Last updated
Fibula found in Muhlhausen, 4th/5th century AD MUFT - Muhlhausen Fibel.jpg
Fibula found in Mühlhausen, 4th/5th century AD
Ancient Germanic bone comb, Thuringia MUFT - Kamm 1.jpg
Ancient Germanic bone comb, Thuringia

The Thuringii, Toringi or Teuriochaimai [1] were an early [2] people that appeared during the late Migration Period in the Harz Mountains of central Europe, a region still known today as Thuringia. It became a kingdom, which came into conflict with the Merovingian Franks, and it later came under their influence and Frankish control. The name is still used for one of modern Germany's federal states ( Bundesländer ).


First appearances

Image from "Battle of Hermunduri and Chatti", 1717 Cornelius-Tacitus-Hugo-de-Groot-Antiquitates-Germanicae MGG 0263.tif
Image from "Battle of Hermunduri and Chatti", 1717

The Thuringians do not appear in classical Roman texts under that name, but some have suggested that they were the remnants of the Suebic Hermanduri, the last part of whose name (-duri) could represent the same sound as (-thuri) and the Germanic suffix -ing, suggests a meaning of "descendants of (the [Herman]duri)". [3] This people were living near the Marcomanni. Tacitus, in his Germania , describes their homeland as being where the Elbe starts, but also having colonies at the Danube, and even within the Roman province of Rhaetia.

Claudius Ptolemy mentions neither the Hermunduri nor the Thuringians in his geography, but instead the Teuriochaemae (Turones, who are described as living just north of the Sudetes mountains in, what is thought to be, the Ore Mountains. These may also be connected to later Thuringians. ("Chaemae" may represent a version of the Germanic word for "home". Ptolemy also mentions a people called the Bainochaimai , located to the west of the Elbe. He also apparently spells the name of the Chamavi in a similar way.)[ clarification needed ] The formation of this people may have had also been influenced by two longer-known tribes more associated with the eastern bank of the lower Elbe river, northeast of Thuringia, because the Carolingian law code written for them was called the "law of the Angles and Varini that is the Thuringians". Much earlier, in his Germania for example, Tacitus had grouped these two tribes among the more distant Suebic tribes, living beyond the Elbe, and near a sea where they worshiped Herthus. (Pliny the Elder had listed the Varini as a Vandalic, or East Germanic tribe, rather than Suebian.) These two tribes are among Germanic groups known to have been found north of the Danube in this period. Procopius in his Gothic Wars describes the land of the Varini as being south of the Danes, but north of the Slavs, who were in turn north of the uncultivated lands which lay north of the Danube. Procopius describes a marriage alliance between the Angles of Britain and the Varni in the sixth century. [4]

The name of the Thuringians appears to be first mentioned in the veterinary treatise of Vegetius, written early in the fifth century. [5]

They appear in some lists of the peoples involved in Attila's invasion of Gaul. [6] Walter Pohl has also proposed that they may be the same as the Turcilingi (or Torcolingi) who were one of the tribes near the middle Danube after the collapse of the empire of Attila, to whom they had apparently all been subject. They are specifically associated with Odoacer, who later became King of Italy, and are sometimes thought to have formed a part of the Sciri. Other tribes in this region at the time included the Rugii and the Heruls. Sidonius Apollinaris, in his seventh poem, explicitly lists them among the allies who fought under Attila when he entered Gaul in 451. During the reign of Childeric I, Gregory of Tours and Fredegar record that the Frankish King married the runaway wife of the King of the Thuringians, but the story may be distorted. (For example, the area of Tongeren, now in Belgium, may have been intended. [7] )

More clearly, correspondence is recorded with a kingdom of Thuringians by Procopius and Cassiodorus during the reigns of Theoderic the Great (454–526) and Clovis I (approx. 466–511), after the downfall of Attila and Odoacer. [ citation needed ]

Political history

Europe at the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. Europe and the Near East at 476 AD.png
Europe at the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.

The Thuringii established an empire in the late fifth century. It reached its territorial peak in the first half of the sixth before it was conquered by the Franks in 531532. Examination of Thuringian grave sites reveal cranial features which suggest the strong presence of Hunnic women or slaves, perhaps indicating that many Thuringians took Hunnic wives or Hunnic slaves following the collapse of the Hunnic Empire. [8] There is also evidence from jewellery found in graves that the Thuringians sought marriages with Ostrogothic and Lombard women.[ citation needed ] Under the leadership of Alboin, a large group of Thuringii joined the Lombards on their migration into Italy. [9] The Lombard king Agilulf (590616) was of Thuringian descent.

After their conquest, the Thuringii were placed under Frankish dukes, but they rebelled and had regained their independence by the late seventh century under Radulf. Towards the end of this century, parts of Thuringia came under Saxon rule.

