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Goths vs. Greeks: Epic Ancient Battle Revealed

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Another  Thermopylae[artwork by Igor Dzis]

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Republication from Live Science

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By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

Fragments of an ancient Greek text telling of an invasion of Greece by the Goths during the third century A.D. have been discovered in the Austrian National Library. The text includes a battle fought at the pass of Thermopylae.

Researchers used spectral imaging to enhance the fragments, making it possible to read them. The analysis suggests the fragments were copied in the 11th century A.D. and are from a text that was written in the third-century A.D. by an Athens writer named Dexippus.  During Dexippus’ life, Greece (part of the Roman Empire) and Rome struggled to repel a series of Gothic invasions.

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Another Battle of Thermopylae found in palimpsest

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Republication from Τhe History blog

GermanicsGermanic warriors battling Romans (Teutoburg Forest). In my view, the Greek combatants who confronted them would have been armed like the earlier Roman auxilia of the 2nd century AD (in the mid-3rd century AD there were no longer auxilia from the Empire’s populace because they were all citizens) bearing chain mail armour, scuta (thyreos-shields in Greek) and heavy Roman swords but with helmets of traditional Hellenic types (image and comment added by periklisdeligiannis.wordpress.com)

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The leaves of books in the Middle Ages were made of parchment and vellum, created from animal skins in an expensive and time-consuming craft. It was so costly that scribes often recycled pages from earlier books, removing the ink to create a blank sheet. In the early Middle Ages, the ink was washed off and over time the shadow of former writing reappeared like a pentimento in a painting. In the later Middle Ages, they used pumice powder to scrape the ink away for good.

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Dutch archaeologists discover the location of Caesar’s battle and massacre on the Tencteri and Usipetes tribes

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Republication from the VU University of Amsterdam

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Hundreds of skulls and other bones, considered to belong to the massacred Germanics were found in the excavated location (credit: VU University of Amsterdam).

VU archaeologists discover location of historic battle fought by Caesar in Dutch river area

Earliest known battle on Dutch soil.

At a press conference held on Friday 11 December in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, archaeologist Nico Roymans from the VU Amsterdam announced a discovery that is truly unique for Dutch archaeology: the location where the Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar massacred two Germanic tribes in the year 55 BC. The location of this battle, which Caesar wrote about in detail in Book IV of his De Bello Gallico, was unknown to date. It is the earliest known battle on Dutch soil. The conclusions are based on a combination of historical, archaeological, and geochemical data.

Skeletal remains, swords and spearheads
It is the first time that the presence of Caesar and his troops in Dutch territory has been explicitly proven. The finds from this battle include large numbers of skeletal remains, swords, spearheads, and a helmet. The two Germanic tribes, the Tencteri and the Usipetes, originated in the area east of the Rhine and had explicitly appealed to Caesar for asylum. Caesar rejected this request for asylum and ordered his troops to destroy the tribes by violent means. Nowadays, we would label such action genocide.
During the press conference, Roymans described in detail the discoveries made in Kessel (North Brabant) and their historical significance. He also showed weapons and skeletal remains from this battle.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part III)

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Side view detail of the helmet found at Vendel , grave I, 7th century.

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A reproduction of the Vendel helmet of the burial XIV (see below) and a Vendel sword and shield by the historical association Wulfheodenas (I suppose).
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By Periklis Deligiannis

MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

The numerous tribes of the Vendel age gradually began to join in larger tribal unions or confederations, usually by force, while most Jutes, Angles and Northern Saxons of modern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein had already migrated to Britain at the beginning of this period (starting at the early 5th century AD, of the pre-Vendel era). The Svear and the peoples of Scandinavia possibly related to the continental Goths – that is to say the Heruli (Heruls) and the Gotar (Gott Gutar and/or Geats) and their branches of modern Gotaland and the Oland & Gotland Islands (in modern southern Sweden) – went on living side by side during the Vendel period (550-793 AD) and the Viking age (793– early 11th century AD). Finally after several confrontations, around the 12th century they joined in a single kingdom, after all not being significantly different in language, origins and culture. Thereby they were both assimilated in the Swedish nation.

