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The Jutes, Iuti, or Iutæ (pronounced /dʒuːts/) were a Germanic people. According to Bede, the Jutes were one of the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time, the other two being the Saxons and the Angles.
The Jutes are believed to have originated from the Jutland Peninsula (called Iutum in Latin) and part of the North Frisian coast. In present times the Jutlandic Peninsula comprises the state of Denmark and Southern Schleswig (Southern Jutland) in Germany, politically speaking. North Frisia is part of Germany as well.
Homeland and historical accounts
Bede places the homeland of the Jutes on the other side of the Angles relative to the Saxons, which would mean the northern part of the Jutland Peninsula. Tacitus portrays a people called the Eudoses living in the north of Jutland and these may have been the later Iutae. The Jutes have also been identified with the Eotenas (ēotenas) involved in the Frisian conflict with the Danes as described in the Finnesburg episode in the poem Beowulf (lines 1068–1159). Others have interpreted the ēotenas as jotuns ("ettins" in English), meaning giants, or as a kenning for "enemies".
Disagreeing with Bede, some historians identify the Jutes with people called the Eucii (or Saxones Eucii) who were evidently associated with the Saxons and dependents of the Franks in 536. The Eucii may have been identical with an obscure tribe called the Euthiones (Ευθίωνες in Ancient Greek) and probably associated with the Saxons. The Euthiones are mentioned in a poem by Venantius Fortunatus (583) as being under the suzerainty of Chilperic I of the Franks.
This identification would agree well with the later location of the Jutes in Kent, since the area just opposite of Kent on the European mainland (present-day Flanders) was part of Francia. Even if Jutes were present to the south of the Saxons in the Rhineland or near the Frisians, this does not contradict the possibility that they were migrants from Jutland.
Asser in his Life of Alfred claims that Alfred's mother, Osburga, was descended from the Jutes of the Isle of Wight, whom he identifies with the Goths. This ancestry, however, is unlikely and so may be the identification. Another modern hypothesis (the so-called "Jutish hypothesis"), accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, states that the Jutes are identical with the Geats, a people who once lived in southern Sweden.
In primary sources the Geats are referred to as Eotas, Iótas, Iútan, and Geátas. However, in both Widsith and Beowulf, the Eotenas in the Finn passage are neatly distinguished from the Geatas. It may be that the two tribal names happened to be confused, which has happened, for example, in the sources about the death of the Swedish king Östen.
It is possible that the Jutes are a related people to the Geats and a Gothic people as it is mentioned in the Gutasaga that some inhabitants of Gotland left for mainland Europe. Large grave sites were found at Willenberg, Prussia (now Wielbark, Poland). The finds were attributed to Goths or Gepids.
Jutish settlement in Southern Britain
The Jutes, along with some Angles, Saxons and Frisians, sailed across the North Sea to raid and eventually invade Great Britain from the late 4th century onwards, either displacing, absorbing, or destroying the native Celtic peoples there. According to Bede, they finally settled in Kent (where they became known as the Cantuarii), Hampshire (in Wessex), and the Isle of Wight (where they became known as the Uictuarii). There are a number of toponyms that attest to the presence of the Jutes in the area, such as Ytene, which Florence of Worcester states was the contemporary English name for the New Forest.
While it is commonplace to detect their influences in Kent (for example, the practice of partible inheritance known as gavelkind), the Jutes in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight vanished, probably assimilated to the surrounding Saxons, leaving only the slightest of traces. One recent scholar, Robin Bush, even argued that the Jutes of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight became victims of a policy of ethnic cleansing by the West Saxons. This has been the subject of debate amongst academics, with the counter-claim that only the aristocracy might have been wiped out. Bede is the only historical evidence and he clearly implies that this was so, in 686.
The culture of the Jutes of Kent shows more signs of Roman, Frankish, and Christian influence than that of the Angles or Saxons. Funerary evidence indicates that the pagan practice of cremation ceased relatively early and jewellery recovered from graves has affinities with Rhenish styles from the Continent, perhaps suggesting close commercial connections with Francia. The Jutish king Ethelbert of Kent married the Frankish princess Bertha and introduced Christianity into parts of Britain. He was the only Jutish Bretwalda.
- The Saxon Invasion
- Venerable Saint Bede (1723). The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. John Smith, trans. Printed for T. Batley and T. Meighan.