The people of Friesland,
Frisians, came from the part of Europe that
southern Scandinavia, Denmark
and generally northwestern Europe. From 1750 to
they were part of the Germanic tribes, which were mainly Nordic, or
people. Among the Nordics there was a smaller group of “broad-faced”
were probably slaves. Around 1400 BC the Germanics split into three
groups; West (Goths), East (Vandals), and North (Scandinavians). The
differences can be traced in language and culture. By 700 BC, the end
Bronze Age, the Goths had expanded into the coastal region of Germany
(now the Hanover area.)
Goths can be
divided into three
tribal groups along religious lines; the Inguaeones, the Istuaeones,
Irminones. The Inguaeones’ name was derived from the god Inguz (or
included the Frisians. Other tribes in the Inguaeones group were the
Angles, and Saxons. Of these tribes the closest to the Frisians were
Saxons. The Inguaeones tribes settled along the coast of the North
Sea, in area of the current Dutch provinces of Friesland
and Groningen. From 700 to
there was no separate Frisian group but between 400 and 200 BC major
changes happened. By 200 BC a distinctly Frisian culture had developed
the river Eems in Germany
and Wijk-bij-Duurstede in the Netherlands.
For the first time the Frisians were an ethnic group. By 47 AD the Roman
Empire had control of Friesland,
there were occasional rebellions. The region remained in the Roman
Empire until the Empire’s collapse in 410 AD.
“Frisian” has been found
as far back as the end of the first century AD. The Germanic word
comes from the Indo-European “Preisios,” meaning “to love.” Freya is the Germanic goddess of fertility and
love and this name is considered the root of the tribal name. There are
of the ancient alphabet used by the Germanic peoples. Words were carved
making them have an angular shape. The earliest runes found were carved
in Southern Juteland in Denmark.
The runes were used for two main purposes, sending messages and for
or magical purposes. Initially there were 24 letters in their alphabet
areas populated by Angles, Saxons, and Frisians it was developed to a
26 letters, known as the Anglo-Frisian Futhorc.
From 250 AD to
100 AD some of the
Frisians and Chaukians (the most numerous Germanic tribe) made a new
alliance called the Franks, which emigrated south to form the Frankish
After 400 AD the rise of sea-level stopped and the Frisians returned to
which by then had been settled by other tribes. These tribes became the
tribe. The Saxons merged with some of the Chaukians also. This new
the Saxons’, not the Chaukians’ name. Apparently the Saxons, though a
tribe, had done more to build up the union. They are mentioned as
the North Sea starting in 286 AD.
550 AD was a migration period in Europe. In the
century the Frisian Empire extended from the coastal areas of north Belgium
to southern Denmark.
They controlled much of the North Sea trade
routes from Friesland
Frankia, Scandinavia and northwestern Russia.
A ‘Magna Frisia’ (Great-Friesland) consisted of a long narrow strip of
along the North Sea, from the Swin
River in Belgium
to the Weser River
Saxons were their neighbors to the north and east, the Franks were in
and the Anglo-Saxons in the west across the North Sea.
Since the conversion to Christianity of the Franks under Clovis
the Frisians had become their major enemy. About 450 AD Angles, Saxons,
and Frisians crossed the North Sea and
Anglo-Saxon empire known as England.
The Frisians colonized what became the county
of Kent in southeast England.
and the Franks, converted to Catholicism for power and political
Germanic tribes had converted to Christianity called Arianism. The
tribes in the north, including Friesland, still
practiced the religious beliefs of their forefathers, known as Odinism
considered heathens. There were many years of warfare between the
Frisians, Christians and heathens. Around 734 Charles Martel sent
forces to the
heart of Frisian land. A decisive battle, with Poppo as the Frisian
waged on land and sea. Frisian forces were defeated, and Poppo was
killed, and Friesland
became part of the Frankish Empire. Frisians lost their freedom and the
established a foothold in Friesland.
