Tribes And Peoples
1. "The language of a people constitutes a far more potent witness concerning them than is afforded by bones, weapons, or graves." "The significant periods in the existence of a people, with the consequent changes,—now rapid and violent, now slow and gradual,—are bound to leave so indelible an impression on the language as to betray the traces of every past event, in short of its entire history."
These are the words of Grimm and Müllenhoff, the two great masters of Teutonic philology. One might accordingly infer, as has in fact been done, that linguistic science furnishes, in the hand of trained and painstaking scholars, positive results concerning the remote past, including prehistoric times. And yet such has not proved to be the case, even as regards the work of these eminent scholars. J. Grimm stoutly maintained that Getae and Daci were identical with Goths and Danes. Through the annexation of these "Thracian" tribes, it was supposed that our knowledge of the Teutonic prehistoric period could be carried back much further than was formerly considered possible. No student of linguistics entertains such views now; and though the edifice reared by Müllenhoff may perhaps rest on a more secure foundation, still more than one of its supporting stones has also been loosened. He enunciated the correct principle that the origins of national existence in the case of the Indo-European peoples are to be sought in their historic abodes. He hold the region between the Oder and the Vistula to be the mother country of the Teutons, and the land in which the Teutonic language first acquired an individual character. The former of these assertions is undoubtedly correct, the latter highly probable. On the other hand, results that Müllenhoff considered equally well established, such as the pastoral character of the life of the ancient Aryans, a supposed foreign aboriginal population in Europe, a close kinship between Teutons and Letto-Slavs, and many other points, have been in large part rejected by more recent students of language.
Not only in respect to details, but also as regards matters of prime importance, has the confidence that was so readily bestowed upon the results of linguistic science been rudely shaken. The study of language was thought to enlighten us concerning the original home of the common ancestors of the Indo-European family. At present no scholar ventures to speak with any degree of positiveness concerning either this original home or this primitive people.
The cradle of the Indo-European family has been sought in various localities,—in Bactria, Armenia, and other parts of Asia, and even in Europe, from Southern Russia to Southern Sweden. There is some support for each of these views, but for none of them are direct proofs available. Most idyllic pictures were drawn of the material and intellectual culture of this primitive race: the family life of these patriarchal shepherds was marked by great purity, and the shining sky was worshipped as the heavenly father. As the knights in the fairy tales, were they thought to have entered upon the stage of history, with horses and chariots, subjugating or dispossessing everywhere the people of inferior race. When this theory was first broached, doubts arose in some quarters as to the possibility of ascribing to the ancient Italians and Teutons in their primitive condition such a pure and relatively high degree of culture, but the certainty of linguistic results seemed to dispose of all objections.
The more than fifty years that have elapsed since the beginnings of these scientific studies have somewhat disillusioned men's minds. The laws of sound-change in language have been far more sharply and accurately formulated, and as a consequence a number of etymologies that at one time seemed established have now been abandoned. Moreover, together wit the laws of sound-change, more attention has been paid to the meaning of words, which have often in the course of time been considerably modified. Finally, scholars have come to recognize the fact that sameness is not always to be explained on the score of unity or origin, but may also be due to borrowing. What is common to a number of languages is therefore by no means always original. No one, for example, would conclude from the sameness in all European languages of such words as "church" and "school," "priest" and "bishop," "bible" and "altar," that the Indo-European primitive race was acquainted with Christianity.
In this way the ancestral inheritance, which was held to have been the common possession of the sole Indo-European stock, has greatly dwindled. The happy days when every new etymology seemed to add to that inheritance have forever passed away With the linguistic principles that formed it foundation, the structure itself has collapsed. The one great result of linguistic science, however, the unity of the Indo-European family, still stands. Not only has it in no way suffered in the general downfall, but recent methods of study have even served to confirm the theory. At present, the comparison, instead of being made between single disjointed words, is made between entire groups of designations of beings and objects of a similar nature, and it is such correspondences which are held to demonstrate a common origin. Questions concerning the mother country and the primitive race have to a large extent been dismissed. We no longer suppose that in a certain prehistoric period an Indo-European primitive people dwelt in a definite locality and from there spread over the earth in groups.
It is evident that wit such conceptions there does not remain much scope for an Indo-European mythology. We no longer ask ourselves: What gods and myths did the Teutons take with them as an inheritance form their ancestral home? Loose parallels count for nothing, and similarities of names no longer mislead. Tacitus, for example, mentions the existence among a Teutonic tribe of the cult of two brothers, who he compares with Castor and Pollux. Now the heroic saga also shows the figures of the Hartungen, and the question might therefore present itself whether in the mythical motif of Dioscuri or Açvins, which is also encountered outside of Indo-European territory, a fragment of original Indo-European mythology has not been preserved. The Teutonic Æsir, the Irish Esir, have been identified by some scholars with the Indian Asuras, but here the connection and similarity are again very doubtful. It is not even certain that the Indian Asuras are truly Indo-European; it has been suggested that they are Semitic in origin. Amid all these storms of doubt and conjecture, the old Indo-European god of the sky seemed to stand firm as a rock, Tiu being considered cognate with Dyaus, Zeus, and Jupiter. But even this equation has not escaped the scalpel of some more recent, relentless grammarians. That Tiu bears the same name as the other sky divinities is at present denied by several scholars of authority, although there are other voices of equal weight that still uphold the old theory.
