"At first I wanted to erase the Roman name and convert all Roman territory into a Gothic Empire: I longed for Romania to become Gothia, and Athaulf to be what Caesar Augustus had been. But long experience has taught me that the ungoverned wildness of the Goths will never submit to laws, and that without law, a state is not a state. Therefore I have more prudently chosen the different glory of reviving the Roman name with Gothic vigour, and I hope to be acknowledged by posterity as the initiator of a Roman restoration, since it is impossible for me to alter the character of this Empire."

Athaulfe, König der Visigoten, c411 AD[1]


There were many Germanic tribes, however, I have identified the more significant tribes below based on their impact on western Europe.[2] Others like the Alamanni, Teutones, and Suevi which are not here are introduced alphabetically at this website under 'The Germans'. An early invasion of Roman territory by the Germanic Cimbri and Teuton tribes was defeated by the Roman general Marius in 102 BC. However, 50 years after the Teutones the Helvetii from Switzerland and the Suevi from Germany invaded Belgium and France (Gaul).

Germanic Tribal Homelands: c50 AD


The Germanic migrations were a significant factor in the creation of Europe.[3] After the conquest of Rome and an attempt by some Germanic tribes to continue Roman culture and institutions, Europe was transformed by the Germanic tribes. The Germanic tribes shaped the later European English, French, Scandinavians, and Germans nations. From their diverse cultures and their responses to Rome would arise the singular idea of Europe and European culture. To these Germanic people we owe such diverse concepts as dueling and Christmas day. We also owe them for the creation of the English language and their sense of humour. The Germanic invaders re-invigorated the people of Britain, despite their aggression as the Romans left England.

In c300-600, migrations involved four major peoples: the Alans, the Huns, the Germanic tribes, and finally the Slavs. Those migrations were both distinct and tied to one another. The Hunnish invasions, for instance, in part initiated the Alanic and Germanic expansions; the Germanic expansions in their turn displaced many Slavs who migrated into Europe. The most significant migrations were those by the Germanic tribes.[4] Archaeologists have confirmed that the geographical origin of the Germanic peoples was in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany.[5]

Much of their tribal histories was recorded by the Romans. The Germanic people had been known to the Romans since at least the second century BC but the two groups had co-existed relatively peacefully. Many Germans had been allowed to cross the border, and they had settled as farmers and slaves. Some Germans even became soldiers in the imperial army. The Germans admired what was worthy in Roman civilization and the Romans admired the Germans' physical strength and the simplicity of values. The Roman historian Tacitus (c55 - 117) provides a description of the Germans in his book Germania.[6]


In c1570-1200 BC , the Germanic tribes probably occupied southern Sweden, the Danish peninsula, and northern Germany between the Ems and Oder Rivers, and the Harz Mountains.[7] Archaeological evidence indicates that in c750 BC a relatively uniform Germanic people was still located in southern Scandinavia and along the North Sea and Baltic coasts. In c200-50 BC, the Vandals, Gepidae, and Goths migrated from southern Sweden and occupied the southern Baltic coast between the Oder and Vistula Rivers. The Celts who had inhabited much of western Germany were pushed into corners like northern Iberia and Switzerland. Tacitus recorded that according to their ancient songs the various Germanic peoples were conscious of their relationship with one another.[8] The tribes developed a democratic warrior culture, which developed into a kingship as they migrated south. As they came in contact with the Romans and Romanised Celts and delegated authority, they developed aristocratic classes among the warriors and nobility.[9]

The most significant aspect of the Germanic social structure was the comitatus (a Latin term invented by Tacitus). The comitatus was a warrior group voluntarily attached to a lord or king. Founded on loyalty oaths the comitatus protected the lord or king who granted individuals the comitatus' protection and awarded special gifts. The Germanic tribal economy was based on reciprocity and goods and services were distributed as gifts and mutual obligations amongst the members of the tribe. The comitatus was a sophisticated military organization built entirely on the economic logic of reciprocity.[10]

