Jutes, Goths & Northmen

Jutes, Goths & Northmen

The Jutes, who, according to the English chroniclers, were one of three nations by which England was settled, are but little mentioned under that name by early historians of Northern Europe. Bede calls them Jutes, so that we may conclude that at the end of the seventh century this was the name by which these people were known in England. In early records relating to Germany and the North they appear to have been called by many names – Vitungi or Juthungi, Jutae, Gaetas, Gothic, Gothini, Gythones, Guthones, Gutae, Gautae, Vitae, and Gaeta.(1) The name Geats they derived from Geat, a mythological ancestor of Woden, according to the West Saxon genealogy, and Asser tells us that Geat was worshipped as a god.(2)

Tacitus mentions Goths under the name Guthones, and states that they occupied the country east of the Vistula. He says also that the Goutai lived in the island of Scandia, and we may identify the locality with the Swedish province of Gothland.(3) The people around the Gulf of Riga at the present day, including the Livonians, are partly if Teutonic origin, and may in part be descendants of those ancient Gothic people who are known to have lived east of the Vistula.

The Jutes who settled in England had much in common with the Frisians ; so also had the Goths. In the mythological genealogies given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and elsewhere, Godwulf appears as the father of Fin, which probably refers to a very remote connection between the Frisians and the Goths, for later on the name Fin occurs as a representative of the Frisian nation.(4) The languages, as far as Frisian and the Moeso-Gothic are concerned, point to a similar connection. There is evidence of a large Frisian immigration in various parts of England, and much of the country was evidently settled by them under the names Saxons and Angles. As Goths and Frisians were connected in their mythological names, and the great mythological Frisian is Fin,(5) his name perhaps refers to an ancient link also with the Fin race, thus faintly transmitted through some remote connection. The accounts which the Frisians have of the expedition of Hengist are similar to those which we possess of him among the Jutes of Kent.

The Jutes, like the angles, in all probability, were originally located in Scandinavia, for Ptolemy, writing in the second century A.D. , places the Gutae in the south of that peninsula. In Bede`s time Jutland was known by its present name, and no doubt took it from the Jutes, but the time of their settlement in Kent and that of Bede are separated by nearly three centuries, and during this interval the Jutes may have become located also in Jutland. There is neither contemporary history nor tradition that a people so called were there before Bede`s time. His statement that those who settled in England came from Jutland is, as Latham has pointed out, only an inference from the fact that when he wrote Jutes, Angles, and Saxons were in contact in the Danish peninsula and the adjoining part of North Germany, and also in contact in England. Under these circumstances it was a logical inference that the Angles came from Anglen and the Jutes from Jutland, but this is probably only true in part. Jutland may have been a Jutish colony like Kent and the Isle of Wight, and probably an earlier one, seeing that it is so much nearer to the original homeland of the Gothic race in Scandinavia, but that would not necessarily imply that all the Jutes came from Jutland.

Whatever may have been the origin of their name, it is probable that they were,, like the modern Danes, men of more than average stature. It has been commonly assumed that during the inroads into the countries that were provinces of the Roman Empire, and the settlement of people who gave rise to new nations therein, only Britain was attacked by bands of Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. We do not read of conquests by these nations elsewhere. Some of the Saxons are, indeed, said to have accompanied their neighbours, the Lombards, in their great Southern expedition and invasion of Italy, but little is known of this alliance.

Apart from the statement of Bede, whose list of tribes from which the Old English of his time were known to have descended, is not repeated by the late Chroniclers, it would seem improbable that, in the general rush for new territory, two or three German tribes or nations should have had left to them the island of Britain as a kind of exclusive territory for conquest and settlement. Bede, the earliest Anglo-Saxon historian, wrote, no doubt, according to the best information current in his day, and his statement concerning the many German tribes from which the English were descended is supported by modern research. Tradition cannot be altogether neglected. In all old countries there comes a time when history dawns, but men lived and died before that dawn, and only traditions concerning them came down to the historic period. Many such traditions are no doubt based on actual occurrences, the details of which have become more or less hazy, and in some instances distorted by the additions acquired through their narration by word of mouth from age to age. The story of Hengist maybe a tradition of this kind.

