The Heruls

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The movements of the Heruls

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Published June 15 2000 - Updated September 29 2016

Troels Brandt -

In 553 AD the Byzantine historian Procopius wrote about the dynasty of the Eastgermanic Heruls and some of their followers arriving to the Scandinavian Peninsula around 512 AD after being defeated by the Lombards. Historically we know the main group and the dynasty from the 3rd century at the Black Sea from where they followed the Huns and settled in a new kingdom in Mähren / Moravia. Here they became famous as Roman mercenaries and terrorized their neighbours until their defeat. A group choose to join the East Roman emperors and were baptized. A smaller group, the Western Heruls at the North Sea coast, were known as Roman mercenaries since 286 AD and later as pirates until they disappeared in 476 AD.

Except for a short contact in 548 AD and some later runic stones the history of the Heruls ended at the Scandinavian borders. The North European poems and sagas contain distaint memories of the event, but they cannot be regarded as history. Consequently, the destiny of these trained and frightening mercenaries has been discussed for centuries.

The hypotheses of this paper is that they first settled in Blekinge/Värend, but before 548 AD most of them were expelled by the Danes – mentioned by Jordanes. Most likely the next target for a main part of the group was the expanding economi of Uppland which flourished as an international, religious and military center in the next centuries. Probably they simply served as mercenaries and military advisors as they did in the Roman empires. When they were integrated in the Nordic societies their name disappeared and became the title earl.

Their arrival to the Scandinavian Peninsula is convincingly attested, but it is not certain how many they were and where they did settle.

The web site consists of a shorter main article in English and Danish and a detailed article in pdf with notes and references in English - all versions are using the same numbers in the index in order to find references reading the short articles.

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