Danes (Germanic tribe)

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The Danes were a North Germanic people residing in what more or less comprised modern-day Denmark in Iron Age Scandinavia. They are mentioned in the 6th century in Jordanes' Getica, by Procopius, and by Gregory of Tours. The Danes spoke Old Norse (dǫnsk tunga), which was shared by the Danes, the people in Norway and Sweden and later Iceland.[1]

In his description of Scandza, Jordanes says that the Dani were of the same stock as the Suetidi ("Swedes") and expelled the Heruli and took their lands.[2]

According to the 12th century author Sven Aggesen, the mythical King Dan gave name to the Danes.

The Old English poems Widsith and Beowulf, as well as works by later Scandinavian writers (notably by Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200)), provide some of the written references to Danes. Archaeology has revealed and continues to reveal insights to their culture, organization and way of life.

Viking Age[edit]

Further information: Viking Age

During the Viking Age, the Danes were based on Jutland, the island of Zealand, and the southern part of present-day Sweden, including Scania. In the early 11th century, King Cnut the Great (died 1035) ruled Denmark, England and Norway as the North Sea Empire for almost 20 years.


Beginning about 800, the Danes began a long era of well-organised raids across the coasts and rivers of Europe. Some of the raids were followed by a gradual succession of Danish settlers. In the British Isles, the Danes began settling England in 865, when brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless wintered in East Anglia. Halfdan and Ivar moved north and captured Northumbria in 867 and York as well. Danelaw - a special rule of law - was soon established in the settled areas and shaped the local cultures there for centuries. Cultural remains are still noticeable today.[3] The Danes invaded Ireland in 853 and were followed by Danish settlers who gradually assimilated with the local population and adopted Anglo-Saxon Christianity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson, Carl Edlund. "The Danish Tongue and Scandinavian Identity" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 4 November 2013. Icelandic writers (who provide the bulk of our surviving documentation)commonly employed the term dǫnsk tunga (literally “Danish tongue”) to identify the language not just of those who were ruled by the Dana konungr, but of all Germanic-speaking Scandinavians. 
  2. ^ Jordanes. Mierow (1908), ed. Getica III (23). 
  3. ^ Flores Historiarum: Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica sive flores historiarum, p. 298-9. ed. H. Coxe, Rolls Series, 84 (4 vols, 1841-42)