The Geats of "Beowulf": A Study in the Geographical Mythology of the Middle Ages

A revision of the author's thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1963. For almost as many years as the poem "Beowu

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The Geats of "Beowulf": A Study in the Geographical Mythology of the Middle Ages

Table of contents :
Introduction 3
I. The Getae in Classical Literature to About 300 A.D. 13
II. The Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition 24
III. Medieval Concepts of the Germanic North and the Baltic Northeast 53
IV Getae and Geatas 98
Appendix A 137
Appendix B 140
Notes 147
Bibliography 182
Index 19

Citation preview

The Geats of Beow ulf

The Geats of Beowulf A Study in the Geographical Mythology of the Middle Ages


T H E U N I V E R S I T Y OF W I SC ON S IN PRESS M a d is o n , M ilw a u k e e , a n d L o n d o n ,


Published by the University of Wisconsin Press Madison, Milwaukee, and London U.S.A.: Box 1379, Madison, Wisconsin 53701 U.K.: 26-28 Hallam Street, London, W .i COPYRIGHT © 1967 BY THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

Printed in the United States of America by North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota Library of Congress Catalog Number 66-13802

To the memory of a beloved teacher RO BERT LE O N A R D REYN O LDS

P reface

I arrived at the University of Wisconsin to do graduate work under Professor Robert L. Reynolds, I learned that he had recently turned most of his attention away from the research in Italian economic history that had won him international repute and had become engrossed in the Anglo-Saxon period. Having no deep attachment to the Genoese archival material that formed the basis of much of his previous work, I was happy to take up his newer interests. Among the subjects Professor Reynolds suggested I investigate was the present one — the identity of the Geats of Beowulf. In his own later work on the primitive Germanic tribes, especially on the Suevi, he had come across references again and again to the Getae, designated in the Latin sources as the most promi­ nent of all Germanic nations and confused widely with the Goths. Could these Getae, he wondered, have a connection to the Geatas of Beowulf? The results of my research into this question were first sub­ mitted as a doctoral dissertation to the Department of History of the University of Wisconsin in 1963. This book represents a revised version of the dissertation. The circumstances which led me to undertake this study make it clear that credit for whatever merit there is in the general thesis I propose belongs


h e n



wholly to Professor Reynolds, who not only suggested the approach I have taken but sustained my own interest in the project by his dedication to scholarship in general and by his kind and patient guidance of my efforts in working out the case tendered here. For any errors that may appear, I am solely responsible, of course, since the search for and presentation of evidence and the argumentation are my own work. It is a pleasure to recognize the assistance of others in the preparation of the dissertation for publication: the suggestions and criticisms of Professors Frederic G. Cassidy and Richard N. Ringler of the University of Wisconsin and of Professor James L. Rosier of the University of Pennsylvania were very helpful and graciously offered, although these scholars do not neces­ sarily endorse all of my arguments or the conclusions I have reached. Mr. David Bright and Mr. James Rauch assisted with the English translations for those Latin texts not previously translated. Finally, I am grateful to my mother and to my late father, Laurence Everett Acomb, for the encouragement and assistance that made it the easier for me to pursue my studies in medieval history, and to my husband, Lowell, who has not just patiently endured the years when I was completing this work, but who has actively been a part of the undertaking. Ja n e A c o m b L e a k e

Cincinnati, Ohio May l, 1965

Contents Introduction I II III IV


The Getae in Classical Literature to About 300 a .d .


The Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


Medieval Concepts of the Germanic North and the Baltic Northeast


Getae and Geatas


Appendix A


Appendix B








M aps Frontispiece The Hereford Mappamundi following page 68 1 Orosius’ Scheme of the World 2 Isidore of Seville’s Scheme of the World 3 The World According to the Ravenna Anonymous 4 The Albi Mappamundi 5 The Strassburg Mappamundi 6 The Anglo-Saxon Map of the Tenth Century 7 The St. Severus Map 8 Section of the Hereford Mappamundi

The Geats of Beow ulf


almost as many years as the poem Beotvulf has been known, the identity of the hero and his tribe, the Geatas, has been problematical. This valiant and powerful people, who according to the poem play such an important role in northern history, are scarcely mentioned in other works. Refer­ ences to the Geatas by that name are limited to Widsith (line 58) and to the Old English translation of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica (I, 15), and these references have been inter­ preted in several different ways. As a personal name, Geat appears as a mythical ancestor in the Anglo-Saxon royal pedi­ grees; and in Deor (line 15) “Geat” may be understood either as the name of a person or as a designation of nationality. In any case, none of these instances has added anything conclusive in the past to the search for the identity of the Geats. This search has been made the more difficult by the vagueness of Beowulf itself on matters historical and geographical. Geo­ graphically, any Scandinavian tribe would fit the requirements of the poem; historically, the references to the role of the Geats in apparently actual incidents conflict with Continental sources, which in the same events replace them with Danes and Jutes. In view of the vagueness and the inconsistency of the few existing sources that bear on the problem, it is not difficult to





T H E G E A T S O F B eO tV U lf

see why conflicting proposals in regard to the nationality of the Geatas can be made. Nor is it difficult to see w hy the question should be debated; for since Grundtvig’s discovery that the Chlochilaichus of Gregory of Tours was the Hygelac of Beo­ wulf, and that therefore one incident in the poem was verifiable history, the validity of all the events of an historical nature in the poem has become widely accepted as fact. The poem is considered to be an historical document, narrating accurately the deeds of the Geats, and upon the outcome of the debate over the identity of these Geats rests the reconstruction of much of early Scandinavian history. Since the Geatas, by that name, are found nowhere outside a few Old English sources, scholars have sought for a known Scandinavian tribe whose name could be tied philologically to the Geatas’ and whose geography and history could be fitted to the poem. It is a reflection upon the uncertainties of philology and of the evidence used in the century-long debate that two tribes — the Jutes (Old Norse: Iótar, Iútar) and the Gauts (Old Norse: Gautar; Old Swedish: Götar) — could both be serious candidates. Leo was the first student of the poem to place the Geats in Jutland, but he did so without developing his point to any extent, accepting their identity with the Jutes almost as a matter of course.1 The following year Ettmiiller, basing his argument on the phonetic identity of Old Norse au and Old English éa, claimed that the Geatas were obviously the Gautar of Sweden and, further, that Old Norse Gautar stood in a narrow stemrelationship to the name Goth, if indeed the two words were not originally the same; Geat, Gaut, and Goth were therefore merely different forms of the same name.2 On the strength of this linguistic evidence most scholars, including Miillenhoff, who had formerly subscribed to Leo’s suggestion, accepted the identification with the Gautar. The Jute theory was abandoned for almost half a century until Fahlbeck in 1884 defended it at length and made the contention one for serious argument.3



Fahlbeck’s article was subsequently attacked by Sarrazin4 and ten Brink,5 but equally prominent Beowulfians supported the Jute theory, among them B u gge6 and Axel Olrik.7 The debate over the issue, which did not lack nationalistic flavor, was liveliest at the beginning of the century. Those who published important discussions of the problem were Schück,8 Stjema,9 Chambers,10 and Malone,11 all in favor of the retention of the identification with the Gautar, and Schütte,12 Kier,13 and Wadstein,14 who defended and developed further Fahlbeck’s Jute identification. As a result of Wadstein’s new arguments ex­ pressed in 1925, Uhlenbeck called for a re-examination of the whole problem.15 Only Malone heeded his plea, and after his exchange of articles with Wadstein in 1929 and 1934, the issue ceased to be discussed. Either Malone’s objections to W ad­ stein’s short-lived revival of the Jute theory had satisfied Old English scholars that it was untenable, or they had grown weary of a debate in which apparently every approach had been tried and every piece of information in the least pertinent had been wrung dry. The identification of the Geatas and the Gautar has been since accepted in editions of Beowulf and in studies bearing on the literary and political history of the period. The complexity of the long debate makes an intelligible summary of it almost impossible. The salient points are dis­ cussed by Chambers (though from a biased viewpoint) in his Introduction,16 As is apparent from his discussion, not a single point has been made by one side that has not met rebuttal by the other. In many instances both argument and counterargu­ ment rest upon theory alone, or upon evidence of dubious value or doubtful interpretation. Moreover, the literary historians who dominate the controversy have generally taken no cog­ nizance of the recent studies of an ethnological or historical nature which throw new and different light upon contentions vital to the problem. Throughout the debate, for example, it has been assumed that the “Jutes” of England are identical to




the Jutes of Jutland, but this very basic question has not yet been satisfactorily settled by historians and archaeologists. Studies indicate there is still room for doubt, and the actual identity of the English “Jutes” is still an open issue.17 The Iótar of Jutland are no less a mysterious people whose connections are dubious. In identifying the “Jutes” of England, the Jutes of Jutland, and the Geatas, scholars have only equated three unknowns with each other, a process that has led to an under­ standable but bewildering and discouraging confusion in mod­ em criticism. It is obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to review the extensive scholarship on this controversy that the issue of the nationality of the Geats cannot be considered a closed one: the case for the Gautar has not been so firmly established as to justify the wide acceptance it has received. Yet it is equally apparent that within the traditional limits the debate has been exhausted: no real solution can come out of the old approach. Little wonder that Uhlenbeck’s plea for a reappraisal of the whole issue went virtually unheeded. Most scholars realized that to re-open a question that had been so thoroughly debated for almost a century and that was generally considered settled needed greater justification than a mere re-examination of evi­ dence or of contentions already burdened with repetition. I feel a re-opening of the subject is justifiable only with a new approach out of which a solution could evolve that accords with the primary evidence, which clears up the inconsistencies that make both previous arguments unacceptable and opens up new avenues for the interpretation of Beowulf. It is only be­ cause I feel that the ideas presented in this work can point the w ay to fulfillment of these ambitions that this study is undertaken. Efforts of the finest Beowulfians of this century and the last have been frustrated because of the commitment to the view that the Geats are an historical tribe. So deeply embedded has this notion of the historicity of the poem become that scholars,



rather than challenge the authority of the poem, have re­ written or twisted surviving outside evidence. For if the Geatas are identified with the Gautar, then undeniably every piece of literary evidence related to this issue — Gregory of Tours, the Liber Francorum, the Liber Monstrorum, Asser, the Old Eng­ lish translation of Bede, and recorded Scandinavian traditions— is in error. And the Jute theory requires almost the same distor­ tion of evidence to sustain it. As soon as one theory or the other is accepted, then only Beowulf accords with Beowulf, and all other authorities must be “corrected” or twisted into line with the epic. It is this failure of both old proposals to fit the primary sources that makes a new attempt to solve this enigma mandatory. Since the historicity of the Geatas, the starting point for previous attempts to solve this problem, is indeed only an assumption, it is proper to call it into question and to work then from the opposite view that the Geatas are an unreal people, a part of the abundant fantasy of Beowulf. It is proper also to hypothesize that non-Germanic influences may have a bearing on this issue just as they have proved important to other aspects of the poem. The old approach to Beowulf as an historical document was born of Germanic nationalism, of the ardent desire to find in this oldest Teutonic epic recollections of true heroic deeds per­ formed by a real Germanic tribe. Yet at the very time the debate over the nationality of the Geats was being most hotly con­ tended, Beowulfian scholarship took a new turn. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the poem ceased to be considered solely as a relic of the pagan past with a Christian veneer. In­ stead, an effort was made to understand it as a conscious literary epic, as the product of a single poet working in a thoroughly Christianized society, who could draw on all available material and traditions, Christian as well as pagan, classical as well as Germanic.18 Curiously, though well aware of the different ap­ proach taken by Klaeber and others, those scholars who were




actively debating the Geat question were not cognizant of the importance of this development to their own problem; they continued to work on the issue within a framework that was in the process of becoming an out-dated one. W hat is essayed in this study, therefore, is not novel: it may be regarded as a belated attempt to explain the identity of the Geats from a newer viewpoint. The thesis presented here is that a solution to this problem is available, not in the remote and largely unrecoverable Ger­ manic past, but in the classical and Christian traditions so widely diffused and so highly respected in England after the conversion. Rather than being sought within a pagan and Ger­ manic framework, the Geatas will be sought within a Christian and Latinate one, where it is a simple matter to set eyes upon copious materials concerning a people called the Getae. These Getae, or Getes, had only a make-believe existence based on misinterpretations of Latin works of literature, geography, and theology dating from the classical and early Christian periods. These sources were continually blended and amplified and confused by generations of medieval writers to produce a legend of a northern Getic people with a location, with a name, and with traits so remarkably like those of Beowulf and his tribe that they deserve to be seriously considered as identical to the Geatas.19 The classical origins of the medieval concepts of the Getes are discussed in Chapter I. Chapter II is concerned with literary sources dating from about 300 a .d. into the early Middle Ages, the period when the Getes were confused with the Goths. These two chapters, dealing with a literary tradition that spans more than a thousand years, furnish the background for the medieval legend of the Getes, which is documented in Chap­ ter III by reference mainly to pseudo-scientific Latin works — including maps — produced in the Middle Ages. Chapter IV deals directly with the Geatas of Beowulf and with the literature usually associated with the poem. In Appendix A I have sug-



gested an approach to the problem of the relationship of Beo­ wulf to its Old Norse parallels that develops logically from the ideas presented in the study. For the convenience of the reader I have, in Appendix B, put into tabular form Old English oc­ currences of Geta, Geata, Geatas, and variants — information that for the most part is included, but is discursively handled, in Chapter IV. I have not attempted to compile all the references to the Getes in literature, but I believe I have garnered sufficient evi­ dence to make my case. I have quoted verbatim and at length from the sources for two reasons: it will save the reader the trouble of looking up the many works cited and also it is better, I believe, to let the authorities speak for themselves. Since much of the evidence repeats itself and becomes increas­ ingly monotonous, I have made an effort to minimize quotation wherever I could do so without weakening the argument. It is possible to omit or to make only a reference in a footnote to much of the supporting evidence from the later Middle Ages, for instance. Such short cuts, however, though lessening the readers burden, do not seem advisable in presenting earlier material on the identity of the Geatas which establishes or reflects opinions current in the Beowulf poet’s own period. The novelty of the argument requires a careful presentation of as much support as can be mustered, and certainly one who crit­ icizes past scholarship for its failure to base conclusions on primary evidence must root his own case solidly in the sources. Hence, much of this work consists simply in the marshaling of authorities from Herodotus through Pius II. To facilitate read­ ing so much quoted material, I have used published English translations wherever possible; if a published translation does not exist for a given source, I have provided a literal English rendering immediately following the original text, adding punc­ tuation and capitalization in the interest of clarity. Just as the previous approach to determining the identity of the Geats grew out of early nineteenth-century German scholar­




ship and rests upon the presuppositions of that scholarship, so m y own proposed solution grows out of a newer view of the epic that considers it a literary masterpiece composed in Christian England and subject to classical influences. Since Klaeber first established this interpretation, few Beowulfians deny that the epic is deeply imbued with the Christian spirit and Christian theology, that the Christian element is essential to the poem and cannot be interpolated matter. Further, such works as Klaeber’s “Aeneis und Beowulf,” the later study b y Haber that builds upon it,20 the series of articles b y A. S. Cook,21 the study of Rankin on the Latin models for the kennings,22 to mention only a few pertinent works,23 are all based upon the same view that regards the poem as the product of a Christian poet, hence of one who might w ell have had a Latin training and some knowledge of the Latin classics known to the Middle Ages. Ideally, an investigation into the availability in Anglo-Saxon England of the Latin sources that I have used should be a part of this study, but such an investigation is a major undertaking, and although it should be attempted for the sake of AngloSaxon scholarship in general,24 it is far too ambitious a study for me. Fortunately, the present need for a survey of classical and patristic authors known in England at the time Beowulf was written is somewhat obviated by O gilvy’s monograph,25 and the presence and use in England of a great many of the works that are cited in the first chapters of this study are estab­ lished by him. In general, O gilvy concludes: The English had a large number of saints’ lives; an enormous num­ ber of patristic works, including those of the greatest fathers of the Church, both Latin and Greek (the latter largely, if not entirely, in translation); a good supply of books on history and general science, as well as some unidentified works on the special sciences of medicine and cosmography; some legal texts; and more grammarians than I, for one, ever dreamed of in my philosophy before I undertook the study of their works. In the field of belles lettres they had a very respectable collection of the pagan Latin poets and an extraordi­ narily complete one of their Christian successors. How many Greek



texts they had besides the Greek New Testament, and what texts they were, is a question which I cannot even pretend to answer. I am inclined to think that they were few and theological; for I know of no satisfactory evidence that the English were acquainted with any of the Greek classics.26 Despite this lack of proof for knowledge of Greek works, I have included some in Chapter I simply to give the background from which Roman writers drew for their ideas of the Getae. O f the Latin authors I have cited, O gilvy lists a goodly number as known and used in England in the period he treats. Among those he says were available are Virgil,27 and Servius’ Com­ mentary, Statius, Ovid ( including perhaps the Ex Ponto), Hor­ ace, Pliny, Suetonius, Pompeius Trogus in epitome, Lucan, Avitus, Prudentius, Fulgentius, Prosper of Aquitaine, Venantius Fortunatus, Solinus (but, strangely, perhaps not Capella), Priscian, Orosius, Isidore, Aethicus Ister, and perhaps also Claudian, Ausonius, and Jordanes. O gilvy concludes with a survey of the authors from whom the Anglo-Saxons derived their knowlege of specific subjects. For biblical commentary and theology they used, of course, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine especially, Cassiodorus, and Gregory the Great. Specific works of the first three that are used in this study are listed by O gilvy as books possessed b y the English. For history, Augustine, Oro­ sius, and Josephus, among others, were utilized, while Jerome, Isidore, Pliny, and Solinus were drawn upon for miscellaneous information. The English turned again to the works of Pliny, Isidore, Orosius, and Solinus for information about chronology, astronomy, and natural history.28 These works were almost all known to Bede and were prob­ ably introduced for the most part into England in the period of Hadrian, Abbott of St. Peter and St. Paul, Theodore of Tarsus and Benedict Biscop, that is, in the last half of the seventh century; but the English were in all likelihood well supplied even earlier by Irish and Roman missionaries.29 During the Viking raids many libraries were destroyed, and




Anglo-Saxon scholarship sank to a low level indeed. H ow­ ever, under Alfred and his successors there was a revival of learning in England which once more gave that country claim to the intellectual hegemony of Europe. In whichever period the Beowulf poet wrote — before the Viking incursions began on a large scale or after the Danes had been settled in the Dane­ law and the process of assimilation had begun — there can be little doubt that Anglo-Saxon authors and poets had at their command at home, or available to them on the Continent, a sig­ nificant share of the Latin classics known to the Middle Ages. In any case, there is no need to insist that any single work cited in Chapter I or II was known to the anonymous poet, since the material presented in Chapter III establishes the general acceptance in medieval Europe of classical notions on geogra­ phy and specifically of antique and early Christian views on the identity and the nature of the Getes. The belief that AngloSaxon England stood outside the intellectual life of Continental Europe is no longer tenable,30 and views so widely repeated and endorsed on the Continent were bound to be equally well known and accepted in England. These are points which need no longer be labored by students of Anglo-Saxon history and literature.


The Getae in C lassical L iteratu re to About 3 0 0 A .D .

Getae known to history were an ancient tribe of Thrace, of uncertain origins, who also frequently appeared as Scythians or Dacians in the literature of Greece and Rome.1 A l­ though they are historical and were described in realistic terms by most early ancient authors, they were sufficiently remote and possessed customs outlandish enough for the Greeks to attribute to them fabulous traits and to associate them with peoples of folk tale and myth. Imaginative distortion in the early descrip­ tions of the Getae and confusion of them with other tribes gave rise to the medieval legend concerning them; thus it is neces­ sary to begin with their first appearance in literature, even though the Getae described by Herodotus and Strabo may seem quite remote from Beowulf. The Getae were first mentioned by Herodotus when he wrote of Darius’ invasion of Thrace in about the year 514 b .c .



But before he came to the Ister [the Danube], he first subdued the Getae, who pretend to be immortal. The Thracians of Salmydessus and of the country above the towns of Apollonia and Mesambria, who are called Cyrmianae and Nipsaei, surrendered themselves unresisting to Darius; but the Getae, who are the bravest and most 13


th e geats of


law-abiding of all Thracians, resisted with obstinacy, and were en­ slaved forthwith.2 Herodotus then describes the Getic belief in immortality as it was preached by Zalmoxis (reportedly a student of Pythagoras). From the outset, then, the Getae are distinguished in two ways from the numerous other tribes of the regions north of G reece: they were “the bravest and most law-abiding of all Thracians,” and they had a religion which incorporated the idea of immor­ tality.3 Herodotus clearly designates the Getae as Thracian, marking them off from their northern neighbors — tribes Herod­ otus calls Scythian — and from peoples yet more distant in the Russian steppes. But since the Scythians and the more remote and fabulous people become closely associated or inextricably confused with the Getae in later literature, I shall mention the nomadic tribes Herodotus lists and those of their attributes which become noteworthy. The Tauri, who hved by plundering and warfare, sacrificed to Iphigenia any strangers to their land, such as shipwrecked sailors or people taken in raids. Herodotus reports that the vic­ tims, first dispatched by a blow on the head with a club, were then beheaded and the head impaled on a stake (IV , 103). Later literature represents Iphigenia as the sacrificing priestess who cut the throats of the victims in honor of Artemis or Diana, and in one popular version of this notion known to the Getae it is told how Orestes, in his wanderings in the northern lands, was captured by the Tauri and was about to be sacrificed when his sister, though she failed to recognize him, delayed the sacri­ fice until he and his companion had escaped.4 The Agathyrsi, Herodotus comments, are noteworthy for their “delicate” living, their fondness for gold adornment, and especially for their promiscuity which resulted in incest (IV , 104). Their neighbors the Neuri, who had been driven from their homeland by snakes, may well have been wizards; Herod­ otus, though skeptical himself, recounts that according to re­ ports, “Once a year every one of the Neuri is turned into a wolf, and after remaining so for a few days returns again to his

The Getae in Classical Literature


former shape” (IV , 105). Most savage and monstrous of all were the Androphagi, who “know no justice and obey no law” and who were, as their name implies, cannibals (IV , 106). The tribe called the Melanchlaeni were remarkable for wearing all black clothing, from which their name was derived (IV, 107), and the Budini had very bright eyes and red hair (IV , 108). But most interesting to Herodotus were the Sauromatae — the Sarmatians — who in his day lived in the area north and north­ east of the Sea of Azov. According to the tale reported by him and repeated frequently thereafter, the Sarmatians sent out a band of their young men to lure a war party of Amazons into marriage with the idea of producing a warrior race. The young Sarmatians wooed successfully, and from their union with the Amazons came a band of Sarmatians pre-eminent in war ( IV, 110-16). In the centuries following Herodotus’ time, the Sarmatians drifted westward into lands traditionally Getic. The two peo­ ples intermingled to such an extent that their very names were used interchangeably, and the tale of Sarmatian descent from the Amazons was easily transferred to the Getae in later litera­ ture. The Getae apparently expanded also, and by the first cen­ tury before Christ a huge Getic empire, stretching from the Danube to the Dniester and indefinitely to the north, is reported in Strabo.5 From this time on, authors make no clear distinc­ tions among the multitude of tribes who moved about in the region of the lower Danube and the steppes of Russia: the confusion of names and attributes is complete, and the Getae become part of the potpourri of “Scythian” tribes that now included those fabled people of Herodotus — the savage ManEaters, the inhospitable Tauri, the Black-Cloaks, the incestu­ ous Agathyrsi, and the shape-changing Neuri.6 Thrace itself, the first-attested home of the Getae, is called “Little Scythia,” Strabo says, because of the “large number of people who left Little Scythia and crossed both the Tyras [the Dniester] and the Ister and took up their abode in the land beyond . . .” (VII, iv, 5).



Scythia henceforth is a vague designation, shifting according to an author s conception of it, but consistently described in terms of its coldness, its remoteness, its extension to the un­ known and ultimate reaches of land in the north, bordered only by the Northern Ocean.7 Strabo represents it as a land too cold for the breeding of some animals ( VII, iii, 18) and, in con­ fessing his ignorance of any of the people who dwell above the Black Sea, states that he further does not know how far they are from the Northern Ocean or whether their countries actually border on it (VII, ii, 4). To Ovid, the land of the Getae is “all but the remotest part of the world,” 8 and Statius makes reference to “Boreas swooping down from the Getic Bear.” 9 Repeating traditions that were already old in his day, Pliny puts, just to the north of the steppe tribes, the mythical Riphaean Mountains and the region known as Pterophorus “because of the feather-like snow continually falling there; it is a part of the world that lies under the condemnation of nature and is plunged in dense darkness, and occupied only by the work of frost and the chilly lurking-places of the north wind” (IV , xii, 88). Pliny makes a direct connection between Scythia and Scandinavia, again merely echoing ideas that were generally accepted b y the ancients. In discussing the circumnavigation of the world, he writes that “the larger part of the Northern Ocean was explored under the patronage of his late Majesty Augustus, when a fleet sailed round Germany to the promon­ tory of the Cimbri, and thence seeing a vast sea in front of them or learning of it by report, reached the region of Scythia and localities numb with excessive moisture.” Pliny then states that exploration to the east about the Caspian left no doubt that the Maeotie Swamp (the Sea of A zov) extended to the Northern Ocean, which clearly b y his account was considered also to include the Baltic Sea (II, lxvii, 167). The geographer Mela and others reflect these descriptions, which put Scythia and its people in the uttermost north, a notion that is of decisive importance to medieval views of Scandinavian tribes.

The Getae in Classical Literature


The Getae, who very prominently inhabit these accursed northern regions along with more fabulous people, possess characteristics significant enough to mention. Since Herodo­ tus first singled them out as the bravest of all Thracians, the Getes were repeatedly remarked in classical literature for their prowess in arms. Strabo, after a long discussion in which he confuses the Mysi of the Iliad 10 with the Thracian Moesi, whom he identifies as Getic, states that in describing the Mysi as “hand-to-hand fighters” Homer meant that they were indom­ itable warriors ( VII, iii, 2-3). Mela writes in the first century that “some of the Thracians, such as the Getae, are intrepid and mock death,” a trait found in the women also, who vie for the right to immolate themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands (II, 18-19). Solinus, one of the ancient writers best known in the Middle Ages, repeats this description,11 and Ovid, who spent many miserable years in exile among the Getes, writes that they cared nothing for the might of Rome.12 He calls them “veritable pictures of Mars” 13 and refers to them repeatedly as “the stern Getae,” “the scarce pacified Getae,” and “the wild Getae.” 14 In the Georgies Virgil makes reference to the Getic lands as “the martial land of Rhesus,” 15 and in the Aeneid he makes a similar remark that Father Gradivus (i.e., Mars) rules over the Getic fields.16 According to Justin, an authority widely read in the Middle Ages, the Getae were one of the few tribes ever to defeat the Macedonians in Alexander s time, when they inflicted a great disaster on Alexander’s gen­ eral Zopyrion.17 Throughout the first centuries before and after Christ the Getic-Dacian frontier was a constant problem to the Romans. Strabo reports that under Byrebistas the tribes in this region began to be a formidable foe of the Empire (VII, iii, 1 1), and whether the story Suetonius repeats in connection with Mark Antony and Octavian is false or not, his repetition of it indi­ cates the importance of the Getae. Mark Antony, Suetonius writes, claimed that “Augustus first betrothed his daughter to




his son Antonius and then to Cotiso, king of the Getae, at the same time asking for the hand of the king’s daughter for him­ self in tu rn ” 18 At the height of her power Rome found the Getae no inconsequential barbarian tribe. It was not until after Trajan’s defeat of them, when the Getae had become se­ riously reduced in numbers, that they ceased to appear regu­ larly in Latin literatme as a mighty adversary of Rome. Even then their love of warfare continued unabated; D io Chrysostom, writing probably just after the beginning of the second century, complains that the city of Borysthenes is always in a state of war since it lies in the midst of the Getae, barbarians “who are virtually the most warlike of all,” 19 and, in the same vein, Lu­ cian comments, “Whenever I looked at the country of the Getae I saw them fighting.” 20 Because of their pre-eminence in war and their location among barbarous tribes on the outer fringes of the known world, the Getes are intimately connected both to Mars and to the Amazons. Mars may actually be of Thracian origin; but in any case his special haunt, Mt. Haemus, in the land of the Getae, was frequently associated in Greek mythology, and hence in Latin writers, with northern regions and with especially war­ like people.21 Herodotus claimed that the Scythians “make images and altars and shrines for Ares, but for no other god” (IV, 59). In Statius, Mars is referred to as Venus’ Getic lord;22 Virgil, in a passage in the Aeneid (III, line 35) referred to above, has Mars (Gradivus) ruling over the Getic fields, and again, under the name Gradivus, Mars emerges “from his Getic cav­ erns” in the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus.23 The Amazons are associated with the Getes because of their location and their warlike temperament, and because the Getae and the Sarmatians, the off-spring of the Amazons, are closely linked. As we have seen, Herodotus narrates the story of the marriage of Amazons with a band of young Sarmatians, and we noted that in later times Getae and Sarmatians were so intermingled that their names — and stories connected with them — could easily

The Getae in Classical Literature


become interchangeable. In the first century Statius makes a vague connection between Amazons and Getae,24 but it is not until the fourth century, when the Getae became of far greater interest to the Romans than the Sarmatians, that the story of the marriage tie is transferred to the Getes, and it is they who are said to produce with the Amazons a race of warriors who are indomitable in battle. There are also in ancient literature suggestive associations of the Getae with the giants who fought against the gods in Greek mythology. True, the references are oblique, but a medieval reader, with his propensity for identifying peoples known to him with tribes and individuals that appear in Greek mythology, could easily make a direct connection and arrive at the idea that the Getae were descended from the primeval giants. The association of the Getae with the giants could have come about in several ways. Most simply, the Getae inhabited those lands where the giants were thought to have been the original dwellers. In his description of an ancient Greek temple, Pausa­ nias remarks that by the south wall is represented the “legendary war with the giants, who once dwelt about Thrace and on the isthmus of Pallene,” 25 and in most versions of the tale their war with the gods was fought out in Thrace.26 From at least the time of Herodotus and Thucydides this is the attested home of the Getae,27 and such references as Seneca’s “Getic Haemus” and Statius’ “Getic Phlegra” 28 clearly associate the Getae with that region where the giants fought the Olympians, specifically in this connection called Phlegra by ancient writers. Statius makes a direct equation of the Getae and the giants when he writes that he will eventually sing of “Ister twice sub­ ject to our law and the Dacians hurled down from their conspir­ ing mount, or how in those days of scarce-approaching manhood Jove was forfended from attack . . . .” 20 “Dacians” in the quo­ tation is synonymous to Getae and would have been so un­ derstood by both classical and medieval readers.30 Statius’ metaphor likening the Dacians (or Getae) to the giants, who




attempted to reach Mt. Olympus by piling mountain on moun­ tain, and comparing the emperor who campaigned against them to Jove (Domitian in this case), is not an unusual figure. The gigantomachia was frequently interpreted in classical literature as the fight of civilization against barbarism, and in artistic representations the giants appear as warriors or as wild men.81 Dio Cassius also reflects traditions that connected the Getae and their homeland with the giants; in narrating the campaign of Crassus, who aided Roles against another Getic tribe, Dio relates that the Roman general led his troops against the cave called Ciris, “for the natives [the G etae] in great numbers had occupied this cave, which is extremely large and so capable of defence that the tradition obtains that the Titans took refuge there after their defeat suffered at the hands of the gods.” 32 Ovid likens the Getes, whom he loathed, to the off­ spring of the giants, the Laestrygonians and the Cyclops.33 In the Collectanea Rerum Memorabilium Solinus soberly reports that the monstrously huge bones of the giants and the tremen­ dous rocks they used in their battle against the gods were found even in his day in abundance in Thrace in that region called Phlegra (9, 6 -7). Continuing his description of Thrace, he men­ tions that the range of Haemus was inhabited by Moesians, Getae, Sarmatians, and Scythians (10, 7 ). Solinus and his predecessors make no direct connection between the giants and the Getae, and it may seem farfetched to the modem scholar to derive from such tenuous associations the notion that the Getae were the descendants of the Titans. But it is the very type of association that the medieval mind delighted in making; it was a commonplace in the Middle Ages to connect known peoples with Greek legend, myth, and history, even if doing so required the most vigorous stretches of the imagination as well as distortion of the literary sources. There is some slight evidence, perhaps inconsequential, that the Getae were associated also with the bear in the ancient period. As we have noted above, Rhys Carpenter attempts to

The Getae in Classical Literature


demonstrate that the cult of the bear was very prominent among them and influenced Greek thought and letters. From very early times it was thought that their prophet or god as­ sumed the form of a bear.34 In Ovid’s descriptions it is their outward appearance — their unshaven faces, the shaggy skins they wore for protection against the cold — that suggests a bear-like aspect. Ovid loathes “the sight of their chests covered with hides and with their long hair”; 35 and he repeatedly calls them “shaggy” or “hairy” (hirsuti), “unshorn” (intonsi), and “skinclad” ( pelliti).36 He laments fittingly that the She-Bear, far from the city of Rome, gazes close at hand upon the Getae.37 Statius repeats this natural association of the constel­ lation of the bear with the Getes when, as we have already seen, he refers to Boreas “swooping down from the Getic Bear.” 38 In addition to Mars, the Amazons, and the giants, other fig­ ures of Greek myth and legend are prominently connected to Getic lands. Orestes supposedly wandered for many years in the North after his exile from Argos. Tales of him were known among the Getae and recited by them, according to Ovid,39 and Solinus makes Orestes’ son the eponymous ancestor of the Thracian Orestides (9, 2-7). Traditionally, Orpheus was con­ sidered the founder of the Thracian peoples,40 and he is re­ ferred to by Statius as the “Getic harp” and “the glory of the Getic quill.” 41 Diomede is also of Getic nationality, according to Statius,42 and hence Hercules had to come to the land of the Getae to perform the task of cleaning the stables. More im­ portantly, the hero Achilles was born and raised in the vicinity of Getic lands, and Statius reports that the centaur Chiron taught Achilles Getic and other Thracian methods of warfare.43 The island Leuce near the mouth of the Danube was sacred to him, and throughout ancient literature reference is made to the narrow peninsula just west of the Crimea as “Achilles’ race­ course.” 44 Not far from here, says Pliny, is Achilles’ burial place and tomb, near the lands of the Tyregetae and the Thyssagetae,




who dwell among those fantastic tribes — the Neuri, the ManEaters, the Tauri, the Agathyrsi, and others specifically enu­ merated by Pliny (IV, xii, 83®). Dionysius Periegetes puts Achilles’ racecourse on the Crimea when he describes the Tauri, “qui arduum Achillis cursum inhabitant” (line 306). In his description of Scythia he lumps together the Getae, the Daci, the Black-Cloaks, the Hippemolgi, the Neuri, the Hippopodes, the Geloni, and the Agathyrsi, and adds other tribes that had appeared there by the time he writes — the Germans and the Alans (lines 302-19). To this list of tribes proximate to the Getae, Valerius Flaccus had added the Colchians, the fabled Egyptian race in whose precincts the Golden Fleece hung and who early in their history, in Valerius’ tale, waged war with the Getae and were severely beaten by them.45 Dio Cassius reports that the Dardani, retaining their old name, still lived in Thrace in his own day ( LI, 27), presumably alluding to the story that a band of Trojans, having escaped the destruction of their city, fled to the land of the Getae, a tradition also re­ ferred to by Solinus (2, 51). There is one more especially salient point that can be derived from a reading of the authors of classical antiquity. From Stra­ bo’s time on, the Getae and the Daci were considered to be the same people and their names could be and were used inter­ changeably. Strabo writes that their language was the same and that a distinction between the two could be made solely on the basis of geography: those who lived towards the Black Sea were called the Getae; the western branch were the D aci (VII, iii, 12-13). Pliny explains more simply that the Getae were called Dacians by the Romans ( IV, xii, 80), and his explanation for the use of different names for the same people is the one accepted by most authors. Similarly, Appian refers to “the Getae, who are called Dacians,” 46 and Dio Cassius claims that Dacian is the term used by the natives themselves, though “some Greek writers refer to them as Getae” (LX V II, 6). To complicate matters further, Daci in the Middle Ages was ( mis­

The Getae in Classical Literature


takenly) taken to be synonymous to Dani, so that by the sim­ plest of syllogistic reasoning Dani and Getae likewise become synonyms. Similarly, in the period of Germanic migrations into the Empire the name Getae was given to the Goths. The trans­ ference of the name Getae to the Goths is a crucial point in this study, for by this simple confusion the antique Getae of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Strabo, of Ovid, Statius, and Pliny, became of prime interest in the Middle Ages. The medieval reader, whether he came across the Getes in Virgil, Pliny, Statius, or others who wrote before the confusion occurred, took it that the name Getae referred to the Goths familiar to him from history and medieval romance. The classical sources written before the transference of the name took place established the traditions which medieval men of letters could in some instances directly rely upon and which more certainly formed the background for authors of the late classical and early medieval periods.


The L ate A ntique an d E a rly M edieval T radition

perhaps in an effort to give the new invaders of the Empire a long and militarily distinguished history that Roman authors used the name Getae, first for the Visigoths and then for Goths in general. Or perhaps they were indulging in sheer antiquarianism and pseudo-intellectuality in using a long-established Greek name for a people new to them. Genu­ ine confusion could also have played a part; when Strabo wrote his Geography in the first century before our era, he indicated that the Getae were faced with a serious problem of depopula­ tion,1 and thus remnants of the once-powerful tribe could easily have been absorbed by the Goths who in the second and third centuries moved into lands formerly Getic. Roman authors may simply have failed to distinguish these Germans from the in­ habitants who had lived there from time immemorial. The name Getic had, in any case, long since ceased to be applied strictly to the tribe of whom Herodotus and Thucydides wrote; it was loosely used by the Romans to mean Thracian or Scythian and to designate any people who lived in areas on the lower Danube and to the north of the Black Sea. But from late an­ tiquity until modem times — when critical scholarship has ext was



Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


plained the confusion — Getae always means Gothi and in­ cludes also any other tribes who were thought to be, or claimed to be, of Gothic origin. Julian the Apostate is apparently the first to use Getae for Gothi. W ith his deep admiration for Greek learning and his thorough training in it, it was a natural affectation for him to write of the Getae in referring to a victory over the Goths,2 while elsewhere he uses the name either correctly or to refer to the Dacians.3 A t about the same time, Ausonius wrote of the Getae in contexts where he obviously meant the Goths, praising Gratian, for instance, for restraining the “Getic Mars.” 4 In the fourth century Prudentius also adopted the nomenclature and placed the “Getae-Goths” in the classical setting that the Getae occupied in the earlier authors already discussed.5 Alaric is described by him as a “tyrannus Geticus.” 6 In his Commentary on Virgil, Servius glosses forms of Getae on three occasions. In the glosses to the Aeneid he first explains “Geticis” as “Thraciis” 7 and then later writes: “Getarum fera gens etiam apud maiores fuit: nam ipsi sunt Mysi, quos Sallusti­ us a Lucullo dicit esse superatos” (VII, line 604). (“For the sav­ age tribe of the Getae was known even among our ancestors: for they are the Mysians, who, Sallust says, were vanquished by Lucullus.” ) However, in a commentary to a passage in the Georgies he states that the Getae are the Goths (IV , line 462). St. Jerome lifts the name from a simple synonym for Gothi to an authoritative ancient and learned term for them. In the commentary on Genesis he writes, “Et certe Gotthos omnes retro eruditi, magis Getas, quam Gog et Magog appellare con­ sueverunt.” 8 ( “And certainly all the learned men of the past have been accustomed to call the Goths the Getae rather than Gog and M agog” ) It is with Claudian, however, that the nomenclature becomes established as a pedantic, poetic name for the Visigoths, a name that carries with it all the associations it had in earlier Greek and Latin authors. Claudian uses Getae and Geticus virtually




to the exclusion of the correct but more prosaic, colorless, and uninspired Gothi and Gothicus. There are over fifty instances of this usage in the works of Claudian,9 and since his poems had a wide circulation in his day, few of the literate could have been unaware that it was a sign of learning to use the word Getae whenever the Goths were intended. Among those au­ thors who adopt it are Orosius, who explains: “modo autem Getae illi qui et nunc Gothi” 10 ( “But those who also are now the Goths were at one time the Getae” ), Rutilius Claudius Namatianus,11 and Sidonius. The latter accepts it only as a poetic term, since it appears in some form twenty-nine times in his poetry to the exclusion of Gothi, whereas the reverse is true, with one exception, in his letters.12 Another Gallo-Roman, Prosper Aquitanicus, adopts the same distinction; in the Car­ men de Providentia Divina he uses Getae throughout, but Gothi alone appears in the prose Chronicum Integrum .13 In the geographical and “scientific” works of Martianus Capella, Rufus Festus Avienus, and Priscian14 it is impossible to tell whether Getae is used in its original meaning or whether it refers to the Goths; the texts of all are dependent on early writers whose reference is naturally to the Thracian Getae of their own pe­ riod, but Capella, Avienus, and Priscian, writing in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, respectively, when Getae had come to mean Gothi, probably took it to refer to the Germanic in­ vaders. Their readers for centuries following certainly would do so. The anonymous compiler of the fifth- or sixth-century Cosmographia, sometimes falsely associated with the work of Aethicus Ister, places the Getes among Franks, Alamans, and Tolosantes, clearly associating them with the Goths of Toulouse. A later notation explains that the Getes are “Populus Narbo­ nenses”; 15 the area they inhabited was termed Gothia by gen­ erations of Carolingian writers from the early eighth century on. Because of its general use in poetry, Getae had become widely used for Gothi in prose by the end of the fifth century or the beginning of the sixth. Ennodius uses the appellation

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


for the Visigoths in the prose Vita Epifani,16 and in an episco­ pal letter Avitus calls the king of the Visigoths “rex Getarum.” 17 W hen Cassiodorus wrote his now lost history of the Goths, he chose to call them “Getae” as frequently as he called them Goths. In his Introduction to Jordanes’ epitome of the lost his­ tory, Mierow states that it was Cassiodorus’ intention, in his writing, “to reconcile the Romans to the rule of those whom they regarded as barbarians by glorifying the Gothic race in general, tracing its history back into the dim past and bringing it into close contact with the great classical nations of an­ tiquity, and to exalt in particular the House of the Amali, a line of kings from whom Theodoric traced his descent. In order to win for his race a place in the remote past, he identified the Goths with the Getae and with the Scythians . . . .” 18 Actually, as has been amply substantiated, Cassiodorus only continued a tradition long since established; he does extend the name to include more definitely the Ostrogoths, in contrast to earlier writers who almost always specifically intended the Visigoths when they used the word Getae. Clearly, by the time of Cas­ siodorus it was no longer a conscious pedantry, a deliberate antiquarianism, to substitute Getae for G othi: it had become an accepted fact that Getes were Goths and vice versa. Jor­ danes, himself a Goth, makes no effort to change the terminol­ ogy, and it is stated at the outset of his abridgement that the work is “de origine actusque Getarum.” 19 Jordanes appeals to the authority of Orosius for identifying the Goths and the Getae (IX, 58), and the early part of the history is an attempt to bring into harmony accounts that the Goths came out of Scandinavia and yet are really the ancient Getae of Scythia and Thrace. He accomplishes this by simply pushing back the southward movement of the Goths into the remotest past, back beyond the Trojan War. He makes no effort to explain how they got the second name but is content to rely on Orosius, who accepts Getae as the older, the original, name. It was so absolutely accepted in the sixth century that the




Goths were the Getae that the Roman patricians brought out an oracle from the Sybilline Books concerning the Getae and applied it to the Goths in the wars with Justinian. The story is repeated in Procopius, who says that the Romans claimed the oracle pertained because “the Goths are of the Getic race.” 20 At the end of the same century the Gallo-Roman poet Venantius Fortunatus continues to refer to the Visigoths of southern France and Spain as the Getae and couples them with the Danes, Euthiones (Jutes?), Saxons, and Britons, whom King Chilperic had defeated.21 When the mistaken notion that the Goths were of Getic origin made its w ay into the Etymologies and other works of Isidore of Seville, the idea was guaranteed not only wide circulation but acceptance in the Middle Ages. Isidore wrote: “Gothi a Magog filio Iaphet nominati putantur, de similitudine ultimae syllabae, quos veteres magis Getas quam Gothos vocaverunt . . . . ” 22 ( “It is thought that the Goths de­ rived their name from Magog, the son of Japheth, from the like­ ness of the last syllable. The ancients called them Getae rather than Goths . . . .” ) The term thus acquires once again the au­ thority of antique usage. The two peoples are connected on another occasion in the Etymologies when Isidore claims that the Getuli, once an his­ torical people of North Africa, were also descended from the Getae and hence were related to the Goths (IX, ii, 118). In the laudatory preface to the Historia Gothorum he refers to the Visigoths as “gens Getica,” 23 and later, quoting from Jerome, he writes of the origins of the Goths: “Gothorum antiquissimam esse gentem [certum est]: quorum originem quidam de Magog Iafeth filio suspicantur a similitudine ultimae syllabae; et magis de Ezechiele propheta id colligentes, ‘retro autem eruditi eos magis Getas quam Gog et Magog appellare consueuerunt.’ ” 24 ( “It is certain that the race of the Goths is very ancient: because of the likeness of the last syllable, some suspect that they origi­ nated from Magog, the son of Japheth; and they infer this from Ezechiel, the prophet. ‘Learned men in the past were accus­ tomed to call them Getae more often than Gog and Magog.’ ” )

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


In the Recapitulatio he concludes: “Gothi de Magog Iafeth filio orti cum Scythis una probantur origine sati, unde nec longe a vocabulo discrepant, demutata enim ac detracta littera Getae quasi Scythae sunt nuncupati/’ 25 ( “The Goths, sprung from Magog, the son of Japheth, are proven to be of a common origin with the Scythians, from whom they do not differ very much by name. For by changing and taking away a letter the Getae are, as it were, called Scythae.” ) This passage is extracted from Isidore and repeated in the Ansileubus glossary,26 so that those medieval scholars who resorted to the use of such dictionaries could read in one at least that the Goths were one and the same as the Getae and as the Scythians. Modern scholars, in the process of working on various prob­ lems, have noted that individual authors of the Late Empire and of the medieval period mistakenly call the Goths Getae; the universality of the misconception, however, has not been remarked and consequently students of the Middle Ages have not been aware of what significance the confusion had in medi­ eval thought concerning the origins of tribes and their ethnic relationships and of what ludicrous results it could produce. Especially important to an understanding of medieval notions on ethnography is the meaning that Getae had acquired by the beginning of the Middle Ages. From the statements of Jerome and Orosius it is clear that Getae had come to be considered the old, original name for the Goths and that it was used along with Gothi because it was more connotative of the dim and mythical past in which Greek heroes and gods and fabulous races such as the Titans and the Amazons played a role in Gothic history. It is not an accident that Jordanes’ use of the term Getic is with very few exceptions limited to less than the first half of his work — to that part dealing with the origins and the early, largely mythical, history of the Goths. From the Battle of Adrianople on he uses a form of Geta only three times, all in the last chapter (LX, 308, 315, 316), in con­ trast to twenty-two instances of the word in the earlier part of the work relating the history of the united Goths.




