View Full Version : History of the Frisian Folk

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005, 01:39 PM
Read here (http://www.boudicca.de/frisian1.htm)

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005, 02:06 PM
Good find, a comprehensive little site.

Frisian Language and Runes are very close to Anglo-Saxon, our close ingvaeonic kinship is summed up in the rhyme...

Bûter, brea en griene tsiis Is goed Ingelsk en goed Fries
Bread, butter and green cheese is good English and good Friese

Even after all this time the similarities are evident. I have also read tales of English Commandoes operating in the Frisian speaking part of German Occupied Holland in WW2, and finding that they had not much trouble at all understanding the locals.

I planned to make a big post about it awhile back (haven't gotten around to it yet) here is an email from a very learned chap I received in my researching an essay on it

Frisian is very close to Dutch, but on a lexical level the similarity with English stands apparent. As a consequence that the province was able to remain until the 1550s quite independent from Holland, the Frisian language hardly evolved nor absorbed foreign elements, but stayed true to the common West Germanic linguistic characteristics dating from the eight century, hence why it is called Oudfries = Old Frisian.

The Frisian language was severely treatened by Hollandish expansion. Mixed marriages and migration degraded the position and strenght of Frisian, in administration and schooling its presence was lacking, replaced by Dutch. Even a Frisian literature was made obsolete.
Time has changed, though, and it has made a comeback but in an altered state.
People talk a Stadsfries = Urban Frisian, adapted to the Hollandish norm, so it's more accessible for non-Frisians.

I hope these links will proof helpful in your research:










Thursday, August 2nd, 2007, 11:23 PM
The Frisian people are one of the eldest Germanic peoples. They existed even during the Roman times, they faced several attempts of assimilations, but they still survived as an unique ethnic group. Learn more about the history of the Frisian folk:

www.boudicca.de/frisian1.htm (http://www.boudicca.de/frisian1.htm)

www.boudicca.de/frisian2.htm (http://www.boudicca.de/frisian2.htm)

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008, 06:09 PM
History of the Frisian Folk

The origins of the Frisians lie in an area that roughly covers South Scandinavia, Denmark and the Weser/Oder region. In the period between 1750 and 700 B.C. they were still part of a larger group of peoples called the Germanics. This larger group was of the mainly of the Nordic race (dolichocranic). (Among the Nordics there also lived a -smaller- group of brachycranics whom probably had the position of slave).


Gold bracteate with runes (fozo gruoba), dating from 750 A.D. found in Hitsum (Fryslân).

After 1400 B.C. an expansion of the Germanics into southern Europe took place.

Around 800 B.C. the original Germanic group had split into a West-, East- (Goths and Vandals) and North Germanic group (Scandinavians). The differences can be traced in language and culture. At the end of the Bronze Age (700 B.C.) the expansion of the West Germanics had reached the coastal areas of northwest Germany (currently the province Hanover).

The West Germanics can be divided, along religious lines, into three tribegroups, the Inguaeones, Istuaeones and Irminones. The Frisians belong to the Inguaeones. The name Inguaevones is derived from the god Inguz; the Frisians believed they descended from him. Inguz is another name for the Germanic god Freyr. Other tribes belonging to the Inguaeones were, the Jutes, Warns, Angles, and the Saxons. Of these tribes the Saxons were closest in kin to the Frisians. All Inguaeones lived in the coastal areas along the North Sea. The Chaukians, also a tribe that lived along the North Sea, belong to the Irminones.

From north-west Germany, to be exact the coastal areas around the mouths of the rivers Eems and Weser, the Inguaeones colonized the coastal clay-districts of the current Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen (700 - 600 B.C.).

The Heathen period in Friesland (700 B.C. - 800 A.D.)

So between 700 and 600 B.C. the forefathers of the Frisians colonized the coastal clay-districts of the current Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen.

Fryslân in the 7th century B.C. (First settlers)


1. Clay: First Frisian settle in striped areas
2. Peat-moor/peat-bog: uninhabited
3. Sand: striped area is inhabited
4. Mud-flat: uninhabited
5. Peat formation locally: uninhabited (later known as West-Friesland)

* Current borders: dotted line

The largest group came from the Eems/Weser region. Later also people came from the higher sandy regions to the east of Friesland (currently called Drenthe).

Between 700 and 400 B.C. one can't speak of a separate Frisian group, since there is still one homogenic culture between Texel (Netherlands) and the Weser (Germany).
Between 400 and 200 B.C. significant cultural changes take place. From Leiden in the south to Delfzijl in the north a 'Proto-Frisian' culture was evolving. In 200 B.C. a distinctly Frisian culture can be found between the river Eems (Germany) and Wijk-bij-Duurstede (Netherlands). For the first time the Frisians are an ethnic entity!
To the north of the Eems lives a tribe called the Chaukians. An interesting fact is that the Chaukians belonged mainly to the Falian race (Dolichocranic with a broad face). The Frisians mainly to the Nordic race (Dolichocranic with narrow face). In the region currently known as the province of Groningen there was a melting together of both races.
There was also a small group of brachycranic people living among the Nordic Frisians, of a non-Germanic origin. They inhabited the Netherlands before the Germanic-invasion, and were probably of pre-Indogermanic origin.


Two centuries after the colonization of the clay-district the sea level stars to rise. To encounter the periodical flooding of their homesteads the Frisians built earth-mounds known as terps. There were several periodes of sealevel rising (they were accompanied by storm flooding), consequently there are several separate terpbuilding periodes that coincide with the periodes the sealevel rose.

There are three separate terpbuilding generations:
The first terp-generation dates from 500 B.C.; the second terp-generation dates from 200 B.C. till 50 B.C.; and the third terp-generation dates from 700 A.D..

In 250 A.D. the sealevel rising and the coinciding storm flooding was so dramatic that almost all of the Frisians left the clay district only to return in 400 A.D..

Contact with Romans

Julius Caesar conquered Celtic Galicia between 58 and 50 B.C. (these are the current countries France and Belgium). In doing so he moved the borders of the Roman Empire up to the river Rhine. At this point in history the Frisians still lived north of the Rhine, and thus fell outside the borders of the Roman Empire. Under Emperor Augustus (28 B.C. - 14 A.D.) the Romans wanted to make the river Elbe their most northerly border, instead of the Rhine. The consequences would be that the entire Frisian Folk would fall under the influence of the Romans. The Frisians chose to collaborate with the Romans. This happened when Drusus, and his army, arrived at the Rhine in 12 B.C. The Frisians and Drusus negotiated a truce by which the Frisians had to, regularly, pay taxes in the form of cowhides.

Under Emperor Tiberius the taxes became to high, and the Frisians could no longer comply with them. The result was that: first the Romans would take their cattle, after that their land and at last their women and children were taken to be sold in slavery. In 28 A.D. the Frisians rebelled, and hung the taxmen. To retaliate, the Romans sent their legions to punish and conquer Friesland. But the Roman army was slain in a battle at the Baduhennawood. The name of the Frisians was now a feared one in Rome.
There was no Roman reprisal, since Rome had its own internal problems. For the next 20 years Friesland was free.

In 47 A.D. the Frisians made another truce with the Romans. This time with Corbulo. An agreement was made in which their was a mutual understanding that the Rhine was to be the border that both parties had to respect. Friesland would fall under a Roman sphere of influence, but it would no longer be occupied.

In 58 A.D. Frisians colonized an uninhabited strip of land south of the Rhine, thereby breaking their agreement with Corbulo. Two Frisian leaders, Verritus and Malorix (these are Roman translations of their Frisian names), went to Rome to bid the Roman Emperor Nero if they could stay. Alas, the Frisians were violently extradited from the region below the Rhine.