We should,however, be on our guard here against misunderstandings. The view that the individual peoples, among them the Teutons, set out from the common ancestral home with a stock of culture and mythology has been abandoned; and with this also the problem of tracing this common original possession by means of linguistic science. However, this does not exclude the view that the worship of the sky god was primitive among the Teutons, as among other peoples of the same family, as it was, in fact, among Mongols and Semites.
These remarks are not intended to detract from the value and importance of linguistic science for the study of ancient peoples; but this value has assumed a different aspect from that which obtained when the school of comparative mythologists based its results on linguistic studies. Through the progress made in the study of language, these quasi-results have been shown to be ill-founded. Withal, the study of language still remains our chief guide in the investigation of prehistoric and of the earliest historic times. By the side of the "genealogical theory" it has place the "wave theory," that is to say, it does not, as formerly, ask us to assume that individual peoples spread over the face of the earth equipped with a full stock of knowledge, but rather emphasizes the importance of the historical connections through which one tribe exerts an influence upon a neighboring one. This gulf stream of civilization we have already had occasion to mention. What is common in the life of different peoples is as much the result of historic contact as of unity of descent. Such a view accounts better for existing facts and conditions; and while it modifies, it in no wise lessens, the value of linguistic study.
The contradictions between the results of archaeological and linguistic inquiry also disappear of their own accord. If the linguistic method of the comparative school of mythologists were sound, it would be impossible to regard the prehistoric population, who have left behind them the material remains which we have discovered, as Indo-Europeans, and we should furthermore be involved in the difficulty of having to assume that the Teutonic tribes mentioned by Tacitus, and even the Cimbri and Teutones defeated by Marius, already carried about with them the entire system of "Indo-European"" mythology. The latter inference we could at any rate not escape. No such chasm lies between these two fields of investigation in the present state of our knowledge, although the two sciences continue to yield results differing in kind. If archaeology chooses to regard the lake dwellers as Indo-Europeans, linguistic science does not interpose a veto. We no longer demand that language study should furnish us with an outline picture of a vague, nebulous primitive people. On the other hand, it frequently enables us to trace historical connections between different peoples.
2. We have no definite knowledge concerning the first migration of the Teutons. We know neither when it took place nor the immediate occasion that brought it about. It was tempting to some scholars to connect this migration with the expedition of the Persians under Darius to Scythia. Müllenhoff holds that the origin of the Teutonic people in the region between the Vistula and Oder is of as early a date as the first settlements of the other Indo-European groups in Greece and Italy. However, we really know nothing about this, just as we are entirely uninformed concerning the motives which induced the Teutons to settle in lands so inhospitable as to prompt Tacitus to declare that it was incredible that any people should have forsaken a more favored abode for such a wild region with so raw a climate.
From the shores of the Baltic the Teutons spread, principally in a western direction. They were not shepherds; the land, covered with forest and swamp, was entirely unsuited to grazing. It was only gradually, as scant crops rewarded their labors, that they become acquainted with the elements of agriculture. Even in the time of Tacitus, salt could be obtained in the interior only through the application of the most primitive methods, and the tribes waged war for the possession of the saline streams. The climate and their manner of life made these tribes hardy and warlike, but the conditions essential to the development of an indigenous civilization were lacking. Such a civilization arose on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates, but not on the Oder and Elbe, nor on the Rhine and the Danube. From the very outset the Teutons borrowed whatever culture they acquired from more highly developed peoples with whom they had directly or indirectly come into contact. The results reached by archaeological investigation are thus borne out by the character of the country and the nature of the soil. The study of language too has in various ways thrown light on the foreign relations of the ancient Teutons, and more especially on the contact with Kelts and Romans.
The value of linguistic science is not limited to tracing such external relations. The history of a language, with its various phonological and morphological changes, enable us to distinguish its periods of developments; and we are accordingly led to divide the Teutons into two, or rather three, main group, belong Swedish and Danish on the one hand, and Old Norse (in Norway and Iceland) on the other. The largest group is the West-Teutonic; it embraces Anglo-Saxon and Frisian, Low and High German with their various dialects—such as Saxon, Frankish, Bavarian, Alemannic, etc. This division of tribes and peoples into groups furnishes a secure basis also for a study of the history of religion.