Equally important is the extension of meaning given the term. It became more than a simple synonym or older name for Gothi; from at least the sixth century on it was used by writ­ ers as a more inclusive, a generic, name that included any tribe that entered the Empire from the east, the area where the Getae had lived. Jordanes makes the Gepids descendants of the Goths (XVII, 94-95) and indicates that the Vandals were closely connected to them also (IV , 26; XXII, 113 -15 ). Ermanaric — whom Jordanes calls the “King of the Getae” — united under him all the nations of Germany and Scythia (XXIII, 116-20). Non-Germanic people also are made derivative from the Getae-Goths. The Parthians, he relates, were a group of Goths who remained in Asia after an attack on Egypt (V I, 47-48). Even the Huns, according to his account, are halfGothic in origin, derived from a group of Gothic witches who, expelled from the tribe by King Filimer, wandered about in Scythia where they mated with vile spirits and begat the sav­ age and hideous Huns (XXIV, 121-22).27 Procopius likewise uses Getae and Gothi in a broad sense. He writes, “There were many Gothic nations in earlier times, just as also at the present, but the greatest and most important of all are the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths and Gepaedes. In an­ cient times, however, they were named Sauromatae and Melanchlaeni; and there were some too who called these nations Getic. A ll these, while they are distinguished from one another by their names, as has been said, do not differ in anything else at all, . . . and, as it seems to me, they all came originally from one tribe, and were distinguished later by the names of those who led each group.” 28 Later he adds the non-Germanic Alans to the “Gothic” nations.29 The confounding of the ancient Getae with the Goths explains why the Goths in particular could be thought of as the original tribe of all these people. Further, the Goths were the most prominent and numerous of the invading nations, and, once their antiquity had been estab­ lished, other lesser tribes were simply considered off-shoots of

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


this central people. It was but one more step in this process to make other Germanic tribes — those who had never touched foot in Scythia or Danubian lands — of Getic derivation also, particularly if they could claim some connection to the Goths, as many northern Germans could. The latter wished to share the glory of those Goths who followed such great heroes as Ermanaric and Theodoric and to claim these heroes as their own. To do so, all that was required was to trace their origins to the Getae also, once they could read of the history of the Goths from works such as Jordanes, Isidore, and Orosius, intro­ duced to them with Christianity. Equating the Goths with the Getae and the Scythians created two conflicting views concerning them. It has been pointed out that the Getae in literature up to about 300 a .d. were portrayed in some sources as a noble, valiant race and in others as a sav­ age, uncouth tribe associated with the monstrous peoples of Scythia; in some works both viewpoints occur in different places. These two concepts carry over to the Goths. Claudian and Sidonius use Scythian and Getic in reference to the Goths as terms of contempt. In the pseudo-scientific works of the Late Empire, the Goths, represented usually as the Getes because of the heavy reliance of these works on classical sources, appear as one of the barbaric and monstrously savage races that were traditionally placed in Scythia. Avienus, whose description rests on that of Dionysius Periegetes, writes: . . . Hinc rigidi qua spirant flabra aquilonis Sarmata, Germani, Geta, Bastamaeque feroces, Dacorumque tenent populi, tenet acer Alanus, incola Taurisci Scytha litoris; indeque rursum dira Melanchlaeni gens circumfusa vagatur. Proxima Neurorum regio est, celeresque Geloni, praecinctique sagis semper pictis Agathyrsi. (lines 441-47) (In this region where the blasts of the fierce north wind blow, the Sarmatians, the Germans, the Getae, the fierce Bastarnae, the people of the Dacians, and the brave Alans, the Scythian inhabitants of the




Tauric coast, hold sway; and beyond these the fearful tribe of the Melanchlaeni wanders about. Very near is the district of the Neuri, and [of] the swift Geloni and the Agathyrsi, always clothed in embroidered mantles.) Martianus Capella likewise places them among a mixture of historical and fantastic people traditionally said to inhabit Scythia: dehinc litus Scythicum confertum multiplici diuersitate barbarica; nam illic Getae, Daci, Sarmatae, Amaxobii, Trogodytae, Alani, Ger­ mani. omnis tractus ab Histro ad oceanum bis decies centum milium passuum est, in latitudinem milibus quadringentis usque ad Armeniae solitudines, nec procul fluuius, lacus, oppidum sub uno cuncta no­ mine Borysthenes; propter Achillis insula eius sepulchro celebrata, introrsus degunt Auchetae, apud quos Hypanis nascitur, et Neuri, apud quos Borysthenes. Geloni, Agathyrsi, anthropophagi et a tergo eorum Arimaspi; tunc Riphaei montes et regio caligantibus tenebris inumbrata. Post eosdem montes trans Aquilonem Hyperborei, apud quos mundi axis continua rotatione torquetur, gens moribus, prolixi­ tate uitae, deorum cultu, aeris clementia, semenstri die, fine etiam habitationis humanae praedicanda, uerum Sarmatiae, Scythiae, Tau­ ricae tractus in longitudine habet milia nongenta octoginta octo, latitutidine septingenta decem, iam nihil in Europa aestimo memo­ randum’ quoniam et Hyperboreos sibi Asia uindicauit. (VI, 663-64) (From this point the Scythian coast is crowded with a diversity of barbarians; for there are the Getae, the Dacians, the Sarmatians, the Amaxobii, the Trogodytae, the Alans, the Germans. The whole stretch of land from the Ister to the Ocean is two thousand [Roman] miles, and in width four hundred miles to the wilderness of Armenia. And not far away is the river, lake, town — all under one name — Borysthenes; near by is the island of Achilles, renowned because of his grave. Farther in dwell the Auchetae, among whom the Hypanis river arises, and the Neuri, among whom the Borysthenes arises. [Then there are] the Geloni, Agathyrsi, who are cannibals, and beyond them the Arimaspi; next to them are the Riphaean Moun­ tains and a district covered with gloomy darkness. Beyond the same mountains, far to the north, are the Hyperboreans, among whom the axis of the world is turned by continuous rotation, a people remark­ able for their customs, their length of life, the worship of their gods,

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


the mildness of their weather, their day lasting six months, and even for the limit of human habitation. But the Sarmatians, Scythians, and Tauri possess territories in length 988 [Roman] miles, in breadth 710 miles. Up to now there is nothing I reckon to be in Europe, since even the Hyperboreans can be claimed for Asia.) The equivalent passage in Priscian’s Ferie gesis reads: Cuius ad arctoas est partes barbara tellus Innumeras gentes gremio complexa reducto, Cui finem faciunt Maeotidis ostia uastae. Hinc sunt Germanique truces et Sarmata bellax Atque Getae nec non Basternae semina gentis Dacorumque manus et martia pectora Alani Atque Dromon Tauri retinentes fortis Achilli Angustum et longum Maeotidis ostia iuxta. Hos equites supra celeres funduntur Agaui, Atque Melanchlaenum populus metuendus in arcu. Post Hippemolgi sunt Hippopodesque potentes Atque Gelonus cum Neuris, pictique Agathyrsi, Hic ubi descendit porrecta Borysthenis unda Euxinumque subit Criu prope tracta metopon. E regione iacet locus hic Symplegados artae. Hic sunt Ardisci quoque Panticapique fluenta: Diuidui currunt Riphaeis montibus ambo. Hi miscent qua se ponti glacialibus undis, Nascitur electrum praefulgens luce nitenti, Mense solet primo qualis splendescere lima. Hos adamanta legunt iuxta fortes Agathyrsi. Tot dirimit gentes aquilonis partibus Hister. (lines 291-312) (To the north of it is barbarian country, and countless tribes are contained within this remote area, for which the entrances to deso­ late Maeotis provide a boundary. From this place come the savage Germans and warlike Sarmatians and the Getae and also the tribe of the Bastarnae and the multitudes of Dacians and the warlike hearts of the Alans and the Tauri, who hold the Dromon of brave Achilles, narrow and long near the entrances to Lake Maeotis. The swift horsemen of Agave pour forth after these, and the people of the Melanchlaeni, formidable for their archery. After them are the Hippemolgi and the powerful Hippopodes and the Geloni with the




Neuri, and the painted Agathyrsi, here where the long stream of the Borysthenes descends and empties into the Euxine, coming in its course near the promontory of Crio. Directly opposite lies the site of the close Symplegades. Here are the streams of Ardiscus and Panticapaeum; separated, they both flow down from the Riphaean Mountains.Where these mingle in the sea with the icy waves elec­ trum is produced, glittering with bright light, even as the moon is accustomed to shine at the beginning of the month. Near the last named people the strong Agathyrsi gather diamonds. The Ister divides so many nations in the northern regions.) By Jordanes’ definition, Scythia included all the land extend­ ing to the Seres on the east, to the Germans on the west, to the Ocean on the north, and to Persia, Albania, Hiberia, the Pon­ tus, and the mouth of the Danube on the south (V , 30-32). This is the land, he claims, plus Germany, that Ermanaric con­ quered, and all the tribes did service to him (XXIII, 119). In the light of contemporary beliefs echoed by these writers, it is not surprising that Procopius, among others, confused the Goths with various Scythian peoples and lumped them all to­ gether under the designation of Gothic or Getic.30 Some of the lore about Scythia and its peoples finds its w ay into Isidore’s Etymologies, where it appears especially in Book XIV, “De Terra et Partibus,” chapters iii and iv, and to a lesser extent in Book IX, chapter ii, “De Gentium Vocabulis.” In Book XIV Isidore writes: Scythia sicut et Gothia a Magog filio Iaphet fertur cognominata. Cuius terra olim ingens fuit; nam ab oriente India, a septentrione per paludes Maeotides inter Danubium et Oceanum usque ad Ger­ maniae fines porrigebatur. Postea vero minor effecta, a dextra orien­ tis parte, qua Oceanus Sericus tenditur, usque ad mare Caspium, quod est ad occasum; dehinc a meridie usque ad Caucasi iugum deducta est, cui subiacet Hyrcania ab occasu habens pariter gentes multas, propter terrarum infecunditatem late vagantes. Ex quibus quaedam agros incolunt, quaedam portentuosae ac truces carnibus humanis et eorum sanguine vivunt. (XIV, iii, 31-32) (Just so Scythia is said to be named Gothia from Magog, the son of Japheth. Its territory was once vast; for it extended from India in

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


the east, from the north through the Maeotie marshes, between the Danube and the Ocean as far as the borders of Germany. Later indeed it was less extensive, [stretching] from that part of the east on the right where the Serie Ocean stretches out, as far as the Caspian Sea, which is towards the west; from here on the south it goes down to the ridge of the Caucasus Mountains, near which is situated Hyrcania on the west. [This country] has an equal number of tribes, which wander widely on account of the barrenness of the land. Some among them cultivate the fields; others, inhuman and bloodthirsty, live on human flesh and blood.) Here the land of Magog — Scythia or Gothia — is especially infamous for a people who live on human flesh and blood. The picture of the glorious Goths found in Jordanes and elsewhere in Isidore, and later found in the medieval romances centering about Theodoric, exists from the outset of the Middle Ages alongside the older, derived literary tradition that associated the Getae and hence later the Goths with the wild tribes of Scythia. Both ideas passed into the Middle Ages, sometimes superimposed one upon the other and never wholly reconciled.31 The task faced by writers like Jordanes, Isidore, and later medieval authors who were dedicated to the Goths, of glossing over the evil side of Gothic history and character, was made the more difficult by the further identification of the GetaeGoths with the people of Gog-Magog. Passages from Jerome and Isidore quoted above state this three-way equation, which apparently makes its first appearance in literature in the works of St. Ambrose. It was inevitable that the invading Goths should be identified with Gog-Magog by the Church Fathers. Passages in Revela­ tion and Ezechiel were too suggestive of the association to be passed up by those learned in biblical lore. In Revelation 20:7, it could be read, “And when the thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth, and seduce the nations, which are over the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, and shall gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” The basis for the prophecy is found in Ezechiel 38.




And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Mosoch and Thubal: and prophesy of him, and say to him: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I come against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Mosoch and Thubal. And I will turn thee about, and I will put a bit in thy jaws: and I will bring thee forth, and all thy army, horses and horsemen all clothed with coats of mail, a great multi­ tude, armed with spears and shields and swords. . . . Gomer, and all his bands, the house of Thogorma, the northern parts and all his strength, and many peoples with thee. . . . And thou shalt come out of thy place from the northern parts, thou and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army. . . . Andrew Anderson contends that the passage in Ezechiel was written in reference to the Cimmerian invasion of the eighth century b .c . or more probably was inspired by an incursion of the Scythians into Asia Minor in the seventh century. “So devas­ tating were these inroads that they gave the impression that the end of the world was at hand. The term Gog and Magog has therefore become synonymous with barbarian, especially with the type of barbarian that bursts through the northern frontier of civilization.” 32 The identification with the Goths was facilitated by Josephus’ interpretation of the descendants of Magog of Genesis 10:2 as the Scythians 33 and the later identification of the Goths with the Scythians. The first appli­ cation of the term to the Goths that can be dated with cer­ tainty occurs in Ambrose’s D e Fide, written in 378 for Gratian on the eve of Adrianople and revised and expanded in 379. Ambrose quotes Ezechiel 38:14, and then writes: That Gog is the Goth, whose coming forth we have already seen, and over whom victory in days to come is promised, according to the word of the Lord: “And they shall spoil them, who had been their despoilers, and plunder them, who had carried off their goods for a prey, saith the Lord. And it shall be in that day, that I will give to Gog” — that is, to the Goths — “a place that is famous, for Israel an high-heaped tomb of many men, of men who have made their way to the sea, and it shall reach round about, and close the mouth of the valley, and there [the house of Israel shall] over­

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


throw Gog and all his multitude, and it shall be called the valley of the multitude of Gog: and the house of Israel shall overwhelm them, that the land may be cleansed.” 34 Ambrose, an eye-witness to the Gothic invasions, thus spe­ cifically claims that they were the people of Gog-Magog. The notion must have gained adherence, for both Jerome and Augustine feel that they must deny it. Jerome comments that there is authority for calling the Goths Getae, but implies there is none for identifying them as Gog-Magog: “Scio quemdam Gog et Magog, tam de praesenti loco, quam de Ezechiel, et Gotthorum nuper in terra nostra bacchantium historiam re­ tulisse, quod utrum verum sit, praelii ipsius fine monstratur. Et certe Gotthos omnes retro eruditi, magis Getas, quam Gog et Magog appellare consueverunt.” 35 ( “I know that someone, both from the passage under consideration and from Ezechiel, has interpreted Gog and Magog as referring to the history of the Goths, who in comparatively recent times overran our country with murderous fury; whether this be true will be pointed out by the end of the battle itself. And certainly all scholars of former times used to call the Goths the Getae rather than Gog and Magog.” ) Augustine rejects the notion that the hosts of Gog-Magog were any particular people: The peoples John calls Gog and Magog are not to be thought of as some definite barbarians dwelling in a certain part of the earth, such as the Getae and Massagetae36 (as some have imagined on account of the initial letters), or any other foreign tribes beyond the pale of the Roman Empire. John clearly indicates that they are to be everywhere in the world, “nations which are in the four cor­ ners of the earth, Gog and Magog.” 37 The combined authority of Jerome and Augustine failed to quash the notion, and the identification is frequently made by writers in the centuries following. Jordanes complains that Josephus has omitted telling of the origins of the Goths even though he mentions Magog “of that stock” ( IV, 29). The author of the Chronicon Paschale states that the Aquitanians — mean­




ing probably the Visigoths of Toulouse — were descended from Magog and then adds, "Some people say that the Goths as well as the Sarmatians and the Scythians had their origin from Magog.” 38 Isidore is one of those who on a number of occa­ sions give Magog as the progenitor of the Getae-Goths.39 W henever the tract attributed to Aethicus Ister was concocted, its author compounded G og and Magog into “Gogetae” and “Magogetae,” 40 whereas the Jewish or Syrian redactor of Pseudo-Callisthenes, in the period of the Gothic invasions, assimilates the names more simply as “Goth,” "Magoth.” 41 The association of the Goths with the people of Magog is prevalent in other Jewish sources, which cannot be dated with precision but which are generally considered to antedate the seventh century.42 “Magog” in the Talmud of Jerusalem is rendered as “Gothia” : “ce qui se rapporte å l’invas ion des Goths, que la tradition juive identifie avec celle du peuple G og et Magog,” writes Neubauer in his work on Talmudic geography. He continues, “Le Tal. de Bab. rend Magog par Kandia, ce qui est sans doute une faute de copiste.” 43 “Kandia” in the Hebrew text is probably not a mistake of the copyist, but rather is in­ tended for Skandia, the recognized home of Goths from the second century on, as the reference to the Goutoi of Skandia in Ptolemy’s Geography indicates.44 Ptolemy’s reference to Goths in Scandinavia is included under the heading Germania; in several places in Jewish texts “Germania” is given where “Gothia” occurs in others for the land of Magog. Where the Targum of Chronicles has “Géthiya” or “Góthiya” (following the Talmud of Babylon), “Germania” appears in the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, the Targum of Jerusalem, and the Midrasch of Bereshit Rabbah .45 “Kandia” could justifiably stand for “Gothia” or “Germania” if “Skandia” is intended. As the hosts of Gog-Magog, the Getae-Goths are brought into the legends concerning Alexander the Great. According to one tradition, perhaps of Jewish origin, Alexander built an impene­ trable wall in the Caucasus to shut out the barbarian tribes of

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


the North, the people of Gog-Magog, from the civilized world. The monograph of Andrew Anderson is concerned with the development of this legend and especially with the changing identity of the people called Gog-Magog and the shifting location of the wall.46 During the barbarian invasions, the Getae-Goths were designated as one of the savage tribes that Alexander enclosed, and in the Jewish or Syrian version of Pseudo-Callisthenes referred to above, the list of peoples ex­ cluded is headed by “Goth, Magoth” : Thither accordingly Alexander before the mountains were closed drove two-and-twenty kings with their peoples and there at the extremities of the North he shut them in and the gates he called Caspian and the mountains Breasts. And the names of the nations were these: Goth, Magoth, Anougoi, Egeis, Exenach, Diphar, Photínaioi, Pharizaioi, Zarmantianoi, Chalonioi, Agrimardoi, Anouphagoi, Tharbaioi, Alanes, Phisolonikaioi, Saltarioi, and the rest. These were the peoples that were confined within the gates that king Alexander built to exclude them because of their uncleanness. For they ate things polluted and base, dogs, mice, serpents, the flesh of corpses, yea unborn embryos as well as their own dead. Such were all of them practices which king Alexander beheld, and since he feared that these nations might come forth upon the civilized world, he confined them.47 The Pseudo-Methodius does not specify the Getae-Goths in particular as one of the excluded people of Gog-Magog, but since it had so tremendous an influence in spreading the legend in the W est in the Middle Ages, the pertinent passage is given here. The author does designate the sons of Japheth as GogMagog, and the Getae-Goths were very frequently called the descendants of Japheth. This quasi-historical tract, ending with prophecies about the end of the world, was written most likely in the last half of the seventh century in Greek or in Syriac. The Latin text, made soon after the original composition, reads: Hic condedit Alexandriana magnam et regnavit in ea annis XVIIII. Iste descendens in Eoam occidit Darium Medorum et dominatus est multarum regionum et civitatum, et demultavit terram, et discendit




usque ad mare qui vocatur regio solis, ubi conspexit gentes inmundas et aspectu orribilis. Sunt antem [sic] ex filiis Iapheth nepotes, quo­ rum inmundiciam videns exorruit. Comedebant enim hi omnes can­ tharo speciem omnem coinquinabilem vel spurcebilem, id est canes, mures, serpentes, morticinorum carnes, aborticia informabilia cor­ pora, et ea que in alvo necdum per leniamenta coaculata sunt . . . et haec iumentorum necnon etiam et omne speciem ferarum inmundarum. Mortuos autem nequaquam sepeliunt, sed sepe come­ dent eos.48 (Here he founded Alexandria, a great city, and reigned in it for nineteen years. Coming down into the east, he killed Darius of the Medes and ruled over many regions and states, and severely chas­ tened the land, and he came down to the sea which is called the region of the sun, where he saw tribes morally unclean and horrible in appearance. They are, moreover, descendants of the sons of Japheth; when he saw their moral impurity be shuddered. For they ate in cups every kind of defiled and filthy thing, that is, dogs, rats, serpents, dead men’s flesh, aborted and unformed bodies, and those which are not yet formed in the womb in their essential fea­ tures, . . . both those of beasts of burden and also every type of unclean and untamed beast. Moreover, they do not even bury their dead but often eat them.) The list of peoples excluded is the same as that in the PseudoCallisthenes quoted above, except that “Gog, M agog” replaces “Goth, Magoth,” and of course the spellings of the other names vary. Three other references to the building of the gate, not men­ tioned by Anderson, further insured that the legend would be known during the Middle Ages. Jerome breaks off one line of thought in a letter to write that the Huns had stricken terror throughout the East, pouring forth from Lake Maeotis where “they had their haunts between the icy Tanais and the rude Massagetae where the gates of Alexander keep back the wild peoples behind the Caucasus . . . .” 49 Isidore repeats the pas­ sage from Jerome: “Hugnos antea Hunnos vocatos, postremo a rege suo Avares appellatos, qui prius in ultima Maeotide inter glacialem Tanaim et Massagetarum inmanes populos habita­ verunt. Deinde pernicibus equis Caucasi rupibus, feras gentes

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


Alexandri claustra cohibente, eruperunt, et orientem viginti annis tenuerunt captivum, et ab Aegyptiis atque Aethiopibus annuum vectigal exegerunt.” 50 ( “The Hugni were formerly called Huns, and at length were called Avares after their king. They used to live in the farthest reaches of Maeotis, between the icy Tanais and the territory of the giant Massagetae. Then on swift horses they burst forth from the Caucasus, [through] Alexander’s barricade [built] to keep back the savage tribes, and they held the East captive for twenty years, exacting annual tribute from the Egyptians and the Ethiopians.” ) Jordanes also refers in passing to the building of the Caspian Gates by Alexander (V II. 50).51 The elements of the elaborated legend — the exclusion to the north of the Caucasus of the savage tribes who were sometimes called the people of Gog-Magog and who included the GetaeGoths — are all in Isidore, though not fused as in the PseudoCallisthenes, and are found also, though less completely, in the Pseudo-Methodius. This tradition, which made the GetaeGoths a part of Alexandrian romance as one of the savage tribes he enclosed with his gate, was equally well known in the Middle Ages as the opposite tradition of the glorious Gothic race. Isidore bridges the gap between the two concepts simply by reinterpreting the term Gog-Magog. After repeating Jerome’s statement that the Goths were called Getes rather than GogMagog by the learned men of the past, he concludes: Interpretatio autem nominis eorum in lingua nostra tecti quod sig­ nificatur fortitudo: et re vera, nulla enim gens in orbe fuit, quae Romanum imperium adeo fatigaverit, “isti sunt” enim “quos” etiam “Alexander vitandos pronuntiavit, Pyrrhus pertimuit, Caesar ex­ horruit.” per multa quippe retro saecula ducibus usi sunt, postea regibus, quorum oportet tempora per ordinem cursim exponere et quo nomine actuque regnaverint, de historiis libata retexere.52 (Moreover, their name signifies bravery, a meaning which is con­ cealed in our language; and this statement is certain.53 For there has never been a tribe which has worn out the Roman Empire to such an extent. For “those are the ones who” even “Alexander asserted should




be avoided, whom Pyrrhus feared greatly, and whom Caesar dreaded.” For many centuries they had dukes, and afterwards kings; I must quickly set forth in order the chronology of their reigns; and in order to do this I shall make extracts from historical works.) The Goths had found some defenders among the Romans even before Isidore and Jordanes. Sidonius praises Theodoric the Visigoth as the “glorious ornament of the Goths, pillar and saviour of the Roman race,” and in another letter he eulogizes the same ruler in the most flattering terms.54 His contemporary Salvian devotes the tract The Governance of God to praising the virtues of the Goths, especially their charity, love, and chastity, which contrast sharply to the laxity and selfishness of the Romans.55 Salvian was the only one who attributed these particular virtues to the Goths, but the classical view of the Getae as pre-eminent in battle was carried over more justifiably to the Goths by many authors. In the era of the invasions, Getic history was distorted to exalt even more the military prowess of these conquerors of the Roman legions. In fact, the Getae had been defeated by Darius, Alexander, Caesar, Crassus, and Trajan, among others, but now they were made to appear invincible, and their very defeats were turned into grand victories. Their skill in war and the awe they provoked is summed up in Orosius’ often-repeated phrase, “modo autem Getae illi qui et nunc Gothi, quos Alex­ ander euitandos pronuntiauit, Pyrrhus exhorruit, Caesar etiam declinauit . . .” (I, 16, 2). Julian has Trajan describe them as “the most warlike race that ever existed,” who “meet death more readily than other men undertake a journey.” 56 Referring to the Getae as Thracians, Sidonius describes them thus: The land of the Thracians, whereon Rhodope and Haemus rest, is thine, a region fruitful of heroes. Here children are bom into a world of ice, and their native snow hardens the soft limbs of infants even from the mother’s womb. Scarce anyone is reared at the breast; rather is he dragged from the maternal bosom to suck from a horse through a wound; thus deserting milk the whole race drinks in coinage. They have grown but a short time, and anon they play

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


at battle with javelins; this sport is prompted by the wounds that suckled them. The boys, gifted hunters, clear the dens of their beasts; the young men, enriched with plunder, honour the laws of the sword; and when their old age has reached its fullness not to end it with steel is a disgrace. Thus do these countrymen of Mars order their lives.57 Such references to the prowess of the Getae can be found in many sources,68 but, as usual, they are the most highly glorified in battle in Jordanes and Isidore. Jordanes claims that the Getae-Goths defeated the Greeks in the era of the Trojan War, were victorious over Cyrus the Great and later over Darius, who had asked for the daughter of the Getic king as his bride and, when he was refused, warred in vain against the Getae. To surpass these feats, Jordanes reports that the Getae, by their courage, so over-awed Xerxes’ force of seven hundred thousand men that the Persian army refused to meet them in battle ( IX, 6o; X, 61-64). He continues this fabulous narrative of Getic feats by claiming that Philip of Macedon’s army was scattered by the priests of the Getae, and later, in revenge for Philip’s treachery in breaking a treaty with them, the Getes overran Macedonia and Greece. Jordanes concludes this marvelous account by stating that Julius Caesar himself, despite his great achievements, could not prevail against them (X -X I, 65-68). Later, mentioning a “Gothic” victory over Domitian, he pro­ claims, “And because of the great victory they had won in this region, they thereafter called their leaders, by whose good for­ tune they seemed to have conquered, not mere men, but demi­ gods, that is Ansis” ( XIII, 78). The Getes in Isidore are almost as highly romanticized. In the Etymologies he begins with the formulaic “Gothi a Magog filio Iaphet nominati putantur, de similitudine ultimae syllabae, quos veteres magis Getas quam Gothos vocaverunt” and then adds, “gens fortis et potentissima, corporum mole ardua, ar­ morum genere terribilis” ( IX, ii, 89). ( “The Goths are thought to be named from Magog, the son of Japheth, from the likeness




of the final syllable. The ancients called them Getae rather than Goths, . . . a tribe brave and very powerful, of great stature and armed in a terrible fashion.”) He extols them at greater length in the conclusion of the Historia Gothorum: Gothi de Magog Iafeth filio orti cum Scythis una probantur origine sati, unde nec longe a vocabulo discrepant, demutata enim ac de­ tracta littera Getae quasi Scythae sunt nuncupati, hi igitur occi­ dentis glacialia iuga inhabitantes quaequae sunt ardua montium cum ceteris gentibus possidebant, quibus sedibus inpetu gentis Hunorum pulsi Danuvium transeunt, Romanis se dedunt, sed dum iniurias eorum non sustinerent, indignati arma sumunt, Thraciam inruunt, Italiam vastant, obsessam urbem capiunt, Gallias adgrediuntur patefactisque Pyrenaeis montibus Spanias usque perveniunt ibique sedem vitae atque imperium locaverunt. Populi natura per­ nices, ingenio alacres, conscientiae viribus freti, robore corporis va­ lidi, staturae proceritate ardui, gestu habituque conspicui, manu prompti, duri vulneribus, iuxta quod ait poeta de ipsis: mortem contemnunt laudato vulnere Getae, quibus tanta extitit magnitudo bellorum et tam excellens gloriosae victoriae virtus, ut Roma ipsa victrix omnium populorum subacta captivitatis iugo Geticis triumphis adcederet et domina cunctarum gentium illis ut famula deserviret. Hos Europae omnes tremuere gentes. Alpium his cessere obices. Wandalica et ipsa crebro opinata barbaries non tantum praesentia eorum exterrita quam opinione fugata est. Gothorum vigore Alani extincti sunt. Suevi quoque hactenus intra inaccessos Spaniarum angulos coartati etiam nunc eorum armis periculum finis experti sunt et regno, quod desidioso torpore tenuerunt, turpiori nunc dispendio caruerunt. quamquam tenuisse huc usque valde sit mirum, quod sine experimento defensionis carere potuerunt. Sed quis poterit tan­ tum Geticae gentis edicere virium magnitudinem, quandoquidem multis gentibus vix precum causa et munerum regnare licuerit, his tamen libertas magis de congressione quam de petita contigit pace atque ubi sese necessitas bellandi opposuit, vires eos potius ad­ hibuisse quam preces, porro in armorum artibus satis spectabiles sunt et non solum hastis, sed et iaculis equitando confligunt, nec equestri tantum proelio, sed et pedestri incedunt, verumtamen magis equitum praepeti cursu confidunt, unde et poeta: Getes, inquit, quo pergit equo. Exercere enim sese telis ac proeliis praeludere maxime diligunt, ludorum certamina usu cotidiano gerunt, hac sola tantum armorum experientia hucusque carebant, quod classica bella in mari

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


gerere non studebant, sed postquam Sisebutus princeps regni sump­ sit sceptra, ad tantam felicitatis virtutem provecti sunt, ut non solum terras, sed et ipsa maria suis armis adeant subactusque serviat illis Romanus miles, quibus servire tot gentes et ipsam Spaniam videt.59 (The Goths, sprung from Magog, the son of Japheth, are proven to be of a common origin with the Scythians, from whom they do not differ very much by name. For by changing and taking away a letter, the Getae are, as it were, called Scythae. The Goths, occupying the icy ridges to the west, held all the mountain steeps along with other tribes. Driven from their homes by an attack of the Huns, they crossed the Danube and surrendered to the Romans. But when they could no longer bear their mistreat­ ment, they rebelled, made an attack on Thrace, devastated Italy, laid siege to and took Rome, went up into Gaul, and, opening up the pass over the Pyrenees, penetrated into Spain, where they settled down and established their rule. The Goths are agile and swift by nature, relying on their strength of conscience, strong in body, and of great stature, conspicuous in bearing, having a ready hand, insensitive to wounds, just as the poet says: the Getae boast about their wounds and have contempt for death. They were so pre-eminent in war and so courageous in glorious victory that Rome herself, victorious over all peoples, had the yoke of captivity imposed upon her, and in contributing to the Getic triumphs she, the mistress of all nations, assumed the role of the slave girl to the Goths. All the peoples of Europe trem­ bled before them, and they surmounted the barrier of the Alps. The notorious Vandal savagery was put to flight not so much by their presence as by news they were coming. The Alans were annihilated by them. In addition, the Suevi, who hitherto had been confined to inaccessible comers of Spain, now came to know, through the Gothic warriors, the danger of destruction, and they were shamefully de­ prived of their kingdom, which they had held in an indolent man­ ner. And yet it is quite amazing that they held it for so long, for they gave it up without making even an attempt at defense. But who could adequately describe the great power of the Getic people, since it has been permitted to many peoples to rule with difficulty by means of entreaties and munificence, yet the Goths have preserved their freedom more through fighting than by nego­ tiating peace, and, when the necessity of making war has presented itself, they used their strength rather than entreaties. Further, they are remarkably skilled in the use of arms, and they fight not only




with javelins, but also with lances on horseback, and they are excel­ lent fighters both on horseback and on foot. Yet they rely more on the speed of their horses, whence the poet says: Where are you going, Getan? For they love to practice throwing spears and to engage in mock war. They engage in war games daily. Only in this branch of warfare were they deficient up to now, namely, that they did not care to fight at sea. But after Sisebutus took up the sceptre of authority as king, they were incited to such great heights of bravery that they overran both land and sea with their arms, and the Roman military might bowed to them, an au­ thority that has seen so many nations and even Spain herself ac­ knowledge. ) In keeping with their powess in arms the Goths acquire from their identification with the Getes the latters’ association with the Amazons along with their descent from Mars and Bellona. Ausonius, borrowing a classical phrase, praises Gratian for “restraining the Getic Mars” (XIX, xxvi, lines 5 -7), and in Claudian Mars rests in the Getic plain. He contends that the Getae are reared by the goddess of war on the spoils of battle.60 Sidonius has the king of the Goths swear by his descent from Mars and refers to him as “Martius.” 61 Jordanes writes, “More­ over, so highly were the Getae praised that Mars, whom the fables of poets call the god of war, was formerly reputed to have been born among them” (V , 40). He claims that the Amazons were Gothic women, basing his argument on Orosius, I, 15-16 (V, 44). In fact, he contends, the Amazons learned to fight from their Gothic husbands and only from their example took up their warlike ways (VII, 49). Other characteristics and associations accrue to the Goths from their identification with the Getae. The hints at a con­ nection to the giants of Greek myth and to the bear continue. Claudian often uses the metaphor of the giants’ attack on the gods in reference to the Gothic invasions of the Empire. In a panegyric to Honorius he writes that he was dreaming of recit­ ing the gigantomachia for the gods, and when he awoke he was indeed addressing Jove (Honorius) before an assembly of

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


the gods (the Romans). He continues the allusion in his poem when Honorius, as Jove, addresses Alaric: “What, Alaric, hast thou then changed thy plans? W hy hastenest thou back? Art wearied so soon of the coasts of Italy? Feedest thou not thy horses on Tiber’s grassy banks as thou thoughtest to do? Drivest not the plough on Etruria’s hills? Fit object of all the punish­ ments of Hell, thinkest thou to attack the city of the gods with a Giant’s rage?” 62 In an earlier panegyric written for Honorius, Claudian compares the emperor to Mars and to Hercules in the battle against the giants.63 In the “Gothic W ar” he makes a direct comparison between the gods’ war against the giants and Rome’s conflict with the Getae, and he assures the Romans that the Getae will lose just as the giants had.64 The scene of Claudian’s poem “Gigantomachia” is naturally Thrace, where, he writes, Mars has fought the Getae as well as the Titans and the giants.65 In another poem, he has Mars say to Bellona, in reference to the Gothic invasions, “I am aweary of the devastation of Thrace and Macedon, of vengeance twice wreaked on races already buried.” 66 The “races already buried” are of course the Titans and the giants of mythology, who, after their defeat by the gods, were buried under moun­ tains and islands or placed in Hades. Claudian laments that the Getae-Goths are these giants sprung anew who must now be put down a second time. A similar reference tying the Getes to the giants occurs in the panegyric to Stilicho. The poet praises Stilicho’s campaigns in Thrace (campaigns which were chiefly against the Getae-Goths) and adds that the Bisaltae must often have dug up with their mattocks the giant bones of the hostile kings slain there by Stilicho.67 It is especially noteworthy that Claudian’s reference to the finding of gigantic bones, like Solinus’, is to finding them in Thrace, the Getic homeland. Martianus Capella, borrowing from Solinus to some extent, repeats his information that Phlegra, the scene of the gigantomachia, was in the region of Thrace, where the Getes, Sarmatians, and Scythians lived (VI, 655-56).


T H E G E A T S O F B e O tV tllf

The notion that Getic kings and heroes in particular were of gigantic size and possessed abnormal strength is found also in Jordanes. Referring to Dio s now lost Getica, Jordanes states on his authority that Telefus was king of the Getae-Goths when they lived in Moesia. He continues, “This Telefus, then, a son of Hercules by Auge, and the husband of a sister of Priam, was of towering stature and terrible strength. He matched his fathers valor by virtues of his own and also recalled the traits of Hercules by his likeness in appearance. Our ancestors called his kingdom Moesia” (IX, 58~59).68 Another Gothic hero, Maximin, who later himself became a Roman emperor, was, according to Jordanes, over eight feet tall and outstanding for feats of wrestling. The Emperor Septimius Severus, writes Jor­ danes, “marvelling much at his great size — for his stature, it is said, was more than eight feet — bade him contend in wrestling with the camp followers, in order that no injury might befall his soldiers at the hands of this wild fellow. Thereupon Maximin threw sixteen attendants with so great ease that he conquered them one by one without taking any rest b y pausing between the bouts.” Jordanes then relates how the Emperor, before trying him again, wore him out with strategems and then set him to wrestling seven fresh and powerful youths. The Gothic hero was equally successful in this feat and was rewarded for his courage and might with gifts of silver and a golden neck­ lace granted b y the Emperor, who asked him to serve hence­ forth in his bodyguard. Jordanes concludes, “These matters we have borrowed from the history of Symmachus for this our little book, in order to show that the race of which we speak attained to the very highest station in the Roman Empire” (XV, 83-88). Jordanes states that the Goths and their kinsmen who mi­ grated from Scandza surpassed the rest of the Germans in size and spirit (III, 24). Though his claim for the Goths in particular is simply a boast, yet the Germans in general did possess so large a stature that Roman authors frequently remarked upon

Late Antique and Early Medieval Tradition


it. After the beginning of the invasions it was natural enough for them to exaggerate their size as being gigantic and to de­ scribe them on occasion as giants. But the stature of the Goths alone, because of their identification with the Getae and their residence in Thrace or Phlegra, could be explained by their descent from the primordial giants, a connection that was strengthened in turn by their physiques. Just as they had been identified as the hosts of Gog-Magog by those versed in biblical lore, so could they be considered the descendants of the giants of old by those learned in pagan mythology. To those sympa­ thetic to the Goths, these identifications meant that they were a strong and brave people, led by kings and heroes who, as Jordanes stated, were “not mere men, but demi-gods.” Certain other attributes of the Thracian Getae are carried over to the Goths by writers of the late Empire. The epithetical expressions, “skin-clad,” “shaggy,” “hairy,” that had been ap­ plied to the Getes appear often in connection with the Goths. Claudian uses the adjectives criniger and the more common pellitus for them.69 The latter term is used by Sidonius several times,70 by Rutilius,71 and by Ennodius,72 in describing the appearance of the Getae-Goths. There is frequent repetition also of the earlier association of the Getae with the Bear con­ stellation, especially by Claudian and Sidonius. Claudian exults that Stilicho has captured the mighty people who live beneath the Bear and calls the Great Bear the native constellation of the Getes.73 Sidonius lists among the tribes who live under the “Ar­ cadian Bear” the Bastamians, Suebians, Pannonians, Neurans, Huns, Getans, and Dacians.74 Besides having the great, shaggy appearance of the bear, then, the Getae-Goths are connected to that beast by living under its protection. Traditionally, north­ ern races were linked in various ways to the bear, and bear cults appear to have been numerous and prominent among them.75 The connection of the Getae-Goths to the bear in Latin literature is suggestive, rather than explicit, but it was there to be utilized by an imaginative author.




Borrowed also from the literature of the classical period is the notion that the Dacians were related to the Getae and hence, in the thinking of the late antique and medieval periods, to the Goths. However, the Dacians ceased to be of great im­ portance to the Roman world by the end of the first century after Christ, notably after Trajan’s great victory over them, and since they were not identified consistently or prominently with any of the new invading nations in the fourth century, as the Getae were, Roman authors show little interest in them. The Dacians make their reappearance when the origins of the Danes are traced back to them, a development that did not take place until later than the period under consideration here. W hat is important to note is that when this development did occur there was plenty of “proof” in classical sources that the Daci, hence the Dani, were a branch of the Getae-Goths. The Danes, like many another Germanic tribe, could ‘legitim ately” claim descent from the famed Getae. A few writers, being deliberately antiquarian, mention the Daci in this period, usually alongside the Getae. Sidonius lists after a few others the Neuri, Huns, Getae, and Daci as northern peoples.76 Capella gives the Getae, Daci, Sarmatae, Amaxobii, Trogodytae, Alani, and the Ger­ mani as inhabitants of Scythia (V I, 663), whereas the D aci appear in this list of people in a poem of Venantius Fortunatus: “Thrax Italus Scytha Persa Indus Geta D aca Britannus.” 77 Isidore is the first author to make the statement outright that the Daci were akin to the Goths: “Daci autem Gothorum soboles fuerunt, et dictos putant Dacos, quasi Dagos, quia de Gothorum stirpe creati sunt.” 78 ( “Moreover, the Dacians were offspring of the Goths, and they think that they were called Daci as if [it were] D agi because they were begotten from the offspring of the Goths.”) Since Isidore states explicitly that the D aci were of Gothic derivation, those medieval authors who gave the Danes a class­ ical background by identifying them with the D aci could also claim Danish descent from the Getae-Goths. The tendency for

L a t e A n t i q u e a n d E a r ly M e d i e v a l T r a d itio n

the Getes to become the ancestral tribe of all Germanic tribes is thus extended into the medieval period and expanded upon so that Germans who had never entered the Empire could share the glory of those who had, and they could do this through claims of kinship based on a common origin. This approach colored and distorted medieval notions on the ethnic relation­ ships of tribes — notions that were already fallacious and twisted because of the intricate confusion of nationalities made initially by ancient authorities and then handed down to generations of later writers. Untangling these confusions, however compli­ cated, is necessary in order to understand what lies behind medieval thinking on the identity of any people and is essential to a proper interpretation of the sources. Medieval concepts of geography further complicate the prob­ lem, based as they are on the imperfect and incomplete knowl­ edge of the ancients through such intermediaries as Solinus, Capella, and especially Orosius. In Book I Orosius describes the world as it was thought to be in his day; of particular inter­ est is his description of northeastern Europe (see Map 1). His scheme shows as the northernmost lands and people of this region tribes and territories of the lower Danube and southern Russia.79 Thus the Northern Ocean is called “Sarmaticus Oceanus,” and on it are located “Alania,” “Dacia ubi et Gothia,” and “Germania.” Following Mela, Pliny, and other classical authors, he places the Riphaean Mountains in northeastern Europe along the Palus Maeotis, whence arises the Tanais (the Don), which forms the boundary between Europe and Asia. Isidore of Seville follows Orosius closely (see Map 2), adding details wherever he can. W hat use other medieval men of let­ ters made of the Orosian scheme and of the geographical thought of the antique and patristic ages in general must nec­ essarily be investigated before proceeding to an interpretation of the sources most directly bearing on B e o w u l f and the is­ sue of the identity of the Geats. From the foregoing discussion it is apparent, I believe, that




by the end of the seventh century there existed a strong tradi­ tion that in the farthest northern reaches of the known world there lived the Getes, the noble, ancestral Germanic tribe, so renowned in war that they could trace their lineage to Amazons, Mars, and Bellona—a people who produced heroes of super­ human strength and size, bearlike in their shaggy appearance, and who dwelt among the monstrous races and fabulous crea­ tures of the North.


M edieval Concepts o f the G erm anic N orth and the B altic N ortheast

magistrorum. The Middle Ages preferred it thus.” 1 In no other aspect of learning and thought is this truth more apparent than in medieval geography and ethnog­ raphy. Poorly understood and misapplied fragments of ancient geography, especially the old myths and fables, constantly recur in medieval “scientific” tracts, in encyclopedias, and on maps dating from the beginning of the period into the modem era. W hat the Middle Ages chose to save, to reproduce, and to believe from classical geography was largely the most fanci­ ful, the least accurate, and the least scientific part of it. The dry records of a Strabo, a Tacitus, or a Ptolemy were ignored; in their place medieval writers garnered from their heritage the more pleasing natural history of a Pliny, a Solinus, or a Capella. “And besides this instinctive preference for the leg­ endary as against the commonplace, the Christian science in question had two other prepossessions which were scarcely helpful to the progress of knowledge. It delighted in any sug­ gestions of geographical symmetry, however fanciful; and it was anxious to square its ideas of the world with those which had been held by the Hebrew race at various periods, or which


x l ib r is





were enshrined in the Old or N ew Testament.” 2 Medieval geography is almost invariably a curious mixture of ancient cosmographical systems, classical mythology, and patristic thought, all imposed upon the world known to the Middle Ages — a world considerably larger especially to the north than the oikumene of the ancients. W hat evolved from this mixture is, of course, not geography, but geographical mythology. Even when firsthand information was available, it was rejected as lacking in authority if it contradicted classical or patristic sources, or, if acceptable, it was simply superimposed upon mis­ placed antique knowledge. The result was a strange and un­ stable concatenation of fact and fancy from which it is more often than not impossible to sort out truth from fiction. So complete was the slavish dependence on antiquity that it con­ tinued despite the reliable knowledge gathered by pilgrims and missionaries, by travelers and merchants, by Vikings and Crusaders. “It was not until the time of Mercator at the end of the sixteenth century that western geography effectively shook off the tutelage of antiquity; and, even then, two more centuries were needed before it came of full age.” 3 To the ancients the Germanic North— the setting of Beow ulf— was largely terra incognita. Traditionally, in their scheme, Scythia was the northernmost part of the world, fringed by the mythical Riphaean Mountains and the vast Northern Ocean, somewhere beyond which lived the fabled Hyperboreans. Though this part of the world became increasingly known dur­ ing the Middle Ages and its people central figures in that period, it retained its aura of mystery and doubt down to the seventeenth century, and, no less than India, Ethiopia, and the imaginary islands of the Western Ocean, continued to be described as a fairyland, a land of monstrous races and savage beasts borrowed largely from classical and early Christian sources. In general terms, the Germanic North in medieval geography is classical Scythia transferred to the new frontiers of knowledge. Northern tribes but vaguely known in the classi-

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


cal period, if known at all, are identified with peoples who once dwelt on the northeastern borders of the Roman Empire and are intermingled with steppe nomads who never saw the Baltic Sea. This process, by which the Getes and their traditional neighbors are translated to the North, bridges the physical and temporal gap between the Getae of Herodotus and the Geatas of Beowulf. Perhaps the first work to describe the true North in terms of ancient Scythia in any detail is the Cosmographia attributed to Aethicus Ister. Under the chapter heading “D e Ignotis Gen­ tibus vel Insulis Septentrionalibus” he claims to be the first to have sound knowledge of this unknown region. After describ­ ing briefly Ireland, Britain, the Orkneys, and the ubiquitous Thule, he sets the tone of his work by his description of Munitia, an island which he places just to the north of Germania. Munitia is the home of the Cynocephali, creatures with human bodies and dogs’ heads. A vile, filthy, and wicked race, living in felt tents rather than permanent buildings, they are ignorant of God and practice idolatry. These people are called Cananei by their neighbors the Germans.4 He continues his survey of the North: Hæc omnia idem philosophus proná mentione scribit. Sic et Vafros, Frigontas, Murinos, Alapes, Turchos, Alanos, Mæotas, Chunos, Frisios, Danos, Vinnosos, Rifeos, Olches quos vulgus in illis re­ gionibus Orchos appellant, gentes spurcissimas ac vitå immundissimå, degentes ultra omnia regna terrarum, sine lege, sine Deo vel ceremoniis. Nåm et illarum regionum pagi omnis Germania est ap­ pellata eó quöd sint immania corpora immanesque nationes saevis­ simis moribus duratae, adeo indomitae, frigoris rigorem ferentes ultra omnes gentes. Centum pagos dicit esse inter habitabiles et inhabita­ biles, a Rheno fluvio usque Oceanum, insulas plurimas, et Maeotidas paludes. (vol. II, ch. II, i, 6) (The same philosopher makes clear mention of all these things in his writings. Thus there are also the Vafri, the Frigontae, the Murini, the Alapes, the Turchi, the Alani, the Maeotae, the Chuni, the Frisii, the Dani, the Vinnosi, the Rifei, the Olches, whom the people in




those regions call Orchi, tribes whose way of life is completely un­ clean and impure in the moral sense, living beyond every kingly government of the earth, without law, without God and religious ceremonies. For the entire area is called Germany because the in­ habitants have huge bodies, are quite numerous, are inured to the most savage customs, are even unconquerable, and bear the rigor of cold better than other nations. He says that there are a hundred cantons, ranging from habitable to uninhabitable, from the Rhine River to the Ocean, many islands, and the Maeotie marshes.) The Gryphae come next: “unde ait vetusta fama processisse Saxonum sobolem, et ad Germaniam praeliorum feritate proaccessisse; gentes stultissimas, quae velut ferarum et struthionum vel crocodillorum et scorpionum genera sunt” (vol. II, ch. II, ii, i ) . ( “Whence, he says, by old report, the Saxon progeny proceeded, and they came to Germany, fighting savagely; most stupid tribes, which are like wild animals, including ostriches, crocodiles, and scorpions.” ) A piratical tribe, they live far to the north, near the Hyperborean Mountains and the Tanais River. They are followed by the Turks in Aethicus’ account: “Dicit eos usque Euxinum maris sinum insulis et littoribus inclusos, Birricheo monte et Taracontá insulá contra ubera Aquilonis; gens ignominiosa et incognita, monstruosa, idolatra, fornicaria, in cunctis stupris et lupanariis truculenta, a quo et nomen acce­ pit, de stirpe Gog et Magog.” ( “He says that they are hemmed in as far as the Euxine basin of the sea by islands and shores, by Mount Birricheus and by the island of Taraconta opposite the fertile regions of the north; degenerate and strange, monstrous, idolatrous, fornicators, unrestrained from any defilement and lewdness; from these characteristics it also takes its name, and it is part of the offspring of Gog and Magog.” ) As one of the tribes of Gog-Magog, the hosts of the Antichrist, the Turks are among the nations excluded by Alexander the Great (vol. II, ch. II, ii, 4-8). Others of the excluded nations mentioned by Aethicus are the Gogetae and the Magogetae, names that rep­ resent obvious compounds of Getae and Gog-Magog (vol. II, ch. II, vi, 2 ).5 Hence the Getes from the seventh century on

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


are thought to live in proximity to such true northern people as Aethicus’ Danes and Frisians and to such unreal ones that he later describes in his account of the North. Among these imagi­ nary people of the North are the Meopari, “aquarum prædones sub aquå degentes,” and savage cannibalistic tribes who dwell in the caverns, in the fens and the moors of the North, ignorant of God (vol. II, ch. II, iii, 4-8). “O et tu Aquilon,” he apostro­ phizes, “mater draconum et nutrix scorpionum, fovea serpen­ tium lacusque daemonum, facilius fuerit in te obturationem inaccessibilem fore velut infernum quam tales gentes parturire” (vol. II, ch. II, ii, 7). (“O North, mother of dragons and nurse of scorpions, guardian of serpents, and lake of demons, it would have been easier to erect an impenetrable barrier against you as if against hell, than for you to be full of such tribes.” ) Aethicus establishes the polar regions for centuries to come as a land of marvels and is the first to apply clearly to the true North traditions formerly associated with southern Russia. To make the authorities he had at hand coincide with what little more he knew, he moves the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Caspian Sea far northward. Since Gog-Magog must come out of the uttermost north, as it was clearly stated in Ezechiel, then those tribes — Turks, Getes, Huns, and others — who were con­ sidered to be the hosts of the Antichrist identified in Revelation as Gog and Magog had to be relocated in the true North,6 where they are then mingled with real northeastern peoples. The confusion thus produced is typical of medieval concepts of northern Europe and Asia. Names of tribes change or are further corrupted, other monsters are included, some mentioned by Aethicus omitted, characteristics float freely from one people to another — but nonetheless there is much basic consistency in the accounts. The Riphaean Mountains appear in various places, but always near the Northern Ocean, which is also designated as the Sarmatian Ocean, the Scythian Ocean, the Oceanum Septentrionale, or the Oceanum Boreale, and in­ cludes the Baltic Sea, which was thought to be part of it.




