To chat

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The Chatten [ ˈkatn ], also [ ˈçatn ] ( Latin : Chatti , Greek : οἱ Κάττοι, Κάτται), also written Katten , were a Germanic tribe that had its settlement focus in the area of ​​the valleys of Eder , Fulda and the upper reaches of the Lahn , what to a large extent what is today Lower Hesse and Upper Hesse or North Hesse and z. T. Mittelhessen corresponds. The name Hessen is possibly a later modification of the tribal name of the Chatten, then they would also be the namesake of today's Hessen. The spelling with 'Ch' is the Germanic, h 'again, that as [⁠ x ⁠] is pronounced.


Map of the Germanic tribes around 50 AD (excluding Scandinavia)

After 15 AD, the core area of ​​the Chatti settlement area was the Fritzlar-Wabern plain and the Kassel basin as well as the west Hessian depression landscape as far as the Giessen basin . The origin of the tribe is still largely in the dark, according to the latest research and knowledge, the Chatten migrated as an insignificant small tribe around 10 BC. In the area on the upper and middle Lahn , where they became neighbors of the Suebi , who dominated the Lower Hessian valley. The establishment of the Marcomanni -rich under Maroboduus v. 3 In Bohemia the withdrawal of these Elbe-Germanic (Suebic) population groups from northern Hesse goes hand in hand. At the same time, new groups connected to the Rhine-Weser-Germanic culture, most likely the Chatti, migrated to northern Hesse and filled the power vacuum that had developed there . Compared to the established population, the number of new settlers is likely to have been limited to a few hundred men and their families carrying weapons. This clan association, regarded as the "Chatti traditional core" in science, probably played an important role in the ethnogenesis of the entire tribe, as the late Latène Celtic pre-population and the remaining Suebi of northern Hesse came under its suzerainty .

The Fritzlarer Börde , the core settlement area of ​​the Chatten

Finds suggest that in the late 2nd century AD, at the time of the Marcomannic Wars , a renewed influx of Elbe Germanic population groups began , although its size is still difficult to estimate. Whether the formation of the tribes was peaceful or warlike is still hidden in the darkness of history, however, traces of fire in numerous finds from the postulated settlement area indicate destruction, which in its scope should not have been extensive. The local population was not completely expelled, but continued to settle decimated at their old living quarters, which is indicated by the continuous settlement of the Geismar site from the early imperial era to the early Middle Ages.

Temporal outline

When the Ubier , who lived on the lower Lahn and in the Westerwald , 39 BC. BC were resettled by the Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa on the left bank of the Rhine, the Chatti took possession of their land with the consent of the Romans. At this point in time, their settlement area could not have been in North Hesse, since the area from the Middle Rhine to the Fulda would have been simply too large for the tribe, which is still numerically and politically insignificant here. It is also unclear what role the Chats played in the destruction of the possibly Ubian oppidum on the Dünsberg (approx. 11/10 BC) during the Drusus campaigns (12 to 8 BC). In the year 11 BC They came into conflict with the Sugambrians because they refused to make a common alliance against Rome. The reason for the negative attitude of the Chatten was presumably a contract with the Romans, which obliged them to protect the Rhine border against Suebi groups and in return allowed them to take possession of the Ubierland on the right bank of the Rhine. After realizing that the Romans had plans to conquer unoccupied Germania , they withdrew as early as 10 BC. BC from the area of ​​the resettled Ubier and emigrated to the Sugambrians. After Tiberius, as commander in chief on the Rhine in AD 4, had deported the Sugambrians to the area on the left bank of the Rhine, the image of the settlement on the right of the Rhine also changed. In the now depopulated landscapes, for example in the lower Lahn valley, Tenker and Usipeter settled down and became the immediate neighbors of the Chatti.

