1. The South European history of the Heruls
1.1. The Roman sources
1.1.1. The origin of the Heruls
In most history books the Heruls are mentioned as a people of Scandinavian origin. The only historical source for that claim was the work "Getica" from 551 AD by the Gothic historian, Jordanes. But Jordanes never wrote that – and no other historian wrote that they returned, as Procopius is often falsely quoted. Jordanes connected their etymology with the swamps at the Black Sea, where they were first time mentioned by Greek and Roman historians in 267 AD. Consequently he could not regard them as Scandinavians. First when the news about a Herulian envoy to Scandinavia in 548 AD were circulating in the city of Constantinople both Procopius and Jordanes wrote about Heruls and Danes in 551 and 553 AD – and Procopius also told that they arrived there in the first decade of his own century. Earlier no historians – not even Tacitus or Ptolemeus – mentioned Heruls in Scandinavia. The idea about the Scandinavian origin of the Heruls was based on 5 bungled words in the geographical introduction of Jordanes, where he wrote about the Danes "expelling the Heruls from their settlements" – words which were misunderstood already in 1783 as an event before 267 AD, when they first appeared in Greece. Modern linguists read these words in the introduction as a reference to an event of his own time – making it instead an expulsion from a first settlement between Danes and Goetes in Scandinavia 40 years earlier.
The Danish archaeologists, however, combined the expulsion of the Heruls with a warrior elite settling in Himlingoeje in the Roman Iron Ages. They even believed a wrong translation of Jordanes according to which the Danes should be of the Swedish stock, but he just wrote that they were of the same stock, the unknown Vinoviloth – maybe the Vinnili mentioned as the ancestors of the Lombards too.
In the Migration Ages people changed rapidly all the time in the sources as many constellations consisted of semi-nomads following a successful dynasty and maybe religion - regardless of family or tribal connections. They were not tied to a specific territory as agriculturists, but may have lived in the same territory as these as a warrior class. The Eastern Heruls may have been established in this way at the Russian river Dnieper in the third century as an ethnogenesis between Germanic tribes, Sarmatian/Alanic nomads and Bosporanians – with Gothic/East Germanic as their language. Many of these Germanics were probably East Germanic Goths. Later they may have been mixed up with Huns too.
The belief in a Scandinavian origin was supported by a group of Western Heruls crossing the Rhine in 286 AD – probably from Frisia. A migration from Jutland to Ukraine is supported by metal combs and monster brooches, but these could also be remains of migrating Jutes (Eudoses). Therefore, a more likely combination is that a royal family from a group of Western Heruls, Harudes or Jutes established a mixed group in Ukraine, but also an earlier people, the Harii, has been suspected based on names and character. Neither can we of course exclude a Scandinavian origin.
Under all circumstances we must conclude that the origin of the Heruls is unknown – just like the origin of the Goths who are today being connected with the areas around the mouth of the Polish river Vistula – not with Scandinavia.
1.1.2. The migrations of the Heruls
The Eastern Heruls were first time mentioned in 267-269 AD when they attacked Greece and the coasts of Asia Minor as pirates. They were together with the Goths using the navy of the Bosporanes. The most spectacular event was the looting of Athens from where we have our historical sources. Also the defeat of their leader, Naulobates, by the Roman emperor Gallianus at Thessaloniki was mentioned. Afterwards Naulobates was appointed a Roman "consular insignia". Consequently the Western Heruls being first time mentioned in 286 AD may in the theory have been his soldiers being resettled in Frisia as mercenaries. According to Jordanes the king of the Eastern Heruls, Alaric, was later defeated by the legendary Gothic king, Ermaneric. From around 375 AD the Heruls joined many other East Germanic and Sarmatic people in the Hunnic campaign through Europe, and as most of the other followers they were not mentioned in those years. After the defeat and death of Attila these East Germanic followers rised in rebellion in 454 AD against the sons of Attila at Nedao - except for most of the Ostrogoths. Nearly all the Huns were driven back to the Black Sea, but some of them may have followed people like the Heruls, with whom they appear to have many common archaeological features.
Most of the East Germanic and Sarmatic people established their new kingdoms at the northern bank of the Danube, while the Ostrogoths found place in Roman territory in Southern Pannonia. There is no reason to discuss exact borders as these horse-riding nomads were not tied by a local agriculture. For decades the Ostrogoths waged wars against their earlier companions and had problems with the Romans too. In 468 AD the Ostrogoths succeeded in that way to destroy the Sciri. The Eastern Heruls established a strong kingdom in Moravia (Mähren) and Marchfeld (at Brno and Vienna) by subduing and tributing all their neighbors - even the Lombards. The Western Heruls - and from 454 AD also the Eastern Heruls - were feared as Roman mercenaries and sometimes as pirates too. The Roman historians regarded these foot soldiers as "swift on their feet" and light-armed, but that was primarily the Western Heruls. The Eastern Heruls became also cavalry like the Huns and Ostrogoths they followed. They were even told to be the strongest group supporting Odoaker when he replaced the last Emperor of Rome in 476 AD. Odoaker was afterwards elected as king of Italy by his own Germanic soldiers - called Rex Herulicus. Odoaker himself was a prince of the Sciri, but his father was a Thuringian of birth. The rich princely tomb in Blucina, which is from that time, is regarded to be a royal Herulian grave - very similar with the tomb of the Frankish king Childeric in Tournais, who was an allied of Odoaker. Both kings had probably been Roman foederati.
Later the Ostrogothic king, Theodoric, agreed with the East Roman emperor to remove Odoaker. Theodoric had grown up in Constantinopel and was an Arian Christian. He besieged Odoaker in Ravenna for several years and when celebrating the following peace in 493 AD he murdered Odoaker by his own hand. Most of the Herulian mercenaries of Odoaker must have returned to Mähren, were Theodoric ten years later proclaimed their king as "his son of arms". The Heruls appear in this way to have ended up as a kind of subjects to Theodoric, who also asked the Heruls, the Thuringians and the Varni to join an alliance against the Francs.
Our historical sources regarding the Heruls consist of scattered remarks from the Roman and Byzantine historians and authors, as the people did not have their own historians. An exception is the Byzantine historian Procopius, who was the secretary and juridical advisor of the superior East Roman general Bellisarius. He must have known the Herulian mercenary officers personally. He spent two chapters of his work about the Gothic Wars on the Heruls - a work which he finished in 553 AD. He told that the Heruls "were superior all the barbarians who dwelt about them both in power and number", but due to arrogance and disregard of their gods their king, Hrodolphos, suffered a serious defeat against the Lombards and was killed himself. The defeat, which is dated to 508 or 509 AD, is also known from much later Lombardic sources in a more anecdotal form.
1.1.3. The arrival of the royal family to Scandinavia
According to Procopius many of the Heruls went north to the Scandinavian Peninsula led by "many of the royal blood". First they went to the Varni living in the Elb-/Mecklenburg-area. From here they passed the nations of the Danes without meeting violence and crossed the sea. Arriving to the Scandinavian Peninsula they settled "at that time" at the Goetes ("Gautoi"). As the Danish expulsion of the Heruls mentioned by Jordanes is regarded to be a contemporary description from the 6th century his information will also be a contemporary confirmation of the telling by Procopius about the Herulic presence in Scandinavia.
We shall be careful about the use of the detailed information from Jordanes and Procopius as they had no general idea of the geography of Northern Europe. Furthermore their sources regarding events 40 years before their own time could be handled uncritical and circumstantial. They had opposite motives to describe the arrival of the Heruls. The interpretation of their way to describe it can therefore be that the Heruls first settled between the Danes and the Goetes from where they were later expelled further north - in two steps. This is maybe confirmed by Procopius' use of the expression "at that time".
1.1.4. The Heruls in Illyria
Their remaining kinsmen at the Danube drifted around until they were received by the East Romans in Illyria, where they settled near Beograd. Their mercenaries later became an important element in the army of Justinian, but his condition was that they were baptized. Lead by Mundus they assisted Justinian during the Nika-revolt in Constantinople, which resulted in the rebuilding of the current Hagia Sophia church in 537 AD. Procopius emphasized several Herulic officers - Suartuas and especially Phara, who had a leading role in the defeat of the Vandals. Procopius wrote that these Heruls around 548 AD sent an envoy to Scandinavia for a new king - and found "many there of the royal blood" opposite in Illyria. They returned with Datius, Aordus and 200 young Herulian soldiers and sent back the candidate of Justinian, Suartuas, who instead became a commander of Constantinople.
