Introduction to the Germanic People (03:02)
There were over 70 Germanic tribes; Caesar coined the term. Learn about their Indo-European ancestry, subsistence farming lifestyle, and social structure.
Early Settlements (04:42)
By 100 B.C., Germanic peoples lived in villages of 200 residents and several clans. Each clan had roughly 12 households, with servants and slaves. Long houses provided shelter and storage for humans and animals. Learn about smoked meat, beer, and fashion.
Tribal Aristocracy (02:16)
Germanic men enhanced their reputation through battle. Tribes consolidated under warrior leaders; vassalage evolved into the medieval feudal system. Germanic people also popularized beer and pants.
Resolving Disputes (03:30)
Germanic tribes saw armed combat as an economic necessity; looting was common. Disputes between villages were publicly arbitrated in open air gathering places called "Things." Penalties were decided communally; cowardice or betrayal often received death.
Germanic Wars (05:21)
Jutland tribes migrated south, venturing into Roman territory. In 105 B.C. they defeated a garrison at Orange. Romans saw Germanic people as barbarians, and underestimated their "Teutonic" ferocity. After several battles, Romans withdrew from Germania and built the Limes wall.
Germanic Religion and Writing (04:15)
Nature provided a setting for sacred sites. Learn about gods and seeresses who predicted battle outcomes. Symbols on soothsaying sticks evolved into runic characters. Swords were considered magical; warriors sacrificed weapons in bogs.
Human Sacrifice (04:00)
Archaeologists have discovered preserved bodies in bogs, including Grauballe man. Germanic tribesmen feared the undead and often killed victims in multiple ways. A woman at Rappendam may have been linked to the harvest goddess Frau Herke.
Nibelung Legend (04:01)
German customs have roots in Germanic mythology. Learn about a popular story involving Siegfried the dragon slayer, warrior maiden Brunhilde, her suitor Gunter, and Siegfried's wife Kriemhild.
Germanic Literary Influences (01:56)
Icelandic poets chronicled Northern Germanic myths and legends that later inspired Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," as well as comics and computer games.
Huns, Famine and Migration (03:50)
In 375 B.C, Mongolian invaders destabilized Germanic tribes; violence and crop failures prompted migrations to the Roman Empire. Tribes spread throughout Europe; the Franks settled along the Rhine.
Lex Salica (03:15)
Frankish King Clovis ordered the first Germanic legal text. It addressed inheritance law and punishments; some believe it was written to educate Romans on the Frankish world view. Clovis subjugated his enemies to consolidate power.
Evangelizing the Germanic People (02:05)
King Clovis is considered the grandfather of Europe; he united Frankish tribes and converted to Catholicism—opening the door for Christianity. The prospect of a universal afterlife was attractive to the pagans.
Saxon Wars (04:03)
Charlemagne went to war with Saxon tribes to stamp out paganism and amass a Christian empire. In 785, Saxon leader Widukind agreed to baptism. Germanic paganism was subsumed into Christianity but superstition and rituals remained.
Germanic Legacy (01:33)
Charlemagne founded an empire in the image of Rome that became a blueprint for modern Europe. Germanic place names remain, and many European languages have Germanic roots.
Credits: The Germanic Peoples (00:28)
Credits: The Germanic Peoples
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