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Germanic Invasion of the Roman Empire

Think about the following supposition when creating a research paper on the Germanic Invasion of the Roman Empire: In 1947, A. Piganiol advanced the theory that the barbarians had “assassinated” a perfectly healthy Roman culture, thus initiating the Dark Ages.  His theory was supported by H.I. Marrou.  However, it is not an accurate assessment of history to suppose that the sack of Rome in 410 was the first indication that the Roman Empire was in decline.  Ever since the Romans captured Germania in the fist century BC, it had proved to be a troublesome piece of real estate for the Romans.

Germanic Invasion of the Roman Empire

Warfare along the Rhine frontier was a constant theme throughout the Empire period.  One of the main reasons for its exacerbation in the 3rd and 4th centuries was the migration of other tribes.  The Huns, for example, pushed westward into the territory of the Goths.  Finding themselves harassed, the Goths sought out the only available territory: Roman lands.  The Romans fought the Goths in 364 and 367-8 because of such migratory pressures.

While the Germani pushed onto Rome from the north, so too did the Persians invade in the East.  Roman was forced to continually send troops and material back and forth between these two fronts.  Roman forces became too thin along the frontier, and barbarian tribes found access into Roman territory easy.  The Franks, Alemanni and Goths had a long tradition of refusing to bow to Roman might.  Their tribal structure was culturally mysterious to many Romans.  Tacitus’ survey of their culture has at times proven fertile ground for the origins of democracy, but these were a people who would not accept the Roman yoke.  Our term barbarian connotes the worst imaginable culture, but until the great migratory pressures of the early Christian era, Germanic warfare was restricted to Roman attempts to control their territory.

The Germanic invaders did not “murder” the Roman Empire.  To cite an analogy, their role in Rome’s endgame is akin to shooting a horse.  The Roman Empire was collapsing from its own inertia: it was too large to administer, let alone administer well.  A strong empire would have been able to resist or incorporate migrating Germans.  Rome, by AD 400, was worn out.  The barbarians, having pushed at the borders for so long, were finally able to break through and sack the heart.  The Germanic invasion of Rome was a mercy killing.

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