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Definition: About 2000 years ago, the Roman Empire reached the northwest coast of Germany, where (according to reports from Plinius and Tacitus) they met the formidable Frisians. The Frisians were one of the major Germanic tribes in barbarian Europe (others included the Saxons and the Angles), based primarily in the Netherlands, South Scandinavia, Denmark and the Weser/Oder region.

The Frisians are the main reason the Romans were kept mostly south of the Rhine; about 450 they crossed the North Sea and invaded England, settling in Kent, East Anglia and Lincolnshire. They remained an important force from the latter part of the Roman period through about 800 AD, when Charlemagne conquered most of Europe. Since then, they continue to keep their cultural identity and language alive today.


Cunliffe, Barry. 1994. Barbarian Europe. In Prehistoric Europe: An Illustrated History. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology. Thanks to Johannes van den Heuvel for information on the Frisians.

Alternate Spellings: Frisii; the country is Frisia or Friesland
Wijnaldum-Tjitsma, Dorestad (the Netherlands)

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