It is obvious that this story was well known in Constantinople 548-553 AD as “hot news”. In 551 AD Jordanes finished his work in Byzans and in 553 AD also Procopius finished his work at the same place - in other words two independent sources had less than 5 years after the return of the envoy told about Heruls and Danes in Scandinavia in combination for the first time. A small hint like the one of Jordanes would be understood and they could not lie about such an event if their works should be taken seriously - they could only let out inconvenient facts. These contemporary stories are decisive for the evaluation of our information about the Heruls in Scandinavia – opposite the earlier migration to Scandinavia and the misunderstood origin.
Procopius received from a position close to the Byzantine court information from this Herulian envoy, which had just returned from Scandinavia 38 years after their arrival. He also told that they were much delayed as their first candidate died at their way back at the Danes - telling in this way that they lived far north of the Danes, who lived at Sealand and in Scania. He even told that he had interviewed witnesses from Scandinavia about the midnight sun. Unfortunately, he did not mention the rule of their royal family in Scandinavia in the first 38 years. His purpose was to "prove" that the new king and his supporters in Illyria were faithless and "utterly abandoned rascals" - a people impossible to rule, as they dismissed the royal candidate of Justinian. Among these words he also indicated that they were homosexuals – raging words used today in connections which this uncertain kind of historical foundation does not support.
Procoupius’ explanation of the reason behind the conflict was probably influenced by his own part of the responsibility as juridical secretary for their chief. Probebly the problem was that a part of the Heruls did not follow the agreement, but were still pagans and wanted a king from the pagan Heruls in Scandinavia.
Regarding the number of Heruls, who settled in Scandinavia with the royal family, it is worth to notice that the Illyrian group made up an important unit in the Byzantine army. This in spite of a massacre on the people in Illyria after 512 AD. Procopius counted around 448 AD 3.000 soldiers in the army of Datius and 1.500 in the Roman army, and in 553 AD he counted 3.000 soldiers in the Roman army – covering around 12% of the army against the Goths. Procopius own words were: “some of them, as it is has been told to me … , made their home in the country of Illyricum, but the rest were averse to cross the Ister River, but settled in the very extremity of the world.” How many they went to Thule is impossible to know from this historical record, but the number cannot have been insignificant.
The position of Datius in opposition to Justinian inside the empire was impossible and he was soon expelled to the Gepides north of the Danube at River Tizsa. Both people were in 567 AD destroyed by the Romans and the Avars. A daughter of a Herulian king, Silinga, was married to the Lombardic king Wacho and her son, Valthari, was crowned as king of the Lombards. She was probably killed by a Lombardian arrow [Tejral in Kharpurov/Stylegar 2014], and he died young shortly after. The only Herulian dynasty being later mentioned in Southern Europe was a branch of the descendants of Phara, who were a part of the Agilofingi dynasty of the Bavarians at the Upper Danube.
1.2. The Scandinavian connections before 509 AD
The migration of the royal family to Scandinavia was no coincidence as the Heruls had a close connection with Scandinavia, which had nothing to do with their origin. The connection can be divided into several stages based on archaeology combined with history:
1.2.1. The Eastern Heruls 375-454 AD (Phase A1)
Remains in Sösdala may indicate Hunnic burial rites from a group of Hunnic horsemen and their East Germanic companions (ae. Heruls and Ostrogoths) operating at the Scandinavian Peninsula in the first half of the 5th century before or during the campaign of Attila – maybe in order to explore new possibilities or to recruit Scandinavian allied or warriors for the campaign. As the same type of sacrificed horse equipment is found in great numbers in the Scandinavian war booties in the bogs of Finnestorp and Vennebo some of these horsemen may have been killed, when they tried to penetrate Vestergoetland. The unique foreign character and the number in Sösdala and Fulltofta indicate that they were not just mercenaries returning to their homes with Hunnic souvenirs. Lotte Hedeager has described these remains as the result of a more general Hunnic strategy for a short period in the first part of the 5th century placing strongholds in Northern Germania during their campaigns. This is not attested, but instead her arguments will also be explained by the historically attested Heruls and thereby a strong Hunnic influence on the Scandinavian religion.
The discussion if the horsemen were Huns or their Gothic, Herulic or Scandinavian allied is irrelevant for the purpose in this paper as the remains under all circumstances show the connection between Scandinavia and the Hunnic campaign in which the Heruls participated.
1.2.2. The Eastern Heruls 454-509 AD (Phase A2)
The Heruls probably established their rule in Moravia in the beginning of the 5th century, but after the Hunnic defeat around 454 AD several archaeological finds indicate a continuation of the earlier connection between Scandinavia and the East Germanic people in South Eastern Europe – i.e. Bornholm, Scania, Finnestorp and Hoegom in East Scandinavia and Eveboe and Snartemo at the western coasts of Norway. Among these artefacts are a special type of hunnic sattles and arrow heads - but regarded to be produced in Scandinavia. A special kind of a sword pommel with animal heads in Scandinavian Style I is only found similar in the above mentioned Herulian grave in Blucina, Moravia, and another version in the tomb of Childeric in Tournais – probably both kings of strong Germanic people in the South being Roman foederati. Several pieces are found in graves and sacrifices in Scandinavia near the trade route. More generally the Scandinavian fibulas in the region of the Baltic Sea are influenced by East Germanic stylistic elements like rosettes, animal heads and curved heads with three knobs. Opposite the similar fibulas with more than three knobs from the Allemanni and the Franks never reached Scandinavia.
At the left the three knopped curved fibula with rosettes from Sokolnice near Blucina (450-475 AD). Usual in Moravia, but 3 pieces at Bornholm with later local replicas at the Baltic coasts. At the right the frieze at the mausoleum of Theodoric, a mount from Finnestorp and the Scandinavian Gummarp-fibula.
Especially the chieftain in the mound in Högom in Norrland had close connections with the East Germanic people. It was that region Jordanes praised for its precious furs, which appear to have been one of the most important export articles of Scandinavia at that time. He was probably a part of a network of chieftains along the trade routes at both sides of the Scandinavian Peninsula, extending the old Amber Route from Carnuntum - a network which appears to have used the CIIa1 bracteat. Apparently the rich dynasty in Högom disappeared from that area around 500 AD, when the Vendel culture expanded.
The Heruls probably used their knowledge from their early connections as Hunnic allied and decided to keep control with the Amber Route which passed their kingdom through the Moravian Gate in the Carpathes - rather by taxation than as merchants. According to Procopius that was the way they treated their neighbours. Some of the Heruls should in that case be expected to ride north in order to inspect the possibilities and negotiate deals about trade and protection - or as mercenaries in Scandinavian service. Maybe a small group of Heruls and other allied following the Huns in the beginning of the fifth century had settled in Blekinge/Vaerend, but this is not certian.
It is important to be aware of the mixture of people being initially mentioned. That makes it difficult to separate the Heruls by archaeology from the other East Germanic people following the Huns. Probably the population in the Herulian kingdom included besides Heruls i.e. Sammartian Alans, Huns, Thuringians and Sciri. Archaeology has revealed that the earlier population of Swebes still were living in the area as agriculturists. The Heruls became a class of warriors probably defending the farmers if the paid for that service. Ostrogoths and Rugians may have taken part, but their own dynasties waged war on the Heruls and other East Germanics until some times after 493 AD, and all Gothic attention was turned against the Romans. We must therefore expect the Heruls to block the Gothic and Rugian access to the trade route through the Moravian Gate. It is therefore most likely that the Scandinavian connection at that time were members of the Herulian dynasty and their companions. When the Ostrogoths after the defeat of Odoaker became the Heruls superior they were Christians and still busy in Italy. They had no reason to settle in Scandinavia before their own defeat around 550 AD - and hardly at that time either.
The connections between Scandinavia and the Hunnic or Eastgermanic people until 565 AD has been neglected for years by especially the Scandinavian archaeologists, who preferred the Frankish contacts. The two conferences Inter Ambo Maria at Crimea in 2010 and 2012 will hopefully change that picture - though many details still have to be discussed.
