How to Identify Germanic Tribes

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How to Identify Germanic Tribes
Germanic tribes fused with Celtic populations and made art reflecting these cultures. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Germanic tribes are readily identifiable based on their common linguistic and ethnic origins. Germanic tribes first formed in Northern Europe, and subsequently migrated throughout Europe, spreading their language and culture while assimilating themselves within varying other tribes to become a dominant society. In mixing with local populations, Germanic tribes helped to comprise early history for varying regions by laying down the foundations for future nation-states and countries that formed as a result of Germanic tribe migration throughout Europe. History shows how Germanic tribes were an early precursor to Roman civilisation as they helped unite diverse cultures in resistance to the eventual conquest of the Roman peoples.

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    Germanic as Ethnic Identity

  1. 1

    Germanic-speaking tribes were first recognised as an ethnic tribe by the Greeks, who saw that they were distinct from the Celtic peoples based on certain distinctions in tradition and custom. The Romans furthered this distinction by grouping Germanic tribes based on the region of their origins. Germanic peoples came from what is now Poland and their territory expanded as far west as the lower Rhine River and as far north as the Danish islands and Northern Germany. Nowadays, these varied tribes of Germanic peoples are divided into West Germanic, East Germanic and North Germanic ethnic classifications.

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    Germanic tribes were one of the first civilisations to successfully extract iron ore from peat bogs, and this innovation was a catalyst for the Iron Age. The Iron Age was a era of history when metal tools were commonplace as they spread from one tribe to another. Metal was smelted and used for weaponry, coins, jewellery and other objects that might have been private posesions of an upperclass or nobility. Germanic tribes migrated from what is now Northern Scandanavia, particularly the Jutland region of Denmark and the lower tip of Sweden. From there they migrated southward, encountering Roman peoples who were expanding their empire and warred with them. The Romans dubbed them the Germanic peoples.

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    The Germanic oral tradition is responsible for Europe's oldest myth: the Beowulf saga. This mythology was embedded within Germanic tribe culture and is an origin myth for how their civilisation developed over their history. All Germanic people have a common name for non-Germanic people, calling them "walhaz" as a means of signifying their foreign identity. Today, Germanic roots are strongest in France, as a number of tribes united in the Rhine area as a fusion of diverse tribes. Other regions with strong Germanic roots are Spain, Portugal and Italy. Interestingly enough, present-day Germany has little Germanic connection because it was occupied for a majority of history by the Celts, not the Germanic tribes.

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