Heruli the history 268 - 568 AD

Heruli the history 268 - 568 AD

The heydays of Heruli lasted 300 years when they were hired as mercenaries in the Roman Empire and settled as a tribe. Thanks to their pay in gold that we can tell about Scandinavian history in restless time of battling Attila and establishing the Catholich Church

Heruli, Eruli, Mercurius Rex, Swebian league, Swebian knot, Sverus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Erilar, palace guard, Batavi, Notitia dignitatum, Illerup bog, red shield, Roman Eagle, Attila, Odoacar, Theorderic I, Emperor Leo, Dane, Anastacius, Duke Fara, Arian Wulfila's Bible, Silver Bible, Philimuth, Narses, Langobards, Justinian, Battle of Taginae

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Four of a kind was found in a bog Maglemose Zealand together with a pair of other bracts. Compare this to the solidus of Emperor Leo below and we see the shield with the horse and the spear "of Constantinople" and even the ribbon is Roman. But notice the Celtic neckring with knobs!


In this essay we shall see in short at the history of the Heruli / Eruli. Then it is about the military tribe and not much about their source and relatives in Scandinavia called Erils. Many writers describe them like when Romans tell about Phoenicians and Celts with lack of respect. Then they tell about the barbaric tribe that migrated in 267 and returned in 567 which means about 10 generations. Truth is that I doubt band of marauders could have lived within the limes. In fact they were one of the many foreign tribes serving in the legions from the Black Sea to the Hadrian Wall

That is to make a distinction between mainly legionaries in Rome and Erils making a normal life in North furnishing Rome with surplices and men. That means they were the upper class later known as thanes and ceorls with trade as way to wealth. For instance in Vejen near Oslo they have reconstructed a hall from about 60 Ad. There they found a solidus of Constantine and there was a balance weight for the merchant. The class were heirs of trade since Bronze Age and maybe older since all cultures were driven by an upper class. The title could be compared to four classes of "freemen".

Some interpreters means that eril = earl, but then we can only asking how many earldoms are/ were there in England? Like Nordic "jarl" they were not many and in Sweden/ Norway only two at a time. Maybe they were the leaders with no king like tradition in West Gautland with only two lawmen as lead. That gives the proportions but we do not know the proportion Erils : Peasants. So Eril is the collective world and like the Vikings we can make categories in traders, handicrafters, guards/ warriors. I prefer to tie it to the Icelandic folk memory of ancient traders "eril = tiresome peddler" since traders those days expected hosting wherever they come in the Northern Sphere. It is much like those trading on Lapland in early Middle Age..

Too often historians take a single occurrence and blow it up to general statement and they also make it a scoop and then demonise. I think we should have substantial evidence before we give names and set up labels. We can not know if any of them were pirates and within the Eril League that would not be normal with "private enterprise" fighting brothers. Another thing it is with foreign countries

"Here the Erulian roams, who lives at the sea-weed filled corners at the farthest ends of the Ocean--the Erulian with blue eyes almost the same color as that of the ice-cold sea."

But even Roman writers demonised. Early science often demonised the Erils like they do with the Vikings but with little evidence and no proportions. Others tell it that Erils went out in 268 AD and came home some of them 512 and the rest disappeared 568 AD. Nowadays some continental interpreters deny any connection between Eruli/ Heruli and Erils. That is easy if we only look at written fragments that always could be discussed. We have to look at the whole context and other evidence the written words that could lie. However there are some clear mentioning and the Scandia - Rome connection. Here I use the context of all facts and artefacts about The Eruli/ Erils and get a connection.

The term South Heruli is here mostly used for those in Bohemia around 500 AD of which some went home and others stayed and in time united with the Langobards. This can not be history in the traditional way because the time span is long and we have not facts enough. But since we have written sources in Rome we can drop down at few times and connect it to other facts. We can also give some background and tell what we know. Better than nothing.

I am not going to tell what I see as "rumours" by the Roman authors. I am not interested in telling what I see as political pamphlets often writing down the "germans = brothers". It is time that someone sees history from the viewpoint of northerners. I am sure that all people were as decent as the time was. The Romans were not got as idols, but as some Eril said "Howl with the Lupus, that will pay" 

However nowadays digging has given us a broader picture of the trade at Rhine. On the continent they mention animal fur and skin, corn, honey, wax, iron, skins, cattle, and woman's hair. (When the last-mentioned product was blonde (Nordic), it was used to make wigs. Otherwise, it was used in catapults) The legions were portioned at least 5000 legionaries on each big garrison. They were not always in surroundings that could feed them. Neither there were enough taxpayers since very soldier needed 12 - 13 families' taxes. That means they needed to import taxes as well as goods from other areas.

That left room for traders from outside. As always in economy prices, conjunctures and availability steers. In spite of battles with Germans from the other side of Rhine it was business as usual on Rhine. To above mentioned goods we can add amber from Jutland, the Baltic and they have found large quantities on the amber route in Vroclav-Partynic, near the Oder in Lower Silesia. The Nordic traders could supply stockfish/dried fish, herring for fermenting and making "garum", rosin, and special four from the North.

Whereas from the provinces of the Roman Empire generally came bronze, silver and gold coins, brass and glass bowls, ceramics, glass and enamelled beads, various fibulae decorated with brass and enamel, and, most importantly, non-ferrous metals - copper, zinc, tin, silver. In the first 200 years most of the Roman export went to Denmark. In the Baltic the excavating tell that they got silver and bronze coins in exchange for amber.

