Migration Period

Migration Period

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The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions (and in "migration of peoples"), was a period of intensified human migration
Human migration
Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

 in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 to the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

. Migrations were catalyzed by profound changes both within the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and on its "barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

 frontier." The migrants with the most lasting influence were the German tribes, such as Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

, Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, Suebi
Suebi
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

, Frisii
Frisii
The Frisii were an ancient Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Zuiderzee and the River Ems. In the Germanic pre-Migration Period the Frisii and the related Chauci, Saxons, and Angles inhabited the Continental European coast from the Zuyder Zee to south Jutland...

, and Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, although important roles were also played by Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

, Slavs, Bulgars
Bulgars
The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire in the 5th century....

, and Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...



Later migrations, such as the Arab conquest, and Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

, Magyar, Moorish
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

, Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

, and Mongol invasions
Mongol invasion of Europe
The resumption of the Mongol invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked medieval Rus' principalities and the powers of Poland and Hungary, was marked by the Mongol invasion of Rus starting in 21 December 1237...

, also had significant effects, especially in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

, Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, but they are not usually considered part of the Migration Period.

Chronology



Origins of the Germanic Tribes


The Germanic peoples came out of southern Scandinavia, Denmark and the adjacent lands between the Elbe and Oder rivers, some time after 1000 BCE. The first wave moved westward and southward, pushing the resident Celts west to the Rhine River by about 200 BCE, and moving into southern Germany and against the Roman province of Gaul by 100 BCE, where they were stopped first by Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius was a Roman general and statesman. He was elected consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the...

 and then Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

. It is this western group that has been described by the Roman historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 (56 – 117 CE) and Julius Caesar (100 - 44 BCE). A later wave of German tribes migrated eastward from Scandinavia some time between 600 and 300 BCE to the opposite coast of the Baltic Sea, moving up the Vistula to near the Carpathians. In the time of Tacitus, it included tribes with lesser-known names, such as the Tencteri
Tencteri and Usipetes
The Tencteri and Usipetes were an ancient Germanic tribe, or tribes, located on the eastern bank of the lower Rhine in the 1st century BC. They are known primarily from Julius Caesar's account of his campaigns against them in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico.Tacitus mentions the Tencteri and...

, Cherusci
Cherusci
The Cherusci were a Germanic tribe that inhabited parts of the northern Rhine valley and the plains and forests of northwestern Germany, in the area between present-day Osnabrück and Hanover, during the 1st century BC and 1st century AD...

, Hermunduri
Hermunduri
The Hermunduri, Hermanduri, Hermunduri, Hermunduli, Hermonduri, or Hermonduli were an ancient Germanic tribe, attested by the Roman historian Tacitus, who occupied the area around what is now Thuringia, Saxony, and Northern Bavaria, from the first to the third century...

 and Chatti
Chatti
The Chatti were an ancient Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser. They settled in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of the Weser River and in the valleys and mountains of the Eder, Fulda and Weser River regions, a district approximately...

; however, a period of federation and blending resulted in the more familiar peoples known as Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

, Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, Saxons
Saxons
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

, Frisians
Frisians
The Frisians are a Germanic ethnic group native to the coastal parts of the Netherlands and Germany. They are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen and, in Germany, East Frisia and North Frisia, that was a part of Denmark until 1864. They inhabit an area known as Frisia...

, and Thuringians.

The first phase


The period of the migrations may be divided into two phases:

The first phase, occurring between 300 and 500 CE, is partly documented by Greek and Latin historians but difficult to verify in archaeology. It puts Germanic peoples in control of most areas of the then Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

.

The Visigoths entered Roman territory, after a clash with the Huns, in 376. Their subsequent deditio
Dediticii
In the Roman Empire, the dediticii were one of the three classes of libertini. The dediticii existed as a class of persons who were neither slaves, nor cives, nor Latini, at least as late as the time of Ulpian...

 was probably not acceptable. During a dramatic incident the following year in Marcianopolis
Marcianopolis
Marcianopolis or Marcianople was an ancient Roman city in Thracia. It was located at the site of modern day Devnya, Bulgaria.-History:...

, the escort to Fritigern
Fritigern
Fritigern or Fritigernus was a Tervingian Gothic chieftain whose decisive victory at Adrinaople the Gothic War extracted favourable terms for the Goths when peace was made with Gratian in 382.-War against Athanaric:...

