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The Cambridge Archaeological and Ethnological 
Series is supervised by an Editorial Committee consisting 
of William Ridgeway, M.A., F.B.A., Disney Professor 
of Archaeology, A. C. //addon; Sc.D., E.R.S., University 
Lecturer in Ethnology, M. R. James, Litt.D., F.B.A., 
Provost of Kings College, and C. Waldstein, Litt.D., 
Slade Professor of Fine Art. 




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THIS book attempts to give an account of the early history 
of the English nation, so far as the information at our 
disposal permits. The author ventures to hope that in spite of 
its many shortcomings it may serve to call attention to a field of 
investigation which, though rich in promise, has been greatly 
neglected, especially in this country. In general he has sought 
to make use of all branches of ethnological study — history, 
tradition, language, custom, religion and antiquities. Owing 
however to the backwardness of archaeological research through- 
out the north of Europe, except in Denmark and Sweden, it has 
not been found possible to treat the last of these subjects in a 
manner at all commensurate with its true importance. When 
this branch of study has been developed it will perhaps be 
possible to obtain more light on the affinities of the English 
nation in times anterior to those to which the earliest heroic 
traditions refer. At present, it need hardly be said, we have 
little definite evidence available for that early period, and any 
investigation that is made must necessarily partake more or less 
of a hypothetical character. 

The author desires to express his thanks to a number of 
friends, including Dr A. C. Haddon and Prof. W. Ridgeway 
(members of the Editorial Committee supervising the series), 
Dr J. G. Frazer, Mr E. Magnusson, Dr W. H. R. Rivers, 
Mr A. B. Cook, Mr G. T. Lapsley, Miss M. Bentinck Smith, 
Mr \V. F. Rcddaway and Mr E. 11. Minns, for the assistance 


which they have kindly rendered him in various ways. He is 
especially indebted to Dr Frazer, who has read through the 
greater part of the last three chapters and given him the benefit 
of his own unrivalled knowledge of primitive rites and customs. 
Further, he is under great obligations to Miss A. C. Panes, 
Mr E. C. Quiggin, Miss B. S. Phillpotts, Mr A. Mavver and 
Mr F. £r>.M. Beck for the generous manner in which they 
have assisted him in revising the work for press and for many 
valuable suggestions and criticisms. His thanks are due also to 
Baron A. von Hiigel and the staff of the University Museum 
of Ethnology, to the staff of the University Library (especially 
Mr A. Rogers and Mr O. Johnson) and to the Librarians of 
Trinity and Corpus Christi Colleges, for the kindness and 
courtesy which he has constantly received at their hands. 
Lastly, he has to thank the Syndics of the University Press for 
undertaking the publication of the book and the staff for the 
efficient and obliging way in which the printing and corrections 
have been carried out. 

H. M. C. 

December 1906. 



I. England in the sixth century . . 

II. The West Saxon invasion .... 

III. The invasion of Kent 

IV. The Saxons, Angles and Jutes in Britain 

V. The Saxons, Angles and Jutes on the Continent 

VI. The Kings of Angel 

Note. The early kings of the Danes . 

VII. The age of national migrations 

VIII. The Saxons and Angles in Roman times 

IX. The classification of the ancient Germani . 
X. The cult of Nerthus 

XI. King Aethelwulf's mythical ancestors . 

XII. Social conditions of the Roman period 












England at the end of the sixth century 

WW. Germany, Holland, etc. at the beginning 
of the sixth century 

The northern part of PtolemVs Germania 

X.W. Germany etc. in the first century 

to face page 11 


I 12 






In the year 597 there arrived in this country a mission sent 
by Pope Gregory the Great for the evangelisation of the English 
people. Aethelberht the king of Kent, to whom they had made 
their way, quickly embraced the Christian faith and gave them 
a habitation in his capital, Canterbury. 

It is with these events that our knowledge of English history 
begins. There can be little doubt that some kind of a register 
of important events began to be kept in one or other of the 
Kentish monasteries even during the lifetime of the missionaries; 
for there are a number of entries in both English and Continental 
chronicles which can hardly be explained otherwise. The estab- 
lishment of bishoprics in other parts of the country led to the 
formation of similar records elsewhere. Consequently we are 
able, chiefly by means of Bede's collections, to construct a fairly 
connected history of most of the English kingdoms during the 
greater part of the seventh century. 

When we turn to the sixth century however the case is very 
different. No contemporary records of that period have been 
preserved and it is more than probable that none such were ever 
kept. No doubt the remembrance of important events was long 
retained by oral tradition. But neither the missionaries nor their 
immediate successors for the most part seem to have cared to 
record these traditions. Except in the case of Wessex and 
Northumbria our knowledge of the sixth century is almost a 
blank. We do not even know how many kingdoms existed at 
this time. It will be best therefore to begin our enquiry by 


examining the political divisions of the country as they severally 
come before our notice. 

Kent at the time of Augustine's arrival was at the height of 
its power and its king was supreme over all the English kings 
south of the H umber. But there seems to be no reason for 
supposing that the boundaries of the Kentish kingdom itself 
differed materially from those of the present county. The only 
doubtful question is whether Surrey was included in it. If, as 
appears probable, the name Surrey really means 'southern district,' 
it would seem to follow that, originally at all events, the territory 
in question belonged not to Kent but to Essex. 

Sussex was another kingdom which probably corresponded 
more or less to the present county of that name, though it may 
have extended further to the west. The story of its colonisation 
is given in the Chronicle (ann. 477, 485, 491), but how far we are 
to regard this account as worthy of credence it is impossible to 
say. Aelle, who according to the Chronicle was the founder 
and first king of Sussex, is said by Bede (Hist. Eccl. II. 5) to 
have been the first king who possessed supremacy (imperium) 
over all the other kings south of the Humber. In later times 
Sussex was frequently involved in war with Wessex, and on one 
occasion (A.D. 685) it interfered in a dynastic struggle in Kent. 
On the whole, however, its influence in the historical period was 

On the other hand the area of the kingdom of Essex was 
certainly greater than that of the modern county. Originally 
it included part, if not the whole, of Middlesex. Bede (Hist. 
Eccl. II. 3) speaks of London as the capital {metropolis) of Essex 
at the beginning of the seventh century, and even as late as the 
year 704 we find Twickenham in the hands of an East Saxon 
king (Birch, Cart. Sax. in). We have already seen that the 
name Surrey is an argument for supposing that that county 
also originally belonged to the same kingdom. How far it 
extended towards the north we have no means of ascertaining. 
In later times the diocese of London included part of Hertford- 
shire as well as Essex and Middlesex ; but it is by no means 
certain that the eastern dioceses, as restored after the great 
Danish invasion, retained their original dimensions. Quite 


possibly the whole of Hertfordshire may once have been in- 
cluded in the kingdom of Essex. The western part of the 
kingdom seems to have been annexed by the Mercians in the 
course of the eighth century. 

The dimensions of Wessex at the end of the sixth century 
are still more uncertain. We hear of wars between Wessex and 
Essex shortly after the death of Aethelberht (Hist. Eccl. II. 5) 
and again at the beginning of the eighth century (Birch, C. S. 115). 
The two kingdoms must therefore have been conterminous. 
According to the Chronicle, Cuthwulf, who was apparently 
a West Saxon prince, fought against the Britons in the year 
571 at a place called Bedcanford and captured four villages 
called Lygeanburg, Aegelesbicrg (Aylesbury), Baenesingtun (Ben- 
sington) and Egonesham (Eynsham). It is clear that part of 
Oxfordshire belonged to Wessex during the seventh century, 
for Dorchester (Oxon.) was for some time the seat of the West 
Saxon bishopric. Indeed it was probably not till the time of 
Offa (cf. Chron. 777) that the Thames became the northern 
frontier of Wessex. But if we are to believe the story of Cuthwulf 's 
campaign its territories to the north of the river must once have 
been very considerable. 

On the other hand it is likely that the territories of Wessex 
south of the Thames were considerably enlarged in the course 
of the seventh century. Somerset indeed seems to have been 
entirely Welsh until the middle of the century. Thus according 
to the Chronicle Coenwalh fought against the Welsh in 652 at 
Bradford-on-Avon and again in 658 at a place (net Peonnum) 
which is probably either identical with Penselwood or at least 
in the same neighbourhood. To the conquest of Dorset we 
have no certain reference, but if Penselwood was on or near the 
frontier it is not likely that a very large part of that county was 
then in English hands. On the whole it seems probable that 
at the beginning of the century the southern part of Wessex 
contained no more than the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire 
and Berkshire. Even then however, if we take into account 
the districts north of the Thames, the size of the kingdom must 
have been considerable. 

There are still two questions which require to be discussed 


with reference to the area of early Wessex. In the first place 
it is not certain that the whole of Hampshire was included in 
this kingdom. According to Bede (H. E. IV. 16) the Isle of 
Wight had in the time of Ceadwalla (685-688) a royal family 
of its own under a king named Arwald. Ceadwalla made and 
carried out a vow to destroy the whole population of the island 
and to colonise it with people from his own kingdom. According 
to another passage (ib. IV. 13) the Mercian king Wulfhere, 
who died in 675, had given the Isle of Wight, together with "the 
province of the Meanuari Y in the nation of the West Saxons," as 
a christening gift to Aethelwalh, king of Sussex. The conquest 
of the island by Wulfhere is mentioned in the Chronicle and 
dated 661. Now according to the Chronicle Wulfhere was at 
war with Wessex at this time. It is possible therefore that the 
island was wrested from Wessex by Wulfhere and that Cead- 
walla's subsequent conquest was really a recovery of what had 
previously belonged to his dynasty — a hypothesis which might 
perhaps account for his savage treatment of the population. 
Arwald and his family would then be in some way the successors 
of Aethelwalh. But this explanation is hardly favoured by Bede's 
language. The manner in which he speaks of episcopal juris- 
diction over the island in IV. 16 and V. 23 and especially the 
words erumna externae subiectionis in the former passage seem 
to show that he regarded it as quite distinct from the rest of 
Wessex. Again in I. 15 he states that the inhabitants were of 
a different stock from the West Saxons. The latter, like the 
South Saxons and the East Saxons, had come from the land of 
the Old Saxons, whereas the inhabitants of Wight together with 
those of Kent were descended from the Jutes. If we compare 
these statements we can hardly avoid concluding that in Bede's 
opinion the people of Wight and the West Saxons were different 

But, further, it appears that the Jutes in this quarter were not 
confined to the island. In I. 15 Bede speaks of " the tribe which 
is still called Iutarum natio in the territory of the West Saxons, 
occupying a position just opposite the Isle of Wight." In IV. 16 

1 East and West Meon and Meonstoke, Hampshire (Stevenson in Poole's Histori- 
cal Maps). 


he gives more definite information as to their position. The 
river Hamble (Ho)iielea) ran through their territories and a place 
called ad Lapidem, not far from Hreutford, was also in their 
land. It is generally supposed that these places are Stoneham 
and Redbridge. Again, Florence of Worcester, when describing 
the death of William Rufus, says that the king was hunting " in 
the New Forest which is called Ytene in the English language " 
(quae lingua Anglorum Ytene nnncupatur). This word can 
hardly be anything else than a later form of Ytena (land) which 
renders Bede's Intorum (prouinciam) in a MS. 1 of the English ver- 
sion of the Ecclesiastical History (IV. 16). But if we accept these 
statements it will appear probable that the whole of the coast 
of Hampshire was colonised by the Jutes. It is true that the 
evidence brought forward above is difficult to reconcile with the 
account of the West Saxon invasion given by the Chronicle. 
To this question however we shall have to return later. We 
need not suppose that the Jutes of the mainland remained 
independent of Wessex until the time of Ceadwalla. But if we 
attach any importance to Bede's evidence we must, I think, 
regard their settlement as originally distinct from that of the 
West Saxons. 

The second question which requires consideration is the 
origin of the kingdom of the Hwicce. The boundaries of this 
kingdom are somewhat uncertain. But since the early bishoprics 
seem as a rule to have coincided with the kingdoms to which 
they were attached, it is probable that this kingdom was 
originally identical with the diocese of the Hwicce, known later 
as the diocese of Worcester. It would thus include Worcester- 
shire, Gloucestershire and a large part of Warwickshire. When 
the kingdom first comes before our notice, under its kings Osric 
and Oshere, in the last quarter of the seventh century, it was 
already subject to Mercian supremacy. But according to the 
Chronicle at least part of it was originally conquered from the 
Welsh by the West Saxons. Thus in ami. 577 we hear that 
" Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Welsh at a place 
called Deorham (probably Dyrham, Gloucestershire) and cap- 

1 C.C.C.C. 41. The other MSS. have Eota land. The form given in the late 
texts of the Chronicle (aim. 449) is Iulna. 


tured three fortresses, Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath." In 
ann. 592 there is an entry which has been understood to refer to 
internal strife : " In this year there was a great slaughter at 
Woddesbeorg 1 and Ceawlin was expelled." It is possible of 
course that the newly conquered districts may have broken away 
at this time. But there is really nothing to show that the event 
recorded had anything to do with the Hwicce. It might just as 
well refer to a conquest of Wessex by Aethelberht. In 626 we 
find the West Saxons apparently disputing the supremacy of 
Britain with Edwin of Northumbria (cf. Bede, H.E. II. 9), from 
which we may infer that they were still a formidable power. It 
seems to me more probable that the separation of the Hwicce 
from Wessex took place after this campaign. In the year 628, 
according to the Chronicle, the West Saxon king Cynegils 
fought against Penda at Cirencester and subsequently came to 
terms with him. Quite possibly this entry refers to the same 
campaign which is mentioned by Bede, for Penda, whether he 
was already king or not, was probably in Edwin's service at this 
time. The genealogy of the Hwiccian dynasty is unfortunately 
lost. We do not know therefore whether they claimed to be of 
the same stock as the West Saxon royal family. 

Mercia became the leading power in 642 and continued to 
hold that position, with a few short intervals, for nearly two 
centuries. According to the Chronicle Penda obtained the 
throne in 626, but from Bede's account it is clear that at this 
time Mercia must have been subject to the supremacy of Edwin. 
The only earlier king of whom we have definite information was 
Cearl (H.E. II. 14), Edwin's father-in-law, who must have been 
reigning before 617. It is quite possible however that the 
unknown Crida, whose death is recorded in the Chronicle, 
ann. 593, was Penda's grandfather. In later times Mercia 
included the whole of the country between the Thames and the 
Humber, with the exception of Essex and East Anglia. But 
the original kingdom must have been of much smaller dimen- 
sions. According to the Tribal Hidage (Birch, Cart. Sax. 297), 
a survey of uncertain age but anterior to the Danish invasions, 
"the country which was first called Mercia {Myroialand)" 
1 Woodborough, Wiltshire, according to Mr Stevenson (I.e.). 


j contained 30,000 hides, the same number as East Anglia. On 
j the other hand Bede (H.E. III. 24) gives 7000 hides to the North 
I Mercians and 5000 hides to the South Mercians. The dis- 
i crepancy between the two authorities may be due either to 
j increase of population or to a difference in the unit of computa- 
: tion. It is possible to locate within somewhat vague limits the 
I situation of this original Mercia. Bede (ib.) says that the South 
Mercians were separated from the North Mercians by the Trent, 
and again (IV. 3) that the seat of the Mercian bishopric even in 
Wulfhere's time was at Lichfield. Tamworth, at all events from 
the reign of Offa onwards (cf. Birch, Cart. Sax. 239, 240 etc.), 
was the chief residence of the Mercian kings. It can hardly be 
doubted therefore that South Mercia corresponded to the 
southern parts of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and (probably) 
Nottinghamshire, together with the northern parts of Warwick- 
shire and Leicestershire. Shropshire can hardly have been 
included in it ; for in the Tribal Hidage it seems to occur as a 
separate item {Wocensetna, Porcensetene, for Wrocensetna). As 
for the North Mercians, it is clear from Bede's words that they 
must be located in the northern parts of Staffordshire, Derby- 
shire and Nottinghamshire. The name Mcrcii {Merce) seems to 
show that this kingdom had once lain on the frontier, though 
whether this was still the case at the end of the sixth century it 
is impossible to say with certainty. Chester however was still 
in the hands of the Welsh at this time, and according to 
the Historia Brittonum, §. 65, the Welsh kingdom of Elmet 
(in the West Riding) lasted until the reign of Edwin. The 
hypothesis is therefore very probable. In that case we shall 
have to conclude that Shropshire and Herefordshire as well as 
Cheshire were not conquered by the English before the seventh 

The kingdom of East Anglia came into prominence under its 
king Redwald, probably not very long before Aethelberht's 
death. It is frequently mentioned by Bede, but unfortunately 
neither he nor any other early writers give precise information 
as to how far it extended towards the west and south. The 
kingdom lasted till the great Danish invasion (A.D. 870), but 
after Bede's time its history is almost a blank. A genealogy of 


its royal family down to the first half of the eighth century is 
preserved in a number of texts. 

Between Mercia and East Anglia Bede gives the names of 
three other prouinciae, namely the Lindisfari, the Gyruii and 
the Angli Mediterranei or Middil-Angli. The position of the 
first of these causes no difficulty. It is the first province south 
of the Humber and reaches to the sea (II. 16); Bardney is 
situated in it (ill. 11). It clearly corresponds therefore to the 
modern Lindsey, though it may of course have extended further 
to the west and south. A genealogy of its kings is preserved, 
but unfortunately none of the names can be identified. From 
the time of Edwin onwards it seems always to have been subject 
either to Northumbria or Mercia. 

The position of the Gyrwe is not quite so clear. Bede 
(IV. 6) says that Peterborough was in their country, while 
according to the Hyde Register (ed. Birch, p. 88) Crowland lay 
on middan Gyrzvan ferine. In the Tribal Hidage they are 
divided into North Gyrwe and South Gyrwe, each district 
containing 6oo hides. Bede (IV. 19) says that Tondberht, the 
first husband of Aethelthryth, was a prince {princeps) of the 
South Gyrwe. The Isle of Ely, where Aethelthryth subse- 
quently founded her convent, is said by Bede (ib.) to have 
contained 600 hides. According to Thomas of Ely, § 14 (Acta 
Sanctorum, 23 June, p. 508), Aethelthryth had obtained it as 
her dowry from Tondberht. If so the Isle of Ely and the land 
of the South Gyrwe are probably to be identified. But it is to 
be observed that Bede himself does not suggest that Aethel- 
thryth had acquired the Isle of Ely in this way. On the 
contrary he says that Ely was in the prouincia of East Anglia. 
Again, in the Tribal Hidage we find East Anglia and the land 
of the South Gyrwe entered as distinct items. We must conclude 
then, I think, either that the East Anglian frontier fluctuated or 
that the statement made by Thomas of Ely is erroneous. 
Aethelthryth may have been presented with Ely by her own 
family, just as in later times we find the Mercian queen Aethel- 
swith possessing lands in Wessex (Cart. Sax. 522). 

The Angli Mediterranei are frequently mentioned by Bede 
in a way which leaves no doubt that he regarded them as quite 


distinct from the Mercians. If they ever had a native line of 
kings however this line must have disappeared when they first 
come before our notice, in the year 653, for at that time Penda 
had given their throne to his son Peada. The dimensions of the 
kingdom are far from clear. From 737 onwards, and also for 
a short time during the seventh century, it had a bishopric of its 
own. The seat of this bishopric was established at Leicester at 
all events by the end of the eighth century. From Eddius, 
cap. 64 (cf. H. E. V. 19), it seems likely that Oundle also was in 
the Middle Anglian diocese. We may probably conclude then 
that the kingdom included parts at least of Leicestershire and 
Northamptonshire. But it may have extended much further to 
the south and east. In the Tribal Hidage the Middle Angli are 
not mentioned except in a note derived apparently from Bede 
(III. 21). But it may be observed that with two exceptions, 
Pecsaetna and Elmedsaetna — which are clearly to be located to 
the north of Mercia — all the small items given in the survey, i.e. 
all the items containing less than 2000 hides, belong to one or 
other of two groups. The first group immediately follows 
Lindisfaroiia (Lindsey) and begins with the North Gynve and 
South Gyrwe. It contains also a name Spalda, which has been 
connected with Spalding. The second group is separated from 
the former by five items with large hidages. It is in this second 
group that the name Faerpinga occurs with the note which states 
that it is in Middle Anglia. Several other items in it have been 
identified with places in Northamptonshire. Now the question 
is whether we are justified in regarding these two groups 
together as forming the Middle Angli. We may note that the 
total hidage of the two groups amounts to 10,800 hides as against 
7000 hides for Lindsey and 30,000 for East Anglia. It is there- 
fore by no means incredibly large. 

It is true of course that the Gyrwe are themselves sometimes 
described as a pronincia. But this does not necessarily prevent 
us from believing that they formed part of the Middle Angli, for 
we find the same term used elsewhere for subdivisions of king- 
doms, e.g. the Meanuarorum prouincia in H.E. IV. 13. We 
have seen that the Gyrwe occupied some of the fen-lands (Peter- 
borough and Crowland) in the eastern Midlands. In Felix' Life 


of St Guthlac however these districts seem to be included in 
Middle Anglia. Thus in § 14 it is stated that "there is a fen of 
immense size in the territories of the Mediterranei Angli in 
Britain. It begins at the banks of the river Granta not far from 
the castle which is called Gronte (Grantchester) and extends... 
northwards as far as the sea." From this passage we can hardly 
avoid concluding that Middle Anglia included a considerable part 
of Cambridgeshire, as well as Huntingdonshire, and hence that in 
all probability it bordered upon East Anglia. Further, it may 
be observed that we hear of no bishoprics in the eastern counties 
except those of Middle Anglia, Essex, Lindsey and the two in 
East Anglia. Yet, with the exception of the Isle of Wight — a 
case specially noted by Bede (cf. p. 4) — no kingdom of which 
we have any record disappeared without leaving a trace of 
itself in the form of a diocese or group of dioceses. Taking all 
the evidence into account therefore I am disposed to believe that 
Middle Anglia covered the whole space between Mercia and 
East Anglia and that it bordered not only on the latter but also 
on Essex and Wessex, while in the North it extended into 
Lincolnshire and perhaps also Nottinghamshire. The total 
figures therefore assigned to the two groups of small items in 
the Tribal Hidage are too small rather than too large for such 
a stretch of country, and it is at least doubtful whether some of 
the unknown larger items which occur between the two groups 
(Oktgaga, Noxgaga and possibly Hendricd) may not also have 
belonged to Middle Anglia. 

Northumbria in the latter part of the sixth century consisted 
of two kingdoms, Bernicia and Deira. When the union took 
place is not quite clear. The most probable date however 
seems to be 604-5, f° r according to the Historia Brittonum, 
§ 63, Aethelfrith reigned only for twelve years in Deira. It is of 
course impossible to say how far English power extended to 
the west and north at this time. In the reign of Theodric, i.e. 
57 2 — 579 according to the best authorities, the English are said 
to have been besieged by the Welsh in Lindisfarne (Hist. Brit., 
§ 63). The first king of whom we know was Ida, who, according 
to chronological calculations accepted by Bede, began to reign 
in 547. The first known king of Deira was Aelle, the father of 


Edwin. The dates assigned to his succession and death in the 
Chronicle are 560 and 588. But it is to be observed that we 
have no earlier evidence for these dates and that the North- 
umbrian chronology followed by the Chronicle clearly differed 
from that of the Appendix to the Moore MS. of Bede's History, 
which is our oldest and probably best authority. Bede himself 
gives no dates for Aelle's reign, but he speaks of him as being 
still king at the time of Augustine's arrival (De Temp. Ratione, 
cap. 66). 

In the preceding pages we have endeavoured to determine 
the position of the various English kingdoms in the year 597. 
The results of our discussion will best be seen by the ac- 
companying map ; but it is hardly necessary to point out that 
the boundaries suggested must in many cases be regarded as 
extremely uncertain. It is in regard to the nature of the 
boundaries that my view differs most from those of previous 
writers. I find it difficult to believe that a people who invaded 
by sea would choose rivers as the boundaries of their kingdoms. 
The Danes at a later period certainly used the rivers as their 
high-ways, and it was by fortifying both banks and building 
bridges that Alfred and Edward the Elder eventually succeeded 
in bringing them into subjection. Is there any reason for 
supposing that the Saxons themselves originally acted differently 
from the Danes ? We know that the Thames ran through 
YYessex and the Trent through the centre of Mercia. In 
historical times at all events the Severn formed no boundary. 
But, as a matter of fact, there is no single case where we can say 
with certainty that two kingdoms were originally separated by 
a river — estuaries of course excluded. In the Tribal Hidage 
Haethfeldlaud 1 is reckoned with Lindsey ; but it is not certain 
that the latter lay entirely east of the Trent. The most likely 
case is perhaps the Stour ; but we have really no information 
regarding the frontier of Essex and East Anglia before the tenth 
century. It is true that we find kingdoms divided into two 
parts by rivers, e.g. North Mercia and South Mercia and, in 

1 Hatfield Division, Nottinghamshire, and Hatfield Chase, Yorkshire, according 
to Mr Stevenson [I.e.). 


later times, Norfolk and Suffolk. But that is obviously quite a 
different question. The convenience of utilising such natural 
divisions for administrative and fiscal purposes would easily be 

A generation earlier the area covered by the English king- 
doms was probably much smaller. According to the Chronicle 
the conquests of Ceawlin in the southern Midlands had not then 
begun. What the position of the Mercians and Middle Angli 
was at this time it is quite impossible to say. Procopius 
however has a story (Goth. IV. 20), apparently derived from 
English sources, which though absurd in itself may perhaps be 
interpreted to mean that the invaders had not in his time 
succeeded in penetrating beyond the Roman Wall. If, as we 
have seen, their position in the neighbourhood of Bamborough 
was still somewhat precarious in 572 — 579, this is likely enough. 

The accounts of the invasion so far as Kent and Wessex are 
concerned will be discussed in the following chapters. In regard 
to the establishment of the more northern kingdoms we are 
almost entirely without information. Were these kingdoms 
independent of one another from the beginning or did they 
come into existence through subsequent divisions? Did the 
invasions in the north take place at the same time or even in 
the same century as those in the south ? From what point or 
points did the invasion begin ? To all these questions we are 
almost entirely without answer. One view however which has 
been put forward ought I think certainly to be rejected, viz. 
that the invasion was carried out by small groups of adventurers 
acting independently of one another. It seems to me incredible 
that such a project as the invasion of Britain could have been 
carried out successfully except by large and organised forces. 

Whatever may have been the case during the period of 
invasion, in later times at all events we usually find a number of 
kingdoms grouped together under one supreme head. At the 
end of the sixth century Aethelberht, king of Kent, had 
supremacy {iwperium) over all the kings south of the Humber 
(H.E. II. 5). Ceawlin of Wessex had held the same position 
before him. Aethelberht again was succeeded in turn by 
Redwald of East Anglia and the Northumbrian kings Edwin, 


Oswald and Oswio. Then from 659 to 825, with short intervals, 
the successive kings of Mercia held a similar position, though 
their authority seems as a rule not to have extended to 
Northumbria 1 . The nature of this supremacy has been much 
disputed. At any rate it was sufficient in Aethelberht's case to 
guarantee the safety of persons under his protection when visit- 
ing the farthest limit of English territory (ib. III. 2), apparently 
in the neighbourhood of Bristol or Bath. But it is at least 
a question whether this supremacy was not really a far more 
tangible thing than has generally been supposed 2 . Edwin is 
said to have held supremacy over all the English kingdoms 
except Kent. Are we to interpret this to mean that Kent, 
a comparatively small nation and one which was ruled by 
Edwin's own brother-in-law, was the only kingdom which 
refused to recognise his superior position ? It is surely far 
more likely that in virtue of their relationship Edwin consented 
to deal with his brother-in-law on terms of equality, whereas by 
the remaining kings he was definitely recognised as 'lord and 
protector' (Jilaford and mundbord)*. A recognition of this sort 
however, at least in lower ranks of life, always involved certain 
obligations and payments from the dependent to his superior; 
and we have no reason for doubting that this was the case also 
when both the contracting parties were kings. In later times 
the Mercian kings, Aethelred and his successors, certainly 
claimed rights of some kind over the lands belonging to the 
dependent kingdoms. Hence in Hwiccian, East Saxon, South 
Saxon and Kentish charters it is frequently stated that the 
Mercian king consents to or participates in the grant. Now 
when Bede (H.E. III. 7) describes the donation of Dorchester to 
Birinus, he distinctly states that it was given by 'both kings,' 

1 The supremacy of the Mercian kings is ignored by the Chronicle, aim. 827, but 
its existence is placed beyond doubt by charters (cf. Hist. Eccl. v. 23). It seems to 
have really begun under Penda, though it was interrupted for a time by that king's 

2 Of course the character of the supremacy may very well have varied from case 
to case. In general it seems to have been analogous to the position held by early 
Continental kings such as Maroboduus and Eormenric, to whom we shall have to 
return later. 

3 Occasionally the expression used is ' father and lord ' (Chron. 924 a). 


i.e. Cynegils of Wessex and Oswald of Northumbria. The fact 
that the latter participated in the grant must surely mean that, 
like the Mercian kings in later times, he possessed certain rights | 
over the lands belonging to the dependent kingdoms- — in short 
that he was entitled in some form or other to tribute from them. 
As a guarantee for such tribute and for obedience in general it 
was probably customary for the supreme king to take hostages 
from those under his suzerainty (cf. H.E. III. 24). 

It may be noted that six of the seven supreme kings 
mentioned by Bede succeeded one another either immediately 
or after very short intervals. The whole period covered by their 
supremacy does not amount to a century ; for, even according j 
to the present text of the Chronicle, Ceawlin was not king of 
Wessex until 560, while Oswio's supremacy was lost in 659. 
But the first of the supreme kings, Aelle of Sussex, is widely 
separated from the rest. According to the Chronicle he came 
to Britain in 477 and the last time we hear of him is in the year 
491. Of course it would be absurd to expect chronological 
accuracy in such a case as this. But if these dates are even 
approximately correct a very considerable time must have 
elapsed between Aelle's supremacy and that of Ceawlin. Hence 
there has been a general tendency to discredit the story of 
Aelle's supremacy. But, on the other hand, we may well ask 
why Bede, or the authority which he followed, should select 
such a person as the first supreme English king, unless he was 
following some old tradition. Of all the English kings of Bede's 
time those of Sussex were the least likely to aspire to imperial 
position. Moreover there is another circumstance which may 
quite possibly have some bearing on the story. Gildas at the 
close of his History states that he was forty-four years old, that 
he was born in the year of the siege of 'Mons Badonicus' and that 
during the intervening period there had been no war between 
the Britons and the Saxons. Unfortunately he does not give 
us the date of the siege. But in the Annales Cambriae, the 
authority of which seems in general to be good, it is entered 
under the year LXXII, i.e. probably A.D. 5 1 7 1 . All the Welsh 

1 If Gildas' History was really written at the same time as his Epistle the Annals 
must contain some error ; for according to the same authority Maelgwn (king of 


I authorities represent it as a great disaster for the Saxons and, 
I though the site of the battle has never been definitely decided, 
the presence of another entry, under the year CCXXI (belli/ m 
Badonis secundo), rather leads us to infer that the place remained 
in Welsh hands for a century and a half. Now if the dates 
assigned by the Chronicle to Aelle's conquests are at all near 
the truth, his supremacy must be placed before the battle of 
Mons Badonicus. Is it not possible that this defeat broke up 
the organisation of the invaders and that the peace of forty-four 
{or more) years which followed was due to their disunion ? This 
would bring us to the time of Ceawlin, according to the dates 
given in the Chronicle. The story of the West Saxon invasion 
is of course a difficulty ; to this subject however we shall have 
to return in the next chapter. 

It has been mentioned above that we are almost entirely 
without information as to the date and course of the more 
northern invasions. The story of the arrival of Ida given in the 
De primo Saxonum Aduentu and the Welsh legend of the flight 
of St Samson from York can hardly be taken seriously into 
account until earlier and less precarious evidence is adduced in 
their favour. There is a passage however in Felix' Life of St 
Guthlac, § 4, which admits perhaps of a somewhat safer inference. 
The passage is as follows : " In the days of Aethelred, king of 
the Angli, there was a man of noble Mercian family named 
Penwall (Penwald), who by the course of events had come to 
reside in the territories of the Mediterranei Angli. He was 
descended from the ancient stock of Icel and his genealogy 
contained the names of famous kings." In the Old English 
version we find in place of the last sentence: "He was of the 
oldest and most noble family, who were called Iclingas." From 
Felix' words it is hardly possible to doubt that Penwald belonged 
to the Mercian royal family, and consequently that the Icel from 
whom he traced his descent was the person of that name who 
appears in the Mercian genealogy, five generations above Penda. 
Now in all other cases where we find similar expressions used 

Gwynedd), who is spoken of as alive in the Epistle, died in 548. I cannot think that 
the date given for the siege by Bede (H.E. 1. 16) is due to anything more than 
a misunderstanding of Gildas' words. 


the ancestor from whom descent is claimed is believed to have 
reigned in Britain. Thus in the Preface to the Parker text of 
the Chronicle it is stated of several kings that they were 
descended from Cerdic. In the same way Bede and later 
writers say that the Northumbrian royal family were descended 
from Ida. Again Bede states that the Kentish royal family 
were called Oiscingas from Oisc, the son of Hengest (H. E. II. 5), 
and the East Anglian royal family Wuffingas from a king named 
Wuffa (ib. II. 1 5). All these persons were believed either to have 
taken part in the invasions or to have lived subsequently. In no 
case do we find a dynasty deriving its name from an ancestor 
who lived in earlier times. Consequently we seem to be justified 
in concluding that, according to tradition at least, Icel also 
reigned in Britain. 

This being the case it is worth while to endeavour to ascer- 
tain the date of Icel's lifetime, though we have no evidence 
except the genealogies available for the purpose. Now Icel is 
separated from Penda by four names, Cnebba, Cynewald, Crioda 
and Pypba, the third of whom is possibly the person whose 
death is recorded in the Chronicle, ann. 593. According to the 
Chronicle Penda began to reign in 626 and was then fifty years 
old. His birth then must be dated about 576, and consequently, 
if we allow an average of thirty years for each generation, Icel's 
birth will have to be dated about 426. I confess however to a 
feeling of scepticism in regard to the date of Penda's birth. 
Setting aside the fact that his dealings with Oswio showed 
unusual vigour for a man of such advanced years, this date is 
difficult to reconcile with the ages of his children. Peada is 
represented as a young man about the year 653 (H.E. III. 21), 
Wulfhere was a child at his father's death (ib. III. 24) and 
Aethelred, who resigned in 704, was probably still younger. 
Again Coenwalh, who succeeded to the West Saxon throne in 
642 and died a premature death about 673, married and subse- 
quently divorced Penda's sister. In view of these facts I do not 
think that the statement of the Chronicle can be regarded as 
trustworthy, at all events until further evidence — and of earlier 
date — is forthcoming in its favour. From the information we 
possess, apart from this entry, it would be natural to date Penda's 


birth about the beginning of the seventh century, which ac- 
cording to the same calculation would bring that of Icel to about 
450. Even then however Icel's reign will probably fall into the 
fifth century. 

We have already seen that there is no evidence for the 
existence of a separate royal family belonging to the Middle 
j Angli. It is quite possible that the Mercians were an offshoot 
: from the Middle Angli, but this of course cannot be proved. 
On the whole however the evidence seems to indicate that, 
whatever the locality of their kingdom, the ancestors of the 
Mercian dynasty were ruling in Britain, presumably somewhere 
in the Midlands, before the end of the fifth century. 

In conclusion it will be convenient to notice briefly the 
evidence for communication between England and the Continent 
before the year 597. The fact that Aethelberht had obtained 
in marriage the daughter of the Frankish king Hariberht shows 
that somewhat intimate relations had already sprung up between 
Kent and the Frankish kingdom. The archaeological evidence 
allows us to carry this inference further. A large number of the 
brooches and other ornaments which have been found in heathen 
graves, especially in the South of England, appear to be of 
Frankish types. Among the brooches we may particularly 
note the disc-shaped and bird-shaped varieties and also those 
with radiated heads, all of which closely resemble the types used 
in Frankish districts. A considerable number of small gold 
coins (trientes) of Frankish pattern have also been found, but 
it is worth noting that most if not all of these are of a standard 
which only came into use after the year 576. 

There can be little doubt that the chief source of communi- 
cation between England and the Continent at this time was the 
slave-trade. From the well-known story of Pope Gregory the 
Great (H.E. II. 1) it appears that English slaves were obtainable 
in Rome before the year 592. Bede (ib. II. 3) speaks of London as 
a great resort of merchants who came thither both by land and 
sea ; and that these were engaged, at least partly, in the slave- 
trade may be gathered from the story of the Frisian merchant in 
IV. 22. The practice of selling slaves to be shipped abroad is 
c. 2 


forbidden in the laws of Ine, cap. 11, but the prohibition seems 
to apply only to the case of slaves who were of the same nation- 
ality as their owners. According to Wihtred's laws, cap. 26, it 
was one of the punishments which the king inflicted upon 
freemen caught in the act of stealing, while from the story 
mentioned above it may be inferred that in 678 even private 
persons were at liberty to dispose of captured enemies in this 
way. The trade must have been an extremely profitable one. 
For the value of the slave in England in Ine's time was only 
60 shillings, i.e. probably a pound of silver, whereas the prices 
mentioned in the Continental laws are 20, 30 and 36 gold solidi, 
i.e. probably from three to six pounds of silver. 

Procopius (Goth. IV. 20) states that there was a continuous 
flow of English emigration into the Frankish dominions during 
the reign of Theodberht (534-548), so much so indeed that the 
latter represented himself to Justinian as having some sort of 
authority over the island. We do not elsewhere find any 
evidence to bear out this statement, and it has been supposed 
that the migration was really one of Britons from the south- 
west of the island to Brittany. But if so Procopius was certainly 
misinformed. There are very few references in Anglo-Saxon 
poetry to Continental persons and events of the sixth century. 
Aelfwine's invasion of Italy is mentioned in Widsith (1. 70 ff), 
and the same poem speaks (1. 24) of the Frankish king Theodric. 
References to persons belonging to the fifth century, Aetla 
(Attila), Guthhere, etc., are somewhat more frequent. 

We hear very much more of Denmark and Sweden in the 
English traditions than we do of any Continental nations ; but it 
is possible that this may be partly due to the fact that Beowulf 
is the only long poem which has been preserved. It is curious 
however that we hear of no Danish king later than Hrothwulf 
(Hrolfr Kraki) and no Swedish king later than Eadgils (ASils) 
— two kings who were apparently contemporaries. Is it per- 
missible to conclude that communication between England and 
the Baltic ceased in their time ? Eadgils appears to have 
acquired the throne some time after the death of Hygelac, 
king of the Geatas (Gotar), which probably took place about 
the year 520, while Hrothwulf was apparently reigning before 


that time. It would not be safe of course to base any chrono- 
logical argument on the fifty years' reign ascribed to Beowulf. 
If the suggestion put forward here is correct we shall have to 
suppose that communication with the northern kingdoms ceased 
before the middle of the sixth century. At all events we have 
no reason for supposing that England had any dealings with the 
North during the seventh and eighth centuries. The only hint 
of such communication is a passage in Bede's Commentary to 
the Fourth Book of Kings, XX. 9, in which he speaks of the 
midnight sun " in the island of Thyle, which is beyond Britain, 
or in the farthest borders of the Scythae." He states that this 
phenomenon is most abundantly vouched for " both by the 
histories of the ancients and by men of our own age who arrive 
from those countries." But even if this is an original statement 
it is hardly sufficient to prove direct communication between 
England and the North. Bede's information may have been 
derived ultimately from Frisians or even Picts. 

Indeed there is very little evidence to show that the English 
were a seafaring people in the seventh and eighth centuries. We 
hear frequently of voyages across the Channel ; but apart 
from this references to seafaring are extremely rare. After 
Edwin's death his family escaped by sea to Kent (H.E. II. 20). 
The conquest of the Isle of Man and Anglesey (ib. II. 9) by the 
same king implies a fleet of some kind, and so also the invasion 
of Ireland by Ecgfrith (ib. IV. 24) ; but these incidents seem to 
have been quite exceptional. Procopius (Goth. IV. 20) relates 
that an enormous English fleet attacked the land of the Warni 
on the Continent ; but here of course the reference is to a much 
earlier period, the reign of Theodberht. On the whole the 
absence of evidence probably justifies us in believing that the 
habit of seafaring had been abandoned to a great extent before 
the end of the sixth century. 



The story of the West Saxon invasion is given only by the 
Chronicle. Bede makes no reference to it ; indeed Ceawlin is 
the first king of Wessex whom he mentions. Later writers seem 
to have had no other materials than the Chronicle. The story 
as it appears in the Chronicle is as follows : 

495. Two princes 1 , Cerdic and Cynric his son, came to 
Britain with five ships, (arriving) at a place which is called 
Cerdicesora, and the same day they fought against the Welsh. 

501. Port and his two sons, Bieda and Maegla, came to 
Britain at a place which is called Portesnuitha (Portsmouth) and 
slew a young British man, a very noble man. 

508. Cerdic and Cynric slew a British king, whose name 
was Natanleod, and five thousand men with him. The" district 
was afterwards (or " in consequence ") called Natanleag as far as 

514. The West Saxons, Stuf and Wihtgar, came to Britain 
with three ships, (arriving) at a place which is called Cerdicesora ; 
and they fought against the Britons and put them to flight. 

519. Cerdic and Cynric began to reign ; and the same year 
they fought against the Britons at a place which is now called 

527. Cerdic and Cynric fought against the Britons at a 
place which is called Cerdicesleag. 

530. Cerdic and Cynric obtained possession of the Isle of 
Wight and slew a few men at Wilitgaraesburg. 

1 Aldormen, perhaps a translation of principes, cf. p. 26. 


534. Cerdic died and his son Cynric continued to reign for 
twenty-six years. They had given the Isle of Wight to their 
two iief an 1 , Stuf and Wihtgar. 

544. Wihtgar died and was buried at Wihtgar aburg. 

552. Cynric fought against the Britons at a place which is 
called Searoburg (Salisbury) and put the Britons to flight. 
Cerdic was Cynric's father. Cerdic was the son of Elesa, the son 
of Esla, the son of Giwis, the son of Wig, the son of Freawine, 
the son of Freothogar, the son of Brand, the son of Baeldaeg, the 
son of Woden. 

556. Cynric and Ceawlin fought against the Britons at 

560. Ceawlin succeeded to the throne in Wessex. 

568. Ceawlin and Cutha fought against Aethelberht and 
drove him into Kent ; and they slew two princes, Oslaf and 
Cnebba, at Wibbandwt. 

571. Cuthwulf fought against the Britons at Bedcanford and 
captured four villages, Lygeanburg, Aegelesburg (Aylesbury), 
Baenesiugtuu (Bensington) and EgouesJiam (Eynsham) ; and he 
died the same year. 

577. Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Britons and 
slew three kings, Coinmail, Condida and Farinmail, at a place 
which is called Deorham (Dyrham) ; and they captured three 
cities, Gleawanceaster, Cirenceaster and Bathanceaster{ Gloucester, 
Cirencester and Bath). 

584. Ceawlin and Cutha fought against the Britons at a 
place which is called Fethanleag and Cutha was slain ; and 
Ceawlin captured many villages and countless booty and de- 
parted in anger to his own (territories). 

591. Ceol reigned for five years. 

592. There was a great slaughter at Woddesbeorg (cf. p. 6) 
and Ceawlin was expelled. 

593. Ceawlin and Cwichelm and Crida perished. 

1 Since nefa means both "grandson" and "nephew," it may correctly denote 
relationship to two persons who were themselves father and son ; cf. Stevenson, 
Asser's Life of King Alfred, p. 171. 

2 Identified by Prof. Earle with Barbury Camp between Swindon and Marl- 
borough ; cf. Plummer, Two Saxon Chronicles, 11. 15. 


It has long been a disputed question how far these annals 
deserve credence. One serious objection which has been brought 
against them is that all the place-names which occur until the 
mention of Salisbury in ann. 552 contain the names of the chief 
characters in the story. Thus Cerdic's name appears in Cerdices- 
ford, which seems from Aethelweard's account to be Charford on 
the Avon, as well as in Cerdicesora and Cerdicesleag, which have 
not been satisfactorily identified. Natanleod's name appears 
in Natanleag (probably Nateley, Hampshire), Port's name in 
Portesmutlia (presumably Portsmouth) and Wihtgar's name in 
WiJitgaraesburg. The analogy of similar stories in other lands 
would lead us to infer that the personal names had been created 
out of the place-names. Of course one such case by itself is 
inconclusive. WiJitgaraesburg may just as well have derived its 
name from Wihtgar 1 as Bebbanburg (Bamborough) from Queen 
Bebbe. It is the uniformity of the above list which excites 

Another objection has been based on the artificial system of 
chronology observable in the annals, an arrangement, so it is said, 
by fours and eights. To this however little importance is to be 
attached. If we compare Bede's Chronica Maiora (De Temporum 
Ratione 66) or the Annals of St Neots we shall find that many 
events are not precisely dated. Indeed there are entries in the 
Chronicle itself (e.g. ann. 643, 658) which make no attempt to fix 
precise dates for the events they record. It is quite possible 
I therefore that in many entries the dates have been added at a 
later period. We may well ask how one could reasonably expect 
precise dates for events which occurred in the sixth century, i.e. 
at a time when presumably annalistic writing was unknown in 
England. The credibility of an event must therefore be judged 
independently of the date to which it is assigned. Let us take 
one typical case. Cynric is said to have fought against the 

1 The form Wihtgarabyrg in ann. 544 however does seem to me to suggest that 
there has been confusion between Wihtgar's name and a place-name Wihtwaraburg 
(cf. Cantwaraburg), in spite of the objections brought forward by Mr Stevenson {op. 
cit., p. 173). I cannot admit that there is any satisfactory evidence for believing gar 
to have been an w-stem ; for the form aetgaru in the Erfurt glossary is clearly a 
scribal error. 


Britons at Salisbury in 552. This date may be due to some 
[ calculation either by the author or by a later scribe. But the 
correctness of the date is one question ; whether the battle ever 
took place is quite another. In regard to the latter point it 
seems to me by no means improbable that we have a genuine 
tradition. In historical times Salisbury (Old Sarum) seems to 
have been a place of no great importance until the latter part of 
the tenth century. We hear of no assemblies being held there, 
nor does it appear to have been an administrative centre. 
During this period indeed it seems to have been quite over- 
shadowed by Wilton. The motive therefore for selecting this 
place, if the story is an invention, was wanting. Yet the 
occurrence of the name Sorbiodumim in Antonine's Itinerary 
shows that fortifications of some kind existed in or before Roman 
times, and if any considerable part of the present remains is so 
old we might naturally expect that the natives would try to 
make a stand there. 

A more serious difficulty is presented by the discrepancies 
within the Chronicle itself. In the Preface to the Parker text, 
which appears as a separate document in at least four other 
MSS.\ a somewhat different account is given of the invasion. It 
is as follows : " In the year of Christ's Nativity 494 Cerdic and 
Cynric his son landed at Cerdicesora with five ships. Cerdic was 
the son of Elesa etc. (as in ann. 552). Six years after they 
landed they conquered the kingdom of Wessex. These were 
the first kings who conquered the land of Wessex from the 
Welsh. He held the kingdom sixteen years, and when he died 
his son Cynric succeeded to the kingdom and held it [twenty-six 
years. When he died his son Ceawlin succeeded and held it-] 
seventeen 3 years" etc. 

It will be seen that this account differs in two important 
particulars from that given in the annals. In the first place 
Cerdic's reign is made to begin six years after the invasion, i.e. 

1 See Napier, Modern Language Notes, XII. p. 106 flf. ; Plummer, Two Saxon 
Chronicles, Vol. I. pp. 2 f. , 293, II. p. 1. 

2 Omitted in the Parker text. 

8 Seofon in two texts, cf. Napier, /. c, Plummer, op. cit., 1. p. 293 ; but there can be 
little doubt that the other was the original reading. 


in the year 500 ; his death therefore will have taken place in 516. 
On the other hand according to the annals he began to reign in 
519 and died in 534 1 . Secondly, Ceawlin is made to reign only 
seventeen years, whereas according to the annals he reigned over 
thirty. In this point the Preface is supported by the Annals of 
St Neots. It is obvious that these variations leave a consider- 
able part (about thirty-two years) of the sixth century to be 
accounted for. But there is a further and yet more serious 
difficulty. In the genealogy of Aethelwulf, towards the end of 
the Preface, Cynric is made the son of Creoda and grandson, not 
son, of Cerdic. If we turn to the same genealogy in ann. 855, we 

1 In explanation of this difficulty Mr Stevenson {Asserts Life of King Alfred, p. 159) 
has suggested that the king who died in 534 was really Creoda and that he had 
succeeded Cerdic about 516. But this suggestion practically involves the re-writing of 
the whole story, for Cerdic is never mentioned without Cynric. In the following 
pages I have thought it best to discuss the credibility of the story as a whole, apart 
from details and from the dates assigned to the various events recounted in it. In 
regard to arrangement I cannot help thinking that there is some connection with the 
story of the conquest of Kent. In both stories we have four battles between the 
natives and the invaders. Again, the interval, according to the Preface, between the 
landing and the acquisition of the sovereignty corresponds to the interval between 449 
and 455 ; for in practice the former year was generally taken as the date of the 
invasion. Perhaps also it may be worth noting that the interval between the invasion 
and the death of the chief invader is the same (thirty-nine years) in both cases. The 
figures given in the Preface, apart from the initial date, seem to indicate a different 
chronology from that given in the annals. There can be little doubt that in the original 
text these figures were as follows: Cerdic 16, Cynric 26 or 27, Ceawlin 17, Ceol 6, 
Ceolwulf 17. With the accession of Cynegils (611) the discrepancy comes to an end. 
It will be seen that according to this reckoning Cerdic's acquisition of the sovereignty 
must be placed in the year 528 or 529, and his arrival consequently in 522 or 523. 
Now we may note that the latter date would be 494-495 according to the Cyclus 
Paschalis of Victorius of Aquitaine, and in the course of the next chapter we shall see 
that there is evidence for the use of this Cyclus in England for dates anterior to 532. 
What I would suggest then is that the original compiler of the annals, having of course 
no Paschal tables according to the Dionysian era available for dates earlier than 532, 
made use of Victorius' tables for his earliest dates; and that some subsequent scribe, 
who was not entering his annals on Paschal tables, overlooked the fact that the earliest 
entries were dated according to a different era. It is perhaps worth noting that 
according to the Dionysian system 495 and 514 (or 494 and 513 when reckoned a 
Nativitate) were the initial years of Paschal tables — a fact which may have contribu- 
ted to the error. If this explanation is correct I should be inclined to suspect that 
ann. 514, 519 and 527 have arisen through arbitrary differentiation from ann. 495, 501 
and 508. 


shall see that this was clearly the original reading here 1 . More- 
over it is not a mere scribal error in both cases, for we find the 
genealogy in the same form elsewhere, e.g. MS. C.C.C.C. 183 2 and 
the Textus Roffensis. Yet according to both the Preface and the 
annals Cynric was the son of Cerdic and took part with him in 
the invasion from the beginning. 

In face of these difficulties it will be well for a moment to 
examine the composition of the Chronicle in order that we may 
be able better to estimate the historical value of these early 
entries. All the texts which we possess are descended from an 
('archetype which appears to have been written in 891 or 892. 
This archetype however seems to have been merely an extended 
form of an older Chronicle, composed probably during the reign 
of Aethelwulf 8 . It is apparently from this older Chronicle that 
the earlier part of the Annals of St Neots is derived. The 
genealogy which we find in ann. 855 and in the Preface may 
very well have formed its close. But this older chronicle itself 
was a highly composite document. We can trace some of its 
constituent elements without much difficulty. There was in the 
first place the chronological summary which appears in Bede's 
Ecclesiastical History, V. 24, or a document very closely related 
to it. Secondly, there was a series of annals extending from 
Bede's death, or slightly earlier, to the time of Ecgberht, and 
perhaps originally intended as a continuation of that summary 4 . 
Thirdly, there were lists of Mercian and Northumbrian kings 
with their genealogies, derived from a text similar in character 
though not very closely related to those found in MS. C. C. C. C. 
183 and the Textus Roffensis. Lastly, there was perhaps a short 
epitome of ecclesiastical history from the beginning of the 
Christian era to the year 1 10. These annals may however have 
been added in the time of Alfred. 

1 In the Parker text the name Creoda is omitted (no doubt intentionally) in both 

' An edition of this text has been promised by Mr. A. H. Inman, in a work 
entitled "Anglo-Saxon Mythology." 

3 This seems to be the usual view, but the question is too large a one to be 
discussed at length here. The paucity of entries between 840 and 865 is worth 

4 See Plummer, op. cit., 11. p. ex f., and the references there given. 


None of the annals derived from these sources have any- 
bearing on the history of Wessex. The origin of the entries 
referring to this kingdom is quite unknown. They vary very 
much in character. Down to the year 754 they are as a rule 
annals in the strict sense, professing to give the exact dates 
of the events which they record. On the average, taking the 
whole period from 495, we find about one entry in every four 
years, though towards the end of the time they become much 
more frequent. But between 754 and 823 we find probably 
only five West Saxon entries in sixty-eight years. Moreover 
these differ entirely in character from the preceding entries. 
The entries for 755 and 784 are summaries of reigns which must 
have been written after the reigns were ended. In 787 we hear 
of an event which the writer makes no attempt to date. From 
823 onwards we get strict annalistic writing again, as might be 
expected. Again, down to the year 754 we find a complete 
succession of the bishops of Winchester. But between 754 and 
823 we have only one casual reference to a person holding this 
office, and this occurs in an annal (799) which is probably not of 
West Saxon origin. There seems to be reason therefore for 
supposing that the materials for the ninth century Chronicle 
included a collection of West Saxon annals extending to the 
middle of the eighth century or somewhat later, and that 
this collection was brought up to date by the addition of a few 
entries giving summaries of the reigns of Cynewulf and Berhtric, 
which were of course not much beyond the reach of living 
memory in the time of Aethelwulf. For the details of Cynewulf's 
death there may have been a separate written source. 

The existence of such annals is further confirmed by certain 
archaisms in the language of the earlier entries. These consist 
partly of forms, especially case-endings, which were no longer 
used in texts of the ninth century and partly of words which 
appear to have a different and earlier meaning 1 . It is to be 
observed that these archaisms seem to be confined to proper 
names, which makes it probable that the annals were written in 
Latin. Indeed there is little reason for believing that any of the 
early documents from which the Chronicle is derived were 
1 Cf. Stevenson, Engl. Hist. Rev., xiv. (1899) p. 38. 


'written in English. But there is a more important question than 
this. Were these annals entirely composed about the middle of 
the eighth century or were earlier documents used? In the former 
case we must of course assume that most of the dates assigned 
to events before the end of the seventh century are due to mere 
(guesswork. I confess I am somewhat reluctant to admit this. 
!Many of the seventh century annals have all the appearance of 
'being genuine records. Moreover we may note that down to Ine 
iwe find the genealogy of almost every king, whereas those of all 
Ithe succeeding kings are omitted — a fact which seems to point 
Ito a change of authorship. This, however, is a question on 
iwhich we can hardly hope to get beyond conjecture. 

At all events there seems to be good reason for believing 
'that, though the Chronicle itself is a work of the ninth century, 
the materials from which it drew for the history of Wessex, and 
which in all probability contained this story in some form or 
other, dated from the eighth and perhaps even from the seventh 
century. We may next briefly notice another objection. Cerdic 
is said to be a Welsh and not an English name. This is no 
doubt true. But in the time of Cynewulf there was an earl 
of this name in Wessex, who signs charters from the year 758 
onwards. Therefore, if Cerdic was not a recognised English 
name, the existence of this person tends to show that the story 
was already known. 

We have still of course to face Gildas' statement that no war 
took place between the Britons and the Saxons for forty-four 
years after the siege of Mons Badonicus. According to the 
Annales Cambriae, as we have seen (p. 14) , this interval of 
peace is to be dated from 517 to 561 or later —a period in which 
the Chronicle places several important campaigns. But even if 
we reject the authority of the Annales Cambriae and put the 
siege back into the fifth century, some part of the forty-four years 
]s bound to coincide with part of the period assigned by the | 
.Chronicle to the West Saxon invasion. The evidence of the 
£hronicle is therefore irreconcilable with that of Gildas. As we 
can hardly dispute the statements of a contemporary writer we 
must conclude that the chronology of the Chronicle is not even 
a pproximately correct. 


But chronological inaccuracy is of course no proof that the 
story is not based on genuine tradition. There remains however 
a more serious difficulty 1 . It is clear that according to the 
Chronicle the West Saxon invasion started from the coast of 
Hampshire, though the landing place {Cerdicesora) has not been 
identified. But in the preceding chapter we saw that at the 
beginning of historical times this coast was inhabited not by 
Saxons but by Jutes. The same nation according to Bede_ 
colonised the Isle of Wight. Yet according to the Chronicle the. 
island was conquered by Cerdic and Cynric and given by them 
to their relations, Stuf and Wihtgar, while in ann. 514 it is 
expressly stated that the latter were West Saxons. Indeed 
the Jutes are not mentioned by the Chronicle at all except 
in a late addition to ann. 449, derived from Bede, H.E. I. 15 2 . 

Now these are facts which certainly require explanation. 
Bede's work was the recognised authority for the history of 
ancient times and the great storehouse from which all later 
writers drew their materials. We are bound to conclude therefore 
either that Bede's statements were rejected by the author of our 
annals or that they were unknown to him — in which case we can 
hardlv avoid concluding that the annals are of earlier date 
than the Ecclesiastical History. But even in the latter case 
we have to account for the incompatibility of the two sets of 
statements. Bede's references to the Jutes are of too precise 
a character to admit of our supposing that he had misunderstood 
his informants. Though the Jutes of the Isle of Wight had 
apparently been annihilated, those of the mainland are repre- 
sented as being still a distinct people in his time 3 . Again, it is 
incredible that Bede can have had any motive for misrepre- 
senting the facts. In the case of the annalist on the other hand 


1 Cf. Sir H. H. Howorth's paper " The Beginnings of Wessex," Engl. Hist. Rev., 
xiii. p. 668 ff. 

2 This remark applies to the Kentish Jutes as well as those of Hampshire. We 
shall see later however that the Kentish Jutes appear to have given up their national 
name very early, apparently before Bede's time. But Bede distinctly states that this 
was not the case with the Jutes of Hampshire. 

3 Ea gens quae usque hodie in prouincia Occidentalium Saxonum Iutarum natio 

nominatur ; H.E. I. 15. 


such a motive may not have been wanting. If the annals were 
composed before the Ecclesiastical History, i.e. before the year 
731, the devastation of the island must have been well within 
living memory ; and consequently a desire may have been felt 
to find some excuse for the barbarity with which it had been 
treated. Such an excuse was clearly well provided by the story 
that the islanders had originally received their country as a gift 
from the West Saxon royal family and had subsequently abjured 
the sovereignty of their benefactors. This is what seems to me 
on the whole the most probable explanation. Of course we need 
not suppose that Stuf and Wihtgar are fictitious names. They 
may perfectly well be derived from genuine tradition. It is the 
connection of these persons with the West Saxon royal family 
which is open to suspicion. If they were real persons they must 
surely have been Jutes. The same remark probably applies to 
the Bieda and Maegla of ann. 501. As they are not mentioned 
again and as their names seem not to occur in the nomenclature 
of the district, there is little reason for regarding them as fictitious. 
It is quite possible that they were the traditional founders of the 
Jutish colony on the mainland 1 . 

Mr Stevenson in his paper "The Beginnings of Wessex" {Eng. 
Hist. Rev. XIV. p. 32 ff.) defends the account given in the Chronicle 
on the ground that " Cerdic may have had grandsons or nephews 
who were Jutes by race, and who may have brought a detach- 
ment of their folk to his assistance." This is no doubt true ; but 
it is necessary to distinguish clearly between personal relation- 
ship and national amalgamation. When Mr Stevenson says that 
the name of the Hampshire Jutes soon faded out of memory, the 
point at issue seems to me to resolve itself into a question as to 
the relative credibility of Bede and the Chronicle ; for according 
to the former these Jutes retained a distinctive national appella- 
tion until the eighth century. It is to be observed moreover that 
the differences between the two nations were probably by no 
means inconsiderable. Bede distinctly connects the Jutes of 
Hampshire with the inhabitants of Kent ; and the latter differed 
very greatly from the West Saxons, not indeed in language but, 
1 For the name Port see Stevenson, /. c, p. 35, note. 



as we shall see later, in the structure of their social system. 
That there may have been a personal relationship between the 
leaders of the two invading nations is of course quite possible. 
But here again, it must be remembered, we are building on the 
authority of a document which has suppressed all reference 
to the nationality of the Jutes. I confess it does not seem quite 
natural to me that one of the two nations, presumably the 
smaller and less important, should have occupied the coast-lands, 
while the other passed on into the interior. The evidence being 
such as it is, I think the possibility of the West Saxons having 
come from a different quarter ought certainly not to be left out 
of account. 

In conclusion we must return for a moment to the name 
Cerdic. It has already been mentioned that this name is 
generally regarded as Welsh. Various suggestions have been 
put forward in explanation of this curious phenomenon, e.g. that 
the family may have been settled in Gaul before the invasion of 
Britain. But it deserves to be pointed out that, so far as the 
chronology of sound-changes in Welsh can be traced, such a 
name can hardly have been acquired in the fifth or even in the 
sixth century. There can be little doubt that it is derived from 
the ancient British name Corotiats, and consequently that it 
shows the Welsh change of tenuis to media {d for /), which 
appears to have taken place about the beginning of the seventh 
century 1 . Hence the suggestion that Cerdic was a Saxon who 
had taken a Welsh name in the fifth century can hardly be 
admitted. If philological evidence is to be trusted the name 
Cerdic was not known to the Saxons before the seventh century. 

1 This is too large a question to be discussed here. It may be noted however that 
in names of places the tenuis seems to be preserved everywhere except in the extreme 
west. So also in names of places and persons mentioned by Bede in connection with 
events which occurred at the beginning of the seventh century, e.g. Bancor, Bancorn- 
aburg, Dinoot (Dunawd) ; H. E. II. i. Within the next generation the change seems to 
have taken place, e.g. Cerdice (ib. IV. 23), Caedualla. It is to be observed that the 
Laud MS. of the Chronicle (E) regularly has Certic, a form which is found also in D 
and F and must therefore go back to the text which Mr Plummer (11. p. lxiii) calls 5. 
The same three MSS. have other peculiarities in Celtic names (cf. ann. 508, 577)- 


Indeed the various forms in which it occurs in MSS. {Cerdic, 
Ceardic, Caerdic) tend to show that it had not been thoroughly 
naturalised in English. 

We may now summarise briefly the results of our discussion. 
It has been shown on the one hand that the evidence for the 
story goes back to the first half of the eighth century, if not 
earlier, on the other that the chronology is wrong, that the West 
Saxons are represented as starting from territory which really 
belonged to the Jutes, that all reference to the Jutes has been 
suppressed and that their leaders have been turned into West 
Saxons, and finally that the founder of the West Saxon dynasty 
bears a name for which it is difficult to account. In spite there- 
fore of the antiquity of the story the investigation hardly tends to 
increase our confidence in it — at least in that part of it which 
refers to the true West Saxons. Moreover we have to note that 
Cerdic himself is mentioned in six annals ; that two of these 
(530, 534) contain statements relating to the Isle of Wight which 
are probably to be rejected ; and that the other four (495, 508, 
5 19, 527) all refer to places which are supposed to be named after 
him. Again, in all these six annals Cynric is associated with 
Cerdic, and in the first, as also in the Preface, he is said to be his 
son. Yet according to a well attested genealogy he was his 
grandson. The annals and the genealogy come presumably from 
different sources. If we accept the latter we must conclude that 
the author of the annals was mistaken in regard to Cynric's 
father ; if we choose to follow the annals we shall have to admit 
that they were rejected by the author of the genealogy. 

It is to be noted that the greater part of Cynric's reign is 
practically a blank. Indeed we have no mention of any action 
on the mainland between 527 and 552. With the latter year 
there begins a new series of entries which differs from the 
preceding one through the entire absence of the etymological 
element. The first two entries of the new series (ann. 552, 556) 
record battles at Salisbury and Beranburg. The only objection 
that can be brought against them is that they probably fall 
within Gildas' forty-four years of peace. But we have seen that 
there is good textual authority for the statement that Ceawlin 


reigned only seventeen years. If these are to be calculated 
from his expulsion in 592, his succession must be placed in 575 a . 
The battles which were fought in the later years of Cynric's 
reign may therefore be placed after the conclusion of the long 
peace. In this way all improbabilities in the latter part of the 
story will be removed. 

In the earlier annals the story of Stuf and Wihtgar and 
perhaps also that of Bieda and Maegla may have a basis in 
tradition. Is it permissible to suggest that these have served as 
models for the story of Cerdic's landing? The chief difficulty 
arises from the name Cerdic. The conclusion to which the 
discussion has led us is that this name was derived from the local 
nomenclature, in which it appears to have been fairly common. 
Besides the examples in the Chronicle given above it has been 
pointed out that there was a Ceardicesbeorg at Hurstbourne 
(Hampshire), mentioned in a charter ascribed to Edward the 
Elder (Birch, Cart. Sax. 594). Again, if our statement of the 
phonetic history of the name is correct, we shall have to suppose 
that a Welsh population still survived in some parts of Hamp- 
shire at the beginning of the seventh century. But is this really 
impossible ? It is worth noting that the name of Ceadwalla and 
perhaps also those of his brother Mul and his grandfather Cada 
seem to indicate a strain of Welsh blood in the West Saxon 
royal family. Did the campaigns of Cynric and Ceawlin begin 
by their interference in one of those internal feuds among the 
Britons of which Gildas complains ? It is hardly inconceivable 
that the name Cerdic may thus have been derived from Welsh 
tradition. St Patrick speaks in his Epistle of a king named 
Coroticus, who seems to have lived about the middle of the 
fifth century and who is possibly to be identified with the Cei'etic 
guletic of the Welsh genealogies. But we have no evidence 
which would lead us to suppose that he was connected with 

It may perhaps be argued that the historical character of 
the West Saxon Cerdic is substantiated by the constant occur- 

1 According to the chronology of the Preface Ceawlin's reign would be from 571 
to 588. 



! rence of his name in the genealogies — even in those which give 
I the name Creoda and which seem therefore to be independent of 
1 the annals. How far these West Saxon genealogies are to be 
! credited is not quite clear. They do not occur in the two 
I earliest lists of genealogies which we possess, viz. Cott. Vesp. 
j B. 6, fol. 108 ff. and the Historia Brittonum, § 57 ff. Again, 
i the genealogies given by the Chronicle itself in entries of the 
I seventh century seem to be inconsistent with one another. It 
: may be granted however that the names of Cerdic's ancestors 
I seem for the most part to be genuine and archaic. In two cases, 
I Wig and Freawine, to which we shall have to return later, they 
even appear to be historical. Yet immediately after Wig we 
I find a name Giwis, which is extremely suspicious in view of the 

I fact that the West Saxons were in ancient times called Geuissae. 


If this is to be regarded as an interpolation may not the name 
Cerdic have crept into the list in a similar way ? A parallel case 
I is perhaps to be found in the lists of his descendants. For if 
I ann. 685 and 688 be compared with ann. 597, 611 and 674, it 
will appear distinctly probable that the name Ceawlin has been 
interpolated in the former. 

One last possibility perhaps deserves to be taken into account. 
As the names Cerdic and Creoda are not unlike, it is hardly 
beyond the range of credibility that the early West Saxons may 
have identified two distinct personalities, the one being known to 
them from the local nomenclature or the traditions of the natives, 
while the other was an ancestor of their own royal family. In 
that case we should have to suppose that the genealogies are due 
to some later bard or scholar who suspected that the identifica- 
tion was incorrect. But this of course can be regarded only as a 
conjectural hypothesis. 

We need not hesitate to believe that a king named Cynric 
ruled over the West Saxons about the middle of the sixth 
century and that his successor, and perhaps son, Ceawlin raised 
the kingdom to a formidable power by conquests on the north 
and west. The origin of the kingdom however must for the 
present be regarded as obscure. The account given by the 
Chronicle is open to several serious objections, and on the whole 

c 3 


it seems to me more probable that the kingdom was an offshoot 
from Essex or Sussex 1 . When the archaeology of the southern 
counties has been more thoroughly investigated it is to be hoped 
that some further light may be thrown on the course followed by 
the invasion. 

1 Sir H. H. Howorth (/. c. ) has suggested that the West Saxons came originally 
from the Thames Valley, partly on the ground that Dorchester (Oxfordshire) was the 
first seat of the West Saxon bishopric. As the earliest bishops seem usually to 
have fixed their headquarters in or near the chief town or village of the king 
to whom they were attached, the fact that Birinus settled at Dorchester is certainly 
a good argument for supposing that in Cynegils' days at all events the chief centre 
of the kingdom was in this neighbourhood, possibly at Bensington. 



The story of the invasion of Kent is also given in the 
Chronicle, in much the same form as the story of Cerdic and 
Cynric. In this case however we have other sources of informa- 
tion. Several references to the story are to be found in the 
works of Bede, while the Historia Brittonum gives a detailed 
account of the invasion. It will be convenient to begin with the 
account contained in the Chronicle. 

449. Mauricius and Valentines obtained the throne and 
reigned seven years. In their days Hengest and Horsa, invited 
by Wyrtgeorn, king of the Britons, came to Britain, (landing) 
at a place on the coast which is called Ypzvinesfleot (i.e. Ypwine's 
bay or estuary) ; at first (they came) to help the Britons, but 
later they fought against them. 

455. Hengest and Horsa fought against King Wyrtgeorn 
at a place which is called Agaelcsthrep 1 ; and his brother Horsa 
was slain. And after that Hengest obtained the throne with 
Aesc, his son. 

457. Hengest and Aesc fought against the Britons at 
a place which is called Crecganford, and there they slew four 
thousand men ; and the Britons then forsook Kent and fled to 
London in great terror. 

465. Hengest and Aesc fought against the Welsh near 
Wippedesfleot, and there they slew twelve Welsh princes ; and 
one of their own knights, whose name was Wipped, was slain 

1 In MS. W. (cf. Plummer, op. cit., II. p. xcviii fl~.) this name has been emended 
•to Aegelesford (i.e. Aylesford). 


473. Hengest and Aesc fought against the Welsh and 
captured innumerable spoils, and the Welsh fled from the English 
like [as one flies from 1 ] fire. 

488. Aesc obtained the throne and was king of the people 
of Kent for twenty-four years. 

Between the last two entries we find two annals (477, 485) 
describing the invasion of Sussex (cf. pp. 2, 14). The Chronicle 
contains no further references to Kent until the time of 

Artificial chronology is still more apparent here than in the 
story of the West Saxon invasion. But, as I pointed out before, 
I do not see that this necessitates our believing that the story 
itself is fictitious. The similarity between the two stories is 
obvious. Perhaps the most curious coincidence is that the 
interval between the annal recording the invasion and that 
recording the death of the chief invader is the same (thirty-nine 
years) in both cases. It is to be noted however that the entries 
referring to the invasions of Kent and Sussex come to an end 
before the West Saxon entries begin. In view of the obvious 
resemblances between the two stories this fact suggests that the 
West Saxon entries may have been intended as a continuation 
of the others. Further, we may observe that in the Kentish 
entries the etymological element is confined to one annal (465), 
a fact which tells greatly in their favour. 

Bede's references to the story are as follows: In his Chronica 
Maiora (De Temp. Ratione, cap. 66), § 483, he states that the 
Britons, after an unsuccessful appeal to Aetius in his third 
consulship (a.D. 446), decided, with their king Vertigernus, to 
call in the Angli to assist them against the Scots and Picts. In 
§ 489 he says that the nation of the Angli or Saxons arrived in 
Britain during the reign of Martianus and Valentinianus in three 
warships. They subsequently received reinforcements and, after 
expelling the enemy, turned their arms against their allies, 
alleging that they had not received adequate payment for their 
services. Both of these entries are derived from Gildas, though 
the latter speaks of the invaders only as Saxones (not Angli) 
and does not give any reference to the reign of Martianus and 

1 An explanatory addition in MS. F. 


Valentinianus. In the Ecclesiastical History, 1. 14 f., Bede 
repeats practically the same statements, but calls the British 
king Vurtigernns. He adds however the following important 
passage : " Their first leaders are said to have been two brothers, 
Hengest and Horsa, of whom Horsa was afterwards killed in 
battle by the Britons and has a monument still distinguished 
by his name in the eastern parts of Kent. They were the sons 
of Wihtgils ( Victgisl), whose father was Witta ( Vitta), whose 
father was Wehta ( Vecta), whose father was Woden ( Voden)" 
In II. 5 he says that " Aethelberht was the son of Eormenric 
(Irmi)iric), whose father was Octa, whose father was Oeric, 
surnamed Oisc, from whom the kings of Kent are often called 
Oiscingas. His father was Hengest who, together with his son 
Oisc, first entered Britain at the invitation of Vurtigernus." In 
the chronological summary, V. 24, we find: "Ann. 449. Martianus 
obtained the throne with Valentinianus and held it for seven 
years. In their time the Angli summoned by the Britons came 
to Britain." 

It will be observed that Bede's account is by no means 
inconsistent with that of the Chronicle, though the latter gives 
several additional details in regard to the war. Now we have seen 
that the Chronicle dates probably from the time of Aethelwulf, 
while Bede's work is more than a century older. Are we then 
to conclude that the account given by the Chronicle is derived 
from Bede or that both accounts come from a common source ? 
In the former case what value is to be attached to the additional 
details given by the Chronicle ? In regard to the first of these 
questions we may note that in I. 15 Bede uses the expression 
" Hengest and Horsa are said to have been {perhibentur) their 
first leaders." This might of course apply either to oral or 
documentary information ; but it is questionable whether Bede 
himself was familiar with popular traditions. If that had been the 
case he would surely have said something about the origin of the 
northern kingdoms. The fact that he entirely neglects Northum- 
brian traditions, while he gives those of Kent, inclines one to believe 
that he had acquired the latter at second hand. This suspicion 
is confirmed by the form in which the British king's name occurs. 
In the Chronica Maiora it is given as Vertigcrnus, a very early 


Welsh form. This must surely have been derived from a Welsh 
source, presumably Gildas, although in one of the surviving 
MSS. of that writer the name appears in a corrupt form (Gurth- 
rigerno), while in the other it is omitted altogether 1 . On the 
other hand the form which he uses in the Ecclesiastical History, 
Viirligernus, is English. It represents however a form of the 
language which was certainly obsolete in Bede's time and 
probably for at least half-a-century earlier. We seem to be 
justified therefore in inferring that Bede's information was 
derived from a much earlier document, which was probably of 
Kentish origin. But, if so, may not the Chronicle have drawn 
from the same source ? We have already seen that there is an 
intimate connection between the annals referring to the Kentish 
and West Saxon invasions. May not the Kentish entries have 
served as the model on which the others were based ? 

The third and fullest account is that given by the Historia 
Brittonum. This is a highly composite work and varies greatly 
in the different recensions in which it is preserved. The date of 
its composition is still an unsettled question. From § 16- it ap- 
pears that a recension from which most of our texts come was 
made about the year 858 s , but it is likely enough that the greater 
part of the work was in existence before that time 4 . Fortunately 
the portions which deal with our story, viz. §§ 31-49 and §^6, 
are those which show the least amount of textual divergence. 
Yet they appear to be not less composite than the rest of the 
work. It will be convenient first to give a short analysis of the 
contents of these sections. 

In § 31 we hear for the first time of the Saxons and their 
reception by Guorthigirnus (Wyrtgeorn). But the following 
sections, §§ 32-35, deal with an entirely different subject, namely 

1 It seems to have been omitted also in the lost MS. edited by Polydore Vergil. 

2 The references are to San Marte's edition. 

3 If the Mermin of § 16 is the same king whose death is recorded in the Ann. 
Cambriae (845), the first figures given in this section can hardly be correct ; cf. 
Thurneysen, Zeitschr. f, celt. Philologie, I. 164 ff., who suggests 826 as the date of the 
Harleian recension. 

4 On this subject see Zimmer, Nennhts Vindicatus (especially pp. 74 ff., 93 ff-, 
275 ff.) and Thurneysen, Zeitschr. f. deutsche Philologie, XXVIII. 83 ff. ; but the 
conclusions reached must be regarded as very doubtful. 



I the mission of St German. §§36-38 are again occupied with 
J the Saxon invasion, while § 39 returns to St German. §§ 40-42 
I seem to form a disti nc t episode,. Guorthigirnus appears here a s 

aJieathen. and though there is a reference to the invaders, they are 
! not called Saxoues, as elsewhere, but gens Angl orum. §§ 43-46 
\ ag ain deal with the Saxon invasion, § 47 returns once more to 
[ St G erman, while § 48 f. are taken up with the family and 
; genealogy of Guorthigirnus. Then, after a digression (§§ 50-55) 

relating to the mission of St Patrick, we again return to the 
! Saxons in § 56 \ Altogether nine of the twenty sections are \ 
j .concerned with the Saxon invasion. It is to be observed that 
: St German is not mentioned in any of these sections, and agam 

that the Saxons are not mentioned in any of those which deal 

with the mission of St German. The two stories are kept quite 

distinct throughout. 


It is clear then that this part of the work is derived from at 
least two different sources. One of these was certainly a lost 
history of St German, which we fin d mentioned in § 47 2 . Since "^ 
one of our earliest texts 3 bears the title Exbcrta (for excerpta ?) y 
fiiurbaoen de libro Scl Germani inuenta, it is likely enough that 
jthis was the original element and that the passages which deal 
with the Saxon invasion have been added subsequently. A sort" 
of connecting link is provided by the adventures of Guorthigir nus, j 
who enters into both stories. We will now confine our attention 
to the story of the Saxon invasion. 

In § 31 the episode of the Saxon invasion is introduced in 
the following words : " Now it came to pass after the above 
mentioned war, that is the war which took place between the 
Britons and the Romans, when their leaders were slain, and 
after the slaying of the tyrant Maximus, and when the dominion 
of the Romans in Britain was ended, they were in fear for forty 
years. Guorthigirnus reigned in Britain, and while he reigned 
he was oppressed by fear of the Picts and Scots, by Roman 
attack and by dread of Ambrosius. Meanwhile there came 

1 In the Vatican text this section precedes the story of St Patrick. 

2 Hie est finis Guorthigirni ut in libro Beati Germani rep peri ; alii autem aliter 

3 T_he Chartres text ; Revue Celtique, xv. 175 ff. 


three ships driven away from Germany in exile. In them were 
Hors and Hengist 1 who were brothers, sons of Guictgils, son of 
Guitta, son of Guectha, son of Vuoden, son of Frealaf, son of 
Fredulf, son of Finn, son of Folcwald, son of Geta who was, as they 
say, son of God...Guorthigirnus received them kindly and gave 
them an island, which in their tongue is called Tanet but in the 
British language Ruoihin. Regnante Gratiano seciindo Equantio 
Saxones a Guortliigirno suscepti sunt, anno cccxlvii (al. cccxxxvii, 
ccccxlvii) post passionem Christ i. " 

In § 36 we are told that after the Saxons had encamped in 
the above mentioned island of Thanet, the king promised to give 
them food and clothing ; and they promised to attack his enemies 
bravely. But when their numbers had increased the Britons 
were no longer able to provide for them and begged them to 
depart. The result was that they formed a plan for opening 
lostilities. But jn_J 37 w e find a story quite inconsistent with 
the last passage. Hengist perceiving the helplessness "of the 
Britons persuades the king to allow him to send for reinforce- 
ments from his own people. They arrive in sixteen ships, 
accompanied by the daughter of Hengist. The king, desi ring to 
marry the girl, consents to give Kent to her father. In § 38 tQ 
same story is continued^ Hengist persuades the king to let 
him send for his son and nephew, Octha and Ebissa, with further 
reinforcements. They arrive with forty ships and after devasta- 
ting the Orkneys occupy the lands beyond the Mare Fresicum 2 . 
Hengist continues to send for reinforcements. In § 43 f. we find 
that hostilities have broken out between Hengist and the king's" 
son, Guorthemir. Four battles are mentioned. The locality of 
the first is not specified, but the result was to drive Hengist into 
Thanet. The second takes place on the river Derguentid (pre- 
sumably the Darent) and the third at a place called Episford in 
English and Rit hergabail in British. In this battle Hors and 
the king's son, Categirn, are killed. The fourth battle is fought 
near the Lapis Tittcli on the shore of the Gallic Sea. It is a 
great victory and the invaders are driven to their ships ; but 

1 The usual forms are Hcngist{us) and Hencgistits. Among the following names 
there is some (merely orthographic) variation between the different MSS. 

2 Apparently the Irish Sea or some part of it. 


shortly afterwards Guorthemir dies. In § 45 f. the inv aders 
return under the protection of the king, and it is decided to hold 
a-conference, both parties being unarmed. Hengist however 
directs his men to secrete knives in their boots, and at a sign 
from him they attack and slay the three hundred British nobles. 
The king alone is spared and allowed to ransom himself by 
granting Essex and Sussex to the invaders. In § 56 we learn 
that after Hengist's death his son Octha leaves the north and 
jjoes to Kent. From him the kings of Kent are descended. 
Then we have a description of Arthur's wars, and it is added 

I that though the invaders were constantly defeated, they always 
sent for fresh reinforcements and new kings from Germany 
until the time of Ida, son of Eobba, who was the first king in 

We must now enquire what is the origin of this stor y. We 
have already seen that the incidents related in § 37 are incon- 
sistent with the preceding narrative (§ 36). The latter however ""*ly>\ 
is cl early in accordance with the story told by Gildas. Now, if-4_ 
we turn to § 31, we see that the motive assigned for the coming 

_ of the Saxons is an entirely different one from that given by 
Gildas. According tojihe latter the Saxons were invited by the 
Britons to defend them from the Scots and Picts. But according 
to our story Hors and Hengist were exiles who sought refuge 
with the British king. It appears then that even for the Saxon ' 
invasion the compilers of the Historia Brittonum had two 
distinct authorities, one of which was probably Gildas, while the 
other gave a very different version of the story. 

My impression is that this second and main authority for the 
story of the invasion was of English origin. This impression is 
derived from the following facts : i. The names of several places 
are given in English as well as Welsh form : Tanet — Ritoihiii 
(§31), Cantguaraland — Cent (§ 37), Ep is ford — Rit Jiergabail '(§ 44), 
.Beornicia — Bemeich (§ 56). ii. The four battles between Guor- 
themir and the Saxons in § 44 may be compared with Hengest's 
four battles in the Saxon Chronicle (cf. p. 35 f). The site of the 
second battle seems to be the same in both accounts, iii. In 
§ 37 it is stated that " Hengist took counsel with his elders, who 
had come with him from the island OgJigulT Again, according 


to § 38 " Hengist continually summoned ships to him, so that 
they left the islands from which they had come without an 
inhabitant." With this may be compared Bede's statement 
(H. E. 1. 15) that the Angli came from a country called Angulus, 
which is said to have remained uninhabited from that time to 
the present day. This would seem to be an English tradition, 
iv. In § 46 we find an English sentence nimath enre saexas and 
English names of provinces, Estsaxum, Sutsaxum\ v. In 
the same section it is related that Hengist invited the British 



elders to a conference and that the Saxons concealed knives in 

their boots. Practically the same story is told by Widukind 

(I. 6 f.) in his account of the early history of the Old Saxons. 
Possibly it may have arisen from an aetiological myth ; but in 
any case the story would seem to be of Saxon origin, vi. In 
§ 31 we find a genealogy of Hors and Hengist which agrees with 
that given by Bede (H. E. I. 15), so far as the latter goes. The 
remainder of it is, except in one point, identical with a genealogy 
which appears in a number of ancient MSS., viz. Cott. Vesp. B. 
6 (fol. 108 ff.), C. C. C. C. 183 and the Textus Roffensis 2 , The 
exception is that the name of Finn's father is here given as 
Folczvald (al. Fodcpald) instead of Godwulf. But this is a 
mistake which could only have been made by some one familiar 
with English traditions ; for Finn the son of Folcwalda was a 
well-known figure in English heroic poetry. 

Some of these facts are of course capable of being explained 
otherwise. English names, like Episford, might have been 
acquired by ear. The story of the four battles might be due to 
common tradition. But if we review the evidence as a whole 
I think it is difficult to avoid concluding that the story is derived 
from English sources 3 . Indeed in the case of the genealogy 
any other explanation is practically impossible. But we have 
a still stronger piece of evidence. Immediately after the 

1 The Vatican text has Eastseaxan, Sitderseaxan, Middelseaxan. All three names 
occur also in the Irish version. 

2 Cf. also the Saxon Chronicle, ann. 547, 855. 

3 It is to be observed that Nennius in both Prefaces speaks of Saxon documents 
among his sources, and the terms used {historiae Scoitorwn Saxomimque, § i ; annates 
Scottorum Saxonumque, § 3) seem to imply more than mere genealogies. If my 
hypothesis is correct it tends to confirm the genuineness of these Prefaces. 


genealogy (cf. p. 40) the date of Hengist's arrival is given. 
The MSS. differ considerably in regard to the figures, but there 

1 can be little doubt, as we shall see shortly, that the original 
reading was anno cccxlvii post passionem Christi. The year is 

1 further specified by the words regnante Gratiano secundo 
Equantio. This date has been a source of great perplexity, for 
earlier in the same section it is stated that Guorthigirnus was 
rei gning forty years a fter the death of Maximus, i.e. about the 
year 428, and that is the date which is given for the coming 
of the Saxons in § 66 and probably also in § 16. What then is 
to be said of the date 347 post passionem ? For an answer to 
this question we must turn for a moment to §§ 57 — 65. These 
sections consist of genealogies of the English dynasties, a list of 

JsTorthumbrian kings down to Ecgfrith (d.685) and notices referring 
tcuEnglish and Welsh history in the sixth and seventh centuries. 
The latter would seem originally to have been marginal notes 
and are probably in part translated from Welsh. They may 
perhaps be attributed to St Ellodu, archbishop of Bangor 
(d. 809), or one of his disciples. The groundwork of these 
sections however was undoubtedly the genealogies and the list 
of kings. The genealogies as a whole are closely related to 
a series which appears in the three texts mentioned above, viz. 
Cott. Vesp. B 6, C.C.C.C. 183 and the Textus Roffensis. The 
two latter texts also give lists of Northumbrian and Mercian kings, 
of which the Northumbrian list agrees closely with that of the 
Historia Brittonum. 

Now in the Corpus text immediately after the genealogies 
we find the following entry : qnando Gratianus consul j "nit secuudo 
et Aequitius quarto, tunc his consulibus Saxones a Wyrtgcomo in 
Britannia suscepti sunt, anno cccxlviiii a passion e Christi. It 
is clear that this note is connected in some way with the passage 
in the Historia Brittonum which we are discussing 1 . Two facts 
deserve to be noted, i. The Corpus text has no traces of Welsh 

1 The connection is still more obvious in the case of a passage in the Vatican text 
at the end of § 56 : quando Gratianus Aeqiiantias consul fait in Roma, quia tunc a 
consulibus Romanornm lotus orbis regebatur, Saxones a Guorthegirno A.D. 447 suscepti 
sunt, etc. This passage is of interest in showing that the Vatican recension has 
preserved elements of the original text which have been lost elsewhere. 



influence. Wyrtgeomo is the correct English form. The 
genealogies are preceded and followed by works of Bede. i 
ii. The Corpus entry is less corrupt than the passage in the 
Historia Brittonum. The true figures are (ann. 348 a p. C.) \ 
Gratiano quarto, Equitio secundo. The Corpus text has transposed 
quarto and secundo. The Historia Brittonum has secundo in the 
wrong place, while quarto has disappeared. One cannot help 
concluding therefore that the Historia Brittonum has obtained 
this statement from a text closely related to C.C.C.C. 1 83 1 . 

We have now seen (i) that many features in the account of 
the Saxon invasion point to an English origin of the story, and 
(ii) that part of §31, as well as the genealogies of §§57 — 65, is 
derived from an English source which can be identified. In 
conclusion we may note one point in which the story of the 
Historia Brittonum is at variance with the account given by 
Bede. According to the latter Oisc was the son of Hengist and 
) Octa the son of Oisc. But in the Historia Brittonum, in the 
narrative (§§38, 56) as well as in the genealogies (§58), Octha 
(i.e. Octa) is the son and successor of Hengist, while according 
to §58 Ossa (i.e. presumably Oisc 2 ) is the son of Octha. Here 
again the Historia Brittonum agrees with the English genealogical 
document mentioned above ; for the latter gives the series 
Hengest — Ocga — Oese. It seems highly probable therefore that 
the narrative of the Saxon invasion contained in the Historia 
Brittonum is intimately connected with the genealogies in 
§ 57 ff., and consequently that the former as well as the latter 
comes from a source related to the English genealogical texts 
which we have been discussing. 

1 The MS. used by the compiler of the Historia Brittonum must of course have been 
much older than the Corpus MS., which dates only from the latter part of Aethelstan's 
reign. A passage inserted in the Cambridge recension, § 63, suggests that this English 
text came into Welsh hands before the death of St Ellodu, and the orthography of 
English names appears to be that of the eighth century. We may further compare a 
reading of the Vatican text in § 57 : de ipso {Octha) orti sunt reges Cantpariorum usque 
in hodiernum diem, which points to a date at all events before 798. The genealogies 
come down to 796, but the text used by the Historia Brittonum may of course have 
incorporated earlier matter. The earliest text of the genealogies which we possess 
(Cott. Vesp. B 6) seems to date from 811 — 814. 

2 Strictly Ossa seems to represent Oese; cf. the Bernician genealogy (§ 57) where 
the same form corresponds to Oesa in the English texts. 


V If this conclusion is correct it follows that, except for the 
vague allusions of Gildas, all our evidence for the story of the 
invasion of Kent is ultimately of English origin. We must now 
ask what amount of credence is to be attached to the story. . For 
this purpose our best course will be to consider in order the 
various objections which have been brought against it. These 


; objections are four in number. The first is that the dates 
assigned to the invasion by Bede and the Chronicle on the one 
hand, and by the Historia Brittonum on the other, do not 

_agree. The second is in regard to the names Hengest and 
Horsa. The third is that essentially different motives for the I 
invasion are given by Bede and the Historia Brittonum. Lastly U 
there is a discrepancy, as we have already noticed, in regard to 
the name of Hengest's son and successor. 