In 9 AD, the Chatti probably took part in the rebellion of Arminius against Varus and in the following years they joined the anti-Roman coalition led by the Cherusci . This is suggested that AD in the year 15.. Mattium (not localized - the Altenburg Niedenstein in Kassel ruled out as a location because it was previously destroyed by Sueben), one of the main places of chatting, in the course of Germanicus campaigns completely was destroyed. A little later, a Chattic nobleman by the name of Adgandestrius is said to have offered the Roman Senate the murder of Arminius by poison, which Tiberius refused. Tacitus mentions that around 58 AD there were battles with their eastern neighbors, the Hermunduren , over a salty border river (probably the Werra ), which ended in a defeat for the Chatti. The presence of Germanicus on the Eder, where Tacitus located Mattium, as well as the later conflict with the Hermunduren, suggest that the Chatti immigrated to northern Hesse from 15 AD at the latest.

69 n. Chr., The chat involved in the Batavian revolt under the leadership of Julius Civilis . The Batavians , who were resident in what was later to become the Netherlands , are generally considered to have split off after internal conflicts and in the second half of the 1st century BC. Christian emigrated, earlier part of the chat addressed. Possibly it was a large part of the Chatti equestrian nobility, because Roman authors emphasize the special role of the cavalry in the Batavern, while the Chatti of Tacitus are mainly attributed to warfare on foot.

In 83 and 85 AD, Roman troops of Domitian fought in the so-called Chat Wars against Chatten who lived in the foreland of Mogontiacum in the Taunus and in the Giessen basin. The Romans succeeded in subjugating the Wetterau area , which was part of Domitian's German policy (reorganization of the border). As a result, the border fortifications of the Taunus and Wetterau limes were built . The clashes in connection with the putsch of Saturninus 89 AD against Domitian are sometimes referred to as Domitian's Second Chat War . A few years later, the Chatti seem to have interfered in the internal affairs of the neighboring Cherusci and, around the year 88 AD, drove out their princes Chariomerus. Tacitus also reports that the Cheruscans were subjugated by the Chatti, but the Cheruscans are mentioned several times by some other historians in later times. For a period of almost a century nothing more is reported about the Chattas, because it was not until 162 AD that they were mentioned in connection with incursions into Upper Germany and Raetia , and in 170 AD they sacked the Roman province of Belgica . Around AD 213, numerous Chatti women committed suicide in order not to be dragged into Roman slavery .

The chats in the mirror of Roman authors

The Roman historian Tacitus reports in his Germania that the Chatti are mountain dwellers more than other Germanic tribes and for this reason they have firmer bodies, more sinewy limbs and a livelier mind. In terms of their discipline and their organizational skills, Tacitus compares the chats with the Romans . Like the Roman legionaries, they carried marching packs with them, obeyed the orders of their commanders, were in a fixed order of battle and holed up overnight. Tacitus also mentions an initiation rite for the Chats: As soon as they are adults, they let their hair on their heads and whiskers grow and consecrate them to a deity . They cut off their hair over the killed enemy and their looted weapons and proclaim that they are now worthy of their tribe and their parents and have paid for their birth.

Some chats underlined their bravery in the fight by wearing an iron ring and also kept the wild hairstyle their entire life. In addition, they did not get married and let other tribesmen take care of them.

Martial mentions that Chatten and Batavians produced a reddish foam , the so-called spuma chattica , which gives " Teutonic hair the color of fire ". This foam was a popular medium of exchange in trade with the Romans.

Incorporation into the Franconian tribal association

With the migration period and the development of large tribes on Germanic soil, the settlement in Hesse was thinned; during this period, the Chatti were probably exposed to the pressure of their neighbors, the Franks in the west, the Saxons in the north, the Thuringians in the east and the Alemanni in the south . It is possible that more active parts of the Chatti took part in the emergence of those Germanic tribes, which could lead to a decline in the population in the Chatti area. However, a clear decline in settlement cannot be determined for the 4th and 5th centuries or the migration period. There were also disputes with Rome. The late antique historian Sulpicius Alexander (only preserved as an excerpt in the histories of Gregory of Tours ) describes a campaign of the Roman magister militum Arbogast against the Franks on the Rhine at the end of the 4th century and reports in this context also on the Chatti and other tribes.

