Written records of the Germans

Saturday, February 4, 2012

This article was prompted by my investigation on Beowulf.

The Germanic tribes used runes, Gothic alphabet, and Latin alphabet. Runes were the most ancient characters used by Germanic tribes. They date from the 2nd century A.D. At first runes were the marks of mysterious or magic significance (importance). The word RUNE meant MYSTERY. Later it began to be used in the meaning of LETTER. There were several types of runic alphabets. In the most widely spread one there were 24 runes. Runes were used by all Germanic tribes, especially Scandinavians, who made their inscriptions on the rock, wood and bone.

The first Germanic alphabet is said to have been created by Ulfilas. It was based on the Greek characters with some Latin letters and some runes in addition.

The Latin characters were brought to the Germans by Roman monks who began to Christianize the Germanic tribes in the 6th century. They set up schools and taught the Germans Latin. For this purpose they made translation of Roman Church texts into the language of Germanic tribes writing the Germanic words in Latin characters. But some additions had to be done to the Latin alphabet, because it was impossible to express all the sounds of the Germanic languages by Latin letters.


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