The Germanic Peoples

The Germanic peoples are the great ethnic group of ancient Europe, a basic stock in the composition of the modern peoples of England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Northern Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, North and central France, North and Lowland Scotland.

The term German literally translates into: “Spear man” ( Gar = Spear, + Man) as the spear was the most common of weapons in ancient Germanic society and every free man had at least one.

The name German was once only belonging to one single tribe and latter became applied to the entirety of the peoples of the same ethnic stock residing in northern Europe.

In ancient times, many barbarian tribes were given the broad label of Germanic (Latin: Germanicus) by the Romans. Although these tribes fully recognized themselves as sharing a common ethnic origin, spoke mutually intelligible dialects and shared a common religion, they were not unified or connected in any political sense.

The native tribal religion of the Germanic peoples was born in the fog shrouded forests on the North and Baltic Sea shores of Europe. The Germanic peoples are descended from explorers who settled in extreme Northern Europe, and spoke a language that was a fusion of an Indo-European tongue, and the language of the Northern Megalithic culture (a culture related to the builders of Stonehenge). These two cultures, the Indo-European, and Northern Megalithic met and fused in Northern Europe sometime around 1600 BCE. Linguists, working backwards from historically-known Germanic languages, know that this group spoke proto-Germanic a distinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The tribes that resulted from this fusion remained in a core area that is modern Denmark, Southern Norway, Southern Sweden, and Northern Germany until about 200 BCE when they started expanding into areas formerly held by the Celts, and Illyrians. Rock carvings in the core area dating from 4000 BCE to 500 BCE portray many sacred symbols of Asatru. Ships, Sun wheels, Fylfots, Wagons and other pictures all show the continuality of religious belief. Archaeological finds dating from 3500 BCE to 500 BCE such as the Sun Chariot from Trundholm also confirm this.

The earliest Germanic culture that archaeologists can identify as such is the so-called Jastorf culture, a cultural province of northern Europe in the early Iron Age (c.800 BCE), covering present-day Holstein, Jutland, northeast Saxony, and western Mecklenburg. From the linguistic point of view, however, the Germanic people constitute an archaic branch of the Indo-European family. At the time they entered into history, their closest neighbors were the Celts in Gaul, as Germanic tribes had spread south toward the Rhine and the wooded hills of southern Germany. To the east their neighbors were the Balts and the Scythians and Sarmatians, Iranian tribes that roamed the plains of Russia. To the north they were in contact with Lapps and with Finns. Most of the information we have about them from early times comes from classical authors such as Caesar and Tacitus. Although they were primarily pastoralists, they also practiced agriculture. Their cattle were relatively small and could not entirely be depended upon for a livelihood; hunting provided an additional supply of meat. Their social organization was originally geared toward egalitarian communalism, but as contact with the Roman empire changed economic conditions, a more diversified society developed in which wealth and rank tended to prevail, although nominally power still rested in the hands of the Þing (Thing), the popular democratic assembly of all free men able to carry arms.

The first mention of a Germanic tribe is circa 230 BCE when the Basternae tribe migrated to the Black Sea, and came to the attention of Greek chroniclers. From then on, the Germanic tribes would come in increasing conflict with the Celts, Illyrians, and Romans, eventually swallowing up most of the Celtic and Illyrian territories in Central Europe. This was the beginnings of the Migration Era which lasted from about 350 BCE to 650 CE (although the Viking expeditions of colonization from 780 CE to 1100CE should be counted as a part of this as well), an era when nearly every Germanic tribe was actively on the move. Over population and a need for new farm lands sent the Germanic tribes in search of new lands. This expansion of Germanic peoples into virtually every corner of Europe dramatically indicates the energy and dynamism of our so-called barbarian ancestors.

German historians in the 19th century used the term Völkerwanderung (pronounced: ‘fœl ker ‘van der ung), or the “wandering of the peoples” to describe the great Germanic tribal migrations starting in the mid 4th century. We can see that these migrations had a large contributory factor leading to the break-up of the Roman Empire. These groups all developed separate dialects, the basis for the differences among Germanic languages down to the present day.

Many details of early movement and change within this group remain obscure, but by the late 2nd century, B.C.E., Roman authors recount, Gaul, Italy and Spain were invaded by migrating Germanic tribes, culminating in military conflict with the armies of republican Rome. Julius Caesar, six decades later, invoked the threat of such attacks as one justification for his annexation of Gaul to Rome. By the 1st century of the Common Era, the writings of Caesar, Tacitus and other Roman and Mediterranean writers indicate a division of Germanic-speaking peoples into tribal groupings centered on the lower Rhine river, the river Elbe, the river Vistula (Poland), Jutland, Scania and the Danish islands.

As Rome advanced her borders to the Rhine and Danube, incorporating many Celtic societies into the Empire, the Germanic tribal homelands to the north and east emerged collectively in the records as Germania, whose peoples were sometimes at war with the Empire but who also engaged in complex and long-term trade relations, military alliances and cultural exchanges with their neighbors to the south.


The Germanic migrations can be divided into three main phases:

The first phase of migrations are of the Indo-Europeans. Indo-European is the general name given to the people thought to be originated from the steppes of central Asia. Around 5000-4000 BC., these people started to emigrate to the warmer places in the south or west. Most scholars think of this as the beginning of the distinction between Indo-European tribes. Tribes who emigrated to the west became the ancestors of Germans, Slavs, Greeks, Latins, and Celts. People who chose the south as their destination came to be known as Indo-Iranians. There are also a rather small group of people who most likely chose not to participate in this great migration. These later entered the pages of history as Scythians and Sarmatians, although they are also believed to be nomadic Indo-Iranians since their language and customes are closely tide to the Ancient Persians.

The second phase, between 300 to 675 AD, set in motion the Germanic migration age and resulted in putting Germanic peoples in control of the societies of the former Western Roman Empire.

The third phase, between 780 to 1100, saw Scandinavian Germans on the move in multiple waves of migration, conquest, and plunder. Settling large areas of northern Europe where their descendants remain today: Russia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Normandy, Iceland, the Shetland and Orkney islands.

The Germanic Tribes in the Migration Age
During the third and fourth centuries, there were large migrations of land-hungry 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 Roman-controlled frontier. The following information describes some of the Germanic tribes during this period between 406 and 572 which saw the Germanic barbarians complete their migrations into the West. It is undoubtedly one of history’s most hectic and confusing periods of time. As the Roman world collapsed, many tribes reached a peak of brief glory, others were destroyed in a series of little-known wars. To the Germanic people, this was considered to be the “heroic age” which was a time of adventure and great displays of power.

During the 5th century, as the Roman Empire drew toward its end, numerous Germanic tribes began migrating en masse (Völkerwanderung) in far and diverse directions, taking them to England and northern Scandinavia at the northern tip of Europe and as far south through present day Continental Europe to the Mediterranean and Africa. Over time, the wandering meant intrusions into other tribal territories and the ensuing wars for land claims escalated with the dwindling amount of unoccupied territory. Nomadic tribes then began the staking out of permanent homes as a means of protection. Much of this resulted in fixed settlements from which many, under a powerful leader, expanded outwards. A defeat meant either scattering or merging with the dominant tribe and this continued to be how nations were formed. In England, for example, we now most often refer to the Anglo-Saxons rather than the two separate tribes.

The Germanic Tribes and the Fall of the Roman Empire:
Some of the Germanic tribes are frequently blamed in popular conceptions for the “Fall” of the Roman Empire in the late 5th century. Professional historians and archaeologists have since the 1950s shifted their interpretations in such a way that the Germanic peoples are no longer seen as invading a decaying empire but as being co-opted into helping defend territory the central government could no longer adequately administer. Individuals and small groups from Germanic tribes had long been recruited from the limes (i.e. the border regions) of the Roman world, and had risen high in the command structure of the army – Odoacer, who deposed Romulus Augustulus, is an example. Later the government of the Empire began to recruit whole tribal groups under their native leaders as officers. Assisting with defence eventually shifted into administration, and then outright rule, as Roman traditions of government passed into the hands of Germanic tribal leaders.

The presence of successor states controlled by a nobility from one of the Germanic tribes is evident in the 6th century – even in Italy, the former hearth of the Empire, where Odoacer was followed by Theodoric the Great, leader of the Ostrogoths, who was regarded by Roman citizens and Gothic settlers alike as a legitimate successor to the rule of Rome and Italy.

The Viking Age is the name of the latter part of the Iron Age in Scandinavia. The origin of the word “Viking” is highly disputed. Some experts say it means “pirate”, while others believe it refers to people coming from the region of the Viken (the old Norse name for Norway’s Oslo Fjord). The name Viking is often misused as an ethnic term, the Vikings belonged to the upper class of the Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. They were the sea warriors, and explorers of their society. However, not everyone was a Viking, for them, the normal life was to stay home and be a farmer.

Today, the word “Viking” is generally used to refer to the Germanic people who lived in Scandinavia—Sweden, Norway, and Denmark—from around A.D. 750 to 1100.The Vikings were merchants and traders (and of course, pirates) from Scandinavia and Northern Europe. The Vikings were Germanic people, like the Goths, Vandals, and the Saxon. Norsemen is the name of the people of the areas which today are Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Holland and northern Germany. Other names include Danes, Northmen, Norsemen, Germanians and Normans. In Russia and the Byzantine Empire, the Vikings were known as Varangians (Væringjar, meaning “sworn men”), and the Scandinavian bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors were known as the Varangian Guard.

The first report of a Viking raid dates from 787 when the monastery at Portland in Dorset on the South coast of England was pillaged by Norse Germanic raiders. For the next 200 years, European history is filled with tales of Vikings and their plundering. Vikings settled and exerted influence throughout the coastal areas of Ireland and Scotland, and conquered large parts of England. They traveled up the rivers of France and Spain, and gained control of areas in Russia and along the Baltic coast. Stories tell of raids in the Mediterranean and as far east as the Caspian Sea

The Vikings quickly developed a fierce reputation. In letters to their bishops, Christian priests in Britain and France chronicled the violent deeds of the Vikings, which included attacking wealthy monasteries and killing priests (Many churchmen believed the Viking raids were God’s punishment on the Anglo-Saxons for their sins.)

