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Index of Germanic TribesMapAngeln (Angles)

The Indo-European Germanic Angles gradually migrated west from what is now Poland about the first century AD until, by the fourth century they had settled in modern central Denmark, replacing the Germanic Cimbri and Teutones who had existed there in diminished numbers since before the first century BC. The region gradually gained the name of the new settlers, becoming Angeln, Angel, or Angulus. By the fifth century, this covered the territory between the River Eider in the south (now in Schleswig-Holstein), bordering the Old Saxons, to the River Kongeaen in the north, bordering the Jutes. Angle settlement also extended further southwards into Germany and along the Frisian coast of the Netherlands. King Alfred of Wessex was careful to note this himself, suggesting a wide-ranging area of settlement of the Angles, and a relatively large population.

The Angles, Anglii, or Angels (the 'g' is pronounced hard, as in 'gun' not soft as with a 'j') are first mentioned by Tacitus (Germania) about AD 98. They could be related to the Teutones of Pliny and Strabo in the early first century AD, forming a group known as the Ingaevones with the Chauci and the Cimbri. 'Ingaevones' itself may be a derivative of Angles. The Angles were also part of the general Suevi confederation of central Germany throughout much of the Roman period. By the fifth century, population movements caused mainly by the Huns in the south and Scandinavian expansion in the north forced the Angles to migrate overseas... to Britain.

A list of the kings of Angeln has been preserved in the Old English epic poems, Beowulf (telling the story of a prince of the Geats) and Widsith, both of which probably provided source material for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Some names were added in the seventh to ninth centuries by chroniclers trying to make sense of the oral traditions they were writing down. They seem to have been famous figures in their own right, existing in pre-migration Frisia and Denmark.

The East Seaxe are not mentioned here because their royal genealogy is unique of all Anglo-Saxon royal pedigrees in that the kings of Essex claimed descent from Seaxnet and not Woden.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, from Ulwencreutz's The Royal Families in Europe V, Lars Ulwencreutz, from the Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum Episcopum (The Story of the Church of Rochester up to Bishop Ernulf), known as the Textus Roffensis or Annals of Rochester, and from the Historia Brittonum, Nennius, and also from External Link: An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, page 728, by Bosworth and Toller, 1898.)

120 - 114 BC

A large-scale incursion of the sea into Jutland in this period is known as the Cimbrian Flood. It permanently alters the shape of the coastline and drastically affects the way people live in the region. It is probably this event (which is ascribed by some scholars to 307-306 BC) which affects the Germanic Teutones in the centre of the peninsula and their northern neighbours, the Cimbri, enough to force their kings to lead large numbers of their people in a southwards migration. Remnants of both peoples probably remain in the peninsula, but the region is later settled by the Jutes and Angles, and the natives are probably absorbed into their number.

Angles depicted by Hengist
The Angles settled into central Denmark between the first and fourth centuries AD

c.100 BC

Later Anglo-Saxon legend recounts how Sceaf is washed ashore as a child. He later becomes king of the Angles in their homeland in northern Germany, founding the dynasty known as the Scelfings. At some period over the next three centuries his people migrate into the Cimbric Peninsula, between modern Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland in the centre of modern Denmark, while their neighbours in Germany, the Jutes, migrate into Jutland itself.

While Sceaf's historical reality cannot be confirmed, his name, along with those of his descendants, probably form part of a strong oral tradition amongst Angles which is passed on until it can be written down in ninth century Wessex. Some names are also mentioned by Snorri Sturluson in Prose Edda in their Norse forms (also shown here in each case). Sceaf is sometimes also claimed as the founder of the Langobards, another Germanic tribe with origins in Scandinavia. The Langobards live for a time on the southern Baltic shore, alongside the Warini, a tribe that throughout its history is linked very closely to the Angles.

Sceaf / Seskef

Founder of the Scelfings. Ancestor of the Lindisware Angles.

Bedwig / Bedvig

Son.