In the passage of Bede in which he refers to some of the tribes from which his countrymen were known to have descended, we obtain a glimpse of those wider views of the origin of the Old English race which were known in his time, and were probably well recognized by existing tribal differences in dialect, customs, and even in the physical appearance of the people at the time he wrote.

In the passage of Nennius in which he mentions that among the early invaders of Britain there were some who came from almost all the provinces of Germany, we have corroboration of Bede`s statement and another glimpse of the current knowledge in Britain at that time, and of the wider origin of the Old English than the later chroniclers have transmitted to us.

The general names Saxons, Angles, and Jutes were no doubt at first used as comprehensive terms for people of various tribes, but as time passed on, and the chroniclers omitted all references to the tribal names mentioned by Bede, these three names came to be regarded in a more limited sense as the names of the actual nations from which alone the English sprang. The omission of Frisians is especially remarkable. It has been shown that under the name Saxons the Frisians must have been included, and it will also be shown that they must be included among the Anglian settlers. It has also been shown that the Angles were allied to the Warings seated on the south-west of the Baltic coast. As Bede mentions the Danes in his list, it is also practically certain that the early Danes were allies of the Angles. The list, therefore, of the nations and tribes from whom the English of the end of the seventh century were descended becomes enlarged. Frisians, Danes, Hunni or hunsings, Rugians, and Boructers, must certainly be numbered among them.

Moreover, when we consider Bede`s list by the light of modern research, we arrive at the conclusion that some of the Franks probably took part in the settlement of England, for he mentions the Boructarii or Bructers, and these are known later on to have been part of the Frank confederation.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Goths must have been allies of the Angles. They were also close allies of the Vandals or Wends, of which nation the Rugians formed part. The commerce of the Baltic during the period of the Anglo-Saxon settlement was largely in the hands of the Goths. It is importance of the Isle of Gotland at this time and for many centuries later. The ruins of Wisby, the chief port of ancient Gotland, are to this day the greatest wonder of the Baltic, and Oland Isle was another seat of ancient gothic trade. There is some connection between the ancient trade of the Goths and the settlement of them and their allies in England. The most remarkable native commodity which came in ancient days form the Baltic was the fossil-gum known as amber. The trade in amber can be traced almost as long as any in Europe. It was known to the Greeks and Romans, and came from the North to the South by the old trade routes across the Continent. The Goths were known only too well to the later Roman Emperors. Long after the Romans had left Britain that country was still recognised as one of the provinces of the empire, and as late as A.D. 537 Belisarius, in the name of the Emperor, granted it to the Goths,(6) which seems to show that the Byzantine Emperor of the sixth century knew quite well that Goths were already settled in our country.

The ancient people on the coast of the Baltic who collected amber and exchanged it for other commodities were called the Guthones and the AEstyi. There were two routes by which amber could reach the South of Europe in the time of the Empire – one through Germany, the other by the route further eastward through the countries known as Sarmatia or Slavonia. The double name for the people near the mouth of the Vistula probably arose in this way, from their being known to the Germans as the AEstyi, and to the Slavonians who traded across to the Black Sea as Guthones. These Guthones were Goths of the same race or descent as the islanders of Gotland, and as the people of the East and West Gothland in Sweden. That the Reid-Goths – at least, some of them – lived in the Scandian peninsula is proved by a runic inscription on a stone at Rok in East Gothland, in which a chieftain named Waring is commemorated, and in which he is said to have increased their power.(7) This inscription also connects the Waring name with the eastern Ostrogoths of Sweden. Amber was certainly used as an ornament among the Anglo-Saxons at a very early date. It has frequently found in the form of beads and other articles in cemeteries in many parts of England, and its use at this early time in England points to an early trade with the Baltic. Its common use in the manufacture of beads and other personal ornaments may perhaps also point to a custom of personal decoration which was introduced into England by the settlers from the Baltic. These amber traders were commonly known in England by their German name of Eastmen, the AEstyi of the early writers.

