The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide
 The Speech of the Masked One
Where Is Maeringaborg?
An investigation by Carla O'Harris
  Maeringaborg is the famous city where Dietrich spent thirty years in exile. What do we know of this "City of Nobles "?
What do the Sources Tell Us?
Let us begin with Ynglingasaga, which transmits a tradition about the city in which Odin spent his time while he lived amongst men.
Ynglingasaga 1, 2 :
  "On the south side of the mountains which lie outside of all inhabited lands runs a river through Swithiod, which is properly called by the name of Tanais, but was formerly called Tanaquisl, or Vanaquisl, and which falls into the Black Sea. The country of the people on the Vanaquisl was called Vanaland, or Vanaheim ... The country east of the Tanaquisl in Asia was called Asaland, or Asaheim, and the chief city in that land was called Asgaard. In that city was a chief called Odin, and it was a great place for sacrifice. It was the custom there that twelve temple priests should both direct the sacrifices, and also judge the people. They were called Diar, or Drotner, and all the people served and obeyed them. Odin was a great and very far-travelled warrior, who conquered many kingdoms, and so successful was he that in every battle the victory was on his side."  

In other words, East of the Black Sea there was a city in the land where it was rumored that the Aesir had once resided on Earth, and there they oversaw a group of priests who led their worship. During this time, Odin became renowned as "a great and very far-travelled warrior". The sovereignty of the Vanir reached as far as the edge of the Black Sea (under Ermanerich's reign) but no further.

There is further a confused account in Ynglingasaga 5 which tells of the Aesir returning after their exile:

  "There goes a great mountain barrier from north-east to south- west, which divides the Greater Swithiod from other kingdoms. South of this mountain ridge it is not far to Turkland, where Odin had great possessions. In those times the Roman chiefs went wide around in the world, subduing to themselves all people; and on this account many chiefs fled from their domains. But Odin having foreknowledge, and magic-sight, knew that his posterity would come to settle and dwell in the northern half of the world. He ... himself, with all the gods and a great many other people, wandered out, first westward to Gardarike, and then south to Saxland. He had many sons; and after having subdued an extensive kingdom in Saxland, he set his sons to rule the country. He himself went northwards to the sea, and took up his abode in an island which is called Odins in Fyen."  

(Snorri says that Odin "therefore set his brothers Ve and Vilje over Asgaard", because here is an account of Odin leaving his earthly city ; and given that Snorri identified the Aesir as merely magical humans, he assumed that this must link with the tradition referred to in Ynglingasaga 3: "Odin had two brothers, the one called Ve, the other Vilje, and they governed the kingdom when he was absent." Here is evidence that Snorri was piecing and patching together the fragments of myth that were available to him.)

So, the Aesir's city, east of the Black Sea , was somewhere near "Turkland". Around the time of a great empire -- comparable to Rome -- when a tyrannical king went around the known world subduing to himself all people, and making many chiefs flee their domains (Ermanerich's reign), Odin's people lived in the East. Sometime around this time, Odin, knowing the time was right, through his prophetic power, began the move northward into the territory held by the Vanir.
This return was prophecied in Grimnismal 42 :

42. Ullar hylli
hefr ok allra goða
hverr er tekr fyrstr á funa,
því at opnir heimar
verða of ása sonum,
þá er hefja af hvera.

Ullar's grace
shall have and all the gods
who shall take first out of the flames,
for it shall happen that the world will open
to the Aesir's sons,
when every one of them are exalted.

þá er hefja af hvera, which I have here translated as "when every one of them (hverr) is exalted (hefja)", may also be translated as "when the cauldron (hverr) is lifted up (hefja)", referring to the peace-drink between the Aesir and the Vanir, as well as "when they are carried (hefja) to the hot-springs", referring to the Well of Wyrd, implying some sort of judgement, or hearing of the case by the Norns. Each of these variants plausibly refers to the same set of events.)