In the early Roman Empire, Germanic weapons, both offensive and defensive, were characterized by a shortage of metal. Their chief Germanic weapon was a long lance, and very few members carried swords. Germanic helmets and breastplates were almost unknown. A light wooden or wicker shield, sometimes fitted with an iron rim and sometimes strengthened with leather, was the only defensive protection. This lack of adequate equipment explains the swift, fierce rush with which the Germans would charge the ranks of the heavily armed Romans. If they became entangled in a prolonged, hand-to-hand grapple, where their light shields and thrusting spears were confronted with Roman swords and armour, they had little hope of success. Even by the 6th century, few of the Germanic peoples had adequate military equipment. None of the Germanic tribes evolved a force able to deal effectively with the Roman Justinian's heavily armed, mounted archers.[11]

Migration Causes

Germanic Invasions

In c150-450 the tribes moved with pressure from the migrating Huns into the weak Western Roman Empire.


Although the first great European migration was by the Celts in 650-400 BC, the migration of Germanic tribes beginning in c200 AD had a much greater impact.[12] The Germanic tribes eventually destroyed the western Roman Empire and drove the Celts into the corners of Britain. The Roman population of 60-70m people in c400 was protected by a standing Roman army of c110,000. However, in 410, Rome was occupied and much of the western Empire controlled by the Visigoths with a total population of c100,000 and a volunteer army of 25,000.[13] The fierce Germanic tribes clearly had a major impact on European history.

Six major German tribes; Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Lombards, and Franks helped fragment and collapse the Western Roman Empire. Several other tribes were also involved, the Alans and the Suevi in particular, although the Alans were an Iranian steppe people, not Germans. All six major tribes founded significant kingdoms, but only the Franks survived. The Franks gave their name both to France and as a label for all Western Europeans in languages like Arabic.[14] In England the Germanic invaders, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from northern Germany and Denmark, drove most of the original Celtic inhabitants into Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland in the far western regions of the British Isles. The invaders, whom for convenience we call the Anglo-Saxons, ignored most of the Roman achievements.

There were several tribes who migrated west, or south, into the Roman empire in what became an invasion. With so many tribes the causes were complex. In c300 AD there was one sure source of wealth in Europe: Rome. Rome represented security, food, running water for every city, rare spices, wealth, and Eastern trade goods; but the 'barbarian' tribes had few of these luxuries. The Germanic tribes came from northern Europe where temperature and climate is always a concern. In 1011, the Nile River froze: although Europe was warm in the late 300s, there was a marked cold period after 415.[15] Finally, there was the irresistible pressure of the westward moving Asian Huns, Avars, and Bulgarians. The Asian tribes were themselves pushed by the Chinese and they pushed the European Germanic tribes into the Roman Empire for protection.

The Huns appear to have migrated out of Mongolia in the 1st century AD, because of attacks by the Han Chinese.[16]. The Huns arrived north of the Black Sea in c371, they then crossed the Volga river and conquered the Alans. In c372, the Huns began their migration west into Europe and in 375, the Huns defeated the Ostrogoths who had provided Rome a buffer area. The Gothic defeat ultimately led to the Imperial collapse. The Huns and Alans together plundered Ostrogothic settlements, and conquered the eastern Ostrogoths in 376. The surviving Ostrogoths fled into Visigothic territory, although the Visigoths themselves were also soon under attack. Direct attacks on the eastern Roman empire began in 395 as the Huns attacked Armenia, Anatolia, and Syria. As the Germanic tribes fought their way into Western Europe they created the embryo nations that would become future European nation-states.[17]

