See also: Aranyaka and Upanishads. Other scriptures. Bhagavad Gita Agamas. Ramayana Mahabharata. Shastras and sutras. Chronology of Hindu texts. Nasadiya Sukta Darkness there was at first, by darkness hidden; Without distinctive marks, this all was water; That which, becoming, by the void was covered; That One by force of heat came into being; Who really knows? Whether God's will created it, or whether He was mute; Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not; Only He who is its overseer in highest heaven knows, Only He knows, or perhaps He does not know. The oldest available text is estimated to be from BC.
Indo-Iranian languages , p. Flood and Witzel both mention c. Estimates for a terminus post quem of the earliest hymns are far more uncertain. Oberlies p. The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture s. A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism. Curzon Press. Johnston, Whitney Bauman Discovery Publishing House. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Holdrege Veda and Torah: Transcending the Textuality of Scripture. State University of New York Press.
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Stephanie W. Jamison ; Joel P. Brereton The Rigveda. Oxford University Press. Motilal Banarsidass. Jamison; Joel P. Holland, Rig Veda. A metrically restored text. Oldenberg, Prolegomena,, Engl. Meenakshi In Flood, Gavin ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. The Vedic texts were orally composed and transmitted, without the use of script, in an unbroken line of transmission from teacher to student that was formalized early on. This ensured an impeccable textual transmission superior to the classical texts of other cultures; it is, in fact, something like a tape-recording of ca.
Not just the actual words, but even the long-lost musical tonal accent as in old Greek or in Japanese has been preserved up to the present. On the other hand, the Vedas have been written down only during the early second millennium ce, The Benares Sanskrit University has a Rigveda manuscript of the 14th century. Earlier manuscripts are extremely rare; the oldest known manuscript preserving a Vedic text was written in the 11th century in Nepal catalogued by the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project, Hamburg.
Cambridge, Mass. Griffith's translation has these 11 at the end of the eighth mandala, after 8. Preface to Khila section by C. Brereton , p. An account of the religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology, astronomy, customs, laws and astrology of India about AD ".
Kegan, Paul, Trench and Trubner Co. Retrieved 30 March West Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. World Religions At Your Fingertips. Archived from the original on 17 January Retrieved 10 March Editorial notes in various volumes of Pune Edition, see references. A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature. Williams and Norgate, London. Translation 2 : Kenneth Kramer Paulist Press. Translation 3 : David Christian University of California Press. Translation 4 : Robert N. Bellah Religion in Human Evolution. Harvard University Press.
Haug 2 vols. An edition in Roman transliteration, with extracts from the commentary, has been published by Th. Aufrecht Bonn, Chambers, Michael S. Shrotri , p. In addition, there is a close resemblance between them in metrical form, in fact, in their overall poetic character. If it is noticed that whole Avesta verses can be easily translated into the Vedic alone by virtue of comparative phonetics, then this may often give, not only correct Vedic words and phrases, but also the verses, out of which the soul of Vedic poetry appears to speak.
There seems to be economic and religious interaction and perhaps rivalry operating here, which justifies scholars in placing the Vedic and Avestan worlds in close chronological, geographical and cultural proximity to each other not far removed from a joint Indo-Iranian period. If ayas refers to iron, the Rigveda must date to the late second millennium at the earliest.
Patton ed. Arthur Llewellyn Basham, Kenneth G. Varma , Motilal Banarsidass, p. Prabuddha Bharata: Or Awakened India. Prabuddha Bharata Press. Kazanas , 'A new date for the Rgveda', in G. Comments on "Indigenous IndoAryans". Journal of Indo-European Studies, Vol. Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate.
Aditya Prakashan. Jeaneane D. Lowe Brereton , pp. Editions Stephanie W. Theodor Aufrecht , 2nd ed. Sontakke, N. Sontakke Managing Editor , V. Wilson, Ed. Commentary Sayana 14th century ed. Sontakke et al. Oldenberg, Hermann Hymnen des Rigveda. Teil: Metrische und textgeschichtliche Prolegomena. Berlin Arrowsmith , Boston, Ginn and Co. Mallory, J. Fitzroy Dearborn published Historical Anthony, David W.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. Flood, Gavin D. Walter de Gruyter. Gregory Possehl; Michael Witzel In Peter N. Peregrine; Melvin Ember eds. Encyclopedia of Prehistory. Lal, B. The Homeland of the Aryans. Original Sanskrit text in Devanagari. Vritra Susna Dasas Danu Danavas.
Hindu deities and texts. Asuras Rakshasas Yakshas Vahanas. Hinduism Hindu mythology. Hinduism topics. Rigveda Yajurveda Samaveda Atharvaveda. Samhita Brahmana Aranyaka. Ayurveda Dhanurveda Natya Shastra Sthapatyaveda. Category Portal. Part of a series on. Shruti Smriti. Other scriptures Bhagavad Gita Agamas. Itihasa Ramayana Mahabharata. Timeline Chronology of Hindu texts. Partial translation with hymns London, Based on manuscripts brought back from India by Henry Thomas Colebrooke. Partial translation published by F. Brockhaus , Leipzig. He also translated a few hymns in English Nasadiya Sukta.
