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The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations

The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations

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This beautifully illustrated volume constitutes a short overview of mainly Northern and Central European "barbarian" cultures, identified by their initially preliterate civilizations and their cultural distance from the Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome.This book was written for the general reader with a deep interest in ancient European history and is accessible for college and even higher-level high-school students while remaining pleasurable for postgrads.

Barbarians. The name itself calls to many minds the image of naked, painted, shrieking Celtic warriors rushing headlong into armored Roman legions, managing to lose the entirety of Gaul to Caesar as a result. But the term and the specific peoples known now as 'Celts' are largely avoided in Peter Bogucki’s The Barbarians, a decision attributed to a somewhat contradictory reasoning “that the Celts represented only some of the Barbarians [i.e., Europeans not belonging to the Classical, Greco-Roman societies] of temperate Europe,” a notion which seems abundantly obvious, but which is then somewhat blurred by the author’s reference to a paradoxical “diversity of uniformity.”

Why examining in detail the cultural, religious, political and geographical differences between widely different cultures should be swept under the academic rug seems a somewhat alien concept, but Bogucki’s is a strictly archaeological rather than anthropological perspective, and this generally makes sense given the chasm between literary and architectural remains that generally exists between the Barbarian and Classical cultures.

Bogucki concentrates on a set number of Barbarian themes: innovation (the eventual mastery of materials from wood to flint, bronze to iron); connectedness (long-distance travel for trading purposes); enclosure (the building of defensive infrastructure such as ramparts and palisades); monumentality (the creation of unprecedented and thus deeply impressive to the public of megalithic tombs, standing stones, barrows and so forth); ritual (the introduction/imposition of ritual belief systems); wealth (the gradual hegemony of among societal elites); and finally, and perhaps most difficult to determine from the archaeological record, the lives of ordinary people without whose whose farms, pastures, and workshops neither Barbarian nor Classical cultures could have existed.

Bogucki details how the Barbarians' legacy, while much harder to trace & define, is every bit as important as their Mediterranean brethren.

Bogucki launches his narrative circa 2300 BCE, in England’s Salisbury Plain, with a detailed introduction to the unearthed Amesbury Archer, possibly a warrior or hunter buried with arrowheads, copper knives, ceramic vessels, boars’ tusks, and two enigmatic gold ornaments thought to be hair or ear adornments. From there he takes us on a grand tour, from the Alpine 'Ice Man' to Stonehenge and the accession of the Bronze Age, when the mounting sophistication of seagoing vessels in northern Europe allowed for increased interaction among distanced peoples and exchanges of goods and perspectives.

Around 1200 BCE came the Iron Age, a 'seamless' transition from the Bronze, according to Bogucki, and Barbarian and Classical cultures, through mutually expanding power centers, came face to face. After a fascinating and gruesomely illustrated section on the bog body sacrifices of Northern Europe, Bogucki takes us to the middle of the 1st century CE, Caesar’s vanquishment of Gaul. From this point in the book, Roman conquests play a major role, though he makes it clear that there were a great many powerfully functioning societies beyond Roman control. Finally, Bogucki provides a fine description of the most singular disruption of Roman plans for Europe with the sudden and devastating arrival of the Huns from the distant plateaux of Central Asia.

Peter Bogucki’s The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations is a beautifully bound and illustrated work of approachable scholarship, written in a somewhat dry manner (at least given the subject matter) but ably covering the most significant events in early European history from a learned and always interesting perspective. Bogucki details how the Barbarians played a role equal to that of the Classical civilizations in the creation of European culture, and their legacy, while necessarily much harder to trace and define, is every bit as important and lasting as their Mediterranean brethren.


Each of the portions of the Being was associated with one of the Nine Worlds.

The Lich was of Hela’s realm the Haminja was of Mulspelheim (Fire), the Fylgia was of Nifelheim (Ice), Orlog was of Midgard (the Earth itself), Minni was of Jotunheim (realm of Giants), Modig was of Svartalfheim (the Dwarven realm), Manig was of Alfheim (the Elven Realm), Hugr was of Vanaheim (the home of the Vanir Gods), and Hamr was of Asgard, realm of the Aesir.

A tenth attribute of the being, that of the Aldr, was the “Life-Age”, and pertained mainly to the Soul’s Age as measured by its experiences through its various incarnations on Earth.

