Heruli

Heruli

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The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe
East Germanic tribes
The Germanic tribes referred to as East Germanic constitute a wave of migrants who may have moved from Scandinavia into the area between the Oder and Vistula rivers between the years 600 and 300 BC. Later they went to the south...

 who are famous for their naval exploits. Migrating from Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

 to the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 in the third century They were part of the
series of raids and incursions carried out by Gothic groups in the Balkans and Greece from the 250s. In 267 they attacked Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 and sacked Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. They, along with the Goths, were defeated by the Romans in 269 at near Naissus
Battle of Naissus
The Battle of Naissus was the defeat of a Gothic coalition by the Roman Empire under Emperor Gallienus near Naissus...

 (modern Niˇs in present-day Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

. In the 4th century, they were subjugated by the Ostrogoth
Ostrogoth
The Ostrogoths were a branch of the Goths , a Germanic tribe who developed a vast empire north of the Black Sea in the 3rd century AD and, in the late 5th century, under Theodoric the Great, established a Kingdom in Italy....

s and later the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

. Breaking free from the Huns after the Battle of Nedao
Battle of Nedao
The Battle of Nedao, named after the Nedava, a tributary of the Sava, was a battle fought in Pannonia in 454. After the death of Attila the Hun, allied forces of the Germanic subject peoples under the leadership of Ardaric, king of the Gepids, defeated the Hunnic forces of Ellac, the son of Attila,...

 in 454, established their own kingdom and joined Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

, the commander of the Imperial 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...

 troops who deposed the last Western Roman
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 Emperor Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

 in 476 AD. In 508 they were defeated by the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

. Their name is related to earl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

(see erilaz
Erilaz
Erilaz is a Migration period Proto-Norse word attested on various Elder Futhark inscriptions, which has often been interpreted to mean "magician" or "rune master", viz. one who is capable of writing runes to magical effect...

) and was probably an honorific military title.

Origins


The 6th century chronicler Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 reports a tradition that they had been driven out of their homeland by the Dani
Daner
The Danes were a North Germanic tribe residing in modern day Denmark. They are mentioned in the 6th century in Jordanes' Getica, by Procopius, and by Gregory of Tours....

, which places their origins in the Danish isles or southernmost Sweden. According to Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, they maintained close links with their kinsmen in Thule (Scandinavia). He relates that the Heruls killed their own king during their stay in the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 (cf. Domalde
Domalde
In Norse mythology, Domalde, Dómaldi or Dómaldr was a Swedish king of the House of Ynglings, cursed by his stepmother, according to Snorri Sturluson, with ósgæssa, "ill-luck". He was the son of Visbur....

), and that they sent an emissary to Thule requesting a new king. Their request was granted, and a new king arrived with 200 young men. According to Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, the Heruli practiced a warrior-based, ritual homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

. In his De Bello Gothico, Procopius is scandalized by the fact that "...and they have sex contrary to the ends of divine law, even with men and asses" (VI. xiv. 36) (Greek: ). Procopius does not elaborate upon this brief statement. However, he also noted that the young squires of the "Erouloi" (Greek for Heruli) go into battle without even a shield to protect themselves; once proven in battle, their Heruli masters then permitted them to carry one in battle, signifying their entrance into full manhood.

Black Sea


The Heruls are first mentioned by Roman writers in the reign of Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

 (260-268), when they accompanied the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 ravaging the coasts of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

. The mixed warbands sacked Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 in 267, but their eastern contingent was decimated in the Balkans at the Battle of Naissus
Battle of Naissus
The Battle of Naissus was the defeat of a Gothic coalition by the Roman Empire under Emperor Gallienus near Naissus...

 two years later. A western contingent of Heruli are mentioned at the mouth of the Rhine in 289. From the end of the third century, Heruls are also mentioned as raiders in 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...

 and Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, together with Saxons
Saxons
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

, 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...

 and Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

. These Heruls are usually regarded as Western Heruls; their settlements are assumed to have been somewhere at the lower Rhine. By the end of the 4th century the Heruls were subjugated by the Ostrogoths. When the Ostrogothic kingdom of Ermanaric
Ermanaric
Ermanaric was a Greuthungian Gothic King who before the Hunnic invasion evidently ruled an enormous area north of the Black Sea. Contemporary historian Ammianus Marcellinus recounts him as a "most warlike man" who "ruled over extensively wide and fertile regions"...

 was destroyed by the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 in about 375, the Heruls became subject to the Huns

Indepented Kingdom and later years


After the fall of the Hunnic realm in 454 at the Battle of Nedao
Battle of Nedao
The Battle of Nedao, named after the Nedava, a tributary of the Sava, was a battle fought in Pannonia in 454. After the death of Attila the Hun, allied forces of the Germanic subject peoples under the leadership of Ardaric, king of the Gepids, defeated the Hunnic forces of Ellac, the son of Attila,...

