Regnator omnium deus
In Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

' work Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

from the year 98
Year 98 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Augustus and Traianus...

, regnator omnium deus
Deus is Latin for "god" or "deity".Latin deus and dīvus "divine", are descended from Proto-Indo-European *deiwos, from the same root as *Dyēus, the reconstructed chief god of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon...

(god, ruler of all) was a deity worshipped by the Semnones tribe in a sacred grove
Sacred grove
A sacred grove is a grove of trees of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves were most prominent in the Ancient Near East and prehistoric Europe, but feature in various cultures throughout the world...

. Comparisons have been made between this reference and the poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Völsungakviða in forna, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II or the Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

, recorded in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources.


According to Tacitus:

Of all the Suevians, the Semnones recount themselves to be the most ancient and most noble. The belief of their antiquity is confirmed by religious mysteries. At a stated time of the year, all the several people descended from the same stock, assemble by their deputies in a wood; consecrated by the idolatries of their forefathers, and by superstitious awe in times of old. There by publicly sacrificing a man, they begin the horrible solemnity of their barbarous worship. To this grove another sort of reverence is also paid. No one enters it otherwise than bound with ligatures, thence professing his subordination and meanness, and the power of the Deity there. If he falls down, he is not permitted to rise or be raised, but grovels along upon the ground. And of all their superstition, this is the drift and tendency; that from this place the nation drew their original, that here God, the supreme Governor of the world, resides, and that all things else whatsoever are subject to him and bound to obey him.

Poetic Edda

The description is often compared with a prose paragraph in the Eddic poem
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

 Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Helgakviða Hundingsbana II
Völsungakviða in forna, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II or the Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane is an Old Norse poem found in the Poetic Edda...

where a place called Fjöturlundr
Grove of fetters
A Grove of fetters is mentioned in the Eddic poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana II:The description is often compared with a section by Tacitus on a sacred grove of the Semnones:...

 (grove of fetters) is mentioned:

Helgi obtained Sigrún
Sigrún is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her story is related in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, in the Poetic Edda...

, and they had sons. Helgi lived not to be old. Dag, the son of Högni, sacrificed to Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

, for vengeance for his father. Odin lent Dag his spear. Dag met with his relation Helgi in a place called Fiöturlund, and pierced him through with his spear. Helgi fell there, but Dag rode to the mountains and told Sigrún what had taken place.

Due to the resemblance between the two texts some scholars have identified the deity of the Semnones with an early form of Odin
or is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of a god of Germanic paganism, known as in Norse mythology, in Old English, or in Old High German and in Lombardic...

. Others suggest an early form of Týr may have been involved as he is the one to put fetters on Fenrir in Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

; yet Odin is considered the god of binding and fettering of the will. There is insufficient evidence for a certain identification.

Further reading

The following works are listed in Rudolf Simek's Dictionary:
  • O. Höfler (1952). "Das Opfer im Semnonenhain und die Edda" (Edda, Skalden, Saga. Festschrift F. Genzmer) Heidelberg.
  • R. W. Fischer (1963). "Vinculo ligatus" (Antaios 5).
  • R. Much (1967). Die Germania des Tacitus. Heidelberg.
  • J. de Vries (1970). Altgermanische Religiongeschichte. Berlin.
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