Gunther

Gunther

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Gunther is the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 name of a semi-legendary king of Burgundy of the early 5th century. Legendary tales about him appear in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, medieval Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

, Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

, and Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 texts, especially concerning his relations with Siegfried
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

 (Sigurd in Old Norse) and his death by treachery in the hall of Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun
Attila , more frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared...

.

Historical information


In 406 the Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, the Suevi, and possibly the Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 crossed the Rhine
Crossing of the Rhine
31 December 406, is the often-repeated date of the crossing of the Rhine by a mixed group of barbarians that included Vandals, Alans and Suebi...

 and invaded Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

. In 411, the Burgundian king Gundahar or Gundicar set up a puppet emperor, Jovinus
Jovinus
Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

, in cooperation with Goar
Goar
Goar was a leader of the Alans in 5th-century Gaul. He led his followers over the Rhine during the multi-tribe invasion of Gaul in 406, but quickly joined the Romans, and subsequently played a role in the internal politics of Gaul.-Invasion of Gaul:Goar is first mentioned in Gregory of Tours's...

, king of the Alans. With the authority of the Gallic emperor that he controlled, Gundahar settled on the left or western (i.e. Roman) bank of the Rhine, between the river Lauter and the Nahe, seizing Worms
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...

, Speyer
Speyer
Speyer is a city of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located beside the river Rhine, Speyer is 25 km south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim. Founded by the Romans, it is one of Germany's oldest cities...

, and Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

. Apparently as part of a truce, the Emperor Honorius later officially "granted" them the land. Olympiodorus of Thebes
Olympiodorus of Thebes
Olympiodorus was an historical writer of classical education, a "poet by profession" as he says of himself, who was born at Thebes in Egypt, and was sent on a mission to the Huns on the Black Sea by Emperor Honorius about 412, and later lived at the court of Theodosius II, to whom his History was...

 also mentions a Guntiarios who was called "commander of the Burgundians" in the context of the 411 usurping of Germania Secunda
Germania Secunda
In the early fourth-century Notitia Dignitatum, Germania Secunda , situated along the Lower Rhine and administered by a Consularis, was the name under the Dominate of Germania Inferior, a military border territory which had been established under the Flavian reorganization of the Roman Empire, out...

 by Jovinus. (Prosper, a. 386)

Despite their new status as foederati
Foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...

, Burgundian raids into Roman upper Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica was a Roman province located in what is now the southern part of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, northeastern France, and western Germany. The indigenous population of Gallia Belgica, the Belgae, consisted of a mixture of Celtic and Germanic tribes...

 became intolerable and were ruthlessly brought to an end in 436, when the Roman general Flavius Aetius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

 called in Hun mercenaries who overwhelmed the Rhineland kingdom (with its capital at the old Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic Roman settlement of Borbetomagus
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...

, now called Worms) in 437. Gundahar was killed in the fighting, reportedly along with the majority of the Burgundian tribe. (Prosper; Chronica Gallica 452; Hydatius; and Sidonius Apollinaris)

In legend


The destruction of Worms
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...

 and the Burgundian kingdom by the Huns became the subject of heroic legends that were afterwards incorporated into many works of medieval literature
Medieval literature
Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages . The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works...

 such as the Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 epic poem, the Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....

, where King Gunther and Queen Brünhild hold their court at Worms, and Siegfried
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

 comes to woo Gunther's sister Kriemhild. (In Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 sources the names are Gunnar, Brynhild, Sigurd and Gudrun as normally rendered in English.)

In the Waltharius
Waltharius
Waltharius, a Latin poem founded on German popular tradition, relates the exploits of the west Gothic hero Walter of Aquitaine.-History:Our knowledge of the author, Ekkehard, a monk of St. Gall, is due to a later Ekkehard, known as Ekkehard IV , who gives some account of him in the Casus Sancti Galli...

, Gibicho and his son Guntharius are kings of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, whereas the king of the Burgundians is named Heriricus who is father to Hiltgunt, the heroine of the story. Hagano
Hagen (legend)
Hagen or Högni is a Burgundian warrior in tales about the Burgundian kingdom at Worms. Hagen is often identified as a brother or half-brother of King Gunther .In the Nibelungenlied, he is called Hagen of Tronje...

 appears here as a kinsman of Gibicho and Guntharius, but the relationship is not made explicit. In their combats with Waltharius, Guntharius loses a leg, Hagano loses half his face and one eye, and Waltharius loses a hand. But there is no hint in later tales that Gunther is in any way maimed. Another version of the story of Waltharius and Hiltgunt appears in the Norse Thidreks saga, but in this account Gunther plays no part at all.

Gunther otherwise only appears in tales relating to Siegfried and the fall of the Niflungs. In most texts, such as the Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....

, Gunther/Gunnar seeks to make Brünhild his wife, but can win her and master her only because the hero Siegfried/Sigurd aids him and takes his place. Siegfried marries Gunther's sister Kriemhild/Gudrun. An impassioned debate between Brünhild and Kriemhild about their respective status leads to the secret that Siegfried had taken Gunther's place being revealed. Gunther then agrees to assist in Siegfried's murder. After Siegfried is murdered, Gunther and his brothers, despite deep suspicions of treachery, accept an invitation from Etzel, or Atli in Old Norse (i.e. Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun
Attila , more frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared...

), to visit his court. There Gunther and his brothers were betrayed. In some versions of the story, they were thrown in a snake pit
Snake pit
Snake pits are places of horror, torture and even death in European legends and fairy tales. The Viking warlord Ragnar Lodbrok is said to have been thrown into a snake pit and died there, after his army had been defeated in battle by King Aelle II of Northumbria...

 to die, while in others they were killed fighting the Huns and their allies.

According to the Norse poem Atlamal
Atlamál
Atlamál in grœnlenzku is one of the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda. It relates the same basic story as Atlakviða at greater length and in a different style...

 Gunnar remarried after Brynhild's death to a woman named Glaumvor.

See also

  • Burgundians
    Burgundians
    The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

  • Nibelung
    Nibelung
    The German Nibelungen and the corresponding Old Norse form Niflung is the name in Germanic and Norse mythology of the royal family or lineage of the Burgundians who settled at Worms....

  • Völsunga saga
    Volsunga saga
    The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...