Hwala

Son.

Hrathra / Annarr

Son.

first century AD

Itermon / Ítermann

Son.

Heremod / Heremód

Son. A later addition to the list, a legendary Danish king.

AD 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': the Angles, Aviones, Eudoses, Nuitones, Reudigni, Suardones, and Warini, form a part of the Suevi host.

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 precisely where the Angles live at this period one that is yet to be satisfactorily answered. In fact, few of the tribes in the group that contains the 'Anglii' 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 their rough location is largely certain (East Slesvig), 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.

Sceldwea / Skjöld / Scyld

Son. The Scelfings become the Scyldings.

Skiold, or Scyld, is also the founding father of the Danish people. Could there be an ancient connection between the Danes and the Angles which is remembered in this individual, presuming that he is even real. It is just as likely that he is an addition to the genealogy because he is based on an historic heroic figure, that of Scyld Scaefson of the Danes.

Beaw / Bjárr / Beow / Beowinus

Son. Probably based on Beowulf of the Geats.

c.150

Ptolemy, who writes in the mid-second century, places the Sicambri to the south of a group of westerly Suevi Langobards, in the Rhineland. To their east are the Suevi Anglii, while along the Elbe are the Chauci, to the east are the Semnones, and then there are the Suebi, perhaps the original core tribe of the confederation, which is apparently settled on the Rhine to the east of the Ems.

Tætwa

Son.

Geat / Geata / Ját

Son.

The present royal family of Great Britain trace their descent to Geat, son of Tætwa, son of Beow, son of Scyld.

FeatureBelow, Godwulf can be found in the older versions of the genealogies, but is replaced by Nennius with Folcwald. This is to tie in with the inclusion of the famous hero (to Anglo-Saxon ears as well as Scandinavian and Frisian) Finn Folcwalding, who is added as a suitably heroic ancestor at some point between the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain and Nennius' composition of his Historia Brittonum. Other names are also added over the years to extend the list.

Godwulf / Gudólfr

Son. Replaced with Folcwald by Nennius.

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, Semnones, Sitones, Suardones, Suiones (Swedes), and the Warini.

Fin / Finn Godulfing

Son. Probably based on Finn, king of Frisia.

Frithuwulf

Son. Added to the list by the Lindisware genealogy.

Frealaf / Fridleifr

Son. Probable second son of Finn.

fl c.370s

Freawine

Son. Probably based on Freawine, a king of Old Saxony.

Frithuwald

Son. Added to the list by William of Malmesbury.

Woden / Odin

Son. Originator of many Anglian dynasties.

FeatureWoden is claimed as an ancestor figure by many of the Anglian, Jutish and Saxon tribes which later migrate to Britain. Is it possible that this semi-mythical figure represents a powerful Anglian king whose many sons and their descendants find or create positions of power as the Anglian peoples fragment before and during their migration? Those claiming him as an ancestor include the descendants of Baeldaeg, Benoc, Caser, Waegdaeg and Wehta, while the kings of Lindsey claim direct descent from him.

A later version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MS Vespasian B vi, adds one Waðolgeot / Watholgeot between Woden and Wihtlæg, but it is probably more likely that this name is that of another son who is arranged in series after Woden, in the manner of genealogies, making him the genealogical father of Wihtlæg instead of his brother. Nennius goes one step further and adds Guedolgeat and Gueagon between Woden and Wihtlæg.

The proto-Germanic dictionary mentions 'guda, gudan', meaning 'priest'. 'Gudan' is a form of Wotan (Woden), which suggests that it is the native Germanic name of a priest who is later deified. 'Wotan' may even be a title for a particular priest, and may be pronounced 'Guotan' by the Celts who strongly influenced the Germanic tribes. Far from being a warrior chieftain, the pre-Christian sagas always describe Wotan as a magician, not a fighter. The Vainamoinen of the Kalevala shows similarities and possibly a template for later versions of 'magician' priests such as Wotan. It seems that Germanic and Norse magical tradition could originate with the Finns/Kvens because it shows the characteristics of the shamanism of Uralic and Altaic speakers and related groups across northern Eurasia.

