The distribution of the primary Germanic
dialect groups in Europe in around AD 1:
In its broadest sense, the term Ancient Germanic culture can be used to refer to any culture as practiced by speakers of either the Common Germanic language or one of its daughter dialects (Gothic, Vandalic, Burgundian, Lombardic, Old High German, Old Frankish, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old English, and Old Norse) at any time during the roughly two millennia between the emergence of Proto-Germanic in the Nordic Bronze Age (ca. 1000–500 BC) until the Early Middle Ages (ca. 500–1000 AD). Although 'Germanic' can only be used with any sort of definition in a linguistic sense, the degree of cohesion and relative conformity which existed in ancient times between the various groups of Germanic speaking peoples in terms of mythology, religion, customs, social structure and material culture is seen to justify the use of the term to refer to the culture of those peoples as a whole.
The ancient Germanic people made a considerable impact on the development of ancient Europe, particularly through their interactions with the Roman Empire. They have been variously portrayed in the annals of history; sometimes as 'barbarian hordes', ultimately responsible for the Fall of Rome; at other times, as 'noble savages' living in blissful ignorance of the evils of civilization; at still other times, as Rome’s most enthusiastic supporters and eventual successors. Regardless of how one judges them, it is certain that the ancient Germanic peoples changed the face of Europe – and through their descendants, the world – dramatically.
The Runic alphabets
are a set of related alphabets
using letters (known as runes
) formerly used to write Germanic languages
before and shortly after the Christianization
and the British Isles
. The Scandinavian variants are also known as Futhark
, derived from their first six letters: F
, and K
); the Anglo-Saxon variant as Futhorc
(due to sound changes undergone in Old English
by the same six letters). However, the first A
in the fuþark was nasal, hence originally close to an o
The earliest runic inscriptions date from c. 150, and the alphabet was generally replaced by the Latin alphabet with Christianization by c. 700 in central Europe and by c. 1100 in Scandinavia. However, the use of runes persisted for specialized purposes in Scandinavia, longest in rural Sweden until the early 20th century (used mainly for decoration as runes in Dalarna and on Runic calendars).
The three best-known runic alphabets are:
Did you know...
- ... that Pope Boniface II (papacy 530 to 532) was an Ostrogoth?
- ... that Arminius, the Cheruscan warrior who successfully united several Germanic tribes (Cherusci, Marsi, Chatti , Bructeri , Chauci and Sicambri) to fight against and eventually defeat three Roman legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, had been trained as a Roman military commander and possessed Roman citizenship?
- ... that the parapets of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul are known to contain two Viking age runic inscriptions?
- ... that, according to Tacitus, Germanic people were piously monogamous, and that an adulteress was driven from her home by her husband wielding a whip?
- ... Germanic warriors would bring family members along to battles, to urge them on during the fight?
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Selected runic artifact
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Culture: Ásatrú Theology, Norse mythology, The Pagan Beliefs Surrounding Christmas
History: World History (contains / will contain chapters about ancient Germanic cultures)
Germanic Languages: Danish, Dutch, English, German, Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish, Gothic (extinct), Proto Germanic (extinct, coming soon)
Ancient Germanic languages