The names Estum and Estmere are mentioned by King Alfred in connection with the Vistula in his description of the relative situation of Veonod-land – i.e., Wendland, Vitland, and other countries on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. The AEstyi are mentioned by Pliny and Tacitus, the former of whom locates them in `AEstarium Oceani,` an expression which, as Latham has pointed out , probably arose through the name Est-ware or Eastmen being misunderstood to have reference to an estuary.(8) Pliny connects the AEstyi with the amber country, and Tacitus, in following the coast-line of the Baltic, comes to their country. The locality of these people of the amber district was therefore the coast in which amber is found at the present day. To the north of it is the Isle of Gothland, and this island in the time of the Romans and during the Anglo-Saxon period was the greatest commercial centre in the North of Europe. The proof of its trade with England and overland with Eastern countries is complete. The evidence of its early trade during the Roman period is shown by the large number of Roman coins which have been found in the island. Thousands, indeed, of the Roman and early Byzantine periods have been discovered there. Similarly, during the Viking Age, the coins found in Gotland show that the island stood foremost as the commercial centre of the North.(9) In addition, thousands of Arabic coins have been found there ; also silver ornaments, to which the name Kufic has been given, showing that the old trade route with Gotland extended at one time as far eastward as Bokhara, Samarcand, Bagdad, and Kufa.(10)

Another source of evidence concerning the eastern trade of Gotland, and more particularly with the Eastern Empire, is that derived from certain weights of the Vikings period found in the island, and now in the museum at Stockholm. These relate to the weights of gold and silver, and their unit is exactly the same as that of the Eastern stater,(11) thus pointing to a common weight in use for purposes of exchange between Goths of the Baltic and Greeks of the Levant.

It is interesting to note this influence of eastern trade in the monetary computations introduced into England by Danish and Scandian settlers. The ora is mentioned in the treaty between Alfred and Guthrum, in subsequent laws, and in Domesday Book. The marks and oras of the Danes were the computations in use in England within the Danelaw until the Norman Conquest.

Although it is not probable that Danish marks and other coins were used as coins in England, money computations were often made in them. In Domesday Book the Danish money is mentioned as the computation in which customary payments were made in various boroughs and manors outside the Danelaw – Bristol, Dorchester, Wareham, Bridport, Shaftsbury, Ringwood, some manors in the Isle of Wight, in North-East Gloucestershire, and elsewhere, being among the number, thus clearly pointing to Scandinavian settlers.

The pounds and shillings of Wessex were Roman in their origin. The marks and oras of the Danish districts in England had an Eastern equivalence. As regards their value, they had their origin in the Eastern Empire and in the monetary exchange that prevailed along the Eastern trade route from Byzantium to the Baltic. More than 20,000 Anglo-Saxon coins have been found in Sweden and the Isle of Gotland, ranging in date from Edward the` Elder` to Edward the Confessor`. Many of them are preserved in the Royal Collection at Stockholm.(12)

These remarkable discoveries, and especially the Roman coins on the one hand and the Anglo-Saxon on the other, show that the great trade of Gotland was continuous from the Roman period to the later Saxon time in England. Its commercial prosperity as the chief centre of maritime trade in the North of Europe must consequently have extended over the whole period of the attacks on Britain by the Saxons, Angles, Jutes or Goths, and Danes. There can, indeed, be little doubt that such a maritime centre as the island was during the fifth and succeeding centuries furnished ships for their invasions and settlement of England by Goths and their allies. Gotland was no ordinary island, and Wisby, its great port, was no ordinary seaport. It must have exercised no ordinary influence on maritime affairs in Northern Europe during the time it flourished, and this influence certainly extended to England. The Goths and other Teutonic people of the Baltic are brought under the early notice of Pytheas, the renowned navigator of Marseilles, in the fourth century B. C. He tells us that he sailed up the Baltic in search of the amber coast, rounding the cape of what is now called Jutland, and proceeding about 6,000 stadia along the coasts of the Guttones and Teutones. As the date of this voyage was about 325 B. C., the accounts shows that Goths and Teutons at that early time were known names for Northern races.