The archaeology cannot tell us with certainty if the style and items were brought to or from Scandinavia by Heruls, by Huns, by Scandinavians or by trade, but the history can tell us that the Heruls controlled the key region passed by the route along which the spread took place - giving in one way or the other the contact against north, which will explain their expectations regarding Scandinavia and the later events.
Due to their blurred archaeological profile and their missing historical writings some scholars have claimed that the Heruls were just a band of warriors – especially a linguist like Alvar Ellegaard. That must be due to insufficient study of texts like the one of Procopius as it is obvious that they through 300 years were an ordinary migration people with women and children and with their own dynasty, gods and traditions. Opposite, some of their groups of travelling mercenaries may be regarded as bands of warriors.
1.2.3. The Western Heruls 286-509 AD (Phase B)
As a more or less independent parallel, the Western Heruls living at the East Frisian coast, probably operated along the south westerly Scandinavian coasts - just as they according to the sources harried Gallia in 409 AD and Spain in the 450'ies AD. They have sometimes been regarded as a warriorband, but in 286 AD the Romans mentioned their families living north of Limes – refuting already then Alvar Ellegaard. These Heruls had served as Roman mercenaries - mostly in England in the 4th century - but after the Romans left England and the emperor was removed, their mercenaries had to find other sources of income. Later many of them probably went back to England together with their Anglo-Saxon neighbours - it is obvious to suspect that they were among the mercenaries being called to England by the Britains in 448 AD. They were mentioned for the last time in the historical sources in 478 AD. Some of them may have turned north against the Scandinavian kingdoms as military advisers and mercenaries. These suggestions, however, will be discussed in a later chapter.
This shield painting is known from the West Herulian mercenaries in the Italian infantry unit "Herules Seniores". It was found in a medieval copy of Notitia Dignitatum from the beginning of the 5th century AD. Consequently we cannot be sure of this picture - and we do not know which symbol is behind the circles. The circle was ao. a symbol of the sun in the soldiers' Mithras Cult - worshipped in temples along the Wall of Hadrian in England, where the Heruls were posted together with the Bataves. It is unknown whether the Eastern Heruls used the same symbols, but circles and half circles are recognized at many artifacts found in their tracks.
1.2.4. Odin in Finnestorp and the Eastgermanic buckles
The war booties in Finnestorp represent several groups of warriors of different ethnicity being defeated in Vaestergoetland from 350-550 AD. One of the late sacrifices is a belt buckle with a face with leaning eyes, beard and three circular tatoos. It is convincingly interpreted as Odin drinking of the well of Mimer. In this connection a group of earlier belt buckles spread from Crimea to Normandy call for special attention. Apparently they are produced in the middle of the 5th century by one artist - or at least one workshop in the Roman border areas. The one from Yalta has a face with leaning eyes, beard and three circular tatoos as the one in Finnestorp - but in an earlier version. As another of the buckles has the runic inscription Marings, which means Goth or Herul, the buckles are probably made for one of these Eastgermanic people. The ornaments (see the figures in chapter 1.2.2) being used at some of these buckles are later met in Finnestorp - a.o. at the Odin buckle - at the Scandinavian fibulas and at the Mausoleum of Theodoric. Especially the runic name and the three circular tattoos with marked centres at each check must be connected with a certain group across geography and time. When these three buckles are combined with the rune stone in Strängnäs showing the inscription “erilaR . wodinR“ the runic/archaeological traces may primarily point at the Heruls - but that does not exclude that some of the war booties were made in Scandinavia.
We do not know if the event, at which the owner of the buckle in Finnestorp was defeated, took place before or after the Herulian royal family arrived according to Procopius. Odin and the runes will be addressed in the next chapters. In the current main chapter the finds shall only be used as another indication of the connection between Scandinavia and people in the Hunnic campaign.
1.3. Conclusion regarding the history
The archaeological Scandinavian connections mentioned above in the 5th century are here only used as an explanation why the Heruls, who did not want asylum at the East Roman or Gothic Christians, went north with their pagan royal family. Their way was already “paved” to this pagan world from where Jordanes/Cassiodorus told about splendid horses and expensive furs traded to the Romans through innumerable tribes. There is no evidence that they had an origin in Scandinavia.
The evidence regarding their settlement is based om two contemporary reports about their precense in Scandinavia in 548 AD – 30 years after their defeat and journey – written by Jordanes and Procopius with opposite motives. At least Procopius had even met some of the Heruls returning from Scandinavia in 548 – and both published a few years after.
This will lead us to the simple conclusion:
A group of high-ranking Heruls with their family and supporters settled without doubt somewhere at the Scandinavian Peninsula around 510 AD. The open question is just: Where and how many?
As a historian writing several articles about the Heruls, Professor Andreas Schwarcz from the University of Vienna, has confirmed their journey to Scandinavia. He has suggested that they were integrated in one or more Scandinavian people, but has left that open for the archaeologists or speculation in Norse literature. Also the Oxford-historian Alexander Sarantis has confirmed the journey and added: “The integrated barbarians tend to be neglected barbarians”.
How could the leading dynasty of this strong and feared people of warriors disappear in Scandinavia without a trace in archaeology or legends? These are some of the many neglected questions our investigations will provide answers to.
2. Their settlement in Scandinavia
2.1. Five questions by Aake Hyenstrand
Scandinavian historians and archaeologists have - with a few exceptions - ignored the arrival of the Heruls. They have only been interested in their "Scandinavian origin" - that in spite of the fact that only their arrival in the 6th century is confirmed by history. Instead the substantial development in Scandinavian culture in the end of the Migration Ages (especially in Sweden) has been regarded as an internal expansion - in spite of its obviously international character. In modern times first of all Birgit Arrhenius has pointed out the clear East Germanic influences on the first stages of the Vendel Culture, which probably made Åke Hyenstrand ask his five questions about the Heruls in 1996 (both professors in archaeology at the University of Stockholm):
Which connections exist
- Between Heruls and Svear?
- Between Heruls and the god Eric?
- Between Heruls and the powerful elite later called Earls?
- Between Heruls and Boat graves?
- Between Heruls and Runes?
In 2007 Lotte Hedeager (professor of archaeology at the University of Oslo) first time presented her hypothesis that the Huns for a short while in the beginning of the 5th century established strongholds in Scandinavia and got a strong influence on Scandinavian cosmology and iconography - which does not conflict with this article. Quite opposite she is confirming that the Scandinavian archaeologists have neglected the strong Southeast European influence on Scandinavia in those turbulent years, and that a nomadic people would leave very few direct traces. Her theories regarding the Huns are found too excessive as her historical arguments are not sustainable, but her archaeological arguments will also cover their Herulic companions, who may explain her many observations. Also Jaroslav Tejral and Igor Gavritukhin have pointed at the Heruls as a bearer of Eastgermanic culture to Scandinavia.
Of course the questions about the Scandinavian hypotheses asked here may not be fully answered. We cannot, however, avoid them regarding this time of change if we want to describe the development in Scandinavia leading to the famous Vendel Era. Obviously Hyenstrand found that question enevitable, but no official answers have ever been published. Below the intention is to answer the questions as well as possible - but in another order. Afterwards the question about the settlement of the Heruls will be analyzed as an example using the most likely scenario.
2.1.1. Heruls and Runes?
188.8.131.52. The first runes
The first inscription in runes, "HarjaR", was from around 160 AD. It was at a comb, probably from Northern Germany, but it was found in a war booty in Viemose at Fyen. Most of the runes in the Roman Iron Ages until 375 Ad are concentrated around South Western Norway, Fyen and Eastern Sealand - if we ignore the war booties in Jutland having a foreign origin. Maybe this pattern indicates a connection with the Western part of the culture connecting Himlingoeje at Eastern Sealand, Avaldsnes in Norway and Badelunda in the Maelar Valley. Opposite there are no early runic finds in the Herulic areas of that time except a single one in Moldavia. Consequently there is no basis for refering the origin of the runes to the Eastern Heruls, and no particular basis for an origin at some West Herulian ancestors in Harlinger Land.
184.108.40.206. The ErilaR inscriptions
Turned primarily against the south westerly coasts of Denmark, Norway and Sweden 11 runic inscriptions with "ek erilaR" (“I the Eril”) are found from around 450-550 AD. Earlier there was no doubt that "erilaR" was identical with "Herul" – and with this kind of spread of the inscriptions it may originally be related to a seaborne people. Later that connection was opposed by dogmatic linguists, but they still accepted that Erilar could have been the background for the title "earl"/"jarl".
