Tribes of Europe: The Frisians

The Frisian's are a tribe of ancient Europe, who have often been overlooked in the history of Europe. They never really dominated any great extent of territory and where often subject to the aggression of other European tribe's such as the Frank's. The Frisian people still exist today as part of the people's of Holland,Germany, Denmark and Belgium. Their original land's included part's of Denmark, Germany and Holland and there are around 1.5 million Frisian people making up the population of Europe.

The ancient Frisian's battled the Roman's in the First century AD, and in the Third Century appeared to have settled in Roman lands as Auxiliarie's for the Legion. The Frisian's suffered with the rising level's of the North Sea, this saw many of their settlement's lost along the European coastline. It is thought that their population suffered due to the wetter condition's and the Angle's and Saxon's took much of the Frisian lands. The other Germanic tribe's would have intermingled with the remaining Frisian's and created a similar culture to the old Frisian one.

Frisian Settlement
Frisian Settlement | Source

Conflict and Great Britain

The Frisian's saw the exploitation of the relatively undefended British Isle's as the answer to their survival. The Frisian's were beginning to feel the pressure of the other Germanic tribes vying for territory after the Roman Empire had declined. The Clovis led Frankish forces were consolidating their hold on their Empire, and the Northern part's of the continent would offer the Frank's more important Ports to increase their wealth.

Small groups of Frisian's looked to escape the growing tensions and create a Germanic haven along the River's Humber, Tee's, Tyne and Forth. We know that the Frisian's were a minor partner in the colonization of Britain but a few British place name's bear slight evidence to Frisian settlement. One theory suggest's the Scottish town of Dumfries means "town of the Frisians". We know the Dane's, Roman's, Pict's and Saxon's had all staked a claim to the town over the years, so it's a possibility.

The influence was more keenly felt in the language of the British people, the Old English language was more closely related to the Frisian tongue than any of the other Germanic tribes. If a modern Frisian were able to speak to a English peasant from the 6th Century AD, they would be able to understand each other almost perfectly.

Charlemagne's Vendetta

The Frisian's were a Germanic culture that worshiped the God's we usually associate with the Viking period. One of the Norse Gods who was of particular interest to the Frisian's was Foresti, Foresti was the Norse God of Law and his legend among the Frisian's mirror's that. One Frisian legend tell's of the Holy Roman King Charlemagne demanding that the Frisian's write down their own code of Law's. After a week of no progress the Christian King gave the Frisian's a dire ultimatum, They could choose between Death, Slavery or been set adrift on the cruel North Sea until they could form one. The 12 lawmaker's chose the last option and while they sat in the boat and prayed, a stranger with a golden axe came to their aid. He threw his axe and created a sacred spring on an Island off the Frisian coast, he then dictated to them laws to appease Charlemagne.

Charlemagne disliked the idea of the Pagan Saxon's and Frisian's along his Christian Empire's border's and for the majority of his latter years, was fanatical in the conversion or defeat of these two Germanic tribes. It was Charlemagne who instigated the wide spread rejection of the old ways in favour of Roman Catholicism. The Frisian's defeated in battle had little choice but to bow down before the victorious Christian King.

Timeline of the Frisian's

70 AD
Revolt of Batavi
War against Roman's
296 AD
Settled in Roman Germania
Invited as Serf/Colonists
400 AD
Settlement in Kent,England
Germanic movement
600 AD
Expanding Kingdoms into Holland and UK
North Sea rises
678 AD
Frisia Magna
Frisian High King created
734 AD
Converted to Catholism
Defeated by the Frank's
993 AD
Frisian Freedom
Counts of Holland weakness
1272 AD
Holland asserts control
Sporadic conflict
1524 AD
Becomes part of Holland
Loss of power
1568 AD
Division of Frisia
The Dutch revolt

Due to Frisia losing it's influence to the Lord's of Holland in the Thirteenth Century and the King making politic's which was rampant throughout the European Continent in the age of Empire's, the Frisian people where separated and traded away. Their culture and heritage was systematically stripped from them to the point that Three separate Frisian groups existed. The Western group had been assimilated into the progressive Dutch state and they embraced the security that the new union offered. The Germanic Frisian's were also easily included in the German states they inhabited, their traditions and language were very similar.