The chronological difficulty may for the present be left ; for, 
as we saw in the last chapter, the credibility of such a narrative 
as this does not necessarily depend on the correctness of the 
dates contained in it. We may pass on then to the second 
objection. Both names, Hengest and Horsa, are unfamiliar. The 
former does however occur in the old poetry, the person so called 
being likewise a hero of the fifth century. In this case therefore 
the objection will not hold good. The name of the other brother 
is not quite certain. Bede and the Chronicle call him Horsa, 
whereas in the Historia Brittonum his name appears as Hors. 
Both names are alike unknown elsewhere. Indeed I know of 
no English personal name which contains the element Hors-. On 
the other hand it is to be observed (i) that the genealogies 
present many names which do not occur in historical times but 
which are found among other Teutonic nations, and (ii) that 
names compounded with Hross- (i.e. Hors-) e.g. Hross/ce//, 
Hrossbiorn, occur in ancient Scandinavian literature. The form 
Horsa, which has the better textual authority of the two, may 
very well be shortened from some such name as these 1 . There 

1 The form Hors, which rests only on the authority of the Historia Brittonum, may 
be compared with such names as Beorn, Wulf, which are not uncommon. If this 
form is to be preferred, I should be inclined to think that Hengest and I Iors were not 
the names originally given to the two brothers but nicknames acquired subsequently. 
In any case we may compare the names of the two brothers Eofor and Wulf 
mentioned in Beow. 2965 ff. 


seems to be no adequate ground therefore for regarding it with 
suspicion 1 . 

The next difficulty is in regard to the motive for_the 
invas ; on. Gildas, followed by Bede, states that the Saxons-were 
called in by the Britons to protect them from the Scots^ and 
Picts. On the other hand according to the Historia Brittonum 
Hengist and Hors first arrived as exiles and were kindly received 
by the British king. In §36 we get a narrative which agrees 
with that of Gildas, but this, as we have seen, is incompatible 
with what follows. The compiler has evidently sought to 
reconcile two quite different versions of the story. Yet it is by 
no means clear that the two accounts in themselves were 
incompatible. If we were to place the events narrated in § 36" 
after the arrival of the reinforcements mentioned in §37 f., the 
inconsistency between the two passages would disappear. The 
course of events might then be described somewhat as follows. 
Hengest and Horsa arrive in the first place as exiles seeking 
refuge with the British king. Having^ entere d his service and 
undertaken to fight against tH^- J Rmt<; and Pi gts they_ask To~be 
allowed to send for reinforcements from their own people. .After 
s tneir victor ious camp aign, however, the Britons become alarmed 
at the increaseTrTTheir numbers and try togetj2d_of_JhernT In 
this J orm MJie~in^n^--ft Q-iQfl-gT^ ffi c u 1 ty . 

The discrepancy in regard to the name of Hengest's son and 
successor is more serious. In the Chronicle Aesc (i.e. Oisc 2 ) is 
mentioned in five of the six entries which refer to the invasion 
of Kent, and both the Chronicle and Bede state distinctly that 
he was Heng est's son. On the other hand Octha is the son of 
Hengist both in the narrative and in the genealogies of the 

1 The name of Hengest's daughter is not given in the Hist. Brittonum. According 
to Geoffrey of Monmouth she was called Rowena, which seems to be a correct Anglo- 
Saxon name (Hrothzuyn) — though apparently it does not occur elsewhere — and 
preserves the alliteration of Hengest. But I do not know whether Geoffrey is supposed 
to have had any other sources of information than the existing texts of the Historia 

2 This name does not occur elsewhere, but it seems to be guaranteed by the form 
Oiscingas. The substitution of the name Aesc, which is of different origin, shows that 
it was unfamiliar to the compiler of the Chronicle. In the English genealogies Oese 
may be due to a scribal error (for Oesc). 


Historia Brittonum, while according to the latter Ossa (the Oese 
of the English genealogies) was the son of Octha. If Ossa — 
Oese is to be identified with Oisc, the two accounts are clearly 
irreconcilable. But is the discrepancy greater than one might 
reasonably expect in a story which has been preserved only by 
tradition for at least two centuries? If we take into account the 
greater antiquity of Bede's narrative and the fact that the 
settlement " beyond the Mare Fresicum " is not mentioned 
elsewhere, it seems probable that the Historia Brittonum is here 
in the wrong. But I do not see that this necessitates our 
rejecting its evidence in other respects, for the relationship of 
Hengist and Octha is hardly, like that of Cerdic and Cynric, 
an essential feature of the story. 

On the whole, therefore, except for the incidents connected 
with Octha, I am disposed to regard the accounts of the invasion 
given by Bede, the Saxon Chronicle and the Historia Brittonum 
as genuine traditions. If I am right in believing the account in 
the His toria Brittonum to be ultimately of English origin, its 
value as independent evidence is of course to some extent 
reduc ed. But the story itself is not intrinsically improbable, nor 
.does it really conflict with the few indications regarding the 
invasion given by the British historian Gildas. 

In conclusion account must be taken of the only Continental 
authority which mentions any proper name in connection with 
the invasion, namely the work of the anonymous geographer of 
Ravenna, v. § 31. Here we find it stated that Britain is inhabited 
by " the nation of the Saxons which came long ago from Old 
Saxony with their chief, Ansehis by name." If the editors are 
-right in emending this name to Ansehis 1 , its identity with Bede's 
Oisc can hardly be doubted. We shall have to suppose then 
that the name has been obtained from some much earlier 
document, for the sound-change from ans- to os- must have 
taken place considerably before the end of the sixth century. 
The reference therefore, so far as it goes, has a certain value in 
bearing out the antiquity of the tradition, although the name 

1 In any case Ansehis can hardly be correct. It would require equally little 
emendation to connect the form with Oese. 


of the chief invader seems to have been displaced by that of his 

We may now return to consider the chronological difficulty. 
According to Bede the invasion took place when Martianus and 
Valentinianus were emperors — the true dates for their joint 
reign being 450-455. This is also the date given by the 
Chronicle, though Mauritius has been written in mistake for 
Martianus. But in the Corpus genealogy and in §31 of the 
Historia Brittonum the same event is said to have taken place 
at a date which according to our reckoning is the year 375. 
This date, as we have seen, must have come from the genealogy. 
The Historia Brittonum itself gives in three distinct places quite 
a different date, namely the year 428. Of the three dates from 
which we have to choose, that given by the genealogy is clearly 
the one which has the least claim on our belief. In the year 
375, and indeed for many years afterwards, Britain was still 
under the dominion of the Romans. Whatever then may be 
the origin of this date, there can be little doubt that it is due to 
a misunderstanding of some kind 1 . 

It is a much more difficult matter to decide between the 
claims of the year 428 and the date used by Bede. There is one 
piece of evidence which tells distinctly against the latter. In a 
Gaulish chronicle which comes to an end in the year 452 s it is 

1 It is found also in the Codex Urbinas of Isidor's Chronicle, ann. 5576 (ed. 
Roncallius, II col. 451, note), though in a somewhat different form: Saxones in 
Britannia a Bertigerno rege Britonorum accersiti stmt anno a passione Domini cccxlviii. 
Of the date and source of this interpolation I have not been able to ascertain anything. 
But it seems to give an earlier form of the statement than those which occur in the 
Corpus text and the Historia Brittonum. The absence of the names of the consuls 
might of course be accidental ; yet there is every probability that these were added — 
presumably from the Paschal tables of Victorius Aquitanus — after the chronological 
error had been made. The form of the sentence distinctly recalls the entry in the 
Saxon Chronicle, ann. 449 : Hengest and Horsa from Wyrtgeorne gelea\ade Bretta 
kyninge etc., the Latin original of which may very well have been a Vertigemo rege 
Brittonum accersiti (cf. Bede, H.E. v. 24). Two possible explanations of the mistake 
have occurred to me : (i) that it has arisen out of a scribal error in the figures {cccxlviii 
for ccccxlviiii) ; (ii) that there has been a confusion between the joint reign of 
Martianus and Valentinian III and that of Gratianus and Valentinian II, for the latter 
did begin in the year 375. Neither of these suggestions however is quite 

2 Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auct. Ant., ix. p. 660 : Brittaniae usque ad hoc 


stated that the provinces of Britain were conquered by the 
Saxons in the nineteenth year of Theodosius, i.e. A.D. 441-2. If 
this is a contemporary statement we must of course reject what 
is-said both by Bede and Gildas. Unfortunately however the 
evidence is not quite conclusive, for the chronicle in question may 
be incomplete. We must th erefore enquire what were t he 
grounds on which Bede's calculation was based 1 . It is often 
assumed that Bede had no other authority than Gildas' state- 
ment that the invitation to the Saxons followed the unsuccessful 
appeal to Aetius in 446. But this statement was hardly 
sufficient ground for placing the invasion in the reign of 
Martianus and Valentinianus (450—455). The invasion might 
very well have taken place between 446 and 450; and as a 
matter of fact Bede himself does elsewhere 2 reckon from 446. 
The statement that the invasion took place during the reign of 
Martianus and Valentinianus would seem therefore to have been 
drawn from a different source. Now I have suggested above 
that the Saxon Chronicle is not entirely dependent on Bede for 
jt s account of the invasion of Kent, but that it may also have j 
u sed the earli er document from which Bede's account is derived. 
According to the Chronicle Hengest began to reign in 455 and 
Aesc reigned for twenty-four years after 488. Is it not probable 
that the ultimate origin of these statements is to be traced to a 
lost list of Kentish kings which gave in each case the number of 
years during which they reigned — like the Mercian and North- 
umbrian lists in the Corpus text ? It is true of course that the 
Chronicle mentions no kings of Kent between Aesc and 
Aethelberht. But it is to be remembered that the interests of 
the Chronicle were primarily West Saxon. The accounts of the 
invasions of Kent and Sussex serve only as an introduction 

tempus uariis dadibus euentibusque latae in dicionem Saxonum rediguntur. We may 
compare a statement entered under the sixteenth year of Theodosius in another Gaulish 
chronicle which ends in 511 (ib. p. 161): Britanniae a Romanis amissae in dicionem 
Saxonum cedunt. 

1 The explanation put forward by Thurneysen (Zeiisckr. f. celt. Philo/ogie, 1. 167 ; 
Englische Studien, XXII. 175), that Bede's date was obtained by adding forty years 
(cf. Hist. Britt., §31) to the date 409, can hardly be admitted; for Bede does not 
place the invasion in the year 449. 

2 H. E. 1. 23, 11. 14 and especially v. 23. 

c. 4 


to the West Saxon story. Now, if this suggestion is correct, 
the date of Hengest's accession (455) may very well have been 
obtained by counting the years of the various kings. Then we 
see at once why the reign of Martianus and Valentinianus was 
chosen ; for the year of Hengest's accession is also that of 
Valentinianus's death. The date in question therefore, though 
it agrees well enough with Gildas' statement, may have been 
obtained quite independently. We may therefore regard it as 
in some measure a confirmation of that statement. 

We must next enquire as to the origin of the date 428. The 
reference in § 16 throws no light on this question. From §§ 31, 
66 however we see that it hangs together with the date fixed for 
the reign of Guorthigirnus. Now it has already been mentioned 
that Guorthigirnus enters into both the stories of which §§ 31 — 49 
are composed, the narrative of St German's mission as well as 
the story of the Saxon invasion. The date 428 .can hardly have 
been derived from the latter, for we have seen that this gives 
quite a different date. Presumably then it comes from the Liber 
S. Germani, from which, as we have already noted, the original 
part of the work seems to have been derived. Now according to 
Prospers Chronicle the mission of St German to Britain took 
place in 429. It is possible then that the date 428 originally 
referred to the mission of St German and that, before the passage 
about Hors and Hengist was interpolated, the words Guorthigir- 
nus regnauit in Brittania (§ 31) were immediately followed by 
the opening words of § 32. In that case of course we shall 
have to suppose that the reference in § 66 to the consulship of 
Felix and Taurus (A.D. 428) is erroneous. On the other hand, 
though the extracts from the Liber S. Germani make no 
reference to the Saxons (cf. p. 39), such a reference does 
actually occur in the Life of St German by Constantius, cap. 28. 
Yet the fact that these Saxons are represented as being in 
alliance with the Picts is somewhat against the idea that they 
were the same Saxons who settled in Kent. It may of course 
be urged that according to Bede the Saxons came to terms with 
the Picts when they turned against the Britons ; but this state- 
ment is not derived from Gildas. Indeed it is probably an 
attempt to reconcile the evidence of Gildas and Constantius ; 


for it must be remembered that Bede has dated the mission of St 
German more than twenty years too late (Chron. Mai., § 491). 
We may further note that according to Constantius St German's 
victory secured peace for the island, and that on the occasion of 
his second visit, the date of which we do not know, no mention 
is made of the Saxons. On the whole therefore, thousfh a Saxon 
raid may have taken place in 428-9, I do not regard this date as 
at all safe for the arrival of Hengest and Horsa. 

It will be convenient now to tabulate the dates given by our 
different authorities : ' 1 

375 : the English genealogical text, followed by the Historiai 

Brittonum, § 31. \\L 

428 : the Historia Brittonum §§ 16, 31, 66 (probably from the 
Liber S. Germani). 

441-2 : the Gaulish Chronicle (cf. p. 48 f.) 1 . 

After 446 : Gildas. 

Before 455 : the Saxon Chronicle (probably from an earlier 
Kentish work). 

Account ought also to be taken perhaps of Jordanes, cap. 45, 
and of St Patrick's epistle to the warriors of Coroticus. 
According to the former a British king named Riothimus 
brought reinforcements to the Emperor Anthemius (467-472) in 
his campaign against the Visigoths, while St Patrick, writing"" 
apparently at a time considerably after his arrival in Ireland 
(432 or 437 ?), alludes frequently to the devastations of the Scots 1 ,/ 
and Picts, but makes no reference to the Saxons-. Both these 
authorities, so far as they go, tend to throw doubt on the state- I 
ment that Britain was conquered as early as 441-2. If the_) 
Gaulish Chronicle is really a contemporary document, we must 
of course accept its authority against Gildas and in spite of the 
silence of other early writers. Otherwise I am disposed to think 
that it has both antedated the first invasion and also exaggerated . 
its effect. In any case, howe ver. I am not inclined to regard a ny j[ A 
date before 441-2 as probable. ^J 

1 438-9 in another Gaulish chronicle (cf. p. 49 footnote). 

2 It is possible of course that Coroticus' kingdom was situated in the northern or 
western part of the country. The identification of him with Ceretic guletic is only an 
inference from the fact that they must have been approximately contemporary. 


There is one more point in connection with the Kentish 
invasion which deserves notice. We have seen that the name 
Hengest is very rare. The only other person of this name known 
to me is the warrior who figures in Beowulf and in the frag- 
mentary poem on the fight in Finn's Castle. The history of this 
individual is unfortunately obscure. It is clear however that he 
was the chief follower of a certain Hnaef, who appears to have 
been a prince in the service of the Danish king Healfdene. On 
a certain occasion this Hnaef paid a visit, whether friendly or 
otherwise is not clear, to Friesland, where he was slain by the 
followers of the Frisian king, Finn the son of Folcwalda. 
Hengest and his other warriors after a long struggle came to 
terms with Finn ; but some of them eventually returned to 
Denmark and having obtained reinforcements attacked and slew 
him. Of Hengest's fate nothing is stated. 

Now it is curious to note that this Hengest must have been 
a contemporary of his famous namesake. In Beowulf the 
Danish king Hrothgar is represented as a very old man and as 
having reigned for a very long period (Jinnd missera, 1. 1770). 
The time to which the poem refers is the first quarter of the sixth 
century. Healfdene, Hrothgar's father, may therefore have been 
reigning before the middle of the fifth century. Again, both 
Hengests come apparently from the same country. The Hengist 
of the Historia Brittonum is said to have come from Oghgul, 
which, as we shall see subsequently, is probably Angel in South 
Jutland. But the Hengest of the poems also comes from some 
part of the Danish kingdom 1 . As for the tribes to which they 
belonged that of the Kentish Hengest is called by Bede Iutae 
(Iuti), while in English translations we find Ytena, Eota, Iutna 

1 The fragment contains no reference to the Danes, but I cannot see that we have 
any right to doubt the evidence of Beowulf on this point. Moreover, a reminiscence 
of the story seems to have been preserved in the Skioldunga Saga, cap. 4 in Arngrim 
Jonsson's epitome (reprinted in the Aarb^ger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1894, 
p. 104 ft.), where it is stated that a Danish king named Leifus had seven sons, three 
of whom were called Hunleifus, Oddleifus and Gunnleifus. The last two of these 
names are identical with those of two of Hengest's warriors, Ordlaf and Guthlaf 
(Finn 18), while Hengest himself is in possession of a sword called Hunlafing 
(Beow. 1 143). This can hardly be an accidental coincidence. 


(Gen. pi.) 1 , Iotum (Dat. pi.). The tribe to which the other Hengest 
belonged is called in Beowulf Eotena (Gen. pi.), Eotenum 
(Dat. pi.). To these forms we shall have to return later, but at 
all events it cannot be denied that there is a striking resemblance 
between them. Again, the Hengest of the Historia Brittonum 
is said to have been driven into exile. The fate of the other 
Hengest we do not know ; but he can hardly have returned home 
after making peace with the man who had slain his lord. Exile 
is certainly what might be expected in such a case. Lastly, we 
may remember that the story of Finn, the son of Folcwalda, was 
evidently running in the mind of the scribe, from whom the 
genealogy of the Historia Brittonum (§31) is derived. On the 
whole therefore, if the invasion of Kent may be dated after 440, 
I think it is more probable than not that the two Hengests were 

1 Cf. p. 5 and footnote. 



The people who invaded Britain in the fifth century are said 
to have belonged to three distinct nations, the Saxons, the Angles 
and the Jutes. The primary authority for this classification is 
a passage in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, I. 15, which, as it has 
always been regarded as the basis of investigation in English 
ethnology, deserves to be given here in full. " They had come," 
he says, " from three of the bravest nations of Germany, namely, 
from the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes. The Cantuarii (i.e. 
the inhabitants of Kent) are of Jutish origin ; and so are the 
Victuarii, i.e. the tribe which inhabits the Isle of Wight, and also 
that which is still called Iutarum natio in the territory of the 
West Saxons, occupying a position just opposite the Isle of Wight. 
The East Saxons, the South Saxons and the West Saxons came 
from the Saxons, i.e. from the country which is now called the 
country of the Old Saxons. LastlyJthe East Angles, the Middle 
Angles, the Mercians/and the whol^ population of Northumbria, 
i.e. the tribes which live to the north of the river Humber, together/ 
with the rest of the Anglian peoples — all these are sprung from the 
Angli, i.e. from a land which is called Angulus and which is said 
to have remained uninhabited from that time till the present 
day. It lies between the territories of the Jutes and those of 
the Saxons." 

This is the only definite and comprehensive statement 
regarding the origin of the invaders which has come down to us. 
It has been copied by a host of later writers ; but, so far at least 
as the classification of the tribes is concerned, nothing of 


importance has been added. The only other statement on the 
subject which we need consider here is a passage in Procopius' 
Gothic War, IV. 20 : " The island of Brittia contains three very 
populous nations, each of which has a king over it. The names 
borne by these nations are Angiloi and Phrissones and Brittones, 
the last having the same name as the island." In this passage, 
which dates of course from a time nearly two centuries earlier 
than Bede's work, no mention is made of Saxons or Jutes. 
Indeed these names do not occur at all in Procopius' writings. 
In place of them we find Phrissones, i.e. presumably the Frisians, 
who are also not mentioned again by Procopius. Apart from 
this passage we have no evidence that they took part in the 
invasion of Britain, though their language is closely related to 

Bede's statements as to the origin of the various nations in 
Historical Britain are so definite that we should certainly 

evidence. expect to get evidence for the same classification 

elsewhere. Such evidence however is not easy to find. In the 
first place, apart from the passage quoted above and other 
documents which are manifestly based on it, we never find the 
people of Kent described as Jutes. In historical and official 
documents the term usually applied to them is Cantivare 
(Cantuarii etc.), while their kings bear the title rex Cantuariorutn 
or rex Cantiae. But we also find them described both as Saxones 
and Angli. The former is the word regularly used in the 
Historia Brittonum for Hengest and his followers, while the 
country from which they are said to have come is called Oghgul, 
i.e. presumably Ongul {Angel). Even in the account given by 
Bede himself (Hist. Eccl. I. 14 f. ) the same people are called 
Saxones, though here of course the name may have been taken 
over from Gildas. Again, in the Saxon Chronicle, ann. 473, the 
name applied to them is Englan. For this also we find parallels 
in the Ecclesiastical History. Thus in I. 32 Pope Gregory in 
a letter to Aethelberht, king of Kent, addresses him as rex 
Angloruui. It may be urged of course that Aethelberht's 
supremacy extended over some of the Angli. But this explana- 
tion will hardly hold good for another passage (ill. 8), where 
Bede says that Erconberht, king of Kent, was the first of the 


kings of the Angli to prohibit idolatry in his kingdom. So in 
II. 5 he states that Aethelberht's laws were written in the 
language of the Angli (Anglorum sermone). Taking all this 
evidence together and above all the fact that the people of Kent 
are not again called Jutes, one can hardly help concluding that, 
if Bede's account is correct, the name must have passed out of 
use very early. It is not necessary to suppose that it was 
current even in Bede's time, for we have seen that he appears 
to have used earlier documents in his narrative. In southern 
Hampshire the name of the Jutes seems to have survived longer 
(cf. p. 4f), but we have no evidence that it was anything more 
than a geographical term after the eighth century. Indeed were 
it not for Bede we should hardly know that the inhabitants of 
this district had originally been of a different nationality from 
the West Saxons. 

If we turn now to the Angli we find in the first place that 
Welsh and Irish writers pretty regularly speak of them as 
Saxones. One or two examples will be sufficient. In the 
Historia Brittonum, §57, the Northumbrians are described as 
Saxones Ambronum, the latter of which words is probably 
a scribal corruption of Umbronnm (cf. Hymbronensium in a 
document dating from 680, quoted by Bede, H.E. IV. 15). In 
the Annales Cambriae, ann. 225 (i.e. a.d. 670-671), we find 
Osguid rex Saxonum (i.e. Oswio, king of the Northumbrians) 
moritur. So in the Annals of Tighernac, ann. 631 (?), the 
Northumbrian king Edwin is described as Etuin mac Ailli regis 
Saxonum. It is more surprising to find Pope Vitalianus 
addressing Oswio, king of the Northumbrians, as Saxonum rex 
(H.E. ill. 29). But parallels can be obtained even for this. In 
a letter to Pope Gregory II, Hwaetberht, abbot of Wearmouth, 
speaks of himself as writing de Saxonia (Bede's Hist. Abb., cap. 
19; Anon. Hist. Abb., cap. 30). Again, Eddius in his Life of 
Wilfrid, cap. 19, says that during Ecgfrith's reign the Picts 
refused to submit to the supremacy of the Saxones, by which of 
course the Northumbrians are meant. In cap. 21 he applies the 
same name to the English peoples south of the Humber. So in 
Felix' Life of St Guthlac, § 20, we find the expression Brittones 
Infesti Jwstes Saxonici generis, where there is no reference to the 


southern kingdoms. It is worth noting that the English version 
renders this passage by Brytta \eod Angolcynnes feond. Again, 
in Mercian charters English words are commonly described by 
the term Saxonicc, e.g. a difficultate ilia quam nos Saxonice 
faestiiigmenn dicimus (Birch, Cart. Sax. 416); hominum illorum 
quos Saxonice nominamus Walhfaereld (ib. 488). It is true 
however that most of these charters refer to the province of the 
Hwicce, which is said to have belonged originally to Wessex. 

The use of words derived from Angel for the Saxons is much 
more frequent. From the time of King Alfred onwards, the 
regular term for the native language in West Saxon works is 

Englisc. In the Chronicle, arm. 897, we are told that sixty-two 
Frisian and English {Engliscra) men were slain in a certain sea- 
fight, but it is clear from the context that the " English " must 
have belonged to Wessex or Sussex. So also with the expressions 
Angelcyn{n)" the English nation," and A ngelcynnes lond" England," 
lit. " the land of the English nation." When King Alfred in the 
introduction to his translation of the Cura Pastoralis deplores 
the decay of learning in Angelcynn his language does not in the 
least suggest that he is excluding the southern provinces from 
consideration 1 . In the Chronicle, ann. 787, we hear that three 
ships which arrived during the reign of Berhtric were the first 
Danish ships which came to Angelcynnes lond. But we know 
from other sources that these ships put in on the coast of 
Dorset. Again, in ann. 836 it is stated that Ecgberht, king of 
Wessex, had before his accession been expelled from Angelcynnes 
land for three years by Berhtric and Offa. In the same sense 
we find also the expression Angelcynnes ealond, e.g. in the will 
of Aelfred, earl of Surrey, a contemporary of King Alfred (Birch, 
Cart. Sax. 558). Indeed there are no other terms used in 
vernacular texts, translations of course excluded, either for the 
language or the country. 

These facts are curious and certainly require explanation. 
Above all it is to be noticed that though we occasionally meet 
with the phrase Engle and Seaxe,xve do not find the two peoples 
contrasted in any way, i.e. we have no evidence except in H.E. 

1 Cf. Asser, cap. 83, where the all Angelcyn of the Chronicle (ann. 886) is 
translated by o/nnes Angli el Saxones. 


I. 15 for the use of Saxones or Seaxan for the inhabitants of: 
Wessex, Sussex and Essex to the exclusion of the rest of the 
Teutonic inhabitants of Britain. In charters and historical works 
dating from the time of Alfred and his successors we sometimes 
meet with the expressions rex Anglorum Saxonum and rex \ 
Angul- Saxonum 1 . But it is by no means clear that these; 
expressions stand for rex Anglorum et Saxonum; for the latter, I 
which is a far more obvious phrase, is as a matter of fact 
extremely rare. Mr Stevenson holds that these expressions j 
came into use in England to denote the political union of the 
Angles and Saxons, but he has pointed out that they came ; 
originally from the Continent, where the term Engelsaxo occurs [ 
in a Life of Alcuin dating from before 830. The Latin form j 
Angli Saxones is used even earlier, by Paulus Diaconus {Hist. 1 
Lang. IV. 23, V. 37, VI. 15). By Continental writers however! 
these terms appear to have been used to distinguish the English j 
Saxons 2 from the Saxons of the Continent. Bede himself does 1 
seem to have drawn a distinction between the two peoples. ! 
Thus in two passages (H. E. III. 7, 22), he uses the phrase j 
Saxonum lingua with reference to the inhabitants of Wessex j 
and Essex, though he does not mention Saxon as a distinct \ 
language in his enumeration of the languages spoken in Britain 
(ib. I. 1). But in view of the evidence brought forward above j 
we must clearly take into account the possibility that Bede's 
distinctions are the result of a theory. If we had not Bede's j 
writings we should hardly hesitate to say that Angel-, Engle,\ 
Englisc, etc. were the native terms, and that Saxones, Saxonia, j 
etc., which are almost entirely confined to works written in Latin, * 
were terms of foreign origin. Indeed there are certain passages ' 
in Bede's own works which seem to indicate that he was himself; 
not absolutely convinced that the Saxons and Angli were really 

1 Cf. Stevenson, Asserts Life of King Alfred, p. 148 ff. and notes, where a full list ■ 
of references is given. 

2 Apparently ' Angles ' as well as ' Saxons.' The words of the passage in the Life 1 
of Alcuin cited above (Jaffe, Monumenta Alcuiniana, p. 25 : Aigulfus presbyter 
Engelsaxo et ipse) imply that Alcuin himself, a Northumbrian, was so called. The 
persons to whom the term is applied by Paulus are Ceadwalla, king of Wessex, and 
Hermelinda, wife of the Langobardic king Cunipert, whose origin is unknown. Her \ 
name suggests that she belonged to the Kentish royal family. 


different peoples. Thus in H. E. I. 22 he says that one of the 
most grievous sins committed by the Britons was that they never 
preached the Gospel to the gens Saxonum sine Anglorum. If he 
had been convinced that the two nations were really distinct, he 
would surely have said gentcs Saxonum et Anglorum. So in 
v. 9 he speaks of the Angli uel Saxones who inhabit Britain. 
We may further compare the account which he gives of the 
invasion. In 1. 14 Vurtigernus decides to call in the Saxones. 
In the following chapter the Anglorum sine Saxonum gens arrive 
in three ships ; subsequently the Saxones obtain a victory. In 
the epitome in V. 24 we are told that it was the Angli who came 
to Britain at the invitation of the Britons. Vet according to 
Bede's classification the people referred to in all these passages 
were Jutes. Lastly we may note that he constantly speaks of 
the Anglorum ecclesia as embracing all the Teutonic kingdoms 
in Britain. Yet in the earlier references the organisation 
i described by this name extended only to districts inhabited by 
Saxons and Jutes. 

As the historical evidence is inconclusive it will be convenient 
^ . . now to examine the genealogies of the various 

Evidence of 00 

tradition. dynasties in order to see whether these point to any 

differences in the origin of the three peoples. Genealogies have 
been preserved of the royal families of Kent, Wessex, Essex, 
East Anglia, Mercia, Lindsey, Deira and Bernicia. The 
genealogies of the kings of the South Saxons, the Hwicce and 
the Hampshire Jutes are unfortunately lost. There is no evidence 
that Middlesex ever had a dynasty of its own, and though we 
once find a subregulus in Surrey, we know nothing of his origin. 
The only Saxon dynasties therefore for which evidence is 
available are those of Essex and Wessex. Now with the single 
exception of Essex all the genealogies which have been preserved 
go back to the god Woden. The East Saxon genealogy on the 
other hand is traced, to a person named Seaxneat. The 
Appendix to Florence of Worcester's Chronicle makes him a son 
of Woden ; but this is probably a later addition, as it does not 
occur in the earliest extant text of the genealogy, Brit. Mus. 
MS. Add. 2321 1 (published in Sweet's Oldest English Texts, 
p. 179). Now the form Seaxneat is clearly identical with Saxnot, 


the name of one of the three gods mentioned in a short 
Continental document generally known as the ' Renunciation 
Formula 1 ' and probably of Old Saxon origin. Here then we 
seem to have a definite link between the Saxons of Britain and 
those of the Continent. 

Unfortunately, when we turn to the West Saxon genealogy, 
this clue fails entirely. For not only did the West Saxon family 
trace their descent from Woden but even from the same son of 
Woden, Baeldaeg by name, as the Bernician family — a fact 
which is the more remarkable because the genealogies of all the 
other dynasties, viz. those of Kent, East Anglia, Mercia, Lindsey 
and Deira, go back to different sons of Woden. Indeed it is by 
no means clear that the common element in the West Saxon 
and Bernician genealogies does not go further than this. The 
first three names in the former are Woden, Baeldaeg, Brand. In 
the latter there is considerable discrepancy between the various 
texts. It will be convenient here to give the first few names in 
each of the most important documents in which it occurs, viz. 
MS. Cott. Vesp. B 6 fol. io8f. (published in Sweet's Oldest 
English Texts, p. 167 ff.), the Historia Brittonum, § 57, the Saxon 
Chronicle, ann. 547, and the Appendix to the Chronicle of 
Florence of Worcester. 

Cott. Vesp. 


Hist. Brit. 

Sax. Chron. 














Woden. Woden. 

Beldaeg. Baeldeag. 

Beornic. Brand. 

Wegbrand. Beorn. 

Ingibrand. Beornd. 

Alusa. Waegbrand. 

Angengeot. Ingebrand. 




It may of course be suggested that the name Brand has been 
introduced into the Bernician genealogy in the Chronicle from 
the West Saxon genealogy, and that the genealogy in Florence's 
Appendix has been influenced by that which he gives under the 

1 Published in M. Heyne's Kleinere altniederdeutsche Denkmdler (p. 88) and 
many other works. 


lyear 547 and which is derived from the Chronicle. But on the 
other hand it is to be remembered that there is a literary connection 
between Cott. Vesp. B 6, Florence's Appendix and the Historia 
Brittonum. Moreover the series Woden — Beldeyg — Brond occurs 
in the Historia Brittonum (§61) at the head of the genealogy of 
Deira, where it is clearly out of place. It can hardly have come 
from the West Saxon genealogy, for the latter is not included 
either in the Historia Brittonum or in Cott. Vesp. B 6. I think, 
if we take the whole series of names into account, the evidence is 
distinctly favourable to the series given in the Chronicle. But 
if so, indeed to some extent in any case, we are bound to conclude 
that the West Saxon royal family claimed to be of the same 
stock as that of Bernicia. Consequently the argument drawn 
from the Essex genealogy is to a certain extent invalidated. 

It is commonly asserted that Bede's classification of the 
Linguistic English people into Saxons, Angles and Jutes is 

evidence. confirmed by linguistic evidence. This subject 

therefore cannot be passed over in silence, though it is impossible 
within the compass of a work like this to treat it adequately. It 
is true that dialectic differences are observable in the earliest 
texts which we possess, and we need have no hesitation in 
believing that many such differences were in existence during 
the seventh century. Unfortunately however our knowledge of 
the dialects is of a very unequal character. The West Saxon 
dialect is hardly known before the middle of the ninth century, 
though after this time the materials are abundant. Of Kentish 
much less has been preserved, but it goes back to a somewhat 
earlier date. Early Northumbrian is little known except from 
proper names, but these are sufficiently numerous to enable us 
to form an idea of the characteristics of the dialect during the 
eighth century. On the other hand we have practically no texts 
which can with certainty be called Mercian. In practice the 
name Mercian is applied to a number of dialects which differ 
from one another about as much as they do from Northumbrian 
or Kentish. The only texts which can certainly be ascribed to 
Essex or Sussex are a few Latin charters which contain some 
proper names. 


It will be convenient to begin with a brief enumeration of 
the more important sound-changes by which English became 
differentiated from the neighbouring Teutonic languages. They 
are as follows : 

Table A. 

1. a has become labial (written a, o) before nasals ; e.g. land, lond, "land" 

(Old High Germ, lant, Old Norse land). 

2. a is palatalised {ce) in open syllables before palatal vowels and in all 

close syllables ; e.g. daeg, "day" (O.H.G. tac, O.N. dagr). 

3. a (from earlier e) has become before nasals ; e.g. mona , " moon " 

(O.H.G. ntano, O.N. mam). 

4. a (from earlier e) is palatalised {&) in almost all other positions ; e.g. 

ra>d, "counsel" (O.H.G. rat, O.N. rod). 

5. e has become i before m ; e.g. niman, "take" (O.H.G. neman, O.N. 


6. has become u before nasals ; e.g. cumati, "come" (O.H.G. coman, 

O.N. koma). 

7. a {ce), e, i, a>, i are diphthongised before h ; e.g. eahta, "eight" (O.H.G. 

ahto, O.N. dtta). 

8. a {ce\ <?, i are diphthongised before r followed by a consonant ; e.g. 

earm, "poor" (O.H.G. arm, O.N. armr). 

9. at has become a ; e.g. ad, "oath " (O.H.G. eid, O.N. eidr). 

10. au has become ca (earlier Tea) ; e.g. stream, "stream" (O.H.G. stroum, 

O.N. straumr). 

11. All vowels are palatalised before /' in the following syllable; e.g. ^;j*/, 

"bride" (O.H.G. brut, O.N. £r/«?jr). 

12. Nasals are lost with compensatory lengthening before voiceless 

spirants ; e.g. j 'if, "five" (O.H.G. fimf,finf, OM.fimm). 

13. Gutturals are palatalised before palatal vowels, though the distinction 

is seldom marked in writing (except in Runic inscriptions) ; e.g. 
gearu, iaru, " ready" (O.H.G. garo, O.N. gorr). 

14. i is diphthongised before a guttural (guttural-labial) vowel in the 

following syllable ; e.g. siofuti, seofon, "seven" (O.H.G. sibun). 

When we say that English became differentiated from the 
neighbouring languages by these sound-changes, an important 
exception is to be made in the case of Frisian ; for the latter 
shows all the above changes except 8, 10, and (in part) 7 and 9. 
Certain other reservations are also necessary. Thus 1 1 occurs 
also in the Scandinavian languages, though apparently under 
somewhat different conditions. The same languages seem also 
to have a change similar to 8 in the case of e, though the forms 


: which show this change are generally explained in a different 
way. Again nasals are lost in Scandinavian before s, and in 
I Low German (Dutch etc.) before/! 

In addition to the changes noted above there are others less 
1 distinctively English. Some of these are common to English 
j and German but wanting in the Scandinavian languages. 

Table B. 

1. The voiced dental spirant (d) has become an explosive (d) in all 

positions, whereas in Scandinavian this change occurs only initially 
and after / ; e.g. bida?i, " wait," O. Dutch bidan (O.N. blda). 

2. Final z is lost, whereas in Scandinavian it becomes r ; e.g. /u'orde, 

"herdsman," O.H.G. hirti (O.N. hirdir). The High German 
dialects however have r in monosyllabic words after short vowels ; 
e.g. tvir, "we" (Engl, tae, O.N. ve'r). 

3. 2 has become r before d, whereas in Scandinavian assimilation takes 

place ; e.g. ord, " point," O.H.G. ort (O.N. oddr). 

4. Intervocalic w is lengthened in a number of words where Scandinavian 

has developed a long guttural ; e.g. {ge)triowe, "faithful," O.H.G. 
gitriuwi (O.N. tryggr). 

5. All consonants are lengthened before j ; e.g. bidda/i, "ask," O.H.G. 

bitten (O.N. bidid). The characteristics of this change are however 
somewhat different in the two languages. In Scandinavian this 
change affects only the gutturals (/&, g). 

Other changes are common to English and Scandinavian 
but wanting (wholly or in part) in German. 

Table C. 

1. h is lost between sonants ; e.g. seon, "see," O.N. sid (O.H.G. sehan). 

This change occurs in Low German at a much later period. 

2. e is diphthongised before labial and guttural vowels ; e.g. geofu, "gift," 

O.N. giqf (O.H.G. geba). A similar change occurs in the case of a 
before labial vowels, but the effect in Scandinavian is not 
diphthongisation but labialisation. The phenomena and probably 
also the date of these changes vary a good deal between the different 
English dialects, but they are perceptible everywhere. They do not 
occur in German. 

All the above changes except the last occur also in Frisian. 
Consequently there is no doubt that this language is by far the 
most nearly related to English. With regard to the other 
langfuaefes, if we bear in mind the resemblances noted under 


Table A between English and Scandinavian, it will be seen that 
English occupies a position about midway between Scandinavian 
and German, approximating more to the former in the develop- 
ment of its vowel-system and to the latter in that of its conso- 
nants 1 . In the case of Frisian there is slightly less affinity with 
Scandinavian (cf. A 8, C 2). The evidence of the Old Saxon 
language would induce us to connect English, as well as Frisian, 
more closely with German than with Scandinavian, and as a 
matter of fact most scholars class English, Frisian and German 
together in a " West-Germanic " group. But in reality the 
language of the Old Saxon texts is not a pure dialect. A con- 
siderable number of forms occur (e.g. bed, "bed," othar, "other") 
which do not correspond to the sound-laws elsewhere observable 
in the language, and there can be little doubt that these 
variations are due to the introduction of an Anglo-Frisian 
element. Any argument therefore derived from the resemblance 
of this language to English is misleading. The relationship of 
these various languages with Gothic need not be discussed here. 
Whatever may be the ultimate affinities of that language, there 
is sufficient evidence that it differed greatly from Scandinavian, 
English and German alike at a time when the differences between 


these three languages themselves were insignificant. 

We must now turn to the dialectical differences within the 
English language itself. For this purpose it will be most 
convenient to summarise the most important characteristics of 
the three dialects which we can definitely locate, viz. West 
Saxon, Kentish and Northumbrian. 

Table D. Characteristics of the West Saxon 


1. a is diphthongised before /followed by a consonant ; e.g. eald, "old" 

(North, aid). But the evidence is not entirely consistent. 

2. Vowels are diphthongised after palatal consonants; e.g. ceaster (Lat. 

castra, early North, caestir). 

3. The diphthongs ea {ceo) and ea (&a) when palatalised have become 

z, l (earlier z>, ie)\ e.g. ttiiht, "power" (North, maehf). 

4. The diphthongs tu, tu, except before u, have become i, f (earlier ie, 

ie); e.g. nlwe, "new" (North, niowe). 

1 Apart, of course, from the sound-shifting in the High German dialects. 


5. The diphthongs hi, iu (before it) and eo, eo are confused ; e.g. seolfor 

beside siolfor {sil-),fioh beside feoh {/eh-). 

6. The palatalised labial vowels oe, ce, y, y (from 0, 0, u, it) have been 

delabialised {e, e, t, 1); e.g. oven, " queen " (North, cwain). 

7. The diphthongs ea, ea, eo {iu) are reduced to monophthongs (/, i) 

before h {ea also before and after c,g); e.g. cniht, "boy"' (beside 

Table E. Characteristics of the Kentish Dialect. 

1. a is diphthongised before / followed by a consonant (cf. D 1). But 

the evidence is not entirely consistent. 

2. ce, ce, whatever their origin have become e, e; e.g. deg, "day" (W. Sax. 


3. The diphthongs ea, ea (cea, cea) when palatalised have become e, e 

(earlier <z, a!) ; e.g. er/e, "inheritance" (W. Sax. irfe). 

4. The diphthongs eo, eo and iu, iu are confused and subsequently 

delabialised ; e.g. beorht, biorht, biarht, "bright" (North, berht). 

5. The palatalised labial vowels y,y (from u, it) have become e, e; e.g. 

eppan, "disclose" (earlier yppan). 

6. Labial vowels in unaccented syllables are delabialised ; e.g. brodar, 

" brother " (earlier brodor). 

Table F. Characteristics of the Northumbrian 


1. All diphthongs lose their second element before guttural and palatal 

consonants (c,g, h); e.g. were, "work" (W. Sax. weorc). 

2. ce (from a, cf. A 4) has become/; e.g. red, "counsel" (W. Sax. rad). 

3. The diphthong ea (cea) when palatalised has become e (earlier ce); 

e.g. Edwiiie (earlier Aedidni) beside Eadberht. 

4. The diphthong ea (tea) when palatalised has become ce ; e.g. maeht, 

"power" (W. Sax. miht). 

5. Certain vowels {ce and, in part, a, o) are diphthongised after palatal 

consonants (c, g) ; e.g. ceaster (earlier caestir). 

6. The diphthongs ea, ea and eo, eo are (to some extent at least) 

confused; e.g. Eod- beside Ead- 1 . 

The only early evidence for the dialect of Sussex seems to 
be one original charter (Birch, Cart. Sax. 1334) dating from 780. 
If we may judge from this the dialect occupied a position 
between West Saxon and Kentish. No examples occur of the 

1 To the above list we may add the loss of -n in inflections (except after -it-). 
This -n was still frequently written in the eighth century. 

C 5 


Northumbrian monophthongisation in F i, while the diphthong 
is preserved in three cases. There are two examples of the 
West Saxon and Kentish diphthongisation of a before / 
followed by a consonant (D, E i) and one example of the 
confusion of eo and io (D 5, E 4). The Kentish and Northumbrian 
change of <£ to e seems to be known ( Vnerfrid beside Vuaermund) 
and the treatment of the palatalised ^-diphthong in Siolesaei 
likewise conforms to its treatment in those dialects. On the 
other hand the West Saxon ie- diphthong (D 3 or 4) appears in 
Tielaes or a. 

There are a number of early texts which do not exhibit the 
characteristics of any of the dialects treated above and which 
are probably all to be ascribed to the Midlands. They differ 
very considerably among themselves ; but all seem to show 
forms of language intermediate between Northumbrian and 
Kentish. Indeed they exhibit practically no sound-changes 
which do not occur in one or other of these dialects. The West 
Saxon and Kentish diphthongisation of a before / followed by 
a consonant (D, E 1) does not appear, nor do we find any trace 
of the specifically West Saxon changes D 3, 4, 6, 7. The 
Kentish changes E 5 and 6 are also wanting, while the delabiali- 
sation in E 4, though it does occur in the (East Anglian?) 
Vespasian Psalter, is confined to unaccented words. It is to be 
observed however that these changes do not appear in Kentish 
until a period later than that to which most of the Midland 
texts probably belong. There is very little evidence also for the 
change F 6, while F 5 is limited to the case of guttural vowels. 
On the other hand all these texts agree with Northumbrian in 
F 1, 2, 3, 4 and all the later ones show the Kentish (and West 
Saxon) confusion of eo and zu. The chief dialectical differences 
between the texts occur in regard to (i) the prevalence of 
diphthongisation through labial and guttural vowels in the 
following syllable (C 2) and (ii) the extent to which the change 
ce > e is carried out. From the evidence of later texts it seems 
probable that the dialects which show the latter change belong 
to the more eastern districts. None of the early Midland texts 
however exhibit this change so completely as Kentish. 

We must now endeavour to ascertain as far as possible the 


dates at which the various changes noted above took place. By 
far the easiest to fix are the Kentish changes E 5, 6 and the 
delabialisation in E 4. These do not occur in any texts earlier 
than the middle of the ninth century and may consequently be 
dated not very long before that time. This fact has an important 
bearing on a theory which has obtained much currency. It is 
frequently stated that the Kentish dialect is more nearly akin to 
Frisian than any of the other English dialects, because both 
Kentish and Frisian have c through palatalisation of u, whereas 
the other dialects have y (later 1). As early Kentish also hadj^, 
• and as e does not make its appearance for about four hundred 
years after the invasion, there does not seem to be much 
probability of a historical connection between the Frisian and 
Kentish changes. Indeed, if they must be connected, it would 
seem more probable to attribute the fact to intercourse between 
Kent and the Netherlands at a later period. As a matter of 
fact the early Kentish texts show no dialectical peculiarities 
which do not occur also either in Midland or West Saxon texts. 
In the very earliest even e for a is quite rare. 

In other cases we do not actually get texts anterior to the 
operation of the sound-changes, but in the earliest we see some 
of these changes still incomplete. Such is the case with D 5, 6, 
7, E 2, 4, F 2, 5, 6. There is no probability that any of these 
changes go back beyond the middle of the seventh century, 
while some of them (e.g. U 7) may even date from the ninth 
century. I have given reasons elsewhere 1 , partly on account of 
the phenomena of contraction through the loss of h and partly 
on account of the preservation of ce in such words as maeJit, for 
believing (i) that the change ce>e (F 2) took place both in the 
Northumbrian and Midland dialects later than the monoph- 
thongisation in F I, and (ii) that the latter change was subsequent 
to the palatalisation of vowels before i (A 11). In certain 
Midland dialects it was also subsequent to the diphthongisation 
before labial vowels (C 3). As the changes D 3, 4, E 3, F 3, 4 
all arise from A 11, the determination of the date of the latter 
change is of great importance. It is to this therefore that we 
must next turn our attention. 
1 Transactions of the Cambridge Philological Society, Vol. IV. pp. 97, 103, r 1 5 ff". 




The evidence at our disposal does not justify the supposition 
that this palatalisation took place in very early times. In the 
first place Bede's Ecclesiastical History preserves a number of 
forms which do not show this change. Setting aside such names as 
Cantia and Lundonia which may be of Gallo-Roman origin 
though this is by no means certain, we find in the earliest (Moore) 
MS. a few forms, e.g. Saberct {Saeber/it), Guruiorum IV. 19 
(Gynva), Vurtigernol. 14 (Wyrtgeorn), which are clearly derived 
from earlier texts and which can hardly be explained in any 
other way. Again in the Historia Brittonum the name of the 
Mercian king Penda (626?— 655) appears several times in the 
form Pantha, which seems to be Welsh orthography. On some 
ancient coins we find the name Pada in Runic letters. It is 
very probable from their weight and design that they were 
issued by the same king. The absence of -n- is hardly a serious 
objection, as parallels can be found in early Scandinavian Runic 
inscriptions. On the other hand many words borrowed from 
Latin appear in English with palatalisation. Some of these were 
no doubt borrowed as early as the fifth century, a few possibly 
even before the invasion of Britain. But there are a number of 
specifically Christian words, e.g. mynster {monasteriani), engel 
(angelus), erccbiscop {archiepiscopus), which can hardly be so old. 
Indeed it seems to me quite incredible that they can have 
become current in England before the conversion of Kent at the 
end of the sixth century. Names of places in Gaul such as 
Persa (Parisiorum) and Embemnn {Ambiajiis) — with which we 
may also compare the name Wendelsae— are less capable of being 
dated, though it is scarcely probable that they were known 
much before the sixth century. In Britain however, where such 
cases are of course far more numerous, we find some examples, 
e.g. Wreocen- {Vriconium), which are not likely to have been 
acquired much before the end of that century. 

Moreover there is a certain amount of indirect evidence. The 
existence of forms like Edwine beside Eadgar seems to show 
that palatalisation was effected by the presence of i in the second 
member of a compound and consequently that this change was 
operative after the final vowel of the first member had 
disappeared. But if we are to trust the evidence of the 


MSS. of Gregory of Tours this final vowel was still retained in 
Frankish in the first half of the sixth century, while in 
Scandinavian according to the generally accepted view it lasted 
much longer. Again, it is usually held, and doubtless rightly, 
that the palatalisation of guttural consonants (A 13) preceded 
the palatalisation of vowels. Yet this change also occurs in 
ecclesiastical loan-words, e.g. ercebiscop, cirice {jcvpiaicov). No 
doubt these words were borrowed in the first instance from 
Frankish ; but the palatalisation of consonants is foreign to that 
language. We may compare certain names of Welsh origin, e.g. 
Caedmon, Ceadwalla, which show the Welsh sound-change t>d 
(cf. p. 30) and which on historical grounds also are not likely to 
date from before the beginning of the seventh century. Taking 
the whole evidence into account, therefore, we need have little 
hesitation in concluding that the palatalisation of vowels was 
operative during the early part of the seventh century. 

The only dialectical characteristics which can be traced back 
to a period anterior to this palatalisation are the changes given 
in D, E 1, D 2. The latter, the diphthongisation after palatal 
consonants, is clearly later than the palatalisation of guttural 
consonants (A 13), which, as we have seen, was apparently still 
operative about the beginning of the seventh century. The 
former, the diphthongisation of a before / followed by a consonant, 
cannot be dated ; but since the evidence for the change is not 
consistent either in West Saxon or Kentish, it is not very likely 
to be of great antiquity. On the whole then the evidence seems 
to justify us in concluding that .none of the existing phonetic 
differences between West Saxon, Kentish and Northumbrian go 
back beyond the middle of the sixth century. 

Indeed there is every reason for believing that the changes 
A 2, 4, 5, 9, which are common to all dialects and clearly older than 
those discussed above, themselves operated after the invasion of 
Britain. As instances we may give a few names and loan-words 
which show these changes ; e.g. Limen (Portus Lemauus), Saefern 
(Lat. Sabrina, but really from O. Welsh * Sabre na), caestir (Lat. 
castra), straegl (Lat. straguluvi), naep (Lat. ndpus) — all of which 
seem to occur only in English. The changes i > e and e > i (under 
certain conditions), which are found also in German and Scandina- 


vian, appear to have operated during the same period ; e.g. Breten 
{Britannia), Pehtas (Picti), Treanta (Trisanton), Bregentford 
(Brigantio-), WiJit ( Vectis), Wintanceaster ( Venta), Cynete for 
earlier * Cunit- (Cnnetio), Wyrtgeorn for earlier * Wirtigern- 
( Vertigcrnns). It is true of course that we cannot prove when 
such words as cest {cistd) and pinn (penna) were borrowed, 
but the above list contains several examples in which the idea 
of borrowing before the invasion is absurd. 

In the above discussion I have taken no account of the 
possibility that any East Saxon texts may have survived, though 
considering the importance of London, even in early times, it 
might naturally be expected that this dialect would not be entirely 
unrepresented. As a matter of fact we have one original East 
Saxon charter, dating from 692-3 and written unfortunately in 
Latin. It contains however a good number of proper names. 
Now these names show two examples of the Northumbrian and 
Midland change F 1, four examples of the Northumbrian, Midland 
and Kentish change ^>f (F 2) as against one example of a? 
preserved, and two examples of the Kentish change cb > e 
(E 2). There are no examples of any of the West Saxon 
sound-changes (Table D), except one case of D 5, a change 
however which occurs also in the Kentish and Midland dialects. 
The forms as a whole show a remarkable resemblance to those 
of the Epinal Glossary, and I have elsewhere given reasons for 
believing that the latter is derived from an East Saxon text 1 . 
In both cases the dialect seems to lie midway between Kentish 
and Northumbrian, or rather between Kentish and the East 
Midland dialects, for specific characteristics of the Northumbrian 
dialect do not occur, while the confusion of eo and in, which 
appears also in Epinal, is alien to the early texts of that dialect. 
Some confirmation of this conclusion may be obtained from the 
East Saxon genealogy published in Sweet's Oldest English Texts, 
p. 179, and which we may reasonably suppose to be ultimately of 
East Saxon origin. In this genealogy we may particularly note 
three examples of e from ea (cza) through palatalisation (E, F3), 
while in regard to monophthongisation its evidence, like that of 
the Epinal glossary, is inconsistent. 

1 op. cit. p. 249 ff. 


It thus appears that, so far as our evidence goes, the affinities 
of the early East Saxon dialect lay with Kentish on the one 
side and with the East Midland dialects on the other, and not 
with West Saxon at all. This result is what might naturally be 
expected if, as we have been led to conclude, the dialectical 
variations of the English language came into existence at a time 
considerably subsequent to the invasion. The formation of the 
dialects is thus probably to be attributed to political divisions, 
while their affinities seem to be determined by geographical 
proximity, independently of any consideration as to whether the 
neighbouring kingdoms were Saxon, Anglian or Jutish. The 
evidence of the Midland dialects enables us to bridge over the 
gap between Northumbrian and Kentish, and the evidence of 
the South Saxon charter quoted above, so far as it goes, helps 
to link Kentish with West Saxon. Had we more information 
concerning the Mercian and Hwiccian dialects we should 
probably be able to trace the connection between Northumbrian 
and West Saxon in the same way. The conclusion therefore to 
which we are brought is that, while the linguistic evidence as 
a whole is of value for determining the relationship of the people 
who invaded Britain to the Teutonic nations of the Continent, 
the dialects prove absolutely nothing as to the presence of 
different nationalities among the invaders. 

It may perhaps be said that we have confined our attention 
to phonetic changes and left the case of inflections out of 
account. As a matter of fact however the inflectional variations 
observable in texts earlier than the tenth century are very slight. 
Moreover they are almost all due either to the progress of 
simplification (syncretism) in the verbal and nominal systems 
(e.g. the loss of the I. sing. Pres. Indie, in West Saxon) or to 
assimilation between the different classes of conjugational or 
declensional stems. On such variations it is clear that no stress 
can be laid. Examples of the retention in different dialects of 
originally different inflectional forms are extremely rare. The 
most important case is that of the Gen. Dat. sing. fern, and Gen. 
pi. of the demonstrative pronoun, which show two parallel stems, 
\ez- and \aiz-, corresponding to the forms used in German and 
Scandinavian respectively. The former series appears in the 


Northumbrian and East Midland dialects and the latter in West 
Saxon and other Midland dialects (Mercian ?), while Kentish 
texts vary between the two. I doubt very much however 
whether anything can be built on this variation, especially as it 
is probable that the J^-stem originally belonged to the Gen. 
Dat. sing. fern, and the )>aiz-stem to the Gen. pi. 

On the other hand it is quite possible that the dialects may 
have differed considerably in vocabulary. Owing however to 
the paucity of early evidence, except for West Saxon, it is 
impossible to speak with certainty on this question. The 
vocabularies of poetic and prose works differ of course greatly, 
but that is the case in all Teutonic languages. There is one 
striking fact however which deserves to be mentioned in this 
place. The terminology of the Kentish laws is very different 
indeed from that of the West Saxon laws, even from those of 
Ine, the earliest of the latter. It is worth while here to note 
a few of these differences. Thus we find dryhteu, ' lord,' against 
W. Sax. hlaford, eorl (eorlcitnd), ' nobleman,' against W. Sax. 
gesid (gesidcund), leodgeld or leod, ' wergeld,' against W. Sax. 
wergild or wer, cann (gecaennan), 'exculpation,' against W. Sax. 
lad (ladian), \ing and maedl ' meeting ' (but apparently different 
kinds of meetings) against W. Sax. gemot. Again the Kentish 
laws contain a number of words which do not occur elsewhere, 
e.g. laadrinc, drihtinbeag, hlafaeta, laet, manwyrd, stermelda, 
freolsgefa, unlaegne. In several of these cases the meaning is 
not exactly known, a fact which is one of the chief sources of 
difficulty in the interpretation of the Kentish laws. But it is 
a question whether we are justified in assuming that these 
differences of terminology are due to original differences of 
language. The laws of Aethelberht are considerably older than 
any other code which we possess, and it is possible that some of 
the words which appear in the later Kentish laws were becoming 
antiquated. Thus, e.g., dryhten is an old poetic word which 
appears in other Teutonic languages and which has clearly been 
displaced by the specifically English word hlaford. In the 
latest of the Kentish laws, those of Wihtred, we actually find 
gesidcund, apparently in place of eorlcund. It is not unlikely 
therefore that the peculiarities of terminology observable in the 


Kentish laws are due, to some extent at least, to their greater 

The next class of evidence which we have to take into 
Archaeoiogica! account is that of archaeology. This subject is for 
evidence. several reasons peculiarly difficult to deal with. 

In the first place, the remains of Anglo-Saxon antiquity have 
been treated with the greatest negligence in the past. Secondly, 
no comprehensive catalogues have yet been made. Further, 
many of those who have discussed the subject have been 
ignorant of the Anglo-Saxon language and literature and thus 
have been led to classify their materials according to the lines 
laid down by historians. Consequently, important as the subject 
undoubtedly is, the conclusions which have as yet been put 
forward must be received with caution. 

It is frequently stated that in pre-Christian times the Angles 
practised cremation and the Saxons inhumation. Both customs 
were known to the Teutonic nations of the Continent, but 
from the fourth century onwards cremation began to pass out of 
use among those which were settled nearest to the Roman 
frontiers. In Scandinavian lands it was apparently still 
practised in the sixth century 1 , but in the Viking age it seems 
to have been generally given up except in certain districts, 
especially the part of Jutland which lies north of the Liimfjord. 
The last (Teutonic) instances come from Russia, where it 
appears to have been still in use during the early part of the 
tenth century. It is plain then that most Teutonic nations 
changed their practice in regard to the disposal of the dead 
before they adopted Christianity. In spite of this however, if 
the evidence for the Angles and Saxons was consistent, the 
distinction would undoubtedly be of considerable importance. 
But as a matter of fact this is not the case. In the first place it 
is now universally recognised that the Angles practised inhuma- 
tion as well as cremation. The question at issue therefore is 
whether the Saxons did or did not practise cremation. Un- 

1 But inhumation appears to have been known in all parts of Denmark from the 
Roman period onwards. In Sjselland it is believed to have been the more usual 
custom ; cf. S. Miiller, Nordische Altertumskunde (Germ. Transl.), n. pp. 71 ff., 102 ff. 


doubted cases occur in Kent and the Isle of Wight, but these of 
course maybe attributed to the Jutes. The cremation cemeteries 
at Croydon and Beddington are also perhaps inconclusive, since 
these places are near the Kentish border. Other examples 
however have been found at Walton-on-Thames and at 
Shepperton in the extreme south-west of Middlesex 1 , where the 
presence of Jutes is improbable. Moreover it is at least possible 
that several instances of cremation dating from the Anglo-Saxon 
period have been found in Essex, though owing to the fact that 
no careful observations were made not one of these cases is free 
from doubt. Hampshire (apart from the Isle of Wight) and 
Hertfordshire appear to have yielded no examples as yet ; but 
it should be noted that the number of cemeteries found in these 
counties is extremely small. In Sussex traces of cremation 
have been found in two Saxon cemeteries 2 . It is held that the 
remains in question date from pre-Saxon times (the bronze age 
or the Roman period) ; but one would like to know whether the 
evidence on this point is really conclusive. Lastly, in the upper 
part of the Thames valley the practice was certainly prevalent, 
especially in Berkshire 3 . In particular we may note the large 
cemetery at Long Wittenham, near Abingdon, which yielded no 
less than forty-six urns with burnt remains. 

In the present state of our knowledge therefore I do not 
think that we are justified in concluding more than that 
cremation was less common in the southern districts, whether 
Saxon or Jutish, than in those further north. This fact however 
does not necessarily involve our supposing that the inhabitants 
of the northern and southern districts were originally of different 
nationalities. The prevalence of inhumation in the south may 
equally well be due to Continental influence, for the Franks had 
apparently given up cremation some considerable time before 

1 Victoria History of Surrey, I. pp. 2588"., 268. 

2 Victoria History of Sussex, 1. pp. 337, 338 and note 5. 

3 viz. at Long Wittenham (Archaeologia xxxvui. 331 ff., xxxix. 135 ff.), Frilford 
(id. XLII. 417 ff., XLV. 405 f.), Earley, near Reading (Journal of the Brit. Arch. Ass., 
L. 150), and possibly at East Shefford (Proceedings of the Soc. of Ant., XIII. 107 f.). 
One case was found at Fairford, Gloucestershire, and several at Brighthampton, 
Oxfordshire (Archaeologia xxxiv. 80, xxxvn. 391 ff., xxxvm. 84 ff). For several 
of these references I have to thank Mr T. J. George. 


their conversion at the end of the fifth century, and we have 

already seen (p. 17) that brooches and other articles found in 

southern cemeteries give evidence for a considerable amount of 

intercourse with that nation. 

Another distinction between Anglian and Saxon cemeteries 

has been traced in the different types of brooches found in them. 

Besides the varieties mentioned on p. 17, which are believed to 

have been imported or copied from Continental models, there 

are four more or less common types of brooches found in heathen 

Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, namely the a_nnular, the square-headed, 

the cupelliform (saucer-shaped), and the cruciform. The two 

former are found both in the northern and southern counties as 

well as on the Continent. The cruciform type, of which there 

are several varieties, is generally said to be peculiar to the more 

northern parts of England, beginning with Bedfordshire. A 

number of specimens however have recently been found in 

Sussex 1 . Outside this country it occurs in Slesvig, Denmark 

and Sweden, and more especially in Norway, where it is very 

common 2 . On the other hand, cupelliform brooches are believed 

not to occur outside this country at all, and it has been stated 

that they are found only in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and 

Gloucestershire. Now the theory has been put forward and 

gained much currency that the cruciform brooch was distinctive 

of the Angles and the cupelliform of the Saxons. But in order 

to obtain any semblance of probability for this theory it is surely 

necessary to show that the cupelliform brooch was used in Essex 

and in the counties south of the Thames valley. Yet little 

1 Archaeologia LIV. 377 f. 

2 According to Undset, Aard^ger f. nord. Oldkyndighed, 1880, p. 150, the 
specimens found in Norway up to the time of writing numbered 160. Danish 
museums contained fifteen specimens, of which nine were known to have come from 
Jutland and Slesvig and two from Fyen (id., p. 173, note). The Kiel museum 
possessed twenty specimens which had been found at Borgstedterfeld, between 
Rendsburg and Eckernforde (id., p. 130 f. ; cf. Mestorf, Umenfriedh'dfe in Schleswig- 
Holstcin, p. 696°. and PI. IX.), while others had been found at Perleberg, near Stade. 
According to the same authority (I.e.) these districts were the original home of the 
type, though, since Stade seems to be its extreme limit, the expression 'egnene ved 
Elbens munding' is surely somewhat misleading. The cruciform brooches oc- 
casionally found in southern Germany (cf. Lindenschmidt, Die Alterthumer unscrer 
heidnischen Vorzeit, I. 2, Taf. VIII, figs. 8, 9) appear to be of a different type. 


evidence to this effect has been brought forward up to now 1 . 
Moreover the facts as to its occurrence in the Midlands have 
been incorrectly stated. Numerous examples have been found 
in Bedfordshire 2 , Northamptonshire 3 and Cambridgeshire 4 ; 
isolated cases also in Huntingdonshire and Rutland 5 — all Anglian 
districts. From the evidence at our disposal therefore the only 
justifiable inference, so far as I can see, is that this type of 
brooch was not distinctively Saxon but a local peculiarity of the 
southern Midlands. Indeed the fact that it is found chiefly in 
districts which probably did not come into English hands before 
the latter part of the sixth century rather suggests that it may 
have been ultimately of British origin. But this is a question 
which must be left for experts in technology to decide. 

The last subjects which remain to be discussed are the 
sociological political and social systems of ancient England, 
evidence. yj^ ev i<-i ence f or t h e existence of kings goes back 

to the beginning of historical times in all the Teutonic commu- 
nities of Britain. Procopius (Goth. IV. 20) speaks of kings 
in the time of Theodberht, and the traditions carry the 
institution back to the first invaders. Whether royalty was 
known before this time or not is a question to which we shall 

1 In Berkshire specimens have frequently been found, rarely, however, in Wilt- 
shire or Hampshire; cf. Archaeologies. XXXV. 268 (near Salisbury), XXXVII. 1 1 3 f . 
(Kemble), Proc. Soc. Ant., xix. 125 ff. (Droxford). A few are said to have been 
found also in Sussex {Vict. Hist., I. pp. 339, 343). 

2 Victoria History of Bedfordshire, I. p. 180. 

3 The Northampton museum possesses twenty-six specimens found within the 
county, viz. nineteen (seven pairs) at Duston, one at Northampton, one pair at 
Newnham, one pair at Marston St Lawrence and one pair at Holdenby. In all these t 
places brooches of 'Anglian' type were also found. For this information also I am 
indebted to the kindness of Mr T. J. George. 

4 The Cambridge museum possesses fourteen brooches (seven pairs) of this type, 
twelve of which were found at Barrington and two at Haslingfield. Other specimens I 
have been found at Barrington. 

5 Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 1899, pp. 347, 349 ; Associated 
Architectural Societies' Reports, XXVII. p. 225. For these references I have to thank 
Mr V. B. Crowther-Beynon. The brooch figured by Akerman, Pagan Saxondom, 
PI. viii. 2, 3, from Driffield, Yorkshire, seems to be of a very similar type. 
Specimens have also been found in Warwickshire (Vict. Hist., 1. 262) and Worcester- 
shire (Vict. Hist., 1. 228). 


have to return in a later chapter. At all events there is no 
evidence for any difference between the Saxon, Anglian and 
Jutish communities in this respect. The same remark applies 
in o-eneral to the various officials in the service of the kines. 

It is only when we come to consider the structure of society 
that we find at last a remarkable difference between the 
kingdoms of Wessex and Kent. The population of the former 
kingdom was divided into three hereditary classes which bore the 
names twelfhynde, sixhynde and twihynde from the amount of their 
wergelds, viz. 1200, 600 and 200 shillings respectively. The two 
higher classes were also called gesidatnd, ' noble,' while the 
name usually applied to members of the lowest class was ceorl. 
The difference between the twelfhynde and sixhynde classes 
seems to have lain in the fact that the former, either as 
individuals or families, held land to the extent of five hides — 
which practically means possession of a village — while the latter 
were landless, i.e. without this amount of land. Below the ceorl 
came the free Welsh population with wergelds ranging from 60 sh. 
to 120 sh., except in the case of horsemen in the king's service 
and persons who held five hides of land, the wergelds of whom 
were 200 sh. and 600 sh. respectively. In Kent we likewise meet 
with three classes of society, but they are not the same. The 
terms applied to members of the three classes were eorlcund man 
' nobleman,' ceorl or frig man, ' freeman,' and lact respectively. 
The last word does not occur elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon 
literature, but there can be little doubt that it is identical with 
the term litus, lazzus etc. which appears frequently in the 
Continental laws. The persons described by this term seem to 
have been freedmen or at all events persons without the full 
rights of freemen. The wergelds of the three Kentish classes 
were : for the eorlcund man 300 sh., for the ceorl 100 sh., and for 
the laet 80, 60 or 40 sh. 

It is not the differences of terminology between the two 
systems which chiefly deserve our attention. As a matter of fact 
we have seen that the West Saxon term gesidcund appears in 
Wihtred's laws, the latest of the Kentish codes, while ceorl is 
common to both systems. The points to which our attention 
should especially be directed are the following: (i) The West. 


Saxon nobility were divided into two classes ; we have no 
evidence for such a division in Kent, (ii) In Kent we find a 
class or classes of persons below the ordinary freemen ; there is 
no evidence for such classes in Wessex (apart from the Welsh 
population), (hi) There is an extraordinary difference in the 
amounts of the wergelds. This fact will be best appreciated by 
giving the various sums according to the number of silver coins 
they contained and according to their purchasing power in live- 
stock. At the beginning of the tenth century the West Saxon 
shilling contained five pence and the ox was worth thirty pence. 
The wergelds therefore would be as follows : 

1 200 sh. = 6ooo pence = 200 oxen. 
600 sh. = 3000 pence =100 oxen. 

200 sh. = 1000 pence = 33^ oxen. 

In Ine's time the shilling seems to have contained only four pence 
and the ox was probably valued at six shillings. The number 
of pence contained in the wergelds therefore would be 4800, 
2400 and 800 respectively, while the figures in oxen would be 
the same as in later times. Now the Kentish shilling was 
at first probably a gold coin (the Roman solidus). In Aethel- 
berht's laws however it is equated with twenty silver coins 
{sceattas), which cannot have differed much in standard from the 
West Saxon penny. Consequently the number of coins contained 
in the wergelds would be : for the noble 6000, for the* freeman 
2000, and for the laet 1600, 1200 and 800, even in the seventh 
century ; while reckoned in live-stock the same wergelds would in 
the time of Wihtred, Ine's contemporary, amount presumably to 
about 250 oxen, 83^ oxen etc. But in Kent the amount of the 
wergelds in money was fixed as early as the time of Aethelberht, 
when the ox was probably valued at a shilling. Hence the number 
of oxen would originally be 300 for the noble and 100 for the 
freeman. It is true of course that if the West Saxon wergelds 
were fixed in money at this early time, the original numbers 
of oxen would be 240, 120, and 40. But we have no evidence 
that this was the case. At all events it is clear that the wergeld 
of the Kentish ceorl or freeman was originally at least two and 
a half times, and more probably three times, as great as that of 
the West Saxon ceorl. 


But this extraordinary difference is not confined to the case 
of wergelds. It is still more conspicuous in the payments known 
as mund or mundbyrd. These words literally mean ' protection ' 
{tittela), but they are applied also to the sums due as compensa- 
tion to a man for trespass, bloodshed and other unlawful acts 
committed in places or against persons under his protection. In 
Wessex the mund of the twelfhynde class seems to have been 
valued at 30 — 36 sh., that of the sixhynde class at 15 — 18 sh., and 
that of the ceorl at 5 — 6 sh. The variation between 5 — 6 etc. is 
probably to be explained by a change in the value of the ox. 
If so, the original payments were six oxen, three oxen, and one 
ox respectively. In Kent on the other hand the corresponding 
payments were for the ceorl 6 sh. and for the noble apparently 
12 sh. If what has been said above is correct these sums 
originally meant six oxen and twelve oxen. The difference 
therefore is still greater than in the case of the wergelds. Again, 
if we turn to compensations for bodily injuries we find, e.g.. that 
the payment due to a ceorl for the loss of an eye or foot is in 
Wessex 66| sh., i.e. 266 (later 333) coins, and in Kent 50 sh., i.e. 
1000 coins. Similar differences run through all scales of 
payments contained in the laws. 

So far we have taken account only of the social systems of 
Wessex and Kent. The evidence available for Mercia and 
Northumbria is unfortunately of a fragmentary character, while 
for the other kingdoms there is no evidence at all. In regard to 
wergelds Mercian and West Saxon custom did not differ at all 
except (in later times) in the value of the shilling, which in 
Mercia always contained four pence. In the seventh century 
therefore the wergelds would be identical. Even the same 
terms, at all events tzvelfhynde as well as ceorl, were applied to 
the social classes of both kingdoms. On payments for mund we 
have little information, but the slight indications which we have 
point to the same sums as in Wessex. It may be added that the 
system of compurgation used in the two kingdoms seems to have 
been very similar if not identical, whereas the Kentish system, 
though far from clear, was certainly of a very different character. 

The Northumbrian evidence is more difficult to deal with, 
partly because a different monetary system seems to have been 


in use in that kingdom and partly because we are almost entirely- 
dependent on fragments of ancient custom which have been 
preserved in the later Danish and Scottish laws. In the 
Northleoda Lagu, a code which dates from the time of Scandi- 
navian government in this part of the country, the ceorl's 
wergeld is said to have been 266 thrymsas. The thryms seems 
originally to have contained three silver coins of lower standard 
than those of Mercia (a scripulum or \"]\ gr. as against the 
siliqua or 21 gr.) ; in later times however it probably meant 
three pence. The ceorl's wergeld was therefore the same (800 
pence) as in Mercia. A much later Scottish law 1 , which reckons 
in ores of sixteen pence, gives the same wergeld at 48 ores. 
The apparent difference between the two amounts is probably 
due to confusion of reckoning by weight and reckoning by tale. 
According to the same Scottish law the thegn's wergeld was 300 
ores, i.e. 4800 pence. In Archbishop Ecgberht's Dialogus the 
priest's wergeld, which elsewhere is identical with that of the 
thegn, is fixed at 800 sicli. As the siclus contained six scripula 
and the early Northumbrian coins were of this standard, this 
wergeld likewise would contain 4800 coins. It is extremely 
probable therefore that the Northumbrian wergelds were origin- 
ally identical in regard to the number of coins they contained 
(though not in weight) with those of Mercia. It is true that we 
cannot prove the existence of a Northumbrian class with a 
wergeld corresponding to that of the sixhynde class ; but this may 
be due to the meagreness of our information. In the other cases 
the correspondence is all the more striking in view of the fact 
that the two kingdoms had entirely different monetary systems. 
Beyond this we know very little of ancient Northumbrian custom. 
Ecgberht's Dialogus shows however that their system of compur- 
gation was similar to that of Mercia and Wessex and that their 
nobility was hereditary. It may be added that the Welsh 
population seem to have had much the same wergelds as in Wessex. 
There is no trace of any class corresponding to the Kentish laet- 
class either in Northumbria or Mercia. 

So far then as our evidence goes the social systems of Wessex, 
Mercia and Northumbria appear to have been very similar — 

1 Cf. Seebohm, Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, p. 307 ff. 




indeed we may say practically identical. Hence the peculiar 
character of the Kentish system, standing as it does in marked 
contrast with the other three, strikes us as all the more remark- 
able How then are these facts to be explained ? It may 
perhaps be urged that Kent was the richest of the English 
kingdoms at the beginning of historical times ; but this explana- 
tion is manifestly inadequate. Moreover; when we come to 
compare the English social systems with those of Teutonic 
nations outside this country, we see that it is not the Kentish 
system but that of the other three kingdoms which is really 
exceptional. It will be convenient here to give a table of the 
wergelds which were in use among the more northern of the 
Continental nations : 


Old Saxons 
Lex Angliorum 
et Werinorum 


320 sol. 
io6j-; sol. 
960 sol. 1 

600 sol. 


Litus or freedman 

-00 sol P>oo sol 1 l litus ioosol.(LexSal.) 

_oo soh L20 ° S01,J {freedman 3 6sol.(Lex Rib.) 

240,200, 1 60 [160] sol. freedman 80 sol. 

160 sol. [160 sol.] freedman 40 sol. 

531 [160] sol. 
[160 sol.] 

200 sol. 

litus 265 sol. 
litus 120 sol. 

freedman 80 sol. 

The figures in square brackets are the amounts stated in the 
Lex Ribuaria, cap. 36, to be payable in cases where a Frisian, 
Saxon, Alaman or Bavarian was killed by a Frank. The Frisian 
wergelds given above are those fixed for the East Frisian 
district (between the Lauwer Zee and the Weser) by the Lex 
Frisonum. From a comparison with the Lex Rib. 36 and other 
sources it seems extremely probable that they have been reduced 
by two-thirds, perhaps in consequence of the substitution by the 
Franks of the silver solidus (of twelve denarii) for the gold solidus 
(originally forty denarii) ; for the latter appears to have remained 
in use for a longer period among the Frisians. In the case of 
the Old Saxons the passage in the Lex Ribuaria is our only 
authority for the amount of the freeman's wergeld, for through a 
singular oversight this wergeld is not stated in the Lex Saxonum. 

1 The amount stated is 1440 sol. of two tremisses. 
solidi of three tremisses. 

Elsewhere the reckoning is in 


One can hardly help feeling some suspicion at the small differ- 
ence between it and the wergeld of the litus, especially in view 
of the gradations in fines, etc. applicable to the two orders. 
Lastly, in regard to the Franks it is generally held that one- 
third of the wergeld was paid to the judicial authority {pro f redo) 
as in the Lex Chamauorum. The amount distributed among 
the relatives would therefore be only 133^ sol. 1 . 

With the possible exception of the Lex Angliorum et Werin- 
orum all these wergelds are expressed in gold solid i. The 
amount of the freeman's wergeld is therefore in every case 
considerably greater even than that of the Kentish freeman. 
What we have to determine however is the purchasing power (in 
live-stock) of these sums at the time when the wergelds were first 
fixed in gold. Now in the Lex Rib. 36 and the Lex Sax. 34 
the price of the ox is said to be two (gold) solidi. It is to be 
remembered however that the Lex Saxonum dates in all 
probability from the ninth century, while, though the Lex 
Ribuaria is much older, the greater part of cap. 36 is believed to 
be a late interpolation. In the Lex Alamannorum, which dates 
probably from 709 — 730, the price of the ox (cap. 80) is said to 
be five tremisses (for the best ox) or four tremisses (for the 
average ox). If we take the latter as the standard the Frankish 
freeman's wergeld would originally amount to 100 oxen, while 
that of the other nations would be 120 oxen. In any case 
however, even supposing that the price of the ox fixed by the 
Lex Alamannorum was exceptionally low for its time — a hypo- 
thesis for which there does not seem to be sufficient justification 
— it is clear that the freeman's wergeld in all these nations was 
originally of the Kentish type. It is further worth noting that 
the Lex Angliorum et Werinorum, a document which we shall 
have to discuss in the next chapter, agrees with the Kentish 
laws in assigning the noble a wergeld three times as great as that 

1 This view is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the table in Lex Rib. 36, for it 
is known that among the Alamanni and Bavarians at least the payment pro /redo (40 
sol.) was not included in the wergeld (160 sol.). The passage in question is generally 
believed to be a late interpolation, subsequent to the Frankish conquest of the Frisians 
and Saxons. But in any case one would hardly have expected persons belonging to 
these nations to be allowed a higher wergeld than the native Franks. 


of the freeman. Among the Old Saxons the difference between 
the two wergelds must have been greater than this, whether we 
take the statement of the Lex Ribuaria as representing the true 
wergeld of the Saxon freeman or not. Among the Frisians and 
Bavarians, on the other hand, the wergeld of the noble is only 
twice as great as that of the freeman. The Franks and Alamanni 1 
appear to have had no hereditary nobility, strictly speaking, 
though royal (ducal) officials had triple wergelds. 

The wergelds-of the Scandinavian laws- were always reckoned 
according to the national weight-system. The units were the 
ore (O. Norse ej'rir), roughly equivalent to our ounce, and the 
mark, the latter containing eight ores. In early times however 
the weight of the ore was not constant. Originally it seems to 
have been the silver equivalent of the Roman gold solidus (also 
called aureus, whence the name eyrir) ; but at quite an early 
date the Roman standard must have been displaced by that of 
the Frankish solidus, which was slightly lower 3 . The wergeld 
of the freeman was about 15 (silver) marks or 120 ores in 
Denmark, Iceland, and at least part of Norway. That of the 
freedman was 60 ores in Denmark and about 40 ores in 
Iceland, while in Norway there were wergelds of 40, 6o, and 
80 ores for different classes of freedmen. In Norway the holdr 
or hereditary landowner had a wergeld of about 240 ores, a sum 
which is also found as the amount of a wergeld in Iceland. 
Royal officials in Norway had higher wergelds of 480 and 960 
ores, while in Iceland we find wergelds of 720 ores for distinguished 
persons. So far as we can judge from the evidence at our 
disposal, viz. the native traditions and the custom of the Danelagh 
in England, it seems to have been usual in early times to reckon 
wergelds in gold. Now the gold weight of the freeman's wergeld 

1 It is sometimes held that the Alamannic wergelds of 240 and 100 sol. belonged 
to different classes of nobility. No evidence however seems to be obtainable on this 

2 Cf. my Studies on Anglo-Saxon Institutions, p. 392 ff., where this subject is 
discussed at greater length. 

3 The standards of the ore known to us from the eleventh century and earlier are 
(i) about 375 — 378 gr., (ii) about 430— 440 gr., (iii) about 490 — 500 gr. These seem to 
represent the weight of the Frankish solidus multiplied by 6, 7, and 8 respectively 
according to the varying ratio in the relative value of silver and gold. 

6 — 2 


was very nearly the same as that of the West Saxon sixhyndc 
class, viz. ioo mancusas (62 — 63 gr. x 120 as against 70 gr. x 100). 
The latter was also identical with that of the Kentish ceorl if we 
are right in believing that the Kentish shilling was originally 
the Roman gold solidus, a coin which was of the same standard 
as the mancus. The price of live-stock in the North is un- 
fortunately not known to us from early times ; but we need 
hardly doubt that the equation of the gold solidus or ounce of 
silver with the ox or cow, which we find both in England and 
Ireland, prevailed at one time in the North 1 . I suspect that the 
wergeld of 120 ores originally meant 120 cows or 100 oxen ; but 
it would hardly be possible to prove this. At all events it is 
clear that the freeman's wergeld was of the Kentish or 
Continental type and very much greater than that of the West 
Saxon or Mercian ceorl. Incidentally we may note the existence 
of a class of hereditary landowners and of a class or classes of 
freedmen. The treatment of the latter in regard to wergelds 
shows, at least in Norway, close affinity to the Kentish laws. 

As the evidence obtained from a comparison of the social 
systems is of great importance for determining the affinities of 
the English people, it will be convenient here to recapitulate 
the various points of resemblance noted above. The Kentish 
system agrees with all the Continental and Scandinavian systems 
which we have examined in possessing a class of persons, liti or 
freedmen, who were valued above the slave 2 but below the 
ordinary freeman. A hereditary nobility appears in both the 
English systems and also among the Frisians, Old Saxons and 
Bavarians and in the Lex Angliorum et Werinorum. The case 
of the Bavarians however ought really to be excluded, as the 
nobility of this nation was limited to six families. In Wessex 
and Mercia we find a distinction between the landowning and 
the landless nobility, to which the distinction between the 
freeman and the holdr in Norway may be somewhat parallel. 
Lastly, in regard to the amount of the freeman's wergeld, the 

1 It is worth noting that the price of a slave was about the same in Iceland as in 
England (twelve ores or one pound). 

2 The value of the slave is 36 sol. in the Lex Ribuaria, 30 sol. in the Lex Angl. et 
Werin., 20 sol. in the Lex Baiuwariorum. 


custom of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria stands quite 
isolated, while the Kentish system agrees with those both of the 
Continent and the North. 

This short survey of the evidence is sufficient to show that 
the characteristics which distinguish the Kentish social system 
from that of the other kingdoms have not arisen out of any 
modifications of the latter. Indeed it is the other system which 
presents striking peculiarities in more than one respect. Here 
we need notice only the absence of the freedman or litus-class 
and the fact that the freeman has what is practically a freedman's 
wergeld. For an explanation of these peculiarities we have no 
other course than argument from analogy. The Welsh popula- 
tion within the English kingdoms had, as we have seen (p. yy), 
very small wergelds. There can scarcely be any doubt that this 
was a result of conquest ; for the wergelds recognised in the 
Welsh laws themselves are much higher 1 . A somewhat parallel 
phenomenon may be observed in the English Danelagh, where 
the Danish wergelds, both of the freeman and the holdr, seem to 
have been doubled as a result of the Danish conquest of 
Northumbria. The objection to this hypothesis is that we have 
no evidence either from history or tradition for any conquest 
which would be capable of producing such results. Indeed it 
may be said with certainty that no such conquest can have 
taken place after the invasion of Britain. It may, however, have 
taken place before the invasion, and as a matter of fact the 
remembrance of some such event seems to have been preserved 
in a tradition recorded by Saxo (p. 51), to which we shall have 
to return later. 

The evidence of the social systems confirms in a striking 
manner Bede's statement that the inhabitants of Kent were 
of a different nationality from those of the surrounding 
kingdoms. We have seen that the historical evidence gives no 
confirmation of this statement, while the linguistic evidence is 
worthless. In the light of the facts pointed out above, however, 
there can be no doubt as to its accuracy. We have dealt of 
course in the above discussion only with the question of 
1 Cf. Seebohm, Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, p. 55. 


monetary compensations. One would naturally expect from the 
greater value of the Kentish freeman that his economic position 
was better than that of persons of the corresponding class in the 
other kingdoms, and also that he enjoyed a greater degree of 
independence. There seem to be indications that such actually 
was the case, but the amount of evidence at our disposal for the 
discussion of these questions is extremely small. With the pecu- 
liarities of Kentish custom observable in later times, especially 
in regard to tenure of land 1 , I am not qualified to deal. The 
characteristics pointed out above, however, are in themselves 
sufficient confirmation of Bede's statement that the Kentish 
people were of a distinct nationality. At the same time we are 
bound to conclude from the historical evidence that this fact was 
forgotten very early. Indeed it seems probable that the source 
from which Bede derived his information was the same early 
document from which he obtained the story of Hengest and 

On the other hand, the evidence of the social systems has 
totally failed to substantiate the distinction drawn by Bede 
between the Saxons and the Angles. We have seen that though 
Bede himself appears to have been more careful in observing 
this distinction than the other, it was regarded just as little by 
his contemporaries. Moreover, there is the inexplicable fact 
that West Saxon writers, including King Alfred himself, called 
their language Englisc and regarded their nation as part of the 
Angelcyn. The linguistic evidence, as we have seen, again points 
to no original differences. Now comes the overwhelming- fact 
that a social system, of a type unique among Teutonic nations 
and differing essentially even from that of Kent, is common to 
the Saxon kingdom of Wessex and the Anglian kingdoms of 
Mercia and Northumbria. Until further evidence is forthcoming 
therefore, whether from the archaeological side or elsewhere, I 
think we are bound to conclude that the distinction drawn by Bede 
in this case had no solid foundation, in other words, that it was 
the result of a theory. The materials for forming such a theory 
were ready to hand in the existence of the names Wessex, Essex 
and Sussex on the one side, and East Anglia and Middle Anglia 

1 In later times Kent is said to have been free from villainage. 


on the other. Hence it required little ingenuity to make two 
peoples of the Angles and Saxons. In regard to Bede's use of 
such expressions as Saxonitm lingua we have to remember that 
he appears to have travelled very little. It is quite possible 
therefore that he was not aware of the fact that the West Saxons 
called their language Englisc. 

The names Essex, Sussex, Wessex, East Anglia, etc. of 
course require some explanation. It is not necessary to suppose 
that they are of very great antiquity. Bede himself says that 
the West Saxons were formerly called Geuissae. When the 
kingdom of East Anglia was spoken of in early times the word 
used may have been Wuffiugas, just as we find Merewioinga 
used for Francna in Beowulf and Scaldingi (i.e. Skioldungar) for 
Dani in the Historia de S. Cuthberto. I do not mean to suggest, 
however, that the term ' Saxon ' was wholly of Latin or Celtic 
origin. Let us take the only clue to a difference of nationality 
which has presented itself in the course of our discussion. We 
have seen that the dynasty of Essex appears to have been of a 
different stock from the other dynasties, and one which we may 
probably regard as genuinely Saxon. Is it not possible that 
the people may have derived their name from the dynasty ? 
Against this explanation it may of course be urged that the 
West Saxon dynasty was probably not Saxon. But we have 
seen that the account given in the Chronicle of the West Saxon 
invasion is at the best a very doubtful story, and that probability 
rather favours the idea that Wessex was an offshoot from Essex 
or Sussex. Unfortunately the genealogy of the South Saxon 
dynasty is unknown. If they were a Saxon family the difficulty 
in the way of this explanation largely disappears. According 
to Bede Aelle's supremacy extended over all the English 
kingdoms south of the Humber, but in the districts which later 
were called Essex, Sussex and W'essex — if any part of the latter 
was already in the hands of the invaders — he may very well 
have been the sole ruler. But this explanation does not 
necessarily depend on the assumption that the South Saxon 
dynasty was really Saxon. Aelle is said to have been the only 
king who held supremacy over the other kingdoms until the 


time of Ceawlin, i.e. the latter half of the sixth century. There- 
fore, whether we accept the statements of the Chronicle as to 
the date of Aelle's reign or not, it is clear that there must have 
been a considerable interval or intervals during which the 
invaders were not united under one head. But there is no need 
to suppose that the kingdoms were all independent during these 
intervals. From the geographical position of the Saxon king- 
doms it is inherently probable that they would as a rule be 
more or less united, and as Essex was in early times no doubt 
the most populous of these kingdoms, it is likely enough that 
its kings were usually supreme over the others. 

I suspect then that the use of the term Saxon in reference to 
the southern kingdoms is to be attributed to the political 
supremacy of a family or families which were of specifically 
Saxon origin. We must not assume that these families were 
necessarily alien to the people whom they governed, for it is 
quite possible that the apparent homogeneity of the nation, even 
in the earliest historical times, had arisen from the coalition of 
originally distinct elements. The only conclusion which the 
evidence seems to me to force upon us is that the people of the 
' Saxon ' kingdoms as a whole were not of a distinct nationality 
from those of the ' Anglian ' kingdoms. Hence, if we are right 
in supposing. that the kingdom of Wessex arose out of a secession 
from Sussex or Essex, presumably under the leadership of 
persons who had been in the service of the South Saxon or 
East Saxon kings, we need no longer regard it as unintelligible 
that these persons should claim to be of the same stock as the 
royal family of Bernicia. 

To sum up briefly, the conclusion to which we have been 
brought is that the invaders of Britain belonged not to three but 
to two distinct nationalities, which we may call Jutish and Anglo- 
Saxon. The former occupied Kent and southern Hampshire, 
the latter the rest of the conquered territory. The people of 
Kent soon adopted the name Cantware in place of their own 
national name, and the fact that they were of a different 
nationality from the rest of the invaders had apparently ceased 
to be a matter of general knowledge even before the eighth 


century. The Jutes of southern Hampshire were eventually 
swallowed up in Wessex. The Anglo-Saxons may not originally 
have been a homogeneous people — that is a question which we 
shall have to discuss in the following chapters — but there is no 
evidence that any national difference survived at the time when 
they invaded Britain. By alien peoples they were all called 
Saxons, but the names which they applied to themselves and 
their language were Angelcyn and Englisc. 



In the last chapter we saw that according to Bede the 
invaders of Britain came from three of the bravest nations 
of Germany, the Saxons, Angli and Iutae. When subjected 
to examination the distinction drawn by Bede between the two 
former names has turned out to be elusive. Yet we have to 
remember that the invaders were called Saxons by the natives, 
and even by themselves occasionally when writing in Latin, 
that three of their kingdoms bore this name, and that at least 
one dynasty seems really to have been of Saxon origin. It 
is clearly necessary therefore that in considering the early 
history of our nation we should take account of the people 
called Saxons or Old Saxons on the Continent, from whom 
Bede makes the Saxons of Britain to be sprung. Indeed it 
will be convenient to begin our discussion with a short account 
of this nation, for in their case a considerable amount of 
historical evidence is available ; whereas we have hardly any 
references to a people called Angli on the Continent, and the 
locality of their original home is therefore to some extent open 
to doubt. 