Exaggerating Atrocities:
“Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. … Behold, the church of St. Cuthbert, spattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments; a place more venerable than all in Britain is given as a prey to pagan peoples.”
So wrote St. Alcuin of York

But it was also in the interest of the churchmen to exaggerate the atrocities of the Viking raiders in their reports. Many of the Christian rulers at the time behaved equally unpleasantly or worse, without being condemned on religious grounds.

Many scholars are now coming to believe that the Viking Age of conquest and plunder was a desperate and furious form of pre-emptive self-defense against further Christian encroachment of their ancestral tribal lands and over 300 years of religious wars and genocide at the hands of ruthless Christian kings. This Guerrilla War by heathen freedom-fighters against the encroaching tyranny of Catholic France, was merely a Sea-based continuation and broadening of the Frisian & Saxon wars of 690-804.

Many Catholic monasteries were often intentionally built on top of pre-existing Heathen holy sites. Therefore, sacking and burning them to the ground was retribution, not wanton destruction. Catholic monasteries, backed by the powers of the state, pillaged the countryside through tithes and taxes that bled to the people dry. It was from those very taxes and tithes that the Christians funded all the mercenaries in Charlemagne’s crusading army. The Vikings “plundering” those monasteries were merely “stealing back” what had been taken. As an act of self preservation, the Vikings had to steal that gold from the monasteries – lest that gold pay mercenaries to raid, rape and pillage more of their home lands!

Never the less, the Vikings are best known for their sea voyages. Along the coasts of Western Europe, they traveled to the Mediterranean and North Africa. By way of the Russian rivers, they reached Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) and beyond to Baghdad in Asia.

They founded nations such as Russia and cities such as Jorvik (York), Kiev and all the main cities of Ireland such as Dublin, Cork, Wexford and Limerick.

The Danes sailed south, to Friesland, France and the southern parts of England. In the years 1013-1016, Canute the Great succeeded to the English throne.

The Swedes sailed to east into Russia, where Rurik founded the first Russian state, and on the rivers south to the Black Sea, Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire.

The Norwegians traveled to the north-west and west, to the Faroes, Shetland, Orkney, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and the majority of England. Except in Britain and Ireland, Norwegians mostly found largely uninhabited land and established settlements.

In the year 985 C.E. North America was discovered by Bjarni Herjólfsson and settlement attempted by Leif Ericsson and Thorfinnur Karlsefni from Greenland who called it Vinland. But it wasn’t until 1005 that a small settlement was placed on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, near L’Anse aux Meadows, but previous inhabitants and a cold climate brought it to an end within a few years. The archaeological remains are now a UN World Heritage Site. It has now been scientifically established that at the height of the Viking expansion, the northern hemisphere entered into a period of unusual and long lasting cold which continued for several hundred years. This mini-iceage decimated the Greenland colonies, stopped the Viking westward expansion and hampered the Viking homelands.

The technical achievements of the Viking Age Germans were quite exceptional. For instance they crafted the most advanced sailing ships of their time and made distance tables for sea voyages that were so exact that they only differ 2-4% from modern satellite measurements, even on long distances such as across the Atlantic Ocean. Besides allowing the Vikings to travel far distances, their longships gave them tactical advantages in battles. They could perform very efficient hit-and-run attacks, in which they attacked fast and unexpectedly and left quickly before a counter-offensive could be launched. Longships could also sail in shallow water, allowing the Vikings to get far inland along rivers.

Many scholars agree that the Viking raids were about survival, not conquest, which was primarily prompted by the genocidal wars to the south against their heathen tribesmen by intolerant Christians. In most cases individual Viking chieftains gathered followers and set off on raids. Wherever they went, the Vikings lived off the land, often driving the locals out and taking whatever valuables they could get their hands on. But the Vikings were also driven by a pioneering spirit. Their most spectacular trek took them across the Atlantic Ocean to Iceland, Greenland, and eventually North America. Around A.D. 1000, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World, the Vikings landed in Newfoundland, Canada, a land they reportedly named Vinland.

The Vikings reconnected humanity and made the world a smaller place by easily traveling vast distances. We look back to the Vikings as the origin of this kind of human endeavor to find new horizons, use new technology, meet new people, and think new thoughts.

Once popularized as murdering barbarians, it is archaeology, not medieval texts, is now beginning to set the record straight about the true Viking history and achievements. The only written monuments from the ancient Germans themselves are runic inscriptions. There are many thousands of such inscriptions found within the various Germanic countries, and in Sweden alone there are some 3,500 inscriptions, mostly written on stone. Unfortunately they are often brief and laconic, and not very informative.

Instead, archaeological excavations have made the most important contribution to the understanding of the Viking world. Funeral sites are usually fragmentary—the Vikings followed the heathen practice of burning the dead—but some large, unburned ship burials have provided archaeologists with invaluable insight into the lives of the Vikings. Reconstructed Viking villages have become popular tourist attractions. In Birka, Sweden’s first trading town, located near present-day Stockholm, large-scale models recreate a Viking harbor, life in craftsmen’s quarters, and the splendor of the king’s power. Birka has Scandinavia’s largest Viking-age cemetery, with 3,000 graves.

The Viking propensity for trade is easily seen in market ports such as Hedeby; close to the border with the Franks it was effectively a crossroads between the cultures, until its eventual destruction by the Norwegians in an internecine dispute in C.1050. A tour of the Viking exhibition at the History Museum in Stockholm underlines the importance of trade to the Vikings.

Germanic art found its expression in everyday objects—in furniture, swords, belts, horse harnesses. The Germanic artists and craftsmen used indigenous spiritual motifs from their ancestral religion and passed it on to the Celts in what is popularly referred to “Celtic Art” but is more accurately called “Hiberno-Saxon” art.

The Scandinavian Germans also had a highly developed legal system, which was the most democratic in the ancient world. Decisions were reached by voting at open meetings where all free men had the right to speak. Ancient Germanic Women living in Scandinavia also had substantial powers and rights. They could own land, inherit, and initiate divorce. Keys are often found in graves of women, showing the tradition that it was the women who controlled the household, farms and property. There are even several legends that tell of women warriors. They had a high respect of Women and the elderly, and many females had high positions and were very influential. They were interested in good education.

The heathen Germanic religion and culture is rich in mythology. The Germanic Gods and Goddesses, all with human characteristics, directed and dominated everyday life. The supreme god is Odin, but many Gods & Goddesses are worshiped widely. Norse Germanic mythology and Old Norse literature tell us about their religion with heroic and mythological heroes; however, the transmission of this information was primarily oral and we are reliant upon the writings of (later) Christian scholars such as Snorri Sturlusson and Sæmundur Fróði “the Wise” Sigfússon for much of this.

The end of the Viking age corresponded with the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia. But scholars say Christianity was not soley responsable for the end of the Viking Age. At the time, many Vikings had become citizens of Europe. After decades of plundering, resistance in other parts of Europe became more effective and Christianity was forced onto Scandinavia, which led to milder tendencies. In addition the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden evolved and it is to be believed that their kings wanted more peaceful circumstances.


















The Alamanni, or Allemanni or Alemanni, were a Germanic tribe, first mentioned by Dio Cassius, under the year 213. They apparently dwelt in the basin of the Main River, to the south of the Chatti.According to Asinius Quadratus their name (all men) indicates that they were a conglomeration of various tribes. There can be little doubt, however, that the ancient Hermunduri formed the bulk of the nation. Other groups included the Juthungi, Bucinobantes, Lentienses, and perhaps the Armalausi. From the 4th century onwards we hear also of the Suebi, Suevi or Suabi. The Hermunduri had apparently belonged to the Suebi, but it is likely enough that reinforcements from new Suebic tribes had now moved westward. In later times the names Alamanni and Suebi seem to be synonymous, although some of the Suebi later migrated to Spain and established an independent kingdom there that endured well into the sixth century.

The tribe was continually engaged in conflicts with the Roman Empire. They launched a major invasion of northern Italy in 268, when the Romans were forced to denude much of their German frontier of troops in response to a massive invasion of the Visigoths. In the early summer, the Emperor Gallienus halted their advance in Italy, but then had to deal with the Goths. When the Gothic campaign ended in Roman victory at the Battle of Naissus in September, Gallienus’ successor Claudius II Gothicus turned north to deal with the Alamanni, who were swarming over all Italy north of the Po River.

After efforts to secure a peaceful withdrawal failed, Claudius forced the Alamanni into war at the Battle of Lake Benacus in November. The Alamanni were routed, forced back into Germany, and did not threaten Roman territory for many years afterwards.

Their most famous battle against Rome took place in Strasbourg, in Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chonodomarius was taken prisoner. On January 2, 366 the Alamanni crossed the frozen Rhine in large numbers, to invade the Roman Empire.

Early in the 5th century the Alamanni appear to have crossed the Rhine river, conquered and then settled what is today Alsace and a large part of Switzerland. Their kingdom (or duchy of Alamannia) lasted until 496, when they were conquered by Clovis I at the Battle of Tolbiac, from which time they formed part of the Frankish dominions. In a strange twist of fate, the word “Frankish” eventually gave its name to the Romance language French, while the Alamanni gave their name to the French word for “German” (Allemand).

