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Thread: How Much Freedom Did Ancient Heathens Really Have?

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    How Much Freedom Did Ancient Heathens Really Have?

    I am just wondering how much freedom did ancient Germanic Heathens really have or enjoyed? I hear Heathens here at Skadi and other places say how free the ancient Germanic Heathens were before Christianity rose up. I don't dispute there has been a lot of oppression and lack of freedom found in Christian ruled governments or societies through out different periods, there is historical records of this. But I want the focus of this thread to be about the degree of freedom Heathens actually had in their societies before Christianity took over.

    The level of personal freedom Germanic Heathens had most likely varied from tribe to tribe and in different time periods. How common was slavery practiced among Germanic peoples? When different ancient Germanic peoples fought each other, were any on the losing side made into slaves? In the caste system of Thralls, Karls and Jarls, was there upward mobility or did they have to stay in their caste position their entire life? How common was forced or arranged marriage or even polygamy for that matter? Was human sacrifice used under any circumstance? If a chieftain or great leader died could their servants refuse to be killed and buried with their former masters if such a custom was practiced among a particular people or tribe? What crimes besides murder was the death penalty used for?

    I am not trying to start trouble or anything like that, I am have a very sincere interest in knowing more about this topic. I know the questions I asked above can be researched on the net and I have already researched some of them. I wanted Heathens and others on this board to give their opinions and share what they know on this topic.

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    Scythian msg to Darius

    This reminds me of something I once read while researching the Scythians and it made me think about their difference in mentality and the degree of freedom compared with modern Europeans.

    Wikipedia entry: 'Gelonus'
    The fortified settlement of Gelonus was reached by the Persian army of Darius in his assault on Scythia during the 5th century BC, already burned to the ground, the Budini having abandoned it before the Persian advance. The Scythians sent a message to Darius: "We are free as wind and what you can catch in our land is only the wind".

    I really love this message to Darius.
    yDNA: R1a1a1
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    Ancestry Painting: 100% European
    23andme Global Similarity: Dead center of English Cluster

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    Interesting questions, I will come back tomorrow to this (now is 3:30 in the morning, just here to turn the computer off) and mark this thread, hehe
    Ein Leben ist nichts, deine Sprosse sind alles
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    und endet meine Frist, weiss ich dass du noch da bist
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vandal Lord View Post
    How common was slavery practiced among Germanic peoples? When different ancient Germanic peoples fought each other, were any on the losing side made into slaves? In the caste system of Thralls, Karls and Jarls, was there upward mobility or did they have to stay in their caste position their entire life?
    I am not well-read about Germanic pre-Christian history in general, but more so about Scandinavian pre-Christian history, so that is what my answers are about, though most of it should be valid for Germanic history in general.

    Regarding slavery, apparently numbers from the Domesday Book show that areas in England, which had been under greater influence of Scandinavians than other areas, such as the Danelaw, had much less percentage people labelled slaves/thralls. Sources such as Tactius' Germania indicate that slaves/thralls were treated quite well. Examples from Icelandic sagas often show good relations between thralls and the free men.

    How common was forced or arranged marriage or even polygamy for that matter?
    According to several old laws of Germanic tribes, a woman who married without the consent of her father would lose her possessions or her right of inheritance; but the marriage could not be stopped.

    It is said that in a third of all marriages described in the Icelandic sagas, it explicitly says that the woman was asked of her opionion on a proposed marriage. The laws of several tribes outlawed forcing a woman to marry someone. Divorces were dead easy anyway.

    What crimes besides murder was the death penalty used for?
    There was no death penalty, but there was the outlawing of a man, which meant anyone was free to kill him without legal consequences. There was no official executioner to do the hard work for you. I can not think of any deed other than murder, that would cause outlawing.

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