The Old Saxons are frequently mentioned by Bede and 
The oid other writers of the same period. In his time 
their territories stretched as far as the Rhine 
(H. E. v. 10), presumably between the Yssel and the Lippe, 
while further to the south they had recently conquered the 
Boruhtwarii (ib. V. n), a tribe which in all probability inhabited 
the district called in later times Borahtra, between the Lippe 


and the Ruhr 1 . On the south-east they stretched as far as the 
Harz and the river Bode. The lands beyond the Harz, between 
the Bode, the Unstrut and the Saale had according to Saxon 
tradition 2 been conquered by them from the Thuringi in the 
time of the Frankish king Theodric ; but the Saxons who 
settled there are said to have followed the Langobardi into 
Italy, and the lands which they had held were subsequently 
occupied by Suabi (Widukind, I. 14). Gregory of Tours {Hist. 
Francorutn, III. 7) in his account of the overthrow of the 
Thuringi (A.D. 531) gives no hint that the Saxons took part 
in the campaign ; but in another passage (V. 15 3 ) he states that 
at the time when Alboin (king of the Langobardi) invaded 
Italy (A.D. 568) the Frankish kings Lothair and Sigibert planted 
the Suabi and other tribes in territories which the Saxons who 
accompanied Alboin had vacated. The whole basin of the 
Elbe as far as the neighbourhood of Liineburg and Bergedorf 
was probably inhabited by Slavonic tribes in the eighth century 4 . 
There can be little doubt also that eastern Holstein had been 
occupied considerably before this by the Obotriti (Afdrede) 
and Wagri, tribes which belonged to the same race. The 
people of western Holstein, however, are described, at all events 
in the ninth century, as Saxons (Saxones Nordalbingi), though 
it is not clear that they had any political union with the Saxons 
between the Rhine and the Elbe. 

It is a very remarkable fact that in Bede's time, and indeed 
for more than two centuries previously, we never hear of the 
Saxons as a seafaring people. Indeed the amount of coast-line 
in their possession cannot have been extensive, for in Charle- 
magne's time the Frisians reached as far as the mouth of the 
Weser, if not beyond. Yet in the fourth and fifth centuries 
we constantly hear of the Saxons as pirates who infested the 
western seas, and about the beginning of the fifth century 
the coasts of Gaul and Britain exposed to their ravages were 

1 Cf. Zeuss, Die Dentschen und die lVachbarstdmme, p. 353 and note. 
- Widukind, Res Gestae Saxonicae, I. 9 ff. ; Annales Quedlinburgenses (Mon. 
Germ., Script. III.), p. 32; Translatio S. Alexandii, cap. r. 
y Cf. also iv. 42 ; Paulus Diaconus, Hist. Lang., 11. 6. 
4 For references cf. Zeuss, op. fit., pp. 654, 660 f. 


called Litora Saxonica 1 . Moreover the Saxons themselves 
appear to have had a tradition that they had come from over 
the sea. According to a lost work of Einhard, which is quoted 
at length by Adam of Bremen (I. 4 ft.) and the Translatio 
S. Alexandri, cap. 1, they were sprung from the Angli who 
inhabit Britain and had landed at a place called Haduloha 
(Hadeln, the district round Cuxhaven) at the time when 
Theodric, king of the Franks, was at war with Irminfrith, king 
of the Thuringi (i.e. in the year 531). According to Widukind, 
I. 1, some held that the Saxons were descended from the 
Greeks, and others that they were sprung from the Danes and 
Northmen, but it was known for certain that they had come 
in ships to the country where they now dwelt, and had landed 
at a place called Hadolaun. In the following chapters Widu- 
kind relates that some of the Saxons went over to Britain at 
the invitation of the natives, and that those who remained in 
Germany subsequently took part in the war between Theodric 
and the Thuringi ; but his narrative does not suggest that the 
latter event took place shortly after the landing of the Saxons. 
Now, whatever may be the truth of the story about the arrival 
of the Saxons at Hadeln, it is clear that they were settled in 

1 Some scholars interpret the expression to mean 'the coasts occupied by Saxons.' 
In the case of the British coasts we have no evidence for Saxon settlements; but even 
if there were such the presumption is that the settlers were assimilated before the 
Romans left this country (cf. Stevenson, Eiig. Hist. Rev. xiv. 46). The view that 
the Saxons of later times were descended from these settlers is contrary to the evidence 
of all our early authorities, whether English or Welsh, and has now, I think, very few 
advocates. In any case the question can have no bearing on the subject discussed in 
the last chapter, for the Litus Saxonicum included East Anglia and Kent as well as 
the Saxon kingdoms. Another view, which has a larger number of supporters, is 
that the Saxon invaders, at all events those of Sussex and Wessex, came from the 
Litus Saxonicum of the Continent (cf. Hoops, Waldbiiume und Kulturpjlanzen, 
p. 580 ff.). The evidence that the Saxons had settled on the coast of Gaul before the 
invasion of Britain is said to be derived from Gregory, Hist. F>\, n. 18 f., where a 
settlement on the Loire is mentioned, which is referred by Meitzen [Siedelung itnd 
Agranvesen, I. p. 508) to about 420, and by Hoops {op. cit., p. 580) to the beginning 
of the fifth century. These dates appear to be based on a reading which I have not 
been able to find. But assuming the fact to be correct I should be willing to accept 
this view in the case of Sussex, if it could be shown that the South Saxons differed 
materially in any way from the West Saxons. So far as the latter are concerned, I 
think the evidence given above is conclusive against the supposition that they were of 
different origin from the Mercians and Northumbrians. 


western Germany long before the Thuringian war. Several 
contemporary writers record their conflicts with the Franks and 
Romans on the lower Rhine during the latter part of the fourth 
century, and the earliest references to their raids in the west 
go back to the year 286 K On the other hand, their presence 
here is never mentioned in writings of the first two centuries. 
Indeed, Ptolemy, the only early writer who gives their name, 
places them "on the neck of the Cimbric peninsula." The 
tradition therefore may have a solid foundation in fact. 

In connection with the Old Saxons it will be well to take 
account of their western neighbours the Frisians, 

The Frisians. ° 

who, as we have seen (p. 55), are said by Procopius 
to have been one of the nations which inhabited Britain in his 
time. They must have been a seafaring people in the seventh 
and eighth centuries, for we find one of their kings, Radbod 
(Rathbedus), ruling from Heligoland to the Rhine, if not 
further 2 . We hear of Frisian merchants in England in con- 
nection with the slave-trade, and it is probable that they were 
the chief channel of communication between the north and west 
of Europe at this time 3 . Even as late as the end of the ninth 
century we find King Alfred employing Frisian sailors in his 
fleet. In the Lex Frisonum, a compilation dating apparently 
from the ninth century, the nation is divided into three groups, 
a western extending from the Sincfal (the present boundary 
between West Flanders and Zeeland) to the Fli (Zuyder Zee), 
a central from the Fli to the Laubachi (Lauwer Zee), and an 
eastern from the Laubachi to the Weser. The western district 
was conquered by the Franks under Pippin of Heristal in 689, 
and the central district by Charles Martel in 734, while 


1 Eutropius, ix. 21 ; Orosius, vn. 25. 

- Cf. Alcuin, Vita Wittibrordi, cap. 10 ; Contin. Fredegaiii, § 102 ((. 

3 On the importance of the Frisian port Wyk te Duerstede during the eighth and 
ninth centuries see Soetbeer, Forschungen zur deutschen Gcschichle, iv. 500 ff. It is 
worth noting that there is a good deal of archaeological evidence for communication 
between the west of Norway and the southern coasts of the North Sea, apparently 
during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries; cf. Undset, Aarbogcr f. nord. O/d- 
kyndighed, [880, p. 171 ff. (see also p. 19, above). Quite possibly there may be some 
connection between the overthrow of the Frisian kingdom and the establishment of 
Scandinavian supremacy in the North Sea which followed shortly after. 


the easternmost remained independent until the time of 

In later times — from the twelfth century onwards — we also 
find Frisians settled on the west coast of Slesvig. It is 
generally supposed that this district was colonised by them 
between the ninth and eleventh centuries, but we have not 
sufficient data for deciding the point. It is hardly likely that 
the colonisation was effected during the ninth century, at a time 
when the Danes commanded the coasts of the North Sea 1 , 
while if it had taken place later it is curious that Saxo should 
have been ignorant of the story 2 . Further, in the Translatio 
S. Alexandri, cap. 4, we find a letter from the emperor Lothair 
to Pope Leo IV asking for relics of the saints. The emperor 
states that "within the territories of our kingdom there is a 
mixed people of Frisians and Saxons, situated on the borders 
of the Northmanni and Obotriti." The relics of St Alexander, 
which were sent in 855 in answer to the emperor's request, 
are said to have been deposited eventually at Wildeshausen, 
south-west of Bremen. But the passage quoted above seems 
to point to Holstein ; and in later times the population of 
western Holstein apparently did contain a Frisian element. 
Again, in Saxo, p. 249, we hear of the coasts of Jutland being 
ravaged by a Frisian chief named Ubbo during the reign of 
Harald Hildetand, i.e. in the latter part of the eighth century. 
This man was subsequently overthrown by Harald and entered 
his service. His presence at the battle of Bravik is mentioned 
in the Skioldunga Saga 3 , cap. 8 f., as well as by Saxo. This 
evidence, if it is to be trusted, would seem to indicate that 

1 The suggestion quoted by Bremer (Paul's Grundriss, in.- 849) that these Frisians 
were sprung from the socii of Rorih who in 857 obtained a portion of the Danish 
kingdom inter mare et Egidoram (Ann. Fuld.), seems to me unlikely; for, setting 
aside the doubtful meaning of this expression, the socii in question were probably 
exiled Danes. They can hardly have been a different body from the Danigetiarum 
non niodica mantes, whom Rorih was leading on piratical expeditions a few years 
earlier (ib. 850). We may also refer to the magna Danorum multitudo baptized with 
Harald, Rorih's brother, in 826. 

2 Cf. p. 465 : lios a Frisomim gente conditos nominis et lingue societas testimonio 
est, qnibus noitas querentibtis sedes ea forte tellns obiunit ; quam palnstrem primum ac 
humidam longo duranere cultu. 

3 Sogubrot af fornkonungum. 


the northward migration of the Frisians took place not later 
than the eighth century. Hence it is quite possible that it 
was a result of the Frankish conquests in Friesland 1 . We may 
note that these North Frisians were always more or less subject 
to the Danes and not connected in any way with the Empire. 
Even as early as the end of the seventh or the beginning of 
the eighth century we hear of Danes in the neighbourhood 
of Heligoland, though the island itself is represented as a 
Frisian possession 2 . 

It is generally supposed that the Frisians were less affected 
by the movements of the migration period than any other 
Teutonic nation ; but this view is open to question. The 
ancient Roman writers of the first two centuries represent them 
as occupying the coast between the Rhine and the Ems, i.e. not 
more than half the territory which we find them possessing in 
later times, while the coast beyond the Ems was inhabited by 
the Chauci. If the eastward extension of Frisian territory 
is to be attributed to a migration, we shall have to suppose 
that this movement took place after the Saxons ceased to be 
a maritime people, though even then such an easterly movement 
is both exceptional and remarkable. There is no doubt that 
the Frisians spread southwards into the maritime territories 
of the Roman Empire. Even in the lands about the mouth 
of the Scheldt their presence is attested by other authorities 3 
besides the Lex Frisonum ; and many of the place-names show 
characteristics of the Frisian language. 

In view of the facts noted above it is not a little remarkable 
that we hardly ever 4 find the Frisians mentioned among the 
nations who attacked the Roman Empire by sea and land in the 
fourth and fifth centuries. The nations which we do find in- 
vading the districts about the Lower Rhine are the Franks, the 
Saxons, the Heruli, and the 'Chaibones' — the last-named only 
in the Panegyric of Mamertinus. Indeed the Frisians are 
seldom mentioned by Latin writers from the second century 

1 The evidence of the North Frisian language is said to point to colonisation from 
the districts about the mouth of the Ems; cf. Siebs in Paul's Grundriss \.~, p. 1 166. 

2 Alcuin, Vita Willebiwdi, cap. 9 f . 8 Cf. Zeuss, op. cit., p. 39S. 
4 The only case known to me is the passage of Eumenius cited below. 


until the seventh. Their name occurs probably in the Tabula 
Peutingeriana and in the Excerpta of Julius Honorius 1 , as well 
as in the Panegyric of Eumenius upon Constantius, cap. 9, where 
they are represented as brought into subjection to the Romans. 
At a much later period Procopius, Goth. IV. 20, places them in 
Britain. Towards the end of the sixth century we find them 
mentioned by Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. I. 1. 75, together 
with the Sueui, and after this we hear of them frequently. It is 
somewhat curious that with the exception of Venantius none of 
these writers speak of the Saxons, and consequently one cannot 
altogether resist the suspicion that the two nations may have 
been to some extent confused. At all events the fact that the 
Saxons are frequently, but the Frisians never, represented as a 
seafaring people in the fourth and fifth centuries, while the 
reverse is the case in the seventh century, seems to call for some 

In regard to language the two nations differed greatly. The 
dialects of the districts inhabited by the Saxons are known to 
us from the ninth century onwards, and are merely forms of 
German, closely related to Dutch and not differing greatly even 
from High German except in the absence of the consonantal 
changes known as ' sound-shifting.' The Frisian dialects on the 
other hand are of a very different character. At the present 
time indeed they vary greatly among themselves ; but it is clear 
from the earliest extant texts, none of which (except a few 
glosses) date from before the thirteenth century, that these 
variations arose in fairly late times. In regard to the language 
as a whole, however, we have already seen (pp. 62 f.) that it is 
closely related to English. Indeed it is probable that in the 
ninth century the differences between the two languages were 
comparatively slight — not very much greater than those observ- 
able between the various English dialects themselves. 

On the extreme south-eastern border of the Saxon territories 
we find traces of another language which closely resembled 
Frisian and English. Its remains are very scanty, consisting 
entirely of glosses and proper names. The MS. in which the 

1 Cf. also Vegetius Renatus, De arte ueterinaria, IV. 6 (if Frisiscos may be read 
for Frigiscos). 


glosses are contained 1 comes from Merseburg, and it has been 
observed that the forms of proper names which occur in the 
autograph MS. of the Chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg and in 
the ' Merseburger Totenbuch ' exhibit the same characteristics. 
There can be little doubt therefore that the dialect is to be 
located in this district. But the inhabitants of this district must 
have been descended from the " Suabi and other tribes " who 
settled about 560—570 between the Unstrut and the Saale 
(cf. p. 91), for the whole country beyond the Saale was occupied 
by Slavonic tribes in the seventh and eighth centuries. These 
Suabi — or North Suabi as they are sometimes called, in order to 
distinguish them from the Alamannic Suabi — seem to have long 
retained traces of a distinctive nationality. It is true that they 
are called Saxons {Saxones qui Nordosquaui uocantur) in the 
Ann. Mettens. 748. According to Widukind, I. 14, however, 
thev retained even in his time, i.e. the middle of the tenth 
century, different laws from the Saxons 2 . Their name survived 
in that of the canton Sueuon, south of the Bode. Whence these 
Suabi came we are unfortunately not told. But there is every 
probability that they were identical with the people called 
Norsaui, whose subjugation is recorded in a letter of Theodberht 
(534- — 548) to Justinian 3 . As this passage is of great importance 
for ethnographical purposes it will be convenient here to give it 
in full : id uero quod dignamini esse solliciti in quibus prouinciis 
habitemus ant quae gentes nostrae sint Deo adiutore ditioni sub- 
iectae, Dei nostri misericordia feliciter subactis Thuringis et eorum 
prouinciis acquis it is, extinctis ipsorum tunc tcniporis regibus, 
Norsauorum gentis nobis placata maiestas colla subdidit, Deoque 
propitio Wisigotis, qui incolebant Franciae septentrionalem plagam 
Pannonuzm* cum Saxonibus Euciis, qui se nobis tiolitntate propria 
tradiderunt, per Danubium et limitem Pannoniae usque in Oceani 

1 Published in Ileyne's Kleinere altniederdeutsche Denkmaler, p. 95 ff. ; cf. 
Bremer in Paul's Grundriss der germ. Philologie, III. 2 p. 863 f., where, however, the 
dialect is regarded as Saxon. 

2 Suaui itero T ransbadani . . .aliis /eg/bus quam Saxones utuntur. 

3 Bouquet, Rerum Gallicarum Scriptores, IV. 59. 

4 This term seems to be applied by Latin writers of the sixth century to the 
regions east of the lower Rhine; cf. Greg. Tur. II. 9. 


litoribus, custodiente Deo, dominatio nostra porrigitur. It is very- 
unfortunate that the phraseology is so obscure. Thus it is 
impossible to decide with certainty whether Euciis 1 is a descrip- 
tion of Saxonibns or whether two distinct nations are meant. 
Yet we may, I think, at least infer from this passage that the 
North Suabi had been under Frankish supremacy for some 
twenty or thirty years before they settled beyond the Bode, 
though we are not told where they lived either at this time or 

It is a remarkable fact that though the Saxons according to 
their own traditions had come from over the sea, i.e. presumably 
from the north, their language itself was, even in the earliest 
literary times, of a distinctly German type and closely related to 
the Frankish dialects on the south and south-west, whereas both 
on the east and west flanks of the Saxons we find languages the 
affinities of which are as clearly with English. Recent writers 2 
however have pointed out that the earliest literary remains of 
Old Saxon preserve a number of words, including proper names, 
which do not conform to the usual sound-laws of the language, 
but agree with English and Frisian. These are especially 
prominent in Runic abcdaria and other texts, the origin of 
which cannot be located ; they may therefore in some cases be 
of North Swabian or Frisian origin. But there still remain an 
appreciable number of such forms in the Old Saxon poem 
Heliand and also in charters and monastic documents which can 
be definitely located. The fact that they are Old Saxon may 
therefore be regarded as certain. Moreover, it has been shown 
that these forms are not peculiar to one or two districts but 
spread over the whole area occupied by the Old Saxons. But 
if these differences of dialect are not of local origin it would 
seem that they must be due to the presence of different national 
elements in the population. This conclusion, it will be seen, 
agrees fully with the Saxon traditions. If the language of the 

1 Apparently all writers who have dealt with this passage take this to be a proper 
name ; but I confess that I am not able to translate the sentence. It seems to me 
that a participle in the abl. pi. is required. 

2 Cf. Bremer in Paul's Grundriss, in 2 , pp. 86i ff., where the subject is treated at 


invaders differed from that of the population whom they con- 
quered, the two languages would naturally continue for a time 
side by side, though in the end that of the numerically stronger 
element might be expected to prevail. We may thus infer that 
the language of the conquered people, who presumably still 
continued to form the majority of the population 1 , was of a type 
similar to that of the Franks. 

This is likely enough ; indeed there is fairly clear evidence 
that some of the territories belonging to the Old Saxons, 
e.g. Salland and Hamaland, had previously been occupied by 
Frankish tribes (the Salii' 2 and Chamaui). But have we any 
justification for believing that a language of Anglo-Frisian type 
was spoken beyond the sea to the north ? The answer to this 
question depends of course to a large extent on where we place 
the early home of the Angli. To this we shall have to return 
presently. But we have seen that the Frisians reached at least 
to the mouth of the Weser and Heligoland. In later times we 
find them also occupying the west coast of Slesvig, though here 
their language is supposed to be due to a migration. There is 
a curious fact however to be taken into account in this connection 3 . 
Off the west coast of Slesvig there are three islands, Sylt, Amrum 
and Fohr, the inhabitants of which speak a form of language 
closely resembling Frisian, and which is indeed generally classed 
as a branch of the North Frisian dialect. Yet the inhabitants 
do not, like those of the mainland, call themselves Frisians, and 
there is no historical evidence that these islands have ever been 
connected in any way with Friesland. Moreover, as we shall see 
later, Ptolemy speaks of three islands of the Saxons in the 
North Sea, and the indications which he gives of their position 
correspond fairly well to the islands which we are discussing. 
There is no inherent improbability therefore in the view that the 
dialect spoken in these islands is descended from the language 

1 Cf. Trans. S. Alex., cap. 1 : qui earn (se. terrain) sorte diuide/i/es, cum multi ex 
eis in hello cecidissent et pro raritate eorum tola ab eis oceupari non poluit, partem illius 
et earn quam maxime quae respicit one/item colonis tradebaut singidi pro sorte sua sub 
Iributo exercendam. 

- Cf. Zosimus, in. 6. 

3 Cf. Moller, Das altenglische Volksepos, p. 85. 



of the ancient Saxons — a view which is held by many, perhaps 
the majority, of the writers who have discussed this question 1 . 

If we are right in believing the exceptional dialectic charac- 
teristics which we find in Old Saxon to be traces of a more 
northern language which was dying out, or had actually died 
out, we can hardly avoid concluding that the North Swabian 
language, which was of a distinctly Anglo-Frisian type, had 
come from a considerable distance. In historical times we find 
this people surrounded by Saxons, Franks (Thuringians), and 
Slavs ; but we know that their settlement in the basin of the 
Saale took place after the middle of the sixth century, though 
we do not know where they lived before. Quite possibly, like 
the Saxons, they had come from the north. A certain confirma- 
tion of this idea is perhaps to be found in the story of the origin 
of the Sweui (Suabi) given by an anonymous text which dates 
apparently from the twelfth century 2 . According to this story 
the Sweui had come from a land called Sweuia beside the 
northern sea and had arrived in ships at a port of the Danes 
called Sleswic. From thence they journeyed to the Elbe, where 
they arrived at the time when Theodric was at war with Irmin- 
frith. Beyond this however the Sweui are represented as playing 
the same part which elsewhere is assigned to the Saxons 
(cf. p. 91 f.). Consequently the story cannot be regarded as 
a pure Swabian tradition. 

There are one or two indications which tend to show that 
the Suabi came from quite a different quarter. In later times we 
occasionally hear of Sueui among the Frisians about the mouth 
of the Scheldt; thus, according to the Annales Vedastini the 
Northmen in 880 erected a fort at Courtrai from which they 

1 Siebs on the other hand (Paul's Grtindriss, I 2 , p. 1166) holds that the islands 
were colonised from the district between the Ems and the Weser. He states that the 
dialect has affinities with East Frisian (which might of course be explained otherwise) 
and suggests that the name of the island Amrum (formerly Am brum) points to 
colonization from Ammerland (formerly Ambria, pagus Ammeri). The objection to 
this view is that Ammerland was a Saxon (not Frisian) district. That there is a 
connection between the two names appears likely enough ; but the evidence seems to 
me to point to a movement in the opposite direction. 

2 Printed in the Zeitschrift ftir deutsches Altertum, XVII. 57 ff. 


harried 'the Menapii and the Sueui.' In the Vita S. Eligii, II. 3 1 
we find mention of Flandreuses atque Andouerpcnses, Frisiones et 
Sueui et barbari quique circa maris littora degentes. This is of 
course a late work, but it is supposed to have used much earlier 
materials. The time to which it refers is about 640-650. For 
the juxtaposition of the last two names we may compare a 
passage of Venantius Fortunatus (Carm. I. 1. 75 f.) where it is 
stated that the Fresones and Sueui had been reduced to obedi- 
ence by king Chilperic (about 580). What especially favours 
the supposition that the North Suabi may have come from this 
district is the fact that one of the cantons between the Unstrut 
and the Bode was called Frisonofeld, which seems to indicate 
the presence of Frisians among the settlers. The objection is of 
course the distance between the Saale and the Scheldt. In later 
times however Charlemagne transplanted large numbers of the 
Saxons almost if not quite as far. 

Either of the two hypotheses suggested above will satis- 
factorily account for the presence of an Anglo-Frisian language 
in the neighbourhood of the Saale. The fact that the North Suabi 
preserved their language so much better than the Saxons might 
to some extent be due to their having settled in a more compact 
mass. Probably however the true reason is that their settle- 
ment took place at a very much later time, when the charac- 
teristic features of the Anglo-Frisian languages were more fully 

In conclusion, it may be worth while to call attention to the 
great extent of sea-board along which the Anglo-Frisian lan- 
guages appear to have been spoken in early times, especially if 
we are right in believing the dialect of the " North Frisian " 
islands to be indigenous. The two groups of languages, Anglo- 
Frisian and German, were apparently not separated from one 
another by any natural (geographical) boundaries; the one group 
seems to belong to the coasts, the other to the interior. We have 
no definite evidence that dialects belonging to the German group 
touched the coast anywhere to the north-east of the Sincfal, 
except on the Zuyder Zee, while Anglo-Frisian dialects appear 

1 Bouquet, Kerum Gall. Script., in. 557. 


not to have been able to maintain themselves for any length of time 
in the interior, except in the neighbourhood of Merseburg. 
Hence we are probably justified in concluding that there was 
much more communication between the different coast districts 
and between the different inland districts than there was between 
the coasts and the interior. This observation may possibly give 
us a clue to the explanation of two curious facts which we noticed 
earlier in the chapter, the eastward expansion of the Frisians and 
the disappearance of the Saxons as a seagoing people. Is it not 
conceivable that these phenomena are really due to political 
changes, and that the East Frisians were in large measure the 
descendants of those Saxons who had remained in the coast 

The social organisation of the Old Saxons and Frisians has 
been treated incidentally in the last chapter. We have seen 
that both nations possessed three social orders, viz. nobles, 
freemen and liti, in addition to slaves. In this respect, as also 
in the amount of the freeman's wergeld, their affinities lay with 
the Kentish system rather than with those of Wessex and Mercia. 
The social lines of division among the Old Saxons were in early 
times very sharp, amounting indeed practically to a system of 
caste, for intermarriage between the different classes was for- 
bidden under penalty of death 1 . Whether this was the case 
among the Frisians also we do not know. In regard to govern- 
ment there was an important difference between the two nations. 
The Saxons, at all events from the time of Bede to their final 
subjugation by the Franks, had no kings, but were governed by 
a number of ' satrapae,' from whom a leader was selected by lot in 
time of war (H.E. V. 10). According to Hucbald 2 there was also 
a central authority, consisting of an elected body of twelve men 
who met annually at a place called Marklo on the Weser. The 
Frisians on the other hand were governed in the seventh century 
by kings, two of whom (Aldgisl and Rathbed) are mentioned by 
Bede. Nor is there any reason for believing that royalty was a 
recent institution, for we are told in Widsith, 1. 27, that Finn, 

1 Translatio S. Alexandri, cap. i. 

2 Vita S. Lebuini (Pertz, Mon. Germ. Script. II. 361 f.) 


who lived apparently in the fifth century (cf. p. 52), ruled the 
Frisian people. 

Of the religion of the Frisians little unfortunately is known. 
The Old Saxons, if we are right in regarding the " Renunciation 
Formula" as a Saxon document (cf. p. 60), apparently worshipped 
the same gods as the Angli and Saxons of Britain. The most 
characteristic feature of their religion however was the cult of the 
Irminsul, to which we shall have to return later. 

In discussing the origin of the Jutes and Angles we have to 
The jutes and f ace a somewhat different set of problems from 
the Angles. those treated above. In the first place, there is 

little or no evidence that the Angli continued to survive on the 
Continent as a distinct nation after the invasion of Britain. 
Again, though there certainly was a people called Iuti, their 
identity with the Iuti (Iutae) of Britain is denied by many 
writers. The origin of both nations is therefore to a considerable 
extent a matter of dispute. 

It will be convenient to begin with the traditional evidence 
as given by Bede. He states that the people of Kent and the 
Isle of Wight were sprung from the Iutae, but he does not 
specify the position of the land whence these Iutae came. The 
Angli, he says, came from a region called Angulus which lies 
between the Saxons and the Iutae. The two problems therefore, 
so far as Bede's evidence goes, are interdependent and can hardly 
be treated separately. Moreover, it is worth remembering in this 
connection that, according to the Historia Brittonum, which 
seems to have used the same traditions as Bede (cf. p. 41 f.), 
Hengist and Hors came from an island called Oghgul, which can 
hardly be anything else than Bede's Angulus. 

There is no possible doubt as to the interpretation which 
later English writers put upon Bede's words. Aethelweard, 
who was earl of the western counties (Devon, Somerset and 
Dorset) at the end of the tenth century, amplifies Bede's 
statement as follows {ad aim. 449) : " The East Angles, the 
Middle Angles, the Mercians also, and the whole nation of the 
Northumbrians, came from the province Anglia. Now the 
ancient Anglia is situated between the Saxons and the Gioti, 


having a chief town which is called Slesuuic in the Saxon 
language, but Haithaby by the Danes 1 ." It is clear from the 
mention of Slesvig that the Anglia Vetus of which Aethelweard 
speaks must be the district now called Angel, viz. the peninsula 
between the Sle and the Flensborg Fiord, though since Slesvig 
is only on the very edge of this district it is possible that the 
name may have been applied to a larger area in the tenth 
century. Moreover, there can be little doubt that Aethelweard 
identified Bede's Iutae with the inhabitants of Jutland, for the 
form which he uses {Gioti) seems to be an attempt to represent 
the Scandinavian form Iotar. We may further compare a 
passage in Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, II. 116. Speaking of 
Sceaf, a mythical ancestor of King Aethelwulf, he says : " When 
he grew up he reigned in the town which then was called 
Slaswic but now Haithebi. Now that district is called Old 
Anglia, and is situated between the Saxons and the Gothi ; from 
it the Angli came to Britain." 

These quotations are conclusive as to the interpretation put 
upon Bede's words by later writers. More important for us, 
however, are some passages which King Alfred inserted in his 
translation of Orosius. In his account of the geography of 
northern Europe (I. I. 12), which is entirely original, we find the 
following passage : " To the west of the Old Saxons is the 
mouth of the river Elbe and Friesland, and to the north-west of 
them is the land which is called Angel (Ongel) and Sillende 2 
and a portion of the Danes, and to the north of them are the 
Afdrede " (i.e. the Obotriti). Throughout this insertion the 
quarters of the heaven are given somewhat incorrectly ; but it is 
clear enough that he lays Angel in the direction of Slesvig. 
Again, in his account of the voyages of Ohthere (I. 1. 19) the 
following passage occurs : " He (Ohthere) said that he had 

1 On the situation of Haithaby (Hedeby) see S. Mliller, Noi-dische Altertiunskunde 
(Germ, transl.), II. p. 232 ff., where good reasons are given for believing that it lay 
to the south of the Sle. If the Slesvig of early times occupied the site of the 
present town the two places cannot have been identical. But is the evidence to this 
effect really conclusive ? 

2 This form is clearly identical with Sinlendi, an old name for some district in the 
southern part of the Jutish peninsula (Ann. Einhardi 8 [5) ; cf. also Bremer, op. cit., 
P- 837- 


sailed in five days from Sciringes Healh (Skiringssal 1 ) to a town 
which is called aet Haethum ; it is situated between the Wends 
(Slavs) and the Saxons and Angel and belongs to the Danes.... 
For two days before he arrived there he had on his starboard 
Gotland and Sillende and many islands. The Angli dwelt in 
those lands before they came to this country." It is clear that 
the place here called aet Haethum is identical with Haithaby or 
Slesvig, while Gotland, whatever may be the explanation of this 
form 2 , can hardly mean anything else than Jutland. The 
importance of these passages consists not only in their con- 
firmation of the identity of Angel with the modern Angel, but 
also in the fact that they amount to a good deal more than a 
mere expansion of Bede's words. Indeed there is nothing 
definite to show that the king had Bede's account in his mind at 
all. It is noteworthy that according to him the Angli came 
from a region much more extensive than Angel itself. 

It needs no demonstration to see that the identification of 
Angulus with Angel fits in with Bede's account extremely well. 
Angel might very well be described as lying between Jutland 
and the Saxons, i.e. the Nordalbingi of western Holstein. Again, 
Bede speaks of the Iutae as though they were still surviving as a 
nation on the Continent. Yet we have no evidence that in 
Bede's time this or any similar name was applied to any other 
people than the inhabitants of Jutland. On the whole, there- 
fore, taking the positive and negative evidence together, we can 
hardly avoid concluding that by Angulus Bede meant the 
district now called Angel. 

Of course the further and more important question, whether 
Bede's account is correct or not, remains to be discussed. 
Unfortunately the references in early Continental writers to 
nations called Angli and Iutae, or any similar names, are 
extremely few in number. There is however one passage which 

1 On the south coast of Norway, between Tonsberg and Laurvig. 

2 It is at least doubtful if the (Norse) form IStland could be represented as Gotland 
in Anglo-Saxon orthography at this early date. Some writers hold that the latter 
is quite a different name and compare Reictgotaland, a name for Jutland in some sagas. 
In Skaldskaparmal, cap. 43, Skioldr is said to have reigned over "what is now called 
Denmark, but then it was called Gotland." But this passage does not seem to refer 
specially to Jutland. 


may point to a different origin of the Iutae from that which 
Bede seems to have had in his mind, and perhaps three 
altogether which indicate or suggest that the Angli did not 
come from Angel. These passages we must now proceed to 
examine in order. 

Before doing so however it should be mentioned that ob- 
jection has been taken to the identification of the Iutae with the 
inhabitants of Jutland on philological grounds. It has been 
stated on high authority 1 that though the form I Star, by which 
the inhabitants of Jutland are known in Old Norse literature, 
may go back either to Entones or Jeutones in an earlier stage of 
the language, yet the Danish name Jyder must represent a form 
which originally had initial J- (Jeutioues, Jiutiones, Jutiones) ; 
consequently we cannot identify it with the English forms Iiiti, 
Iutae, which clearly have initial Iu- (for earlier Eu-). Unfortu- 
nately it seems not to have been explained why in this word, 
and in this word alone, initial j- should be preserved in a 
Scandinavian dialect. Unless some satisfactory reason for this 
phenomenon can be found we are surely justified in retaining 
what is clearly the simplest and most natural explanation, viz. 
that the J- of Jyder (earlier Jytir, Saxo's Iuti) is due to the 
influence of the parallel form Jotar. The earlier form of the 
name would be Ytir, which occurs, like other national names, in 
Old Norse poetry in the vague sense of ' men.' Iotar and Ytir 
will then represent parallel stems, Eutau-, Iutia- (earlier Eutia-), 
such as we frequently find among the names of Teutonic nations, 
e.g. Fresones — Frisii, Rogans — Rugii. Both stems can be traced 
in English, the former in the Eotena (gen. pi.) of Beowulf 
(cf. p. 53), the latter in Bede's Iuti 2 and the Ytum (dat. pi.) of 
Widsith. Bede's alternative form Iutae (i.e. Iutan, Eutiones) will 
then be a secondary formation like Englan, Frisiones, due to 
confusion between the two stems. 

1 Indogennanische Forschungen, vn. 293. 

2 For the forms in the Anglo-Saxon version, iv. 16, cf. p. 5 and note. In 1. 15 we 
find Geatum, Geata, which seem to show that the translator identified this people with 
the Geatas. Several recent writers have accepted the identification, but I cannot 
admit its probability. In any case this question has no bearing on the Danish form 

Jyder, for there is no evidence for such forms as Geotas or Geotan in Anglo-Saxon. 



The names Eutii, Eutioiies occur only twice in early Con- 
tinental writings. One case is in Venantius Fortunatus, Carrn. 
IX. 1. 73, where the poet, writing about 580, addresses King 
Chilperic in the following words : 

quem Geta, Vasco tremunt, Danus, Euthio, Saxo, Britannus, 
ami pat re quos acie te domitasse patet. 

No indication is given here as to the locality in which the 
Eut(h)iones lived. But the fact that they are mentioned between 
the Danes and the Saxons is rather favourable than otherwise 
to the supposition that the inhabitants of Jutland are meant 1 . 
The other instance occurs in Theodberht's letter to Justinian, 
quoted above (p. 97), in which Theodberht says that the Saxons 
and Eutii- (or possibly the Saxones Eutii) had submitted 
voluntarily to him. In this case it is not likely that the 
reference is to the inhabitants of Jutland. But, granting that 
these Eutii lived to the west of the Elbe or even in the 
Netherlands, does that prove that they were a different people? 
At a time when migratory movements towards the south and 
west appear to have been very frequent, when we find Saxons 
settling on both sides of the North Sea and the Channel, and 
when Danes and Gotar were at least raiding in Holland, there is 
surely nothing improbable in supposing that the Jutes may have 
taken part in such movements. No doubt the Jutes who invaded 
Britain may have branched off from these southern settlements. 
But considering the fact that the southern Jutes are mentioned 
only once, and that too about a century after the invasion of 
Britain, it seems distinctly more probable that the Jutes of 
Britain came from the home-land 3 . 

The earliest reference to the Angli which has come down to 
us is in Tacitus, Germ. 40. In this case, however, no clear 
indication of their geographical position is given. The next 
occurs in Ptolemy, Gcogr. II. II. 15, where they are located to 

1 Cf. Schiitte, Var Angler ne Tyskere?, p. 43. 

- I am not certain that this name is not due to a scribal error ; cf. p. 98, note. 

3 If we are right in identifying Hengest, the king of Kent, with the Hengest who 
entered the service of Finn, king of the Frisians (cf. p. 52), he probably came to 
Britain from the Netherlands. Hut there is no reason for supposing that any great 
length of time had elapsed since he left Denmark. 


the west of the Elbe, apparently with the basin of the Weser as 
their centre. Both these passages will be discussed in a subse- 
quent chapter, and it will be shown that Ptolemy's statements 
are incredible for reasons which are quite independent of any 
considerations derived from the history of the Angli. At the 
present moment we need not take these early writings into 
account ; for even if confirmatory evidence were forthcoming 
it would be conceivable that the geographical position of the 
Angli might have changed between the second and the fifth 

In later writings, if we exclude passages obviously based 
upon Bede's account, there are only two references to the 
existence of a people called Angli on the Continent. One of 
these occurs in Adam of Bremen, I. 3. After quotations from 
Orosius and Gregory of Tours, describing the piratical incursions 
of the Saxons, we find the following words: "The Saxons 
therefore at first had their abode on both sides of the Rhine and 
were called Angli." The last four words, however {et uocati sunt 
Angli), do not occur in the earliest MS. and it is likely enough 
that they are due to some subsequent scribe, to whom they may 
have been suggested by the opening words of the quotation 
from Einhard (c(. p. 92) which immediately follows. In any 
case, considering the character of the statement itself and the 
date of the work in which it occurs, one would require much 
courage to uphold its authority against that of Bede, unless 
strong confirmatory evidence was forthcoming. 

The second reference occurs in the title of a certain code : 
Incipit Lex Angliornm et Werinornm hoc est 

TheWarni. r £ ' 

Thuringorum 1 . Mention has already been made 
of this code (p. 81 f.) and it has been pointed out that in regard 
to the classification of society it shows affinity with English 
custom, particularly with that of Kent. In other respects 
however it has much more resemblance to the Frankish laws 2 . 

1 This title occurs in only one of the two texts of the Lex. In the other it is 
described simply as Lex Thuringorum. In Canute's (spurious) Forest Laws, § 33, it 
is referred to under the title Lex Werinorum, i.e. Thuringorum. 

2 Cf. Brunner, Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte, 1. p. 251, where it is pointed out that the 
arrangement of the code is based on that of the Lex Ribuaria. 


It is believed to date from the ninth century 1 , but unfortunately 
the locality for which it was drawn up is a matter of dispute. 
There can be little doubt that the name Werini is only another 
form of Warni {Guarui, Ovapvoc), a tribal name which occurs 
not unfrequently. We have seen (p. 19) that in Procopius, 
Goth. IV. 20, a tribe bearing this name is brought into connection 
with the Angli, though in this case the latter are represented as 
coming from Britain in ships to attack them. Procopius here 
states that the Warni were separated from the Franks only by 
the Rhine. Therefore, since they lived in a marshy region and 
were exposed to attacks from the sea, we must suppose that their 
kingdom was situated in Holland between the Rhine and the 
Zuyder Zee. Elsewhere, however, Procopius speaks of Warni in 
quite a different quarter. In II. 15, after relating the overthrow 
of the Heruli by the Langobardi, he says that some of the former 
crossed the Danube and entered the territories of the Roman 
Empire. Others, however, set out across the desert of the Slavs, 
and came first to the Warni and then to the Danes, after which 
they took ship and sailed to an island called Thoule, which from 
his description of it clearly means Sweden and Norway. Again, 
from III. 35 it appears probable that the Warni were not very 
far removed from the Langobardi, who, whatever their exact 
position, were certainly settled east of the Elbe at this time. 
These passages therefore indicate that there were Warni to the 
east or north of the lower Elbe during the first half of the sixth 
century. Consequently, if Procopius' evidence is to be trusted, 
the nation must have been split up into two distinct branches. 
It is worth observing however that Procopius himself does not 
record this fact. Indeed his knowledge of the geography of 
northern Europe is so vague 2 that we have no reason for believing 
him to have been aware of the fact that these two localities, the 
Rhine and the neighbourhood of the Danes, were distant from 
one another. 

In Cassiodorus, Variariwi III. 3, Theodric, king of the 

1 Cf. Paul's Grundriss, in 2 , p. 67 ; Brunner, op. cit., p. 352. 

2 OOapvoi /lev virip "larpov Trora/xdv idpvvrcu, Oitjkoviti 5e &XP 1 Te ^ J 'Qiceavdv rbv 
ipKTtpov /ecu TrorafjLov 'Vrjvov ocrnep avrous re dioptfei Kal Qpdyyovs Kai rctXAa Zdvi} a. ravr-Q 


Ostrogoths, appeals to the kings of the Heruli, Warni (Gnarni) 
and Thuringi to join him in an alliance against Clovis in order 
to compel the latter to desist from his threatened attack upon 
the Visigoths. The date of the letter is not exactly known, but 
it must be earlier than 507, in which year the attack actually 
took place. Now the view has frequently been put forward 1 that 
the Warni mentioned here were the western branch of that nation, 
that the Heruli and Thuringi also lived in the neighbourhood 
of the lower Rhine, and that these Thuringi are the people to 
whom the code which we are discussing refers. How the Warni 
came to be identified with the Thuringi seems not to have been 
explained ; but since according to this theory the two were 
presumably neighbouring nations, it is conceivable that they 
might subsequently have amalgamated. The theory, however, 
seems to me to be open in some respects to serious objections. 
It is true that we do find Heruli raiding on the lower Rhine at 
the beginning of the fourth century 2 , and later in the same 
century Ammianus Marcellinus (xx. I. 3, 4. 2, etc.) speaks of 
Heruli who were serving with Bataui in the Roman armies. But 
we have no evidence elsewhere for a kingdom of the Heruli in 
this region. Again, there are frequent references to a district 
called Thoringia to the south of the lower Rhine, apparently in 
Brabant ; but we have no other evidence for a nation called 
Thuringi here. Indeed this district was under the Franks both 
in the fifth century and also presumably when Hygelac 
(Chochilaicus) made his incursion, about the year 520. On the 
other hand it is certain that there were at this time powerful 
kingdoms both of the Heruli and the Thuringi in central 
Germany, in or around the basin of the Elbe. The hypothesis 
then that there were three nations called Warni, Heruli and 
Thuringi on the lower Rhine, as well as three nations called 
Warni, Heruli and Thuringi farther to the east, seems to me to 
involve an improbable degree of coincidence. Lastly, this 
coincidence is rendered all the more remarkable by the fact, 
which we know from Procopius, Goth. I. 12 3 , that Irminfrith, king 

1 Cf. Bremer, Paul's Grundriss, III 2 , pp. 834 f., 851 ; Hoops, op. cil., p. 583 f. 

2 Mamertinus, Paneg. Maximiano Aug. dictus, cap. 5. 

3 Bremer (Grundriss, III 2 , p. 879) holds that the Thuringi (Qdpiyyoi) mentioned 


of the Thuringi (i.e. the Thuringi in the basin of the Saale), did 
about this time negotiate an alliance with Theodric from fear of 
the Franks. 

So far as the Thuringi of Cassiodorus are concerned I think 
this view may safely be rejected. With regard to the Heruli it 
is impossible to speak with the same confidence 1 , since we have 
good reason for believing that this nation was split up into two 
or more branches. Moreover the fact that the name Heruli 
never occurs in Frankish, Saxon or Fnglish authors is difficult to 
reconcile with the prominent position assigned to this nation in 
Roman, Gothic and Langobardic writings and gives ground for 
supposing that they were known by more than one name. As 
for the presence of Warni in the Netherlands Procopius' state- 
ment, made twice over, that they were separated from the Franks 
only by the Rhine, must of course count for something, in spite 
of the inaccuracy of his geography. On the other hand we have 
no other evidence for the presence of Warni — or Angli either 2 — 
in the Netherlands ; nor again is there any reference to the 
prevalence of separate national laws (as distinct from the Frank- 
ish and Frisian) in this region. 

Another view, put forward long ago by Zeuss {op. cit. p. 362 f.), 
is that the Warni were identical with the North Suabi, who were 
settled between the Unstrut and the Bode by Lothair and 
Sigibert (cf. p. 91). This view has two strong points in its 
favour : (i) that the North Suabi {Suabi Transbadani) long 
retained separate national laws (cf. p. 97), and (ii) that they 
were settled in territory which had formerly belonged to the 

earlier in this chapter belonged to the lower Rhine. But I do not see how this can 
be maintained ; for Procopius' language distinctly implies that he is speaking of the 
same people in both passages. 

1 If it could be shown that Theodric's letter was written after the events narrated 
by Procopius, Goth. II. 14, we should of course be bound to conclude that there was 
another Ilerulian kingdom at this time. But we do not know exactly the date of 
these events, except that it was before 512 (cf. Chron. Marcell. Com. ad ann.). The 
other two letters (Cass., Var. IV. 2, 45) which may have a bearing on this question 
likewise give no dates. 

1 Except in the passage (interpolation ?) in Adam of Bremen mentioned above 
(p. 108), which can hardly be taken seriously. Bremer {op. cit., p. 851 f.) suggests 
the emendation of Angleuarii in the Notitia Dignitatum to Angli, Varini ; but it is 
surely more probable that this form is a corruption of Angriuarii. 


Thuringi — a fact which might explain the identification of the 
Werini with the Thuringi in the Lex. The fact that the Warni 
rebelled against the Franks in 595 (Chron. Fredegari, cap. 15) is 
of course inconclusive, for they might have become subject to 
the Franks in the Netherlands as well as in the basin of the 

The two points noted above seem to me to tell so strongly in 
favour of Zeuss' view that until further evidence is forthcoming 
I think we are almost bound to admit some connection between 
the Anglii and Werini and the Suabi Transbadani. Moreover 
there are one or two additional facts which we ought to take 
into account. The district between the Saale and the Elster was 
called Werenofeld in the time of Charlemagne 1 , a name which 
suggests that the district in question had been inhabited by 
Warni before it became Slavonic. Again, immediately to the 
south of the Unstrut there was a canton called Engilin {Engeli, 
Engli, etc.), and names compounded with Engel-, Aug/- seem to 
be fairly numerous throughout the basin of that river. The 
occurrence of these two names in more or less adjacent districts, 
both of which must have been included in the old Thuringian 
kingdom, certainly seems to throw some light on the expression 
Angliorum et Werinorum hoc est Thuringorum. It is true of 
course that neither the canton Engilin nor the district called 
Werenofeld lies within the area believed to have been occupied by 
the North Suabi in the ninth and tenth centuries. But it is 
quite possible that at one time the territories of the North Suabi 
may have extended beyond the Saale and the Unstrut. As 
a matter of fact the district between the Saale and the Elster 
appears not to have been conquered by the Slavs much before 
the middle of the seventh century 2 , and we have no reason for 
thinking that it had ever been really occupied by the Franks. 
Again, we are told that the whole of Thuringia was ravaged by 
the Franks in 555 in consequence of the assistance which the 
Saxons had derived from it in their rebellion 3 . This would 

1 Mon. Germ., Leg., v. 112. 

2 Cf. Zeuss, op. cit., p. 637 f. 

:i Greg. Tur., iv. 10 : cf. Venant. Fort. VI. 1. 75 f., where Lothair is said to have 
triumphed over two nations, Nablis and Thoringia, the former of which seems to 


seem to show that the Franks had not at that time settled there 
in any considerable numbers 1 . It is scarcely impossible therefore 
that the Saxons, and after them the North Suabi, may have 
taken possession of almost the whole of the Thuringian kingdom 
and that the frontier of historical times may not have been fixed 
until later. Of course if the name Anglii in the Lex does refer 
to the canton Engilin we shall have to suppose that a body of 
law or custom known as the Law of the Anglii and the Werini 
was in existence before the present code was issued ; but I 
do not know that any improbability is involved in such a 

It is perhaps worth pointing out that the two views expressed 
above as to the locality occupied by the Warni may not be 
wholly irreconcilable. We have seen above (p. 100 f.) that there 
is some evidence for supposing that the North Suabi came from 
the Netherlands. Consequently, if Zeuss was right in believing 
that the North Suabi and the Warni were the same nation, 
Procopius' statement that the latter lived (in Theodberht's time) 
about the mouth of the Rhine might be confirmed. The people 
who settled between the Unstrut and the Bode might then be 
descended from the western and not from the eastern division of 
the Warni. There is just one point however in Zeuss' theory 
which seems to me to be open to doubt. That the people known 
in the tenth century as Suabi Transbadani were the same as the 
Anglii and Werini of the Lex appears very probable. But 
I hesitate to believe that the names Warni and Suabi denoted the 
same nation in the sixth century. In the Anglo-Saxon poem 
Widsith the two are clearly distinguished. Thus in 1. 22 ff. we 

find "Witta ruled the Swaefe Billing (ruled) the Werne " ; 

and again in 1. 59 ff. " I have been with the Waerne and with 

the Swaefe." Further, the mention of the Warni eo nomine in 

correspond, in name at least, to the later Nabelgouwe. Possibly it was after this 
rebellion that the planting of the North Suabi began. Gregory attributes it to both 
Lothair and Sigibert ; but the former died seven years before Alboin's expedition. 

1 Baron K. F. v. Richthofen (Mon. Germ., Leg., v. 114) holds that the districts 
inhabited by the Anglii and Werini (Engilin and Werenofeld) were not conquered by 
the Franks until a later time; but he does not connect the Anglii and Werini with the 
North Suabi. 

c. 8 


Fredegar's Chronicle (see above) suggests that the Franks did 
not at this time identify the two names, for the term North 
Suabi occurs more than once in Frankish writings. We have to 
remember however that Gregory when describing the settlement 
in Thuringia uses the expression Snauos et alias gentes. The 
true explanation therefore seems to me to be that the settlers 
were a congeries of different nationalities which Lothair and 
Sigibert had brought together into the lands vacated by the 
Saxons — perhaps in order to secure their frontier against the 
Avars. If so the settlers may have come both from the Nether- 
lands and from the east side of the Elbe. At all events we never 
again hear of the Warni in either direction. Their existence 
as an independent nation may therefore have come to an end 
about this time. 

Of course I do not deny that the Warni and the North Suabi 
may have been kindred nations. Both are brought into con- 
nection with the Angli in some form or other. In Widsith the 
Angli and the Suabi are twice mentioned side by side, 1. 44 : 
Engle and Swaefe, and 1. 61 : mid Englum and mid Swaefuffl, 
while the Angli and the Warni are brought together in Tacitus, 
Germ. 40, and in the title of the Lex, as well as in the story told 
by Procopius (IV. 20). It seems to me more probable however 
that the North Suabi are really to be identified with the Heruli. 
We have seen that the latter name never occurs in Frankish, 
Saxon or English works. Similarly the North Suabi are never 
mentioned by Roman, Gothic or Langobardic writers 1 . It seems 
possible therefore that the two names denote the same nation, 
the former being the one used by its (Swabian and Gothic) 
neighbours on the east and south, while the latter was that by 
which it was known to the tribes on the west 2 . The North 
Suabi, i.e. the North Suabi proper, of Thuringia may in that case 
have been descended from the Heruli settled about the mouth 
of the Rhine. On the other hand they may also have come in 

1 The passage in Paul. Diac, Hist. Lang. II. 6, is derived from Greg. Tur. , v. 15. 

2 It has been suggested with much probability that the name Heruli is the same 
word as Ang.-Sax. eorlas, 'nobles,' O. Sax. erlos, 'men.' This word seems not to 
have been used in the Gothic and Swabian languages — a fact which may not be 
without significance. 


part from the Herulian kingdom which was destroyed by the 

As for the Warni it is clear that they did not settle in the 
basin of the Saale before the middle of the sixth century, for 
both the regions in which they are mentioned by Procopius lie 
far from that district. But the evidence at our disposal is hardly 
sufficient, I think, to enable us to decide from which of these 
two districts they came. So also with regard to the Angli of 
the Lex — granting that these are the same people whose name 
survived in that of the canton Engilin — their history can scarcely 
have been different from that of the neighbouring tribes, 
especially in view of Procopius' story. If the Warni really came 
from the Netherlands the Angli may have accompanied them ; 
and perhaps some support may be found for this view in 
Procopius' statement (Goth. IV. 20) that in Theodberht's time 
large numbers of Angli from Britain were settling within the 
Frankish dominions 1 . On the other hand, if there was no 
kingdom of the Warni at the mouth of the Rhine — if the events 
related by Procopius really took place in Holstein, it is scarcely 
impossible that a portion of the x^ngli may have joined the 
Warni there ; for, as we have seen, the passage in Germ. 40 
suggests that the two tribes had been closely connected from 
ancient times. 

At all events there is no reason for supposing that the Angli 
inhabited the basin of the Unstrut before they invaded Britain. 
Apart from the inherent improbability of such a hypothesis on 
geographical grounds, we must remember that the tribes with 
which they had the closest relationship, the Warni and the North 
Suabi, did not settle in this district until after the middle of the 
sixth century, while before that time the Unstrut seems to have 
been the centre of the Thuringian kingdom. Indeed it would 
scarcely be necessary to notice this hypothesis at all but for 
a singular error which found its way into Zeuss' monumental 
work (p. 153), namely that this was the district in which the 

1 Though no confirmation of this statement is to be found elsewhere (cf. p. 18), it 
is perhaps worth noting that many place-names of a distinctly English type occur in 
the neighbourhood of Boulogne ; cf. Waitz, Das alle Recht, p. 56 f., and Meitzen, 
op. cit., p. 554, where, however, a different explanation is given. 



Angli were located by Ptolemy. As a matter of fact it is quite 
clear, as we shall see later, that Ptolemy placed the Angli 
(Sovrjfioi , AjyeiXol) to the north or north-west of the Cherusci 
and Chatti. The centre of their territory would therefore lie in 
the lower part of the basin of the Weser, a district which is about 
as far from the Unstrut as it is from Angel or the marshlands of 
the lower Rhine. We may observe further that this theory is 
difficult to reconcile even with the vague indications as to the 
position of the Angli given by Tacitus. According to him the 
only noteworthy characteristic possessed by the group of tribes 
to which the Angli belonged was that they worshipped a goddess 
named Nerthus, whose sanctuary was situated on ' an island in 
the Ocean.' This remark has no point if the cult was shared by 
the Semnones and Langobardi, who are mentioned just before. 
Yet according to the theory we are discussing, these important 
tribes lay between the Angli and their island sanctuary. Indeed 
it would almost seem that Zeuss had forgotten the cult of 
Nerthus when he wrote his section on the Angli, for in another 
passage (p. 26) he says that this goddess was worshipped 
among the ancient inhabitants of the western end of the Baltic 
Sea 1 . 

The conclusions to which we have been brought may perhaps 
at first sight be thought to lend some colour to the statement in 
Adam of Bremen, I. 3 — poor as the authority for this statement 
undoubtedly is — that the Angli dwelt originally on the Rhine. 
It should be observed, however, that, whether the Warni and 
North Suabi came from the Netherlands or not, there is no 
evidence that that country was the original home of these nations. 
For no ancient writers mention the presence of Warni in this 

1 Zeuss' theory has been elaborated at some length in a paper ' Ueber die Heimat 
und den Namen der Angeln,' by Prof. A. Erdmann (Upsala, 1890). No attempt, how- 
ever, is made to explain either of the difficulties noted above, though a very unnatural 
interpretation is given (p. 2 if.) of the opening words of Germ. 41. The author seems 
to have examined only a small portion of the evidence in favour of the view that the 
Angli came from Angel. Thus, for example, no account appears to have been taken 
of the story of Scyld — Sceaf or of the affinities of the cult of Nerthus with Scandi- 
navian religion, while the Danish version of the story of Offa and 'his wife Her- 
muthruda' is dismissed in a couple of sentences (p. 49 f.). In more recent works 
Zeuss' theory seems to have been generally abandoned. 


region ; indeed both Tacitus and Ptolemy locate them in the 
east. So also with the Suabi. No Suebi are recorded to have 
lived in the Netherlands by early writers ; but we shall see later 
that there is evidence for the existence of a tribe of this name to 
the north of the lower Elbe. The conclusion therefore to which 
we are brought is that there is no evidence — in works dating 
from later than the second century — for believing that the Angli 
lived in Western Germany before they came to Britain 1 ; and 
further, that the nations in this region who were most closely 
connected with the Angli, namely the Warni and the Suabi, had 
migrated from districts north of the lower Elbe. Consequently 
the evidence tends rather to support Bede's statements than 
otherwise. In the following chapter we shall see that these 
statements receive the fullest confirmation from English and 
Danish tradition. 

1 Linguistic evidence has been brought forward to show that the Saxons, and in 
part the Angli also, settled in the Netherlands before they invaded Britain (cf. 
especially Hoops, op. cit., p. 575 ff.). But these loanwords, so far as they are not of 
British origin (cf. perhaps Ang.-Sax. peran, pise with Welsh per, pys), may at least 
equally well be due to the constant intercourse which we know to have gone on 
between the Angli and the Franks during the sixth and seventh centuries. Indeed 
certain words (e.g. biscop) hardly admit of any other explanation; cf. Bede, H.E., I. 
25. Of course it is not to be denied that warriors from the Netherlands may have 
joined the invaders. 



The Vitae Duorum Offarum is a work which professes to 
give a history of the foundation of St Albans Abbey. It has 
been ascribed to Matthew Paris, the famous historian and monk 
of that house, who died about the year 1259. Most scholars, 
however, now think that, though used by him, it was probably 
the work of an earlier writer belonging to the same abbey 1 . 

The Life of Offa the First is to the following effect. Once 
upon a time there was a king of the ' West Angles ' (which 
probably means the Mercians here) whose name was War- 
mundus. He built the town of Warwick, which was called after 
him. At the time the story opens he was advanced in years 
and feeble. He had an only son named Offa, who was now 
thirty years of age. The latter had been blind until his seventh 
year and, though of great size and strength, he was still dumb 
and thus unfit to govern. One of the chief nobles, named 
Riganus, encouraged by another whose name was Mitunnus, 
endeavoured, first by entreaties and then by threats, to get 
himself adopted by the king as his successor. Having failed 
in these plans he had recourse to armed rebellion. Warmundus 
in view of the threatened danger called together his nobles 
to discuss what ought to be done. While all were in doubt 
Offa suddenly obtained the power of speech and demanded 
that his own and his father's rights should be preserved. He 
then offered to lead the king's forces, and the latter greatly 
encouraged by this event set out against the rebels. The two 

1 Cf. Luard, Matthaei Parisiensis Chronica Maiora, 1. pp. xxxii, lxxx; Suchier, 
Paul and Braune's Beitrage, IV. 507. 


armies met on the opposite banks of a deep river called Rigan- 
burne. Offa dashed across the river at the head of his troops 
and slew the two sons of Riganus, who were named Hildebrandus 
and Sueno, with his own hand. The victory of the king's army- 
was complete and great numbers of the rebels were killed. War- 
mundus met his son as he was returning from the battle and 
handed over the sovereignty to him. Shortly afterwards he- 
died and was buried at Gloucester. 

Offa's reign was for the most part peaceful and prosperous. 
One day when hunting in the woods he met a young woman 
who stated that she was the daughter of the king of York and 
that she had fled from home in order to escape from the incestuous 
desires of her father. Offa conducted her to a place of safety 
and subsequently, on being entreated by his councillors to 
marry, he took her to wife. By her he had two children. After 
this the king of the Northumbrians sent an embassy to beg 
for his assistance against the Scots. While he was engaged in 
this campaign one of his messages was intercepted by the king 
of York. The letter was altered and orders were inserted that 
the regents were to put Offa's wife and children to death. On 
receipt of this message the queen and her children were taken 
into the woods and the latter were cruelly slaughtered. The 
cries of the mother however attracted the attention of a hermit, 
who by his prayers restored the children to life and subsequently 
conveyed them all to his cell. The king, discovering on his 
return what had happened, caused careful search to be made 
for his wife, but for a long time all his efforts were fruitless. 
At length he came one day, when hunting, upon the hermit's 
cell and was overcome with joy at finding both his wife and 
children safe. In obedience to the hermit's directions he made 
a vow to found a religious house as a thank-offering for re- 
covering them. This vow, however, he subsequently forgot, and 
it remained unfulfilled until the day of his death, when he laid 
it as a solemn charge upon his son. The latter also failed to 
perform it and handed it on in turn to his son ; and so the 
vow remained unfulfilled through several generations until the 
time of Offa the Second. 

The second Life, which is much the longer of the two, need 


not be described in detail here. However much scepticism may- 
be felt as to the historical truth of many of the incidents which 
it records, there is yet no room for doubt that this later Offa 
is the famous king of that name who reigned over Mercia from 
757 to 796. It will be sufficient here to notice a few passages 
which deal chiefly with the history of his wife. 

One day during the reign of Offa there arrived on the shore 
of Britain a small boat without any means of navigation. It 
contained a young woman who was reduced to the last stage 
of exhaustion through hunger and exposure. Having been 
brought before the king she gave her name as Drida, and stated 
that she was a relative of Karolus, king of the Franks, and 
that she had been cast adrift in this way through the malice 
of certain persons of ignoble blood, from whom she had refused 
to accept an offer of marriage. The truth, however, was that 
she had been found guilty of a serious crime (the nature of 
which is not stated) and condemned to death ; but, owing to 
her relationship to the king, it had been decided to cast her 
adrift upon the sea instead of putting her to death by a more 
direct method. After being revived by food she was found 
to be of extraordinary beauty, and subsequently she was married 
by Offa against the will of his parents, who suspected the 
depravity of her character. Thenceforth she was known as 
Quendrida {id est, Regina Drida). 

Offa and Quendrida had three daughters. The eldest of 
these was married to Brithricus (Berhtric), king of Wessex, 
and the second to Atheldredus (Aethelred), king of North- 
umbria, while the third, Aelfleda, had been promised to Albertus 
(Aethelberht), king of East Anglia. These marriages were 
little to the liking of Quendrida, who had desired to have her 
daughters given in marriage to Frankish princes, in order that 
by their aid she might be able to destroy her husband. When 
the marriage of Aelfleda had been arranged, Albertus was 
invited to Offa's palace. The queen endeavoured first to induce 
her husband to have him put to death, and when he indignantly 
repudiated this suggestion she devised a plan for getting rid 
of him herself. Entering into the hall where Offa and Albertus 
were sitting together, she invited the latter to come and see his 


bride. When he had entered the bride-chamber she asked him 
to take his seat upon a chair which she had placed over a hole 
in the floor. Through this Albertus fell and was immediately 
put to death by assassins who were hidden below. 

Ouendrida devised many schemes for the destruction of her 
husband, but all of them came to nothing. Eventually she was 
herself murdered by robbers on the spot where Albertus had 
been put to death. After this, Offa, realising the magnitude 
of the mercies he had received, the prosperity of his kingdom 
and his frequent escapes from the plots of his wife, decided 
to found a religious house at St Albans as a thank-offering. 
Thus the vow which he had inherited from his ancestors was at 
last fulfilled. 

This story, in so far as it refers to the queen, has no claim 
to be regarded as historical. The true name of Offa's wife 
was not Ouendrida (i.e. Cwoenthryth) but Cynethryth. Of her 
origin nothing is known, but the manner in which Alcuin speaks 
of her in a letter to her son Ecgfrith (disce...a patrc auctoritatem, 
a matrc pietatem . . .ab utroque Christianae religionis deuotionem... 
et totius nitae sobrietatem 1 ) gives no countenance to the idea that 
she was a woman of depraved character. According to the 
Saxon Chronicle Aethelberht was put to death by Offa, and 
we have no authority earlier than Florence of Worcester for 
the statement that Cynethryth was concerned in the murder. 
Offa's daughter Eadburg, however, is said to have been of a 
vicious disposition (Asser, cap. 14), and it is possible that some 
of her characteristics may have been transferred by tradition to 
her mother. The growth of the legend may have been promoted 
further by confusion with Cwoenthryth, the daughter of King 
Coenwulf, Ecgfrith's successor, who is said, though on late and 
poor authority, to have murdered her brother. 

It was recognised long ago that in spite of the legendary 
elements in the story there can be no doubt that the later Offa 
is the well-known king of Mercia. On the other hand, the 
early editors of the Vitae were not able to identify the first 
Offa with any known king. They recognised indeed the fact 

1 Jaffe, Bibl. Rer. Germ. VI. p. 267. 


that twelve generations above Offa the same name does occur 
again in the Mercian genealogy, and, further, that the father 
of this earlier Offa was called Wermund ; but at the same time 
they pointed out with truth that, if we are to credit the evidence 
of the genealogy, these persons must have lived considerably 
before the invasion of Britain. During the last two centuries, 
however, much new evidence has been brought to elucidate 
the story. The most important is that which is derived from 
legends given by the Danish historians, especially Saxo and 
Svend Aagesen. 

The story given by Saxo (p. 105 ff.) is as follows. There 
was once a king of the Danes whose name was Vigletus. He 
was succeeded by his son Wermundus, whose reign was long 
and prosperous. Wermundus' only son, whose name was Uffo, 
was born to him when he was well advanced in years. He was 
of great stature and strength, but from his early years he kept 
his lips sealed in perpetual silence and was regarded as dull and 
foolish. His father obtained for him in marriage the daughter 
of a certain Frowinus, who was the governor of Slesvig and one 
of his most distinguished men. 

The country about Slesvig was much disturbed by the 
incursions of a warlike king of Sweden whose name was 
Athislus. Between his forces and those of Frowinus there 
were many battles. At length the two chiefs met in single 
combat and Frowinus was slain. His sons, Keto and Wigo, 
were appointed by Wermundus to the office held by their father, 
an act which soon brought about another raid on the part 
of Athislus Keto sent Folco, his chief officer, to Wermund at 
Jaellinge with the news, and the king rewarded the messenger 
for his martial spirit with a golden cup. Folco in return vowed 
that rather than take to flight he would drink as much of his 
own blood as the cup would hold. When the two armies met 
in battle Athislus was defeated, but succeeded in escaping to 
his ships in spite of Folco's bravery, and the latter carried out 
his vow by drinking his own blood from his helmet. Keto 
expressed his surprise that they had not been able to overtake 
their enemy, and the king in explanation gave a long descrip- 
tion of the various classes of warriors — an account which appears 


to have suffered in transmission l . Subsequently Keto and 
Wigo passed over to Sweden in disguise, desiring to exact 
vengeance for their father's death. Having succeeded in obtaining 
access to Athislus' presence when he was alone Keto challenged 
him to single combat. In the duel which ensued Keto was 
thrown down ; but Wigo came to his assistance, and finally 
Athislus fell before the combined onslaught of the two brothers. 
On their return home they were received with honour by 
Wermundus, who considered that they had performed a useful 
deed in getting rid of so dangerous an enemy. But the general 
opinion of men was that they had brought dishonour upon their 
nation by violating the rules of single combat. According to 
Svend Aagesen it was this national disgrace which deprived 
Uffo of speech until his thirtieth year. 

When Wermundus had come to extreme old are the kin£ 
of Saxony sent an embassy to him demanding the surrender 
of his kingdom. If he was to refuse and had a son capable 
of fighting, then the matter was to be decided by a single 
combat between the sons of the two kings. Wermundus, stung 
by the insult and believing his son to be incapable of fighting, 
said that though he was blind he would himself fight with the 
king of Saxony rather than surrender. At this point however 
Uffo opened his mouth for the first time after many years of 
silence and said that not only was he willing to fight with the 
son of the king of Saxony but, further, he was ready to let the 
latter have a chosen warrior to help him. By this he hoped to 
wipe out the disgrace which had been brought upon the Danish 
nation by the act of Keto and Wigo. 

The duel was then agreed upon and an island in the river 
Eider selected as the place of combat. Great difficulty was 
experienced in finding a sword and armour suited to Uffo's 
enormous strength. When the time came Wermundus took 
his stand upon a bridge, intending to throw himself into the 
river as soon as he heard of his son's fall. Uffo, however, slew 
first the Saxon prince's champion and then the prince himself, 

1 In spite of what is said by Miillenhoff, Beovulf, p. 79, I am disposed to think 
that Wermund's title hinn vitri may be derived from this episode. 


and obtained the kingdom of Saxony as the prize of victory. 
Of his later history Saxo has nothing to record. 

The resemblance between the latter part of this story and 
the beginning of the Life of Offa the First is so striking that 
it is impossible to doubt that the two accounts refer to the 
same events. In one story we have an old king named 
Warmundus (Wermund in the genealogy) with an only son 
named Offa ; in the other an old king named Wermundus with 
an only son named Uffo. In both stories the son is dumb 
or at least silent until his thirtieth year ; and in both he obtains 
or recovers his speech on the occasion of an attempt to wrest 
the kingdom from his family. Lastly, in both stories the king's 
son engages single-handed and overthrows two of his enemies 
in the neighbourhood of a river. 

On the other hand there are certain discrepancies between 
the two accounts which must not be lost sight of. In one 
story the adversaries of the king are rebels ; in the other we 
have an act of aggression by a foreign king. In one story the 
event is decided by a pitched battle, in which Offa's single- 
handed contest is merely an incident ; in the other there is 
no mention of any fighting except the single combat. Lastly — 
and this is by far the most important point — Warmundus and 
Offa are represented as kings of the ' West Angles/ and all the 
events related in connection with them take place in Britain, 
while on the other hand Wermundus and Uffo are called kings 
of the Danes, and the scene of Uffo's combat is laid on the 
frontier of Slesvig and Holstein. 

In regard to the last point we have already seen that, if the 
evidence of the genealogies is to be trusted, Wermund and Offa 
cannot have lived in Britain. Again, it is not to be overlooked 
that, though Vigletus is represented by Saxo as king of Leire 
(in Sjaelland), yet Wermundus himself and Uffo are never 
mentioned in connection either with the islands or with Skaane. 
Indeed all the places mentioned by name in their history, 
namely Jsellinge (p. 108), Slesvig and the Eider, lie in the 
southern half of the Jutish peninsula, i.e. in or near the district 
which was believed by ancient English writers to have been the 
former home of our nation. We must therefore take into 


account the possibility that these persons may have come to be 
regarded as kings of the Danes because they ruled over districts 
which belonged to Denmark in later times. For it is by no 
means inconceivable that when the Danes came into possession 
of these districts, especially if possession was acquired in a 
peaceful manner, they may have taken over the local traditions 
with them. Moreover there is one point in the story given by 
the Danish historians which distinctly favours this suggestion. 
The name Wermundus appears in a form which is not Danish 
but English or Frisian. It is true that in certain genealogies 
(e.g. LangfeSgatal) 1 the same person is called Vdrmundr, which 
is a true Scandinavian form. But the fact that Saxo and Svend 
Aagesen (together with other genealogies, e.g. Flateyiarbok, I. 27) 
call him Wermundus or Vermundr- surely goes to show that the 
form of the story known to them had been derived from a source 
which was not Danish. 

It has been thought by some writers 3 that, since the form 

1 Langebek, Script. Rer. Dan. 1. p. 5. 

2 According to Olrik, Ark.f. nord. Fi/ologi, vm. 370, the latter is really a case 
of the substitution of a well-known name for one that was uncommon. His explana- 
tion of Wermundus however is open to the objection that there is no satisfactory 
evidence for believing that wer- was an /-stem (cf. Frank, -uera beside -gtmdis, 
-childis etc.). 

3 Especially by Mullenhoff, Beovulf, p. 72 ff., 80 ff. His reasons, though not very 
clearly expressed, appear to have been as follows: (1) that Vermundr and Uffi, 
probably also Frovinus, Vigi, Keto and Viglet, are not Danish names; (2) that the 
story is unknown in Old Norse literature and in the Annales Lundenses ; (3) that 
Saxo's use of prose throughout shows that he had no Danish poems at his disposal. 
All these arguments seem to me to be of an inconclusive character. In regard to (1) 
I am not prepared to grant that the fact of a name occurring only once points to its 
being derived from a foreign source. If such a principle were applied to Anglo-Saxon 
history many well-authenticated names would have to be ruled out. As a matter of 
fact Mullenhoff 's statement as to the non-occurrence of the name Uffi (Uffo) elsewhere 
is incorrect (cf. Saxo, p. 27 ff.). But in any case, even if none of these names are 
Danish, they need not have been obtained from England. (2) It is to be remembered 
that the southern part of the Jutish peninsula, with which this story deals, is seldom 
mentioned in Old Norse literature. Again, we shall see later that the time to which 
it refers is in all probability the fourth century, a period practically beyond the 
horizon of Norse tradition. The silence of such authorities is therefore only what 
might be expected. Yet there is really no doubt that Vermundr was mentioned in 
Skioldunga Saga (cf. p. 150). As for the Ann. Lundenses the amount of space which 
they give to tradition is quite small. (3) If Saxo's use of verse is to be the test of the 


Wermundus is English rather than Danish the story of these 
kings must have been acquired by the Danes in England at 
a time subsequent to the first Danish invasions of this country. 
But the forms of the other names which occur in the story as 
told by Saxo and Svend Aagesen are altogether against this 
supposition. Thus against Offa we have Uffo, which is clearly 

genuineness of a tradition we shall have to exclude the stories of Scioldus, of 
Hotherus and Balderus, of Hithinus and H^ginus, of Regnerus (Lodbrog) and many 
others as of non- Scandinavian origin. 

It is to be observed that the Danish authorities differ a good deal among 
themselves as to the place in the genealogy at which Wermundus and Uffo are 
inserted and as to the presence or absence of Vigletus. Some again substitute a name 
Olauns (O/a/r) for Uffo. These variations count strongly against the supposition that 
the story was derived through literary channels in late times. Miillenhoff distinguished 
two strata in the formation of Saxo's story. He held that the introduction of 
Vigletus was due to a late and literary borrowing, while the story of Wermundus and 
Uffo themselves was acquired orally at a much earlier date. To which of these strata 
the names Frowinus, Keto, Wigo, Folco and Athislus belong he seems not to have 
explained (though the assumption that the last named must be identical with the 
Athislus of the story of Roluo appears to be quite groundless). In any case the form 
of the story acquired by the Danes must, as Miillenhoff himself admitted (p. 83), have 
been of an entirely different character from that given in the Vita Offae I. This is 
shown by the absence of any reference to Britain. Of the personal names given in 
the Vita only two (Wermundus and Uffo) occur in the Danish accounts. Again, of 
the eight personal names which occur in the latter two (Keto and Folco) are unknown 
in England, while three (Vigletus, Frowinus and Wigo) appear only in the 
genealogies. There is no evidence for the survival of traditions concerning any of 
these persons in England. Indeed from the scarcity of literary references and the 
frequence of scribal errors in the spelling of proper names (e.g. Wala, Henden, 
Hnnferdr, Geomor, perhaps also Gar?nund, Saeferct) it seems to me very doubtful 
whether the old traditions were at all clearly remembered in England, even in the 
tenth century. Lastly, if the Danes were not acquainted with the story of Offa 
before they came here, how could they know that it referred to their own country? 
It is incredible, for instance, that the expression bi Fifeldore could have conveyed any 
geographical meaning to an Englishman of the tenth century. How many place- 
names capable of identification are to be found in Beowulf? Indeed, if the Danes 
were not acquainted with the story previously, the sole ground, so far as I can see, for 
their annexing it was the use of the name Angel. But in that case it is not a little 
remarkable that this name does not occur in any of the Danish versions of the story. 
If Mullenhoff's hypothesis were correct — if the stories of the kings of Angel, after 
being entirely forgotten, had been brought back from Britain and naturalised as 
popular traditions in their old home, and if the scenes of the events recorded in them 
had been identified, correctly too, by the inhabitants of later times — I think it is 
hardly too much to say that we should be faced with one of the most extraordinary 
phenomena in history. Cf. also the criticism by Olrik, I.e. p. 373 f. 


another form of the same name ; but it is a form which is not 
English but continental, especially Old Saxon. Again, Frowinus 
is a continental form (Old Saxon, Frisian or Danish), the 
English equivalent of which is Freawi?ie. But, above all, this 
explanation entirely fails to account for the precise localisation 
of several of the events related in the Danish version of the 
story. Even the exact spot on which Uffo fought his single 
combat was clearly known to Saxo, although he does not give 
its name; for in a later passage (XII. p. 402) he states that 
Bjorn (Bero), the brother of King Eric Eiegod (1095 — 1103) 
fortified " the island where Uffo the son of Wermundus fought 
with two chosen champions of the Saxon nation." This fortress 
is said to have been built on the island on which the old part of 
Rendsburg stands 1 . 

On the other hand we must not suppose that the story was 
first learnt by the people of England from the Danish invaders 
of this country 2 . In the first place the earliest texts of the 
genealogy in which the names Wermund and Offa occur date 
from a period in which Danish influence is extremely improbable. 
The oldest extant MS. (Cott. Vesp. B. 6, fol. 108 f; cp. p. 42), which 
is itself by no means the archetype, was written apparently 
between 810 and 814, i.e. at a time subsequent indeed to the 
first incursions of Scandinavian pirates but long anterior to the 
first real settlement of Danes in this country. Beyond this 
however we have certain references to a person or persons named 
Offa in ancient English poems. It will be convenient therefore 
at this point to take the evidence of these poems into account. 

The first reference occurs in the poem Widsith, 1. 3^ ff. It 

1 Cf. Miillenhoff, op. fit., p. 79. In the Chronicle of I'eter Olaus the scene of the 
combat is said to have been a place called Kunungskamp. This is probably the same 
as Kampen, the old name of a parish in the outskirts of the same town (cf. Langebek, 
Script. Rer. Dan. I. p. 152 note). Possibly, after Saxo's time, the scene of the 
action may have been shifted to this place in local tradition owing to its name. 

2 Of course it is by no means impossible that the story may have been affected 
subsequently by Danish influence. If Danes from the neighbourhood of Slesvig, 
familiar with the traditions of their own land, became acquainted with the story of 
Offa in England, they could hardly fail to recognise the substantial identity of the two 
accounts. Syncretism might then follow not unnaturally. It is perhaps worth noting 
that one of the rebels slain by Offa bears a specifically Danish name {Sue no). On the 
whole, however, the evidence for such a connection is very slight. 


comes at the end of a long list of nations or dynasties together 
with the chiefs who governed them, the formula employed being 
'A. ruled over B.' Many of these chiefs are mentioned elsewhere 
in the poems, as well as in continental and Scandinavian 
historical works and traditions. The list ends as follows : " Offa 
ruled over Angel, Alewih over the Danes. He was the bravest 
of all these men ; yet he did not prevail over (or surpass) Offa in 
heroism. But Offa at a time earlier than any other man, even 
when he was a boy, won the greatest of kingdoms. No one of 
like age has ever performed a more heroic deed. With his own 
sword alone he fixed (or enlarged) his frontier against the 
Myrgingas at Fifeldor. The boundary gained by Offa has been 
retained ever since by the Engle and the Swaefe." 

From the statement that Offa won, single-handed, " the 
greatest of kingdoms " we can hardly doubt that this person is 
identical with the Uffo of the Danish historians, and consequently 
also with the earlier Offa of the Vitae. But here we find it 
definitely stated that he ruled over Angel, while it is distinctly 
implied by the context that he was not king of the Danes. The 
argument therefore derived from the topography of Saxo's story 
is fully confirmed by this passage. Another point which deserves 
to be noticed is that Offa's opponents are here described as 
Myrgingas, a name which, as it is not known outside this poem, 
ought probably to be regarded as dynastic rather than national. 
In 1. 44 we find mention of the Swaefe beside the Engle, but 
unfortunately it is not clear from the context whether the two 
nations are represented as opponents or allies. To the Saxons 
there is no reference at all. Hence we are not in a position to 
decide whether Saxo's use of the names Saxones and Saxonia 
in this story is in accordance with ancient tradition. In Svend 
Aagesen's account the opponent of Wermundus and Uffo is 
described as Imperator, i.e. the Holy Roman Emperor, while his 
people are called Allemanni. Again, the only place-name given 
by the poem in this passage is bi Fifeldore, and it is tempting 
to connect this form with the name of the river Eider {Egidora) 1 . 

1 It has been thought that there is a reference to the same river in the portam 
quae Wieglesdor (v. 1. Heggedor) uocatur (Thietmari Chron., III. 4) ; cf. Grimm, 
Teutonic Mythol.* (Engl. Transl.), p. 239. 


But, however this may be, it is hardly reasonable to expect that 
names of places would be faithfully preserved in the traditions 
of a people who had migrated over the sea. 

It is curious that in one respect the evidence of the poem 
conflicts both with the Vita and with the Danish accounts of the 
story. According to both the latter authorities Offa (Uffo) was 
in his thirtieth year when he began to speak, and the combat 
immediately followed. Yet the poem lays stress on the early 
age at which Offa fought. Now, though we have no means what- 
ever of dating the composition of the poem 1 , there is no doubt 
that it is some centuries older than any of the other authorities. 
Consequently if we accept its statement as to Offa's age we shall 
have to suppose that the Vita and the Danish accounts have 
a common mistake. This is the one point which might be 
thought to indicate a connection, whether through writings or 
tradition, between the two versions of the story 2 . But I doubt 
whether such an inference on this ground alone would be 
justifiable. The mistake, if mistake it be, is one which might 
have arisen independently in the two traditions. One possible 
explanation is that the expression originally used in the recitation 
of the story 3 was \ritig missera (i.e. fifteen years) 4 . This would 

1 I do not see how the substance of these poems can date from later than the end 
of the sixth century. No doubt they underwent a considerable amount of change in 
later times ; but, except in a very small number of cases, it seems to me futile to try 
to separate the different elements. 

2 If there really is a connection it is only natural to suppose, since Widsith is an 
English poem, that the later English version has been influenced by the Danish 
(cf. p. 127, note). The opposite view was taken by Suchier {I.e., p. 505), but I do 
not understand on what ground. The other coincidence pointed out (somewhat 
incorrectly) by this writer is surely accidental, viz. that Offa was blind till his seventh 
year according to the Vita, while Uffo ceased to speak at the same age according to 
the Chronicle of King Eric (Langebek, 1. 152). 

3 It is often overlooked that these traditions were in all probability handed clown 
according to a set form of words. The form was no doubt capable of modification or 
expansion at the hands of each successive reciter; the method however differed in 
principle from that which would be employed by persons of the present day. 
Mr Quiggin informs me that this is still the case in Ireland, in spite of the fact 
that metrical form is not used. 

' It is perhaps worth noting that this is the age at which Skiiildr and Helgi 
Hundingsbani are said to have fought their single combats ; cf. Saxo, p. 1 1 ; Helgakv. 
Ilund., 1. 10. 

C. Q 


agree perfectly well with the statements of the poem ; and at 
the same time it is a phrase which might very well be misunder- 
stood in later times 1 . 

The other reference which contains the name Offa is in 
Beowulf, 1. 1 93 1 ff., a passage which unfortunately is one of the 
most obscure and difficult in the whole of Anglo-Saxon literature. 
The poet has been describing the virtues of Queen Hygd, the 
Avife of Hygelac, king of the Gotar. Suddenly, without any 
explanation, he proceeds as follows : " Thrytho, the haughty 
queen of the nation, was of an arrogant and terribly malicious 
•disposition. Not one of her retinue except her husband was 
so courageous that he dared to gaze upon her openly, but he 
regarded deadly bonds, hand-plaited, as certain for him. No 
sooner was he seized than the sword was made ready, so that 

the appointed time (or 'the weapon with decoration'?) 

might decide the case (or 'show itself?) and proclaim deadly 
destruction. That is no fitting habit for a lady to practise, 
even though she be peerless, that a 'peace-weaver' should 
deprive a friend of life from feigned indignation (?). At all 

events this was by Heming's relative. Yet according to the 

story told by warriors over their beer she desisted from malicious 
acts of violence and from bringing destruction upon her 
dependents from the time that she was given, adorned with 
gold, in marriage to the young warrior — when she, the lady of 
noble lineage, voyaged at her father's behest over the grey sea 
to Offa's abode. There, in the seat of authority, she acquired 
a reputation for virtue, which she retained ever after, making 
good use of her position as long as she lived and preserving 
constant affection for that prince of knights. But Offa himself 
was the most illustrious, so far as my knowledge goes, of the 
whole human race between the seas ; for he was a brave soldier, 
honoured far and wide for his liberality and warlike prowess, 
and governed his country wisely. From him was sprung Eomer, 

1 In Scandinavian tradition the confusion would be especially easy, since the word 
tnisseri was used, at all events in Old Norse, both for 'year' and 'half a year' (cf. 
Cleasby-Vigfusson, s.v.). In Anglo-Saxon the word missere seems to be confined to 
poetry, and even there, so far as I am aware, there is no evidence, apart from 
Beowulf, that it denoted a definite period of time. 


the relative of Heming and nephew (grandson?) of Garmund. 
He (Eomer) was a man who supported knights and excelled 
in deeds of valour." 

This Offa, who is here described as " the most illustrious of 
the whole human race," can hardly be any other than the person 
mentioned in Widsith. For the catalogue of princes in the 
latter poem seems to give in each case the name of that prince 
who was the most famous in the traditions of his nation, without 
regard to the age in which he lived. Thus in the case of the 
Goths we find Eormenric and in the case of the Huns Aetla 
(Attila). Consequently we may infer with some probability 
that Offa was the most famous of the kings of Angel. Again, 
in the passage from Beowulf quoted above Offa has a descendant 
named Eomer {Geomor, MS.). This name, which is not a common 
one in Anglo-Saxon literature, is borne by Offa's grandson in 
the Mercian genealogy. It has been suggested also that 
Garuiund is a mistake for Waermund, which would give still 
further confirmation, if such is required, to the identity of the 
two families. Our text of Beowulf is untrustworthy in regard 
to the treatment of proper names, and the form Garmund is not 
required for alliteration. I cannot find elsewhere any parallel 
for the use of nefa as ' great-grandson/ which is the relationship 
borne by Eomer to Wermund in the Mercian genealogy, but 
I do not know that such use of the word is open to serious 
objection 1 . 

On the other hand the wife of this Offa bears an obvious 
resemblance to the wife not indeed of the earlier but of the 
later Offa of the Vitae 2 . In both cases the name is the same, 
for Drida is a mere scribal corruption of Thrythu (Thrytho). 
Both women are guilty of murder and both are sent from home 
over the sea on account of their crimes, though the account 
given in Beowulf does not suggest that this journey was of the 
adventurous character described in the Vitae. Now we have 
seen that there are no early authorities for the belief that the 
wife of Offa, king of Mercia, was of the vicious disposition 
attributed to her in the St Albans document. The obvious 

1 Eomer might of course have had an uncle named Garmund. 

2 For the story of the wife of Offa I. cf. Suchier, I.e., p. 512 ff. 



inference therefore is that the wife of the earlier Offa has been 
transferred in English tradition to the Mercian Offa. The 
account of the murder of King Aethelberht given in the Vitae 
may possibly be an echo of the murder described in Beowulf, 
though in that case we must suppose that the incident on which 
it is based took place before Offa's marriage. 

The evidence of the two passages discussed above shows 
that traditions concerning Offa had long been current in 
England. It is of course impossible to estimate with certainty 
the time at which these poems were composed ; but practically 
all authorities agree in believing that they date from a period 
anterior to the settlement of the Danes in this country. The 
latest person mentioned in Widsith is Aelfvvine (Alboin), king 
of the Langobardi, who died in 572-3, while the people who 
figure in Beowulf belong to a somewhat earlier period. Now 
we have seen (p. 18 f.) that there is no satisfactory evidence for 
the maintenance of communication between England and 
Denmark from the middle of the sixth century until the time 
of the Danish invasions. Thus we are led to conclude that 
the two traditions, English and Danish, have been preserved 
independently since the sixth century at the latest. The fact 
that certain legendary features, especially the dumbness or silence 
of Offa, are common to both forms of the story would seem 
to show that even then it had been in circulation for some 
considerable time 1 . 

The Danish tradition, especially as recorded by Saxo, gives 
a number of statements for which we find no parallels in the 
English documents discussed above. One or two of these are 
worth subjecting to inspection. According to Saxo Wermundus 
succeeded his father Vigletus. Now the latter is not a Danish 
name ; indeed in the form in which it stands it can hardly 
represent a Teutonic name at all. But the name borne by 
Wermund's father in the Mercian genealogy, viz. Wihtlaeg, is 
not very different. If we may suppose that Vigletus is a 
corruption of Vitleg, which is by no means impossible, the two 

1 Unless indeed these features in the later English form of the story are derived 
entirely from Danish tradition — which I think is unlikely. 


names will be identical. Here again, as in the case of Wer- 
mundus, the Danes must have taken over with the local 
traditions a name which did not conform to the sound-laws of 
their own language. The statements which Saxo makes about 
Vigletus, namely that he was king of Leire and that he over- 
threw the Jutish king Amlethus, we have unfortunately no 
means of testing. 

There is however another element in Saxo's story which 
is of greater importance for our purpose. He says that in the 
reign of Wermund the governor of Slesvig was named Frowinus 
and that this person had a son named Wigo. Now if we turn 
to the West Saxon genealogy we find a father and son with 
the same two names in English form, viz. Freawine and Wig, 
in positions corresponding approximately to those held by 
Wermund and Offa in the Mercian genealogy and lying, like 
them, in the fourth and fifth generations from Woden. As both 
these names are decidedly uncommon the coincidence can 
hardly be accidental. Therefore, though no traditions have 
been preserved in England with reference to these reputed 
ancestors of the West Saxon dynasty, we need not hesitate to 
identify them with the two governors of Slesvig whose exploits 
are recorded by Saxo. It is rather curious to note that, ac- 
cording to Aetheleweard, Sceaf, the mythical ancestor of the 
same family, likewise ruled in Slesvig ; but one would hardly 
be justified in laying much stress on this statement, as it is 
unlikely that such a name would be preserved in English 

It appears then that by comparing the English and Danish 
versions of the story of Offa we are able to confirm fully the 
identification of the historical Angel with the Angel of tradition 
adopted long ago by our early historians — and, further, to re- 
construct with more or less probability the outlines of a series of 
events which occurred at a very remote period of our national 
history. For some elements in the story — the aggression against 
King Wermund, the dumbness or silence of Offa and his subse- 
quent victory over two opponents — we have what seems to be 
independent testimony in the traditions of both nations. On the 
other hand the story of Thrytho and her marriage with Offa 


is known only from English sources 1 , while the reign of 
Vigletus (Wihtlaeg) and the exploits of Frowinus and Wigo 
are recorded only by Danish writers. Even in the last case 
however we have corroborative evidence from the English side 
as to the existence of such persons in an age apparently 
corresponding to that of Wermund and Offa. 

It still remains for us to make some attempt to fix the 
period in which these persons lived. It is generally supposed 
that we have no means of giving an answer to this question 
except by counting the generations from Penda, the first person 
in the Mercian genealogy whom we are able to date with 
anything like precision. Now Offa lies in the eighth generation 
above Penda ; so if, in accordance with the usual standard of 
calculation, we allow thirty years for each generation, his birth 
should be dated about 240 years before that of his descendant. 
Therefore, if we are right in believing that Penda was born 
about the beginning of the seventh century (cf. p. 16), Offa's 
birth ought to be dated about the year 360. Again, if we apply 
the same process to the West Saxon genealogy and assume that 
Cerdic was born about the year 470, the birth^of Wig, his fourth 
ancestor, will have to be dated about 350. But, for reasons 
which have been sufficiently stated above, I cannot regard this 
genealogy as trustworthy evidence. 

