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Germans southward and westward onto the Rhine-Danube Frontier. The basic Germanic political structure was the tribe, headed by a chief who was elected for his ability as a war leader. It was these tribes that resulted in Rome's losing control of the great frontier. The Roman and Germanic cultures greatly clashed. The Germanic religion was polytheistic, their society was a warrior aristocracy, and finally their societal structure was a mobile one. By 370 A.D., the tribe had become nations led by warrior kings. It was at this time that the Huns swept out of central Asia westward until they encountered two Germanic nations of Visigoths and Ostrogoths. This was the spark of many years of invasions and warfare that provoked the downfall of the Romancontrolled frontier. The following information describes some of the Germanic tribes such as Franks, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, Angles, Saxons, Ostrogoths, Vandals and Lombards. The Huns Originating in central Asia, the Huns were a Mongolian tribe who invaded southeastern Europe c. AD 370 and managed to build a remarkable empire. In their nomadic endeavors, the Huns crossed paths with the Ostrogoths and Visigoths and were able to maintain their dominance, especially at the Danubian frontier of the Roman empire. This clan of Asiatic warriors invaded Gaul in 451, which became the unofficial center of their civilization. Although the Huns were seemingly primitive pastoralists, they did maintain a distinct, multifaceted society. The frontier along the Danube became the site for trade, where the Huns obtained silk and wine through annual fairs. Slaves captured in battle helped to define this civilization by bolstering the economy, whether it be through the strong output of their menial labor or through the slave sales market in Rome. Hunnic art added an interesting dimension to the culture as well. Art was expressed in the forms of bronze cauldrons and vessels. Hunnic women donned the latest in necklaces and bracelets, the jewels being anything from coral, carnelian, mother-of-pearl, quartz, pyrite, lapis and even Egyptian paste, which may have been obtained through their nomadic travels. It is unquestionable, however, that although the Huns made noteworthy achievements in both the arts and economics, their unparalleled warring strategies remain most remembered. Armed with their signature bow and arrow, the Huns fought the Germans under King Ruglia, whose successors (Atilla and Bleda) ruled together. However, Atilla’s aggressive foreign policies (including having issued an ultimatum to the Eastern Roman empire demanding monetary tribute) led to a series of wars that had mixed results. About 445, Atilla assassinated his brother and took upon himself the challenge of suppressing the Roman advances. A series of attacks were made by both parties. While the Huns were not exactly successful, the expeditions did introduce wealth (through the acquisition of gold), which consequently brought structure to a previously ambiguous governmental system. Now, Atilla adopted autocratic methods and even declared when his people would enter war and remain in peace. Also, the leader had an administration whom he chose (comparable to a political cabinet) and commenced a system of collecting food and tribute from his subjects. Atilla continued his military undertakings in Gaul (present day France) but was finally defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains by concerted Roman and Visigothic forces. Yet surprisingly, that was his only defeat. In 452 the tribe sacked several Italian cities; however, they left due to the lack of resources needed to feed his people. They were even routed in 455 by a combination of tribes (including the Gepidae, Ostrogoths, Heruli, and others) in a great battle on the river Nedao and were ultimately ostracized by the Eastern Roman empire. From that point on, the Huns remained voiceless in the changing face of history. The Ostrogoths The Ostrogoths are the eastern division of the Goths that had split into western and eastern kingdoms. The Ostrogoth King Ermanarich created a huge kingdom that was attacked and soon overrun by the Huns from central Asia in about 370. They were then put into the army of the victors, and the Ostrogoths did not regain their freedom until 453, with the death of Attila. Until this time they had settled in Pannonia. From there they migrated into Italy.