Mention, too, must be made of Wyrd that aspect of the Soul that counteracted Orlog and could rewrite it known to us as “chance” and “Free Will.”

In a largely war-based society such as the Norse, Celts, and Teutons lived, death was viewed as an inevitable, yet not calamitous, portion of Life.

In particular, the Norse (later, the Vikings), believed that to expiate yourself in death on the field of battle assured that you would have a place in Walhalla, the Norse paradise where there would be feasting, gaming, and battle on a daily basis.

Those who died of sickness or old age were relegated to the shadowy realms of Hel, ruled by the Goddess of Death of the same name.

The concept of Valhalla and Hel tends to be a more recent one (only 1000-1100 years old) and seems to have been influenced by Christian philosophy of Heaven and Hell.

The barbarian peoples before 400 C.E. believed that after death, the intelligence and soul would be reborn back into their family’s lineage, thus indicating a strong belief in reincarnation (along blood lines).

The Celtic philosophy is very similar, although some of the Celts (in particular, the Druids), believed in the ability to return as plants or animals rather than as humans and in a particular blood line.

Other barbarian tribes who did not believe in reincarnation, believed that the intelligence and “soul” continued on Earth, only in a separate but parallel dimension, accessible through their burial site, or howe.

Burial practices among the barbarians ranged from cremation to actual burial (without embalming, of which technology the barbarians were ignorant).

Cremation was an elaborate ceremony, reserved mainly for drightens (warlords), kings, and true heroes (think Sigurd, Beowulf, and Cu Chullain). The body was prepared for burial by adorning it in the richest of garments, furs, torcs, armbands, and other jewelry.

The weapons, shields, and drinking horn(s) or goblets of the hero were also placed with the body, in the belief that the hero would require them in the Otherworld be it Walhalla or Tir Na nOg (among others).

The body would then be placed upon an outdoor bier, which would be ignited. During the funeral service, sumbels (toasting ceremonies) would be drunk in honor of the dead one both laughter and tears were welcomed. Stories would be told of his/her battle prowess and other legends of his/her feats.

At the end, the ashes of the hero would be gathered and either scattered over the water (for a sea-faring people) or placed in an appropriate burial chamber (such as a howe).

There is no historic evidence to suggest that the Vikings or the barbarians ever engaged in sea cremations (where the bier was placed afloat on a boat and then ignited as the boat sailed into the sea).

Although such a practice could have been possible, it was highly unlikely that it was widely used and it seems to be more of a dramatic theatrical modern supposition upon Viking culture equalling that of placing horns on their helmets. It works for Hollywood, but not for historical fact.

Other barbarians, especially the ones espousing Christianity, employed burial without cremation for the honorable disposition of the lich (corpse). Even those who were non-Christian often used this type of burial for the remains of those who were non-noble or had not died upon the field of battle or while performing a heroic feat.

The body would be adorned similarly to that of the hero in their best and finest garments, jewelry, and possessions, and placed within a howe a burial chamber of a mound.

Nevertheless the Indus civilization left a lasting legacy, setting the pattern for
many later aspects of life in the subcontinent, many of which have endured to the
present day. A LOST CIVILIZATION While the civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia
, .

Author: Jane McIntosh

This work is a revealing study of the enigmatic Indus civilization and how a rich repertoire of archaeological tools is being used to probe its puzzles. * A chronological overview that establishes the important phases of the Indus civilization and places Indus society in the historical context of the development of South Asia * Illustrations showing speculative reconstructions of the Indus civilization's magnificent cities and photographs of artifacts from exquisite jewelry to beautiful carved seals

The Barbarians : Lost Civilizations

We often think of the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome as discrete incubators of Western culture, places where ideas about everything from government to art to philosophy were free to develop and then be distributed outward into the wider Mediterranean world. But as Peter Bogucki reminds us in this book, Greece and Rome did not develop in isolation. All around them were rural communities who had remarkably different cultures, ones few of us know anything about. Telling the stories of these nearly forgotten people, he offers a long-overdue enrichment of how we think about classical antiquity.

