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Germanic Council Assembly - Relief of the Marc Aurel column in Rome
Fantasy reconstruction from 2003 of a thing place in Gulde near Stoltebüll , Schleswig-Holstein

As a Thing or Ding ( Old Norse and neuisländisch þing, Danish , Norwegian and Swedish ting; Upper German and Thai thing from ahd. Taga-ding ) were popular assemblies ( People's Thing ) and Court of meetings by Germanic rights referred. The location or place where such a meeting was held, is Thingplatz or Thingstätte known and frequently was slightly increased or under a tree ( Gerichtslinde ), but always under the stars. The places of these court meetings were later also called Malstätte or Malstatt and marked with court stones (see also: Mader Heide ).

See also: Gogericht , Freigericht , Zentgericht , Gograf , Vogt


Roman consecration stone with the earliest linguistic evidence for Thing :

Thing goes back to Germanic * þenga- "convention, assembly" and is grammatical change to Gothic * þeihs "time". This etymological connection indicates that the thing was usually held at fixed times. The oldest evidence of the word can be found on altar stones that were erected by Frisian mercenaries in Roman services along Hadrian's Wall and that were consecrated to the god Mars Thincsus ( cf.Marchfeld ) as the god of things.

The word Thing has meant “people and judicial assembly” since ancient times. In the Alemannic area and in the Rhineland , the meaning was partly preserved up to the 17th century in the word Dinghof , which denoted a court connected with the lordly Lower Court. In addition, the term went through a change in meaning and sound. Þing became New High German Ding and New English thing . The meaning “matter” is derived from the “legal matter” dealt with at the court assembly (cf. also Latin res publica “state”, literally: “public matter”, to res “matter”) and was later generalized. In contrast to Germany and England, the term has been used in both meanings in the north to this day. This is the name of the Icelandic parliament Alþingi , the Danish Folketing , the Norwegian Storting and that of the Faroe Islands Løgting . In Sweden the provincial parliaments are called Landsting . Local courts are called tingsrätt in Swedish and tingrett in Norway .

In the German vocabulary, the term has in some derivatives like the adjectives in rem (originally "the court concerning" still in the addition of real right ,) arrest and ding volatile and in the derivatives of the obsolete verb hire  - as hired, hire themselves, to condition, condition, condition, indispensable  - receive. The Tuesday is the Germanic god Tiwaz or Tyr dedicated as a protector of Things.

The term has also been retained in many place names, for example Thüngen , Dingden , Denghoog , Dingstäde, Dingstätte and Dingstede in Germany, Tingvoll , Tingvatn and Tinghaug in Norway, Þingvellir in Iceland or Tingstäde on Gotland. These historical place names are not to be confused with the Thingplaces , which were built outside of local traditions and which the National Socialists had built for their so-called Thingspiele , which were part of the Thing movement .


Emergency money from 1921 is reminiscent of an old thing place

The old Germanic thing served political advice as well as court hearings and cultic purposes. It was chaired by the king or the tribe - or clans rather than head of the open air, often under gerichtslinde (see. Irminsul ), and always on the day (hence meeting ). It took three days, according to some sources. The Thingordnung regulated, among other things, when and where the meetings took place and who was allowed to attend. With the opening of the meeting, the thing peace was proclaimed. The old Germanic god Tyr was considered the patron of the thing . In pre-Christian times, thingplaces are said to have also served ritual games.

Tacitus describes in his Germania ( De origine et situ Germanorum ) the course of a thing. Accordingly, important political, but also military matters were discussed on the first day of the meeting with heavy alcohol consumption. Resolutions, however, were only taken the next day in a sober state. According to Tacitus, this procedure had the advantage that on the first day the participants spoke more easily with a “free tongue”.

general characteristics

Meeting place at Gulde at dusk

Purpose and participants

Gatherings for the purpose of political opinion-forming and justice are a common occurrence for tribal societies such as those of the early Teutons. With the Germanic tribes they took on very different forms over time. In general, all free men in a certain area were obliged to attend the meeting, even if the trip to the place cost them time and money. Women, children, strangers, or slaves were not allowed. The area of ​​application of the thing coincided with the tribal area. If the tribe was very large, the area was divided and each part had its own thing. All parts then only came together on matters that concerned the entire tribe, e.g. B. in a decision about war or peace.

Stone table under the linden tree on the court square in Vollmarshausen

Meeting places

The places where people met had to be central and easy to find. Often one therefore chose hills (often burial mounds ) or places with distinctive landmarks such as stones or trees, especially linden ( court linden ) and oaks. Popular thing places were also the tribal shrines, which were mostly in groves or on elevations. The thing place was enclosed all around (mostly with stones or hazel sticks ), and in it the thing peace prevailed .

