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Theme 4. A brief history of the Germanic Tribes

Evidence developed by archaeologists and linguists suggests that a people or group of peoples sharing a common material culture dwelt in northern Germany and southern Scandinavia in 1000BC 500 BC. Linguists suggest that this group spoke the Proto-Germanic language, a distinct branch of the Indo-European Language Family.

The southward movement, probably influenced by a deteriorating climate in Scandinavia in 600 BC 300 BC, brought the Germanic peoples to Europe. Warm and dry climate of southern Scandinavia deteriorated considerably, which not only dramatically changed the flora, but forced people to change their way of living and to leave their settlements.

The Germanic peoples settled in northern Europe along the borders of the Roman Empire from the 2nd century. The tribal homelands to the north and east emerged collectively in the records as Germania. The peoples of this area were sometimes at war with Rome, but also engaged in complex and long-term trade relations, military alliances, and cultural exchanges with Rome as well.

A great wave of mysterious migration was that of the Germanic tribes beginning in the 2nd century AD and resulting in conquest of the western Empire. This is an odd chapter in history, for the population of Italy was much larger than the population of migrating Germans. The Visigoths, one of the largest of the Germanic tribes, probably did not number more than 100,000 people and could field probably no more than 25,000 soldiers. This is in comparison to the 60 to 70 million people living in the Empire and a standing army that outnumbered the entire population of the Visigoths. Still, the Visigoths managed to enter Rome and assert administrative control over much of the western Empire.

During the 5th century, as the Western Roman Empire lost military strength and political cohesion, numerous Germanic tribes, under pressure from invading Asian peoples and/or population growth and climate change, began migrating in far and diverse directions, taking them to England and as far south through present day Continental Europe to the Mediterranean and northern Africa. Over time, this wandering meant intrusions into other tribal territories, and wars for land became more often. A defeat meant either scattering or merging with the dominant tribe, and this continued to be how nations were formed.


Table 2. Migration and assimilation of the Germanic tribes

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1141

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