Around 20 nearly identical neckrings have been found from Norway to Pomeranian landscapes. They must be the sign of the Erilian League of noblesse

From Nordic analysis the gold came with the upper class and the legionaries especially riders that got paid in gold. Surely excavating will bring more evidence and new techniques can find of from where everything comes. Very much of the import to Denmark came from factories in Rhineland. Foreign traders at Rhine would not have made much fuzz and historians would not mention them. In all times historians rather write about power, fights and other boyish things. Knowledge about trade and living are behind much technical analysis and the means we have got in our time.

Substantial evidence is the early import as exchange with the garrisons maybe

See the Hoby family for a possible "treaty of commerce" around 14 AD. Later in the same century Roman set up stelae for Mercurius Rex and local deities from the North. Most interesting are finds of stelae in Rhineland with inscriptions about Scandinavian gods. Mercurius Cimbri must commemorate the god from Jutland. The others are not so certain Scandinavian Mercurius Hanno (Funen maybe), Mercurius Leudisio ( could be in Skaane or at the Gautelf) and Mercurius Rex surely belonged to the leading tribe at the time with bretwalda in Denmark. The stelae have been found at lower Mainz and Heidelberg; in Eiffel and Düren on the other side of Rheine and at Geldern at lower Rhine. We can expect that the Eruli had their enclaves of trade in these places.

Before that Scandinavians were mainly known as the feared Cimbri that fought Rome around 107 - 103 BC. We have also the many finds of rune texts especially fro m Baden-Württemberg. I am not so sure that they generally saw any difference between Heruli, Cimbri and other tribes or "Vikings". However they employed an auxiliary legion foot soldier from these tribes later.

Germania was then all land above Rhine and eastward to Ukraine. A few tribes were on the border and sometimes inside the Roman Empire. The Swebian league consisted of 54 tribes Orosius tells and that were the major part of the people of Germania. Scandinavian Erils belonged to the league as we see form then golden bract. They were idolising long Celtic hair as symbol and sometimes we see the "Swebian knot" in the hair on the bracts.

Anyhow the situation at the German border at Limes = Rhine was always like cat and dog. Especially the Allemani did not like to became under Roman rule and the last conquered bit of land was in Bayern 85 AD. Even the Marcomanni in Bohemia were continuous threat to the Romans. In Dacia/ Romania was the last successful Roman war in 117 Ad and after that there was border problem always and maybe some of the Heruli fought there sometimes on both sides.

Tacitus ca 100 AD wrote that the Batavi lived on an island in the mouth of Rhine and by treatment they furnished the roman army with soldiers and became free of taxation. In time they spread upwards the Rhine to Bavaria = Austria. Ptolemy has Lugdunum Bataviorum at the mouth of Rhine and upstream was Batavodurum. For the traders Legio XXX Ulpia Aggripinensis at Mainz would buy almost everything from the North. At the same time the Romans became acquainted with the Heruli that probably founded enclaves for their trade with the Romans on the other side of Rhine.

But even the people of that time had their prehistory. We can call the traders Erils from Scandinavia with root in the bronze trade starting 4000 years ago. The Erils were forced to trade with the south and got friends along the route to Thüringia and Austria as for instance the Warners at Oder that was named Suevus by Ptolemy, i.e. Swebian River. Since we have no sources telling about the first two centuries we can guess that it was "business as usual". That means border struggle here and there and trades at Rhine and even the East trade through Russia to the Asowska Sea.

The last emperors of the god-begotten sort was the Severus dynasty 195 - 235 AD. Severus Alexander and Julia Mamaea where assassinated at Rhine 235 AD. It was an important event that made people think that even sun emperors could die. After that followed military dictators until 284 AD.

In the golden bracts the myth about the sun king still lives for a couple of centuries, but maybe they saw the sun as rational as we do. They just needed some symbol for it but they knew about the important flow we all are depending on. The sun king's bust covers easily the fact that time and calendar is the issue on the golden bract. But our wish and our imagination want to see a great chieftain alternatively a god that fixes everything.

The Heruli is not mentioned before 267 - 268 AD. Before that they were known at Rhine as traders and soon in brotherhood with the Batavi. Maybe they formed an enclave on the other side of Rhine for easy trade with the legions. Traditionally like a reflex from the spinal cord the archaeologists mentions possible slave trade and naturally amber trade. It is much like academic laziness of the same kind as when they speak about cult, shamans and primitive ancestors.

Already in the time of Severus the inflation was high and in 237 they stopped coining the silver denar that was carrying the Scandinavian trade for instance. Severus was forced to double the pay to the legions and that weakened the rule. The empire was from time to time very weak depending on the skill of the military emperor at rule. The neighbours saw an opportunity as well at Rhine as in east where the Goths, Heruli and other tribes filled in There were the attack in 267 - 268 through the Bosporus to the Aegean seas. That ended in enrolled Heruli to the Roman Army from east.

Emperor Probus 276 - 282 AD had success at Balkan and ended the wars for a time. After that he turned to the German frontier and got the victory. He enrolled 16000 and sent them to Balkan. They were a kind of hostesses that pacified both Germans and the Goths and others on Balkan. Later Mamertinus tells about the Heruli that crossed the Rhine ad attacked the Gauls in France in 287 AD. That shows the times that peace was very relative … See Sun Horse

Here I mention Probus because his coins seem to be inspiration to the "sun-rider bract". From Brangstrup Fyn we have the find of 48 golden coins from every Roman emperor 270 - 361 AD. In the finds there was 13 aureus/ solidus from Constantine (he began the solidus minting in 310 AD) Normally the aureus and later solidus was used as pay to legionaries. So we can guess that Heruli from the western frontier or at Rhine was enrolled even before Constantine I 306 - 337 that seems to have given a medal to commander from the neighbourhood of Oslo Norway.