By the time of Charles Martel and Saint Boniface, they were again subject to the Franks and ruled by Frankish dukes, with their seat at Würzburg in the south. Under Martel, the Thuringian dukes' authority was extended over a part of Austrasia and the Bavarian plateau. The valleys of the Lahn, Main, and Neckar rivers were included. The Naab formed the south-eastern border of Thuringia at the time. The Werra and Fulda valleys were within it also and it reached as far as the Saxon plain in the north. Its central location in Germania, beyond the Rhine, was the reason it became the point d'appui of Boniface's mission work.

The Thuringii had a separate identity as late as 785786, when one of their leading men, Hardrad, led an abortive insurrection against Charlemagne. The Carolingians codified the Thuringian legal customs (but perhaps did not use them extensively) as the Lex Thuringorum and continued to exact a tribute of pigs, presumably a Merovingian imposition, from the province. In the tenth century, under the Ottonians, the centre of Thuringian power lay in the north-east, near Erfurt. As late as the end of the tenth century, the porcine tribute was still being accepted by the King of Germany.

Ecclesiastical history

Christianity had reached the Thuringii in the fifth century, but their exposure to it was limited. Their real Christianisation took place, alongside the ecclesiastical organisation of their territory, during the early and mid eighth century under Boniface, who felled their "sacred oak" at Geismar in 724, abolishing the vestiges of their paganism.

In the 1020s, Aribo, Archbishop of Mainz, began the minting of coins at Erfurt, the oldest market town in Thuringia with a history going back to the Merovingian period. The economy, especially trade (such as with the Slavs), greatly increased after that.

Social history

The Thuringian nobility, which had an admixture of Frankish, Thuringian, and Saxon blood, was not as landed as that of Francia. There was also a larger population of free peasant farmers than in Francia, though there was still a large number of serfs. The obligations of serfs there were also generally less oppressive. There were also fewer clergymen before Boniface came. There was a small number of artisans and merchants, mostly trading with the Slavs to the east. The town of Erfurt was the easternmost trading post in Frankish territory at the time.


The history of the Thuringii is best known from the writings concerning their conquerors, the Franks. Gregory of Tours, a Gallo-Roman, includes the nearest account in time of the fall of the Thuringian Empire. Widukind of Corvey, writing in tenth-century Saxony, inundates his similar account with various legends.

The Thuringii make brief appearances in contemporary Italian sources when their activities affect the land south of the Alps. Procopius, the Eastern Roman author, mentions them and speaks of their fall. The seventh-century Origo Gentis Langobardorum mentions a king of the Thuringii, Fisud, as a contemporary of Theudebert I.


See also


  1. Hoops, Johannes (1981), "Thuringii p.512", Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, vol. 4, Walter de Gruyter, ISBN   9783110065138
  2. Buchberger, Erica (2018). "Thuringians". In Nicholson, Oliver (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780191744457 . Retrieved January 26, 2020. Thuringians... A people in central Europe, modern day Thuringia ...
  3. Schutz, 402.
  4. H. B., Dewing (1962). Procopius. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 255.
  5. Guy Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West 376-568, p.39, citing B. Schmidt.
  6. Goffart, Walter (2006). Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   9780812239393. p.216
  7. Halsall p.392
  8. Schutz, 411.
  9. Peters, Edward (2003). History of the Lombards: Translated by William Dudley Foulke. University of Pennsylvania Press.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burgundians</span> Historical East Germanic ethnic group

The Burgundians were an early Germanic tribe or group of tribes. They appeared in the middle Rhine region, near the Roman Empire, and were later moved into the empire, in eastern Gaul. They were possibly mentioned much earlier in the time of the Roman Empire as living in part of the region of Germania that is now part of Poland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marcomanni</span> Ancient Germanic tribe of modern Bohemia

The Marcomanni were a Germanic people that established a powerful kingdom north of the Danube, somewhere near modern Bohemia, during the peak of power of the nearby Roman Empire. According to Tacitus and Strabo, they were Suebian.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suebi</span> Historical ethnic grouping of Germanic tribes

The Suebi were a large group of Germanic peoples originally from the Elbe river region in what is now Germany and the Czech Republic. In the early Roman era they included many peoples with their own names such as the Marcomanni, Quadi, Hermunduri, Semnones, and Lombards. New groupings formed later, such as the Alamanni and Bavarians, and two kingdoms in the Migration Period were simply referred to as Suebian.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francia</span> Frankish kingdom from 481 to 843

The Kingdom of the Franks, also known as the Frankish Kingdom, the Frankish Empire or Francia, was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Frankish Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties during the Early Middle Ages. Francia was among the last surviving Germanic kingdoms from the Migration Period era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Istvaeones</span> Historical ethnic group

The Istvaeones were a Germanic group of tribes living near the banks of the Rhine during the Roman Empire which reportedly shared a common culture and origin. The Istaevones were contrasted to neighbouring groups, the Ingaevones on the North Sea coast, and the Herminones, living inland of these groups.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bavarians</span> Ethnographic group of Germans of the Bavaria region

