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Ancient Greek Battle for Tegea (560 BC)

Herodotus’ account for the Tegean War (1.65-1.68) indicates that it was long and difficult for Sparta. It began under one pair of Kings, Leon and Agesicles but was concluded in the reigns of the next pair, Anaxandrides and Ariston. It is debatable then that the war must have lasted c590-580 B.C. and concluded c560-550 B.C.

The situation with the helots plagued on the Spartans mind, there were no plans for any far off conquests of new lands, but anxiety existed that if Sparta did not control the neighboring city-states, the city-states would come to invade the un-walled city of Sparta. Xenophobia existed, anything foreign was immediately suspected of treachery.

Though they had failed in previous attempts to defeat the Tegeas, the oracle predition of the ultimately victory spurred the Lacedaemonians on.

It is not sure how the truce happened between the two, but it was probably a number of small skirmishes and a few battles, but it is certain that Tegea moved away from any form of democracy and turned into an oligopoly, just like the Spartans would have wished. Sparta finally did win the last major confrontation between the two and forced or succumbed Tegea into political change. When they conquered their neighbor, Tegea, they set up a truce with them rather than annex their land and people. They demanded instead an alliance. Tegea would follow Sparta in all its foreign relationships, including wars, and would supply Sparta with a fixed amount of soldiers and equipment. In exchange, the Tegeans could remain an independent state. This was a brilliant move on the part of the Spartans. In a short time, Sparta had formed alliances with a huge number of states in the southern part of Greece.

Herodotus, describes a very fanciful version of the subjection of Tegea, in which the Spartans again consulted the Oracle at Delphi for a second time, he says:

“Throughout the whole of the early contest with the Tegeans, the Lacedaemonians met with nothing but defeats; but in the time of Kings Anaxandrides and Aristo, fortune had turned to their favor.

They asked of Delphi, “Which god they must propitiate to prevail in the war against the Tegeans”. The Pythoness said that before they could prevail, they must remove to Sparta the bones or Orestes, the son of Agamemnon. Another utterance of the Delphic oracle promised that Sparta would become ‘protector’ of Tegea.

A Spartan called Lichas who had traveled to Tegea, befriended a blacksmith working in his shop. The smith told him a story about wanting to dig a well but coming across a grave 7 cubits in length, after checking to see if the body was still in it (which the bones were) he reburied it again. At the time of the tale, this just seemed like another interesting story that friends would speak about. But in light of what the oracle had said repeated the story to his countrymen.

The Lacedaemonians quizzed Lichas who said he remembered the smithy had two bellows (which blows air into the furnace), which could relate to the line about the two winds. The hammer and anvil would do for the stroke and counterstroke, and the iron that was being wrought for the evil lying upon evil, iron was believed to have been discovered for the hurt of man.

The Spartans believed they had found Orestes.

Taxing Lichas to go back, the again entered Tegea and acquainted with his friend and ending up boarding with him. While there he secretly dug up the bone and headed back to Sparta.

Thus, believing that the oracle had been fulfilled every time the Spartans and the Tegeans made trial of each other’s skill in arms, the Spartans always had greatly the advantage. It should be noted that during the campaign of 479 B.C. at the Battle of Plataea, the Tegans were among the allies of the Lacedaemon and that they ‘traditionally’ had the privilege of taking the place of honor on the wing in the battle line. (Hdt 9.26.2)

So it seems that the war led not to the subjugation of Tegea, but to an alliance between that city and Lacedaemon. When the war had began, the Spartans may have hoped to treat Tegea as they had treated Messenia, they may have expected to absorb its territory and reduce its inhabitants to dependent status. But it did not turn out this way. There maybe a few reasons for this:

1) Tegea proved too tough to conquer, perhaps because of the difficulty of campaigning in the highland of Arcadia and too formidable to leave the Tegans unchecked, therefor an alliance was more exactable

2) The Delphic oracles utterances that Sparta was to be Tegeas ‘protector’, lead them away from a battle victory against Tegea. The Spartan’s were known to be very religious, and therefore not wanting to anger the gods.