The rejection of the connection between Herul and ErilaR is according to the Russian runologist, Makaev, done on wrong premises as the transferral of names between different language groups does not follow the rules of linguistic development. "The missing link" with the the Germanic “H” is found in the old kingdom of the Heruls at the Danube in shape of the place name "Herilungoburg" (832 AD). Furthermore, the name Heroluestuna (1086 AD) – now Harleton – is found in East Anglia near Sutton Hoo confirming that the development Herul – Harle – erl/eorl/earl/jarl was possible. The runic “eril(aR)” was probably a translation of the written Latin “Erul(i)” as the mercenary officers probably knew their name in Latin
An exception from the geographical spread is the fragment of a stone found in a church wall at the southern shore of the Maelar (Strängnäs). The find has been hidden for the public for 50 years - claiming it was a fake, which is now refuted after several examinations. The reason was the clear and inconvenient text ".rilaR . wodinR". The carving indicates that it could be a little younger than the other inscriptions. The connection between the ErilaR and the Woden cult is obvious - and it also indicates a connection between the Maelar region and Southern Germany, where the other early Woden-inscription was found in Nordendorf.
What was an Erilar? Runologists have often followed the critical linguists and interpreted ErilaR as "rune master", but that is not consistent with the WodinR-inscription and the spread along the coasts with very different techniques. Rather ErilaR let the inscription make like the magnate Varin in Rök. It is more likely seaborne men being able to order the runes as owners of the items using local runemasters. The Heruls were at the time of the incription used in written as a owner of the item or place. The Heruls were at the time of the inscriptions used in the Western and later the Eastern Roman Empire as experienced generals and mercenaries. It is therefore obvious that the Heruls going north – Eastern or Western Heruls – got the same profession in Scandinavia and England. They were not of the royal families in the existing kingdoms, where they were later integrated, but it is obvious that leading Heruls may have been used at the next level under the king. Their Germanic name may in this way have survived as the later word for this level, “earl/jarl”.
220.127.116.11. The Marings and the Rök Stone
From the 5th century two runic inscriptions are known from the Danubian region where the Eastern Heruls were operating. Totally 6 runic inscriptions have been ascribed to the Ostrogoths due to the syllable "s" and words used by Wulfila. Probably also the Heruls spoke Gothic, and at that time the Goths had developed their own alphabet - making it more likely that the runes are Herulic. The Pietrossa Ring mentioned the name Goths, but may have been a gift or written by a Herul. The other find - a buckle in Pannonia opposite the mouth of River March - has the inscription "Marings". Buckles by the same artist appear to be spread from Crimea to Normandy – two of them with pentagrams instead of the inscription and one of these at Crimea with an Odin-like head like Finnestorp. The Stentoften Runestone in Blekinge was placed in a pentagram of stones. According to the simple logics of naming the Marings should be the people from Mar, which was the name of river March according to Tacitus. That region was the kingdom of the Heruls with the later Germanic name Maehren / Slavic Moravia. Both names ment marsh areas like the "Eloi" of Jordanes.
The scholars have combined Marings with the Old English poem "Deor" which is telling: "Theodoric held for 30 winters Maeringa Burg". It is aggreed that Maeringa Burg must be the stronghold in Ravenna, where the Heruls and Odoaker were besieged for two years by Theodoric. Accordingly, there is no reason to believe that the name meant "Goths" as many scholars have done without being able to explain the origin of "Mar" in that case. On the contrary Mar- was found again as "MariþeubaR" in 2009 at the latest found ErilaR-inscription - without any reaction from the scholars.
The scholars could have used the name as a key to the interpretation of the Rök Stone in Öestergötland, which according to the official reading by Riksantikvarämbetet is mentioning Theodoric as "chief of sea warriors" (which is unknown as a Gothic label) and "first of Marika" – the last being a runic diminutive form af Marings. In the stanza before we find the riddle “who 9 generations ago lost his life with the Hreidgoths, and died at them for his guilt.” The riddle appears to be answered in the next stanza with “Radulf”, which is the same as “Hrodolphus”, the king of the Heruls, who 9 generations before the stone was appointed "weapon son" under the protection of Theodoric and died when he sustained the anger of the Gods - which also Paulus Diaconis wrote 772 AD. Theodoric could in this way be superior chief of two groops – the Western Heruls (who were known as sea warrios and maybe were the Wicinga of Widsith) and the Eastern Heruls (who were probably the Marika). The name combinations correspond in all directions. In the first numbered riddles at the stone Varin simply traced his family back to the weapon son of the Germanic hero, Theodoric, and his family going to Scandinavia. In that way the stone became a traditional memorial for a dead son, The inscription was set up according to the culture which a few decades earlier had emerged at the court of Charlemagne.
It is all very simple in that way. The pieces of the puzzle have been wrongly combined - with the result that the scholars nowhere were able to explain names and connections. When the Eastern Heruls arrived to River Mar(us) they may have got the byname Marings/Marika to
distinguish them in the West from their kinsmen - the Western Heruls, who in Scandinavia and England may have been known as Wicinga. Both groups may have been known as ErilaR. In Scandinavia names and legends indicate that the Eastern Heruls were also confused with the Huns they had followed earlier.
It has to be mentioned that the interpretation of the Rök Stone is still eagerly discussed among the runologists. Consequently, it can not be used here as a proof of the presense of the Heruls - which should neither be necessary.
18.104.22.168. The rune stones in Blekinge
In Blekinge the three rune stones at Lister and the Björketorp-stone have traditionally been combined with the Heruls. They are from the transition period between the 24- and 16-sign futharks, and they are consequently dated to the time 550-700 AD. The connection with the Heruls has primarily been based on the repeated combinations of the names Hariwulf - Hathuwulf - Heruwulf. In that way we do not get the same certainty as on the Rök Stone, but the odd sentence "put staves 3 fff" at the Gummarp Stone – three "staves" we already met in the ErilaR-inscriptions, Kragehul and Lindholmen – will explain a sign at the Rök Stone, which according to the runologists is unexplained though they agree it should be a "þ". The sign is combined by fff and a reverse fff, which can mean "þ" (3,3 in ciffercode). "fff" must be a religious incantation like the word "futhark" where the "f" is the first sign - and will in that way be a common cultic feature between the stones in Blekinge and Rök and the ErilaR-inscriptions. An explanation may be the seaborne Western Heruls. We will analyza their arrival further in the later chapter 22.214.171.124.
126.96.36.199. Other runes after 509 AD
After the Heruls arrived to Scandinavia the spread of the runes changed. They were now spread in Scandinavia, England, Frisia and north of the upper Danube - correlating the areas where the Eastern and Western Herulian dynasties established after the defeats in Southern Europe. From that time the first runes are also found mentioning Wodin in the Maelar Valley and at the Upper Danube.
Based on the arguments above we must conclude that there is no proof that the Heruls invented the runes, but the spread indicates that the Heruls were some of the later users, who spread the runes 500-800 AD.
2.1.2. Heruls and Earls?
188.8.131.52. Niels Lukman and Barði Guðmundson
The Danish scholar, Niels Lukman, elaborated in 1943 in his doctoral thesis on the theory that the Heruls became earls in the Danish kingdoms. He suggested that their families brought the many legends from Central and South Eastern Europe to Scandinavia. He wrote in German during the German occupation of Denmark leaving his theories no future in Denmark in the following decades. However, his idea was supported by Elias Wessén, and in 1959 he was also supported by the national Icelandic antiquarian, Barði Guðmundsson, who complemented with a transfer of Herulic legends to the Icelandic sagas with East Scandinavian settlers at Western Iceland. Since then no scholars have used these theories as the folklorists are of the opinion that legends cannot be remembered for so many years, though the claims of the folklorists are disapproved by the bracteats. As we are talking about distorted fragments their arguments will only work as a rejection of the sagas as historical sources, and Lotte Hedeager has pointed out the similarity between many of these legends and the archaeology.
