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Chapter 27

HISTORICAL NOTICES OF THE DIFFERENT BARBAROUS TRIBES THAT AIDED IN DESTROYING THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

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Lo! from the frozen forests of the north, The sons of slaughter pour in myriads forth! Who shall awake the mighty? Will thy woe, City of thrones, disturb the world below? Call on the dead to hear thee! let thy cries Summon their shadowy legions to arise, Array the ghosts of conquerors on thy walls Barbarians revel in their ancient halls! And their lost children bend the subject knee, Amidst the proud tombs and trophies of the free!--Anon.

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1. We have already mentioned that the barbarous nations which joined in the destruction of the Roman empire, were invited to come within its precincts through the weakness or folly of successive sovereigns who recruited their armies from those hardy tribes, in preference to their own subjects, enervated by luxury and indolence. The grants of land, and the rich donations by which the emperors endeavoured to secure the fidelity of these dangerous auxiliaries, encouraged them to regard the Roman territories as their prey; and being alternately the objects of lavish extravagance and wanton insult, their power was increased at the same time that their resentment was provoked. 2. Towards the close of the year 406, the Vandals, the Suevi, and the Alans, first sounded the tocsin of invasion, and their example was followed by the Goths, the Burgundians, the Alleman'ni, the Franks, the Huns, the Angli, the Saxons, the Heruli, and the Longobar'di, or Lombards. The chief of these nations, with the exception of the Huns were of German origin. It is not easy in every instance to discover the original seat of these several tribes, and trace their successive migrations, because, being ignorant of letters, they only retained some vague traditions of their wanderings.

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THE VANDALS AND ALANS

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3. This tribe was, like the Burgundians and Lombards, a branch of the ancient Sue'vi, and inhabited that part of Germany which lies between the Elbe and the Vis'tula. Being joined by some warriors from Scandinavia, they advanced towards the south, and established themselves in that part of Da'cia which included the modern province of Transylva'nia, and part of Hungary. Being oppressed in their new settlement by the Goths, they sought the protection of Constantine the Great, and obtained from him a grant of lands in Pannonia, on condition of their rendering military service to the Romans. 4. About the commencement of the fifth century, they were joined by the ALANS, a people originally from mount Cau'casus, and the ancient Scythia: a branch of which having settled in Sarma'tia, near the source of the Borysthenes _(Dnieper)_, had advanced as far as the Danube, and there made a formidable stand against the Romans. In their passage through Germany, the Vandals and Alans were joined by a portion of the Suevi, and the confederate tribes entering Gaul, spread desolation over the entire country.

5. From thence the barbarians passed into Spain and settled in the province, from them named Vandalu'sia, since corrupted to Andalusia. On the invitation of Count Boniface, the Vandals proceeded from Spain to Africa, where they founded a formidable empire. After remaining masters of the western Mediterranean for nearly a century, the eastern emperor Justinian sent a formidable force against them under the command of the celebrated Belisa'rius. This great leader not only destroyed the power of these pirates, but erased the very name of Vandals from the list of nations.

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THE GOTHS.

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6. The Goths, the most powerful of these destructive nations, are said to have come originally from Scandina'via; but when they first began to attract the notice of historians, we find them settled on the banks of the Danube. Those who inhabited the districts towards the east, and the Euxine sea, between the Ty'ras _(Dniester)_ the Borys'thenes _(Dnieper)_ and the Tan'ais _(Don)_ were called Ostrogoths; the Visigoths extended westwards over ancient Dacia, and the regions between the Ty'ras, the Danube, and the Vistula.

7. Attacked in these vast countries by the Huns, as has been mentioned in a preceding chapter, some were subjugated, and others compelled to abandon their habitations. They obtained settlements from the emperors, but being unwisely provoked to revolt, they became the most formidable enemies of the Romans. After having twice ravaged Italy and plundered Rome, they ended their conquests by establishing themselves in Gaul and Spain.

