1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ermanaric
ERMANARIC (fl. 350–376), king of the East Goths, belonged to the Amali family, and was the son of Achiulf. His name occurs as Ermanaricus (Jordanes), Aírmanareiks (Gothic), Eormenríc (A. Sax.), Jörmunrek (Norse), Ermenrîch (M.H. German). Ermanaric built up for himself a vast kingdom, which eventually extended from the Danube to the Baltic and from the Don to the Theiss. He drove the Vandals out of Dacia, compelled the allegiance of the neighbouring tribes of West Goths, procured the submission of the Herules, of many Slav and Finnish tribes, and even of the Esthonians on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. In his later days the west Goths threw off his yoke, and, on the invasion of the Huns, rather than witness the downfall of his kingdom he is said by Ammianus Marcellinus to have committed suicide. His fate early became the centre of popular tradition, which found its way into the narrative of Jordanes or Jornandes (De rebus geticis, chap. 24), who compared him to Alexander the Great and certainly exaggerated the extent of his kingdom. He is there said to have caused a certain Sunilda or Sanielh to be torn asunder by wild horses on account of her husband’s traitorous conduct. Her brothers Sarus and Ammius sought to avenge her. They succeeded in wounding, not in killing the Gothic king, whose death supervened in his one hundred and tenth year from the joint effects of his wound and fear of the Hunnish invasion. This is evidently a paraphrase of popular story which sought to supply plausible reasons for Ermanaric’s end. In German legend Ermanaric became the typical cruel tyrant, and references to his crimes abound in German epic and in Anglo-Saxon poetry. He is made to replace Odoacer as the enemy of Dietrich of Bern, his nephew, and his history is related in the Norse Vilkina or Thidrekssagà, which chiefly embodies German tradition. His evil genius, Sifka, Sibicho or Bicci, brings about the death of his three sons. The Harlungs, Imbrecke and Fritile, are his nephews, whom he has strangled for the sake of their treasure, the Brîsingo meni. Sonhild or Svanhild becomes the wife of Ermanaric, and the motive for her murder is replaced by an accusation of adultery between Svanhild and her stepson. The story was already connected with the Nibelungen when it found its way to the Scandinavian north by way of Germany. In the Völsunga Saga Svanhild is the daughter of Sigurd and Gudrun. She is given in marriage to the Gothic king Jörmunrek (Ermanaric), who sends his son Randver as proxy wooer in company of Bicci, the evil counsellor. Randver is persuaded by Bicci to take his father’s bride for himself. Randver is hanged and Svanhild trampled to death by horses in the gate of the castle. Gudrun eggs on Sörli and Hamdir or Hamtheow, her two sons by her third husband, Jonakr the Hun, to avenge their sister. On the way they slay their half-brother Erp, whom they suspect of lukewarmness in the cause; arrived in the hall of Ermanaric they make a great slaughter of the Goths, and hew off the hands and feet of Ermanaric, but they themselves are slain with stones. The tale is told with variations by Saxo Grammaticus (Historia Danica, ed. Müller, p. 408, &c.), and in the Icelandic poems, the Lay of Hamtheow, Gudrun’s Chain of Woe, and in the prose Edda.
Bibliography.—W. Grimm, in Die deutsche Heldensage (2nd ed., Berlin, 1867), quotes the account given by Jordanes, references in Beowulf, in the Wanderer’s Song, Exeter Book, in Parcival, in Dietrichs Flucht, the account given in the Quedlinburg Chronicle, by Ekkehard in the Chronicon Urspergense, by Saxo Grammaticus, &c. See also Vigfússon and Powell, Corpus poëticum boreale, vol. i. (Oxford, 1883), and H. Symons, “Die deutsche Heldensage” in Paul’s Grundriss d. german. Phil. vol. iii. (Strassburg, 1900).
- ↑ Emerka and Fridla (Beowulf, Quedlingburg Chron.), Aki and Etgard (Vilkina Saga). In the original myth the Harlungs, who are not to be confused with the Hartung brothers, were sent to bring home Sūryā, the bride of the sky-god, Irmintiu.