Angles (German: Angeln, Old English: Englas, Latin: Angli ) were one of the Germanic peoples who migrated from continental Germany to Britain in the 5th century, along with the Saxons and Jutes. That land was later called Engla-lond(in Old English – “Land of the Angles”), thus England. They founded (according to sources such as the Venerable Bede) Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Thanks to the major influence of the Angles, the people of England are also known as Anglo-Saxons, and, of course English. A region of the United Kingdom is known by the name East Anglia.The Angle homeland, a small peninsular form in the southern portion of the modern German bundesland of Schleswig-Holstein, itself on the Jutland Peninsula is still called Angeln today, and is formed as a triangle drawn roughly from modern Flensburg on the Flensburger Fjord to Kiel and then to Maasholm on the Schlei inlet.

In any case, this geographic localization of the original Angle tribal group has lead to one of the Anglo-Saxon Invasion’s enduring mysteries; namely how it is possible that the Angles were so frequently mentioned as colonizers of ancient Britain while evidence of the also powerful influence of the neighboring Frisians concurrent colonizing activities Britain has been strongly limited to that discoveries in archeological science and more often by un-evidenced though logical deductions and inferences alone. Of course, ethnic Frisians are known to have inhabited the land directly in the path of any invasion route from Angeln to Great Britain and infact, also inhabited lands between the ancient Saxon domaine and Britain, yet they are rarely mentioned as having taken part in the vast migration.

The invasion of Great Britain by the Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Frisians, and other Germanic tribes were amongst the last of the Great Migration. In the fifth century, an exodus of tribes took place to Great Britain. The Angles invaded Britain from the area of Schleswig-Holstein, and are mentioned by Tacitus in his writing Germania. The Jutes appear to have come from Jutland and the area near the mouth of the river Rhine. The Saxons, by this time had covered a wide area, but invaded Britain from what is now primarily Northern Germany. The Saxons were not just one tribe, but a confederation of several smaller tribes, and are not even mentioned by the Roman chroniclers until the second century when Ptolemy placed them in the area of the Elbe River (an area once held by the Cimbri). What tribes composed the confederation is truly not known, though the Cimbri that remained in the North may have been among them as well as the Cherusci (other tribes that have been suggested as forming the confederation are the Avioni, Nuithoni, Reudigni, Suarini, and some of the Suebi). The Frisians came from what is now the Netherlands, and the Frisian coast of Germany. Other tribes such as the Varni, neighbors of the Angles, and the Geats of Sweden invaded Britain in smaller numbers.
The Anglo-Saxon invasion began about 449 CE when Hengest and Horsa landed in what is now Kent. Hired as mercenaries by the Celtic leader Vortigan, they came to take land promised them in return for defending the Celts from the Picts. Thus began the invasion of Great Britain by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Jutes came first with Hengest and Horsa, then the Saxons followed, and finally the Angles. Other tribes such as the Frisians would also invade in smaller numbers. By 519 the Saxons had established Wessex, Kent was established not long after the arrival of Hengest and Horse by the Jutes. Other kingdoms would be established later. For over 50 years, the Germanic tribes in what is now England went unmolested by Christianity. They kept to the religion of their ancestors, and practiced rites as they had for eons. Then in 593 CE, Pope Gregory dispatched Augustine as a missionary to the Germanic tribes in England. He arrived in 597 CE on the Isle of Thanet, and started preaching to the Heathens. By 601 CE he convinced Ethelbert to destroy the Heathen temples and idols and repress Heathen worship. Missionaries were sent to the West Saxons. Kings would convert their kingdoms to Christianity, then their successors covert the kingdoms back to Heathenry, and folks would lapse back to the old religion when the Church was not looking. But this was the beginning of the end for Anglo-Saxon Heathenry. By 633 CE, the last great stand of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry was to begin. King Penda, Heathen king of Mercia sought to conquer the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Over the next 22 years Penda, the last great Heathen king in England killed the Christian kings Edwin, Oswald, Oswin, Ecgric, and Sigebert before he himself died at the battle of Winwæd in 655 CE. In 685 CE, Cadwalla took the throne of Wessex to become the last Heathen king. In 686, the Isle of Wight, the last truly Heathen stronghold was converted to Christianity, and King Cadwalla of Wessex converted to Christianity in 688 CE, baptized by the Pope in Rome. Thus was the end of ancient Anglo-Saxon Heathenry in England amongst the kings

While the kings and ealdormen of the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity, for the common folk merely the names of the Gods changed. They continued to practice Heathenry in their homes, and throughout their lives. A long period of mixed faith continued long after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. Perhaps until as late as the time of Cromwell, Heathen tradition, although not worship survived in many areas. Plows which had been blessed in the fields in Heathen times were brought into the Churches to be blessed in the spring. Christian festivals were celebrated with Heathen customs such as Maypole dancing, and the dead honored in funeral feasts as they had prior to the conversion. Even the Heathen gods were still being invoked in charms for healing as late as the 10th century. As late as the reign of King Canute in the 11th century, laws had to be enacted against Heathen practices.

The Batavii (or Batavi, Batavians) were a Germanic tribe reported by Julius Caesar and Tacitus to have lived around the Rhine delta, in the area which is currently the Netherlands. This led to the Latin name of Batavia.They were mentioned by Julius Caesar in his commentary Gallic Wars, as living on an island formed by the Meuse River after it is joined by the Waal, 80 Roman Miles from the mouth of the river. He said there were many other islands formed by branches of the Rhine, inhabited by savage and barbarous nations, some of whom were supposed to live on fish and the eggs of sea-fowl.

Tacitus described the Batavi as the most brave of the tribes of the area, inhabiting not much territory on the Rhine but an island in it. They were formerly part of the Cattans but moved after a feud to become part of the Roman Empire. He said they retained the honour of the ancient association with the Romans, not required to pay tribute or taxes and used by the Romans only for war. He named the Mattiacians as a similar tribe under homage, but on the other (Germanic) side of the Rhine.

The areas inhabited by the Batavians where never occupied by the Romans, they were allies. In 69 AD, a rebellion led by Claudius Civilis arose, which was defeated by the Romans the following year.

After the 3rd century CE, the Batavians are no longer mentioned, and they are assumed to have merged with the neighbouring Frisian and Frankish people.

The Batavians became regarded as the eponymous ancestors of the Dutch people. The Netherlands were briefly known as the Batavian Republic.


Bavariiwas a large and powerful tribe which emerged late in Teutonic tribal times, in what is now the Czech Republic (Bohemia). They swiftly expanded their influence southward, and occupied Austria and the area which still bears their name: Bavaria. By the 6th c. AD we see evidence of the foundation of a Bavarian Stem-duchy whose leading men were related to the ruling Frankish (and possibly Alamannic/Swabian) houses.

The Bructeri, an ancient Germanic tribe whose people were located in northwestern Germany (Soester Boerde), south of the Teutoberg Forest, in present-day Rhineland-Westphalia around “100 BCE – 350 AD. Later absorbed into the larger Frankish community, and reportedly allies with Cherusci and others in defeating the Roman General, Varus at Teutoberg in 9 AD. Best place to find archival documents and history of the tribe is Soest, Germany.

The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe who probably from the island of Bornholm Sweden, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr(the Island of the Burgundians). After possibly having dwelt in the Vistula basin, they migrated westwards into the Rhine Valley during the Germanic migrations.The Rhineland Burgundians lived in an uneasy relationship with the imperial Roman government. Nominally Roman foederati, they periodically raided portions of eastern Gaul. In 411, their king, Gundaharius, set up a puppet emperor, Jovinus, in cooperation with Goar, king of the Alans. The Rhineland kingdom (with its capital at Worms, Germany) was destroyed by Huns in 437, perhaps under the authority of the Roman general Aetius. The refugees were settled by Aetius near Lugdunensis, known today as Lyon. They spread over southwestern Gaul; that is, northern Italy, western Switzerland, and eastern France. They fought alongside Aetius and a confederation of other Germanic peoples in the defeat of Attila the Hun at the Battle of Catalaunian Fields (modern day Châlons-en-Champagne) in 451.

At first allies with Clovis’ Franks against the Visigoths in the early 6th century, the Burgundians were eventually conquered by the Franks in AD 534. The Burgundian kingdom was made part of the Merovingian kingdoms; the Burgundians themselves were by and large absorbed as well.

One of the earliest Germanic law codes, the Lex Gundobada or Lex Burgundionum, is a collection of the constitutions or laws issued by king Gundobad, the best-known of the Burgundian kings, whose reign began in 474 and died in 516. The Lex Gundobada was a record of Burgundian customary law and is typical of the many Germanic law codes from the period. The Lex Romana Burgundionum was Gundobad’s contribution towards providing laws for his Roman subjects as well as the Burgundians. Finally, King Sigismund of Burgundy, who died 523/4 wrote down the Prima Contitutio.

The name of the Burgundians has since remained connected to the area of modern France that still bears the name of Burgundy. Between the 6th and 20th centuries, the boundaries and political connections of this area changed frequently.

The Burgundians, East German tribesmen, were great allies of Rome. In the Battle of Chalons (451 AD), they fought on the side of Aetius, a Roman war hero, the Visigoths, and other Germanic peoples against Attila and the Huns. So much the Roman allies, the Burgundian kings were given the title of Master of the Soldiers. Burgundians sought their place in history through military alliances. 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, the second time being fatal. The Huns attacked in 456 AD; with the aid of Aetus, the Burgundians narrowly escaped destruction. The survivors fled to the territory surrounding Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Later, after repeated invasions, they moved to the valley of the Rhine River where they occupied eastern Gaul. Lyon became the capital of the Burgundian Kingdom. They gave their name to the region that still remains today as the region Burgundy. But later in 554 AD, the Burgundians were attacked by the Franks, their former allies, and their kingdom was annexed.
The greatest of the Burgundian kings was Gundobad, who reigned from 473 to 517 AD, his greatest contribution being Burgundian law. In 484, he formulated a law code for his Burgundian subjects, the Lex Gundobada, or Lex Burgundionum. Years later, he sponsored a more significant law code, the Lex Romana Burgundinum, this time benefit of his Roman subjects, “[w]hich applied also to cases in which both Romans and Burgundians were involved,” (Jones, p.22). Finally, the Burgundians, like many other Germanic tribesmen, were Arian Christians. However, in 493 AD, Clotilda, the Burgundian princess, married Clovis, and having embraced the Roman Rite herself, helped convert Clovis to Roman Christianity.