8. The Spanish monarchy of the Visigoths, which in its flourishing state comprised, besides the entire peninsula, the province of Septima'nia (_Langucaoc_) in Gaul, and Mauritania, Tingeta'na, (_north-western Africa_) on the opposite coasts of the Mediterranean, lasted from the middle of the fifth to the commencement of the eighth century, when it was overthrown by the Moors. 9. The Thuringians, whom we find established in the heart of Germany, in the middle of the fifth century, appear to have been a branch of the Visigoths.

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THE FRANKS.

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10. A number of petty German tribes having entered into a confederacy to maintain their mutual independence, took the name of Franks, or Freemen. The tribes which thus associated, principally inhabited the districts lying between the Rhine and the Weser, including the greater part of Holland and Westphalia. 11. In the middle of the third century, they invaded Gaul, but were defeated by Aurelian, who afterwards became emperor. In the fourth, and towards the beginning of the fifth century, they permanently established themselves as a nation, and gave the name of _Francia_, or _France_, to the provinces lying between the Rhine, the Weser, the Maine, and the Elbe; but about the sixth century that name was transferred to ancient Gaul, when it was conquered by the Franks.

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THE ALLEMANNI.

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12. The Alleman'ni were another confederation of German tribes, which took its name from including a great variety of nations. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the name is compounded of the words _all_ and _man_ which still continue unchanged in our language. Their territories extended between the Danube, the Rhine, and the Maine, and they rendered themselves formidable to the Romans by their frequent inroads into Gaul and Italy during the third and fourth centuries.

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THE SAXONS AND ANGLES.

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13. The Saxons began to be conspicuous about the close of the second century. They were then settled beyond the Elbe, in modern Holstein; having for their neighbours the ANGLI, or ANGLES, inhabiting Sleswick. These nations were early distinguished as pirates, and their plundering expeditions kept the shores of western Europe in constant alarm. Being invited by the Britons to assist in repelling the invasions of the Picts, they subdued the southern part of the island, which has ever since retained the name of England, from its conquerors the An'gli. When the Franks penetrated into Gaul, the Saxons passed the Elbe, and seizing on the vacated territory, gave the name of Saxony to ancient France.

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THE HUNS.

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14. The Huns were the most ferocious and sanguinary of the barbarians. They seem to have been originally Kalmuck or Mongolian Tartars, and, during the period of their supremacy, seem never to have laid aside the savage customs which they brought from their native deserts. 15. After having expelled the Goths from the banks of the Danube, they fell upon the eastern empire, and compelled the court of Constantinople to pay them tribute. They then, under the guidance of Attila, invaded Italy, and after devastating the peninsula, captured and plundered Rome. After the death of Attila, the Huns were broken up into a number of petty states, which maintained their independence until the close of the eighth century, when they were subdued by Charlemagne.

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THE BURGUNDIANS.

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16. The Burgundians were originally inhabitants of the countries situated between the Oder and the Vistula. They followed nearly the track of the Visigoths, and at the beginning of the fifth century had established themselves on the Upper Rhine and in Switzerland. On the dissolution of the empire, they seized on that part of Gaul, which from them retains the name of Burgundy.

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THE LOMBARDS, THE GEPIDĘ, AND THE AVARS.

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17. The Lombards, more properly called Longo-bardi, from the length of their beards, are supposed by some to have been a branch of the Sue'vi, and by others to have migrated from Scandina'via. They joined with the Avars, a fierce Asiatic people, in attacking the Gep'idę, then in possession of that part of Dacia lying on the left bank of the Danube, but who are supposed to have come thither from some more northern country. The Avars and Lombards triumphed, but the former soon turned their arms against their allies, and compelled them to seek new habitations. 18. About the middle of the sixth century they invaded Italy, which the Eastern emperors had just before wrested from the Turks, and made themselves masters of the northern part; which has since borne the name of Lombardy.

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THE SLA'VI.

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19. These were the last of the barbarian hordes, and are not mentioned by any author before the sixth century. They first appeared in the east of Europe, and spreading themselves over the central provinces, occupied the greater part of the countries that now constitute the dominions of Austria. The Sla'vi warred chiefly against the Eastern empire, and their contest with the Grecian forces on the Danube, in the sixth and seventh centuries, shook the throne of Constantinople. The VENE'DI and the AN'TES were tribes of the Slavi.