The relations of the Goths and the Vandals is important, and must be fully considered in reference to any part of Europe that was conquered and settled by the former nation, which was more advanced in civilization and the arts than their allies. The Goths invented runes, and so established among Northern races the art of writing, and they were skilled metallurgists and gilders. The Vandals of the Baltic coast whom they conquered were a less advanced people, but a lasting peace appears to have been formed between them, and to have been subsequently remembered in Northern mythology. The conflict of the AEsir and Vanir is a Northern myth, which considered ethnologically, maybe regarded as founded on the wars carried on between the Teutonic and Slavonic races. That between the Goths and Vandals was a ar of this kind, and it resulted in peace and a lasting alliance. The myth of the conflict of the AEsir and Vanir also terminated in a lasting peace and the exchanging of hostages between the contending races. The alliance between the Northern Goths and the Vandals and their combined expeditions can be traced in the Anglo-Saxon settlement and in the present topography of England. I many parts of our country Gothic and Wendish place-names survive near each other, side by side with Gothic and Wendish customs. There is, indeed, in England very considerable evidence afforded by the ancient place-names that two of the great nations of the North in the fifth and sixth centuries – the Goths and Vandals – who played such an important part in the destruction of the Roman Empire and the occupation of large provinces elsewhere, took part in the invasion and settlement of this country. This evidence is confirmed by the survival of customs among the English settlers, some of which have come down to our time, and for their remote origin maybe traced to Goths, or to Vandals. Both these Northern nations were maritime people. The Baltic Sae was called in ancient time the Vendic Sea, after the Vandals, as the Adriatic Sea is called the Gulf of Venice after them to the present day. The conclusion, therefore, appears unavoidable that, under the general names of Saxons, Angles, and Jutes, some Goths and Vandals, as will be shown more fully in succeeding Chapters, took a considerable part in the invasion and settlement of England. Later on, during the Viking Age, the Vikings of Denmark and Norway often acted in alliance with the Wendish Vikings of Jomberg, as shown by references in early Norse literature, and the occurrence in close proximity, in various parts of England on or near the coast, of Wendish place-names and Scandinavian place-names, which mark the settlements of these allies. Not infrequently, also, near such places the survival of characteristic Norse and Wendish customs can be traced.

There is evidence of the large immigration of settlers of various tribes from Scandinavia to be found in remains of their speech. The dialect which the Northmen introduced into England, both during the earlier settlements of Goths and Angles and the later settlement of Danes, certainly formed the basis from which some of the dialects spoken in many parts of England were formed. Skeat has pointed out that when Icelandic became a written language in the eleventh century, an interesting statement in regard to English and the language of the Northmen was made by Snorri Sturluson, the author of the Icelandic alphabet and its earliest literature. `Englishmen,` he says, `write English with Latin letters such as represent their sounds correctly. Following their example, since we are of one language, although the one may have changed greatly, or each of them to some extent, I have framed an alphabet for us Icelanders.` There is a statement also in the Saga of Gunlaugr Ormstunga that there was the same tongue used at the time the Saga was written – the eleventh century – in England, Norway, and Denmark.(13) This was the age of William the Conqueror, who was desirous that his own son Richard should learn the Old Danish language, no doubt with some political or administrative object in view, and we are told that he sent him for this purpose to Bayeux, where the Old Northern speech still lingered, although it had died out at Rouen.(14)

As the Jutes who settled in England were neither Norse nor Danes, as known at a later period, they must, by the evidence of the runic inscriptions found in Kent, have been either of the Anglian(15) or Gothic stock, In the time of Pytheas – fourth century B. C. – the Goths, as already mentioned, occupied a region on the east of the Baltic. Their name is lost there, but survives in Gotland Isle and Gothland in Sweden. Tradition ascribes the Baltic area as their original home, and in any case they must have been settled along its coasts at a very early period. The name Uuitland for a part of the east coast of the Baltic reminds us of the Jutes, for Uit is probably a modified form of Jute or Jewit, and in the Jutish parts of England, as in Hampshire, we meet with Uuit or wit names, as Wihtland for the Isle of Wight. The identity of some of the Jutes with the Goths is shown by the similarity of the name, and its ancient occurrence on both sides of the Baltic Sea ; in the similarity of customs, as will be described later ; and in historical references, such as that as Asser, who, in telling us that King Alfred`s mother was descended from the Goths and Jutes, practically identifies them as being of one race. In the survival of monuments with old Gothic runes in Kent we have corroborative evidence.