The Chauciwas a numerous tribe inhabiting the extreme northwestern shore of Germany during Roman times – basically the stretch of coast between Frisia in the west to the Elbe estuary in the east. By the end of the 3rd century CE, they had merged with the Saxons.

The Cherusciwas a nation inhabiting the Rhine valley and the forests of western Germany (near modern Hanover) during the 1st century BCE and 1st century CE. They were first allies of, and then enemies of Rome. They are most famous for the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, when a Cherusci army under Arminius annihilated three legions under the command Publius Quinctilius Varus. The Cherusci leaders were called “Drighten” or “warlord”.

The Chattiwere an ancient German tribe inhabiting the upper reaches of the rivers Weser, Eder, Fulda and Werra, a district approximately corresponding to Hesse and Kassel, though probably somewhat more extensive. They frequently came into conflict with the Romans during the early years of the 1st century. Eventually they formed a portion of the Franks and were incorporated in the kingdom of Clovis I probably with the Ripuarians , at the beginning of the 6th century.

The Cimbrilived on the Jutland peninsula some 2000 years ago. In about 100 BCE many of the Cimbri, as well as the Teutones, migrated south and west to the Danube valley, where they encountered the expanding Roman Empire. Another group of Cimbri may have migrated from Jutland along the Baltic Sea further east to what later become Prussia.In 113 BCE, the Cimbri and Teutoni invaded the lands of one of Rome’s allies, the Taurisci, where they defeated a Roman army sent to defend the Taurisci. Continuing their migration southward and westward, some of the Cimbri passed through Gaul and into Spain, while others moved towards Italy. On their way, they picked up other allies among the resident Germanic and Celtic peoples. They came into frequent conflict with the Romans, who usually came out the losers. One of the greatest defeats the Romans suffered at the hands of the Cimbri and their allies was in 103 BCE, when the proconsul Caepio and the consul Gn. Mallius Maximus lost as many as 20,000 men.

By 102 BCE, those Cimbri who had been in Spain had returned to join with their former comrades in a movement towards Italy.

The earliest Frankish history remains relatively unclear. Modern scholars of the period of the Volkerwanderung Migrationshave suggested that the Frankish people emerged from the unifications of various earlier, smaller Germanic groups inhabiting the Rhine valley and lands immediately to the east, a social development perhaps related to the increasing disorder and upheaval experienced in the area as a result of the war between Rome and the Marcomanni, which began in 166 C.E., and subsequent conflicts of the late 2nd century and the 3rd century C.E. Gregory of Tours states that the Franks originally lived in Pannonia, but later settled on the banks of the Rhine. A region in the northeast of the modern-day Netherlands — i.e. north of the Roman border — bears the name Salland, and may have received that name from the Salians.Around 250 CE a group of Franks, taking advantage of a weakened Roman Empire, penetrated as far as Tarragona in Spain, plaguing this region for about a decade before Roman forces subdued them and expelled them from Roman territory. About forty years later, the Franks had the Scheldt region under control and interfered with the waterways to Britain; Roman forces pacified the region, but could not expel the Franks.

In 355 – 358 the later Emperor Julian once again found the shipping lanes on the Rhine under control of the Franks and again pacified them. Rome granted a considerable part of Belgica to the Franks. From this time on they become foederati of the Roman Empire. A region roughly corresponding to present day Flanders and the Netherlands south of the rivers remains a Germanic-speaking region to this day. (The Dutch language predominates there now). The Franks thus became the first Germanic people who permanently settled within Roman territory.

From their heartland they gradually conquered most of Roman Gaul north of the Loire valley and east of Visigothic Aquitaine. At first they helped defend the border as allies; for example, when a major invasion of mostly East Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine 406, the Franks fought against these invaders. The major thrust of the invasion passed south of the Loire river. (In the region of Paris, Roman control persisted until 486, i.e. a decade after the fall of the emperors of Ravenna, in part due to alliances with the Franks.)

The Merovingians
The reigns of earlier Frankish chieftains — Pharamond (about 419 until about 427) and Chlodio (about 427 until about 447) — are thought to owe more to myth than fact, and their relationship to the Merovingian line is somewhat uncertain.

Gregory mentions Chlodio as the first king who started the conquest of Gaul by taking Camaracum (today Cambrai) and expanding the border down to the Somme. This probably took some time; Sidonius relates that the Franks were surprised by Aetius and driven back (probably around 431). This period marks the beginning of a situation that would endure for many centuries: the Germanic Franks became rulers over an increasing number of Gallo-Roman subjects.

In 451 Aetius called upon his Germanic allies on Roman soil to help fight off an invasion by the Huns. The Salian Franks answered the call, the Ripuarians fought on both sides as some of them lived outside the Empire. At this time Merovech was king of the Franks. Gregory’s (oral) sources did not seem sure whether Chlodio was his father.

Clovis engaged in a campaign of consolidating the various Frankish kingdoms in Gaul and the Rhineland, which included defeating Syagrius in 486. This victory ended Roman control in the Paris region.

In the Battle of Vouillé (507), Clovis, with the help of Burgundy, defeated the Visigoths, expanding his realm eastwards up to the Pyrenees mountains.

The conversion of Clovis to Roman Christianity, after his marriage to a Catholic Burgundian princess Clothilde in 493 may have helped to increase his standing in the eyes of the Pope and the other orthodox Catholic rulers. Because they were able to worship with their Catholic neighbors, the formerly Arian Franks found much easier acceptance from the local Gallo-Roman population than did the Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians. The Merovingians thus built what eventually proved to be the most stable of the successor-king doms in the west.

Stability, however, was not a day-to-day feature of the Merovingian era. While casual violence existed to a degree in late Roman times, the introduction of the Germanic practice of the blood-feud to obtain personal justice led to a perception of increased lawlessness. Trade was disrupted, and civic life became increasingly difficult, which led to an increasingly localized and fragmented society based on self-sufficient villas. Literacy practically disappeared outside of churches and monasteries.

The Merovingian chieftains adhered to the Germanic practice of dividing their lands among their sons, and the frequent division, reunification and redivision of territories often resulted in murder and warfare within the leading families. So, on Clovis’s death in 511, his realm was divided between his four sons, and over the next two centuries the kingship was shared among his descendants.

The Frankish area expanded further under Clovis’ sons, eventually covering most of what is today France, but including areas east of the Rhine river as well, such as Alamannia (today’s southwestern Germany) and Thuringia (since 531). Saxony however was left to be conquered by Charlemagne centuries later.

After a temporary reunification of the separate kingdoms unter Clotaire I, the Frankish lands were once again divided in 561 into Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy.

The chief officer of each kingdom was the Mayors of the Palace. From about the turn of the eighth century, the Mayors tended to wield the real power in the kingdom, laying the foundation for the new dynasty, the Carolingians.

The Carolingians
The Carolingian line is considered to have started with the deposition of the last Merovingian king and the accession in 751 of Pippin the Short, father of Charlemagne. Pippin had succeeded his own father, Charles Martel, as Mayor of the Palace of a reunited and reerected Frankish kingdom comprised of the formerly independent parts.

Pippin was an elected king. Although this happened infrequently, a general rule in Germanic law was that the king relied on the support of his leading-men. These men reserved the right to choose a new leader if they felt that the old one was unable to lead them in profitable battle. While in later France, the kingdom became hereditary, the kings of the later Holy Roman Empire were unable to abolish this tradition and continued to be elected until the Empire’s formal end in 1806.

Pippin solidified his position in 754 by entering into an alliance with “Pope Stephen III against the Lombards; this papal support was crucial to silencing any objections to his new position. Pippin donated the re-conquered areas around Rome to the Pope, laying the foundation for the Papal States, of which only Vatican City remains today, and in turn received the title patricius Romanorum, protector of the Romans.

Upon his death in 768, the kingdom was once again divided between Pippin’s sons, Charles and Carloman. However, Carloman withdrew to a monastery and died shortly thereafter, leaving sole rule to his brother, who would later be named Charlemagne and become an almost mythical figure for the later history of both France and Germany.

From 772 onwards, Charles conquered and eventually defeated the Saxons to incorporate their realm into the Frankish kingdom. This campaign expanded the practice of non-Roman Christian rulers undertaking the conversion of their neighbors by armed force; Frankish Catholic missionaries, along with others from Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, had been entering Saxon lands since the mid-8th , resulting in increasing conflict with the Saxons, who resisted the missionary efforts and parallel military incursions. Charles’ main Saxon opponent, Widukind, was baptized in 785 as part of a peace agreement, but other Saxon leaders continued to fight. Upon his victory in 787> at Verden, Charles ordered the wholesale killing of thousands of pagan Saxon prisoners. After several more uprisings, the Saxons were only defeated for good in 804. This expanded the Frankish kingdom eastwards up to the Elbe river, something the Roman empire had only attempted once, and at which it failed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD). In order to more effectively christianize the Saxons, Charles founded several bishoprics, among them Bremen, Münster, Paderborn, and Osnabrück.

At the same time (773-774), Charles conquered the Lombards and was thus able to include northern Italy into his sphere of influence. He renewed the Vatican donation and the promise to the papacy of continued Frankish protection.

In 788, Tassilo, dux of Bavaria rebelled against Charles. The rebellion was quashed and Bavaria was incorporated into Charles’ kingdom. This not only added to the royal fisc, but also drastically reduced the power and influence of the Agilolfings (Tassilo’s family), another leading family among the Franks and potential rivals. Until 796, Charles continued to expand the kingdom even farther southeast, into today’s Austria and parts of Croatia.