It would be in vain to attempt to elicit the same results from what Roman authors tell us concerning Teutonic tribes. While it was undoubtedly the intention of Tacitus in setting up a threefold division—Ingævones, Herminones, and Istævones—to embrace the entire people, as a matter of fact his classification includes only the West Teutons. But Tacitus does not adhere strictly to this division. With the words "quidam affirmant" he introduces other names: Marsi, Gambrivi, Suevi, Vandili,—all of which are also to be regarded as groups; and what is still more significant, in his treatment of the individual peoples he entirely loses sight of his own main grouping. In his treatment of the tribes best know to him he follows an order from the West to North and East, distinguishing at the same time the Suabian from the non-Suabian peoples. Pliny mentions five groups, adding to those of Tacitus the Vandili and the Peucini or Bastarnæ, along the coast of the Black Sea, whom Tacitus had classed among the doubtful frontier tribes. We encounter the Hellusii (who in Tacitus are lost in the mists of the North) in the Hilleviones of Pliny. Among the names of the separate tribes in Tacitus there are some which subsequently disappear from View: the Bructeri, Cherusci, Semnones, Nahanarvali, etc. Others endure: Suabians, Frisians, Angles, and Lombards. New names also put in an appearance in later times: Alemanni, Burgundians,—the latter already mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy,—Saxons, and Franks. The value of the ethnographic material furnished by Roman authors is of course unquestioned, apparent contradictions being in part due to the lack of sufficient data. Thus we find Tacitus distinguishing between what he knew with certainty and what he had from hearsay. Furthermore, during the centuries covered by the Roman accounts extensive changes were taking place in the interior of Germany. Tribes were alternately vanishing and again appearing upon the scene or seeking new habitations, and with the help of the geographies, maps and historians we new and then catch a glimpse of these great shiftings. Besides, the peculiarly Roman point of view and attitude of mind have colored the accounts; so doubtless in case of the grouping into five or into three main divisions. This grouping is a geographical one; the Romans naturally taking as their point of departure the West. One may conclude from the words of Tacitus that the memory of the three sons of Mannus, the progenitors of the three groups, was still kept alive in old songs of the Teutons themselves, as is in fact indicated by the alliteration of their names; but it is after all by no means certain that the Teutons themselves intended by these groups a complete division of all tribes. The Frankish roll of nations, too, does not prove anything in favor of the old tradition. It makes Romans, Britons, Franks, and Alemanni the four offshoots from the common ancestor Istio, thus reflecting the political and geographical conditions existing in the time of Chlodowech (A.D. 520).
Valuable therefore as the accounts of Roman historians and geographers are, inasmuch as they transport us to a period concerning which we possess few reliable data, their classification of the Teutons does not coincide with the grouping based on the criteria of language. The North-Teutonic (Scandinavian) group remains almost wholly outside the Roman horizon, and even the East Teutons, who subsequently played the chief role in the migrations of nations (Goths, Vandals, Burgundians), are only incidentally mentioned.
Much attention has of late years been bestowed on the signification of the tribal names, and while this line of investigation has neither yielded positive results nor proved very fruitful in advancing our knowledge of Teutonic religions, it is a phase of the subject which must not be passed by in silence. J. Grimm distinguished three kinds of tribal names. The first class consists of patronymics, such as Herminones from Irmin and Goths from Gaut. The question at once presents itself, Which of the two is original,—the name of the tribe or that of the eponymous hero? If we accept the former alternative, the name of the tribe remains unexplained. A second class, the most numerous of all, indicates qualities: Frisians, franks (free men), Lombards (Longobardi). Under this head Grimm ventures a number of bold conjectures,—e.g. when he explains the Suabians (Seubi) as men who are sui juris. The third class comprises tribes named from the district which they inhabited: Ubii, Ripuarii, Batavi (men from the Auen), Mattiaci (men from the Matten), Semnones (forest dwellers). Here too the correct interpretation of the names is frequently subject to doubt. In fact most of the problems raised in this connection still remain unsolved. In the case of each particular name the question presents itself whether it was originally native or whether it was given to the tribe by neighbors. Probably there are quite a number of nicknames and encomiastic names among them. Reference to a cult is found only in the name Ziuwari, borne by the Suabians. The attempt has been made to explain Ansivari in a similar manner, and the Nahanarvali have even been regarded as worshippers of the Norns, but both of these etymologies are undoubtedly incorrect. It is worth noticing that among the tribal names no designations of plants or animals occur; for the Chatti (Hessians) have, or course, no connection with cats.
We may define more sharply, if not the origin, at least the use, or the words "germanisch" and "deutsch." As to the derivation of the term "Germanus" the most fantastic theories are current. Most probably the name originated in Northeastern Gaul in the century preceding our era, be it that the Kelts called the foreigners "neighbors" or that they were called "the genuine," in contradistinction to the peoples in whose midst they lived. The designation deutsch is related to the word "people" (Gothic thiuda) and means vulgaris. It reminds one of the ancient "Teutones," which is probably derived from the same stem. Little, indeed, is definitely known of these Teutones, who together with the Cimbri were the first Teutonic peoples that came within the Roman horizon. Müllenhoff seeks their origin along the Middle Elbe, whereas more recent scholars are convinced from an inscription found on a boundary stone at Miltenberg on the Main, on which their name occurs, that the Teutones were originally a Keltic tribe. However that may be, the name "deutsch" came before A.D. 800 to be used of the language and has since the ninth century steadily gained in currency, both as a designation for the language of the people, lingua Theodisca, and for the people itself.
