jordanes says. However, the term "passed the nations of the Dani, without suffering violence at the hands of the barbarians there" reveals, however, a somewhat tense relationship with the Danes, which suggests that Jordanes was right. Perhaps it was too humiliating for them to admit to Procopius that they two times had been expelled.

Following Paul the Deacon the Rugi, who lived north of the Danube opposite the Roman province Noricum, were defeated by Odoacer, who reigned in Italy. This happened 487-88 AD. He says that the victor led the Rugians away in large quantities, and the Longobards moved into the now almost uninhabited Rugiland, which must have been northern Austria, some believe Moravia. Here they were attacked by the Heruli, who, however, lost the fateful battle that followed, so that they were forced to leave their own country, as they told Procopius. This battle must most likely have taken place around the year 500 AD - and according to Paul in an area immediately north of the Danube.

As previously explained, it is likely that some Heruls were expelled from Scandinavia by Dani maybe around 200-300 AD The returning Heruls thus came back through "the nations of the Dani" 200-300 years after they had been expelled first time.

The Heruls

The Heruli enjoys a prominent place in the Migration Age history. The name does not occur in the writings of the first two centuries AD, and it neither appears in sagas, Saxo or other Scandinavian sources. However, they are mentioned in the very first lines of the poem Beowulf. One can imagine that bards at the Dani court did not consider it opportune to sing about the country's former rulers, whom Dani had displaced, and this is the reason for the absence of Heruls in sagas and skaldic verses. The Eddas, on the other hand, strongly emphasis on telling that the Jotuns were the first and the originals.

Wheel cross rock carvings
Most rock carvings with wheel cross in Denmark can be found at Lille Strandbygård in Nylars on the island of Bornholm.

Jordanes mentions in his description of the peoples on the island of Scandia that Dani expelled Herulos from their settlements - perhaps in Scania, Halland, Blekinge or Sjælland, possibly around 200-300 AD. Procopius says that after a catastrophic defeat to the Longobards a very large part of the Heruli went back to Scandinavia, where they settled on the island of Thule that is the Scandinavian Peninsula "near the Goths" or "opposite the Goths." Therefore, we believe that the Heruli originally came from Scandinavia, but since they are not mentioned in the Scandinavian historical sources, they must have been known there under a different name.

In fact, the opening lines of "Beowulf" mention King Skjold's suppression of the "fearsome Herul" and other tribes beyond the "whale-road":

"Listen! We - of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,
of those clan-kings heard of their glory.
how those nobles performed courageous deeds.
Often Scyld, Scef's son, from enemy hosts
from many peoples seized mead-benches;
and terrorised the fearsome Heruli
(egsode Eorle) after first he was
found helpless and destitute, he then knew to recompense for that:-
he grew under the clouds, throve in honours,
until to him each of the bordering tribes
beyond the whale-road had to submit,
and yield tribute:- that was a good king!"


However, later in the poem "Earle" is used in a way that can be understood as a title.

The archaeologist Johannes Brøndsted wondered about the lack of finds from the oldest iron age on Sjælland and in Skåne. Some have suggested that the Bronze Age lasted longer in this part of the country than in Jylland and on Fyn, it being understood that the Bronze Age culture here lasted long into the Iron Age. However, probably so that they largely used weapons of iron.

In Alvismal from the Elder Edda it is told that the Elves called the sun Fager-wheel (Fager is an old Danish word for beautiful). There are thousands of rock carvings depicting wheel crosses, which we believe are sun symbols that we call wheel-crosses, all of which are carved by the bronze age people. They may have been the Elves or Alfs. Since the Bronze-culture probably existed for a longer time on Sjælland and in Scania than in the rest of the country, we can believe that the Heruls in beginning of the Roman Iron Age was known as Elves or Alfs, and they were expelled by Dani.

One can also look into it so that Elves are the only names label from the Scandinavian mythology, which is vacant, besides from Jats and dwarfs, and thus speculatively attach them to the Heruls in Scandinavia.

Enægget sværd prydet med et hjulkors
Single-edged sword from Lynghøjgård in Salling adorned with a wheel cross. Foto Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.

Pliny mentions some names of seas, mountains and islands around Scandinavia: Amalchian sea, Morimarusa, Rubeas, Cronian Sea, Baltia; which names they were called according to "the language of these races." These names do not sound like Gothic or Germanic names. If not the ancient writers explicitly had written that thus they are called on the natives' own language, we would probably think that they came from Latin. Therefore, we may believe that the language of some of "these races" was a language close to an original proto Indo-European language, which reminded of Latin that the Bronze Age people alias Elves alias Heruls may have spoken; and it was in that language that the inner Danish waters was called Codanus.

Ancient sources, including Zosimus and Dexippo, say that Goths and Heluroi from Crimea around the year 200 AD, sailed across the Black Sea and captured the great city of Trebizond, from which they took a big booty and abducted a large number of prisoners. The same fate befell large and splendid cities of Bithynia like Chalcedon and Nicomedia. It is also said that in emperor Gallienus' reign, 260-268 AD the Goths and Heruls sailed with a large fleet through Bosphorus and Hellespont. They plundered Athens and many other cities. They landed in Greece, where the campaign's leaders began to quarrel among themselves, and one of the Heruli leaders named Naulobatus, went in Roman service together with all his men. He was very well received of the emperor, who gave him rank of consul.

Jordanes tells about the Heruli at the shore of the Black Sea around 360 AD: "But though famous for the submission of so many races, he (Hermanaric, king of the Eastern Goths) gave himself no rest until he had slain the majority of the tribe of the Arulos (gentem Erulorum), whose chief was Alaricus, and reduced the rest to his domination. Now the aforesaid race, as the historian Ablabius tells us, dwelt near the Sea of Asov in marshy places, which the Greeks call ele hence they were named Eluri. They were a people swift of foot, and on that account were the more swollen with pride. Indeed, there was at that time no race that would not have chosen from them its light-armed troops for battle. But though their quickness often outmanuevered others, who frequently engaged in war, yet they were overthrown by the steadiness and slowness of the Goths; and the lot of fortune brought it to pass that they, as well as the other tribes, had to serve Ermanaric, king of the Goths (Gothorum regi Ermanarico). After the slaughter of the Eruli, this same Ermanaric (Ermanaricus) took arms against the Wenethos."

Illustration in Alvismal
Thor in dialog with the dwarf Alvis. Illustration in Alvismal by W. G. Collingwood.

The author believes that the Goths were a collective term for various groups, which understood each other because of their shared Gothic language and culture. However, if Heruls was simply another Germanic or Gothic migration people, why did the antique sources write "Goths and Heruls". They could have contented themselves with writing only "Goths". There must have been qualitative differences between Goths and Heruls, for example, different languages, culture and physical appearance.

In its report on the Vandal war listed Procopius the Gothic nations: "There were many Gothic nations in earlier times, just as also at the present, but the greatest and most important of all are the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepaedes. In ancient times, however, they were named Sauromatae and Melanchlaeni; and there were some too who called these nations Getic." Procopius was general Belisarius' secretary through three wars, namely against the Persians, Vandals and Goths, and in all campaigns Heruls had been part of the Roman army. He must have had quite a good knowledge of Heruls, and when he did not count them among the Gothic nations, so it must have been because, they precisely were not Goths.

Sidonius Appollinaris wrote about the Heruls: " - Here strolls the Herulian with his glaucous cheeks, inhabitant of Ocean's furthest shore, and of one complexion with its weedy deeps."

Battle of the Catalaunian Plains
Claus Deleurans Description of the famous battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451 AD. From "Danmarkshistorie for Folket".

The Heruli fought with Attila in the battle on the Catalaunian Plains in 451 AD. After Attila's death and the showdown with his sons in the Battle of Nedao in 454 AD, they tore free from the Huns. They established their own kingdom and joined Odoacer in Italy. Odovacar was a Sciri, who was commander of the imperial troops, who deposed the last Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus in 476 AD.

Jordanes tells about the confrontation with the Huns by the river Nedao: "For then, I think, must have occurred a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goth fighting with pikes, the Gepides raging with his sword, the Rugians breaking off missiles in his own wound, the Swevian as foot soldier, the Hun taking the initiative with his bow, the Alan forming a of heavy battle line, the Erulum one of light armor."

Paul the Deacon tells that Heruli was part of Odovacar army in Italy: " - Odoacar then, having collected together the nations, which were subject to his sovereignty, that is the Turcilingi and the Heroli and the portion of the Rugii he already possessed and also the peoples of Italy, came into Rugiland and fought with the Rugii."

Further Paul tells in his Historia Langobardorum that the Herulian king was called Rotholf. The king's brother visited the Longobards to negotiate a peace. After completing the mission he was about to return home, but was invited to a glass of wine by a Longobard Princess, which, however, looked down at him because he was rather small: " - and because he was small in stature, the girl looked down upon him in contemptuous pride and uttered against him mocking words." She arranged that her servants killed the little man with a spear from behind through a window, while he drank wine.

The last stand of Rolf Krake and his household troops
The last stand of Rolf Krake and his household troops. Hrodwulf, Rudolf, Rudolf and Rodolphus appear as names of Herulean kings, so it is tempting to believe that Rolf was a traditional Herulian king's name, like we today have Frederik and Christian as traditional Danish King names. The philologist Niels Lukman suggested in 1943 that Rolf Krake could have been a Herulian king named Rodulf. The legend of Rolf Krake thus becomes a kind of Scandinavian King Arthur legend. Drawing by Louis Moe.

King Rudolf sent his hardened veterans against the Longobards. Paulus fortæller: "The Heroli were indeed at that time well trained in martial exercises, and already very famous from their many victories. And either to fight more freely or to show their contempt for a wound inflicted by the enemy, they fought naked, covering only the shameful things of the body." King Rudolf himself did not participate in the fight; he awaited the outcome of the battle in the shade of a tree, as he felt sure of Herulian victory. Too late, he was told that the Longobards had progress, and he fell along with the greater part of his army. Paul tells only that the King's brother was small in stature, but that sort of things runs in the family, so the king himself has probably not been a giant. A Herulian king, who left his people and sought refuge in Constantinople, was also called Rodolphus, indicating that it has been a traditional name for Herulian kings. This brings to mind the Scandinavian legend of Rolf Krake, who also was small in stature.