Ammianus Marcellinus 330 - 395 AD is the best source for the real heydays of Heruli in 4th century. We have much evidence in the medals and bracts that completed the notes from him. In his time they wrote Eruli and at tombstones in for instance. Puteoli and Vitulanum Italy they wrote Erullia and Aerulliae. Nowadays Heruli is used "world wide". In Scandinavia they wrote at the time Erilar and Irilar. I my writing I use Eril and that was meaning the four classes in the league, while the Heruli in Rome were soldiers.

In the time before the writing of Ammianus we have the golden medals of the Constantinians and even golden bracts with the text "Our lord Constans" and even Constantius II. He mentions the Heruli together with the Batavi as brother people and Rome often used the legions in pair. Under Julian 361 - 363 AD they were promised to not be on duty "transrhenanis", which means on the Eastern duty in the Levant. They were perhaps from the beginning in Casta Batavis on the Austrian border.

In 364 AD emperor Iovianus promoted The Herulian Vitalianus to magister for a cohort (ca 500) in the palace guard and was later promoted to comes (commander). This was surely cavalry and later in 6th century they tell about the Herulian Cavalry with 300 - 500 men so maybe this unit was established all the time. It was much like a rule that whence established the bureaucracy kept such thing alive forever. From the time of Valentian I and his brother Valens we have finds of golden medals from Fakse Zealand, Aarhus Jutland and Lista Westagder Norway… Gold medal and A-bract

The legions were foot soldiers and the Heruli and Batavi were sent to Gaul as auxiliary legions with the Jovii and Victores legions. Later they were sent to London and with Thedosius the Elder 368 AD they were sent to the Hadrianus Wall against the Picts from Scotland. Uncertain if they followed Theodosius to Africa in 373 AD. In 375 AD they are mentioned as a taxpaying tribe and probably in Pannonia /Hungary that was the origin of Valentinian.

Nearly 600 golden finger rings of Roman design found in Scandinavia. The heaviest weigh 61 grams

Auxiliaries were mercenaries from outside the empire such as from German tribes, Scandinavian Cimbri and Erils, Parthians and more. They signed for 20 - 25 years and became Roman citizen with right to own property and settle down in the empire when they retired. With no profession a piece of land was necessary all over the world. From around 200 AD everyone within the limes became Roman Citizen but foedorati from outside the limes could enrol in auxiliary cohorts… se also Hadrian wall

My "qualified guess" for the home of the Heruli tribe is Pannonnia/ Hungary and later maybe after Attila maybe in Bohemia. As an example of the graves in Pannonia is this find Szilágy-Somlyó Hungary. There are also finds of Nordic golden bracts in the area:

7 emperor medals

7 solidi

21 luxurious buckles

3 golden bowls

1 gold bangle

other golden jewellery

At best it is an example. The latest solidi were coined for Gratian 367 -383 AD so it was dug down around 375 AD. From Hungary there are finds of 3 C-bracts plus 4 other item with runes. Most is the futhark from Bezenye and the fibulas.

Weapon figure 372

In the long time the order of society changed now and then. We have a list from the order of Diocletian in early 4th century before Constantine. Laterculus Veronensis mentions "gentes barbarae" 2 Scoti. 3 Picti. 4 Calidoni. 5 Rugi. 6 Heruli. 7 Saxones … We can only guess about where the Heruli lived. The Rugi perhaps in Austria and Saxons maybe in Allemania.

Next evidence about the Heruli and Cimbri we get about the situation around 400 AD. We can note from the Roman document "Notitia dignitatum omnium tam civilium quam militarium in partibus occidentis" that is the Register of Dignitaries c. 400 AD. In that we also find paintings of the helmets with crest that could be very long at parades.

From the register we learn that Batavian and Herulian veterans/ seniores were in Legiones Palatinae "V. Insignia viri illustris magistri peditum", that is subordinated the high commander of infantry. The term "palatinae" should be the best soldiers. In " VII. Qui numeri ex praedictis per infrascriptas provincias habeantur" … we learn that one legion was placed in Italy and then Concordia = agreement/ unity. The Herulian legion used two concentric circles as symbol and maybe that meant brotherhood. I have looked for it at the bracts with no luck. But these were foot soldiers and not the world of the cavalry we see on the golden bracts.

At this time the auxiliary legion seems to have counted around 1000 soldiers and around 150 of cavalry in the field legions. There were also cavalry as separate units of a cohort of 500 riders. Among the cavalry legions we find the Batavian Cavalry but no Herulians, but as said they were maybe in the palace guard. A branch of The Batavians gave name to the Imperial Guard however to that they recruited generally the best from other units. We can read about the Herulian Cavalry in first half of 6th century.

Units could be attached to some field legion or belong to some other horse guard. The Romans were not good riders and hired much from outside. Many of the squadrons have "neutral names" and they could have be recruited or chosen from anywhere. The register was valid only at that time. We have finds of coins, medallions and golden bracts from the time of Valentinian III 425 - 457 AD.

Most interesting is that we in the register find also two Cimbriani Legions of which one belonged to the same Legiones palatinae. The other was stationed in Intra Africam cum uiro spectabili comite Africae. The Romans named the Cimbri people of Jutland Denmark since the big Cimbri and Teutoni Movement in 109 - 103 BC that threatened Rome. However they did not know too much about the people north of Rhine. So it could also mean the Angli and maybe Frisians since we have golden bracts from these tribes too.

Frisians traders bartered along the coast to Esbjerg earlier than Roman times and maybe they founded Ribe later. The golden horns from Gallehus speak for some kind of brotherhood between the Hard-Jutes in north and the Angli. In these lands there are no finds of ritual neckrings and that separates the culture a little from the Danish Isles, West Gautland and South Sweden. Maybe their gold was used in the horns.

