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View Full Version : Was it Common for the People from Western and Northern Europe to Have Beards?



Nicola_Canadian
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006, 07:55 PM
Hi All,

I would like to ask your help on one particular issue. I wonder if it was common for the people from western and northern europe to have beards?

It is quite an issue on Russian anthropogical forums where we have quite a "fight" with Ukrainians about the ancient RUS people of Eastern Europe...

I wonder if you have any old pictures of Vikings, Germans, Franks, Kelts etc with a clear indication of having beards or not... I also wonder if it was common before the Christianity was accepted in your countries or after?

Also do you have pictures of pagan (basically Nordic) gods with or without beards?

Most of you guys are from North-West Europe - so could you please comment on this issue about your country or tribe?

Any help is very welcomed! People from actually any country are welcomed to comment on that as well.

Thanx!

PS: I realise that this thread is not exactly about the racial classification... However it is extremely close to the way the europeans looked like... So please, don't move this thread from this section! Thanx one more time!

Allenson
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006, 08:13 PM
Hi All,

I would like to ask your help on one particular issue. I wonder if it was common for the people from western and northern europe to have beards?

Well, not being from either place myself, I will let the residents of this region tackle this question.

But, the area of North America that I am from is populated largely by NW Europids and beards are common amongst adult males. Especially so in the winter. I am a case in point. I grow out my beard in the fall and shave it off sometime in the spring. In fact, I will be doing just that sometime soon. ;) I usually wait until the last patch of snow is gone from our field. This hasn't happened yet but it should be all gone by the end of the week with a mild forecast in the offing. :P



It is quite an issue on Russian anthropogical forums where we have quite a "fight" with Ukrainians about the ancient RUS people of Eastern Europe...


Slavanthro? I haven't visited in a while. Tell the chaps I say 'hello'!

As for the ancient Rus, I don't really know....although, I would speculate that many did indeed wear beards. Shaving was likely rather difficult in ancient times.



I wonder if you have any old pictures of Vikings, Germans, Franks, Kelts etc with a clear indication of having beards or not... I also wonder if it was common before the Christianity was accepted in your countries or after?


I'm sure a google image search would turn up much info. The Dying Gaul comes to mind. He did not have a beard though the sweet 70s pornstar mustache is in full effect. ;)

http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/art/greek/10_97_5_70.jpg




Also do you have pictures of pagan (basically Nordic) gods with or without beards?


http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=wi&q=





Thanx!



No sweat! Let's see what others have to say.

The Black Prince
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006, 09:50 PM
I would like to ask your help on one particular issue. I wonder if it was common for the people from western and northern europe to have beards?
Modern western trends tend to see it as primitive, so nowaday most people shave their beards constant or only have a small beard which they keep very neat.

But watching old pics of my father and uncles of mine I don't see any without a beard/moustache. For more as fifty years ago it was even considered un-manly in most social environments to not have a beard/moustache, although a wildgrowing beard was seen especially among higher classes as uncivilised and anti-social.


I wonder if you have any old pictures of Vikings, Germans, Franks, Kelts etc with a clear indication of having beards or not... I also wonder if it was common before the Christianity was accepted in your countries or after?
The old Kelts used to wear moustaches (they basically shaved other facial hair), The old Germanics are mostly described as beardy folk.
I think that with the growing of facialhair for youngster began the age they where considered as men, and could fight in a war when neccesary. So most boys where probably quite eager to show off with their facial hair as soon as it began to grow.

Various Roman sources report about it, because Romans considered it a barbarian trait to wear beards/moustaches, most Romans shaved their face (you won't find much roman busts of men with beards).

Also the Picts (they are not Keltic or Germanic) are described as a hairy people. I believe it was some Briton monk who said something like:
"These Picts disguise their entire face with hair, it's a pity they don't disguise their lower parts".:D

Concerning pictures, old Germanics/Kelts didn't made pictures of themself, except some who are from romanized sources (there are some Roman coins with the shaved face of Odoacar)

you can search on google of course for yourself but most medieval kings also weared beards/moustaches.


Also do you have pictures of pagan (basically Nordic) gods with or without beards?
I can't remember of one without a beard/moustache.


Most of you guys are from North-West Europe - so could you please comment on this issue about your country or tribe?
Old Frisians (like other Northsea Germanics) used to carrie with them a comb.
http://www.molas.org.uk/images/piclib/las091Tn.jpg
With it the combed their long hair, beard and moustache.