Partial translation. Der Rigveda. Rigved Bhashyam. Incomplete translation. The Hymns of the Rig Veda. Ralph T. Der Rigveda in Auswahl. Published by W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart. Geldner's work was a partial translation; he completed a full translation in the s, which was published after his death, in Harvard Oriental Studies, vols. Hymns from the Rigveda. Rig Veda - Hymns to the Mystic Fire. Partial translation published by N. Gupta, Pondicherry. RigVeda Samhita. It is expressed and fulfilled by a warrior class which is often the ruling class.
Their duty is to defend the society against enemies as well as to promote its economic well-being through conquest and raiding. Of particular interest in this set of deities is the ambiguity inherent in the role of aggressor-defender.
Both he and Indra possess a kind of potent power which is not always kept in check, and it is best to remain in their favor. Concerns at this level include the fertility of humans, animals and land, and the well-being of the people. While ranked below the first and second strata, the third is the level upon which the other two depend for their existence.
It is the herders and cultivators who feed and clothe the priests and warriors, and it is their labor which provides the surplus of goods necessary for the maintenance the class structure. The divine representatives of the third function also tend to occur in pairs, but usually as twins e. The Roman case provides an exception, where the god Quirinus stands alone as the divine ambassador of the third function. Either the tripartite division of society is reflected in its cosmology, or the ideology is dictating the social structure.
It is a chicken-and-egg riddle; perhaps the best guess is that reality shapes the myth, and then the myth perpetuates the reality. In India , the modern caste system was preceded by a classificatory scheme dating back at least to Vedic times. While it is true that the Indic scheme is divided into four classifications, it is clearly conceived of as a system of three-plus-one.
Puhvel, p. Such arguments fail to consider the possibility that the word may not have been intended quite as literally as it has been taken. In a society rich in ritual and symbolism, a literal interpretation may be misdirected. Colors themselves have symbolic value, and have traditionally been associated with social status. These three men in turn come to father three types of people. The first son, Thrall, is born with dark hair, a dark complexion and dull eyes. Hollander, p. Karl, the second son, is born with a ruddy complexion and swift eyes.
Earl is born last. He is blond and fair of skin, and his blazing eyes are a mark of nobility. Earl becomes a great warrior and a generous sovereign, and the father of many children including Boy, Bairn, Heir, Squire, Son and Scion. While Vedic lore describes priests, warriors and cultivators, Eddic lore speaks of nobles, freemen and slaves. Class in both traditions was ascribed at birth, but the Norse system was far more fluid. Priests could be either nobles or freemen, and even slaves could be warriors.
The emphasis seems to have shifted away from function to status. The comparativist Jaan Puhvel relates these shifts in ideology to shifts in phonology. He explains that the Germanic languages are, on the whole,. He suggests that the entire mythos, having been constructed at some earlier time, has undergone a sort of transposition. Despite the general pre-eminence of the priestly class, kingship is usually associated with the warrior class.
As warriors invade and become kings over the land, warrior divinities become kings of the gods. He is more General than Infantryman, directing the operations by the guidance of his shamanic vision. This requires further elaboration. Among the Vikings, war was a constant theme. Nothing was more ignoble than dying without renown, and death itself was scorned:. Men desired most of all to earn fame through bravery and conquest. They cared little about death, and thought little about killing even a friend when vengeance was called for.
If one is to be continually successful in battle, one must then acquire divine and magical power. An extremely complex god, he is an administrator- warrior; he does not personally experience the rage of the bersirk so much as he imparts it to others. Warrior-king of the gods despite his lack of participation in battle, he gains shamanic wisdom by voluntarily undertaking a personal ordeal. Sacrificing himself to himself, he hangs himself, wounded, upon the world-tree Yggdrasil for nine nights until the secrets of the runes come to him.
Among the Norse, the first two functions of priest and warrior appear to have merged. Visionary fighters and magical heroes were likely more valuable to them than the maintenance of a separate class of religious practitioners, so the categories were integrated. The result is a redefined tripartite hierarchy which has opened up its classification to include bondsmen and slaves.
Slaves have probably always been part of the reality, but as they were usually taken from enemy populations, they were easy to dismiss as outsiders to the classificatory scheme. Perhaps when two of the Norse categories merged, they were recruited into the scheme to maintain the tripartition. Perhaps this tripartition came as naturally to the Norse as it does to us, and their social structure did not feel solid without it. Indra, the warrior-god, represents the second function, while the Nasatyas, divine twins who are associated closely with horses, livestock and people, represent the third.
This tripartite conception of the order of human society has served as a lens through which the Indo-Europeans have viewed the world. Consequently there are repeated instances of tripartition in the mythology, and the number three itself appears with great frequency. Even today people speak of three fates, three tenses past, present, and future and three bears. A sentence such as the previous one does not feel complete if it does not contain three examples.
