German Memories - Germanic Migration from Scandinavia to Southern Europe

Rajkumar Kanagasingam

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While I was narrating the migration of Nagas and other tribes towards the Island, our discussion went back to before the Christian era of Europe where some of the Germanic tribes from Scandinavia were migrating towards the Northern Part of today's Germany.

The southward movement of Germanic tribes were probably influenced by a deteriorating climate in Scandinavia around 600 BC - 300 BC. The warm and dry climate of southern Scandinavia which was a couple of degrees warmer than today, deteriorated considerably, which not only dramatically changed the flora, but forced people to change their way of living and to leave their settlements.

At around this time, this culture discovered how to extract bog iron from the ore in peat bogs. Their technology for gaining iron ore from local sources may have helped them expand into new territories.

After they learnt new technological advancements, the Germanic tribes Teutons and the Cimbri were moving towards the southern parts of Europe. The Teutons were mentioned as a Germanic tribe in early historical writings by Greek and Roman authors, Strabo and Velleius.

The concept of ‘Germanic’ as a distinct ethnic identity was hinted at by the early Greek geographer Strabo as an adventourous group who dwelt in northern Europe. It was quoted by early chroniclers that “The Germani at noon serve roast meat with milk, and drink their wine undiluted”. The Germanic tribes were each politically independent, under a hereditary king. The kings appear to have claimed descendancy from mythical founders of the tribes.

According to Ptolemy's map, the Teutons lived on Jutland, whereas Pomponius Mela placed them in Scandinavia.

More than some hundred years before the birth of Christ many of the Teutones, as well as the Cimbri, migrated south and west to the Danube valley, where they encountered the expanding Roman Empire.

In the densely forested north of Europe, there lived more people than could be nourished by the primitive agriculture techniques. The fertile farmlands and pasture grounds of the south and the west were attractive to the Germanic tribes as battling for these areas was far easier than clearing their own forests with iron axes.

The Germanic tribes had been spreading out deeper and deeper into the west and south. At the same time they displaced the Celts up to the Rhine and the Danube, which now would be the borders to Celtic Gaul (today's France) and to Celtic Rhetia (today's South Germany and Switzerland).

Rajkumar Kanagasingam is author of a fascinating book - “German Memories in Asia" - and you can explore more about the book and the author at AGSEP


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