Germanic peoples

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The Germanic peoples, also referred to as Teutons, are a group of Indo-European peoples. Their main area of inhabitation is Northern Europe, but they had spread elsewhere during the Middle Ages and to the present day. Modern day ethnic groups and national peoples who are associated with this include: German, Dutch, Flemish, English, Lowland Scots, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian peoples.


Proto-Germanics of the Neolithic or New Stone Age
The picture from Fritz Koch-Gotha shows a midsummer night solstice celebration ((Sommer) Sonnenwendfeier) with sun cross.[1]
  • Proto-Germanics (Urgermanen), approximately 20,000 to 800 BC
  • Early Germanics (Frühgermanen), approximately 800 to 300 BC
  • Old Germanics (Altgermanen), approximately 300 BC to 100 AD
  • Germanics (Germanen), approximately 100 AD to the early Middle Ages
    • sometimes divided into southern (central Germania) and northern Germanics (Scandinavians) for research purposes


Germanic peoples of the Bronze Age, c. 1600 B.C.

Various different terms have been used in reference to the general Germanic peoples, their language and culture in history. In the English language the word "Dutch" was used during the late 14th century until the end of the 16th century.[2] From around 1600, the word "Dutch" was used instead in English to refer exclusively to Hollanders.[2] A variation of the word "Dutch" itself is used in the German language as "Deutsch" to this day to refer to German people. The Old English version of this was þeodisc, which means "belonging to the people," the word þeod means "people, race, nation" and derives from the Proto-Germanic *theudo "popular, national". The Latin word used was theodiscus.

The word "Teutonic" began to replace "Dutch" as the general phrase for Germanic peoples, language and culture in the English language c. 1600.[3] The word itself derives from the Latin Teutonicus in reference to a Germanic tribe that was known to the Romans for their sackings of Gaul.[3] It's usage in English was likely inspired by Renaissance humanism's enthusiasm for the classical world. This word likely has a common root with "Dutch" which it replaced in any case.[3] Finally in modern English, the word "Germanic" was formally adopted in 1892 to refer to the broader definition of language, culture and people.[4] Although for political reasons some would continue to use the phrase "Teutonic" to make a clear nationalist distinction from the political German Empire state; for example most English, Lowland Scots, Dutch and Flemish people see themselves as racially Teutonic or Germanic, but not German people proper.

French writer and racial thinker Arthur de Gobineau used the term "Aryans" to describe the Germanic race (la race germanique). The Germanic race was regarded by Gobineau as beautiful, honourable and destined to rule: cette illustre famille humaine, la plus noble. While arya was originally an endonym used only by Indo-Iranians, "Aryan" became, partly because of the Essai a racial designation of a race, which Gobineau specified as la race germanique.[5]


Germanen der Bronzezeit, Gemälde von Wilhelm Petersen.jpg
Germanische Familie, Gemälde von Wilhelm Petersen.jpg

The Germanics originated out of the Corded Ware Culture, speaking a hypothetical Pre-Proto-Germanic, as early as the late 2nd millenium BC, during the Nordic Bronze Age. The Proto-Germanic langage later appeared during the Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe, c. 500 BC.

Archeological evidence testifies a uniform Germanic people appearing across the areas today of Northern Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and southern Scandinavia from the 1st millenium BC. Migrating Germanic peoples spread throughout other parts of Europe, during the Migration Period, including the Anglo Saxons, Vandals, Goths and Lombards. Germanic languages having diverged from Proto-Germanic became dominant in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and later England. Furthermore, all Germanic peoples eventually converted to Christianity. The Germanic tribes also played an important role in transforming the Roman empire, which had collapsed, into Medieval Europe.

Physical appearance

Ancient sources reveals that the Germanics are described mostly as reddish-blond (rutilae comae = "golden-red") haired by the Romans (Germania (Tacitus) iv; Seneca. De Ira. iii. 26. 3) or flavus, meaning blonde (Juv. Sat. xiii. 164; Lucan. ii. 60) and blue or gray eyed (Tacitus. Ger. iv; Plut. Life of Marius, xi. 3; Hor. Ep. xvi). Their skin is also described as pale white (Vitruvius. vi. 1. 3; Eugippius. Thesaurus. 73).

The ancient writer Julius Firmicus Maternus went as far as claiming the whole of Germany was blonde:

"If the characters and complexions of mankind are due to the combinations of planets, and the motions of the planets make up men’s traits, as if in paintings: that is, if the Moon makes people fair-skinned, Mars red, Saturn black, why is the whole population of Ethiopia black, of Germany blond, of Thrace red-haired, as though the Moon and Mars had no strength in Ethiopia, and Saturn could not produce dark coloring in Germany or Thrace?" - Matheseos Libri Octo, ii. 1

Peoples (selection of tribes)

Dynasties (selection)

See also

Further reading

External links


  1. This was an important feast in many ancient and medieval cultures. You can see a Germanic tribe gathering on a hill at the time of sunset. Solstice Celebrations are still important in modern-day Germany, this scene is probably on the famous "Questenberg". Questenberg is a village and a former municipality in the Mansfeld-Südharz district, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Since 1 January 2010, it has been part of the Südharz municipality. First settlement traces date from 5th and 6th centuries BC. Above the place is the castle also called Questenberg. Remainders of the castle (attachment walls and tower), on the steep mountain at the eastern periphery of the village can still be visited. The hill above the village, is home to the Queste (also known as the Questenbaum (Queste Tree)), an ancient pagan sun wheel, celebrated at the Questenfest.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Dutch". Online Etymology Dictionary. 6 November 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Teutonic". Online Etymology Dictionary. 6 November 2012. 
  4. "Germanic". Online Etymology Dictionary. 6 November 2012. 
  5. A. J. Woodman: The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus, 2009, p. 294.