In opposition to the first function, the warrior will defy or cause harm to come to his sovereign. In opposition to the second function, of which he is sovereign, he will display either cowardice or dishonor, thusly discrediting and disgracing himself. Finally, he will commit an assault, usually sexual, against a representative of the third function. Later, when the demon Vrtra threatens to overpower Indra, the god sues the beast for peace.
He then breaks the truce and murders him. Stripping himself of his last shred of dignity, he acts in opposition to the third function when he disguises himself as the husband of a beautiful woman and has sex with her. While a ready parallel exists in the offenses of Herakles, one must stretch considerably in the search for a Norse example. Both sources are exceedingly late and the theme seems to have undergone substantial reconfiguration, if indeed it is related at all. They are, as was Norse society, more concerned with treachery and cowardice.
Winn, p. The name recalls his primordial deed of propping apart the Universe with three strides, thereby creating the two-part dwelling of both gods and mortals. The Indic episode, by contrast, is an act of creation. The number three is also of significance to what J. It appears that hanging was the appropriate punishment for a violation of the first function, while stabbing and drowning are associated with the second and third functions, respectively. Both the first and third functions are typically expressed through a pair of gods, and the underlying theme of all of it seems to be a battle between good and evil, or darkness and light.
Soma is particularly important to Indra because it is the beverage which enables him to defeat Vrtra and become king of the gods. As healers of the people, the Asvins are polluted by their contact with humans. The priest Cyavana challenges Indra by invoking the Asvins during a performance of the soma ritual. Indra responds angrily by attempting to launch a thunderbolt at him, only to find that his arm has been stayed by the mighty seer. Overcome with fear, Indra is coerced into admitting the Asvins and peace is made Winn, p.
The creation of Mada is reminiscent of the Norse figure Kvasir. Mixing his blood with honey, they produce the mead of poetry. In India , Mada is the monster that forces the resolution of the conflict, whereas in Iceland , Kvasir, in a manner of speaking, seals the bargain. Puhvel points out that in India , alcohol came to have negative connotations, whereas in Iceland , those who partook of the sacred mead of poetry were granted wisdom and poetic power.
It may be an expression of the oft-stated culture versus nature dichotomy; while the first and second functions are concerned expressly with the individual acting in society, the third is occupied primarily with the natural rhythms of life. Some have even argued that the war represents actual battles that occurred in the ancient past between migrating populations and the peoples they encountered.
None of these hypotheses can be substantiated. In addition to commonalities of structure, Indo-European mythology displays some regularity in personage. Rig Veda Book 10, Hymn And shared his great heroic might. Thou, Mighty One, art strong indeed. Thou hast with might upheld the heavens. Whetting thy thunderbolt with might. Thou hast pervaded every place. Griffith, vol. II, p. Likened often to a rutting bull, he prepares for his most important deed by getting rip-roaring drunk. Heartened by the psychotropic soma , he slays a monstrous adversary, the creature named Vrtra. Both gods are unpredictable, dangerous and morally ambivalent, even evil.
Both accept human sacrifices, both possess arcane magical knowledge, and both enjoy wandering about in disguise. Resting now on the assumption that the comparativist dogma has been sufficiently demonstrated, it remains to examine the historical and archaeological context of the texts. Indus Valley Civilization. The Rig Veda was written by people who referred to themselves as Aryan. Sometime after the completion of the Vedas , further additions were made to the theological corpus. These works, which take the form of elaborations, explanations and contemplations, are believed to represent the cycle of Aryan influence and native adjustment.
According to anthropologist Stephen A. Archaeologists have traditionally looked to the Indus Valley for the beginnings of civilization in India. Primary among the sites revealed there have been the urban ruins of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. When these turned out to predate the Vedas , they were deemed pre-Aryan.
Surrounded, in some cases, by walls, they are said to be the ancient forts that are mentioned in the texts. While the Rig Veda dates itself to some time preceding these occupations, archaeologists have remained skeptical. Rig Veda , X. The walled citadels of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro , unique in subcontinental archaeology, were to Wheeler, rather like forts.
They were certainly the only real possibility as yet uncovered Fairservis, p. The tale of the Aryan invasion also approaches dogma. The Aryans, semi-nomadic pastoralists and fierce warriors, are said to have rained down upon the fortified cities of the Indus in their horse-drawn chariots, bringing their gods and their language with them. Illiterate barbarians, they were organized into classes and lead by warrior chiefs who staked their reputations upon wealth, as measured in herds, as well as prowess in battle.
Breeding cattle, sheep, and goats and speaking an Indo-European tongue, they sound suspiciously like the Norsemen. The Aryans eventually ran off the indigenous population, who are assumed to be related to the non-Indo-European-speaking Dravidians of southern India.
The site at Harappa , for which the entire cultural horizon is named, contains a great walled platform with a group of buildings to its north. Now quite far from the river, there is evidence to indicate that the Indus once flowed some six miles closer to the site than it does at the present time. Fairservis, p. Lothal, located just above sea-level, shows evidence for a shifting river as well. While further away from the Indus Valley , the Sabarmati River or one of its branches has shifted course around the site at least twice. Artifacts found, as well as the plan of the town help to locate it within the Harappan tradition Fairservis, p.