Beddoe refers to the similarity of the place-names in many parts of England, and says : (16) `The patronymical names and other place-names in Kent and other parts of England forbid us to imagine an exclusive Jutish nationality.` The evidence of Goths and Frisians in Kent, and of settlers of the same nationalities in many other parts of England, appears to afford a solution of the question who the people called Jutes in Kent or in Hampshire really were – i.e., mainly Goths or of Gothic descent.

The part which the nations of the Baltic took in the conquest and settlement of England has been underrated. With such a great centre of commerce and shipping as existed at Wisby, although smaller than it afterwards became, it is unreasonable to doubt the connection of the Goths with many of these maritime expeditions, if only as carriers. The time of the settlement of the Isle of Gotland is lost in antiquity. The only record of its remarkable history is the `Gotlands lagarne,`(17) which is thought to be a supplement to the ancient laws of the country. This is supposed to have been written about A. D. 1200, and preserves in the old Gotlandish language laws that are apparently of a much earlier date. The discovery of so many Roman coins in the island shows that its commercial history is older than the time of the English Conquest. Whatever it was at that time – and relatively to most other ports it must have been great – Wisby became the tenth and eleventh centuries a place of almost fabulous wealth. As regards the ancient homelands of the Goths in Sweden, the evidence of communications with Anglo-Saxon England is direct. In the south of the Scandian peninsula is a province now called Carlscrona, whose ancient name was Blekinge, under which name it is mentioned by King Alfred in his `Orosius.` Stephens tells us of runic stones that have been found in Bleking, and on the authority of Elias Fries of Upsala he states they are said to be in Anglo-Saxon.(18) When we consider that there is historical evidence of the missionary labours of Englishmen among the heathen Goths of the south of Sweden, it will not appear surprising that inscriptions in Anglian runes should be found there. The church of Lund, the mother-church of that part of the country, was founded by Englishmen early in the eleventh century, according to Adams of Bremen.(19)

Lund was the capital of this part of the peninsula, a city of great extent, of great antiquity, and one which enjoyed a high prosperity a early as the ninth century. Blekinge is mentioned as Blecinga-eg, or the Isle of the Blekings, by king Alfred, repeating the description of Wulfstan of his voyage up the Baltic. `We had,` he says, `first Blekinge, and Moen and Eowland, and Gothland on our larboard (baecbord), and these land belong to Sweden ; and Wendland was all the way on our starboard as far as the mouth of the Vistula.`(20) These on the larboard were, without doubt, homelands of some of the early people of the Jutish or gothic race. There is other evidence of early communications between England and Scandinavia. At Skaang, in Sodermanland, Sweden, there is a runic inscription on a stone of peculiar interest, from its association with England. It has the English sign (7) for the word and. This, Stephens tells us, is distinctly English, and only English, in its origin, so that inscriptions having it show English influence of some kind.(21) In considering this he regards it as evidence of early literary communications between the English settlers and their Continental kindred. We should remember also that this Old English sin abounds in Domesday Book. Stephens says : `The Saxon and German pagans got their writing-schools as well as their Christianity and culture of movements, direct and indirect, chiefly from England and Anglo-Keltic lands, whose missionaries carried their runes with them, partly for secret writing, and partly for use in Scandinavia.` It is the evidence of the runes that shows the Scandian origin of the Anglians who settle d in Northern England. Stephen`s last words on this subject are : `I beg the reader carefully to ponder the following remarkable and interesting and decisive facts in the list showing the numerical result (of runic discoveries) in every class up to June, 1894. It is : in Anglo-Anglia, 10,423 runic remains ; in Germany, Saxony, and elsewhere, 19 as wanderers.`(22)

The Northmen of the Anglo-Saxon period were certainly people of many tribes. The name included all the inhabitants of the Northern peninsula as well as the Danes. It was not confined in its meaning like the later name Norse. In Sweden there were the ancient provinces of Halland, Skane, Bleking, Smaland, Sodermanland, Nebrike, Vermland, Upland, Vestmanland, Angermanland, Helsingland, Gestrickland, Delarna, Eastern and Western Gotland, and others. Vermland, which had been part of Norway, was added to Sweden after 860. In Norway there were the tribal provinces or districts of Nordrland, Halgoland, Raumerike, Heredaland, Hadeland, Rogaland, Raumsdel, Borgund, Viken, and others.

