Home » History » Map of the Germanic tribes, circa 15 BC

Map of the Germanic tribes, circa 15 BC



Figure 2 - Germanic Tribes Map 15 BCThis is one of the pictures which appears in my book. It is a map of the various tribes which existed in ancient Germania at around the year 15 BC. The picture that’s shown in the book is a little too small, so here’s a larger version for you to look at. Some of the names are abbreviated:

AMP = Ampsivarians
ANG = Angrivarians
CHAS = Chasuarians
DULG = Dulgubini
SIC = Sicambri
USI = Usipetes
VAN = Vangiones

This is probably the most accurate map that you’re going to find for ancient Germanic barbarians during the last years of the 1st Century BC.



  1. M. Keith says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent map. I agree with you about its quality. I can say this because I just spent 20 minutes searching for maps of Sicambri tribal lands…

    • jrabdale says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I don’t think that I need to explain how much work and research went into making this picture! I take it from your comment that you have a special interest in the Sicambri tribe (also spelled Sigambri or Sugambri). They are a very interesting people. Despite the small geographic area that they controlled, they were one of the most formidable of the western Germanic tribes, and they were a frequent thorn in Rome’s side, beginning by at least 17 BC but possibly earlier. What I think is most noteworthy about them is that they were one of the founding members of the Franks, or at least that’s what I was told.

  2. I had never seen such a map before. Interesting to see some familiar names there. Many seem like they are of Roman origin. rather than what they called themselves. Or is this what they called themselves?

    • jrabdale says:

      Thank you for your interest in ancient tribal history and etymology! As to whether or not these names are Latin or German, I’d have to say that they are Latinized names with a German basis.

      It’s true that a lot of these names definitely have Latin linguistic features. For example, -i is a very common plural suffix in Latin. So too is -ae. The suffix -ii is commonly re-written to the more modern -ians. So for example, the Burgundii would be re-written as Burgundians. Even though many or possibly all of these names have been Latinized for the Romans to better pronounce, they still retain German linguistic roots. For example, the names Jute, Teuton, Chatt, Chasuarian, and Chauci all have their basis in the Proto-Germanic word “teut”, which means “people” or “tribe”. The modern name Deutch is derived from this, and thus Deutchland means “land of the people”.

      Tribal names that may be familiar to those knowledgeable in world history should be the Angles, Danes, Burgundians, Frisians, Lombards, Vandals, and Teutons. Note that some of the later Germanic peoples, such as the Saxons and Bavarians, are not listed on this map. The Bavarians were probably an amalgum of smaller tribes that lived in the area. The same is true of the Alemannic Confederacy, which was composed of a handful of tiny tribes that lived in the area previously populated by the Nemetes (see map), and would grow to become one of the most dominant barbarian powers in central Europe from the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD. As for the Saxons, I’ve heard some say that the name Sax is a reference to the seax knives that they carried, and therefore would have been called “the Knife People”. Another explanation that I’ve heard is that they are named in reference to the Sahs River – however, I have seen no Sahs River on any map of northwestern Germany, but maybe I missed it. The name of the Sahs River itself might be a reference to a knife, as the river “cuts” through the landscape. In fact, the Anglo-Saxon word seax is derived from the early Germanic verb “sah”, meaning “to cut”. The modern English word “saw” comes from this.

      Trying to figure out what ancient tribal people called themselves is always difficult. Unless we have an actual name that the people themselves used, we have to assume that the name recorded by Greco-Roman authors was the name that these people identified themselves as. Thankfully we have a handful of exceptions. The 5th Century BC Greek historian Herodotus wrote in his “Histories” that the Scythian nomads of the Pontic Steppe actually called themselves the Skolotoi – keep in mind that the suffix -oi is a plural suffix in ancient Greek, so even here, he’s Hellenizing their name. Another Greek source, this time from the Byzantine period (I think it was Procopius, but I’m not sure), stated that the Slavs called themselves the Sporians, and that the name “Slav” correctly applied to just one tribe in particular and not to the whole ethnic group.

      We’ll likely never know what the ancient Germans collectively called themselves. Personally, I believe that they actually didn’t have separate names for various ethnic groups as a whole. I don’t think that they comprehended the idea of labelling people in this fashion. They simply called themselves “the people”, “the real people”, “the true people”, etc., and referred to those who were of a different culture as “the other people”. Many tribal societies to this day have a similar identification system – us versus them.

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