spilt the empire between his sons Honorius and Acradius. There was also a great deal of peace and prosperity. who then became sole ruler of Italy. under a treaty made the Visigoths the first independent barbarian nation within the Roman Empire. In 382. Although the Ostrogoths were a barbarian people. before his death. . and the Visigoths were forced to withdraw from Italy. They were pushed west by attacks from the Huns. After Theodoric's reign. The Franks The Franks. In 488 the Ostrogoths were commissioned by the Emperor Zeno to attack Odoacer. as they are known today. which caused conflict between them and orthodox Roman Catholics. Alaric soon deposed Attalus and besieged Rome for the third time. Visigoths allied with Rome in 394. Alaric surrounded Rome. Soon after this Alaric died and the Visigoths moved northward towards Spain. It was the Franks who created the strongest and most stable barbarian kingdom in the days after the Western Roman Empire had collapsed. Under Theodoric the old Roman law. close-minded. Theodosius. Then the Ostrogothic state and people disappeared from history. The most important Ostrogoth leader was Theodoric the Great. the Visigoths relinquished their allegiance with Rome. were a barbaric tribe. when Theodosius died. Eighteen years of hard fighting and devastation of the countryside were needed before the last Ostrogothic army was destroyed. the western emperor Honorius. refused to recognize Alaric's needs for supplies and land. An antibarbarian party took over Rome after Stilicho's death and ordered that wives and children of the tribesmen who served in the Roman army be killed. Theodosius. In 409. they fought against them. The tribal soldiers then returned to serve under Alaric. the most direct descendants of the Franks are the Dutch and the Flemish-speakers of Belgium. In 401. They came to inhabit the former wealthy Roman provinces of Gaul and became the most powerful of the Germanic tribes. in Italy. who reigned from AD 493 to 526. a German usuper. Tribal loyalty came before loyalty to the confederation and because of this the confederation was extremely weak. In 395. when it was overthrown by Emperor Justinian. The Ostrogoths became Arian Christians. While in Rome Alaric and his troops took everything with them and burned things that were in their way. but was defeated by the Roman general Flavius Stilicho. Odoacer surrendered in 493 on the condition that he was allowed to retain his half of the kingdom but he was killed by Theodoric. They helped protect the civilized world against other barbarians. The Visigoths The Visigoths. Honorius. The second invasion also ended in defeat. Roman ruler at the time. The name "Frank" is closely related to the word that means "fierce" or "free" in the Frankish language. taxation. Even though Alaric was eager for peace. Alaric's huge loss did not prevent him from attacking again. and Alaric I led the Visigoths in the Roman army against the Huns. were a Germanic tribe who eventually became the French. the Ostrogothic kingdom continued to exist until the middle of the sixth century. their kingdom was inherited by Alaric I. as he did. and administrative systems were continued unbroken. From a linguistic point of view. Living on the delta of the Danube River. also known as the Goths. Allies that were in the city opened the gates for Alaric and for three days his troops occupied Rome. Alaric decided to invade Italy. increasing his military strength. The early Franks were a loose confederation of tribes who shared a similar culture. but this time Alaric constrained the Senate at Rome to pay a large endowment to the Visigoths.When they went into Italy they wanted to adopt Roman culture and to be accepted and equals with the Romans. After Alaric's death the Visigoths roamed and were vulnerable to attacks. The empire was now permanently split into eastern and western empires. This led Alaric to attack Rome once more and the Senate ended up paying an endowment to Alaric and granted Alaric the right to go and negotiate with Honorius. Honorius lifted his blockade and appointed Attalus as western emperor. paid no attention to what Alaric wanted and refused to set up a meeting for the negotiations to take place. He attempted to secure good diplomatic relations with his German neighbors by offering his daughters and sons to their kings in marriage.