Charles thus created a realm that spanned from the Pyrenees in the southwest (actually, including an area in Northern Spain after 795) over almost all of today’s France (except Brittany, which was never conquered by the Franks) eastwards to most of today’s Germany, including northern Italy and today’s Austria.

On December 23 and 24, 800, Charles was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome in a ceremony that formally acknowledged the Frankish Empire to be the successor of the (Western) Roman one. The coronation gave the Empire the backing of the church, and permanent legitimacy to Carolingian primacy among the Franks. This connection was later resurrected by the Ottonians in A.D. 962. Charlemagne’s position as Emperor was later acknowledged in 812 by the Byzantine Emperor of the time, Michael I.

Upon Charlemagne’s death on January 28, 814 in Aachen, he was buried in his own Palace Chapel at Aachen.

Charlemagne had several sons, but only one survived him. This son, Louis the Pious, followed his father as the ruler of a united Empire. Sole inheritance was a matter of chance, rather than intent. When Louis died in 840, the Carolingians adhered to the custom of partible inheritance, and the Empire was divided in three in the Treaty of Verdun in 843:

The Franks, were a Germanic tribe who eventually became the French. They came to inhabit the former wealthy Roman provinces of Gaul and became the most powerful of the Germanic tribes. It was the Franks who created the strongest and most stable barbarian kingdom in the days after the Western Roman Empire had collapsed. The name “Frank” is closely related to the word that means “fierce” or “free” in the Frankish language. From a linguistic point of view, the most direct descendants of the Franks are the Dutch and the Flemish-speakers of Belgium. The early Franks were a loose confederation of tribes who shared a similar culture. Tribal loyalty came before loyalty to the confederation and because of this the confederation was extremely weak.
The concept of the Franks as a people was first realized under the reign of the Merovingian dynasty. The Merovingians took their name from the chief of the tribe, Merovech (Merowen), who was one of the leaders (reguli) of the Salian Franks. Merovich and his successor, Childeric, (d. 481), extended Frankish dominion as far south as the Somme River. Childeric was the father of Clovis (481-511), the first ruler of the Merovingian dynasty. Clovis was a ruthless warrior and he and his immediate successors destroyed all resistance within their empire. 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. In addition, Clovis also converted to Orthodox Christianity, an act which made him king of the Franks in the eyes of the pope.
After AD 700, the Merovingians gradually lost control of the Frankish kingdom to the Carolingians , a family of ambitious landowners who served as court advisors to the Merovingians. Frankish troops secured the fate of Christian Europe in the Battle of Tours, in which the Muslim forces were defeated by the Carolingian general Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer). Pepin the Short, son of Charles Martel, became king with the votes of the Frankish nobles and papal approval. In return for this ecclesiastic recognition, Pepin crushed the Lombards of Italy and gave the newly conquered lands to the pope. These territories later became the Papal states and this agreement is known as the Donation of Pepin.
However, the most notable of all the Frankish rulers was Charlemagne (Charles the Great). He built up a capable bureaucracy, a fair judicial system, and revived the arts. he was also the ruler of a vast domain that was gained by his military exploits. Charlemagne followed up his victories in these areas by forcing the subjegated saxons to Christianity and he was justly honored for his military and religious activities. On Christmas day of the year AD 800, Pope Leo III (795-816) crowned Charlemagne “Charles Augustus, Emperor of the Romans,” and made him the first Holy Roman Emperor.
The end of the Carolingian era began in 843 when Charlemagne’s grandsons divided the empire into three parts, and thus hastened the splintering of Western Europe into smaller kingdoms.


The Roman historian Tacitus, writing in Germania, mentioned the Frisians among people he grouped together as the Ingvaeones. Their territory followed the coast of the North Sea from the mouth of the Rhine river up to that of the Ems, their eastern border according to Ptolemy’s Geographica. Pliny states in Belgicathat they were conquered by the Roman general Drusus in 12 BCE, and thereafter the Frisians largely sank into historical obscurity, until coming into contact with the expanding Merovingian and Carolingian empires. In the 5th century, during this period of historical silence, many of them no doubt joined the migration of the Anglo-Saxons who went through Frisian territory to invade Britain, while those who stayed on the continent expanded into the newly-emptied lands previously occupied by the Anglo-Saxons. By the end of the sixth century the Frisians occupied the coast all the way to the mouth of the Weser and spread farther still in the seventh century, southward down to Dorestad and even Bruges. This farthest extent of Frisian territory is known as Frisia Magna.The modern remnants of Frisia Magna are small and scattered. Most of it got caught in the pincer maneuvers of its expanding neighbors, that of the Saxons who were moving up into their north and west, and the Franks who were pushing into the north and east. Western and Middle Frisia are solidly within modern state of the Netherlands, which now includes the “heartland” of the Frisians from the North Sea coast from Alkmaar in the modern province of Noord-Holland, along the coasts of the modern provinces of Friesland and Groningen, and up to the mouth of the Ems. Culturally, it has shrunk down to the province of Friesland alone.


Geats, or Götar in Swedish, is the Old English spelling of the name of a Scandinavian people living in Götaland, land of the Geats, currently within the borders of modern Sweden. The name of the Geats lives on in the Swedish counties of Västra Götaland and Ostergötland, the Western and Eastern lands of the Geats, as does the city Göteborg, known in English as Gothenburg. Lake Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden, is the major physical feature of the Geatish territory; from it, the Göta älv, or ‘Geatish River,’ flows through Gothenburg into Kattegat, and the North Sea.The Geats were formerly politically independent of the Swedes, whose old name was Svear. Starting in the 500s, the Geats slowly lost their independence and became tributaries of the Swedish kings.

The relationship between Geats and Goths, the wandering Germanic tribe that played a major part in the fall of the Western Roman Empire, is a subject of great dispute. The chief reason the Geats are remembered is that the hero of the Old English epic poem Beowulf was a Geat.

The Gepidswere a Germanic tribe first mentioned around A.D. 260, when they participated in an invasion in Dacia together with the Goths. The word “Gepid” is a Gothic term meaning “slow” or “lazy”, for the Goths thought the Gepids were slow (in settling themselves). During their early history the Gepids were unlike other Germanic peoples in that they were unable to build a longlasting empire.They eventually succeeded in settling themselves on the eastern bank of the Tisza river. In the 4th century they were conquered by the Ostrogoths. In 375 they had to submit to the Huns along with their Ostrogoth overlords.

They became the most favorite of Hunnic vassals. And under their king Arderic they were powerful enough to solely form the right flank of the Huns in the Battle of Chalons in 451.

After Attila the Hun’s death the Gepids and the Ostrogoths formed an alliance to destroy Attila’s empire. They finally broke the Hunnic power in the Battle of Nedao in 454.

After the victory at Nedao they finally won a place to settle in the Carpathian Mountains.

Not long after the battle at Nedao the old rivalry between the Gepids and the Ostrogoths spurred up again and they were driven out of their homeland in 504 by Theodoric the Great.

They reached the zenith of their power after 537, settling in the rich area around Belgrade. In 546 the Byzantine Empire allied themselves with the Longobards to expel the Gepids from this region. In 552 the Gepids suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Asfeld and were finally conquered by the Avars in 567.

Our only source for early Gothic history is Jordanes’ Getica, (published 551 CE), a condensation of the lost twelve-volume history of the Goths written in Italy by Cassiodorus, and this early information should be treated with the highest degree of caution. Apparently Cassiodorus had heard some of the Gothic songs that told of their mythic origins, related in turn by Jordanes with the remark “for so the story is generally told in their early songs, in almost historic fashion.” The Gothic bards accompanied themselves on a stringed instrument that Latin writers associated with the cithara,which was more familiar to them.The Goths own tradition says that they originated in Scandza which was separated by the Baltic sea from the mainland of Europe. They battled with, and temporarily subjugated, the ancestors of the Slavs (there are many Gothic loanwords in proto-Slavic), who lived between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea and ultimately settled in Scythia a vast undefined region that includes modern Ukraine and Belarus. A united tribe until the third century, it was during that period that they split into the eastern Goths or Ostrogoths and the western Goths or Visigoths.

Though many of the fighting nomads who followed them were to prove more bloody, the Goths were feared because the captives they took in battle were sacrificed to their god of war, and the captured arms hung in trees as a token-offering. Their kings and priests came from a separate aristocracy, according to Cassiodorus/Jordanes, and their mythic kings of ancient times were honored as gods. Their mythic lawgiver, named Dicineus, traditionally dated about the 1st century BCE, ordered their laws, which they possessed by the 6th century in written form and called belagines.

A force of Goths launched one of the first major barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire in 267 CE. A year later, they suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Naissus and were driven back across the Danube River by 271. This group then settled on the other side of the Danube from Roman territory and established an independent kingdom centered on the abandoned Roman province of Dacia, as the Visigoths. In the meantime, the Goths still in the Ukraine established a vast and powerful kingdom along the Black Sea. This group became known as the Ostrogoths.

The Goths were briefly reunited under one crown in the early sixth century under the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great, who became regent of the Visigothic kingdom for nearly two decades. For the later history of the Goths, see Visigoths and Ostrogoth.

The question of where the Goths came from is a major historical and philological puzzle. The earliest evidence for the Goths puts them in Poland in the 2nd-century CE, with a consequent rapid movement to the Black Sea area. Jordanes, a Romanized 6th century Goth, reported their origin according to Gothic tradition and legend to be in Scandza (Scandinavia).

It is a matter of dispute whether the Geats, a people living in the Geatish lands in Sweden, did satisfy this alleged connection. The word “Geats” (Anglo-Saxon Geatas) and the Swedish word “Götar” (East Norse Gøtar) both represent the expected outcome of proto-Germanic *Gauta-. This is different from the reconstructed root *Gut- which seems to be the origin of “Goth,” which appears earliest in forms such as “Gutthones” in Greek ethnography. Philologists have reconstructed *Gut-þiuda, the “Gothic people,” as a likely original form of the name. The reconstructed root *Gut- is, however, identical to that of Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea. Besides linguistic connections between Gothic and Old Norse, there are also interesting correspondences between Gothic and Gutnish (the Swedish dialect of Gotland) such as “lamb” being the generic name for sheep.