Paulus Diaconus continued: "- And now from that time all the courage of the Heroli so decayed that thereafter they had no king over them in any way."

The Danish scholar Niels Lukman suggested in his doctoral thesis in 1943 that Rolf Krake could have been a Herulian king named Rodulf. The legend of Rolf Krake thus becomes a kind of Scandinavian King Arthur legend, loved by bards.

Kejser Justinian og hans følge som mosaik i Basilica of San Vitale
Emperor Justinian and his entourage as mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. The bearded gentleman by the emperor's right hand is believed to be Procopius' superior, General Belisarius. He was in charge of the Justinian attempts to recapture the Western Roman Empire. The man at the Emperor's left is thought to be the eunuch Narses, who succeeded Belisarius as commander in Italy. Photo Wikipedia.

As General Belisarius secretary Procopius participated in the Eastern Roman Empire's war against the Persians in 531 AD, against the Vandals in 532 AD, and against the Goths in Italy 535 AD. He wrote a very descriptive report on the course of the wars. Along with many other barbaric peoples the Heruls were part of the imperial army in all three wars, and Procopius mentions them many times.

Before an important battle in the Persian war he says: "The extremity of the left straight trench which joined the cross trench, as far as the hill which rises here, was held by Bouzes with a large force of horsemen and by Pharas the Erulian with three hundred of his nation." Apparently the Heruls here were light infantry to support the cavalry. Procopius uses the term "his nation", indicating that Heruls really were a people, a race with their own culture and most likely own language.

Before the battle the following day Pharas got a creative idea: "Then Pharas came before Belisarius and Hermogenes, and said: "It does not seem to me that I shall do the enemy any great harm if I remain here with the Eruli; but if we conceal ourselves on this slope, and then, when the Persians have begun the fight, if we climb up by this hill and suddenly come upon their rear, shooting from behind them, we shall in all probability do them the greatest harm."

Which they did: "But first the three hundred Eruli under Pharas from the high ground got in the rear of the enemy and made a wonderful display of valorous deeds against all of them and especially the Cadiseni."

Heruls was only one of many barbarous people in the Roman army. About preparations for another battle it is said: "And he arranged the soldiers as follows. On either side of the tent were Thracians and Illyrians, with Goths beyond them, and next to these Eruli, and finally Vandals and Moors. And their line extended for a great distance over the plain."

Procopius and Belisarius
Painting depicting Procopius and Belisarius. Perhaps it is the artist's idea that Procopius is the elderly bearded man, but the author believes that Procopius was a young man, eager but a little naive, when he followed the armies and wrote his reports. Only a young man could have had the physique to work as a war correspondent for so long time. Unknown artist - from mikeaztec.wordpress.com.

In a battle the Heruls became too eager and pushed too far forward: "And then Narses urged his men forward and pressed still harder upon the enemy, and the rest of the Romans joined in the action. But all of a sudden the men who were in ambush, as has been said,came out from the cabins along the narrow alleys, and killed some of the Eruli, falling unexpectedly upon them" - "And the Persians, shooting into great masses of the enemy in the narrow alleys, killed a large number without difficulty, and particularly of the Eruli who had at the first fallen upon the enemy with Narses and were fighting for the most part without protection. For the Eruli have neither helmet nor corselet nor any other protective armour, except a shield and a thick jacket, which they gird about them before they enter a struggle. And indeed the Erulian slaves go into battle without even a shield, and when they prove themselves brave men in war, then their masters permit them to protect themselves in battle with shields. Such is the custom of the Eruli."

In 532 AD the so-called Nika revolt against Emperor Justinian broke out in Constantinople. Procopius says that thousands of rebels had gathered in the Hippodrome to crown a new emperor. They were all cut down by professional soldiers under the command of the generals Belisarius and Moundos. Belisarius was followed by his lifeguard, which included Thracian Goths, and the Gepide prince Moundos "had some Eroulian barbarians with him." The two generals attacked the poorly armed crowd from each end of the Hippodrome and cut them down indiscriminately. It was the bloodiest revolt ever in Constantinople, some historians assume that up to 30,000 to 35,000 people lost their lives before the rebellion was quelled.

The Heruls also participated in the Roman emperor's following war against the Vandals in North Africa: "And there followed with them also four hundred Eruli, whom Pharas led."

Romans and Procopius did not have great expectations of the Heruli, but Pharas was a positive surprise by the capture of the Vandal king, Gelimer: " - and so he chose out soldiers, with Pharas as their leader, and set them to maintain the siege of the mountain. Now this Pharas was energetic and thoroughly serious and upright in every way, although he was an Erulian by birth. And for an Erulian not to give himself over to treachery and drunkenness, but to strive after uprightness, is no easy matter and merits abundant praise. But not only was it Pharas, who maintained orderly conduct, but also all the Erulians who followed him. This Pharas, then, Belisarius commanded to establish himself at the foot of the mountain during the winter season and to keep close guard, so that it would neither be possible for Gelimer to leave the mountain nor for any supplies to be brought in to him. And Pharas acted accordingly."

Emperor Constantine is monitoring that Arian heretics are forced to burn their books
Emperor Constantine is monitoring that Arian heretics are forced to burn their books. From MS CLXV, Biblioteca Capitolare, Vercelli, 9th century. - Wikimedia commons.

Emperor Justinian was a very devout Catholic and allowed no deviations in the Christian faith, and this was a contributing factor to a mutiny among the Roman troops after the victory over the Vandals: "In the Roman army there were, as it happened, not less than one thousand soldiers of the Arian faith; and the most of these were barbarians, some of these being of the Erulia nation." Maybe it was especially the Heruli, who were Arian Christians.

In Procopius' section on the Gothic war Heruls are first mentioned somewhat late in the war. Maybe there was Heruls in Belisarius' army from the beginning, but we do not hear much about them. But in the army, which the emperor sent 538 AD led by Narses there was a large group: "And about two thousand of the Erulian nation also followed him, commanded by Visandus and Aluith and Phanitheus."

Procopius tells about Narses' attack on Caesena (Cesena), in which Heruls participated: "But since the barbarians defended themselves manfully, many fell in the fight and among them Phanitheus, the leader of the Eruli".

"Now as to who in the world the Eruli are, and how they entered into alliance with the Romans, I shall forthwith explain." Procopius wrote in "History of the Wars - Book XIV":

"They used to dwell beyond the Ister River from of old, worshipping a great host of gods, whom it seemed to them holy to appease even by human sacrifices. And they observed many customs which were not in accord with those of other men. For they were not permitted to live either when they grew old or when they fell sick, but as soon as one of them was overtaken by old age or by sickness, it became necessary for him to ask his relatives to remove him from the world as quickly as possible. And these relatives would pile up a quantity of wood to a great height and lay the man on top of the wood, and then they would send one of the Eruli, but not a relative of the man, to his side with a dagger; for it was not lawful for a kinsman to be his slayer. And when the slayer of their relative had returned, they would straightway burn the whole pile of wood, beginning at the edges. And after the lire had ceased, they would immediately collect the bones and bury them in the earth. And when a man of the Eruli died, it was necessary for his wife, if she laid claim to virtue and wished to leave a fair name behind her, to die not long afterward beside the tomb of her husband by hanging herself with a rope. And if she did not do this, the result was that she was in ill repute thereafter and an offence to the relatives of her husband. Such were the customs observed by the Eruli in ancient times."

Burned spot grave
Burned spot grave at Storup on the island of Mors. The digging spoon gives an idea of the size. Burned spot grave appears that after cremation, the survivors scraped the burned bones and the remains of the fire together in a hole in the ground, and covered it. If this has been the burial custom in eastern Denmark in the early Iron Age it will explain the striking emptiness of finds of graves on Sjælland and Skåne. In cultivated areas, where farmers have sown and plowed through more than a millennium since then, such graves must have been made completely invisible. - Excavated by Mors Arkæologisk Forening.

Such burial method would only leave some very simple cremation graves that it would be almost impossible to find after one and a half thousand years; and this may explain the emptiness of finds of graves in Sjælland and Scania from the early Iron Age.

We must believe that Procopius had his information from the newly arrived Heruls themselves. Maybe because they recently had converted to Christianity, they seem to have had a rather critical, almost ironic attitude to their own pagan past: "But as time went on they became superior to all the barbarians who dwelt about them both in power and in numbers, and, as was natural, they attacked and vanquished them severally and kept plundering their possessions by force. And finally they made the Lombards, who were Christians, together with several other nations, subject and tributary to themselves, though the barbarians of that region were not accustomed to that sort of thing; but the Eruli were led to take this course by love of money and a lawless spirit. When, however, Anastasius took over the Roman empire, the Eruli, having no longer anyone in the world whom they could assail, laid down their arms and remained quiet, and they observed peace in this way for a space of three years. But the people themselves, being exceedingly vexed, began to abuse their leader Rodolphus without restraint, and going to him constantly they called him cowardly and effeminate, and railed at him in a most unruly manner, taunting him with certain other names besides. And Rodolphus, being quite unable to bear the insult, marched against the Lombards, who were doing no wrong, without charging against them any fault or alleging any violation of their agreement, but bringing upon them a war which had no real cause."

The holy Maximus being hung by Heruls
The holy priest and martyr Maximus and more than 50 colleagues are being hung in Salzburg in the modern Austria by Heruls under King Odovacer perhaps around 480 AD. Odovacer was a Arian Christian, but it is said that he rarely intervened in religious matters, but maybe he did a a few times - Engraving from 1716 in the "Bavaria Sancta".

The following battle was a catastrophic defeat for the Heruli.