It is unfortunate that between the words "germanisch" and "deutsch" no fixed and uniform distinction is made. As a rule, germanisch is the more general term, embracing the entire family—Germans, Goths, Anglo-Saxons, and Scandinavians. The tribes and people inhabiting Germany are called deutsch in the narrower sense. We therefore speak of the language of Germany as deutsch, but of germanische Philologie, in the comprehensive sense in which, for example, Paul uses it in his Grundriss der germanischen Philologie. This usage is, however, subject to exceptions in view of the fact that the Romans called the Germans and other tribes all Germani. Jacob Grimm has added to the confusion by using the word "germanisch" only rarely, and by employing "deutsch" sometimes in the narrower, and again in the more comprehensive, sense. In English the terms "German" (deutsch) and "Dutch" (niederländisch) have acquired in everyday speech a special signification, so that for the whole field the name "Teutonic" has been used. This usage is again not uniform, some preferring "Germanic" (germanisch), but this is open to the objection that it does not admit of the formation of a corresponding substantive. In any case, it is essential that we should carefully note the usage of others and be ourselves consistent in the employment of the various terms. In the present treatise "Teutonic" will be used for the entire group, "German" for the special subdivision.
The names that we have just mentioned constitute only a very small part of the large stock of proper names, of persons as well as of places, that have come down to us. While these are important witnesses in ascertaining ancient conditions and interrelations, they must yet be used cautiously and judiciously. A proper name does indeed tell us as a rule to what language group it belongs, but it does not tell us whether the people that gave it or bore it dwelt in the place where they left this token of their presence as strangers or as natives, as rulers or slaves, whether permanently or for only a brief period.
For the study of religion the numerous names derived from gods, especially in the North, and the names of persons deserve attention. They frequently enable us to determine approximately how far certain legends and cults had spread. From proper names we know that the worship of Thor was far more deeply rooted in Norway than that of Odhin. That Baldr is almost totally absent from names is a fact of great importance in arriving at an estimate of myths connected with him. A number of proper names testify to the currency of the German heroic saga in England. Proper names, accordingly, reflect not only the possession of each individual tribe, but also the intercourse of the tribes with one another.
Our knowledge of the various tribal religions of the ancient Teutons is derived from their names, their genealogies, their tribal legends, and the accounts of Roman authors. To the reader of Tacitus no fact appears more evident than that the individual tribes had each their own religious centre, that at times a few neighboring or related tribes united to form a common cult, and that the main groups in their old songs glorified their tribal progenitor, who was probably a tribal god. Since the publication of an investigations by Müllenhoff it has usually been assumed that the three great groups mentioned by Tacitus had separate cults. The Irminsleute (Herminones) preserved the worship of the old heaven god Zio; the Ingvæones worshipped the Vanir god Freyr; the Istvæones, Wodan and Tamfana. The identification of the eponymous tribal hero with the great gods is in two or three instances more or less probable: Irmin-Tiu and Ingv-Freyr frequently occur in combination, whereas this is not the case with Istv and Wodan. Teutonic mythologists in proposing such an identification of a hero with a god, or of one god with another, go on the theory that what is seemingly a proper name is in truth only a surname, the hero or god of lower rank being regarded as an hypostasis of the higher god. That one and the same god is worshipped under various names is, indeed, not a rare occurrence, but in the case of an identification of a hero with a god, a greater degree of caution is required. Taken as a whole, the conjectures here referred to rest on an insufficient basis.
Many scholars expressed the opinion that this investigation of Müllenhoff had resulted in establishing a new basis for the study of Teutonic mythology, and to a certain extent this is actually the case. Müllenhoff himself never denied the existence of elements of belief that were common to all Teutonic peoples. On the contrary, the range within which he allowed this view was wider than at present seems admissible, but the results obtained by Müllenhoff do not constitute as great an advance as at first appeared to be the case. We have already seen that the division into three groups does not by any means embrace all Teutons. Thus the Suebi, who, it will be remembered, were styled Ziuwari, correspond only in part to the Herminones. Furthermore, the line of demarcation between groups and tribes are not so sharp as might seem to be implied in the classifications made. Internal conditions of affairs in Germania were in a constant state of Flux, and this necessarily affected the life and existence of the tribes. In addition, account must be taken of that intercourse between the various tribes through which one tribe could borrow legends and cults from another.
Some students of Teutonic mythology cherish the ideal of treating the mythology of each tribe separately, and the historical method would indeed seem to demand this. If no such attempt is made in the present instance, it is not merely because we are deterred by the meagerness of the data available for such a separate treatment, but even more largely on account of the further consideration that it is impossible to detach with a sufficient degree of certainty a tribe or group from its environment. The historical method itself cautions us against ignoring any part of the data at our command, such as that which concerns the mutual intercourse of the tribes. We may attempt to determine here and there the origin of a legend and the chief seat of a cult, but we have no right to deny the tribe what we do not find expressly predicated of it, in case we find it existing among other tribes. The main principle, at any rate, remains undisputed, and we may feel confident of the positive result that the central point around which the life of an individual tribe revolved was the worship of a definite god together with the tribal legends with which it brought its origin into close connection.