Medieval Frisians had beards and moustaches but shaved their head accorded to rank, the highest ranks would be completey bald, while youngster who had to proof themself had long hair.
(this was pobably easy since old man hadn't much hair, otherway around could prove to be quite difficult.:D)

I wrote a thread about a famous medieval battle between the Frisians and the Hollanders which also mentions the head shaving (it's in Dutch though..)

http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=43984

Theudiskaz
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006, 09:53 PM
I can say with great confidence that in Ancient and medieval Europe beardedness was the norm not the exception. I assume this is the time period you are concerned about. The Romans were pretty much the only ancient Europeans to shave. Being clean-shaven was the standard throughout the Republican period. "Barbus", the Latin word for beard, comes from the Prot-Indo European "barbar" a word which was meant to echo the sound of foreign, or barbarian speech. But this relaxed during imperial times and by the time of the late Roman Empire, beardedness was once again the norm. Even the Greeks usually wore beards. To them beardlessnes was a sign of effeminacy. This is the traditional Indo-European view. Beards have traditionally been associated with virility and power. Depictions of the Gods by the Greeks and Romans always have great beards, except for Apollo, who was imagined to be a handsome youth.

All evidence indicates that ancient and early Germans, Slavs, Dacians, Celts, Norse were usually bearded. Greek and Roman depictions of the Northern enemies and the the art of the "barbarians" themselves almost always depict the subjects as bearded or atleast mustachioed. However much Migration Period art portrays clean-shaven men. In Dark Age and early Medieval art men are nearly always bearded or have a moustach. The Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings were normally bearded (Altough in late Saxon times, a moustache without a beard was in fashion, atleast among the upper class.) So it is safe to assume that the Russ, in particular would have also been bearded.

I can't find enough pictures of Vikings or Ancient Germans or Anglo-Saxons yet on the internet but will probably find some later. My knowledge is based mostly on Books. A lot of them are from Osprey Military.

Nicola_Canadian
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 05:55 AM
Thank you for all your comments... I must clarify I am mostly interested in Medieval or even earlier times... (It is obvious that since circa 17th century most man "preferred" shaving...)


The Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings were normally bearded (Altough in late Saxon times, a moustache without a beard was in fashion, atleast among the upper class.)

This is quite interesting. So most of the time they had beards but "in late Saxon time" - moustache only... This is actually a key issue of this thread - a beard or just moustache?


Being clean-shaven was the standard throughout the Republican period. "Barbus", the Latin word for beard, comes from the Prot-Indo European "barbar" a word which was meant to echo the sound of foreign, or barbarian speech.

Interesting... Do you mean to say a "Barbarian" can also mean a "A man with a Beard"?

I am also surprised - aren't there any description or old relics/statues of Nordic gods (not these days pictures) where a beard or moustache (or none) is clearly shown?

What about franks? Vikings? How about Mr. Barbarossa?

I am still waiting for more comments...

Thanks!

Rhydderch
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 07:15 AM
This is funny. I'd just been thinking about this moustache issue today because I read that many of the Norman invaders of England adopted the English upper class fashion of growing a moustache.

It seems to me that shaving was commoner in places where the Roman church was most dominant. Because this church was run from Rome, it probably tended to preserve old Roman customs; the clergy were always shaved, and I can only think that this originated in Roman tradition, but because it had become established as part of that church's custom, it was preserved even when other fashions became popular in the general community.

Dr. Solar Wolff
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 08:13 AM
As far as I know the Norman French were the first males to shave. Sometime later it became the standard for court-life but I don't know about the common man.

J.B. Basset
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 10:57 AM
In Middle Ages it was quite common in Europe to shave at least once a week, just not look like a Jewish or like a Muslim. Only the nineteenth post romantic scenario has drawn medieval man as somebody with long beards and that is not particularly true. As I have said before only Jewish didnīt shave, and in the common "imaginarium" there was the idea that the muslims were black giants with long beards and in second place fleas were a good reason to try to be shaved.

Rhydderch
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 11:32 AM
In Middle Ages it was quite common in Europe to shave at least once a week, just not look like a Jewish or like a Muslim. Only the nineteenth post romantic scenario has drawn medieval man as somebody with long beards and that is not particularly true. As I have said before only Jewish didnīt shave, and in the common "imaginarium" there was the idea that the muslims were black giants with long beards and in second place fleas were a good reason to try to be shaved.Although many Europeans in the Middle Ages shaved, there were definitely many who had beards just as long as Jews or Muslims, and never shaved. A long beard was by no means a Jewish thing.

Theudiskaz
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 02:09 PM
I was refering to the Dark Ages and Early middle Ages and when I talked about the Medieval period. I don't know the late Middle Ages that well.