Odin is telling Agnar here that he shall have not only the grace of Ullr -- who, according to Book Three of Saxo, had been "invested ... with the trappings of royalty and godhead" in the "stead" of Odin during his exile -- but of allra goða -- all the gods. This is a foreseeing ("forspár og fjölkunnigur", Ynglingasaga 5) of a reunion of the gods, spoken of as well in Saxo, Book Three : "For almost ten years he [Ullr] held the leadership of the divine parliament till the gods finally took pity on Odin's harsh exile. Reckoning that he had completed a severe enough sentence they restored him from filthy rags to his former splendour. By now the passage of time had rubbed away the brand of his past disgrace." (Ynglingasaga 11 informs us that while Ullr may have held the command of Asgard, Njord was considered the supreme holder of sovereignty, as lord of the Vanir, so Ullr had ruled at Njord (and the rest of the Vanir)'s pleasure.)

Saxo is in touch with a tradition that placed Odin in " Byzantium " (Book One and Book Three) around the time that "he took to exile replete with an honest shame, thinking he woudl thereby obliterate the stain of his disgrace".

Saxo is also in touch with a tradition which alluded to Odin saving up wergild for his crimes while he was in exile. "Some people assert that by flattering a few of the gods and buttering others with bribes he purchased his lost royal status and bought back at a costly sum the glories he had long since forfeited." (Book Three.)

Snorri places Odin in this area of Asia in his Prologue to Gylfaginning : "Near the earth's centre was made that goodliest of homes and haunts that ever have been, which is called Troy , even that which we call Turkland. This abode was much more gloriously made than others, and fashioned with more skill of craftsmanship in manifold wise, both in luxury and in the wealth which was there in abundance. There were twelve kingdoms and one High King, and many sovereignties belonged to each kingdom; in the stronghold were twelve chieftains. These chieftains were in every manly part greatly above other men that have ever been in the world." (Prologue, 3.)

Snorri in the same Prologue mentions the tradition about Odin's returning to the North : "Odin had second sight, and his wife also; and from their foreknowledge he found that his name should be exalted in the northern part of the world and glorified above the fame of all other kings. Therefore, he made ready to journey out of Turkland, and was accompanied by a great multitude of people, young folk and old, men and women; and they had with them much goods of great price. And wherever they went over the lands of the earth, many glorious things were spoken of them, so that they were held more like gods than men. They made no end to their journeying till they were come north into the land that is now called Saxland; there Odin tarried for a long space, and took the land into his own hand, far and wide. ...Then Odin began his way northward, and came into the land which they called Reidgothland; and in that land he took possession of all that pleased him."

Snorri is also aware that the city the Aesir occupied on Earth kept much the same laws as those observed in Asgard : "There be established chieftains in the fashion which had prevailed in Troy; he set up also twelve head-men to be doomsmen over the people and to judge the laws of the land; and he ordained also all laws as there had been before in Troy, and according to the customs of the Turks." (Prologue, V.)

This same tradition is mentioned in Ynglingasaga 8 : "Odin established the same law in his land that had been in force in Asaland." Ynglingasaga 9 lets us know the name of the place where Odin's city was established on Earth, and that this happened after Skadi had left Njord, and she went to Odin and was his lover amongst men. Snorri very carefully distinguishes this realm from the realm of the gods. "This Swithiod they called Mannheim , but the Great Swithiod they called Godheim; and of Godheim great wonders and novelties were related."

