Germanic Tribes: The Frisians

Figure 1.--.

The Frisians were a Germanic tribe located along the North Sea coast of the modern Netherlands (Fryslan and Groningenand) and Germany east of Jutland as well as coastal islands. Their origins are not well known, but may have been in Scandinavia. They Frisians were known and respected by the Romans, n=meaning they were an important, powerful German tribe. They signed a treaty with the Romans along the Rhine River (28 AD). This may have hekped avoid conquest by the Romans. The Romans apparently demanded heavy tribute. The Frisians hanged the Roman tax collector and defeated a Roman force sent to punish them in the Battle of Baduhennawoodby during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (44 AD). The Frisians were mentioned by Tacitus in his landmark study of the Germanic people. He mentions maioribus minoribusque frisii (major and minor Frisians) which settled along the mouth of the Rhine. The difference appears to be related to the fertility of the soil they tilled and the resulting harvests. Other Roman authors also mention them, including references to Frisii and Frisiavones. [Pliny the Elder] The two terms seem to be synonamous. The Frisians are believed to be a seafaring people. The North Sea at the time was referred to by the Romans as the Mare Frisia. Frisians settlmets have been found at some distance from their homeland, including England (especially Kent), Scotland, Denmark, Belgium, and France. Frisians are known to have served in the Roman army. There appears to have been lsargely peaceful movement within the Roman Empire, such as modern Flanders (Belgium) and Kent (England), after the Roman conquest. There are Frisian pottery finds in Kent. There are Roman references to Fridsisans as pirates (about 290). [Constantius Chlorus] After this the piracy reference mostly mention Saxons. This is not well explianed . Some authors suggest that part of the Frisians merged with the Saxons with whom they were cloesly related. Unfortunsalely with the decline of Rome, there are no Roman chroinicles for the 5th and 6th century when the conquest of Britain took place. Thus the role of the Frisians is not well understood. As a seafarring people dominating the approaches to Britain, one might think that they played a major role in the invasion. They are known to have reached Britain before the other tribes in involved in the invasion. Some must have accompanied the Anglo-Saxons. As a larger and more powerful tribe than the Anglii, it is unclear why the Frisians are not mentioned in the medieval chrinicles. The relationship between the Frisians and Anglo-Saxons is not well understood. The Frisians do appear to have expanded their territory into the areas vacated by the Abnglo-Saxons. This was the greatest extent of their expansion--Frisia Magna. The Frisians were conquered by the Franks (8th century). Theuir language has survived and is the modern language cloesest to Old English.


Constantius Chlorus.

Tacitus, Publius Cornelius . Germania, paragraph 34..

Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia (77AD).


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Created: 7:06 AM 6/14/2007
Last updated: 7:06 AM 6/14/2007