Meeting times

The dates of the meetings were precisely set and based on the phases of the moon. They met regularly ("unofficial thing"). Depending on the size of the trunk, the intervals could be a month or even three years apart. For special events such as the case of war, people also met on an unscheduled basis (“required thing”). The meeting was chaired either by a priest or, in the event of war, by the military leader ( duke ). Later kings or princes also presided over it.


The weapons were of outstanding importance for the Teutons. Young men were accepted into the community at the meeting by handing over their weapons. One argument was approved by the clash of arms. Grumbling expressed displeasure. The warlike character of the assembly was preserved even after the prohibition of the carrying of arms in the Old English term wæpentæc or wæpengetæc (weapon lashing ), which in the British Danelag (from lay 'law') denoted a judicial association.

Expression in different regions

Map of the Germanic tribes around 100 AD (excluding Scandinavia)

Germanic tribes

The general statements described above apply to the thing of the individual Germanic tribes, insofar as it can be reconstructed from the sparse sources. The Roman historian Tacitus differentiates for the leaders of these tribes between kings (rex), army kings and princes (princeps) who exerted great political influence in the popular assembly. From a “democratic” point of view, the gathering was very fragile, as an influential man could bring his entourage with him and thus shift the weight of the votes in his favor. A limitation of the maximum followers on a Thing is known only by the axes, which for each noble (Latin nobilis ) only twelve free ( Frielinge ) and 12/2 Free ( Laten allowed). The truth of this source, the Vita Lebuini , is, however, controversial.

The self-determination of the Germanic tribes was partially restricted by the Romans. For example, they stipulated that the Tenkeri were only allowed to meet unarmed or the Marcomanni only once a month. Restrictions of this kind were intended to reduce the danger posed by a gathering of armed men with a unified political will to act, which also took place not far from the borders of the Roman Empire.

Germany in Frankish times

Reconstructed place of execution in Tigring

With the subjugation of the Germanic tribes by the Franks between 500 and 800 AD, their political self-determination also ended. Only the judiciary remained of the original meaning of the thing. In order to increase the acceptance of the new order and the Christian church legitimizing it, numerous church buildings were erected by the Franks on traditional object sites. The real thing or real thing or ungebotene thing always found at fixed times, chaired by the sovereign place or its representatives. When the thing or botding was offered, only the lay judges met under the chairmanship of the mayor ( mayor ). It was convened when necessary and required the cargo the thing to be enjoyed . Who eluded the thing was ding volatile and could arrest made, that is arrested be.

The time to the next real thing was called the thing deadline . With the Franks it lasted 40 nights, with the Saxons six weeks and three days (= one day of judgment). From this thing period, the duration of the Judgment Day and the annual limit also the maximum period set days and years together.

The medieval market cooperatives , which often existed until the 19th century, called their annual meetings Märkerding or Wahlding . Continuous traditions to the early medieval thing cannot be proven.


In England, seven kingdoms developed immediately after the Saxon conquest ( Kent , Sussex , Wessex , Essex , Mercia , East Anglia and Northumbria ). The initial army kingship quickly transformed into permanent hereditary monarchies . The popular assembly, in England no longer called a thing, but folcgemot (popular meeting), is difficult to distinguish from royal assemblies due to this development. As with the Old Saxons, however, the free men of a kingdom met to pronounce justice and confirm laws. In addition, there were also the individual royal council assemblies - Witenagemot , the meeting of the wise. These assemblies continued after the unification of the kingdoms into the Kingdom of England under Alfred the Great and had extensive rights. A king was confirmed on them and could even be deposed. The Witenagemot included the country's nobles, Ealdorman / Earls and high clergymen. After the Norman conquest in 1066, the Witenagemot formed the royal council ( Curia Regis ), a predecessor of today's English parliament.


"Her stod Eidsivatinget", marking the former place of the Eidsivathing in Eidsvoll

There are no sources about the Thingordnung from prehistoric times. But it can be regarded as certain that this was not introduced by a ruler, but grew out of the population by itself, since its introduction was indispensable for the coexistence of a society. This can be seen from the fact that the Icelanders tried to establish an order of things immediately after the settlement. It is not known whether all known Norwegian peoples had these institutions. We have the earliest news of the residents of Trøndelag that they had a thing.

In the Middle Ages there were four major regional things in Norway, the Borgarthing , the Gulathing , the Eidsivathing and the Frostathing . The Borgarthing, for example, were held in Borg, today's Sarpsborg , south of Oslo . The name Borgarting has survived to the present day in the name of Borgarting lagmannsrett , one of the six higher courts in Norway, the seat of which is Oslo.