Bavarians are an ethnographic group of Germans of the Bavaria region, a state within Germany. The group's dialect or speech is known as the Bavarian language, native to Altbayern, roughly the territory of the Electorate of Bavaria in the 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hermunduri</span> Germanic tribe, who occupied an inland area near the Elbe river (first to third centuries AD)

The Hermunduri, Hermanduri, Hermunduli, Hermonduri, or Hermonduli were an ancient Germanic tribe, who occupied an inland area near the source of the Elbe river, around what is now Bohemia from the first to the third century, though they have also been speculatively associate with Thuringia further north. According to an old proposal based on the similarty of the names, the Thuringii may have been the descendants of the Hermunduri. At times, they apparently moved to the Danube frontier with Rome. Claudius Ptolemy mentions neither tribe in his geography but instead the Teuriochaemae, who may also be connected to both.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sciri</span> Ancient Germanic people in Eastern Europe

The Sciri, or Scirians, were a Germanic people. They are believed to have spoken an East Germanic language. Their name probably means "the pure ones".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chamavi</span> Germanic tribe

The Chamavi, Chamãves or Chamaboe (Χαμαβοί) were a Germanic tribe of Roman imperial times whose name survived into the Early Middle Ages. They first appear under that name in the 1st century AD Germania of Tacitus as a Germanic tribe that lived to the north of the Lower Rhine. Their name probably survives in the region today called Hamaland, which is in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands, between the IJssel and Ems rivers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duchy of Bavaria</span> Former duchy in Germany

The Duchy of Bavaria was a frontier region in the southeastern part of the Merovingian kingdom from the sixth through the eighth century. It was settled by Bavarian tribes and ruled by dukes (duces) under Frankish overlordship. A new duchy was created from this area during the decline of the Carolingian Empire in the late ninth century. It became one of the stem duchies of the East Frankish realm which evolved as the Kingdom of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Warini</span>

The Varini, Warni or Warini were one or more Germanic peoples who originally lived in what is now northeastern Germany, near the Baltic sea.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franks</span> Germanic people from the lower Rhine

The Franks were originally a Germanic people who lived near the Lower Rhine, on the northern frontier of the late Roman Empire, but they successfully expanded their power and influence during the Middle Ages, until much of the population of western Europe, particularly in or near France, were commonly described as Franks, for example in the context of their joint efforts during the crusades starting in the 11th century. This expansion came about because the romanized Frankish dynasties based within the collapsing Western Roman Empire first became the rulers of the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine, and then subsequently imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms both inside and outside the old empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Audoin</span> King of the Lombards (r. 547–560)

Alduin was king of the Lombards from 547 to 560.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Turcilingi</span>

The Turcilingi were an obscure barbarian people, or possibly a clan or dynasty, who appear in historical sources relating to Middle Danubian peoples who were present in Italy during the reign of Romulus Augustulus (475–76). Their only known leader was Odoacer (Odovacar), but he was described as a ruler of several ethnic groups.

Rodelinda (6th-century), was a Lombard queen by marriage to king Audoin, and mother of king Alboin.

The Duchy of Thuringia was an eastern frontier march of the Merovingian kingdom of Austrasia, established about 631 by King Dagobert I after his troops had been defeated by the forces of the Slavic confederation of Samo at the Battle of Wogastisburg. It was recreated in the Carolingian Empire and its dukes were appointed by the king until it was absorbed by the Saxon dukes in 908. From about 1111/12 the territory was ruled by the Landgraves of Thuringia as Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. When Frederick IV, the last independent ruler of Thuringia died in 1440, the territory passed to his nephew, the saxon elector Frederick II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elbe Germanic peoples</span> Modern proposed category of peoples speaking dialects ancestral to High German

The Elbe Germans or Elbe Germanic peoples were Germanic tribes whose settlement area, based on archaeological finds, lay either side of the Elbe estuary on both sides of the river and which extended as far as Bohemia and Moravia, clearly the result of a migration up the Elbe river from the northwest in advance of the main Migration Period until the individual groups ran into the Roman Danube Limes around 200 AD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reihengräber culture</span>

The Reihengräber culture is an archaeological culture that refers to the burial practice of regularly arranged, identically oriented inhumation graves between the mid-fifth and early-eighth century in central and western Europe. Existing within the Merovingian sphere of influence, the Reihengräber culture was dominant in modern Belgium, northern France and the Rhineland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avar Wars</span>

The Avar Wars were fought between Francia and the Avar Khaganate in Central Europe from 788 to 803, and ended with the Frankish conquest of the khaganate's western regions. The first conflicts between the Avars and the Franks occurred in the 560s, shortly before the Avar conquest of the Pannonian Basin. Armed conflicts between the two powers were not unusual during the following centuries.