The Huns were not Germanic tribe themselves, but were all mounted, expert horsemen who used a short, composite bow and traditional mounted archery tactics. Under Attila, the Huns achieved control over several rivals and developed a degree of tactical coordination. Supplementing their wealth by plunder and tribute from Roman cities to the south, the Huns maintained the loyalties of a number of tributary tribes including elements of the Gepidae, Scirii, Rugians, Sarmatians, and Ostrogoths. After provoking the West European invasions by the Germanic tribes in the fourth century, Attila and the Huns, directly invaded the Roman Empire and conquered much of central and eastern Europe. In 451-452, Attila attempted an invasion of France and Italy, which were successfully defended by Roman and Germanic troops. The Huns were defeated at the Battle of Châlons in 451 and in 453 when Attila died the Hunnic Empire collapsed. The Huns were followed into Europe by the Avars in 562, the Bulgars in the 670s, and the Magyars in c889. The Magyars settled in the Danubian plain and their descendants created modern Hungary. By the end of the fifth century, Roman imperial government had come to an end in the West as that half of the empire was thoroughly overrun by Germanic peoples. Political power shifted from the Romans to the Germans who, after invading the territory, settled and established independent kingdoms throughout western Europe. The Visigoths occupied Spain, the Burgundians held Provence, the Ostrogoths ruled Italy, and the Franks held Gaul, which became France.

Europe: c378

The Huns from Central Asia pushed the Germanic tribes west into Europe.


The Goths were an ancient Teutonic people, who left Sweden in c65 AD and from there migrated south into the Polish area of the Vistula basin, and then east into southern Russia. They may also have been flooded out of the Baltic area. Prior to the Gothic migrations, the Baltic Sea was not a sea but a lake. Geological events and erosions eventually joined the Baltic and North Seas. The Baltic coastal areas suffered devastating floods as the geological process slowly took place. Goth is a Latin word. The Goths called themselves the Gut-thiuda, "Gut" people.[18] The southern Russian Ostrogoths began a series of migrations again in the third century led by the Gothic king, Ostrogota. (These Goths were the first Germanic peoples to become Christians.) According to the Gothic historian Jordanes, the Goths came from Sweden across the Baltic Sea to the basin of the Vistula River. By 200 AD they had migrated as far south as the lower Danube, around the Black Sea. During that century Gothic armies and fleets ravaged Thrace, Dacia, and cities in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast. They captured and plundered Athens in c267, and threatened Italy. For about a century, wars between the Roman emperors and Gothic rulers devastated the Balkan territory and the northeastern Mediterranean region. Other tribes joined the Goths, and under the great king Ermanaric in the 4th century, a kingdom was established that extended from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

By 370 the Goths had divided into two separate groups. By this time the Goths had made inroads into the Roman empire, and divided into two very distinct groups, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths. By 300 these two Gothic groups controlled a vast amount of territory including much of the area north of the Danube River and the Balkans. The Ostrogoths (Low Latin Ostrogothae, "the eastern Goths") inhabited a large kingdom east of the Dniester River on the shores of the Black Sea in the Ukraine and Belarus. The Visigoths (Low Latin Visigothi, "the good Goths" or "the noble Goths") were the western Goths, with a domain extending from the Dniester to the Danube rivers. The Germanic tribes would have been just a footnote in history had it not been for the Goths. The Goths overran the western Roman Empire and permanently set Europe on a new cultural direction.

Europe: 410


The first Germanic tribe to penetrate the empire was the Visigoths in 251 when King Cniva, with a large force of Goths successfully crossed the Danube into Roman territory and laid siege and captured first Nicopolis, and then Philippopolis. A reputed 100,000 people were killed by the Visigoths in the siege and subsequent massacre. The Goths had split into two groups in the second century, the East Goths, or Ostrogoths, had remained in southern Ukraine and Russia; and the West Goths, or Visigoths, who drove the Romans out of Dacia (modern Romania and western Bulgaria). In 269, after a desperate fight the Romans defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Naissus in Serbia.[19] Ultimately the Romans withdrew from the area of Bulgaria and Romania, which was then quickly occupied by the Visigoths for the next century. The Visigoths were receptive to Roman life, liked Roman luxuries, and adopted Arian Christianity. Many Visigothic men were recruited into the Roman army, as foederati (allies) and some were appointed to offices of state in Constantinople. When the westward drive of the Huns from the steppes of Russia overwhelmed the Ostrogoths, the emperor Valens of Constantinople was willing to let the Visigoths move into the empire in 376 to defend its Danube frontier. However, when the Visigoths arrived in the assigned territory south of the Danube there was neither food nor land available. The Visigoths then ran riot over the Balkans, and in several pitched battles routed several legions. On 9 August 378, the Visigoths utterly defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in Bulgaria, during which the Byzantine Emperor Valens was killed.[20] It was not until Flavius Theodosius was the Byzantine emperor that a lasting peace was made in c379, and the Visigoths settled down into Roman territory.