I am inclined to think however that there is another possible 
means of approaching this question. In Saxo's story an im- 
portant part is played by a person named Athislus, who is 
represented as a king of Sweden. Now, apart from Saxo, 
Scandinavian tradition knows of no Swedish king of this name 
except the ASils (Eadgils) who had dealings with Hrolfr Kraki 
(Hrothwulf) and Biarki (Beowulf), and who lived apparently in 
the early part of the sixth century. Moreover, though it would 
not be wise perhaps to lay very much stress on this point, 
Slesvig is not an obvious place for a king of Sweden to attack. 
It is true that in the early years of the tenth century Swedish 
princes do seem to have conquered and occupied a portion of 

1 Miillenhoff (op. cit., p. 8 iff.) held that Hermuthruda, who in Saxo is the wife of 
Amlethus, was originally identical with Thrytho. Into this question however we 
need not enter here. 


this district. But the original Sweden (Svealand) was a much 
smaller kingdom than the Sweden of the tenth century and 
consisted only of that part of it which lies farthest away from 
Slesvig. At all events we may remember that Danish tradition 
has made the kings of Angel into kings of the Danes. It is 
scarcely impossible therefore that a person who is represented 
as a king of Sweden may really have ruled over a different 

Now, with the exception of the famous Swedish king 
mentioned above, the only prince of this name known to us 
from either English or Scandinavian tradition is the Eadgils 
' lord of the Myrgingas ' who is mentioned in Widsith. Where 
exactly the Myrgingas lived we are not told ; but, since it was 
against them and their princes that Offa fought his combat, 
we must conclude that they were near neighbours of the kings 
of Angel. If the fight took place on the Eider, as the Danish 
authorities say, the presumption is that their home was in 
Holstein. In that case it is easy to see that Slesvig would be 
the natural object of their attacks. Moreover there is another 
point in the story on which this explanation throws light. Both 
Saxo and Svend Aagesen lay stress on the disgrace which had 
been brought upon Wermundus' nation by the slaying of 
Athislus and on the removal of this disgrace by Uffo's achieve- 
ment. If Athislus, as I have suggested, really belonged to the 
same dynasty as Uffo's opponents, it is clear that the story 
gains additional force. 

The time at which Eadgils, lord of the Myrgingas, lived is 
fortunately made clear by several passages in Widsith. The 
poet states (I. 94) that he was in Eadgils' service and (1. 5 f{.) 
that in company with Ealhhild, who was apparently either the 
wife or a near relative of that prince 1 , he visited the court of 
Eormenric, king of the Goths. Eormenric rewarded him for 
his poetry with a valuable bracelet, which on his return home 

1 The coincidence that Ealhhild's father bears the same name (Eadwine) as 
Alboin's father (i.e. Audoin, king of the Langobardi) has led some writers to conclude 
that the two must necessarily have been identical — a hypothesis which involves the 
reconstruction of a considerable part of the poem. The name Eadwine occurs again 
in 1. 1 17 in the same sentence as the name Wi\>-Myrginga. 


he gave to Eadgils (1. 90 ff.). It is clear then that Eadgils and 
Eormenric were contemporaries. But we know from Ammianus 
Marcellinus (xxxi. 3. 1) that the latter died about the year 370. 
Jordanes (cap. 24) says that he was a hundred and ten years 
old, but from another passage in the same author (cap. 22) it 
appears that his predecessor, Geberic, was reigning about the 
year 335. Consequently we can hardly go wrong in concluding 
that Eadgils lived about the middle of the fourth century. If 
our hypothesis is correct, Wermund was his contemporary, and 
the date of Offa's fight will therefore fall into the latter half 
of this century. It will be seen that this date agrees very well 
with the calculations obtained from the srenealogfies. 

The nationality of Offa's opponents is a question which it 
is somewhat more difficult to decide. Their geographical 
position is pretty clearly indicated by the Danish tradition. 
The combat, as we have seen, is said to have taken place at 
Rendsburg. Again, if we are right in believing that Athislus 
belonged to the same nation, we may infer that their territories 
extended as far as the Baltic, presumably in the neighbourhood 
of Kiel, for the raids of this king are said to have been made 
by sea. We may conclude then with some probability that the 
territories of the nation corresponded roughly to those of the 
Holtsati in later times, though the latter appear to have been 
cut off from the Baltic by the Slavonic invasion. This however 
does not settle the question of nationality. Saxo in his account 
of the story uses the name Saxones throughout, but it is to 
be observed that with him this is a comprehensive term for all 
Teutonic peoples on the southern frontier of the Danes. Svend 
Aagesen on the other hand uses the curious name Allemanni. 
From the discrepancy between the two authors we are perhaps 
justified in inferring that the nationality of Offa's enemies was 
not clearly remembered by Danish tradition. In Widsith they 
are called Myrgingas, but this, as we have seen, may be a 
dynastic name. The only certainly national name, besides 
Eug/e, which occurs in this passage is Swaefe ; but unfor- 
tunately it is not clear from the context (cf. p. 128) that this 
name refers to the king's enemies. It is possible that the 
Suabi (Swaefe) might have been in alliance with the Angli. 


But what, I think, we may with safety infer from the passage 
is that the two were neighbouring tribes. Of course, so far as 
this goes, the Suabi may have bordered on the Angli on the 
north or west, as well as on the south. In a subsequent chapter 
however we shall see that all those tribes which were un- 
doubtedly included among the Suebi (Suabi) in ancient times 
lay in or around the basin of the Elbe. It is decidedly probable 
therefore that the Suabi of Widsith were situated on the 
southern or south-western frontier of the Angli 1 . Hence there 
is clearly a very good case, in the light of the Danish evidence, 
for holding that Offa's enemies, the Myrgingas, really did belong 
to the Suabi. 

The significance of this passage in Widsith in regard to the 
Suabi seems not to have been quite sufficiently appreciated by 
modern writers. If we admit, as I think we are bound to do 
in the light of the traditions given above, that the Angli came 
from Angel, the evidence of Widsith places the existence of 
a people named Suabi in the southern part of the peninsula 
practically beyond doubt. Now in the last chapter we saw that 
there are some traces of the presence of Suabi in the Nether- 
lands. At the same time the silence of ancient writers gives 
us good reason for supposing that their settlement in this region 
did not take place before the ' migration period.' They can 
hardly have made their way thither except by sea, for there 
is no satisfactory evidence for the existence of Suebic tribes 
in north-west Germany. Further, since the whole coast-line 
as far as the mouth of the Elbe was certainly occupied by 
non-Suebic tribes, we may conclude with every probability that 
it was from the Suabi of Holstein that they were sprung. It 
is a little surprising of course that these Suabi should have been 
entirely forgotten by Danish tradition 2 . There are one or two 
pieces of evidence however which are, I think, worth taking 

1 Possibly a trace of their existence may be preserved in the place-name Schwabsted, 
on the Treene, if this name really means Suaborum oppidum. In that case we may 
probably regard it as a frontier settlement of the tribe; cf. H. Moller, Das altenglischt 
Volkscpos, p. 26, note. 

- The terms Svafa land and Svafa konwigr do occur in Old Norse (HelgakvtfSa 
Hidrvarzsonar), but without precise indications as to the region to which they refer. 


into consideration, though I would not attach any very great 
importance to them. One is the use of the name Allemanni 
in Svend Aagesen's account. The same name occurs in Saxo's 
account of the reign of Scioldus (p. 12). Now it is quite incon- 
ceivable that the Alamanni can ever have come into contact 
with the Danes in these early times. But is it not possible that 
the name Alamanni (Allemanni) may have been substituted 
for Snabil For the Alamanni are sometimes called Suabi ; 
indeed the expression Suauorum hoc est Alamannorum occurs 
in Paulus Diaconus' Historia Langobardorum (ill. 18 ; cf. II. 15), 
a work with which Saxo at least was familiar. The other possi- 
bility is in regard to the king Athislus. We have suggested 
above that this person really belonged not to Sweden but to 
the Myrgingas. Is it not possible that in the native tradition 
he was described as Szvcda kyning (or kuning)} If so the 
Danes of later times might very well substitute Svea for a name 
which they did not understand 1 . Of course if we admit both 
these explanations we shall have to suppose that the story of 
Offa was preserved in more than one form ; but that is only 
what the evidence has already led us to believe-. 

There is another passage in Widsith however which deserves 
more attentive consideration. We are told that Ealhhild, a 
princess of the Myrgingas, visited the court of Eormenric. 
The object of her journey is not explained, but I think we 
may conjecture with some probability that, like Hiltgunt in 
the story of Walthari, she went there as a hostage, in accordance 
with the custom described by Tacitus {Germ. 8). If so, Eadgils 
must have been subject to Eormenric. Now it has been sug- 
gested above (p. 114) that the North Suabi were identical with 
the Heruli, and we know from Jordanes (cap. 23) that the latter 
were conquered by Eormenric. It may perhaps be urged that 
these Heruli lived in the south of Russia. The presence of 
Heruli in this region however is attested only for a few years 
(in the latter part of the third century), a fact which suggests 

1 In medieval writings the confusion between the Swedes and the Suebi is not 
uncommon; cf. Aethelweard, I. ad ami. 449 and the story quoted on p. 100 (where 
Sweuia seems to mean Sweden). 

2 Cf. Saxo, p. 117: hie (Uffo) a eo/nplnribics Olamts est dictus. 


that they were merely a piratical band. Again, we hear of 
Heruli in central Europe from the time of Attila onwards, 
while at the end of the fifth century they had a powerful 
kingdom, apparently in the basin of the Elbe. Jordanes how- 
ever in another passage (cap. 3) states that the Heruli had 
been expelled from their territories by the Danes 1 — from which 
we may infer that they lived originally in the north. Their 
presence on the upper Elbe may therefore have been a result 
of their expulsion from their own territories. It is true of 
course that we do not know when the conflict between the 
Danes and the Heruli took place. Procopius clearly knew of 
no Herulian kingdom between the Warni and the Danes at 
the beginning of the sixth century. On the other hand it is 
difficult to believe that Jordanes was referring to an event 
which had taken place more than a century before his own 
time. But if we are right in identifying the Heruli with the 
North Suabi, is there any serious objection to supposing that 
their expulsion was due to some conflict which took place during 
the fifth century? 

In conclusion it will not be out of place to try for a moment 
to form some idea as to when the Danes first settled in the 
district about the Eider. According to what is usually thought 
to be a genuine tradition 2 the original Danish kingdom con- 

1 The passage unfortunately is difficult to understand and in all probability corrupt : 
Suelidi (v. 1. suethidi, snediti) cogniti (v. 1. cogent) in hoc genie reliquis corpore 
eminentiores quamuis et Dani ex ipsoram stirpe progressi Herulos propriis sedibus 
expulcrunt qui inter onines Scandzae naliones nomen sibi ob nimiam proceritatem 
affectant praecipuum. It is often assumed (1) that suethidi is synonymous with 
Suet nans, i.e. the Swedes (Svear) — although this supposition is very difficult to 
reconcile with the context in which the passage occurs — and consequently that the 
Danes were an offshoot of the Swedes ; (2) that the territories from which the Heruli 
were expelled by the Danes were situated in the islands of the Belt or in the south of 
Sweden. The hypothesis that the Danes were an offshoot of the Swedes receives 
some support from certain passages in late Latin chronicles (Chron. Erici Regis, 
Langebek, Scr. A'er. Dan. 1. p. 150; Ann. Esrom., ib. p. 223) which represent the 
eponymous hero Dan as coming from Sweden ; but this story is not found either in 
Saxo or in Old Norse literature. Evidence for believing that the Heruli ever inhabited 
the islands or Sweden seems to be entirely wanting, for I do not see how the later 
migration of the Heruli, described by Procopius {Goth. 11. 14 (.), can be regarded as 
justifying this view. 

2 For the references see Zeuss, op. cit. p. 509 f. The four islands specified do 


sisted only of the islands of Sjaelland, Falster, Laaland and 
Moen, which are said to have been known collectively as 
Withesleth. Further, it is commonly believed that, whatever 
may have been the case with Skaane, Jutland formed no part 
of the Danish kingdom in early times. On the other hand 
we have seen (p. 95) that there is evidence for South Jutland 
being in possession of the Danes at the beginning of the eighth 
century. Procopius' statement {Goth. II. 15) that the Heruli 
passed through the ' tribes of the Danes ' (kavwv ra edvrj) before 
they arrived at the sea on their way to ■ Thule,' points to their 
occupation of some parts of the peninsula at the beginning of 
the sixth century. The fact that Gregory of Tours (H. F. III. 3) 
describes Hygelac (Chlochilaiciis) as rex Danorum shows at all 
events that their name was familiar in the West shortly after 
this time. Again, the use of the term Dene with reference to 
Hnaef's men in Beow. 1090 suggests at least that the Danes 
had some kind of footing on the peninsula, perhaps half a 
century before the expedition of the Heruli. On the other 
hand it may be argued that there is little or no evidence for 
the use of the Danish language in the Eider district in early 
times. Indeed, if we admit, as I think we must, that the 
Danish version of the story of Offa was derived from local 
tradition, it is clear that the language spoken in this district 
was not Danish. The best, perhaps the only explanation of 
these apparent discrepancies seems to be that the Danes who 
settled in the basin of the Eider, whether in the fifth or only 
in the seventh century, adopted the language of the natives 1 , 
though at the same time without losing consciousness of their 
own nationality. This hypothesis will also go far towards 
explaining how the kings of Angel came to be regarded as 
king's of the Danes. 

seem to have formed one of the three main divisions of the kingdom for administrative 
purposes. But the part of the story which relates to Dan is probably a late invention 
(cf. the last note). 

1 If the settlement took place as early as the fifth century it would scarcely be 
necessary to suppose that there was a change of language. We shall see later that 
there is no need for supposing the population of the eastern (Baltic) coast to have 


But what was the native language ? At the present time 
the language of the southern part of the province of Slesvig 
is German and that of the northern part Danish, the boundary- 
lying in the neighbourhood of Tonder and Flensborg, while 
Frisian is spoken on the west coast between Tonder and Husum. 
It is known however that within the last few centuries Danish 
has encroached on Frisian, and German still more on both. In 
the Middle Ages Danish was spoken on the east coast as far as 
the Eckernforde Fiord, if not beyond, while on the west coast 
Frisian extended at least to the Eider. The western part of 
Holstein was German and the eastern part Slavonic, probably 
as far as the Danish border. For early times however precise 
evidence is wanting for all the linguistic boundaries. It is 
commonly assumed that German is the native language of 
Holstein. Yet if the Saxons of Holstein (Saxoues Transalbiani) 
were really Saxons, and if the Saxons originally spoke an 
Anglo-Frisian language, it is difficult to see how this can have 
been the case. Our discussion, it is true, has led us to the 
conclusion that they were really Suabi. But even so it does 
not follow that their language was German, for they occupied 
a more or less maritime district. Moreover the evidence of the 
Merseburg glosses (cf. p. 96 f.) has to be taken into account, 
though it may not be altogether conclusive on such a question 
as this. Greater importance is probably to be attached to the 
fact that from the time of Charlemagne onwards Holstein was 
exposed to strong southern influence. The advancing of the 
political frontier to the Eider would undoubtedly tend to 
promote the extension of the German language. For all that 
we know to the contrary it may not have been spoken beyond 
the mouth of the Elbe, if so far, before this time. 

Now we have seen that the personal names preserved in the 
Danish version of the story of Offa give evidence for the 
existence of a non-Danish language in the southern part of 
the peninsula. This language however certainly resembled 
English or Frisian rather than German, as may be seen e.g. 
from the form Wermundus. If it was really Frisian we must 
of course give up the idea that North Frisian was an immigrant 
language. On the other hand we cannot place much confidence 


in the statement quoted by Bede that the land from which the 

Angli came to Britain had remained uninhabited ever since a 

statement which seems ultimately to be derived from a popular 
tradition, preserved also in the Historia Brittonum, § 38 (cf. p. 
41 f.). It is true that the names which we are discussing indicate 
a form of language resembling Frisian rather than English. 
But we have seen (p. 68 ff.) that the distinctive characteristics 
of the English language originated apparently at a fairly late 
period, at all events after the invasion of Britain. Hence the 
language spoken in the home land may well have developed 
on other lines. As against this again we have to remember 
that, though the use of the name ' Frisian ' by the inhabitants 
of the west coast points no doubt to a Frisian colonisation, 
there is yet no record of such a movement either in literature 
or tradition. On the whole, taking all the facts into account, 
viz. (1) that the Angli, and hence presumably the English 
language, originally came from this region, (2) that there is 
no evidence for the use of the German language here in early 
times, (3) that the personal names in the Danish story of Offa 
show Frisian form, (4) that an Anglo-Frisian language is spoken 
in the adjacent islands (cf. p. 99), where it is apparently indi- 
genous, (5) that the Anglo-Frisian languages in their general 
characteristics occupy a position intermediate between the 
German and Scandinavian languages — it seems difficult to 
resist the conclusion that, however much it may have been 
affected by a Frisian colonisation, the North Frisian language 
is in the main the native language of the southern part of the 
peninsula, at all events on its western side. 

The only linguistic evidence available for very early times is 
that of a few short inscriptions found in the bog deposits at 
Thorsbjserg and Nydam. To these we may perhaps add the 
golden horn discovered at Gallehus in 1734, though this place 
lies within the present Danish frontier. The inscription on the 
horn is as follows : ek hlewagastiz holtiiigaz hortia tawicto, i.e. "I, 
Hlewagastiz Holtingaz, made the horn." There are no dis- 
tinctive dialectical characteristics. The most important of the 
other inscriptions is one found on the chape of a sheath at 
Thorsbjaerg : ozvl\u\ewaz \ niwaj (or ng)emariz. The first part 


is clearly a proper name with the first two letters transposed, 
Wolthuthewaz. The second part is generally interpreted as 
"famous in Wangaz" or "Wajaz" 1 (presumably a place-name). 
But in any case the -a- of mariz deserves notice. This sound- 
change (a for e) seems to have been a characteristic of all Suebic 
and Northern languages (including English) in early times, as 
against the western (Frankish) 2 and eastern (Gothic) branches 
of the Teutonic group, which retained e. On the strength of 
this we may perhaps describe the language of the inscriptions 
as ' central Teutonic,' for certainly there are no characteristics 
which in themselves would justify us in classifying it as Scan- 
dinavian, English, Frisian or German. Indeed the form of 
language which they show is clearly anterior to the operation 
of most of the phonetic changes by which these various dialects 
became differentiated from one another. 

The dates fixed for the deposits at Thorsbjaerg and Nydam 
by different archaeologists vary from the third century to the 
first half of the fifth century, while the horn may possibly be 
somewhat later. Now in an earlier chapter (pp. 62 ff., 68 ff.) we 
came to the conclusion that most of the phonetic changes which 
can be traced in the northern and western Teutonic languages 
were probably not of any very great antiquity. In particular 
the characteristics which distinguish the Anglo-Frisian group 3 
from both its northern and its southern neighbours seem to date 
mainly from the sixth and seventh centuries. As this group 
was essentially a maritime one and extended apparently along 
the whole of the coast between the present frontiers of Denmark 
and Belgium, we may naturally infer that its common character- 
istics are due to communication by sea. There is no evidence 
however for any serious navigation of the North Sea before 

1 For the reading see v. Grienberger, Arkiv f. nord. Filologi, XIV. 116. The 
same writer has elsewhere (Zeitschr. f. deutsche Philologie, XXXII. 290) proposed to 
read ni -wajemariR, connecting the latter with Goth, wajamcrjan (cf. wailamers). 

2 The change e > a did take place in Frankish, but not before the middle of the 
sixth century, i.e. at a time when the reverse change had already begun in the Anglo- 
Frisian languages (cp. p. 62). 

3 Most of the changes peculiar to Scandinavian or German are generally believed 
to be later than those of our group. 


the last fifteen years of the third century 1 , and such specific 
characteristics would certainly require a considerable time in 
which to develope. Hence we need not hesitate to believe that 
the language of the inscriptions was the direct ancestor of the 
languages spoken in the same districts in later times. Of course 
dialectical differences may already have been in existence ; but 
they were probably slight and comparatively few in number. 
Consequently, when we come to consider the nations of the 
first two centuries the linguistic evidence of later times cannot 
be regarded as a trustworthy criterion for determining their 

Before we leave the story of Offa it will not be out of place 
to call attention for a moment to the singular neglect with which 
these traditions have been treated by writers on constitutional 
history. It is frequently assumed that the Anglo-Saxon peoples 
were not subject to kingly government until after the invasion 
of Britain. Yet the evidence given above leaves no room for 
doubt that there had been kings in Angel for more than a cen- 
tury before the invasion. Indeed if we accept Saxo's statements, 
that Wermundus was an old man when his son was born and 
that he was himself the son of King Vigletus (Wihtlaeg), the 
dynasty is brought back probably to the very beginning of the 
fourth century. Again, we have seen (p. 15 f.) that there is some 
evidence for believing that a king named Icel reigned in the 
central part of England during the fifth century. According to 
the genealogy this man was the son of Eomer, who is described 
in Beowulf (1. 1961 ff.) in language which seems to imply that he 
also was a ruler. If our calculations are correct he must have 
been born about 420, and it would therefore be in his lifetime 
that the invasion of Britain took place. Of Eomer's father, 
Angeltheow or Angengeat, we know nothing, but his grandfather 
was King Offa whose career has been discussed above. The 
history of the dynasty can therefore be traced with few breaks 
from the period of contemporary documents back to the early 

1 The first reference to the western expeditions of the Saxons goes back to the 
year 286 (cf. p. 93). The Heruli are mentioned by Mamertinus a few years later; 
cf. Zeuss, op. cit., p. 477 f. 


part of the fourth century. The evidence for the history of the 
West Saxon dynasty is of a far less satisfactory character ; but 
from what has been said it appears that this family claimed to 
be descended from persons who held high office under King 
Wermund. The relationship of these persons to the ancestors 
of the Bernician dynasty has already been noted 1 . 

We are thus forced to conclude that the prevailing notions 
in regard to the origin of kingship in England are without 
foundation. Just as the Goths and Franks were led into the 
provinces of the Roman Empire by kings of their own national 
dynasties, so we must suppose that the conquest and occupation 
of Britain was carried out from the beginning under the leader- 
ship of princes of the blood royal. It is true that Frowinus and 
Wigo are described by Saxo only as praefecti; but we must 
not infer from this that they were not of royal descent, for even 
in historical times we not unfrequently find such titles applied 
to near relatives of kings. Indeed the fact that all the English 
dynasties seem to have traced their descent from the gods goes 
to show that they claimed to have been of royal rank from the 
beginning. Families possessing such rank may quite possibly 
have been fairly numerous in ancient times. But this is a subject 
to which we shall have to return later. 

If we are right in believing that the Jutes of Britain came, 
ultimately at least, from Jutland, we again have to deal with 
a nation which according to tradition had been governed by 
kings from ancient times. It will be sufficient here to mention 
the dynasty of Horvvendillus, Fengo and Amlethus, whose 
history is related by Saxo (pp. 85-106). The last of them 
is said to have been defeated and slain by Vigletus, the father 
of Wermundus. According to Saxo all these kings were more 
or less dependent on the kings of Leire. The story, however, 
presents considerable difficulties, into which it is not necessary 
for us here to enter. 

1 Freawine was the son of Frithugar, the son of Brand (cf. p. 60). 




In this chapter we have taken no account of traditions relating to strictly 
Danish kings, as the chronology of the events recorded in these traditions 
is too uncertain to afford any safe ground for inferences. It is possible 
however that the English traditions themselves may throw some light on 
Danish chronology. 

In Beowulf we hear a good deal of a certain family of Danish kings, the 
most important members of which seem to have been Healfdene (Halfdan), 
his son Hrothgar (Hroarr), and Hrothwulf (Hrolfr Kraki) the nephew of 
Hrothgar. According to the unanimous testimony of Scandinavian tradition 
Hrolfr was reigning at the same time as Adds (Eadgils), who obtained the 
Swedish throne some time after 520 (cf. p. 18). Healfdene, the grandfather, 
was probably reigning about the middle of the fifth century. During the 
time that these kings occupied the throne the history of the Danish kingdom 
is comparatively well known. But both before and after the time specified 
the greatest obscurity prevails. 

In Beowulf Healfdene is said to have been the son of a king named 
Beowulf, and the latter again is said to have succeeded his father Scyld. 
But this Scyld, to whom we shall have to return later, seems really to be 
a mythical person, the eponymous ancestor of the Danish royal family. 
Beowulf himself, whether he is to be regarded as mythical or historical, is at 
all events entirely unknown to Scandinavian tradition. In all forms of the 
latter Halfdan is represented as the son of a king named Frodi. It is 
conceivable of course that Frodi and Beowulf are different names for the 
same person. Unfortunately however Scandinavian tradition has several 
early Danish kings named Frodi, and the various authorities do not agree 
as to which of them was Halfdan's father. All that can be said with 
certainty is that Skioldunga Saga was wrong in identifying him with Frodi IV, 
the father of Ingialldr (Ingeld). 

Now in Widsith we find reference to two Danish kings, besides Hrothgar 
and Hrothwulf. One of them, Alewih, has already been mentioned (p. 128). ' 
The other is referred to in 1. 28 : " Sigehere ruled the Sea-Danes for a very 
long time." The name Sigehere (Sigarr) is quite rare both in Anglo-Saxon 
and Old Norse literature. In Scandinavian tradition we find record of only one 
Danish king of this name, and it is worth noting that Saxo represents him 
as an old man when he was killed. His most famous act was the hanging 
of Hagbardr, the lover of his daughter, Signy, an episode which is frequently 
alluded to in old Norse poetry and described at length by Saxo (p. 231 ff.). 
Most modern writers have accepted the identification of Sigehere with this 
Sigarr. Curiously enough however it seems to have been generally inferred 


from the place which he occupies in Saxo's genealogy that he lived at a time 
considerably after the kings of whom we have been speaking. If true this 
would be a surprising fact, for we have otherwise no evidence for any 
knowledge in England of Danish affairs subsequent to the time of Hrolfr. 
Moreover it is to be remembered that for such a purpose as this Saxo's 
genealogy is wholly untrustworthy. He makes Wermund and Offa live 
considerably after Hrolfr, while on the other hand this Sigarr is made to 
come long before Iarmericus (i.e. the Gothic king Eormenric). 

As a matter of fact Scandinavian tradition points clearly to quite 
a different date for Sigarr. Hagbardr is said to have had a brother 
named Haki (Haco), who according to Yngl. S. 27 fought against the 
Swedish king Iorundr, the great-great-grandfather of Adds. Of course the 
genealogy of Ynglinga Saga cannot be regarded as historical beyond 6ttarr, 
the father of Adds ; but we have no reason for believing that Iorundr really 
belonged to a later period. Stronger evidence is afforded by the story of 
Starkadr. The Danish kings with whom this warrior is associated by Saxo 
are Haco, Sigarus, Frotho IV, his son Ingellus, and Olo 1 . In Old Norse 
literature he is associated with Haki (Yngl. S. 25), while Ingialldr is generally 
described in genealogies as Starkactar fostri, i.e. foster-son of Starkadr. 
He is also said to have slain Ali, a Danish king reigning in Sweden (ib. 29). 
In Beowulf, if we may assume that he is the ' old warrior ' {eald aescwiga) of 
1. 2041 ff, we find him associated with Froda and his son Ingeld, who are 
represented however as kings not of the Danes but of a people called 
Heathobeardan. It is clear moreover from Beowulf that these two kings 
were more or less contemporary with Hrothgar and Hrothwulf. Now Saxo 
(like Beowulf) represents Starkadr as an old man in the time of Ingialldr 
(Ingellus). On the other hand in his last speech at the feast {Rex Ingelle, 
iiale, etc.) he says that he had served Haki in his earliest youth (p. 214). 
This, it will be seen, agrees fully with Ynglinga Saga, which brings Haki into 
connection with Iorundr, while Frodi is associated with Egill, the grandson 
of Iorundr. 

Haki is not represented by any of our authorities as actually king of the 
Danes but as a sea-king or tyrannies. According to Saxo however he 
overcame and slew the Danish king Sigarr in revenge for the death of his 
brother Hagbardr. This episode must of course have preceded the Swedish 
adventure in which Haki is said to have lost his life 2 . Now if Sigarr 

1 This person is clearly the Ali of Yngl. S. 29, but Saxo has confused him with 
another Ali (Anulo) who lived at the beginning of the ninth century. His Star- 
catherus also seems to be made up of two distinct characters, who must have been 
separated from one another by about three centuries. 

4 Yngl. S. 25, 27. Saxo mentions this expedition twice (pp. 185 f . , 239), 
apparently without realising that he is speaking of the same episode. Indeed the 
sequence of events in his account of Starkafir's career is confused throughout. In 
both cases he has substituted Ireland {Hibemia, Scotthorum patria) for Sweden. This 

IO — 2 


occupied the same throne as Hrothgar and Hrothwulf, as Saxo's account 
clearly indicates, it is plain from all that has been said that he must have 
been a predecessor of these kings. Further, since we have no valid reason 
for doubting that Healfdene was immediately succeeded by his sons, we 
may infer with the greatest probability that Sigarr preceded him also. On 
the other hand, if we are to believe Saxo's statement (p. 237) that Starkadr 
had come into contact with Sigarr, we shall have to suppose that this king 
lived until about the middle of the fifth century. 

% Before we leave the history of Sigarr it is necessary unfortunately to 
touch upon the story of Sigmundr the son of Volsungr. Sigmundr and all 
his family are usually supposed to be either fictitious or mythical. I cannot 
admit that any case has been made out for the latter supposition, opposed as 
it is to the whole character and setting of the story. The one fact on which 
it is based, namely that Sigmundr (or his son Sigurdr) is said to have 
killed a dragon, cannot be regarded as conclusive, for similar incidents are 
related of other persons, e.g. St. Romain 1 , whose existence there seems to be 
no reason for doubting. On the other hand it cannot of course be denied 
that Sigmundr and his family may be fictitious. But it is at all events worth 
noticing that some of the traditions relating to them are of great antiquity. 
The following points in particular deserve attention : (1) Sigmundr himself 
and Sinfiotli figure in two of the Edda poems (Helgakvidur Hundingsbana) 
which are admittedly free from German influence. They contain no reference 
to Sigurdr, and all the action seems to lie in the southern Baltic. One of 
them (Helgakv. II) is generally agreed to date from the Viking Age. 
(2) Sigemund (Sigmundr) and Fitela (Sinfiotli) are also mentioned in 
Beowulf ; but again there is no reference to Sigurdr. Here the question is 
of course whether the episode in which they figure formed part of the old 
stock of traditions brought by the Angli from their home in the Jutish 
peninsula, or whether it was derived at a later time from German sources. 
There are two strong reasons, I think, for holding to the former view, namely 
(i) that Sigemund is represented as a maritime prince (1. 895 f.), and (ii) that 
he is brought into association with Heremod who is clearly regarded as a 
Danish prince. (3) The association between Sigemund and Heremod 
(Hermodr) is found not only in Beowulf but also in Hyndluliod 2 2 , where it 
is stated that Othin gave a helmet and coat of mail to Hermodr and a sword 
to Sigmundr (cf. Vols. S. 3). This fact distinctly suggests that the connec- 

is one of the cases which show how unsafe it is to argue from references to the British 
Isles that a given person or event must have belonged to the Viking Age. 

1 Cf. Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, p. 186 ff. 

2 Cf. Sievers, Verhandlungen d. k. siichs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 1895, 
p. 1 79 f. The same connection appears again, implicitly, in Hakonarmal 14, where 
HermoiSr and Bragi perform the duty which in Eiriksmal is entrusted to Sigmundr 
and Sinfiotli. As the former poem is modelled on the latter, this fact tells decidedly 
against the view that the association of Hermo'Sr and Sigmundr is merely accidental. 


tion between the two names goes back to a time at which English and 
Scandinavian tradition were in touch with one another, i.e. in all probability 
not later than the first part of the sixth century. 

This being so there is at all events a case for believing the story of 
Sigmundr to have some foundation in fact. That no trace of either him or 
his son Sigurdr is to be found in contemporary literature is only what might 
be expected ; for, with the exception of Chlodio and the legendary Faramund, 
we do not know the name of a single Frankish or Saxon prince of that time. 
The date is of course given by Sigurdr's connection with the Burgundian king 
Gunnarr (Gundicarius), who was reigning between 409 and 437. This, it 
may be observed, is just the time at which we might expect to find a fighting 
prince appearing both in Denmark and in the Netherlands. 

Sigmundr is never represented actually as a Danish king, but he is said 
to have resided in Denmark and to have married a Danish princess named 
Borghildr (Frd. dauda Sinfiotla). By her he had two sons, Helgi (Hundings- 
bani) and Hamundr. Now according to Saxo the father of Haki and 
Hagbardr was called Hamundr (Hamundus). There is nothing actually to 
prove that this is the same person, for the story of Sigmundr and his 
family is unknown to Saxo. But according to a genealogy in the Flateyiarbok, 
I. p. 25, Sigarr himself was the son of a certain Sigmundr, who was 
brother to Siggeirr, the brother in law of our Sigmundr. Sigarr and Siggeirr 
are mentioned together in Gudriinarkvida II. 16. Again in Volsunga S. 25 
Brynhildr speaks of Haki and Hagbardr as most famous warriors, and 
Gudrun replies that Sigarr has taken their sister — an incident we do not 
know from other sources — and that they are slow to exact vengeance. The 
passage therefore implies that Sigarr, Haki and Hagbardr were contempo- 
raries of Sigurdr. These coincidences are too numerous to be accidental. 
The least that can be inferred from them is that Sigmundr and his family 
were closely associated with Sigarr and his contemporaries in Scandinavian 
tradition. It needs no demonstration to see that Sigmundr's date agrees 
well enough with that which we have obtained for Sigarr on quite different 

Heremod, as we have already noticed, is represented in Beowulf as a 
Danish prince; but what is said of him is unfortunately far from clear 1 . He 
had been endowed with strength above all men, but his disposition was so 
savage that he slew even the members of his own household. For this 
reason he was eventually betrayed into the hands of his enemies and expelled ; 
yet many regretted his departure. The references to Hermodr in Old Norse 
literature are extremely obscure, and we are never informed as to the nature 

1 It seems to me somewhat hasty to conclude from Beow. 13 ff., 907 ff. and from 
the expression Sceldwea Heremoding in the West Saxon genealogy that Heremod was 
regarded as the predecessor of Scyld ; the identification of Heremod with Saxo's 
Lotherus (the father of Scioldus) has been proposed (cf. Sievers, op. cit. p. 175 ff.), 
but the resemblance between the two stories does not appear to me to be very striking. 




of his connection with Sigmundr. But since Borghildr, the wife of Sigmundr, 
is said to have been a Danish princess it is by no means impossible that 
Hermodr may have been related to her. 

We must now return to the king Alewih who is mentioned in Widsith. 
No Danish king of this name is recorded in Scandinavian tradition. 
Consequently, if any reminiscence of him is preserved at all, he must have 
been known under another name. The facts which we learn about him from 
Widsith are that he was an exceptionally brave warrior, and perhaps that he 
had an unsuccessful encounter with Offa. The translation of 1. 37 is 
unfortunately somewhat doubtful ; but we may at least infer from it that 
Alewih was brought into connection with Offa in some way or other. 

Now it happens, as indeed we might naturally expect, that no Danish 
king is mentioned in connection with Offa himself in Scandinavian tradition. 
But there is an undoubtedly Danish king who is brought into connection 
with Offa's family in the genealogies, namely the eponymous Danr, surnamed 
the Proud (/linn mikilldti). This may best be seen by giving a comparative 
table of the various genealogies, from Svend Aagesen, Saxo and the old 
Langfedgatal (Langebek, Scr. Rer. Dan., 1. p. 1 ff.), together with two 
genealogies contained in the Flateyiarbok, I, p. 26 f. 

Svend Aagesen 



Frothi hin frdkni 





Varmundr vitri hans sun 

Uffi (Uffo) 


Olafr litillate hans sun, 



Danr mikillate. 

Flat. A. 

Flat. B. 



Vermundr enn vitri, 



Vemundr enn vitri, 

Olafr enn litillati, 



ir Olof, 

Danr enn mikillati, 

hon var modir Froda ens fridsama. 

Frodi enn fridsami. 

Saxo says that Uffo was by some called Olauus (Olafr). Hence there is 
substantial agreement between the first four lists, though it is to be observed 
that Langfedgatal, our oldest authority, does not say that Danr was the son 
of Olafr. On the other hand Danr is altogether omitted in Flat. B, while 
Frodi enn Fridsami is made to be the son of a daughter of Vemundr 
(Wermund) named Olof. The key to this apparent discrepancy is to be 
found in Arngrim Jonsson's extracts from the lost Skidldunga Saga, cap. 4, 
7, where it is stated that Danus II married Olufa, the daughter of Vermundus. 
Taken together with Langfedgatal this notice would seem to show that 
according to the earliest form of the tradition Danr was the brother-in-law 
and successor of Olafr (Uffo). 


The account given of Dan II (Elatus uel Superbus) by Saxo and Svend 
Aagesen appears to be merely an attempt to explain his surnames. The 
Skioldunga Saga however evidently contained somewhat more definite 
information. According to Arngrim, whose account here seems to be more 
of a commentary on his text than a translation, Danus II held only Jutland 
at the beginning of his reign, Sjaelland (Selandia 1 ) being in the hands of a 
king named Aleifus. Eventually however the latter was conquered by Danus. 
Who this Aleifus was Arngrim had not been able to find out ; but the name 
is clearly identical with Olafr — Olauus 2 . Consequently we need scarcely 
hesitate to conclude that the incident in question was one of the familiar 
cases of strife between brothers-in-law and that the king conquered by Danr 
was no other than Offa. 

But if so we have clearly some ground for suggesting the identity of Danr 
with Alewih and for regarding the story of Skioldunga Saga as the Danish 
version of the incident recorded in Widsith. It is to be observed that 
Widsith does not say definitely that Offa conquered Alewih, and again 
Arngrim does not say that Danus killed Aleifus. The two accounts therefore 
are not wholly incompatible. The fact that the story is unknown to Saxo is 
not necessarily fatal to its authenticity, for we have seen that Saxo's account 
of Offa was derived in all probability from the neighbourhood of Rendsburg, 
whereas it may safely be assumed that the story in Skioldunga Saga came 
from a different quarter. Moreover there is another point worth noticing. 
The name Alewih {Alwih) occurs in the Mercian royal family at a later time, 
the person so called being a nephew of Penda. This fact suggests that the 
Danish Alewih may have been connected with the royal house of Angel 3 and 
will be fully explained if he married Offa's sister. 

One is naturally disposed to feel somewhat sceptical towards the suggestion 
that Danr was really a historical person, for there is no doubt that in 
Skioldunga Saga he figured as the eponymous hero from whom Denmark 
derived its name 4 . But as a matter of fact it is by no means impossible that 
the name Dani {Dene, Danir) did come into use about this time. At all 
events we have no evidence for its existence in early times. In Roman 

1 Originally perhaps the reference was not to Sjaelland (O. Norse Sehind) but to 
the district which King Alfred calls Sillende (cf. p. 104 and note). 

2 Arngrim (cap. 4, 7) has two kings named Aleifus, but his language seems to 
imply that they were not distinguished in his text. What is said of the earlier Aleifus 
[de Aleifo quidem memoratur quod nullum apparatum ab aulicis suis diuer sum habere 
uoluit) seems really to be an explanation of the surname litilldti borne by Olafr ; cf. 
Olrik, Aarb^gerf. nord. Oldkyndighed, 1892, p. 114, note 1. 

3 Cf. Binz, Beitriige, xx. p. 169. The name does occur elsewhere, but it is of an 
unusual type. There is no need to doubt the identity of the names Alewih (Alouuioh) 
and Alwih. We have an exact parallel in B(e)aduwine and B(e)adwine. 

4 Cf. Arngrim, cap. 7 ; Vngl. S. 20. In Saxo's History the eponymous hero is 
Dan I. For Arngrim's Danus I it will be sufficient here to refer to Olrik, Aarbfger 
f. nord. Oldkyndighed, 1894, p. i4of. 


writings it first appears about the middle of the sixth century. Its occurrence 
however in Beowulf, Widsith and English personal names necessitates our 
placing its origin quite a century further back, and the name of the doubtless 
historical Healfdene points to the same conclusion. Is it quite inconceivable 
that it was originally a local name, perhaps that of the place from which 
Alewih's family were sprung? It is worth noting that Skioldunga Saga 
seems not to have attempted to bring Rigr, the father of Danr, into any sort 
of relationship with the previous rulers of the nation. The original form of 
the tradition as to his ancestry is by no means clear 1 ; but it may have been" 
to the effect that he was sprung from the god Heimdallr. 

If these suggestions as to the reigns of Alewih and Sigehere are to be 
accepted we shall be enabled to fill up a good deal of blank space in Danish 
chronology, for Danr, like Sigehere, is said to have lived to a great age 
(Yngl. S. 29). If he was a contemporary of Offa he may very well have 
survived until the first or second decade of the fifth century, while Sigehere's 
long reign can hardly have begun very much later. As to the relationship 
between these early kings I do not think we are in a position to form a 
definite opinion. All that can be said is that if Halfdan (Healfdene) was really 
descended from Danr there can hardly have been more than one generation 
(Frodi?) between them. Possibly then the Halfdanus of Skiold. S. gi. may 
be identical with the Halfdanus of ib. 7. 

1 Arngrim, I.e. ; Yngl. S., I.e.; Rigsmal, Pref. and str. 48 (with Bugge's note). 



Now that we have been able to form some idea as to the 
situation of the home of the Angli in the centuries immediately 
preceding the invasion of Britain, it will be convenient to con- 
sider briefly the evidence for social and political organisation 
during the period in question in order that we may obtain 
a better understanding of the conditions under which the in- 
vasion took place. Of course it is quite impossible in such 
a work as the present to attempt anything like a thorough in- 
vestigation of this subject. All that we can do here is, to 
endeavour to ascertain a few of the more distinctive features 
which characterised the society of the period. 

For such an investigation our best guidance is clearly to be 
found in native poems and traditions which refer to the age of 
the invasion. These however may be supplemented from the 
far richer stock of early Scandinavian tradition ; for it is clear 
from Beowulf and Widsith that the Angli were in intimate 
communication with the peoples of the Baltic. Such evidence 
is certainly to be preferred to the statements of Tacitus and 
other early Roman writers on the ancient Germani. In the first 
place the information furnished by the latter was obtained, not 
at the time of the invasion of Britain but at a period several 
centuries earlier. Further, it is only natural to suppose that 
these statements refer primarily to the Teutonic nations, on the 
Rhine and Danube, with which the Romans themselves came 
in contact. The connections of the Angli however must have 
lain with the maritime or more northern half of the Teutonic 
world, of which the Romans had little or no direct knowledge. 


It is a widely, perhaps even generally, held opinion that the 
form of national organisation which prevailed among the Anglo- 
Angio-saxon Saxons when they invaded this country was of 
a kind to which the term ' political ' ought not t o 
he applied — that in thi<; rnnnprfjon Y ¥P should spenk rather of 
' tribal ' organisation. By this is meant that the most potent 
force which held society together was not any authority of 
government, whether elective or hereditary, but the primary bond 
of blood relationship. There was indeed a supreme authority, 
namely the tribe itself, represented by an assembly of all free 
tribesmen. This gathering served in time of war as the national 
army (fyrd), while in peace it had the final voice in questions of 
national importance. Again, between the tribe as a whole and 
the village or township there existed an intermediate body, the 
hundred, which had both military and administrative functions. 
In the former case it united the fighting men of the villages in 
a division of the national army. In the latter it was composed 
of the same persons or their delegates, and served as a machine 
for settling such matters as were not of sufficient importance 
to come before the tribal assembly. These bodies however were 
too unwieldy for dealing effectively with the rights and wrongs 
of individual tribesmen. For protection the individual had to 
rely on his kindred, which was not a mere aggregate of persons 
varying from generation to generation according to marriage, 
but a permanent body constituted by agnatic relationship. The 
origin of the villages was bound up with such kindreds, and their 
influence locally was all important. Indeed it was by them that 
the invasion had been effected and the tribe itself was but an 
aggregate of kindreds. 

This representation of Anglo-Saxon society rests upon a string 
of hypotheses not one of which is capable of proof. In the first 
place we have no evidence for a national assembly apart from 
the king's court. The largest division of the nation in connection 
with which we hear of meetings was the shire, but we have 
no reason for supposing that these meetings had any legis- 
lative powers, much less the right of deciding such questions 
as peace or war. There is no satisfactory evidence for believing 
that the hundred existed, as a unit of local self-government, 


before the tenth century, and none at all for referring it to a time 
anterior to the reign of Alfred. Indeed there is nothing what- 
ever to show that the principle of local self-government was 
known to the Anglo-Saxons in early times. We may assume 
no doubt that village communities always met together to settle 
matters connected with agriculture etc. But the existence of 
organised and responsible bodies, whether in the village or in 
larger districts, is a different matter, and one which it is not wise 
to take for granted against the silence of our authorities. Again, 
the duties and rights of relatives are frequently mentioned in 
connection with homicide ; but it is clear that such duties and 
rights applied to cognates as well as agnates. For the kindred 
as a definitely organised body we have no evidence. In cases 
of homicide the list of persons affected would vary with each 
individual case. Succession to property in land may have been 
restricted to heirs in the male line, though the evidence for this 
view is only inferential and by no means conclusive. But that 
villages were settled and occupied by kindreds is a most uncertain 
inference from place-names in -ing, -inga ham, -inga tun, which 
may very well be explained otherwise. Conclusions drawn from 
the use of the word macgb are at least equally doubtful. This 
word, it is true, denotes both ' kindred ' and ' nation.' In the 
latter sense it is used to translate Bede's provincia, e.g. Bcornica 
maeg\ (provincia Bemiciornni), East Engla maeg\ (provincia 
Orientalinm Anglorum). We may infer no doubt that the word 
originally conveyed the idea of blood-relationship. But we have 
no justification on other grounds for supposing that the Berni- 
cians and East Anglians were distinct tribes before they invaded 
Britain. Two other explanations are at least equally possible. 
Either the word may have lost its original significance in this 
sense — with which we may compare the use of gens in Latin — or 
it may have denoted primarily the royal family. 

We are not by any means without information regarding the 
system of government which prevailed among the Anglo-Saxons 
in early times. But it is not of national assemblies or responsible 
local bodies that we hear, but of kings and their officials. Every 
one of the Teutonic states or tribes in Britain was under kingly 
government. Frequently we find a number of kings in the same 


state — sometimes several sub-kings under one supreme ruler, 
sometimes, especially in Essex, Sussex, and the Hwicce, two or 
more relatives reigning together, apparently on equal terms. 
In those states which preserved traditions, whether genuine or 
not, of their foundation, the institution of royalty is referred to 
the first settlers ; in no case do we hear of a state coming into 
existence without a king. The king or kings seem always to 
have claimed descent from the original founder of the kingdom 1 . 
Thus we are told by Bede, H. E. v. 24, that the whole of the 
royal stock of Northumbria was descended from Ida. In the 
Chronicle it is stated of more than one king (arm. 755, 784) that 
his direct paternal ancestry {ryJitfaedrencyii) goes back to Cerdic. 
The Kentish royal family were collectively known as Oiscingas 
and the East Anglian royal family as Wuffingas, from early 
kings named Oisc and Wuffa respectively. So far as we know, 
no dynastic name was derived from an ancestor who lived before 
the invasion 2 . The Mercian royal family claimed descent from 
the kings of Angel, but the person from whom they took their 
collective name must have lived in the latter part of the fifth 
century. The probable reason for this restriction is that the 
ancestors whose names they bore were those from whom they 
derived their title to their territories, i.e. of course their territories 
in Britain. Members of the royal family had special wergelds, 
sixfold those of the higher nobility in Mercia. Again, so far as 
our evidence goes, they seem to have intermarried only with 
other royal families. But whether the various royal families of 
England really constituted a distinct caste we have scarcely 
sufficient evidence to determine. At all events they probably 
all claimed to be of divine descent. 

The full description of the central authority in the Anglo- 
Saxon state appears to have been ' the king and the \eod! The 
meaning of the latter word seems to have been somewhat mis- 

1 The only known exceptions, apart of course from foreign conquest, are Aelle 
(of Northumbria), Harold II and probably Ceolwulf II. It is significant that in each 
of these cases the kingdom practically came to an end with the usurper. 

2 The West Saxons {Gewissi, Gewissae) claimed to be descended from an ancestor 
named Gewis ; but this name is so obviously fictitious that it need scarcely be taken 
into account. The same remark applies to the name Beornk in the Bernician 


understood by modern writers. It denotes not only ' people,' 
' nation,' but also in particular the court or council of a king, as 
in Beowulf, 11. 644, 1 23 1, 125 1, where we find it applied to 
Hrothgar's court. When therefore we hear of the king and the 
]>eod contracting an alliance with another kingdom (e.g. in the 
Chronicle, ann. 823) or of a king being slain by his own }>eod 
(ib. 794), there is no reason for doubting that the body meant is 
the same which we find in charters confirming or supporting the 
king's action by their signatures. On special occasions, e.g. at 
religious festivals, coronations etc. we sometimes hear of the 
presence of a large concourse of people ; but there is no evidence 
whatever to show that such concourses had any voice in the 
government, (it is clear from Bede's writings that the court 
consisted roughly of two classes, which we may perhaps describe 
as 'seniors' and 'juniors' {dngcfo and geogcft). The latter were 
young warriors {milites, ministri) in constant attendance on the 
king, while the former included persons of official position (earls 
etc.) as well as milites emeriti who had already been rewarded 
for their services with grants of land. Both classes alike no 
doubt consisted in part of members of the royal family, and this 
element may perhaps be regarded as the kernel of the \eod. But 
there is no reason for supposing that the court was limited to 
such persons or even to people drawn from within the king's 
dominions. We find it stated of popular kings like Oswine 
(H. E. III. 14) that young nobles were attracted to their service 
from every quarter. 

Again, if we turn to the question of local and provincial 
government, we hear, even in the earliest West Saxon laws, of 
earls (ealdormen), king's thegns or barons, land-owning nobles, 
and especially reeves. The last word {gerefd) denotes both the 
steward of a landowner and an official in the service of the king ; 
but there seems not to have been any difference in kind between 
the duties of the two classes. There is no evidence that either 
was controlled by or responsible to any authority except their 
masters. Indeed their service was so much of a personal nature 
that according to Ine's Laws, cap. 63, if a nobleman changed his 
place of abode, the reeve was one of the very few servants whom 
he was allowed to take with him. That the baron was likewise 


bound to the king by personal service follows from the title 
itself (cyninges Kegti, minister regis), which means no more than 
' king's servant ' ; and even the earl is sometimes described as 
a 'king's earl' (cyninges ealdormon) 1 . Indeed it appears that 
with the exception of the king himself every individual in the 
nation owed obedience to a lord. The latter was held re- 
sponsible for the good behaviour of his dependents and in cases 
of homicide was entitled to a payment for his man (manbot), 
when the wergeld was paid to the relatives 2 . From the story of 
Cynewulf's death in the Chronicle (ann. 755) it would seem that 
the ties between lord and man equalled, if they did not exceed, 
those of blood-relationship 3 . Evidence to the same effect is 
given by Alfred's Laws, cap. 42, where an enumeration is given 
of the cases in which it is permissible to use violence. Our 
authorities give us no justification whatever for supposing that 
this principle of allegiance was a growth of later times. It is 
as prominent in the Laws of Ine (cap. 3, 21 — 24, 27, 39, 50, 70, 
74, j6) as at any subsequent period. 

The military organisation of the Anglo-Saxon period deserves 

Military or- to be treated somewhat more in detail, especially 

since there is scarcely any branch of the subject on 

which a greater amount of misconception seems to prevail. It 

is commonly assumed that there were at this time two different 

1 Cf. Chron. 755, where Earl Osric is described as his aldormon, i.e. Cynewulf's 
earl. In the preface to his laws Ine speaks of 'all my earls.' So in H.E. in. 24 
the Northumbrian regents in Mercia are called principes regis non proprii. 

2 Similarly, when a king was slain, a payment (cynebot) was required for his leode 
or thegns, equal in amount to the wergeld proper. 

3 Perhaps the true explanation of this phenomenon is that the bond of lord and 
man was considered to be equivalent to that of father and son. In Cassiodorus, 
Variarum iv. 2, we find Theodric, king of the Ostrogoths, writing to the king of the 
Heruli as follows : per arma fieri posse filium grande inter gentes constat esse praeco- 

ninm, quia non est digitus adoptari nisi qui fortissimus meretur agnosci et ideo 

tnore gentium et conditione uirili filium te praesenti munere procreamus, ut competentet 
per arma nascaris, qui bellicosus esse dignosceris etc. We may compare a passage 
in the Chronicle, ann. 924, where it is stated that the king of the Scots and several 
other rulers on their submission to Edward the Elder accepted him as ' father and lord ' 
(cf. also Beow. n 76). Possibly the use of the term maegburg in Beow. 2888 may 
be explained in a similar way ; cf. the custom known as fostbrotf&ra lag in Old Norse 


kinds of troops, on the one hand the fyrd which was composed 
mainly of ordinary freemen (ceorls) organised according to shires 
and hundreds, and on the other the personal followers of the kings, 
who formed a separate military class and could be called upon 
on occasions when it was impossible or unnecessary to summon 
the fyrd. Further, it is held that, owing to a continual deteriora- 
tion in the condition of the peasantry, the fyrd tended to become 
less and less efficient with the course of time, while the professional 
military class was greatly extended in consequence of the Danish 
wars. Every five hides were now expected to supply a fully 
armed warrior for the king's service, and these warriors with their 
followers now constituted the ordinary army, the fyrd being only 
occasionally called out in later times. Now the only detailed 
account of a fyrd which we possess is that of the Essex force 
commanded by Earl Byrhtnoth, given in the poem on the battle 
of Maldon. The backbone of this force clearly consisted of 
a number of warriors, over twenty of whom are named, in the 
personal service of the earl, and who in some cases at least were 
men of very high birth. Indeed there is no indication that the 
army contained any other element than these warriors and their 
followers. Ninety years earlier the brief account given in the 
Chronicle (ann. 905 A) of the Kentish disaster at ' the Holm ' at 
least suggests a force of similar composition. Again, in the latter 
part of the ninth century we frequently find such statements as 
that Earl Osric fought mid Hamtunscire ; but there is no reason 
for supposing that these forces were different from the one led 
by Byrhtnoth. At all events it is clear from the Chronicle 
(ann. 877, 894, 895) that the fyrd was a mounted force in 
Alfred's time. 

In earlier times we have very little evidence regarding military 
affairs 1 . Penda's army in his last battle consisted of thirty 

1 How far the armies of early times were mounted cannot be determined with 
certainty. It was with a mounted force that Ecgfrith subdued the Picts (Eddius 19) 
and it is difficult to believe that Edwin's and Penda's expeditions were carried out on 
foot. Procopius [Goth. IV. 20) speaking of a much earlier period, says that horses 
were unknown to the Angli ; but this is doubtless a great exaggeration. So far as the 
statement contains any truth at all it may indicate a scarcity of horses as a result 
of the invasion. That riding was known to the Angli in their old home is proved by 
the deposits at Thorsbjivrg and Nydam. 


legiones\ each under a dux regius, one of whom was a king of East 
An^lia. In Bede's account of the battle of the Trent (H. E. IV. 22) 
a Mercian comes is described as the dominus of certain soldiers, 
from which we may probably infer that the relationship between 
them was one of personal allegiance, as in later times. Still 
more important is another passage in the same chapter, which 
seems distinctly to imply that ceorls were not expected to take 
an active part in warfare 2 . This is what the later system of 
calling upon one man from every five hides practically amounted 
to ; and as a matter of fact this system did not originate in the 
Danish wars, for we find evidence for the same principle (one man 
for six hides) from the very beginning of the ninth century (Cart. 1 
Sax. 201). Hence we are led to infer that the fyrd of the 
seventh and eighth centuries was really organised on very similar | 
lines to the military forces of the tenth century. It is worth con- 
sidering for a moment what number of men such a system would 
supply. Taking the figures of the Tribal Hidage it would give 
East Anglia an army of 5000 or 6000 men (according as the unit 
was one of six or five hides) and Sussex an army of 1200 or 1400 
men. Such a scheme would have enabled Penda, who had nearly 
the whole of England in his hands, to put some 15000 or 20000 
men into the field in addition to his Welsh allies. I cannot 
believe that the armies of Bede's time really exceeded these 

It is true of course that ceorls were liable to the duties of the ! s 

fyrd and in the Danish wars no doubt they did fight, especially I 

among the burgware, though the specific mention of them in the 

Chronicle, ann. 893 A 3 , seems to indicate that their fighting value ^ 

was not considered great. Their chief duties however, at allf 


1 The constitution of these forces may perhaps be illustrated by the military., 
regulations attributed to Harold the Fair-haired in his Saga (Heimskr.), cap. 6{ 
(cf. Flat. 1. 570). Every earl had to furnish the king's army with sixty warriors at his M 
own expense and every hersir (baron) with twenty. 

2 timuit se militem fuisse confiteri ; rusticum se potius et pan per em et propter , 

trie turn militibus adferendum in expeditionem se cum sui similibus uenisse testatus est. 
The reference is to a king's thegn who had been captured by the Mercians. 

3 It is not clear from the passage however that the people mentioned were really., 
soldiers. They may have been workmen engaged in the construction of the fort— I 
a suggestion for which I have to thank Mr A. Mawer. 



VII] THE AG . "of national migrations 161 

„ it- 
events 1JJ earlier times, may have consisted in making roads and 

stockades and in carrying provisions to the actual fighters. From 
the Northleoda Lagu, § 10, it seems probable that in the tenth 
century a man who possessed five hides was generally expected 
to possess a sword, helmet and coat of mail. Evidence to the 
same effect is given by the regulations for heriots ; that of the 
lower class of thegn is stated to be his horse, with its saddle, etc., 
and his weapons or, as an equivalent, 120 shillings. As the 
horse was reckoned at only twenty-four shillings the weapons 
must have been of considerable value 1 . A passage in Ine's Laws, 
cap. 54, shows that the possession of swords and coats of mail 
was not at all unusual even in the seventh century. But it must 
not be assumed that the warrior sent by every five or six hides 
was necessarily a landowner to this extent, i.e. a man of the 
tzvelfhynde class (cf. p. Jj). Between the ceorlish and twelfhynde 
classes there was another, the sixJiynde class, which may have 
been very numerous in the seventh century, especially on royal 
lands. It is likely enough that their equipment was as a rule 
much inferior to that of the tzvelfJiynde class. But, however 
this may be, we need scarcely doubt that the two classes between 
them were sufficient to provide the requisite numbers. 

The origin of the erroneous explanation of the fyrd is pro- 
bably to be found in the fact that many writers have not 
idequately realised the existence of classes intermediate between 
:he ceorl and the king's thegn. The latter doubtless were a com- 
paratively small class 2 , and it is very probable that not only the 

1 There is no evidence, so far as I know, as to the value of arms in England 
xcept in Ine 54, where the sword and coat of mail together appear to be reckoned at 
o (or 40) sh. In the Lex Rib. 36 the figures are as follows: horse 12 sol. (ap- 
arently gold solidi throughout), sword (with sheath?) 7 sol., coat of mail 12 sol., 
elmet 6 sol., shield and spear 2 sol. As the ox in the same passage is reckoned at 

sol., the whole equipment of the warrior, apart from greaves, will be equivalent 
> about 20 oxen. In Wessex 120 sh., the amount of the heriot we are discussing, 
'as also the equivalent of 20 oxen. For the use of greaves in England there seems 
) be little or no evidence, though the word (bangeberg) occurs in glossaries. 

2 So far as I know, we have no means of forming an estimate. Bede, when 
leaking of the thegns {milites) who accompanied the sons of Aethelfrith in their 
<ile, uses the expression magna nobilium iuuentus (II. E. III. i, 3). I suspect 
>wever that we ought to reckon in scores rather than in hundreds. Ilnaef appears 

have had ty thegns with him (Finn 40). For the retinues of the kings of 

C. II 


young men at court but also those senior thegns wrio itoad married 
and received grants of land, but were not actually reeves, did 
serve as a special bodyguard to the king, distinct from the general 
mass of the fyrd. But this is only an additional argument for 
believing that in the latter also each man followed his own lord, 
whether the latter was a king's reeve or not. 

Our present concern however is not with the social and 
social condi- military organisation of the seventh century but 
m'igratic^n 6 with that which prevailed at the time of the invasion 

peno ' of Britain. The period during which this invasion 

took place is generally known as the age of national migrations, 
not of course because all Teutonic peoples were constantly 
changing their habitations, but because such migratory movements 
wen more frequent than usual at that time. It is well to note 
at the cutset that we have no right to assume that the social 
organisation of the period was essentially due to migratory 
conditions. The fashion of speaking of the nations of this time 
as undisciplined and leaderless hordes which wandered about at 
random, seeking new habitations, is mainly due to exclusive 
attention being paid to Roman sources of information. As 
a matter of fact several Teutonic nations did not change their , 
abode at all, though they may have sent out expeditions from 
time to time and perhaps enlarged their territories. The number 
of nations whose migratory movements can be described as in 
any way continuous is in reality quite small. 

It is unfortunate that in English works on constitutional history 
little account has generally been taken of the evidence afforded by 
native tradition as to the social and political organisation of the 
northern peoples during the age in which the invasion of Britain 
took place. Yet the Anglo-Saxon poems contain a good deal of 
information on this subject, and what they say is fully borne out 
both by Scandinavian tradition and by notices in the works of 
the few Roman writers who were really interested in the study of 
Teutonic society. One point which comes out with sufficient 
clearness is t hat kingly government was almost universal. Such 

Norway cf. Saga Olafs kyrra, cap. 4 (Heimskr.). The number kept by King Olafr 
Kyrri (1067 — 1093), two hundred and forty in all, was considered excessive. 


was the case with the Angli, Warni, Heruli, the Jutes, 'Frisians 
and Danes, and probably all the communities of the Scandinavian 
peninsula. No doubt the kingdoms were often small, and very 
frequently there was a plurality of kings. Yet the fact remains 
that, with the possible exception of the Old Saxons, all the 
Teutonic peoples of the northern coasts were or had been 
governed by members of certain definite royal families. 

Beside the king we find mention also of the \eod\ but the 
evidence at our disposal does not justify the supposition that this 
differed in any way from the councils or courts of Anglo-Saxon 
kiners. To national assemblies we have no reference at all. 
Even in such a great national emergency as the defeat and 
death of the king, when we might naturally expect to hear of 
such a gathering, it is the queen who is represented as offering 
to hand over the government and the treasury to a relative of the 
late ruler (Beow. 2369 ff.). Again, when King Hygelac grants 
Beowulf what may be regarded as a large earldom (7000 hides), 
we hear nothing of any form of election ; but the grant, it should 
be observed, is accompanied by the presentation of a sword — 
a fact which seems clearly to imply that the recipient is to be 
responsible to the king. As regards the composition of the 
court we find both young warriors and veterans (gcogoft and 
dngo¥>) as in Britain. It has been supposed 1 that the retinues of 
this period were drawn from a higher class than those of later 
times ; but this requires to be proved. So far as I can see, there 
is no reason for believing Hrothgar's thegns, such as Wulfgar, 
Hunferth and Aeschere, to have been persons of a different 
position from Edwin's thegns Lilla and Forthhere. There is no 
dOubt that they were often drawn from beyond the king's 
territories. This however is a question to which we shall have to 
return later. 

It has been mentioned above that according to the generally 
accepted view the most potent influence in early Teutonic society 
was that exercised by the kindred, and it is doubtless true that 
for homicide within the kindred no compensation appears to 
have been exacted. Indeed in many laws the slayer seems to be 

1 Cf. Guilhiermoz, Essai sur T Origine de la Noblesse, p. 87. 

II 2 


liable to none but spiritual penalties 1 . Now it is surely clear 
that for such a system as this to be the most potent influence in 
society we must postulate the existence of some force which 
would render the shedding of kindred blood a practical 
impossibility. Yet as a matter of fact the slaying of relatives 
seems to have been by no means an uncommon occurrence. In 
the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the seventh century we find quite 
a number of cases of princes who took up arms against their 
relatives, sometimes with fatal results, or had to fly from their 
homes in order to save their own lives 2 . The theory that the 
sanctity of the bonds of kindred had been dissolved by the 
influence of Christianity is scarcely an adequate explanation of 
these facts ; at all events it will not hold good for such a case as 
the slaying of Eowa by his brother Penda. 

If we turn to the Scandinavian kingdoms we find the same 
phenomenon ages before Christianity was known in those parts. 
The descendants of Yngvifreyr in particular seem to have borne 
as bad a character as the house of Pelops in regard to the shedding 
of kindred blood. Brothers are slain by brothers (Yngl. S. 23, 24) 
and in one case a father by his sons (ib. 17) 3 . Even in Beowulf 
we find two cases in this family. In one a nephew meets with 
his death in a struggle against his uncle ; in the second the same 
uncle is slain by another nephew. -It is true that in the former 
case the slaying was not done by the uncle's own hand. Yet he 
is said to have entertained no thought of vengeance and even to 
have granted to the slayer the spoils of his victim. The slayings 
recorded in Ynglinga Saga are all said to have been perpetrated 
by the relatives with their own hands. They may perhaps be 
regarded as mythical ; but the existence of the legends is evidence 
that such occurrences were not unknown. 

Perhaps it may be urged that the history of the Swedish royal 
family is exceptional, since they had had the curse of kindred 
bloodshed {aettvig) laid upon them by the sorceress Huldr 

1 Cf. Seebohm, Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, pp. 164 f., 176, 241 f., 335 f. 
But it is to be observed that vengeance on an uncle is not unknown (e.g. Saxo, 
pp. 96, 218). 

2 Cf. Bede, Hist. Eccl., 11. 15, 20, III. 14, 18, 22, iv. 26. 

3 Cases of sacrifice are left out of account. In cap. 29 King Aun is said to have 
sacrificed nine of his sons. 


(Yngl. S. 17). The Danish royal house appears in a more 
favourable light in Beowulf. But it is very probable that the 
HiorvarSr, through whose treacherous attack Hrolfr lost his life, 
was no other than Heoroweard, his cousin, whether he was also 
his brother-in-law or not. Moreover it has been suggested 1 with 
much probability that the Roricus whom Hrolfr himself slew 
(Saxo, p. 62) was another of his cousins, Hrethric the son of 
Hrothgar. Elsewhere Saxo has a number of cases of this kind 
in connection with the Danish royal family (pp. 51, 217 f, 279, 
301, 316), while in the time of Ivarr Vi'Sfadmi instances are 
recorded by several Norse authorities (Yngl. S. 43, Skioldunga 
S. 2 etc.). Again Saxo's account of the Jutish kings Horwendillus, 
Fengo and Amlethus gives two cases, and further examples occur 
in all versions of the story of Eormenric. Moreover such cases 
are not confined to royal families. According to Beow. 587 f., 
1 167 f. Hunferth, a prominent member of the Danish court, had 
slain his own brothers. This deed was a reproach to him, 
but did not prevent him from being a trusted servant of King 

In the light of this evidence I think we are justified in 
doubting whether the sanctity attaching to blood-relationship — 
except perhaps as between parent and child — was quite so great 
as modern writers affirm it to have been. Family strife was 
doubtless regarded with disapproval. The repugnance to shedding 
the blood of a relative with one's own hand was especially strong, 
as may be seen from the story of Cynewulf's death and Procopius' 
account of the euthanasia practised by the Heruli 2 . Yet from 
the examples given above this repugnance can hardly have been 
so great as to justify us in regarding the sanctity of blood- 
relationship as the dominant principle in society. It is very 
seldom that we hear of supernatural agencies interfering to 
avenge the shedding of kindred blood. The only case known to 
me is in Saxo, p. 246, and it is perhaps not without significance 
that the slaying here avenged is that of a uterine brother. 

Examples of kings or other lords who were slain by their 

1 Cf. Olrik, Danmarks Heltc-Digtning, p. 28 ff. 

2 Goth. II. 14: £uY7ei>77 yap avrqi (the man who is to be killed) tov (povia. dvai 


personal followers are much less frequent. In Beowulf we do 
not find a single case; for the story of Heremod can hardly be 
interpreted in this way. In Ynglinga Saga no native kings 
perish at the hands of their own men except two who are 
sacrificed. In other sagas and even in Saxo 1 examples are 
difficult to find. It is in this respect indeed that early Teutonic 
records show the strongest contrast both to Roman and medieval 
history. The follower of a Teutonic king was expected to fight 
till death in defence of his lord. When Cynewulf had been slain 
by Cyneheard the king's men unanimously refused the terms 
offered them by the latter and fought until all were killed except 
a British hostage who was badly wounded. The same scene 
was repeated when Earl Osric arrived with a superior force. Out 
of all Cyneheard's band one man, a godson of the earl and 
himself severely wounded, was the sole survivor. There is no 
reason to doubt that the same principle prevailed in earlier 
times. According to Hrolfs Saga Kraka, cap. 52, the whole of 
Hrolfr's retinue perished when that king was slain. In Saxo's 
account one man alone saved himself, but he did so in order to 
avenge his lord. When Beowulf was killed by the dragon his 
followers are upbraided in the most bitter language for having 
failed to come to his rescue, and it is declared that their careers 
have been irretrievably ruined by their cowardice. In earlier 
times it was according to Tacitus {Germ. 14) regarded as 
an everlasting disgrace that a comes should take to flight even 
when his lord had fallen. Certainly it seems to have been 
considered improper that he should come to terms with those 
who had slain him — a fact which comes out with especial clearness 
in the story of Cynewulf 's death. In Beowulf, for some 
unexplained reason, the conduct of Hengest and his companions 
in coming to terms with Finn after Hnaef's death receives no 
censure. Yet the stipulation made by Hengest, that the Frisians 
should not taunt them with their behaviour, speaks for itself, and 
as a matter of fact Hnaef's death was subsequently avenged. 

If our statement of the case is not exaggerated it is clear 
that there cannot have been any more potent force in the society 

1 Pp. ir, 184 (Gautreks S. 7), 265 (Yngl. S. 29). The two latter cases refer 
to StarkacSr. 



of the time than the relationship of lord and man. This being 
so it is worth while to examine the mutual obligations of the 
two parties somewhat more closely. We have seen that the 
follower was expected to fight till death on behalf of his lord 
and to refuse to come to terms with his enemy. If the lord was 
driven into exile his men were expected to follow him. Thus, 
when Aethelfrith's sons fled before Edwin (H. E. III. 1), their 
exile was shared by a large number of young nobles. Again, 
when Chonodomarius king of the Alamanni was captured by 
the Romans in the year 357, his comites to the number of two 
hundred voluntarily gave themselves up in order to share his 
captivity (Amm. Marc. XVI. 12. 60). We may probably assume 
also that in general the thegn was supposed to place his services 
at his lord's disposal. A considerable part of his time seems to 
have been spent in his lord's company ; he shared his hearth and 
joined him in hunting and other amusements (cf. Bede, H. E. 
III. 14), while the evenings were spent largely in feasting and 
drinking. We hear also of music and recitation (Beow. 89 ff., 
496 f, 1064 ff., 2108 ff. etc.; Wids. 103 ff., 135 ff. ; Deor 35 ff.), and 
those members of the court who were poets seem to have received 
liberal rewards for their services. The life of the German comites 
in Tacitus' day appears to have been of a somewhat similar type, 
though doubtless on a much less elaborate scale. Indeed we 
find in Beowulf (11. 358 f, 613 ff., 921 f(. etc.) evidence for quite 
a considerable amount of court etiquette. But in addition to 
the services of daily life it appears that much at least of the 
wealth which the knights acquired by exploits and expeditions 
of their own was expected to be given up by them to their lords. 
Thus Widsith gives up to his lord, Eadgils, prince of the 
Myrgingas, the gold ring which had been presented to him 
by Eormenric. Beowulf had received most valuable gifts from 
King Hrothgar and his queen, from the former a golden standard, 
a helmet, sword and coat of mail, from the latter a costly neck- 
lace set with precious stones. All these he gave up to King 
Hygelac and his wife when he returned home. Another of the 
same king's knights slew the Swedish king Ongentheow and 
took from him his coat of mail, sword and helmet, all of which 
he presented to his lord. It was only as a gift from King Onela 


that Weohstan received the spoils of Eanmund whom he himself 
had slain. 

On the other hand the lord also was expected to give treasure 
to his men. It is for generosity even more than martial prowess 
that kings are famed, as for example Eormenric, Guthhere 
(Gundicarius) and Aelfwine (Alboin) in Widsith 1 . The standing 
epithets of a king in poetry are words which signify 'giver of 
treasure,' e.g. sincgifa, beaggifa, goldgifa, sinces brytta, beaga 
brytta, goldwine. In addition to bracelets and other ornaments 
we find mention of weapons and armour, especially swords, 
helmets and coats of mail (Beow. 2868). It seems to have 
been customary for a man to receive a sword from his lord when 
he entered his service 2 and also when he was promoted to some 
higher office. For the former case we may compare the story 
of Hiartuarus and Viggo in Saxo (p. 67); for the latter a good 
instance has already been cited, viz. Beow. 2191 f{., where Beowulf 
is granted a viceroyalty or earldom. At death it would seem to 
have been the custom for some of these arms to be returned to 
the giver as in Beow. 452 ff., where the hero asks King Hrothgar 
to send his coat of mail to Hygelac, if the conflict on which he 
was about to embark should prove fatal to him. There can be 
little doubt that the rules for heriots which we find prevailing in 
later times were an outgrowth, or more properly a regulation, of 
this practice. 

But beyond all this the lord was expected to provide hi s 
follower with an endowment in land- when he reached a certain 
age. ^ In Bede's time it must have been customary for the sons 
of the nobles to enter the service of the king, or other members 
of the royal family, at quite an early age ; for the endowment in 

1 For the last of these cases cf. Paulus Diaconus, Hist. Lang. 1. 27. 

2 Cf. Haralds Saga hins harfagra (Heimskr.), cap. 41, where Harold's acceptance 
of a sword sent by Aethelstan is interpreted as an admission of vassalage. Still 
more important is another passage in the same saga (cap. 8), which describes the 
submission of Hrollaugr, king of Namdalen. Harold girds him with a sword and 
shield and appoints him to be earl over the district which he had formerly ruled as 
king. We may compare Cassiodorus, Far. iv. 2 (the continuation of the passage 
quoted on p. 158, note), where Theodric, after adopting the king of the Heruli as his 
' son,' states that he is presenting him with eqttos, enses, clypeos et reliqua histrumenta 


land was granted to them when they were about twenty-four or 
twenty-five years old, and enabled them to marry 1 . A similar 
state of things seems to have prevailed in the age to which the 
poems refer. Widsith says that he gave the bracelet which he 
had received from Eormenric to his lord Eadgils ' in requital of 
his kindness because he had given me land, even my father's 
estate.' Deor complains that the domain {JondriJit) which the 
king had once given him has now been taken away and trans- 
ferred to a rival poet. Beowulf's knights are told (1. 2885 ff.) 
that in consequence of their cowardice their families will be 
deprived of all the honours and rewards of court life and all the 
pleasures of landed property. Scandinavian authorities give 
evidence to the same effect. Saxo says that Biarco had been 
rewarded by Roluo (Hrolfr Kraki) with bis senae gentes (p. 64), 
while Ericus receives a centurionatus from Frotho (p. 144). 
Sometimes these grants were on a large scale. Eofor, who 
had slain the Swedish king Ongentheow, was rewarded by 
Hygelac with his daughter's hand and with an incalculable 
quantity (hund \usendd) of land and treasure (Beow. 2990 ff.). 
Beowulf on his return from his exploits in Denmark receives 
from the same king a grant of seven thousand hides — the 
normal size of a large province in England during the eighth 
century — together with a dwelling and princely authority 
(ib. 1. 2196 f.). 

In one of the examples quoted above the land granted is 
said to have been formerly in the possession of the grantee's 
father. A similar case occurs in Beowulf (1 2607 ff.), where 
W'iglaf is said to have been presented by the king with the 
dwelling place of their family {wicstede Waegnunidiiiga) together 
with every public right in the same way as they had been enjoyed 
by his father. I t is to be observed that these estates are de- 
scribed not as though they had passed from father to son in due 
course of inheritance, but as grants received as a mark of favour 
irom the king. Whether there were at this time any lands which 
were heritable in ordinary course is a question that we have no 
means of deciding. In later times there is a certain amount of 
evidence which suggests that tenure of land for three generations 
1 Hist. Abbatum, §§ 1, 8; Ep. ad Ecgb., § 1 1. 


may have constituted a claim to permanent possession 1 . But 
even if so we cannot tell how far such a custom goes back. 

Certainly it deserves to b e noted how in Anglo-Saxon poe try 
the man who has lost his lord is represented as a homeless exile. 
A good example occurs in The Wanderer, 1. 19 fY". : "Thus 
homeless and often miserable, far from my kinsmen, I have had 
to bind my heart in fetters ever since the grave closed over my 
patrons 2 — since I wandered away destitute over the sea amid 
wintry gloom seeking in my grief the dwelling of some prince, 
if far or near I could meet with one who would have regard to 
me in his hall or console me in my friendlessness and treat me 
kindly. He who experiences it knows what a cruel companion 
anxiety is to one who has no kind guardians. He is confronted 
not with gold rings but with homeless wanderings, not with the 
good things of the earth but with his own chilled breast. He 
calls to mind the men of the court and the treasure he used to 
receive, and how in his youth he was continually feasted by his 
patron. All his happiness has passed away." Then the poet goes 
on to describe how with these sorrowful reflections sleep comes 
over him and he dreams that he is again greeting his old master, 
embracing him and kissing him and laying his head and hands 
on his knee as in former days. Then he wakes again and 
realises his forlorn state, as he gazes out on the wintry sea. 
We may compare Beow. 3019 ff., where it is declared that when 
the king's death becomes known, slaughter and exile will be the 
fate of his followers. 

Such passages as these seem to show not only that continue d 
pn^e^inn nfland depended on the goodwill of the lord who had 
granted it, but also that on the latter's death all security was at 
,an_ejicL- Evidence to the same effect is supplied by the fact that 
after the adoption of Christianity new kings were in the habit of 
reissuing the grants of their predecessors to churches. But, if 
this view is correct, have we any reason for supposing that such 
an expression as ivicstede Waegmitndinga means anything more 
than the dwelling place which Waegmund and descendants of 

1 Cf. Seehohm, op. cit., p. 525. 

2 Most editors emend mine to minne (sing.), ' my patron.' 


his had as a matter of fact occupied — without reference to the 
terms of their occupation ? 

It may perhaps be suggested that the poems deal only with 
one phase of society, namely with the life of the courtier ; that 
the bulk of the nation was but little influenced by the court, and 
that the national life went on independently of the rise and fall 
of princes. It is possible of course that there were landowners, 
perhaps even wealthy landowners, who did not hold their estates 
as grants from kings or their officials, though, as I have said 
above, this is a subject on which we are entirely without evidence. 
We find such persons described as hollar and boendr in Norway 
during the ninth century, many of whom like Thorolfr of Mostr 
in Eyrbyggia Saga seem to have been men of considerable 
affluence ; but it is by no means certain that their ancestors had 
not been royal officials. Indeed it is scarcely impossible that 
some of them, especially the boendr of the Throndhjem fiord, 
may have been of royal descent themselves. At a time when 
the population of this fiord contained eight kings royal rank 
must have been fairly common. Similarly we may note that 
persons belonging to at least eight different families which 
claimed royal or divine ancestry succeeded in establishing 
kingdoms in Britain ; and it is hardly probable that these were 
the only families of the kind which took part in the invasion. 
This observation leads us to infer that royal families were com- 
paratively numerous also in the land of the Angli and the 
surrounding regions. Evidence to the same effect is given by 
the not inconsiderable number of persons recorded in Widsith 
as ruling over peoples or tribes which we do not know from 
other sources. It is probable that all such families had lands of 
their own, like the lond Brondinga mentioned in Beow. 521 ; but 
we must not conclude from this that they were necessarily in- 
dependent. Hnaef, one of the princes mentioned in Widsith s 
catalogue, was according to Beow. 1069 a subject of the Danish 
king Healfdene. In such cases it is likely enough that the right 
of succeeding to the family estates was determined by the over- 
lord. The Waegmundingas may quite possibly have been a 
family in the same position. 

What I cannot admit however is that in the total absence of 


evidence we have any right to assume the existence of a national 
organisation, independent of the king and his officials and 
retainers. We hear nothing of a national assembly 1 apart 
from the king's court and nothing of a national army apart 
from the king's knights and their retainers. Doubtless it was 
customary for large gatherings to take place for religious 
purposes ; but we have no evidence that such gatherings had 
any voice in the government or in the appointment of kings or 
officials. If the king was overthrown, unless some member of 
the family contrived in one way or another to retrieve its fortunes, 
the national organisation was liable to perish altogether. Such 
was the case with the Rugii in 488 and with the Thuringi in 531. 
Occasionally we find a victorious king keeping the territories of 
a conquered dynasty as a separate province for some member of 
his own family, as in the case of Kent or Deira. But such 
arrangements were generally of short duration. As a rule we 
may say that in early times the life of a nation hung together 
with that of its native dynasty. If the latter was overthrown 
the nation as a nation ceased to exist 2 . Therefore, if we ask 
how it was that the Wanderer had no home to which he could 
retire and live as a private person, the true answer seems to be 
that not only his court office but his property and security too 
were gone with his lord's death. 

It fully accords with this ahsence of national organisation 
that we find but little trace of any feeling-oL-patriotism^as we 
understand it. The knights of the period seem to have been 
ready enough to enter the service of foreign princes who were 
rich and generous. When the Wanderer expresses a desire to 
find far or near someone who will have regard to him in his hall 
and treat him kindly, we may of course ascribe his eagerness 
to the distressing circumstances in which he was placed. But 
Beowulf's cowardly knights are told that even distant princes 

1 Rembertus (Vita Anscharii, cap. 23 f.) speaks of a national assembly in Sweden; 
but, as will be seen later, we must not assume the conditions of the ninth century to 
have prevailed from the beginning even there. 

2 The case of the Swedes (Svear) is a noteworthy exception, if we may trust the 
story given in Yngl. S. 44 f. But this may have been due largely to the religious 
importance of Upsala. 


will learn of their disgrace so that they will not again be able to 
obtain service however far they go. Again Beowulf, as we have 
seen, had a relative, perhaps a cousin, named Wiglaf, who was 
in his service when he was king of the Gotar. But Wiglaf's 
father, Weoxtan had been in the service of the Swedish King 
Onela and had slain Eanmund who was under the protection of 
Heardred, king of the Gdtar. If Weoxtan was really of Gotish 
nationality, as seems to be implied by 1. 2607 f. (cf. 1. 2814 f.), he 
must have been fighting against his own country, according to 
our ideas, in this campaign. We have no reason for supposing 
that such conduct was exceptional. Indeed it could come about 
in this way that a father and son might be in opposite camps, as 
in the German story of Hildibrand and Hadubrand. So late as 
the seventh century the retinues of kings do not seem to have 
been drawn exclusively from among their own subjects, for, as 
we have already seen, Bede says that King Oswine's popularity 
was so great that the noblest youths entered his service from 
nearly every kingdom in Britain. It would even seem that 
persons who had been given up to a foreign king as hostages 
were expected to devote themselves in his service. Mention has 
already been made of a British hostage who was severely 
wounded in the fight that followed Cynevvulf's death. So 
Waldhere, who had been given up to Attila in his childhood, 
gained great renown as a warrior in the service of that king, 
though eventually he stole away. We may also compare the 
story of the god NiorGr and his children, which is surely founded 
on conditions prevailing in human society. 

It is true that Tacitus attributes feelings of patriotism to the 
Germans of his day and even puts sentiments of this kind in the 
mouth of German speakers. But it must not be assumed in such 
a case as this that the same ideas prevailed in the migration 
period as in the time of Tacitus. As a matter of fact however 
there is some reason for suspecting that Tacitus may have 
exaggerated the patriotism of the Germans. Large numbers of 
them had entered the Roman service even in his own age, and 
as time went on these numbers tended continually to increase. 
Moreover these mercenaries were drawn by no means exclusively 
from tribes which were under Roman suzerainty. Their influence 


on later Roman history was very great. Persons of Teutonic 
nationality, like Arbogastis, Stilico and Ricimer, succeeded in 
obtaining high office in the Roman government ; Odoacer 
transferred his command into an independent kingdom, while 
allied or subject kings, such as Alaric and Alboin, alienated large 
portions of Roman territory. The reception of Hengest and 
Horsa by King Wyrtgeorn is a very similar case. In later times 
we find analogies in the Scandinavian princes who entered the 
service of Slavonic kings. 

Indeed it can scarcely be doubted that this phenomenon was 

of no little importance in the movements of the 
tion from fourth, fifth and sixth centuries. There is one 

class of legends in particular which hardly admits 
of any other interpretation, namely those which trace the origin 
of certain nations, the Goths and Gepidae, the Burgundians, 
Langobardi and Suebi, to migrations from Scandinavia 1 . It has 
rightly been objected against these legends that Sweden is not 
a country which can have produced such enormous populations. 
Moreover we find most of the said nations settled in the basins 
of the Vistula, Oder or Elbe by the beginning of the Christian 
era. Yet the existence of the legends requires explanation. It 
seems to me that the difficulty largely disappears if we may 
suppose that only a small but dominant element in the population 
was of Scandinavian origin. We may note that the people who 
followed Ibor and Aio were at first called not Langobardi but 
VVinili. This name cannot be traced elsewhere ; but is it not 
possible that it may have been that of a Scandinavian tribe or 
family? Again, the Goths or a portion of them are sometimes 
called Greuthungi {Grutungi, Triitungi) by early writers. 
Ammianus Marcellinus (XXXT. 3. 1), indeed seems to apply this 
name to the people under the immediate rule of Eormenric. But 
one of the Scandinavian tribes mentioned by Jordanes (cap. 3) 
is called Greotingi 2 , which can hardly be a different name. We 
need not suppose that the introduction of this Scandinavian 
element among Continental nations was always effected by 

1 Cf. Jordanes, cap. 1, 4, 17; Vita S. Sigismundi ; Origo Gentis Langobardorum, 
§ r; Paulus Diaconus, Hist. Lang., 1. 1. For the Suebi see p. 100. 

2 Similar forms occur as place-names in later times. 


conquest. In the eighth and ninth centuries Vestfold and other 
parts of Norway were in the hands of the Ynglingar, who 
claimed descent from the ancient kings of Sweden. Yet hardly 
any of the territories owned by this family had been acquired by 
conquest. Vestfold itself and several other districts had come 
into their hands through marriage. 

But we are not entirely dependent on analogy for our 
explanation of these legends. Several Scandinavian traditions 
refer to similar events. According to Volsunga Saga, cap. i, 
the origin of the kingdom of the Vdlsungar was as follows. A 
certain prince named Sigi was banished on account of man- 
slaughter. Accompanied by a retinue he departed from the 
North and settled in Hunaland (Germany), where he married 
into an influential family and eventually became a great king. 
So in Hervarar Saga ok HeiSreks Konungs, cap. 8 ff., a Norwegian 
prince named HeiSrekr escapes from his father's home, after 
slaying his brother, and joins a band of pirates with whom he 
acquires great renown for his bravery. He eventually comes to 
ReiSgotaland 1 and finds that the king, Haraldr, has to pay tribute 
to two earls who have ravaged his territories. He conquers the 
earls and receives the hand of the king's daughter together with 
half the kingdom as a reward. Subsequently, in a time of 
famine he attacks and offers up the king and his son as a sacrifice 
to Othin and thus obtains possession of the whole kingdom. We 
are reminded of the story of Telamon and Peleus and many 
similar incidents in the Homeric age. 

In sagas dealing with early times the leaders of such 
expeditions seem usually if not always to have been persons 
of royal birth. At a time when royal families were plentiful 
and their territories consequently small this is only what might 
be expected. Indeed it is not until the latter part of the ninth 
century that we find persons of humbler origin, such as Askold 
and Rollo (Gonguhrolfr) leading powerful expeditions and 

1 In this saga ReiXgotaland seems to mean the land of the Ilrethgotan (on the 
Vistula). It is conterminous with Hunaland (cap. 17), and both are said to have 
been parts of Germany (cap. 20). Cf. Schiitte, Ark. f. nord. Filol. XXI. p. 37 f. 
Elsewhere however the name is applied to Jutland. 


forming settlements on their own account. In earlier times when 
such persons had to fly their country they would presumably 
try, like the Wanderer, to obtain the protection of some foreign 

Stories of this kind are not confined to Scandinavian litera- 
ture. Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow, had slain a prince named 
Heatholaf belonging to a powerful family, the Wylfingas, who 
threatened reprisals against the Gotar. He therefore had to 
leave his country and betook himself to Hrothgar, king of the 
Danes, who was able to effect a satisfactory settlement of the 
vendetta. A still more interesting example occurs in another 
Anglo-Saxon poem generally known as the 'Husband's Message.' 
A prince who has had to leave his home in consequence of 
a blood-feud sends to his wife a staff inscribed with Runic letters. 
The messenger exhorts her, as soon as the spring is sufficiently 
advanced for travelling, to take ship and sail southwards over 
the sea to join her husband in his new home. He has now 
overcome all his troubles and has horses and treasure in 
abundance, all the pleasures of the banqueting hall and possessions 
such as befit a man of his rank. The only thing needed to 
complete his happiness is that his wife should join him in 
accordance with the vows which they made together in days 
gone by. We need scarcely doubt that the course of action here 
taken by the husband was of frequent occurrence during the 
migration period. 

Of course I do not mean to suggest that the movements of 
this period were confined to small bodies of 

Invasions of . . . 

the Roman adventurers. It is undeniable that national mi- 


grations on a large scale did take place. Indeed 

between the fourth and the sixth centuries the territories of the 

continental Teutonic nations, both individually and collectively* 

underwent immense changes. Large tracts of country which 

had formerly been Roman now became Teutonic, and almost 

equally large tracts which had been Teutonic now became 

Slavonic. In short there was a general movement towards the 

south and west. But I doubt very much whether these 

migrations were as a rule so continuous as is commonly stated. 


The reasons usually given for such movements are the growing 
weakness of the Roman Empire and the pressure of population 
in Germany 1 which impelled the tribes of that country to be 
constantly seeking wider and more fertile territories. But if it 
is true, as I have tried to show, that the more northern tribes had 
in general no national organisation except as the subjects of/ 
kings or kingly families and that their fighting forces were no/ / 
national militia in the ordinary sense, but bodies of chosen 
warriors attracted largely from other districts by the renown and 
generosity of the kings, the second of these reasons cannot be 1 
entirely correct. Again it is not only in the neighbourhood of the * 
Roman frontiers that we hear of great national conflicts. Indeed \ 
those nations which penetrated first and farthest into the Roman 
Empire, the Goths, Vandals, Suebi and Burgundians, were not / 
those which had been neighbours of the Romans from the / 
beginning. It would seem then that the impulse to these/ 
movements came largely from behind 2 . 

