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File:BelgicaI GermaniaI.jpg
A map of eastern Gaul showing the Nemetes at the right along the Rhine.

The Nemetes (Ancient Greek: Νεμῆται; German: Nemeter), by modern authors sometimes called Nemeti,[1][2] were an ancient Germanic tribe living by the Rhine where Ariovistus had led them, the Suebi and other allied Germanic peoples in the second quarter of the 1st century BC. The Roman name for Speyer, Noviomagus Nemetum, reflects this city's status as the Nemetes' tribal capital. According to Tacitus, they were "unquestionably Germanic".[3] The name of the tribe, however, is Celtic as the name of its main town Noviomagus meaning noviios 'new' and magos 'plain', 'market' (cf. Old Irish mag 'plain'),[4] as are those of a number of gods worshipped in their territory, including Nemetona, who is thought to have been their eponymous deity.[5] Both of these names derive from the Celtic root nemeto-, referring to sacred spaces.[4][5]

In De Bello Gallico, Caesar writes that the Hercynian Forest "begins at the frontiers of the Helvetii, Nemetes, and Rauraci, and extends in a right line along the river Danube to the territories of the Daci and the Anartes".[6] Their territory on the left bank of the Rhine had belonged to the Mediomatrici during the time of Caesar and Strabo, but the Nemetes must have crossed the river and settled there sometime afterwards.[7] Under the Roman administrative organization of Gaul, the Nemetes constituted a civitas of the province of Upper Germany with a relatively small territory extending from the Rhine into the Palatinate Forest and an administrative centre at Speyer. Ptolemy mentions Neomagus (i.e. Noviomagus) and Rufiniana as the towns of the Nemetes;[8] if the latter is to be identified with Rouffach, Ptolemy is mistaken in attributing it to the Nemetes, for Rouffach is far to the south in Rauracan territory.[9][10] It may also be supposed that Saletio (Seltz) belonged to the Nemetes, as in modern times it belonged to the diocese of Speyer; Saletio would have been near the northern limits of the Triboci, whose civitas later became the diocese of Strasbourg.[11] The Nemetes fought alongside the Romans and Vangiones against the Chatti when the latter invaded in 50 AD.[12]

The name of the Nemetes has been proposed, on contestable grounds,[13] as a possible source of the term for Germany and German people in Romanian: nemţi/neamţ, Hungarian: német(ek) and the Slavic languages, e.g. немцы (nyemtsy) in the Russian language, Niemcy in Polish or Němci in Czech.[14][15] See also exonyms.

See also


  1. Christoph Heinrich Friedrich Bialloblotzky "German reading lessons. Selected from Menzel's Geschichte der Deutschen", J.Wacey, London, 1838 (google books)
  2. Frederick Kohlrausch "History of Germany. From the Earliest Period to the Present Time". D.Appleton and Company, New York, 1880. (google books)
  3. Tacitus. Germania 28.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Xavier Delamarre (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Éditions Errance, p. 233.
  5. 5.0 5.1 John T. Koch (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, p. 1351.
  6. C. Iulius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, VI:25. Translation based on W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn (1869), cf. Latin text.
  7. George Long. "Mediomatrici", from Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
  8. Claudius Ptolemaeus. Geographia, II:8.
  9. George Long. "Rufiniana", from Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
  10. In fact, the mistake comes from more modern historians, because Rufiniana cannot be the former name of Rouffach. It is impossible for three reasons : 1 - The ancient forms of this place-name are known as Rubiaco en 662, Rubac 912, Rubiacum 12th. 2 - The end of Rufiniana supposes two suffixes -ini(us?)-ana and Rubiaco has only one -aco. 3 - The first element Ruf- cannot change to [b] into Latin Rub-. On the contrary, the shift from [b] to [p] and finally to [f] (Rubac > *Rupach > Rouffach) is the typical result of the High German consonant shift, that took place a long time after Ptolemy's death.
  11. George Long. "Triboci", from Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
  12. Tacitus. Annals, XII: 27.
  13. "nêmьcь". Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Band 15. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1867. (German)
  14. The Journal of Indo-European studies 1974, v.2
  15. Etymology of the Polish-language word for Germany (Polish)

External links