We said there is a general attraction-repulsion among the people from North and South Europe. Let’s forget the repulsion thing now and let us instead focus on the undoubted attraction we feel for each other – as for our use of the term hyperborean pls read this note.

the North Wind

The ancient Greeks dreamed about a mythical people living in a pagan Eden beyond Boreas, the north wind (hyper-Boreas = ‘beyond the north wind’). The Hyperboreans were imagined as perfect and almost god-like.

Thus Pindar in the V century BC:

Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
in their sacred blood; far from labour and battle they live.

Such a bliss was though difficult to reach:

Never on land or by sea will you find
the marvellous road to the feast of the Hyperborea.

(Pindar, Tenth Pythian Ode, translation by Richmond Lattimore; quotes from Wikipedia)

So Hyperborea was like a feast. Hard to tell which real experiences fed the myth but we perceive like attraction vibes coming from the Mediterranean and addressed towards some mythical folk of the north-east.

At least 5 centuries later, the Roman historian Tacitus, in his book Germania about the Germans (full text here) – a group of tribes also coming from the North-East – noted in AD 98: “In every house the children grow up, thinly and meanly clad, to that bulk of body and limb which we behold with wonder.” Less myth here but concrete admiration for the Germans’ powerful bodies (and pristine virtues.)

Caesar himself had appreciation for the Germans, if utilizing them in battle is any indication. Ancient Rome was filled with northern slaves who, even though seen as savages, were admired for their aspect and many Roman ladies wore expensive wigs made from their blonde or red hair.

Not Angles, but Angels

That the Mediterranean people found these northern folks attractive is confirmed by a legendary event with some historical ground. If true, it occurred more than 500 years after Tacitus’ time.

As Beda Venerabilis wrote in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, Gregory I, a great Pope from a noble Roman family, saw one day a group of children in a slave market of the Eternal City. They looked so beautiful to him that, getting curious and inquiring about them, he was told they were Angli (Angles).

He then so exclaimed with a pun: “Non Angli, sed Angeli”, “they are not Angles, but Angels” and added: “Well named, for they have angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven.” Thus, according to Beda, he thought to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity and sent Augustine of Canterbury to Britain for this purpose.


Not much has changed since then. As regards contemporary Britons, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch and Germans (among the rest,) today’s Mediterranean people still see them as different in their bodies, skin, eyes, manners, and these differences are often seductive, beyond a doubt. Exactly as to Gregory, their children look such fair-skinned sweet angels to us. The women and the men we see as provided with a diverse beauty we generally find irresistible.

At 17 I was stunned watching the Irish girls dancing in the Dublin discos. The way they moved their bodies to the rhythm of music was so damn different from our girls’: a ‘lesser grace equals more grace’ type of thing, which almost knocked me out.

Churches as Factories for Marriage

A 45 years old American IT expert, italoamericano, confessed that the Italian and the Irish Americans who often gather in Catholic churches all over the States do feel this reciprocal attraction. “Churches are sometimes like factories for marriages. As far as us Italians– he confirmed – we cannot resist those fair and blue-eyed faces”. He had in fact married an Irish woman. Whether he met her in a church I’m not in a position to tell.

An attraction reciprocal. An American woman of German-English descent had lived in a small town close to Chicago. She said she gazed longingly at those Italians in the days when her catholic mother took her to the local church.


Ok, basta. Since from serious this post has become gossipy (and voyeuristic) I will redeem myself in the next and last post dedicated to the Hyperboreans.

Hopefully we won’t just talk about the physical qualities we admire in them.

Note. I couldn’t find an appropriate picture with English or German children (for Gregory’s angels.) The image above refers to Swedish girls during Luciadagen (Saint Lucia’s day) on December 13th. It is moving how these “sun starved people” revere Lucia (or Lucy,) the Saint of light born in sunny Sicily (her name coming from the Latin word lux = light.)

During the darkest days of the year they pray Lucia to bring the sun back to them.

