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The Older Periods Of The Troy Saga


Source: Teutonic Mythology

How did the belief that Troy was the original home of the Teutons arise?
Does it rest on native traditions? Has it been inspired by sagas and
traditions current among the Teutons themselves, and containing as
kernel "a faint reminiscence of an immigration from Asia," or is it a
thought entirely foreign to the heathen Teutonic world, introduced in
Christian times by Latin scholars? These questions shall now be

Already in the seventh century--that is to say, more than five hundred
years before Heimskringla and the Prose Edda were written--a Teutonic
people were told by a chronicler that they were of the same blood as the
Romans, that they had like the Romans emigrated from Troy, and that they
had the same share as the Romans in the glorious deeds of the Trojan
heroes. This people were the Franks. Their oldest chronicler, Gregorius,
bishop of Tours, who, about one hundred years before that time--that is
to say, in the sixth century--wrote their history in ten books, does not
say a word about it. He, too, desires to give an account of the original
home of the Franks (Hist. Franc., ii. 9), and locates it quite a
distance from the regions around the lower Rhine, where they first
appear in the light of history; but still not farther away than to
Pannonia. Of the coming of the Franks from Troy neither Gregorius knows
anything nor the older authors, Sulpicius Alexander and others, whose
works he studied to find information in regard to the early history of
the Franks. But in the middle of the following century, about 650, an
unknown author, who for reasons unknown, is called Fredegar, wrote a
chronicle, which is in part a reproduction of Gregorius' historical
work, but also contains various other things in regard to the early
history of the Franks, and among these the statement that they emigrated
from Troy. He even gives us the sources from which he got this
information. His sources are, according to his own statement, not
Frankish, not popular songs or traditions, but two Latin authors--the
Church father Hieronymus and the poet Virgil. If we, then, go to these
sources in order to compare Fredegar's statement with his authority, we
find that Hieronymus once names the Franks in passing, but never refers
to their origin from Troy, and that Virgil does not even mention Franks.
Nevertheless, the reference to Virgil is the key to the riddle, as we
shall show below. What Fredegar tells about the emigration of the Franks
is this: A Frankish king, by the name Priam, ruled in Troy at the time
when this city was conquered by the cunning of Ulysses. Then the Franks
emigrated, and were afterwards ruled by a king named Friga. Under his
reign a dispute arose between them, and they divided themselves into two
parties, one of which settled in Macedonia, while the other, called
after Friga's name Frigians (Phrygians), migrated through Asia and
settled there. There they were again divided, and one part of them
migrated under king Francio into Europe, travelled across this
continent, and settled, with their women and children, near the Rhine,
where they began building a city which they called Troy, and intended
to organise in the manner of the old Troy, but the city was not
completed. The other group chose a king by name Turchot, and were called
after him Turks. But those who settled on the Rhine called themselves
Franks after their king Francio, and later chose a king named Theudemer,
who was descended from Priam, Friga, and Francio. Thus Fredegar's

About seventy years later another Frankish chronicle saw the light of
day--the Gesta regum Francorum. In it we learn more of the emigration
of the Franks from Troy. Gesta regum Francorum (i) tells the following
story: In Asia lies the city of the Trojans called Ilium, where king
AEneas formerly ruled. The Trojans were a strong and brave people, who
waged war against all their neighbours. But then the kings of the Greeks
united and brought a large army against AEneas, king of the Trojans.
There were great battles and much bloodshed, and the greater part of the
Trojans fell. AEneas fled with those surviving into the city of Ilium,
which the Greeks besieged and conquered after ten years. The Trojans who
escaped divided themselves into two parties. The one under king AEneas
went to Italy, where he hoped to receive auxiliary troops. Other
distinguished Trojans became the leaders of the other party, which
numbered 12,000 men. They embarked in ships and came to the banks of the
river Tanais. They sailed farther and came within the borders of
Pannonia, near the Moeotian marshes (navigantes pervenerunt intra
terminos Pannoniarum juxta Moeotidas paludes), where they founded a
city, which they called Sicambria, and here they remained many years
and became a mighty people. Then came a time when the Roman emperor
Valentinianus got into war with that wicked people called Alamanni (also
Alani). He led a great army against them. The Alamanni were defeated,
and fled to the Moeotian marshes. Then said the emperor, "If anyone
dares to enter those marshes and drive away this wicked people, I shall
for ten years make him free from all burdens." When the Trojans heard
this they went, accompanied by a Roman army, into the marshes, attacked
the Alamanni, and hewed them down with their swords. Then the Trojans
received from the emperor Valentinianus the name Franks, which, the
chronicle adds, in the Attic tongue means the savage (feri), "for
the Trojans had a defiant and indomitable character."