The Palus Maeotis (The Sea of Azov) is enlarged and extended almost to the Northern Ocean in keeping with the old belief that the Black Sea joined the Northern Ocean. The eastern boundary of Europe is given as the Tanais River (the D on), which was thought generally to flow directly north and south connecting the Ocean, the Palus Maeotis, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean. The nature of the configuration of the Baltic lands is completely misunderstood; Scandinavia was considered to be one island or many separate islands of Germania variously placed in the Northern Ocean. The term Germania itself is vague in Aethicus and in later accounts; often it corresponds to Gothia or to Scythia or to Barbaria — confusions that arise because of classical terminology, which was also vague and shifting, but which generally referred to the lands of the lower Danube and the Black Sea.7 Biblical tradition compounded the confusion, for the Scythians had long been identified with both the descendants of Magog through Japheth on the basis of Genesis and with the Gog-Magog of Ezechiel and Revela­ tion; when the Goths and other Germanic tribes became steppe nomads in the first centuries of our era, they took on the asso­ ciations of the Scythians; they became, in fact, Scythians. Ger­ mans, regardless of where they were found from then on, were always thereafter linked intimately to the Scythian peoples. These tendencies are apparent in the work of the Anonymous Geographer of Ravenna (see Map 3), composed probably in the seventh century also. Several reconstructions of the scheme of the Ravennese are available.8 Following that given b y Miller in Mappaemundi, one can read on the northern coast of the disc-shaped earth “Frixones,” “S axones,” “Dania (Northomani),” “Scirdifrini ( Rerefrini),” “Sclavini” somewhat inland, to the north of which is “Scythia Eremosa,” which includes a large part of the northern coastline; underneath this caption is “Sar­ matae”; then, proceeding clockwise again, w e can follow the labels “Roxolani,” “Paludes Maeotides,” “Amazones,” “Montes Rimphei,” and “Scythia Maior.” In the Northern Ocean the most

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


interesting feature is “Scanza Insula/’ placed opposite the Roxolani. The text of the Ravennese, from which this repre­ sentation is taken, follows: Prima ut hora noctis Germanorum est patria, quae modo a Francis dominatur, ut superius dictum est, cuius post terga infra Oceanum praedicta insula Britania, dum nimis est latissima, invenitur. Secunda ut hora noctis ex parte ipsa Germania vel Frixonum Dorostates est patria, cuius post terga infra Oceanum insulae in­ veniuntur. Tertia ut hora noctis Saxonum est patria, cuius post terga infra Oceanum insulae inveniuntur. Quarta ut hora noctis Northomanorum est patria, quae et Dania ab antiquis dicitur, cuius ad frontem Alpes vel patria Albis: Maurungani certissime antiquitus dicebatur, in qua AÍbis patria per multos annos Francorum linea remorata est. et ad frontem euisdem Albis Datia minor dicitur, et dehinc super ex latere magna et spatiosa Datia dicitur: quae modo Gipidia ascribuntur; in qua nunc Unorum gens habitare dinoscitur. posthinc Illyricus usque ad provinciam Dalmatiae pertinget. Quinta ut hora noctis Scirdifrinorum vel Rerefenorum est patria. Sexta ut hora noctis Scytharum est patria, unde Sclavinorum exorta est prosapia; sed et Vites et Chimabes ex illis egressi sunt, cuius post terga Oceanum non invenimus navigari. Septima ut hora noctis Sarmatum est patria; ex qua patria gens Carporum, quae fuit ex praedicta, in bello egressa est. cuius post terga Oceanus innavigabilis est. Octava ut hora noctis Roxolanorum est patria, cuius post terga inter Oceanum procul magna insula antiqua Scythia reperitur. quam insulam plerique philosophi historiographi conlaudant; quam et lordanus sapientissimus cosmographus Scanzan appellat, ex qua insula pariterque gentes occidentales egressae sunt: nam Gotthos et Danos, imo simul Gepidas, ex ea antiquitus exisse legimus. Nona ut hora noctis Amazonum est quae ab antiquis dicitur patria, postquam eas de montibus Caucasiis venisse legimus, cuius post terga ad frontem spatiosa antiqua Dardania ponitur, et desuper ut dicamus ex latere paludes maximae inveniuntur, quae et Maeo­ tides appellantur, et sicut alii historiographi enarrant, per multorum miliarum spatia aliqua pars praelatae ab hominibus perambulari potest. Decima ut hora noctis grandis eremus et nimis spatiosa invenitur,




cuius a fronte vel ex latere gens Gazorum adscribitur, quae eremosa et antiqua dicitur Scythia. Undecima ut hora noctis Caspium portae vel vicus extremus Taurus sit, qui Caucasus unus et iterum intransmeabilis eremus esse conscribitur. (I, 11-12 ) (In the position of the first hour of night is the country of the Ger­ mans, which just now is ruled by the Franks, as was stated above, beyond which and below the Ocean the very broad island of Britain, previously mentioned, is found. In the position of the second hour of night in the same area is Germany and Dorostates, the land of the Frixones, beyond which, and below the Ocean, islands are found. In the position of the third hour of night is the country of the Saxons, beyond which, and below the Ocean, islands are found. In the position of the fourth hour of night is the country of the Northomani, which is also called Dania by ancient writers. On its frontier are the Alps and the land of the Elbe River, which land was most certainly known in antiquity as Maurungani. In the land of the Elbe the ancestors of the Franks stayed for many years. Next to this territory is Lesser Dacia, and beside it is Greater Dacia; these are now joined to Gipidia, in which now the tribe of the Uni is known to dwell. Next comes Illyria, extending as far as the province of Dalmatia. In the position of the fifth hour of night is the land of the Scirdifrini and the Rerefeni. In the position of the sixth hour of night is the country of the Scythians, from which the stock of the Sclavini originated, from whom both the Vites and Chimabes have come. Beyond this point we have not found out whether the Ocean has been navigated. In the position of the seventh hour of night is the country of the Sarmatians; from this country the tribe of the Carpi, in accordance with what was stated above, originated, and hence they went out in war. Beyond them the Ocean is not navigable. In the position of the eighth hour of night is the country of the Roxolani; beyond this place, at a considerable distance in the Ocean, is found a large island, ancient Scythia. Most philosophers and his­ torians praise this island very much, and the brilliant cosmographer Jordanes calls it Scanza. From this island western tribes have also gone out; for we read that the Goths and the Danes, and the Gepids, too, went out from it long ago.

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In the position of the ninth hour of night is the country which is called the land of the Amazons in ancient writers; [it received this name] after, as we read, they came [there] from the Caucasus Mountains. Beyond the land of the Amazons lies Dardania, a large and old country, and, as we said above, alongside it are very large marshes, which are called the Maeotian marshes, and, as other his­ torians relate, the better part of it can be traversed by men through a distance of many miles. In the position of the tenth hour of night is found a large and very extensive desert, at the edge of which lives the tribe of the Gazi. This desert region is known as old Scythia. In the position of the eleventh hour of night are the Caspian Gates and the fringes of the Taurus Range, which includes the Caucasus on one hand and an impassable desert on the other.) In Book IV he gives more details concerning the North: Nam desuper iam dictas patrias ad partem septentrionalem ponitur patria quae dicitur Alanorum. item iuxta mare magnum Ponticum ponitur patria quae dicitur Scymnorum/Ipimolgon/Neurion/Agaeon/Taurion/Achiallis. Item est patria quae dicitur Zichorum/Geolin/Tirsion. Item dicitur patria Psatiron/Ypodon . . . . Item ad partem septentrionalem iuxta Oceanum confinalis prae­ fatae maioris Scythiae ponitur patria quae dicitur Colchia Circeon, Melanglinon, Bassarinon. quae Colchia Circeon in omnibus eremosa esse dinoscitur. de qua patria enarravit Pentesileus philosophus. Item iuxta Oceanum confinalis praefatae regionis Colchiae est patria quae dicitur ab antiquis Amazonum, postquam eas de Caucasis montibus exisse legimus, de qua patria subtilius agunt supra scriptus Pentesileus et Marpesius atque Ptolomaeus rex Aegypti­ orum Macedonum, philosophi. Item iuxta Oceanum est patria quae dicitur Roxolanorum, Suaricum, Sauromatum. per quam patriam inter cetera transeunt flumina quae dicuntur, fluvius maximus qui dicitur Vistula, quia nimis un­ dosus in Oceano vergitur, et fluvius qui nominatur Lutta. de qua patria enarravit supra scriptus Ptolomaeus rex et philosophus, cuius patriae post terga infra Oceanum supra scripta insula Scanza in­ venitur. Item ad frontem Roxolanorum regionis sunt patriae, id est Sithotrogorum, item patria Campi Campanidon, nec non Getho Githorum, Sugdabon, Fanaguron, paludis Maeotidon. quae Maeotida regio,




vel si in hoc loco nominata est, quae tamen dum satis spatiosa existit, usque ad praefatam Bosphoranam patriam pertingit, nec non iuxta regionem Maeotidam est patria maxima quae dicitur Dardania, in qua diversae patriae usque ad mare magnum Ponticum pertin­ gunt . . . . (IV, 2-5) (For the country of the Alani is situated to the north of the abovementioned countries. Also beside the great Pontic Sea lies the land of the Scymni, the Ipimolgi, the Neurii, the Agaei, the Taurii, the Achialli. Also there is the land of the Zichi, the Geolii, the Tirsii; also the land of the Psatiri, and the Ypodi . . . . To the north, beside the part of the Ocean which lies next to previously mentioned greater Scythia, is situated the land called Colchia of the Circei, the Melanglini, and the Bassarini. This Colchia of the Circei is known to be a desert in all its parts and has been mentioned in the works of the philosopher Pentesileus. Beside the part of the Ocean which is adjacent to previously men­ tioned Colchia is the land which ancient writers referred to as the country of the Amazons, after, as we read, they came from the Cau­ casus Mountains. About this country the philosophers Pentesileus, mentioned above, and Marpesius and Ptolemaeus, king of the Egyptians and Macedonians, wrote accurately. Beside the Ocean is the land called the country of the Roxolani, the Suarices, the Sauromates. Through this land pass, among others, the rivers which are named [as follows]: a very large river which is called the Vistula because it flows with very huge waves into the Ocean, and a river named the Lutta. The king and philosopher Ptolemaeus, mentioned above, wrote about this country. Beyond this country, below the Ocean, is found the above-mentioned island of Scanza. On the frontier of the district of the Roxolani are these countries: the land of the Sithotrogi, Campi, the land of the Campanidi, Getho of the Githi, the lands of the Sugdabi, of the Fanaguri, and the Maeotie Swamp. This Maeotie region, even if I bring it up here, is indeed very large and extends as far as the previously mentioned Bosporan country. Also beside the Maeotie region is the very large country known as Dardania. In this area different countries extend as far as the great Pontic Sea . . . .) He then discusses in slightly more detail the other northern regions and finally sums up his account of this part of the world: “qui Oceanus tangit Scythiam heremosam. iterum Ama-

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


zones, ubi eas, postquam egressae sunt de montibus Caucasis, fuisse legimus, postmodum tangit ipse Oceanus Roxolanos necnon Sarmatas, item Scythas, postmodum Rereferos et Sisdefennos, verum etiam Germaniam, ubi egit habitare Danos necnon Saxos, etiam Frixos” (V, 28). ( “The Scythian wilderness reaches as far as the Ocean. Also, the country of the Amazons, where we read that they dwelt after they came out of the Caucasus Mountains, borders on the Ocean. The Ocean itself extends as far as the Roxolani, the Sarmatians, the Scythians, the Rereferi [Rerefeni], the Sisdefenni, and even Germany, where the Danes, the Saxons, and the Frixi dwell.” ) He repeats that in the Northern Ocean opposite the land of the Roxolani there was an island called Scanza, “quae et antiqua Scythia a pluri­ mis cosmographis appellatur” (V, 30) ( “which is also called ancient Scythia by most cosmographers” ). It is readily apparent that the Ravennese geographer had a great deal more real knowledge of the polar regions than did Aethicus, but he nevertheless accedes to the authority of the ancients which requires him to push Scythia far into the north, resulting in the confusion of truly Germanic areas with the lands of southern Russia and the intermingling of Teutonic na­ tions with such people, some of whom are wholly or semifabulous, as the Colchians, the Melanchlaeni, the Neuri, and the Getes. The latter (Getho Githorum) live in the region of the Maeotid Swamp and seemingly have no connection to the Goths who once inhabited nearby Scanza. It is interesting that the Ravenna Anonymous makes no such connection, even though Jordanes is one of his authorities. O f interest also in this account is the location of Scandinavia, which is considered to be a large island far to the east of its real location, in close proximity to the Amazons, the Getes, the Neuri, the Black-Cloaks, and the other Scythian tribes, actual and imaginary, that were thought to live about the Palus Maeotis. The earliest mappamundi that has survived from the Middle Ages is the Albi map (see Map 4), designed to illustrate the




cosmographies of Julius Honorius and Orosius. It occurs in a manuscript of the early eighth century. “Yet, poor though it is, the Albi map as it stands is the unaltered work of the time of Bede and Charles Martel” 9 and is noted here almost solely because of its age. On the map all the people of northern Europe are grouped into the region designated “Gothia.” Santarem comments that the author must have thought that all north Europeans were descendants of the Goths,10 which is probably the case. By placing his laconic “Gothia” just north of Macedonia and Thrace and extending it to the Ocean, the cartographer indicates that the Gothia of Orosius (the Danubian lands) comprises all of the North, and he again paves the w ay for the transfer of the ancient peoples of the lower Danube and of “Scythia Inferior” to the true North. It was inevitable that the current views of northern geogra­ phy based on Latin authority should penetrate Anglo-Saxon England when the standard classical and patristic works were introduced there with the coming of Christianity. It is not sur­ prising to find the Venerable Bede repeating the contemporary erroneous views of the North. In a chapter of the D e Natura Rerum entitled “D e Circulis Terrae” he writes: Octo circulis terra pro dierum varietate distinguitur . . . . Octavus a Tanai per Maeotim lacum, et Sarmatas, Dacos, partemque Ger­ maniae Gallias ingreditur. Longissimus dies horarum XVI est. His circulis antiqui duos praeponunt, unum per insulam Meroen, et Ptolemaidum rubri maris urbem, ubi longissimus dies horarum XII est, dimidia hora amplior: alterum per Syenem Aegypti, qui est horarum XIII. Duosque subjiciunt, primum per Hyperboreos et Bri­ tanniam, ubi est dies longissimus horarum XVII: alterum per Scythi­ cum, a Riphaeis jugis in Thulen in quo dies continuantur noctesque per vices.11 (The earth is divided into eight circles in accordance with the variety of days . . . . The eighth begins at the Tanais and extends through Lake Maeotis, and the Sarmatians, the Dacians, part of Germany and the Gauls. The longest day consists of sixteen hours. Instead of these circles, the ancients used two others; one goes through the island of Meroe, and Ptolemais, a city on the Red Sea, where the

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longest day lasts twelve hours, longer by a half hour; the other goes through Syene in Egypt, and consists of thirteen hours. And they add two others, the first through the Hyperboreans and Britan­ nia, where the longest day lasts seventeen hours; the second through Scythia, from the Riphaean Mountains to Thule, where days and nights continue alternately.) Paul the Deacon also incorporates some of the current lore in his History of the Langobards: “From this it happens that such great multitudes of peoples spring up in the north, and that that entire region from the Tanais ( Don) to the west ( although single places in it are designated by their own names) yet the whole is not improperly called by the general name of Ger­ many.” 12 To this Germany he links the Cynocephali (I, xi) and the Amazons, who, he has heard, still live in the innermost parts of Germany (I, xv). The Irish scholar Dicuil wrote a geography, D e Mensura Orbis Terrae, in the early ninth century which reflects the same notions. He calls Germania by the name “Gothia,” probably from the example of Orosius. This Gothia, he states, extends from the Rhine to the Vistula and from the Ocean to the Dan­ ube.13 It is bordered on the east by Alania and Dacia, which extend to the Sarmatian Desert and are bounded on the north and south by the Ocean and the Danube (I, vii, 2). He lists Sarmatia, Scythia, and Taurica together, claiming that they ex­ tend also to the Northern Ocean and are bounded on the east by the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea ( I, viii, 1). In Scythia are the Neuri: “Verum Neuri, ut accipimus, aestatis temporibus in lupos transfigurantur. Deinde, exacto spatio quod huic sorti attributum est, in pristinam faciem revertuntur” (VII, xv, 2). (“But the Neuri, as we have heard, are transformed into wolves at times of the summer. Then, for exactly the same length of time that they have remained in that state, they revert to their original form.” ) Among the islands of the Scythian Ocean the most famous and the largest is Scandinavia, situated in the midst of many other islands of Germany. “Non longe




feruntur et Oeocenae insulae, quarum ovis avium marinarum et avenis vulgo nascentibus incolae vivunt. Aliae in quibus equinis pedibus homines nascuntur, Hippopodes appellati. Aliae in quibus nuda corpora praegrandes ipsorum aures tota contegunt” (V II, v, 3-4). ( “Not far distant lie the Oeocena Islands, the inhabitants of which live on eggs of sea birds and often on young oats. [There are] other islands in which men are bom with horses’ feet; [they are] called Hippopodes. [There are] other islands in which men cover their entire naked bodies with huge ears.” ) Another work, found in a ninth-century manuscript, is even less original in its geographical conceptions. Its monkish author simply excerpted a large part of Priscian’s Periegesis and used it as an authority for his description of Germanic Europe. The Getes are mentioned in the portion of Priscian that he quotes.14 The D e Universo of Rabanus Maurus, a ninth-century work that had wide circulation, describes Europe in terms reminis­ cent of Orosius and Isidore: Prima Europae regio Scythia inferior, quae a Maeotidis paludibus incipiens, inter Danubium et Oceanum septentrionalem usque ad Germaniam porrigitur, quae terra generaliter propter barbaras gen­ tes, quibus inhabitatur, barbarica dicitur. Hujus pars una Alania est, quae ad Maeotidas paludes pertingit: post hanc Dacia, ubi et Gothia; deinde Germania, ubi plurimam partem Suevi incoluerunt. Ger­ mania post Scythiam inferiorem a Danubio inter Rhenum fluvium Oceanumque conclusa, cingitur a septentrione et occasu Oceano, ab ortu vero Danubio, a meridie Rheno flumine dirimitur; terra dives virium, ac populis numerosis et immanibus. Unde et propter fecun­ ditatem gignendorum populorum Germania est dicta. Gignit aves Hyrcanias [Hercynia silva], quarum pennae nocte perlucent. Bi­ sontes quoque feras et uros atque alces parturit. Nutrit [Mittit] et gemmas, crystallum et succinum. Callaicum quoque viridem, et ce­ raunium candidum. Duae sunt autem Germaniae, superior juxta septentrionalem Oceanum, inferior circa Rhenum.15 (The first region of Europe is lower Scythia, which, beginning from the marshes of Maeotis, between the Danube and the Northern Ocean, stretches as far as Germany, which land is said to be gener-

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


ally barbaric on account of the barbarian tribes which inhabit it. One part of this is Alania, which extends as far as the Maeotie marshes; beyond this is Dacia, where Gothia is also located; next is Germany, the largest part of which is inhabited by the Suevi. Germany beyond lower Scythia, enclosed by the Danube between the Rhine River and the Ocean, is encircled on the north and on the west by the Ocean, on the east by the Danube, and is bounded on the south by the River Rhine; it is a land abounding in resources, with a large population consisting of men of great size. For this reason and because of the high birth rate, it is called Germany. [The Hyrcanian Forest] produces the Hyrcanian birds, whose wings glow in the dark. It teems with bison and other wild beasts, including oxen and elk. It is rich in precious stones, crystal, and amber, in greenish turquoise, and in white gems. Moreover, there are two Germanies, Upper Germany next to the Northern Ocean and Lower Germany around the Rhine.) Rabanus repeats also the information about the Hyperborean Mountains, which he places in Scythia, and the Riphaean Moun­ tains, which he locates “at the top of Germany” (XIII, i, col. 363). From Isidore he takes the passages describing Scythia, the inhabitants of the region, and the lineage of the Goths: Scythia, sicut et Gothia a Magog, filio Japhet, fertur cognominata: cujus terra olim ingens fuit. Nam ab oriente India, a septentrione per paludes Metocides [Maeotides] inter Danubium et Oceanum usque Germaniae fines porrigebatur. Postea vero minor effecta a dextra orientis parte, qua oceanus Syricus tenditur usque ad mare Caspium, quod est ad occasum: dehinc a meridie usque ad Caucasi jugum deducta est; cui subjacet Hyrcania ab occasu habens pariter multas gentes propter terrarum infecunditatem late vagantes, ex quibus quaedam agros incolunt, quaedam portentosae ac truces carnibus humanis et eorum sanguine vivunt. Scythiae plures terrae sunt locupletes, inhabitabiles tamen plures. Nam dum in plerisque locis auro et gemmis affluant, gryphorum immanitate accessus homi­ num rarus est: smaragdis autem optimis haec patria est. (XII, iv, coi. 342) (Just so Scythia is said to be named Gothia from Magog, the son of Japheth; its territory was once vast, for it extended from India in the east, [and] from the north through the Maeotie marshes, between the Danube and the Ocean as far as the borders of Ger­




many. Later indeed it was less extensive, [stretching] from that part of the east on the right where the Serie Ocean stretches out, as far as the Caspian Sea, which is towards the west; from here, on the south, it goes down to the ridge of the Caucasus, near which is situated Hyrcania on the west. [This country] has an equal number of tribes, which wander widely on account of the barrenness of the land; some of them cultivate the fields; others, inhuman and blood­ thirsty, live on human flesh and blood. There are many rich and many uninhabitable regions in Scythia. For, while in most places these areas abound in gold and precious stones, they are for the most part inaccessible to men because of the great size of the griffins. Moreover, finest emeralds are found in this country.) Gothi a Magog filio Japhet nominati putantur de similitudine ulti­ mae syllabae, quos veteres magis Getas quam Gothos vocaverunt: gens fortis et potentissima, corporum mole ardua, armorum genere terribilis. De quibus Lucanus: “Hinc Dacus premat, inde Getes occurrat Iberis.” Daci autem Getarum soboles fuerunt, et dictos putant Dacos quasi Dagos, quia de Gothorum stirpe creati sunt, de quibus ille: “Ibis Arctoos procul usque Dacos.” (XVI, ii, coi. 441) (The Goths are thought to have been named from Magog, the son of Japheth, from the likeness of the final syllable; the ancients called them Getae rather than Goths: a tribe brave and very power­ ful, of great stature and armed in a fearful manner. Concerning them Lucan says: “Let the Dacian assail the Iberi from this side; let the Gete con­ front them on that side.” Moreover, the Dacians are descendants of the Getae, and they think that Daci is a corruption of Dagi, because they were begotten from the offspring of the Goths, concerning whom he says: “You will go far to the Dacians in the north.” ) Massagetae ex Scytharum origine sunt, et dicti Massagetae, quasi graves, id est, fortes Getae. Nam sic Livius argentum grave dicit, id est, massas. Hi sunt qui inter Scythas atque Albanos septen­ trionalibus locis inhabitant. (XVI, ii, coi. 439) (The Massagetae are in origin from the tribe of the Scythians, and are called Massagetae, as if heavy, that is, strong Getae. For so Livy

M ap 1. O rosius’ schem e of the w o rld (rep rod u ced from a construc­ tion b y M iller, VI, P late 3)

M ap 2. Isidore of S e ville ’s schem e of the w o rld (rep rod u ced fro m a construction b y M iller, V I, P late 2)

M ap 3. The w o rld according to from a construction by M iller, V I, P late 1 )

th e R avenn a A non

M ap 4. The A lb i M ap pam und i (rep rod u ced from a m anus sim ile in B eazley, I, facin g p. S 8 5 )

M ap 5. The Strassbu rg facsim ile in B eazley,I, facin g p. 3 8 6 )

i( rep rod u ced from a m anuscript d n u m ap M

M ap 6 . The A nglo-Saxon M ap of the T enth C en tu ry (rep rod u ced from a reconstruction of the m anuscript by M iller , 777, p. 33 )

M ap 7. The St.S everu s M ap (rep rod u ced from a recon stru ction of th e o rig inal by M iller, I, un b ou n d m ap; northern only)

M ap 8. Section of the H ereford reconstruction of the original b y M iller, IV , un b ou n d m ap)

M(rep ro d

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calls heavy silver, that is, “massas.” These are the people who dwell between the Scythians and the Albanians in the northern regions.) In the commentary on Genesis he writes, quoting from Jerome: Scio quemdam Gog et Magog, tam de praesenti loco quam de Eze­ chiel, ad Gothorum nuper in terra nostra bacchandum historiam retulisse: quod utrum verum sit, praelii ipsius fine monstrabitur. Et certe Gothos omnes retro eruditi magis Getas quam Gog et Magog appellare consueverunt. Hae itaque septem gentes quas de Japhet venire stirpe memoratus sum, ad Aquilonis partem habitant.16 (I know that someone, both from the passage under consideration and from Ezechiel, has interpreted Gog and Magog as referring to the history of the Goths, who in comparatively recent times overran our country with murderous fury; whether this be true will be pointed out by the end of the battle itself. And certainly all scholars of former times used to call the Goths the Getae rather than Gog and Magog. And so these seven tribes which I have mentioned as coming from the stock of Japheth live in the north.) The identity of Gog-Magog and their association with the Getes or Goths must have been a problem of some concern to ninth-century churchmen, for Haymo of Halberstadt discusses the same issue at some length. He takes as his starting point the text from Revelation: “Et seducet gentes multas, quae sunt super quatuor angelos terrae Gog et Magog.” He then comments, “De his gentibus varie quidam loquuntur, aestimantes eas esse gentes aquilonares, id est Getas et Massagetas, quae Scanzam insulam inhabitant.” 17 ( “Concerning these people, different things are said, [some] holding that they are a northern people, that is, the Getae and the Massagetae, who inhabit the island Scanza.”) In the explanation that follows Haymo denies that the Getes and the Massagetes are the forces of the Antichrist and refutes as erroneous current beliefs that Alexander the Great built a gate to enclose these tribes. It is worth emphasizing that he denies only that the Getes and the Massagetes are the hosts of Gog-Magog mentioned in Revelation, not that such people ex­




isted in his day and that they lived in “Scanza insula.” His coupling of the Getae with the Massagetae and with the tribes of Gog-Magog, even negatively, proves beyond question that the Scandinavian Getae of whom he writes are the Getae of antiquity met with in Chapters I and II. His location of them in Scandinavia indicates that the prevailing views of the North based on mistaken classical beliefs were accepted even by those who should have known better — by those who had contacts with the Baltic Sea area and lived close to it. Still one other writer of the ninth century is concerned with the Getes, although in a different connection. Landolphus, a German chronicler borrowing largely from Jordanes, writes: Filimer rex Gothorum Gadarici magni filius, qui post egressum Scan­ tiae insulae iam quinto loco tenens principatum Getarum, qui et terras Scithicas cum sua gente introiit, reperit in populo suo quasdam magas mulieres, quas Gothico sermone Alirumnas dicuntur, easque habens suspectus de medio sui proturbat longeque ab exercitu suo fugatas in solitudine coegit errare.18 (Filimer, son of Gadaricus the Great and king of the Goths, after their departure from the island of Scantia, held as the fifth in order of succession the rule over the Getae, who went into Scythian country along with his people. He discovered among his people certain witches, who are called in Gothic “Alirumnae,” and, distrustful of them, he drove them away, and far from his army he compelled them to wander as exiles in solitude.) Again the Getes are directly associated with Scandinavia as the ancient Goths who left the Urheimat in their dim past. No connection is made by either Landolphus or Haymo between the Getes and the Goths still living in Sweden — the Gautar of Old Norse — although the Gautar were recognized as Goths throughout the Middle Ages. One mappamundi has survived from this century and is con­ tained in a manuscript of a Strassburg library (see Map 5 ).19 The map is conceived on the T -O plan; that is, the earth, shaped like a disc and encircled by the Ocean, forms an O, and

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inside the disc a T divides the land mass into the three known continents: Asia, which forms the upper half of the earth, Eu­ rope, which is the lower left-hand portion, and Africa, the lower right-hand part. The stem of the T represents the Mediter­ ranean Sea, which divides Europe from Africa; and the cross­ bar is the Tanais, connecting the Northern Ocean, the Palus Maeotis, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean. The whole scheme represents a cartographical rendering of Orosius’ liter­ ary description of the world. On this particular map the point of interest lies in the sequence “Germania, Gothia, Dacia, Alamannia,” captions that are meant to designate the countries of northern Europe. The last is bounded by the Tanais and the Palus Maeotis. The sequence, like the general plan, is taken from Orosius, who wrote, “ab oriente Alania est, in medio Dacia ubi et Gothia, deinde Germania est ubi plurimam partem Suebi tenent.” 20 ( “On the east is Alania, in the center is Dacia, where Gothia is also located, then there is Germany, the largest part of which is occupied b y the Suebi.” ) O f course, Orosius was describing the northernmost part of Europe of which he had knowledge, the Roman frontier on the lower Danube, but he does vaguely imply that these divisions extended to the Northern Ocean, a region completely outside his ken, and so they are taken as applicable to the true North by almost every medieval geographer. Since the Dani were connected to the Daci, then Dacia was identified with Denmark. Dacia for Den­ mark and Daci for Danes became commonplace terms and were used, in fact, more often than the genuine names. This iden­ tification was bound to lead to difficulty, since it gave two ap­ plications to Dacia: one to Denmark, and one to a much larger area bordering on Alania, which was thought to exist east of the Vistula. These conflicting meanings were never reconciled, and even when Dacia was placed much farther to the east than Denmark lies in reality, it was probably taken to denote Den­ mark, so common was this usage in the Middle Ages. Hence




w e find at least two Dacia-Danias in the geography of the period. A second confusion with the term Dacia arose because of the dependence of medieval geography upon Orosius; for, ac­ cording to that authority, Dacia was also Gothia. His phrase “Dacia ubi et Gothia” became a standard designation for D en­ mark in the Middle Ages. Curiously, the region that had the best claim to being called Gothia — Gautland in Sweden — is so designated only on maps from the late Middle Ages, and even then the term is used in a much wider sense than Gaut­ land could ever be. Gothia and Getia are, in the early Middle Ages at least, names most applicable to Denmark and to the Jutland peninsula. Gautland is not so designated specifically, but, as part of Scanza, which was thought to be Scythia in ancient terminology, it could indirectly be considered Gothia or Getia, since Scythia was so called. So much of the medieval concept of the world was drawn from Orosius’ Historia that it is not surprising that Alfred the Great chose it as one of the Latin classics to render into his own tongue for the education of his countrymen.21 Alfred gives his approval to the ideas on northern geography found in Orosius by paraphrasing his description of that part of the world. He includes in his version those statements that claim that the eastern boundary of Europe was the Tanais, which took its source in the Riphaean Mountains near the Sarmatian Ocean. The Tanais forms the Maeotid Fen near the temple of Alexan­ der. The entire region from the Tanais west to the Rhine, north to the Sarmatian Ocean, and south to the Danube may be called Germany. The land of the Amazons ( Mægþa land) he places in northeastern Europe along with Sarmatia.22 Scythia borders on Germany, extending east from the Tanais and the fen called Maeotis to the Caspian, north to the Ocean, and south to the Mediterranean. At one point in the paraphase Alfred inserts a contemporary eye-witness description of northern regions furnished by two

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travelers, Ohthere and Wulfstan. Much attention has deserv­ edly been given to this part of Alfred’s Orosius; it is remarkable for giving reliable information of the Baltic area instead of presenting the usual obsolete and mistaken notions of the an­ cients. Alfred’s inclusion of this account does not in the least imply distrust or rejection of Orosius’ authority. Alfred merely adds this firsthand information to his authority, a feat he can accomplish without conflict, since Orosius never mentioned the true North anyway. In the account it is stated, . . . þa, twegen dagas ær he to Hæþum come, him wæs on þæt steorbord Got­ land, (ond) Sillende, (ond) iglanda fela.” 23 In this passage and in one that follows shortly thereafter, “Gotland” clearly refers to the Jutland peninsula. W hy Alfred should have called the peninsula “Gotland” has become the subject of a long and complicated debate among Anglo-Saxon scholars and has been made to bear upon the problem of the identity of the Geats of Beowulf. Yet a simple and obvious solution is apparent, exist­ ing within the framework of medieval views of the North. A l­ fred “knew” from Orosius, the very authority he was translating at the time he wrote down Ohthere’s description, that Dacia, or Denmark, was also Gothia. Gothia in the Old English vernacu­ lar would be rendered Gotland. The usage of “Gotland” for “Denmark” which Alfred employs is so common in the terminol­ ogy of medieval geography that it is a little surprising to find that it has caused so much perplexity. Certainly, the name need not be claimed as an error for *Geotland (i.e., Jutland, O.N. Iótland), a form that is unattested in any text, as the asterisk indicates;24 nor is there cause for more subtle argumentation25 to explain away the usage when we can point to numerous sources which call Denmark Gothia on the basis of Orosius’ phrase and to Alfred’s acceptance of the authority of the fifthcentury geographer. That testimony must take precedence over theories which have made Ohthere’s account conform to mod­ ern knowledge of the Germanic North. Supporting this interpretation is the evidence of the Anglo-


THE GEATS OF B e o w u l f

Saxon map of the tenth century, which, like the Strassburg map, is based on the first chapter of Orosius’ Historia, even though it is done by the same scribe who made a copy of parts of Priscian’s Periegesis, with which it is bound.26 W here Denmark is located, the caption “Dacia ubi et Gothia” appears. This standard phrase appears again in the Pictish Chronicle of the tenth century,27 where it came directly from Orosius’ text, or, as is probably the case with Rabanus Maurus, indirectly through Isidore. On the group of maps descended from the original eighth-century plan of Beatus, including the oldest surviving derivative of the Beatus group, the Ashburnham map of 970, some version of the phrase appears.28 On all the maps of this group, Dacia is placed much farther to the east than Denmark lies in reality, in the same w ay that “Scanza Insula” is found opposite the Roxolani in the Anonymous of Ravenna. Hence, the Daci-Dani are located often in the midst of the monsters and the fabulous races thought to live in the region of the Maeotid Swamp and the wilds of Scythia. There are other interesting features on some of these maps. The Anglo-Saxon map (see Map 6) is a thorough mixture of fable and of good contemporary geography. It exhibits some unusually sound knowledge of the Germanic North; yet the cartographer calls Denmark “Dacia” or “Gothia” and places it very close to Scythia (meaning also Scanza, very probably), where the “Montes Riphei,” the “Tanais fluvius,” and the “Meotides paludes” are found. He places the “Griphorum gens,” the “Turchi,” and “Gog et Magog” in northern Asia. The “Scridefinnas” are allocated a comer of “Island,” which lies just to the north of Dacia-Gothia. Though the Anglo-Saxon cartographer is dependent on traditional geography despite his knowl­ edge of the North, his map is far less fabulous than the Beatus group. In maps of this group the Islands of the Blest are placed next to Scandinavia. On the St. Severus map (see Map 7 ), Scythia contains the Albanians ( so called because of the white­ ness of their hair), cannibals who drink the blood of their vie-

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tims, and huge griffons who guard treasures of gems and gold.29 One subgroup of the Beatus maps locates Rhaecia on the North­ ern Ocean, and just below it places Noricum, along with D ad a (“ubi et Gotti”), which is a little to the east. Above these cap­ tions is found the phrase “hie caput garope” (for “hie caput Europae” ), indicating perhaps a confusion of Norway with Noricum, just as Dacia becomes Denmark.30 In any case, D a­ cia, Sarmatia, and Alania become the northernmost countries of Europe. “Scocia” or “Scotia” on these maps is found as an island opposite “Armenia,” which is placed in the remotest part of northeastern Asia! The latest of the Beatus group, the Osma map of 1203, has the Tanais separating Europe and Asia as usual, the “Padules meotis” (for Paludes Maeotis) in the north, and almost opposite it places “Scada Insula” ( for Scanza Insula). To the west of the Maeotis is “Scotia inferior,” a con­ fusion of “Scitia” (i.e., Scythia) with “Scotia” (i.e., Scotland). Adjacent to Scythia on the west is “Germania Superior.” Scythia, the Maeotis, Scandinavia, and Upper Germany are thus lo­ cated in close proximity to each other.31 Medieval concepts of the Germanic North are most com­ pletely expressed by Adam of Bremen, whose History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, begun about 1072, repre­ sents the very best account of the North that medieval scholar­ ship could produce. Adam lived in the German city that had the closest contacts with Scandinavia through both trade and missionary activity; accordingly, he had available firsthand in­ formation of those regions he describes in Book IV. But, as Beazley points out, “like all men of his time, Adam put the authority of classical writers far above this modern testimony, or the vulgar witness of ordinary sense. He assumes that all the regions of the North were known to the Romans, but less definitely, under different names; he displays no small anx­ iety to base his knowledge of Scandia upon the sure testimony of Virgil, Lucan, and Horace . . . ” 32 O f other writers, he




draws upon Sallust, Macrobius, Capella, Solinus, Orosius, Paul the Deacon, Gregory of Tours, Einhard, and Bede.33 Since Adam’s description of the North so clearly typifies the medieval beliefs concerning that area and demonstrates how the scholars of that period arrived at their conclusions, it will be quoted at length: O f the Baltic he writes: There is a gulf, Einhard says, that stretches from the Western Ocean towards the east. This gulf is by the inhabitants called the Baltic because, after the manner of a baldric, it extends a long distance through the Scythian regions even to Greece. It is also named the Barbarian Sea or Scythian Lake, from the barbarous peoples whose land it washes.34 Upon this passage a Scholiast to Adam comments: The Eastern Sea or Barbarian Sea or Scythian Sea or Baltic Sea is one and the same sea, which Martianus and the ancient Romans call the Scythian or the Maeotie marshes or the Getic waste or the Scythian strand. This sea, reaching from the Western Ocean be­ tween Denmark and Norway, stretches eastward in an unexplored length. (Schol. 116) Adam continues his description of the Baltic: In this sea there are also very many other islands, all infested by ferocious barbarians and for this reason avoided by navigators. Likewise, round about the shore of the Baltic Sea, it is said, five the Amazons in what is now called the land of women. Some declare that these women conceive by sipping water. Some, too, assert that they are made pregnant by the merchants who pass that way, or by the men whom they hold captive in their midst, or by various monsters, which are not rare there. This explanation we also believe to be more credible. And when these women come to give birth, if the offspring be of the male sex, they become Cynocephali; if of the feminine kind, they become most beautiful women. Living by themselves, the latter spurn consort with men and, if men do come near, even drive them manfully away. The Cynocephali are men who have their heads on their breasts. They are often seen in Russia as captives and they voice their words in barks. In that region, too,

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are those who are called Alani or Albani, in their language named Wizzi; very hard-hearted gluttons, bom with gray hair. The writer Solinus mentions them. Dogs defend their country. Whenever the Alani have to fight, they draw up their dogs in battle line. Palefaced, green, and macrobiotic, that is, long-lived men, called Husi, also live in those parts. Finally, there are those who are given the name Anthropophagi and they feed on human flesh. In that territory live very many other kinds of monsters whom mariners say they have often seen, although our people think it hardly credible. No mention, I have learned, has been made by any of the learned men about what I have said concerning this Baltic or Barbarian Sea, save only Einhard of whom we have spoken above. But, since the names have been changed, I am of the opinion that this body of water was perhaps called by the ancient Romans the Scythian or Maeotie swamp, or “the wilds of the Getae,” or the Scythian swamp, which Martian says was “full of a multifarious diversity of bar­ barians.” There, he says, live the Getae, Dacians, Sarmatians, Alani, Neutri, Geloni, Anthropophagi, and Troglodytes. Because he de­ plored their delusions, our metropolitan appointed Björkö as a metropolis for those peoples. This city, situated in central Sweden, lies opposite Jumne, the city of the Slavs, and all the shorelines of that sea encircle it at equal distances . . . . About Sweden, too, the ancient writers, Solinus and Orosius are not silent. They say that the Swedes hold a very large part of Germany and, besides, that their highland regions extend up to the Rhiphaean Mountains. There, also, is the Elbe River to which Lucan appears to have referred. (IV, xix-xxi) A Scholiast adds, “The Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and the rest of the Scythian peoples are called Hyperboreans by the Romans and they are extolled with much praise by Martian” (Schol. 130). Later, the Scholiast comments that the Goths were called Getae by the Romans and quotes some lines from Virgil’s Georgies referring to the Geloni and the Getae (Schol. 134). Adam returns to the subject of the monstrous races living in or near Scandinavia: On the east, Sweden touches the Rhiphaean Mountains, where there is an immense wasteland, the deepest snows, and where hordes of human monsters prevent access to what lies beyond. There are




Amazons, and Cynocephali, and Cyclops who have one eye on their foreheads; there are those Solinus calls Himantopodes, who hop on one foot, and those who delight in human flesh as food, and as they are shunned, so may they also rightfully be passed over in silence. The king of the Danes, often to be remembered, told me that a certain people were in the habit of descending from the highlands into the plains. They are small of stature but hardly matched by the Swedes in strength and agility. “Whence they come is not known. They come up unexpectedly,” he said, “sometimes once in the course of a year or after a three-year period. Unless they are resisted with all one’s might, they lay waste the whole region and then withdraw.” Many other things are usually men­ tioned, but in my effort to be brief I have not mentioned them, letting those speak about them who declare they themselves have seen them. (IV, xxv) Adam’s dependence on ancient writers, which leads him to con­ fuse traditions associated with southern Russia, the Ural Moun­ tains, and the central plains of Asia with the Baltic regions, is apparent.35 He also mixes biblical traditions both with classi­ cal traditions and with the reliable information that he repeats. Writing of the Christianization of Scandinavia, he states: And unless I am mistaken in my opinion, the prophecy of Ezechiel about Gog and Magog here appears to have been very aptly fulfilled. “And I will send,” says the Lord, “a fire on Magog, and on them that dwell confidently in the islands.” Some think that this and similar sayings were spoken about the Goths who captured Rome. When, however, we consider the fact that the Gothic peoples rule in Sweden and that all this region is dispersed in islands scattered far and wide, we are of the opinion that the prophecy can be applied to them, especially since the prophets made many predictions which as yet do not appear to have been fulfilled. (I, xxvi) In Adam’s History the region of the North, more particularly Sweden and its neighboring lands to the north and the east, is the abode of monsters and fabulous races such as are found in the Bjármaland of Old Norse literature. But, in Adam’s case,

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there can be no question that the marvels of the North are drawn from the biblical-classical tradition, not from any native, Germanic body of folktale and monster-lore which may have existed. His description of the Germanic North represents a conflation of materials drawn from Solinus, Capella, and others like them — typical of medieval geography in general — blended with a large share of real knowledge, which is not totally obliterated by his reliance on mistaken ancient notions. By Adam’s testimony, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are all included in that vague and elusive term Scythia and “in the spirit of classical and mediaeval philology he mingles together Goths and Getae, Danes and Dacians, Swedes and Suevi,” and calls them all Hyperboreans.36 The Getes he writes about, along with the Danes and the Swedes, dwell in the midst of a land of strange and fantastic beings derived from the Latin tradition. One of Adam’s contemporaries, William of Jumieges, reflects independently these same concepts of the North and its peo­ ple. William begins his history of the dukes of Normandy by tracing their remote lineage and soberly repeating fabulous traditions connected to them: Tres etenim Noe filios habuisse sacrae ad liquidum testantur Paginae. Quorum junior, nomine Japhet, filium genuit, quem propio vocabulo Magog nominavit. Cujus Gothica soboles, de similitudine ultimae sillabae paterni nominis vocabulum trahens, adeo pullulavit, ut per diversa terrarum intersticia multimode se dilataret, quandamque insulam, nomine Scanzam, intra maris fretum sibi vindicaret. In qua, per succedentia temporum curricula admodum multiplicata duos ex se in armis robustissimos produxit Gothorum populos. Ex quibus unus, cum suo rege Thanause de vagina sua egressus, ulteri­ orem Scythiam invasit sibique usurpavit, multo post adversus Vesosem, Egyptiorum regem, contra se bella attentantem diutissime se armis et preliis extendens. Quorum uxores, postmodum vocatae, [sie] Amazones, diuturnam eorum moram moleste ferentes, repudi­ ata virorum copula, arma capessunt, duas reginas, Lampeto scilicet atque Marpessam ceteris audaciores principatui subrogantes. Quae, dextris mamillis ob telorum jactus adustis, totam Asiam agressae, per centum fere annorum volumina gravissimae dominationis jugo




eam domuerunt. Sed de his huc usque. Qui vero scire cuncta desi­ derat Gothorum gesta percurrat, et noster stilus vertatur ad proposita. Igitur alter Gothorum cuneus ex Scanza insula, quae erat quasi officina gentium aut velut vagina nationum, cum rege suo nomine Berig egressus, mox ut e navibus exeuntes terras attigerunt, nomen loco dederunt, Scanzamque ob illius memoriam, de quo eruperant, illum vocaverunt. Inde denique prolixius tendentes intra Germanicos sinus, Meotidas occuparunt paludes, plurimas regiones diffuse me­ tantes. Quarum in secunda sede Dacia, quae et Danamarcha, sistens reges habuit multos mirae philosophiae eruditione vehementer im­ butos, Zeutan scilicet atque Dichineum, necnon Zalmoxen aliosque plures. Unde et pene omnibus barbaris Gothi semper extiterunt sapientiores, Grecisque ferme consimiles. Nam Martem deum apud se autumant fuisse exortum, quem humani placabant effusione sanguinis. Jactant enim Trojanos ex sua stirpe processisse, Antenoremque ab urbis exterminio cum duobus milibus militum et quin­ gentis viris ob proditionem illius ab eo perpetratam evasisse, ac per multimodos ponti anfractus Germaniam appulisse, atque postmodum in Dacia regnasse, eamque a quodam Danao, suae stirpis rege, Danamarcham nuncupasse. Sed sive hoc sive illud causae extiterit, originem tamen a Gothis noscuntur ducere Dani. Qui tantis post hoc adoleverunt incrementis, ut, dum repletae essent hominibus insulae, quamplures sancita a regibus lege cogerentur de propriis sedibus migrare. Quae gens idcirco sic multiplicabatur, quoniam, nimio dedita luxui, mulieribus jungebatur multis. Nam pater, adultis filiis, cunctos a se pellebat, preter unum, quem heredem sui juris relinquebat.37 (For Holy Writ clearly states that Noah had three sons. The youngest of these, named Japheth, begot a son, whom he called by the name Magog. The latter’s offspring, the Goths, deriving their name from the similarity of the last syllable of their father’s name, were so prolific that they spread over the various regions of the earth; and they claimed as their own a certain island named Scanza, within the straits of the sea. There, multiplying greatly in succeeding ages, the line produced two nations of Goths, who were very powerful in war. One of these, coming forth from the womb of the island with its king Thanausis, invaded the farthest reaches of Scythia and took them for itself; and much later struggled in armed conflict for a long time against Vesosis, the king of the Egyptians, who waged war on them. Their wives, who were later called the Amazons, were distressed at the long encampments and, renouncing the bond of

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marriage with their husbands, took up arms, appointing two of their number as queens, namely, Lampeto and Marpessa, whose boldness made them more suited to the leadership than the others. These women burnt their right breasts off, to give them freedom for hurling weapons; they then attacked all of Asia, and for nearly a hundred years they held it under the yoke of an oppressive domina­ tion. But enough of these matters; let whoever wishes to know all this read the history of the Goths, and let my pen be turned to the task at hand. And so another phalanx of Goths came forth from the island of Scanza (which was a sort of factory for peoples, or, as it were, a womb of nations, with their king Berig. Soon, when they embarked from their ships and touched the ground, they named the place, calling it Scanza in memory of that place from which they had come forth. Thence at length they spread out over a great distance amid the Germanic gulfs, and seized the Maeotian marshes, very widespread regions which stretch in many directions. Settling in the second region of this land, Dacia — also called Denmark — this people had many kings who were generously endowed with the learning of admirable philosophies, namely, Zeuta and Dichineus, as well as Zalmoxis and several others. And so it is that the Goths have always surpassed nearly all barbarians in wisdom, being very much like the Greeks. For they claim that the god Mars arose among them, whom they were wont to appease with the shedding of human blood. Indeed, they boast that the Trojans arose from them, and that Antenor, after the destruction of the city, escaped from it with two thousand soldiers and five hundred men because of the betrayal of that city, which he had committed; and that after much wandering over the sea, he came to Germany, and finally reigned in Dacia, which he named Danamarchia from a certain Danus, a king of his line. But for whatever cause, the Danes are known neverthe­ less to derive their name from the Goths. After this they increased so greatly that, since the islands were overpopulated, many were forced to move from their own homes, in accordance with the law laid down by the kings. The race multiplied at such a rate because, being given to excessive luxury, they allowed a man to marry many women. The father, when his sons were grown up, sent away all but one, whom he left as heir to his property.) Robert de Torigni interpolated much relevant material taken from Dudo of St. Quentin into the Gesta in the mid-twelfth




century. Under the heading “De tribus partibus orbis terrae, et in qua earum sit Dacia et de situ ipsius,” he describes the world in Orosian terms. The following passage is representative: In copiosa igitur intercapedine a Danubio ad Scythici ponte usque confinium diffusae commorantur ferae gentes et barbarae, quae ex Scanza insula, Oceano hinc inde circumsepta, velut examen apium a canistro seu gladius e vagina, diversitate multimoda dicuntur prosi­ luisse consuetudine barbarica. Est namque ibi tractus quamplurimus Alaniae, situsque nimium copiosus Daciae, atque meatus multum protensus Getiae. Quarum Dacia exstat medioxima, in modum coro­ nae, instarque civitatis premagnis Alpibus emunita. Quos protentae anfractus amplitudinis furentes incolunt populi, premonente Marte bellicosi, scilicet Getae, qui et Gothi, Sarmatae et Amacsobii, Tragoditae et Alani, quamplurimaeque gentes Meotidibus paludibus ex­ colendo commorantes.

