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Allemanni

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Allemanni

For other uses, see Alamanni (disambiguation)



The Alemanni (also Alamanni, Alamani[1]) were a confederation of Suebian Germanic tribes located on the upper Rhine river. First mentioned by the Romans in 213, the Alemanni captured the Agri Decumates in 260, and later expanded into present-day Alsace, and northern Switzerland, establishing the German language in those regions. In 496, the Alemanni were conquered by Frankish leader Clovis and incorporated into his dominions. The legacy of the Alemanni survives in the names of Germany in several languages.

Name

According to Asinius Quadratus (quoted in the mid-6th century by Byzantine historian Agathias) their name means "all men". It indicates that they were a conglomeration drawn from various Germanic tribes. This was the derivation of Alemanni used by Edward Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire[2] and by the anonymous contributor of notes assembled from the papers of Nicolas Fréret, published in 1753, who noted that it was the name used by outsiders for those who called themselves the Suebi.[3] This etymology has remained the standard derivation of the term.[4]

Walafrid Strabo, a monk of the Abbey of St. Gall writing in the 9th century, remarked, in discussing the people of Switzerland and the surrounding regions, that only foreigners called them the Alemanni, but that they gave themselves the name of Suebi.

The name of Germany and the German language, in French, Allemagne, allemand, in Portuguese Alemanha, alemão, in Spanish Alemania, alemán, and in Welsh (Yr) Almaen, almaeneg are derived from the name of this early Germanic tribal alliance.

Arabic also designates Germany Almanya, and the German language as ʾAlmaniyya. In Turkish, Germany is Almanya and German is Alman, and in Persian Germany is Almaan, and German is Almaani.

History

First explicit mention

The Alemanni were first mentioned by Cassius Dio describing the campaign of Caracalla in 213. At that time they apparently dwelt in the basin of the Main, to the south of the Chatti.

Cassius Dio (78.13.4) portrays the Alemanni as victims of this treacherous emperor.[5] They had asked for his help, says Dio, but instead he colonized their country, changed their place names and executed their warriors under a pretext of coming to their aid. When he became ill, the Alemanni claimed to have put a hex on him (78.15.2). Caracalla, it was claimed, tried to counter this influence by invoking his ancestral spirits.

In retribution Caracalla then led the Legio II Traiana Fortis against the Alemanni, who lost and were pacified for a time. The legion was as a result honored with the name Germanica. The 4th-century fictional Historia Augusta, Life of Antoninus Caracalla, relates (10.5) that Caracalla then assumed the name Alemannicus, at which Helvius Pertinax jested that he should really be called Geticus Maximus, because in the year before he had murdered his brother, Geta.[6] Not on good terms with Caracalla, Geta had been invited to a family reconciliation, at which time he was ambushed by centurions in Caracalla's army and slain in his mother Julia's arms. True or not, Caracalla, pursued by devils of his own, left Rome never to return.

Caracalla left for the frontier, where for the rest of his short reign he was known for his unpredictable and arbitrary operations launched by surprise after a pretext of peace negotiations. If he had any reasons of state for such actions they remained unknown to his contemporaries. Whether or not the Alemanni had been previously neutral, they were certainly further influenced by Caracalla to become thereafter notoriously implacable enemies of Rome.

This mutually antagonistic relationship is perhaps the reason why the Roman writers persisted in calling the Alemanni barbari, "savages". The archaeology, however, shows that they were largely Romanized, lived in Roman-style houses and used Roman artifacts, the Alemannic women having adopted the Roman fashion of the tunic even earlier than the men.

Most of the Alemanni were probably at the time in fact resident in or close to the borders of Germania Superior. Although Dio is the earliest writer to mention them, Ammianus Marcellinus used the name to refer to Germans on the Limes Germanicus in the time of Trajan's governorship of the province shortly after it was formed, c. 98/99. At that time the entire frontier was being fortified for the first time. Trees from the earliest fortifications found in Germania Inferior are dated by dendrochronology to 99/100. Shortly afterwards Trajan was chosen by Nerva to be his successor, adopted with public fanfare in absentia by the old man shortly before his death. By 100 Trajan was back in Rome as Emperor instead of merely being a Consul.

Ammianus relates (punitive expedition against the Alemanni, who by then were in Alsace, and crossed the Main (Latin Menus), entering the forest, where the trails were blocked by felled trees. As winter was upon them, they reoccupied a "fortification which was founded on the soil of the Alemanni that Trajan wished to be called with his own name".[7]

In this context the use of Alemanni is possibly an anachronism but it reveals that Ammianus believed they were the same people, which is consistent with the location of the Alemanni of Caracalla's campaigns.

