The Germanic Branch

The Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family is thought to have originated in Northern Europe, somewhere in the area around Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia, probably within the 1st millennium BC. This makes the Germanic peoples a relatively recent development on the European stage. Similar to other Indo-European peoples, which formed in the first millennia BC, the early Germans were not only descendants of the newcomers from the steppe, but from the native Northern European population as well, themselves a mix of the first Hunter-Gatherers to arrive in Europa tens of thousands of years earlier, and Anatolian farmers, which had arrived from the Near East just a few millennia before.

In the last centuries BC, the Germanic Tribes started to migrate southwards, probably in search of warmer and more fertile regions, hard-pressed by the harsh climate of the North. This brought them in direct contact with other Indo-European speakers, such as the Celts and – of course – the Romans. Centuries of coexistence interspersed with violent confrontations saw the early Germans adopt aspects of these new ways of life and develop into different branches, linguistically typically divided into North-, West- and East-Germanic. Whilst the eastern branch is all but extinct today, its western and northern counterparts survive in the English, Frisian, German (including Low German), Yiddish, Dutch, Afrikaans, Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish languages.

On this page, you will find articles concerning the history, culture, language, and mythology of the early Germanic people. Due to the broad nature of this area of research, providing a comprehensive overview is almost impossible. There will be new articles added from time to time, however, to supply as much information as possible in an area, which suffers from many misconceptions and misunderstandings.

What Is the Oldest English Word?

Some languages are claimed to be more ancient than others, but realistically all languages descend from earlier stages of the same language and eventually proto-languages. Because of this, asking for the oldest word within a language doesn’t make sense. We can ask, however, what the oldest recorded word is.

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History through Poems: Examining Beowulf

Originally posted on Kristyn J. Miller:
Epic poems have incredible staying power both as literary achievements and as historical resources. The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is one of the foremost examples of this. Despite its mythological themes, the story offers historians a rare insight into Anglo-Saxon ideals of masculinity, heroism, and society. At the same time,…

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Ragnarok and Reincarnation in Norse Mythology

Ragnarok describes the end of the world in Norse Mythology. Or does it really? Not only the world itself is reborn after its destruction, but one of the gods as well. Could this be an indication for reincarnation in Germanic myth or perhaps even evidence for a pan-Indo-European phenomenon of rebirth?

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