(h Ü) (Therefore in the broad space from the Danube to the region of the Scythian Sea live scattered tribes, savage and barbaric, who are said to have sprung from the island of Scanza — which is enclosed on all sides by the Ocean — like a swarm of bees from a jar or a sword from a scabbard, and to have spread in all directions after the man­ ner of barbarians. For indeed there are in those parts the vast stretches of Alania, and the huge area of Dacia, and the great extended tract of Getia. Dacia is in the middle of these, like a crown, and fortified like a city by the loftiness of the Alps. Savage tribes inhabit these regions of enormous range, ready to fight at the hint of war —namely, the Getae, who are also the Goths, the Sarmatae and the Amacsobii, the Tragoditae and the Alani, and many other tribes who live in the Meotian marshes and cultivate them.) Marx gives the interpolations at the end of his edition of the Gesta .38 The work of Dudo, which forms the basis for much of William’s Gesta, has been unavailable. Dudo is followed also by Benedict of St. More. William accepts so absolutely the identity of the Goths and the Getes, without stating so explicitly, that he makes both the Getic Zalmoxis and Dicineus Gothic and on this basis maintains that the Goths, probably because of Zalmoxis’ connection to

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Pythagoras, were almost as great as the Greeks in learning and culture! William also “improves” upon the tradition that north­ ern European nations were descended from the Trojans just as the Romans were by asserting that the Trojans were the de­ scendants of the Goths. It is apparent from William’s account and from the testimony of earlier sources already quoted that there evolved in the Middle Ages an ethnographical mythology based also on classical and patristic sources which accompanied the geographical mythology of that period. From the time of Adam and William into the modern period, the medieval concept of the North and its people remained essentially unchanged, even in the face of increasing contacts with the polar regions. “The geography of the fourth century is essentially the geography of the eighth and is, indeed, very little different from that of the fifteenth,” Kimble comments in relation to this amazing continuity.39 Realistic descriptions and accurate knowledge of the Baltic and its environs are hard to come by in the literature of the period. The area was in part terra cognita to many of the writers who describe it, such as Adam, William, and his interpolates, yet so deeply entrenched was the Latin tradition that made it a land of marvels that its existence as such inevitably continued. It is impossible to delineate boundaries between the domains of the real and those of the marvelous in the North; it is not as if the land of the fabulous were steadily pushed back by the light of truth beyond some definite line up to which human knowledge extended; rather, as W right puts it, “the well-known shaded off imperceptibly into the less well-known, and the vaguely known merged into fairy-land; within each well-known tract were islands of doubt and mystery, and fabulous stories were told of even the most commonplace features of the land­ scape.” 40 To marshal all the evidence of literature and maps from W il­ liam’s time on would serve no real purpose save to confirm ad nauseam the ideas already presented. Some few texts of par­




ticular interest, from England and Scandinavia especially, will be utilized out of the wealth of pertinent material that has sur­ vived from the later Middle Ages.41 In addition to having Trojan ancestry, every nation promi­ nent in the Middle Ages was connected in some w ay to Alexan­ der the Great. As the Getae who had in truth once defeated Alexander’s general Zopyrion, the Goths could make an admi­ rable claim to being one of the very few people ever to over­ come this greatest of warriors; but the later identification of the Getae-Goths with the hosts of Gog-M agog who were en­ closed by Alexander is the association that continued to be recorded most often in Alexandrian romance. The AngloNorman “Roman de Toute Chevalerie” by the twelfth-century author Thomas of Kent includes in the list of people Alexan­ der battled and closed off in the North — in Taracon — the “magogetas” and the “egetas.” 42 The passage in Thomas in which these names occur was expanded upon a short time later by the anonymous author of the Middle English Kyng Alisaunder. Po com þere goande a man ferlich, Also blak as any pycch. Caluj was his heuede swerd And to his nauel henge his herd. He ne had noiþere nekk ne þrote — His heued was in his body yshote. An eige he had in his vijs, And a foot and nomoo, jwys. He was rusher þan any ku, And spaak als an helle-bu, And seide to kyng Alisaunder: “A pese nys worþ þi riche sekunder, Bot þou passe here forþ Ouer þe cee, rigth in þe norþ. Pou shalt þere fynde kynges felouns, Ful of malice and traisouns, Of þe kynde Nebrot þe traitoure, Pat in Babiloyne made þe toure After þe grete Noes flood

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast Pat fele mylen in heigtte stood, And þoroug Goddes wreche shoten away Jn to þat vile contreye Pat is yhote Taracun. . . Pe selue men of þe londe Weren blake so colowjjy bronde, And teeþ hadden gelewe as wax, Euerych as a bores tux. Rug hij waren als a bere — Hij weren mouþed als a mere. Eueten, snaken, and paddes brood — Pat hem þincheþ mete good! Al vermyne hij eteþ, And beeste and man quyk hij freteþ. Eueryche of hem liþe by oþer, Son by moder, suster by broþer. So commune hij beeþ, ywys, Non woot who his fader is. All þe naciouns of þe londe Weren fallen to her honde — Two and twenty kyngriches from Gog Al forto þou come to Magog. He bisette by cee and londe Wiþ butumay and metal stronge Taracunteys and Magogecas And a folk men clepeþ Getas, Alle blake so colowy bronde, And rous as here to þe honde. Turkes he bisette wiþ hem, Grete werreiours and dougty men, Shorte yswired, als J fynde, And boched tofore and bihynde. Dwerewes also he bisette, Pikke and shorte and grounde shette, Ac non so heig, J þe telle, So þe lengþe of an eile. Ac none better werreiours men no noot Pan hij ben, la, God it woot! Wilflynges he bisette also —





Merueillous men ben þoo — Wolues from þe nauel dounward, And men fro þennes vpward. By robberie hij lyuen and sekyng; Jn clyues is her wonijing. Wiþ hem he bisette folk of Gogas, And al þe folk of Crisolidas, And folk of Grifayne and By[s]as, And to and twenty folk, naþelas . . . ,43 The debt that the “Roman de Toute Chevalerie” and the Kyng Misaunder owe Aethicus Ister is obvious, but the anony­ mous author of Kyng Alisaunder is more dependent than Thomas of Kent on an established body of monster-lore, to which Aethicus contributed much, to fill out his descriptions of the unclean nations of the North.44 The description of the Getae as being as rough as bears hearkens all the w ay back to such sources as Claudian and, even earlier, to Ovid. “Wilflynges” here must be a vernacular rendering of Neuri, since these wolf-people are usually coupled with the Getes in medie­ val geographies, as they are to the Geatas in Beowulf. Instead of being wolves half the year, like the Neuri, they are physically half-wolves, according to this author. The Dwerewes, pygm y warriors here called “dwarfs,” must be the same people that Adam refers to in a passage given above as raiding the Swedish kingdom on occasion. Godfrey of Viterbo deals with the subject of Alexander’s Gate and the hosts of Gog-Magog also. In the Pantheon he heads the list of excluded nations with “Goth” and “Magoth,” thus tying the Goths again into Alexandrian romance.45 Somewhat related is an English mappamundi of the twelfth century, which, since it is bound up with a copy of Jerome’s Liber Hebraicarum Questionum in Genesim, may be taken as an illustration of that work, which treats of the identity of Gog-Magog. In northern Europe are the captions “Euri scite” (for N euri), “Allipodes scite,” “Alani scite,” “Goti qui et Gite,” and “Barbaries.” 46 The thirteenth-century D e Proprietatibus Rerum of Bar-

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tholomaeus Anglicus gives a traditional version of the North mixed in with some reliable contemporary knowledge. The au­ thor places the Maeotid and the Tanais in northeastern Europe as usual; they are the boundaries between Albania on the east and Alania on the west; and Alania extends to Denmark. The Amazons are located both in northeastern Europe and in Asia near Albania and are designated as the wives of the ancient Goths.47 In Chapter 47 of Book X V he describes Denmark under the heading “O f Dacia” and later writes that northern Europe consists of first “nether Scithia,” also called “Barbaria,” which extends to “Germania,” and includes “Alania,” “Gothia,” and “Denmarcke.” Then comes “Germania,” followed in order by “Gallia” and “Britain” ( XV, 50). Each of the regions of “nether Scithia” is described in further detail: Sarmatia is “a land of strange men”; the Sarmatians themselves are descended from the Goths and are especially skilled in war ( XV, 139). Scythia in general is noted for its gold and precious stones, but, since these treasures are guarded by huge griffons, men go there seldom. There are many men “wonderfullye shapen” and “greate wilde beasts” in Scythia (XV, 150). O f Gothia he writes: Gothia is a Province of the neather Scythia in Europe, and hath that name as men suppose of Magog the son of Iaphet, as Isidore sayth libro. 9. And so he sayth, that those old Nations wer called both Gethas and Gotos, and wer sometime most strong men and huge of body, and used most dreadfull maner of armor and wepons. And men deeme, that children that came of them occupied the most part of Europe and of Asia: for their children be Danes and manye other Nations in the West. Getuli in Affrica, and Amazones in Asia, came of the Children of the Gothes, as he sayth li. 9. & 15. And this land is yet full wide, and hath in the North side, Norwaye, & Denmarke, and is compassed with the sea Occean in the other sides. (XV, 71) A northern contemporary of Bartholomaeus, Snorri Sturlu­ son, derives his concept of the world from the classical-medieval Latin tradition and casts it into native terminology. He intro­




duces the Ynglingasaga with a brief geographical sketch drawn straight out of Latin sources: The Round World, whereas manfolk dwell, is much sheared apart by bights: great seas go from the outer sea into the earth; and men know for sure that a sea goeth from Niorvi’s sound [Gibraltar Straits] right up to the land of Jerusalem; from that sea goeth a long bight to the north-east which is called the Black Sea, and sundereth the two World-Ridings; to the east is Asia, but to the west is called Europe of some, but of some Enea: but north of the Black Sea lies Sweden the Great or the Cold: Sweden the Great some men deem no less than Serkland the Great [Turkland], and some make it even to Blueland the Great [Africa]; the northern parts of this Sweden lie unpeopled by reason of the frost and the cold, even as the southern parts of Blueland are waste because of the sun’s burning. Mighty lordships there are in Sweden, and peoples of manifold kind, and many tongues withal; there are giants, and there are dwarfs, yea and Blue-men, and folk of many kinds and marvellous, and there be savage beasts and drakes wondrous great. Out of the north, from those mountains which are without all the peopled parts, falls a river over Sweden, which is called aright Tanais, but of old was called Tanabranch or Vanabranch; it comes unto the sea at the Black Sea; the land betwixt the Vanamouths was then called Vanland, or Vanhome. This water divides the two World-Ridings; that to the east is called Asia, that to the west, Europe.48 Since obviously Snorri was well-acquainted with Latin geo­ graphical tracts, as the passage above demonstrates, the in­ formation he gives about the North, its lands and its peoples, should be interpreted with this in mind. For instance, when he writes in the Skáldskaparmál that Denmark used to be called Gotland, his statement should be understood in the light of the contemporary belief that Dacia, or Denmark, was also called Gothia or Gotland on the authority of Orosius.49 The Old Norse Konungs Skuggsjá, the King's Mirror, reflects to some extent beliefs about the North received from Latin sources. The Norwegian author is dependent for his material partly upon Honorius of Autun,50 who in turn draws from such sources as Macrobius, Capella, Pliny, Solinus, Isidore, Bede,

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and Rabanus Maurus. The author is moved to discuss the mar­ vels of his native land and the surrounding areas in Books V III-X X I because he has read “a little book” describing the wonders of the East (Books V III-IX ), a work that was proba­ bly a version of a letter of Prester John. Medieval geography reaches its culmination in the Hereford mappamundi (see Map 8). In no other single work are the typical views of the Middle Ages on the human and physical geography of the world so completely and graphically pre­ sented.51 The concept of the North as a land of the fabulous persists in this late thirteenth-century production. In the Ocean encircling the northern part of the world are those imaginary islands inhabited by unreal people met with before. These in­ clude the island of the Hippopodes ( “Spopodes equinos pedes habent” ), and the island of the Phanesii — men who used their ears to cover themselves. In Sarmatia, the region lying to the east of the Vistula, there is a drawing of a bear, the beast most appropriate to northern peoples. The Sclavi are just to the east of the Sarmati. Scandinavia appears correctly delineated as a peninsula rather than as an island, but it is still placed farther east than it should be and therefore lies proximate to Scythia and northwestern Asia, areas especially infested with monstrous beings. The Cynocephali are found just to the east of the Scandinavian peninsula, and near them, a caption states, are the Griffons, who use the skins of their slaughtered enemies for trappings for their horses. The Hyperboreans are allocated a large share of the northern coast between Scandinavia and the Caspian Sea, which is represented as a bay of the Northern Ocean. Gog-Magog are located on the eastern shores of the Caspian. In Asia, in that part of “Scythia” touching the Northern Ocean, the following caption is written: Omnia horribilia plus quam credi potest frigus intolerabile; enim tempore ventus acerrimus a montibus quem incole biza vocant. Hic sunt homines truculenti nimis humanis carnibus vescentes cruore(m) potantes. Filii Calni maledicti. Hos inclusit Deus per magnum Alex-




andrum nam terre motu facto in conspectu principis montes super montes in circuitu eorum ceciderunt, ubi montes deerant ipse eos muro insolubili cinxit.52 (Besides being intolerably cold, it is filled with unimaginable horrors of every sort; for at certain times there is a very fierce wind from the mountains. The inhabitants call this wind “biza.” Here there are savages who feed on human flesh and drink human blood, accursed sons of Cain. God shut them in through the agency of Alexander the Great; for when an earthquake occurred, the king saw mountains tom from the earth and thrown up as a barrier against them, and where mountains were lacking, he himself sur­ rounded them with an impassable wall.) The unclean nations of the North enclosed by Alexander are here identified specifically as the brood of Cain, accursed of God, an idea that is often implied of the wild Scythian tribes in general, who, ignorant of God, have been banished from the civilized world to the frozen and barren wastes of Scythia. Some of the drawings on the Hereford Map are reminiscent of those found in the illustrated Marvels of the East, represented by the one in Cotton Vitellius A XV, the text of which is sup­ plied by Scribe I of Beowulf, and by the closely related ones in Cotton Tiberius B V and in Bodley 619, which is incorporated with Priscian’s Periegesis and other “scientific” materials. It is worth noting that the monstrous races and the marvels asso­ ciated with an East that conventionally included not only truly eastern countries, but also Egypt and Ethiopia, are located on the Hereford Map in the North, in and about Scandinavia. On the contemporary Ebstorf Map, northern Europe is peo­ pled by “Alani Schite et D aci Anoxobii Trogodite Sarmathe,” by “Quadi et Gete et qui antiquitus dicuntur Callipodi.” 53 Scandinavia is an island once again, adjacent to “Taracontum,” which is described as an island “quam inhabitant Turci de stirpe Gog et Magog; gens barbara et immunda, iuvenum cames et abortiva hominum manducantes omnium truculentissimi” 54 (“which the Turci, part of the stock of Gog and Magog, inhabit;

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


[they are] a tribe barbaric and morally unclean, most savage of all cannibals, who eat the flesh of youths and the premature off­ spring of men”). Dacia is equated here with “Gotia Orientalis,” identical to Adam of Bremen’s second Gothic kingdom on the northeastern shore of the Baltic. It is a land that never existed, one created to satisfy Orosius’ testimony that there was a Gothia bordering on Alania. As in Adam’s Historia, the Swedes are confused with the Suevi and hence with the Alamanni. The Hippopodes are identified with the Anthropophagi, and the Saxons are associated with the Griffons, just as both are found in Aethicus Ister. Ralph Higden’s Polychronicon and the various maps that illustrate it depict the North in the same vein. Gothia is “Scythia inferior”; “dicitur autem Gothia a Gog filio Japhet, cujus gentes potius Gothos quam Gogos nominaverunt. Gens quidem fortis, ingens, terribilis, de quorum stirpe processerunt D aci in Europa, Gaetuli in Africa, Amazones in Asia.” 55 ( “Moreover, Gothia is named from Gog, the son of Japheth, whose tribes they named Goths rather than Gogi. This tribe is indeed brave, populous, and terrible. From it came the Dacians in Europe, the Gaetuli in Africa, and the Amazons in Asia.” ) Denmark is Dacia, “insula boreali parti Germaniae contigua” (I, xxxi) ( “an island near the northern part of Germany” ). Scythia is inhabited by the usual mythical and semimythical beings (I, xvii). The Higden maps, which exist in eight different versions, also bear the usual features of the North.56 The island of the Hippopodes, Thule, Scythian tribes like the Geloni and the Arimphaeans — these and other typical features appear in the North. On all except two versions of these maps Scandinavia is placed on the shores of the Black Sea! Higden has obviously reversed the usual process: instead of bringing the Black Sea landscape and its people to the Baltic he has translated Scandinavia to the shores of the Euxine and thus achieves the traditional identity of the two locales. The Middle Ages ended holding firmly to the concept of the




North dictated to it by ancient authority. Pierre d’Ailly, the French cardinal whose Ymago Mundi inspired Columbus, writes of Scandinavia as an island, refers to Denmark as Dacia, mentions the mythical Riphaean Mountains wherein lay the source of the Tanais, calls the Baltic the Sarmatian Sea, which he joins to the Arctic or the Northern Ocean, and writes of the “two Scythias,” one in northern Europe and the other in Asia.57 Pius II, who as pope was the spiritual head of all those who lived on the Baltic, writes about Massagetes who dwell on the shores of the Baltic and about the “semiferos homines ad septentrionem.” 58 The German antiquarian Johannes Turmair attempts to harmonize biblical, classical, and native traditions concerning the North and its people, realizing perhaps that the conflation of these sources had produced confused notions of the history and the geography of Germanic peoples. In Book I of his Annales Ducum Boiariae, he goes back to the founding of the Germanic tribes from “Tuisco gigas,” who was descended from Nembroth, the founder of the kingdom of Babylon. Tuisco left Armenia with twenty dukes and came to Europe: “Con­ terminam regionem ultra Tanaim orientem versus eiusdem frater Scytha priscus tenuit, ab hoc Germani Scythae adpellati sunt, quemadmodum Plinius quoque in libro quarto naturalis historiae prodidit.” (“His brother Scythia Priscus held the neigh­ boring region beyond the Tanais towards the east. From this the Germans are called Scythians, as Pliny also says in the fourth book of his Natural History” ) Tuisco divided the region bounded by the Rhine, the Euxine, and the Tanais among the dukes. The first duke was Sarmata, who, of course, founded the Sarmatian people. The second duke was Dacus, “qui et Danus,” who founded the Danish tribes, “quorum rex nominatissimus est in Germania et latine vocatur rex Dacorum, qui nobis est Danorum. veteres Graeci et Latini Cimbros Cimeriosque adpellarunt.” ( “Their most celebrated king is in Germany and is called in Latin king of the Dacians, and for us is called king

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


of the Danes. The ancient Greeks and Romans called them the Cimbri and the Cimerians.” ) The third duke was Geta, “a quo Gotolandia insula nomen retinet . . . . ab illo prognati sunt Getae et Goti, qui post aliquot annos (Hunno filio Herculis Alemani imperante Germanis) egressi regibus Berico et Philomaro profecti sunt ad amnes Danubium Tibiscumque, cui quartus tetrarches nomen dedit” 59 ( “from whom the island of Gotolandia retains its name; . . . from him the Getae and Goths were sprung, who after several years — when Hunnus, the son of the German Hercules, was ruling over the Germans — departed under the kings Bericus and Philomarus and set out for the streams of the Danube and the Tibiscus, to which the fourth tetrarch gave his name” ). Tumair then enumerates the other eponymous ancestral dukes of the Germans in his clear but wholly mythical account. But later on, his nice distinctions of relationship break down, as they are bound to do, since he must depend upon such a conglomeration of sources and ideas. He makes the Daci a branch of the Getes (I, 6) and fists the seven original nations of the North as the Dani, Cimbri, Suionae, Fenni, Nordovici, Goti, and Getae (IV , 7), thus dis­ tinguishing between Getes and Goths and abandoning the twenty founding dukes who followed Tuisco out of Armenia. It is perhaps fitting to conclude this survey of the Germanic North in the geographical literature of the Middle Ages with the comments of a Scandinavian chronicler on the origins of his own people: Egressæ vero de Scythia gentes quædam stirpis et posteritatis Japhet, et hanc regionem ingressae, Scythiam eam nominaverunt, tanquam dignam nomine patriae primitivae, et processu temporis Sueciam appellarunt, sicut gens illa nunquam contenta idiomate suo, semper in melius proficit vel in pejus. Sed et aliquam differen­ tiam inter hanc et Scythiam volentes habere, Sueciam suam Mesiam, quasi minorem Scythiam vocaverunt. Gentes autem istae, nescio quo eventu aut cognatione vocatae sunt Getae, ac per hoc post hujus regionis introitum Messagetae. Deinceps vero mutato, ut assolet,




nomine, qui prius dicti Getæ sunt postmodum Gothi vacati, et nihilominus Sueci ob vocabulum regionis.60 (Certain tribes of the stock and posterity of Japheth, when they had migrated from Scythia into this region, called it Scythia, as if it were worthy of the name of their first country, and with the passage of time they called it Suecia, just as that tribe, never content with its own idiom, always goes to better or worse. But since they also wished to have some difference between this and Scythia, Suecia they called “Mesia,” as if it were Lesser Scythia. Moreover, those tribes — I don’t know why for some reason they were called “Getae” — were also called “Massagetae” after they entered this region. Then, as is usual, when the name had been changed, those who were for­ merly called “Getae” and afterwards “Gothi,” were nevertheless called “Sueci” from a name of the district.) From the testimony presented there can be little doubt that the medieval concept of the Germanic North was determined by classical descriptions of the antique North — of “Scythia,” a term of vague reference but usually including the lands of the lower Danube and the regions to the north of the Black Sea, the Caspian, and the Caucasus. This is a conclusion no student of medieval geography would deny, attested as it is on maps, in encyclopedias, and in “scientific” tracts from the seventh to the seventeenth century. The emphasis in the foregoing discussion has been placed where it was in medieval geography — almost exclusively on the fantastic and the marvelous. To be sure, some accurate information can be sifted out of the accounts of the fabulous North, but one modern Scandinavian geographer concludes: Although the North had first been mentioned by Pytheas in the literature of the civilized world as early as the third century b .c., a long time elapsed before knowledge of these remote countries gained wider diffusion. As late as the close of the Middle Ages the conception of the relation between land and water was fairly vague and only a few names of separate countries were known. The scanty cartographical representations encountered do not seem, as regard details, to be based on any reliable data and reveal throughout a quite fantastic geographical picture . . . . Summarizing, it can be

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said that in the sixteenth century there was still but little chance of obtaining a cartographic representation of Sweden, and our country probably was, in the main, unknown territory even to its nearest neighbors.61 There is a warning inherent in Hedenstierna’s conclusions against attempts to base scholarly arguments about the location and the identity of northern peoples on the literary sources taken at their face value. Any reconstruction of the Germanic North in the Middle Ages must assuredly take into account the dependence of the sources on the writings of antiquity and on biblical lore or end up being as fanciful as the works upon which it rests. For the fabulous is the heart of medieval geography; what is repeated by the authors of that period had the credence of the learned as well as of the unlettered. It rested on the venerable and impeccable authority of the Latin classics, the Bible, and the writings of the Fathers of the Church. To the medieval scholar there was nothing frivolous or cheap in the widespread belief in dragons, in men who were half wolf or half dog, in giants and dwarfs, in subterranean monsters that throve on human flesh and blood. It is the modern scholar seek­ ing absolute truth who tends to dismiss medieval geography contemptuously as unscientific, silly, and degrading to the human mind. This highly respected body of monster-lore, derived from the Latin tradition and applied to the Germanic North, can be thoroughly documented from the time it assumed literary form at the hands of Herodotus until well into the modem era. In­ cluded prominently in this lore was a people called the Getes, who, as part of the movement that superimposed ancient Scythia on the true North, became a northern tribe. They are located by trusted authorities in Scandinavia or its environs in whatever century Beowulf was written. The testimony of the Middle Ages regarding these Getes is often conflicting and con­ fused. By some writers they are regarded as the Goths, but




usually, because of classical usage, they are identified only with those Goths who invaded the Empire. The term Getae is used often in the Middle Ages simply as a synonym for the remnants of the Goths who had settled in Roman provinces, especially for the Visigoths of Spain and southern France. It is seldom used for the Gautar specifically. In some sources, such as Haymo, the Getes are spoken of as a separate and distinct tribe, with no apparent connection to the Goths. A t times, one source conveys both ideas: that the Getes were an individual nation living somewhere in the north and that they were simply Goths wherever they were found. Since it was believed that Getae was an older Greek name for the people known as Goths, the Getes were looked upon as a sort of founding nation of northern tribes, a role filled also b y the Goths. Compositely, the GetaeGoths were the paternal Teutonic race from which all others issued. Despite their heroic role in Germanic history, the Getes never completely lost their unfavorable association with the hosts of Gog-Magog, and in some sources they appear as a vile, filthy nation, one of the unclean people of the North, accursed of God, who were enclosed by Alexander the Great. The place that the Getes occupy in any single work depends upon what sources the author had at his disposal and utilized. Since most medieval authors drew upon several different authorities which could w ell have presented the Getes in conflicting ways — as the shaggy, Thracian savages of Ovid or as the noble race of Jordanes — both interpretations of the Getes, imperfectly recon­ ciled and frequently compounded, appear in the Middle Ages. Racism then as now played a part: Jordanes and Isidore, with nationalistic pride that would do justice to the nineteenth cen­ tury, ennobled the whole race and apotheosized its heroes. This tendency reaches its culmination in William of Jumieges, who claims that the Trojans were the descendants of the Getae and endows the Getes with culture and learning that made them “al­

The Germanic North and Baltic Northeast


most like the Greeks.” The opposite portrayal is most clearly rep­ resented by the black and shaggy Getas of Kyng Alisaunder,62 Elements from both views of the Getas bear so great a re­ semblance to features in the depiction of the Geatas of Beowulf that a re-examination of the sources traditionally considered to relate to the problem of the nationality of the Geats and a reappraisal of the arguments identifying them with Jutes or Gauts are in order.


Getae and Geatas

debate over the nationality of the Geatas, the refer­ ence that has proved the most crucial occurs in the Old English translation of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica. The original Latin text of Bede states: n th e


Aduenerant autem de tribus Germaniae populis fortioribus, id est Saxonibus, Anglis, lutis. De lutarum origine sunt Cantuarii et Uictuarii, hoc est ea gens, quae Uectam tenet insulam, et ea, quae usque hodie in prouincia Occidentalium Saxonum lutarum natio nominatur, posita contra ipsam insulam Uectam. De Saxonibus, id est ea regione, quae nunc Antiquorum Saxonum cognominatur, uenere Orientales Saxones, Meridiani Saxones, Occidui Saxones. Porro de Anglis, hoc est de illa patria, quae Angulus dicitur, et ab eo tempore usque hodie manere desertus inter prouincias lutarum et Saxonum perhibetur, Orientales Angli, Mediterranei Angli, Merci, tota Nordanhymbrorum progenies, id est illarum gentium, quae ad Boream Humbri fluminis inhabitant, ceterique Anglorum populi sunt orti.1 (Those who came over were of the three most powerful nations of Germany — Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent, and of the Isle of Wight, and those also in the province of the West-Saxons who are to this day called Jutes, seated opposite to the Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is, the country which is now called Old Saxony, came the East-Saxons, the South98

Getae and Geatas


Saxons, and the West-Saxons. From the Angles, that is, the country which is called Anglia, and which is said, from that time, to remain desert to this day, between the provinces of the Jutes and the Saxons, are descended the East-Angles, the Midland-Angles, Mer­ cians, all the race of the Northumbrians, that is, of those nations that dwell on the north side of the river Humber, and the other nations of the English.)2 The Old English translation, done in the reign of Alfred, paraphases this passage: Comon hi of þrim folcum ðam strangestan Germanie, þæt of Seaxum (ond) of Angle (ond) of Geatum. Of Geata fruman syndon Cantware, (ond) Wihtsætan; þæt is seo ðeod þe Wiht þæt ealond oneardað. Of Seaxum, þæt is of ðam lande þe mon hateð Ealdseaxan, coman Eastseaxan (ond) Suðseaxan (ond) Westseaxan. And of Engle coman Eastengle (ond) Middelengle (ond) Myrce (ond) eall Norðhembra cynn; is þæt land ðe Angulus is nemned, betwyh Geatum (ond) Seaxum; is sæd of þære tide þe hi ðanon gewiton oð to dæge, þæt hit weste wunige.3 Naturally, the use of “Geatas” three times to render Bedes “Iutae” has been used as the basic argument by those who favored the now defunct Jute theory. It remains the only point in their argument which has never been satisfactorily explained away; in contrast, the supporters of the identification with the Gautar cannot adduce any reference which so clearly equates their tribe with the Geatas, and they have had to resort to claim of error or to subtle and improbable theorizing to discredit this telling bit of evidence. An investigation of the arguments against taking this testimony at its face value is revealing of the techniques used in the whole controversy. In the nineteenth century the use of “Geatas” was haphaz­ ardly accounted for as scribal error, but, as Chambers points out, the repetition of the name three times and its appearance in two separate manuscripts representing two different manu­ script traditions — and the only ones extant at this point — preclude the possibility of error by the copyist.4 Somewhat more logically than his predecessors, Chambers considers the




appearance of “Geatas” here an error of the translator, who himself confused the Jutes and the Geats. By the ninth century, Chambers claims, the Gautar, long since subjugated to the Swedes as predicted in the poem, were “half-forgotten,” 5 so that it is plausible that this one person associated them with a people he knew better — the Jutes of England. “The fact that one translator in one passage ( writing probably some two cen­ turies after Beowulf was composed) uses ‘Geata,’ ‘Geatum,’ where he should have used ‘Eota,’ ‘Eotum,’ does not prove the misnomer to have been general — especially when the trans­ lator subsequently uses the correct form ‘Eota.’ ” 6 Since Chambers’ claim of error destroys the value of a unique piece of evidence, it is a drastic solution to the problem of fitting this source to his theory.7 Certainly, he is required to give con­ vincing arguments to make his claim reasonable, and such arguments he does not adduce. Chambers’ contention that the translator worked two centuries after the composition of Beo­ wulf is doubtless exaggerated. The date of the composition of the poem is in itself still a highly controversial matter today. Arguments for a seventh-century date rest on exceedingly shaky grounds8 and are rejected by all but a very few Beowulf schol­ ars in favor of a date around 750. Acceptable dates of composi­ tion range into the closing years of the eighth century, and there is nothing improbable in a tenth-century date,0 so that the translation of Bede quite possibly was done within a cen­ tury after — or possibly even before — the poem was written. Chambers’ view, then, requires us to believe that the Geatas were correctly remembered for two hundred years or more after the events of Beowulf supposedly took place — and were deemed important enough to be made the heroic people of the sole surviving epic produced by the Anglo-Saxons, which should have insured their immortality — and then became “halfforgotten” in the century or so following the composition of the poem. Further, his contention requires us to accept that the translator of Bede, a learned man for his day especially, and

Getae and Geatas


certainly one best able to recall the old traditions, was in error. Moreover, the poem is very inexact in specifying the time when the final subjugation of the Geatas to the Swedes took place, indicating only vaguely that it would come about sometime after the death of Beowulf.10 At least one Scandinavian historian believes that the event did not occur until about the year 1000,11 so that Chambers’ argument that the Geatas as the Gautar lost their prominence along with their freedom in the sixth century is again on very questionable grounds. Finally, works not con­ sulted by Chambers and studies that have been published since his day point out that close relationships existed between Eng­ land and Scandinavia throughout much of the Anglo-Saxon period.12 Since it can no longer be held that England in this period was isolated from the rest of Europe, it seems highly unlikely that the Gautar, one of the principal northern tribes, became unknown to the English and that their own name for them became confused with another people. In any case, they did not fade into oblivion anywhere else. The evidence of medieval maps and geographical treatises testifies that the Gautar, undoubtedly because of their recognized connection to the famous Goths, were of far more interest to the Middle Ages than were the Swedes themselves. The Gautar appear most prominently in Old Norse literature; they retained into the late Middle Ages their own law, their own assembly, and the right to elect a king. The title of the Swedish kings, “rex Sueorum et Gothorum,” attests to the fact that they remained prominent and distinct from the Swedes. There is no good reason to suspect that the Gautar would have become an un­ known people to the English in the ninth century; in conse­ quence, Chambers’ explanation of an error by the translator must be rejected. Kenneth Sisam’s study of the Anglo-Saxon genealogies also has bearing on this matter. Until his article appeared in 1953, it was thought that the royal genealogies were of ancient Teu­ tonic derivation, dating back to the period before the Germanic

10 2

THE GEATS OF B ß O W u l f

settlement in England, or that the segments beyond W oden were added in the seventh century at the very latest. However, Sisam shows that for the most part the genealogies were arti­ ficial concoctions of a period long after the conversion. The series going back to Geat, very likely the mythical eponymous ancestor of the Geatas, came into the pedigrees in the late eighth or early ninth century and Beow even later.13 It seems that the Geatas, far from being forgotten, were just becoming of great interest to the Anglo-Saxons in the ninth century. Chambers argues further that the fact that this one translator mistakenly identified the Geats as Jutes does not make the “mis­ nomer” general. But it must be borne in mind that this testi­ mony is unique; it is the only time when the tribe Geatas is identified at all. Surely, the authority of such primary evidence must be allowed to stand since there are no compelling reasons to challenge it. There is, in fact, other testimony of an indirect nature, but valuable nonetheless, to indicate that the Geatas were not identified with the Gautar by the Anglo-Saxons. Asser, writing at about the same period as the translator of Bede, explains “Geata” in the genealogy of Alfred as “Geta” and then lamely quotes some lines from Sedulius that he considers ap­ propriate.14 The passage shows unmistakably that Asser under­ stood “Geata” to be the same as “Geta” and that he considered the name to have reference to the divine ancestor of the Getae. Besides the spelling Geta, other forms of Geat or Geata appear in the genealogies, such as Geot, Giot, and Gethius with vari­ ants and corruptions, none of which can be philologically linked with Gautar in a clear-cut, convincing w ay — a problem that will be dealt with more fully below. To Chambers’ contention that one instance does not prove that the Jutes were generally called the Geats, it must be objected that no one at all, in any source whatsoever, identified the Gautar with the Geatas. This is a connection that has been made solely in modern times with no more to recommend its acceptance than the philological correspondence of the two names.

Getae and Geatas


An alternate explanation of the use of “Geatas” for “Iutae” in the Old English version of Bede is offered by Kemp Malone.15 Since his proposed solution to the problem apparently did much to put to rest the latest claims that this text should be taken at its face value, it also deserves some attention. Conced­ ing that it was nonsense to attribute the use of “Geatas” in Bede to “scribal confusion of eo with ea, Alfredian uncertainty, or what not,” he claims that “Geata,” “Geatum,” were used to designate not a tribe but a locality, just as in Bede the “lutarum” and “Iutis” of I, 15, were used as geographical terms. Bede made it clear that his reference was to be taken as such, for he wrote, “D e Saxonibus, id est ea regione,” and “de Anglis, hoc est de illa patria.” Similarly, by “Iutis,” “lutarum,” he meant that the inhabitants of Kent, Wight, and southern Hampshire were from Jutland, and only later did he identify them as Jutes. But even in Bede’s day, Malone continues, the name Jutland was anachronistic, for the Jutes had long since migrated to Eng­ land and no Jutish state continued to exist there. Alfred, there­ fore, was “quite within his rights in discarding so out-of-date a piece of nomenclature.” He then used “Geata,” “Geatum,” as geographical terms, in this case to mean Gautland. Alfred could do so because “at one time not too long before his day a Geatish [i.e., Gautic] state existed in Jutland. In other words, there must have been a migration of Geats from their historic seats to Jutland.” Malone offers two pieces of evidence to support the his­ toricity of this migration. In Beowulf the messenger who brings the news of the hero’s death laments, “. . . the earl shall not wear the treasures as a memorial, nor shall the fair maid bear on her neck the adornment of a circlet, but sad in mind, reft of gold, shall walk in a strange land, not once but oftentimes, now that the leader of the host has done with laughter, joy and merriment.” 16 The other piece of substantiating evidence, Ma­ lone believes, is the designation of Jutland as Gotland, espe­ cially in the Alfredian account of the voyage of Ohthere. In


THE g e a t s o f Beowulf

giving an oral account of his voyage, Ohthere referred to Jut­ land as Gautland, and the “Gotland” of the text “is simply the southern English reflexion of his pronunciation.” 17 But, Malone continues, even if the o in “Gotland” is not the long o necessary to correspond to O.N. au and is actually the short o from the word for Goth, “it may yet perfectly well have reference to the Geats [i.e., Gautar], who from time immemorial have been looked upon (doubtless with justice) as a branch of the Goths, and who accordingly have been called Goths, as well as Geats, from the earliest times to the present day.” 18 If the latter case pertains, then the use of “Gotland” is absolutely meaningless as evidence for a Gautic state in Denmark. The Jutes, whoever they may have been, were also considered to be Goths in the Middle Ages,19 so that their homeland was also called Gotland. But the obvious and perfectly plausible reason why “Gotland” appears here for what critics want des­ perately to make into *Geotland or some other equivalent of the Old Norse Iótland — or Malone into Gautland — has already been given in Chapter III. Denmark was, as often as not, re­ ferred to as Gothia in the medieval period on the authority of Orosius, who attested that Dacia (the usual term for Denmark) was also Gothia. Assuredly this reference in Alfred’s Orosius to Denmark as Gotland is best understood in this context and is not to be explained as scribal error for *Geotland or phono­ logical identity with Gautland. Confusion did play a part, of course, but it was confusion that was general in the Middle Ages, growing out of the misapplication of Latin works on geography.20 Since the “Gotland” of the text is understandable as presented, Malone must adduce other convincing evidence to justify his contention that the scribe or Alfred intended to write the equivalent of Gautland. It is clear, however, that all that is left to substantiate the existence of a Gautic state in Denmark is the reference in Beowulf itself. This passage, which refers only to a “fair maid” who “shall walk in a strange land,” is so

Getae and Geatas


vague as to be probably nothing more than a poetic device to heighten the tragedy of Beowulfs death. Certainly, it is a thin foundation on which to construct the theory of a migration massive enough to have established a Gautic state in Denmark that made the name Jutland anachronistic and the name Gautland the current one. Once again, it is pertinent that Scandina­ vian historians do not agree that Gautland was subjugated to the Swedes as a result of the action narrated in Beowulf and that the bolder among the Gautar then sought freedom over the seas in Denmark. In other respects Malone’s solution to this problem of why the Jutes are called Geats is unsatisfactory. If this translator understood that the Geatas were the Gautar, as Malone as­ sumes he did, he was exceptional, for all the evidence indicates that the two names were not connected in Alfredian England. Malone should offer his readers an explanation, I feel, of why the name Jutland, “anachronistic” even in Bede’s day, came to be reapplied to the peninsula,21 who the Iótar were if all the Jutes had migrated to England, and what happend to the Gautic state in Denmark he claims existed there. In Old Norse literature, it is worth noting, Iótland and Gotland are used in­ terchangeably as names for Jutland, but the peninsula is never called Gautland ,22 a usage one would expect to find at least occasionally in Scandinavian sources if there was indeed a Gautic state there. Undoubtedly, this land was looked upon as the home of Goths of some sort, but certainly not of GautiGoths specifically. On the whole, Malone’s explanation raises more questions than it answers and is without primary evidence to support it. There is no reason whatsoever for believing that the translator of Bede was in error in calling the Jutes “Geats,” or that “Geatas” can by subtle argument and theorizing be made to stand here for “Gautar.” Clearly, he knew that the usual ver­ nacular name for the Jutes was Eotan ( W.S. Yte), since he uses it in IV, 18;23 thus he called them “Geatas” in I, 15, quite

10 6



knowingly. Nor is it possible to make “Geatas” here the philo­ logical equivalent of Bede’s “Iutae” or of the Old Norse lótar. Arguments along this line are flimsy and are justifiably rejected by adherents of the Gautar theory. But there is a third possibility that would leave the text intact and require no intricate hypotheses or stretches of the imagination. It is simply that here, and everywhere else it oc­ curs in Anglo-Saxon texts, the name Geatas represents the an­ glicized form of the Latin Getae. W hat the translator of the Historia Ecclesiastica conveys by his use of “Geatas” is that the Jutes were descended from the Getae — a belief completely in line with medieval thought on the subject, substantiated con­ sistently from the early Middle Ages into the modern period. When in the later passage the translator refers to the Jutes in England, he calls them by their own contemporary vernacular name, “Eotan,” thus making the proper distinction between what they called themselves in his day and what they were anciently called. The evidence of Chapters II and III shows that this same distinction was kept by many medieval writers when tracing back to the Getes the origins of nations known to them. W. H. Stevenson noted long ago in his edition of Asser’s Life of King Alfred that the Jutes were confounded with the Goths from perhaps the time of Procopius into the modern period.24 The importance of this confusion to the Jute-Gautar contro­ versy went largely unheeded, and scholars such as Schiick and Malone continued to claim that references to Denmark as Got­ land and to Hygelac as king of the Getae supported the iden­ tification of Geatas and Gautar, since the latter were Goths. They apparently were not aware of the fact that the Jutes were also “Goths” and that therefore these references supported the Jute theory just as well.25 Stevenson explained that such confusion arose because the Jutes, an obscure German race, bore a name that was similar to the name of the most promi­ nent Germanic tribe. “Confusion with the name of the Goths

Getae and Geatas


might be produced in the early stages of O.E. through the pronunciation, which seems to have obtained, of the O.E. g when followed by a guttural vowel as a voiced spirant ( as in D u tch ), and not, as in later times, as a stop ( as in our G o d ). The date of the change to the latter is not known, and we cannot therefore be certain as to the pronunciation in the ninth cen­ tury.” 26 Undoubtedly, the fact that the Old English names for the Jutes and the Goths (Eotan and Gotan) were so similar aided in the identification of the two tribes, but Latin authority played the basic role. Denmark, because of its identification as DaciaGothia, was regarded as the home of Goths. Bede had writ­ ten that the inhabitants of Kent and Wight, people he called Iutae, came originally from Denmark. Right or wrong, his word was taken as authoritative, and since these Iutae bore a name so similar to the Goti, sometimes spelled Guti, they were to the medieval way of thinking obviously the “Goths” of Denmark — and by the most common extension they then also became Getes. This identification was made not only in Eng­ land, but everywhere in Christianized western Europe, to recon­ cile contemporary knowledge to classical authority — a process facilitated by the likeness of the names involved. Asser gives the impression that the two are the same people when he writes, “. . . Oslac Gothus erat natione; ortus enim erat de Gothis et lutis . . . . ” (2, lines 4 -5). Aethelweard, re­ peating the famous passage from Bede on the nationality of the invaders of England, gives “Gioti” for Bede’s “Iutae,” 27 a spelling that looks very much like a combined form of Goti and loti, although Stevenson claims that the spelling is derived from Danish influence and has reference to the Jutes.28 How­ ever, William of Malmesbury, perhaps using Aethelweard as his source, reads “Gothi” for “Gioti,” in stating that “Anglia Vetus” lay between the Saxons and the Goths.29 It is possible to consider that William substituted “Gothi” for “Iuti,” appar­ ently identifying them, simply because he misread Aethelweard, as Stevenson thinks;30 however, William also used Bede di-




reetly as one of his sources and may have written “Gothi” for Bede’s “luti,” “lutae,” considering them to be the same people. Even if he did use Aethelweard rather than Bede at this point, he knew his Bede well enough to have corrected the later his­ torian and himself to have written “Iuti” if he did not believe that Jutes were indeed Goths. The identification of these two peoples is found again in Simeon of Durham.31 All this testimony makes it difficult to understand why Stev­ enson, especially after explaining so convincingly how the iden­ tification of the Goths and the Jutes came about, charged that the confusion of the two tribes made by Asser “could hardly be made by an Englishman in the time of King Alfred, and this mention of the Goths, whose name is correctly given by Alfred as Gotan (without the erroneous th of the classical forms), is, no doubt, to be ascribed to the foreign origin of the author, who has been led by learned associations to connect two unrelated ethnic names.” 32 Asser lived in the closest asso­ ciation with the royal court for probably nine years or so before he composed the Life — or long enough to have learned who the Anglo-Saxons thought the Jutes were.33 He was one of the few men of learning in Alfred’s circle, the one who read with him and interpreted Scripture and “certain masters” (87-89). In this last category there must certainly have been some of the standard Latin works, such as the Fathers, Orosius, Capella, Solinus, Isidore, and so on, that comprised the backbone of medieval education and shaped the ethnic views of the Middle Ages. Asser’s word on the identity of the Goths and the Jutes, and of their further identity with the Geats, reflects learned opinion generally and was bound to receive the acceptance of the unlettered. It must be remembered that Asser’s training was similar to that received by the educated person before and after Alfred’s day; the associations that he makes because of his learning were those that would also be made by the literate person anywhere at any time in the Christian Middle Ages. Asser’s mistake is the same as that made by Nennius,

Getae and Geatas


William of Malmesbury, by Aethelweard, by the translator who called the Jutes “Geatas,” and by the scribe who wrote “Gotland” for Denmark. These errors — and they are errors only to our w ay of thinking — are not isolated phenomena, to be gotten rid of individually by a variety of different explana­ tions. They all reflect one basic misconception vital to the prob­ lem of the identity of the Geatas: that Jutes were Goths and that both were descended from the Getes. It is a notion per­ fectly understood by the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century antiquarians when they comment on or repeat the passage from Bede, divorced from the presuppositions that led critics of Beowulf into the Jute-Gaut controversy. William Camden, a pioneer Anglo-Saxonist, demonstrates the confusion that existed: The Jutae, who are by many supposed to be named from the Gutae, Getae or Goths (for a certain MS. reads G e a t u n (M)), are known to have inhabited the upper part of the Cimbrica Chersonesus, still called by the Danes Ju itlan d , descendants perhaps from the G u tt i whom Ptolomy places in Scandia, whose habitation is now called G o th la n d . We must take care however not to suppose this, as Jornandes does, the country of the Goths who conquered Europe; for the most antient and credible writers say they lived beyond the Ister, on the Pontus Euxinus, and were antiently called Getae.34 Richard Verstegan also warns against the popular confusion of the names: Now as touching the third sort of Saxon people, which were called the Vites. Some will have them called Juites, and not Vites, and others will have them called Geates, or rather Gothes, but with these latter meane not to meddle, for that they over-shoote the marke too far; and so will never hit it. Venerable Bede calleth them plainely Vites . . . ,35 But Aylett Sammes, after quoting Verstegan’s condescending remarks, “sets matters aright” : The occasion of this errour in Verstegan, upon which he groundeth on his own head a false derivation of the Isle of Wight, proceeded




from the printed Copies of Bede, where instead of Jutes or Getes, was foisted in Vites. The Saxon Version hath it Getes, not Vites; Comon hi of ðrim folcan ðam gestran gestan [for strangestan] 3ermanie of seaxum (ond) of An3le (ond) of 3eatum; They derived their Original from three of the Valiantest Nations of Germany, the Saxons, Angles, and Getes; And again, if [for is] þ land ðe A pulus is nemneð betwyh 3eatum (ond) seaxum; That Land which is called Angulus, is between the Getes and Saxons. Ethelwerd, a Saxon Writer, calleth them Giots, and Chronologia Saxonica hath Iotes . . . . In the Laws of Edward the Confessour they are called Gutes, and in the Peterburough Records, Geatuni, by others Jotuni and Jetæ, for Getæ, Jetæ, Jutæ, Juitæ, Gutæ, Giotæ, Jotæ, Geotuni, and Jotuni, are all the same Names, differing only in termination, and writ after various Orthography.36 Later Sammes continues, Jute therefore, as I have proved in the former Treatise, is the same Name with Gete . . . . It remains therefore to be proved by other Reasons, as well as coherence in Name, that the Getes and Saxons were one and the same Nation, which done, we shall find the Original and Progress of the Getes under Wooden, to be the same with the Saxons, and we need seek no higher for their Original. First therefore, the Language of the Saxons and Getes is the very same, excepting only the difference of Dialect, by the Getick Lan­ guage I mean the Gothick, for that the Gothes and Getes were one and the self-same Nation, is learnedly proved by Mr. Sheringham from the authority of Greek and Latin Writers . . . .37 Sammes stated earlier that he would take his history back only to W oden and begin with “his leading the Saxons and Getes, from Scythia and Cimmeria, into the Northern parts of Ger­ many, whence they spread themselves all along upon the Coasts of the Baltick, and so round to Belgium and Batavia.” 38 He connects the Saxons and Getes again in his explanation of the etymology of the name Saxon: the Saxons, he claims, repeat­ ing an old tradition, were so called from the name of the weapon they used, the seax, a kind of sword “generally used by the Getes, from whom the Saxons are derived.” 39