Alemanni and Hermunduri

The early detailed source, the Swabia and therefore the Alemanni originally derived from the Hermunduri!

However, no Hermunduri appear in Ptolemy, though after the time of Ptolemy, the Hermunduri joined with the Marcomanni in the wars of 166–180 against the empire. A careful reading of Tacitus provides one solution. He says that the source of the Elbe is among the Hermunduri, somewhat to the east of the upper Main. He places them also between the Naristi (Varisti), whose location at the very edge of the ancient Black Forest is well known, and the Marcomanni and Quadi. Moreover, the Hermunduri were broken in the Marcomannic Wars and made a separate peace with Rome. The Alemanni thus were probably not primarily the Hermunduri, although some elements of them may have been present in the mix of peoples at that time that became Alemannian.

Ptolemy's Geography

Before the mention of Alemanni in the time of Caracalla, you would search in vain for Alemanni in the moderately detailed geography of southern Germany in Claudius Ptolemy, written in Greek in the mid-2nd century; it is likely that at that time, the people who later used that name were known by other designations.[8]

Nevertheless some conclusions can be drawn from Ptolemy. Germania Superior is easily identified. Following up the Rhine one comes to a town, Mattiacum, which must be at the border of the Roman Germany (vicinity of Wiesbaden). Upstream from it and between the Rhine and Abnoba (in the Black Forest) are the Ingriones, Intuergi, Vangiones, Caritni and Vispi, some of whom were there since the days of the early empire or before. On the other side of the northern Black Forest were the Chatti about where Hesse is today, on the lower Main.

Historic Swabia was eventually replaced by today's Baden-Württemberg, but it had been the most significant territory of mediaeval Alamannia, comprising all Germania Superior and territory east to Bavaria. It did not include the upper Main, but that is where Caracalla campaigned. Moreover, the territory of Germania Superior was not originally included among the Alemanni's possessions.

However, if we look for the peoples in the region from the upper Main in the north, south to the Danube and east to the Czech Republic where the Quadi and Marcomanni were located, Ptolemy does not give any tribes. There are the Tubanti just south of the Chatti and at the other end of what was then the Black Forest, the Varisti, whose location is known. One possible reason for this distribution is that the population preferred not to live in the forest except in troubled times. The region between the forest and the Danube on the other hand included about a dozen settlements, or "cantons".

Ptolemy's view of Germans in the region indicates that the tribal structure had lost its grip in the Black Forest region and was replaced by a canton structure. The tribes stayed in the Roman province, perhaps because the Romans offered stability. Also, Caracalla perhaps felt more comfortable about campaigning in the upper Main because he was not declaring war on any specific historic tribe, such as the Chatti or Cherusci, against whom Rome had suffered grievous losses. By Caracalla's time the name Alemanni was being used by cantons themselves banding together for purposes of supporting a citizen army (the "war bands").

Concentration of Germanic peoples under Ariovistus

The term Suebi has a double meaning in the sources. On the one hand Tacitus' Germania tells us (Semnones. On the other hand the Suebi of the upper Danube are described as though they were a tribe.

The solution to the puzzle as well as explaining the historical circumstances leading to the choice of the Agri Decumates as a defensive point and the concentration of Germans there are probably to be found in the German attack on the Gallic fortified town of Vesontio in 58 BC. The upper Rhine and Danube appear to form a funnel pointing straight at Vesontio.

4.1) from which 1000 young men per year were chosen for military service, a citizen-army by our standards and by comparison with the Roman professional army.

Ariovistus had become involved in an invasion of Gaul, which the German wished to settle. Intending to take the strategic town of Vesontio, he concentrated his forces on the Rhine near Lake Constance, and when the Suebi arrived, he crossed. The Gauls had called to Rome for military aid. Caesar occupied the town first and defeated the Germans before its walls, slaughtering most of the German army as it tried to flee across the river (1.36ff). He did not pursue the retreating remnants, leaving what was left of the German army and their dependents intact on the other side of the Rhine.

The Gauls were ambivalent in their policies toward the Romans. In 53 BC the Treveri broke their alliance and attempted to break free of Rome. Caesar foresaw that they would now attempt to ally themselves with the Germans. He crossed the Rhine to forestall that event, a successful strategy. Remembering their expensive defeat at the Battle of Vesontio, the Germans withdrew to the Black Forest, concentrating there a mixed population dominated by Suebi. As they had left their tribal homes behind, they probably took over all the former Celtic cantons along the Danube.