In the Viking age, the Danes seem to have absorbed the Fervir, the Bergio, the Jutes and the part of the Heruli tribe that used to live in part of the Sjaelland Isle. It also seems that the total tribe of the Angles had already migrated to Britain, leaving their almost vacant homeland to the Dane newcomers.
Concerning again the Vendel-type helmets, sometimes they are referred as ‘Viking helmets’. In fact, they were mostly helmets of the early Leidang armies, i.e. Nordic armies that were operating inside the Scandinavian homeland. But several post-Vendel types and some Vendel proper helmets survived up to the Viking age (some of them perhaps as family heritage or heirloom) being used by Viking combatants, i.e. warriors of raiding groups or armies that were operating overseas, mostly away from Scandinavia. On the other hand, the Vendel types did spread out of Scandinavia, mainly in Britain and the South Frisian lands (the coasts of modern NW Germany and the Netherlands) by the Anglo-Saxon invaders and through military and commercial interaction with the southern Frisians who were sharing many common cultural elements with the Nordic peoples (some historians – including the author of this article – consider them as almost Nordics).
In the 20th century some researchers used to believe that there is a connection of the place name ‘Vendel’ with the Vandals, the East Germanic tribe who finally conquered Roman Africa and sacked Rome itself, but nowadays this theory doesn’t seem to have many followers.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

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13 Helmet from Valsgärde Cemetery
Helmet from the Valsgärde Cemetery

14 Helmet reconstruct. Valsgärde
Reconstruction of a helmet from the Valsgärde burials (RoyalOakArmoury.com).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part I)

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According to the literary sources and the chronicles (Jordanes, Beowulf epic and others) in that period the largest tribes of eastern and southern Scandinavia (i.e. modern Sweden and Denmark) were the Svears (Suiri, Suehans, the Swedes), the Gotar (Geats, Gott) and their probable branches – the Gauthigoth, Ostrogothae, Vagoth, Gutar, Theustes – the Jutes (maybe a tribal offshoot of the Gotar/Geats), the Heruli (the major part of the tribe played an important role in the Age of Migrations in the continent), the Screrefennae (the Finns, the sole non-Germanic people in the region), the Bergio, the Fervir, the Wulfingas, the Hallin, the Danes, the North Frisians, and in modern western Schleswig-Holstein the metropolitan Saxons (the core tribe of the Saxon confederacy). Western Scandinavia (modern Norway) was inhabited by even smaller tribes and clans, such as the Ragnaricii, Raumaricii, Otingis, Rugii (possibly the core tribe of the continental Rugii who settled in Pannonia and Italy), Adogit, Arothi and others.
The Vendel graves are rich, and very similar to the ones excavated in Britain, namely at Sutton Hoo in the principality of East Anglia. After all, taking into account literary, linguistic and other evidence, it is possible that the dynasty of East Anglia was of Geat/Gotar origins (possibly a branch of the Wulfings). In my point of view, there is also a strong connection of the names of the Angles (forebears of the national name of the English) and the Ynglings (Ynglingas, Scylfings). After all, they seem to have been both bearers of the Vendel cultural elements. Taking into account that the Angles were a small tribe (less numerous than the Saxons and the Jutes: possibly a few clans) I would hypothesize that they were a tribal offshoot or close relatives of the Ynglings. It is possible that the Angles originating from modern Sweden were at first established in southern Jutland and modern Schleswig-Holstein and then invaded Britain becoming royal dynasties in East Anglia, Bernicia, Deira, Mercia and possibly elsewhere.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part I)

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01 Helmet from Vendel Cemetery,burial XIV

Helmet from Vendel Cemetery, burial XIV. Observe the nose-protector in the shape of the beak of a raven (a very important bird in the Scandinavian cosmology).

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Vendel helmet reconstruction by Ivor Lawton (copyright).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The Vendel period of the history of Sweden and essentially of the whole area of eastern and southern Scandinavia (of course including modern Denmark) is the era before the Viking Age (793 – early 11th century AD). It lasted from the mid-6th century AD to the end of the 8th century and is characterized by princely burials of warlords and powerful warriors with impressive weapons. This historical period and the homonym cultural conglomerate (Vendel culture) took their name from the site Vendel at the historical district Uppland in eastern Sweden, north of Old Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Svear kings. The most characteristic cemeteries were found there. It seems that Uppland (where later the important cities of the Viking age Uppsala and Sigtuna were developed) was very important politically during the Vendel period. The area was rather the political center of the tribe of the Svears (Latin Suiri and Suirones and according to Jordanes: Suehans, Nordic: Svear, Anglo-Saxon: Sweonas, modern Swedes) who had extended to it earlier coming from Svealand, their core territory in the south. Uppland means the upper land, the land in the north.
Another very important archaeological site of the Vendel period is Valsgärde, a place about three kilometres north of Old Uppsala. The tombs excavated at Valsgärde gave findings of the same type as those of the Vendel archaeological site. Ulltuna is another important site of this period. The influence of the Vendel culture does not seem to have been strong in western Scandinavia, i.e. modern Norway (Iceland and the Faeroe Isles were not yet inhabited by Scandinavians).