The archaeologist Walter Fairservis counted an additional eighty-five sites that appeared to fit the profile. The site at Mohenjo-Daro contains an artificial mound about forty feet high in the west and a lower, broader area to the east. The more the population grew, the more vulnerable it was to the unpredictability of the Indus , which could drown a crop in moments.
The decline of the city may have been due, in part, to a shortage of food as the agriculturalists struggled to keep up with the needs of the population despite the whims of the river.
Of the many layers of occupation at Mohenjo-Daro , it is one of the last that has lead to some rather substantial conclusions. The skeletons of men, women, and children, apparently murdered, have been unearthed, fueling speculation. Scholars have read civil disorder and outside raiding into this evidence, thus confirming for themselves a bloody end to the final phase of occupation. Archaeologists have divided the Harappan civilization into three main phases, with many subphases. The earliest layers of the occupation are under groundwater and therefore inaccessible; were they to be excavated, they would form the basis of the presently hypothetical Early Harappan.
Mohenjo-Daro is taken to be a Mature Harappan site, being the most comprehensive record of the society to date. Later, less complex layers signal the deterioration identified with the Late Harappan. At this point there appear in the archaeological record traits considered by some to be foreign and associated with cultures such as the Jhukar.
The Harappan economy was based on agriculture and animal husbandry; domesticated animals included the humped bull, the domestic buffalo, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats, elephants, camels, horses, asses, and fowl Tyler, p. There was considerable craft specialization as well, and goods were transported up and down the rivers by experienced seafarers maintaining vast networks of trade. Pack caravans and ox carts were used to transport goods on dry land Tyler, p. That there was a centralized authority is obvious in the meticulous planning of the cities, and the various elaborations of houses and material possessions attest to the differential access of a class system.
Given the importance of ritual bathing in contemporary Indian society, the purpose of such a structure seems clear. Additionally, differences in male attire as displayed on pictorial artifacts have been construed to confirm the conclusion that there was a class of priests. Tyler, p. Of perhaps the greatest significance among all Harappan artifacts are the numerous carved seals that have been recovered. Concentrated around Harappa , specimens have been found scattered across what were probably ancient routes of trade.
A number of seal impressions on clay have also survived; these are likely to have served as tags attached to bales of goods, for the reverse sides show traces of packing materials Fairservis, p.
Most of the seals are rectangular, depicting an animal or animals along with objects that are assumed to have ritual purposes. The brevity of the text has lead investigators to the afore-stated conclusion that the inscriptions are short words such as names and titles. There are approximately known symbols and the writing is from right to left, but where there is a second line, it occurs in boustrophedon fashion. Many speculate that the system is syllabic Fairservis, p. Working on the assumption that the Harappans were not Indo-Aryan, that, indeed, they were probably related to the Dravidians, the language expressed on the seals is thought to be non-Indo- European.
It has remained undeciphered throughout the period of investigation. Somehow, the Indus civilization died. Causes of death proposed have included flooding, nutrient-wasted land, climatological change, and barbarian invasion. Walter Fairservis has been willing to accept the flooding hypothesis to a limited degree. To him, the archaeological record speaks of persistence and survival. He is certain that only a large scale event such as repeated and terrible flooding over a number of seasons could have caused such a decline in the civilization, and he does not see evidence to support the idea.
Tyler is actually more confused about the beginnings of Harappa than he is about its demise. Ever the evolutionist, he is troubled by the absence of an explanation for the birth of Harappa. In India it has not yet been possible to discern the clear outlines of a similar process of evolutionary change. There were, of course, others besides the Harappans present in ancient India.
The Jhukar culture, found on the same sites as the Indus culture, is dated much later. These people do not appear to have had a writing system, although round seals similar to the Harappan have been found. While they attempted to use Harappan building methods, they seem not to have mastered the techniques; this is demonstrated by irregular brick size and uneven walls.
Apparently the Jhukar people were the remnants of a population partially destroyed by invaders. At later dates there is evidence of a wholly different tradition known as Jhangar. Identified primarily by their pottery, which is decidedly different from that of the Jhukar, their Gray-Black Ware is thought to be unconnected to preceding traditions. For Tyler , this creates an impression of the Jhangar as intruders circa BC. The consensus of thought has been that the Rig Veda , the foundation of all subsequent manifestations of Indian society, was conceived by the barbarian invaders known as Aryans, the name by which they refer to themselves in the texts.
The date given for their arrival in India varies between and BCE, at which time the lore was actually created. For while the gods may have been known prior to that time, it is the exploits of that era which are mythologized in the Rig Veda. The Aryans left the Indus cities of the Harappans abandoned and established their own way of life in India , eventually building their own cities around the Ganges.