To help cope with the Visigoths, the emperor Honorius withdrew Roman garrisons to strengthen the Italian defence line. However, in 407, the legions in Britain rebelled because of Germanic and Celtic attacks and chose a soldier, Constantine III, to become emperor. He withdrew most of the Roman garrisons from Britain, crossed to Gaul with an army and was defeated by Honorius. In 410, the remaining Roman troops were apparently withdrawn and a desperate request for aid to Britain was rejected by the Emperor Honorius.[21] The Roman withdrawal from Britain was the trigger for the Angles and Saxons to increase their attacks on a vulnerable England. Not only was Britain eventually invaded by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, but the way was cleared for Germanic tribes to break through the poorly defended frontiers and overrun most of the Roman Empire's western provinces. Overwhelmed, the Roman armies were unable to expel the invaders and the Western Roman Empire, built up over the course of eight centuries, collapsed. Beginning in the third century, however, this situation of relatively peaceful co-existence changed as the Germanic tribes began exerting more pressure on the northern Rhine and Danube frontiers. As the Huns advanced, the Visigoths were forced to flee further into the Eastern Roman Empire.

The Visigoths, led by king Alaric, turned from Constantinople and proceeded south, sacking Greece in 395, and he then turned westward toward the Adriatic. The Visigoths invaded Italy in 402 but were defeated by the Roman General Stilicho in June 402 at the Battle of Verona. The Romans beat the Visigoths in March 403 and again at Florence in 406. Alaric put Rome under siege in 408, but lifted the siege for a large ransom in 409. Finally on 24 August 410 Alaric allowed his Visigoths to sack Rome in 410, which deeply shocked the empire.[22] Under Alaric's successors, the Visigoths moved across Gaul. They settled in Aquitaine in 418 and thus established the first Germanic kingdom on Roman territory. The Visigoths moved into Spain in c418, where they founded a kingdom at Toledo that lasted until the Muslim invasions of the eighth century. Theodoric I Balthas, died fighting as an ally of Rome against the Huns in 451 at the Battle of Châlons.

The most notable of the Spanish Visigothic kings was Euric, who reigned in c420-484. He was a son of Theodoric I. Under Euric, who declared his rule to be independent of any federation with Rome, the kingdom of Toulouse included almost all of Spain and most of Gaul west of the Rhône River and south of the Loire River. Euric introduced many aspects of Roman civilization and drew up a code of law combining Roman and German elements. Alaric II Balthas replaced his father as king of the Visigoths in 485 and established his rule over Spain and south-western France. In 507, Alaric II was killed in single combat by Clovis, king of the Franks at the Battle of Vouillé, and the Visigoths lost French Aquitaine. Visigothic rule in Spain was ended on 26 July 711 at the Battle of Guadalete, when they were utterly defeated by the Moors after a four-day battle.[23] Rodrigo, Rey de los Visigoths was the last Visigothic king.