In 69 A.D. the Batavians (a Germanic tribe situated in central Netherlands, and the southern neighbors of the Frisians) also rebel against the Roman occupiers. This region was the northwestern cornerstone of the Roman Empire. The Frisians and the Canninifats (also a Germanic neighbortribe of the Frisians in the west of the Netherlands) became the allies of the Batavians. Sadly the uprising fails. The Romans defeat the Batavians.
The Rhine remains the Roman border until the collapse of the Roman Empire in 410 A.D..

Around 250 A.D. almost all Frisians disappear from the Frisian coastal-clay districts. The rising of the sealevel makes it impossible to live in the coastal areas of Friesland for the next 150 years (250 - 400 A.D.). In this period a fraction of the Frisians and the Chaukians (a Germanic tribe neighboring north of Friesland) form a new tribal alliance called the Franks. This is the tribe that will emigrate south and form the Frankish Empire (currently known as France).

After 400 A.D. the rising of the sealevel halted. Frisian people and their nobility returned to the Frisian clay-district which, by then, had already been colonized by peoples from the Elbe and Sleeswick/Holstein region. These tribes assimilated and continued as the Frisian tribe we know today.

In 300 A.D. other smaller West Germanics tribes had also formed larger tribal-groups known as: Allemandes, Saxons, Thuringers, and Bayerns. The Chaukian tribe disappears altogether. It has assimilated in the Frisian- and Saxon-tribe.

Migration Period (350 - 550 A.D.)

For two centuries (350 - 550 A.D.) the tide of the Migration of Nations sweeps over Europe. Germanic tribes migrate all over Western Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Thereby forming new tribes in the newly conquered areas, and for the first time large organized Germanic states. In Europe the major Germanic states were the Jutish, Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, Burgondish, West-Gothic, East-Gothic, Vandal and Frisian.

Around 450 A.D. Angles, Saxons, Jutes and a Frisian fraction cross the North Sea and establish the Anglo-Saxon empire (currently known as England). The Frisians colonized the county of Kent in southeast England.

Around 480 A.D. Clovis establishes the Frankish Empire (currently known as France). As said before the Frankish tribe originated from the Chaukans and Frisians.

Around 400 A.D. the Frisians started establishing their Frisian Empire. In 500 and especially 600 A.D. there was a fast expansion and a strong increase in trade. At its peak, in the 7th century, this empire consisted of the coastal areas from north Belgium to southern Denmark. And it controlled a large part of the North Sea traderoutes from Friesland to England, France, Scandinavia and northwest Russia.
The Migration Period seems to have had only a slight change in racial characteristics.


In the sixth century the written sources begin to speak again about the Frisians. A 'Great-Friesland' (Magna Frisia) has been created. This historical Great-Friesland consisted of a long narrow strip of land along the North Sea, from the Swin (Belgium) in the south, to the Weser (Germany) in the north. This historic Frisian empire lasted from 500 A.D. to 719 A.D. It neighbored to the Saxons in the north and east, the Franks in the south and the Anglo-Saxons in the west across the North Sea.

Frisian expansion under Heathen kings (400 A.D.-719 A.D.)

Very little is known about this period in history. There are no historical documents of Frisian origin, and a few documents of Frankish and Anglo-Saxon origin. The Frankish writings do not always present a historically just picture of the Frisians. Ever since the Frankish convertian to Christianity under Clovis (496 A.D.) the Frisians had become their major antagonists, as a result the Frankish texts had become colored for political and religious reasons.
Clovis converted to Catholicism for power-political reasons. The Gallo-Roman aristocracy in France and the church in Rome, whose support Clovis needed during his empire-building period, were both Catholic. Other Germanic tribes in the former hemisphere of the Roman Empire (Goths and Vandals) had converted to a form of Christianity more suitable to the Germanic soul, called Arianisme.
The Germanic tribes in the north, including the Frisians, were still practicing the religious believes of there forefathers, currently known as Odinism or Asatru. In this article the term 'Heathen' will be used.
In becoming Catholic the Franks automatically became the greatest antagonists of the Frisians.

Around 500 A.D. Clovis had formed his Frankish Empire, which was to be the heir of the Roman Empire with blessings of the pope in Rome. The most northerly border of this empire was formed by the cities Utrecht and Dorestad, neighboring to the Frisians.
After the death of Clovis in 511 A.D. the Frisians took advantage of the internal Frankish power struggle and captured Utrecht and Dorestad. Both cities would stay Frisian for over a hundred years (511 - 628 A.D.). The capture of these cities was of very great interest to the Frisians, since they were the gateways of trade from the Saxon and Frankish hinterlands to the North Sea. In the sixth and the seventh century the Frisians were the major traders on the North Sea. The North Sea was even called 'Mare Frisicum' during this period.
From a religious point of view the Frisian heatenisme was no longer under threat of Frankish Christianity since there was no sally port (Utrecht).

In the year 628 A.D. the Frankish/Christian king Dagobert defeats a combined force of Saxons an Frisians (both Saxons and Frisians were Heathen). By doing so the city of Utrecht fell to the Franks. Dagobert erected a church in Utrecht and ordered a bishop to start converting the Frisians. Christianity had become a tool in the hands of the Franks to destroy the Frisian independence north of the Rhine.

King Finn Folcwalding (lived somewhere in the beginning of the 6th century)
King Finn may have been a Frisian king in the sixth century. He is only named in Anglo-Saxons epics (Widsith, Beowulf and Finnsburg-fragment) which have been written some 50 to 100 years later.

King Eadgils ( ? - 677 A.D.) King Eadgils is the first Frisian king known by name. Two Christian scribes, Beda and Eddius, name him in their works. Under the rule of Eadgils the Frisians and the Franks live in peace with one and other. There are two reasons for this: The Franks were still in internal division, as to whom was to be the heir of the Frankish empire Clovis built, and Eadgils let bishop Wilfried (a pawn of Rome and the Franks) preach Christianity freely in the Frisian regions. This peaceful time was to change drastically ten years later, when the Redbad had become king of Friesland and Pippin leader of the Franks.

King Redbad (679 - 719 A.D.) The heathen king Redbad is the greatest folk hero of the Frisians. He is the defender of the Frisian freedom against the invading Frankish armies and against the Church of Rome. Redbad was a devout heathen. So when the Franks were internally divided as whom was to rule, he attacked the Franks, conquered Utrecht and distroyed the church. Christianity was then forcefully removed from the Frisian empire.
In 689 A.D. Pepin II leads the Frankish conquest in the Frisian lands and he takes Dorestad. Between 690 and 692 A.D. Utrecht also falls into the hands of Pepin. Thereby controlling the important gateways of trade from the Frankish hinterland to the North Sea via the river Rhine.
In 714 A.D. Pepin dies. Redbad takes advantage of this and he beats the Frankish armies under Charles Martel in 716 A.D. at Cologne, thereby winning back the Frisian Empire. King Redbad dies in 719, leaving behind a Great and Heaten Friesland.


King Poppa (Hrodbad) (719 - 734) Fifteen years after Redbad's death Charles Martel reached the peak of his power and he saw the opportunity to deal with Friesland. In 734 A.D. he sent his forces to Friesland. In the heart of the Frisian land, on the river Boorne ('Middelsea'), the decisive battle was waged, with Poppo (in full Hrodbad) at the head of the Frisian land- and sea-forces. Poppo was the son of Redbad, but not as successful as his father. He was killed in battle, and the Frisian forces (in disarray) were slain. Friesland, uptill the Lauwers, was incorporated in the Frankish Empire. It lost its freedom and the church got a foothold.
The son of Poppa, Abba (in full Alfbad), became the first Frisian count under Frankish rule (749 - 775 A.D.).

East-Friesland (east of the Lauwers) was conquered 50 years later. The East-Frisians had bonded with their Heathen neighbors the Saxons. Martel's son, Pepin the Short, was unable to defeat this coalition. Only under the leadership of Martel's grandson, Charlemagne (Charles the Great), is the Saxo-Frisian alliance defeated in 785 A.D.. The legendary Widukind led this Saxo-Frisian heathen alliance.