As Bogucki shows, the lands to the north of the Greek and Roman peninsulas were inhabited by non-literate communities that stretched across river valleys, mountains, plains, and shorelines from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. What we know about them is almost exclusively through archeological finds of settlements, offerings, monuments, and burials—but these remnants paint a portrait that is just as compelling as that of the great literate, urban civilizations of this time. Bogucki sketches the development of these groups’ cultures from the Stone Age through the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west, highlighting the increasing complexity of their societal structures, their technological accomplishments, and their distinct cultural practices. He shows that we are still learning much about them, as he examines new historical and archeological discoveries as well as the ways our knowledge about these groups has led to a vibrant tourist industry and even influenced politics. The result is a fascinating account of several nearly vanished cultures and the modern methods that have allowed us to rescue them from historical oblivion.

The Barbarians Lost Civilizations Peter Bogucki

The civilizations of Greece and Rome that flourished in Mediterranean Europe did not develop in isolation. To their north, non-literate peoples inhabited river valleys, mountains, plains and coasts from the Atlantic to the Urals. Their story, known almost exclusively through archaeological finds of settlements, offerings, monuments and burials, is as compelling as that of the great literate, urban civilizations. Moreover, the prehistoric past of Europe echoes into the modern era through new discoveries, celebrations of the past, tourist attractions and even politics.

Beginning in the Stone Age and continuing through the collapse of the Roman empire in the west, The Barbarians describes the increasing complexity, technological accomplishments and distinctive practices of peoples who entered recorded history very late and then mainly through second-hand accounts. Peter Bogucki highlights important discoveries and situates them in a narrative of long-term continuous development and modern understanding of the nature of ancient societies, as well as considering the rich and varied legacy left to us today.

&lsquoWinner of the Felicia A. Holton Book Award 2020
&rsquo &mdash Archaeological Institute of America

&lsquoWinner of the Popular Book Prize 2018&rsquo &mdash Society for American Archaeology

&lsquoThe author’s goal is to present an overview of prehistoric Europe via modern archaeological discoveries, with the major focus on the years between 2000 BCE and 500 CE. Archaeologist Bogucki (Princeton) provides valuable information from the European Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages to balance the biased written records from the hostile Greek and Roman accounts that depict the northern barbarians as violent and depraved subhumans . . . The author brings an intriguing story of barbarians into the present consciousness via looking at their emerging politics, complex economic and social systems, and evolving, sophisticated culture as evidenced in objective physical remains . . . Recommended.&rsquo &mdash Choice

&lsquoPeter Bogucki’s The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations is a beautifully bound and illustrated work of approachable scholarship . . . ably covering the most significant events in early European history from a learned and always interesting perspective. Bogucki details how the Barbarians played a role equal to that of the Classical civilizations in the creation of European culture, and their legacy, while necessarily much harder to trace and define, is every bit as important and lasting as their Mediterranean brethren.&rsquo &mdash Ancient History Encyclopedia

&lsquoBogucki takes us on a travel tour of Europe, offering a series of wonderfully written vignettes about sites and situations of the prehistoric past. The Barbarians is an ideal way for students and lay readers alike to enter into the past with ease.&rsquo &mdash Ian W. Brown, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama

&lsquoWinner of the Felicia A. Holton Book Award 2020
&rsquo &mdash Archaeological Institute of America

&lsquoWinner of the Popular Book Prize 2018&rsquo &mdash Society for American Archaeology

&lsquoThe author’s goal is to present an overview of prehistoric Europe via modern archaeological discoveries, with the major focus on the years between 2000 BCE and 500 CE. Archaeologist Bogucki (Princeton) provides valuable information from the European Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages to balance the biased written records from the hostile Greek and Roman accounts that depict the northern barbarians as violent and depraved subhumans . . . The author brings an intriguing story of barbarians into the present consciousness via looking at their emerging politics, complex economic and social systems, and evolving, sophisticated culture as evidenced in objective physical remains . . . Recommended.&rsquo &mdash Choice

&lsquoPeter Bogucki’s The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations is a beautifully bound and illustrated work of approachable scholarship . . . ably covering the most significant events in early European history from a learned and always interesting perspective. Bogucki details how the Barbarians played a role equal to that of the Classical civilizations in the creation of European culture, and their legacy, while necessarily much harder to trace and define, is every bit as important and lasting as their Mediterranean brethren.&rsquo &mdash Ancient History Encyclopedia

&lsquoBogucki takes us on a travel tour of Europe, offering a series of wonderfully written vignettes about sites and situations of the prehistoric past. The Barbarians is an ideal way for students and lay readers alike to enter into the past with ease.&rsquo &mdash Ian W. Brown, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama

Peter Bogucki serves as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University. He is the author of The Origins of Human Society (1999) and co-editor of Ancient Europe: An Encyclopedia of the Barbarian World (2003).