"For this reason the Eruli were no longer able to tarry in their ancestral homes, but departing from there as quickly as possible they kept moving forward, traversing the whole country which is beyond the Ister River, together with their wives and children. But when they reached a land where the Rogi dwelt of old, a people who had joined the Gothic host and gone to Italy, they settled in that place. But since they were pressed by famine, because they were in a barren land, they removed from there not long afterward, and came to a place close to the country of the Gepaedes."

"And at first the Gepaedes permitted them to dwell there and be neighbours to them, since they came as suppliants. But afterwards for no good reason the Gepaedes began to practise unholy deeds upon them. For they violated their women and seized their cattle and other property, and abstained from no wickedness whatever, and finally began an unjust attack upon them. And the Eruli, unable to bear all this any longer, crossed the Ister River and decided to live as neighbours to the Romans in that region".

The holy Maximus being hung by Heruls
The 55 martyrs from Salzburg killed by Heruls under King Odovacer perhaps around 480 AD - Engraving from 1716 in the "Bavaria Sancta.

First of the emperor greeted them welcome, but before long it came to fighting between Heruls and Romans: "But when Justinian took over the empire, he bestowed upon them good lands and other possessions, and thus completely succeeded in winning their friendship and persuaded them all to become Christians." We remember that Heruls took part in the Arian mutiny in Belisairus' army in Africa, so some Heruls were Arians. But Justinian was fanatical Catholic, and must have converted them to Catholic Christianity. There may have been a religious divisions among Heruli, such that some were Catholics, and others were Arians and this can have contributed to their final disapperance as a people.

Procopius was very fascinated by the stories of the midnight sun and the dark winter on the island of Thule (Scandinavian peninsula), which shows that he was an inquisitive and curious young man: "And although I was eager to go to this island and become an eye-witness of the things I have told, no opportunity ever presented itself. However, I made enquiry from those who come to us from the island as to how in the world they are able to reckon the length of the days, since the sun never rises nor sets there at the appointed times. And they gave me an account which is true and trustworthy."

The Scandinavian soldiers told Procopius on the Nordic christmas: "When, however, the time of the nights arrives, they always take note of the courses of the moon and stars and thus reckon the measure of the days. And when a time amounting to thirty-five days has passed in this long night, certain men are sent to the summits of the mountains—for this is the custom among them—and when they are able from that point barely to see the sun, they bring back word to the people below that within five days the sun will shine upon them. And the whole population celebrates a festival at the good news, and that too in the darkness. And this is the greatest festival, which the natives of Thule have."

Wheel cross petroglyphs which looks like a wheel
Wheel cross petroglyphs which very much looks like a wheel with four spokes from Fossum in Skien - Photo Telemark Fylkeskommune.

Forty days of darkness will place them well north of the Arctic Circle, and it is not likely that others than scattered hunters and reindeer herders lived there in the Iron Age. There must have been some, who made a little fun with Procopius. But the story says nevertheless that there were men in the army, which were believed to have come from Scandinavia. In the Bronze Age religon, which probably originally also had been the Heruli's, played the Sun a big role, and we celebrates still Christmas ("jul" in Danish, which is similar to "hjul", which means wheel) so many years later.

But we notice that it is not a midwinter festival, which they describe, as darkness lasts 40 days, and after 35 days they will watch for the sun, which will be in the middle of January, and only then comes the festival, which one must assume took place late January. It brings to mind the Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, which takes place in late January or early February.

The whole long and detailed report on the nature and the people on the island of Thule in connection with his report on Heruls indicates that Heruls really came from Scandinavia - though he did not write it directly and unambiguously.

Belisarius
The man at the emperor's right side on a mosaic in the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna are thought to be Belisarius. He was Procopius' superior through three wars. In all of these Heruls were part of the army. He is believed to have been born in 505 AD in modern Bulgaria in a family with Gothic roots. As early as 527 AD, when he was in his early twenties, he was appointed as army commander in Syria in the war against the Persians. His success in many campaign aroused the emperor's jealousy, and he was withdrawn from the war in Italy in 540 A.D. and later replaced by the eunuch Narses.

Procopius was also a somewhat simple-minded young man, who in good faith wrote down, what Heruli's enemies had to say about them: "They are still, however, faithless toward them (the Romans), and since they are given to avarice, they are eager to do violence to their neighbours, feeling no shame at such conduct. And they mate in an unholy manner, especially men with asses, and they are the basest of all men and utterly abandoned rascals." Maybe it was a contribution from his superior, Belisarius, who did not like Heruls.

Procopius says that when the Emperor heard what the Goths had done in Milan - namely destroyed the city, killed all the men and given the women to the Burgundians - he pulled Narses back from Italy and made Belisarius commander: "But the Eruli seeing that Narses was departing from Italy, refused to remain there any longer, although Belisarius promised that they would receive many benefits from both himself and from the emperor, if they remained; but they all packed up their luggage and withdrew going first to Liguria. There they happened upon the army of Uraias, and they sold all the slaves and all the animals they were taking with them to the enemy, and , having thus acquired a great amount of money, they took an oath that they would never array themselves Goths or do battle with them. Thus they made their withdrawal in peace and came into the land of the Veneti. But upon meeting Vitalius there, they fortwith began to repent of the wrong they had done the emperor Justinian. And seeking to clear themselves of the charge against them, they left there Visandus, one of their commanders, with his forces, but all the rest betook themselves to Byzantium under the leadership of Aluith and Philemuth, the latter having taken the command after Phanitheus was killed at Caesena."

But things went badly for the remaining Heruls in Italy: "While the other commanders were remaining quiet on account of this situation (the arrival of imperial tax collectors) Vitalius alone (for he happened to have in Venetia a numerous army comprising with others a great throng of barbarian Eruli) had the courage to do battle with Ildibadus, fearing, as actually happened, that at a latter time, when his power had grown greatly they would be no longer able to check him. But in the fierce battle, which took place near the city of Tarbesium (Treviso) Vitalius was badly defeated and fled saving some few men, but losing the most of them there. In this battle many Eruli fell and among them Visamdus, the leader of the Eruli, was killed."

The Heruls lived in the Balkans near the town of modern Belgrade: "Other towns of Dacia also, about he city of Singidunum (Belgrad) had been taken over by the Eruli as a gift from the emperor, and here they are settled at present time, overrunning and plundering Ilyricum and the Thracian towns very generally. Some of them have even become Roman soldiers serving among the foederati, as they are called. So whenever envoys of the of the Eruli are sent to Byzantium, representing the very men, who are plundering Roman subjects, they collect all their contribution from the emperor without the least difficulty and carry them off home."

The emperor sent Narses to the Heruls again to recruit them for the war in Italy: "The emperor also sent Narses the eunuch to the rulers of the Eruli, in order to persuade most of them to march to Italy. And many of the Eruli followed him, commanded by Philemuth and certain others, and they came with him into the land of Thrace. - And it so fell out during this journey they unexpectedly rendered a great service to the Romans. for a great throng of barbarians Schlaveni, had, as it happened, recently crossed the river Ister, plundering the adjoining county and enslaved a very great number of Romans. Now the Eruli suddenly came upon these barbarians and joined battle with them, and, although far outnumbered, they unexpectoedly defeated them, and some they slew, and the captives they released one and all to go to their homes."

Procopius also tells the story of how the Heruls killed their king and sent word to Scandinavia for a new one "The Eruli, displaying their beastly and fanatical character against their own "rex," one Ochus by name, suddenly killed the man for no good reason at all, laying against him no other charge than that they wished to be without a king thereafter. And yet even before this, while their king did have the title, he had practically no advantage over any private citizen whomsoever. But all claimed the right to sit with him and eat with him, and whoever wished insulted him without restraint; for no men in the world are less bound by convention or more unstable than the Eruli. Now when the evil deed had been accomplished, they were immediately repentant. For they said that they were not able to live without a ruler and without a general; so after much deliberation it seemed to them best in every way to summon one of their royal family from the island of Thule. And the reason for this I shall now explain."

Narses
The man at the Emperor's left side on the mosaic in San Vitale in Ravenna are thought to be the eunuch Narses, who in 551 AD arrived in Italy at the head of the largest army, the Emperor ever had sent against the Goths, he was reportedly about 80 years old, but still sound of mind. The army included a large group Heruls. However, the man in the picture does not look like an eighty-year-old.

Procopius took up the thread again after the description of the island of Thule: "On the present occasion, therefore, the Eruli who dwelt among the Romans, after the murder of their king had been perpetrated by them, sent some of their notables to the island of Thule to search out and bring back whomsoever they were able to find there of the royal blood. And when these men reached the island, they found many there of the royal blood, but they selected the one man who pleased them most and set out with him on the return journey. But this man fell sick and died when he had come to the country of the Dani. These men therefore went a second time to the island and secured another man, Datius by name. And he was followed by his brother Aordus and two hundred youths of the Eruli in Thule. But since much time passed while they were absent on this journey, it occurred to the Eruli in the neighbourhood of Singidunum that they were not consulting their own interests in importing a leader from Thule against the wishes of the Emperor Justinian. They therefore sent envoys to Byzantium, begging the emperor to send them a ruler of his own choice. And he straightway sent them one of the Eruli who had long been sojourning in Byzantium, Suartuas by name. At first the Eruli welcomed him and did obeisance to him and rendered the customary obedience to his commands; but not many days later a messenger arrived with the tidings that the men from the island of Thule were near at hand. And Suartuas commanded them to go out to meet those men, his intention being to destroy them, and the Eruli, approving his purpose, immediately went with him. But when the two forces were one day's journey distant from each other, the king's men all abandoned him at night and went over of their own accord to the newcomers, while he himself took to flight and set out unattended for Byzantium. There upon the emperor earnestly undertook with all his power to restore him to his office, and the Eruli, fearing the power of the Romans, decided to submit themselves to the Gepaedes. This, then, was the cause of the revolt of the Eruli"

In the following fighting it seems like Heruls fought against Heruls: "They (the Romans) also took with them as allies fifteen hundred Eruli, commanded by Philemuth and others. For except for these the whole nation of the Eruli to the number of three thousand were arrayed with the Gepaedes, since they had revolted against the Romans not long before."