During the eight century the Frisian language is born. This birth can be traced by sound changes in the language. Thereby setting the Frisian language apart from other Inguaeonish languages.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008, 06:11 PM
The Frankish-period (785 A.D.- 925 A.D.)

ûleboerd (decoration on barntops)

Charlemagne ruled his Frankish Empire in a strong centralized manner. Frisians had to serve in his armies. They served under the Franks in the war against the Wilts (789 A.D.) and against the Avars (791 A.D.). When in 800 A.D. the first Scandinavian Viking attacks upon Friesland under Carolinian rule start, the Frisians are discharged from military service abroad. Instead they are left to organize their defenses against the Heathen Vikings.
After Charlemagne defeated the Saxons in 785 A.D., the Frankish Empire bordered in the north to the Danish Empire.

The Danes were very well aware of the terrible atrocities Charlemagne, in name of the Church, had inflicted on their Heathen kinfolk the Frisians and the Saxons. The Danish/Viking raids on Charlemagne's empire and on the wealthy churches and monasteries in it, can be seen as a heathen reprisal.

Next to the Franco/Christian invaders, another enemy of the Frisians reared its ugly head. In the Christmas of 838 A.D. an enormous stormflood flooded nearly all of Friesland, drowning lots of people and livestock.

Friesland county of Frankish Empire (749 - 840 A.D.)

After Charlemagne victory in 785 A.D. the entire Frisian Empire became a county of the Frankish Empire. As seen before the grandson of the legendary Redbad, Abba, became the first Frisian count under Frankish rule (749 - 775 A.D.) over Friesland west of the Lauwers. The two main duties of a count were: to maintain the rule of law, and to organize the conscripts for the Frankish armies. From 734 until 1100 A.D. Frankish Emperors (and after them German Kings) have been represented by counts. These counts were feudal tenants. Very little is known about these counts. East-, West- and Middle Friesland have probably each had their own count.

The counts of Friesland we know by name:

754 count Abba (Boppa) is leader of the building of the Bonifatius Church in Dokkum
791 count Diderik (Durk) leads the Frisians in the Frankish struggle against the Avars
839 count Gerlof sides with the rebellious son of the Frank Louis the Pious
873 count Albdag defeats Vikings (Rudolf) in Westergo
885 count Gerlof and count Gerdolf are present at the murder of Godfried the NorwegianCount Gerlof is the father of Diderik I, the count of Holland, and of count Waltger in Teisterbant. The sons of count Waltger are named "Redbad" and "Poppo".
These names highlight the fact that the counts in Friesland are Redbadings (kindred of Redbad).

The counts of Middle Friesland:

966 count Egbert of the Brunoanen dynasty; which by marriage and inheritance get Middle Friesland
1038 count Liudolf of the Brunswik dynasty dies
1038-1057 Bruno count of Middle Friesland
1057-1068 Egbert I count of Middle Friesland
1068-1088 Egbert II count of Middle Friesland
The counts of West Friesland:
885 count Gerlof
922 count Diderik I (Durk I); for the first time this dynasty is called "House of Holland" count Diderik II (Durk II)
993 count Arnulf dies in battle with West Frisians, count Durk III beats the army of emperor Hendrik II
1049 count Durk IV is killed
1049-1061 count Floris I is killed
1076 count Durk V; County Holland is born (also trough Flemish influences), and Count Durk V and his County Holland become the antagonists of West- and Middle Friesland.
In East Friesland there is nearly no trace of counts.

Frankish Christianity (688 - 734/785 A.D.)

The convertian of Heathens to Christianity could only be realized in areas that were under Frankish rule.
West Lauwers Friesland became a Frankish county in 734 A.D. The entire Frisian Empire came under Frankish rule in 785 A.D.

The Christianization of Friesland started in 688 A.D. when Wigbert preached in Friesland and was completed in 800 A.D. when Friesland was firmly in the grip of Frankish ruler Charlemange.
In 800 A.D. the Friesians "seem" to be converted. But only the ruling elite (the counts and other Frankish vassals) has become Catholic. Large portions of the population are still heathen, and will remain for a long time.
But the voices of the Frisian Heathen priests and Frisian skalds of the epic poems (in the likes of Beowulf) are silenced. Thereby the chain of the oral tradition that connects the Frisians with their heathen past is broken, and Christianity -in the end- wins.

Some (tragic) dates:
688 A.D. Wigbert preaches in Friesland
690 - 754 Willibrord and Bonifatius preach
770-789 Willehad preaches
775 Liudger (a Frisian) preaches
800 A.D. Friesland has Christian social structures (diocese in Urecht) but ……, the larger part of the population remains heathen.Highlights in Heathen terms are:

in 714-719 A.D. when Willibrord flees Utrecht after Redbad conquers the city;
in when 754 A.D. Bonifatius is killed in Dokkum;
in 782 A.D. when Liudger flees for Saxo-Frisian uprising under Widukind.In 793 A.D. Liudger meets the only Frisian skald known by name "Bernlef". Bernlef sang epic songs of the Frisian Heroic Age (like Beowulf).

Viking raids and Danish rule (800 - 1014 A.D.)

In 807 A.D. a war starts between Charlemagne and the Danish king Godfried. Godfried raids Friesland with a fleet of 200 ships, mocking the Frankish defenses. Shortly after Godfried dies (810 A.D.). After Godfrieds death, the Danish raids concentrate mostly on the British Isles and less upon Friesland.

After the death of the Frankish emperor Lewis the Pious in 840 A.D., the Carolinian defense of Friesland had collapsed. Since there was no Frisian King to organize a defensive force, the Danish raids on this Carolinian outpost intensified. And in the rest of the 9th century the Frisians frequently lived under Danish rule and had to pay taxes to the Danish feudal-tenants.
The Danes forced the weakened Carolinian Kings to give them Friesland as a feudal estate.
Feudal tenants in Friesland were:

Harald (840 - 844 A.D.)
Rorik and Godfried (844 - 857 A.D.)
Rorik (a Christian) (862 -872 A.D.)
Godfried (881 - 885 A.D.)In 885 the last Scandinavian ruler of Friesland, Godfried the Norwegian, is murdered and the ruling Danes are evicted from Friesland by the Frisians. The great tidal waves of Heathenistic Viking raids (sometimes accompanied with occupation) in Friesland, had come to an end. Smaller raids still took place until 1014 A.D. when the Christian Knut the Great became king of Denmark, Norway and England.

The German-period (925 A.D. - 1498 A.D.)

In 843 A.D. Lotharius II became ruler of Friesland. In 925 A.D. most of the Lotharingian rulers accepted Henry I of Germany as king. Friesland became part of the "Heilige römische Reich deutscher Nation". The executive power was, until 1217 A.D., in hands of feudal tenants (counts).

After 1217 A.D. Middle-Friesland did not have a count, no feudal tenant, almost no knights, no slaves and a few cities. They were a people of farmers, fishermen and bargemen.
Since there was no overruling authority, everywhere indigenous administrative organs developed. It was a booming period; agriculture and trade flourished and raised it prosperity. Frisian cities joined the "Hanze" (West-European trade alliance). But already dark clouds were drifting over, which would eventually (1498 A.D.) end the Frisian Freedom.

Dyke Building (starts ± 1000 A.D.)

After the terpbuilding, which was in fact a defensive measure against the sealevel rising, the Frisians went on the offensive and started taking land out of the reach of the sea by dikebuilding. Around 1000 A.D. larger parts of land were surrounded by dykes. This happened in Friesland on both sides of the Lauwers.