(“Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by the Lutheran Swedes, Finland-Swedes, Danes and Norwegians in celebrations that retain many indigenous Germanic pagan pre-Christian midwinter light festivals” – Wikipedia)


Other related posts:
Us and the Hyperboreans. 1
Us and the Hyperboreans. 2

18 thoughts on “Us and the Hyperboreans. 3

  1. You summarize the mutual attraction very well.

    Let me ask you. How would you define the French? They are Latin and considered Mediterranean yet they resemble Northern culture as well. They seem like a hybrid; a connection between the two worlds. Something like Northern Italy I suppose with its Germanic influences.


  2. Hi Man of Roma,

    I must say that I enjoyed the whole Hyperboreans-Mediterraneans matter, and that I fairly agree with what you have been writing in your three posts, but, in my view, we must bear in mind that we are dealing with an abstraction or an “idealization” of the real thing. From this point of view I think The Commentator is right: what about France and Northern Italy? I would add: what about Northern Spain, and Southern Germany, and Austria? Furthermore, are the Brits Nordic? I think that—perhaps with the exceptions of Sweeden and Denmark (Norway is a different kettle of fish altogether), though you can see there a certain influence of the Asiatic component—we can only speak of, so to say, different levels of mix …


  3. @Commentator

    Of course Rob you are right. We only have an idealization and abstraction here. Abstractions are the way we organize phenomena. When we say “the French” or “the men of Renaissance” we surely face the problem that a Marseillaise is more similar to a Neapolitan than to a Parisian, or that Cellini, Michelangelo and Vasari – as someone said in my blog– are very different men. But we cannot comprehend outside of these abstractions or concepts, so we omit the differences and we focus on possible common elements.

    Problem being some concepts are less clear than others. Who really are the Hyperboreans? Which common elements make up this concept? Hard to say, the word coming from a myth. I don’t think the Swedes & Danes are more ‘hyperborean’ than any other, plus associating the concept to a ‘race’…do pure races exist? I don’t think so.

    I just wanted to be thought provoking, using the term as a poetic abstraction, less as a historical concept (although the orign of the word is Greek, thence historical.)

    Hyperboreans is utilized today in an educated & playful manner to signify “people from cold climates.” An extremely cultured geneticist from South Germany once told me (while we were communicating in English): “Sorry we are obliged to speak in this Hyperborean language.” At that time I didn’t get what he meant. He looked clearly disappointed by my ignorance – a man from ‘the South’ NOT knowing this!

    Which proves that also high knowledged people are sometimes subject to stereotypes, like anyone (or even more!)

    I have written *in this note* what I personally mean by the term hyperborean.

    As a Roman I wrote these posts as evidence of something deeply felt here. Plus to a Roman of my generation it makes additional sense because we were – not only us Romans – more provincial than Italians are today.

    The word to me suggests connotations from noble (antiquity) up to funny (Totò and Peppino De Filippo wearing a fur when visiting Milan, because Milan to them was ‘The North’!) and to funny & vile (Alberto Sordi in movies like ‘Il Diavolo‘ where he goes to Sweden and is after Swedish girls thinking he’s a southern devil while they are angels.)

    Rome is Mediterranean, like Marseilles is Mediterranean, while Milan (and also Genoa, this is weird) are not typically ‘Mediterranean’ (another abstraction.)

    Here a longing (mixed with dislike) for these Hyperboreans has always been a constant.

    Ciao – I’ve flooded you 😦

    @Commentator: I’ll soon reply to your question on France.


  4. @The Commentator

    How would you define the French? …They are Latin … yet they seem like a hybrid … something like Northern Italy

    Well, you have defined them very well yourself. They are Latin but hybrid, or Northern Latins.

    I brushed up some history – if you allow – to provide some matter on this topic to other possible readers.

    Since the VI century BC we first had the Greeks in what is now Provence. Nice (Greek Nikeia), Marseilles (Massalia) and other towns like Antibes (Antipolis) were founded by the Greeks. From 122 BC the whole Provence or Provincia (Latin for province) became Roman.

    This Greek and Roman influence is important because it marked a difference with the rest of Gaul, which was only later conquered by Julius Caesar in the 1rst century BC. Latinization was thourough and quick everywhere (with no real organized effort by the Romans,) but we can imagine that in the Provincia Latin was purer since Romanization had been a bit more profound (and the Romans much preferred the Provincia over the rest.)

