Frisii and Frisiavones


  • M.C. Galestin


A study was made of the literary and epigraphical evidence referring to Frisii or Frisiavones, with the aim of assessing their relations with the Romans. The similarity of their names makes it difficult to distinguish between the two tribes. It emerges that the Frisii and Frisiavones probably were not related and lived in different territories. Both groups had contacts with the Romans, who made their names part of recorded history. Both Frisii and Frisiavones served in the Roman army and received Roman citizenship afterwards. The Frisiavones made their appearance around the middle of the first century and towards the end of the first century they formed an ethnic unit which served in Britain during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Frisii were active in the Roman army from their first encounter in 12 BC, but their name did not become linked to an ethnic unit until the 3rd century, when several Frisian units were deployed in forts along Hadrian's Wall. The Frisiavones had become incorporated into the Roman Empire, while the Frisii remained outside. The Frisii adopted some Roman habits but largely retained their own cultural identity. Members of both groups were present in Rome, as equites singulares, where their ethnic names are found combined with Roman names in their epitaphs. Their relations with the Roman Empire also provided new identities for Frisii and Frisiavones.