Turning to individual cases we may note that when the 
Franks invaded the Roman provinces on the lower Rhine in the 
fourth century we are expressly told that they had been 
expelled from their own territories by the Saxons. Similarly, 
it was perhaps partly to avoid the Visigoths that the Vandals 
crossed over into Africa. The Hunnish invasion brought about 
a number of movements of this kind, among the most important 
being that of the Visigoths into Moesia and that of the 
Burgundians into Gaul. The last mentioned tribe must have 
undertaken a considerable migration before this time ; but if we 
may trust a tradition recorded by Jordanes, cap. 17, it is very 
likely that this earlier movement was occasioned by an onslaught 
of the Gepidae. It is true no doubt that the Visigoths, and 
perhaps also the Langobardi at a later period, were in a state of 
more or less continuous migration for a considerable number of 
years. But these cases are probably due to exceptional cir- 
cumstances — that of the Visigoths to the fact that they had 

1 Cf. Paul. Diac, Hist. Lang., I. 1 f. It is likely enough that migrations were 
sometimes occasioned by famine ; cf. Procopius, Vand., I. 3, 22. 

2 Cf. Capitolinus, M. Anton. Philos., cap. 14: Victoualis et Alarcomannis cuncta 
turbantibus, aliis etiam genlibus, quae pnlsae a superioribus barbaris fugerant, nisi 
recipercntnr bcllum inferentibus. The reference is to the time of the Marcomannic war. 

C 12 


been expelled from their own territories by the Huns — and we 
are in no way justified in regarding this restlessness as 
representing the normal condition of Teutonic nations during 
the period which we are discussing. Even the Burgundians in 
the interval between their two migrations had a fixed frontier 
with the Alamanni 1 . 

As for the nations to pressure from which these migrations 
"were due, some probably, like the Huns and Avars, were of 
a truly migratory character. Others however seem to have been 
striving not to change but to extend their territories. The 
Prankish movement which forced the Visigoths to give up the 
south of Gaul cannot fairly be described as a migration, and 
there is no reason why we should assume that the attack of the 
Gepidae on the Burgundians was of a different character. If we 
turn back to an earlier period, we see that the Romans were too 
ready to attribute migratory habits to Teutonic tribes. Genuine 
migrations no doubt there were, such as that of the Marcomanni 
into Bohemia. From the fact that in Tacitus' time the Chauci 
were conterminous with the Chatti we may conclude that the 
movement of the Angriuarii into the territories of the Bructeri 
was a genuine migration ; but this may have been due to the 
growing power of the Chauci. The Usipetes and Tencteri were 
endeavouring in Caesar's time to migrate into Gaul owing to 
pressure from the Suebi, but it is very doubtful if we are justified 
in regarding the latter as migratory, in spite of Strabo's statements 
(p. 290 f.). The fact that the Semnones possessed a sanctuary 
of immemorial antiquity is surely evidence that, though they 
may have enlarged their territories, they had not actually changed 
them for a considerable period. 

It may perhaps he argued that this extension of territories is 
.itself evidence for the nat ural and spontaneous expansi on of 
iribes. But the evidence at our disposal scarcely bears this out ; 
it points rather to the ambition of kings as the determining 
cause. Theodberht in his letter to Justinian (cf. p. 97 f.) prides 
himself on the subjugation of the Thuringi, the conquest of their 
territories and the extinction of the native dynasty. So in 
Beowulf, 1. 4ff., it is stated that Scyld deprived many dynasties 

1 Cf. Amm. Marc. xvm. 2. 15. 


of their palaces and compelled all his neighbours to submit to 
him and pay him tribute. It is perhaps not sufficiently recognised 
how great was the extent of the power of some kings during the 
migration period. The influence of Theodric the Ostrogoth 
reached from Italy apparently both to the Aestii in the eastern 
Baltic and to the Warni on the North Sea. Attila appears to 
have had all the peoples of central Europe in subjection to him. 
Still more important for us is the case of Eormenric. We are 
told by Jordanes, cap. 23, that he had conquered the Aestii and 
a number of tribes which apparently lived in eastern Germany 
and southern Russia. In Widsith we find a princess of the 
Myrgingas journeying to his court, and we have suggested above 
(p. 138), that she went thither as a hostage. Tacitus {Germ. 8) 
states that it was customary to demand girls of noble birth as 
hostages, and similarly in VYaltharius, 1. 93 ff., we find Hiltgunt 
as a hostage at the court of Attila. But the Myrgingas, as we 
have seen, were neighbours of the Angli. The kingdom of the 
Heruli, which was likewise overthrown by Eormenric, may have 
been situated in the same direction (cf. p. 139). Consequently 
we can hardly avoid concluding that the influence of this king 
extended from the Black Sea to the southern part of the Jutish 
peninsula. Yet this is not so surprising when we recall the case 
of Maroboduus at a much earlier period. Since the Langobardi 
are represented as revolting from him, his authority must at least 
have reached from the Roman frontier on the Danube to near 
the mouth of the Elbe. 

Of course in many cases the supremacy wielded by these 
kings amounted to nothing more than suzerainty. Tribute was 
exacted and hostages taken from the subject nation. For the 
rest however it continued to be governed by kings of its own 
royal line. Such appears to have been the condition of the 
Langobardi under the Heruli, while in the time of Eormenric 
doubtless many nations were in the same position. The relations 
of distant nations with Theodric were probably of a still looser 
description. They seem to have been rather in the nature of an 
alliance strengthened by the giving and receiving of presents on 
both sides. But in other cases, where resistance was offered, the 
subjection was of a much more severe character. Sometimes 



we find the national dynasty destroyed as when the Thuringi 
were conquered by the Frankish Theodric or the Rugii by 
Odoacer ; and we may infer with probability that the rest of the 
population did not escape without considerable injury. Parallels 
are even to be found for Ceadwalla's treatment of the Isle of 
Wight ; for Tacitus speaks of the slaughter and enslaving of 
whole nations, as in the cases of the Amsiuarii and the Bructeri 
{Ann. XIII. 56, Germ. 33). It is intelligible therefore that when 
the kings of a nation threatened by a powerful enemy had 
determined on migration, few even of the poorest of their subjects 
would have any desire to stay behind. 

With regard to the motives entertained by the kings of 
dominant nations our authorities give little support to the idea 
that their aggressions were prompted by any solicitude for the 
future expansion of the peoples they governed. So far as we 
can trace the origin of these struggles, they appear to have arisen 
out of military ambition, desire for the acquisition of wealth or 
personal grievances. The war between the Langobardi and the 
Gepidae seems to have been due to the fact that each king was 
harbouring a claimant to the other's throne. According to 
Paulus Diaconus {Hist. Lang., I. 20) the cause of the war between 
the Heruli and the Langobardi was that the brother of the king 
of the former had been murdered by a Langobardic princess. 
Procopius tells a different story, to which we shall have to refer 
shortly. The struggle between the Franks and the Thuringi is 
said to have been brought about by an insult offered by Irminfrith 
to the Frankish king Theodric. The invasion of the land of 
the Warni by the Angli — the only Continental expedition which 
we know of as undertaken by this nation after its settlement in 
Britain — was due according to Procopius {Goth. IV. 20), 
a contemporary authority, to a breach of promise to the English 
king's sister. Again we are reminded of Homer. The expedition 
which Agamemnon gathered together from all Greece is said to 
have been due not to any irresistible impulse towards expansion 
on the part of the Greeks, but to the king's desire to exact 
vengeance for the abduction of his brother's wife. 

The military followers of the kings were doubtless ready to 
embark on war on any pretext, since they had everything to gain 


thereby. Beowulf, even before he becomes king, promises that 
if Hrothgar is attacked he will bring thousands of warriors to 
his assistance (1. 1826 ff.). According to Procopius (ib. II. 14) the 
war between the Heruli and the Langobardi was due solely to 
the followers of the king of the former, who were unable to tolerate 
a condition of peace for more than three years. There can be no 
doubt that successful campaigns had considerable effect on the 
conquering nation. With the acquisition of wealth, i.e. cattle, 
slaves, treasure and especially arms, the king and his knights 
were able to keep larger retinues. Thus the proportion of warriors 
tended continually to increase, while the cultivation of the land 
was left more and more to subject populations. Such may have 
been the case with the Goths and Franks and perhaps to a certain 
extent also with those tribes, presumably in western Germany, 
from whom Tacitus derived his general impressions on the char- 
acteristics of German society. But above all this condition of 
things must have prevailed among the Angli, unless the evidence 
of our early authorities on English society is entirely misleading. 

The invasion of Britain appears to have been one of the 
„. . exceptional cases of migrations on a large scale 

The invasion -s ^ == « ° 

of Britain. which were not due to external pressure. At all 

events we have no evidence of such pressure, for the westward 
movement of the Slavs does not seem to have actually reached 
Angel, while English tradition contains little or no trace of hostility 
to the Danes 1 . But the migration of the Angli is really ex- 
ceptional in more than one respect. It is apparently the only case 
of a very large migration across the open sea ; for the Vandals 
only crossed the Straits of Gibraltar. The distance covered by 
the Old Saxons, between the coast of Slesvig and the districts 
about the Weser, was also considerably less, while the settlements 
effected by the Suebi and Saxons in the Netherlands and northern 
France seem to have been comparatively insignificant. Again, 
it appears to have differed from other migratory movements, 
except perhaps those of the Saxons, by having extended over a 
considerable space of time. This cannot indeed actually be 
proved, but besides being intrinsically probable it is stated in all 

1 Except perhaps in Widsith, 1. 37 (cf. p. 1501".); but here the reference is to an 
earlier period. 


the accounts which we have of the invasion, whether from Welsh 
or English sources. 

But it must not be assumed that because the invasion 
probably extended over a considerable time the process really 
consisted of a long series of independent movements. However 
heterogeneous the invaders may have been at the beginning 
there is no semblance of probability in the supposition that each 
kingdom owed its existence to the migration of a separate tribe. 
We have seen that the royal family of Wessex claimed descent 
from certain persons who were in the service of King Wermund, 
the ancestor of the Mercian royal family. These persons again 
were nearly related to the ancestors of the Bernician royal family. 
Rather we must look for the origin of the various kingdoms in 
bodies of warriors attached to certain families — at first probably 
to individual princes — most of whom had taken part in the 
invasion in the following of others and had only later established 
their independence. Considering the great extent of country 
occupied by the invaders it is likely enough that the first century 
after the invasion was a period of disintegration. 

To illustrate this it will be convenient to notice one or two 
cases individually. That the Mercian kingdom, which was 
originally situated in the upper part of the basin of the Trent, 
was due to an independent invasion is clearly contrary to all 
probability. Indeed, if we take into account (i) that a British 
kingdom of Elmet, presumably in the south-west of Yorkshire, 
existed until the seventh century, and (2) that according to the 
Saxon Chronicle the districts to the west of the Chilterns were 
British until the latter part of the sixth century — a story which 
we have no valid reason for doubting — it is extremely improbable 
that the Trent valley came into English hands much earlier. 
So far as I know, it has never been doubted that the region of 
the Hwicce was acquired by a movement from districts farther 
to the east, which were already in English hands. The chronicle 
states that it was first conquered by the West Saxons, in which 
case the Hwiccian kingdom must have arisen through a subse- 
quent division or secession. Is there any reason for supposing 
that the Mercian kingdom had a different origin 1 ? Again, we 

1 The presumption is that it was acquired by a movement from Middle Anglia. As 


should naturally expect East Anglia to have been one of the 
first districts to be occupied by the invaders. But according to 
a note in the Historia Brittonum, § 59, its first king was Wehha 
(Guechan), the great-grandfather of Redwald, who is not likely 
to have lived in the time of the invasion. We do not know the 
source of this note, but the authority of §§ 57 — 65 is generally 
good. May not East Anglia have broken away from a larger 
kingdom, presumably at some time during the first half of the 
sixth century? With somewhat greater confidence we may con- 
jecture that the Bernician kingdom arose out of a movement 
from more southern districts, presumably Deira. All our 
authorities agree in attributing its foundation to Ida, whose 
traditional date is 547. At such a time the idea of a fresh 
invasion from over the sea is highly improbable and indeed is 
not suggested by any early writer. 

The character of the invasion in its initial stages may 
perhaps most reasonably be conjectured from the analogy of the 
Danish invasion which took place some four centuries later. 
After a series of piratical and plundering expeditions, which 
lasted for the greater part of a century, a large Danish army 
arrived in the year 866. It was apparently under the command 
of the sons of Lothbrok, who according to Scandinavian tradition Xj 
had undertaken the expedition in order to avenge their father's . Vv 
death. In the course of the next few years we hear of not less 
than six kings besides a number of earls (eorlas) and barons 
(holdas). Th ere can be no doubt therefore that the invasion was y \ 
carried out by a powerful and organised military force. We do 
not know exactly what territories were in the hands of Loth- 
brok's sons at this time, but it is difficult to believe that the 
whole army can have been drawn from within their dominions. 
As long as the sons of Lothbrok remained in command they 
carried all before them. But when they had all died or returned 
home the organisation of the invaders broke up at once into 
two or more independent sections, which were subsequently 
reduced in detail by the English. 

there is no evidence for a separate dynasty in the latter, the two kingdoms may have 
arisen out of a division between members of the same family. 



It is likely enough that in its initial stages the invasion of 
the Angli followed a very similar course. The successes of 
Hengest and the booty which he had acquired may have 
tempted princes of the royal house of Angel to undertake an 
expedition to Britain at a very early date. At all events I 
cannot believe that the invasion was effected without large and 
more or less organised forces. Further, it seems scarcely credible 
that these forces can have been drawn entirely from within the 
territories of the Angli. Indeed it has often been remarked 
that the whole of the modern province of Slesvig can hardly 
have produced sufficient fighting men to effect the conquest of 
Britain. But from what has been pointed out above with regard 
to the constitution of the military forces of those times we need 
not hesitate to believe that warriors were attracted to th e 
adventure fr om all the surroundi ng regions — just as in later 
times William of Norma ndy was accompanied by kn ights from 
Brittany, Flanders and elsewhere. Quite possibly even the 
families which eventually succeeded in establishing kingdoms 
may not all have been of English blood. The Angli however 
doubtless formed the chief element in the invasion, while the 
alien elements were not sufficiently strong individually to main- 
tain themselves as distinct from the rest of the population. The 
greater success obtained by the invaders as compared with the 
Danes in later times was largely due no doubt to the absence of 
opposition so resolute as that offered by King Alfred ; but their 
own organisation also may not have fallen to pieces so quickly. 
The later history of the two invasions was doubtless very 
different. The Danes, failing to maintain themselves in a 
position of ascendancy, seem not to have had their numbers 
recruited very largely from their own country. On the other 
hand we may well believe that the Angli, as soon as they had 
secured a firm footing in Britain, attracted a considerable pro- 
portion of their unwarlike population by promises of land and 
cattle. Again there is no reason for supposing that the treatment 
of the natives in the later invasion was on the whole anything 
like so ruthless as it is said to have been in the former. Gildas 
uses language which implies that, in some districts at least, 
almost the whole population was exterminated, and I do not 


think that what we know of the wars of this time justifies us in 
doubting his statements. 

We may conclude then, I think, that the exceptional features 
noted above in connection with the migration of the Angli are 
capable of explanation and that they in no way compel us to 
assume a different organisation of society from what we find 
represented in the poems. If we could recover the history of 
the invasion I have no doubt that instead of leaderless hordes 
united only by bonds of consanguinity we should find military 
organisations similar to those which we see in the great Danish 
invasion. The fact that so large a proportion of the population 
took part in it, including apparently much of the unwarlike as 
well as the military element, may be satisfactorily explained on 
the hypothesis that the invasion extended over a considerable 
period ; and we have reason at all events for believing that 
communication with the Baltic lands did not cease until well 
into the sixth century (cf. p. 18 f.). It is hardly necessary 
however to suppose that the whole population migrated, for the 
story that Angel was thenceforth a desert may very well be one 
of those cases of exaggeration to which popular tradition is 
prone. All that can be said with certainty is that the Angli of 
the Continent soon disappeared as a distinct nation. 

In the course of this chapter we have been considering the 
social and political conditions of the migration period chiefly 
from the evidence of native traditions and poems. This evidence 
has led us to conclude that the most potent influence in society 
during the period in question was that of the military classes, 
the kings and the officers or knights who were personally attached 
to them. The bond between lord and man equalled, if it did not 
exceed, in sanctity that of blood-relationship, deeply rooted as 
the latter doubtless was in popular feeling. Further, in the 
absence of evidence we are led to infer that the peasants had 
little or no power in the government of the nation. In military 
affairs this is still more marked. If the peasants took part in 
actual fighting at all their influence was almost negligible. The 
issue practically depended on the kings and their knights and, 
as in the Homeric poems, battles were often decided by the 


prowess of an individual. All this evidence points to a fairly- 
deep cleavage between the upper and lower strata of society. 

It remains for us now to notice briefly one or two objections 
which may be brought against this representation of the social 
conditions of the period. In the first place it may perhaps be 
argued that the evidence of the native authorities is not entirely 
trustworthy. The MSS. of the Anglo-Saxon poems which we 
possess date only from the tenth and eleventh centuries and, 
though there is no doubt that these are copies of earlier texts, it 
is not likely that they were committed to writing much before 
the eighth century. The literary form, whether Latin or verna- 
cular, in which the Scandinavian traditions are preserved is 
admittedly much later. Consequently, though the antiquity 
of the traditions themselves cannot be gainsaid, it may be 
thought that the form in which they have come down to us has 
been coloured by later ideas. Again, it is highly probable that 
the poems were composed and recited in court circles. Hence 
there may have been a tendency to ignore or belittle the 
influence of the commons. Lastly the corroborative testimony, 
which we find in the works of certain Roman writers, especially 
Procopius, may really hold good only for nations, such as the 
Franks and Goths, which had lived for a considerable time in 
the neighbourhood of the Romans, and consequently had come 
under the influence of southern civilisation. 

I think that there are sufficiently weighty reasons for rejecting 
the contention that the representation of social life 
fv?dln e c°e loglcal given in the Anglo-Saxon poems has been appre- 
ciably affected by later ideas. It is true of course 
that in the form in which we have them these poems have 
received a Christian colouring. But, to take a single point, the 
descriptions of funeral ceremonies given in Beowulf can hardly 
be explained otherwise than by a verbal tradition coming down 
from heathen times, presumably, though not perhaps necessarily, 
in metrical form. Into such questions however it is scarcely 
necessary for us here to enter. For dealing with the objections 
put forward above as a whole we can hardly have any safer 
criterion than the evidence of archaeology. The poems, as we 
have seen above, speak of a profusion of wealth and treasure in 


the kings' courts, a fact which if true must indicate the existence 
of immense social differences. Again they represent the warriors 
as armed with swords and iron-bound shields, helmets, often 
gilded, and costly coats of mail. If this is true we can well 
understand how it was that battles could be decided by the 
prowess of a comparatively small number of warriors, and that 
the crowds which followed unprotected and with inferior weapons 
would have little influence on the result of the contest. On the 
other hand if we do not find any costly or artistic treasures, if 
the only weapons which come to light are bows and arrows, 
clubs and javelins, we shall have to conclude that the evidence 
of the poems is untrustworthy and that any attempt to recon- 
struct from them the social life of the period is doomed to 

As a matter of fact the archaeological evidence is quite 
conclusive. On the western coasts of the Baltic a number of 
deposits have been found, to which we have already had occasion 
to refer and which are universally believed to date from between 
the third and sixth centuries. The richest of them are those 
discovered at Vi and Kragehul in Fyen, Thorsbjaerg in Angel, 
and Nydam which lies somewhat farther north. The Thorsbjaerg 
deposit, which is one of the earliest and specially important for 
us from its geographical position, contained helmets, fragments 
of coats of mail and remains of spears, swords and shields, 
together with numerous other articles, including gold and silver 
ornaments. Perhaps the most remarkable thing found was a 
silver helmet and visor, partly gilded. The other deposits were 
of a similar character. At Nydam there were found 106 swords 
and 552 spears. At Vi one coat of mail which was preserved 
intact contained about 20,000 rings and according to Prof. 
S. Miiller must have taken a single workman nearly a whole 
year to make. Many of the swords were skilfully ornamented. 
The blades were engraved with artistic patterns, as recorded in 
Beowulf, and the wooden hilts were encased in bronze, silver 
or ivory. The sheaths also were of elegant workmanship. 

The evidence of these deposits then fully bears out the 
statements of the poems. So numerous were the articles found 
that it is possible to reconstruct from them with certainty the 


whole dress and equipment of the warrior of those days. If we 
compare the representation thus obtained with the equipment of 
ancient Greek warriors as described by Homer and as depicted 
on vases and other objects of the geometrical period, the com- 
parison will scarcely be found disadvantageous to the former. 
In certain respects no doubt the Homeric civilisation was 
superior, notably in the art of working stone ; but it is at 
least a question whether the Homeric princes had not taken 
over their buildings from an earlier population. In other 
respects the advantage lies as clearly with the northern warriors. 
The Homeric poems contain scarcely any reference to writing. 
In the North on the other hand it was widely known (cf. 
Beow. 1696); inscribed articles were found in all the large 
deposits mentioned above. Again, the art of riding, which is 
seldom mentioned by Homer, appears to have been general 
among these northern warriors, spurs, bridles and other articles 
of riding gear being of frequent occurrence. In regard to artistic 
skill the shields of Amlethus and Hildigerus, as described by 
Saxo (pp. 100 f, 244), must at least have equalled the shield of 
Achilles ; and though some scepticism is doubtless legitimate in 
regard to the former, yet at all events the golden horns found at 
Gallehus show what northern artificers were capable of at this 
period. As an example of technique we may also compare the 
bronze car and horse recently discovered at Trundholm 1 , though 
this is usually attributed to a much earlier date. Taking the 
whole evidence into account we are not, I think, in any way 
justified in regarding the civilisation of the migration period 
as either rude or primitive. The condition of the peasantry 
no doubt differed considerably from that of the princely families, 
but this seems to have been the case also among the ancient 

The intellectual development of the times is much more 
difficult, if not altogether impossible, to determine. The very 
favourable impression produced by the character of King 
Hrothgar in Beowulf must not be ascribed entirely to Christian 
influence in the poet, for in Scandinavian tradition Hrolfr Kraki 

1 Cf. S. Mliller, Urgeschkhte Europas (Germ. Transl.), p. n6f. 


and even Hroarr (Hrothgar) himself bear a similar character. 
Moreover the conduct of King Aethelberht from the very begin- 
ning betrays a mind of much the same type. The sentiments 
attributed by Bede to heathen kings and nobles, such as Penda 
and the nobleman at Edwin's court, show a toleration and 
receptivity which we should hardly have expected, but which 
fully accord with the fact that, so far as we know, no missionaries 
lost their lives in the conversion of England. How far the same 
type of character prevailed in earlier times it is of course 
impossible to say. A quite opposite type, that of the warrior 
like StarkaSr, who is wholly given up to war and adventure, 
comes before us prominently in Scandinavian traditions. More- 
over we can hardly doubt that Woden, the god who gives 
victory and treasure and who rewards his votaries with a future 
life spent in fighting and feasting, was the deity par excellence 
of the migration period — especially among the Angli, whose 
princes claimed to be descended from him. Indeed so closely 
does the cult, as represented in Scandinavian traditions, appear 
to reflect the conditions of that age that it is at least a question 
whether it was not in part responsible for them. On the other 
hand the same spirit of adventure seems often to have been 
bound up with a desire for the knowledge of distant nations and 
kings. At all events it seems clear from Widsith, as from the 
Saga af Nornagesti in later times, that anyone who had travelled 
widely and observed the characteristics of the various leading 
men whom he had met with, might expect to interest his 
hearers. Some of the stories told by Procopius and acquired by 
him presumably from Teutonic soldiers in the Roman service 
even tend to show a somewhat careful study of peculiarities of 
national custom, such as we find exemplified by King Alfred 
and others in later times. 

In its material aspect the civilisation of the migration period 
had without doubt been greatly affected by foreign influence. 
This influence was partly, but by no means entirely, Roman. 
If we take the case of armour we may note that one Roman 
helmet was found at Thorsbjaerg, while the visor of a second is 
said to have been formed after a Roman model. But the crested 
helmets described in Beowulf were clearly of a different type 


and resembled those worn by the Cimbri according to Plutarch 
{Manns 25). The coats of mail found at Thorsbjaerg and Vi 
are said to have been of Roman workmanship 1 , but I have not 
been able to ascertain on what grounds this statement is based. 
Such armour does not seem to have been particularly common 
among the Romans, whereas Diodorus (v. 30) speaks of 6wpatca<; 
aiSrjpov'i a\vai$a)Tov<; as a characteristic feature of the Gauls. 
Six shield-bosses of Roman form were found at Thorsbjaerg, 
but sixteen others were of quite a different type. The shields 
themselves are said to have been entirely un-Roman. Again, 
the spears found in the deposits attain the length of eleven feet, 
which far exceeds that of the Roman pilum. A number of 
Roman swords have been found, but the long sword of the ' late 
Celtic' type was far commoner. On the whole then it would 
seem that in regard to military equipment these warriors had 
very much more in common with the Gauls than with the 

In religion nothing like the cult of Woden-Othin has, so far 
as I am aware, ever been traced in southern Europe. Similar 
beliefs and practices however are known to have prevailed 
among the Gauls. The court-life again, as described in the 
poems, has no resemblance to Roman custom ; but it is by no 
means unlike the life of the Gaulish nobility as depicted by 
Diodorus, v. 27 ff. Hence the fact that the representation of 
the social system given by our earliest authorities corresponds 
very closely to Caesar's account of Gaulish society is not 
without significance. It is true of course that the Gauls were 
not under kingly government. We have evidence however for 
the former existence of such government in several tribes, 
e.g. the Bituriges, the Aruerni, the Carnutes, the Senones and 
the Sequani 2 ; in the last two cases indeed it lasted until shortly 
before Caesar's conquest. But in other respects the secular 
organisation of the nation, with its equites and cliejites, closely 
resembles what we find in the Anglo-Saxon poems ; and unless 
the evidence of our authorities is very misleading Caesar's 

1 Engelhardt, Denmark in the Early Iron Age, p. 46. 

2 Cf. Livy v. 34, Valerius Maximus ix. 6. 3, Caesar, Gall. 1. 3, v. 25, 54, etc. Some 
of the Belgae were still governed by kings in Caesar's time. 


remarks on the condition of the Gaulish commons will likewise 
hold good for the northern Teutonic peoples of the migration 

Resemblances between Celtic and Teutonic civilisation are 
of course capable of more than one explanation — either as the 
common inheritance of kindred peoples or as the product of 
direct influence from one nation upon the other. The former 
explanation is no doubt partly true ; but it is obviously inap- 
plicable to several of the cases noticed above. The origin of the 
coat of mail may be open to question, but this is scarcely the 
case in regard to the long sword. Consequently I see no 
improbability in supposing that religious ideas and social 
customs may have been influenced from the same quarter. 
It is to be observed that Celtic influence did not come to an 
end with the Roman conquest. Several of the long swords 
found at Nydam bear inscriptions in Roman letters ; but the 
names themselves are not Roman. Presumably therefore either 
they or swords from which they are copied had come from 
districts which had passed under Roman government. Indeed 
it seems to me a question whether archaeologists have not been 
too ready in speaking of Roman influence on the northern 
peoples during the early part of the migration period — whether 
it would not be more correct to describe the foreign influence 
throughout as Celtic with a constantly growing Roman element. 
We have at all events no historical evidence for direct contact 
with the Romans before the appearance of the Saxons in the 
west, towards the end of the third century ; and the Saxons 
themselves appear to have been content with mere piratical 
raids for a long time. The employment of Heruli in the 
Roman service during the latter part of the fourth century may 
have been of greater importance. But there seems to be little 
evidence, whether from language, tradition or institutions, to 
show that Roman influence had had any appreciable effect 
on our nation before the conquest of Britain. 



In an earlier chapter we saw (p. 54) that according to Bede 
the invaders of Britain belonged to three different nations, 
namely the Saxons, the Angli and the Iutae. Those of the 
invaders who were called Saxons were sprung from the Old 
Saxons, a nation which in the seventh and eighth centuries 
extended from the Rhine to Holstein and which is found in the 
neighbourhood of the former as early as the middle of the fourth 
century (p. 90 ff.). The Angli came from a country called 
Angulus, a name with which the corrupt Oghgul of the Historia 
Brittonum seems to be identical. The evidence of later writers, 
King Alfred in his translation of Orosius and Aethelweard in 
his chronicle, leaves no room for doubt that they believed this 
country to be the district now called Angel, though the name 
may then have been applied to a larger area. The home of the 
Iutae is not directly specified by Bede or by any subsequent 
writer ; but the statement that Angulus was situated between 
the Saxons and the Iutae seems distinctly to point to Jutland. 
Continental writings from the third century onwards afford no 
evidence worth consideration which conflicts with these views. 

In a later chapter (p. 118 ff.) we examined certain traditions 
which refer to two persons named Wermund and Offa, ancestors 
of the Mercian royal family, and we saw that according to 
Widsith the latter ruled over Angel. In the course of our 
discussion also we noticed that these persons are clearly 
identical with two kings named Wermundus and Uffo who 
are mentioned in Danish traditions. The latter are described 


by the Danish historians as kings of the Danes, but the events 
related in connection with them seem all to have taken place in 
the southern half of the Jutish peninsula, viz. at Jaellinge, Slesvig 
and Rendsburg. The evidence of these traditions therefore 
harmonises fully with the views held by ancient English writers 
as to the home of the nation before the invasion of Britain. 

We have now to consider the evidence of certain writings on 
the geography of northern Europe which date from a much 
earlier period, namely the first two centuries of the Christian 
era. Of these the most important is the Geography of Ptolemy, 
which is said to have been composed about the middle of the 
second century. It is believed however to have been based on 
a lost work by Marinus written about half a century earlier. 
In this work both the Saxons and the Angli (Sovrjftoi ' A<yyet,\ol) 
are mentioned ; but the geographical position of the two tribes 
relatively to one another is exactly the reverse of what Bede's 
evidence would lead us to expect. The former are represented 
as occupying the 'neck of the Cimbric peninsula' together with 
three islands near the mouth of the Elbe, though considerably 
to the north. The latter on the other hand are located to the 
west of the Elbe in a district which was certainly for the most 
part occupied by the Saxons in later times. 

It will be convenient here to give in full the passages which 
bear on these questions (Geogr. II. 11, § 8 ff.) : "Those parts of 
Germany which lie along the Rhine, beginning from the north, 
are occupied by the Little Bousakteroi and the Sygambroi. 
Below them are the Soueboi Langobardoi, then the Tenktroi 
and the Ineriones between the Rhine and the Abnobean moun- 
tains.... The coastland above the Bousakteroi is occupied by 
the Phrisioi as far as the river Amisia (Ems). After them 
are the Little Kauchoi as far as the river Ouisourgios (Weser), 
and then the Greater Kauchoi as far as the river Albis (Elbe). 
Next come the Saxones upon the neck of the Cimbric peninsula. 
The peninsula itself, above the Saxones, is occupied, from west 
to east, by the Sigoulones, then the Sabalingioi, then the 
Kobandoi. Above these are the Chaloi, and above them again 
the Phoundousioi towards the west and the Charoudes towards 
the east ; while farthest to the north of all are the Kimbroi. 
c. 13 


After the Saxones, from the river Chalousos to the river 
Souebos, come the Pharodeinoi, then the Seidinoi to the river 
Ouiadouas (Oder), and after them the Rhoutikleioi to the river 
Ouistoulas (Vistula). 

" Of the interior or inland tribes the following are the 
greatest : the Soueboi Angeiloi, who lie to the east of the 
Langobardoi, stretching northwards to the middle of the Elbe, 
the Soueboi Semnones, who extend from the Elbe at the point 
specified eastwards to the river Souebos, and the Bougountes 
who occupy the regions beyond as far as the river Vistula. 

" In the intervening districts there are smaller tribes. Be- 
tween the Little Kauchoi and the Soueboi lie the Greater 
Bousakteroi, and below them the Chaimai. Between the 
Kauchoi and the Soueboi lie the Angriouarioi, then the Lak- 
kobardoi, and below them the Loulgoumnioi. Between the 
Saxones and the Soueboi lie the Teutonoaroi and the Ouirounoi ; 
between the Pharodeinoi and the Soueboi lie the Teutones and 
the Auarpoi ; and between the Rhoutikleioi and the Bougountes 
lie the Ailouaiones. 

"Again, below the Semnones live the Silingai, and below 
the Bougountes the Lougioi Omanoi, and below these the 
Lougioi Didounioi as far as Mount Askibourgion. Below the 
Silingai live the Kaloukones on both sides of the river Elbe 
and below them the Chairouskoi and the Kamauoi as far as 
Mount Melibokon. To the east of these, about the Elbe, are, 
the Bainochaimai.... Again to the east of the Abnobean 
mountains live the Kasouarioi below the Soueboi...." 

(§ 31) "Above Germany there are situated a number of 
islands. Near the mouth of the Elbe there are three called 
the Islands of the Saxones. The central point of these falls 
in long. 31, lat. 574.0'. And above the Cimbric peninsula 
there are three other islands, called Alokiai, the central point 
of which falls in long. 37, lat. 59*20'. Again, to the east of the 
peninsula there are four islands which are called Skandiai. 
Three of them are small, the central one of which lies in 
long. 41*30', lat. 58; but the fourth is larger than the others 
and farther to the east, opposite the mouth of the river Vistula 
and the name Skandia is specially applied to this island." 

)Vl6pOV TTOT. lKp.^"f-—~^ 

'Ptjvov itot. (TT.J 


'PiyVOV 7BOT. 

(7T. *'• 


If we compare the more western part of Ptolemy's map with 
the list of tribes given by Tacitus in that part of his work 
{Germ. 32-36) which refers to the same districts, we shall see 
that in spite of scribal corruptions the majority of the names 
seem to be identical in the two works. The following identifica- 
tions may be regarded as practically certain : 

Tencteri = Tenktroi Angriuarii = Angriouarioi 

Bructeri = Bousakteroi Chamaui = Kamauoi 

Frisii = Phrisioi Cherusci = Chairouskoi 

Chauci = Kauchoi Chasuarii = Kasuarioi 
Dulgibini = Loulgoumnioi 

Tacitus makes no distinction between ' Little' and 'Greater' 
in the case of his Bructeri and Chauci, nor does he so precisely 
indicate the geographical position of his tribes. On the whole 
however, if we observe the direction which he follows in his 
account, the indications given seem not to vary greatly in any 
of the above cases — except perhaps in that of the Chamaui 1 — 
from the localities assigned by Ptolemy. Tacitus' list adds one 
name, that of the Fosi, a tribe in the immediate neighbourhood 
of the Cherusci, to those given by Ptolemy. On the other hand 
he has no names corresponding to the Ineriones (Nikriones?), 
Sygambroi' 2 and Chaimai. 

The names Angli and Langobardi are mentioned by Tacitus 
(ib. 40), though unfortunately he makes no attempt to fix the 
geographical position of these tribes. It is to be observed 
however (1) that they are classed among the Suebi and (2) that 
they are mentioned not in connection with the series of names 
given above but after the Semnones. 

Apart from these two passages in Tacitus and Ptolemy the 
name Angli does not occur in ancient writings. On the other 
hand there are several other references to the Langobardi, 
though they are nowhere else represented as living in the 
neighbourhood of the Rhine. According to Strabo (p. 290), 

1 Tacitus (cap. 33) only says that the Chamaui, together with the Angriuarii, had 
recently occupied the territories of the Bructeri. But in Ann. XIII. 55 they are 
said to have formerly lived in a district far distant from that assigned to them by 

2 The Sugambri seem to have ceased to exist as an independent tribe before the 
time of Tacitus ; cf. Bremer in Paul's Grundriss-, III. p. 884. 



who seems to have been writing about the year 18 A.D., they 
dwelt in his time to the east of the Elbe, having fled over that 
river from fear of the Romans. They are mentioned again by 
Velleius Paterculus (II. 106), who had himself served under 
Tiberius in Germany. He states that in the campaign of A.D. 4 
the Romans had conquered and received the submission of the 
Canninefates, Attuarii (Chattuarii 1 ), Bructeri and Cherusci, and 
had penetrated beyond the Weser. In the following year, 
under the leadership of Tiberius, they conquered nations whose 
names even had hardly been known to the Romans before. 
The names which he gives are Cauchi, Langobardi, Semnones 
and Hermunduri. Immediately after relating the defeat of the 
Langobardi he mentions the arrival of the Romans, both by 
land and sea, at the Elbe, which he describes as flowing past 
the frontiers of the Semnones and Hermunduri. The Lango- 
bardi are mentioned again by Tacitus himself in two passages 
of his Annals. In the first (II. 45 ff.) they are said to have 
belonged, together with the Semnones, to the kingdom of 
Maroboduus, king of the Marcomanni, but to have deserted 
him and joined the Cherusci in their war against that king. 
In the second passage (XI. 17) they are represented as interfering 
in the dynastic struggles of the Cherusci. 

From a comparison of these passages it is clear that the 
home of the Langobardi must be sought in the lower part of 
the basin of the Elbe and in the neighbourhood of the Chauci, 
Cherusci and Semnones. Now we have seen that in this district 
Ptolemy places a tribe called Lakkobardoi, which can hardly 
be anything but a corrupt form of the same name 2 . Are we 
to suppose then that there were two tribes of this name, or 
possibly two branches of the same tribe, one on the Elbe and 
the other on the east bank of the Rhine? This is hardly 
probable. The districts immediately to the east of the Rhine 
were well known to the Romans and had frequently been 
traversed by them in their campaigns against the Chatti ; yet 

1 The Canninefates and Chattuarii seem to have inhabited the parts of Holland 
which lie immediately to the north of the Rhine. 

2 The name may very well survive in the modern Bardengau, a district to the 
south of Hamburg. 


we never hear of Langobardi in connection with these events. 
It is far more likely therefore that Ptolemy's location of the 
Langobardi in this region is due to a mistake. 

We must now return to the Angli. From Ptolemy's account 
(cf. p. 193 f.) it would seem that he regarded the Suebi as a solid 
band of tribes stretching across the greater part of Germany, 
from the Rhine to the river Souebos. In this band the Angli 
(Angeiloi) are represented as occupying the central position, 
between the upper Ems (apparently) and the Elbe. To the 
north of them lie the Angriuarii, the Langobardi (Lakkobardoi) 
and the Dulgibini (Loulgoumnioi), and to the south of them 
the Chasuarii (Kasouarioi), the Chamaui and the Cherusci. 
Now since the Angli are said to have been one of the greatest 
of the interior tribes it is most remarkable that we never find 
any reference to them in the various accounts of the campaigns 
waged by Drusus, Tiberius and Germanicus in these districts, 
though several of the ' smaller tribes ' (i\daaova edvr)), viz. 
the Angriuarii, the Langobardi and the Cherusci, are more 
or less frequently mentioned in connection with these events. 
But there is a more serious difficulty. We have already seen 
that according to Tacitus the Langobardi took part on two 
occasions in the quarrels of the Cherusci, a fact which distinctly 
suggests that the two tribes were conterminous. Further, it 
is stated in Germ. 36 that the Cherusci bordered upon the 
Chauci. According to the same work, cap. 33 f., the Chamaui 
and Angriuarii had recently moved into the territories of the 
Bructeri ; behind, these tribes were shut in by the Dulgibini 
and Chasuarii. Lastly we find in Ann. II. 19 that, at an earlier 
date, the Angriuarii had raised a broad earthwork as a boundary 
between themselves and the Cherusci. From these references 
it is abundantly clear that the tribes represented by Ptolemy 
as living to the north of the Suebi (i.e. the Soueboi Angeiloi), 
viz. the Bructeri, Angriuarii and Chauci, were really con- 
terminous with the Chasuarii 1 and Cherusci, which he represents 

1 If the Chasuarii lived on the Hase, as their name seems to indicate, there 
can hardly have been another tribe between them and the Bructeri ; for the latter 
inhabited the basin of the Ems and stretched apparently into that of the Lippe (cf. 
Strabo, p. 290 f., Tacitus, Ann. [. 60). 


as situated to the south of the Suebi. The position which he 
assigns to the latter is therefore incredible unless it was due to 
a later migration — for which we have no evidence. 

It has already been mentioned that Tacitus does mention 
the Angli (Anglii), though not in connection with the group of 
tribes discussed above. The course which he adopts in his 
Germania is as follows. He begins with the upper Rhine and 
follows that river to its mouth. Then he traverses north-western 
Germany from the Rhine to the Elbe (apparently), ending his 
enumeration of the tribes in these districts with the Chauci, 
Cherusci and Fosi. Next, after one chapter (37) relating to 
the Cimbri, he goes on to speak of the various tribes included 
under the name Suebi. First he takes the Semnones, then the 
Langobardi, and then a group of seven tribes among which the 
Angli are included. Unfortunately he gives no indication in 
any of these cases as to the geographical position of the tribes. 
Indeed the opening words of cap. 41, "this portion of the Suebi 
extends into the more secret regions of Germany " (in secreliora 
Germaniae), may be taken as meaning that he had no precise 
information regarding their position. Yet this expression in 
itself leads us to infer that he regarded the tribes in question 
as living east of the Elbe, especially as he has just mentioned 
the Semnones and Langobardi, who, as we have seen, appear to 
have inhabited the basin of that river. 

The names of the seven tribes as given by Tacitus are 
Reudigni (v. 1. Veusdigni), Auiones, Anglii, Varini, Suarines 
(v. 1. Suardones), Nuit(h)ones and Eudoses. Of these names 
the first and the last two have never been satisfactorily ex- 
plained and are probably corrupt 1 . The other four appear to 
be genuine, but the only ones which occur elsewhere are Anglii 
and Varini. We have already (p. 108 ff.) had several references 
to the latter in documents dating from later times and it is 
very probable that the Ovipovvoi which we find beside Tevro- 
voapoi in Ptolemy's text (cf. p. 194) is a corruption of the same 

1 The name Eudoses has been identified with Ptolemy's $>ovvdov<rioi (cf. p. 193). 
Among the forces which served in Ariouistus' army Caesar (B. Gall., 1. 51) gives the 
names Harudes and Sedusii, for the latter of which the mss. of Orosius (vi. 7) give 
Eduses, Edures, Endures; cf. Zeuss, op. cit., p. 151 f., note. 


name. Further it may be noticed that the two pairs of names 
TevrovodpoL teal Ovlpovvot and Tevroves /cal Kvapiroi have a 
curious resemblance to one another. They are generally thought 
to be doublets, and this suspicion is somewhat confirmed by the 
fact that a place called Ovlpovvov is marked by Ptolemy at the 
easternmost extremity of the territory assigned to the latter 
pair of tribes. As for the geographical position of these tribes 
the former pair are represented as lying between the Saxones 
('on the neck of the peninsula') and the Semnones, who are 
placed by Ptolemy to the east of the Elbe, while the latter 
pair lie farther to the east. We must suppose then that 
Ptolemy believed them to occupy the regions now called Hol- 
stein and Mecklenburg. We have already seen (p. 109) that 
Procopius' account of the migration of the Heruli places the 
Warni in the direction of Holstein, while evidence for their 
extension further to the east is perhaps to be found in the 
name of the Slavonic Warnabi, who occupied Mecklenburg in 
later times, and in the modern river-name Warnow which is 
likewise a Slavonic form 1 . We may further compare a passage 
in Pliny's Natural History, IV. 99, to which we shall have to 
return later. This passage gives a classification of the Germani 
in five main groups called Vandili, Ingyaeones, Hermiones, 
Istriaones and Peucini. The Suebi are placed in the third 
group together with the Hermunduri, Chatti and Cherusci ; but 
a name which seems to be Varini falls into the first or north- 
eastern group together with the Burgundiones, Gutones and 
another tribe whose name (Charini ? 2 ) we cannot recognise. A 
certain element of doubt is introduced by the fact that Ptolemy 
(ill. 5, § 20) records the presence of a tribe called ^povyowhicove^ 
in Sarmatia, and immediately after them another tribe named 
Avapivoi near the source of the Vistula. The latter however 
are never heard of again and it is at least a question whether 

1 A settlement of Warni in the northern part of the province of Slesvig may 
perhaps be inferred from the place-name Varnaes {promontoriiim Varinorum in a 
document of the thirteenth century) ; cf. Bremer, op. cit., p. 851. 

2 The mss. have narin{>i)ec(!i)arini, variously divided. 


both names have not been erroneously transferred from the map 
of Germany 1 . 

On the whole the evidence, such as it is, distinctly favours 
the idea that the Varini belonged to the eastern or Baltic half 
of Germany. This being so we get a possible explanation of 
another of the names mentioned in Tacitus' list, viz. Suarines. 
It is surely not incredible that this name may survive in the 
modern Schwerin (Med. Lat. Swerinuni). Possibly the obscure 
form given after Varini in Pliny's list is a corruption of the 
same name. 

Tacitus states that the only remarkable characteristic 
possessed by these seven tribes was that they shared the 
worship of a certain goddess named Nerthus whose sanctuary 
lay on ' an island in the Ocean.' We must suppose then that 
they occupied lands in the neighbourhood of the coast, or at 
least that they had access to the sea by navigable rivers or 
otherwise. But it is important for us to decide what the term 
Oceamis means here. Elsewhere it is applied both to the North 
Sea (e.g. Germ. 34) and to the Baltic (ib. 43 f.). If what has 
been said above as to the position of the Varini and Suarines 
is correct we shall have to conclude that in this case Oceanus 
means the Baltic. Consequently we must suppose that the 
Angli also lived in the neighbourhood of that sea. More 
precisely than this however the information afforded by Tacitus 
will not suffice to locate them. 

On the other hand, since the evidence for the position of 
the Varini and Suarines is not absolutely conclusive, we are 
scarcely justified in leaving out of account the possibility that 
the territories of the seven tribes really lay on the coasts of 
the North Sea. In this case we may define the area to be 
taken into consideration somewhat more closely. In the first 
place we may put aside the whole of the region west of the 
Elbe. For we have already seen that the tribes which inhabited 
this region are fairly well known to us from several different 

1 Zeuss {Die Deutschen, p. 694 ff. ) held the Phrougoundiones to be a non-Teutonic 
people. But the Bovpovyovvdoi (Ovpovyovvdot) mentioned by Zosimus and Agathias 
may have been offshoots of the Burgundians. 


sources, while, apart from Ptolemy's statement regarding the 
Angli, there is no evidence for any names which can be 
identified with those of the seven tribes. Again, in regard to 
the position of the sacred island — since Tacitus notes the cult 
of Nerthus as the special characteristic of the seven tribes, he 
can hardly have thought that it was shared also by the tribes 
which he has mentioned previously, e.g. the Langobardi and 
the Chauci. This consideration however surely prevents us 
from identifying the sacred island with any of those adjacent 
to the mouth of the Elbe. If it was situated in the North Sea 
at all we shall have to suppose that it lay considerably farther 
to the north, presumably off the coasts of Slesvig or Jutland. 
It may of course be urged that if the seven tribes had inhabited 
this region Tacitus would have mentioned them in connection 
with the Cimbri instead of after the Semnones and Langobardi ; 
for there is a good deal of evidence, as we shall see later, that 
* the peninsula of the Cimbri ' was what we now call Jutland. 
The argument however is not quite conclusive, as it is clear 
from Tacitus' account that his knowledge of the geography of 
this region was extremely vague. As a matter of fact Strabo 
also (p. 294) seems to have been under an erroneous impression 
as to the position of the peninsula occupied by the Cimbri. 

It has been happily suggested 1 that a somewhat more 
definite clue to the position of the Angli may be obtained from 
Ptolemy's own words, by correcting the position assigned by 
him to the Langobardi. From the presence of doublets like 
AayyoftdpSoi — Aa/c/co/3dp8oL, Ovipovvoi — Avapiroi it seems 
probable that Ptolemy derived his names from different sources. 
His mistake in regard to the positions of the Langobardi and 
the Angli may possibly be due to a confusion of two different 
statements, one of which, perhaps from Strabo, p. 290, described 
the Suebi as extending from the Rhine to the Elbe, while the 
other represented the Langobardi as the westernmost of the 
Suebi and placed the Angli to the east or north-east of them. 
Now if we move the Angli to the east or north-east of the 
Lakkobardoi, i.e. the true position of the Langobardi, they will 

1 Cf. Schiitte, Var Anglerne Tyskere ?, p. 44 ff. 


come into the neighbourhood of the 777)0? avaroXas €7ricrTpo<f>7J y 
in space assigned by Ptolemy to the Teutonoaroi and Ouirounoi, 
or between them and the Saxones. At all events this would 
make the Angli neighbours to the Varini. 

We have yet to consider the position assigned by Ptolemy 
to the Saxones. The mistakes made by this writer in regard 
to the positions occupied by the Langobardi and the Angli 
have hardly tended to make us feel much confidence in state- 
ments resting solely on his authority. It has been observed 
above that no other writer of the first two centuries mentions 
the Saxons, while from the end of the third century we find 
them in quite a different quarter. Yet it deserves to be pointed 
out that in one respect at least Ptolemy's statements in this case 
present a more satisfactory appearance. The position of the 
' islands of the Saxons ' seems to have been fixed independently 
of that of the Saxons on the mainland ; yet the two statements 
agree very well. It is true that we have no evidence for any 
islands so far distant from the coast. This mistake however 
seems to be due to the incorrect orientation of the coast-line 
of the peninsula 1 . If the latter be corrected it will be seen that 
these islands, judging from the latitude in which they are placed, 
must correspond to the islands (Sylt, etc.) off the west coast 
of Slesvig. They may therefore very well have been inhabited 
by the same people as the neck of the peninsula. Moreover,, 
as we have seen in an earlier chapter (p. 92), the Saxons them- 
selves appear to have had a tradition that they had come from 
over the sea — a tradition which we are not justified in rejecting 
on the ground that the Translatio S. Alexandri assigns an 
obviously incorrect date to their arrival. Some recollection 
of their presence in the north seems to have been preserved even 
by Danish tradition; for Saxo (p. 51) relates that they were 
expelled from Jutland by an ancient Danish king named Helgo. 

1 There can be little doubt that this false orientation of the coast-line hangs 
together with the similar mistake in the map of Britain (II, 3). Owing to the latter 
what should be the northernmost point of Scotland (i) 'Op«as aicpa) has been made to 
fall in or very close to the true position of the 'AAo/dcu vijcrot, which we shall have to 
discuss later. Since Ptolemy must have been aware that the Cimbric peninsula did 
not stretch into the neighbourhood of the coast of Britain it is quite likely that he may 
have deliberately altered the direction of the former. 


Lastly we have to remember that there is evidence for the 
prevalence of an Anglo-Frisian language in this region from 
early times, a language which may very well be descended from 
that of the ancient Saxons. On all sides therefore Ptolemy's 
statements seem to be borne out by the evidence at our disposal. 
It is not correct however to state, as is often done, that 
Ptolemy places the Saxons in Holstein. The neck, i.e. the 
narrowest part, of the peninsula is certainly the part adjacent 
to the islands ; but this lies well to the north of the Eider. It is 
true that in later times we do find people called Saxons in 
Holstein. My point however is that this is not the locality 
most naturally indicated by Ptolemy's words. Again, there 
is some reason, as we have seen (p. 136 ff.), for believing that in 
Offa's time, i.e. the fourth century, this district was occupied 
by a different nation, namely the North Suabi (Swaefe). No 
certain reference to them occurs in early writings ; yet the 
following piece of evidence deserves to be mentioned. Tacitus 
in his Life of Agricola, cap. 28, gives an account of the adventures 
which befell a troop of Usipii who had been employed in the 
Roman service in Britain, apparently on the west coast, and 
had mutinied. They took ship and circumnavigated the island, 
apparently round the northern end 1 , and were finally wrecked 
on the coast of Germany. There they fell into the hands first 
of the Suebi and then of the Frisii, and some of them were 
eventually sold as slaves as far as the west bank of the Rhine. 
From this it appears that some part of the coast of Germany 
was inhabited by a people called Suebi. As the Chauci bordered 
on the Frisii and extended as far as the Elbe we shall have to 
suppose that these Suebi lived to the north of that river. It 
may of course be urged that Tacitus in the Germania gives the 
name Suebi to all tribes beyond the Elbe, a fact which we shall 
have to consider in the next chapter. But in the light of the 
later evidence it is surely not incredible that in this story Tacitus' 
informants may have used the term quite correctly. In this 
connection we may further note that Ptolemy describes the 
Angli as ^Lovijftoi 'AyyeiXoi. Now unless we take the term 

1 Cf. Dio Cassius, lxvi. 20. 


Suebi in Tacitus' sense, which is probably not in accordance 
with native use, we have no ground for supposing that the 
Angli were really included in this group. Indeed the fact that 
they applied the name Suebi to a neighbouring tribe in later 
times is distinct evidence to the contrary. But is it not possible 
that Ptolemy's expression may have been due to the juxta- 
position of the names Suebi and Anglii in an earlier document 
or map, just as we find Engle and Swaefe in Widsith? 

We have seen that according to a suggestion quoted above 
(p. 201) the position assigned to the Angli in Ptolemy's source 
of information may really have been to the north-east of the 
lower Elbe in the neighbourhood of the 7rpd<> avaroXds iTriarpo^r]. 
This would bring them into proximity with the Saxons, though 
somewhat farther to the south. Now if we examine Ptolemy's 
map at this point we cannot fail to be struck by one or two 
curious features. One of course is that the orientation of the 
coast-line of the peninsula is incorrect. Another is that the 
coast between the iiri(rrpo(p7] and the river Chalousos is not 
assigned to any tribe. Again, though the Saxons are represented 
in one passage as occupying the neck of the peninsula, yet in 
another we find the words " after the Saxons, from the river 
Chalousos" etc. (cf. p. 194), which seem to imply that their 
territory extended considerably to the east. Now what is the 
iTriarpocfitj and what are the rivers Chalousos and Souebos ? 
At first sight one would probably imagine that the eTriarpo^rj 
was intended for the Gulf of Liibeck ; but I am far from certain 
that this explanation is correct. Ptolemy makes the distances 
between the eVtcrTpo^, the Chalousos, the Souebos, the 
Ouiadouas (Oder) and the Ouistoulas (Vistula) all about the 
same. In the last case of course the distance indicated is too 
short ; but this fact ought not to discredit the whole series. 
It seems to me that the conditions are far better satisfied if we 
identify the eTTMnpofyr) with the Eckernforde Fiord or Kiel Bay, 
the Chalousos with the Trave and the Souebos with the Warnow 
or possibly the Trebel. It is true of course that the Eckernforde 
Fiord is not in the same latitude as the mouth of the Trave. 
But with the kind of knowledge which the Romans possessed 
of these distant regions observations of latitude are less likely 


to have been correctly recorded than distances, even if we take 
no account of the suggestion that Ptolemy deliberately altered 
the direction of the coast-line. 

If we are right in this identification of the iirt,arpo(^r] the 
correction of the position of the Angli quoted above will bring 
this tribe very near to Angel, their later home, especially if we 
admit the further suggestion that the names AayyoftdpSoi — 
Sovrjfioi 'AyyetXoi are derived from a series Langobardi — 
Suebi — Anglii. These corrections however must of course be 
regarded as hypothetical. For the present we shall have to 
content ourselves with the vague indications given by Tacitus 
regarding the position of the Angli and with Ptolemy's state- 
ments as to the position of the Saxons. We have seen that 
if the Angli were really a North Sea people they must be placed 
on the peninsula and hardly at its southern extremity. On the 
other hand if they were a Baltic people the information given 
by Tacitus will not suffice to enable us to fix their exact position. 
They may have lived either on the peninsula or anywhere 
along the south-west coast of the Baltic, perhaps as far as the 
Oder 1 . Yet we may at all events conclude that Tacitus' 
evidence contains nothing which will in any wa^' count against 
the supposition that the territories of the Angn were the same 
in his time as they were in the fourth century. 

One point however must be noted. If the Angli really 
inhabited the southern part of the peninsula, as in later times, 
their territories would seem to fall within the district assigned 
by Ptolemy to the Saxons. Are we to infer then that the Angli 
formed a part of the latter, or were Angli and Saxones two 
names for the same people ? Either of these hypotheses would 
agree very well with the English evidence (cf. p. 86 f), though 
both, especially the latter, would be somewhat difficult to 
reconcile with the almost entire absence of any reference to the 
name Angli among the Continental Saxons of later times. A 
third possibility however deserves to be taken into account. 
Ptolemy places the Saxons upon the ' neck of the peninsula ' ; 

1 If they had lived beyond this river we should have expected to find them 
mentioned in a different connection, viz. with the Rugii and other north-eastern tribes 
(cf. Germ. 43 ff.). 


but it does not necessarily follow that they occupied the whole 
of the province of Slesvig. In later times, as we have seen 
(p. 141), the east and west coasts of the province were occupied 
by two peoples, the Danes and Frisians, with quite different 
affinities. There is surely nothing to prevent us from supposing 
that such may have been the case in the first and second 
centuries. Now from the fact that the islands off the west 
coast belonged to the Saxons we may infer with great proba- 
bility that the adjacent parts of the mainland were in the 
possession of the same people. But there is nothing to show 
that the Saxons extended to the Baltic except the vague 
expression jxera tou? 2a£oz/<z<? in § 13. On the other hand the 
modern Angel lies on the coast of the Baltic. The Angel ruled 
by King Offa may of course have been more extensive. In the 
following chapters, however, we shall see that both the affinities 
•of the cult of Nerthus and the earliest traditions of the Angli 
themselves point to a somewhat intimate connection with other 
Baltic lands. 



In the last chapter mention was made incidentally of a 
passage in Pliny's Natural History, iv. 99, in which the Germani 
are classified in five large groups. It will be convenient here to 
give this passage in full 1 : " There are five groups of the Germani ; 
the Vandili to whom belong the Burgundians, the Varini, 

the and the Goths; the second group are the Inguaeones, 

to whom belong the Cimbri, the Teutoni and the nations of the 
Chauci ; next to the Rhine are the Istaeuones {Istriaeones), to 

whom belong ; in the interior the Hermiones to whom 

belong the Suebi, the Hermunduri, the Chatti and the Cherusci. 
The fifth group consists of the Peucini, the Basternae conter- 
minous with the above-mentioned Daci." It is not quite clear 
whether in the last sentence Peucini is meant to be a group-name ; 
but for our purpose this question is of no importance. 

1 Germanorum genera quinque: Vandili quorum pars Burgodiones, Varinne, 
Charini, Gittones ; alteram genus Ingyaeones quorum pars Cimbri, Teutoni ac 
Chaucorum gentes ; proximi autem Rheno Istriaeones quorum pars ; mediterranei 
Hermiones quorum Suebi, Hermunduri, Chatti, Cherusci; quinta pars Peucini, 
Bastarnae supra dictis contermini Dacis. The forms of the names used vary a good 
deal in the different MSS.; but the above seem to have the best authority. For 
Ingyaeones other MSS. have Ingyaones, Incyeones etc. The form used in IV. 96 is 
Inguaeonum (Gen.) and in Tacitus, Germ. 2, Ingeuones, Ingaeuones. For Istriaeones 
the mss. have Islriaones, Istriones, Straeoues etc. In Tacitus, I.e., the forms used are 
Istaeuones, Isteuones. The form Hermiones seems to be universal except in Tacitus, 
I.e., where one MS. has Herminones as the original reading. The true native forms 
of these names were in the last case no doubt Ermianez or Erminanez and in the first 
perhaps Ingw(e)ianez. The other is quite uncertain, though the evidence of the 
Frankish genealogy (see below) counts against the forms with -r-. 


The other group-names all occur elsewhere. The name 
Inguaeones is mentioned again by Pliny himself (iv. 96). After 
a short description of the Scythian coasts (i.e. the eastern part 
of the Baltic) from north-east to south-west, he says : " At this 
point we get clearer information as we reach the nation of the 
Inguaeones, which is the first in Germany." The Hermiones 
are mentioned again by Mela, De Chorographia, III. 3, in his 
account of the Sinus Codanus : "In it," he says, "are the Cimbri 
and the Teutoni ; beyond lie the Hermiones, the most remote 
of the Germani." Lastly, Tacitus, Germ. 2, states that according 
to ancient native poems the whole race of the Germani was 
descended from the god Tuisto and his son Mannus. To the 
latter " they assign three sons, from whose names those who 
are nearest to the Ocean are called Inguaeones, the central 
tribes Hermiones, and the rest Istaeuones. Some however, as 
might be expected from the antiquity of such traditions, say 
that the god had more sons than these and consequently use 
more national designations, viz., Marsi, Gambriuii, Sueui, 

A curious reminiscence of the tradition learned by Tacitus 
has been preserved in a document apparently of Frankish origin, 
and which has been assigned with considerable probability to 
the early part of the sixth century 1 . It is found in a number 
of MSS. and has also been incorporated in the Historia Brittonum, 
§ 17. This document is to the following effect. There were 
three brothers named Ermenus, Inguo and Istio, from whom 
thirteen nations are descended. The Goti, Walagoti, Wandali, 
Gepedes and Saxones are descended from Ermenus ; the Bur- 
gundiones, Thuringi, Langobardi and Baioarii from Inguo ; and 
the Romani, Brittones, Franci and Alamanni from Istio. This 
is the form of the genealogy as found in most of the MSS. One 
early MS. however, together with the Historia Brittonum, places 
the Burgundiones and the Langobardi among the descendants 
of Ermenus, and the Wandali and the Saxones among those 
of Inguo. 

1 Cf. Miillenhoff, Deutsche Altertumskunde, III. p. 325 ff. 


It has often been observed that Pliny's reference to the 

The Istaeuones as " those nearest to the Rhine " agrees 

istaeuones. well w ^ the statement j n t hi s genealogy that 

the Franks were descended from Istio. Unfortunately, owing 

perhaps to an old scribal error, no tribal names are included 

among the Istaeuones in our MSS. of Pliny 1 . Tacitus makes 

no attempt to fix the position of this group, while no names 

similar to Istio or Istaeuones occur in later writers. We are 

unable therefore to get beyond the observation noted above. 

Concerning the Inguaeones we have more information. 

The Tacitus states that they were the Germani wlio 

inguaeones. jj^ nearest to t he Ocean. This statement is not 

easy to reconcile with the list of nations represented as descended 
from Inguo in the genealogy ; but it is to be observed that the 
genealogy does not mention any of the northern peoples except 
the Saxons. Pliny says in one passage that the Inguaeones 
were the first nation in Germany to be encountered by a 
traveller coming along the coast from the east, and in another 
that the Chauci, Cimbri and Teutoni were included among 
them. It is to these names therefore that we must now turn 
our attention. 

We have already seen that the Chauci (Kau%ot) are repre- 
sented by Ptolemy as living along the coast between the Ems 
and the Elbe and divided into two branches by the Weser. 
Possibly this is why Pliny speaks of Chancorum gentes. 
Ptolemy's statements agree well enough with what is said 
elsewhere by Pliny and also by Tacitus in his Annals. Accord- 
ing to the Germania (cap. 35) the Chauci extended inland to 
a considerable distance — presumably along the basin of the 
Weser — and bordered upon the Chatti. There can be little 
doubt however that these two tribes had only become neighbours 
during the latter part of the first century through the migration 
of the Angriuarii and the defeat of the Cherusci by the Chatti 
{Germ. 33, 36). After Ptolemy's time the Chauci are seldom 
mentioned. We find them attacking the territories of the 

1 Some mss. have Cimbri, but this seems to have been taken from the preceding 

C 14 


Roman empire during the reign of Marcus Aurelius 1 ; but after 
this they seem to have disappeared as a nation. 

With regard to the Cimbri and Teutoni the facts are as 
The cimbri follows. Ptolemy (II. II, § 12) places a tribe called 
and Teutoni. Kimbroi in the extreme north of the peninsula which 
seems to derive its name from them. Further he mentions, as 
we have seen, a tribe named Teutones beside the ' Auarpoi,' 
apparently in Mecklenburg, and to the west of these a tribe 
named Teutonoaroi beside the ' Ouirounoi,' presumably in 
Holstein. As there is reason for believing (cf. p. 199) that 
Auarpoi and Ouirounoi are corruptions of the same name 
( Varini), we may probably conclude that there is some close 
connection between Teutones and Teutonoaroi. Of other 
ancient writers Tacitus {Germ. 37) mentions only the Cimbri, 
whom he places ' next to the Ocean ' and apparently beyond 
the Chauci. Pliny (IV. 96) speaks of an immense gulf called 
Codanus, the extremities of which are on one side the Mons 
Saeuo and on the other the ' promontory of the Cimbri.' This 
gulf, he says, is filled with islands, including one called Scadi- 
nauia, the size of which has not been ascertained, though the 
known portion of it is inhabited by a nation called Hilleuiones 
who occupy five hundred pagi. In another passage (XXXVII. 35) 
he quotes a statement of Pytheas that the inhabitants of an 
island called Abalus sold amber to the neighbouring Teutoni. 
Mela (ill. 31) also mentions the Sinus Codanus, which he 
describes as long and narrow, and lying above the Elbe. It is 
inhabited, he says, by the Cimbri and Teutoni. Again in 
III. 54 he states that in the Sinus Codanus there is an island 
called Scadinauia which is still inhabited by the Teutoni. 
Strabo (p. 292 ff.) speaks of the Kimbroi as ' inhabiting a 
peninsula, but places them apparently to the west of the Elbe. 

1 Aelius Spartianus, Didius Iulianiis, cap. 1. Possibly the Chaibones (for which 
name some MSS. have Cattiones) mentioned in connection with the Heruli by 
Mamertinus (cf. p. 95) may have been the same people. Not much importance 
can be attached to the occurrence of the name Caucus in Claudian, De laude Stiliconis, 
I. 225, while the proposed reading Kauxovs for Kovadous in Zosimus, III. 6, must 
be regarded as at least uncertain. 


In the Res Gestae Diui Augusti, cap. 26, the Cimbri, Charydes 
and Semnones are said to have sent envoys to seek the friend- 
ship of the emperor. 

There is no doubt that the Romans themselves when using 
these names were thinking of the Cimbri and Teutoni who 
invaded the province of Illyricum in B.C. 113 and who, after 
ravaging a large part of western Europe, were eventually 
exterminated by the Roman general Marius at the battles of 
Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae. The appearance of the names 
Cimbri and Teutoni in the geographers is therefore an identi- 
fication, whether correct or not, of the nations from which these 
hordes had set out. In the case of the Cimbri indeed the 
identification is clearly stated both by Strabo and Tacitus. 
Modern writers, however, have thrown doubt upon this evidence, 
and at the present time it is the prevailing view that the Cimbri 
and Teutoni of the geographers were antiquarian fictions, and 
that no nations bearing these names were in existence at the 
beginning of the Christian era. 

Strabo (p. 293) states that the Cimbri presented the emperor 
Augustus with the most sacred cauldron which they possessed 
and asked him for his friendship and for forgiveness for what 
had occurred in the past. The event referred to here is obviously 
the same as that which is mentioned in the Res Gestae Diui 
Augusti. What Strabo says may be merely the construction 
put upon the acts of the envoys by the Romans ; but at all 
events there seems to be no reason for doubting that an 
embassy was sent, and further that it was sent by a nation 
which the Romans believed to be identical with the Cimbri. 
With regard to the Teutoni the case is not so clear, because 
this nation is not mentioned by Strabo 1 , except in one passage 
(p. 201) apparently derived from Caesar. Later writers however 
(e.g. St Jerome, Ep. ad Agerachiam) represent them as having 
come from the farthest coasts of Germany. Moreover, Pliny's 

1 In two passages (pp. 183, 293) dealing with the Cimbric invasion Strabo speaks 
of a people called Tuvyevoi, who are said (p. 293) to have been a part of the 
Ilelvetii. It has been suggested that this form is a scribal error for Tovrovoi (Teutoni), 
and consequently that the Teutoni really belonged to the Ilelvetii. But both Strabo 
himself (p. 201) and Velleius (11. 12) reckon the Teutoni among the Germani. 

14 — 2 


quotation from Pytheas seems to show that a tribe of this name 
had been known to travellers in the north long before the 
Cimbric migration. On the whole therefore I cannot see any 
reasonable ground for doubting that there did exist on the 
northern coasts nations which the Romans identified, rightly 
or wrongly, with the famous Cimbri and Teutoni. These 
nations may of course have disappeared after the time of 
Augustus, for it was probably during that period that the 
information given by Mela and Pliny was acquired. On the 
other hand Ptolemy may have had more recent information, 
though this again is by no means certain. 

But, granting that such nations existed, there is considerable 
difficulty in determining their geographical position. Strabo, 
Pliny and Ptolemy agree in locating the Cimbri upon a penin- 
sula, and both the latter authorities describe this as the 
peninsula or promontory of the Cimbri. The Teutones are 
located by Ptolemy apparently in Mecklenburg, while Pliny 
gives no indications as to their position. Mela on the other 
hand places both the Cimbri and the Teutoni in the Sinus 
Codanus, which he says lies above the Elbe. Before we go 
further it will be well to try to ascertain what is meant by 
' Sinus Codanus.' This gulf is mentioned also by Pliny (IV. 96), 
who says that it extends from the Mons Saeuo to the promontory 
of the Cimbri, and that the island Scadinauia, by which he 
clearly means Sweden, lay within it. The manner in which he 
speaks of the ' Mons Saeuo 1 ' distinctly implies that it lay at no 
great distance from the frontier of Germania, which according 
to Pliny himself (IV. 97) apparently, as well as Mela and 
Ptolemy, was formed by the Vistula. It would seem then that 
the Mons Saeuo is to be identified with some range of hills 
near the coast of West Prussia ; but, since these are all low, we 
may suspect that Pliny's description is inaccurate and that the 
name really belonged to the cliffs of Rugen. In either case the 

1 incipit deinde clarior aperiri fama ab gente Inguaeomwi quae est prima in 
Germania. mons Saeuo ibi inmensus nee Riphaeis iugis minor inmanem ad 

Cimbrorum usque promunturium efficit sinum qui Codanus uoealur quidam 

haee habit ari ad Vistilam usque jluuium a Sarmatis, Fenedis, Sciris, Hirris 
tradtint etc. 


Sinus Codanus can hardly mean anything else than the part 
of the Baltic which lies between the coast of Prussia on the one 
side and the Jutish peninsula on the other. It is true that 
modern writers have identified the Mons Saeuo with the hills 
on the south coast of Norway 1 and consequently made the 
Sinus Codanus correspond to the whole of the Baltic. But by 
doing so they entirely disregard Pliny's language and attribute 
to the ancients a geographical discovery which was probably 
not known in the west of Europe before the time of King 
Alfred 2 . Indeed it is clear, not merely from Ptolemy's map, but 
also from the application of the term insula to Scadinauia and 
from the use of Oceanus by Pliny (IV. 94) and Tacitus {Germ. 43 f.), 
that the ancients were quite unaware of the fact that the Baltic 
was a gulf. 

There certainly seems to be some discrepancy between the 
statements of Mela and those of Ptolemy. But are we justified 
on this ground in assuming that all attempts to locate the 
Cimbri and Teutoni are due to antiquarian speculation ? In 
the case of the former nation the references to the peninsula 
seem to me to be so explicit as to render this view improbable. 
I think it is by no means impossible that the discrepancies 
noted above may be explained otherwise. We may observe 
that the Cimbri and Teutoni are not the only nations about 
whose position our authorities disagree. Pliny states that the 
island Scadinauia was inhabited by a tribe named Hilleuiones 
which occupied five hundred pagi. This name can hardly be 
different from Ailonaiones which Ptolemy places on the mainland 
to the east of the Teutones and Auarpoi. Now is it not possible 
that all these discrepancies may be due to the use of an 
awkwardly constructed map? So far as I am aware, there is 
no reason for believing that any map of northern Europe 
constructed on scientific principles was in existence before the 

1 Of course it is not true that any of the hills or cliffs of north-eastern Germany 
are as high as the Valdai Hills {Riphaca iitga) ; but the statement that the hills on the 
coast of southern Norway were not less than the Valdai Hills though true would 
be ridiculous. 

2 From Adam of Bremen, iv. n, it may be inferred that the geography of the 
further part of the Baltic was unknown to the Germans even in the middle of the 
eleventh century. 


time of Marinus. The language used by Latin writers, especially 
Mela's description of the Sinus Codanus, seems to point to a 
map similar in form to the Tabula Peutingeriana, which is 
believed to be descended from the wall-map set up in the 
Forum at Rome by Augustus. If the ancients could represent 
the Bay of Biscay, which they knew very well, as a long and 
narrow inlet, is it likely that they would hesitate to represent 
the Sinus Codanus, of which they knew very little, in the same 
way ? If they did have a map in which the Sinus Codanus was 
represented thus, the discrepancies noted above might have 
arisen out of the overcrowding of names in a narrow space. 
Thus it might come about subsequently that certain nations 
might be located by one writer in the gulf itself and by another 
on the adjacent coasts on either side. 

But have we any means of deciding which of the various 
positions assigned to the Cimbri and Teutoni are likely to 
be correct? In the case of the Cimbri the balance of evidence 
certainly favours northern Jutland. Moreover the province of 
Aalborg, the northernmost part of Jutland south of the Liimfjord, 
was formerly called Himmerland (Himbersyssel), which may 
very well mean ' land of the Cimbri 1 .' This identification is 
especially favoured by the fact that the province of Ringkj^bing 
was formerly called Hardeland or Harthesyssel (in Old Norse 
literature HorS), a name which recalls the Charoudes or Charydes 
mentioned beside the Cimbri by Ptolemy and in the Res 
Gestae Diui Augusti, though the position assigned by Ptolemy 
to this tribe does not quite suit the province of Ringkj^bing. 
Again between these two provinces on the sea we find another 
now called Tisted but formerly Thyland or Thythesyssel (in 
Old Norse literature ThioS), which, so far as the name goes, 
may represent the Teutoni of ancient times. The district in 
question has certainly been exposed to inundations from the 
sea and in this respect therefore will suit the conditions as well 
as any of the coast-regions of the North Sea. 

1 For these identifications see Schiitte, Anz. f. d. Alt. xxvui. 14 f., and on 
the other side Kossina, Indogerm. Forschungen, VII. 290 f., note, where they are 
regarded with more or less scepticism. If, as there seems no reason to doubt, 
Cimbri and Teutoni are Teutonic names, we must suppose that they have preserved 
archaic and probably Celtic orthography. 


If these identifications are correct we shall have to suppose 
that the early geographers, before Ptolemy or Marinus, regarded 
the Liimfjord as part of the Sinus Codanus — a hypothesis which 
at all events has the merit of accounting for Mela's description 
of the latter. It is to be observed that the presence of three 
islands, called Alokiai, off the north end of the peninsula in 
Ptolemy's map shows that the fjord had at that time more 
than one entrance towards the west. What these islands were 
may be seen from Adam of Bremen, IV. 16, where we again, 
nine hundred years later, hear of three islands in this quarter. 
Adam however fortunately gives their names, Wendila, Morse 
and Thud, i.e. clearly the modern provinces of HjoVring (formerly 
Vendsyssel, Old Norse Vendill) and Tisted and the island of 
Mors. The channels had been silted up before Saxo's time, 
though one of them at least was open in the tenth century 
and apparently during the early part of the eleventh 1 . 

This explanation would lead us to conclude that both the 
Cimbri and the Teutoni really lived in what we now call 
the north of Jutland. However that may be, I think the 
hypothesis that these nations were located in and around the 
Sinus Codanus in some early map will satisfactorily account 
for all the geographical notices which we find regarding them 
in ancient writers. Pliny's statements that the Inguaeones 
begin at or near the mons Saeuo, and that the Cimbri, Teutoni 
and Chauci belonged to this group may quite possibly come 
from the same source. On the other hand the latter of these 
statements might be based on nothing more than some such 
expression as proximi Oceano Ingaeuones which we find in 

We may now turn to the Hermiones. In this group Pliny, 
as we have seen, includes the Suebi, Hermunduri, 

The Her- 
miones and Chatti and Cherusci. The last three names need 

not detain us long. Both the Chatti and Cherusci 

were very well known to the Romans, and there is abundant 

evidence that both inhabited the basin of the Weser. The 

1 Cf. Saxo, pp. 325, 388; Olafs Saga Tryggvasonar (Heimskringla) 41, St Olaf's 
Saga (id.) 157 f., Saga Haralds harSraSa (id.) 60. 


former lay in its upper reaches, the Werra, Fulda and Eder, 
while the Cherusci occupied the middle part of the basin, 
together probably with its tributaries, the Aller and Leine. 
The Hermunduri bordered upon the Chatti, apparently about 
the upper waters of the Werra, and extended southwards to 
the frontier of the Roman province of Vindelicia. Into this 
region however they are said to have moved, with the consent 
of the Romans, just before the beginning of the Christian era. 
In A.D. 5, according to Velleius, II. 106, they were still conter- 
minous with the Semnones on the Elbe. It would seem then 
that at this time they occupied the whole of the basin of the 

The name Suebi is of very frequent occurrence from the 
earliest times. In Chapter V. we had mention of a nation 
called North Suabi. During the fifth and following centuries 
the name is applied to the Alamanni, to a Teutonic people who 
settled in Spain and perhaps also, by some writers, to the 
Bavarians. When we come back to earlier times we find 
Ptolemy speaking of the Soueboi Langobardoi, the Soueboi 
Angeiloi and the Soueboi Semnones. Tacitus uses the term 
in a far wider sense. Indeed he seems to apply it to all the 
peoples of eastern Germany. He speaks of the eastern part 
of the Baltic as mare Suebicum and includes in ' Suebia ' even 
the Sitones, a nation whom he represents as living beyond the 
Suiones (in Sweden). The westernmost of his Suebi seem to 
be the Semnones, Langobardi and Hermunduri. An explana- 
tion of Tacitus' use of the term may perhaps be obtained from 
Strabo, p. 290, where a list is given of tribes subject to the 
Marcomannic king Maroboduus. Most of the names unfor- 
tunately are corrupt, but the list probably includes the Goths 
(BovTcovas) and the Lugii (Aouiovs), a tribe which is located 
in eastern Germany both by Ptolemy and Tacitus. The passage 
closes with the words : " (he acquired supremacy also over) 
a great tribe belonging to the Suebi (Xorjficu) themselves, 
namely the Semnones." Here we find that So'r/ySot is clearly 
a group-name, covering more than one tribe, but that Maro- 
boduus' supremacy extended also over a number of tribes which 
did not belong to this group. Hence it seems probable that 


Tacitus applies the name Suebi to tribes which had been 
brought under Suebic supremacy, though even in that sense 
the extent of Suebia is probably exaggerated. The tribes which 
Strabo himself counts among the Suebi are the Quadi, Marco- 
manni, Hermunduri, Semnones and Langobardi. One of these 
tribes, the Hermunduri, were, as we have seen, allied with the 
Romans in the first century and had occupied northern Bavaria 
with their consent ; yet we find them intervening in the dynastic 
struggles of the Marcomanni on more than one occasion. The 
others all belonged to the kingdom of Maroboduus until his 
war with the Cherusci, when the Semnones and Langobardi 
renounced their allegiance. It is probable however that these 
tribes were all more or less united politically for a long period. 
For we hear of Langobardi taking part in the Marcomannic war, 
and even as late as the year 213 it is recorded (Dio Cass. 
LXXVII. 14) that Caracalla received embassies from the tribes 
who dwelt about the mouth of the Elbe at a time when he was 
apparently dealing with the Alamanni. 

From the evidence at our disposal we need have but little 
hesitation in accepting Strabo's statements that the five tribes 
mentioned above belonged to the Suebi. The group may also 
have included some smaller tribes such as the Naristi (or 
Varisti?) and the Marsigni, which are not mentioned by Strabo. 
More important for us however is the question how far the 
Suebi extended to the north. Tacitus, as we have seen, includes 
the Angli, together with all the other tribes who worshipped 
Nerthus, among the Suebi, while Ptolemy speaks of the Soueboi 
Angeiloi. Yet we have no evidence from later times to confirm 
this. We have seen however (p. 136 f.) that there certainly was 
a tribe called Suebi living in the immediate neighbourhood of 
the Angli, perhaps in western Holstein. The occurrence of the 
names Engle and Swaefe side by side in Widsith tends indeed 
to show that the Angli were not reckoned among the Suebi, 
at all events not within the period covered by English tradition ; 
and, as we have suggested above (p. 203 f.), it is scarcely beyond 
the limits of possibility that Ptolemy's expression Soueboi 
Angeiloi may have arisen out of the fact that the (North) Suebi 
and the Angli were neighbouring tribes. 


It has been thought that in addition to the tribes mentioned 
above the name Suebi was specially applied to one particular 
tribe which had no other name and which wandered about 
between south-western Germany and Pannonia. But the evi- 
dence brought forward in favour of this view is by no means 
convincing, and it seems more probable that the people whom 
we find called Suebi on various occasions were at one time 
Semnones, at another Quadi or Alamanni etc. I do not deny 
of course that Suebi may have been a tribal name at a remote 
period. In historical times however it appears likely that every 
Suebic tribe had a name of its own. The most doubtful case 
is that of the North Suebi. I have suggested above that this 
name was applied to the tribe by its western and northern 
(non-Suebic) neighbours and that the name by which it was 
known to its southern neighbours was Heruli. If this ex- 
planation is erroneous we shall have to suppose that among 
themselves and to other Suebic tribes they were known only 
by local and dynastic names. 

If we now sum up the results of our discussion with regard 
to the Suebi we shall see that, whatever affinities there may have 
been between the various tribes in other respects, they clearly 
formed a geographical unit. They were the inhabitants of the 
basin of the Elbe. From time to time of course we find off- 
shoots from them extending beyond this area, and the river-name 
Souebos may perhaps be taken as evidence for their presence 
in the eastern part of Mecklenburg from early times. On the 
whole however the observation seems to be practically correct 
for the first centuries of the Christian era. The non-Suebic 
tribes which Pliny includes among the Hermiones, namely the 
Chatti and the Cherusci, lived as we have seen in the basin 
of the Weser. Whether any tribes further to the west were 
included we do not know. With regard to those which lay 
to the east of the Suebi we may, as we shall see shortly, give 
a negative answer if we adopt Pliny's classification. The 
Hermiones therefore according to Pliny's statement may 
be defined as the inhabitants of the basins of the Weser 
and the Elbe, excluding the coast-district between the two 


We may next turn to Pliny's fourth group, the Vandili. 
This name, like Suebi, appears also in Tacitus, 

The Vandili. _ , , ., r •, 

Uerm. 2, among the tribes or groups of tribes 
which were believed by some to be descended from separate 
sons of Mannus. Except in these two passages the name does 
not occur until the Marcomannic war, from which time onwards 
it is found very frequently as a tribal name. Whether there 
was a tribe called Vandili in the first century or not we have 
no means of deciding. The view generally accepted is that 
the nation known later as Vandili (Wandali) was identical with 
that which in the first century was called Lugii (Lygii) and 
which seems from all accounts to have occupied the upper part 
of the basin of the Oder. The tribes which Pliny includes 
among the Vandili are the Burgundians, the Goths and the 
Varini, together with another name which cannot be identified 
(cf. p. 207). The Burgundians appear from Ptolemy's state- 
ments to have inhabited the lower part of the basin of the 
Oder. The same authority places the Goths to the east of the 
Vistula in Sarmatia ; but from Tacitus, Germ. 43, it seems 
probable that they were not confined to the east of that river. 
Regarding the Varini there is some doubt, as we have already 
seen (p. 199), as to whether they should be identified with 
Ptolemy's 'Auarpoi' or ' Auarinoi,' the former of whom are 
placed apparently in Mecklenburg and the latter beyond the 
Vistula. Lastly we have to take account of a tribe called 
Silingai, which Ptolemy places south of the Semnones. This 
tribe is not mentioned by Pliny ; but there can be little 
doubt that they belonged to his Vandili. For in later times 
we find a tribe described as Wandali Silingi or Wandali 
cognomine Silingi 1 among the Vandals in Spain. Their name 
survives (in Slavonic form) in that of the modern province 
Silesia, a fact which seems to indicate that their true position 
lay farther to the south-east than the district in which they 
are located by Ptolemy. On the whole then we shall hardly go 
far wrong in concluding that Pliny's Vandili were the inhabi- 
tants of the basins of the Oder and the Vistula, so far as the 
latter was Teutonic at all. 

1 Idatius' Chronicle ad ami. Honorii XVII, XXII, XXIV. 


The two other names which according to Tacitus were 
believed by some to denote descendants of separate sons of 
Mann us are Marsi and Gambriuii. Both of these appear to be 
names of tribes. The only other reference to the Gambriuii 
is in Strabo, p. 291, where they are mentioned together with 
the Cherusci, Chatti and Chattuarii. The Marsi also are seldom 
mentioned, but it appears from Tacitus, Ann. I. 56, II. 25, that 
they were allies and near neighbours of the Chatti and probably 
also of the Cherusci. Again from ib. I. 5 1 we may infer that the 
Bructeri, Tubantes and Usipetes (Usipii) lay more or less 
between them and the Roman headquarters in the neighbour- 
hood of Xanten. Since the Bructeri apparently occupied the 
whole of the basin of the Lippe (cf. ib. I. 60, Velleius, II. 105), 
while the Usipetes seem to have lived on the Ruhr at this time 1 , 
we must conclude that the territories of the Marsi were situated 
about the sources of the latter river or in the basin of the 
Diemel. It is not unlikely that a trace of them may be pre- 
served in the place-name Marsberg (formerly Mersburg). After 
the first years of Tiberius' reign we have no further references 
either to the Marsi or the Gambriuii. 

Now if we compare the names Marsi, Gambriuii, Suebi and 
Vandili on the one hand with the names Istaeuones, Ingnaeones 
and Hermiones on the other, we cannot fail to notice certain 
marked differences between the two series. Marsi and Gam- 
briuii are names of tribes. Suebi may not have been a tribal 
name, but we have satisfactory evidence in most cases for 
deciding what tribes were included under this name. With 
regard to Vandili the case is not so clear, probably because 
the Romans had little to do with the peoples of eastern Germany 
during the first century. We do not know whether it was a 
tribal name at this time, though it certainly was later ; nor do 
we know whether there was any close relationship between these 
later Vandals and the Burgundians. There is clear evidence 
however for such a relationship between the Vandals and the 
Goths. Indeed according to Procopius (Vand. I. 2) they differed 

1 The exact position of the Tubantes is uncertain, hut they probably lived in the 
neighbourhood of the Chatti (cf. Ptol. II. n, § 23 ; Tacitus, Ann. xiii. 56). 


only in name ; they spoke the same language, which was called 
Gothic, and were alike in all other respects. 

On the other hand the names Istaenones, Inguaeones and 
Hermiones are clearly of a different character. They never 
occur except in geographical writings and we have no reason 
for believing that they were terms in ordinary use. When we 
try to determine what tribes belonged to each group we are 
dependent entirely on Pliny's statements. His classification, as 
we have seen, appears to be geographical, but we do not know 
on what grounds it was based. Some modern writers have 
expressed doubt as to whether the Chatti and Cherusci really 
belonged to the Hermiones. In later times the Chatti appear 
to have been included among the Franks ; but the Franks 
belonged in all probability to the Istaeuones. Moreover there is 
a certain amount of evidence — somewhat inconclusive, it is true 
— that the Chatti had come into the basin of the Weser from the 
north-west, not long before the beginning of the Christian era. 
In the case of the Inguaeones Pliny's account is still less 
satisfactory, for with the exception of the Chauci the only 
names which he gives are those of tribes famous in ancient 
history but apparently reduced to insignificance in his own day. 
I am much inclined to suspect that the Germani of Pliny's time 
would themselves have found considerable difficulty in stating 
to which of the three groups each of the various tribes then 
existing belonged. 

It may perhaps be urged that the survival of the names 
Istio, Ingno and Erminus in the Frankish genealogy (p. 208) 
shows that these divisions remained in living force for centuries 
after Pliny's time. But this argument can hardly be maintained. 
It is to be observed in the first place that the genealogy, like 
Tacitus, gives a classification according to three divisions only 
as against the four-fold classification adopted by Pliny. Now 
of the thirteen tribal or national names which appear in the 
genealogy four (Goti, Wandali, Gepedes and Burguudiones) would 
in all probability belong to Pliny's Vandili, four {Thuriugi, 
Laugobardi, Baioarii and Alamanni) to his Hermiones, one 
(Franci) to his Istaeuones and perhaps one {Saxones) to his 
Inguaeones. Of the remaining three names one ( Walagoti) 


is obscure and probably corrupt, while the others are not 
Teutonic at all. Now in order to bring about any agreement 
between Pliny's scheme and that of the genealogy we shall have 
to suppose that the Vandili and Inguaeones of the former have 
been amalgamated. But as a matter of fact the majority of the 
MSS. include the Goti, Wandali, Gepedes and Saxones among the 
descendants of Erminus. The only text which gives the Wandali 
and Saxones to lnguo separates them from the Goti and Gepedes. 
Again the Alamanni are assigned to Istio by all texts. Lastly 
what is to be said of the inclusion of the Romans and Britons ? 
The most, I think, which can be gathered from this document 
is (i) that the old names (Istio, lnguo, Erminus) were still 
remembered, and (ii) that the author, assuming that he was 
a Frank, was aware that his own nation claimed descent from 
Istio. The rest of the scheme is indeed generally regarded as 
conjectural and based on the political divisions of the time when 
it was composed. But have we any reason for believing that 
the knowledge possessed by the German i of Pliny's age was of 
a very different character? 

Some modern writers have sought to make up for our lack 
of information regarding the Istaeuones, Inguaeones and Hermi- 
ones by utilising the evidence of language. Starting from the 
statement that the Inguaeones lived next to the Ocean they 
have identified this group with the Anglo-Frisian linguistic 
group. Then Pliny's Vandili are equated with the Gothic or 
East-Teutonic linguistic group, and finally the Istaeuones and 
Hermiones with the peoples who speak Low and High German 
dialects respectively. It is to be observed that this last equa- 
tion involves the identification of the Hermiones with the Suebi ; 
and consequently those who adopt it necessarily reject Pliny's 
statement that the Chatti and Cherusci belonged to the Hermi- 
ones. In one point this scheme certainly rests on a solid 
foundation, namely in the fact that the Vandals and Goths 
spoke the same or very similar languages, though with regard 
to the Burgundians the evidence is not so clear. But the 
identification of the Inguaeones with the Anglo-Frisian group 
rests on the assumption that languages of this type were once 
spoken in the western Baltic, a hypothesis for which no solid 


evidence has been produced. Further, as we shall see shortly, 
the only reminiscences of the names Inguo and Inguaeones 
preserved by tradition refer to the Scandinavians, who are not 
included in any of the groups identified above. The whole 
scheme indeed seems to me to be based on a fundamental error. 
The sound-changes which differentiated the Scandinavian, Anglo- 
Frisian and German groups of languages from one another 
appear to have operated in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries. 
On the other hand the ethnic groups called Istaeuones, In- 
guaeones and Hermiones seem to have been obscure and 
probably antiquated in the first century. With the Vandili the 
case may be different, for the eastern languages were clearly 
differentiated from the rest at an earlier period. It is possible 
also that the Suebic languages differed from those of their 
neighbours on the west in certain respects (e.g. in the treatment 
of Teut. -c-), as well as from those on the east, as early as the 
second century. But we have seen that the Suebic and Vandilic 
groups really differ from the other three and are presumably of 
later date. 