"Now a detachment of the Romans, who were marching to join the Lombards as allies, unexpectedly chanced upon some of the Eruli with Aordus, the brother of their ruler. And a fierce battle ensued in which the Romans were victorious, and they slew both Aordus and many of the Eruli."

Claus Deleuran's depiction of
the last herul in history
Claus Deleuran's depiction of the last Herul in history. I do not know from where he has it.

Some Roman units, which included Heruls, under general John rested on the laurels at a place called Lucania in Italy after an easy victory over a group of Goths. They failed to keep effective guard and were overrun in a subsequent nightly Gothic counter attack: "And once outside the camp they ran up into the mountains, many of which rise close by, and thus were saved. Among these were John himself and Arufus, the leader of the Eruli. Of the Romans about a hundred perished."

The emperor sent one army after another against the Goths in Italy, including a platoon Heruls under Verus: "Later he (the emperor) sent Verus with three hundred Eruli, and Varazes an Armenian by birth, and he recalled from his post Valerian, the general of Armenia, and ordered him to go to Italy with his attendants spearmen and guards, who numbered more than a thousand. Now Verus was the first to put in at Dryus, and he left his ships there, being quite unvilling to remain in that place, where John's army was and went forwars on horseback with his command. for this man was not of a serious temper, but he was utterly addicted to the disease of drunkeness, and consequently he was always possesed by a spirit of reckless daring. And when they had come close to the city of Brundisium, they made camp and remained there."

"And when Totila learned this, he said: "Verus has one of two thing, either a powerful army or a very silly head. Let us proceed against him instantly, that either we must make trial of the man's army, ot that he may realize his own silliness". So Totilla with these words marched against him with a numerous army; and the Eruli, spying the enemy already at hand, took refuge in a wood, which was close by. And the enemy surrounded them and killed more than two hundred, and was about to lay hands on Verus himself and the rest of the force, who were hiding among the thorn-bushes, but fortune came to their aid and saved them unexpectedly. For the ships, in which Varazes and the Armenians under him were sailing, suddenly put up on the shore there. Now when Totilla saw this, supposing the hostile army to be more numerous, than it really was, he imidiately set out and marched away from there, while Verus and his men were glad to reach their ships on the run."

One of the last times in history, we hear about Heruls was when they fought on the Roman side in the decisive battle of the Gothic war in Italy, which was the battle of Gualdo Tadino in 552 AD, also known as the Battle of the Gallic tombstones. It was between the Roman army under Narses and the Goths under their young king, Totila "Three thousand Heruls fought on horseback under Philemuth, their own chief, and the noble Aratus"; on the Roman side fought also 5,000 Langobards and 400 gepids, it is said.

Gibbons tells about the Heruls, who around 553 AD appeared in written history; I do not know, from where he got it: "The vanguard of the Roman army was stationed near Po, under the leadership of Fulkaris, a brave Herul, who hastily thought that personal bravery was a commander's only duty and qualification. When he without order or caution marched along the Æmilian Road, suddenly, an ambush of Franks broke forward from Parma amphitheater, his troops were surprised and driven away, but their leader refused to flee stating in the last minute that death was less horrible than meeting Narses' anger."

The battle between Arovist and Caesar
The battle between Caesar and Ariovist in the video "1-5 Germanic Tribes 1 - Barbarians Against Romans", showing that the Germans attacked in wedge-formations. It is stated that Arovist's Germans attacked in seven-formations - in germanic tradition called "svinefylkninger". Though, it can not be confirmed by Caesar's "Wae in Gaul", which simply states: " - and the enemy stormed forward so suddenly and quickly that there was no time to throw spears at them. They (the Romans) therefore threw their spears away, and fought with swords in melee." - perhaps it is mentioned in another source.

John Bagnell Bury confirms that there could be reasons for Heruls to fear Narses: "The course of the battle of Capua 554 AD was affected by an accident. One of the Herul captains killed his servant for some delinquency, and when Narses called him to account, he asserted that masters had the power of life and death over their slaves and that he would do the same thing again. He was put to death by the command of Narses, to the great indignation of the Heruls, who withdrew from the camp and said they would not fight. Narses drew up his line of battle without them."

It sounds like Narses made a Cannæ on the Franks, showing the limitation of the wedge-formation: "Meanwhile, two Heruls had deserted to the enemy, and persuaded Buccelin that his chance was to attack at once, as the Romans were in consternation at the defection of the Herul troops. Buccelin had drawn up his army, which consisted entirely of infantry, in the shape of a deep column, which should penetrate like a wedge through the hostile lines. In this array the Franks arrived, armed with missile lances, swords, and axes, confident that they would sweep all before them at the first rush. They penetrated into the central space which was to have been occupied by the Heruls, dislodging the outer ranks of the Roman infantry on either side. Narses quietly issued orders to his wings to face about, and the enemy were caught between the cross fire of the cavalry, who were all armed with bows." - "Their ranks were gradually mown down, and then Sindual and his Heruls appeared upon the scene."

Dani, Switheudi, Thuringi and Aser

Dani, Switheudi, Thuringi and Aser Dani, Switheudi, Thuringi and Aesirs were in all probability four groups of related people, who originally came from Asia, few in numbers.

At Tryggevælde Å (river) near Himlingøje, Valløby and Varpelev in Eastern Sjælland a number of large burial mounds have been excavated and many objects that differ significantly from the contemporary Iron Age culture's other findings have been found. In addition, mound funerals had not been seen in Scandinavia since the first half of the Bronze Age; they were a marked break in tradition. These mounds are dated to around 200 AD, and one may assume that the represent Dani. One can imagine that they first arrived to Scania and drove the Heruls away from there, but the author has not heard of findings in Scania similar to those from Himlingøje; therefore it is more likely that the Heruls were first expelled from Sjælland and later from Scania. The latter could then had taken place around 200 - 300 AD or even later.

Noble men and women have for generations been buried in large burial mounds at the Tryggevælde River with treasures such as unique silver cups, neck rings, pearl necklaces, game pieces and Roman-made cups and glass drinking horns and much more - but no weapons. Around the mounds have been found their servants and service people in more modest graves - with few or no grave goods.

Women's tomb from Himlingøje from around 200 AD. In front of the woman are seen gold jewelry and her long necklace
Women's tomb from Himlingøje from around 200 AD found in 1949 and exhibited in the National Museum. In front of the woman are seen her gold jewelry and long necklace with different colored beads. - Photo: Kulturjagt i Køge bugt.

There have been noted a striking similarity between the graves at the Tryggevælde River and graves and grave goods in Thuringen and southern Saxony from the same time. It is also suggested that the Danish -lev in village names is connected to -leben in village names in Thuringen. It's pretty likely that Dani and Thuringi were related people.

If Switheudi and Dani were of the same descent, and Dani and Thuringi were closely related peoples so all three people have been related. It is somewhat unsatisfactory for this theory that Jordanes also mentions Sweans, which are of a different race. The author has no certain knowledge, but he believes that Switheudi and Sweans are identical.

Ynglinga Saga says: "Sveigde became king after his father. He made the promise to search for Gudehjem (Gods' Home - English: Gotham) and Odin the Old. He travelled with 12 men widely around the world; he came to Turkland and Great Svitjod and found there many kinsmen. On this journey he was away for five years, then he came back and stayed home for a while. He was out in Vanaheim and got a wife, who was named Vana; their son was named Vanlande."

Findings from Fyn compared to
finds from Thuringen
Findings from Hågerup on the island of Fyn (1) compared with findings from Leuna in Thuringen (2). In the gold finger ring from Hågerup sits a onyx stone, and in the ring from Leuna sits a carnelian, but both are adorned with a Mercury motif. The Funen on is of Roman origin, while the South Germany one is producing outside the Roman Empire. Other examples of similarities include silver spoons, glasses and silver bowls. - From Gyldendals og Politikkens Danmarks Historie 2 by Lotte Hedager.

In the Old Uppsala in Sweden there are three large burial mounds and several smaller mounds from the Late Iron Age of similar size, as the mounds at the Tryggevælde river originally must have been. Two of the large mounds contained very rich cremations graves with royal power symbols from the 500s AD.

The Eastern mound contained a 12-year-old boy and a woman; the boy's equipment included a warrior helmet, a gold decorated single-edged sword and a bronze mirror. In the West mound there were a man and a woman; the man's equipment included among other things a warrior helmet decorated with carved stones, a double-edged sword with gold hilt and probably a scepter. Following Snorri Sturlason the Ynglinge lineage was the royal family of the Svears, and Old Uppsala was their burial ground.

But as the Swedish mounds are from around the year 500 AD and the Danish are from around the year 200 AD it sounds unlikely that the Dani descended from Swedes, as it is said. One has to expect that ancestors lived before descendants.

Reconstruction of grave at Valløby south of Køge.
Reconstruction of grave at Valløby south of Køge. The deceased is a man, who is laid to rest with a rich equipment of silver goblets, glass and bronze vessels. The excavation in the 1800's showed that the grave had been covered by a stone surrounded mound, as shown on the drawing over the existing mound with a dashed line. Drawing by Magnus Petersen 1873.

Snorri says in the introduction to Ynglinge Saga that "in the land east of the Tanakvisl (River Don) lay a castle, called Asgaard. The chief of the castle was called Odin, and it was a great offer place for the Gods. Odin was a great army man, who travelled far around and won himself many kingdoms." - "But because Odin was visionary and skilled in magic, he knew that his descendants should live and build in the Northern part of the world. Therefore he set his brothers Ve and Vilje in charge Asgaard, but himself departed with all his dianes (?) with him and many other people. First he headed west to Gardarige (Russia) and then south to Saxland; He had many sons, he won himself a kingdom over much of Saxland and set his sons to rule the country. So he headed against north to the sea and settled on an island, it is now called Odinsø on Fyn," which must be Odense, which city also has Odin's name.
The burial mounds in Gamla Uppsala
The mounds in Gamla Uppsala - Photo Wikipedia.

