The Words German And Germanic

: Teutonic Mythology

Already at the beginning of the Christian era the name Germans was

applied by the Romans and Gauls to the many clans of people whose main

habitation was the extensive territory east of the Rhine, and north of

the forest-clad Hercynian Mountains. That these clans constituted one

race was evident to the Romans, for they all had a striking similarity

in type of body; moreover, a closer acquaintance revealed that their

rous dialects were all variations of the same parent language, and

finally, they resembled each other in customs, traditions, and religion.

The characteristic features of the physical type of the Germans were

light hair, blue eyes, light complexion, and tallness of stature as

compared with the Romans.

Even the saga-men, from whom the Roman historian Tacitus gathered the

facts for his Germania--an invaluable work for the history of

civilisation--knew that in the so-called Svevian Sea, north of the

German continent, lay another important part of Germany, inhabited by

Sviones, a people divided into several clans. Their kinsmen on the

continent described them as rich in weapons and fleets, and in warriors

on land and sea (Tac., Germ., 44). This northern sea-girt portion of

Germany is called Scandinavia--Scandeia by other writers of the Roman

Empire; and there can be no doubt that this name referred to the

peninsula which, as far back as historical monuments can be found, has

been inhabited by the ancestors of the Swedes and the Norwegians. I

therefore include in the term Germans the ancestors of both the

Scandinavian and Gothic and German (tyske) peoples. Science needs a

sharply-defined collective noun for all these kindred branches sprung

from one and the same root, and the name by which they make their first

appearance in history would doubtless long since have been selected for

this purpose had not some of the German writers applied the terms

German and Deutsch as synonymous. This is doubtless the reason why

Danish authors have adopted the word "Goths" to describe the Germanic

nation. But there is an important objection to this in the fact that the

name Goths historically is claimed by a particular branch of the

family--that branch, namely, to which the East and West Goths belonged,

and in order to avoid ambiguity, the term should be applied solely to

them. It is therefore necessary to re-adopt the old collective name,

even though it is not of Germanic origin, the more so as there is a

prospect that a more correct use of the words German and Germanic is

about to prevail in Germany itself, for the German scholars also feel

the weight of the demand which science makes on a precise and rational


[Footnote 1: Viktor Rydberg styles his work Researches in Germanic

Mythology, but after consultation with the Publishers, the Translator

decided to use the word Teutonic instead of Germanic both in the

title and in the body of the work. In English, the words German,

Germany, and Germanic are ambiguous. The Scandinavians and Germans have

the words Tyskland, tysk, Deutschland, deutsch, when they wish

to refer to the present Germany, and thus it is easy for them to adopt

the words German and Germanisk to describe the Germanic or Teutonic

peoples collectively. The English language applies the above word

Dutch not to Germany, but to Holland, and it is necessary to use the

words German and Germany in translating deutsch, Deutschland,

tysk, and Tyskland. Teutonic has already been adopted by Max Mueller

and other scholars in England and America as a designation of all the

kindred branches sprung from one and the same root, and speaking

dialects of the same original tongue. The words Teuton, Teutonic, and

Teutondom also have the advantage over German and Germanic that they are

of native growth and not borrowed from a foreign language. In the

following pages, therefore, the word Teutonic will be used to describe

Scandinavians, Germans, Anglo-Saxons, &c., collectively, while German

will be used exclusively in regard to Germany proper.--TRANSLATOR.]