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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe




Geats (Yeats)

The Geats were to be found occupying areas of southern Sweden by the fifth and early sixth centuries, opposite the coastline of later Poland. Perhaps more correctly, Geats (or Geatas) should be 'zeats', and the yogh, 'z', is pronounced 'y' before fronting vowels, so the correct transcription would be Yeats. Their name was sometimes confused by medieval writers with that of the Jutes, but while they are almost certainly a separate peoples, there is the possibility that they and the Jutes were related.

At least six kings of the Geats are recorded in the epic poem, Beowulf, which was written down in England based on an oral tradition which kept the poem alive for about three centuries after it was composed. Some confusion has arisen over the dating of the events in Beowulf, perhaps primarily due to the funeral scene for Scyld Scaefson, son of Scaef, at its start. There was also a Scyld, descended six generations from Sceaf of the ancestral kings of Angeln, and it seems likely that either the two Scylds have become confused or one was invented on the basis of the existence of the other.

Further theorising has suggested that if Beowulf was set in the first century AD (the time at which the earlier Scyld probably lived) then the Geats must be the Goths who probably migrated from that region at that time. If Beowulf is more realistically set at the start of the sixth century, then the Geats could perhaps be a remnant of the Goths but are just as likely to be a more recently emerged tribe of Scandinavians. Both Old Norse and Old English records clearly separate the Geats from the Goths, although they are still depicted as being closely related to each other.

The name of the Geats lives on in the Swedish counties of Västergötland and Östergötland, the former western and eastern lands of the Geats, as well as in many toponyms. The city of Göteborg (Gothenburg to English ears), was named after the Geats (Geatsburg or fortress of the Geats), when it was founded in 1621.

(Additional information from External Link: The Gutenburg Text of Beowulf, translation by Lesslie Hall, 1892.)


Ptolemy mentions the Goutai, who seem to be the early Goths rather than the later Geats. He places them on the island of Scandza (Skandia, near the mouth of the Vistula).


Claiming descent from Tor, usually equated with Thor.

Swerting / Sguerthing

Mentioned in Beowulf. Probably not the Sguerthing of Deywr.

There is also a Sguerthing who is a lord of the Angles in Deywr, and probably a contemporary. Given that it is likely that Angles are indeed in Deywr at this time, then there are either two leading figures with the same name at the same approximate time at either end of the North Sea, or Sguerthing and his descendants have not yet arrived to take control of the Angles in this region of Britain. Either is possible, although that would make these Anglian kings into Geats. A third option (perhaps the most favourable) is that the names simply become confused in oral tradition or later written form.

Scandinavian bracteate
This bracteate (medallion) dates from the fifth or sixth century and was unearthed in Scandinavia. It derived from the Roman or Byzantine portrait medallion style


Wealhtheow is the queen of the Danes, wife of Hrothgar. She is a Wulfing, an eastern Geatish ancestor (or mother) of the Wuffingas who, within twenty years, are to be found creating their own kingdom of the East Angles in Britain.

The Wulfingas (the 'wolf-clan') are known for their feud with the Germanic Hundings or Hundingas (mentioned in Widsith and thought by some to be the Langobards, but probably erroneously). The founder of the Hundingas, the eponymous Hund, is slain by the later Danish King Helgi Hundingsbane (ruling in the 520s).

Hreðel / Hrethel

Son or son-in-law. Died of grief on the death of Herebeald.


Describing a Europe of about AD 500, the Old English poem Widsith mentions several Germanic peoples, not all of whom can be properly identified. Several of them can be located in Sweden or in the islands which surround it in the Baltic Sea, including the Brondings (the chief of which tribe is a childhood friend of Beowulf). The Heruli may also be migrating into the region at this time, further complicating the political structure.


Son. Killed by Hæþcyn in a hunting accident.

? - 514/5?

Hæþcyn / Haethcyn



During the Swedish-Geatish Wars, Hæþcyn kidnaps the wife of Ongentheow of the Swedes. He comes to rescue her, and Hæþcyn is killed in the fighting. Hygelac arrives with reinforcements a day later and one of his warriors, Eofor (his daughter's brother-in-law), kills the king of the Swedes.

c.514? - c.525

Hygelac / Higlac

Brother. Born c.480-485. 'Rex Getarum' in Liber Monstrorum.