There is no direct intelligence to that the Asia men, who settled on the island of Fyn, were related to Switheudi, Dani and Thuringi. But Snorri lets Odin continue to Sweden, where he became the Ynglinge lineage's actual ancestor, and that is suggesting that there was a relation.

Game pieces of bone found in
a man's grave in Varpelev from the end of the 200's
Game pieces of bone found in a man's grave in Varpelev near Køge from the end of the 200's - Photo: Kulturjagt i Køge bugt.

It's all quite speculative, but one can think that Thuringi means descendants after Thor, Thornings, so to say, in the same way as the Ynglings were descendants after Yngve. Snorre lists Odin's ancestors in his preface to the Edda: "His famous ancestor was Thror, who we call Thor, his son was Loridi, his son was Ejnridi, his son Vingethor, his son Vingener, his son Moda, his son Magni, his son Seskef, his son Bedvig, his son Atra, his son Itrmann, his son Heremod, his son Skjaldun called Skjold (shield), his son Bjaf, his son Jat, his son Gudolf, his son Finn, his son Frallaf and he had the son Vodin who was Odin." Which must mean that Odin and his men, who settled on the island of Fyn, also regarded themselves as descendants of Thor, which you can think that Thuringi and probably Dani and Switheudi also did.

Dolichocephalic woman skull from Varpelev Stevns
Dolichocephalic woman skull from Varpelev Stevns. From "Danmarks Oldtid" by Johannes Brøndsted.

Many skeletons in graves in Denmark from precisely about 200-300 AD show that the deceased were quite tall and long skulled. Thus, one of the deceased in Himlingøje had been close to 180 cm tall. The historian Palle Lauring wrote about Dani's ethnic characteristics: "The striking many dolichocephalic skulls in the graves have been associated with the coming of the Danes, and it is worth to emphasize that the particularly long-headed appearence pretty quickly disappear from the graves again and is replaced by roughly the same situation as before. It is distinctive upper-class tombs, and we must not forget that precisely with the Danes' conquest of the land it is about their upper class, that is a very narrow group of bloodlines, perhaps only a few families, who probably have been so inter-married that a common appearence can be understood."

Two silver cups from Valløby at Tryggevælde
Two silver cups from Valløby at Tryggevælde River on Stevns. This is not Roman style, the cup's design must represent a culture that Dani had with them, when they came - from Asia. Photo: verasir.dk.

Snorri's preface to the Edda tells us why this characteristics rather quickly disappeared again: "The Aesirs took wives there in the country; some married their sons with local women. All these blood-lines were so numerous that they spread all around in Sax-land and all the northern countries, so that their, the Asian men's, heavy, tongue became the real language of theses countries. Thereof, as their ancestors' names are recorded, it is thought that it can be believed that these names have followed with this tongue, and that the Aesirs have brought them with them to the northern countries, to Norway and Sweden, to Denmark and Sax-land." - Snorre exaggerates undoubtedly the Aesirs' linguistic influence, as Scandinavian and German still today are Germanic language, reresembling Gothic, but it is most likely true that the Aesir's have made an important contribution to the Nordic countries' language.

Thuringia quickly was conquered by the Franks. Gregory of Tours tells how: "So he (King Theodoric) summoned the Franks, and said to them: "Be angry, I beg of you, both because of my wrong and because of the death of your kinsmen, and recollect that the Thuringi once made a violent attack upon our kinsmen and inflicted much harm on them. And they gave hostages and were willing to conclude peace with them, but the Thuringi slew the hostages with various tortures, and made an attack upon our kinsmen, took away all their property, and hung youths by the sinews of their thighs to trees, and cruelly killed more than two hundred maidens, tying them by their arms to the necks of horses, which were then headed in opposite directions, and being started by a very sharp goad tore the maidens to pieces."

The Uppåkra beaker
The Uppåkra cup from Uppåkra south of Lund in Scania. The cup is 165 mm. high. It is decorated with six relief band of gold in Nordic animal ornamentation style I. It is believed that the decorations on the cup is a further development of the decorations on the cups found at Tryggevælde on Sjælland. Photo: Bengt Almgren, Lund.

"And others were stretched out upon the city streets and stakes were planted in the ground, and they caused loaded wagons to pass over them, and having broken their bones they gave them to dogs and birds for food. And now Hermenfred has deceived me in what he promised, and refuses to perform it at all. Behold, we have a plain word. Let us go with God's aid against them." They heard this and were angry at such a wrong, and with heart and mind they attacked Thuringia."

But Thuringi did not follow the contemporary rules of fair warfare: "And the Thuringi prepared stratagems against the coming of the Franks. For they dug pits in the plain where the fight was to take place, and covering the openings with thick turf they made it seem a level plain. So when they began to fight, many of the Frankish horsemen fell into these pits and it was a great obstacle to them."

But the Franks won as always: "When finally the Thuringi saw that they were being fiercely cut to pieces and when their king Hermenfred had taken to flight, they turned their backs and came to the stream Unstrut. And there such a slaughter of the Thuringi took place that the bed of the stream was filled with heaps of corpses, and the Franks crossed upon them as if on a bridge to the further shore. The victory being won they took possession of that country and brought it under their control."
Grave gifts found in a
woman's grave at Kirkebakken in the village Aarslev on Fyn
Selection of grave goods found in a woman's grave woman's grave at Kirkebakken in the village Aarslev on Fyn about 1820. In addition to several bronze dishes, bronze buckets and silver spoons the dead woman got several unique jewelry to the grave, including seven pendants with lion masks pressed in gold, semiprecious stones and clothes pins of silver. It's interesting that they knew this animal, lion. From Gyldendal og Politikkens Danmarkshistorie 2.

In Ynglinge Saga we get some information about Switheudi's or Swear's culture: "Odin made it law in his countries, which previously had been law among the Aesirs. Thus he ordered that they should burn all the dead and carry their belongings into the fire with them, he said that so much fortune should each one come to Valhal with, which he had got with him on the pyre, and what he himself had digged into the ground, should also be beneficial for him. The ash they should carry out into the sea or dig into the ground. In remembering of brave men they should built a mound to their memorial, and after all men, who had been menfolk to some degree, they should erect bauta-stones, and this custom was followed long after. By winter-day they should make sacrifies for good year, by midwinter for growth and fertility, but by summer-day only for victory. All over Svitjod people paid tax to Odin, one penny for each nose, but he had to defend the country from strife and unorder and make sacrificies for them to a good year." - "Odin died from disease in Svitjod, but when he was near death, he let himself mark with spearhead and stated that all men, who died from weapons, should belong to him."

The Aesir came from Asia

The Icelandic saga writer Snorri Sturluson wrote explicitly that the Aesirs came from Asia. The Asia-men he called them.

Qin Shi Huangs gravhøj ved Xian
Qin Shi Huang's tomb at Xian - Photo: chinawhisper.com.

In Scandinavia burial mounds had not been built in a thousand years, but in Asia it was nothing new. All the way over the plains from Russia to China there are countless mounds, just think of Qin Shi Huang's monumental mound at Xian. The mounds at Himlingøje, Old Upsala and finally in Jelling represented probably a custom that the new rulers had brought from their former home.

It may seem speculative to assert that Dani, Switheudi, Thuringi and Aesirs came from Asia. But try to consider: They brought with them in all probability a rather high culture; which is unrecognizable from any areas inside the Roman Empire; where should they come from, if not from Asia?

Dana meant river in an original proto-Indo-European language that was spoken in Europe long before people there had heard of the Aesirs. But Indo-European languages were also widespread in Asia; Indo- stands for example for India. Indo-European peoples, who lived along rivers in the otherwise rather dry central Asia, may well have called themselves something with Dan or Dana. The classical Chinese writing "Weilue" tells about the kingdom of Danhuan, (Tan Huan) which numbered 45 armed men. In the Qilian Mountains is still Shan Dan.
The Cherchen man The Cherchen woman
Left: "The Cherchen Man" was found in Cherchen in the Tarim Basin some hundred kilometers west of Dun Huang. He was two meters tall, had light brown beard and wore white buckskin trousers with felt lining, woolen trousers and jacket. He died, when he was 55 years about 1000 BC.
Right: "The Cherchen Woman" also died around 1000 BC as a young woman. She was 1.9 meters tall. She wore deerskin boots and red wool dress.

Where did we find very tall people of Caucasian type in Asia? This we do in Tarim Basin in the present Chinese province of Xin-Jiang. One of the best known is "The Cherchen Man", who was found in Cherchen a few hundred kilometers west of Dun Huang. He was 2 meter tall, had light brown beard and wore white buckskin trousers with felt lining and woolen pants and jacket. He died when he was 55 yers old in 1000 BC. Another is "The Cherchen Woman", who was also from Cherchen and also died in 1000 BC as a young woman. She was 1.9 meters tall. She wore deerskin boots and red woolen dress.

Tarim Basin seen from space
Tarim Basin seen from space.

Near Tarim Basin - in the northern part of the modern province of Gansu - lived about two thousand years ago the Yuezhi people. They practiced arable farming, cattle breeding and bred horses. They burned their dead. For the Chinese they were known for their hair on the body, their white skin, their fondness for fried peacocks and for excessive beer consumption. Yuezhi was later in history called Kushans and was one of the Indo-European peoples, who invaded India and perhaps became the origins of some of the Indians' Indo-European languages.

The Yuezhi people is also believed to have been the ancestors of the Sogdians, who lived in present Uzbekistan around Sarmakand in fortified cities. They were a people of Caucasian appearance, who that also made extensive trade within China, until they were suppressed during the so-called An Lushan revolution 763 AD.

