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The

Ancient Germanic Culture

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Introduction

Distribution of the primary Germanic groups ca. 1 AD.
In its broadest sense, the term Ancient Germanic culture can be used to refer to any culture as practised 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.

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Beowulf.firstpage.jpeg

Alliterative verse, in various forms, is found widely in the literary traditions of the early Germanic languages. The Old English epic Beowulf, as well as most other Old English poetry, the Old High German Muspilli, the Old Saxon Heliand, and the Old Norse Poetic Edda all use alliterative verse.

Originally all alliterative poetry was composed and transmitted orally, and much has been lost through time since it went unrecorded. The degree to which writing may have altered this oral artform remains much in dispute. Nevertheless, there is a broad consensus among scholars that the written verse retains many (and some would argue almost all) of the features of the spoken language.

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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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Inscription on Golden horn of Gallehus.jpg

The Golden Horns of Gallehus (DR 12 †U) were two horns made of gold, one shorter than the other, discovered in Gallehus, north of Tønder in South Jutland, Denmark. The longer horn of the two was found in 1639, and the second in 1734, 15-20 meters apart from the first discovery. The horns are believed to have dated to the fifth century and depict mythological figures of uncertain origin. The smaller of the two bore a Proto-Norse Elder Futhark inscription.

The original horns were stolen and melted down. However, copies based on illustrations of the original horns were produced and are exhibited at the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark and the Moesgaard Museum, near Aarhus, Denmark. Since then, copies of the horns have been stolen (and retrieved) twice.

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Related Wikibooks

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, Norwegian, Swedish, Gothic (extinct), Proto Germanic (extinct, coming soon)

Ancient Germanic languages

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