Conflicts with the Roman Empire

The Alemanni were continually engaged in conflicts with the Roman temples and public buildings, attributed the destruction they saw to the plundering raids of the Alemanni.

In the early summer of 268, the Emperor Gallienus halted their advance into Italy, but then had to deal with the Goths. When the Gothic campaign ended in Roman victory at the Battle of Naissus in September, Gallienus' successor Claudius II Gothicus turned north to deal with the Alemanni, who were swarming over all Italy north of the Po River.

After efforts to secure a peaceful withdrawal failed, Claudius forced the Alemanni to battle at the Battle of Lake Benacus in November. The Alemanni were routed, forced back into Germany, and did not threaten Roman territory for many years afterwards.

Their most famous battle against Rome took place in Argentoratum (Strasbourg), in 357, where they were defeated by Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chnodomarius was taken prisoner to Rome.

On January 2, 366, the Alemanni yet again crossed the frozen Rhine in large numbers, to invade the Gallic provinces, this time being defeated by Valentinian (see Battle of Solicinium). In the great mixed invasion of 406, the Alemanni appear to have crossed the Rhine river a final time, conquering and then settling what is today Alsace and a large part of the Swiss Plateau. The crossing is described in Wallace Breem's historical novel "Eagle in the Snow." Fredegar's Chronicle gives the account. At Alba Augusta (Alba-la-Romaine) the devastation was so complete, that the Christian bishop retired to Viviers, but in Gregory's account at Mende in Lozère, also deep in the heart of Gaul, bishop Privatus was forced to sacrifice to idols in the very cave where he was later venerated. It is thought this detail may be a generic literary ploy to epitomize the horrors of barbarian violence.

List of battles between Romans and Alemanni

Subjugation by the Franks

Main article: Alamannia

The kingdom of Alamannia between Strasbourg and Augsburg lasted until 496, when the Alemanni were conquered by Frankish dominions and were governed by a Frankish duke.

In 746, Carloman ended an uprising by summarily executing all Alemannic nobility at the blood court at Cannstatt, and for the following century, Alemannia was ruled by Frankish dukes. Following the treaty of Verdun of 843, Alemannia became a province of the eastern kingdom of Louis the German, the precursor of the Holy Roman Empire. The duchy persisted until 1268.

Culture

Language


The German spoken today over the range of the former Alemanni is termed Alemannic German, and is recognised among the subgroups of the High German languages. Alemannic runic inscriptions such as those on the Pforzen buckle are among the earliest testimonies of Old High German. The High German consonant shift is thought to have originated around the 5th century either in Alemannia or among the Lombards; before that the dialect spoken by Alemannic tribes was little different from that of other West Germanic peoples.

Alemannia lost its distinct jurisdictional identity when Charles Martel absorbed it into the Frankish empire, early in the 8th century. Today, Alemannic is a linguistic term, referring to Alemannic German, encompassing the dialects of the southern two thirds of Baden-Württemberg (German State), in western Bavaria (German State), in Vorarlberg (Austrian State), Swiss German in Switzerland and the Alsatian language of the Alsace (France).

Political organization

The Alemanni established a series of territorially defined pagi (cantons) on the east bank of the Rhine. The exact number and extent of these pagi is unclear and probably changed over time.

Pagi, usually pairs of pagi combined, formed kingdoms (regna) which, it is generally believed, were permanent and hereditary. Ammianus describes Alemanni rulers with various terms: reges excelsiores ante alios ("paramount kings"), reges proximi ("neighbouring kings"), reguli ("petty kings") and regales ("princes"). This may be a formal hierarchy, or they may be vague, overlapping terms, or a combination of both.[9] In 357, there appear to have been two paramount kings (Chnodomar and Westralp) who probably acted as presidents of the confederation and seven other kings (reges). Their territories were small and mostly strung along the Rhine (although a few were in the hinterland).[10] It is possible that the reguli were the rulers of the two pagi in each kingdom. Underneath the royal class were the nobles (called optimates by the Romans) and warriors (called armati by the Romans). The warriors consisted of professional warbands and levies of free men.[11] Each nobleman could raise an average of c. 50 warriors.[12]

Religion


The Christianization of the Alemanni took place during Merovingian times (6th to 8th centuries). We know that in the 6th century, the Alemanni were predominantly pagan, and in the 8th century, they were predominantly Christian. The intervening 7th century was a period of genuine syncretism during which Christian symbolism and doctrine gradually grew in influence.