184.108.40.206. A likely explanation
Without using the legends as an argument it must be a fact that the West Herulian officers and mercenaries lost an important source of income when the West Roman emperor left England and his empire later collapsed. They had to find work elsewhere. In the 450'ies AD they performed the Viking raids against Spain and France, but such ships could even more likely bring them north. At that time the new Scandinavian kingdoms emerged with an obvious market for the experienced Herulic officers as military advisers and army commanders. Those, who did not join the Anglo-Saxons to England in the same role, would hardly leave out that possibility - and Eastern Herulian mercenaries may have acted similar. Probably the "ek erilaR" inscriptions shall be regarded as their "carte de visite". It is no surprise, if they brought Wodin with them as the Strängnäs-inscription may indicate, but it was a more generel and earlier spread than the migration in 510 AD. Their role leads to the titles "jarl" in Scandinavia and "eorl" in England - and in this way the well known cultural connection between these areas may have been established until the second Christianisation in England. An example of such a role model in the old legends could be the Starkad figure - Sterkedius was even the name of an East Germanic officer in Rome. In the Vendel Era in Uppland a more formalized structure of earls was apparently established - symbolized by the ring swords (an earlier Frankish tradition) and the golden rings, as shown above at the helmet plate (matrix) from Thorslunda.
It is very likely that the title jarl/earl has a background in the Herulian mercenary officers - even without using the linguistic background as an argument. It is the logical explanation - but it is not possible to prove it by history today.
2.1.3. Heruls and Svear?
220.127.116.11. The general development in Scandinavia 400-600 AD
In most of the 5th century Europe was dominated by kings from a uniform aristocracy of horseriding mercenary officers like Childeric, Odoaker and Theodorik using animal style I. When they became Christians and settled in the 5th century the style also changed to the more abstract style II, where the symbolic animals were decomposed. It is impossible to se where the style came from as it was still spread by the same aristocracy from Italy to Scandinavia – just as the Heruls.
Already in the first half of the 5th century the golden bracteates appeared in South Western Scandinavia based on Roman medals. Some of the C-bracteates are regarded to be a result of the cult of Odin. Soon after the sacrifices disappeared from the bogs and the burial customs were changed to flat burials and especially cremations directly in the field. Together these changes could indicate a change in religion, where the Germanic Wothen during the next two centuries spread from south west and became the Norse god Odin.
In the 6th century new greater kingdoms emerged – i.e. the Danes were now mentioned for the first time by Southern historians in 3 cases. The military equipment became more uniform and was more rapidly and contemporary changed. The burial mounds had in a few cases been used in Norway and Högom, but now the big royal mounds were raised in Sweden - with the mounds in Uppsala as the greatest. Also Lejre was established in the 6th century as a small copy of Uppsala. Uppaakre, Lejre and Gudme were now the most important centres we know of the Danes. Also the first boat graves appeared in the second part of the 6th century - especially in Uppland, where they are supposed to represent a new structure of vassals or earls. According to the latest archaeology the boat graves are a symbol of the Vendel Culture, where Uppland emerged as the power centre with old Uppsala as the strongest concentration of houses and ceremonial constructions in Scandinaia from the 6th century – but they are also known elsewhere.
In this period of change Europe was also hit by a climatic catastrophe with "the three dark years" 536-538 AD followed by "the disease of Justinian". In those years especially the Scandinavian famine must have weakened the old dynasties connected with the failing fertility gods - being an advantage to new Odinistic warrior dynasties like the Heruls.
Archaeology indicates a connection between the Vendel Culture, the Anglian part of England, Southern Germany and Lombardia - such as identical pictorial motives at the helmets, Animal Style II, runes and the name Woden (no runes and Woden-names in Lombardia). That spread is identical with the last places where we heard about Herulic dynasties outside Scandinavia. The spread could indicate dynastic connections between these places. Opposite the military equipment was nearly the same in all the Germanic societies.
18.104.22.168. The place of arrival - Blekinge/Vaerend?
As mentioned the Eastern Heruls arrived to the Scandinavian Peninsula – the island Thule – from the Varni. According to Procopius they passed the Danes without fight and crossed the sea, but we shall be careful with older enterpretations of such descriptions. We skall probably notice the word “passed” as it makes no sence that they should cross the Danish belts three times – it was too risci. They had their allied, the Varnies, and their kinsmen, the Western Heruls, who could assist them by passing the Danes sailing directly to Blekinge. We cannot trust Procopius’ order of Danes and the sea as he had a very limited geographical knowledge about Northern Europe – he just knew the order of the people they passed. The text could imply that they simply passed the Danes by boat on their way to Blekinge.
First of all the connection between the incantations at two southern ErilaR-incriptions, the Blekinge rune stones in Lister and Rök was mentioned – and at the last the name Sea Warriors (Wicinga) was mentioned together with the Marika. Also the Frisian/Saxon name Lista for beach, which is characteristic for Lister, may indicate that the Western Heruls were involved. There are, however, some other indices supporting that. In 1993 two boatgraves were found in Fallward at the eastern side of the Weser Mouth – just opposite Harlingerland. The graves were 2 kilometres from the famous settlement, Feddersen Wierde, which was left around 500 AD. The most famous boat grave dates to 431 AD due to dendrology. In the grave a chieftain was found with a belt belonging to a roman mercenary officer and a spatha – a collegue to the Western Heruls – or simply a Western Herul. Also a chair and a footstool (schamel) made of wood were found – the last containing a short runic inscription in usual North Germanic runes. We do not know if he was a Herul, but the Heruls were apparently living in the area around the mouth of the Weser – regarded as a part of the Saxons migrating the England in the 5th century. This may explain the connection between Sutton Hoo and Scandinavia. Under all circumstances the Western Heruls knew in this way the costumes with graves and runes, which we also find in Lister and Augerum – though these finds are separated with 50-150 years. As the female boat grave in Augerum was escavated in the 19th century it is difficult to compare it with the new German boatgrave, but Augerum was one of the first boat graves in Scandinavia together with Uppland since the boat graves at Bornholm in the Roman Iron Ages several hundred years earlier. Consequently the six separate indices support that some western Heruls joined the Eastern Heruls at the transfer to the Scandinavian Peninsula and the first settlement in Blekinge.
Birgit Arrhenius and Lotte Hedeager have written about the many East Germanic artefacts in the region after the finds in Sösdala. However already von Friesen and Ivar Lindqvist pointed out Lister and Värend as the settlement of the Heruls - first of all due to the rune stones in Lister and the boatgrave in Augerum. The boat grave is far more easterly than the runestones, and the runestones are dated 550-700 AD – after the Heruls were expelled. This has weekened their arguments – especially as they referred to the Eastern Heruls. More important as a track of the Eastern Heruls is probably the unusual globe stone on Inglingehoeg at Thorsjö, as the ornamentation appear as a combination of the East Germanic fibulas, the bracteats and lilies. A similar stone is found in a mound beside the chieftain in the Högom-mound with the Eastgermanic tracks – without ornamentation. The way to cut the hard stone was hardly done by Scandinavians as no similar work is known at that time in Scandinavia (the Gotlandic stones were of another hardness). Close to Inglingehoeg the legendary Blotberg (blot=sacrifice) is found with 12 mounds from the Iron Ages at the small location "Odensjö".
It is likely that the Heruls had a temporary settlement in Blekinge/Värend, but as they were no farmers they had no chance to live there - except if they began looting and tributing the Danes in Scania and the Götes. This may be the reason why the Sjörup Style was found as war booties in Finnestorp, and the Danes formed a stronger alliance expelling the Heruls – which made them known for the first time in the South. Such an event is possibly even reflected in Beowulf (Eorlas), Widsith (Wicinga) and Saxo (Huns) – which will be elaborated in chapter 3. The names, people and kings were mixed up so many years later when the Heruls had disappeared as integrated, but it is possible to explain them as the Heruls. These stories shall not be regarded as history, but the reason why these Scandinavian archaeological tracks and legends are found around Sutton Hoo in East Anglia is probably explained by the connections of the Western Heruls.
Jordanes told about the expulsion, and Procopius indicated that their settlement at the Gauts (seen from Byzans) was only their first settlement. According to Procopius we shall look for their next settlement far north of the Danes where the development indicates the arrival of such a strong people in the middle of the 6th century.
The Lister stones may indicate that some of the Western Herulian sailors preferred not to leave the coast and were allowed to settle more permanently at Lister between the Danes and the society in Västra Vång – maybe due to a marriage treaty or a job as mercenaries/earls.