Top 10 Terrifying Civilizations

There have been many civilizations in the history of the world, from China to Zimbabwe, From Britain to Columbia. Here is a list of the most terrifying civilizations, from bad to worst. Due to the numerous civilizations in the course of human history, there are bound to be some you think should be here &ndash tell us why in the comments.

Celts had a large reputation as head hunters, and were famous for putting victim&rsquos heads on their chariots, and in front of their homes. Many Celts fought completely naked (much to the surprise of their enemies) and are famous for their iron long sword: &ldquoThey cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and striking up a paean and singing a song of victory and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold[.]&rdquo

The Maori were the first settlers of New Zealand &ndash arriving many centuries before Europeans. Their culture dates back to the early modern era. They had been known to practice cannibalism during warfare. In October, 1809, a European convict ship was attacked by a large group of Maori warriors, in revenge for the mistreatment of a chief&rsquos son. The Maori killed most of the 66 people on board, and carried dead and alive victims off the boat and back to shore to be eaten. A few lucky survivors, who were able to find a hiding spot inside the mast of the boat, were horrified as they watched the Maori devour their shipmates through the night and in to the next morning.

The Mongols were considered barbarians and savages. They dominated Europe and Asia and were most famous for riding on horseback, lead by one of the greatest military commanders in history, Genghis Khan. They were highly disciplined and masters with using the bow and arrow on horseback. They used a composite bow that could rip through armor, and were also pretty good with lances and scimitars. They were masters of psychological warfare and intimidation, and built the second largest empire ever, smaller only than the British Empire (But nothing&rsquos scary about tea and crumpets). It all started when Temujin (who was later known as Genghis Khan), vowed in his youth to bring the world to his feet. He almost did. Then he set his sights on China, and the rest is history. From Vietnam to Hungary, the Mongol Empire is the largest contiguous empire in the history of mankind.

The Apaches were like the ninjas of America. They would sneak up behind you and slit your throat, without you even knowing. They used primitive weapons made mostly of wood and bone. They were also the greatest knife fighters the world has ever seen, and were pretty good with the tomahawk and throwing ax. They terrorized the southwest United States, and even the military had trouble beating them. They were great hit and run fighters, and their descendants teach modern day special forces how to fight in hand to hand combat. They usually scalped their victims.

They terrorized Europe with their raids and pillaging (though not all of them, as we have previously read on Listverse). They were ferocious in battle and used weapons that suited their stature. They were big and mean and used their axes, swords and spears expertly in the conquering of cities. Even their religion was about war, and they believed that when you died in battle you fought, once again, in a never ending battle. They were all you would want in a soldier and proved it on the battlefield by destroying all in their paths.

Those caught stealing food in the famine-struck nation, or attempting to cross the borders, are subject to public execution. Kim is continuing his lavish lifestyle and military obsession, in spite of the crumbling economy. In North Korea, he and his father are deified, considered saviors of the whole universe. 250,000 dissidents are confined to &ldquore-education camps&rdquo. He has waged a war on South Korea that involved assassinating South Korean leaders and blowing up South Korean planes. He presents a great threat to the world in terms of nuclear warfare, having persuaded the Soviet Union to award him a nuclear reactor, in 1984.

While Rome is possibly the greatest empire, you just can&rsquot ignore some scariness. Criminals, slaves and others were forced to fight each other to the death in gladiatorial games. Some of the most evil men were Roman &ndash Caligula, Nero and others. Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group, by the emperor Nero, in 64 AD. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches. At first they were ruled by divine kings, then they became a republic (perhaps their greatest period) before finally becoming an empire. How a group of farmers, who started off fending off wolves to protect their livestock, eventually became the greatest empire in all history is the stuff of legends. Coupled with an excellent military and administrative system, the Roman Empire, or rather ancient Rome, is also one of the longest-lasting. Counting from its founding to the fall of the Byzantine Empire, ancient Rome lasted for a whopping 2,214 years!