Friesland was conquered about fifty years later. They had
with their heathen Saxon neighbors. Charles Martel’s son, Pepin the
but could not win against these Frisians and Saxons. They remained free
his grandson, Charlemagne, defeated them in 785. In Kent,
at this time, Egbert of Wessex would have been about ten years old.
the eighth century, while these struggles were taking place, the
language was born, which can be traced back by sound changes in the
It is a Germanic language belonging to the West Germanic group. High
German, Dutch, and English are also in this group, English being the
Frisian. At its start Frisian was spoken in the coastal areas of Holland
ruled the Frankish Empire in a strong centralized way and Frisians were
required to serve in his armies. In 800 the first Viking raids upon Friesland
started, and the Frisians were discharged to organize their defenses at
Egbert was in exile from 795 to 802 in Charlemagne’s court, and would
aware of these events. Since
Charlemagne’s victory over the Saxons in 785, his empire bordered the
The Vikings knew of atrocities Charlemagne had done to the Frisians and
and raided the wealthy churches and monasteries, which were thought of
the Frisian Empire was a county of the Frankish Empire. The first
in the Frankish Empire dated from 749-775. The count was a feudal
the main duties to maintain the rule of law, and to organize conscripts
Frankish armies. There are several who are known by name from various
of Charlemagne’s court, representing East, West, and Middle Friesland.
were three counts named Egbert in this group, all counts of Middle
There was a Count Egbert mentioned during the time of King Egbert’s
Charlemagne’s court, who remained in the Frankish Empire after the
Egbert to England.
84 AD the Romans had conquered all England,
and most of Wales
and the Lowlands of Scotland. After that time the Briton tribes were
few incidents. They benefited from the Roman civilization, with its
laws, roads, business and trading. The principal enemies of Roman
the Picts from the Scottish Highlands,
Frisians, Angles, and Saxons. To deal with these groups, the Romans
special Count of Saxon Shores, which included most of the east coast of
For many years these “Saxons” were beaten off, but when the Roman
empire itself was invaded by barbarians, Roman troops in Britain
were called home and left the island at the mercy of the invaders. At
Britons fought the Saxons, the Gaels and Picts, but Britain
soon broke up into many small independent kingdoms.
the king of Kent, Vortigern, was desperate and appealed for help in
the attacks from the Picts, to two Jutish chiefs from the continent,
and Horsa. They drove the Picts out, but refused to return home. War
and Vortigern was defeated at the battle of Aylesford, at which Horsa
slain. Hengist then took over the kingdom
of Kent. During the next
and fifty years invaders conquered most of the little kingdoms and
there with their families. The Anglo-Saxon invasion had begun.
chief, Aella, landed in Sussex
in 477, proceeded to overrun the district, and settled his followers
battering the Britons in a number of sieges. Nearly twenty years later,
Saxon chief, Cerdic, brought
an army to Southampton,
shortly made himself master of Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire. Cerdic
king of Wessex
and was a direct ancestor of King Egbert.
invaders had now settled in the eastern part of England
and southern Scotland.
The land was excellent ground for agriculture, and the Angles and
expert farmers. The marauding Saxons seized whatever bits of land they
and, of course, there was opposition from the Celts. The legendary King
was one of those who led them in trying to beat off the advancing
However, nothing would stop them arriving and settling.
first Anglo-Saxon communities were probably started with gifts of land
conquering chieftains to the sworn followers whom they was bound to
return for their loyal service in battle. In this way Anglo-Saxons
settlements, not under the old tribal king, but under princes
younger branches. They organized themselves as new military states,
on their chiefs, rather than as tribal groups. When the names of these
settlements were not already well established they are either borrowed
lands recently conquered or given a new name.
about 550 AD there were probably as many as a thousand little
some only a few square miles in area. There is some information about
chieftains of that time in the place-names which still survive. A large
of towns and villages in England
have names ending in -ing, or -ingham, or -ington. The word ingas
‘family’ or ‘followers,’ so a chief’s name would be perpetuated in the
the spot where his boat landed and where he carved out his little
this would be followed by -ing to show that his family or followers had
there with him. Tooting, Havering, and Paddington are typical examples.
meant ‘home’ or ‘homestead,’ and a tun was ‘enclosure’ and
later came to
mean ‘village’ or ‘town.’ So a village with a name such as Donnington
suggest that it was the ‘town where Dunna’s people live.’
Tribes in Europe