Infobox Ethnic group

caption=Historical Frisian settlement area
poptime=1,500,000 (est.)Fact|date=February 2007
popplace=Frisia (comprising parts of The Netherlands, Germany)
rels= Indigenously Germanic paganism, later Medieval Christian
Presently Protestant Christian, predominantly Calvinist and Lutheran Protestant; Catholic diaspora minorities; also free churches and non-religious group. [ [ Churches and their members in East Frisia] ]
langs=Frisian, Dutch, German, Low Saxon
related=Dutch, Afrikaners, English, Flemings, Germans
The Frisians are an ethnic group of Germanic people living in coastal parts of The Netherlands and Germany. They are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen and, in Germany, East Frisia and North Frisia [ [ Interfriesischer Rat / Ynterfryske Rie - Start ] ] . They inhabit an area known as Frisia. They have a reputation for being tall, big-boned and light-haired people [Carleton S. Coon, "The Races of Europe",1939 (New York: Knopf, 1962), Chapter XII, section 4 [] :"The hair is blond to medium brown, especially the latter (Saller-Fischer chart A-O), in over 60 per cent, except for the North Frisian parish of Bökingharde, where it is darker; red hair runs as high as 7 per cent on Spiekeroog. The eyes are pure blue or light-mixed in 70 per cent to 80 per cent of instances. The Frisians are among the blondest people in the world."] and they have a rich history and folklore.


Pre Roman times

The Frisian origins are obscure. Archeologically, Frisians share a local development with other people in NW continental regions, dating to the Elp culture (1800-800 BC). The Elp culture shows local continuity, starting with the emergence of the neolithic Corded Ware culture (2900 BC onwards until 2450) and running through Bell-Beaker cultures (2700–2100), Bronze Age Barbed Wire Beakers (2100-1800 BC). The Elp Culture itself began with a Hügelgräber phase, showing a close relationship to other Northern European Hügelgräber groups (sharing low-quality pottery called "Kümmerkeramik"). This phase transitioned smoothly and locally to Urnfields (1200-800 BC). Apparently, the local tradition was only broken around 800 BC, by the Iron Age Hallstatt culture and later by La Tene, which originated south and south east of Central Europe. It was thought that this change was caused by immigration, but it is now attributed to a local development stimulated by external influences. [Op Zoek naar de Kelten, Nieuwe archeologische ontdekkingen tussen Noordzee en Rijn - Leo Verhart, ISBN 90 5345 303 2, 2006, p67] The Hallstatt elites may have had little social influence in Frisia, because there are is no evidence of royal burials there.

Social stability and international contacts became disturbed by power shifts towards the southern Hallstatt regions in the C-period. This caused a decay in the superstratum elite in the D-period that thus never achieved the same privileged and dominant position like in SW Germany and Eastern France. The same process of quick decay was observed at the subsequent intruding La Tene elite. Archeologically, this Iron Age period continued without breaks towards Roman times, showing that continental Germanic cultures participated in an otherwise Celtic European culture. Thus it is not clear whether most Northern European Iron Age findings are from Celtic or Germanic tribes.

About 750 BC, the coastal flood plains were populated for the first time, when adjacent higher grounds (Drenthe) became more populated and their soil was exhausted. [Leo Verhart - Op zoek naar de Kelten, 2006,ISBN 90 5345 303 2, p81-82] The Frisian ancestors may have immigrated in the Iron Age from Germanic areas to the north or even Scandinavia, but archeological evidence is ambiguous. Genetic evidence points to a close relationship between all Germanic groups, including Frisians, although a possible Scandinavian link is hard to prove with the occurrence of genetic drift, local developments and eastern additions confined to Scandinavian areas. [European Journal of Human Genetics - Different genetic components in the Norwegian population revealed by the analysis of mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms, Giuseppe Passarino1 et al [] ]

