Page images

adjoining islands of Monen, Falster, and Laland, as the proper country of the Danes, where they are said to have dwelt and exercised piracy for many ages before they attempted the conquest of Jutland and other territories on the continent,* It must therefore be considered that their emigration from Scandinavia rests on a remote and merely mythical tradition.

The Swedes appear to have been early a very powerful people. Their name is used by Tacitus as a comprehensive term for all the Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. They are doubtless the Suethidæ of Jornandes. From Adam of Bremen we have fuller accounts of them. That writer was struck with the magnificence of the temple at Ubsola, that is Upsala, which was situated not far from the cities of Sictona and Birca-Sigtuna and Bierkoe. "At this temple," he says, "which is entirely ornamented with gold, the people worship the statues of three gods, the most powerful of whom, Thor, is seated on a couch in the middle, with Woden on one side and Fricca on the other." We have thus from an eye-witness an account of the paganism once common to all the Germanic tribes, still preserved in Scandinavia to the age of the writer, who visited the North and described it while subsisting in its original splendour, long after it had disappeared from Germany and from Saxon Britain.

The Suiones of the ancients are the Sviar of the middle ages, the inhabitants of Svea, and the Gutæ are the Goths or Gothlanders. "From Svea and Götaland," says the old Swedish law, "arose in heathen times the kingdom of Sweden," but the kingdom of the Goths is the oldest, as it is declared by the earliest historian who wrote at length the annals of

* Peter Olaus (Chron. Reg. Dan. apud Langeb. i. 77. Zeuss, 509.) gives the following summary of the Danish tradition from the old Chronicles: "Ex ipso loco et multis aliis chronicis Danorum colligitur, non esse verum, quod Jutia est Dania: sed secundam chronica Sialandia, Lalandia, Falstria et Meonia est Dania, et illas terras primo et principaliter comprehendit hoc nomen Dania. Dan enim, à quo regnum nomen habuit, multis annis dominabatur istis insulis, antequum acquisivit Jutiam."

Fuit in Upsala civitate Suethiæ rex quidam Ypper nomine, tres filios habens, quorum unus Nori, alter Oesten, tertius Dan dicebatur. Quem pater suus misit ad has partes, quæ nunc dicuntur Dania, ad regendum insulas quatuor, scilicet Sialand, Mön. Falster et Laland, quæ omnes uno vocabulo nuncupabantur Withsleeth."

Sweden.* The Swedes were the dominant race, for it became their privilege to give a monarch to the united kingdom. The choice was made at the "ä ting allra Svia," or assembly of all the Swedes at the Morasteine, and was confirmed at the “ting allra Göta," or assembly of all the Goths; and when the Westgoths ventured to choose the Danish Magnus Nilsson for their king, the Swedes, as Saxo says, "veterem gentis suæ prerogativam in aliquanto obscurioris populi invidia deponere passi non sunt." This union of the Gothiod and the Sviar goes back beyond the age of authentic history. It has given origin, when compared with the legends of the Ynglinga saga, relating to the conquests of Odin, to an historical theory which was set up long ago by Maillet, and has been supported with great learning and ingenuity by the celebrated modern historian of Sweden, M. Geijer. This writer thinks it cannot be doubted that the account delivered in the Ynglinga saga of the conquests of Odin in the North and the immigration of the Asi, is the narrative of an event that really happened. But if this relation is examined as to the circumstances, it proves, as he thinks, that the arrival of Odin and the Asi which it records, was not the first entrance of a people of German race, and that a previous invasion must have taken place by people of the same stock. Odin's settlement in the country of which he took possession near the Malar lake, is represented as resulting from his union with the former inhabitants: his followers are never described as expelling the conquered people and taking possession of their country. The assertion that Odin introduced a new idiom into the North, can never be understood to mean that the great family of languages, of which the Saxon as well as the Norse are branches, originated from him. We are by these and similar considerations forbidden from regarding the Scandinavians of the time immediately preceding the entrance of Odin as merely Finnish An attentive survey of the history of the North indicates that lotuns or Finn and Lappish tribes were the earliest known inhabitants, that they were subdued or expelled by a


• Ericus Olai Hist. Suecorum Gothorumque lib. i. cited by Geijer, Schwedens Urgeschichte, s. 360.