In the days of Håkon the Good , there were two major landings: Gulathing for Westland and Frostathing for Trøndelag . From the eleventh century onwards, other areas joined. Agder came to gulathing and Nordmøre and Hålogaland came to frostathing. During the period of unification of the empire, the Øyrathing was added, which was a special thing for the election of a king and also for political deliberations.

The Mostrathing , a thing on the island of Moster on the north side of the Bømlafjord in Sunnhordland in what is now western Norway, played a decisive role in the history of Norway . There, in 1024, Olav the Saint, together with his Bishop Grimkjell, an Englishman and nephew of Bishop Sigvard, who had been Bishop of Norway under Olaf Tryggvason, held a meeting at which he enforced the Christianization of the country and established the organization of the Church in Norway .

Originally a gathering of all free men of the district, it became in the course of its spatial expansion and the increase in the population in the middle of the tenth century (at least after 930, since in that year the Althing in Iceland with a thing obligation for every free peasant modeled on the Gulathings was founded) to a representative thing with delegates from the individual ethnic groups. The tasks of the thing were limited to legislation and case law in very special cases. It took place once in the summer of each year; the time was determined in the law.

There were a number of different thing names. They were called herredsthing or fylkesthing according to the area they comprised, or frostathing or gulathing according to the place where they took place. When all free farmers in the catchment area were required to participate in the thing, the thing was called allmannathing or tjoðthing . The local things were called together as needed by passing a riot staff around. These local things had other names after their duties. A distinction was made between sóknarthing (trial thing ), atfararthing (enforcement thing ), on which a plaintiff wanted to obtain an enforceable title for lawful enforcement, and manndrápsthing (homicide thing ) for the trial of manslaughter. There were also things with organizational content. There was the Skipreiðuthing, in which the districts where the ships and their crew had to be provided and maintained, were redefined, or vápnathing, in which everyone had to show the prescribed weapons, a kind of roll call. There was also a thing for choosing a king.

In addition to the large national thing assemblies, there were also regional and smaller thing assemblies that dealt with everyday legal disputes. How the legal system worked can only be read for the eleventh and twelfth centuries from the laws that existed for that period. Then there is the Eidsivathing and the Borgarthing for Eastern Norway.


The Althing in Iceland (painting by WG Collingwood, around 1900)

In Iceland , which was mainly settled by Norwegian Vikings, they held a legislative assembly, the Alþing , in Þingvellir once a year for two weeks in June from 930 onwards, i.e. at the end of the conquest . It had both legislative and judicial functions. It existed until 1798 when the Danes dissolved the Althing. Its tradition was continued after the Danish colonial rule was shaken off by the Icelandic parliament, which carried on and continues to use the name of the Althing.

The Icelanders also set up regional things, such as the Þórsnes-Thing on the Snæfellsnes peninsula . Legal disputes on the Þórsnes thing are narrated in Icelandic sagas . Illugi Svarti's quarrel with Þorgrimm Kjallksson and his sons in the saga of Gunnlaug Wormtongue and in the saga of the people of Eyr is narrated.

Faroe Islands

The Althing on Tinganes dates back to 900 and is the forerunner of Løgting , today's parliament of the Faroe Islands .


Dënzelt, the Dingstuhl in Echternach (Luxembourg)

Among the secular buildings of the city of Echternach , the beautiful Gothic Dingstuhl (1444) on the market, popularly known as “ Dënzelt ”, is reminiscent of the Old High German “Thing” (advice). It was the seat of the former lay jury and is now the town's meeting room.


Taiding regulations formulated in writing are available from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period , for example for the dominions of Steyregg or Lustenfelden . The subjects had to appear every year on Wednesday after St. Nicholas for Thaiding. Those who did not come had to pay a fine of six pfennigs . On the Thaiding the Taidinggeld, the so-called right pfenning, had to be shelled out.

The purpose of these annual meetings was that the subjects were shown the valid wisdom . This was essentially a guideline for the actions of the subjects towards their comrades and for their behavior in the corridor (corridor law and corridor constitution) as well as the obligations of the landlords to the rulers . In addition, the Taiding was read every year. Another purpose of taiding was to settle disputes and quarrels among subjects and to impose penalties for transgressions that have occurred.