The Frisians emerge as a Germanic tribe named by Roman writers. Nowadays the region shows one of the few examples in prehistory of Bronze Age culture to have continuity with recent building practices as demonstrated by Elp culture influences in present day Frisian and Low Saxon territory. [1979: Nederland in de bronstijd, J.J. Butler ]

Roman times

The Frisians were able to form a treaty with the Romans at the River Rhine in 28 AD, thus avoiding conquest. But sixteen years later, when taxes became repressive, they hanged the tax collector and defeated the Romans under Tiberius at the Battle of Baduhennawood. The Frisii were known and respected by the Romans and written about by several sources. Tacitus wrote a treatise about the Germanic peoples in 69, describing the habits of the Germanic people, as well as listing numerous tribes by name. [ [ i-Friesland: Tacitus - Characteristics of Germanic people ] ] Of the many tribes he mentioned, the name 'Frisii' is the only one still in use to refer unequivocally to the same ethnic group. [ [ i-Friesland: History: Tacitus - Tribes of Germania ] ]

Friesland had been settled early, with evidence of terp-building, the distinctive raised settlements, starting in 700 BC. Frisii were mentioned by Roman historian Tacitus [ Tacitus mentions two different sections of Frisians, "maioribus minoribusque frisii" (major and minor Frisians), both having settled downstream the Rhine: Publius Cornelius Tacitus - Germania, paragraph 34] and earlier by Pliny the Elder [Pliny the Elder mentions Frisii and Frisiavones in book IV of his encyclopedic compilation "Naturalis Historia" (77 AD)] . According to inscriptions found in Roman Britain [ Inscriptions dated between 103-249 AD mention the "Cohors Primae Frisiavonum" - "First Cohort of the Frisiavones"] they served the Roman Army and used "Frisiavones" as a synonym. Expansion to the south-west occurred probably as early as 70 AD, when the westernmost parts of the rivermouth were abandoned by the Canninefates in the aftermath of the Batavian revolt by Julius Civilis. Emigration to Flanders [Frisian "Tritzum" pottery from Roman times has been found in Zele-Kamershoek, Belgium] and Kent [Early Frisian pottery has been found in Kent: Looijenga T., Runes around the North Sea and on the Continent A.D. 150-700, SSG Groningen, 1997] happened peacefully within Roman jurisdiction and probably reached a height in the 250s, due to heavy flooding. Around 290 AD Constantius Chlorus mentioned Frisians among the pirates that were raiding Britain, but in the records the Saxons took over this reputation in the fourth century. This coincides with archeological evidence that habitation of the original area remained scarce for about 150 years and only recovered in the 400s. It has been suggested that by then a part of the Frisians had already merged with the Saxons, to whom they were closely related. The Frisian languages remain the closest surviving languages to English. [ [ Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration - Weale et al. 19 (7): 1008 - Molecular Biology and Evolution ] ]

The Roman historian Tacitus, in his "Germania", mentioned the Frisians among people he grouped together as the Ingvaeones. Tacitus mentions two types, or classes of Frisians -- the maiores Frisii and the minores Frisii -- divided by the soil of their farmlands. The maiores Frisii or Clay Frisians populated fertile clay soil, increasing the size of their harvests, livestock and even their posture. The small and relatively unhealthy minores Frisii (Sand Frisians) farmed on sand lands, so their crops were smaller and fewer than those of the maiores Frisii. The armies of the maiores were also larger and better equipped.

They were probably a people of seafarers, the North Sea spanning from Britain to Eastern Denmark, was referred to as the "Mare Frisia" at that time. Small groups of Frisians settled the surrounding lands and their settlements have been traced to England, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France and obviously to The Netherlands.

Their territory followed the coast of the North Sea from the mouth of the Rhine river up to that of the Ems, their eastern border according to Ptolemy's "Geographica". Pliny the Elder states in "Belgica" that they were conquered by the Roman general Drusus in 12 BC, after several uprisings that were mentioned by Tacitus. The most noted of these is their partaking in the Batavian rebellion. Thereafter the Frisians largely sank into historical obscurity, until coming into contact with the expanding Merovingian and Carolingian empires.