+ Geijer, p. 361.

race of different character, language, and religion. The leaders of this tribe kept possession of power till the rise of a third dynasty, who were the heroes of the Edda and the later Ynglinga saga. Both of these revolutions are alluded to by the Icelandic poets, who report that Odin and his Asi gave themselves out for the older Asi. These older Asi were the leaders of the Gothiod, that is, of a people descended from the gods, who overcame the aboriginal Iotuns, and Gotland thus at first. comprehended all Svea-rik or Sweden, as well as the country of the Danes and other Northmen. The people worshipped the celestial Wodan, while Thor, or Thunder, was their chief divinity. A later Odin, represented in the Ynglinga saga as well as in the Edda as a seer, priest, and enchanter, brought in the Asi and the Sviar, who settled at first in the country above the Malar lake.* Suithiod, over which the dynasty of the Ynglinga Saga ruled, appears not to have comprehended the proper Götaland, but only the country to the northward of that lake. In the southern parts of Scandinavia the religion and language of the Goths were established already before Odin. That leader arrived at the head of his warlike Asi, and uniting with the Goths, expelled the remains of the Iotune or Finnish aborigines, or obliged them to take refuge in mountainous tracts, where they remained, as we have seen, on the remote borders of Sweden and Norway.

The Mälar Sea or Lake Lögur. At old Sigtun on that lake, Odin built a temple and instituted sacrifices according to the custom of the Aesci or Asi. He took possession of the surrounding country, which he named Sigtun. He assigned places where the chief priests were to preside; Njord dwelt in Noatun, Freya in Upsal, Heimdaller in Himinbjörg, Thor in Thrudvang, Balder in Breidablik : to all these he gave pleasant seats.

All this account is given in the Ynglinga saga, in the Heimskringla of Snorro Sturleson. The germ of the tradition embodied in the prose sagas is to be found in the older Edda, but they are dressed out in a garb which evidently belongs to the romantic period of European literature, already opened in the time of Snorro. The zealous admirers of northern antiquity ascribe an ancient date and a mysterious eastern origin to a much greater portion of these compositions than is consistent with truth and candid investigation. What can be a more palpable proof of the adoption of modern ideas and representations than the mention of Tyrkland, Turkey, where it is said that Odin had great possessions? Tyrkland is rendered in the later version in Peringskiold's edition of the Heimskringla Teucria; the author of this version had in his mind the Trojan tale, which is mixed up with the sagas of almost all ancient nations. In the very beginning of the Ynglinga saga it is said that one of the three parts of the world, namely, the Western, is termed Europa, by some Enea.

SECTION VI.-Physical Characters of the German Nations.

It is well known that the German nations are universally described by the ancients as a people of tall stature, robust form, with fair complexion, red hair, and blue eyes. A great number of passages are cited from the classical writers in which these traits are described. The following are some of the most decisive.

The great stature of the Germans and their fierceness and valour are adverted to by Cæsar.

"Dum paucos dies ad Vesontionem rei frumentariæ caussa moratur, ex percunctatione nostrorum vocibusque Gallorum ac mercatorum, qui ingenti magnitudine corporum Germanos, incredibili virtute in armis esse prædicabant, sæpenumero sese cum eis congressos, ne vultum quidem et aciem oculorum ferre potuisse, subito timor exercitum occupavit."* The same writer describing the Suevi says that their habit of life nourishes their strength, and renders them "immani corporum magnitudine homines." It may be observed, that in these passages he seems to compare the Germans in some degree with the Gauls, as well as with the smaller Italians, and to assure us that the northern Germans especially were taller than the Celts.