Towards the end of the 5th century, the Chatten gradually came under the sovereignty of the ambitious Franks and were incorporated into the Frankish kingdom under the rule of Clovis I. The area of ​​the Chatten then served the Franks as a starting point for campaigns against the Saxons who settled in the north and invaded the Chatti and Franconian area again and again. The assertion of a certain partial autonomy of the Chattas vis-à-vis the Franks meant that their tribal name was able to survive in a modified form to this day. However, the incorporation into the Franconian tribal kingdom also resulted in the fact that the Chatti settlement area in the early Middle Ages did not result in a separate tribal duchy .

Proselytizing the chats

Baptism of pagan Germanic tribes (above) Martyrdom of Boniface in Friesland (below)

Under the rule of the Franks, who converted to Christianity in 498, Irish missionaries came from the west to the Chatten tribal area early on. They began with Christianization and set up the first bases. The missionaries from Ireland and Scotland , who are strongly aware of their mission, proselytized the inhabitants of the Chatti tribal area with more or less success and tried to persuade them to convert to the Christian faith . Sections of the population in neighboring Thuringia had also been proselytized by them, as can be seen from the Pope's letters to the later missionary and church reformer, Bonifatius , who was appointed by the Pope .

So there was already an Irish-Scottish church organization in competition with the Roman Church in the Hessian and Thuringian region when Boniface appeared here. Proven traces and centers of this pre-bonifatic mission from the first half of the 7th century in Hesse can be found in Büraburg , Hersfeld , Kesterburg , Amöneburg , Wetter , Schotten , the Giessen basin, the Wetterau and Würzburg . The oldest layer of churches ( own churches ) mostly had lay people built, especially the local nobility, as well as the counts and dukes of the Franconian Empire up to the king himself. The Irish-Scottish abbot Beatus gave z. B. in the year 778 eight own churches to his St. Michaelis Minster near Strasbourg . These churches were in Mainz, in the desert of Hausen near Lich, in Wieseck near Gießen, in Sternbach , in Bauernheim near Friedberg, in Rodheim near Hungen, in Horloff between Hungen and Nidda, and in Buchonia (probably Schotten).

After Bonifatius felled the Donareiche , a Germanic natural sanctuary , near Geismar , near Fritzlar , in 723, with the strong support of the Frankish rulers through their appointed counts and after renewed missionary work, he was apparently able to finally win the population of Althessen over to Christianity. The Franconian royal castles and courts served him as bases.

Initially, people paid homage to the new faith not so much out of conviction, but because the power of the king stood behind it and because they hoped for and received advantages from it. The bishops of Mainz and Würzburg repeatedly complained that their little sheep "... still and again and again secretly sacrificed to 'sacred' trees, rocks and springs." The "converts" apparently feared the ancestors' revenge, so they wanted to do not spoil with them.

The Chatti, Thuringians and Franks, who had already converted to Christianity before his mission, Bonifatius repeatedly attested that " ... they got on a wrong track and were not right Christianity" . This is also expressed in the fact that it replaced the Irish-Franconian floor plan type of churches that was customary up to that time, which consisted of a rectangular nave with a recessed rectangular choir. Boniface introduced the design of the Roman basilica with transept and apse to new churches.

Boniface made use of the existing ecclesiastical organizational structure, gradually displacing the Iro-Scottish monks and restructuring the church on the papal order based on the model of the Roman church (including the creation of the diocese of Mainz ). The character of his missionary activity was therefore more organizational than theological. The centers of the activities of Boniface and his successors were Fritzlar and the Büraburg in the north of Althessen, the Amöneburg and the Christenberg in the south-western part of Althessen, and Fulda and Hersfeld in the east.

Change of the tribal name

Replica of Chattic houses in Fritzlar-Geismar

In 738 AD, the new name Hessen appears for the first time in history: In a letter from Pope Gregory III. Several small tribes were reported to Boniface in the field of Chat. In addition to the Lognai in the middle and upper Lahn valley, the Wedrecii (possibly in the Wetschafttal ) and the Nistresi (on the Korbach plateau), the Hessians ( populus hessiorum ), who settled on the lower Fulda , were also mentioned. The name Hessen was henceforth transferred as a collective name to all Chattic or clientele-Chattic groups in Lower and Upper Hesse.