The right to land, for example, included the obligation to fence in the fields after the sowing of grain and oats in order to prevent damage from the game and thus also to avert damage to the service to be performed for the authorities. A distance of three shoes from the rain was stipulated for the border fences so as not to hinder the neighbor in his work. Heavy fines were provided for deliberately moving landmarks . The cutting down of fur trees (= refined fruit trees) or the cutting down of felbers were also punished . The addition of forbidden words, the drawing of a weapon or the drawing (= listening) were punishable . If someone ran after someone under the eaves with a drawn barracks (that is, broke into the trespass) and injured them, they would have to pay a fine of 65 pennies. It was forbidden to buy yarn, meat and the like from other servants because there was a suspicion that they had taken (= stolen) it from their master . With regard to the rule, the services of the subjects were presented or the position of the bailiff as an intermediary between Herr and Holden was outlined. The Taiding thus served to establish legal peace and emphasized the position of the landlord as the regulating authority in his domain.

The thing as an early form of participation

The Germanic people's assembly is viewed as a form of democratic participation. In order to do justice to the strong importance of the army among the Teutons, the term " military democracy " was coined . The classic Marxist view (according to Friedrich Engels) assumed certain stages for the development of culture (savagery, barbarism and civilization) according to the then state of ethnology, which the different peoples pass through in the same order. This development is accompanied by a transition from common property to private property. In tribal societies like those of the Teutons, Celts or Iroquois , only personal items are private property. The land, however, belongs to the tribe and is raffled off to the individual people for use. Modern research doubts that commons and market cooperatives actually go back to the early Middle Ages. Rather, z. E.g. Karl Siegfried Bader referred to community formation in the High Middle Ages.

Reception: The thing with scouts and youngsters

Following the example of the Quickborn Federation , various youth associations called their annual meeting Thing in the 1920s , as many German scout associations and youth groups still do today (see also Bündische Jugend ). Once a year there was a written invitation to the Thing. In addition, the majority of the Thingsassen  - those who are entitled to a thing - could convene a thing at any time. The invitation / convocation was made by the Thinggrave, who, as Primus inter pares, headed the Thing and was elected or confirmed every year.

Thingsasse was someone who held a “stand” (a position obtained and confirmed after admission into the community) and was responsible for the community. The Thingsassen were obliged to appear after being invited. Failure to appear was only permitted in important cases and caused the matter to be postponed. It was compulsory to wear communal clothing (gown) . It was the Thingfriede, d. H. any personal disputes had to rest. The knife most often carried to the chasm was to be put down in front of the Thinglokal - usually the group room - to declare the observance of the peace.

The thing was opened by singing a song (federal song) together. The thinggraf asked about the topics to be discussed, which had to be voted on by show of hands. The decisions of the thing were binding for the community, protests were inadmissible. The thing and its decisions were kept secret from non-things, guests, members “without a stand” and girls / women (unless the community was co-educational ) were not allowed to participate. After the votes and resolutions, the thing was declared over by the thinggrave and the covenant song was sung.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Thing  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See the article Täding I in: Schweizerisches Idiotikon Volume XII, Sp. 433-440 ( digitized version ).
  2. See the article Ding. In: Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language. Edited by Elmar Seebold, as well as Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German.
  3. German legal dictionary . Volume II Sp. 971–972 ( digitized version ( memento of the original from April 29, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. See German legal dictionary. Volume II Col. 933-944; German dictionary . Volume ² VI, col. 1081-1089; Article Ding (written by Oskar Bandle ), in: Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Volume XIII, Sp. 470–507 ( digitized version ).
  5. ^ Article dinglich, adj., In: German dictionary by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, online edition .
  6. Natascha Mehler: On the trail of the riddles of thing places. In: Archeology in Germany, issue 5/2010, pp. 56–57.
  7. ^ Tacitus: Germania, 13.
  8. ^ Tacitus: Germania, 11.
  9. Article Echtding, in: JS Verlag, JG Gruber: Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, Volume 30. Leipzig 1836, p. 398 ( digitized in the Google book search).
  10. Klaus Böldl, Andreas Vollmer, Julia Zernack (Eds.): Isländer Sagas 1. S. Fischer, Frankfurt 2011, ISBN 978-3-10-007622-9 , notes on page 846, paragraph 56
  11. Klaus Böldl, Andreas Vollmer, Julia Zernack (eds.): Isländer Sagas 1. S. Fischer, Frankfurt 2011, ISBN 978-3-10-007622-9 , notes on page 830, point 5
  12. ^ Franz Wilflingseder: History of the rule Lustenfelden near Linz (Kaplanhof). Linz 1952, p. 119 f.
  13. ^ R. Wenskus: thing. In: RGA. Volume 5, p. 446.
  14. F. Engels: The origin of the family, private property and the state. Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1952
  15. ^ Tacitus: Germania. 26th