The Aztecs began their elaborate theocracy in the 1300s, and brought human sacrifice to a golden era. About 20,000 people were killed yearly to appease gods &mdash especially the sun god, who needed daily &ldquonourishment&rdquo of blood. Hearts of sacrifice victims were cut out, and some bodies were eaten ceremoniously. Other victims were drowned, beheaded, burned or dropped from heights. In a rite to the rain god, shrieking children were killed at several sites so that their tears might induce rain. In a rite to the maize goddess, a virgin danced for 24 hours, then was killed and skinned her skin was worn by a priest in further dancing. One account says that at King Ahuitzotl&rsquos coronation, 80,000 prisoners were butchered to please the gods. It is said that sometimes the victim would be cannibalized.

Although it was a very brief civilization, Nazi Germany was a superpower, and affected the world greatly. At least 4 million people were killed in the Holocaust (with some speculating it was closer to 11 million), and Nazi Germany started the worst war in human history &ndash World War Two. The Nazi Swastika is probably the most hated symbol in the world. Nazi Germany owned about 268,829 square miles of land. Hitler was one of the most influential people ever &ndash and his empire was, by far, one of the most terrifying.

5. Maya Calendar

There has been a lot of hand-wringing over the supposed prophecies of the Maya calendar. More people fear it, perhaps, than feared the ominously predicted catastrophes of the year 2000. All the fretting is based on the finding that the Mayan "Long Count" calendar ends on a date that corresponds to our December 21, 2012. What does this mean? The end of the world through some global cataclysm or war? The beginning of a new era, a new Age for mankind? Such prophecies have a long tradition of not coming to pass. 2012 has obviously come and gone, but some people still think there's something to the prophecy — that 2012 was just the beginning.

Barbarian invasions

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Barbarian invasions, the movements of Germanic peoples which began before 200 bce and lasted until the early Middle Ages, destroying the Western Roman Empire in the process. Together with the migrations of the Slavs, these events were the formative elements of the distribution of peoples in modern Europe.

The Germanic peoples originated about 1800 bce from the superimposition of Battle-Ax people from the Corded Ware Culture of middle Germany on a population of megalithic culture on the eastern North Sea coast. During the Bronze Age the Germanic peoples spread over southern Scandinavia and penetrated more deeply into Germany between the Weser and Vistula rivers. Contact with the Mediterranean during this era was made through the amber trade, but during the Iron Age the Germanic peoples were cut off from the Mediterranean by the Celts and Illyrians. Germanic culture declined, and an increasing population, together with worsening climatic conditions, drove the Germans to seek new lands farther south.

In a sense, the Roman Empire had been already “barbarized” before the barbarian invasions began in earnest. Land left vacant by the dwindling Roman population was colonized by immigrants—Germans and others—from beyond the frontiers. The Roman legions were largely recruited from Germans and other non-Romans, some of whom even rose to the imperial purple. Thus, in the end, the Roman emperor, with his guard and his household, ruling over an empire exploited to fill his treasury, was essentially indistinguishable from those barbarian chiefs with whom he clashed.

The migrations of the Germanic peoples were in no way nomadic, nor were they conducted en masse. Many members of the migrating groups remained in their original homelands or settled down at points along the migration route. Even before 200 bce the first Germanic tribes had reached the lower Danube, where their path was barred by the Antigonid dynasty of Macedonia. At the end of the 2nd century bce , migratory hordes of Cimbri, Teutoni, and Ambrones penetrated the Celtic-Illyrian lands and reached the edges of the Roman frontier, appearing first in Carinthia (113 bce ), then in southern France, and finally in upper Italy. In 102 bce the Romans routed the Teutoni and destroyed the army of the Cimbri the following year. Swabian tribes, however, advanced through central and southern Germany, and the Helvetii, a Celtic tribe, were compelled to retreat into Gaul. When Germans under Ariovistus crossed the upper Rhine, Julius Caesar checked their advance and launched a Roman counteroffensive. Under the emperor Augustus the Roman frontier was pushed back as far as the Rhine and the Danube.