Between 1000 and 1100 A.D. large parts of Friesland were protected by dykes, and there were extensive regulations concerning maintenance of dykes and wateringsluices.
These first dykes had a height of 1,50 meters above fieldlevel. Behind the dyke there were roads with a width of approximately 4 meters, so that in case of an emergency two wagons could pass one-and-other. In terms of total earth movement necessary for the dyke building one can speak of a worldwonder.
These large dykebuilding projects were first organized by so called 'skeltas'. In the 13th century the dykes became the responsibility of 'grietmannen' and 'asegas'.

Despite the dyke building there were frequently stormfloods that broke the dykes and flooded Frisianlands with all the tragic consequences.

Opstalboom (± 1000 - 1327 A.D.)

To the southwest of Aurich in East-Friesland, on a burialmound dating from the Bronze Age, lies a place called the Opstalboom (Opstalsboom; Upstallboom; Upstalesbame (Old Frisian)). In the 11th, 12th and 13th an alliance called the "Opstalboom" gathered on the burialmound. The alliance consisted of representatives of the 7 Frisian "Zeelanden" (lands by the sea). These representatives gathered once a year (on the Tuesday after Whit Sunday) and they drew up rules of law and. The alliance also joined forces if one of the individual of the 7 members was attacked.

Struggle against the Dutch counts (993 - 26 September 1345 A.D. ("Slag bij Warns"))

The end of the West-Frisian freedom .

After the period of the Scandinavian/Viking rule, the counts of the "House of Holland" become the ruling elite in the lands along the North Sea south of West-Friesland. These counts of the house of Holland were of Frisian origin. But after the birth of the province Holland in 1075 A.D. the Frankish influences dominated the Frisian. At this time a deep rift developed between the Frisians in West-Friesland and the counts of Holland. Several attempts were made by these counts to forcefully submit the West-Frisians.
Count Arnulf: undertakes a military expedition; he gets killed in 993 A.D.
Count Willem II:attacks West-Friesland in the winter of 1256 A.D., he falls through the ice while on horseback and is beaten to death by Frisians.

Floris V, son of Willem II, is bent on revenging his father's death and attacks and defeats West-Friesland. Around 1200 Frisians die in battle. The de-Friezing of West-Friesland starts.
After the death of Floris V the West-Frisians arise again against Jan I. His successor, Jan II, defeated the West-Frisian uprising, killing 3000 Frisians. Middle-Friesland set troops to abide the West-Frisians, but they came to late. West-Friesians lost their freedom, and in the coming centuries also the Frisian language (their mother tongue)

Battle of Warns

After the defeat of West-Friesland, the counts of Holland set their eye on Middle-Friesland.
In 1345 A.D. count Willem IV sets out on a military expedition to conquer Middle-Friesland. With a large fleet and with the help of French and Flemish knights he sailed over the "Zuiderzee". The approach of the aggressor united the Frisian fractions (the Upstallboom played a role in this unification). On 26 September 1345 A.D. Friesland had its finest hour. Willem IV and the cream of the Hollandish, Flemish and French knights were in the forefront of their army, and near Warns they were surrounded by Frisian landfolk and beaten to death. In disarray the rest of the army fled, leaving the body of Willem IV behind.
The 26 of September became an annual festive day in Middle-Friesland.

Schieringers en Vetkopers (1217 - 1489 A.D.)

In 1392 we first hear of the "Schieringers" and the "Vetkopers". These two infamous names indicate the end of the Frisian freedom. It came from the Frisian heart itself. The Schieringers and the Vetkopers were two rivaling parties of Frisian origin. They led Friesland into a civil war. Village fought against village, stins against stins and son against father.

It was Friesland darkest hour, and it started in 1217 A.D.. At this time the rule of Charlemagnian counts in Middle Friesland ends. This results in the lack of one overruling authority eventually resulting in a severe weakening of law and order. The power of the civil service no longer came from above, but out of the community itself. The result of this was that the Grietman (judge) did not have anybody of authority to support him in his actions against disobedient people. In the 14th century this resulted in the partisanship of the Schieringers and Vetkopers.
The Frisians remained in this stalemate because of a character trait; there strong individuality. Their personal freedom was more valuable than the freedom of the people as a whole.

In 1489 A.D. the aid of a foreign authority, Albrecht of Saxony, was accepted to end the catastrophic partisanship. Thus ending the Frisian freedom!

End of the Frisian freedom (1498 A.D.)

Albrecht of Saxony, on request of the Schieringers, created a centralist authority and installing Saxon civil servants. Law and order returned to Middle-Friesland, but culturally Middle-Friesland impoverishes. The language of civil service is German, which results in the de-Friesing of most cities. The de-Friesing was also hastened because after reformation in the 16th century the Bible and the preaching in churches was in Low German language only.



Wednesday, July 9th, 2008, 09:36 PM
There was a program on the history of the isles which stated ( i can't remember full details) that Frisian fisherman from the nederlands fishing off the southeast coast of England used to dock their ships and just walk into a pub for a afternoon lunch and continue talking as normal, and people would understand and be able to chat.

I don't know if this is still true today, but i remember it was up till like 100 years ago i think. Dutch women rule!

Also i remember reading somewhere that sometime in the not so distant past, maybe during old english 1000 years ago before the norman invasion, that scandinavian tribes who came across could have mutually intelligent conversations with englishmen.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008, 11:20 PM
There was a program on the history of the isles which stated ( i can't remember full details) that Frisian fisherman from the nederlands fishing off the southeast coast of England used to dock their ships and just walk into a pub for a afternoon lunch and continue talking as normal, and people would understand and be able to chat.

Would that be the "faces of Britain" T.V series?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008, 12:33 AM
In island of Suðuroy in the Faroes, they often refer to 'Frísarnir í Akrabergi'. Akraberg is the southernmost settled area on Suðuroy. According to 'legend', this place was inhabited by Frisians, but I know of no written or archæological sources (though not said that they don't exist).

Angelcynn Beorn
Thursday, July 24th, 2008, 11:29 PM
There was a program on the history of the isles which stated ( i can't remember full details) that Frisian fisherman from the nederlands fishing off the southeast coast of England used to dock their ships and just walk into a pub for a afternoon lunch and continue talking as normal, and people would understand and be able to chat.

I don't know if this is still true today, but i remember it was up till like 100 years ago i think. Dutch women rule!

I can imagine it being true in the past, but the languages aren't really that mutually intelligible any more. Hundreds of years being under Dutch rule has influenced Frisian away from English and more towards standard Dutch today than it was historically.

Also i remember reading somewhere that sometime in the not so distant past, maybe during old english 1000 years ago before the norman invasion, that scandinavian tribes who came across could have mutually intelligent conversations with englishmen.

Yes that bit is true, Old English, Frisian, and Old Norse would all have been mutually understandable back then, although there may have been some difficulty. It's the same with Danish and Swedish now, they can sort of understand each other if they speak slowly and listen hard, but it doesn't really flow very well unless they have a lot of experience with the other language.

Friday, July 17th, 2009, 03:19 PM
Stadsfries (city frisian) is more a Dutch dialect, but the Frisian language is still very similar to English. And because Frisian is a much older language, you could say that English originated from the Frisian, or a common Ingwine language.

BTW i noticed that old anglo-saxon is relatively similar to the Dutch language.

Before the nation states came to being there was a kind of grandient of dialect, so probably if you moved slow anouth, you could learn the change in dialect while traveling.

Friday, July 17th, 2009, 07:22 PM
BTW i noticed that old anglo-saxon is relatively similar to the Dutch language.

The book I'm reading right now often gives referencies in those old languages (old norse, anglo-saxon, etc), and I noticed that Anglo-Saxon is almost the same like today's Danish. The (only few) Frisian referencies are very similar to that.
However, I have much less problems to read Danish than Dutch, although it works to a certain degree.

What an interesting article. I didnt know all that, and since my (maternal) family stems from Friesland originally it was like reading my own history.