These people are the ancestors of contemporary Indian society. As uncertain as the prehistory of India is, the prehistory of Scandinavia is even more dubious. For while it is possible to date findings, there is virtually no way to determine to whom most of them belonged. As stated earlier, the wanderings of tribes and languages are almost impossible to trace through archaeological means alone, and the written word did not really make an impact in these areas until the Christian era. It is difficult to know therefore, not only with whom we are dealing, but from which tradition they come.
At that time, Denmark and Sweden were contiguous, so migration through to Norway could have occurred through those lands or by way of the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia. The oldest archaeological finds in this area, generally implements of bone, stone and antler, date to approximately to BCE. Rock carvings dating to the Bronze Age depict sun dials, wheels, oxen and ships; seafaring was apparently quite important. No doubt it was related to trade, which was rather vast by that period. Bronze itself is an alloy of copper and tin, neither of which was produced in the region.
There would have been no Bronze Age in Scandinavia were it not for trade. For its part, the North possessed amber, highly prized in Greece and Egypt , among other places. There is reason to believe that a trade network stretched from Denmark and the Baltic throughout southern Europe by a very early date. Chantepie de la Saussaye, p. Under the pressure of large-scale Germanic migrations, this contact broke down circa - CE. Subsequent to that period the people of the North were in close contact with the Germanic peoples west and south of North Sea Midgaard, p. Scholars have generally assumed the inhabitants of Scandinavia to be Germanic, perhaps because the Germani were the northernmost people to be documented by the Romans.
Scant evidence of settlement has been found, due in part to the biodegradable nature of their buildings. Since the Scandinavians did not generally construct stone or brick buildings, we must look to their graves for information, which appear to have undergone considerable change over time. At present it is not known whether the single collective grave that has been discovered in Norway is representative of the Late Stone Age period, but it is clear that, during the Early Bronze Age, stone and gravel mounds were constructed for dead chiefs Midgaard, p.
Single burials, rich in gravegoods, have also been found which date to the period. Cremation became preeminent during the Late Bronze Age, when urns were buried under small mounds. While the decrease in grave goods has been equated by some with a greater sense of spirituality and a less materialistic conception of the afterlife, it does not appear to be due to a radical reconceptualization. The change from burial to cremation seems to have come about slowly, since fire itself had long been part of the funeral rite.
During the Roman Iron Age, both stone mounds and urn burials were made, and several runic monuments were erected. Tacitus informs us:. The practice of cremation seems to have continued uninterrupted into the Migration period, at least among royals. After the body was burned, the bones were collected and washed. They were then placed in a simple vessel such as a clay urn or a wooden bucket and laid in a pit at the site of the funeral pyre.
Stones were placed over it to create a large cairn, which was then covered by a howe topped with turf. Davidson , p. Other burials indicate the extensive use of ritual sacrifice. There, at a site covering the period from to CE, the bones of more than one hundred individual horses were uncovered. Horse sacrifice is also present in the Indic tradition, and if one interpretation of the name Skedemosse is correct, both cultures enjoyed horse-racing, too Davidson , p.
At Skedemosse the remains of fifty men, women, and children testify to the use of human sacrifice as well. They were accompanied in death by a substantial number of grave goods including gold rings, swords, spear-heads, arrows, axes, belt fittings, beads and combs. Todd, p. Human sacrifices were also common during the Viking period. Adam of Bremen, writing around , tells us:.
Additionally, H. If a wife wished to join her deceased husband in the realm of the gods, she would be ritually strangled and her body burned Davidson, , p. Nanna, wife of the Norse god Baldr, leapt into his funeral pyre, just as a pre-modern Hindu widow would have. Nanna, however, was acting out of grief, while the Hindu practice was virtually mandated by karmic constraints. Hundreds of graves have been found which date to the Viking period. They reveal a great range of practices and, apparently, a corresponding variety of beliefs.
Contained within large mounds, they were presumably only for royals and chiefs. Midgaard, p. There is no evidence for any real consistency in funerary practices during the Viking era, except perhaps within communities. While actual funerary practices were varied, there was more consistency in Viking attitudes after burial.
Each family was responsible for its own members, from the disposition of the body to the preservation of the site. The dead, it was believed, remained with the family, acting as either benevolent or malevolent spirits, depending on the mood of the moment. The first historical contact with the Germanic peoples of northern Europe was made by the ancient Romans. Along the northern borders of their empire they encountered the southern Germani , a group of tribes who spoke several different dialects of the same language.
Organized as small kingdoms with some degree of class division, the Germani were uninfluenced by classical Mediterranean culture. They had no written literature despite the possession of a runic alphabet, which appears to have been used only for inscriptions. The quest for fame, so evident in the Eddas of more than a millennium later, is already a guiding principle. The material culture of the Germani can be traced back to about the fifth century BCE and the beginnings of the northern Iron Age.
At this time there appear to be at least three distinctive culture-provinces: the Face-urn culture Gesichtsurnenkultur in Pomerania, the Jastorf culture in northern Germany and Denmark , and the Harpstedt culture in the north-west. History is dominated by the Romans until the fourth and fifth centuries of the Common Era, when the Germanic Migrations took place and the Germanic tribes conquered the western regions of the Roman Empire. While the Romans lost political control, classical culture continued with only limited Germanicization.
The Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, Vandals, and Franks simply took up rule in their new lands along the very lines that the Romans had established. In Italy and western Europe, the conquering Germans were apparently absorbed into the local populations. The Germanic Lombards responded by crossing the Alps to northern Italy but they, too, were Romanized in time.
In the seventh century the Arabs became the primary threat to the stability of Europe, taking Syria , Jerusalem , and Egypt away from the Byzantines. By they had taken Spain as well, to be followed by Sicily , southern Italy and the southern coast of France.
Unlike the Germans, the Arabs were not readily absorbed into the societies of those they conquered. France , isolated and alone, was cut off from most of her trade. Free of Viking raids during the lifetime of Charlemagne , France nonetheless fell victim shortly after his death. Nearly a century of poor relations with Denmark took their toll. During the Viking era, Danes, Norwegians and Swedes sought their fame through terrible raids on most of northwestern Europe. The Danes established control of north-eastern England at East Anglia and Northumbria , ruling under a system known as the Danelaw.
Norwegians conquered Ireland , establishing a rule that lasted for most of the 10th and 11th centuries. In France , Rouen eventually fell to the Vikings and the state of Normandy was established. The most famous Duke of Normandy was William the Conqueror, who became sovereign over the whole of England after the Battle of Hastings in The laws they composed were based on the Law of Gula, which was then valid in Hordaland, Sogn and Fjordane; Icelandic is most closely related to the dialects of Norwegian that were spoken in these districts. We are also told that the main reason for the settlement was political.
He was successful in unifying his country, but many of its inhabitants had chosen to leave rather than assent to what they considered to be his tyranny. These settlers were heathen, and they remained so until the conversion of Iceland in the year It was a strategic move along the path of least resistance. It is this chain of events that allowed the Old Icelandic Eddas, sagas, and skaldic poetry to be immortalized in writing Einarsson, p.
While the bulk of them are Icelandic, the oldest poems are thought to come from Norway. The Eddic poems, however, survived only in Iceland. It is important to note that the Eddic poems were not collected in a written form until at least two centuries after the conversion of Iceland to Christianity. When the documents were finally produced, they disappeared entirely from the historic record for a period of approximately four hundred years. Therefore it is not surprising that the surviving literature is, at times, somewhat confused.
In , Brynjolf Sveinsson, then the Bishop of Skalholt in Iceland , first brought to light certain manuscripts which he had been holding. There they remained, known as the Codex Regius , until they were returned to Iceland in Paleographic evidence shows that they cannot have been produced before the beginning of the thirteenth century Hollander, p. The nature of their errors suggests that they were copied from at least two different sources, and not written from memory Hollander.
The poems of the Elder Edda are arranged by content. While the first section of the work is concerned with the deeds of the gods, the second details the deeds of men. They are written in a meter which was, at one time, common to all the Germanic peoples, as is represented by the Old High German and Old English heroic poems, Hildebrandslied and Beowulf. They do not follow the Latin pattern of regular rhythm and end-rhyme; rather they make extensive use of alliteration and the irregular stress of significant words.
In fact there are two Eddas ; the poetic mentioned above, and a later, prose account known as the Younger , Prose , or Snorra Edda. These two works together combine to render a reasonably complete picture of Old Norse mythology. They, along with the Icelandic sagas and skaldic poems, are the earliest written sources we have for the mythology of the Germanic peoples. Sacred knowledge in the ancient Indic tradition was maintained and transmitted through a rigorous oral tradition which regarded the lore as divine revelation.
As such, it was not to be altered. Even when meanings were lost, the Vedic tradition required faithful transmission with absolute fidelity. There is abundant circumstantial evidence to indicate that the Vedas were written down by the sixth century BCE Mallory, p. The Rig Veda is a collection of 1, hymns in celebration of the gods of an Indo-European people who called themselves Aryan.
Composed at various times and by many individuals, it may well be the oldest book in any Indo-European language. Feuerstein et al. Rarely complete tales, the hymns of the Rig Veda presuppose a body of theological knowledge, allowing them to be dominated by the use of allusion and metaphor Puhvel, p. They contain, among other things, myths, paradoxes, and riddles. Daylight and the Sun are particularly prominent, and the lore is, in general, oriented more toward cosmology than eschatology. While more than half of the hymns invoke one of three main gods, scholars have put the total count of deities at thirty-three, sometimes conceived as a scheme of 3 x 11 Puhvel, p.
Surprisingly the three main Rig Veda gods are not the three that have been discussed previously; they are Indra, Agni and Soma. Indra, whose deeds have been previously discussed, is a god much like those of the Norse pantheon.
He is an independent character who personifies a segment of the population, and his ability to control natural forces is an attribute conferred by his divine status. Agni and Soma however, are of a significantly different nature. While most of the gods of the Indo-Europeans have some power to control the forces of nature, both Agni and Soma actually are those forces. Agni is the sacrificial fire, as well as the god who reigns sovereign over all its functions, just as Soma is the sacrificial beverage, the corresponding ritual, and its sovereign god.