See the Gallehus Horns with foot soldiers. On one Golden Horn there is a pair of soldiers in almost the same fashion as some statue from Portugal. They have round shields and the short sword called "semi-spatha" in Rome. The Romans got that from the Gauls at the same time as they adapted the helmet. The Romans were best with short sword man against man they tell, but they developed the body-covering shield. Later they got the long sword and they rather hired riders until the cavalry was reorganised in beginning of 4th century

Noble Eril/ Heruli with his noble horse


The Illerup bog near Skanderborg or Aarhus is the most important source when it comes to military equipment from the period 200 - 500. We have all the right to believe that we there find the normal equipment for the noble Eril/ Heruli as well as fort the "Spear-Dane" or foot soldier. We see he has a Roman sword and on some baldric there has been the Roman Eagle. However the man should maybe have long hair as we see on the golden bracts … see also Finds

On the site there are more than 100 photos from the digging and reconstruction from the bog. They have in 50 years found around 15000 items from ca 200, 225, 375 and 450 AD. The biggest find that cover the entire valley is from 200 AD. They think a Norse fleet with 1000 soldiers from Viken - Bohus attacked this neighbourhood.

There are finds of red shields and we know from the Irish legends that the Finnlochlanaig from Viken used red as the totem colour. On Zealand they were white and in Skaane black. Around 450 AD we know about warlike remains from entire South Scandinavia, Auland and Gotland and South Denmark. To that we could add the Roman notice about the Heruli on Funen and Zeeland driven out in last decades of 5th century

I do not believe en generalisations that Heruli or other tribes were warlike and we could compare with dominating Romans. Only when there is substantial evidence like above mentioned. We need not copy the Roman propaganda against us.

Decoration for the baldric in Nordic find

This find we can connect to the Heruli as evidence for the Nordic origin together with other facts. This was hardly normal ware in trade but made for the noble men in the legions. The amazing thing is that there was a small fault in the mould and there is a find of an exact copy from Carlisle near the Hadrianus Wall. Occasionally we know that emperor Valentinian sent the Batavians and the Heruli to the wall around 368 AD.

There are parallel finds from the Tunis and we can compare that with the Cimbri Legion in Africa. There are parallels to Rhineland too. Emperor Constantine early 4th century had his court in Trier and we have the Undeley Bract showing his style. I suppose he was the first to recruit real cavalry from the Heruli. The northern trade went surely to the garrisons in Rhineland too.

The Roman Eagle is known as the ultimate symbol of the Roman Legions. Whenever we see enthroning Jupiter/ IOVI or his stand-in the Emperor they have the Sun-Eagle at foot as icon for the "all-seeing eye". Here the text reads OPTIME MAXIME CON and it means that Jupiter protects the warrior. See also the Undley Bract and the text on the neckring from Pietroasa Romania reads "Sanctified by IOVI".

We should also mention the many finds of miniature masks we can connect to the Mithras cult among the nobility in the Roman Army. The mask was maybe icon for "The Face of Underworld". The Mithras' temples were normally underground and maybe because Mithras (The Sun) was born out of the mountain. There figurines and images showing him being inside. Boys always love secrecy and mystery.

In Beowulf from 8th century we read about the "Spear-Danes" and maybe they meant the Jute or Geatae as often mentioned in the poems. In the Roman Army the legions were often specialised. On the later helmets from Vendel and Sutton Hoo we see foot-soldiers in pair with spears or in "swine phalanx" with spear. Pair in symbolism means brotherhood and they practised it in many connections such as the brotherhood of Batavians and Heruli/ Erils Normally we cannot generalise from one document but are forced to when that is the only we have.

In end of 5th century the finds of solidi are often uncirculated and minted in East Rome of which some are from Antioch. Normally the local commander paid the soldiers and minted the coins so it is very possible that some Nordic legion was there. Even solidi minted by Emperor Leo are frequent this time.

Here I leave out the help to the Celtic brothers in England starting 449 AD with Horsa and Hengest. However latest science suppose that the migration began much earlier in 428 AD. Some scientists think they came from Frisia but even in Frisia we find the Erils so they belonged to the league of traders. However the analysis of M Mackeprang shows that the golden bracts found in England are of the West Scandinavian style and especially from Jutland. Majorities of the finds are of the Snake Pit style that has its mainland at Jutland. But as mentioned we see also that the style and connections among traders extended from Ribe South Jutland to Elbe and Rhineland.

M Mackeprang rather date the finds after the time when they came to soil/ moss. I do not think that they generally copied old circulated solidus or coins. They surely were inspired by their time. The time of the Constantinians was such a time and we get something from the historians during Valentinian I and Valens. Then it is another thing that as we see from the first Roman medals they have been used for very long and they have been buried or ended in the soil / moss much later.

We follow the history to the end of the West Heruli. The key year is 378 AD when all tribes at Balkan were forced away by the Huns. The find in Pietroasa Romania is maybe from that time. The cavalry of Heruli maybe hide the ritual gold and hoped they would return some day. We can guess that ritual gold belonged to the cavalry and the leaders.

Hydatius from Spain tells that around 455 AD? Nordic "Vikings" with 7 ships and 400 men made raids on the Cantabrian coast in Spain Four years later there were raids into Lucentia and Baetica. They call them Heruli, but as said maybe at that time they knew only Heruli from the North. They were maybe Swedes known for their big fleet? In Rome they saw them as pirates but in such cases we should always compare with other forces in the Age of Rome. I do not know what we should call the Roman Barbarians ... do you? It was just the old story that when Rome was weak their neighbours attacked.