Friday, July 17th, 2009, 07:46 PM

The West Germanics can be divided, along religious lines, into three tribegroups, the Inguaeones, Istuaeones and Irminones. The Frisians belong to the Inguaeones. The name Inguaevones is derived from the god Inguz; the Frisians believed they descended from him. Inguz is another name for the Germanic god Freyr. Other tribes belonging to the Inguaeones were, the Jutes, Warns, Angles, and the Saxons. Of these tribes the Saxons were closest in kin to the Frisians. All Inguaeones lived in the coastal areas along the North Sea. The Chaukians, also a tribe that lived along the North Sea, belong to the Irminones.

I know its off topic but... Its known that the frisians belonged to the inguaeones but does anyone know who the suebi belong to?

Friday, July 17th, 2009, 08:09 PM
velvet: Probably dutch has some more French influence, making it more alien to you. Probably the local dialects are as easy/difficult as understanding Danish to you.

oski: the Suebi probably mainly belonged to the Herminones (Elbe Germanics).

About the Frisians: it seems the Frisii encountered by the Romans where of other descent than the later Frisians. After times of floodings the Frisii moved away (maybe to Jutland). Maybe a new group repopulated Frisia, or a group of which the Frisii were a smaller part. But the skulls are more round, like the Saxon skulls.

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009, 12:35 AM
Pliny the Elder had this to say about the inhabitants of the Frisian Islands:

... what is nature and characterisations of living by people who live without trees or shrubs. We have indeed said that in the east, to the coasts of the ocean, a number of races in such needy conditions exist; but this also applies to the races of peoples which are called the large and small Ghaucen, which we have seen in the north. There, two times in each period of a day and a night, the ocean with a fast tide submerges an immense plain, thereby the hiding the secular fight of the Nature whether the area is sea or land. There this miserable race inhabits raised pieces ground or platforms, which they have moored by hand above the level of the highest known tide. Living in huts built on the chosen spots, they seem like sailors in ships if water covers the surrounding country, but like shipwrecked people when the tide has withdrawn itself, and around their huts they catch fish which tries to escape with the expiring tide. It is for them not possible to keep herds and live on milk such as the surrounding tribes, they cannot even fight with wild animals, because all the bush country lies too far away. They braid ropes of zegge and biezen from the marshes with which they make nets to be able to catch fish, and they dig up mud with their hands and dry it more in wind than in the sun, and with soil as fuel they heat their food and their own bodies, frozen in northern wind. Their only drink comes from storing rain water in tanks front of their houses. And these are the races which, if they were now conquered by the Roman nation, say that they will fall into slavery! It is only too true: Destiny saves people as a punishment.


A list of 10th century Frisian names:
http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/names/frisianmasc.html (http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/names/frisianmasc.html)

Pagan Frisia:

Frisian law poem:

Friday, March 25th, 2016, 07:00 PM
Battle of Finnsburg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Battle of Finnburg)

This article is about the battle. For the Anglo-Saxon poem, see Finnesburg Fragment.

Battle of Finnsburg

Part of the legends of the Germanic heroic age

The Frisian lands, and neighbouring kingdoms, in the 5th century, showing an approximate territorial boundary within which the battle took place
Date c. 450 AD

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/53/Britain.Anglo.Saxon.homelands.settlement s.400.500.jpg/250px-Britain.Anglo.Saxon.homelands.settlement s.400.500.jpg

short summary:

Location Finnsburg, Frisia[1]
Result Short lived peace treaty, followed by Danish victory
Frisians, and possibly Jutes Danish Hocings, with others such as a Secgan lord
Commanders and leaders
King Finn † of Frisia Prince Hnæf † of the Danish Hocings; Hengest
Unknown 60 men
Casualties and losses
Heavy losses in both phases Unknown, at least one death in phase one

The Battle of Finnsburg (or Finnsburh) was a conflict in the Germanic heroic age between Frisians with a possible Jutish contingent, and a primarily Danish party. Described only in later Anglo-Saxon poetry, if the conflict had an historical basis it most likely occurred around 450 AD.[2]

In the story, the young prince Hnæf, described as a Hocing, Half-Dane, and Scylding, was staying as an invited guest of the Frisian king Finn. For reasons unknown, a battle broke out between the two parties, probably started by the Frisian side,[3] and Hnæf was killed. Hnæf's retainer Hengest took command, and the sides engaged in a peace treaty; but Hengest and the Danes later avenged Hnæf's death and slaughtered the Frisians.

The primary descriptive sources of the events are the fragmentary Finnsburg Fragment, and an allusive section of Beowulf. Since the battle is well represented amongst such a small corpus of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry,[4] it was probably significant and once widely known. Due to the fragmentary and allusive condition of the sources, however, the story is difficult to reconstruct.


1 Sources
1.1 Finnsburg Fragment
1.2 Episode in Beowulf
1.3 Other sources
2 Background
3 Battle phases
3.1 Phase One: The siege battle
3.2 Interim: Swearing of oaths
3.3 Phase Two: The Frisian slaughter
4 Eotena
4.1 Jutes or giants?
4.2 Arguments for giants
4.3 Good faith
5 See also
6 Notes and references
7 Bibliography
8 External links

Finnsburg Fragment
Main article: Finnsburg Fragment

In 1705 a fragment of Anglo-Saxon epic poetry discovered in Lambeth Palace by George Hickes was published. Because of the fragmentary state of the manuscript, the action starts in medias res. It describes a young prince called Hnæf spurring his 60 men into battle, besieged inside a great hall. Some of his men are then named and their actions in battle followed. Two characters from the attacking force are also named, and one of these dies along with others in his force.

The killed attacker is said to be of the Frisian Islands, hinting at a location for the battle, and the specific location is identified as Finnsburg. The action closes with prince Hnæf and his men having been besieged for five days of battle, without any fatalities on their side. The Finnsburg Fragment is short, at around 50 lines long, and almost entirely lacking in internal context. Most of the context must instead be derived from the parallel episode in Beowulf, which describes events that take place mainly after the action narrated in the Finnsburg Fragment.[5]


Episode in Beowulf
Wealhþeow, who "came forth / in her golden crown" after the Beowulf scop was finished narrating the Finnsburg story in Beowulf.[6]

Beowulf as a poem primarily follows the exploits of its eponymous hero. After one of Beowulf's victories, a scop or court-poet narrates an old tale to the assembled guests. This tale narrates the events that follow after the story found in the Finnsburg Fragment.[5] The Beowulf poet, however, makes his scop give the account in an extremely compact and allusive way. The audience of the poem were probably expected to already know about the episode in some detail. Because of this, summarising the scenario described in Beowulf will necessarily involve an element of either fragmentation or interpretative reconstruction.

The scop's story of the Freswæle (English: Frisian slaughter) begins with Hildeburh, daughter of Hoc, lamenting the loss of her son and brother.[7] Both factions involved in the battle are said to have suffered heavy losses, but especially the þegnas (English: thanes or barons) of Finn. Because of this, Finn enters into a peace treaty with the besieged party led now by Hengest.[8] Finn was to honour the Danes with feasts and gifts of treasure.[9]

Hnæf and his unnamed nephew, said also to be Hildeburh's son, are placed on a funeral pyre. After this most of the Danish warriors leave, but Hengest and probably some of the Danes stay throughout winter. Eventually a figure referred to as the son of Hunlaf places a sword on Hengest's lap to remind him of his loyalties. Other Danes also return, and probably together they wreak havoc on the Frisians and slay king Finn. The Danes take the unnamed Frisian queen back to what appear to be her own people in Denmark,[10] identifying the Frisian queen as probably Danish.
Other sources

The Anglo-Saxon poem fragment Widsith mentions a Finn who is referred to by the patronymic Folcwalding,[11] probably explaining the patronymic allusion in Beowulf to "Folcwald's son" as a reference to Finn.[12] Widsith also mentions a Hnæf who is said to have ruled the Hocings.[13] Since Hildeburh is said in Beowulf to be the daughter of Hoc and the sister of Hnæf, and since Widsith mentions a Hnæf ruling the people of Hoc, it seems clear that Widsith refers to the same Hnæf of the Battle of Finnsburg. It also mentions a Sæferð or Sasferth who can be identified with one of Hnæf's men, Sigeferth.

