Germania (personification)

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The Germania in the Paulskirche from 1848 is one of the most famous representations

Germania is a personification with changing meanings. In ancient times , when the peoples of Germania only appeared as a unit from the point of view of the Roman conquerors, they already depicted a “Germania” in the form of a woman as a numen and referred to her with the same name that they had assigned to the area. Since the Middle Ages, with reference to the Germania magna of antiquity, it has been considered the national personification of Germany in the sense of the range of the German languages .

In the 19th century, Germania served the democratic movement in Germany as a national romantic symbol for the German nation-state it was striving for . In 1828 Friedrich Overbeck portrayed her in Italia and Germania as a graceful virgin who, in view of the contemporary longing for Italy, gently leans towards Italia. In 1848 the painting Germania for the Frankfurt National Assembly showed a peaceful picture of liberation and awakening. In the iconography of the German Empire , Germania took on more nationalistic traits, and it was reinterpreted for war propagandist purposes.

Roman antiquity

Roman aureus , struck 88–89, Domitian, Germania sitting on her shield, with a broken spear
MKD, 134-138, Adrian, Germania without the attributes of a defeated as a Minerva shown
Sesterce from Aurichalkum , 172–173, Mark Aurel, the defeated Germania at the foot of a tropaum

Pictorial representations of the Roman gods were already several centuries BC. Common motifs of statues, reliefs and coins. The geographical personifications have emerged from this and they can be identified by inscriptions, attributes typical of the province or region, or the clothing and hairstyle of the characters depicted. For many objects, however, reliable identification is not possible because there are no preserved inscriptions. When determining when Germania appeared as a personification and in what way it was represented, the coins, which can be easily dated through inscriptions and portraits of the rulers, play a prominent role.

Statues and reliefs

The marble statue of the grieving barbarian , which has been documented in the antiquities collection of the della Valle family in Rome since the early 16th century and has been shown in Florence in the Loggia dei Lanzi since the 18th century , has been viewed for centuries as a representation of the historical personality Thusnelda , despite the lack of evidence , because the clothing corresponds to the description of Germanic women that Tacitus left in his Germania , and the statue resembles the German women depicted on the reliefs of the Marcus Column , on the Arch of Constantine in Rome and on the coins minted by Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.


Commemorating Roman victories and conquests on coins was customary for centuries, and the representations were varied. The depiction of one's own ruler, already used as a coin image, with an inscription that alluded to the event, was the simplest form, also accompanied by deities such as the goddess of victory Victoria. Various symbols were later added to symbolize the defeated opponent. In addition, typical weapons or other objects of the enemy were shown, such as an Armenian headgear with the inscription "ARMENIA DEVICTA" , exotic animals such as elephants (Africa) or crocodiles (Egypt) or personifications of the defeated. Already under Sulla around 80 BC. A woman's head with an elephant's cap represented as a personification of Africa. This coin was intended to commemorate the victory of the general Pompey in North Africa. On a denarius Gaius Iulius Caesar (reigned 49–44 BC), Gauls captured with Gallia are depicted on both sides of a tropice . A copper coin from Vespasian (69–79) dated 71 or 72 commemorated the conquest of Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem. It shows a seated mourning Judea on the left under a date palm and on the right Vespasian with a raised spear, as big as the palm tree, his foot supported on a helmet lying on the ground, with the inscription "IUDAEA CAPTA" . Other variants of the theme show the Judea in the same pose, but instead of the emperor, captured soldiers or spears and shields lying on the ground.

On gold denarii of Emperor Domitian (81–96), a Germania is shown in a degrading pose, with a bared upper body, sitting mournfully on her shield and with a broken spear. This imprint related to the Roman victories over the Chatti . Gold denarii with this motif were first minted in 84, when Domitian took the nickname Germanicus . During this time a trophy with the inscription "GERMANIA CAPTA" was depicted on sesterces as a further motif , on the right side of which a standing prisoner and on the left a seated grieving Germania were shown. The lettering "GERMANIA CAPTA" and the pictorial representation are to be regarded as a direct reference back to the coins Vespasian on the occasion of the subjugation of Judea. She showed other motifs with Germania together with Domitian, to whom she presented her shield as a sign of submission, or surrounded by spears and shields lying on the ground as a symbol of the fierceness of the fighting.

The Germania representations on coins of the Emperor Hadrians (117-138) have changed. The Germania shows itself in the manner of a Minerva , standing upright with shield and spear, only with the inscription "GERMANIA" without derogatory addition. Various representations are known, including those with a bare chest. Now this is no longer to be understood as a sign of humiliation, but as an attribute . Tacitus described the clothing of the Teutons in his Germania around 98 , in which both sexes wore sleeveless cloaks that did not completely cover the chest. This change, also in the positive portrayal of other personifications such as Hispania, Africa and Asia, was due to the fact that Hadrian's reign was marked by largely renouncing military action and withdrawing from a number of areas. During this time of peace Hadrian made a number of trips to the provinces, including Germania. He understood the Roman Empire as a community of provinces and regions; the personifications of the areas he visited became the motif of coins, without this being done to celebrate glorious conquests.