The linguistic derivation of the name change from Chatten to Hesse took several intermediate steps: Chatti (approx. 100 AD) → Hatti → Hazzi → Hassi (around 700 AD) → Hessi (738 AD) → Hesse. (See also the second sound shift in the German language.)

The etymological derivation of the name of the Hessians - because of the long tradition gap between the last mention of the Chatten 213 and the first mention of the Hessians in 738 - never remained undisputed. The change in the tribal name is placed today in the context of the expansion of the Franconian sphere of power to formerly Chatti territory. In addition, attempts were made to establish a continuity between Chatten and Hesse through archaeological findings, which are considered convincing in research. The excavations in the desert areas of Geismar and Holzheim near Fritzlar in the 1970s were decisive . Both places were probably inhabited continuously from the Roman Iron Age to the High Middle Ages.

Chats mentioned in writing

  • Aktumerus (possibly also Catumerus) : Chattic nobleman, father-in-law of Flavus and grandfather of Italicus (first half of the 1st century AD)
  • Arpus : Chattic nobleman whose wife and daughter were kidnapped during a Roman campaign under Caecina (first half of the 1st century AD)
  • Gandestrius (or Adgandestrius) : Chattic nobleman who offers himself to Tiberius to murder Arminius with poison (first half of the 1st century AD)
  • Libes : Chattic priest who was captured by the Romans (first half of the 1st century AD)
  • Rhamis : daughter of Ukromerus, wife of the Cheruscan Sesithakus (first half of the 1st century AD)
  • Ukromerus : Chattic nobleman, father of the Rhamis, father-in-law of the Cheruscan Sesithakus (first half of the 1st century AD)
  • Priscus : son of Flanallus, Chattic cavalryman in a Roman unit, whose tombstone was found in Upper Pannonia (dating uncertain)

Sub-tribes and / or spin-offs


  • Cassius Dio : Rhomaike historia (Translator: Roman history . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2007)
  • Martial : Epigrammata (transl .: Epigramme . Reclam, Ditzingen 1997)
  • Strabon : Geographika (Translated by Stefan Radt. 10 Bde. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003ff.)
  • Tacitus : Annales (Transl .: Annalen . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2005)
  • Tacitus: Germania (Translator: Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2001)


  • Wolfgang Jungandreas / Harald von Petrikovits / Gerhard MildenbergerChatting. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1981, ISBN 3-11-006513-4 , pp. 377-389.
  • Dietwulf Baatz , Fritz-Rudolf Herrmann : The Romans in Hessen. K. Theiss-Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-8062-0267-2 .
  • Armin Becker : Rome and the chat. Self-published by the Hessian Historical Commission. Darmstadt, Marburg 1992.
  • Thomas Fischer: The Romans in Germany . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1999.
  • Werner Guth : Mattium - Onomastic considerations on a historical problem. In: Journal of the Association for Hessian History 113 (2008), pp. 1–16. ( Full version )
  • Jockenhövel, Albrecht and Hermann, Fritz-Rudolf (ed.): The prehistory of Hesse . K. Theiss-Verlag, Stuttgart 1990.
  • Arnulf Krause: The history of the Germanic peoples. Campus, Frankfurt / Main 2002.
  • Walter Pohl : The Teutons. Oldenbourg, Munich 2000. (Encyclopedia of German History)
  • Dorothea Rohde, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): Hesse in antiquity - The chat from the age of the Romans to everyday culture of the present. Euregio-Verlag, Kassel 2006.
  • Ludwig Rübekeil: Diachronic studies on the contact zone between Celts and Teutons. Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-7001-3124-0 .
  • Alexander Sitzmann, Friedrich E. Grünzweig: Old Germanic ethnonyms. A handbook on its etymology using a bibliography by Robert Nedoma. Published by Hermann Reichert. (= Philologica Germanica , 29) Fassbaender, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902575-07-4 .
  • Klaus Tausend : Inside Germania - Relations between the Germanic tribes from the 1st century BC. BC to the 2nd century AD (= Geographica Historica , 25) Verlag Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-515-09416-0 .
  • Norbert Wagner : Lat.-Germ. Chatti and ahd.Hessi 'Hessen'. In: Historische Sprachforschung 124 (2011), pp. 277–280.
  • Reinhard Wolters : The Romans in Germania. CH Beck, Munich 2000.