The only other source to perhaps allude to the battle is the Skáldskaparmál, where Snorri Sturluson mentions a coat of mail called Finnsleif (English: Finn's legacy).[14] The names of some of the characters in the Battle of Finnsburg are mentioned in other sources, usually in genealogies such as the reference to Folcwald and Finn in the Historia Brittonum. Hengest is mentioned in several works, but his identity and exploits are unclear. One argument, still supported by some recent scholars, is that he is the same figure as the Anglo-Saxon founder of the Kingdom of Kent.

See also: Hildeburh

Since the unnamed Frisian queen in Beowulf is probably said to be of the Danish people, it seems very likely that Hildeburh is this Frisian queen. This means that Hnæf was probably staying as an invited guest of Finn at his home, Finnsburg (English: fortified stronghold of Finn), in Frisia, with Hildeburh connecting the two factions together:

She was clearly a Danish (or at least 'half-Danish') princess, who had married Finn, prince of the Frisians, doubtless a political move to secure peace between Danes and Frisians. Hildeburh had a brother, Hnæf, who apparently went to Finn with his Danish retinue in friendship.

Though the identification of Hnæf and Finn being brothers-in-law makes the situation much clearer, it shifts the emphasis of explanation onto the reason behind the subsequent battle. The battle may reflect a reoccurrence of the tensions which Hildeburh's marriage may have been a diplomatic move to quell. If the identification between the characters holds, moreover, then the son of Hildeburh and nephew of Hnæf who dies in the battle is probably therefore the son of Finn; he may even have been heir to the Frisian kingdom. In this respect it is especially notable that Hildeburh's son is laid on Hnæf's pyre.[17] Tolkien suggested that Hildeburh's son was raised by Hnæf, and was being brought back to Finn at his coming of age; even that Hildeburh's son was one of the party besieged with Hnæf inside the great hall. Such a theory would add an extra layer of complexity, of a feeling of possible responsibility for filicide, to the already complicated psychological motivations of Finn.

Battle phases

Phase One: The siege battle
“ But awake now, my warriors!
take up your shields, think of valor
fight in the vanguard, and be resolute! ”
— Liuzza (2000), Hnæf, Finnsburg Fragment, p.163

The siege is described primarily in the Finnsburg Fragment. Hnæf rouses his troops with a short but powerful speech. Two of his men, Sigeferth and Eaha go to one door (Door A), and another two of his men Ordlaf and Guthlaf go to another door (Door B) of the great hall in which they were trapped at Finnsburg. In Beowulf the pair "Guthlaf and Oslaf" are mentioned returning later to their home, so that Oslaf in Beowulf is probably to be identified with Ordlaf from the Finnsburg Fragment. Hengest follows Ordlaf/Oslaf and Guthlaf to Door B.

Outside the great hall, Guthere is planning to launch the first attack. Garulf counsels him not to do so, saying that Guthere's life is too valuable. Guthere proceeds anyway, and asks who holds that door. Sigeferth replies to Guthere's taunt from within, showing that the attack is being mounted at Door A. Sigeferth is said to be a lord of the Secgena; in Widsith a Sæferð or Sasferth is said to be lord of the Sycges or Secgan, apparently referring to the same character. The two sides fight at that door, and Garulf, the counsellor, and many of the attackers die. It is not clear what happens to Guthere whom he counselled. Garulf the counsellor is said to be Guthlaf's son; it is not clear whether or not this is the same Guthlaf who holds the door as a defender at Door B.

The battle continues for five days, and none of the besieged defenders of Hnæf and his men are killed. Then one of the defenders is wounded, and Hnæf asks the unnamed wounded defender how the other men are coping. There the Finnsburg Fragment ends. The narrative continues in Beowulf after the battle has ended; immediately Hnæf and his nephew are said to have been slain. On the attackers' side, the Beowulf scop says that "all of the thanes of Finn, except a few" were slain.[18] Hengest is now the commander of the defenders.

Interim: Swearing of oaths
“ They swore their pledges then on either side,
a firm compact of peace. With unfeigned zeal
Finn swore his oaths to Hengest ”
— Liuzza (2000), Beowulf, p.87

Since Finn had lost most of his thanes, he was unable to fight Hengest, and the Beowulf poet says that for this reason they drew up a peace treaty. Nicola Zocco clarifies that the "Frisians offer to come to terms with the Danes because they need to resolve the situation in a bloodless way, given that they cannot afford a military victory."[8] This gives the motivation for the attackers to enter into a peace bargain, but not for the motivation of the defenders. Perhaps the toll on them would also have been too large, that Hengest and his men would not have been able to break the deadlock of the siege. The peace treaty must have been reasonable to both commanders as the best way out of the stalemate.

The fact that the two sides did not fight to the death may indicate that Finn felt some remorse for the rules of hospitality having been broken against his brother-in-law Hnæf and his men. Seiichi Suzuki points out that the Beowulf poet implies twice that Finn was to blame and was blamed.[19] Still, Finn may not have been a primary belligerent, only responsible in the capacity of a figurehead; and the picture is made more complex by the role of the eotena (see below). The Beowulf poet seems to allude to Finn's sincerity about the peace treaty when he says that Finn swore oaths to Hengest "with unfeigned zeal".[20]

Not only were the peace terms probably offered by the Frisians to the Danes, but the Frisians were very submissive in the deal. Though under the treaty the Danes are not to complain about the death of Hnæf, Finn more extremely swears that any Frisian who provokes further violence would be, in the language of the poet, settled with the edge of the sword.[21] The defenders are also to be given half of a new building,[22] which, confusingly they are to share with Finn and the eotena sons (see below),[23] and also to be given feasts and treasure by Finn. The concessions by Finn may reflect his remorse at the events, or it may have been seen as a suitable weregild for the defenders not avenging the killing of Hnæf. The Beowulf poet describes how Finn stuck to his oath by giving treasure.

Meanwhile, Hnæf and his nephew are placed on the funeral pyre and Hildeburh laments. Later most of the warriors go home, "to seek their native lands, / bereft of friends, to behold Frisia, / their homes and high fortresses."[24] Hengest, and some retainers, stayed however with Finn over the winter; it is not clear why they do so. Donald K. Fry contends that Hengest stayed "by his own choice, by his own design."[25]

Phase Two: The Frisian slaughter
“ So he did not refuse the world's custom
when the son of Hunlaf placed a glinting sword,
the best of battle-flames, upon his lap ”
— Liuzza (2000), Beowulf, p.88

Eventually a man described as the son of Hunlaf, but given no more specific name or description, places a sword on the lap of Hengest. The sword, a hildeleoma (English: battle-light) which may either be the name of the sword or a description of it, is said to be renowned to the eotenum (see eotena below). Olivieri suggests that probably "Hunlaf had died in the fight at the castle — the sword had been used with the Jutes — and his son asked for revenge."[26] Meanwhile, Guthlaf and Oslaf/Ordlaf, presumably the same pair who held Door A in the siege, go back to the Danish people and tell them what has occurred.

The Beowulf poet says that as a consequence, without naming the antecedents, Finn and all the Frisians were slaughtered. Most likely the antecedents are both of the actions described above, that Hengest and a returning faction of Danes banded together in force to slaughter Finn and the remnants of his forces, avenge Hnæf, pillage Finnsburg, and return to the Danish people with Hildeburh. This is usually understood to mean that Hengest had been brooding over whether fealty or oaths were strongest, and that he and the Danes broke the terms of the peace treaty, though Zocco argues otherwise.[27]

Jutes or giants?