Pomponius Mela says, "Qui habitant Germaniam immanes sunt animis atque corporibus."+

Appian, following Cæsar, terms the soldiers of Ariovistusτὰ μεγέθη μείζους τῶν μεγίστων.§

Josephus represents Agrippa as saying to the Jews, "Who among you has not heard of the multitude of the Germans? You have often observed their prowess and their large stature."||

Herodian notices—τῶν Γερμανῶν σώματα ἐπιμήκη,—the tall bodies of the Germans. Columella says, "Germaniam decoravit Natura altissimorum hominum exercitibus."** Livy describes the eastern Germans, namely, the Bastarnæ, in like manner—“ Bastarnarum procera et immania corpora ;" and Plutarch mentions them in similar terms.++ Velleius speaks of the "juventus immensa corporibus" of the Chauci, and Tacitus

De Situ Orbis, iii. 3.

Bell. Gall. i. 39. + Bell. Gall. iv. 1. § Appian. de Bell. Gall. c. iii. Fl. Josephus, Bell. Jud. ii. 16. ¶ Herodian, vi. 7. ** Columella de Re Rust. 38. ++ Livii, xli. 15.

of the" procera membra" of the Cherusci and the Batavi.* Eunapius gives a strange description of the Goths. He says their bodies are drawn out to an useless length, and that they are heavy in the feet, and drawn in about the middle, as Aristotle describes insects to be. Ammianus terms the Alemanni "robusti et celsiores, grandissimis corporibus freti." Lastly, the Arabian traveller Ibn Foszlan, whose itinerary has been published by Frähn, compares the Northmen to palm-trees.§

With respect to their complexion, Tacitus speaks of the "rutilæ come" of the Germans ;|| Ammianus of the "comas rutilantes ex more" of the Alemanni; Seneca of the "rufus crinis;' ;*** Herodian of the “ κόμας ξανθὰς τῶν Γερμανῶν.”++ Juvenal:‡‡

Cœrula quis stupuit Germani lumina, flavam
Cæsariem et madido torquentem cornua cirro.

Horace :§§

Nec fera cœruleâ domuit Germania pube.

Calpurnius Flaccus says, "rutili sunt Germanorum vultus et flava proceritas;"||| Silius Italicus has," Auricomus, flavus Batavus."¶¶ Claudian and Sidonius Apollinaris mention the "flavi Sicambri,,, and Lucan the "flavi Suevi."*** Ausonius terms a Suevian virgin" oculos cœrula, flava comas."+++ Procopius says that the Gothic nations are all of white bodies and yellow hair;"‡‡‡ and St. Jerom terms their armies “red and yellow bands."SSS


More particular observations are made by some writers; Diodorus says that the youth of the Galatæ,-here meaning the Germans, whom he often confounds with the Gauls,—are born with white hair, and as they grow up come to resemble their parents in colour. We have cited Strabo, who declares that the Germans scarcely differ from the Celtic race—toũ Kɛλtikoũ

* Velleius, ii. 106. Tacit. Ann. i. 64. Hist. iv. 14.

+ Eunap. in Exc. legat. p. 47.

Amm. Marcell. xvi. 12. Zeuss. || Tacit. Germ. c. 4. ¶ Ammian. xxvii. 2. ++ Herodian, iv. 7. Juvenal, Sat. 13. ¶¶ Sil.Ital. iii. 608.

§ Frähn's Ibn Foszlan. * Seneca de Ira, c. 26. §§ Horat. Epod. *** Claud. Bell. Gall. ttt Auson. Idyll. vii. #Procop. Cæs. Bell. Vandal. i. 2. §§§ Getarum, i.e. Gothorum, rutilus et flavus exercitus ecclesiarum circumfert tentoria. (Epist. ad Heliodor. Zeuss, ubi supra.)

Calp. Flacc. sect. 2.
Sidon. Apoll. Carm. vii. 41.

Diodor. Sic. Bibl. v. 32.

« PreviousContinue »