3. In these tribal legends various elements, in part of later origin, are intermingled. It is convenient, however, to treat them in the present connection. If we analyze the tribal legends we find: 1. Myths concerning the origin of man in general, connected more or less closely with accounts of the ancestors of a particular people. 2. Accounts relating to, or an enumeration of, eponymous heroes; or genealogical table which derive the royal families from ancient heroes or gods. 3. Legends concerning ancient adventures—largely expeditions or migration of the tribes. 4. Various foreign traditions derived from the biblical or the classical world. In the picture that the individual tribes draw of their origin these threads are woven together in various ways.
We find even Tacitus bringing the origin of the tribes into connection with the origin of man. The progenitors of the three groups (Germania, Chapter 2) are the sons of Mannus, the man, and the latter is himself the son of Tuisto, whom Tacitus designates as "deum terra editum." To infer from this name, Tuisto, that he was of a dual nature and was conceived as an hermaphrodite is unwarranted. The emphasis falls on the autochthonous character and on the divine ancestry, which, it nay be noted, are again expressly mentioned in the case of the other tribes. Nothing beyond this can be deduced from the words of Tacitus. This applies also to a recent most arbitrary emendation of the text of Tacitus, according to which man had sprung from trees. Völuspa 17, to be sure, and Gylfaginning 9, as well, make man originate from Ask and Embla (ash and elm?), but this, as well as the descent of the three classes—thræl, karl, and jarl—from the god Rig (Heimdallr, in Rigsthula), is found only in comparatively late Eddic songs.
We shall begin our treatment of the separate peoples with the Goths. Their royal family, that of the Amali (among the East Goths), is regarded as of divine descent, the genealogical series being Gaut, Haimdal, Rigis, Amal. There is no way of determining from this list whether Gaut is simply and eponymous hero or, as has been assumed, another name for Wodan. Rigis, here separated from Haimdal, is elsewhere usually a surname of this god. Jordanes, to whom we owe this account of the divine origin of the Amali, makes the goths come from Scandza, the cradle of nations ("quasi officina gentium aut certe velut vagina nationum"), an island in the North, where it is too cold for bees to gather honey, but from which place nations have spread like swarms of bees. In three ships the Goths crossed the ocean, the foremost two carrying the East and West Goths, the slower on the Gepidæ. Landing on the coast, these tribes moved onward in a southern direction.
The Lombards were also said to have come from the "island" of Scandinavia. Their real name, it is said, was Vinili, and they constituted the third part of the inhabitants of this over-populated country. They had been designated by lot to leave their fatherland, and under two leaders, Ibor and Ajo, they sought new homes. They came into collision with the Vandals, who implored Godan (Wodan) for victory over the newcomers, but the god replied that he would give victory to those whom his eyes should first behold at sunrise. The crafty Gambara, the mother of Ibor and Ajo, sought counsel from Frea, who gave the advice that the women should join the men and let their hair hang down their faces like beards. When on the following morning Godan saw this host of Vinili, he asked: "Who are these Longobardi?" and Frea rejoined that having given them their name he must also grant them the victory. According to this account, which the Christian historian of the Lombards calls an absurd story, this people is traced back to the Baltic. Whether the mention of the divinities Wodan and Frea is to be regarded as a original element in this account has been doubted by some scholars.
The genealogical tables tracing the origin of rulers and peoples to eponymous heroes or gods—the Goths to Gaut, the Scyldings to Scyld, the Scefings to Sceaf, and possibly the Batavi to a Bætva (?)—are know to us in detail in the case of the Anglo-Saxons in England only. Bede himself tells us that Hengist and Horsa, and the royal families of many English nations as well, were descended from Voden. The medieval English chronicles, with variation as to details, give us these genealogies of the Anglo-Saxon royal families, and these tables, dating from various periods, contain side by side with historical reminiscences also some fragments of myths and legends. The lists that hove been compiled are largely the result of poetic fancy. Now and then they furnish investigators with a clew towards tracing a connection between traditions and episodes that lie seemingly far apart; so in the case of the two kings named Offa, and of such heroes as Beow (Beaw), Scyld and Scef (Sceaf). Of the latter it was related that he landed, as a new-born babe, in a rudderless boat and with a sheaf of grain, on the coast of Sleswick, the country over which he was afterwards to rule. The tables contain few traces of legends that are of native English origin, and almost every feature points to a connection with the original home in Holstein, Sleswick, and Jutland. The tables ascend to Woden as progenitor; that his name is at time found in the middle of the list is probably owing to later additions. Of the other divinities Seaxneat (Saxnot) occurs a few times, as for example in the Essex table, where a number of names representing personifications of the idea of battle are all designated as sons of Seaxneat. Names compounded with Frea are numerous. That Bældæg, who is mentioned repeatedly, is Balder is confirmed by the name Balder itself as found in one of the genealogies. In passing it may be noted that some of the chroniclers have felt called upon to trace the family back to the common ancestors Noah and Adam.
