HomeAncient HistoryAncient RomeBeginning of the "Barbarian" migrations into the territory of Roman Empire

Beginning of the “Barbarian” migrations into the territory of Roman Empire



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On the border of the Roman Empire, along the banks of the rivers Rhine and Danube and in the great arc that stretches from Scandinavia to the Black Sea, in the fourth century, huge migrations of Germanic tribes happened in these places. Germanic tribes already for centuries threatened to cross the borders of Rome, because their primitive and poorly productive economy forced them to constantly seek new lands to rob or colonize. Of course, the Germans were drawn by the wealth and glory of the Roman world, which caused constant conflicts at the borders. But while they were resisting the rush of Germans, the Romans little by little accepted barbarians within the Empire. At the beginning they were brought in as slaves or prisoners of war, then as free peasants who inhabited the abandoned land in the Empire, and finally they began taking them as military mercenaries and military leaders. The last third of the fourth century completely complicated and accelerated the current relations, because the pressure of nomadic hordes from Central Asia made Germanic tribes to pressure more and more Roman borders in search of land and security.

Nomads who initiated the whole commotion in Europe were the Huns. They were people of the Mongol or Tatar origin, which in 375 AD rushed towards Western Europe. Very soon they took control over Ostrogoths tribe (Eastern Goths), which was situated on the territory of today’s Ukraine, and after that they turned to the Visigoths (Western Goths), which at the time were situated around the river Dniester.

In 376 AD, Visigoths sent a letter to Emperor Flavius Julius Valens, the ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire, which allowed them to situate within the boundaries of the Empire. Emperor Valens allowed them to settle, because he had a lot of abandoned land. He did not have some expectations that the Goths will pay the taxes, but he saw them as potential recruits for the Roman army. However when the Visigoths settled as federates, Romans treated them as enemies, because they never had enough land and vile Romans sold rotten wheat to them for a lot of money. There was more and more hunger among the Visigoths. It was mentioned that even some Goths changed their children for the Roman dogs, so that they could eat them. The tension was growing, and everyone waited for the open conflict. The main battle took place at Adrianople in 378 AD, it was known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis. The Roman infantry was beaten by the Gothic cavalry, and the Emperor Valens was killed. Almost 700 years have passed since the Roman legions went in battle with Samnites. This battle made out of the Roman infantry legions a legend, while cavalry became bearer of the power. Visigoths, after this battle, briefly settled on the Balkan peninsula, before they continued their migration further westward.