22.214.171.124. The final settlement?
According to the historical sources a final settlement shall be found at the Scandinavian Peninsula and we shall according to Procopius' explanation about the Herulian delegation look for a place far north of the Danes. The place shall fulfill three conditions:
1. It shall be a place generating values which could be picked up by the Heruls, who according to Procopius had lived of warfare as mercenaries, looting and payment for protection.
2. It shall be a place where changes in the 6th century showed strong international influence.
3. We shall find there the necessary traces of a nomadic people of mercenaries - but as in Southern Europe these traces will be very few.
126.96.36.199.1. Norway, Goetaland and the islands
The Norwegian west coast could have been a target due to the connections in the 5th century, but these small isolated societies flourished already in the 5th century and no substantial expansion is realized in the beginning of the 6th century pointing at an arrival of the Herulian dynasty.
Also Vestergötland flourished already in the 5th century with rich golden treasures and the famous golden neck rings. The finds of war booties in the bogs are indicating that the local people there were able to keep out the intruders, because these people at the Swedish plains according to Jordanes were used of a pressure on their borders. Just like the Gudme area they had contacts with the Black Sea in the beginning of the Migration Ages. The later sacrifices in Finnestorp have a clear Herulic / East Germanic touch, but they are war booties from loosing intruders. Still the culture in the area appears to be local - even though Herulian earls may have supported the development at a later stage.
A few scholars do now attempt to date the Sparloesa Stone
in the 6th century, but that interpretation does hardly work as both the runic text, the house and the ship indicate a dating in the late 8th century. Therefore the stone cannot be used as a proof of an early dating of a connection.
Neither in Halland nor Oestergoetland we know centers indicating the arrival of such a people. Even though the Roek Stone is found in Oestergoetland it may be caused by a branch of the royal family moving there some time in the following 300 years - and the text of the Sparloesa Stone even indicate such an earlier movement from Uppsala.
At Oeland the impressing and unusual strongholds of stone were erected, but that too was in the 5th century - as the above mentioned civilizations. If the strongholds had anything with the Heruls to do they were rather provoked by the Hunnic and East Germanic horsemen in the 5th century. Besides Procopius told they remained in Thule, and the Eastern Heruls were horsemen - leaving out also Gotland and Bornholm. The attack at Sandby could be caused by Heruls, but in that case it was rather a punitive expedition than a settlement.
All the places mentioned above may have received Herulian mercenaries - or for that sake Ostrogoths who believed Scandinavia was their original home. This may be one of the reasons behind the uniform military development in the 6th century.
188.8.131.52.2. The Maelar Valley
It is obvious that the Maelar region fulfilled the two first conditions above. It was placed near the trade route from north (Hoegom) mentioned by Jordanes - the same route the Heruls had controlled in Moravia - and the iron in Bergslagen was another source of growing wealth. Furthermore the changing level of the sea caused an increase of arable land in the region for cattle and agriculture, while other societies had exhausted their land. The mounds and especially the content of the boat graves indicate a new structure of the society. Here we find an expansion which the Heruls could make use of according to their historical record and we are in the Vendel Culture able to find the changes they would cause after having already lived a generation in Sweden.
Uppsala and the Vendel Culture was archaeologically characterized as the power center of the Scandinavian Peninsula from the 6th century - a culture being initially strongly influenced by an East Germanic culture with contact to the regions where the Herulian dynasties still appeared to live. Here Birgit Arrhenius emphasized especially the shield boss, a buckle and a mount from the Vendel boat grave XIV, which is regarded to be the first of the boat graves. Identical items are found at River Tizsa in Romenia, to where Datius escaped to the Gepides. The shield boss is of a type which is typical for Vendel in those years. Another identical shield boss is found in a tomb at the Rhine containing also items of Gepidic character. The time connections may indicate that it belonged to the Datius-group where the survivors probably may have escaped towards the north west after the destruction of the Gepides and the Illyrian Heruls in 565 AD. Vendel XIV also contained one of the famous helmets for parades. They were made in Scandinavia but looked like Roman cavalry helmets from the 5th century - belonging to people who played on and had a strong veneration for a past as Roman mercenaries.
The content and character of the Ottars' Mound in Vendel and maybe the socalled Sami-DNA in a boat grave may indicate a connection with the society of Hoegom in Norrland being influenced by East Germanic culture. This society appears to have been left in the beginning of the 6th century. Opposite Hoegom the mound in Vendel contained a cremation. In the ashes was found a very seldom coin from the East Roman emperor Basiliscus ruling only in the year 476 AD, when Odoaker dismissed West Roman Emperor. This coin is also known from the tomb of Childeric. Maybe the dynasty from Hoegom met their Herulic allies in Uppland and joined them. Here in Uppland a new center of richness emerged based on the fur trade route via Helgoe and the new iron extraction in Bergslagen - activities which without any doubt would attract the Herulian warrior kings. This was exactly what they needed.
The three royal mounds in Uppsala are dated inside the interval 500-625 AD - which was the time when the Heruls established in the area - for the moment in the later part. The eldest mound in the middle is not excavated, but it is known to contain a cremation packed with stones as the two other mounds. The East Mound contains a woman and maybe also a boy burned at temperatures so high that nearly everything in the mound was destroyed. Among the fragments was a helmet for a woman or a child with a helmet plate identical with some of the plates in Sutton Hoo in East Anglia. The motive is two dancing warriors with horned helmets - probably depicting the Germanic mercenaries, Cornuti, in the Roman army. In the mound also two simple female articles for daily use were found - a makeup palette and a mirror with an eye to be hanging in the belt. Both normally belong to the women of the nomads in South Eastern Europe, and the mirror is found in 100 examples at the Danube and at the Black Sea. North of the Danubian Basin only two such mirrors are found - one in Thuringia and the one in Uppsala. Therefore the East Mound of Uppsala must contain a woman of East Germanic/Sarmatian family - the Herulic mixture of people. The West Mound is the youngest containing fragments of glass from the Black Sea, ivory gaming pieces from South Eastern Europe and Sassanidian camees.
The new cremation customs in the Maelar region are quite opposite the old burial customs of the Heruls as no cremations are found where they operated in Southern Europe. As Procopius could tell about pagan Heruls burning their dead in big fires, he must have described the habits of the Heruls in Scandinavia being referred by followers of Datius. The Heruls must have changed their burial customs, when they were integrated in Scandinavia, which may have been a part of the general changes of the burial customs in Scandinavia being observed at that time by archaeology.
No characteristics of the Heruls are known in the areas where they lived in South Eastern Europe - except maybe the burial mounds from the 5th century in Moravia/Marchfeld being connected with Uppsala by Czeckish archaeologists and some other Eastgermanic graves between the Swebes. The Heruls were ethnically so mixed and had joined so many other people that they cannot be separated from other East Germanic people following the Huns. Taking into consideration the very limited material being left from the cremations in Uppland we must conclude that we have found all the traces we could expect to find after a Herulian dynasty and their followers being integrated as a minority in the local people. Most of the mounds and boat graves being excavated are from more than 50 years after they left Moravia as we shall find their first left items in Blekinge/Värend.
Even when the contacts after the destruction of the East Germanic people turned against the Franks - or rather their pagan easterly neighbors - the content of the boat graves is still of the same character as the other rich European princely graves. Only local patriots - or people caught by the promising ideas of Olof Rudbeck - can claim that the warrior-level of Vendel Culture was based on an internal Swedish development.
Of course the flourishing of Uppsala is not an argument which can stand alone, as such a people in the theory could arise as a reaction on the arriving Heruls - as the Danes. Opposite no places are found with a development substantial enough to match the consequences of this dominating East Germanic people. If this was the case too much East Germanic influence is found in Uppsala and the boat graves.
As late as in the 11th century this center in Uppsala was described by Adam of Bremen as the centre of Odin, where Odin, Thor and the old Vane-god Frej were worshipped side by side.
The fact is that no other places are found with substantial changes matching this strong people of warriors. In the theory the Vendel culture may have arisen as an alliance against the Herulian dynasty supported by other Herulian earls – like the alliance of Danes. We cannot exclude that such a place has existed, but it is rather unlikely that such a counterpart to Uppsala should not have left any tracks or legends.