, their leader, was killed while meeting with Lupicinus
Lupicinus
Lupicinus was a Roman lieutenant of Valens in Thrace in the late fourth century AD.His reputed poor treatment of the Thervingi Goths under Fritigern lead to the Gothic Wars, and the Battle of Adrianople.-References:...

. The Visigoths rebelled, eventually invading Italy and sacking Rome
Sack of Rome (410)
The Sack of Rome occurred on August 24, 410. The city was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, replaced in this position initially by Mediolanum and then later Ravenna. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a...

 itself in 410, before settling in Iberia and founding a kingdom there that endured for 200 years. They had been followed into Roman territory by the Ostrogoths led by Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great was king of the Ostrogoths , ruler of Italy , regent of the Visigoths , and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire...

, who settled in Italy itself.

In Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, the Franks, a fusion of western Germanic tribes whose leaders had been strongly aligned with Rome since the 3rd century, subsequently entered Roman lands more gradually and peacefully during the 5th century, and were generally endured as rulers by the Roman-Gaulish population. Fending off challenges from the Allemanni, Burgundians and Visigoths, the Frankish kingdom became the nucleus of the future states of France and Germany.

The initial Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain was the invasion and migration of Germanic peoples from continental Europe to Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages, specifically the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain after the demise of Roman rule in the 5th century.The stimulus, progression and...

 took place in the 5th century, when for all intents and purposes Roman Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

 no longer existed.

The second phase


The second phase took place between 500 and 700, saw Slavic tribes settling in Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Eastern Europe, particularly in eastern Magna Germania
Germania
Germania was the Greek and Roman geographical term for the geographical regions inhabited by mainly by peoples considered to be Germani. It was most often used to refer especially to the east of the Rhine and north of the Danube...

, and gradually making it predominantly Slavic. In 567, the Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 -alongside the Lombards- destroyed much of the Gepid Kingdom. The Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, a Germanic people, settled in northern Italy
Northern Italy
Northern Italy is a wide cultural, historical and geographical definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the northern part of the Italian state, also referred as Settentrione or Alta Italia...

 in the region now known as Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

. The Bulgars, people of either Turkic or Iranic origin who had been present in far Eastern Europe since the 2nd century, conquered the eastern Balkan territory of the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century.

During the early Byzantine–Arab Wars, the Arab armies
Rashidun army
The Rashidun Caliphate Army or Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Rashidun Caliphate's armed forces during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy...

 attempted to invade Southeastern Europe
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 via Asia Minor
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 in the second half of the 7th century and the early 8th century, but were eventually defeated at the siege of Constantinople by the joint forces of Byzantium
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 and the Bulgars in 717–718. During the Khazar–Arab Wars, the Khazars
Khazars
The Khazars were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus , parts of...

 stopped the Arab expansion
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 into Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 across the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

. At the same time, the Moors (consisting of Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s and Berbers
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

) invaded Europe via Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, conquering Hispania
Umayyad conquest of Hispania
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania is the initial Islamic Ummayad Caliphate's conquest, between 711 and 718, of the Christian Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania, centered in the Iberian Peninsula, which was known to them under the Arabic name al-Andalus....

 (the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

) from the Visigothic Kingdom
Visigothic Kingdom
The Visigothic Kingdom was a kingdom which occupied southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to 8th century AD. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of...

 in 711, before being halted by the Franks at the Battle of Tours
Battle of Tours
The Battle of Tours , also called the Battle of Poitiers and in Battle of the Court of the Martyrs, was fought in an area between the cities of Poitiers and Tours, located in north-central France, near the village of Moussais-la-Bataille, about northeast of Poitiers...

 in 732. These battles largely fixed the frontier between Christendom
Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

 and Islam
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

 for the next millenium. The following centuries saw the Muslims successful in conquering Sicily and parts of southern Italy
History of Islam in southern Italy
The history of Islam in southern Italy begins with the Islamic conquest and subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta, a process that started in the 9th century. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061...

 from the Christians, although never consolidating it.

Causes


There are a number of contemporary historical references across the world that there was an extended period of extreme weather in the years 535-536. This period of very cold weather is also seen through dendrochronology
Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year...

 and ice cores. The causes of this cold weather period are debated, as are its consequences.