Wihtlæg / Wihtlaeg

Son. Originator of the Iclingas.

c.420 - 559

Angles are settled as laeti along the coast of the British territory of Dewyr to serve in the defence of the coastline against raiders, and the leader of these is possibly one Saebald, son of Sigegeat of Waegdaeg's Folk.

Further groups of Angles are thought to migrate southwards about this time, into Saxon territories and further, where they form the Thuringian peoples in what is now central Germany.

Wærmund / Waermund

Son. Copied into the list of early Danish kings as Vermund.

c.448

Hnæf of the Danes is killed at the 'Fight at Finnesburg' in Frisia, as is Finn's eldest son. Finn is subsequently killed by Hengist, great-grandson of Wehta and Hnæf's Anglian comrade in arms. The fight seems to involves Jutes on both sides, under Anglian and Frisian command, with Gefwulf, possible ruler of the Jutes, numbering amongst the former.

449/450

Although not unquestionably proven to be the same man, the Hengist of Finnesburg and his brother Horsa are invited to Britain by the High King, Vortigern, and land at Ypwines fleot (Ebbsfleet) with their Jutish followers. Traditionally, they fulfil the terms of their contract by fighting back Pictish and Irish Scotti invaders and receive territory on which to settle. Very shortly they begin to carve out a kingdom of their own which they call Kent. Their success encourages greater Saxon and Angle leaders to migrate to Britain (and possibly some more minor Germanic tribes such as the Rondings) as a way of escaping the increasing pressures of life in their native lands, squeezed between dominant Danes to the north and Frisians to the south.

? - 456

Offa

Son. Appears in Some Danish genealogies as Uffo.

c.450?

The Myrging are a clan descended from Saxons who occupy territory in modern Schleswig-Holstein, on the border with the Angles to the north. They become involved in a war with Offa, who kills two of the sons of Eadgils. Eadgils himself is subsequently killed by Ket and Wig, the sons of the Saxon prince, Freawine, perhaps allowing the Myrging to overrun the border district between Saxons and Angles until they are completely conquered by Offa. The Myrging are totally absorbed into the Angle tribal collective, probably disappearing as a distinguishable people under the subsequent rule of Angeltheow, who abolishes the title. 'King of the Myrging'.

c.455?

FeatureA group of Angles invades eastern British territory around the Roman city of Lindum (British Lind Colun) where they found the kingdom of the Lindisware.

456 - ?

Angeltheow / Angengeot

Son. 'Angengeot' is used in the later, MS Vespasian B vi ASC.

c.475 - 495

Angles begin to arrive and take control of the lower east coast of Britain. They intermingle with the Saxon descendants of Roman foederati and eventually form the kingdom of the East Engle. Anglian elements spread further westwards from there to create the Middil Engle group of settlers in the early sixth century.

Text
The rich countryside and easily-navigable rivers of eastern Britain proved very welcoming to emigrating Angles, leaving their former homeland massively depopulated

fl c.500

Eomær / Eomaer

Son. Led his people to Britain.

c.500

Eomær leads a full-scale migration of his peoples over the North Sea to Britain, where they found several kingdoms in newly conquered territory. Many of these kingdoms may be founded by relatives of the king's (if the later royal pedigrees are to be believed at all). Eomær leads his own immediate group of followers into eastern Britain and perhaps onwards into the East Midlands, where his son founds the Iclingas. They soon come to dominate the entire region.

At the same time a cousin of Eomær's, Esa of Benoc's Folk, apparently leads another group of Anglians into the British kingdom of Bernaccia. This they overrun in 547 to form the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia. Angeln is reputedly left abandoned and empty by the mass population movement, allowing the Danes to migrate southwards to fill the gap.