The personification of ritual forces may be a reflection of the intense degree of ritualism present in the culture. The universe of the Rig Veda is divided into dualities and tripartitions. While the habitable world has two halves for gods and humans to reside in, the universe itself is composed of the sat existence, truth and the asat nonexistence, untruth. The sat , where both gods and men reside, consists of the land, the sky, and the vault of heaven.
It contains heat, light, and water. The asat , where demons dwell, has none of these. Indra reigns supreme over the thirty-three gods of the sat the duality of ruled and ruler , who are tripartitioned into representatives of either the land, the sky or the heavens. Gods such as Agni and Soma, both terrestrial divinities, act as intermediaries between the three levels.
The asat is ruled by Vrtra and his cohorts, the Raksases, who "aid evil men, or snatch unsuspecting men from the face of the earth. They are most dangerous at night and during the journey of the dead along the path to heaven. Lurking on this path, they drag the unrighteous from it. For the righteous dead, two dogs stand on the path to ward off the Raksases. There are two cosmic creation myths, that of the Devas , and that of the Asuras. The Deva myth recounts the birth of the gods along lines similar to many other Indo-European accounts.
More dominant in the Rig Veda is the myth of the Asuras , which recounts the birth of the universe. It is composed of both heaven and earth which, at this time, are not separated. Both the sat and the asat are contained within. The Asuras come to divide over an issue of light versus darkness, wherein the Adityas wish to expand and grow towards enlightenment, or light, while the Danavas, lead by Vrtra, prefer the darkness of intellectual and physical bondage.
The Danavas are further subdivided into the Raksases enemies of men and Pisacas enemies of the departed fathers. In need of a hero, they arrange for the birth of Indra, who, nursed on soma , grows to such enormous proportions that the earth and sky fly apart in terror. While the gods are born of the union of sky and earth, it is they who unwittingly force them apart.
Indra agrees to be champion of the Adityas on the condition that he is made king of the gods, to which they assent. The battle, however, is recurring, and the gods require help from humans in the form of daily sacrifices in order to remain victorious. According to Tyler , "Daylight symbolizes the victory of the Adityas, and night the encroaching reign of the demons. For this reason, night is an evil time when the demons roam freely until the battle is renewed at the break of day with the morning sacrifice.
The creation of human beings, among other things, is the result of a divine sacrifice made by the gods. In a manner similar to the Norse dismemberment of Ymir, the world is created from the body of a giant called Purusha. When they divided Purusha how many portions did they make? What do they call his.
What do they call his thighs and feet? The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became. The Moon was gendered from his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth; Indra and. Agni from his mouth were born, and Vayu from his breath. Forth from his navel came mid-air; the sky was fashioned from his head; Earth from his. Thus they formed the worlds. Seven fencing-sticks had he, thrice seven layers of fuel were prepared, when the gods,. Rig Veda X. The account is strikingly similar to the Norse version:. Mithgarth for sons of men;. Later, the name comes to be associated only with the demons of the Danavas, while the Adityas are known collectively as Devas.
They are to be praised, nourished and supplicated to continue their sponsorship. Their only perfection lies in the world they create and maintain; their power, while manifest, can be checked by demons as well as by their own mistakes. Only priests can communicate with them, and the rest of the population, firmly entrenched in the hierarchy, must be content to leave divine matters to the Brahmans.
Agni, as both the god of sacrificial fire and the fire itself, acts as a kind of divine messenger. If he approves of the offering and the manner in which it is conducted, he will carry its essence -- the vapor or smoke -- up to the realm of the gods. There they will be nourished by it and, renewed in vigor, they will go on to defeat the enemy Tyler, p.
He is also of primary import to the dead, who are cremated. At least two fires are kindled. Do not consume his skin or. When you have cooked him perfectly, O knower of creatures, only then send him. When animals are sacrificed, he, along with the rest of the gods, are invited to consume them.
There is, however, some ambivalence about this when he is called to the sacrifice of humans. Subsequent doctrines of transmigration not withstanding, men go on to be with their ancestors when they die. Let him reach his own descendants, dressing. O knower of creatures, let him join with a body. While the first fire invokes Agni, entreating him to prepare the corpse, at the second he is asked to travel to the gods.
A second, separate fire must be kindled for this purpose because contact with the dead has left the first impure. Since both fires are Agni, it is clear that he is undergoing transformation. Every time a match is struck, the flame is new. Agni is but one being; he cannot be at once both pure and impure -- he must make a transition from one to the other. As the second fire is struck, it pulls the first into purity. The first fire cannot simply be extinguished; to do so would not only be disrespectful to Agni, it would conclude the rite.
Similar in aspect to Agni, Soma is both the intoxicant itself and the divinity within. A psychotropic hallucinogen, the trance-inducing extract is pressed from the plant and then filtered. A male deity, he is both the nourishment of the gods and the elixir which allows their priests to commune with them. The majority of hymns composed to Soma extol his virtues as an intoxicant; the only story about him narrated in any detail concerns his birth and subsequent theft. Soma, born in the heavens among the demons, is thought to be safe from Indra, a god of the sky who cannot quite reach him.