Several of the tribes in Germany proper are rich in legendary lore. So the Saxons, concerning whose origin various traditions are current. According to one report their first king, Aschanes (Ask?), whose name the medieval chronicle changes to Ascanius, sprang up from the Harz rocks in a forest near a spring. A popular rhyme also makes mention of girls growing on trees in Saxony. Widukind of the tenth century, who entertained a warm affection from his Saxon people, was, however, of the opinion that they had come across the sea and mentions various accounts as to this origin; they were thought to be descended from the Danes and Norwegians, or were regarded as the remnants of the army of Alexander the Great which had scattered in all directions. Whether it would be possible to trace a connection between this Macedonian origin and Trojan descent need not here be discussed. Of more interest is the fact that this Saxon tribal legend, combined in part with the Thuringian, contains various semi-historical reminiscences; such as the war between Saxons and Thuringians for the possession of the country, the struggle between the Franks and Thuringians, whose king Irminfrid had married the daughter of a Frankish king, and especially the exploits of the Thuringian hero Iring, who played the chief rôle in this war and who is usually regarded as a mythical figure.
An unusually rich store of legends was found by Uhland among his "Suabians." According to an account of the twelfth century concerning the origin of the Suabians, the Suevi too, although in the days of Tacitus already possessing fixed habitations in Middle Germany, had come from the North. The cause of this exodus, as in the case of the Vinili and perhaps also of the Goths, is said to have been famine. That the legends also show a connection between Scandinavia and the Suebi, Uhland has attempted to show by citing a number of characteristic episodes from the saga of Helgi, whose connection with the Suebi does not rest merely on the accidental resemblance of Svava to Suebi.
We find in these various tribal sagas and unmistakable, though not historically definable, background of reality. Imperceptibly saga passes over into history, and the ancient sage too, nebulous and mingled with myths as it at times was, no doubt preserved recollections of an old mother country and or earlier fortunes. At times a tradition no doubt owes it origin solely tot he attempt to explain a name, just as the inhabitants of the Swiss canton Schwyz thought that they had come from Sweden. In the case of some other accounts, we cannot even approximately state what the basis or reality is. An instance of this is the curious statement of Tacitus that Ulixes had landed somewhere along the Thine and that an altar had been raised in honor of him and of his father Laertes. There is no doubt, however, that some of these legends are purely learned invention, without historical basis. In this latter category belong the tales, everywhere current in the Middle Ages, of the Trojan origin of various peoples.
Following, more or less closely, Vergil's account (Æeneid, I, ll.142 ff.) of Antenor, who had escaped from Troy and reached Illyria and more distant shores, stories of Trojan exiles who had made their way to remote regions and distant coasts were told in the various provinces of the Roman Empire; and when we remember how much value was attached by distinguished Roman families at the end of the Republic and at the beginning of the Empire to Trojan lineage, it will appear altogether natural that the nations incorporated with the Empire should have fallen in with this fashion and have boasted of Trojan descent. Our present sources no longer enable us to trace the details of the ways in which this tradition was carried out, but it is clear that distinguished Gauls, more especially, and their successors the Franks traced their origin from Troy.
Gregory of Tours, to be sure, tells us nothing of this character in the dry and rather confused account in which he sums up what older writers had related of the fortunes of his people. He makes the Franks come from Pannonia and does not refer to any connection with Greeks or Trojans. We first come across this latter legend in the Chronicle of Fredegar (of about 660) and the Gesta regum Francorum (725). According to the former, Priam at Troy was king of the Franks. After the fall of Troy the people repeatedly separated. One division went to Macedonia, another under king Friga (the Frigii) reached the Danube. Part of this division under Turchot (the Turks) remained behind, while others under Fancio (the Franks) moved onward and began the construction of a new city of Troy on the Rhine, which was, however, never completed. Theudemer and, subsequently, the Merovingi are descended from this Francio. With a slight variation from the above account, the Gesta make Æneas the king of the Trojans. The Franks are descended from the Trojan exiles who built the city of Sicambria on the frontiers of Pannonia and subsequently aided the emperor Valentinianus in his war against the Alani (Alemanni?). From his they received the name of Franks, that is, the wild, proud people! In any case the tradition of the Trojan descent of the franks had struck deep root. Paulus Diaconus thought that he recognized in the name of Frankish major domo, Anschis, the Trojan name Anchises.
It is clear that these Frankish accounts do not represent native traditions, but merely form the continuation of threads that passed form Latin authors into the later literature. Nor is more value to be attached to what is related elsewhere during the Middle Ages of Trojan descent. The English highly prized the tradition, and even in Norse literature belief in it has assumed a characteristic form.
This whole cycle of legends is still unknown to Saxo Grammaticus, who does not seem to have heard of either Troy or Priam in this connection. He does indeed mention, but with out signifying his own concurrence, the opinion of Dudo, a writer on Aquitanian history of the end of the tenth century, that the Danes derived their name from the Danai. Saxo also refers to an ancient king, Othinus, who had established relations with Byzantium, but he is unaware of any connection between Asia and Scandinavia.
The latter notion we meet in the Ynglinga Saga (Heimskringla) and in the Preface (of later origin) to the Prose Edda. Odhin is there said to have come to the North from Asgardh on the Black Sea, and the narratives of the Vanir war, of Mimir and Hœnir, are interwoven with the story of that journey. In the afore-mentioned Preface (formáli) Troy and the expedition of Pompey are referred to by name.