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THE NORMANS.

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20. The piratical inhabitants of Norway and Denmark were called by the Franks, Normans, or, Men of the North; in Ireland they were named Ostmen, or, Men of the East. Their depredations began to attract notice early in the seventh century, but did not become formidable before the ninth: when they obtained possession of that part of France now called Normandy. In the two following centuries they wrested England from the Saxons, and established kingdoms in Sicily and southern Italy.

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THE BULGARIANS.

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21. The Bulgarians were of Scythian or Tartar origin, and became formidable to the Eastern empire in the latter part of the seventh century. In the beginning of the ninth, Cruni'nus, their king, advanced to the gates of Constantinople; but the city proving too strong, he seized Adrianople, and returned home loaded with booty. The successors of Cruni'nus did not inherit his abilities, and the Bulgarians soon sunk into comparative insignificance.

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THE SARACENS MOORS AND TURKS.

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22. In concluding this chapter, it may be proper to give some account of the subverters of the Eastern empire, and of their irruption into Europe. The Arabs, called in the middle ages Saracens, are supposed to be descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar. During all the changes of dynasties and empires in the eastern and western world, they retained their independence, though almost constantly at war with the surrounding states. "Their hand was against every man, and every man's hand was against them." In the beginning of the seventh century, Mohammed, a native of Mecca, descended from a noble family, laid claim to the title of a prophet, and being aided by a renegade Christian, formed a religious system, which, after encountering great opposition, was finally adopted by the principal tribes of Arabia. The successors of Mohammed, called Caliphs, resolved to propagate the new religion by the sword, and conquered an empire, more extensive than that of the Romans had been. The entire of central and southern Asia, including Persia, India, and the provinces of the Eastern empire owned their sway; northern Africa was soon after subdued, and in the beginning of the eighth century, the Saracenic Moors established their dominion in Spain. 23. It is probable, even, that all Europe would have submitted to their yoke, if the French hero, Charles Martel,[1] had not arrested their victorious career, and defeated their numerous armies on the plains of _Poitiers_, A.D. 732.[2]

24. The empire of the Caliphs soon declined from its original splendour, and its ruin finally proceeded from the same cause that produced the downfall of Rome, the employment of barbarian mercenaries. The soldiers levied by the Caliphs, were selected from the Tartar tribes that had embraced the religion of Mohammed; they were called Turcomans or Turks, from Turkistan, the proper name of western Tartary. These brave, but ferocious warriors, soon wrested the sceptre from the feeble caliphs, and completed the conquest of western Asia. The crusades for a time delayed the fate of the Greek empire, but finally the Turks crossed the Hellespont, and having taken Constantinople, (A.D. 1453,) established their cruel despotism over the fairest portion of Europe.

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Questions for Examination.

1. How were the barbarians first brought into the Roman empire?

2. When did the first great movement of the Northern tribes take place?

3. Where did the Vandals first settle?

4. From whence did the Alans come?

5. In what countries did the Vandals establish their power?

6. Where did we first find the Goths settled?

7. To what countries did the Goths remove?

8. How long did the kingdom of the Visigoths continue?

9. What branch of the Goths settled in Germany?

10. From what did the Franks derive their name?

11. Which was the ancient, and which the modern France?

12. What is the history of the Allemanni?

13. In what countries did the Saxons and Angles settle?

14. Whence did the Huns come?

15. How far did their ravages extend?

16. What territory did the Burgundians seize?

17. How did the alliance between the Lombards and Avars injure the former people?

18. Where was the kingdom of the Lombards established?

19. What is told respecting the Slavi?

20. Who were the Normans?

21. What is the history of the Bulgarians?

22. What great conquests were achieved by the Arabs under Mohammed and his successors?

23. By whom was the Saracenic career of victory checked?

24. How was the empire of the Turks established?

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Taylor's History of France.

[2] Here also the heroic Black Prince took John, king of France, prisoner. See Taylor's France.

Oliver Goldsmith