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GERMANICS AND GERMANI (PRE-TEUTONIC): A ROMAN MISUNDERSTANDING?

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GermanenAD50
The Germanic tribes around AD 50. The tribes of the North Sea, the Rhine-Weser area and the Elbe had probably a strong pre-Teutonic (‘Germani’?) ethnic component.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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[NOTE: This article is actually a part of my published  book  The Celts, Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek.]
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…. Apart from the most considerable Boii and Volcae peoples, other important Celtic tribes of central Europe were the Helvettii who originally were dwelling  in the valley of the river Main (modern Germany) before migrating to modern Switzerland, the Vendelici, the Norici, the Ambisontes, the Arabisci and others.
Of course, the Celts were not the only inhabitants of central Europe. In the 20th century, the study of place names and some archaeological data identified a large ethno-cultral group (and possibly linguistic) in the areas of modern Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and northern Germany, between the rivers Somme and Aller, which group did not speak neither Germanic nor Celtic (Gallic). These people possibly descended from the early Neolithic population of the region and they broadly adopted the Gallic culture but not the Celtic language (at least most of them). The people of the Lusatian culture in modern eastern Germany and Poland which was destroyed mainly by Scythian invaders (6th century BC), and the pre-Germanic inhabitants of Thuringia, northern Bohemia and other regions were possibly members of the same unknown ethnic group or groups. It was an unknown people (perhaps pre-Indo-European) who lived in a broad zone between the Celts and the Teutonics (Germanics) and most probably belonged to more than one linguistic group.

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LIBER HOMO LIBERI POPULI: DUMNORΙΧ OF THE AEDUI AGAINST CAESAR AND ROME (PART II)

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 By  Periklis    Deligiannisvercingetorix 

Vercingetorix  (statue)  was   influenced  by  Dumnorix’s  policy  and  tragic  death.

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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CONTINUED FROM PART  I

In  the  subsequent  years,  Caesar  conducted  his  famous  Conquest  of  Gaul,  crashing  the  Suebi  of  Ariovistus  and  the  Belgians.  After  the  Roman  victory  over  the  Belgians,  Diviciacus,  the  main  supporter  of  the  Gallic  collaboration  with  Rome,  disappears  from  Caesar’s  narrative.  Liscus  also  disappears  from  his  narrative  but  this  is  explainable  because  he  probably  could  not  be  the  Aeduan  Vergobretus  any  more.  After  all  he  rather  gained  his  office  with  Diviciacus’  political  support  (the  latter  was  the  unofficial  leader  of  the  tribe).  Diviciacus’  disappearance  is  the  real  mystery. 

  Diviciacus  probably  did  not  believe  that  the  Gauls  could  cope  with  the  dual  military  pressure  of  the  Romans  and  the  Germans,  and  he  preferred  the  former.  Apart  from  his  decisive  diplomatic  and  counseling  assistance  to  Caesar,  he  was  the  main  founder  of  his  numerous  allied  Gallic  cavalry.  The  antithesis  of  Diviciacus  was  Dumnorix,  who  believed  in  Gallic  power  and  did  everything  for  the  freedom  of  his  people.  Dumnorix  appears  later  as  the  main  political  leader  of  the  Aedui  (and  possibly  their  Vergobretus)  when  he  was  Caesar’s  hostage.  The  most  likely  hypothesis  for  Diviciacus’  “disappearance”  in  57  BC  was  either  his  physical  death,  or  his  murder  possibly  by  Dumnorix’s  incitation.  Then  or  a  little  later,  Dumnorix  succeeded  him  in  the  unofficial  leadership  of  the  Aedui. 