The greatest of the Burgundian kings was Gundobad. After AD 700. Childeric was the father of Clovis (481-511). became king with the votes of the Frankish nobles and papal approval. He drove the Gallic Visigoths into Spain and absorbed much of the Burgundian kingdom as well as much of the territory of the Alemanni into his kingdom. they fought on the side of Aetius. The few survivors fled to the territory surrounding Lake Geneva in Switzerland. he was also the ruler of a vast domain that was gained by his military exploits. who reigned from 473 to 517 AD. Years later. East German tribesmen.22). after repeated invasions. a family of ambitious landowners who served as court advisors to the Merovingians. the Burgundians narrowly escaped destruction. The Vandals . Childeric. married Clovis. the Burgundian princess. Pepin crushed the Lombards of Italy and gave the newly conquered lands to the pope. p." (Jones. Lyon became the capital of the Burgundian Kingdom. were great allies of Rome. The Burgundians The Burgundians. The rise of the Franks under Clovis committed the Burgundians as allies to the Franks in which they helped Clovis to defeat the Visigoths in 507 AD It was twice that the Burgundians faced destruction. Finally. like many other Germanic tribesmen. (d. So much the Roman allies. extended Frankish dominion as far south as the Somme River. the Merovingians gradually lost control of the Frankish kingdom to the Carolingians. son of Charles Martel. his greatest contribution being Burgundian law. Burgundians sought their place in history through military alliances." and made him the first Holy Roman Emperor. In 484. These territories later became the Papal states and this agreement is known as the Donation of Pepin. Pepin the Short. and having embraced the Roman Rite herself. their former allies. The Huns attacked in 456 AD. an act which made him king of the Franks in the eyes of the pope. he sponsored a more significant law code. he formulated a law code for his Burgundian subjects. Charlemagne followed up his victories in these areas by converting most of the people to Christianity and he was justly honored for his military and religious activities. the Lex Romana Burgundinum. Clotilda. the Burgundians. Clovis also converted to Orthodox Christianity. this time benefit of his Roman subjects. The Merovingians took their name from the chief of the tribe. "[w]hich applied also to cases in which both Romans and Burgundians were involved. the Burgundians were attacked by the Franks. He built up a capable bureaucracy. In addition. and their kingdom was annexed. However. they moved to the valley of the Rhine River where they occupied eastern Gaul. However. and thus hastened the splintering of Western Europe into smaller kingdoms. in which the Muslim forces were defeated by the Carolingian general Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer). the Lex Gundobada. or Lex Burgundionum. Clovis was a ruthless warrior and he and his immediate successors destroyed all resistance within their empire. Emperor of the Romans. In return for this ecclesiastic recognition. 481). In the Battle of Chalons (451 AD). Merovich and his successor. who was one of the leaders (reguli) of the Salian Franks. a fair judicial system. the first ruler of the Merovingian dynasty. They gave their name to the region that still remains today as the region Burgundy. Pope Leo III (795-816) crowned Charlemagne "Charles Augustus. were Arian Christians.The concept of the Franks as a people was first realized under the reign of the Merovingian dynasty. the Burgundian kings were given the title of Master of the Soldiers. But later in 554 AD. The end of the Carolingian era began in 843 when Charlemagne's grandsons divided the empire into three parts. the most notable of all the Frankish rulers was Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Merovech (Merowen). Later. On Christmas day of the year AD 800. with the aid of Aetus. in 493 AD. and other Germanic peoples against Attila and the Huns. and revived the arts. the Visigoths. helped convert Clovis to Roman Christianity. a Roman war hero. Frankish troops secured the fate of Christian Europe in the Battle of Tours. the second time being fatal.
