What did the Normans call themselves?

Dec 19 2011

Shannon asks when the term Normans was first used.  Unfortunately there are no surviving written records of the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, so we don’t conclusively know what their contemporaries called them when they first landed on French soil, but it’s a safe bet that they were always referred to by some variation of ‘Norman’.  Rollo and his immediate followers came from Norway, Denmark (and possibly) Sweden- a relatively spread out geographic location- so they collectively called themselves the Northmen.  (The term ‘Norman’ comes from a viking word meaning ‘Norseman’ or ‘Men of the north’- so it would also have been a perfectly natural label for the Franks to apply to the incoming raiders from the top of Europe.)  The viking word was latinized to ‘Nortmannus’ which in turn became ‘Norman’.  We know they adopted this name because (fortunately for us) the Normans loved to hear stories about their earlier heroes, and the subject of the first major Norman writer (Dudo of Saint-Quentin @1020) was his own people.  Showing typical creativity he titled his history of the Normans ‘Historia Normanorum’.

2 responses so far

  1. Fascinating stuff. What made the Normans such effective fighters? And why did they dissapear so thoroughly after a few generations? They were such a dominant force in European affairs- and then after two centuries or so they were gone? Any thoughts on why?

  2. Well, the greek-speaking Romans of the era, called them Νορμαννοί/Normanni

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