It is likely that warriors from Gotland took control of the amber-rich northern Poland and so paved the way for the development of the Goths as a historically identifiable people.


Juteswere people originally from what is now Jutland in modern Denmark. Some Jutes, the Angles, Saxons and other Germanic peoples who went to England, although they are less well known than the Angles and Saxons.According to the Venerable Bede, Jutes settled in particular in Kent and on the Isle of Wight.

The Lombards (Latin Langobardi, from which the alternative name Longobards found in older English texts), are a Germanic tribe that originated in southern Sweden. They left their homeland and over the course of four centuries entered the late Roman Empire, which by that time had become another Germanic area. They were known to the Romans from as early as AD 98, however, when the historian Tacitus mentioned them in his Germania.They were initially settled in Pannonia (modern Hungary) by the Emperor Justinian. In 568 they invaded Italy under their king Alboin, but were unsuccessful at conquering any city with walls. They broke off sieges of most cities they tried to take and settled for what they could find in the countryside. After the death of Alboin and his immediate successor, the Lombards failed to choose a king for more than 10 years, and the various regions were ruled by dukes.

When they entered Italy the Lombards were partly still pagan, partly Arian Christians, and hence got along very badly with the Roman Catholic Church. They were not converted to orthodox Christianity until well after the year 600.

The last Lombard to rule as king of the Lombards was Desiderius, who ruled until 774, when Charlemagne not only conquered the Lombard kingdom, but in an utterly novel decision took the title “King of the Lombards” as well. Before then the Germanic kingdoms had frequently conquered each other, but none had adopted the title of King of another people. Charlemagne took part of the Lombard territory to create the Papal States.

The Lombardy region in Italy, which includes the city of Milan, is a reminder of the presence of the Langobards.

Much of our knowledge of the mythological and semi-mythological early history of the Lombard people comes from Paul the Deacon’s History of the Lombards (Historia Langobardorum) written in the late 8th century. By the title of this work the name of Longobards was commonly turned into Langobards. Despite a frequently supposed derivation from “long beards” effectively, the name is generally considered coming from “long halberds”: apart from the fact that Romans already had named Barbarians many peoples with long beards (and that name was in fact in regular use for some peoples of those origins), the distinctive element – the one that justified the name – was the original weapon, still unknown at those times in Italy.

A Lombard law code survives from around the same period.

The Marcomanniwere a Germanic people, probably related to the Suebi tribe. Their name derives from the Old German words for March (frontier) and Men. Drusus attacked them in 9 BCE, forcing them into present-day Bohemia. In that region their king Marcoboduus established a powerful kingdom that Augustus perceived as a threat to Rome. Before he could act on this, the war in Illyria intervened. Eventually Marcoboduus was deposed and exiled by Catualda (AD 19).In the 2nd century AD, they entered into a confederation with other peoples which included the Quadi, Vandals, and Sarmatians against Rome. This was driven probably by greater tribal movements like the Goths to their north and east. According to the historian Eutropius, the forces of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius battled against the Marcomannic confederation for three years at the fortress of Carnuntum in Pannonia. He compared the war and Marcus Aurelius’ success against the Marcomanni and their allies to the Punic Wars. The comparison was fair in that this war marked a turning point and had significant Roman defeats. It began in 166 and lasted to the end of Marcus Aurelius’s death, involving the unheard-of defeats and the death of two Praetorian Guard commanders. It was in fact only a limited success since from the next century onwards the Danube was the main Roman battlefront until the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century.

The Nerviiwere one of the most powerful Belgic Confederacy tribes living east of the Scheldt in central Belgea during the time of the Romans. The exact date of their inception and destruction has not been confirmed. They were considered the most warlike of the Belgic tribes. Belgea was located in what is now Belgium.Their culture was a spartan one; they purportedly would not partake of alcoholic beverages or any other such luxury, feeling that the mind must remain clear to be brave. Records indicate that they had no trade or merchant class of any kind, which would lead to the assumption that they had no currency, and were probably not very rich or advanced people.

Aided by the Atrebates and Viromandui and numerous other German tribes, they came very close to defeating Caesar in 57 BCE. The Atuatuci, another tribe, were marching to join them but did not reach the battle in time, leading to defeat. After this battle most of the tribes of Belgea surrendered, but the Nervii did not, supposedly decrying the states that had given up as traitors and vowed not to accept peace or ambassador from Rome. Indeed, they continued harassing Roman baggage trains. Caesar devised a plan to exploit the Nervians lack of cavalry, which apparently succeeded. After further decimation by the Romans, they were brought to their knees, and begged for an armistice. Records claim there situation was such that their army of 60,000 had been cut down to 500, and their 600 senators reduced to 3. Supposedly, Caesar granted them the peace they wanted, and bade their neighbors to show no anger towards them.

The Nervii’s capital city seems to have been at Bagacum, also known as Bavay.


A subgroup of the Svear tribe, ancient name for the inhabitants of Nericia (present day ++++++++++++++++). The root nari, neri is cognate to English narrowand refers to the narrow inlets that caracterized the geography (the north-eastern (Kvismaren-Hjälmaren) has disappeared artificially, but the southern part of the province still has a large fjord (Alsen)), a tribe that is also mentioned in the lay of Völund (Weyland the Smith):”When the Lord of the Njars, Nidud, heard
That Völund sat in Wolfdale alone,
He sent warriors forth: white their shield-bosses
In the waning moon, and their mail glittered.”
- Translated by W. H. Auden and P. B. Taylor


The Ostrogothsor “Eastern Goths” ( as opposed to “West Goths”; Visigoths) were a Germanic tribe that influenced the political events of the late Roman Empire.The Goths were a single nation mentioned in several sources up to the third century, when they split into two tribal groups: the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. Both tribes shared many aspects especially recognizing Tiwaz (TYR) as their tribal patron deity that the Romans equated with Mars. This so-called “split” or more appropriately, resettlement of western tribes into the Roman province of Dacia, was a natural result of population saturation of the area along the Black Sea where these Ostrogoths established a vast and powerful kingdom. Gepids became their vassal and rival.

The rise of the Huns around 370 brought the Ostrogoth under their supremacy, possibly prompting the Visigothic leader Fritigern to request resettlement across the Danube, and perhaps the Ostrogothic ruler Ermanaric’s suicide in 378 reported by Ammianus.

Over the following decades, the Ostrogoths dwelled in the Balkans with the Huns, becoming one of the many Hunnic vassals fighting in Europe as in the Battle of Chalons in 451. Several upraising against the Huns were suppressed; however introduction of Hunnic horseback culture was one major benefit.

Their recorded history begins with their independence from the remains of the Hunnic Empire following the death of Attila the Hun. Allied with the former vassal and rival, the Gepids and the Ostrogoths led by Theodimir broke the Hunnic power of Attila’s sons in the Battle of Nedao in 454.

The Ostrogoths now entered into relations with the Empire, and were settled on lands in Pannonia. During the greater part of the latter half of the 5th century, the East Goths play in south-eastern Europe nearly the same part which the West Goths played in the century before. They were seen going to and fro, in every conceivable relation of friendship and enmity with the Eastern Roman power, until, just as the West Goths had done before them, they passed from the East to the West.

The greatest of all Ostrogothic rulers, the future Theodoric the Great was born to Theodemir in or about 454 soon after the Battle of Nedao. His childhood was spent at Constantinople as a hostage, where he was carefully educated. The early part of his life was taken up with various disputes, intrigues and wars within the Byzantine empire, in which he had as his rival “Theodoric Strabo, a distant relative of Theodoric the Great and son of Triarius. This older but lesser Theodoric seems to have been the chief, not the king, of that branch of the Ostrogoths which had settled within the Empire at an earlier time. Theodoric the Great, as he is sometimes distinguished, was sometimes the friend, sometimes the enemy, of the Empire. In the former case he was clothed with various Roman titles and offices, as patrician and consul; but in all cases alike he remained the national Ostrogothic king.

It was in both characters together that he set out in 488, by commission from the Byzantine emperor Zeno, to recover Italy from Odoacer. By 493 Ravenna was taken; Odoacer was killed by Theodoric’s own hand. Ostrogothic power was fully established over Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia and the lands to the north of Italy. In this war the Ostrogoths and Visigoth began again to unite. The two branches of the nation were soon brought much more closely together, when the power of Theodoric was practically extended over a large part of Gaul and over nearly the whole of Spain when events forced him to become regent of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse.

A time of confusion followed the death of Alaric II, the son-in-law of Theodoric, at the Battle of Vouillé. The Ostrogothic king stepped in as the guardian of his grandson Amalaric, and preserved for him all his Spanish and a fragment of his Gaul dominion. Toulouse passed away to the Franks but the Goth kept Narbonne and its district and Septimania, which was the last part of Gaul held by the Goths and kept the name of Gothia for many ages. While Theodoric lived, the Visigothic kingdom was practically united to his own dominion. He seems also to have claimed a kind of protectorate over the Germanic powers generally, and indeed to have practically exercised it, except in the case of the Franks.

The Ostrogothic dominion was now again as great in extent and far more splendid than it could have been in the time of Hermanaric; however it was now of a wholly different character. The dominion of Theodoric was not a barbarian but a civilized power. His twofold position ran through everything. He was at once national king of the Goths, and successor, though without any imperial titles, of the West Roman emporers. The two nations, differing in manners, language and religion, lived side by side on the soil of Italy; each was ruled according to its own law, by the prince who was, in his two separate characters, the common sovereign of both.