Barbarian identity


The analysis of barbarian identity and how it was created and expressed during the Migration Age has elicited deep discussion among scholars. Herwig Wolfram, the historian of the Goths, in discussing the facile equation of migratio gentium with Völkerwanderung observes that Michael Schmidt introduced the equation, in his history of the Germans (1778); Wolfram observed that the significance of gens
Gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

, as a biological community was shifting even during the early Middle Ages, and furthermore, "to complicate matters, we have no way of devising a terminology that is not derived from the concept of nationhood created during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

".

The so-called Primordialistic paradigm enjoyed prominence during the 19th century. Scholars subscribing to this mode of thinking, such as the German linguist Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Gottfried von Herder was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the periods of Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, and Weimar Classicism.-Biography:...

, viewed tribes to have been reasonably coherent biological (that is racial) entities. Herder employed the term to refer to discrete ethnic groups. He believed that Volk were an organic whole with a core identity and unique spirit which was expressed in art, literature and language. These were seen to be intrinsic characteristics which were timeless and remained unaffected by external influences, even conquest. Language in particular was perceived to be the most important expression of ethnicity. They argued that groups sharing the same, or similar, language possessed a common identity and ancestry. The Romantic ideal that there had once been a single German, Celtic or Slavic people who originated from a common homeland and once spoke a common tongue
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 helped provide a conceptual framework
Conceptual framework
A conceptual framework is used in research to outline possible courses of action or to present a preferred approach to an idea or thought. For example, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin used the "hedgehogs" versus "foxes" approach; a "hedgehog" might approach the world in terms of a single organizing...

 for the political movement
Political movement
A political movement is a social movement in the area of politics. A political movement may be organized around a single issue or set of issues, or around a set of shared concerns of a social group...

s of the 18th and 19th centuries (such as German nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 and Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid-19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires, Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Venice...

).

Beginning in the 1960s, a reinterpretation of archaeological and historic evidence prompted many scholars to propose new models for explaining the construction of barbarian identity. Scholars such as Goffart and Todd argue that no sense of shared identity was perceived by the various Germani. A similar reasoning has been proposed for Celtic and Slavic groups. The argument is that the primordialist mode of thinking was encouraged by a prima facie
Prima facie
Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning on its first encounter, first blush, or at first sight. The literal translation would be "at first face", from the feminine form of primus and facies , both in the ablative case. It is used in modern legal English to signify that on first examination, a...

 interpretation of Graeco-Roman
Greco-Roman world
The Greco-Roman world, Greco-Roman culture, or the term Greco-Roman , when used as an adjective, as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries that culturally were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture,...

 sources which grouped together many tribes under such labels as Germani, Keltoi or Sclavenoi, perceiving them to represent distinct peoples. Instead, modernists argue that the uniqueness perceived by specific groups was primarily based on common political and economic interests rather than biological or racial distinctions.

Even the role of language in constructing and maintaining group identity was ephemeral, given that large-scale language shifts have been common in history. Essentially, they adhere to the idea of "imagined communities"; that the barbarian polities in Late Antiquity should be viewed as social constructs, rather than timeless and changeless lines of blood kin. The process of forming tribal units was termed ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges...

, a term coined by Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 scholar Julian Bromley. The so-called "Austrian school", led by Reinhard Wenskus, popularized this idea which influenced numerous current medievalists such as Herwig Wolfram, Walter Pohl and Patrick Geary. They argue that the stimulus for forming tribal polities was perpetuated by a small nucleus of people, called the Traditionskern (‘kernel of tradition’) who were a military or aristocratic elite. This core group formed a standard to set up much larger units, gathering adherents by employing amalgamative metaphors such as kinship and aboriginal commonality, and claiming that they perpetuated an ancient, divinely sanctioned lineage.

Any capable soldier would be able to partake in group identity without the requirement of being born into the "tribe". “A victorious campaign confirmed [the leaders'] right to rule and drew [to] them an ever-growing people who accepted and shared in their identity”. In time, these heterogeneous armies grew into a new people and could even come to possess "a strong belief in a common biological origin". Halsall argues that no objectively definable criterion can be consistently used to distinguish ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

s from one another, whether it is language, social customs, geographic habitation, religion or even common origin. "The only common factor in defining ethnicity is belief: in the reality of your group and the difference to others".