Getae and Geatas


The evidence of these first Anglo-Saxon scholars should not be dismissed lightly; deprived of the tools of the modem critic and his passion for absolute truth, they relied on the same ma­ terial that determined the geographical and ethnographical no­ tions of the Beowulf poet’s own age. Their testimony, neglected completely by the scientific scholars of our era, perhaps out of contempt, is singularly valuable in reflecting the thought of the Middle Ages on the identity of the Geatas. Reference has already been made to a second group of sources, the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies, in which the name Geat appears. Since Geat is most probably inserted to repre­ sent the eponymous ancestor of the Geatas, what can be deter­ mined of the significance of the name may then be applied to the Geatas. Previous studies on the identity of the Geats have utilized this approach, but most of them have done so with the presupposition that the genealogies were relics of the ancient Teutonic past, antedating the composition of Beowulf. The name Geat was usually interpreted as the eponym either of the Gautar or of the Iótar, which in Old English developed into Geat. The adherents of the Gautar theory could support their argument on grounds other than philology by pointing to the use of Gautr as a by-form for Woden in Old Norse texts. How­ ever, Sisam’s study of the genealogies proves beyond reason­ able doubt that elaborate pedigrees of the Anglo-Saxon kings were the fanciful invention of Christian times. The series includ­ ing Geat was concocted in the late eighth or early ninth century; it is not an ancient, orally transmitted element of the genealo­ gies or even one composed soon after the conversion, but a late, deliberate, literary insertion of Anglo-Saxon pedants who wanted to embellish the ancestry of their kings. How this re­ assessment of the date of the genealogies weakens Chambers’ argument in regard to the Geats in the Old English Bede has been pointed out. The realization that the part of the genealo­ gies containing Geat or Geata is a late and artificial literary invention makes necessary a new attempt to discover what


THE GEATS OF B ß O W u l f

forms and associations the name had from its first appearance in the pedigrees. Probably the earliest instance of Geat — or rather of its equivalent — occurs in the Lindsey list of the ancestors of the Northumbrian king Aldfrith (Ealdfrid), which is part of a group of genealogies included in MS. Vespasian B VI. The pedigree beyond Woden reads, “uuoden frealafing. frealaf frioðulfing. frioðulf finning, finn goduulfing. godulf geoting.” 40 The manu­ script itself can be dated at about 812, and the series given is derived from an original that does not antedate this by much more than a decade.41 It is notable that in this first datable instance of the name, Geat is not the form used at all; rather, we find a spelling with eo and the patronymic ending -ing. Hence, the simplex of the name could be either Geot or Geota, since the final a was regularly dropped before the -ing ending was added. The spelling with eo is usually taken to be a dialec­ tal variant of Geat, a spelling, however, for which there is no attestation before 892,42 and it is open to a different explanation which it is more convenient to discuss later on. Just about contemporary to Vespasian B VI is the appearance of “Geat” in a genealogy given in the Historia Brittonum. The pedigree of the Jutish heroes Hengist and Horsa is concluded in this source with “Geta, qui fuit, ut aiunt, filius dei. non ipse est deus deorum, amen, deus exercituum, sed unus est ab idolis eorum, quod ipsi colebant.” 43 It is difficult to determine which spelling, Geta or Geata, was actually used originally. Sisam accepts the authority of the earliest manuscript, the Chartres manuscript of the late ninth or the tenth century. This text gives “Guta” corrected to “Geuta,” which, he contends, is an understandable misreading of an original “Geata.” 44 And so it may well be, but there are good grounds for accepting “Geta” as the original spelling used b y Nennius. “Geta” is the spelling found in MS. Harleian 3859, which, though more than a cen­ tury later than the Chartres manuscript, is throughout the most accurate text of the Historia Brittonum and the one accepted

Getae and Geatas


as authoritative by Mommsen in his edition of Nennius. On the other hand, the Chartres manuscript is one of the poorest, one which certainly cannot be relied upon for the spelling of any given word or name, especially in view of the fact that in the same list in which “Geata” occurs (misspelled tw ice), “Fran” appears for “Finn,” the wyn of “Folcwald” is misread as a p to give “Folcpald,” and other errors occur. Moreover, this text, though the earliest, is still relatively late and dates from a period when W est Saxon influence and manuscript production were at a height. The exemplar from which it came, like most of the other manuscripts of the Historia, could have had the spelling with ea because that spelling became the accepted one in the centuries following the ninth on the authority of the AngloSaxon Chronicle. The form Geta perhaps was found in the exemplar from which MS. Bibl. Nat. lat. 11108 was made, since its phonological equivalent, “Ieta,” is found there. This text “derives from an English recension of the late tenth or early eleventh century,” 45 in other words, from a manuscript that was earlier than all the extant texts of Nennius except for the Chartres manuscript. There is nothing in the manuscript tradi­ tion of the Historia Brittonum, then, that argues for an original Geata as against Geta, but other evidence, I believe, favors the form Geta. Asser concludes his pedigree of Alfred with the phrase, “Geata, quem Getam iamdudum pagani pro deo venerabantur” (1, lines 22-23). The phrase “quem Getam iamdudum pagani pro deo venerabantur” is very probably derived from Nennius; it is natural that while giving “Geata,” the standard West Saxon spelling of the name, in the first instance, he accepts the spelling he had in the text of Nennius before him when he repeats from the Historia the phrase that Geta was worshipped by the pagans as a god.46 Stevenson argued that Asser mistakenly identified Geat with Geta and added the a to the name of the former to accommodate his erroneous identification.47 But all the manu­ scripts of the Historia Brittonum agree in giving the final a,




so that it must have been in the original spelling. It is, in any case, the earliest form of the simplex. It is important to point out that this spelling, terminating in a, dissociates the name from the Old Norse Gautr, which would be simply Geat in Old English. The form Geta, however, is the expected eponym for the Getae, and it would certainly not be unusual for Nennius to intend that it be so understood. After all, he wrote in Latin, using Latin sources, among them Isidores and Prospers Chron­ icles ,48 in which the Getae are frequently mentioned. It would make especially good sense to the medieval w ay of thinking to trace the lineage of the Jutish heroes to the founder of the Getic race, since the Jutes were thought to be of Getic descent. It is a possibility that "Geta” first appeared in the Jutish genealogies, where it made the most sense, and was later adopted into the genealogies of other Anglo-Saxon kings as being an ingenious way to trace their ancestry also back to the semimythical Getic race of such pre-eminence in the ancient world. Simeon of Durham and William of Malmesbury interpret the name as having reference to the Getae, for in their versions of the pedi­ gree of Aethelwulf the former gives “Geta,” the latter gives the masculine form, "Getius.” 49 If this view on the identity of Geat, or preferably Geta, be the correct one, it is not difficult to explain the form Geot- found in the Lindsey list and in later genealogies based on ninthcentury texts. The terms for the Jutes, Goths, and Getes were all in some w ay taken to have overlapping meanings, as has been shown. The Anglo-Saxon names for their own Jutes (Eotan) and for the Goths (Gotan) were pronounced similarly, at least in the early stages of Old English, and were easily confused, giving rise to a form that accommodated both — Geoti or Gioti. In the genealogies, Geot- is not then a dialectal variant of Geatbut is rather a synonym for it, having reference to the Goths who were indeed Getes or Geats.50 Like the spelling of “Geat-” or “Get-” with an a, this form with eo makes the connection between it and Old Norse Gautr more tenuous.51

Getae and Geatas


Those who would argue that Geat is the tribal god of the Gautar, who became identified with Woden, must explain why that god should be given so prominent a place in the AngloSaxon genealogies in Christian times. The oldest pagan Teu­ tonic pedigrees undoubtedly did go back to Woden, and he is retained in later ones; but why, then, if Woden was already represented, should the Christian embellishers of the genealo­ gies place him in this key position under a name that had only local significance? Their object was to inflate the pedigrees of their kings, but Geat, if meaning only Gautr, added less than nothing. Furthermore, the use of Gautr for Woden in Old Norse literature is an infrequent one that appears only from the ninth, perhaps the tenth, century on. There is nothing, ex­ cept Snorri Sturluson’s word for it in the thirteenth century, to indicate that Gautr was anciently used for W oden52 and that it came over to England with the Germanic invaders, develop­ ing into Geat. Whoever added the name to the genealogies did so in the late eighth or early ninth century, and we have certain evidence that within a century, in Alfredian England, Geat was not connected to Gautr. But even from the time when the name first appears, in Nennius and in Vespasian B VI, neither of the forms given, “Geoting” and “Geta” (or “Geata” even, if that spelling be insisted upon), corresponds clearly to Gautr. Right from the start the pedants who strove to improve upon the ancestry of their kings must have had the eponymous founder of the Getae in mind, and they could scarcely do better than to trace the royal ancestry back to the race of Theodoric and Ermanaric and beyond into the dim and glorious past when their forebears produced the Amazons, played a heroic role in the Trojan Wars, developed a great civilization that rivaled that of the Greeks, and discomfited the mighty Roman Empire.53 O f the Anglo-Saxon sources besides Beowulf there remain only Deor and Widsith to be discussed. The pertinent lines in Deor read,



We þæt Mæðhilde wurdon grundlease þæt hi seo sorglufu


monge gefrugnon Geates frige, slæp ealle binom.54 (lines 14-16)

The reference to “the Geat,” if that translation be preferred, seems non-committal, but if it means “the Gaut” it is out of place in this poem, which in the scant space of its forty-two lines mentions the G othic— or Getic — heroes Theodoric, Ermanaric, and in addition the child of Beadohild (i.e., Widia, who in Waldhere is rewarded for service to Theodoric).55 Refer­ ence to “the Gete” would be perfectly logical in the context of the poem since it centers about heroes connected to the Getae-Goths. Nor can it be claimed that Theodoric and Ermanaric can be considered Gautic heroes since they are Goths. It is true that they figure prominently in O ld Norse legend, but Scandinavian writers carefully distinguish at all times be­ tween the terms Gautar and Gotnar; the former is confined to the Goths of Sweden, while the latter term is applied to the Goths who invaded the Empire. In Widsith the poet boasts, “I was with the Huns and with the glorious Goths [Hreðgotan], with the Swedes and with Geats and with South-Danes.” 56 All that can be made of this ref­ erence is that it designates the Geatas as a Scandinavian tribe, and, by the transference of the tribes and locations of classical Scythia to the north, the Getes, from the beginning of the M id­ dle Ages on, were regarded as a Scandinavian people. The evidence of Chapter III conclusively supports this statement. Despite the amazing amount of scholarship and ingenuity — and of fantasy and imagination — lavished in the past on the pertinent sources in an effort to solve the enigma of the Geatas, almost every critic favoring the Gautar theory wearily concedes that none of his evidence is compelling. The crux of the case is the philological argument, as Chambers, voicing the general opinion of the Gautar contingent, points out. Since the argu­ ments of an historical and geographical nature are not “quite

Getae and Geatas

ii 7

conclusive,” he writes, “it is important to keep always clearly in mind that the interpretation of Geatas as Gautar is not based up­ on this, or any number of similar geographical and historical considerations, but upon the simple fact that the word Geatas is the O.E. form of the O.N. Gautar, and is quite distinct from Jutes, which in O.E. is Ecrte, Yte .”57 He then comments, “A treatment of the subject which claims serious attention must face this linguistic problem.” 58 So long as the only alternate argument involved equating philologically some form of the name for the Jutes with Geatas, his challenge could not be ignored, and the Jute theory did indeed founder on this very issue. However, there seems to be little difficulty in accepting the identity of Old English Geatas and Latin Getae. C. L. Wrenn in his edition (1953) of Beowulf indicates his belief that the two are the same names, considering “Getae” to be a Latin­ ized version of Geatas when it occurs in the Liber Monstro­ rum.59 He has the shoe on the wrong foot, I believe, but apparently — and this is the point — there is not the slightest doubt in his mind that the two names are actually identical. Miss Whitelock conveys the impression, intentionally or not, that she too considers Getae a form of Geatas, a view that has merit because the manuscript in which “Getae” occurs for Geatas is of Anglo-Saxon provenance.60 It would then be possi­ ble perhaps to pass over the linguistic problem altogether, but because the philological argument is the cornerstone of the Gautar theory certain points need to be made. Although the discussion that follows cannot pretend to be definitive, it does, I feel, demonstrate that Geatas is as likely to be an anglicized spelling of Getae as it is to be the Old English form of Gautar. The decision between which of the two names it represents would then have to rest on other grounds, based on the type of evidence I have given throughout this work. Admittedly, the case for the Gautar in linguistic respects is clear-cut: Old Norse au is found in Old English as éa. Whereas Primitive Germanic au was retained in Old Norse,




it developed into éa in Old English and was so written by 700; thus, from a hypothetical Pr. Gmc. *Gautoz, both Gautar and Geatas developed, it is claimed.61 Although the stages of the change have to be reconstructed, there is ample evidence that such an over-all shift did occur; for example, O.N. straumr, rauðr and kaus are found in O.E. as stream, read, and teas. It cannot then be debated that Geatas is, in theory, the equiva­ lent of Gautar, but I believe that there are good reasons for claiming that in fact this relationship is fortuitous and there­ fore irrelevant. Joseph Bosworth, despairing of reconstructing the parent tongue of the Germanic languages, warned, “It is evident that a word may have as many affinities as the points of view from which it may be observed.” 62 The justice of his statement in regard to this issue is borne out by the attempts to demonstrate the philological identity of Geatas and Iótar, for Wadstein, most prominently of the Jute theorists, could argue for a connection on several different bases. Although his reconstructions are tor­ tuous, based on vague possibilities and innumerable hypotheti­ cal forms, they remain unchallenged as possibilities.63 But on the other hand the linguistic case for the Gautar is not so con­ vincing as it has been made out to be: since, obviously, every ea in Old English did not develop from Germanic au, either intermediary forms indicating that *Gautoz was undergoing the required shifts to Geatas or primary evidence linking Geatas and Gautar must exist to put the argument on sound enough footing to make it worthy of the absolute acceptance it has now received. However, neither of these conditions is fulfilled, and the identity of the two names rests on modem philological theory alone. It is not at all difficult to make a case for the Getae that accords equally well with the demands of linguistic science. I think it a fair assumption that the name by which the Getae called themselves, with a stem approximating Get-, was known to the Goths who settled among this Thracian people. By ac­

Getae and Geatas


cepted theory, Gothic e is represented in Germanic as ce, in W est Germanic as a; in W est Saxon the a was fronted to œ and then, following a palatal consonant, it was diphthongized to ea.G4 In terms of Getae, this series of sound changes means that in Gothic the e would have been retained, but in Germanic the stem would have been *Gœt- (a form found twice in the earliest manuscripts of Jordanes, by the w a y ), in W est Germanic *Gat-, in West Saxon *Gæt-, which then became Geat-, a process that would have been completed by about 750. In Anglian and Kentish, however, diphthongization following a palatal consonant did not take place, and the leveled e from æ appears instead.65 The name in those dialects would then be Get-, a form that does appear for the eponymous ancestor of the Geatas in the royal genealogies. This theory takes care of both cases, whereas the Get- form cannot be derived, accord­ ing to presently accepted sound-change laws, from Gaut-. I do not seriously contend that this process, although it ful­ fills the demands of philology, took place, simply because it, like many other hypothetical reconstructions, is divorced com­ pletely from practical considerations. Most probably, Getae was directly anglicized to Geatas from its use in Latin works, although it is possible the name entered the language by oral transmission. True, according to the linguists, the transliterated O.E. form for Getae should consistently be Getas, not Geatas, but first, there is ample evidence that phonological changes and transliterations did not always occur with the regularity that philologists would like to find; and secondly, there is sufficient testimony for the interchangeability of ea and e throughout the Anglo-Saxon period to permit the contention that the spell­ ing Geatas was a likely one for the Latin Getae. The evidence of the spellings of names on coins and charters and in the Liber Vitae of Durham 66 indicates that there was no single standardized form for the spelling of names; a man might spell his own name in several different ways, and the confusion of e, ea, ae, and a is a prominent one. On coins struck




in the name of Archbishop Jaenberht during his office in the latter quarter of the eighth century the spellings “Iaenberht” and “Ienberht” both appear.” 67 If there were a single cor­ rect spelling for the archbishop’s name, one might expect that it would appear consistently on something so permanent and official as a coin, minted in all likelihood by a single moneyer. More important, when in Widsith the poet wished to anglicize the name of the Greeks, he did so not in the expected way, as Crecas, but as "Creacas” (lines 20 and 76). This spelling cannot be accounted for as a scribal blunder, as Malone points out, since it appears twice.68 Both Chambers69 and Malone, who comment on this problem, failed to notice the same spell­ ing, “Creacas,” alongside "Crecas,” in Alfred’s translation of Orosius.70 The situation here is analagous to the transliteration of Getae as Geatas, so that the spelling of the name is no bar­ rier to the acceptance of their identity. It can be added that the West Saxon scribes of the Beowulf manuscript often pre­ ferred ea to e, a common feature of Late W est Saxon,71 and would have preferred ea especially in the case of Geatas, 1 believe, since that spelling was sanctioned and given vogue by the Chronicle in reference to the mythical founder of the race, Geat. There can be no doubt that all the evidence justi­ fies the conclusion that the Anglo-Saxons themselves considered Geata, Geta, and Geat proper vernacular spellings of the same name and that they further connected the name to the Getae. It is this last fact — that authors of the Beowulf poet’s own age identified the Geatas with the Getae — that leaves the Gautar theory clinging to one very slim hypothetical argument. The Gautar theory is further weakened by its failure to satisfy Continental sources as well as Anglo-Saxon ones. If the Geatas are indeed the Gautar, then those primary sources from the Continent that have bearing on the problem must also be twisted or be considered in error in order to fit the hypothesis. These same sources do jibe better with the present contention, that the Geats are the Getae.

Getae and Geatas


Gregory of Tours, writing within a generation after the event he describes took place, recounts: His ita gestis, Dani cum rege suo nomine Chlochilaichum evectu navale per mare Gallias appetunt. Egressique ad terras, pagum unum de regno Theudorici devastant atque captivant, oneratisque navibus tam de captivis quam de reliquis spoliis, reverti ad patriam cupiunt; sed rex eorum in litus resedebat, donec navis alto mare conpraehenderent, ipse deinceps secuturus. Quod cum Theudorico nuntiatum fuisset, quod scilicet regio eius fuerit ab extraneis devastata, Theudobertum, filium suum, in illis partibus cum valido exercitu ac magno armorum apparatu direxit. Qui, interfectu rege, hostibus navali proelio superatis oppraemit omnemque rapinam terrae restituit.72 (After these events, the Danes and their king Chlochilaich crossed the seas with their fleet and came to Gaul. They landed, devastated one region of Theuderic’s kingdom, and took the people prisoners, after which they loaded their vessels with captives and other spoils, and were ready to return to their own country. Their king remained on shore until the ships took the high sea, intending himself to follow later. News was brought to Theuderic that his land had been rav­ aged by foreigners, whereupon he sent his son Theudebert into those parts with a strong force and great armament. The Danish king was killed and the enemy severely defeated in a sea battle; all the booty was brought on shore again.) 73 The “Chlochilaichus” Gregory mentions has been identified since the early nineteenth century as the Hygelac of Beowulf, and the incident he relates is the same one referred to on sev­ eral occasions in the Anglo-Saxon epic.74 Hygelac thus becomes the only Geat whose actual existence is attested by independent testimony, but in this testimony he is called a Dane. It has been usual to accuse Gregory of error,75 an accusation that stems from the rigid belief in the historicity of Beowulf — a belief, curiously enough, that is based in turn on Gregory’s attestation of Hygelac and his Frankish raid. But it must be emphasized that Gregory wrote close to the time and place of the event, that he was writing a history aimed at reporting the truth, and that his identification of Hygelac as a Danish king is corrobo­ rated by later sources.




The anonymous author of the Liber Historiae Francorum also relates this incident in which Hygelac lost his life: In illo tempore Dani cum rege suo nomine Chochilaico cum navale hoste per alto mare Gallias appetent, Theuderico paygo Attoarios vel alios devastantes atque captivantes, plenas naves de captivis alto mare intrantes, rex eorum ad litus maris resedens. Quod cum Theuderico nuntiatum fuisset, Theudobertum, filium suum, cum magno exercitu in illis partibus dirigens. Qui consequens eos, pugna­ vit cum eis caede magna atque prostravit, regem eorum interficit, preda tullit et in terra sua restituit.76 (At that time the Danes with their king named Chochilaic attacked Gaul from the high sea with a naval force. Having devastated and taken captives in Theuderic’s district, the region of the Attoari, and in others, they embarked on the high sea, their ships loaded with captives; their king remained on the seashore. When the news was made known to Theuderic, he sent his son Theudobert into those regions with a large army. Having overtaken them, he fought a bloody battle with them, destroyed them, killed their king, took the booty and brought it back to his land.) This testimony would add little in establishing Hygelac’s nation­ ality as Danish were it not for the fact that the author very likely had sources other than Gregory for this incident.77 Hygelac’s Danish nationality is testified to again by Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote his Gesta Danorum in the late twelfth century, basing it largely on northern traditions. Saxo gives the name “Huglecus” in a list of Danish kings and writes, “ [He] is said to have defeated in battle at sea Homod and Hogrim, the despots of Sweden.” 78 These three texts, dating from the sixth century through the twelfth and originating from Frank­ land where Hygelac was killed and from Scandinavia where he lived and reigned, agree that the historical Hygelac was a Dane. Their combined testimony, not that of an Anglo-Saxon poet writing in England for artistic purposes any time from two to four hundred years after Hygelac Hved, should be taken as authoritative. Only an error, or a deliberate and rather puz­ zling distortion on the part of the Beowulf poet, can explain

Getae and Geatas


why, if the Geats are really the Gauts, a Danish king should appear as a great Gautic hero. On the other hand, there are several understandable reasons why the poet would claim Hygelac as a Gete. The testimony of the Liber Monstrorum fur­ nishes the best explanation of why a Danish ruler should be so prominent in the Geatish royal house. The famous passage from the Liber Monstrorum forms a kind of sequel to the story of H ygelacs disastrous raid narrated by Gregory: Et sunt [monstra] mirae magnitudinis: ut rex Huiglaucus qui im­ peravit Getis et a Francis occisus est. Quem equus a duodecimo anno portare non potuit. Cujus ossa in Reni fluminis insula, ubi in Oceanum prorumpit, reservata sunt et de longinquo venientibus pro miraculo ostenduntur.79 (And there are [monsters] of marvelous size: for instance, King Hygelac who ruled the Getae and was killed by the Franks. His horse could not carry him from the time he was twelve years old. His bones are preserved on an island in the Rhine where it rushes into the Ocean and are exhibited as a miracle to those who come from afar.) Hygelac found his w ay into this work on monsters and marvels because of his size; his bones — or probably rather those of a prehistoric monster found near the place where he fell in battle — bespoke the fact in local legend that he was a giant, a human monster. In this light there is little difficulty in under­ standing why the author of the Liber Monstrorum makes H y­ gelac the Dane over into Hygelac the Gete. He obviously had a Latin training and knew perfectly well who the Getae were and the associations attached to them. Among the sources he uses are Virgil, Augustine, and Isidore, all of whom make ref­ erence to the Getae.80 Since he wrote at least a few generations after H ygelacs death, it might well have seemed to him that Hygelac ruled when the Danes could yet be called Getes, the ancient and powerful people from whom they were descended. Hygelac was after all a giant, and the writer’s Latin authorities told him that the heroes and kings of the Getes were virtually




demigods, superhuman in size and strength. By making Hygelac a king of the Getae, he added much in color and excitement to his account of this human monster. Thus Hygelac the Dane when he passes from the realm of history into that of fantasy becomes most appropriately a king of the Getae. The king of the Getes in the Liber Monstrorum has too much in common with the king of the Geatas in Beowulf for the like­ ness to be coincidental. The names of the tribes they rule are so similar that there can be little doubt that they are identical; they both lead a daring raid on Frankland, in which they lose their lives, and they are both remarkably tall — “héah ealle(s),” the poet tells us of Hygelac.81 Thus the Beowulf poet utilizes the essence of the brief notice of Hygelac in the Liber Monstro­ rum, so the likelihood that he either read the book on monsters or himself knew the local Frisian legend repeated there is very great. When he wrote “Geatas,” was he not putting into an Anglo-Saxon form the name of the tribe Hygelac rules in the Liber Monstrorum — the Getae? Can it be seriously claimed in the light of the popularity of the traditions concerning the Getae that the name in the Liber Monstrorum represents a Latin­ ized form of the Anglo-Saxon Geatas from Gautar? Anyone who was acquainted with the Latin sources the author utilized must have known who the Getae were and realized that when he wrote “Getis” or “Getarum” it would be taken as referring to the Getae of contemporary legend, an association that he would want to make for both pedantic and dramatic purposes. To assume that Getae is a Latin spelling for Geatas is a back­ wards way of looking at things; it is the identity of the Geats that is obscure. This notion is uniquely indicative of how en­ trenched the view has become that the Geatas are the Gautar — a view that is a great obstacle to taking this source, and others, at face value. O f course, it can be claimed, as it so readily is of Asser, that the author of the Liber Monstrorum erroneously associated the Geatas with the Getae because of his Latin training. But this

Getae and Geatas


argument would require that two authors, apparently inde­ pendently of each other, make the same mistake and would add the Liber Monstrorum, to the growing list of sources that are in error if the Geatas are some tribe other than the Getae. The likelihood that the compiler of the book on monsters con­ fused the Geatas with the Getae is lessened by the fact that he was probably an Englishman,82 and thus should have known the distinction between the two tribes if one existed. The fact that the one Geat whose historical existence is ever attested is unequivocally called a Gete is the strongest kind of evidence that the two terms were identical. The Liber Monstrorum is the bridge that spans the gap between history and fantasy, between Gregory of Tours and Beowulf. The Hygelac of the poem is the Hygelac of the monster-work, a king in the realm of make-believe, whose great adventure, the raid on the Franks, is borrowed from history since it was so daring and romantic an exploit befitting a Getic hero. By incorporating Hygelac and his raid into the poem, the Beowulf poet proceeded as the author of any historical novel does today; he attempted to give verisimilitude to an otherwise fantastic story by reference to this actual event and to a well-known real hero. It has been customary to contend that the accuracy of Beowulf in relation to this incident establishes the historicity of much of the poem. Klaeber synthesizes the reasons behind this approach. He writes: It is true, there is only one of the events mentioned in the poem, viz. the disastrous Frankish raid of Hygelac, which we can positively claim as real history. . . . But this very fact that the B e o w u lf narra­ tive is fully confirmed by the unquestioned accounts of early chron­ iclers, coupled with the comparative nearness of the poem to the time of the events recounted, raises into probability the belief that we are dealing in the main with fairly authentic narrative. It is certainly not too much to say that our Anglo-Saxon epos is to be considered the oldest literary source of Scandinavian history. This applies, of course, in the first place to the relation between the various tribes, and in a less degree to the record of individuals.83




But this assumption, which has had such tremendous conse­ quences in Beowulfian studies and in the reconstruction of Scandinavian history, is simply not justified by the sources. It seems as though it has not occurred to the literary scholars who have studied the epic in such overwhelming detail that the poet might have derived his information about Hygelac’s raid from Gregory of Tours and the later Frankish source that mentions it. The Historia Francorum, was available in Eng­ land,84 so that the poem and the history do not necessarily represent independent substantiation of each other. In any case, Gregory’s testimony validates the historicity only of this single incident and then only as it pertains to a Danish, not to a Geatic, king. The other events of an historical nature in the poem do not jibe with northern sources, which do not mention at all the role the Geats of Beowulf supposedly play in Scandinavian his­ tory. Outside of the brief notice of Hygelac in Saxo Grammati­ cus — a reference that again makes Hygelac a Dane — no Geat ever appears in the literature of Scandinavia. The wars that the Geatas supposedly fought with the Swedes are assigned to the Danes and the Jutes, attesting again to the contention that the historical Hygelac was a Dane and throwing grave doubts on the assumption that the Geatas were an actual people. The Swedes and Danes mentioned in the poem are for the most part amply attested in northern sources; why should Hygelac, then, if he were indeed the great and heroic king who led his people to victory in the first stages of their struggle for free­ dom, disappear almost completely from the traditions of his own people and those of his neighbors? The answer, I believe, is that Hygelac in reality was a Danish ruler, remembered out­ side his own land primarily because the bones of a prehistoric monster happened to be dug up where he fell in his rash attack on the Hetware and were mistakenly thought to be his. His name, by the way, does alliterate with the names of the Danish royal family. The total absence in northern literature of the

Getae and Geatas


Geats as a people or of the Geatish royal house can be accounted for quite easily if the Geats were the Getae, a tribe that had only a make-believe existence, who never in reality struggled with Swedes any more than they struggled with fabulous mon­ sters. Scandinavian writers have not “forgotten” these Geats; they never existed. Usually the absence of the Geats in the literature of the North, so curious if Beowulf relates genuine historical tradi­ tions, is explained by suggesting that the early subjugation of the Geats forced them into obscurity and that their place in history was taken over by the Danes and the Jutes. This argu­ ment makes several basic assumptions that should not go un­ challenged. It has already been pointed out that the date of the final victory of the Swedes over the Gautar is itself an un­ settled issue, and that even if the Gauts did fall under the power of the Swedes as early as the sixth century, it did not mean they sank into obscurity. They continued to be celebrated prominently in Old Norse literature and even had their own cycle of sagas.85 It does not seem likely that they would forget their own greatest heroes and the most significant chapter in their history. This explanation presupposes also that Beowulf was composed quite a bit earlier than any of the extant Scan­ dinavian sources that are relevant. The possibility, however, that the poem was actually composed around 900 or later has also been mentioned. Such a late date would make the poem contemporary to the earliest of the pertinent northern sources, the Ynglingatal, that mentions some of the characters of Beo­ wulf and refers to the wars fought between Geats and Swedes in the poem as having taken place between Swedes and Danes.86 If the two works were written at about the same time, then the authority of the Ynglingatal, which drew directly upon northern legends, must be given precedence, especially since it agrees with other Scandinavian traditions. There exists in the “received” criticism of Beowulf a view on another matter that conflicts with the accepted view that




the Geatas as the Gautar were simply forgotten in later northern traditions. Few scholars doubt that there is a relationship be­ tween the fourteenth-century Hrólfs Saga and Beowulf, and almost all contend that the similarities in the two works are to be accounted for by the existence of a common northern story which was drawn upon independently by the respective au­ thors.87 This view presupposes not only that a hero who rescued the Danish kingdom from the depredations of a monster was remembered in Scandinavian tradition, to reappear under a name reminiscent of B eow ulf s, but also that his nationality was correctly recalled as Gautic. Part of B eow ulf s story — the fantastic part and hence the least important historically speak­ ing — is remembered in Scandinavia, according to this theory. Then why should that part dealing with historical events of great moment be completely forgotten? Critics of the poem subscribe to both views, apparently unaware of the contradic­ tion. In the Hrólfs Saga, as in the Y nglingatal and in Saxo, the wars of the Geats mentioned in Beowulf take place between Swedes and Danes; the Geats once more have disappeared from the historical scene. Beowulf itself is so confused and vague on matters of an his­ torical nature that it throws suspicion on the accuracy of its own account. This is especially true in regard to Beowulf himself, and most, but not all, scholars agree that he is completely fictional.88 But these same scholars cherish the belief that the other mem­ bers of the Geatic royal house are historical, presumably be­ cause they are not involved in the fantastic deeds performed by Beowulf. This hardly constitutes sound evidence for the historicity of these members of the royal house, and in the absence of any source attesting their existence (with the ex­ ception of Hygelac, the Dane) they, along with the Geats, must be assigned to the realm of fantasy. The place names of the poem, the scenery, are even more obviously poetic inven­ tions. A question that Sisam poses in his study of the genealo­ gies may be put here:

Getae and Geatas


How much did the Anglo-Saxons know about their early history in England, and about persons associated in legend with still earlier Germanic times? When a name appears incidentally in a sixth-century annal of the A n g lo -S a x o n C h r o n ic le or in B e o w u lf, did it unlock a store of well-ordered information in the mind of an intelligent AngloSaxon? Or did it often convey no more than the vague impression of remote times that adds to the enjoyment of old stories? Evidence bearing on such questions is hard to find. Modem scholars, whether expressly or by implication, seem to prefer the first and more con­ genial opinion. Yet scattered through this examination of the AngloSaxon genealogies there is a considerable amount of evidence in the other direction.89 And so too the evidence forces us to impugn the authenticity of the historical elements in Beowulf. Not one of the Continental sources bears out the assumption that the Geatas are the Gautar of history. Like the Anglo-Saxon authorities, all these sources must be held in error or must be contorted to fit the ready-made hypothesis, so that in the last analysis Beowulf remains as the sole authority for its own testimony. If the Geatas are the Gau­ tar, the list of authorities that must be brought into line with the poem is alarmingly long and must include Gregory of Tours, the author of the Liber Historiae Francorum, the Liber Mons­ trorum, the Old English Bede, Asser, all those writers such as Nennius, William of Malmesbury, and others who give the forms Geta, Geata, or Geot in their pedigrees of the English kings, and those Scandinavian writers who forget the Geats and assign the wars they fight with the Swedes in Beowulf to the Danes and Jutes when they recount the legends and tradi­ tions of their own lands. The Gautar theory requires us to dismiss all this evidence, every bit of testimony outside the poem itself bearing on the problem, testimony dating from the sixth century into the fourteenth and coming from England, France, and Scandinavia. Are not the words of Chambers in vitriolic condemnation of W esséns reinterpretation90 of the historical elements of Beowulf equally applicable to the theory he himself supports? “If we treat our authorities like that,” he




writes, “are w e not sawing off the very branch on which we sit, and in fact making all serious study impossible?” 91 For it cannot be denied that the Gautar theory invites us “to believe that all our authorities agree to give a mistaken account of the facts.” 92 How much simpler the matter becomes if Beowulf is taken for no more than it patently seems to be — a work of art, not of history, in which free play of the imagination, not adherence to fact, played the basic role. The poet was concerned only with the appearance of reality, not with reality itself, and could utilize his sources and old material as he chose, limited only by artistic considerations. It has been thirty years since Tolkien warned, The illusion of historical truth and perspective, that has made B e o w u lf seem such an attractive quarry, is largely a product of art. The author has used an instinctive historical sense — a part indeed of the ancient English temper (and not unconnected with its re­ puted melancholy), of which B e o to u lf is a supreme expression; but he has used it with a poetical and not an historical object. The lovers of poetry can safely study the art, but the seekers after history must beware lest the glamour of Poesis overcome them.93 A number of scholars, in sympathy with Tolkien’s plea for an appreciation of Beowulf as a work of art, have since produced admirable literary critiques of the poem. They have done so, I believe, not because they are skeptical of the historicity of the poem, but because of personal taste and weariness with the sterility of the historical-philological approach — the same rea­ sons that seem to have motivated Tolkien to denounce much of the previous scholarship on Beowulf. I hope that the present study can give yet sounder support to Tolkien’s plea by demon­ strating that history plays a very much smaller role and fantasy a far more important one than has been thought to be the case. The view that regarded Beowulf as a valuable piece of history was born of nineteenth-century scholarship. German national­ ism and romanticism played an important part in establishing this approach, which was fathered by the wish to find in the

Getae and Geatas


noble Geatas an actual Germanic tribe. The notion of the his­ toricity of the poem became deeply embedded following Grundtvigs discovery that the Chlochilaichus of Gregory of Tours was identical to the H ygelac of Beowulf .94 It then became a matter of debating, not the proper and basic question of whether the Geatas were real at all, but only of which Scan­ dinavian tribe they were. It was possible to fit two serious claimants, the Iótar and the Gautar, to the evidence of Beowulf, both because the poem was conveniently vague on matters historical and because so very little was known outside Beowulf of the early period of northern history. Then, too, Ettmiiller’s early discovery that Geatas was philologically identical to Gau­ tar gave what seemed to be a sound scientific basis for claiming that the Geatas and the Gautar were one and the same people. In an age when the enthusiasm for and the prestige of the new science of philology were unbounded, this argument clinched the matter. Only because adherents of the Jute theory, almost given their deathblow by this discovery, could work out lin­ guistic arguments of their own were they able to enter the arena again. But the strength of the case they could make for the Jutes on linguistic grounds was too weak to supplant the identification with the Gautar, which has won virtually unques­ tioned acceptance today. Much of the nineteenth-century criticism of Beowulf has been overthrown by more recent generations of scholars. The poem has been reintegrated, its mythological basis successfully challenged, its purely pagan and Germanic nature rejected.95 The nineteenth-century approach to the historicity of the poem and its hero-people has, however, unfortunately survived, without being examined anew in the light of recent trends in Beowulfian scholarship. The Germanicists have debated the problem of the identity of the Geats on their own grounds for over a century and have succeeded only in arriving at a “solu­ tion” that contradicts all the primary sources. It is time that the full implications of the acceptance of the poem as an integral




whole and as the product of a Christian society educated in the Latin tradition be allowed to shed light on this problem. Medieval traditions based upon Christian-Latin thought have provided what I believe to be a real solution to this vital ques­ tion. The belief that there existed in Scandinavia a people called the Getae was a widespread one from the beginning to the end of the Middle Ages, one that has been amply docu­ mented in this study. There is no valid reason w hy Beowulf should not be considered in the light of this evidence that reflects the contemporary intellectual milieu, why it should be thought to stand outside the general medieval concepts of the Germanic North and studied only in retrospect from Scandi­ navian documents of the later Middle Ages or from the point of view of the linguist. W e would do better to search out in the literature of the Middle Ages reflections of thought on the identity of the Geatas meaningful to the poet and his audience — and this thought, from all the evidence available, was that the Geatas were the Getae. This contention satisfies the primary sources in a way that the Gautar theory never can, and it is upheld in a remarkable way by the testimony of the poem itself. For Beowulf, after all, is almost wholly concerned with the preternatural — with gigantic heroes, impossible deeds of der­ ring-do, magic swords, and cursed monsters. It was supremely appropriate for the author to choose the mythical Getae as the heroic people of his poem, to whom such deeds and character­ istics could be attributed without apology or fear of contradic­ tion by stodgy realists. From the classical-medieval tradition of the Getae the poet drew his inspiration for Beowulf’s bear­ like nature and his superhuman size and strength. The hero’s adversaries fittingly come from the same tradition — monsters such as niceras and orcneas and dragons guarding treasure, who infest the fens and wastelands of antique Scythia now trans­ posed to a northern setting, where “electrum” glistening on Getic waters becomes to the Beowulf poet a “fýr on flöde.” 96 The damned cannibalistic tribes — the brood of Cain — that the geo­

Getae and Geatas


graphical mythology of the Middle Ages put in the North turn up in the poem personified by Grendel and his dam; the shape­ changing Neuri, who became wolves for part of every year, appear as the Wylfingas, neighbors of the Getes in the North as they had been in classical Scythia; and the Getae, tinged with antique notions that associated them with giants and bears, are reincarnated as the Scandinavian Geatas. Again with a sense of appropriateness, the poet has the two fantastic char­ acters, who can meet each other on equal terms, clash. The Danes are merely by-standers, helpless because they possess only human powers to combat the monsters; the Swedes are a convenient means with which to dispose of the Geatas at any time the reader will after the death of Beowulf. Both Swedes and Danes give the story its appearance of reality. The poet could rely on his audience to know of such great legendary figures as Hrothgar, Hrothulf, Eadgils, and Onela, so that these actual tribes and their heroes furnish a convincing historical background for a fantastic tale of a fabulous people.97 There is, I think, another reason besides an artistic one why the author chose to write about the Getes rather than the Jutes or Gauts or any specific and historical Germanic tribe. The Getes were looked upon as the founding nation of all Germanic people. In a sense, Beowulf is the personalized hero-ancestor of the Teutonic tribes, the embodiment of all epic virtues, one nobler than Ermanaric and greater than Theodoric. The poem would celebrate, then, not the deeds of a foreign people, not those of one English tribe, but the accomplishments of the race from which all the invading nations came. It is in the largest sense an English national epos, one that embraces Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Danes alike, and hence one that preaches in a subtle w ay the ethnic unity of the English nation.


Appendix A

Since the thesis of this work, that the Geatas are the Getae, requires a new assessment of the relationship of B e o w u lf to its Old Norse parallels, some comments on this problem are appropriate. Few students of B e o w u lf deny that at least several Old Norse sagas exhibit similarities that point to some relationship between the poem and the sagas; and most scholars explain these similarities by postulating a common source for both — an ancient orally-transmitted Scandi­ navian tale. Most recently, Nora Kerr Chadwick has commented perceptively on this issue.1 After pointing out parallels to B e o w u lf in almost a dozen Old Norse sagas, Mrs. Chadwick concludes that the recurrence of the theme of several generations of Scandinavian heroes, especially of the Gautar, “all performing feats of a complicated nature which claim comparison with those of Beowulf,” makes it likely that there existed an ancient Scandinavian tradition based ultimately on oral literature from which the theme derives.2 She notes that this tradi­ tion is rather consistent in identifying the monsters overcome by the hero with the forces of evil, in linking the hero to northern tribes, and in placing the monsters east of the Baltic, in the region called Bjármaland in Old Norse.3 Although Mrs. Chadwick traces these likenesses to “traditions of important early Scandinavian families,” 4 she admits that the steady stream of monster-lore that made its way into the west in the post-classical period may well have had its influence.5 Mrs. Chadwick’s own findings tie in very well with this latter possibility, which in turn is connected to the approach I have taken to the problem of the identity of the Geatas. The Norse authors, no less than the B e o w u lf poet, demonstrably had available — and utilized —the body of monster-lore frequently connected to the Alexander legend and handed down by Latin writers. In this lore, as I have shown in the first three chapters, monsters of the same type described in Norse texts —with natural variations and confusions — are consistently placed in Scandinavia and to the east of the Baltic. Moreover, it is in this Latin tradition that



Appendix A

the monsters of the Baltic, of Bjármaland, are identified with the forces of evil, for example, as Gog-Magog, as the descendants of Cain, or simply as damned outcasts of the civilized world. They have, then, the relationship remarked upon by Mrs. Chadwick. The heroes who overcome them have, in the Latin tradition, an association with them. This association is geographical and familial. In the same way, the Getae-Goths and their descendants, the Gautar, live in the midst of the monsters they contend with in B e o w u lf or in the sagas: dragons guarding treasures of gold and gems, evil women warriors, sea monsters, giants, dwarfs, creatures that raid and destroy only periodically, shape-changers, and beings that are half human and half beast. In one tradition the Getes are themselves monstrous, and notions of abnormal traits such as gigantic stature, great strength, and a bearlike nature still cling to Beowulf, Hygelac, and related heroes like Grettir and Boðvar Bjarki. The similarity of Boðvar Bjarki to Beowulf has often been noted, but little attention has been paid to the characteristics of Boðvar’s brothers which link them to the Latin corpus of monster-lore of the North. Elgfroði, half man and half elk, is a natural northern varia­ tion of a centaur, and Thorir, with his hound’s feet, could well be a version of the Hippopodes, widely thought to have lived in Scandi­ navia since ancient times. Moreover, Thorir is a giant and therefore could fulfill the requirement to be a king of the Gautar, who, accord­ ing to the H r ó lfs Saga, had to be able to fill a throne built large enough for two men.6 In this regard, Thorir, rather than Boðvar, resembles Beowulf and Hygelac, who were also qualified to be Getic kings by virtue of their size and strength. All are proper descendants of the Getes in this respect. It should not be necessary to make a separate case for the possi­ bility of Norse borrowing from Continental Latin sources. The author of the H r ó lfs S a g a himself refers to Philippe Gautier de Chatillon,7 the author of a Latin poem on Alexander the Great. This work was early translated into Old Norse as the A le x a n d e r s Saga. The great importance that Latin literature played in the North following the conversion is convincingly shown by Turville-Petre in his O r ig in s o f I c e la n d ic L ite ra tu re . This study, undertaken as a stimulus to a detailed investigation of the earliest literature of Ice­ land and especially of the role played by Latin scholars trained by the Church in the literary history of that nation,8 marks perhaps the beginning of an appreciation of the extent to which Latin traditions were available to Norse writers even before the production of a

Appendix A


native written literature. Some of the writers known and used, such as Orosius, Solinus, Pliny, Capella, have been noted in Chapter III. There can be no question, then, that the classical-medieval legend of the Getes was known in the North in time for it to influence native literary conceptions of the Gautar and to be incorporated into Scandinavian materials. Old Norse writers were quick to adopt the wealth of new materials that came to them from more southern lands in the wake of the Viking Age and the Christian conversion. Of the popular foreign themes, at least one is common to B e o w u lf and to the related Old Norse sagas — that of a hero’s descent by rope into a cave to fight a monster, or into a treasure barrow, and of his desertion by friends who suppose him dead.9 May not, then, the entire theme which Mrs. Chadwick notes as common to B e o w td f and particular Old Norse sagas be a Continental import? The earliest instance of it is B e o w u lf , written in Christian England when Latin sources were easily come by, and the sagas she adduces as similar are, with only one exception, among those classified by Miss Schlauch as Itjgisögur, a group of tales that evince much foreign influence.10 The similarities that have been noted between B e o w u lf and some Old Norse sagas may then be explained as a dependence upon the same or similar Latin sources, and probably in addition by a north­ ern reminiscence of the Anglo-Saxon story. This last possibility has always been rejected too summarily. True, it cannot be proved that the poem had any circulation at all, but the contention that poem and saga stem from an ancient Teutonic legend is equally impossible of proof. We do know that B e o w u lf is by far the earliest verifiable work telling the story of a northern hero who overcomes a triad of monsters — and in the light of the wealth of contacts between Eng­ land and the Scandinavian world during and after the Anglo-Saxon period, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that the story was transported to the North and there utilized in some fashion. This solution to the problem of the relationship of B e o w u lf and its Norse parallels seems to be the simplest one, requiring the fewest hypothe­ ses, and if I have made my point at all in this study — that the Geatas of B e o w u lf are the Getae of classical and medieval tradition — then there can be no question of an ancient Germanic legend similar enough to B e o w u lf to be termed its precursor. The relationship of the poem and the sagas would have to be explained as I have ex­ plained it above. But all this must await a more detailed and scholarly working out, which alone can be convincing.

