The Turcilingi, Torcilingi, or Thorcilingi were an obscure barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...
people who first appeared on the historical scene in Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...
in the mid-fifth century and last appeared in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...
during the reign of Romulus Augustulus (475–476). Their only known leader was Odovacar.
Primary sourcesThe Turcilingi are mentioned in only two independent sources: three times in the Getica of Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....
and once in the Historia Miscella of Landulf Sagax
Landolfus Sagax or Landolfo Sagace was a Lombard historian who wrote a Historia Romana in the last quarter of the tenth century or beginning of the eleventh....
. They are also mentioned once in the Historia Langobardorum of Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon , also known as Paulus Diaconus, Warnefred, Barnefridus and Cassinensis, , was a Benedictine monk and historian of the Lombards.-Life:...
in a passage that is a derivative of Jordanes. Johann Kaspar Zeuss, followed by Karl V. Müllenhoff, believed that the 'Ρουτίχλειοι mentioned in the Geographia of Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...
(II.11.7) were the Turcilingi, but this thesis requires a complex etymology. Landulf Sagax lists them together with the Scirii
The Scirii were an East Germanic tribe of Eastern Europe, attested in historical works between the 2nd century BC and 5th century AD.The etymology of their name is unclear...
among the nations which participated on the side of Attila and the Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...
at the Battle of Châlons
Battle of Chalons
The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains , also called the Battle of Châlons sur Marne, took place in AD 451 between a coalition led by the Visigothic king Theodoric I and the Roman general Flavius Aëtius, against the Huns and their allies commanded by their leader Attila...
. Landulf is the unique source for this information; though he is a very late source (tenth century), it is probable that he had access to now lost sources and there is nothing inherently improbable about the Turcilingi being present at Châlons along with the Scirii as Hunnic allies.
Jordanes introduces us to the Turcilingi, though he makes no mention of them at Châlons. The Turcilingi were joined with several other barbarian tribes, like the Scirii, Rugii, and Heruli
The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe who are famous for their naval exploits. Migrating from Northern Europe to the Black Sea in the third century They were part of the...
, under Odovacar as foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...
of the Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus, who was a puppet of his father, Flavius Orestes
Orestes was a Roman general and politician of Germanic ancestry, who was briefly in control of the Western Roman Empire in 475–6.-Early life:...
. The barbarians demanded from Orestes in return for their military service some Italian land on which to settle. They were denied. According to Jordanes:
Now when Augustulus had been appointed Emperor by his father Orestes in Ravenna, it was not long before Odoacer, king of the Torcilingi (rex Torcilingorum), invaded Italy, as leader of the Scirii, the Heruli and allies of various races. He put Orestes to death . . . (XLVI.242)
When Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great was king of the Ostrogoths , ruler of Italy , regent of the Visigoths , and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire...
was looking for a pretext to invade Italy in 493, he petitioned the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno
Zeno , originally named Tarasis, was Byzantine Emperor from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. Domestic revolts and religious dissension plagued his reign, which nevertheless succeeded to some extent in foreign issues...
by reminding him of the "tyranny" (unlawful rule) of the city of Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...
by Turcilingi and Rugii. According to Jordanes, Theodoric gave the following justification:
The western country, long ago governed by the rule of your ancestors and predecessors, and that city which was the head and mistress of the world—wherefore is it now shaken by the tyranny of the Torcilingi and the Rugi (sub regis Thorcilingorum Rogorumque tyrannide)? (LVII.291)
Theodoric's charge against the Turcilingi had resonance. As late as the seventeenth century, Lancelot Andrewes
Lancelot Andrewes was an English bishop and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of England during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. During the latter's reign, Andrewes served successively as Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester and oversaw the translation of the...
found use for citing the "inhumanity" and barbarity of the Turcilingi in his Gunpowder Plot Sermon.
Paul the Deacon, in his opening chapter (I.1), names several peoples (Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....
, Rugii, Heruli, Turcilingi) who have come, he says, from Germania
Germania was the Greek and Roman geographical term for the geographical regions inhabited by mainly by peoples considered to be Germani. It was most often used to refer especially to the east of the Rhine and north of the Danube...
to Italy. He goes on to name the Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...
as latecomers from the same region. This passage is clearly based on Jordanes, but its reference to Germany is unique. Nonetheless, Paul does not say that the Turcilingi are Germans: "The Goths indeed, and the Wandals, the Rugii, Heroli, and Turcilingi, and also other fierce and barbarous nations have come from Germany." The Turcilingi appear to have originated in Germany, perhaps near the Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...
, and thence moved with the Huns into Gaul and finally to the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....
, possibly Noricum
Noricum, in ancient geography, was a Celtic kingdom stretching over the area of today's Austria and a part of Slovenia. It became a province of the Roman Empire...
, before entering Italy with Odovacar.
IdentificationThe Turcilingi have been identified with the Thuringii
The Thuringii or Toringi were a Germanic tribe which appeared late during the Völkerwanderung in the Harz Mountains of central Germania around 280, in a region which still bears their name to this day — Thuringia. They evidently filled a void left when the previous inhabitants — the...
by Helmut Castritius and Walter Pohl
Walter Pohl is an Austrian historian. His area of expertise is the history of the Migration Period and the Early Middle Ages....
. Odovacar's father is said to have been a Thuringian in some sources. If this is true, it is probable that he ruled those people, and that Turcilingi is merely a scribal error for Thuringii.
Nineteenth-century German scholarship supposed that the Turcilingi were neighbours of (or the same people as) the Scirii in the first century, or that they were the royal clan of the Scirii or the Huns. The more enthusiastic invented a homeland for them straddling the Oder
The Oder is a river in Central Europe. It rises in the Czech Republic and flows through western Poland, later forming of the border between Poland and Germany, part of the Oder-Neisse line...
, with the Scirii to the east, the Vandals to the west, and the Rugii to the north. These scholars placed them in the Gothic
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....
Sphere of influence
In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence is a spatial region or conceptual division over which a state or organization has significant cultural, economic, military or political influence....
EtymologyThe problem of identification is related to the problem of etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...
. Both are related to the question whether the Turcilingi were Germanic
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...
or not. The -ling suffix is Germanic, denoting members of a line, usually one descended from a common ancestor. The root Turci- is neither Germanic nor Slavic
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...
, but is perhaps Uro-Altaic, that is, Turkic. The Turkish connexion is supported by the fact that the historical Turcilingi are always seen with the Scirii, who were connected with the Huns, possibly a Turkic people, and have even been called Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...
, possibly a Turkic or Iranian (Indo-European
Indo-European may refer to:* Indo-European languages** Aryan race, a 19th century and early 20th century term for those peoples who are the native speakers of Indo-European languages...
) ethnicity. The Turcilingi and Scirii were perhaps the first sizable Turkic populations in Europe.
Completely Turkic etymologies for the name "Turcilingi" have been proposed. Türk-lük or "Turkdom" is a plausible starting point, suggested by Edouard Blochet. The Turkic given names Ṭoghril, Ṭoghrul, or Ṭogrul could form the basis of a Germanicised tribal name. The Pecheneg name Turak is an alternative suggestion. The Gothic form *Taurkiliggos has been hypothesised as a root meaning "descendants of the *Taurkeis", that is, Turks.