There was not the slightest cause for mistaking the true character of these tales by endeavoring to find genuine tradition in them, as has been done by some scholars. There is not even the least evidence that the ancient Norsemen were eager to connect their past with the classical world. The instances just mentioned stand isolated and are the work of mythographers, who, by combining various unrelated elements and overriding all chronology, constructed a pseudo-historical narrative devoid of all value from either the historical or the mythological point of view. It would be in vain to seek genuine fragments of Teutonic legends here.
4. Even in a brief survey some attention must be paid to the relations of the Teutons to other nations before and at the dawn of the historical period.
We shall probably never fully succeed in tracing the boundaries dividing Kelts from Teutons in the prehistoric times, or in determining the lands which each of these peoples originally occupied, or in fixing the tribes of which they were composed. However, linguistic investigations, more especially of names of places, have already shed considerable light upon the subject, and we now know that the whole west and south of Germany exhibit Keltic names. The Kelts in their various expeditions roamed also over the southern peninsulas of Europe, Spain, Italy, and Greece. These results are firmly established and cannot be affected by warning cries which have been raised against the extravagances of Kelto-mania. Such warnings are to a certain extent justified. Thus we cannot concur in the view of some scholars that the Kelts, or more especially the Gauls, were of old a highly civilized people, possessing great technical skill and a profound symbolism. At the same time there cannot be any doubt as to the wide extent of the territory covered by the Kelts in prehistoric times, or their superiority to their Teutonic neighbors in culture.
The original boundary between Kelts and Teutons was doubtless situated in the country between the Oder and Elbe. Müllenhoff locates it in the Harz and Thuringia, which would at once mark the boundary towards both the south and west. Nothing is known concerning the relations existing between these contiguous peoples in Central Germany, any more than concerning the causes for the advance of the Teutons and the manner in which it took place. Nor do we know to what extent the two peoples intermingled. It is clear, however, that they did mix in various ways, and that there was no such sharp line of division or such a mutual aversion between them as we must assume to have existed between Teutons and Slavs. In Central Germany, as subsequently on the Rhine, on the left as well as on the right bank, the contiguous Kelts and Teutons have assuredly not always waged war on each other, but have frequently lived in peaceful intercourse. This mutual influence was so strongly marked that it is not always possible to determine from the sources at our command whether in a particular case we have to do with a Teutonic or a Keltic tribe. In fact, during the first centuries of our era most of the tribes to the west of the Rhine do not bear an unmixed character.
It is evident that the Teutons reached the Rhine, and even crossed it, about the beginning of our era. Roman accounts, from Caesar onward, as well as numerous inscriptions, inform us how Kelt and Teuton met in these regions. The question therefore naturally presents itself, What elements in their religion belong to each of the two peoples? From the nature of the case such a question can be fully answered only by a series of detailed investigations. Common characteristics do not, however, necessarily imply always either influence from the one side or the other, or borrowing. There is, for example, no reason for attributing the worship of springs, which we find among both nations, originally to the one rather than to the other. This is a cult which is found among Slavs as well as Teutons and Kelts, and, in fact, among a large number of peoples. It odes not furnish a sufficient basis for assuming an historical connection.
The greatest obstacle that we encounter in attempting to trace the nationality of various gods lies in their foreign, that is to say their Latin, names. Several divinities bear on inscriptions the name of Hercules, and the grounds on which they have been called Keltic or Teutonic are not always conclusive. There is, moreover, still a third possibility. The Roman soldiers in the provinces must have brought along their own divinities. It is highly probable that the Hercules Saxanus of a number of inscriptions found in the valley of the Brohl and the vicinity of Metz was not a Teutonic Donar or Saxnot, but the genuine Roman tutelar deity of the miners. On the whole rather too much has been claimed as the property of the Kelts.
This latter observation does not, however, apply to the matres, or matronae, that are found represented or inscribed on various monuments of the first centuries of our era, and whose Keltic origin is at present quite generally recognized. These mother goddesses frequently form groups of three; they bestow a blessing upon the fields and make them fruitful, and hence are frequently represented with fruits and flowers, with ears of corn or a horn of plenty. Their cult must have been very widespread, reaching from Britain to Switzerland. The great extent of this territory is no doubt to be accounted for in part by the fact that the cult was spread by Keltic soldiers in the armies. On the right bank of the Rhine the matronae are only rarely met with. Their surnames bear to a large extent a local character. That among these latter there are some of Teutonic origin—especially those ending in ims—does not alter the fact that the matronae themselves are of Keltic origin.
