The first and most ancient contacts between Latins and Germans date back roughly to the period from the first to the fourth century. a. C., that is, during the time of Caesar and Augustus.
They began at first as a result of trade contacts between the two peoples and then spread to many aspects of civilization.
Like any cultural and language exchange, the meeting between Latins and Germans led to a remarkable enrichment: the Germans were amazed and curious about the novelties and habits of the Romans, so they learned a lot from them.
Trade in goods began at the borders, from where the Germans then spread them to the North, leading to a gradual intensification of relations.
These exchanges are known thanks to the archaeological findings, which reveal the presence of Roman make items dating back to the first century. a. C. such as glass and ceramic vases, statuettes and weapons, not only in the country currently known as Germany but also in Poland, Sweden and Norway.
Another important evidence, as always, is provided by the place names: the names of German cities and rivers clearly go back to Latin. Here are some examples:
Coblenz < Lat. Confluentes (confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers)
Based on what already said, the Germans inherited from Latin several terms related to business and trade.
Here are some examples of the Gothic, Old Norse, Old English, and Modern English, Old and Modern German:
Lat. Cauponāri (to trade)
Old Engl. Cēapian
Old High Germ. Koufōn Mod. Germ. Kaufen (to buy)
Lat. Mangō (slave trader)
Old Engl. Mangere
Old High Germ. Mangare (merchant), Maugon (to trade)
Gothic,Norse,Old Engl. and Mod. Engl. Pound
Old High Germ. Pfunt Mod. Germ. Pfund
Old Engl. Mynet Mod. Engl. Money (mint)
Old High Germ. Muniza Mod. Germ. Münze
Old Engl. Cest, Ciste Mod. Engl. Chest
Old High Germ. Kista Mod. Germ. Kiste
Old Engl. Eosol Mod. Engl. Ass
Old High Germ. Hexyl Mod. Germ. Esel
Old Engl. Mum Mod. Engl. Mule
Old High Germ. Mūl Mod. Germ. Maul
Names of Mediterranean products
Of course, thanks to the trade with the Romans, the Germans got to know a number of products previously unknown, mainly related to the containers used for such products. Let us briefly recall them:
Old Engl. Win Mod. Engl. Wine
Old High Germ. Wīn Mod. Germ. Wein
Old Engl. Aeced
Lat. Calix – calicis
Old Engl. Celc
Old High Germ. Kelich Mod. Germ. Kelch
Lat. Cellārium (cellar)
Old High Germ. Kellari Mod. Germ. Keller
Old Engl. Pipor Mod. Engl. Pepper
Old High Germ. Pfeffar Mod. Germ. Pfeffer
As already mentioned, many are also the names of containers and household equipment that the Germanic peoples imported from Latin:
Old Engl. Cytel Mod. Engl. Kettle
Old High Germ. Kezzil Mod. Germ. Kessel
Old Engl. Ponne Mod. Engl. Pan
Old High Germ. Pfanna Mod. Germ. Pfanne
The Germanic peoples lived a simple life, their houses were equipped with the bare minimum and even their kitchens had limited furnishings. As to their diet, it was based mainly on wild meat, milk, fruits, no toppings. No wonder, then, that they were fascinated by the Roman lifestyle. Also with regard to food, then, the Germanic languages were enriched a lot from Latin:
Old Engl. Cōc Mod. Engl. Cook
Old High Germ. and Mod. Germ. Koch
Old High Germ. Kochōn Mod. Germ. Kochen
Same goes for clothing, hairstyles, and architecture. The Germans were accustomed to dress in simple clothes, mostly made of animal skins; as Tacitus reminds us:
“(…) Tegumen omnibus Sagun fibula aut, is Indesit, plug consertum ceterum intecti toto dies iuxta atque focum ignis agunt (…) Gerunt et Feram pellis (…)” – Germania,17
Here are some of the imported terms:
Gothic Kapillōn (to cut hair)
Old Engl. Balsam
The Romans are known to be great architects, just think of the aqueducts and paved roads that they built anywhere in the empire.
The brick houses were for the Germans a real novelty:
Old Engl. Mūr
Old High Germ. Mūra Mod. Germ. Mauer
Old High Germ. Kamin Mod. Germ. Kamin
Old High Germ. Venstar Mod. Germ. Fenster
Old Engl. Straet Mod. Engl. Street
Old High Germ. Strāzza Mod. Germ. Strasse
From the second half of the second century. a. C., more and more Germans began to join the ranks of mercenaries Roman armies, and this constituted a further opportunity for contact between the two peoples.
Gothic Annō (pay for soldiers)
Lat. Speculator (sentry)
Lat. Campus (Martius) (battlefield)
Norse Kapp (dispute)
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.