In AD 375, as the Huns swept towards Europe from Asia they conquered the Ostrogoths, or East Goths, and pushed the Visigoths into the Roman Empire. However, many of the conquered Ostrogoths were compelled to join the vast horde that followed Attila in his expedition against Gaul in 451. When the Visigoths and Romans stopped the Huns in 451 at the Battle of Châlons many Ostrogoths were also killed. Not until the Huns were finally forced to retreat were the Ostrogoths able to regain their independence. The Ostrogoths settled south of Vienna when the Attila's kingdom fell apart, then the Ostrogoths moved slowly toward northern Italy. The Ostrogoths established a relatively short-lived, successor state of Rome in Italy and the Balkans, and briefly incorporated most of Spain and southern France. The Ostrogoths reached their zenith under their Romanised king Theodoric I the Great, who had been brought up at the Court of Constantinople, defeated his Germanic rival Odovacer in 489, and established Ostrogothic control over Italy.[24] Theodoric patronised such late Roman figures as Boethius and Cassiodorus, in c500-525. By mid-century, however, the Ostrogoths had been conquered by Rome in the Gothic War (535–553), a war with devastating consequences for Italy. The Ostrogoths and Byzantines (initially under Belasarius) fought five great battles before the last Ostrogothic king was killed at the Battle of Mount Lactarius in March 553.[25] The Ostrogoths finally accepted that Justinian ruled and then they marched out of Italy and merged with other tribes north of the Alps and disappeared as a people from history.

Theodoric was the Ostrogoths' greatest king who had spent ten years in Constantinople as a hostage, spoke both Latin and Greek and had developed a profound admiration for Rome. However, after conquering most of northern Italy he killed his rival and exterminated the rival's family. In 493-526, Theodoric successful governed Italy and large parts of the Balkans as both Constantinople's regent and as King of the Ostrogoths. The Ostrogoths took one-third of the land and houses and all military duties. The Romans kept the rest, and devoted themselves to peaceful pursuits. Gothic law applied to Goths, Roman law to Romans, but intermarriage was forbidden. Although Theodoric was an Arian Christian, he tolerated the Catholic, Jewish, and other faiths. He showed great concern for Roman culture and restored Roman monuments, including the Coliseum in Rome. But at his capital of Ravenna Theodoric showed the heights of civilization that could be achieved with a magnificent fusion of Germanic and Roman artistic skills.

Europe: 490

Jutes, Angeln, & Sachsen

Early in the fifth century, Roman British provinces were in revolt and a series of nominal emperors was acclaimed. Constantine III was declared the Western Roman Emperor by his garrison troops who left Britain with him in 407: the Romans never returned. All of Europe was aware of the Roman struggles for power and their political and military disarray. On December 31, 406, the Vandals, Burgundians, Alans and Sueves, crossed the frozen Rhine River near Mainz, and invaded the Western Roman Empire.[26] The tribes understood immediately that there would be an opportunity to seize land in the power vacuum in England. In 410, the emperor Honorius sent the Britons an answer to their pleas for help, which confirmed that Britain was on its own. The predators included the Irish, and the Picts, but most dangerous were the coastal Germanic tribes who were seeking more land. In England the Germanic invaders, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from northern Germany and Denmark, made an increasing number of attacks and drove many of the original Celtic inhabitants to Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland.

At first this just meant trying to repel Frisian and Saxon pirates. Around 455, however, Hengest and Horsa from Jutland established themselves in what became the Kingdom of Kent. Evidently the Britons invited their future conquerors.

In their days Hengest and Horsa, invited by Wurtgern, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet; first of all to support the Britons, but they afterwards fought against them. The king directed them to fight against the Picts; and they did so; and obtained the victory wheresoever they came. They then sent to the Angles, and desired them to send more assistance. They described the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land. They then sent them greater support. Then came the men from three powers of Germany; the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes.[27]

The Venerable Bede said that the first Angles or Saxons arrived in c449. Bede also said that the South Saxon Ælla was the first bretwalda, or overlord of the Saxons. However, Ælla may have been killed by Aurelius Ambrosius at the Battle of Badon Hill, in c493-518. The story of Ambrosius has been assimilated into the Arthurian legends, and his victory is supposed to have checked the Germanic advance in England. Before long, however, the Celtic Britons were pushed back into the west, especially Wales and Cornwall. From there many escaped to what would become Brittany.[28]

The Germans organized themselves into several Kingdoms. In the south the Jutes established themselves in Kent and the Isle of Wight. In the north-east, the Angles established themselves in Mercia, East Anglia, Bernicia and Deira, which united to form Northumbria, and several smaller, subsidiary kingdoms. The Angles also gave their name to the whole of England (Angel land). Finally, in the south the Saxons, who remained a continental power, established the Kingdoms of the: South Saxons (now Sussex), East Saxons (now Essex), and West Saxons (now Wessex).

