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Germans

German Tribes

The chief German tribes included the Alemanni, the Angles (see Anglo-Saxons), the Burgundii (see Burgundy), the Lombards, the Saxons, and the Visigoths. The many Scandinavians included the Icelanders, who produced the first Germanic literature (see Old Norse literature). Many other Germanic tribes appeared in various ancient periods. The Chamavi were in the 1st cent. N of the Rhine and SE of the Zuider Zee; by the 4th cent. they had moved southward and joined with the Frankish people. The Cimbri appeared in Transalpine Gaul late in the 2d cent. B.C. and fought Roman armies; c.103 B.C. they migrated to Italy with some Helvetii and Teutons and were crushed by Marius in 101 B.C. The Heruli, or Eruli, possibly stemming from Jutland, inhabited the shores of the Sea of Azov, E of the Don, in the 3d cent. A.D. They fought with the Goths against the Huns, joined Odoacer in his attack on the Roman emperor, and settled in N Lower Austria. In the 6th cent. their kingdom was destroyed by Lombards, and they disappeared as a group.

The Gepidae, a Gothic people, moved southward from the Baltic at Vistula into the Hungarian plain W of the Danube. Overwhelmed by Attila, they survived only to be defeated in 489 by Theodoric the Great and in 566 by the Lombards and Avars. They disappeared soon after. The Marcomanni, probably originally part of the Suebi, lived N of the Danube in Germany in the 1st and 2d cent. A threat to the Roman border, they were defeated by Marcus Aurelius in the Marcomannic War (166–180). They moved into the country of the Celtic Boii and probably expanded into Bavaria, where they seem to be the Baiuoarii, or Boiarii, ancestors of the Bavarians.

The Suebi, or Suevi, mentioned by Tacitus as a central German people, gave their name to Swabia. They probably included a number of smaller tribes, of whom the Alemanni and the Marcomanni were two. Others were the Semoni, the Hermunduri, and the Quadi. The Suebi lived near the Elbe c.650 B.C.; thence they spread S into Germany. By 100 B.C. they no longer constituted a political unit, although Tacitus maintained that they retained cultural and religious unity. The Teutons, who were allied with the Cimbri in 103 B.C., were crushed (102 B.C.) by Marius at Aquae Sextiae (present-day Aix-en-Provence). By an extension of the name of that tribe the Germanic peoples are sometimes called Teutonic.

See Germanic laws; Germanic religion; Germany.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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