History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapRugii (Rugians) (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.

The Rugii were an East Germanic tribe which, in the first century AD, occupied territory on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, in north-western Poland. They were neighboured to the east, across the Vistula, by the (eastern) Venedi, Gepids and Scirii (sometimes called the Turcilingi), to the south by the Goths, Helveconae, and Burgundiones, and to the west by more tribes of the Suevi confederation, notably the Lemovii.

The region was first known to be inhabited by the people of the northern European Funnelbeaker culture in the late fifth millennium BC. The island of Rugen and the mainland territory to the south of that was settled by the Rugii in the first millennium AD, probably following their migration from Norway. In the first century, Tacitus noted that they had settled on the southern shore of the Baltic, in what later became Pomerania (not to be confused with the Celtic Lugii, who may have resided in the region a little earlier but who had since migrated southwards).

Along with many of the Germanic tribes in the region, the Rugii themselves drifted southwards in the course of the late second and early third centuries, arriving in the Danube valley. In the late fourth century they were conquered by the Huns, and following the death of Attila, they migrated to Bohemia and Lower Austria where they were destroyed as a cohesive entity. Along with the Heruli they formed the troops of the Scirian general, Odoacer, in his creation of the Gothic kingdom of Italy. They also supported the downfall of that kingdom alongside the Ostrogoths.

The tribe's name appears to derive from an Old Norse term for rye, 'rugr', hinting at a pastoral background which could have seen them being called the 'rye farmers' in their Norwegian homeland. Two variations of the name were Holmrygir (mentioned in an Old Norse Skaldic poem) and Ulmerugi (mentioned by Jordanes), both of which can be translated as 'island Rugii', while the region called Rogaland in south-west Norway was probably the point of origin of the tribe before it began its migration. It is possible that, as with the Langobards, only a portion of the tribe migrated, perhaps selected to do so due to overpopulation. Rogaland can be translated as 'land of the Rygir', so for the name to survive from the first century there must have been some continued presence of the Rugii there. An alternative theory is that the people migrated to Norway, either from the southern Baltic coast where some of them remained, or from the islands of Denmark to both the Baltic coast and Norway. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive archaeological evidence to confirm any theory.

(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 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 Links: Espadana-Walker.com (dead link), and A Theory of Civilisation, Philip Atkinson, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

c.AD 50 - 150

The arrival in the eastern Pomeranian region of Willenberg Poland of Germanic people in the first and second centuries AD from their homelands in southern Sweden and Norway has a great impact on the Baltic population there, resulting in them moving towards eastern Lithuania. According to the sixth century Byzantine historian, Jordanes, the Goths defeat and drive off the Rugii (whom he calls Ulmerugi) and subdue the Vandali. The Rugii themselves have only just arrived, migrating probably from Norway. These Germanic immigrants bring the Willenberg culture with them.

Map of Scandinavia c.AD 100
The map of around AD 100 shows the approximate locations of some of the Germanic tribes which had not joined in with the mass exodus into Central Europe (click or tap on map to view full sized)


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 (known as the Suebian knot), the Rugii live close to the Gutones and Lemovii, along the Baltic Sea. They, along with the Goths and Lemovii, carry short stabbing swords and round shields.

c.150 - 200

Ptolemy, who writes in Greek in the mid-second century, mentions a tribe called the Routikleioi who dwell in a land called Rhougion (Latin Rugium or Rugia and transliterated as Rougion or Rugion). The Routikleioi are generally associated with the Rugii while they still occupy territory on the southern Baltic coast. However, from this time the Goths gradually renew their migration, moving slowly southwards. The migration could be caused by pressure from the Baltic tribes, early segments of the later Old Prussians and Lithuanians who are expanding back into territory they had lost to the Germanic tribes in the first century AD. The Goths appear to draw the neighbouring Gepids, Rugii, and Scirii in their wake, and it is probably at this point that the Rugii end their association with the Suevi confederation.

c.200 - 350

The Rugii enter Silesia and then the Carpathians during the third century, progressing through Galicia to arrive on the upper River Tisza in ancient Pannonia, in what is now modern Hungary, just above the river's conjunction with the Danube. This is where they are settled when the Huns arrive.

372 - 390

The Huns and Alani arrive in the territory north of the Danube. The region is nominally under the control of the Ostrogoths, and is largely peopled by their allies and subject tribes. The Hunnic arrival triggers sudden shifts in all the tribes in the region, and the wave of population movement and change effectively destroys the Quadi while the Rugii are subjugated by about 390.

c.440? - c.475


Founded Rugii kingdom of Rugiland.


To preserve their new domains, the Visigoths fight on the side of Rome to halt the advance of the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, within the former territory of the Catalauni. Atilia is aided by his own allies, which include Gepids, Ostrogoths, Rugii, Scirii, and Taifali. Although both sides fight to a standstill, it is Attila who withdraws and it is seen as his first major defeat, ending his reputation for invincibility.