Several Caucasian peoples in Asia stated their original homes as Tarim basin. Maybe it had been a kind of refuge during the last part of the Weichel glacial, as the caves in Spain and France were in Europe. A Chinese document from the Han Dynasty, "Hou Han Shu", describes Central Asia, west of China in the first few centuries AC. It lists 36 kingdoms, including most in Xin-Jiang, but also some west of Pamir. The area was later divided into 55 kingdoms, it is said.

Drawing showing the east wall
of the Sogdian Wirkak's sarcophagus in Xian
Drawing showing the east wall of the Sogdian Wirkak's sarcophagus in Xian. The Sogdians was a Caucasian people who made extensive trade in China. Furthermore, they lived in the Sogdian city states in modern Uzbekistan. In China, the were displaced and destroyed in connection with the so-called An Lushan revolution 763 AD, and in Uzbekistan, they were conquered by Arab Muslims about 700 AD.
Wirkak and his wife died in old age, after a long life filled with peaceful deeds, trade missions and important negotiations. On his sarcophagus is no suggestion of struggle and strife. And so they came to Paradise, one may assume.
At top left the sun god Mithra is hovering over the world together with some "apsaras", who are a kind of angels, and winged horses. A sinner appeares to be in free fall towards the water. Under the bridge monsters are lurking on the sinners, who will be rejected by the bridge's guardians. On the bridge the deceased are assumed to meet a young fair woman, who would be the personification of their life's deeds.
The Scandinavian mythology includes a completely similar motive, but so to speak with opposite values: After Balder's death Hermod took to ride to the land of the dead, "Hel", to negotiate that he could return to the world of the living. Hermod came to the Gjallar Bridge, which the deceased must pass to come to the land of the dead. Here he was hailed by the maid Modgun, who was the guardian of the bridge. Hermod arranged that if everyone in the whole world would cry over Balder's death, he would be released from the underworld.
It seems as if the Aesirs sometime in the past have worshipped the same Aryan religion as the Sogdians. But they had rejected it as soft hearted superstition and changed it. They degraded the Sogdian Paradise to a dark and sinister underworld. Maybe they changed religion, forced by the harsh necessity of the changing times.

The Buddhist monk Fa-xian traveled through the oasis towns in Tarim Basin about 400 AC, he wrote: "Every kingdom has thousands of monks, each kingdom spoke their own barbarous language."

The early explorers of Central Asia, Przewalski, Sven Hedin, Stein, Le Coq, Pelliot, Kozlov and others collected a lot of old documents that were preserved through more than a thousand years in the extremely dry climate. Some were written in a hitherto unknown language, which was called Tocharian. It proved to be an Indo-European language with similarities mainly to German and Celtic languages, it is said. It was found in two variants, Tocharian A and B.

The four armed Sogdian goddess Nanna with the sun in one hand and the moon in another - seated on a lion
The four armed Sogdian goddess Nanna with the sun in one hand and the moon in another - seated on a lion - drawing of an excavated Sogdisk house in Uzbekistan. for the Sogdians Nana was a very important goddess. In the Scandinavian pantheon, she had a more withdrawn role as Balder's wife.

Tocharian A has many words in common with Danish, such as "ko" for "cow", "malke" for to "milk", "nu" for "now" and "samme" for "the same". "Son" is called "se" in Tocharian A, it is similar of the last syllable: "sen" in traditional Danish surnames, Hansen, Nielsen, Madsen and so on. The final "n" can be a gramatical ending, of which there are many in Indo-European languages. In Danish we add the ending -n or -en to make a noun definite, so perhaps meant "-sen" originally "the son".

Many shallow salt lakes in Central Asia are called something with "Nor", such as Koko Nor, Orku Nor, Ebi Nor, Ubsa Nor, Ayar Nor, Ulungur Nor, Durga Nor, Kara Nor and the now vanished Lop Nor, which is a quite similar designation for shallow lagoons with brackish water in Scandinavia; like for example Kertinge Nor, Korsør Nor, Stege Nor, Hedeby Nor, Vindeby Nor and so on.

In Justin's prologue to Pompejus Trogus' book XLII, also the Aesirs are mentioned: "Reges Tocharorum Asiani interitusque Saraucarum", which means: "Asiani became kings of Tochari and wiped out the king of Saka."
Figure from Khotan - Tang Dynasty - Hong Kong Heritage Museum Two men on mural in 
Mojave Caves Left: Figur from Khotan in Tarim Bækken from Tang dynasty period - Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
Right: Types on mural in the Mojave Caves in Dunhuang from the Northern Wei period - Some tough men, were they kings?".
Many nations lived around the Codanus Bay. Dani must have had their name before they arrived at the northern regions. Perhaps they have seen it as a sign from the gods that they should rule over this country around the bay or estuary called Codanus.

The Angles

The Angles were a Gothic people, who originally lived in Slesvig north of the Eider and later emigrated to Britain, where they gave the country its name, Angleland - England.

Angles' area in the 
Iron Age
The Angles' area in the Iron Age, according to Sønderjyllands Museum. North of the Angles they have identified a cultural area of the Roman Iron Age, which is characterized by the special Over Jerstal ceramics. They do not know the name of the old people, and that is why they have been named after one of the pottery's important finds places, namely the village Over Jerstal. The people could have been named as Sigulones after Ptolemy or Syegas after the Anglo-Saxon Widsith poem. From Sønderjyllands Museum - oldtidsglimt.dk.

They were first mentioned by Tacitus: "The neighboring Reudigni, and the Avions, Angli, Varini, Eudoses, Suardones, and Nuithones, are defended by rivers or forests." This means that they lived near the Saxons, who were Varini and the Eudoses, which were the Jutes or some of them, and it fits all reasonably well. This is confirmed by the venerable Bede, who states that the Angles before they came to Britain, lived in a country called Anglia: " - that is, the country, which is called Anglia, and which is said, from that time, to remain desert to this day, between the provinces of the Jutes and the Saxons, -" Ottar's travelogue, added in Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius' Roman History from about 850 e.Kr, also confirms that the Angles in England came from present South of Jylland and Slesvig: "- two days before he came to Hedeby, he had to starboard Gotland and Sillende and many islands. In these regions the Angles lived, before they came to this country."

The Angles were a people, who was not afraid of big projects, including large defense systems and the extensive emigration to Britain.

The Olmer dike near Tinglev is assumed to have been the Angles' northern defense. It is built between 40 and 50 AD, expanded and repaired between 80 and 90 AD and again expanded between 100 and 110 AD. It is more than twelve kilometers long, and stretches roughly between Tinglev and Aabenraa. Th dike's function has been to form a barrier that filled gaps between natural barriers, which consisted of wetlands. The dike consisted of the dike itself, palisade and moat.

Uffe with the sword Skræp
Uffe with the sword Skræp. There came message from the Saxons that they wanted to take over the Angle kingdom, as king Vermund was old and week. If the Angles wanted it, the Saxon prince would meet the Angles' prince in a duel on an islet in the river Eider and settle the case. Prince Uffe, who was big and strong, but never before had made himself noticed, stepped forward and declared that he was prepared, also the Saxons could put up with their strongest fighters to help their prince, he said. Vermund dug his old rusty sword, Skræp, off the ground and with that in hand Uffe overcame the Saxons - unknown artist. From fortidensjellling.dk.

It is believed that the Angles expanded their territory to the north, and therefore gave up teh Olmer dike and built instead the dike Vendersvold, which is dated to 279 AD. It can still be traced in the landscape south of Øster Løgum between Åbenrå and Haderslev. It stretched into the land in extension of a wetland, located at the bottom of Genner Bugt. It was equipped with palisades of oak and had a 1.5 m. deep moat on the north side.

It's pretty sure that the river Eider was the Angles' southern border against the Saxons. In the old English Widsith poem is told:

"Offa ruled the Angles, Alewih the Danes.
He was the bravest of all those men,
but could not defeat Offa in deeds of arms,
and the noble Offa while still a boy
won in battle the greatest of kingdoms.
No-one of that age ever achieved
more glory than he did. With his sword alone
he marked the border against the Myrgings
at the mouth of the Eider (Fifeldore)."


Saxo recounts the combat between the Anglian king's son Uffe and the two Saxon warriors: "When the appointed time came, they went to the battlefield. It was an islet in the river Eider, which only can be reached by ship." - "Both banks of the river were full of people." He did not write that one bank belonged to Saxons and the other to the Angles, but it is implicit in the situation.

Vortigern welcomes Hengest and Horsa to Britannien
The Angles led by Hengest and Horsa land in Britain and are welcomed by the British King Vortigern, who himself had invited them to help against the Picts. The Welsh monk Nennius wrote that Vortigern asked the Saxons for help, but it may have been both Angles and Saxons - unknown artist. From Tourism and Local History qsl.net.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle for the year 449 AC says: "In their days Hengest and Horsa, invited by Wurtgern, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet; first of all to support the Britons, but they afterwards fought against them. The king directed them to fight against the Picts; and they did so; and obtained the victory wheresoever they came. They then sent to the Angles, and desired them to send more assistance. They described the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land. They then sent them greater support. Then came the men from three powers of Germany; the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the men of Kent, the Wightwarians" (that is, the tribe that now dwelleth in the Isle of Wight), "and that kindred in Wessex that men yet call the kindred of the Jutes. From the Old Saxons came the people of Essex and Sussex and Wessex. From Anglia, which has ever since remained waste between the Jutes and the Saxons, came the East Angles, the Middle Angles, the Mercians, and all of those north of the Humber. Their leaders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa; who were the sons of Wihtgils; Wihtgils was the son of Witta, Witta of Wecta, Wecta of Wecta of Woden. From this Woden arose all our royal kindred, and that of the Southumbrians also".

The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in
Britain
The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain.

It is said that the Angles all together emigrated to Britain and left their original land desolate, but it would have been a logistic impossibility. They must have been more than a hundred thousand people. They must have sailed in ships that might have resembled the contemporary Roman ships from the Mediterranean, which were slightly inelegant built, a little smaller than Viking ships, possibly with a single square sail. They would only have been able to sail in summer, only in good weather and only in favorable wind.