Vandali, Suevi, & Alani

The Vandals were a Germanic tribe from the overpopulated and frequently flooded coastal Baltic Sea who crossed over from Sweden to Jutland, Denmark, and migrated to the Oder River valley in c550 BC. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD they settled along the Danube River, and then prepared for their conquest of wealthy Rome. Some tribes had gone east into Slovakia and Hungary, but on 31 December 406 the Silingi Vandals, Burgundians, Alans, and Sueves, crossed the frozen Rhine River near Mainz.[29] These tribes overran the Roman defensive works in their successful invasion of the Western Roman Empire. The Vandals, led by their king Geiseric, pillaged their way across the Empire and arrived in Spain in 409. The Vandals were pushed out of both France and then Spain by the Franks and Visigoths.

It was in North Africa that Vandal civilization temporarily took root. Geiseric ferried across the Strait of Gibraltar in 429 and marched across North Africa to Tunis, killed St Augustine in a siege, and in 439 established a capital at Carthage. The Vandals established a despotic government based on their king and an exclusive court of nobles. Neither Romans nor average Vandals had a voice in political affairs. Geiseric built another fleet and raided Sicily and Italy, pillaging Rome in 455. The English word vandalism recalls their atrocities. A Vandal kingdom remained in North Africa until 533, when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian conquered their kingdom. After their defeat the Vandals faded from recorded history.

Europe: 530


The Burgundians were another eastern Germanic people who came from the island of Bornholm, Denmark. By the First Century AD they had settled on the Vistula in Poland and later migrated south. In 369, the Emperor Valentinian I enlisted the Burgundians in his war against the Alamanni. The Burgundians settled for a while in the area of modern Berlin, before being pushed westwards, and crossed the Rhine in 413.[30] However, in 411, the Burgundian king Gundahar set up a puppet emperor, Jovinus, in cooperation with Goar, king of the Alans. With the authority of the emperor whom he controlled Gundahar settled on the left (Roman) bank of the Rhine, between the river Lauter and the Nahe. The Burgundians seized Worms, Speyer, and Straßburg; as part of a later truce, the Emperor Honorius officially "granted" them the land.

Despite their new status as foederati, Burgundian raids into Roman Upper Gallia Belgica continued and were ruthlessly ended in 436, when the Roman general Aëtius called in Hun mercenaries who overwhelmed the Rhineland kingdom in 437. Gundahar was killed in the fighting, reportedly along with the majority of the Burgundian tribe. The remnant Burgundians were later settled near Lake Geneva under Gundioc in 443. In 451 AD they joined Aëtius in beating off the invasion of Attila at the Battle of Châlons, typically fighting on both sides. In 456 the supported Rome fighting against the Germanic Suevi in Spain. Finally, the Burgundians settled along the Rhone River in southern France (in Provence), confirmed by the many local Burgundies place names. Chilperich acceded in 470, fought off the expansive Visigoths and then defeated the aggressive Alamanni.

In 480 AD Gundobald and his brothers succeeded their brother Chilperich and Gundobald was appointed Roman Magister Militum in Gaul. While the Goths were fighting in Italy, Gundobald expanded his Burgundian kingdom. With Theodoric ruling Italy, the Burgundians and Franks made a complex series of marriage alliances with the Ostrogoths, but in 500 Clovis attacked the Burgundians. In the wars which followed Gundobald's brother Godigisel allied with the Franks and was killed. Then Gundobald switched sides and allied with the Franks against the Visigoths with pressure from the Alamanni. The Burgundians tried to expand again, but were defeated by Theodoric in 507 AD and again in 509 AD.[31] The record is silent after 509.