Appendix B

The following list gives the principal appearances of G e a ta s and G e a t in Anglo-Saxon texts. Although I have attempted to list these texts in the approximate chronological order of composition, it is impos­ sible to rely on any given date for some of the works involved; and it is important to remember that the extant manuscripts often were copies made several centuries later than the date of the original composition, so that the original spellings are sometimes obscured by later variations in the language and by dialectal differences, as well as by corruptions arising from scribal errors in transmission. I have therefore listed the datable documents first, followed by those texts to which a wide range of dates of composition can be attributed. The list is not complete, since I have omitted some of the manu­ scripts in which forms — obviously misspelled — of the name G e a t or G e a ta appear in genealogies, or in texts of a late date. However, I believe I have listed the most significant occurrences as well as an adequate sample of the genealogies themselves. Camden and Sammes (in passages quoted in Chapter IV, pp. 109-10) and Spelman (quoted in note 34, Chapter IV) give most of the variants of the name G e a t and of the tribal designation G ea ta s, and Chambers (In tr o d u c tio n , pp. 202-3) gives many versions of the genealogies. For a brief discussion of the philological problem raised by the dif­ ferent acceptable forms, see Chapter IV, pp. 116-20. In the list that follows I have used the datings in Kenneth Sisam’s “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies” ( P r o c e e d in g s o f t h e B ritish A c a d ­ em y , XXXIX [1953]) for items 1-6, unless otherwise noted, and his datings in S tu d ie s in t h e H isto ry o f O l d E n g lis h L ite ra tu r e (1953) for the manuscripts of the E x e t e r B o o k and of the B e o w u lf Codex. 1. “Vespasian” Group of Genealogies. a. Genealogy of Aldfrith, composed c. 800, first found in MS. Vespasian B VI, c. 812: uuoden frealafing. frealaf frioðulfing. frioðulf finning, finn goduulfing. godulf geoting. 140

Appendix B


b. Genealogy found in the related MS. CCCC 183, c. 937: Woden Frealafing. Frealaf Frioþowulsing [sic]. Freoþowulf Godwulfing. Godwulf Geating . . . . c. Genealogy found in the related MS. Tiberius B V, c. 990: Woden Frealafing. Frealaf Finning. Finn Godulfing. Godulf Eating. Eat . . . . d. Genealogy found in the related Textus Roffensis, twelfth century: Woden. Friþewold. Frealaf. Friþewulf. Finn. Godwulf. Geata, ðene ða hæþena wuþedon for god . . . . 2. Nennius, H isto ria B ritto n u m , composed c. 800. a. Chartres MS., c. 1000: . . . Ge[u]ta qui sunt, ut aiunt, filius dei. b. MS. Harleian 3859, c. 1100: . . . Geta, qui fuit, ut aiunt, filius dei. c. Other manuscripts, listed and dated by Mommsen in his edition of Nennius, give “Ieta” once, “Gaeta” once, and “Geata” six times. 3.

translated c. 890; manuscripts listed and dated by Ker, C a ta lo g u e o f M a n u scr ip ts c o n ta in in g A n g lo -S a x o n (numbers 351, 354, 180, 32, and 23), are, respectively, Tanner 10, first half of tenth century; Oxford, Corpus Christi College 279, pt. II, early eleventh century; Otho B XI and Otho B X, from mid-tenth to mid-eleventh century; Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41, first half of eleventh century; and Kk. 3.18, second half of eleventh century. The text below is from Book I, chapter 12, following Miller’s edition of Tanner 10. Comon hi of þrim folcum ðam strangestan Germanie, þæt of Seaxum (ond) of Angle (ond) of Geatum. Of Geata fruman syndon Cantware, (ond) Wihtsætan; þæt is seo ðeod þe Wiht þæt ealond oneardað. Of Seaxum, þæt is of ðam lande þe mon hateð Ealdseaxan, coman Eastseaxan (ond) Suðseaxan (ond) Westseaxan. And of Engle coman Eastengle (ond) Middelengle (ond) Myrce (ond) eall Norðhembra cynn; is þæt land ðe Angulus is nemmed, betwyh Geatum (ond) Seaxum; is sæd of þære tide þe hi ðanon gewiton oð to dæge, þæt hit weste wunige.


T h e A n g lo -S a x o n C h r o n ic le ,

T h e O l d E n g lis h B e d e ,

archetype composed c. 892. a. Genealogy of Aethelwulf, s.a. 855 in the Parker MS., MS. CCCC 173, (Plummer’s Ä), c. 892:

Appendix B


Woden Friþowalding. Friþuwald Freawining. Frealaf Friþuwulfing. Friþuwulf Finning. Fin Godwulfing. Godwulf Geating. Geat . . . . b. Genealogy of Aethelwulf, s.a. 855 in MS. Tiberius A VI (Plummer’s B), c. 1000: Woden Frealafing. Frealaf Fining. Finn Godwulfing. Godulf Geating. Geata. . . . c. Genealogy of Ida, s.a. 547 in MS. Tiberius A VI (Plum­ mer’s B), c. 1000: Woden Freoþolafing. Freoþelaf Freoþulfing. Friþulf Fin­ ning. Finn Godulfing. Godulf Geating. 5. Asser, L i f e o f K in g A lfr e d , completed 893 (however, see Ch. IV, note 14, for another dating), sole manuscript destroyed in Cottonian fire of 1731, dated from c. 1000. 1, lines 22-23: . . . Geata, quern Getam iamdudum pagani pro deo venera­ bantur . . . . 6. Aethelweard, C h r o n ic le , written 975-1000, sole extant manu­ script, MS. Otho A X, dates from early eleventh century; frag­ mentary since Cottonian fire. Uuothen. Frithouuald. Frealaf. Frithouulf. Fin. Goduulfe. Geat . . . . 7.

possible dates of composition range from early seventh century to late tenth century; widely accepted date c. 700. Sole extant manuscript, found in the E x e t e r B o o k , dates from c. 1000. Lines 57-58:

W id s ith ,

Ic wæs mid Hunum (ond) mid Hreðgotum, mid Sweom (ond) mid Geatum (ond) mid Suþdenum. 8.

possible dates of composition range from early seventh century to late tenth century; most usually accepted date c. 700. Sole extant manuscript found in the E x e t e r B o o k , dates from c. 1000. Lines 14-16:

D eor,

We þæt Mæðhilde wurdon grundlease þæt hi seo sorglufu 9.

monge gefrugnon Geates frige, slæp ealle binom.

possible dates of composition range from mid-seventh century to late tenth century; most usually accepted dates range from 700 to 750. Sole extant manuscript, MS. Vitellius B e o w u lf,

Appendix B


A XV, dates from c. íooo. G e a t, G e a ta s occur consistently in this manuscript with the exception of “Geotena” in line 443: Wén’ ic þæt hé wille, gif hé wealdan möt, in þæm giiðsele Geotena léode etan unforhte, swä hé oft dyde, mægen Hréðmanna. 10.

L ib e r M o n stro ru m , possible earliest date of composition mid­ seventh century; no detailed study of dating done; see Sisam’s note on this subject in S tu d ie s in t h e H isto ry o f O l d E n g lis h L ite ra tu r e , pp. 288-90. C. L. Wrenn in his edition of B e o w u lf (! 953)>P- 48, dates the work to the eighth century and claims it was composed in England. All three extant manuscripts, listed by A. Thomas in his article in the B u lle tin d u C a n g e , I (1924), use the phraseology given below or refer to Hygelac as “rex Getarum.” Et sunt [monstra] mirae magnitudinis: ut rex Huiglaucus qui imperavit Getis et a Francis occisus est.

Reference M atter


The following abbreviations are used in the Notes and the Bib­ liography: A.P.S.

A c t a P h ilo lo g ic a S ca n d in a v ica .


C. Raymond Beazley. T h e D a w n o f M o d e m 3 vols. London, 1897-1906.

G e­

o graph y. C . C . , S .L .

C o r p u s C h ristia n o ru m , S e ries L a tin a .

E .E .T .S .

E a rly E n g lis h T e x t S o cie ty .

J .E .G .P .

Jou rnal o f E n g lis h a n d G e r m a n ic P h ilo lo g y .


Loeb Classical Library.

M .G .H .

M o n u m e n ta G e r m a n ia e H istorica .

M .G .H ., A . A .

M o n u m e n ta

G e r m a n ia e

H isto rica , A u c to r e s


tiq u issim i.


P .L .

J. P. Migne, ed.

P a tro lo g ia e C u r s u s C o m p le t u s :

S e ries L atin a .


Konrad Miller. M a p p a e m u n d i: d ie karten. 6 vols. Stuttgart, 1895-98.


Manuel Francisco de Baros (Le Vicomte de Santarem). E s s a i sur V H istoire d e la C o s m o g r a p h ie et d e la C a rto g ra p h ie p e n d a n t le M o y e n A g e . 3 vols. Paris, 1849-52.

ä lte s te n W e l t ­


In tr o d u c tio n


H. Leo,

B e ó w u lf, d a s ä lte s te d e u ts c h e , in a n g elsä ch sisch er m u n ­

(1839), pp. 4, 10, 48-49, 58-59. Ludwig Ettmüller, B e o w u lf. H e ld e n g e d ic h t d e s a c h te n Jahr­ h u n d e r ts (1840), pp. 8-9, 13, 23-24. 3 Pontus Fahlbeck, “Beovulfsqvädet såsom källa för nordisk fomhistoria,” A n tiq v a ris k T id s k r ift fö r S v e rig e , VIII (1884-91), no. 2. In 1913 Fahlbeck read a paper before the Swedish Acad­ emy defending some of the points of his article that had been attacked by several outstanding scholars. This address was published in 1924 as “Beowulfskvädet som källa för nordisk fomhistoria,” N .F .K . V itte r h e ts H isto rie o c h A n tik v ite ts A k a d e m ie n s H a n d lin g a r, XXXIII (1924), no. 3. 4 Gregor Sarrazin, B e o w u lf-S tu d ie n (1888), pp. 23-31. 5 Bernhard ten Brink, B e o w u lf. U n te rs u c h u n g e n , in Q u e lle n u n d d a rt erh a lten e, h e ld e n g e d ic h t


F o r s c h u n g e n z u r S p r a c h - u n d C u ltu r g e s c h ic h te d e r G e r m a n i­

LXII (1888), 194-210. Sophus Bugge, “Studien über das Beowulfepos,”

s c h e n V ö lk e r ,


B e iträ g e z u r

XII (1887), 1-112, 360-75. Axel Olrik, H e r o ic L e g e n d s o f D e n m a rk , trans, and rev. by Lee M. Hollander (1919), pp. 32, 39. This work was originally published as Axel Olrik, D a n m a rk s H e lte d ig tn in g (1903-10). Henrik Schück, “Folknamnet Geatas i den fomengelska dikten Beowulf,” U p s a la U n iv e r site ts Å rssk rift, II (1907). Knut Stjema, E ssa y s o n Q u e s tio n s c o n n e c te d w ith th e O l d E n g lis h P o e m o f B e o w u lf, trans, and ed. John R. C. Hall (1912), pp. 50-96 especially. R. W. Chambers, B e o w u lf, A n In tr o d u c tio n to t h e S tu d y o f G e s c h ic h t e d e r d e u ts c h e n S p r a c h e u n d L itera tu r,

7 8 9 10

t h e P o e m w ith a D is c u s sio n o f t h e Sto ries o f O f f a a n d F in n w ith

(1959), pp. 2-13, 333~45>401~ 8. This work (hereafter cited as In tr o d u c tio n ) was first pub­ lished in 1921. Kemp Malone, “King Alfred’s ‘Geats,’ ” M o d e r n L a n g u a g e R e ­ v ie w , XX (1925), 1-11; “King Alfred’s ‘Gotland,’ ” M o d e m a S u p p le m e n t b y C . L . W r e n n


14 7

Notes to Pages 5-8



13 14 15

16 17 18


L a n g u a g e R e v ie w , XXIII (1928), 336-39; “The Identity of the G e a ta s ,” A .P .S ., IV (1929), 84-90. Gudmund Schütte, “The Geats of Beowulf,” J .E .G .P ., XI (1912), 574-602. Schütte later changed his viewpoint and argued that the Geats were to be identified with the Gautar, but with those Gauts who had migrated to Jutland. He discussed his modified view first in an address, “Swedish Place-Names in Denmark,” which is summarized in P u b lica tio n s o f th e S o c ie ty fo r th e A d v a n c e m e n t o f S c a n d in a v ia n S tu d y , I (19 11-14 ), 185-86. It is developed further in his review of Stjerna’s E ssa y s o n Q u e s tio n s c o n n e c t e d w ith th e O l d E n g lis h P o e m o f B e o w u lf, in A r k iv fö r N o r d is k F ilo lo g i, XXXIII (1916-17), 64-96, and in a later article, “Geaterspørgsmaalet,” D a n s k e S tu d ie r, XXVII

(i 93 o)> 70-81-

Christian Kier, B e o w u lf: e t B id ra g til N o r d e n s O ld h is to r ie (1915), pp. 31-57Elis Wadstein, N o r d e n o c h V ä ste u r o p a i g a m m e l t id (1925); “The Beowulf Poem as an English National Epos,” A.P.S., VIII (1933-34), 273-91. C. C. Uhlenbeck in a review of three works by Elias Wessén, A .P .S ., III (1928), 174. A few years earlier Eilert Ekwall had called for a revision of the historical and geographical argu­ ments in the Gautar theory. Such revision was never undertaken. See Chapter IV, note 11, for EkwalTs statement. Pages 2-13, 333- 45, 401-8. See, for example, J. E. A. Joliffe, P r e -F e u d a l E n g la n d : T h e J u te s (1933); and Frank Stenton, A n g lo -S a x o n E n g la n d (1947), especially pp. 14-16. In turning the tide in B e o w u lf studies away from the emphasis on things Germanic and pagan, perhaps the most significant study has been the long article by Friedrich Klaeber, “Die Christlichen Elemente im Beowulf,” A n g lia , XXXV (1912), 111-36, 249-70, 453-82; XXXVI (1912), 169-99. Klaeber realized that in addition to his case for the Christian nature of the poem there also was a strong possibility of Latin influences in the epic, and in a complementary article he investigated echoes of the A e n e i d in B e o w u lf : “Aeneis und Beowulf,” A r c h iv fü r da s S tu d iu m d e r n e u e r e n S p r a c h e n u n d L ite ra tu r e n , CXXVI (1911), 40-48, 339-59. Other scholars had anticipated Klaeber’s approach, but without making the strong case that he did. For a more recent consideration of the depth of the Chris­ tian element in the poem, see Dorothy Whitelock’s T h e A u d i ­ e n c e o f B e o w u lf (1951), especially pp. 3-19. I am well aware that the thesis I present, if accepted, would require the reassessment and the revision of much of the past

Notes to Pages 8 -io

20 21




work on the poem. In this connection, the words of George Philip Krapp in his edition of the Vercelli Book are pertinent: “It is to be regretted that the present state of Anglo-Saxon scholarship does not permit more positive convictions with re­ spect to the authorship and date of composition of the AngloSaxon poetical monuments, with respect also to the methods of composition and construction employed by Anglo-Saxon poets, or to the metrical principles according to which they wrote, or to the mixture of linguistic forms, dialectal or other­ wise, which appear in the recorded texts. If a sceptical attitude towards all these questions still seems necessary after so many years of study, the hope nevertheless remains that further ex­ amination, and from new angles, will bring more certain results” (from the Preface to volume II of T h e A n g lo -S a x o n P o e tic R e c o r d s [1932], p. vi). Tom Burns Haber, A C o m p a r a tiv e S tu d y o f th e B e o w u lf a n d t h e A e n e i d (1931). Albert Stanburrough Cook, “Greek Parallels to Certain Features of the B e o w u lf,” P h ilo lo g ic a l Q u a rterly , V (1926), 226-34; “Beowulfian and Odyssean Voyages,” T ra n sa ctio n s o f th e C o n ­ n e c tic u t A c a d e m y o f A r ts a n d S c ie n c e s , XXVIII (1926), 1-20; and several other short articles suggesting Greek influence in the poem. For a complete listing, see the bibliography in Fr. Klaeber, B e o w u lf a n d th e Figjht at F in n s b u r g (1950), p. cliv, art. 129 b (hereafter cited as B e o w u lf ) . James Walter Rankin, “A Study of the Kennings in AngloSaxon Poetry,” J .E .G .P ., VIII (1909), 357-422; IX (1910), 49-84. Two studies by Alois Brandi may also be mentioned, “Hercules und Beowulf,” S itz u n g s b e r ic h te d e r P re u ssisch e n A k a d e m ie d e r W iss e n sc h a fte n , P h ilo s o p h is ch -h isto risc h e K la sse, no. 14 (1928), pp. 161-67, and “Beowulf-Epos und Aeneis in systematischer Vergleichung,” A r c h iv fü r da s S tu d iu m d e r n e u e r e n S p ra ch en , CLXXI (1937), 161-73. In addition, a very recent work that also has bearing on this issue is Bernard F. Huppé’s D o c ­ trin e a n d P o etry : A u g u s tin e ’s In flu e n c e on O l d E n g lis h P o e try

(1959). On pages 231-33 Huppé suggests that B e o w u lf might well share the Augustinian influences he notes in Anglo-Saxon religious poetry. In the same vein R. Derolez calls for Latin scholars to investigate Anglo-Saxon poetry for stylistic devices carried over from Latin models. See his “Anglo-Saxon Litera­ ture: ‘Attic’ or ‘Asiatic’? Old English Poetry and its Latin Back­ ground,” E n g lis h S tu d ie s T o d a y , 2nd series, ed. G. A. Bonnard (Bern, 1961), pp. 93-105. Recently Arthur G. Brodeur, T h e A r t o f B e o w u lf (1959), also gives due credit to the Latin back­

Notes to Page 10


ground of the poem. For a listing of other works on patristic and classical influences in B e o w u lf, see Klaeber’s bibliography in his edition of the poem, particularly pp. cliv-clv. On the other hand, it should be pointed out that Beowulfian scholarship has also taken a reverse direction in the past few years with a re-emphasis on matters pagan and Germanic. This trend grows largely out of Francis P. Magoun’s application of the oral-formulaic theory of composition to Anglo-Saxon poetry. For this trend see especially Magoun’s two important articles, “Oral-Formulaic Character of Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry,” S p e c u lu m , XXVIII (1953), 446-67 and “Bede’s Story of Cædman: The Case History of an Anglo-Saxon Oral Singer,” S p e c u lu m , XXX (1955), 49-63. These two studies have been followed by a host of others, too numerous to list, that extend, modify, or attack Magoun’s ideas. So far as I can see, it is not possible to accept the thesis presented in this work — that the Geatas are the Getae — and at the same time accept a strict application of Magoun’s oral-formulaic theory. However, there need be no contradiction in accepting my view and the more moderate argument that regards B e o w u lf as a written work utilizing the traditional diction of oral Germanic poetry. 24 The need for such a study is stated also by Dorothy Whitelock in an address that was published as C h a n g in g C u r r e n ts in A n g lo -S a x o n S tu d ie s (1958), p. 14. 25 J. D. A. Ogilvy, B o o k s K n o w n to A n g lo - L a t in W r ite r s fr o m A ld h e lm to A lc u i n (1936). Miss Whitelock, in C h a n g in g C u r ­ re n ts in A n g lo -S a x o n S tu d ie s, refers to several other works that can also be consulted to discover what Latin works were known in Anglo-Saxon England. Among these are N. R. Ker, C a ta lo g o f M a n u s c r ip ts c o n ta in in g A n g lo -S a x o n (1957); E. A. Lowe, C o d i c e s L a tin i A n tiq u io r e s (1934-66); M. L. W. Laistner, “The Library of the Venerable Bede,” in B e d e : H is L if e , T im e s , a n d W r itin g s, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson (1935), pp. 237-66; and, in this same volume, W. Levison, “Bede as Historian,” pp. 111-51. Knowledge of Latin authorities which is revealed by other specific authors is discussed in A. Campbell’s edition of Frithegod and Wulfstan, F r ith e g o d i M o n a c h i B r e u ilo q u iu m V ita e B e a ti W ilfr e d i e t W u lfs ta n i C a n to ris N arra tio M e tr ic a d e

(1950), and in B. Colgrave’s F e li x ’s L i f e o f (1956), pp. 16-18. These works are all listed by Miss Whitelock; in addition, although they deal with the post-Anglo-Saxon period for the most part, the following works may be consulted: T h e E n g lis h L ib ra ry b e fo r e 1 7 0 0 , ed. Francis Wormald and C. E. Wright (1958), especially chapter V, “The Contents of the Medieval Library,” by R. M. Wilson; N. R. S a n cto S w ith u n o Sa in t G u th la c

Notes to Pages 10-14


Ker, M e d ie v a l L ib ra rie s o f G r e a t B ritain (1941); R. A. B. Mynors, “The Latin Classics known to Boston of Bury,” in F r it z Saxl,

i 8 g o —i g 4 8 :


V o lu m e


M e m o r ia l

E ssa y s

fro m

h is

ed. D. J. Gordon (1957), pp. 199-217. Many of the studies of M. Manitius, in particular the great G e s c h ic h t e d e r L a te in is c h e n L ite ra tu r d e s M itte la lte r s (19 1131), and another standard work, M. Roger’s L ’E n s e ig n e m e n t d e s L e t tr e s C la s s iq u e s d ’A u s o n e å A lc u in (1905), are invalu­ able starting points for an investigation into the availability and use of Latin sources in England. fr ie n d s in E n g la n d ,

26 27

28 29 30

B o o k s K n o w n to A n g lo -L a t in W r ite rs fr o m A ld h e lm to A lc u in ,

P- 97Ogilvy (ib id ., p. 89) states that “practically every Englishman of whose works we have more than a page or two — and some who have left us only a few lines — shows some acquaintance with the A e n e i d .” The E c lo g u e s and the G e o r g ie s were to be had in England also. (I shall not give page citations to Ogilvy’s monograph, from which this list comes, since he arranges these sources alphabetically for ease of reference.) I b id ., pp. 91-92. I b id ., pp. 93- 95 See, for example, Whitelock’s C h a n g in g C u r r e n ts in A n g lo S a x o n S tu d ie s , p assim , but specifically pages 13-14, where she refers to the discrediting of “old views that Anglo-Saxon England was cut off from the intellectual life of Europe.” The work of W. Levison, E n g la n d a n d t h e C o n tin e n t in th e E ig h th C e n tu r y (1946), may especially be singled out for showing the close connections between England and the rest of Europe. C h a p te r I T h e G e t a e in C la s sic a l L ite ra tu r e to A b o u t 3 0 0 A . D .


For brief historical studies of the Getae, see G. Ekholm and A. Alföldi, “The Peoples of Northern Europe: the Getae and Dacians,” T h e C a m b r id g e A n c ie n t H isto ry , vol. XI (1954), ch. 2; and P a u ly s R e a l-e n c y c lo p ä d ie d e r cla ssisch en a ltertu m sw issen sch a ft, ed. August Friedrich von Pauly and G. Wissowa (1894----- ) s.v. Getae. 2 Herodotus, IV, 93, ed. and trans. A. D. Godley (Loeb, 192124). Hereafter, references subsequent to the first that require only identification of the book, chapter, or paragraph of a work will be included in the text. Such references will be to the edition cited in the first note to the work. 3 Rhys Carpenter, in F o lk T a le , F ic tio n a n d Sa g a in th e H o m e r ic E p i c s (1946), devotes chapter VI to a discussion of the Getic cult based on Herodotus’ description of it in Book IV, 93-96.

Notes to Page 14


Carpenter finds in the cult elements of the bear-son story, and this conclusion leads him into a comparison with B e o w u lf, based on Panzer’s study of the Anglo-Saxon poem as repre­ sentative also of a folkloristic bear-son tale (Friedrich Panzer, S tu d ie n z u r g e rm a n isc h e n S a g e n g e s c h ic h te , vol. I: B e o w u lf [1910]). I mention Carpenter’s study here since he connects B e o w u lf to the ancient Thracian Getae, as I have also done, but his connection is based on the notion that the poem and the Getic cult independently reflect the bear-son story. He does not consider seriously the possibility of literary derivation, the approach I have taken, to explain the connection. Hence his book has only tangential bearing on my own study. It is curious that Carpenter does not mention Porphyry in his discussion, since Porphyry states that “Zalmoxis” in Thracian meant “bearskin” ( P o rp h y rii d e V it a P y th a g o ra e, 14, ed. Ant. Westermann and J. F. Boissonade, in D io g e n is L a e r tii d e C la r o ­ ru m P h ilo s o p h o r u m V itis, D o g m a tib u s , e t A p o p h t h e g m a t ib u s

ed. C. Gabr. Cobet [1878] [p. 90 of this edition]), and this statement adds strength to Carpenter’s argument that the cult of Zalmoxis was a bear-cult. If this work of Porphyry had any circulation in the West in the Middle Ages and was by some chance known to the B e o w u lf poet, then Beowulf himself might be a Germanic literary recreation of Zalmoxis. Even their names are related in meaning: “Beowulf” most likely means “Bee-wolf,” i.e., “Bear,” one who raids the honey. (See the Introduction to Klaeber’s edition of the poem, pages xxv-xxvii, especially the last paragraph on page xxvi, where he seems to favor the meaning “Bear” for “Beowulf.” ) Certainly Beowulf, like Zalmoxis, possessed superhuman attributes. How­ ever, there is no reason to believe that the literal meaning of Zalmoxis’ name was known in England through Porphyry or any other intermediary. Porphyry’s comment may be an attempt to explain the close association of the Getae to the bear, an association that could well have been known to the B e o w u lf poet. There is, it may be noted, a medieval recollection of Zal­ moxis; he appears in the line of Gothic kings in Jordanes, where his name is Zalmoxen, and much later William of Jumiéges, copying from Jordanes, repeats that Zalmoxis was a king of the Goths (Jordanes, D e O r ig in e A c t ib u s q u e G e ta r u m , V, 39, in R o m a n a e t G e tic a , ed. Theodor Mommsen, in M .G .H ., A .A . , vol. V [1882]; Guillaume de Jumiéges, G e s t a N o r m a n n o r u m D u c u m , I, iii, ed. Jean Marx [1914], p. 7). 4 Ovid, E x P o n to , III, ii, lines 39-102, in T ristia , E x P o n to , ed. and trans. Arthur Leslie Wheeler (Loeb, 1924). Ovid writes that the story, narrated by an old Getic reconteur, was a “wellL ib r i D e c e m ,

Notes to Pages 14-17 known tale” (Ex

P o n to ,


III, ii, lines 97-98). Cf. Euripides,

I p h ig e n ia in Tauris.

5 6


8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15 16 17

VII, iii, 1, ed. and trans. Horace Leonard Jones (Loeb, 1917-32). See also P o m p o n ii M e la e D e C h o r o g r a p h ia L ib r i T res, II, 1-21, ed. Gustav Parthey (1867); Pliny, N a tu r a l H istory, IV, xii, 80-91, ed. and trans. H. Rackham and W. H. S. Jones (Loeb, I. 938—56); Dionysius Periegetes, O r b is D e sc rip tio , lines 30219, in G e o g r a p h i G r a e c i M in o res, ed. Karl Müller (1855-82), II, 119-21; T h e T h ir ty -S ix th D isco u rse , 1-7, in Dio Chrysos­ tom, ed. and trans. J. W. Cohoon and H. Lamar Crosby (Loeb, :i932-5i). Strabo does not mention these tribes but rebukes those who write about peoples and regions they know nothing of and who therefore attribute to them fantastic characteristics (VII, iii, 1). The most complete discussion of ancient conceptions of geogra­ phy is the old but still definitive work of E. H. Bunbury, H isto ry o f A n c ie n t G e o g r a p h y (1883). More recent, shorter dis­ cussions are those by H. F. Tozer, A H isto ry o f A n c ie n t G e o g ­ ra p h y (1935), and J. Oliver Thomson, A H isto ry o f A n c ie n t G e o g r a p h y (1948). For a good survey of antique notions, particularly of the North, see Fridtjof Nansen, I n N o r th e rn M ists, trans. Arthur G. Chater (1911). Classical conceptions of the known world are graphically presented in Miller. See especially the reconstructions of Strabo and Pliny, of Mela, and of Dionysius Periegetes, vol. VI, Plates 8, 7 and 6, re­ spectively. Tristia , III, xiii, line 27. T h e b a id , IV, lines 421-22, in Statius, ed. and trans. J. H. Mozley (Loeb, 1928). The reference to the Iliad is to Book XIII, line 5. C. Julius Solinus, C o lle c ta n e a R e r u m M e m o ra b iliu m , 10, 1-5, ed. Theo. Mommsen (1895). E x P o n to , I, ii, lines 81-82. Tristia , V, vii, fine 17. E x P o n to , I, V, line 12; I, vii, line 2 and line 12; I, v iii, lines 15-16; II, vii, line 2; III, ii, line 102; Tristia, V, vii, line 12, etc. The adjectives used are d u ru s, saevu s, trux, feru s, m a le p a ca tu s, etc. G e o r g ie s , IV, line 462, in Virgil, ed. and trans. H. Rushton Fairclough (Loeb, 1930). A e n e id , III, line 35. H isto rica e P h ilip p ic a e e x T r o g o P o m p e io , XII, 2, ed. E. Pessonneaux (1903). Where Quintus Curtius (Budé text, X, ii, 44) has Zopyrion’s forces overwhelmed and destroyed by a

G eog ra ph y ,


Notes to Pages 17-21

storm while attacking the Getae, Justin has them defeated by Scythians (i.e., Getae). Curtius was also widely used in the Middle Ages. 18 “The Deified Augustus,” LXIII, in Suetonius, ed. and trans. J. C. Rolfe (Loeb, 1935). 19 T h e T h ir ty -S ix th D isco u rse , 4. 20 Ic a r o m e n ip p u s, 16, in Lucian, ed. and trans. A. M. Harmon, K. Kilburn, and M. D. MacLeod (Loeb, 1913-67). 21 T h e O x fo r d C la s sica l D ic tio n a ry , ed. M. Cary, e t al. (1949), s.v. Ares. 22 Silvae, I, ii, lines 52-53. 23 A rg o n a u tica , V, line 618, in Valerius Flaccus, ed. and trans. J. H. Mozley (Loeb, 1934). 24 A c h ille id , I, lines 758-60: “They approach, like unto Amazons on the Maeotid shore, when, having made plunder of Scythian homesteads and captured strongholds of the Getae, they lay aside their arms and feast.” 25 D e s c r ip tio n o f G r e e c e , I, xxv, 2, ed. and trans. W. H. S. Jones (Loeb, 1918-35). 26 H. J. Rose, A H a n d b o o k o f G r e e k M y th o lo g y (1928), p. 58. 27 Herodotus, IV, 93; Thucydides, II, 96, in T h e C o m p le t e W r it ­ in g s o f T h u c y d id e s , trans. Richard Crawley (1934). 28 H e r c u le s O e ta e u s , line 1280, in S e n e c a 's T r a g e d ie s , ed. and trans. Frank Justus Miller (Loeb, 1917); Statius, T h e b a id , II, line 595. 29 T h e b a id , I, lines 16-22. 30 See Chapter III for a discussion of this identification. 31 T h e O x fo r d C la ssica l D ictio n a ry , s.v. Giants. Undeniably other enemies of the Empire could be compared also to the Titans and the giants of mythology, but only the Getae-Goths were of very special interest to the Middle Ages and hence their attachment to these figures of myth assumed greatest signifi­ cance in that period. 32 R o m a n H isto ry , LI, 26, ed. and trans. Earnest Cary (Loeb, 1914-27). 33 E x P o n to , IV, X, lines 21-24. 34 See note 3 of this chapter. 35 Tristia, V, x, lines 31-32; so also V, vii, fine 18, and III, x, lines 19-20. 36 E x P o n to , I, V, line 74; III, v, line 6; IV, ii, line 2; IV, x, line 2; etc. 37 I b id ., I, v, lines 73-74. 38 T h e b a id , IV, lines 421-22. 39 E x P o n to , III, ii, lines 39-102. 40 Cf. Rose, H a n d b o o k o f G r e e k M y th o lo g y , p. 254.

Notes to Pages 21-26 41 42 43 44

45 46


III, i, line 17; II, ii, line 61. VI, line 348. A c h ille id , II, lines 131-36. See, for example, Strabo, VII, iii, 19; Pliny, N a tu ra l H istory , IV, xii, 83; Dionysius Periegetes, line 306. A rg o n a u tica , V, lines 416-22. R o m a n H istory, Preface, 4, ed. and trans. Horace White (Loeb, 1912- 13). S ilv a e,

T h e b a id ,

C h a p te r II T h e L a t e A n t iq u e a n d E a rly M e d ie v a l T ra d itio n 1

2 3 4

5 6 7 8

9 10

Strabo, in G e o g ra p h y , VII, iii, 13, ed. and trans. Horace Leonard Jones (Loeb, 1917-32), writes that the Getae and the Dacians could once put into the field an army of over two hundred thousand men, but the number was reduced to forty thousand by his time. Although the figures he gives may be exaggerated, they do indicate in a general way a serious decline in popula­ tion. A. Alföldi in the C a m b r id g e A n c ie n t H isto ry , vol. XI (1954), ch. 2, traces the decline of the Getae until they are absorbed by the western branch, the Dacians. “Panegyric in Honour of Constantius,” 9D, in T h e W o r k s o f th e E m p e r o r Julian, ed. and trans. Wilmer Cave Wright (Loeb, 1913- 23)T h e C a esa rs, 311C, 320D, 327D. XIX, “Epigrams on Various Matters,” xxvi, line 7, in Ausonius, ed. and trans. Hugh G. Evelyn White (Loeb, 1919-21). See also III, “Personal Poems,” v, line 37, and XII, “The Techno­ paegnion,” X, line 2 2 . “The Divinity of Christ,” lines 426-32, in Prudentius, ed. and trans. H. J. Thomson (Loeb, 1949-53). “A Reply to the Address of Symmachus,” II, line 696. Commentary to the A e n e id , III, line 35, S erv ii G r a m m a tici q u i feru n tu r in V e r g ilii C a rm in a C o m m e n ta rii, ed. George Thilo and Hermann Hagen (1881-87). “Liber Hebraicarum Quaestionum in Genesim,” 318, O p e r a O m n ia , ed. Migne, P.L., vol. XXIII (1883), col. 1000. (A later, more critical version of this work has been edited by P. Antin, “Hebraicae Quaestiones in Libro Geneseos,” S. H ie r o n y m i P re s­ b y teri O p e r a , Pars I, O p e r a E x e g e t ic a 1 , in C.C., S.L., vol. LXXII [1959].) See note 35 of this chapter and page 37 for the full passage. These references are indexed completely in the edition of Claudian’s works by Theodor Birt in M .G .H ., A . A ., vol. X (1892). Paulus Orosius, H isto ria ru m A d v e r s u m P a g a n o s L ib r i V I I , I, 16, 2, ed. Karl Zangemeister (1889).


11 12

13 14

15 16

17 18 19 20 21


Notes to Pages 26-23 D e R e d itu S u o L ib r i D u o , I, lines 40, 142, 336; II, line 51, ed. Charles Haines Keene and trans. George F. Savage-Armstrong (1907). The specific references are listed in the index to Sidonius’ works, E p is tu la e e t C a rm in a , ed. Christian Luetjohann, in M . G .H ., A .A ., vol. VIII (1887). The one exception to his use of G o t h in prose occurs in Epistula III, Liber VIII, on page 127. C a r m e n d e P ro v id e n tia D iv in a , lines 34, 57, 143, 905, in O p e r a O m n ia , ed. Migne, P .L ., vol. LI (1861), cols. 618-38; C h r o n i­ c u m In te g r u m , in the same edition, cols. 535-608, p a ssim . Martianus Capella, D e N u p t iis P h ilo lo g ia e e t M e r c u r ii, VI, 656, and 663, ed. A. Dick (1925); Rufus Festus Avienus, D e s c r ip tio O r b is T e r r a e , line 442, in G e o g r a p h i G r a e c i M in o re s, ed. Karl Müller, II (1882), 181; Priscian, P erieg esis, line 295, ed. Paul van de Woestijne (1953). A e t h ic i C o sm o g ra p h ia , ed. Josias Simler (1575), p. 21. V ita E p ifa n i, 64, 67, 80, in O p e r a , ed. Friedrich Vogel, in M .G .H ., A .A ., vol. VII (1885). Ennodius also uses “Getae” for G o th i in the poetic “Panegyricus Dictus Theoderico,” 83, in­ cluded in this same edition of his works (p. 213). Epistula LXXXVII, ed. Rudolph Peiper, in M . G .H ., A . A . , VI (1883), p. 96. Charles Christopher Mierow, trans., T h e G o t h ic H isto ry o f Jo rd a n es (1915)» PP- i 5~l6 D e O r ig in e A c t ib u s q u e G e ta ru m , Praefatio, 1, in R o m a n a e t G e tic a , ed. Theodor Mommsen, in M . G .H ., A . A . , vol. V (1882). H isto ry o f t h e W a rs, V , xxiv, 28-31, in Procopius, ed. and trans. H. B. Dewing (Loeb, 1914-40). C a rm in a , IX, i, line 73, in O p e r a P o e tic a , ed. Friedrich Leo, in M .G .H ., A .A ., vol. IV (1881). Other instances when Fortu­ natus uses “Getae” for “Gothi” : C a rm in a , VI, v, line 219; C a r ­ m ina, Appendix, vi, line 6. In the V it a S. M a rtin i, II, line 74, included in the same edition, the Getae are coupled with such eastern peoples as the Persians and the Arabs. (In C a rm in a , VI, v, line 219, in addition to being mentioned with these same eastern people, they are also mentioned with West Europeans: “Italus Scytha Persa Indus Geta Daca Britannus.” ) Isid o ri H isp a le n sis E p is c o p i E ty m o lo g ia r u m s iv e O r ig in u m L ib r i

X X , IX, ii, 89, ed. W. M. Lindsay (19 11). “De Laude Spaniae,” H isto ria G o th o r u m , 1, in C h r o n ic a M i ­ nora, ed. Theodor Mommsen, in M .G .H ., A .A ., vol. XI (1894). 24 H isto ria G o th o r u m , 1. 25 I b id ., 66. 26 G lo ssa riu m A n s ile u b i, s iv e L ib r u m G lo ssa ru m , ed. W. M. Lind­ say and J. F. Mountford (1926), s.v. Goti.


Notes to Pages 30-37 27 28

29 30

31 32



35 36


The role of incubi in fathering usually monstrous and fabulous tribes such as Gog-Magog and the Brood of Cain recurs very often in later medieval literature. H isto ry o f t h e W a rs, III, ii, 1-5. Of course, traditions of Latin Europe could not be derived directly from Procopius, but they did depend on the same sources that furnished him with his “facts.” I b id ., Ill, iii, 1. See also V, i, 3. I b id ., Ill, ii, 1-5. Procopius singled out the Black-Cloaks (Melanchlaeni) and the Sarmatians to identify specifically with the Getae-Goths, but his implication was clearly that all the tribes of Scythia, fantastic and historical, had one common origin, and that origin was from the Getae-Goths. For a recent discussion of the problem of the attitude towards the Goths of Spain in the Middle Ages, see Hans Messmer, H isp a n ia — I d e e u n d G o te n m y th o s (i960). Andrew Runni Anderson, A l e x a n d e r s G a te , G o g a n d M a g o g , a n d th e I n c lo s e d N a tio n s (1932), pp. 7-8 . 1 have derived much of the following material on the Goths as the people of GogMagog from this work. For a bibliography of the subject of Gog and Magog as a whole, see Anderson’s note on page 4. The passage from Genesis 10:1-2, in the Douay Bible (from which I have quoted throughout) reads, “These are the gen­ erations of the sons of Noe: Sem, Cham, and Japheth: and unto them sons were bom after the flood. The sons of Japheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Thubal, and Mosoch, and Thiras.” In Judaeo-Christian tradition all the peoples of the world were thought to be descended from one of the three sons of Noah. Josephus is apparently the first to call the Scythians the progeny of Magog: “Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him, but who by the Greeks are called Scythians” ( Jew ish A n tiq u itie s , I, 123, in Josephus, ed. and trans. H. St. J. Thackeray, Ralph G. Marcus, e t al. [Loeb, 1926-65]). “Of the Christian Faith,” II, xvi, 138, in S e le c t W o r k s a n d L e t ­ ters, trans. H. De Romestin, E. De Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth, in A S e le c t L ib r a r y o f N i c e n e a n d P o s t -N ic e n e F a th e r s o f th e C h r is tia n C h u r c h , 2nd series, vol. X (1896). “Liber Hebraicarum Quaestionum in Genesim,” 318, in P.L., vol. XXIII, col. 1000. The Massagetae, who dwelt far to the east beyond the Don, are joined to the Getae presumably for the reason Augustine gives: the correspondence of the initials M and G of the two tribes to the first letters of Magog and Gog. The repetition of “Getae” as an element in “Massagetae,” just as “Gog” is re-


37 38 39 40


42 43 44

Notes to Pages 37-38 peated in “Magog,” further suggested the coupling of these two people whose histories were quite distinct. Writers hence­ forth repeat this identification and compound the confusion already existing by bringing this remote tribe, the Massagetae, into imperial history. ___ T h e C i t y o f G o d , XX, 11, trans. Gerald G. Walsh, S.J., and Daniel J. Honan, in T h e F a th e r s o f th e C h u r c h , A N e w T r a n s ­ lation , vol. XXIV (1954). C h r o n ic o n P a sc h a le , ed. Ludwig Dindorf, in C o r p u s S c r ip to ru m H isto ria e B y za n tin a e (1832), IV, 46. E ty m o lo g ia e , IX, ii, 27; IX, ii, 89; XIV, iii, 31; H isto ria G o ­ th o ru m , 1 and 66. D i e K o s m o g ra p h ie d e s Istrier A ith ic u s , ed. Heinrich Wuttke (1.853), ch. 41. There are manuscript variants here, but the forms of G e t a e which appear in the text accepted by Wuttke are obvi­ ously the intended ones. The dating of Aethicus Ister rests on the apparent borrowing of Isidore of Seville from the C o s ­ m o g ra p h ia ; however, Dr. Ronald Dean Ware states that the Latinity of this tract is the same as the rare and odd type of Latin used in the proems of many tenth-century Anglo-Saxon charters. Hence, he believes that the C o s m o g r a p h ia could be considerably later than the usual date given for it and that its author drew from the works of Isidore, rather than vice versa. The date of the C o s m o g r a p h ia is not essential for my purposes, however, so I accept the traditional date here and in the next chapter —with reservations only as indicated in the interest of scholarship. P s e u d o -C a llis th e n is H isto ria F a b u lo sa , III, 26, in the C-text, ed. Karl Midler, in A rrian i A n a b a sis et In d ic a , ed. Fr. Diibner (1877). Anderson, A le x a n d e r ’s G a te , p. 38, assigns this version of the P s e u d o -C a llis th e n e s to the period 500-700, after arguing on page 20 that the use of the names “Goth,” “Magoth” “pre­ supposes a time subsequent to that of the invasion of the Goths.” It seems that an earlier date, one in the fourth or fifth century, would be more logical, since by 500 the Goths were in better repute than they had been when their connection to Gog-Magog was invented. See T h e J e w ish E n c y c lo p e d ia , ed. Isidore Singer, et al. (1907), s . w . Talmud; Targum; Midrasch. Adolphe Neubauer, L a G é o g r a p h ie d u T a lm u d (1868), p. 422. C la u d ii P to le m a e i G e o g ra p h ia , II, xi, 16, ed. Karl Müller and C. T. Fischer (1883—1901). The Latin text of this edition: “Appellatur vero proprie et ipsa Scandia atque inhabitant par­ tes eius occidentales C h a e d in i, orientales F a v o n a e et F ira esi,

Notes to Pages 38-41


septentrionales F in n i , meridianas G u ta e ( G a n ta e ) et D a u c io medias L e v o n i.” 45 Francois Lenormant, L e s O r ig in e s d e l’H isto ire (1882), II, 413 14 46 A le x a n d e r s G a te . The author questions the Jewish provenance of this legend as opposed to the findings of Friedrich Pfister, whose study he lists and discusses briefly in a footnote on page 20. Anderson would also date the beginning of the tradition that Alexander built the gate specifically to exclude the hosts of Gog-Magog after the invasion of the Huns in 395 a .d . Pfister argues for an earlier date, one in the first century. This debate is not particularly cogent here since they agree that the legend had taken shape by the end of the fifth century and that also by then the Getae-Goths were looked upon as the people of Gog-Magog. George Cary, T h e M e d ie v a l A le x a n d e r (1956), pp. 18 and 130-31, accepts the Jewish origin of the legend, which, he notes, had widespread popularity in the Middle Ages. 47 P s e u d o -C a llis th e n e s , III, 26. The translation is Anderson’s in A le x a n d e r s G a te , p. 36, from the C-text edited by Miiller. 4S P s e u d o -M e th o d iu s , 8, ed. Ernst Sackur in S ib y llin is ch e T e x t e u n d F o r s c h u n g e n (1898). 49 Letter LXXVII, 8, L e tte r s a n d S e le c t W o rk s, trans. W. H. Fre­ mantle, G. Lewis, and W. G. Martley, in A S e le c t L ib ra ry o f N i c e n e a n d P o s t -N ic e n e F a th e r s o f th e C h ristia n C h u r c h , 2nd series, vol. VI (1893). 50 E ty m o lo g ia e , IX, ii, 66. 51 Priscian in the P e r ie g e s is does not refer to Gog-Magog or to the gate, but he describes amply the tribes that lived to the north of the Caucasus, concluding his description thus: nes,



Heu miseros homines, habitant qui finibus illis Aere damnati tristi nimioque rigore, Quo pereunt pecudes pariter populique uirorum, Ni propere linquant sua rura furentibus euris. (lines 657-60)

52 53

The idea that they were a “damned” race — damned here by the weather — does tie in with Gog-Magog, who as the forces of the Antichrist were most certainly a damned people. No­ tions such as these may have some connection with the medie­ val idea that these peoples were of the “damned brood of Cain” or of Cham. H isto ria G o th o r u m , 2. The word “tecti” may be a Gothic word, a synonym for fo r ti­ tu d o . However, the sentence is obscure, and the reading I have


Notes to Pages 41-49

given it in the text is tentative, only one of a number of possi­ bilities. 54 Poem XXIII, “To Consensus,” lines 69-73, P o e m s a n d L e tte r s , ed. and trans. W. B. Anderson (Loeb, 1936-65); in the same edition, Book I, Letter II, “To Agricola,” passim . 55 T h e G o v e r n a n c e o f G o d , in T h e W r itin g s o f Salvian , th e P r e s ­ b y ter, trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan in T h e F a th e r s o f th e C h u r c h , A N e w T ra n sla tio n (1947). See especially V, 4; V, 8; VII, 6; VII, 9; VII, 15. 56 T h e C a esa rs, 327D. 57 Sidonius, II, “Panegyric on Anthemius,” lines 34-46. 58 See, for example, Claudian, “De Bello Gothico,” lines 31-35; Servius, Commentary to the A e n e id , VII, 604; Prosper Aquitani­ cus, C a r m e n d e P ro v id e n tia D iv in a , lines 33-38, 57-58, in P .L ., vol. LI, col. 618; C a ssio d o ri S en a to ris V a ria e, ed. Theodor Mommsen, in M .G .H ., A .A ., XII (1894), 318, lines 28-31. 59 H isto ria G o th o r u m , 66-70. 60 “Panegyric on the Consuls Probinus and Olybrius,” line 120, in Claudian, ed. and trans. Maurice Platnauer (Loeb, 1922); in the same edition, “The Gothic War,” lines 31-35. 61 Sidonius, VII, “Panegyric on Avitus,” line 502; Poem XXIII, “To Consentius,” line 69. 62 “Panegyric on the Sixth Consulship of the Emperor Honorius,” Preface, and lines 178-86. 63 “Panegyric on the Fourth Consulship of the Emperor Honorius,” lines 518-38. 64 “The Gothic War,” lines 61-76. This figure is adopted by Sidonius in VI, the Preface to the “Panegyric on Avitus.” 65 Poem, LII (XXXVII), “Gigantomachia,” lines 73-77. 66 “Against Eutropius,” II, lines 147-48. 67 “On Stilicho’s Consulship,” I, lines 131-37. 68 In the C h r o n ic o n P a sc h a le the Getae are linked indirectly in another way to giants through descent from Nimrod. The author fists in a genealogy: “Nembrod venator et gigas, Aethiops, ex quo Mysi, ait enim Scriptura: Et Chus genuit Nemrod vena­ torem et gigantem Aethiopem” ( C o r p u s S c r ip to ru m H isto ria e B y za n tin a e, IV, 50). Identification of the Getae with the Mysi (or with the Moesi, who were confused with the Mysi) was common enough. The author of the C h r o n ic o n P a sc h a le merely substitutes a Biblical explanation for the origins of the gigantic stature of the Getae, Mysi, and other people of Thrace for the usual mythological one. See note 7 of this chapter and the text to which it refers. 69 “The Gothic War,” line 481.

