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Quibbles of knick-knack[edit]

User:Botteville, I have to quibble with some of your edits.

Knick-knack, quibble away. I'm the only one showing much of an interest in it so far. The article is primarily mine though I did take it from a stub. I'm delighted to have you in on it. Let us see what we can negotiate.Dave 03:21, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Describing Ariovistus as a "noted... official" seems a bit off. He's described by Caesar as rex, a king. We can argue about what "king" meant in that historical context (as you do later in the article), but that's what the source says. At the minimum I think we have to take it he was the military-political leader of those Suebi who settled west of the Rhine.

Well yes and no. The source also says that it was the senate who declared him king. If we use king at first mention the reader will fill in his own idea of king, which would be totally erroneous. There is no indication apart from the rejected etymology that the man was ever of a royal family, the Suebi did not have a king, he was certainly not king of the Germanics, etc. But I have already been over that. The term "noted official" clues the reader in to something not being quite right and that is the intended effect. We are not writing from the point of view of the Roman senate but from a later scholarly point of view. So, I must disagree with you there. But, if you think of a better way to make thepoint, by all means do.Dave 03:21, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

The use of the word "tribe" to translate Latin civitas is something I have an objection to generally, and the characterisation of the war of the Arverni and Sequani against the Aedui as "intertribal bickering" is unnecessarily dismissive. You give the possible economic and political background to the war consideration later on, but a better phrasing should be found for the introduction.

All right, that could be made more objective. I was taking the Roman view. I took a shot at correcting it, which see. Take a hand if you wish.Dave 03:21, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

You say that "Subsequent historians and political writers have seized on this historical incident with less than objective ideological or political views" - is this a reference to the Nazi stuff in the "Etymology" section? If so, I think that section is overlong and overwhelms the article. At the very least it should come after the historical events, not before. The focus should be on who Ariovistus was and the historical events he was part of. There's too much about Nazism and Nietzsche,

Maybe it is overlong, maybe it does overwhelm the article. I'm putting that in a note. As to whether it should be there, I disagree totally. Almost all the older literature makes Ariovistus out to be a noble member of a noble race and even the Wikipedia category is based on that. The reader needs to be informed that there were no Aryans and Ariovistus was not one and moreover the man and race of honor takes a very specific political view fraught with danger and consequences.Dave 03:29, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

and the actual linguistic stuff needs references.

Well, I did give some, you know? But let me find more and rework it a little.Dave 04:40, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

I'd also disagree that, if Ariovistus means "army-wise", it can't be a personal name. Xenophon means "he who kills foreigners" but that doesn't stop it being a personal name, presumably once given to a baby.

Not so fast. I don't think it does mean that. The o in Xenophon in long but in phonos it is short. The Greeks never murdered the xenos. it was a taboo act. I'm not going to look it up now, however. I'm busy.Dave 04:40, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Any speculation on Ariovistus's role and position based on a proposed etymology can't carry too much weight.

I wasn't basing it on the etymology alone. The Suebi had army leaders not kings. The king was a Roman idea. In any case he could not have been king of the Germans. We don't hear a thing about Scandinavia or the lowland tribes. Moreover, the *harja part, that is pretty solid and generally accepted. I'm going to do more work on the 2nd element.Dave 04:40, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Rex Germanorum doesn't necessarily mean "King of the Germans" - Latin had no definite article, so it could simply mean "King of Germans", which does not necessarily imply "all Germans" (same goes for Cunobelinus, who Suetonius calls rex Britannorum).

I never thought of that. I'm adding that in.Dave 05:04, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Your following paragraph therefore attacks a bit of a paper tiger. "Kings as the Romans knew them"? He doesn't fit what we modern people think of as a "king", but the Romans were obviously comfortable calling him that, so he must have fit what they understood by the word.

I'm not attacking anyone, and what tiger would that be? Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forest of the night .... Who cares what the Romans were comfortable with, what was Ariovistus as he was in himself? Not a king I assert still. I deny they had a state form of government. I'm trying to tip the reader off that the Germans and the Romans were not the same people, did not have the same customs, and you can't necessarily use what the Romans say about him as representative of the truth. "Rex" is a Roman concept there. I'm sticking by that. But, maybe this isn't the place to dwell on the issue so I've shortened it a bit. It belongs perhaps under some article on Roman and German social institutions either separately or together.Dave 05:04, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

The early Roman kings were elected war leaders (as were the early consuls), and Ariovistus could certainly fit that.

