History Files

European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapLandi (Suevi)

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.

By the first century BC the Landi were a relatively small group that was apparently occupying territory around the northern Netherlands, probably being neighboured by the Ampsivarii, Campsiani, Chauci, and Frisii. The tribe's name is an incredibly simple one to break down -  a word that hasn't changed in two thousand years. The 'Landi' are literally 'land', although why they may have called themselves this is anyone's guess. Perhaps it should be taken less literally, more in terms of a generalised 'we are the land' or 'we and the land [are one]'. In either case it sounds like a solid affirmation that they and their land are indivisible. Needless to say for such a tribe that was so concerned with its land and not with fighting its enemies or carving out a path of glory, its known existence was fleeting.

The Landi formed one of the minor constituent tribes of the vast Suevi confederation in the first century AD. Their existence was recorded by Strabo, who described them as being one of the more indigent tribes due to their lack of effort to improve their status. He also includes them amongst tribes living 'near the ocean'. With the other tribes mentioned along with them, especially the Chauci, this would place the Landi close to the Atlantic coast, either in the northern Netherlands or north-western Germany.

The Suevi were a confederation of Germanic peoples that came into existence by the first century AD, and perhaps earlier. Their 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.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Annals of Tacitus: Volume 2, Annals 1.55-81 and Annals 2, Books 1-6, Tacitus, 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).)

c.AD 24

Shortly before his death in AD 24, Strabo completes ongoing work on his Geography. It contains a description of the peoples and places known to this Greek writer who latterly lived in Rome. One of the Germanic tribes mentioned are the Landi whom he includes amongst the Suevi. They live close to the coast, grouped together with the Campsiani, Chattuarii, and Chauci, which places them on the Atlantic coast of the northern Netherlands.

Windeby body
The Windeby I bog body in Schleswig, within the vast swathe of Suevi confederation territory, is dated to about the second century AD, and contains a male of around fourteen years who appears to have been murdered, perhaps as a punishment or part of a sacrifice

The tribe is not mentioned again, suggesting that the ebb and flow of minor tribes such as this coming into existence and being once again submerged within larger bodies such as the neighbouring Chauci is fairly common. The Chauci themselves continue to provide auxiliaries to the Roman armies through their treaty obligations, but that does not stop them from acting independently or in concert with other Germanic tribes when they oppose the Romans. There are wars in which Chauci are to be found on both sides, with those serving in the Roman forces continuing to obey their orders and carry out their duties normally. The Landi are almost certainly involved in this, despite the apparent end of their existence as a separate entity.