THE NIBELUNGS AND THE GOLD OF THE RHINE

THE HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK OF THE ANCIENT GERMANICS


At about 1700 BC during the Bronze Age, the climate was much warmer than nowadays. It caused the intensifications of trade relations between the south of Scandinavia (coastal areas of Denmark, Sweden and Norway) and the northern and central regions of Germany and the Mediterranean territories.

During this period we have to situate the probable arrival of certain Indo-European peoples in the northern areas of the Baltic Sea. As they are the forerunners, we can call them Pre-Germanic, Pre-Baltic, Pre-Slavic, etc. When some of them went deep into the Scandinavian Peninsula, they met the ancient inhabitants Saami and Finns or Lapps. The Scandinavian medieval literature still reflects these contacts which were not always free from conflicts.

Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that some typical features of the Germanic-Scandinavian religion could come from that lengthy meeting.

It is through linguistics that we can establish three large groups constituent of the Germanic-Scandinavian culture, such as the Norse one, which is made up of archaic and modern Scandinavian languages. It is noteworthy the ancient runic writing, which has an alphabet that is known as fupark (noun composed of the six first letters of the system of signs). Under the term runas, there is hidden a symbolic world of signs that is related to mystery and magic, which was used as a resource favourable for the invocation of supernatural powers.

The next one is the Germanic-Eastern or the Vistula-Oder group, made up of several tribes (Vandals, Burgundians, Gepids, Rugians, Heruli, Bastarnae, Scirians and Goths). And finally, there was the Germanic western one, where we can find the Frisians, Angles, Saxons, Suebi, Lombards or Franks among others. Curiously enough, it is believed that the epigraph Germanic actually comes from nomenclature of Celtic influence.

The traditional idea of these peoples as main characters of the military invasion of Indo-European warriors it is not totally sustainable. We probably have to sift all that under the most appropriate perspective of a gradual expansion of little groups that were making up consecutive and new settlements in Nordic territories, which were vaster and vaster but easy to occupy. As time went by, the result caused the creation of an own identity, both in the linguistic field and the cultural one, which we later identify as Germanic. In summary, we can say that the Germans belong to the family of the Indo-European peoples that appeared in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, merging with the peoples settled in Nordic territories, and to others that came from the east who were taking on a strong, own identity.

From the 7th Century BC the ancient religion, based on the concepts of fertility and a predominance of female deities called Vanes, was replaced by another one of patriarchal nature known as Ases. It was caused through the Germanic southern world that was spreading all over the north, changing the ancient civilized parameters of the Norse Bronze Age.

Later, at the end the first century, the Latin and Roman author Tacitus described us the ancient Germania as a group of territories that he thought were an enormous island that covered Scandinavia, the present Poland, Germany and Austria with a unit of similar traditions, languages and mythologies, although they did not necessarily made up a political unit. Subsequently, as years went by, the linguistic split between the Nordic territories and southern Germany was more and more remarkable. However, both territories shared the same mythological background, which was more protected in Scandinavian areas such as Iceland, where the ancient paganism was completely preserved despite the persistent, implacable penetration of Christianity.

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