We must assume, therefore, that Teutons and Kelts, living for many centuries in constant and active intercourse, mutually influenced each other, the influence of Kelts on Teutons being undoubtedly stronger than that of Teutons on Kelts. While the contact between Teutons and Slavs was of an altogether less intimate character, it too demands some attention. The ancient accounts all indicate that the Vistula formed the original boundary between Teutons and Slavs. The group that is a times simply called Slavs really comprises two distinct groups: the Balts or Letts (the Æstii of Tacitus) and the Slavs (the Venedi). Tacitus gives us little information concerning these peoples. That they led a free and rude mode of life was practically all that his informants could tell him. The Æstii he still classes among the Teutons and compares them with the Suebi. That they too worshipped a mater deum possesses from our point of view no special significance, inasmuch as the Romans when interpreting unfamiliar divinities took into consideration only a single characteristic, and we are, therefore, in no way compelled to compare this mater deum with the terra mater (Nerthus) of the Teutonic tribes along the seacoast. Tacitus classes the Venedi with that mass of semi-barbarous peoples whom he dismisses with a few words expressive of horror, although he does not deny the possibility that they too were Teutons. Other Roman accounts furnish little additional information.
When during the period of the migration of nations one Teutonic tribe after another—Vandals, Goths, Gepidæ, Heruli, Lugii, Burgundians—began to push forward to the south and west, the region between the Vistula, Oder, and Elbe must have become depopulated. The Balto-Slavs to the north- and south-east took advantage of this opportunity to extend their domain. With the expedition of the Lombards in the sixth century these migrations came to an end, and in the seventh century the power of the Slavs in Europe reached its extreme limits, extending from the Baltic to the Ægean and the Black Sea, and from the Elbe to the Dnieper and the Alps.
From these facts we may infer that the Balto-Slavs and Teutons were brought into contact on every side, and since with the migration of a people there are always some that stay behind, the two races must undoubtedly have intermingled in the region between the Vistula and the Elbe. The influence thus exerted was, however, not nearly as great as we might be led to expect. The Teutonic tribes always had their faces turned to the west and south and it was the contact with Kelts and Romans, and not with Balto-Slavs, that molded them. Besides, what could they borrow from their neighbors on the east, who were their inferiors in civilization? The two peoples had a strong aversion towards one another, which continued uninterruptedly and to which the medieval chronicles when speaking of the Slavs constantly recur. The wars, as a consequence of which the Saxon emperors of the tenth century again drove the Slavs out of the old Teutonic country to the east of the Elbe, were characterized by the greatest fierceness and animosity. Nor did the conversion of the Slavs to Christianity engender more fraternal feelings between them and the Teutons. From the very outset they declared allegiance not to Rome but to Byzantium, and while the schism between the Eastern and Western Church was not yet in existence. the Slavs, nevertheless, through this dependence on Byzantium remained outside the circle of the european body politic of the Middle Ages. Even at the present day, after the lapse of so many centuries, the Wends living in various parts of Saxony are regarded as a class quite distinct from the Germans round about them.
It is, therefore, not to be expected that a comparison with Balto-Slavic observances and conceptions will shed any great light on the religion of the Teutons. Here, again, not much importance should be attached to similarities of a general character. That the Balto-Slavs too regarded forests and springs as sacred, that parallels may be found in the folklore, does not constitute an argument for the existence of active intercourse between the two peoples. Such parallels are encountered everywhere. An inspection of the names of Lithuanian gods will show that the resemblance to Teutonic mythology is but slight. And yet, despite the aversion existing between the two races, contiguity of habitation and the wars waged between them must have left decided traces in legends and customs. The Scandinavians more especially came into close contact with the Slavs. Vikings founded, in the country of the Wends, the Jomsburg, which plays such and important rôle in the history of the North during the tenth century; and in Gardariki (Russia) a Swedish family established its rule. It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, to endeavor to explain certain characteristic features of the myths and customs of the two peoples on the score of this intercourse. Such attempts have actually been made, although they have met with little success. The prophetess (vlva), the divine race of the Vanir, Kvasir, who had sprung from the spittle of Æsir and Vanir, and from whose blood the poets' mead was made, the phallic symbol of Freyr, are some of the elements to which a Slavic origin has been attributed. This, however, is to a large degree conjectural, and in order to support the claim in any one instance a special investigation is called for. The theory of the Slavic origin of the Vanir, more especially, runs counter to all that we know about these gods.
In the case of all such parallels we should hesitate a long time before assuming an historical connection. The following may serve as illustration. An Arab, Ibn Fozlan, travelled in 921 as ambassador of the Caliph of Bagdad to the Wolga and there witnessed the funeral rites of a distinguished Russian. A funeral pyre of wood was erected on a ship, a girl set aside to accompany the body in death, the sacrificial victims, consisting in part of horses, were slaughtered, and finally the whole was set afire. This union of two modes of disposal of the dead, first entrusting the body to the sea in a boat and then burning it, is so characteristically Scandinavian, and it reminds one so strongly of the well-known episode of the burning of Baldr's body, that we seem almost compelled to assume a connection. And yet such a connection is strenuously denied from both sides, by Slavic as well as by Teutonic mythologists. The agreement is after all of a general character, consisting of isolated correspondences, such as are found among various peoples, and side by side with points of agreement there are also important differences to be noted. One might venture an opinion in favor of the one view as against the other, but certainty cannot be attained.
To sum up, the parallels between Teutons and Balto-Slavs are doubtful in character and unimportant. We may at any rate safely assert that no great Slavic current ran though ancient Teutonic life.
"The Religion of the Teutons," P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos, page 65-92.