previous next


Eth. HERULI, ERULI, AERULI, (Ἕρουλοι, Ἔρουλοι, Αἴρουλοι also Ἕλουροι, and Αἴλουροι; Etym. Mag. s. v. Ἔλουροι), a German tribe first mentioned among the Gothic nations when these latter had established themselves on the north coast of the Euxine, in the reigns of Gallienus and Claudius. (Trebell. Poll. Gallien. 13, Claud. 6, 12.) Zosimus (1.41) calls them Scythians. Until that time the Heruli had been independent, and were only alied with the Goths; but Hermanric, the king of the Ostrogoths, after defeating them in a bloody battle, reduced them to the condition of subjects. (Jornand. de Reb. Get. 43.) The country on the Euxine was not the original seat of the Heruli, any more than it was the original country of the Goths; and this is manifest from the circumstance that, not long afterwards, Heruli together with Chaviones invaded the western parts of the Roman empire, and apparently settled in the neighbourhood of the Batavi; for, in the reign of Valentinian, they are mentioned together with Batavi as engaged in the service of Rome against the Alemanni. (Amm. Marc. 20.4, 25.10, 27.1, 8.) Afterwards we find them even fighting in Britain; and it is possible that the 700 Heruli who with their ships ravaged the coasts of Galicia and Cantabria, were adventurous descendants of the Heruli who had crossed over into Britain. (Mamert. Paneg. Maxim. 6, 7; Amm. Marc. 27.1, 8; Sidon. Apollin. Epist. 8.9.) At the time when the Huns invaded Europe from the east, the Heruli established in the north of the Euxine, in conjunction with other tribes, as the Turcilingi and Rugii, joined Attila (Paul. Diac. Hist. Misc. p. 97) and followed his army into Gaul: but subsequently the Heruli allied themselves with other German tribes, and assisted in breaking the power of the Huns; and, in conjunction with the Turcilingi, Sciri, and Rugii, and commanded by Odoacer, who is styled king of the Heruli, they overthrew, in A.D. 476, the Western empire. (Jornand. 46, 50; Paul. Diac. Hist. Longob. 1.19.) After the power of the Huns was broken, about A.D. 480, a large body of Heruli established a considerable empire on the Danube, or rather about the upper course of the Theiss, as the banks of the Danube were in the hands of the Rugii, Longobardi, and Gepidae. The second of these tribes, however, soon became subject to the Heruli. (Vita S. Severini, 24; Procop. B. G. 2.14.) The great power of the Heruli in those parts is attested by the fact that Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, solicited their alliance against the Franks, declaring their king his son in arms. (Cassiod. Var. 3.3, 4.2.) But about A.D. 512 the Longobardi, impatient to bear the rule of the Heruli any longer, rose in arms against them, and almost destroyed them. The survivors, after wandering about for some time, turned southward, where some received settlements within the Roman dominions; while others, disdaining, it is said, to seek the protection of the Eastern empire, migrated northward, and established themselves in Scandinavia. (Procop. B. G. 2.14, 15; Jornand. de Reb. Get. 12.) Those Heruli who had received settlements in lower Pannonia remained a dangerous and unruly horde, in consequence of which they were severely chastised by the emperors Anastasius and Justinian, under the latter of whom they. adopted the Christian religion. About the same time they murdered their own king Ochon, and then petitioned Justinian to appoint another king, while they addressed a similar request to their brethren in Scandinavia. Justinian gave them a king Suartua, and soon after Todasius was recommended by the Scandinavian Heruli. After the expulsion of Suartua, the greater part of these Pannonian Heruli, led on by Todasius, emigrated and joined the Gepidae; but a minority remained behind and faithful to the empire, so that, in the war against the Gepidae, Heruli were arrayed against Heruli. Henceforth these fierce warriors distinguished themselves in the wars of the Eastern empire against the Ostrogoths in Italy, as well as in the wars which were carried on at that time in Asia and Africa. (Procop. B. G. 2.11, 13, 22, 3.13, 4.26, 28, 31, B. Pers. 1.13, 14, 2.24, 25, B. Vandal. 2.4, 17.) During these wars the Heruli were distinguished for their boldness and bravery; but their habits and customs appear to have been of a very barbarous character, for they are said to have put to death the aged and the sick, that they might not be a burden upon the others, and to have required of every widow to make away with herself on the tomb of her husband.

In regard to the country originally inhabited by the Heruli, before they appeared in the north of the Black Sea, nothing satisfactory can be said. Jornandes is inclined to believe them to have come, like the Goths, from Scandinavia; while, according to Mamertinus (Panegyr. Maxim. 4) and Sidonius Apollinaris (Sid. Ep. 8.9), it would seem that their original abodes, like those of the Goths, were on the coast of the Baltic, on the east of the Vistula. They appear to have consisted of unsettled hordes, and to. have sought warlike occupations wherever they were to be found; hence they appear in the most distant parts of the Roman empire, from the mouth of the. Danube to that of the Rhine: they probably did not acquire the character of a compact nation until they settled on the banks of the Danube or the Theiss. (Comp. Latham, Epileg. to Tac. Germ. pp. xciv. fol.)


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: