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Lecture 3 – Old Germanic tribes
1. First knowledge about Germanic tribes.
2. Classification of Germanic tribes.
3. Classification of Germanic groups of languages and their written records.
4. Germanic alphabets.
1. As far as the English language belongs to the Germanic group of languages, this group makes a part of the history of the English Language.
Our knowledge of old Germanic barbarian tribes (Teutons) is based on testimonies by Greek and Roman authors:
- Pytheas (4th c. B.C.) – a Greek historian and geographer, the work “An Account of a Sea Voyage to the Baltic Sea”.
- Julius Caesar (1st c. B.C.) – a roman Emperor, the work “Commentaries on the Gallic War”.
- Pliny the Elder (1st c. A.D.) – a Roman scientist and writer, the work “Natural History” (contained the classification of the Germanic tribes).
- Tacitus (1st c. A.D.) – a Roman historian, the work “Life and Customs of the Ancient Germans”.
At the beginning of the new era Germanic tribes occupied vast territories in Western, Central and Northern Europe.
The Roman general Julius Caesar devoted several chapters to the Germanic tribes in his “Commentaries on the war in Gall” (1044 B.C.). Caesar fought with them on the Rhine. He took two expeditions against the Germanic tribes and the Romans defeated the Germans in both expeditions. Caesar stated that the Germans lived in tribes and tribal unions. He also wrote that the Teutons were nomads.
One of the best-known descriptions about life of Germanic tribes is that written by Tacitus in AD 98, called Germania.
Tacitus describes the Germanic tribes as living in scattered settlements in the woody and marshy country of north-western Europe. He says that they do not build cities and keep their houses far apart, living in wooden buildings. They keep flocks, and grow grain crops, but their agriculture is not very advanced. The family plays a large part in their social organization. They have kings, chosen for their birth, and chiefs, chosen for their courage, but in major affairs the whole community consults together. In the head of each tribe there was a chief who was called ‘kuning’. The whole tribe had the name of the Chief. The physical type is everywhere the same: blue eyes, reddish hair and huge bodies. The normal dress is the short cloak, though the skins of animals are also worn. Very few of the men have breastplates or helmets, and they have very little iron. They worship Mercury, sometimes with human sacrifices, and sacrifice animals to Hercules and Mars.
2. The great historian Pliny spent many years in the Roman provinces of Low and High Germany. He wrote a book called “Natural History”. He was the first who enumerated and classified the military tribes. It was proved by many scientists. According to Pliny there were several Germanic tribes:
1. The Vindili. They lived in the eastern part of the territory inhabited by the Germanic tribes (GT – Germanic territory). They consisted of the Goths, the Burgundians and the Vandals.
2. The Ingvaeons. They lived in the north-western part of the GT. They inhabited the Jutland peninsula and the coast of the North Sea. The tribes of Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians were formed later of this group.
3.The Istkveoni. They lived on the Rhine. Later they formed a very powerful tribal union of Franconians. In the early Middle Ages they were powerful group of West Germans.
4. The Pekvini or Bastarni. They lived closed to the place, which is now called Ruminia. Mostly this group is included to the first group of Germanic tribes.
5.The Germioni. They lived in the centre of Germany and later the German nation was formed of these tribes.
6. The Gellivioni. They were isolated from other Germanic tribes. They inhabited Scandinavia.
3. Historically, all the Germanic languages originated from one ancestor language. It is called Proto-Germanic (PG). And Germanic group of languages has three branches: East Germanic (extinct), North Germanic (or Scandinavian), West Germanic.
If we compare the classification of Germanic tribes and languages we can see:
The Vindili – East Germanic;
The Hilleviones – North Germanic;
The Ingvaones, Istaevones and Herminones – West Germanic.
East Germanic languages have been dead for many centuries. All the North Germanic and West Germanic languages have survived until our own times.
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