supporting documents

  1. "The name of the Hessians was in 5./8. Century by a diminuierendes -s suffix from the chat developed (Adolf Bach: Chatti - Hassi , in: Hessian Yearbook of History 1954, p 1.20) from "Quote: Adolf Bach:. History of the German language . VMA-Verlag, Wiesbaden no year, p. 117 (abbreviations dissolved). In: CJ Wells: German: a language history up to 1945. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1990, p. 50 stands against it: "Hessen (<Chatti?)". So he questions the etymology.
  2. Dorothea Rohde, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): Hesse in antiquity - The chats from the age of the Romans to the everyday culture of the present . Kassel, 2006. p. 41 f.
  3. Jockenhövel, Albrecht: The Iron Age. In: Jockenhövel, Albrecht and Hermann, Fritz-Rudolf (ed.): The prehistory of Hesse . K. Theiss-Verlag, Stuttgart 1990. p. 284
  4. Dorothea Rohde, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): Hesse in antiquity - The chats from the age of the Romans to the everyday culture of the present . Kassel, 2006. p. 37 ff.
  5. ^ Armin Becker: Rom und die Chatten , Darmstadt and Marburg, 1992. S. 60
  6. Armin Becker: Rom und die Chatten , Darmstadt and Marburg, 1992. P. 77 f.
  7. ^ Armin Becker: Rom und die Chatten , Darmstadt and Marburg, 1992. P. 98
  8. ^ Armin Becker: Rom und die Chatten , Darmstadt and Marburg, 1992. P. 97
  9. Real Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity . Volume 4. De Gruyter, Berlin 1981, p. 380 f.
  10. Tacitus: Annales Chapter 13, 57, 1f.
  11. Real Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity . Volume 4. De Gruyter, Berlin 1981, p. 383
  12. Reinhard Wolters: The Romans in Germania . Munich, 2000. p. 66 ff.
  13. ^ Thomas Fischer: The Romans in Germany. Scientific Book Society, 1999.
  14. ^ Cassius Dio: epitome 67.5.
  15. Numerous examples in Max Ihm , sv Cheruski , in: RE III, 2, 1899, col. 2272.
  16. Tacitus: Germania Chapter 30.31.
  17. Martial: Epigrammata 14.26.
  18. ^ Armin Becker: Rom und die Chatten , Darmstadt and Marburg, 1992. P. 69
  19. Real Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity . Volume 14. De Gruyter, Berlin 1999, p. 499 ff.
  20. ^ Armin Becker: Rom und die Chatten , Darmstadt and Marburg, 1992. P. 79 f.
  21. Michael Gockel, Matthias Werner : The document of the Beatus von Honau from 778. In: Waldemar Küther : Die Wüstung Hausen. Gießen 1971, pp. 137–167, p. 155, note 88.
  22. Real Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity. Volume 14. De Gruyter, 1999. p. 503 ff.
  23. Real Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity. Volume 14. De Gruyter, 1999. p. 502 ff.
  24. Dorothea Rohde, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): Hesse in antiquity - The chats from the age of the Romans to the everyday culture of the present . Kassel, 2006. p. 50 ff.
  25. Tacitus: Annals Chapter 7, II.
  26. Tacitus: Annals Chapter 2, 88.
  27. ^ Strabo: Geography 7, 1, 292.
  28. a b Strabo: Geography Chapter 7, 1-4.
  29. Real Lexicon of Germanic Antiquity . Volume 4. De Gruyter, Berlin 1981, p. 384