Some scholars have speculated that members of the Alemannic elite such as king Gibuld due to Visigothic influence may have been converted to Arianism even in the later 5th century.[14]

In the mid-6th century, the Byzantine historian Agathias of Myrina records, in the context of the wars of the Goths and Franks against Byzantium, that the Alemanni fighting among the troops of Frankish king Theudebald were like the Franks in all respects except religion, since

they worship certain trees, the waters of rivers, hills and mountain valleys, in whose honour they sacrifice horses, cattle and countless other animals by beheading them, and imagine that they are performing an act of piety thereby.[15]

He also spoke of the particular ruthlessness of the Alemanni in destroying Christian sanctuaries and plundering churches while the genuine Franks were respectful towards those sanctuaries. Agathias expresses his hope that the Alemanni would assume better manners through prolonged contact with the Franks, which is by all appearances, in a manner of speaking, what eventually happened.[16]

Apostles of the Alemanni were Saint Columbanus and his disciple Saint Gall. Jonas of Bobbio records that Columbanus was active in Bregenz, where he disrupted a beer sacrifice to Wodan. Despite these activities, for some time, the Alemanni seem to have continued their pagan cult activities, with only superficial or syncretistic Christian elements. In particular, there is no change in burial practice, and tumulus warrior graves continued to be erected throughout Merovingian times. Syncretism of traditional Germanic animal-style with Christian symbolism is also present in artwork, but Christian symbolism becomes more and more prevalent during the 7th century. Unlike the later Christianization of the Saxon and of the Slavs, the Alemanni seem to have adopted Christianity gradually, and voluntarily, spread in emulation of the Merovingian elite.

From c. the 520s to the 620s, there was a surge of Alemannic Elder Futhark inscriptions. About 70 specimens have survived, roughly half of them on fibulae, others on belt buckles (see Pforzen buckle, Bülach fibula) and other jewelry and weapon parts. Use of runes subsides with the advance of Christianity. The Nordendorf fibula (early 7th century) clearly records pagan theonyms, logaþorewodanwigiþonar read as "Wodan and Donar are magicians/sorcerers", but this may be interpreted as either a pagan invocation of the powers of these deities, or a Christian protective charm against them.[17] A runic inscription on a fibula found at Bad Ems reflects Christian pious sentiment (and is also explicitly marked with a Christian cross), reading god fura dih deofile ᛭ ("God for/before you, Theophilus!", or alternatively "God before you, Devil!"). Dated to between AD 660 and 690, it marks the end of the native Alemannic tradition of runic literacy. Bad Ems is in Rhineland-Palatinate, on the northwestern boundary of Alemannic settlement, where Frankish influence would have been strongest.[18]

The establishment of the bishopric of Konstanz cannot be dated exactly and was possibly undertaken by Columbanus himself (before 612). In any case, it existed by 635, when Gunzo appointed John of Grab bishop. Constance was a missionary bishopric in newly converted lands, and did not look back on late Roman church history (unlike the Raetian bishopric of Chur, established 451) and Basel, which was an episcopal seat from 740, and which continued the line of Bishops of Augusta Raurica, see Bishop of Basel. The establishment of the church as an institution recognized by worldly rulers is also visible in legal history. In the early 7th century Pactus Alamannorum hardly ever mentions the special privileges of the church, while Lantfrid's Lex Alamannorum of 720 has an entire chapter reserved for ecclesial matters alone.

List of Alemannic rulers

Independent kings

  • Chrocus 306
  • Mederich (father of Agenarich, brother to Chnodomar)
  • Chnodomar 350, 357
  • Vestralp 357, 359
  • Ur 357, 359
  • Agenarich (Serapio) 357
  • Suomar 357, 358
  • Hortar 357, 359
  • Gundomad 354 (co-regent of Vadomar)
  • Ursicin 357, 359
  • Makrian 368–371
  • Rando 368
  • Hariobaud 4th century
  • Vadomar vor 354–360
  • Vithicab 360–368
  • Priarius ?–378
  • Gibuld (Gebavult) c. 470

Dukes under Frankish suzerainty

See also

Ancient Germanic culture portal

References

Literature

  • Drinkwater, J. F. (2007) The Alamanni and Rome (213–496)
  • Ian Wood (ed.), Franks and Alamanni in the Merovingian Period: An Ethnographic Perspective (Studies in Historical Archaeoethnology), Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2003, ISBN 1-84383-035-3.
  • Melchior Goldast, Rerum Alamannicarum scriptores (1606, 2nd ed. Senckenburg 1730)

External links

  • The Agri Decumates
  • The Alemanni
  • The Military Orientation of the Roman Emperors Septimius Severus to Gallienus (146–268 C.E.)
  • Brauchtum und Masken Alemannic Fastnacht
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