Notes to Pages 49-54 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79


Sidonius, VII, “Panegyric on Avitus,” lines 219, 349; V, “Pane­ gyric on Maiorianus,” line 563. D e R e d it u S u o , II, line 49. V it a E p ifa n i, 67. “The Gothic War,” lines 134-37, 169* Sidonius, V, “Panegyric on Maiorianus,” lines 472-79. See Rhys Carpenter, F o lk T a le , F ic tio n a n d Saga in th e H o m e r ic E p i c s (1946), ch. VI. Sidonius, V, “Panegyric on Maiorianus,” line 475. C a rm in a , VI, v, line 219. E ty m o lo g ia e , IX, ii, 90. Miller reconstructs the plan of Orosius in volume VI, Plate 3. It is based on the description in Orosius’ H isto riaru m A d v e r s u m P a g a n os L ib r i V I I , I. Other sources of confirmatory value are t h e D iv is io O r b is T e rra ru m and the D im e n su r a tio P ro v in cia ru m , probably fifth-century works. Both are edited by Alexander Riese in G e o g r a p h i L a tin i M in o r e s ( 1878), pp. 15-20 and 9-14 respectively. The schemes of both are reconstructed by Miller in volume VI, p. 109. Two works of the period dealt with in this chapter may be mentioned as reflecting the same geographical notions discussed here; they are Cosmas' C h ristia n T o p o g ra p h y , ed. and trans. J. W. McCrindle, T h e H a k lu y t S o cie ty , no. 98, (1897), especially Book II, 131 and 148, and Macrobius’ C o m ­ m en ta ry o n t h e D r e a m o f S c ip io , trans. William Harris Stahl (1952), especially Book II, vii, 20, and Stahl’s footnote 9 to this passage. C h a p ter I I I M e d ie v a l C o n c e p t s o f th e G e r m a n ic N o r th a n d th e B a ltic N o r th e a s t

1 2

Eleanor Shipley Duckett, L a tin W r ite rs o f th e F i f t h C e n tu r y (1930), p. 232. Beazley, I, 244-45. Other standard works on the geography of the Middle Ages are Miller; Santarem (the A tla s to this work has been unavailable to me); Joachim Lelewel, G é o g r a p h ie d u M o y e n A g e (1852-57), and the A tla s (1850), George H. T. Kimble, G e o g r a p h y in th e M i d d le A g e s (1938); Ch. V. Langlois, L a C o n n a is s a n ce d e la N a tu r e e t d u M o n d e a u M o y e n A g e

(1911); John Kirtland Wright, T h e G e o g r a p h ic a l L o r e o f th e (1925); W. L. Bevan and H. W. Phillott,

T im e o f th e C ru sa d es

M e d ia e v a l G e o g ra p h y , an E ssa y in Illu stra tio n o f th e H e r e fo r d

(1873). The historical geography of the North is treated in greatest detail by Fridtjof Nansen, I n N o r th e rn M ists, trans. Arthur G. Chater (1911). A few specific details of value are those by Dana Bennett Durand, T h e V ie n n a M appa M undi


Notes to Pages 54-69 K lo s te r n e u b u r g M a p C o r p u s o f th e F ift e e n t h C e n t u r y , A S tu d y

(1952); H. C. Darby, “Geography in a Medieval Text-Book,” S c o ttish G e o g r a p h ic a l M a g a z in e , XLIX (1933), 323-31; and Richard Uhden, “Die Antiken Grundlagen der mittelalterlichen Seekar­ ten,” Im a g o M u n d i, I (1935), 1-20. Durand, T h e V ie n n a -K lo s te r n e u b e r g M a p C o r p u s , p. 25.

in t h e T ra n sitio n fr o m M e d ie v a l to M o d e r n S c ie n c e

3 4

L i b e r A e t h i c i P h ilo s o p h ic o e d itu s O r a c u lo a H ie r o n y m o P r e s b y ­ tero D e la t u s e x C o s m o g r a p h iá i d est M u n d i Scrip tu ra ,

ch. II, i, 1-5, ed. M. d’Avezac in M é m o ir e s

vol. II,

P r é se n té s p a r d iv e rs

S a v a n ts á VA c a d é m i e d e s In sc rip tio n s e t B e lle s -L e ttr e s , ser. 1, vol. II (1852). See note 40 of Chapter II above on the dating of Aethicus. Aethicus’ views of the North are clearly reflected in the K y n g A lisa u n d e r, ed. G. V. Smithers, E . E . T . S . , no. 227 (1952). See pp. 84-86 in this chapter. 5 The manuscript used by d’Avezac gives the reading “Gogicas” and “Magogicas,” but the variants “Gogetas” and “Magogetas” and “Gogitas” and “Magogotas,” and the use of the form with G e t a s in sources based on Aethicus, all indicate that this is the intended reading. It is the spelling adopted by Heinrich Wuttke in his edition of D i e K o s m o g ra p h ie d e s Istrier A it h ic u s (1853). 6 See Andrew Runni Anderson, A le x a n d e r s G a te , G o g a n d M a ­ g o g , a n d th e In c lo s e d N a tio n s (1932), p. 51. 7 The Crimea was officially designated “Gothia” as a province of the Eastern Empire. See Alexander A. Vasiliev, T h e G o th s in th e C r im e a (1936), pp. 40, 61, 6j S . 8 In R a v e n n a tis A n o n y m i C o sm o g ra p h ia , ed. M. Pinder and G. Parthey (i860), as a fold-out; also in Beazley, I, facing page 390, and in Miller, VI, Plate 1. 9 Beazley, I, 385-86. The map is reproduced facing page 385 and is found also in Miller, III, 58. 10 Santarem, II, 28, n. 1; also II, 30-31. 11 D e N a tu r a R e ru m , ch. XLVII, ed. J. A. Giles in T h e C o m p le t e W o r k s o f V e n e r a b le B e d e , in t h e O r ig in a l L a tin , vol. VI: S c ie n ­ tific T r a c ts (1843). 12 H isto ry o f t h e L a n g o b a rd s , I, i, trans. William Dudley Foulke (1907)13 D e M e n s u r a O r b is T e rra e , I, vii, 1, ed. A. Letronne (1814). 14 A p p e n d ix a d V ita m S. G a lli, 2, ed. G. H. Pertz, in M .G .H ., S crip to res, II (1829), 31-33. 15 D e U n iv erso , XII, iv, ed. Migne, P .L ., vol. CXI (1864), cols. 347-48. 16 C o m m e n ta r io r u m in G e n e s im lib ri q u a tu o r, II, x, ed. Migne, P.L., vol. CVII (1864), cols. 526-27.

Notes to Pages 69-74 17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24 25


E x p o s itio in A p o c a ly p s in ,


Bk. 7, ed. Migne, P .L ., vol. CXVII (1881), cols. 1186-87. Ed. H. Droysen, in A .A ., I I (1879), 344. The map is reconstructed in Miller, III, 118, in Lelewel’s A tlas, Plate 7, no. 25, and in Beazley, I, facing page 386. Paulus Orosius, H isto ria ru m A d v e r s u m P a g a n os L ib r i V I I , I, 2, 53, ed. Karl Zangemeister (1889). K in g A lfr e d ’s O rosiu s, ed. Henry Sweet, E . E . T . S . , no. 79 (1883); the geographical description is contained in Book I, Part 1. Kemp Malone, however, writes, “Alfred’s M æ g þ a la n d probably means ‘land of tribes,’ since the alternative interpretation, land of maidens,’ seems hardly admissible . . . . The name M seg p a la n d which he gave to this terra in co g n ita seems to have been of his own invention” (“King Alfred’s North: A Study in Mediaeval Geography,” S p e c u lu m , V [1930], 154). “Mægþaland” would be the normal Anglo-Saxon rendering for the land of the Amazons; Malone finds it difficult to believe that Alfred would place the Amazons on the northeastern shores of the Baltic, but he has not taken into account the vast amount of testimony — both Latin and Arabic — and the evidence of maps that locate Amazonia in this very place throughout the Middle Ages. Wherever Sarmatia was, Amazonia was almost certain to be placed close by. The entire thesis of Malone’s article is based on the notion that Alfred had a fairly accurate knowledge of northern geography — knowledge that is nowhere evinced until modem times. See Hedenstiema’s comments on this subject on pp. 94-95 of this chapter. Ed. Sweet, p. 19. See Chambers, In tr o d u c tio n , p. 333, n. 3. Such as Kemp Malone advances in “King Alfred’s Geats,” M o d e r n L a n g u a g e R e v ie w , XX (1925), where he argues that “Götland” stands really for G a u tla n d and supports the theory that there was a Gautic migration to Jutland, resulting in the foundation of a Gautic state there. See also Malone’s article, “King Alfred’s ‘Gotland,’ ” M o d e m L a n g u a g e R e v ie w , XXIII (1928), and the article mentioned in note 22 above. This map is reproduced in Miller, II, Plate 10, and reconstructed in III, 33. It appears also in Beazley, II, facing page 560, and is described there, as it is in Bevan and Phillott, M e d ia e v a l G e o g ra p h y , pp. xxxiv-xxxvi. A reproduction is provided by Malone in the article referred to in note 22. It may be noted here that this map has some indirect connection to the B e o w u lf codex. It is found in the same codex (MS. Tiberius B V) not only with parts of Priscian’s P e rie g e sis but with a bilingual version of the M a r v e ls o f th e E a st, which, with its pictures of

Notes to Pages 74-84


Scythian and Alexandrian monsters, is undoubtedly intended as a kind of illustration of the map and of the P e r ie g e s is (see Chapter II, p. 33.) The M a r v e ls are copied by Scribe I of B e o w u lf and incorporated into the B e o w u lf codex, MS. Cotton Vitellius A XV. One may speculate that the motive in placing the M a rv e ls with the poem was to have them serve once again as illustrative material — this time for B e o w u lf, the L e t t e r o f A le x a n d e r , and the L i f e o f St. C h r is to p h e r . 17

28 29 30 31 32 33

C h r o n ic le s o f t h e P ie ts , C h r o n ic le s o f th e S c o ts, a n d O t h e r E a rly M e m o r ia ls o f S c o ttis h H isto ry , ed. William F. Skene (1867), p. 4. Miller contains the best description and reproductions or recon­ structions of the Beatus maps in volume II, Plates 2-9. See volume I for the discussion. Miller, I, 48-60. Miller, I, 39. See also II, Plates 8-9. Miller, I, 34-35, and II, Plate 3. Beazley, II, 522. There are many special works on the geography of Adam; one of the more recent ones is that by J. Svennung, B e lt u n d b a ltisch , o sts e e isc h e N a m e n s tu d ie n m it b e s o n d e r e r R ü c k s ic h t a u f A d a m

(1953). Adam of Bremen, H isto ry o f t h e A r c h b is h o p s o f H a m b u r g B r e m e n , IV, X, trans. Francis J. Tschan (1959). Beazley, II, 545. I b id ., 529. G e s ta N o r m a n n o r u m D u c u m , I, ii-iii, ed. Jean Marx (1914). G e s ta N o r m a n n o r u m D u c u m , pp. 199-334. Kimble, G e o g r a p h y in t h e M i d d le A g e s , p. 42. Wright, G e o g r a p h ic a l L o r e o f th e T i m e o f t h e C r u s a d e s , p. 257. I have not mentioned at all the Arabic sources which bear out Latin notions of the North. Much corroborating evidence can be found in the texts of Arab authorities, translated by Alauddin Ismail Samarrai, “Arabic Sources on the Norse, English Trans­ lation and Notes based on the Texts edited by Alexander Seippel in R e r u m N o r m a n n ic a r u m F o n te s A r a b ic i” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, University of Wisconsin, i 959)“Le Roman de Toute Chevalerie,” Durham MS., f. 798, clxxii, lines 9762-76; Paris MS., f. 131. No sections or lines are desig­ nated on the Paris manuscript; both manuscripts are as yet unedited, but reproductions of them are available in the M o d e r n von B rem en

34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41


L a n g u a g e A s s o cia tio n C o lle c t io n o f P h o to g r a p h ic F a c sim ile s,

nos. 59 and 65 (1927)-

Notes to Page 86 43


Lines 5938-60, 6110-27, 6246-71, in the B-Text, ed. Smithers. For “Wilfings” see also B e o w u lf, lines 456-72. 44 The literature on the monster-lore of the Middle Ages is exten­ sive; three discussions of special value may be noted: Rudolf Wittkower, “The Marvels of the East, A Study in the History of Monsters,” Jou rn al o f t h e W a rb u rg a n d C o u r ta u ld In stitu tes, V (1942), 159-97; Edmond Faral, “Le Merveilleux et ses Sources dans les Descriptions des Romans Frangais du XIP Siecle,” in R e c h e r c h e s sur les S o u rces L a tin e s d e s C o n te s e t R o ­ m a n s C o u r to is d u M o y e n A g e (1913); and another work by Faral, “Une Source Latine de l’Histoire d’Alexandre: La Lettre sur les Merveilles de l’lnde,” R om an ia , XLIII (1914), 199-215 and 353-70. For a general discussion of Alexander in the Mid­ dle Ages and a rich bibliography, see George Cary’s T h e M e d ie v a l A le x a n d e r (1956). 45 P a n th e o n , X, 220; XI, 224, 228-29; XVI, 24, ed. J. Pistorius and G. Struve, in S crip to res R e r u m G erm a n ica ru m , vol. II (1726). 46 This map is reproduced as Plate 11 in volume II of Miller; it is reconstructed as Plate 1 in volume III, where it is also described by Miller on pages 1-21. Other sources from the twelfth century which deal with the geographical concepts of the North are Guido, G e o g ra p h ica , especially 124-28, a section compiled largely from the Anonymous Geographer of Ravenna and printed by Pinder and Parthey in their edition of the work of the Ravenna Anonymous, R a v en n a tis A n o n y m i C o s m o g ra ­ p h ia (i860); a reconstruction of Guido’s world in Miller, III, 56, the D e Im a g in e M u n d i attributed to Honorius of Autun, especially I, xxii-xxv and II, xxii, in the edition by Migne in P.L., vol. CLXXII (1895); a map by Henry of Mainz reproduced by Miller, II, Plate 13, reconstructed as Plate 2 of volume III and described on pages 21-29 of that volume; the G e s ta D a n o r u m of Saxo Grammaticus, which refers vaguely to a region north of Norway and Sweden “whose positions and names are unknown, and which lacks all civilisation, but teems with people of mon­ strous strangeness” ( T h e N in e B o o k s o f th e D a n is h H isto ry o f Sa xo G ra m m a ticu s, Preface, 7, trans. Oliver Elton, N o rro en a S o c ie ty , vols. I and II [1905]). The statement is similar to many found in medieval Latin texts and on maps, and Saxo probably derives the notion from such Latin sources. Another Scandina­ vian source that depends more clearly on the Latin tradition is the H isto ria N o r w e g ia n of the twelfth or thirteenth century; it has been edited by G. Storm in the M o n u m e n ta H isto rica N o r v e g ia e (1880), pp. 69-124.

i66 47 48


50 51

52 53 54 55

Notes to Pages 87-91 B a tm a n u p p o n B a rth o lo m e , h is B o o k e , D e P ro p rie ta tib u s R e ­ rum , XV, 11-12, trans. Stephen Batman (1582). The Latin text has not been available. “The Story of the Ynglings,” ch. 1, from T h e S to ries o f th e K in g s o f N o r w a y (H eim sk rin g la ), trans. William Morris and Eirikr Magnússon (The Saga Library, vol. Ill, 1893). He repeats some of these same ideas in the Prologue to the P ro se E d d a . In the Skáld sk ap a rm ál, Snorri writes, “. . . Skioldr het sonr oþins, er Skioldungar eru fra komnir; hann hafþi atsetu ok reð londum, þar sem nu er kolluð Danmork, en þa var kallat Got­ land” (from the E d d a Snorra Stu rlu sonar, 53, ed. Finnur Jónsson [1.935]). T h e P ro se E d d a has been translated by Arthur Gil­ christ Brodeur (1916). This passage appears in chapter 42 of the Sk á ld sk ap a rm ál in this translation and reads: “One of Odin’s sons, named Skjöldr, — from whom the Skjöldungs are come, — had his abode and ruled in the realm which now is called Den­ mark, but then was known as Gotland.” Surely this casual remark in Snorri is the equivalent of Orosius’ “Dacia ubi et Gothia.” Snorri has fallen into a learned pitfall. Another great student of northern poetry, Friedrich Klaeber, in his edition of B e o w u lf, falls into a similar pitfall when in the same scholarly spirit that motivited Snorri he adjusts the statement with a comment in a footnote on page 256: “Rather Jótland, i.e. ‘Jutland,’ ” Snorri’s “book-knowledge” of northern geography has led him into error; Klaeber’s knowledge of the realities of northern geography has led him to correct Snorri but to commit a new error in so doing by failing to understand the nature of the mistake to begin with. No more than the similar reference in Alfred’s O ro siu s can this one in the P ro se E d d a be taken to support the theory that a Gautic state once existed in Denmark. Laurence M. Larson, trans., T h e K in g ’s M irror (1917), p. 10. For a detailed description of the Hereford Map, see Bevan and Phillott, M e d ia e v a l G e o g r a p h y , p assim . A poor reproduction is given in this work, but a large-scale, beautifully drawn recon­ struction of the map is given by Miller in volume IV, and he devotes the entire volume to describing it. I have taken Santarem’s transcription of this legend in volume II, p. 338. The Ebstorf Map is reproduced and described by Miller in volume V. The transcription is from Miller, V, 26. The Psalter Map, also of the thirteenth century, given in Miller, II, Plate 1, and III, Plate 3, is of some general value. P o ly ch r o n ic o n R a n u lp h i H ig d e n M o n a c h i C e stre n s is , I, xvii, ed. Churchill Babington (The Rolls Series, vol. XLI, 1865).

Notes to Pages 9 1-9 7

16 7


Miller reconstructs or reproduces these versions in volume II, Plates 14-16, and in volume III, pp. 96-99, where he also describes them. Another map of the fourteenth century which may be consulted is one from the works of William of Tripoli, given in Miller, III, 121, and in Lelewel’s A tla s , Plate 26, no. 73. Marino Sanuto gives a description of northern Europe that holds to the ideas presented here, in an appendix to his S e c r e ta F i d e liu m C r u c is , ed. Jacques Bongars (1611). The L ib r o d e l C o n o s c im ie n to d e l to d o s lo s re y n o s y terras gives a more de­ tailed geographical description of northern Europe which is also a concatenation of the fabulous material pertaining to the North derived from the Latin tradition and from a small amount of accurate knowledge. The work has been translated by Clements Markham (H a k lu y t S o c ie ty , 2nd series, no. 29 [1912]). 57 Y m a g o M u n d i d e P ie rre d ’A illy , ed. Edmond Buron (1930), I, 235, 255, 315; II, 485; III, 623, 625, 707. 58 In the tract “Europa, in qua sui temporis uarias historias com­ plectitur,” chs. XXVIII-XXIX, ed. Mark Hopper, in A e n e a e S y lv ii P ic c o lo m in e i S e n e n sis . . . o p e ra q u a e ex ta n t o m n ia . . . 59

(i57i)A n n a le s D u c u m B oiaria e, T u r m a ir s

I, 5, ed. Sigmund Riezler in Jo h a n n e s S ä m m tlic h e W e r k e (1881-84),

g e n a n n t A v e n t in u s

vol. II. 60

61 62

ed. Eric Geijer and John Schröder in S c r ip to re s R e r u m S v e c ic a r u m M e d i i A e v i , II (1828), 13. Maps of the fifteenth century which relate to this chapter are a m a p p a m u n d i bound up with the R u d im e n tu m N o v itio r u m and described by Santarem, III, 230-43; the Borgia Map, also de­ scribed by Santarem, III, 247-300; the map of Leardo described fully by John Kirtland Wright in T h e L e a r d o M a p o f th e W o r ld (1928); and the Walsperger Map, described by Miller, III, 147-48. Bertil Hedenstierna, “Ambrosius Thoms’ South Sweden, 1564/’ Im a g o M u n d i, IX (1952), 65. There is nothing unusual in the fact that the Getes presented conflicting images — or a blurred image — in the Middle Ages. The same was true of the Greeks and of the Trojans and of such individual heroes as Aeneas and Alexander. On the basis of the Virgilian tradition, the Trojans were thought of as valiant and noble, the Greeks as deceitful and cunning. Yet these same deceitful Greeks were revered by medieval writers, while in a tradition derived from Dares and Dictys, the noble Trojan Aeneas was depicted by some as guilty of betraying his city to the enemy. George Cary in T h e M e d ie v a l A le x a n d e r (Part B) shows that medieval opinion of Alexander the Great ran the C h r o n ic a

E r ic i

O la i,

Notes to Pages 97-100


gamut from adulation to suspicion that he was the devil’s counterpart. (In this connection reference may again be made to Hans Messmer’s H isp a n ia — I d e e u n d G o te n m y th o s [i960], which discusses the double image of the Goths in the Middle Ages.) C h a p te r I V G e t a e a n d G e a ta s


V e n e ra b ilis B a e d a e H isto ria E c c le s ia s tic a G e n tis A n g lo n im , XV,



ed. Charles Plummer (1956).

T h e V e n e r a b le B e d e ’s E c c le sia stic a l H isto ry o f E n g la n d ,

I, xv,

trans. J. A. Giles (1859), p. 24. 3

T h e O l d E n g lis h V e rs io n o f B e d e ’s E c c le s ia s tic a l H isto ry o f t h e E n g lis h P e o p le ,

I, 12, ed. Thomas Miller,

E .E .T .S .,

nos. 95-96

(1890). 4 5 6

p. 335. p. 334. Ib id ., p. 337. Erik Björkman discusses the same problem in “Über den Namen der Juten,” E n g lis c h e S tu d ie n , XXXIX (1908), 356-61. On page 359 he argues that the form wanted was * G e o t a s for which G e a ta s was an understandable error. He discusses his views in another article, “Zu ae. E o t e , Y te , usw., dän. J y d e r ‘Jiiten,’ ” B e ib la tt z u r A n g lia , XXVIII (1917), 275-80. 7 The Old English Bede is the only place where the Geatas are identified with another people and one of only three places where the name is used to designate a nationality. The other two works in which it occurs as such are W id s ith , line 58, and B e o w u lf. “Geat” in line 15 of D e o r may be a personal name or the designation of the nationality of an unnamed hero. 8 The latest authority to argue for so early a date is Ritchie Girvan, B e o w u lf a n d th e S e v e n th C e n tu r y (1935). 9 Dorothy Whitelock, in T h e A u d ie n c e o f B e o w u lf (1951), ar­ gues persuasively that the date of the composition of B e o w u lf is not a closed issue — that the poem quite possibly could have been composed in Mercia in the reign of Offa (757-796). One highly respected B e o w u lf scholar, Levin L. Schiicking, long ago proposed a date of about 900 in an article, “Wann entstand der Beowulf? Glossen, Zweifel und Fragen,” B e iträ g e z u r G e ­ s c h ic h te d e r d e u ts c h e n S p r a c h e u n d L itera tu r, XLII (1917), 347-410. Schücking’s study, even if it fails to make a positive case for so late a date, does show on what flimsy grounds the poem has been dated traditionally. Professor Robert L. Rey­ nolds was concerned with the problem of dating. His view was that the poem was composed in the reign of Aethelstan, in the early part of the tenth century. In any case, it is not possible In tro d u ctio n ,

Ib id .,

Notes to Pages ío o -io i





even at this time to argue with certainty in favor of a specific date for the composition of B e o w u lf. Chambers himself admits this: “There is a tendency for the dating of B e o w u lf ‘about 700 a .d / to become a dogma; whereas it is, in truth, only an inference drawn from a large number of data; which data seem, to the majority of present-day students, to agree in pointing in that direction. Still, in these days, when facts of literary history, certified by strong documentary evidence, are constantly being challenged, it is important that we should not go to the other extreme, and treat as certified fact what is, after all, only an inference” (In tr o d u c tio n , p. 486). B e o w u lf, lines 2922-23, 2999-3007. It is worth pointing out that the poem does not actually predict the conquest and sub­ jugation of the Geats by the Swedes; it refers only to future hostility between the two people. In the same way, it predicts strife with the Frisians and the Franks for the Geats. Since there is no evidence in the latter case that such strife ever came about, is there really any necessity for believing that the pre­ dicted war in the first case has historical reference? No one contends that the later battles of Alexander, Arthur, Orlando, or Amadis are anything but literary fictions, and such may well be the case here. In a review of Chambers’ In tr o d u c tio n , Eilert Ekwall writes: “The established opinion that the Gautic kingdom was con­ quered by the Swedes in the sixth century or thereabouts may have to be revised. The question of Beowulf’s Geatas has re­ cently been taken up for discussion by the able young historian Dr. Curt Weibull (of Lund University), who has made the early history of Scandinavia the object of special study . . . . In his opinion, the fusion of the Swedish and the Gautic king­ doms did not take place until after the Viking age proper (ab. 1000).” Ekwall then concludes, “On the whole the historical and geographical arguments in favour of Geatas = Gautar will have to be revised” ( B e ib la tt z u r A n g lia , XXXIII [1922], 180). The article by Curt Weibull referred to is “Om det svenska och det danska rikets uppkomst,” H isto risk tid sk rift fo r S k å n ela n d , VII (1921), 301-60. The complete revision Ekwall called for has never taken place, but his doubts have been recently echoed by Kenneth Sisam in T h e S tr u c tu r e o f B e o w u lf (1965), pp. 5459. Many of Sisam’s arguments in chapter IV, “Fiction and History: The Geats after Beowulf’s Death,” are identical to my own, but unfortunately Sisam’s book was published after my text was completed, and I was not able to take full advan­ tage of his great authority. Most recently, the work of Archibald R. Lewis, T h e N o r th e r n


Notes to Pages 101-104 S ea s, S h ip p in g a n d C o m m e r c e in N o r th e r n E u r o p e A . D . 3 0 0 -

1 1 0 0 (1958), indicates that mercantile enterprises, with a few notable exceptions, linked the northern world during these eight hundred years. W. Levison, E n g la n d a n d t h e C o n tin e n t in t h e E ig h t h C e n tu r y (1946), discusses various ways by which AngloSaxon England was brought into close association with Conti­ nental Europe. The Sutton Hoo ship burial is evidence of con­ nections between England and Sweden as early as the seventh century. Other links between England and the North in this period are indicated by S. J. Crawford, A n g lo -S a x o n In flu e n c e o n W e s te r n C h r is te n d o m (1933). 13 “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” P r o c e e d in g s o f t h e B ritish A c a d e m y , XXXIX (1953), 308-14; 323-24; 339- 4514 A s s e s s L i f e o f K in g A lfr e d , 1, lines 22-35, ed. William Henry Stevenson (1904); lines 22-23 read, “. . . qui fuit Geata, quern Getam iamdudum pagani pro deo venerabantur.” See also Stevenson’s notes on this passage, pp. 160-63. Recently, V. H. Galbraith has challenged the date of composition of T h e L i f e o f A lf r e d and the authorship of Asser. He contends that the biography is an early eleventh-century product. See A n In tr o ­ d u c tio n to t h e S tu d y o f H isto ry (1964), pp. 85-128. Unfortu­ nately, this work has appeared too late for me to consider the impact of Galbraith’s conclusions on the arguments based on Asser that I give here and later in the chapter. Adjustments to these arguments would naturally have to be made if Galbraith’s contentions are found to be valid, but I do not think that any violence would be done to my major points by re-dating the L i f e by a century or so. 15 “King Alfred’s ‘Geats,’ ” M o d e r n L a n g u a g e R e v ie w , XX (1925), and “King Alfred’s ‘Gotland,’ ” M o d e r n L a n g u a g e R e v ie w , XXIII (1928). 16 Trans. R. K. Gordon, in A n g lo -S a x o n P o e try (1926), pp. 66—67. The Anglo-Saxon text from the Klaeber edition of B e o w u lf, lines 3015-21, reads:

nalles eorl wegan máððum tö gemyndum, n§ mægð scýne habban on healse hringweorðunge, ac sceal geömormöd, golde beréafod oft nalles æne elland tredan, nü se herewisa hleahtor älegde, gamen ond gléodréam. 17

“King Alfred’s ‘Geats,’ ” p. 6. Malone rests his argument also to some extent on the migration theory of Gudmund Schütte; see note 12 in the Introduction, above.

Notes to Pages 104-105 18 19


“King Alfred’s ‘Geats,’ ” p. 6. See pages 106-11 and notes 34 and 50 to this chapter. 20 The Anglo-Saxon Map of the Tenth Century, with the legend “Dacia ubi et Gothia” for Denmark, bears out this contention. See Chapter III, pp. 72-74 and note 26. This explanation also covers other uses of G o t la n d for D e n m a r k adduced by Malone (in “King Alfred’s ‘Geats,’ ” pp. 6-10) as evidence for a Gautic state in Denmark. 21 In a work that appeared only slightly earlier than the article in question, Malone is cognizant of this problem. He then wrote, “Linguistic evidence also points to a stay of the Jutes in the Netherlands or on the German coast for some time before the migration to Britain, which occurred c. 450. Enough Jutes must have remained in Jutland, however, to ensure the perpetu­ ation of the name of the peninsula. We thus find the Jutes split up into three groups: the settlers in Britain (Kent and Isle of Wight with hinterland), the settlers on the German coast, of whom the settlers in Britain were a later offshoot, and finally the stay-at-homes, who eventually became Danicized as to speech and nationality but preserved their name and the name of the district, both of which the Danish settlers took over as a local rather than nationalistic designation. The Eotan who were subjects of Finn must have formed a part of the Jutish set­ tlers on the German coast” ( T h e L itera ry H isto ry o f H a m le t, in A n g lis tis c h e F o r s c h u n g e n , LIX [1923], 20). (I am aware that some historians and philologists question the identity of the three groups that Malone here considers the same people.) 22 There is one possible exception that I know of in all of the voluminous corpus of Old Norse literature, and this occurs in a Latin work. “Gautones” in the following sentence probably stands for the Jutes, the Iótar: “Hic genuit Eustein, quem Gautones in domo quadam obtrusum cum suis vivum incen­ derunt” (H isto ria N o r w e g ia e in M o n u m e n ta H isto rica N o r v e g ia e, ed. G. Storm [1880], p. 101). It seems clear that Old Norse writers considered both the Gautar and the Iótar to be Goths, that is, local tribal descendants of the historic Goths of antiquity. Gautland is also called G o tla n d , but the terms G a u tla n d and ló t la n d are always kept distinct, a distinction one would not expect to find so carefully observed if a large and powerful Gautic state had been set up in Jutland. 23 Bede’s Latin reads, ‘Tutorum prouinciam translati; ubi, cum delati in locum, qui uocatur Ad Lapidem” (H isto ria E c c le s ia s ­ tica , IV, 14, ed. Plummer). (In other editions the chapter is 16.) The Old English text is . . in þa neahmægðe, seo is gecegd Eota lond, in sume stowe seo is nemned Aet Stane”


Notes to Pages 106-109 ( T h e O l d E n g lis h V e r s io n o f B e d e ’s E c c le s ia s tic a l H isto ry ,


18, ed. Miller). Pp. 166-70. Some writers on the Jute side of the controversy suggested this more or less explicitly, but they apparently failed to make their point. See Elis Wadstein, “The Beowulf Poem as an English National Epos,” A.P.S., VIII (1933-34), 284; Gudmund Schütte, “The Geats of Beowulf,” J .E .G .P ., XI (1912), 580. 26 A s s e r s L i f e o f A lfr e d , p. 169. 27 F a b ii E t h e lw e r d i C h ro n ico ru m . L ib r i Q u a tu o r , Bk. I, in M o n u ­ m e n ta H isto rica B rita n n ica , ed. Henry Petrie (1848), p. 502. 28 A s s e t ’s L i f e o f A lfr e d , p. 170. 29 W ille lm i M a lm e s b ir ie n sis M o n a c h i D e G e s t is R e g u m A n g lo r u m L ib r i Q u in q u e , II, 116, ed. William Stubbs (The Rolls Series, 1887-89). 30 A s s e r s L i f e o f A lfr e d , p. 166, n. 4. 31 S y m e o n is M o n a c h i H isto ria R e g u m , art. 66, ed. Thomas Arnold (The Rolls Series, 1885), p. 70. 32 A s s e r s L i f e o f A lfr e d , pp. 166-67. 33 See Stevenson’s introductory notes on Asser, ib id ., pp. Ixv-xcv. 34 B ritann ia: or, a C h o r o g r a p h ic a l D e s c r ip tio n o f t h e F lo u r is h in g

24 25

K in g d o m s o f E n g la n d , S c o tla n d , a n d Ir e la n d , a n d t h e Isla n d s A d ja c e n t; fr o m t h e E a r lie s t A n tiq u ity , trans, and enlarged by Richard Gough (1789), I, cii. Gough adds the following note of interest: “Sir Henry Spelman (Gloss v. Guti & Jutae) considers the G u ti, G o tti, G o th i, G o ti, Ju tae, and J u to n es, and Bede’s V it a e or W ita e , and Ethelward’s G io ti, as one and the same people, called by the Romans G e ta e , and by the Saxons G e a ta s , from the old Gothic word Jaet, a giant [by which no more is meant than a stout man, great warrior or hero]. They settled, as Bede says, in Kent and the Isle of Wight, which last was so called from them, by the Saxons changing G u into W y . . . . Thus G u ith , G u tia and G u itla n d ia are G o th ia and G o th la n d ia , the Eastern part of Denmark, as Ju tia and J u tla n d are the Western, and so the Saxon translation of Bede renders V it a e by G e a t u m .” The name V it a e or W ita e for the Jutes, which throws more confusion into an already hopelessly confused situation, perhaps was derived by the early Anglo-Saxonists from a mis­ printing of Bede’s “Iutae” as “Vitae.” The “Iu” of the manu­ script was misread as “Vi.” See Stevenson, A s s e r ’s L i f e o f A lfr e d , p. 166, n. 2. But “Vites” as the name of a northern tribe does occur in the text of the Ravenna Anonymous, I, 11-12. See Chapter III, p. 59, for the quotation in which it occurs. (I wish to thank Dr. Donald A. White for calling my attention to the works of these first Anglo-Saxon scholars.)

Notes to Pages 109-114 35 36 37


(1634), p. 125. (1676), p. 417. I b id ., p. 419. The work referred to here is Robert Sheringham’s D e A n g lo r u m G e n tis O r ig in e D is c e p ta tio (1670). Using many of the same sources I have utilized, Sheringham soberly traces the Getes’ fabulous past, arguing at length that they were the progenitors of the English. 38 B rittan ia A n tiq u a Illustrata, p. 411. 39 I b id ., p. 413. 40 Printed in T h e O ld e s t E n g lis h T e x ts, ed. Henry Sweet, E . E . T . S . , no. 83 (1885), pp. 170-71. 41 Sisam, “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” pp. 289 and 309. 42 The form “Geating” appears in the pedigree of Ida under the year 547 in the B and C texts of the C h r o n ic le . “Geat” appears in the elaborate genealogy of Aethelwulf given in the Parker Chronicle (Plummer’s Ä) under the year 855. The hypothetical original chronicle (Plummer’s Æ), from which the others stem, was compiled at Winchester in about 892. Asser completed his biography at about the same time, but he gives “Geata” (with the a ending) and “Geta” in Alfred’s genealogy. (However, see note 14 of this chapter on the validity of Asser’s L ife .) 43 H isto ria B ritto n u m c u m A d d ita m e n tis N e n n ii, ed. Theodor Mommsen, in M .G .H ., A . A . , XIII (1898), 171. 44 “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” p. 309, n. 4. Sisam, of course, was not especially interested for the purpose of his study in determining the original forms of the names of the genealogies, so that it is not so serious a matter to take issue here with one so learned in Anglo-Saxon studies. 45 Ib id . 46 The treatment of the kings and heroes of the Getae-Goths as demigods reflects Jordanes, G e tic a , XIII, 78. 47 A s s e r s L i f e o f A lfr e d , p. 160. Sisam, “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” pp. 313-14, points out that the form with an a was used by Asser’s source, Nennius, and claims that this spell­ ing suggested to Asser the association with Geta. 48 M. Manitius, G e s c h ic h t e d e r L a te in is c h e n L ite ra tu r d e s M i t ­ tela lters (1911-31), I, 240. 49 Simeon of Durham, H isto ria R e g u m , art. 66, ed. Arnold, p. 69; William of Malmesbury, G e s t a R e g u m , II, 116, ed. Stubbs. There may be some significance in the fact that the B e o w u lf manuscript was preserved for centuries in a Southwick priory, for Southwick is located in that part of southern England where the English Jutes had settled. Perhaps the monks of South­ wick took a special interest in B e o w u lf and carefully preserved A R e s titu tio n o f D e c a y e d In te llig e n c e B rittan ia A n tiq u a Illu stra ta

Notes to Pages 114-115


the poem, since it recounted the deeds of the tribe to which they could claim the closest relationship of all the English peoples. 50 The same interpretation may be applied to the appearance of “Geotena” in line 443 of B e o w u lf. The usual explanation is that it represents a northern dialectal variant and a weak form of G e a ta , the genitive plural of G e a t. Were it only a weak form or a dialectal variant, this explanation would seem more plaus­ ible. As it is, we are asked to believe that the only time G e a t appears in the poem in another dialect it also appears in a unique weak declension. Rather, without straining the text or the imagination, it may be understood as a form of G o t e n a with the e inserted to palatalize the G in order to accommodate the identification of Gotan and Eotan. (There is at least one analo­ gous usage of g e o for g o in B e o w u lf: in line 2743, “geong” oc­ curs for g o n g .) As Getes, the Geats of B e o w u lf were also correctly called Goths. This seemingly difficult problem of a textual nature can be cleared up by interpreting G e a ta s as G e ta e .




Stevenson, A s s e r s L i f e o f A lf r e d , p. 161, states that the form with e o “disconnects the name from the O.N. Gautr.” It is often claimed, however, that the form with e o is a Northumbrian dialectal variant of G e a t - from G a u tr, just as the form “Geotena” in B e o w u lf discussed in the note above is so considered. This argument was the stronger when the document in question was considered to be Northumbrian, but Sisam states emphatically that the pertinent part of MS. Vespasian B VI “is a Mercian fragment” (“Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” p. 289). In addi­ tion, this argument requires that an early dialectal form turn up in late documents outside the region where the form had vogue. All of this is a possible explanation, but the alternative, that the spelling G e o t - represents a variant of G o t - or the combined form referring to Goths and Jutes, would seem to have as much merit. G y lfa g in n in g , 28 (20), in E d d a Snorra Stu rlu sonar, ed. Finnur Jónsson (1935); in the same edition, Sk a ld sk ap a rm al, 67 (53). The first instances of its use in the North do date from the very beginning of written Scandinavian literature, but even then this literature appears four to five hundred years after the sound changes that influenced the shift of Germanic a u to é a in Old English were supposedly operative. There can be no doubt that the Getae-Goths were held in high esteem by all the Germanic peoples of the Middle Ages. Their prestige in Anglo-Saxon England is illustrated by one of Alcuin’s poems written in tribute to the heroic tribe at the very same time that Geat, or Geta, begins to appear in the genealogies:

Notes to Pages 115-116


Gens bona Gothorum semper sine fine valeto, Electus domino populus, plebs inclyta salve. Praeclaris gentes vicisti maxime bellis Quam multas quondam: hostes modo vincite Christi Per clypeum fidei, per fortia tela salutis. Auxiliator erit vobis deus almus ubique, Si iam firma fides habitat sub pectore vestro, Atque opus egregium sequitur bona dona fidei. Has, rogo, litterulas placido percurrite sensu, Quas modo direxit vobis dilectio sancta. Prospera cuncta deus Gothis concedat Olimpi, Omnibus aeterni tribuens bona gaudia regni, Inque piis precibus memores estote, rogamus Albini semper, scripsit qui talia vobis. Vos deus omnipotens totum conservet in aevum, Aeternum tribuens vobis per saecula regnum. P o e ta e L a tin i A e v i C a ro lin i, ed. Emst Diimmler, in P o e ta e L a tin i M e d i i A e v i, I (1881), 244. (“O noble Gothic people, flourish without end, forever; hail, O people chosen by the Lord, O celebrated folk! How many peoples you have overthrown in glorious battles before now; now conquer the enemies of Christ through the shield of faith and the mighty arms of salvation. Your bountiful God will be your helper everywhere, if still a constant faith lives in your heart, and your mighty works follow the blessed gifts of faith. Peruse, I beg, with a calm mind this little missive, which a holy love now has sent to you. May the God of Olympus yield all bountiful blessings to the Goths, bestowing the blessed joys of His eternal kingdom on all; and be, we beg, ever mindful in pious prayer of Albinus who wrote this to you. May Al­ mighty God preserve you forever, granting you eternal rule throughout all ages.”) 54 Ed. George Philip Krapp and Elliott van Kirk Dobbie, in T h e A n g lo -S a x o n P o e tic R e co r d s, vol. Ill: T h e E x e t e r B o o k (1936), p. 178. The translation of the passage has been somewhat con­ troversial; Gordon, A n g lo -S a x o n P o etry , p. 79, translates it thus: “Many of us have heard that the Geat’s love for Maethhild grew boundless, that his grievous passion wholly reft him of sleep.” 55 It is possible that the “Theodoric” mentioned here is Theodoric the Frank. 56 Trans. Gordon in A n g lo -S a x o n P o etry , p. 76. The Anglo-Saxon reads (ed. Kemp Malone [1936], lines 57-58): Ic wæs mid Hunüm ond mid Hreð-Gotum, mid Sweom ond mid Géatum ond mid Suþ-Denum.

Notes to Pages 117-118



p. 404. Klaeber voices the same opinion in the introduction to his edition of B e o w u lf, pp. xlvi-xlviii. If the argumentation on the Jute side of the controversy has done nothing else, it has made this point quite clear — that nothing in the poem of an historical or a geographical nature argues for Gautar as against Jutes — or for any one Scandinavian tribe any more than another. 58 In tr o d u c tio n , p. 406. 59 P. 48: . . it also [the L ib e r M o n stro ru m ] for the first time makes the leader of the raid a Geat.” 60 Whitelock, A u d ie n c e o f B e o w u lf, p. 47. In writing of the refer­ ence to Hygelac, king of the Getae, in the L i b e r M o n stro ru m , Miss Whitelock states, . . it calls him a king, not of the Danes, but of a tribe with a name very like that of the Geats . . . (A discussion of this passage in the L ib e r M o n s tro ru m is given in my text, pp. 123-25.) 61 C. L. Wrenn, “The Word Goth,” P r o c e e d in g s o f t h e L e e d s P h ilo s o p h ic a l a n d L ite ra ry S o c ie ty , II (1929), 125-28. There is no indication in any MS. that the diphthong ea in G e a ta s is long. The macron, where it occurs in editions and discussions of B e o w u lf and of other pertinent Old English poetry, has been supplied by editor or author, perhaps on the analogy of forms with ea that clearly stem from Germanic au — the assumption being that G e a ta s falls into this category. Metrical considera­ tions are not conclusive, either, in supporting the belief that the diphthong is long. (See Randolph Quirk and C. L. Wrenn, A n O l d E n g lis h G r a m m a r [1955], pp. 9-10, for a brief consideration of vowel length.) In the absence of any authority, manuscript or otherwise, for holding the ea to be long, it may be considered short and would then correspond more closely to G e t a e than to G a u ta r. For this reason, I have not used the long mark in G e a ta s throughout. More cannot be made of the argument, since Anglo-Saxon scribes rarely indicated vowel length and, even where marks do occur, what they signify is still questionable; thus the absence of the macron in G e a ta s does not conclusively demonstrate that the diphthong is short. See again the discussion of Quirk and Wrenn. 62 T h e O r ig in o f th e E n g lis h , G e r m a n ic , a n d S c a n d in a v ia n L a n ­ g u a g e s (1848), p. 44. 63 Elis Wadstein first advanced his arguments in 1925 in N o r d e n o c h V ä ste u ro p a i g a m m a l tid . When his linguistic reconstruc­ tions there were challenged by Malone in “The Identity of the G e a ta s ,” published in A .P .S ., IV (1929), Wadstein subsequently revised his contentions, publishing his answer to Malone in the 1933~34 edition of A .P .S . in an article entitled “The Beowulf In tr o d u c tio n ,

Notes to Pages 118-121


Poem as an English National Epos.” To my knowledge, his revised conclusions have not been challenged in print. 64 Eduard Sievers, A n g e ls ä c h s is c h e G r a m m a tik (1898), arts. 17, 2; 45, 6; 57, 2; and 75. 65 I b id ., art. 45, 6. 66 L ib e r V it a e E c c le s ia e D u n e lm e n s is , ed. Joseph Stevenson, P u b ­ lica tio n s o f t h e S u rte e s S o cie ty , vol. XIII (1841). The Surtees Society also published a facsimile edition in 1923 as volume CXXXVI of their series. 67 George C. Brooke, E n g lis h C o in s (1932), p. 19. 68 Malone, ed., W id s ith , p. 133, s.v. Créacas. Furthermore, the analogy of the spelling “Créacas” for C r é c a s might offer a solu­ tion to the disputed reference of “Déanum” (W id s it h , line 63), which may well stand for D é n u m . See in this regard Malone’s note in W id s ith , s.v . Dean. However, in his later edition of W id s ith , published in 1962 as volume XIII of A n g listic a , Ma­ lone offers another explanation of the name, equating it with the Daukiones mentioned by Ptolemy. 69 R. W. Chambers, ed., W id s ith , A S tu d y in O l d E n g lis h H e r o ic L e g e n d (1912), p. 166. 70 K in g A l f r e d s A n g lo -S a x o n V e r s io n o f t h e C o m p e n d io u s H is ­ tory o f th e W o r ld b y O ro siu s, I, 10, 6, ed. Joseph Bosworth (1859). “Creacas” also appears in Henry Sweet’s edition of K in g A l f r e d s O rosiu s, I, 3, E . E . T . S . , no. 79 (1883), p. 32, line 21. It should be noted that Sweet and Bosworth used different manuscripts for their editions. Sweet based his text on the Tollemache or Lauderdale Orosius, now B.M. Add. MS. 47967, Bosworth on the Cottonian MS. Tiberius B i. 71 Klaeber, B e o w u lf, pp. lxxvi-lxxvii. Hence, -g e t appears only once, in contrast to -g e a t seven times, in the words b e g e t and o n g e t. S e e l appears three times as against the forty-three times that forms of the verb are spelled with ea. See especially ar­ ticles 8, 4, and 10, 3, on these pages. 72 G r e g o r ii e p is c o p i T u ro n e n s is H isto ria F ra n co ru m , III, 3, ed. Wilhelm Arndt, in M .G .H ., S crip to res R e r u m M er o v in g ic a r u m , I (1885), 110-11. 73 H isto ry o f t h e F ra n k s, III, 3, trans. O. M. Dalton (1927), p. 87. 74 Lines i202ff., 23545., 250iff., and 2913®. 75 See Chambers, In tr o d u c tio n , p. 9, point 6. Another argument often advanced, that Gregory used the name D a n e “to cover any kind of Scandinavian pirate,” is also repeated by Cham­ bers. This argument must be rejected on the grounds that the usage is Anglo-Saxon and does not occur until much later than Gregory’s time, dating from the period of the Viking incursions. It should be added that Gregory is completely free from classi-


76 77 78

Notes to Pages 121-124 cal terminology and designates peoples in his work by their proper vernacular names; hence, the fact that the Danes, Goths, and Getae were confused in works influenced by classical thought does not vitiate the argument that Gregory should be taken at face value here. L i b e r H isto ria e F r a n c o r u m , 19, ed. Bruno Krusch, in S c r ip to re s R e r u m M e r o v in g ic a r u m , II (1888), 274-75. The claim that this author used sources other than Gregory is borne out by his mention of the Hetware as the tribe victimized by the raid, a detail omitted in Gregory’s H isto ry . T h e N i n e B o o k s o f t h e D a n is h H isto ry o f S a xo G r a m m a ticu s,

Bk. IV, trans. Oliver Elton, N o r r o e n a S o c ie ty , vols. I and II (1905), I, 256. 79 In T r a d itio n s T é r a to lo g iq u e s, ed. J. Berger de Xivrey (1836), p. 12. Another edition is found in Maurice Haupt’s O p u s c u la (1875-76), pp. 221-52. Antoine Thomas published a study of a manuscript of Anglo-Saxon provenance in an article entitled “Un Manuscrit Inutilisé du L ib e r M o n s tro ru m ,” B u lle tin d u C a n g e , I (1924), 232-45. Some manuscripts replace the phrase "rex qui imperavit Getis” with "rex Getarum.” 80 Manitius, G e s c h ic h t e d e r L a te in is c h e n L ite ra tu r, I, 115-17. 81 In line 1926. The reading of this half line has been somewhat controversial, since the "hea healle” of the manuscript needs some emendation to have it make sense. Usually the passage is emended to give the impression that the hall of Hygelac is high. (See Klaeber’s note to this line on page 195 of his edition of B e o w u lf for various suggested emendations.) I would like to suggest the simple emendation "heah ealle” or possibly “heah ealles,” since the edge of this leaf, where the s would occur, is burned away. The meaning then is clear: Hygelac, just men­ tioned as the “bregoröf cyning” in line 1925, is quite tall. Syn­ tactically, the genitive e a lles might fit better, but ea lle, an instrumental used as an adverb here for “quite,” is a possible form. The scribe’s error in putting the terminal h with the fol­ lowing word is a common one. This reading does the least vio­ lence to the text, and the meaning this emendation conveys fits the sense of the passage and what we know of Hygelac from the L ib e r M o n stro ru m . Kemp Malone must have had some similar interpretation in mind when he commented that “hea[h]” in this passage “more probably means ‘tall’ and ap­ plies to the king himself.” See his paper read at the Interna­ tional Association of University Professors of English, published as “Symbolism in ‘Beowulf’: Some Suggestions,” in E n g lis h S tu d ie s T o d a y , 2nd series, ed. G. A. Bonnard (1961), p. 84.

