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MapReudigni / Vinguligoth? (Suevi)

A Germanic tribe, by the first century BC the Reudigni were a relatively small group that was thought to be occupying territory close to the Langobards, in the southern Cimbric Peninsula and along the east bank of the lower Albis (the modern Elbe). They were neighboured by those Langobards, along with the Nuitones, Saxons, Eudoses, and others, but exact locations are unknown thanks to a paucity of information.

The Reudigni name poses some problems when it comes to breaking it down, and additional problems are caused by the fact that the Reudigni are frequently linked with the Rondingas of the Old English poem Widsith, composed around AD 500, and the Vinguligoth who were noted by the sixth century Byzantine writer, Jordanes. The fact is that the Reudigni were mentioned just once in history, by Tactitus in the first century AD. Attempts to link them with known post-Roman tribes or groups cannot be supported as a simple name breakdown renders these links meaningless.

One of the most popular attempts to link the Reudigni to the late fifth century Rondingas is supported by Kemp Malone. He suggests that the English translation of Reudigni is mistaken. Instead it should read Rendingi or Randingi, which would make it fully compatible with the Rondingas. This is an oft-repeated connection, which is why the Rondingas have been included lower down the page despite that connection being misconceived. Instead, the Reudigni name may simply be a victim of typical confusion about the German suffix, '-ing'. Reudigni breaks down as 'reud', a name, plus '-ing', meaning 'of or belonging to', and '-on' (plural suffix). For 'reud' as a name, the proto-Germanic tongue has 'raušaz', which is the Goth 'raužs', Old Norse 'rauär', Old English 'reįd', Old Frisian 'rąd', Old Saxon 'rņd', and Old High German 'rņt', all meaning 'red' and derived from *reušanan. Note the mutations in the first vowel. The Indo-European '-az' would have been dropped by the time Tacitus recorded the tribe, leaving the leader's name as Rauš - very close to the Reud of Tacitus. A good guess would be that the tribe's leader was a redhead, and his followers were 'red's people'.

One additional theory is that 'Reudigni' may not even have been a tribal name, perhaps more of a by-name (which, perhaps accidentally, 'red's people' would support in the form of 'red's people of the 'x' tribe'). In Beowulf, the early Danes were also known as the Scyldingas thanks to the dominance of the royal house of that name, showing that a local or specific name can also be applied to an entire people as an alternative point of reference. According to Karl Müllenhoff, the Reudigni name means 'the people who redden with sacrificial blood', with the name being applied to the tribe in its religious capacity. What their secular name might have been is anyone's guess, but Malone links it to the Danes, or perhaps more specifically to the Vinguligoth (Vinoviloth) of Jordanes. However, Müllenhoff does not account for the '-igni' suffix. If on the other hand one accepts '-ign' as a contracted '-ingon', or more likely a mispelled '-ing' as '-ingon' would be a double plural, then 'reud' becomes a man's name by necessity. 'Red's people' becomes even more certain.

The Reudigni formed one of the minor constituent tribes of the vast Suevi confederation. This came into existence by the first century AD, and perhaps earlier. Its number included the tribes of the Alemanni, Angles, Hermunduri, Langobards, Marcomanni, Quadi, Semnones, and Warini, and perhaps also the Heruli too. None of these tribes were what could be considered 'front line' tribes, living along the border with the Roman 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 Reudigni 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, or 'Mother Earth'. Few of the tribes in the group that contains the Reudigni 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.

As for the Vinguligoth of Jordanes, an early Norse kingdom was in Old Norse called Vingulmark (today in Norway this consists of the county of Ųstfold, western areas of Akershus (excluding Romerike), and eastern areas of Buskerud (covering the Hurum and Rųyken municipalities), and also includes the location of Oslo. The meaning behind the first part of the name, 'vingul' is rather unclear, but it could be derived from 'vingr', meaning 'swing, turn'. This is linked to the old name of the inner area of of Oslofjord, which was formerly called Vingull, as the fjord is shaped like a hook. The likelihood is that the Vinguligoth were Goths who took over the Vingull fjord area. The chances of them being the Reudigni are even lower than a link being proven between the Reudigni and the Rondingas.

(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.)

98

Writing around this time, the Roman writer Tacitus mentions the Suevi, 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 Angles, Aviones, Eudoses, Nuitones, Reudigni, Suardones, and Warini, are all part of the Suebic confederation.

Mandų Island
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 Mandų 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 Denmark] stands 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.'

The question of where the Reudigni live is one that is yet to be satisfactorily answered. In fact, few of the tribes in the group that contains the Reudigni can be located with any accuracy as it seems that Tacitus is 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. If the Reudigni are custodians of the sanctuary mentioned above, and as the most important of these tribes that seems to be a logical conclusion, then most scholars lean towards Selund as being the island in question.

254

By this time, the Suevi have 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 Aestii, Angles, Aviones, Buri, Cotini, Eudoses, Gutones, Hermunduri (who have virtually ceased to exist as a recognisable independent people), Langobards, Lugii (a name applied to several tribes: the Harii, Helisii, Helveconae, Manimi, and Naharvali), Marcomanni, Marsigni, Naristi, Nuitones, Osi, Quadi, Reudigni (probably, although they are not specifically recorded), Semnones, Sitones, Suardones, Suiones (Swedes), and the Warini. The Reudigni are not mentioned again.

Rondings / Rondingas

A fifth century AD Germanic tribe, the Rondings (or Reudignians) are unlikely to be the Reudigni of Tacitus in AD 98, despite the similarity in name. They are included here because there seems to be a general misconception that the two groups are one and the same. However, they could well be the Rondingas of the Old English poem Widsith, composed around AD 500. The 'rond' in the tribe's name comes from the word 'rand', which refers to the edge of something made of wood, such as a shield rim, so the Rondings would be followers of a man named Rand, possibly meaning 'shield'.

Perhaps more correctly known as the Rendigni or Randigni, they may be located in modern Denmark as one of the groups who were under pressure from the incoming Dene during the fifth and sixth centuries AD. They were probably also neighbours of the Angles (or possibly even a constituent part of the Angles themselves). Their subsequent fate is unknown, but their name suggests a possible link to the Rodingas who settle within the territory of the East Seaxe in England. If, as is likely, their homeland was in modern Denmark then it would be relatively easy for them to follow in the wake of the Angles as they headed west.

(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.)

fl c.500

Thyle

King of the Rondings. Possibly located in Denmark.

550s

Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, writes of the barbarian tribes in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, mentioning a wide number of them which include the most gentle Finns, 'milder than all the inhabitants of Scandza' (Scandinavia).

Golden Horns of Gallehus
Shown here is a modern replica of one of the fifth century Golden Horns of Gallehus which were found by archaeologists in Denmark

He refers to the Samis, Kvens and Finns, combining them as the Finni, and also mentions the Adogit and Vinoviloth tribes. The latter are mentioned here for the only time in history, suggesting that it is a considerable corruption of the name of a Kven tribe ('vino' probably means 'Finn', with an unknown addition), although they have also been linked to the Reudigni tribe. As with their neighbours, the Reudigni (if they still exist) are eventually subsumed by the growing power and dominance of the Danes. The Rondings may migrate, either en masse or in part, to the newly-founded territory of the East Seaxe in Britain.