It is a useful rigorous reminder of the dangers of an approach based on assumption about what is ‘Germanic’ or ‘primitive’.6

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Kingship, whether ‘sacral’ or not, certainly appears ubiquitous in the barbarian world, but the type of kingship that appears in our Greco-Roman sources relates mostly to the kingship of the Migration Period, which might be very different from the kingship of Tacitus’s day.7 Our Latin sources show us peoples ruled by monarchs described as reges (singular, rex) or by some diminutive (regulus, subregulus); these may be designated in the vernacular by a related word (rí in Irish; reiks in Gothic). The Old English word for king is from a different root: cyning means ‘a man from the kin’. It gives us the modern ‘king’, and is related to modern German König; but an Old English cyning ruled a rice (pronounced ‘ree-cha’, and equivalent to German Reich), which is from the same Indo-Germanic root as rex. The English also had the word theoden, though this was generally used of Christ. Ulfila’s Gothic Bible uses thiudans of Christ and the Roman emperor, while reiks is used not just of a king, but also to translate the Greek word archon, meaning a governor or military commander. The Old English poem Beowulf on more than one occasion combines the two English words, and calls its hero thiod-cyning.8