"Here the Erulian roams, who lives at the sea-weed filled corners at the farthest ends of the Ocean--the Erulian with blue eyes almost the same colar as that of the ice-cold sea."

"Thus, in 476 A.D., the Roman poet Sidonius Apollinaris beheld the ambassadors of the Eruli at the Court of the Visigothic King Euric at Bordeaux. One can picture them with their blue eyes--or, as some trans-late it, their blue cheeks, which could be a poetic description of their helmets of corrugated silver with visors similar to the famous silver helmet found in the bog-finds at Thorsbjerg in Angel."

There are a few finds of runes from northern France Probably these Eruli were from northern France and they joined the Visigoths. But back to the timeline:


Silver buckle from the Maglemose finds

Around 454 AD we note that the Romans called for their foedorati to a final fight against Attila. Among these were the Heruli and their friends the Allemani, Batavi, Warner and the Thüringian tribe. The finds of buckles with runes from Burgund are maybe from that time.

During the late period with Attila many Central European tribes were driven westward to the Gauls and among them at least a part of the Heruli. The annals are a little confusing so maybe we should conclude that some Heruli fought against Attila while others were on the his side. After Attila's dead all Heruli were gathered against his sons. Some of them stayed in Bohemia after those wars. 

Twenty years later the empire was so weak that another from outside could be the ruler. For some reason they always tell about Odoacar as the usurpator in 476 AD. He like many other military caesars / emperors were elected by the army and they came often from the provinces. Anyway his reign was fairly long 17 years compared with many of the other military emperors that got shortened. The bureaucracy and administration kept "business as usual".

Jordanes tells the Odoacar was of the Torcilingi tribe and a Sciri. How should we understand this? Maybe that he was of the Torcilingi clan among Heruli /Erils and that he was sciri = assigned like all the assigned German tribes that elected him as leader. Most of the old sources speak about Odoacar of the Heruli, but it is no big issue. Still another general shortened him and Theoderic was not a Roman either. Odoacar had no secretary like Cassiodorus to tell the afterworld how great he and his tribes were.

Maybe the Roman / Italian pride cannot take that some foreigner became ruler. Yet they always hate those who did the dirty work many times when the Roman generals set the hired foedorati in front at the battle. We should have no special moral valuation about this since from middle of 3rd century, since often some military person took the power or was elected by the soldiers.

For some reason the historians in Sweden see Theoderic I as a hero while the Danes sing heroic songs about Odoacar. The cause is that earlier historians have told that the Goths/ Ostrogoths were from Scandza. It is much like hazard if we mix politics into valuations of ancient times. Soon we stand there and are told we were not objective.

The Emperor Leo wanted to get West Rome under the wings of Victoria of Byzantium. Many times the Romans let others do the dirty work so he invoked Theoderic to take Rome. He was originally captured to Constantinople together with his father Tiudimir and he was brought up to be true Roman. Maybe he saw an opportunity to win a place on earth and take West Rome from the Emperor Zeno as thank for the trust.

We should have no moral valuation. He was just a man of the kind that could do such job. There have been many of his kind in the history of the empire. He shoved no scruple in killing everyone in his way. In Byzantium a new kind of "soft rule" was growing so the emperor could not be in the front of his troops. He sent Theoderic I and the entire Ostrogothic tribe to fight Odoacar and take back West Rome. There were some fights and there were peace negotiations in Ravenna. According to the legend there was no bones in Odoacar and he was split in two at the length by Theoderic's sword in the year 493 AD. He was using the split-the body-method they tell.

The drain of Erils in Scandinavia or people with skills was surely big in that period. The big move to England was in 477 AD and maybe even some went to Rome when the Heruli were in charge. We can only make qualified guesses about the rising Danes. On Fyn we see the last solidi of Leo 457 - 474 AD and the motif on the Maglemose bracts seem to be of the same age. They were found in a bog and that is the idea of "taken out of circulation".

So maybe we should set the move of Erils in Scandinavia to before 500 AD. It is mentioned by Roman sources that the Erils settled outside the Gauts … a wide definition. The concept Dane seems to be created then. It may have been by the local people/lower class, but can also have been the Sideni (Danes on the other side mentioned by Ptolemy) from North Germany threatened by the Slaves.

The solidus of Leo I 457 - 474 AD show the same kind of shield with a horse as on the Maglemose bract. The spear symbolises the war god Mars as well as the town Constantinople. In Scandinavia they did not make pictures en face that was the new style of Byzantium

The archaeologists have spent much time on Gotland where the climate favours archaeology. Other interesting parts are creating the centre of the kingdom of the Swedes near Stockholm. They have dug much in Skaane too because there are many finds in a little space. In fact maybe 80 - 90 % of the excavations are done in these places. So our knowledge of ancient Sweden could be better.

However they tell us about some burned places on Auland and at the coastal areas of South Sweden in the last half of 5th century. We can speculate in those with the fleets from Svealand, i.e. Uppland, but it could also be from the other side of Mare Balticum. There is much yet to be discovered on Auland … and we have the big golden necklaces of course. They tell us about a very wealthy island.

Up to the Ionian tradition leadership could alter its centre since by principle the highest leader was elected among the upper class. So we should leave open for more than one supreme place. One of them is surely on Fyn and maybe we should remember the Hoby finds from first century. At east Zealand there are several remarkable finds and the Maglemose eight bracts and one motif was made for a Celtic leader with Celtic neckring.

Auland would have been strategically the right place for traders and the finds confirm that. The biggest find of late gold coins consists of 79 solidi from the time 451 - 518. They are coined for Marcian, Leo, Zeno and Anastasius and the reign in Constantinople. Around 508 AD the Langobards that originally lived at Lower Elbe headed for Italy. Maybe the opportunity came when Theoderic got problem with the Franks. Even the Langobards feared the Franks expanding northward. … se below.