    When the Western Roman empire collapsed and the Germans arrived, France – as you say – became even more like a hybrid. First the raids of the Alemanni (thence the French Allemand meant ‘German’ from those days on,) then the Saxons etc. The most influential were though the German Franks, who in fact gave their name to France.

    So yes, we can say the French are Latin but also a bit Germanic, a little bit like northern Italians (who were influenced by the French in the north west and by the Germans in the North east). More exactly, both the French and the Northern Italians are mainly Latin, Celtic and German.

    Getting back to France, at the times of Dante Alighieri (XIII-XIV c. AD) Latin had already evolved in several romance languages but the two main cultures (and languages) were La langue d’oc (Provençal or Occitan) and La langue d’oïl (Paris area and north). Again the love relationship between Provence and Italy continued to be strong but the North won and that is why in Provence they started to speak the language of Paris but with an accent not so far from our Italian accent (frowned upon by the Parisians.)


  5. Those Parisians so gray in spirit! ;<) This hybrid we attribute to the French explains well why they have the organizational skills of Northerners and joie de vivre and penchant for bending rules like the Mediterranean.

    My cousins moved from southern Italy to Paris. Three of four brothers to be exact. The fourth stopped at Milan. When I asked him why he didn’t follow the other three he said he felt Parisians to be too “grigio.”

    What a wonderful city though. The gray, rudeness is part of the charm because Parisians are indeed a cultured people.

    I also have relatives in Nice which obviously is more in the Mediterranean mold given its location and Italian past. Nizza is another great place in France.


  6. @exporsip
    You mention Nizza. Such a great place! La promenade des Anglais, the pan bagnat, a sort of huge panino with salad and onions… I lived there 8 months but now in truth it has become too expensive and a bit fake, like parts of Rome too famous such as Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps.) But I really love Nice, no matter what.


  7. If you consider me a friend, I like it Marianna 🙂
    Update (took it from your blog’s reply): so Marianna is the way your grandmother called you. Now I know why I like to call you the same way ah ah aaha ….(ugh?)


  8. Note. I couldn’t find an appropriate picture with English or German children (for Gregory’s angels). The image above refers to Swedish girls during Luciadagen (Saint Lucia’s day) on December 13th. It is moving how these “sun starved people” revere Lucia (or Lucy), the Saint of light (her name coming from the Latin word lux = light).
    German, Swedish, or English, the Chick at the start is HOT! 😛


  9. Hey MoR

    I’ve read your comments on my blog! I’m very sorry for responding so slowly.

    I think those baozi are from Wenzhou, well I know it’s very common in Wenzhou. You can find baozi everywhere there! But the baozi’s are really big there!

    Yes, my parents are from Wenzhou/Hong Kong. I wish you much of luck with your blog too!

    You’re from Roma right? I like to keep in touch with you, hahah. I’ve never met a Roman person before! Well, keep up your good blog posts!


  10. Didn’t u say you preferred tasty roasted chicks instead?
    Only for “eating”. For material pleasures I give my custom to unbaked Eastern European ones! 😛

    Hope you’re having a good time MoR! 🙂


  11. @Ashish
    ah ah ah, thanks, and ok, I can agree, but my preferences – at least as regards my mummy’s memory, of course – have maybe a wider range. I have just witnessed Barack Obama’s victory in Santa Barbara, Cal. Amazing. I am happy he won, I’ll confess.

    That the force (and the power) be with you, Emperor.


  12. I guess that parents worry about these attractions: The town of 16,000 inhabitants where I grew up had three (count them, three!) catholic churches: St. Brigid (for the Irish), St. Agatha (for the Germans) and St. Mary (for the Italians). I think they had separate cemeteries too.

    I’m feeling the tug of memory lately for my working-class home town. I just learned that a boy (of the Allegretti family–that’s bonus information, just to make you laugh, Roma) who took me to a dance at age 14 is now…dead. So, I’m going home next month, just like Emily from Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN. That reads kind of melodramatic, but I write it with wry humor. 🙂


    1. That was a downer, my comment. Should have let Sven keep the last word.

      Here: Swedish girls are hottest then norwegian same shit I guess.

      (Everybody goes home happy.)


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