The Franks were a large group of Germanic tribes that lived along the middle and lower Rhine River. The Franks appeared in Roman Gaul in c253, quickly established as two principal groups: the Salian; and the Ripuarian. The Salian Franks inhabited the territory along the lower stretches of the Rhine, and the Ripuarian Franks lived along the middle Rhine. The Salian Franks were conquered by the Roman emperor Julian in 358 and became allies of Rome. During the early 5th century, when the Romans retired from the Rhine, the Salians established themselves north of the Loire River.[32]

The Franks migrated in a very different way than other tribes and had a greater impact. Unlike the other Germanic tribes, the Franks did not abandon their homeland. From the lower Rhine, they gradually expanded into northern Gaul late in the fifth century. Clovis I (king 482-511), united the Frankish tribes and deposed the last Roman governor in Gaul. The Franks defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Vouillé in 507 and then drove the Visigoths into Spain. The Franks conquered the Burgundians and eventually most of Gaul. In the next 300 years, other Frankish kings completed the conquest of Gaul and united western Europe. The Franks created many of the political and social institutions of the Middle Ages.

This all changed in 486 when Clovis, defeated the last western Roman ruler, Syagrius, at Soissons. After he defeated the Romans, Visigoths, Alamanni, and Burgundians, Clovis established the Frankish Merovingian empire. The nominal divisions amongst German tribes began to dissolve into the larger empire. Clovis established his capital at the Gaulish fort of Paris (named after the Celtic Parisi). Paris became a third Christian center after Rome and Constantinople. Much Christian culture would be preserved during these early centuries by the churchmen the Merovingians brought to their capital.

Frankreich was divided among Clovis' four sons, and for a century it went through several divisions and reunifications until finally consolidated by Clotaire II in 613. Power passed to the office of major domus, which existed in all of the Frankish kingdoms. In eastern Austrasia, however, the Carolingian family gained power and in 687 Pépin II d'Héristal subjected Neustria and Burgundy, setting himself up as major domus of a united Frankish kingdom. His son, Charles Martel, expanded the kingdom east and on 10 October 732 defeated the Moors at the Battle of Tours, near Poitiers. Frankish power rose further under Charles Martel's grandson, Charlemagne, who created much of modern Europe and France.[33]

Europe: c600


Like the other Germanic tribes, the Lombards migrated out of Scandinavia, presumably because of overpopulation. Legend has the Lombards as a small tribe called the Winnili, who changed their name to Langobardi (long beards) as they arrived at the Elbe River.[34] An early Roman report of c13 AD described the Lombards as '...more fierce than ordinary German savagery'.[35] By c150 the Lombards were still on the Elbe River, but had begun to expand their territory. In c166 6,000 Lombards crossed the Danube and invaded Serbia, where they were defeated by the Romans. It seems that the Lombards then withdrew from European aggression into the woods until in c300 most were absorbed by the Saxons. However, the Lombards began to migrate in c360, perhaps due to the colder climate and bad harvests at that time. They reached Austria in c489 and soon were defeated by the Huns, or Bulgars, their king killed, and made subject to the Huns. Eventually, under their new king Audoin, the Lombards turned on the Huns whom they slaughtered and pillaged. Audoin ruled in 546-565 and he led the Lombards back across the Danube to Serbia, where Justinian accepted them as Roman foederati.