The Prologue to Gylfaginning states that during the time that Odin was amongst men on earth, there were three broad kingdoms ruled by three sons, whose realms correspond to what Tacitus in Germania 2 has to say about the Ingaevones, Herminones, and Istaevones. In Prologue IV, these are the Svipdag Lineage (Vegdeg, Vitgils, Vitta & Sigarr, Svebdeg/Svipdag), the Frodi Lineage (Beldeg/Baldr, Brandr, Frodi, Freovin, Uvigg, Gevis/Gave), and the Hun Lineage (Sigi, Rerir (Volsungasaga tells us that Sigi was a "son of Odin" who became a king over the Huns.)). The Svipdag lineage rules over Svipdag's realm in the North, the Ingaevones, the Frodi lineage rules over that kingdom Frodi and his men won back from the tyrant Ermanerich-Gudhorm, the (Gud)Herminonian lands, and the Hun lineage is obviously in the East amongst the Huns, where we know Dietrich lived in exile, and thus the land of the Ostrogoths. Tacitus says there were tris filios ; Gylfaginning's Prologue says that "In that land Odin set up three of his sons for landwardens...From all these are sprung many and great houses." This is important as it lets us know that the Saga of Mannus' Sons spoken of in Tacitus' Day took place in the time that Odin was spoken of as living amongst men. These were the factions of men in the time that Odin was living in the great city of Maeringaborg .

Towards the end of his exile, Odin disappeared from the earth, and men thought that he had died and ascended to Asgard. Ynglingasaga 10 : "Odin died in his bed in Swithiod; and when he was near his death he made himself be marked with the point of a spear, and said he was going to Godheim, and would give a welcome there to all his friends, and all brave warriors should be dedicated to him; and the Swedes believed that he was gone to the ancient Asgaard, and would live there eternally."
The Composite Picture
When we put all this information together, it is clear that Mannheim was in Asia, East of the Black Sea, and that there they built a famed, glorious city, called by various authors Troy or Byzantium --- in other words, it compared with the most glorious cities of legend. Troy , of course, is in Anatolia , Turkey , while Byzantium (ie. Constantinople, Istanbul ) is also in Turkey and right on the Black Sea (and incidentally, just within about 100 miles of Troy ). Deor 18 - 19 lets us know that the name of the city was Mæringaburg, where Dietrich spent thirty winters.
The Huns, of course, were from Asia , and in the middle of the Fourth Century A.D., they made contact with the Ostrogoths, and the latter eventually came under their sway. The Ostrogoths were the "Eastern Goths", and historically, they had settled in the Black Sea area. So folk memory would be correct in locating the Eastern Goths, who were Dietrich's folk, amongst the Huns in the Black Sea area. The Huns, according to Callinicus, in his Life of Saint Hypatius, says that the Huns almost managed to capture Constantinople , and so they were in the region of one of the most famous cities of old.

Ancient tradition would have had it that Dietrich had trained amongst Halfdan's East Goths in the far east amongst the Gods, around the time that there was a great war between the Gods and the Giants. It is easy to see how this basic legend morphed as the Germanic peoples came into the history of the Roman Empire . The Huns, a fierce, invading people, were equated with giants, attested to in Middle Low German hûne, Middle High German hiune, and Modern German hüne, all meaning "giant". The war between the Gods and the Giants (attested to in cognate Greek and Roman legends as well) became the war with the Hüne.

Saxo tells us a tradition that the King of the Huns had a seer named Ygg ("Uggerus", and there is a linguistic irony that the Latin word Saxo used to describe him as a seer was "vates", which is etymologically related to Votan), an old man of eternal age, who left the King of the Huns, sought out Frodi, and told him about the war-plans of the Huns. In other words, at one point in time, Odin had infiltrated the Hüne, the Giants, the Huns, learned of their plans, and revealed this to Frodi in the West. We thus have the basis for finding Odin amongst the Huns, and very close to the King of the Huns.