Walter Pohl highlights the dynamic nature of acquiring group identity. He proposes that, especially during the Migration Age, people could live in circumstances of 'ethnic ambiguity'. Given that ethnicity was particularly important for the upper classes
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, they could flexibly adopt even multiple ethnicities to secure the allegiances of their partners and followers, a phenomenon referred to as 'situational ethnicity' by instrumentalists. To advance socially, one needed to "grow into a dominating group with high prestige, to copy its lifestyle". The process of assimilation could produce "a wide variety of transitional stages". Followers could also just as easily disband from larger units. Often, internal factions arose to challenge for the right to lead the people and uphold its traditions. At the same time, defeat by an external power could not only spell the end of a ruler, but also his people, who would be absorbed into another, more victorious confederacy. “Seen in this light, ‘ethnic’ identity among barbarians was extraordinarily fluid, as new groups emerged and old ones disappeared".

Peter Heather
Peter Heather
Peter Heather is a historian of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, currently Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. He has held appointments at University College London and Yale University and was Fellow and Tutor in Medieval History at Worcester College, Oxford until...

 suggests that constructionism and modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 represent two extremes in a spectrum of possibilities. The process of assimilation and appropriation of new group identity varied from group to group. He alludes to literary sources, which describe two contrasting models of interaction: the Sclavenes
Early Slavs
The early Slavs were a diverse group of tribal societies in Migration period and early medieval Europe whose tribal organizations indirectly created the foundations for today’s Slavic nations .The first mention of the name Slavs dates to the 6th century, by which time the Slavic tribes inhabited a...

 were ready, after a given period, to accept prisoners as full and free members of their tribal groupings; on the other hand the Huns, although politically incorporating non-Hun groups, kept them separate and subordinate. Rather than being mere aristocratic kernels, he argues that the identity of tribal groups was maintained by a large contingent of 'notables' and freemen. He clarifies that, whilst groups like the Goths were multi-ethnic, full assimilation was not the rule. He proposes that conquered groups held a subordinate status, either as otherwise autonomous tribute-payers, or as 'disadvantaged' strata within mixed settlements. Even when a homogeneous material culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

 arose, disparate groups were likely to preserve their unique identity and language.

Whatever the case, this process of building larger-scaled group identity was particularly evident along the Roman frontier, prompted by the example of Roman provincial life, and the threat of Roman attack. Ethnicity was probably a complex, subjective and multi-layered process. The Migration Period saw numerous groups rise and fall. Great confederations like the Huns or Vandals arose only to vanish suddenly within a few generations. Other, previously obscure groups like the Angles or the Franks succeeded in creating enduring polities. Even ancient groups, like the Goths, who existed from late Antiquity until the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, underwent profound transformation. Given constant migrations, changing allegiances, and new cultural appropriations, all that remained constant was the Gothic name. As Thomas Noble states, "tribes are no longer imagined to have been "marching for centuries at a time in ordered ranks with homogeneous ethnic compositions" from a distant but well-localized 'homeland', across much of Europe, and into a settlement on Roman soil. "The common, track-filled map of the Völkerwanderung may illustrate such [a] course of events, but it misleads. Unfolded over long periods of time, the changes of position that took place were necessarily irregular... (with) periods of emphatic discontinuity. For decades and possibly centuries, the tradition bearers idled, and the tradition itself hibernated. There was ample time for forgetfulness to do its work".

"Invasion" versus "migration"


Several explanations have been given for the appearance of so-called barbarians on the frontier, including weather and crops, population pressures, a "primeval urge" to push into the Mediterranean, or the so-called "domino effect", whereby the Huns "fell upon" the Goths, who in turn pushed other Germanic tribes in front of them. Entire barbarian tribes, or even "nations’, were seen to have flooded into Roman province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

s, ending classical urbanism
Urbanism
Broadly, urbanism is a focus on cities and urban areas, their geography, economies, politics, social characteristics, as well as the effects on, and caused by, the built environment.-Philosophy:...

 and beginning new types of rural settlements. French and Italian scholars viewed this as a catastrophic event; the destruction of an entire civilization and the beginning of a "Dark Age" which set Europe back one thousand years.. In contrast, German and English historians saw it as the replacement of a "tired, effete and decadent Mediterranean civilization" with a "more virile, martial, Nordic one. Rather than the term "invasion," German and Slavic scholars use the term "migration" (Völkerwanderung in German, Stěhování národů in Czech, "népvándorlás" in Hungarian, etc.), aspiring to the idea of a dynamic and “wandering Indo-Germanic
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 people”.