3) The Spartans had just recently subjugated Messenia and the Spartan army was already responsible to make sure the Messenian’s did not successfully revolt. As the Messenians probably out numbered the Spartans 5 to 1 to subjugate Tegea as well would have made a chance of a successful revolt more likely.

4) Unlike the Messenias, Tegea stood between Sparta and Argos their eternal nemesis. To reduce Tegea to the value of helots would not be tenable to keep as the warriors of Argos could at anytime invade Tegea without the Spartans having any idea. Better to arm Tegea and leave the city as a ‘buffer’ between Sparta and Argos, almost like an advance post or early warning system in alarming the Spartans against any advance on Sparta.


Updated Database

Updated database has been released.  This release includes:

  • We were able to finally correct the Unicode character issues with names and places.
  • Updated Tegen’s
  • Many correction to places
  • New branch of Stinchcomb (very interesting)
  • Corrected Bastian branch

We look forward to get updates from those that know their branch of the family better.


Letter from Rudolf Tegen, 1937

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company

Albany Wisconsin
August 23 1937
Mr. Herman Tegen
Mendota Ill.

Dear Sir:

Some time ago our agent Mr. E.B. Wright informed me of our namesake at Mendota, and the possibility of family connections. I have been curious ever since, and thought I would write direct.

The name Tegen is not a very familiar name hereabouts, and I have always understood there were few of that name on this side of the big puddle. And so let us try and see what we know about ourselves and perhaps in this manner we may find we are nuts off the same tree.

Of course my recollection of Germany, and my father are non-existing. Being only a year of age when father died, and less than two when we four boys came over with mother. But I can give you the history as I have it.

My mother (nee Leverence) married Fred Tegen a widower with four children, John, Christ, Fred, and Gustave. And they had four boys of which I am the youngest. Our home place was Oering, near Oldesloe which is between Hamburg and Kiel I think. My father is buried there, and no one except a niece of mine has ever been back, and that was during the war.

In speaking of this matter to my brother Henry who was twelve when we left there, he tells me father had a brother named Peter, and that he had left Germany before we, and as he recalls it he thinks had immigrated to Australia. But of that he is not sure. But I recall mother mentioning that name at one time, telling me I come near being named after him. That is all we know of him.

But another twig of that tree, connected, but I do not know how close, blew in to Wisconsin in about three years later, and we have had contact with them several time. This family settled down at Two Rivers Wisc., whereas mother came to fathers first wife’s relation at Manitowoc Wis seven or eight miles south of Two Rivers.

My father was by trade a weaver, and was leading the home town band I am told. That is all I know of his history, except that he had married into a Meyer family of which there were a number immigrated to Manitowoc Wisc and when he died, they took the children of the previous marriage to their sister off mothers hands. And that the youngest one became ill after arriving here, and was always calling for mother. So for his sake they sent for us also and practically took us under their wings.

Mother had two bothers immigrate to Illinois one of these two resided at Park Ridge. I recall visiting him at the time of the Worlds Fair in 1892, and again back in 1905 or 1906 when I was station agent at Wheeling Ill for a time. There are several children, and I think August is still around there some where on a truck farm.

We are four brothers, Henry, John August and myself, Henry is farming near Kewaunee Wis, John and August are laborers at Fond Du Lac Wis, and I am holding down the job of telegraph and station agent here.

Of the other half of the family only two are alive. William the oldest near Milwaukee, and Gustave on a farm at Manitowoc.

Now if you can find any connection in that mix-up I am sure you know more about our family than I do.