People of these provinces or tribal districts were all Northmen, as understood by the early settlers in England, and in the parts of our country where Scandinavians made colonies some of these tribal names may still be traced. It is certain akso that the inhabitants generally of the coast of Norway and the shore of the Baltic were called Lochlandach or Lakelanders,(23) and trace of them may perhaps be found in England under names derived from this word. `Few and far,` says Stephens, writing of the tribes of Scandinavia, `are the lights which glimmer over the clan lands of our forefathers. . . . We may learn a little more in time if we work hard and theorize less. But whatever we can now master as to the Old Northern language we have learnt from the monuments. These, therefore, we must respect at all hazards, whatever systems may have to give way, even though the upshot should be that much of our boasted modern philology, with its iron laws and straight lines and regular police-ruled developments, is only a house built upon the sand.`(24)

The Northern dialects, as introduced into England from the fifth and tenth centuries, may have differed, in some respects, from the Icelandic or Old Northern tongue as written in the eleventh century. Hence the great value of the earliest runic inscriptions as evidence, so far as they go, of the earliest meanings of some words that afterwards were used in Old English. In considering this probable change, Stephens tells us that the only corruptors of dialects he knew were those `who improve Nature, by writing them not as they are, but according to their notions of what they ought to be-i.e., in accordance with rules of grammar derived from other languages-for instances, the peculiar and comparatively modern Icelandic, with which they maybe acquainted.`(25)

As the name Northmen was a general one, which included the different tribal people of Scandinavia, so the name Eastmen appears to have also been a general name of the people of the Baltic region on the opposite shores to those of Sweden. With the Angles and Goths of the early period of the Anglo-Saxon settlement some people of the Norse race, afterwards so called, may well have been included. The earliest English coins found in Norway are of the period when the Norse began their Viking expeditions to the British shores. They comprise coins of Kewulf of Mercia, 796-819, Ceolwulf his son, 819-821, and Northumbrian coins of about 803-840.(26)

From the results of the researches of many archaeologists, historians, and philologists, both English and Scandinavian, we are lad to the conclusion that the Northmen of various tribes and nations had a greater share in the settlement of England than has commonly been attributed to them. Stephens assigns them a very large share indeed and his great work on the `Old northern Runic monuments` attests his vast research. He says : `Anglic Britain was chiefly planted by Northmen in the second and following centuries, and was half replanted by them in the ninth and tenth.`(27) Whatever may have been the date of their earliest settlements, Northmen were certainly among both the earlier and later ancestors of the Old English.


1Latham,R. G., `Germania of Tacitus,` Epilegomena, cxiv.

2Asser, `lif of Alfred.`

3Taylor, Isaac, `Greeks and Goths,` p. 46.

4Lappenberg, J. M., `History of the Anglo – Saxon Kings,` i. 24, note.

5`The Traveller`s Song.`

6Church. A. J., `Early Britain,` 88.

7Stephens, G., `Old Northern Runic Monuments,` i. 228.

8Latham, R. G., `The Germania of Tacitus,` notes.

9Du Chaillu, `Viking Age,` ii. 218.

10Ibid., ii 219.

11Seebohm, F., `Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law,` 236.

12Du Chaillu, loc. Cit., ii. 219.

13Skeat, W. W., `Principles of English Etymology,` 455.

14Ellis, G., `Early Metrical Romances,` Introd., p. 6.

15Taylor, I., `History of the Alphabet,` 210-215.

16Beddoe, J., `Races in Britain,` 42.

17Du Chaillu, P. B., `The Land of the Midnight Sun,` i. 304.

18Stephens, G., loc. Cit., i. 359.

19Adamus Bremen, `hist. Eccles.,` lib. Ii., chaps. Xxix. And xxxviii.

20King Alfred`s `Orosius,` edited by H. Sweet, p. 20.

21Stephens, G., loc. Cit., iii. 24.

22Stephens, G., `the Runes, Whence they Came,` Preface, 1894.

23Stephens, G., `Old Northern Runic Monuments,` iii. 10.

24Stephens, G., `Old Northern Runic Monuments,` iii. 396.

25Ibid, iii. 2.

26Du Chaillu, `Viking Age,` ii. 221.

27Loc. Cit., iii., Foreword.

Taken from the book = `origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.`

Author T. W. Shore