The Germans did not destroy the world’s greatest civilization.

April 12, 2008 by aaron

The Germanic tribes have been blamed for the collapse of the Roman Empire; however this is incorrect. For the most part the collapse of the Roman empire was not a collapse of an empire, but the slow integration of Germanic custom with Roman culture. This means the collapse of the Roman empire was a transfer of power from one ruling party to another. This transfer was neither peaceful nor quick, but it is the foundation of modern western society and Europe as we know it today. ((Editor’s note: This is just a sketch or an outline to introduce the topic.))

The Germanic tribes and Romans first interacted in 100 BC, and for the next 400 years there were many skirmishes with the Romans prevailing, but starting around 300 AD with the first Völkerwanderung or migration the Germans pushed hard on the Roman defenses and in many places began to merge with the existing Roman populations.

Germans were then, as today, divided into tribes: the major tribes that came into contact with the Roman Empire were the Franks, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Lombards. The first of these Germanic tribes to enter into the Roman empire officially were the Visigoths who settled near the Danube frontier until they rebelled and sacked Rome in 410 AD, but they moved on and settled in Spain, and the Western Roman Empire was ruled by Proxy from the Eastern Roman Empire. However, while the Visigoths only sacked Rome, Theodoric the Great, leading the Ostrogoths, conquered Italy and set himself up as ruler of a post-Roman kingdom. Even though Theodoric conquered Italy he still respected the Roman institutions and everything about his government from the courts to the coins were Roman. He even appointed Roman aristocrats to help administrate the country in a very Romanesque way.

The integration favored the Roman traditions because the Ostrogoths and Visigoths where already exposed to Roman ideals. The didn’t want to conquer Rome. They wanted to be Roman. It was not until the Lombard invasions around 568 AD that purely Germanic ideals and culture began to be foisted onto the previous territories of the Roman Empire. The Lombards had no concept of a king and they were never exposed to Roman ideals, so they just pillaged, conquered and destroyed the last remnants of the Italian Western Roman Empire

While the Ostrogoths, Lombard and Visigoths had forced their way into the Roman empire, the Franks, beginning around 476, settled the area know as Gaul far more gently and although they stayed separate they merged into the area without using force. At first, the Franks kept many of the Roman traditions and structures of society, but slowly replaced them with Frankish analogues which were far more simplistic. Unlike the Goths who valued actual Roman Culture and traditions, the Franks kept them for show and under the Merovingian dynasty most of the Roman traditions and institutions were forgotten. In the 700-800s, under Charles the Great, there were brief moments of Roman ideas and classical knowledge, but it did not last long, and Rome was officially dead.

The Roman Empire was not conquered by the Germans nor was it conquered by avarice and greed. The two cultures merged; however, the merging of German and Roman societies was aided by external forces: the advance of the Huns forced the Germans into the Roman territories while simultaneously the advance of the Arabs weakened the Roman defenses and the constant civil wars weakened the Roman economy. Each of these helped weaken the cultural institutions of the Roman Empire which made its population susceptible to and willing to accept the German “invaders.”

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