Since the traditions spoke of a time when the exiled gods lived amongst men, in Mannaheim, and built there a glorious, legendary city, Maringaborg (which means "City of the Noble Ones", from mæringr, "a noble man"), where Dietrich had trained amongst Halfdan's exiled officer corps, and since Dietrich's Ostrogoths were later historically placed in the region of the Black Sea, near the famous city of Constantinople, and not far from the famed city of Troy, and furthermore, since Dietrich's Ostrogoths became historically subject to the Huns, it is very easy to see how history and myth became intertwined in the accounts as we now have them.
We thus now have the reasons why the later retellings of the legends placed Dietrich at Attila's court. Attila was called "Atli" in the later Sigurd poems of the Poetic Edda, and it may be worthwhile mentioning that ætla means "thought" or "reason", related to Gothic ahjan ("mind", "to think"), O. H. G. ahton, and therefore Ætli could very well have been a heiti meaning something akin to "Thoughtful One" or "Sage", a species of kenning well-attested for Odin (see Grimnisal 47 where he is called Sanngetall, "Engenderer of Truth" (besides meaning "to beget" truth, it can also mean "to guess" truth, as one who is good at riddles)).

Maeringaburg was so gloriously made, and so finely crafted that it surpassed all other towns. The language Snorri uses to describe it suggests that it was built by dwarves, with their marvelous craftsmanship. The heroic poems of the Poetic Edda give us further information about Atli's famed city. Atlakviða 13 and 14 describes Atli's land, in the south, where his lofty fortress is found beyond high mountains, murky forests, and in the midst of fully green plains. (Atlakviða 13.) Atli's glorious castle (his háu-borg; háu is "tall, lofty, glorious" ; a borg is a castle or city) has high watch-towers, with a grand, crafted hall. This hall is compared to Valhall, and no doubt was constructed in its very image, as the imagery of the shields and spears suggests. (Atlakviða 14.) The word used for "watchtowers" is "liðskjalfar djúpa", literally "deep gate-shelfs", a bench or seat on the edge of a fortress, the same word used to describe Odin's seat in Asgard from which he can see all the worlds. Atlamal in Groenlenzku 36 tells us that Atli's hall (inherited from his father Budli) was an estate or town surrounded by large, creaking gates, which again may be allusions to Valgrind, the gates of Asgard. In these passages we have three allusions to Odin's realm attached to Atli's palace-lands.

We have a glorious city beyond high mountains, murky forests, and in the midst of green plains, surrounded by high watch-towers, and a grand, crafted hall with shields and spears, surrounded by a giant, creaking gate, located in the world of men (Mannaheim) past the Black Sea on the borders of Asia near Turkland, and comparable only to the most glorious cities of Troy and Constantinople. Here is where Odin and his men spent their exile ; here is where Dietrich spent his time amongst the Amalians, Halfdan's exiled officer corps.

As Mimir, king over the dwarves, was ever Odin's fast friend and uncle, when Odin and his men were exiled amongst men, Mimir must have directed his dwarves to help build a glorious city outside the jurisdiction of the Vanir, nestled in mountain valleys. The description of the journey in Atlakviða suggests that this mountain-valley city may have been built up from the underworld, as the journey goes through mountains and across the Murkwood, which mythologically lies in the Northeast of the Underworld, and into the grassy plains, which describes the warmer realms of Mimir and Wyrd. Dwarves were often known for underworld kingdoms in the midst of mountains, and so it is logical to assume that the dwarves must have come up from Mimir's realms and helped build this glorious town for Odin.

While Odin was here, he collected the finest of men, the most glorious nobles, to help him in his task. The descriptions make it likely that Maeringaborg had its own replica of Valhall. It is possible that the Einheriar, or those still living who were candidates for the Einheriar, were found here in this Valhall of Mannheim. Odin and his champions, while sojourning amongst men, gained a reputation for being champions who defeated giants and had great powers of victory. Skadi joined Odin in Maeringaborg and there they bore lineages of men. Odin foresaw that the Aesir would be welcomed back into Asgard, and was therefore hopeful that a way could be found to do so. Odin tried to secure the Niebelung Hoard in order to pay wergild for the crimes for which he was exiled, and when this failed, he was able to infiltrate the giants, discover their plans for invasion, and get this to the Vanir in order to help stave off the invasion. For his prowess in battle, the Vanir restored him to his kingdom, and he and his Aesir moved North and moved back amongst the gods. When he left the realm of men, some men assumed he had died, while others knew that he went to live eternally in the heavens.