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European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapDulgubnii (Doulgoumnioi) (Germanic)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

The Dulgubnii (or Dulgibini) were a very minor tribe. During the first century AD they occupied territory along the banks of the Weser, in the region of modern Lippe-Detmold, Paderborn, and Pyrmont, in north-western Germany. They were neighboured to the north-west by the Angrivarii, to the north-east by the Langobards, to the east by the Semnones, to the south by the Cherusci, and to the west by the Chasuarii. Beyond them lay the Frisii and the North Sea.

The tribe was mentioned by Tacitus in his work Germania (being chronicled in Chapter 3.4), and it was he who located their territory. The tribe can probably be identified as Ptolemy's Doulgoumnioi of the same region. Ptolemy's Greek corrupted the names of many of the tribes he listed, but perhaps not as badly as in this case. Apart from these two very brief mentions, nothing more is known of the tribe. They were probably absorbed by their larger neighbours during the late second or third century.

The name of this tribe is a difficult one to break down. There is a very odd difference between Ptolemy's version of the name, Doulgoumnioi (Doulgumn), and that of Tacitus, Dulgubnii (Dulgubn). As a first step, removing the suffixes shows that the primary difference is an 'm' (in the Greek version) changed to a 'b' (in the Latin one). Ptolemy's version seems to contain the Welsh 'm' to 'v' consonant shift - similar to that of Dumnon to Devon, or Elmet to Elved (spelled 'Elfed' in Welsh). In fact, the difference is so similar that it is negligible. Is this a Gaulish tribe or, more likely, a mixed tribe? It is possible that the 'ni' ending may have been 'na' or 'ne', as seen in the Saxon word 'setna' (settlers) or the Angle's 'mercna' (Mercia), and is a reversed Germanic '-en' plural. Could it be a German name that was mangled by a partly Gaulish tribal population? 'Dolg' is a root word meaning 'wound' or 'scar' in Germanic, so an approximation of the name could be 'dolg' (scar) plus 'o' plus 'men' (men) plus the '-en' plural suffix reversed to '-ne' or '-na'. In plain English, Dolgomenna, 'the scarred men'. With the central 'o' bridging the gap, the construction of the name has the same style as that of the Marcomanni. It could reference some battle, or perhaps a tradition of scarring its young men to mark them as warriors. Whatever its exact meaning, it is a very odd name.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Geography, Ptolemy, from the Complete Works of Tacitus, Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, & Lisa Cerrato, from Germania, Tacitus, from Roman Soldier versus Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD, Lindsay Powell, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, and from External Link: Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

AD 9

Arminius of the Cherusci declares the independence of his people from Rome with his decimation of three legions under Governor Publius Quinctilius Varus. He achieves this momentous victory in an alliance with the Bructeri, Chatti, Chauci, Marsi, and Sicambri. The Tencteri and Usipetes are also highly likely to be involved, as are the Dulgubnii, subjects of the Cherusci. The Bructeri, Tubantes and Usipetes certainly team up to harass the troops of Germanicus AD 14, and they are later included in his triumph.

Teutoberger wald
Given that the Dulgubnii were a subject tribe of the Cherusci, they would have taken part in the wars of Arminius against Roman incursions into Germania


Segestes and members of the royal family murder Arminius, destroying Cherusci cohesion and allowing the Romans to appoint a client king. Following his appointment, Rome largely leaves the Cherusci to their own devices. It could be this fracturing of the tribe's cohesion that allows the subject Dulgubnii to emerge as an identifiable people in their own right.


Writing around this time, the Roman writer Tacitus mentions the Cherusci and their dependents. He makes it clear that the Dulgubnii, living on the opposite bank of the Weser from the Cherusci, are subjects and have perhaps only gained a measure of an identity of their own in the second half of the century, having previously been submerged within the Cherusci as part of its then-greater territory.


In his work, Geographia, Ptolemy mentions the tribe as the Doulgoumnioi. Given that it seems to have retained a separate identity from the Cherusci for over a century, it perhaps puts into perspective the degree of collapse experienced by that tribe following the death of Arminius.

3rd century

By this century the Cherusci and their subjects, including the Dulgubnii, have been or are in the process of being absorbed into Frankish and Saxon tribal confederations. They disappear from history as an identifiable people. Following the break-up of the subsequent Carolingian Frankish empire, the former Dulgubnii territory emerges as the lordship of Lippe.

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