Illustration by J. R. Skelton of the giant Grendel from earlier in Beowulf. See also a list of artistic depictions of Grendel.

The words eotena and eotenum in the Beowulf episode appear in several places to describe the opponents of the Danes:

At the beginning of the episode, Hildeburh is said to have "had no need to praise" the eotena good faith (lines 1071–2).
When a hall is cleared out for Hengest and his men to inhabit as part of the peace treaty terms, he is to share it with Folcwalda's son (Finn), and the eotena sons (line 1088).
Hengest broods on revenge against the eotena sons, wanting to remind them of his sword (line 1141).
When the hunlafing sword is placed on Hengest's lap, it is said to be "not unknown" to the eotenum (line 1145).

This has given rise to three basic theories about the term eoten- in Beowulf:

The term is a corrupted declension of *Eotan (English: Jutes).
The term is a pun, meaning eoten (English: giant) but referring to Jutes.[28]
The term is a metaphor, meaning eoten but referring to Frisians.

The first theory was held by Tolkien in the early 20th century, and is now widely accepted amongst scholars.[29] But the second and third theories have seen increasing popularity; more recent dissenters include Williams, Kaske, Stuhmiller, Gwara, Vickrey, and Slade.[30] As three Beowulf editors wrote in 2008:

The terms for Frisians and Jutes seem to be used interchangeably in the Episode (see Beo 1088 and 1093), but it is impossible to be certain, given the fragmentary and allusive nature of the evidence, and the alternate ways of construing the term eotenas that has been thought to designate the Jutes. Historically, scholarship has favored the assumption that MS eotena and eotenum refer to Jutes […], though quite a few scholars, especially in recent years, have seen here common nouns referring to giants[31]

Arguments for giants

The dissatisfaction with the first theory, of the Eotan or Jutes, can be perceived along two axes: morphological and semantic. Vickrey summarises the morphological evidence for a reading of giants, the numbers referring to Beowulf line numbers:

the form eotena, the expected genitive plural of eoten 'giant' (eotena 421, 883), is anomalous as a declensional form of *Eote, *Eotan 'Jutes'; and the form eotenum, along with eotenum 902, the expected dative plural of eoten 'giant,' a disyllabic masculine noun with a short first syllable, is, as a dative plural of *Eote, *Eotan 'Jutes,' without parallel elsewhere in the poem either in weak nouns or i-nouns. […] On philological grounds, then, it is more likely that eoten- meant 'giant' and not 'Jute' in the Finn Episode: if 'Jute,' eoten- is suspect and doubtful; if 'giant,' expected and normal.[32]

Vickrey's point about eotenum refers to line 1145, where the dative plural eotenum is used. The dative plural for Jutes would be eotum,[33] whereas eotenum is the correct dative plural for the sense of giants; despite this, the word in this line is still often translated "Jutes" in accordance with the first theory. Williams argued of eoten that "it is not fact but only possibility that the scribe confused therewith the tribal name, or that this tribal name had a dative Éotenum. A possibility cannot upset a fact!"[34] Benjamin Slade gives a summary of the semantic and contextual evidence, leaning towards the second theory, of a pun between giants and Jutes:

The reading of 'giants' is difficult for it is hard to imagine that Germanic 'giants' could have non-antagonistic relations with any human people. It seems likely that there is perhaps intentional ambiguity here between 'giants' and 'Jutes/Frisians'. […] Stuhmiller makes the keen observation that after the Finn Episode, no form of eoten or eotan occurs in the poem, ambiguous or otherwise. This is striking because 'giants' certainly do not disappear from the poem at this point […]. The poet's song of Finn occurs immediately Beowulf has slain Grendel, the eotan who has been tormenting the Danes[35]

Understanding whether the references are to Jutes or giants has a large bearing on the presented social dynamic of the battle. In a more cautious appraisal Fry summarises that "Whoever the eoten- are, they are probably not Danes and not subject to Hengest."[36]
Good faith

The eotena "good faith" referred to at the beginning of the Beowulf episode is puzzling, in any of the theorised senses of eotena. Though the peace treaty has not yet been mentioned by the narrator at that point in the text, this good faith may refer to the very submissive terms of the peace treaty. If so, this would indicate that it was not only Finn who swore the oath of peace "with unfeigned zeal" to Hengest, but that the eoten- force had good faith too. If so, then it is a particular disadvantage to have lost the description of what, and who, provoked the siege.

Sunday, May 8th, 2016, 08:47 PM
I hope to visit Frisia soon, as an English and Afrikaans speaker it will be interesting to see how much I can understand and be understood.

Re: the reference to the Eotena, it brings to mind Tolkien's Ettenmoors (the Troll fells in Middle Earth) and Jack Lewis's Ettinsmoor from the Narnia chronicles (the giant realm).

Friday, November 6th, 2020, 03:06 PM
The world of Germanic nations is a diverse and rich cultural ethnosphere whose languages and cultures came to dominate Western Europe and much of the world. Their history is rich and spans centuries, and we often recount it in our tales. But today we explore those Germanic peoples that are among the smallest “groupations”, a nation that doesn’t have its own sovereignty but has a unique and preserved group identity. These are the Frisians, inhabiting the historic region known as Frisia on the coasts of the North Sea.

Today, Frisia is partly in the Netherlands and partly in Germany, but the identity and the history of the Frisian people is recognized and supported. Join us as we acquaint ourselves with this illustrious Germanic nation and understand more about their rich history, unique language, and their modern position in Western Europe.

Earliest Origins of the Frisians

The earliest ancestors of modern Frisians were the Frisii - an ancient Germanic tribe that inhabited roughly the same region as their modern descendants. This is the so-called delta of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, a region which contains many islands and is generally a low-lying area. The Frisii were a part of many Germanic tribes , shared cultural and linguistic similarity to a great extent, and were generally not in open conflict.

In the early stages of the Germanic nations, before the Migration Period, the Frisii shared the shores between the Zuyder Zee and Jutland with their neighbors – the Chauci, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Their migrations eventually led them to settle the shores of the North Sea, where their territories were bordered and guarded by the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta on one side and the River Ems on the other. They also settled the numerous small coastal islands offshore, which gave them a degree of isolation and security.


They are specifically mentioned for the first time around 12 BC, when the Roman commander-cum-politician Drusus the Elder’s account mentions the Frisii as a tribe the Romans warred against in their Rhine campaigns. Unlike some other small Germanic tribes which were gradually assimilated by larger ones - like the Chauci who melded into the Saxons - the Frisii managed to maintain their identity both in the eyes of the Germanic peoples and the Romans as well. Even though they shared cultural background with all other tribes, and thus can’t be identified separately through archaeology, their identity and their homeland provide a sturdy background that has always been a major connection with their nation.

The Frisii were subjugated by the Romans in 12 BC and were taxed moderately in order to prevent revolt. However, when the taxes were later raised, the Frisii were placed in a difficult position. Their main lifestyle was agrarian - they raised cattle and worked the land. But when Roman rule and taxes began decimating their herds and their women were taken into bondage, the Frisii stood up for themselves.

In 28 AD, they besieged the regional Roman fort . This escalated into an open conflict, which drew the propraetor (a Roman authority figure governing a province) of the whole Germania Inferior, Lucius Apronius, into action. But to the surprise of many, the Romans were utterly defeated that same year at the Battle of Baduhenna Wood.

Similar to the circumstances of the legendary Roman defeat at the Teutoburg forest, the forest environment spelled doom for the Romans at Baduhenna as well. 1,300 Roman soldiers were slaughtered in Baduhenna’s Wood. The Frisii won and quickly became honored and respected among the neighboring Germanic tribes.

The Romans backed down and didn’t pursue the conflict further. We can assume that they still ruled over the Frisii, but with lower taxes.