Under Marcus Aurelius (161-180) and Commodus (180-192) followed in evaluating the Marcomannic wars again coins with pictures of Germania, providing them with the inscription "Germania SVBACTA" showed. The motif of the defeated, humiliated and mourning Germania, used almost a hundred years earlier under Domitian, reappeared here, now sitting at the foot of a tropaum.

middle Ages

Germania with orb and scepter (bottom, middle figure) in Henry II's pericopes , around 1010

The personification of Germania for Germany can also be found in the Middle Ages, around the year 1000 together with Roma , Gallia and Sclavinia in the Gospel of Otto III. (Munich) or together with Roma and Gallia in Heinrich II's pericopes

Napoleonic Wars

Hermann liberates Germania , drawing by Karl Russ , 1818

In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, the importance of Germania as the personification of Germany grew, but in comparison to the French Marianne it continued to have a non-political importance in relation to the system of rule. One example is the graphic Hermann liberates Germania by Karl Russ , one of the first pictorial representations of Germania in the 19th century. By referring to the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig (bottom left in the picture), which ended Napoleonic domination over Europe, he draws a historical line between the Teutons of antiquity and the Germans of the 19th century. The Romans defeated by Arminius are representative of the "French enemies" who had been driven out of Germany a few years earlier.

Romance and revolution

In the style of the romantic painting of the Nazarenes , the painter Friedrich Overbeck created the picture Italia and Germania in 1828 , which symbolized Italy and Germany in the form of friendly virgins.

In the first half of the 19th century, efforts to unite Germany, which was divided into different states, went hand in hand with an increase in German nationalism. The Frankfurt National Assembly met in 1848 and 1849 under the programmatic image of "Germania" in the Paulskirche , which holds a black, red and gold national flag in her right hand and the imperial sword in her left hand (see picture above in the article). It resembles a depiction by Philipp Veit from 1836: The oak leaves crowned Germania was painted sitting at the foot of an oak tree , in connection with symbols such as the imperial sword, the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire and the coat of arms of the electors .

The Düsseldorf painter Christian Köhler found the same and other attributes for his Awakening Germania , which he created in 1849 in the spirit of the emerging German national romanticism. The pictorial motifs of German nationalism gained further - lyrical, musical, painterly and plastic - manifestations through the efforts of the 1850s and 1860s that continued in the shooting , singing and gymnastics festivals .

The Düsseldorf painter Lorenz Clasen created a popular figure of a Germania influenced by Rhine romanticism in his Germania auf der Wacht am Rhein , which for the first time depicts the emphatically defensive type of Germania. His Germania is a Valkyrie-like figure armed with a sword and an imperial eagle shield , who looks over the Rhine towards the west , ready for battle . On the double eagle shield it is written: “The German sword protects the German Rhine.” The motif was reproduced in numerous engravings.

Empire and 20th century

The embodiment of a Germania armed for war became even more widespread through the years 1870 and 1871 ( Franco-German War ). This development was in the context of history painting and monumental painting of the Wilhelmine era, in which Prussia was concerned with conveying a national history in its provinces, primarily in town halls, castles, universities and halls of fame. The numerous victory and war memorials have created similar and other types, of which Johannes Schilling's Niederwald monument is probably the most popular. Germania is often depicted as a glorious warrior with weapons and imperial insignia. In a few representations she mourns the German dead. This Germania can be interpreted as a connection between a “battle virgin” (Valkyrie) and the “German mother” symbolizing the “ fatherland ”.

In 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm II designed the picture Peoples of Europe, protect your most sacred goods , which was then executed by Hermann Knackfuß . Archangel Michael then warns the national allegories of the major European powers (next to Germania you can see Mother Russia , Marianne and Britannia , among others ) of the “yellow danger” , which is represented on the horizon as a floating Buddha . In 1914, Friedrich August von Kaulbach expanded the aspect of the Valkyrie to include a description of an attacking Joan of Arc from Friedrich Schiller's drama Die Jungfrau von Orleans , in order to depict Germany's ability to defend itself at the beginning of the First World War in the style of Wilhelminism .

From 1900 to 1922, the Reichspost issued a series of Germania stamps showing the crowned Germania in profile.

On the occasion of the Saar vote , a few days after the vote on January 16, 1935, another series of postage stamps with the image The Saar returns to mother Germany was published . In contrast to the allegorical figure from the beginning of the century, these stamps showed a realistically depicted mother who takes her daughter in her arms and with only an oak wreath on her head suggesting her role as Germania.