456 - 457

In their fight for independence from the Huns, the Ostrogoths defeat and rout Attila's sons. They inherit control of Pannonia as a result, and absorb elements from other, smaller tribes, such as the Scirii. The Rugii avoid this fate by settling Bohemia and Lower Austria, to the north-west, areas that have recently been vacated by the Marcomanni. Their territory becomes known as the kingdom of Rugiland, but its creation helps in the collapse of the Roman province of Noricum.

The island of Rugen was first occupied by the Rugii in the first century AD, and some elements of the tribe remained, giving their name to it (although this is disputed)

c.475 - 487

Fava / Feva / Feletheus

Son. Executed at the Gothic Roman capital at Ravenna.


Fava is married to Gotin (or Giza), who is a possible cousin of Theodoric of the Ostrogoths. The marriage has probably strengthened the alliance between the two tribes and could be a strong reason for the attack by the Romano-German general and emperor, Odoacer. Another reason could be Gotin's Arianism, which the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno would like to see converted to Catholicism.

Odoacer delivers a crushing defeat to the Rugii at Vienna, destroying them as a cohesive entity. Some of their number are drawn to follow Odoacer back to Italy, enticed by his creation of a Gothic kingdom there, while the remainder appear to stay where they are, broken and either subject to Odoacer's authority or even more closely linked to the Ostrogoths. Fava and his wife are captured and taken to Ravenna, where they are executed.

c.488 - c.493

Ferderuchus / Frederick

Brother. Possibly shared power with Fava.

489 - 493

At the behest of Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno, Theodoric of the Ostrogoths invades Italy and founds a kingdom based in Rome. Many of the remaining Rugii join Theodoric in his invasion and settle in self-contained communities, refusing intermarriage with the Ostrogoths and other Germanic peoples there. They retain their identity until the fall of the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy. The Langobards migrate into the former Rugii territory to fill this vacuum.

fl c.490s?

Hagena / Hogne

King of the Rugians. Based in Austria and allied to the Ostrogoths.


The Rugians (or Rugs) of the Old English poem, Widsith, seem to be the same people as the Rugii of the first century AD. The poem describes a Europe of about AD 500, but with earlier elements added, and it seems to confuse the post-Hunnic foundation of a kingdom of the Rugii in parts of Bohemia and Lower Austria with their pre-Hunnic settlement in the Danube valley (in modern Hungary). The list of rulers in the poem covers a span of up to a century, probably an amalgamation of all the famous warriors known to the poem's composer. The ruler mentioned for the Rugians, Hagena, could be an important figure during the tribe's entry into Italy with Theodoric.


Surviving elements of the Rugii who have remained behind in Austria form part of the new Bavarii confederation which forms in the vacuum left by the migration of the main body of Rugians.

The Rugian name survives in a medieval principality on the island of Rugen, close to the north-eastern coast of Germany. Elements of the Rugii people had probably remained behind when the main body of the tribe migrated in the late second century AD, and these Vidivarii (as Jordanes terms them) are eventually Slavicised, along with remnants of other tribes to form part of the population of early Poland.


The death of Totila at the Battle of Taginae allows Rome to be retaken by the Eastern Roman empire, which governs Italy from Ravenna. A final defeat in battle near Mount Vesuvius in 553 means the death of the last Ostrogothic king and the end of their rule in Italy. The Ostrogoths as a fighting body march out of Italy to join other barbarian groups north of the Alps, most probably the Bavarii confederation, where they quickly lose their identity as a separate people.

Their Rugii supporters also disappear at this time, probably following the Ostrogoths to join the confederation which already contains Rugii elements. Other Rugii may remain in south-west Norway, giving their name to a region there. In the seventh century AD parts of the adopted Rugii homeland in Lower Austria belongs to the Slav principality of Khorushka.

Bavarian countryside
Bavaria's mixed terrain varies from dark forests to Alpine mountains in the far south, and the region proved to be ideal for settlement by a very mixed bag of Germanic peoples


Probably an invention or a mistaken connection.


Edward the Exile, the son of Saxon King Edmund Ironsides, an atheling (a noble of royal descent) with the best claim to the throne after Edward, has been living in Hungary. The childless Edward the Confessor sees him as a possible heir to the throne, so in 1056 he is persuaded to return, along with his two sons, but dies in 1057 on his way back, in the hall of a Saxon thegn. One of those sons, Edgar, presses his own claim to the English throne in 1066.

Some texts claim that Edward the Exile has been enjoying the hospitality of Malesclot, king of the Rugians, based on this Germanic tribe's settlement in Lower Austria in the fifth century. However, this tribe has long since been absorbed into the Bavarii confederation of the sixth century, making this either an invention, or perhaps confusing a minor Hungarian lord with his regional antecedents.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.