A prince of the Geat court who has been fostered by the king since the age of seven, Beowulf visits Hrothgar Scylding of the Danes, and rids him of the monster, Grendal. Beowulf returns to the Geats triumphant, and is further lauded by Hygelac. The event is recorded in the epic Old English poem, Beowulf, as is the Freswæl of c.448 in Frisia in a tale told in the hall of Heorot.


The Germanic Chattuarii appear to be named in both in Beowulf and Widsith as the Hætwerum (Hetwaras). They form a coalition with the Frisians and the Hugas (perhaps the Chauci) to fight a Geatish raiding party led by Hygelac. The king of the Geats is killed, his party heavily defeated, and only Beowulf escapes.

c.525 - c.530

Heardred / Hearede

Son. Born c.515. Killed in battle against the Swedes.


The poem, Beowulf, states that Hygelac dies shortly after Beowulf's triumphant return from killing Grendal and is succeeded by the hero. In fact Beowulf acts as regent for Hygelac's young son, supporting him for five years or so.


Onela seizes the Swedish throne following the death of his elder brother. His nephews, Eanmund and Eadgils, find refuge with the Geats. Onela attacks them and Eanmund is slain, as is Heardred. Beowulf succeeds him and helps Eadgils to kill Onela.

c.530 - 580


Nephew of Hygelac by his dau and Ecgþeow. Born 495-500.


Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, mentions a tribe called the Theustes who are situated in the Tjust region of Småland in south Götaland, the land of the Geats. Tjust is in the north-eastern corner of the region, but nothing more is known of the tribe. They may be a branch of the Geats, although the region maintains its own laws and traditions right up to the early Middle Ages and retains self-rule until about 1350, when a unified code of law is imposed throughout Sweden.

Geat warriors
A depiction of the fearsome Geat warriors of the time of Hygelac and Beowulf, according to twenty-first century Hollywood


As related in Beowulf, the king is mortally wounded slaying a fire-breathing dragon when all but one of the warriors of his court have abandoned him. Beowulf is given a hero's funeral by the remaining warrior, Wiglaf, who is a member of the Wægmundings, the same grouping from which Beowulf's father had hailed.

c.580 - ?


Son of Weohstan of the Swedes.


From this point onwards, Swedish domination of the Geats increases, reducing them to vassal status initially before absorbing them altogether. Snorri Sturluson supplies the next series of Geatish rulers in his Ynglinga saga, although the authenticity of the first, Gauti, is debatable. He may be introduced simply to provide an eponymous founder for the Geatish kingdom. He also appears to be tied to two branches of Geatish rulers, perhaps showing that the subdued Geats are divided, or divide themselves, into two groups, east and west. The eastern rulers are mentioned in the Bósa saga ok Herrauds.

fl c.600s?


Vassal of the Swedes?

fl c.610s?


Son. King of 'West Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?

fl c.610s?

Ring / Hring

Brother. King of 'East Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?

fl c.620s?

Algaut / Algout

Son of Gautrek. King of 'West Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?


According to Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, Algaut rules 'West Götaland'. He is burnt to death by his son-in-law, the Swedish King Ingjald ill-ruler.

fl c.620s?


Son of Ring. King of 'East Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?


Given that Wiglaf had been half-Swedish, it seems likely that Swedish dominance of the Geats increases through intermarriage, with the Algaut of about the 620s perhaps being the last Geatish ruler of any significance. No more kings of West Götaland are known. Only East Götaland appears to retain any semblance of independence.

Helm Wulfingum

King of 'East Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?


King of 'East Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?


King of 'East Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?


King of 'East Götaland'. Vassal of the Swedes?

late 600s


Last king of 'East Götaland'? Vassal of the Swedes?

ninth century

Battles take place in this century as the Geats have to defend themselves against the Norwegians under Haraldr Hárfagri. They receive no help from their Swedish overlords. During the same century the Geats begin to be referred to as ethnic Swedes, a process which is complete by the eleventh century when they supply the first of several Geatish kings to the Swedish throne in the form of Stenkil (1056-1066).