The most probable explanation regarding Heruls and Svear must be that a great part of the Eastern Heruls settled in the Uppsala region and became mercenaries before they were integrated as a part of the Svear. Their dynasty became as earls a part of the dynasty of the Svear. The archaeology is showing the necessary tracks of that development – the merger simply caused the new Vendel culture.
2.1.4. Heruls and boat graves?
Boat graves are unknown in the areas where the Eastern Heruls lived in the South and they do not make much practical or symbolic sense regarding the Eastern Heruls. We know boat graves at Bornholm from the Roman Iron Ages, but they are too early. However, the boat grave, Fallward, in Wremen was found in 1993 at the mouth of the Weser opposite Harlinger Land. At a schedel, which is dated by dendrology to 431 BC, a runic inscription was placed. A belt-set indicate that he was a mercenary serving the Romans – probably in England. He must have been a Western Herul or one of their Saxon neighbours, indicating that the western Heruls under all circumstances knew the habit with boat graves and runes when they left Frisia. We do not know if there were other boat graves in the area, as the area has been flooded. In Augerum, Blekinge, we have found one of the first Swedish boat graves and rune stones indicating that the western Heruls may have joined the Estern Heruls in Blekinge – especially with regard to the other indications in Listerland.
The content of the boat graves in Uppland is similar with the content of the other pagan princely graves in Europe. These customs were probably in Scandinavia combined with the boats as a mixed burial custom of Eastern and Western Herulian Habits. As mentioned Birgit Arrhenius has emphasized the East Germanic connection on the early Vendel Culture - hereunder Vendel XIV - where the spread of the boat graves appears to be connected with a structure of earls - a structure which the Heruls had learned from Odoaker and Theodoric.
The connection between Heruls and boat graves is likely to be regarded as a Westgermanic knowledge being combined with the Eastgermanic chamber graves of the European mercenarie-kings.
2.1.5. Heruls and Eric - the god?
184.108.40.206. The god Eric
This question by Aake Hyenstrand referred to the biography of Ansgar by Rimbert who in the second part of the 9th century visited Birca and mentioned the considerations about raising a dead king Eric to a god. Hyenstrand referred to the royal names Eric, Alric and Rolf as Herulic, but no Herul is known by the name Eric and all these royal names are formed by general Germanic words. Therefore the name itself cannot be used to identify any Heruls, but it is relevant to discuss the more general connection between the ancestor gods and the pagan Germanic people like the Heruls – or the general change of religion as Lotte Hedeager has done with focus on the Huns.
220.127.116.11. Heruls and ancestor gods?
Procopius told about the Illyrian Heruls that these reckless barbarians worshipped a host of gods. It shall be noticed that the barbarians had no problem with worshipping the Christian God between their other gods – it is just a Christian problem. Jordanes on his side told that the migrating Goths earlier - before they were baptised as Arian Christians - worshipped the heroes among their ancestors. He told that the Gothic word for ancestor gods was "ansis", which appear to be the background for the rune name "ansuZ" (God) and the divine group of "Ases". One of the first ancestors in "Getica" was Gapt. In the early royal genealogies in England from the 7th century Geat and Wothen were placed in front - indicating a similar connection between the gods and the royal ancestors there. Gapt and Geat were possibly identical with the god named Gaut, who in the ON poem Grimnismal was mentioned as an earlier name for Odin - the main god of the Ases.
In spite of the mentioning of ancestor gods Jordanes also told that the war god of the Goths was earlier Mars, just as Procopius told that the main god in Scandinavia was a wargod (Ares/Mars). A war god as main god was probably Odin - though he was not a real wargod in his later shape.
Earlier the gods in Scandinavia were Mercurius, Tyr, Nerthus and Ing according to Tacitus. The two last gods may have been fertility gods of the old society of independent farmers - the Vanes.
When the warrior elite emerged the importance of the gods changed too. The main god of the Scandinavian warrior elite, Odin, probably first arrived as the Westgermanic or Hunnic inspired god Woden/Wothan in the 5th century. Maybe he had a parallel in a North- or East Scandinavian cousin Gaut. Some of his shamanistic features could even together with the animal styles point back against the Hunnic/Scythic/Sarmatic nomads. The Heruls may have brought with them some of these elements of the maingod, but he existed in Scandinavia before their royal family arrived as pointed out by Lotte Hedeager.
The mixed Pantheon is mainly known from the Norse literature and will be discussed in a later chapter, as it cannot be used as arguments regarding the Heruls.
Apparently the Germanic people regarded their royal families as descendants of the gods - at least when the Ases were introduced. Obviously they used to raise heroes to gods as Jordanes and Rimbert told, but they also manipulated the royal lists by putting existing main gods in front of their royal genealogies - maybe a part of the change of religion.
Under all circumstances the development of the pagan religion with its mixture of ancestors, Ases and Vanes appear to be Germanic in general and was hardly caused by the Heruls alone.
2.2. A possible scenario
Based on the most probable answers a possible scenario can be that the Eastern Heruls sailed from the Varni to Blekinge and passed the Danes without suffering any violence. They were here assisted by the Varni and the Western Heruls, who had ships and had lived close to the sea at the borders between the Saxons and the Frisins. At the arrival they settled in Blekinge/Värend - maybe the Eastern Heruls around Thorsjö/Odinsjö, while the Western Heruls remained at the coast. The archaeology indicate that there may already have been a settlement in the region of former allies or East Germanic horsemen from the earlier Hunnic expeditions. As they were no farmers and the local farmers were few they had to take up their usual plundering and threat of their neighbors. Consequently the "Danish Nations" made an alliance and threatened to do like the Lombards. Some of the Heruls may have made an alliance with the Danes - maybe the seaborne Heruls - and remained in Lister, where they raised the runestones a century later.
The Heruls focused instead on the economic and strategic position of the Swedes - if this was not the final target from the very start. Actually the Swedes were the obvious choice for the Heruls when we look at the expanding economy of the Swedes at the old trade route, which the Heruls had followed from the Moravian Gate as written in Chapter 18.104.22.168.2.
Many combinations of possibilities will now lead to the same result. The king of the Svear may have called on the Heruls as professional advisers and mercenaries against neighbours threatening their expanding wealth - a problem at that time for the people on the Swedish plains according to Jordanes. It is impossible to say if the Heruls took power or simply became military commanders (earls/jarler) in the layer next to the king as they used to do. It would be usual to make an alliance by marriage, which would place the Heruls in the top of the society. They could also later use their power as the Continental barbarians did in England according to Gilda and Bede. Alternatively the Heruls and their allied from Högom simply attacked the Svear and took power, but that was hardly their plan.
Together the two people established a new structure of earls at the Tuna-centres and planned an efficient integration of the two people, where burial customs, religion etc. were harmonized. A part of the model for such a successful establishment of power they had learned from Theodoric 10 years earlier and Odoaker, and they themselves had been used to change customs after the people they served or followed.
The difference between the fiasco in Illyria and a possible success in Scandinavia was probably the monotheistic character of the Christian religion. It is obvious by reading Procopius that the Heruls in Illyria could not be accepted as true Christians as a part of them did not want to follow the monotheism. Opposite told the Saxon historian, Widukind, much later that the Scandinavians accepted foreign gods side by side with their own gods. The gods of the warrior elite, the Ases, could in that way be mixed up with the old fertility gods of the Svear, the Vanes - a development which had already started i Scandinavia before the Heruls arrived. As in the other Germanic people Woden and Frej were placed in front of the royal genealogy to secure the family's exclusive right to the throne - and at a later time the god Woden/Odin found his way into fragments of their old legends about the migrations of the people. Maybe we shall notice that the Swedish kings were not claimed to be descendents of Odin as the Danish kings - but descendents of Yngve-Frej - the Ynglings.
Centuries later the dynasty spread their power to other kingdoms - or married or escaped that way - where the rune stones in Sparloesa and Roek were raised 300 years later. In the same way Ynglingetal and Ynglingesaga were later written.
It is possible to put more details into the scenario above by reading Ynglingasaga by Snorre and the legends about Frode and Gylfe. This shall, however, be regarded as literature and not as historical sources as described below.