They drew out the Heruli from Moravia/ Bohemia and later from Hungary. In 512 AD Anastacius gave the Heruli land in Moesia, Dacia, Signidunum Illyria that is Beograd Yugoslavia, while the Langobards for the time being stayed in Rhaetia and Pannonia / Hungary.

But parts of the Heruli choose to "go home to Thule". Procopius Book VI, XV tells they travelled via Oder and their friends the Warners and through the land of the Danes, which were established by then. Even these Heruli settled outside the Gauts and the find at Auland gives us the right to think some of them stayed there.

It is natural to think of East Sweden and also Gautland for the first movement. Normally when we speak about power we should "follow the money". We have the find of 7 kilos raw gold from Timboholm Gautland and the biggest find in Saudermanland at Tureholm. It is mostly in rings and bars 12,5 kilos. But there is also a heavy neckring and gold mountings for at least four swords. It could be gold of the league. Observe that this did not affect Erils in other part of Scandinavia and wherever they had their enclaves and trade routes.

But there is a kind of enigma about the East Sweden. There are only few finds of golden bracts. The Saxones used the bowl shaped fibula, but the crusiform fibula is like a cultural symbol for Scandinavia and the immigrants to England north of Thames and in Kent. We do not find that in Gotland, East Gautland, and Svealand. But in Helsingland that surely produced iron in early Roman times. In East Gautland there is a find of a heavy-armed rider and that is not the "light cavalry" they generalise about. We should not take all facts seriously.

Maybe we should be cautious whenever we hear about immigration and peoples' movements. It is not so sure that everyone moved. Neither it is sure that all people were killed in wars. In those days were plenty of space, so if some tribe move in it is only that it maybe became dominant while the others were forgotten.

Often newcomers are in time assimilated to the old culture. We are for instance searching for Erils and Scandinavians in Yugoslavia no other Europeans search neither the Yugoslavians. But when we set the question on the table it fills out space at least for a while in Scandinavia.

The same year 508 AD Theoderic I got trouble and in reality began a struggle that lasted several hundreds of years between France and Rome/Italy. Chlodvig I and the Franks threatened Rome and now Theoderic was forced to seek help from former foedorati including the Heruli. He sent identical letters to the Thüringians, the Heruli and the Warners and asked them for help and these were old friends. He offers his daughter Amalberga to the king of Thüringia. He offers the king of Heruli Rodulf to be his "son in armour":

"King Theoderic to king of Heruli! To be taken as son in armour is a great honour among all tribes, since only the worthy and bravest get this distinction. Our own children often disappoint us. But children we choose by ourselves can not be unfit, since they owe their position not by birth but only by merit

… Therefore we want up to the custom of people make you our son and leave you a gift in weapon to You we have seen as a hero. We give you horses, swords, shields and other weapons but most important: We give you our favour. You get appreciation trough the decision of Theoderic and soon you are foremost among people. Take these weapons that would benefit You and me …

… the rest we have told the messengers in our own language. They should explain our letter and orally tell how our friendship could be strengthened.

Who can resist when the emperor is on his knees and offer the sub-Caesar crown. May this letter tell a little about the tone among equals?

Rodulf made peace with the Langobards and his daughter married the son of the Langobardian king. That was quite normally in those days that they fought each other one month and next they made peace and intermarriage. Rodulf died soon and that was the end of the West Herulian kingdom they tell.

South Heruli

Maybe it is convenient to split the Heruli in two. Other researchers do it. The Romans used the word for all Heruli within the empire and even for the "Viking raid" in Spain. Firstly the early traders and warriors via the old routes through Russia and the movement together with the Goths and other tribes in second century and maybe earlier. We can use the Roman annals that tells about ten raids of Goths and Heruli in 239 - 266 AD against Dacia. The final raid was in 267 - 268 AD with Heruli and other tribes in 500 ships sailing through the Bosporus and plundering in Greece as well as in Asia Minor.

These were maybe enrolled in the eastern part of the empire. The find of the neckring from Pietroasa Romania has the text "Iovi Hailag" … see also the Parthian influences in the Cavalry as seen in a series of golden bracts. That maybe quite early influence since we see it from the helmet of Varanhan II from third century. Gotland and Auland belonged to the real League of the Erils in Scandinavia we see from the finds. We also see import via the east route on Gotland. On Auland they think some fortifications are copied from the Dacian border. The latest find is the Roman bath.

The gold work they surely learned from the Greeks and maybe in Olbia that manufactured the Schytian gold since ancient times. Precious filigree and granulation work was learnt from the Greeks and there are sign of Bronze Age teaching to make thin gold plate. We can find these work through the Eastern Trade path to Scandinavia and the charm seems to be the most traded item we can follow and later the beads.. But the big golden collars are an enigma and we find granulation and filigree on golden bracts and jewellery.

Another thing as we shall see some Heruli continued their co-operation with the Romans for around 50 years after the home going tribe above. It is also a little confusing when Theoderic in Rome seek a treaty with the West Heruli at the same time as Anastacius in East make arrangement for other Heruli.

One of the last Heruli with a name is Duke Fara of Bavaria/ Austria d. 535 AD. We understand that there were bonds to the Bavarians all the time. He was commander of the Herulian cavalry in Dara with 300 riders and became Magister Militium in 532 AD. Later he was with 400 Heruli in the war against Persia.

(Another and better known Bavarian duke Fara II is also considered to have had Herulic ancestry. He ruled in north Bavaria, i.e. the area of modern Wuerzburg and a third Bavarian
duke, Theodo is considered to be the son of the Herul Sinduald who died around 568AD?) See Sinuald below … note by Dirk Faltin.