The antiquity of the latter groups may perhaps be best 
appreciated when we reflect that the others seem to have been 
by no means of recent growth. It is clear from Strabo's 
distinction between the Suebic and non-Suebic elements in 
Maroboduus' kingdom that the origin of the group must date 
from before the time of that king. Half a century earlier we 
find Ariouistus leading a similar combination of tribes. Yet it 
is not at all likely that he was the first to establish the group ; 
for it is not clear that all the tribes which he ruled over were 
Suebic. Again, the centre of his power lay apparently in the 
south-west of Germany, whereas the Semnones who inhabited 
the basin of the Elbe claimed to be the most ancient and noble 
of the Suebi. It seems clear then that the origin of the Suebi 
as a group must be put back at least beyond the time of Caesar. 
It is true that we cannot trace the Vandili in the same way. 
The Marsi and Gambriuii were tribes, as we have seen, but the 
context in which their names occur {Germ. 2) justifies us, I 
think, in assuming either that they had once been very important 
tribes or that they had stood at the head of confederacies. 


Yet their names disappear from history after the campaigns 
of Germanicus. On the whole then there seems to be good 
reason for believing that these groups were not of recent origin 
in the first century of our era. 

Indeed it is a hypothesis, for which little or no evidence 
is available, that they originated in political causes at all. The 
Suebi, as we have seen, appear to have been more or less 
politically united for a considerable period ; but our authorities 
do not suggest that the group arose out of such a union. The 
only hint as to its origin which has come down to us is Tacitus' 
statement that the Marsi, Gambriuii, Suebi and Vandilii were 
believed by some to be descended from different sons of 
Mannus — from which we may infer that by the natives them- 
selves the bond was regarded as one of blood-relationship. 
But as to what in practice constituted the bond between the 
various Suebic tribes we are not informed. It is not unlikely 
that they had similar laws and customs. The only characteristic 
feature recorded by Tacitus is that they dressed their hair 
differently from the rest of the Germani. Owing however to 
Tacitus' loose use of the term Suebi we do not know whether 
this custom was characteristic of the Suebi proper or whether 
it was common to all the eastern and northern tribes. 

A better answer may probably be obtained from a con- 
sideration of Germ. 39. Here we are told that " the Semnones 
claim to be the most ancient and noble of the Suebi. Their 
claim to antiquity is established by the existence of religious 
ceremonies. At a fixed time all the nations of the same stock 
meet together by means of delegates in a forest which has been 
rendered sacred by the auguries of their forefathers and by 
a traditional feeling of dread. Here they begin their barbarous 
festival in gruesome fashion by slaying a man publicly. 
Moreover this is not the only way in which veneration is shown 
to the grove. The whole of their religion is centred on this 
spot, their idea being that it was from there that the tribe was 
sprung and that there is the home of the god who rules over 
all, while everything else is subject and obedient. The claim 
put forward by the Semnones receives further confirmation 
from their prosperous condition ; for they occupy a hundred 


cantons, and the greatness of their numbers leads them to 
regard themselves as the chief people of the Suebi." 

From this passage we learn not only that the various Suebic 
tribes believed themselves to be united by blood-relationship 
(omnes eiusdem sanguinis populi), but also that they met together 
for the performance of common religious ceremonies. Now it 
is to be observed that in the territory of the Marsi there was 
a sanctuary, which Tacitus calls the ' temple of Tamfana,' and 
which he says was the special resort of all the neighbouring 
tribes (Ann. I. 51) — including perhaps the Bructeri, Tubantes > 
Usipetes, Chatti and Cherusci. From this we may infer with 
some probability that the Marsi had once occupied a position,, 
similar to that of the Semnones, at the head of a religious 
confederation of tribes which claimed descent from a common 
ancestor. Whether the names Gambriuii and Vandilii represent 
similar religious confederacies we do not know ; but in the 
latter case the fact that Tacitus mentions the existence of an 
important sanctuary in the territories of a tribe 1 belonging to 
the Lygii or Lugii (cf. p. 219) certainly gives some support to 
the suggestion 2 . 

Is it possible that the Istaeuones, Inguaeones and Hermiones 
were likewise religious confederations? If these three names 
really included the whole of the Germani, we may, I think, at 
once give a negative answer to this question — though of course 
without denying that they may have their origin in religion. 
In any case no ancient authorities give any hint of such an 
explanation of the terms. It will be well for us now however 
to see what evidence there is for the survival of these names 
in later times. 

Apart from the Frankish genealogy no trace of the name 
Istaeuones appears to have been found. The others however 
are fairly well represented in personal names. In the North 

1 The name of the tribe is uncertain, Nahanaruali or Naharnali (Germ. 43). 

2 It has been suggested that the name borne by the royal family of the Vandals 
(Asdingi) points to a connection with this sanctuary (cf. Mtillenhoff, Zeitschrift fiir 
deutsches Alteriam, XII. 346 f.) ; but the suggestion must be regarded as very 
doubtful. If the name is to be connected with O. Norse haddr, 'coiffure,' I should 
prefer to explain it by the custom described in Germ. 38. 


J 5 


especially names compounded with Ing(u)- seem to have been 
very common at all periods, e.g. Ivarr ( Yngvarr), Ingibiorg, 
IngigerSr. In England such names, e.g. Ingwald, Inguburg, 
occur from the seventh century onwards, though not very 
frequently, while in the Bernician genealogy we find Ingiii or 
Ingibrand. On the Continent we find Ingomar, Ingofrid etc., 
the first of which goes back, in the form Inguiomems, to the 
beginning of the Christian era, where it is borne by one of the 
chiefs of the Cherusci. Similarly, names compounded with 
Irmin- occur not unfrequently both in England, e.g. Eormenric 
(Irminric), furminburg, Eormenred, and on the Continent, e.g. 
Hermanaric, Irminfrith, Ermintrndis, from early times. The 
name of the Cheruscan chief Arminius at the beginning of the 
Christian era is doubtless a derivative of the same stem, if, as 
has been suggested, the form has been affected by Celtic 

The latter of these words appears also in the Scandinavian, 
English and German languages in a number of 

The Irminsul. . . . ... . , 

poetical compounds with the meanings vast, 
' infinite ' or ' monstrous,' e.g. eormengrund, ' vast earth,' eormencyn, 
' vast race,' iormiingandr, ' monstrous demon,' irminthiod, ' vast 
people,' irmingot, ' infinite God.' The most famous of such 
words is Irminsul, the name of an immense wooden shaft or 
pillar worshipped by the Old Saxons at a place called ' Eresburg,' 
now Marsberg on the Diemel 1 . It was cut down in the year 
772 by Charlemagne, who spent three days in destroying the 
sanctuary and carried off much gold and silver. These facts 
rather lead us to infer that the Irminsul was regarded as a 
national object of worship. There is some evidence however 
for believing that this was not the only pillar of its kind. The 

1 Some modem writers hold that the place where the Irminsul stood lay some- 
what farther to the north, in the neighbourhood of Lippspringe. But Thietmar 
{Chron. II. 1) states distinctly that its site was subsequently occupied by St Peter's 
Church in 'Eresburg.' It is certainly very remarkable that the Saxons should have 
had an important and rich sanctuary so close to their frontier, and one can hardly 
resist the suspicion that it may have been a sacred place before it came into their 
hands. The position would suit that of the templum Tamfanae mentioned by 
Tacitus {Ann. I. 51). 


historian Widukind after narrating the victory of the Saxons 
over the Thuringi at Scheidungen on the Unstrut in 531 
(cf. p. 91 f.) gives the following account of their subsequent 
proceedings : " In the morning they planted their eagle at the 
eastern gate and, piling up an altar of victory, paid appropriate 
reverence to the objects of their worship according to the 
superstition of their fathers, representing by name Mars, by 
the likeness of pillars Hercules, by position the Sun, who is 
called Apollo by the Greeks." That this really is a reference 
to the Irminsul is shown by the next sentence : " Hence the 
view of those who hold that the Saxons are descended from the 
Greeks has a certain amount of probability, for Mars is called 
Hirmin or Hermes in Greek, a word 1 which we use in ignorance 
even at the present day when we wish to express praise or 
abuse." No doubt Widukind's story contains unhistorical 
elements ; but I think we are justified in inferring from this 
passage that he regarded pillars bearing the name Irmin as 
a symbol of the Saxon religion which in early times at least 
might be set up elsewhere besides in the sanctuary at Marsberg. 
The origin and significance of the Irminsul has never been 
quite satisfactorily explained. It seems to have some connection 
with the Maypoles of England and Germany. For in former 
times these were often of considerable height. The church of 
St Andrew Undershaft in London is supposed to have derived 
its name from a tall Maypole which overtopped the church-tower 
in the fifteenth century. Another, which was set up in the 
Strand in 1661, is said to have been 134 feet high. But the 
Irminsul seems to have been a more highly developed form 
of the pillar-cult. The only ancient work which gives any 
account of it is the Translatio S. Alexandri, cap. 3, where the 
following passage occurs : " (The Saxons) also worshipped a 
shaft of wood of no little size which was set up aloft in the open. 
In their own language they called it Irminsul, quod Latine dicitur 
universalis columna, quasi sustinens omnia." It has been observed 
that the last sentence suggests an idea similar to that of the 
world-tree in Scandinavian mythology. 

1 I understand this sentence to refer to the use of such expressions as Irmingot, 
Iormungandr (see above). 

15 — 2 


The question whether the Irminsul was connected with the 
worship of any god or hero called Irmin is one which is now 
generally answered in the negative. Yet Widukind's language, 
obscured as it is by confusion with Graeco-Roman mythology, 
distinctly implies that he had some such connection in his mind. 
It is true that we have no satisfactory evidence for believing 
that Mars was called Irmin 1 in any Teutonic language any 
more than he was called Hermes in Greek. But in addition 
to Mars (whose name is preserved in Thvesdaeg etc.) and 
Mercurius (Woden), Tacitus mentions a third god whom he calls 
Hercules and whose true (Teutonic) name has never been 
satisfactorily ascertained. Of him he says little except that 
brave men were wont to call upon him before battle {Germ. 3). 
In another passage {ib. 34) however it is stated that a Roman 
prince, Drusus the Elder, had during his campaigns in Germany 
heard of the existence of ' pillars of Hercules ' but was prevented 
from investigating the truth of the report because he had 
no means of crossing the sea. Now, since Drusus advanced 
as far as the Elbe, the rumour, if it contained any truth, referred 
presumably to the regions across the North Sea, quite possibly 

1 The identification of Irmin with the Teutonic 'Mars' was put forward long ago 
by MiAllenhoff {Deutsche Altertumskunde, IV. 519 ff.) and has been favourably 
received by a number of subsequent writers ; but the arguments in support of it are 
far from convincing. Perhaps the chief one is that the place where the Irminsul 
stood was formerly called 'Eresburg' (now Marsberg). This place was sometimes 
described as Mom A/artis in documents of the thirteenth and following centuries ; 
and it is held that Er was a name of Mars because of the ancient Bavarian name 
for Tuesday, £r(i)tac or Erichtag, often erroneously given as Erestag. For a 
discussion of this question see Much, Festgabe fiir R. Heinzel, p. 195 ff. But surely 
Mons Martis may equally well be a learned substitution for Mersbitrg, which is said 
to occur nearly two centuries earlier (cf. Grimm, Tent. Mythol A ., I. p. 198) and which 
may have a different origin (cf. p. 220). Again it is assumed that in Germ. 39 the 
phrase eiusdem sanguinis populi refers to the Hermiones, from which is drawn the 
questionable inference that the regnator omnium deus worshipped by the Semnones 
must have been Irmin. On the other hand in the ancient gloss Cyuuari. Suapa 
(Graff, Diutiska, II. 370) the former word is taken to mean ' verehrer des Ziu' — 
though this translation surely requires some explanation. Hence it is inferred that 
Ziu (Tiu) also was the chief god of the Suebi (Semnones). Lastly, since Irmin 
is regarded as 'ein allumfassender himmelsgott,' the identification of the two 
deities is materially facilitated by the incorrect phonetic equation of the name Tiu 
with Zeus. 


therefore to the home-land of the Saxons. Is there anything 
then to prevent us from supposing that the pillars of which he 
heard may really have been early examples of the Irminsul ? 
If Widukind could speak of 'pillars of Hercules' with reference 
to the Irminsul, may not a Romanised German of the first 
century have been capable of using the same expression ? 

Perhaps it may be thought that this rumour is too insecure 
a foundation to build upon. There is however another con- 
clusion at which we may arrive with somewhat greater 
confidence. We have seen that the names Suebi and Marsi, 
if not Vandilii also, appear to be connected with religious 
confederacies. In the case of the Istaeuones, Inguaeones and 
Hermiones we have no evidence for such confederacies. Yet 
if the name Hermiones has anything whatever to do with 
religion — which is a priori probable — we are surely not justified 
in rejecting the single piece of evidence at our disposal which 
serves to connect it with a religious observance. But if we 
do admit a connection between the Irminsul and the Hermiones, 
we must allow either that the Saxons themselves belonged to 
the Hermiones or that they had taken the cult over from a 
'Hermionic' tribe. Now the district about Marsberg was 
inhabited in the earliest times for which we have records by 
the Marsi or the Cherusci, later apparently by the Chatti. 
There is no evidence that it was ever occupied by a Suebic 
tribe. Consequently if there is any connection between the 
Irminsul and the Hermiones we may conclude that the identi- 
fication of the latter with the Suebi is erroneous. 

The hypothesis that the cult had been taken over by the 
Saxons from the earlier inhabitants of the district is favoured 
to some extent by the fact that Pliny includes both the Cherusci 
and the Chatti among the Hermiones. We may farther note 
that according to Tacitus, Ann. II. 12, the former possessed 
a grove sacred to Hercules, which on one occasion at least 
served as a meeting-place for the neighbouring tribes. We 
have no evidence however that they practised a pillar-cult. 
In favour of the Saxon hypotheses stands the apparently 
national character of the cult ; against it Pliny's definition 
of the Hermiones as mediterranei, though personally I regard 


this definition as less trustworthy than the rumour in Germ. 34. 
On the whole the most probable conclusion seems to me to be 
that, though the place where the Irminsul stood may have been 
an old sanctuary, the association of the pillar-cult with Irmin- 
Hercules was Saxon from the beginning, and consequently that 
the Saxons as well as the Cherusci belonged to the Hermiones. 
Apart from the Frankish genealogy and the references to 
ingand Hercules given above we find no mention of a god 
Yngvi. or h ero namec j Irmin. The evidence for a person 

named Ing is somewhat more satisfactory. Indeed some 
reminiscence of him seems to have survived in England until 
late in the Middle Ages 1 . One of the letters in the Runic 
alphabet bears his name, and the same name (enguz) has been 
transferred to one of the letters of the Gothic alphabet. In the 
Anglo-Saxon Runic poem the following account is given : 
" Ing was first seen by men among the East Danes, but sub- 
sequently he departed eastwards over the sea, a car speeding 
after him. This was the name given to the hero by the 
Heardingas." In this passage it is clear that Ing is a personal 
name, and also that the person so designated belonged to 
Denmark. Elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon literature the name does 
not occur. In Beowulf however we find the expressions eodor 
Ingwina, 'defence (lit. palisade) of the Ingwine,' and frea 
Ingwina, 'lord of the Ingwine,' once each (11. 1045, 1320). The 
name Ingwine is regarded by some as a compound word, lit. 
' friends of Ing,' and by others as a form related to Inguaeones. 
In any case however it is to be observed that both these 
expressions are applied to the king of the Danes — a fact which 
specially deserves notice in connection with the account of Ing 
in the Runic poem. 

In Old Norse literature we find no forms exactly corre- 
sponding either to Ing or to Ingwine, though Saxo (p. 224) 
speaks of a king of the Gotar named Unguinus. The name 
Yngvi (Ingi) however, which seems to be merely an extended 
form of Ing and identical with the Ingno (Ingo) of the Frankish 
genealogy, occurs fairly often in both legendary and historical 

1 Cf. Robert of Brunne's Chronicle, fol. 85. 


times. We may note specially that it is a name of Frey, the 
national god of the Swedes and the reputed ancestor of their 
royal family. In Ynglinga Saga, cap. 20, it is stated that not 
only the god himself but every one of his descendants individually 
was called Yngvi or Inguni, while collectively they were known 
as Ynglingar. The god himself was also called Yngvifreyr and 
Ingunarfreyr, the latter of which is a somewhat curious form. 
If we divide it as Ingitnar-freyr it can hardly have meant origin- 
ally anything else than ' lord (husband ?) of Ingun,' the latter 
being presumably a feminine proper name. More usually 1 it 
is regarded as a contraction of Inguna-drfreyr, which would 
mean literally 'bounty-lord of the Ingunar (or Ingunir).' This 
explanation at any rate agrees with the fact that it was mainly 
for bounty or abundance {til drs) that Frey was worshipped, 
while at the same time it will serve to bring the whole term into 
connection with the expression frea Ingwina in Beowulf. To 
this question however we shall have to return later. 

It is to be observed that there is a curious discrepancy 
between the English and Scandinavian evidence in regard to 
the use of these I tig- forms. In the North not only do we find 
the ancient kings of Sweden bearing the title ' Ynglingar ' ; the 
cult of Frey itself seems to be of Swedish origin. It was indeed 
known in Norway, especially in the Throndhjem Fiord, and 
carried thence to Iceland when that island was colonised. But 
there appears to have been a belief that it had originally been 
imported from Sweden. Thus the royal family of Norway, 
who likewise called themselves Ynglingar, claimed to be 
descended from the ancient dynasty of Sweden. We may 
refer also to a speech attributed to King Olaf Tryggvason 
(Flateyiarbok, I. 402 ff.), where an account is given of the origin 
of the cult. This account agrees very well with the story given 
in Yngl. Saga 12, according to which Frey was the founder of 
Upsala. The two passages, however, are not entirely indepen- 
dent. In Denmark we have no evidence that Frey was 
worshipped at all. Saxo mentions Frey (Fro) five times in 
the course of his History, but on every one of these occasions 

1 Cf. especially Kock, Historisk Tidskrift, XV. 167. 


it is in connection with Sweden or Swedish heroes. Two 
references occur in the story of the battle of Bravik (p. 260). 
Certain Swedish warriors in Ringo's army are said to have 
belonged to the household of the god Frey; and again others 
are said to have traced their descent from the god Frey. In 
a third passage (p. 30) it is stated that Hadingus, a mythical 
king of the Danes, having killed an unknown sea-monster, 
offered a sacrifice to Frey in order to propitiate the deities. 
He ordained this sacrifice to be a permanent institution, re- 
curring at regular intervals. " It is called Froblod by the Swedes." 
Again (p. 74 f.), Frey, the satrap of the gods, took up his abode 
near Upsala and instituted a new method of sacrifice to the gods 
by offering human victims. Lastly (p. 185), Starcatherus stays 
seven years in Sweden with the sons of Frey until the proceed- 
ings at Upsala at the time of the sacrifices drive him away in 
disgust. In every passage then Saxo seems to regard Frey as 
essentially a Swedish god ; for Froblod is probably the name 
of the great festival at Upsala. Both Norwegian and Danish 
tradition therefore point to Sweden, and especially Upsala, 
as the original home of the cult. 

On the other hand we have seen that in the English authorities 
both Ing and the Ingwine belong to Denmark. In Beowulf 
the Swedish royal family is frequently mentioned, but no such 
name as Ynglingar is ever applied to them. They are invariably 
called Scylfingas, a name of which we find only the barest 
mention in Old Norse literature. How these discrepancies are 
to be explained is far from clear. It is possible of course that 
in spite of the silence of Beowulf traditions connected with the 
name Ing or Yngvi were always known to the Swedes. On the 
other hand it is perhaps not inconceivable that these traditions 
may have made their way into Sweden in later times. 

But, whatever may be the true explanation of these dis- 
crepancies, the evidence of the native traditions as a whole 
clearly tends to confirm Pliny's statement that the tribes 
inhabiting the Baltic coasts belonged to the Inguaeones. 
Against this we have no traditional evidence to support his 
statement that the Chauci belonged to the same group. If 
both the Saxons and the Cherusci really belonged to the Her- 


miones we should hardly expect to find an intermediate tribe 
with different affinities. A geographical displacement of this 
kind might of course have been brought about by migration ; 
and as a matter of fact there is reason for believing that a good 
deal of movement towards the west had taken place during 
the centuries immediately before the Christian era. In such 
questions however we can hardly get beyond speculation. The 
important point is that by native tradition — assuredly the most 
trustworthy class of evidence which we possess in such matters — 
the name Inguaeones is connected with the peoples of the Baltic, 
and with them alone. 



We have already had occasion to refer more than once to a 
passage in the Germania (cap. 40) which contains the earliest 
reference to our nation. It will be convenient now to give this 
passage in full: "Next (after the Langobardi) come the Reu- 
digni, the Auiones, the Anglii, the Varini, the Eudoses, the 
Suarines and the Nuithones, all of whom are protected by rivers 
or forests. There is nothing remarkable about any of these 
tribes except that they have a common worship of Nerthus, that 
is Mother Earth, and believe that she intervenes in human affairs 
and visits the nations in her car. On an island in the ocean 
there is a sacred grove, and within it a consecrated car covered 
with a garment. One priest alone is permitted to touch it. He 
is able to perceive when the goddess is present in her sanctuary, 
and accompanies her with the utmost reverence as she is drawn 
along by cows. It is a season of rejoicing, and festivity reigns 
wherever she deigns to go and be received. They do not 
undertake hostilities or take up arms ; every weapon is put 
away ; peace and quiet are then only known and welcomed, 
until the goddess, weary of human intercourse, is at length 
restored by the same priest to her temple. Afterwards the car, 
the garments, and, if you are willing to believe it, the deity 
herself, are cleansed in a secret lake. This rite is performed by 
slaves, who are instantly swallowed up by its waters. Hence 
arises a mysterious dread and a pious ignorance concerning the 


nature of a thing which can be seen only by those who are to 
lose their lives forthwith 1 ." 

Notwithstanding the comparative fulness of the account 
several features of the cult are involved in complete obscurity. 
We must distinguish of course between things which were not 
matter of common knowledge and things which, though they 
must have been known, are not stated by Tacitus. To the first 
category belongs the form of the numen. We may probably 
infer from Tacitus' account that the car was believed to contain 
something — some representation or symbol, whether living or 
not, of the deity. But in regard to its nature it is obvious that 
we cannot get beyond speculation. So also with regard to the 
signs by which the priest was enabled to perceive that the 
goddess was present in her penetrate. It has been suggested 
that these signs may have been connected with the revival of 
vegetable life ; but this cannot be regarded as more than a mere 
surmise. On the other hand the time at which the festival took 
place must have been known, though Tacitus has omitted to tell 
us. Indeed we can hardly conclude with certainty from his 
words that it was an annual festival. 

There can be little doubt that the cult is connected with 
certain ceremonies which have been known both in The 

ancient and modern times, and which appear to 
have been practised with a view to the increase of vegetable and 
animal life. A striking analogy is afforded by the cult of 
Cybele, whose festival at Rome is indeed believed by some 
writers to have coloured the account given here by Tacitus. 

1 Retidigni deinde et Auiones et Angli et Varini et Eudoses et Suarines et 
Nuithones fluminibus aul siluis muniuntur. nee quicquam notabile in singulis 
nisi qitod in commune Nerthum id est Terrain matrem colunt eamque interuenire 
rebus hominum, inuehi populis arbitrantur. est in insula Oceani castum netnus 
dicatumque in eo uehiculum ueste contectum. attingere uni sacerdoti concession, is 
adesse pctietrali deam intelligit ucctamqite bubus feminis multa cum uencralione 
prosequitur, laeli tunc dies, festa /oca, quaccunque aducntu hospitioque dignatur. 
non bella ineunt, non arma summit ; clausum omne ferrum ; pax et quies tunc 
tantum nota, tunc tantum aniala, donee idem sacerdos satiatam conuersationc mor- 
talium deam templo reddat. mox ueliiculuin et uestes et si credere uelis numen 
ipsum secreto lacu abluitur. serui ministrant quos statim idem lacus haurit. 
arcanus hinc terror sanctaque ignorantia quid sit illud quod tantum perituri uideut. 


Still closer than this however is the parallel supplied by a 
passage in Gregory of Tours, De gloria Confessomm, cap. jy : 
" They say that there was once an image of Berecynthia in this 
city (Autun), as the history of the passion of the holy martyr 
Symphorianus relates. Bishop Simplicius was present when 
they were carrying this about on a waggon to secure the welfare 
of their fields and vineyards, according to the wretched custom 
of- the heathen, and saw them at no great distance singing and 

playing in front of the waggon When he made the sign of 

the cross the image straightway fell to the ground and the 
beasts which were drawing the waggon on which it was carried 
were unable to proceed. The immense crowd was amazed, and 
all shouted that the goddess had been injured. Victims were 
sacrificed and the draught-animals were beaten, but yet they 
were unable to move. Then four hundred of the foolish crowd 
gathered together and said : ' If the deity has any power let her 
arise of her own accord and order the oxen which are fixed to 
the ground to proceed,' " etc. Simplicius lived during the latter 
part of the fourth century. It is possible that the cult of the 
Eastern goddess Berecynthia (Cybele) had been somewhat 
affected by native (Celtic) influence at Autun 1 . But, however 
this may be, the story presents a sufficiently striking resemblance 
to Tacitus' account of the festival of Nerthus. If we had more 
detailed information we should perhaps find further points of 
similarity. At all events we are told by Sulpicius Severus 
( Vita S. Martini, cap. 9) that it was the custom of the peasants 
in Gaul to carry round their fields images of devils covered with 
white curtains. 

Again several features of the cult — the covered car drawn by 
oxen, the welcome extended to it by the places which it visits, 
and the immersion at the end of the ceremony — all these actually 
occur in the popular festivals of northern Europe. But the 
theory that the cult has a specially close connection with May 
Day and Whitsuntide festivals seems to me not to have been 
sufficiently made out. In the latter we do find the May tree 

1 It is clear, however, as Mr Frazer has pointed out to me, from details given in 
the Passio S. Symphoriani, cap. 6 (cf. Ruinart, Ada Martyrum Sincera et Selecta, 
1713, p. 82), that the deity worshipped at Autun really was Cybele. 


brought in festal procession from the woods. But the re- 
semblance in this case is only superficial, for Nerthus' car was 
kept in a sacred grove and replaced there when the festival was 
ended — a proceeding for which the May ceremonies present no 
analogy. The waggon which bears the May tree is seldom 
covered, while immersion whether of the tree or the waggon is 
quite exceptional. Again, the May tree, when it has been 
decked out, remains fixed in one place as long as the festival 
lasts. It is not taken round from village to village, and seldom 
even from house to house. Above all Tacitus' account leaves 
no room for doubt that the worshippers themselves were not 
aware that the car contained a tree, or indeed any vegetable 

Perhaps the nearest analogy among these May ceremonies is 
the Russian custom practised on the day called Semik, i.e. the 
Thursday in Whitsun week (cf. Mannhardt, Baumkultus, p. 157). 
On this day the peasants repair to the woods and cut down a 
young birch which they dress as a woman. They hold a 
banquet in front of it, and the girls recite verses which speak of 
offerings made to the tree. It is then brought to the village and 
set up in some house where it is treated as an honoured guest 
for three days. Similar customs however are known at other 
times of the year. Among the Slavs of the lower Elbe 
{ib. p. 174) an oak used to be set up on July 2. This oak 
was brought from the forest on a waggon drawn by oxen and 
covered during its journey with the men's cloaks, so that it 
could not be seen. In some parts of Russia (ib. p. 414 f.) a 
straw figure called Kostroma is dressed as a woman, decked 
with flowers and laid in a trough. It is then carried to the bank 
of a stream where after a mock fight it is torn to pieces and 
thrown into the water. Those who have tried to rescue it then 
beein to lament the death of Kostroma. Even in Teutonic 
lands we find the customs of May Day closely paralleled in rural 
festivals at other times of the year, especially in connection with 
the ingathering of the harvest 1 . 

1 Cf. Mannhardt, op. fit., p. 190 ff., Myth. Forsch. pp. 326 f., 333. 


The Gaulish rites mentioned above remind us of certain 
plough ceremonies practised in the winter among Teutonic 

Monday. peoples, a trace of which is preserved in the name 
' Plough Monday,' applied to the first Monday after Epiphany. 
On this day it was formerly customary for the youths of the 
village to drag a plough about from house to house, soliciting 
contributions. They were dressed in white shirts and decked 
out with ribbons, and often known as 'Plough bullocks.' One of 
them was often got up to represent an old woman with long 
nose and chin and called Old Bessy, while another, the fool, was 
dressed in skins and wore a long calf's tail. In Cheshire the 
custom is known to have been practised on the eve of Epiphany 1 . 
In the evening the plough was brought into a barn ; a sword- 
dance was held round the plough, on which Old Bessy and the 
fool were seated, and the proceedings ended with a feast. 
Similar customs are known in Germany, where however they 
took place during the spring, sometimes about the beginning of 
Lent or at Easter. In some cases the plough was drawn by 
unmarried girls. At the end of its journey it used often to be 
burned or thrown into a stream 2 . Among the Slavonic inhabi- 
tants of Carinthia the plough is dragged round the borders of 
the fields, and this is thought to be the most primitive form of 
the custom 3 . 

The connection between these practices and the procession 
of Berecynthia at Autun lies not so much in the character of the 
ceremonies themselves as in the motives by which they seem to 
have been inspired. According to the generally received opinion 
the object of plough-ceremonies originally was to secure the 
fertility of the fields, the immersion and burning of the plough 
being regarded as charms for rain and sunshine respectively 4 . 
In certain cases indeed there are features — we may note es- 

1 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Das festliche Jahr^, p. 37 f. 

2 Mannhardt, Baumkuttus, p. 553 ff. 

3 lb. p. 556. 

4 lb. pp. 554, 564. Praetorius {Deliciae Prussicae, p. 55; cf. p. 60), after 
describing how people were immersed at what seems to have been a corresponding 
ceremony in Prussia, adds: "dies bedeutet dass Gott zu rechter Zeit der Saat genug 
Wasser geben moge. " 


pecially the songs used at these ceremonies in the island of 
Alsen 1 — which point to the fertilisation of animal, and even 
human, as well as vegetable life. So in an English reference 
which dates from the year 1493- we hear of "the ledingh of the 
ploughe aboute the fire as for gode beginning of the yere that 
they schulde fare the better all the yere followyng." It is worth 
observing that similar ceremonies are practised in Russia as a 
charm against pestilence 3 . The time at which the ceremonies 
take place in Teutonic lands points to a connection with the 
New Year. This is clearly shown by the English example 
quoted above. In Denmark the day chosen for these ceremonies 
is January 1. Even in Germany the days for which the practice 
is known in various districts are generally such as have been 
used at one time or another for the beginning of the year. In a 
single case, dating from 1530, at Ulm, we hear of processions 
with ploughs and boats during Advent 4 . 

We have seen that the procession at Autun bears, in some 
respects at least, a striking resemblance to the festival of Nerthus. 
It is not an unreasonable conjecture therefore that the two 
festivals may have had a similar object in view. Unfortunately 
we are not told in either case at what time of the year the festival 
took place. From the analogy of the plough-ceremonies how- 
ever it seems quite as likely that they were connected with the 
New Year as with the coming of summer. Of course I do not 
mean to suggest that the plough-ceremonies present any close 
resemblance to the festival of Nerthus as described by Tacitus. 
Indeed we find no mention of the plough anywhere among the 
scanty references to heathen Teutonic ritual which have come 
down to us. But it is worth noting that the boat, which is 
mentioned beside the plough in the Ulm case given above, does 

1 Mannhardt, ib. p. 558; cf. especially the lines: 

med lange Rug paa Jolde 
og favre Foler i Stolde, 
med Fisk udi vor Fiinge 
og smukke Piger i Senge, 
saa Vuggen den kan gange 
med deilige Born og mange etc. 

2 Ib. p. 553 f. ; Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain 
(1849), '• P- 5o6. 

3 Mannhardt, ib. p. 561 f. 4 lb. p. 555. 


seem to have been used symbolically. In Germ, 9 Tacitus says 
that "some of the Suebi also sacrifice to Isis. How and whence 
this foreign rite came into use I have not been able to ascertain, 
though the fact that the symbol itself is shaped after the model 
of a light galley, shows that the cult has been imported." We 
are not told whether the pars Sueboriim mentioned here is the 
same as the pars Sueboriim in cap. 41. Certainly we must not 
assume that the numen of cap. 40 was a boat, for we are expressly 
told that its form was unknown. Yet it is at all events worth 
noting that the boat was apparently the symbol of a female 
deity who was identified by the Greeks with Demeter and who 
might quite well be described as ' Mother Earth 1 .' 

If we turn now to the records of Scandinavian mythology it 
is a remarkable fact that we do find a deity bearing a name, 
NiorSr, which is identical with Nerthus. This deity however is 
a male, and what we are told of him does not exactly correspond 
to what we should expect to be the characteristics of Nerthus. 
According to Gylfaginning 23 he rules over the course of the 
wind and calms the sea and fire. He is to be invoked for the 
purpose of travelling by sea and fishing. He is so wealthy and 
possesses so much money (cattle) that he can give possessions 
both in land and moveables to whomsoever he wishes. He is to 
be invoked for this purpose. Elsewhere (VafhruSnismal 38 f., 
Ynglinga Saga 4, etc.) it is stated that NiorSr did not originally 
belong to the Aesir, the divine tribe ruled by Othin, but to a 
tribe named Vanir, and that he was given as a hostage to the 
Aesir together with his son Frey and his daughter Freyia. 
According to Yngl. S. 1 1 NiorSr succeeded on Othin's death to 
the government of the gods, and his reign was marked by such 
peace and plenty that the Swedes believed he had control over 
these blessings. 

Among the references to the religious rites of the heathen 

Th Scandinavians there is one which is generally agreed 

god Frey. ^ Q h ave an important bearing on Tacitus' account 

of the cult of Nerthus ; and it is curious to note that this rite 

1 Cf. Servius ad Aen. vm. 696 : Isis antem lingua Aegyptiorum est Terra, quam 
uolunt esse ; cf. Dieterich, Mutter Erde, p. 83 ff. (a reference for which I have to 
thank Mr A. B. Cook). 


was connected not with NiorSr, but with his son Frey. The 
story in question occurs in the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason, 
cap. 173 x . A Norwegian named Gunnarr Helmingr who had 
been accused of manslaughter fled to Sweden and took refuge 
at the sanctuary of the god Frey. This sanctuary possessed an 
image of the god which was able to speak, and was under the 
charge of a young and beautiful woman who was regarded as 
the god's wife. Gunnarr succeeded in ingratiating himself with 
the priestess, but was not looked upon with favour by the god 
himself. When winter came the god had to set out with his 
wife on a car in order to bring about an abundant season for 
men (gera monnum drbot). A large crowd accompanied them. 
Their journey lay along a mountain road and they were over- 
taken by so severe a storm that the car was unable to make any 
progress, and all its attendants except Gunnarr deserted it. 
Gunnarr struggled on for a while at the priestess' entreaties, but 
at last, when he was becoming exhausted, he sat down in the 
car. The priestess told him that Frey was angry and asked him 
to continue leading the beast 2 . He did so for a while and then 
said he must risk the god's anger. Then Frey came down from 
the car and the two struggled together. Gunnarr began to feel 
that he was getting the worst of it and made a vow that if he 
should succeed in overcoming the god he would go back to 
Norway, make his peace with King Olaf and return to the true 
faith. Then he succeeded in felling the god ; the evil spirit flew 
out of the image, and Gunnarr broke the latter in pieces. The 
priestess consented to give out that he was the god, and he put 
on the god's clothes. Then they mounted the car, the weather 
took up, and they arrived at the place where a feast had been 
prepared for the god. The people marvelled greatly at the 
god's power in coming unaided through such a storm and noted 
how he was now able to walk about with other men and to eat 
and drink like them, though he spoke little except to his wife. 
They spent the winter moving from one feast to another. The 

1 Fornmanna Sogur; Flateyiarbok, I. p. 337 ff. 

2 The car was drawn by a single beast, which is once (only in the Fornm. S. text) 
1 called hestr, 'horse'; elsewhere the word used in both texts is tykr, 'draught-animal' 

(horse or ox). The use of hestr may therefore be due to an oversight. 



god would have no sacrifices, but was ready to receive gold and 
other treasure. In course of time it was observed that the god's 
wife was with child, which was regarded as a good sign. The 
weather was mild and everything seemed to bode well for the 
harvest. The god's fame began to be noised abroad and came 
even to the ears of King Olaf in Norway. He suspected that 
Gunnarr was personating the god, and in the spring sent his 
brother to him with an offer of pardon in order to induce him to 
return. On receiving this message Gunnarr and the god's wife 
made their escape secretly, taking with them as much treasure 
as they could. 

The time at which Frey's peregrinations began is not clearly 
indicated. But it cannot have been during the spring, for 
Gunnarr is represented as spending the winter at feasts. Pre- 
sumably then the journey began either in the autumn or early 
in the winter. Now the ancient Scandinavians are said to have 
had three great annual festivals 1 . One was at midwinter and is 
called in Yngl. S. 8 a sacrifice for the increase of vegetation (til 
groftrar)-. Another was about the beginning of summer and is 
said to have been a sacrifice for victory (til sigrs). The third 
was at 'the winter nights,' i.e. the beginning of winter (about the 
middle of October). This last is represented as a sacrifice for 
plenty and peace (til drs ok friftar) or for the blessings of abund- 
ance (til drbotar). If, as is generally supposed, the Scandinavian 
year began originally in the autumn, the sacrifice at the winter 
nights may very well have been a New Year festival. We may 
note that the blessings of plenty and peace are those for which 
the god Frey, like his father NiorSr, is said to have been invoked 3 . 
Moreover on the one occasion on which we find a sacrifice to 
Frey exactly dated it took place at this time. The passage in 
question (Gisla S. Surssonar, p. 27) refers to an Icelander, 
Thorgnmr, surnamed FreysgotSi (' priest of Frey '), who lived 

1 Cf. Yngl. S. 8, St. Olaf's S. (Heimskringla) 115, 123; with the last of these may 
be compared the S6guJ>attr af Hakoni Harekssyni, cap. I. (Fornm. S. xi. p. 422). 

2 The distinction drawn between this expression (which occurs only in the passage 
specified) and til drs is not easy to understand. In St. Olaf's S. 114 the midwinter 
sacrifice is said to be 'for peace and a good winter.' 

8 Cf. Yngl. S. 12 1\, Hakonar S. Gofta 16, etc. 


about the middle of the tenth century, and states that he had 
a house-party in the autumn, at the winter nights, to greet the 
winter and to sacrifice to Frey. On the whole then we need 
scarcely hesitate to believe that the festivities in which Gunnarr 
Helmingr took part probably began in the autumn, though they 
may have lasted throughout the winter. 

Now it is worth noting that both in England and Sweden 
November was called the 'month of sacrifice' {blotmonaft, 
blotmauad), which seems to indicate that religious ceremonies 
were connected with the slaughtering of superfluous stock before 
the winter. On the Continent we find Widukind (I. 12) de- 
scribing the first days of October as dies erroris on account of the 
celebrations practised in connection with the Irminsul. Indeed 
the evidence for religious gatherings at this season goes back to 
the earliest times. Tacitus only once gives us the means of 
determining the time of a Teutonic festival, namely that of the 
Marsi described in Ann. I. 50 f., and it is clear from the context 
that this took place during the month of October. We may 
further note that according to Mathias a Michov 1 the chief 
religious meeting of the Prussians was held on the first of 
October. Other writers however, Alexander Guagninus and 
Lasicius 2 , say that the great Prussian festival took place towards 
the end of the month. They quote moreover certain invocations 
which were addressed at this festival to Ziemiennik, an ' earth- 
god 3 ,' and which seem to point to the beginning of a new year. 
On the whole then I think we may conclude — in the absence of 
any indication on the part of Tacitus — that both these Conti- 
nental analogies and the evidence for the Scandinavian cult of 
Frey tell in favour of the view that the festival of Nerthus began 
during the autumn. 

We do not know whether any noteworthy ceremonies were 
intended to take place at the close of the festivities described in 
the story of Gunnarr Helmingr, for Gunnarr seems to have fled 
while the festivities were still in progress. The general resem- 
blance however which the story bears to Tacitus' account of 

1 Grynaeus, Nouns Orbis Regionum, etc. (Bale, 1532), p. 520. 

2 Respublica Poloniae, Lituaniae etc. (Leyden, 1642), pp. 2j8f., 283^ 

3 Cf. Usener, GotL-rnamen, p. 105. 

l6 2 


Nerthus leads us to infer that the two festivals belonged to the 
same class of cult. The identity of the names Nerthus and 
NiorSr even tends to show a historical connection between the 
two cults, in which case we must of course suppose that Frey 
has taken the place of his father. It is to be observed that the 
name Frey-r seems originally to have been an epithet, ' lord/ 
perhaps an abbreviation for Yngvifreyr or Ingunarfreyr (cf. 
p. 231). Again, the characters of the two gods are in general 
somewhat similar, though Frey is far more frequently mentioned. 
In Skaldskaparmal 7 he is described as drgiiS, 'god of plenty,' 
and fcgiafi, which may be translated ' giver of moveable property.' 
But the original meaning oi fe was undoubtedly 'livestock '; in 
Iceland it was used specially of sheep. The word dr has two 
meanings, annus and annona. Most frequently it is used to 
denote the produce of the season 1 , though from this it comes to 
be applied also to prosperity in general. Thus when Frey is 
said to make his journey for the purpose of bringing about an 
abundant season or abundant crops for men (gera mdnnnm 
drbot) the idea is practically the same as when ' Berecynthia ' 
is carried about at Autun pro saluatione agrorum ac ninearum. 
Taken together the two terms drguS and fegiafi seem to 
represent Frey as the god who gives to men increase both of 
vegetable and animal life. 

In Ynglinga Saga Frey is represented as ruling over the 
Swedes in succession to his father NiorSr. His reign was blessed 
with peace and plenty beyond measure. When he died his 
body was carried secretly into a great barrow and the fact of his 
death was not made known for three years. The tribute-money 
was still taken as before and poured into the barrow. After 
three years the Swedes became aware that he was dead, but 
since plenty and peace still continued they believed that such 
would be the case as long as Frey was in Sweden. Therefore 
they would not burn him in accordance with Othin's ordinances; 
but they called him veraldar gd& and sacrificed to him for peace 
and plenty ever afterwards. The expression veraldar gd6 is 
probably to be translated ' god of human life,' and may perhaps 

1 In Jomsvikinga S. 3 iFornm. S. xi. p. 8) dr is used as a synonym for korn ok 
dnnur gaezka, 'corn and other good things.' 


be explained by a passage in Adam of Bremen's History, IV. 26. 
Speaking of the great temple at Upsala Adam says that it 
contained the images of three gods, Thor, Wodan (Othin) and 
Fricco, by which name he almost certainly means Frey. Fricco 
he describes as the giver of peace and pleasure to mankind. 
He says also that his representation was phallic and that he was 
invoked at marriages 1 . It is worth noting in this connection 
that the only surviving poem (Skirnismal) which deals primarily 
with Frey represents him as wholly abandoned to passionate 
love for the giantess GerSr. 

The account given of Frey in Gylfaginning, cap. 24, is as 
follows : " Frey is the most excellent of the gods. He governs 
the rain and the shining of the sun and thereby also the increase 
of the earth. On him it is good to call for plenty and peace. 
He governs also the wealth (fesaela, orig. ' wealth in livestock ') 
of men." On the strength of this passage it has been supposed 
that Frey was originally a sky-god or sun-god. But the 
attributes mentioned here are rather those of a being who grants 
fertility both to vegetable and animal life. The blessings which 
he gives are identical indeed with those which the leading of the 
plough seems to have been intended to secure. For the latter, 
as we have seen (p. 238 f.), were not limited to the fructification of 
the fields. They were connected also with the fertility of animal, 
and even human life. 

That the cult of Nerthus was likewise connected with the 
fructification of vegetable or animal life or both may be inferred 
from Tacitus' description of the goddess as Terra Mater, and 
also from the resemblance which the cult bears to that of 
• Berecynthia ' at Autun as well as to that of Cybele at Rome 
and elsewhere. Yet, even if we allow that Frey may be only a 
secondary form of NiorSr, there still remains a serious difficulty 
in the way of identifying the two cults. Both NibrSr and Frey 
are male divinities, while Nerthus is a female. It is to this 
difficulty that we must now turn our attention. 

1 tertius est Fricco, pacetn uoluptatcmque largiens mortalibus ; cuius etiam 

simulacrum fingunt cum ingetiti priapo si nuptiae celebrandae sunt, Fricconi 



In the first place we may observe that NiorSr has, in addition 
The goddess to his son Frey, a daughter named Freyia who is a 
Freyia - sort of female counterpart of her brother. According 

to Gylf. 24, " Freyia is the most excellent of the goddesses. She 
has a dwelling in heaven which is called Folkvangr, and when 
she rides to battle she receives half the slain, while the other 
half go to Othin. Her palace, Sessrumnir, is large and beautiful, 
and when she travels she sits in a carriage drawn by cats. She 

is most accessible to invocations from men and delights in 

love-songs. It is good to call upon her for erotic purposes." 
A number of love adventures are recorded of her. According 
to Yngl. S. 4 Freyia was a sacrificial priestess and was the first 
to introduce among the Aesir the practice of sefor (sorcery), 
which was customary among the Vanir. In a later passage 
(cap. 13) she is said to have succeeded Frey in the government 
of the Swedes. Her connection with the future life appears 
again in Egils S. Skallagn'mssonar, cap. 78, where Thorger'Sr, 
Egill's daughter, says that she will not taste food again until she 
is with Freyia, i.e. until she is dead. 

The only poem concerned primarily with Freyia is HyndlulioS, 
the subject of which is as follows. A certain man named Ottarr 
the son of Innsteinn, who has built Freyia a shrine and honoured 
her with sacrifices, has a dispute with a rival in regard to 
succession to an inheritance. Freyia, accompanied by her boar, 
comes to visit the giantess Hyndla and asks her to recite the 
pedigree of Ottarr, whom she calls her husband. Hyndla 
recounts the names of many famous heroes, and at the close 
Freyia asks her to give the ' ale of remembrance ' {minnisol) to 
her boar, so that he may recall all that has been said when he 
comes to meet his rival. The boar therefore is Ottarr in disguise, 
a fact which has been suspected by Hyndla throughout. The 
poem thus affords a curious parallel to the story of Gunnarr 
Helmingr. Just as in the latter Frey's priestess is called his 
wife, so here Freyia's priest is called her husband. 

Owing to the fact that the sagas contain but few references to 
any cult of Freyia it has been assumed by many modern writers 
that this deity was a product of the imagination of Norwegian 
and Icelandic poets towards the close of the heathen age. But 


the comparative silence of the authorities may equally well be 
accounted for on the hypothesis that the cult was becoming 
antiquated. It is worth noting that with the exception of 
ThorgerSr HolgabriiSr, whose cult seems to have belonged to the 
north of Norway, Freyia is the only female being of whose 
worship we find any mention at all in Old Norse literature. 
Yet the works of Tacitus contain several references to the 
worship of goddesses. Hence we are led rather to infer that the 
importance of the female divinities had decreased in the course 
of time. 

Is it possible that Frey was a later form of Nerthus and that 
Freyia represents an intermediate stage ? An analogy for such 
a change of sex is perhaps to be found on the opposite side of 
the Baltic. Praetorius frequently refers to the cult of an ' earth- 
goddess' named Zemynele 1 , who grants fertility to the fields 
{Deliciae Pmssicae, p. 66) and receives the souls of the dead 
(ib. p. 101 ff.). In another passage (p. 7) we hear of Zamolnksei 
(dat.) ' d. i. der Erdgottin,' who seems to be the same being. 
But we find also a male Ziameluks, " ein Herr oder Gott der 
Erden und derer die in der Erde begraben worden." This god 
also seems to have had more than one name, for he can hardly 
be a different person from the Ziemiennik to whom we have 
already had occasion to refer (p. 243). Again, Praetorius speaks 
also of a god called Zemepattys or Zempattys (p. 66) : " die 
Nadraven, Zalavonen u. s. w. meinen dass in der Erde was 
Gottliches stecket, nennen es Zempattys als mannliche und 
Zemynele alsweibliche Gottheit." For the relationship between 
the two deities we may compare p. 31 : "die Zemynele die auch 
Zemyna, item Zemynylena genennet wird, wird gehalten vor des 
Zemepatys Schwester." The parallelism with Frey-Freyia is 
therefore somewhat close. But the conception of the earth-deity 
as female is surely to be regarded as the more original form. 

Again, it is worth noting that the cult of Frey has certain 
characteristics which elsewhere are usually associated with 
goddesses. Among many nations the worship of the goddess of 

1 This name is a diminutive of Lith. Zonyna, 'earth-goddess,' and clearly related 
to zeme, ' earth.' 


fertility is connected with a religious regard for the pig. As an 
example we may take Tacitus' account of the Aestii, the ancient 
inhabitants of the coast of Prussia, a people whom he represents 
as more devoted to agriculture 1 than any other tribe in Germany. 
He says {Germ. 45) that " they worship the Mother of the gods. 
The distinguishing mark of their cult is that they wear the 
shapes of wild boars. This serves for armour and a protection- 
in all things, rendering the worshipper of the goddess safe even 
among foes." 

Now the same symbol, the boar, was widely used in the 
North in heathen times. Indeed it was perhaps the commonest 
form of ornament on the helmets of ancient Scandinavian 
warriors. An example of a helmet with a boar upon it has 
been found at Benty Grange, near Monyash in Derbyshire. 
Further, pictorial representations of such helmets are to be seen 
on a bronze plate found at Bjornhofda in Oland and on a helmet 
discovered at Vendel near Upsala. Mention may also be made 
of the figures on the silver bowl found at Gundestrup, which is 
supposed to date from very early times 2 . Several allusions to 
the figures of boars on helmets occur in Beowulf (11. 303, 1 1 12 f., 
1287, 1454), and we need have no hesitation in believing that 
the helmet called Hildigoltr ('battle-boar'), which belonged to 
King ASils (Skaldsk. 44), was of this form. Another helmet 
called Hildisvin (' battle-pig ') was taken by the same king from 
his opponent, King Ali, who according to Beowulf was his uncle 
and predecessor. But the emblem was not confined to helmets. 
One of the gifts presented to Beowulf by King Hrothgar, in 
reward for his services, was a standard in the form of a golden 
boar's head (Beow. 1022, 2153). Again, one of the treasures 
which Hrolfr Kraki's knights required of King ASils in return 
for the services they had rendered him was a ' gold ring,' a 
precious heirloom in his family (Skaldsk. 44). This ring, which 

1 The pig is a common form of the corn-spirit both in Germany and the Baltic 
Provinces; see Mannhardt, Myth. Forseh., p. i86f. ; Frazer, The Golden Bough*, 
II. 284 ff. Cf. also Praetorius, op. cit., p. 55. Particularly it should be noticed that 
in Oesel the last sheaf is called ruggi orrikas, 'roggeneber' (Mannhardt, I.e., note). 

- This example cannot be regarded as certain, for some of the other figures on the 
bowl point to its being of Gaulish origin or at least a copy of a Gaulish work. 


Saxo (p. 55) describes as an enormously heavy necklace, was 
called Svi'agrfss, ' the sucking-pig of the Swedes.' 

It can hardly be supposed that these figures were designed 
for a purely ornamental purpose. We are reminded of the 
effigies et signa which according to Tacitus {Germ. 7) were kept 
by the ancient Germans in their sacred groves and carried by 
the priests into battle, and again of the deproviptae siluis lucisque 
ferarum imagines which Civilis' German auxiliaries had brought 
with them {Hist. IV. 22). From the analogy of the usage of the 
Aestii we may infer that the boar was the symbol of the deity 
under whose protection the warrior believed himself to be. In 
the case of the Swedish kings, among whom the use of the boar- 
emblem seems to have been especially common 1 , we need hardly 
hesitate to believe that this was Frey (or Freyia), the deity from 
whom they traced their descent. Nor is confirmatory evidence 
wanting. Both Frey and Freyia are said to have possessed 
golden or gold-breasted boars, which had been made for them 
by the dwarfs (Hyndl. 7, Gylf. 49, Skaldsk. 35). The one 
belonging to Freyia was called Hildisvini, with which we may 
compare the name of King Ali's helmet. Again, in the Saga 
HeiSreks konungs ens vitra, cap. 10, it is related that a boar was 
sacrificed to Frey at Yule. This boar was called sonargoltr 
(' boar of the herd ') and was the largest which could be found. 
Vows were made over its breast. In one text of Hervarar S. ok 
HeiSreks, cap. 14, where the same incident is described, the boar 
was given to Freyia. 

It is possible that the boat was another symbol of the god 
Frey. At all events we are told (Gylf. 43, Skaldsk. 35) that the 
dwarfs had made for him a boat called Ski&'blaSnir which would 
hold all the gods and yet might be 'folded up in so small a 
compass that he could put it in his wallet. We have already 
noticed that the emblem of the Suebic goddess ' Isis,' who is 
perhaps to be identified with Nerthus, was a boat and also that 
there is some evidence for the use of boats in plough ceremonies. 

1 It is worth noting that in Hrolfs S. Kraka 43 Htolfr and his men while staying 
at Upsala are attacked by a boar, or rather by an irresistible demon in the form of a 
boar, which ASils has sent against them. Throughout this saga A'Sils is represented 
as a wizard. 


Both these symbols tend to connect the cult of Frey with 
those of female deities. It may be urged however that Frey is 
not only a god of fertility — a characteristic which may satis- 
factorily account for his possessing symbols which elsewhere 
belong to goddesses — but that he is also the ancestor of a kingly 
family. This family, as we have already seen, was that of the 
Ynglingar, the ancient dynasty of Sweden. But the name 
Ynglingar seems not to be of very great antiquity, for in 
Beowulf, where five kings or princes of this family are mentioned, 
no such term is ever applied to them. They are always called 
Scylfingas. Further, it is worth noting that a reminiscence 
of the same name is preserved in Ynglingatal, where Ottarr 
(Ohthere), the father of ASils, is called Skilfingr. It would seem 
then that the name Ynglingar has taken the place of an earlier 
name Skilfingar 1 . Now, whatever may have been the real origin 
of this name 2 , the analogy of the Skioldungar (Scyldungas), the 
Danish royal family, who traced their descent from Skioldr 
(Scyld), would lead us to expect that the Skilfingar (Scylfingas) 
claimed to be descended from an eponymous Skialfr (Scylf). 
No such name however occurs 3 . But we do find two examples 
of the feminine name Skialf. In the first place it is one of the 
names of the goddess Freyia herself (Skaldsk. 75). Secondly, 
it is that of one of the early Swedish queens, the wife of King 
Agni. The story connected with her is as follows. A eertain 
king named Vi'sburr gave his wife three large farms and a gold 
necklace as a dowry, but subsequently divorced her and withheld 
his gifts. She had recourse to a sorceress named Huldr, who 
brought it about that the king was killed by his sons. At the 

1 This form occurs as the name of a family in Hyndlulio'S and in several prose 
texts, but there seems to have been some doubt as to its application. According to 
Flat. I. 25 they belonged to Horftaland in western Norway, while Skaldskaparmal, 
cap. 64, places them in the Baltic. It has been suggested that the HorSaland family 
was really a branch of the Ynglingar; cf. J. Jonsson, Ark. f. nord. Filol., xix. 184 ft". 

2 Originally it may have been derived from a place-name, possibly a place 
formerly called Loaskialf, near Upsala (cf. L'affler, Ark. f. nord. Filol., x. i66ff. ; 
Kock, Hist. Tidskrift, xv. 169). 

3 In Flat. 1. 25 the Skilfingar of Hor'Saland are said to have been descended from 
a man named Skelfir, but this seems to be a late and fictitious name. It is worth 
noting that in the corresponding genealogy in Skaldsk. 64 the names Yngvi and 

Ynglingar take the place of Skelfir and Skilfingar. 


same time it was prophesied that this necklace should cause the 
death of the noblest of the king's descendants (Yngl. S. 17). 
Five generations later King Agni, the descendant of Visburr, 
went harrying in Finland, slew the king Frosti, and carried off 
his son Logi and his daughter Skialf as captives. He made 
Skialf his wife and at her request gave a funeral banquet in 
honour of her father. The banquet was held in a tent under a 
high tree, and while it was in progress Skialf exhorted the king 
to fasten securely the necklace which he was wearing. But 
when he had fallen into a drunken sleep she fastened a rope to 
the necklace, and her followers removed the tent-pegs and 
hanged the king on one of the branches of the tree. They then 
all escaped by ship (id. 22). 

It seems doubtful whether this story has been preserved in 
its original form. The necklace which plays so prominent a 
part in it may be identified with the ' ring ' Svi'agriss which we 
find later in the possession of King ASils and which, we are told, 
had belonged to his ancestors. But it is to be observed that the 
most famous treasure of the goddess Freyia was likewise a gold 
necklace, the ' Brisinga men' (Thrymskvifia 13 ff., Sorla Thattr 
1 f.). Another reminiscence of Freyia is perhaps to be found in 
the sorceress (serSkoJia) Huldr, for sorcery (seiftr) was introduced 
by Freyia. The mischief wrought by Huldr upon the house of 
the Ynglingar does not stop with the two cases related above. 
Visburr's father Vanlandi had also married a Finnish princess, 
Drffa the daughter of Sniar. He left her, promising to return in 
three years, but he did not come back within ten. Dn'fa then 
applied to Huldr who undertook either to bring Vanlandi back 
or else to kill him. Foiled by the Swedes in her attempt to 
bring him back, she compassed his death by means of a nocturnal 
goblin (Yngl. S. 16). We may note that Freyia also was de- 
serted by her husband 05r (Gylf. 35). Again the death of 
Domaldi, Visburr's son by a second wife, was due to the same 
sorceress. In consequence of a curse which she had imposed on 
him famine prevailed during his reign, and he was sacrificed by 
the Swedes in order that they might get better seasons (Yngl. S. 
18). One of his descendants, Olafr Tretelgia, had a similar fate 
(id. 47), and this fact suggests that the tragic ends of the early 


Swedish kings may really have been due rather to a custom of 
kingly sacrifice than to unfortunate matrimonial alliances. 

We have to remember that the name Yngvi was borne not 
only by the god himself but also by every member of the royal 
house (Yngl. S. 20), from which it may be inferred that these 
princes were regarded not merely as descendants but actually as 
representatives of the god. This fact must certainly be taken in 
connection with the sacrifices of kings noticed above, for we are 
told (Yngl. S. 47) that the Swedes attributed to their kings both 
plenty and famine. They were credited therefore with the same 
power as the god Frey 1 . The famine which arose in the time of 
Olafr Tretelgia was thought to have been caused by that king's 
remissness in sacrificing. But this must not be assumed to mean 
that he was neglecting the worship of the gods ; for the gods 
themselves are represented as engaged in sacrifice (Yngl. S. 2, 
4 f., 11, 13). More probably the meaning is that the king could 
not or would not fertilise the earth — the purpose for which Frey 
peregrinated the country in later times. The same idea appears 
in a somewhat different form in the Saga of Halfdan the Black, 
cap. 9. Halfdan was a Norwegian king, descended in the fifth 
generation from Olafr Tretelgia, and his reign had been blessed 
with unparalleled prosperity. At his death a dispute arose 
between the four provinces of his kingdom for the possession of 
his body ; for it was thought that the blessings of abundance 
would follow the district in which he was buried. The dispute 
is said to have been terminated eventually by quartering the 
body. It scarcely needs pointing out that the belief here 
expressed is identical with that which underlies the story of 
Frey's burial (cf. p. 244). 

Again, the names Freyir) and Freyia seem originally to have 
been titles, 'lord' and 'lady' (like Adonis, f) AecnroLva) re- 
spectively. The name Frey(r) is perhaps an abbreviation of 
Yngvifreyr or Ingunarfreyr. But these may also have been 
titles of the Swedish kings, for they are clearly related in some 
way to frea Ingwina, the title borne by the king of the Danes in 

1 For the possession of similar powers — control over rain and sunshine — by kings 
and chiefs in modern times cf. Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, 
pp. nof., 1 1 6 ff . , 133 f. 


Beowulf (cf. p. 230). So far as the names go, therefore, the 
personality of Frey may well have been derived from the early 
rulers of the Swedes. The reign of the sacred peace-kings 
is not necessarily a myth, for Tacitus (Germ. 44) records some 
very similar form of government as actually existing among the 
Swedes in his time. Again, we have seen (p. 231) that the 
compound Ingunar-freyr may be explained in two ways. The 
more obvious division of the word however is Ingunar-freyr> 
which would mean ' lord,' or perhaps ' husband, of Ingun,' if the 
latter is taken as a feminine name. Now since Yngvi is a name 
of Frey may not Ingun have been a name of Freyia? At all 
events we have seen that in HyndlulioS a Norwegian prince is 
described as Freya's husband 1 , just as in the story of Gunnarr 
Helmingr the priestess is called Frey's wife. What I would 
suggest then is that the sex-relations of deity and consort have 
been inverted and that the position of the Swedish kings as 
representatives of Frey was, like the god himself, a secondary 
development — that originally they were regarded as husbands of 

In this connection it is worth noting that according to a 
speech attributed to King Olaf Tryggvason (Flat. I. 402 ff.) the 
images of Frey at Throndhjem and in Sweden (presumably at 
Upsala) had not originally been made as representations of the 
god. So great had been the blessings enjoyed by the Swedes in 
Frey's reign that at his death it was desired that someone 
should be buried alive with him. But, since no one would 
consent to this, they made two wooden men and put them into 
the barrow with Frey, thinking that it would give him amusement 
to play with them. Robbers subsequently broke into the barrow 
and took out the two wooden figures. But before they could do 
more they were disturbed and had to make their escape empty- 
handed. The Swedes sent one of the figures to Throndhjem 
and kept the other themselves. Both were called Frey and 
honoured with worship. It would at all events be more in 
accordance with what we know of the cult in other respects 
if the deity and the figures were of different sexes. 

1 This case does not stand altogether isolated. In Flat. 1. 407 f. Olaf Tryggvason 
is represented as using language which distinctly implies that Ilakon, earl of Lade 
(d- 995)! was regarded as the husband of ThorgerSr HolgabruSr, his special deity. 


If Frey has taken the place of Freyia we should naturally 
expect that it was the queens and not the kings of the Swedes 
who were originally regarded as the representatives of the deity. 
This would account for the appearance of such names as Va?ia 
and Skidlf among the early queens. Again, if we are right in 
identifying the sorceress Huldr with Freyia, the intervention of 
this person on behalf of the queens would seem to suggest 
that they were believed to be under the special protection of the 
goddess. It may of course be objected that several of these queens 
are said to have been of Finnish origin. But such statements 
may surely be a reflection of later times, when exogamy had 
become the custom and when sorcery was generally associated 
with the Finns. We may note that among the Vanir, the tribe to 
which NiorSr and Frey belonged, marriages between brother and 
sister are said to have been customary (Yngl. S. 4). Frey and 
Freyia were the offspring of such a union (Lokasenna 36, Yngl. 
S., /. c), and we have a hint of similar relations between these 
two deities themselves (Lokas. 32). The fact that such a custom 
was attributed to the gods may perhaps be taken as evidence 
that it was once known among men, presumably among those by 
whom the Vanir were worshipped, i.e. the Swedes. If so the 
change which took place in the relative positions of the king and 
queen will become more easily intelligible. 

What has been said above is put forward of course only as a 
hypothesis, to account for the fact that a male god appears with 
attributes which elsewhere belong to goddesses and to bridge 
over the gulf between Nerthus and Frey. I am far from denying 
either that many points in the development of the cult are 
obscure or that male gods of fertility are to be found in other 
religions. Especially among the Prussians and Lithuanians we 
meet with a number of such gods. One of them, Potrimpo or 
Padrymbo, ' der gott vom getreide,' seems to have somewhat 
resembled Frey. He is said to have been represented as young 
and of joyous aspect and wearing a garland of ears of corn. 
A special feature of his cult was a snake, which was kept in 
a bowl covered with sheaves of corn 1 . Another deity of the 
same type was Curcho or Gurcho, who is called a god of food 

1 a 

Grunau, Preussische Chronik, Tract. II. cap. V. § i f. 


and drink and who seems to have been specially associated both 
with corn and fishing. A third was Gabiauga or Gabjauja, 
described as the god of barns ; he had a festival late in the 
autumn. We may further add a god called Waisgautis or 
Waizganthos, whose festival according to Lasicius 1 took place 
three days after the great autumnal feast (cf. p. 243), and who 
seems to have been specially connected with the flax crop. As 
to the relationship of these various deities to one another we have 
no definite information. There are certain indications, however, 
which suggest that they may all have been local forms of the 
same conception. Thus, according to Praetorius (p. 18), 
"jetziger Zeit findet man nicht bey den Nadraven noch bey den 
angrenzenden Zamaiten meines Wissens dass der Padrympus 
namentlich beehret wird. An dessen Stelle scheinet auszer der 
Zeminele oder Zemelukis geehret zu werden der Waisgautis 
d. i. der Gott der Fruchtbarkeit " etc. ; and again (p. 22) : " die 
Nadrauer verehren den Gurcho oder Padrymbo unter dem 
Namen Gabiauga." 

It is worth noting that both Gabjauja and Curche (the earliest 
form of the name Gurcho) seem to have the endings of feminine 
substantives. This makes us inclined to suspect that the gods 
may originally have been local forms of the earth-goddess 
Zemyna or Zemynele whose cult, as we have already seen, was 
widespread among the Prussians. Sometimes, however, we find 
her associated with one or other of the gods, e.g. in the festival 
of Gabjauja (Praetorius, p. 64 f.). Another possibility therefore 
deserves to be taken into account, namely that some of these 
gods may originally have been regarded rather as husbands of 
the goddess 2 than as actually identical with her. In modern 
folklore 3 the reaper of the last sheaf is sometimes described 
in terms which seem to indicate that he or she was regarded as 
the husband or wife of the corn spirit. We have already seen 

1 Respublica Poloniae etc., p. 284. 

'-' The name Zemepattys (cf. p. 247) suggests that that god may originally have 
been regarded as the husband, as well as the brother, of Zemynele (cf. Lith. pais, 
'husband '). 

3 Cf. Mannhardt, Mythologische Forschitngen (Quellen und Forschungen, No. 51), 
PP- 3 2 3 ff -> 334 (cf- also p. 339). 


that Potrimpo's likeness is said to have been crowned with ears 
of corn. But according to Praetorius (p. 59) it was customary 
for the last sheaf to be cut with special ceremonies by the chief 
person present and for the ears of this sheaf to be made into a 
garland, which the reaper wore on his return home. Is it too 
much to infer from this that he may have been regarded as the 
husband of the corn goddess ? 

Now Nerthus, like Zemynele, is described as an earth-goddess 
( Terra Mater). As the giver of the fruits of the earth her place 
in Scandinavian religion seems to have been taken by the young 
male deity Frey. If our hypothesis is correct, however, it is in 
Freyia that we have really to seek the later form of Nerthus, 
while the prototype of Frey is to be found rather in the priest 
who alone was privileged to touch her car. Tacitus does not say 
that the priest was regarded as the husband of the goddess, but 
the analogy of HyndlulioS renders such a relationship probable. 

There is yet another serious difficulty however which requires 
to be faced, this time of a geographical character. The cult of 
both Frey and Freyia is confined to Sweden, Norway and 
Iceland. Frey in particular is so closely connected with Upsala 
that we cannot reasonably look for the origin of his cult in any 
other quarter. Yet it is quite incredible that the sacred island 
of Nerthus could have been situated in a region so remote from 
the territories of the Angli and Warni. Consequently, though 
we can hardly fail to recognise a near relationship between the 
two cults, we must not suppose that Frey has actually inherited 
the sanctuary of Nerthus. We shall have to see now whether 
traces of any similar cults are to be found in less distant 

We have evidence for the existence of island sanctuaries both 
in the North Sea and in the Baltic. In the former the only 
known case is that of Heligoland, which was sacred to a god 
named Fosite 1 . This island was famous in the Middle Ages for 
its fertility ; and, moreover, it possessed a sacred spring which 
might possibly correspond to the secretus lacus mentioned by 

1 Cf. Alcuin, Vita Willebrordi, cap. 10; Adam Brem., iv. 3. 


Tacitus. On the other hand it had no trees even in the time of 
Adam of Bremen, when its area was considerably greater than it 
is at present. But there is a much more serious objection, which 
we have already noticed (p. 200 f), to the identification of Nerthus' 
island with Heligoland. In view of its proximity to the coasts 
of the Chauci and the Frisii it is hardly credible that Heligoland 
can have been the centre of a religious confederacy in which 
these tribes had no part — especially since in later times it 
actually was a Frisian sanctuary. 

The various points of affinity noted above between the cult 
of Nerthus and the Swedish cult of Frey tell decidedly in favour 
of the view that the sacred island was situated in the Baltic. 
We must therefore enquire whether Danish tradition preserves 
traces of any similar cult. Now it is generally agreed that the 
Early Danish character of FroSi, the peace-king of Danish legend, 
kings " shows a certain resemblance to that of Frey. 

According to Yngl. S. 12 he was a contemporary of Frey, and 
the universal peace which prevailed during their time was 
attributed by the Swedes to Frey and by the Danes to FroSi. 
So great was the general security in FroSi's days that he had 
gold rings — described sometimes as bracelets and sometimes as 
necklaces (Saxo, pp. 164, 169; cf. also Skaldsk. 43, Skioldunga 
S. 3) — placed on the public high-roads. According to Saxo, 
p. iyo(., no one dared to touch these until FroSi reached extreme 
old age, when a certain sorceress persuaded her son to steal one 
of them. FroSi sought in anger to arrest her, but she took the 
form of a ' sea-cow,' and as the king was looking for her along the 
shore, she attacked and slew him with her tusks. FroSi's death, 
like that of Frey, was kept secret for three years, and his body 
was carried about in a royal carriage to make people believe that 
he was still alive. Finally he was buried in a barrow near 
V?erebro in Sjaelland. 

It will be seen that the affinities of this story are not entirely 

j with that of Frey. The incident of the ring and the sorceress 

I recalls the adventures of Vanlandi and Visburr. There is another 

point, however, which deserves notice. Scandinavian tradition 

records several Danish kings named FroSi, two of whom, FroSi I 

|(/Fri5-FroSi') and FroSi III (' enn friSsami '), seem to have been 

c 17 


originally identical. The incident of the gold 'ring' is told in 
Skioldunga Saga, cap. 3 (Skaldsk. 43), of the first of these kings, 
the grandson of Skioldr ; by Saxo, however, it is referred to 
Frotho III 1 . Now Saxa's Frotho I is said to have been the son 
of a king named Hadingus, who has affinities with the god 
NiorSr. Both NiorSr and Hadingus were chosen as husbands by 
their wives, and in both cases the bride made her choice by 
examining the man's feet, though the motive of this action 
was different in the two stories. Again, both marriages proved 
unhappy ; the man disliked his wife's mountain home and 
the continual howling of the wolves, while the wife was equally 
unable to stand the constant shrieking of the sea-birds at her 
husband's dwelling on the shore. Indeed the Latin poems in 
which these complaints are expressed by Saxo (p. 33) may be 
mere expansions of the Norse verses (preserved in Gylf. 23) which 
tell of the woes of NiorSr and SkaSi. 

Striking, however, as are the affinities of the two stories we 
must not omit to notice that there are also important points of 
difference. Hadingus and Frotho I are warrior kings of whom 
many great deeds are recorded, for which we find no parallel 
in the stories of NiorSr and Frey. Above all, however, it is to be 
observed that these kings, Frotho III included, are constantly 
represented — by all authorities — as ordinary human beings and 
quite distinct from the gods. Indeed with the possible exception 
of Skioldr, a case to which we shall have to return presently, 
there is little or no evidence for the existence of national Danish 
gods 2 . 

On the other hand we have some evidence for a Danish 

The goddess goddess. This deity was called Gefion, and the 

Gefion. account given of her in Yngl. S. 5 (cf. Gylf. 1) is as 

follows. When Othin was on his journey to the North he stayed 

for a time at Odense and sent Gefion to Sweden to spy out the 

1 In Skioldunga S. 3, however, Frodo III is killed by a stag in a manner which 
recalls the incident related by Saxo. 

2 In the catalogue of national deities given in Fornm. Sog. v. 239, Flat. III. 246 
(see below) we find Go^Sorm Dana go% beside Skidld Skdnunga gcfo. The former 
seems not to be mentioned elsewhere. It should be observed however that this 
list is not entirely trustworthy. 


land. Gefion is described as a ' travelling woman,' which is 
perhaps to be interpreted as ' sorceress.' From the Swedish 
king, Gylfi, she begged a plough-land. Then taking four oxen, 
her sons by a certain giant, she yoked them to her plough and 
tore away a large slice of Gylfi's territory into the sea. The new 
island thus created was Sjaelland and the gap which she had 
made in Sweden was the Malar. Subsequently she married 
Othin's son Skibldr. They lived at Leire in Sjaelland. Else- 
where we do not hear very much about Gefion. From Flat. II. 
334 it has been thought that she was invoked chiefly by un- 
married women. According to Gylf. 35 she is herself unmarried 
and receives the souls of all women who die unmarried. In 
Lokas. 20, however, she is charged by Loki with having granted 
her affections to a fair youth from whom she received a necklace. 
In the following verse Othin rebukes Loki for this taunt, 
saying, "Thou art mad and senseless to provoke Gefion to wrath, 
for I believe that she knows all the future just as well as I do." 
This passage, it will be observed, implies control as well as 
knowledge of the future. Indeed it is doubtful whether the 
ancient Scandinavians drew any clear distinction between the 
two ideas. What is here said of Gefion is the regular description 
of expert sorceresses. 

The story in Ynglinga Saga enables us to locate the cult of 

Gefion with almost as much precision as that of Frey. The 

island of Sjaelland has been created by her. Her dwelling-place 

is Leire (in Sjaelland), the chief residence of the ancient Danish 

kings. Her husband is Skioldr, the eponymous ancestor of the 

Skioldungar, the Danish royal family. The only piece of 

j evidence which conflicts at all with this identification is that in 

Fornmanna Sogur, V. p. 239 (Flat. III. 246), Skioldr is called 

• Skdnunga gd$, ' the god of the people of Skaane.' But the 

i discrepancy is of slight importance, for Skaane always belonged 

1 to Denmark in early times. Indeed such a strait as the Sound 

j would serve rather to join than to separate seafaring popula- 

! tions like those of Skaane and Sjaelland. But it is at least a 

; question whether the name Skdney was not originally used in a 

j wider sense, for in Beowulf (1. 1687) Scede?iig (the same form) 

■ appears to mean the whole Danish kingdom. Again, in 1. 19 

17 — 2 


Scedeland, a plural form, is used in the same sense, while Ptolemy 
gives the name Skandia to the islands of the Belt as well as to 
Sweden (cf. p. 194). Of Skioldr himself we hear nothing more 
in Old Norse literature, except that he ruled over Denmark (then 
called Gotland) and was succeeded by his son FriSleifr (Skaldsk. 
43, Skiold. S. 1 f.). Saxo (p. 1 1 f.) places him among the earliest 
Danish kings and makes him the son of Lotherus and grandson 
of Dan. The exploits which he records of him are that he 
captured a huge bear and slew many champions in single combat; 
that he won, also by single combat, the hand of Aluilda, daughter 
of the king of the Saxons, and that he reformed the laws and 
abolished manumissions. In his capacity as legislator, which 
may perhaps indicate quasi-priestly character, he resembles 
Frotho III. There is nothing in Saxo's account which could 
lead us to suppose that he connected Skioldr specially with 

On the other hand, there is an unmistakable resemblance 
between the characters of Gefion and Freyia 1 . The incident of 
the necklace recalls the story of Freyia and the dwarfs in Sorla 
Thattr. Both Gefion and Freyia seem to be concerned with 
sorcery and both receive the souls of the departed. Again, I have 
suggested above that the origin of the god Frey is to be found 
in sacred kings (priest kings) who were originally, like Ottarr in 
HyndlulioS, regarded as husbands of Freyia. In the case of 
Gefion we have a relationship of this kind explicitly stated. It 
is true that Skioldr is once called a god, while in LangfeSgatal, 
Skioldunga Saga, Skaldskapar-mal (cap. 43) and Ynglinga Saga 
he is said to have been a son of Othin. But we never meet with 
his name in lists of the deities. Consequently, though it is likely 
enough that he may have received worship locally or from his 
descendants, he can hardly have been a recognised member of 
the Northern pantheon. The conclusion therefore to which we 
are brought is that Gefion is the Danish counterpart of Freyia, 
but that the conception of the deity has in this case retained a 
more primitive form. 

1 I doubt whether much importance ought to be attached to the similarity between 
the names Gefion and Gefn (a name of Freyia). It is worth noticing, however, that in 
Skaldsk. 6 Niorftr is called gefianda gu% — whatever that may mean. 


There is one feature, however, in the story of Gefion which 
deserves to be examined somewhat more closely. We have seen 
that Frey is a god of fertility, both animal and human, and also 
that he governs the produce of the earth. In the case of Freyia 
these features have not been preserved 1 . But Gefion comes 
before our eyes driving a four-ox plough — an incident which at 
once suggests that her cult was connected with agriculture. 
Indeed we can hardly fail to suspect that this story originated 
in a ritual myth — presumably from some such ceremonies as 
those which we find practised in England on Plough Monday. 
It may seem a far cry from the goddess Gefion to 'Old Bessy' of 
the English ceremonies, but I think that links are not wanting 
which will connect the two rather closely. We have seen that 
there is evidence for the Plough Monday ceremonies having 
been practised on the eve of Epiphany. This may very well be 
the older date, for ecclesiastical influence would tend to shift 
such festivities from the vigil of a great feast 2 . Again, we have 
seen that in the corresponding ceremonies practised on the 
Continent the plough was sometimes burnt. The ' ledingh of 
the ploughe aboute the fire ' seems to point to the former 
prevalence of the same custom in England. Now in certain 
parts of Gloucestershire it used to be the custom on the eve of 
Epiphany to light a number of straw fires in order to ' burn the 
old witch 3 .' A trace of a similar custom seems to be preserved 
in central Germany, where on the Sunday after Epiphany 
people used to gather in the market-places and run about 
shouting ' Frau Holle wird verbrannt 4 .' This Frau Holle is 
elsewhere (in Lower Saxony) described as an old woman with 
grey hair and long teeth, who brings a waggon full of New 
Year's gifts for children. In other districts her name is preserved 
in a more antique form, Holda. Sometimes she appears in 
quite a different guise. In Hessen and Thiiringen she is 

1 The sacrifice to Freyia recorded in Hervarar S. 14 (cf. p. 249) is said to be for 
the blessings of abundance (til drbdtar). 

- Cf. Bilfinger, Das germanische fulfest, p. 11 1. 

3 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Das festliche Jahr-, p. 27. Fosbroke, Encyclopaedia of 
Antiquities (1825), p. 572, speaks of the custom as prevailing 'in some counties.' 

4 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Das festliche Jahr' 1 , p. 24; at Eisfeld in Thiiringen the 
burning is said to have really taken place every year. 


represented as a beautiful woman with long, golden hair. 
Accompanied by a crowd of children, which are believed to be 
the souls of those who have died unbaptized, she draws a golden 
plough over the fields in order to promote their fertility. The 
time at which this takes place is between Christmas and 
Epiphany, but especially on the eve of the latter. A number 
of stories are told of her appealing to men to mend her plough 
or ferry her with her troop of children over a river. As a reward 
for these services she gives them some splinters off her plough, 
which afterwards turn to gold 1 . In some districts also she 
blesses marriage and gives fertility to the human race 2 . From 
her springs come new-born children 3 . In southern Germany, 
Austria and Switzerland her place is taken by a being named 
Perchta, whose name is said to be derived from the popular 
name of Epiphany (Perchtentag). Her characteristics are in 
general the same as those of Holda. Like her she is accom- 
panied by the souls of dead children and grants fertility to the 
fields and herds 4 . It was formerly the custom to set a table for 
Perchta and her troop on the nights between Christmas and 
Epiphany 5 . Lastly, both Holda and Perchta appear sometimes 
as leaders of the ' wild host,' a fact which again connects them 
with the souls of the departed 6 . 

It can hardly be doubted that the stories of Holda (Holle) 
and Perchta have an intimate connection with the ceremonies of 
Plough Monday 7 . The character of the being herself, the plough, 
and the date at which she makes her appearance are sufficient 
evidence for this. It is true that in Germany the plough- 
ceremonies take place at a somewhat later period of the year. 

1 Reinsberg-Dliringsfeld, p. 23. 

2 Mogk in Paul's Grundriss d. ger?n. Philologie' 2 , III. p. 279. 

3 Mannhardt, Germanische Mythen, p. 267. 

4 Mogk, op. cit., p. 280 f. 

5 Jahn, Deutsche Opfergebrduche, p. 282. Burchard of Worms mentions a similar 
custom in connection with tres sorores quas...antiqua stultitia Parcas jiomhiaitit, who 
recall the Nornir of Scandinavian mythology (cf. Mogk, op. cit., p. 284). There is no 
necessity for supposing that this practice was of Roman origin. Similar customs are 
known in many different parts of the world as offerings to the souls of the dead. For 
a triple personation of Perchta cf. Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, op. cit., p. 21. 

6 Mannhardt, Germ. Myth., pp. 262 f., 296. 

7 Cf. Bilfinger, Das germ. Jidf est, p. 111. 


But in the light of these stories we need scarcely hesitate to 
believe that they were once practised at Epiphany. Further, it 
is at least very probable that 'Old Bessy,' as well as 'the old 
witch,' is a reminiscence of Holda 1 . On the other hand this 
same being, whether we regard her as witch or goddess, has 
unmistakable affinities with the goddesses Gefion and Freyia. 
Besides her association with the plough, which she shares with 
the former, she resembles both these deities in the fact that she 
receives the souls of the departed. Again, she resembles Freyia 
(and Frey) in her association with love and marriage 2 . Lastly, 
it deserves to be noticed that the name Holda (Holle) is identical 
with that of the sorceress Huldr 3 , whom we have seen reason 
above for connecting with Freyia. 

If our hypothesis is correct both Freyia and Gefion were 
originally only local forms of a chthonic deity — similar to 
Zemynele — whose cult was known to all Teutonic peoples, indeed 
probably to all agricultural communities. She granted fertility 
to the crops, promoted love and gave increase to animal and 
human life, foretold the future and took to herself the souls of 
the departed. How she came to be associated with the Christian 
festival of Epiphany is not altogether clear. There is no solid 
ground for doubting, in spite of all that has been written on the 
subject, that many, if not all, Teutonic peoples had a festival 
about or shortly after midwinter, and it is only reasonable to 
suppose that on the adoption of the Roman calendar popular 
festivals were attracted into those of the new religion. We 

1 The skin-clad 'fool ' (cp. p. 238) may likewise be traced back to a custom known 
in early times, for which see Tille, Yule and Christmas, pp. 96 ff. But the hypothesis 
that this custom was derived from Rome seems to me entirely unproved. Saxo 
(p. 185) speaks of effeminatos corporum motus scenicosque mimorum plausus ac mollia 
nolarum crepitacula in connection with the sacrifices at Upsala, and similar practices 
are known in many other countries, in Asia as well as Europe. The prevalence of 
the particular variety known as ceruulum facere, etc. may quite possibly be connected 
with the worship of Cernunnus. 

2 Cf. especially the stories of Venus and the Horselberg, etc. (Grimm, Teut. 
Mythology*, Engl. Transl., p. 935 etc.). 

3 Cf. Mogk, op. cit., p. 278. The name may originally have been generic rather 
than personal. We may compare the huldufolk and huldrer (the people who live 
below ground) of Icelandic and Norwegian folk-lore (cf. Herrmann, Nordische 
Mythologie, p. io6ff.). 


should naturally expect then that the cult of the chthonic deity 
of whom we are speaking was connected with this midwinter 
festival. On the other hand we have seen (p. 242 f.) that the 
worship of Frey is specially associated with the autumnal 
festival, which is itself always described as a sacrifice for plenty. 
This difficulty may perhaps be explained by the hypothesis, 
which, as we have seen, has much in its favour, that the autumnal 
festival was really a New Year celebration. Consequently, when 
the beginning of the year was shifted from ' the winter nights ' 
to midwinter, the festival associated therewith might likewise be 

But it must not be overlooked that the festival of Frey in 
the story of Gunnarr Helmingr, though it began apparently in 
the autumn, lasted through the winter. The festival of Nerthus 
also, to judge from Tacitus' account, would seem to have lasted 
some considerable time. This suggests that the midwinter- 
festival may really have been a continuation or, more probably, 
the conclusion 1 of the celebrations begun in the autumn. Indeed 
there are certain indications which point in that direction. In 
the first place the object of the midwinter sacrifice seems to be 
identical with that of the sacrifice held at 'the winter nights;' at 
all events there is no obvious distinction between the meanings 
of til gro^rar and til drs (cf. p. 242). Again, we have evidence 
for processions with ploughs and boats during Advent (p. 239) — 
a fact which appears to give some significance to the name 
' sacrificial month ' applied to November (cf. p. 243). Account 
must also be taken of the rather curious fact that the last sheaf 
plays a part in usages and beliefs connected with midwinter. 
Sometimes the grain taken from it is made into a special cake 
which is eaten (by men or animals) at Christmas 2 ; sometimes 

1 It is true that Gunnarr Helmingr's festivities are represented as continuing until 
the spring. But this may be due to a local peculiarity, for at Upsala the chief 
festival — both the yearly and nine-yearly festivals — took place in Februaiy or March ; 
cf. St. Olaf's Saga (Heimskr.), cap. 76, Adam of Bremen, iv. 27 and schol. 137. At 
Leire on the other hand the chief festival— at all events the nine-yearly festival— took 
place at midwinter: mense Ianuario post hoc tempus quo nos Theophaniam Domini 
celebramus (Thietmar, 1. 9). 

2 Cf. Frazer, The Golden Bough*, II. p. 286 ff., where several other interesting 
facts which bear on this question are noted. 


the last sheaf itself is left standing in the field, the idea being 
that Othin should have it for his horse when he comes at Yule 1 . 

The fact that the last months of the year and even the early 
days of January should be chosen for ceremonies directed 
towards the fertilisation of the fields is one which certainly 
requires some explanation. Is it possible that the underlying 
idea is that of a parallelism between the life of the human race 
and that of the corn ? Such a notion is distinctly suggested by 
the story of Gunnarr Helmingr, especially if taken in connection 
with Adam of Bremen's account of Fricco (cf. p. 245). We 
may note also Bede's statement that Christmas Eve was known 
to the heathen English as modra niclit, i.e. matrum noctem". In 
the next chapter we shall meet with further evidence which 
points in the same direction. Reference may likewise be made 
to the use of corn at weddings 3 , to the Danish custom of placing 
a new-born child in a sower's basket 4 and to several practices 
described by Mannhardt 5 , which seem to imply the identification 
of the farmer's wife with the corn-spirit. These observations 
however open up a large question which cannot be adequately 
treated here. 

We have noted above that the cult of the chthonic deity 
whose attributes we have been considering is extremely wide- 
spread. It must not be argued, however, from this that any 
attempt to localise the sanctuary of Nerthus is necessarily futile. 
After all there is one very special feature about the cult as 
described by Tacitus. It was shared in commune by seven tribes, 
and was regarded as the distinctive characteristic which marked 
these tribes off from their neighbours. By itself the expression 
in commune might perhaps mean no more than that Nerthus was 
worshipped by each of the seven tribes individually. But the 
mention of the island and the consecrated car which it contained 

1 Cf. Herrmann, Nordische Mythologie, p. 504. 

2 ob causam, ut suspicamur, ceremoniarum </uas in ea peruigiles agebant (De 
Temporum Ratione, cap. 15). The festival which Bede identifies with Christmas 
was in all probability the midwinter festival (Geohol, Geol), which fell between the two 
months called Giuli. Since the Anglo-Saxon year was a lunar one the true date 

I would presumably vary. 

3 Cf. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch., p. 358 ff. 

4 ib. p. 366. 6 ib. p. 336 f. 


shows clearly that this interpretation cannot be correct. Another 
explanation which has been proposed is that Nerthus in the 
course of her peregrinations visited the whole of the seven 
tribes. This explanation is based mainly on the phrase inuelii 
populis ; but I do not see that these words need amount to 
anything more than a rhetorical way of saying that the goddess 
visits mankind. Moreover if we take the view that the car did 
pass through the territories of tribes settled on the mainland, we 
shall have to suppose, since there is no reference to the use of a 
boat, that the island was really a peninsula or at least separated 
from the mainland only by a shallow channel. This interpreta- 
tion has actually been proposed 1 , but I cannot admit that it is 
the natural meaning of insula Occani. Again, wherever the 
territories of the Angli and Warni may have been situated, it 
can hardly be denied that the seven tribes together must have 
covered a considerable expanse of country, unless indeed they 
were tribes of quite a different order from the rest mentioned by 
Tacitus. Yet the notion that such an extensive journey was 
undertaken by a lumbering team of cows strikes one as almost 
absurd, especially since Tacitus' words donee idem sacerdos 
satiatam conuersatione mortalium deam templo reddat clearly 
imply a return journey. By far the more natural interpretation 
is to suppose that Tacitus was continuing in his mind the train 
of thought which he had been following in the previous chapter. 
There, describing the festival of the Semnones, he says that all 
the tribes of the same blood attended the festival by means of 
delegates {legationibus coeunt). In later times we have a close 
parallel in the great festival which was held every nine years at 
Upsala, and which is described by Adam of Bremen (iv. 27) as 
a common festival of all the provinces of Sweden {communis 
omnium Sueoniae prouintiarum sollempuitas). "No one," he says, 
"is exempt from participation in this festival; kings and nations, 
one and all, send their offerings to Upsala." In the light of 

1 Mannhardt, Baumkultus, p. 567 ff. In spite of the valuable illustrations which 
he supplied, Mannhardt's treatment of the whole subject seems to me unsatisfactory. 
It is scarcely an explanation of Tacitus' account, but rather an attempt to explain it 
away. The same remark applies to the article on the goddess of the Aestii in the 
Zeitschr.f. deutsch. Alt., XXIV. 159 fT. 


these passages it would seem that the peregrinations of Nerthus 
may very well have been confined to the island in which her 
sanctuary was situated, and that the island itself was regarded 
as the centre of a religious confederacy. The analogy of the 
festival of the Semnones will then further lead us to suspect that 
this confederacy was based on blood-relationship. 