Non (spoken with a French nasal). I deny that. Early Roman kings were not necessarily elected and certainly not by the whole people. One thing they were, which Germanic chiefs were not, were holders of the state power of life and death as symbolized by the fasces. Ariovistus in no way can be taken to be a Roman king and anyway you know the Romans of caesar's time were no longer familiar with Roman kings, whom they regarded as tyrants (while recognizing the contributions of some kings). Reges as the senate knew them were definitely barbari. They loved to parade them through the streets.Dave 05:38, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Your inference that Ariovistus was "a general of the Suebi who assumed too much power" and "By accepting this title from the Romans Ariovistus was making an official pretense of more power than he had" is pure speculation. If you have any evidence of this "political swindle", cite it. Otherwise it should be made clear this is only a possible interpretation of the evidence.

Well yes and no. Like everyone else from Cassius Dio on I'm trying to make sense of the respective motives of the parties involved. Read anything on the Internet or in the books. What you will read there is mainly bunk. So, I thought, surely the reader is entitled to be tipped off that this stuff whether modern or ancient is bunk. That was on my mind. Frankly I have to wince when I read some of the Internet characterizations of caesar or Ariovistus, but it isn't just Internet. Cassius Dio's article is absurd. Where did he get that stuff? But if you don't feel I'm entitled to do any interpretation here I don't mind taking it out. The reader can interpret for himself and probaby will.Dave 05:38, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

You conclude that Ariovistus was granted the status of king and friend before he crossed the Rhine. That's one possible interpretation, but one I disagree with. The Romans showed no interest in intervening on behalf of their Gaulish allies before Caesar became governor, and under the terms of his governorship he was not supposed to take his armies beyond Narbonese Gaul, so the Senate did not expect him to intervene either. I think it's more likely that, when news of the Aedui's defeat and Ariovistus's land-grab came to Rome, the Senate, having no desire to get involved in a war in Gaul, decided to legitimise the new facts on the ground by recognising Ariovistus. Caesar says that, after the war, about 15,000 Germans were initially settled in Gaul, but after they had acquired a taste for the higher standard of living there, more were brought over, and by 58 BC there were 120,000 of them (DBG 1.31). This seems to me to suggest they'd been there for more than a single year.

Uh uh uh uh uh! No interpretation! If I can't do it neither can you! Anyway I reached no such conclusion. I didn't even mention it. But, I tell you what I usually do in questions of multiple interpretation, now that you have brought it to my attention. I combine both interpretations in a construction such as "whether A is true or B is true" or "it is not known whether A is true or B is true". The reader can then choose for himself (if he knows enough). Let me try it out there and see what you think.Dave 05:38, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

I also think you're overestimating Caesar's good faith in serving "as a broker in the conflict". Caesar was spoiling for a fight from the moment he arrived in Gaul, and he barely tries to hide it in his commentaries. He gave Ariovistus an ultimatum he couldn't accept without compromising his independence - having to give back the hostages was not preserving the status quo. I think you're overestimating the factor of the difference between Germanic and Roman law. Ariovistus just thought he was in a stronger position than he was. Why should Ariovistus agreeing to a conference when Caesar had come to him be "an exercise in hypocrisy?" It was a political move, just as Caesar's ultimatum had been. This is a POV comment and should be removed.

Who's doing the interpreting now? I don't agree with a thing you say, which is entirely interpretation and appears to derive ultimately from the pages of Cassius Dio. I will take out the hypocrisy phrase though. That is my opinion. For the Germanic law, Northvegr has material on it and others have proposed it. But, do as you wish, just as long as you avoid the double standard, one for me and one for you.Dave 05:53, 22 June 2006 (UTC)
PS Do you really think Ariovistus had a sincere desire for a conference? I doubt it.Dave 06:24, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Translating barbarus as "savage" is another bugbear of mine, along with "tribe" for civitas. Barbarus essentially means "foreign and uncivilised", and does not necessarily carry the connotations of savagery, lawlessness and unrestrained violence that the modern English "barbarian" does. It's a contemptuous term, sure, but the English "barbarian" is even more contemptuous, and to translate it "savage" takes it several steps further into contempt even than that.