From Hengest and Horsa's arrival in Britain in 449 BC to the formation of the last Anglian kingdom of Mercia in 585 AD, passed 136 years. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes must have seeped into Britain, probably in a similar manner and at the same pace as Muslims today are arriving in Europe.

Saint Gildas was a monk who lived around 500 AD in south Wales. He wrote: "The barbarians being thus introduced as soldiers into the island, to encounter, as they falsely said, any dangers in defence of their hospitable entertainers, obtain an allowance of provisions, which, for some time being plentifully bestowed, stopped their doggish mouths. Yet they complain that their monthly supplies are not furnished in sufficient abundance, and they industriously aggravate each occasion of quarrel, saying that unless more liberality is shown them, they will break the treaty and plunder the whole island. In a short time, they follow up their threats with deeds." - "For the fire of vengeance, justly kindled by former crimes, spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean." - "They have burned with fire the sanctuary; they have polluted on earth the tabernacle of thy name. And again: O God, the gentiles have come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled, So that all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests, and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in a press."

Henry of Huntingdon wrote in Historia Anglorum: "The founder of the kingdom of East Anglia, which include Norfolk and Suffolk, was Uffa, from whom the kings of East Anglia was called Uffingas."

Offa's Dyke
Offa's Dyke near Clun, Shropshire, England. The Angles had not forgotten how to make big defenses. In their new country they built even longer and larger defense ramparts, than they had done in their South Jutland home. Offa's Dyke is 240 km. long and follows roughly the border between England and Wales, which then was the border between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom Prowys. Photo: Ghmyrtle - Wikipedia

The monk Roger of Wendover wrote: "In 527 Justinian ruled the Roman Empire for 38 years until the 565 AD - Pagans came from Germania and occupied East Anglia, which is the land of the East Angles; and some of them invaded Mercia and waged war against the British. But as their leaders were many, their names have been lost. This year, the East Saxons' kingdom founded, now called Essex. It was first ruled by of Erkenwine, it is said."

The Anglo Saxon Chronicles says about the year AD 552 that "This year Cynric fought with the Britons on the place that is called Sarum, and put them to flight. Cerdic was the father of Cynric, Cerdic was the son of Elesa, Elesa of Esla, Esla of Gewis, Gewis of Wye, Wye of Frewin, Frewin of Frithgar, Frithgar of Brand, Brand of Balday, Balday of Woden. In this year Ethelbert, the son of Ermenric, was born, who on the two and thirtieth year of his reign received the rite of baptism, the first of all the kings in Britain."

Roger of Wendover wrote: "In the year 585 the Kingdom of Mercia began, whose first king was Credda. At that time all the Angles' and Saxons' kingdoms were formed, being eight in total."

The power of Angles and Saxons in Britain was complete. It is quite probable that the conquerors had many Celts as thralls, and that many Anglo-Saxons married Celtic women. Many Celts fled to Wales, Cornwal and Brittany.
The Sutton Hoo ship Helmet from the Sutton Hoo ship
Left: An undisturbed Anglian ship burial from the early 600's was found in 1938 on the ridge Sutton Hoo twelve km. east of Ipswich. It is believed that King Raedwald of the East Angles was buried in the ship. Although virtually nothing of the original wood is preserved, the ship's design is perfectly preserved. Imprints in the sand has replaced wood and show many details of construction. Almost all iron rivets were in their original positions. The most important objects from the ship-burial are on display in the British Museum, including an armor decorated with gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre, and many objects from Byzantium made of silver.
Right: The helmet from the Sutton Hoo ship - It was found rusty and in many small pieces, which archaeologists have succeeded to gather.

Rebellions were ruthlessly suppressed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells of year 490 AD: "This year Ella and Cissa besieged the city of Andred, and slew all that were therein; nor was one Briten left there afterwards."

Many place names in the UK can be traced to Celtic, for example, Kent, which comes from the Celtic "Canti", Devonshire contains the Celtic tribe name "Dumnonii", and Canterbury comes from the Celtic "Durovernum". But in the English language itself Celtic influence is almost negligible. It limits itself to a few rarely used words such as "binn" for basket, "crag" for mountaintop and "luh" for lake.

Angles', Saxons' and Jutes' language that merged into Old English, were all closely related Gothic languages that were far closer to the Scandinavian languages than modern English, for example holy was "hælig", bone was "Bæn", rope was "ræp" and boat was "bæt".

In early 800s, the Anglian kingdoms were attacked by Viking armies led by the Regnar Lodbrog sons Ivar and Ubbe. New armies led by Sweyn and his son Canute completed the conquest of England 1013-1015 AD.

Gregory of Tours on Dani

Fighting between Franks and Danes in 515 AD Fighting between Franks and Danes in 515 AD - Jean Fouquet's illustration in "Grandes Chroniques de France" from about 1455-1460.

Gregory of Tours wrote in the late 500's - that is almost contemporary with Jordanes and Procopius - in his "Historia Francorum": "When it was over, the Danes with their king named Chlochilaichum (Dani cum ruled suo phenomenon Chlochilaichum) put course over the sea towards Gaul with a fleet. After coming ashore they plundered and conquered an area belonging to King Theodoric, and loaded a number of prisoners as well as other booty and wanted to return to their own country. But the king was stuck on the beach, and only when deeper water would get the ship to float again, he would catch up with them. Meanwhile Theodoric, having heard that his country was destroyed from the outside, sent his son Theudobert to the area with a strong army and a large inventory of weapons. First they killed the king, then they beated the enemy in a sea battle, subdued them all and regained the spoils to the country." This is believed to have taken place between 511 and 533 AD, which was during King Theoderiks reign.

In the Anglian Catalogue "Liber Monstrorum" 600's king Chlochilaichum is called king of Getae (rex getarum), and in "Liber Historiae Francorum", which is an anonymous chronicle from 700's, he is called king of the Goths (Rege Gotorum).

The Danish priest and historian Grundtvig identified Chlochilaichum as King Hygelac of the Geates from the Beowulf poem, which dates - at least the original parts of the Beowulf poem - to the 500's - not long after Jordanes' and Procopius' reports.

Danes in Old English poems

Beowulf is a an old English epic poem consisting of several thousand lines. It is one of the most important works in Old English literature. It was written down in England between 700's and early 1000's. Some believe that it was finally written down during the Danish rule in England, and that is why it mentions Danes so many times. The poem is about how the Gothic prince Beowulf travels to the land of the Danes and kills the troll Grendel, which had plagued the country.

Beowulf is received by the Danes' queen Wealthow
Beowulf is received by the Danes' queen Wealthow.

The Spear-Danes were evidently King Skjold's people: "Listen! We of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore" - which refers to: "Often Scyld, Scef's son, from enemy hosts - from many peoples seized mead-benches; and terrorised the fearsome Heruli"

King Skjold had the son Beowulf, who got the son Halfdan, who had three sons namely Hjorgar, Helge and Hrodgar, which last one became king after his father and had ruled in 50 years, when the Geat Beowulf arrived to his seat of royal rule, Heorot, to free him for the troll Grendel.

The Ring-Danes were the same people, now led by King Rhodgar, who was plagued by Grendel: "He then went to visit and see - when night came - the high house how it, the Ring-Danes after the beer-feast, had occupied" - "that damned creature, grim and greedy, soon was ready, savage and cruel and from their rest seized thirty thanes; thence back he went".

The West Danes were also king Hrodgar's people, as the King says to Beowulf and his men: " - him holy God, in benevolence, has sent to us, to the West-Danes, of this I have hope, against Grendel's terror."

Nordic hall in Iceland
Free State period
Kong Hrodgar's mead hall "Heorot" could have looked like this - Reconstructed Nordic hall after Valtyr Gudmundson: Den Islandsk bolig i Fristatstiden. From Olrik, Nordiches Geistleben. Verlag von Carl Winter, Heidelberg.

The East Danes is also a term for King Hrodgars people, as the coast guard Ulfgar addresses Beowulf, after he comes back from his king: "To you I am commanded to say by my valorous lord, the leader of the East Danes, that he knows your noble history, and you are to him, over sea-swells, - bold in thought- welcome hither".

The North Danes is also a term for Hrodgars people. Prior to the showdown with Grendel only Beowulf and his men stayed in the mead-hall Heorot, where the fight took place. Hrodgars men slept at some distance from the hall: "Sound ascended up, new, nearby: the North-Danes stood in ghastly horror, in each one of them, who from the wall weeping heard, terrible screaming, God's adversary, a victoryless song, bewailing his wound, Hel's prisoner."

It is not clear where King Hrodgars Danes lived, and which areas he ruled, but the Geate's country - perhaps the Vest Gøtaland or Jutland - did not belong to the Danes areas, for when Beowulf went home over the sea: "Departed him on the ship to trouble deep water; he left the Danes' land (Dena Land); then was by the mast a mighty sea-garment, sail fastened by rope."

Brage is god for the art of skjalds and son of Odin
Brage is god for the art of skjalds and son of Odin - Carl Wahlbom (1810-1858).

It has been suggested that the Angel-Saxon poem "Widsith" from about 500 to 600 AD means the "Far-traveler", because the author reports that he has traveled widely as a skjald and visited many of the migration time's kings and peoples.

The Widsith poem also mentions "South-Danes", so one has to believe that the name, after all, had a real significance compared to only "Danes":

"And so I can sing and tell a tale,
declare to the company in the mead-hall
how noble rulers rewarded me with gifts.
I was with the Huns and the glorious Goths,
with the Swedes and with the Geats and with the South-Danes."


The poem also mentions Sea Danes: "Sigehere for many years ruled the Sea-Danes"

Angles and Danes are mentioned as separate peoples: "Hringwald was called king of Herefaran. Offa ruled the Anglese, Alewih the Danes."