This has caused the Frisian culture to fragment and there is no real progressive movement for the Frisians to push for self determination at all cost's like some other minority people's do. The majority of Frisian's are bi-lingual and happy in their role of their chosen society. Of the Three Frisian groups of language, two of them are in danger of disappearing. There are half a million speakers of the Western Frisian language but mere thousands of the remaining types of language. We are fortunate that the Frisian language's are similar to other Germanic languages and that there is enough of a population that has survived to continue Frisian rich heritage.

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Comments 14 comments

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

Jainismus, as weird as it may seem...It is possible they did move from the Indian area and made their way into what is now Russia, Turkey and parts of the middle East. These groups split and headed into different area's of the world. We know that we Human's love to move around and the Frisians could have originated from the Northern Area of India and spread westwards.

jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

I heard that the Fresians originally were from India. Is it true?

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

Ah yes, it is funny how similar but different the Germanic languages can be :)

Ghaelach 3 years ago

Andy, I really do believe you. In fact, it is in that place that is an outcast from Lancashire. What's it called! Oh yeh Todmorden and my wife laughs as I say the name of the town where a friend of mine was born (poor sod) as in Germany the name of the town is called "Dead Murders." Tod in German is dead and morden is murders.

Not a very nice name for a town, but we can put it down to the "Ostfriesen's." lol

LOL Ghaelach

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

Thank's for the comment, UnnamedHarald. I personally believe that the area I grew up in Yorkshire, was settled by the Frisian's after the Roman withdrawl. Maybe my family line has a bit of the Frisian's running through it.

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Another very interesting hub-- and again, though I've heard of the Fresians, I knew next to nothing about them. Thanks for the education!

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

And Robin Hood was buried in Yorkshire lol

Ghaelach 3 years ago

Hey Andy.

About Richard.

Robin of Locksley buried him there. just before they built Tesco's. lol

LOL Ghaelach

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

Yes at first I knew more of their cow's and horse's than the actual tribe!! Thanks for stopping by Charmike4.

charmike4 profile image

charmike4 3 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

I just saw a documentary on the German uprising around 10 AD and they mentioned the Frisians/Fresians...and I thought that these were just a good milking cow! Thanks for enlighting me on their history. Cheers Michael

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

Ah now the War of the Rose's, that is a subject and a half. In fact it is one that gets very little attention in the modern world but is used to excess when describing Sporting Rivalries!!

As soon as I have cleared my backlog of Hubs I will take a look at doing the subject some justice. I see they believe they have found Richard III in a Car Park!

Ghaelach 3 years ago

Hi there Andy.

I have a few friends that live or come from Yorkshire.

The problem you have now, is because you are a history fanatic and I'm a Lancashire lad you'll have to write me a hub on the "War of the Roses," ----- please.

LOL Ghaelach

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 3 years ago from England Author

Morning there Ghaelach, Very glad you enjoyed the hub. I am from the East Yorkshire are of England and am a bit of a History fanatic. The area I grew up in is constantly in danger of the North Sea reclaiming the land that the Norse and Germanic settler's stole from it a thousand year's ago. A lot of the Germanic place names remain and a few can be attributed to the Frisian's. There was a settlement that was named after the Frisian's but the North Sea destroyed it by the 1600's.

Thank you for commenting and reading


Ghaelach 3 years ago

Morning Asp52.

This is for me a very interesting article.

I've lived in Germany (Dusseldorf) for the last 20 years and had the chance 2 years ago to take a holiday in Werdum, Ost (east) Friesland, and about ten miles from the coast.

A lovely part of Germany, but one can see straight away that they have a different life or way of living. That is more than likely a lot to do with having the North Sea on their door step.

Land and housing is affected by this situation. Houses and land is cheap because of the threat of flooding, which happens often. One of the requirements for buying a house or land, is that they must keep the water ditches around their land free from blockage and overgrowing of nature. Thus allowing the sea or river water to flow back and forth unhindered without flooding the land, most of the time.

Great hub.

LOL Ghaelach

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