A Germanic tribe, by the
first century BC the Nuitones were a relatively small group that was thought
to be occupying territory in the area around that of the
Langobards, in the southern
Cimbric Peninsula and along the east bank of the lower Albis (the modern
Elbe). They were neighboured by the Langobards,
Eudoses, and others, but
exact locations are unknown thanks to a paucity of information.
In the nineteenth century, Karl Müllenhoff suggested that the Nuitones name
had suffered at the hands of scribes, since 'ui' is not a Germanic diphthong.
Kemp Malone puts forward Hevatones as a more realistic alternative, which
may have been copied down as Hvitones. The 'h' could easily have been
mis-transcribed as an 'n', a not-infrequent occurrence in manuscripts of
Tacitus' Germania. In fact, this could be taken a little further with
some plausibility, with Heutones seemingly equating to Eotan, the Old
form of Jutes.
However, the Jutes are already included by Tacitus as the Eudoses, making it
less likely that they are one and the same tribe.
However, the above explanation may contain too many 'ifs' and 'buts'. A more
straightforward explanation, if a more controversial one, refuses the idea
that the tribe's name was originally German. Regardless of the spoken
language or ancestry of the tribe, the name has come down to us as a
name, Nuada, also known as Nodens. The tribe's name follows the same shift
experienced by the Jutes, from 'd' to 't', from Eudoses to Eoten. This
implies (but does not prove) that the people spoke Germanic. It may very
well be a fact that the German tribe also honoured this deity, borrowing it
from the Celts the same way they borrowed Thor. So, with the '-on' and '-es'
suffixes removed, the base name is 'Nuit', probably with a soft vowel, 'a'
or 'eh', after it. That gives us Nuita, which is almost Nuada. Now this may
not seem especially close to the Germanic deity, Nerthus, or 'Mother Earth',
but it is perfectly possible for this tribe to have been Germanised Celts
with a Celtic name who honouring a Germanic deity with a slightly different
name. There is no conflict in this explanation, and if the excuse of a
transcription error could be used in the original name breakdown then it can
also be used here.
The Nuitones formed one of the minor constituent tribes of the vast
confederation. This came into existence by the first century AD, and
perhaps earlier. Its number included the tribes of the
perhaps also the
too. None of these tribes were what could be considered 'front line' tribes,
living along the border with the
empire. Instead they were arrayed behind a large number of other tribes
which were better known and better attested by Roman writers. The Suebic
tribes remained a little more obscure, at least until they came into
direct contact with the empire, and many of the more minor tribes that
made up the confederation were almost entirely unchronicled.
The Nuitones were only mentioned by Tacitus in Germania, as were a
number of other Suebic tribes. He added that there was nothing noteworthy
about these tribes individually, but that they shared a common worship of
Nerthus. Via Gudmund Schütte and Karl Müllenhoff, the
Espada-Walker site also suggests that there may be a corruption here, that
'Nuitones' should be
or 'Uitones' (yet another form of 'Jutes'), citing the lack of a mention
anywhere else as a reason. This may be true, but many tribes were mentioned
only once, by various of the main Roman and Greek authors. Few of the
tribes in the group that contains the Nuitones can be located with any
accuracy as it seems that Tacitus was merely given a list of names,
possibly in order of descent, without any further details. Given that
the location of the Angles is largely certain, the approximate positions
of the others around them can be guessed, and a focus on the western part
of the Baltic Sea seems to have been universal amongst them.
(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from the Complete Works of
Tacitus, Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, & Lisa
Cerrato, from The Literary History of Hamlet, Volume 1, Kemp
Malone, and from External Links: Espadana-Walker.com (dead link), and
A Theory of
Civilisation, Philip Atkinson.)
Writing around this time, the
writer Tacitus mentions the
listing their constituent tribes which cover the larger part of Germania.
Noted for their custom of twisting their hair and binding it up in a
knot, 'the seven tribes of Jutland and Holstein', which include the
are all part of the Suebic confederation.
The islands between modern Denmark and Sweden were part of a
little-known habitat for the early Suebic tribes of the Western
Baltic Sea, including Mandø seen here, one of the islands in the
Danish Wadden Sea off the south-west coast of Jutland
Of this group, Tacitus says: 'They believe that she [Mother Earth] interests
herself in human affairs and rides through their peoples. In an island of
Ocean [the islands of eastern
a sacred grove, and in the grove stands a car [carriage] draped with a cloth which none
but the priest may touch. The priest can feel the presence of the goddess in
this holy of holies, and attends her, in deepest reverence, as her car is
drawn by kine. Then follow days of rejoicing and merry-making in every place
that she honours with her advent and stay. No one goes to war, no one takes
up arms; every object of iron is locked away [ie. weapons]; then, and then
only, are peace and quiet known and prized, until the goddess is again restored
to her temple by the priest, when she has had her fill of the society of men.
After that, the car, the cloth and, believe it if you will, the goddess herself
are washed clean in a secluded lake. This service is performed by slaves who
are immediately afterwards drowned in the lake. Thus mystery begets terror
and a pious reluctance to ask what that sight can be which is allowed only
to dying eyes.'
By this time, the
formed a wide-ranging confederation of tribes that are all known individually
but which are counted as being Suevi. The vast number of tribes included in the
confederation include the
(who have virtually ceased to exist as a recognisable independent people),
(a name applied to several tribes: the
Marsigni, Naristi, Nuitones,
Suiones (Swedes), and the
c.500 - 600
not to mention the Nuitones, but if they are in fact the
another tribe that has originally been mislabelled, then their fate is probably
very similar to that of their neighbours. If they remain located in this region
while the Jutes and
then they are eventually subsumed by the growing power and dominance of the