A new, energetic king emerged: Alboin, who defeated the neighbouring Gepidae, made them his subjects, and, in 566, married Rosamundis the daughter of their king Cunimund. In 568, Alboin led the Lombards, together with other Germanic tribes (Bavarians, Gepidae, Saxons), and the Bulgars, across the Julian Alps with a population of around c500,000. Alboin invaded northern Italy because the Avars had pushed the Lombards out of Pannonia. The first important city to fall was Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friuli), in northeastern Italy, in 569. There, Alboin created the first Lombard duchy, which he entrusted to his nephew Gisulf. Soon Vicenza, Verona and Brescia fell to the Lombards. In the summer of 569, the Lombards conquered Milan. The area was then recovering from the terrible Gothic Wars, and the Lombards defeated the small Byzantine army. Pavia fell after a siege of three years, in 572, and became the first capital city of the new Lombard kingdom of Italy. In the following years, the Lombards conquered Tuscany and established two duchies, Spoleto and Benevento. The Byzantines managed to retain control of the area of Ravenna and Rome, linked by a thin corridor running through Perugia.[36]


1              Cited by Kelley L. Ross, PhD, SUCCESSORS OF ROME: GERMANIA, 395-774 at,

2              After some disappointment in finding a useful definition of Germanic, I have used Germanic to indicate a tribe originating in Northern Europe and a cousin to the Teuton tribe, sharing a common German language and warrior culture. I have called the people Germans. Some authors have found that distinction laborious and have used German in lieu of Germanic, but that creates an unproven direct link to modern Germany. Germanic refers mainly to the tribal groups in Europe that spoke similar Germanic languages derived from Celtic sources. Germanic languages probably came into existence around the second century BC: that is, they became distinct from Celtic languages. In both Celtic and German, the word, "German," means something like "the fierce men" or, contrarily, "the friendly men."

3              Adapted from The Germanic Invasions of Western Europe,; Germanic peoples at,; Germanic Tribes at,; German Tribes at,; Richard Hooker, European Middle Ages, The Germans at,; F Roy Willis, and Robert A Guisepi, The Germanic Tribes, and Huns at,;  German Tribes, THE TRIBES: OVERVIEW at,

4              The Germans at,

5              Most of the maps are from The Germanic Invasions of Western Europe at, Also see the maps at Vandals at,; and Germanic peoples at,

6              The Germanic Invasions of Western Europe,

7              Encyclopaedia Britanninca, Germanic peoples, also called Teutonic Peoples at ,

8              Ibid.

9              The Germans at,

10           Ibid.

11           Encyclopaedia Britanninca, op. cit.

12           The Germans at,

13           Ibid.

14           See Kelley L. Ross, PhD, SUCCESSORS OF ROME: GERMANIA, 395-774 at,

15           HH Lamb, Climate, History and the Modern World, p.150.

16           History of China at,

17           Huns at,

18           Henry Bradley, The Goths, from the Earliest Times to the End of the Gothic Dominion in Spain, p. 5.

19           Heritage-History, Visigoth Wars, 251 to 410 A.D., Visigoths — versus — Rome, Germanic tribes at,

20           Ibid.

21          Roman departure from Britain at,

22          Heritage-History, Visigoth Wars, op. cit.

23           Ibid.

24          In 470, Odovacer was appointed leader of a band of German foederati, or Roman provincial troops. In 475, Odovacer joined in a revolt against Rome and then siezed power as Rex Italiae in September 476. Theodoric defeated Odovacer and residual Roman-Germanic army at the Battle of Isonzo on 28 August 489. Odovacer was defeated again on 2 February 493 at the Siege of Ravenna by Theodoric who later killed Odovacer. See Heritage-History, Wars of the Ostrogoths, 489 to 553 at,

25          Heritage-History, Wars of the Ostrogoths, op. cit.

26          Constantine III (western emperor) at,

27          The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Chronicle B.C.E. 60 - A.D 410 at,

28          Kelley L. Ross, PhD, SUCCESSORS OF ROME: GERMANIA, 395-774 at,

29          David W Koeller, Western and Central Europe Chronology, The Vandals at,

30          German Tribes, THE TRIBES: OVERVIEW, The Burgundes at,

31          Ibid.

32          Ibid.

33          Ibid.

34          Lombards at,

35          Lombards at,

36          Ibid.

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