Germany Early History

By | September 16, 2021


The territory between the Rhine and the Oder was inhabited since very ancient times. Among the oldest known human remains on the European continent is the Mauer jaw in Baden-Württemberg, discovered in 1907, associated with a Middle Pleistocene fauna at Elephas antiquus, Rhinoceros etruscus and Machaïrodus and attributed to a European variety of Homo erectus. Other human remains, referring to the same group, have been discovered in Bilzingsleben, Thuringia, associated with sliver industry from the lower Paleolithic. The remains of the Riss or the last interglacial of Ehringsdorf and Steinheim they have been attributed to archaic representatives of Neanderthal man. An incomplete human skeleton, found in 1857 in a cave in the homonymous valley, gave the name to this species. The lower Paleolithic is known in a large number of sites, including the Acheulean finds of Balver Hohle, Hannover-Dohren, Jeinsen, Karlich and Markkleeberg. There are numerous records relating to the Middle and Upper Paleolithic: Bockstein, Hohlenstein, Kartstein and, in particular, the important site of Vogelherd, with a sequence between the Micocchian and Magdalenian. Visit for prehistory of western Europe.

The archaic phases of the upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian) are known, among other deposits, in Geissenklosterle (about 35,000 years ago) and in Breitenbach. The Magdalenian is attested in important sites with remains of stone-paved dwellings, such as in Andernach-Martinsberg and Gonnersdorf, in Groitzsch, Petersfels, Kniegrotte, Oelknitz and Teufelsbrucke, or through remains of furniture art, including the famous anthropomorphic ivory figurine with feline head found in Hohlenstein. A cultural facies that takes the name of Hamburgian, partially contemporary to the Magdalenian, has been recognized in Meiendorf and Stellmoor, while the end of the Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic they are known, for example, at Sesselfelsgrotte, in the aforementioned site of Geissenklosterle, in the Hulsten, Fien and Jühnsdorf group. Neolithic cultures were widespread throughout the territory, for which the prehistoric stations of Aichbühl, Eberstadt, Flomborn, Hinkelstein and Roessen stand out. In the Bronze Age,the two cultures of tumuli and urn fields stand out, both of which were also widespread in the other territories of central Europe. The Halstatt civilization belongs to the late protohistory, characterized by the development of a complex culture, attested by the princely “fortresses” and the rich grave goods of some tumulus burials.


The first overall descriptions of Germany and the peoples who inhabited it, due to Greek or Roman historians and geographers, do not date back beyond the century. I of the Christian era: to Strabo (ca. 18), Pliny the Elder (ca. 75), Tacitus (98) and Ptolemy (ca. 150). For the previous period, the very scarce news, offered almost exclusively by linguistics and archeology, hardly allow us to glimpse some areas of “material” and linguistic civilization: of Germanic population (Germani oriental, divided into various lineages) in the northern part of the country, an area that between the Bronze Age and the century. It goes. C. gradually tended to extend from Denmark and from the regions between the Weser and the Oder to reach Lower Silesia, Thuringia and the Rhine basin; of Celtic population in the southern part, where there are numerous and impressive traces of the Celtic Iron Age. The Germans, however, who always maintained a very high degree of mobility, starting from the century. III a. C. resumed moving towards the regions of the South and South-West, partly rejecting the Celts, partly submerging their too sparse settlement. Some tribes also went to the territories of northern Italy and the Gauls, which Rome was progressively subjecting to its control: the Teutons were stopped by the armies of Mario near Aix-en-Provence (102 BC) and the Cimbri at Campi Raudii near Vercelli (101 BC) while a few decades later Ariovisto, who with the Suebi had tried to settle on the left bank of the Rhine, was defeated and driven back by Caesar (58 BC).

Until the sec. IV-V d. C. the attempts of the Germans to penetrate Gaul or Italy were sporadic, just as, conversely, the penetration of Rome into the Germanic territories was always limited and partial. The goal of a Roman Germany up to Elbe, which emerged after the conquest of Gaul and vigorously supported in the early years of the principality, met with some success with the conquest of the territories south of the Danube and the creation of the provinces of Rezia (15 a. C.), Noricus (16 BC) and Pannonia (10 AD), but it broke down following the defeat of Varus in the Teutoburg jungle (9 AD) and the serious losses suffered. from Germanicus near Idistaviso (15 d. C.). The Rhine and the Danube for centuries marked the boundaries between the Roman world and the Germanic world (with the exception of the territory between the upper courses of the two rivers, the Agri Decumates, occupied at the end of the 1st century and held until 254, above all to reduce the length of the border and not for a real occupation). Rather than attempts at expansion – episodic and without effect, such as the wars of Marcus Aurelius against the Marcomanni (166-172, 177-180) – the Romans dedicated themselves to strengthening these frontiers (with the construction, particularly in the time of Hadrian and of Antonino Pio, of the limes, a system of fortifications hundreds of kilometers long) and the Romanization of the belt of conquered territories. In 90 d. C. the two provinces of Lower Germany, with Cologne as its capital, and Upper Germany, with Mainz as its capital; Numerous settlers were settled (on the Middle Rhine the population retained a strong Roman imprint for centuries), military camps, border burgi and coloniae were founded, from which important cities then developed: Strasbourg from Argentoratum, Mainz from Mogontiacum, Colonia from Ara Ubiorum. Even today there are traces of fora, baths, palaces and amphitheaters, as well as of the road network and aqueducts that crossed the region. But the Roman influence also extended beyond political borders: with the populations located close to the limes the contacts were frequent, so much so that warriors and German nobles often spent part of their life in the service of the Empire and some of them, as well as numerous colonists, were permanently absorbed; starting from the century. III entire populations were welcomed in the borders of the Empire as “federate”. Moreover, already from the century. Roman merchants had regularly pushed into the heart of Germany, as far as the Baltic Sea, bringing there goods, coins, product processing techniques (glass, weapons), cultural influences (such as the idea of ​​an alphabetic script for the Germanic language) and religious (oriental cults, probably introduced by the legionaries).

Germany Early History