The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814

By H. St. L. B. Moss | Go to book overview

II
THE BARBARIAN WORLD

A GLANCE at the map is enough to show the dangerous position of the Empire in 395. On the Rhine, the places of those scattered tribes whom Caesar and Tacitus had known were taken by a formidable line of peoples who had travelled slowly westward from the Baltic region, gaining in cohesion and military value by their approach to the Roman confines. The two Frankish groups were the most powerful of these peoples; but the Alamans who had found their way into the re-entrant angle between Rhine and Danube were an equal menace, owing to their strategic position. The other re-entrant, formed by the southward and eastward turns of the Danube near Budapest and Belgrade, had been largely filled up when the province of Dacia ( Transylvania and Rumania) was created; but this was abandoned to the barbarians after 257: the Asding Vandals now held the north-west, the Visigoths, since 364, had been pressing southward against the Danube, and shut in behind these two were the Gepids. The Ostrogoths still wandered in the great plains of South Russia and had not yet, save for a few roving bands, come into immediate contact with the Empire. Still farther east, on Don and Volga, were the Alans, an Iranian people. Behind this first line were other restless tribes, preparing to play their part-- Saxons on the Weser, Angles in Schleswig-Holstein; Sueves on the Elbe, Lombards in Silesia, Heruls in the Crimea, and Slavs beyond the Pripet marshes.

Each section of the long frontier had at one time or another been threatened or even broken through; but the Romans possessed interior lines of communication, and troops were hurried to the spot. Now this was of no avail. A new force had appeared from the Asian steppes, under whose impact were set in motion the barbarian attacks, incessant and ubiquitous, which in little more than a generation finally broke up the Empire in the West. This force was the Huns. Soon after 355 they reached the Volga, overpowered the Alans and hurled back the Ostrogoths behind the Dniester (c. 370); the impact drove the Visigoths over the

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The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Description of Illustrations xvi
  • Part I- Romans and Barbarians 1
  • I- The Roman World 1
  • II- The Barbarian World 38
  • III- The Clash of Cultures 57
  • Part II- The Triumph of Justinian 79
  • IV- Constantinople *
  • V- Justinian and the West 95
  • VI- Justinian and the East 108
  • VII- The Aftermath 125
  • Part III- The Onslaught of Islam 143
  • VIII- The Faith 143
  • IX- The Conquest 149
  • X- The Culture 159
  • Part IV- The Age of Charlemagne 175
  • XI- The European Background 175
  • XII- The Franks 193
  • XIII- The Papacy 222
  • Appendix A 266
  • Appendix B 270
  • Chronological Table 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 288
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