The picture of Theodoric’s rule is drawn for us in the state papers drawn up in his name and in the names of his successors by his Roman minister Cassiodorus. The Goths seem to have been thick on the ground in northern Italy; in the south they formed little more than garrisons. In Theodoric’s theory the Goth was the armed protector of the peaceful Roman; the Gothic king had the toil of government, while the Roman consul had the honour. All the forms of the Roman administration went on, and the Roman policy and culture had great influence on the Goths themselves. The rule of the prince over distinct nations in the same land was necessarily despotic; the old Germanic freedom was necessarily lost. Such a system needed a Theodoric to carry it on. It broke in pieces after his death.

On the death of Theodoric in 526 the Ostrogoths and Visigoths were again separated. The few instances in which they are found acting together after this time are as scattered and incidental as they were before.
The Ostrogothic kingdom continued to exist until the middle of the sixth century, when it was overthrown by Emperor Justinian. Eighteen years of hard fighting and devastation of the countryside were needed before the last Ostrogothic army was destroyed. Then the Ostrogothic state and people disappeared from history.

The Quadiwere a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little definitive information is known. The history of illiterate peoples is written by their opponents, and we can only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the ‘Quadi’ through Roman eyes. In the 1st century BCE, the Quadi were migrating alongside the more numerous Marcomanni, whose name simply means the “men of the borderlands” living on the frontiers of Germany, where it was bordered by the River Danube, south of which lay Roman territory.Perhaps originating north of the River Main, the Quadi and Marcomanni migrated into what is now Bohemia and Moravia, and western Slovakia, where they displaced Celtic cultures and were first noticed by Romans in 8 – 6 BCE, briefly documented by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus in his book Germania. A further Marcomannic confederation that included the Quadi fought the future emperor Tiberius in 6 CE.

Tacitus in Germania only mentions the Quadi in the same breath as the Marcomanni, alike in warlike spirit, alike governed by ‘kings’ of their own noble stock, ‘descended from the noble line of Maroboduus and Tudrus,’ the ‘Tudric’ line apparently kings among the Quadi.

Their frontiers for the next 350 years or more were the Marcomanni to the west, proto-Slavic tribes to the north, Sarmatian Iazgyians and (later) Asding Vandals to the east, and the Roman Empire to the south.

In the later 2nd century CE, Marcus Aurelius fought them in the Marcomannic War, for which our source is an abridgement of lost books of Dio Cassius’ history. The troubles began in early 167 when the Langobardi Lombards and Obii crossed the Danube into Roman Moesia. They must have done so with the consent of the Quadi, through whose territory they had to cross. Presumably the Quadi wished to avoid trouble themselves by allowing these tribes to pass through into Roman territory. This invasion was apparently thrown back into Quadi territory without too much difficulty as far as the Romans were concerned, but the incursion marked the start of a long series of attempts to cross the border. A couple of years later the Marcomanni and Quadi, with assistance from other tribes that had crossed the Danube, overwhelmed a Roman army, passed over the plain at the head of the Adriatic and put the town of Aquileia in northern Italy under siege. After initial Roman losses, the Marcomanni were defeated in 171, and Marcus Aurelius managed to make peace with some of the tribes along the Danube, including the Quadi. But in 172 he launched a major attack into the territory of the Marcomanni and then turned on the Quadi, who had been aiding Marcomanni refugees. The Quadi were eliminated as a direct threat in 174. Marcus’ planned counteroffensive across the Danube was prevented in 175, however, by insurrection within the Empire. Though Marcus Aurelius successfully suppressed the revolt, it was not until 178 that he was able to pursue the Quadi over the Danube into Bohemia. He was planning to advance the Roman border east and north to the Carpathian Mountains and Bohemia when he became ill and died in 180.

In the 4th century, Valentinian spent much of his reign defending the Rhine frontier against a mixed horde of Sarmatians, Goths, and Quadi under their king Gabinius, who was slain at the treaty table by the Roman Marcellinus. Valentinian died in 375 CE after having received a deputation of Quadi to discuss a treaty. The insolent behavior of the proud barbarians so enraged the emperor, that apparently he died of a stroke.

After about 400 CE the old cremation burials typical of Suevians like the Quadi disappear in Bohemia. The Quadi are among the mixture of peoples that evolved into the Bavarians.


The Saxons were a large and powerful Germanic people located in what is now England, northwestern Germany and the eastern Netherlands. They are first mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy as a people of southern Jutland and present-day Schleswig-Holstein, whence they appear subsequently to have expanded to the south and west.A large contingent of Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisians invaded and colonized Britain in the early Middle Ages, giving their names to the kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and Wessex (the lands respectively of the East, South and West Saxons), which with the shorter-lived Middlesex, eventually became part of the kingdom of England.

The Saxon language lead as well to the Old English language as to the modern Low Saxon language.

A majority of the Saxons remained in continental Europe, forming from the 8th century the Duchy of Saxony. They long avoided becoming Christians and being incorporated into the orbit of the Frankish kingdom, but were decisively and brutally conquered by Charlemagne in a long series of annual campaigns (772-804). With defeat came the forced baptism and conversion of the Saxon leaders and their people to Christianity.

Under Carolingian rule, the Saxons were reduced to a tributary status. There is evidence that the Saxons, as well as Slavic tributaries like the Abodrites and the Wends, often provided troops to their Carolingian overlords. The dukes of Saxony became kings of Germany during the 10th century, but the duchy was divided up in 1180.

The Sugambri or Sicambriwere a west Germanic tribe which existed during the time of the Roman Empire. Their original homeland was located in what is now the region of Gelderland in the Netherlands, on the lower Rhine river.Historians posit that the Sugambri, along with other west-Germanic tribes, eventually became part of the tribal confederation from which stemmed the Franks. Gregory of Tours states that the Frankish leader Clovis, on the occasion of his baptism into the Catholic faith in 496, was referred to as “Sicamber” by the officiating bishop of Rheims, suggesting a link between the Sugambri and Clovis’s ancestors (the Merovingian> royal house of the Franks).

Suiones, or Svear were an ancient Germanic people in Scandinavia. Their primary dwellings were in Roslagen on the eastern coast of Sweden, in the area of the present cities of Uppsala, Stockholm and around the shores of Lake Mälaren. During the Viking Age they constituted the basis of the Varangian subset, the Vikings that traveled eastwards. The lands of the Svear were called Svealand, Svithiod or Svea rike (in Beowulf: Sweoriki), and when they united politically with the Geats in Götaland in the 11th century, it gave birth to the Swedish kingdom. They gave their name to the nation of Sweden, or Sverige in Swedish language, from Svea rike- the Svear kingdom.Much debate is raised as to whether the original domains of the Suiones really was in Uppsala, the heartland of Uplandia, or if the term was used commonly for all tribes within Svealand, in the same way as old Norways different provinces were collectively referred to as Nortmanni. The established Svealand theory holds that Svear, based at the Asa-cult center in Ancient Uppsala, dominated the territory and gave it its name.

In literature, the Svear are named in the Old English epic Beowulf as Sweonas, and by the Roman author Tacitus under the name Suiones in his Germania. They were also known to the Romans as Suethidi (Svithiod). In the work of Adam of Bremen, about the Hamburg-Bremen archbishops, they are denoted Sueones. By Jordanes in the History of the Goths, they are called Suehans, and by Snorri Sturluson they are called Svias.


The Suebi or Sueviwere a Germanic people who in great antiquity lived by the Baltic Sea and south thereof.2000 years ago the Baltic Sea was known to the Romans as the Mare Suebicum. Partially because of his unfamiliarity with the various Germanic peoples interacting with Rome at the time, the historian Tacitus referred to all eastern Germanic people as Suebi. More recent scholarship has shown that view to be an oversimplification. The Suebi eventually migrated south and west to reside in the area of modern Germany, where their name still survives in the historic region known as Swabia.

Closely related to the Alamanni and often working in concert with them, the Suebi for the most part stayed on the “German” side of the Rhine until December 31, 406, when much of the tribe joined the Vandals and Alans in breaching the Roman frontier at Mainz, thus launching an invasion of the province of Gaul.

While the Vandals and Alans clashed with the Roman-allied Franks for supremacy in Gaul, the Suebi worked their way to the south, eventually crossing the Pyrenees Mountains and entering Spain. In 409, their king Hermeric established his people in territories making up the northwestern part of the Iberian peninsula, and eventually received official recognition from the Romans for their settlement there.

The Suebic kingdom in Spain lasted for 175 years after that, and seems to have enjoyed relatively stable government for most of that time. There were occasional clashes with the Visigoths, who arrived in Spain in 416 and came to dominate most of the peninsula, but the Suevi maintained their independence until 584, when the Visigothic King Leovigild invaded the Suevi kingdom and finally defeated it. Andeca, the final king of the Suevi, held out for a year before surrendering in 585. With his surrender, this branch of the Suevi vanished into the Visigothic kingdom.

The Suebi who remained behind in 406 soon lost their distinct identity to the Alamanni and were absorbed into that tribe, although the land they occupied preserves their name: Swabia.


The Teutons(Teutones) were a Germanic people mentioned in early historical writings by Greek and Roman authors. Their homeland was given as Jutland, the western peninsula of modern Denmark.During the late 2nd century B.C., along with their neighbors the Cimbri, the Teutons are recorded as marching south through Gaul and attacking Roman Italy. After a series of defeats by the tribes, Roman armies came to grips with the Cimbri and Teutones and routed them.

The terms “Teuton” and “Teutonic” have sometimes been used in reference to all of the Germanic peoples. “Teut” is an Indo-European word for God, and is also found in the German words for German – “Deutsch”, Germany – “Deutschland” (Gods’ Land), and in the English word “Teusday” literally translated as “Day of Tue” (Tyr).