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LIBER HOMO LIBERI POPULI: DUMNORΙΧ OF THE AEDUI AGAINST CAESAR AND ROME (PART I)

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  Siege alesia

The  last  dramatic  episode  of  the  Roman  conquest  of  GaulVercingetorix  surrenders  to  Caesar,  in  a  classic  artwork.
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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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During  the  period  from  122  to  52  BCthe  last  years  of  the  Gallic  independence,  the  Arverni  and  Aedui  tribes  were  competing  for  the  hegemony  in  Gaul.  In  71  BC,  the  Sequani  tribe  started  a  long  war  against  the  Aedui  who  were  pressing  them.  The  Sequani  were  in  a  disadvantageous  position  and  started  to  look  for  allies  in  the  Suebian  Germans  who  lived  on  the  east  bank  of  the  Rhine,  after  failing  to  cross  the  Oder  River  in  the  East.  Ariovistus  was  the  Suebian  warlord,  who  crossed  the  Rhine  with  thousands  of  warriors  and  managed  to  defeat  the  Aedui  in  61  BC.  The  Germans  unleashed  numerous  raids  against  many  Gallic  tribes  until  several  of  them  became  their  vassals.  The  Sequani  had  made  a  big  mistake  by  inviting  the  dangerous  Germanics  in  the  Celtic/Gallic  territory.
Diviciacus,  one  of  the  political  leaders  and  leading  Druid  of  the  Aedui,  committed  an  equally  big  mistake  when  he  asked  the  Romans  for  help  against  the  Germans.  He  traveled  to  the  “City  of  the  She-wolf”  and  was  presented  to  the  Senate  in  order  to  expose  his  request.  The  proposal  of  the  Aeduian  leader  in  the  Senate  for  an  alliance  against  Ariovistus,  met  the  objections  of  the  new  great  political  personality  of  Rome  (the  greatest  in  her  long  history  according  to  the  view  of  many  scholars),  Gaius  Julius  Caesar.  Caesar  refused  Diviciacus’  request  due  to  his  political  rivalry  with  Cicero  who  probably  supported  the  Gallic  leader  in  the  Senate.  Diviciacus  returned  to  Gaul  with  vague  promises  for  help.  Caesar,  in  order  to  reduce  Cicero  and  his  Galatian  friend,  asked  the  Senate  to  conclude  an  alliance  with  Ariovistus.  The  Senate  recognized  the  German  king  as  “Friend  of  the  Romans”,  a  move  that  emboldened  him.  Ariovistus  became  more  aggressive  in  Gaul  and  created  a  real  kingdom  in  the  conquered  Galatian  regions. 

Dumnorix,  Diviciacus’  younger  brother,  did  not  agree  with  the  pro-Roman  policy  of  his  brother.  Instead  he  aimed  in  the  union  of  all  the  Gallic  tribes,  and  believed  in  their  ability  to  repel  all  invaders  in  Gaul,  both  the  Romans  and  the  Germans.  For  this  reason  he  conducted  an  alliance  with  the  Helvetii  (Celts  who  lived  in  modern  Switzerland)  and  with  Casticus,  the  son  of  the  leader  of  the  Sequani,  who  had  disagreed  with  the  pro-German  policy  of  his  father.  Indeed,  in  order  to  strengthen  the  Celtic  alliance,  Dumnorix  married  Orgetorix’s  daughter  (the  leader  of  the  Helvetii).

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Exploring the Limes Germanicus… images from Rome’s Germanic Frontier (part one)

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Republication from FOLLOWING HADRIAN.

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From one end of the empire to another!

The Roman empire encircles the Mediterranean Sea, and beyond that, lay its frontiers. By the early 2nd century the empire was stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, through the deserts of the Middle East to the Red Sea, and across North Africa.

The “Limes” represents the border line of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent in the 2nd century AD. It stretched over 5,000 km from the Atlantic coast of northern Britain, through Europe to the Black Sea, and from there to the Red Sea and across North Africa to the Atlantic coast. The remains of the Limes today consist of vestiges of built walls, ditches, forts, fortresses, watchtowers and civilian settlements. The two sections of the Limes in Germany, Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall are now all inscribed on the World Heritage List as the “Frontiers of the Roman Empire”. (Source Unesco)

Limes Unesco © Carole Raddato

The Germanic Limes was a line of frontier fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubdued Germanic tribes from the years 83 (under Domitian) to about 260 AD.

Upper Germanic & Raetian Limes

The Upper German-Raetian Limes extends to a length of 550 km between the Rhine
in the north-west (near Rheinbrohl) and the Danube in the south-east (near Regensburg). It consisted of about 900 watchtowers, numerous small forts and over 60 large forts for cohorts and alae (Roman allied military units). More a guarded border line than a military defence system, the Limes enabled traffic to be managed, movement of people to be controlled and goods to be traded and taxed.

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