passed into the barbarian hands. When the Lombards --whose original name. The Lombards The Lombards. The Vandals carved out big estates and made their homes among the Romans. Today's usage of the word "vandal" reflects the dread and hostility the tribe precipitated in other people. Hippo. The warriors. Gaiseric. But the relations of the Arian Vandals with the Catholic inhabitants were never better than strained. always to the Vandals’ advantage. To the Germanic people. The political landscape in Italy was given a German overlay by the Lombards. However. They succumbed quickly when their kingdom was invaded by an army from the Eastern Roman Empire in 533. they had to deal with several earlier waves of German invaders (particularly the Goths) as well as the resurgent Eastern Romans (who were a power in Italy into the 8th century). The Vandals. they elected as their king a crippled son of a slave. nor did the Lombard duchies which survived the Frankish onslaught in the South. Langobards. grew weak. Cleaning up operations were still going on when Gaiseric turned restlessly to a new project: he built a swift fleet and launched himself on a lucrative career of piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. The Vandals were a Germanic tribe of Jutland (now in Denmark). This is approximately when they began their conquests over Rome. they had not maintained the ancient Roman forms of government during their domination of the Peninsula. others were destroyed in a series of little-known wars. They left little behind but lingering bitterness. It is undoubtedly one of history's most hectic and confusing periods of time.). The Vandals persecuted the Roman majority. But unlike earlier Germans. One by one. by their looting and pillaging of the many villages they conquered. In the end. St. technically. Gaiseric’s web of entangling treaties foiled the plans of Roman diplomats and Germanic kings. the Vandals disappeared as a distinct people. They became Italians in the process and gave their name to the northern Italian region of Lombardia. anger. As the Roman world collapsed. the end of the Lombard kingdom in Italy. especially the Romans. They martyred scores of Catholic and provided medieval hagiographers with many grim tales for their lives of the saints. Soon afterward. Basically. . too. Augustine. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD they settled along the Danube River. and a new desire for justice. In the 420s. the gleaming Roman cities with their abundant granaries fell to the hungry Vandals. much of Spain was the playground of the ferocious Vandal tribes. the Lombards were stomped by the better organized Franks. For 50 years. refers to their long beards-descended on Italy in the 6th century. seduced by the luxuries that their rich land supplied. Gaiseric barely managed to hold animosities in check. Augustine died in his city during the 14-month-long Vandal siege. this was considered to be the “heroic age” which was a time of adventure and great displays of power. They left administrative chores to Roman bureaucrats.The period between 406 and 572 saw the Germanic barbarians complete their migrations into the West. ruthless king was a gifted conspirator and a genius of political maneuver. who migrated to the valley of the Odra (Oder) River about the 5th century BC. were a Germanic tribe that began in southern Sweden and worked their way down into Italy. many tribes reached a peak of brief glory. who had arrived there in 409 after crossing the Rhine in 406. Gaiseric ferried all of his people across the Strait of Gibraltar and led them east along the African coast. under pressure from the local Romans and the expanding Visigoths. twenty years after the last of the Eastern Romans were expelled from Italy (751 AD. The people of Hippo were rallied to the defense of their town by their bishop. They melted in with the highly mixed local population and tried to continue to live nondistinct lives. corrupt. and under his successors prejudice erupted into violence. decided to move on to the rich provinces of Roman North Africa. or Langobards. This proud. This movement from Sweden to Italy was gradual: it took four centuries. This was. and disorganized. Gratuitous cruelty was only one symptom of the Vandals’ swift degeneration after Gaiseric’s reign. In 429. where eventually they spoke Italian and became Catholic. The Vandal conquest of North Africa took a decade to complete. Italy became another Germanic area.
While the papacy controlled extensive lands in central Italy. The Moslems had conveniently removed the authority of the Eastern Roman emperor from Italy (with a little help from the Lombards). . the Lombards got involved in political arguments with the Pope. but someone was needed to keep the Germans in Italy (and elsewhere) from controlling the papacy. The papacy created a balance of power between the various German kings that provided the Church an independence it would have never had if there were an effective Roman. The papacy was a prize every Medieval magnate wanted to possess. Out of all of this came a papacy that became an arbiter of Medieval Politics. For several centuries the protector of the papacy became the Franks (and later the French).Perhaps most importantly. emperor. But the popes knew that they could not survive long if they were the creators of one king or emperor. and this was what caused the papacy to call upon the Franks for aid. or Holy Roman. the pope was never temporal power.