, in which the Heruls participated, they created their own kingdom at the March
March
March is in present time held to be the third month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. It is one of the seven months which are 31 days long....

 and Theiss
Tisza
The Tisza or Tisa is one of the main rivers of Central Europe. It rises in Ukraine, and is formed near Rakhiv by the junction of headwaters White Tisa, whose source is in the Chornohora mountains and Black Tisa, which springs in the Gorgany range...

 rivers, (in the region of today southern Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

). The Heruli later joined Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

, the commander of the Imperial 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...

 troops who deposed the last Western Roman
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 Emperor Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

 in 476 AD.

After the Lombard kingdom was destroyed by the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, Herulian fortunes waned. Remaining Heruls joined the Lombards and some of them sought refuge with the Gepid
Gepid
The Gepids were an East Germanic tribe who were closely related to the Goths. The Gepids were recorded in the area along the southern Baltic coast in the 1st century AD, having migrated there from southern Sweden some years earlier...

s. Marcellinus comes recorded that the Romans (meaning the East Romans or in modern naming the Byzantines) allowed them to resettle depopulated "lands and cities" near Singidunum
Singidunum
Singidunum is the name for the ancient city in Serbia which became Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It was recorded that a Celtic tribe Scordisci settled the area in the 3rd century BC following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans. The Roman Empire conquered the area in 75 BC and later garrisoned...

 (modern Belgrade
Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

); this was done "by order of Anastasius Caesar
Anastasius I (emperor)
Anastasius I was Byzantine Emperor from 491 to 518. During his reign the Roman eastern frontier underwent extensive re-fortification, including the construction of Dara, a stronghold intended to counter the Persian fortress of Nisibis....

" sometime between June 29 and August 31, 512. After one generation, this minor federate kingdom disappeared from the historical records.

Records indicate that the Heruli served in the armies of the Byzantine emperors for a number of years, in particular in the campaigns of Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

, when much of the old Roman territory, including Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, and North Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 was recaptured. Pharus
Pharas the Herulian
Pharas the Herulian was a sixth century commander of Herulian forces loyal to Byzantium, who figures briefly in Procopius’ narrative of Justinian's wars....

 was a notable Herulian commander during this period. Several thousand Heruli served in the personal guard of Belisarius throughout the campaigns. They disappear from historical record by the mid-6th century.

According to Procopius, many Heruli returned to Scandinavia and settled beside the Geats (Gautoi). The places where they are assumed to have resettled have been identified with Värmland
Värmland
' is a historical province or landskap in the west of middle Sweden. It borders Västergötland, Dalsland, Dalarna, Västmanland and Närke. It is also bounded by Norway in the west. Latin name versions are Vermelandia and Wermelandia. Although the province's land originally was Götaland, the...

 or the provinces of Blekinge
Blekinge
' is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden , situated in the south of the country. It borders Småland, Scania and the Baltic Sea.The name "Blekinge" comes from the adjective bleke, which corresponds to the nautical term for "dead calm"....

 and Värend
Värend
Värend was in the Middle Ages the most populous of the constituent small lands of the province Småland, in Sweden. Early on, Växjö became its center. Around 1170, Värend broke out of the diocese of Linköping, and formed its own diocese of Växjö...

, two districts where the women had equal rights of inheritance with their brothers. Some noble Swedish families in the area also claim to be descendants of the returning Heruli. Such identifications are not widely accepted. It has also been suggested that it was returning Heruli who first colonized Iceland.

No "Heruli" are mentioned in Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

, Frankish
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...

 or Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

 chronicles, so it is assumed they were known in the north and west by another name. Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

1911 suggested that, since the name Heruli itself is identified by many with the Anglo-Saxon eorlas ("nobles"), Old Saxon erlos ("men"), the singular of which (erilaz
Erilaz
Erilaz is a Migration period Proto-Norse word attested on various Elder Futhark inscriptions, which has often been interpreted to mean "magician" or "rune master", viz. one who is capable of writing runes to magical effect...

) frequently occurs in the earliest Northern inscriptions, that "Heruli" may have been a title of honor. (See also Earl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

)