In the 5th century, during this period of historical silence, many of them no doubt joined the migration of the Angles and Saxons who went through Frisian territory to invade Great Britain, while those who stayed on the continent expanded into the newly-emptied lands previously occupied by the Anglo-Saxons. By the end of the sixth century the Frisians occupied the coast all the way to the mouth of the Weser and spread farther still in the seventh century, southward down to Dorestad and even Bruges. This farthest extent of Frisian territory is known as Frisia Magna.

The empire that came in to being after the fall of the Western Roman Empire was governed by a king or a duke. The earliest document referring to an independent state ruled by a king is dated 678. Early attempts to Christianize Frisia were unsuccessful in converting the fiercely pagan Frisians, and various monks were murdered or banished, such as the legendary example of the murder of Saint Boniface near Dokkum. King Radbod was even able to beat the mighty Charles Martel in 714 to preserve independence. Twenty years later Charles Martel got his revenge and effectively subjugated the entire Frisian empire. Christianity was also enforced by the Christian Franks and in Utrecht a Bishop was installed to see to Christian affairs in Frisia. Not until the early 800s did they fully reclaim their independence from the Frankish grip. Christianity had however taken root and had been adopted by most Frisians. Benedictine monk Saint Willibrord is considered to be the "Apostle of the Frisians". [ [ Catholic Encyclopedia on Saint Willibrord] ]

Kings or Dukes of Friesland

The princes of the Frisians in the early Middle Ages were:
* Folcwald
* Finn
* Sibbelt
* Ritzard
* Aldegisel (d. 680)
* Radbod, also known as Redbad (680–719)
* Poppo (719–734)
* Pier Gerlofs Donia, (1480 - 1520), also known as Grutte Pier, bestowed himself the title King of all Frisians in 1515, holding the title until his death in 1520. He was not related directly to Poppo, and although not formally recognised he was hugely popular with the Frisian people. The last four were certainly historical figures. The first four may be only legendary. What their exact title was depends on the source. Frankish sources tend to call them dukes; other sources often call them kings.

Friesland in the Middle Ages

Freedom of the Frisian People, Frisian Law

In the 8th century, Charlemagne freed the people of Friesland from swearing fealty to foreign overlords "That all Frisians would be fully free, the born and the unborn, so long as the wind blows from heaven and the child cries, grass grows green and flowers bloom, as far as the sun rises and the world stands". This is from a 12th century law text [ [ i-Friesland: History: Freedom and Frisian Law ] ] written in Old Frisian using the poetic saga-style of Scandinavian epics. There are a substantial number of existing Frisian law texts and some of these have yet to be studied. There is currently a Frisia Project at the University of Amsterdam that is studying the ancient history of Friesland.

But the tantalising tidbits of Frisian history that are already known reveal a people not much given to making their mark on history, except when provoked, and then fighting with a legendary fierceness to protect their freedom.

Frisian Migrations

The Frisian people also migrated to other areas in Europe. Migrations to Great Britain during the early Middle Ages (along with the Angles, Saxons and Jutes) where they founded (along with the other Germanic tribes mentioned) England or "Angla-lond"; this has been particularly well characterized through genetics, linguistics, and archeology. [ [ AS-26-11-03b ] ] The Frisian language has much in common with Old English.

In the Faorese island of Suðuroy people refer to 'Frísarnir í Akrabergi' (the Frisians of Akraberg), indicating that the Frisians might have had some sort of settlement there.

It's somehow believed the Frisians had settled across Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltic States and farther inland across Central Europe. Frisian seafarers may been invited to Ireland, the Spanish provinces ofAsturias and Galicia near Portugal and the few might joined the Normans when they occupied Sicily in Southern Italy.