Just the same, If ever you happen in this vicinity, I assure you of a hearty welcome, a good nights lodging and will not leave you or yours go away hungry. That is the best I can do for you, except we might exchange a case of can milk for a case of canned ?egt. HA HA. Any way, I ??? hear from you.Sincerely
R.H. Tegen

Rudolf Tegen, 1937
* 27 July 1893
+ 26 July 1957


Letter from Johan Fredrick Tegen, 1899

Tegen family research is not new this or even last century. It has been going on for centuries. Here is a letter that help close the gaps in the branches of the tree:

My Grandfather Johan Ditley Tegen was carpenter, and was born in Sulfelt near Oldeslir, Holsten 1759. My father Johan Casper Tegen, was born in Sulfelt 1792. My father’s brother Hans Henniek Tegen, was married and had several children. His wife and children emigrated to Utah, U.S.A. after his death.

— Johan Fredrick Tegen, Tannum near Randers, July 1, 1899


Letter from John Casper Tegen, 1866

Tegen family research is not new this or even last century. It has been going on for centuries. Here is a letter that help close the gaps in the branches of the tree:

I have met Hans Hennick Tegen, residing in Grays Lake Illinois. He was born in Sulfelt, Holsten, he is German, and is very likely related to the Tegens in Denmark, but as yet we have been unable to connect the two families.

— Johan Casper Tegen, Lanskov, 1866



Our world is getting smaller and smaller with every passing decade. Our customs, beliefs and language differ, but the desire to find our common roots do not. Some of the standardization of genealogical research is to define a common group of symbols that correspond to the most used dates of a persons life (birth, marriage, death, … ). Listed below are the some of the symbols used to communicate these important dates between multiple languages and nations. They are also best used to explain exactly which date goes with which event.

* Birth
~ Christened / Baptism
oo Marriage
o|o Divorce
o-o Common Law
+ Death
[] Buried

Coat of Arms

The Tegen Coat-of-Arms, shown here, was researched for its existence in 1986. A company in San Diego, California, that specializes in family heraldry, was able to uncover the emblem. It is documented in a German volume “Wappenbuch, J. Siebmacher”, Nürnberg, 1896, 1901, pp. 59.

A Coat-of-Arms is granted by the government to those who have an official capacity in the government or who own property. tegen-coat-of-arms-200wThe Tegen Coat of Arms is registered in J. Siebmacher’s gross und allgemeines WAPPENBUCH. Verlag von Bauer and Raspe, Nürenberg, 1896, pp. 59. The actual Coat-of-Arms is the shield, armor face and star above the armor face. The vines and the tapestry was added for artistry.

I have a copy of the page the coat-of-arms came from, but would enjoy to double verify this information. So if anyone can locate the book “J. Siebmacher’s gross und allgemeines WAPPENBUCH” and send a image of the entire page, that would help verify this part of the research.

A coat of arms is an emblem used on shields and other implements of war. Coats of arms, invented in the Holy Land during the Crusades, were introduced to England by Richard I. They were originally painted on the shields of soldiers to identify them. Later, the Crown granted the right to use a coat of arms to an individual to identify them in battle. Then a coat of arms became a reward for performing a heroic deed, making a notable achievement, or holding a prominent position.


What is in a name?

Tegen can have various spellings.  “Tegen” is likely not the original spelling.  However, what we do know is:

  • Tegen in Dutch means “against”. You get lots of giggles when you are in the Netherlands and you say your last name.
  • Tegen (or Degenhardt) in Old High German means “young warrior, strong”
  • Tegen in Latin means “covering”
  • Celtic/Cornish meaning of Tegen/Tegan is “precious jewel/gem”.  Girls will have the first name of Tegen.

However, most surnames have roots in a place or occupation. Degenhardt has some promise since that dates around 1200 and if you take off “hardt” (meaning “heart”), you are left with “Degen”.  German “D” and “T” are difficult to distinguish between.  Also keep in mind, that during this time, French and German borders were in flux and words from one got absorbed into others.  For example French for “hard” was “hardy, brave and strong”.  Not too far off.

Tegen in “Low German” “teege” or “tithe” or ten percent.  A person who collected taxes for the church collected 10% of peasant belongings.  They were the “tithe” collector.  Not a flattering occupation to have but it would explain the Tegen Coat-of-Arms.