History Files


Barbarian Europe

The Suevi in Iberia

by Steve Kane, Portugal, 25 October 2002



The Suevi, Alans and Vandals entered Iberia between AD 407 and 409. All three tribes settled for a time, but the Alans and Vandals were pushed out by the Visigoths. The Suevi, concentrated in the northwest of Iberia, were relatively free of any pressure to move.

In Gallicia they chose an inland area with a good history of mining in which to settle. In Portugal they seem to have chosen areas particularly suited to flax cultivation. The Romano-Lusitanians concentrated close to the towns and there seems to have been reasonable co-habitation between the two races.

It is noticeable that in their parishes the Suevi graveyards are close around the churches while in the Romanic areas they are about as far as possible from the church and settlement. A Suevi parish can still be spotted by the look of the people - blondes and all. The ethnic cleansing that genetic studies show to have taken place in Saxon lands in Britain seems not to have happened here.

The local folk costumes bear all this out - they show a 'true' original form of the now (in Germany) bastardised dirndl  - in the more Suevi areas they tend to be 'tits in the window' as they call it - as in modern Bavaria.

Local words for textile tools etc are nearly all Swabian. Roca (Rock - distaff), Traje (Trachen) etc. As with language (cf the English spoken on Tangier Island Chesapeake Bay), cultural individuality survived well at the margins of colonisation and merged with the natives at the centre.



Text copyright Steve Kane. An original feature for the History Files.