In Widsith Vikings is first mentioned in connection with the mead-hall Hjort:

Hrothwulf and Hrothgar, nephew and uncle,
held peace together for many years
after they had driven off the wicinga cynn
and beaten down Ingeld's line of battle,
cut down at Heorot the Heathobard force."


The text is not quite clear, but "wikinga Cynn" suggests that it is about a specific people with common ancestry and may not have been sea pirates in general.

North Danes and South Danes in Alfred's Orosius

In an additional note in Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius' Rome's history is an explanation of the North Danes and South Danes.:

" - west of Old Saxony is the mouth of the river Elbe, as also Frysan or Friesland. From hence to the north-west is that land which is called Angle, with Sillende, and some other parts of Dene. To the north is Abodrites and to the north-east the Wends, which are called Aefeldan. From hence eastwards is Wineda-land, otherwise called Sysyle. To the south-west, at some distance, is the Macroaro" - "To the west of South Dene, formerly mentioned, is that arm of the ocean which surrounds Brittania, and to the north is that arm which is called the Ostsea; to the east and north are the North Dene, both on the continent and on the islands. To the east are the Abodrites. To the south is the river Elbe, and some part of Old Saxony. The North Dene have to the north that arm of the sea which is called the East sea, and to the east is the nation of the Osti, and the Obotrites, to the south. The Osti have to the north of them that same arm of the sea, and so have the Winedas and the Burgendas. Still more to the south is Haefeldan. The Burgendas have this same arm of the sea to the west, and the Sweon to the north. To the east are the Sermende, to the south the Surfe. The Sweons have to the south the arm of the sea (unclear text), Osti (unclear text) and to the east Sarmatians, and north, over the wastes, is Cwenland, to the north-west are the Scride-finnas, and the North-men are to the west."

King Alfred had no map and it serves to his excuse, also, in his days sailors did not use compas. No researchers have made his compass directions to fit completely. But if we assume that the North Danes lived on the island of Sjælland, other Danish islands, Scania and Halland, so it would fit that when you came sailing in a southerly direction you would first come to those Danes, who lived "both on the continents and islands", namely the North Danes, when you then proceeded to sail further south, you would logically come to the South Danes. Assuming that these lived in Hedeby and the surrounding area or perhaps throughout Sillende, which name denotes what later came to be called Slesvig, then it would fit that "To the west of South Dene, formerly mentioned, is that arm of the ocean, which surrounds Brittania," and "to the east and north are the North Dene".

Danes in the anonymous Cartographer from Ravenna

Also the anonymous cartographer from Ravenna from about 700 AD mentions Danes describing the location of Mauringa, which is the country east of the Elbe: "Maurungani seems to be another name for large country of the Elbe, which is located- in front of the Danes, and extends to Dacia and includes Baia, Baiohaim."

He also wrote: "By the night's fourth hour is the Norman's land, which from old is called Dania, at the beginning of the Elbe (I: 11) - and this Dania is now called the Normans' Land" (IV:13) - (from verasir.dk). Apparently it was thought that Dania was an older name for the area, which started at the Elbe.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle about Danes

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of yearbooks in Old English, which in chronological order recounts the Anglo-Saxon history. The Chronicle mentions Danes first time in years 833 AD: "This year fought King Egbert with thirty-five pirates at Charmouth, where a great slaughter was made, and the Danes remained masters of the field."

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Illustrations in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from Parker Library.

Already two years after they were on the move again: "835 AD This year came a great naval armament into West-Wales, where they were joined by the people, who commenced war against Egbert, the West-Saxon king. When he heard this, he proceeded with his army against them and fought with them at Hengeston, where he put to flight both the Welsh and the Danes."

The term "Danes" is mentioned about 60 times in the chronicle. It was likely a general term for all pagan tribes, who lived in Scandinavia and the Baltic area. Norwegians, Goths, Swedes, Vends or Vikings are mentioned nowhere. However, it is noted that Harold Hardrada was Norwegian King, when King Harold met him in 1066 in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

A poem in the chronicle from 942 AD , which praises King Edmund of Mercia, uses the expression "Norman Danes":

"In thraldom long
to Norman Danes
they bowed through need,
and dragged the chains
of heathen men;"


Which expression was also used by the Frank, Eren Felibien in "Histoire de la Ville de Paris", where he mentions a bridge that was built over the Seine near Paris in 861 AD: "- to prevent the Danes or Normans in making themselves masters of Paris as easily as they had already done so many times."

Scandinavian Sources about Danes

Throughout the Elder Edda the word Danes is only mentioned twice; namely in "Gudrunskvæde", where Valdar, king of the Danes, is mentioned, and in "Brynhild's Hel Ride" in the term "Prince of the Danes".

Illustration to the Elder
Edda
Illustration in the Elder Edda from 1760.

In the younger Edda the term "Danes" is mentioned only once, that is in Snorri's foreword: "So Odin continued his travel to the north and came into the land, which was called Reidgotaland, and of this country he conquered everything he wanted. He established there his son called Skjold; his son called Fridleif; from him descends the race called Skjoldunger (Scyldingas); these are Dane kings, and this country is now called Jutland, which was then called Reidgotaland."

In the aftermath of the Migration Period and the early Viking Age, most foreign sources agreed to call people from southern Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea region for "Danes", while this term is used only very superficially in the Nordic sources. The older and younger Edda are mostly dealing with Men, Gods, Vanirs, Aesirs, Elves and Dwarves, while the interest in Danes is strikingly little. One can believe that Danes did not exist at that time other than in foreign reports. Maybe there was a period, where the preferred term was the land of the Normans, as mentioned by the anonymous cartographer from Ravenna: "- which from old is called Dania, at the beginning of the Elbe - and this Dania is now called the Normans' Land"

Tacitus describes a multitude of small independent Germanic tribes in the area of present-day Germany as for example Ampsivarii, Baetasi, Bructeri, Chatti, Cherusci and so on. All of these disappeared like snow in the sun during the 300's and were replaced by two large tribal federations: Alemanni and Franks, which last one Procopius alternately calls Germans and Franks. Similarly the Gothic people joined together in two large groups, namely the Western and the Eastern Goths. It was a trend in time to seek strength in larger groups.

We can imagine that similar development took place in Scandinavia and the Baltic region with Dani as the dominant people, and that this association was called Danes, because it included people, who lived around the access ways to the Baltic Sea with the ancient name Codanus, and because Dani was the dominant people. Therefore Procopius could write about the returning Heruls traveling through Jutland: "After these they passed by the nations of the Dani, without suffering violence at the hands of the barbarians there."

Helmold of Bosau from Lubeck, who lived about 1120 - 1177 AD, used in his Vends' History Book the general term Danes (Danorum, Dani and similar forms) for designating the people who lived in Denmark. But in his opening paragraph about the differences between the Vends he writes: "The Hungarian people were once exceedingly brave, energetic warriors, feared even by the Roman Empire. For after the Huns and Danes had raged, the Hungarians broke rampaging in and crushed and broke all neighboring kingdoms." Helmond seems in this context to understand Danes as a sort of collective term for all migratory peoples, who were not Huns, maybe he meant Goths and Heruls, which also originally came from this part of the World.

Danes and Denmark

Ottars og Wulfstans rejser Merchant ship from early Viking period Left: Ottar's and Wulfstan's travels.
Right: Merchant ship from early Viking period.

So far the Danes, but when came the country to be called Danmark?

A country called Denmark, first emerged from Ottar's and Wulfstan's travel accounts from perhaps around 850 - 899 AD. Ottar traveled from Skiringssal in Norway to Haithabu in Slesvig, and Wulfstan traveled from Hedeby to the trading town of Truso in the Vistula delta.
"Ottar said: South of Skiringssal a vast sea intersects into the country. It is wider than any man can see over. And on the other side first comes Gotland and then Sillende. This sea stretches hundreds of miles into the country.

And he told that he in five days sailed from Skiringssal to the merchant city, called Hedeby. It lies between the Wends, Saxons and Angles, and belongs to the Danes.

When he sailed to there from Skiringssal, he had to portside Denmark, to starboard the open sea for three days, and then, two days before he came to Hedeby, he had to starboard Gotland and Sillende and many islands. In these regions the Angles lived before they came to this country. And in those two days he had to portside those islands which belong to Denmark."
"Wulfstan said that he traveled from Hedeby and that he was in Truso in seven days and nights, and the ship went all the way under sail.

Wendland was on his starboard side and to portside, he had Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania. These countries all belong to Denmark.

So we had Bornholm to port, and they have their own king.

So after Bornholm, we had the countries named first Blekinge, Møre, Øland and Gotland to portside, and these countries belong to the Swears.

And we had Wendland to starboard all the way to the Vistula river mouth. Wistula is a very big river that separates Witland from Wendland. Witland belongs to the Estonians."

It is obvious that Denmark in Ottar's and Wulfstan's time consisted of Sjælland, Halland, Skåne, Lolland and Falster, the South of Fyn islands and Hedeby.

The big Jelling Rune Stone
The big Jelling Rune Stone.

Next time we meet the term "Denmark" is on the big Jelling rune stone: "Haraldr kunungr bød gørva kumbl thøsi æft Gorm, fathur sinn, ok æft Þorve, mothur sina, sa Haraldr es ser vann Danmork alla ok Norveg ok dani gærthi kristna," which translated into modern English means: "King Harald let make these runes after Gorm his father and Thyra his mother - that Harald, who won himself the whole of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christians."

Then we can consider what this "-mark" (field) in means in modern language.

What is a "mark"? yeah, it is a flat cleared area of arable land - according to common understanding of the word. But then Danmark means: The flat cultivable area around the Dana-estuary.

Ottar and Wulfstan's reports and Harald's statement on the Jelling Stone may reveal a little different perception of Denmark. Ottar and Wulfstan perceived clearly Denmark as a political entity, while Harald may have understood Denmark as a geographical area, as he "won the whole of Denmark", implying that he already had a part of Denmark, maybe Fyn and Jylland, and now he won the rest; otherwise he could have confined himself to write that he won Denmark.
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