Roman Empire period
Main article: Roman Iron Age
Germanic expansions during early Roman times are known only generally, but it is clear that the forebears of the Goths were settled on the southern Baltic shore by 100 CE.
The early Germanic tribes are assumed to have spoken mutually intelligible dialects, in the sense that Germanic languages derive from a single earlier parent language. No written records of such a parent language exists. From what we know of scanty early written material, by the 5th century CE the Germanic languages were already "sufficiently different to render communication between the various peoples impossible". Some evidence point to a common pantheon made up of several different chronological layers. However, as for mythology only the Scandinavian one (see Germanic mythology) is sufficiently known. Some traces of common traditions between various tribes are indicated by Beowulf and the Volsunga saga. One indication of their shared identity is their common Germanic name for non-Germanic peoples, *walhaz (plural of *walhoz), from which the local names Welsh, Wallis, Walloon and others were derived. An indication of an ethnic unity is the fact that the Romans knew them as one and gave them a common name, Germani (this is the source of our German and Germanic, see Etymology above), although it was well known for the Romans to give geographical rather than cultural names to peoples. The very extensive practice of cremation deprives us of anthropological comparative material for the earliest periods to support claims of a longstanding ethnic isolation of a common (Nordic) strain.
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