In everyday life in the 21st century, the figure of Germania is almost meaningless. Without being consciously noticed, however, it still appears frequently in the proper names of clubs, especially student associations and sports clubs, which were founded in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the music video Germany published by the band Rammstein at the end of March 2019 , the figure of Germania is prominently represented. Played by the Afro-German actress Ruby Commey , Germania appears in various episodes of German history.

See also


  • Bettina Brandt: Germania and her sons. Representations of nation, gender and politics in the modern age (= historical semantics. Vol. 10). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen et al. 2010, ISBN 978-3-525-36710-0 .
  • Esther-Beatrice Christiane von Bruchhausen: The characters in the costume ball - Marianne and Germania in political iconography . Dissertation at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, 2000. Online dissertation at the German National Library .
  • Lothar Gall : Germania as a symbol of national identity in the 19th and 20th centuries . In: Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften Göttingen, I. Philological-Historical Class 1993, pp. 35–88

Web links

Commons : Germania  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dietwald Doblies: sagas, myths and legends | Imprint | Teutons say. In: Retrieved October 19, 2016 .
  2. ^ Adolf Furtwängler and Heinrich Ludwig Urlichs (eds.): Monuments of Greek and Roman sculpture. On behalf of K. Bayer. Ministry of the Interior for Churches and School Matters. Hand issue. Third greatly increased edition. F. Bruckmann, Munich 1911, pp. 166–168, plate 47 online , accessed on December 31, 2013.
  3. George F. Hill: Historical Roman coins, from the earliest times to the reign of Augustus , Constable & Co., London 1909, pp. 94-98 Online , accessed December 29, 2013.
  4. a b Francis Hobler: Records of Roman history, from Cnæus Pompey to Tiberius Constantine, as Exhibited on the Roman coins, volume 1 John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1860 Westminster, S., 210-211 Online , accessed on 29 December 2013 .
  5. ^ A b c Edward A. Sydenham: Historical references on coins of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Gallienus , Spink & Son, London 1917 Online , accessed December 29, 2013.
  6. a b c Rainer Wiegels: "Germania has been defeated for so long!" - Rome, a failed winner? In: Frankfurter Electronic Rundschau zur Altertumskunde , Edition 13, 2010, ISSN  1862-8478 Online , accessed on December 30, 2013.
  7. Rainer Pudill : He tamed the wolf. The time of Emperor Hadrian as reflected in his coins. The window in the Kreissparkasse Cologne, topic 152, October 1996. Geldgeschichtliche Sammlung, Kreissparkasse Cologne, 1996, p. 9 Online PDF 10.8 MB, accessed on December 30, 2013.
  8. Francis Hobler: Records of Roman history, from Cnæus Pompey to Tiberius Constantine, as Exhibited on the Roman coins, volume 2 , John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, Westminster 1860, pp 514-516 Online retrieved on December 29, 2013.
  9. ^ Colleen Becker: Aby Warburg's Pathosformel as methodological paradigm . In: Journal of Art Historiography , No. 9, December 2013, Article CB1 Online PDF 1,150 kB, accessed on December 29, 2013.
  10. ^ National optimistic mood in Germany: "Die erwachende Germania" , website in the portal (Central for teaching media on the Internet of the Landesverein Badische Heimat eV), accessed on October 19, 2013
  11. The picture soon came to the United States. In New York City, it was exhibited in the Düsseldorf Gallery and in the rooms of the New York Historical Society . See William H. Gerdts: "Good Tidings of the Lovers of the Beautiful". New York's Düsseldorf Gallery, 1849–1862 . In: American Art Journal , 30 (1999), nos. 1-2, pp. 56, 62; Bettina Brandt: Germania and her sons. Representations of Nation, Gender and Politics in the Modern Age. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-525-36710-0 , p. 240
  12. ^ Friedrich Schaarschmidt: On the history of Düsseldorf art, especially in the XIX. Century , published by the Art Association for the Rhineland and Westphalia , Verlag August Bagel, Düsseldorf 1902, p. 81, online
  13. Bettina Baumgärtel: Germania on the watch on the Rhine 1860 , catalog no. 242, and war and battle painting - reform backlog in the imperial era . In: Bettina Baumgärtel (Hrsg.): The Düsseldorf School of Painting and its international impact 1819–1918 . Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86568-702-9 , Volume 2, pp. 286 and 289
  14. Bettina Baumgärtel, p. 286
  15. Georg-August-Universität-Göttingen: Monuments in Göttingen: Handouts for History Lessons , p. 19
  16. ^ German Historical Museum: Friedrich August Kaulbach: Germania . Retrieved July 15, 2012
  17. without author: German Empire. Issues of the imperial post for the imperial post district. In: without author: Michel Germany catalog 2009/2010. Schwaneberger Verlag, Unterschleißheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-87858-044-7 , pp. 119-203.