Guy Halsall argues that the barbarian movements were the result of the fall of the Roman Empire, and not its cause. Archaeological finds confirm that Germanic and Slavic tribes were settled agriculturalists that were merely "drawn into the politics of an empire already falling apart for quite other causes". The Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

 caused significant changes within the Roman Empire, in both the western and eastern parts. In particular, economic fragmentation removed many of the political, cultural and economic forces that initially bound the Empire together. The rural population in Roman provinces were distant from the emperor, and there was little to differentiate them from other peasants across the Roman frontier. In addition, Rome increasingly used foreign mercenaries to defend itself. This "barbarisation" of the Empire was paralleled by changes within barbaricum. The Roman Empire had played a vital part in the building up of barbarian groups along the frontier. Propped up by imperial support and gifts, the armies of allied chieftains served as important 'buffers' against more hostile barbarian groups. The disintegration of Roman economic power
Economic power
There is no agreed-upon definition of power in economics. At least five definitions of power have been used:*Purchasing power, i.e., the ability of any amount of money to buy goods and services. Those with more assets, or, more correctly, net worth, have more power of this sort...

 weakened groups formerly dependent on Roman gifts for maintenance of their power. Combined with the arrival of the Huns, this prompted many groups to invade the provinces and seek new fortunes.

This barbarian takeover of former Roman provinces varied from province to province. For example, in Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

, the provincial administration was largely self-reliant. Halsall argues that local rulers simply 'handed over' military rule to the Ostrogoths, and in the process acquired the identity of the newcomers. In Gaul, collapse of imperial rule resulted in anarchy, and the Franks and Alemanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 were pulled into the ensuing "power vacuum", resulting in dramatic conflicts. In Spain, local aristocrats maintained independent rule for some time, and even raised their own armies against the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

. Meanwhile, the Roman withdrawal from lowland England resulted in conflict between Saxons and the Brythonic chieftains whose power retreated westward. The Eastern Empire attempted to maintain control of the Balkan provinces despite a thinly spread imperial army with local militias and the undertaking of an extensive re-fortification program of the Danubian limes. However, this grandiose program of fortifications collapsed and worsened the impoverished conditions of the local populace, resulting in permanent colonization by Slavic warriors and their families.

Halsall and Noble both argue that the changes which took place were the result of the breakdown in Roman political control which exposed the weakness of Roman rule at the local level. Rather than large-scale migrations, there were military takeovers by small groups of warriors and their families, who usually numbered in the tens of thousands. This process often involved active, conscious decisions taken by Roman provincial populations. Collapse of centralized control severely weakened the sense of Roman identity in the provinces. This would explain the dramatic culture changes seen without huge numbers of barbarian migrants. Ultimately, the Germanic groups in the western Empire were accommodated without 'dispossessing or overturning indigenous society' and maintained a structured and hierarchical (albeit degenerate) form of Roman administration. Paradoxically, they lost their unique identity as they were absorbed into Latinhood. This contrasted with the situation in the east, whereby Slavic tribes maintained a more "spartan and egalitarian" existence bound to the land, "even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces". Their organization was not based on Roman models, and their leaders were not normally dependent on Roman gold for success. Thus, their effect was far more thorough than anything that the Goths, Franks or Saxons
Saxons
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

 ever achieved"

Ethnicity


Based on the belief that particular types of artifacts, generally elements of personal adornment found in funerary context, are thought to determine the race or ethnicity of the person buried, the 'Culture-History' school of archaeologists assumed that archaeological cultures represent the Urheimat
Urheimat
Urheimat is a linguistic term denoting the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language...

 ('homeland') of tribal polities named in historical sources. Following on, the shifting extensions of material cultures were therefore interpreted as the expansion of peoples. Influenced by constructionism, processual archaeologists rejected the Culture-Historical
Cultural-history archaeology
Culture-historical archaeology is an archaeological theory that emphasises defining historical societies into distinct ethnic and cultural groupings according to their material culture...

 doctrine. In fact they marginalized the discussion of ethnicity altogether, and focused on the intra-group dynamics that generated such material remains. Moreover they argued that adoption of new cultures could occur through trade in or internal political developments rather than 'military takeovers'.