The Ubii were a Germanic tribe first encountered dwelling on the right bank of the Rhine in the time of Julius Caesar, who formed an alliance with them in 55 BCE in order to launch attacks across the river. They were transported in 39 BCE by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa to the left bank. This was apparently at their own request, as they feared the incursions of the Suebi. Agrippa founded the city of Cologne as their capital, whose Latin name Colonia Agrippensis is the origin of the current form. The Ubii remained loyal allies of Rome, and were instrumental in crushing the Batavian revolt in 70. They seem to have been so thoroughly Romanised that they adopted the name Agrippensesin honour of their “founder”, and their later history is submerged in that of eastern Gaul as a whole.

The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire, and created a state in North Africa, centered on the city of Carthage. The Vandals probably gave their name to the province of Andalusia (originally, Vandalusia), in Spain, where they temporarily settled before pushing on to northern Africa.They were identified with Przeworsk culture in the 19th century. Controversial connections exist between the Vandals and another Germanic tribe, the Lugii (Lygier, Lugier or Lygians), some scientists believing that either Lugii was an earlier name of the Vandals, or the Vandals were part of the Lugian federation. The Vandals originated in Sweden and are assumed to have crossed the Baltic into what is today Poland somewhere in the 2nd century BCE, and have settled in Silesia from around 120 BCE. Their presence was recorded between the Oder and Vistula rivers in Germania in AD 98 by Tacitus and by later historians.

The two subdivisions of the Vandals were the Silingii and the Hasdingii. The Silingii lived in an area recorded for centuries as Magna Germania, and later called Silesia. In the second century AD, the Hasdingii, led by the kings Raus and Rapt (or Rhaus and Raptus) moved south, and first attacked the Romans in the lower Danube area, then made peace and settled in western Dacia, Romania and Roman Hungary.

In 400 or 401, possibly because of attacks by the Huns, the Vandals along with their Germanic and Sarmatian allies (namely, Sarmatian Alans and Germanic Suebians), started to move westward under king Godigisel. Some of the Silingii joined them later. Much like the Goths earlier, the Vandals adopted Arianism, a branch of Christianity that believed that Jesus Christ was not equal to God the Father, but a separate created being directly beneath God. This belief was in opposition to that of the main Christian group in the Roman Empire, which later grew into Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Vandals travelled west along the Danube without much difficulty, but when they reached the Rhine, they met resistance from the Franks, who populated and controlled the Roman possessions in northern Gallia. 20,000 Vandals, among which Godigisel himself, died in the resulting battle, but then with the help of the Alans they managed to defeat the Franks, and on December 31, 406 the Vandals crossed the Rhine to invade Gallia. Under Godigisel’s son Gunderic, the Vandals plundered their way westward and southward through Gallia. In October 409 they crossed the Pyrenees mountain range into Spain. There they received land from the Romans: Galicia and (V) Andalusia, while the Alans got Portugal and the region around Cartagena. Still, the Suebi, who also controlled part of Galicia, and the Visigoths, who invaded Spain before receiving lands in southern France, kept causing trouble for Vandals and Alans.

Gunderic’s half brother Geiseric started building a Vandal fleet. In 429, after becoming king, Geiseric crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and moved east toward Carthage. In 435 the Romans granted them some territory in Northern Africa, yet in 439 Carthage fell to the Vandals. Gaiseric then built the Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans into a powerful state, and conquered Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands. In 455, the Vandals took Rome, and in 468 destroyed an enormous Byzantine fleet sent against them.

His son Huneric became king at his death in 477. Huneric’s reign was mostly notable for its religious persecutions of the Manichaeans and Catholics. Gunthamund (484-496) sought internal peace with the Catholics. Externally, the Vandal power had been declining since Geiseric’s death, and Gunthamund lost large parts of Sicily to the Ostrogoths, and had to withstand increasing pressure from the Moors.

Hilderic 523-530 was the most Catholic-friendly of the Vandal kings. However, he had little interest in war, and left it to a family member, Hoamer. When Hoamer suffered a defeat against the Moors, the Arian faction within the royal family led a revolt, and Gelimer (530-533) became king. Hilderic, Hoamer and their relatives were thrown into prison.

The Byzantine emperor Justinian I declared war on the Vandals. The action was led by Belisarius. Having heard that the greatest part of the Vandal fleet was fighting an uprising in Sardinia, he decided to act quickly, and landed on Tunisian soil, then marched on to Carthage. In the late summer of 533, King Gelimer met Belisarius ten miles south of Carthage at the Battle of Ad Decimium. The Vandals were winning the battle at first, but when Gelimer’s nephew Gibamund fell in battle, the Vandals lost heart and fled. Belisarius quickly took Carthage while the surviving Vandals fought on.

On December 15 533, Gelimer and Belisarius clashed again at Ticameron, some 20 miles from Carthage. Again, the Vandals fought well but broke, this time when Gelimer’s brother Tzazo fell in battle. Belisarius quickly advanced to Hippo, second city of the Vandal Kingdom, and in 534 Gelimer surrendered to the Roman conqueror, ending the Kingdom of the Vandals.

Differences between Arianic Vandals and Catholics or Donatists was a constant source of tensions in their African state. Most Vandal kings, except Hilderic, more or less persecuted Catholics. Although catholicism was rarely officially forbidden (the last months of Huneric’s reign being an exception), they were forbidden from making converts among the Vandals, and life was generally difficult for the catholic clergy.

Eventually the Vandals returned to eastern Germany and Silesia. That return move has been recorded as well as later Vandals in regionem Wandalorum in the 796 Annales Alamanici, where Pippin went to the regions of the Vandals and the Vandals came to meet him. The land in Germany has still been called Wandalorum in the second millennium.

The Goth, Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths and regent of the Visigoths was allied by marriage with the Vandals and Burgundians, and the Franks under Clovis I.

Today’s common English usage of the word “vandal” is someone who maliciously defaces or destroys property, and reflects the dread and hostility the tribe precipitated in other people, especially the Romans, by their looting and pillaging of the many villages they conquered. The word was coined by an 18th century Frenchman.

The Visigothsor “Western Goths” (as opposed to “East Goths”, Ostrogoths ) were a Germanic group that entered the late Roman Empire; they were the Western branch of the Gothic people. After the “fall” of the western Roman Empire, the Visigoths continued to play a major role in western European affairs for another 250 years.The Visigoths first appeared in history as a distinct people in the year 268, when they invaded the Roman Empire and swarmed over the Balkan peninsula. This invasion overran the Roman provinces of Pannonia and Illyricum and even threatened Italia itself. However, the Visigoths were defeated in battle near the modern Italy-Slovenia border that summer, and then routed in the Battle of Naissus that September. Over the next three years, they were driven back over the Danube River> in a series of campaigns by the emperors Claudius II Gothicus and Aurelian. However, they maintained their hold on the Roman province of Dacia, which Aurelian evacuated in 271.

Settled in Dacia, the Visigoths adopted Arian Christianity which was in opposition to the belief of the main Christian group in the Roman Empire, which later grew into Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The Visigoths adhered to Arianism until 589, when King Reccared I converted his people to Catholicism.

They remained in Dacia until 376, when one of their two leaders, Fritigern, appealed to the Roman emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Here, they hoped to find refuge from the Huns, who lacked the ability to cross the wide river in force. Valens permitted this, and even helped bring the Visigoths over the river. In return, Fritigern was to provide soldiers for the Roman army.

However, a famine broke out in the lands settled by the Visigoths a year later, and they were treated cruelly by the Roman governors in their territories. When Valens didn’t respond to Fritigern’s appeals for help, Fritigern led his people into battle, and a war ensued that ended in the Battle of Adrianople on August 9, 378. Fritigern emerged victorious, recognized as king by his people, and the Visigoths were masters of the Balkans.

The new emperor, Theodosius I (Valens had died at Adrianople), made peace with Fritigern in 379, and this peace held essentially unbroken until Theodosius died in 395. In that year, the Visigoths’ most famous king, Alaric, took the throne, while Theodosius was succeeded by his incapable sons: Arcadius in the east and Flavius Augustus Honorius in the west.

Over the next 15 years, occasional conflicts were broken by years of uneasy peace between Alaric and the powerful German generals who commanded the Roman armies in the east and west, wielding the real power of the empire. Finally, after the western generalissimo Stilicho was murdered by Honorius in 408 and the Roman legions massacred the families of 30,000 barbarian soldiers serving in the Roman army, Alaric declared war. With Alaric and his army at the gates of Rome, Honorius still refused to come to terms, so Alaric sacked the city on August 24, 410.

After peace was secured a few years later, Honorius granted the Visigoths lands in the Aquitaine area of modern France, and they later expanded into Spain as well. At first, they shared Spain with the Vandals and Alans, but soon crushed the latter and made life so difficult for the Vandals that they moved on to North Africa in search of easier conquests.

The Visigoths’ second great king, Euric, unified the various quarreling factions of the Visigoths, and in 475, forced the Roman government to grant them full independence. At his death, the Visigoths were the most powerful of the successor states to the western empire.

At its greatest extent, before the battle of Vouillé in 507, the Visigothic kingdom included all of the Iberian peninsula except for small areas in the north (belonging to the Basques) and in the northwest (the Suevi kingdom), plus Aquitaine. In 507, the Franks wrested control of Aquitaine from the Visigoths, and in 554, Granada and Andalusia were lost to the “Reconquest” of the west by the Byzantine Empire’s emperor Justinian I.

The Visigoths conquered the Suevi kingdom in 584 and regained the southern areas lost to the Byzantines in 624. Their kingdom survived until 711, when King Roderic was killed while opposing an invasion from the south by the Omayyad Muslims. Most of Spain soon came under Islamic rule.

A Visigothic nobleman, Pelayo, is credited with beginning the Christian Reconquista of Spain in 718, when he defeated the Omayyads in battle and established the Kingdom of Asturias in the northern part of the peninsula. Other Visigoths, refusing to adopt the Muslim faith or live under their rule, fled north to the kingdom of the Franks, and Visigoths played key roles in the empire of Charlemagne a few generations later.