Sorry I do disagree. The usual translation of barbari as savage is every bit correct. The Romans got it from the Greeks and that is exactly what the Greeks meant by it. The Phoencian dynasty was dethroned and sent into exile from Thebes because it practiced sodomy, a lawless event. Caesar makes known his contempt for the barbari in many ways. They have no word, keep no agreements, follow no laws or conventions, can't be trusted, are stupid, can't manage their affairs and have to be bailed out by the Romas, etc, etc; in short, they qualify as savages in every way. Savages keep no order and obey no law. I'm not saying the Germans were that, but Caesar thought they were. The Persians similarly endeared themselves to the Greeks by their aggression and tyranny. They were so stupid as to whip the Hellespont into submission. The key is fear, you know? Romans feared Germans and Persians like the plague. Again and again Caesar has to address this fear.

As for the civitates, I think you are straining at a gnat. The civitates were tribal not geographic in origin. Not for hundreds of years - well, a few hundred - did they become only cantons.Dave 06:24, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

I haven't attempted to edit the article yet as you make frequent changes and additions and we'd end up stepping on each other's toes. However, I do think significant changes should be made. --

Lets's be honest. What you want to do is put your interpretations instead of mine! I suggest we underscore that these events can be interpreted in different ways. I'm in the polishing up phase, which your comments have extended. I should be done pretty quick but feel free to get started, or, as you say, why spend time on something I'm going to change anyway. Once I leave an article I may not get back to it. I'm mainly interested in identity. I love those people articles. So, I probably won't do my worst of returning to inflict your own standards on you. Remember now, no interpetation! Unless someone else holds a view, you can't hold it. If you do hold it you must cite your source. I think I will start a site on the Internet so I can cite myself as a source. In this article I hoped to establish a chronological framework for the movement of Germanics into the future Germnania Superior, from which article I will refer to this article. Everything else is only fluff for me. You can have it after another pass and also I think I owe you some aids to etymology, although that seems superfluous to me. Greeks don't murder their xenous (only barbarians do that) and women don't name their babies "general".Dave 06:24, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Nicknack009 21:49, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

A few quick points in response. Interpretation is fine and necessary - I'd just prefer to present all the possibilities. Civitates, in Gaul anyway, were not geographical entitities, but I think some were at least as much political as ethnic. My particular problem with the translation "tribe" is it's only used when modern historians already believe the society was "tribal"; it's translated "state", "community" etc in other contexts. And as far as I can tell barbarus had a range of meanings which probably did extend as far as "savage" in one direction, but appears to have meant no more than "exotic" in some contexts. I would translate it "barbarian", by which I understand a core meaning of "foreign and uncivilised", as I said above, rather than rather than "savage". --Nicknack009 08:19, 22 June 2006 (UTC)
A quick response to your quick reponse. I'm totally delighted at the direction in which your response moves. What is fine about it is that it starts from one point of view but soon realizes the situation is more complex and expands to include the complexities from there. That realization to me is crossing the sophomoric hump. The use of language of course is very important, since apart from the archaeology that is all we have of them now. So I am sure you will do fine on the article. I need to hurry up and get done with it among all the other stuff I need to do. Who said retirement was retirement.Dave 12:02, 22 June 2006 (UTC)
Later. OK, my friend, you may have the article. If I discover any world-shaking additions to the etymology I will revisit, or, if I discover some enlighting archaeology I will revisit. Archaeology is totally missing from the article at this point, which is a great shame. I know there must be some. We and the Europeans are both addicted to digging. For now, the Vangiones are waiting for me. I left them hanging in mid-air. They can't follow their historical destiny without me.
I do have a farewell address for you. First, read your primary source closely (Caesar) as he is the only one there is. Second, avoid entangling alliances with Dio Cassius, Germanists, Romanists, fascists, communists, racists, and all such hot-blooded ilk. They do not have an NPOV. There have been many "debunking" fads in this field, most recently attacking the motives of the Romans in my lifetime. They weren't any worse than anyone else. No need to invoke victorian morality against them. And lastly, when you are tempted to nit-pick, ask yourself, how real is this nit? Can I hold myself up to this same standard? Is something wrong or are there just other points of view? Bonne chance. You may or may not see me again.Dave 04:39, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

No quibble[edit]

OK, I broke my rule and took a look at it. I like it. See you in other articles.Dave


Hi, I was just wondering whether "Germanics" is really a scholarly term. I understand that you'd probably want to avoid the term "Germans", since that is totally misleading by suggesting a degree of continuity that just isn't there. But how about "Germani"? The Latin term is fairly neutral, and I know it's used by some scholars, certainly by Peter Heather. --Helmold 21:01, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