Fara I was in Africa against the Vandali 533 - 534 AD. We get different data but maybe there was a legion of foot soldiers since they mention 1000 men. It could even be the Cimbri Legion. The Vandali were Arians and some of the Heruli / Cimbri were Arians too. Although at that time many Heruli were Catholic. Emperor Justinian made a special drive in 527 AD to convert all within the Roman Empire.

I think we could speculate in the Bible Argentus / Silver Bible the Swedes "brought home" during the 30-years war from Austria. They think it was made in Ravenna in beginning of 6th century. I suggest that Duke Fara of Bavaria was Arian and he had the money and power to get the Arian Wulfila's Bible made at that time … we always get the impression that Christianity began in full scale at a certain date. In practise it was a process that lasted for hundreds of years even in the Roman Empire.

It is more like a note of curiosity that Emperor Justinian was king-maker in 538 AD. In some way they were subordinated since they had to get a new king of the right blood from Scandinavia. The first choice died and they had to return. Lastly two of high nobility Datius and Aordos with 200 men brought the right one.

Here I note that they were still bound to their roots. We can draw that back to the fact that they however spread over Europe still had some kind of Supreme in Scandinavia. Then they surely practised the same kind of league even in Scandinavia as long as they were in balance with local people.

Another thing is that they were two leaders. This is an old tradition even at times in Rome but we also reminds of the fact that the first leaders to England came in pair. That was surely a good thing once they were homeward bound and in their main profession. They simply needed a vice.

After Fara they mention Philimuth as commander of the Herulian Cavalry. The Heruli became brothers of the Langobards through the marriage of king Rodulf's daughter with king Vaco and their son became king Valtari 540 - 547 AD.

Here we can quote a few lines from an article by Dr. T. Looijenga "Who wrote the Breza futhark, and why?"

"The Langobards therefore seem to have lived in the Breza region from around 535 until 567 AD, some thirty years. One of these is, I think, the most likely candidate to have cut this futhark in the column." … se early runes

Maybe we should rather say that some in the Herulian suite wrote it on the half-pillar in the Church of Breza Emperor Justinian build at this time. There is also a pillar with Latin alphabet and it seems to have been custom. The pillar fragment is less than two feet high and the text is 1 - 2 inches high in freehand. Again we get an opportunity to connect the runes to the Heruli.

In 537 AD the wars against the East Goths begins and the eunuch Narses became Supreme Commander for East Rome and he enrolled 2000 Herulians. Then they mention places as Caesena, Italy, Venetia, Armenia and Tarvisos with most of them killed. In 542 - 543 AD they were in a new war against Persia.

For the last wars they moved to Italy in 547 AD. They were in the Battle of Taginae (Gualdo Tadino) in 552 AD against Totila. Emperor Justinian in Constantinople let his general Narses assign the Langobards (7000) and "Three thousand Heruli fought on horseback under Philemuth, their native chief and the noble Aratus".

The later adopted the manners and discipline of Rome, conducted a band of veterans of the same nation" (Gibbon). These together with the Byzantine troops should drive out king Totila and the Ostrogoths from Italy. These forces outnumbered the Ostrogoths and seemingly they used an old classic strategy. After that battle we do not hear about the Heruli /Erils.

The departure of the Heruli from the Scene of History is everything else than glorious. They got a new commander Sindual and were in battles against the Franks in 554 - 567 AD. After that they came back to Italy. Some got the idea to "make an Odoacar" or continue the "tradition" that the army elected emperors in Rome. It was a new time and Narses order was to bring Italy under the reign of Constantinople. So Narses made something like "a Theoderic" and Sindual was shortened. Naturally the Heruli lost their face and that is the end of story.

Even in Scandinavia they faded out when they lost their best part of Scandinavia. On Gotland we see the shift in culture when we look at the tomb stone stones in symbolic style. Until around 600 AD the style is the same symbolic style as in the golden bracts and other jewellery. In 8th century begins the picture period for maybe 200 years

… and after that in way they all over Scandinavian go back to the symbolic style. But in that short period they tell bout some of the Edda sagas and mythic figures we know … but not the same as in the style of Erils. Besides that we seethe Vendel style and that the nobility copied the military style they learned in Rome.

The Heruli /Erils are since long forgotten. Many historians describe them only as a little tribe somewhere in Scandinavia. I do not believe in that when I weigh together the facts. "The winner takes it all" and losers are forgotten. The fact that we cannot really tie them to a landscape make it also difficult, however the Norse and some landscape "outside the Gauts" want to own them.

It is obvious that the Erils did not die without heirs. They simply changed colours and came again when it was time for that. Maybe they learnt the lesson that in a sparsely populated land the nobility needs the people so they buried their golden neck-rings. The crew on a ship needs to be equal and they changed their horses to seahorses and became Vikings.

From the Nordic point of view the Viking Age was defending us from the aims of Holy Roman Empire enslaving us. The runes were saved during the Dark Age but became a tool too point out "Here I am", my family own this place as we see it on rune stones later on … but that is another story.

Some researchers deny totally the Herulian roots in Scandinavia. They place them as a Gothic tribe at lower Donau. However the Roman sources used Heruli as name of the Scandinavians since besides the Cimbri it was the only name they knew. In 3rd century they place some Heruli on the other side of Rhine and probably there was some enclave there or they gathered to help the Alemanni against Gaul. Hydatius name the "Vikings" Heruli in Spain around 459 AD.