J.B. Basset
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 04:14 PM
Although many Europeans in the Middle Ages shaved, there were definitely many who had beards just as long as Jews or Muslims, and never shaved. A long beard was by no means a Jewish thing.

Of course a long beard was not always a jewish thing but I think in this case we have a very long span in time and place and that is a problem considering the special historic scenarios of Europe in Middle Ages. Nevertheless it could be considered that where an important jewish and muslim population were predominant there was from the very begining a very clear "feeling" to make a distinction, although according to different histories of Western European coutries such distincions succedeed or not.

OdinThor
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 04:19 PM
Judging from my grandfathers and greatgrandfathers photographies, having beards was a very common german habit even in the early twenties century.

The Black Prince
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 05:34 PM
Happy now!, you could as easily looked for them yourself.



I am also surprised - aren't there any description or old relics/statues of Nordic gods (not these days pictures) where a beard or moustache (or none) is clearly shown?

Small selection:
What about franks? Vikings? How about Mr. Barbarossa?


Norse woodcarvings
http://i1.tinypic.com/skyujs.jpghttp://i1.tinypic.com/skyuli.jpg

Frankish kings compared to the men of the Roman church(they're shaved, except on the second pic who have all beards).
http://i1.tinypic.com/skyura.jpghttp://i1.tinypic.com/skyuts.jpghttp://faculty.mville.edu/justing/images/GofT.jpg

Emperor Karl the Great
http://i1.tinypic.com/skyuzs.gifhttp://faculty.mville.edu/justing/images/charlemagne.jpg
http://membres.lycos.fr/g00ffrr5/histoireeven/hpimages/charlemagne%20aix4.JPG

And here is Barbarossa (aka Redbeard)
http://www.templaricavalieri.it/images/federico_I_barbarossa_trono.gif

J.B. Basset
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 06:20 PM
Every Christian king in Middle Ages wore a beard probably was a fashion as comparing to the Romanic paintings of "Pantocrator" where Christus is represented as King and God wearing a beard, I think it was just a fashion to distinguish from churmen and countrymen. Donīt forget fleas...;)

Rhydderch
Thursday, March 30th, 2006, 04:55 AM
Judging from my grandfathers and greatgrandfathers photographies, having beards was a very common german habit even in the early twenties century.Beards (often quite large) were particularly common in the 19th century among British people at least. Most (perhaps all) of my gggrandfathers had beards.

Nicola_Canadian
Thursday, March 30th, 2006, 07:29 AM
Beards (often quite large) were particularly common in the 19th century among British people at least. Most (perhaps all) of my gggrandfathers had beards.

Wow, that's interesting... I guess Russians also have some wrong stereotypes about western Europe... We tend to think that only Russians had beard while west europeans shaved them all... I am talking about the time since 17th century... Let me explain you why.

Russian Emperor Peter the Great spent quite a bit of time in western europe and decided to follow its traditions in many aspects... And one of the issues was a beard (as if no other problems ever existed)... Peter hated people with beard that much that he declared a TAX on Russian people who had beards... As funny as that!

However, can anybody comment on a way older times... Say Viking times... What is a more common look of a Viking -

1) totally shaved
2) just moustache
3) beard?

Thanks again!

Theudiskaz
Thursday, March 30th, 2006, 07:39 AM
I can't find any specific sources at the moment but viking men were usually bearded, but they were known to be well kempt. I remember reading somewhere about how the Anglo-Saxon men were envious of the success Viking men had in seducing their women because they were always grooming themselves.

Rhydderch
Thursday, March 30th, 2006, 10:29 AM
Russian Emperor Peter the Great spent quite a bit of time in western europe and decided to follow its traditions in many aspects... And one of the issues was a beard (as if no other problems ever existed)... Peter hated people with beard that much that he declared a TAX on Russian people who had beards... As funny as that!I've heard of this actually, yes; I think there is a picture of him cutting off the beard of a man who was not keen to be "Westernised"!. It's true though that beards were much more fashionable in the nineteenth century than the preceding one or two centuries.

As for Vikings, I'm under the impression that few if any were clean shaven. As far as I know, they tended to have the full beard, not just a moustache, although the latter were probably around.

Joermungand
Thursday, March 30th, 2006, 09:09 PM
Hermann(Arminius) , the german "Hero" who had battles with the romans and won an important Fight (Teutoburger Wald/Varusschlacht), is also Full bearded on his monument.



Face and Full size Pics of the Hermannsdenkmal.