I agree calling them "Germanic" implies the existance of a unique culture and ethnicity for which there is extremely limited evidence, Tribal names would be more practical then a loose geographic term. As it is this article has some pretty serious POV issues. Bloody Sacha (talk) 13:40, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Etymology of his name[edit]

The article says that ario- is not akin to Ehre, which i believe is right, but the source is all gobbledygook. [EDIT: I get it now; it's but a comment, not a source, and as such, i won't call it gobbledygook.] It seems to say that Ario and Ehre aren't akin because there's no proof and Ariovistus didn't live up to the Nazis interpretation of his name. I have Duden Etymologie right here. It says that Ehre (from ēra in Old High German, akin to ār in Old English and eir in Old Icelandic) comes from the Proto-Germanic root *ais-. I think this became air- (spoken "ire") by Ariovistus's time, meaning that had his name had any connection to Ehre, it would have been latinized as Aerovistus.

Smith's interpretations of -vistus looks highly unlikely to me, but it stands unchallenged. Fürst (English First, Old English Fyrst, Old High German Furist) is reconstructed in Proto-Germanic as *furistô. Fist (Old English Fyst, Old High German Fūst) is reconstructed in Proto-Germanic as *fustiz. Aside from these reconstructions having the barest likeness to vistus, i doubt one would have mistaken a Germanic /f/ with a Latin /v/ because Latin had no /v/ at the time, although it did have /f/. The Latin <v>/<u> originally sounded like the English W.

And last but not least, there's no mention that Ariovistus could be a Celtic name. Labarion has Ariox/Ariocos (nobleman) reconstructed from Old Irish Aire(ch), and Vissus (knowledge) (V=W here, too) reconstructed from Middle Welsh gwys and Old Irish fiuss. I have to wonder if Ariox is a form of someting like Ario-. The -ss- in Vissus represents the Tau Gallicum which is transcribed into IPA as /ts/. A Celtic name meaning "noble wisdom" looks like the likeliest interpretation of the name to me. --Leif Runenritzer (talk) 07:34, 16 August 2008 (UTC)

I've addressed Leif's last point. I'm more amateur philologist than linguist (which I'm not at all!), so I've presented my source in a very non-technical way. But at least this interpretation is now represented on the page. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:47, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

deleted Nazi rant[edit]

I deleted footnoted material that struck me as wildly irrelevant to the etymological discussion of name. If there is Nazi writing that held up Ariovistus as a Superman, that is extremely interesting and should be presented. It would be relevant in the way that the relation of Vercingetorix to certain strands of French nationalism is relevant. That isn't what the note did. The note muddled Aryan racialist propaganda with Indo-European linguistics, the onomastics of which produces hundreds of names in all the IE languages that mean something like "Noble Man" or "Super Leader" and such grandiosities. By all means, put this material back if you can cite sources and make a distinction between nationalist myth and etymology. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:21, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Derivation of the term Germani[edit]

From what I understand, the term Germani was a Celtic word that meant in a sense :The next wave of "Celtic' warrior/tribes who are crossing south over the Rhine. One particular tribe who may have had a name similar to 'Germani' was so especially fierce, that it became attributed to any tribe that crosses over the Rhine w/ fierceness or boldness or success (kinda like the NY Yankess winning records). So it became common to those seasonal migrations from the North of the Rhine to be called Germani, or the Germani are coming. Just like the word Teuton being a Celtic word for tribe or people, as in Tuatha (ol Ir.) Sources are Jos.Campbell, Peter Beresford Ellison & H. Hubert in their various related books(sorry can't be more specific as my boys have to be fed. etc., will try to get back to fine tune. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jpcasey (talkcontribs) 22:32, 19 October 2011 (UTC)


I think the references to "Germans" in ancient Germanic history are seriously problematic and anachronistic. They identify ancient Germani/ae [and sometimes even Celti/ae and sometimes Scythi/ae] with modern Germans. But some of the Germani/ae were Celtic-speakers and others were Germanic-speakers. And the Germans are only one branch of Germanic speakers. (talk) 23:44, 25 November 2012 (UTC)

The primary sources call them Germans, the Reliable Sources by historians call them Germans, therefore Wiki must refer to them as Germans. HammerFilmFan (talk) 14:51, 28 August 2013 (UTC)