If this interpretation is correct it is clear that Gefion's island, 
Sjselland, will fulfil the requisite conditions admirably. It is 
sufficiently large for the peregrinations of Nerthus to have been 
fairly extensive. Further, besides being famous for its fertility 
(cf. Adam of Bremen, iv. 5, Saxo, p. 5), it was for long ages the 
most important seat of political power in the western Baltic, and 
this power was wielded by kings who claimed descent from 
Gefion's husband. If we are right in deriving the god Frey 
from a Swedish counterpart of the cult of Nerthus, we have a 
fairly close analogy for the growth of political out of priestly 
hegemony, though there is really no ground for denying that 
political power may have appertained to the priestly office from 
the beginning. Lastly it is to be observed that according to 
Thietmar's Chronicle (I. 9) there was held at Leire every ninth 
year a great sacrificial gathering, which seems to have corre- 
sponded to the one at Upsala, though it was apparently on a 
still larger scale 1 . In view of what has been said above it is 
scarcely impossible that this gathering may have been directly 
descended from the festival of Nerthus. 

One lacuna in our argument, however, still remains to be 
filled up. The Danes are not mentioned suo nomine in the list 
of tribes enumerated by Tacitus, and it has indeed been supposed, 
though on totally inadequate grounds 2 , that they did not settle 
in the islands of the Belt until the third or fourth century or even 
later. We must therefore endeavour to see whether among these 
tribes themselves any reminiscences are to be found of a connec- 

1 est units in his partibus locus, caput istius regni, Lederun nomine, in pago qui 

Se/on dicitur, ubi post viiii annos, tnense Ianuario omnes conuenerunt et ibi diis 

suismet Ixxxx et viiii homines et totidem equos cum canibus et gallis pro accipitnbus 
oblatis immolant, etc. 

2 Cf. p. 139, note; to this subject we shall have to return again in the course of 
the next chapter (p. 290 ff.). 


tion with Sjaelland or its cult. But since with the exception of 
the Angli the only tribes which we have been able to identify 
disappeared from history at an early date, it is among the Angli 
alone that we can hope to meet with such reminiscences. In the 
following chapter we shall see that the required evidence is 
actually supplied by English tradition. Incidentally also we 
shall obtain further support for our view that the cult of 
Sjaelland was essentially connected with agriculture. 



We have already (p. 60 f.) seen that the West Saxon kings 
claimed to be of the same stock as the royal house 

The West 

Saxon ge- of Bernicia. With the exception, however, of Wig 


and Freawine, whose history has been discussed 
above, no names occur in either genealogy which we can 
associate with extant traditions, whether English or Scandi- 
navian 1 . The same remark applies to the genealogies of the 
royal houses of East Anglia, Lindsey and Deira. Most of these 
lists contain suspicious elements, e.g. Gewis, Beornic, Biscop, 
Caser, but there is little reason for doubting that in general they 
are of great antiquity. Many of the names, and even of the 
single elements of which the names are compounded, are such 
as seem not to have been used in England within historical 
times, though we meet with them in the history or traditions of 
other Teutonic nations. 

All the above families, together with those of Kent 2 and 
Mercia, traced their descent from the god Woden. Of the latter 

1 In place of Baeldaeg the name Balder seems to have been substituted by 
Aethelweard (ad ann. 855) if, in the absence of mss., we may trust the editions of his 
work. If this is an identification it is probably due to accidental similarity in the 
names. The explanation put forward by Schroder (Zcitschr. f. d. Alt., XXXV. 242 f.) 
can hardly be maintained, for the vowel in Bael- (Bel-) is clearly long. Brond may 
quite possibly be the eponymous ancestor of the Brondingas mentioned in Wids. 45, 
Beow. 521. 

2 The name Witta occurs again in Wids. 22, where it is stated that "Witta 
ruled the Swaefe." There is nothing to prove the identity of the two persons, but 
the name is rare. 


we do not hear much in Anglo-Saxon literature ; but the little 
information which we do get accords fairly fell with the charac- 
teristics of the same god (Othin) as they appear in Scandinavian 
poems and sagas. Aethelweard {ad ann. 449) says that the 
heathen used to sacrifice to him for the sake of victory and 
valour. Elsewhere 1 he is associated with the practice of magic, 
which is also a prominent feature of the Scandinavian Othin. 
It is impossible, however, here to enter on a discussion of the 
cult and myths connected with the god. 

The genealogies do not end with Woden but go back to a 
point five generations earlier, the full list of names in the earlier 
genealogies 2 being Frealaf — Frithuwulf — Finn — Godwulf — Geat. 
Of the first four of these persons nothing is known. Asser says 
that Geat was worshipped as a god by the heathen, but this 
statement is possibly due to a passage in Sedulius' Carmen 
Paschale which he has misunderstood and incorporated in his 
text 3 . It has been thought by many modern writers that the 
name is identical with Gapt which stands at the head of the 
Gothic genealogy in Jordanes, cap. 14 ; but the identification is 
attended with a good deal of difficulty 4 . In Old Norse literature 
the corresponding name Gautr is borne by a number of persons, 
including the eponymous king of Gotland (Yngl. S. 38). It is 
also one of the names of Othin (Grfmnismal 54 etc.). The latter 
is likewise sometimes (Hakonarmal, etc.) called Gautatyr^god of 
the Gautar'), which has been interpreted to mean that the Gotar 
were the first of the Northern nations to worship this god. If 
the personal name is really derived from that of the nation one 
cannot help wondering how it came to stand at the head of the 
English genealogies. Did any of the English royal families ever 
believe that they were of Gotish origin ? 

The only other occurrence of the name Geat in Anglo-Saxon 

1 Grein-Wiilcker, Bibliothek der angelsiiihsischen Poesie, p. 322. 

2 Cott. MS. Vesp. B 6, fol. to8 ff. and related texts (cf. pp. 42, 43, 60 f.) ; so also 
in the Historia Brittonum except that Folcwald has been substituted for Godwulf 
(cf. p. 42). The Chronicle has in ann. 547 Freo\olaf for Frealaf, while in ann. 855 
it inserts an additional name Frfyuwald before Frealaf. Asser, who follows the 
Chronicle in the latter passage, has made Finn and Godwulf into one name. 

3 Cf. Stevenson, Asser's Life of King Alfred, p. 162 f. 

4 In Jordanes' orthography the form corresponding to Geat would be Got (i.e. Got). 


literature is in Deor. 1. 14 fif., the most probable translation of 
which is as follows : " Many of us have heard that Geat's desire 
for Maethhild 1 was beyond measure, so that his anxious love 
robbed him entirely of sleep." Both these persons are equally 
unknown, but since the passage has a strong resemblance to 
what is said of Frey in Skirnismdl it is at least possible that the 
divine ancestor of the kings is meant. 

The earlier genealogical texts come to an end with Geat. 
The names which follow occur only in the Chronicle and in the 
works of later writers, Asser, Aethelweard and others, who are 
at least in part dependent on it. These all make Geat the son 
of a certain Taetwa, of whom nothing is known. Beyond this 
point Aethelweard has only three generations, whereas the 
Chronicle and later works have eight. It will be convenient 
here to give the more important forms of the genealogy in full. 




Taetwa Beawing 



Beaw Sceldwaing 



Sceldwea Heremoding 



Heremod Itermoning 


Itermon H(r)at>raing 


HaJ?ra Hwalaing 


Hwala Bedwiging 


Bedwig Sceafing 2 


Malmesbury's list appears to be due to a combination of the other 
two, though in one point, which we shall have to notice shortly, 
he is probably to some extent independent of both authorities. 
With regard to the relationship of Aethelweard's list to that of 
the Chronicle it is clear that Scyld corresponds to Sceldwea. We 
might suspect then that Aethelweard has omitted five names, 
but against this supposition stands the fact that we find Scyld 
Scefing in Beowulf (1. 4) and, as we shall see later, there can be 
no doubt that this Scyld is identical with the other. It would 

1 This name does not occur elsewhere, and some writers have doubted its 
genuineness. It is quite parallel, however, to Maeftheltn, which occurs in the 
Durham Liber Vitae. Possibly the word Maeft- may have some connection with 
-maeld in Raegnmacld (ib.). 

2 The last three lines are omitted in the Parker text (A). 


seem then that Aethelweard has acquired the genealogy from 
some unknown source in a more primitive form than that 
contained in the Chronicle. 

Taken as a whole the list in the Chronicle presents one or 
two curious features. In the first place some of the names are 
not in West Saxon form. To Beaw we shall have to return 
shortly ; but with regard to Sceldwea and Bedwig there can 
scarcely be any doubt. Again, some of the patronymics, 
Taetwaing, Sceldwaing etc., are not true Anglo-Saxon forms at 
all ; for elsewhere we invariably find Pending beside Penda, 
Iding beside Ida etc. Of course it would be rash to assume 
from this that the genealogy is not genuine. The obvious 
explanation is that it is derived from a Latin document where 
the formula used was A. gennit B., or possibly A. filius B. 
Generally speaking the names seem to be very archaic ; we may 
note especially the ending -wa in Taetwa, Sceldw{e)a. So far as 
I am aware, not one of these names, except Heremod, occurs in 
historical times. On the whole then we may conclude that the 
list is based on a Latin document which may quite possibly 
have been ancient. We cannot infer with certainty that this 
document was not of West Saxon origin, for we find similar 
forms in other West Saxon genealogies. There is nothing 
incredible in the supposition that West Saxon documents may 
have been preserved by Kentish scribes. 

If we examine the five names which are wanting in Aethel- 
weard's text we can hardly fail to note that one of them, 
Itermon, has a suspicious appearance ; indeed it does not look 
like an Anglo-Saxon name at all. Asser seems to have read 
Itermod, a fact which rather suggests that the name may have 
arisen through a combination of dittography and misreading. 
The other names however are hardly open to objection. Both 
Heremod and Hwala occur elsewhere, the latter only in Widsith, 
1. 14, where it is stated that Hwala 1 was at one time the most 
illustrious of rulers. Quite possibly the same person is meant. 
The name Heremod is found in later times, though it is not 
common. In the old poetry it occurs only in Beowulf, where it 

1 IVala in the MS., but H is required by the abliteration. 


is borne by a former king of the Danes, whose history we have 
already discussed (p. 148 ff.). 

If the Heremod of the genealogy is identical with the 
Heremod of Beowulf — which can hardly be regarded as more 
than a mere conjecture 1 — we may probably infer that the 
interpolated names in the genealogy of the Chronicle are those 
of a line of Danish kings. We must next turn our attention to 
the three names Beaw, Sceldwea or Scyld and Sceaf which occur 
in all our authorities. Now the first Danish kings mentioned in 
Beowulf are Scyld Scefing and his son and successor Beowulf. 
The name Beaw, if it is a true West Saxon form, cannot be 
connected with Beozvulf' 2 . But the forms Beo and Beowius, used 
by Aethelweard and Malmesbury respectively, suggest that -ea- 
stands for -eo- either through scribal corruption or dialectal 
sound-change. Of the Danish Beowulf the poem says little 
except that he was a popular and famous king, while the 
genealogies with one exception record nothing whatever of Beaw 
or Beo. The exception is a roll in the Library of Trinity 
College which traces the descent of King Henry VI from 
Adam 3 . The part of this genealogical table with which we are 
concerned is derived to a large extent either from Malmesbury 
or from a document used by him, as may be seen by the omission 
of the name Frithiiwulf and the appearance of the forms 
Sceldius and Gwala. The son of Sceldius is called Boerinus, 
which seems to be a corruption of Malmesbury's Beowius*. To 
Boerinus however nine sons are assigned, the names of whom 
are Cinrincius, Gothus, Iutus, Wandalus, Gethus, Fresus, 
Suethedus 5 , Dacus and Geate. Then follows a note which 
states that " from these nine sons of Boerinus are descended nine 

1 In the light of what is said about Sceaf-Scyld and Beo (Beowulf) it is a fairly 
probable conjecture (cf. p. 291). 

2 The earliest known form of the name is Biuuulf (Liber Vitae). 

3 There is said to be a sister text in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris ; cf. 
Kemble, Beowiclf, 11. p. vii. 

4 The corruption would seem to indicate the presence of the Anglo-Saxon letter 
w in an earlier text. 

5 The line of descent passes, presumably owing to an oversight, through Suethedus, 
who is made the father of Godulphus (Godwulf). Taetwa is omitted in the roll, unless 

1 Gethus (Par. Ehecius) is a corruption of Tetius. 

C. 18 



nations which inhabited the North and which once upon a time 
invaded and acquired the kingdom of Britain, namely the 
Saxones, Angli, Iuthi, Daci, Norwagenses, Gothi, Wandali, 
Geati and Frisi 1 ." It will be observed that the names of the 
nations do not entirely correspond to those of the sons of 
Boerinus, and we may therefore probably infer that the note is a 
later addition, though the presence of the name Geati is worth 
observing. For the nine sons of Boerinus themselves Scandinavian 
parallels are to be found. We may note especially the nine sons 
of Halfdan the Old mentioned in Skaldsk. 62 and Flat. 1. 25 f., 
who are represented as the founders of famous dynasties. It is 
not unlikely therefore that Boerinus' family is due to Scandi- 
navian influence. 

Of Sceldwea or Scyld the genealogies say nothing. According 

scyid and to a note m tne Trinity roll however " this Sceldius 

was the first inhabitant of Germany 2 ." Beowulf 

supplies somewhat more information about him, but before giving 

these passages it will be convenient to deal with the statements 

contained in the genealogies regarding Sceaf. 

Sceaf is said in the Chronicle to have been born in Noah's 
Ark 3 . Aethelweard and Malmesbury give much fuller accounts 
of his origin. According to the former he " came to land in 
a cutter {droi?io) on an island in the Ocean which is called 
Scani. He was surrounded with weapons and was a very young 
child and unknown to the inhabitants of that land. Yet they 
took him up and watched over him as one of their own kin with 
great attention and subsequently elected him as their king 4 ." 
Malmesbury 's version of the story is as follows : " Sceaf, as they 
say, was brought as a child in a ship without oars to Scandza 

1 ab istis notion filiis Boerini descenderunt nouem gentes septentrionaletn inhabit antes 
qui quondam regnum Britannie inuaserunt et optinnerunt, viz. Saxones, Angli, Iuthi, 
Daci, Norwagenses , Gothi, Wandali, Geati et Frisi. 

2 iste Sceldius primus inhabitator Germanie, etc. 

3 The original reading (preserved in B and C) appears to have been : Bedwig 
Sceafing id est filius N6e. se waes geboren on \aere earce Noes. The reference is 
presumably to Sceaf. 

4 Ipse Scefcum uno dromone aduectus est in insula Oceani quae dicitur Scani artnis 
circumdatus, eratque ualde recens puer et ab incolis illius terrae ignotus ; attamen ab 
eis suscipitur, et ut fa miliar em diligenli animo eum custodierunt et post in regem eligtmt. 
de cuius prosapia ordinem trahit Athulf rex. 


a certain island in Germany which is described by Jordanes, the 
historian of the Goths. He was asleep, and a sheaf of corn lay 
beside his head. He was on this account called Sceaf (i.e. 'Sheaf), 
and received as a prodigy by the people of that country and 
carefully fostered. When he reached manhood he reigned in the 
town which was then called Slaswic but now Haithebi. Now 
that district is called Old Anglia and is situated between the 
Saxons and the Gothi. From it the Angli came to Britain 1 ." 
It will be seen that in spite of the substantial identity of the two 
stories there is sufficient difference between them to render 
it improbable that one has been derived from the other. 
Malmesbury's use of the Latin name Scandza in place of the 
Scandinavian form Scant (Old Norse Skdney) employed by 
Aethelweard may of course be due to deliberate alteration. 
But the fact that the boat is said to have contained weapons in 
one account but a sheaf of corn in the other can hardly be 
explained on this hypothesis, however much one may be inclined 
to distrust Malmesbury's authority. Again, though the last 
sentence in Malmesbury's account may be derived from another 
passage in Aethelvveard's chronicle (ad ann. 449), this writer 
says nothing about Sceaf reigning in Slesvig. Indeed he 
distinctly implies that Scani was the seat of his government. 
As to the sources of the two accounts nothing is known. 
It seems not improbable that the statement in the Chronicle 
about Noah's Ark may have come from some one who was 
familiar with the tradition. 

It is a curious fact that in Beowulf the same story is told, or 
rather implied, in the case of Scyld Scefing. According to 
1. 6 ff. he was at first " found in distress " ; eventually however he 
acquired great power and influence, deprived many dynasties of 
their thrones and compelled all his neighbours to submit to him 
and pay him tribute. The story of his funeral is related at some 

1 Iste (Sceaf) ut ferunt in quandam insulam Germaniae Scandzam, de qua 
Iordanes historiographus Gothoriwi loquitur, appulsus naui sine remige puerulus, 
posito ad caput frumenti manipulo dormicns, ideoque Sceaf uuncupatus, ab hominibus 
regionis illius pro viiraculo exceptus et sedulo nutritus : adulta aetate regnauit in oppido 
quod tunc Slaswic nunc uero Haithebi appellatur. est autem regio ilia Anglia Vet us 
dicta, untie Angli uenerunt in Britanniam, inter Saxones et Gothos constitula. 



length. In accordance with the directions he had given his body 
was brought to the sea-shore and placed on a ship. Treasure 
was heaped upon him, weapons, swords and coats of mail were 
piled around, and a golden standard set up over his head. "They 
adorned him with offerings, with magnificent treasures, none the 
less than those did who at the beginning sent him forth alone 
over the sea when he was a babe." The ship was then sent out 
to sea and no one knew what became of it. 

Here again we have reference to the story of a foundling who 
drifted in a boat to a land where he was apparently unknown, 
and afterwards became king. In this case however the foundling 
is called not Sceaf but Scyld Scefing. Now according to the 
most common use of such forms in -ing this expression would 
mean ' Scyld, son of Sceaf,' and we have seen that Sceaf's son is 
called Scyld by Aethelweard. It might be thought therefore 
that the incident which is told by Aethelweard of Sceaf has 
been transferred by Beowulf to his son. We have to remember 
however that, although Malmesbury agrees with Aethelweard in 
this respect, Beowulf is probably even in its present form a work 
of much greater antiquity than either of the other authorities. 
Moreover the statement in the Trinity roll that Sceldius (Scyld) 
was the first inhabitant of Germany, though we cannot trace its 
origin, seems to point to a form of the story agreeing with 
Beowulf. Above all the language of the poem implies that the 
child's parentage was unknown. But if so we can scarcely 
regard the term Scefing as a patronymic in the strict sense ; we 
shall have to take it rather as meaning 'child of the sheaf,' 
or perhaps 'sheaf-child,' an expression for the origin of which 
Malmesbury 's frumenti manipulus will provide a satisfactory 

Most recent writers agree that Scyld was originally the 
subject of the story. Objection however has been taken to the 
explanation given above on the ground that the incident of the 
sheaf appears only in the latest version of the legend. According 
to Dr Axel Olrik (Danmarks Heltedigtning, p. 233 ff.) three 
stages may be distinguished in the development of the story. 
In the first, represented by Beowulf, a helpless child, named 
Scyld Scefing, comes in a boat with arms and treasures to the 


land of the Danes, which had long been without a ruler. His 
figure is entirely heroic, foreshadowing the military renown 
of his descendants. In the second stage, represented by Aethel- 
weard, the story has been transferred to Sceaf. Otherwise 
however there has been little change. In the last stage, repre- 
sented by Malmesbury, the weapons have been replaced by 
a sheaf, the child's arrival is regarded as a miracle and the seat 
of his government has been transferred to Slesvig. Thus the 
sheaf-motive does not appear before the twelfth century, i.e. at a 
time when the old heroic traditions were moribund in England. 
Its introduction is due to popular etymology and to a desire 
to bring the circumstances of the child's arrival more into 
conformity with the peaceful name which he now bears. 
Originally however the name Scefing denoted ' son ' or ' de- 
scendant of Sceaf,' for the child's origin, though unknown to the 
people of the land, was well known to the poet. Sceaf is to be 
identified with the Langobardic king Sceafa, mentioned in 
Wids. 32. His connection with Scyld, though it already occurs 
in Beowulf, is due simply to the Anglo-Saxon passion for 
framing long genealogies. Originally Scyld had nothing to do 
with Sceaf. 

Except in regard to the Langobardic Sceafa this reasoning 
seems at first sight convincing. But I am inclined to think that 
it contains one assumption which ought not to pass without 
question. It is doubtless true that the old heroic traditions were 
dead or dying in England by the twelfth century. But are we 
justified in believing that the story of Scyld-Sceaf in the form 
given by Malmesbury is derived from this class of tradition ? It 
has been mentioned above (p. 230) that stories of Ing appear to 
have been current among the uneducated as late as the fourteenth 
century. Yet this person is never mentioned in Beowulf; indeed 
his name only occurs once in extant Anglo-Saxon literature. 
There is little reason therefore for thinking that he figured at all 
prominently in heroic tradition. The presumption is rather that 
he had been forgotten by court poets in quite early times and 
that his memory was preserved only in humbler circles. For an 
analogy we may turn to the religious beliefs of ancient times. 
There can be no doubt that the religion professed by the kings 


and nobles of Augustine's time, and which they abandoned on 
their conversion to Christianity, was in the main a worship 
of certain gods. Yet we find traces of a more primitive religion, 
namely the worship of fetishes, belief in witchcraft etc., in far 
later times, when probably even the names of the gods had been 

It seems to me somewhat hasty therefore to assume that the 
version of the Scyld-Sceaf story given by Malmesbury is 
necessarily descended from the version found in Beowulf and in 
Aethelweard's Chronicle. Beowulf is clearly a relic of the old 
court poetry, while Aethelweard was a member of the royal 
family and almost the chief man in the land. But a monk who 
was looking for old traditions in the twelfth century would have 
to turn to a different quarter. The popular version of the story 
would naturally bear a different colour from that which was 
current in higher circles. But it need not have been a corrupt 
form of the latter. The two (the 'heltesagn' and the 'folkesagn') 
may have existed side by side for ages, though doubtless not 
without influencing one another to a certain extent. 

Now there is some reason for believing that Malmesbury 's 
version of the story really was founded on ancient popular 
tradition. Evidence to this effect is supplied by a curious 
incident which is related in the Chronicle of Abingdon (Rolls 
Series, I. p. 89). In the reign of King Edmund a dispute arose 
between the monks of Abingdon and the officials of Oxford- 
shire as to the proprietorship of certain meadows on the north 
bank of the Thames. This dispute is said to have been settled 
in the following singular manner. The monks floated a round 
shield in the middle of the river. On it they had placed a sheaf 
of corn and above this a lighted taper. The shield floated down 
the river as far as the disputed ground, then turned up a channel 
which surrounded the meadows, and having completed the 
circuit of these returned to the river. The incident was regarded 
as a miraculous confirmation of the monks' claim. 

It has often been pointed out that this story seems to contain 
a reminiscence of the legend of Scyld-Sceaf, with a literal 
interpretation of both names. How far it is founded on fact we 
do not know ; nor have we any means of ascertaining when it 


was first committed to writing 1 , though it is perhaps worth noting 
that the round shield seems to have become antiquated by the 
time of the Norman Conquest. But even if the story is wholly 
fictitious it still requires to be explained how such an idea could 
suggest itself to the mind of the chronicler. I think we can 
hardly avoid suspecting that it must have been founded upon 
some ritual practice current among the peasantry of the district. 
We may perhaps compare the fact that the early settlers of 
Iceland are recorded to have thrown their ' high-seat pillars/ on 
which the figure of Thor was carved, overboard on approaching 
land and to have raised their homesteads wherever these came 
ashore 2 . At all events the two practices seem to be somewhat 
analogous. But have we any reason for believing that the 
sheaf was ever regarded as a religious symbol ? 

Such evidence fortunately is not wanting. In a neighbouring 
district (close to Eton) a harvest ceremony was witnessed on 
Sept. 14, 1598, by some German travellers who gave a description 
of it in the account of their journey. The last load of corn 
was crowned with flowers and an image magnificently arrayed, 
* by which perhaps they meant to represent Ceres,' attached to 
it. A number of men and women sat on the waggon and 
shouted all the time as it was led up and down the village, 
until finally it came to the barn 3 . Similar practices are known 
later in other parts of England. The following account is taken 
from Hutchinson's History of Northumberland, II. 17: "I have 
seen in some places an image apparelled in great finery, 
crowned with flowers, a sheaf of corn placed under her arm and 
a scycle in her hand, carried out of the village in the morning of 
the concluding reaping day with music and much clamour of the 
reapers into the field, where it stands fixed on a pole all day, 
and when the reaping is done, is brought home in like manner. 

1 Both the existing texts of the chronicle date from the thirteenth century. 

2 Cf. Eyrbyggia S. 4, Landnamabok I. 6, II. 12, iv. 9. 

8 Cum hie ad diversorium nostrum reverteremur, forte fortuna inciditnui in 
rusticos spicilegia sua eelebrantes, qui ultimam frugum vehttn floribus coronattt, 
addita imagine splendide vestita, qua Cererem forsitan significare volentes, earn 
/line inde movent et magno cum elamore Viri juxta et mu/ieres, seivi at que aneillae, 
etirvui insidentes per plateas vociferantur, donee ad horreum devenianl ; Mannhardt, 
Myth. Forseh., p. 326 f. 


This they call the Harvest Queen, and it represents the Roman 
Ceres 1 ." A similar story comes from the neighbourhood of 
Cambridge: "At the Hawkie, as it is called, I have seen a clown 
dressed in woman's clothes, having his face painted, his head 
decorated with ears of corn, and bearing about him other symbols 
of Ceres, carried in a waggon, with great pomp and loud shouts, 
through the streets, the horses being covered with white sheets ; 
and when I inquired the meaning of the ceremony, was 
answered by the people that they were drawing the Harvest 
Queen 2 ." 

In the last instance the Harvest Queen is represented by a 
man, while in the other cases we hear of a figure, which seems 
to be the earlier form of the custom. What the figure was made 
of we are not told, but there can be little doubt that originally 
it was a corn figure made from the last sheaf. In Scotland it is 
said to have been customary at one time to make the last sheaf 
into the likeness of a female figure which was called Carline 3 . 
In Bulgaria however a much more primitive form of these 
practices is known 4 . The last sheaf is made into a figure called 
SJiitarska zarka (' Corn-queen ') or Shitarska moma (' Corn- 
mother'), and is clothed in a chemise and carried round the 
village. Afterwards it is either thrown into the river in order to 
call down plentiful rain and dew for next year's crops; or else it 
is burnt in the fire, and the ashes are then strewn over the 

Scepticism is sometimes expressed as to whether we are 
justified in tracing the origin of such practices as these to 
ancient religious rites. In one case however we have evidence 
which places a derivation of this kind practically beyond doubt. 
It has been mentioned above (p. 256) that among the Prussians 
in the seventeenth century the last corn was cut with special 
ceremony and that from the ears a garland was made which the 
reaper wore on his return home. It has also been suggested 

1 Brand, Popular Antiquities of the British Isles, II. 20 ; Mannhardt, op. cit. 

P- 333- 

2 Brand, op. cit. II. 22 ; Mannhardt, /. c. 

3 Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 326. 

4 ib. p. 332. 


that this custom may have some bearing on the representation 
of the god Potrimpo. Beside Potrimpo however we find also 
another god named Kurcho (cf. p. 254 f.), who seems merely to 
have been a local variety of the same deity. Now, the earliest 
reference to the name Kurcho, or rather Curche (apparently a 
feminine form), occurs in a document dating from the year 1249 
and is highly significant : " Once a year, when they had 
gathered the crops, they used to make an idol which they called 
Curche and worshipped as a god 1 ." The figure described in this 
passage clearly belongs to the same type as the ' Ceres ' and the 
' Harvest Queen ' mentioned in the English references which we 
have been considering 2 . In this case however we have a definite 
statement that the figure was an object of worship. So far as I 
can see, this statement admits of only two interpretations. 
Either the figure was a corn-fetish from which Kurcho, the corn- 
god of later times, was descended ; or else it was intended as a 
representation of the corn deity. 

From the similarity of the Prussian and English customs we 
need not hesitate, I think, to conclude that among our own 
ancestors also the sheaf, or a figure made from a sheaf, was once 
an object of worship — though doubtless this worship had already 
become more or less obscured even in the time of the Abingdon 
chronicler. On the other hand the occurrence of the shield 
(scyld) beside the sheaf {sceaf) in our story leaves us little room 
for doubt that the ceremony described above has some con- 
nection with the legend of Scyld-Sceaf. What the nature of 
this connection may be it is difficult to decide. The most 
natural explanation seems to be that the shield and the sheaf 
together had once formed a fetish or the symbol of some deity, 
before they came to be personified. But at all events, if there is 
any connection at all, we clearly cannot admit that the sheaf 
was not introduced into the story of Scyld before the twelfth 
(or eleventh) century. 

1 ydolo quern semel in anno collectis friigibus consueuerunt confingere et pro deo 
colere, cui no men Curche imposueruni ; cf. Usener, Gbtternamen, p. 94. 

2 Praetorius (p. 23 ff.) describes a ceremony connected with the worship of 
Kurcho which seems to have rather a close resemblance to the story quoted above 
(p. 279 f.) from Hutchinson. 


In regard to the name of the child we have already given 
reasons for believing that this was originally Scyld, and that 
Scefing was a surname derived from the sheaf rather than a 
patronymic. The process of development which brought about 
the creation of a Sceaf and the transference of the story to him 
is not very difficult to trace. When the expression Scyld Scefing 
came to stand at the head of a list of patronymics {Beo Scylding 
etc.), it would naturally be regarded, sooner or later, in the same 
light. Hence Scyld appeared on the one hand as son of Sceaf, 
while on the other he was said to be a foundling of unknown 
parentage. The transference of the story from Scyld to Sceaf 
was therefore a natural way out of the difficulty. Against the 
alternative explanation, viz. that the child's name was originally 
Sceaf, there is a serious objection. We have no evidence 
whatever for the use of Sceaf as a personal name in England, 
or, so far as I am aware, in any Teutonic nation. This objection, 
it may be observed, holds equally well against the supposition 
that Scefing was originally a patronymic — except of course that 
it might come from a name Sceafa 1 . But perhaps it may be 
urged that Scyld is also unknown as a personal name in England, 
for place-names such as Scyldes treow, Sceldes ford, may all refer 
to the same legendary hero. That is no doubt true. But we 
do find similar names applied to persons, e.g. Brond and Helm, 
whereas Sceaf belongs to an entirely different category. More 
weighty than this however is the fact that in Old Norse literature 
the corresponding name, Skioldr, is not uncommon. Its popu- 
larity there is due no doubt to the fact that it was the name of 
the first king of the Danes. 

It is to this person that we must now turn our attention. 
There can be no reasonable doubt that the Danish Skioldr is 
identical with the Scyld of our story. It is true that for the two 
most remarkable facts related of Scyld, namely his arrival as 

1 I cannot admit that one is justified in assuming the identity of the names Sceaf 
and Sceafa ; for, though Beo and Beowa do apparently occur side by side (cf. Binz, 
Beitrage, xx. 155 f.), such cases are quite exceptional. If the sheaf was an object 
of worship in early times, as I have suggested, names compounded with sceaf- 
might naturally be expected. Sceafa may then be a form similar to Cit\a (for 


a child and the manner of his funeral, we have no evidence in 
Scandinavian tradition. The vernacular literature, as we have 
already noticed, has little to say of Skioldr, while Saxo's Scioldus 
bears but slight resemblance to Scyld. Yet notwithstanding 
this the original identity of the two is quite clear. Scyld is the 
eponymous ancestor of the Scyldungas (Scyldingas), Skioldr of 
the Skioldungar. That the Scyldungas and the Skioldungar, at 
all events Healfdene (Halfdan, Haldanus) and his family, are 
identical, needs no demonstration. Scyld rules in the Scedeland, 
{Scedenig\ which we have interpreted (p. 259 f.) as meaning the 
lands on both sides of the Sound; Skioldr is connected both with 
Sjajlland and Skaane. Now therefore we obtain an explanation 
of the fact that Scyld is associated with the sheaf, the symbol of 
agriculture ; for in Scandinavian tradition Skioldr is said to have 
been the husband of Gefion, whom we have given reasons for 
regarding as originally a deity of agriculture. 

It will be convenient now to review briefly the evidence 
which we have been considering. We have seen (i) that there is 
reason for believing the sheaf to have been a religious symbol 
among the heathen English ; (ii) that the mention of the shield 
beside the sheaf in the Abingdon story points to a connection 
with the story of Scyld ; (iii) that Scyld is identical with 
Skioldr, the husband of Gefion, the goddess of agriculture. 
I think then we are justified in regarding the sheaf as an original 
element in the story, and consequently in bringing it into con- 
nection with the form of religion which appears to have been 
specially prominent in Sjaelland. 

The origin of the legend is difficult, if not impossible, to 
explain. The combined evidence of English and Scandinavian 
tradition seems to show that the belief in the existence of a 
person named Scyld-Skioldr goes back to the sixth, if not to the 
fifth century. On the other hand the fact that the two traditions 
have iittle or nothing in common as to the history of this person 
certainly gives us reason for doubting whether he was anything 
more than a name at this time. It may be granted that in all 
probability his personality was originally derived from the name 
of his descendants. But this observation gives us little help 
towards explaining the characteristic features of the English 


form of the legend. It is worth noting that in the Abingdon 
story the shield and the sheaf are brought together without 
any suggestion of a child. Now, if we are right in supposing 
that this story is based on some ancient religious ceremony, the 
sheaf may very well have been regarded as a manifestation of 
the corn-deity. But there are said to be analogies, e.g. in the 
ritual of the Eleusinian Mysteries, for representing the corn as 
the child of the corn-goddess 1 . I am inclined to suspect there- 
fore that the tradition may have originated in the ritual of some 
festival — presumably one which was celebrated in the autumn. 

As for the name Scyldiingas-Skiolditngar, we need not 
hesitate to believe that this originally meant 'the people' or 
' kinsmen of the shield.' Similar appellations are not uncommon, 
e.g. Rondingas, Helmingas, Brondingas. But it does not neces- 
sarily follow that such names arose from the use of shields, 
helmets or swords in battle. The origin of most tribal and 
dynastic names is of course disputed ; but such a nomenclature 
as this would have too little that was distinctive about it. More 
probably these names meant either ' the people of the shield, the 
helmet ' etc. 2 , or else the people who used shields, helmets etc., in 
some special way 3 . In the former case we may compare the 
Ancile of the Romans and the Palladion of the Greeks 4 ; in either 
case we may note that occasionally shields have been found in 
the North which can never have been used except for ceremonial 
purposes 5 . Is it possible that the Danes ever possessed a shield 

1 Cf. Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, p. 175 f. It is 
perhaps worth mentioning that in part of Russia the last sheaf is said to be called 
Imjaninnik, ' Geburtstagskind ; ' Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 332; cf. also Korndamonen, 
p. 28 f. ; Frazer, The Golden Bough*, II. p. 183. 

2 For a sacred sword cf. Jordanes, cap. 35. Aeneas Silvius {Hist, de Eur. 26) 
states that the Lithuanians worshipped an iron hammer. 

3 Cf. Ammianus Marcellinus, xvn. 12, § 21 : eductisque mucronibus quos pro 
numinibus colunt iurauere se permansuros in fide. The reference is to the Quadi. 
The Franks and Goths had a custom, which among the former can be traced back to 
the first century (Tacitus, Hist. IV. 15), of proclaiming allegiance to a new king or 
leader by hoisting him upon a shield (cf. J. Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthiimer, 
P- 2 34 f-); but it is at least doubtful whether this act had any religious significance. 
There is no evidence for such a custom in the North. 

4 For this observation I have to thank Mr A. B. Cook. 

5 Cf. Montelius, The Civilisation of Sweden in Heathen Times (Engl. Transl.), 
p. 66 f. ; Schrader, Heallexikon der indogerm. Altertumskunde, p. 720. It is perhaps 


which stood in a relationship to Gefion similar to that borne by 
the Palladion to Pallas Athene ? We have no evidence, it is 
true, for the representation of Gefion as a ' shield-maiden ' ; but 
it is to be remembered that the amount of information altogether 
which we possess about this goddess is extremely small. At all 
events her northern counterpart, Freyia, is intimately associated 
with the Valkyries and even rides to battle herself 1 . On the 
whole then this is the explanation which I am inclined to 

We have observed that the English tradition seems to point 
to a ritual ceremony in which the chief part was played by a 
sheaf regarded as the child of the corn-deity. There is nothing 
improbable in supposing that in such a ceremony the sheaf may 
have been carried on a sacred shield. But, granting this, it must 
be admitted that there is at least one feature in the story which 
still requires explanation. According to our hypothesis we 
should expect the child to come from the corn-field. But as 
a matter of fact he is said to have come from the sea. Even in 
the Abingdon story the shield and the sheaf play their part in 
the water. In view of this difficulty therefore we must be 
prepared to take account of any evidence obtainable from 
other traditions, which may possibly contribute towards its 

Of such traditions there are two which deserve to be noticed. 
The first is the story of the god Ullr. What is 
stated in Scandinavian literature about this person 
is unfortunately far from clear; but it is generally agreed that 
he must have been an important deity in early times. He is 
said to have been called Skialdar Ass, ' the god of the shield ' 
(Skaldsk. 14). Again, the poets use the expression 'Ullr's ship' 
(skip Ullar, askr Ullar) as a designation of the shield {ib. 49). 
This expression has never been satisfactorily explained ; but it 

worth noting that it seems to have been customary to hoist a shield, apparently 
a white shield, called fr&skioldr (i.e. ' peace-shield') as a sign of peace ; cf. Saxo, 
p. 158 ; Fri5biofs S. 15 ; Saga Magnus Berfaetts 8. Saxo (p. 72) mentions the use of 
a red shield for this purpose; but according to Helgakv. Hund. 1 34 this would appear 
to have meant war. 

1 Cf. Grimnismal 14, Gylf. 24, Sorla Thattr 2, 5, 7. 


would seem to show that he used his shield as a boat, a trait 
which points to some affinity with the Abingdon story. Many 
modern writers hold that the reference to the shield in these 
phrases is due to a misapprehension, that originally the word 
used was skffi, which is said to mean both 'shield 1 ' and 'ski'; 
and they point to Gylf. 31 where it is stated that Ullr was 
expert in archery and in the use of ski. On the strength of this 
passage indeed it is thought by many that Ullr was originally a 
Finnish god. But the explanation suggested, besides being 
somewhat unnatural, is open to the objection that ski are quite 
as useless for purposes of navigation as a shield. Moreover that 
the implement in question, whatever it may have been, was used 
for locomotion by water is shown by a statement of Saxo's 
(p. 81 f.), according to which Ullr (Ollerus) was so skilled in 
magic that he was able to cross the sea on a bone which he had 
marked with spells 2 . Of course in itself this passage rather 
deepens than explains the mystery ; but Saxo's account in 
general tells decidedly against the supposition that Ullr was of 
Finnish origin. Briefly this account is as follows : Othin had 
disgraced himself so much by his conduct towards Rinda that 
the gods deposed and exiled him and chose Ullr as their chief, 
investing the latter with all the dignity and even the name of 
Othin. But when nearly ten years had passed Othin returned, 
and the gods received him gladly. Ullr fled to Sweden, but was 
killed by the Danes. It would seem then that he was supposed 
to have some connection with Denmark. Again, the occurrence 
of the name Wolthuthewaz on the chape found at Thorsbjserg 
(cf. p. 142 f.), though it may not be quite conclusive, certainly 
favours the idea that Ullr was known in the southern Baltic in 
very early times. For his antiquity the peculiar nature of his 
relationship to the other gods may be regarded as evidence. 

1 I do not know what authority there js for ski c S= i shield.' It is not recognised by 
Cleasby-Vigfusson in this sense. The fact that a closely related word is used with 
this meaning in the Celtic languages (cf. Much, Beitr. xx. 36) can hardly be regarded 
as conclusive evidence. 

2 Fa?na est ilium adeo prestigiarum usu calluisse lit ad traiicienda maria osse, quod 
dirts carminibus obsignauisset, nauigii loco uteretur nee eo segnius quam remigio 
preiecta aquarum obstacula superaret. 


Sif is said to be his mother and Thor his step-father, but his 
father's name is never mentioned. 

The second story which should be taken into consideration 

is that of Ing, given in the Anglo-Saxon Runic poem which we 

have already quoted (p. 230). Dr Olrik {op. cit., p. 258 ff.) has 

pointed out that this account possesses three features which 

show affinity with the story of Scyld. (1) Ing 


sojourned for a while among the Danes. (2) He 
came from a world which was not human — for it was among the 
Danes that he was first seen by men. (3) Eventually he passed 
away over the sea. In the last case the parallelism may not be 
complete, for the words of the poem {pfer waeg gewat) admit and 
perhaps rather favour the supposition that Ing's departure took 
place while he was yet alive — which would link his story rather 
with that of the 'swan-knight' (Lohengrin). But this must be 
regarded as somewhat uncertain. 

Now Dr Olrik has called attention (p. 248 ff.) to the fact 
that Scandinavian literature contains two stories of kings whose 
funeral rites took the same form as those of Scyld, with the 
exception that the ship was set on fire in both cases. It is 
worth noting that both these kings, namely Haki (Yngl. S. 27) 
and SigurSr Hringr (Skiold. S. 27), appear to have been of 
Danish origin and that in both cases the ceremony is carried out 
at the dying man's command. In the latter case however it is 
said to be in accordance with the custom of his ancestors {more 
maiorum suorum). This statement is doubted by Dr Olrik, who 
thinks that both incidents are reflections of the legend of Scyld. 
But I am by no means satisfied as to the validity of his objections, 
viz. that the practice is mentioned only in heroic sagas 1 and that 
it is ascribed in both cases to the king's command. Ship- 
cremation on land is placed beyond doubt by the fact that the 
burnt remains have actually been found — a species of evidence 
which from the nature of the case it is impossible to obtain for 
this practice. The literary evidence however for the former 
variety is with one exception (the story of Ibn Fadhlan) little if 

1 What Dr Olrik says about Balder's funeral (Gylf. 49) does not seem to me quite 
conclusive. Surely the natural meaning of the passage is that the ship was launched 
in the sea. 


at all better than for the latter. Moreover we have in reality no 
evidence that according to Scandinavian tradition Skioldr — or 
whatever name the eponymous ancestor originally bore — did 
receive funeral rites of this kind. I am disposed therefore to 
believe that the launching of the funeral ship really was an 
ancient custom, presumably indeed the older form of the custom, 
from which both ship-cremation (on land) and ship-burial were 

Dr Olrik is doubtless right in bringing the story of Scyld's 
departure over the sea into connection with his first arrival on 
the sea-shore. The one incident seems to be the natural 
counterpart of the other. Further, when he points out that the 
same features are present not only in the story of the swan- 
knight but also probably in that of Ing, we must admit that this 
view has much in its favour ; for if the hero came to the Danes 
from an unknown world it is natural to conclude that he was 
believed to have come from over the sea. Indeed it may have 
been of Ing, as he suggests, that the story was originally told ; 
for the tradition of Ing seems to be the older of the two. At all 
events this person had been entirely forgotten by the Danes at 
a time when Skioldr was regarded as the founder of their 
kingdom. But I am unable to follow Dr Olrik in his further 
suggestion (pp. 253 ff., 261) that the legend was derived from 
the peoples of the Atlantic. If we set aside Procopius' story 
{Goth. IV. 20), which is of a somewhat different character, the 
western legends which he cites are all of late date. In these 
cases moreover the voyage is definitely to a land of the dead 1 ; 
the first part of the Scyld-story seems to be wanting. 

I have tried above to show that the story of the child is 
derived from the ritual of a cult connected with agriculture. It 
seems by no means improbable that this story has been blended 
with another — that of a hero who came from over the sea and 
eventually returned the same way, whether in life or death. 
Now the name Ingwine in Beowulf seems to be used as a 

1 Except of course where the point of the story is that the dead is allowed to 
choose his own resting-place (id. p. ■254). For such cases we have a good Northern 
parallel in Egils S. Skall. 27 f., where Kveldulfr's coffin takes the place of the 'high- 
seat pillars' (cf. p. 279). 


synonym for Scyldingas. Thus we find eodor Ingwina (1. 1045) 
beside eodor {eodur) Scyldinga (11. 428, 664) and frean Ingwina 
(1. 1320) beside frean Scyldinga (11. 291, 351, 500 etc.), the 
reference in all cases being to the same person, Hrothgar, king 
of the Danes. This fact, taken together with what is said of Ing 
in the Runic poem, certainly makes a strong case for believing 
that as the eponymous ancestor of the Danish kings Scyld 
(Skioldr) is the successor of Ing, and consequently that he may 
have taken over characteristics which originally belonged to his 
predecessor. It is true of course that in Scandinavian tradition 
traces of the name Ing, or rather its derivatives, are confined 
exclusively to Sweden ; in connection with Denmark the name 
is practically unknown. But here Scandinavian tradition must 
be at fault, for it is incredible that the Inguaeones of Roman 
times were confined to Sweden. The case is parallel therefore 
to the disappearance of the name Nerthus in connection with 
Denmark 1 , though the deity herself survived under a different 
name {Gefion). This being so, we may reasonably expect to 
find traces of Ing not only in the English tradition of Scyld but 
also in the Scandinavian traditions of Skioldr. The most 
prominent fact in the latter however, indeed almost the only 
distinctive feature in Skioldr's history, is that he was the hus- 
band of Gefion. We may now give the genealogy of the myth. 

Ing Nerthus 


I I 1 

Scyld, i.e. Skioldr = Gefion Freyia (Ingun ?) or Skialf (cf. p. 2^0). 

Frey or Ingvi. 

It has been conjectured before now that Ing was originally 
the husband of Nerthus, but, so far as I am aware, this conjecture 
has been based on the supposition that Ing (Ingwaz), as also 
Frey, was a form of 'the ancient sky-god Tiwaz' (Tyr)-, the 

1 According to Kock {Hist. Tidskr., xv. 163) a trace of the name Nerthus is 
preserved in Sjselland in the medieval place-name Niartharum (i.e. Niarftar heimr) 
in the herred of Sokkelund. 

2 The theory that Tyr (*Tiwaz) was originally a sky-god was based on the 
identification of his name with Sanscrit dydus (Zeus), 'sky,' which is now known 
to be incorrect. The word *thvaz (Scr. devas, Lith. devas etc.) may ultimately be 
connected with dydus etc., but there can be no doubt that it had come to mean ' gi»l ' 
in very remote times. 

C. 19 


idea being that the ' sky-god ' ought to be the husband of 
'Mother Earth.' On such speculations however I fear we can 
hardly build with safety, at all events until some evidence has 
been produced to show that Ing was really identified or connected 
in any way with the sky. But the above table gives us, I think, 
a better reason for believing that Ing and Nerthus, whoever the 
former may have been, actually were regarded as husband and 
wife. Moreover this suggestion is materially strengthened if we 
are right in our hypothesis (cf. p. 253) that the kings of the 
Swedes were originally regarded as husbands of Freyia. Indeed 
in that case the conclusion will be difficult to avoid ; for the 
early kings of the Swedes were individually called Yngvi, and 
thus the Swedish tradition, in which the old name, or a derivative 
of it, has been preserved, will fall into line with that of the 
Danes. The question as to who this Ing really was is one which 
cannot profitably be approached without reference to the social 
conditions of the time — a problem to which we shall have to 
give our attention in the following chapter. It is not un- 
reasonable however to suppose that traces of him may be 
preserved in the male god NiorSr, Freyia's father, as well as in 
OSr, the husband by whom she was deserted. 

Hitherto we have considered the story of Scyld Scefing from 
the side of mythology and religion only. From 
significance the ethnological point of view however the story 
has an importance which it would be difficult to 
overestimate. According to both English and Scandinavian 
tradition Scyld (Skioldr) belongs to Sjselland-Skaane. Again, 
according to English tradition, as represented by Beowulf, as 
well as according to Scandinavian tradition, he was the ancestor 
of the Danish royal family. Lastly, in English tradition the 
Danes are called Ingwine, and the eponymous Ing is said to 
have been first seen among the Danes. How it can be con- 
tended in face of these facts that Scyld (or Sceaf) and Ing 
originally belonged only to English tradition, and that these 
legends were acquired by the Danes from the Angli, I confess j 
I am not able to understand. Another hypothesis, namely that 
the Danes were an invading people who conquered Sjaelland 


and took over its local traditions, might be regarded as possible 
if the connection of these legends with the Danes was limited to 
Danish sources, or even to Scandinavian tradition generally. 
But the fact that English court poets were ready to admit the 
connection renders this hypothesis incredible ; while at the same 
time it must be remembered that there is no evidence worth 
consideration to show that the Danes really were an invading 
people. The name Datii {Dene, Danir) may of course, like 
Franci, have come into existence at a comparatively late period 
(cf. p. 151). But there is no reason for supposing that the 
people themselves were any other than those who had been 
associated with the legends of Scyld and Ing from the begin- 

On the other hand it is not to be overlooked that Scyld was 
also regarded as the ancestor of the English royal families, at 
all events of that of Wessex. The legend, it is true, is only 
given by late writers, Aethelweard and Malmesbury, but the 
genealogy itself occurs in the Saxon Chronicle, a document of 
the ninth century. Yet we must observe that, although Aethel- 
weard and Malmesbury trace the origin of the house of Wessex 
to Scyld-Sceaf, it is in the Danish islands {Scani, Scandza, 
i.e. Scedenig) that they let him first make his appearance. This 
would seem to show that according to tradition English royalty, 
or at least some branch of it, traced its origin to the lands in 
question. Now, earlier in the chapter (p. 271 ff.) it was pointed 
out that the name Heremod occurs in the West Saxon genealogy 
and that the same name is borne by an ancient Danish king in 
Beowulf (cf. p. 148 ff.). There is no definite evidence however 
for identifying the two persons. But if the West Saxon and 
Danish kings claimed descent from the same ancestor the 
identification is not unlikely. More important is the occurrence 
of the name Beaw or Beo, the son of Scyld. This person, as we 
have seen, clearly corresponds to the first Beowulf of the poem, 
who, like both his father (Scyld) and his son (Healfdene), is 
represented as a king of the Danes. His name has not been 
preserved by Scandinavian tradition, and he may possibly never 
have been known in Denmark, though on the other hand he 
may also have been forgotten, like Ing. The important point 

19 — 2 


to notice however is that Scyld is not the only person who is 
represented by Beowulf as a king of the Danes and by the 
genealogies as an ancestor of the kings of Wessex. 

An objection may perhaps be raised against the use of 
arguments derived from the names Scyld, Beo etc., on the 
ground that these names do not occur in the earliest royal 
genealogies which we possess, namely those given in Dr Sweet's 
text (Cott. Vesp. B 6 ; cf. p. 60), in the Historia Brittonum and 
in an earlier passage in the Chronicle itself (ann. 547). But it 
is easy to exaggerate the force of this objection. There is no 
doubt that the Historia Brittonum has used a text closely 
related to Dr Sweet's genealogies, and it is more than probable 
that another text of the same family was in the hands of the 
compilers of the Chronicle. The various texts then appear to 
come ultimately from one written source, and consequently 
cannot be regarded as independent traditional evidence. Now 
the Chronicle (ann. 855) has combined this earlier genealogy 
with another list of names (Taetiva — Sceaf) which clearly has a 
different origin. It is true that the documentary evidence for 
the latter is not so early as for the other. But this fact does 
not justify us in assuming that the genealogy itself came into 
existence at a later period. Indeed all the evidence we possess 
is against the supposition that it was composed in the time of 
King Alfred. 

In the first place it is difficult to believe that a chronicler of 
this period would desire to bring the king's ancestry into any 
sort of connection with that of the heathen princes who had 
just wrought such immense havoc in his country. Indeed the 
place which the genealogy occupies in the Chronicle itself 
suggests that it has been taken from an earlier edition, of which 
it may very well have formed the close (cf. p. 25). Again, we 
have seen (p. 272) that it appears to have been derived ulti- 
mately from a Latin document, which may quite possibly have 
been much older. But with regard to the tradition we are able 
to get more definite evidence than this. Of the names which 
occur in the list only two, Heremod and Scyld, are recorded in 
native Scandinavian tradition, and the former is all but forgotten 
(cf. p. 149 f.). For the rest we have no evidence at all. On the 


other hand both Beo and Hwala, as well as the term Sceafing 
(Scefing), are known from Beowulf and Widsith, while the story 
of the child also occurs in Beowulf. It is quite clear then that 
the affinities of the genealogy lie not with later Scandinavian 
tradition but with the cycle of legend to which Beowulf belongs, 
i.e. with a cycle which goes back to the period of the Anglo- 
Saxon invasion. The occurrence of Scyld- and Beo- in a 
number of place-names 1 in various parts of the country points 
to the same conclusion. 

In one respect of course this genealogy compares unfavour- 
ably with the earlier one, namely in the apparent interpolation 
of five names before Sceafing (cf. p. 271 f.). If Heremod is really 
the person mentioned in Beowulf he must have been placed 
many generations too high 2 , and the names which follow 
probably belong to the same category. But we have already 
noticed that most of the genealogies contain suspicious elements. 
More than this however it is difficult to believe that in heathen 
times Woden was credited with five generations of ancestors, as 
in the Frealaf—Geat list. One can hardly avoid suspecting that 
in the genealogy from which this list was originally derived the 
name Woden was a later insertion, designed to bring the list 
into harmony with others — just as we find the same name 
inserted after Seaxneat by Florence (cf. p. 59). The same 
remark applies of course to the table to which Scyld and Beo 
belonged. Now we have already pointed out that the name 
Geat suggests a Gbtish origin for the family or families which 
claimed descent from that person. On the same principle but 
with much more confidence we may concede the probability of a 
Danish origin for the family or families which claimed descent 
from Scyld. Presumably the two lists originated in different 
parts of the country. The older genealogy clearly comes from 

1 Scyldes treow, Scildes we//, Beuentreu etc. The fact that Scyld- and Beo- are 
extremely rare in personal names proves only that the tradition had little vitality 
within historical times and consequently tends to show the antiquity of the place-names. 
It is worth noting that the treow and well suggest heathen worship. 

2 Assuming that the genealogy is genuine, which there seems to be no adequate 
reason for doubting, it is conceivable that Bedivig was originally attached (in 
tradition) to Baeldaeg or Brond. The other B- names in the genealogies are too late 
to be worth mentioning. 


■ one of the northern kingdoms. On the other hand all the 
evidence at our disposal points to a southern origin for the later 
list. One is naturally tempted to think first of the Jutes of 
Kent or the Isle of Wight. But the evidence of the place- 
names is distinctly against this suggestion. The safest examples 
of names compounded with Scyld- come from Wiltshire and 
Northamptonshire, while Beo- is scattered over the greater part 
of the country, the best example again coming from Wiltshire 1 . 
There can be little doubt therefore that the tradition was 
common Anglo-Saxon property, a conclusion which is certainly 
against the supposition that it was of Jutish origin, for the Jutes, 
at all events the inhabitants of Kent, seem to have been quite a 
distinct people in early times (cf. p. 85 f.). On the whole we 
need not hesitate to say that the evidence, so far as it goes, is 
decidedly favourable to Wessex as the home of the genealogy 2 . 
The conclusion to which we have been brought is that the 
traditional connection of English royalty with Scyld of Scedenig 
goes back in all probability to the time of the invasion. Now 
it is to be remembered that the English royal families, at all 
events those of Mercia and Wessex, claimed descent from the 
ancient kings and princes of Angel. This conclusion therefore 
affords exactly the evidence which we required at the close of 
the last chapter. We saw there that traces of the cult of 
Nerthus are to be found both in the Swedish Upland and the 
Danish Sjaelland. It is impossible on geographical grounds to 
locate the sacred island in the former district, whereas the 
situation of the latter suits the conditions quite well. Now the 
Angli are mentioned by Tacitus as one of the tribes which 
shared the cult of Nerthus. This statement therefore is fully in 
accord with the fact that some at least of the Angli traced the 
origin of their race to the eponymous ancestor of the Scyldingas, 
the husband of Gefion whom we have identified as Nerthus 
under another name. 

1 Cf. Binz, Beiti-age, xx. pp. 148, 155 ff. It is worth noting also that the personal 
name Beowulf occurs in the Northumbrian Liber Vitae {Bimtulf) and probably in a 
Dorsetshire entry in Domesday Book {Beulf) ; ib. p. 159. 

2 It is to be remembered that the West Saxon genealogy does not occur either in 
Dr Sweet's text or in the Historia Brittonum. 


If this be granted the much debated question as to the 
home of the Angli may be regarded as practically settled. 
They must have been a Baltic people. Where precisely on the 
coasts of that sea their home lay in Tacitus' time we cannot of 
course determine with certainty. But at all events there is 
nothing to prevent us from believing that it was the same 
region which we find them occupying in later times. 

Another point on which the story of Scyld throws light is 
the nature of the bond by which the various tribes which 
shared the cult of Nerthus were held together. Since the 
Angli and the Danes claimed descent from the same ancestor, 
there can be no doubt that the bond was believed to be one of 
blood — as in the parallel case of the cult shared by the Sem- 
nones and kindred tribes (cf. p. 224 f). We need not hesitate 
to conclude that the other tribes, whose names have since dis- 
appeared, shared the same belief. Indeed the term Inguaeones, 
which seems to have been applied to the peoples of the southern 
Baltic, in itself involves a claim to common ancestry, whether 
the eponymous Ing was really regarded as the husband of 
Nerthus or not. 

This observation brings us to a final question : Were the 
Inguaeones identical with the tribes which shared the cult of 
Nerthus? That the latter group were included in the former 
may be inferred with practical certainty from the use of the 
names Ing and Ingwine in Anglo-Saxon poetry. It has been 
thought however that the former group was a more extensive 
one, partly because the Swedish royal family were called Yng- 
lingar and partly because Pliny includes the Cimbri, Teutoni 
and Chauci among the Inguaeones. The former case however 
rather makes for the identity of the two groups than otherwise ; 
for we find the name Nidrtr (i.e. Nerthus) in the most intimate 
connection with the Ynglingar. The Swedes may not have had 
any part in the religious rites celebrated in Sjaelland in Tacitus' 
time, but there can be little doubt in view of this fact that their 
cult was ultimately obtained from there 1 . In regard to the 

1 Cf. Kock, Hist. Tidskrift, xv. p. 167, where it is suggested that the Ynglingar 
themselves had come from Denmark. This view does not entirely depend on the 
explanation of the name lngunarfreyr given on p. 231. 


latter case, if we are right in believing that the Cimbri and 
Teutoni lived about the Liimfjord, we should naturally expect 
their connections to lie with the Danish islands. With the 
Chauci however the case is different. Geographically they 
belonged to quite a different area ; and, again, no traces of 
either Ing or Nerthus have been found among the populations 
of the North Sea. But enough has already been said on this 
point. On the whole it seems to me most probable that the 
inclusion of the Cimbri, Teutoni and Chauci among the 
Inguaeones is due to a conjecture on the part of Pliny, based on 
some statement similar to Tacitus' proximi Oceano Inguaeones. 
The original statement may have meant no more than that the 
Inguaeones were maritime peoples. 

At the time when history opens the Teutonic peoples of the 
western Baltic are all included among the Danes. In Beowulf 
the terms Dene and Ingwine are apparently synonymous, though 
the latter seems to be becoming obsolete. Our discussion has 
led us to conclude that the Ingwine of the sixth century were 
the descendants of the Inguaeones of the first century, whether 
the two words are really identical or not. It is true that the 
Angli of Britain seem never to have included themselves among 
the Danes ; but the reason for this may be that the name Dene 
(Danir) had not come into use as a collective term before the 
invasion of Britain. There can be no doubt that those who 
remained behind were subsequently known as Dene ; indeed the 
name Engle must have disappeared very quickly. The case of 
the populations of the south coast of the Baltic was somewhat 
different. Partly, like the Angli, they migrated westwards, 
while whatever element remained behind was swallowed up in 
the Slavonic invasion. With these reservations however we may 
probably equate the Danes of the Middle Ages with the 
Inguaeones of the first century. 

We must now turn to consider the relationship of the Angli 
The Angii and to t ^ ie Saxons. The latter, as we have seen (p. 193), 
the Saxons. are recorc i ec l to have occupied the neck of the 
Cimbric (i.e. the Jutish) peninsula. From this we might perhaps 
infer that the two tribes were either identical or very closely akin 


to one another — a hypothesis which would certainly fit in with 
the evidence for the Angli and Saxons in Britain. On the other 
hand if, as we have suggested, the Saxons were really confined 
to the west coast of the peninsula, they may have been a people 
with quite different affinities. Sjaelland and its religious 
associations would probably lie beyond their horizon. The cult 
of the Irminsul, though the evidence is not altogether conclusive 
(cf. p. 229 f.), certainly rather tends to support this latter view. 
Moreover we never hear of the Angli in connection either with 
the Saxon raids against the Roman provinces or with the subse- 
quent history of western Germany — which would be very 
remarkable if the two nations were really closely connected. 
The Angli must of course have obtained access to the North 
Sea when they invaded Britain. But may not this access have 
been obtained, by conquest or otherwise, at a comparatively late 
period, when the westward movements of the Saxons had already 
been long in progress? 

Now in an earlier chapter (p. 81 ff.) it was pointed out that, 
though the social systems of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms present 
certain points of resemblance to those of other Teutonic nations, 
among which we may include the Frisians, Old Saxons and 
Scandinavians, yet at the same time they exhibit some very 
distinctive features which we do not find elsewhere. Especially 
we may notice the absence of a special class of freedmen and 
the fact that the ceorl or ordinary freeman possesses a wergeld 
which elsewhere is associated not with the freeman but with the 
freedman. The ordinary free householder seems to have been 
described as a ' tribute-payer' {gafolgelda), a characteristic which 
apparently distinguished him from the higher classes of society. 
Again these higher classes or nobility contained many families 
which did not hold land and which appear not to have differed 
from the ceorls except through the possession of hereditary 
privileges. We have already remarked, arguing from analogy, 
that the most reasonable explanation of such traits as these is 
presented by the hypothesis of conquest. The ' gesithcund ' 
classes will in that case be descended from the conquerors and 
the ceorls from the conquered population. 


It seems to me very probable that these phenomena are to be 

brought into connection with the appearance of the 

of Heigi Hun- Angli on the North Sea. Moreover a fairly distinct 

dingsbani. 11 • r r 1 r- .... 

recollection ot a conquest ol the Saxon inhabitants 
of the peninsula seems to have been preserved by Danish 
tradition. This tradition is recorded by Saxo in a passage 
(p. 51) to which we have already had occasion to allude, but 
which is so important that it will be convenient here to give it 
in full. Speaking of a Danish king named Helgo he says: 
"he conquered in battle Hundingus the son of Syricus, king of 
Saxony, at the city of Stadium 1 and challenging him to a single 
combat overthrew him. For this reason he was called ' the slayer 
of Hundingus,' deriving a glorious surname from his victory. 
He took Jutland from the Saxons and gave it to his generals 
Hesce, Eyr and Ler to hold and administer. In Saxony he 
decreed that the freeman and the freedman should have an equal 
wergeld, wishing, as it seems, to make it perfectly clear that all 
the families of the Teutones were equally in bondage and that 
the whole nation had been degraded by the loss of their freedom 
to an equally dishonourable condition 2 ." 

Here it will be observed we find presented to us exactly the 
phenomena which differentiate the English social systems from 
those of kindred nations. The freeman's wergeld is reduced to 
a level with that of the freedman — a fact which of itself would 
naturally bring about the disappearance of the latter as a 
separate class of society. That the conquered population were 
made subject to tribute is only what might be expected under 
the circumstances. Attention however should be paid to the 

1 It is not clear what town is meant, as place-names ending in -sledt are very 
common in Holstein and South Jutland. Holder suggests Hollingstedt, near Slesvig. 
Elsewhere in Saxo's History the name Stadium is applied to Stade. 

2 Hundingum Saxonie regis Syrici filium apud Stadium oppidum prelio uicit 
eundemque ex prouocacione adortus duello prostranit. ob quod Hiindingi interemptor 
uocatus uictorie decus cognomine usurpauit. Iutie Saxonibus erepte ius procuraci- 
onemqite Hesce Eyr et Ler ducibus commisit. apud Saxoniam ingenui ac liberti tiecem 
pari summa rtpendeiidam constituil perinde ac liquido constare nolens quod cunctas 

Tetitonum familias cqua seruitus teneret omniumque corrttpla libertas parent 
condicionis ignominiam redoleret. Ler is possibly a corruption of Leifr, the name of 
Helgi's pilot in Vols. S. 9. 


setting in which the story is placed by Saxo. The hero, Helgo, 
is identified by him with Helgo the son of the Danish king 
Haldanus (Halfdan), brother of Ro (Hroarr) and father of Roluo 
(Hrolfr Kraki). All these persons are well known to us from 
both Scandinavian and English tradition, and we need not 
hesitate to believe that a member of this family named Helgo 
(Helgi, Halga) did live in the latter part of the fifth century. 
But the identification noted above is peculiar to Saxo. Else- 
where in Scandinavian literature Helgi Hundingsbani, who 
is certainly the same person as the hero of our story, is brought 
into relationship with quite a different set of persons. He is 
represented as the son of Sigmundr, the son of Volsungr, while 
his mother is said to have been a Danish princess named 
Borghildr. In regard to the history of the Volsungar enough 
has been said above (p. 148 f.). If any credit is to be attached to 
the story, Helgi must have lived in the early years of the fifth 
century. The two poems in which he figures (HelgakviSur 
Hundingsbana I, II) are taken up mostly with his fight against 
a king named Hogni, whom he slew and whose daughter, Sigrun, 
he married. In Helgakv. II. 4 Hogni and Sigarr are spoken of 
as brothers. This latter may possibly be the same person as the 
Sigarr whose story we have discussed (p. 146 ff.), for the dates 
more or less agree. Helgi did not long survive his victory, being 
slain by Dagr, the son of Hogni, in revenge for his father. With 
regard to the scene of the action all the places mentioned in the 
two poems, which can be identified, lie in the south-western part 
of the Baltic, viz. Hlesey (Lesso), Brandey (Brando), HeSinsey 
(Hiddenso), Hringsta5ir (Ringsted) and Sigarsvellir (Sigersted) 1 . 
There can be no doubt therefore that Helgi is a Danish hero, 
thoueh it is to be observed that the names Danir and Damnork 
do not occur. 

The references to Hundingr in both poems are quite brief and 
give no indication as to the position of his kingdom. But, if we 
may admit the evidence of the Thattr af Nornagesti (cap. 6), the 
territories of Hundingr's sons must have lain on the coasts of 

1 Cf. Mogk in Paul's Grundriss 1 ', II. p. 612, where the following identifications also 
are suggested : d MSinsheimuin (Moen), / Orvasund (Oresund or Stralsund), & 
Varinsfit^i (Warnow, Warnemunde), frd Svarinshaugi (Schwerin). 


the North Sea. This agrees very well with the story that 
Sigmundr was attacked and slain by them ; for Sigmundr's home 
in later life is said to have been in the land of the Franks or the 
Netherlands by both Scandinavian and German tradition. Out- 
side Scandinavian literature nothing is known of Hundingr or 
his sons. In Widsith however (11. 23, 81) we hear of a tribe or 
dynasty called Hundingas, though no clear indication is given as 
to their territories. It is by no means impossible that this 
dynastic name has been turned into a personal name in Scandi- 
navian tradition 1 . 

We have already seen that at the time in which Sigmundr is 
said to have lived migratory movements from the old land 
of the Saxons to the Netherlands certainly were in operation. 
Hence, if Sigmundr was a real person, there is nothing im- 
probable in the supposition that he may both have resided for a 
time in Denmark and subsequently settled in the Netherlands — 
though we shall then have to conclude that he was of Saxon 
rather than Frankish nationality. Further, it is likely enough 
that in course of time these movements brought about their 
natural consequences. The Saxons who remained in the 
peninsula became weakened and finally succumbed to the attacks 
of their eastern neighbours. The Hundingas may have been the 
dominant family among the Saxons when this national disaster 
took place. 

It may perhaps be objected that we have no evidence for 
believing Helgi to have been an English king. We must bear in 
mind however that the fact that the Angli had once lived in the 
neighbourhood of the Danes was not preserved by Scandinavian 
tradition. If, as we have seen, Offa and his family had come to 
be regarded as Danes, the same might also have occurred in the 
case of Helgi. As a matter of fact Saxo is our only authority 
who does describe him as a Dane, and it is to be remembered 
that this writer has confused him with another Helgi who was 

1 There are other cases of the same kind ; we may compare e.g. Saxo's Hadingus 
and Hothbroddus with the Heardingas of the Runic Poem and the Heathobeardan of 
Beowulf. The reason for such changes is probably to be found in the fact that family 
names are often applied to individuals, e.g. gamela Scyldiug (of Hrothgar), Beow. 1 792 ; 
cf. also such expressions as Hidrvar^r Ylfingr (Yngl. S. 41). 


certainly of Danish origin. The poems do not specify Helgi's 
nationality. According to our view of the story the conflict 
between Helgi and Hundingr was really a contest between the 
nations of the Baltic and those of the North Sea. We need not 
hesitate to believe that the Angli were the most important of 
the former, at all events of those which were settled on the 
mainland. But it does not necessarily follow that the leader of 
the eastern forces in this campaign himself belonged to the 

We may well believe that between the tribes which occupied 
the peninsula both pitched battles and single combats were of 
frequent occurrence in the time with which we are dealirfg 1 . 
Indeed the Thorsbjaerg deposit itself is evidence for a very 
serious conflict. But especially would this be the case if, as we 
have seen reason for believing, the west and east coasts were 
occupied by nations with quite different affinities. I cannot see 
that any improbability is involved in the suggestion that one of 
these conflicts ended with disastrous results for the western 
population. The effects recorded by Saxo are after all probably 
no more than what took place on other occasions, e.g. when 
the Thuringi were conquered by the Franks and Saxons. In 
early times we hear of tribes which met with an even more 
tragic fate, such as the Ampsiuarii, who according to Tacitus, 
Ann. XIII. 56, were entirely destroyed or enslaved. On the 
conquerors themselves the effect would doubtless be a consider- 
able access of strength and wealth, which would put them into 
a position to undertake distant enterprises. 

It will be convenient now to summarise the results to which 
our discussion has brought us. The Saxons and the Angli seem 
originally to have occupied the west and east coasts of the 
peninsula respectively. Apart from geographical proximity 

1 It is possible of course that the incident related by Saxo with reference to the 
Saxon wergelds — which has all the appearance of a genuine tradition — may have 
been transferred from a different story. In an earlier work (Studies on Anglo- 
Saxon Institutions, p. 410 f.) I suggested that it was originally connected with Offa's 
fight at the Eider. Subsequent consideration however has led me to the conclusion 
that the scepticism with which I formerly regarded the story of Helgi was scarcely 


however we have no reason for believing that they had any close 
affinity with one another. The evidence of religion and tradition 
clearly connects the Angli with other tribes settled on the coasts 
and islands of the Baltic, more especially with the inhabitants of 
Sjaelland. With the Saxons the case is not so clear, but what 
evidence we have points to western affinities. From the third 
century onwards the Saxons began to move westwards over the 
sea, perhaps impelled by pressure from behind. Those who 
remained were conquered, according to Danish tradition, by 
a king named Helgi, who seems to have lived about the beginning 
of the fifth century. The invaders of Britain though called 
Saxons by the natives really belonged to a nation which had 
only recently made its appearance on the western seas. In 
subjection to them however was a numerous population, pre- 
sumably of Saxon origin. With the course of time this subject 
population would naturally tend to predominate, while the 
descendants of the Angli would dwindle into a military aristo- 
cracy. Lastly it appears from the genealogy of the East Saxon 
dynasty that at least one princely family of the Saxons had 
succeeded in maintaining its position, probably in alliance with 
the Angli ; while in view of the numbers necessarily required for 
the success of the invasion it is very probable that a considerable 
proportion of the warriors who took part in it were drawn from 
all the surrounding regions. 



In Chapter VII we discussed the social and political condi- 
tions of the migration period chiefly from the evidence of native 
tradition. We saw that kingly government was then all but 
universal, though two or more kings were frequently to be found 
reigning together. The kings seem to have belonged to native 
dynasties and in general derived their claim from paternal 
ancestry. After the kings the most important element in the 
nation was the \eod, which appears to have been rather in the 
nature of a court than a popular assembly, consisting as it did of 
warriors old and young in the personal service of the kings. 
These persons were not exclusively members of the royal family 
or even born subjects of the kings, for wealthy kings attracted 
warriors to their service from many quarters. The government 
of districts and villages was granted to such warriors as a reward 
for their services. Generally speaking, the constitution of 
society, at all events in its upper strata, seems to have been 
military rather than tribal in character, the bond between lord 
and man being considered fully as strong as that of blood- 
relationship — equivalent perhaps to that of father and son. 

When we turn to earlier times the evidence at our disposal is 
of a very different character. 'Heroic tradition' (heltesagn) is 
practically non-existent. Indeed, so far as the more northern 
nations are concerned we may say that tradition has not pre- 
served the name of a single hero earlier than the fourth century 
who can be regarded as historical with any degree of probability. 
In place of this we have only folk-tales and stories relating to 


gods and other beings who are clearly more or less mythical, 
together with survivals of primitive customs and beliefs which 
may be traced in later times. It need scarcely be mentioned 
that all this evidence is of a kind which requires to be treated 
with the utmost caution. Secondly, we have some valuable 
notices regarding contemporary Teutonic society from a few early 
Roman writers, especially Tacitus. Here again however caution 
is necessary. In all probability the information furnished by 
these writers applies primarily to the tribes with which the 
Romans themselves came in contact, and we must not assume 
that all their statements hold good for those settled in more 
remote regions. Particular attention must be paid to any notices 
which point to diversity of custom. Thirdly, it is to be remem- 
bered that remote districts often preserve primitive forms of 
organisation long after they have been modified or abandoned 
by regions more accessible to external influence. Now Norway 
seems to have been less exposed to southern influence than any 
other Teutonic land in early times. Hence, as our materials for 
this country are exceptionally rich, we may reasonably expect 
to find here evidence which will be worth consideration in its 
bearing on early Teutonic society. Lastly, valuable illustration 
may often be supplied by the customs of non-Teutonic peoples, 
especially those settled in neighbouring countries. Among 
these we may specify the inhabitants of the eastern Baltic, a 
region which has always been slow to receive external influence, 
and also the Gauls for whom we have information dating from 
very early times. 

The general impression produced by reading the works of 
state of Tacitus and other contemporary writers is that the 
civilisation. state f civilisation among the Teutonic peoples of 
that period was very appreciably lower than what we find in the 
fifth and sixth centuries. Some difficulty however is occasioned 
by the fact that the information which they furnish seems not to 
harmonise entirely with the results of archaeological investigation. 
Thus, to take a special case, Tacitus {Germ. 6) says that the 
Germani had so little iron that swords and long spears were 
seldom used ; for the most part they had only short spears or 
javelins with short and narrow heads. This statement would 


seem to suggest that the iron age was but beginning, and 
evidence to the same effect is perhaps to be obtained from cap. 
43, where it is stated that the characteristic weapon of certain 
eastern tribes was a short sword. Now since the regular type 
of sword used by both Teutonic and Celtic nations in historical 
times struck the Romans as very long, one is tempted to see 
here a reference either to the bronze sword or at least to a primi- 
tive (Hallstatt) iron sword 1 modelled on the bronze type. Yet 
archaeologists put back the beginning of the iron age even in 
Scandinavian lands to a time from five to seven centuries before 

In such cases as this archaeologists seem to me to have been 
too ready to argue that because the same type of article occurs 
both in the north and in the south, the periods during which it was 
in use in both quarters must to a certain extent overlap. No 
doubt the period during which a given article was used in 
Holland or Saxony must coincide to a certain extent with that 
during which it was used in Belgium or Bohemia ; but does it 
necessarily follow that the period during which it was used in 
Denmark must coincide at all with the latter? 

On the other hand 2 archaeological investigation has un- 
doubtedly shown that certain statements made by ancient 
writers are erroneous and that many inferences drawn from the 
language of ancient writers are unfounded. As an example 
of the former we may take Strabo's statement (p. 291) that the 
Suebi, or perhaps the Germani in general, did not practise 
agriculture but lived like nomads, placing their belongings on 
waggons and moving about from place to place. For the 
latter we may refer to a much discussed passage in Caesar's 
Commentaries {Gall. IV. 1 ; cf. VI. 22) in which he credits the 
Suebi with a wasteful and apparently absurd system of agricul- 
ture, alleging that they never cultivate the same spot for more 
than a year but keep continually moving onwards — from which 
it has been inferred that agriculture was still in its infancy. 
Tacitus' evidence is perhaps not wholly incompatible with such 

1 Cf. S. Midler, Urgeschichte Europas (Germ. Transl.), p. 131 f. (fig. 114). 
- For a fuller discussion of the subject treated in this and the following paragraphs 
see Hoops, Waldbaume und Kulturpflanzcn, Kap. 12. 

C. 20 


an inference, for it shows that agriculture, though known, was 
neglected. Yet it has always been somewhat of a difficulty that 
the remote Aestii are said to have been more given to agriculture 
than the rest of the Germani. A more serious objection how- 
ever is that the terms for cereals and for cultivation are for the 
most part common to all the Teutonic languages, and indeed in 
great measure to all the Indo-European languages of Europe, 
though at the same time it is clear that they were not recent 

Archaeological investigation has now proved that the cultiva- 
tion of cereals in the north of Europe goes back to the stone 
age. Of still greater importance is the discovery of the repre- 
sentation of a plough with two oxen among the rock-carvings at 
Tegneby in Bohuslan, which date from the bronze age 1 . However 
sceptical one may feel towards the dates fixed by archaeologists, 
this discovery shows without doubt that a highly developed 
system of agriculture was practised in Sweden before the begin- 
ning of the Christian era. Some other explanation of the 
accounts given by Caesar and Tacitus must therefore be found. 
What the true explanation is has been clearly shown by a care- 
ful examination of the various passages in which these writers 
refer to the subject 2 . The growth of the military spirit had led 
to a neglect of agriculture, as both writers expressly state. The 
peculiar phenomena recorded by Caesar are probably due to 
special conditions which may be described as migratory, though 
scarcely as nomadic, while Strabo's incorrect statement may 
have arisen out of a misunderstanding of Caesar's account. 

How far these migratory conditions prevailed and to what 
causes they were due it is difficult to determine with the limited 
information at our disposal. The first three occasions on which 
the Romans came in contact with Teutonic tribes (viz. the 
Cimbri, the forces of Ariouistus, and the Usipetes and Tencteri) 
were all cases of migration ; but this is only what might be 
expected. There is moreover a good deal of linguistic evidence 
which tends to show that a considerable part of western 

1 Cf. Montelius, Civilisation of Sweden, p. 71 (fig. 79); Sveriges //istoria 2 , p. 78 
(fig. 87); Hoops, op. cit., p. 500 (fig. 3). 
- Cf. Hoops, op. cit., pp. 508 ff., 526 ff. 


Germany had been inhabited by Celtic peoples at no very 
remote period. On the other hand the Cherusci had apparently 
not changed their territories between the time of Caesar {Gall. 
VI. 10) and that of Tacitus, while the existence of sacred groves 
of great antiquity, like that of the Semnones, shows that the 
tribes which possessed them cannot have moved for many 
generations. We may also refer to the broad earthwork, which 
the Angriuarii had made to protect themselves from the Cherusci 
(Ann. II. 19). In Tacitus' own time we do hear of a migration 
of the Angriuarii, but it has been suggested above that this move- 
ment may have been inspired by fear of the Chauci. Caesar 
expressly states that the Usipetes and Tencteri had migrated 
through pressure from the Suebi. In another case, that of the 
Bataui {Germ. 29), we are told that the migration was due to 
a seditio domestica among the Chatti, to whom the Bataui had 
formerly belonged. Quite possibly Ariouistus' movement may 
have been due to a similar cause. 

Among the more northern peoples, with whom we are 
primarily concerned, the great migration of the Cimbri is the 
only movement of which we have any record 1 . This movement 
was said to have been caused by a disastrous flood, and at all 
events we know that the ridicule with which Strabo (p. 293) 
treated the story was due to ignorance. The absence of all 
reference to subsequent migrations cannot be ascribed entirely 
to the fact that the Romans themselves did not visit these 
regions, for we hear of the Langobardi on several occasions 
during the first century. Further, it is to be remembered that 
migratory movements by land in such a region must always 
have been attended with considerable difficulty and that the 
expansion of these peoples in later times took place almost 
entirely by sea. Hence, with the evidence which we now have 
before us for the antiquity of agriculture, I think we are bound 
to conclude that under normal conditions the populations of 
the western Baltic were settled communities, although Tacitus 
{Germ. 40) states that the military spirit was prevalent even here. 

1 The Harudes who look part in Ariouistus' invasion may have come from Jutland ; 
but it is quite possible that their fathers had left that country with the Cimbri. 

20 2 


We have seen that the earliest mention of the Angli dates 
from the first century and that they then formed part of a 
Form of religious confederacy, the sanctuary of which lay in 

government. a jj probability in Sjselland. Regarding the organisa- 
tion of the tribe we have no evidence earlier than the fourth 
century, at which time they were governed by kings from whom 
the Mercian royal family of later times claimed descent. Beside 
this family however we find a number of others which succeeded 
in obtaining thrones in Britain, and which likewise claimed 
divine ancestry, though from the god Woden downwards their 
genealogies were distinct from that of Mercia. Now are we to 
suppose that the institution of royalty goes back to the time of 
Tacitus, and, if so, did the Angli possess more than one royal 
family ? 

In Scandinavian history and tradition kingship is universal ; 
but of course the earliest traditions scarcely reach beyond the 
time of King Wermund. For Continental nations however 
much earlier information is available from Roman sources. 
According to Tacitus some tribes were under kingly government 
in his time, but in general his account gives the impression that 
he regarded the kingly ciuitas as somewhat exceptional. To 
turn to specific cases we are told {Germ. 42) that the Marcomanni 
and the Quadi had formerly been under kings of their own 
native stock, though now they were ruled by aliens. The reign 
of Maroboduus goes back to the time of Augustus 1 , while the 
first reference to the Ouadi {Ann. II. 63) is in connection with a 
king of that tribe. The Hermunduri were under a king named 
Vibilius in the time of Tiberius and Claudius {Ann. II. 63, XII. 29), 
and the Semhones under a king named Masyus (?) in the time 
of Domitian (Dio Cassius, LXVII. 5). For the Langobardi we have 
no evidence, as might be expected from their remote position ; 
but according to their own traditions they had been under a 
long line of kings reaching back almost to the time of their 
first (legendary) migration. On the whole then there can be 
no doubt that kingly government was the type which prevailed 
among the Suebic tribes. According to Tacitus {Germ. 43) 

1 In the Res Gestae D. Aug., cap. 32, mention is made of reges...Marcomanorum 
Stuborumquc complures. 


the Goths and other north-eastern tribes also were ruled by 

With the tribes of western Germany the case is not so clear. 
Apart from the Burgundians, who -had migrated from the east, 
and Suebic peoples, such as the Alamanni, we have, so far as 
I am aware, not more than six references to kings dating from 
before the fourth century, viz. Italicus and Chariomerus, kings of 
the Cherusci (Tacitus, Ann. XL 16; Dio Cass., LXVII. 5), Verritus 
and Malorix, kings of the Frisii {Ann. XIII. 54), Maelo, king of 
the Sugambri (Res Gest. D. Aug. 32), an unnamed king of 
the Bructeri (Pliny, Ep. II. 7), and Ariouistus, who may have 
belonged to the Suebi. Elsewhere we find mention only of 
duces and principes. The dux was a military leader in time of 
war; the principes were persons who acted as magistrates (ius 
dicere) in districts and villages, and who were elected at tribal 
assemblies. It is probable from Tacitus' account of the principes 
{Germ. 13 ff.) that the dux would, as a rule at least, be drawn 
from among them 1 ; but whether the rank of princeps itself was 
limited to certain families or open to all free tribesmen is a ques- 
tion upon which different views have been held. All that can be 
said with certainty is that it is never stated of any princeps that 
he was not of noble birth ; but the amount of information which 
we possess about such persons is after all extremely slight. An 
exception may perhaps be made in the case of the Cherusci, who 
enter a good deal into Roman history during the early years of 
the first century. A number of their principes are known by 
name, and it is curious to note that all of them belonged to one 
or other of two families, the relationships between the various 
members being as follows 2 : 

x y 

-1 r - 1 " -1 

Segimerus Segestes Sigimerus Inguiomerus 

2((rid<iKos Segimundus Qovav(\8a = Arminius Flauus 

It is nowhere stated that Segimerus the brother of Segestes 
was identical with Sigimerus the father of Arminius ; but the 

1 Among the Old Saxons in later times the military leader was chosen by lot from 
among the satrapae; cf. Bede, II. E. v. 10. 

2 cf. Velleius, II. 118; Strabo, p. 2Qi f. ; Tacitus, Ann. 1. 55, 57, 71. 


identity of the names suggests that the two families may have 
been related. If so, one could hardly help suspecting that the 
form of government which prevailed among the Cherusci was 
really a kind of dynastic rule, such as we find in later times 
among the Franks and in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. More- 
over this suspicion is fully confirmed by the fact that in the 
negotiations which led to Italicus being made king his family is 
described as stirps regia {Ann. XI. 16). It is highly probable there- 
fore that the kingship to which Arminius aspired and which 
Italicus succeeded in obtaining was not a new institution. The 
case of the Cherusci may possibly have been exceptional ; but it 
is at all events worth noting that the principes of the Chatti 
intermarried with those of the Cherusci 1 and that the Bataui, who 
according to Tacitus {Germ. 29, Hist. IV. 12) were an offshoot of 
the Chatti, are likewise said {id. IV. 13) to have possessed a stirps 
regia. On the whole then, especially when account is taken of 
the fact that among the Franks kingship can be traced back to 
the fourth century, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that 
the distinction drawn by Tacitus between reges and principes was 
based not on a contrast between kingship and ' republicanism ' 
but on the presence of one or more ruling princes within the 
same tribe 2 . 

At all events we have seen that kingship prevailed among 
the Suebic tribes which lay to the south of the region inhabited 
by the Angli and also probably among the Cherusci, the eastern- 
most tribe of western Germany, as well as among the Goths and 
other peoples of north-eastern Germany. Scandinavian tradition, 
as we have already observed, knows no other form of govern- 
ment. Lastly, we hear of kings also among the Cimbri 3 who 
invaded Gaul and Italy two centuries before Tacitus' time. It 
is decidedly probable therefore that the same type of government 
prevailed among the Angli and the neighbouring tribes at the 
very beginning of the Christian era. 

The evidence of folk-tales, whether German, Norwegian or 
Lithuanian, goes much further than this. In them we find 

1 cf. Strabo, p. 292 ; Tacitus, Ann. XI. 16. 

2 cf. Miillenhoff, Deutsche Altertumskunde,\V. p. 184 ff. 

3 cf. Orosius, v. 16 ; Plutarch, Marius 25. 


kings everywhere, and consequently their territories seem to be 
extremely small. Now in Norway we do actually find, even in 
historical times, kings like SigurSr Syr, who were persons of 
comparatively little importance. The eight kingdoms in the 
Throndhjem Fiord, mentioned in Haralds Saga hins harfagra, 
cap. 7, must obviously have been very small. In Prussia we have 
from King Alfred (Orosius, I. 1. 19) contemporary evidence for a 
still more surprising state of things. The merchant Wulfstan 
told him that in Estland (East Prussia) there were very many 
fortified places (byrg) and that in each of these there was a king. 
If such a state of things ever prevailed in South Jutland it would 
of course afford an explanation of the large number of royal 
families which that region appears to have possessed. The 
vassals and officials of various degrees whom we find holding 
land as grants from the kings will then have taken the place of 
local and more or less independent chiefs, just as in later times 
we find earls set over provinces which had formerly been 
independent kingdoms both in England and Norway. There is 
some difficulty however in reconciling such a view with the 
account of the Teutonic ciuitas given by Tacitus. It is to this 
subject that we must now turn our attention. 

We have seen that after the king or kings the most import- 
Tribai an -t political element in the migration period was 

assemblies. ^ e j,^^ which appears to have been a body of 
warriors, old and young, attached by personal service to the 
king. It consisted partly, but only partly, of members of the 
royal family ; indeed its members were not necessarily born 
subjects of the king. In Tacitus' works we find, mention of 
bodies, the comitatus of kings and principes, which apparently 
resembled the \eod in all respects. But in addition to these we 
hear also of concilia or tribal assemblies which seem to have been 
very much larger bodies. Tacitus deals with these concilia at some 
length (Germ. 11 f). He says that they met at certain fixed 
times, that they elected the principes and settled disputes, and that 
with them rested the ultimate decision on all questions of great 
importance. The principes discussed beforehand what matters 
should be brought before the concilium ; but it can hardly be 
maintained that the concilium consisted only, or even chiefly, 


of the principes and their personal followers. For we are told 
{Germ. 13) that it was at these assemblies that youths were 
admitted to the rights and privileges of warriors. The initiation 
was performed sometimes by a princeps, sometimes by the 
youth's father or relatives — a fact which clearly implies that the 
rights of a warrior were obtainable without admission to a 
comitates. So also in Germ. 7 Tacitus states that when the 
tribe was called out to war, the line of battle was arranged 
according to families and kindreds. It is plain then that though 
a military system similar to that which we find in English and 
Scandinavian records did exist it by no means pervaded the 
national organisation to the same extent. 

Special attention deserves to be paid to the somewhat sub- 
ordinate position apparently occupied by the king at these 
assemblies. The presidential functions seem to have belonged 
to the priests. At the taking of the omens indeed, which 
probably preceded the meeting, we are told {Germ. 10) that the 
tribal high-priest {sacerdos ciuitatis) was accompanied by the 
king or princeps. But when the assembly actually met it was 
the priests who opened the proceedings by enjoining silence 
{id. 1 1 ). Again, Tacitus states that freedom of speech was 
allowed, though qualified by the rank or reputation of the 
speaker ; but none except the priests had power to enforce 
obedience. So also when the tribe went out to battle {id. 7) the 
priests accompanied it, taking with them certain divine symbols 
from the sacred groves, and it was they alone who then had the 
power of inflicting summary punishment on offending tribesmen 
— the idea being, as Tacitus says, that this was done not at the 
bidding of the general but at the god's command. We may 
further note that on at least one occasion {Ann. II. 12 ; cf. Hist. 
IV. 14) when a call to arms had been raised the tribes met in 
a sacred grove. Where the regular assemblies were held we are 
not explicitly told ; but there is every probability that the same 
places were chosen, for it was with these sacred groves that the 
priests were specially associated 1 . 

1 cf. the O. H. Germ, gloss parauuai-i — aruspes (Graff, llorterbuch, III. 344), 
which is in all probability related to Ang. Sax. bearo, 'grove' (O. Norse borr, Russ. 
boi') ; perhaps also O. H. Germ, harugai-a — antspices, from haruc — Incus, nemus etc. 


Tacitus' account of the concilium may be, and often has been, 
illustrated from the descriptions of Swedish assemblies given in 
Rembertus' Life of St Ansgar, cap. 24, and in St Olaf's Saga 
(Heimskn), cap. 80 f. In the former the king is represented as 
bringing before his assembly the question whether the introduc- 
tion of Christianity should be permitted. Previously to doing 
so he goes out with his nobles to cast lots. In St Olaf's Saga 
the king's policy is openly discountenanced by the assembly 
under the leadership of the lawman and he is compelled to 
change his attitude by threats of violence, remarking as he does 
so that it has been the practice of all kings of the Svear to give 
way to the wishes of the commons. It is not safe, as we shall 
see later, to assume that the old type of tribal organisation had 
been preserved unchanged in Sweden from the earliest times. 
But the Swedish evidence will at all events furnish a useful 
parallel to Tacitus' concilium. 