Today, scholars take a more moderate position. While recognizing that artifacts do not possess an inherent 'ethnic ascription', some artifacts may have been used as 'emblems in identity and alterity – of belonging and exclusions'. Peter Heather suggests that although shifts in culture should not solely rely on migratory explanations, there is no reason to a priori rule them out, especially if there is evidence to support it from literary sources. In this regard, profound changes in culture (and language) could occur through the influx of a ruling elite
Ruling class
The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political policy - assuming there is one such particular class in the given society....

 with minimal or no impact on overall population composition, especially if it occurs at a time when the indigenous population
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 is receptive to such changes.

Depiction in media

  • Terry Jones' Barbarians
    Terry Jones' Barbarians
    Terry Jones' Barbarians is a 4-part TV documentary series first broadcast on BBC 2 in 2006. It was written and presented by Terry Jones, and it challenges the received Roman and Roman Catholic notion of the barbarian....

    , a 4-part TV documentary series first broadcast on BBC 2 in 2006.
  • Barbarian (film)
    Barbarian (film)
    Barbarian, also known as Kane the Barbarian, is an American sword and sorcery action direct-to-video film released in 2003. It can almost be considered a remake from the 1983 film Deathstalker...

    , 2003 American film
  • The Barbarian (1933 film)
    The Barbarian (1933 film)
    The Barbarian is a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film about an American woman tourist in Egypt who has several suitors, among them an Arab guide who is more than he seems. The Barbarian stars Ramon Novarro and Myrna Loy...

    , starring Ramon Novarro
  • The Barbarians (1960 film), starring Jack Palance
    Jack Palance
    Jack Palance , was an American actor. During half a century of film and television appearances, Palance was nominated for three Academy Awards, all as Best Actor in a Supporting Role, winning in 1991 for his role in City Slickers.-Early life:Palance, one of five children, was born Volodymyr...

  • The Barbarians (film)
    The Barbarians (film)
    The Barbarians is a 1987 American-Italian sword and sorcery film, starring the Barbarian Brothers Peter and David Paul.-Plot:The film is set in a medieval-like heroic fantasy world. A tribe of peaceful travelling entertainers is attacked by the evil tyrant Kadar, who takes their queen Canary...

    , a 1987 American-Italian swords-and-sorcery film

See also



  • Arnold J. Toynbee
    Arnold J. Toynbee
    Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

  • Dark Ages (historiography)
  • Decline of the Roman Empire
    Decline of the Roman Empire
    The decline of the Roman Empire refers to the gradual societal collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Many theories of causality prevail, but most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in tandem with foreign invasions and usurpers from within the...

  • History of Western civilization
    History of western civilization
    Roots of the Western civilization in its broader sense may be traced back to 9000 BC, when around the headwaters of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Jordan Rivers farming began, spreading outwards across Europe; the West thus produced the world's first cities, states, and empires. However, Western...

  • Early Middle Ages
    Early Middle Ages
    The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

  • Getica
  • Gothic and Vandal warfare
    Gothic and Vandal warfare
    The Goths, Gepids, Vandals, and Burgundians were East Germanic groups who appear in Roman records in Late Antiquity. At times these groups warred against or allied with the Roman Empire, the Huns, and various Germanic tribes....

  • Historical migration
    Historical migration
    It is thought that pre-historical migration of human populations began with the movement of Homo erectus out of Africa across Eurasia about a million years ago. Homo sapiens appears to have colonized all of Africa about 150 millennia ago, moved out of Africa some 80 millennia ago, and spread...

  • Human migration
    Human migration
    Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

  • Late Antiquity
    Late Antiquity
    Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

  • Magyar invasions of Europe
    Hungarian invasions of Europe
    This article describes Hungarian invasions of Europe.Three groups invaded Europe during the ninth and tenth centuries. The Vikings, the Muslims and the Hungarians...

  • Medieval demography
    Medieval demography
    This article discusses human demography in Europe during the Middle Ages, including population trends and movements. Demographic changes helped to shape and define the Middle Ages...

  • Migration Period art
    Migration Period art
    Migration Period art denotes the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the Migration period . It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles...

  • Muslim conquests
    Muslim conquests
    Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

  • Reidgotaland
    Reidgotaland
    Reidgotaland, Hreidgotaland or Hreiðgotaland was a land in Scandinavian sagas as well as in the pre-Viking English Widsith, which usually referred to the land of the Goths...

  • Sassanid Empire
    Sassanid Empire
    The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

  • Tatar invasions