Elbe Germanic peoples

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The distribution of the primary Germanic dialect groups in Europe in around AD 1:
  North Sea Germanic, or Ingvaeonic
  Weser-Rhine Germanic, or Istvaeonic
  Elbe Germanic, or Irminonic
The catchment of the River Elbe

The Elbe Germanii (German: Elbgermanen) or Elbe Germanic peoples were Germanic tribes whose settlement area, based on archaeological finds, lay either side of the Elbe estuary on both sides of the river and which extended as far as Bohemia and Moravia, clearly the result of a migration up the Elbe river from the northwest in advance of the main Migration Period until the individual groups ran into the Roman Danube Limes around 200 AD. The Elbe Germanii included the tribes of the Semnones, Hermunduri, Quadi, Marcomanni and the Lombards.[1] Historically they are possibly the same as the Irminones or Herminones mentioned by classical authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Elder and Pomponius Mela. The most notable of these were the Suebic tribes.

All or most of the modern languages thought to derive from the languages of these historical peoples are in the High German group of the West Germanic language family.

By contrast with the settlement areas of the North Sea, Oder-Vistula and Rhine-Weser Germanii (from which the Franks descended), there was a relatively uniform development in the economic and social spheres. This can be seen, for example, in the clear consistencies of material and intellectual culture (ceramics, appliances, weapons, jewellery, religious customs, etc.). This was due to the intensive contact between the Elbe Germanic tribes, as well as contact with other, more distant, Germanic tribes.

More recent major Germanic tribes, such as the Alemanni, Thuringii and the Bavarii, which had mainly been formed from Suebic Germanic groups, are also often included among the Elbe Germaniii for linguistic reasons and from archaeological evidence.[2]


  1. ^ Walter Pohl: Die Germanen; Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich, 2004, ISBN 9783486567557
  2. ^ Heinrich Beck: Germanenprobleme in heutiger Sicht; Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, 1999, ISBN 9783110164381


  • Heinrich Beck, Gerhard Mildenberger: Elbgermanen. In the Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity Studies (Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde) (RGA). 2nd edition, Vol. 7, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 1989, p(p). 107–115.