But Indra enlists the aid of an eagle who carries him to the heavenly vault, losing only a feather in the battle. This story resembles two Norse myths contained within the Skaldskaparmal of the Snorra Edda. Disguising himself as a laborer, he dwells among them until he is able to consume all of the mead.
Making his escape in the form of an eagle, he regurgitates it for all gods and men. Tyler discusses the Soma sacrifice as an ecstatic cult devoted to the acquisition of immortality. It is individualized, focusing on the sacrificer and his abilities. Proper preparation and execution will confer ecstasy upon the sacrificing Brahman, allowing him to experience the divine. The Soma sacrifice draws the sacrificer into the world of the gods, where divinity cannot be denied.
It connects him directly to the source of existence, where order, or rta , is perfect. It gives him the power of sacred speech, and the ability to commune with the gods themselves, as if one of them. Mitra, god of close friendship and pacts between men, is rarely glimpsed without his companion Varuna, who is primary of the pair. As such, he is king of all kings. Credited with many of the same deeds as other gods, he is said to have placed the sun in the sky and then used it to measure out the universe Rig Veda V.
They are the twin sons of Vivasvan the sun and the brothers of Surya, whom they marry. She is either the daughter of the sun and indeed their sister, or a female aspect of the sun itself and in that case, their mother. They are the healers of the sick, and they come riding to the rescue of people in danger as a sort of divine mounted police.
Divine benefactors, they represent wealth, fecundity and love. Over succeeding millennia, these divinities have wavered in importance, and others, such as Rudra-Siva, Krishna and Buddha have supplanted them. Agni is certainly not the god he once was, just as Hindu society is not Vedic society. And while Vedic society is quite different from that of the Norse, there are indeed intriguing parallels.
The Poetic Edda is a collection of poems about both gods and mortals, several of which contain short sections of explanatory prose. Its aim, like that of the Prose Edda , is to educate; to relate its tales of gods and ancestors in an entertaining and memorable way. In contrast to the Rig Veda , the Edda s are not revealed knowledge, and they are not utilized in ritual. Narrative is preeminent, and invocations, ritual songs and sacred hymns are relatively absent from the work.
And night and her daughter now! And all the generous earth! Einarsson, p. Even this occurs in a narrative context. The sole employ of the Edda is storytelling Chantepie de la Saussaye, p.
The poems of the Edda likely trace their origin to the same period as those of the skalds, but there are significant differences between the two. The two styles employ different meters, and the skaldic poetry is notable in particular for its frequent use of kenningar , which are used sparingly within the Edda. Skaldic poems are not generally anonymous as are the Eddic ones, and the two differ in character.
For while the skalds sing mostly of kings and current figures, the Eddic poets speak of bygone days and things to come. It is on this basis that they are held to be separate. The Poetic Edda is arranged in two sections; the first discusses gods, while the second concerns the exploits of mortal heroes. Arranged as sagas, they overlap with historical material and as such are peopled by characters who have their basis in reality. The Hunnish king Attila, for example, is referred to as Atli.
They seem also to have been maintained more strictly by the oral tradition, having picked up less evidence of transformation from legends into folktales. None of the poems can be ascribed to a particular author with any degree of certainty, and the time and place of their birth can only be inferred from elements of form, content and style. In the year a stone was found at Eggjum in Sogn which was dated to not later than It contained, in runic writing, what appeared to be magical verses e.
Norwegian runologist Magnus Olsen later demonstrated this to be the same style of syncopated, alliterative poetry as that of the Edda. Scholars had long held that none of the poems, written in Old Icelandic, could possibly be older than the language was. Written in alliterative verses of well-defined meter, the poetry was not expected to survive the translation into Old Norse. This kind of linguistic evidence is compelling, for the modern translator is well aware of the difficulties presented by poetry.
While many of the stories contained in the Edda may have been known before the settlement of Iceland , these poems in particular were likely fully extant by that period. This indicates roots far older. It, along with Beowulf and the Old High German Hildebrandsleid , among others, offers evidence for a continuing tradition dating to at least the eighth century. Christianity came to Iceland in the year , influencing not only the future but much of what had come before. Geographic location appears to vary from poem to poem. In all likelihood the poems have both origins and influences scattered throughout these lands, as well as many others.
While the origins of the Poetic Edda remain unsettled, the Prose Edda , also known as the Younger or Snorra Edda , has definite authorship in the person of Snorri Sturluson. Dated to approximately , Snorri intended his Edda as a handbook for poets. Essentially a recapitulation of Norse lore, it filled in many of the gaps left by the Elder Edda. One must read carefully, as it is clear from the outset that Snorri is intent on reconciling the heathen past with the Christian present, or at least on not contradicting the teachings of his church.
He begins by ascribing human origins to the gods and maintaining that they were travelers from the east who grew in fame, wisdom and power. He is the god of poetry, runes, and magic. As such, he is among the most popular of the gods.