Modern history

The modern remnants of Frisia Magna are small and scattered. Most of it became dominated by its expanding neighbors: the Saxons (who were moving north and west) and the Franks (who were pushing north and east). Western and Middle Frisia are solidly within the modern state of the Netherlands, which now includes the "heartland" of the Frisians from the North Sea coast from Alkmaar in the modern province of North Holland, along the coasts of the modern provinces of Friesland and Groningen, and up to the mouth of the Ems. Culturally, it has shrunk down to the province of Friesland alone. The West Frisian language is now spoken there and in parts of the Wadden Sea islands of Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog, Saterland Frisian is spoken in the German municipality of Saterland just south of East Frisia, and North Frisian is spoken in the German region of North Frisia (within the "Kreis" of Nordfriesland) on the west coast of Jutland. The North Frisian language is under heavy pressure from Low German and Standard German and faces possible extinction. A total of 29 schools in Southern Schleswig offer courses in Frisian. [ da icon] Frisian is not spoken in Denmark any more [ [ De vergeten Friezen in Denemarken - Voorpagina ] ] . The East Frisian Low Saxon (a dialect of the Low Saxon) is spoken in East Frisia.

Notable Frisians

* Ygo Gales Galama (1443-1493)- an infamous medieval warlord, Galama-family patriarch.
* Pier Gerlofs Donia (1480-1520), Frisian freedom fighter and folk hero, founder of the Arumer Black Heap
* Menno Simons, (1496–January 311561) was an Anabaptist religious leader from Friesland whose followers became known as Mennonites.
* Wiebbe Hayes (born around 1608), a Colonial soldier hero from Winschoten
*Matthias Petersen (1632-1706), whaling captain from Föhr. In his lifetime he caught 373 whales.
*Hark Olufs (1708-1754), sailor from Amrum. He was enslaved by Algerian pirates and eventually became Commander in Chief of the Bey of Constantine's cavalry.
*Magnus Forteman
*Oluf Braren (1787-1839), painter from Föhr.
*Jens Jacob Eschels (1757-1842), seafarer and entrepeneur. He became known by his autobiography.
*Stine Andresen (1849-1927), poet from Föhr who also wrote in Fering. Befriended poet Friedrich Hebbel.
* Mata Hari, (born as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, August 7, 1876, in Leeuwarden (Friesland)) infamous dancer, courtesan and executed as a spy in France
*Frederik Paulsen (1909-1997), physician. Founder of Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
*Friede Springer (born 1942), widow of publisher Axel Springer and major shareholder of Axel Springer AG.
*Jouke de Vries - Dutch PVDA politician
* Lenny Dykstra - Major League baseball player for the New York Mets (1985-1989) and Philadelphia Phillies (1989-1996).
* Anna-Marie Lampe - Playboy magazine (U.S. Edition) 40th Anniversary Playmate/Playmate of the Month for January 1994; Playboy magazine (Dutch Edition) Playmate of the year for 1995.
* Doutzen Kroes, (born January 23, 1985, in Eastermar (Friesland)) is a Dutch supermodel.
* Titus Brandsma, Carmelite priest of the Roman Catholic Church, anti-Nazi Dutch resistance voice († 1942)
* Piter Wilkens, (1959-) is a Frisian folk and pop singer.
* Jane Fonda, actress with Frisian ancestry
* Jack Lousma, astronaut with Frisian ancestry
* Fred Eaglesmith, Canadian folk singer, original last name, Elgersma
* Dieter Eilts, football (soccer) player, Nickname: the Alemão of East Frisia, won the UEFA European Championship: 1996 with Germany.
* Alvin Plantinga, American philosopher of Frisian descent.
* Hayley Westenra, an internationally renowned singer from New Zealand is of some Frisian descent. [ [ Hayley Westenra International Forum] ]

ee also

*Frisian languages
*Frisian Islands
*List of Frisian Given Names

External links

* [ The Frisian Meeting Place]
* [ Lex Frisionum in Latin, Dutch and English]


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Look at other dictionaries:

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