Before long, population growth forced the Germanic peoples into conflict with Rome once again. From 150 ce unrest spread among the tribes on the Roman periphery, and the resulting wars between the Romans and the Marcomanni threatened Italy itself. Marcus Aurelius successfully halted the Germanic advance and campaigned to expand Rome’s northern borders, but these efforts were abandoned upon his death. Almost immediately, his son Commodus sought terms with the Germans, and soon the Alemanni were pushing up the Main River, establishing themselves in the Agri Decumates by 260 ce .

Meanwhile, to the east the Goths had penetrated into the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor as far as Cyprus, but Claudius II checked their advance at Niš in 269 ce . Enriched by their conquests and enlisted as imperial mercenaries, the Goths became a settled population, and the Romans abandoned Dacia beyond the Danube. Everywhere within the empire towns were fortified, even Rome itself. Franks and Saxons ravaged the coasts of northern Gaul and Britain, and for the next three centuries incursions by Germanic peoples were the scourge of the Western Empire.

In the 4th century ce the pressure of the Germanic advance was increasingly felt on the frontiers, and this led to a change in the government of the empire which was to have notable consequences. In May 330 ce Constantine I transferred the capital from Rome to Constantinople, but the empire, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Tigris, continued to be administered successfully from a single centre. This would not remain the case for long, however, as the increasing perils from outside the empire made closer supervision essential.

The pace of the Germanic incursions increased dramatically during the reigns of the emperor Valens and his successors. These invasions were of two types: (1) migrations of whole peoples with their complete German patriarchal organizations intact and (2) bands, larger or smaller, of emigrants in search of land to settle, without tribal cohesion but organized under the leadership of military chiefs. The Goths and Vandals, and later the Burgundians and Lombards, were of the first type to the second belonged the Franks, “free” men from the Saxon plain, and the Saxon invaders of Britain. The distinction was a vital one. The Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, and Lombards never took root in the soil, and succumbed in turn, while the Frankish and Saxon immigrants not only maintained themselves but set up a wholly new polity, based on the independence of the territorial unit, which later on was to develop into feudalism.

The emergence of the Huns in southeastern Europe in the late 4th century put to flight many of the Germanic tribes in that area and forced additional clashes with the Romans. In 378 the Goths defeated and slew Valens in a battle near Adrianople, but his successor, Theodosius I, was able to stem the Germanic tide, however temporarily. After the death of Theodosius in 395, the empire was divided between emperors of the East and West, and the emperors at Constantinople did everything in their power to drive any potential threats away from their own capital and toward the lands of the Western Empire. In 406–407 Germanic and other tribes (Vandals, Alani, Suebi, and Burgundians) from Silesia and even farther east crossed the Rhine in their flight from the Huns and penetrated as far as Spain.

Alaric, king of the Visigoths, sacked Rome in 410, signaling the beginning of the end of the Western Empire. Shortly after Alaric’s death later that year, the Goths passed into Gaul and Spain. In 429 Gaiseric, king of the Vandals, crossed from Spain to Roman Africa and created the first independent German kingdom on Roman soil. Soon the Vandals had established themselves as a great naval power which for a while commanded the Mediterranean and devastated the coasts of Italy and Sicily. Meanwhile, the Franks and Burgundians were pressing into Germany and Gaul, and from 449 onward the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes crossed from the Jutland peninsula and occupied Britain. About this time the Huns, under Attila, launched a significant campaign into Gaul. The Roman general Flavius Aetius, who ruled the Western Empire in everything but title, forged an alliance with the Visigoth king Theodoric I, and their combined army inflicted a serious reverse on the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (451).

Aetius was murdered by the emperor Valentinian III in September 454, and this event marked the sunset of Roman political power. Six months later Valentinian was slain by two of Aetius’s retainers, and the throne of the Western Empire became the stake in the intrigues of the German chiefs Ricimer, Orestes, and Odoacer, who maintained real control through puppet emperors. In 476 the succession of Western emperors came to an end with Odoacer’s occupation of Rome, and this date is traditionally given as the end of the Western Roman Empire. The Roman Senate decided that one emperor was enough and that the Eastern emperor, Zeno, should rule the whole empire.

For a time, Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, ruled a kingdom that included Italy, Gaul, and Spain. After his death in 526, the empire of the Ostrogoths was shattered, and changes took place which led to the rise of independent Germanic kingdoms in Gaul and Spain. In Gaul Clovis, the king of the Franks, had already established his power, and in Spain a Visigothic kingdom with its capital at Toledo now asserted its independence.