One important difference between the two cases is that there 
is no reference to priests in the Swedish stories. We do 
occasionally hear of priests in the North, but there is no evidence 
whatever for believing that the persons so called were devoted 
exclusively to religious duties. In Norway it is abundantly 
clear that priestly duties and the possession of temples went 
with temporal authority, in the case of both earls and petty 
local chieftains, and the peculiar hierarchic magistracy of 
Iceland had the same origin. Above all we have no evidence 
for the existence of high-priests in the North. At public 
festivals the chief place always seems to have been taken by the 
king or the head of the community. 

With this exception the Swedish assembly bears a close 
resemblance to the concilium of ancient times. Now it is worth 
noting that "the assembly of all the Svear" tying allra Svia) 
mentioned in St Olaf's Saga coincided with the great spring- 
festival and that it was held at Upsala in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood of the national temple, as is shown by the statement 
that the crowd sat on the barrows. This fact tends to confirm 
the suggestion mentioned above that the ancient tribal assem- 
blies of the Continent were likewise held in sacred groves and 
further that they were primarily religious festivals like those 
mentioned in Germ. 39, Ann. I. 50. 


It is probable that the case of the Swedish assembly was 
somewhat exceptional in the North. In St Olaf's Saga, cap. 
96, the king's councillors are represented as saying that the 
Uppland Swedes (Uppsvia aett) were the noblest people in the 
North because they were sprung from the gods themselves. In 
Saxo's account of the battle of Bravik nine Swedish warriors are 
specially said to have been descended from Frey (cf. p. 232), 
from which it appears probable that the claim to descent from 
that god was not limited to the royal family. Indeed if we are 
to believe the evidence of Ynglinga Saga the Swedish royal 
family of that date no longer claimed such descent. Now 
Tacitus' language seems to imply that among the ancient 
Germani similar claims were held by the tribe as a whole. 
We may refer to the genealogical remarks in Germ. 2 and 
the expressions eiusdem sanguinis and initio, gentis in ib. 39. If 
so all free tribesmen would ultimately be of the same origin 
as the king himself. On the other hand it is by no means 
impossible that the genealogical references apply only to the 
tribal nobility, and in the case of the Ynglingar this explana- 
tion is distinctly more probable. In either case the comparative 
insignificance of the kingly office is to some extent accounted for. 

When we turn to the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, 
which were of a far more autocratic character, we find no trace 
of such community of origin between the king and the tribe. 
The kingdom was inseparably bound up with the royal family, 
and the essential qualification for a king was that he should be 
descended from the founder of the dynasty. Such was the 
case with the Franks down to the time of Pippin and with 
the Anglo-Saxons until a much later period. It is frequently 
stated that kingship was of comparatively recent origin among 
the Franks, and as a matter of fact we find no mention of 
Frankish kings before the fourth century. But considering the 
paucity of our information for the second and third centuries 
this is altogether inconclusive. In the first century, as we 
have already seen, there is evidence for kings or stirpes 
regiae among several of the Rhineland tribes, the Bructeri, 
Sugambri and Bataui, the two latter of whom are generally 
recognised to have been of Frankish nationality. How the 
change in the character of kingship came about is not quite 


clear ; but we may surmise with some probability that it was 
due partly to the disappearance of the nobility and partly to the 
extension of the territories ruled by the kings. The evidence at 
our disposal seems to point to a gradual consolidation of small 
tribes into larger units, with a corresponding increase in the 
influence of the rulers — a process which was no doubt considerably 
facilitated by the straitened position in which the Franks found 
themselves through pressure from the Saxons. In England the 
same process took place, but in very much later times. Here 
however kingship of a more or less autocratic type seems to go 
back as far as our records reach. It is true that there is only 
one family of which we can say with certainty that it was of 
royal rank before the invasion. Of the other families all that 
we know definitely is that they claimed divine descent — in most 
cases from the god Woden. But is there any valid reason for 
supposing these families to have been originally of non-royal 
rank ? 

In order to be able to form an opinion on this question it 
Teutonic will be well to consider briefly what were the 
kingship. characteristics of a king according to ancient 
ideas. Perhaps the simplest definition is that he was a member 
of a royal family invested with some degree of authority, while 
the claim to royalty on the part of the family was derived from 
time beyond record and based, at least in England and the 
North, on divine descent. It need hardly be pointed out that 
a king was not necessarily independent. But, further, it was 
not essential even that he should possess land of his own. This 
may be seen from a passage in St Olaf's Saga (Heimskr.), 
cap. 4, where it is stated that sea-kings regularly bore the 
royal title if they were of kingly birth, even though they 
governed no territories. It is even possible in view of the 
Russian word trnjaz that the notion of authority was not 
originally essential and that the word cyning was once equi- 
valent to cyneboren mon (' man of royal birth ') and applied 
to all members of the royal family. Such an explanation is 
favoured by the fact that cyning is in form a patronymic and 
perhaps originally meant 'son of the family.' It may not be a 
word of very great antiquity. The Gothic language, and perhaps 


also the Burgundian 1 , used quite a different term, viz., piudans, 
which in Anglo-Saxon has the sense of ' prince,' though it is 
frequently applied to kings. Again, according to a story in 
Yngl. S. 20 the word konungr was first used in connection with 
the family of Danr hinn mikillati (cf. p. 150 f.). Before that 
time the title applied to the kings of the Swedes was drottinn, 
i.e. Ang. Sax. dryhten, ' lord.' These words, }>eoden and dryhten, 
are clearly derived from \eod and dryht, and neither of them 
contains any notion of hereditary qualification, like cyning. 
What word was used in Tacitus' time we unfortunately do not 
know. Yet in spite of these reservations the fact that the word 
cyning {kuning, konungr) is common to the English, German, 
and Scandinavian languages and was borrowed at an early 
date by Finnish, Lithuanian and Slavonic leaves little room 
for doubt that it had come into use before the invasion of 

We have seen that it was not necessary that a king should 
possess territories of his own. But though this was the case 
with kings individually we have no evidence for kingly families 
which did not possess territories. Their territories might be 
very small, so small that we should probably speak of the 
owners as chieftains rather than kings. I doubt very much 
whether Tacitus would have applied the term rex to the ' kings ' 
of the Este (Aestii) described by King Alfred. Still the fact 
remains that, so far as we know, all royal families did possess 
territories of their own, and we can scarcely doubt that this was 
one of the qualifications for kingship. But on the other hand 
all owners of territories did not claim royalty. We may note 
especially the case of the earls of Lade, who ruled a large 
portion of Norway for over a century and a half. Occasionally 
they were dispossessed, but at other times they were entirely 
independent. When Earl Hakon and Harold (Grenski) divided 
Norway between them in 975, it was the latter only who took 
the title of king ; yet the former was by far the more important 
person. The explanation is that Harold belonged to the royal 
family, whereas Hakon's ancestor, Hakon the son of GriotgarSr, 

1 cf. Ammianus Marcellinus, xxvm. 5. 14: apud hos (sc. Burgundies) generali 
nomine rex appellatur hendinos (for theudinos ?). 


had only received his territories as an earl's fief from Harold 
the Fair-haired. Even when Viking chiefs settled in foreign 
countries, Russia, Normandy and the British Isles, the same 
distinction was observed. Those who belonged to royal families 
bore the kingly title, while those who were not of royal birth 
were known as earls, though they might be more powerful 
than the others. That the same feeling prevailed in England 
seems to be shown by the fact that Aethelred of Mercia and 
the rulers of Bamborough did not take the kingly title. Its 
existence however is a distinct argument for believing that all 
the founders of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms claimed to be of 
royal descent. 

The question which we are discussing has an important 
bearing on the organisation of the nation as a whole. It is 
commonly assumed that before the period of autocracy a more 
or less democratic form of government prevailed, the chief 
power being vested in a tribal assembly similar to Tacitus' 
concilium. But it is to be remembered that there is absolutely 
no positive evidence for the existence of such a system among 
the Angli and, further, that the first appearance of kingship has 
been erroneously dated by constitutional historians. It is true 
that in the Sweden of the eleventh century we do find a some- 
what remarkable parallel to the German concilium of Tacitus' 
time. Further, we need not doubt that the Angli also had 
tribal gatherings of their own, in addition to the festival of 
Nerthus in which they participated with other tribes. The 
question at issue is with regard to the character and the object 
of these gatherings. Now it is worth noting that the earliest 
references which we have to the assembly of the Swedes do not 
suggest that it was of the character which we find in St Olaf's 
Saga. Thus in Yngl. S. 38 we are told that Braut-Onundr, the 
great-grandson of ASils, had 'district-kings' {hercfcskonungar} 
under him in many parts of Sweden. "Tiundaland was ruled 
by Svipdagr the Blind. There lies Upsala, where the assembly 
of all the Svear is held. Great sacrifices were then held there, 
to which many kings resorted. That was at midwinter." In 
cap. 40 similar statements are repeated. In cap. 42 we find 
Granmarr, king of Sodermanland, visiting Upsala, ' as was 


customary,' at the time of the spring sacrifice and consulting 
the oracle as to his future. A reminiscence of such visits is 
probably preserved in Adam's statement (cf. p. 266) that all 
the kings and peoples of Sweden sent offerings to the great 
nine-yearly sacrifice at Upsala. It is quite possible that these 
national gatherings were known as allra Svia \ing even in 
the time of Onundr, but the tradition gives us no ground for 
believing that they were then of the democratic character which 
we find them possessing in the eleventh century. They would 
seem rather to have been religious gatherings of hereditary 
local chiefs with their followers. There is surely no im- 
probability in supposing that the tribal gatherings of the 
Angli may have been of a similar character. 

We have now seen that, though the Swedish assembly of the 
eleventh century apparently resembled the German concilium 
of Tacitus' day, this resemblance largely disappears when we 
get back to the seventh century. In place of a popular 
assembly we seem to have a religious gathering of ' district- 
kings ' in dependence on a supreme king. But we have yet 
to notice that Tacitus himself has something to say about the 
Swedes (Suioncs) and that he specially excepts this nation from 
his general description of Teutonic political organisation. " They 
have respect also for wealth," he says {Germ. 44), "and so the 
government is vested in the hands of one man — no longer have 
we any reservations to make — whose claim to obedience is 
beyond question 1 ." He then goes on to mention another point 
in which the Swedes differed from the rest of the Germani, 
namely that it was not lawful with them to carry arms in 
public ; they were kept locked up in the charge of a slave 2 . 
This goes a good deal beyond anything recorded in heroic 
tradition, but it strongly recalls the legends of the mythical 
peace-kings Frey and FroSi. 

Unless Tacitus' statements are to be discredited, for which 
there is no justification, the political system of the Svear in his 

1 est apud illos et opibus honos, eoque units imperital, nullis iam exceptionibus, 
11011 precario iwe parendi. 

2 nee a?-?na ut apud cetcros Germanos in promiscuo sed clausa sub custode et quidem 
seruo, etc. 


day differed essentially from what he seems to regard as the 
normal type. But if we take his evidence for the Teutonic 
nations as a whole there is no difficulty in tracing the sequence 
of the various forms of government. We begin with the tribes 
of the Rhineland : here we find stirpes regiae, but very few 
actual kings ; the concilium seems to be the centre of authority. 
Next we come to the Frisians, with kings who can scarcely be 
called kings, and to the Cherusci, where kingship is intermittent. 
Next the Suebi, where kingship is constant and, if we may 
judge from the history of Maroboduus and his successors, not 
entirely impotent. Beyond them we come to the Goths, where 
kingship is of a somewhat stricter form. Indeed 'obedience to 
kings ' is noted by Tacitus as one of the salient characteristics 
of the north-eastern tribes in general 1 . Lastly, when we reach 
the Svear we find absolutism. The farther we proceed from 
the frontier, the more primitive — degraded according to Tacitus' 
ideas — are the forms of political organisation which we meet 
with. It is a natural inference that kingship was once universal 
and, if we may trust Greek and Roman analogies, a trace of 
it may be preserved in the sacerdos ciuitatis. We may further 
note that in Gaul also kingship had once been general, though 
in Caesar's time it survived only among the Belgae. Greek and 
Roman tradition will supply further illustrations ; but these 
reflections lead us beyond the bounds of our subject. 

The causes which led to the temporary decline of kingship 
in the west cannot adequately be discussed here'-, but we need not 
doubt that it was connected, as elsewhere, with the separation of 
political from religious authority. Divisions in the political power 
would naturally serve to increase the influence of the concilium, 
which was at first probably an essentially religious gathering like 
those in the North ; and this influence in turn tended to preserve 
the tribe from actual disintegration. But the concilium itself 
could hardly have existed under such conditions, had not the 
tribe possessed a common hierarchy. Again, the tribal unity, 

1 Gertn. 43 : omniumque harum gentium insigne rotunda saita, breues gladiitt erga 
reges obsequium. It is perhaps worth Doting that this feature is here associated with 
weapons of an archaic type (cf. p. 305). 

2 The possibility of Gaulish inlluence is perhaps to be taken into account. 


such as it was, presented ambitious princes from time to time 
with the opportunity of restoring monarchy — a course to which 
the conditions of the migration period were exceptionally 
favourable. But it must not be assumed that all the kingdoms 
of this period had passed through the same stages of develop- 
ment. Even where a distinct order of priests is found it may 
have arisen at different times and through different causes. 

With regard to the Angli 1 , we have seen that geographically 
they occupied a position probably nearer to the Frisians than 
to the Swedes (Svear). But it is to be remembered that their 
affinities lay with the Baltic and that their religion and oldest 
traditions were closely connected with those of the Svear — 
a fact which renders it probable that their political organisation 
also was originally of the same type. Its form in Tacitus' time 
can only be conjectured ; but having regard to the zones we 
should most probably expect it to be intermediate between the 
Swedish and Gothic types. Again, from the very beginning 
of historical times we meet with a system in the Anglo-Saxon 
kingdoms which may be described as more or less autocratic. 
Traditions which go back to the fourth century give no hint 
of a different type of government. Taking these various con- 
siderations into account I think there is little likelihood that 
the intervening centuries witnessed either kingless government 
or a tribal assembly similar to the German concilium. 

We have noticed above that among the Northern peoples, 
Divinity including the Angli, the claim to royalty seems to 

of kings. have been based on divine descent. It was thought 
formerly that such claims were necessarily fictitious — that the 
god's name was prefixed to a known line of ancestors in order 
to gain additional distinction for the family. Recent researches 
in Greek and Roman tradition however have tended to throw 

1 The Angli possessed a distinct order of priests in the seventh century ; but 
the little information which we possess about these persons (cf. Bede, H. E. II. 13) 
suggests that their position differed somewhat from that of the ancient German priests. 
They seem to have been more definitely subject to the kings — especially as contrasted 
with the priests of the Burgundians (cf. Amm. Marc, xxviii. 5. 14). Further, there 
is no evidence in England for. the existence of a hierarchy, or even a sanctuary, 
common to the whole nation. 


doubt on the necessity of this explanation. In certain cases 
the god's name may have been added or substituted for another. 
Thus, as I have suggested elsewhere 1 , Eyvindr in his poem 
Haleygiatal may have substituted Othin and SkaSi for Holgi 
and ThorgerSr HolgabruSr. But in general there seems to be 
no adequate reason for doubting that, on certain occasions at 
least, men might be called Othin (Woden), just as they were 
called Zeus, Jupiter or Saturn. 

In other cases again we have to take account of the deifica- 
tion of human beings.- This principle is recognised by Adam 
of Bremen who says of the Swedes (IV. 26) colunt et deos ex 
Jiominibus factos and refers to the Life of St Ansgar (cap. 23) 
where the deification of a king named Ericus is described- 
According to Landnamabok, I. 14, a certain Grimr, the ancestor 
in the fourth generation of an Icelandic settler, was worshipped 
after his death under the name Kamban. Such cases are 
probably to be compared with the family cults of the Prus- 
sians, mentioned by Lasicius-. The worship paid apparently to 
Skioldr-Scyld and certainly to Frey may have arisen, in part 
at least, from the same principle. In illustration of the latter 
case we have already cited the story of Halfdan the Black 
(cf. p. 252). Reference may also be made to the account of 
Olafr GeirstaSa-Alfr who is expressly said to have been wor- 
shipped //'/ drs 3 . 

But it was not only after death that kings acquired charac- 
teristics which we should regard as divine. We have seen above 
that the kings of the Swedes were credited, like Frey himself, 
with the power of controlling the harvest and that they were 
liable to be sacrificed in time of famine. Similarly, Ammianus 
Marcellinus, XXVIII, 5. 14, states that the kings of the Bur- 
gundians were deposed according to national custom if the 
crops failed or if the course of war proved disastrous. What 
steps were taken by such persons in order to promote the 
fertility of the fields we are not told. But we have seen that 

1 Folk -Lore, XI. 292, note. 

- Respublica Poloniae etc. (Leyden, 1642), p. 280 : sunt etiam quaedam ueteres 
Nobilium Jamiliae quae peculiares colunt deos, ut Mikutiana Simonaitem, Micheloviciana 
Sidzium, Sckemietiana et Kiesgaliana Vcntis Rekicziovum, aliae alios. 

a Fornmanna Sogur, X. 212 ; Flat. II. 7. 

C 2 1 


the famine in Olafr Tretelgia's time was attributed to the fact 
that that king was not given to blot, and I have already sug- 
gested that this word may mean not so much sacrifice to the 
gods as the performance of certain magical ceremonies for the 
production of rain and sunshine, such as we discussed in an earlier 
chapter (p. 238 f.). Even the gods are represented as occupying 
themselves with bldt (Yngl. S. 2, 4, 5, 8, 11 ff.). So of the 
legendary king Aun it is stated (ib. 29) : " he was a wise man 
and much given to blot; he took no part in military expeditions, 
but governed his territories." It is scarcely necessary to point 
out that this type of king, which is not uncommon in the earliest 
traditions, presents the most striking contrast to the kings of 
the age of national migrations. 

When the large barrows beside the church at Old Upsala 
were opened it was remarked that, though rich in gold ornaments, 
they were found not to contain any weapons. Now Bede (H. E. 
II. 13) states that the priests of the Angli were not allowed to 
carry weapons — from which it has been inferred that the graves 
at Upsala were those of the guardians of the temple. Nothing 
could be more probable; but, unless Northern tradition is wholly 
misleading, the chief guardian of the temple {yorftr vestalls) was 
the king himself. We may note that Frey also is said to have 
been without weapons. 

Bede does not explain why priests were not allowed to carry 
weapons. An explanation however seems to be offered by 
Tacitus' account of the festival of Nerthus, where it is stated 
that all iron was put away so long as the goddess was enjoying 
human society. Since it was apparently owing to the presence 
of the divinity that weapons were put away, we may probably 
infer that the priests were prohibited from carrying weapons 
because they were in constant attendance on the deities. If we 
are to credit Tacitus' statement regarding the Swedes it is 
difficult to see how this custom also can be explained otherwise. 
The neighbourhood of the king may have been regarded as 
a ' place of great peace ' {mikill gri^asta^r), which would again 
tend to show that the king was regarded as divine. No doubt 
his divinity was less than that of the deified departed ; yet if he 
was both treated as divine and credited with divine properties 


it is probable that he was regarded at all events as more than 
human. This is a phenomenon for which analogies are to be 
found in many parts of the world, as Mr Frazer has shown. 

It may of course be urged that Tacitus' account is not really 
parallel to the story of Frey, that in the one case it is the ruler 
who is without weapons, in the other his subjects. This is 
doubtless true ; but it is surely no fatal objection to connecting 
the two phenomena, for we have already (p. 253 ff.) seen reason 
for suspecting that the king was originally the husband of the 
goddess and that his own divinity was secondary. In Tacitus' 
time the change may not have taken place. The position of the 
kings of the Svear may really have been analogous to that of 
the priest of Nerthus, so far as one can compare small theocratic 
communities with a large religious confederacy of distinct and 
distant tribes. Yet the fact remains that in both cases the 
goddess was ultimately forgotten and her place taken by a 
divine or semidivine king. On the whole then it will scarcely 
be going too far to characterise the difference between the migra- 
tion period and the preceding age — so far at least as the more 
northern nations are concerned — by the statement that in the 
former the king was the descendant of a god, while in the latter 
he was a god himself. 

The above discussion has led us to conclude that political 

Social organisation of some kind goes back far beyond 

organisation. t j ie a ^ e Q f- national migrations. Just as we find 

a number of tribes joining together in religious confederacies, so 
we need not hesitate to believe that the tribe itself was made up 
of a number of local communities under chiefs of their own, 
each of whom probably possessed a stockaded village where he 
practised blot and administered justice under his sacred tree. 
The question whether such persons were really chiefs of clans 
is one which the evidence at our disposal will scarcely enable us 
to answer. We need not hesitate however to believe that organ- 
isations of kindred formed an influential element in society. 
Indeed Tacitus' statements (cf. p. 312) seem to indicate that 
among some of the Germani at least their importance was 
greater than in later times. 

21 — 2 


It is a much more difficult matter to form a clear idea as 
a natic re- to tne nature °f these organisations. According 
lationship. to i-j^g prevalent view the Teutonic family system 

was mainly agnatic from early times. Cognates did share in the 
payment and receipt of wergelds, though in many laws in less 
proportion than agnates. It was to the latter however that the 
guardianship of women and minors belonged, and it was through 
the male line that the possession of property descended. In 
some laws, e.g. the Lex Scania Antiqua, we find, as Mr Seebohm 
has pointed out 1 , evidence for a system similar to that of the 
Welsh gwely, according to which a man's property was divided 
first among his sons, then among his sons' sons and then again 
among their sons. In its simplest form, viz. the division of a 
father's property among his sons, this system is widespread. 
Among the Franks and Anglo-Saxons we frequently find it 
applied even to the kingdom. Succession in the male line 
occurs everywhere. Among the Franks, Burgundians, Danes 
and Swedes we can trace it back to the fifth century, among the 
Angli even to the fourth. 

Now it is manifest that any such system of succession must 
be bound up to some extent with marriage customs of the 
Deega type. It is not necessary that the wife should actually 
enter the establishment of the husband's family, though this does 
occur sometimes, as in the Skaane code mentioned above. But 
it must have been the normal practice for the married couple to 
take up their abode in the village or on the property of the 
husband's family ; and that is as a matter of fact what we 
regularly find in England and, speaking generally, in all Teu- 
tonic nations within historical times. Moreover there are two 
common varieties of marriage which are hardly compatible 
normally with any other principle than the Deega. These are 
marriage by purchase, in the strict sense, and marriage by 
capture. The latter is found in all Teutonic nations, but it is at 
least doubtful whether one would be justified in regarding it as 
the regular custom anywhere. Marriage by purchase appears 
in its crudest form in Kent, where wives would seem to have 

1 Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, pp. 23 ff., 279 ft. 


been bought much in the same way as slaves or cattle 1 . For 
the rest of England we hav r e unfortunately little evidence ; but 
purchase seems to have prevailed, at least in Wessex (cf. Ine 31). 
There is no doubt also that it was the custom among several 
Continental nations, especially the Langobardi, the Burgundians 
and the Old Saxons 2 . More than one passage in Saxo's History 
points to its former prevalence in Denmark, though elsewhere in 
the North it seems to be hardly known. Cases where the price 
was paid to the bride herself, which we find both on the Conti- 
nent and in the North, and cases of the so-called ' symbolical 
purchase,' which prevailed among the Franks, are both usually 
regarded as survivals of real purchase ; but they are sometimes 
capable of a different interpretation. 

In this connection there is one practice which deserves 
special attention, viz. the marriage of a brother's or father's 
widow. The former is found especially in the North, the latter 
in England and among the Warni. Again this practice has 
clearly some bearing on the regulations laid down in the Lex 
Saxonum (§ 42) with regard to the guardianship of widows. 
The guardian, who is the person entitled to the bride-price if the 
widow marries again, is (1) her stepson or, failing him, (2) the 
brother or (3) the nearest male relative of the deceased husband. 
It need scarcely be pointed out that such customs as these 
assume the prevalence of Deega marriage. Further, we may 
note that practices of this kind are apt to be associated with 
a degraded position of women. Such was the case with the 
heathen Prussians, among - whom we have evidence both for 
marriage by purchase, and for marriage of a widow by her 
husband's son and brother 3 . In Dusburg's Chronicle 4 it is 
stated that the Prussians in accordance with ancient custom 

1 We may refer especially to Aethelberht 31, the simplest meaning of which is that 
the adulterer must supply the husband whom he has wronged with a new wife. An- 
other interpretation is however possible, viz. that he is to be responsible for the cost 
of a second marriage (cf. Hazeltine, zur Geschichte dcr Eheschliessung nach angel- 
sachsischem Recht, p. 24 f.). 

2 cf. Hermann, zur Geschichte des Brautkaufs, p. 22 ff. 

3 cf. Michov in Grynaeus' Nouns Orbis Terrarum etc. (Basel, 1537), p. 519 : apud 
quos (sc. Samagittos) licitum erat uni uiro plures habere ttxores et patrc mortuo nouer- 
cam fratreque glotem in uxorem acciperc. 

4 Scriptores Rerum Prussicarum, 1. 54. 


were wont to buy their wives for a fixed sum of money. " Hence 
he treats her like a slave and does not sit at table with her. 
She washes the feet both of members of the family and of 
strangers daily." Again, in a document of 1249 1 we are told that 
" when a father has bought a wife with pecunia which belongs 
jointly to him and his son, it has been customary up to now that 
on the father's death the wife should fall to the son, just like any 
other property which has been acquired out of the common 
fund. But in order to prevent men from claiming their step- 
mothers for the future they have (now) promised neither to buy 
nor sell wives." The wife therefore was really a chattel here, as 
the Kentish laws also seem to imply. The practice of suttee 
which we know to have prevailed not only among the Slavs 2 but 
also among some Teutonic peoples, especially the Heruli 3 who 
were probably near neighbours of the Angli, may be interpreted 
as pointing in the same direction. 

There can be no doubt then as to the prevalence among the 
heathen Teutonic peoples of agnatic organisation with its con- 
comitants, Deega marriage and probably also a very subordinate 
position of women in the household. But the questions we have 
to consider are whether this system was universal and whether it 
goes back to a period beyond the recollection of our earliest 
documents and traditions. Now Tacitus states {Germ. 19) that 
if a woman committed adultery it was usual for her husband to 
expel her from home. Again, polygamy was known (id. 18), as 
among the heathen Prussians and the Scandinavians also in later 
times, though it was exceptional and limited to persons of high 
position. In general however it cannot be said that Tacitus' 
account points to a degraded position of women, but quite 
distinctly to the contrary. His remarks on the subject of the 
marriage contract (Germ. 18) cannot, as they stand, be inter- 
preted to prove the prevalence of purchase. If such really was 
the custom in his time, as is commonly assumed, our author 

1 cf. Hermann, op. cit., p. 19. 

2 cf. Bonifacius, Ep. 72 ; Thietmar, Chron. VIII. 2. 

3 cf. Procopius, Goth. n. 14. I have elsewhere collected some evidence for the 
prevalence of the same custom among other Teutonic peoples {The Cult of Othin, 
p. 42 ff.). 


must either have received incorrect information, or else he must 
have greatly misunderstood his informants. 

Again it appears from another passage {Germ. 20) that the 
Traces of constitution of the family was by no means so 
cognation. predominantly agnatic as in later times. "Sisters' 

sons receive as much consideration from their uncle as from 
their father. Some even regard this relationship as closer and 
more sacred than the other and attach more weight to it when 
taking hostages, the idea being that the fidelity of their depend- 
ents will be more effectively secured thereby and at the same 
time a wider circle of relatives brought under control 1 ." The 
plain meaning of these words is that the bond between mother's 
brother and sister's son was in general held to be as close as that 
between father and son, and though custom did indeed vary in 
this respect the variation took the form of regarding the former 
relationship as more binding. Now there is evidence from many 
parts of the world for the growth of the agnatic bond at the 
expense of that between cognates, while the reverse process 
is seldom or never found. It is a natural inference therefore 
from Tacitus' language that a change of this kind was taking 
place among the Teutonic peoples of his time and that it was as 
yet by no means complete. The statement which follows, that 
a man's property passes at his death to his children or, if there 
be no children, to his brothers, father's brothers and mother's 
brothers, can hardly be held to invalidate this interpretation. 
All that may fairly be inferred from it is that the agnatic 
principle had obtained the upper hand in regard to succession, 
especially when the deceased had left children. Quite possibly 
however the vague expression fratres, patrui, auunculi may be 
founded on variations of custom, in cases where a man died 
childless, which Tacitus did not think it worth while to specify. 

We must conclude then that the few sentences which Tacitus 
devotes to the social organisation of the Teutonic peoples pre- 
sent not inconsiderable difficulties to the hypothesis that the 
agnatic system which we find prevailing in later times was 

1 sororum filiis idem apud auunculum qui ad patrem honor, quidant sanctiorem 
artioremque hiinc nexnm sanguinis arbitrantur et in aecipiendis obsidibus magis 
exigunt, tamqua/n et animum Jirmius et domum latins teneant. 


of very great antiquity. These difficulties however are substan- 
tially increased by the evidence of the Lex Salica, a body of 
laws which both from its antiquity and its comparative freedom 
from Roman influence deserves careful consideration. Now 
there are three Titles in the Lex which have an important 
bearing on social organisation. The first of these, Tit. XLllli 
{De Reipus), deals with the regulations for the re-marriage of 
widows. The price to be paid by the bridegroom is three solidi 
and one denarius, a remarkably small sum, it will be observed, 
as compared with the corresponding amount specified in the 
Lex Saxonum, viz. 300 sol. The persons qualified to receive the 
price are stated to be (1) the eldest son of the widow's sister, (2) 
failing such, the eldest son of her niece, (3) the son of her con- 
sobrinus {consobrina according to other MSS.) on the mother's 
side, (4) her mother's brother, (5) her deceased husband's brother, 
but only if he is not to succeed to the inheritance. It scarcely 
needs pointing out that this scheme is based on an entirely 
different principle from that of the Lex Saxonum. The very 
trifling sum specified is often interpreted as an instance of 'sym- 
bolical' purchase. But it is difficult to see how this can be the 
case, since it is to be paid to the widow's own relatives 1 ; even 
when these are wanting, the husband's heirs are directly excluded. 
Again, within the widow's own family preference is given to those 
of a younger generation and, most remarkable of all, the persons 
qualified to receive the ' price ' are probably all related to the 
widow only in the female line 2 . 

Tit. LIX {De Alodis) gives a list of the various persons 
qualified to succeed to the property of a childless man. Though 
there is much textual divergence the persons specified according 
to the best readings seem to be (1) the mother, (2) brother and 
sister, (3) mother's sister. The last clause adds that no inherit- 
ance in land is to pass to a woman, and it has been supposed 
that this represents primitive custom, while the former clauses 

1 In Tit. lxxi, which occurs only in Cod. i and n, there is mention of a payment 
to the relatives of the deceased husband; but this Title is in all probability a later 

2 For a fuller discussion of this subject see Howitt, Proceedings of the Australasian 
Association for the Advancement of Science, Melbourne, 1901, p. 321 ff., where affinities 
with Australian (aboriginal) custom are pointed out. 


are due to recent innovations. But, apart from the fact that an 
innovation on behalf of the mother's sister is contrary to all 
analogy, this hypothesis is open to the objection that in the 
century before Clovis' time the territories occupied by the Salii 
had almost wholly changed. The conditions therefore were 
such as would be favourable to military tenancy of some kind, 
and evidence to this effect may perhaps be obtained from Tit. 
LXXVill, an addition dating from Chilperic's reign, which seems 
to indicate that it had been the custom until then for the lands 
of a man who left no sons to pass to the iticini. But, whatever 
may be the explanation of the last clause, the Title as a whole 
is clearly difficult to reconcile with agnatic organisation of the 
family 1 . 

Tit. LVIII (De Chrenecrudd) is unfortunately rendered very 
difficult by the extraordinary variety of readings presented by 
the different MSS. The matter treated in the Title is as 
follows. In heathen times, if a man guilty of homicide was 
unable to pay the whole amount required by law, he was to enter 
his house and throw earth from its four corners over his nearest 
relatives, in order apparently that further responsibility might 
devolve upon the latter. The first relatives mentioned are the 
mother 2 (or the father or both according to different MSS.) and 
the brother. Next, according to the great majority of the MSS., 
come the mother's sister and her children. Then follows a 
difficult passage, which has been much discussed, with reference 
to the participation of further relatives on the mother's or 
father's side or both according to different MSS. Codices I, 2 
and 1 1 omit mention of the mother's sister and her children, 
and it has been suggested, though with little probability, that 
the former has crept in from Tit. LIX. It is surely far more 
reasonable to suppose that the words in question have been 
dropped from the three codices, especially as there is a close 
affinity between Cod. 1 and II, In regard to Cod. 2, where 
filius which cannot be correct by itself is preserved, no other 
explanation seems to be admissible. But if the words soror 

1 For a fuller discussion of this subject see Dargun, Multfrrecht und Raubehe, 
p. 6 1 ff. 

- Cf. the obscure passage relating to the receipt of wergelds in Tit. ci. 


matris etc. did stand in the original text there can be little 
doubt that the true reading in the preceding sentence is mater. 

Taking these passages as they stand, it seems to me difficult 
to reconcile them with any system of social organisation which 
can properly be called agnatic. On the other hand it is not a 
purely cognatic system, for in Tit. LVIII we do find mention of 
agnates, though apparently after the cognates. Again, it is to 
be remembered that the regulations in Tit. LIX are expressly 
said to apply only to those who have no children. I think that 
some semblance of a rational scheme may be obtained from the 
Lex if we may take it as a general principle that the persons on 
whom property, rights and obligations devolve are supposed to 
be living more or less together. But if so it is clear that the 
form of marriage which prevailed when these customs originated 
must have been of the Beena type. So far as I can see, it is 
hardly possible to explain otherwise the mention of the mother's 
sister in Tit. LVIII and LIX and the whole series of relatives 
given in Tit. XLIIII. In that case we must of course assume 
that both the typical childless man of Tit. LIX and the typical 
man of Tit. LVIII are unmarried. But is this really improbable? 
A more serious difficulty perhaps is raised by the reference to the 
children in Tit. LIX. According to our hypothesis the inherit- 
ance should come only to daughters and unmarried sons, while 
married sons would receive their portion when they left home. 

But I am not prepared to maintain that any such consistent 
system existed at the time when the Salic Law was first com- 
mitted to writing. At all events it is clear from the extra- 
ordinary variety of readings, particularly the substitution of male 
and agnatic for female and cognatic relatives, which we find even 
in the earliest MSS., that the original provisions soon became 
unintelligible. Yet the fact that such substitutions were required 
in itself goes far towards showing that the social organisation of 
the Franks must originally have been of a wholly opposite type 
to that which we find in later times. 

Of course the fact that unmistakable traces of cognatic 
organisation appear both in the Lex Salica and in Tacitus' 
works does not prove that this system was formerly common to all 
Teutonic peoples, for Tacitus' information was probably derived 


from the tribes of western Germany. It is not likely that these 
tribes had passed from agnation to even partial cognation ; but 
there is doubtless a possibility that differences of this kind had 
prevailed from very remote times. The laws of the various 
Suebic nations, the Alamanni, Bavarians and Langobardi, 
present but few traces of cognatic organisation as compared 
with the Lex Salica. But it is to be remembered that the laws 
of these nations date from a considerably later period than the 
latter — from a time indeed when Frankish society itself was 
quite definitely agnatic. If we had earlier evidence for Suebic 
society we might find a different state of things. As a matter of 
fact the only case of succession to a Suebic kingdom of which 
we know in early times is that recorded by Tacitus, Ann. XII. 
29 f., where the king of the Ouadi is displaced by two sons of 
his sister. 

In most of the Scandinavian laws also agnatic relationship 
is preferred, e.g. in the payment and receipt of wergelds. But 
here again it is to be remembered that these laws are very late. 
Sometimes we hear of grandfathers' grandfathers and cousins in 
the third and fourth degree, from which it has been inferred that 
Scandinavian society was organised in large agnatic kindreds. 
But even if this be so it ought not to be assumed that such 
organisations must have been of great antiquity. Some 
explanation at all events is required of the fact that they figure 
so little in the sagas, whether legendary or historical. There is 
no evidence that they were ever such perfectly organised bodies 
as the clans of Scotland and Ireland. Yet in Scotland paternal 
succession was not introduced into the royal family until the 
ninth century, while in Ireland also, where it is much older, there 
are distinct traces of the opposite system. 

For marriage by purchase we have but little evidence in 
Scandinavian literature or tradition. In succession sons were 
preferred before daughters in the time of the laws. But, 
failing sons, daughters succeeded ; and it is clear from the sagas 
that this was the case as far back as the ninth century. 
Moreover, in heathen times not only estates but temples and 
religious duties 1 were inherited in the same way. When we get 

1 Cf. Landnamabok, v. 8, where it is stated that an Icelander named Loptr used 


back to the eighth century we constantly find the kingdom 
passing to daughters' sons and even to daughters' husbands. 
As an example of the former case we may note that according 
to both Saxo and Old Norse works Harald Hildetand and his 
successors all came to the Danish throne through Harald's 
mother, though the accounts differ in other respects. Halfdan 
the Black succeeded to the throne of AgSir through his mother 
and his son Haraldr to that of Sogn in a similar way 1 . Indeed 
instances are quite frequent. One case occurs even in Beowulf, 
where the hero himself obtains the throne by right of his 
mother. For the acquisition of the throne by marriage we 
have instances in Yngl. S. 38, where Halfdan Hvitbeinn marries 
the daughter of Eysteinn, king of HeiSmork, and receives a 
large portion of that district; ib. 51, where Halfdan's son, 
Eysteinn, marries the daughter of Eirikr, king of Vestfold, and 
succeeds him ; ib. 41, where HiorvarSr marries the daughter of 
Granmarr, king of Sodermanland, with a view to succession. 
We may also refer to Saxo's stories of Gram and Sigtrugus 
(p. 17 f.), of Omundus and Ringo (p. 266 f.) and of Snio (p. 281 f.), 
where the kingdom is acquired by killing the king and marrying 
his daughter. Unsuccessful attempts of a similar character are 
recorded by the same writer, pp. 35, 45. 

It is in regard to succession through females that Scandi- 
navian custom differs most perhaps from English and Frankish 
custom. According to the latter if a king left no son he was 
succeeded by his brother or other male agnatic relative, 
sometimes quite remote. In the North however we never, so far 
as I am aware, hear of a daughter being passed over in favour 
of a more distant relative in early times. If we may trust the 
traditions of Ivarr VfSfaSmi and his family, the daughters' 
descendants even preserved the family name {Skioldwigar). 

But beyond all this we sometimes find daughters' husbands 
receiving a share in their fathers' kingdoms even when there 
are sons. Such is the case with HeiSrekr in Hervarar S. ok 

to go to Norway every three years to offer sacrifice, both for himself and his mother's 
brother, at a temple which had been in the charge of his mother's father. For this 
reference I have to thank Miss B. S. Phillpotts. 
1 Saga Halfdanar Svarta r, 3. 


HeiSreks, cap. 10. In Yngl. S. 53 we are told that when 
GuSroSr, king of Vestfold, married Alfhildr, daughter of 
Alfarinn, he received half of Vingulmork as her dowry. 
SigurSr Hringr, who married another member of the same 
family, likewise called Alfhildr, is also said to have obtained 
territories in this region 1 . In Skiold. S. (Sogubrot) 5 a king 
named Hildibrandr, who had a son and a daughter, is represented 
as advising his son to give his sister in marriage to some 
distant prince and not to grant her territories in his kingdom. 
In Saxo's History (p. 224) we find an adventurer named Ebbo 
demanding the hand of the daughter of Unguinus, king of the 
Gotar, and half the kingdom as a dowry, though Unguinus had 
a son. From Fra dauSi Sinfiotla it appears that Borghildr, the 
wife of Sigmundr, had territories of her own, although she had 
a brother. 

These examples will be sufficient to show that Beena 
marriage plays a decidedly important part in Northern tradition. 
In particular we may note the history of the Ynglingar during 
the five generations preceding Harold the Fair-haired. During 
the time specified members of this family, which is said to have 
come from Sweden, are represented as obtaining at least six 
provinces in Norway through marriage, viz. Soleyiar, HeiSmdrk, 
Vestfold, Vingulmork, AgSir and Sogn. In most of these cases 
there seems to be no adequate ground for doubting the truth of 
the tradition. 

It would certainly not be correct to deny the existence of 
agnatic succession in Norway at this time, for we have no 
trustworthy examples of sons being passed over in favour of 
daughters. Evidence to this effect is to be found only in 
folk-tales 2 . But tradition does seem to take us back to a stage 
intermediate between the two systems, when the two sexes had 
equal rights in succession. Moreover there is evidence for another 
custom which supplies the exact correlative to that which we have 
been discussing. According to William of Jumieges, I. 4 f, it was 
usual for Scandinavian chiefs to keep only one of their sons at 

1 Cf. Skiold. S. (Sogubrot) 6, 10; Haralds S. hiiis harfagra (Heimskr) 14. For 
this example I have to thank Mr A. Mawer. 

- Cf. K. Pearson, The Chances of Death etc., II. p. 58 IT. 


home and to send out the rest to seek their fortune elsewhere. 
We need not suppose that such persons intended to spend their 
whole lives in piracy. Far more probably they would be ready, 
like Olaf Tryggvason, to settle down whenever a favourable 
opportunity presented itself. William's statement refers of 
course to the Viking Age, but the traditions preserved in the 
sagas leave us no room for doubting that the custom had 
prevailed from early times. 

Again, it is worth noticing that it appears to have been an 
extremely common practice in the North to send one's children 
to others, to be brought up. Very frequently they were sent to 
the mother's relatives. Such was the case for instance with 
Olafr Tretelgia and his son Halfdan Hvftbeinn. In Haralds S. 
Harf. 21, we are told that Harold had many wives and numerous 
children and that all the latter were brought up at their mothers' 
homes. It seems not unlikely that this custom may have some 
connection with the intimate relations between mother's brother 
and sister's son noted by Tacitus. The very frequent practice of 
naming a child after its mother's father or brother may also be 
taken into account. 

We may now sum up briefly the results of our discussion. 
There seems to be no evidence for believing that a purely agnatic 
system ever prevailed in the North, while the farther we go back 
in native tradition the more prominent become the traces of the 
opposite system. This fact, taken together with the clear 
evidence of the Lex Salica and Tacitus' notice of the succession 
to the throne of the Suebi, surely gives us good reason for 
suspecting that the change from cognation to agnation among 
the northern and western Teutonic peoples was not of any very 
great antiquity. Indeed it is by no means improbable that the 
transition was taking place in Tacitus' own time as his remarks 
in the Germania suggest. The process may of course have 
occupied many generations, but it is only reasonable to suppose 
that it took place later in the north than in the south. After all 
our earliest trustworthy evidence for succession in the North 
does not go back beyond the fifth century. 

Among the Angli, as we have seen, the evidence for 
succession from father to son goes back a century earlier than 


among the Swedes and Danes. Apart from this however we 
have extremely little information regarding the social organisa- 
tion of early times, a fact which it is always well to keep in 
mind. Thus, in contrast with the system prevailing in the 
North, cognate relatives seem to have been entirely excluded 
from the succession. But in the light of the illustrations given 
above is it not possible, for example, that Aethel frith may have 
derived some claim to the throne of Deira through his wife? 
Again, we hear sometimes of kings being succeeded by cousins 
of the fifth and sixth degree. Yet it is difficult to avoid 
suspecting that their succession may have been facilitated by 
nearer relationships through the female line, which happen not 
to have been recorded. No doubt such relationships were 
disregarded in later times. But the strength of the agnatic 
principle may have grown with time. Again, it is generally 
believed that agnates were preferred before cognates in the 
receipt and payment of wergelds. But here also the evidence, 
such as it is, does not go back beyond the tenth century. 

It is certainly worth noticing that in the earliest records which 
we possess women of high rank seem to hold a very important 
and influential position. This feature is often ascribed to 
southern and Christian influence ; but if so it is not a little 
remarkable that it is much more prominent in the seventh 
century than in the eighth or ninth. Thus we find Eanfled, the 
wife of Oswio, pursuing a very independent line of action 
within half a century of the conversion, while Cynwise, the 
wife of the heathen king Penda, would seem to have been 
acting as regent in her husband's absence, perhaps like Hygd the 
wife of Hygelac. Above all, Seaxburg, the wife of the convert 
Coenwalh, is said to have occupied the throne herself after his 
death. Bede's account of St Aethelthryth shows that queens 
had estates and retinues of their own ; and this custom also 
must go back to heathen times, for the first reference that we have 
to Bamborough, the chief residence of the Northumbrian kings, 
is the statement that it was given by the heathen king Aethel- 
frith to his wife Bebbe'. Such cases may have some bearing on 
the custom of marriage between stepson and stepmother. It 

1 Hist. Brit., § 63 ; such gifts were customary also in the North ; cf. Vngl. S. 17. 


has been pointed out above that this form of marriage is 
sometimes associated with a very degraded social position of 
women. But we must not assume that it was necessarily due to 
such conditions. Quite different causes may have produced the 
same result, e.g. the desire to prevent property from passing by 
re-marriage out of the possession of the sons. 

If the regulations contained in the Kentish laws regarding 
the purchase of wives reflect general Anglo-Saxon custom— 
which after all is somewhat uncertain — we shall have to conclude 
that the position of women in the higher and lower ranks of 
society differed greatly. But this difference may really be due to 
a deterioration in the position of the latter. The invasion itself 
might naturally be expected to have such an effect, for there 
can be little doubt that at first a considerable proportion of the 
women were taken from the native population. Moreover it is 
worth noting that those continental nations for which there is 
the clearest evidence for marriage by purchase, namely the Old 
Saxons, the Burgundians and the Langobardi, were likewise all 
settled in conquered territories. That they were much mixed 
with the native populations may be inferred from the fact that 
in each of these cases the language of the invaders perished 
within a few centuries of the invasion. 

It may perhaps be urged that the possession of influence by 
women does not necessarily hang together with a cognatic 
system of society. Certainly among primitive peoples the 
condition of women may be extremely bad under such a system, 
while on the other hand in highly civilised society women may 
hold a very influential position under a purely agnatic system. 
But the society of the times with which we are dealing belongs 
to neither of these categories. It is clearly to be compared 
rather with that of the Homeric Greeks, where again the same 
phenomenon is prominent. But there is some reason for 
believing that Greek society of that age was in a state of 
transition from cognation to agnation. This being so it is worth 
while to carry our investigations somewhat farther back in order 
that we may be able to avail ourselves of the earliest evidence 
on the subject. 

Now it has already been observed that according to Tacitus 


autocracy prevailed among the Swedes (Svear), the most remote 
with one exception of all the peoples of ' Suebia ' mentioned by 
him. The most remote people of all however are called Sitones, 
and of them he says {Germ. 45) that they resemble the Swedes 
in every respect except that they are governed by women 1 . 
Beyond autocracy then we come to gynaecocracy. It is 
generally thought that the Sitones — whose name is not known 
elsewhere — may have been of Finnish rather than Teutonic 
nationality 2 , and as a matter of fact we have no clear evidence 
for the existence of any Teutonic peoples beyond the Swedes. 
But, whatever the language which they spoke, Tacitus' words 
clearly give no countenance to the idea that they belonged to a 
wholly different circle of civilisation from the Swedes. 

There is a passage however in Tacitus' Histories, IV. 61, 
which is free from any doubt on this score. In his own time a 
maiden belonging to the Bructeri, Veleda by name, had held a 
wide sovereignty " in accordance with the ancient custom of the 
Germani, which makes them regard most women as endowed 
with the gift of prophecy and, as their devotion grows, even as 
goddesses 3 ." She lived secluded in a tower and gave answers by 
means of one of her relatives ut internuntius numinis (ib. 65). We 
may compare Germ. 8, where it is stated that armies had often 
been prevented by women from taking to flight. For there was 
nothing that the Germani dreaded more than that their women 
should be captured. So strong was this feeling that there was 
no more effective way of ensuring obedience than by having 
girls of high birth included among the hostages, " for they 
believe them to possess some sacred and prophetic property, and 
neither scorn the advice which they tender nor treat their 
answers with neglect 4 ." It scarcely needs pointing out how 

1 Suionibus Sitonum gentes continuantur • cetera similes uno differunl quodfemina 

- The suggestion that Tacitus' account arose out of a misunderstanding of the 
name Kvena land (cf. the patria, terra feminarum of Adam of Bremen, ill. 15, iv. 
1 9) need hardly be discussed here. 

3 ea uirgo natiouis Bructerae late imperitabat, uetere apud Germanos more, 1/110 
plerasque feminarum fatidicas et augescente superstitione arbitrantur deas. 

4 inesse quin etiam sanctum aliquid et prouidum putant, nee ant consilia earum 
aspernantur ant rcsponsa negiigunt. 

C. 2 2 


absolutely opposed is the view of women shown in this passage 
to that held by the heathen Prussians and probably also in 
Kent. We have seen above that some of the Germani 
apparently demanded the sons of chiefs as hostages, while 
others preferred their sisters' sons. Here we have a third 
variety which seems really to point to Beena marriage as well 
as cognation. At all events the various passages in which 
Tacitus alludes to the subject when taken together leave little 
room for doubt that the position of women in his day resembled 
that of the queens and princesses of the early Anglo-Saxon age 
rather than that shown in the Kentish laws. At the same time 
they afford an explanation of this position, namely that its 
origin is to be sought in religion. 

Now it has been mentioned above that Tacitus attributes a 
good deal of power to the priests of the Germani. Caesar on 
the other hand has no reference to such persons and says 
explicitly {Gall. VI. 21) that the Germani had no druides to take 
charge of their religious rites. This statement is perhaps 
capable of more than one interpretation, and few modern 
writers are willing to admit that the priesthood can have grown 
up between the time of Caesar and that of Tacitus 1 . Yet 
there are certain facts which must not be overlooked. One of 
the most important of priestly duties was that of taking the 
omens. On state occasions this duty was performed by the 
sacerdos ciuitatis (Germ. 10) ; in the private household his place 
was taken by the pater familiae. But in Caesar's time on what 
must be regarded as a state occasion {Gall. I. 50) we find the 
same duty discharged by the matres familiae. Again, there can 
be no doubt that in Tacitus' time sacrifices, whether human or 
otherwise, were performed by the priests. Yet one of the very 
earliest notices of Teutonic religion which we have is the story 
preserved by Strabo (p. 294) of the white-robed prophetesses of 
the Cimbri who slaughtered and disembowelled the prisoners, 
prophesying victory to their own people 2 . There is good reason 

1 Strabo (p. 292) mentions a certain Ki^-r\% tlov Xclttwv iepetis in connection with 
the triumph of Germanicus (a.D. 17). 

2 Cf. Orkneyinga S. 8, where the mangling of the victim by the ' blood-eagle ' rite 
is treated as a sacrifice for victory. 


therefore for believing that several of the chief functions of the 
priesthood had in earlier times been discharged by women 1 . It 
is by no means improbable that the saccrdos muliebri ornatu- of 
Germ. 43 had taken the place of a woman. 

The exercise of priestly functions by women was not 
unknown in the North 3 . In legendary sagas we find such 
duties performed especially by queens and princesses. Thus in 
Fri5]>iofs S. 9 the two queens are represented as warming and 
greasing the gods at a disablot, a passage which — like the saga 
itself as a whole — by no means deserves the suspicion with 
which it is commonly regarded. So in Hervarar S. I, the 
king's daughter is carried off while she is ' reddening ' the shrines 
at a disablot by night. But beyond this we have to take 
account of the very important part played in Northern 
mythology by certain classes of beings, the nprnir and valkyriur, 
who are partly divine and partly human 4 . Just as the heavenly- 
sanctuary with its world-tree is in all probability derived from 
earthly prototypes like that at Upsala 5 , so we need not hesitate 
to believe that the nornir who dwell beneath the tree had a 
similar origin. It will be sufficient here to refer to the story of 
the three maidens given by Saxo, p. 181. Again, we have to 
remember that the ancients did not clearly distinguish between 
foretelling an event and bringing it to pass. The distance 
therefore between these mythical beings and the prophetesses of 
antiquity is not so great as might at first sight appear. On the 
other hand the same beings are very closely connected with the 
guardian spirits of families (haminginr, fylgiiikonur, disir), in 
which much of Norwegian and Icelandic religion was centred. 

1 Other priestly duties may have been performed by the kings themselves, for 
there is no need to suppose that the separation of political and religious authority 
(cf. p. 319 ff.) was complete by Caesar's time even in the west. 

2 The theory that this expression refers merely to a mode of dressing the hair does 
not seem to me to have been established ; cf. p. 225, note 2. 

3 Cf. Folk-Lore, xi. 297 f. 

4 For the valkyriur we may refer especially to the poem Sigrdrifumal. In 
England also the use of the phrase iviccean and waelcyrian would seem to show that 
they were regarded partly as human. 

6 Cf. The Cult of Othin, p. 75 ff . ; Hermann, Nordische Mythologies p. 592 ff. ; 
R. M. Meyer, Zeitschr. f. deutsche Philol., XXXVIII. 17: f. 

22 2 


If ThorgerSr HolgabruSr belonged to this class 1 the element of 
ancestor-worship was probably not entirely absent from such 

The above brief discussion will perhaps suffice to indicate 
that there are at all events some grounds for suspecting that the 
agnatic system of the Angli was of no great antiquity. To 
prove the prevalence of the opposite system would take us far 
beyond the limits of such a work as this — indeed with the 
evidence at our disposal it would scarcely be possible. But we 
have seen that there appear to be very distinct traces of 
cognation and Beena marriage to the north, south and west of 
the Angli, and further that the earliest available evidence for 
the various Teutonic peoples by no means points to a degraded 
condition of women. The gynaecocracy of the Sitones and the 
Bructeri may be a local and abnormal development 2 , but its roots 
are clearly to be found in a peculiar religious position of women 
which, so far as I can see, is difficult to reconcile with the 
prevalence of Deega marriage. 

Above all it is to be remembered that the evidence for the 
antiquity of the agnatic system is purely inferential. We know 
that paternal succession in the royal family prevailed among the 
Angli in the fourth century and among the Cherusci in the first 
century ; but that is all. Have we any right to assume that the 
Angli were agnatic in the first century ? At this time apparently 
their chief deity was a goddess. Now we find gods taking the 
place of goddesses, just as priests take the place of priestesses. 
This same goddess appears later in the North as a god, and her 
descendants, the Ynglingar, figure as an agnatic kindred. But 
what reason is there for supposing that they were agnatic when 
their deity was still female ? Moreover we find in the traditions 
associated with this deity and her family the same feature which 
among the royal families of the ancient world, e.g. those of the 

1 Cf. Keyser, Samlede Afhandlinger (1868), p. 312 f. — a reference for which I have 
to thank Miss B. S. Phillpotts. 

2 It should be noted that Langobardic tradition begins with a woman, Gambara, 
who is represented, like Veleda, as both ruler and prophetess (Script. Rer. Lang, et 
Ital., pp. 2, 7f.). 


Egyptians and Carians, is believed to mark the transition from 
cognation to agnation, namely the union of brother and sister 1 . 

In conclusion we must notice two specific objections which 
may be raised against the suggestion that society remained 
cognatic until such a comparatively late period. One is that 
most English kings claimed direct paternal descent from Woden. 
But in order to make this argument available for proving that 
society was agnatic it must be shown that these kings claimed 
to be the successors as well as the descendants of the god, for 
the recognition of paternal ancestry does not necessarily involve 
paternal succession. We may note that according to Homer the 
Lycian king Sarpedon was a son of Zeus. Yet his title to the 
throne was derived from his mother and his mother's mother. 
Indeed it is of this nation that Herodotus (I. 173) states that 
descent was reckoned by the mother down to his own time. For 
a further analogy we may refer to the story of the origin of the 
Gauls given by Ammianus Marcellinus (XV. 9. 6). According to 
native tradition, he says, Hercules after slaying the tyrant 
Tauriscus, who had been oppressing Gaul, begat by noble 
women a number of children who gave their names to the 
regions which they governed 2 . This legend, it will be seen, 
is really quite compatible with the custom of the Picts, according 
to which the succession passed after brothers to the sisters' sons s , 
while the king's father himself was probably always a stranger. 
It is not unlikely that in early times the king was not allowed 
to marry and have children which he could call his own, but that 
he had the right of intercourse wherever he wished. At all 
events this is what is stated of the king of the Hebrides by the 

1 Cf. White, Joitrtial of Hellenic Studies, XVIII. 238 ff. ; Ridgeway, Preelections 
delivered before the Senate of the University of Cambridge, Jan. 1906, p. 154 ff. For 
these references I have to thank Mr Frazer. 

- regionum auteni incolae id magis omnibus adseuerant, quod etiam nos legimus in 
inonumentis eorum incisum, Amphitryonis Jiliuin Herculem ad Geryonis el Taurisci 
saetcium tyrannorum perniciem festiuasse, quorum alter Hispanias alter Gallias 
infestabat, superatisque ambobus coisse cum generosis feminis suscepisseque liberos plures 
et eos partes quibus imperitabanl suis nominibus appellasse. 

3 It is worth noting that what is probably the oldest Gaulish legend which we 
possess deals with a king of the Bituriges and his sister's sons (cf. Livy, v. 34). 


Irish interpolator of Solinus 1 . The explanation may be that he 
was regarded as divine or semi-divine and perhaps, like Northern 
chiefs, as the husband of a goddess. 

The second objection is the genealogy given by Tacitus, 
Germ. 2. The Inguaeones, Hermiones and Istaeuones are said 
to be descended from three sons of Mannus who was himself 
the son of the god Tuisto. Here, it will be observed, Mannus 
seems to correspond somewhat to the Gaulish Hercules 2 . The 
legend of three ancestral brothers is found in many parts of the 
world, and there can be no doubt, as we have seen, that the 
names Inguaeones, Hermiones and Istaeuones are of great 
antiquity. But the reference to carmina antiqua can hardly 
be held to prove that the genealogy in the form given by 
Tacitus was either ancient or widespread 3 . Indeed Tacitus 
was clearly not in a position to guarantee its antiquity, while 
the fact that Tuisto and Mannus are entirely unknown else- 
where — even in the Frankish genealogical text (cf. p. 208) — 
gives good reason for suspecting that they were by no means 
universally recognised. With regard to the brothers themselves 
we have seen that nothing is known of Istio, while of Irmin we 
can only conjecture that he was the person whom Tacitus else- 
where calls Hercules. Ing however was remembered in English 
tradition, which connected him with Denmark. It has been 
suggested (cf. p. 288 ff.) that he was an earlier form of Scyld- 
Skioldr, the stranger who came to the Danes from an unknown 
land and married the goddess of Sjaelland. In that case we are 
brought back to a primitive story of Beena marriage similar to 
what we see in the old folk-tale of Svipdagr and MengloS. But 
whatever may have been the conception of Ing, whether he was 

1 Ed. Mommsen, p. 234 f.: rex nihil swim habet, omnia uniuersorum, ad aeqnita- 
tem certis legibus stringitur ac ne auaritia deuertat a itero disci/ panpertate iustitiam, 
ntpote cui nihil sit rei familiaris, uerum alitur e publico, nulla illi femina datur 
propria, sed per uicissitudines in gteamcumaue covnnotns sit usnariam sumit. unde ei 
nee uotwn nee spes conceditur liberorum. Cf. Zimmer, Sitznngsbcrichte d. k. preuss. 
Akademie d. Wissenschaften zn Berlin, 1891, p. 286, note. 

2 Cf. the story of the origin of the Scythians given by Herodotus, IV. 8 ff. 

3 We may compare the two accounts of the origin of the Scythians given by 
Herodotus, iv. 5 ff., 8 ff., in both of which three ancestral brothers figure but which 
otherwise have little in common. 


a god, or whether, as I am disposed to believe, the name was 
originally a title of the king of the Danes, or again whether, 
as many hold, the personification of Ing was quite late and 
derived from the name Inguaeones — the fact remains that our 
earliest reference to the peoples of the south western Baltic 
represents the cult of a goddess as their chief characteristic 
and as the bond by which they were held together. Further, 
that this cult was of an ancestral character is rendered extremely 
probable, as we have seen, by the analogy of the festival of the 
Semnones, by the association of the names Nior'&r and Yngvi in 
Scandinavian tradition and above all by the English story of 

In Denmark itself, if we may judge from the silence of the 
native authorities, not only Ing but even Gefion seems to have 
been entirely forgotten. The kings traced both their ancestry 
and their title to Skioldr, and even in Beowulf it is by Scyld's 
military prowess that the empire is built up. According to 
Skioldunga Saga, FroSi, the Danish counterpart of Frey, was 
the grandson of this eponymous hero. But the beginning of all, 
according to Northern mythology, was the goddess Gefion who 
created the fertile land with her plough. Tacitus' notice shows 
that in the first century the cult of the island goddess was in full 
vigour. His description of her as Terra Mater may faithfully 
represent the conception of her which prevailed among the 
Northern peoples of his day. Our discussion however has led 
us to suspect that the origin of the cult, chthonic as it doubtless 
was, should ultimately be traced, not to a poetic personification 
of the earth, but rather to a power of controlling the earth's 
fertility with which human beings both in life and after death 
were credited and which was doubtless included among the 
supernatural properties attributed by the ancients to their 

The investigation of the social organisation of the Northern 
peoples has been somewhat impeded in the past by the assump- 
tion that these peoples must have migrated at a comparatively 
late period from the steppes of southern Russia or western Asia, 
where they had dwelt formerly as nomad herdsmen. Now, 
thanks to archaeological researches, we are able to trace back the 


inhabitants of the Baltic coasts and islands for thousands of years 
before the Christian era and to watch the growth of their civili- 
sation from the stone age. Neither the discoveries themselves nor 
the earliest native traditions give any hint of a pastoral nomadic 
life — which indeed would be totally unsuited to a region com- 
posed very largely of islands and peninsulas ; but on the contrary 
both point decisively to the antiquity of agriculture. In the 
eastern Mediterranean, where a similar course of development 
can be traced, the more primitive type of social organisation 
survived until the iron age was well established. Until definite 
evidence to the contrary is forthcoming it seems to me that there 
is a presumption in favour of believing that such was the case 
also in the North. 


p. 4, note. Probably the name Meanuari denotes the inhabitants of the 
basin of the Meon ; cf. the ancient Continental names Ampsiuarii and 
Chasuarii (from the rivers Ems and Hase). 

p. ii, 1. 22 ff. cf. Round, The Commune of London, etc., p. 4 f., where 
attention is called to the prevalence of the ending -ham in place names 
in the neighbourhood of rivers. It should be remembered however that 
this ending represents Ang. Sax. ham(m) as well as ham. 

p. 38, note 4. From the words Eg/rid ' fi lilts Osbiu regnauit noucm minis in 
§ 64 both Zimmer (p. 95 f.) and Thurneysen (p. 84) infer that an earlier 
text was composed in 679. This seems to me very doubtful, for the 
statement may quite well be due to a slight scribal error, villi for xiiii. 
The latter figure would be correct since Ecgfrith reigned from 15 Febr., 
671 to 20 May, 685. 

p. 149, 1. 19 ff. cf. Skaldsk. 64, where it is stated that Siggeirr, the son-in- 
law of Volsungr, and Sigarr, who hanged Hagbarftr, belonged to the 
same family (the Siklingar). 

p. 155, 1. 17 ff. cf. Round, op. cit., p. 1 5 ff . 

p. 1 58 ff. For the military organisation of the Anglo-Saxon period cf. Beck, 
Eng. Hist. Rev., xxi. 766. 

p. 163, 1. 8 ff. In illustration of the relations subsisting between king and 
council reference may be made to the interesting story told by Procopius, 
Vand. 1. 22. In this case the decision of the king (Gaiseric) was thought 
ridiculous by all his men, but there is no suggestion that any opposition 
was offered. 

p. 230, 1. 34. The word 'extended' is open to objection, as the evidence (cf. 
especially such compounds as Inguiomerus, Ingibrand) does not seem 
to me to admit of certainty in regard to the original form of the name. 

p. 231, bottom. Local and personal names compounded with Fro- (i.e. 
Frey-) are not entirely unknown in Denmark (cf. Petersen, Ueber den 
Gottesdicnst und den Gbttcrglauben des Nordens, Germ. Transl., pp. 31, 
35), but their evidence is hardly conclusive. Of more importance is the 
fact that we find the cult of a god named Proue(n) — apparently the 


Slavonic form of Frey-r or of Ang.-Sax. frea — among the Wagri of 
north-eastern Holstein (cf. Helmoldus, Chroti. Slavorum, I. 53, 70, 84). 
It seems likely from the evidence that this cult was of local origin and 
derived from the previous inhabitants of the district. If so, we may 
perhaps most probably regard it as an independent development, though 
precisely parallel to the Swedish cult. 

p. 239, 1. 27 f. It is scarcely impossible however that the notice in the 
Indiculus Superstitionum (Mon. Germ., Leg. 1. 19 f.) De snlcis circa 
iiillas may have reference to some such custom. We may also refer to 
the semi-heathen rite described in Grein-Wiilcker, Bibl. der ags. Poesie, 
I. 314 ff. 

p. 248, 1. 13 ff. The Benty Grange helmet is figured in C. Roach Smith's 
Collectanea Antigua, 11. 238 f. ; the Vendel helmet and the Bjornhofda 
plate in Sveriges Historia 2 , 1, pp. 192, 198 (fig. 210, 223); the Gundestrup 
bowl in S. Midler's Nordische Altertumskunde, II. Plate 2 and p. 161 ff. 
(fig. 100 and 102 — 104). 

p. 268, 1. 1 ff. Account should be taken however of the Slavonic cult of 
Proue; cf. the add. to p. 231 above. 

p. 288, 1. 19. Apart from Tacitus' remarks in Germ. 2, the fact that Ing (late 
Goth. Enguz) was used as the name of one of the letters in the Runic 
alphabet is an argument for believing that this person was known very 
soon after the beginning of the Christian era, if not earlier. 

p. 313, 1. 17. It is true that the Swedish king (Olof Skottkonung) mentioned 
in St. Olaf's Saga was a Christian, but the new religion appears to have 
obtained hardly any foothold in Svealand by this time. 

p. 321, 1. 14 f. According to Faereyinga S. 1, Gri'mr Kamban was a con- 
temporary of Harold the Fair-haired and the first settler in the Faroes. 

P- 337 ^ There is some ground for suspecting that persons similar to 
Veleda may have existed among the (presumably Celtic) inhabitants of 
Upper Bavaria in the bronze age. A barrow excavated at Miihlthal 
was found to contain the skeleton of a woman very richly apparelled 
and holding in her hand a staff or sceptre, the head of which was in the 
form of a wheel-cross. In the same barrow were found the remains of 
two other human bodies (without ornaments) and three wild boars, the 
latter of which, if not the former also, had clearly been deposited as 
sacrificial offerings, in some cases at a much later period ; see Naue, 
Die Bronzezeit in Ober-Bayern, pp. 39 ff., 119— a reference for which 
I have to thank Miss B. S. Phillpotts. 


Abingdon, Chronicle of 278, 281, 283 f. 

Aelle (1), king of Sussex 2, 14 f., 87^ 

Aelle (2), king of Deira iof. 

Aesir 240, 246. 

Aestii 179, 248 f., 306, 316. 

Aethelberht (1), king of Kent 1, 12 f., 

17. »> 37. 55 U 189. 
Aethelberht (2), king of Last Angha 

i2of., 132. 
Aethelfrith 10, 167, 335. 
Aethelthryth 8, 335. 
agnation 3241?. 
Agni 250 f. 
agriculture 248, 254 (., 261, 263, 283, 

305 ff. 
AgtJir 332 f. 
Alamanni 81 ff., 138, 167, 178, 208, 

216 ff., 221 f., 309, 331. 
Alaric 174. 

Alboin 18, 91, 132, 168, 174. 
Alewih 128, 146, 150 ff. 

Ali (i) 147. 

Ali (2) 248 f. (see Onela). 

allegiance 13 f., 166 ff. 

Alokiai 194, 215. 

Amlethus 133, 145, 165, 188. 

Ampsiuarii 180, 301. 

Angel 42, 52, 55, 104 ff., 128, 133, 135) 

140, 144, 181, 184, 192, 205 f., 294. 
Angeltheow 144. 
Anglia Vetus 103^,275. 
Anglo-Frisian languages 64, 99ff-, 141 ff., 

203, 222. 
Angr'iuarii 178, 195, 197, 209, 307. 
Angulus 54, 103, 105, 192 (see Angel). 
Annates Cambriae 14, 27. 
Ariouistus 223, 306 f. 
Arminius 226, 309 f- 
armour 161, 187, 189 ff. 
assemblies i54ff., 17 2 ' 3°9- 3 Ilff - 
Askold 175. 

Athislus I22f., 135 f., 138. 
Atfils 18, 134, 146 f-. 248, 25of., 317. 
Attila 131, 138, 173, 179- 
Aun 322. 
Avars 114, 178. 

Bataui no, 307, 310, 315. 
Bavarians 81 ff., 208, 221, 331. 

Bebbe 22, 335. 

Beena marriage 330, 333, 338, 340. 

Beo, Beaw 272 f., 291, 293 f. 

Beowulf (1), king of the Gotar 163, 

166 ff., 172 f., 176, 180, 248, 332. 
Beowulf (2), king of the Danes 273, 

291 (see Beo). 
Bernicia 10, 41, 183. 
Bemician royal family 59 ff., 88, 145, 

182, 269. 
boats as sacred emblems etc. 239 f., 249. 
Borghildr 149 f., 299, 333. 
Boruhtwarii 90 (see Bructeri). 
Bravik, battle of 94, 232, 314. 
brooches 17, 75 f. 
Bructeri 180, 195 ff-. 220,309, 314.337. 

Burgundians 149, 174, i77 f -> '99. 2 °7 *"•> 

219 ff., 309, 321, 324 f., 336. 

Ceadwalla 4f., 32, 180. 

Ceawlin jf., 12, 14, 21, 23 f., 32 f., 88. 

Celtic influence 190 f. 

Celtic peoples 305, 307. 

Cerdic 10, 20 ff., 47, 134, 15°- 

Chaibones 95. 

Chamaui 195, 197- 

Charoudes, 'Charydes 193, 211 (see 

Chasuarii 195, 197. 
Chatti 116, 178, 196, 199, 207, 209, 

21, f., 2l8, 221 f., 225, 229, 307, 310. 

Chauci 95, 178, 195 ff-, 201, 207, 209 f., 
215, 221, 232, 257, 29; f., 307. 

Cherusci 116, 195 ff., 207, 209, 215ft., 
218, 221 f., 225, 229 f., 233, 307, 309 f., 

3 '9, 340- 
Chilperic 101, 107, 329. 
Cimbri 193, 198, 201, 207 f., 209 ff., 

295 f., 306 f., 310, 338. 
Cimbric Peninsula 93, 193, 296. 
Clovis 1 10, 329. 
Coenwalh 3, 16, 335. 
cognation 327 ff. 
comites, comitatus (ancient German) 167, 

3] if. 
concilium 3 1 1 ff., 3 1 7 ff- 
cremation 73 f. , 244, 287 f. 
Creoda 24, 33. 
Cynewulf 26 f., 158, 165 f., 173- 



cyning 315 f. 

Cynric 20 If., 47. 
Cynwise 335. 

Danelagh 83, 85. 

Danish invasion 7, 11, 132, 1 =,9 f., 183 f. 

Danish kings: see Alewih, Ali(r), 
Beowulf (2), Danr, Frofii, Hadingus, 
Halfdan (3), Haraldr (2), Heremod, 
Hiorvarftr, Hroarr, Hrolfr Kraki, 
LoSbrok, Sigarr, Skioldr, Vigletus. 

Danr 150 ff., 316. 

Deega marriage 324 ff., 340. 

Deira 10, 59 f., 172, 183, 269, 335. 

Denmark 18, 52, 73, 75, 83, 125, 132, 
149, 169, 23of., 239, 289, 291, 314, 

3 2 5- 
disir 339. 
Domaldi 251. 
Dulgibini 195, 197. 

Eadgils (1), king of the Swedes 18, 134, 

146 (see ASils). 
Eadgils (2), prince of the Myrgingas 135^, 

167, 169. 
Ealhhild 135, 138. 
Eanfled 335. 
Eanmund 168, 173. 
East Anglia 7, 54, 59 f., 86, 160, 183, 

Edwin 12 f., 163, 189. 
Eider i23f., 128, 135, 139 ff., 203. 
Elmet 182. 
Engilin 112 f., 115. 
Eomer i3of. , 144. 
Eormenric 131, 135 f., 138, 147, 165, 

167 ff-, 179. 
Eowa 164. 

Erminus 208, 221 f. (see Irmin). 
Essex 2, 34, 41 f., 54, 74 f., 86 ff. 
Essex, dialect of 6r, 70 f. 
Essex, royal family of 59, 87, 302. 
Este, Estland (see Aestii) 311, 316. 
Eucii, Euthiones 97 f. , 107. 

festivals 224 f., 234 ff., 240 ff., 263 ff., 

3!3> 3 1 ?, 322. 
Finn, son of Godwulf 40, 42, 270. 
Finn, son of Folcwalda 52 f., 102, 166. 
Folco 122. 

folk-tales 303 f., 310 f. 
Frankish genealogical text 208, 221, 

225, 342. 
Franks 17, 81 ff., 91, 93, 95, 99^ 102, 

noff., 145, 177 f., 180 f., 186, 208, 

221, 30of., 310, 3i 4 f., 32 4 f., 330. 
Freawine 21, 33, 122, 127, 133, 145, 

Frey 231 f., 240 ff., 271, 289, 314, 318, 

321 ff. 

Freyia 240, 246 f., 249 ff., 260 ff., 285, 

289 f. 
Fricco 245, 265. 
Frisian language 62 ff., 67, 91, 93 ff., 

142 f. 
Frisians 17, 19, 52, 55, 81 ff., 163, 166, 

195, 203, 206, 257, 297, 309, 319 f. 
Frisonofeld 10 1. 
Fri'S-Fro'Si 257 f. 
P'ro'Si enn friftsami (Frotho III) 150, 

169, 257 f., 318. 
FroSi enn fraskni (Frotho IV) 146 f. 
Frowinus, see Freawine. 
fyrd 159 ff. 

Gallehus, horns from 142, 187. 

Gambriuii 208, 220, 223 ff. 

Gauls 190 f., 304, 341. 

Geat 40, 270 f., 293. 

Geberich 136. 

Gefion 258 ff., 283, 285, 289, 294, 343. 

Gepidae 174, 177 f., 180, 208, 221 f. 

German, St. 39, 50 f. 

German language 63 f., 96, 101, 141 ff., 

222 f., 3r6. 
Gewis 21, 33, 36, 38. 
Gildas 14, 27, 31 f., 41, 45 ff., 49 ff., 55, 

Gotar t8, 107, 130, 173, 176, 270, 333. 
Gothic language 64, 143, 222, 315. 
Goths 135, 145, 174, 177, 181, 186, 
^207f., 216, 2i9f., 310, 319. 
Grimr (Kamban) 321. 
Gunnarr (Gundicarius, king of the Bur- 

gundians) 149, 168. 
Gunnarr Helmingr 241 ff., 246, 2,^3, 

264 f. 
Guorthigirnus 38 ff., 43, 50 (see Wyrt- 

Gu'cSro'Sr 333. 
Gutones 199 (see Goths). 
Gylfi 259. 

gynaecocracy 337, 340. 
Gyrwe 8 f. 

Hadingus 232, 258. 

Hadubrand 173. 

Hagbaro'r 146 f. 

Haithaby 104 f., 275. 

Haki 147, 149. 

Hakon (Earl) 316. 

Halfdan (1) hvitbeinn 332, 334. 

Halfdan (2) svarti 252, 321, 332. 

Halfdan (3), king of the Danes (see 

Healfdene) 146, 283, 299. 
Hamundr 149. 
Haraldr (1) Grenski 316. 
Haraldr (2) Hilditonn 94, 332. 
Haraldr (3), hinn harfagri 317, 333 f. 
Hardeland 214. 



Harudes 193 (see Charoudes). 

harvest ceremonies 237, 279 ff. 

Healfdene 52, 146, 171, 283, 291. 

Heardred 173. 

Heathobeardan 147. 

Heiftmork 332 f. 

HeiSrekr 175, 332. 

Helgi(i) Hundingsbani 202, 298 ff. 

Helgi (2), son of Halfdan 299. 

Heligoland 93, 95, 99, 256 f. 

Hengest(i) 35 ff". , 103, 174, 184. 

Hengest (2) 52 f., 166. 

Hercules 228 ff., 341 f. 

Heremod 148 ft"., 165, 272 f., 291 ff. 

Hermiones 199, 207 f., 215, 218, 220 ff., 

229, 342- 
Hennunduri 196, 199, 207, 215 ff., 308. 
Heruli 95, 109 ff., 1 1 4 f . , 138 f., 163, 

165, 179 ff., 191, 199, 218, 326. 
Hildibrand 173. 
Hiltgund 13S, 179. 
Himmerland 21 4. 
HicirvarSr (Heoroweard) 165, 168. 

orvarSr Ylfingr 332. 
Iistoria Brittonum 10, 33, 38 ff., 

4.2, 183, 192, 208, 2q 2. . 

Hnaef ^2, 140, i667 171. 

Holda 261 ff. 

Holland 107, 109, 305. 

Holstein 91, 105, 115, 124, 137, 141, 

192, 199, 203, 210, 217. 
Horsa 35 ff., 103, 174. 
Hrethric 165. 
Hroarr (see Hrothgar) 
Hrolfr Kraki 18, 134, 

189, 248, 299. 
Hrothgar 52, 146, 157, 

176, i8o,' 188 f., 248, 289, 
Ilmthwulf 18, 134, i46f. 

Huldr 164, 250 f-, 254 
Hundingr 298 ff. 
Hunferth 163, 165. 
Huns [31, 177 f. 
I [wala 271 f. , 293. 
I [wicce 5 f., 59. 182. 
Hygelac 18, no, 130, 

146, 189, 299. 
146 f., 166, 169, 

163, 165 

i6 7 f.. 

163, 167 ff., 335. 

Ibor 1 74. 

Icel 15 ff., 144. 

Iceland 83, 231, 244, 256, 279. 

Ida lo, 16, 41, 156, 183. 

Ing 230, 287 ff., 295, 342. 

Ing(\v)- 226. 

Ingeld 146. 

In^uaeones 199, 207 ff., 215, 220 if., 

'230 ff., 289, 295 f., 342. 
Ingunarfreyr 231, 244, 252 f. 
[nguo 20N f. , 221 ff. 
Ingwine 230, 2S8 f., 295 f. 

Iiirundr 147. 
Ireland 19, 331. 
Irmin- 226 ff., 342. 
Irminfrith 92, 100, 1 10, 180. 
Irminsul 103, 226 ff., 243, 297. 
Isis 240, 249. 

Istaeuones 199, 207 ft., 220 ft. 
Istio 208 f., 221 f., 342. 

Ivarr ViSfaSmi 165, 332. 

Jallinge 122, 124, 193. 

Jutes (Iutae, Iuti) of Britain 4f., 28 ff., 

52, 54ft".. 88 f., 90, 103 ff., 192, 294. 
Jutes (Iuti) of Jutland 133, 163. 
Jutland 52, 73, 94, i04ff., 145, 192 f., 

201 f., 215, 311. 

Kent if., 17, 35 ff-, 54 ff -> 77 ff -- 84 ff., 
102 f., 108, 172, 294, 324, 326, 336, 338. 
Kentish dialect 61, 65 ff. 
Kentish royal family 59 f., 156, 269. 
Keto 1 2 2 f. 
kindred 154 f., 323 ft. 
Kragehul (deposit) [87. 

Land, property in 168 ff., 328 f. 
I.angfeogatal 125, 260. 
Langobardi 91, 109, 115, 132, 174, 177, 
179 f . , 193ft - ., 201 f., 205, 208, 2l6f., 

307 f., 325. 331. 33 6 - 
Leire 124, 133, 145, 259, 267. 
Lex Angliorum et Werinorum 81 f., 

108 f., 1 1 2 ff". 
Lex Salica Si, 328 ff., 334. 
Lex Saxonum 81 f. , 325, 328. 
Liimfjord 73, 2i4f. , 296. 
Lindsey 8 f., 59, 269. 
London 2, 17, 227. 
Lothair 91, in. 
LoSbrok (Ragnarr) 183. 
Lugii 194, 216, 219, 225. 

Mannas 208, 219, 223, 342. 
Marcomanni 178, 196, 216 f., 30S. 
Maroboduus 179, 190, 3i6f., 223,30s. 

Maw 208, 220, 223 ff., 22y. 
Maypoles, Maytrees 227, :;/> f. 
Mecklenburg 199, 210 f. 
Mercia 6f., 17, 54, 79ft"-, 102 f, 11S, 

121, 156, 182. 
Mercian royal family 15 ff., 59^, 132 f., 

156, 182, 102, 269. 30S. 
Merseburg (glosses etc) 97, 141. 
Middle Anglia S f., 17, 54, 86, 103. 
Myrgingas 128, 135 ft"., 167, 179. 

Nerthus 116, 20of., 206, 134, 1391"., 

243 ft"., 254 If., 264 ff., 2S 9 f., 294 ft"., 
3»7> .'>2 2f- 



Netherlands 107, in, 113^. r 37- r 49> 

icSi, 300 (see Holland). 
NinnSr 173. 239 ff., 258, 290, 295. 
Nordalbingi 91, 105. 
nornir 339. 

North Frisians 94 f. , 99, 101, 142. 
North Suabi 97 f., 101, niff., 138 f., 

203, 216, 218. 
Northumbria 10, 53, 55, 79 ff., 85 f., 

103, 119. 
Northumbrian dialect 61 , 65 ff. 
Norway 75, 83 f., 109, 175, 213, 231, 

241 f., 247, 256, 304, 311, 313, 316, 

Nydam (deposit) 142 f., 187, 191. 

Obotriti 91, 104. 

Octa 37, 40 f., 44, 46 f. 

Odoacer 174, 180. 

Offa(i), king of Angel n8f., 121 ff., 

147, 192, 203, 206, 300. 
Ona(2), king of Mercia 7, 57, 1 1 9 ff. , 

I3 1 - 
Oghgul 41, 52, 55, 103, 192. 
Oisc (Aesc) 16, 35 ff., 44, 46 f., 156. 
Olafr Geirstafta-Alfr 321. 
Olafr Tretelgia 251 f., 322, 334. 
Olafr Tryggvason 231, 241 f., 253, 334. 
Old Saxons 54, 60, 64, 81 ff., 90 ff., 177, 

181, 297, 325, 336. 
Onela 167, 173. 
Ongentheow 167, 169. 

Onundr 317 f. 
Oswald 1 3 f . 
Oswine 173. 
Oswio 13 f., 335. 

Othin 148, 175, 240, 245, 258 f., 265, 
, 270, 286, 321. 
Ottarr heimski 246, 260. 

Penda 6, 16, 134, 151, i59 f -> l6 4> 335- 

Perchta 262. 

Picts 36, 39, 46, 50, 341. 

pigs, sanctity attached to 246, 248 f. 

plough ceremonies 238 f., 261 ff. 

priestesses 241, 246, 338 f. 

priests 234^ 246, 249, 256, 312 f., 320, 

32.2 f., 338. 
principes 309 ff. 

Prussian marriage customs 325 f., 338. 
Prussian religion 243, 247, 254^, 280 f., 


Quadi 217 f., 30S, 331. 

reeve 157. 

RefSgotaland 175. 

Rendsburg 127, 136, 193. 

Ringo 232, 332 (see Sigur'Sr Hringr). 

Rollo 175. 

Roricus (see Hrethric). 

Rugii 172, 179. 

Runic letters 142 f., 176. 

sacerdos ciuitatis 312,319. 

Salii 329 (see Franks). 

sanctuaries 178, 200, 224 ff., 229 f., 

312 f. 
Scadinauia 210, 212 f. 
Scandinavian languages 62 ff., 142 f, 

223, 316. 
Scandinavian laws 83 f. , 324, 331. 
Sceaf 104, 133, 273 ff., 281 f., 290 ff. 
Scedenig, Scedeland 259 f., 283, 291, 

Scotland 331. 
Scyld 146, 178, 250, 271, 273 ff., 28rff., 

287 ff, 342 f. 
Scyldungas, Scyldingas 283^,289,294, 

Scylfingas 232, 250. 
Seaxburg 335. 
Seaxneat 59, 293. 
seiSr 246, 251. 
Semnones 178, i94ff., 2or, 211, 2i6ff, 

223 ff., 266 f., 307 f. 
sheaf 275 f., 278 ff., 285. 
Sigarr (Sigehere) 1468"., 299. 
Siggeirr 149. 

Sigi 175- 

Sigibert 91, 111. 

Sigmundr 148 f., 299 f., 333. 

Siguro'r(i) Fafnisbani 148?. 

Sigur'Sr (2) Hringr (see Ringo) 232, 287, 

Sigur-8r(3) Syr 311. 
Silingai 194, 219. 
Sinfiotli 148. 

Sinus Codanus 208, 210, 212 ff. 
Sitones 216, 337, 340. 
Sjaelland 124, 151, 257, 259, 267 f., 283, 

290, 294 f., 297, 302, 308, 342. 
Skaane 124, 140, 259, 283, 290, 324. 
Skandia 194, 260. 
SkaSi 258, 321. 
Skialf 250 f., 254, 289. 
Skidldr (Scioldus) 138, 250, 258 ff., 

282 f., 288 ff, 314, 342 f. 
Skioldungar (see Scyldungas) 259, 283 f., 

33 2 - 
slaves 1 7 f. 
Slesvig, province of 75, 94, 99, 124, 

141, 181, 201 f., 206. 
Slesvig, town and estuary 100, 104^, 

122, 124, i33 ff -> J 93, 2 75> 277. 
social divisions 77 ff., 297 f. 
Sogn 332 f. 

StarkaSr 147, 189, 232. 
stirps regia 310. 



Suabi, Suaui (see Suebi) 91,97^, 100 f., 

1131T., 1 36 ff. 
Suarines 198, 200, 234. 
Suebi, Sueui (see Suabi) 96, 100 f., 174, 

177 f., l8l, 193 f., 197 f., 199, 201, 

203 ff., 207 f., 215 ff., 220, 222 ff., 229, 

^4°, 305. 307 ff-- 3i9' 33'. 334- 
Sueuon 97. 
Sugambri, Sygambroi 193, 195, 309, 

3 X 5- 

Surrey 2, 59. 

Sussex 2, 14, 34, 41 f. , 54, 74 f., 86 ff., 

Sussex, dialect of 61, 65 f., 71. 
Sussex, royal family of 59, 87. 
Swaefe (see Suabi, Suebi) 1 r 3 f . , 128, 

136, 204, 217. 
Sweden 75, 109, 122 f., 134^, r 74f-> 

212, 231 f., 242, 244, 250, 253, 256, 

258 f., 266, 289, 306, 313, 317 f. 
Swedish kings, see Agni, A"$ils, Aun, 

Domaldi, Gylfi, Iorundr, Ivarr Vi'5- 
faftmi, Olafr Tretelgia, Onela, Ongen- 

theow, Onundr, Vanlandi, Vfsburr, 
Sylt 99, 202. 

Tamfana 225. 

Tegneby (rock-carvings) 306. 

Tencteri 178, 195, 306 f. 

Teutoni (Teutones) 194, 199, 207 ff., 

210 ff., 29,; f. 
Teutonoaroi 194, 198 f. 
thegns 157 f . , 161 f. 
J>eod 156 f., 303, 311, 314. 
Theodberht i8f.,97, 107, 178. 
Theodric(i), king of the Franks 18, 

91 f., 100, 1 79 f. 
Theodric(2), king of the Ostrogoths 

109, in, 179. 
Thor 245, 279, 287. 
Thorger'Sr Holgabru'Sr 247, 321, 340. 
Thoringia 1 io. * 
Thorsbja^rg (deposit) 142^, 187, 189^, 

30 r. 
Throndhjem 171, 231, 253, 311. 
Thrytho i3of. , 133. 
Thuringi 91 ff., 97, uoff., 172, 178 ff., 

208, 301. 
Thyland 214. 

Tribal Ilidage 6 ff . , 11, 160. 
Tuisto 208, 342. 
Tyr 289. 

Uffo (see Offa) 122 ff. 
Ullr 285 f. 

Upsala 231 f., 245, 266f., 313, 317!'., 

322, 339. 
Usipetes, Usipii 178, 203, 220, 225, 

306 f. 

valkyriur 285, 339. 

Vandals 177, 18 r, 208, 220 ff. 

Vandilii 199, 207 f., 2i9ff., 229. 

Vanir 240, 246, 254. 

Vanlandi 251, 257. 

Varini (see Warni) x 98 ff. , 207, 219, 234. 

Veleda 337. 

Vest fold 175, 332 f. 

Vi (deposit) 187, 190. 

Viggo 168. 

Vigletus 122, 124, 132 ff., 144 f. 

Vingulmork 333. 

Visburr 250 f. , 257. 

Visigoths 177. 

Volsungar 14S, 175, 299. 

"\\ aegmundingas 169 ff. 

Walthari (Waldhere) 138, 173. 

Wanderer 170, 172, 176. 

Warni 19, logff., 139, 163, i 79 f. , 199, 

256, 3 2 5- 
weapons 161, 187, 190^, 304^, 318. 
Weohstan (Weoxtan) 168, 172. 
wergelds 77 f., 297 f. 
Wermund 118, 1 2 2 ff . , 147, 150, 182, 

192, 308. 
Wessex 3 ff., 20 ff., 54, 77 ff., S4 ff., 102, 

182, 294, 325. 
Wessex, dialect of 61, 64 ff. 
Wessex, royal family of 32 f., 59 ff., 87, 

J 33 f -. '45. '82, 269, 272, 291 f. 
Widsith 18, 102, 106, 113 f., 127 f., 132, 

J 35. 137 <"•> '5° f-> I5.1, 167 ff., 179, 

189, 192, 204, 217, 277, 300. 
Wig 21, 33, 133, 269. 
Wight, Isle of 4, 20 f., 28 ff., 54, 103, 

180, 294. 
Wiglaf 169. 172. 

Wigo 122 f, 133 f., 145 (see Wig). 
Wihtlaeg 132, 134, 144 (see Vigletus). 
Woden 21, 40, 60, 133, 189 (., 228, 2'hj, 

293. 308, 315, 331, 341. 
Wulfstan 311. 
Wylhngas 176. 
Wyrtgeorn (Vurtigeraus) 35 ff., 59, 174 

(see Guorthigirnus). 

Vnglingar 175, 231 f., 2?of., 295, 333, 

Yngvi 230 f., 299 f. 
Yngvifreyr 164, 231, 244, 252 (>ee 





Binding sect. FEB 2 1976 



DA Chadwick, Hector Munro 

152 The origin of the English 

C4.2 nation