For ten years afterwards the Trojans or Franks lived undisturbed by
Roman tax-collectors; but after that the Roman emperor demanded that
they should pay tribute. This they refused, and slew the tax-collectors
sent to them. Then the emperor collected a large army under the command
of Aristarcus, and strengthened it with auxiliary forces from many
lands, and attacked the Franks, who were defeated by the superior force,
lost their leader Priam, and had to take flight. They now proceeded
under their leaders Markomir, Priam's son, and Sunno, son of Antenor,
away from Sicambria through Germany to the Rhine, and located there.
Thus this chronicle.

About fifty years after its appearance--that is, in the time of
Charlemagne, and, to be more accurate, about the year 787--the
well-known Longobardian historian Paulus Diaconus wrote a history of the
bishops of Metz. Among these bishops was the Frank Arnulf, from whom
Charlemagne was descended in the fifth generation. Arnulf had two sons,
one of whom was named Ansgisel, in a contracted form Ansgis. When Paulus
speaks of this he remarks that it is thought that the name Ansgis comes
from the father of AEneas, Anchises, who went from Troy to Italy; and he
adds that according to evidence of older date the Franks were believed
to be descendants of the Trojans. These evidences of older date we have
considered above--Fredegar's Chronicle and Gesta regum Francorum.
Meanwhile this shows that the belief that the Franks were of Trojan
descent kept spreading with the lapse of time. It hardly needs to be
added that there is no good foundation for the derivation of Ansgisel or
Ansgis from Anchises. Ansgisel is a genuine Teutonic name. (See No. 123
concerning Ansgisel, the emigration chief of the Teutonic myth.)

We now pass to the second half of the tenth century, and there we find
the Saxon chronicler Widukind. When he is to tell the story of the
origin of the Saxon people, he presents two conflicting accounts. The
one is from a Saxon source, from old native traditions, which we shall
discuss later; the other is from a scholastic source, and claims that
the Saxons are of Macedonian descent. According to this latter account
they were a remnant of the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great,
which, as Widukind had learned, after Alexander's early death, had
spread over the whole earth. The Macedonians were at that time regarded
as Hellenicised Trojans. In this connection I call the reader's
attention to Fredegar's Chronicle referred to above, which tells that
the Trojans, in the time of king Friga, disagreed among themselves, and
that a part of them emigrated and settled in Macedonia. In this manner
the Saxons, like the Franks, could claim a Trojan descent; and as
England to a great extent was peopled by Saxon conquerors, the same
honour was of course claimed by her people. In evidence of this, and to
show that it was believed in England during the centuries immediately
following Widukind's time, that the Saxons and Angles were of Trojan
blood, I will simply refer here to a pseudo-Sibylline manuscript found
in Oxford and written in very poor Latin. It was examined by the French
scholar Alexandre (Excursus ad Sibyllina, p. 298), and in it Britain
is said to be an island inhabited by the survivors of the Trojans
(insulam reliquiis Trojanorum inhabitatam). In another British
pseudo-Sibylline document it is stated that the Sibylla was a daughter
of king Priam of Troy; and an effort has been made to add weight and
dignity to this document by incorporating it with the works of the well
known Church historian Beda, and thus date it at the beginning of the
eighth century, but the manuscript itself is a compilation from the time
of Frederick Barbarossa (Excurs. ad Sib., p. 289). Other
pseudo-Sibylline documents in Latin give accounts of a Sibylla who lived
and prophesied in Troy. I make special mention of this fact, for the
reason that in the Foreword of the Prose Edda it is similarly stated
that Thor, the son of Priam's daughter, was married to Sibil (Sibylla).

Thus when Franks and Saxons had been made into Trojans--the former into
full-blooded Trojans and the latter into Hellenicised Trojans--it could
not take long before their northern kinsmen received the same descent as
a heritage. In the very nature of things the beginning must be made by
those Northmen who became the conquerors and settlers of Normandy in the
midst of "Trojan" Franks. About a hundred years after their settlement
there they produced a chronicler, Dudo, deacon of St. Quentin. I have
already shown that the Macedonians were regarded as Hellenicised
Trojans. Together with the Hellenicising they had obtained the name
Danai, a term applied to all Greeks. In his Norman Chronicle, which goes
down to the year 996, Dudo relates (De moribus et gestis, &c., lib.
i.) that the Norman men regarded themselves as Danai, for Danes (the
Scandinavians in general) and Dania was regarded as the same race name.
Together with the Normans the Scandinavians also, from whom they were
descended accordingly had to be made into Trojans. And thus the matter
was understood by Dudo's readers; and when Robert Wace wrote his rhymed
chronicle, Roman de Rou, about the northern conquerors of Normandy,
and wanted to give an account of their origin, he could say, on the
basis of a common tradition:

"When the walls of Troy in ashes were laid,
And the Greeks exceedingly glad were made,
Then fled from flames on the Trojan strand
The race that settled old Denmark's land;
And in honour of the old Trojan reigns,
The people called themselves the Danes."