Notes to Pages 125-131 82

83 84 85 86



89 90

91 92 93 94


Thomas, “Un Manuscrit Inutilisé du L ib e r M o n stro ru m ,” demonstrates that the archetype of the manuscripts was AngloSaxon and that probably the work itself was originally com­ posed in England. See also Wrenn’s edition of B e o w u lf, p. 48. Klaeber, B e o w u lf, p. xxx. J. D. A. Ogilvy, B o o k s K n o w n to A n g lo -L a t in W r ite r s fro m A ld h e lm to A lc u in (1936), p. 43. See Lee M. Hollander, “The Gautland Cycle of Sagas,” J .E .G .P ., XI (1912), 61-81; 209-17. The Y n g lin g a ta l exists only as it is quoted in part by Snorri Sturluson in the Y n g lin g a sa g a in the early thirteenth century. There are numerous editions of the saga, the pertinent part of which is quoted in translation by Klaeber, B e o w u lf, Appendix I, pp. 257-58. Other examples of the most pertinent Scandina­ vian documents relating to B e o w u lf are also included in Klaeber’s appendix. Chambers, In tr o d u c tio n , p. 57, represents this commonly ac­ cepted view. The alternative explanation — that the author of the H r ó lfs Sa g a was either acquainted with B e o w u lf or with stories growing out of B e o w u lf in the North and that he uti­ lized this material in his late tale — is a possibility that has not found much favor among Beowulfians. Chambers’ discussion of the point in In tr o d u c tio n , pp. 10-13, obviates the need for going into this controversy here. For the contrary view, see Girvan, B e o w u lf a n d th e S e v e n th C e n tu r y , especially chapter III. “Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies,” p. 345. See also Sisam’s latest comments on the historical value of B e o w u lf, in T h e S tr u c ­ tu re o f B e o w u lf, pp. 51-59. Elias Wessén, in D e N o r d is k a F o lk sta m m a rn a i B e o w u lf (1927), challenges the accuracy of the historical narrative in the poem to support his radical view that the Danes presented in B e o w u lf are in reality the Heruli. His views have been summarily re­ jected by critics of B e o w u lf. In tr o d u c tio n , p. 440. I b id ., p. 445. Chambers, of course, is again speaking of Wessén’s views. J. R. R. Tolkien, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” P ro ­ c e e d in g s o f th e B ritish A c a d e m y , XXII (1936), 247-48. There is an interesting side light on this discovery indicative of how B e o w u lf scholarship was used for the purposes of German nationalism. Franklin D. Cooley shows how German scholars took the credit for Grundtvig’s discovery to further their coun­ try’s claims in Schleswig-Holstein: “Contemporary Reaction to the Identification of Hygelac,” in P h ilo lo g ica : T h e M a lo n e A n -


Notes to Pages 131-13 7

ed. Thomas A. Kirby and Henry B. Woolf (1949), PP- 269-74. 95 Once again it should be pointed out that, following Magoun’s application of the oral-formulaic theory of composition to B e o ­ w u lf and other Anglo-Saxon poetry, there has very recently been a resurgence of some of the earliest trends in Beowulfian scholarship. The poem is being disintegrated into layers of com­ position once more and the role of myth re-examined. These trends, growing out of the extremely controversial opinion that, since B e o w u lf exhibits a formulaic character, it was orally com­ posed, uphold a view that discounts the more likely possibility that the B e o w u lf poet utilized traditional diction and techniques in his written work — no less than Cynewulf did. 96 This phrase, occurring in line 1366, is part of Hrothgar’s de­ scription to Beowulf of Grendel’s mere. Several explanations, rationalistic and otherwise, have been advanced for the fiery phenomenon mentioned here. The likeness to classical descrip­ tions of electrum shining brightly on the surface of northern waters is remarkable. See especially Priscian, P e r ie g esis, lines 308-10, ed. Paul van de Woestijne (1953). This passage is quoted and translated in Chapter II, p. 33. 97 Because G e t a e in its simplest sense was a synonym for G o t h i and because further the Gautar were recognized to be Goths, the objection may arise that, even granting G e a ta s to be an anglicized form of G e t a e , this does not disprove that the B e o ­ w u lf poet wrote about the Gautar, who could quite legitimately be called Getae. But the Jutes no less could make claim to that designation also, and once the philological argument that G e a ta s = G a u ta r and only G a u ta r is challenged, then the Gau­ tar theory has no better grounds on which to stand than the Jute theory. However, the depiction of the Geats in the poem, the fabulous nature of the deeds they perform, the absence of any mention of the Geatic figures outside Hygelac in any other work, all lead to the conclusion that the Geats are the Getes of medieval geographical mythology, that they are not an his­ torical tribe at all. If the poet intended them to be taken as the Gautar, he would, I believe, have called them G o ta n , the AngloSaxon word for G o t h s , since the Gautar were known to be, and referred to, as Goths. The “Hreðgotan” of W id s it h , line 57, are very probably the Gautar, the “nest Goths” or “stay-athome Goths,” who never left their U rh eim at. niversary S tu d ie s ,

A p p e n d ix A


Nora K. Chadwick, “The Monsters and Beowulf,” in

T h e A n g lo -

Sa xo n s, S tu d ie s in S o m e A s p e c t s o f th e ir H is to r y a n d C u lt u r e

Notes to Pages 137-139


ed. Peter Clemoes (1959), pp. 171-203. 2 I b id ., p. 186. 3 I b id ., pp. 172, 200. 4 I b id ., p. 172. 5 I b id ., pp. 197-98. 6 The standard edition of this saga is that by Finnur Jónsson, H r ó lfs Sa g a K ra ka o g B jarkarím u r (1904). It has been translated by Stella M. Mills, T h e S a g a o f H r o lf K ra ki (1933); see pages 43 and 46 therein for the description of the brothers. 7 See page 87 of Mills’ translation and the translator’s note to this passage at the end of the work. 8 G. Turville-Petre, O r ig in s o f Ic e la n d ic L ite ra tu r e (1953), p. vi. 9 Margaret Schlauch, R o m a n c e in I c e la n d (1934), pp. 108-13. On page 112 she concludes of the “faithless watchers” theme that “tibe story is not a native Scandinavian folk-tale.” 10 R o m a n c e in Ic e la n d , p a ssim ; for a discussion of Norse borrow­ ing of Continental and English material, see also Henry God­ dard Leach, A n g e v in B rita in a n d S ca n d in a v ia (1921). In this connection, James Carney’s summation of the problems faced by anyone who would question the usual approach to vernacu­ lar literature is relevant: “The study of the vernacular litera­ tures of Western Europe has been impeded by a narrow nation­ alistic approach. Each linguistic group exaggerates the extent to which its own vernacular literature is independent of out­ side influences and tends to minimize, ignore, or deny, its derivative characteristics. Our early literatures are guarded by formidable linguistic barriers. Hence the duty of investi­ gating legendary elements, the technique of presentation, the whole nature of a literature, falls upon the scholar whose primary interests are word forms, etymologies, and sentence structure. A combination of racialism and linguistics leads to an assumption that languages and literatures have developed upon identical principles” (S tu d ie s in Irish L ite ra tu r e a n d H is ­ tory [1955], pp. 84-85). p r e s e n te d to B r u c e D ic k in s ,

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Achialli, 61 Achilles, 21-22 Achilles’ island, 32 Achilles’ race-course, 21-22, 33 Adam of Bremen: H isto ry o f th e A r c h b is h o p s


H a m b u r g -B r e ­

75-79, 91 Adrianople, Battle of, 36 A e n e id . S e e Virgil “Aeneis und Beowulf.” S e e Klaeber, F. Aethelweard, 107-8,109,110,142 Aethelwulf, 141-42 Aethicus Ister: known in England, 11; identifies Gog-Magog as Getae-Goths, 38; C o sm o g ra p h ia quoted and discussed, 55-58; source for Thomas of Kent and for K y n g A lisa u n d e r, 86; asso­ ciates Saxons and Griffons, 91; date of, 1581140 Africa, 71, 88 (Blueland), 91 Agaei, 61 Agathyrsi, 14, 15, 22, 31, 32, 33 Agave, 33 Agrimardoi, 39 d’Ailly, P.: Y m a g o M u n d i, 92 Alamani, Alamanni, 26, 91. S e e also Alans Alamannia, 71. S e e also Alania Alanes. S e e Alans Alania (often confused with Ala­ mannia), 51, 65, 66, 71, 75, 82, 87, 91 m en ,

Alans (Alani, Alanes): descended from Goths, 30; enclosed by Alexander’s Gate, 39; a north­ ern people, 55, 77, 90; identi­ fied with Albani and Wizzi, 77; mentioned, 22, 31, 32, 33, 44, 50, 61, 82, 86 Alapes, 55 Alaric, 25, 47 Albani (often confused with Alani), 68, 74, 77 Albania, 34, 87 Albi map, 63-64 Alcuin, 174-75053 Aldfrith (Ealdfrid), 112, 114, 140 Alexander the Great: defeated by Getae, 17, 84; connected to Getae, 38, 84; fears GetaeGoths in Orosius, 41, 42; de­ feated Getae, 42; mythical as­ sociation with European peo­ ples, 84; in medieval romance, 84-86, 138 Alexander’s Gate (Caspian Gates): tradition of, 38-41: enclose “unclean” nations in North, 56, 69, 84-86, 89-90, 96; prove­ nance and date of tradition of, 159046; mentioned, 60 A le x a n d e r s Saga, 138 Alexander’s temple, 72 Alfred the Great: revival of learn­ ing by, 12; his version of Oro­ sius, 72-73; his translation of


Index Bede, 99; his account of Ohthere’s voyage, 103-4; his use of G o ta n for Goti, 108; Assers association with, 108; use of “Mægþa land,” 163*122 Alirumnae, 70. S e e also Witches Allipodes scite, 86 Alps Mts., 44, 59, 82 Amacsobii. S e e Amaxobii Amali, 27 Amaxobii, 32, 50, 82 (Amacsobii), 90 (Anoxobii) Amazonia. S e e Mægþa land Amazons: marry with Sarmatians, 15; connected to the Getae and to the Goths, 15, 18-19, 46, 52, 79-80, 87, 91, 115; located in North, 63, 65, 72, 76, 77-78, 87; mentioned, 29, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63 Ambrose, St., 11, 35; D e F id e ,


Anderson, A., 39, 40 Androphagi, Anthropophagi (ManEaters), 15, 22, 77, 91. S e e also Cannibals Angles, 98, 99, 133, 141 Anglia, Angulus, 99, 107, 141 Anglian, 119 A n g lo -S a x o n C h r o n ic le , 110 (C k r o n o lo g ia S a x o n ica ), 113, 120, 129, 141-42, 173*142 Anglo-Saxon map, 73-75, 16364*126 Angulus. S e e Anglia A n n a te s D u c u m B oiarae. S e e Turmair, J. Anonymous Geographer of Ra­ venna. S e e Ravenna Anony­ mous Anougoi, 39 Anouphagoi, 39 Anoxobii. S e e Amaxobii Ansileubus glossary, 29 Ansis, 43 Antenor (Danish king), 80


Anthropophagi. S e e Androphagi Antichrist. S e e Gog-Magog Appian, 22 Aquitanians, 37-38 Arabic sources, 164«41 Ardiscus, 33 Ares. S e e Mars A rg o n a u tica . S e e Valerius Flaccus Arimaspi, 32 Arimphaeans, 91 Armenia, 32, 75, 92, 93 Artemis, 14 Ashbumham map, 74 Asia, 30, 32, 53-96 passim Asia Minor, 36 Asser’s L i f e o f K in g A lfr e d : bear­ ing on B e o w u lf, 7; identity of G e ta , G e a ta , Iu ta in, 102, 107, 108, 113, 124-25, 129, 142, 170*114, 173*142, 173*147; date of, i j o n i 4 Attoari. S e e Hetware Auchetae, 32 Augustine, St., 11, 37, 123,149*123 Augustus, 16, 17 Ausonius, 11, 25, 46 Avars, 40 Avienus, Rufus Festus, 26, 31-32 Avitus, 11, 27 Azov, Sea of, 15, 16, 58. S e e also Maeotid Swamp Babylon, 84, 92 Baltic Sea: part of Northern Ocean, 16; described by Adam of Bremen and Scholiasts, 76, 77; other names for, 76, 92; region of, confused with Rus­ sian Steppes and Asiatic areas, 78; Gothia located on, 91; Massagetae located on, 92; Getae located on, 110; region of a “monster-land,” 137-38; men­ tioned, 70 Barbaria. S e e Barbaries; Ger­ many; Scythia



Barbarian Sea. S e e Baltic Sea Barbaries, 86 Bartholomaeus Anglicus: D e P ro ­ p rie ta tib u s R e ru m , 86-87 Bassarini, 61 Bastarnae, 31, 33, 49 Bear, bear-cults: Getae associated with, 16, 20-21, 46, 49, 85, 86, 151-5203; connected to north­ ern places and peoples, 49, 85, 89, 138; Beowulf connected to, 132, 151-5203 Beatus maps, 74-75 Beazley, C., 75, 78, 79 Bede: his H isto ria E c c le sia stica (Old English version), 3, 7, 99107, 109-11, 129, 141, 16807, 171023, 172034 — Latin ver­ sion, 98-108, 109-11 — ; his knowledge of Latin works, 11; D e N a tu ra R e ru m , 64; as au­ thority for later writers, 76, 88, 107-8, 109, 110 Bellona, 46, 52 Benedict Biscop, 11 Benedict of St. Móre, 82 B e o w u lf. S e e Composition of B e o ­ w u lf; Date of B e o w u lf; Scholar­ ship on B e o w u lf Beowulf (as person): historicity of, 128; relation to Gautic heroes, 128, 137, 138; relation to the bear, 132, 138, 15203; relation to Zalmoxis, 15203; mentioned, 8, 101, 105, 133 Bericus, Berig, 80, 93 Bible: Greek New Testament known in England, 11; influ­ ence of, on geographical con­ cepts, 53-54, 78, 79, 92, 95; basis for legend of Gog-Magog, 58. S e e also Ezechiel; Genesis; Gog-Magog; Revelation Birricheus, Mt., 56 Bisaltae, 47 Biza, 90

Bjármaland, 78, 137-38 Björkö, 77 Black-Cloaks. S e e Melanchlaeni Black Sea (Euxine, Pontus): lo­ cated in North, 57, 88, 91; con­ nected to Northern Ocean, 58, 71; mentioned, 16, 22, 24, 33, 34» 56» 58, 61, 62, 71, 88, 92, 94» 109 Blue-men, 88 Books

Know n

W riters. S e e


A n g lo - L a t in

Ogilvy, J.

Boreas, 16, 23 Borysthenes (city), 18, 32 Borysthenes (lake), 32 Borysthenes (river), 32, 33 Bosworth, J., 118 Boðvar Bjarki, 128, 138 Brink, B. ten, 5 Britain, 55, 59, 64, 87 Britanni, Britons, 28, 50, 156 Budini, 15 Bugge, S., 5 Byrebistas, 17 Bysas, 86 Caesar, Julius, 41, 42, 43 Cain, brood of, 89, 132-33, 138, 1571127, 159051 Callipodi, 90 Camden, W., 109, 140 Campanidi, 61 Campi, 61 Cananei, 55 Cannibals: in Scythia, 15, 22, 34, 67, 74» 89; in North, 57, 78; as the brood of Cain, 89; as the Turks, 90; in B e o w u lf, 132. S e e also Androphagi Cantware. S e e Kent Capella, Martianus: not known in England, 11; uses Getae for Goths, 26, 32; connects gigantomachia to Getae, 47; as source for medieval authors, 76, 77, 79, 88, 108, 139

Index Carmen de Providentia Divina. See Prosper of Aquitaine Camey, J., 181/110 Carpenter, R., 20-21, 151-52/13 Carpi, 59 Caspian Gates. See Alexander’s Gate Caspian Sea: located in North, 16, 57, 89; boundary of Scythia, 34, 65, 67, 72, 94 Cassiodorus, 11, 27 Catalog of Manuscripts contain­ ing Anglo-Saxon. See Ker, N. Caucasus Mts.: boundary of Scythia, 34, 65, 67, 94; site of Alexander’s Gate, 38-41; lo­ cated in North, 57; original home of Amazons, 59, 61, 6263; mentioned, 40, 41, 60 Centaur, 138 Chadwick, N., 137-38 Chalonioi, 39 Chambers, R.: Introduction, 5, 99-101, 116-17, 129-30, 140, 169/19; ed. Widsith, 120 Chatillon, P. de, 138 Chilperic, 28 Chimabes, 59 Chiron, 21 Chlochilaichus. See Hygelac Christianity: influence of, on Beo­ wulf, 7-12, 132, 148n i 8 ; works connected with, available in England and elsewhere, 10-12, 31, 64, 138-39 Chronicon Paschale, 37-38 Chronicum Integrum. See Pros­ per of Aquitaine Chronologia Saxonica. See AngloSaxon Chronicle Chuni. See Huns Cimbri, 16, 93 Cimbric Peninsula, 16, 109 Cimmeria, 110 Cimmerians, 36, 93 Circei, 61


Ciris, 20 Claudian: known in England, 11; use of Getae for Goths, 25-26, 31; associates Getae-Goths with Mars, 46; compares GetaeGoths to giants in “Gothic War” and “Gigantomachia,” 46-47; associates bear with GetaeGoths, 49, 86 Coins, 119-20 Colchia, 61 Colchians, 22, 63 Collectanea Rerum Memorabi­ lium. See Solinus Commentary. See Servius A Comparative Study of the Beo­ wulf and the Aeneid. See Ha­ ber, T. Composition of Beowulf : manner of, 7, 10, 150/123, 180/195; date of, 12, 100, 168/19 Continent, sources from: related to Beowulf, 120-30; related to Norse literature, 138-39 Cosmographia, 26. See also Aethicus Ister Cotiso, 18 Crassus, 20, 42 Creacas (Crecas), 120, 177/168 Crimea, 21, 22, 162/17 Crio, 33 Crisolidas, 86 Criticism. See Scholarship on Beo­ wulf Crocodiles, 56 Cult. See Bear, bear-cult Cyclops, 20, 78 Cynocephali, 55, 65, 76, 78, 89,


Cyrus the Great, 43 Dacia: identified with “Gothia,” 51, 66, 71, 72, 74-75, 88, 91, 104, 107; identified with Den­ mark, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 80, 82, 87, 88, 91, 92, 104, 107;



mentioned, 59, 65. See also Denmark; Gothia; Gotland; Jutland Dacians, Daci: identi­ fied with or related to Getae, 13, 19, 22-23, 25, 50-51» 68, 93, 155m; identified with Dani, Danes, 22-23, 50-51, 71, 74, 79, 91, 92-93; mentioned, 31, 32, 33» 49, 64, 77, 90, 156ns 1. See also Danes; Goths Dacus (Danus), 79 (Thanausis), 80, 92 Dagi, 68 Dalmatia, 59 Danamarchia. See Denmark Danelaw, 12 Danes, Dani: replace Geatas in wars with Swedes, 3, 126, 127, 129; identified with Dacians, 22-23, 50-51, 71, 74» 79, 91, 92-93; associated with GetaeGoths, 22-23, 28, 56-57, 80, 67, 93; in Widsith, 116, 142, 177068; Hygelac as king of, 121, 122; mentioned, 12, 55, 58, 59, 63, 77, 109, 133, 1797190. See also Dacians; Goths; Jutes Danube R. (Ister): as boundary for Scythia, 32, 34, 66, 67, 94; located in North, 33, 51, 64, 71; as boundary for Gothia, Germania, 58, 65, 72, 82, 93, 109; mentioned, 13, 15, 21, 24,


Danus. See Dacus Dardani, 22 Dardania, 59, 62 Darius, 13, 39, 42, 43 Date of Beowulf, 12, 100, 16809 Dean, 177068 De Fide. See Ambrose, St. De Mensura Orbis Terrae. See Dicuil De Natura Rerum. See Bede Denmark: called Maurungani,

59; identified with Dacia, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 80 (Danamar­ chia), 82, 87, 88, 91, 92, 104, 107; identified with Gothia, Gotland, 72 (Getia), 73, 74, 88, 104, 106, 107, 109, 166049, 172034 (also called Guith, Gutia, Guitlandia); part of Scythia, 79, 87; Gautic state in, 104-5, 166049; mentioned, 76. See also Dacia; Gothia; Gotland; Jut­ land Deor, 3, 115-16, 142, 16807 De Proprietatibus Rerum. See Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Universo. See Rabanus Mau­ rus Dichineus, 80, 82 Dicuil: De Mensura Orbis Ter­ rae, 65-66 Dio Cassius, 20, 22 Dio Chrysostom, 18 Diomede, 21 Dionysius Periegetes, 22, 31 Diphar, 39 Dniester R. (Tyras), 15 Domitian, 20, 43 Don R. (Tanais): located in North, 56, 58, 65, 71, 72, 74, 87, 92; as eastern boundary of Europe, 58, 72, 75, 88 (Tanabranch, Vanabranch); mentioned, 40, 51, 64 Dorostates, 59 Dragons, 57, 88, 95, 132, 138 Dudo of St. Quentin, 81, 82 Dwarfs, 85, 86 (dwerewes), 88, 95, 138 Eadgils, 133 Ealdfrid. See Aldfrith Eastern Sea. See Baltic Sea Eat. See Geat Ebstorf Map, 90-91 Egeis, 39 Egetas, 84


Index Egypt, 30, 64, 90 Egyptians, 41 Einhard, 76, 77 Ekwall, E., 169m i Elbe R., 59, 77 Electrum, 33, 132, 180*196 Elgfroði, 138 Enea. S e e Europe England: knowledge of classics in, 8, 10-12, 150-51*125, 151*127; relations with Continent, 12, 101, i5i»30; views on ge­ ography in, 64; identity of in­ vading nations of, 98-107, 109—11, 141; relations with Scandinavia, 101, 139, 16970m 2 ; knowledge of own his­ tory in, 129; attitude toward Getae-Goths in, 174-75*153 Ennodius, 26, 49; V ita E p ifa n i, 27 Eotan (W. S. Yte): O. E. form for Bede’s Iutae, 100, 105, 106, 168*16, 171*123; confused with G o ta n , G e o te n a , 106-7, 174*150, 174*151; Malone on identity of, 171*121. S e e also Euthiones; Goths; Jutes Ermanaric, 30, 31, 115, 116, 133 Ethiopia, 54, 90 Ethiopians, 41 Ettmiiller, L., 4, 131 E ty m o lo g ie s . S e e Isidore of Seville Europe: relations of England with, 12, 101, 151*130; northern and northeastern, in ancient and medieval geography, 13-


Euthiones (Jutes?), 28 Euxine. S e e Black Sea Exenach, 39 E x e t e r B o o k , 140, 142 E x P o n to . S e e Ovid Ezechiel: on Magog and GogMagog, 28, 35-41, 57, 58, 69, 78

Fahlbeck, P., 4-5 Fanaguri, 61 Fathers of the Church. S e e Pa­ tristic literature; names of indi­ vidual Church Fathers Fenni. S e e Finns Filimer, 30, 70, 93 (Philomarus) Fin, Finn, 112, 113, 140-142 p a ssim

Finns, 55 (Vinnosi), 58, 59 (Scirdifrini and Rerefrini), 63 (Sisdefenni and Rereferi), 74 (Scridefinnas), 93 (Fenni) Folcwald, 113 Franks, 26, 59, 121-26 passim Frealaf (Freoþelaf) 112, 140-142 passim

Freawining, 142 Freoþelaf. S e e Frealaf Freoþowulf. S e e Frioðulf Frigontae, 55 Frioðulf (Freoþowulf, Friþewulf, Friþuwulf, Friþulf, Frithouulf), 112, 140-42 p a ssim Frioþowulsing (Frioðulfing), 141 Frisians, 55, 56-57, 58, 59, 63 (Frixones) Friþewold (Friþowald, Friþuwald), 141 Friþewulf, Friþuwulf, etc. S e e Frioðulf Frithouulf. S e e Frioðulf Frixones. S e e Frisians Fulgentius, 11 “Fyr on flöde,” 132, 180*196 Gadaricus, 70 Gaeta. S e e Geat, Geata Galbraith, V., 170*114 Gaul, 44, 87 (Gallia), 121, 122 Gauls, 64 Gautar, Gauts: identified with Geatas, 4-7, 97, 98-133 passim , 180*197; same as Goths, 70, 101, 116, 138, 171 «22, 180*197; theory of migration to Jutland,



105, 148012, 163025, 166049; conquest of, by Swedes, 127, 169011; heroes of, resemble Beowulf, 137; king of, a giant, 138; Hreðgotan and Gotan in O.E., 174050, 174051, 180097; mentioned, 96, 105 (Gautigoths), 139 Gautigoths. See Gautar Gautland, 72, 103, 105, 109 (Gothland), 163025, 171022 Gautones, 171022 Gautr, 111, 114, 115, 174051, 174052 Gazi, 60 Geat (Geata, Geta; variants: Eat, Gaeta, Geot, Gethius, Getius, Geuta, Giot, Ieta, etc.): in genealogies, 3, 9, 102, 111-15 passim, 120, 140-42 passim, 170014, 173042; in Deor, 3, 116, 142; date added to gene­ alogies, 102; meaning of, in genealogies, 111-15; not same as Gautr, 129, 174051 Geates. See Jutes Geatun. See Jutes Geatuni. See Jutes Geloni, 22, 31, 32, 33, 77, 91 Genealogies: Geat in, 3, 102, 1 1 1 15 passim, 140-42 passim, 173042; date of, 101-2; variants of Geat in, 111-15 passim, 14042 passim, 173042; show lack of knowledge of history, 129; samples of, 140-42 Genesis, 36, 58, 157033. See also Bible; Jerome, St.; Rabanus Maurus Geolii, 61 Georgies. See Servius; Virgil Geot, Giot. See Geat, Goths, Jutes Geotena. See Eotan, Gotan, Goths, Jutes Geotuni. See Jutes Gepidia (Gipidia), 59

Gepids, 30, 59 Germans: in Scythia, 22, 24, 31, 32, 33, 34, 50, 58, 92; large stature of, 48-49; Getae ances­ tors of, 50-51, 96, 133; mythi­ cal history of, 92-93; invade England, 98-107, 141; men­ tioned, 59. See also Germany; Scythians Germany, Germania: exploration of, by Augustus, 16; ruled by Ermanaric, 34; described or borders defined, 38, 51, 55-57, 58, 63, 65, 66, 67, 71, 72, 75, 87, 92; called also Gothia, Bar­ baria, and Scythia, 38, 58, 65; Trojans in, 80; Saxons and Getae invade, 110; mentioned, 64, 77, 9 1, 14 1- See also Ger­ mans; Gothia; Scandinavia; Scythia; Scythians Gesta Danorum. See Saxo Gram­ maticus Gesta Normannorum Ducum. See Guillaume de Jumiéges Geta, founding “duke” of Ger­ mans, 93 Geta, variant for Geat, Geata. See Geat Getas, Gethas (Getae), 85, 87, 97 Gethius, Getius. See Geat Getia, 72, 82. See also Denmark; Gothia; Jutland Getic waste, Getic wilds. See Bal­ tic Sea; Maeotid Swamp Getuli, 28, 87, 91 Geuta. See Geat Giants: linked to Getae-Goths, 19-20, 46-47, 49, 154031, 160068; Germans described as, 49; in North, 88, 138; Tuisco as, 92; Hygelac as, 123, 178n8 i ; in Beowulf, 132-33; linked to Geatas and Goths, 172034; mentioned, 95. See also Gigantomachia; Titans

Index Gibraltar Straits, 88 Gigantomachia, 46-47. See also Giants “Gigantomachia.” See Claudian Giot, Giota. See Geat Giotae, Gioti, Giots. See Jutes Godfrey of Viterbo: Pantheon, 86 Godwulf (Godulf, Goduulfe), 112, 140, 141 Gog, 91 Gogas, 86 Gogetae, Gogetas, Gogicas, Gogitas. See Gog-Magog Gogi. See Goths Gog-Magog: Getae-Goths called, 25» 28, 35-41, 49, 56 (Goge­ tae, Magogetae), 69, 70 (Getae and Massagetae), 84, 86 (GothMagoth), 96, 157-58*136 (Ge­ tae and Massagetae), 1620.5 (Gogicas Gogetas, Gogitas, Magogicas, Magogetas, Magogotas); as northern tribes and monsters, 35-41 passim, 74, 84-86, 89, 138, 159051; as forces of the Antichrist, 56, 57; as the Turks, 56, 90; mentioned, 58, 78, 157027 Golden Fleece, 22 Gotan, Hreðgotan, 114, 116, 174050,174051 (Geotena), 180097. See also Eotan; Gautar; Goths Goth, for Gog. See Gog-Magog Gothia: applied to southern France, 26; applied to Scythia, 34, 87, 91; named from Magog, 38, 67, 87, 91 (Gog); identified with Dacia, 51, 66, 71, 72 (Getia), 74-75, 88, 91, 104, 107; identified with Germany, 58, 65; located in northern Eu­ rope, 64, 91; identified with Denmark, 72, 73, 74, 88, 104, 107, 109, 166049, 172034 (also called Gothlandia, Guith, Gutia, Guitlandia); applied to Gaut-


land, 72, 109; applied to Cri­ mea, 16207; mentioned, 91 (Gotia Orientalis). See also Da­ cia; Germany; Gotland; Jut­ land; Scythia “Gothic War.” See Claudian Gothic Wars. See Procopius Gothland, Gothlandia. See Gautland; Gothia, Gotland Goths (Gothi, Goti, Guti, Gotan, etc.): confused with Getae, 8, 23» 24-31 passim, 34, 37, 42, 43, 44, 68, 69, 70, 77, 79, 82, 87 93, 95-96, 109, 110, 114; descended from Magog, 28, 29, 34, 37, 38, 43, 44, 68, 79, 87, 91 (Gog); Getuli related to, 28, 87, 91; Huns related to, 30; Gepids related to, 30, 60; Van­ dals related to, 30; Parthians related to, 30; Alans related to, 30; Scythians related to, 31, 34, 36, 58; identified as GogMagog, 35-41, 69, 78, 84, 86; Goutoi, 38; romanticized, 4146 passim, 80, 82, 86, 157031; attitude towards, 41-46 passim, 80, 82, 157*131, 168062, 17475053; associated with Ama­ zons, 46; associated with Mars and Bellona, 46; associated with giants, 46-49, 87, 154031; associated with the bear, 46, 49; Daci-Dani related to, 5051, 68, 80, 87, 91; all northern peoples related to, 64; Gautar related to, 70, 78,101,104,106, 116, 171022; early history of, 70, 79-80, 92- 93; Trojans re­ lated to, 80, 83; Sarmatians related to, 87; Gogi, 91; Swedes related to, 93-94; all Germanic tribes related to, 96; Jutes re­ lated to, 106-11 passim, 114, 171022; Denmark home of, 107; Gotan, 108, 180097; Gea-



tun, 109; Saxons related to, n o ; Geot, 114; in Deor, 116; Gotnar, 116; Hreðgotan, 116, 142, 180097; Geotena, 143, 174050, 174051; mentioned 35, 59, 63, 67, 75. See also Dacians; Danes; Jutes Gotland: Alfreds use of, 73-74, 88, 103-5, K>6, 109, 163025; Snorri’s use of, 88, 166049; mentioned, 171022. See also Dacia; Denmark; Gautland; Gothia; Jutland Gotnar. See Goths Gotti. See Goths; Jutes Goutoi. See Goths The Governance of God. See Salvian Gradivus. See Mars Gratian, 25, 36, 46 Great Bear, 16, 21 Greece, 43, 76 Greeks, 13, 43, 80, 82, 115 Gregory, St., 11 Gregory of Tours: Historia Fran­ corum, 4, 7, 76, 121, 123, 125, 126, 129, 131, 177-78075 Grendel, 132-33, 180096 Grendel’s dam, 133 Grettir, 138 Griffons, 56 (Gryphae), 67, 74 (Griphorum gens), 75, 86 (Grifayne), 87, 89, 91 Grundtvig, 4, 131, 179094 Gryphae. See Griffons Guillaume de Jumiéges: Gesta Normannorum Ducum, 79-83,


Guith. See Gothia; Jutland Guitlandia. See Gothia; Jutland Gutae, Gutes, Guti. See Goths, Jutes Gutia. See Gothia; Jutland Haber, T.: A Comparative Study

of the Beowulf and the Aeneid, 10 Hadrian, 11 Haemus, Mt., 18, 19, 20, 42 Haymo of Halberstadt, 69-70, 96 “Hea healle,” 178061 Hedenstiema, B., 94-95 Hengist, 112 Hercules, 21, 93 (German) Hereford Map, 89-90 Herodotus, 9, 13-15, 24, 55, 95 Heruli, 179090 Hetware (Attoari), 122, 126, 178077 Hiberia, 34 Higden, R.: Polychronicon, 91 Himantopodes, 78 Hippemolgi, 22, 33, 61 (Ipimolgi) Hippopodes, 22, 33, 61 (Ypodi), 66, 89 (Spopodes), 91, 138 Historia Brittonum. See Nennius Historia Ecclesiastica. See Bede Historia Francorum. See Gregory of Tours Historia Gothorum. See Isidore of Seville Historicity: of Hygelac, 4, 121-26 passim; of Beowulf, 4-9 passim, 121-33 passim, 148015, 169011, 179090, of Beowulf as person, 128 History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen. See Adam of Bremen History of the Langobards. See Paul the Deacon Hogrim, 122 Homer, 17 Homod, 122 Honorius (Roman emperor), 46-


Honorius of Autun, 88 Horace, 11, 75 Horsa, 112 Hreðgotan. See Goths

Index Hrólfs Saga, 128, 138, 179/287 Hrothgar, 133 Hrothulf, 133 Hugni. See Huns Huiglaucus. See Hygelac Hunnus, 93 Huns, 30, 40 (Hugni), 41, 44, 49, 50, 55 (Chuni), 57, 59 (Uni), 116, 142 Husi, 77 Hygelac (Huiglaucus, Chlochilaichus, etc.): as king of the Danes, 4, 121-22, 131; as king of the Getae, 106, 122-25, M3; as king of the Geatas, 123-26, 128; as a giant, 123, 138, 178-

n8i Hypanis R., 32 Hyperborean Mts., 56, 67. See also Riphaean Mts. Hyperboreans, 32, 54, 64, 77, 79, 89 Hyrcania, 34, 67 Hyrcanian Forest, 66 Iaenberht. See Jaenberht Iberi, 68 Ida, 142, 173/142 Ienberht. See Jaenberht Ieta. See Geat Iliad, 17 Illyria, 59 Incubi, 57, 70, 157/127 India, 34, 54, 67 Indians, 50, 156/121 Iótar, Iútar. See Jutes Iótland. See Jutland Iphigenia, 14 Ipimolgi. See Hippemolgi Ireland, 55 Isidore of Seville: Etymologies and Historia Gothorum known in England, 11; identifies Goths with Getae, 28, 29, 43; on Scythia, 34; on invasion of


Huns, 40-41; on Alexander’s Gate, 41; on Gog-Magog, 41; Getae-Goths descended from Magog, 43; early history and character of Getae-Goths, 4346, 96; his world scheme, 51; as source for later authors, 66, 67, 74, 87, 88, 108, 114, 123; mentioned, 31, 35, 50 “Island,” 74 Islands of the Blest, 74 Islands of the Northern Ocean, 59- 63. 89-90 Islands of the Western Ocean, 54 Ister R. See Danube R. Italians, 50, 156/121 Italy, 44 Iutae, Iuti. See Jutes Jaenberht, 120 Jaet, 172/134. See also Jutes Japheth, 28, 69, 79, 93. See also Magog Jerome, St., 11; Commentary on Genesis, 25; 28, 29, 35, 37, 40, 41, 69, 86 Jerusalem, 88 Jetae. See Jutes Jewish sources: on Gog-Magog, 38 Jordanes: Getica or De Origine Actusque Getarum known in England, i i ; uses Getae for Goths, 27, 29; defines Scythia, 34; on Gothic descent from Ma­ gog, 37; on Alexander’s Gate, 41; eulogizes Getae-Goths, 43, 46, 48, 49, 96; on identity of Scythia and Scanza, 59; as source for later authors, 59, 63, 70, 109; mentioned, 30, 31, 35 Josephus, 11, 36, 37, 157/133 Jotae, Jotuni. See Jutes Jove, 19-20, 46-47 Juitae, Juites. See Jutes Juitland. See Jutland



Julian the Apostate, 25, 42 Julius Honorius, 64 Jumne, 77 Justin, 17 Justinian, 28 Jutes (Iótar, Iútar, lutae, luti, Eotan, etc.): replace Geatas in wars with Swedes, 3, 126, 127, 129; identified with Geatas, 46, 97» 98-133 passim , 180097; identity of English Jutes, 5-6, 171021; E o ta as O. E. form for, 100, 105, 106, 16806; confused with Goths and with Getae, 106-11, 114, 171022, 172034; original home of, called Goth­ land (i.e. Gautland), 109; vari­ ant spellings and names for, 109-10, 172034; G e o t and G o e te n a stand for, 114, 143, 174050, 174051; B e o w u lf story of, 133; called Gautones, 171022; on name V ita e for, 172034; name of, originated from Jaet (Geatas), giant, 172034 Jutia. S e e Jutland Jutland (Iótland): called also Gothia, Gotland, 72, 73-74, 103~5, 172034; called Getia, 72; Gautar migrate to, 103-4, 148012, 163025; not identi­ fied with Gautland, 171022; mentioned 4, 6, 109 (Juitland), 172034 (Guith, Gutia, Guitlandia, Gothia, Gothlandia, Jutia). S e e also Dacia; Den­ mark; Gothia; Gotland Jutones. S e e Jutes. Kandia, 38. S e e also Scandinavia Kennings, 10 Kent: “Cantware,” 98, 99, 141 Kentish, 119 Ker, N.: C a ta lo g o f M a n u s cr ip ts co n ta in in g A n g lo -S a x o n , 141

Kier, C., 5 Kimble, G., 83 K in g ’s

M irror.


K onungs

S k u g g sfá

Klaeber, F., 7, 10, 125, 166049 88-89 K y n g A lisa u n d e r, 84-86 K o n u n g s Sk u g g sfá ,

Laestrygonians, 20 Lampeto, 79 Landolphus, 70 Law s

of E dw ard

th e

C o n fe s s o r ,

110 Leo, H., 4 Leuce, 21 L ib e r

H isto ria e

F ran corum ,


122, 129 7, 117, 12325, 129, 142, 179082 L ib e r V ita e D u n e lm e n s is , 119 L i f e o f K in g A lfr e d . S e e Asser’s L i f e o f K in g A lfr e d ; Steven­ son, W. Livy, 68 Lucan, 11, 68, 75, 77 Lucian, 18 Lutta R., 61 L y g is ö g u r , 139 L ib e r M o n stro ru m ,

Macedonia, 43, 47, 64 Macedonians, 17 Macrobius, 76, 88 Macron, 176061 Mægþa land (Amazonia), 72, 163022 Maeotae, 55 Mæðhilde, 116, 142 Maeotid Swamp (also Maeotie Marsh, Sea, Lake, etc., and identified with Sea of Azov and with Baltic Sea), 16, 33, 34, 40, 51-87 p a ssim Magog, son of Japheth: progeni­ tor of Goths and Scythians, 28, 29» 34, 35» 37, 38, 43, 44, 58, 67, 68, 79, 87, i 57«33

Index Magogecas, Magogetas, Magogotas, Magoth. See Gog-Magog Magoun, F., 150023, 180095 Malone, K.: supports Geatas= Gautar, 5, 103-5, lo6> 163025; on use of éa in Créacas and Dean, 120, 177068; on Mægþa land, 163022; on identity of Jutes, 171021; on “hea healle,” 17808 Man-Eaters. See Androphagi Manuscripts: Bibl. Nat. lat. 11108, 113; Bodley 619, 90; Chartres MS, 112-13, 141; CCCC 173, 141; CCCC 183, 141; Exeter Book, 140, 142; Harleian 3859, 112-13, 141; Otho A X, 142; Tanner 10, 141; Textus Roffensis, 141; Tiberius A VI, 141; Ti­ berius B V, 90, 141, 16364026; Vespasian B VI, 112— 15 passim, 140, 174051; Vitel­ lius A XV, 90, 142-43, 164026, 1 73“ 74n49 Mappamundi of the twelfth cen­ tury, 86 Marpesius, 61 Marpessa, 79 Mars (Ares), 17, 18, 25, 43, 46, 47, 52, 80 Marvels of the East, 90, 163-64o26 Massagetae: as Gog-Magog, 69, 157-58036; located in Scandi­ navia, 69, 70; located on Baltic, 92; Swedes called, 93; men­ tioned, 37, 40, 68 Maurungani, 59 Maximin, 48 Medes, 40 Mediterranean Sea, 58, 71, 72 Mela, 16, 17, 51 Melanchlaeni (Black-Cloaks), 15, 22, 30, 31, 33, 61 (Melanglini), 63 Meopari, 57


Mercator, 54 Mercians, 99, 141 Meroe, 64 Mesia. See Moesia Midrasch of Bereshit Rabbah, 38 Mierow, C., 27 Moesi, Mysi, 17, 20, 25 Moesia, 48, 93 (Mesia) Mommsen, T., 113, 141 Monsters: located in North, 57, 74, 76, 77-78, 84-86, 88, 8990, 137-39; Hygelac as, 123; in Beowulf, 132-33; in Marvels of the East, 164026; mentioned, 87, 95 MiillenhofF, 4 Munida, 55 Murini, 55 Mysi. See Moesi Nationalism: influences Beowulf scholarship, 7, 130-31, 17980094, 181010; Beowulf cele­ brates the English, 133 Natural History. See Pliny Nembrod, Nembroth. See Nimrod Nennius: Historia Brittonum: con­ fusion of Goths and Jutes in, 108; Geta in genealogy of, 112, 113-14, 115, 141; as source for Asser, 113, 173047; sources of. 114; mentioned, 129 Neubauer, A., 38 Neuri: as a Scythian tribe, 14-15, 22, 31, 32, 33, 61, 86 (Euri scite); as a northern people, 49, 5°> 63, 65, 77 (Neutri), 86 (Euri); like Wylfings, 65, 86, 133

Niceras, 132 Nimrod, 84 (Nebrot), 92 (Nem­ broth), 160068 Niorvi’s Sound (Gibraltar Straits),

88 Noah, 79, 84 (Noe), 157033

2o 8


Nordovici. See Norwegians Noricum, 75 Northern Ocean (also called Sarmatian Ocean, Scythian Ocean, Oceanum Boreale, Oceanum Septentrionale), 16, 34, 51-92 passim Northomani, 58, 59. See also Danes Northumbrians, 99, 141 Norway, 75 (Noricum), 76, 79, 87 Norwegians, 77, 93 (Nordovici) Oceanum Boreale. See Northern Ocean Oceanum Septentrionale. See Northern Ocean Oeocena Islands, 66 Offa, 16809 Ogilvy, J.: Books known to AngloLatin Writers, 10-11, 151027 Ohthere, 73, 103-4 Olaus, Eric, 93-94 Olches (Orchi), 55 Olrik, A., 5 Olympus, Mt., 20 Onela, 133 Oral-formulaic theory, 150023, 180095 Orchi. See Olches Orcneas, 132 Orestes, 14, 21 Origins of Icelandic Literature. See Turville-Petre, G. Orkneys, 55 Orosius: known in England, 11; identifies Goths with Getae, 26, 29, 42; as source for later au­ thors, 27, 46, 51, 64, 65, 66, 72, 74, 76, 77, 82, 108, 139; his world scheme, 51, 64, 71, 74; identifies Dacia with Gothia, 72, 88, 104, 166049; Old Eng­ lish version of, 72-73, 120; mentioned, 31, 91 Orpheus, 21

Oslac, 107 Osma map, 75 Ostriches, 56 Ostrogoths, 27 Ovid: Ex Ponto, Tristia, 11, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23, 86, 96 Pallene, 19 Pannonians, 49 Pantheon. See Godfrey of Viterbo Panticapaeum, 33 Parthians, 30 Patristic literature, 95, 108, 14950023. See also names of indi­ vidual Church Fathers Paul the Deacon: History of the Langobards, 65, 76 Pausanias, 19 Pedigrees. See Genealogies Pentesileus, 61 Periegesis. See Priscian Persia, 34 Persians, 50, 156021 Pfister, F., 159046 Phanesii, 89 Pharizaioi, 39 Philip of Macedon, 43 Philology, 4, 116-20, 131 Philomarus. See Filimer Phisolonikaioi, 39 Phlegra, 19, 20, 47, 49 Photinaioi, 39 Pictish Chronicle, 74 Pius II, 9, 92 Pliny: his Natural History known in England, 11; description of North, 16-23 passim; as source for later authors, 51, 53, 88, 92,


Plummer, C., 141-42, 173042 Polychronicon. See Higden, R. Pompeius Trogus, 11 Pontus. See Black Sea Porphyry, 15203 Prester John, 89 Priscian: his Periegesis known in

Index England, i i ; uses Getae for Goths, 26; describes North, 33, 159n5 1 ; source for later au­ thors, 66, 74, 90, 163026; elec­ trum mentioned in, 180096 Procopius, 28, 30, 34, 106 P ro se E d d a . S e e Snorri Sturluson Prosper of Aquitaine: C a r m e n d e


Roman Empire, 24, 41, 54-55, 115

Rome, 18, 44, 45 Roxolani, 58, 59, 61, 63, 74 Russia, 51, 57, 63, 76, 78. S e e also Scythia Rutilius Claudius Namatianus, 26,


P ro v id e n tia D iv in a , C h r o n ic u m In te g r u m , 11, 26, 114 Prudentius, 11, 25 Psatiri, 61 P s e u d o -C a llis th e n is H isto ria F a b ­ u losa, 38, 39, 40, 41, 158041 Pseudo-Methodius, 39-40, 41 Pterophorus, 16 Ptolemais, 64 Ptolemy, 38, 53, 61, 109 Pygmies, 78 Pyrenees, 44 Pyrrhus, 41, 42 Pythagoras, 14, 83 Pytheas, 94

Quadi, 90 Quirk, R., 176061 Rabanus Maurus:


U n iv erso ,

C o m m e n ta r y on G e n e s is ,

66- 68,

69, 74, 89 Rankin, J., 10 Ravenna Anonymous, 58-63, 74 Red Sea, 64 Rerefrini. S e e Finns Revelation, 35, 37, 57, 58, 69 Reynolds, R., 16809 Rhaecia, 75 Rhine, R., 55, 65, 66, 72, 92, 123 Rhodope, Mt., 42 Rifei, 55 Riphaean Mts., 16, 32, 33, 51-77 p assim , 92 Robert de Torigni, 81-82 Roles, 20 “Roman de Toute Chevalerie.” S e e Thomas of Kent

Sagas, 137-39 St. Severus map, 74-75 Sallust, 25, 76 Saltarioi, 39 Salvian, 42 Sammes, A., 109-10, 140 Santarem, 64 Sarmata, “duke,” 92 Sarmatae, Sarmatians (Sauromatae): as a Scythian or Thracian people, 15, 20, 31, 32, 33, 47, 5°, 58, 59» 61, 63; descended from Amazons, 15; connected to Getae and Goths, 15, 18, 30, 38, 87; a northern people, 77, 82, 90, 92; mentioned, 64, 89 Sarmatia, 65, 72, 75, 87, 89 Sarmatian Desert, 65 Sarmatian Ocean. S e e Northern Ocean Sarrazin, G., 5 Sauromatae. S e e Sarmatae Saxo Grammaticus: G e s ta D a n o rum , 122, 126, 128 Saxons: Getae connected to, 28, 109, 110; associated with Grif­ fons, 56, 91; invade England, 98-99, 142; Verstegan on iden­ tity of, 109; B e o w u lf story of, 133; mentioned, 58, 59, 63, 107 Saxony (Old Saxony), 98, 99, 141 Scada Insula. S e e Scandinavia Scandinavia, Scandia, Scanza: Geatas from, 3, 116; B e o w u lf as source for history of, 4, 12533; sources from, related to B e o w u lf, 7, 122, 126-30; asso-



dated with Scythia, 16, 59, 63, 65» 72, 74, 79, 80, 87, 89, 91, 93, 94, 95, 1 16, 132; home of the Getae-Goths, 27, 38, 48, 63, 69, 70, 79, 80, 95, 109, 116, 132; “Kandia” in Jewish sources, 38; considered an is­ land of Northern Ocean, 5859, 61, 65, 74, 75 (Scada In­ sula), 90, 92; Adam of Bremen on, 75-79; as land of fabulous beings, 77-79, 89, 90, 137-38; contacts with England, 101, 139, 169-70012 Schite. S e e Scythians Schlauch, M., 139 Scholarship on B e o w u lf: in nine­ teenth century, 4-8, 130-31; role of nationalism in, 7, 13031, i8 im o; more recent trends in, 7-8, 10, 130-32, 148ms, 149~5on23, i8o-ng5; unsolved problems in, 148-491119 Scholiasts: on Adam of Bremen, 76-77 Schütte, G., 5, 148m 2 Schück, H., 5, 106 Schücking, L., i68ng Scirdifrini. S e e Finns Scitia. S e e Scythia Sclavi, Sclavini. S e e Slavs Scocia, Scotia. S e e Scotland Scorpions, 56, 57 Scotland, 75 (Scocia, Scotia) Scridefinnas. S e e Finns Scymni, 61 Scythia (also called Gothia, Ger­ mania, Barbaria): land and peo­ ple of, described, 13-95 P