From the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD, the coastal Frisian lands were subject to dramatically rising sea levels and the Frisii were forced to abandon the area. It is at this point that their historical thread gets thin and difficult to follow. What we do know is that two centuries later the conditions on the North Sea coast were improved and it was once again re-settled - mostly by Angles and Saxons, who were the largest tribes of the region.

We can safely assume that the Frisians were also returning to the region. This stems from archaeological finds. After the Frisii abandon their land, the excavations show a clear pause in habitation, but when it is resettled two centuries later, the excavated material was largely Anglo-Saxon in style. This may simply point to the Frisians adopting the style of larger neighboring tribes, as was usually the case.

A Struggle for Independence

In the Early Medieval Period, Frisia begins to acquire a distinct identity for the first time. Several medieval sources mention an old Frisian Kingdom which was ruled by High Kings. There aren’t many historical materials to offer further details about this kingdom, but there is a certain possibility that the Frisians did gain a degree of independence in the region, especially in the developing Medieval Period. The names of three Frisian kings survive to this day - Radbod, Bubo, and Aldgisl.

The Frisians’ loss of independence, which was never fully regained, began with their conflict with the Franks. This series of conflicts is known as the Frisian-Frankish war and was conducted between the 7th and 8th centuries. King Radbod (often called Redbad) was the successor of late King Aldgisl and was a fierce defender against the Frankish Empire.

At the time, Frisians were still pagan and worshiped their gods - Wêda (Woden), Thuner (Thor), Tiwes (Tiwaz, Tyr), Frîja (Frigg), and others. To exploit these wars, Anglo-Irish Christian missionaries infiltrated Frisia to convert the heathen populace, which they eventually accomplished. After a series of clashes and conflicts, the Frankish Empire gained the upper hand following the death of King Radbod.

Eventually, the Frisian King Bubo (Peppo) was defeated and killed with his army in the Battle of the Boarn, after which Frisia was quickly conquered by the Franks. The last remnants of paganism were also slowly snuffed out.

After Charlemagne died, the Counts of Holland attempted to gain rule over Frisia, and they did for some time, but without continued success. This shows us the strong fight for independence that the Frisians always had. Around 993, the Dutch Count Arnulf could not assert his power and influence over Frisia, and the period that followed this is today called “Frisian Freedom”.

It is a period in which Frisia became a de-facto autonomous confederation within the Holy Roman Empire, in which neither serfdom or feudalism, nor any central administration existed. Their only allegiance was to the Holy Roman Emperor .

This independence lasted for several centuries, until 1256. At this point, the Counts of Holland were a prominent regional power and wanted to once again become masters over Frisia. From 1256 to 1422, a series of wars were fought between Frisia and Holland.

From 1256 to 1289 it was the West Frisian War. The period of struggle between 1345 and 1422 is known as the Friso-Hollandic War, with the Great Frisian War from 1413 to 1422. All in all, this lengthy period saw a period of strife, until the conquest of Western Frisia in 1422, when it lost its independence and became a part of the Dutch provinces.

Frisian Life on the North Sea Coast

Today, the Frisians inhabit the coastal regions of Germany and Netherlands. These regions are mainly known as West, East, and North Frisia. In Germany’s state of Lower Saxony, this region is called Ostfriesland (East Frisia). It is characterized by its North Sea coastal geography and a 90 km (55.92 mile) stretch of the East Frisian Islands, which form a straight chain along the coast.

They are separated from the coast by the Wadden Sea. When the tide is out it leaves a wide stretch of mudflats and creeks, which can be traversed via the popular activity called “mudflat hiking”. Several of the islands are inhabited, while the others are protected nature reserves. They are known for their sand dunes.

To the North, also in Germany, is Nordfriesland, the northernmost group of the Frisian people. This region borders Denmark to the north. This is one of the most rural regions of Germany and is known for the vast grassy marshlands close to shore and the mudflats at low tide. Off the coast there are 15 islands - all popular tourist destinations.

In Holland, most of the Frisians are situated in their own province, known as Friesland. It too is on the coast. Friesland has a population of roughly 650,000 people. Its capital is the city of Leeuwarden - called Ljouwert in West Frisian language. Just like the other Frisian lands, it is also known for agriculture and the coastal landscapes. The iconic Friesian horse breed originates from this rural region.

The Frisians speak their own language , which is split into several closely related dialects. Frisian is the other half of the Anglo-Frisian West Germanic Languages, i.e. it shares a group with the English Language. Old English and Old Frisian shared immense similarities, as the Anglo-Saxons were closely related with their neighbors, the Frisians. Today, Frisian languages share the most similarities with English - more than any other Germanic language.

There are three separate Frisian languages today, and they are mostly not mutually intelligible, or understood with great difficulty. This stems from different political influences and a somewhat separated geographic position (the West Frisians being in Holland, and the East and North Frisians being in Germany).

The West Frisian language - Westerlauwersk Frysk in Frisian - is today spoken mainly in Holland. The North Frisian language has several dialects which are mutually intelligible. It is mostly known as freesk amongst the speakers. There are 10 dialects and they mostly stem from different semi-isolated villages.

The East Frisian Language, better known as Saterland Frisian or Seeltersk, is the only remaining dialect of the East Frisian. It is spoken by the Saterland Frisians, the smallest branch of the Frisian peoples. It has only around 2,250 speakers today.

A Giant Robin Hood - Grutte Pier, the Frisian Folk Hero

We cannot speak of the brave Frisian Peoples without mentioning one of their most prominent heroes - Pier Gerlofs Donia . Better known as Grutte Pier (Big Pier), he lived from 1480 to 1520 and was prominent Frisian pirate and rebel. He was well-known for his enormous stature and strength.

After bitter struggle with a rival, Dutch-backed Frisian family, Pier abandoned his farming life and rebelled. He assembled a company called the Zwarte Hoop (Black Gang). On land he was powerless against the armies, so he chose the sea as his base of operation. In 1515 and 1517, Grutte Pier captured the Holland fleets in the Zuyder Sea and plundered the Dutch town of Medemblik. When one of his lieutenants was executed after capture, Grutte Pier sought vengeance and returned to once again raze the same city in winter of 1518-1519.

He became known for his practice of testing his captives - if a captured man could not speak a tricky Frisian sentence - he was thrown overboard, since all Frisians can speak it easily. The sentence was: “ Bûter, brea en griene tsiis: wa't dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries. ” (Butter, bread, and green cheese: if you can’t say that, you’re not a real Frisian.)

In time, his deeds became legendary, and he had the same character for the Frisians as Robin Hood had for the English. After a string of victories over the Dutch on the sea, Pier quickly realized that he had no chance on land and surrounded by all the major regional powers. He grew disillusioned and eventually retired and died peacefully in his bed in 1520 in the Frisian city of Sneek.

Today, visitors of the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden can see the gigantic sword of Pier Gerlofs Donia exhibited. It is 212.5 centimeters (83.66 inches) long and weighs 6.6 kg (14.55 lbs.) - a truly enormous weapon suitable for an enormous Frisian hero!

Frisians are a Unique Part of the Germanic Family

The history of small nations is often filled with strife. When large powers seek to subjugate you, to deny you your identity and independence, there is little that a proud nation can do. But for centuries, the Frisians fought hard to preserve their own unique identity, their name, and their language. And today, even though they lack their own independent country, these North Sea coast people give a distinctive flair to Germanic North Western Europe!https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/frisians-0013235

Monday, June 7th, 2021, 04:59 PM
You state that most of Westlauwers Frysk is spoken in Holland, you probably aren't aware of the fact that this is not correct. Holland is only a province (divided in South Holland and North Holland) of the Netherlands like Fryslân. Westlauwers Frysk is mainly spoken in Fryslân. There are people in North Holland who speak Frisian, but it is another dialect.