The suggested Y-haplogroup Q1a2 of the Huns has a subgroup Q1a2b1 found in high-intensity (5%) in parts of Scandinavia - especially Götaland - and in Burgundy, which in the legends is combined with the Heruls and the Huns. As a part of the Herulian royal family's companions presumably may have had Hunnic blood in their veins there may be a correlation. At least the concentration on this map is interesting. High intensity is found on places where we know the Heruls settled (Dnepr, Moravia, Belgrade and Sweden). When the intensity in Sweden is high a reason may be that regions of Götaland have been isolated. On the webside also the question "Huns in Sweden?" is asked. In addition the question is whether the Sarmatians had a similar type of DNA. There are no published correlations between 500-century chieftain graves in Scandinavia and Central Europe. Present DNA studies of the character above are very uncertain. For the moment DNA shall not be part of the arguments regarding the Heruls, but the theories about DNA do not contradict the hypotheses of this article.
2.4. Conclusion about the settlement in Scandinavia
The questions by Aake Hyenstrand could not be answered without any doubt, but the main question about Heruls and Svear combined with the precense of the Western Heruls lead to the most probable explanation, which also indirectly answered most of the other questions. The answer based on a combination of history and archaeology without any use of legends leads to the following conclusion about Scandinavia:
There is no doubt that the Herulian dynasty was operating in Scandinavia in the 6th century and that this was due to connections between the Heruls and Scandinavia in the 5th century. The most probable explanation is that most the Moravian Heruls settled in the Uppsala region and that their dynasty as earls became a part of the dynasty of the Svear. The archaeology does show the necessary tracks of that, but archaeology will probably never constitute a proof.
The usual attitude has been that Uppsala and Vendel is only an internal development until the opposite is proven - with an article by the professor in English, Alvar Ellegaard, as the historical alibi. This attitude is - like the Straengnaes-episode - irresponsible as the risk is that the most likely explanation regarding the Heruls will be left out of most archaeological research and examinations - just as it is hardly mentioned in the Swedish literature.
3. The Norse literature
It has often been used as an argument against the Heruls in Scandinavia that they were never mentioned in the rich literature found in Northern Europe about the Scandinavian past. It is therefore necessary to evaluate this part of the literature too, though it is common for nearly all these works that they were written down 1000-1300 AD – long time after the events. Accordingly they can never be regarded as historical sources as such though they contain invaluable information about the Viking Culture.
We have already touched the East Anglian poems of Beowulf and Widsith which are older than the manipulated Scandinavian legends and had a knowledge to Scandinavia due to the Western Heruls. The interesting is, that they both mention a Danish expulsion of a foreign people called Eorla or Wicinga. The event has not been noticed due to the unknown names, but probably pirates like the Western Herul were called Wicinga in England long time before we meet that name in Scandinavia. If they also knew Jordanes, who told exactly the same, we do not know. At least it became a reputation for the Danish kings in Europe which made themfamous from Byzans to England. Probably it was the same expulsion Saxo referred to, when he wrote about Frode and the Huns. As their name had become earl the later scalds probably believed they were a part of the Huns they followed earlier. Saxo even described Starkad and Erik like foreign mercenary advisors. It is not history, but nevertheless a Northeuropean acceptance of Jordanes. The Heruls were mentioned in Northern European legends!
Lotte Hedeager has as a part of her theories about the Huns suggested that the myth about Odin's journey in Ynglingesaga was inspired by Attila. In Iceland Snorri Sturlasson wrote in the Edda a dialog between the Svea-king Gylfe and the god Odin, but initially he told the traditional story about the origin of the gods and the royal family in Troy – a late Christian version. After travelling around in Scandinavia Snorri 10 years later told in Ynglingesaga another legend about a king, Odin, and his "men from Asia", who came from the surroundings of Tanais (River Don). This "Odin" first time settled at one of the several places called "Odinsey" – which could as well be an Odensjö in Sweden as at the Danish Odense as Snorre believed. From here the king negotiated with Gylfe. Later he moved to Sigtuna and got a temple in the town of Gylfe – Uppsala. Snorri told about Odin merging the Ases and the Vanes – the Wothan cult of the warriors and the old Scandinavian fertility cult, where Tacitus' Nerthus and Ing were succeeded by Njord and Frej. He told how the king “Odin” was raised as a god – in accordance with the stories by Jordanes and Rimbert – a natural process in the history of religions. Then he told about a successful Scandinavian integration project, including new burial customs with cremation (except for Frej – the ancestor of the Ynglings).
Rather than the history of Attila alone this narrative may also remind us of the history of his companions, the Eastern Heruls, who also according to Jordanes believed their origin to be Tanais like Odin. Though Snorri's description of the route was based on the geographical understanding and the travel routes of the Mediaval Ages it is possible to recognize elements of the history of the Heruls and partly of their Hunnic kahn, Attila – though many of the old narratives probably had melted together over the long span of years. A settlement in two stages like the Heruls' – ending finally up in Uppsala.
We are not able to decide today how much of the works by Snorri are reconstructions and how much are fragments of old legends about the kings with gods placed as ancestors in order to legitimize their right to the throne. Rabid scholars have accused Snorri for inventing it all as a Christian in the 13th century in order to throw suspicion on the pagan religion as euhemeristic. The case is that he did not need to invent that. The Germanic ancestor cult and the cult around the Roman emperors were by nature euhemeristic. Quite opposite a lot of the material used by Snorri is known from earlier historians and poems.
In 2011 Lotte Hedeager presented in the end of her book a rehabilitation of the Danish scholar Niels Lukman – mentioned in chapter 22.214.171.124 – who claimed that the Heruls brought their old myths about their companionship with the Huns in Central Europe to Scandinavia and became known there as "Jarls". If we combine these two hypotheses – considering that the Heruls probably were regarded as a part of the Huns in Northern Europe and influenced by these Huns – her ideas will be in accordance with the history in the former chapters. This will apply regardless of Lotte Hedeager or Ulf Naesmann were right in their discussions, and regardless of Niels Lukmann probably exaggerated how many Scandinavian mythical kings had an East Germanic or Hunnic origin.
Later in 2011 the publication of the Strängnäs inscription ".rilaR . WodinR" has even proved a connection between Wothan and ErilaR – an inscription which would have supported Lukman if it had been published in 1962 when it was found.
The journey in Ynglingesaga was just one example of possible traces of the Heruls in the North European literature, where the Roman name Herul had disappeared – maybe because it was now understood as the title “jarl”/”earl”.
There is no doubt that the sources behind the sagas have been changed over the years – which the Icelanders were not able to see through. The Pantheon of Snorri is as example a frozen picture which only indirectly reflects the many differences locally and over time in a dynamic process – but most religious people regard their religion in that way too. Snorri told i.e. about the changes in burial customs in the 6th century which the archaeologists reveal in our time – just as Beowulf (and Snorri) described the boar helmets of the 6th century, which are now excavated. It is more likely that Snorri got this information from old poems than he invented such information. Neither could the Scandinavians have invented the East Germanic touch in many of the legends.
Maybe the manipulated and unreliable Scandinavian sagas and chronicles do in this way contain fragments of the history of this vagrant royal family and their superior Huns. It is of course interesting to search for the hidden tracks, which may put a new content into the legends and may explain how the Heruls could disappear in Scandinavia – but they will never be regarded as historical evidence.
4. Scandinavian perspectives
Under all circumstances the Heruls arrived to Scandinavia where they together with the earlier impact of the Huns in Northern Europe must have been an important catalyst in the development process leading to the greater kingdoms of the Vendel Culture and the much later Viking Culture. They are most likely the explanation of the earls of Uppland, but we shall not regard them as the only reason for the Viking Culture as the looting, which made them famous, was a general backside of the culture around the warrior elite in the Iron and Viking Ages until a new combination of kingship and church changed this way of life in the Medieval Ages.
These hypotheses cover an area where it is normally impossible to prove anything according to usual scholarly criteria - except if new techniques as DNA-analyzes can help us. Unfortunately the historians have not (like other scholarly areas) found a method of reporting uncertainty - though all historical reports and analyzes contain uncertainty. The Scandinavian historians therefore avoid the Iron Ages. Some historians also avoid the Heruls as they are afraid to support right wing philosophies, but there is no such support in a people from South Eastern Europe being succesfully integrated in Scandinavia. The purpose of this article by an outsider is to combine the fragmentary historical and archaeological information in a more probable and coherent way - in the hope one day to inspire a scholar to find a convincing way out of the deadlock.
Detailed descriptions, references and notes can be found in a detailed pdf-article (heruls.pdf) following the same index as above.
march 31st 2014