Furthermore they deny parts of Jordanes, Procopius and in second hand Cassiodorus writing about Heruli in Scandinavia and that under Justinian they brought a king of the "right blood" from Scandinavia to rule the Heruli within the empire. In Scandinavia we see the Rome and emperor connection in the gold medals and golden bracts.

The history of Heruli could not be written using only few Greek and Roman written sources. Conclusion must be made as synthesis of written sources artefacts and other remains. Then we see that Scandinavian Erils furnished Rome with mercenaries and the voluntaries must have been taken from a large area. There must also have been capital behind to train the soldiers in first stage. These are things are not easy to see since they are depending of deep analysis of the scenario. There is plenty of space for discussion and fantasy.

Even Nordic historians want to see the Heruli as a small tribe on the Danish islands. But from the very beginning the Norse were involved and the only exception is East Sweden with few finds belonging to the Eril culture from the start. The base broadened in time as we also see from the import of Roman goods.

On the other hand after the departure from history Denmark, Norway and partly Sweden want the monopoly on the Heruli. As I see it the history belongs to them all since the rest of the Heruli seems to have settled in East Sweden in 6th century so the "white spot" was filled then. We are looking at 600 years of history. At that time there were no nation borders. The Great Migration shows us that people were moveable and it was no big affair to seek new settlement in East Sweden or England. The data are few so we have no grip of the proportions.

Kalmargaard Tissau is from the neighbourhood of where I lived in the boyhood. The weight is around 2 kilo and there are some fibulas from the Golden Age too. The Nationalmuseum in Denmark have a big excavation there with a hall 12,5 x 48 m and smaller surrounding buildings. Maybe an example of a place for the ringleader 600 AD but also earlier I think. Anyway it show that the ring culture was still going strong in some places. The twin type become fashion in Viking Age but in silver

Photo Lennart Larsen Nationalmuseet

Finally a curio from our time. Naturally I have been surfing and once I tried on Google "Daniel Heruli" and got 718 URL that was 3 years ago now 2004/ 9 there are 751. It is telling about the heresy of the Heruli now 1500 years after the happenings. The heresy hunters have read Daniel 7:7-8 and see the "10 horns" as Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi, Burgundians, Heruli, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards … and worst of all are the "3 horns" Vandal, Ostrogoths and Heruli.

The Catholic Heresy was proclaimed by Pontifex Maximus Emperor Theodosius I 378-395 AD so the Arians were not Anti-Christ before that. Hieronymus mentions Barbarian tribes within limes in 409 Quadus, Vandalus, Sarmata, Halani, Gepides Herules, Saxoni and Alemanni and that was in the age of the Huns making things up and down. Most of the tribes were fighting the Huns in the end… the people of Anglo-Saxons was not formed yet and Suevi, Burgundians and Langobards were not known.

Naturally the cause is Arianism so some forces in present Christianity with some Roman imperialism behind fire the battle and organised fight against Goths. Little those writers care for the fact that the Heruli fought the Vandali, Ostrogoths, Franks and Huns and gave their blood for Rome. I practise the UN Human Rights including freedom of religion and that includes our forefathers and with some difficulty these heresy-hunters. I cannot stand that they do not care for history and give credit to the Heruli. They are writing false history and I see a lot of faults in the stories.

The real cause is Daniel 2:1, "And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him." That king lived c.605-562 BC so today they practice Daniels vision on the time when the Roman Empire fell apart and they can easily find ten tribes in 4th century to materialise the ten horns … never mind some people find also some powers to materialise the foretelling of Nostradamus-J

"After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast-- terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

"While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

Dan 7:7-8 (NIV)

The heresy hunters set teeth in Heruli, Vandali and (Ostro)Goths. They tell that the Heruli was uprooted in 493 and still that the Langobards uprooted them in 508. Still more they united through marriage Herulian princess and king Vaco and they settled in Pannonia. Both tribes converted to Christianity around 535 and Emperor Justinian build a church in Breza where we find the rune alphabet on the door post.

The Heruli were with the Romans fighting the Vandali in Africa 533 - 534 and later with the Langobards and Romans drive the Goths out of Italy in 552 and the Heruli disappeared as Roman foedorati in 568, but surely some left people settled in Jugoslavia and others perhaps moved to Scandinavia like their ancestors in 508 AD. See History of Heruli

They tell:

1. The Saxons ???, originating the English nation.
2. The Franks, originating the French nation.
3. The Alamanni, originating the German nation.
4. The Visigoths, originating the Spanish nation.
5. The Suevi, originating the Portuguese nation.
6. The Lombards, originating the Italian nation.
7. The Burgundians, originating the Swiss nation.
8. The Heruli, who have since disappeared.
9. The Vandals, who have since disappeared.
10. The Ostrogoths, who have since disappeared.

This list seem to have been constructed afterwards to fit the vision from the time of Daniel 1000 years before the proclaimed heresy (Let me remark that these tribes belonged to the Suevian Ritual League before the Romans but turned martial when the Romans suppressed them.) These heresy hunters do not hunt the rest of the tribes in the 10 horns. Maybe because the heirs are still visible in the kingdoms that was created with these tribes as base. There are living heirs to defend them but it easy to bark at the dead. This is surely behind the bad name of Goths.

I see no reason why these three tribes should get hatred posthumous reputation. As a peaceful world member I do not like that anyone create hatred and that counts even for our ancestors. In my moral it is always disgrace when someone slay the defenceless. I do not think the Bible prefer that either when we think of the rule "Love your fellow human as yourself!"

We should also remember that Goths got the Bible translated by bishop Wulfila and it seems that the Arianism also reached Scandinavia in 4th century. The difference between Arianism and the Catholic = common religion was very little or mostly academic between church fathers … and of course it is mostly political difference when the emperor wanted to control the church.