Roman and barbarian worlds in the middle of the first millennium

Roman and barbarian worlds in the middle of the first millennium

The collapse of the Roman Empire, on whose ruins medieval Europe was born, was caused by a prolonged decline in the economy. Agriculture and crafts did not develop, land was not cultivated. The power of the emperors gradually weakened.

The crisis deepened in the spiritual life of the Roman state. Together with the elimination of civil liberties, the moral decline of the Roman society was observed. Paganism replaced Christianity, which began to acquire the character of state religion.

The decadent and once invincible Roman army fell into decay. It turned into a sedentary mass, which for generations lived in fortified camps along the borders of the empire. The army lost the high fighting qualities of the famous Roman legions, with weapons and military tactics, hardly differing

from the barbarian militia.

The balance of power between the Roman Empire and the barbaric periphery gradually changed in favor of the barbarians. Particularly important role in the fate of the late Roman Empire was played by its northern neighbors – the Germanic tribes.

Germans first fell in the sight of the Romans in the I century. BC. and the Romans at first took them for the Gauls, but at the end of the 1st c. n. e. Cornelius Tacitus quite clearly defined the Germans as a separate group of tribes.

Son and successor of Constantine the Great Emperor Constantius, who arrived in the IV. in Rome from Constantinople, struck the appearance of the inhabitants of the Eternal City: there were almost no people dressed in traditional togi. Rome was filled with people from the east – Egyptians, Syrians, Jews, most often met the Germans. Strangely, even the indigenous Romans for some reason tried to imitate the clothes and behavior of those who for many centuries themselves were scornfully called barbarians, that is, those who did not even have a “human” language, but only uttered incomprehensible phrases like “var-var” “.

At this time, the Germans lived in a community on the territory between the rivers of the Rhine, the Oder and the Danube, engaged mainly in cattle breeding.

Livestock was the main wealth and measure of value. In addition, they were engaged in agriculture, which from the 5th century BC. becomes the main occupation. To cultivate the land, the Germans used a light plow or ralo. They sowed flax, oats, millet, wheat, barley, and cultivated garden crops, in particular cabbage and lettuce. Germanic tribes traded with the Romans.

Gradually, under the influence of internal factors and the Roman social system, the Germans have property inequality. Among the free members of the community rose to know. Prisoners became slaves. However, the Germans gave them land, and, like the Roman colonies, they provided an opportunity to independently manage the economy. It was a patriarchal form of slavery, which gradually turned into one of the varieties of feudal dependence.

Important matters the Germans decided in public assemblies, which were called Tint. They were attended by all adult men who carried arms. People’s congresses elected a council of elders, who considered, first of all, court cases. The Germans also had kings and military leaders.

The military squads were the main fighting force of the Germans. Druzhinniki completely depended on their military leaders: they swore loyalty to them, received from them weapons, horses, part of the booty.

In the IV-V centuries. Important changes took place in the political system of the Germans. They united in military alliances, which were named after the ruling tribes. This is how the German nationalities of the Alemannians, the Vavars, the Franks, the Saxons, the Thuringians, etc. emerge. Among the vigilantes, the so-called service nobility stood out. She began to group around the king, displacing tribal elders from his entourage and increasingly influencing his actions. At the same time, the power of the kings also grew stronger.

An important role in the formation of statehood was played by the spread among the Germans of Christianity. In the IV century. Bishop Ulfila converted to Christianity ready. For this he had to translate the Bible into Gothic and create for his new flock writing on the basis of the Greek alphabet.

I century. Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus about the Germans

… The tribes inhabiting Germany, from time immemorial, were an independent people, preserving primitive purity and similar only to themselves. Germans are strikingly similar to each other: blue eyes, accurate eyes, fair hair, strong physique…

Kings of the Germans choose for their nobility, the leaders – for courage. However, kings are not endowed with unlimited power, permissiveness. The leaders are resolute, full of dignity, they are always fighting ahead of the troops and this is due to respect. However, neither to punish nor to shackle, nor to impose corporal punishment is allowed to anyone other than priests.

Less significant cases are dealt with in the council of elders, and matters of more importance are discussed by all…

People’s congresses also elect elders who are leading the court in the districts and towns…

In battle, it is a shameful leader to yield to someone in courage, no less shameful the squad does not become like the courage of the leader. And to get out alive from the battle, in which the leader died, dishonor and disgrace for life; to protect him, to do valiant deeds, thinking only of glory, their first duty: the leaders fight for the sake of victory, the vigilantes for their leader… From the bounties of their leader, the vigilantes expect themselves a fighting horse and a bloody, victorious fraime. Instead of a meal they have food and a generous feast at feasts. Opportunities for such extravagance appear only as a result of war and plunder…

Ornament – a characteristic element of the art of barbarians – was used in monuments of times of Christianization of barbarian tribes


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Roman and barbarian worlds in the middle of the first millennium