Under Justinian (527–565), the Byzantine Empire seemed in a fair way to recover the Mediterranean supremacy once held by Rome. The Vandal kingdom in Africa was destroyed, and in 552 the Byzantine general Narses shattered the power of the Ostrogoths in Italy, The exarchate of Ravenna was established as an extension of Byzantine power, the Ostrogoths were forced to give up the south of Spain, and the Persians were checked. With the death of Justinian, however, troubles began. In 568 the Lombards, under Alboin, appeared in Italy, which they overran as far south as the Tiber, establishing their kingdom on the ruins of the exarchate. In Asia the emperor Heraclius, in a series of victorious campaigns, broke Persian power and succeeded even in extending Roman dominion, but Italy, save for Ravenna itself and a few scattered seacoast towns, was thenceforth lost to the empire of which in theory it still formed a part.

The withdrawal of Byzantine influence from Italy produced one result the importance of which it is impossible to exaggerate: the development of the political power of the papacy. At the beginning of the 6th century, Rome, under Theodoric, was still the city of the Caesars, and the tradition of its ancient life was yet unbroken. By the end of the century, Rome, under Pope Gregory the Great (590–604), had become the city of the popes. Along with the city, the popes laid claim to some of the political inheritance of the Caesars the great medieval popes, in a truer sense than the medieval emperors, werethe representatives of the idea of Roman imperial unity.

12.1: Roman Relations with Barbarians

  • Christopher Brooks
  • Full-time faculty (History) at Portland Community College

Romans had always held "barbarians" in contempt, and they believed that the lands held by barbarians (such as Scotland and Germany) were largely unsuitable for civilization, being too cold and wet for the kind of Mediterranean agriculture Romans were accustomed to. Romans believed that barbarian peoples like the Germans were inferior to subject peoples like the Celts, who could at least be made useful subjects (and, later, citizens) of the Empire. For the entire history of the Empire, the Romans never seem to have figured out exactly which groups they were interacting with they would simply lump them together as &ldquoGoths&rdquo or even &ldquoScythians,&rdquo a blanket term referring to steppe peoples. Occasionally, hundreds of years after they &ldquoshould have known better,&rdquo Roman writers would actually refer to Germans as Celts.

It is easy to overstate this attitude there were many members of German tribes who did rise to prominence in Rome (one, Stilicho, was one of the greatest Roman generals in the late Empire, and he was half Vandal by birth!). Likewise, it is clear from archaeology that many Germans made a career of fighting in the Roman armies and then returning to their native areas, and that many Germans looked up to Rome as a model of civilization to be emulated, not some kind of permanent enemy. Some Romans clearly did admire things about certain barbarian groups, as well - the great Roman historian Tacitus, in his Germania, even praised the Germans for their vigor and honor, although he did so in order to contrast the Germans with what he regarded as his own corrupt and immoral Roman society.

That said, it is clear that the overall pattern of contact between Rome and Germania was a combination of peaceful coexistence punctuated by many occasions of extreme violence. Various tribes would raid Roman lands, usually resulting in brutal Roman reprisals. As the centuries went on, Rome came increasingly to rely on both barbarian troops and on playing allied tribes off against hostile ones. In fact, by the late fourth century CE, many (sometimes even most) soldiers in &ldquoRoman&rdquo armies in the western half of the Empire were recruited from barbarian groups.

The only place worthy of Roman recognition as another "true" civilization was Persia. When Rome was forced to cede territory to Persia in 363 CE after a series of military defeats, Roman writers were aghast because the loss of territory represented &ldquoabandoning&rdquo it to the other civilization and state. When barbarians seized territory, however, it rarely warranted any mention among Roman writers, since it was assumed that the territory could and would be reclaimed whenever it was convenient for Rome.

Meanwhile, there had been hundreds of years of on-again, off-again ongoing wars along the Roman borders before the &ldquofall&rdquo of Rome actually occurred. Especially since the third century, major conflicts were an ongoing reality of the enormous borders along the Rhine and Danube those conflicts had prompted emperors to build the system of limes that held the barbarians in check. From that point on, the majority of Roman legions were usually deployed along the limes, the semi-fortified northern borders of the Empire. There is evidence that many of those soldiers spent their careers as not-so-glorified border guards and administrators and never experienced battle itself there is no question that the performance of the Roman military was far poorer in the late imperial period than it had been, for instance, under the Republic.

