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The Romans fought the barbarians at the borders of the Roman Empire for many years. In some cases, barbarians became part of the Roman Empire. In other cases, they fought wars and, eventually, sacked the city of Rome bringing about the end of the Western Roman Empire.

Who were the the Germanic peoples?

The Romans referred to people groups outside the Roman Empire as barbarians. So these Germanic peoples were Barbarians for the Romans.  The Germanic peoples had different culture and religión. Barbarians did not have the same level of government, education, or engineering as the Romans.

The Romans fought the barbarians for a long time. Sometimes, barbarians became part of the Roman Empire but in other cases, they fought and sacked  Rome. Their conquest of Rome finished with the Western Roman Empire.

barbarian invasions | Facts, History, & Significance | Britannica

Barbarian Peoples and the Germanic Monarchies

The barbarians were not a single group. They were a wide variety of different peoples that had little to do with each other. Many of the groups that attacked and invaded the Roman Empire were Germanic tribes from Northern Europe. After the fall of the Roman Empire, these peoples settled in the areas formely occupied by the Romans. Their leaders had military and political power becoming soon kings. At the beginning they had an elective monarchy: kings were elected by the nobility. Later on they turned into hederitary monarchies.

The most important ones were:

  • Goths – One of the most powerful and organized groups of Germanic peoples. were the Goths. The Goths were divided into two major branches: the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. The Visigoths took over much of Western Europe and battled Rome constantly in the late 300’s. Under their leader Alaric I, the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410.


  • Vandals – The Vandals moved from Northern Europe to the Iberian Peninsula  and from there moved to North Africa where they established a powerful kingdom. They established a peace treaty with Rome in 442 AD, but attacked Rome in 455 when the treaty was broken. Under the Vandal King Genseric, the Vandals sacked Rome in 455 AD.

  • Huns – The Huns were a nomadic warrior people who came from the east. Under the leadership of  Attila, the Huns defeated the Ostrogoths and invaded the Eastern Roman Empire. They then  conquere much of Roman Gaul (France) and in 452 they invaded Italy. They plundered Italy, but did not take  Rome.
  • Franks – The Franks were a number of Germanic tribes that settled in France (France gets its name from the Franks). They began invading the borders of the Roman Empire around 300 AD. The Franks truly became powerful after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and would eventually become one of the leading empires in Western Europe.

Western Europe After The Fall Of The Western Roman Empire In AD 476

  • Saxons – As Rome began to weaken, the Saxons moved from Western Europe and began to invade Great Britain. They took over many Roman settlements in Great Britain as the Emperor was too weak to send the Romans there.

  • Others – There were many other peoples that the Romans referred to as barbarians including the Celts, Thracians, Parthians, Picts, Lombards, and the Burgundians.








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