I have now traced the scholastic tradition about the descent of the
Teutonic races from Troy all the way from the chronicle where we first
find this tradition recorded, down to the time when Are, Iceland's first
historian, lived, and when the Icelander, Saemund, is said to have
studied in Paris, the same century in which Sturlason, Heimskringla's
author, developed into manhood. Saxo rejected the theory current among
the scholars of his time, that the northern races were Danai-Trojans. He
knew that Dudo in St. Quentin was the authority upon which this belief
was chiefly based, and he gives his Danes an entirely different origin,
quanquam Dudo, rerum Aquitanicarum scriptor, Danos a Danais ortos
nuncupatosque recenseat. The Icelanders on the other hand, accepted and
continued to develop the belief, resting on the authority of five
hundred years, concerning Troy as the starting-point for the Teutonic
race; and in Iceland the theory is worked out and systematised as we
have already seen, and is made to fit in a frame of the history of the
world. The accounts given in Heimskringla and the Prose Edda in regard
to the emigration from Asgard form the natural denouement of an era
which had existed for centuries, and in which the events of antiquity
were able to group themselves around a common centre. All peoples and
families of chiefs were located around the Mediterranean Sea, and every
event and every hero was connected in some way or other with Troy.

In fact, a great part of the lands subject to the Roman sceptre were in
ancient literature in some way connected with the Trojan war and its
consequences: Macedonia and Epirus through the Trojan emigrant Helenus;
Illyria and Venetia through the Trojan emigrant Antenor; Rhetia and
Vindelicia through the Amazons, allies of the Trojans, from whom the
inhabitants of these provinces were said to be descended (Servius ad
Virg., i. 248); Etruria through Dardanus, who was said to have
emigrated from there to Troy; Latium and Campania through the AEneids;
Sicily, the very home of the AEnean traditions, through the relation
between the royal families of Troy and Sicily; Sardinia (see Sallust);
Gaul (see Lucanus and Ammianus Marcellinus); Carthage through the visit
of AEneas to Dido; and of course all of Asia Minor. This was not all.
According to the lost Argive History by Anaxikrates, Scamandrius, son of
Hektor and Andromache, came with emigrants to Scythia and settled on the
banks of the Tanais; and scarcely had Germany become known to the
Romans, before it, too, became drawn into the cycle of Trojan stories,
at least so far as to make this country visited by Ulysses on his many
journeys and adventures (Tac., Germ.). Every educated Greek and Roman
person's fancy was filled from his earliest school-days with Troy, and
traces of Dardanians and Danaians were found everywhere, just as the
English in our time think they have found traces of the ten lost tribes
of Israel both in the old and in the new world.

In the same degree as Christianity, Church learning, and Latin
manuscripts were spread among the Teutonic tribes, there were
disseminated among them knowledge of and an interest in the great Trojan
stories. The native stories telling of Teutonic gods and heroes
received terrible shocks from Christianity, but were rescued in another
form on the lips of the people, and continued in their new guise to
command their attention and devotion. In the class of Latin scholars
which developed among the Christianised Teutons, the new stories learned
from Latin literature, telling of Ilium, of the conflicts between
Trojans and Greeks, of migrations, of the founding of colonies on
foreign shores and the creating of new empires, were the things which
especially stimulated their curiosity and captivated their fancy. The
Latin literature which was to a greater or less extent accessible to the
Teutonic priests, or to priests labouring among the Teutons, furnished
abundant materials in regard to Troy both in classical and
pseudo-classical authors. We need only call attention to Virgil and his
commentator Servius, which became a mine of learning for the whole
middle age, and among pseudo-classical works to Dares Phrygius'
Historia de Excidio Trojae (which was believed to have been written by
a Trojan and translated by Cornelius Nepos!), to Dictys Cretensis'
Ephemeris belli Trojani (the original of which was said to have been
Phoenician, and found in Dictys' alleged grave after an earthquake in
the time of Nero!), and to "Pindari Thebani," Epitome Iliados Homeri.

Before the story of the Trojan descent of the Franks had been created,
the Teuton Jordanes, active as a writer in the middle of the sixth
century, had already found a place for his Gothic fellow-countrymen in
the events of the great Trojan epic. Not that he made the Goths the
descendants either of the Greeks or Trojans. On the contrary, he
maintained the Goths' own traditions in regard to their descent and
their original home, a matter which I shall discuss later. But according
to Orosius, who is Jordanes' authority, the Goths were the same as the
Getae, and when the identity of these was accepted, it was easy for
Jordanes to connect the history of the Goths with the Homeric stories. A
Gothic chief marries Priam's sister and fights with Achilles and Ulysses
(Jord., c. 9), and Ilium, having scarcely recovered from the war with
Agamemnon, is destroyed a second time by Goths (c. 20).

Next: The Origin Of The Story In Regard To The Trojan Descent Of The Franks

Previous: Saxo's Relation Of The Story Of Troy

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