In turn, many of the barbarians who settled along those borders were known as federatii, tribal groups who entered into treaties with Rome that required them to pay taxes in kind (i.e. in crops, animals, and other forms of wealth rather than currency) and send troops to aid Roman conquests, and who received peace and recognition (and usually annual gifts) in return. The problem for Rome was that most Germanic peoples regarded treaties as being something that only lasted as long as the emperor who had authorized the treaty lived on his death, there would often be an incursion since the old peace terms no longer held. The first task new emperors had to attend to was often suppressing the latest invasion from the north. One example was the Goths, settled at the time somewhere around present-day Romania, whom Constantine severely punished after they turned on his forces during his war of conquest leading up to 312 CE.

The bottom line is that, as of the late fourth century CE, it seemed like &ldquobusiness as usual&rdquo to most political and military elites in the Roman Empire. The borders were teeming with barbarians, but they had always been teeming with barbarians. Rome traded with them, enlisted them as soldiers, and fought them off or punished them as Roman leaders thought it necessary. No one in Rome seemed to think that this state of affairs would ever change. What contemporary historians have determined, however, is that things had changed: there were more barbarians than ever before, they were better-organized, and they were capable of defeating large Roman forces. What followed was a kind of "barbarian domino effect" that ultimately broke the western Empire into pieces and ended Roman power over it.

One other factor in the collapse of the western half of the Empire should be emphasized: once Rome began to lose large territories in the west, tax revenues shrunk to a fraction of what they had been. While the east remained intact, with taxes going to pay for a robust military which successfully defended Roman sovereignty, Roman armies in the west were under-funded, under-manned, and vulnerable. There was thus a vicious cycle of lost land, lost revenue, and poor military performance that saw Roman power simply disintegrate over the course of less than a century. Even the handful of effective emperors and generals in the west during that period could not staunch the tide of defeat.

The Peloponnesian War: An Account

The Spartans grew fearful and suspicious of Athens&rsquos wealth and power. The Spartans were unhappy with the agreed peace of thirty years. The Athenians grew power hungry. They were increasingly chauvinistic. They began reasserting their power on Greece&rsquos mainland. The Peloponnesian war was fought between Athens and Sparta in BC 431. The war was sparked off by a seemingly trivial event that occurred in the mainland of Greece.

The Spartans craved for a land war because they were adept at it. The Athenians were outnumbered two to one. The Athenians were believed to provide hardly any resistance. At the war&rsquos outbreak, Attica was invaded by Spartans. Crops were burned to cause starvation to the Athenians.

The Athenians were in possession of a harbor and a mighty navy. Pericles was aware that they could resist the Spartans for many years, owing to the Empire&rsquos tribute money. He also believed that the Peloponnesian war could be taken to the Spartan allies&rsquo doorsteps. Troops could be sailed along Greece&rsquos coast. They could be landed far from the lines of Athens. Pericles perished in the war&rsquos second year due to a plague, which ravaged Athens. However, the Athenians did not give up.

Both sides were confident of their own strategy. They tried to tire the opposition and force them into surrender. However, this was not meant to happen. The war continued for ten years. Both sides grew tired of the war. Hence, they signed a peace treaty, which was called Peace of Nicias. It was named after a general and politician of Athens. He matched the ability of Pericles. He was cautious and brilliant. He was able to achieve a truce. The territorial status was same as that in peaceful times.

Nicias had many rivals. One such rival was Alcibiades. He was a splendid orator. He was also creative and bustled with energy. He managed to convince the Athenians to attack states governed by Greece in Sicily. This proved to be a disaster. The entire Athenian army faced defeat. A significant part of the army was destroyed at Syracuse Harbor. The Athenians were rendered powerless.

Spartans took advantage of the situation and attacked Athens. Things got worse for Athens. The Persians joined in the war. In BC 405 the Athenian navy was completely dismantled. In BC 404, Athens officially surrendered to Sparta. The Peloponnesian war brought an end to the Classical Age or the Age of Athens.