« PreviousContinue »
numerous belt-hooks brooches knives &c. of iron have been found, the types of which, reminding us to some extent of the forms of the Bronze-Age, can be shown in the immediately adjacent districts of north Germany. Longer weapons, especially swords, in contrast to what we find in later graves, are just as rare in the oldest "Brandplet" graves on Bornholm as in the few oldest graves of the Iron-Age with burnt bodies in the rest of Denmark. An exception must however be made in the case of Jutland, which possibly ought to be ascribed to the times immediately before or after the birth of Christ. Hence it would seem as though iron was at first introduced into the southern North only very sparingly, people being obliged on account of its costliness to confine the use of it to smaller objects. Roman writers, it is true, inform us that the north Germans about the time of Christ, though they themselves dug iron, seldom had swords or large weapons; and this agrees sufficiently well with the fact that the graves of the preRoman Iron-Age in north Germany opposite Bornholm are poor in swords. But it is a question whether this also was not due to the long-established custom prevalent amongst the Germans,-a custom of which the Romans knew nothing, that only princes, who would naturally be mounted, carried swords; while the common soldiers were armed with spear or lance. But, as soon as iron began to be more generally diffused over the Scandinavian North, iron swords must here at least, as the finds show, have been present even in considerable numbers, possibly as a result of the unusually numerous princely families which dwelt there and mul
3 Tac. Germ. 6.
tiplied largely in course of time. On the other hand daggers, which played a great part in the Bronze-Age, do not appear to have been much used during the Age of Iron.
So far as we yet know, the Iron-culture was first introduced into the North from north Germany little by little and quite peacefully.1 The same form therefore of grave with cremation, which had been generally adopted during the Later Age of Bronze, long continued in effect to prevail during the transition and in the first period of the Iron-Age. It is only surprising that the finds of iron articles from the times nearest to Christ's birth, which are altogether wanting in the north of Scandinavia, are still in the more southern regions, i.e. in Denmark, so few, that they can scarcely prove the presence there of an Iron-culture in full force during the whole of the first century after Christ. Beyond this result therefore the facts as yet hardly allow us to go, although there are many probabilities which tell undeniably for the earlier introduction and more common use of iron in these parts.
Already however we see that in any case the Roman classic culture had without doubt laid a firm and definite basis for the introduction of a really complete Iron-culture, penetrating in effect and absolute in sway, into northern Europe and the lands of the North. The scanty accounts of foreign historians are silent on this subject; but whole series of Roman antiquities and coins from south to north in the North itself have in this respect supplied a new and certain starting-point. It is specially worthy of remark, that in the North, except some few uncertain pieces, there 1 It is significant that the metal is called in the Sagas Gotamalmi.
have been no finds of old Roman coins of the Republic or consuls, and never with old Roman antiquities, to show any connexion between the North and the Roman dominions previous to the conquests of Rome north of the Alps, that is, before the Empire. Not less significant is the still more complete absence in the North of those barbaric imitations of Roman coins which for centuries were struck in such great numbers by the native Gauls and Britons in the western countries. From this we see at once-and other circumstances confirm the view-that the inhabitants of the North were not connected with Roman colonists or with the "barbaric" tribes under their immediate influence by direct intercourse with Britain or Gaul. Rather their communications moved along the more eastern traderoutes opened in olden times through the districts of the Rhine and Danube. Archæological investigations steadily pursued in the most central and western parts of Europe render it also more and more clear that the Gallic and Germanic nations, which dwelt there during the times of Rome's conquests, were far from being so barbaric as the accounts of classical authors, coloured evidently by ignorance and prejudice, would have us suppose. Had the Romans on their arrival in the lands north of the Alps and in their settlements there not found a peculiar and considerable development of culture among the conquered Barbarians, it is impossible to understand how, according to the certain evidence of antiquities, so many objects of half-Roman or Romano-barbaric forms could have been produced in the Roman colonies in the immediate neighbourhood. Some of these must have been made by the Romans
for the use of the Barbarians and therefore under the influence of native taste; others were manufactured by the Barbarians themselves in imitation of Roman types.
Even the oldest of the numerous and extensive finds of Roman antiquities in the Northern lands show the beginnings of such a mingling of Roman or halfRoman forms; and as time went by they greatly increased. The influence of the mighty current of Roman culture can thus hardly have reached the North, before it had gained a firm foothold in central Europe during the first century A.D. by colonies and the ties. of active intercourse which those colonies formed with the surrounding Barbarian nations. In the oldest Roman finds in the North we seldom or never meet with coins to enable us to fix the date more precisely. But it can scarcely be doubted that the regular intercourse of the far North with the colonists of Rome on the Rhine and Danube began only from the second century onwards to display that steady lasting progress and large expansion of which the finds bear witness. Even in the neighbouring lands to the south-in Hannover Mecklenburg and the other coast-lands of the Baltic, which lay nearer to the Roman Empire and formed the thoroughfare to the North for the Roman or half-Roman culture,-this cannot have been generally adopted earlier than about the commencement of the second century. Both in north Germany and subsequently in the Scandinavian North the half-Roman culture must at first have been introduced very slowly, since it does not appear to have been promoted by conquests and consequent sudden revolutions, but by peaceful steady commerce alone. The oldest purely
Roman or to some extent half-Roman current was evidently throughout a long course of years too weak to spread uniformly over the whole North. Only in the old Danish lands and in some of the most easterly districts of Sweden but most of all in Jutland and the islands does it show itself in greater breadth and strength. On the other hand in the Mälar districts and just south of them its traces are very faint and recent. It is not so surprising that the higher culture of the Iron-Age should at first have been scarcely able to force the strong barriers, which the natural features of the Scandinavian peninsula opposed to its progress northwards, when one takes into account how forests and fjelds long afterwards and indeed quite into historical times formed distinct boundaries in Sweden between the lands of the North and South Forests and in Norway between the districts of the South and North Fjelds. At that time these limits could be traversed only with great difficulty and considerable danger.
Thus the Iron-culture, as in the case of Stone and Bronze before it, was like some foreign plant tended and reared abroad and transferred in full bloom to Northern ground. Great as had been the native metal industry previously, with only copper tin and gold at its command, it was quite unable to cope with the new industry. For besides better implements of iron and steel, the latter brought with it costly utensils and objects of luxury, adorned at times with colours mosaics and inlaid enamel, and made of zinc-mixed copper silver and glass.
In the face therefore of so superior a development the old native bronze industry with its peculiar style